An Answer and a Question

This story, in two paragraphs, explains why I am no longer a Libertarian, and why I have never been a Leftist.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/health-abortion-issues-split-obama-administration-catholic-groups/2011/10/27/gIQAXV5xZM_story.html

… a decision by the Department of Health and Human Services in late September to end funding to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops to help victims of human trafficking, or modern-day slavery. The church group had overseen nationwide services to victims since 2006 but was denied a new grant in favor of three other groups.

The bishops organization, in line with the church’s teachings, had refused to refer trafficking victims for contraceptives or abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union sued, and HHS officials said they made a policy decision to award the grants to agencies that would refer women for those services.

[…] On the trafficking contract, senior political appointees at HHS awarded the new grants to the bishops’ competitors despite a recommendation from career staffers that the bishops be funded based on scores by an independent review board, according to federal officials and internal HHS documents.

I am no longer a Libertarian because under Libertarian political theory it is morally wrong to give taxpayer dollars to a Catholic charity to help the victims of slavery.

Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves.

I have never been a Leftist because I have always been a man of logic, reason as cold and clear and shockingly clean as the streams of water from an Alpine peak. Logically, reality is real and symbols only refer to reality. When the symbols are substituted for reality, that it is a fetish.

Leftists would prefer victims of slavery not to be helped if they cannot be given abortions and condoms, and the other things Leftist fetishize as symbols of freedom, but which are either indifferent to freedom or antithetical to it. (Certainly the dead baby is not free except in the most cynical sense of the word: free of life.)

Leftists are so in love with liberty that they prefer slavery to life itself. They would rather we not help the slave at all, if we will not help her kill her child.

To the Left, it is better than the mother remain a slave than that she not be helped to kill her baby in the womb. Rather than a free mother and living child, they would prefer slavery, suffering and death.

Here I am assuming some loss of services, that is, by turning the charitable funds over to someone an independent board finds to be less efficient, in effect, the Administration is provided less aid to the victims. Whatever that percentage is, those victims who otherwise would have received aid, now will not, in order to pay for the moral preening of the ACLU.

I understand what the ACLU gets out of it: it is an act of masturbation. They get momentary pleasure to boost their self-regard. I do not see what the slaves get out of it.

We Christians made the abolition of slavery possible, by presenting the pagan world with a worldview that elevated the value of the meek and weak and humble to a sacred thing; we then eliminated slavery first throughout the European continent, and then worldwide.

The credit is solely our own — before the coming of the White Man, there were no abolitionist or antislavery societies among the Confucian, Taoist, Mohammedan, Hindu, or Buddhist, or anywhere in the Americas, nor any sentiment or philosophy native to those lands which could have supported such a thing, or even imagined it.

Where Christianity is triumphant, human liberty is possible. Where Christianity fails, as in communist nations, or in the Dar al-Islam, the House of Submission, slavery slowly or swiftly returns.

There is nothing akin to the abolition of slavery in history: a worldwide elimination of a universal and prehistorical wrong in defiance of economic and cultural reasons, purely for reasons of moral sentiment.

We have no objection to using the institutions of government and using institutional religion to accomplish this single monumental triumph of the moral evolution of mankind. Libertarians, because they object to all but the minimal institutions of government, and Liberals, because they worship evil, pardon me, because they object to binding their conscience in obedience to an objective law, and on those grounds object to institutional religion, would both prevent taxpayer funding of a Catholic charity that helps freed slaves.

Here is my question to Liberals and Libertarians and all modern ideologues who say they love liberty: What have you done to make men free?

Aside from getting in our way, I mean.

Here is my question to Catholics: a small cadre of revolutionaries in Russia overthrew the government by force. They changed the society down to the roots and changed everything. In a democracy, there is never a need to overthrow anyone by force, merely to persuade the majority by force of reason.

We Catholics far outnumber the smelly Bolsheviks, and we have angels and archangels to do battle for us. We have a large, ancient, and well organized international organization: a Church against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail.

And yet Catholics vote for, support, fund, and defend politicians loyal to abortion, to contraception, to sexual perversion, and to all the bogus salvific ideologies of an Antichrist.

My question to you is the same: What are we doing to make men free?

Are we to be less zealous in saving mankind as the Bolsheviks were in enslaving?

66 Comments

  1. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    Hear, hear! What are we in training for, anyway?

  2. Comment by Sean Michael:

    Well said and done, Mr. Wright!

    Sean M. Brooks

  3. Comment by AndyHat:

    I think you somewhat mischaracterize libertarianism here.

    A correct statement would be: Under Libertarian political theory it is morally wrong to give taxpayer dollars to charity. Taxes should be kept to the minimum required for the operation of the state, and charity should be left to individual conscience rather than the coercive force of the state. I rather like how Davy Crockett story “Not Yours To Give” puts it.

    “Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves.” And this is simply untrue. Perhaps it is true of objectivists who view altruism as some imposition against personal liberty, and yes, most objectivists are also libertarians. But not all libertarians are objectivists, and non-objectivist libertarians get annoyed at being lumped in withe objectivists. I know I certainly believe humans have a duty to help others; I just don’t believe that government coercion should be used to enforce that duty.

    • Comment by Randall Randall:

      Objectivists, no doubt, can still see that it is in their own interest that no man is enslaved by another. But Conservatives have essentially the same view as Libertarians on stealing from Peter to pay Paul to release Mark, so I submit that this idea that “Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves” is merely a soundbite of the Left, and I wonder why our host would use it?

  4. Comment by Montecristo:

    It’s always a disappointment when someone I regard as a reasonably logical individual makes a logically dubious or disingenuous argument. Let’s start with this one, shall we:

    Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves.

    At best, this contention is ignorance, at worst it is the deliberate employment of a classical strawman argument. Just because a libertarian argues that it is morally wrong to enslave and expropriate another on the pretext of ending slavery does not mean that he “will not help slaves,” or even does not oppose slavery. The only libertarian argument I’ve seen advanced with respect to this issue is the idea that it is still wrong to rob Peter to pay Paul. In other words, a libertarian would argue that it is wrong for A to tax B to fund his idea of what is a proper thing to do with respect to C. Individual conscience is to be respected. A good Samaritan is good only to the extent that his action is voluntary.

    Second, you make it very difficult for me to credit you with honest error and ignorance your conflation of the ACLU with libertarianism, as such. There are many things the ACLU supports, or fails to support, which put it at odds with libertarian principle. It’s hard not to see that assertion in any light more forgiving than presuming it to stem from a reckless disregard for truth and fact.

    We have no objection to using the institutions of government and using institutional religion to accomplish this single monumental triumph of the moral evolution of mankind. Libertarians, because they object to all but the minimal institutions of government…

    The principle is called subsidiarity, and last I checked it was one of the central tennets of Catholic social teaching. Did you forget about that or are you, as Rand referred to it, “blanking out”? When the truth will not serve your cause that should be your clearest, best indicator that you are on the wrong side of the argument.

    I understand that the Church is a human institution. It is run by fallible human beings. Your own opinons on these pages could be ample evidence of the fact that people don’t always understand the political issues and all of its ramifications, but how is it that you can so consistently misstate the libertarian position? What’s worse, is that the members of the Church who debate or set policy seem to disregard or misunderstand the moral implications of your own Church’s teaching.

    I read the following article, titled: The Bishops Are Wrong and Have No One But Themselves to Blame for Obama’s Persecution of Catholics with regard to the mandate that the Church must fund contraception and abortion for their employees. The argument that the bishops are making is right, as far as it goes, but they seem perfectly comfortable with demanding that government overrule the individual conscience with respect to how much the individual is willing to contribute to various charitable causes, but then are outraged when that same government tells them that the consciences of the Church’s members are irrelevant in the face of government mandates. The writer considers, rightly, in my opinon, the worst omission in the bishops’ arguments to be this whopper:

    But where they fail most miserably is in realizing why these regulations are wrong. To this writer’s knowledge, not a single bishop has spoken out against the inherent immorality of the federal government forcing any employer to provide any particular benefit to prospective employees. Furthermore, in seeking exemptions solely for religious institutions the Church is neglecting to defend the conscience rights of for-profit employers whose Christian or other moral convictions would otherwise preclude them from complying with these regulations with a clean conscience.

    The writer gets to the meat of the point with this observation:

    What right do we Catholics have to be shocked and indignant at the latest show of religious persecution from the Obama administration and the Democrat Party? For decades our bishops have insisted, well beyond their competencies as successors to the Apostles, that the state must provide “basic health care” to its citizens, and they have raised no objection to that same state requiring private employers to provide such for their employees. Are we really surprised that Caesar, having been handed the Catholic imprimatur for these powers on a silver paten, has now decided that abortions, contraceptives, and sterilizations constitute “basic health care”? Every sensible libertarian, and many a mainstream “conservative,” saw this coming: why didn’t any of the bishops?

    Maybe they were absent when their religious instruction covered Matthew 26:52, where Jesus is talking to Peter, the first pope: “Then Jesus saith to him: Put up again thy sword into its place: for all that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Sometimes, I look at the “believers” and wonder, where is their faith? The impression given is that they worship Hegel’s god more than the one they profess to worship out of their mouthes.

    • Comment by TJIC:

      Excellent comment.

      Thank you.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “It’s always a disappointment when someone I regard as a reasonably logical individual makes a logically dubious or disingenuous argument”

      The feeling is mutual. Throughout, you did not address the point I raised: namely, that by libertarian tenants, it is better that aid not be given to freed slaves rather than it be given by a Church charity who receives government funding. Libertarianism places ideological purity above practical results, even when the practical results include the alleviation of the horrors of human slavery. It is the most clearly pro-liberty result imaginable, but if not done by the libertarian procedure of being entirely voluntary, it is denounced as ritually unclean.

      You then denounce as ritually unclean Bishops failing to object to employer-mandated health care. This is irrelevant to the argument.

      • Comment by Montecristo:

        I agree with you to the extent that I hold that abortion is morally dubious, at best. I point out that when the bishops argue for exceptions only for the Church, as an institution, they are, by that act, sabotaging their own contention that abortion is a sin and morally wrong for everyone. Such an argument must logically undermine their own moral authority. If the government can force anyone to act contrary to the dictates of his own conscience then why should the Church be any exception? The problem is that the bishops, especially the American ones, have already conceded that the State may override the individual’s moral conscience in that it may redistribute property or force the purchase of healthcare for others. I put it to you that far too many “conservative Catholics” are in the position of doing what it is you accuse the libertarians of doing: cutting off their noses to spite their faces. When the libertarians are right, you ought to have the grace and good sense to admit it and welcome the agreement.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          I am not prepared to leap to the defense of the American Bishops. So, your comment is well taken.

          • Comment by Montecristo:

            I can understand the frustration with them, but when the bishops are right, even though you believe that they stray from the Church’s teachings quite frequently, should they not be encouraged? The only problem with the bishops’ argument is that it does not go far enough. It does not defend the rights of individual conscience against the state, and it should, particularly in this case. This is golden opportunity to attack the “Pro Choice” position as being entirely fictitious and a hypocrissy. They are claiming “choice for me but not for thee.”

  5. Comment by TJIC:

    > Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves.

    I am a libertarian, as well as a Catholic, and I give money to charity, and will gladly give money to an anti-trafficking.

    I will not, however, support a government big enough to steal money from one person and give it to another.

    A government big enough to take your money and give it to an anti-trafficking group is big enough to take your money and give it to a pro-abortion group.

    I spent some time at http://www.usccb.org/ just now looking for where I can donate to the Bishops’ anti-trafficking efforts, but could not find a link.

    If you find one, please tell me in the comments, or contact me via email and I’ll happily make a donation this evening.

  6. Comment by Gian:

    1) Giving money to NGO’s and charities corrupts State.

    2) Accepting money from State corrupts Church.

    3) Catholic Church, in particular, ought to fund itself and its charities and hospitals etc. It is positively dangerous to to entangle with an aggressively secular state such as USA is now irrespective of which party is in power. The older traditions of co-existence have passed away and there are plenty of aggressive secularists in Right too.

    4) There is a great deal of fraud and scam in NGO business.

  7. Comment by robertjwizard:

    I am no longer a Libertarian because under Libertarian political theory it is morally wrong to give taxpayer dollars to a Catholic charity to help the victims of slavery.
    Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves.

    Your church slept with the snake, why no surprise that it bit you?

    Nobody could see this coming?

    Would you, by the same reasoning, show surprise at the government “helping” an industry, and later telling it what to do, and later taking it over?

    This is part and parcel of the making of the paternalized, nannied “someone, somehow is taking care of it” mentality that destroys charitable giving in the first place by inducing a detached complacency, a disassociation from the reality of problems. But since the Ends justify the MEANs here, screw em’, let them be complacent.

    Since freedom, what a man does with his money, is not giving you the result you want, they should be forced to produce this result for you?

    Got any other results you wish to see?

    And, even though I distance myself from most libertarianism, it is ridiculous to say that the libertarian will not help slaves. He already is, you made sure of that. You assume he will not give if given the free choice, because he objects to you forcing him, hence that has to mean he doesn’t care about slavery.

    “If you don’t vote for this bill, it means you eat babies for breakfast!” That’s the level of the argument here.

    Here is my question to Liberals and Libertarians and all modern ideologues who say they love liberty: What have you done to make men free?

    Whatever is the amount that is expropriated from my check that goes to the Church, of course. It is probably a very small amount. That shouldn’t count against me really, the government has so many needs and uses of my money, by the time they get done taking their share, a have not enough enough to invest as I should for retirement. A retirement that I have pay tax on twice.

    And that is my point.

    I agree that you guys shouldn’t be forced to act against your beliefs. Not a mutual feeling, but mine stands.

    Very cool with the comment editor. [Last comment made with John C. Wright’s Comment Editor.]

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Your church slept with the snake, why no surprise that it bit you? Nobody could see this coming?”

      This is why I am no longer a libertarian. Even a program that helps freed slaves, according to libertarian logic, is insupportable, on the grounds that it coerces taxpayers to fund an activity overseen by a church. The well-being of the slaves is of secondary concern. It must be done voluntarily or not at all.

      “I agree that you guys shouldn’t be forced to act against your beliefs. Not a mutual feeling, but mine stands.”

      And that is why I continue to admire the Libertarians, even though I cannot, in good conscience, any longer count myself among their number. There is something noble in a perfectly pure belief.

      • Comment by AndyHat:

        The fact that this activity is overseen be a church is irrelevant to the libertarian position. Why do you keep insisting otherwise?

      • Comment by Montecristo:

        Mr. Wright, are you now going to argue that ends justify means? Does your church teach that? Could you perhaps step back from the argument and approach it as a philosopher, on prnciple, rather than as a lawyer, with an aim to win the argument. If theft is morally wrong then it is wrong no matter to what end the loot is applied. To argue otherwise is to argue that the ends justify the means.

        I don’t understand your position. I could understand it if pragmatism actually offered real short-term political gains, but in this case, sticking to principle actually makes the stronger case, long and short!

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          No, but I will argue, as a Christian, that Christians must obey any worldly ruler placed over them, even an unjust one, until and unless the ruler’s rules demand us to break the rules of God. That is not the same as arguing the Ends justify the Means.

          I would also argue that there are legitimate uses of tax money, and that one of these legitimate uses, since government exist for and legitimately for the purpose of safeguarding human peace and liberty, and shepherding the people to virtue, is to free slaves and help freed slaves. This is a legitimately a core power of government just as much as making war or establishing courts of law.

          It is not a legitimate use of government power, neither in natural reason nor in constitutional law, to promote the death-cult religion of Political Correctness, and its dogma of objectification of women and holding human life in contempt (which we, rightly or wrongly, hold to be the result of maintaining the contraception culture), at the expense of shutting down one fourth of the hospitals in the nation — I believe I have that figure correct. 25% of hospitals are Catholic run.

          The excuse the death cult uses is that wearing a balloon on your dick is a ‘health issue.’ As if sterility were healthy rather than the opposite. Shutting down a quarter of all hospitals nationwide, for some reason, does not count as a health issue.

          A Catholic, if drafted, will serve in the army, and leave home and safety and die in foreign lands. If asked to offer a tiny pinch of incense to the Emperor, he will face lions with a hymn of thanksgiving on his lips.

          Do you see the difference between those two? Your argument is merely an emotional equivocation between two things. “A charity to help slaves uses coercion to gather taxes; a command to provide sterilization services also uses coercion; since coercion is coercion, ergo no objection or justification raised against one can be raised against the other.” But the two things are not the same, if for no other reason, that we Catholics must do works of charity, our oaths give us no choice, and we MUST not comply with the death-cult. Our oaths give us no choice there either.

          So, please, do not play any straw man tricks about claiming my argument is that the ends justify the means. I do not accept the Libertarian axiom that no use of coercion is legitimate except in self-defense. The state is not merely a mutual self-defense pact between atomized sovereign individuals. I have been in family court. The state has a role in settling domestic disputes, and these cannot be settled without taking a stand on what is good and virtuous and natural in life.

          • Comment by robertjwizard:

            Do you see the difference between those two? Your argument is merely an emotional equivocation between two things. “A charity to help slaves uses coercion to gather taxes; a command to provide sterilization services also uses coercion; since coercion is coercion, ergo no objection or justification raised against one can be raised against the other.” But the two things are not the same, if for no other reason, that we Catholics must do works of charity, our oaths give us no choice, and we MUST not comply with the death-cult. Our oaths give us no choice there either.

            I will allow that I am being dumb and misreading this. But is one of your justifications for this the fact that you, being a Catholic, must do charity? You draw a distinction between two examples and provide that one of the defining differences the fact that you are compelled, by your religion, to perform acts of charity? Do you think this constitutes as “charity”? I have to tell you that that confers no virtue to you at all. Do you think advocating to the likes of me (which is the closest you could come to as being a moral participant in regards to the slaves) qualifies as virtue?

            I would note that you argue the case to exercise the demands of your conscience, but declare the authority to deny others of theirs.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Can you see the difference I pointed out? If not, all you can say, as you have here said, is that a government using tax money to fight wars or free slaves is the same as a government commanding Jews to eat pork.

              Yes, the coercive aspect is present in both. No, one is authorized and legitimate, and one is not authorized and is illegitimate. To make matters worse, in the USA, the tax gathering authority of the federal government appears in the same founding document and supreme law of the land as the principle forbidding the federal government to interfere with the free exercise of religion.

              The difference is that Catholic are commanded by God to pay our taxes (render unto Caesar that which is Caesars) and to do works of charity. At the same time we are commanded by God not to serve idols, including the political correct phallic idols of the sexual revolution. Your “argument” is that these two things are indistinguishable. Anyone using tax money to help run a private charity perforce loses all grounds to object when commanded to violate his deeply held religious beliefs.

              To you, it is a telling point to say that if a taxpayer objects to helping freed slaves, woe and alas, his conscience is overthrown and the act is illegitimate. Illegitimate or not, the slave is freed and the poor is fed, and the charitable work is done. To use tax money for the public weal, to bring liberty to the oppressed, to free the slave, is a core function of government, not a frivolity like erecting a public monument, and not an overreach like commanding Catholics to pass out condoms.

              You doctrine is simplistic to the point of stupidity because it forbids you to detect the difference between two opposite things.

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                The difference is that Catholic are commanded by God to pay our taxes (render unto Caesar that which is Caesars) and to do works of charity. At the same time we are commanded by God not to serve idols, including the political correct phallic idols of the sexual revolution. Your “argument” is that these two things are indistinguishable. Anyone using tax money to help run a private charity perforce loses all grounds to object when commanded to violate his deeply held religious beliefs.

                Good, do your charity on your own. My own views on the matter are to be discarded as just antithetical to the teaching of your church, and my reason therefore must be tainted and need not be considered, just the products of my mind confiscated for whatever ends you deem holy and proper.

                The current government (and a sizable part of the population) thinks your reason(ing) is tainted and your reason is not to be considered, you will provide condoms et all.

                Damn either dissenters deeply held beliefs is one of the operating “principles”.

                Has anybody given any thought that the Church’s administrative skills are not highly esteemed nowadays?

                You doctrine is simplistic to the point of stupidity because it forbids you to detect the difference between two opposite things.

                Simplistic. This is a typical modern smear against any principled argument. You use your own enemies argument on me. The word you are seeking not to name is principle – which makes things simpler to understand, and, in ethics, easier to operate in life’s decisions. My argument is more fundamental, you are toiling around in the niceties of your religious duties.

                To the point of stupidity -ha! It is my guru, not yours, that is referred to as a prophet nowadays – there is even a movie about it. It is your bishops that demand that we put future generations under grinding poverty as to enjoy today’s borrowed largress under the same arguments you yourself use here.

                • Comment by robertjwizard:

                  Upon further reflection, I think we will probably just have to disagree on this difference.

                  However, my doctrine is not so simplistic as to not allow me to see the danger of the government’s move here. And if anyone thinks that this touches only Christians or religious people, or is confined to this single issue, I would suggest they check their premises. It has far reaching implications. I am, after all, as a matter of principle, firmly against the government on this.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Saying “All force not used in self defense” is not a principle. It is a blank out. It blanks out the relation of son to father, servant to master, student to teacher, subject to King, citizen to laws, creation to God. It blanks out the notion of authority.

                  Caesar acts within his authority when collecting tax money, but Caesar is without authority when he commands men to worship his idol. Your philosophy does not argue that this distinction does not exist, you merely deny it. That is not a principled argument: it is misapplying a principle. It is a principle which is over-broad, one that gathered under one umbrella two opposite things.

                  How is it different from a feminist who refuses to recognize “on principle” that men differ from women? How is it different from a communist who refuses to recognize “on principle” that private property is not theft?

                  • Comment by robertjwizard:

                    “All force not used in self-defense” is your formulation, and one that I trust you will stick to no matter what I say because it is an easy strawman for you. That is the blank out going on here.

                    If that were my principle, I would have to be an anarchist. Government is an instrument of force and it has legitimate uses of its force. You know what those are just as well as I do. What it does not have is the right to choose my ends. A government is not a house of charity, a church is. Do you wish for the difference to be dissolved.

                    It’s that whole life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness thing which I am sure has to run quite anathema to your worldview nowadays. Hence…

                    …servant to master…subject to King…creation to God…

                    Interesting choice of pairs when we are discussing the state. Just what are your views nowadays on liberty? Shall I view my relation to Obama in this light? Or is it the Pope that I ultimately have to see this way since he is God’s representative on earth.

                    Subject to King?! Just what feudal future of misery are you pining for?

                    I think you should come clean with your readers who think you are some cross of free-market Catholic with limited government sensibilities. I think that is an old version. I want to see the current one that sees himself as a “servant”.

                    You never addressed the original criticism to this ridiculous statement

                    Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves.

                    I’ll repeat. First they do – just not voluntarily. A distinction that by your premises means they are performing charity even in their sleep – volition not required. It assumes they would not or do not give to help slaves if they were approached and appealed to. I must be hallucinating a gun at my back when I donate to St. Jude. Clearly if the governement isn’t forcing me, f*** those children. Your construct is a fantasy. It is to make rhetorical flourishes without any actual meaning or tie to reality.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      ““All force not used in self-defense” is your formulation, and one that I trust you will stick to no matter what I say because it is an easy strawman for you”

                      It is, at best, insufficiently precise, but for you to call it a straw man strains crudility.

                      Robert Nozik calls this non-aggression principle the unquestioned axiom of libertarianism, and identifies it with the Law of Nature. Ayn Rand identifies the same principle, formulating it as retaliation only against the aggressor and only in due proportion. Other libertarians are careful to include acts of fraud or theft of intellectual property as grounds for retaliation, and, hence, for government action. In all cases, Objectivist or Libertarian, the formulation is that the state may not in its collective entity perform any action beyond what the individuals, had they acted on their own, been morally permitted to do.

                      I have never heard of an Objectivist or Libertarian granting that that state was morally permitted to do that which the individual citizen would not have been morally permitted to do in the state of nature.

                      Can you quote me an example of the axiom of Libertarianism or Objectivism which defies this standard I have identified in a material way?

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  “Good, do your charity on your own. My own views on the matter are to be discarded as just antithetical to the teaching of your church, and my reason therefore must be tainted and need not be considered, just the products of my mind confiscated for whatever ends you deem holy and proper. ”

                  Sorry, what? The argument was whether the state had the moral authority to use tax-money to free slaves or to aid freed slaves. You asking me to do it on my own is about like asking me to bomb North Korea on my own: where it possible or feasible to do as individuals, men would not gather into tribes and cities and nation-states at all.

                  The rest of the sentence is obscure to me. Print does not convey tone of voice. I cannot tell if it is some sort of sarcastic accusation that I will not listen to reason, or some confession on your part that your reason is tainted, or if you are equating paying taxes with armed robbery. Neither option seems relevant to what we are discussing.

                  I understand your views on the matter quite well, where and if they agree with the essays and novels of Ayn Rand, of which I have read every single word. I disagree with the axiom. Perforce I disagree with the conclusion.

                  • Comment by robertjwizard:

                    It is, at best, insufficiently precise, but for you to call it a straw man strains crudility.

                    Oh, no, I meant it exactly like that, its utility stems from its imprecision, hence makes it (intentional or not) useful for you.

                    I have never heard of an Objectivist or Libertarian granting that that state was morally permitted to do that which the individual citizen would not have been morally permitted to do in the state of nature.

                    Nah, stick with your original formulation, this is ghastly.

                    Let’s use Rand’s own formalization since she is clearer than any other formulation will be.

                    The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.

                    The fundamental difference between private action and governmental action—a difference thoroughly ignored and evaded today—lies in the fact that a government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force. It has to hold such a monopoly, since it is the agent of restraining and combating the use of force; and for that very same reason, its actions have to be rigidly defined, delimited and circumscribed; no touch of whim or caprice should be permitted in its performance; it should be an impersonal robot, with the laws as its only motive power. If a society is to be free, its government has to be controlled.

                    Under a proper social system, a private individual is legally free to take any action he pleases (so long as he does not violate the rights of others), while a government official is bound by law in his every official act. A private individual may do anything except that which is legally forbidden; a government official may do nothing except that which is legally permitted.

                    This is the means of subordinating “might” to “right.” This is the American concept of “a government of laws and not of men.”

                    Yes, what you say is in there but the context is now sufficiently covered.

                    Sorry, what? The argument was whether the state had the moral authority to use tax-money to free slaves or to aid freed slaves. You asking me to do it on my own is about like asking me to bomb North Korea on my own: where it possible or feasible to do as individuals, men would not gather into tribes and cities and nation-states at all.

                    You say all this like isolationism was some sort of new idea or a new-fangled libertarian ideal. It is not the government’s right to conscript its citizens to the service of every pesthole on the planet. Where is the limit? If in China, why not Sudan? North Korea, and the list goes on. Aids victims in third world countries, the droves of starving Africans, typhoid in the sewer ridden streets, malaria in jungles, sex trade in Asia and Europe.

                    You have nothing but your belief in sacrifice to sanction the government confiscating my wealth, which is my time, which is my life. I realize in this one instance I notice it hardly, but why shouldn’t I be forced to spend part of my life overseas catching God knows what, and dedicating half my wages to them? You call it charity at gunpoint or not, so I guess it would be legitimate, correct?

                    I don’t really have a strong objection to being forced to provide for what I regard as the legitimate functions of government since those tie directly to my survival and only a bafoon scoffs at paying for such things.

                    But let me put it to you this way. In my government, let’s say, the government is barred from entering into such things as being the world’s policeman and charity-house. In yours what keeps a check on the government once they have been granted the right to choose the ends for their citizens?

                    Need there be a check in your eyes or can the sacrifice of the master be total and all?

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      “Yes, what you say is in there but the context is now sufficiently covered.”

                      You object to the wording I use to describe Rand’s formulation, but there is no difference between my formulation and hers save only the word order.

                      You and I both know the context of the statements, and what I said was not a strawman and was not misleading, but was a reference to something we both know. I don’t understand the source of the disagreement or the point of your comments.

                      We can use her formulation rather than mine if you like, since they are in effect the same: the chain of reasoning leading to and from the rest of my argument still stands.

                      Or I could adopt your policy. If I read Rand in a Robertjwizard comment, I just pretend it wasn’t there.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        I’m really repeating what AndyHat says below, or above, but the fact that it is overseen by a church is irrelevant. I don’t care if it is overseen by the Justice League.

        Every single dollar that is siphoned off the backs of American citizens has is champions – the old will perish! African children are starving because of communism – oops – I mean drought! Americans need a hand acheiving the American dream! We must finance the education of children! Country X needs $ or they’ll suffer! Same for the mountains of regulations.

        It must be done voluntarily or not at all.

        Yes, I ask you to appeal to my reason, not to my fear of a gun.

        But clearly you have established that the Ends justifies the Means.

        The well-being of the slaves is of secondary concern.

        Clearly it is a secondary concern as well for yourself since you find the methods of coercion more suited to your ends you are in essential agreement with the slavers themselves.

        Though keep singing the praises of your particular end, that is the only option left to you.

        I assume you are in agreement with certain other Catholic ideas as well? How about Pope Paul’s idea:

        “We must repeat once more that the superfluous wealth of the rich countries should be placed at the service of poor nations [administered by?], the rule which up to now held good for the benefit of those nearest to us, must today be applied to all the needy of this world.”

        Slavery indeed.

        • Comment by The OFloinn:

          There may be a distinction between advocating the coerced support of people who could not care less if the slaves were freed and a comment that notes this lack of concern. As I understand it, Our Host is only observing that because some disapprove of the means, the end will be unfulfilled. But unless you regard all governmental action as theft and coercion, surely there are some ends to which one would want to contribute even if run by the government or a church.

          • Comment by robertjwizard:

            Then I suggest Mr. Wright find better means.

            But unless you regard all governmental action as theft and coercion, surely there are some ends to which one would want to contribute even if run by the government or a church.

            Want to contribute? There is no want in such a context, I am not there, except as a headless body to perform tasks to generate resources that others find ends for. You cannot speak of a want, a desire, an end, when such things are irrelevant by the fact of being forcibly taken out of the equation. What do you think the gun is for?

            Government is coercion by nature, that is its function. However, there are certainly legitimate ends for the government to pursue. The courts, the police, the armed forces, and the administration of such a state. These can be proven, and I certainly have a vested interest and a desire to fund such services. Charity is not a government function. Outside the proper functions of government, all the rest is the theft of one group of people ganging up on another gang of people and forcing them to their aims.

            The only complaint Mr. Wright can now make is a bigger gang has wrested control of his ends. That is the nature of the beast, and a typical glaring hole in Catholic thinking. Politics and economics being, to put it with utmost charity, indeed stretching the very concept of charitable, not the Church’s strong suit. If the church were interested in following principle, this would not have happened, but that would take long term thinking. They saw the ease of governement largess (just think how much easier it would be to not have to solicit the good will of their fellow man, and think of the cynicism!) for their ends and saw nothing beyond the cookie.

            For as much as Mr. Wright likes to talk about the follies of Objectivist/Libertarian thinking – he as much shows how much the could be learned from them.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              “The only complaint Mr. Wright can now make is a bigger gang has wrested control of his ends….”

              And, again, this is why I am no longer a libertarian. The philosophy regards any act which is non-voluntary as impure, so that the difference between, say, theft and taxes, murder and war, or (in this case) the use of force to collect taxes for a charity that helps frees slaves and the use of force in direct contradiction of the laws and constitutional laws of the nation to violate the conscience of loyal citizens, all such distinctions are null to the libertarian philosophy.

              The model does not fit the universe. The explanation is reductionist.

            • Comment by The OFloinn:

              Government is coercion by nature

              If you think government is coercion, wait till you try no-government.

              What if there were no government, but you and your neighbors want to dig a well, and vote to hire a well-digger, dividing the cost in ten equal parts. The vote is 9-1. Has the -1 been coerced?

              Part of the problem is scientism: the application of atomism to society. In Rousseauian bafflegab, “society” is imagined as a sort of machine assembled from otherwise atomic individuals rather than as an organic whole. To the binary mind there seems no option other than submerging the individual into the collective or smashing the collective into atomic dust. But life is a continuum, not a coin.

              • Comment by robertjwizard:

                That government [action] is coercive by nature is a descriptive phrase on par with “the sky is blue”. I am not begrudging the fact as if there could be a government that acted non-coercively. I am in favor of having a government, not of anarchy. Being in favor of strictly limited government of objective law is not the same as supporting anarchy.

                But being in favor of even a limited government one has to be vigilantly aware that government action is coercive in nature and is a very dangerous force.

  8. Comment by robertjwizard:

    Libertarians are so in love with liberty that they will not help slaves.

    This also remains an unsupported assertion.

  9. Comment by Nate Winchester:

    My question to you is the same: What are we doing to make men free?

    It’s not just Catholics. Even we protestants should realize that – right or wrong – Catholics (and other Christians) are still family. Family has to stick together.

    Are we to be less zealous in saving mankind as the Bolsheviks were in enslaving?

    To quote Dean:

    Dean: [W]e’re on our third “the world is screwed” issue in what, three years? And we’ve steered the bus away from the cliff twice already!
    Sam: Someone’s got to do it.
    Dean: What if the bus wants to go over the cliff?

    Somedays, it seems like that. That mankind and the world don’t want to be saved.

    Ah but don’t listen to me. I’m just a weary guy in sour armor.

  10. Comment by The OFloinn:

    branabus says:

    the depletion of the ozone layer was valid, and is being reduced through reduction of CFC emissions.

    The annual thinning of the ozone hole over the Antarctic was detected during IGY, well before CFCs could have been a factor. And has been detected more recently… well, last year. The patents on CFCs, however, were about to expire and timely governmental intervention ensured that soon-to-be generic propellants were replaced by freshly patented new ones.

    branabus says:

    The reduction of the usage of DDT was a good thing for the environment as a whole

    Yet, the scientific panel called upon by the fledgling EPA recommended against any such ban. Whereat Nixon’s newly appointed head of the agency, Ruckleshaus, declared that his first action as head of the EPA was not going to be to refrain from acting. It reminds one of Chesterton’s bon mot that if a man is appointed Minister for Faeries in the Lower Garden, do not expect him to announce that there are no faeries in the lower garden.

    branabus says:

    I’d never even heard of the Alar Scare.

    What? You don’t remember the bodies in the streets? The grade school teachers slaughtered by their apple-giving students? But the internal memos leaked at the time made it clear that the whole thing was a test run by a PR firm to see if a panic could be ginned up out of nowhere.

    branabus says:

    Acid rain is a reality.

    And damn well ought to be. Or do you want caustic rain? But the Adirondack lakes were always acidic. That’s why the Iroquois called them “bark eaters.” It came from the downwash of forest litter into the lakes. When 18th/19th century farming stripped the forests, less organic matter was washed into the lakes and they de-acidified. As farming moved out to the prairies, the forests of upper New York and New England grew back and the organic matter went into the lakes again and they acidified.

    branabus says:

    Overpopulation is a valid concern, and has been around for a long time.

    Especially those little brown babies, right? Some of the most densely populated places on earth are the most prosperous, e.g., the Netherlands. In a sense, it has been around a long time. There are far more people on earth today than can be supported by hunting and gathering. Usually, however, any theory that consistently makes predictions that fail is thought to be “falsified.” We note in passing that the birth rate of the USA has been steadily decreasing (a sine wave riding aback on a decaying exponential curve) since at least 1820. That was when President Monroe ordered a federal program of free contraceptives for all women. Oh, wait.

    branabus says:

    Global cooling had very little support from scientists.

    See if you can find John Gribbin’s old book Forecasts, Famines and Freezes, in which he interviews all those scientists. Also, I was there. If what you mean is that there was no international agency specifically charged with promoting the theory, that’s true. That doesn’t mean that scientific conferences weren’t thick with worry; or that, like the Medieval Warm Period, it has not been erased from the memory of man by deliberate effort.

    Because of increased dust, cloud cover and water vapor, “the planet will cool, the water vapor will fall and freeze, and a new Ice Age will be born.”
    – Newsweek magazine, Jan. 26, 1970

    “The United States and the Soviet Union are mounting large-scale investigations to determine why the Arctic climate is becoming more frigid, why parts of the Arctic sea ice have recently become ominously thicker and whether the extent of that ice cover contributes to the onset of ice ages.”
    – New York Times, July 18, 1970

    “In the next 50 years, fine dust that humans discharge into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuel will screen out so much of the sun’s rays that the Earth’s average temperature could fall by six degrees. Sustained emissions over five to 10 years, could be sufficient to trigger an ice age.”
    – Washington Post, July 9, 1971

    “It’s already getting colder. Some midsummer day, perhaps not too far in the future, a hard, killing frost will sweep down on the wheat fields of Saskatchewan, the Dakotas and the Russian steppes…”
    – Los Angles Times, Oct. 24, 1971

    “An international team of specialists has concluded from eight indexes of climate that there is no end in sight to the cooling trend of the last 30 years, at least in the Northern Hemisphere.”
    – New York Times, Jan. 5, 1978

    For the longer term view: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2010/10/goosey-goosey-gander.html

    branabus says:

    OFlonnin: OK, good reasoning. And it’s not been accepted yet by the general scientific community because…

    It provides the UN with no rationale for looting the First World. However, you might be surprised at the lack of consensus among scientists, once you get outside the closed topological space of “The Team” and their “Cause.” There has always been a split between the modelers (convinced) and the empiricists (unconvinced), and astrophysicists in general have been more unconvinced. Recently, CERN ran an experiment whose results supported the solar wind-cloud cover theory; and the researchers were ordered not to draw any such conclusions but report only the technical results and keep their lips zipped. Some while back, the author of a paper interpreted as favorable to the AGW hypothesis received an email of congratulations from a Team member, which concluded “now, if only wee can get rid of the medieval warming.” Goal-oriented science. Here are the temperature proxies with unreliable tree-ring data removed:
    http://www.jerrypournelle.com/images/2010/view642.jpg

  11. Comment by robertjwizard:

    You and I both know the context of the statements, and what I said was not a strawman and was not misleading, but was a reference to something we both know.

    And perhaps if we were having a private conversation this would be perfectly fine. Then again I have to consider the following.

    Your formulation is not the same, hence your curious use of axiom

    According to the Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (the one you read with a microscope) it is either a proposition that commends itself to general acceptance or it is a self-evident proposition requiring no demonstration or proof.

    An axiom is not an arbitrary starting point. You do not jump into any point of a system or a science and declare X to be an axiom merely because that is the point at which you entered. And particularily in Objectivism; there is no cut off point of ethics, the last principle, and then in politics one starts from scratch stealing the concept of axiom to declare an arbitrary floating postion or principle.

    The difference is one of epistemology. Here is a demonstration:

    The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force.

    Where does that come from? Is that an axiom? No, but it is a principle. One can find a similar, and therefore related formulation in the ethics in the principle for honesty, that obtaining a value from others by faking reality is wrong. That rests on the whole of the meta-ethics (man’s nature) that came before it, and rests on the absolutism of reason and reality. Likewise seeking to gain values from other men by force violates the requirements of man’s life, the requirements which are determined by the absolutism of reason and reality. Like you said, I needn’t recall all of this, right?

    So, yes, my widening the context does change the nature of the argument because you merely treat it (the non-aggression principle) as an arbitrary postulate. I grant that in general libertarian thinking that is exactly how it stands. You are talking to a different Mule here.

    So, if you care to answer now – where do you draw the line? Meaning, since all arguments for need are the same as the one you make for helping slaves, where is the principle (and I mean an actual principle – not a preference) that divides this line? What saves us from your Bishops? What saves us from becoming Greece? And how does a libertarian (and I did assume in the beginning you meant Rand as well, since you did not object, I assume you did) not care about slaves just because he is wary of the giving potential slavers an opening by which to eventually rule him or his progeny? That last is largely a hypothetical question since that “opening” is now a gaping hole engulfing the whole of the night sky.

    And now you confront the government telling you what your conscience is to be. Do you not see a similarity there?

    I am not beyond amending my point of view here if only I can lock you down to answering this one question. I understand the tactic of zeroing in on perceived weak spots in an opponent’s argument, I use it as a first line of attack every time. But I am just asking for an answer to this one question.

    Or I could adopt your policy. If I read Rand in a Robertjwizard comment, I just pretend it wasn’t there.

    Yeah, that is going great for me, btw! Arguing is my crack cocaine.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      According to the Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (the one you read with a microscope) it is either a proposition that commends itself to general acceptance or it is a self-evident proposition requiring no demonstration or proof.

      Hence, its usage in “an axiom of X” to mean something that Xers regard as self-evident. For example, the Euclidean “parallel postulate.” Or that Rothbardians regard “self-ownership” as an axiom.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        I will grant that generic LIbertarians usually view non-aggression as an axiom, that is the entirety of most libertarian philosophy. That is their mistake, it is not self-evident. There is no axiom that Mr. Wright speaks of. Speaking schematically, all axioms are exhausted at the anteroom of epistemology, namely free will and the validity of the senses. Nothing, philosophically, is an axiom after that.

        Unless he is speaking loosely, I leave that option open.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “Meaning, since all arguments for need are the same as the one you make for helping slaves, where is the principle (and I mean an actual principle – not a preference) that divides this line?”

      Asked and answered, counselor. It is the inability of libertarians and Objectivists to see the difference between taxation and theft which renders their political philosophy void.

      The former is authorized and legitimate; the latter is not. Enlightenment authors and classical list different formulations for what constitutes legitimate authority, but both agree on this point: when Alexander the Great hangs a pirate chieftain who falls into his hands, he acts with authority, on behalf of and upholding the law.

      There is, of course, a famous story of a pirate chieftain being caught by Alexander the Great and asking him, with the reckless impudence only a condemned man can afford, what makes kings different from pirates, aside from their mere success, or the number of men who follow them?

      A libertarian is someone who solemnly sides with the pirate chief and sees no difference.

      The difference is principle is that a subject of a prince is morally obligated to pay taxes. Even if the tax-gatherers were struck dead by lightning from Olympos, the subjects should and ought to pay, or else the army cannot stand, the laws cannot be enforced, and state reverts to the state of nature. The coercion is used not to victimize the subjects, but merely to see that they do as they ought. The case is even stronger for citizens of a republic, who are themselves members of the sovereign body: for there their subjection is voluntarily, akin to the reciprocal obligations of a contract. Even if the taxgather were stuck dead by Jupiter, the citizen should, out of civic duty, go to city hall himself and volunteer to pay his taxes, tithes, imposts and mulcts, lest the state fail.

      The only reason why taxation is coercive is because human beings are fallen beings, and will not volunteer to do that thing which they themselves admit is right.

      Contrast that with the victim of piracy. If the pirate chief is struck dead by Jupiter’s bolt, the victim is NOT under a moral obligation to chase after the fleeing pirate ship and offer the surviving First Mate his money. if anything, the victim is under a moral obligation to resist to the death, and if he slay the pirate in a sea-fight, the world calls him, and correctly calls him, a hero.

      Now, when a prince abuses the tax-gathering power entrusted to him, or when a republic abuses that power, the prince becomes a tyrant and the republic becomes a mob, and rebellion become the duty of patriots. But even such patriots, if they not anarchists, seek no more than to erect new institutions, or a nobler prince, upon the toppled throne or in the rebuilt town hall: and to pay taxes as before, this time to see the money used for its authorized and legitimate use.

      I hope we can agree on all this. Ayn Rand defined the legitimate uses of coercion by the government as limited to … well, you flinch when I sum up her view, so let us say we both understand her. In one essay she suggested collecting a user’s fee from each contract to be enforced at law, so as to make the taxation appear voluntary. I see no difference in principle between that and levying a tax on the value of imports and exports, particularly by a republic that keeps the peace on the high seas by the terror of its arms, without which trade would be dangerous or impossible.

      In the specific case, I submit that a republic like the United States, which by their own admission, has no right to break away from the Crown of Great Britain except in the name of securing the blessings of liberty and public order, is obligated by those terms, when they can afford to do so, to free the captive and oppressed. At this particular moment in history, the United States happens to be the sole remaining superpower, and the richest nation ever to exist on Earth. To spend the same amount on freeing captives held as slaves as the federal budget spends on toilet seats for the Pentagon is within the core business of government, which exists to promote the public peace and order. In other words, the same principle which allows a republic to declare war on foreign princes after all peaceful means have been exhausted authorizes using tax moneys on public charities.

      If the excuse of charity overwhelms the public peace, as it does in socialist nations (see Greece) and as it is soon here to do, then, as when a prince becomes a tyrant, the exaction of taxes exceeds its authorization.

      If this is not clear, please tell me where, and I will try to clarify.

      • Comment by robertjwizard:

        Very good, someone ate their Wheaties this morning (lighthearted jest). That really cleared up what you are saying.

        2 notes. Cringing on summarizing Rand. I blame the medium when it is between us two. What can be clarified in a simple one minute exchange across a table, is hobbled, horrendously, by the tedium of blog exchange. Even the time honored tradition of 20 page letters of exposition delivered on horseback is superior for philosophic discourse.

        Lastly, I always thought Rand’s idea of payment of contracts (whether original to her or not, I doubt it) is great. I don’t really begrudge the use of tax money for the helping of slaves and I realize it is way lower than 98% of the frivolity the government squanders. I just don’t believe that even good causes such as this can remain isolated to issues of human rights. I posit the beast will devour, has to devour, and the only check is some form of leashing the government. That, to avoid becoming Greece, or worse, the government needs more checks than it currently has. Doing away with the income tax would be a good start.

        But then I sink into fantasy talk, because that ain’t gonna happen!

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