Monday, November 25, 2019

finally! a comprehensive critique of Andrew Yang

If you believe this absolute genius, then "taxes are the price we pay for civilization."

Keep that in mind as you watch Styx's critique of Andrew Yang's UBI proposal:

I won't go as far as the libertarians and claim that taxation flat-out equals theft (that's a good page, by the way; give it a read), but I can see where the libertarians are coming from. Property tax comes to mind as morally problematic: if you have to pay property taxes on your property in perpetuity, then in what sense do you actually own your property? The moment you stop paying your property taxes, you become a tax evader, subject to arrest, and you will be physically, forcibly removed from the property you had thought of as "yours." How can you own land, or a car, or any other thing that's subject to property tax? You can't. And you don't. There should be a limit to one's obligation to the government when it comes to paying property tax: once you reach the agreed-upon X amount, your obligation to the government is fulfilled, and you officially own your property. But that's crazy talk, right?

From the above-linked libertarian website:

2. Three Counter-Arguments

Most people are reluctant to call taxation theft. How might one avoid saying this? Following are three arguments one might try, together with the most obvious responses.

First Argument

Taxation is not theft because citizens have AGREED to pay taxes. This is part of the “social contract,” which is a kind of agreement between citizens and the government, whereby the citizens agree to pay taxes and obey the laws in return for the government’s protection. By using government services (such as roads, schools, and police), and remaining present in the government’s territory, you indicate that you accept the social contract.

Reply to First Argument

There simply isn’t any such contract. The government has never actually written up and offered such a contract, nor has anyone signed it.

Still, the use of government services might imply agreement to pay for those services if people who didn’t use the services were not required to pay. But in fact, the government forces citizens to pay taxes regardless of whether they use government services or not. Therefore, the fact that you use government services does not indicate anything about whether you agree to pay taxes.

Remaining present in “the government’s territory” also does not indicate agreement to the putative social contract. This is because the government does not in fact own all the land that it claims as “its territory”; this land is, rather, mainly owned by private individuals. If I own some land that other people are using, I can demand that the other people either pay me money or vacate my land. But if I see some people on their land, I cannot demand that they either pay me money or vacate their own land. If I do that, I am a thief. Similarly, when the government demands that we either pay it money or vacate our own land, the government acts as a thief.

A pro-tax partisan might argue that the first paragraph of the above "Reply to First Argument" involves a fundamental misunderstanding of what a social contract is. I might even agree with that riposte. Be that as it may, the meta-issue of whether a social contract can even be fleshed out as something specific—instead of being the vague, amorphous, toothless entity it is—is very much a live issue open to debate. I'm willing to bet that, with nearly 350 million Americans, there are nearly 350 million notions of what the social contract is. That makes the very idea of a social contract close to meaningless in legal, practical, real-world terms. I think that the first paragraph of the reply, interpreted charitably, was written in that spirit.

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