[ExI] The Circle of Coercion

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Thu May 7 13:24:24 UTC 2009

--- On Wed, 5/6/09, Stathis Papaioannou <stathisp at gmail.com> wrote:
> 2009/5/7 Dan <dan_ust at yahoo.com>:
>> The analogy you're seem to be attempting has, for me,
>> a flaw.  If you're trying to say the government has a
>> contract with you to support you (under certain
>> circumstances), the problem is it uses force against third
>> parties to support you.  That'd make the contract invalid.
>> Insurance companies as insurance companies would not be
>> using force as such to fulfill their contracts.  In fact,
>> insurance companies who don't fulfill their contracts -- as
>> in they really do owe you (in the liberetarian just sense) a
>> payment and decide they're not feeling kind toward the payee
>> -- would be initiating force, specifically, using indirect
>> force to keep what justly belongs to someone else.
> The insurance companies collect payments from other
> customers in order
> to pay you. The other customers can't ask for their money
> back on the grounds that they were more careful than
> you. The other customers, like the other taxpayers,
> are the third party.

But no one is forced to pay insurance companies (save for when governments mandate insurance).  In other words, the other insurance clients are not non-consenting third parties.  The taxpayers are.  This is why insurance companies don't punish people when they don't buy a policy, but government do punish those who don't pay taxes.  (Yeah, not all the time, but the general rule is there are penalties ranging from death to all lesser penalties for non-payment of taxes.)

This is a chief problem with your analogy and it relates directly to the core principle of libertarianism -- so it's not some minor quibble.  (I wonder, too, if someone has written on these types of justifications for the state: ones that ignore the issue of force and attempt to make an analogy with non-coerced interactions.)
>> Why you would attempt this analogy is strange.  Do
>> you believe that the libertarian view is buyers should pay
>> sellers because they should be kind?  (All of this is not
>> to say charity isn't a virtue.  Unlike justice (in the
>> libertarian sense), however, coercion can't be used to
>> correct a lack of charity.)
> I'm actually attempting this analogy to try to show that
> taxation is legitimate even under the libertarian view
> of justice, i.e. taxation as social contract.

There's a vast literature in libertarian thought that rejects social contract theory.  The whole notion of a social contract -- at least as historically presented -- rests on a flawed analogy between the expressly consented to contracts and tacitly consented ones.  In the former, the parties actually agree to terms; in the latter, it seems, the social contract theorist merely makes up terms and then manufactures consent needed for her or his pet theory.  In fact, while express contracts -- not without problems, but easily understood -- often make it clear who agrees to do what*, tacit ones, like social contracts, make it possible to get anything at all.  For instance, people have used tacit consent to argue that people who don't openly rebel against a murderous regime tacitly support that regime.  In other words, that notion can justify anything, so it justifies nothing and makes a shambles of the notion of contract.  (Ditto for Buchanan's notions on
 virtual unaminity.  As someone once pointed out, wherever you read "virtual unanimity" one should, to make sense of the passage, replace it with "lack of unanimity.":)
>>> I wasn't robbed, I paid for a service.
>> I'm not so sure about that.  Did you have the option
>> not to pay and continue to do whatever activity was
>> involved?
> No, but I don't have the option not to pay and keep
> doing whatever I was doing in the case of every
> commercial transaction.

That's my point.  Now, were you to be placed in a world where you had the option -- the choice to NOT pay and keep doing whatever it is -- and then chose to make the payment, then you could proclaim you paid for it.

In the same way, when I take a trip by plane, I know I'm paying several taxes -- i.e., I'm being robbed -- many of which are hidden.  I don't pretend that this is not robbery and know, were I not forced to pay them, I probably would use that money for something else.  (And, no, it wouldn't be to act as a miser; I actually do donate to charities -- though that's beside the point.  I'd rather decide, though, where my money goes -- rather than some political elite and its corporate sponsors deciding.  And, yes, some of my decisions will be stupid in retrospect, but at least they'll be my decisions and I can learn from them.  At best, all one can do if the political elites make a wrong call is whine about it (or leave the country; you know how easy that is for most people and how unlikely it is over, say, a tiny theft here and there).)

[big snip of material you didn't comment on, but I'd like to know what you thought about it just the same]
> As it happens, I don't like much of what governments do;
> for example,
> I don't like anti-drug laws. So, if I were boss, things
> would be different. What can I do about this?

My suggestions?  First, don't give it your moral support.  Second, find like-minded individuals to work with to overturn these things.  Third, try to persuade un-like-minded individuals the error of their ways.  Well, that's my two cents on changing the world.



*  Agreement in itself does not, however, make a given contract valid.  Aside from purely logical and physical constraints on contracts, contracting parties must be working within in context where they have a prior right to contract over whatever they're agreeing on.  (And they can't contract over, in libertarian terms, what they don't have a right to.  E.g., you and I can't contract over how to divide up Rafal's justly earned (assuming he has any) wealth.)


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