People who oppose any sort of property right infringement believe that what they own, they own, because they have acquired it in totality through their own actions and means, and thus they have zero obligation to share it with anybody else.

This only applies if what one owns really is what one owns by ones own means. But this is almost never true. Almost everything you own, you own because somebody else altruistically felt that you should own it, or, even if it were not an altruistic gift, this somebody else may have given you something and expected something in return. Therefore, the assumption that you have zero obligation to share that which you were given by somebody else no longer holds (at least morally).

For example, pretty much everybody in a civilizied country has received a public government-funded education. This education is not some naturally existing feature of the world, somebody gave it to you and expected something in return, namely that you get a job and pay taxes so that the society kan keep on functioning. Therefore, if you, using your education, acquire some property, you do owe some of it to the government.

So my question is, why don't people who believe in ultimate property rights not move out into the woods? Then they can own whatever they want to own. But if they live in a society, they must accept they have entered a contract, and that contract implies that there is a debt to be paid.

  • Some do: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_Family – user9166 Apr 6 '18 at 20:49
  • In the U.S., at least, there are laws regulating the lives of people who live ANYWHERE, including the most remote wilderness areas. – David Blomstrom Apr 6 '18 at 21:08
  • Hi, welcome to Philosophy SE. Please visit our Help Center to see what questions we answer and how to ask. Rhetorical questions aimed at promoting one's personal opinions are off-topic on this site. Could you remove the condemnation parts and rephrase your post into a real question? For example, you could state your argument for existence of a "social contract" and ask what its merits/flaws are, etc. – Conifold Apr 6 '18 at 22:05
  • I think the error is sooner. You own what you hold in your hands. The moment you put it down, you no longer control it. You no longer own it. This is physics and reality. Any idea of you maintaining control at a distance is necessarily artificial and can claim no sort of 'natural' basis. You can argue it is pragmatically useful to have property rights, certainly, and I will agree in many cases. But some sort of 'fundamental' right to control that which you do not hold in your hand does not exist. And building further argument upon a false foundation is pointless. – otakucode Apr 6 '18 at 22:05
  • Such people can believe whatever they want to believe, but they know in the USA we have a tax code; that they will pay sales tax where applicable, and so on. Of course, they may choose to break the law and accept the risk of prosecution. I think it's just a small minority that hold such extreme views. Their other option is to work under our system to change the laws to their liking, or they could take the risk, band together and revolt. – Gordon Apr 7 '18 at 2:10

No, because “property rights” is a broad term. It doesn't mean that you have to be an anarcho-capitalist to believe in property rights (though anarcho-capitalists would disagree, of course).

There can be a constitutional right that the state is only allowed to interfere with your property by levying taxes on your income and has to accept payment in the legal tender – which would prohibit the state from confiscating your “precious” (in the words of Gollum). This would be considered “property rights” (though in practice, property rights are narrower; e.g. “eminent domain” etc.).

Now, should anarcho-capitalists move out into the woods? That doesn't really help, they are still subject to the state's laws, which conflict with the anarcho-capitalist conception of property rights (any restriction of hunting on unowned land is illegitimate for the anarcho-capitalist), and, theoretically, taxes. They probably have to move to a true no-mans-land, like Antarctica.

But if they live in a society, they must accept they have entered a contract, and that contract implies that there is a debt to be paid.

I don't really think that anyone has entered a contract just by living in society. Using the state's services can't be realistically considered consent – because it can't be totally avoided: the anarcho-capitalist may not want to use the state-built road in front of his house, but it's just there! So from a moral standpoint, it truly is forced upon people to pay taxes. No need to sugarcoat this.

But even the most libertarian (stable) societies retain an element of coercion to cooperation by force. The overwhelming majority of people want to live at least in a minarchist state, whose services have to be paid for. And it is simply a consequence of the free-rider problem that there cannot be a way of opting out of that. Most people accept that, so most people are not anarcho-capitalists.

| improve this answer | |

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.