To protect the people and secure their rights

Liberty and Democracy are not opposing ideas. The political center is where all change is made. Let's embrace reason and civility.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Peter & Paul

If there's one thing that binds both anarchists and conservatives alike, it is the phrase, "taxation is theft".

This is a moral argument based on the idea that "no person should be forced to live for another". Ayn Rand used the phrase, "you can't rob Peter to pay Paul". This idea is currently at the center of modern libertarian rhetoric.

Of course, the real moral argument isn't about robbing Peter to pay Paul, it's just about robbing Peter. If a moral system of public finance can't be found, then it would be true that taxation is theft. But this has nothing to do with Paul.

There certainly IS a moral system of public finance. Even anarchists agree that, as impractical as it may be, a system of voluntary contribution would be "moral". There are other, better "moral" sources of public finance that can be argued.

I believe that the role of government should be to protect us without violating our rights. To protect us, we require a recognition of civil rights to land and natural resources, to an infrastructure that binds our economy, and for free access to a free market.

More than just a recognition of civil rights, a government should protect our individual rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. This means providing for the common defense and the general welfare. but our rights should not be violated in the process.

Anti-welfare rhetoric begins with the argument that taxation is theft, so all good things the government should be doing become implicitly immoral. This is absurd. To say that Paul is immoral because of the injustices to Peter is simply not true.

So let's talk about Peter. What right does Peter have to a vein of coal, or to an oil deposit, or to the air, water and skyways? What right does Peter have to threaten Force against anyone who would trespass his territorial claims?

Some say "finders keepers" or "dibbs" is sufficient to grant allodial title over God's earth. I'm sorry, but pointing a gun at a trespasser is an offensive act toward human society.

The role of government is to protect us, requiring that offensive force be aggressively confronted. Exclusive access to land and natural resources is a privilege of society, and so should provide the source of all public finance.

If Peter wants to extract oil from the earth, he can pay us for it. If Peter wants to claim 100 square miles of land, he can pay us for it. A shift in taxation from income and sales taxes to severance, land and pollution taxes would be moral as well as practical.

Let conservatives hide their anti-welfare rhetoric behind claims of Injustice. Soon they'll realize that it is a fabricated justification in support of aristocracy.

Paul is you, me, each of us who has a stake in promoting a better government. Peter too is each of us, and we should consider how we are to relate to the rest of society in a civil manner.

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