[ExI] the formerly rich and their larvae...

Stathis Papaioannou stathisp at gmail.com
Sun Feb 17 09:12:13 UTC 2008

On 17/02/2008, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com> wrote:
> BTW, did you notice this thread went off-list? You can post all to
> list if you wish.

OK. I am including the full post in the reply.

> On Feb 16, 2008 1:56 AM, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> > On 16/02/2008, Rafal Smigrodzki <rafal.smigrodzki at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> > > >  There isn't anyone who agrees that all of their tax money is used the
> > > >  way they want it to be used. But the same is true of any organisation
> > > >  that raises funds from its members for some collective purpose: any
> > > >  local council, any club, any apartment.
> > >
> > > ### Yeah, but a dachshund owners' club won't send armed goons to your
> > > house to kill your dogs, at worst you won't be getting invited to
> > > doggie playgroups. This is the crucial difference: the cost of
> > > disagreement with a state is unlimited.
> >
> > They might sue you to get the money they claim you owe them. You could
> > argue that the fees are excessive, that the table in the board room is
> > needlessly extravagant, and that the club in general has gone to hell
> > compared to the good old days; but that won't help if the court
> > decides that you have to pay up, any more than it helps to shout abuse
> > at the IRS.
> ### But don't you think there is a substantive difference between a
> dachshund club that has to deal with an independent court (paid for by
> both your and their money) versus an organization that simply sends
> its own enforcers, directly controlled by the power wielders in that
> organization? The dachshund club is constrained in their options
> against you, they are just one among many players, and your court will
> make sure they follow the contract *you* signed (not unilaterally
> imposed on you by them). By contrast, the state writes the laws, with
> no or almost no input from you, without freely given consent and goes
> on to enforce them against you, without an impartial protector on your
> side.

The state writes its own laws *with* input from you if it is a
democracy. Unfortunately, even if you live in Lichtenstein, the large
number of club members means that one vote doesn't count for very
much. Moreover, in a democracy and in theory (if often not in
practice) even in an autocracy there is an impartial body that
enforces the laws, namely the courts. It's the principle of
"separation of powers". This usually breaks down when one state
attacks another state: the US can do things to foreigners on foreign
soil that it would have difficulty doing to its own citizens because
there is no world government or world court with any teeth. And I
assume a body with such universal jurisdiction and power of
enforcement would be a libertarian's worst nightmare.

> So, in the dispute with the dachshund club you are not the underdog,
> and thanks to the independent court you are an equal player. Since you
> reviewed you membership contract before signing it, it's surely not
> stacked against you and gives you a good bargain, or else you wouldn't
> have signed. Don't you think the situation is different in dealing
> with the state (for clarity of vision try to compare the doggie club
> with the North Korean state, and only as a next step consider the
> temporarily tame state you live in).

The difference is that most people live in a country because they were
born there, and they they therefore don't have a chance to read and
agree to the contract. However, they can emigrate when they are
adults, or their parents could have chosen to emigrate to a more
suitable country before they were born.

> And just as the free market of dog clubs allows you the
> > opportunity to find a better one, so the free market of nation states
> > allows you to move to a place where the political and economic system
> > is more in keeping with your ideals.
> ### Talk to a North Korean about a "market" in nation states.

North Korea is an exception, but in general it is not difficult to
leave a country, although it is considerably more difficult to gain
permanent residency status in  another country. But that is the case
with other "free" markets. I can't easily become a movie star or an
astronaut even though in a sense I am perfectly "free" to do so.

>  Of course you would *prefer* to
> > stay and change the rules in the club which is close to your home and
> > where you've made friends over the years, but if this isn't possible
> > you will just have to put up with it or leave.
> >
> ### Imagine one of the doggie clubs near where you live decided there
> can't be any other clubs around. All other doggie clubs would be
> destroyed by ravaging rotweilers, or else they would join the winner.
> Then the rotweilers would tell you to pay "dues", and give up your
> dachshund, or else leave your home and life and never come back. Would
> you see this as legitimate? Yes? No? Why? (this is not a rhetorical or
> jocular question - it drives at your notions of legitimacy, because
> that's probably the important difference between us)
> I think you are approaching the issue from the wrong direction: You
> argue as if you believed that my "ideals" (non-violence, efficiency,
> freedom) were something that needs to be justified, and whatever local
> laws, passed by the local random association of thugs, are the
> correct, and legitimate rules that I am morally bound to obey. And I
> say: Let *them* leave. I am right. I own my house. I own my life. I am
> innocent. I deserve my place, because I earned it peacefully and
> honestly. Nobody has the moral right to take it from me. Sure, they
> have the guns, but might doesn't make right.

I have to respect the fact that these are your values, but other
people might have different values. For example, a political party
could easily propose tax cuts to be paid for by dismantling the public
health system but in most countries even the conservatives don't do
this, because they think they'll lose. The moral position is that
every citizen has the obligation to contribute to a universally
accessible health care system according to their abilities and the
right to use this system according to their needs. This is considered
"fair", while you would consider it "unfair". An impasse in debate is
therefore reached.

Stathis Papaioannou

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