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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Summing Up

OK, so Stephan has now come around and declared: "Gene, is it supposed to be news that the idea of aggression depends on and is informed by a particular view of property rights?"

So here's the way the non-aggression principle (NAP) is used:

1) Assume a libertarian theory of property rights;
2) Invoke the NAP; and
3) You get a libertarian polity.

What's odd is that this argument has the same force:

1) Assume a libertarian theory of property rights;
2) Note that Socrates is mortal; and
3) You get a libertarian polity.

In fact, we can shorten things to:
1) Assume a libertarian theory of property rights;
2) You get a libertarian polity!

(The last argument, of course, assumes something like "Rights should be respected," but that seems to be part of the definition of a right.)

So, in our first argument, the odd thing is the NAP is doing no work at all. It is there for rhetorical purposes only, so that everyone knows the person so arguing is against aggression!

55 comments:

  1. Dr Anonymous12:32 PM

    You seem to have forgotten my seminal contribution to this discussion.

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  2. 1) Assume no libertarian theory of rights
    2) You get a non-libertarian polity!

    Gene, what a brilliant alternative!

    But really, the libertarian "assumption" is not some free floating abstraction, but merely shorthand.

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  3. Dr Who?1:32 PM

    No, it's an assumption. It's taken on faith by the crude and unsophisticated douches like Steph.

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  4. The summary seems deficient to me. It should probably read something closer to this:

    1) Assume a Lockean-homesteading theory of property
    2) Invoke the NAP
    3) You get a libertarian polity

    The "libertarian theory of property rights" only makes special mention of the NAP superfluous because it includes the NAP by definition. It's collapsing premises (1) and (2) in my formulation above. Should it be surprising that we don't need two invocations of premise (2)?

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  5. Gene, any assertion that something is aggression implicitly rests on some notion of property rights. Any assertion that something is a property right has implications for what constitutions aggression. They are flip sides of each other. What is unique about libertarianism is our particular notion of property rights allocation; this implies a unique conception of aggression. NAP is just shorthand for this. The unadorned, simple, common-sensical, intuitive notion of aggression is also compatible with the NAP-based-on-Lockean-property.

    If you talk about aggression simpliciter, it refers to A battering B's body. The property theory implicit here is obvious.

    For the body I'd say that property follows aggression, in a sense. You have property in your body because it's aggression for someone to batter you. (Of course, you can look at it the other way too. They are flip sides of a coin, in a sense.)

    If you are talking about aggression with respect to bodies, in other words, you don't need to elaborate a theory of property to explain what aggression is. But for external objects, use of the object is aggression only if it's owned by someone else. So we have to ask: who owns it; this requires property theory.

    For the body, we still need a theory of justice, because in some cases something that looks like battery is not aggression because it is (say) defensive. But the default case is that if A hits B it is aggression. The libertarian view is that this aggression--which most people oppose--is wrong. We simply observe here that this implies you are a self-owner. Body-ownership is implied by the (almost universal, if not consistent) opposition to personal aggression. The libertarian view recgonizes that it is obvious and intuitive to oppose aggression; that it is fairly obvious what this is in the case of the body: it is inititiated force. But for property, you need to bring in more about how these non-body, external objects have ownership allocated. That's where the Lockean theory falls in.

    This is slightly interesting, I suppose, but it's not any kind of defect of libertarianism. I still don't see what your big gotcha is here. If you think it's okay for the state to take my property in taxes, this is aggression in the libertarian's eyes--which is shorthand for saying it's unjust since it's my property (according to our property principles). You are supporting what we see as aggression--unjust. Aaand... soo?

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  6. W. Ho MD1:40 PM

    Only a douche would think that the libertarian intepretation of Locke is the only one there is.

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  7. Nona Suomy JD1:41 PM

    Stephan Kinsella - Dangerously Original, Unorthodox, Creative, High Energy! (or, DOUCHE, if you will).

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  8. Anony Mouse, Doctor of Philosophy1:43 PM

    And of course, his good friend.

    The Capitalist, Libertarian, Anarchist, only with Nationalism (CLOWN).

    Or Hoppe, as he's more commonly known. I think CLOWN might catch on though.

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  9. OK, let's cut out all the 'douche' talk -- it was mildly amusing for a bit, but has gotten rather tired.

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  10. Anonymous2:04 PM

    The Blackadder Says:

    [A]ny assertion that something is aggression implicitly rests on some notion of property rights. Any assertion that something is a property right has implications for what constitutions aggression.

    The second sentence is probably true. The first is not, unless one uses a concept of property rights so expansive as to render the 'property' in 'property rights' redundant.

    [T]he default case is that if A hits B it is aggression. The libertarian view is that this aggression--which most people oppose--is wrong. We simply observe here that this implies you are a self-owner.

    Except it doesn't imply this, anymore that the fact it's aggression for A to hit a car implies the car owns itself. Or, to look at it another way, suppose we consider a case where A hitting B does not constitute aggression. Does that imply that A owns B? Of course not.

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  11. Anonymous4:19 PM

    Wow, the commenters here make the worst of those at the Mises blog seem thoughtful, kind and gentle.

    Quit the following you've managed to gather, Mr. Callahan.

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  12. It's True6:13 PM

    That'd be Callahan the Great to you.

    By the way, the Anon poster you're mocking is in fact Stephan Kinsella himself.

    It's true.

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  13. Is there any particular theory of property--what it is and what justified it--that the anti-Lockeans 'round these parts do consider airtight and unarguable? Or is it an area where many concede that no argument is so evidently true that no reasonable person could disagree? For example, is it considered important by Gene or the other anti-Lockeans here to say that there is any such thing as "property" in the sense of something that is under the just control of others, and how far does that just control extend?

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  14. "Quit the following you've managed to gather, Mr. Callahan."

    Well, I've told one "Dr. Anon" to quit the "douche" business, but, on the other hand, Black Adders comments seem quite thoughtful and to the point, so I don't think I should be "quitting" that portion of my "following."

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  15. Gene, do you tell your kids not to steal?

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  16. Certainly, Bob, but of course, what constitutes stealing depends on what idea of property rights one endorses.

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  17. GENE;

    "Skye, you have stated my point quite precisely -- the crux of the issue is one's theory of "rights," and the NAP adds nothing significant to that theory -- all serious political theorists are against whatever they see as being rights violated, and the real issue is what, exactly, those rights are."

    Gene, I think much of this revolves around the definition and use of the term "right". Libertarians tend to mean something that is inviolable and cannot be rendered annul - something prior to and thus largely exempt from - political institutions, and societal arrangements.

    To assert, as libertarians do, that "other people are not your property" is to reveal certain presuppositions, of course, but arguably warranted ones and fewer in number than those who argue that other people CAN be treated as your property. It could be argued that everyone supports "rights" in so far as an analysis of their statements and assumptions necessarily suppose such for those actions to be justified. Whether they are consistent is another question. To act and make use of property - or other persons - is to beg justification for such.

    "For every one, as he is himself, so he has a self-propriety, else could he not be himself; and of this no second may presume to deprive any of without manifest violation and affront to the very principles of nature and of the rules of equity and justice between man and man."
    ~ Richard Overton, 'An Arrow Against All Tyrants' 12 October, 1646

    "But if rights are defined in terms of force, then there are conceptual constraints on what we can say about the relation between rights and aggression. For aggression and force are conceptually linked; aggression is initiatory force – or conversely, force is that mode of conduct which, if initiated unilaterally, counts as aggression.
    ...
    "If I gain a right to be treated in manner M, you must correspondingly lose the right not to treat me in manner M. Hence every time we add a right here, we ipso facto subtract a right there; the total quantity of rights can thus be rearranged, but not increased."
    ~ Long, Why Libertarians Believe There Is Only One Right

    Thus the insistence of a "right" to forcefully subordinate another person not only blatantly begs justification but is arguably untenable on it's surface as it necessarily cancels out any ethic (which by nature must be universally applicable if existent at all). If it is not universally applicable, arguably, then it is not an ethic, and therefore the whole charade to attempt to justify it in the first place is vacuous.

    Similarly, we can ignore consistency and valid arguments in dialogue - insisting that such conventions rely upon the unwarranted assumptions of classical logic - but we will have to throw out the whole idea of justification in terms of argumentation, consequently, just as we would have to throw out legitimate action or the notion of a "right" in terms of justifying human action as ethical.

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  18. "fewer in number than those who argue that other people >CAN< be treated as your property."

    I meant to say "OUGHT to"

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  19. "Gene, I think much of this revolves around the definition and use of the term "right". Libertarians tend to mean something that is inviolable and cannot be rendered annul..."

    Yes, and so does everyone else who uses "rights" language.

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  20. Well, daniel, that's because "rights" includes the idea "should not be violated." But every political thinker who talks about 'rights' thinks they should not be violated.

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  21. Skye, Hoppe'a argumentation ethic was such an obvious failure of logical argument that every libertarian in the world except Rothbard and Kinsella cracked up laughing upon reading it.

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  22. "Whether God is a proprietor [of man] or not, what really matters is that man is the proprietor of himself. No pretext of derivation is made for this second step… The appearance of man as the proprietor of his person would have fascinated Hobbes had he lived to witness it. He might have classified it as a variety of madness similar to that of the man who believes himself God. The history of political thought does not offer an attack on the dignity of man comparable to this classification of the human person as a capital good, to the undisturbed economic use of which one has a natural right."

    Eric Voegelin

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  23. Suppose that you start with a libertarian theory of property rights. Does it immediately follow that you get a libertarian polity, without using the NAP? I don't think so. The NAP is needed to rule out what Nozick calls a "utilitarianism of rights", i.e.,the view that one should minimize rights violations, even if this requires violating someone's rights to do so.

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  24. What Hobbes would have thought is crazy is of some, but limited, interest to me, or to anyone trying to understand justifications for forcing other people to do things.
    What might be more interesting is answering the question: what is the definition of property, what justifies it, and is a human being something to whom that definition and that justification can apply? By what is undoubtedly my unsophisticated and foolish quasi-definition, if something is one's property, one gets to decide what is done with it (at least within certain parameters, the setting of which seems a much more complicated question to which disagreement is probably inevitable). Why that can't apply to your relationship with your own body isn't clear to me, whether or not that counts as a "derivation"--it seems more to me like simply applying a definition to a specific example. (That doesn't answer the question of whether one is JUSTIFIED in treating one's body as his own property, sure, in which case I'd like to hear the JUSTIFICATION for why it should be someone ELSE'S.)
    I'd be interested amongst all these declarations of the unsophisticated foolishness of standard modern American libertarian definitions of property and what follows from it to see some rigorously defended alternate versions that DO establish the justice of the state. If it is Hobbes decision that someone's refusal to pitch in for certain services he may or may not want makes him at war with Hobbes, then I guess I get it, tho I remain unconvinced.

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  25. OK I'm going to just post one last time on this, because any more and I might switch to Marxism just to drop it.

    Gene, you're right, you need to give your kids more than just, "Don't steal." In fact, when they're really young and at the playground, you probably don't even say that. You probably say, "Give that back, that's not yours."

    OK but then when they're a little bit older and you realize on the car ride home from the grocery store that they're eating candy bars they had put in their pockets without your knowledge, you just say, "You're in trouble for stealing." You don't go through a discourse on the nature of property rights, and you don't bring up Hobbes.

    Why not? Because you are reminding them that there are certain principles that they are immoral if they violate, even if there are "pleasurable benefits" from doing so (like eating a candy bar that tastes good).

    I submit that modern political discourse is about the level of a 13-year-old. People who write letters to the editor or who are talking heads on CNN would say "stealing is wrong," but in the next breath they support taxes. They would say "slavery is wrong" but in the next breath they support the draft, at least in principle.

    You are WRONG if you think that Americans who support taxation would say, "Oh, well it's not stealing because the government actually owns all income in the income, and whatever politicians let me keep, is a gift of their property to me."

    That is not at all what people think. By the same token, no feminist who believes in the draft under certain circumstances, would justify her views by saying, "The government owns our bodies."

    OK? That is why libertarians focus on "don't aggress" in political discourse, because they are stressing the primacy of property rights in matters of legality. It's not that other people who aren't libertarians *merely* have a different definition of property rights, it's that THEY THINK THERE'S MORE TO THE STORY THAN PROPERTY RIGHTS.

    The typical social democrat says, "Human rights above property rights," he doesn't say, "Actually I dispute the homesteading principle and endorse a system of property rights in which a we collectively own the legal ability to force some of to go fight communists in Indochina."

    That's not how they frame things at all. They think the libertarians are nuts for making a fetish out of property rights.

    So that's why in standard political arguments with non-libertarians, libertarians will say the equivalent of "stealing is wrong," because their opponents are being as unprincipled as the adolescent who swipes a candy bar because he's hungry and hey, the store won't miss it, those owners drive fancy cars!

    You are right, for a fully defensible and coherent worldview, the libertarian can't *merely* drop the NAP bomb on people. To do it right, they should wrote whole books on the subject...just like Rothbard did.

    I really don't know what the heck else libertarians would have to do, to make you happy. Sure there are some punks who argue like idiots, just like there are people on your side who compare Stephan to a product useful for female hygiene. So what?

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  26. BTW I made a few typos in the above, I'm sure the eloquence and beauty of my arguments wasn't diminished too much.

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  27. Anonymous12:33 PM

    "So that's why in standard political arguments with non-libertarians, libertarians will say the equivalent of "stealing is wrong," because their opponents are being as unprincipled as the adolescent who swipes a candy bar because he's hungry and hey, the store won't miss it, those owners drive fancy cars!"

    Are you really comparing a 16 year old stealing because he feels like it to giving food to the most desperate members of society?

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  28. Anon said:

    Are you really comparing a 16 year old stealing because he feels like it to giving food to the most desperate members of society?

    If the giving of food comes from money raised involuntarily, then yes, I am comparing them by saying they are both examples of stealing.

    I rest my case Gene. Libertarians talk like that because of people like Anonymous.

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  29. Anonymous12:42 PM

    "If the giving of food comes from money raised involuntarily, then yes, I am comparing them by saying they are both examples of stealing.
    "

    ok, well you need to prove that stealing a small amount of people's incomes is worse than letting people starve on the street.

    Right now, libertarians haven't managed such a thing. and thankfull most people agree with me.

    Seriously though, i think the comparison of Stephan to hygeine products is closer than the stealing of a candy bar to feeding starving people.

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  30. GENE;

    "Skye, Hoppe'a argumentation ethic was such an obvious failure of logical argument that every libertarian in the world except Rothbard and Kinsella cracked up laughing upon reading it."

    Gene, are there any arguments contained in "Breakthrough or Buncombe?" against Hoppe that are valid or were not adequately addressed? Most of them, as Hoppe noted, mistook the claims he made.

    http://libertyunbound.com/article.php?id=264

    I was not however, attempting to rehash Hoppe's arguments specifically. Rather, in logic, the principle of explosion states that "anything follows from a contradiction". Likewise, I was attempting to argue that to deny libertarian rights, anything follows, ethically.

    - As either everyone has a "right" do everything, or no one has a "right" to do anything. Both are vacuous as they rest upon the nullification of the definition of 'Right'.

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  31. Anonymous12:52 PM

    The Blackadder Says:

    People who write letters to the editor or who are talking heads on CNN would say "stealing is wrong," but in the next breath they support taxes.

    Maybe this is because they don't view taxes as stealing?

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  32. David, interesting, but I don't think the NAP helps there -- all the utlitarian who accepts it has to say is, "Taking property in order to increase utility is not aggression but beneficence.'

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  33. Yes, Blackadder, you'd think this is obvious, but some people can't seem to get this through their noggins.

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  34. A utilitarian might take the NAP in the way that you suggest; but the question is what, if anything, does the NAP add to a libertarian theory of rights? Someone who accept a libertarian theory of rights can't take "aggression" as a free standing term but must interpret in accord with this theory of rights. If you now say, "if he does that, what does the NAP add that isn't already given in the theory of rights?", the answer is that the theory of rights leaves it open whether you can violate rights to minimize total rights violations. The NAP rules this out.

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  35. "I rest my case Gene. Libertarians talk like that because of people like Anonymous."

    Sorry, Bob, your case for taxes being theft already assumes a libertarian notion of absolute property rights.

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  36. And what does a theory of "taxes aren't theft" have to assume? More than just a justificatory theory of property, though of course it needs one of those too, I think. (Unless, and this is perfectly respectable, it's purely Realist--it's your property if you ACTUALLY get to decide what happens with it, so if someone acting under the rubric "the state" takes if from you or cajoles or threatens you into handing it over, it ain't yours.) It seems to me it also needs a theory of state legitimacy--that is, what people under what circumstances (it's always people, by the way, let's not let institutional language blind us) are legitimately allowed to take things from others (let's leave "property" out of it...) and for what purposes. As I gather but may be wrong since the non-libts in these threads seem reluctant to make a clear positive case for their political ethics, that it's the Hobbes idea of "need to take certain things to prevent war of all against all." Which means, it seems, that the great majority of what actual taxes in the real world are taken to do are NOT legitimate. So it also, even more complicatedly, needs some airtight theory of HOW MUCH taxes can be taken; sounds like it has a lot more highly questionable steps than those from Lockean property rights to NAP.

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  37. Of course, Brian, a theory that tries to show that some taxation is justified is not committed to the notion that any amount whatsoever is justified. And you are aware that Locke himself moved from Lockean property rights to a justification for the State, and that his theory of property rights held them to be limited, not absolute, right? And you're aware that no actually existing legal system has ever embodied an absolute theory of property rights, correct?

    But I don't understand what you mean by a move from Lockean property rights to the NAP, since no one I was aware of derives the NAP from from Lockean property rights.

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  38. What is the theory that rigorously explains what amount is justified? And what are one's duties/obligations in a real world in which the amount that the state takes is not justified? Has there ever been a state that DID only take exactly the justified amount? If not, then are any libertarianoids who chose to mindlessly and foolishly shout "taxation is theft" not at least partly right all of the time? Is that question preceding the previous question any more meaningful than the question "And you're aware that no actually existing legal system has ever embodied an absolute theory of property rights, correct?"
    Gene, you know, and I know you know, that libertarians advocate a set of political beliefs that they are fully and acutely aware every second of the day that most of the world doesn't agree with and has never fully practiced, so the cute "are you really that dumb?" questions are unnecessary.
    I was using "steps from Lockean property rights to NAP" in the same sense I took you to be using in this original post---that only with a built-in dedication to Lockean property rights (combined with some notion that built into "property rights" is the idea that one is wrong to agress against someone's property, plus the idea that the body can be seen as the property of the human bearing the body, so to speak), can the NAP be at all convincing to someone. I thought that's what this whole discussion was about, colloquially speaking of course and never once using the word "derive...." in any technical sense.

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  39. The reason I asked "And you're aware that no actually existing legal system has ever embodied an absolute theory of property rights, correct?" is that you seemed to be implying that if ownership isn't absolute it's not ownership at all.


    "can the NAP be at all convincing to someone."

    Brian, my point is the opposite: the NAP is so convincing to everyone that it's empty of any real bite. (Sure, Stephan says he's met some people in discussions who advocate unjust aggression, but I mean serious thinkers.) Just go ask some Marxist professor if he's against aggression, and he'll let you know that's why he's anti-capitalist. What's doing all the work in libertarian theory is the absolute property rights. (And we really shouldn't call them "Lockean" since Locke's property rights weren't absolute, and his thoery was a muddle anyway.

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  40. "1) Assume no libertarian theory of rights
    2) You get a non-libertarian polity!

    Gene, what a brilliant alternative!"

    You know, I would have responded to this if I had had the least idea what you were getting at.

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  41. I know I said I was done, but Gene has just slipped up completely. It was only a matter of time...

    Gene said:
    (Sure, Stephan says he's met some people in discussions who advocate unjust aggression, but I mean serious thinkers.)

    Gene, let's not forget the Anon in this very thread, who couldn't believe I was using the notion of "stealing" to describe taxpayer funds helping starving people. And then note well his comeback--he didn't say, "It's not stealing" as you and Blackadder predicted, but on the contrary he said a little theft is worth it to feed starving people, and that most Americans would agree with him.

    I think he is more right than you are, in terms of how most Americans would think. Yes, if you asked someone point black, "Is taxation theft?" he would say, "Of course not!" But then if you said, "Oh, because the government really owns everyone's income?" he would say, "Huh? This isn't about property rights, there are other things too, like social justice."

    You yourself slipped up and gave away the whole game when you just said:

    What's doing all the work in libertarian theory is the absolute property rights.

    See? A naive reader up till now would have thought your position was simply, "Bob and Stephan, other people disagree over what property rights people actually have."

    In response, Stephan and I have been going hoarse saying, "No that's not really it, Gene. Most statists don't think property rights trump other considerations. You pay your property taxes because it's necessary for civil order etc., not because the government really owns all the land."

    And you just admitted that yourself, in the above. You conceded this isn't about the specific content of property rights, it's about libertarians making property rights key, whereas other people don't.

    Just to make sure you see why I think you've been denying this (at least in portions of your remarks), when I asked you if you tell your kids not to steal, you did NOT say, "Sure Bob, but I also teach them other things like, it's okay to take a guy's car to get your pregnant wife to the hospital, even if it's against his will."

    No, you didn't say that, you simply said (not exact quote), "Sure Bob, but that principle is empty unless they know what the property rights are."

    I concede that maybe I'm bouncing around myself, and you think I'm a moving target, but for sure YOU are bouncing around in this debate.

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  42. No, no, no, utter consistency is my watchword!

    1) The fact that the guy came to use "stealing" was a concession to you -- "all right, if you're going to insist on calling it stealing, well, fine..."

    2) "Sure Bob, but that principle is empty unless they know what the property rights are."

    Exactly. And for most people, those rights are not absolute. That does not mean it's OK to violate those rights sometimes. Instead, it means such-and-such does not count as a rights violation.

    So, for example, when Aquinas said that it was OK to take food for your family if they were starving, he didn't say "It's OK to steal sometimes." He said, "This doesn't count as stealing."

    And similarly, I don't think Hobbes would say that it's OK for the State to violate your property rights for revenue because the State is so important, he would say you have no right to withhold the proportion of property needed to maintain social order.

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  43. GENE;

    "So, for example, when Aquinas said that it was OK to take food for your family if they were starving, he didn't say "It's OK to steal sometimes." He said, "This doesn't count as stealing.""

    There are several issues here. I think there is reason to believe that in most cases, this is mere semantics. If you're arguing something is "justified", or permissable in a given emergency scenario or "lifeboat" situation you'll of course use terminology borrowed from or conducive to the vocabulary of justification, ie., NOT "stealing" or "robbery".

    Just as someone would not say they were "assaulting" someone after the person refused to quiet down (after you politely asked them) but rather "i told him if he didn't I would hit him!" is stated with an air of justification. And it doesn't necessarily assume a disingenuousness on their part to do so.

    But it could be argued that "principles" of ethics (deon., conseq. or virtue) could be invoked to clarify whether his actions were correct or not, and whether the words he used were in fact the most appropriate ones.

    Secondly, in this scenario of a poor desperate man "stealing" from someone, the libertarian would insist this does not constitute nullification of his right to restitution. Therefore, it arguably doesn't invalidate the ethic of libertarian property.

    Long takes up this issue in his Seminar on Libertarian Foundations. If he is correct, then this example of "stealing" is a straw man.

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  44. Anonymous9:15 AM

    "Gene, let's not forget the Anon in this very thread, who couldn't believe I was using the notion of "stealing" to describe taxpayer funds helping starving people. And then note well his comeback--he didn't say, "It's not stealing" as you and Blackadder predicted, but on the contrary he said a little theft is worth it to feed starving people, and that most Americans would agree with him.

    I think he is more right than you are, in terms of how most Americans would think. Yes, if you asked someone point black, "Is taxation theft?" he would say, "Of course not!" But then if you said, "Oh, because the government really owns everyone's income?" he would say, "Huh? This isn't about property rights, there are other things too, like social justice"

    Who gives a crap if it's called theft or not?

    It's justified and that's what matters... Of course, does it make any sense to called it theft if it can be justified? I don't know. I daresay Gene would say that it isn't.

    But that's quite besides the point. What matters is that most sane people not just in America but in the whole world will agree with me that if you have to take a little bit of somebody's earnings to feed the starving guy on the street, then so be it.

    if you really want to start playing with definitions to get your way fine. but i think it makes sense to say that the homeless guy bleeding to death on the street has had something taken from him when he's stepped over. the same applies for the black man who applies for a summer fellowship at the Lvmi but it rejected for the color of his skin.

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  45. Whether we call it theft or not is important, I think, because to call something "theft" means it is unjustified.

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  46. Sorry if repeating this point over and over is rude, but it still seems vital to me and it still seems it hasn't really been addressed. If, as Gene says, Hobbes would say you have no right to withhold the proportion of property needed to maintain social order," and if we are in fact taking Hobbes as wise on this issue, are we not admitting that the ACTUAL amounts that any ACTUAL state is taking via taxation goes far beyond the amounts that Hobbes would agree "you have no right to withhold," and thus that libertarian objections to ACTUAL taxation on the grounds that it is partly/mostly unjustified theft, actually do have some merit? If not, why not?

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  47. Anonymous9:32 AM

    The Blackadder Says:

    Yes, if you asked someone point black, "Is taxation theft?" he would say, "Of course not!" But then if you said, "Oh, because the government really owns everyone's income?" he would say, "Huh? This isn't about property rights, there are other things too, like social justice."

    If someone denies that taxation is theft, is he really committed to the view that the government owns everyone's income? I don't think it's theft that my phone company takes money out of my bank account each month (I have an auto payment thing set up). Does that mean I should think the phone company owns my income?

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  48. Anonymous9:45 AM

    The Blackadder Says:

    If, as Gene says, Hobbes would say you have no right to withhold the proportion of property needed to maintain social order," and if we are in fact taking Hobbes as wise on this issue, are we not admitting that the ACTUAL amounts that any ACTUAL state is taking via taxation goes far beyond the amounts that Hobbes would agree "you have no right to withhold," and thus that libertarian objections to ACTUAL taxation on the grounds that it is partly/mostly unjustified theft, actually do have some merit?

    How much would you be willing to pay for the services the government provides to you (roads, police, fire, etc.)? Now, how much do you actually pay in taxes?

    My guess is that for most people in the United States the first number is greater than the second (here's an argument in support of this guess: if it were not so, people would leave the country, or at least stop paying taxes).

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  49. Anonymous10:09 AM

    "Whether we call it theft or not is important, I think, because to call something "theft" means it is unjustified."

    Ok then it's not theft and Bob's post proved nothing.

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  50. Brian, I haven't addressed this because it has nothing to do with the intent of the thread, which is to ask whether a couple of typical libertarian rhetorical moves "work."

    ANd I did not bring Hobbes up to claim he was a "wise man," I used Hobbes because his a an easy-to-understand case for the State against which a slogan like "Taxes are theft!" has no force. I didn't say Hobbes was righ; I said you can't prove him wrong that way.

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  51. "I used Hobbes because his a an easy-to-understand case for the State against which a slogan like "Taxes are theft!" has no force. I didn't say Hobbes was righ; I said you can't prove him wrong that way."

    You have repeated exactly why it seems to me my question is as relevant as could be to this discussion. On which point am I wrong: that Hobbes' theory of why taxes aren't theft (it has been at least 15 years since I've had my nose in Hobbes) depends on the idea that they are necessary to prevent war or all against all? That the actual taxes taken by actual states go far beyond this level? That if the previous is true, then libertarian arguments that "taxation is theft" are at least partially if not mostly true, and thus couldn't be fairly said to have "no force"?

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  52. Brian, it's not so much that you're wrong, but that your questions are not aligning with my interest in bringing the topic up. The general ancap claim is "taxes are theft simpliciter," not "this high level of taxes is theft" -- and I'm interested in examining the former claim, not (right now) the latter -- not that it's not a valid topic!

    As far as Hobbes goes, I think he'd say, "Whatever level of taxes Leviathan needs, you'd better pay up!" The only serious injustice Levaiathan can commit is to try to murder the subjects, since that breaks the founding covenant.

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  53. "The only serious injustice Levaiathan can commit is to try to murder the subjects, since that breaks the founding covenant"

    I recall Prof. Quentin Skinner saying there was also another exemption; conscription.

    But the reason he gave was that you could die as a result. But what happens when you continue to refuse to pay taxes?

    http://nigelwarburton.typepad.com/philosophy_bites/2007/10/quentin-skinner.html

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  54. In fact, he states,

    ". . although in the covenant you give the sovereign the power of life and death, you cannot give the sovereign the uncontested right to execute you, because that actually ends your life. Now the only reason you’ve entered into the state is to preserve your life."

    http://nigelwarburton.typepad.com/philosophy_bites/2007/10/transcript-of-q.html

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  55. Well, I don't recall conscription, but Skinner knows his stuff, so I defer to him!

    "But the reason he gave was that you could die as a result. But what happens when you continue to refuse to pay taxes?"

    Yes, well, Hobbes didn't mean you could violate the Sovereign with impunity, but I think he would have said that once you were condemned to execution, you had every right to try to escape or get off some other way.

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