The morality of theft

Thesemindz

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Is it immoral for one man to use force to deprive another of his property? Let's say it's a car.

What if it is five men? What if the force is only implied? What if it is ten men? What if they take a vote first? What if it is twenty men and they give the victim a vote as well? What if it is fifty men and they give the car to a needy person later? What if it is a hundred men and they give the victim back a bike in return? What if it is a thousand men and they insist that the victim wouldn't have his car in the first place without their presence preventing someone from stealing it from him?

At what point does it become morally defensible to take from one man by force or threat of force that which is rightfully his? How many men are required to turn violent theft into justifiable taxation?

If our government derives its powers and authority from the people, then how can we grant that government powers or authorities we don't first possess? If I can not morally walk into your home and take a portion of your assets through force, then how can "we" collectively appoint someone else and confer upon them the authority to do so?

It isn't a question of whether or not you think taxation is necessary for the continued sustainability of the state. It is a question of the underlying morality of taxation itself.

It is a question of good versus evil.

Do not be confused by the causes they promote, instead look objectively at their actions.

The question of treason is distinct from that of slavery; and is the same that it would have been, if free States, instead of slave States, had seceded.

On the part of the North, the war was carried on, not to liberate slaves, but by a government that had always perverted and violated the Constitution, to keep the slaves in bondage; and was still willing to do so, if the slaveholders could be thereby induced to stay in the Union.

The principle, on which the war was waged by the North, was simply this: That men may rightfully be compelled to submit to, and support, a government that they do not want; and that resistance, on their part, makes them traitors and criminals.

excerpt from No Treason by Lysander Spooner


-Rob
 

Empty Hands

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Don't forget: the actions of the other men and women allow our hypothetical car owner to possess his car in the first place. That fact must enter into the moral calculus. We don't want our car owner freeloading off of others' efforts.
 

Ninjamom

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This is why taxation is only just, and can ONLY be morally defensible IF the taxation is for the 'common good'. Thus, a just government has no business in ANY social welfare programs, health care, retirement, wealth redistribution, or ANY of the other extra-constitutional activities first promulgated under the 'New Deal'.

The legitimate functions of government are few and far between: national defense, infrastructure, quarantines, foreign relations, and enforcement of such laws as required for social order. Anything beyond that amounts to tyranny.
 

Archangel M

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Some degree of taxation will always be necessary. If you expect to benefit from public works or programs you should be contributing.

And IMO "morality" and "law" are not necessarily a hand in hand proposition.
 

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Personally, I take more of a pragmatic approach to the issue. If this argument is against the basic idea of taxation, then I would consider the alternative. Taxation is the vehicle through which a stable government is provided. Playing the scenario to its logical end, without taxation, a state of either communism or anarchy would very possibly come about.

I see a big difference between "Taxes suck, I don't want to pay them" and "Taxes are wrong, I won't pay them."
 
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Thesemindz

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Don't forget: the actions of the other men and women allow our hypothetical car owner to possess his car in the first place. That fact must enter into the moral calculus. We don't want our car owner freeloading off of others' efforts.

There will always be free riders. This is an immutable fact. It must be accepted in any philosophy.

There are people in our country right now, on both ends of the economic spectrum who fit the definition of free riders. There are rich people who produce nothing but spending and contribute no new ideas or insight. There are poor people who collect benefits and subsidies and contribute to nothing but beer and cigarette sales.

Is that the majority of either end? No. Most rich people are contributing a huge amount of tax money and employment to many people. Most poor people are contributing the labor those rich people need in order to provide products to the consumer base.

But there are, and always will be, free riders. The mere existence of them within any societal philosophy can not be considered a valid criticism of that philosophy.


-Rob
 
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Thesemindz

Thesemindz

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This is why taxation is only just, and can ONLY be morally defensible IF the taxation is for the 'common good'. Thus, a just government has no business in ANY social welfare programs, health care, retirement, wealth redistribution, or ANY of the other extra-constitutional activities first promulgated under the 'New Deal'.

The legitimate functions of government are few and far between: national defense, infrastructure, quarantines, foreign relations, and enforcement of such laws as required for social order. Anything beyond that amounts to tyranny.

So to you the answer to how many men is "whenever the theft can be described as benevolent."

So all that is required to make good evil and evil good is a clever marketing campaign. To be fair, this is the opinion of most of the american people. Every day they are giving up their rights for such lofty ideals as "the common good."

I would argue that taxation is antithetical to the common good, and that it in fact supresses advancement in a number of areas including economics, science, research, technology, health, medicine, and many luxury industries.

National defense can not be supplied in any meaningful way by a standing army. There sole uses are aggressing against other nations. They can not prevent acts of terrorism on our soil, they can not prevent biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons being used against our people. At present, they can't even prevent any meaningful invasion of the homeland because they aren't here to do so.

Infrastructure can be, and for the most part is, supplied by the private sector. What government provides is bureaucracy. The licenses, and regulations, and inspections they require are not infrastructure, they are impediments.

Foreign relations are uneccessary absent government. Companies are capable of making financial agreements internationally without their aid, and do. The only foreign relations our government participates in are threats of violence, or discussions about how to redistribute the wealth taken by violence from the citizens of our country or anothers.

Social order can be maintained absent government enforcement. Look up Dispute Resolution Organizations. That is only one possible theory as to how it could be done. The tribes in Somalia practice a form of common law called the Xeer. Essentially, this law allows for social censure of "convicted" offenders and is enforced primarily through tribal tradition and peer pressure.

Government has no legitimate functions as long as they enforce their policies with violence. If they want to operate on donations and make suggestions, I wouldn't have any problem with it. As long as they have a gun pointed at me and my family, they have surrendered the moral authority.


-Rob
 
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Thesemindz

Thesemindz

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Some degree of taxation will always be necessary. If you expect to benefit from public works or programs you should be contributing.

And IMO "morality" and "law" are not necessarily a hand in hand proposition.

I don't believe any of us "benefit" from public works or programs. What you percieve as a benefit because of their existence, is actually less than you would recieve in a free economy with real currency. Their very existence is a burden, not a blessing.

And you're right, the laws are by and large immoral. Is your thesis than that we should except immoral rule from those we, at least theoretically, empower with the authority to lead us?

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern: every class is unfit to govern.

-John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton


-Rob
 
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Thesemindz

Thesemindz

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Personally, I take more of a pragmatic approach to the issue. If this argument is against the basic idea of taxation, then I would consider the alternative. Taxation is the vehicle through which a stable government is provided. Playing the scenario to its logical end, without taxation, a state of either communism or anarchy would very possibly come about.

Anarchy is exactly what I advocate. A very specific kind of anarchy called anarcho-capitalism. Anarchy doesn't mean crazy naked people running through the street shooting into the air and men in white coats chasing them with butterfly nets. That is chaos. Anarchy simply means a state of society without government. That doesn't mean without some form of social order, which I believe can be, and in reality already is, supplied through social censure and learned behaviors taught in the home and in our societal interactions.

Most people aren't not raping and murdering because they fear the law man, it's because they believe rape and murder to be wrong. Would you, absent a state authority, commit theft and assault and fraud?

I see a big difference between "Taxes suck, I don't want to pay them" and "Taxes are wrong, I won't pay them."

Me too. One is based on a lazy aversion to discomfort, and the other is based on a reasoned, objective consideration of the issue.

But most of us with this philosophy fall into the "Taxes are wrong, I wouldn't pay them, but I do under duress because of the threat of violence to my family," school of thought.


-Rob
 

Marginal

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This is why taxation is only just, and can ONLY be morally defensible IF the taxation is for the 'common good'. Thus, a just government has no business in ANY social welfare programs, health care, retirement, wealth redistribution, or ANY of the other extra-constitutional activities first promulgated under the 'New Deal'.
That assumes that such social programs don't help mitigate future costs.
 

Ninjamom

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So to you the answer to how many men is "whenever the theft can be described as benevolent."
Absolutely NOT. This is exactly 180 degrees polar opposite of what I just said - the whole point of what I said is that so-called 'benevolence' is entirely outside the legitimate function of government. WHATEVER the 'worthy cause', if YOU want to contribute to it, YOU may, but taking from the public coffers is theft. Period.

'Common Good' must in ths context mean that it benefits every citizen. This is why roads, rails, international trade, police forces, armed forces are considered for the 'common good', but targeted taxation to change social behavior (so-called 'sin taxes' on alcohol and tobacco or tax incentives on recycling, for instance) and social welfare programs that are paid for by some and benefit others are inherently immoral.

As for everything else you said..... let's just say we strongly disagree. National defense can only be as good as your standing army. Likewise, foreign relations are essential, unless you want to be at the mercy of everyone else's standing army. Social order via government coercion is essential for those incapable or unwilling to maintain their own good order - in fact the degree of tyrrany our society experiences will be inversly proportional to our degree of societal self-control. (I argue with my children all the time that they WILL be held to a standard of behavior: either by themselves through self-control, or via coercion through outside control). And to maintain our rights and the rule of law, the state must have the power of the sword for enforcement. Even the sanctions imposed by the tribe you mention are enforced through the tribal government.
 

Bob Hubbard

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[JAVERT]
Now bring me prisoner 24601
Your time is up
And your parole's begun
You know what that means.

[VALJEAN]
Yes, it means I'm free.

[JAVERT]
No!
It means you get
Your yellow ticket-of-leave
You are a thief

[VALJEAN]
I stole a loaf of bread.

[JAVERT]
You robbed a house.

[VALJEAN]
I broke a window pane.
My sister's child was close to death
And we were starving.

[JAVERT]
You will starve again
Unless you learn the meaning of the law.

[VALJEAN]
I know the meaning of those 19 years
A slave of the law

[JAVERT]
Five years for what you did
The rest because you tried to run
Yes, 24601.

[VALJEAN]
My name is Jean Valjean

[JAVERT]
And I am Javert
Do not forget my name!
Do not forget me,
24601.
 

Marginal

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Again - future costs to whom?
Uh, society?

You can disingenuously claim that social programs benefit no one, or moochers etc, but really charity cannot cover everything and people are as likely to break into your store when they can't get money as they are to magically bootstrap themselves into grand fortunes.
 
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Bob Hubbard

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During the 1860s, 70s, and there abouts, the US Government subsidized several railroads. They had long, winding routes, and in the end, all lost huge amounts of money and went under.

There were other railroads who were privately funded, went as short a route as possible, and as straight as possible. Those made money and some survive even today.

Today, the airlines are heavily subsidized by tax payer money. Tell me how that has helped them, or benefited me.

I resist the idea that I must be compelled to give up part of what I earn/grow/make/create to others who don't have it. As I have stated previously, I don't agree to give the government part of my income. I give it up under duress as I face imprisonment if I don't.

If I threaten you should you not give me food, and force you to comply, is that not theft?
If I threaten you should you not have sex with me, and force you to comply, is that not rape?

What then is it when someone else threatens you with punishment and forces you to comply with turning over a portion of your earnings?

How different is the Government from the lowly gangster who does the same?
 
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Thesemindz

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That assumes that such social programs don't help mitigate future costs.

I'll go a step further and say that such social programs create future costs, and that that was the intention of the programs in the first place. Many of the issues in the current housing market can be traced directly to the New Deal. Look up the history of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

There was a percieved shortage of liquidity in the mortgage market, so the government created Fannie Mae to inject liquidity into the market and make loans available to high risk borrowers who couldn't otherwise get financing. Sound familiar? Those high risk borrowers bankrupted the system, so in the late sixties, the government partially privatized the system to get it off the public books, but continued to back the mortgages. Thirty years later, the continued to encourage high risk lending practices, which led directly to our current housing and financial crisis. And their response is to inject liquidity into the mortgage industry to free up credit to make it easier for people to get loans.

This always leads to economic collapse. Which, I proffer, was their intention all along. Look how each financial crisis is used to further the growth and power of government. They aren't stupid. They know what will happen if they back loans to people who can't possibly repay them. I've known people in the lending industry who were specifically told to make loans to people they knew couldn't repay them, because their bosses were being pressured and incentivized to do so by the state.

This is a predictable outcome of their policies. We are left with two options, they really are that dumb, or they really are that evil.

Take your pick.


-Rob
 
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Thesemindz

Thesemindz

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How different is the Government from the lowly gangster who does the same?

When you describe in simple terms how the government operates and how it enforces it's policies, you describe nothing so much as organized crime.

A group of people make decisions about how you can run your life, business, family, etc, charge you money on the basis that it will be used to protect you from harm, but in reality argue that they have no actual responsibility to do so, or claim that it is necessary to fund their ongoing activities which provide the atmosphere in which you exist, and use violence to ensure compliance with their mandates.

Again, in my ideal society, you could still participate in this kind of exchange, but it would be voluntary, and a person's decision to do so would not obligate his neighbor to do so as well.


-Rob
 

Empty Hands

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But there are, and always will be, free riders. The mere existence of them within any societal philosophy can not be considered a valid criticism of that philosophy.

But we are not discussing a societal philosophy; we are discussing the morality of theft and applying our conclusions to society at large. In our hypothetical scenario, the other men and women provide some sort of benefit that allows our car owner to own his car in the first place. Thus, collecting some sort of recompense from the car owner is not theft (up to the value of the benefit), it is collecting what is owed. Thus, the car owner gaining a benefit without paying out anything in return is in itself theft, we just call it free-riding here.

That is just in regards to the hypothetical you have created. In a larger system, yes there will always be free-riders, and you can minimize but not eliminate them.
 

Tez3

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Thesemindz...you know you quoted A Liberal don't you?


Quote:
The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern: every class is unfit to govern.
-John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton
 
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Thesemindz

Thesemindz

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Thesemindz...you know you quoted A Liberal don't you?


Quote:
The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern: every class is unfit to govern.
-John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

I may be an anarchist, but I am not an ideologue. If someone has a good idea, I'm willing to listen objectively, regardless of the particulars of their philosophy.


-Rob
 
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