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Friday, February 10, 2012

Things That Just Ain't So

"People only pay their taxes at the point of a gun." -- Libertarianism 101

"Personally, I don’t mind paying taxes that support the public schools, because I see them as a public good, even though my family chooses not to use them." -- Rod Dreher

36 comments:

  1. Hmm. I see the problem. Government provides a prison in which it propagandizes children, but tells everybody that it is really a school which provides an education.
    Now, Dreher and other members of the public could, in the absence of government schools, provide funds and oversight to a public school in their area, and it would very likely be a real public good.

    So, strike the word only from the Libertarianism 101 canon. Clearly people also pay their taxes because of fraud.

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  2. "Government provides a prison..."

    God, libertarians live in a world almost entirely made of their own fevered fantasies, don't they?

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  3. I went to public school. It certainly didn't feel like a fantasy. It felt like a prison, where the primary concern was to avoid violence directed toward you.
    I learned to read before school- most of what I have learned I learned on my own.

    Plus, you are ignoring the obvious in my comment- Dreher and his neighbors could get a better product by buying directly, because they would have direct influence on the seller.

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  4. What I find laughable about these Deep Philosophical Discussions on taxation is that they fail to recognize that

    a) taxes DO NOT pay for public services

    and

    b) the modern government can and does spend as much money as it wants (basic MMT)

    Taxes are an **inflation control** measure. Not a means of generating revenue for public services. Those public services keep running even without tax revenues.

    It is but a matter of whether the federal government keeps borrowing from its central bank and keeps providing the money to states and councils that need them.

    The REAL discussion on taxes should involve whether importers and foreign investors are affected by domestic deficits and exchange rates. Everything else is off topic.

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  5. "I went to public school. It certainly didn't feel like a fantasy. It felt like a prison..."

    So YOU had a public school like that. My kids begged to go to public school, and now that they are there, they love it. Some days we try to get them to stay home, and they fight us. The experience of actual public schools, and the very dedicated teachers my kids have had, was a big factor in convincing me that there was something wrong with my libertarian worldview.

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  6. I think there are enough similarities between government schools and prisons to call the former a subset of the latter. Obviously, if you want to go to a government school, you shall free, whereas if you don't want to go you shall feel imprisoned. I suspect similar sensations can be experienced in institutions more widely regarded as prisons.
    Nor would I suggest that the mere presence of dedicated teachers has any specific relevance- in an era of severe misallocation, where do you expect human resources to go?

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  7. "(Many) People only pay their taxes at the point of a gun."

    There, I fixed it for you.

    If I pointed a gun at you and forced you to buy groceries from the store you prefer to buy groceries from normally, I suppose there's a sense in which you really don't feel "forced" at all. I'm not sure how that invalidates the arguments libertarians have against force (of this stripe). Of course plenty of people are fine with it - who would libertarians being arguing day and night with the 25% of the time we aren't just arguing with each other?

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  8. Gene, I really hope you take a look for the flaw in your reasoning.

    "So YOU lost a limb in the war. My boys waited enthusiastically to be conscripted, and now that they are in Vietnam, they love it. Some days we try to get them to fly home, and they reject it. The experience of actual jungle firefights, and the very dedicated officers and NCO's my boys have had, was a big factor in convincing me that there was something wrong with my anti-draft worldview."

    Note: no, I am NOT putting your children on par with war junkies - of course having good public schools is a positive thing. (Analogies are only meant to illuminate invalid reasoning.) I'm just trying to illustrate to you that to a libertarian, positive non-consensual experiences aren't sufficient to justify non-consensual institutions like public education. At the very least you should be more considerate of those who are genuinely harmed by the system.

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  9. Watoosh, every state now allows home schooling, I believe, and there are also many private schools. So if anyone has "imprisoned" anyone in a public school, it is the child's parents. And, I have no doubt that things parents force their children to do, like sending them to their room or to piano lessons, often feels like prison. But since it is the parents, not the state, forcing the children to go, why isn't August blaming the parents? And why isn't he calling piano lessons a prison as well?

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  10. There might be overlap between how resources are used in a society with taxes and a society without.

    The key is where the two differ - indeed it is at the point of a gun that I pay for Wall Street bailouts and the ridiculous US Military spending levels.

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  11. I am quite sure that many people pay taxes voluntarily. It's what happens if you don't pay that irks me.

    I've mentioned many times that while I am a libertarian (of the anti-state variety) that I would be pleased if we could at least get to a constitutional state of governance. Essentially, I believe the ultimate aim of any just and free society should be to do away with monopoly power-centers, but I do not believe that humanity is quite there yet.

    Obviously, even a smaller government with checks on its power is going to have to tax at some rate, but the burden would be quite a bit less than it is today. I could live with a tax for something like defense, schools, police, firemen, etc, because even though I don't believe that taxation and bureaucracy are the most efficient means to provide these services, at least they have some semblance of providing an actual service.

    However, it pisses me off to no end that Senators receive an average benefit of $4 million a year (not including their pay), or that untold millions are spent ushering around and paying for the enjoyment of the first 5 or so links of the civilian chain of command, that billions are wasted on the military industrial complex for equipment that is never going to be used, that much of the revenue received by the Treasury (or, borrowed on our behalf) is used to benefit specific groups rather than the general population, and I am most assuredly pissed that I am paying for the murder of innocent people for the benefit of special interests that have curried the favor of those in power.

    With regard to public school, there really is a distinction to be made that not all are as proficient as others. I was fortunate that my district had great teachers who actually cared, but this surely is not the majority case. I was never a great student even though I could have been. I would always ace my tests, I just never saw the point of doing homework if I already fully understood the concepts. This is a big problem in schooling as a whole: the curriculum is tailored to a narrow range and it is very hard to focus upon specific points within that range. I would say that the biggest plus of public education is the social interaction, and that those in public school often can more easily interact with their friends after school (they all live in the same area).

    Gene, I am curious as to what school your kids went to before you put them into public school? If it was a private catholic school or something of that nature, then I could surely understand their position.

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  12. That should have been "broad range" not "narrow range".

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  13. Joseph, they were home schooling with me. So you have a good point: an actual prison probably would have seemed preferable.

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  14. Ha! Yes, I am sure that it would (prison). ;)

    Have you ever wondered why it is the case that most people's lifelong friendships began either school, the military, at work, or in an *actual* prison? There is something about arduous and/or restrictive environments that make people connect in a most peculiar way.

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  15. Gene: the state is removing one option from the table: "no mandatory education at all". This might be a very viable option to many parents whose child is clearly not benefiting from going to public school, but who don't have the money for a private school or time, resources or competence for homeschooling. In that sense, the state is forcing the children to public school, and you're being either pedantic or facetious if you pretend not to understand that.

    As for piano lessons etc. - you can ask some fundamentalist Rothbardians that and get a very interesting discussion about child ethics, but that's not the core issue here. Because whether or not forcing your offspring to learn is morally justified, it should be clear that the state, which does the same systematically to millions of children, still faces a much higher moral standard.

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  16. 'Gene: the state is removing one option from the table: "no mandatory education at all"'

    Well, not in Connecticut, where I was homeschooling: no one checked on anything at all. I could have taught them squat all.

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  17. "I could have taught them squat all."

    Would you, though? That's the question.

    There are certain aspects of life that unfortunately cannot be changed: shitty parents is one of these.

    I don't think that this is the norm, nor do I think that you are one (a shitty parent). But, they do exist and will most assuredly always exist (no matter what you do). The question really lies on both the society and the culture, and what is acceptable and what is not (acceptable)-- where is the line drawn?

    My own opinion is that the greatest genius is just as clueless as the simplest of simpletons when it comes to the purpose and correct path of life as we know it, the only thing that guides us is that in which we ultimately agree upon as correct. This does not mean that such agreement is without merit, only that it is merely the difference between right and wrong in our own, truly human way of reasoning. In most cases I would say that we are merely doing the best we can with what we have, and that we hope that our actions are correct.

    When it comes to such things as differences in opinion and belief, I would much rather have a polycentric system of governance than that of the monocentric system-- at least somebody will be at your side.

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  18. The fact that you might pay your taxes voluntarily if the gun was not being brandished does not mean that the gun is not being brandished.

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  19. That is certainly correct, Tom. Just like the fact that most people would respect most property rights if there was no gun does not mean property rights are not backed by the threat of violence.

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  20. Well, Gene. There is quite a bit of difference between peer-pressure with guns vs. defense with guns, don't you think?

    I mean, it is not as if my ownership of a firearm represents any danger to you, because I am not attempting to "lift" any property from you or take your life (in fact, I would probably save your life or protect your property if the situation arose). However, if the tables are turned and there is a person with a firearm attempting to take your property/life, I would bet that you wished that you had a gun.

    Saying that you wish that guns didn't exist it just as fruitful as saying the world is a utopia and unicorns and fairies are playing about. Bad people will always have their niche in the world, at the very least a fraction of the host population. The taking away of the only effective defense for those of diminutive stature, and the allowing of those in bureaucratic positions to be the only arbiters of force, is an anti-life/anti-defense position-- you've become a slave to the majority.

    Without adequate defense against aggression, what is one but a slave?

    I certainly wouldn't want you to impose your beliefs and life upon me, would you be content with me imposing mine upon you? How about if I decide to kick the shit out of you or maybe even ponder slicing your throat; is that cool with you?

    While a world of mere fisticuffs seems ideal, there is no escaping the ideas of man and the technological advancements of the same. The difference lies in the ideas and mindsets of people, not the weapons at their disposal. In the absence of any weapons, murderers will still murder. The only difference is that instead of the victim defending themselves, they will instead hear the dial-tone of 911 as they get thrust into the *unknown* by the aggressor. The "authorities" are merely there to pick up the body.

    Personally, I want to live!

    The only justifiable use of violence is to counter the initiation of violence. We conceivably live in a twisted and violent world, where some people cannot act peaceably; I would prefer to be able to defend myself against such threats (whether individual or collective) rather than be entirely defenseless-- this seems like common sense to me.

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  21. "Saying that you wish that guns didn't exist it just as fruitful as saying the world is a utopia and unicorns and fairies are playing about."

    OK, but... who says they wished guns didn't exist?

    "The only justifiable use of violence is to counter the initiation of violence."

    Of course, since there is no agreement on what counts as "initiation of violence," this is just an empty slogan until it is filled out with concrete details... and then there will be very little agreement.

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  22. "I think there are enough similarities between government schools and prisons to call the former a subset of the latter."

    Yes, and I met a guy who thinks that the NY Giants are space aliens.

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  23. "OK, but... who says they wished guns didn't exist?"

    My mistake, I read your comment through the foggy lenses of my beer-soaked spectacles. Eh, it happens.

    "Of course, since there is no agreement on what counts as "initiation of violence," this is just an empty slogan until it is filled out with concrete details... and then there will be very little agreement."

    Gene, that is what courts and governments are for, to act as arbiters on such things.

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  24. "Gene, that is what courts and governments are for, to act as arbiters on such things."

    Well put!

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  25. You see, I am not anti-government, I am anti-state. There's a pretty big difference between the two in my opinion. Essentially, I believe that there must be governance in any society for justice and law to be present (there must be some arbiter), the difference lies in that I don't believe that a monolithic, monopoly state is the best means of achieving this. I prefer an emergent governance where archons are chosen by the market and who can just as easily be fired by the market.

    So, now you know from what perspective I am speaking if I ever use the terms "government" or "governance".

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  26. The statement "People only pay their taxes at the point of a gun" is clearly an error. So is claiming that it's "Libertarianism 101".

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  27. Greego, would you like to place a bet that I can find dozens of examples of libertarians saying this (in essence) by tomorrow?

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  28. So what? Is it Libertarianism 101 or not?

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  29. "Is it Libertarianism 101 or not?"

    Uh, Greego, as far as I know, there is no actual course called "Libertarianism 101." That was a slang metaphor for "something basic to libertarianism." And the slogan "taxation is theft" certainly is such.

    Were you seriously looking for me to point you to some course called "Libertarianism 101" and show you this idea on the curriculum? Or were you just trying to be a pain in the arse? Or were you saying something that I have been completely missing?

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  30. Its funny- I went to public schools too and none of them felt anything like a prison as near as I can remember. Certainly the academic aspect was far from perfect, but as Joseph said the social aspect probably more than made up for its shortcomings (many of the above mentioned "academic shortcomings" were also my own). Either way my area was well served by both private and alternative schooling so if anybody would have been making me attend public school or "feel imprisoned" it would have been my parents!

    Now perhaps Dreher has overstated the extent to which government schools are actually a public good at all in the quoted post, or indeed the extent to which any "public good" can actually exist, but you ought to make that argument instead of just repeating tired slogans (I.E. maybe its a good thing for rhetoric on libertarian websites, but don't expect to convince anyone who isn't already convinced in this comment section).

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  31. I don't consider 'Taxation is theft' to be part of Libertarianism 101. Surely the vast majority of libertarians aren't anarcho-capitalists and favour a small government, which implies some level of taxation.

    Also, I don't believe that people who claim that 'taxation is theft' would accept that it is equivalent to the absolute statement in your blog post. 'Taxation is theft' implies that explicit consent to be taxed wasn't granted in advance. I don't see how that is equivalent to claiming that (all) people only pay taxes because they are being forced to, or that it's invalidated by the fact that upon reflection some people are completely fine with paying taxes. It's a contrived gotcha.

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  32. "Surely the vast majority of libertarians aren't anarcho-capitalists and favour a small government, which implies some level of taxation."

    Well, here we are just dealing with definitions. Most ancaps do not consider "small government libertarians" to be libertarians at all. And I suspect most of my libertarian readers ARE ancaps. So I was using their definition.

    "'Taxation is theft' implies that explicit consent to be taxed wasn't granted in advance."

    No, idjit, it implies taxation is stealing. And that implies a LOT more than "no explicit consent in advance."

    Your absurd cavils were amusing for a bit, but they are becoming wearisome.

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  33. "No, idjit, it implies taxation is stealing."

    Yes, and that still isn't the same as your blog post, which claimed that libertarians believe that all people _only_ pay taxes because they are forced at gunpoint to do so. One is a description of taxation from the point of view of (some) libertarians, the other attempts to know the motivations of all those who pay taxes.

    More importantly, do you honestly think that libertarians who claim that 'taxation is theft' are clueless enough to not realise some people actually don't mind paying tax?
    "Things that just aint so", indeed.

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  34. "Well, here we are just dealing with definitions. Most ancaps do not consider "small government libertarians" to be libertarians at all. And I suspect most of my libertarian readers ARE ancaps. So I was using their definition."

    Yup, pretty much. Though, I don't know if you ever saw my comment on DK's blog about a month ago (around the time he was saying that he's a libertarian by definition, or lack thereof). Basically, the term "anarcho-capitalism" isn't quite appealing to me because I do believe in having archons (governance), I just don't believe that those archons should be representative of a state. It seems a small quibble, but it is important to the way I think regarding political philosophy.

    I do like Rothbard and I owe a great deal to the man intellectually, but I am not at all afraid to disagree with him in some instances-- anarchism is one of those.

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  35. Greego, I'm taking one more crack at this, then we are done:

    No, if someone is paying voluntary, that's NOT theft. And what libertarians say ISN'T "MY taxes are theft" -- no, they say "Taxation is theft" -- period.

    Yes, Greego, I have, many times, seen libertarians write things like "People only pay taxes because they are forced to do so."

    Again, if you would like to place a little bet -- say, $1000? -- that I can easily find a dozen instances of this being said, then let's go! Otherwise, as I said, we are done.

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