RE: Property [was Re: The Education Function]

Webb_S (
Wed, 16 Dec 1998 15:22:42 -0500 wrote:

>First of all I want to apologize for the tone of my last post. I had no
>reason to attack you personally. I'm sure you're sincere in believing that
>the job you do is valuable. I'm just so f***in' tired of being jerked
>around by "the system" that I tend to lash out at anyone I see as
>representing it. Unfortunately, the fact is that your position _is_
>supported by funds that are, from my point of view, simply extorted from me
>and others who have other uses for our own money. Hope you understand my
>discontent with that situation.

I understand that you feel this way. There definitely does seem to be something wrong with forcing people to pay for things they don't need or want. Speaking only for myself, I really don't mind paying taxes, so I don't have any moral objection to working for the government. It has its benefits and its drawbacks. Soon I hope to return to the private sector, though I am somewhat concerned about the demands that may be made on my time.

>>The notion that all men (people) are created equal is arguably not well
>>supported by market mechanisms.
>I think the market is the most egalitarian social phenomenon possible, in
>that every person has absolute say over whether to participate in any given

David Friedman made this claim in _Machinery of Freedom_. I agree that market outcomes are most efficient, but I'm not totally convinced that these outcomes are most fair. They seem to favor those with an acquisitive disposition. For example, suppose person A offers a parcel of land for sale. The potential buyers include person B, who's willing to pay $1,000 for it, and persons C..Z who collectively are willing to pay $100,000. But while Person A has $1,000 in the bank, persons C..Z are non-materialistic "hippies" who feel very passionate about preserving the ecosystem on this land but can only scrape together $100. So person A wins, even though the land is 100 times more important to the hippies. Friedman covers a similar case in his book but I really didn't follow his logic.

>>In any event, "global capitalism" is what economists and business leaders
>call it.
>It's what *some" economists call it, specifically those who favor
>interventionism. Technically, it's a form of mercantilism.

The global capital market definitely has its mercantilist aspects.

>>Ah yes, we're one big happy gang here. Have you ever even *been* to DC?
>How is that relevant? The point I was undiplomatically making is that your
>job, like all gov't jobs, is funded by extortion (taxes), and that most of
>the "goods" those taxes pay for are things I don't want or even abhor.

Understood. What I really want to avoid is the sort of stereotyping of "the other guys" that makes people like Timmy McViegh feel justified in killing government employees. I'm not the tax man or a DEA agent. I build computer systems for an agency that produces information used primarily by businesses. I understand that you're not happy with way the funds for my paycheck are coerced from you, and I'm unhappy that you're unhappy.

>>>If most gov't activities have nothing to do with force, why can't I
>>>decline to hand over my property to the IRS without risking jail or
>>Because that's the law.
>Yes, and the law is obviously backed by force, or it wouldn't be law. So
>how can you honestly claim that "most gov't activities have nothing to do
>with force"? They are _all_ supported by monies taken under threat of

Yes, I agree that if you really don't want the government to have it, it is taken under threat of force. However, since I don't mind paying taxes, my money is provided voluntarily.

>>If you can provide a convincing argument that the IRS is unnecessary I
>wouldn't mind
>>eliminating the IRS one bit.
>I shouldn't have to prove that the IRS is "unnecessary", it's for those who
>support it to prove that extortion is ethical in support of their goals.

As I see it, the government currently serves a number of useful functions, and the IRS is required under the current system. I'll go along with eliminating the IRS as long as I can be assured that I'll still be safe from foreign enemies, still be able to travel rapidly from place to place, etc. I'm very interested in many of the alternatives proffered in this forum.

>>All of the government employees I know work for agencies involved in
>>commerce, transportation safety and labor issues. Force has nothing to do
>>with it.
>Again, they're all funded by taxes. And they all will resort to police
>action where necessary to inflict their decisions on the rest of us. You
>know this. Force has _everything_ to do with it.

Yes, I see your point.

>>For the most part I find the bundle of goods and services provided by the
>>government to be acceptable.
>Fine. You pay for the bundle, then. Why should I have to pay just because
>*you* find it acceptable?

Ideally you shouldn't have to. However, I'd like to see alternative systems beta tested before they are universally implemented.

>>If a mugger offered something comparable in
>>compensation for the mugging I probably wouldn't object as strongly.
>Oh, come on...

OK the mugger case is a bit extreme. But I'm not simply robbed by the government, I get stuff from them. I have no doubt that a lot of this stuff could be provided cheaper by private concerns, but the status quo seems good enough to me such that I don't feel pressured to commit myself to transforming the system.

>I won't quibble over "constitutionality". But "government" violates my
>rights every day. My salary is looted daily (withholding and Social
>Insecurity tax), if nothing else. And if I were adamant in my refusal to
>"pay" taxes, at some point the IRS (or some goons in uniform) would "blow
>me away", as it has done to others in the past.

I don't think they'd shoot you unless you were pulling a gun on them or somesuch. I understand that you feel violated, and hope that we can find a way to rectify this.

>>As I often say, in the end people *always* have a choice. You don't have
>>do anything you don't want to, even if it's the guvmint doing the asking.
>>There are consequences, of course.
>You know, you have a point. I don't _have_ to hand my wallet to the mugger
>who "asks" for it. There are consequences, of course.

Exactly. I don't mean this lightly, either. To me it is a great comfort to know that no one, not a mugger and not the government, can make me do anything I don't want to do. Well, maybe under extreme torture, but you get the point.

>>There most certainly is such a thing as normative economics. You can find
>>this terminology in any good intro economics text. Objective descriptions
>>of economic behavior are quite a different thing than proposals for
>>policy. Economists engage in both activities.
>"Normative economics" is a synonym for what used to be known as "political
>economy", as distinct from economics per se. When economists engage in
>policy prescription, they are acting in their capacity as political
>advisors, not as economists strictly speaking. Politics and economics are
>separate fields of inquiry, albeit often intermixed in practice.

Where I went to school it was still called political economy by the polysci department. Most of my econ classes were strictly positive but I there were a few policy classes that bordered on normative.

>>*My* objective is to live in a largely libertarian society under a
>>minimalist government. Don't go jumping to conclusions about my motives.
>Pardon me if that's so. Are you actively engaged in reducing the size and
>scope of "government"? Is that why you hold the job you do?

I hold the job I do because it pays the bills. As I said, I myself am not so outraged about the government as to quit my job on principle. While I'm not actively engaged in reducing the size and scope of government, I support others' efforts to do so.

>>"I" want to take it from "you"? I don't want to take anything from you.
>>Why do you think this?
>Because your job depends on my - unwilling - monetary support.

I'd be more than happy to refund the money you paid for me. I don't want your money if you don't want me to have it.

>>>>Sure, governments do bad things, but so do businesses.
>That's like saying, sure, Hitler did some bad things, but look at Coca-Cola
>- why their product rots our teeth! There's a little matter of scale, don't
>you think?

Mostly I'm thinking of modern republican governments such as we have here in the U.S. To me Uncle Sam bears little resemblance to Hitler or Stalin. It's a little matter of scale, you see.

>>>Business can't get away with bad things by dint of firepower or
>>>immunity", however.
>>True. Mostly they have to rely on PR people to cover their
>Yeah, that's certainly the "moral equivalent" of armed force, isn't it?

I hold this sort of moral calculus to be purely subjective, so I really can't say for sure.

>>Why should my feelings upset you so as to cause gastric distress?
>Because it wrenches my guts to see someone pretending that businessmen are
>somehow more to be feared than the wielders of armed might who claim the
>"authority" to run our lives and take our property at will.

I'm not pretending, I'm honestly expressing my views. There are definitely some trends in government that concern me, but certain business trends worry me more.