Sunday, March 4, 2012

The No-Tax Men: Uncivilized

Laurence M. Vance, mentioned in the first part of this article, is a no-tax man. In article after article, he states variations of, "Tax is theft." Here's just a few cases:

  • "The twin truths that taxation is theft (no matter how the money is collected) [...]" The Fraudulent Tax
  • "[...] the FairTax is a fraud because it is based on the fallacy that government theft (taxation) [...]" The Fair Tax Fraud
  • "There should be no income tax. Taxation is theft on a grand scale, [...]" Cut the Tax Cuts
  • "Libertarians oppose the taxing of corporations for the same reason they oppose the taxing of individuals: taxation is theft." Is GE Paying Its Fair Share?
  • "'There can be no such thing as 'fairness in taxation.' Taxation is nothing but organized theft, and the concept of a 'fair tax' is therefore every bit as absurd as that of 'fair theft.'" " Can a Tax Be 'Fair'?

After these, it should be pretty clear that he believes that taxation itself is a crime. So if our society requires cooperation in the paying of taxes, and if it must enforce that cooperation, then his statements make it clear that he will cooperate only "with a gun held to his head".

Should we hold a gun to his head?

It is hard to imagine any human society in which cooperation isn't enforced. It's not hard in this case to imagine Mr. Vance refusing to voluntarily give money to the government that is the core of our society.

What other cooperation might he give?

Maybe military service? Obviously, not if it's enforced: He would no doubt regard that as a theft of his time, since time is money. We could hope he would volunteer, but he would have to do it for nothing, since the government wouldn't have any money to pay him.

Maybe civil service? Same answer. Sharecropping? Same thing again.

In actuality, it isn't possible to construct a society where people work toward common goals without in turn requiring the people that make up that society to sacrifice something. Those who will not cooperate willingly are, simply, not part of the society.

I'm not an expert in Libertarianism, or anarchy. I've read stories on both. Let's consider three such stories, all science fiction, I concede, though I think all of these should be mandatory reading in government classes. They are:

Cloak of Anarchy
Cloak of Anarchy is different than the second two stories: It is presented as an object lesson of why anarchy is unworkable as a human society. The setting is "Kings Free Park" in the somewhat distant future: A park in which only one rule is enforced, that of, "No hand to be raised against another in violence."

It's close to an anarchy, but not one, because of that one rule; which is enforced by "copseyes": Floating cameras with stunners.

This is unacceptable to one of the characters in the story, who proposes to make the park into a true anarchy by knocking out the copseyes. With help, he succeeds; but there is an unfortunate side effect: The gates to the park are also knocked out, so that no one can leave. The park is now a captive anarchy.

First come the strong to force their will on others: The two men who tried to rape the girl who had been walking around in the nude. The four men who claimed the only water fountain as their private domain, brutalizing anyone who even approached to ask for a drink.

These problems were solved by people banding together, willingly enough. But they formed cooperative groups (small societies) so they could keep watch and so they could fend off attackers. Later, the protagonist of the story becomes involved in a scheme to draw off the four he-men holding the water fountain, to ambush and restrain them. (An action which may or may not have been successful: It had degenerated to mayhem but at that point deus ex machina intervened in the form of the resurrected copseyes.)

The point of the story is that anarchy isn't a stable condition, where humans exist. Humans immediately, of necessity, form societies. Whether the enemy is cold, the wolves, or four strong men, we work together to overcome.

Still not getting the point? Consider the four men who "confiscated" the drinking fountain. They were free to do that, right?

Well, right up until enough thirsty people banded together to take away the four's freedom; with the intention of leading them off, ambushing them with superior force, and tying them up.

Society Must Force Cooperation

For the purposes of the story, the best society was one in which everyone could get a drink. First the four strong men formed a society, in which they could get drinks, and no one else could. Then the other people formed a larger, more powerful society; and formed the intention to force the four to share.

Let's suppose that this second, larger society had then denied anyone else a drink: What would have followed, carried to extremis?

All the other societies would have died.

...and the result would be one society in which everyone could drink, and no one was permitted to prevent anyone else from drinking. A society with complete cooperation with respect to the water fountain.

From this, I conclude that no society can exist where members of the society are allowed to be non-cooperative. Non-cooperative in the context of Cloak of Anarchy is four men that keep the fountain for themselves, or a member of the larger society refusing to participate in the ambush scheme (as the protagonist did at the cost of being knocked out).

So now let's talk about the other two stories. In both of these, the authors attempt to construct societies fulfilling the requirements of workability, in which the rules are as Libertarian or anarchic as possible.

The question I ask myself in both of these is: Do those societies operate without forcing cooperation?

And Then There Were None

This story describes the "Gand" society; a society based on the principles of Ghandi. The core element of the society is the phrase, "Freedom, I won't," by which the people assert their complete freedom to refuse to do anything.

Operationally, the society is built around a system of "obs", short for "obligations". If one man feeds another a meal, he lays an ob on the recipient of the meal. The recipient in turn must "lay off that ob", perhaps by sweeping the floor or perhaps by doing something for a third man who owes the first man an ob.

It's a very creative society and I think it might even work so long as the number of people involved isn't too great. But can it work without cooperation?

The relevant portion that proves otherwise is a story used by the Gandians to teach their children their place in society. It is about a "Gand" who refuses to lay off any obs. He takes meals. He takes clothes. He takes lodging. But he never does anything to lay off any of the obs he's incurred. The story goes on to tell how, eventually, no one would give him meals, clothes, or lodging; how they took to watching for his thefts after he resorted to stealing.

Finally, he is forced to move to another town. But he's persistent, and soon people there become suspicious; and then someone from the first town drops by and confirms their suspicions. He is forced to move again and a again, faster and faster, finally spending less than a day in the last town. Ultimately, he disappears, perhaps dead though the story doesn't say that.

He can leave the society; nothing at all prevents that. But, as the teaching story relates, he can't be part of Gand society and refuse to lay off obs.

So the story fails the test: While the society may be workable, it requires a mandatory sacrifice of its members. No matter that they have almost ultimate freedom to leave the society at will or to choose how to lay off the obs; to be accepted in the society they must ... cooperate.


Freehold, on the other hand, is built around a more exact interpretation of the best Libertarian concepts of society. I think it is less workable than the proposed "Gand" society, but that's just personal opinion. It's still useful to answer the question, "Does it work without forcing cooperation?"

And, again, the answer is, "No." In this society, we ultimately find that those who don't cooperate wind up "indentured", as in "indentured servitude". Again, there is enormous freedom in the described society; you can do almost anything because (so long as no one gets hurt) almost anything is legal. You can leave the society at will.

But if you're going to stay in the society, you have to pay your bills and refrain from hurting others.

This leads to some really interesting comparisons with our current society. Conservative and Libertarian types have complained endlessly about the so-called "Obama Care" that will "require" you to buy insurance. In "Freehold", no one is required to buy insurance for anything. But if you accidentally ram your car into someone's building and you don't have insurance then you wind up indentured...until the damage is paid for. Not so optional after all, is it?

Again, as workable (or not) as this society is presented to be, it fails the fundamental test: You can get out, but if you will be part of the society, you must cooperate.

Cooperation is Civilized

Rex Stout wrote:

A man condemning the income tax because of the annoyance it gives him or the expense it puts him to is merely a dog baring its teeth, and he
forfeits civilized discourse.

Civilization is another word for complex society; and one is declared "civilized" by his membership in that society. When the no-tax men declare their complete unwillingness to cooperate; when they declare that any society that requires them to sacrifice is a "thief", they declare that they are not a willing member of our society.

They mark themselves as "uncivilized"; and that is why Rex Stout wrote the above: If you are uncivilized—if you will not be part of civilized society—you forfeit the right to pretend you are civilized by involving yourself in civilized discourse.

The no tax men don't have to be part of our society. They could go elsewhere; somewhere where there is no tax. But no matter how they disclaim, they stay because they want the other advantages our society offers: Its customers [suckers to be taken]; its money; its comforts.

Rex stout went on:

But it is permissible to criticize it [the income tax] on other and impersonal grounds. A government, like an individual, spends money for any or all of three reasons: because it needs to, because it wants to, or simply because it has it to spend.

He is saying, "Sure: Let's argue about what our government should spend money on, and how much it should spend." That's civilized discourse.

This is not what the no-tax men want. They want the best our society has to offer, but when it comes time to make the required sacrifice, they want to be free to decline. If they could, they would be freeloaders: Taking everything, returning nothing.

It would be fair to tell them to, "Get out, since you don't want to be part of our society."

Do you think they will?

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