RE: Property and the Law, and is it a priority?

From: Lee Corbin (
Date: Sat Jul 28 2001 - 21:55:53 MDT

Russell Blackford, reasonable as ever, writes

> It's just that some of the statements I was reading struck me as
> under-theorised, hence my comment (but who knows?). E.g the "taxation is
> theft" meme seems to avoid questions about when is it and is it not *morally
> reasonable* to have legal norms relating to property based on considerations
> similar to Locke's theory, or the homesteading theory? When is it *morally
> reasonable* to qualify such property laws with laws relating to an
> obligation to pay taxes (to contribute to social aims etc)?

My own view of "taxation is theft" might not be too far from yours.
You're right there is a continuum here. I gave some examples
earlier where taxes could be necessary in a modern country that
is based on any human culture that I've seen. Namely, if your
group already maintains a very high level of liberty, and you
don't want to lose it, then resistence to invaders damn near
justifies any means.

I see the "taxation is theft" meme as very valuable, if not to
be taken literally (not by some of us, at least). The cultural
tradition that it is wrong to forcibly take from others has
shown its worth; the more that historically societies were
able to follow that tradition, the better they did. Today's
disputes often obtain from a clash between modern hyper-rational
thought and ancient, proven, successful memes like these. Hayek
explains all this better than anyone.

So I am extremely reluctant to argue with the backers of this
meme, because I believe that great benefit accrues to a society
that looks with great disdain on taxation, and uses it only as
as last resort. Moreover, these people are hardly stupid; they
may deny it, but if lives or nations are at risk, the principles
can be compromised.

> To me, there's a lot of theorising that needs to be done here
> and what I can see of it casts doubt on simple ideas about
> "taking what 'belongs' to someone else" or about who first
> initiates force.

I wouldn't know, really. But I understand that libertarianism
has a huge literature, and I'm only familiar with an incredibly
tiny bit of it. I very much enjoy the essays of Mike Lorrey and
Daniel Ust.

> BTW (this is not in direct response to your comment) I'm really starting to
> wonder show I should treat discussions of political philosophy on this list.
> I see myself as in a minority position here in not accepting Randian
> libertarianism or anything that closely resembles it, despite having broadly
> libertarian instincts with regard to both social and economic issues. I do
> acknowledge that there's some spread of positions among the libertarians -

Oh yes, surely there is. And I stay out of intellectual arguments
where I'm less sure of my position.

> All this is interesting, but if I keep speaking up with an alternative vie
> to the kind of libertarian philosophy that you, Mike, Felix, Daniel, Ralf,
> Jerry and (I think) quite a few others all share, I can just see myself
> getting bogged down in interminable, energy-sapping debate with people whom
> I basically think of, or want to think of, as transhumanist allies.

yes, it can be a tough choice. I find certain debates rather
addictive. But in the past, I eventually tire and move on.

> I may soon have to move into semi-lurk mode, or at least avoid such
> discussions, or my energies will just be spread too thinly. Conversely,
> I sense that you and the others don't find a lot of value in paragraphs
> that I might write along the lines of the one above commencing "It's
> just that..."

"Property and the Law" is not a burning issue with me. Obviously,
however, I do find your writing interesting enough to seldom miss
a post (unless it's really on a thread I know I have no interest
in). But then I thought that about this thread too.

> You don't want to go away and spend a lot of time rethinking
> your most fundamental political beliefs, seeing whether they're
> based on (or perhaps inconsistent with) anything deeper -
> and why should you? Life is short for you as well, unless we
> win the battle for transhumanism.

No, but I do have my antenna up---as I think most people, lurkers
and non-lurkers alike---for evidence that falsifies something that
I believe. Of course, whether I can internalize such dissonance
before months have passed is another question. I think that the
effect of other people's words have delayed impact in those cases
where people seem poles apart.

> But, in that case, I'm asking myself why should I do a
> whole lot of philosophising that simply drains me and
> isn't of value to the list?

Oh, there is no doubt that philosophizing by people like
you is of enormous benefit to the list. It keeps the
quality a lot higher than it would be otherwise, and very
much helps keep the tone civil and rational (I think
that you do better than I).

But a lot of people apparently have very different
strategies for dealing with the overwhelming amount
of material on lists like these. Most people I know
simply stay away. Others are very, very choosy about
which threads to even read, let alone reply on. I too
regret some of the time I've spent in political debates
that I would have enjoyed spending more elsewhere, but
the stimulation is sometimes irresistable.


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