Open thread for AETV #888: Matt & Tracie Take Calls & ACA Voter’s Guide Link


My bad! I forgot to post the show thread before the show. Apologies for the delay. It was random calls, and also an announcement about the ACA Voter’s Guide–if anyone is local Austin/TX and wants to check that out!

Comments

  1. Monocle Smile says

    The anarchist was pretty infuriating, though Matt and Tracie handled him extremely well.

    I’ve been encountering these “teenage libertarian” nutters recently. I call them that because their depth of thought when considering the kind of world they want is appallingly superficial. A purely voluntary system would never fly. You know what happens? The guy with the biggest guns gets his way every time. That’s what. You’d get a form of tribalism, except with weapons about a thousand times deadlier. Yeah, that sounds like exactly the kind of world I want to inhabit.

  2. Matt Gerrans says

    Yeah Monocle, I share your feelings on this. I kept thinking, “don’t these anarchist/libertarians think this stuff through all the way?!” If you want to try out such a society, pack your bags and move to Somalia. Don’t sit around whining about your taxes being “stolen” when you are reaping all the benefits of living in a relatively well-ordered society. It is not even just having the roads and other physical infrastructure (mentioned by Tracie and/or Matt), but also the societal infrastructure; the stability that allows you to live your life and conduct your business in relative safety, count on having a stable currency, etc. without being heavily armed and on the vigil.

    These guys need to read some post apocalyptic fiction like Lucifer’s Hammer and the like, where society descends into their ideal “no tax” free-for-all after a huge meteorite strikes earth. Of course, that is just one author’s imaginings of how things would go, but it seems pretty plausible given human nature in an anarchic state of affairs. And there is lots of carnage, suffering and “each man for himself” kind of stuff.

    Even in less apocalyptic stuff like simple contracts as discussed on the show, it is clear that the libertarian/anarchic plan is a complete fiasco. Sure, you guys had a contract, but now Otis don’t hardly like it no more and he gots more guns than you, so buzz off.

  3. Matt Gerrans says

    Should add that anarchists/libertarians really should read up on the recent history of a place like Somalia. In the absence of government (i.e. with anarchy) things are inherently unstable, so you get small enclaves where different forms of “mini governments” appear, often theocratic and dictatorial, and usually draconian in many ways and then various forms of feudalism. The idea that you could have some sort of long-lasting stable anarchy that depends on people honoring their contracts and providing services where they see opportunities is simply an idiotic denial of (or abject ignorance of) human nature. It betrays embarrassing lack of historical education or worse, inability to learn from historical fact.

  4. robertwilson says

    I loved the anarchist’s call (well the response). Two weeks in a row now we’ve had someone put forward arguments that are laughable (though in very different ways and of very different nature) only to walk right into their own refutation.

    I don’t like government taxing my money.

    What do you propose.

    I make a contract.

    Who enforces it.



    Yeah.

  5. says

    Neo-feudalists: Not worth the time. Especially when they’re one of those “I just learned the childish arguments used by neo-feudalist true-believers to fool the gullible” college freshmen who have yet to talk to someone who’s thought about their beliefs somewhere other than a smoke-filled college dorm room and rejected them.

  6. friendly1 says

    If you ask who enforces contracts made without a government then you have to ask who enforces contracts WITH the government? There’s no third party.

  7. petrander says

    With regards to the discussionabout peer-reviewed articles before taking calls:, Matt and Tracie are right on the money. There are so many scientific articles published as part of an ongoing dialogue between researchers all of the world. You cannot just point at any one of them and claim it as proof for your particular position. This is also the false impression that some science journalists create when touting any new “discovery” as something unequivocally true, confusing the public with conflicting messages. In reality, new “discoveries” always need time to be tested over a period of years by the scientific community. That is why consensus is much more important than any singular article.

  8. says

    These libertarian types are wholly unrealistic when it comes to the government. They are convinced that the government is some kind of alien entity imposed on us from without, they don’t realize that the people are responsible for the government, good or bad. We reinforce our wishes on the government every time we go to the polls. Of course, the libertarians can’t convince a significant portion of the population that their ideas are correct, hence their candidates, especially for high offices, don’t get elected and rather than admit that their own position is weak, they declare it a conspiracy to keep their clearly and obviously correct ideas out of power. In that, there’s a very religious-feeling component to the libertarian philosophy.

  9. Martin Vest says

    What Tracie Harris said about the police shooting that woman with a knife was a complete, out of place nonsense.
    The issue is that when you have a government, you give unaccountable rights to others that no one else has.

    Tracie, please read this article, it thoroughly illuminates yours and Matt’s foolishness about the legitimacy of government.
    Do we really need the police?

  10. mond says

    Even ‘reasonable libertarians’ (oxymoron?) will acknowledge that government of some form will always be required. Even if it is for organising a country’s defensive military force, contract resolution and other basic stuff. This would require taxation, involuntary subscription or what ever you want to call it. Even if it was done on a private basis an element of payment compulsion would be required as everyone in that society would benefit from the country being defended and contracts being worth the paper they are written on.

  11. Rick Pikul says

    I have two stock questions for anarchist libertarians that they have to provide good answers for before I will bother with them:

    How do you resolve the enclosure problem? (That’s when someone buys up a strip of land surrounding your property and uses the barrier thus formed to compel you to do something.)
    How do you resolve mutually distributed harms? (One person doing a million dollars worth of damage to one person is easy, a thousand people each doing a single dollar of damage to each of a thousand other people OTOH….)

    I find it’s rare for them to even try to answer either.

  12. edmond says

    @#5 robertwilson

    “I don’t like government taxing my money.”

    I also like to point out that it isn’t actually “their” money. The government establishes the currency, they print the bills, they hold all the gold. These people can revert to a complete barter system if they like, but they don’t just get to CLAIM government scrip for themselves, and then complain while enjoying the convenience of using it.

  13. says

    That reminds me of a guy I once knew who was a self-titled anarcho-capitalist, he was supremely convinced that we could do away with all government, that people would come up with a universal currency that everyone would agree to a fair value for, that everyone would use without problem, that no one would steal, etc. How any of this would be done, he couldn’t say, he just thought that if we got rid of government, somehow the world would be a universally nice, kind and peaceful utopia.

    It took me a long time to stop laughing.

  14. friendly1 says

    @Rick Pickul
    Access to a road / pathway / etc would come with the land so you can’t really enclose anyone that way. People who try to enclose others in order to coerce them will be known to do it and few will do business with them. If such a thing is a problem then land dealers who can guarantee their land is enclosure proof will beat others in the market. I’m sure you can think of ways yourself.

    As for mutually distributed harms I’m not sure what you mean. Perhaps you can give an example and describe how a government solves this problem today and why free people can’t just do something similar.

  15. robertwilson says

    @11 edmond

    In fact Matt and Tracie briefly brought that point up too. Not just hwo would you enforce the agreement but how would you pay? Who establishes a currency’s value? I forget exactly what they said but it was indeed addressed on the show.

  16. Lexi girl says

    Libertarians use the same old Civil War arguments. If you try to take my slaves I want out of the government.

  17. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    RANT INCOMING

    Ah. The libertarian is pretty crafty. I didn’t recognize it at all, even with the forewarning, until long into the call.

    I’ll take a non-obvious order and mention the problems with the hosts before moving on to libertarian king doofus.

    Matt said that no one is putting a gun to your head w.r.t. taxes. Simply wrong. If you do not pay your taxes for long enough, eventually a man will come to your house with a gun. A police officer will show up to arrest you for failure to attend a court date, refusing a court order, or so on. For the purpose of this discussion, violence is morally equivalent to the threat of violence. (To make it obvious, consider rape. It’s still rape if there is no actual violence nor physical restraint. The mere threat of violence is still enough to mean that there was no consent.)

    Both Matt and Tracie, especially Tracie, argued that it’s voluntary to live in the United States, and thus merely living here is taken as consent. Specifically, you don’t like it, move somewhere else. Bullshit. I want to pick on Tracie here especially because 1- she picked on the caller not knowing about social contract theory, and 2- she repeats one huge fundamental error about social contract theory made by the founder of social contract theory (and labor theory of property), John Locke. This error has the result of greatly propping up libertarianism. It’s one of my pet peeves, and so I’m going to go into some detail. Correcting these errors are necessary to having a proper understanding of why libertarianism is wrong.

    In the Two Treatises of Government, Johne Locke makes his infamous apple defense of private property. In short, Locke argues that it does his neighbor no harm if he were to go into the woods, collect a bunch of apples, let them go to waste, and refuse to share with his neighbor, because the neighbor is free to go into the woods and “get his own damn apples”. He applies this metaphor to the great wealth disparities in England at the time, and he notes that all land is privately owned, which means that a poor person without land is not free to go into the woods and get his own apples. Thus, his moral defense of private property breaks down, and he admits that.

    However, Locke has a convenient excuse out. He notes that there is all the free land you could want in a place called America. This is effectively the same argument that Tracie and Matt made – if you don’t like it, move. (To be fair, Matt and Tracie also mentioned constitutional protections, but not in the context of mere taxes.) This is privileged elitism. Actually moving to another country is incredibly difficult if you are poor and lack education. Even the simple plane ticket is a non-trivial expense for a poor person today, let alone the massive cost of a boat ticket in Locke’s time. It’s also not risk free. It’s also non-trivial to learn a new language, new culture, new laws, etc. It’s not free to give up your friends, family, support network, etc. Then there’s gaining visas, residency, citizenship, etc. Overall, it is incredibly disingenuous to imply that moving to a new country is practical, or even possible, for everyone.

    This sentiment of Tracie that “just move somewhere else” is standing in the way of real and important reforms to make the world a better place, like wealth redistribution programs, specifically progressive income taxation and progressive death taxes.

    (Locke also conveniently ignores the native inhabitants, and while important, it’s not material for this discussion.)

    Tracie then compounds her error. At least Locke pretends that there’s all the free land you want somewhere, but Tracie knows that any useable land now is already claimed and owned, and there is no possibility to just move to some place with a system you like. Land is currently all taken, and you have to choose between one of a few dozen or hundred choices. If a man puts a gun to your head and offers you 100 ways to have your shit taken (taxes), is that a free choice in terms of conventional contract theory and legal consent? No. Is that an accurate description of your choices of where to live in today’s world? Yes. No matter where you go, there will be someone who threatens to put a gun to your head to take your shit (taxes). It is asinine to deny this as liberals often do. Don’t sugarcoat it. Embrace it, acknowledge it, and argue rightly that there is no better alternative, and so we’re stuck with the lesser evil. Libertarians are completely right that we violate their non-aggression principle and their absolute private property rights. Don’t pretend we don’t and retreat to a strawman discussion. Take the libertarian head on and show him how he’s wrong by invoking Humanism and evidence. Show the libertarian that the best possible world is one where we regularly violate the non-aggression principle and violate absolute private property rights.

    The distinction between money and barter is a non-sequitir. Ownership of anything itself is a fiction, an illusion, which we create by consensus. I have no metaphysical attachment to my chair. My chair is my chair because society has consensus and rules that make it my chair. Ownership is a fiction that we impose on the world. Society should create rules for the betterment the happiness, safety, freedom, self determination, material wealth, etc. of individuals. You can be materially wealthy without private property rights. They may be not plausible due to current technological limitations, but it is non-obvious to me that I can argue a priori that private property rights are a necessary component of well-being. Rather, private property rights are a tool. They are a means, not the ends. The caller owns his money as much as he owns his chair, and we as society can change the social contract, the consensus, about whether he owns that chair, and I strongly suggest that we seriously consider this in the case of the filthy rich, e.g. we should implement (stronger) progressive income taxes and progressive death taxes.

    Imagine a world like the afterlife of the movie What Dreams May Come. With that physics, that rules of shared reality, attempting to impose taxes arguably is unjustified. Taxes are an evil, a necessary evil given our current physics and situation, but an evil nonetheless.

    Now to the libertarian caller doofus. He subscribes to the standard libertarian views of absolute private property rights and the non-aggression principle (in short: violence is never allowed except in response to other violence). As far as I can tell, these two principles are the distinguishing aspects of modern US libertarians. I reject both, as should any informed and decent human being.

    I care about making a society where people are happy, materially wealthy, safe, free, with self determination, and the other values of well-being and humanism. I don’t care about merely making a society where people have the opportunity to be happy. I want to make a society where people generally are happy. That’s what it is to be a decent human being. If I have to sacrifice some degree of fairness to achieve universal happiness, then so much for fairness – I would toss fairness out. In other words, if I have to sacrifice some degree of private property rights to achieve my goals, or if I have to initiate violence contra the non-aggression principle, in order to accomplish much much more for the well-being of people in society, then absolute private property rights have to go and non-aggression principle has to go.

    The non-aggression principle is a nice sound-bite, but modern US libertarians treat it as sacrosanct (when combined with absolute private property rights). I agree in general that you shouldn’t use violence except in response to other violence. However, there are important situations where it is entirely justified to use violence not in response to ther violence. For example, taxes.

    Remember that the lesser of two evils is still evil, but if you have a complete survey of your options, and all options are evil, then taking the least evil option is the good option. Taxes are an evil, but they are the least possible evil.

    Voluntaryism.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntaryism
    The stupid – it burns!

    Anarchists like the caller are just batshit insane or deluded to think that there is an alternative to government police and courts. If we just disbanded the government tomorrow (somehow), tomorrow people would spontaneously form little town governments and police. If they didn’t, roving bandits would come in and take their shit, kill them, steal their women – you know, the worst parts of the Bible. Eventually, these roving bandits would realize that by installing themselves as a local warlord and requiring regular, fixed, and predictable taxes, they could extract more money from the population than by roving and killing seemingly at random. (You see, if the roving nad killing is at random, and when it happens they torch all your shit, you have very little incentive to create, but with fixed, regular, and predictable taxes, you can have the expectation that putting in a lot of labor to create stuff will not be for naught.) And that about gets us to the feudalism of about 18th century Europe. No kidding. That’s your history of government 101 for today.

    tl;dr If you temporarily lack a government, other people will be more than happy to fix that for you and create one for you. It’s simply not an option to go without government. Voluntaryism is a self-defeating system.

    Plus all of the usual complaints about free-rider problems.

    As I often say, I find it fascinating how most libertarians I meet are often confused and ambiguous on this issue: Do they want to create a happy, free, materially wealthy, etc. society, or do they want to create a society with a strict non-aggression principle? The caller is no different. In practice, I find that most libertarians refuse to even talk about the possibility that these two things could be in conflict, and thus it’s hard for me to tell whether 1- they’re outright evil by favoring the non-aggression principle over a happy, free materially wealthy, etc. society, or 2- merely incredibly stupid. Maybe some combination of the two.

  18. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    PS: What’s with the hate on the concept of wage slavery? AFAIK, that term is also quite prominent on the far side of libertarianism, namely it’s in use with some radical socialists. I think the concept has merit. I agree with the libertarians there. I just fundamentally disagree with what we should do about it. Wage slavery is a very real thing. No matter which country you move to, you are required to work or starve or freeze to death, and you are required to work more than what would be required without a government.

    Further, as I’ve heard the term, wage slavery also more often refers to the exploitation of the working class by the elite class via the great wealth disparities. The rich, especially those born into riches, have no need to work and are not wage slaves. Whereas, a person born into poverty must give his labor to exploitive corporation. Sure he has the choice between a dozen different exploitive corporations, but they’re all exploitive, and he’s exploited in every one.

    George Carlin is right when he said the “American Dream” is the biggest load of crock.
    http://shoqvalue.com/george-carlin-on-the-american-dream-with-transcript/
    We have so little social mobility, and it is dishonest for the hosts to imply that we actually have it. I am glad that they are working towards fixing it, but it’s also offensive to hear them simultaneously deny the severe problems of poverty and lack of social mobility.

    We have this serious problem of lack of social mobility, lack of reasonable working wages, because of the exploitive upper class and bad government policy, and the proper term for that is wage slavery. I agree that real slaves have it worse, but the comparison is not black and white like you make it out to be for millions of poor Americans. Again, this is an amazing amount of privilege blindness from the hosts IMHO.

    We the proletariat should rise up and institute wealth redistribution programs, such as (stronger) progressive taxation and progressive death taxes, which the hosts seem to simultaneously support but also deny the reasons why we need it (or at least downplay the severe conditions that warrant it).

  19. petrander says

    @14

    Well… Without taking on the entirety of your long argument, I will start the discussion off with a few nitpickings:

    First of all, I don’t believe that Tracie/Matt really imply that it’s easy, trivial or even practically possible for anyone to leave the US for a place they like better. Just that it’s logically possible. There are many things people are not practically able to do, even if they’d like, so in the end they will have to accept their circumstances. Being a citizen in a democratic nation state is one of such circumstances. The bottom line is that if people want to have the benefits of living in a country like the US, they would also have to accept the back-draws like being forced to pay taxes.

    In analogy: I may wish I could start my own company, so I didn’t have to “work for a boss”, but in practice this is risky and non-trivial, even if I could do it in principle. Quite likely, I may not retain my standard of living at the same time and lose other benefits. So therefore, I accept my circumstances and work 9 to 5 with practically no time for whatever personal projects I may like better.

    This logical or principal argument that Tracie is making is apparently conflated by you with the “sentiment” of “if you don’t like it here, you can go to *Russia*”, often made by right-wingers to oppose the push for social change, but I don’t think that’s fair or even valid at all. If anything, they both stress that you have options to affect the system.

    Secondly, indeed the government can apply force to make someone pay taxes. However, this is not the same as “putting a gun to the head”. It’s an enforcement of the principle that if you want to be part of this society, then you must contribute, and if you don’t, you will start to lose benefits of same society. So, yes, you will be sanctioned, even jailed, but they will not send in a SWAT team, unless there is reason to do so. If you resist arrest, then your violence will be met with proportionate counter-violence, but it is still you that initiate the violence. (And yes; I am fully aware that the police far too often does not live up to that principle).

  20. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Secondly, indeed the government can apply force to make someone pay taxes. However, this is not the same as “putting a gun to the head”.

    It’s not that governments can apply force to make people pay taxes. It’s that they do.

    And what do you mean it’s not the same thing as putting a gun to someone’s head? If you do not report your taxes, people with guns come to your house and forcibly take you to prison. If you try to avoid the garnishing of wages, people with guns come to your house and forcibly take you to prison. You’re being ridiculous.

    It’s an enforcement of the principle that if you want to be part of this society, then you must contribute, and if you don’t, you will start to lose benefits of same society.

    Sure, that’s been my point all along.

    So, yes, you will be sanctioned, even jailed, but they will not send in a SWAT team, unless there is reason to do so. If you resist arrest, then your violence will be met with proportionate counter-violence, but it is still you that initiate the violence.

    The SWAT team is completely off the mark. The point is that they will use as much violence as is necessary. They always use overwhelming force, but they’re also conscious of expenses, and so they more often rely on the threat of force. Every time that you pay taxes, it is with the understanding that if you do not play ball, that the government will escalate it as needed, including and up to the whole army (such as in the case of the Whiskey Rebellion). That they don’t immediately pull out SWAT is completely immaterial. Again, it’s like saying it’s not real rape if the woman doesn’t try to physically fight off her attacker.

    As for initiating violence – what kind of bizarro world do you live on? I can make a good case that refusing to report taxes and refusing to pay taxes is a form of civil disobedience. Generally misguided, but still peaceful, nonviolent, civil disobedience. For example, consider someone like Kent Hovind. You are saying that Kent initiated violence by refusing to report and pay taxes. You are saying that Kent Hovind initiated violence. In effect, you are saying that his protest, his civil disobedience, was initiating violence, just because you happened to disagree with his grievances. Presumably you would think other acts of civil disobedience, like Martin Luther King Jr in a sit-in, are not initiating violence, because you happen to think that his cause is just. You are completely hypocritical, and your standard is ridiculous.

  21. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    For example, the caller is in good company for not wanting to pay taxes as a form of protest against foreign wars, the war on drugs, etc.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_disobedience

    In the essay, Thoreau explained his reasons for having refused to pay taxes as an act of protest against slavery and against the Mexican-American War. He writes, “If I devote myself to other pursuits and contemplations, I must first see, at least, that I do not pursue them sitting upon another man’s shoulders. I must get off him first, that he may pursue his contemplations too. See what gross inconsistency is tolerated. I have heard some of my townsmen say, ‘I should like to have them order me out to help put down an insurrection of the slaves, or to march to Mexico; — see if I would go’; and yet these very men have each, directly by their allegiance, and so indirectly, at least, by their money, furnished a substitute.”

    Again, initiating violence my aching ass. Your position is an attack on civil disobedience itself. Fuck you, complacent servile sheeple.

  22. Monocle Smile says

    Your position is an attack on civil disobedience itself

    No, EL. You’re wrong on this one. The whole point of civil disobedience is that there are indeed consequences for certain forms. If there were no consequences for “civilly disobeying” paying taxes, for instance, then you might as well not have laws. That’s all that petrander was saying. It may be nonviolent disobedience, but no one’s going to show up to your door and actually shoot you in the face or even draw their gun just because you’re delinquent. If they do, they’re in the wrong.

    Also, speaking of dishonesty…the Whiskey Rebellion’s violence was initiated by the protesters. Like, tax collectors were tarred and feathered and homes were assaulted by hordes. This isn’t a matter of not “playing ball.”

    We have so little social mobility, and it is dishonest for the hosts to imply that we actually have it

    No, it’s not. The discussion was about principles, not pragmatism. In fact, part of the reason libertarians piss me off is that they make me defend shit like this. Also, the caller was most definitely not talking about “wage slavery.” He was just pissed off about paying taxes. That call was far, far simpler than you make it out to be.

  23. Dan Heuser says

    Good post. I also agree that it’s best to acknowledge that there’s a moral issue with taxation, and to follow that up by arguing that there’s no good alternative to it. I feel it’s akin to saying that it’s morally wrong to enslave or kill another living thing in order to eat (plant or animal), but that we have no alternative.

    The only things that I could come up with to help minimize the forced taxation issue would be to:
    – Force parents to pay their children’s taxes until they’re old enough to work or emigrate.
    – Force parents to help their children emigrate to a country that seems more palatable to them.
    This obviously doesn’t solve the problem, since the only good emigration options (IMO) are countries with taxation. Plus some parents just won’t be financially able to comply with these rules. Also, some children will be orphans and won’t benefit from these ‘rules’. Either way, I thought it was interesting to try to think of a system that would preserve taxation while trying to address the moral issue.

  24. says

    EL,

    I don’t believe Matt or Tracie suggested the caller leave the country, just that the caller can always move to where the government cannot tax him. The United States is a big country and there are still plenty of places he can go where no one will ever find him. He can head into the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest, build a shack, catch and grow his own food, and never encounter another human being. Granted, his standard of living would revert back to Stone Age levels, but hey: At least he won’t pay any taxes. I mean, if that’s what he really wants.

    If, on the other hand, he likes clean water, roads, education, fire, police, ambulance, power, essential services, regulatory bodies, etc… then he can shut up and pay his damn taxes like the rest of civilization.

    The big thing that sovereign citizens and extreme libertarians don’t seem to understand is they think their property/rights is an independent value set that they can just assert (like putting a sign out that says “no trespassing” is all you need to stop people from cutting through your yard). But the truth is ownership — of oneself, of property, of things in a complex modern society — is a social conceit, not an individual one. You can claim you own something, but your ownership is meaningless if no one else recognizes that ownership. In other words, property and rights are not an *I* thing, they are a *WE* thing.

    Now, we need a system in place to honor our property/rights and build the kind of infrastructure that makes our ownership meaningful, our rights valuable, and our property protected from theft or ruination. That kind of system entails rules, laws, government, and the social contract.

    What SCs are suggesting is that one should be allowed to opt in for all the benefits and entitlements of living and owning property in such a complex system but have the choice to opt out of their share to help maintain it.

    The question they always ask is “Why should I pay taxes?” when what they really should be asking is “Why should society permit me to own anything if I don’t want to pay for the infrastructure necessary to ensure that ownership?”

  25. StonedRanger says

    #17 EL ” If you do not report your taxes, people with guns come to your house and forcibly take you to prison. ”
    You say this like this is the very first thing that will happen to you if you fail to report your taxes. You and I both know this is not true. People with guns might come to your house after you’ve had hearings and trials and appeals IF you still refuse to pay your taxes. To say otherwise is just flat out lying. You have to be convicted of failing to pay, and continually fail to pay before “men with guns” will come looking for you and that process could take years. I think you are the one being ridiculous and dishonest in your assertions.

  26. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Monocle Smile

    No, EL. You’re wrong on this one. The whole point of civil disobedience is that there are indeed consequences for certain forms.

    I never stated to the contrary. I agree with you.

    If there were no consequences for “civilly disobeying” paying taxes, for instance, then you might as well not have laws. That’s all that petrander was saying.

    No. No that is not all he was saying. See:
    Secondly, indeed the government can apply force to make someone pay taxes. However, this is not the same as “putting a gun to the head”. It’s an enforcement of the principle that if you want to be part of this society, then you must contribute, and if you don’t, you will start to lose benefits of same society. So, yes, you will be sanctioned, even jailed, but they will not send in a SWAT team, unless there is reason to do so. If you resist arrest, then your violence will be met with proportionate counter-violence, but it is still you that initiate the violence.
    Specifically:
    However, this is not the same as “putting a gun to the head”.
    but it is still you that initiate the violence.
    petrander is putting the blame for the initiation of violence onto the person engaging in civil disobedience. petrander is blaming the protester for having violence done against him. petrander says that the non-violent protester is the one initiating violence. That is what I responded to. Again, petrander is operating under the same fundamental flaw of taking the non-aggression principle as sacrosanct, and that pisses me off. The hosts also did at various times. It pisses me off because that is the fundamental flaw of libertarianism. Rather, it is sometimes morally correct and proper to initiate violence (i.e. taxes) not in response to other violence. We cannot and should not shirk away from this unfortunate truth. Rather, we have to embrace it as a fact about our reality, and use that fact when explaining to libertarians how they’re wrong. When people like petrander play into the non-aggression principle, it won’t work. They will quickly find logical contradictions in their own position, and libertarianism starts looking a lot more attractive.

    The discussion was about principles, not pragmatism.

    If your principles do not deal with pragmatism, then your principles are useless dung.

    Also, the caller was most definitely not talking about “wage slavery.” He was just pissed off about paying taxes. That call was far, far simpler than you make it out to be.

    I’m not so sure of that. I do know that the caller very specifically cited arguments identical to Thoreau for refusing to pay taxes, such as unjust foreign wars. I agree the caller is ridiculous for wanting to get rid of taxes altogether, but I find that he has a strong and morally defensible case for taking part in civil disobedience.

    @Ishkur

    He can head into the mountainous forests of the Pacific Northwest, build a shack, catch and grow his own food, and never encounter another human being. Granted, his standard of living would revert back to Stone Age levels, but hey: At least he won’t pay any taxes. I mean, if that’s what he really wants.

    I’m pretty sure that’s still illegal. Every place is owned, or public land like public parks. I’d wager that living on public park land for extended periods of time is generally illegal. It’s squatting or something. Maybe the police won’t bother you, but they could and might.

  27. Monocle Smile says

    petrander is putting the blame for the initiation of violence onto the person engaging in civil disobedience. petrander is blaming the protester for having violence done against him. petrander says that the non-violent protester is the one initiating violence

    …fair enough. I was mistaken about your objection.

    I agree the caller is ridiculous for wanting to get rid of taxes altogether, but I find that he has a strong and morally defensible case for taking part in civil disobedience

    Sure, but you don’t then get to whine when you face the consequences of disobeying civilly. The caller wanted to be able to avoid contributing in accordance with social contract, but still somehow enjoy most of the benefits (to which he is oblivious, for the most part). Furthermore, I hardly think the utterances from the caller are specific to Thoreau. In fact, refusing to pay taxes due to unjust foreign wars is perhaps the most common (somewhat sane) libertarian talking point. Pretty sure it’s pure coincidence that his argument intersected with Thoreau.

    I’m pretty sure that’s still illegal. Every place is owned, or public land like public parks. I’d wager that living on public park land for extended periods of time is generally illegal. It’s squatting or something. Maybe the police won’t bother you, but they could and might.

    Remember what you said about principles and pragmatism (on which I most definitely agree with you; I was merely providing a reason for the hosts)? Can’t let you slide on this one. There are plenty of places on this planet where one could easily live out their natural lives without contact with any other human beings.

  28. Monocle Smile says

    They will quickly find logical contradictions in their own position, and libertarianism starts looking a lot more attractive

    No, no, no, it doesn’t. Anyone who’s ever done cursory study on tribalism fully understands that libertarianism is fuck ugly and will always be fuck ugly until we can somehow change human nature. C’mon man, you should know that the failure of one position doesn’t actually make another more credible.

  29. says

    I’m generally in agreement with EL here. A couple of notes:

    On the hosts using “just move somewhere else”: I agree with EL’s take on this. In minor defense of the hosts, from a pragmatic rhetorical standpoint, the average sovereign citizen/extreme libertarian that calls into the show probably has the resources/money/education to actually leave and start anew in another country and still be better off than the poor folks for whom that statement is unreasonable. But, just like there are poor folks who are voting for the GOP that works to make them even poorer, there are probably poor people who tragically ascribe to SC/EL (Oh no! EL is also the acronym for Extreme Libertarian!) to their own detriment.

    On the “show up at your door with a gun if you don’t pay your taxes”: For the small fries, I’ve heard anecdotally that the IRS will go after your bank account(s) and doc your paycheck to collect unpaid taxes before they will try to arrest you (and that seems more reasonable assuming it’s more efficient for actually getting the money and less violence is always good). I’m not sure, but even if you don’t show up to court, the judge will just authorize the IRS to go after your money rather than you. But, they will show up with guns if you’re a big fry like Kent Hovind, so I’m not sure where they draw the line (probably a dollar amount or the type of unpaid taxes).

    As Jeff Dee said on a recent NPR episode in response to a conservative politician who was having trouble reconciling his libertarian “side” with his christian “side”: “Say whatever else you will about libertarianism, at least it doesn’t call for the stoning of gay people.”

  30. Monocle Smile says

    @26

    But, they will show up with guns if you’re a big fry like Kent Hovind, so I’m not sure where they draw the line

    According to Wiki, this was because they received reports of firearms in the Hovind house beforehand. They seized more than a half-dozen, and apparently a couple were decently serious heat.

  31. says

    @27 Yea, I was more referring to the line that would trigger an arrest, rather than force brought to bear for an individual arrest. If I had to bet, I’d say that nearly all SC/EL folks, even the poorest ones, have at least a half dozen firearms in their home for the very situation where the government comes to collect unpaid taxes. After all, what’s the point in having private property if you don’t first invest in the means to protect it?

  32. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    They will quickly find logical contradictions in their own position, and libertarianism starts looking a lot more attractive

    No, no, no, it doesn’t. Anyone who’s ever done cursory study on tribalism fully understands that libertarianism is fuck ugly and will always be fuck ugly until we can somehow change human nature. C’mon man, you should know that the failure of one position doesn’t actually make another more credible.

    In context, I was saying that if you accept the non-aggression principle, then libertarianism starts looking a lot more attractive, because libertarianism is the logical conclusion of the premises 1- non-aggression principle, and 2- property rights. I was trying to say that the proper response to libertarianism is to reject the absolute non-aggression principle and to reject absolute private property rights. If you accept the absolute non-aggression principle, IMHO it becomes exceedingly difficult to reject libertarianism.

    In other words, a cursory study finds that it is necessary to force people living in an area to pay taxes to form government, police, etc., because the alternative is far worse. And requiring taxes is done through violence in opposition to the non-aggression principle of libertarianism.

  33. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    As for income tax evasion, arrest, and prison, my understanding is that the IRS has great discretion. If they want to just garnish your income, they will. If they want to make an example of you, they will, such as with Wesley Snipes (who was sent to prison merely for failing to file a proper income tax form). Also see Al Capone.

  34. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Remember what you said about principles and pragmatism (on which I most definitely agree with you; I was merely providing a reason for the hosts)? Can’t let you slide on this one. There are plenty of places on this planet where one could easily live out their natural lives without contact with any other human beings.

    I don’t know how to even start on this.

    I think we’re confusing the two here with a fallacious argument by analogy or equivocation because of the ambiguity of the terms “pragmatist” and “principled”.

    I am a consequentialist (of a sort), as is any sane person. That’s what I meant by pragmatism. If someone has principles that lead to undesirable consequences which violate his real principles, then he’s being silly. That’s what consequentialism is.

    Now, there’s a separate conversion we’re having. Namely, libertarian says I don’t want to be taxed involuntarily. Other person says Then go live on a mountain. It’s unlikely you’ll be taxed there. Libertarian says But you still support the government who might tax me. Using ‘it’s unlikely’ as an excuse to commit violence on its own is not a justifiable excuse to commit violence. The libertarian is right. Similarly, imagine a person trying to justify shooting a gun into the air in a city with the defense “well, it’s unlikely that the bullets will hurt anyone”. On its own, that defense is ridiculous, and it’s completely equivalent to the defense that arrest or other violence is unlikely to happen if you live on a mountain somewhere. Rather, you have to make other arguments to show how the libertarian is wrong.

  35. Monocle Smile says

    But you still support the government who might tax me. Using ‘it’s unlikely’ as an excuse to commit violence on its own is not a justifiable excuse to commit violence. The libertarian is right

    Uh, whut? Exactly how many steps did you skip to get to that straw man?

    imagine a person trying to justify shooting a gun into the air in a city with the defense “well, it’s unlikely that the bullets will hurt anyone”

    How about we actually run those numbers? Please, EL. Pretending that either the actual numbers or the consequences of those situations are even remotely comparable is beyond laughable. In fact, it’s dishonest.

    The “go live on a mountain” is usually just a bit of snark to properly respond to the stupidity of libertarianism. Of course, another answer would be “go live somewhere where they don’t collect taxes.” And unless you’re actually a wage slave, the “feasibility” of doing this is irrelevant because you don’t get to have your cake and eat it, too.

    Rather, you have to make other arguments to show how the libertarian is wrong

    No, you don’t. Stupid, immature arguments don’t need intelligent rebuttals. It’s nice to have them, but that’s another story. C’mon, this isn’t hard.

  36. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @Monocle Smile

    No, you don’t. Stupid, immature arguments don’t need intelligent rebuttals. It’s nice to have them, but that’s another story. C’mon, this isn’t hard.

    I’m sorry. I thought we were having a serious conversation. Allow me to change modes.

    Neener neener neener!

  37. Monocle Smile says

    @EL

    You misunderstand. I was referring to libertarian arguments being stupid and immature, not yours. Furthermore, some of the arguments you seek have already been laid out in this very thread.

  38. Robert, not Bob says

    Chan Kobun, @34, the answer is clearly “the freedom to do whatever I want to whomever I want”. Rather like a currently popular interpretation of “religious liberty”.

  39. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    In the interests of honset and good conversation, let me do a quick recap w.r.t. Monocle Smile.

    I agree that when practicing civil disobedience, you resist nonviolently, and you accept what punishment comes from the authorities.

    I agree the Whiskey Rebellion was not an example of civil disobedience. Bad example.

    We have so little social mobility, and it is dishonest for the hosts to imply that we actually have it

    No, it’s not. The discussion was about principles, not pragmatism. In fact, part of the reason libertarians piss me off is that they make me defend shit like this. Also, the caller was most definitely not talking about “wage slavery.” He was just pissed off about paying taxes. That call was far, far simpler than you make it out to be.

    I don’t want to get hung up on the definition of “wage slavery”. The caller made some good points, and some exceedingly idiotic points. At times, he might as well have been channelling Thoreau; he said that he didn’t want to pay taxes because of numerous government programs which he disagreed with, such as unjust foreign wars, the “war on drugs”, etc.

    Regardless of what points the caller was making, IIRC the hosts did argue that we have lots of social mobility, or rested on that implicit assumption, such as when they argued that he could just move, and in the context of calls like this, that’s wrong.

    I’m pretty sure that’s still illegal. Every place is owned, or public land like public parks. I’d wager that living on public park land for extended periods of time is generally illegal. It’s squatting or something. Maybe the police won’t bother you, but they could and might.

    Remember what you said about principles and pragmatism (on which I most definitely agree with you; I was merely providing a reason for the hosts)? Can’t let you slide on this one. There are plenty of places on this planet where one could easily live out their natural lives without contact with any other human beings.

    Again, this seems to be a simple fallacious argument by metaphor. I see nothing wrong simultaneously arguing that 1- it’s wrong to argue that people have enough money and power and social mobility to be easily able to move to another country, and 2- it’s wrong to argue that people can move to a mountain to avoid government interference; the libertarian is arguing that this particular form of violence is unjust, and just like my “firing a gun into the air in a city” example cannot be justified merely on account of how rare it is, neither can this. You need other justifications (of which there are plenty).

    MS called me dishonest for this argument. I fail to see why. I’m noting that taking certain action which can cause seemingly unjustified violence is never be justified merely because it’s exceedingly rare or unlikely. This is true whether you argue it’s super rare, a little rare, merely uncommon, etc. The problem is the form of the argument; whatever numbers you plug in are irrelevant. For example, arguing that some negative result is rare often is a component is a good argument when combined with assertions of other positive outcomes which outweigh the negative. However, when just a negative is on the table, you can reduce the negative as much as you want, but it’s still a negative, and with only a negative on the table, the argument is simple to call.

    PS: I was the president of my school’s debate team. King pedantics is here.

  40. Monocle Smile says

    IIRC the hosts did argue that we have lots of social mobility, or rested on that implicit assumption, such as when they argued that he could just move

    I actually don’t think this has anything to do with social mobility. If I try to cross the Canadian border with nothing but a pair of boxers, US employees will not stop me. That the Canadians might be slightly less accommodating is not the fault of the US and is thus irrelevant to the argument. If there were Marines with guns lining the US border with guns pointed inward, then the caller might have a point.

    This is true whether you argue it’s super rare, a little rare, merely uncommon, etc. The problem is the form of the argument; whatever numbers you plug in are irrelevant

    IMO, this is a textbook example of principles over pragmatism, which you just lambasted above.
    Furthermore, you’re conflating probabilities. When you fire a gun into the air in the city, the bullet is going to come down somewhere. When you go off into the woods in a scarcely populated area to live off the land, you don’t actually know if anyone is even attempting to look for you, let alone find you. This is akin to merely raising a gun in the air.

    PS: I was the president of my school’s debate team. King pedantics is here.

    In this case, the discussion is likely over, because I can’t find half a shit to give. I utterly despise pedantry with precious few exceptions. This is not one of them.

    @Martin Vest
    If that imgur link is the extent of your objection, then a bit of wet flatulence should suffice as an adequate rebuttal.

  41. Rick Pikul says

    @friendly1:

    Even if you have the rights to cross some amount of someone else’s land, it is still possible for that right of way to be included within the enclosure. You are using the classic “magic market forces would stop it from happening,” bit, with the usual assumption that a reputation for being ruthless is a negative in business[1].

    As for doubly distributed harms, the big example is pollution. You have a large number of people each causing a tiny amount of harm to everyone else. Governments can mitigate this through regulation while anarchist systems have the problems of individual rationality being contrary to group rationality and an inability to deal with the free rider problem.

    [1] People have been very willing to deal with those who do far worse. In fact, at times there were unwilling to go to the competition because of a fear of becoming the next example.

  42. says

    I think a crucial factor of civil disobedience has not been referenced in this discussion.

    A wise civil disobedient understands that while his act carries a profound weight of principle for himself, it’s strategically innocuous on its own, and that the true power of civil disobedience lies in its ability to raise awareness and drum up public support amongst those who may share the same principle.

    A civil disobedient like MLK understands the risk: he knows he may break a law by refusing to abide by one he feels is unjust, he knows he may evoke the ire of local law enforcement, he knows that even state or federal law may not be overly sympathetic to his cause and there may not yet excise precedence that will help him. And he knows that he will certainly fire up the will of enemies and opponents who wish to counter him and even bring violence upon him.

    I won’t go as far as pedanter and characterize all acts of civil disobedience as “initiating violence”, since I believe violence implies a very specific thing. But I think it’s been mentioned that any act of civil disobedience carries risk.

    And let’s be honest: this risk is weighed heavily against the overriding principle that guided the person to act, and the confidence in its moral fortitude.

    MLK understood that one may have laws opposing you, law enforcement oppressing you, the courts out of your favor, the system itself cold and uninterested in protecting you……but there’s another court: the court of public opinion, and I can cite you dozens of real-world cases and scenarios where publicly expressed support influenced the eventual acquiescence of law and law enforcement to a civil disobedient. And I’m not talking about large and obvious historical movements like civil rights, gay marriage equality etc, all fine examples in their own right; but even simple, smaller-scale incidences where a disobedient weighed the risks smartly and then proved, through his action, that the people largely agreed.

    In short……my message to tax opponents/evaders. Get the people on your side. You’re doing a bang-up job this far, and acting like a greedy pissant who wants to share in the benefits of a stable society without paying their fair share really harms your cause.

    In shorter short: your arguments for the moral fortitude of your principle largely fail. And that’s why they’re not that popular.

  43. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    IMO, this is a textbook example of principles over pragmatism,

    I can be against pretending that everyone has such great social mobility and wealth to allow for easily moving to another country, while also being against defending violence solely on the ground that the violence will be rare. There is no contradiction here. You are the one who introduced the labels “pragmatic” and “principled” into this discussion which created this contradiction. I find your use of those labels to be overly limiting. You are introducing a false dichotomy by introducing those terms, creating a seeming contradiction where there is none.

    In this case, the discussion is likely over, because I can’t find half a shit to give. I utterly despise pedantry with precious few exceptions. This is not one of them.

    Pedantry is important. Being needlessly pedantic is a flaw, but if the opponent is too ambiguous and vague, then I have to be pedantic to make clear points.

    Your concern is noted.

  44. AhmNee says

    This is really a small point and doesn’t really change the conversation. I bring it up as a point of curiosity.

    I remember reading some years back that there are still stretches in Alaska that are eligible to be homesteaded under the homestead act. They’re likely some pretty inhospitable tracts of land but they exist. The wiki on it is vague, while it talks about the end of homesteading, it does mention Alaska is an exception and that the last person to get a land deed was in 1988, it doesn’t say that land in Alaska is no longer eligible.

  45. petrander says

    @EnlightenmentLiberal

    I’ve your gonna get all personal and in my face about this and go “petrander says this” “petrander says that” and project all kinds of evil onto me, you are completely overreacting. I am not interested in being subject to this kind of abuse if you cannot be reasonable and try to understand my actual point of view. You may’ve got some serious issues here, but I am not your evil daddy.

  46. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    @petrander
    I have no time nor respect for someone who says that there is no such thing as non-violent civil disobedience. Retract your remarks, apologize, and we can move on. Otherwise I have nothing more to say due to your insistence of using terms in a manner which I do not recognize. In my view of the world, it is incoherent to say that MLK Jr initiated violence by staging non-violent sit-ins, or that Rosa Parks initiated violence by refusing to give up her seat.

  47. EnlightenmentLiberal says

    Meh, I should have put this in the earlier post. Sorry.

    @petrander
    You seem to adopt the non-aggression principle as sacrosanct. Do you? I have to assume yes given the past discussion, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    Was it initiating violence for individuals in Nazi Germany to otherwise seemingly peacefully resist ala civil disobedience? I really hope you don’t reply “yes” to both. That leaves me with the likely answer that it was not initiating violence to do civil disobedience in Nazi Germany, but it is initiating violence to do civil disobedience in the modern US. If I’m right thus far, it means that you consider it violence if you disagree with the policy, but it’s not violence if you agree. That’s a preposterous understanding of violence.

    Again, I please welcome you to answer the following three questions to clarify your position. 1- Is it violence to do civil disobedience which is otherwise seemingly peaceful non-violent in Nazi Germany? 2- And in the modern US? 3- Do you support an inviolable non-aggression principle?

  48. says

    Adam Lee was deconstructing a piece of Atlas Shrugged II and had this to say: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2014/10/atlas-shrugged-violence-vouchers/

    The libertarian/Objectivist view, including Rand’s view, is that they believe no one has the right to initiate force against anyone else. In their conception, all other rights flow from that, including the inviolable right to own property and to engage in commerce without restriction.

    But there’s a problem with this: libertarians do believe in initiation of force. It’s just that, in their philosophy, “initiation of force” is a term of art. They’ve defined it such that some unprovoked aggressive acts don’t “count” as initiating force, even though they should count by any plain meaning of the term, and such that some entirely peaceful acts are treated as if they were violent.

    For example, if I own a piece of land, I can fence it off and do nothing with it indefinitely, if I so choose. But now suppose someone climbs over the fence and plants a garden there. By the libertarian conception, that act constitutes an “initiation of force” against me, even if he’s made no threats and committed no violence, and I could summon the police to pepper-spray him and drag him away.

    Patent rights are another excellent example, because they’re arguably even more intrusive. The principle of patents is that someone can own an idea. If I come up with a brilliant, novel idea for a useful product, but it turns out someone else has already had that idea, they can use the coercive force of the state to stop me from producing or selling it – even if I can prove that mine was an independent reinvention not derived from their work. This can happen even if I’m the first to come up with the idea, but I’m not the first to file at the patent office. If I try to make a profit from my idea, such as by peacefully building a plant to manufacture it, the patent holder can send “men with guns” to show up at my door and stop me. How can anyone but the patent holder be judged guilty of initiating force in that scenario?

    I’m not arguing that private property or patents should be abolished; I think that, all things considered, a world with private property is better than one without. What I am arguing is that no one can claim to have “clean hands” when it comes to the use of force. Except for advocates (if there are any) of the grab-what-you-can world, everyone believes in coercion under some circumstances, libertarians included. The only question is what you believe the acceptable circumstances are.

  49. corwyn says

    @55:

    It is certainly not the case that all Libertarians are Objectivists. They would disagree with the sentiments ascribed above.

  50. Narf says

    I guess, to some degree, it depends whether you’re talking about the political party or the ideology. That’s one of the problems with adopting something that’s barely more than an ideological/philosophical modifier as your organization’s label. Some of the people in the organization are just hardcore political conservatives who want to smoke pot.

    Hell, I’ve seen some candidates running on the Libertarian ticket who are at least as socially regressive as their Tea Party opponent. When you have someone so controlling and in favor of government oversight of every detail of our lives, what is the term supposed to mean, within the context of the political party?

  51. johnwolforth says

    Adding my upvote for the take down of the Libertarian. He’s free to leave, but as he blurted out at one point, “but there’s governments everywhere!” RIght, any place you’d want to live anyway. There are some lawless places within countries, but you know you won’t survive, or there are a few deserted islands, but good luck finding someone who will voluntarily enter into a contract with you to bring you clean water. And how do you enter into a contract somewhere there is no legal structure of enforcing contracts anyway? Oh right, private armies, another thing you tried to say over Matt speaking. Brilliant.

  52. Gines Velazquez says

    I know there are some anarchist towns in Spain and anarchist experience with eco-aldeas around the world. I don´t know how they deal with the national government, but i think they are small village and internally they use an anarchist system but they have some people connected to solve the external legal problems.

  53. Narf says

    @Gines
    How small are these villages?

    Any system of government will work with up to about 500 people or so, even anarcho-capitalism or pure communism.  If you’re still small enough that each person knows around half of the other people in the society, the population self-polices itself.  A government is just superfluous, at that scale.

  54. Gines Velazquez says

    exactly, i think there are really little towns so the can still have meetings to make votes hand votes