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On the Slogan “Taxation is Theft”

July 14th, 2014 · 171 Comments

So, I recently succumbed to an old collegiate vice (no, not that one…) and allowed myself to get sucked into a libertarian comments section debate.  This was, on the whole, about as edifying and productive an exercise as you might expect, but having already expended an hour or two in this questionable way, I figured I might as well reproduce a couple main points here in case anyone else finds this sort of thing interesting.

The slogan that “taxation is theft” used to be fairly popular among libertarians—particularly anarcho-capitalists, who reject the legitimacy of even taxation to support a minimal state—and apparently, in some circles, it continues to be.  Matt Zwolinski recently brought up a thoughtful old Loren Lomasky essay arguing that this is an unhelpful way for libertarians to talk, and promptly drew all sorts of fire from people who are fiercely committed to their slogan and, if anything, wish it would be chanted louder and with greater frequency.

So, first, a point so trivial I’d hope it wouldn’t need to be made, but which apparently does: Taken in a strict or literal sense, the claim that “taxation is theft” is just false.  Standard dictionary definitions  pretty uniformly include the idea that “theft” is a form of non-consensual property transfer that is “unlawful” or “felonious” or “without legal right.”  Obviously this is quite separate from the question of whether taxation (generally or in some specific instance) is morally justifiable: Just about everyone agrees that some types of taxation (poll taxes, say) are wrong without literally constituting “theft,” and most people will also recognize that there are at least occasionally instances of “theft” that are morally permissible, or even mandatory. I bother with this only because a depressing number of people seem to confusedly believe that, though the large majority of people use “theft” in a way that definitionally excludes taxation (or other lawfully authorized transfers) from its scope,  all those people are wrong about words.  Which is not really possible, of course: Over the long run, what words mean really just is a popularity contest. You can stipulate whatever sense of “theft” you like for the sake of a particular discussion—nothing  substantive turns on how we decide to use English terms—but these arguments so predictably collapse into vacuous verbal disputes that it seems simpler to cut to the chase and talk about why one thinks taxation is wrong.

Happily (as with the vegan slogan “meat is murder”) people mostly  understand well enough what the claim “taxation is theft” is meant to express: that we should all use “theft” in a way that encompasses “taxation” as just one more distinctive subcategory (like “embezzlement”), because coercive expropriation by states is illegitimate, and so taxation is morally on par with all those other transfers we currently describe as “theft.”  Bracketing the substantive plausibility of the underlying claim, that’s in principle a perfectly valid rhetorical strategy: “Marital rape” was an oxymoron until enough people insisted it shouldn’t be, and now, happily, it isn’t. Lomasky thinks this one, however, is counterproductive—and I’m inclined to agree.

For one, it’s a claim that anyone with a theory of just holdings could make about political systems that fail to satisfy their criteria, but we typically find it irritating when people with other political commitments make equivalent moves.   For someone who thinks justice requires equality of resources, or distribution according to the difference principle, or whatever, then failure to tax and redistribute could be characterized as “theft” by those with surplus holdings.  But framing the view that way just adds a dash of empty melodrama.  Every political viewpoint has some set of principles for determining what rights over resources people have—and, implicitly, is committed to the idea that the alternative ways of allocating resources are wrong. If you’re trying to seriously debate the alternatives, adding “Wrong!” in a louder voice after you’ve articulated yours isn’t really adding anything.

Which, I think, brings us back around to Lomasky’s sense that these kinds of slogans are symptomatic of a failure to take seriously the fact of political disagreement that is both thoughtful and sincere. One important component of “theft” as ordinary people use it (though I notice that not all of the dictionaries explicitly include it) is that it is intentional. “Theft” is not just taking what one has no right to, but what one knows or reasonably ought to know one has no right to. When someone grabs your coat  from a pile at a party, having mistaken it for theirs, then insofar as you’re persuaded they really  have made a good faith mistake, you try to convince them of the error without resorting to calling them “thief.”  (Especially if there’s some possibility that it will turn out you’re the one who’s mistaken.)

Not all disagreements, of course, are so easily resolved.  Even in anarcho-capitalist utopia, after all, there would be some kind of legal system providing for non-consensual transfers of property in the case of disputes.  When one person’s actions directly or indirectly harm another, there will often be disagreement about whether compensation is owed, and if so, what amount is reasonable.  There will be complex contractual disputes, or questions about whether a parcel of property has easements on it, or about whether the prima facie rightful owner’s claimed property boundaries are just right. Some of these disputes will actually be pretty complicated, and not easily resolved by recourse to simple moral first principles.  Invariably, either because the facts or the legal (quasi-legal?) rules are complex or ambiguous, whatever system is in place to resolve these disputes will sometimes get it wrong.

We can stipulate language evolving however we like in an imaginary anarcho-capitalist utopia, but it seems most natural to imagine the denizens of AnCapistan distinguishing between these kinds of inevitable good-faith errors and plain old theft.  And it seems natural because there is a morally salient difference between simply taking what you like without regard for whether you have a right to it, and adhering to some process designed to adjudicate and enforce rights claims, even when that process will necessarily yield an unjust outcome in some cases.

Saying “taxation is theft,” then, doesn’t just entail that the speaker thinks taxation is no more morally justifiable than theft.  It implies that this ought to be so self-evident to any reasonable person that those who disagree are (at best) just engaged in some kind of transparent rationalization for disregarding the rights of others.  That seems both clearly wrong and unfair, even if anarchists are ultimately right about the illegitimacy of taxation.  Why bother arguing at all if you believe that justifications for taxation are merely pretextual, and the great majority who regard it as legitimate (whether voters or agents of the state) do not really care whether it violates people’s rights?  One might, I suppose, try to awaken a mugger’s dormant conscience by reminding them “you have no right to do this to me!”—but that would be an attempt at shaming, not persuasion: The mugger’s problem is not that he doesn’t know, but that he doesn’t care.

Lomasky’s point—beyond the rhetorical utility of this particular slogan—is that libertarian rhetoric (and, to be sure, the rhetoric of some more intemperate progressives, but that’s their problem) sometimes treats good faith disagreement about what is right as equivalent to amoral indifference to what is right.  Very occasionally, that may be an effective rhetorical posture even when it’s somewhat unfair.  Usually, though, it seems to be neither fair nor effective—except, perhaps, at delivering whatever psychological satisfaction people obtain from imagining themselves among the righteous few in a sea of thugs and moral imbeciles.  When one is politically impotent, I guess, one takes what consolation prizes one can.

One additional theoretical consideration that’s largely independent of Lomasky’s (and Zwolinsky’s) main point.  The slogan that “taxation is theft” is ambiguous: We can read it to mean, as the anarchist typically does, that taxation per se is categorically illegitimate, but also as a more specific claim that actually-existing taxation involves depriving people of specific holdings to which they are entitled.  The second claim, it seems to me, is indefensible even if we suppose the anarchists are right as a matter of ideal theory.  If we take that theory to be some variant of neo-Lockean/Rothbardian/Nozickian/whatever account of initial appropriation and transfer, almost nobody residing in any actually-existing state can justify their present holdings by reference to an appropriately untainted provenance running back to the State of Nature.

Serious theorists tend to acknowledge this at least in passing, but it’s one of those elephants in the room that anarchist and minarchist libertarian thinkers alike have tended to give conspicuously short shrift.  In Nozick it’s basically relegated to an unsatisfying footnote to the effect that, yes, maybe we need a one-time carnival of patterned redistribution. (This is the political philosophy equivalent of Richard Dawkins tweeting “j/k: God did it up to amoebas, but THEN evolution.”) In other writers, it rates a few (equally unsatisfying) pages of hand-waving about homesteading and adverse possession.

If there’s a libertarian theorist who’s grappled with this at the length it merits, I haven’t seen it. I would love to be able to point to a few serious book-length efforts, but the Year Zero approach that just takes current holdings as given and proposes Entitlement Theory Starting Tomorrow have always struck me as the sort of ad hoccery that makes caricatures of libertarianism as an elaborate rationalization for privilege more plausible than they ought to be.  So an independent reason to shy away from “taxation is theft” as a slogan is that it can be interpreted as an unreflective endorsement of distributional patterns riddled with profound historical injustices.  Libertarians, anarchist and minarchist alike, still lack a theory of remediation serious and robust enough to meet the demands of their own priors.  When we have one and it’s implemented, then the anarchist camp will be in a better position to chant their slogan.

Update: Kevin Williamson, who I can only infer thinks I am very dim indeed, quotes my trivial semantic observation above as though it were meant to be some kind of substantive argument, and responds that I am “studiously ignoring the point.”  As I had hoped would be clear from the rest of the post, though, I understand the point perfectly well. I had merely meant to note, as a preface to the actual argument, that someone who denies “taxation is theft” is not grammatically wrong or confused in any strictly literal sense, and it’s silly to get mired in purely verbal disputes about the ideal Platonic definition of  “theft.”  As I acknowledged right after the sentences Williamson quotes, this anthropological factoid about contemporary usage has no real bearing on the upshot of the slogan, which is that taxation is morally equivalent to theft. Substantive moral questions can’t be resolved by dictionaries. That said, it’s my own fault for spending too many words on a silly and trivial point, so I’ve made some edits in hopes of leaving it a little clearer what I’m trying to do here.

Just in case though: This is not a post about whether taxation is categorically wrong (though I don’t happen to think so). Rather, this is a post about why, even assuming arguendo that taxation is illegitimate, slogans like “taxation is theft” are not a helpful way to express that claim, because they equate a good faith disagreement about what rights people have with malicious disregard for those rights. I find it morally outrageous that we imprison people for selling drugs to willing adult buyers; such imprisonment is always unjust.  But framing this as the claim that “drug prohibition is kidnapping” is not, in most cases, a useful thing to say to someone who disagrees about the underlying point, for basically the same reasons that equating opposition to single-payer with a desire to watch the poor suffer rarely leads to any kind of interesting conversation.

Tags: Libertarian Theory


       

 

171 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Will Wilkinson // Jul 14, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Bravo!

  • 2 Bob // Jul 14, 2014 at 10:13 pm

    “almost nobody residing in any actually-existing state can justify their present holdings by reference to an appropriately untainted provenance running back to the State of Nature.”

    How do libertarians justify private property/real property ownership since the provenance will eventually show an unjust taking of something that led to its currently “owned” condition? If the ownership is legitimized through some government agency, then isn’t the government authorizing/approving of the original unjust act and any taxation perhaps merely the price paid for the government protecting the ownership status quo?

  • 3 John V // Jul 14, 2014 at 10:44 pm

    I’m reminded of your past article on “outsight”.

  • 4 Peter St Onge // Jul 14, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    When we say “Baltimore is a dump” we don’t mean it is like a dump in every conceivable way – lack of buildings, methane abatement equipment. We mean it has some essential dumpness to it.

    And so when we say “taxes are theft” we don’t mean taxation is identical to theft — this would violate parsimony of language. We mean there is some essential character of theft to taxes. In particular, the seizure of something by force.

    Second point, for an intriguing presentation of the “God to amoeba” point, you’re familiar with Mencius Moldbug? His “formalism” recommends indeed arbitrarily drawing a date, and the reason is consequentialist — minimal violence.

  • 5 Morgan Warstler // Jul 14, 2014 at 11:15 pm

    Stealing is wrong.

    Understandable sometimes, but always wrong.

    Being able to recognize the wrongness , even while you might do it, isn’t schizophrenic, it means that sometimes real life interferes with who you want to be.

    It’s an admittance, that NOT EVERYONE in your position would do what you did, and they are probably a better person than you.

    They get a 100% on piety and you get a 82%.

    None of this however gets to the broader point of Georgist / Geo-Libertarian truth, which is that holding title REQUIRES a state, which requires a tax, which means taxation of land owners isn’t theft, it is morally required.

    Now if you can conceptualize a non-digital, non virtual system of property without titled land…. PLEASE let me know what it is. But 25+ years of arguing anarcho-capitalism online from a 300 baud modem forward, I haven;t heard anybody get around that titled land requires taxes, and that those taxes should be on land.

    Now taxing people who have no land? OK, that’s theft.

    And if you want to go ahead and do it anyway, apologize for doing it, and wish you didn’t have to.

  • 6 Morgan Warstler // Jul 14, 2014 at 11:24 pm

    Julian, here’s another way of thinking about it:

    Would welfare transfers be morally better if the poor were super grateful and wrote thank you notes to the haves, and generally felt if not shame, at least thankfulness that the haves didn’t just say “enough of this shit, we have 300M guns, and pay the cops and soldiers salaries, let’s disband this government and eat the poor to be done with them?”

    Yes of course. it would be more moral.

    And it’d ben EVEN MORE moral if they were thankful without any fear of being cut off.

    And it’d be even more moral if they felt a twinge of shame.

    We grade this stuff with at least 50 shades of grey, that doesn’t mean we forget what black and white are.

  • 7 Bradley // Jul 14, 2014 at 11:25 pm

    How do libertarians justify private property/real property ownership since the provenance will eventually show an unjust taking of something that led to its currently “owned” condition?

    From memory: Rothbard, at least, argued that property currently in use could be presumed justly-obtained unless demonstrated otherwise.

    Say, for example, a plantation house had been built or worked by slaves, but passed on to the slave owner’s descendents. That would fall into the unjust category and thus be permissible for “homesteading” by someone else — preferably descendents of the original victims, but even a third party would have a stronger claim than the current owner.

    I don’t recall the details of the argument though.

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  • 9 JH // Jul 15, 2014 at 10:04 am

    Hi Julian, this is a very thoughtful post and you make several insightful points. But I want to push back a bit on your argument.

    When a (relatively sophisticated) libertarian says that taxation is theft, I take them to mean that the state is appropriating property from citizens that they state lacks any right to take. Now, it could be that, on this view, taxation is not quite as bad as mugging or burglary because (a) it is not intentional rights-violating and (b) there are procedures that constrain it.

    But this only seems to make it a bit less bad than ordinary theft, if people really are entitled to their property. First, if a crime boss takes a vote and deliberates about whether to extort money from innocent people, this still seems pretty bad, despite the fact that the boss is constrained by some kind of procedure. Second, people can not intentionally commit theft but nonetheless intentionally commit rights-violations. Suppose that Joe in the 18th century thought that enslaving Africans was not rights-violating because (1) this was lawful and (2) Joe did not intend to violate anyone’s rights, he just mistakenly thought that Africans had no right against enslavement. Well, we would still want to say that Joe is violating people’s rights, despite these facts. I think that “taxation is theft” libertarians want to say the same thing about redistribution. Public officials might not intend to violate the property rights of citizens and they may have mistaken views about what people are entitled to. Nonetheless, they’re still violating rights.

    It seems that your main, non-semantic argument is that all historical theories of property rights fail to justify current holdings. And you’re surely right about that. But two reservations. First, there may be good alternative theories of private property that do not depend on historical entitlements stretching back to the state of nature. I myself think some kind of interest-based theory is correct. Second, if you don’t think that the current distribution of private property is justified, do you think that it would be permissible for you or I to take someone else’s property at gunpoint? Sure, you might say that this would be wrong because it is against the law, but come on: everyone knows that we don’t have political obligations. It seems to me that this would be wrong. If that would be wrong for me or you, then I don’t see why it would be permissible for the state to do the same thing.

  • 10 Julian Sanchez: Taxation is No Different Than Accidentally Taking The Wrong Coat At A Party | 412Libertarian // Jul 15, 2014 at 11:11 am

    […] named Julian Sanchez takes his shot at arguing “taxes aren’t theft” and misses pretty spectacularly, as most (okay, all) […]

  • 11 Hal // Jul 15, 2014 at 11:20 am

    Morgan Warstler,

    “None of this however gets to the broader point of Georgist / Geo-Libertarian truth, which is that holding title REQUIRES a state, which requires a tax, which means taxation of land owners isn’t theft, it is morally required.”

    Where can I read more about this argument? Any links?

  • 12 nha // Jul 15, 2014 at 12:30 pm

    Bradley, it seems kind of ironic though, don’t you think? Rothbard is typically cited to demonstrate that everything the state does is unjust. So, if Rothbard is correct, then this means that all currently used property is unjustly obtained. The argument becomes self-defeating.

  • 13 412libertarian // Jul 15, 2014 at 12:59 pm

    nha, that’s only true if you believe property is legitimately owned and distributed by the state, which Rothbard did not. We don’t “obtain property from the state,” land exists and we explore and find it and then use it to improve our lives. Government is not necessary for this process to occur

  • 14 Harry // Jul 15, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    ^ Show the deeds. That’s what it boils down to.

  • 15 Harry // Jul 15, 2014 at 1:23 pm

    (Was responding to Bradley’s comment)

  • 16 Harry // Jul 15, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    One more spam from me, my bad.

    If Sanchez’s argument early on that taxation isn’t theft because Oxford and Merriam say theft requires the state, does that mean theft ceases to exist in an anarcho-capitalist society? Surely if the Free State Project seceded from the U.S. and NH became a voluntarist territory, people would still use the word “theft” in contract and in colloquialism.

    It seems an inane point to make. Most people do indeed think about legality when using the word “theft,” but those people would have zero problem using the word absent government. Can you imagine people in an anarcho-capitalist society discarding biblical principles just because the state isn’t the one doing the enforcing? If so you are probably unimaginative, have little faith in the private sector, and must be a depressingly pessimistic libertarian.

    Finally, even if the libertarian expression “taxation is theft” is not 100% precise, um, who cares? It’s obviously meant as a shaming tactic, and IMO a rightful one. Not everyone is persuaded by these absolutist moral arguments, but some are, so use them when you can.

    Radicalism isn’t for everyone but don’t pretend it’s never useful or helpful.

  • 17 412libertarian // Jul 15, 2014 at 3:32 pm

    Yeah, I agree. Stealing isn’t wrong because the founding fathers or Congress got together and agreed it was. It’s wrong because you’re taking someone else’s possessions without their permission. The fact that “the majority agrees” with the government’s decision to do so does not change this fact. It only takes one person to deny consent for a rights violation to occur. The fact that statists so casually promote or dismiss the widespread violation of rights in society is cause for concern.

  • 18 Professor Coldheart // Jul 15, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    the Year Zero approach that just takes current holdings as given and proposes Entitlement Theory Starting Tomorrow have always struck me as the sort of ad hoccery that makes caricatures of libertarianism as an elaborate rationalization for privilege more plausible than they ought to be.

    You toss this in at the end, and yet this, I think, is the far more interesting point to discuss. Whether or not to call taxation “theft” is a debate of interest only between libertarians. But this idea – if x% of property is unjustly acquired, how to achieve a just society through libertarian principles – not only addresses how libertarianism might be viewed by outsiders, but tackles serious issues at the core of libertarian philosophy.

    So, more of this, please!

  • 19 bob dob // Jul 15, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    Peter St Onge: “We mean there is some essential character of theft to taxes. In particular, the seizure of something by force.”
    … just like private property has the essential character of force. If the link to force is what motivates you to the statement “taxation is theft” then you should be exactly as willing to publicly accept the statement “taxation and private property are both in the same regard theft”. If not then you are either delusional or dishonest.

  • 20 Travis // Jul 15, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    Every inch of land in North America has been stolen from the Native Americans. Literally none of it was justly obtained.

  • 21 412libertarian // Jul 15, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    What are you talking about, bob dob?

    Defending private property operty using force is acceptable because we believe in self ownership. If we own something, we have the right to defend against aggressive attempts to interfere with it.

    Using an example, let’s say there is a brand new landmass on earth that hasn’t been discovered yet. Someone stumbles upon it, or finds it using sophisticated methods, whatever. The point is that the land is clearly unowned because no one even knew about it before the discovery. Once this person finds it, why shouldn’t he be able to “mix his labor with the land” as it has been said and claim it as an extension of his person? If you own yourself, clearly you own your labor as well. Viewed in that light it should make much more sense.

    If you disagree, I’m curious as to why, and also what your alternative proposed solution is. Thank you.

  • 22 412libertarian // Jul 15, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Oops can’t edit that last comment please disregard the “operty”

  • 23 Travis // Jul 15, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    “Land exists and we explore and find it and then use it to improve our lives. ”

    The Native Americans had explored all the land in North America and found everything and were using it to improve their lives. Please explain how literally everything in the United States today isn’t a fruit of that poisoned tree.

  • 24 Travis // Jul 15, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    412libertarian, are you seriously arguing that Europeans “discovered” an entirely-depopulated void and were thus entitled to seize and exploit it? Because that kind of thinking is literally why people laugh at libertarian arguments.

  • 25 Julian Sanchez // Jul 15, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    JH- Nothing in this post is at all related to whether taxation is morally bad or not. Everything I say here is meant to be fully compatible with the possibility that taxation is always a rights violation as bad as or worse than theft. I take no position here on whether taxation is legitimate or worse than murder.

  • 26 Travis // Jul 15, 2014 at 7:12 pm

    And yes, Professor Coldheart nails it. Libertarianism is a wonderful theory that ignores a whole lot of cultural history and human failings.

    The profoundly unequal distribution of wealth of today is not some natural ordained order of things, but rather an artifact of all that has come before.

    Similarly, the welfare state is not some artificial imposition of statist busybodies, but rather an artifact of repeated attempts to reconcile this profoundly unequal distribution of wealth with the widely-held belief in supporting the inherent value of a human life.

    Somehow, our society has to reconcile those facts. The welfare state is one attempt. It is admittedly imperfect. But appealing to magic hypotheticals, a blind belief in charity and admonitions to “just trust the invisible hand” is not a convincing answer either. If you are not willing to re-examine the current distribution of wealth, then big corporations are precisely what will rule in the absence of big government – and if there is one thing Americans trust less than big government, it is big corporatism.

  • 27 Justin // Jul 15, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    I think the philosophy of language is more complicated than you’re letting on here. We’re not talking about natural kinds, but some of the insights that come from Putnam et. al do apply–finding out what a word refers to isn’t as simple as polling people and finding out what things they think it refers to.

    Take the case of martial rape: I find it quite intuitive that the meaning of rape has not changed since the 19th century, only people’s opinions. Rape simply is non-consensual sex, and that’s always what it was–there’s nothing else plausible for it to have meant back then, any more than it made sense for there to be a different category for murdering a white man and murdering a black man during the days of slavery.

    I don’t think there’s much to this strategy in the case of theft-there’s not a simple meaning for the word to glom onto in the same way. But I would have a hard time explaining exactly why there should not be.

  • 28 412libertarian // Jul 15, 2014 at 9:29 pm

    Travis,

    I agree that America was founded on highly questionable, if not outright illegitimate grounds. However, that does not condemn me, living here over 200+ years later. No one has made any claim against my apartment or my car or anything else. If anyone would like to make a specific claim with proof I’d be happy to entertain them.

    I never said that Europeans discovered Europe. I’m not a history expert but whoever was there first should have held title, and any violation of that title by governments or otherwise was illegitimate. Again, any peoples who feel wronged are free to present their specific case to collect damages.

    At some point you lose the right to make a claim. Maybe your family dies off, or someone along the line fails to pursue it. There is no continual transfer from generation to generation. The time has long come and gone for the claims to be made.

    As for wealth inequality, it is not necessarily a bad thing. Wealth is based on many things, luck being probably the biggest factor, but also skills, aptitudes, attitudes, persistence, drive, dedication, innovation, and several others.

    The welfare state, whatever it is, destroys those wonderful aspects of the human race. It adds incentives in favor of being lazy, unmotivated, etc because it pays to sit around and do nothing. And it hurts work ethic when you have to give up half or more to someone else, whatever the reason may be.

    Americans are misled. It is not corporations that cause problems but the combination of government and corporations. They receive subsidies, tax breaks, and monopoly privilege they would never enjoy in a free market.

    The free market tends to lower prices and raise quality. Such an example is the flat panel TV market.

  • 29 412libertarian // Jul 15, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    Julian,

    As I said in my piece, you’re being disingenuous at best and outright lying at worst. Your logic leads one to believe that slavery or the Holocaust may or may not have been morally wrong, but you only comment on the legality of them in the government’s view. That is highly deceitful and a poor argument without a real point. So what if the government says slavery is legal, it’s wrong.

    You also make many other errors, again as I allude to in my piece.

  • 30 rob // Jul 16, 2014 at 2:04 am

    The writer has no idea on what Libertarians are actually doing. He isn’t even aware that directional libertarians like the USLP have dealt with the remediation issue separately in their past platforms.

    He should check out the Zero tax and Operation dignity articles at http://www.libertarianinternational.org and catch up with the last 40 years!

  • 31 rob // Jul 16, 2014 at 2:07 am

    I’m just amazed at how people at CATO, which was founded at the behest of by the LIO, don’t even stay current with LIO work.

    I understand that CATO was founded as libertarian-oriented, not Libertarian, but geez. Do basic research.

  • 32 Travis // Jul 16, 2014 at 4:23 am

    “At some point you lose the right to make a claim. Maybe your family dies off, or someone along the line fails to pursue it. There is no continual transfer from generation to generation. The time has long come and gone for the claims to be made.”

    So “finders keepers, losers weepers,” is that it? That is an attitude most Americans leave behind on the elementary school playground.

    You personally have massively benefited from the fact that Europeans came to North America en masse and used their superior technology to seize the land by force, intentionally exterminating the native population through an overt policy of genocide. (I have also massively benefited from this fact.) There was nothing consensual or morally correct about this set of circumstances. It was outright thievery of the sort you claim to condemn.

    To claim that “oh well, we stole this place a long time ago, nobody can do anything about it now, the end” is both extraordinarily convenient and profoundly disingenuous. It boils down to nothing more than “I got mine, screw you.” If, as you argue, that is the essence of libertarian ideology… then it will literally never be part of mainstream thought in the United States.

    This post and comments have done a service by describing that problem and beginning to quest for solutions.

  • 33 Travis // Jul 16, 2014 at 6:24 am

    Oh, and it would help if you could explain the logic behind your statement that “there is no continual transfer from generation to generation” of claims for those who were dispossessed, yet you have no apparent problem with the “continual transfer from generation to generation” of the property that was stolen by those who stole it.

  • 34 sixxfingers // Jul 16, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I’ve always considered taxation to be more akin to extortion, which is basically defined as “using the threat of violence or destruction to extract money.”

    Isn’t that precisely how all taxing authorities operate: Peacefully give us what we demand from you and you’ll remain safe. Fail to cooperate and we will cheerfully send men with guns and LICENSES TO KILL to forcibly take it from you.

  • 35 412libertarian // Jul 16, 2014 at 10:33 am

    It’s not finder’s keepers, you actually have to take something unused and use it yourself before claiming it as your own. Stealing it is illegitimate as I said repeatedly.

    I don’t exactly see your point. Yes, people 200+ years ago violated rights and stole native American property. What exactly can I do about that, and how could I have stopped it, considering I was about negative 200 years old?

    What am I supposed to do, give up my apartment to a native American? Then it becomes the reverse situation. He says “screw you, I got mine.”

    There isn’t a continual transfer down the line of generations, necessarily. Sometimes rich people choose not to give their kids a huge inheritance, or any at all. Sometimes rich kids don’t have kids. Sometimes their kids die before the parents. Just because you originally settle on some land does not give you the right to own it forever more. You actually have to be alive and using it to own it. This can include holding it as an investment also. If an American buys a house and then dies off, he doesn’t still have a property claim 100 years later. Likely there is an entirely new owner, or he voluntarily passes it down to his kids.

    I don’t exactly see your solution to the problem. My solution is simply “we cannot alter the past, specifically the distant past, hundreds of years before I was even born. We have what we have, and from now forward let’s focus on individual rights so things like the Americans brutally stealing land does not happen again. If appropriate, make restitution for any personal sins or thefts. I can’t be held responsible for something that happened 200+ years ago.”

    Curious to hear how you propose handling the injustice of America’s founding, which we both agree was wrong.

  • 36 Nicolas Leobold // Jul 16, 2014 at 1:37 pm

    Taxation is theft. Even when corporations or land owners are taxed. Because taxes go to states, which are orders of magnitude more violent than corporations or land owners or anyone else.

  • 37 Travis // Jul 16, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    My solution to the problem is to acknowledge that we are an imperfect society in an imperfect culture on an imperfect world.

    We will never have equal wealth distribution. You are right that we cannot alter the past, and perhaps you are right that there is no “fair” way to individually undo the damage.

    But if that is the case, then we have no choice but to work to collectively undo the damage. Our society is not magically disconnected from that which came before, and can never be magically disconnected from that which came before.

    Historically speaking, in fact, we have barely begun to leave behind the worst of our thefts. The last American who was born a slave died less than 50 years ago. The current distribution of wealth is fundamentally illegitimate, is not rooted in any sort of “natural law” and does not flow from anything resembling morality or justice.

    And this means, as Julian has argued far more eloquently than I, that you cannot simply declare that “taxation is theft,” drop the mic and convince anyone that it is somehow illegitimate for the people of this nation to democratically vote to redistribute a fraction of that wealth in ways they believe will result in a more just and equal society in the future.

  • 38 Travis // Jul 16, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    And I suppose I should note that perhaps our society could be magically disconnected from that which came before, through the “one-time carnival of patterned redistribution” noted in the original post.

    So if you’re willing to reboot American wealth ownership from the ground up, then perhaps we could reach a point in which taxation would be theft.

  • 39 Phil // Jul 16, 2014 at 2:39 pm

    Private property rights are a social creation. There are no property rights in anarchy, only people pointing weapons at each other and saying “this is mine”. There is no rule of law in ancapistan, only people using force to impose their claims and beliefs on others. Taxation is not theft, it’s a legal obligation that comes with all the benefits of living in a society. However, it might be just or unjust depending on the circumstances, just as any required payment might be just or unjust. No one has a monopoly on the definition of justice however, which is why we get together and argue about these things, and about how to organize our society in accordance with our ideals. Humans are social creatures, not isolated atoms existing in an ahistorical vacuum. You did not create all your wealth on your own. You did not create the land which you claim as your property.

  • 40 bob dob // Jul 16, 2014 at 7:07 pm

    412libertarian: you appear to think that you are a libertarian and against force but in fact what you propose is the single biggest statist policy even deviced and at its core a system of force and coercion against the bodies of other people.
    See Matt Bruenig’s post @ http://www.demos.org/blog/1/29/14/what-world-following-non-aggression-principle-looks for details.

    As for the “mixing labor with the land” story it seems to me that if that idea actually was worth its salt then all land in the northern hemisphere should be handed over to descendants of native americans. Clearly genocide is not a valid method of property transfer on any libertarian theory and clearly massive genocide and other self-ownership violating actions where done. Those violations taint all holdings downstream, including everything you think you own. So, when will you removing your body from their property and leave the continent? Do they have a right to use lethal force to stop you from trespassing?

    I myself don’t think the mixing story carries weight. So what if some dudes or dudettes now long dead was first to use this or that piece of land? The resources of earth should be put to use to improve welfare for everyone. Empirical evidence has it that a northern european type welfare state is the best system yet for achieving that so that’s what I want.

  • 41 412libertarian // Jul 17, 2014 at 12:40 am

    bob dob,

    http://412libertarian.com/matt-bruenig-does-not-understand-self-ownership-or-non-aggression-or-libertarianism-or-anything-really/

  • 42 Thomas // Jul 17, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Enjoyed your post. I myself am just not a huge fan of using emotionally charged words in an idiosyncratic manner, especially when the intention seems to be to oversimplify the deeper issues at play.

    From a related post at: http://squid314.livejournal.com/323694.html

    “Taxation is theft!” Some libertarians are extraordinarily intelligent people whose understanding of economics and political science gives them an intuitive feel for how government policies often have unintended negative consequences. Other libertarians just repeat this phrase again and again, and ask you if you support stealing. The typical example of theft is someone mugging you in a dark alley and taking your pocketbook. Taxation technically qualifies as theft if you define the latter as “taking someone’s money through implied threat of force”, but it also differs from dark-alley-mugging in several important ways, like that it’s levied by a democratically elected government, that it’s supposed to be spent on useful programs, and that it’s collected in an orderly and predictable fashion. These differences seem to be important enough that most people support taxation even though they don’t support dark-alley-muggings. Libertarians can reasonably argue that these differences are not important enough to justify taxation, but they need to actually make this argument; they can’t just say “Taxation is theft!” and try to sweep the differences under the rug.

  • 43 bod dob // Jul 17, 2014 at 6:43 am

    412libertarian: if you have any arguments, summarize them here.

  • 44 Phil // Jul 17, 2014 at 6:45 am

    412 Libertarian,

    in that article you engage in the usual “libertarian” deceitfulness:

    “These aren’t “our views,””

    Yes, they are *your* views. The clue is in the fact that not everyone agrees with *your* views.

    Do you not understand this very simple, basic point? Do you not understand that it is possible for people to disagree with your beliefs?

    “they are the views of everyone who does not endorse slavery.”

    That is a lie. I do not endorse slavery, and I also disagree with the views of libertarians like yourself. The vast majority of people do not endorse endorse slavery, and the vast majority of people also do not agree with *your* views.

    Why do “libertarians” feel the need to lie so much?

    “If you don’t believe in total self ownership, then by definition you endorse at least partial slavery.”

    First of all, the concept of “self ownership” does not necessarily entail the whole libertarian political ideology. Jumping from “I own myself” to “I have the absolute right to control everything that happens on that piece of land for eternity because I put a fence around it and dug some holes, and I have the right to shoot anyone I want to who steps on that piece of land, and I have no obligations to the rest of society at all, and anyone who steps on that land is initiating force against me” does not work at all, logically.

    Secondly, the concept of self-ownership is logically problematic in itself. You *are* yourself, so how can own yourself?

    As usual, as a “libertarian”, you believe that your opinions are the Absolute Truth. They are not. You ideology is juvenile, repulsive, and the vast majority of people simply think it is ridiculous and stupid.

    Grow up.

  • 45 Kent McManigal // Jul 17, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    When you pretend that the thieves can make up rules excusing their theft, and then those rules (in your mind) make their theft non-theft… well, there is nothing you couldn’t justify that way. And “taxation” is still theft.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H585nogZWpQ

  • 46 412libertarian // Jul 17, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    Phil, using Capital Letters and telling me to grow up won’t make me gloss over your gross errors.

    I have the absolute right to control everything that happens on that piece of land for eternity because I put a fence around it and dug some holes, and I have the right to shoot anyone I want to who steps on that piece of land, and I have no obligations to the rest of society at all, and anyone who steps on that land is initiating force against me”

    Who said anything about “eternity??” The statists are the one saying stuff about eternity, how I am somehow a bad person for stealing land from a Native America’s great great great great grandson because his ancestor was here before me, hundreds of years ago. You guys and your collective group think make me chuckle.

    Libertarian infighting is out of control and bad for the movement. Chris Cantwell had a Facebook group blocked because of it, and like he says it is rejects from the Democrat party who come in and mess things up with their fake brand of Libertarianism. It likely is government behind a lot of the infighting, and no this is not some tin foil hat conspiracy, it has been proven and admitted that the government engages in trolling and online opinion molding for its own purposes.

    In addition to being dishonest, you are also a hypocrite. You *do*believe in self ownership, as seen by your very life and actions every day. If someone tries to steal YOUR wallet, you’d get upset and call the cops. Why? Maybe the other person needs the money. Maybe it was going to go to a good cause. You practice and live by the concepts of private property and self ownership and peaceful, voluntary transfer of property titles, but you don’t want everyone else to enjoy the same rights.

    But go ahead and focus on the fact that I’m an immature Utopian who believes in ghosts, or something, and ignore all of reality. It’s your specialty.

  • 47 412libertarian // Jul 17, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Thomas,

    “but it also differs from dark-alley-mugging in several important ways, like that it’s levied by a democratically elected government, that it’s supposed to be spent on useful programs, and that it’s collected in an orderly and predictable fashion.”

    The problem with these reasons are they are either outright lies, or not good reasons to disqualify them as theft.

    The fact that a bunch of people get together and decide to take money against my will, does not change the fact that money is being taken against my will. If we gather up you and 8 of my friends, and vote 90%in favor of taking $20 per week from you, would you be okay with that? Or would you “like it or leave?”

    I know you seem sympathetic to my side so I’m just asking as Devils advocate.

    Government money is not spent on useful programs. The war on drugs and terror and all the assorted welfare is proof. I guess the presumption is that those things “keep us safe” and “help the poor” but they don’t.

    Orderly and predictable theft, is still theft. What if a dark alley mugger pointed a gun at you and said “same time next week, punk.” Would that in any way justify what he does? Of course not.

  • 48 Travis // Jul 17, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    We live in a society where, indeed, we have collectively (there’s that word again) agreed that we need and desire a system of government and that we will collectively share the responsibility for financing the operation of that system of government. That which you have agreed to cannot be “theft,” by definition.

    Your choice to continue being an American citizen and to reside in the United States constitutes your implied agreement to the terms of citizenship and governance established by the Constitution. The United States does not impose any exit visas and you may renounce your citizenship at any U.S. Embassy.

    Of course, you won’t do this, because what you desire is to have your cake and eat it too — to reap the fruits of life in an advanced civilized society without sharing in the costs of that advanced civilized society. You are, in short, a wannabe freeloader.

  • 49 412libertarian // Jul 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm

    I don’t remember agreeing to anything of the sort, Travis. When was that agreement signed?

    If I kidnap you and put you in my basement, is your continued presence in my basement “implied consent” or not?

    You’re being dishonest (again) when you say the US does not impose exit visas. Technically, yes, there’s no upfront fee to leave, except of course picking up your entire life and moving. But the US does change taxes for I believe 10 years after you leave. Renouncing your citizenship also costs time and money. So you’re being purposefully deceitful and not giving the whole story.

    Why should I have to “love it or leave,” anyway? I’m a victim of theft. Would you respond the same way to someone who was robbed in their home, or out taking a walk?

    I want to end the “system” of government schools, roads, wars, and money debasement, so I’m not sure how I want that cake at all. I want everyone to pay for the goods and services they personally use. If that’s you’re definition of a freeloader, well, we can just add that to the list of words you have no clue about

  • 50 412libertarian // Jul 17, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    Julian, it would be nice if we had the option to edit comments, at least for maybe a half hour after they’re posted or something. My phone and autocorrect suck, and I often make silly errors like your instead of you’re or leave out a letter etc.

    Or, I could just be more careful and or proofread my own work, I guess. Meh.

  • 51 Phil // Jul 17, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    412libertarian

    “Who said anything about “eternity”??”

    Would you prefer “rest of my life”, perhaps plus “whatever I decide can happen to it after I die”?

    “You *do*believe in self ownership”

    No, I don’t think the concept actually makes much sense. I do not consider me to be my property. I consider me to be me. If you said “my body is the property of my mind/soul” that might be more logical, but that has plenty of philosophical problems too. In general I think it is more sensible to simply say that I am me, not that I “own” me. Besides, as I said, the self-ownership concept does not lead logically to the rest of the ‘libertarian’ political ideology, so asserting ‘self ownership’ does not somehow entail everything else that you believe in.

    “If someone tries to steal YOUR wallet, you’d get upset and call the cops.”

    Probably. But I usually wouldn’t get upset about paying taxes, as they are not the same thing. I don’t know how to make it clearer for you. I do not believe in the ‘libertarian’ or anarcho-capitalist’ ideology. I disagree with your opinions. I do not think that taxation is theft.

    “You practice and live by the concepts of private property… and peaceful, voluntary transfer of property titles, but you don’t want everyone else to enjoy the same rights.”

    Yes I do, I want people to enjoy the same rights as me, including those rights. I do not believe that taxation is a violation of property rights. Tax revenue is the property of the state. Private property rights are a social creation, a creation of social law, which are established, defined and protected by law and the state.

    None of this means that taxation is necessarily always just. Defining something as a property right does not necessarily make it just either.

  • 52 Travis // Jul 17, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    “I want everyone to pay for the goods and services they personally use.”

    And because it would be extraordinarily inefficient to install a toll booth at every block of every street in the country, and extraordinarily invasive to GPS-log everyone’s vehicle usage, we have collectively decided that paying for streets and highways should be done through a system of taxation on landowners who benefit from that street and highway access and through a system of taxation on motor vehicle fuels that reasonably approximates a user fee.

  • 53 Travis // Jul 17, 2014 at 4:31 pm

    Also, sales taxes often fund highway and transportation improvements, in recognition of the fact that everyone who purchases anything from anywhere has benefited from the availability of a high-quality transportation network to deliver those goods and services.

  • 54 Travis // Jul 17, 2014 at 4:47 pm

    And this goes directly to the heart of what Julian has written here. There are a whole lot of libertarian ideas that work really great as soundbites, but fall apart when you try to apply them to the real world.

    Saying that “everyone should pay for the goods and services they personally use” makes sense. But how would that work in the real world?

    What is your alternative to the current mix of taxes that support the construction and maintenance of roads and highways? How would those costs be efficiently and fairly distributed? How would prices be regulated, given the fact that establishing competition among road networks is effectively impossible? What about the sidewalks? Do I have to pay to use those? What if I’m too poor to afford the sidewalk toll – would I get arrested for trespassing?

    Invoking the magic invisible hand is not an answer to any of these questions. These are real-world issues with real-world consequences for people and nobody is going to take your ideology seriously if you can’t articulate how any of this would work without a structure of civil government.

  • 55 412libertarian // Jul 17, 2014 at 8:48 pm

    Statists gonna statist.

    There’s been exhaustive work done on private roads. I suggest using Google to find out more, searching for Walter Block in particular.

    Statists always think they have some new idea or argument we haven’t heard before. Funny, but you were proven wrong decades ago.

  • 56 412libertarian // Jul 17, 2014 at 8:49 pm

    One reason I believe taxation is theft is because it lacks explicit consent. Anyone care to rebut that portion of my argument?

  • 57 Phil // Jul 17, 2014 at 9:40 pm

    “taxation is theft is because it lacks explicit consent”

    “lacks explicit consent” is not a sufficient reason to describe taxation as theft.

    http://gene-callahan.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/against-their-will-we-were-taxing.html

    p.s. I consent to being taxed, as do most people.

  • 58 Phil // Jul 17, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    also:

    http://gene-callahan.blogspot.co.uk/2014/06/my-mortgage-payments-stolen-from-me-at.html

  • 59 Travis // Jul 17, 2014 at 10:00 pm

    Here is Walter Block’s answer to the question of how road fees might be collected by a private corporation.

    “It is hard to say how they would best collect revenue from the users of these roads. This is an entrepreneurial decision. It is like asking, before the advent of Disney World, would they charge by the ride or have an entrance fee? Would they make it cheaper if you purchased a week-, month-, year-long ticket?”

    Translation: I haven’t a fucking clue, but the magic invisible hand will figure something out, I promise, and I believe that collecting fees at a small area of land with limited access points is exactly the same as collecting fees on a network of urban streets.

    “Now that I’ve ducked your eminently reasonable question, let me speculate about it. One possibility would be a charge per mile, depending upon the time of day, day of the week. Another would be a fixed fee.”

    OK, so now we’ve got something to chew on. A charge per mile would require that the private corporation have access to a detailed GPS log of your vehicle’s every move. The privacy implications of this are self-evident. A fixed fee would require the installation of expensive automatic toll collection equipment at every possible entrance point to the privatized road network. Neither of those ideas seem particularly practical.

    http://peacefreedomprosperity.com/861/drew-carey-john-stossel-and-walter-block-on-road-privatization/

  • 60 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 12:31 am

    You’re holding Block to an impossible standard. No one can predict the future with perfect accuracy.

    Private roads may be funded by ads, such as billboards we already have today.

    They may be funded by local businesses who see it in their best interest to provide access. Who funds the parking lot at the mall? Do you pay to park?

    Residential roads may be funded by the homeowners themselves as part of their home purchase, similar to how some apartments include the gas bill.

    His point is we don’t know because there is no private road industry yet. What you’re trying to force him to do is predict the advent of Amazon.com in 1991. How much shipping would they charge? What if they don’t ship overseas? What if my favorite brand of tea is out of stock, or worse, not carried?? What if my credit card number gets stolen? Will they have enough money to maintain huge warehouses? Where will these warehouses be located? What site design will they use? Who will be their 1,015th customer??

  • 61 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 1:28 am

    Gene fails to take into account that not everyone is a deadbeat, and most people pay on time and build equity in their home. Paying taxes provides no such equity. There is also no option to “payoff” your taxes. If I owe $75,000 on my mortgage and send in a check for $75,000, the debt is cleared and I now own the house. I can live in it without anyone coming with guns to toss me out. (except, of course, the property tax collectors.) This reasoning also applies just as much on my last scheduled mortgage payment. At some point, my debt will be paid and the threat of men with guns sent by the lender coming to get me goes away.

    Callahan conflates doing something voluntarily with an explicit agreement.

    There is literally no way to avoid moving out of the US without paying a fee to the government.

    Callahan also argues a strawman, because no libertarian wants to “impose life without governnent” on anyone. You’re free to have your government, as long as I’m not forced to participate for simply existing on some land that the government claims it holds power over. We just want the option to live without government. The rest will take care of itself.

  • 62 bob dob // Jul 18, 2014 at 10:30 am

    412libertarian: “One reason I believe taxation is theft is because it lacks explicit consent. Anyone care to rebut that portion of my argument?”

    Just like private property. Some dude encloses some land and calls it his. I did not consent to giving that dude exclusive control over that land, I have not consented to refrain from using that portion of land. Still so called “libertarians” (really statists) insist on using state coercion against me if I make use of that land. If you think lack of explicit consent is a problem then you should be against both taxation and private property. If you are not against private property then you have no space to make any “explicit consent argument” against taxation.

    As for the “mixing labor with the land” story it seems to me that if that idea actually was worth its salt then all land in the northern hemisphere should be handed over to descendants of native americans. Clearly genocide is not a valid method of property transfer on any libertarian theory and clearly massive genocide and other self-ownership violating actions where done. Those violations taint all holdings downstream, including everything you think you own. So, when will you removing your body from their property and leave the continent? Do they have a right to use lethal force to stop you from trespassing?

    I myself don’t think the mixing story carries weight. So what if some dudes or dudettes now long dead was first to use this or that piece of land? The resources of earth should be put to use to improve welfare for everyone. Empirical evidence has it that a northern european type welfare state is the best system yet for achieving that so that’s what I want. And that answers the challenge you posed.

  • 63 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 12:18 pm

    So you don’t believe in private property, or self ownership?

    Seems a tad hypocritical because I suspect you’d be calling the police, or defending your home if people decide to show up and hang out.

    What’s your grand solution? Everyone owns everything simultaneously?

    The theory of homesteading makes logical sense. You own your body and your labor. You use this labor to change or transform the land in some way, thus claiming ownership. You aren’t just putting a fence around hundreds of square miles and shouting “dibs!”

    But again I ask what is your solution? Seems like you endorse slavery, since you obviously do not support self ownership. There’s really no two ways about it. Either I own my body and my labor, or not.

  • 64 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    And your copy pasted stuff I already refuted. You actually have to be alive and using the land to keep a claim on it. That’s why you’re dishonest. No one is saying you just can point to land and say “mine mine mine.” there has to be some use demonstrated. You actually have to defend it or prove that it’s yours in some way. You are just like every statist ever, misrepresent what we stand for, right down to the basics of self ownership. And again a giant hypocrite. If someone steps onto your lawn, and into your house, you’d be scared shitless, and would defend your property and your children if you have any. You live by libertarian principles of self ownership but don’t understand it or want anyone to have the same rights.

  • 65 Samson Corwell // Jul 18, 2014 at 1:57 pm

    ” You are just like every statist ever, misrepresent what we stand for, right down to the basics of self ownership. And again a giant hypocrite.”

    Pot, meet kettle.

  • 66 Phil // Jul 18, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    412 libertarian,

    “Callahan also argues a strawman, because no libertarian wants to “impose life without governnent” on anyone. You’re free to have your government, as long as I’m not forced to participate for simply existing on some land that the government claims it holds power over.”

    Typical ‘libertarian’ lie.

    You want to continue to live and work in this society, benefitting from it as you do, but you want the rest of society to adopt your belief system and allow you to ignore the law.

    You don’t just want to stay on your little patch of real estate, isolated and alone. So why so you pretend otherwise?

    Why do ‘libertarians’ lie so much?

  • 67 Spill_Erix // Jul 18, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    412libertarian doesn’t understand Matt Bruenig’s argument, self-ownership, non-aggression, libertarianism, or anything, really.

    Some comments on comment #41

    Oh dear…

    1)
    Matt Bruenig: “I contend that people cannot own pieces of ground because nobody makes them.”
    412l’s attempted rebuttal: “No one “makes” trees, grass, vegetables, or animals, either. So this is a not a logical or consistent reason to claim land cannot be owned. If this is his logic, no one can legitimately own an animal, or an apple either, because humans don’t make them.”

    Unfortunately (for you) that doesn’t rebut Matt Bruenig’s claims, quite the opposite: You are making Matt Bruenig’s point. Indeed, if you take the NAP seriously, then ownership of “trees, grass, vegetables, or animals” is out, too.

    2)
    412l: “One man’s aimless wandering is another’s trespassing. Trespassing is a violation of rights. If not, let’s pick a date and go camp out on Matt’s front lawn for a few days.”

    You are begging the question. For one man’s aimless wandering to be trespassing, first there has to exist land ownership. But you can’t get from the state of affairs ‘all land is unowned’ to the state of affairs ‘at least some land is owned’ without violating the NAP. No external property (such as land) without original appropriation. Original appropriation, according to Matt Bruenig’s argument, violates the NAP.

    Accordingly, it wouldn’t be _Matt’s_ front lawn (if you take the NAP seriously).

    3)
    Matt Bruenig: “The reason the libertarian is entitled to that piece of land is because they are being non-aggressive.”
    412l’s attempted rebuttal: “That bolded statement is where Matt loses touch with what libertarianism really is.”
    Nope. But maybe you are out of touch with what the NAP really entails.

    412l: “The reason we can own land, is because we believe in self ownership and the principle of homesteading.”
    And homesteading (original appropriation) violates the NAP.

    412l: “Non aggression is assumed always…”
    Non-aggression has to be shown, not just assumed. Unless, of course, you want to beg the question. That home-steading is aggression is the very point that Matt Bruenig argues.

    412l: “…and has nothing to do with who finds and uses land first.”
    Sure, finding and using land first is not aggression. Homesteading, however, is.

    4)
    412l: “These aren’t “our views,” they are the views of everyone who does not endorse slavery.”
    Nope. As somebody else already explained, lots of people don’t share your views, but don’t endorse slavery.

    412l: “If you don’t believe in total self ownership, then by definition you endorse at least partial slavery.”
    How good then, that Matt Bruenig grants the self-ownership principle. Of course, from the SOP doesn’t follow that if you find and use some piece of nature first that you then own that piece of nature.

    412l: “He tries to employ some sort of quasi-self ownership, where you have some unspecified portion of your person, and your labor and the fruits dervied, for yourself, and the rest is ‘for the public good.'”
    Matt Bruenig doesn’t employ that. You present a straw man.

    412l: “This is nonsensical and borderline illegible,”
    If it is “nonsensical and borderline illegible” you have nobody to blame but yourself.

    412l: “…so par for the course as far as Matt is concerned.”
    Nope. I recommend reading his argument more carefully.

    Hint: Matt Bruenig is giving a reductio ad absurdum of the NAP. Matt Bruenig shows that original appropriation of external property violates the NAP. Now, does that mean that external property is out? It depends on whether you insist on keeping the NAP. You can have external property _or_ the NAP, but not both, as Matt Bruenig shows in his argument.

  • 68 Spill_Erix // Jul 18, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    Addition to comment #67

    Before somebody asks: “So property does not exist? What would you say if I just came to your house and took your [fill in the blank]?!?”

    Matt Bruenig explains how the property is coercive violence move functions in a debate:

    http://mattbruenig.com/2014/01/12/how-the-property-is-coercive-violence-move-functions-in-the-debate/

  • 69 bob dob // Jul 18, 2014 at 5:37 pm

    412libertarian:
    “Seems a tad hypocritical because I suspect you’d be calling the police, or defending your home if people decide to show up and hang out.”

    “If someone steps onto your lawn, and into your house … would defend your property …”

    I would call the cops since a system with some soft property rules, proceduraliced within rule of law, has good consequences. But I’m gladly within such a system paying higher than average taxes due to the income bracket I’m in when those tax resources are used to produce widely distributed public goods of various sorts. As I’ve said there are good welfare consequentialist reasons for accepting a northern european style welfare state, include a police force, publicly financed education and health care and a lot more.

    “What’s your grand solution? Everyone owns everything simultaneously?”
    A northern european style welfare state! With high quality public goods financed through robust and progressive taxation. Better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness – there is much to like about it.

    “The theory of homesteading makes logical sense”
    Logic sides with no view. That sentence only means that it feels to you like it makes sense, you have that intuition. Well, most people aren’t libertarians and don’t seem to share that intuition of yours. Sure many people want a system with at least some looser form of property rules, soft rules that are compatible with a lot of taxation, but that can be argued for on welfare consequentialist grounds. You seem to make the mistaking of starting with something that people care for to some degree but not exclusively and then you (unlike most people) without good reason go on to claim that that thing has absolute importance above all other considerations.

    “Seems like you endorse slavery, since you obviously do not support self ownership. There’s really no two ways about it. Either I own my body and my labor, or not.”
    If that is the only two alternatives you see then your comments here are very psychologically understandable. But the problem with that is simple: there are more alternatives that you have yet to see. Most other adults seem to easily grasp the idea though. For example an inbetween view is that people have strong claims to control over some aspects of themselves, especially concerning bodily invasion, but there are always limits and other considerations to factor in complex modern societies. Some property rules are also useful but soft ones that function together with many forms of taxation and other state institutions so that they in combination produce good welfare consequences.

  • 70 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 7:24 pm

    For all who think homesteading and private property ownership is illegitimate:

    Don’t you think it’s a bit of a coincidence that you continue, day after day, to drive the same car, live in the same house, use the same stove, etc? Why engage such aggression?

  • 71 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    I fail to understand how owning land violates the NAP.

    If I discover an unused plot of land, exactly how is using it and establishing ownership aggressive? Who am I aggressive against?

  • 72 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    “As a refresher, property is obviously coercive violence because it involves someone excluding everyone else in the world from some piece of the world without their consent and threatening violence against them if they do not comply with that exclusion”

    By this definition, every action ever taken is considered aggressive!

    This pizza I’m eating? Aggressive exclusion, since I denied everyone else the right to have it without consent.

    The job I have? Aggressive exclusion, since it denies everyone else that specific job opportunity. Instead of hiring 10 people, after hiring me they can only hire 9. I have aggressively denied rights to that 10th job!

    Anytime you shop at a store you aggress against other store owners by denying them possible sales.

    Any time you read this website you aggress against CNN, Fox, and msnbc by denying them page views they may have had without this site.

    It’s really just an absurd piece of thinking that makes no sense.

  • 73 412libertarian // Jul 18, 2014 at 7:35 pm

    Also with respect to homesteading, no one denies you the right to claim that land as your own, you just have to demonstrate ownership before someone else. No one can force you to stay in one spot while they roam around and claim land. Everyone has a chance (not equal of course, but life is not ever equal, no matter how hard the statists try) to homestead land.

  • 74 Chip Smith // Jul 18, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    “The slogan that “taxation is theft” is ambiguous: We can read it to mean, as the anarchist typically does, that taxation per se is categorically illegitimate, but also as a more specific claim that actually-existing taxation involves depriving people of specific holdings to which they are entitled. The second claim, it seems to me, is indefensible even if we suppose the anarchists are right as a matter of ideal theory. If we take that theory to be some variant of neo-Lockean/Rothbardian/Nozickian/whatever account of initial appropriation and transfer, almost nobody residing in any actually-existing state can justify their present holdings by reference to an appropriately untainted provenance running back to the State of Nature.”

    This is strictly true enough, but one problem is that legitimate entitlement is a rigged swamp whereas good faith dealing is straightforward and common. Most of the time people are dealing in good faith even if the priors are rigged through statecraft and irrevocable history. Another way of putting it might be to state that taxation, like theft, currently does deprive people of SOME “specific holdings to which they are entitled.” The fact that legitimacy remains murky doesn’t change this underlying deduction, whether the taker is the state or a common thief.

    With the same problems of murkiness, legitimacy and entitlement in mind, it might be interesting to weigh the “taxation is theft” slogan against another common libertarian chestnut, to wit, that “conscription is slavery.” Do the priors introduce similar problems where freedom at this arguably more essential crux are at issue? I think they do, but again not always.

    My take is that there’s a lot of room in the murkiness — concerning taxation or conscription or outright enslavement — to justify the conclusion that SOME taxation/conscription/slavery amounts to a deprivation of legitimate entitlement as it is usually accepted and understood and therefore to support the substantial truth of the more radical slogans.

    Of course, I also think that “procreation is murder,” but that’s another story.

  • 75 bob dob // Jul 19, 2014 at 2:54 am

    “For all who think homesteading and private property ownership is illegitimate: Don’t you think it’s a bit of a coincidence that you continue, day after day, to drive the same car, live in the same house, use the same stove, etc? Why engage such aggression?”

    I have already answered this, but you haven’t engaged with the answer. So here goes again: a system where the use of stuff is regulated through state institutions and rule of law has good welfare consequences. But I don’t have exactly the same stuff forever of course. If I had the pure luck to inherit a lot of land and later couldn’t pay land taxes for it then I’d have to accept to let it go preemtively or have it expropriated. You again fail to see that there are good consequentialist reasons for soft rules in many places. Soft rules that fit what most people want, not the monotonic and absolute rules you think up.

    “By this definition, every action ever taken is considered aggressive!”

    Wrong. Why don’t you read Matt Bruenig’s posts on the topic? He has repeatedly and very pedagogically answered all objections you’ve come up with in those posts already.

    “… before someone else”
    So what? The “I was here first” idea is mildy useful in some social settings, like when access to a good is distributed through a queue, but other considerations often have more importance.

  • 76 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 3:47 am

    “a system where the use of stuff is regulated through state institutions and rule of law has good welfare consequences”

    Rule of law? Is that like when banksters get bailouts and we are forced to pay up?

    When the rich use and abuse the Justice system to avoid jail?

    When the police kidnap, steal, and murder?

    When the Fed jams fiat funny money down our throat, only after they and their cronies get first dibs?

    When Bush and Obama send people to die for some more war profits?

    Soft rules is just another way of saying you’re a hypocrite. You want strict private property rights for you, your family, your bank account, your car, your clothes, your food, your possessions, but a different set of rules for “society.”

    Here’s a tip. No one is stopping you from selling everything non essential, and donating it to someone less fortunate, be it here in the USA or around the world. Go ahead and live up to your own standard, and save someone’s life, unless you value your flat screen TV more than a human life. That’s logically what you should do, the consequences of you losing your TV are less bad than someone losing his life, so why not go for it, set an example for us all. Please.

  • 77 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 3:50 am

    I’ve read that guy’s stuff and he makes no sense. His “standard” for aggression is “something that excludes everyone else from having access.” It’s total nonsense. Everything we do restricts access. If I am driving down a road, guess what, no one else can be at that same spot on the road at the same time. I’m restricting access, and thus aggressively acting out. It is silly to even engage in this debate, because none of you will admit that you live by libertarian property standards and homesteading in your personal lives, but somehow want everyone else to change how they live.

    But I enjoy the laughs so let’s continue, if you please.

  • 78 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 3:53 am

    Even conceding every other point you make, why should we accept your “soft” rules? They are inconsistent and easily abused by those in power. See: socialism, communism. Even if we admit that yes, somehow homesteading is aggressively excluding everyone else from owning land, why isn’t it still the best system in terms of utilitarian concerns?

    I still can’t get over the fact that people actually believe me wandering onto some unused land, playing a tree, and claiming it as mine would ever be up for debate. Like, what possible claim do YOU have to the land? You who does not even know it exists, is somehow having his rights violated by me owning it? Pure comedy gold

  • 79 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 9:52 am

    “I still can’t get over the fact that people actually believe me wandering onto some unused land, playing a tree, and claiming it as mine would ever be up for debate”

    Why does cutting down a tree give you the absolute right to control everything that happens on a piece of land for the rest of your life?

    “It is agreed by those who have seriously considered the subject, that no individual has, of natural right, a separate property in an acre of land, for instance. By an universal law, indeed, whatever, whether fixed or movable, belongs to all men equally and in common, is the property for the moment of him who occupies it, but when he relinquishes the occupation, the property goes with it. Stable ownership is the gift of social law, and is given late in the progress of society.”

    Thomas Jefferson

    (Thomas Jefferson to Isaac McPherson, 13 Aug. 1813)

    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/print_documents/v1ch16s25.html

    As I said, you don’t even want to just stay put on your little patch of real estate, isolated from the rest of the world. So why do you pretend otherwise?

  • 80 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 9:55 am

    “you live by libertarian property standards and homesteading in your personal lives”

    Another lie.

    We don’t live in accordance with the “libertarian” ideology, which is precisely why you want to change society.

  • 81 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 9:56 am

    Benjamin Franklin:

    “All Property, indeed, except the Savage’s temporary Cabin, his Bow, his Matchcoat, and other little Acquisitions, absolutely necessary for his Subsistence, seems to me to be the Creature of public Convention. Hence the Public has the Right of Regulating Descents, and all other Conveyances of Property, and even of limiting the Quantity and the Uses of it. All the Property that is necessary to a Man, for the Conservation of the Individual and the Propagation of the Species, is his natural Right, which none can justly deprive him of: But all Property superfluous to such purposes is the Property of the Publick, who, by their Laws, have created it, and who may therefore by other Laws dispose of it, whenever the Welfare of the Publick shall demand such Disposition. He that does not like civil Society on these Terms, let him retire and live among Savages. He can have no right to the benefits of Society, who will not pay his Club towards the Support of it.”

    Benjamin Franklin, 25 December 1783

    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s12.html

  • 82 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Benjamin Franklin:

    “the accumulation therefore of Property in such a Society, and its Security to Individuals in every Society, must be an Effect of the Protection afforded to it by the joint Strength of the Society, in the Execution of its Laws. Private Property therefore is a Creature of Society, and is subject to the Calls of that Society, whenever its Necessities shall require it, even to its last Farthing; its Contributions therefore to the public Exigencies are not to be considered as conferring a Benefit on the Publick, entitling the Contributors to the Distinctions of Honour and Power, but as the Return of an Obligation previously received, or the Payment of a just Debt. The Combinations of Civil Society are not like those of a Set of Merchants, who club their Property in different Proportions for Building and Freighting a Ship, and may therefore have some Right to vote in the Disposition of the Voyage in a greater or less Degree according to their respective Contributions; but the important ends of Civil Society, and the personal Securities of Life and Liberty, these remain the same in every Member of the society; and the poorest continues to have an equal Claim to them with the most opulent, whatever Difference Time, Chance, or Industry may occasion in their Circumstances.”

    http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch12s25.html

  • 83 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 10:25 am

    Thomas Paine:

    “It is a position not to be controverted that the earth, in its natural, cultivated state was, and ever would have continued to be, the common property of the human race. In that state every man would have been born to property. He would have been a joint life proprietor with rest in the property of the soil, and in all its natural productions, vegetable and animal.

    But the earth in its natural state, as before said, is capable of supporting but a small number of inhabitants compared with what it is capable of doing in a cultivated state. And as it is impossible to separate the improvement made by cultivation from the earth itself, upon which that improvement is made, the idea of landed property arose from that parable connection; but it is nevertheless true, that it is the value of the improvement, only, and not the earth itself, that is individual property.

    Every proprietor, therefore, of cultivated lands, owes to the community ground-rent (for I know of no better term to express the idea) for the land which he holds”

    “There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.”

    “Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally.

    Separate an individual from society, and give him an island or a continent to possess, and he cannot acquire personal property. He cannot be rich. So inseparably are the means connected with the end, in all cases, that where the former do not exist the latter cannot be obtained. All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man’s own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came.”

    Thomas Paine: ‘Agrarian Justice’ (1795)

    http://www.constitution.org/tp/agjustice.htm

  • 84 Spill_Erix // Jul 19, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    More failure to understand by 412libertarian

    Comments on comments #70-73

    1)
    412l: “For all who think homesteading and private property ownership is illegitimate:”
    See, that’s why I provided the link. Do you know what a reductio ad absurdum is?

    The argument is not that property (more precisely, external property) is illegitimate, the argument is that property is aggression. That’s a difference. If aggression is always illegitimate, then property is always illegitimate, too. I wrote, that you can have [legitimate] property _or_ the NAP, but not both.

    So, obviously, it is possible to have legitimate property, but only at the cost of giving up the NAP. Are you willing to give up the NAP?

    412l: “Don’t you think it’s a bit of a coincidence that you continue, day after day, to drive the same car, live in the same house, use the same stove, etc? Why engage such aggression?”
    Making use of cars, houses, or stoves is not engaging in aggression. Claiming them as property, however, is.

    2)
    412l: “I fail to understand how owning land violates the NAP.”
    Too bad. I’ll make it more clear for you.

    412l: “If I discover an unused plot of land, exactly how is using it and establishing ownership aggressive? Who am I aggressive against?”
    Using land is not aggressive. Establishing ownership, however, is.

    At day one the world is unowned. Alice is at liberty to walk by the river as she pleases.

    At day two Bob appropriates the land by the river. Alice is no longer at liberty to walk by the river as she pleases.

    Bob claims for himself the right to exclude Alice from the land by the river by violence or threats of violence. By establishing the land by the river as his property Bob diminished Alice’s liberty, without Alice’s consent, by violence or threats of violence.

    That’s aggression.

    Is diminishing other people’s liberty, without their consent, by violence or threats of violence permissible under libertarianism?

    3)
    412l: “By this definition, every action ever taken is considered aggressive!”
    Nope.

    Just “excluding everyone else in the world from some piece of the world without their consent” is not aggression, unless you also “threaten [or use] violence against them if they do not comply with that exclusion.”

    Eating a pizza – not aggression. Eating a pizza while threatening everyone else to act on their bodies, if they try to take a bite out of the pizza without acting on your body – aggression.

    As for the rest of your examples. Puh-leeze. Where are the threats of violence in these examples?

    But nice try.

    412l: “It’s really just an absurd piece of thinking that makes no sense.”
    All the absurdity lies at your own feet.

    4)
    Just to prove a point, I went to buy a pizza, renounced ownership of the pizza, and right now I’m eating it, completely non-agressive, and if somebody should come along, he can have a bite without being threatened by violence. So, contrary to your claim, _not_ every action ever taken was aggressive by MB’s definition. Since that claim was your only criticism of MB’s piece, and I just shot that criticism down, you now surely do agree with MB’s piece, don’t you?

    5)
    412l: “Also with respect to homesteading, no one denies you the right to claim that land as your own”
    The NAP denies you the right.

  • 85 bob dob // Jul 19, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    412libertarian

    “Rule of law? Is that like… [string of rhetorical claims]”
    No to all your five claims. I can only stress again a term you may have noticed by now: northern european style welfare state. Those states have very much lower levels of violence, both in terms of police violence and violence in general. So those of us who think that political institutions should in the end be evaluated based on their consequences have much to like about the state structure in those welfare state. As you can see here you get no where by assigning me a bunch of views that I do not hold.

    “Soft rules is just another way of saying you’re a hypocrite. You want strict private property rights for you, your family, your bank account, your car, your clothes, your food, your possessions, but a different set of rules for “society.””

    No, actually I want well planned soft rules for the stuff and positions that I and everyone else happen to control for the moment. Again: the same rules applied to me. Those rules doesn’t uphold a very fixed situation since distributive institutions, both in the form of state institutions like taxes and (soft) property rules and many other social institutions will and should do things that rearrange the stuff in many different ways, for better consequences. I like that. I support that. That way of arranging a society score high in term of welfare.

    “No one is stopping you from selling everything non essential … That’s logically what you should do …”

    That would be true if I held the view that each individual has a limitless duty to individually do what maximizes welfare in the world. But I don’t hold that view. People should do much, more than most do today, to assist fellow humans in need, domestically and abroad. But that duty is not limitless. A duty can be of significant scope and strenght without being limitless. To support a robust and progressive tax system is one part of that duty. Another is to take individual charitable action in the ways that fit best with what talents and other projects you have in life. I do both and I think everyone else should too. I also think a lot of people accept just this view of justice and aspire to it. Better shaped state institutions will help them do it.

    I think your miss the above possibility by thinking in very strict either-or ways. Either there is NO duty to assist or there is a LIMITLESS duty to assist. But as I’ve pointed out most people easily realize that there are many possibilities between those outliers.

    Your remarks on Bruenig show that you have misunderstood his argument, read again. A central idea there is the notion of acting on the bodies of others.

    “why should we accept your “soft” rules?”

    Because it has good welfare consequences, when the rules take the form they have in northern european welfare states. Better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness – there is much to like about it. All social arrangements run risks of various kinds of abuse. But the northern european welfare states are the best alternative yet for lowering and countering such risks. They score very high in terms of social trust and have remarkably low levels of corruption.

    “I still can’t get over the fact that people actually believe me wandering onto some unused land, playing a tree, and claiming it as mine would ever be up for debate. Like, what possible claim do YOU have to the land?”

    If the situation is such that everyone else has everything they need in life then sure keep using that tree for now, no point in making a fuss about that. But once the situation is such that not everyone else has what they need – like in the real world – then the equation changes. If you currently hold on to a lot of apples and other food stuff or resources and many others sorely need stuff of that kind to not hunger and to survive then the fact that you or some relative of yours found or planted this or that tree is not of absolute importance and should in many cases be outweighed by other considerations. We should tax wealth and income and use those resources and use in ways that have good consequences. That shouldn’t be done on a whim or on individual basis, since that would have bad effects. Instead the right way to go about it is institutionally and with well worn rule of law procedures.

  • 86 Spill_Erix // Jul 19, 2014 at 1:21 pm

    Some more comments on comment #77

    412l: “His [Matt Bruenig's] ‘standard’ for aggression is ‘something that excludes everyone else from having access.’ ”

    Nope. It isn’t. How can you get it so wrong if he even spells it out, what his “standard” for aggression is. Let me repeat it for you:

    “As a refresher, property is obviously coercive violence because it involves someone excluding everyone else in the world from some piece of the world without their consent and threatening [or using] violence against them if they do not comply with that exclusion.”

    Please note that he explicitly mentions that his “standard” includes “threatening violence”.

    “It’s total nonsense”
    Your straw man is total nonsense. Glad we agree.

    Since the only reason you cited for why you thought that MB’s stuff made no sense to you, and the cited reason was based on you being wrong about what MB’s “standard” for aggression is, and I informed you now that you were wrong, and informed you what MB’s actual “standard for aggression” is, you surely now agree with MB’s stuff.

    Do you?

  • 87 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    Some more comments on comment #77

    412l: “His [Matt Bruenig's] ‘standard’ for aggression is ‘something that excludes everyone else from having access.’ ”

    Nope. It isn’t. How can you get it so wrong if he even spells it out, what his “standard” for aggression is. Let me repeat it for you:

    “As a refresher, property is obviously coercive violence because it involves someone excluding everyone else in the world from some piece of the world without their consent and threatening [or using] violence against them if they do not comply with that exclusion.”

    Please note that he explicitly mentions that his “standard” includes “threatening violence”.

    The only “standard” that doesn’t include threatening violence is a system where everything on earth, is owned by everyone at once, which is impossible. But libertarians don’t threaten violence unless it is in self defense. There is no aggressive threat in libertarianism. Let me update you on what words mean:

    Ownership, noun:
    the act, state, or right of possessing something.

    It literally is impossible to live by your own standard.

    And what would you, or Matt, do if I randomly show up to your house, attempt to take your car keys, and drive away? Threaten me with violence, or call the police to do so! But why? You don’t legitimately own the car, because some sort of aggressive violence was used to acquire it. You said so yourself, Private Property can’t exist without it. And what if someone else needs the car to get to work to feed their family?

  • 88 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Because it has good welfare consequences, “when the rules take the form they have in northern european welfare states. Better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness – there is much to like about it”

    Sounds like you should take the standard statist advice and “if you don’t like it, leave!” (if you live in the US of course.)

    Move to Europe then! Statists always tell us to leave if we hate taxes, so why isn’t that solid advice? Move to the utopia known as Europe, where everything is “free” and “good.” (Amen)

  • 89 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 2:36 pm

    People should do much, more than most do today, to assist fellow humans in need, domestically and abroad. But that duty is not limitless. A duty can be of significant scope and strenght without being limitless.

    So *your view* is, people should do much more to help people in need, but *you* won’t bother giving up cable TV to save someone’s life. Why not? You’re a hypocrite, trying to spend other people’s money to achieve some sort of statist welfare paradise that doesn’t exist. Taxes fund destructive wars and the war on drugs. Taxes fund our huge prison system. Our tax money doesn’t go directly to starving children, it goes to fund police bonuses for doing no knock drug raids and to soldiers who blow up foreigners. Wake up

  • 90 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    412 libertarian,

    Given that you claim to believe in the homesteading principle, why do you completely ignore what Locke had to say on the subject?

    According to Locke it is only morally acceptable to declare a piece of land as your private property, and to forcefully exclude others from it, if there is enough equally good land left over for everyone else to do the same.

    Why do you completely ignore this part of the homesteading principle?

  • 91 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    First of all, no two pieces of land are ever “equal.” The number one rule in real estate is location, location, location for a reason.

    Two, Locke speaks of the moral side of things. Use of force is a strictly legal discussion.

    Morally, should you cheat on your girlfriend? Probably not. Legally? No problem.

  • 92 bob dob // Jul 19, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    412libertarian: “if you don’t like it, leave!”

    No that would be a really weird response. If one set of institutions produce better results than the other available options then the rational response is to adopt those institutions elsewhere too. We should improve the US by having more of northern european welfare state institutions here.

    “So *your view* is, people should do much more to help people in need, but *you* won’t bother giving up cable TV to save someone’s life. Why not?”

    I described my view already. On my view everyone, INCLUDING ME, should support good state institutions including robust progressive taxation. When those institutions are not yet in place then people should support efforts to get them in place. At the same time we should individually take action to aid people in need. That last individual duty carries real weight but it is not limitless. The more people can do, while doing everything else that life puts on their shoulders, the better. But everyone has only so much energy and everyone needs to recharge their batteries, perhaps in some activity that, in isolation, appears to be easy to live without. In the long run the institutional changes will also have greater and better consequences than piecemal individual action and that is a strong reason to put extra focus on key state institutions in place and enhance them for welfare output. But the duty of individual’s to work towards those efforts isn’t limitlessly demanding either. As I’ve already written this view is positioned between no duty and limitless duty. At the very least a minimal baseline of decency is to pay the current taxes and to vote for efforts to put enhanced welfare institutions in place.

    “…trying to achieve some sort of statist welfare paradise that doesn’t exist.”
    First I should point out that northern europe actually exists! It is no “paradise” but I’ve never claimed that it was, only that is the best option so far in terms of producing good welfare consequences. Better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness. Most people think all the things on that list are very important goals. What is your view on them?

    “Taxes fund destructive wars” … “Taxes fund our huge prison system”
    The northern european welfare states are among the most peaceful on earth. They have lower levels of violent crime compared to the US and spend much less on prison systems.

  • 93 bob dob // Jul 19, 2014 at 6:16 pm

    “And what would you, or Matt, do if I randomly show up to your house, attempt to take your car keys, and drive away? Threaten me with violence, or call the police to do so! But why? You don’t legitimately own the car, because some sort of aggressive violence was used to acquire it.”

    It is here clear that you haven’t realized that Matt Bruenig’s argument is a reductio argument. Bruenig has posts up explaining all the steps in the argument so go read them.

    Bruenig aside, remember also that I above gave a welfare consequentialist argument for soft property rules and for rule of law. That view blocks all “some dude shows up and wants to grab the car you drive just because he wants it now” scenario but still allows for taxation and many other important state institutions.

  • 94 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 7:54 pm

    But the same consequentialist argument can be made in my example. If someone needs your car to get to work, or maybe to the hospital, they are justified in taking it, under your own parameters.

    The welfare state is a total disaster in the US, and everywhere else. In Europe things are fragile because of the shared Euro currency. Just because their welfare model “works” now doesn’t mean it will long term. The Euro hasn’t been around that long. We will see how it plays out, not that it’s ever right to force someone to pay for something, but even conceding for arguments sake that it “works,” it may job work long enough for people to enjoy it much longer.

  • 95 412libertarian // Jul 19, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Also Bruening’s entire reason Property cannot be owned non coercively is that it excludes others from using it. If I’m wrong please link or cite me something but from what I’ve read that’s what he says

  • 96 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 8:32 pm

    412

    “Locke speaks of the moral side of things. Use of force is a strictly legal discussion.”

    Legally taxation is not theft.

  • 97 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    http://mattbruenig.com/2014/03/28/violence-vouchers-a-descriptive-account-of-property/

  • 98 Spill_Erix // Jul 19, 2014 at 8:44 pm

    Comment on comment #96
    412l: Also Bruening’s entire reason Property cannot be owned non coercively is that it excludes others from using it. If I’m wrong please link or cite me something but from what I’ve read that’s what he says.
    How about you peruse the link that I provided or the citations that I gave multiple times. Here, again, for you:
    “As a refresher, property is obviously coercive violence because it involves someone excluding everyone else in the world from some piece of the world without their consent and threatening [or using] violence against them if they do not comply with that exclusion.”

    If you pay close attention, that it excludes others from it is not the entire reason property cannot be owned non-coercively , that is only part of the reason.

    I also recommend having a look at my comment #84, part (2)

  • 99 Phil // Jul 19, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    Gene Callahan

    “consider the institution of private property, which anarcho-capitalists often hold out as ‘peaceful’ and ‘voluntary,’ as opposed to the ‘violent’ and ‘coercive’ State. Well, it is true that private property is peaceful – just so long as everyone agrees to follow the same property rules, in other words, its peacefulness depends upon its voluntariness. But the latter is often absent. Many, many times, people fail to agree on just who owns what – and then private property turns violent and coercive. Let’s say you believe wild lands should be free for all to roam, while I believe I own some woods in which I employ my truffle pigs. If this difference of opinion cannot be resolved, and the issue is of some importance to each of us, one of us will wind up coercing the other to accept his point of view.

    The State is either peaceful and voluntary or violent and coercive in just the same way and for just the same reasons. As long as everyone agrees to and follows the State’s rules, there is no need for violence and coercion. It is only when there are disputes over the rules, or an unwillingness to follow them, that violence ensues.

    This, of course, is the classical left anarchist complaint about anarcho-capitalism: since it doesn’t do away with private property, it doesn’t do away with coercion at all — and the left anarchists are correct in pointing this out. (The problem with their solution is, of course, once you have done away with the State and with property, you have also done away with society.)”

    http://gene-callahan.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/confessions-of-recovering-ideologue.html

  • 100 bob dob // Jul 20, 2014 at 4:31 am

    412libertarian: “But the same consequentialist argument can be made in my example. If someone needs your car to get to work, or maybe to the hospital, they are justified in taking it, under your own parameters.”

    Looks like you here again slide back into assuming that my view is a form of consequentialism with limitless demands on the individual to promote the good. That isn’t my view. I repeat: that isn’t my view. In other words: that is not my view. So, since that isn’t my view, it would get you nowhere to talk as if that was my view, wouldn’t it?

    On my view everyone, including me, should support good state institutions including robust progressive taxation. When those institutions are not yet in place then people should support efforts to get them in place. At the same time we should individually take action to aid people in need. That last individual duty carries real weight but it is not limitless. The more people can do, while doing everything else that life puts on their shoulders, the better. But everyone has only so much energy and everyone needs to recharge their batteries, perhaps in some activity that, in isolation, appears to be easy to live without. In the long run the institutional changes will also have greater and better consequences than piecemal individual action and that is a strong reason to put extra focus on key state institutions in place and enhance them for welfare output. But the duty of individual’s to work towards those efforts isn’t limitlessly demanding either. As I’ve already written this view is positioned between no duty and limitless duty. At the very least a minimal baseline of decency is to pay the current taxes and to vote for efforts to put enhanced welfare institutions in place.

    In relation to your car scenario if some level of taxation on cars or whatever, taxation generally and predictably applied according to rule of law, would improve peoples welfare significanlty then I’d gladly accept that taxation even if it meant that I’d forgo having a separate car and maybe instead join a car pool or take public transport. I’m all for more public transport, that is one thing the US could use much more tax resources on. Less congestion, more access, less pollution, fewer accidents and more people can get where they need to go. But note the difference between such general policies that apply to all and the weird small “some dude showns up and says give me that car now” scenarios you’ve put forward. No one thinks cars should be handed over in those weird cases since that policy wouldn’t have good consequences.

    Relating to the hospital case if I’m on my spare time driving around and encounter a seriously injured person then I should call an ambulance and if it can’t make it in time I would try to drive the person to the hospital. But again that duty is not limitless on my consequentialist view. I think most people would share this sentiment.

    “The welfare state is a total disaster in the US, and everywhere else”
    It is struggling in the US because the institutions are in many places incomplete, and partly because some oppose it since they’re not familiar with the possibility to modify it for the better and how beneficial a well designed welfare state is for its people. Welfare states perform best in the more enhanced form you’ll find in northern europe. People like it a lot there. It has performed great for almost 100 years. As I’ve pointed out it brings better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness. Most people think all the things on that list are very important goals. What is your view on them?

  • 101 KEVIN WILLIAMSON: PROPERTY AND PEACE- THE BASIS FOR A DECENT SOCIETY | RUTHFULLY YOURS // Jul 20, 2014 at 6:51 am

    […] Sanchez of Cato is having none of that. On Monday, he published a column heaping scorn upon the slogan “taxation is theft,” […]

  • 102 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 7:42 am

    the above post by Williamson is just a facile rant which doesn’t bother at any point to think critically about any of its assumptions.

  • 103 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    So his view is that nothing can ever be owned non coercively, unless everyone on earth agrees? Otherwise if even one person disputes ownership, and then violence is used, it becomes coercive, aggressive exclusion.

    I also disagree that “on day one everything is unowned.” If we define day one as day one of human existence, that’s not true. The first humans owned land by using and possessing it.

    Owner
    noun
    1. a person who owns; possessor; proprietor.

    So yes, possessing something *by definition* means you’re an owner. Just keep reading and rereading the dictionary definition of owner and maybe you’ll finally get it. Go ahead, read it again. Possessor. Possessor. Possessor. Possessor. Yay.

    So again, by definition, if you possess something first, you’re the first owner. There is no inherent “right” of anyone to claim anything. Any claim of ownership by anyone who does not possess something is aggressive violence. Just remember. Possession defines ownership. Libertarianism attempts to limit aggressive claims to ownership by non legitimate owners to 0. The fact that governments or groups violate this basic tenant is meaningless. People break laws and rules all the time, that’s no reason to change or abolish them.

  • 104 bob dob // Jul 20, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Awaiting reply from 412libertarian to post above.

    Meanwhile, two more things regarding the latest on the Bruenig argument:
    1. dictionaries are not arguments.
    2. even if they were your line of reasoning here does not work, since that dict quote did not have a clause about anyone being “first”. The quote did not say first, second, third or … most recent possessor. It appears you fabricated the “first” part yourself: “Owner noun 1. a person who owns; possessor; proprietor.” … “So again, by definition, if you possess something first, you’re the first owner. “

  • 105 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:07 pm

    Dictionaries are not arguments? I’m using the definition of the word owner, just like Bruening uses the definition of the word aggression. You want it both ways. Let’s use a strict definition of libertarian words, but loose ones of ours. Just like Julian in the original article. He makes the argument that theft is strictly defined as x y z but then says well it usually is meant to mean this. Which is it, idiot?

    Well it is just common sense whoever possesses something at any given point is the owner. That’s the line we draw to separate aggressive action from defensive action, legitimate transfer of ownership from illegitimate transfer. If someone possesses something, they are the owner. That can’t be in dispute, because I just defined the word using Websters or whoever wrote the dictionary. If you disagree with that, then you just don’t understand English. Now the question of “is the owner legitimately in possession of said item” is totally separate. But you have to admit that someone owns something by possessing it before we can continue. Otherwise what constitutes ownership? Because according to, uh, the dictionary, you’re wrong.

  • 106 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:13 pm

    Kevin actually makes a lot of good points that I agree with. The government owns a lot of things, which is clearly wrong. You don’t really own something if someone can just come take it whenever they want. You temporarily possess it, until they come take it. So you only temporarily own it. Which is why we need to remove that from society, and implement actual private property rights, including the right to defend what’s yours.

  • 107 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    “If someone possesses something, they are the owner”

    If you park your car in the street, and I take it, I then possess the car. So am I the owner of the car?

  • 108 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:16 pm

    If I wasn’t clear above, the fact that whoever possesses something is *by definition* the owner, it only logically follows that the first person to possess so math, is the first owner. How can someone who possesses something 10 days after I do, claim he was the owner before I was? That’s literally arguing against time itself.

    So where do you disagree? Does possession = ownership, or is the dictionary lying?

  • 109 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    Yes, Phil, temporarily you are the owner of the car, probably not for long, but you have possession and full control of it.

    And again now we are in a different debate, the debate of what constitutes a legitimate owner. In your case it’s pretty obvious you don’t legitimately have an ownership claim, because you aggressively took it from someone against their will.

    Use the same logic with a plot of land. Why would someone have an ownership claim to land that someone else uses, any more than to a car parked on the street that someone else uses?

  • 110 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    “the fact that whoever possesses something is *by definition* the owner”

    So if I take the car you parked in the street, I become the owner?

    “it only logically follows that the first person to possess so math, is the first owner”

    So you were the first owner of the car, then you parked it in the street and I took it, so I became the second owner of the car….?

  • 111 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    The old saying “possession is 9/10ths of the law” is rooted in a lot of truth, actually. The other 10% would be cases of illegitimate transfer of ownership, such as stealing a car, or trespassing on land that isn’t theirs.

  • 112 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    “And again now we are in a different debate, the debate of what constitutes a legitimate owner.”

    Ok, so what is important is not who is the possessor, or the “owner”, but who is the legitimate possessor or “owner”.

    “In your case it’s pretty obvious you don’t legitimately have an ownership claim, because you aggressively took it from someone against their will.”

    But I didn’t aggressively take it from you against your will. You left it in the street. I found it unoccupied, in the street.

  • 113 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Yes Phil, I already said you are the owner. For a short period of time, maybe a few minutes or an hour, you have possession and control. And we both agree you aren’t a legitimate owner. Care to tell me why?

  • 114 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:24 pm

    Stealing a random car in the street isn’t an aggressive act? Now I’ve heard it all.

  • 115 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:26 pm

    And no, both are important. If someone possesses something, legitimate ownership is assumed until proven otherwise. Sometimes it’s easy to prove who owns something. In your car example, I have lots of paperwork and other things that prove my legitimate ownership, such as lots of witnesses, maybe another set of keys, insurance info in the glove box registered to my name, etc etc.

  • 116 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Your logic is hilarious.

    “If I see something in the street, I can just take it. No one is here telling me explicitly not to take it! I’m the proud new owner! Lol libertarians!”

  • 117 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    The lesson here is that Matt Bruenig wasted years of his life and came to amazingly wrong conclusions about ownership, homesteading, aggression, and libertarianism.

    He doesn’t even know what the word owner means. You’d think he would look that up before spending years reading seminal works and spouting nonsense on the Internet, yet here we are!

  • 118 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    The point of my question is not to advocate stealing cars, but to question your assumptions.

    You said possession = ownership, which entails that theft = ownership. That’s problematic, so what we really need to determine is what constitutes “legitimate” ownership.

  • 119 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:44 pm

    Yes, possession = ownership.
    No, possession does not necessarily = LEGITIMATE ownership. Whoever possesses something first is the legitimate owner. Not really hard to figure out. Something is unowned. I use it. Now I own it. By definition. There’s no other way to look at it, again, unless you feel like arguing with the dictionary.

    Anyone else who later possesses it, is a later owner than me. Pretty basic stuff. My argument is that if I use something previously unowned on January 1, I am the owner on January 1. You’re trying to say that someone who comes along on January 2 somehow has the same claim as me. How so? Ownership is established as soon as someone possesses something previously unused or unowned.

  • 120 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    Lol at calling dictionary definition of owner an assumption. How dare I assume words mean what the dictionary says they do! Damn libertarians.

  • 121 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 4:22 pm

    Part of me hopes this debate is over, and part of me wants it to continue so I can further expose your (and Bruenig ‘s) hilarious statist logic.

  • 122 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Something wrong, Phil? You were instantly replying, and then I destroyed your argument and Bruenig’s argument and now you are nowhere to be found. Consulting with Rachel Maddow for your next talking point?

  • 123 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 5:21 pm

    Ok, so the main point here is what is legitimate.

    According to your argument, what constitutes aggression is determined by what is legitimate.

    An action is aggressive if it is illegitimate, and it is non-aggressive if it is legitimate.

    So how do we determine what is legitimate.

    Here’s an example:

    You are holding an apple, and someone takes it from you, even though you don’t want them to. Is this an act of aggression or not? It depends on whether it is legitimate or not.

    You say it is not legitimate if the person holding the apple is the first person to hold the apple.

    What if the second person needs to eat the apple to stay alive, whereas the first person doesn’t? Is it legitimate then? If not, why not?

  • 124 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Interesting attempt at sleight of hand.

    Before we discuss legitimate ownership, we have to define ownership first. Against all odds, there seems to be disagreement over what constitutes ownership. I, and the dictionary agree that possessing something proves ownership. It’s right there.

    So I will assume you agree with me, and the dictionary, that possession = ownership. If you disagree, I’d love to hear why.

    Assuming possession does in fact equal ownership, it has to follow that first possession equals first ownership. You can’t logically argue that someone who claims a right to ownership AFTER first possession, and thus first ownership, has taken place has a right to ownership. It has already been established. So anything after that point of first possession must be voluntary, or it is illegitimate, aggressive violence. There is nothing violent or aggressive about me planting a tree on some unused land, or peacefully exchanging money for the right to use already owned land to do so. The violence, and aggression comes in when other parties claim ownership. Thus, any violence used to defend against such claims, assuming you are in fact the rightful owner, is defensive violence, not aggressive.

  • 125 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    You say it is not legitimate if the person holding the apple is the first person to hold the apple.

    What if the second person needs to eat the apple to stay alive, whereas the first person doesn’t? Is it legitimate then? If not, why not?

    _____

    Again this isn’t me saying this, it’s the dictionary. Whoever possesses something, owns it. Whoever possesses something first, owns it first.

    If we take some starving people from Africa, load them onto a plane, and drop them off at a grocery store, are their actions legitimate if they decide to steal food from the grocery store to stay alive? No, they are still committing an illegitimate action and a crime. They have no right to that food.

    Morally, again, that’s a different story. But we are speaking strictly in legal terms here under a libertarian code of non aggression.

  • 126 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    “Assuming possession does in fact equal ownership, it has to follow that first possession equals first ownership”

    But ownership is not the important point, as you pointed out yourself.

    What is important is legitimacy, according to your argument.

    An action is aggressive if it is not legitimate, and it is non-aggressive if it is legitimate, according to you.

    So any sort of possession can be aggressive if it is not legitimate.

    You say that it is not legitimate for person B to take the apple from person A.

    You say it is illegitimate because person A was the first person to hold the apple.

    But you didn’t answer the question:

    What if the person B needs to eat the apple to stay alive, whereas person A doesn’t? Is it legitimate then?

    Of course the only answer you will give to this question is:

    No, it is not legitimate, because person A was the first person to hold the apple.

    So your justification is simply an assertion.

    Now the next question is: what if others disagree with your assertion? What if they think your assertion is illegitimate, and thus (by your reasoning) aggressive?

    And your answer is: if they disagree, I will use force against them to make them comply with my assertion.

  • 127 bob dob // Jul 20, 2014 at 6:26 pm

    Yes, definitions aren’t moral arguments. The issue at stake is one about who should have control over real natural resources for what reasons. If you want to make a claim about that you have to give moral arguments, not dictionary lookups. The terms “possessor” and “owner” can be used in several different senses. If we set retoric aside there is no problem with using the term in the way you want but it also will not help you in any way to argue towards the conclusion you want to establish. On your preferred use of the term, to say that X “owns” a car then only means that X “currently has physical control over” the car or something like that . I think that deviates from everday usage in some cases. For example imagine a person calling the cops and saying “a person jumped into the car while I was refueling and drove off, could you help me locate where the current owner of the car took the car?”. In a lot of everyday talk we people use owner in the stricter sense of “legal ownership”. But of course if we use the term “owner” as a purely descriptive term the way you want then what the caller only intend to say in the above sentence is “a person jumped into the car while I was refueling and drove off, could you help me locate where the person who currently has the car took it?”. That leaves it completely open whether the action of driving off with the vehicle was right or wrong. So no moral ground is gained by using the term in that sense. No direct harm is done either, as long as we make sure not to fallaciously equivocate between “own” and “legitimately own”.

    I’ll go with your preferred wide and purely descripte definition of “own” for now. Then the real issue in our debate will instead be about what should count as “legitimate ownership”.

    My view is that “legitimate ownership” is to be specified through the interplay of several state instituions, such as soft ownership rules in combination with taxation and other institution. The workings of those institutions settle the details of which person or persons “legitimately owns” what possible usages for a physical resource during what periods of time and also settles which strings should be attached to those privileges.

    If someone was or was not the “first owner” (meaning only the first person to happen to have physical control over something some time back) is not of big intrinsic importance here. Instead we should specify “legitimate ownership” by evaluating different institutional possibilities in terms of their welfare consequences for the people. The evidence then points to northern european welfare state institutions. People there own cars and other stuff in a soft sense that is specified by soft property rules that are compatible with things like taxation. As I’ve pointed out those institutions bring better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness. Most people think all the things on that list are very important goals. What is your view on them?

  • 128 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Bruenig says:

    Their argument in that case goes like this:

    If X is involuntary coercive violence, it should not exist.
    Taxes are involuntary coercive violence.
    Therefore, taxes should not exist.
    But then I point out that this same argument applies to property:

    If X is involuntary coercive violence, it should not exist.
    Property is involuntary coercive violence.
    Therefore, property should not exist.
    The libertarian does not want to give away property and therefore must admit involuntary coercive violence is not categorically impermissible. By admitting that though, their argument against taxation falls out. Now they have no argument against taxation.

    _____

    But he, or anyone else, never proved that property is involuntary coercive violence!

    There is nothing involuntarily coercive about me finding land, and using it to, say, grow a tree. The coercion doesn’t come in until someone else VOLUNTEERS, on their own volition, to make a claim countering that they deserve ownership. They attempt to coerce the original owner to give up rights, but why should he? This is an act of aggression.

  • 129 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 6:56 pm

    You have to prove that the original owner is somehow illegitimate, to dispute his claim as rightful owner. What makes me finding land and growing a tree illegitimate, exactly? You’re the one making the claim that hey that’s illegitimate. You have to prove it. Opinions do not do this. You haven’t given a reason * why* the original owner is illegitimate, you just say “we disagree” which has no standing anywhere.

  • 130 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 6:57 pm

    Like in a court of law, you don’t walk in and say “a bunch of us disagree, therefore we win.” you’re Gonna need an actual reason why

  • 131 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Also let’s not forget that every state ever conceived, and every action ever taken, is considered aggressive because it lacks consent of every single person on earth. That’s part of Bruenig’s own rules for what constitutes aggressive behavior. It *must* include consent from every other person on earth, or else it’s aggressive. What a World.

  • 132 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 8:28 pm

    More lol Bruenig :

    “Suppose I come on to some piece of ground that you call your land. Suppose I don’t believe people can own land since nobody makes land. So obviously I don’t recognize your claim that this is yours. You then violently attack me and push me off.

    What just happened? I say that you just used aggressive violence against me. You say that actually you just used defensive violence against me. So how do we know which kind of violence it is?

    You say it is defensive violence because under your theory of entitlement, the land belongs to you. I say it is aggressive violence because under my theory of entitlement, the land does not belong to you. So which is it?”

    _____

    “Suppose you claim no one can own land because no one makes land?”

    That’s just plain wrong, again, reference a dictionary to find out why. The definition of owner makes no reference to who makes something, only who possesses it. Epic English fail, Mr Bruenig. Your disagreement is actually with the definition of the word owner, which sort of shows how stupid you are, considering you haven’t bothered to properly define ownership before wasting hours upon hours reading and pontificating about it, with an arrogant attitude to boot.

  • 133 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    To be clear it is not some “Libertarian theory of entitlement” to claim that whoever possesses something is the owner. It is standard first grade English class. You look up the word, and see what it means.

    Oh, it says here that owner is someone who possesses something, and doesn’t mention a word about who makes anything? Let’s go ahead and add on extra conditions and then use that straw man definition to defeat libertarians. Then let’s use that faulty reasoning to make circular arguments in favor of a violent state.

  • 134 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 8:34 pm

    So hilarious that statists resort to using “but is someone stealing my car REALLY committing an aggressive act???” as a main argument. Like super lolzy

    ” That leaves it completely open whether the action of driving off with the vehicle was right or wrong”

    Read that again and again and again for extra laughs. It gets funnier every time, I swear.

    Stealing someone’s car: right, or wrong. Tonight, statists debate, on CNN.

  • 135 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    “Suppose you claim no one can own land because no one makes land?”

    That’s just plain wrong, again, reference a dictionary to find out why. ”

    How do you possess land?

    English dictionary doesn’t say how. You are assuming that doing some sort of homesteading actions constitutes possession thus ownership.

    My own view on this matter is that ‘mixing labor’ or occupying land by generally hanging around and doing things does not in itself entitle you to own the land itself, which you did not make. You may have a valid claim to the improvement you generate by your labor, but that in itself does not entitle you to an absolute ownership title over the land itself.

    “There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it; neither did the Creator of the earth open a land-office, from whence the first title-deeds should issue.”

    “Land, as before said, is the free gift of the Creator in common to the human race. Personal property is the effect of society; and it is as impossible for an individual to acquire personal property without the aid of society, as it is for him to make land originally.”

    Thomas Paine: ‘Agrarian Justice’ (1795)

    http://www.constitution.org/tp/agjustice.htm

  • 136 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 10:11 pm

    You guys are really grasping at straws here. It’s fun. Okay so you got me on a technicality. You don’t actually own the land itself, rather, you own exclusive rights to develop it, or use it, however you see fit. There’s not much difference, and any difference is purely semantic. Obviously you *can* have exclusive rights to land, they’re called deeds.

    But, for argument’s sake, let’s assume you are right and you cannot own land, or even any rights to use it. Can I own a house that I build on some unowned land? Everything you say points to yes.

    Let’s consult Mr dictionary again for this one
    Possess

    Transitive verb
    1 a : to have and hold as property
    Welp.

    Also why is this bit included?

    He had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it;.

    You’re making the exact opposite argument as before when you said “native Americans deserve to own land today in the USA. ”

    It’s not true. No one can claim land forever and ever. Some clear use has to be consistently shown. If not then it becomes unowned and subject to homesteading again.

  • 137 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 10:14 pm

    Also consider the implications of your own arguments. If no one can own land, then what gives you the right to exclude me from your yard? Soft rules? And if I don’t agree? Involuntary aggressive violence!!

    Everything is involuntary aggressive violence in the world of Matt Bruening. He’s quite a guy.

  • 138 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 10:19 pm

    412libertarian,

    I think the point you are missing is that people can fundamentally disagree about theories of entitlement.

    I gave you a simple example:

    Person A believes they are entitled to control the apple because they were the first person to hold the apple.

    – call this the ‘finders keepers’ theory of entitlement.

    Person B believes they are entitled to control the apple because they need to eat it to stay alive, whereas person A doesn’t.

    – call this the ‘human rights’ or maybe just the ‘survival’ theory of entitlement.

    As you clarified for us, what constitutes aggression depends on the legitimacy of the claim. If B takes the apple from A, that is not aggression if B has a more legitimate claim.

    So the question is how you decide who has the most legitimate claim in this case.

    You simply assert that A has the most legitimate claim. There is no justification lying behind this assertion, it is just a pure assertion. “finders keepers”.

    Person B disagrees. They have a different theory of entitlement, which considers their continued survival to be more legitimate than your simple claim of ‘finders keepers’.

    So how do we resolve this fundamental disagreement?

    This is the important point, so you should pay attention now.

    When people have fundamentally conflicting theories of entitlement, either they reach a compromise, or they use force against one another to impose their views.

  • 139 Phil // Jul 20, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    This is the point which I think Gene Callahan (ex-anarcho capitalist) makes clearly:

    Gene Callahan

    “consider the institution of private property, which anarcho-capitalists often hold out as ‘peaceful’ and ‘voluntary,’ as opposed to the ‘violent’ and ‘coercive’ State. Well, it is true that private property is peaceful – just so long as everyone agrees to follow the same property rules, in other words, its peacefulness depends upon its voluntariness. But the latter is often absent. Many, many times, people fail to agree on just who owns what – and then private property turns violent and coercive. Let’s say you believe wild lands should be free for all to roam, while I believe I own some woods in which I employ my truffle pigs. If this difference of opinion cannot be resolved, and the issue is of some importance to each of us, one of us will wind up coercing the other to accept his point of view…

    ..This, of course, is the classical left anarchist complaint about anarcho-capitalism: since it doesn’t do away with private property, it doesn’t do away with coercion at all — and the left anarchists are correct in pointing this out. (The problem with their solution is, of course, once you have done away with the State and with property, you have also done away with society.)”

    http://gene-callahan.blogspot.co.uk/2010/05/confessions-of-recovering-ideologue.html

  • 140 412libertarian // Jul 20, 2014 at 11:55 pm

    Person A believes they are entitled to control the apple because they were the first person to hold the apple.

    – call this the ‘finders keepers’ theory of entitlement.
    _____

    Man, if only we had a word to describe this theory. Oh wait, we totally do. I looked up owner again and there it is! Still means the same thing it did an hour ago. Crazy, eh?

    When people have fundamentally conflicting theories of entitlement, either they reach a compromise, or they use force against one another to impose their views.

    ____

    You ignore the third option of simply looking at an English dictionary and looking for the word owner or own. Fun times, trying to box us into a false choice of “either use violence to exclude me from this unowned land, or use violence to settle a dispute over land.” The third option is, whoever possesses something first is the clear cut owner, again, for about the millionth time, by definition. It is again, right there in the dictionary. So once we establish clear cut ownership, anything non voluntary is coercive

  • 141 Phil // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:38 am

    “You ignore the third option of simply looking at an English dictionary and looking for the word owner or own.”

    As you said yourself, the current ‘possessor’ of a thing is not necessarily the ‘legitimate owner’ of that thing.

    So the English dictionary does not help us in this case, as it does not tell us who the ‘legitimate owner’ of a thing is.

  • 142 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:51 am

    You keep shifting the goal posts. First it was “property can’t be owned at all without involuntary coercive violence” and now it has shifted to “legitimate property ownership cannot occur without involuntary coercive violence.”

    Legitimate
    conforming to the law or to rules.

    In your wacko world, no system ever conceived can exist without involuntary coercive violence, as long as one single person disagrees with the rules. Yet at the same time, it’s majority rules, and screw the minority. Amazing stuff.

    Owning something comes with rights, the right to defend it being the most important one. Otherwise, no one can ever own anything.

    You’ll just continue to shift the goal posts every time I smash one of your points until we are so far away from Bruenig and his original bullshit about non aggression never existing, or something

  • 143 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 12:55 am

    Again, once we establish that possession = ownership, the burden is on the person accusing someone else of holding an illegitimate title to something to prove it, which you haven’t done. Having an opinion that hey, I want your stuff, isn’t sufficient, or even really relevant to the discussion. Try again. It’s like two kids arguing over who is entitled to a piece of gum or something. Shouting it’s mine it’s mine it’s mine or it should be mine or I want that gum! doesn’t alter the fact that whoever possesses it first is the real owner. Pretty basic stuff. Mind blowing that you can’t see it. Funny too.

  • 144 Phil // Jul 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

    “You keep shifting the goal posts. First it was “property can’t be owned at all without involuntary coercive violence”

    If people do not agree with your theory of entitlement, which you think gives you a right to ‘own’ something, then your ‘ownership’ is not voluntary, from the point of view of others.

    Agreed?

    But whether something is voluntary or not isn’t necessarily important. What is important is whether it is legitimate.

    Agreed?

    “Legitimate

    conforming to the law or to rules.”

  • 145 Julian Sanchez // Jul 21, 2014 at 1:19 am

    And to think, philosophers have wasted centuries doing political theory when the answers were right there in Websters all along.

  • 146 Phil // Jul 21, 2014 at 2:01 am

    funny^^

    I agree that the dictionary can’t really tell us much on this subject.

    ‘legitimate’ means:

    “conforming to the law or to rules”

    or “able to be defended with logic or justification; valid”

    So ‘legitimate’ can mean a lot of different things.

    You can have lots of different types of laws or rules, and many different types of arguments can be defended with logic or justification.

    So how do we decide which sort of ‘legitimate’ is the right sort’?

  • 147 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 2:06 am

    Ownership is not a theory of entitlement.

  • 148 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 2:07 am

    All we know for sure is if anyone ever disagrees, it involves involuntary coercive violence if you restrict access with violence. Amazing stuff

  • 149 Phil // Jul 21, 2014 at 2:11 am

    “Ownership is not a theory of entitlement”

    what is it then?

  • 150 Phil // Jul 21, 2014 at 2:14 am

    “All we know for sure is if anyone ever disagrees, it involves involuntary coercive violence if you restrict access with violence.”

    of course it does, but the important point is whether it legitimate to do so, i.e. whether you have a ‘right’ to do so, or if it is just to do so.

  • 151 bob dob // Jul 21, 2014 at 3:42 am

    Julian Sanchez: “And to think, philosophers have wasted centuries doing political theory when the answers were right there in Websters all along.”
    :-)

    412libertarian: You miss the part in Bruenig’s argument that involves self-ownership.

    Second, you write: “You have to prove that the original owner is somehow illegitimate”

    No. Remember that by “original owner” you only here mean “the person who at some point in time physically controlled a particular resource”. So after that sentence we are still in a situation were no “legitimate ownership” (a distinct moral concept that has to be settled through argument) has been established, neither for first, second, third … N-th owner (again, only meaning someone temporarily in physical control over a thing).

    It is you that aspire to make a further moral claim about who should be granted moral control over what in the world, namely that that first person should be granted a near absolute moral right over that resource and a right to use violence against the bodies of any of billions of other people if they also later on start to use i.e. own that resource. I see no reason to accept that moral claim. Sure some soft property rules will be useful, but absolute property, that doesn’t have good consequences.

    We should specify “legitimate ownership” by evaluating different institutional possibilities in terms of their welfare consequences for the people. The evidence then points to northern european welfare state institutions. People there own cars and other stuff in a soft sense that is specified by soft property rules that are compatible with things like taxation. As I’ve pointed out those institutions bring better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness. Most people think all the things on that list are very important goals. What is your view on them?

    Keep also in mind that for most physical resources we don’t know who the first owner (in the descriptive sense, first to physically control) was since that fact is lost in history. People currently controlling a resource X may be the 456th owner (in the descriptive sense of having physically control). For example a person doing a night shift of cleaning the floors of a mall is the 976th owner of the mall floor.

  • 152 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:21 am

    No. Remember that by “original owner” you only here mean “the person who at some point in time physically controlled a particular resource”.

    ___

    Nope. By original owner I mean the first (aka original) person who possessed something, or controlled it.

    It’s not a moral argument. Again, it’s literally right there in the dictionary. You want me so bad to change the subject but until you just admit that the word owner means whoever possesses something, we will just go in circles and you’ll continue to spin around and around and embarrass yourself.

    Once we agree on that point, your entire worldview collapses. So keep on clinging to it, disregarding the English language all along. Makes for fun times.

    My argument is that whoever first possesses something is the original owner. Yours is that that constitutes illegitimate ownership, or worse yet, that it doesn’t even constitute ownership at all, even though, again (sigh), the dictionary agrees with me, and not you.

    With your worldview, there literally can never be a legitimate owner, at least without embracing coercive violence.

    I don’t see anything coercive about homesteading, but somehow “excluding other people” constitutes some sort of threat to you people. There is no threat unless *someone else initiates action* to invade another person’s private property. You don’t think that’s self defense either lolz

  • 153 Spill_Erix // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Possession and ownership are not identical, although popular use sometimes conflates the two.

    You can possess things without owning them.

    You can own things without possessing them.

  • 154 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:25 am

    Just picture how your worldview actually plays out in real life for some laughs. Have fun trying to argue with someone that you have a “right” to use their farm, even though you’ve never met them before that moment. I can only imagine the reaction. Are you fuckin kidding me?

  • 155 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:28 am

    Owner. Noun
    1. a person who owns; possessor; proprietor

    One statist’s “popular use” is another man’s dictionary meaning. Literally copy pasted straight from dictionary.com the very first definition. Pretty standard Maybe if I copy paste straight from dictionary.com enough times, people will finally realize it? Nah probably not. Idiot statists.

  • 156 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:30 am

    This is literally what I’m arguing right now.

    Does possession = ownership? Statists say no. Dictionary.com says

    Owner. Noun
    1. a person who owns; ***********possessor;**********************proprietor.

    Maybe if I isolate it you’ll acknowledge it? Eh. Probably not. Lol

  • 157 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:31 am

    In before the subject is changed from “here’s how we figure out who owns something” to “bbbbbbut that’s not legitimate ownership!”

  • 158 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:34 am

    One last try

    Spill_Erix // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Possession and ownership are not identical,

    Spill_Erix // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Possession and ownership are not identical,

    Spill_Erix // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Possession and ownership are not identical,

    Spill_Erix // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:23 am

    Possession and ownership are not identical,

    Dictionary.com
    owner[ oh-ner ]
    noun
    1. a person who owns; *******possessor;**********proprietor

    Dictionary.com
    owner[ oh-ner ]
    noun
    1. a person who owns; *******possessor;**********proprietor

    Dictionary.com
    owner[ oh-ner ]
    noun
    1. a person who owns; *******possessor;**********proprietor

    Weeeeeeeeeee

  • 159 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 4:45 am

    The evidence then points to northern european welfare state institutions. People there own cars and other stuff in a soft sense that is specified by soft property rules that are compatible with things like taxation. As I’ve pointed out those institutions bring better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness. Most people think all the things on that list are very important goals. What is your view on them?

    _____

    My view on them is that you’re wrong, again.

    Answer me this. How much is gasoline per gallon in northern Europe? Such a success!!! God you’re clueless. It really is amazing.

    How the hell do you even define social trust? You’re just a paid government shill in all likelihood. Sad that my taxes fund such nonsense.

  • 160 bob dob // Jul 21, 2014 at 6:06 am

    “By original owner I mean the first (aka original) person who possessed something, or controlled it.”
    That matches what I wrote in the part you quoted. So we can proceed discussion using that definition.

    “Again, it’s literally right there in the dictionary. You want me so bad to change the subject but until you just admit that the word owner means whoever possesses something, we will just go in circles and you’ll continue to spin around and around and embarrass yourself.”

    Again, I see no big harm with using the term “owner” in that strictly descriptive sense. I said so already. To remind you that I said so here is my first two paragraphs from #127 again:

    Yes, definitions aren’t moral arguments. The issue at stake is one about who should have control over real natural resources for what reasons. If you want to make a claim about that you have to give moral arguments, not dictionary lookups. The terms “possessor” and “owner” can be used in several different senses. If we set retoric aside there is no problem with using the term in the way you want but it also will not help you in any way to argue towards the conclusion you want to establish. On your preferred use of the term, to say that X “owns” a car then only means that X “currently has physical control over” the car or something like that . I think that deviates from everday usage in some cases. For example imagine a person calling the cops and saying “a person jumped into the car while I was refueling and drove off, could you help me locate where the current owner of the car took the car?”. In a lot of everyday talk we people use owner in the stricter sense of “legal ownership”. But of course if we use the term “owner” as a purely descriptive term the way you want then what the caller only intend to say in the above sentence is “a person jumped into the car while I was refueling and drove off, could you help me locate where the person who currently has the car took it?”. That leaves it completely open whether the action of driving off with the vehicle was right or wrong. So no moral ground is gained by using the term in that sense. No direct harm is done either, as long as we make sure not to fallaciously equivocate between “own” and “legitimately own”.

    I’ll go with your preferred wide and purely descripte definition of “own” for now. Then the real issue in our debate will instead be about what should count as “legitimate ownership”.

    “Once we agree on that point, your entire worldview collapses.”

    Not quite. Once we switch to that descriptive use of “owner” or “original owner” the real substantive topic under discussion turns to criteria for the distinctly moral concept “legitimate ownership”. We should specify “legitimate ownership” by evaluating different institutional possibilities in terms of their welfare consequences for the people. The evidence then points to northern european welfare state institutions. People there own cars and other stuff in a soft sense that is specified by soft property rules that are compatible with things like taxation. “As I’ve pointed out those institutions bring better health care, better child care, less poverty, lower child mortality, fewer violent crimes, more social mobility, more social trust, more happiness. Most people think all the things on that list are very important goals. What is your view on them?”

    “My view on them is that you’re wrong [about benefits with northern european welfare states]”

    Good that you now are prepared to look into those arguments. But I need much more details from you. Which of the listed goals do you now say that I’m “wrong” about? And what is your evidence for thinking so?

    “How much is gasoline per gallon in northern Europe?”
    It is significantly higher than currently in the US. In general consumer goods are higher in price in countries with higher taxes, that is a flip side of paying less up from for public services like health care. However the goods on the list above are much, much more important for peoples welfare than low gasoline prices. Fewer violent crimes is much more important than low gas prices, for example.

    “How the hell do you even define social trust?”
    Here is a starting point to get you going in your reading up on the concept: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trust_%28social_sciences%29

  • 161 Spill_Erix // Jul 21, 2014 at 6:51 am

    You could at least have looked at a legal dictionary, that could have given you a hint that you are wrong:

    “Possession versus Ownership

    Although the two terms are often confused, possession is not the same as ownership. No legal rule states that ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law,’ but this phrase is often used to suggest that someone who possesses an object is most likely its owner. Likewise, people often speak of the things they own, such as clothes and dishes, as their possessions. However, the owner of an object may not always possess the object. For example, an owner of a car could lend it to someone else to drive. That driver would then possess the car. However, the owner does not give up ownership simply by lending the car to someone else.

    The myriad distinctions between possession and ownership, and the many nuances of possession, are complicated even for attorneys and judges. To avoid confusion over exactly what is meant by possession, the word is frequently modified by adding a term describing the type of possession. For example, possession may be actual, adverse, conscious, constructive, exclusive, illegal, joint, legal, physical, sole, superficial, or any one of several other types. Many times these modifiers are combined, as in ‘joint constructive possession.’ All these different kinds of possession, however, originate from what the law calls ‘actual possession.’ ”

    Indeed, “[a]nd to think, philosophers have wasted centuries doing political theory when the answers were right there in Websters all along.”

  • 162 Julian Sanchez // Jul 21, 2014 at 7:08 am

    This discussion fairly clearly hit a Dunning-Kruger limit a while ago, and is becoming actually painful to watch. I will gently suggest that everyone consider backing away and picking up a good novel or something.

  • 163 bob dob // Jul 21, 2014 at 8:40 am

    @Julian
    Hard to argue with that. And the opportunity costs of going on is also quite high given the great weather around here. A Richard Ford novel in the shade it is then. Cheers all.

  • 164 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Although the two terms are often confused, possession is not the same as ownership. No legal rule states that ‘possession is nine-tenths of the law,’ but this phrase is often used to suggest that someone who possesses an object is most likely its owner. Likewise, people often speak of the things they own, such as clothes and dishes, as their possessions. However, the owner of an object may not always possess the object. For example, an owner of a car could lend it to someone else to drive. That driver would then possess the car. However, the owner does not give up ownership simply by lending the car to someone else.

    The myriad distinctions between possession and ownership, and the many nuances of possession, are complicated even for attorneys and judges. To avoid confusion over exactly what is meant by possession, the word is frequently modified by adding a term describing the type of possession. For example, possession may be actual, adverse, conscious, constructive, exclusive, illegal, joint, legal, physical, sole, superficial, or any one of several other types. Many times these modifiers are combined, as in ‘joint constructive possession.’ All these different kinds of possession, however, originate from what the law calls ‘actual possession.’ ”

    ___

    Sure, under this current legal system, right on. That’s the same legal system that defines taxes as “not theft because the Supreme Court says so,” but hey no circular reasoning here!

    If an owner of a car lends it to someone, first we have to assume and actually define what constitutes ownership, which you still have failed to do. That’s also totally voluntary and fine. Someone can hold rights to control something (own) and lease or give them for free. Ever heard of someone renting an apartment they own? Renting it out in no way makes them less of an owner.

    Attorneys are involved because the state makes things intentionally gray when it should be black and white.

    To Julian :

    What discussion, exactly? Your minions won’t even concede that possession = ownership, even though it’s right there in the dictionary. Scary to see people argue with the English language to the death. There was no discussion because your friends wouldn’t grant me the most basic of points, the one that instantly sinks their and your worldview and reduces it to a smoking pile of garbage.

    So yes direct them to throw in the towel before everyone wakes up and realizes you’re full of it

  • 165 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Bob,

    In before the subject is changed from “here’s how we figure out who owns something” to “bbbbbbut that’s not legitimate ownership!”

    Looks like I was just a few hours ahead of ya. Moving the goal posts, how does it work

  • 166 412libertarian // Jul 21, 2014 at 2:18 pm

    So, first, a point so trivial I’d hope it wouldn’t need to be made, but which apparently does: Taken in a strict or literal sense, the claim that “taxation is theft” is just false. Standard dictionary definitions pretty uniformly include the idea that “theft” is a form of non-consensual property transfer that is “unlawful” or “felonious” or “without legal right.”

    _____

    That’s from Julian’ post.

    So Julian is “for” strict, standard dictionary definitions when they support his points, but “against” them when they contradict his points. Pretty amazing stuff. Pick a side, loser.

  • 167 Julian Sanchez // Jul 21, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    I won’t pretend to be surprised that you don’t grasp the difference, but unlike some of these patient souls, I feel no particular compulsion to conduct remedial philosophy lessons for the benefit of randoms clogging up my comments, and rude ones still less so. So, thanks ever so much for stopping by.

  • 168 Murphasaur // Jul 26, 2014 at 8:41 pm

    Julian, I agree that elevated rhetoric and poorly-worded slogans are unhelpful. You may find that this is somewhat pertinent:

    http://oklahomalp.org/1/post/2013/12/the-stamp-act-reconsidered.html

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  • 170 Josh Wieder // Sep 26, 2014 at 8:31 am

    I strongly disagree with your reliance on “standard dictionary definitions” of theft. You describe theft as ‘a form of non-consensual property transfer that is ‘unlawful’ or ‘felonious’ or ‘without legal right.'” Using your definition, when the Nazi’s forcibly took property from Jews, what they did was not theft. Similarly, let us imagine that the government passed a law saying that anyone may break into Julian Sanchez’ home and take all of your things. Should people then take advantage of this new law, their actions would not be “theft” using your definition. Essentially your point of view is the classic legal defense of totalitarianism: crimes are only what the government says are crimes. Or, as Nixon put it, “If the President Does It, That Means It’s Not Illegal”. Libertarianism diverges completely and immediately from this point of view by asserting that human rights are inalienable and removed from any government edict. Indeed, this view was foundational for both the American Revolution that baldly asserted that all men “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” and the modern view of human rights which finds it reasonable to internationally prosecute members of government for behavior that was not illegal in their country of origin. Mr Sanchez, I realize that you have spent no small amount of time fighting for human rights that I also value – privacy, for example. I completely respect and support your efforts. Nevertheless, I find your appeal to statist ideology here all the more dismaying, given how starkly it contrasts with a worldview that obviously hopes to hold your government accountable for its misdeeds. The libertarian assertion that you so critique is this: My birth within the make-believe borders of the United States was not a contractually binding agreement in any sensical meaning of the term. Citizenship was foisted upon me, and for a variety of complex reasons outside of my control relinquishing my citizenship is not, at least for the time being, possible. Despite this, a group of individuals whom I have never met inform me through threatening letters that I must provide regular “protection” payments. If I fail to meet their schedule for these protection payments willingly they will kidnap me and take all of my money and my property. If I try to defend myself using force they will murder me. Libertarians call such an arrangement theft; and that they do euphemistically. I agree with them.

  • 171 Bruce Majors // Sep 30, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Perhaps you should think of the slogan as a rhetorical and pedagogical device used to make the many people who never stop and think about the fact that what is legal is not identical to and may even contradict what is moral or just stop and think about that.

    And then think about whether a immoral law can be legitimate. And if illegitimate, whether it is law, or simply an oppressive edict.

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