Julian Sanchez on "Taxation is theft"

Here.

Like one of those situations where, when your dad tells you something it's in one ear and out the other, but when a stranger tells you the same thing you listen, I'm thinking that now Bob will get it.

7 comments:

  1. Since "theft" includes in the definition "property" in every definition above, defining property rights is essential to determining if something is theft. People can have the same definition of theft and disagree if something is theft. Imagine if you and I were walking down a trail and saw an ash tree. Suppose I then exclaimed, "Look at that hickory tree!" Naturally, you would disagree, and point out why it wasn't a hickory tree. But nobody would say my definition of "hickory tree" was wrong.

    "One important component of “theft” as ordinary people use it—though I note the dictionaries don’t always capture this aspect—is that it is intentional." "But if you’re cranklishly insisting your interlocutors are knaves and fools for relying on Webster’s rather than the special glossary in your head, it seems unlikely you’ll even get around to that substantive argument." I think most people agree that accidental theft is theft. The definition backs me up here, as he admits.

    "And it seems natural because there is a morally salient difference between simply taking what you like without regard for whether you have a right to it, and adhering to some process designed to adjudicate and enforce rights claims, even when that process will necessarily yield an unjust outcome in some cases." The problem is that the “unjust outcomes” are not only not punished when done by the state, but if someone else goes to enforce their claim against the state that person will be punished by the state. Furthermore, the common thief often DOES think that he has a claim to the item he took. Are these thieves to be punished as much as the state agent that took an item unlawfully? Appealing to popular support doesn’t help here. Slavery often had popular support in the past, but almost nobody would argue today that slave owners should have been significantly less punished than a slave owner today. Note that slave owners also thought that it was their right to do so. I agree that there is a moral difference between the two, but it isn’t as significant as the author seems to think (at least to the vast majority of people). (There are hundreds of examples like this – terrorists, for instance, often think they have a God-given right to blow people up!)

    "Saying “taxation is theft,” then, doesn’t just entail that the speaker thinks taxation is no more morally justifiable than theft. It implies that this ought to be so self-evident to any reasonable person that those who disagree are (at best) just engaged in some kind of transparent rationalization for disregarding the rights of others." He somehow managed to derive "It implies that this ought to be so self-evident to any reasonable person" from "taxation is theft." I have no idea how, and I've read the paragraphs around this statement multiple times. Perhaps Julian Sanchez thinks this implication should be "so self-evident to any reasonable person," but I think that's unfair.

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    1. "I think most people agree that accidental theft is theft."

      ?! So if I accidentally pick up someone's coat from the restaurant coatroom, I have stolen it?! No, perhaps only you think that is theft. Certainly not "most people."

      "The definition backs me up here, as he admits."

      No, he doesn't: he says the exact opposite: the definition backs HIM up.

      "I have no idea how, and I've read the paragraphs around this statement multiple times."

      Your poor reading comprehension is no mark against Julian.

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    2. I think most people agree that accidental theft is theft.

      You're being rather presumptuous here, Pacna. Sneaking in the phrase "accidental theft" so you can easily call it theft. Why, I think immorally owning property is immoral. See what I did there?

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      No, he doesn't: he says the exact opposite: the definition backs HIM up.

      To be fair to Pacna, this kind of argumentation isn't uncommon among libertarians.

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  2. “a more specific claim that actually-existing taxation involves depriving people of specific holdings to which they are entitled. The second claim, it seems to me, is indefensible even if we suppose the anarchists are right as a matter of ideal theory… almost nobody residing in any actually-existing state can justify their present holdings by reference to an appropriately untainted provenance running back to the State of Nature.” Yes, but you also can’t prove that they don’t have a claim to the item – and a general outlook is “innocent until proven guilty.” Hence, using violence and taking it from them (if you don’t have evidence it’s yours) is unjust. More on point, imagine if a thief steals $10 from Joe, and buys an apple from me. He then eats the apple. Can Joe take the $10 from me? Some natural rights theorists would say no, as I didn’t steal the $10 from Joe, the thief did. The transactions can’t be undone, because the thief ate the apple, and someone has lost out here regardless of the action. Even if Joe has a right to the $10 but doesn’t take it, after he dies it is reasonable to believe I have the right to the $10. The vast majority of property holdings today can be looked at as legitimate through this process. However, there is a caveat – if I was a conspirator with the thief, then I would certainly not have a right to the money, even when Joe died. So it is reasonable to say also that some people (such as decedents of slaves) may be owned money by certain organizations (mainly, their local, state, and federal government) or perhaps even people.

    I love arguments against libertarian rights theory, and I think some are very good. I don’t think trying to define libertarians as wrong or referring to arguments that have been answered hundreds of times is useful to the argument.

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    1. "Yes, but you also can’t prove that they don’t have a claim to the item..."

      BS: In almost every case we could trace title back to some illegitimate move.

      "that have been answered hundreds of times..."

      Well, they have been "answered" with total nonsense like the above!

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  3. "I'm thinking that now Bob will get it."
    What odds will you give me?

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    1. I should have written "hoping without much cause."

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