Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Producers, Consumers and the General Welfare

Every now and then, I come across a quote in my reading which seems particularly relevant to current events. This is one of those.

Each of us is producer and also a consumer. However, we are much more specialized and devote a much larger fraction of our attentions to our activity as a producer than as a consumer. We consume literally thousands if not millions of items. The result is that people in the same trade, like barbers or physicians, all have an intense interest in the specific problems of this trade and are willing to devote considerable energy to doing something about them...The groups that have a special interest...are concentrated groups to whom the issue makes a great deal of difference. The public interest is widely dispersed. In consequence...producer groups will invariably have a much stronger influence on legislative action and the powers that be than the widely spread consumer interest.

--Milton Friedman, from Capitalism and Freedom, quoted in The Regulation of Medical Care: Is the Price Too High by John Goodman, pg 95.

This quote nicely explains the source of the incentive to organize and lobby as a special interest group. The problem of special interests arises because we have allowed them to gain customized favors through the political process. The solution is to eliminate all possibility of special treatment for any group or individual by consistently applying equality before the law.

This is the proper understanding of "promote the general welfare." If a law does not treat all parts of society equally, then is it not promoting the general welfare but instead is promoting a special welfare of some at the expense of others.

The consistent application principle of individual rights includes the corollary principles of equality before the law and the promotion of the general welfare. Properly understood and implemented, these principles will protect us from the natural tendency of organized special interests groups to obtain special favors or privileges at the expense of the rest. These principles guide us in forming laws so that there are no legal conflicts of interests between rational men.


Anonymous said...

The meaning provided for 'promoting the general welfare' does not preclude provision of infrastucture, as Hayek pointed out. this inlcudes a legal system and roads, bridges, waterways, etc. Hayek even insinuated that taking care of the ehalth of the workers was part of government's pervue in providing the infrastucture and environment in which business could thrive.

I am amused that there is no reply to my challenges under 'voluntary taxes,' or 'coercive funding of education.' Nor has there been any resolution of the conflict between one being responsible for one's self and one's actions and investing in corporations via shares of stock, which investments are designed for the purpose of shielding the stockholders from responsibility for and liability from actions taken by the company they own.

I'm sure those challenges have just been overlooked, but it gives the appearance of ovoidance. In fact, I lost interest in this blog once before because when I started asking tough questions the thread suddenly went silent. It seems to be a pattern.

Haven't heard from Garret Seinen in a while. Hopefully he divesting his portfolio of stocks so he can righteously argue about personal responsibility. Similarly, I hope the Objectivists/Libertarians/Ayn Randians of Half Moon bay are busy voluntarily paying the extra amount of cash required so they can proclaim themselves not part of the forceful, immoral appropriation of their neighbors' property.

My guess is that Garret is keeping his stocks and the Objectivists aren't paying a penny in excess of the levied taxes to cover their children's use of the schools.


Michael said...

have you tried posing your questions to OO.net or even on noodlefood? Give that a go

Anonymous said...

Taken from "Objectivism from A to Z":

A corporation is a union of human beings in a voluntary, cooperative endeavor. It exemplifies the principle of free association, which is an expression of the right to freedom. Any attributes which corporations have are attributes (or rights) which the individuals have—including the right to combine in a certain way, offer products under certain terms, and deal with others according to certain rules, for instance, limited liability.

An individual can say to a storekeeper, “I would like to have credit, but I put you on notice that if I can’t pay, you can’t attach my home—take it or leave it.” The storekeeper is free to accept those terms, or not. A corporation is a cooperative productive endeavor which gives a similar warning explicitly. It has no mystical attributes, no attributes that don’t go back to the rights of individuals, including their right of free association.

Leonard Peikoff, “The Philosophy of Objectivism”
lecture series (1976), Lecture 9.

The passage above is consistent with the gedanken experiment posted under "Coercive funding..." or "Voluntary taxation...", or one of the postings there abouts. According this passage, when you move into a town or other geographical location (a corporation for all intents and purposes and usually explicitly established as such) you are choosing to business with that corporation in the manner it has offered, including paying taxes to pay for schools, roads, etc., and abiding by decisions made by majority vote or administrative decree. You had the choice not to move there. That's what it says, I didn't make it up.

It's interesting that the example only addresses voluntary actions such as a business transaction between a shop keeper and a supplier. It fits neatly into the frame of allowing the party on the other end of a deal with a corporation to accept or reject the terms. It implies that whoever interacts with a corporation must accept the limited liability of the owners or walk away for the interaction.

The glaring omission is the case in which the shop keeper interacts with the corporation involuntarily. For example, if the coporation's delivery truck comes through the front window of the shop and destroys the shop keeper's livelihood. IN that case, the shop keeper is not in a position to accept or reject the limited liability of the owners of the corporation and he had no chance to decide for himslef to inter into the intereaction or walk away.

In this case, the shop keeper is forced (there is that word, eh?) to accept the limited liability of the owners of the corporation, and if his loss is worth more than the value of the corporation, too bad. The owners (stockholders) get to walk away with their wealth, thereby denying the shop keeper just compensation for his loss. The owners, in effect, by voluntarily forming a collective gie themselves rights exceeding the rights of themselves as individuals.

If I recall correctly, Beth, one of your arguments against taxing for schools is based on the assumption that "the collective" has no existence in and of itself and therefore it has no rights except the individual rights of the individuals who comprise it. Therefore, you argue, if you have no right to take your neighbors' property, then the collective has none as well.

Objectivism argues against you and against itself, though. First, by telling you that you agreed to the terms of the town by moving in, and, second, by my illustration that the corporation assumes rights not ascribable to an individual.

No wonder you haven't addressed the challenges I have posted under "Coercive funding..." and "Voluntary Taxes..." and in other commentary in adjacent postings.


HaynesBE said...


As I have said before, I have not thought through the case of corporations and am not willing to comment on it at this time.

I am continuing to work on a response to your challenge to present some possible ways to voluntarily fund a government. Perhaps you think I should not do anything else until I answer you--but I have not made your challenge my highest priority. Sorry.

I will try to put some time into it tomorrow. While I do that, could you answer a few questions for me?

What do you think is the essence of human nature?
What are the fundamental moral principles which should guide human interaction and why are those the principles?

For me, that is the place any discussion of what is a proper government and how should it be funded must begin.

I do not think that the abolitionists had to have a complete practical economic plan for how the slave owners could run their plantations without slaves before they (the abolitionists) could condemn the institution of slavery as a violation of the rights to life and liberty--and thus immoral.

Nor do I think that I have to have a complete practical plan for the voluntary funding of government in order to state that based on the right to life (and its corollary right to property) even the funding of government must not involve the initiation of force.

In the past, civilizations were constructed incorporating the institution of slavery. Today, we have removed slavery from the realm of the acceptable alternatives for solving economic or social problems.

What I am advocating is that we need to start thinking in terms of removing the initiation of force against people's property from the realm of acceptable behavior as well. We know it is wrong to take our neighbor's property without their explicit permission as individuals. What is wrong to do as an individual is also wrong to do as a group.

You keep saying that I knew when I moved here that I would have to pay taxes, that in moving here, I gave my implicit consent. There is no where to live without taxes.

That would be like saying to me if I lived in a world of slavery--"you chose to move here knowing there was slavery, so put up and shut up. By moving here, you gave your implicit consent to this system and you aren't allowed to argue for any change."

That's an absurd standard of consent which would never allow for any dissent or change.

I do pay my taxes--while at the same time trying to convince my neighbors that it is wrong, and WHY it is wrong, and that we need to put our heads together and come up with a better way--a way that only allows voluntary interactions between people.

HaynesBE said...

A quick note on Hayek:

One of the things I have been working on [instead of writing up my voluntary funding of government answer :) ] is reading Hayek's The Constitution of Liberty.

It is helping me sort out some places where we might be talking past each other.

I am discovering some major philosophic differences with Hayek. For one, he is quite the empiricist. Additionally, he starts his defense of free markets in a very different place than I do--and therefore ends up advocating things which I would not. From what I have read so far, he seems to be inappropriately drawing parallels between economic processes and methods of discovering moral and political principles.

But, the better I understand the details of his arguments, the easier it is to identify where, how and why we part ways.

That is one hope I have for our discussions: to better understand the details of both my and your thinking on these very important issues.


Anonymous said...

… I have not thought through the case of corporations and am not willing to comment on it at this time. It’s not rocket science. Either a legal construct for the purpose of avoiding accountability and responsibility is consistent with Objectivism, or it is not. Pretty simple. I should point out in the Ayn Rand Institute passage, the voluntary ‘take it or leave it’ approach that attempts to show how limited liability would work falls short. That sort of approach is available to individuals, and is included in any contract under the heading of remedies for failure to perform. The remedies usually range from some extra charge foreclosure, however and individual could limit the remedy to the value of the inventory and equipment. However, an individual can’t limit his liability in involuntary interactions, such as in the case of the delivery truck collision.

What do you think is the essence of human nature? I suppose, off the top of my head, that the essence of human nature is what separates us from other animals. I’ve always perceived that to be self awareness, which I equate with the Judeo-Christian concept of Original Sin, and free will. This essence comes along with the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. One needs to consider the value of a human being in this concept of essence. Does each human life have intrinsic value and is that value the same for all? Or, as Ayn Rand, and Objectivism?, posits, the value of a human being is based on what he produces (explicitly stated in some of her works and implied in others). That, of course, raises the issue of the value of a retired person, a handicapped person or and independently wealthy (trust funder) person vis-à-vis the value of the gainfully employed. While Ayn Rand may have viewed all human beings in terms of their production capacity, I believe human beings have intrinsic value not related to their production.
What are the fundamental moral principles which should guide human interaction and why are those the principles? The fundamental moral principles guiding human interaction should be honesty, justness, and preservation of all parties’ free will. They are the principles because they provide the best way for people to interact without infringing on one another’s rights.

I do not think that the abolitionists had to have a complete practical economic plan for how the slave owners could run their plantations without slaves before they (the abolitionists) could condemn the institution of slavery as a violation of the rights to life and liberty--and thus immoral. This is not a good comparison. Slavery is fundamentally immoral. Asking, or, yes, forcing, as you would put it, the members of a community to contribute to the maintenance and protection of the community is not. Our tax system does not deprive you of your free will. Our tax system never deprives you the right to use your free will to leave.

Nor do I think that I have to have a complete practical plan … You are right, you don’t. But, without a practical plan for implementing your ideas they remain just so much utopian musings destined to remain on the political sidelines.

In the past, civilizations were constructed incorporating the institution of slavery. Today, we have removed slavery from the realm of the acceptable alternatives for solving economic or social problems.

What I am advocating …. What is wrong to do as an individual is also wrong to do as a group. I have no quarrel with that view, except that Objectivism, vis-à-vis its position on the corporation seems to reach a different conclusion, per my analysis posted above. However, we do have the right as individuals, who voluntarily collected together, to decide what the requirements for continued membership in the collective are.

2b continued...


Anonymous said...

… There is no where to live without taxes. You are free to construct a large platform capable of sustaining agriculture and fishing and live on it in international waters, of your own free will, without paying taxes. However, that is irrelevant. The lack of alternative places to live in the absence of taxes does not change the fact that if you don’t wish to be part of THIS community (town, city, state, country) you are free to leave it and join another. What other communities offer is of no consequence in determining the morality of what our community offers you or what it expects from you for the privilege. Additionally, you need to look at where we are in historical context. Once upon a time one could leave the cave and the tribe and live solitarily owing to and getting from nobody. Continued membership in the tribe required observing its customs and paying a tax (hunting, fishing, fighting, whatever). If you didn’t want to pay the tax, you could wander off into the wilderness on your own, or be forced to do so. By Objectivist reckoning such a situation would be moral, given that the individual was not forced to contribute against his will and the voluntary collective was not forced to provide without compensation. As history progressed city-states formed, countries formed, and, until recently one could leave the city, state, or country and go off into the wilderness and live without paying taxes. In the end, though, there is nowhere on earth that is not claimed by come political entity. That does not, however, change your exercise of free will. Only depriving you of the ability to leave can do that.

You home schooled for a period of time. From your postings I gather that you were part of a home school collective of families with similar views and goals. If your home school experience was like the ones I see in my neighborhood, each family was required to contribute to the effort. Not all families agreed on every issue, but they all continued to contribute to the general effort. Did you not have the right to ask a family that sought to dump their kids on the rest of the collective without contributing to leave the collective? Did you require contribution or did you allow some families to enjoy the benefits of having their children in your home school collective without making any contribution to it? The fact that there may be no other home school collectives that would allow them to enjoy all the benefits of being in the collective without contributing does not change the fact that you had the right to require contribution as a condition of membership.

Under the “Our neighbor’s money…” thread a short while ago you posted:
So—within that understanding of morality, is it moral to join a community without contributing? If the community is one that promotes one’s life, then I would say the moral thing to do is to contribute. By contributing to the community, you are also promoting your own life.

Now, should the community then be able to force you to contribute? That is an entirely different question. Not everything that is moral is something which belongs in politics.
It is “right” (good, moral) to express gratitude when someone does something nice for you---but that does not mean that we should make it illegal and punishable by law if you fail to say thank you? The realm of political action is narrower than the realm of moral action.

Anonymous said...

You agree, then, that if the community is doing something good for you, you should join it and contribute to it. Your analogy falls apart, though, in regard to payment of taxes. When someone does something nice for you, you should say ‘thank you.’ Obviously it should not be illegal or punishable by law if someone fails to express gratitude. Conversely, though, should the benefactor be required to continue doing the nice things in the absence of an expression of gratitude? Of course not. That would be appropriation of their property by force! The problem is not, then, the requirement of paying taxes; it is the punishment for not doing so that is the problem. The proper punishment, according to your argument is to require that the non-contributor leave the community, i.e., strip them of citizenship and put them on a plane to the destination of their choice.

That would be like saying to me if I lived in a world of slavery--"you chose to move here knowing there was slavery, so put up and shut up. By moving here, you gave your implicit consent to this system and you aren't allowed to argue for any change." A more apt analogy in our country would be “you chose to move here knowing there was slavery. You are free to advocate for its abolition. You are free to get the issue on the ballot. However, by moving here you implicitly agreed to accept the outcome of the election, or, you are free to move elsewhere.

That's an absurd standard of consent which would never allow for any dissent or change. What you proposed is indeed absurd. What I assert is not. See preceding statement. The prohibition of arguing against slavery is an Ayn Randian sort of mischaracterization of US government in terms of the characteristics of Soviet Russian government.

I do pay my taxes--while at the same time trying to convince my neighbors that it is wrong, and WHY it is wrong, and that we need to put our heads together and come up with a better way--a way that only allows voluntary interactions between people. Part of coming up with a way that only allows voluntary interactions between people to fund the government is experimentation. The voluntary payment of that portion of your children’s cost that has been exacted from your neighbors without their consent is the perfect experiment. Moreover, it would put you on the moral high ground, as well as provide proof that voluntary taxes might actually work. The percentage of those who share your beliefs who offset the funding provided by those opposed to the tax will be an indication of how well voluntary funding of government will work.

Given the evidence (supplied in the Google document to which you posted a link) that was supposed to provide evidence showing how voluntary taxes would work, I doubt your experiment will have a positive outcome. The author quoted the success of some charity drives for police and fire equipment as evidence that voluntary funding would work. The police department in Huntington, WV, received $200,000 in ten months to defray costs, an annual rate of $220,000; the combined police and fire dept budget is $21 million for a shortfall of one hundred fold. The Houston 100 club was quoted as having donated $28 million since 1956 ($640,000 per year) and the Houston Police Foundation raised $1 million in its first year. The HPD annual budget is $674 million, for a shortfall of approximately 420-fold.

Anonymous said...

The author states that some $60 billion are spent privately for security. Although no further information is provided, some of that money is likely night watch type activities that are designed to reduce insurance costs on property, not as true security. Even if police departments are funded voluntarily, those dollars will still be spent. The portion that is true security will still be spent because the reason for its existence is that police can’t be everywhere all the time.

In short, the author’s examples fail to show that voluntary support might be expected to be a viable alternative to taxes in funding police departments. Inclusion of the need for support for fire, ambulance, emergency services, etc., would further weaken his argument. I just don’t see a majority of citizens voluntarily giving away thirty or forty percent of their paycheck to fund services that they will only need if something bad happens to them. As I have discussed previously the general comprehension of risk is for most people very poor. I see even less probable that those willing to voluntarily fund the services would be able or willing to make up the shortfall created by those who don’t pay.
The preceding argument does not even include the inefficiencies of staffing multiple charitable organizations, or the confusion and inefficiencies introduced when those organizations exert influence on how the police departments run. These aspects of voluntary funding will most likely increase the cost of funding, further making voluntary funding less likely.


HaynesBE said...

Thanks for all the time you put into responding to my questions. I am learning a lot through this exchange, and my thinking is becoming much more clear.

I have only glanced through your last comments so far--but a pattern has developed in your recent comments where you appear to be equating my thinking with a blindly held agreement with Objectivism. Please don't do that. It is not only not true--it is insulting. I hope I am misinterpreting you on this--but I want to clear it up now. (A bit more on this below.)

Also--based on several of your references to Objectivism and Ayn Rand---your interpretation of her ideas is very different than mine.

For example, you wrote:
"Or, as Ayn Rand, and Objectivism?, posits, the value of a human being is based on what he produces (explicitly stated in some of her works and implied in others)."

I disagree that this is what Objectivism states--though I can understand this misinterpretation. And yes, I know you can site quotes that taken on face value seem to be saying this--but this conclusion does not take into consideration the full context of her ethics. It is true, however, that she does not think that human beings have intrinsic value (and on this I agree with her) --but that is based on disagreeing with the validity of the concept of intrinsic value as such, and what is meant by value, and how one determines the correct standard of value for ethics. At some point, if you are interested, I will try to elaborate on this point.

More than any specific conclusion, what Objectivism has offered to me is a method of thinking. It is through applying this method of thinking that I have come to the conclusions which I have---and why I am intrigued by discussions such as these. I do not find them threatening because if I am wrong, or if a hole exists in my thinking, I want to correct it. My goal is not to defend a particular stance but to achieve the widest and deepest and most correct understanding of the issues that I possibly can---and still have time to cook dinner and kiss my sweetie.

I find it very challenging to try and explain or even discuss the higher order principles (e.g. ethics and politics) without referring to the fundamental axioms of metaphysics and epistemology. (But since not very many people understand the crucial importance of beginning with metaphysics and epistemology, most are not interested in studying them.) Discussing our concepts of human nature comes close--but still skips the very important essentials of "what is the nature of the world we live in," and "how do we know what we know."

To know the proper political relations between men, one must first have an accurate understanding of the fundamental nature of men. That includes the nature of knowledge--how do we form and validate our concepts. One place where I am convinced of the truth of the Objectivist position is in its theory of concept formation---which includes the fact that concepts are hierarchical in nature. To keep our knowledge directly tied to reality, that hierarchy must be carefully delineated. Fundamentals must come first and then each sequential step in concept formation and reasoning must be taken properly or you get off track. I am not saying I know the correct sequence in every case--far from it!! That is what I attempt to do though when trying to understand complex issues such as politics.

That is why I want to better understand your view of human nature.

I can not, and will not even attempt to, defend Objectivism or Ayn Rand apart from my own thinking. I think our discussions will be much more fruitful if we can stick to challenging each other based on what one another actually says.

Thanks again for such an extensive response. I look forward to studying it.

Anonymous said...

Another experiment in voluntary taxation is under way in Colorado Springs. The Libertarian republican government there was part of the spear head of the Tax Payors' Bill of Rights (TABOR) that limits the goevernments' ability to tax and spend. As I understand it, the law of unintended consequences applies, the consequence of which is that the TABOR ammendment is anti-cyclical and holds boomtime spending and taxation to recession levels. It essentially serves as a downward ratchet on the budget.

the result of all this is that police and fire services have been reduced. The police no longer respond to burglary, you can call in a report. The street lights are being shut off, public swimming pools have been shut down, and they are calling for volunteers to mow the grass and pick up trash in public parks (the trash cans have been removed). Apparently the parks are tending twoard the overgrown and few, if any, people have stepped forward to voluntarily fund the police, fire and other vital services.


Anonymous said...

Agreed. I didn't mean to be insulting. I apologize. In my defense you often defend the individual rights basis for all human interaction, including government, and your positions are often defended by participants who make clear that they are Objectivists and often followers of Ayn Rand. If you are not part of that group, I apologize.

The two issues I think that are most importance here, vis-a-vis the analyses and arguments I have presented, are the morality of taxation and the consistency of the corporate form of business with the Objectivist view. The corporate form is of critical importance, in my opinion, because I think the power that corporations have, and are about to have due to the Citizens United decision, are a serious threat to our democracy.


HaynesBE said...

Further Clarification:
RE: "If you are not part of that group..."
I am not a part of any particular group of Objectivists--but much of what I have come to believe has developed from having been convinced (through my own analysis and thinking) of the truth of the fundamental axioms and principles of Objectivism, esp. its metaphysics, epistemology and ethics. If you asked me what philosophical theory I subscribe to-empiricism, Platonism, Kantianism, realism, nominalism,nihilism, etc., I would answer Objectivism.

However, when we discuss politics, and to how to apply those principles, I still have much to consider and think through more thoroughly.

I do not accept anyone'sclaims at face value or on faith. I must do the work of thinking and understanding for myself. That's why I am unable to defend any statements or proclamations from other Objectists, including Ayn Rand. I won't (and can't) until I have done the thinking myself and decided that I am in agreement (or not). This is why I want the discussion to center on what I have said and not with other people's statements or beliefs.

I hope that clarifies things further. No apology is needed. It is an understandable conclusion to have drawn.

HaynesBE said...

This comment thread is getting pretty lengthy--but I don't know how else to continue this exchange.
I have now read your comments--and be fore responding, I would like to have further elaboration on your thoughts on the fundamental nature of human beings.

What is your understanding of Original Sin?

Regarding free will, of what does it consist? I want to be sure I understand your use of the term.

Why is preservation of all parties free will a primary moral principal for human interactions? Why is honesty?

What is your definition of justice?

Here is why I ask these questions--and this is a paraphrase of some comments I received from a friend of mine, John Dick.

If a person believes that man's nature is evil, or that man's primary tendencies are toward immoral and/or irrational actions, then it makes sense for that person to advocate a large, intrusive government. With that view of man, government must exist in order to control man and act as a ruler over him to prevent wrong doing. In such a case, voluntary funding of government would be inconceivable.

If one's view of man is more benevolent, that man is born neutral, with not only the capacity for rational thought and behavior, but a predilection for it, then the function of government is not control and prevention but rather to protect the vast majority of innocent from the aggression of the few.

Unless we can agree on the nature of men, and the proper purpose and function of government, all discussion of funding is moot.

HaynesBE said...

#2. Funding a government
On May 30, you wrote "If we make all the current mandated taxes voluntary, how do you see that working?"

I don't. I never said that it would be proper or possible to fund government as it is today. All of my thinking about the practicality of voluntary funding is predicated upon first reducing government to its properly limited function of the protection of individual rights----which means eliminating all but the police, the courts and the military.

Since this is a blog and not a dissertation, I will only use rough figures here.

From the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities 2007 fiscal year report "Where do Our Federal Tax Dollars Go?" 67% of the federal budget goes to fund activities which properly belong in the private sector (Soc. Sec, healthcare entitlements, safety net programs, Post Office, scientific research, education, transportation infrastructure etc.) Only 22% is categorized as Defense and Security. Without knowing the details, I can't say how much of this is legitimate--but lets presume much of it is. Interest on the debt is 9%---and this would be much smaller if the debt were less.
This means that roughly, the cost of the federal government would be a quarter of what it was in 2007, and an even much smaller portion of what it is today given the expansions which occurred during the financial crisis.

I found another pie chart illustrating the budget for Berkeley, CA for 2008. The police is only 14% of the city budget, and general government is 8% (not all of which is appropriate activity for government.) That is only 22% of the existing budget. Even if you add in the 7% used for fire protection--over two thirds of the city budget doesn't belong as a government function (under my view of a properly limited government.)

With a much smaller budget, the need for funds is also significantly reduced.

I still think the crux of the discussion needs to center on what is the nature of man and thus what is a proper government----so I will simply give a brief list of some possible ways that a properly limited government could be non-coercively funded.

1. Lottery
2. Fees on contracts and credit transactions at a % of the value of the property involved in the transactions. This could be the primary means of raising funds. It would not be mandatory---but only if the fee is paid can the courts be used to assist with enforcement. The amount charged would cover much more than contract enforcement.
3. Fines for both civil and criminal offences. Fees for frivolous law suits.
4. Fund raising (prob. would be used more for local services than for national services)
5. Put prisoners to work.
6. Who know what else could emerge once we put our minds to it? The city of South Orange NJ issued a credit card and 1% of all transactions go to fund the town government.
7. And then there would be all the money raised from selling off the portions of the government which properly belong in the private sector.
I hope that provides an indication of the types of ways that could be employed--which is all I am prepared to offer at this juncture.

HaynesBE said...

In my reading and thinking on the issue of government funding, I have come to see that making funding voluntary is the last step to be taken in constructing a government for a fully free society. First it is necessary to agree on what functions it is proper for a government to even be involved in...and there is certainly enough to discuss along those lines to keep us busy for quite a while.

Regarding the examples you gave---as long as government is in its current bloated state, and we are taxed as heavily as we are, and the general belief is that taxing is the proper way to fund the bloated state---the efforts to collect voluntary taxes is doomed to be marginal, and even counter productive. To cut funding for the police while continuing to fund public transit, libraries and parks demonstrates that people are clueless about the proper functions of government.

All that said --in trying to get people to consider the issues involved, I will continue to argue that it is just as wrong to take your neighbor's money by vote as it is at the point of a gun. I think it important that people think about the fact that government is force--and that means if we wish to respect each other's rights, we must limit the use of government force to the protection of rights only.

I hope that this satisfies your accusations that I have no answer to your challenge on ways to voluntarily fund a government. I am conceding to you that in today's world, it is impractical. But, I am not backing down on it being the proper end to strive for--with much that needs to be changed before we can tackle the elimination of coercive government funding.

Mo said...

I would like to add that “government is force” may to some entail anarchism.

What I would say is that “force is necessary and proper when used to protect innocent people from other people’s use of force; voluntary cooperation is superior for other purposes.

HaynesBE said...

Thanks for that clarification.

(My next intellectual challenge (to myself)is to better understand the concept of force--including the various types of force.)

Perhaps I should have said:
Government is force. A proper government limits the use of force to the protection of individual rights.

I think we are saying the same thing --just in different ways. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

BEth, thanks for the reply. I have a flight to catch at 0430, so I have to pack. I'll be back on Monday. Have a nice w/e.


Anonymous said...

BEth, you appear to be clinging to your beliefs in the face of logical argument to the contrary. I've asked you several times in several different ways about the rights of groups v. individuals and you have failed to respond.

So, before I answer your questions, you need to answer mine. In you home school group did the group retain the right to exclude any family who wanted their children home schooled but did not want to contribute to the effort? You can look back in my posts to find more elaborate renditions of the scenario, but that is the crux of the issue. All I need is a 'yes' or a 'no.'

You can, of course, continue to ignore the question and go on posting snippets of things you find in the media that seem to support your position. Or, you can answer the question and we can have a real discussion about your assertions of immorality of taxes, individual rights, corporations, and government.

By the way, I contacted the Ayn Rand Institute reguarding reconciliation of Objectivism and the problems of accountability and rights of the collective surpassing those of the individuals comprising it in the incorporate form of business. One individual, the one responsible for education programs, claimed it was beyond the scope of his knowledge. I have yet to hear from Dr. Peikoff, the heir apparent to Ayn Rand, on the subject. I don't expect to, either, because Rand and her followers have not thought beyond the superficial layer of their thought system, to get to the implications of their proposed philosophy.


HaynesBE said...


You have asked many questions which I have not had the time to answer because I do not have a pat quip or two with which to respond. I take each of your questions very seriously. Each requires a lot of time and thought to construct an answer. You can continue to throw out questions---I can not guarantee I will have time to answer each and everyone of them.

I have repeatedly told you that I do not have the knowledge at this point to discuss the issue of corporations----and I do not have the time to do the research required to provide a thoughtful, informed answer. It is an important question--I do not deny that. I have to prioritize and that is where I need to draw the line for now.

RE: So, before I answer your questions, you need to answer mine.

I have worked hard to answer many of your questions. I do not think I deserve this remark.

RE: In your home school group did the group retain the right to exclude any family who wanted their children home schooled but did not want to contribute to the effort? All I need is a 'yes' or a 'no.'

There is not a simple yes or no answer because your question makes erroneous assumptions about the nature of our homeschool group. Because the answer is not simple, I have not chosen to spend time on answering it before now. Since you seem to have a burr in your pants over this one, and it simply requires time to write and not a lot of in depth research and careful thought, I will take the time now to respond.

Our support group was (is) a loose association of individuals who gather together on a purely voluntary basis in order to provide information and emotional support to each other. Individuals sometimes offer classes --and each individual who does is responsible for setting the requirements for the participants. Some people asked for money in exchange. Others did not. Some limited the number of participants. Others did not. Some activities required everyone to contribute, others did not.

To my knowledge, there never was a case such as you describe. My guess is that if someone persistently just dropped their child off as if gatherings were a daycare or a school and did not contribute, they would not be invited back. I guess the underlying assumption was that each parent is responsible for their own child and their own child's education unless express arrangements were made to the contrary. as I said, to my knowledge, no one ever abused this. People gave what they could. Group participation was very fluid. People were incredibly generous. If someone felt taken advantage of, they could simply stop offering classes or change the expectations for participants.

All in all, it was pretty darn wonderful. People were considerate, benevolent, and generous. In other words: it worked.

HaynesBE said...


RE: You can, of course, continue to ignore the question and go on posting snippets of things you find in the media that seem to support your position. Or, you can answer the question and we can have a real discussion about your assertions of immorality of taxes, individual rights, corporations, and government.

I certainly hear your frustration in this comment. And you are right about me lately simply posting snippits that support my position. It's pretty much all I have time for these days.

Again, with the exception of the corporation thing, I think I have made a significant effort to answer many, if not all, of your questions--and have posed very few to you.

I have two projects which are currently requiring all of my spare time (above and beyond by parenting/eldercare activites) so perhaps now is not the time for us to continue this discussion. I really do take your challenges seriously--but it is very time consuming to respond. I would rather put this discussion on temporary hold than to continue to piss you off.

I am NOT ignoring your questions--I am prioritizing my time and finding it difficult to do everything I would like to do with an acceptable (to me) quality of work. If you continue to accuse me of ignoring your questions, implying that I can not answer them or that I am simply blowing you off, you will piss me off. I have made every effort to be civil and to focus my arguments on the issues, not on attacking you. I think I deserve a better attitude from you toward my efforts. You are free to think otherwise, of course.

Anonymous said...

OK, yes, I was annoyed that you failed to answer my qusestion in the many manifestation it appeared. Thank you for your answer. The point is, as you confirmed, that the group would not invite back a family who used it as a day care without contributing something. That's a nice way to say they would be excluded. The contribution is a tax, so to speak. Those who don't pay the tax suffer a consequence. This is as it should be, because the alternative is that those people have a right to the labor of the collective with no recourse on the part of the collective. In your parlance the colective would be enslaved by the individuals who benefit from their labor without their consent.

Unless there is something special about the rights of a small group versus a large group, i.e. the rights assignable to a group change based on the size of the group, your town should have the right to exclude you if you do not wish to contribute to the effort of their group.

As for your questions:
Original sin is a myth created by less developed culture to explain the human condition in the face of the infinite that they could see all around them. It comes in handy as a manipulative tool for religions, as well.

Free will is the ability to act to satisfy your desires. This has to be tempered, of course, by understanding that one does not have the license to do anything they wish, but that others rights have to be taken into consideration.

If free will is not maintained then the interaction is false and the interaction is the result of force. Of course, this implies the inability to walk away. Honesty is important because if one party is dishonest you deny the other party the ability to act appropriately toward his ends. This, in effect, is a denial of free will.

Justice is the result that allows parties to pursue their ends but protects others from the adverse effects of those pursuits.

Take pollution as an example. Pollution is the externalization of the cost of waste removal. The deleterious effects of it affect all who come into contact with it (breathing the air, drinking the water, eating the fish, etc.) Those individuals suffer the consequence so others can have the product at lower cost. Further, the company, in as far as it denies or hides the deleterious effects of pollution, denies the receivers of the pollution the information they need to decide if they want to allow the company to continue polluting, or perhaps to decide to move away. In effect they are denying those affected a bit of their free will.

I subscribe more to the second governmental scenario presented by your friend than the first. But I did note that in that statement your friend gave government the responsibility of protecting the rest of us from the few who would harm us.


Anonymous said...

Now for your ways to fund the government voluntarily. Before I get to the suggestions, though, I should note that police deaths are up more than 40% this year. According to a pundit who studies thsi stuff it's because funding for training and equipment has been slashed, and hasn't been replaced by voluntary donations.

1. Lottery: it's well known that the lower socioeconomic strata have higher representtion among lottery players. So, funding the government would, in effect, amount to the upper strata taking advantage of the frailties of the lower strata.
2.Fees on contracts... is a tax levied only on the users of contracts and credit transfers. although you deem the fees nominally not mandatory the scenario you envision would render the fees mandatory. What good is a contract that can't be enforeced through the legal infrastructure? Furthermore, the sitution you propose would run up against what you characterize as immoral as soon as the fees are used for something that someone paying them doesn't like, which would be about a nanosecond.
3. Fines for civil and criminal offenses are in use now. They might be a good source of funding, but comparison of the revenue streams coming from them and the expenditures for government need to be addressed. The fees for frivolous law suits runs up against first amendment rights and also introduces the problem of the chilling effect due to monetary barrier to seeking justice. Then their is the problem of who gets to decide what is frivolous. Frivolous law suits is often interpretted as merritless law suits brought by supposedly injured parties in the hopes of winning a windfall. That type of suit would soon go away if lawyers knew that companies would fight vigorously whatever suit is bbrought against them. Unfortunately, the profit motive motivates companies to pay off plaintiffs to make the case go away. Also, inter corporation suits comprise the majority of frivolous suits. they are used by corporate America as tactics to delay product introduction, to distract their competitors, to tie up their competitors resources, etc. In effect, corporations use frivolous suits as nothing more than a head fake.
4 I think the link you suggested as offering methods for voluntry funding of government pretty much mad eht case that fund raising won't fill the bill, and the current state of police trianing and readiness adds to the evidence.
5 Putting prisoners to work sounds good. I'm not sure the unskilled labor they would produce would be cost effective. The skilled labor that might be cost effective may not be so when training costs are factored in.
6 I would beinterested to know how much of the South Orange NJ city budget, even just the budget items you consider the proper domain of government, is covered by the credit card.
7 Selling off government possessions is a one time gain, not an operating cash flow. It would be like you saying you are going to fund your lifestyle by selling off your house and car--you could live high on the hog for a while, but eventually that money would run out.

IN the end I've seen nothing on this blog, by you, other contributors, or the links you provided that has any more merrit than the Communist ideal.

HaynesBE said...


I have to disagree with your comparison of the home school group to any level of government.

This is a distinction of which I myself am just coming to understand the greater ramifications.

The essence of government properly is force. The essence of all other social interactions--personal, private, economic-- are properly voluntary. And therein, lies all the difference.

Because of this radical difference, very different sets of rules and expectations are proper for interactions which fall under these two classes of interactions.

As private citizens we have the freedom to associate with whom we wish and under what conditions we set, and we have no right to initiate force t against others in order to change their actions to suit our purposes. I may ask a person to leave my house if they do not respect my rules for my house (such as a no smoking rule)--but that does not mean I am taxing him. I am simply asserting my rights to property and freedom of association. I could even give him the choice of not smoking or paying a fee to smoke in my house---that would still not be a tax.

Private individuals form contracts of trade and conditions of association---but these must be mutually agreed upon. No one person in the transaction can force the person into the association itself--only the conditions of the voluntary association. The sphere of permissible private actions is set by the limits imposed via the consistent application of individual rights equally to all.

A government on the other hand has properly been delegated a monopoly on the use of force for the purpose of defending those individual rights. People can not delegate to government that which they do not already have -- which is why the force of government must be strictly limited to defensive force against those who would initiate force against others. It is the "right" to initiate force against others which does not exist and can not be properly (ie morally) employed by anyone--private or under the auspices of government.

This distinction is also the key to understanding the difference between a local government and a home owner's association. Government is the institution created for the purpose of defending individual rights. A homeowner's association is an economic agreement between private citizens. Government is force. The homeowner's association is voluntary. If someone violates the conditions of the HOA, it is to government they must urn to employ the force necessary to rectify any violations of individual rights.

All that said, I can see now that focusing on the funding of government is a distraction from the more important discussion of defining the proper function of government. The force initiated to fund government is just one small point in this wider and more fundamental issue.

Of course---the above is my grasp of the issues. Yours certainly may be different.

HaynesBE said...


Thank you for answering my questions. I have a different way of anwering those same questions, and the different answers we have are important to understanding what each other is saying. Understanding is my main goal—both me of you and you of me. More than trying to have you agree with me, I want to try to fins a way that I can communicate my ideas better, as well as putting them to the challenge to see where, if at all, I have made any errors.

Here is how I would answer the questions regarding

Original sin.

The Biblical story of Original Sin is an instructive allegory for a philosophical stance on the fundamental nature of man.
By eating from the sacred forbidden Tree of Knowledge, Adam and Eve are believed to have condemned all of their descendents to being born guilty. The price of access to Knowledge, something which was supposed to have been reserved solely for God, was to be condemned to pain and suffering, which included having to work to achieve the values needed for life.
So—in this view, human being are born guilty and must spend their lives atoning for that guilt through experiencing the pain of and suffering of productive work. The ideal existence is portrayed as blissful ignorance where all of one’s needs and desires are provided free of any requirement to earn them.

My view of the nature of man is that we are born tabula rasa, neither good nor evil, without any unearned guilt, and with the capacities required for discovering how to live.

Free will.

I do not view free will as the ability to act or to achieve anything. Free will, as I understand it, is simply the capacity to choose. The most fundamental choice is whether you will choose to focus on reality, or not. Other fundamental choices involve the choice to think, or not; to accept facts, or to evade them; to try and rule your life by logic and reason, or by feelings and whims. The ability to put your choices into action is not free will, but one of physical efficacy when facing nature, and one of ethics and politics (i.e. rights) when facing other human beings.

Because we have very different definitions of free will, unless one of us can convince the other of having a superior definition, we had better find a different way of referring to the concepts we are referring to when using the term “free will”. The way in which you use free will comes much closer to how I employ the term “individual rights”---though not completely the same. Free will, for me, has nothing to do with other people or physical efficacy. It is an aspect of the metaphysical nature of human consciousness.


For me, honesty is: not faking reality. It is primarily important in dealing with oneself—and only secondarily important in dealing with other people. The example you use for dishonesty, I view as an example of fraud, a non-violent variety of the initiation of force---the attempt to obtain what belongs to another through deception (faking reality) what you could not obtain without that deception.


For me, justice involves making a moral judgment and the integrity to act consistent with that judgment, giving to others and oneself that which is deserved. Justice is one of the virtues I know I need to understand better, but the previous sentence gives you the jist of my thoughts on it---which is about as developed as I have at the moment.

In regards to pollution, if objectively provable harm to another’s property or person can be directly attributed to a specific individual or company –that person or company has violated another’s rights and can and should be held accountable. I have a problem with holding people accountable for much of what is deemed “negative externalities.” There several reasons for this which are too lengthy to go into detail here---but most things which people put into the category of negative externalities can not be traced to a specific individual or company’s actions causing objectively demonstrable harm to another person or property.

Hope that clarifies some of my thinking.

HaynesBE said...


Response to funding comments:

I do not support cutting funding for police (an appropriate government function) while continuing to fund education, welfare programs and other inappropriate government functions. As long as money is spent on matters other than police, courts and national defense, I am unmoved by your arguments regarding funding of the police.

1. Lottery: If something is freely given or money is voluntarily spent, it is not taken.

2. Fees on contracts are fees on a service. If you wish to call it a tax because it is the government which requires the payment for a government provided-service, OK. Then I would say that kind of tax is legitimate. It would be a specific fee for a specific service that you directly benefit from---or choose not to pay and not benefit from. Your choice.

That type of tax is a very different item than income taxes and real estate taxes and sales taxes which a government tacks on to economic activity and property unrelated to any specific service of government which you can chose to use and pay for …or not.

What good is a contract that will not be enforced? That depends.
If the cost of insuring the contract is too high, then perhaps it is best not to undergo the contract. Those costs are not insignificant and need to be considered as a cost of doing business.
Or, perhaps you would prefer the lower costs and self-insure. Your choice.

Regarding selling off government properties: although the income from selling off assets would be a one time gain, it would also end many many on-going expenses---e.g. paying for post office, parks, education, school facility upkeep, maintaining community health centers, salaries and benefits for such employees as government teachers and administrators, FDA and other alphabet regulators, the massive bureaucracies of the departments of transportation, HHS, HUD, Education, Agriculture, Labor, Interior, Energy, etc. You get the idea. (See this list of government agencies A-Z which has 38 agencies just under “A”) The overall cost of government would be massively reduced.

You make a good point about money collected for contract protection being diverted to inappropriate uses. That is why I now see that the more important issue to settle (than mechanisms of funding) is to first to agree upon what is and is not a proper function for government. Remember—I conceded you that point!

HaynesBE said...

Regarding Captialism vs. Communism as ideals

You see no difference? The difference is advocating for voluntary interactions limited by individual rights with each individual having the right to live their life for their own sake recognized and protected by government. That is the essence of capitalism: scrupulously barring the initiation of force from the realm of acceptable human interactions.

Communism and socialism are ideologies which place the collective above the individual. Individuals do not have rights but privileges granted and duties demanded by society through the use of the state. The primacy of the collective justifies the initiation of force against individuals who do not comply with the dictates of the collective. Its essence is the use of force: might makes right.

The gulags of the USSR, the wretched poverty of Cuba, the crematoria of Nazi Germany, and the police state of North Korea are not aberrations but the full logical expression of communism, socialism and nationalism: all variants of collectivism.

I can understand having disagreements over what constitutes a violation of a right, what constitutes harm, what constitutes the initiation of force and what actions are properly self defense. But I am appalled that you are unable to see the difference between a system that treats people as the means to the ends of the collective and a system which promotes each life as an end in itself.

You really can see no difference?
You really think it makes no difference as to which system we attempt to implement to the best of our ability?

You keep arguing that what I am advocating is impractical.

So what is practical? The initiation of force? The violation of the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness? Some undefinable, arbitrary compromise between barring force and legitimizing it based on majority vote?

I vehemently disagree that the initiation of force is EVER EVER EVER practical--if your goal is life, peace and prosperity.

(some interesting quotes on collectivism and individualism can be found here.)

HaynesBE said...

One more thought on your comments to my suggestions for possible ways to fund government voluntarily.

You may be correct about each and everyone of my suggestions---that individually they are inadequate or even unworkable. I do not presume to have a complete, functioning plan in mind. That was not even what I attempted. I merely wanted to point out some things to be considered, some possibilities as a means of demonstrating the kinds of methods that could be employed. But those suggestions can too easily become a distraction from the crux of the matter: upon what principles are you going to construct a society and a government?

I could not tell you how to construct a bridge, but I can tell you that whoever attempts the design must take into consideration the law of gravity, the physical properties of the materials he will use, and the purpose for which the bridge is to be built.

I also can not tell you how to construct a funding system for government--but I can tell you that it must be constructed on proper moral principles--and the initiation of force is never moral.

The key principle for constructing a moral and practical society and government is the metaphysical nature of man. My argument rests on the fact that force and mind are opposites, and that a man's mind is his means of survival--the means by which he LIVES. The principles upon which a society and a government on are built must be firmly grounded upon that fact.

To attack a man's ability to put his thinking into action according to his private and personal priorities (except to deny him the ability to initiate force against others) is to deny him his only means of life. Why this is so is an entire discussion in itself.

Finding fault with my specific suggestions misses the point. Several of your criticisms are good and appropriate--but, that does not alter the base of my argument. It will take lots of effort and time to figure out a practical solution to funding a government voluntarily--but not knowing how to build the bridge doesn't mean you throw out the law of gravity. In fact, you must do the exact opposite and check at each instance whether or not your design is fully consistent with it. And that is how you make sure your bridge design IS practical---making sure that it is consistent with the fundamental principles of reality.

Same goes for a government--you have to make sure it is fully consistent with the fundamental principles of the nature of man.

So--understanding each other's views on the nature of man is where we should be placing our efforts. To focus on funding is to put the horse before the cart.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but you fail to see that upon achieving enlightenment the bodhisattva has no need to move the mountain, for it is he who put it there.

The gulags, etc., that you cite are artifacts of the failure of communism. If communism were implemented in its pure form the benefit of the collective would be the goals of the individuals comprising it, without prompting from the state. On the capitalist side, if the Objectivist ideal were achieved, each would pursue his own agenda, tempered by the Ayn Rand definition of rationality (a fantastic ideal which, I might add, starkly differs from the reality-based definition of Mises), together with a rational generosity to charity would end up in the same place.

There may be minor differences, but either ideal requires that all members of the society act in a proscribed manner at a specific time so the ideal can be achieved. In other words, both systems require inhuman perfection for them to be workable. Neither allows for the human frailties without which we wouldn't need laws and voluntary funding of the governement would work effortlessly. And so, both will fail. Communism already has. Pure capitalism and purely regulated capitalism have not been tried due to the aforementioned human frailties.

Finding fault with your specific suggestion doesn't miss the point, it IS the point. If you nor anyone else can formulate a means to implement your idea, of what worth is the idea? If nobody, including you, can formulate a means to implement your idea based on your premise of the nature of man, perhaps your premise of the nature of man is wrong, or maybe your idea is wrong.

Ideals are nice, but governing is a practial matter.

Just a thought.