Audio Clips

20 June 2011

What's Wrong With State-Sponsored Theft? The Same Thing As Regular Theft.

9 comments:

Nathan said...

This is a fantastic video. It makes me wish they would show it in, say, a high school civics class, just to at least present the argument and begin discussion.

One question, though. Is this video claiming to show that all forms of taxation are unjustified? I can see a libertarian justifying coercing someone to contribute to the military, because it's necessary to prevent everyone from being coerced by the enemy.

But what about other constitutionally-authorized government endeavors? Can taxation be justified when spent on, say, roads, weights and measures, or administration costs of foreign tariffs? If so, what's the reasoning? (And this isn't rhetorical; I really am curious.)

Jeff T. said...

I think the end conclusion of this argument is that all taxation relies on coercion of some kind. I can hire someone to act as my bodyguard. A group of us can hire a militia to protect us. But can we force a non-consenting third party to contribute? Even if he indirectly or directly benefits from our investment?

In the end, this argument does invite us to abandon the idea of coercive taxation altogether.

In a stateless society, there will likely be free-riders who choose not to contribute. In that society, it is the role of others to cultivate an environment in which such behavior is shamed and frowned upon. But the existence of a minority of irresponsible people doesn't justify abandoning the core belief of such a society: non-coercion.

Joshua Richardson said...

It's difficult to square some of the roles of government with the idea of avoiding complete coercion. In an ideal society participation in the society would be voluntary. That assumes a level of morality that would be nigh impossible to achieve. The compromise is that we, as a nation, create a written constitution that will be the law of the land and delineate what things can be paid for via taxes. We have a list: military, post office, weights and measures, etc. The Constitution lays it out.

The problem arises from the fact that now the legislature uses a loose definition of the commerce clause to justify any type of coercive policy that they can dream of. There is a prescribed procedure for expanding Congress' power: the amendment process. Heaven forbid we should subject our congressmen to anything that would limit their power though. The only limit to their power should be the extent of their hubris.

Nathan said...

Here's my proposed solution to the problem of taxation. Perhaps taxation would still be moral and non-coercive if everyone involved had voluntarily submitted to the social contract (i.e., the Constitution). It seems to me that the problem of my being taxed only arises because I never personally submitted to it.

In contrast, if every person, upon reaching adulthood, had to apply for citizenship and personally and voluntarily take an oath to submit to the framework of the Constitution, then I could never accuse the government of coercing me, because I had submitted to being taxed.

It seems like the problem is that, we can say we're being coerced because we were born into citizenship, and have never made the public choice to be taxed. Perhaps that's the real root of the coercion/taxation problem.

What do you think?

Joshua Richardson said...

Nathan, I like the idea, but in practical terms how would you implement it? If someone doesn't want to take the oath where do we send them? If I take the oath the government could still be coercing me if they are stepping outside their Constitutional boundaries.

Nathan said...

(By the way, these are not my hard-core personal beliefs. I'm just brainstorming; this is my mental sandbox.)

Josh: If someone doesn't want to take the oath where do we send them?

This is only a problem if we assume that citizenship is the same as residency, that naturalization is the same as immigration. But naturalization is a change in status, while immigration is a change in location. For example, only about 10% of Roman residents were citizens.

If I take the oath the government could still be coercing me if they are stepping outside their Constitutional boundaries.

I'm not sure what you mean. I'm talking about structuring government so as to make taxation within Constitutional bounds a moral, non-coercive act (i.e., because people can choose whether to join the contract or not). If we're talking about a govt that's stepping outside Constitutional bounds, I'm not sure that any hypothetical change to structure will do anything, because the govt in question will simply step outside it.

Joshua Richardson said...

Nathan, I posted that right before I went to bed and was pretty tired so I have no idea what I meant about the coercion part. One more reason not to type when tired. As far as the citizenship v. resident thought, I like the idea, so would people who are residents wouldn't pay taxes but also wouldn't vote? That is cool with me. I don't think you should have a vote unless you have skin in the game.

Nathan said...

Josh: Would people who are residents wouldn't pay taxes but also wouldn't vote?

Yeah, I think that's the idea that's geling in my head. No representation without taxation, eh? :-)

Joshua Richardson said...

Good grief. I really need to stop drinking in the morning! How many grammar rules did I just break in that sentence you excerpted? Actually, what I need to do is do my typing when I'm not getting interrupted every 3 seconds by a little girl who wants to show me her new hair doodad. She is so stinkin' adorable!

I do agree with "no representation without taxation" particularly when there is such an egregious history of income redistribution. How is it just to allow people who don't pay into the system the opportunity to vote to have someone else give them money? That's no way to run a society.