Tuesday, August 29, 2017


I was recently asked some questions about anarcho-capitalism and voluntaryism. 

I don't think taxes in principle are theft. The electorate consents to taxation. In society, we sometimes pool our collective financial resources for the common good. That's the idealistic justification. 

Taxation for purposes of income redistribution is theft. Taxation that goes above and beyond the mandated duties of gov't is theft.

The social contract involves ceding a degree of individual freedom. In a representative democracy, the majority makes decisions for everyone. 

Admittedly, that principle can allow for opt-out provisions in many cases. Take taxation for public education. If a parent chooses an alternative to public education, he ought to get a tax credit. Why should he pay into a system when he doesn't receive the benefit? 

In addition, there are tons of gratuitous licensing fees that only exist to pad the gov't coffers. 

I'm struck by how passive the electorate is in letting gov't rip them off. In a representative democracy, it's ultimately up to the pubic to determine the rate of taxation. But many people either get used to the status quo, and don't notice it anymore, or are addicted to invasive gov't.

Voluntaryism is too one-sided. Because humans are social creatures who live in community, it is often necessary for humans to take collective action to survive and thrive. Hence, it isn't feasible for each and every individual to have the right to veto collective action. There's a coercive element to social life. Individual liberties must be counterbalanced against the rights and needs of other individuals. And cooperation must sometimes be imposed. That's unavoidable given the fact that humans depend on one another to flourish. 

Our Constitutional system of gov't is one such attempt. Once ratified by the people's elected representatives, it is default binding on subsequent generations who didn't vote for it. 

However, the Constitution itself has a mechanism for subsequent generations to renegotiate the social contract by amendment or even a Constitutional convention. And the status quo isn't absolute. In extreme cases, revolution remains and option. Indeed, that's how the Constitution came into being.

Majorities can be tyrannical, but so can ruling elites. I don't think there's a purely abstract way to balance individual liberties over against the common good. I think we need to begin with some specific rights and responsibilities in reference to individual and social ethics alike. The Bible is the primary frame of reference. Of course, that has its own complications, but that's the best starting-point.

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