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And like their other powers, their power to police the border must be kept limited by the proper function of that power. In this case, stopping poor Mexican immigrants because they are coming and tak

Here's another Objectivist angle on the whole issue of Immigration & Terrorism (not one I necessarily agree with...)

I actually agree with him.

He makes some very good points, such as: "Take the case of Israel, a tiny country surrounded by tens of millions of hostile neighbors who believe passionately that Israel has no right to exist. What would happen if the Jewish State adopted a policy of open immigration? It wouldn’t take long for its citizens to be driven out from their homes."

People should definitely not be allowed to immigrate from any nation we're at war with--unless they can prove that they are on our side.

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Wyatt,

Did you bother to read my post? Immediately after I mentioned that “criminals and terrorists” should be kept out, you claimed that “no one on this forum” had given them consideration. That’s not how you carry on a rational conversation.

I have noticed a tendency from a number of members to ignore relevant posts from the same thread, or worse, to repeat the same point while ignoring the objections presented to it. If you intend to post in a thread without reading the context of the conversation, you might add a disclaimer, so we can regard your post appropriately.

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Btw, John Galt, not paying taxes is not “stealing.”  That’s ridiculous, and if you think that, you don’t deserve the handle of  “John Galt.” It’s perfectly moral, if you can get away with it.

My "handle" was chosen for one reason only - so that folks would ask "who is John Galt!" :D I certainly do not pretend to the fictional character's perfection...

Your post uses strong language, philosophically speaking. But I beg to differ with your conclusions. I hope I can show you why not paying taxes - if you avail yourself of any of the benefits purchased by taxes - is in fact stealing.

To what extent do you, personally, enjoy the benefit of the taxes you pay? Do you obtain benefits by having access to fire depts, police depts, roads, defense forces, and so on? Is it perfectly moral to enjoy the use of these things, these things paid for by the productive labor of others, and not pay anything yourself?

If you conclude that it is immoral to pay taxes, and therefore moral to "get away" with not paying them, then you must necessarily conclude that it is immoral to enjoy the benefits purchased with tax money. So for you, personally, it must be immoral to call the police if you are robbed or in danger. Or the fire department if your house is on fire. Because your position is that not paying taxes is perfectly moral.

Would you call if you needed help? I would certainly respect the character of a man who had declared that taxes were immoral, refused to pay them, and had the courage to let his house burn down because the fire department is a service paid for by other people's productive effort.

If you reflect on how you would act in an emergency, and if honestly, you really would call the fire department for assistance, are you asserting that you, the non-taxpayer, have a moral right to services purchased by others, because you happened to need them?

Does this analysis change your opinion? Despite the serious problems with our mixed economy, the reality is that substantial taxes are paid by law abiding citizens and there are substantial services purchased with these taxes and made available thereby. Those who do not pay taxes yet utilize these services are simply taking services purchased by and for others. Isn't that theft?

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... Isn't that theft?

I completely disagree with GreedyCapitalist and I agree with your conclusion; it is theft. However, instead of all those practical reasons which you gave, there is a more fundamental one: Rule by law. We are a society of law and it is morally proper to act within those laws, and immoral not to do so.

Unless we want to disobey the law as an act of civil disobediance -- being prepared to take the consequences as a legal test case -- we are morally obliged to obey the law as long as we still function as a fundamentally rights-respecting society. To pick and choose which laws one wants to obey, is, in effect, to advocate anarchy instead of rule by law.

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To what extent do you, personally, enjoy the benefit of the taxes you pay? Do you obtain benefits by having access to fire depts, police depts, roads, defense forces, and so on? Is it perfectly moral to enjoy the use of these things, these things paid for by the productive labor of others, and not pay anything yourself?

I respect the rule of law, but if the law allows deductions or ways to avoid paying taxes, I will take advantage of it all even though I am getting more in government services than I pay in.

All I want from the government is the police force, the military, and the courts and I will willingly pay for them. I never asked the government to give me fire protection, roads, schools, medical care, unemployment insurance, etc. I consider those things in the same class as unsolicited merchandise people mail me. I am under no legal or moral obligation to pay for it.

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Wyatt,

Did you bother to read my post? Immediately after I mentioned that “criminals and terrorists” should be kept out, you claimed that “no one on this forum” had given them consideration.

I merged Wyatt's post from another thread into this one; perhaps that's why he didn't see yours.

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All I want from the government  is the police force, the military, and the courts and I will willingly pay for them.  I never asked the government to give me fire protection, roads, schools, medical care, unemployment insurance, etc. I consider those things in the same class as unsolicited merchandise people mail me.  I am under no legal or moral obligation to pay for it.

I would agree with this. While it’s impossible to calculate (or even estimate) what percentage of taxation I would pay voluntarily in a free society, it’s reasonable to pay some taxes in exchange for services you receive.

I don’t however, share your respect in the rule of law. Taxes are not only theft, but they are used often used for many purposes that I find morally abhorrent. A respect for the rule of law is only appropriate for a rights-abiding society, not one that engages in theft on a massive scale (even if it is small by comparison to the rest of the world.) Civil disobedience is not an all or nothing thing – as long as I am not stuck in a tyranny, I will stick to political means of changing the government – but I won’t be a willing victim either. And yes, if the government decides to prosecute me for tax evasion, I will defend it on a moral basis – though I have no intention of becoming a martyr by advertising that fact. (Question to self: then why are you bringing it up on a public forum?)

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Stephen,

Does that mean Microsoft, IBM and other companies are immoral because they broke the Antitrust laws, or that black slaves were immoral when they broke from their masters?

What if the law is contradictory? What if it is unconstitutional? What if one law says A, and another says non A - which will you choose?

And last question: what if there was an old law, that instead of being abolished the government simply decided to stop enforcing. Will you be the only self-inflicting victim of this law?

Moreover, since laws today had become a magic solution to any problem - just to follow the law one would have to become a legal expert on a level that most lawyers seldome arrive at.

And finally, for your amusement, check out - DumbLaws.com

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I don’t however, share your respect in the rule of law.  Taxes are not only theft, but they are used often used for many purposes that I find morally abhorrent.  A respect for the rule of law is only appropriate for a rights-abiding society, not one that engages in theft on a massive scale (even if it is small by comparison to the rest of the world.)

I go even further than that.

Even if I lived in Galt's Gulch, and one day they passed a law saying I have to draw the dollar symbol on my door - I would not do it, if I could get away with it. It's none of their business telling my how my door should be painted.

This individual law is unjust, and so I would ignore this individual law, if there was no big risk for myself in doing so.

At no point did I agree to abide by ANY law that might be passed. There is no obligation here, but my own conscience.

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Stephen,

Does that mean ...

One of the nice things about dealing in principles is that you do not have to waste time evaluating every concrete instance. For Erandror, GreedyCapitalist, and anyone else who is interested:

The rule of law is fundamental to a rights-respecting society. Law is the means by which we objectively establish the legal rules for and the bounds of the interactions among men. The rule of law is the principle form by which we specify the conditions under which the retaliatory use of of force may be employed, a force which we have delegated to be solely exercised by the government.

If we have laws which are invalid, we obey them, and do whatever is possible to change them. If we have non-objective laws, we obey them to the degree that obeyance is possible, and we do whatever we can to change them. If we choose civil disobediance, we do so to publicly protest and legally challenge the law, with conscious knowledge of paying the price for doing so.

In general, in a fundamentally rights-respecting society, we do not get to choose which laws to obey, and which not to obey. Either we obey laws as a tribute and recognition to the rule of law, or else we choose anarchy. If the state of the society, in terms of respecting individual rights, becomes so bad that rule of law can no longer be respected, then that is time for force, for revolution. Until then, we respect the rule of law. Period.

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In general, in a fundamentally rights-respecting society, we do not get to choose which laws to obey, and which not to obey. Either we obey laws as a tribute and recognition to the rule of law, or else we choose anarchy.

That is correct, of course. However, my question stands:

Would you call a guy who forcefully takes half your income every year as protection money "fundamentally rights-respecting" ?

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Stephen,

I've divided my arguments to a few sections:

Rationalism is Wrong

Your approach is over-rationalistic. When a man has to choose between participating in a society or not participating - his choice is not between the rationalistic structure of laws as a whole, or the total lack of laws whatsoever. His choice is wether conditions are better for him inside or outside that society.

If, as part of this decision, he notices that some laws are unjust, but he can safely ignore them, then it is still better for him to participate. The state is not a living entity nor a collection of principles and laws. It is a collection of men, laws, situations and possibilities. You choose whether to live within or without based on the values of this environment to YOUR OWN life. That is the sole criterion.

The choice is obviously NOT between obeying every law to the letter or going on a violent revolution. The first is impossible, and the second is suicidal. The real choice is wether to follow the dictates of an external agency, or to follow the dictates of your own conscience.

Laws vs. Rights

You write:

The rule of law is the principle form by which we specify the conditions under which the retaliatory use of of force may be employed, a force which we have delegated to be solely exercised by the government.

I think you are confusing laws and rights. Laws are the means to protect rights. Rights are the means by which we specify the conditions under which the retaliatory use of of force may be employed.

A law that violates a fundemental right has no function or justification. The rule of law, thus, becomes the rule of brute force. While it is your right to use force to defend yourself against this law, it can be unwise, just like rising up to a gangster with a gun can be unwise. Once again - YOUR LIFE is the sole criterion in deciding wether to obey, openly disobey, or secretly disobey the law.

Anarchism vs. Limited Government

Anarchism arises when there is no central agency to enforce laws and protect rights. It does not arise when specific, unjust laws are challenged or disobeyed. This merely limits the government's ability to pass such laws - which is the very essence of limited government.

When you disobey a law that violates your rights you are not saying: "To hell with the rule of law," you are saying: "Rights are the only moral foundation of the law."

The Personal vs. The Official Approach

Finally, I shall say your approach is the right approach - for a person in a public position of power. No judge, juror, politician, et cetera, can morally abuse his official role to ignore the law, since he is a part of the mechanism that makes the rule of law possible.

For a judge, or a politician, to ignore the law would TRULY be treason against the rule of law itself. But you as a private citizen are not entrusted with keeping the rule of law. You are merely entrusted with your own life. Since you are a private citizen, you have no obligation to actively maintain the rule of law. You have only the responsibility to respect the rights of others, which do not include the right to force immoral laws on you.

P.S. - The only law I consciously broke, is the law forbidding me from walking across the street when the traffic-lights turn red. I do it all the time, when I see no cars coming from either side. Am I being immoral or disrespectful to the rule of law?

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That is correct, of course. However, my question stands:

Would you call a guy who forcefully takes half your income every year as protection money "fundamentally rights-respecting" ?

I have already answered your question, in the context of this discussion, and it is contained in my several previous posts.

If I thought my country was not fundamentally rights-respecting, I would not be having discussions on a public forum. I would go underground, using force to overthrow that government. With all the moral indignation I have towards laws that are unjust, invalid, or non-objective, I reserve greater moral indignation towards those who who do not respect and abide by the rule of law.

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I'm interested in the dichotomy between specifics and discussion of abstract principles that I see here. I still stand ready to be convinced that my views are mistaken, but I haven't seen anyone address what I think the real issue is. In the specific case of the illegal immigrant living in America, dealing only in concrete and realistic examples, would this logic chain be accurate, or have I made a mistake? Sorry if it comes off kind of pedantic but I'm trying to be very specific and accurate:

If: Living in America, despite anyone's feelings about the legitimacy of taxation, one cannot help but consume goods or services purchased with tax money. Roads for instance, were made by people paid with real dollars taken from those whose real productive labor earned those dollars. Whenever you drive on a non-private road, you are benefitting from this. The same applies to police services, fire departments, etc etc.

And if: By definition, the illegal immigrant under discussion is here in America, because that's our subject.

And if: Illegal immigrants, also by definition, cannot pay income taxes. You can't get a valid social security number to pay your taxes with if you came here illegally and you are hiding from immigration. If you went about your residency legally, you would be provided with a number to use to pay taxes (yes, I totally agree that there's way too many taxes, but that's not our subject here).

And if: Using or consuming real, actual goods or services paid for or purchased by the real money of others without any payment or recompense is defined as theft.

Then: illegal immigrants commit theft by the mere fact of their residency in America.

And theft is immoral, to me.

Leaving the abstract discussion of the morality of taxation aside, does my analysis break down, given the facts of the real world of America today? Or does it hold?

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I know that the importance of the rule of law is in the protection of rights, but it seems that it is even more important than rights, on the view that one should, in order to respect the rule of law, obey all laws regardless of whether or not they are just. [Excepting to make a test case.]
That inverts the relationship between law and rights. One's life qua man is the highest value; recognition and respect of rights is morally the highest principle that achieves that end; law is a means of recognising and assuring respect for those rights. So the proper moral evaluation of the act of obeying or disobeying a law has to be in terms of those purposes: the recognition and respect of rights, as the sine qua non for man's survival as man. Unreasoned obediance to arbitrary laws is not a moral virtue.

I understand that one either accepts or rejects a principle, that making exceptions or tolerating exceptions to a principle guts the principle of being a principle.
But also remember that principles are not contextless absolutes.

It seems that respecting the rule of law requires that I obey all laws, and further, that I make a point to know all laws that are relevant to my life (Ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking the law.), until and unless I am willing break the law only as a means of causing a test case in the effort to change a law.

No, it doesn't require that. The principle of living by the rule of law, as a means of assuring rights, does not require that you murder first-born male children in your neighborhood if such a law comes into existence. This is why the "I was just following orders" defense is invalid. If the law compels you to act immorally, you are morally obligated to violate the law. Obediance to the law cannot be an absolute.

BTW the point about ignorance of the law and the need to study the law extensively is orthogonal to the question of whether you should obey laws. The former is not a moral principle, it's a bit of legal waterproofing necessitated by the fact that there immense numbers of crazy laws which you could not suspect that you are subject to (and have probably unwittingly violated). In principle it's a good idea, if laws were the codification of moral principles (and they ain't). The moral need to carefully study the law in order to learn what it says is dictated by the need to survive, so that you can know what you will be compelled by the state to do. So the importance of not breaking anti-trust laws is not that those acts are wrong, but that if the state choses to wield its might in your direction, you may not survive the encounter.

But it would also seem to require even more, that I also make a point of reporting any and all violations of the laws, whether the particular law being violated is just or not, and even that I report myself to the authorities if I find that I have even mistakenly driven a single mile per hour above a posted speed limit.
That's the irrational approach to the rule of law. Even for clear wrongs, mistakenly being just minimally on the wrong side of the line is not a wrong act.

If your action clearly does not violate rights, then you should not sacrifice your life for the sake of an immoral law. If your action clearly does violate rights, you should pay the price. If it is not clear -- if reason and the facts do not resoundingly tell you how to act -- then you should accept the judgment and knowledge of the people who establish laws. They may be wrong, but you might be too. So at worst, it's a coin toss. But there's a reason why it isn't a coin toss.

If you have a basically rights-respecting government, then that fact alone is the evidence needed that the law-makers do have the knowledge and skill in reasoning to craft rules that protect rights: standard disclaimers about (non-)omniscience and the possibility of error apply. But in lieu of clear evidence that facts and reason were discarded in formulating the law, you should presume that the law does state what must be done to protect rights. Your judgment that a given law is wrong is a statement that they have clearly failed in their duty, that that have refused to use reason, or that they are sorely deficient in their knowledge. There needs to be very good reason to hold that this is the case (and if there is, it falls in the first category, where I said that you should not ceremonially sacrifice yourself on the altear of blind obedience to the law, where the law is an end in itself -- e.g. the hypothetical baby-killing law).

And it seems that unless one has the means to fight an unjust law and reasonable expectation that one could succeed in changing it, then basically one just has to obey unjust laws, and hope for some hero to change things.

There are other options. One is to withdraw from the society that imposes the particular offending law: depending on the law, that may be easy or hard to do. Another is to violate the law and take the consequences, i.e. face reality.

The main point I want to make is that you should obey the law when it is not certain that the law is immoral .

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Leaving the abstract discussion of the morality of taxation aside, does my analysis break down, given the facts of the real world of America today? Or does it hold?

Two things:

First, consider the taxes that an illegal immigrant does pay. While it’s impossible to estimate what we would pay for services in a free market, 20% of the federal budget is spent for the military, and (this is a guess from memory) well under 50% of the local budget is spent on legitimate services. The vast majority of the federal budget is spent on transfer payments. Now, an illegal immigrant does not escape taxation – only the income tax, which less than half of total tax revenues. He must still pay (directly or indirectly) sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes (>50% of the cost/gallon is layers of taxes), etc. So while I can’t make an estimate, it’s likely that illegals pay for all the legitimate services that government provides and then some.

The second point is more important: while disproportionately receiving government services is unfair, it’s not the immigrants that should be blamed, but the immigration laws that violate their rights. If you want to advocate a rational society, you must advocate a fully rational society, not another form of welfare statism – that is not a welfare state with barbed wire borders, but a free society that does not need to keep productive immigrants out.

If you lived a socialist state that faced the problem of brain-drain, would you advocate that anyone who tries to escape be shot dead – or advocate a system that people want to live in?

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  If you want to advocate a rational society, you must advocate a fully rational society, not another form of welfare statism – that is not a welfare state with barbed wire borders, but a free society that does not need to keep productive immigrants out.

Just out of curiosity ... In a "rational society" if we do not control the borders -- by "barbed wire" or other restrictive means -- how will we determine beforehand the difference between a productive immigrant and a terrorist with a suitcase nuclear bomb? Does a "rational society" wait till after the explosion?

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Just out of curiosity ... In a "rational society" if we do not control the borders -- by "barbed wire" or other restrictive means -- how will we determine beforehand the difference between a productive immigrant and a terrorist with a suitcase nuclear bomb? Does a "rational society" wait till after the explosion?

It’s just a figure of speech. I don’t know what policy will keep criminals out, but I support whatever it is – though I think that a rational government would take care of terrorists and organized crime at the root rather try to stop them at border crossings, which are impossible to effectively patrol anyway.

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It’s just a figure of speech. I don’t know what policy will keep criminals out, but I support whatever it is – though I think that a rational government would take care of terrorists and organized crime at the root rather try to stop them at border crossings, which are impossible to effectively patrol anyway.

I'm with you about stoping the terrorists at the root, for which I doubt that anything less than a radical approach will now work. But, nevertheless, the border problem still remains. One nuclear weapon can really ruin your day.

Anyway, I think I may have asked you this once before and never got a reply. Why do you think that the border is "impossible to effectively patrol?" Totalitarian states of much lesser ability have been able to keep their people in, so why shouldn't a more capable free state be able to keep the unwanted out?

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