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Property Rights and the 'BUT YOU DROVE ON ROADS' Objection

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Scott Jefferies Posted: Wed, Jun 22 2011 4:59 PM

I was reading the recent Slate hit piece on Robert Nozick and libertarianism, and saw this common objection that your property isnt solely yours because you drive on roads or use some other government service to acquire it. Im not entirely familiar with the libertarian rebuttals, but I completely agree that being forced to use the service changes everything.

What I was struck by is how this is used to justify other taxes and government mandated services- and how irrelevent that all is. We pay seperate taxes for road  maintenance and services, so how can that be used to justifiy forcing you to buy completely different services? It would be like a monopolist baker insisting I use his medical services because i bought bread from him.

I understand that roads education and other government services are partly responsible for developing my skills and bringing me together with people to utilize them. but so what? what does it matter if I already paid for it? If I buy capital from someone and use it to produce something else, its still entirely my property. ford and gm are not entitled to the fruits of my labor if i use their cars to drive to work. i already freakin paid them their fair share when i purchased the car.

Any thoughts on how to better handle this objection?

 

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James replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 5:09 PM

Soviet citizens took food from the government, therefore they all approved of communism, or aren't allowed to disapprove of it... devil

Non bene pro toto libertas venditur auro
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Phaedros replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 5:13 PM

I recently made a post regarding this topic to which nobody replied. My basic thesis was that this objection puts forward a malicious, perverted, and twisted idea of what government is. Government in any good sense of the term, if there is, occurs when people get together to accomplish a common goal. Does this mean, then, that people who benefit from that thing, such as a road, now owe the government something? No, not at all. The roads were built for the express purpose of benefitting everyone and anyone who uses it as some kind of sword over the head of everyone is a deranged individual indeed.

Tumblr The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants. ~Albert Camus
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they all did approve of communism, except for the mentally ill of course :-)

also not all of them took food. see ukraine

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 5:40 PM

Phaedros, it's essentially the "Where would you be without me?!" argument. It's used to deceive people into "voluntarily" going along with one's demands.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 5:45 PM

Ukrainians were starved by Stalin, they didn't refuse food.

The parable I use to rebut this argument is the random park developer. A developer drives through a neighborhood and sees an emtpy lot. He gets a brilliant idea... he'll buy it and build a park on it! After he builds the park, everyone is so happy and the kids of the neighborhood play on the equipment all the time. Then, at the end of the year, the park developer goes door-to-door to collect the Park Tax. "After all," he notes, "your children have been playing on it all this time... you have enjoyed the benefits of the park I built for you, do you think it doesn't cost money to build a park for your neighborhood?" The people of the neighborhood are, naturally, baffled. It is true they benefitted from the park and the park is freely available to all. It is true that the developer had to spend money out of his own pocket to build the park. But, see, the developer never asked anybody if they wanted his park. He didn't put up any signs or any indications that he would be charging for its use. And many of the singles living in the neighborhood note that they've never set foot in the park and they don't have children, so why the hell is the developer trying to charge them for the use of other people?

Nobody asked the government to build roads. Nobody asked the government to do any of the things it does. To come back and tell us "oh, but we built this and we did that and somebody has to pay for it, money doesn't grow on trees you know!" is just bullshit. Unfortunately, it also happens to be possibly the single most effective and difficult to refute arguments which the State deploys in its defense.

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Eric080 replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 5:48 PM

Me driving on roads doesn't mean that I accept the situation I am put in.  All it proves is that the roads are currently the most efficient way of transport.  It doesn't mean that there is not a better way to build roads nor does it mean that you would have volunteered to pay for the roads.  It would be like a robber taking all your money and then saying, "I'll buy you a meal so you don't starve," and that somehow accepting the meal implicity proves that you are being hypocritical in denouncing the robber.  The government extorts you for your money so you can't spend it on anything else, and then the usage of a service that they monopolized in the first place lends credence to the extortion?

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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If a slave accepts a meal from his master, is he consenting to his enslavement?

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 6:22 PM

Clayton:
Nobody asked the government to build roads. Nobody asked the government to do any of the things it does. To come back and tell us "oh, but we built this and we did that and somebody has to pay for it, money doesn't grow on trees you know!" is just bullshit. Unfortunately, it also happens to be possibly the single most effective and difficult to refute arguments which the State deploys in its defense.

What makes you think that such an assertion (it's not really an argument) is so effective and difficult to refute?

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I don't see it being difficult to refute at all. Its only seems effective because the people spouting that type of thing never had any intention of reaching an understanding and are just trying to argue for its own sake. 

 

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 7:47 PM

You guys spend way too much time on the internet reading sympathetic texts and discussing with people who already agree with you. Just ask around with your statist friends, "Why do we have to pay taxes? I didn't agree to pay taxes, I didn't sign up for any of the 'services' the government 'gives' me, so why do I have to pay for something I don't agree to?" and you will, without fail, hear something to the effect "Well, how did you drive here? The government paves the roads, enforces speed limits to make driving safe" etc. etc. etc. This is the random park developer fallacy. Just because the government has provided a good or service I didn't ask them to and just because I've utilized the good or service they've provided without any notice that I thereby agree to pay them doesn't mean I've agreed to be taxed. And the difficulty in refuting it doesn't arise from its being very logical or true but from the scrambled brains of the average person off the street. People's brains are short-circuited to vehemently dismiss logical, factual arguments whose conclusion is "therefore, it is immoral for the government to collect taxes" or "therefore, we don't need government" or "therefore, government is - by virtue of what it is - evil." It really doesn't matter how you arrive at those conclusions - logic, facts, reason, self-evident observations... all are futile.

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Eric080 replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 7:58 PM

Well the issue is that a fraction of your tax dollars is going to something that is unchecked by competition.  I would pay for schools, roads, etc.  But the government crowds out competition.  If you wanted to pay for a private school or a toll road, you are paying for the use of the private school and the toll road in addition to the public options.  Thus it is more economic oftentimes to use the public services since they are using your money to fund it in the first place.  There is no sense in paying for something twice.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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@Clayton You sound pretty jaded,  I think it may come off in your attitude when you talk to these people and that is what's scrambling their brains. I do agree it can very possible to be stuck in a small bubble when talking to the those that sympathize with the same position, though.

I talk to people around me all the time and I've convinced a many lot the real situation behind the government and they sure do become interested, and this is New York City- liberal/democrat stronghold. If I tell someone "government is evil"- they will think I'm equating the average DMV worker or Post office worker with being evil, when its just someone who wanted to earn money someway and pay the bills. The system of government sure is evil to me, but that's certainly the poor foot to start off on. 

 Whenever I became frustrated with someone for not understanding how superior my logic is compared to theirs- that's when things don't work out. I'd emphasize connecting emotionally with people over all else- this is what matters in connecting to the average person on the street. Walter block debates and listening to famous lecturers of libertarian philosphy is great for me personally as a learning tool- but I have a hard time convincing anyone to change their mind after watching any of them(if they even go so far as to watch them!).  

If you're going to think that people have scrambled brains, you're certainly not going to treat them with any respect. Maybe you think you are but 100% guarantee it will show up subtley somehow in a way you don't notice. I'm just speaking from my own experience and I had to learn it myself that being upset with people who don't "get it" is sure-fire way to just get people even further away from your position. Love is the wine you must drink! Its very powerful if that's your basis when you talk to anyone about subjects that can be very close to a person's self-identification or view of reality. 

 

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Lincoln replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 8:33 PM

NonAntiAnarchist:
If a slave accepts a meal from his master, is he consenting to his enslavement?

Ohh, Im going to remember this one ... :D

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 11:41 PM

auctionguy10:

@Clayton You sound pretty jaded,  I think it may come off in your attitude when you talk to these people and that is what's scrambling their brains. I do agree it can very possible to be stuck in a small bubble when talking to the those that sympathize with the same position, though.

I talk to people around me all the time and I've convinced a many lot the real situation behind the government and they sure do become interested, and this is New York City- liberal/democrat stronghold. If I tell someone "government is evil"- they will think I'm equating the average DMV worker or Post office worker with being evil, when its just someone who wanted to earn money someway and pay the bills. The system of government sure is evil to me, but that's certainly the poor foot to start off on.

 Whenever I became frustrated with someone for not understanding how superior my logic is compared to theirs- that's when things don't work out. I'd emphasize connecting emotionally with people over all else- this is what matters in connecting to the average person on the street. Walter block debates and listening to famous lecturers of libertarian philosphy is great for me personally as a learning tool- but I have a hard time convincing anyone to change their mind after watching any of them(if they even go so far as to watch them!).

If you're going to think that people have scrambled brains, you're certainly not going to treat them with any respect. Maybe you think you are but 100% guarantee it will show up subtley somehow in a way you don't notice. I'm just speaking from my own experience and I had to learn it myself that being upset with people who don't "get it" is sure-fire way to just get people even further away from your position. Love is the wine you must drink! Its very powerful if that's your basis when you talk to anyone about subjects that can be very close to a person's self-identification or view of reality.

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Clayton replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 11:42 PM

 

auctionguy10:

@Clayton You sound pretty jaded,  I think it may come off in your attitude when you talk to these people and that is what's scrambling their brains. I do agree it can very possible to be stuck in a small bubble when talking to the those that sympathize with the same position, though.

I talk to people around me all the time and I've convinced a many lot the real situation behind the government and they sure do become interested, and this is New York City- liberal/democrat stronghold. If I tell someone "government is evil"- they will think I'm equating the average DMV worker or Post office worker with being evil, when its just someone who wanted to earn money someway and pay the bills. The system of government sure is evil to me, but that's certainly the poor foot to start off on.

OK, we're getting really far afield here. Let me recap briefly:

Me: This is one of the most effective arguments of the State, most difficult to refute

You: Not difficult to refute, just use logic

Me: Logic is beside the point, people don't want to believe they pay all those taxes for no good reason

You: But you should be nicer in the way you talk to people

The fact is, I simply don't try to talk to people about this kind of stuff because I've found it's an utter waste of time. I live in Oregon - perhaps it's more of a leftist/statist stronghold than New York. People here do believe in fairies, they do, they do. Arguing that all the legitimate services which the State provides me whether I want it or not can be produced privately and that such production is more just and efficient is a waste of time.

If someone expresses a frustration with the status quo I will sometimes offer support. If I can weasel in something about how the government basically does whatever it likes because it is self-policing, I do. To me, that is the single most powerful argument against the State. I was blown away the first time I read Hoppe define the state as an "agent [that] must be able to insist that all conflicts among the inhabitants of a given territory be brought to him for ultimate decision-making or be subject to his final review. In particular, this agent must be able to insist that all conflicts involving himself be adjudicated by him or his agent." [Emphasis original] It's stunning how simple the problem is. It can be stated in a single sentence. To correctly define the State is to discredit it.

But people are steeped in propaganda and I suspect that people generally have a dispositional tendency to accept the authority of a chief, in whatever form he may come.

Whenever I became frustrated with someone for not understanding how superior my logic is compared to theirs- that's when things don't work out. I'd emphasize connecting emotionally with people over all else- this is what matters in connecting to the average person on the street. Walter block debates and listening to famous lecturers of libertarian philosphy is great for me personally as a learning tool- but I have a hard time convincing anyone to change their mind after watching any of them(if they even go so far as to watch them!).  

If you're going to think that people have scrambled brains, you're certainly not going to treat them with any respect. Maybe you think you are but 100% guarantee it will show up subtley somehow in a way you don't notice. I'm just speaking from my own experience and I had to learn it myself that being upset with people who don't "get it" is sure-fire way to just get people even further away from your position. Love is the wine you must drink! Its very powerful if that's your basis when you talk to anyone about subjects that can be very close to a person's self-identification or view of reality.

I agree with everything you've said here and I certainly don't talk to the person on the street the way I talk on this forum. A different audience requires different rhetoric. Nevertheless, I am pretty jaded about the ability of most people to absorb even a tiny fraction of the truth about the State. So, I generally don't say anything on politics or, at most, restrict myself to piggy-backing on criticisms of the government made by others in a conversation.

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Eric080 replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 11:48 PM

That's what I do, Clayton.  I drop little hints here and there, but the opposition has completely walled off a portion of their brains to consider that what they've been told may after all be false.  There's too much investment in the system emotionally for these people who watch and agree with the Rachel Maddow / Sean Hannity types.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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John James replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 11:59 PM

Block has written extensively on this, as well as using other government services, and even being employed by government:

(The letter he's replying to is at the bottom)

 

work for government?

From: Walter Block
Sent: Thu 1/7/2010 10:26 PM
To: Eric Shear
Subject: RE: dilemma

Dear Eric:
 
My advice to you is to pursue your career, and forget about all the considerations you mention below. I used to teach at a state school, I use public roads, mail letters in the US post office, carry around fiat currency, deal with statist banks, and will gladly accept Social Security payments in a year or so. I don't think libertarianism requires self abnegation. Of course, there are certain things you may not do as a libertarian: arrest people for victimless crimes as a policeman, bomb innocents abroad as a soldier, etc. (Even here things get a bit complicated, in my view.) But working for NASA is hardly in that league.
 
I have written a bit about this:
 

Block, Walter. 2002. “Accepting Government Subsidies,” Fraser Forum, February, p. 27; http://oldfraser.lexi.net/publications/forum/2002/02/section_13.html

Block, Walter. 2004. “Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part I” Reason Papers, Vol. 27, Fall, pp. 117-133; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block_radical-libertarianism-rp.pdf

Block, Walter. 2006. “Radical Libertarianism: Applying Libertarian Principles to Dealing with the Unjust Government, Part II” Reason Papers, Vol. 28, Spring, pp.  85-109; http://www.walterblock.com/wp-content/uploads/publications/block_radical-libertarianism-rp.pdf; (death penalty justified, net taxpayer, ruling class analysis p. 87)

Block, Walter. 2007. “Ron Paul and Matching Funds,” October 1; http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block86.html

Block, Walter. 2008. “Replies to readers” September 23; http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block108.html (libertarians hypocrites for using public school?)

Block, Walter. 2009A. “Libertarian punishment theory: working for, and donating to, the state” Libertarian Papers, Vol. 1;http://libertarianpapers.org/2009/17-libertarian-punishment-theory-working-for-and-donating-to-the-state/

Block, Walter. 2009B. "Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism" in Hulsmann, Jorg Guido and Stephan Kinsella, eds., Property, Freedom and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Auburn, AL: Ludwig von Mises Institute, pp. 137-148; http://mises.org/books/hulsmann-kinsella_property-freedom-society-2009.pdf

Block, Walter. Forthcoming A. "Toward a Libertarian Theory of Guilt and Punishment for the Crime of Statism" Journal of Libertarian Studies

Block, Walter. Forthcoming B. “Hoppe, Kinsella and Rothbard II on Immigration: A Critique.”  Journal of Libertarian Studies

Block, Walter. Unpublished. “Libertarianism, punishment and statism”

Block, Walter and Chris Arakaky. 2008. “Taking Government Money for Grad School?,” May 23; http://www.lewrockwell.com/block/block100.html

Block, Walter and William Barnett II. 2008. “Continuums” Journal Etica e Politica / Ethics & Politics, Vol. 1, pp. 151-166 June; http://www2.units.it/~etica/; http://www2.units.it/~etica/2008_1/BLOCKBARNETT.pdf

D’Amico, Dan and Walter Block. 2007. “A Legal and Economic Analysis of Graffiti” Humanomics Vol. 23, No.1, pp. 29-38; http://www.mises.org/journals/scholar/damico.pdf; http://www.emeraldinsight.com/Insight/viewContainer.do?containerType=Issue&containerId=24713

 
Best regards,
 
Walter
Walter E. Block, Ph.D.
Harold E. Wirth Endowed Chair and Prof. of Economics
College of Business
Loyola University New Orleans
6363 St. Charles Ave., Box 15
New Orleans, LA 70118
tel: (504)864-7934
fax: (504)864-7970
wblock@loyno.edu


From: Eric Shear [mailto:renegade.omega@gmail.com]
Sent: Thu 1/7/2010 2:13 PM
To: wblock@loyno.edu
Subject: dilemma

Hello, my name is Eric.

I have been reading LewRockwell.com for 5 years now, especially your articles. I have always found them thoughtful and informative, so I thought I'd ask for your help with a dilemma that I find hard to resolve. I am a libertarian who abhors everything the US government has been doing, especially its overseas military adventures. However, I am an engineering student who is studying for a career in the aerospace sector. As you probably know, that sector is heavily dominated by the companies which have been doing business with the US government. It will be difficult to avoid them when the time comes for my first job out of college. There are still other companies, of course, but if they decide not to hire me, I will be forced to check the above-mentioned companies out. To make matters worse, it seems that the US dominates the world's list of aerospace-related companies.

I have a longstanding interest in space exploration. I would rather design space probes than the next-generation bomber. In fact, I am participating in a NASA scholarship program related to that very thing. But if that is not possible once I graduate, will I have to hold my nose and get in bed with the organizations I hate most, or are there alternatives?

Thank you.

-Eric
PS: You can post this on LewRockwell.com. I'd like to know what other people think.

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The gubbermint made nothing, owns no thing, has nothing,that was not either given by coercion or taken by force.

 

 

Mat 22:17   Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not?

    But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, [ye] hypocrites?

    Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny.

    And he saith unto them, Whose [is] this image and superscription?

    They say unto him, Caesar's. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's.

   

When they had heard [these words], they marvelled, and left him, and went their way.

 

If you are a slave to the fiction,deliver your pound of flesh. Taxes are for social control. When the gubbermint can print what it needs,Taxes are the tool of keeping the masses subjugated. In the final analysis,it is all God's.caesar put an image unto some prior existing material.

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Wesker1982 replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 10:51 PM

The roads are funded through force. They will probably reply with "WHY DON't YOU MOVE?! hurr hurr" but that only proves the point that it is force.

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Or to use a parable that more people might be able to relate to, it's like when a bunch of trendy bars and restaurants start to pop up in a working class neighborhood in order to serve a minority hipster population. Then a bunch of yuppies start to move in. And then the landlord of a working class apartment complex suddenly decides that he wants to make a bunch of renovations. After making these renovations, he tells his tenants that he's going to raise their rents. So the tenents say, "hey, we didn't want these fancy bars or these renovations that you've made without even asking us!" The landlord and restaurant owners repy, "oh, but we built this and we did that and somebody has to pay for it, money doesn't grow on trees you know!"

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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Eugene replied on Sat, Jun 25 2011 11:25 PM

I think the best refuation is to compare the government with mafia. Both provide important services and demand payment under threat of violence. They both act in a similar way.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 1:25 AM

I think the best refuation is to compare the government with mafia. Both provide important services and demand payment under threat of violence. They both act in a similar way.

People are not emotionally prepared to deal with the truth. It really is a lot like the movie The Matrix, you can't explain the reality of what the State is, people just have to see it for themselves. "I'm trying to free your mind, Neo. But I can only show you the door. You're the one that has to walk through it."

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 1:29 AM

Or to use a parable that more people might be able to relate to, it's like when a bunch of trendy bars and restaurants start to pop up in a working class neighborhood in order to serve a minority hipster population. Then a bunch of yuppies start to move in. And then the landlord of a working class apartment complex suddenly decides that he wants to make a bunch of renovations. After making these renovations, he tells his tenants that he's going to raise their rents. So the tenents say, "hey, we didn't want these fancy bars or these renovations that you've made without even asking us!" The landlord and restaurant owners repy, "oh, but we built this and we did that and somebody has to pay for it, money doesn't grow on trees you know!"

Yes, because responding to changes in the condition of the market by making decisions regarding one's own property is just exactly like forcing* people to give up their own property to pay for your pet projects.

Clayton -

*Where 'forcing' means something backed with the threat of imprisonment or death, not being 'forced' to pay higher rent or move to a different neighborhood.

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The parable I use to rebut this argument is the random park developer.

Even closer to roads might be a parable of a guy, who without asking you, by night, covers all walkways leading from your house by red carpets, and then in the morning charges you - even if you decide to stay at home.

The Voluntaryist Reader - read, comment, post your own.
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fiatjaf replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 12:06 PM

Roads are not property of the state, roads are "common property". Everything is common property until a conflict tooks place and the thing becomes private property. In the case of roads, they were estabilished as common property and the state claimed the authority to manage the road conflicts, putting them in a dubious state between "common" and "public".

See Hoppe here: http://libertarianpapers.org/2011/1-hoppe-private-common-and-public-property/

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Yes, because responding to changes in the condition of the market by making decisions regarding one's own property is just exactly like forcing* people to give up their own property to pay for your pet projects.

Clayton -

*Where 'forcing' means something backed with the threat of imprisonment or death, not being 'forced' to pay higher rent or move to a different neighborhood.

But people who refuse to pay their rents are forced to move under the threat of imprisonment or some form of violent eviction. When a state government decides to raise taxes, often businesses will move to a state with lower taxes. State governments have thus learned to set the tax rate at a level that will maximize revenue without discouraging businesses from leaving. In other words, market forces determine tax rates in a similar way that they determine rents. If a government raises taxes, it's merely because they are responding to changes in the condition of the market.

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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Fool on the Hill:
Or to use a parable that more people might be able to relate to, it's like when a bunch of trendy bars and restaurants start to pop up in a working class neighborhood in order to serve a minority hipster population. Then a bunch of yuppies start to move in. And then the landlord of a working class apartment complex suddenly decides that he wants to make a bunch of renovations. After making these renovations, he tells his tenants that he's going to raise their rents. So the tenents say, "hey, we didn't want these fancy bars or these renovations that you've made without even asking us!" The landlord and restaurant owners repy, "oh, but we built this and we did that and somebody has to pay for it, money doesn't grow on trees you know!"

Or like, when neighborhood volunteer groups clean up the streets and build public parks that boost the property value!  I didn't ask for that, and now the rent is going up!

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
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Stephen replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 2:36 PM
  1. I do you a favour without asking you if you want me to or not.
  2. You now owe me.
  3. I decide how much you owe me.
  4. I break your legs if you don't pay up.

Fair, right?

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 8:06 PM

But people who refuse to pay their rents are forced to move under the threat of imprisonment or some form of violent eviction.

Well, I'm not a pacifist... the problem with the government is not just that it uses force but that it uses unjustified and unjustifiable force. In the case of someone signing a renter's agreement that includes a clause where the rent can be increased (and the higher rate must be paid on pain of eviction), no one put a gun to the renter's head forcing him to sign up for that particular house. He could have settled for a lower standard of living.

When a state government decides to raise taxes, often businesses will move to a state with lower taxes. State governments have thus learned to set the tax rate at a level that will maximize revenue without discouraging businesses from leaving. In other words, market forces determine tax rates in a similar way that they determine rents.

A fact that those in government would do well to learn. Every city council tyrant has it in his or her head that their constituency lives or dies by the stroke of their pen. Economic law, as Lew Rockwell has said, is more powerful than any government law. From this, it immediately follows that government intervention in the market that attempts to contravene economic law is immoral for the same reason that investing a trillion dollars researching ways to get the human body to fly unaided would be immoral.

If a government raises taxes, it's merely because they are responding to changes in the condition of the market.

Well, no one denies that the government does what it does because it can. That said, taxation is not a market because it does not involve voluntary exchange (catallacty). Speaking of a "market in taxes" is like speaking of a "market in rape" - both are forms of unjustifiable violence. Being inherently coercive, taxation is missing a crucial element that drives market rationality - the dual expectation of each party to a transaction to be better off as a result of the transaction. Nobody thinks they're better off by virtue of being taxed. The easy way to see this is to ask yourself what would happen if taxes were voluntary. Of course, the government reckons that it's better off by virtue of taxing, just as the rapist reckons he's better off by virtue of experiencing the pleasure of rape.

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Well, I'm not a pacifist... the problem with the government is not just that it uses force but that it uses unjustified and unjustifiable force. In the case of someone signing a renter's agreement that includes a clause where the rent can be increased (and the higher rate must be paid on pain of eviction), no one put a gun to the renter's head forcing him to sign up for that particular house. He could have settled for a lower standard of living.

Well, if your objection to the government is that there is no contract, then it would certainly be easier for libertarians to get the government too make its citizens sign a contract than it would be to stop them from taxing or make them cease from existing. Upon immigrating to the country or once a person reaches a certain age, they could be presented with a contract that says something like, "I hereby grant the government the right to set and raise a tax on my income, my property, or the sale of my products as they see fit. In exchange, the government will give me the right to live and work in its territory and to leave whenever I want." I'm sure the vast majority of Americans would sign such a contract and we would have exactly the same situation we have now.

Well, no one denies that the government does what it does because it can. That said, taxation is not a market because it does not involve voluntary exchange (catallacty). Speaking of a "market in taxes" is like speaking of a "market in rape" - both are forms of unjustifiable violence. Being inherently coercive, taxation is missing a crucial element that drives market rationality - the dual expectation of each party to a transaction to be better off as a result of the transaction. Nobody thinks they're better off by virtue of being taxed. The easy way to see this is to ask yourself what would happen if taxes were voluntary. Of course, the government reckons that it's better off by virtue of taxing, just as the rapist reckons he's better off by virtue of experiencing the pleasure of rape.

No one thinks they are better off by virtue of being taxed in the same way that no one thinks they are better off by virtue of having rents imposed upon them. One would prefer to live in an apartment without paying rent to living in an apartment and having to pay rent; but one would prefer paying rent for an apartment to living in a cardboard box. Likewise, a person would prefer living in the United States without paying taxes to living in the United States and having to pay taxes; but one would prefer to pay taxes in the United States than to live tax-free on a raft floating in the sea. So in what way are rents voluntary and noncoercive but taxes involuntary and coercive?

 

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John James replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 10:23 PM

Stephen:

  1. I do you a favour without asking you if you want me to or not.
  2. You now owe me.
  3. I decide how much you owe me.
  4. I break your legs if you don't pay up.

Fair, right?

It's an offer I can't refuse.

 

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 10:47 PM

Oh boy, it must be an election year, the Ron-Paul-deep-divers are coming out of the woodwork...

Well, if your objection to the government is that there is no contract, then it would certainly be easier for libertarians to get the government too make its citizens sign a contract than it would be to stop them from taxing or make them cease from existing.

It's the government that we need to sign a contract. But we've already tried this... first we tried parliamentary monarchy, then we tried a constitutional republic. Magna Carta, the US Constitution and other similar devices have turned out to be worthless because the same organization that is to be restrained by these documents is also responsible for enforcing their terms. Even a small child could see how silly such a "contract" is.

Upon immigrating to the country or once a person reaches a certain age, they could be presented with a contract that says something like, "I hereby grant the government the right to set and raise a tax on my income, my property, or the sale of my products as they see fit. In exchange, the government will give me the right to live and work in its territory and to leave whenever I want."

Your description dovetails quite nicely with Hans Hoppe's simplified picture of the State's "contract" with its citizens. The State, in Hoppe's words, says "I will not contractually guarantee you anything. I will not tell you what I oblige myself to do if, according to your opinion, I do not fulfill my service to you – but in any case, I reserve the right to unilaterally determine the price that you must pay me for such undefined service."

And what gives the government the right to impose such terms on pain of death or economic ostracism? Note that "You will have to move off my property if you do not pay the rent that you agreed to pay" is not the same as "You will have to move off your property if you do not pay an amount you never agreed to pay."

I'm sure the vast majority of Americans would sign such a contract and we would have exactly the same situation we have now.

You might be right. Americans are uniquely gullible toward their government by comparison to most other peoples of the world.

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Clayton replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 10:51 PM

No one thinks they are better off by virtue of being taxed in the same way that no one thinks they are better off by virtue of having rents imposed upon them.

Taxes are not like rent. Even a diehard leftist economist like Paul Krugman wouldn't support your analogy between taxes and rent.

The implication of your line of reasoning is that national borders are like property boundaries. So who owns the territory within the borders of the United States? Who do we rent our lives and economic freedom from?

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Stephen replied on Sun, Jun 26 2011 11:38 PM

I think a big problem in this thread is that ppl are using the words "coercion" and "force" when what they really mean is aggression. Ppl who are defending themselves are also coercing and using force, but they aren't aggressing. And whether the use of force is aggressive or defensive is dependent on property rights. If Jones takes the wallet currently in possession of Smith, this is aggression if it rightly belongs to Smith, but defense if it rightly belongs to Jones. So one needs a correct theory of property rights to decide whether or not a payment is purchase or a tax.

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Any thoughts on how to better handle this objection?

Fraud.  Is consent based on a full disclosure of all enforcable terms for the <social> contract in question?

P.S. 

You do not own your car.  Private automobile ownership is an illusion.  The state owns the car.  The state retains the MSO (manufactuers statement of origin) and you receive a certificate of title.  Look up the history on the legal definition of a certificate.  A certificate is evidence of a contract.  So...

The state retains title to the car.  You recieve privileges of use subject to the terms and conditions of the contract evidenced by the Certificate of Title.  Should you violate the terms of the contract the state will seek an administrative remedy using force to recover leased property.  I say administrative remedy because that is what the system labels repossessing property if the lessee has not injured anyone or damaged any property.

There are multiple scenarios where a state would reposses allegedly "your" car when "you" have not injured anyone or damaged any property.  If you can't think of any... maybe you should read the terms of the contract... or ask for a full disclosure before signing it...

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It's the government that we need to sign a contract. But we've already tried this... first we tried parliamentary monarchy, then we tried a constitutional republic. Magna Carta, the US Constitution and other similar devices have turned out to be worthless because the same organization that is to be restrained by these documents is also responsible for enforcing their terms. Even a small child could see how silly such a "contract" is.

Well, I guess we need a third party to enforce the contract. How about...the UN? We can make it so that the citizens of a country can file a lawsuit through the UN's court. If the defendant is found guilty, the UN invades. Or we could just give the job to the US. They pretty much perform this role already.

Your description dovetails quite nicely with Hans Hoppe's simplified picture of the State's "contract" with its citizens. The State, in Hoppe's words, says "I will not contractually guarantee you anything. I will not tell you what I oblige myself to do if, according to your opinion, I do not fulfill my service to you – but in any case, I reserve the right to unilaterally determine the price that you must pay me for such undefined service."

Exactly! It's also quite like the contract that you sign when you get hired by a business. They don't tell us what work they're going to make us do, but whatever it is, if we don't do it, they punish us. They promise us healthcare, but we don't agree to the price increases that they implement year after year. The contract doesn't even guarantee us the job if we follow all of the rules. If hard times come, they can lay us off without any fault of our own. They "unilaterally determine the price that they must pay us for such undefined service" (e.g. if they eliminate one of your coworkers' positions, they can force you to work more to pick up the slack).  And yet we sign this absurdly one-sided contract. Why? Because it's the only way for most people to obtain the means of life. Contracts always favor the stronger party.

And what gives the government the right to impose such terms on pain of death or economic ostracism?

Nothing but power.

Note that "You will have to move off my property if you do not pay the rent that you agreed to pay" is not the same as "You will have to move off your property if you do not pay an amount you never agreed to pay."

One only aquires property throught the legal framework of the state, and is thus subject to its terms. Owning property within a state doesn't give you absolute dominion over it. It's more akin to a lease with the state ultimately retaining ownership (in Hong Kong--the poster child of the "free" market--this is explicitly acknowledged).

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Clayton replied on Mon, Jun 27 2011 11:01 PM

Well, I guess we need a third party to enforce the contract. How about...the UN?

And who will enforce the contracts between the UN and its subjugates? The UN??

We can make it so that the citizens of a country can file a lawsuit through the UN's court. If the defendant is found guilty, the UN invades. Or we could just give the job to the US. They pretty much perform this role already.

See above.

Your description dovetails quite nicely with Hans Hoppe's simplified picture of the State's "contract" with its citizens. The State, in Hoppe's words, says "I will not contractually guarantee you anything. I will not tell you what I oblige myself to do if, according to your opinion, I do not fulfill my service to you – but in any case, I reserve the right to unilaterally determine the price that you must pay me for such undefined service."


Exactly!

Wow.

It's also quite like the contract that you sign when you get hired by a business.

Actually, the employee is the one contracting to perform services. The employee is the seller and the employer is the buyer.

They "unilaterally determine the price that they must pay us for such undefined service"

No, really, they don't. My employer cannot pay me just any wage they like, else I will leave and work for someone else.

(e.g. if they eliminate one of your coworkers' positions, they can force you to work more to pick up the slack). 

On pain of terminating the employment contract, not putting you in prison or forcing you out of the country. You're really reaching.

And yet we sign this absurdly one-sided contract. Why? Because it's the only way for most people to obtain the means of life. Contracts always favor the stronger party.

Well, it is true that those with more wealth can afford better lawyers and so on. However, there is nothing inherently adversarial about the employer-employee relationship so there is no systematic exploitation in a free market of labor and employment. Cf Hoppe.

And what gives the government the right to impose such terms on pain of death or economic ostracism?

Nothing but power.

Power. That's the same thing that gives rapists to take what they want from their victims.

One only aquires property throught the legal framework of the state,

Bullshit. Property is logically and temporally antecedent to the State.

and is thus subject to its terms. Owning property within a state doesn't give you absolute dominion over it. It's more akin to a lease with the state ultimately retaining ownership (in Hong Kong--the poster child of the "free" market--this is explicitly acknowledged).

Well, that is certainly a true description of the de facto state of affairs. The de facto state of affairs within North Korea is that their government explicitly enslaves them. I suppose North Koreans should, therefore, be content to be enslaved.

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And who will enforce the contracts between the UN and its subjugates? The UN??

Who enforces the contracts between courts and its sugjugates in a "libertarian" society? I know Rothbard has outlined some role for courts, but I don't know the complete details, so this is an honest question.

Actually, the employee is the one contracting to perform services. The employee is the seller and the employer is the buyer.

What differences does it make? The point is they're both contracts over a trade where one party is stronger. Buying and selling are basically interchangeable terms anyway. People say they "got" a job, they don't say they "give" a job.

No, really, they don't. My employer cannot pay me just any wage they like, else I will leave and work for someone else.

My government can't just raise my taxes any way they like, else I will leave and live somewhere else.

Well, it is true that those with more wealth can afford better lawyers and so on. However, there is nothing inherently adversarial about the employer-employee relationship so there is no systematic exploitation in a free market of labor and employment. Cf Hoppe.

That sounds like a curious argument. I'll try to give the video a shot when I have time

Power. That's the same thing that gives rapists to take what they want from their victims.

Yes. Nowhere have I disagreed with your analogies or defended the government. I don't like them either. I am merely taking the next logical step and extending your critiques to other institutions of capitalism.

Bullshit. Property is logically and temporally antecedent to the State.

Property is a social construct. Our society happens to be statist.

Well, that is certainly a true description of the de facto state of affairs. The de facto state of affairs within North Korea is that their government explicitly enslaves them. I suppose North Koreans should, therefore, be content to be enslaved.

Certainly not. Power should be challenged in whatever form it takes.

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Clayton replied on Tue, Jun 28 2011 9:49 PM

Who enforces the contracts between courts and its sugjugates in a "libertarian" society? I know Rothbard has outlined some role for courts, but I don't know the complete details, so this is an honest question.

Contracts are enforced by the spectre of direct conflict. Most people cannot be sure they will win a fight with most other people. Hence, most disputes exist between disputants who face a great deal of uncertainty regarding the outcome of direct conflict. Hence, arbitration (bargaining out a mutually agreeable settlement) is an attractive alternative. Why bother going to arbitration unless you mean to abide by the contract? Violating the contract just resurrects the spectre of direct conflict which you were originally seeking to avoid.

This is the short answer, I can delve into a lot more detail if you're interested.

   Actually, the employee is the one contracting to perform services. The employee is the seller and the employer is the buyer.

What differences does it make? The point is they're both contracts over a trade where one party is stronger. Buying and selling are basically interchangeable terms anyway. People say they "got" a job, they don't say they "give" a job.

Well, you have to be careful with the word "stronger". If I accidentally stumble into a bad neighborhood and end up surrounded by a bunch of thugs, I'm in an extremely weak bargaining position by virtue of the immediate threat to my life. Without resorting to direct threats against me or people I care about, a wealthy man is only stronger than me in a very weak and indirect sense. Furthermore, we should expect that - in the modern, economically-advanced world - companies which specialize in the production of security (so-called private defense agencies, PDAs) would permit the poor masses to pool their resources in the form of small payments to obtain the services of a well-funded and powerful defense agency in the same way that stock shares permit even the poor to own shares in giant corporations.

It is my view that the interaction of the wealthy and the poor is inherently and ineradicably dangerous for the poor. I believe that this explains why classes emerge even in the absence of the State. You can't bump into and scratch a wealthy man's carriage and end up dead in a ditch if you don't live anywhere near him or shop where he shops.

   Power. That's the same thing that gives rapists to take what they want from their victims.

Yes. Nowhere have I disagreed with your analogies or defended the government. I don't like them either. I am merely taking the next logical step and extending your critiques to other institutions of capitalism.

Well, please don't think I'm a rah-rah corporatist neo-mercantilist Republican... the corporate world certainly acts as an extension of the State. Think about it: they are the front-line in tax collection. But it's important to distinguish - at the philosophical level - between inherently productive and inherently parasitic behavior. We can quibble over the details of which sorts of inherently productive behavior constitute an intrusion on the property of others (for example, a factory that spews smoke into a neighborhood) but there is no room for quibbling on the distinction between mugging someone or growing corn. Mugging is parasitic. It is not productive. It is the seizure by one person of the property of another.

   Bullshit. Property is logically and temporally antecedent to the State.

Property is a social construct. Our society happens to be statist.

I think you're missing some pieces of your syllogism.

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