Comments

  1. says

    No, pooling the money for the common good is socialism. Pooling it and giving it to me is the American Way™.

  2. consciousness razor says

    So did it work? It would probably be okay for $RandPaul to extend his defeat of socialism to a more modest two or three nights.

  3. says

    Isn’t defeating socialism something that the government is supposed to do? We pay our taxes, each according to our ability (except for those of us who can avoid them) and the government has a program for defeating socialism.

  4. says

    There’s a pretty big difference between being compelled (ultimately by violence) to surrender a portion of your income and handing over a portion as a donation to someone. There is an even bigger distance between both and the working class seizing (violently if need be) the means of production. but HHAHAHAHAHAHAhark

    I get why people find this funny but it is such dumb low hanging fruit.

  5. consciousness razor says

    Mike Smith:

    There’s a pretty big difference between being compelled (ultimately by violence) to surrender a portion of your income and handing over a portion as a donation to someone

    Then what is the pretty big difference between taxation and donation? Is it that the former is morally wrong and the latter isn’t? And if that’s not what the pretty big difference is, then what’s the fuss about?

  6. says

    @consciousness razor

    denotations are voluntary; taxation isn’t. One is expression of a moral personhood, the other is civic duty incurred.

    This is sort of the liberal version of a republican cracking his doesn’t want his insurance to pay for sick people.

  7. says

    And moreover, the type of social welfarism that gets labelled “socialism” in the states is not actual socialism and this sort of pooling resources is utterly different than the working class seizing the means of of production.

    It is just stupid joke attacking a straw man.

  8. consciousness razor says

    denotations are voluntary; taxation isn’t. One is expression of a moral personhood, the other is civic duty incurred.

    So what?
    What’s “a moral personhood” and what’s “civic duty”?
    If this is all such dumb low-hanging fruit, you should have an easy time with this. But you still haven’t explained how any of it’s relevant, and now there are also undefined terms flying about.

    It is just stupid joke attacking a straw man.

    Back up a minute…. Are you saying that $RandPaul is totally okay with the sort of “not actual socialism” which gets branded as socialism in the US? That doesn’t sound right. I thought we were supposed to be attacking what $RandPaul and his glibertarian buddies take to be socialism, not what you take to be socialism.

    I have been assuming that you’re not $RandPaul and that your views aren’t the focus of attention right now, but correct me if I’m wrong about any of that.

  9. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    WMDKitty, Great minds, and all. Here’s what Oliver Wendell Holmes had to say along the same lines:
    “I like to pay taxes. With them, I buy civilization.”

    Living in a civilized society is a voluntary act, just as going to a movie is a voluntary act. Not paying the agreed upon price in either is theft.

  10. unclefrogy says

    Taxes are the subscription fee you pay for living in a halfway civilized society. Pay up or get the fuck out.

    no one is forcing anyone to stay.
    same can be said with regards to the money that is made in this civilized and mostly orderly country. the profits that are made are the result of the relatively stable and civilized market that taxes enable in this republic.
    uncle frogy

  11. lochaber says

    ooh! ooh! let me guess, next comes:

    Taxation is slavery, help! I’m being oppressed!

  12. thirdmill301 says

    KG, I think Mike Smith’s point is that there’s a difference between paying for things that you want to pay for versus being forced to pay for stuff you don’t. And while that’s true, its also something almost no one here cares about. It’s an example of why people on different sides of an issue mostly talk past each other; since they start from different foundational premises, it’s really hard to agree on anything after that.

    It’s like someone coming here and calling abortion baby killing. Well, we all agree that killing babies isn’t a good thing; where we disagree with that person is whether abortion is actually killing a baby. It’s the premise, not the conclusion, that’s at issue.

  13. chigau (違う) says

    or
    Mike Smith was trolling and consciousness razor was bored and decided to take the bait.

  14. says

    @consciousness razor

    Because taxes are not voluntary they have to be justifiable to all reasonable situated persons. Donations have to be only justified to the person making them. I am not arguing that taxes, in general, are wrong. Because obviously they are not*. I am not a libertarian. It is just dumb to conflate taxation with donations. It is like conflating boxing and assault, because both involve punching people in the face. What people should be willing to give money to is far large set of things than the things people should be forced to pay for. If you don’t think the application of state sanctioned violence requires higher justification than people acting at liberty we are at an impasse.

    *The crux of the matter is the extent of which taxation and services are justified. The Rand Pauls of the world do not believe the state should be involved in say healthcare. It is simply not becoming “socialist” if they organize to prevent the state from being involved in healthcare. As for what type of socialism Paul is referring; I don’t actually know. I have seen the right attacking AOC as a control the means of production socialist for quite sometime and Paul does use the term in that way. Without knowing the full context I can’t be sure if he meant social welfarism or you know socialism (or both). In any case it is not identical to private individuals pooling resources as state sanctioned violence is not part of the equation.

    And for the record it is really super easy to generate examples of both taxation and donations that are immoral. For donations oh I don’t know giving money to the KKK. And for taxation requiring people to pay 3k to vote (yes, yes, I know that is illegal. It wasn’t at one point).

    My point is the application of force, which is what taxation boils down to, renders what is acceptable far more limited than freely exchanging money. And yes people should care about that.

    Just because I think boxing should be legal does not mean I think MMA should be, much less assault.

  15. allonym says

    @Mike Smith

    You appear to accept the framing that enforcement of the law in a democratic republic is equivalent to state-sanctioned violence. If you’re not a libertarian, you sure do quack like one!

  16. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    Mike Smith: “Because taxes are not voluntary they have to be justifiable to all reasonable situated persons.”
    Uh, no. Pacifists are not excused from paying taxes that go to fund defense. Seventh Day Adventist tax dollars still go toward medical research. Creationists and Flat-Earthers fund the science that proves them wrong. Civilization is Prix Fixe, not a la carte.

  17. thirdmill301 says

    allonym, No. 24, I am more in agreement with you than with Mike Smith, but you’ve just made a very dangerous argument. Are you saying that law enforcement in a democratic republic can never be equivalent to state-sanctioned violence? Because I can think of lots of examples of American law enforcement that sure look like state sanctioned violence. So on that point, it seems to me that you and Mike Smith are quibbling about where that line is to be drawn, rather than whether it exists.

  18. consciousness razor says

    What people should be willing to give money to is far large set of things than the things people should be forced to pay for. If you don’t think the application of state sanctioned violence requires higher justification than people acting at liberty we are at an impasse.

    I think you’re conflating two different things here: whether we should do something and the amount of justification required for it. Analogously, we can distinguish between the truth of certain claims (for example, that climate change is real) and the type/amount of evidence required to make that determination (such as the vast amount of data and analysis needed to do climate science properly). The fact that so much detailed and careful scientific study is needed, in order to justify the claim that climate change is real, does not in any way jeopardize the truth of that claim or the validity of the reasoning used to reach that conclusion. In short, being difficult (or more difficult, or something not everyone understands or accepts) does not imply that it’s wrong.
    I think taxation is something we should do for ourselves, that it requires more justification than a wide variety of other things we could do, and that it satisfies those requirements.
    Should we donate to a political figure who makes bullshit promises to defeat socialism? No, we shouldn’t do that. Donors may believe they’re doing something good, but they’re not. They may believe they have adequate justification, but they don’t.
    So if I were asking myself about how fair this comparison is, that’s what I would say: taxes are getting an awfully bad rap, and donations to that bullshitter are granted much more legitimacy than is warranted.
    You may be right that one set is far larger than the other. So maybe you should think that taxation is in a small set. Fine, but I have no idea why that would matter. There’s also no reason to believe that donating to defeat socialism is one of the things that “people should be willing to give money to.” Like I said, that’s not something they should be doing, and doing it voluntarily does not make it any better.

    And for the record it is really super easy to generate examples of both taxation and donations that are immoral. For donations oh I don’t know giving money to the KKK.

    So you do seem to understand what I just said above…. Then the implication is that you think this is not like donating to the KKK, in the sense that donating to defeat socialism is acceptable. What gave you that idea?

  19. says

    @Mike Smith:

    Because taxes are not voluntary they have to be justifiable to all reasonable situated persons.

    Ummmm… no.

    But on the other hand, they are already justifiable to all reasonable persons1. After all, if one single person, anywhere on the planet, finds a tax justified then empirically we know for a fact that the tax is justifiable. And since you can’t get a tax passed without someone, somewhere thinking it is justified, all taxes in the world are by definition justifiable. Of course, the corollary to this is that all people who don’t find taxes “justifiable” are by definition unreasonable. You’re not unreasonable, are you? Just checking.

    We could, of course, go further and ask whether or not the tax is justified to all reasonable persons, but that would require not only a hell of a lot more work, but actual proficiency with language and the ability to discern the difference between justifiable and justified. It also raises the problem that people have different values. In a world where some reasonable people think an action isn’t justifiable unless it comports with utilitarian ethics and other reasonable people believe utilitarian ethics are crap because there’s no objective, quantitative measure of “The Good”, there will always be some reasonable person who believes a tax is not justified. If enacting taxation requires that all reasonable people agree that a tax is justified, then no tax may ever be enacted.

    This individual veto is most amazingly and reliably unhelpful, whether one assumes that you’ve incompetently proposed a “justifiability” test which automatically approves all taxes or whether one assumes you’ve erroneously substituted justifiability when incompetently proposing a “justified” test which automatically disapproves all taxes. It’s almost as if you don’t even understand the arguments you’re attempting to make. Not that I would ever suggest that persons read you in that light of course. There’s no reason for me to imply, even obliquely, that you have simply read or heard anti-taxation arguments that appealed to the ends you’d prefer and then attempted to recreate them because you like the ends, not because you for one second understood the arguments, thought them through, tested their evidence, examined the validity of their reasoning, questioned whether or not they have limited applicability to idealized scenarios, and ultimately found them convincing. I would never hint that you haven’t done your intellectual homework and are giving off far too many clues that you may not even have the ability to complete that homework. That would be gauche.

    *1: I’m being kind and not grilling you over your incoherent use of the word “situated”. It’s a word which you obviously don’t understand, as every person is a “situated person”. I won’t say how it appears that you’re typing uncommon, multi-syllabic words that you clearly don’t even know how to use in order to make yourself sound more intelligent and informed on this topic than your conversation partners. I’ll leave it to others to make that judgement. I promise, I won’t even suggest how blustering and foolish others should see you. I won’t make intimations that there’s a quote from A Fish Called Wanda that might be applicable in your case. Nothing at all. Mums the word. I’ll hold my tongue as securely as you should have done when you were considering the use of “situated”.

  20. consciousness razor says

    CD, #28:

    After all, if one single person, anywhere on the planet, finds a tax justified then empirically we know for a fact that the tax is justifiable.

    This is very confusing. You can google “flat earth” and get empirical evidence of a person who “finds”[1] that a flat earth theory is justified. Yet that does not make it so.
    Asking for justification is a request for sufficient reason/evidence which supports a belief, argues in favor of an action, or something to that effect. It’s not a request for a person (one holding that belief or one acting that way). And we don’t need to be committed to a claim that “people are infallible” or something along those lines, so you do not know that there is sufficient reason/evidence, merely on the basis that there is a person who believes that.[2]

    If enacting taxation requires that all reasonable people agree that a tax is justified, then no tax may ever be enacted.

    This depends on the problematic way you characterized justification. The way I did it wasn’t smuggling in a requirement that “all reasonable people agree.” In order to be justified, it only has to be appropriately and sufficiently supported by reason/evidence, no matter how many so-called “reasonable people” agree with it.
    Again, it’s a request for good reasons, not for a person (or some number of people) with a particular belief. That would not cut it, even if it were the case that every person (or every “reasonable person”) happened to have that belief.

    [1] That’s a loaded term. It wouldn’t be found if there were nothing to find. We can be more neutral and say they “believe” it’s true, without circularity.
    [2] If that’s how you want to use the term, it’s out of my hands, but that defeats the purpose as far as I’m concerned. So I’m not using it that way.

  21. says

    @cr:

    First, I’m responding to Mike Smith, who uses incredibly sloppy writing and thinking. The point of my post was to make that sloppy writing and thinking visible so that, if Mike Smith actually cared, a new version of Mike Smith’s argument might be presented that is at least precise enough to defend or attack. The current version is simply incoherent.

    Second, “unjustifiable” can have more than one meaning, but clearly if any one single reasonable person ever found a claim “justified” then others would have to agree that the claim is “capable of being justified” because we know of a single instance in which it was justified. If it was literally unjustifiable, then you would never be able to find even a single instance of it being justified, to anyone, anywhere, at any time.

    If you make the claim, “the idea that the earth if flat is entirely unjustifiable in the face of our understanding of gravitation, our satellite pictures, and even just the measurements of Eratosthenes”, then you are literally asserting that, absent these three things, the claim of a flat earth is justifiable. If you’re ignorant of enough things, a flat earth model could be justified to you.

    There is no tax that was not “justified” to someone, somewhere. That’s how taxes work. They’re not facts about the universe that are inevitably true as a result of the operation of physical laws. They’re implementations of human beings who chose to create them. It is literally impossible that there exists a tax that wasn’t “justified” to someone, somewhere. And if you find one person who justified that tax, even simply to themself, then the tax must have met the literal definition “capable of being justified” that describes what people mean when they say something is “justifiable”. No government can ever produce or enforce a tax without at least one person deciding that the tax is justifiable.

    We might very neutrally, very objectively assert that, “If you start with value system A, that tax is literally unjustifiable.” We might very neutrally, very objectively then go on to assess whether or not certain taxes are justifiable or not justifiable under that system. But the problem is that not everyone starts with the same value system. We also have the problem that not everyone starts with the same information. So even two random people who largely share the same value system might come to different conclusions as to whether or not a tax is “justified” based on the information that they have on hand.

    The truth is that “unjustifiable” and “justifiable” only appear to have different definitions between my use of “in/capable of being justified” and your use (and, I would argue, most uses which are functionally equivalent to your use). What is in fact the case is that most often when someone says, “X is un/justifiable,” the speaker is asserting “Given α and β, X is unjustifiable.” These statements are typically statements of conditional un/justifiability rather than absolute un/justifiability.

    Mike Smith, however, isn’t a sufficiently thoughtful commenter to spell out the premises of the argument. The only premise that we have is that taxation is not voluntary in the same way that donations are voluntary. Nothing else is given, and the fact that donations are different from remitted taxes is an entirely insufficient premise to make any tax – any tax the world has ever known – unjustifiable to all “reasonable people” at all times in all places with all levels of information. It’s simply not possible to find a tax that actually came into being that did not have at least one proponent who thought it justified.

    And all this, again, is to explain my objection to Mike Smith. You, on the other hand, say,

    I … wasn’t smuggling in a requirement that “all reasonable people agree.”

    Okay, sure. But Mike Smith was. Mike Smith’s literal statement, which was the actual writing to which I responded, said:

    Because taxes are not voluntary they have to be justifiable to all reasonable situated persons.

    That is indeed a requirement that all reasonable people agree. And that’s why I wrote my response. Not what you said. What Mike Smith said.

    You say:

    In order to be justified, it only has to be appropriately and sufficiently supported by reason/evidence, no matter how many so-called “reasonable people” agree with it.
    Again, it’s a request for good reasons, not for a person (or some number of people) with a particular belief.

    And I agree. But Mike Smith begs to differ with both of us. And Mike Smith is wrong.

  22. allonym says

    @thirdmill301

    Point taken. Allow me to rephrase: that enforcement of tax law through levying of fines and possible (though unlikely) imprisonment is equivalent to state-sanctioned violence is a very libertarian/anarcho-capitalist idea.

    And by enforcement, I am really referring to the legal concept rather than practical enforcement as carried out by police (which I agree is too often incredibly violent, and not really what libertarians mean when they make this argument).

  23. consciousness razor says

    If you make the claim, “the idea that the earth if flat is entirely unjustifiable in the face of our understanding of gravitation, our satellite pictures, and even just the measurements of Eratosthenes”, then you are literally asserting that, absent these three things, the claim of a flat earth is justifiable.

    No. a claim that the Earth is flat would be justified by sufficient evidence and reason. That is not an absence. It’s not a default state which you get by taking away evidence for something else. Like usual, it may take some actual work to get evidence. If that is done and it’s sufficient to do the job, then that claim is justified.
    If other claims (that the world is round) aren’t justified yet, because people haven’t yet understood gravity, haven’t taken satellite photos, haven’t made the observations attributed to Eratosthenes, etc. — the epistemic circumstances for a person several thousand years ago, let’s say — then it is not the case that such a person has justified the claim that the Earth is flat. That would require some work, which they haven’t done. This isn’t granted for free, and it doesn’t come by virtue of the fact that an alternative claim is (also) unjustified.

    If you’re ignorant of enough things, a flat earth model could be justified to you.

    Just a very silly thing to say. Ignorance does not do that. It’s not magic.

    There is no tax that was not “justified” to someone, somewhere. That’s how taxes work.

    Taxes work like this: a government collects some of your money.
    It isn’t logically necessary that an adequate moral or epistemic justification is provided by someone, somewhere. And if you paid any attention to the historical record (or what happens now around the world), that isn’t generally what happens. But it definitely would be a slightly nicer world to live in if that were true. It’s just not actually that nice.

    They’re not facts about the universe that are inevitably true as a result of the operation of physical laws. They’re implementations of human beings who chose to create them.

    Well, that’s a weird thing to say. They are in fact the result of physical laws.
    Human beings (physical objects) do institute them (physically). And you know what? People don’t always provide a moral or epistemic justification for the things they think and do. Since I only need one counterexample, I will just mention Donald Trump, because he’s an easy fucking target if there ever was one. But of course it’s a much more general feature of human behavior.

    These statements are typically statements of conditional un/justifiability rather than absolute un/justifiability.

    I don’t know where the “absolute” stuff came in, but I was saying empirical evidence can/should be used. So that’s conditional, no?

  24. says

    I have been accused of being a libertarian because I forwarded a conception of the state-that law is enforced by violence-that is has been a common conception among liberal theorists for centuries. It dates back at least to the proto-liberal Hobbes. (liberty depends upon the silence of the law). Moreover, it is a conception that leftwing anarchists share; it is one of the reasons why they are anarchists. We can haggle over the conception if you wish (I don’t) but yeah the conception isn’t libertarian specific. And I actually did mean the police enforcing the law violently. Go continually disobey the police and see how long it takes for them to bash your head in.

    Meanwhile, Crip Dyke swooped in to lecture me about admittedly some inartful phrasing I used but somehow missed I never said taxation is wrong or for the matter did I ever make any anti-tax arguments at all. Saying taxation needs to be be justifIED to all reasonable and properly situated (i.e. have the the relevant knowledge, acting in good faith, thoughtful) persons does not mean I find taxation wrong. (And yes Crip I realize that this phrasing substantially changes what I am saying.) This notion that ” If enacting taxation requires that all reasonable people agree that a tax is justified, then no tax may ever be enacted” simply doesn’t follow generally. (It may follow for a specific tax but I don’t think it can follow for the general principle of taxation.) A flesh and blood person objecting to taxation in general, and in all forms, is prima facie evidence that person is unreasonable. We can haggle about how to tell when a person is reasonable and properly situated if we wish (I don’t) but the requirement that law be justIED to all such persons does not render individual veto as any individual can be unreasonable. (or not properly situated).

    Also fun fact Crip: My notion of laws needing to be justifIED to reasonable persons…doesn’t come from any anti-tax arguments. It comes from Rawls, the most important egalitarian liberal theorist in history. To be fair I didn’t formulate it as precisely or as artfully as he did but here: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/rawls/#LegLibPriLeg

    If you want to argue Rawls was libertarian or his underlying principles means the state cannot do stuff fine have fun.

    This feels unnecessarily aggressive but par for the course of the commentators here.

    Regardless, the conversation about how taxation is justified (or not!) has fuckall to do with my initial point. Rand Paul is a jerk but he is not contra the twitter response a hypocrite*. He can be wrong about this but he sees, and I see, a difference worth noting between voluntary private action and enforced collective state action. It is a flaccid charge of hypocrisy to conflate the two even if you find both in general (as I do) justifiable and sometimes even justified.

    *a smarter charge of hypocrisy would be to point out when Paul has voted for things like highways, or (I think) business subsidies.

  25. says

    @Mike Smith:

    I might have no problem with your ultimate point. Rather the essence of my problem was your “in-artful phrasing”. The careless way in which you’d written made your surface meaning into either

    1) Each tax must be justifiable to all persons, which would be true for all taxes that actually are enacted since someone during the political process (even if it’s just a single, monarchic ruler) must have felt the tax justified. If one person felt the tax justified, then it must be possible for the tax justified. Any reasonable person would concede that anything that happens once is obviously possible. Therefore any reasonable person would find the tax “justifiable”. Thus this test is useless.

    2) Each tax must be justified to all persons, and I don’t have to explain the problems with that. This test is useless, since if any one person in society declares a particular tax unjustified (and they’re being honest, which would be hard to test) then the tax is invalid.

    You say now that:

    I never said taxation is wrong or for the matter did I ever make any anti-tax arguments at all

    But I never said or implied you said that. I said you created a test that is unhelpful because it either allows all taxation that might be passed in the real world or forbids all taxation that might be passed in the real world. I wasn’t complaining about what you were saying. I was complaining that you were using words, but you were not saying anything.

    It drives me nuts when good people with reasonable positions write things so poorly that all the reasonable surface interpretations of what they’re saying lead to dead ends. If there are multiple interpretations and only one is reasonable, fine. I run with the reasonable one (unless someone has convinced me previously they are arguing in bad faith). If the obvious interpretation (#1 above) leads to absurdity, then your reader has to go looking for other meanings. When those turn out to be absurd as well, everyone’s time is wasted.

    My solution isn’t necessarily better: I write extremely long comments much more often than other people to try to be as precise as possible. But I feel secure that no one is being forced to read my comments and that I’m doing my best to make sure that for those who choose to read them, their time is not wasted. But, of course, there may be any number of people who never get anything out of my comments because their length is a barrier to reading them. In that case, a less precise but more pithy comment would have been worth more to those readers. Not knowing how many people I don’t reach, I can’t make my decisions based on some mathematical algorithm that tells me when to err on the side of long clarity and when to err on the side of brief ambiguity. So instead, I go with what works for me and against what annoys me.

    To your detriment, what annoys me are comments like yours that might productively add to the conversation if only the author had taken the time to think about what the words would communicate to someone not already familiar with the author’s goals and thought process. I even said as much in this thread:

    The point of my post was to make that sloppy writing and thinking visible so that, if Mike Smith actually cared, a new version of Mike Smith’s argument might be presented that is at least precise enough to defend or attack. The current version is simply incoherent.

    I’m glad you’re putting forth a more understandable version now. I still don’t think it’s clear exactly, but there’s enough there to be working with.

    As for that version and that vision of taxation, my own view differs from Rawls in some details, but not at the level of magnification given here. Which still differs from what you’ve written.

    In Rawls, regardless of his wording (which, again, I would quibble with because I don’t think he’s as clear as he should be), it is not that laws, including taxes, must be justified to “all reasonable [properly] situated persons”. Rather Rawls theorizes that the process by which laws, including laws providing for taxation, are enacted must be justified to all reasonable persons relevantly situated, and that when this is true, the laws will be rebuttably presumed to be justified yet still subject to later invalidation should they be found to have contravened the values, principles, and/or procedures previously set out as minimal conditions for valid law.

    My problems with Rawls come largely from a couple different things, but in this conversation only one is most relevant: Rawls tends to overestimate the usefulness and neutrality of the construction “reasonable persons”. While we might agree with him theoretically, in practice the disagreements of minorities (and sometimes, such as the case with women, population-majorities that are power-minorities) are too-frequently defined as unreasonable. We can agree that Rawls himself finds this tendency undesirable, but what I’ve read of the work doesn’t give us any way to navigate such a difficulty. In short, Rawls doesn’t seem to ever actually mean “all reasonable persons”. Rather, his work appears to use such phrases in a manner effectively synonymous with how the law uses “a reasonable person” – which is, in essence, a small number of judges, sometimes as few as one, examining evidence for or against a proposal, proposition, or controversy while exercising due diligence to set aside biases that society deems important to set aside, but never setting aside the greater life experience which is the very subject of Rawls’ veil of ignorance.

    In practice, Rawls’ ideas challenge us to be as fair as our flawed persons can be when given responsibility for constructing a social system, including (but not limited to) governments. This challenge is a decided positive for a society that takes it seriously. But the challenge nor anything else in the Rawls that I’ve read don’t prepare us for actually answering the hard questions that come before a community: not even the questions about which taxes to implement and which to vote down.

    Ultimately, I feel questions of justification are questions that a society must engage when creating a major social system or institution (such as a government), and that a representative governing body or executive actor must engage when acting on behalf of a population, but are not relevant to “all persons” (restricted to reasonable ones or not) when considering the acts, including the taxes, manifested by a legislature or executive official. When discussing “all reasonable persons” or “all reasonable and relevantly situated persons”, the more appropriate standard is acceptability, not justification. And even that standard is fraught because in practice you have some form of arbiter, in modern democracies typically a judge, deciding for others what is “acceptable” to them and attempting to split the hair between what might be “desirable” to that person and what that person must accept. While we have (and Rawls endorses) constitutional principles and provisions that help us decide when an act must be deemed “unacceptable”, the easy cases are quickly sorted and as time goes on we have more and more cases about which reasonable people disagree. Yet ultimately the system responsible for resolving such controversies must render some verdict that permits or rejects the government action.

    Can we ever get “all reasonable people” to agree? No. And if we set that as our standard, we must concede it to be aspirational or doom ourselves to a non-functional society.

  26. says

    Separately, and more pithily, I agree with your statement:

    the conversation about how taxation is justified (or not!) has fuckall to do with my initial point. Rand Paul is a jerk but he is not contra the twitter response a hypocrite

    We can all agree on the laws of arithmetic and order of operations, and it’s still possible that someone answers a question in a way that would have to violate those laws to be true. That rarely means the person is a hypocrite who believes that the laws of arithmetic should flip as convenient. Most often it simply means that the person answering got something wrong.

    In politics there is less agreement on the rules, but we nonetheless retain the capacity to be wrong without being hypocritical.

  27. consciousness razor says

    Mike Smith:

    He can be wrong about this but he sees, and I see, a difference worth noting between voluntary private action and enforced collective state action.

    But what is so noteworthy about it? He thinks he has some kind of argument that the latter is immoral because it’s involuntary, so long as one remains in the state where such collective action is enforced.

    It seems that nobody was confused about that distinction, nor were they under the impression that Paul himself doesn’t understand it. But there are reasons to think the argument doesn’t follow from its premises: it’s invalid. And there are reasons to think it’s bullshit: it’s dishonest. That is definitely some serious shit that is worth noting, isn’t it?
    When that’s the sort of thing we’re dealing with (a dishonest piece of crap), we don’t have to eat up all of the crap that glibertarians like Paul brought to the table. I think we can do better. So, yes, sure, they regard it as noteworthy (and so do you) … but so what? I asked it before and there’s still no clear answer. You’re not going to explain that by repeating again and again that you think it’s “a difference worth noting.”

  28. says

    Consciousness Razor

    Let me answer your question with a couple questions. Do you think people should be at liberty to worship god(s) as they see fit? Do you think the state should sanction a particular religion?

  29. John Morales says

    Mike Smith, let me answer your couple of questions with a couple questions. Do you think people should be at liberty to worship god(s) as they see fit, even if that worship necessitates weekly human sacrifices? Do you think the state should sanction a particular religion that mandates human sacrifice?

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