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

From: Technotranscendence (
Date: Wed Aug 01 2001 - 21:10:41 MDT

On Tuesday, July 31, 2001 7:59 AM Mike Lorrey wrote:
> Actually, it is totally libertarian to pay such taxes, but only if they
> properly reflect the externalities created by use of said items.
> Refusing to pay your externalities is not libertarian, and IS imposing
> force on others.

It would remain to be proven that such taxes actually reflect externalities.
But even so, the libertarian way of dealing with externalities is through
property rights and voluntary agreement -- not through taxes. See, e.g.,
Roy Cordato's _Welfare Economics and Externalities in an Open Ended
Universe_ and Robert Ellickson's _Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle

(Note for those who don't know what externalities are: They are costs or
benefits passed on to others without their consent. Usually, the ones of
interest are negative externalities -- i.e., costs passed onto to other
without their consent. An example is air pollution. People usually don't
complain about positive externalities. An example is someone beautifying
their property. This might provide benefits to his or her neighbors -- in
terms of property value increase, a more esthetically pleasing neighborhood,
and the like.)

>>> A libertarian government properly focuses its revinue gathering on use
>>> based taxation, while fascist governments focus on confiscatory
>>> taxation.
>> A libertarian government would not be able to tax period. It might be
>> to charge user fees, but these would be for services the government
>> delivers. A government doesn't deliver a service by forcing people to
pay a
>> tax. This would include registration fees. What if I don't want to
>> register? (A libertarian government might disavow protecting, say, my
>> against theft or vandalism if I don't register it, but it would not be
>> to use force to make me register.)
> A libertarian government would impose taxes to account for
> externalities, and would properly funnel those externality fees to
> mitigate the damage created by those externalities.

This claim needs a lot more justification than that. How would a government
find out what really were externalities? (Would it be able to determine
this any better than the market? If so, how? If it could do this, I
submit, it would be a case for socialism. Not that that's bad in itself,
but it makes me think it's not possible.) How would it find out their exact
amount? (If it charged more, it would be aggressing. If it charged less,
then, by your standards, it would be allowing aggression.)

Even if it could overcome these very real knowledge problems, would its
incentives be in the direction of actually limiting itself to this and only

>> That said, your semilibertarian -- and it is that: only partly
>> libertarian -- government might be better than what we have now in any
>> on Earth, but it falls short of the principles you claim to be upholding.
>> It mgiht be a good interim setup, between today's welfare state and
>> tomorrow's libertarian society, but it should not be the goal.
> SOrry, a society that does not create some means of properly mitigating
> externalities is not, and cannot hope to be in any way, libertarian.

The proper way of mitigating _negative_ externalities is through defining
property rights and through voluntary agreements. E.g., if my next door
neighbor decides to throw a party that will interfere with my sleep, he and
I can come to an understanding that I'll have some warning and maybe that
the music won't go past midnight. (Or he might invite me over. Not all
problems are so easily solved, but force should not be the first line of
problem solving in these cases.)


Daniel Ust
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