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Thursday, October 04, 2012

The State Is Simply the Specialized Political Organ of Society

And thus it is a terrible confusion to imagine that accepting the existence of the state necessitates a moral double standard. (Someone like Machiavelli posited one, sure, but it isn't necessary to do so!)

Anarchists sometimes say things like, "The state's agents are allowed to collect taxes, while you would be arrested for doing the same: therefore,, there must be two different moralities at work."

Well, so what? Pilots are allowed to fly commercial airliners while I am not. Professional baseball players are allowed to play at Yankee Stadium but not me. My doctor operates on me but not I on him. The priest hears my sins but I do not hear his. When I was a child, my father could send me to my room, but the stranger across the street could not do so. These are roles in the social division of labor.

If the law says, "Joe Smith may collect taxes for himself, but Gene Callahan may not," there would be something fishy going on. But that is not what happens at all: any person appointed as an official tax collector may collect taxes, any person with the right qualifications may at some time be so appointed, and anyone who ceases to be so appointed ceases to be able to collect taxes.

Now, it may or may not be a good idea that our society has decided, for instance, to make policing a job that, in general, only certain authorized people may do. Perhaps we would be better off without a specialized police force. But so long as it is their being authorized to act in a certain role that gives the police the right to act in a way that non-police are forbidden to do, there is not any moral double standard involved, anymore than there is in the fact that if I die intestate my wife gets my money, rather than it being divided equally among all citizens. She gets it not because of some moral double standard that works in her favor, but because of the social role she has.

5 comments:

  1. "If the law says, "Joe Smith may collect taxes for himself, but Gene Callahan may not," there would be something fishy going on. But that is not what happens at all: any person appointed as an official tax collector may collect taxes, any person with the right qualifications may at some time be so appointed, and anyone who ceases to be so appointed ceases to be able to collect taxes."

    This isn't the same as your pilot or baseball player examples. Anybody can be a pilot or a baseball player in the sense that they can try to compete for customers by entering in those professors. This isn't the case with tax collecting. I can't start a rival tax collection agency and compete for tax revenue -- I would be arrested, and I'd be charged with fraud (if I were posing as a legitimate tax collector) and/or theft.

    So, yes, saying "tax collection is okay if we do it, but not if you do it" can be construed a moral double standard.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. "Anybody can be a pilot or a baseball player in the sense that they can try to compete for customers by entering in those professors."

      Can anyone compete for the role of parent to my kids? If not, is that a "moral double standard"?

      'So, yes, saying "tax collection is okay if we do it, but not if you do it"'

      But no one says that. Anyone properly authorized in the *role* of tax collector can collect taxes, and those roles go to different people at different times.

      Delete
  2. Nice post. Nothing more than that to say! Just didn't want it to pass without comment.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sorry, I only saw this post now. No I still disagree, as I said in the other post the comparison doesn't work. You can play or not play in the Yankee stadium because the owner allows you to play there or not to play there. Yet everyone can buy, build his own stadium and play baseball. Not so with the government, it (at the moment) usually doesn't tolerate opting out, which means you cannot take the land you own to make your own country, your own police etc, just like you could build your own baseball stadium. That is the key point.

    So I guess it is better to wait for your answer on opting out/secession. The moral double standard rises and falls with this point.

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  4. -----
    Anarchists sometimes say things like, "The state's agents are allowed to collect taxes, while you would be arrested for doing the same: therefore,, there must be two different moralities at work."
    -----

    Well, I wouldn't say there are to moralities at work.

    I'd say that the political class acts immorally while demanding that the productive class act morally (and using its immorally-gotten gains to attempt to enforce said demand).

    The difference between the sheep and the sheep-shearer isn't a moral one.

    ReplyDelete