[ExI] Is there a potential libertarianism / democracy tension?

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 27 11:22:28 UTC 2011

 On Monday, September 26, 2011 12:30 PM Adrian Tymes atymes at gmail.com wrote:
> On Mon, Sep 26, 2011 at 6:59 AM, Dan <dan_ust at yahoo.com> wrote:
>>  A good way to find out what people want is to allow them the option of
>>  not paying taxes or not obeying various rules and regulations.
> (Using "you" generically here, not specifically referring to Dan.)
> And here lies the problem.  It's almost always about making other people
> pay taxes and obey rules & regulations.  The compromise is that you have
> to do it too.

The more fundamental problem is why anyone has to pay this or obey that. The problem you're underlying is different and really only applies to people who want to be outside whatever system of rules and regulations they're thinking of. (By the way, this comes down to my stab at a general theory of why many people don't want freedom or at least want it heavily constrained. I think there are often two fears motivating these folks: fear of what others will do with freedom and fear of what they'll do with freedom. An example of the first is when someone who doesn't use illegal drugs wants them to stay illegal for fear of rampaging junkies or doped up layabouts. An example of the latter is people who fear that if the government doesn't force them to pay into a retirement fund, they'll blow every last cent they have partying right up until the eve of their retirement.) After all, you wouldn't, I trust, argue that you'd poke out your left eye simply because
 it's the law and the legislators who voted for the law and the police who are enforcing it have done so. (Sorry, for the somewhat gruesome example.)
> Consider if nobody else had to pay for car insurance.  Would it make sense
> for you to carry enough insurance to cover your repairs and the other person's,
> in case of accident?  Of course not, unless you happen to have that much
> money lying around for general emergency purposes anyway.  So no one but
> the rich would do it.
> Consider if it was completely voluntary whether or not to limit what you dump
> in the river.  Almost no factory in America would voluntarily comply - and the
> majority of those that did, would either be those not near a river, or
> with little
> to dump.  And there goes everyone else's clean drinking water.
> Imagine getting kicked out onto the street, because thugs wanted to crash
> in your house for a bit - and then move on to the next house after they've
> trashed it.  They, of course, recognize no rules but their own.  Why should
> any of your neighbors help you - it's not their problem, until the thugs have
> actually moved into each one of their houses in turn.  If this seems far
> fetched, imagine your reaction if thugs did this to your neighbor's house 3
> houses down - then 2, then 1.  Not your problem, right?  So when they come
> for you, it's not your neighbors' problem either.

Elsewhere, I've gone over how libertarianism would deal with issues like this, including on this list and other lists you and I have both participated in. Recall, I didn't say libertarianism (as a form of anarchism) was antinomian. Also, my view of a libertarian community is just one where initiation of coercion is outlawed -- not where anything goes or whoever can take your wallet may do so without fear of retribution. In this vein, most likely with roads, they'll be privately owned and the owners, in order to avoid lawsuits or boycotts and to keep customers will likely require some form of insurance or deal with this in some fashion. (This might not be uniform. Yes, horrors!, there might be roads where it literally is drive at your own risk and others where there are so many hassles with complying with the rules, you'll want to avoid them. For some, such possibilities -- regardless of how dangerous government roads are or even arbitrary the rules are.)
 The road owners, of course, will bear most of cost of whatever decision they make. (And, yes, some will be paid by the users, but this is much more limited -- just like any private concern that's unable to shift costs to others: it's failures tend to be limited and others have a strong interest in seeing they don't pay for others mistakes.)
Much the same goes for dumping polluntants in a river. What matters here is others who live near or might be affected by such dumping -- if the river itself is unowned. If it is owned, then anyone dumping in it without the owner's consent would be a simple matter, no? It's a clear violation of property rights. But even presuming the river is unowned (and some rivers and bodies of water are, today, owned, so ownership herei s not some far out radical idea only an LSD dropping anarchist might dream up in her less lucid moments), the damage such pollutants would cause to others, especially those in proximity to the river would give them, in a libertarian community, the right to claim damages and force the polluter to stop. (Of course, in the best case, this would play out peacefully in an anarchic court system or even less formally by persuading the polluter to stop and pay up. But if the polluter doesn't, and there's a just case, then in terms of
 libertarianism, she or he has initiated force and retaliation is just. But, in any real world case, this has to be proved -- not presumed.)
And the same goes for the home invaders you mention. People can invade one's home and take it now. If they are state sanctioned, well, get used to living somewhere else. But in a libertarian society, you'd have the right to retaliate. Also, in libertarianism itself, there is no sanction against people cooperating or working together. There's no reason why, in this example, your neighbors might not held you to stop the invaders and you might not help them. In fact, there's a strong reason to believe in real world communities that this would be the case. Robert Ellickson's _Order Without Law_ illustrates how neighbors settle disputes -- usually, the longer they live near each other, all else being equal, the more likely they are to help each other out and even, when disputes arise, to settle them informally and amicably.
You might point out that this last is a lot to worry about, but we already have this today. Absent police and governemnt, people do help each other out, as in natural disasters or in the recent London riots. And people help each other out even when there are police and others they could foist the problem on. You're sort of counting on people to be be much worse under libertarianism than they are now under statism. (For the record, I'm not saying every last person will become an angel or a saint absent the state. Instead, I think people will mostly remain the same. The big differences, though, will be that the costs can't be shifted and voluntary solutions will be far easier. In my mind, while this doesn't guarantee anything, but it seems to shift the odds in favor of better behavior.)
> Most other people who would affect you in the proposed voluntary tax &
> regulation system are as uninterested in the welfare of others as, or more so
> than, you.

Uh, what exactly do you mean here? Are you making a claim about how interested I am in the welfare of others? I don't want to brag here, but I do donate to charities and do other things to help out people. I also don't believe people who want to force others are all that interested in others' welfare -- or their use of force corrupts that. It's kind of like saying I want people to be more rational, so let me get out a bicycle chain to beat them into rationality.
>>  Now, regarding taxes, the funny thing, yes, most people pay with little
>>  griping. But the examples of non-payers have their property seized or
>>  being hauled off to jail seems fairly telling. Why not, if you believe
>>  most will pay anyhow, remove the the threat of this.
> Because most people wouldn't pay if it was known that non-compliers get off
> scot free.
This was my point. Amon Zero seemed to be stating that people want to pay taxes. If you really want to know if they do, then one must remove the penalty for not paying. This is sort of like someone saying people love to give him money for what project he's working on. He just promise to shoot anyone who doesn't pay him. And sure enough, lots of people do pay him. A few don't, but he actually only shoots an even smaller number. Naturally, in this situation, I'd expect many more people to not pay him if there were no penalty.
> Again, it is the bargain - the social contract - that
> everyone has to
> pitch in, that is the main thing suppressing rebellion here.  Jail is more about
> enforcing that bargain - "how dare you try to skip out on what the rest of us
> are doing" - than about the tax itself.

The social contract is a myth created to justify statism. Real contracts involve actual consent -- i.e., voluntary "uncoerced" agreement freely entered into -- and are not binding on every last person. The notion that people owe loyalty and wealth to the state because of some social contract should be laughable rather than taken seriously by intelligent people. To me, the notion of a social contract is merely a way of convincing people to put up with oppression.
> Consider why Warren Buffet complains about the low tax rates of himself and
> his kin - yet he does not simply voluntarily pay more.  It's perfectly possible
> for him to pay more, and he clearly views it as wrong that he does not, yet he
> doesn't.  Why?  Because it is not fair that all the other billionaires
> get to pay
> so little.  When they have to pay more, he will too.

See above. I'm not defending billionaires or anyone here, but that someone must pay because others pay doesn't follow -- any more than someone telling me he pays a tithe to a church should mean I should have to pay the same.
> In fact, I wonder if a party that promoted the social contract as its
> main issue,
> with "restoring fairness to America" being its main slogan, might do well.  It
> would likely take on anti-corruption as a strong secondary theme - and, well,
> cut fraud, waste, and corruption always sells well.  Granted, single issue
> parties tend to do poorly because they haven't thought through other things
> people care about, but I wonder if a sufficiently nuanced platform could be
> built from this as the main issue.
Both major parties and many smaller ones in the US and many parties around the world, including most of the ones in power in the US and elsewhere now do make exactly this case: they are the fair ones, supporting some sort of social contract, cutting waste, fighting corruption. (And, of course, their opposition tells us, sincerely, that those in power are breaking the contract, unfair, corrupt, wasteful, and sometimes even illegimate.)

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