Carlos

Taxation, Regulation and Government Programs in a Free Nation

388 posts in this topic

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?

Very carefully, and often with significant risk.

However, when was the last time that the poor financial planning and subsequent bankruptcy of a corporation/company resulted in the fall of civilizations, the deaths of millions of men, and the entrance to an age of oppression and misery?

The Military is not a business, so I don't think this is a valid comparison.

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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.

Individual rights are moral principles defining man's freedom of action in a social context - they are means of subordinating society to moral law. Rights are derived from 1) conditional nature of life 2) man's capacity to reason and 3) man's free will. In a social context, man has rights - always-.

When we say that we hold individual rights to be inalienable, we must mean just that. Inalienable means that which we may not take away, suspend, infringe, restrict or violate - not ever, not at any time, not for any purpose whatsoever.

You can not say that "man has inalienable rights except in cold weather and on every second Tuesday, " just as you cannot say that "man has inalienable rights except in an emergency," or "man's rights cannot be violated escept for a good purpose."

Ether man's rights are inalienable, or they are not. You cannot say a thing such as "semi-inalienable' and consider yourself ether honest or sane. When you begin making conditions, reservations and exceptions, you admit that there is something or someone above man's rights, who may violate them at his discreation.

["Textbook of Americanism," pamphlet, 12.]

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whereas if we instantly implemented voluntary taxation in America right now, the results would probably be grinding chaos and eventual anarchy.

But that is not an argument against voluntary taxation. You are right that voluntary taxation would not have supported a big government - a great limiting factor if you ask me. People relying this heavily on a government to provide for their needs - is a sickness.

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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.

Individual rights are moral principles defining man's freedom of action in a social context - they are means of subordinating society to moral law. Rights are derived from 1) conditional nature of life 2) man's capacity to reason and 3) man's free will. In a social context, man has rights - always-.

... Ether man's rights are inalienable, or they are not. You cannot say a thing such as "semi-inalienable' and consider yourself ether honest or sane. When you begin making conditions, reservations and exceptions, you admit that there is something or someone above man's rights, who may violate them at his discretion...

The implementation of rights, in the form of "civil rights", is contextual in that the form of their adoption depends on a variety of factors (including, for example, whether we are at war), but here we are talking about fundamental principles -- those rights don't go away "conditionally"; all that is open is how they are implemented and defined as operating within the detailed of a particular legal structure. The issue of government taxation as such is not such a "detail"; it is something that should be phased out if when a free society is obtained.

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all that is open is how they are implemented and defined as operating within the detailed of a particular legal structure.

I am not sure if I understand what is that you mean by the above. Could you elaborate?

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all that is open is how they are implemented and defined as operating within the detailed of a particular legal structure.

I am not sure if I understand what is that you mean by the above. Could you elaborate?

Consider such issues as what the police are allowed to do and what procedures must be followed in trying to solve or prosecute a crime. You have the right not to be subject to "unreasonable search and seizure", but what that means in practice must be defined by the legal system. What evidence is required and what kind of procedure under the permission of a judge, etc., must be followed? During a war, you would expect an increase in the amount of "spying" allowed, but none of that negates your basic rights (e.g. not to be drafted).

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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?

Very carefully, and often with significant risk.

However, when was the last time that the poor financial planning and subsequent bankruptcy of a corporation/company resulted in the fall of civilizations, the deaths of millions of men, and the entrance to an age of oppression and misery?

The Military is not a business, so I don't think this is a valid comparison.

The comparison wasn't meant to be one between business and government but between relying on a fickle mob to support liberty and relying on rational people to support liberty. If a mob is so fickle, then why would they restrict the government to taxation for defense? Why would a fickle mob be able to support freedom? The government could easily institute fees for services required for administration. Budgets would be set and appropriate charges would be implemented based upon supply and demand for services. These fees would be part of the normal activities of business. Just as a rational person would pay to have his trash picked up but a fickle person may enjoy the smell of garbage, so a rational person would pay fees for legal services to be have his rights protected.

Civilizations have risen and fallen for eons, but it hardly has to do with whether taxes are collected involuntarily or not And if there might be a particular instance when a civilization did fall because people didn't want to support it, perhaps it is was not worth surviving.

One more point mentioned by others. I am certainly not advocating voluntary payments to government at this time. It is certainly something that will be debated about much later in time. I am simply arguing against the principle of involuntary taxation.

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One more point mentioned by others. I am certainly not advocating voluntary payments to government at this time. It is certainly something that will be debated about much later in time. I am simply arguing against the principle of involuntary taxation.

How can you argue the principle is morally wrong, then concede it is the most practical thing at the moment?

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One more point mentioned by others. I am certainly not advocating voluntary payments to government at this time. It is certainly something that will be debated about much later in time. I am simply arguing against the principle of involuntary taxation.

How can you argue the principle is morally wrong, then concede it is the most practical thing at the moment?

I cannot speak for Paul, but I will give you my thoughts. The reason it is the most practical at this time is beacuse you cannot change everything overnight. To move from an involuntary taxation to what is the moral course would take time. These items would be disucussed by the people that have the insight on how to discard the old plan while still allowing the defense system to stay in place. And, like Paul already stated this is somewhere down the line.

In other words, I am not the originator of the unethical situation, but I and the one that has to deal with it, if I was a government official.

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One more point mentioned by others. I am certainly not advocating voluntary payments to government at this time. It is certainly something that will be debated about much later in time. I am simply arguing against the principle of involuntary taxation.

How can you argue the principle is morally wrong, then concede it is the most practical thing at the moment?

Morality pertains to the realm in which you have a choice. If you are stuck in an immoral system over which you have no choice, you are not morally responsible for it. Injustices have consequences that cannot be wiped out momentarily and in such a context you can only deal with it the best you can, but without endorsing it.

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"The end does not justify the means. No one's rights can be secured by the violation of the rights of other." [Ayn Rand, The Cashing-In: The Student Rebellion, CUI, 256.]

"One of the notions used by all sides to justify the draft, is that "rights impose obligations." Obligations, to who?--and imposed , by whom? Ideologicall, that notion is worse than the evil it attempts to justify: it implies that rights are a gift from the state, and that a man has to buy them by offering something (his life) in return. Logically, that notion is a contradiction: since the only proper function of a government is to protect man's rights, it cannot claim title to his life in exchange for that protection.

The only "obligation" involved in indidual rights is an obligation imposed, no by the state, but by the nature of reality (i.e., by the law of identiry): consistency, which, in this case, mens the obligation to respect the rights of others, if one wishes one's own rights to be recognized and protected." [Ayn Ran, The Wreckage of the Consensus, CUI, 227]

"The concept of individual rights is so prodigious a feat of political thinking that few men grasp it full--and two hundred years have not been enough for other countries to understand it. But this is the concept to which we owe our lives--the concerpt which made it possible for us to bring into reality everything of value that any of us did or will achieve or experience." [Ayn Rand, A Nation's Unity, ARL, II, 2, 3.]

"One of the most destructive anti-concepts in the history of moral philosophy is the term "duty."...

The meaning of the term "duty" is: the moral necessity to perform certain actions for no reason other than obedience to some higher authority, without regard to any personal goal, motive, desire or interest.

It is obvious that that anti-concept is a product of mysticism, not an abstraction derived from reality. In a mystic theory of ethics, "duty" stands for the notion that man must obey the dictates of a supernatural authority. Even though the anti-concept has been secularized, and the authority of God's will has been ascribed to earthly entities, such as parents, country, State, mankind, etc., their alleged supremacy still rests on nothing but a mystic edict. Who in hell can have the right to claim that sort of submission or obedience? This is the only proper from--and locality--for the question, because nothing and no one can have such a right or claim here on earth." [Ayn Rand, Causality Versus Duty, PWNI, 114; pb95]

One more thing that I would like to add. What makes you think (Jordan), that a rational individual would not give some of his wealth to support his own defense. And if you believe that there are no rational men in your society, why the hell would you want to defend them? Do you want to be the man in charge of a bunch of irrational people that are unwilling to fight and support their own freedom? And then somehow, while you are taxing them without their support, they will grasp what it takes to be free, I do not think so.

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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.
I addressed this issue in Post #36 of this thread. I agree with looking very carefully at reality, and think that doing so will clarify your thinking on this subject. I mean no offense, but I think your approach to and conclusion on this issue is very mistaken.

Again, let's pick one -- just one -- specifc, concrete context in which you think involuntary taxation is morally justified, and really chew it. So far, you've mentioned revolutionary America, modern America, and some end-of-the-world emergency. I contend that there are two answers here:

1. If we really chew the example, we'll see there is no moral justification for involuntary taxation; or:

2. The context may or may not require or allow the use of such taxes, but the context itself is such a "lifeboat emergency" that it would be improper to extend that situation to a normal, everyday context under which men can live (see "The Ethics of Emergencies" in VoS for details). This would invalidate an argument for taxes as a general approach to government financing.

Here's what I have in mind for chewing a specific case. Let's say the example is really out there, like: an asteroid is hurtling to Earth and is large enough to kill us all. The solution requires vast amounts of money. Is taxation the only means of getting that money? Why?

Further, suppose the general populace is unwilling to voluntary fund this project. Consider what such an attitude says about the nature of man: that he is essentially self-destructive and irrational, unable to see and unwilling to act in his best interest, even when his immediate survival is at stake. Is this true?

And if it is, why would the government bureaucrats be the ones to know just what to do? Does working for the government change the metaphysical nature of man, so that his intrinsic irrationalism is overcome? (This certainly is the opposite of my experience: if anything, government people are generally less rational and ethical than people in the private sector.)

Who is to be believed about the nature of this impending disaster, and how should such a decision be made? By vote of the populace? But if the people are generally irrational, then a consensus among them is powerless to determine the truth or the right course of action. Should we trust our elected representatives to know what's right? I certainly don't trust Bush on evolution, biology, monetary policy, science, or much else; nor do I respect Hillary to do what's in my best interest for medical care or my retirement. Who then should I trust, and how do I decide?

Well, suppose we don't have time to launch a PR campaign and get donations (say, selling "meteor bonds" or whatever), and we can't take a vote. We have to act immediately. If time is so crucial, establishing a tax code and an IRS-like organization is out of the question. Further, in such a case, how could some massive project to save the world be implemented? And with such a time crunch, who would be able to manage it?

IOW, this is an extreme emergency situation and we can't take a long-term approach to solving this. We have to just make do. But now we aren't dealing with a really common situation, and I refer again to The Ethics of Emergencies to complete this argument. This situation has evolved to: we are in immediate, end-of-the-world danger, with no time to get voluntary consent; the bulk of the population are self-destructive morons, but our leaders are geniuses; we can't rely on the consent of the governed, only the edicts of government.

Face it. If this were true, we'd be dead. If men were really this stupid and impotent, and reality this dangerous, we'd have died off long ago.

As for me, I think men are able to think, willing to act in their self-interests, and reality not quite so dangerous. In that context, asking for consent and using persuasion rather than force are the proper courses of action for any social interaction, including those involving government. This is the (rough) inductive justification for individual rights, and therefore the case against taxation.

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Ray, Ed and Ewv, it is late and I don't want to reply to each of your posts (but I do think they are well written and argued), so for now here is a temporary, broad reply:

I'm not trying to justify the use of the violation of individual rights as a means to an end of protecting individual rights: I'm saying that right now I don't think it is necessarily a violation of individual rights to have involuntary taxation given the proper context and/or the proper government.

I think though there is a reconciliation between our two views in the manner of how the government would work that wouldn't require a compromise on principles, and it is something that I briefly stated before in this thread:

If you wish to be a citizen of a nation, you should either pay taxes, serve in the military, or serve as a public official. If you decline to perform any of these actions then your citizenship is suspended. You can still live in that nation, but you will not be guaranteed the benefits that a citizen enjoys--i.e., you can't vote or take part in Politics, the Police can reserve the right to refuse you service/protection, and the Courts can reserve the right to refuse you legal representation. I think this would be quite fair and practical.

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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.

Factually, that is utter nonsense. The country's largest war (relative to the total economy and population) was the Civil War and it was fought and paid for long before the Constitution was amended to permit income taxation. And the U.S. should have stayed out of WW1, WW2 (in Europe anyway), Korea, and Vietnam. Do you have the slightest idea how many billions of tax dollars every year go to propping up America's enemies, directly and indirectly? The bill for Iraq will probably run into the trillions; I sure feel safer, even though we're inviting the head of state of the main promoter of terrorism to New York City, whose country is utterly untouched 6 years after 9/11.

A government that sees itself as deserving of unlimited funding extracted by force will screw up everything, including wars. That's one of the practical consequences of rights violations, that you so blithely accept as inevitable, though not by anything contained in the principles of Objectivism.

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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.

First, I don't appreciate my statements being implied to be mindless repetition of a meaningless phrase. That is what a mantra is. Repeating a rational argument that has not yet been recognized in the discussion has absolutely nothing to do with a mantra.

Second, and more important, I'm not discussing whether abolishing taxes should be first or last in a political reform - but that it should be the goal and that there are no exceptions. If you accept that taxation can be justified in any circumstance (i.e. don't recognize the principle of private property), you are on the slippery slope of "Oh wait, a war - tax em!" "Oh wait, an asteroid - tax em!" "Oh wait, people can't afford health care - tax em!" "Oh wait, global warming - tax em!"...

Personally, if I were to try my hand at political reform, I'd slash improper functions of government right and left, slash taxes as expenses fell until only the sales tax was left, slash the rate on that tax until the government was reduced to what it is supposed to be (justice, police, military) and then make the sales "tax" voluntary.

But that is just my opinion, whereas the immorality of taxation is a fact.

In other words, I am not the originator of the unethical situation, but I and the one that has to deal with it, if I was a government official.

Or, in other words, if you are to actually live and stay in power long enough to reach the goal of eliminating taxation, you have to tolerate taxation for a while. As long as you make it clear that your goal is to eliminate it, and if every step you take is in that direction, this is not immoral or hypocritical.

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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.

The patent issue is irrelevant to this discussion. The use of force to protect property rights does not justify the use of force to take my property. There is no context in which a contradiction is not proof of falsehood – and it is an utter contradiction to claim that the necessity of protecting individual rights justifies their violation. There is no context in which anything justifies an injustice.

As to “what works”, it is a fact that the only way to make an unjust system like our regulatory/welfare state "work" is with an unjust form of financing, namely involuntary taxation. So yes, involuntary taxation works "spectacularly well" at financially enslaving the most productive members of society. That does not change the fact that it is unjust and a violation of individual rights. And since the present system is preferable to anarchy, the only alternative is to temporarily tolerate the lesser evil of violating our property rights through taxation to avoid the greater evil of violating our right to life through anarchy – tolerate it so that we may have time to work toward a just society that doesn’t violate our rights at all.

However, nothing in this situation changes the fact that involuntary taxation is a violation of individual rights that must be opposed in principle even if it must be temporarily tolerated in practice.

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Ray, Ed and Ewv, it is late and I don't want to reply to each of your posts (but I do think they are well written and argued), so for now here is a temporary, broad reply:

I'm not trying to justify the use of the violation of individual rights as a means to an end of protecting individual rights: I'm saying that right now I don't think it is necessarily a violation of individual rights to have involuntary taxation given the proper context and/or the proper government.

I think though there is a reconciliation between our two views in the manner of how the government would work that wouldn't require a compromise on principles, and it is something that I briefly stated before in this thread:

If you wish to be a citizen of a nation, you should either pay taxes, serve in the military, or serve as a public official. If you decline to perform any of these actions then your citizenship is suspended. You can still live in that nation, but you will not be guaranteed the benefits that a citizen enjoys--i.e., you can't vote or take part in Politics, the Police can reserve the right to refuse you service/protection, and the Courts can reserve the right to refuse you legal representation. I think this would be quite fair and practical.

It would help if you would use meaningful, tied-to-reality language. Instead of, "...I don't think it is necessarily a violation of individual rights to have involuntary taxation...", why not write---'I don't think it is a violation of individual rights to forcefully take a man's money out of his pocket'?

And why is it that in your ideal nation if a man did not serve it he would still be allowed to live there? Why? You say he will not be guaranteed "benefits", but the benefits you name (police and the courts) pertain to the protection of his rights. And what does it mean for the police to "reserve the right to refuse you protection"? If one man, who hasn't served or paid taxes, is being robbed by another man who has, are your policemen going to stand there and watch and think, "What noble, rational citizens we are"?

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If you wish to be a citizen of a nation, you should either pay taxes, serve in the military, or serve as a public official. If you decline to perform any of these actions then your citizenship is suspended. You can still live in that nation, but you will not be guaranteed the benefits that a citizen enjoys--i.e., you can't vote or take part in Politics, the Police can reserve the right to refuse you service/protection, and the Courts can reserve the right to refuse you legal representation. I think this would be quite fair and practical.

B. Royce is exactly right. What this statement means is, if you don't pay your taxes or serve the state, your rights will not be protected. Didn't "do your duty" this year? Then you'd better hope you aren't burglarized or assaulted, because the government won't help you. No, the government won't throw you out, it will just throw you back into the state of nature. Many have called the city the "concrete jungle" - don't pay your taxes and you'll discover a whole new meaning to this.

You say that the police and the courts can "reserve the right to refuse you". If the State has the right not to acknowledge your inalienable rights, then it cannot be called a rights-respecting government. It is, in fact, a tyranny.

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If you wish to be a citizen of a nation, you should either pay taxes, serve in the military, or serve as a public official. If you decline to perform any of these actions then your citizenship is suspended. You can still live in that nation, but you will not be guaranteed the benefits that a citizen enjoys--i.e., you can't vote or take part in Politics, the Police can reserve the right to refuse you service/protection, and the Courts can reserve the right to refuse you legal representation. I think this would be quite fair and practical.

What if all the citizens decide to only pay their taxes? Are you going to force certain citizens to serve in the military and public office? What if a majority of citizens decide to renounce their citizenship? How is your government going to deal with these individuals? What about those serving in the military who disagree with your war policy? They decide to leave the service and enter public office to run against your war policy and involuntary taxation? Would these actions be fair and practical?

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B. Royce is exactly right. What this statement means is, if you don't pay your taxes or serve the state, your rights will not be protected. Didn't "do your duty" this year? Then you'd better hope you aren't burglarized or assaulted, because the government won't help you. No, the government won't throw you out, it will just throw you back into the state of nature. Many have called the city the "concrete jungle" - don't pay your taxes and you'll discover a whole new meaning to this.
Under this plan, what would happen if police arrived in the middle of a crime in progress? Do they first check to see if the victim has paid up? And if the victim hasn't, do they just walk away?

And what about a criminal suspect? If someone is arrested for a violent crime, and it turns out he hasn't paid his taxes, does he get legal defense? I don't mean necessarily a public defender like we have today, but rather a chance to defend himself at all in court. If the court is there just for citizens, what happens to non-citizens? It seems they have no legal defense as a crime victim or criminal suspect, which makes them prime targets for criminals. One could argue it is their choice to not pay taxes under this plan, but then isn't that essentially a form of blackmail: pay up or you don't get protection? That seems like it is still the initiation of force.

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To my last post, I forgot to add:

Note that these are practical consequences that should be considered.

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Second, and more important, I'm not discussing whether abolishing taxes should be first or last in a political reform - but that it should be the goal and that there are no exceptions.
Fine, well said. I, as much as any other man, would like that there be no taxes -- in the contextual situation when and if the nation and the people are in that state of mind in which this last step will be possible. However! -- it is not a goal for me right now, with current people, or even with the virtuous Revolutionary people, because in that context it will lead to steadfast destruction of this country. The pursuit for voluntary taxation is valid. But it is also contextual!
If you accept that taxation can be justified in any circumstance (i.e. don't recognize the principle of private property), you are on the slippery slope of "Oh wait, a war - tax em!"
No no, that is not my argument. My argument, and I think Jordan's too although he seems to be ranging widely over a whole host of other topics lately, is that "Oh wait, a war, and such is the state of our people -- tax em!" A principle is always contextual. Do you see what I mean? There are no a-contextual absolutes, and that's what I think is being put forth in this thread.

Here is how to I would integrate absolutism of non-taxation, with contextuality of all absolutes including that one. The advocacy of non-taxation is only valid in that last and final stage of human development, when men have all of their principles developed to such an extent that voluntary contribution of money will be capable of sustaining a country and keeping it free. If that's the context, it will then be absolutely invalid to say "Oh wait, an asteroid -- tax em!" Because the context's changed; you can't say that. You can say it during the Revolutionary war, because otherwise you will lose and there'll be no America. And the Founders have said it not because they were mixed or confused, but because their minds were reality-oriented.

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A government that sees itself as deserving of unlimited funding extracted by force will screw up everything, including wars. That's one of the practical consequences of rights violations, that you so blithely accept as inevitable, though not by anything contained in the principles of Objectivism.

Where did I suggest unlimited funding? The very most I suggested was a in the realm of 4-7% income tax.

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It would help if you would use meaningful, tied-to-reality language. Instead of, "...I don't think it is necessarily a violation of individual rights to have involuntary taxation...", why not write---'I don't think it is a violation of individual rights to forcefully take a man's money out of his pocket'?
Call me crazy B. Royce, but I don't think you are saying this to be helpful. Keep unneccesary comments out of the discussion.
And why is it that in your ideal nation if a man did not serve it he would still be allowed to live there? Why? You say he will not be guaranteed "benefits", but the benefits you name (police and the courts) pertain to the protection of his rights. And what does it mean for the police to "reserve the right to refuse you protection"? If one man, who hasn't served or paid taxes, is being robbed by another man who has, are your policemen going to stand there and watch and think, "What noble, rational citizens we are"?
This isn't so much of an argument against me as it is trying to be nitpicky by creating artificial situations. It would obviously be insane for Policemen to willingly avoid throwing a criminal in jail, so I don't see why you are bringing this up. Yes we should discuss practical situations, but at least ones that are useful.

What I meant when I said the Police have a right to refuse protection, I meant that they could reserve the right to not put themselves through risk to protect someone who is ungrateful enough not to pay for their salaries or compensations if they get injured in the line of duty.

And why should he (the man who refuses to pay to support government) receive the benefit of protection of his rights when he refuses to pay to support the system that gives him a free land to live in? I'm not saying that just because someone doesn't pay their taxes that it should be open season on them and their rights are suspended. What I'm saying should be suspended is the services the government offers to that individual for protection of his rights.

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