Monthly Archives: February 2012

Receiving Government Payments – A Voluntaryist Dilemma

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As a Veresapien and voluntaryist, I consider government to be unHuman. A government is, by definition, based on theft and coercion. I want to shun government in every way possible, just as I would any other criminal organization.

But, the government keeps taking my money, and I want it back.

For example, I’ve had Social Security taxes ‘deducted’ from my paychecks for over 40 years, now.

So, here’s my dilemma…

If I think Social Security is a typically immoral government program, should I participate in it anyway when I become eligible to receive payments, especially after having been forced to make payments into the program for all those years?

Walter Block has written that since all government funds are essentially stolen loot, “…it is a positive virtue to relieve the government of its ill-gotten gains“. In fact, he writes, “…the more money you take from the coffers of the state the better libertarian you are“.

Sounds good. But here’s the rub…

The money the government has taken from me in Social Security (and other) taxes over the years is long gone. That money was spent long, long ago. The government no longer has my stolen property.

So, when I ask for the Social Security money that the government ‘owes’ me, where will that money come from? Well, the government, having no money of its own, will simply go out and steal money from my neighbors and give it to me.

How would I feel, as a Veresapien and voluntaryist, about me using the force of government to take other people’s money?

I might try to make myself feel better by saying “The government is going to collect the tax money, anyway, and I might as well get my fair share”. But it’s still stolen money. Another person’s money.

And, as the US population ages, Social Security taxes will no longer cover Social Security payments. Beyond payroll taxes on current workers, the government will need to both borrow money, to be repaid by future taxpayers, and print money, a hidden tax on everyone.

I don’t think I’m really punishing the government when I “relieve it of its ill-gotten gains”. If anything, I’m doing it an invaluable service.

The government loves to dole out the cash. The government wants to give money to everyone. When everyone’s getting government money, no one wants to get rid of government, they just want to fight over who gets how much.

As Bastiat said in his essay Government,

“The State is the great fiction through which everyone endeavors to live at the expense of everyone else.”

When you take money from the government, you serve to perpetuate government.

If you want to end government, I believe the best approach is that suggested by Boetie in The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude:

“For if tyranny really rests on mass consent, then the obvious means for its overthrow is simply by mass withdrawal of that consent.”

If more people declined, whenever possible, to receive stolen goods (tax money) from the government, it would go a long way toward delegitimizing those government programs and the government.

So, here is how I think I should approach my dilemma:

  • Do whatever I can to minimize (legally) the amount of money that the government takes from me in taxes.
  • Accept that any money that is taken from me by the government is unrecoverable without causing harm to others (theft of their money).
  • And therefore decline, whenever I can, to take any ‘entitlements’ payments (freshly stolen goods) from the government.

I think perhaps those who take the least money from the coffers of the state are good libertarians, too.

 

Your Truly Human Society

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In a recent post, I described how following the central Veresapiens tenet of “Thou Shalt Not Steal” (TSNS) would shape the basic principles of a Truly Human Society. At the conclusion of the post, those principles were described this way…

A Veresapiens, then, would not make rules, or laws, to control others’ behavior. That would be stealing.

Veresapiens would make rules as to the acceptable use of their own property and the acceptable behavior of visitors on their property. And Veresapiens may defend their property from unacceptable aggression by others. None of those things would take away others’ full ownership of their own lives and property.

If a society based on TSNS would make no laws to control, mandate, or prohibit anyone’s actions, then it would have no need for a government. In fact, any form of government, including democracy, would be incompatible with a TSNS-based society.

For a whole society to live by “Thou Shalt Not Steal” as a guiding principle requires a totally voluntaryist social structure – one with no government at all.

A common, and legitimate, criticism levelled against this kind of ‘thought experiment’, however, is that it assumes the existence of a society somehow magically free of an existing central government. I have to agree that this is an unrealistic assumption. When governments fall, whether by revolution or by conquest, they are, unfortunately, replaced by new governments. There is never a shortage of wannabe rulers just waiting for their big opportunity.

But think about the ‘anarchy’ that already exists between you and your friends and close neighbors. Do you refrain from stealing from them because of the laws of the central government? Do you make up rules that all of them must follow or be punished? Do all of your disagreements get resolved by courts and judges?

No? Hmmm, perhaps you have already begun your own Truly Human Society. Congratulations! You’re off to a great start.

If you think about it, even if there was, magically, a land with no government, and people had total freedom to organize new social structures, there would likely not end up being one single homogenous society. Different groups of people would try out different approaches, many of which might take hold and thrive. There would also, no doubt, be violent organized gangs of criminals.

Those who wanted to organize around the concept of TSNS could do so, but they would still have to coexist among people with different ideas, values, and social structures, just as your own personal Truly Human Society does today. They would also have to deal with individuals and organized groups intent on stealing their property or their freedom, just as your own personal Truly Human Society does today.

So, we the same kind of opportunity now to organize a Truly Human Society as we would have in the mythical ungoverned land.

Beyond making TSNS the guiding principle in how you relate to all other people, future blog posts will focus on principles, strategies, and tactics for organizing and leading your own Truly Human Society within today’s government-dominated social structure.