1277: "Ayn Random"

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Philip Thomas
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Philip Thomas » Tue Oct 22, 2013 5:07 pm UTC

Erm, theft is dishonestly appropriating someone else's property.

Dishonesty is a really important part of the definition, as you will find if you're ever trying to prosecute people for theft.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 22, 2013 6:51 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:Erm, theft is dishonestly appropriating someone else's property.

Dishonesty is a really important part of the definition, as you will find if you're ever trying to prosecute people for theft.
Is it? If you're paralyzed from the neck down, can't I just steal your wallet, right in front of you, without your permission -- and be completely honest about the fact that I'm doing it?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Philip Thomas » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:13 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:Erm, theft is dishonestly appropriating someone else's property.

Dishonesty is a really important part of the definition, as you will find if you're ever trying to prosecute people for theft.
Is it? If you're paralyzed from the neck down, can't I just steal your wallet, right in front of you, without your permission -- and be completely honest about the fact that I'm doing it?


Honesty doesn't just mean telling the truth. It also means not taking other people's property when you are not entitled to.

In legal terms the definition of dishonesty in regard to theft (and theft-related offences) is quite complex, but a key point is that if you genuinely believe you are legally entitled to appropriate someone's property in a particular way then it is not dishonest for you to appropriate it in that way. It may well lead to some civil liability if your belief is later found to be mistaken, however.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby addams » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:20 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:Erm, theft is dishonestly appropriating someone else's property.

Dishonesty is a really important part of the definition, as you will find if you're ever trying to prosecute people for theft.
Is it? If you're paralyzed from the neck down, can't I just steal your wallet, right in front of you, without your permission -- and be completely honest about the fact that I'm doing it?


Honesty doesn't just mean telling the truth. It also means not taking other people's property when you are not entitled to.

In legal terms the definition of dishonesty in regard to theft (and theft-related offences) is quite complex, but a key point is that if you genuinely believe you are legally entitled to appropriate someone's property in a particular way then it is not dishonest for you to appropriate it in that way. It may well lead to some civil liability if your belief is later found to be mistaken, however.

To steal from the helpless?
Who steals from the helpless?

Who is helpless?
If you get a groovy uniform and Back Up?

Well; If you have a groovy uniform.
If you have back up.

Then it is not theft. Then it is 'Your Job'
It is good to like Your Job.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:29 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:Honesty doesn't just mean telling the truth. It also means not taking other people's property when you are not entitled to.
That seems more like a personal philosophy than a genuine part of honesty's definition. If I were to look up 'honesty' in the dictionary, I sincerely doubt I'd see any mention of theft or refraining from theft.

I suspect if I looked up dishonesty in the dictionary, I might see the word 'theft' -- but this does not by necessity imply it is impossible to be honest about your theft.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Philip Thomas » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:33 pm UTC

addams wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:Erm, theft is dishonestly appropriating someone else's property.

Dishonesty is a really important part of the definition, as you will find if you're ever trying to prosecute people for theft.
Is it? If you're paralyzed from the neck down, can't I just steal your wallet, right in front of you, without your permission -- and be completely honest about the fact that I'm doing it?


Honesty doesn't just mean telling the truth. It also means not taking other people's property when you are not entitled to.

In legal terms the definition of dishonesty in regard to theft (and theft-related offences) is quite complex, but a key point is that if you genuinely believe you are legally entitled to appropriate someone's property in a particular way then it is not dishonest for you to appropriate it in that way. It may well lead to some civil liability if your belief is later found to be mistaken, however.

To steal from the helpless?

Is dishonest, yes.
Who steals from the helpless?

Many criminals- it is a lot easier.

Who is helpless?

Anyone who is without help...
If you get a groovy uniform and Back Up?

Then you're not helpless...
Well; If you have a groovy uniform.
If you have back up.

Then it is not theft. Then it is 'Your Job'
It is good to like Your Job.

The perks of Public Service. Now Noble. (sarcasm?)


I'm not sure what you're talking about. But if the 'back up'' takes the specific form of laws stating that you are entitled to take the property in question, then, indeed, taking it is not theft- even if you are taking it from the helpless. This doesn't just apply to public service- the law also protects people who provide goods or services in return for money and then take that money in certain ways (like withholding the goods until it is paid).

The Great Hippo wrote: I suspect if I looked up dishonesty in the dictionary, I might see the word 'theft' -- but this does not by necessity imply it is impossible to be honest about your theft.


Oh, yes you can be honest about your theft, just as you can be honest about lying (e.g:"Taxation is theft- that was a lie, by the way"). But it is as impossible to steal honestly as it is to lie honestly.

Another way of thinking about it, stealing involves a dishonest pretence that someone else's property is your own. The fact that you honestly admit that you are dishonestly pretending that someone else's property is your own makes little difference to the pretence- unless you give up the pretence and return the property.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:41 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:Another way of thinking about it, stealing involves a dishonest pretence that someone else's property is your own. The fact that you honestly admit that you are dishonestly pretending that someone else's property is your own makes little difference to the pretence- unless you give up the pretence and return the property.
What if I think the concept of property is silly and simply choose to disregard the idea of ownership altogether?

I'm not taking your wallet because I think I'm entitled to it; I'm taking your wallet because I don't acknowledge the idea that wallets 'belong' to people any more than 'air' or 'light' belong to people. They're merely used by people.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Philip Thomas » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:47 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:Another way of thinking about it, stealing involves a dishonest pretence that someone else's property is your own. The fact that you honestly admit that you are dishonestly pretending that someone else's property is your own makes little difference to the pretence- unless you give up the pretence and return the property.
What if I think the concept of property is silly and simply choose to disregard the idea of ownership altogether?

I'm not taking your wallet because I think I'm entitled to it; I'm taking your wallet because I don't acknowledge the idea that wallets 'belong' to people any more than 'air' or 'light' belong to people. They're merely used by people.


You're still committing theft though. You see, the word "legally" was important back in my earlier post. Since you don't (and please don't try to pretend you do) genuinely believe that you are legally entitled to take my wallet, taking my wallet would still be theft. It doesn't matter why you take my wallet if you don't have the justification of legal entitlement.

There are some quite entertaining UK court cases in which the judges explain this to professed communists etc etc- but I don't have the references for them.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:49 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:You're still committing theft though. You see, the word "legally" was important back in my earlier post. Since you don't (and please don't try to pretend you do) genuinely believe that you are legally entitled to take my wallet, taking my wallet would still be theft. It doesn't matter why you take my wallet if you don't have the justification of legal entitlement.

There are some quite entertaining UK court cases in which the judges explain this to professed communists etc etc- but I don't have the references for them.
Ah; you didn't imply you only meant to discuss honesty in terms of the legal definition, only that the legal definition of honesty/dishonesty was complex.

But, if that's the case, all I'm saying is that outside the dimensions of a legal definition, it is perfectly possible to honestly steal from someone.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Philip Thomas » Tue Oct 22, 2013 7:53 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:You're still committing theft though. You see, the word "legally" was important back in my earlier post. Since you don't (and please don't try to pretend you do) genuinely believe that you are legally entitled to take my wallet, taking my wallet would still be theft. It doesn't matter why you take my wallet if you don't have the justification of legal entitlement.

There are some quite entertaining UK court cases in which the judges explain this to professed communists etc etc- but I don't have the references for them.
Ah; you didn't imply you only meant to discuss honesty in terms of the legal definition, only that the legal definition of honesty/dishonesty was complex.

But, if that's the case, all I'm saying is that outside the dimensions of a legal definition, it is perfectly possible to honestly steal from someone.


All I'm saying is that "to honestly steal " is a contradiction in terms. If you are taking something honestly, you are not stealing it- and vice versa.

edit: "stealing" is a concept which depends on the concept of property, which is a legally defined concept. Outside the dimensions of a legal definition, "stealing" is meaningless.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:09 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:All I'm saying is that "to honestly steal " is a contradiction in terms. If you are taking something honestly, you are not stealing it- and vice versa.

edit: "stealing" is a concept which depends on the concept of property, which is a legally defined concept. Outside the dimensions of a legal definition, "stealing" is meaningless.
If I don't acknowledge the concept of property -- and I take your wallet from you -- from my perspective, I have not stolen anything from you (because stealing, to me, is a meaningless concept). From your perspective, I have stolen from you (because you assumedly do acknowledge the notion of property).

But from both our perspectives, no deception has occurred; we simply have a fundamental disagreement about the importance of ownership rights. You can describe this situation a lot of different ways -- but saying I'm not acting honestly because I refuse to acknowledge property seems... well, for lack of a better term, intellectually dishonest!

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Philip Thomas » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:35 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:All I'm saying is that "to honestly steal " is a contradiction in terms. If you are taking something honestly, you are not stealing it- and vice versa.

edit: "stealing" is a concept which depends on the concept of property, which is a legally defined concept. Outside the dimensions of a legal definition, "stealing" is meaningless.
If I don't acknowledge the concept of property -- and I take your wallet from you -- from my perspective, I have not stolen anything from you (because stealing, to me, is a meaningless concept). From your perspective, I have stolen from you (because you assumedly do acknowledge the notion of property).

But from both our perspectives, no deception has occurred; we simply have a fundamental disagreement about the importance of ownership rights. You can describe this situation a lot of different ways -- but saying I'm not acting honestly because I refuse to acknowledge property seems... well, for lack of a better term, intellectually dishonest!


If you don't acknowledge the concept of property, how exactly are you "taking" "my" wallet?
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby rmsgrey » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:39 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:All I'm saying is that "to honestly steal " is a contradiction in terms. If you are taking something honestly, you are not stealing it- and vice versa.

edit: "stealing" is a concept which depends on the concept of property, which is a legally defined concept. Outside the dimensions of a legal definition, "stealing" is meaningless.
If I don't acknowledge the concept of property -- and I take your wallet from you -- from my perspective, I have not stolen anything from you (because stealing, to me, is a meaningless concept). From your perspective, I have stolen from you (because you assumedly do acknowledge the notion of property).

But from both our perspectives, no deception has occurred; we simply have a fundamental disagreement about the importance of ownership rights. You can describe this situation a lot of different ways -- but saying I'm not acting honestly because I refuse to acknowledge property seems... well, for lack of a better term, intellectually dishonest!


What does it mean to take someone's wallet from them in the absence of a concept of property?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby The Great Hippo » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:46 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:If you don't acknowledge the concept of property, how exactly are you "taking" "my" wallet?
By reaching into your pocket and removing a wallet that happens to be there.
rmsgrey wrote:What does it mean to take someone's wallet from them in the absence of a concept of property?
Absolutely nothing.

But from the perspective of the 'owner' of the wallet, they have been the victim of theft; indeed, they've been the victim of an honest theft.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Philip Thomas » Tue Oct 22, 2013 8:56 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:If you don't acknowledge the concept of property, how exactly are you "taking" "my" wallet?
By reaching into your pocket and removing a wallet that happens to be there.
rmsgrey wrote:What does it mean to take someone's wallet from them in the absence of a concept of property?
Absolutely nothing.

But from the perspective of the 'owner' of the wallet, they have been the victim of theft; indeed, they've been the victim of an honest theft.


I find it somewhat unlikely that a person would reach into the clothing worn by another person and remove an item there for which they could have very little practical use, unless they were trying to provoke a test case about theft.

But, my scepticism aside, I guess my answer depends on whether the person taking the wallet is ignorant of the existence of "property" (a small child, perhaps) or knows of the concept of property and has chosen to ignore it. In the case of the small child, I would say there is no theft, objectively-precisely because no dishonesty.

In the case where the person knows about "property" and knows (or ought to know) that the person wearing the clothing with the wallet in it believes in property, then I would say there is objective dishonesty and theft. This is just like how not believing in "truth" doesn't stop someone from lying- for all that person might dress it up as "a fundamental disagreement about the nature of reality".
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:19 pm UTC

The Great Hippo wrote:If I don't acknowledge the concept of property -- and I take your wallet from you -- from my perspective, I have not stolen anything from you (because stealing, to me, is a meaningless concept). From your perspective, I have stolen from you (because you assumedly do acknowledge the notion of property).

But from both our perspectives, no deception has occurred; we simply have a fundamental disagreement about the importance of ownership rights. You can describe this situation a lot of different ways -- but saying I'm not acting honestly because I refuse to acknowledge property seems... well, for lack of a better term, intellectually dishonest!
Philip Thomas wrote:I find it somewhat unlikely that a person would reach into the clothing worn by another person and remove an item there for which they could have very little practical use, unless they were trying to provoke a test case about theft.
This is exactly the situation with regards to what is sometimes called piracy (of software, music, video).

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Quizatzhaderac » Tue Oct 22, 2013 10:14 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
The Great Hippo wrote:... If I don't acknowledge the concept of property -- and I take your wallet from you -- from my perspective, I have not stolen anything from you (because stealing, to me, is a meaningless concept).....


What does it mean to take someone's wallet from them in the absence of a concept of property?
Hippo takes the wallet in your (Rmsgrey's) possession into his own possession. Hippo didn't acknowledge any persistent property of the wallet linking it to you.

While actual ignorance of propertyconcept is very rare, dis-acknowledgment and disrespect for the concept are common enough. If I know the social conventions about property (don't take without consent/ justification), take it, and use it then I don't necessary claim a right to it in a non-legal sense. The legal sense is different as there is no opt-out of frameworks; there are also plenty of not historic not-so-entertaining UK court cases where people have been tried for treason for defending their home countries under the "Everywhere the sun shines belongs to Britain" framework.
Philip Thomas wrote:edit: "stealing" is a concept which depends on the concept of property, which is a legally defined concept. Outside the dimensions of a legal definition, "stealing" is meaningless.
Yes, "Theft" and "Property" are social constructs heavily related to law, but that's separate from the semantic space "legal definition" implies. If law is a legally privileged and restricted profession in only half the states, does that mean there are (by definition) no lawyers in the other states?
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Oct 23, 2013 1:09 am UTC

Monika wrote:Capitalism is theft. The only way the owner of a company (= of the means of production) can make any profits is by not paying zir employees fully and instead keeping some of the earnings (produced by those employees) to zirself. (Marx calls this Ausbeutung = exploitation instead of theft.)

Capitalist exploitation does not meet the strict ("broad") definition of theft under which taxes count as theft, because the amount the workers get paid is agreed upon mutually and voluntarily between the employers and employees. The employees are free to (as in, will not face punishment if they) demand that they get paid what they (the employees) consider a fair share of the company's profits or else not take the job. The employers don't get to say "you have to work for me and accept this as payment". That would be slavery. We don't have slavery anymore. There is the option of not working for them.

Of course, there is the problem that those workers are in a weak bargaining position and need to take some job, and the working class perpetually needs to take jobs and can never (or rarely, without inordinate difficulty and luck) rise to a position of more commensurate bargaining power. But the reason for that, as Marx correctly identified, is that control of the means of production is concentrated into the hands of a small capitalist class, who use that control to bend non-owning workers over the bargaining table and get them to accept less than a fair price. In other words, as Chesterton put it, the problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but too few. The solution to the problem of capitalism is to make sure capital spreads into as many hands as possible, and there are no separate owner-class and worker-class.

The problem is not that the owner-class literally steal from the worker-class in their employment arrangements. I'll argue that they do literally steal elsewhere (via rent and interest), and that that has to stop, and that does give them an unfair advantage at the wage-bargaining table (by keeping the non-owning class perpetually dependent on the owning class); but what's happening at that table is not itself literal theft, because the worker can always refuse the offer.

But taxation is. You don't have a choice to refuse the services being offered at the price of taxation. This is why taxation can't be just called "use fees" or "service fees" either. (@nitePhyrre) If any other organization decided that you had to buy your product and they would take your money for it whether you wanted it or not, we would call that theft, even if they are giving you something back. Even if it's something you would otherwise want to buy, at that price. If my grocery store notices that I buy some item once a week and signs me up for a "subscription" to receive that item once a week and have the usual price charged to my credit card, without my consent and even over my objections, that's stealing. Ordinary people and organizations don't get to take whatever they want from whomever and give whatever they (the thief) think is fair compensation back -- that second part doesn't excuse the theft in the first part. The person paying for the thing they're receiving has to consent to the exchange. If we were truly upholding the rule of law and not letting one organization (the government) have special privileges nobody else got, then when they did that same thing, it would be called stealing too.

Instead, we twist and contort the concept of theft to make a special exception just for them because we feel it's necessary. I'm just arguing that that's a bug in the system. If we can avoid making a big ad-hoc exception to the general rule and still have the system work, we should do it. And we should at least be asking if we can do that and how. Instead, it seems everybody just assumes it's impossible and won't even investigate the question or even acknowledge that it's a bug or a "necessary evil". They staunchly insist that it's not a bug, it's a feature; it's not an evil, it's a good. (@nitePhyrre again). Except for a few people who say it's a bug and it's evil so let's burn the whole system down if it depends on that. I'm not with them. I just want people to consider the possibility of excising the bug, of removing the necessity of the evil, without tearing the whole thing down. And that starts with at least acknowledging that it is a bug, an evil, even if a necessary one, instead of contorting our concepts in convoluted ways to convince ourselves that it's all perfectly OK. I'd be happy for a start even to hear "sure it's a problem but it's one we have to live with for now" become a popular opinion, because acknowledging that it's a problem is the first step toward solving it.

I don't ever expect to see a solution implemented in my lifetime. I don't expect to see agreement on the solution in my lifetime. I don't even really expect to see a widespread acknowledgement of the problem in my lifetime. My wildest hopes and dreams (really beyond any reasonable expectations) would be to write an analysis of the problem so popular and widely-read that a century after I'm dead people might consider implementing something partly influenced by the ideas I'm discussing, like John Locke to the American Revolution. I strongly suspect that it would take some kind of catastrophic collapse of an existing country, or some sort of new frontier, before anyone's willing to try anything really different from the rut we're stuck in now.

But I don't think it's necessary. @Klear: The ideas I threw out there, while very different in the end from what we have now, are all ones that can be implemented very gradually. Slowly start implementing my suggested alternate means of revenue for the government. If those work out, slowly start reducing the tax burden on the people. If they don't work out, you've still got the existing system to fall back on at any time. Likewise, moving toward a stateless government in other ways requires first implementing alternatives to the systems which currently rely on state power, concurrent with the existing solutions, and then if those work and society relies less and less on the state-backed systems, slowly repealing the power of the state. At every point in the transition, if the new solutions aren't working out, you've still got the old ones to fall back on. It can, and should, be done in careful baby steps. I don't want a revolution. I just want evolution.

@ucim and @Quizatzhaderac, regarding the problems raised to "moving toward a stateless government in other ways", namely courts and police, I've been waiting to set aside enough time to write a proper response to that. I'm going to look first and what kind of solutions could arise from a stateless and government-less society (I'm going to use the old phrase "state of nature" for that for convenience, even though I don't like that term for several reasons), to create a government without creating a state. Then I'll look at how to transition from the existing statist government to a stateless one like that.

Alice and Bob live in the state of nature. Alice and Bob have a conflict: Alice thinks Bob has violated her rights and wants restitution, Bob insists he violated nothing and to take restitution from him would violate his rights. They talk about the problem rationally, and argue about it emotionally, and try to come to some kind of an agreement or else wait for one person to cave in and give up even if they don't admit wrongdoing on their part. But they can't come to an agreement themselves, and neither is willing to drop it, and both are willing to fight over it. So Alice and Bob might fight over it, and whoever is strongest wins.

Over time conflicts like this happen and everybody realizes that just having the strongest person always win isn't fair. So people hire protection services, like private police, to protect them from stronger aggressors and stand up for their rights, like a form of insurance: for a monthly fee we'll make sure nobody gets away with trampling your rights. Of course the question of who has what rights (and what counts as a violation of them) is still open at this point, and you could just have the strongest protection service always winning if they disagree with the other party's protection service over who has what rights. But these protection services, like all insurance services, really don't want to pay out; they don't want to fight, they're not in this to win fights, they're in this to collect money for doing as little as possible. Never mind that one protection service might have two clients in a conflict, and they clearly don't want to send their own forces to fight their own forces. So each protection service will try hard to strike just the right balance of what rights it recognizes, to maximize the number of clients who sign up for their service while minimizing the number of conflicts that actually have to be fought over and can't be resolved rationally. So these protection services will become like courts as well. Subscription to them is voluntary, but without subscription to one you're going to be one man alone facing an entire mighty organization, so you'd best voluntarily pick one to look after your interests as well.

Just like if Alice and Bob have a car wreck: each blames the other, they complain to their car insurances, their respective insurances each try to find fair indisputable grounds to fault the other using agreed-upon standards of evidence and blame, and in the end agree that one or the other's client is at fault. Both want to find fault with the other, but if every car insurance company always disclaimed responsibility for their clients' actions regardless of the evidence, none of them would ever pay out, and so nobody would buy their services. So the service they are selling is largely a service of fair judgement, on top of the service of protection. In the car insurance case, protection equals financial indemnification, and honestly that doesn't sound like such a bad idea for a "police insurance" business either: if you are harmed, we will make reparations for your loss and then go after the guy who caused it, or else pay for reparations to the other guy if you turn out to be at fault. That way each side wants to say it's the other guy's fault and find any evidence they can to pin it on the other guy, so they won't have to pay reparations to the other guy and their own client will get reparations and be happy and keep buying their service; but they can't both just flatly disclaim responsibility or else they'll both lose all their customers, so they have to have some standard by which to judge fairly and without bias.

This is where the role of a legislature comes in. Someone has to write the rules by which such judgements are made. But no single body gets to make those rules by fiat, and adherence to them is voluntary, though there is a strong pressure to adhere to some set of rules. But alternate sets of rules can come up from anywhere and be adopted in place of the old ones at any time. Since there will be pressure for a single set of rules to emerge, a community of rule-makers would arise, as argument and dialogue breaks out about which set of rules is the best set of rules and why. Since nobody in this discourse has any authority, the rules would emerge in an open but critical consensus process, much like academic peer review. Anyone is free to put forth any idea, anyone else is free to try to shoot it down, and if the idea proves fruitful and stands up well to criticism it will become widely adopted. This process does, however, have the weakness of relying on people using such an open-minded but critical methodology, and not dogmatically insisting that they're right over all criticism and without any overriding justification. But we've managed to overcome that barrier in the realm of academic discourse, rising slowly out of centuries of prior religious dogma, and that gives me small hope that it might be possible to eventually overcome it in the realm of political discourse as well.

So with that, the picture of a stateless government is, from the top down:
- a "legislature" consisting of an open and critical discourse on what is really right and wrong, what rights people really have, resulting in an evolving consensus on such matters
- a network of "courts" who sell the service of fairly judging guilt in conflicts, protecting the innocent and extracting restitution from the guilty, using the consensus from that legislature
- a variety of "police" who work for those courts enforcing their judgements

This does all depend on there being a system like this in place and strong enough to withstand any lone actor or group thereof riding roughshod over the whole thing. But then, so do conventional states. I contend that conventional states really are nothing more than this, except claiming an exclusive monopoly on this kind of service, claiming one specific group of people to have absolute authority in deciding what is right and wrong, and one specific system of courts to be the only provider of fair judgements that you have to subscribe to whether you think they're fair or not, and one system of police who those privileged legislature and courts grant special power.

As for how to transition the existing government over to this, we already have private security and private arbitration coexisting alongside police and courts, and of course anyone's free to have a discourse on rights and ethics if they like. There are probably a lot of problems with those systems that need to be ironed out to make them work as I've described or better; refining exactly what powers such services do and do not deserve, and likewise what powers the courts and police do and do not deserve. And there is of course the problem of making sure that justice isn't only available to the highest bidder, which once again falls back to the problem of ensuring economic equality, including someone providing needs-based subsidies to make such services available to everyone. The transition from traditional courts and police to equitable use of private arbitration and security could be accomplished by providing such subsidies so that everyone can take advantage of those services; if they prove better than traditional courts and police, then funding to traditional courts and police can be diminished. But then, we have the question of how to fund those subsidies, if we're trying to eliminate the exercise of state power, which is necessary to enforce taxation, which is how we would usually fund the subsidization of a social service. So once again the big root problem for stateless government still boils down to how do you fund a government without taxes.

ucim wrote:How is it not theft for the state to force you to surrender your property to another person at the end of a contract dispute which you lose? Either you concede that the property in dispute "isn't yours", or you grant that some forms of involuntary property seizure do not count as theft (the same way that some forms of killing do not count as murder). However you answer that question, you can apply it to taxation, wherein one reasonable view is that some of your income is due to externalities, and thus not yours to begin with. It is the same way that some of the profits of the company upstream of me is due to the externalities of their dumping waste into the river which I drink from - it's the basis of the fracking debate. Those profits are not "rightfully theirs" either.

Fines as restitution for theft or property damage (including public property damage, including pollution) is a straightforward application of property rights, not in any way a violation of them. If you take something of mine, my property rights say you have to give it back. If you destroy something of mine, my property rights say you have to give it back too -- a replacement for it, or equivalent value so I can get a replacement myself. If you damage something of mine, my property rights say you have to restore it, or give me an equivalent value so I can get it restored. If the river is public property, you are a partial owner of it, and if someone pollutes it, your property rights say that they have to clean it up -- including any knock-on effects that happened before they got around to cleaning it up, like damage to people's health and so on -- or else pay an equivalent value for the loss that they caused.

That same kind of reasoning doesn't apply to taxation. Just because I got something of value from someone doesn't mean I automatically owe them money for it, unless I agreed to pay them to create that value. If it worked otherwise, someone could create a beautiful garden in their front yard, boosting their neighbors' property values, and then demand payment from their neighbors for that service -- regardless or whether or not the neighbors asked for it or not. You don't get to create positive externalities of your own accord and them demand payment from everyone for them, just like you don't get to create negative externalities and then expect everyone else to accept whatever trifle you offer in apology for them. It's up to the "everyone else" that you're impacting to decide if the deal is worth it to them. If they don't want to deal with the negative externalities you create, if what you're offering in return isn't a fair deal to them, then they don't have to; you have to keep your negative externalities to yourself. And if they don't want to pay for the positive externalities you generate, they don't have to either -- and you're free to stop generating them if that was your only reason for doing so. "You" in this case being the government, since you (ucim) are trying to say that the positive externalities government services create entitles them to the payment of taxes.

The Great Hippo wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:- We must somehow achieve what-the-first-camp-calls-civilization without what-the-second-camp-calls-theft, because what-the-second-camp-calls-theft is not ok, but what-the-first-camp-calls-civilization is necessary.
Right. I'm saying there are anarcho-capitalists who put a lot of thought into how to do that.

I'd like to hear some recommendations if that's so, because all the anarcho-capitalists I'm familiar with say that what-the-first-camp-calls-civilization is not necessary, and furthermore is not a necessary condition for "civilization". Every anarcho-capitalist I've read focuses on a much narrower law-and-order definition of civilization and defers social service problems to conventional charity. If you've got some recommendations of ones that don't, I've love to hear them.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Wed Oct 23, 2013 3:35 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:...So these protection services will become like courts as well. Subscription to them is voluntary, but without subscription to one you're going to be one man alone facing an entire mighty organization, so you'd best voluntarily pick one to look after your interests as well.
Never mind for the moment the disagreements I have with the idea... but these protection services are as voluntary as the mafia. To call them voluntary, but to say emmigration is not an available choice if you don't like the user fees for a particular government (thus it's theft), is disingenuous at best.

Pfhorrest wrote:So the service they are selling is largely a service of fair judgement, on top of the service of protection.
You know that's not the way it works. I was in a car crash last year (rear ended by a jaguar, completely not my fault) and while the insurance company paid what they thought a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the car, I was not a willing seller, I cannot easily replace the car (they changed the body style), and I have other losses that they refuse to cover. I will have to engage the full force of the Government in order to "encourage" the insurance company to "be fair".

Pfhorrest wrote:- a variety of "police" who work for those courts enforcing their judgements
Would these police have a recognized monopoly on the use of force, or are we depending on them simply being bigger and badder than the citizens who disagree with their actions, and don't feel like going through the lengthy and tiresome process of open and critical discourse?

And what prevents me and my buds (say, Apple users) from gathering in the iChannels and forming our own system, and overpowering the wimpy and bug-ridden Windows fans if a judgement we don't like comes up (such as the Windows store charging too little for tunes)?

If you don't have a monopoly on the use of force, you permit (and encourage) vigilante justice, like the American West (at least the one in the movies). If you do, you've cancelled yourself out.

PFhorrest wrote:Fines as restitution for theft or property damage (including public property damage, including pollution) is a straightforward application of property rights...
You may think it's your property, but I] think it's mine. After all, the river passes right through my plant, and nobody is forcing you to drink from the river. I am making lots of money. It's my money.

If the courts decide otherwise, then you have conceded that the property in dispute "wasn't mine".

Pfhorrest wrote:That same kind of reasoning doesn't apply to taxation. Just because I got something of value from someone doesn't mean I automatically owe them money for it, unless I agreed to pay them to create that value.
I got something of value (a place to dump waste) from the river you drink out of. So, I shouldn't pay you for it? Just above, the courts said yes.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Oct 23, 2013 6:51 am UTC

ucim wrote:Never mind for the moment the disagreements I have with the idea... but these protection services are as voluntary as the mafia. To call them voluntary, but to say emmigration is not an available choice if you don't like the user fees for a particular government (thus it's theft), is disingenuous at best.

Mafias are also local monopolies. What I'm putting forth is not. There can (and should) be competition for services in the same area. The mafia actually makes a great analogy for conventional state governments: they make an offer you're not allowed to refuse for whatever "protection" they choose to offer at whatever price they demand, and if you do try to refuse, they make sure something bad happens to you. Pre-modern governments especially were very much like mafias. Over the centuries these mafias have simply learned that they can stay in power more stably if they keep things from getting too shitty for the people under their protection, allow them to voice their desires, and give at least the appearance of responsiveness to those desires.

I'll even grant that to some extent some of them really do do what the majority of the people ask them to, and that that might even be to the genuine benefit of most of those people. But that is still, at best, a mafia beholden to a well-meaning mob; and it's frequently not at that best, neither the mob being well-meaning, or the mafia being truly beholden to it, nor those it is beholden to being well-meaning either. Still, at that rare best, it's not so bad, it even does does some good, and what I'm looking to do is to preserve the kind of good it does in that best case scenario, but getting rid of the mafia it's been built upon. Getting rid of the offer you can't refuse.

You know that's not the way it works. I was in a car crash last year (rear ended by a jaguar, completely not my fault) and while the insurance company paid what they thought a willing buyer would pay a willing seller for the car, I was not a willing seller, I cannot easily replace the car (they changed the body style), and I have other losses that they refuse to cover. I will have to engage the full force of the Government in order to "encourage" the insurance company to "be fair".

I sympathize with that (I've had a [used] car totaled shortly after purchase while it was legally parked with nobody in it, and received about half of what I actually paid for it as "fair market value"), but what makes you think the government will make a fairer decision than the insurance company? That's an honest question, not rhetorical. I don't see any obvious reason why one would make a decision more in your favor than the other. Seems both would draw on the same statistical data about market value and so forth, and if that's not accurate to your experience, your objection wouldn't sway either of them. In my experience courts and police are no more sympathetic to your plight than insurance companies. Small claims court won't even enforce its own judgements; you have to send to collections yourself if the loser won't abide by the judgement, and collections has paltry little power to do anything but put a dark mark on their credit score and maybe annoy them a little. I find governments are shy to ever use any power to help anyone but themselves.

(I've actually been much happier with the helpfulness of my current car insurance company than any time I've appealed to the police or courts for anything. I didn't have this insurance when that old car got totaled, and I wonder how it might have turned out differently if I had. My current car insurance is AAA, which is member-owned, which might explain why they stand up for me so well. Which raises another good idea for a stateless government: have the "police and courts" be member-owned as well, something like a credit union is. Things like credit unions and other user-owned services are a great example of a happy middle ground between state-owned services you can't refuse and corporate-owned services looking to fleece their customers.)

Would these police have a recognized monopoly on the use of force, or are we depending on them simply being bigger and badder than the citizens who disagree with their actions, and don't feel like going through the lengthy and tiresome process of open and critical discourse?

The major difference between the kind of system I propose and what we have here is that use of force is legitimized not by who is using it but by how and why. In either case when the rubber hits the road we're depending on the police being bigger and badder than those who disagree with their actions. Conventional states that fail to be bigger and badder than those who disagree with them fail as states, including when factions within a conventional state disagree and neither is a clear victor; and so too would a stateless government fail if no consensus on who has what rights ever emerged and people had to resort to actually fighting about it. The difference is in how that dominant power, if one exists, is constituted, legitimated, and directed.

Conventional states focus too much on who legitimately gets to wield power, rather than on how power legitimately gets to be wielded. It's like judging the merits of a research paper on who its authors are rather than its methodology. It's a patently crazy method of deriving authority that is literally backwards. Legitimate authority derives from being right, and being able to show that you are right in a way that is open to criticism and defeasible if you are not actually right; being right does not conversely derive from being in concordance with the decrees of someone who is by some arbitrary selection decreed an authority. Stephen Hawking is an authority on physics because his theories are frequently found to be correct; his theories are not found to be correct because they are his theories and he is authoritative. The reasonable people of the world long ago realized that's a crazy way of deciding what's true; I think it's about time we caught on that it's an equally crazy way of deciding what's good. Conventional states are tantamount to religions in their methodology.

But back to your point: both a conventional state and a stateless government ultimately depend utterly on the support and acceptance of the populace. Numbers are power and no government will stay around long if those who oppose and ignore it outnumber those who support and accept it. What I'm calling for is for people to support and accept the use of force based not on who wields it but on how it is wielded. To say not "that police action is acceptable because it is enforcing a law which was passed by a majority of people in a group of people each elected by a majority of people in a certain area defined by the predecessors of that group", or that it is not acceptable because no such people made such a law, but rather "that police action is acceptable because it is enforcing a law which emerged in the consensus of an open and critical process of rational discourse where it withstood every reasonable challenge raised against it", or that it is not acceptable because no such law emerged from such a process.

One way or another, if there is peace (which we want) it will be because a bulk of those with power (and thus a bulk of the politically active populace who give those people their power) agree at least on how to resolve disputes between each other, forming a dominant power bloc. What I'm arguing is that that method of coming to agreement shouldn't be "we all do whatever [insert method of selecting a leader here] says", no matter what [method of selecting a leader] is.

You may think it's your property, but I] think it's mine. After all, the river passes right through my plant, and nobody is forcing you to drink from the river. I am making lots of money. It's my money.

If the courts decide otherwise, then you have conceded that the property in dispute "wasn't mine".

Of course there are questions of what is whose property and how the world gets initially divided up into whose property. The point about theft and taxation is just that once something is someone's property, nobody (not even all of the rest of us) gets to suddenly decide that part of it isn't their property any more. We don't get to redefine who owns what after the fact without their permission, even though we need laws to decide who owns what in the first place.

In the case of the river, I'd argue (in that nice open and critical discourse) that it's completely unreasonable to claim ownership of a whole river just because a portion of it runs through your property. You might own the land it runs through, but you still have to keep anything you put in the water on your property, and not let it get into others' property. If you can somehow manage that -- dump your waste into the part of a river that's on your property and keep any effects of that from showing up downstream -- then sure, that's fine. But good luck with that.

Pfhorrest wrote:That same kind of reasoning doesn't apply to taxation. Just because I got something of value from someone doesn't mean I automatically owe them money for it, unless I agreed to pay them to create that value.

I got something of value (a place to dump waste) from the river you drink out of. So, I shouldn't pay you for it? Just above, the courts said yes.

This smacks of deliberate misunderstanding on your part.

Bob has some property. Bob's neighbors all have property too, including the public property which they all jointly own. Bob does something that affects his neighbors' property. Those neighbors get to make the call as to whether to accept the effects of Bob's actions on their property or not; they have a right to make Bob keep his shit to himself and fix any problems it caused in the meanwhile. They also get to decide if they like the effects of Bob's actions and want to reward him for them, or entice him to commit more of those actions by offering him something in exchange. Bob does not get to decide that his actions only caused X amount of damage and pay what he thinks are fair reparations even if the neighbors disagree. And Bob does not get to decide that his actions are to the benefit of his neighbors and that he is entitled to payment from them in the amount he specifies. Bob is free to do whatever he wants to his own private stuff and nobody gets to tell him what he must do or not do there. But as soon as Bob starts doing something to other people's stuff, including public stuff, they get to decide whether he owes them reparations, they owe him rewards, or they don't care either way.



As a footnote, I'm disappointed that all the Randroids here disappeared as soon as this conversation happened. I was trying to argue that some of the things they advocate are possible without destroying the things they think stand in the way of them. I'm sad to have to be not only arguing that middle ground but also defending the good points of a whole one of the sides all by myself now. Randroids, libertarians, anarcho-capitalists, get back in here and defend yourselves so I don't have to do it for you.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Kit. » Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:47 am UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:I find it somewhat unlikely that a person would reach into the clothing worn by another person and remove an item there for which they could have very little practical use,

But it's not like the item is not expected to be filled with those colored pieces of paper that the biggest bully around requires others to take at their "face value". That makes those pieces quite useful... if you can avoid the wrath of the Big Bully for your obtaining them in the first place.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Monika » Wed Oct 23, 2013 12:51 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:Sorry, I fell asleep a little reading that gibberish.

You are impolite.

The Great Hippo wrote:
Philip Thomas wrote:Honesty doesn't just mean telling the truth. It also means not taking other people's property when you are not entitled to.
That seems more like a personal philosophy than a genuine part of honesty's definition. If I were to look up 'honesty' in the dictionary, I sincerely doubt I'd see any mention of theft or refraining from theft.

I suspect if I looked up dishonesty in the dictionary, I might see the word 'theft' -- but this does not by necessity imply it is impossible to be honest about your theft.

This does not seem like a personal philosophy and Philip Thomas did not claim it's the definition you'd find in a general dictionary, it's the legal definition.
E,g, stealing is pretty clear in general language, but in legal terms it's surprisingly hard to define, you can't just say "taking stuff that belongs to somebody else" e.g. somebody else left their newspaper in the train, are you a thief when you pick it up, read it, take it with you? (Answer: No. In US legal terms apparently because you didn't "dishonestly" take it. In German legal terms because taking property that somebody else has "given up" isn't stealing.)

Pfhorrest wrote:Capitalist exploitation does not meet the strict ("broad") definition of theft under which taxes count as theft, because the amount the workers get paid is agreed upon mutually and voluntarily between the employers and employees. The employees are free to (as in, will not face punishment if they) demand that they get paid what they (the employees) consider a fair share of the company's profits or else not take the job. The employers don't get to say "you have to work for me and accept this as payment". That would be slavery. We don't have slavery anymore. There is the option of not working for them.

Of course, there is the problem that those workers are in a weak bargaining position and need to take some job, and the working class perpetually needs to take jobs and can never (or rarely, without inordinate difficulty and luck) rise to a position of more commensurate bargaining power. But the reason for that, as Marx correctly identified, is that control of the means of production is concentrated into the hands of a small capitalist class, who use that control to bend non-owning workers over the bargaining table and get them to accept less than a fair price. In other words, as Chesterton put it, the problem with capitalism is not too many capitalists, but too few. The solution to the problem of capitalism is to make sure capital spreads into as many hands as possible, and there are no separate owner-class and worker-class.

The problem is not that the owner-class literally steal from the worker-class in their employment arrangements. I'll argue that they do literally steal elsewhere (via rent and interest), and that that has to stop, and that does give them an unfair advantage at the wage-bargaining table (by keeping the non-owning class perpetually dependent on the owning class); but what's happening at that table is not itself literal theft, because the worker can always refuse the offer.

Some good arguments.

But taxation is.

Legally certainly not. The question is if it's unethical. Apparently according to your philosophy. But what you outline in the rest of the post (that I snipped) is a dystopic future. It's unethical.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Wed Oct 23, 2013 2:36 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Mafias are also local monopolies.
No they're not. Anyone is free to create their own organized crime ring, and get people to sign up for their protection services. In either case (mafia, or your utopia), either there is a final arbiter, or there is not. If there is, it is enforced by... well... force. It doesn't matter where the force comes from, the point is it's there, and it is what determines what the final arbiter is. Let's not get distracted for the moment on how this final arbiter is selected. Let's focus on whether or not there is one.

If one is named, its decisions are either backed up by force, or they are not.
...If so, you essentially have a state.
...If not, then you don't have a final arbiter, you have an advisor.

Once you admit that you need a final arbiter, backed by force, which is essentially a state, you can move onto the question of how to select this final arbiter. But to create an arbiter not backed by force is ultimately an exercise in wishful thinking. Even the "binding arbitration" that some contracts require is ultimately backed by the state... in the form of contract law and its enforcement provisions. If you lose a dispute with General Motors and refuse to pay, General Motors employs the force of the State to recover, and/or employs the force of the state to prevent you from retaliating against the collection thugs they hire. The state is very much in the picture.

Pfhorrest wrote:what makes you think the government will make a fairer decision than the insurance company?
The insurance company has a direct financial incentive to pay you as little as they can get away with. This is not true of the government... the government merely wants to stay in power, which (around here) it does via periodic elections.

Pfhorrest wrote:Small claims court won't even enforce its own judgements; you have to send to collections yourself if the loser won't abide by the judgement
... but what is "collections"? The state sanctions the use of force against the loser, but not against others. (If it is not so, then small claims has reduced itself to an advisory body, but that's not a flaw in the system itself, but one in the implementation).

Pfhorrest wrote:The major difference between the kind of system I propose and what we have here is that use of force is legitimized not by who is using it but by how and why. In either case when the rubber hits the road we're depending on the police being bigger and badder than those who disagree with their actions.
The how and why got settled in the dispute resolution. The who is important. Who gets to select the who? When the rubber hits the road, you have still created a state.

Pfhorrest wrote:What I'm calling for is for people to support and accept the use of force based not on who wields it but on how it is wielded. To say

not "that police action is acceptable because it is enforcing a law which was passed by a majority of people in a group of people each elected by a majority of people in a certain area defined by the predecessors of that group", or that it is not acceptable because no such people made such a law,

but rather "that police action is acceptable because it is enforcing a law which emerged in the consensus of an open and critical process of rational discourse where it withstood every reasonable challenge raised against it", or that it is not acceptable because no such law emerged from such a process.
(emphasis added for clarity)

You are making a distinction that does not prevent something from being a state. You are just stating your preference for how laws are made. You are then requiring the police to evaluate how a law was made before any police action (or be held accountable for failing to determine whether enough "discourse" had taken place before the law became law. This is not a good outcome.

The police are there to enforce the laws that exist, not the ones they think should exist.

===

As to externalities, there are some unfairnesses in how they are resolved at the boundary between positive and negative. If I save somebody's life, but in the process break a window, I still have to pay for the window. But I can't charge anything for my act of generosity in saving somebody's life. In some societies, I could. Property rights are important, but they are not the be-all and end-all of government.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Kit. » Wed Oct 23, 2013 3:53 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That same kind of reasoning doesn't apply to taxation. Just because I got something of value from someone doesn't mean I automatically owe them money for it, unless I agreed to pay them to create that value.

Taxation is usually as "voluntary" as job. If you don't want to be taxed, don't get into the contracts mediated by the state (don't earn taxable income, don't buy taxable property etc.). If you do it, but without the intent to pay the state the contract price for the services provided, isn't it you who are stealing?

But it's just an example. The real problem is the (intentional, I dare to suggest) ambiguity of the definition of property. Strictly speaking, property is not something that is kept in your proximity. Property is something you have the right to determine the use of. But when we stick to the strict definition, there come so many contradictions that "property" starts to look like a self-refuting idea when applied to real-life processes.

There is also a smaller logical pick: if you allow for community ownership (and it seems you do), why not reduce all the ownership rights to a single "actor", the society, which leases/licenses (but not permanently or unconditionally transfers) its property rights to its members? That will give you a framework more powerful and not less consistent than your current one (everything that works in your current framework can also be made workable in the new one), will give a semi-satisfactory answer to the problem of the initial values (initial distribution of "property") and will help to avoid or resolve numerous property-related "paradoxes".

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Euphonium » Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:09 pm UTC

Izawwlgood wrote:
Klear wrote:Hmm... I guess if you're living in the US, you have at least some motivation to get acquainted with Rand... That might be the reason for the disagreement.
I don't think the Tea Party can call themselves libertarians truthfully.


I don't think anyone who advocates capitalism can call himself a libertarian.

Libertarianism is, and always has been, anti-capitalist in outlook, because capitalism--and especially laissez-faire capitalism--is a fundamentally authoritarian mode of socioeconomic organization.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Euphonium » Wed Oct 23, 2013 10:14 pm UTC

Philip Thomas wrote:Erm, theft is dishonestly appropriating someone else's property.

Dishonesty is a really important part of the definition, as you will find if you're ever trying to prosecute people for theft.


Furthermore, since all people are entitled by the mere fact of their existence to an equal share of social wealth (as everyone who's not a freedom-hating collectivist already knows), that means that if anyone's stealing anything, it's those who have more than the social mean stealing it from those who have less.

Which means that not only is taxation for redistributive purposes not theft, if anything it's actually the opposite of theft: restitution.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Oct 24, 2013 6:17 am UTC

Monika wrote:Some good arguments.

Thank you. That actually means a lot to hear. I feel kind of like it's me vs the world here when I was initially trying to mediate between two sides.

But taxation is [theft].

Legally certainly not. The question is if it's unethical. Apparently according to your philosophy.

Legal definitions are full of complicated loopholes and ad hoc exceptions. My argument that taxation is theft is simply this:

Theft in the common (not legal jargon) sense is depriving someone of possession of their property over their objections.

Taxation is a kind of systemic appropriation of people's property from them regardless of their objections to it.

Therefore taxation is theft in the common sense, regardless of legal jargon, and objections to theft in that sense should apply to taxation equally.

We can argue over whether the thief had good intentions and put the stolen property to benevolent use or not and thus whether that action should be excusable or not, but my point is not about that. My point is: whatever principles we apply in that reasoning, shouldn't they apply to everyone equally? Why should some special people be permitted to steal for a good cause, but people in general not? That's the entire point here: applying the same standards of justice to all people, and recognizing that governments are made of people, and so should be held to the same standards as everyone else. I'm open to further debate on what those standards should be, including whether "stealing for a good enough cause" should be among them.


But what you outline in the rest of the post (that I snipped) is a dystopic future. It's unethical.

Funny, I'd think you would be the kind of person to think that everyone having equal rights and nobody getting special powers or privileges would be the most ethical thing imaginable. All I'm trying to do is figure out how we can achieve that without losing other good things we've got already.

ucim wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:Mafias are also local monopolies.
No they're not. Anyone is free to create their own organized crime ring, and get people to sign up for their protection services.

Free in what sense? A mafia usually won't tolerate another mafia operating on its turf, and usually doesn't give people in that turf an option to not sign up, if it's decided they're someone who should be paying for protection. There's a reason "that's a lovely shop there, it's be a shame if something were to happen to it" is a trope. If the mafia wants you to buy their protection service, you buy it or bad things happen to you. Taxation is exactly the same: we'll offer you these nice services for this price and if you won't accept that deal we'll lock you in a cage at gunpoint if necessary (after plenty of warning, sure, but the mafia shakes down people for their money long before it starts busting kneecaps too).

I'm talking about a scenario where I might have one security provider and each of my neighbors a different one and if I have a conflict with one of my neighbors our respective security make sure we're each protected from each other while they hash out a reasonable solution to the conflict (informed by a global body of critical discourse on what makes for a reasonable solution to different kinds of conflicts) so that they don't actually have to fight each other over it, each advocating as strongly as possible for their own client out of their own self-interest but knowing they need to reach an agreement somehow. As opposed to us both paying an involuntary protection fee to the same mafia who runs our turf and having to settle for its decision in favor of whichever of us it likes best (or apathetically in favor of whichever of us some arbitrary rules it doesn't really care about says, just so long as it doesn't have to deal with us anymore).

In either case (mafia, or your utopia), either there is a final arbiter, or there is not. If there is, it is enforced by... well... force. It doesn't matter where the force comes from, the point is it's there, and it is what determines what the final arbiter is.

The existence of competing forces is the major distinction here. The whole point is to not have one final arbiter who can enforce whatever it says, but you have a balance of forces so that nobody can force their way over anybody else and they have to negotiate reasonably.

If we could magically give all individual humans equal levels of personal power, that would be a much more straightforward way of accomplishing what I'm aiming for here: a situation where nobody can really win a fight if it comes to a fight, so nobody can force their way, and nobody wants to try it and both lose, so they are forced (mutually, by each other) to figure out some amicable solution nonviolently. Protection services are just a way of people acquiring equal amounts of force on their side since we can't make everybody magically equal in power. The courts and legislation that evolve out of those services are just a formalization of figuring out a some amicable solution nonviolently.

The challenge of making anarchism work is finding a way to create a stable balance: to keep power from concentrating in anyone's hands and letting them arbitrarily make and enforce their own decisions over others. Saying "let's put all the power in this one group's hands, so that they're powerful enough to keep it from concentrating in any one group's hands" is just giving up on the problem. As one objector to Hobbes' absolute monarchism once said (paraphrased, and I'm forgetting the source), you would dive into the lion's den to save yourself from the wolves. To extend that metaphor, my suggestion is "let's domesticate some dogs": have wolves that work for us, to protect us from the wolves that would harm us, without feeding ourselves to the lion.

The insurance company has a direct financial incentive to pay you as little as they can get away with. This is not true of the government... the government merely wants to stay in power, which (around here) it does via periodic elections.

This may be something unique to my current car insurance (which I've said already I'm very happy with), but last time I had an accident the company that I pay and works for me (and I'm a part owner of, whee) went to bat against the company that the other guy pays who works for him, and made sure that they paid me a fair amount. I honestly don't know what kind of leverage they use to do that, but that's the kind of scenario I'm imagining here: someone you're already paying making sure that someone else who harmed you pays up, with a kind of power that you personally can't muster. And the other guy having someone similar on their side, creating a stalemate where neither side's backup really wants to fight the other because neither could win, but they have to come to some kind of a resolution or else what the hell are they even selling, so they have to make sure that they come to fair solutions.

What I'm looking to design here is something akin in purpose to the trick of having one kid slice a candybar/sandwich/whatever and the other kid pick which half they want: it's creating a motivation for the people in power to make fair decisions. If you're unfamiliar with this trick: the second kid is of course going to pick the bigger half, so the first kid has a motivation to make the two halves as equal as possible so he loses as little as possible when getting the "smaller" half. Both kids come out agreeing that they got a fair half, and can't complain that mommy/daddy/whoever might have otherwise done the cutting was playing favorites. A conventional state is "mommy/daddy/etc" in this metaphor. My solution to eliminating that role is of course not formally analogous to the cut-and-pick trick solution, but it serves the same purpose: to set up a way in which conflicting parties come to a fair resolution themselves without either feeling like some arbitrary arbiter with all the power arbitrarily picked one side over the other.

Kit. wrote:Taxation is usually as "voluntary" as job. If you don't want to be taxed, don't get into the contracts mediated by the state (don't earn taxable income, don't buy taxable property etc.). If you do it, but without the intent to pay the state the contract price for the services provided, isn't it you who are stealing?

If I just agree to trade my X for someone else's Y, we haven't invited the state into that contract at all. The state insists on being a party to contracts whether anybody wants them there or not. That's not voluntary. (Again, quite like the mafia wanting a cut of any action happening on their turf).

But it's just an example. The real problem is the (intentional, I dare to suggest) ambiguity of the definition of property. Strictly speaking, property is not something that is kept in your proximity. Property is something you have the right to determine the use of. But when we stick to the strict definition, there come so many contradictions that "property" starts to look like a self-refuting idea when applied to real-life processes.

That's very much the definition of property I'm using throughout here. What self-refuting contradictions in particular strike you as problematic with it?

Specifically, I would say that the bundle of rights that constitutes someone's ownership of something is: a liberty to do as they like with it, a claim against others doing as they object with it, a power to transfer ownership of it to another as they like, and an immunity against ownership of it being transferred to another over their objections.

There is also a smaller logical pick: if you allow for community ownership (and it seems you do), why not reduce all the ownership rights to a single "actor", the society, which leases/licenses (but not permanently or unconditionally transfers) its property rights to its members? That will give you a framework more powerful and not less consistent than your current one (everything that works in your current framework can also be made workable in the new one), will give a semi-satisfactory answer to the problem of the initial values (initial distribution of "property") and will help to avoid or resolve numerous property-related "paradoxes".

A world of entirely public property is certainly a possibility, and is what I would consider the initial state of the world. (Well, except for the people themselves, who I'd argue are inherently self-owned and cannot be public property or anyone else's private property but their own). I'm even amenable to the idea that if we'd been doing things justly since the beginning, a significantly bigger chunk of the world might be public property than it is now, because a lot of public property has been illegitimately privatized over the millennia. But I do think there is a legitimate way of privatizing property (in fact quite analogous to the "I picked up a paper someone left on the train" example of a non-theft tacit transfer of property someone gave earlier), and that it is a social good for some things to be private property (and for everyone to have some of such).

And that now that there is private property in some distribution, and no way of sorting out the intractable mess of thousands of years of transactions not all of which may have been legitimate, we don't get to arbitrarily redefine what is whose property now. Similarly, on the smaller scale, I don't think it's right that someone who bought stolen property is just shit outta luck; the person it was stolen from and the person it was sold to both need restitution, at the expense of the person who stole it and resold it. And if they're all dead now and the item has since moved on to other hands, it wouldn't be right to take it back from someone who bought it fair and square and had nothing to do with the theft. We just have to make sure that we do things right going forward from here.

The way I conceptualize public property would not be amenable to a central authority leasing or licensing parts of it out to some people, however, not the least because of my objections to rent in principle. In my scheme public property is just an extreme case of joint property. The opposite extreme case (intreme? that should be a word if there's not already one like it) is something jointly owned by two people, say a house owned by a married couple, or inherited by two siblings from their parents. I formulate how to make sense of "jointly owned property" in that simplest case of two people, figuring out how their respective rights to the property interplay, and then apply that same standard to any other case of jointly owned property, on down to the extreme of public property. The long and short of it is: everyone has liberty to use something they own to the extent that it doesn't infringe on another owner's equal liberty. So I can use a public commons only to the extent that it doesn't stop anyone else from using it equally. That doesn't sound like a great way to run, say, your bedroom, where I imagine you want exclusive use of it and don't want to share it equally with everyone else; they should have their own bedrooms that they likewise don't have to share with you.

Euphonium wrote:I don't think anyone who advocates capitalism can call himself a libertarian.

Libertarianism is, and always has been, anti-capitalist in outlook, because capitalism--and especially laissez-faire capitalism--is a fundamentally authoritarian mode of socioeconomic organization.

I just want to make sure you're drawing a distinction here between capitalism and free markets. The two are wrongly conflated by both advocates and detractors of both, largely because Marx et al argued quite popularly that the solution to the problem of capitalism is an unfree market. Capitalism is a system where property owners exploit non-owners by leveraging their control of the means of production. A free market is a system in which all transactions are made voluntarily. Capitalism distorts a free market; a free market advocate should, for consistency, object to capitalism. But a libertarian should, for consistency, be a free market advocate. The challenge for libertarians and other free market advocates should be how to deter capitalism without destroying the free market in the process. Unfortunately history took a different turn and instead of tackling that problem, people just turned away from liberty and freedom in order to preserve, er, liberty and freedom? If I weren't so familiar with average people I would boggle at how the whole world somehow didn't notice that contradiction there: some groups having much more power than others is a bad thing, so we must give one group absolute power to prevent, uh, er...
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby eran_rathan » Thu Oct 24, 2013 11:47 am UTC

Pforrest, I understand where you are coming from (I was a rational anarchist for a very long time), but the thing is, you idea of "No one having a monopoly on force" means that you end with warlordism - whoever can afford the most guns wins, and subjugates everyone else.

Even if you have take a group, who all have competing 'force providers', what is to prevent all of the force providers from merging and then subjugating everyone else?

Alternately, you have a collective, where everyone agrees to invest in one person (or group of persons) the responsibility to use force on their behalf - how is this not a police force?

While there are certain social conventions that may be put into place (re: Amish) where social ostracization or shunning, etc. can be used as a deterrent for anti-social behaviour, that still doesn't resolve the issue of the use of force when necessary, or the arbitration of disputes.
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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Monika » Thu Oct 24, 2013 2:36 pm UTC

Euphonium wrote:I don't think anyone who advocates capitalism can call himself a libertarian.

Libertarianism is, and always has been, anti-capitalist in outlook, because capitalism--and especially laissez-faire capitalism--is a fundamentally authoritarian mode of socioeconomic organization.

Euphonium wrote:Furthermore, since all people are entitled by the mere fact of their existence to an equal share of social wealth (as everyone who's not a freedom-hating collectivist already knows), that means that if anyone's stealing anything, it's those who have more than the social mean stealing it from those who have less.

Which means that not only is taxation for redistributive purposes not theft, if anything it's actually the opposite of theft: restitution.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Hafting » Thu Oct 24, 2013 3:45 pm UTC

Euphonium wrote:
Furthermore, since all people are entitled by the mere fact of their existence to an equal share of social wealth (as everyone who's not a freedom-hating collectivist already knows), that means that if anyone's stealing anything, it's those who have more than the social mean stealing it from those who have less.

Which means that not only is taxation for redistributive purposes not theft, if anything it's actually the opposite of theft: restitution.


I have to disagree. There are many ways to get rich and poor. Someone becoming rich by stealing from his equal - who then becomes poor - is certainly an option. But it is not the only one!

But consider a society where everybody starts out equal. That is. with the same amount of money. Now, some will be responsible and not spend more than they earn. Some will be irresponsible - wasting their money on dope and gambling, and ending up in a state unfit to work too. After a while, the responsible has "more" and the irresponsible has "less". Did the rich steal from the poor? Not in this case, no. While theft exists, there are enough poor who simply waste money and opportunities, there being no need to impoeverish them by stealing.

And is "redistributing wealth" to such people smart? Not necessarily, it just make everybody poorer.

Of course, we don't live in a system where everybody starts out equal. So some redistribution might make sense; helping people who gets a bad start or have temporary problems. But too much redistribution and you end up with the problems of communism. Why work hard if it is all for someone else's benefit, and then everybody gets poor.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby speising » Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:07 pm UTC

redistribution is not based on how much you have, though, but on what you earn. (in principle).
wasting your money does not get you more from the state. (well, unless you're a bank)

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby learsfool » Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:13 pm UTC

Hafting wrote:Of course, we don't live in a system where everybody starts out equal. So some redistribution might make sense; helping people who gets a bad start or have temporary problems. But too much redistribution and you end up with the problems of communism. Why work hard if it is all for someone else's benefit, and then everybody gets poor.

People who work hard aren't the ones who are earning all the money. It's not like a nurse gets paid more than your average banker or CEO, is it?

We've got a long way to go before we should be taking the whole 'redistribution is a problem' mindset seriously.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby ucim » Thu Oct 24, 2013 4:39 pm UTC

@Pfhorrest - You seem to be supporting two ideas that cannot coexist.

The first is the idea of "everyone having equal rights and nobody getting special powers or privileges".

The second is the idea that "the bundle of rights that constitutes someone's ownership of something is: a liberty to do as they like with it, a claim against others doing as they object with it, a power to transfer ownership of it to another as they like, and an immunity against ownership of it being transferred to another over their objections". (From this second idea comes the idea of free trade).

Even assuming (like the start of a Monopoly game) everyone has equal money and an equal starting position, the ability to trade comes with the ability to concentrate power and wealth. Simple example - one person performs services in exchange for goods, and nobody else does that - they just trade their goods away for those services, all transactions being freely decided. Boom - instant concentration of goods in that one person (and also, that one person has gained skills in whatever he's doing that the others do not have). That person has a child and gives all his goods to that child, who grows up with unearned wealth, and the concentrated power this entails. This person is now able to exploit the masses by demanding services from them in exchange for temporary and partial use of the goods he has inhereted.

Whether this wealth is in canoes, spears, favors owed, or whatever, doesn't matter. You can construct this scenario many different ways. The point is, the two ideals above are incompatible as stated. You need to be specific on what "equal rights" and "special privileges" and "rightful ownership" means, and that is where it get hairy.

Simple question - if I chop down a tree in the forest and make a canoe out of it, who owns the canoe?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Euphonium » Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:29 pm UTC

Hafting wrote:
Euphonium wrote:
Furthermore, since all people are entitled by the mere fact of their existence to an equal share of social wealth (as everyone who's not a freedom-hating collectivist already knows), that means that if anyone's stealing anything, it's those who have more than the social mean stealing it from those who have less.

Which means that not only is taxation for redistributive purposes not theft, if anything it's actually the opposite of theft: restitution.


I have to disagree. There are many ways to get rich and poor. Someone becoming rich by stealing from his equal - who then becomes poor - is certainly an option. But it is not the only one!

But consider a society where everybody starts out equal. That is. with the same amount of money. Now, some will be responsible and not spend more than they earn. Some will be irresponsible - wasting their money on dope and gambling, and ending up in a state unfit to work too. After a while, the responsible has "more" and the irresponsible has "less". Did the rich steal from the poor? Not in this case, no. While theft exists, there are enough poor who simply waste money and opportunities, there being no need to impoeverish them by stealing.

I don't think you understand.

Since all people are, by their very existence, entitled to an equal share of the sum total of social wealth, the mere fact of possession in excess of the social mean constitutes theft from those who have less, because one's possession in excess of the mean is necessarily responsible for those who have less, having less.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:02 pm UTC

There's also a problem with arguing that the intuitive, "common law" definition of theft includes taxation - most people don't consider taxation to be theft, so, if your formulation of "theft" includes taxation, then it doesn't match the common intuition about theft. All that argument shows is that most people have trouble articulating their implicit definition of "theft".

The trouble with competing private security and arbitration firms is that they're in a prisoner's dilemma - for each individual conflict, if one side is willing to use force and the other side isn't, the aggressive side wins outright; both sides end up doing reasonably well if neither side is prepared to go to the mattresses for their client, and reasonably poorly if they end up going to war over it, except that a corp that consistently wins fights, and thus ends up performing better for their clients, will tend to attract more clients (either because the clients are unscrupulous, or because they're desperate and don't want to be on the losing side).

With rich incentives for being the dominant security corp, and no monopolies commission to police you, the mafia analogy starts looking more plausible...

For an anarchist society, look at the pioneer days of the US, or similar frontier states throughout history...

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Euphonium » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:12 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:There's also a problem with arguing that the intuitive, "common law" definition of theft includes taxation - most people don't consider taxation to be theft, so, if your formulation of "theft" includes taxation, then it doesn't match the common intuition about theft. All that argument shows is that most people have trouble articulating their implicit definition of "theft".

The trouble with competing private security and arbitration firms is that they're in a prisoner's dilemma - for each individual conflict, if one side is willing to use force and the other side isn't, the aggressive side wins outright; both sides end up doing reasonably well if neither side is prepared to go to the mattresses for their client, and reasonably poorly if they end up going to war over it, except that a corp that consistently wins fights, and thus ends up performing better for their clients, will tend to attract more clients (either because the clients are unscrupulous, or because they're desperate and don't want to be on the losing side).

With rich incentives for being the dominant security corp, and no monopolies commission to police you, the mafia analogy starts looking more plausible...

For an anarchist society, look at the pioneer days of the US, or similar frontier states throughout history...


Nothing anarchist about those societies--they were very hierarchical and capitalist.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Oct 24, 2013 10:27 pm UTC

Euphonium wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:For an anarchist society, look at the pioneer days of the US, or similar frontier states throughout history...


Nothing anarchist about those societies--they were very hierarchical and capitalist.


Okay, for a society without centralised authority or law enforcement...

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Mikeski » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:33 am UTC

Euphonium wrote:I don't think you understand.

Since all people are, by their very existence, entitled to an equal share of the sum total of social wealth, the mere fact of possession in excess of the social mean constitutes theft from those who have less, because one's possession in excess of the mean is necessarily responsible for those who have less, having less.

You realize you've just described a world where free exchange between individuals, and gift-giving, and charity are all considered theft?

"Sex" is on the bottom tier of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, along with food and water and such. I'm not sure I'd want to be a woman in a world where Greg has to get laid as often as Phil, else it's considered "theft". (Greg's probably OK with it, though.)

Was this an attempt to make Objectivism look sane by comparison?

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby addams » Fri Oct 25, 2013 3:53 am UTC

Mikeski wrote:
Euphonium wrote:I don't think you understand.

Since all people are, by their very existence, entitled to an equal share of the sum total of social wealth, the mere fact of possession in excess of the social mean constitutes theft from those who have less, because one's possession in excess of the mean is necessarily responsible for those who have less, having less.

You realize you've just described a world where free exchange between individuals, and gift-giving, and charity are all considered theft?

"Sex" is on the bottom tier of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, along with food and water and such. I'm not sure I'd want to be a woman in a world where Greg has to get laid as often as Phil, else it's considered "theft". (Greg's probably OK with it, though.)

Was this an attempt to make Objectivism look sane by comparison?

Small point:
Sex is not at the bottom of Maslow's Hiearchy if Needs.
At the bottom is air. Followed closely by some other required physiological needs.

Sex is about half a rung up from there.
Food and Sex are fairly equal.

It is a toss up which one is more important to life.
One day, it is sex. The next day, it is food.

That is a choice people should not have to make.
When people live under those kinds of conditions, it makes more people.

Back to arguing anarchy against totalitarianism.
That is another one of those, "Damned if you do and Damned if you don't." situations.

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Re: 1277: "Ayn Random"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Oct 25, 2013 7:31 am UTC

eran_rathan wrote:Pforrest, I understand where you are coming from (I was a rational anarchist for a very long time), but the thing is, you idea of "No one having a monopoly on force" means that you end with warlordism - whoever can afford the most guns wins, and subjugates everyone else.

Warlords are just small primitive states. A state is just the group with "the most guns", and the power to subjugate everyone else -- a monopoly on force. Now I'll readily agree that the more subtle forms states have adopted in recent centuries are much better than the raw and brutal forms primitive ones like warlords adopt, which is why I've never suggested just dropping the current monopoly on force and seeing what happens. It's obvious what will happen: other monopolies on force will arise in its place and we'll be left no better off, probably significantly worse off.

The problem I'm trying to solve is how to somehow set up a system that prevents anyone from getting a monopoly on force, so that we can slowly ease off of the one we've got now (the state) without others (warlords) springing up in its place.

For an analogy: I rented at the last place I lived for most of a decade despite all the crap I had to put up with from the landlords and other housemates, because despite those problems renting anywhere else would have been worse still. But all the time I was trying to figure some way out of having to deal with landlords and housemates at all, and eventually I found one and jumped at the opportunity. The analogy is, I'm not advocating tearing down the halfway decent state we've got already just to be stuck with a bunch of even worse ones. But while we're putting up with this least of available evils for the time being, we should be brainstorming ways of getting out of that kind of problematic situation entirely.

To quote the opening lines of Thoreau's Civil Disobedience, "I heartily accept the motto, 'That government is best which governs least'; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, 'That government is best which governs not at all'; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have." I agree with that entirely, and all I'm doing is encouraging us to prepare for it, so that a time may someday come when our civilizations can leave their adolescence and we can live freely as mature adults capable of behaving ourselves without the ever-watchful eye of a parent threatening us with the rod if we don't.

Even if you have take a group, who all have competing 'force providers', what is to prevent all of the force providers from merging and then subjugating everyone else?

Their own self-interest. None of them would want to share power with another group, which they'd have to if they merged; in any mergers some of the people are made 'redundant', and some of the people in charge of some of the merged groups would be less in charge of the resultant group than they were before. Consolidation of power would have to be by hostile takeover, as it usually is. And since these groups are employed by (and preferably owned by) their clients, who have the option of switching away if they don't like them, any one group which starts acting up will lose its financial support base, i.e. its customers and investors. And they can't just shake down those customers and investors into forking over the money anyway, because those customers and investors will have switched to another protector; they won't just be defenseless. It sets up a system where the government literally works for the people in a literal employer-employee and customer-contractor relationship (with the people as the employers and customers, and the government as the employees or contractors), and any part of it that isn't up to par can be literally fired and replaced at a moment's notice.

ucim wrote:@Pfhorrest - You seem to be supporting two ideas that cannot coexist.

The first is the idea of "everyone having equal rights and nobody getting special powers or privileges".

The second is the idea that "the bundle of rights that constitutes someone's ownership of something is: a liberty to do as they like with it, a claim against others doing as they object with it, a power to transfer ownership of it to another as they like, and an immunity against ownership of it being transferred to another over their objections". (From this second idea comes the idea of free trade).


These two things are not logical in contradiction. I'm saying "everyone should have the same rights: specifically, these ones".

There are possible problems with making sure everyone keeps the same rights, keeping that equality stable in the long term, but those are exactly the kinds of problems I'm trying to solve. And I'm open to discussion of what the rights people should have in order to ensure stability of equality of rights.

For an analogy, consider a balance scale, and I'm trying to figure out a way to keep it stably level. You suggest that if I just put a bunch of weight on one side of it that will keep it stable. And I object that yes that will be stable, but it's not level, and level is the goal -- stability is a means to ensuring continued levelness. Yes, level seems to be an unstable arrangement, but that just means it's hard to keep it level. I'm trying to work on that hard problem of how to keep it level, and making it stably non-level doesn't solve that problem. (Interestingly, this analogy continues to my proposed solution too: the "bunch of weight" part is a good suggestion, but the "all on one side" part is where it gets it wrong. We need a bunch of weight, well-balanced on both sides. That gives the scale high inertia in the level position and keeps it from tipping at the slightest disturbance, like a tightrope walker's pole. A really big disturbance or a long string of systematically biased disturbances may still tip it... but then in the worst case it ends up as what you're suggesting we start with: a bunch of weight on one side. Except after the push to that side subsides, it will slowly drift back to level again, unlike if we just had all the weight on one side, where it would stay).

Even assuming (like the start of a Monopoly game) everyone has equal money and an equal starting position, the ability to trade comes with the ability to concentrate power and wealth. Simple example - one person performs services in exchange for goods, and nobody else does that - they just trade their goods away for those services, all transactions being freely decided. Boom - instant concentration of goods in that one person (and also, that one person has gained skills in whatever he's doing that the others do not have).

Arguably this is the only deserved kind of inequality. The one guy who does all the work gets all the rewards. I don't see that that's a problem that necessarily has to be fixed. The problem is if others don't have the opportunity to do that too if they want. If others want to work less and have less goods, I'm not going to question that lifestyle choice. (N.B. I do not think we have or ever have had equality of opportunity, and do not think most people who are poor are poor by choice -- though I have known people who explicitly were, by their own admission, living a much lower standard of living than considered "decent" by most folk because the difference between that and a "decent" standard of living wasn't worth the cost of "wasting away working for the man". I'm only saying in such a case, which it's not often the case, that wouldn't be so problematic; that's a legitimate choice on their part, if and when it really is a choice).

That person has a child and gives all his goods to that child, who grows up with unearned wealth, and the concentrated power this entails.

That is problematic, but it should, if not for other factors, be a self-correcting problem. If the child just sits on his ass and spends the parent's money instead of working his ass off like the parent did, the child should gradually lose money to those he's paying to do his work for him.

This person is now able to exploit the masses by demanding services from them in exchange for temporary and partial use of the goods he has inhereted.

This is the real problem; this is the "other factors" mentioned above. We can't let having money be a means in itself of making more money. If we prevent that, then we prevent the concentration of wealth beyond justifiable differences in personal ability. This is the origin of my critique against rent and interest. It is the means by which having money can be a means to making money. Without that, the only way to benefit from your wealth is to trade it for service, which sets up a natural flow of wealth from those with more than they need to those with less than they need, as it should be, but without any coercion necessary this way.

Simple question - if I chop down a tree in the forest and make a canoe out of it, who owns the canoe?

You own the canoe. But assuming the forest is publicly owned, and the public is not OK with you having taken the tree, and all factors of those particular circumstances considered your taking of the tree can't be defended as fair use of that public property (not infringing on the equal use of everyone else), then you may owe the value of that tree back to the public. Your canoe may or may not (again, all factors of those particular circumstances considered) be of equal value to the tree. If it's worth more than the tree, you could sell your canoe, pay back the value of the tree from the proceeds, and pocket the difference -- as is just, since apparently you added value to the world by your act. If the canoe is worth less than the tree, then you will need to supply the difference some other way. In any case you could always keep the canoe and supply the value of the tree you owe back another way too, assuming here there's nothing special and unique about the wood that the tree and now canoe are made from that makes it non-fungible.

(Man, non-fungible wood sounds like some kind of mold-resistent building material).

rmsgrey wrote:There's also a problem with arguing that the intuitive, "common law" definition of theft includes taxation - most people don't consider taxation to be theft, so, if your formulation of "theft" includes taxation, then it doesn't match the common intuition about theft. All that argument shows is that most people have trouble articulating their implicit definition of "theft".

Well a large part of the point of the argument is that people have inconsistent conceptualizations of things. A lot of philosophical arguments are like that. You point at one of someone's convictions, and then point out how other things they assent to contradict those convictions.

A fuller, perhaps more neutral version of the argument would be "You call this action theft when most people do it, but not when this group does it. If it's not ok for most people to do it, why is it ok for them to do it? Or conversely, if it's ok for them to do it, why isn't it ok for everyone else to do it?"

It's essentially a dilemma argument saying either taxes are wrong or taking someone's property against their will is sometimes ok. Propertarians (such as anarcho-capitalists) take the first horn of the dilemma and say governments have to be privately funded somehow, anti-propertarians (including most anarcho-socialists) take the second horn and say that everything is public property. I think a world where everything is public property -- where nobody has any security even in their own homes and necessities because everyone else is as free to use them as they are -- would be a horrifying dystopia even if perfectly implemented (e.g. "true communism" vs what the USSR ended up with). Conversely, a world where government somehow doesn't have to coerce people for money would be a great thing, but it's really hard to implement it properly (i.e. without causing a bunch of other problems). I'd rather take the fork that has a happy ending at the end of long hard tribulations than the one that has a hollow soulless ending even if you could get there without any trouble.

The trouble with competing private security and arbitration firms is that they're in a prisoner's dilemma - for each individual conflict, if one side is willing to use force and the other side isn't, the aggressive side wins outright; both sides end up doing reasonably well if neither side is prepared to go to the mattresses for their client, and reasonably poorly if they end up going to war over it, except that a corp that consistently wins fights, and thus ends up performing better for their clients, will tend to attract more clients (either because the clients are unscrupulous, or because they're desperate and don't want to be on the losing side).

A security provider who's not willing to fight for their clients isn't doing their job and deserves to be dropped. The whole system depends on having a bunch of conflicting powers all willing to fight if it comes to a fight, but preferring not to fight because that would be bad for everyone. If there are only two providers, an overly-aggressive one and a weak one, then yes that would be a problem. But so long as people can drop their spineless good-for-nothing security for a variety of better ones, and you don't have just one strong one, then you keep the balance of force and preserve the peace.

It's like if you have two strong men, who both project the message "I could beat your ass if you try to get rough with me, so stay reasonable and let's talk this out", and both think "he could beat my ass if I tried to get rough with him, so I'd better try to keep this reasonable and talk it out". So both are saying "be reasonable, for your own self-interest" and thinking "I hope he stays reasonable, for my self-interest". They are both willing and able to fight the other guy if the other guy fights them, but they're both hoping the other guy won't fight them. The mutual threat provides incentive for both to keep reasonable. But if ever one side doesn't have a credible threat against it, that side doesn't have to be reasonable, and then you have problems.

It's a lot like international relations now that I think about it.

With rich incentives for being the dominant security corp, and no monopolies commission to police you, the mafia analogy starts looking more plausible...

Who polices the police? What commission will break up the monopoly of force that is the state if it abuses its monopoly position? That's why the mafia analogy to the state looks plausible...
Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades
"I am Sam. Sam I am. I do not like trolls, flames, or spam."
The Codex Quaerendae (my philosophy) - The Chronicles of Quelouva (my fiction)


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