RE: `capitalist' character values

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Tue Jul 24 2001 - 02:04:53 MDT

Jerry wrote
>Yes, there's very much a philosophical basis for my "aversion" to taxes. I
>lean very heavily towards "objectivism" (not Randism) for one, that should
>give a large insight into my beliefs. Here's why taxes are such a good
>test" on political philosophy for me. If you were to be shown an elaborate
>formula that covers entire chalkboards, but as you glance over this, you
>notice that in one spot, the formula states 2+2=5. You would know there's
>very little chance the outcome of the formula could be correct. I know that
>taxes are inherently morally wrong, so ANY system that includes involuntary
>taxes are automatically immoral. <snip>

>If someone wants to argue with you about the situation, they MUST argue
>about the point in question. "Are taxes moral" is the distilled essence of
>the question.

Yes, I can see that this is the essential question from your viewpoint, and
it is obviously a legitimate one.

>Does the answer evade the fact that taxes are collected by

Good point. Ultimately all laws, including laws for the collection of taxes,
are backed up by the coercive power of the state. I don't see how anyone
could argue with you here.

>How do they argue that theft is ok?

Well, hold on, though. Taxation is not literally theft. Within the norms of
the legal system, taxation is justified by law. You may say that such laws
are immoral or whatever, but the issue isn't whether tax is *actually*
theft. It's not. The issue is surely whether such taking by the government
is *morally equivalent* to theft, notwithstanding that it is underpinned by
legislation etc. I think you have to agree with me on this just as a matter
of fact (if you don't, we probably can't take it much further). However,
you'll probably think I'm nitpicking. I could understand if that were your
response, but I'm not sure that it is just nitpicking. The fact is that
decisions have been made through the legal system as to what is theft and
what isn't and a lot of people would assume that there are pretty good moral
reasons for the distinctions that the system makes.

>Do they try to say taxes isn't
>stolen money? This goes completely against my understanding of reality and
>they will have to do some BIG time explaining to show me that one.

Well, no, it isn't stolen money (see above). Again, what counts as
"stealing" is defined by the norms of the legal system. The issue is whether
those laws are open to moral criticism, whether having laws that allow for
taxation is immoral, whether it is morally acceptable that the legal system
does *not* count taxation as theft. So far you haven't given me an argument
as to why you consider these things to be the case. I can *think* of
arguments, but I can't see anywhere where you put one.

>listen, but don't be surprised at me being skeptical. Something that goes
>against my logic to that extent, I will be sure to examine closely.

Yes, but it's "your logic". :-) I doubt that I could convince you that
taxes are, or can be, morally permissible, but I'm just trying to understand
why you are so sure they are not. I would think that you'd have to start off
with a theory about when something becomes your property in a sense that
precedes the norms of the legal system (after all, those same norms allow
for taxes (!!!), so you have to rely on something deeper). And do you say
there can never be a civic *responsibility* to give up some of your property
(as defined) to contribute to the infrastructure of the society as a whole
or to care for people in need? Do you say that there are never any values
that can override your right to hang on to your property, no matter what
moral catastrophe may be involved (you gave an example of someone about to
physically melt down with a new form of cancer not having any moral claim
over you)?

I think I can see the internal logic of your position but I'm still not
entirely sure what values underpin it, why anyone else should be convinced
by what you say. Is it possible, for example, that your theory of property
underpinned by a theory of desert (as in "I deserve to have/keep this money
because I worked for it"; or "I deserve this land because I've mixed my
labour with it")? Do you believe that property that is acquired within the
norms of the legal system is always deserved? Or do you think there is some
kind of rougher fit between those norms and what should really be recognised
as property? In that case, in what circumstances (either theoretical or in
our actual society) is it or is it not deserved?

See, most people, though they try to minimise their taxes in ways allowed by
the law, don't see this particular kind of taking of their property as
essentially immoral. Perhaps they see a kind of social duty to give
something to pay for infrastructure that is available for everyone. Of
course, they may be deluded. Perhaps this is actually a very inefficient way
of providing for infrastructure! But assume that is not always the case. (Or
is your political theory partly based on an economic theory that public
expenditure is always wasteful and that there is no such a thing as market

Just following through, what if the taxes are used to pay for your country's
defence forces or for the police? Is that okay? Are there *any* exceptions
to your opposition to taxes? Do you have a theory about when such exceptions
are allowable? You may say "no exceptions at all", for all I know. I'm just

I understand the points in the rest of your post but they don't answer the
kinds of questions I'm asking.

FWIW I can get impassioned about specific political issues, particularly
when there are attempts to ban things on so-called "moral" grounds (I think
there's a whole new batch of issues here, but your position must go beyond
those issues, I think). Still I don't have any objection to paying my
(lawfully minimised) taxes if they are spent on government programs that I
think are reasonable. Yes, I am a bit inclined to say that your position is
extreme, but I'm not strident about it. For all I know, you may be able to
answer my questions and demonstrate that your position is absolutely

Over to you



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