Re: `capitalist' character values

From: Russell Blackford (
Date: Tue Jul 24 2001 - 06:19:01 MDT

Daniel concluded:

>Okay, I'm going to do my best to stay off this thread...:/

Me, too. (1) It would be wrong of me to try to answer you without reading a
lot of the material you've cited, which will take some time (I do have other
priorities in life). (2) I don't know how I got onto this thread in the
first place. (3) It took me a long time writing that post asking questions
of Jerry and I don't have even longer to write an even longer post back to

Daniel had said earlier:

>Theft is
>taking someone else's property without consent -- usually wittingly so,
>e.g., when someone steals your car, knowing it belongs to someone (not
>thinking it's just out there). Since inside Lockean or Randian and most
>other theories of property rights or even more generally just theories of
>property without necessarily rights, there is no need for a state to define
>property -- something becomes property or the title to it can be
>without need of a state to define it as such -- then the state is not
>necessary to define theft.

I do have some familiarity with such accounts of property and I find them
unconvincing. Moreover, they are difficult to reconcile with the idea of
property as understood by property lawyers. Without a detailed analysis of
these accounts, however, the fact that you find them convincing and I don't
is not conclusive one way or the other.

>If you accept this, then it is possible for the state to steal. Since the
>state does not define theft or property, there's the possibility that state
>actions can conflict with property.
>That many would prefer the legal definition -- because it makes life less
>complicated, because they equate "legal" and "moral" or "law" with "right"
>or "legal recognition" with "ownership," because they don't have an viable
>alternative to it -- is no argument here. We could go over the extreme
>examples that most people would agree where it's right to break the law,
>that would violate netiquette on the Nazis.:)

Quite so! <g>

Anyway, my questions to Jerry have actually been about exactly this: what
does he see as the moral limits of the law. As you'd know, some have
theorised that Nazi law was not law at all because it was inconsistent with
the "natural law". I don't go along with that myself - as a legal
positivist, I find it highly implausible - but I'd be interested to know
whether you do or whether Jerry does. In any event, you've misread me
(which, of course may be the fault of the way I expressed myself) if you
think I'm arguing that "if it's legal it must be acceptable" and that I go
on to develop a *separate* argument. The issue I'm trying to define
throughout, as precisely as I can, is simply why it is wrong for the law to
be what it is, ie to include tax legislation etc. And this means that I want
a more general answer to the question: what kinds of laws are morally
acceptable (or morally binding)? In what circumstances is the imposition of
an obligation by the state legitimate? I don't think either of you has
answered this so far, or if you have I've missed it. I also raised a further
question briefly: what is the effect or significance of a law that should
have been enacted (or should not have been part of the common law if it
comes to that)? How should we respond to such a law? But this *was*
separate; it was not central to my line of questioning.

You have given at least the sketch of some answers to the overall question
of how you would criticise tax and defend a libertarian position, and I'm
grateful for that. I must report that your answers raise even more questions
in my mind <g>. For example, FWIW, I find your views about social cohesion
counter-intuitive. Some of the reading you've suggested may throw up more
answers, and I realise I have raised a lot of issues without giving answers
of my own. I'm grateful for the citations because they expand the range of
material I'm aware of that a sophisticated philosophical libertarian might
rely on.

At one point in an earlier post I almost called out for you to step in and
offer your theory of political obligation, etc, coz I figured you'd have
one! "Where is Daniel when you need him?" I almost asked. Well, you've done
some of it without even being asked.

And I've ended up writing an abbreviated version of the post I said I
wouldn't write... But at least it's an abbreviated version. I'd better end
here. Someone else can play the role of philosophical "commie" for a while,
I think.



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