Against their will / we were taxing against their will / we were young and we were strong and we were taxing against their will


Never one to allow a mistake to go uncompounded by a glaring error, Bob Murphy digs in deeper. He claims that "Taking money from people against their will is not akin to getting on the treadmill; it is akin to killing people against their will."

Bob has introduced a largely irrelevant criterion here with his "against their will." Let us start with killing. (No, no, not killing Bob: we still love him despite his obstinacy.)

The justice of a killing does not depend at all on whether the "victim" wants to be killed. If I shoot someone who is attempting to set off a nuclear weapon in Times Square, the fact that I killed him "against his will" does not make my killing immoral. And if a friend who is in despair asks me to shoot him in the head, the fact that he wants me to kill him would not make my action moral.

Similarly, in taking money from people, the crucial question is whether you are taking it justly or unjustly, not whether they want you to take it or not. So, for instance, the people on late-night TV who sell silver dollars worth $10 to unsuspecting dupes for $30 are acting immorally, even though the dupes are sending them their money willingly. And if my negligence causes you to break your leg and you've won a lawsuit against me as the result, it is just for you to take the settlement from me, even if I don't willingly pay up.

In fact, we can see that in anarcho-capitalism, money would be taken from people "against their will" all the time, in lawsuits, alimony settlements, child-support payments, and so forth. In fact, anarcho-communists living in ancapistan would probably find every single payment they make to be "against their will," given that they are being forced to pay people money due to the institution of private property, which they find to be immoral.

So the whole "against their will" point is a red herring: the real question is, "Is the state acting justly or unjustly in collecting taxes?" (Note that one might find the concept of taxation to be fine, but still find some levels of taxation to be unjustly high, or hold that taxation is fine to pay for some government services, but not others.)

Of course, that is a trickier question to deal with, which is really the whole point of the "taking money from people at gunpoint" rhetoric: to turn a tricky question into a simplistic slogan!

49 comments:

  1. I agree I had a slip of the keyboard and should have written "...is akin to killing innocent people," since that was your original example. I will even go so far as to say that it wasn't a random mistake on my part, but one caused by my being so wrapped up in the injustice of taking money from people "against their will."

    But OK, are you going to agree that you've swung the pendulum way too far in the opposite direction when you write:

    So the whole "against their will" point is a red herring

    You really want to say that consent is a red herring when it comes to matters of a just and free society?

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    1. Yes, consent is peripheral to the issue of justice. Do you really care if anarcho-communists consent to private property?

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  2. Why do they say that taxation is like "taking money at gunpoint"? If you refuse to pay taxes you'll be prosecuted in a court of law, not shot. Your guilt or innocence will be determined by a jury, not a gangster.

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    1. They say it because they are silly.

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    3. If one believes property to be theft, then they would also reject going into court for refusing to "respect" property rights. If they refuse to go into court voluntarily, they will then be subject to forceful detention in order to be brought into court, and if they defend themselves against this forceful detention or resist, they will indeed be shot .

      So: PROPERTY RIGHTS ARE FORCED ON PEOPLE AT GUNPOINT! It's just a logical extension, Joe!

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    4. Gene, I was merely trying to answer the person's question. However, property rights exist in all people's minds, they are not something particular to libertarianism.

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    5. Also, how could property be theft? Property is not an object, it is a relationship between physical things and the mind. How can you steal a relationship? It's nonsensical.

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    6. I love how when you actually pin an ideologue down... I've shown conclusively that the exact same, absurd argument that "shows" that taxation occurs "at gunpoint" also "shows" that property occurs " at gunpoint"... They always change the subject! ("Property rights are in everyone's mind", as if that was what we were discussing!)

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    7. I didn't deny that, I merely showed that property rights aren't something particular to libertarianism (which is what you're trying to say here). So the implication that you're making against property rights is also pointed at you. It's not changing the subject at all, merely clarifying that your argument also applies to you and everybody else. Get it?

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    8. "that, I merely showed that property rights aren't something particular to libertarianism (which is what you're trying to say here)."

      I had no idea I was trying to say that! Thanks for filling me in!

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    9. Well no, you didn't explicitly say that, but don't you think that that would be the logical assumption considering the context here? If you weren't attempting to do that, fine, I apologize.

      However, you did a very similar thing in calling me an "ideologue" when you know damned well that I am not.

      Hey, neither of us is perfect, we both make mistakes. We're both human, after all. So how about we call it "square" on this front?

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  3. Your view appears to be "Its OK to impose my will on others as long as I do it within a framework where my actions are defined as 'just'".

    Depending on my definition of "just" almost anything could be permitted and we could end up with a society with a high degree of real and threatened violence.

    By tying the definition of "just" to property-rights I think libertarians are limiting the scope for the use of violence within society.

    Of course different flavors of libertarians define property rights differently and this complicates things. Its not hard to imagine than ancaps and ancomms would have to fight a civil war to decide who's view prevails.

    But at least the scope of this war would be limited by the fact that neither side could fund it from taxation.



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    1. "Its OK to impose my will on others as long as I do it within a framework where my actions are defined as 'just'".

      Look at this manuever: I am talking about whether or not these actions ARE just, and you mutate this to a concern about a "framework" where they are "defined" as just.

      'By tying the definition of "just" to property-rights I think libertarians are limiting the scope for the use of violence within society.'

      Rubbish. Plenty of violence can be done in the name of property rights, and there is no reason (other than creating the rule of the propertied!) that we should so limit the definition.

      Rob, we know that the state has reduced, not increased, the amount of violence in society. Your thesis has been empirically tested, and it turns out to be false.

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    2. In the last decade the US state has been responsible for hundreds of thousand of deaths and incarcerated hundreds of thousand of its own citizens on victimless drugs-related charges.

      If that's reducing violence - then we're truly screwed.

      Surely as an alternative the idea of building a society based on co-operation and well defined rights where the apparatus of oppression is reduced to a minimum (I'm a minarchist not an anarchist) has got to be worth some consideration ?

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    3. Rob, the facts are in: you are wrong. States commit a lot of violence, and I deplore what you mention. But stateless societies are even more violent.

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    4. Gene wrote:

      Rob, we know that the state has reduced, not increased, the amount of violence in society. Your thesis has been empirically tested, and it turns out to be false.

      Wait, are you referring to the historical rise of States and reduction in per capita violence? How do you know it's not CO2 emissions?

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    5. I hate to admit this, but Gene is somewhat correct here. (you're also correct here, as well, Bob)

      Yes, the emergence of the state probably was an improvement upon what existed prior in terms of the prevalence of violence in human society. And indeed, we can see a direct correlation, and we can also find some causal reasons for this (but they're particular to such an event). However, I don't know that that is a good argument for the State today, because after all, humanity is not in the same environment and/or conditions that it was when the first states arose.

      Surely, going from a state of nature of "all against all" to an actual monopoly State (in Hobbesian fashion) is an improvement in terms of the actual amount of violence. This is both an empirical and an historical fact. But one mustn't superimpose this upon human society as if it is a law of nature that holds true *always*. This is Gene's primary error, and he makes it all of the time when this topic comes up. He's also running smack dab into the is/ought dilemma. There are also some implications here regarding the fallacy of begging the question. Because, he's saying that the State has reduced violence, yet the State itself is institutionalized violence (even Pinker admits this in his book). So one would have to prove the justness of the State, not based upon whether the level of violence increased or decreased (after all, we cannot tell rather such violence was just or unjust), but rather upon whether centralized violence is a preferable thing (when the argument is that violence is a bad thing to begin with).

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    6. OK, I recant. Morgan Freeman was right.

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    7. On the one hand, taxes to pay for public schools. On the other, civil war with either communism or plutocracy at the end of it.
      Can I sleep on it?

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    8. Wait, are you referring to the historical rise of States and reduction in per capita violence? How do you know it's not CO2 emissions?

      One way would be to compare the rate of violence in stateless vs. state-based societies during the same time period. If you do this, you find that living in a state-based society reduces your chances of dying a violent death considerably.

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    9. "the US state"

      The US is a state. Clue's in the name.

      No need to write 'state' after US.

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    10. Mr. I actually agree with you here, but only to a point.

      I would typically say the "US government", because it has already been established that it is the case that we're here dealing with multiple states (which is why it makes sense to speak of the United States in the plural when referring to them). However, there also existed a Federal government, thus it also represents a state in and of itself (for lack of a better term, a super-state). Thus, one could certainly refer to the US federal government as a separate state.

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    11. Or a conglomerate state, whichever you prefer. Lately, however, it can be more better defined as a centralized state (i.e. that the "states" who are party to this arrangement, no longer represent states in and of themselves as normally understood)

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    12. Or a conglomerate state, whichever you prefer. Lately, however, it can be more better defined as a centralized state (i.e. that the "states" who are party to this arrangement, no longer represent states in and of themselves as normally understood)

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    13. "I am talking about whether or not these actions ARE just..."

      Gene, how are you arriving at the conclusion that taxation just if not through social contract theory (a framework where my actions are defined as 'just')?

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    14. Steven, did I make an argument somewhere in this post that taxation is just? (I'm not saying I think it isn't, I'm just noting that your comment doesn't seem to be on topic.)

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    15. Well, you did respond, "Gorilla Bananas FTW!" to the comment below and offered, "the vast majority of us consent to the state we live in!" to a post further down.

      Taking these with the above certainly seems to imply that it is 'just'. I'm wondering how you arrived at this conclusion.

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    16. Well, you did offer, "Gorilla Bananas FTW!" to the comment below and ..."the vast majority of us consent to the state we live in!" to another comment.

      Taking these with the above it appears you've determined that it is 'just'. I'm curious as to how you arrived at this conclusion.

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    17. "Taking these with the above certainly seems to imply that it is 'just'."

      Only in your mind! I do not think justice depends on consent at all!

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    18. I only meant what I said. You want to read further "implications" into what I said to avoid the force of my arguments.

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    19. I'm not avoiding anything. I understand the point you made above just fine. I'm trying to dig into how you are arriving at the things you said.

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    20. No, you didn't. Here is what I said:

      'the real question is, "Is the state acting justly or unjustly in collecting taxes?"'

      IS the state acting justly! I asked it as a question. I did not "conclude" anything about that question anywhere. The idea that I did is only in your head.

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    21. Anywhere in this post, of course. Which is what we ought to be discussing here.

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    22. Nor did Gorilla Bananas, by the way: he said IF one believes taxation to be theft, one ought to...
      He never asserted that it is or isn't just.

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    23. Correct. And he (Bananas) followed it with: "To enjoy the benefits of living in a community while breaking its rules and refusing even to participate in its judicial process is the behaviour of an arrogant ideologue (and spoiled brat)."

      He gave an 'if,' then an 'or,' and followed those with what appears to be a general observation since it does not relate to either of the previous sentences, thus my interpretation of " FTW".

      We're quibbling. I am trying to learn here not bait you into something. In thinking about this I keep coming back to the is/ought problem (and certainly not resolving it) and simply having to choose an ethical stance upon which to move forward.

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    24. OK, I have no idea how you have turned that into an argument saying "taxation is just." It is an argument saying, "If you think it is unjust, get the rules changed."

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    25. More quibbling. I interpreted some things you wrote in a manner at odds with how you meant them. I acknowledged this already.

      Bluntly:
      Do you think taxation is just? Why or why not?

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    26. Bluntly: this is discussed in other posts. Please do not threadjack.

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    27. Threadjack?

      "So the whole 'against their will' point is a red herring: the real question is, 'Is the state acting justly or unjustly in collecting taxes?'"

      I'm simply asking for you answer to the "real question" that you asked above.

      I'll dig around if you've addressed it elsewhere.

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  4. "If one believes taxation to be theft, then they obviously would also reject going into court for refusing to be taxed."

    That does not follow at all. If you really believed taxation to be theft, you could argue your case in front of a jury of your peers. Or you could leave the country to live in a community that doesn't pay taxes, such as the Amazon Indians. To enjoy the benefits of living in a community while breaking its rules and refusing even to participate in its judicial process is the behaviour of an arrogant ideologue (and spoiled brat).

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    1. Gorillla Bananas FTW!

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    2. That presupposes the legitimacy of "its rules" and "its judiciary," precisely what it being questioned. The "love it or leave it" argument is fallacious.

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    3. Oh no you don't: libertarians cannot invoke the lack of consent to taxation when they want to, and then reject arguments based on the fact that the vast majority of us consent to the state we live in!

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    1. Yes.

      There are probably a hundred posts on this blog explaining the problems I see with ancap.

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  6. Gene,

    "the rule of the propertied"

    it seems obvious to me that anarcho-capitalism is just another term for rule by oligarchy or plutocracy.

    If you agree, do you think that instituting rule by oligarchy or plutocracy is a conscious aim of the leaders of the anarcho-capitalist movement?

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    1. I think some people at least sense that end.

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  7. Gene,

    "the rule of the propertied"

    it seems obvious to me that anarcho-capitalism is just another term for rule by oligarchy or plutocracy.

    If you agree, do you think that instituting rule by oligarchy or plutocracy is a conscious aim of the leaders of the anarcho-capitalist movement?

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