Carlos

Taxation, Regulation and Government Programs in a Free Nation

388 posts in this topic

A free market automatically finds rational solutions to problems. A typical objection to a private fire department would be: but suppose somebody doesn't pay for their services? (probably an annual fee) Well, then either their house potentially burns down without intervention...

I don't know if you've seen a house burn to the ground in front of you (I have), but a house burning down without intervention in the middle of a neighborhood is a massive threat to anyone living nearby, and could easily burn down neighboring homes.

Would you suggest the same thing for Police? A particularly poor side of town doesn't voluntarily fund the Police department, so they don't receive protection or surveillance, and the region develops into a war-zone and training ground for thugs, gangs and Mohammedans. Not a very practical result...

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I don't know if you've seen a house burn to the ground in front of you (I have), but a house burning down without intervention in the middle of a neighborhood is a massive threat to anyone living nearby, and could easily burn down neighboring homes.

But, none of which addresses my lengthy previous post.

Would you suggest the same thing for Police? A particularly poor side of town doesn't voluntarily fund the Police department, so they don't receive protection or surveillance, and the region develops into a war-zone and training ground for thugs, gangs and Mohammedans. Not a very practical result...

I am not adopting your premise that a legitimate function of government, the police, implies a relationship to the necessary function of fire suppression. In my observation, poor parts of cities *everywhere* in America are typically crime-ridden and they don't receive the same level of police protection as better neighborhoods. In fact your characterization isn't far from reality today in such cities as Los Angeles and Chicago. Why? Because decades of lousy government run education, welfare programs, corrupt police departments chasing drug busts rather than "petty criminals", etc., have helped to create these areas - in the name of "necessary government services" e.g. public schools and public welfare, based on arguments that are identical to yours.

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My thoughts on coercive funding are:

-- To take the U.S. Civil War as an example, the entire war was fought and won by the Union before income taxes existed (except for a very small, brief period that probably set the stage for the 20th century disaster to come.) No war since has even begun to approach its relative magnitude. That in itself should be a cautionary historical note about the supposed necessity of income taxes.

How many Aircraft Carriers, A-10 Warthogs, F-14 Tomcats, Blackbirds, Stealth Bombers, Nuclear Submarines, Destroyers, Apache Helicopters and M1-Abrams Tanks were deployed in the Civil War? The Civil War was large in magnitude in terms of the numbers of men involved and the numbers that died. And how did the tax during that time period set the stage for the 20th century disaster? America didn't end up in the bad state where it is now because of involuntary taxation-- it got here because of a combination of a massive moral collapse of its politicians and a massive and widespread confusion over the proper role of government (a protector of individual rights, or a nanny-state that regulates the free-market?)
-- Looking at the full philosophic picture in context, it is extremely doubtful that large militaries are actually needed by any country that acts rationally - i.e., one that does not altruistically pay to support its enemies (e.g. the U.S. and Israel), and which does not withhold its strongest weapons in order to be nice to its enemies (e.g. the U.S. and Israel), and which does not strangle its own economy with controls so that the relative funding (of the entire economy) required for a rational military is a much larger percentage than it ought to be (e.g. the U.S. and Israel).
How much altruistic support did NAZI Germany need from America in order to become one of the most fearsome military machines the world has every seen? I think the United States acted pretty darn rationally during that war, and how large of a military and how much finances did that require?

Also, I think this view that given a rational moral government, our military defense could be solely replaced by nerds pressing buttons in America to launch nukes all over the world is at best wishful thinking. I don't think there will ever be a replacement for possessing a large military, in terms of the number of men and machines.

And one more thing: how would you like to be in the middle of WW3, and have a wave of pacifism sweep Americans so that 90% of the populace withholds their voluntary contributions? I would rather not have my military funding in the middle of a war rely on something so fickle as the mob. If you disagree with this, do you think we should also get rid of the electoral college and have Presidents elected exclusively by popular vote. If not, why is it a bad idea to have Presidents elected exclusively by popular vote?

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I am not adopting your premise that a legitimate function of government, the police, implies a relationship to the necessary function of fire suppression. In my observation, poor parts of cities *everywhere* in America are typically crime-ridden and they don't receive the same level of police protection as better neighborhoods. In fact your characterization isn't far from reality today in such cities as Los Angeles and Chicago. Why? Because decades of lousy government run education, welfare programs, corrupt police departments chasing drug busts rather than "petty criminals", etc., have helped to create these areas - in the name of "necessary government services" e.g. public schools and public welfare, based on arguments that are identical to yours.

My arguments are for involuntary taxation to support a government whose only job is to protect individual rights. Like I said before, the government should throw a watch thief in jail, but not buy the victim a new watch. Where did you draw from my arguments a support of public schools, welfare and all these other nefarious programs?

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Here is a crucially important part that I forgot to mention:

Wars can often be long, difficult, and tremendously expensive. How could a Military that depended purely on voluntary funds ever seriously make long term plans if they didn't have a fixed, steady revenue with which to base their strategies and calculations on? Why should we even expect a Military to rely on unsteady revenue like this when a mere 5% income tax could cover the Department of Defense 2007 budget (assuming I did math correctly)?

I'm hearing lots of arguments as to why involuntary taxation is morally wrong; but in terms of the practical operation of a Military and the defense of a nation, at this point involuntary taxation looks to be overwhelmingly more practical of a choice than relying on the benevolence of a fickle mob.

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Jordan, a few quesitons and responses for you to ponder.

1) What is the proper role of a government? Is is not to protect the rights of it's citizens?

2) Where does the government get it's authority from? Does it not get it's authority from the very people that have given it to them?

3) Where would the right to regulate come from? Everyone has the right to protect themselves, through force if needed, which is what they choose to hand over to the government to generate a peaceful, law-biding society. But, you do not have the right to regualte anyone but youself and no majority vote can change that.

4) Does not a proper government get it's authority from the people which means it's right to protect it's citizens stem from the cititzens themselves? A person has the right to his life, he does not have the right to regulate others, no matter the consequences.

This really made me question and think about the validity of my position, but after thinking about it here is where I stand:

When men get together to frame and build a proper nation, they do so with the view that the government is here for our benefit, not the other way around. So yes, the sole power and authority that a government may wield is granted to it by the very people whom the government governs.

However, like I've said before, a nation (or the USA to be more specific) is a whole lot more than just a bunch of people living in the same geographical region. I think similar to how a marriage is a civil union between two individuals, a nation is an official union of all its citizens, so that any actions taken by the government of a nation, is done in the name of every citizen of that nation. So I think that when a group of men form a nation for the benefit of man, there is an implied contract of duty to that nation on every citizen who inhabits it. Yes, a government derives it's authority from the governed, but the government won't exist in the first place without the agreed upon duty of its citizens. If the citizens decide the government has lost its way, then it is their choice to refuse that duty and to become rebels (as our Founding Fathers did).

I guess I used to take a very passive interpretation of what it meant to be a citizen of a nation, but lately I've changed my view to that of a citizen being a very active role, because for the first time in my life I've begun to realize how awesomely serious and solemn of a thing it is to be the loyal citizen of a nation. When men form a nation, they are pledging that the lives of every single man, woman and child of this nation is going into this win or lose, and if this sacred civil bond is to work then it will require the duty of all its citizens. The men that form a nation consciously agree to this, and I think that every man born into a nation who continues to live in it as a citizen implicitly agrees to it as well.

I think that the duty a citizen owes to his nation could be paid by choice in one of three ways:

1: military service

2: paying taxes

3: being a public/government official

As a sidenote to all of this, I would have no problem with a person refusing their duty to a nation on one condition: that they suspend their citizenship. They could no longer vote or be a participant in politics, and the Police could refuse them protection and the Courts could refuse them legal representation.

This is collectivism in the form of nationalism and I reject the entire argument. The dictator who decides what constitutes duty will thank you for your arguments.

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Here is a crucially important part that I forgot to mention:

Wars can often be long, difficult, and tremendously expensive. How could a Military that depended purely on voluntary funds ever seriously make long term plans if they didn't have a fixed, steady revenue with which to base their strategies and calculations on?

How does a business make 20 year plans with the fickle mob?

Why should we even expect a Military to rely on unsteady revenue like this when a mere 5% income tax could cover the Department of Defense 2007 budget (assuming I did math correctly)?

I'm hearing lots of arguments as to why involuntary taxation is morally wrong; but in terms of the practical operation of a Military and the defense of a nation, at this point involuntary taxation looks to be overwhelmingly more practical of a choice than relying on the benevolence of a fickle mob.

The moral is the practical. It just depends upon what you want to practice. Apparently force in social relatinships is acceptable to you, so it subsequently appears practical.

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at this point involuntary taxation looks to be overwhelmingly more practical of a choice than relying on the benevolence of a fickle mob.

And that is called pragmatism. The only difference between that statement and Hillary Clinton's health plan is that she thinks that "point" is when someone gets sick, and not when a war starts. A matter of degree.

Either you understand individual rights as a principle, and realize they apply in every context, or you don't.

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I think similar to how a marriage is a civil union between two individuals, a nation is an official union of all its citizens, so that any actions taken by the government of a nation, is done in the name of every citizen of that nation. So I think that when a group of men form a nation for the benefit of man, there is an implied contract of duty to that nation on every citizen who inhabits it. Yes, a government derives it's authority from the governed, but the government won't exist in the first place without the agreed upon duty of its citizens. If the citizens decide the government has lost its way, then it is their choice to refuse that duty and to become rebels (as our Founding Fathers did).

I guess I used to take a very passive interpretation of what it meant to be a citizen of a nation, but lately I've changed my view to that of a citizen being a very active role, because for the first time in my life I've begun to realize how awesomely serious and solemn of a thing it is to be the loyal citizen of a nation. When men form a nation, they are pledging that the lives of every single man, woman and child of this nation is going into this win or lose, and if this sacred civil bond is to work then it will require the duty of all its citizens. The men that form a nation consciously agree to this, and I think that every man born into a nation who continues to live in it as a citizen implicitly agrees to it as well.

[...]

As a sidenote to all of this, I would have no problem with a person refusing their duty to a nation on one condition: that they suspend their citizenship. They could no longer vote or be a participant in politics, and the Police could refuse them protection and the Courts could refuse them legal representation.

Paul said this is a form of collectivism, particularly nationalism. I don't understand what this means. Jordan I think has in mind particularly the free society where people in charge of the nation are elected, and laws are only enacted from either such elected officials or from the people at large. If that's the case, then I certainly find a lot of value in what he said about active citizenship, because that is indeed the highest kind and the most pursued one by the Founders when they initiated the nation in the first place. So it is a bit of a misnomer to say that some kind of dictator could make the notion of civic duty to be whatever he likes. A dictator is already a perversion of the free political process, and so outside the bounds of a discussion of moral/proper government. Jordan's point seems to be that active citizenry participation is assumed in the political process of a free nation. And again, I agree with that. I see plenty of people who are willing to blame the civilians of some enemy country as be culpable to bombing and collateral damage (which is proper); therefore those people should just as much view citizens in their own country as all responsible together, even if they personally disagree with this or that politician, or did not approve of a particular measure.

Note, I'm not entirely making a philosophical case for taxation along the side of Jordan's arguments. I think the situation is very complicated, and even if I would support involuntary taxation in select cases (as with the asteroid approaching), it wouldn't necessarily be on exclusively moral grounds. Because remember what Betsy said, that Ayn Rand was not in favor of immediately dismantling taxation and abandoning it for all times. She saw it as the end of a long historical process, which I personally don't know if we'll ever get to yet. What are we supposed to do in the meantime? Live in Anarchy? Let the likes of Imperial Britain take over? There is no middle ground, either there is involuntary taxation or there isn't. If we're not prepared for voluntary one at the moment, what alternatives have we left?

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There is no middle ground, either there is involuntary taxation or there isn't. If we're not prepared for voluntary one at the moment, what alternatives have we left?

There is no middle ground, either there is slavery or there isn't. If we're not prepared for our freedom at the moment, what alternatives have we left?

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But the point I was making was that people who supported the Revolution did give their lives, liberties, and money. It was not just the rich Founding Fathers who financed the war. The point being that taxes were not needed.
No but Paul, taxes were needed. Because were it not for the fluke of fortune with the French being disgruntled against the Brits, were it not the fluke that Washington knew in his genius how to win this unwinnable war, in short all of those frivolities of fortune that do not constitute a basis for a stable state, were absent, America would be defeated squarely and soundly. Of those that supported the war, a lot fewer people gave their lives, liberties, and money. As Jordan said, there was a remarkable absence of patriotism; often even Loyalism to the crown.
How so? Are you saying that I should tax those people who don't support my cause?

If they want to be citizens in your country, yes. At least so the (powerful) argument goes. As I said, it is a very very difficult issue.

I'm confused. We were talking about taxing people to support "our" revolution, and now we're talking about expelling idiots from society is admirable. You find this admirable? You'd strip citizenship of all those people who lived in colonial America but did not support the Revolution?

I am talking about the free societies in the West, and how they handled citizenship and success in the sea of tyrannies that the world has and will forever prefer to endure to the difficulties of a self-governing society. This is how they handled it, their societies had a lot of stylized qualities that they picked out very consciously, with those principles highly developed in their mind. We can choose to take a different path, but we should at least learn about those choices and at least take them into consideration. I wouldn't strip citizenship from the non-supporters, but you bet if I could I would impose a 1% tax on those provinces that sided with the Continental Congress. If we have to rely on the French, something's wrong here.

Mohammedans

Nice :D

There is no middle ground, either there is slavery or there isn't. If we're not prepared for our freedom at the moment, what alternatives have we left?

That's right, a little bit of absence of freedom.

And what's more, we must be prepared to support that, with conviction, if society is to continue and maybe at some long point down the line, consider changing it if the people are ready. That's what I take to be Ayn Rand's meaning here, that it's only an end, of a very long process, and people shouldn't jump the gun here. Let me tell you, that if the revolutionaries were not ready, with all of their gigantic heaps of virtues, and I could tell forever about those virtues, then the time when we come to surpass that, will be a... long time coming.

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If they want to be citizens in your country, yes. At least so the (powerful) argument goes. As I said, it is a very very difficult issue.

The government is not a landlord, it does not own the country and has no right to charge rent for living within its jurisdiction. It's really not a difficult issue at all in my judgment.

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at this point involuntary taxation looks to be overwhelmingly more practical of a choice than relying on the benevolence of a fickle mob.

And that is called pragmatism. The only difference between that statement and Hillary Clinton's health plan is that she thinks that "point" is when someone gets sick, and not when a war starts. A matter of degree.

Either you understand individual rights as a principle, and realize they apply in every context, or you don't.

No, no, no--there has already been a similar discussion on Pragmatism elsewhere where I argued with someone on its definition, and Betsy Speicher provided an excellent definition.

Stressing that we focus on being practical isn't Pragmatism. Pragmatism is being unprincipled. Please look this up in the Lexicon before falsely accusing me of Pragmatism, as this has already been heavily discussed elsewhere.

Dictating what should be practical based on moral principle without ever proving the practicality in reality is Rationalism.

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There is no middle ground, either there is involuntary taxation or there isn't. If we're not prepared for voluntary one at the moment, what alternatives have we left?

There is no middle ground, either there is slavery or there isn't. If we're not prepared for our freedom at the moment, what alternatives have we left?

So we are living in slavery now? I feel pretty free...

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That's right, a little bit of absence of freedom.

And what's more, we must be prepared to support that, with conviction, if society is to continue and maybe at some long point down the line, consider changing it if the people are ready. That's what I take to be Ayn Rand's meaning here, that it's only an end, of a very long process, and people shouldn't jump the gun here. Let me tell you, that if the revolutionaries were not ready, with all of their gigantic heaps of virtues, and I could tell forever about those virtues, then the time when we come to surpass that, will be a... long time coming.

The Founding Fathers were educated men who used the best philosophy of their time. Objectivism was not to be available for another two centuries. After that, there is no excuse for intellectually supporting inferior ideas, if one is aware of them. Feel free to continue your long campaign to hold up classical philosophy as the savior of modern civilization but I and perhaps others would appreciate it if you did not do it in the name of Objectivism.

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So we are living in slavery now? I feel pretty free...

Try not paying those taxes and tell us how free you feel.

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My arguments are for involuntary taxation to support a government whose only job is to protect individual rights.

Carlos, there is no such thing. A government "whose only job is to protect individual rights" and a government that imposes involuntary taxation are two entirely different things. By definition, the former cannot do the latter and still be the former. The moment it imposes such taxes, it violates, not protects, individual rights.

So what you are actually advocating is a government which violates individual rights to the extent required to protect them. Which means: man's rights are conditional, not inalienable -- and government inherently becomes a rights violator as well as a rights protector.

However, there is no way to argue that the necessity of protecting individual rights justifies their violation. The necessity of justice cannot justify an injustice -- nothing can justify an injustice.

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That's right, a little bit of absence of freedom.

And what's more, we must be prepared to support that, with conviction, if society is to continue and maybe at some long point down the line, consider changing it if the people are ready. That's what I take to be Ayn Rand's meaning here, that it's only an end, of a very long process, and people shouldn't jump the gun here. Let me tell you, that if the revolutionaries were not ready, with all of their gigantic heaps of virtues, and I could tell forever about those virtues, then the time when we come to surpass that, will be a... long time coming.

The Founding Fathers were educated men who used the best philosophy of their time. Objectivism was not to be available for another two centuries. After that, there is no excuse for intellectually supporting inferior ideas, if one is aware of them. Feel free to continue your long campaign to hold up classical philosophy as the savior of modern civilization but I and perhaps others would appreciate it if you did not do it in the name of Objectivism.

Er Phil, I make a clear distinction between classical philosophy and Objectivism. I never confute one with the other, nor "hold up one in the name of the other", I make difficult choices based on my education and experience in the world, frankly just as the Founders were doing. Since you did not provide any substance of a comment in your post, I am not going to respond with any substantive poin of my own; nor am I not going to respond back with some sort of personal stab of my own, but if you could refrain from being personally vitriolic when responding to me in the future, as you've repeatedly done in the past, that would be would be appreciated.

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A government "whose only job is to protect individual rights" and a government that imposes involuntary taxation are two entirely different things. By definition, the former cannot do the latter and still be the former. The moment it imposes such taxes, it violates, not protects, individual rights.

So what you are actually advocating is a government which violates individual rights to the extent required to protect them. Which means: man's rights are conditional, not inalienable -- and government inherently becomes a rights violator as well as a rights protector.

However, there is no way to argue that the necessity of protecting individual rights justifies their violation. The necessity of justice cannot justify an injustice -- nothing can justify an injustice.

See? That is a principled argument, not rationalism.

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[...] I make difficult choices based on my education and experience in the world, frankly just as the Founders were doing.

... and nowhere in Objectivism is there a justification for "a little bit of sacrifice of freedom". Even good old Ben Franklin knew that: "Those Who Would Sacrifice Liberty for Security Deserve Neither."

It is a mis-characterization of my request to stop using appeals to the past as though they were compatible with Objectivism, as "vitriolic". It's a serious request for a serious reason. Objectivism is a radical new philosophy and the world is past the point where fuzzy half-measures and the inadequate mixed philosophies of the past will reverse the decline of civilization. Pointing to the past, whether the Romans or the Greeks or even the Founding Fathers, and saying "See, what's missing is that we've gotten away from that", is the method of the conservatives. There are admirable characteristics in all of those societies, and men from those societies, but they perished (and in the case of America, are perishing) because they did not have a complete philosophy and contradictions eventually undermined all of them.

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There are admirable characteristics in all of those societies, and men from those societies, but they perished (and in the case of America, are perishing) because they did not have a complete philosophy
That is not why they perished.

I suppose that if the French or the other completely arbitrary circumstances did not help America and it had perished too, you would blame that demise on its contradictions also?

Would does nobody blame the half-hearted supporters who didn't helped America until it already won? Why do they get a free pass, merely on acount of those lucky flukes which helped America come into being when by all rights it shouldn't have (and then the whole revolution ends up cited as a perfectly typical example of non-taxation victory)?

You cannot discount my points based on ad hominem arguments -- "this is how conservatives argue" or "these societies perished" non sequiturs. These are not substantial responses, because I gave real arguments. I provided real examples. That forms for me the substance of this argument (and any other argument). Abstraction is only a secondary step, derived from those concrete examples, and it does not spontaneously form its own substance merely by our capacity to imagine it. If you are prepared to argue on this topic, it is not enough to say "Objectivism, period, you are wrong." You need to respond and refute my concrete arguments, and you can rest contented that I do not confute the two philosophies, nor raise one in place of the other. My objective at the moment is not to discuss the two philosophies and compare them abstractly as if at a leisurly hour; I want to answer the particular question at hand. So far the devil's advocate argument still awaits a response (and like I said, the ad hominem does not work and so doesn't qualify as a proper response). Paul raised a rational response, and with that there's a very real basis for continuing conversation.

If it is my argument and not my character that you are willing to talk about, then let's hear your reasoned argument also.

Finally,

A government "whose only job is to protect individual rights" and a government that imposes involuntary taxation are two entirely different things. By definition, the former cannot do the latter and still be the former. [...] The necessity of justice cannot justify an injustice -- nothing can justify an injustice.

See? That is a principled argument, not rationalism.

This keps being repeated as a mantra, and it does not seem to address what Ayn Rand said and what I keep repeatedly citing, namely that the abolition of tax is the very last step in this historical process of society-building. It is not the first step and it is not an automatic and easy step to make based on merely the deductions that you can make. There is a reason she didn't advocate it now, and I think she's quite good at Objectivism.

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My arguments are for involuntary taxation to support a government whose only job is to protect individual rights.

Carlos, there is no such thing. A government "whose only job is to protect individual rights" and a government that imposes involuntary taxation are two entirely different things. By definition, the former cannot do the latter and still be the former. The moment it imposes such taxes, it violates, not protects, individual rights.

So what you are actually advocating is a government which violates individual rights to the extent required to protect them. Which means: man's rights are conditional, not inalienable -- and government inherently becomes a rights violator as well as a rights protector.

However, there is no way to argue that the necessity of protecting individual rights justifies their violation. The necessity of justice cannot justify an injustice -- nothing can justify an injustice.

I don't think you understand the full scope of my position: given the proper government and/or the proper context, (as of now) I don't think that involuntary taxation is a violation of individual rights.

Individual Rights are not absolutes that float up in space, they are contextual, and the United States of America--especially during war--is one heck of a context.

Let's say we live on a deserted island with 50 other people, and that you and I have independently developed a method to create medicine from coconuts, and we both sell our identical coconut medicine to the other inhabitants. It would be a violation of your individual rights for me to use force to prevent you from selling this coconut concoction. Yet in the United States of America, if I had patented my coconut medicine before you, I could use the force of law to prevent you from marketing your own independently created identical medicine and even file suit against you if you do sell the medicine.

Clearly individual rights are heavily dependent on context, so this is a much more subtle and delicate issue than simply stating and restating "Involuntary taxation violates individual rights, and is therefore immoral and impractical".

And as I've implied before, I think that the supreme importance goes to actually proving what does and does not work in reality, because that is how we integrate upwards to get our moral principles. I think it has been shown that involuntary taxation works spectacularly well in reality, whereas if we instantly implemented voluntary taxation in America right now, the results would probably be grinding chaos and eventual anarchy. So I just don't think it is as simple as deductively telling me which form of taxation is moral or not without inductively looking at reality.

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So we are living in slavery now? I feel pretty free...

Try not paying those taxes and tell us how free you feel.

Probably not very free, because without a tremendous tax base the United States probably would have lost many wars by now, and we might be speaking Russian and saluting statues of Lenin for all we know.

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One of the reasons I keep emphasizing the focus on practicality, and get so frustrated when this is wrongly labeled Pragmatism, is this:

If we divorce our moral principles, or our pursuit of morality, from a solid inductive base in reality, then what we are left with isn't much more helpful than religion. Philosophers need to be the scientists of the human condition.

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