Tuesday, 19 March 2019
Trevor Watkins' reply to an article on Politicsweb called “Freedom vs Social Welfare” by Gwen Ngwenya, from awhile back. The reply was labelled as spam and never published.
Lets start with the Rawles thought experiment. What is the best starting condition for entering a society you know nothing about? Any assumption you make could be wrong. You could be entering as a peasant under Genghis Khan. You could enter as a French aristocrat in 1788. The simplest and most comprehensive general condition would be: No one may take action against me without my consent. No matter where you arrived, your life and property and opportunity to prosper would be protected.
If you arrived bandaged head to toe, unable to move and helpless, your life would depend on the charity of others. Who is most likely to help you? Would it be one of the many charities dedicated to humanitarian assistance without question, like Red Cross or Doctors without borders, or an official from the government who would want to know where you came from, do you have valid papers, how did you get bandaged, what are your intentions, do you plan to work here.
As a simple matter of principle, taking the property of another without consent is theft, no matter who does it or how good their intentions. Being robbed by a gang called government is just like being robbed by any other gang.
Gwen believes I owe a debt to society simply by being born into it. I have no say in the matter, although I never agreed to any contract incurring debt, I have no clear idea of who the debt is in favour of, what is the amount, what are the terms, can I ever repay it in full. This is a convenient fiction for those claiming the debt, with no basis in justice whatsoever.
There is a very simple test of the morality of any position - if it requires the first use of force it is immoral. If you can collect your taxes without threatening me and others with force, go for it. Once you have these voluntary taxes, spend them as you will, like any other owner of property. If you spend them badly, do not expect many further voluntary contributions. But if the only way you can get my property is by threatening me with force, then your taxation is theft.
Truly critical services, like the supply of food and drink, are too important to be left in the incompetent hands of government. Here we must rely on competing private enterprises who operate on a purely voluntary basis, offering me goods and services I desire in exchange for my cash. This system works brilliantly, so why not privatise all government services?
What about the poor and helpless? Like the victims of the Esidimeni tragedy? The government safety net is a mirage, a fiction. If you want to protect the best interests of the poor and marginalised, do not rely on thugs who use violence to seize your funds in order to feather their own nests at the expense of everyone.
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