Wednesday, October 22, 2014

No Right to Secede

A Response to “The Right to Secede”

I would like to show that this response to my article actually has little bearing on whether taxes are or are not theft. I will start by going through individual statements, but first, I will state the premises I’m operating off of. If you accept these 3 premises then it is completely reasonable for taxes to exist without a “Secession Amendment”.

  1. Implicit contracts exist
  2. A social contract is a form of an implicit contract
  3. An individual can sign (implicitly or explicitly) any contract they like as long as both parties  have full knowledge of the contract and there is no coercion.
I don't see any reason to expand upon these 3 premises, as they are trivially true. Now I'll get into individual statements from the original article.

“For a contract to be valid there must be terms and a reasonable way to leave it.  It is not reasonable to have to leave your country, family, friends, and job in order to break a contract.”

This statement is a personal preference about what a person may desire in their contract. A contract by no means has to have a reasonable way to break it. There are many contracts that I would not personally accept, but that does not mean they are invalid contracts. A contract is not just invalid or valid for people who find the terms unreasonable, if a contract is invalid it means those who accept the terms have also signed an invalid contract.

If a person has no plans on breaking a contract, then it is possible and maybe even beneficial for them to agree to a stricter punishment for breaking it in return for better terms elsewhere in the contract. See premise B above as well, if an individual can sign any contract they like (a very common theme of Libertarians), then putting this stipulation on contract terms would likely be construed as an “authoritarian” action limiting the rights of the individual.

“I've decided that taxes in the United States would not be theft if the constitution protected the right for any individual to secede as the final check on the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.”

Once again this is a personal preference, one would presume that since you don’t find the initial terms of the contract reasonable you would reject them. Your parents and family have also chosen to accept the contract, which can factor into your decision but it does not invalidate the contract simply because you would have to move away from them. If your whole family lives in an apartment, and you choose to not live in the apartment when you turn 18 because you don't like the terms, does that make the apartment's contract or terms invalid? Absolutely not, and that same line of reasoning applies to the social contract.

“There is currently no check on the three branches of government, if they wish to work together to increase their power. The right for individuals to secede would make any authoritarian government collapse if it came to be too out of control.”

This is patently false. There are absolutely checks and balances for all 3 branches, 2 of the branches are democratically elected and are able to appoint/remove members of the other branch. So in short, voting is your check on all 3 branches. I will never be one to argue that voting is an absolute check, but it is a check and can be used to punish government officials who go too far. On a slightly different angle, if a government was truly authoritarian, then how do you think attempting to use your “right to secede” would work? I'm guessing it wouldn't be very effective in getting rid of the current government.

“Native Americans lands currently exist within the United States as sovereign territories. If all people had the same option, some of them would choose to do this, and it would not be much different.”

I know we discussed this before but Native American lands are not sovereign territories. They could be more closely described as a state, so they still fall under the federal government. They receive some special benefits that states don’t because of allegedly being wronged in the past by the US. There are no examples of foreign countries existing within US borders, having foreign nations exist within US borders is not a solution, it would be a problem.

To play along with the scenario a little bit, it's completely possible that in the case that you choose to secede your property from the US, the US government would be completely justified in restricting travel between your country and the US. So you would be leaving your family just as effectively as moving out of the country. Once again this method really solves nothing, and provides for a whole host of problems.

In addition to the above concerns, would someone be able to sell their property directly to another country if they have the right to secede? If they can there are obviously huge implications for why that's bad. But if they can't do that, why not? That implies that a person doesn't have full ownership of their property... Which would justify either of my 2 original stipulations (that land either has a contract that follows it indefinitely or that the public retains partial ownership of private property within it's borders). 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Right to Secede

I would like to respond to the idea of the social contract in "Taxes are Not Theft", which was a response to my original article, "Taxes are Theft".

For a contract to be valid, there must be terms and a reasonable way to leave it. It is not reasonable to have to leave your country, family, friends, and job in order to break a contract. I've decided that taxes in the United States would not be theft if the constitution protected the right for any individual to secede as the final check on the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

The right to secede from the government, a person and their property and form their own sovereign territory free from the rule or protection of the government shall not be infringed.

There is currently no check on the three branches of government, if they wish to work together to increase their power. The right for individuals to secede would make any authoritarian government collapse if it came to be too out of control.

Native Americans land currently exist within the United States as sovereign territories. If all people had the same option, some of them would choose to do this, and it would not be much different. The decision to secede would forfeit all protections from the government, and is a decision that should not be taken lightly. If you secede and your house catches on fire, the government will not come and put the fire out. Police will not come if you call 911.

I will accept taxes as legal if the government codifies and protects my right to secede. Until then, the contract is invalid and taxes are theft.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Speed Limits and Local Government Corruption

Have you ever driven on a road that seemed like the speed limit should be higher than it is? I'd like to write a short post about speed limits, why we need speed limits, what should set speed limits, and where money from speed limits should go.

Why do we need speed limits? Speed limits provide guidance to drivers to tell them the maximum safe speed they can drive. Unfortunately, the maximum safe speed is dependent on weather, traffic level, construction, etc. and speed limits don't normally reflect that. We leave it up to drivers to determine based on the road conditions how far below the speed limit they should drive. Speed limits also provide a reason for a police officer to pull reckless drivers over. It might be easier to prove speeding in court than reckless driving because speeding is more specific. I don't have a strong opinion on whether we need speed limits or if we could just get rid of them, but I do have an opinion on a related topic; how should speed limits be set?

Speed limits should be set based on safety. Unfortunately, there is a dangerous conflict of interest for lawmakers to set speed limits not on the maximum safe speed, but based on revenue generation instead. Let's say you were an average looter politician trying to get more funding to run your constituents lives under the guise of safety. However, your projects all have that nasty funding requirement, and the constituents are fed up with your tax increase proposals. What's another way to receive funding? You could just lower speed limits, or install automatic cameras. Set them just low enough to pay for all your favorite socialized government projects. And you can do it all in the name of safety.

Is this an appropriate way to set speed limits? Absolutely not. Speed limits should be set based on safety. Whenever income from a law is going to fund government programs, there is a dangerous conflict of interest for lawmakers to set laws based on revenue rather than public safety. Does this ever actually happen? "A 2006 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis ("Are traffic tickets countercyclical?") found that towns increased the number of tickets issued by an average of 0.4% for every 1% decline in other revenue."[1] How would I solve the problem? I would allow citizens who speed to pay their fine to a non-profit organization of their choice. Just send the city a copy of the receipt to verify the fine was paid. If we did this, I wager the speed limits around town might go up a little bit.

Revenue generation is a dangerous conflict of interest for local governments. The more laws we have such as public intoxication or speed limits, the more opportunity there is for this type of abuse. Either get rid of the laws, or separate the funding from fine revenue from city and state governments.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Taxes Are Not Theft

A response to “Taxes Are Theft”

Let me state a possible counter argument to the assertion that taxes are theft. To do this we start with an analogy.

We can say this analogy begins after an anarchist's utopia has been founded (no taxes, no government, every man for themselves). Say a group of private citizens decides to come together for various reasons; safety, economic gain, and social benefit. This group of citizens lives in a contiguous plot of land. They all sit down and agree to a set of rules to live by.  They agree to have a certain set of services be provided by the community instead of by individuals. If you want to continue to be part of the community then you must abide by all of the rules or face the consequences, which are decided by the group.

The group starts by saying each district will elect a representative that will champion their interests, while also looking out for the interests of the entire community as a whole. These representatives will have the authority to make rules and regulations, and decide the monetary contributions needed by individual members. The rules deciding what is within a representative’s power are laid out in an original founding document.

When a person or family has a child, the child automatically becomes a member, but is free to come and go from the community as he/she chooses, as long as all rules are followed while within the borders of the community. If they continue to own land within the borders then they will need to pay the applicable fees that the representatives have decided upon. If a child inherits property within the borders and feel absolutely no desire to be a part of the community’s rules and doesn't want to pay the fees, they can simply sell or give away their inheritance to someone interested. It is important to note that the contract initially made follows the land, land within the borders cannot be sold and then be out of the contract initially made. Whether it is built into the initial contract that the land must always have a certain set of stipulations assigned with it on sale or whether the land is partly under community ownership, whichever way you want to look at it essentially comes out the same.

In the above scenario it is near impossible to call the fees being paid “theft”. A group of people came together and acted in their own personal interest to insure a better life for themselves. In addition, no one is being forced into the system. You have the choice to be part of the community or not, there is no force making you stay. To be clear, this is not a “love it leave it” argument, this is merely recognizing that every individual has a choice whether to be part of the community. If you choose to live in the community you are de facto signing a social contract, and with the social contract comes rights and responsibilities.

Under this system, not paying your fees would be the first violation of the “non-aggression principle” and the community would be justified to collect the fees from you. This is because you are essentially stealing from others in the community as you continue to use the services provided without any payment. I believe this shows that there is a natural/philosophical basis for taxes and government to exist. Just as everyone has the right to self-defense and property, people have the right to live under a governing body if they so choose.

So in conclusion, if you are living in a nation such as the US, not paying taxes could more easily be construed as theft than being forced to pay them.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Who Would Build the Roads?

"Who would build the roads in Libertopia?" I see criticism of libertarians all the time over this question.  I would like to present a variety of solutions to this problem that don't require the use of force (taxes).

The first question is simply, "Why not let the government handle roads through tax funds?" The first reason is that taxes are theft. The second reason is that anything the government does inherently costs more than when people pay for their own services. This is because people like to save money while government officials don't. Government administrators have no economic incentive for cutting costs or coming up with an innovative solution. They get their budgets handed down to them and they expect the budget to increase every few years. If they don't spend all the money in the budget, they might get a little sign on their desk the says, "atta boy" and then they lose the funding next year. Capitalism is more efficient because it rewards competence rather than punishing it. If you as an employee of this company find a way to cut costs and improve services than your company will make more money and you will get a raise. See more about why capitalism is better than socialism in my upcoming post on the topic. The bottom line is, total road costs will be lower if the government stays out of the way, and it gives people more freedom to choose how much of their money they want to spend on roads.

Okay, how do we get the government out of the road business? Cities and counties cut road construction, maintenance, and repair from their budgets and return the money to the taxpayers. Rezone lots in residential neighborhoods so that homeowners' property lines include the portion of the road in front of their house. Some homeowners will pool their resources into an association to pay for maintenance. Homeowners can decide how well they want to maintain the road, and at what cost. Instead of your vote being 1 out of 10,000 we can increase the power of your vote to 1 out of 5-10 (however many houses are in your neighborhoods homeowners association).

What about larger roads that aren't in residential neighborhoods? Medium sized roads in cities can continue to be publicly owned. Elected officials can manage road maintenance projects and repairs that are funded voluntarily through crowd-funding. Roads that see heavy traffic will easily be paid for by the citizens who use the road and care about it. This gives people the choice to decide on their own terms if they want to pay for that road for the quoted price. People simply won't fund roads that are too expensive or not needed. And if people in the area really want that new bypass connecting one side of the city to the other than they can crowd-fund it.

How about interstates? Large major roads such as interstates and highways can be funded through tolls. People that drive on the roads can pay for them. The government can lease the roads to private companies who will charge tolls for a profit. The lease will expire periodically and new leasers can compete for the lucrative right to tolling fees at the cost of minimum maintenance levels set out in the contract. The toll roads that I've driven on are usually maintained better than non-toll roads. Most of them have electronic methods of payment where drivers don't need to stop. And someday, private companies might come up with something better than roads such as the hyperloop.

Will this ever happen? It is much easier to socialize a service than to privatize it because people underestimate the productivity of the private sector and feel that socialism keeps them safe. Let me illustrate this with a ridiculous hypothetical example; let's say the government socialized the production of socks. Everybody goes to the dmv-like store and waits in a very long line to buy socks. Libertarians come along and advocate the complete privatization of sock production. People will be scared of a sock shortage and they will ask, "But who will make our socks if the government doesn't do it?" Does anybody think that this is realistic? No this isn't realistic, and the same logic applies to roads.

Tolls, homeowners associations, and crowd-funding could all help to replace mandatory taxes and pay for roads. Roads would be paid for voluntarily instead of by force and at gunpoint. We will all pay less as competition drives down the cost of roads, and innovators in industry will come up with new means of transportation that are better than roads. This is the place that I want to live someday.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

How do Property Rights Begin?

Libertarians believe in protecting property rights, but one of the questions that comes up is, "for a given plot of land, how did the first owner come to take possession of the land?" I propose there are 3 requirements for property rights to be valid under natural law.

  1. An individual must claim the property
  2. An individual must do something useful with the property
  3. An individual must be willing to defend the property
Let's see how these 3 premises hold up under a variety of circumstances.

Example 1: Land on the moon, premise 1 without 2 and 3

Let's say I claim that I own land on the moon (1), but I have no way of getting to the moon to use it (2) and no way to defend the land I claim on the moon (3). Do I own the land? No, and it doesn't make sense that I own land on the moon. Simply claiming land does not make it yours.

Example 2: Land on the moon, premise 1 and 3 without 2

Let's say I claim that I own land on the moon (1), and I'm willing to sue anybody who claims otherwise to defend my ownership (3). If somebody else comes along and starts living on my moon-land and mining moon rocks on it. They also claim ownership and are willing to sue. In this case, whom does the land belong to? It belongs to the person who is doing something useful with the property.

Example 3: Land on the moon without premise 1

Let's say I don't claim land on the moon. Under no circumstances is land on the moon mine if I don't claim it.

Example 4: Land on the moon, premise 1 and 2 without 3

Let's say I claim land on the moon, and I'm mining moon rocks. Some moon pirates come along and decide they claim the land and they are willing to fight me for it. If I am unwilling to defend my property in any way at all (peaceful or with force) then I no longer own the property.

Example 5: Land on the moon with all premises

Let's say I claim land on the moon (1). I build a moon-house to live in (2). And I am willing to defend my property either through the international courts or by the use of force against trespassers (3). I own the land and get the protection of property rights to it.

The above examples cover every possible combination of the premises. Let's look at an example of what happens when we apply these premises to a historical situation. When Europeans kicked the native Americans from their land, the native Americans met these requirements for property rights. They may not have understood exactly what property rights were, but the country was roughly segmented into land for the different tribes, they were willing to defend their land, and they were using the land.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Taxes are Theft

Taxes are theft, and this is why.
  1. If an armed robber robs you it is theft.
  2. If an armed robber robs you, and there is no court to sue them and no police to protect you, it is still theft.
  3. If a group of armed robbers rob you, it is theft.
  4. If a group of armed robbers rob you, and then give you something back it is theft.
    1. eg. They steal your car and then give you a bike.
  5. If a group of armed robbers rob you, and then tell you if you don't want to be robbed then you should move, it is theft.
  6. If a group of armed robbers lets you vote with them on if they will rob you or not, but their majority overrules you and they rob you anyways, it is theft.
  7. If a group of armed robbers calling themselves, "the government" robs you, it is theft.
  8. All of these points combined describe taxes, and all are shown to be theft, therefore taxes are theft.
I've been told that because I believe that taxes are theft, I'm acting as a hypocrite for using the roads that the looted money paid for. I'm a hypocrite for not giving up security of police, security of military, fire service, 911 services. Here's my answer to you. I don't want your roads, I have a jeep. I don't want your police security, I have guns and I'm willing to pay a private police force for security. I don't want your military; I will pay for a private militia. I don't want your fire or 911 services; I will pay for private enterprises. Until the government stops robbing me and providing these services in return, I'm going to continue using them, but it doesn't change the fact that I think it's stealing.

I've been told that I have no sense of community, altruism, or empathy. It's not altruistic or empathetic to give away others' money, even if you don't mind giving your own money away. If I wasn't being robbed for the sake of welfare at the point of a gun, I would give my money voluntarily for merit-able causes.

Obama-care is simply stealing from your neighbor to pay for your health expenses. Whether it is for erection medicine or a triple bypass that you "need" it is still theft. If you want to run society based around people's needs, you get socialism. Choose your system, capitalism or socialism. Capitalism rewards ability with wealth. Socialism's repeated failure in history speaks for itself.

Should we abolish all taxes, or do some of societies "needs" justify theft? Could we have a government without taxes where funds come voluntarily instead of by force? I don't have the answers to these questions. The point is when you think about how great it would be if the government did something, ask yourself, "Is this worth robbing somebody to pay for?" I suspect you will find yourself saying "no" to these programs more often.

Here is a possible counter argument written by my friend Luke.

Here is a Christian perspective on taxes