Saturday, September 16, 2006

Why I'm not a classical liberal

[By Chris Dillow]

Why am I a left-libertarian? This question breaks into two parts: why, given that I'm a libertarian, am I on the left? And why, given that I'm on the left, am I a libertarian? First things first. Here are six reasons. I'll be brief; these are intended to be first words in a dialogue, not last words.

1. A missing theory of property duties. I say "duties" rather than "rights", as right libertarians or classical liberals do, for a simple reason. To justify inequalities of property, you must demonstrate that the poor have a duty to respect the rich's property. How can this be done?
John Locke had one answer. Private ownership, he said, was OK as long as it left "enough and as good" for others. We should therefore respect others' property simply because it's doing us no harm - there's enough and as good land for us to use.
Even if this proviso held in Locke's time, it obviously doesn't hold today. So how can we justify property inequality?
I'll ignore Nozick's answer, which is pure gibber.
One answer comes from Israel Kirzner. Someone who discovers a new use for a resource, he says, has in effect created property out of nothing (pdf). And what, he asks, is wrong with the "finder's keeper's" rule? For example, Paul McCartney created songs out of nothing. He found them. So why shouldn't he own them?
The problem is, this only justifies a fraction of property ownership. Arab princes are wealthy not because they've discovered new uses for oil, but because they are lucky enough to own land under which there are oil deposits.
And in many cases the history of land ownership is the history of theft, conquest and expropriation. How can we justify property ownership based upon this?
Here classical liberals suddenly become crude utilitarians. Here's Deepak Lal:
Most societies throughout history have recognized the chaos that would be caused by seeking to redress any fault in the historical descent of every current title to property...They have, therefore, correctly applied some form of statute of limitations. (Reviving the Invisible Hand, p186)
But would the chaos really outweigh the benefits? This must be an empirical question. And it's an open one - because there's some evidence that unequal property ownership is a barrier to economic development.

2.Autonomy is a real value, not a notional one. Classical liberals - I'm thinking especially of this book by Anthony de Jasay - devote much effort to defining liberty and justice as the absence of state coercion. They devote less effort to saying why these conceptions are so valuable.
Left libertarians, by contrast, believe values matter to the extent that they promote human development and thriving. In some (many?) cases, the mere absence of coercion does not suffice to do this.
Imagine a man dying of thirst in the desert, whilst a bystander has plenty of water, but no inclination to help him. Classical liberals say this is a just position - there's no state coercion.
But most of us would think things would be better if the state did intervene, to force the man with water to help the dying man.

3. Self-ownership doesn't justify inequalities. A cornerstone of Nozick's libertarianism is the principle that we own ourselves, so that any effort to tell us what to do is a form of slavery.
This principle, though, doesn't justify inequalities of income, because incomes are jointly produced by individual talents and social circumstances. Thierry Henry's skills as a footballer, Bill Gates' as a software developer or Paul McCartney's as a songwriter would have earned them little 100 years ago. Even if they own their talents, they've no right to the social conditions in which these talents can thrive.

4. Inequality is a form of market failure. This matters, because it shows that the wealth of these people is the result of luck - the luck of being born into the right time, or into the right society.
By the same reasoning, poverty is also due to bad luck - of being born Liberian rather than American, or being born "unskilled" (or into a time when one' skills are no in demand) rather talented.
Now, commonsense tells us that, where luck is so important, we can take out insurance to mitigate it's effects.
But we can't do so because we can't insure ourselves before being conceived against being born into the wrong society.
This is merely a market failure. All but the most extreme libertarians would argue that there's a case for the state to correct market failures. So there's a case for some type of redistributive taxes, to replicate the insurance pay-outs that we would have entered into, had we been able.

5. Markets don't work perfectly. Classical liberals believe free markets do indeed promote human thriving. This is deeply true - up to a point. But there are problems. Markets generate creative destruction, imposing losses, albeit temporary, upon millions. They don't give people self-determination and autonomy at work, because most firms are ruled by a hierarchical managerialist ideology which might be out-dated. Path dependency and barriers to entry mean inefficient monopolies can continue to thrive. And, as Robert Shiller has pointed out, many markets in insuring big risks - recession, industrial decline - just don't exist.
Classical liberals often reply to this that, in the long-run, these problems disappear. This is a curiously Stalinist answer - it imposes a theoretical ideal upon a world it doesn't fit. People don't live in the long-run, but in the present.
These market failures are another case for redistribution as insurance. The trick is to design the redistribution so as to minimize the disruption to markets that work well.

6. Demands for equality won't go away. There's another way in which classical liberals are strangely Stalinist. They seem to want to over-ride the huge public demand for state intervention. This ignores the question: how can we preserve and expand economic liberty in the face of this?
Left Libertarians pick up James Buchanan's suggestion:
The rich man, who may sense the vulnerability of his nominal claims in the existing state of affairs and who may, at the same time, desire that the range of collective or state action be restricted, can potentially agree on a once-and-for-all or quasi-permanent transfer of wealth to the poor man, a transfer made in exchange for the latter's agreement to a genuinely new constitution that will overtly limit governmentally directed fiscal transfers. (The Limits of Liberty, p171)
For example, wealth transfers (which could be annuitized) can be an alternative to intrusive and inefficient market interventions such as minimum wage laws or protectionism.
The question is: why, in the 30 years since The Limits of Liberty was published, has this suggestion not been followed?
Here's my theory. Thatcherism and Reaganism won the class war, and so reduced the vulnerability of the rich man's claims thus making one-off transfers unnecessary.
Classical liberals are happy with this. Some of us aren't.

22 comments:

  1. >1.

    most of these are defensive arguments i.e. saying "policy X is OK as long as it doesn't breach some rule"
    which begs the question why one is using the implied assumption that one WANTS to apply that policy.
    For example - even if you create property out of nothing - why should we respect it? if we need to why respect it for any longer than the sort of time we respect medical patients for?

    Anyway we defeated the NAZIs and the Comunists so one could pin this on a fluke of military history

    > But would the chaos really outweigh the benefits?

    in its rough form, not only would it out weigh it - but it would be extremely strongly regressive. Not to mention the short term concequences.

    > there's some evidence that unequal property ownership is a barrier to economic development.

    there is an argument that says some people are just better with money/power than others. (ie all else being equal, you want the smartest person running your country not the average person)

    > 4. Inequality is a form of market failure.

    maybe not always. as per the argument above. Maybe there needs to be a mechanism that allocates power away from some people (babies and the criminally insane for clear examples but everyone else to various degrees).

    > 5. Markets don't work perfectly.

    you seem to instead of identifying how the market fails you identify market failures (ie where the market doesn’t form properly).
    there is a class of situations where the perfect market causes harm - for example when people ask for things they don’t want or maybe some sort of slavery situation.

    > 6. ... wealth transfers (which could be annuitized) can be an alternative to intrusive and inefficient market interventions such as minimum wage laws or protectionism.

    globalization and the resulting competition between countries had made wealth a hard beast to tame. Except in terms of houses (thus the fact that most good economies seem to have high capital gains taxes).

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  2. Very interesting posting. I think you have made some very good points against the right-libertarians and classical libs. One extra point that you might have included though is the fact that the capitalist economy which these groups apologize for is in itself a creation of the state through patent law, corporate law, emenent domain, subsidies in the form of land and cash, and other forms of externalizations. Also are you aware of other left-libertarians and free market anti-capitalists such as Kevin Carson http://www.mutualist.org/ and http://mutualist.blogspot.com/ and Sheldon Richmond? http://sheldonfreeassociation.blogspot.com/

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  3. Thanks Larry. I've known and admired Kevin's blog for a while, but didn't know Sheldon. Ta.

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  4. Some excellent points here. I am not sure exactly which sense you use the words left and libertarian here, but if you have the Political Compass meanings in mind, then I am also on board.

    But most of us would think things would be better if the state did intervene, to force the man with water to help the dying man.

    Here is the only major point I would disagree on. Coercion to help simply because we can seems like a dangerous precedent to me, especially because as far as I can tell (and I have written as much on my blog before) we cannot be morally obliged to do good merely because have the ability to do so. I would say that there are two big differences between coercion through taxation and coercion of the type you mention here:

    Firstly, autonomy is damaged to a much greater extent when we are forced to go out and do something, limiting all our options. While we do lose autonomy with taxation, the comparison can be likened to refusal of entry to a country as opposed to refusal of escape fromcountry.

    Secondly, as you point out the existence of society is crucial in order to generate our wealth, and so has more claim to a part of it. On the other hand, it has a much smaller claim to our very bodily freedom. We could very well have walked past the man dying of thirst without society. However economic inequalities are much more a product of society itself.

    This doesn't mean that I disagree with your conclusion about tax - in fact the opposite. I just don't think that the analogy works.

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  5. My question is more clarificatory: what differentiates a "left libertarian" as you describe it from, say, the liberal egalitarianism of John Rawls?

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  6. Why do you spot the right-libertarians the term "classical liberal"?

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  7. Wealth transfers are a disaster for the people receiving them. I know far too many people, even from middle-class-ish backgrounds, who (in the UK) have been tempted into the dole receiving, useless drugged out idiot life style, and have failed to drag themselves back to reality when they finally understood how unhappy this made them. True wealth is not the financial transfers you envision, but is having connections in the community, having a purpose in life, and making progress in oneself. The state by interfering in peoples lives, is only capable of diminishing these things, and should back off.

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  8. "To justify inequalities of property, you must demonstrate that the poor have a duty to respect the rich's property. How can this be done?"

    Because it's their property.

    The claim is a specific application of the general principle that any given person is obliged not to take the fruits of another person's labor from her. To do that is to treat her as if you had a right to force her to labor for your own profit. That is treating her as if she were your slave. But slavery is illegitimate. The proper question is not where she got a right to her property, but rather where you would get a right to live off her labor.

    Note that this applies not only to the immediate wage or product of labor, but also to the things that she buys with them: helping yourself to someone's larder, without her permission, is effectively forcing her to work for your benefit as much as taking her money directly is. After all, it is only for what she could buy with it that she was interested in the wages to begin with.

    You might complain that not all property is gained by labor: sometimes people just have the good fortune of having natural resources or other valuable commodities on their land. But finding and gathering these resources are a form of labor like any other, and the land is a possession like any other. You cannot claim the right to exploit another person's land without claiming a right to the labor she put into acquiring, using, and maintaining that land. And you cannot claim the right to take the windfalls without claiming the right to live off the labor involved in discovering and gathering them.

    Further, this applies to gifts and inheritances, too. You cannot take a gift from someone without living off the labor of the gift-giver. If I want my friend to have a wrist-watch, and she wants to have it, then I have every right to give it to her for her to enjoy. She may not have received it through any labor of hers, but I acquired it through my own labor, and part of enjoying the fruits of my labor is being able to transfer them to other people as I see fit. Robbing from my beneficiaries means treating me as your milk-cow.

    You might, finally, object that riches do not always come from any legitimate form of labor at all, but rather from conquest or plunder. Why should poor people respect the property claims of people who have accumulated their fortunes through gangsterism, or--what is no better, but far more common and more socially "respectable" in this day and age--through expropriating wealth in the form of tax subsidies, or "eminent domain" seizures and transfers, or by forcing would-be competitors out of business through government-backed monopoly privileges. Well, they shouldn't. There is no duty whatsoever to respect the piratical titles of freelance or government-approved robber barons. And many libertarians (e.g. Murray Rothbard, Karl Hess, etc.) have openly recognized and argued for exactly this point.

    I should note in passing that the Saudi "princes," whose claim to the petrochemicals of Saudi Arabia rests entirely on conquest and shameless seizure, are clearly in this last class. (For what it's worth, I am anti-copyright and anti-patent, so I regard both Bill Gates and Paul McCartney as being at least partial members of this last class as well. Whatever portion of their immense wealth is derived from the fruits of their honest labor is dwarfed by the wealth they have extracted through government grants of monopoly privilege over the use and distribution of software and music.)

    "A cornerstone of Nozick's libertarianism is the principle that we own ourselves, so that any effort to tell us what to do is a form of slavery. This principle, though, doesn't justify inequalities of income, because incomes are jointly produced by individual talents and social circumstances. Thierry Henry's skills as a footballer, Bill Gates' as a software developer or Paul McCartney's as a songwriter would have earned them little 100 years ago. Even if they own their talents, they've no right to the social conditions in which these talents can thrive."

    This is a bizarre red herring. Since when did Nozick or anybody else claim that Henry, Gates, or McCartney does have a "right to the social conditions in which these talents can thrive"? The claim is only that they have a right to enjoy such fruits as they can earn by those talents under social conditions as they are, not that they have some kind of right to force other people to sustain the conditions they enjoy.

    Maybe you could explain a bit more what you mean here?

    "These market failures are another case for redistribution as insurance. The trick is to design the redistribution so as to minimize the disruption to markets that work well."

    I think that the claims you make are economically absurd, and ignore a great deal of important left-libertarian work on the effects of government constraints on market economies. (Just as one example, the New Left historian Gabriel Kolko extensively documented how the "robber baron" capitalism of late 19th and early 20th century America promoted "Progressive" regulation as a means of gaining and controlling monopolies. The tendency of free markets at the time was towards greater decentralization and competition, not towards amalgamation and monopoly. Murray Rothbard, in "Left and Right," Roy Childs, in "Big Business and the Rise of American Statism," and Kevin Carson, in "Studies in Mutualist Political Economy," have talked at length about this within the libertarian tradition.)

    But suppose for a moment that these claims were true: suppose it were true that free markets sometimes tended towards inefficient centralization or greater overall poverty or greater precarity in most people's economic prospects or whatever. Still, so what? Would that then give you the right to use violence to make other people dispose of their property differently, so as to get the better results? Since when did you get the right to coerce other people in order to secure a more comfortable standard of living for yourself, your family, your friends, or your neighbors?

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  9. One more thing.

    "There's another way in which classical liberals are strangely Stalinist. They seem to want to over-ride the huge public demand for state intervention."

    How is this argumentative maneuver any different from, say, deriding the civil rights movement in the American South, on the grounds that it's "strangely Stalinist" to want to over-ride the demands of the large majority of the population of the Southern states for white supremacy and the public humiliation and political control of black and mixed-race Southerners?

    Popular demands are not always legitimate. The mere fact that great numbers of people will vote for something is no guarantee whatsoever that they have any right to it.

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  10. > And you cannot claim the right to take the windfalls without claiming the right to live off the labor involved in discovering and gathering them.

    Every day to an extent people live off your labour and you live off theirs. For example if you make and sell Pizza, you live off the labour of all sorts of people from farmers to truck drivers and similarly they live off you, Maybe a market forms and some negotiation goes on and it determines how much each of you 'deserve' or maybe it doesn't..
    In addition the state provides some services - police to stop people stealing your pizza and roads for the truck drivers to travel on - again a market might form and you might negotiate these, or not.
    Society as a whole provides important resources like "rules of the game" which define what is profitable and what is non profitable this serves the purpose of not forcing you to negotiate everything - because if you had to do that you wouldn't get anything done..

    > Would that then give you the right to use violence to make other people dispose of their property differently, so as to get the better results?

    Maybe it would. Are you more concerned about rules than about results? And if you are - how about everyone else?

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  11. "Every day to an extent people live off your labour and you live off theirs. For example if you make and sell Pizza, you live off the labour of all sorts of people from farmers to truck drivers and similarly they live off you..."

    When I pay for some factor of production, I ask the seller how much she wants to relinquish her claim to that factor. When I pay her and she relinquishes that claim, there is no reason for her to claim that I'm "living off her labor." I've already compensated her for what I purchased, be it her labor, her goods, her knowledge or her time, and I've compensated her on the terms that she set and agreed to. It is no longer hers by the terms of the arrangement we made.

    "Society as a whole provides..."

    So what? No one has ever proposed a way of transferring wealth from the wealthy back to "society as a whole." Every proposed transfer that I've ever encountered has been a proposal to do what would amount, in effect, to transferring wealth from some individuals to other individuals. To justify this, you have to show what claim the others have on the holdings of the some.

    "Are you more concerned about rules than about results?"

    We presuppose that rules are more important than results when we engage in any sort of argumentation.

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  12. > When I pay for some factor of production, I ask the seller how much she wants to relinquish her claim

    1) markets don't always form and there may not be an arrangement.
    2) there are a wide range of negitive as well as positive negotiation strategies, or lager scale dynamics that result from those negotiations. (one could deal with some of that by commerce comissions and other regulation of course)

    > So what? No one has ever proposed a way of transferring wealth from the wealthy back to "society as a whole."

    OK, I propose it right now. I shall call it 'tax'.

    > We presuppose that rules are more important than results when we engage in any sort of argumentation.

    Er, it would seem that YOU presuppose that they are. I would say if you dont argue based on outcomes of some sort then you can't convince anyone that your theory is right except for those that already believe it.

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  13. Lots of interesting stuff here. I tend to agree with most of Chris' points, and they complement my previous arguments against libertarianism quite nicely. The insurance "market failure" point (#4) puts an interesting new spin on veil-of-ignorance type arguments, and should make them harder for libertarians to ignore.

    Rad Geek, you speak of "their property" as if ownership in material goods were a natural category rather than a social institution that we've created. See my post "Property is Unnatural!" and subsequent explanation of Institutional Rights for an alternative account.

    See the former also for my response to the old "redistribution is slavery" trope. The key section: "the guy knew about the tax rate when he signed his employment contract. He could have chosen to stay at home and abstain from any labour at all if he so wanted. Perhaps he would have starved. This could lead one to the more reasonable claim that the proletariat are forced to work for a taxed wage, in the sense that they have no reasonable alternatives. But note here that the 'work' is every bit as forced as the 'tax'. And I assume Sandefur would deny that the proletariat are forced to labour for capitalists, even though they would otherwise starve. So I challenge him to meet the charge of inconsistency I once levelled against one of his co-bloggers. The full argument can be found here."

    Rad Geek writes: "You cannot claim the right to exploit another person's land without claiming a right to the labor she put into acquiring, using, and maintaining that land."

    That seems mistaken. It's not your fault if I've been working all the fertile land in the region. You're entitled to a fair share of natural resources (which you need to survive), and the loss of labour I would thereby suffer is obviously my own fault for claiming more land than I had right to. Perhaps an accommodation could be reached, say where I pay you some tax for respecting my (socially constructed) title over land that you have rightful claim to; a universal basic income might be justified on such grounds. But such a practical compromise doesn't undermine the principle that absolutist property rights aren't intrinsically legitimate. The institution must be defended on independent grounds.

    Finally, I think it's pretty obvious that any hapless poor are not morally obliged to starve themselves in order to respect the rich man's "right" to luxury goods (even if they are the "fruits of his labour"). That's just not a reasonable ask, and since the demands of morality must be reasonable, it straightforwardly follows that it's not a moral requirement at all. So I think Chris' point #1 is on very firm ground here, and indeed constitutes a knock-down argument against absolutist libertarianism -- though of course I'm open to any counterarguments you might offer. I've argued here (and in the UBI post linked above) that some baseline welfare guarantee is a precondition for legitimate property rights.

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  14. Genius,

    Serendipitously enough, I do make and sell pizza for a living.

    However, you are dropping two essential parts of my statement when you describe the way I pay my bills as "living off the labor of others."

    First, to drag out an old saw, while it is true that I treat other people's labor as a means to my ends, I do not treat them as a means only. The fact that (as you note) the exchange is reciprocal means that I am exchanging the fruits of my labor for the fruits of many other people's labor (in various roundabout arrangements). This is not adequately described as "living off someone else's labor," at least not in the sense that I was using that phrase. To live off someone's labor does not mean to cooperate with them for mutual benefit; it means to use the fruits of their labor and give them nothing in return for it.

    But, secondly, and more importantly, the exchange involved is not only reciprocal, but also voluntary. There are ways to live off the labor of others, in the sense that I used the phrase, without violating libertarian norms: trust-fund babies are an example, provided that the sources of their inherited wealth were legitimate to begin with. But I made the issues of coercion and consent quite explicit in my remarks. Rights are enforceable claims; if you had a positive right to live off someone's labor then you would have the right to force her to work for your own profit, against her will. But nobody has such a right. You have no right to do that yourself, and you have no right to authorize the government to do it for you. The fruits of another person's labor are not yours to give.

    As for "rules" and "results," I am a virtue ethicist, so I think that the dichotomy is misleading at best. (I think that forcing others to work for the profit of yourself or others is a form of slavery, and slavery is one expression of the vice of injustice. The content of that vice informs the rules of conduct you should follow, and also informs what could count as a good consequence. (If some given set of results involves enslaving another human being, then they are ipso facto bad results, consequences that are not worth effecting.)

    But whatever the exact form of your moral theory, I take the illegitimacy of slavery to be one of the starting-points of ethical philosophy: it is part of the data that a good ethical must explain, not some theoretical point that can be revised or tossed out for the sake of some other consideration. If your ethical theory could legitimize slavery, then your theory needs to be chucked out. Sorry.

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  15. Some further comments on Rad Geek's suggestion that "You cannot claim the right to exploit another person's land without claiming a right to the labor she put into acquiring, using, and maintaining that land."

    1) Whether the land is rightfully "another person's" is, of course, precisely what's at question. Arguably, the rich do not have an absolute property right in all their holdings. Many are held unjustly, and may be redistributed to meet the needs of the poor.

    2) Rad Geek's principle implies that one can justly acquire an absolute right over a material good simply by "mixing one's labour" with it. The old Lockean Proviso of leaving "enough and as good as before" has gone out the window. The resulting position is extremely implausible.

    3) Suppose someone comes along and starts labouring on my land (without permission). Can I claim a right to exploit this land "without claiming a right to the labor she put into... maintaining that land"? If so, then I don't see why Rad Geek's original challenge is any different. If not, then the libertarian must acknowledge that there's nothing wrong with claiming rights over another's misplaced labour. Either way, labouring on land you don't already rightly own won't make it yours. To think otherwise, and then complain of being "enslaved" when others refuse to grant the property to you, is simply absurd.

    Maybe I'm misinterpreting something...?

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  16. I agree with Richards points...
    and

    > if you had a positive right to live off someone's labor

    But your argument about the legitimacy of trade seems to be a status quo argument. Ie if you negotiate to buy your pizza materials the fact that you will both be taxed is part of that equation - in fact that you will be taxed at EXACTLY the current rate. To give you more than that would be “free money" - a bit like an unemployment benefit for employed people. This sort of thing is revealed when you have family tax refunds that look identical to family benefits.

    Similarly anyone loosing a job may expect a safety net at some rate and their negotiations may presuppose that. If you change the rules of the game the question becomes what are you offering in exchange for that? rather like if someone suddenly claimed ownership over the air (maybe like land you just have to "claim it") and then denied people the use there of most of us would want some sort of compensation.

    > The fruits of another person's labor are not yours to give.

    I would say you never really own what you earn in it's totality even by the person who [co-] creates it.
    Thus no one takes money off you - they just re-gain money you took from them. Of course that might be foreign to an individualist - because I believe in the society as an entity with even thorough imperfect aparatus (like a democratic governemnt) can have needs and can negotiate with people under what conditions it will provide those services. One of those principles that almost every one accepts is that they have the responsibility and the right to prop up the system by preventing violence.

    > slavery is one expression of the vice of injustice.

    to a purist almost any principle can be extended to a world view. And any theory can be used to create an abhorrent situation according to any other.

    But even then... There is a balance between allowing people to negotiate anything they want and preventing people from preventing others from negotiation whatever they want. In a purist's world the two are always are in conflict. Every choice you make in a way changes or restricts the options in front of someone else.
    Across generations you might get something that resembles slavery anyway. Let us say (just for arguments sake) that wealth accumulates in the hands of a diminishing group. If that is the case and the poor face an ever diminishing number of options, at some point "slavery" (the traditional term) will become one of the preferred options. Such a dynamic is not that difficult to imagine. I guess my point, as a consequentiality, would then be more like

    "If your ethical theory could result in slavery, then your theory needs to be chucked out. Sorry."

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  17. Me: When I pay for some factor of production, I ask the seller how much she wants to relinquish her claim

    You: 1) markets don't always form and there may not be an arrangement.

    Me: By definition, if I make an bid and a seller matches with an ask, a market has formed.

    You: 2) there are a wide range of negitive as well as positive negotiation strategies, or lager scale dynamics that result from those negotiations. (one could deal with some of that by commerce comissions and other regulation of course)

    Me: Stay on topic. Your original claim was that by purchasing factors of production, I'm living off the labor of others, and that this entitles them to a share of my income. You may have an argument for this claim, but the existence of multiple negotiation strategies doesn't mean that this is true.

    More importantly, you've deliberately neglected my main point: When I buy some factor of production, the seller relinquishes all further claims to that factor and any returns to it. Otherwise, I'd not buy. By continuing to demand any additional income, the seller is reneging on the initial sale.

    Me: So what? No one has ever proposed a way of transferring wealth from the wealthy back to "society as a whole."

    You: OK, I propose it right now. I shall call it 'tax'.

    Me: Selective quoting can be fun, no? It lets you ignor, rather than address, the content of my original objection which is that "Every proposed transfer that I've ever encountered has been a proposal to do what would amount, in effect, to transferring wealth from some individuals to other individuals. To justify this, you have to show what claim the others have on the holdings of the some." Calling a forced transfer from some individuals to other individuals a tax doesn't get around this.

    Me: We presuppose that rules are more important than results when we engage in any sort of argumentation.

    You: Er, it would seem that YOU presuppose that they are. I would say if you dont argue based on outcomes of some sort then you can't convince anyone that your theory is right except for those that already believe it.

    Me: No, we all presuppose that rules justify outcomes when we make arguments. If you make an argument for some conclusion, what justifies the conclusion is that the steps of your argument follow various rules such as "Do not affirm the consequent, etc."

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  18. > By definition, if I make an bid and a seller matches with an ask, a market has formed.

    You run the risk of devaluing the term "market" to the point where it no longer has any value.

    > Your original claim was that by purchasing factors of production, I'm living off the labor of others

    surely that is fundamentally beyond dispute.

    > and that this entitles them to a share of my income.

    No I didn't actually say that. that would require me to see things in terms of entitlement.
    If I buy a pizza from you I don’t pay you because you deserve it, I pay you because a pizza is useful to me (and more so than it is to you).

    > When I buy some factor of production, the seller relinquishes all further claims to that factor and any returns to it. Otherwise, I'd not buy.

    that is one negotiation position I guess - but if you really thought that you would have long since starved to death.

    1) You can easily sell factors based on some sort of royalty or ongoing contract etc. And there would be nothing clearly wrong with that.

    2) there IS an ongoing contract. there are a host of things that i assume a business wont or will do when I deal with a business. Like that they will not engage in certain types of behavior. One of these is that they WILL pay some "fair" level of tax.

    3) It is a very odd morality that alows a clear cut line at the transaction. An example would be if the EU was to knowingly make a deal with Al Qaeda to buy three grains of sand for 100 billion dollars. The EU might have made a deal but they would bear some responsibility for what the money was used for. Ie a trade is not as clear a dividing like as you might like to think.

    > By continuing to demand any additional income.

    that could be considered (and i do consider it) a known part of the price - if you don't like it - then factor it into your negotiation.
    Note how companies often list prices as "before sales tax".

    > Calling a forced transfer from some individuals to other individuals a tax doesn't get around this.

    I’m not talking about a forced TRANSFER from some to other INDIVIDUALS (disputing the two capitalized words) I am saying that a "tax" could be a mechanism for taking money along whatever lines one requires (one could declare it the purchasing of a service if one wanted - to me that is pretty academic) and then to use that money for whatever purpose is required by the overall moral theory. I can't see how you can argue against that.

    > If you make an argument for some conclusion, what justifies the conclusion is that the steps of your argument follow various rules such as "Do not affirm the consequent, etc."

    How do you choose the rules that you use? And if your rules disagree with the other person's rules (which is really what a debate is all about) what do you do?

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  19. "No I didn't actually say that. that would require me to see things in terms of entitlement."

    Since I realize now that I'm unclear on what it is that you actually are trying to argue for, I've held off on responding to some of the other comments you make. Do you believe that the poor have a moral claim to the gains from trade received by the wealthy or not? If so, why do you believe that they have this claim, and how does a claim to something differ from an entitlement?

    "I’m not talking about a forced TRANSFER from some to other INDIVIDUALS (disputing the two capitalized words)"

    If you consult the policies of the tax collecting agency in whatever country you may live in, you'll find verification of the fact that under your tax code INDIVIDUALS are compelled to part with wealth which is then TRANSFERRED away from them and allocated by other INDIVIDUALS.

    "I am saying that a "tax" could be a mechanism for taking money along whatever lines one requires (one could declare it the purchasing of a service if one wanted - to me that is pretty academic) and then to use that money for whatever purpose is required by the overall moral theory. I can't see how you can argue against that."

    I don't recall arguing that a tax can't be collected and allocated in accordance with a moral theory (or many moral theories, even). Scroll back through the comments and you'll see that I'm objecting to something quite different.

    "How do you choose the rules that you use?"

    Some, I choose because they are self evident e.g. logical conjoinment, probability axioms. Others, I choose because they are provable using other rules, e.g. Bayes' rule, DeMorgan's.

    "And if your rules disagree with the other person's rules (which is really what a debate is all about)"

    As it happens, many debates (in my experience, nearly all) come from a disagreement as to whether or not the rules which both sides already agree on support some controversial conclusion. I don't think (not yet anyway) that you and I disagree as to what counts as a valid inference.

    "what do you do?"

    You mean like if the other person insists that affirming the consequent is a legitimate way of substantiating a conclusion? Oh, wow! If the other person is a dialetheist or subscribes to some sort of proletariat logic or whatever, I would be very pessimistic about the prospects for any sort of exchange. I guess I'd find a better use of my time. I'm not sure where you are going with this about rules. Recall why I brought the issue up: in the process of argumentation, we recognize that adherence to rules is sufficient to justify the results we wind up with. We can't just selectively forget this whenever we want and say that adherence to rules is not sufficient to justify results.

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  20. my position is utilitarian and collectivist.

    If you don’t "own" wealth (in a fundamental manner) and even if you do you don’t own the full amount of your wealth to start off with there is no transfer - AND if that money is never given to individuals there is no "individuals" receiving it (you might say that the money IS taken because it could have been his if but not for the state action - if so do so).
    If you provide a public good (or maintain a system like having police) you could say that that IS giving money to those groups that didn’t pay for that public good. but that isn't how I am looking at it.

    > come from a disagreement as to whether or not the rules which both sides already agree on support some controversial conclusion.

    Hmm I don't think so. Got some examples? I see lots of people debating around here saying things like you must tax to give money to the poor to improve equality or you cant tax because that is theft. Well one could not believe in absolute property rights or not believe in equality quite easily. I know as a collectivist utilitarian I don’t have a special commitment to either.

    > I guess I'd find a better use of my time.

    heh indeed.

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  21. "...if that money is never given to individuals there is no "individuals" receiving it..."

    Some person or persons wind up making allocative decisions with the taxes that are collected. I can't see how that is any different from a transfer to those individuals.

    "Hmm I don't think [many debates come from a disagreement as to whether or not the rules which both sides already agree on support some controversial conclusion]. Got some examples?"

    Sure. You see it as fundamentally beyond dispute that by purchasing factors of production, I'm living off the labor of others. I disagree with that conclusion. I presume that we both agree on the same rules for evaluating conclusions, such as "Do not engage in question begging," "Do not commit a fallacy of four terms," "Do not appeal to astrology in support of your claims," etc.

    "I see lots of people debating around here saying things like you must tax to give money to the poor to improve equality or you cant tax because that is theft. Well one could not believe in absolute property rights or not believe in equality quite easily. I know as a collectivist utilitarian I don’t have a special commitment to either."

    Sure, people believe all kinds of things. So what? I never denied the diversity of beliefs, so I'm not sure why you think this needs mentioning. Do you think the diversity of beliefs is informative as to what beliefs are true, or what people should believe?

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