Originally Posted by jazzguru
Originally Posted by muppetry
I'd have to side with BR on that. If you are making the presumption that any form of taxation amounts to stealing then the discussion has no place to go. I would present an alternative view of a structured society in which the members implicitly choose to support the jointly funded services that they enjoy. The support mechanism is taxation, on which they have a say via elected representatives. It has proven to be a successful way for humans to organize and prosper - arguably the most successful to date. Unlike Libertarianism, that, as far as I can tell, has never succeeded even enough to make it into recorded history. And yes - I've heard the argument that it has not been given a chance, but if it's such a great idea then why do you suppose that might be? The ensemble of events that represent human history has seen all kinds of crazy ideas tried and fail. It's the sociological analog of a disadvantageous mutation.
In my opinion, the "gold standard" for any foundation of government is the Declaration of Independence. If you compare what we have today with the principles set forth in that document, it's plainly obvious that what we currently have is systemized plunder under the guise of representative government. Government derives its power from the consent of the governed, and when you take consent out of the picture, it is invalid and despotic.
It may be your gold standard, but don't forget that the declaration of independence marked the creation of a system of government fundamentally identical to that which you are objecting to. It was elected, it enacted laws, it levied taxes etc.. And despite the pious proclamation on inalienable rights, it condoned slavery by not condemning it, which rather smokes its claim to the moral high ground.
That said, I do not disagree with the rights that it describes - I think that they are a reasonable basis for a cooperative society. I do disagree with the statement that they are inalienable. Since we appear to be a product of nature, and since nature self-evidently does not grant any such rights in the absence of human declaration, that position is untenable in my opinion.
For example, I do not consent to money being taken from me under threat of violence and used to fund the killing of innocent children overseas. My compliance with tax law cannot be construed as consent, because I have complied under duress, not of my own free will and choice.
Libertarianism has not been given a chance, but I believe it is due to far more nefarious reasons than you might think.
As for your compliance being under duress, it is your free will to choose not to live in any given society, but if you do choose to do so the accompanying social contract is that you abide by the laws and support that society. Your statement that government derives its power from the consent of the people is missing the point of democracy. Government derives its authority from being elected by the people. It is not some intended to be some machiavellian organization that subverts the will of the people, and will not become that provided that the electorate appropriately exercises its discretion. The origins of government destruction of rights are generally pragmatic, and preventable by electoral vigilance. Ah, you may say - but I do not support the elected government, and I do not recognize the right of the majority to decide for me or levy taxes. Well then you are rejecting the benefits of living in that society and it is time to find somewhere more to your liking. Because hanging around benefiting from society's protection and infrastructure without paying taxes is, itself, theft.
The Libertarian view that following society's rules as a condition of living in the region occupied by that society is an infringement of rights is fatuous on at least a couple of levels.
Firstly, this whole inalienable rights thing. Why do you believe that anyone has inalienable rights? They do not exist in nature, which, at least until human intervention, represented pure Darwinistic survival of the fittest. Rights are a human construct. Human society can be viewed merely as a cooperative modification of individual competitiveness - where societal cooperation leads to more success than just the sum of the parts. It's just a pack, but tweaked with concepts of fairness and morality. You have the rights, and restrictions, assigned by society, which evolve and change in a process of dynamic optimization that appears to be controlled by resistance to the drift towards the short-term advantages of a more competitive but less stable structure. If you personally don't like them, then you can work for change, leave, or be a de facto outcast.
Do you really believe that your right to life, liberty, and property is granted to you by a group of individuals? What if this group of individuals decides to "rescind" one of those rights? Are you bound to comply?
I believe our rights are inherent and exist independent of government. They existed before government, exist in spite of it, and will exist long after mankind has progressed beyond the need for government as we know it today. Government is not a granter of rights, it is supposed to be a protector of rights. Nothing more, nothing less. At least, that is what the founding documents and writings of the founding fathers of the United States implicitly state.
What you have said here is almost in direct contradiction to the very principles upon which this nation was supposedly founded.
I can't help you here. That may be your belief, but I would say that it is just wishful thinking contradicted by the overwhelming evidence of history and science. Your blind acceptance that those rights are inalienable because a group of 18th century rebels said so makes as little sense to me as believing that we were created by a supernatural being because an ancient legend says so. And I'm not contradicting the principles on which the US was founded, I'm disputing the premise behind the principles.
Secondly, the entire premise of Libertarianism is as flawed and naive as communism (though for different reasons), because of the competitive side of human nature. Pre-democracy human history demonstrates that in the absence of such a structure, the result is not a free and happy market-driven utopia where everyone voluntarily pays their share and helps their neighbor, but rather a feudalistic struggle for power, wealth and against oppression.
It would seem your assumption is that "pre-democracy", people lived in quase-libertarian state. This is not so.
We have tried slavery. We have tried servitude. We have tried institutionalized violence and plunder. Libertarians simply ask: why not try liberty?
You misunderstood my point here; perhaps I made it poorly. I'm not arguing that pre-democracy was libertarian, I'm pointing out that libertarianism did not arise before democracy was adopted, and has not arisen since as an alternative to democracy. It thus does not appear to be a stable or quasi-stable solution attainable within the boundary conditions represented by human nature. Could it be externally imposed and turn out to be a local minimum in an unfavorable region of the parameter space - perhaps - but much of what we know to be true of selfish human behavior suggests that it would be taken advantage of by the strong and unscrupulous and degenerate back to something akin to feudalism or tribalism. In other words I would argue that liberty, as you define it, is inherently unstable.
I believe your understanding of libertarianism is narrow and limited. If you have a desire to broaden that understanding, I really think you would enjoy reading For a New Liberty by Murray N. Rothbard. It is a great place to start a more in-depth study of libertarian philosophy.
Thanks for the suggested reading. I've looked at it before but never managed to get very far. Its almost total lack of deductive reasoning, relying instead on assertion, leaves me most unsatisfied. I'll take another look and see if it provides more insights into your thinking.