Thursday, August 02, 2007

Forgive me for being repetitive

God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature. This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life. The way God acts in governing the world, which bears witness to such great regard for human freedom, should inspire the wisdom of those who govern human communities. They should behave as ministers of divine providence.

"Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all."15

By "authority" one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them.

Every human community needs an authority to govern it.16 The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state. Its role is to ensure as far as possible the common good of the society.

The authority required by the moral order derives from God: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment." --CCC 1884, 1897-1899


I have quoted these lines before, in the comments. What I am curious about, in this entire debate, is how what everyone is saying is consonant with the Church's teachings and tradition. I am tempted to say that what Geoff has written (I cannot claim to have read all of it) does not really speak to my point, and indeed he and Andy are having a difficult time really touching each other's points about anything because Andy is speaking about government in very broad and general terms, whereas Geoff at least appears to be focusing his criticism on the government of the United States of America. This focused approach appears in such statements as, "Without a centralized coercive authority chosen by a numerical majority, why would there be any more injustice than there is now, if the majority of men are rational and good the majority of the time?" The "centralized coercive authority chosen by a numerical majority" is clearly the U.S. government. However, in response to this, I would wish to ask a very direct question: What is your picture of authority? I must venture to be so rude as to say that I will entirely lose interest if the response is over three paragraphs and chock-full of newsreport examples. I simply want a vision of how authority would work in a society constructed according to your ideal.

I will also make a clear and very blunt statement myself: The majority of men are decidedly not rational and good the majority of the time! If you are taking this as a premise in how a society should be ordered, then you need to seriously rethink it. The reason why is that, unfortunately, we are all endowed with a little sickness that mars the splendour of our nature. This sickness is original sin, which as St. Thomas puts it, "is an inordinate disposition, arising from the destruction of the harmony which was essential to original justice, even as bodily sickness is an inordinate disposition of the body, by reason of the destruction of that equilibrium which is essential to health."

Ok, no more time for blogging. :)

23 comments:

richard said...

So to take an example not from the US. Hitler, he was put in power in accord with the law, his acts were legal. Would it be wrong to resist Hitler?
The CCC quote only makes sense if there is the caveat that the authority is just. As St. Thomas says "an unjust law seems not to have the nature of law." The point is that one is never morally required to particepate in or condone evil. Moral authorities must be followed in as much as they are in fact authoritative. The legitimate wishes of an owner must be respected. It is unclear what authority a govt. official has other than being in fact in power.
An authority by means of whom "God acts in governing the world" must behave in a moral way, vis a vis such authority in order to govern justly and therefore to have legal authority (see Thomas above). To govern justly the authority must act in accord with the universal moral order. Also, a rational agent the authority must act in a consistent way. A ruler who uses means that would be considered criminal if employed by a private citizen is in violation of rationality.
Moral consistency precludes taxation. If I cannot morrally take by force what belongs to another, nor may force an exchange for something that belongs to another, the ruler, the authority, also may not take property by force (taxation) nor may the ruler extract payment for "services" when the recipient of those services was not free to chose not to participate.
Morality is the same for everyone: Thou shalt not steal.

Fezzick said...

Well spoken. You have expressed my heretofore unspoken sentiments. Perhaps I should be more vocal.

I think that it is unfortunate that this debate has taken so long to reach a point this salient. While I believe that ultimately I might disagree with you, Sylvia, on many matters pertaining to the nature of authority, I think that your point here is a good one: bring this argument back to basics. Once basic principles are are agreed upon or at least accepted for the sake of argument, only then can we move on.

Unfortunately, as far as the matter of economics and government goes, Catholics are not in as complete a state of agreement as perhaps we should be. Maybe this matter is a more suitable subject for debate at this point.

Geoff and Andy, I'm very interested in both of your views on government and authority. But also, come to think of it, I'm VERY interested in hearing what both of you have to say about first principles. Do tell.

Andy Bodoh said...

First, allow me to say that I believe my position hereto ennunciated is in complete accordance with this and all teachings of the Church that I am aware of.

Next, let me re-enunciate what exactly this debate is. I challanged Geoff to a debate moving from principles of human nature to the principle of good government. I believe that if there is something that can be called "good government" it is that government which is accord to human nature. Thus we started the discussion.

A quick summary of where we have been:

GGI- I proposed a simple theory of human choice (implicitly borrowing from Thomas and Finnis), one that could serve as the basis I needed for the necessary theory of natural law. Geoff accepted the proposed theory.

GGII- I proposed some basic theories about man's nature as a social creature, something essential for moving from the individual person to society (and thence to government). Geoff accepted them.

GGIII-I built on GGII with comments about human relationships (which is now important in GGV) and culture (which will be important in future posts). Geoff accepted them with no problem.

GGIV-I proposed definitions for "right" and "authority." After much dispute and many corrections, I laid out working definitions: A "right" is "the power to command the obedience of others in regards to a specific obligation of justice" One possesses a right because "[one] possesses a factual claim to something." "Authority" is "the power and duty that comes when one is charged with some interest of another. Authority is the power to command (not necessarily compel) obedience." These definitions are essential to contemporary ideas of government (and very important to Libertarianism) and so must be defined. Geoff conditionally accepted these definitions.

GGV-Drawing from earlier posts, I argue society is "a collection of people comprising a network of real interpersonal relationships in which the limits of the society are defined in some relevant way." I argued that disagreements are natural and resolutions are often sought (and right so) by using a mediator. I defined an "established society" as a society that has a system in place for judging disputes in contrast to a "non-established society" that doesn't. I then define "civil society" as "the network of relationships through which the members of the network work to achieve the satisfaction of their basic, day-to-day needs and wants." Then, based on the argument that there are disputes in society and examining specific difficulties that arise in bringing disputes to judgment and executing a judgment, I argue that an established authority in civil society to judge disputes is reasonable, and that taxation is a reasonable means for collecting money to repay the authority for his services. Geoff has responded, and I will respond shortly.


Now, to respond to this post and comment:

"God has not willed to reserve to himself all exercise of power. He entrusts to every creature the functions it is capable of performing, according to the capacities of its own nature."

This is exactly why I started with human nature.

"This mode of governance ought to be followed in social life."

We are just beginning to discuss social life.

"Human society can be neither well-ordered nor prosperous unless it has some people invested with legitimate authority to preserve its institutions and to devote themselves as far as is necessary to work and care for the good of all."

Exactly the point I started arguing to in GGV.

"By "authority" one means the quality by virtue of which persons or institutions make laws and give orders to men and expect obedience from them."

I.e. Authority is "the power and duty that comes when one is charged with some interest of another. Authority is the power to command (not necessarily compel) obedience."

"Every human community needs an authority to govern it.16 The foundation of such authority lies in human nature. It is necessary for the unity of the state."

I have responded to all of this already.

"I have quoted these lines before, in the comments."

If you have commented on any of the GG posts and have not recieved a satisfactory answer, I appologize. Please point it out.

"What I am curious about, in this entire debate, is how what everyone is saying is consonant with the Church's teachings and tradition."

I have not referred to Church documents, though I have relied on them, because I believe that they are totally defensible with reason and do not need to rely simply on the authority of the Church. I know that Geoff would preffer a rational defense of my theory over an appeal to authority, and that is what I hope to provide. If you can point out anywhere in which my posts heretonow are inconsistant with Church tradition, please do so. I believe they are all in line with the best of Christian tradition.

"[Geoff] and Andy are having a difficult time really touching each other's points about anything because Andy is speaking about government in very broad and general terms, whereas Geoff at least appears to be focusing his criticism on the government of the United States of America."

My object is to discuss good government. I do not believe that good government is only a democracy or only a republic or only a dicatorship or only a monarchy. As such, my posts must be general.

Geoff believes (I believe) that the only good government is a libertarian government. As such he defends particular ground. We often use US examples because we are most familiar with them. I have questioned Geoff as to whether he believe I am defending the US Government and he denies it. His style of debate (if I may presume to speak for him) relies on many and diverse examples and analogies. Mine relies on more cold, abstract, and sometimes poorly communicated or plain wrong logic. If it seems that we have not gotten far, I assure you we have. However, as two political science students who know a bit about each other, some of our "tangental conversation" is actually important to checking where the other is going.

May I suggest that part of the reason Geoff's position may seem to be all over the place at times is because his position is to attack my theory. I appreciate his attacks, as they have been very helpful at solidifying some points.

I might also point out, in regards to your closing comments, that Geoff believes that the existance of a coercive centralized government is a symptum of orginal sin and we ought to try to do better.

Now Colin: "I think that it is unfortunate that this debate has taken so long to reach a point this salient.... [B]ring this argument back to basics. Once basic principles are are agreed upon or at least accepted for the sake of argument, only then can we move on."

Colin, I would say that Geoff and I are still very close to the basics. We started with the basics of human nature, and we are just moving into the basics of society and government. Once again, much of our tangental argument has been important to understand what exactly the person is thinking. We have fought hard over basic principles, and I think we will continue to do so.

"Unfortunately, as far as the matter of economics and government goes, Catholics are not in as complete a state of agreement as perhaps we should be. Maybe this matter is a more suitable subject for debate at this point."

I disagree. first we must look at what are "rights", "authority", "society" and the proper sphere of "civil law" before we can discuss wheter or not a civil government can legitimately interfere in economics. After all, that's exactly where a discussion of economics would go. Of course, you are free to start a debate on the point, and in fact I would be interested in participating. I think you would be surprised how I would fall. But for me to really explain myself, I would have to go a little farther along the GG line of arguing anyway.

"I'm VERY interested in hearing what both of you have to say about first principles. Do tell."

Frankly, I am not sure what basic principles we haven't covered that are relevant to the discussion so far. If you have any questions, please put them out there.

Fezzick said...

Andy,
Perhaps it is the particular sort of tête-à-tête between you and Geoff that has thrown me (and Sylvia) so much. I am still having trouble seeing where you two are really meeting each others' points. I understood this to be the reason why Sylvia requested (and I seconded)that you and Geoff give us in the studio audience a short, clear explanation of exactly where you stand on the subject of authority and government.

I know that you (and Geoff, if I may speak for him) feel that you have sufficiently clarified your positions, but suffice it to say that I still am in the dark. If my ignorance is arising from the fact that I haven't read your posts closely enough, do give me the requisite smack on the wrist and send me to the appropriate post. I am very eager to really understand your meaning.

Also, I still think that a shift of debate would be in everyone's best interests thus far. However, I didn't want to interrupt what was (and is) a lively discussion by introducing a new topic. However, if everyone wished, I could. Take a vote amongst yourselves, or something.

Yours truly,
The Barrel Philosopher

P.S. I'm really tired, I think that might be sufficient explanation as to why I've just written you a letter in the comments section. Man, I'm tired . . .

P.P.S. Let me know when you're in town. We should get a beer and get a chance to discuss these things in person.

Geoff said...

"The authority required by the moral order derives from God: "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities."

True. All authority comes from God. But authority is only authority insofar as it is in accord with human nature. A government only has the powers ceded to it by the people, do you deny that? The Church admits that there are many kinds of governments that can be legitimate: pure democracy, monarchy, constitutional republic, etc. But taxation, "eminent domain" property seizures, and conscription are immoral means and ends of such governments. It says as much in Samuel 1:8. I don't know where you get that I'm talking only about the U.S. government. I'm talking about government in general.

Sylvia: "What is your picture of authority? I must venture to be so rude as to say that I will entirely lose interest if the response is over three paragraphs and chock-full of newsreport examples."

I really don't know that you did need to venture to be so rude. It could've been said in myriad less rude ways.

My picture of authority is, indeed, what Andy has written above. A person in authority can only command obedience in something that is in accordance with the divine law. I do not see taxation, conscription, and "eminent domain" falling into that category. Nor do I believe that an earthly authority can or should proscribe everything that is a violation of natural law, but only those acts that violate the wills of other humans.

Further, I see a society in which actions would only be punished if A)Someone has suffered harm and B) The victim or next of kin brings a suit against the offender.

Sylvia said: "The majority of men are decidedly not rational and good the majority of the time! If you are taking this as a premise in how a society should be ordered, then you need to seriously rethink it."

Sylvia, if the majority of men were not good the majority of the time, there would be constant, unbridled violence and chaos in the streets. Calvin would have been right, and paranoid Hobbes' Leviathan government would be needed to keep men in awe of its overwhelming strength. You are the one who needs to re-examine your premiss. Look at the consequences of what you are saying: your line of reasoning intimates not only that prisons are the place for the majority of men, but that a good government uses force to coerce men's wills to be virtuous. I know you don't think you're saying this, but such a conclusion is the logical result of such a first premiss.

There are two kinds of "goods." "Good enough to peacefully interact with other men," and "Good enough to get into heaven." You seem to be unable to separate the two. You can use force to prevent men from hurting other men. You cannot use force to make men virtuous.

Fezzick said...

In Sylvia's defense, I didn't find her to be overly rude. I think she simply wanted to make herself understood.

Honest debate is always a good thing, but in a forum as public as as this one, I think it is well within the rights of fellow bloggers to request clarification on points of uncertainty. We all know that it can be frustrating, especially of observers of public debate, when this is not the case.

In further defense of the material of Sylvia's objection, I found your ensuing clarification to be quite enlightening. I am aware that your debate was primarily with Andy, and thus some logical steps may have been glossed over for the sake of time, space, etc. However, in this case, I think I will understand you much better now.

Geoff said...

"Overly" rude? I don't think there's such a thing as being "acceptably" rude. Not that I was very offended, don't get me wrong. She got her point across. But it could have been worded much better.

I don't quite follow your last paragraph, however. In all honesty, the first sentence kind of throws off the rest of the paragraph for me. (Which could very well be caused by the fact that it's pretty late and I'm correspondingly a little brain-tired.)

Fezzick said...

"Overly rude" is just a semantic platitude. "Rude" is what I meant.

All I intended to say (in my own smarmily wordy way) in my last paragraph was that Sylvia asked you to clarify your position according to the basics, and I felt that you did so very well in your subsequent comment. It helped ME understand you better, anyhow.

Andy Bodoh said...

To clarify, Geoff says:

"My picture of authority is, indeed, what Andy has written above. A person in authority can only command obedience in something that is in accordance with the divine law. I do not see taxation, conscription, and "eminent domain" falling into that category. Nor do I believe that an earthly authority can or should proscribe everything that is a violation of natural law, but only those acts that violate the wills of other humans.

Further, I see a society in which actions would only be punished if A)Someone has suffered harm and B) The victim or next of kin brings a suit against the offender."


What part of this argument is about is whether things like "taxation, conscription, and 'eminent domain'" are ever permissable. Geoff has said that he does not believe they are. in GGV I argue that taxation is reasonable means to a certain end and is thus permissible. We are also arguing a bit about what is the proper place of civil law in upholding the moral law. Geoff is very clear on his possition:

"I see a society in which actions would only be punished if A)Someone has suffered harm and B) The victim or next of kin brings a suit against the offender."

I do not believe that this is not the "best" society can do and I am almost on the verge of a line of argument clarifying my position on the matter. However that will have to wait until we resolve our differences (at least conditionally) on the question of society and civie authority (which we just broached in GGV.

Andy Bodoh said...

I would also point out that I disagre with Geoff's interpretation of 1 Sam 8 (which I believe is what he meant to cite). It is Samuel warning the Isrealites about what a king will do to them. Geoff seems to say that this illustrates that "taxation, conscription, and 'eminent domain'" are intrinsically evil, and that, in general government is evil. However, I would point out that this is not the Isrealites establishing the first government in their land, it is the Isrealites establishing a government over the whole land. Samuel is saying that a government over the whole land is not in people's interests. However, he is necessarily proposing a libertarian society. He could just as easily be proposing local government - an independent governments over each of the 12 tribes. He does not necessarily condemn any of these practices. He merely warns the people that this will be the consequence of establishing a King over all of Isreal?

Want a clue as to where I am going in my argument? Answer this question: Why am I defining a society not as a collection of people with common ends but as a collection of people in a network of real, interpersonal relationships that in which the relationships are directed towards a common end?

Fezzick said...

I think this is why Sylvia recommended we have a simpler discussion about simpler issues first. I'm going to have to stick to my original statement that I think that Geoff and Andy both are assuming that they have more common principles than they actually do.

The question here is PRECISELY that which Andy offered. Is society "a collection of people with common ends, [or] a collection of people in a network of real, interpersonal relationships that in which the relationships are directed towards a common end?" Maybe it is basic principles such as this one that should be addressed first.

healthily sanguine said...

Thank you everyone for replying! I do apologize for the unhappiness of my phrasing, and can only say that the post was written in haste and so I suppose I must repent it at leisure. Anyway, I think Colin pretty much summarized my motivations for making the post, and I agree that the subsequent clarification from Andy and Geoff has been very helpful in seeing where this is going.

I have appreciated Andy's detailed posts (and I have recognized their consonance with Church teaching, which I probably ought to have mentioned before), but I did not realize the extent to which Geoff agreed with what Andy said. It seemed that although there may have been superficial agreement, really we are missing a first principle somewhere because, as Geoff so aptly put it, some conclusions follow quite logically from first premises. I am still confused how you both can have the same picture of authority and yet one thinks that taxation is within that authority and another does not. Can you help clarify?

I will reply briefly to Geoff's accusation that my idea of good government is one that compels its citizens to every virtue with a quote from St. Thomas (not an argument from authority, just I happen to agree with what he says and he puts it a lot better than I could): "[H]uman law does not prescribe concerning all the acts of every virtue: but only in regard to those that are ordainable to the common good--either immediately, as when certain things are done directly for the common good--or mediately, as when a lawgiver prescribes certain things pertaining to good order, whereby the citizens are directed in the upholding of the common good of justice and peace." I don't see how a logical conclusion of original sin is that complete anarchy and chaos must result, but neither do I think that we can live in peaceful harmony with each other all the time--history has borne out neither result. Rather, we do need human laws to bind (and included in the notion of law is its coercive power--or else we couldn't even call it a law) in certain matters.

Perhaps the real argument, then, is in WHAT human laws should be about. A law is for the common good, so it's not like it's the authority person/group saying, "I'm going to take this from you," like I would take some of Geoff's hard-earned cash as a private citizen for my own private use; or it's not like the authority saying arbitrarily, "I want you to do this," like I might say to Andy that I want him to stand on his head and cook scrambled eggs. There has to be a lawgiver, though, doesn't there? If the question is what kind of laws there are, then it really does go back to, as Andy was saying, what you think human nature and society are. Ok, I will shut up now and let you polisci types speak again. :)

Fezzick said...

Once again, I agree.

For the sake of full disclosure, I think that I probably fall somewhere in between Geoff and Andy. However, I'm still interested in hearing both of you answer Sylvia's challenge: what should human laws be about? And, even more to the point, what should society be, ideally?

If I've been following the debate correctly, it seems that Geoff leans toward libertarianism, while Andy finds himself with more of a conservative Republican stance. I disagree with both of these positions, but I can definitely be proven wrong.

Andy Bodoh said...

First of all I am not a Republican. I am a Catholic. If you disagree with my position as I have stated it thus far, feel free to point it out. It would be helpful for both of us to come to the truth on the matter.

As to the nature of society, the need to debate the issue is exacty the reason why the issue is now being debated. However that issue could not have been reasonable debated (or debated very well) without Geoff and I testing each other's positions on all the posts before it: GGI - GGIV. My position will rely (at least implicitly) on what has been said before.

Regarding what human law should be about, we can't debate this (we have tried in my dorm at Christendom) until we decie what society is.

I hope it is becoming clear why the argument has developed as it has.

Andy Bodoh said...

Regarding your post Richard, which I have somehow missed until now, Geoff and I discussed the right to property at length. We agreed that if a starving person has the right to take food belonging to another to preserve his life, then it is clear the taking of property in some cases is not stealing. We left the issue open to be debated later whether or not taxation was a legitimate taking of property, and we are now debating that in GGV.

Geoff said...

Andy: "He does not necessarily condemn any of these practices. He merely warns the people that this will be the consequence of establishing a King over all of Israel."

Andy, read through the list. It's not merely an emotionless listing of the consequences. It's an emotion-filled plea to the sheeple to avoid a bad choice: "THIS is what he will do to you!" Why would the people "cry out to God" in that day, yet not be heard, if those things weren't being condemned by Samuel/God? If it was OK with God, he wouldn't have punished them. But the fact is, God was not happy with their choice. Was it merely punished because it was arbitrarily against God's will? No: it was against God's will because it was against human nature.

Samuel was advocating local government, as you said. But not coercive-tax government. He was advocating they keep the judge system. The judges did not tax the people, but they were still provided for. It seems God considered this an ideal situation.

I am all about obeying true authorities. But someone surrenders his authority when he does immoral things like confiscates property (taxes) and conscripts people.

You give me a government that does not do such things, and I will DONATE to support it. For then, it will truly be an authority.

Some of the ridiculous "upside down frying an egg laws" that Sylvia mentions are precisely the kind of laws made possible by a tax-based government, where people have an incentive to sell out to private interests to get elected, while not truly supporting the common good. Just because one has power does not make him an authority!

Of course, everyone thinks that these people in power are obviously upholding the common good, which is why they can get away with pandering to special interests. And if you realize that they are not, in fact, upholding the common good, your tax dollars are stolen from you to subsidize it anyway. That is all I have a problem with. Have a government that can uphold judgments: but not people that have some special morality by virtue of being in power, or by being chosen by a majority, or by heredity. A special morality that allows them to hurt some people (or all people) to "benefit" all people, and force servitude (conscript).

If an authority were chosen by 100% of the people, and they all agreed to give up so much money every year to support certain limited ends, that would be fine. But the majority (and this goes for monarchy, democracy, etc) is not somehow automatically imbued with some special power to make decisions for other people as to what the "common good" entails, or how it should be achieved.

You're looking out for the common good. So am I. A taxation-based government has violations of the common good built right into it. It's like a concentration camp. It's BUILT for "the common good." To kill the Jews, which would benefit everyone, according to the German populace. A government is built for the common good, but if it taxes, its means are intrinsically illegitimate to secure that end. Likewise, if you have to kill a segment of the "common" to achieve the "common good," it's an illicit means!

Andy Bodoh said...

I am still confused how you both can have the same picture of authority and yet one thinks that taxation is within that authority and another does not. Can you help clarify?

Read the discussions about "rights" and "the right to property" under GGIV and subsequent posts. Geoff (I believe) sees property as a near abosolute to absolute right: if someone owns a peice of property then he cannot be deprived of that property without his consent. He grants conditionally that a starving person may have the right to take a person's extra property in order to preserve life, but without such a strong need, he would say that no one can deprive a person of property that they own. After all, property is essential man's survival, and if authority can take property at will, then they can control even the lives of their people. This is what Stalin did.

However, I see property as a right only because it is a means to an end. Thus, I believe the right to property is not absolute. One has a right to a piece of property only if someone else does not have a stronger claim to it than he.

While I raised the issue of taxation, I did so only to show Geoff where I was going. I am not in a position yet to defend the civil authorities legitimate power of taxation yet. The discussion here will focus on how and what a society does when it grants powers to an authority. Geoff asserts that this grant requires the consent of each individual person in society, and I have not responded to this. I will not respond to it until my next post.

Suffice it to say, Geoff believes that no one has the power to take property from another without consent and I disagree. We agree on the case of the poor man, that he has a right to property to sustain his life, but we have not seen how far this instance can be expanded. I have said taxation to pay a civil authority is reasonable, and we are now disputing this.

Andy Bodoh said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy Bodoh said...

Geoff, can you demonstrate from historical record that the people had no obligation whatsoever to pay their authorities? I have not specified anything about what a legitimate taxation system would be, except that one end would be the reasonable payment to the civil authority for services legitimately rendered.

By "taxation system" I mean any system in which people have an obligation (whether backed up by coersive power or not I do not specify) to pay a civil authority. All my argument requires is some established obligation to pay civil authority. Even a requirement for the Isrealites to tithe is sufficient if that money is used to support those who exercise civil authority.

Geoff said...

Andy, the Jews were required to pay a tithe to support the priests, but there was no prescribed punishment for failing to do so.

But even then, 1 Samuel 8 is purely political, while tithing implies a religion which anyone is free to leave at any time.

I don't see why I should have to pay for services I might never use. Why not have an insurance company that would look over your criminal background, then offer policies protecting you from legal costs?

As it is, who today can afford to effectively get his lawsuit heard? It costs thousands upon thousands of dollars. And in criminal cases, I think the fact that a government judge, prosecutor and public defender are all being paid by the same employer and are required to prosecute/judge (some)unjust laws made by the government has a real potential to "color their judgment" in its own right. Their proximal employer is the city/federal government they work in. Their distal employer is "society." Whose voice is louder, for them? The hand that gives them a paycheck, or the dilution of people who are fleeced to ensure their paychecks?

Andy, as a believer in the free market, I don't see how you can say that a greater accountability for actions and higher efficiency is possible in a tax-dollar funded monopoly on arbitration services, as opposed to market services. The incentive just isn't there.

Not only that, but the premise that "everyone benefits either directly or indirectly from the justice system/police, so it is reasonable to tax people to support it" is indefensible. I could be providing a valuable service to the community, by cleaning up garbage from the roadsides, or shoveling driveways for free, but I couldn't force anyone to pay me for my services. Why? They didn't ASK for me to do it! In other words, the government is one big streetcorner squeegee guy. He comes up, dips his squeegee into his grit-infused bucket, and proceeds to scratch the heck out of your windshield. THEN he violently demands payment for his "service." I'm sorry. That's not the way the real world should work. At all.

Geoff said...

Found an excellent article that shows there is no contradiction between anarchy and Scripture. On the contrary...

Read, "Biblical Anarchism." http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig/carson2.html

It's not something written by a crazed, foam-mouthed, anti-WTO pagan, either.

richard said...

Andy,
The issue with property and a starving person has to do with how property comes to be. As a working definition, property is a material thing that has been put to use. Thus it is acceptable for a starving person to take what is needed from what is unused, that is, the starving person may homestead some food, but he may not take what is being used.
To take an example, a bum can get food thrown out in a dumpster behind a store, but he may not go into the store and take food without paying. This holds even if the store has a 'no dumpster-diving' policy. This principle is included in civil law that covers, for instance, flotsam and jetsam, and squater laws. If something has gone out of the use of a previous owner, it can be rehomesteaded. Note though that "use" includes such things as attention in a reasonable time and control. This points to property that is truely abandoned, not simply to property that is put to alternate use.
Also the taking of what is needed in the absense of the owner, can employ presumed consent, which would fall outside the discussion of stealing. (see also M. Rothbard for more on the origin of property)

Andy Bodoh said...

"It is acceptable for a starving person to take what is needed from what is unused, that is, the starving person may homestead some food, but he may not take what is being used."

I agree with this formulation, but my understanding of it may be different than yours.

I also agree with the morality and civil legality of the flotsam, jetsam, and squater laws. However

"a bum...may not go into the store and take food without paying."

If the bum is starving and has no other means of survival, I believe that he can take food from a store without paying. See CCC 2408:

"There is no theft if consent can be presumed or if refusal is contrary to reason and the universal destination of goods. This is the case in obvious and urgent necessity when the only way to provide for immediate, essential needs (food, shelter, clothing . . .) is to put at one's disposal and use the property of others."

My understanding of the right to property is also consistant (I believe) with the Church's conception of rights (see the excellent article at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13055c.htm). I think that the Church's
understanding of distributive/communitive justice can be further explained in a practical sense by examining the origin of person's claim and the end of the person's claim. Man has a right to some things because they are essential to his natural quest for happiness (the object of all man's choice). Such would be the right to life (including bodily integrety and such and such). Man claims other things as means to practical ends (see GGI). Property is not claimed as an end in itself, but only as a means to ends. Man has a natural right to property where property is essential to his quest for happiness (such as in the preservance of life). However, man's claim to property in general depends on how essential it is to the end persued and how essential that end it to man's quest for happiness (see GGI, again). On this ground I would distinguish necessary and superfulous property. Man's right to necessary property is natural and absolute. Man's right to superulous property is not absolute. I do not argue that superfulous claims can outweigh superfulous claims, as there is no real means of weighing the claims. However I believe that a fact-based claim of necessity can outweigh a fact-based superfulous claim, and thus the starving person can take food from a store.

Be sure, I am not going to argue that taxation is always "necessary". However, I do argue that since man is a social creature (see GGII and GGIII), society (understood as a netwrok of human relations) is generally necessary. However, disagreements arise in society, individuals often seek to resolve the diffences between themselves or through mediation, but in some cases one party of the dispute can not get justice through private arbitration (e.g. the other party refuses to negotiate because he has the upper hand, or refuses to comply to a judgment after the fact). I ague that this difficulties are natural, and that private arbitration has no obvious solution. Thus the establishment of a civil authority (if such thing is possible) is reasonable. Insofar as the civil authority (who is exercising reasonable powers for a civil authority) needs to be provided for, taxation is a reasonable means to this end. Some gaps in this last part may be a little more filled after my next post.