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Accepting Government Funds

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softwareNerd
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But suppose the government was changed to permit a (small) tax.  Apparently, if we follow what you have previously written, those who voted for that tax would be thieves, initiators of force, and would forfeit their own right to property.  Therefore, those who voted against the tax (innocent people) could rightfully take all of the property of the pro-taxers away from them.

That is correct. But then the government would no longer be a laissez-faire one. (I don't quite see what your point here is.)

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A quick review of Capitalism Forever’s argument:

    Post #43:
    “A person who initiates the use of force forfeits his rights. A person who supports taxation is an initiator of force--by virtue of his failure to recognize the right to property--and therefore has forfeited his own right to property. Innocent people can rightfully take ALL his money.”

    Post #45:
    “Charlie [who voted for current tax policy] is a thief, and thieves have no moral right to their property.”

    Post #50:
    “Taking things from a thief is still a form of force, although not an initiation of force. It is retaliatory force. Everyone has a moral right to use retaliatory force, but in a free nation, that right should only be exercised through the government.”

    Post #57:
    “To answer, it is NEITHER ‘morally right’ nor ‘moral’ (which two phrases mean the same) for a person to take his tax-supporting neighbor's money under normal circumstances in the present-day United States.”

    Post #67
    “BTW, since there is no taxation in the laissez-faire society, there is necessarily no one who actively supports taxation. You can actively support only that which exists.”

Now there is only one question left: To whom do supporters of taxation forfeit their rights? Clearly it does not make sense for a supporter of taxation to forfeit his rights to a tax-collecting government. (See Post #50.) Yet, according to Capitalism Forever, under a non-tax-collecting government “there is necessarily no one who actively supports taxation.”

Given that there would be no one for supporters of taxation to forfeit their rights to under Condition A (taxation), and since under Condition B (non-taxation) there are no supporters of taxation, it follows that, contrary to Post #43, tax supporters do not forfeit their rights.

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Now there is only one question left:  To whom do supporters of taxation forfeit their rights?

You don't forfeit your rights to somebody. You just forfeit your rights.

Forfeiting your rights means that other people (ANY other people) can kill you, imprison you, take what used to be your property, etc., without becoming morally guilty.

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This is a horribly dishonest representation of my position. I say "dishonest" because we've been talking for too long for this to be a careless mistake. The context here is not someone who wants to steal from another because he's hungry, but someone who is impoverished by the government and is accepting a handout as his only means of survival given the circumstances. I'm not defending welfare, I'm condemning it for the grotesque cannibalism it foists on innocent people. This will be my last post on this thread.

I did not attempt to represent your position. In fact, in order to better understand your position I asked a question, "Do you really wish to argue that B's property rights are weakened because C needs a quick fix for his hunger?" You are, of course, free to choose not to answer it.

Let’s look at B’s claim. It is to all of the $5,000 of his money that was stolen by the government. Now if B’s claim is valid, then how can we not grant that B and no one else should get the $5,000?

I have already acknowledged the tragedy of C, who is out of work and hungry because of government interventionism. But I do not see how government’s wrongful actions towards C and others can change the fact that B is the one and true owner of the stolen $5,000. Therefore, the only moral action with regard to the money is to give B all of it back. Any other action with regard to the money is unjust.

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There is a point I didn't notice while reading the post, and I think is important. There are two kinds of taxes.

One kind is what the government takes away from you and uses as it sees fit, that is, redistributes it, presumably according to needs. Such a tax is the income tax, for example.

The other one consists of taxes with specific destinations, such as unemployment tax or social security tax, which is also redistributed, but then again, the very principle of any insurance of any kind, is redistribution.

In my opinion, the first kind of tax is theft and taking any of that money is accessory to theft. Examples of such money are subsidies for underdeveloped areas.

The second kind of tax can be assimilated to an insurance monopoly, in the meaning that I, on my free will, might want to pay unemployment, or social security, for whatever reasons, only I wish I could pay the money to a company of my choice, not to the monopoly established by the government. These taxes are from my point of view as immoral as - let's say - the electrical power bill is, since the electrical power provider has a monopoly where I live. In the case of these taxes, the problem lies with the fact that a monopoly exists, not with wether you benefit from a service you are paying for, regardless of the amount that is returned to you.

Those are valid points along the lines of something I was getting at. You did it more clearly and succinctly. :)

BTW, the primary principle behind insurance is risk mitigation, not redistribution.

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You don't forfeit your rights to somebody. You just forfeit your rights.

Forfeiting your rights means that other people (ANY other people) can kill you, imprison you, take what used to be your property, etc., without becoming morally guilty.

Does that mean that taxation is moral with regard to those who vote for taxation, as Charlie did? If, as you say, ANY other people can "take what used to be your property," then the only people who have been victimized by government theft would be the tiny minority of Americans who oppose all taxation and never once voted for it. And with regard to those did vote for taxation as Charlie did, does that mean that it was moral for certain brutal governments to “kill” and “imprison” tax supporters in death camps? I wonder how many of Hitler’s victims might have once voted for taxes under the Weimar Republic.

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Does that mean that taxation is moral with regard to those who vote for taxation, as Charlie did?

It is rightful. (You see why I keep bringing up the distinction between rights and morality? You keep mixing them up.)

If, as you say, ANY other people can "take what used to be your property," then the only people who have been victimized by government theft would be the tiny minority of Americans who oppose all taxation and never once voted for it.

What is the usual turnout in American elections? 40%? 50%? There are MILLIONS of Americans who never once voted for ANYTHING. Plus, there are further millions of Americans who have voted against taxation; this is why we currently have a President who is cutting taxes.

And with regard to those did vote for taxation as Charlie did, does that mean that it was moral for certain brutal governments to “kill” and “imprison” tax supporters in death camps?  I wonder how many of Hitler’s victims might have once voted for taxes under the Weimar Republic.

Again, they were not violating anybody's rights by killing and imprisoning them, but that does not mean it was a moral thing to do. rights != morality. (Plus, those governments did violate the rights of many innocent people.)

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It is rightful. (You see why I keep bringing up the distinction between rights and morality? You keep mixing them up.)

But why not moral? You have not explained why it is moral for a thief (your word) like Charlie to go unpunished. What purpose does forfeiture serve if no one may morally implement it?

What is the usual turnout in American elections? 40%? 50%? There are MILLIONS of Americans who never once voted for ANYTHING. Plus, there are further millions of Americans who have voted against taxation; this is why we currently have a President who is cutting taxes.

Neither Bush nor Kerry ran on a platform of abolishing taxes. It was made clear by both candidates that taxation in some form would be continued in their administrations. Bush has not shunned tax loot and at this hour is busily spending funds coerced from productive citizens and expanding the debt in ways that can only mean higher taxes in the future. Only a tiny number of those who voted for Bush (or Kerry) oppose all taxation on principle. Of the 120 million Americans who voted last November, we can safely say that 100 million support some form of federal taxation. Therefore, following what you said about Charlie the “thief,” 100 million Americans could rightfully be deprived of all of their property.

Again, they were not violating anybody's rights by killing and imprisoning them, but that does not mean it was a moral thing to do. rights != morality. (Plus, those governments did violate the rights of many innocent people.)

Following your argument, a person who supports taxation forfeits all of his property and, if we accept what you wrote in post #78, his life as well. A parcel of land that has been forfeited has lost its owner and is ipso facto unowned. What, then, is immoral about taking over unowned land? If a Jew voted for taxation under the Weimar Republic, he would by your argument forfeit all his property. Since the Jew’s house and furniture are no longer owned by him, why would it be immoral for some other German and his family to move into the house and claim it as their own?

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  • 2 weeks later...

The premise of accepting or otherwise taking government funds, is, in my opinion, totally contrary to the purpose of agovernment under capitalism, and, it is for this reason, that I disagree with Software Nerd.

My tax dollars, for example, are forcibly taken from me and, instead of being allocated for the purpose of protecting my rights, they are used to support a "person in need." Or used to finance the higher education of a "disadvantaged" student. Or, even to fund a war which I do not believe in, to "liberate" another oppressed nation. In other words, the government has compromised my life into one where I am forced to contribute moneys to the welfare of others.

So basically, I have no control over what I am "entitled" to receive under any circumstance, so I cannot view the obtaining of government funds as a "rebate" or a "refund, or even the rightful return of "stolen goods."

In my opinion, the entire system of government funding is a fraud.

In a system where the government only protects our rights, there can be no need to rob tax dollars to distribute to others.

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The premise of accepting or otherwise taking government funds, is, in my opinion, totally contrary to the purpose of agovernment under capitalism, and, it is for this reason, that I disagree with Software Nerd.

While I do not challenge Software Nerd's premise that one is ethically justified in "taking back" what he has been forced to "put in," at some point we have to call a halt to the statist system of wealth redistribution or it will go on forever. We cannot very well propose to kill the welfarist monster and at the same time demand that it feed us.

I do not rule out accepting any government benefit under any circumstance. However, it seems to me that if any progress is going to be made in directing society towards laissez faire, those who are its strongest adherents need to be the chief example-setters.

Even though I've involuntarily nourished the welfare state with tens of thousands of dollars, when I had the opportunity to accept Workman's Compensation and unemployment benefits, I never once considered applying for them.

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The premise of accepting or otherwise taking government funds, is, in my opinion, totally contrary to the purpose of agovernment under capitalism, and, it is for this reason, that I disagree with Software Nerd.
I agree with the first part (every thing that comes before "I disagree with SoftwareNerd" :) ).

I can even respect a person who does not "take back" because they think it will help preserve the current system.

Having said that, let me ask "Yes" the following:

1) On your income tax return, you are allowed to deduct some amount for each person on the return. Within certain ranges of income, you would also be allowed to take an extra deduction/credit for each child. Do you think one should deduct those amounts before calculating the tax you are being forced to pay?

2) What if the unemployment benefit were to be changed so that for people who had taxes due for the year, they were disallowed from collecting unemployment checks, but instead had to claim "unemployment tax-credit"? Would you claim it only because you were forced to do so by the rules? Or would you claim a credit even if doing so was optional?

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I apologize for intervening in your questions directed at another member of this forum. Nonetheless, I could not resist.

1) On your income tax return, you are allowed to deduct some amount for each person on the return. Within certain ranges of income, you would also be allowed to take an extra deduction/credit for each child. Do you think one should deduct those amounts before calculating the tax you are being forced to pay?

Since income tax collection is equivalent to armed robbery, this question is on the order of asking whether victims of muggers are morally correct in lying to their attackers. If someone robs me on the street and asks me if I have more loot elsewhere, I may scrupulously take the "extra deduction."

2) What if the unemployment benefit were to be changed so that for people who had taxes due for the year, they were disallowed from collecting unemployment checks, but instead had to claim "unemployment tax-credit"? Would you claim it only because you were forced to do so by the rules? Or would you claim a credit even if doing so was optional?

As explained previously, it is not immoral for those who are forced to pay in to collect benefits. The central question for Objectivists is whether we should establish a model example of refusal of benefits.

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  • 4 years later...

*** Mod's note: merged with an existing topic. - sN ***

Ok, this is an example that I think is applicable to today's day and might actually be an issue for some people.

Say you are an Objectivist and you have fallen on tough times and are struggling financially to the point you are near poverty. As an Objectivist, would it be hypocritical at this point to accept government support through, say, Medicare, food stamps, etc?

Edited by softwareNerd
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Ok, this is an example that I think is applicable to today's day and might actually be an issue for some people.

Say you are an Objectivist and you have fallen on tough times and are struggling financially to the point you are near poverty. As an Objectivist, would it be hypocritical at this point to accept government support through, say, Medicare, food stamps, etc?

One can look at this two ways:

1) as an Objectivist you believe these institutions shouldn't exist but when you are pressed you go ahead and use them.. this could indeed be seen as hypocritical

2) as someone who has paid taxes for many years it could be said that by taking govt money you are simply retrieving some of what was stolen from you. For example, if you have had an average of 33% of your earnings stripped from you involuntarily for 15 years it could easily be said that had you been allowed to keep that money you would not be in the unfortunate position you are at the moment of "needing" assistance.

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One can look at this two ways:

1) as an Objectivist you believe these institutions shouldn't exist but when you are pressed you go ahead and use them.. this could indeed be seen as hypocritical

2) as someone who has paid taxes for many years it could be said that by taking govt money you are simply retrieving some of what was stolen from you. For example, if you have had an average of 33% of your earnings stripped from you involuntarily for 15 years it could easily be said that had you been allowed to keep that money you would not be in the unfortunate position you are at the moment of "needing" assistance.

Ah ok! I was focusing on point one when I wrote this out and never even thought about point two. Valid point.

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One can look at this two ways:

1) as an Objectivist you believe these institutions shouldn't exist but when you are pressed you go ahead and use them.. this could indeed be seen as hypocritical

2) as someone who has paid taxes for many years it could be said that by taking govt money you are simply retrieving some of what was stolen from you. For example, if you have had an average of 33% of your earnings stripped from you involuntarily for 15 years it could easily be said that had you been allowed to keep that money you would not be in the unfortunate position you are at the moment of "needing" assistance.

I believe that this is hypocritical and that point 1 is the only way to look at this particular situation. Point #2 would require that you ask other human beings to sacrifice for your need. Just because someone (The U.S. Government) has confiscated a percentage of your property, does not give you the right to take it back from others. Wouldn't this mean that if my car was stolen tonight, I would have the right to go steal someone else's car because of the unfortunate position I am in at that moment? I have been struggling with this exact question regarding the health care issue. Maybe I am interpreting it wrong.

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I believe that this is hypocritical and that point 1 is the only way to look at this particular situation. Point #2 would require that you ask other human beings to sacrifice for your need. Just because someone (The U.S. Government) has confiscated a percentage of your property, does not give you the right to take it back from others. Wouldn't this mean that if my car was stolen tonight, I would have the right to go steal someone else's car because of the unfortunate position I am in at that moment? I have been struggling with this exact question regarding the health care issue. Maybe I am interpreting it wrong.

You are not taking from others, Government is taking from others, as they have taken from you. Government is going to take that money whether you make use of it or not, just as they took it from you.

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I've always said that the necessity for government institutions is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The need for them exists because they exist.

People justify taxation as a means of helping the poor, despite taxation being inherently harmful to the poor. A homeless man for instance; he wants to work. He truly does. He doesn't care what it is, how he gets the job, he just wants to at least get his foot in the door, or get on a path of financial stability. But he can't. Because of taxation, and the need for the government/employers to know where every resident lives, he can't get a job. Because he doesn't have a mailing address. He either needs a mailing address, or he better hope that some employer is willing to hire under the table. But how is he going to get one? He can't even afford to rent, that's why he needs a job! Taxation is a government created Catch-22 that this homeless man was put in... but we need taxation to give people like him welfare. This is merely an example of how government is a self-fulfilling prophecy

Government institutions have become "necessary" (for lack of a better word) because of government institution. With what we have now, I wouldn't feel bad taking back money from the same entity that has extorted money from me

I'm actually at a community college. So I'm a little biased D=

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BlackWolf brings up another valid point.

What about government run colleges. I can see why we can excuse High School because we are required by law to attend and its often a matter of your parents deciding that you WILL attend a public school. So I can see that we can dismiss attending high school as being hypocritical. But what about community colleges?

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You are not taking from others, Government is taking from others, as they have taken from you. Government is going to take that money whether you make use of it or not, just as they took it from you.

I don't think the fact that the Government, acting as the middle man, changes the fact that you are asking other people to sacrifice for your need.

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I don't think the fact that the Government, acting as the middle man, changes the fact that you are asking other people to sacrifice for your need.

What if what I have taken in government handouts amounts to exactly, if not less than what I've contributed to it for all of these years? Am I still taking from others?

What if I join the military? Am I asking others to live for me because I'm living on money and benefits that the government has extorted from others?

What if I drive a car on the roads? Am I asking others to live for me because I chose not to walk, bike, or take a helicopter to work?

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What if what I have taken in government handouts amounts to exactly, if not less than what I've contributed to it for all of these years? Am I still taking from others?

What if I join the military? Am I asking others to live for me because I'm living on money and benefits that the government has extorted from others?

What if I drive a car on the roads? Am I asking others to live for me because I chose not to walk, bike, or take a helicopter to work?

I do not think the amount of the Government handout matters. I still believe that it is "taking from others" if you accept government handouts in the form of an entitlement program. I put myself in the position the OP describes. If I was faced with the loss of a job, illness or poverty I would turn to family, friends and charity in that order. I guess if I was faced with life or death, one could justify taking a handout from the Government.

If you join the Military, you are actually working for me so it is not a complete sacrifice. You are getting paid from the money that was stolen from me, but you are essentially working for me and defending my freedom.

Driving on roads is the same as walking or biking so I'm not sure what the mode of transportation has to do with it. Using roads, through any form of transportation is necessary to live your life. Unless we find some way to teleport from place to place, I have no problem using roads to get to and from work, the store and anywhere else I need to go.

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I don't think the fact that the Government, acting as the middle man, changes the fact that you are asking other people to sacrifice for your need.

You aren't asking others to sacrifice for your need.

If a robber took 50 bucks from you, and the robber went on to rob 10 other people of 50 bucks each, if you had the chance to take get back your 50 bucks from the guy, you would not be taking it from the 10 other people he robbed. You would be taking back what he took from you.

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I do not think the amount of the Government handout matters.

But you are taking exactly, if not less than, what was extorted from you. From the same entity that extorted from you. See RationalBiker's post.

If that robber happened to pool other $50 along with the $50 he took from you, would you feel guilty if the robber offered you $50 back?

Nobody is arguing with you that asking for an entitlement is a bad thing. However, what we're saying is that, now that entitlements exist, and now that everyone including you is already forced to pay into it, it would not be immoral to retreive some of it.

I still believe that it is "taking from others" if you accept government handouts in the form of an entitlement program. I put myself in the position the OP describes. If I was faced with the loss of a job, illness or poverty I would turn to family, friends and charity in that order. I guess if I was faced with life or death, one could justify taking a handout from the Government.

If you consider a return of extorted money "asking others to live for you", then what difference does it make if it's a life or death situation?

Driving on roads is the same as walking or biking so I'm not sure what the mode of transportation has to do with it. Using roads, through any form of transportation is necessary to live your life. Unless we find some way to teleport from place to place, I have no problem using roads to get to and from work, the store and anywhere else I need to go.

But you are using roads that were paid for with the money that the government used. You are using the roads for free. And there are several non government funded options for you to use to get to work. The only money that went into those roads of yours or your taxes. Are you going to keep using the roads? Or are you going to stop using the roads altogether until the government sells them to a private constructor?

Edited by Black Wolf
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