Archive for August, 2010

A libertarian technicality? Maybe. But regardless, here’s minarchism over anarchism.

Posted on August 26, 2010 at 5.09 pm

Q. You said you believe in minarchism. How do you reply to the claim that taxation is theft?  And furthermore, since you believe in a free market, why would the market not be a good way to run things like the legal system and police forces? It works for everything else, what makes law or police any different? — logicallypositive, from tumblr.

A. Well, I’m not fond of taxation.  The income tax is certainly abusive and unnecessary.  Indeed, I’d prefer to have the government funded in as noncoercive a manner as possible.  I kind of like Ron Paul’s idea of a low, uniform import tariff — or, even better, lottery (with private lotteries legalized, of course).  That’s basically voluntary taxation, which I find completely acceptable.

That said, I’m not an anarchist and do want a nightwatchman state for the protection of person and property.  I’m inclined to think persons smarter than I could figure out a way to fund it without taxation, but, assuming they were fairly applied (not progressive or regressive, for instance) I’m not against the very low taxes which would be required to support such a minimal regime.

Note: Taxation for unjust purposes (aggressive war, corporate or social welfare, etc.) is indeed theft.  But I assume we agree on that point.

In answer to the second half of your inquiry, what makes it different is that my right to the nonviolation of my person and property has nothing to do with how much of that property I have.

This isn’t the case with the sorts of things the market handles; I have no right to health care regardless of my wealth, but I do have a right to not be assaulted no matter how poor I am.  For instance, just because I can’t afford to hire a judge and lawyer, you still shouldn’t be able beat me up or burn my house down.  But the fact that I can’t afford to hire a doctor very much means he’s not obligated to treat me.

Now, given the choice between our current government and the anarcho-capitalism you describe, I’d certainly pick the latter.  I’m just saying I don’t think it’s the best option.

Education is important. That’s why the government shouldn’t play teacher.

at 8.06 am

Q. What do you make of the Rawlsian idea of “effective freedom”? If I break my leg and am lying in the gutter with no resources to help myself how am I free? If the state is to tax, shouldn’t health and education be the primary services it owes its citizens as a result of the imposition? Protection of property rights might be the sole concern of the ‘night watchman’ state, but, you know, respect for property rights is free, and I would say an excellent side effect of good education. — ninefruits, from tumblr.

A. I’ve read Rawls, though it’s been a while and his ideas are hardly fresh in my mind.  At any rate, I’ll go question by question:

What do you make of the Rawlsian idea of “effective freedom”? If I break my leg and am lying in the gutter with no resources to help myself how am I free?

How are you not free?  No person is restraining you, and that’s what it is the responsibility of government to stop.  (Of course, if someone or their property has broken your leg and put you in the gutter, that is quite a different story.  But I’m assuming you just tripped over a…wild bird or something which could not possibly be a human crime.)  Basically, this confuses positive rights with freedom, and they are two very different things.

Note:  As a Christian, I would certainly feel a responsibility to help you if I found you in the gutter — as I suspect the vast majority of people would, Christian or otherwise.  So I’m not advocating not helping such a person (far from it), I’m just saying government isn’t the best man for the job.

Second note:  Hypotheticals are fun, but it’s also important to consider things realistically.  For instance, if all gun control laws were struck down tomorrow, would every single person be running around with a machine gun, creating armed mayhem?  Would teenage girls settle their spats with pistols and children shoot their way through playtime?  No, of course not.  Most people’s gun ownership status would not change; teenage girls would still have no interest in guns; and children would still have parents and/or lack of money preventing them from getting a firearm.  Similarly, we don’t have a big problem of injured people lying in gutters with everyone refusing to help them.  Flawed though our charitable system is, you would hardly be left there to freely suffer.  And instituting a libertarian government wouldn’t change that — if anything, more charities would spring up to fill the void government programs had left.

If the state is to tax, shouldn’t health and education be the primary services it owes its citizens as a result of the imposition?

Why health and education?  Aren’t those just the services you rather like?  Why not…aggressive war and military bases in 170 countries around the globe to keep Amurrca safe from the terrrists?  Some other people might prefer those primary services.


Dealing with the debt: Should tax rates go up or down?

Posted on August 24, 2010 at 11.30 pm

Q. So my boyfriend says that to get rid of our deficit and eventually the debt, we’re going to have to cut spending AND raise taxes. I’m assuming you think we should cut spending and lower taxes. Is that your take? If so, can you elaborate? I need some ammo, especially since he was an economics major. — cjernigan, from tumblr.

A. Hmm…Well, the short answer is, “It depends.”  The biggest thing it depends on is how much you cut.  I’d advocate cutting well over half current federal spending — including whole cabinet departments, such as Education, HUD, HHS, Interior, Transportation, Energy, and Homeland Security (that would be a good start, at least).  It’s important to remember that even without such drastic measures as removing whole departments, cutting more than half of the federal budget would only take us back to the budget levels of the mid-1990s — hardly the dark ages.  Indeed, our first trillion dollar budget didn’t happen until 1987, which was marked by lots of Cold War spending and, again, not exactly ancient history (or limited government, whatever the Reaganites may say).  So to cut the federal budget by as much as 2/3 or 3/4 is not as extreme as it may initially sound.

As for taxes, yes, I am for lower taxes.  But I also recognize that we have a huge debt which must be repaid and that this is definitely not something which could happen in one year — or even eight years — of extreme fiscal conservatism.  It’s just too big.

So the second “it depends” is how short his timeline would be for getting rid of the deficit and debt.  The deficit could be solved within a year or two, I think, of significantly drawing down expenditures, especially by returning to a sensible (and far cheaper) foreign policy.  The costs of war and empire, as you no doubt know, are outrageous.