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

Amon Zero amon at doctrinezero.com
Wed Sep 28 14:54:03 UTC 2011

2011/9/27 Dan <dan_ust at yahoo.com>

> I'd have little problem as a libertarian if people want to keep paying --
> save with them paying for activities that by their nature violate rights.
>Once there is an exit option, even if most people don't use it, this
doesn't mean the option is invalid. And, yes, >some people might stay out of
habit, but my guess is were it voluntary, given the level of taxation,
people who >continued to pay would mostly be those who wanted to.

You know, this idea intrigues me, for the simple reason that on the one
hand, studies in the cognitive science of Judgment & Decision Making JDM
strongly suggest that the vast majority of people would stick with the
default option (which would be paying tax in an opt-out system).

On the other hand, there would be a *huge* monetary incentive to opt-out!
That doesn't mean people*would* opt-out; it just means that it'd be very
interesting (psychologically speaking) if they didn't.

I'll have a look around in the literature and see what kind of sums people
will implicitly pay in order to stick with the default. Most studies I'm
aware of are in the domain of pensions, so not quite on the scale of tax
payments I guess, but if I find anything interesting I'll let you know.

Amon said:
> Anyway, none of this is directly relevant to my original question, which
> was whether libertarians would just accept majority judgment if it turned
> out that people *did* want to pay taxes.

Dan said:

> Do you just mean: if most people want to pay for these things absent
> coercion, then they should be allowed to. Yes, I'd agree. And that would be
> consistent with libertarianism as I understand -- with the exception of
> paying for things that inherently or essentially violate rights. Or do you
> mean: if most people want to pay for these things absent coercion, then
> everyone else should pay for these things too? In that case, no. Even if the
> majority wants to pay, this should no infringe on anyone else's freedom to
> not pay and to not be coerced for not paying.

I meant the stronger - latter - case. The scenario I intended to convey was
as follows:

1) Libertarians get into power and enact radical reforms
2) Public reacts badly and calls for repeal of all such reforms, effectively
voting for coercion and making it
unlikely that the libertarians will get their way any time soon
3) Libertarians tend to react... how, I wonder?

I think the softer scenario (coercion isn't involved, but people can still
choose to pay) is compatible with libertarianism, so it doesn't get at the
potential tension between libertarianism and majority-decided-policy (i.e.
democracy). The scenario described above might be wildly unlikely, I don't
know, and it is probably a question none of us can answer with authority,
but I *was* interested to see that one or two people essentially responded
with "of course there's a tension between libertarianism and democracy",
which suggests that the perception is 'out there', rather than simply some
random musing on my part.

I just have a fascination with situations where a stance can in fact imply
its polar opposite, taoism-style, and wondered if this might be one such
situation, with a desire for personal liberty leading some people down a
road where they would deny the wishes of most others. I'm not saying that
would be indefensible, per se - just that it would be very interesting, I

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