Who's That Knocking on My Door?

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Some people doubt the ethical nature of Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens' transactions. Those people now include the feds.

Federal law enforcement agents raided U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' Alaska home in Girdwood on Monday, hauling off undisclosed items from inside and taking extensive pictures and video. Officials wouldn't say what they were looking for or what they found.

"All I can say is that agents from the FBI and IRS are currently conducting a search at that residence," Dave Heller, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI's Anchorage office, said Monday.

Stevens has told reporters he's cooperating with an investigation into Veco Corp., an energy company that larded up state lawmakers with at least $400,000 of bribes. Ramesh Ponnuru has a point that "busting pork" doesn't much alter the tide of federal spending, but is anyone surprised when Congress's more energetic pork addicts—Stevens, John Murtha—move on to outright graft?

Sen. Tom Coburn's battle with Stevens recounted here.

NEXT: Jerry Falwell's Paradoxical Legacy

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  1. Duke Cunningham could use a couple cellmates – Rep. Jefferson and Sen. Stevens for “Three’s Company.”

  2. It just never stops, does it?

    I don’t think the earmarks/graft connection is very strong. Duke Cunningham wasn’t a porker, while Robert Byrd is Hall of Famer.

  3. Let’s not forget Trafficant.

    But as to involvement with oil companies, you need to realize that an energy distribution is not just a truck, it’s not something that you can just dump something on. It’s a series of tubes.

  4. If you’re interested in the background, here’s the huge Ted Stevens archive from TPM Muckraker.

  5. Even members of big government are not immune from the armed agents of big government.

    I fully expect a report later from Radley Balko as to whether they were wearing paramilitary attire during this raid.

  6. Duke Cunningham wasn’t a porker, while Robert Byrd is Hall of Famer.

    Apparently, as long as you’re open and honest about bringing home the bacon, and make sure you only fatten your wallet as it rampages downstream and not directly, it’s all A-OK.

  7. Congress has legalised theft for the goverment.Why shouldn’t they take abit on the side?

  8. I’ll always appreciate Stevens for informing me that the Internet is not actually just some Big Truck.

  9. Well, MP, the difference between getting money spent on a public project and putting that money in your bank account would seem to be a relevant difference as well.

  10. Between Stevens and Don Young, these guys are your typical Alaskan bullshitters. And they’re not even that good at it. You’d think as crooked as they are and as in bed with oil companies that they would have had ANWR drilled to the earth’s core by now. But NOOOO! They allow Senator Maria Cant(read)well to block it.

  11. Well, MP, the difference between getting money spent on a public project and putting that money in your bank account would seem to be a relevant difference as well.

    Maybe to you joe. But some people don’t care where the money that was taken from them (immorally I might add) ends up.

  12. Stevens is incapable of shame or remorse, sort of like a Terminator.

  13. Well, MP, the difference between getting money spent on a public project and putting that money in your bank account would seem to be a relevant difference as well.

    The difference is that the direct route simply enriches the politician. The indirect route leads to power, and that power has a far greater enrichment potential.

    And the difference is also that one is easy to prosecute, and the other leads people to become libertarians as their disgust for power in politics boils over. 😉

  14. Countries where the cash goes directly to the politicians’ bank accounts tend to be worse places to live than countries where the money is spent on public projects.

    I’m not suggesting that public projects are better than letting people keep their own money. I am suggesting that sending the cash into a politician’s personal bank account (or a crony’s account) is even worse.

    One can dislike two things but dislike one more than the other. And one can say that one of those practices should be a crime while the other one should be curtailed via the legislative process.

  15. It time for my obligatory monthly defense of joe. At least as a porker, he’s open about his theft as opposed to doing it secretly.

    I think joe’s point was that the Venn Diagrams of corrupt and porkish don’t have as much overlap as Ponnuru implies.

  16. x,y,

    Some people have a massive blind spot. Some people can’t distinguish between political beliefs that disagree with their own and a crime. Some people can’t distinguish between doing one’s job to the best of one’s ability and understanding, and selling one’s vote to the highest bidder. Some people can’t tell the difference between providing a public good and enriching one’s self.

  17. Post headline:

    Prison bars are a series of tubes.

  18. It’s not about the money, it’s about the way that power is used. The places where money is handled in the most corrupt way tend to be the places where other powers are most egregiously abused as well.

  19. “It just never stops, does it?”

    No, joe, it doesn’t. And it never will. But dreamy-eyed true believers like you will keep saying wistfully, “Government is good; we just need to get the Right People in place, but for some totally baffling reason, we can’t.”

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s Head

  20. You know who says that?

    People who keep voting for the wrong people.

  21. joe, your statism was cute … at first.

  22. It’s not statist to think that graft and embezzlement are even worse than pork.

  23. The TUBES, Ted! Hide in the TUBES!

    Oh, by the way, Ted, remember what you said if Congress cut your Bridge to Nowhere funding? Is that offer of your resignation still good?

  24. People who keep voting for the wrong people.

    You did not just imply “If only the right people were elected”. Did you? Did you? I swear I read at some point that you swore off that line of defense.

    It’s not statist to think that graft and embezzlement are even worse than pork.

    Sure, but graft and pork are kissing cousins.

  25. joe, your statism was cute … at first.

    So was the notion that taxation is legalized theft.

  26. Can anyone on hear say with a straight face that farm and ethonol payments are not theft?The money is to buy votes.I also happen to believe it illegal.

  27. Even members of big government are not immune from the armed agents of big government.

    I fully expect a report later from Radley Balko as to whether they were wearing paramilitary attire during this raid.

    Is there a prize for being first to spot Dan T.’s new handle?

  28. People who keep voting for the wrong people.

    O RLY?

    What about those who say it and don’t vote at all? What about the other libertarians who voted Blue to go for a balance of power?

    I’m not sure that, even as strongly principled as I am, that I could resist getting just a small piece of the trillions of dollars flowing through D.C. I mean, the river shouldn’t be there in the first place, but hey, I’m thirsty…I might as well drink. Everyone else is.

    That’s why I stay far, far away from the bureaucracy as possible. (Except, you know, the military).

    P.S. to Scooby..sorry mac, but somebody downblog already did that.

  29. Taxation IS legalized theft. It was never a cute notion.

  30. Scooby,

    Dammit! I was just about to post the same thing. It took until this thread until I was sure everyone’s favorite lame-ass troll was back.

  31. “You know who says that?

    “People who keep voting for the wrong people.”

    Well, that lets me off the hook.

    The self-interested behavior of power-mad scumbags politicians will inevitably result in transfers of wealth which benefit the few at the expense of the many. And those self-same politicians are at the pointy part of the pyramid; that’s why they work so hard to get there, by duping suckers like you.

  32. It’s not statist to think that graft and embezzlement are even worse than pork.

    Maybe not, but it is statist to believe there’s nothing wrong with pork. I don’t believe I’m misrepresenting joe on that, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    So was the notion that taxation is legalized theft.

    This is a libertarian website where people discuss libertarian ideas. This principle is well-grounded in libertarian philosophy.

  33. Taxation IS legalized theft. It was never a cute notion.

    Exactly. If any one of us tried to do what the government does re: the income tax, we’d be thrown in jail.

  34. When people spend millions of [other peoples]dollars to get a job that pays an average of $170,000.00 one wonders.

  35. re: Taxation is Theft

    If somebody comes to your door soliciting donations for the impoverished victims of some tragedy and you donate to the cause, and subsequently discover that those donations were used, for the most part, to buy a new Jaguar for the director of the fund, and a miniscule portion actually made it to the victims, you have the right to refuse to make any donations in the future.

    Tell the IRS you don’t wish to contribute to their slush fund.

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s Head

  36. This is a libertarian website where people discuss libertarian ideas. This principle is well-grounded in libertarian philosophy.

    It’s also why (unfortunately, in my opinion) a lot of people don’t take libertarians seriously.

  37. People who keep voting for the wrong people.

    So, joe, who are the right people, and, if they were sitting in charge of the government, would you place any limits on their power?

  38. This is a libertarian website where people discuss libertarian ideas. This principle is well-grounded in libertarian philosophy.

    An internally consistent model maybe, but “well-grounded” tends to mean something on the order of “strongly connected to reality.” Being “well-grounded” in a pie-in-the-sky philosophy does not increase an idea’s verdicality. To most people, there is a meaningful difference between theft and taxes. Just as there is a meaningful difference between fraud and a mugging, and between pork and embezzlement.

  39. It’s also why (unfortunately, in my opinion) a lot of people don’t take libertarians seriously.

    Drink!

  40. In a recent thread the US constitution was touted as the “greatest hit” of libertarian philosophy. And yet it sanctions taxes. Hmmmmm….why? Were the founder smarter than Rothbard.

  41. In other words, “Taxation is theft” is a metaphorical phrase that emphasizes certain qualities of the two concepts that align with each other. It backgrounds the ways that the two concepts are not aligned. Most people recognize that the qualities of the two concepts that the phrase backgrounds are important for understanding the two concepts and their relationship to the real world.

    Taxation is theft is a bumper sticker.
    It is not a well constructed proposition/equivalence.

  42. The problem with associating the “Taxation Is Theft” bumper sticker to libertarianism is that it really implies that libertarianism = anarchy. Libertarian minarchists accept the necessity of taxation as a necessary evil, so it doesn’t do the libertarian cause any good to hump the “Taxation Is Theft” meme.

  43. If taxation is theft then all payments in return for services rendered are theft.

  44. Drink!

    Well, maybe just sip. I don’t think it was quite on a par with “for site called Reason…..”

  45. If taxation is theft then all payments in return for services rendered are theft.

    That’s like saying to someone after you rape them that they owe you money. Even though it was non-consensual, you still provided them the service, so pay up!

  46. “If taxation is theft then all payments in return for services rendered are theft.”

    Grade: D-
    Please try harder.

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s (and possibly Dan T’S) Head

  47. I don’t see how the guy can sleep at night. Hell, I don’t see how the guy can sleep on the senate floor either. (there should be a youtube clip here, but I’m too lazy to look for it)

  48. Taxation is theft. Imprisonment is kidnapping. Physical removal of tresspassers is assault.

    Yawwwwwwnnnnnnnnnnnn…

  49. “Taxation is fee for service” is just as poorly constructed a metaphor as “taxation is theft.”

  50. Sietz,

    Sorry, but non-libertarians coming on to the board to tell us what is wrong with libertarianism is a full drink, even if they think they are telling us for our own good.

  51. x,y,

    I don’t believe I’m misrepresenting joe on that, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    You are misrepresenting me. Pork is bad; bribery is worse.

    And if you began digging up the road with a front-end loader, like the DPW does, you’d be thrown in jail, too. So?

  52. Sugarfree,

    So does that mean you drink whenever SIV makes a comment about “real libertarians”?

  53. Mike Laursen,

    The right people are the ones who aren’t corrupt, bigoted, or otherwise transparently evil.

    And yes, even they have to have limits placed on their power, as the system produces moral hazards and temptations that need to be arrested, rather than just relying on the goodness of officeholders.

  54. You can not compare today’s tax stucture and it’s use with the intent of the consititution.The founders hated taking from one class to give to another.The tax on tea was passed to save the East India Company from banckrupty.How is that different from today?

  55. That’s like saying to someone after you rape them that they owe you money. Even though it was non-consensual, you still provided them the service, so pay up!

    That, my friend, is some tortured logic.

  56. Is it theft to collect taxes to pay for the judges and police who enforce property rights?

    “Taxation is theft,” like “pork is the same as bribery,” that high schoolers who just finished their first Ayn Rand book get an emotional jolt out of writing on their algebra notebooks. Neither one is a serious idea; they just mark the speaker as childish.

  57. Seitz/NM/Dan T. –

    A principle’s correctness has nothing to do with its popular acceptance. 2+2=4, even if 99% of people think otherwise.

  58. Sorry, but non-libertarians coming on to the board to tell us what is wrong with libertarianism is a full drink, even if they think they are telling us for our own good.

    What makes you think I’m a non-libertarian? If a Republican can be opposed to the war, and a Democrat can be pro-life, why can’t a libertarian believe that taxation isn’t theft?

  59. That’s like saying to someone after you rape them that they owe you money. Even though it was non-consensual, you still provided them the service, so pay up!

    It’s more like joining a club and then complaining that you did not consent to paying the dues because you didn’t explicitly request soap to be placed in the restrooms.

  60. If a libertarian is somebody who believes that it is appropriate for the government to enforce property rights and prosecute murderers, than a libertarian has to believe either that taxation is not theft, or that theft is sometimes appropriate.

  61. The right people are the ones who aren’t corrupt, bigoted, or otherwise transparently evil.

    And yes, even they have to have limits placed on their power, as the system produces moral hazards and temptations that need to be arrested, rather than just relying on the goodness of officeholders.

    I’m sorry, but any system that relies on altruism to succeed is doomed to fail. This is especially true with the following conditions:
    1. You increase the size of government, requiring you to find more of the “right” people.
    2. You increase the power of each individual in power, which makes the good-natured part of the person work harder against temptation
    3. There is no really effective way to judge whether or not someone is corruptible

    I’m sorry, but any system that relies on altruism to succeed is doomed to fail. This is especially true with the following conditions:
    1. You increase the size of government, requiring you to find more of the “right” people.
    2. You increase the power of each individual in power, which makes the good-natured part of the person work harder against temptation
    3. There is no really effective way to judge whether or not someone is corruptable

  62. Some people can’t tell the difference between providing a public good and enriching one’s self.

    joe you might want to brush up on the definition of a public good. Just because a public sector employee provides it does not make it a public good. Here is a handy primer:

    National Defense: Public Good
    Almost Everything Else The Federal Government Does: Not A Public Good

  63. joe,

    Anarcho-libertarianism is a philosophy that provides the framework for a free society.

    Taxes are legalized theft. This is not a childish remark. It’s a true statement.

    Now, before you comment on how “childish” I’m being, please show us why the statement, ” Taxes are legalized theft” is not true.

  64. Now, before you comment on how “childish” I’m being, please show us why the statement, ” Taxes are legalized theft” is not true.

    Because if something is legal, it’s not theft. Since theft is defined as an illegal act.

  65. Pork is bad; bribery is worse.

    And if you began digging up the road with a front-end loader, like the DPW does, you’d be thrown in jail, too. So?

    joe, why do you think pork is bad?

    And why is state held to a lower standard than the governed?

  66. I cannot believe the stupidity on this thread.ALL TAXATION IS NOT THEFT BUT AS PRACTICED TODAY IT IS.Every day comerce can be theft when done with deception.When you take money by force from one group to benefit another that’s theft.We are being ruled by a group very much like the Black Hand of years gone by.

  67. Reinmoose,

    Hence, my statement about moral hazards and temptations, and the need for limits on government. What are you sorry about?

    swillfredo,

    OK, how about “there’s a difference between attempting to provide a public good and attempting to enrich one’s self?” Does that work for you?

    Is everyone who endoreses any government action that you happen to disagree with the equivalent of Duke Cunningham?

    x,y,

    Theft is the unauthorized taking of something of value from its owner. Under our system of government, the government is authorized to collect taxes.

  68. Neu Mejican,

    Yes, all roads are two ways in a drinking game.

    Seitz,

    You can believe what you want and call yourself anything you want, but if you run into a church and scream “THERE IS NO GOD!” then you really can’t object to some puzzled and angry looks. It’s a widely held belief to many here that current levels of taxation are excessive and taken from people with the threat of force. It’s easy to be lazy and call that “theft.”

  69. Taxes are legalized theft. This is not a childish remark. It’s a true statement.

    Well gee, who can argue with logic like that?

  70. x,y,

    Pork, as a whole, is bad because it encourages an inefficient use of public tax dollars. The waste of tax money one inefficient projects means that it is not being put to use more efficiently, and achieving greater good, either through more effective government programs or through the spending of private parties.

  71. C’mon MyTube, you can do better than that.

  72. x,y

    A principle’s correctness has nothing to do with its popular acceptance. 2+2=4, even if 99% of people think otherwise.

    Yes. Now explain to me how the meaning of a word is equivalent to a well defined quantity. Provide the equation that demonstrates the that x=y whereby x=taxation and y=theft.

    The degree to which you accept the idea that lexical or propositional semantics are equivalent to arithmetic can be used as a partial gauge of how childish your understanding of the world is(to borrow joe’s phrase).

  73. C’mon MyTube, you can do better than that.

    Actually, I can’t. Because that’s the correct answer.

  74. x,y

    Does the meaning of a word have anything to do with its popular usage?

  75. C’mon MyTube, you can do better than that.

    He doesn’t have to. It’s right there in the dictionary.

  76. Theft is the unauthorized taking of something of value from its owner. Under our system of government, the government is authorized to collect taxes.

    You’re being semantic joe and you know it.

    1. If you’re going to be that way, just substitute another word for theft, e.g., plunder, which should convey the same point.

    2. You still haven’t explained why the state (assuming the state even has a legitimate purpose) should be held to a lower standard than the governed. Why, for example, should the state be able to withhold money from your paycheck to pay for “public goods” when I would get thrown in jail for doing the same thing?

    3. Let’s say “murder” is defined as “the unauthorized killing of a human being except joe.” Well, it looks like killing joe is authorized. It must by A-OK then!

  77. Is everyone who endorses any government action that you happen to disagree with the equivalent of Duke Cunningham?

    Those elected officials who engage in actions that violate their oath of office and the constitutional constraints on their power are in my mind not one bit superior, morally or otherwise, to Duke Cunningham.

  78. Pork, as a whole, is bad because it encourages an inefficient use of public tax dollars. The waste of tax money one inefficient projects means that it is not being put to use more efficiently, and achieving greater good, either through more effective government programs or through the spending of private parties.

    I could say the same thing about tax dollars generally, with some justification. And if I’m justified in holding that view, why should I have to pay taxes (or risk going to jail)?

  79. x,y

    3. Let’s say “murder” is defined as “the unauthorized killing of a human being except joe.” Well, it looks like killing joe is authorized. It must by A-OK then!

    This assumes that things that are not murder are A-OK. Why assume that?

    The phrase “taxation is legalized theft” is a semantic argument. Don’t complain that others respond to a semantic argument with an explanation of how, semantically, it is poorly formulated.

  80. Reinmoose,

    Hence, my statement about moral hazards and temptations, and the need for limits on government. What are you sorry about?

    Yeah, you said that, but it’s horribly vague. Are you saying that all federal financing of “public goods” (pork) should be eliminated? Are you saying that only those projects that you don’t deem to be virtuous shouldn’t be funded? Would you say that would help US Senators/Congresspeople be focused on their real job of representing their state/district on issues of federal importance (which if you ask me only has to do with issues that extend outside the US)?

  81. X,y,

    In other words. If you want to argue that taxation is not a justifiable action, try and different formulation for your argument.

    Changing “theft” to “plunder” doesn’t get you very far down that road.

    (hint: try a utilitarian argument).

  82. You still haven’t explained why the state (assuming the state even has a legitimate purpose) should be held to a lower standard than the governed. Why, for example, should the state be able to withhold money from your paycheck to pay for “public goods” when I would get thrown in jail for doing the same thing?

    Because that’s the purpose of government – to get people to do things that are necessary but would never rationally do on their own.

  83. umm

    either “a different formulation” or “and use a different formulation.”

  84. x,y,

    But be careful. Down the utilitarian road there are detours that lead to “some taxation is acceptable.” (c.f., MP’s comment above, or the US constitution).

  85. Yes. Now explain to me how the meaning of a word is equivalent to a well defined quantity. Provide the equation that demonstrates the that x=y whereby x=taxation and y=theft.

    The degree to which you accept the idea that lexical or propositional semantics are equivalent to arithmetic can be used as a partial gauge of how childish your understanding of the world is(to borrow joe’s phrase).

    Numbers are not that much different than words. They’re shorthand for conveying concepts. Perhaps I’m being lazy by using the word “theft” but you know very well the concept I’m conveying. Playing semantic games like “theft is unauthorized force, and government is authorized” is about as disingenuous as you can be.

  86. You’re being semantic joe and you know it.

    No, x,y, I’m not. Whether the taker has authority is precisely the difference between theft vs. some other act of taking, such as taxation or reposession.

    That’s the difference between the government and private citizens – the govenrment is authorized to withhold money from your paycheck and private citizens usually aren’t.

  87. I think it would be cool to replace all references to pork with porn. Then we could have porn barrel projects and porn laden legislation. Excellent!

  88. swillfredo,

    Is everyone who disagrees with you on a government program violating their oath of office or surpassing the Constitutional limits on their power as they understand them?

    Can’t somebody just be mistaken, or even just hold a different opinion?

  89. Because that’s the purpose of government – to get people to do things that are necessary but would never rationally do on their own.

    I’m pretty sure people would find ways to provide roads, courts, etc. without the state.

  90. One can dislike two things but dislike one more than the other.

    Not on THIS chat board, you can’t!

    Incidentally, maybe we should replace “taxation is theft” with “taxation is the government saying it has more right to your money and property than you do.” The latter is more accurate, I think.

  91. Ix,y,

    I could say the same thing about tax dollars generally, with some justification.

    Sure you could. We’re arguing about what is and what is not a good idea, a good use of money.

    And if I’m justified in holding that view, why should I have to pay taxes (or risk going to jail)?

    Because holding a view contrary to the law doesn’t give you immunity from that law.

  92. x,y,

    Numbers are not that much different than words. They’re shorthand for conveying concepts.

    Please specify how much different they are.

    Numbers have a much more constrained interpretation than most other words. They are processed differently in the brain, they are constructed explicitly to convey a very narrow meaning along a single dimension (quantity). The list goes on.

    but you know very well the concept I’m conveying

    Yes I do. And that is why I am criticizing the formulation of your semantic argument. As a bumper sticker to rally the troops, it is a fine phrase. As a serious argument about the role of government, it is weak.

  93. I think I got some panties in a bunch by saying “theft.” Now joe, NM, and the rest want to play semantic games instead of arguing about the concept underlying my (misplaced) use of shorthand.

  94. Reinmoose,

    Are you saying that all federal financing of “public goods” (pork) should be eliminated? No. Also, that is not what is generally meant by “pork.”

    Are you saying that only those projects that you don’t deem to be virtuous shouldn’t be funded? Yes. Good projects should be funded; bad projects shouldn’t be.

    Would you say that would help US Senators/Congresspeople be focused on their real job of representing their state/district on issues of federal importance Yes.

    (which if you ask me only has to do with issues that extend outside the US)? I disagree.

  95. x, y

    There’s an easy way to not pay taxes and not get thrown in jail. Leave. Unfortunately, taxes are the price of admission. I’m not happy about high city income taxes in New York City, but I chose to live there and you have to pay to play. If I wanted to avoid state taxes, I could move to another state, like Texas or Florida.

    I’m not happy about high taxes either, but the way to change it is through reasoned discourse. Chanting mantras like, “All taxes are theft*,” hurt our side and make us look ridiculous to the average Americans as nutjobs. Think of Dworkin’s “All sex is rape” comment, for example.

    * Which isn’t true anyways. For example, gas taxes to pay for roads that you drive on are a form of user fee.

  96. Playing semantic games like “theft is unauthorized force, and government is authorized” is about as disingenuous as you can be.

    Maybe in a dictatorship. But ultimately, this is still a democracy. We vote for the people who make the laws. We give them the authority to make those decisions when we elect them. It’s not a perfect system, and politicians don’t do everything their constituents want them to do, but that’s why we have elections. You can vote against someone who doesn’t believe what you believe. So in our system, it’s not at all disingenuous to say that taxation isn’t theft because the government is authorized to collect taxes.

  97. Chanting mantras like, “All taxes are theft*,” hurt our side and make us look ridiculous to the average Americans as nutjobs. Think of Dworkin’s “All sex is rape” comment, for example.

    Which was, of course, my original point, stated more clearly here, I suppose.

  98. Is everyone who disagrees with you on a government program violating their oath of office or surpassing the Constitutional limits on their power as they understand them?

    Can’t somebody just be mistaken, or even just hold a different opinion?

    In theory the courts are there to rectify the acts of the mistaken. A majority of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court clearly have a different opinion of what the Commerce Clause means than I do.

  99. The guy comes out with the statment, wholly unadorned and without support, “Taxation is theft.”

    And now he’s accusing other people of hiding behind semantics?

    Tell you what: Libertarianism is stupidity. Go ahead, prove to me I’m wrong, but you’re not allowed to do so by discussing the meaning of words.

    OK? Go!

  100. x,y,

    Now joe, NM, and the rest want to play semantic games instead of arguing about the concept underlying my (misplaced) use of shorthand.

    If you present your ideas with statements like “Taxes are legalized theft. This is not a childish remark. It’s a true statement” you are explicitly guiding the discussion towards the truth value of your proposition.

    What this means is that when people say “no it’s not” they are arguing about the concept underlying your statement.

  101. What Seitz said. I happen to support the ideas conveyed in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. To wit; the government is not the equivalent of a biker gang that wants your stuff, but derives just -JUST! – power from the consent of the governed.

    The government has just power, because it has been given that power by the demos. That’s why the government can do things that, say, swillfredo pareto, who hasn’t been given power by anyone, cannot.

  102. swillfredo,

    Now we’re getting somewhere.

    A majority of the justices on the U.S. Supreme Court clearly have a different opinion of what the Commerce Clause means than I do.

    Does that make them criminals?

  103. The guy comes out with the statment, wholly unadorned and without support, “Taxation is theft.”

    I believe my original formulation was that taxes are *legalized* theft. Someone else said “taxes are theft” and you’ve been imputing those words to me since. Please check the record around 11:29 a.m.

    Now, seriously, I enjoy talking with you about this. And I think we agree about the authorized vs. unauthorized part. That’s precisely why I said (initially at least, and I hope I kept it up) that taxes are legalized theft. In other words, there’s no moral distinction between the government confiscating a fraction of my money and someone else doing it.

  104. “Because that’s the purpose of government – to get people to do things that are necessary but would never rationally do on their own.”

    Since this is apparently “semantics day” at H&R, please define necessary for us. And, while you’re at it, give us your definition of rational.

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s Head

  105. x,y

    In other words, there’s no moral distinction between the government confiscating a fraction of my money and someone else doing it.

    Now we are getting somewhere. You have formulated a different proposition.

    I believe joe’s comment at 12:19 addresses the moral distinction. Notice how this is an argument about the term “legalized” in your original statement. About the relationship between “legal” and “moral” which are no more equivalent than “theft” and “taxes.”

  106. There’s an easy way to not pay taxes and not get thrown in jail. Leave. Unfortunately, taxes are the price of admission.

    You’re begging the question. Just “leave” assumes the government has legitimate authority over a given territory. I say it doesn’t.

    Professor Long at Auburn has some interesting thoughts on this:

    http://www.mises.org/etexts/longanarchism.pdf

  107. Does that make them criminals?

    It is fairly well established that the U.S. Constitution was written and ratified to constrain the power of the federal government. Reasonable people can opinionate on where that line should be drawn, but to accept the welfare state as it exists today is to ignore its existence entirely. You know as well as I do that the Teds (Stevens and Kennedy for example) have never considered encumbering themselves with the restraint provided by the 10th Amendment. I am not sure if that makes them perjurers but it makes them every bit as execrable as Duke Cunningham.

  108. x,y,

    In other words, the shape of the argument remains semantic. You have just changed the focus to a different word/concept in the original proposition.

    Does the government have equivalent moral standing to individuals? Should an abstract process be seen as a moral agent in the same sense that an individual human is? I am not sure I see how that makes sense in detail.

  109. Theft is the unauthorized taking of something of value from its owner. Under our system of government, the government is authorized to collect taxes.

    Do you support the income tax? Just an honest question. I do not and I’m curious to know why anyone would support it.

  110. “Taxation is theft,” like “pork is the same as bribery,” that high schoolers who just finished their first Ayn Rand book get an emotional jolt out of writing on their algebra notebooks. Neither one is a serious idea; they just mark the speaker as childish.

    Well, those phrases are bumper stickers, not fully fleshed out philosophies. But if you think that no serious people believe in no government (anarchy), you’re wrong.

  111. I do not and I’m curious to know why anyone would support it.

    One reason to support it is that it’s worked pretty well thus far.

    Personally, I’d be more in favor of a national property tax, though.

  112. x,y,

    Ah, but I haven’t based my dispute on the “legal” part. If some thug declared himself God-King and started demanding your nickels, that would be legalized theft. Under our system, however, our government is authorized – not just legally, but morally – through the consent of the governed.

    If enough of y’all take Ayn Randian’s advice, the government will no longer have the consent of the governed to take tax dollars or tell us what side of the road to drive on, or enforce our property rights, or do any of the other things that the government gets to do, and we don’t, because of its authority.

  113. I’m actually with x,y on this one. You all have been attributing the phrase “taxation is theft” to him/her this whole time, while I remember his original statement as being “taxation is legalized theft”

    Take anything that would otherwise be immoral and make it legal for some exclusive sector of the population and voila! Similarly we could say “police raids are legalized trespassing,” so? You just don’t like that (s)he’s giving an immoral characteristic to collecting taxes, which I believe is what his/her initial statement was all about.

  114. But if you think that no serious people believe in no government (anarchy), you’re wrong.

    Only if by “serious” you mean seriously insane.

  115. wow, that last comment was late to the party. I should use preview more…

  116. Jim Bob,

    The income tax, as a way of generating necessary revenue in a reasonable and reasonably fair manner, seems “good enough.”

    Max,

    OK, fair enough. Serious anarchists can use those terms in a logical, meaningful sense.

  117. I’m actually with x,y on this one. You all have been attributing the phrase “taxation is theft” to him/her this whole time, while I remember his original statement as being “taxation is legalized theft”

    Take anything that would otherwise be immoral and make it legal for some exclusive sector of the population and voila! Similarly we could say “police raids are legalized trespassing,” so? You just don’t like that (s)he’s giving an immoral characteristic to collecting taxes, which I believe is what his/her initial statement was all about.

    The point is that “legalized theft” makes no sense as a concept. You might as well say that theft is a legal transaction that’s been outlawed.

  118. And yes, even they have to have limits placed on their power, as the system produces moral hazards and temptations that need to be arrested, rather than just relying on the goodness of officeholders.

    Cool. I’ll take that as your admission that there is no “the right people” or “the wrong people”.

  119. I like to say that taxation is a cousin of theft. Taxation and theft lie on the same spectrum, but taxation has more legitimacy: we get to vote on taxes, and mots (at least a lot) of the tax money is spent on the supposed victims.

    As I pointed out the other day, the value of being able to the individual of getting to vote on what the government does is overestimated; the balance between one’s measly little vote and the power the government has over one’s life is way out of whack.

    If you get down to looking at specific instances of taxation, you can find examples that are outright theft. And you can find cases where taxation is used in a fairly benign way.

  120. Mike,

    Then you would be mistaken.

    It’s quite possible – quite common, actually – to believe both that honest and decent people do a better job in public honest than corrupt thieves, and also believe that there need to be checks on the power of officeholders.

    It’s sort of like believing that roads should be designed safely AND that you shouldn’t hire a drunk psychopath to drive you home: really, really easy.

  121. Mike,

    The taking of money does’t become theft, or cease to be theft, depending on what the theif does with it.

    If a guy breaks into your house and steals your television, so he can buy food for starvign orphans, it’s still theft.

    If you give your nephew a fifty for Christmas and he spends it on a hooker, it isn’t theft.

    By even bringing up your opinion about government programs and initiatives, you basically gave away the game. You acknowledged that your assertion about “theft” isn’t based on whether the government has the right/authority to collect taxes, but on policy disputes.

    Policy disputes have nothing to do with who is the rightful owner of something of value.

  122. How exactly do we voters screen for honest and decent people when selecting our government officials?

  123. Question:
    does anyone’s position on how taxation and theft are related change if instead of saying that “government” is committing the theft, you consider that the “majority” (or the voting majority, or a politically powerful special interest) may be committing the theft?

    Consider 5 people in a room
    Person A has $10,000 and Persons B-E have $5,000 each. If B-E vote that Person A should be taxed $4,000 and having it redistributed to them, is that theft?

  124. The taking of money does’t become theft, or cease to be theft, depending on what the theif does with it.

    Huh. You have more in common with hardcore “taxation is theft” libertarians than I thought. Of course it makes a difference what a so-called thief does with the stolen goods. If the so-called thief turns around and gives the goods back to the supposed victim, it doesn’t exactly fit the definition of theft.

    I suppose I didn’t make it clear, though, that I fully agree with “taxation is theft” libertarians that taxes are collected by “men with guns”. In that way, taxation is very much like theft.

  125. If B-E vote that Person A should be taxed $4,000 and having it redistributed to them, is that theft?

    Depends. How much did Person A buy into the whole idea before they took the vote?

  126. Depends. How much did Person A buy into the whole idea before they took the vote?

    If he refuses and they respond by tying him to a chair, does it matter?

  127. If he refuses and they respond by tying him to a chair, does it matter?

    Sure. If we’re going with classic Libertarian thinking, then Person A established a contract when he agreed to pool his money with all the other people and vote on redistributing it. So, Persons B-E are just enforcing the contract.

    Of coruse, it would be a stupid thing for Person A to do, but that’s the premise of the hypothetical situation you outlined. A more realistic scenario is one where Person A thinks he might gain something by pooling all their money and voting.

  128. does anyone’s position on how taxation and theft are related change if instead of saying that “government” is committing the theft, you consider that the “majority” (or the voting majority, or a politically powerful special interest) may be committing the theft?

    This doesn’t help much, imho.
    Government is really a sort of metonymy (i.e., shorthand)for a quality of a community. It is not, I think, accurate to give it status as an entity. It is a process, a property, a feature of the community. If an individual is part of that community (even if they disagree with specific aspects of the process of government used by the community) then they are to a certain extent agents of that process. The question is how does one extract oneself from the community if one does not consent to the process of government they use?

  129. I missed the part where Person A agreed to pool his money.
    Under that logic, all of your income is the property of the collective, and they’re simply more efficient by allowing you to keep some of it instead of collecting it all and then giving you some measured amount back.

  130. In other words…

    If you are member of the community and the process of government of that community authorizes use of your property for a specific purpose, to the extent that you consent to being a member of the community, you consent to the process that authorized that use. You would, in essence, be stealing from yourself.

    This is all very schematic, of course.

  131. Again, I think it comes down to a question of how a person removes their consent for a process while still claiming to be a member of the community with that process of government.

  132. Government is really a sort of metonymy (i.e., shorthand)for a quality of a community. It is not, I think, accurate to give it status as an entity. It is a process, a property, a feature of the community…The question is how does one extract oneself from the community if one does not consent to the process of government they use?

    I think this is a very good point, and a strong argument against centralized power. The idea of a social contract isn’t paticularly invalid in its entirety, it just doesn’t exactly work as well for 300,000,000 people as it may for 10,000.

  133. I missed the part where Person A agreed to pool his money.

    I was asking whether that was part of your scenario. Let’s say Person A in no way agreed to this vote, does your hypothetical situation yield any interesting insights into how taxation typically works in real life?

  134. Who’s That Knocking on My Door?

    The same one who’s ringing the bell, perhaps…

    Regardless: do me a favor: open the door, and let him in…

  135. OK, folks. This thread is closed. Move along.

  136. Reinmoose,

    I would say it doesn’t work at the same level/in the same way for a group of 300 million. That doesn’t mean it can’t be valid, it just needs to be defined in a way that is coherent for the level of/degree of consent that makes sense for defining a community that large. Certain activities make sense to govern at the larger scale (i.e. the military, civil rights), some at the local scale (i.e. education). Community manifests as a highly structured and nested concept in application.

  137. The question becomes, at what level of community does a government process that includes taxation make the most sense? Are federal taxes any less authorized by community membership in the larger community than local taxes?

  138. Reinmoose,
    Well, if you think of the government as a very large homeowners’ association, then the answer becomes obvious. There are lots of rules that my homeowners’ association has that I disagree with, limits on the height of trees, colors I can paint my house, dues and what they pay for, etc. However, they are the ruling boy for a certain block of houses. The easy way to avoid their rules is to not move in or move out. The hard way is to try to convince the board members to see things my way.

    It’s a lot harder to convince other homeowners that they should see things my way if I call their dues legalized theft than if I say they’re too high and they cover too much. BTW, since final enforcement of dues eventually can hit a courtroom, it means these dues are also enforced by dudes with guns.

    I think most of us agree the Feds cover too much and pay for too much, but that’s a far cry from “all taxation is legalized theft”.

  139. I think most of us agree the Feds cover too much and pay for too much, but that’s a far cry from “all taxation is legalized theft”.

    True. I don’t argue here

    I was asking whether that was part of your scenario. Let’s say Person A in no way agreed to this vote, does your hypothetical situation yield any interesting insights into how taxation typically works in real life?

    Do you think that being a citizen of the US is “agreeing” to the terms of whatever the federal government thinks it should do? It’s not exactly an option for most people to up and move out of the country

  140. All I was getting at was trying to change the point of view. Instead of looking at it as some abstract object like “government” as stealing, I was trying to look at it from the standpoint of people using the government to steal from each other. That’s all.

  141. Even if you do “up and move out of the country”, you’re still subject to taxation by the US government. The club’s management won’t let you quit and take your wealth with you.

  142. I was trying to look at it from the standpoint of people using the government to steal from each other.

    Shit, sorry. I got caught up in analyzing your scenario, and buried your basic point, which is a good one. Sometimes taxation is used as a way for a bunch of people to raid other people’s wealth.

  143. Mike Laursen,

    How exactly do we voters screen for honest and decent people when selecting our government officials?

    How do employers screen for honest and decent people when they’re hiring? By looking at information from their backgrounds, watching how they respond to questions, and checking out their references.

  144. Mike,

    If the so-called thief turns around and gives the goods back to the supposed victim, it doesn’t exactly fit the definition of theft. Uh, yes, it does, actually. People have been arrested for car theft after parking the car back where they found it.

  145. Do you think that being a citizen of the US is “agreeing” to the terms of whatever the federal government thinks it should do?

    No, typically it’s all much fuzzier than that. A person is born here, so they start out as a native of not just the country, but tied into the society of a particular region of the country. At that point, typically, the person becomes part of the United States’ social contract more by complacency than a formal agreement; unless you live your life like an outlaw, shunning any interaction with the society and government, you’ve bought in to one degree or another.

  146. People who keep voting for the wrong people.

    My mistake for debating with you over what was simply a snipe on your part, rather than a statement with any substance behind it.

  147. Reinmoose,

    The idea of a social contract isn’t paticularly invalid in its entirety, it just doesn’t exactly work as well for 300,000,000 people as it may for 10,000.

    Aw, come on! Who’s going to write that on their notebook?

    😉

  148. Uh, yes, it does, actually. People have been arrested for car theft after parking the car back where they found it.

    I disagree with you about the definition of theft. We’ll have to leave it at that.

  149. A counter-snipe, Mike. Counter-snipe.

    Let’s not forget, I was responding to:

    No, joe, it doesn’t. And it never will. But dreamy-eyed true believers like you will keep saying wistfully, “Government is good; we just need to get the Right People in place, but for some totally baffling reason, we can’t.”

    Gotta watch Wapner. Wapner’s on in 27 minutes. Gotta watch Wapner.

  150. joe says: “Some people have a massive blind spot.”

    Confession is good for the soul, yeah?

    “Some people can’t distinguish between doing one’s job to the best of one’s ability and understanding, and selling one’s vote to the highest bidder. Some people can’t tell the difference between providing a public good and enriching one’s self.”

    And these people are called politicians, joe. That they have convinced themselves that they are doing a service by looting us and then giving a bit back via government programs doesn’t make it right.

    BTW — I do agree that when the tax dollars go directly into your pockets, rather than indirectly through campaign contributions and a really high salary, the money is liable to be even more badly misspent and thus these direct bribes should be crimes.

  151. Libertarian minarchists accept the necessity of taxation as a necessary evil, so it doesn’t do the libertarian cause any good to hump the “Taxation Is Theft” meme.

    Depends on the form of taxation — whether voluntary or compulsory. Most minarchists would greatly prefer voluntary taxes — you use public roads, you pay a fee to do so. You want Social Security? Check off the box accepting the fees to be a member, or leave the box blank and pay nothing and opt out.

    “Compulsory taxation is theft” — is that slogan clearer?

  152. joe says: “The right people are the ones who aren’t corrupt, bigoted, or otherwise transparently evil.

    So the right politicians are the ones not yet corrupt, not bigoted against the people joe prefers, and whose evil is well-hidden rather than transparent?

    Yeah, let’s all vote for those folks.

  153. Depends on the form of taxation — whether voluntary or compulsory. Most minarchists would greatly prefer voluntary taxes — you use public roads, you pay a fee to do so. You want Social Security? Check off the box accepting the fees to be a member, or leave the box blank and pay nothing and opt out.

    All taxes are voluntary. You don’t pay property tax unless you choose to own property, you don’t pay income tax unless you earn income, etc.

  154. OK, yeah, it was a counter-snipe. I’ll grant you that.

  155. You don’t need to take a shit if you never eat.

  156. I guess some people don’t know how to use a dictionary.

    Theft – 1 a : the act of stealing; specifically : the felonious taking and removing of personal property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it b : an unlawful taking (as by embezzlement or burglary) of property
    http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/theft

    Taxation is not felonious taking and it is lawful. PERIOD. Anything else is wishful thinking or BS. Your government, like it or not, approved taxation. Therefore it is legal and NOT theft.

    The 16th Amendment to the Constitution.
    The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several states, and without regard to any census or enumeration.

    THEREFORE TAXES ARE LEGAL AND CONSTITUTIONAL!!!!!

    Of course I’m all for making the 28th Amendment a repeal of the 16th.

  157. I guess the moral of the story is that it’s easy to give government power, it’s far more difficult to take it back.

  158. All taxes are voluntary. You don’t pay property tax unless you choose to own property, you don’t pay income tax unless you earn income, etc.

    Ummm, no. I didn’t volunteer to pay those taxes. There’s a huge difference between “if you earn anything or own anything, we’ll forcibly take money from you” and “if you want to use a public service, you must first voluntarily apply for the benefit and explicitly accept the terms and fees offered by the government, and you’re allowed to opt out of using the service and thus opt out of paying the fees”

  159. Bigoted Disgusting Snob | July 31, 2007, 12:29pm | #
    “Because that’s the purpose of government – to get people to do things that are necessary but would never rationally do on their own.”

    Since this is apparently “semantics day” at H&R, please define necessary for us. And, while you’re at it, give us your definition of rational.

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s Head

    ———

    Still waiting-

    Is it necessary for the federal government to take money from people in Texas, or Hawaii, or New Jersey in order to give it to the people of Bozeman, Montana to build a parking garage?

  160. “””Is it necessary for the federal government to take money from people in Texas, or Hawaii, or New Jersey in order to give it to the people of Bozeman, Montana to build a parking garage?”””

    No, but it is lawful.

  161. “Compulsory taxation is theft” — is that slogan clearer?

    I like this one better: No taxation without representation.

  162. That means I think this man
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Mayhew
    is smarter than Murray Rothbard.

  163. Is it necessary for the federal government to take money from people in Texas, or Hawaii, or New Jersey in order to give it to the people of Bozeman, Montana to build a parking garage?

    Necessary? Is it necessary for me to drink my own urine?

  164. TrickyVic-
    It is lawful, unfortunately. The original, long-forgotten, basis of this thread was a news report that Senator Stevens is under investigation for corruption.
    The never-ending expansion of what constitutes “lawful” activity on the part of the government creates ever-expanding opportunities for elected representatives to personally benefit from their ability to influence those “lawful” activities. Furthermore, the evidence seems heavily weighted in favor of the proposition that the fault lies in that aforementioned never-ending expansion, rather than faulty electoral choices.

    P Brooks
    dba The Bigoted Disgusting Snob in Joe’s Head

  165. No taxation without representation.

    Oh, come on. What kind of crazy-ass libertarian nutcakes came up with that one?!

  166. Ah, but I haven’t based my dispute on the “legal” part. If some thug declared himself God-King and started demanding your nickels, that would be legalized theft. Under our system, however, our government is authorized – not just legally, but morally – through the consent of the governed.

    Sorry I’m late to the party again, but got caught up at work.

    joe, your “consent of the governed” argument doesn’t work. First, I never consented to being taxed. Second, I did not consent by living in the territoyr. This *just leave* argument, as I mentioned earlier, begs the question. It assumes the government has legitimate authority over a certain area. I say it doesn’t. Why can’t I just opt out of the system? If I could opt out, then I might buy the whole consent of the governed bit.

  167. x,y,

    I disagree with you, on First Things.

    I agree with the language of the Declaration of Independence.

    Good evening to you!

  168. x,y…

    Opting out is possible, it just has costs you are not willing to take on, I imagine. It requires that you give up the benefits that the community provides you with. Benefits such as a structured framework for legal transactions with other members of the community, recourse for violation of your rights by other members of the community… the usual list.

    Opting-out of a community is not an easy choice, but it is not impossible. Opting-in is easy. That asymmetry seems to be the source of your complaint. Recognizing that asymmetry is a good reason for restrained and codified governance, but it hardly invalidates the authority a community gives to the process of governance.

  169. x,y,

    I think you are conflating “consent to be taxed” with “consent to be considered a member of the community.” It is the second form of consent that joe points out, while you are complaining about the first. The second type of consent provides the authorization for the taxation without the need for the first.

    Is that a fair take on it?

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