Imagine that, one day, the mafia moves into your neighbourhood and proclaims it henceforth owns everything inside. From now on, everyone residing there must pay a yearly tribute to the mafia, on pain of having their kneecaps broken. In exchange, of course, the mafia promises to provide you with all sorts of wonderful services such as protecting you from other gangs and from police, making sure that shipments of goods arrive on time, etc. If at any time you decide you don't like the arrangement, you are naturally free to leave.
I think the ancaps on this board would probably all agree that this is pretty much how states arose historically. But now imagine this.
Suppose that, as time passes, people in the neighbourhood grow used to the arrangement. They feel the mafia has a sense of legitimacy in the area and provides important services reliably. It certainly doesn't prevent anyone from leaving.
The people in the neighbourhood have, that is, consented to giving up part of the property to the mafia and obeying their rules in exchange for their services. Yes, maybe if you don't pay up you will be beaten, but that's just part of the obligations you assume by living in the neighbourhood, just like you are obligated to follow the rules of the Olympics by being a participant.
Now, a lot of people seem to feel this way about their government. They feel the government is justified in taking their property. Only a marginal handful of extremists object. After all, the state manages to survive mainly by acquiring legitimacy in the eyes of the ruled.
If that's the case, then hasn't a kind of "social contract" arisen here? Haven't people consented to being taxed, making it okay for them and their property? If people want taxation, national healthcare, etc. why would we be justified in taking it away from them? Just because we don't want to be taxed, does that mean nobody should be taxed?
Well, as for people feeling that the government is justified in taking their property and "consent" to taxation, Stephan Kinsella sorta covered this one when he stated:
"First we need to ask ourselves, what is taxation? Well, taxation is theft. Even if a few people in society don't want the so-called 'services' provided by a government and therefore don't want to pay the taxes to fund them, those few people are being robbed and that is morally wrong. Even those who say they don't mind paying taxes are being robbed because they've never been given a choice in the first place and so their 'consent' is meaningless considering they've never been in the position to reject government 'service' and taxation."
...Or as Lysander Spooner would put it.
If they do it under duress, then it doesn't count.
But I do agree that the mafia organization--the group of individuals themselves--can be legitimately contracted to provide the services mentioned above. The key is to look at the individual relationships. For example, a woman can be a mother to one person while being a wife to another person. Likewise, a man can be a rapist to one woman while being a husband to another woman.
To paraphrase Marc Faber: We're all doomed, but that doesn't mean that we can't make money in the process.
Rabbi Lapin: "Let's make bricks!"
Stephan Kinsella: "Say you and I both want to make a German chocolate cake."
I can pay for services, and that payment can either be voluntary or coerced. Whether you call it a tax is irrelevant.
tunk:The people in the neighbourhood have, that is, consented to giving up part of the property to the mafia and obeying their rules in exchange for their services.
That's not accurate. The people in the neighborhood haven't consented to giving up part of their property to the mafia. The mafia already considers itself to own everything in the neighborhood, as you said in the first sentence of your post. What's really going on, from the mafia's point of view, is that the mafia is letting people in the neighborhood use some of its property. But it surely doesn't consider the residents to actually own anything anymore.
So the real theft that occurred was the mafia's original takeover of the neighborhood.
The keyboard is mightier than the gun.
Non parit potestas ipsius auctoritatem.
Many people vote in self-defense to prevent other people taking their wealth. They are essentially acting in self-defense against the state, which is not consent.
I think that perhaps the best word to describe what you call "consent" in this example is actually resignation and acceptance.
People resign themselves to the reality that they're going to get taxed and they either accept this arrangement or not (move or stay.)
At first that form of resignation or submission might be painful and unpleasant but over time people might get used to it and come to just accept it as a fact of life. At that point they may conclude that it really doesn't matter that they're being forced into submission as long as they feel they're getting something out of it and as long as they feel sufficiently afraid of what would happen should they attempt to forcefully rebel. They might even feel as if they'd given tacit consent to be taxed and governed.
I think this is what you're describing in your example.
Maybe you could say that the state is the biggest proof for how easy people fall victim to the Stockholm Syndrom.
Good point, Skylien. I think the reason why people fall prey to Stockholm Syndrome is because they get confused about causality. An example of this is a hostage situation, where the hostage-taker were to tell you, "Do this or I'll kill (this person you care about)." Many people (if not most) would consider themselves to be responsible for the death of that person - as if they did it themselves. That's not true, however. They didn't pull the trigger or perform any other physical actions that killed that person. But they think in terms of, "Had I done what the hostage-taker told me to do, (this person I care about) would still be alive." That's a presumption, of course, and possibly a big one, but nevertheless it's one that many/most people seem to make.
Another example comes from the film No Country for Old Men. Towards the end, Anton Chigurh finds Llewellyn Moss's wife, Carla Jean, after Moss's funeral. Chigurh had promised Moss that he would find and kill Carla Jean. When he encounters her in her home, Chigurh tells her that he's going to flip a coin and for her to call which side it lands on. If she guesses correctly, he'll let her live; otherwise, he'll kill her. (There was a scene earlier in the film where Chigurh did this to someone else, who guessed correctly. Chigurh let him live.) Carla Jean refuses, which makes Chigurh confused. When he asks her why not, she says, "Because it's not up to the coin. It's up to you." Chigurh honestly does not seem to understand this.
The relationship between governors and governed is interesting because the process of submission and resignation is inter-generational as well meaning that people who become accustomed to being governed then teach their children that that's just how things work thus perpetuating the cycle.
Thanks. I guess you are right there. Though I won't read your second paragraph since I didn't see this movie yet and I don't want it spoiled..
Since we are at movies. I just saw Iron Sky and I can highly recommend it, if you like a really funny movie that is about Nazis hiding on the dark side of the moon. It is much funnier than you would expect from the trailer. ;)