The Instigator
ShabShoral
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points
The Contender
Cobalt
Con (against)
Winning
14 Points

Taxation is both theft and immoral

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 2 votes the winner is...
Cobalt
Voting Style: Open Point System: Select Winner
Started: 5/14/2016 Category: Philosophy
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 802 times Debate No: 91241
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (12)
Votes (2)

 

ShabShoral

Pro

Standard rules.

First round for acceptance.

I have the BOP, and must prove both parts of the resolution.
Cobalt

Con

I'd like to thank Shab for allowing me to debate this issue with him. I am very interested in seeing what arguments are made.

In an effort to save time, I'll detail some definitions of important resolutional words. I think these are "common sense" definitions, but if my opponent is using some other set of definitions, this will force him to reveal those in his opening arguments.

Taxation: A compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied on workers' income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods.

Theft: Taking a person's property without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.

Immoral: As it concerns human character, something wrong or bad.

I look forward to the opening arguments!
Debate Round No. 1
ShabShoral

Pro

I must defend two main syllogisms to fulfill my burden of proof:

1.)

Premiss One:

Theft is initiated force aimed at revoking one’s right of ownership over something without consent and granting a new right of ownership to the thief.

Explication:

Definitional; when a highwayman demands money, they are removing your ownership of the money and making it their possession. This is theft not because of the transition of ownership rights, but because the transition does not respect the self-ownership of the victim, in that the victim was not able to decide whether or not to give up ownership of the money of their own accord; the choice was made for them, thus stripping them of free will. It is force or the threat of force which grants the highwayman his power.

Premiss Two:

Taxation is theft.

Explication:

For an act to not be theft, one criteria must be met: that the act be done with the consent of all involved.

Just as one cannot be said to “consent to sex” at gunpoint precisely because of the violent consequences of one of the two responses (yes or no), one cannot be said to consent to anything at gunpoint.

In the same vein, consent means the consent of he who is in charge of governing his rights: the individual. One cannot consent on another’s behalf; ten cannot make it so that one consents; ten million cannot either. Likewise, one cannot assume that another consents “by default”. What other meaning of “consent” is imaginable?

Taxation is by no means consensual. Consent implies that one can either say yes or no; if one says no to taxation, they are jailed. If one tries to escape their unjust imprisonment, they are shot. Taxation is backed by guns.

Conclusion One:

Taxation is [the initiation of force].

2.)

Premiss One’:

The initiation of force is, without qualifiers, immoral.

Explication:

Axiom: Humans are able to purposefully act.

Axiom: Morality determines the proper acts and aims of moral agents.

Extension: Where one cannot purposefully act (where one cannot choose one's goals and means), morality plays no role.

Definition: Saying "X should do Y" is a moral claim.

Axiom: All essential things being equal but the agent, moral judgments retain their validity.

Extension: "X should do Y" is equivalent to "X' should do Y" if X and X' are essentially indistinguishable.

Proposition: "X should give up his own freedom" is a contradixion.

Demonstration: The statement professes an acceptance of morality (it is normative), but advocates that one discard morality (for giving up one's freedom destroys moral agency).

Proposition: "X should violate Z's freedom (make Z give up his freedom)" is a contradixion.

Demonstration:
If X giving up his freedom is a contradixion, it cannot be prescribed, and if Z giving up his freedom is effectively the same, morally, as X giving up his freedom, the new statement also falls.

The same applies to "X should give up freedom in favour of another value."

Premiss Two’:

Taxation is the initiation of force.

Conclusion Two:

Taxation is, without qualifiers, immoral.

Cobalt

Con

I'll start with the opponent's first argument, move on to his second, then end with some points that generalize to both arguments.

Argument 1: Theft

Premise One: The opponent opens with a premise that describes theft as "initiated forced aimed at revoking one's right of ownership over something without consent and granting a new right of ownership to the the thief." While this premise is near that actual definition of "theft", it overextends in some directions as well as fails to include some circumstances.

Merriam-Websters defines "theft" as: "the felonious taking and removing of property with intent to deprive the rightful owner of it; an unlawful taking of property." You'll note that both definitional clauses use terms that directly relate theft to law ("felonious" and "unlawful") This is because theft is legal term that has resulted from the existance of law in the first place.

Because of this, the opponent's definition overreaches. The issue at hand is a fantastic example of how the opponent's definition would consider an act theft whereas the dictionary definition would not. Taxation is a legal process prescribed not just by law -- but by the Constitution of the United States. (I am assuming the opponent is American.) Because of this, so long as taxes are collected in a way that agrees with the law, taxation would not be considered theft. This is specifically because the transfer of property ownership is decreed by law.

Premise Two: The opponent's second premise is a direct result of the first -- in claiming that taxation is theft. Because the opponent was using an arbitrarily created definition of "theft" instead of a dictionary definition, he was able to come to this conclusion. When we stop and consider the actual definition of "theft", however, it is clear that it cannot be said that taxation is theft.

The opponent falsely asserts that "for an act to not be theft ... that act [must] be done with the consent of all involved". This claim has no warrant, however, and is not consistent with the definition of theft. All parties do not need to consent to the transfer of property if this transfer is done in a legally prescribed manner.

Consider an instance in which a company creates a faulty product that injures a customer. That customer can sue the company and, if they win, the court can demand that the company pay damages to the customer. It does not matter whether the company actually desires for this to happen because they are part of a legal system in which such payment was prescribed. The same goes for taxation.

If a person fails to pay taxes and are jailed as a result, this is not indicative of some injustice done to the person in question. It is, again, the legal prescription for what to do if a person does not pay the taxes they are legally required to pay.

Conclusion One: Understanding the definition allows us to clearly see that taxation cannot be viewed as theft under any governance which legally requires taxes. Do not allow the opponent's arbitrary definition of "theft" to hold more weight than the dictionary definition. I too could modify the definition of resolutional terms to win any debate I wished -- but doing this destroys the education part of debate, which is largely debate's purpose.

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Argument 2: Immorality

Premise One: The opponent here claims that the initiation of force is always (without qualifiers) immoral. There are a few things to note here, which will be covered by looking at the axioms proposed by the opponent.

Axiom One: "Humans are able to purposefully act." This is true.

Axiom Two: "Morality determines the proper acts and aims of moral agents." Here the opponent is begging the question by describing "morality" as essentially "morality". In other words, he claims that morality is when moral agents behave in a "proper" fashion -- but the term "proper" is in and of itself a word that is synonymous with morality.

Because of this, the opponent has failed to actually define morality. In light of this fact, it is impossible to effectively argue that something is moral when you have failed to even demonstrate what it means to be moral.

I contend that there is no objective morality. In other words, there is no "true and objective" means of determining whether an act is "right" or "wrong". It is furthermore the likely case that actions in and of themselves are not inherently right or wrong.

If one claims that objective morality comes from an objectice moral authority, they are resting on the unproveable assumption that a) this authority exists and that b) this authority is an objective moral authority. The more reasonable understanding of morality is that it exists on a subjective basis. Each man and woman feels in his soul that certain things are wrong and certain things are right. This proves to be useful in self-governing behaviors.

However, due to the nature of this subjective reality, it cannot be generalized to actions that affect large amounts of people. If X% of people believe theft is moral and Y% of people believe it is not, we are not left with any clear indicator of whether the action is or is not moral. Furthermore, you can't claim that "whatever the most people believe regarding the morality of Z is what is actually moral", for you can simply remove enough people from the equation such that the action suddenly "changes" in morality status despite being the same exact action.

Conclusion Two: Because morality does not exist in an objective sense, it is impossible to make moral judgements regarding actions that affect large amounts of people. An objective morality cannot just be "assumed" to exist, but instead demands proof of its existence if we are to follow it. Because of the previously mentioned facts, it cannot be said that taxation is immoral.

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General Arguments

1. People are not technically required to pay taxes.

I am not saying that people can "choose" to not pay taxes and then go to jail, as that is hardly a choice. Instead, I am saying that a person is free to simply leave the country in which they are being taxed. A legal and social contract binds all citizens who choose to be a part of a country. If one does not wish to pay taxes, one can leave the country.

While this may seem "unfair", the fact is that the government provides many utilities that you cannot help but use. You are using what belongs to the government, so it is not an unreasonable expectation that you should be legally obligated to pay for these services. What's more, the government (in the US at least) reflects the will of the people, as it is effectively run by representatives of the people who were fairly elected into office. If "the people" largely wanted to reduce government expenditure, one would see a decrease in the services the government provides along with the reduction of taxes that goes along with this.

This point is largely irrelevant, as I've already demonstrated that a person's freedom to pay or not pay taxes is irrelevant to the definition of theft. It does, however, contend the opponent's claim that people do not have a choice in the matter.

2. Taxes are critical to a working government, which provides many services all people use.

To expand on the latter part of the previous point -- governments cannot be effectively run without compulsory taxation. This is, again, fairly irrelevant to the discussion, as I've already demonstrated taxes to not be theft. It is still important to mention, however, because one must realize that taxation is not some draconian practice, but is instead integral to the functioning of society.

The US government provides roadways, energy, water, railways, defense, schools, parks and compensation to its own employees, as well as many services for the less fortunate in society. While the latter perks only apply to certain members of society, the former ones have been used by virtually every citizen in the United States. It is impossible to live in the US and not take advantage of many of these services.

A government which chose not to collect compulsory taxes would not exist for long, as there would be no real motivation to give the government money, despite what the government offers. There cannot be a doubt that society is better off because of the existence of governments. They don't just provide the services previous mentioned, but also order.

Because of this, one cannot even argue that taxes are "bad" in a logical way, as they provide significantly more than they take. They are literally one of the pillars upon which the healthy functioning of society rests upon. Pull it away and everything will fall.

Conclusion

I have demonstrated that the opponent used a "made up" definition for theft. Whenever looking at the "real" definition, we see that taxation cannot be considered theft, as theft is an inherently illegal process, while taxation is not. Furthermore, I've described why there is no reason to believe an objective morality exists and that a subjective morality cannot consistently describe the moral nature of taxation.

Lastly, I stated some facts regarding the "common sense" of taxes and how they are beneficial to society. This was to demonstrate that taxation was not some draconian practice that needs to be eliminated, but is instead a critical and necessary piece of any functioning government.

I look forward to the opponent's response.
Debate Round No. 2
ShabShoral

Pro

Argument 1: Theft

Premise One: My opponent makes the assumption that governmental decrees make the law. The law is much more fundamental; just laws are the proper rules governing the organization of individuals. Natural law is the determiner of theft, and has primacy over the State’s “law”. Frederic Bastiat, in The Law, shows why placing coercion above rights when determining the law is nonsensical:

“Nature, or rather God, has bestowed upon every one of us the right to defend his person, his liberty, and his property, since these are the three constituent or preserving elements of life; elements, each of which is rendered complete by the others, and that cannot be understood without them. For what are our faculties, but the extension of our personality? and what is property, but an extension of our faculties?

If every man has the right of defending, even by force, his person, his liberty, and his property, a number of men have the right to combine together to extend, to organize a common force to provide regularly for this defense.

Collective right, then, has its principle, its reason for existing, its lawfulness, in individual right; and the common force cannot rationally have any other end, or any other mission, than that of the isolated forces for which it is substituted. Thus, as the force of an individual cannot lawfully touch the person, the liberty, or the property of The Law another individual—for the same reason, the common force cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, the liberty, or the property of individuals or of classes.

For this perversion of force would be, in one case as in the other, in contradiction to our premises. For who will dare to say that force has been given to us, not to defend our rights, but to annihilate the equal rights of our brethren? And if this be not true of every individual force, acting independently, how can it be true of the collective force, which is only the organized union of isolated forces?”

Premise Two: In the case of the injury caused by the company, the company willfully violated the rights of the injured party; in doing so, they consented to whatever moral consequences followed. Consent =/= desire over alternatives.

The most telling line of the debate:


“If a person fails to pay taxes and are jailed as a result, this is not indicative of some injustice done to the person in question. It is, again, the legal prescription for what to do if a person does not pay the taxes they are legally required to pay.”

Here, my opponent makes the claim that, because an act is legal (in the governmental sense), it cannot be unjust. I must ask if slavery, being legal, was just merely by virtue of the State’s allowance. This is obviously absurd, and I doubt that even my opponent would accept the full implications of his claim.


----------------------------------------------------------------------

Argument 2: Immorality



“[T]
he term "proper" is in and of itself a word that is synonymous with morality[.] Because of this, the opponent has failed to actually define morality.”

Besides the fact that there is no standard for definition besides synonymy (how else could something be defined, if not by a synonym?), my opponent misses that I am not putting forward a positive ethical system; instead, I am dealing with the prerequisites of any morality. In this way, my argument is purely metaethical.

If people purposefully act, then they must hold some moral system, and the implications of this make up my argument.

The Objectivity of Morality

Opting to defend subjectivism, my opponent gives no response to my argument for the objective impossibility of moral coercion. The fact of the matter is that one must always assume that a given moral framework is true; every action implies that the agent believes that that action should be done. For subjectivism to be the case, one agent, X, must be able to freely advocate action Y being done to agent Z. Agent Z must also be able to freely advocate action Y being done to agent X, for subjectivism would grant both agents equal power to act as they please. However, if action Y involves stripping the power to freely preform actions from its target, this results in a contradixion: if agent X advocates an action which, if directed to him, would deprive him of the ability to advocate that action, he is debasing his ability to make such a choice at all. Therefore, action Y is a priori immoral, for all actors, and has to be objective.


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General Arguments

There Is No Consent


For a government to require one to either abide by its arbitrary laws or leave is not freedom if said government has no moral right to its land. My opponent assumes that the State’s relationship to the citizen is equivalent to a citizen’s relationship to a landowner, but this is unfounded – the State is inherently illegitimate, due to the necessary requirement of its coercive monopolization over the use of force.

Just as a slaveowner cannot assume consent because his slaves sleep in his shacks, the State cannot assume consent because citizens drive on roads. Just as a slaveowner holding a vote to determine what is served for dinner does not magically grant him the consent of those who are “represented” via the vote, the State does not gain warrant from the political system.

Lysander Spooner, in No Treason, dispelled the fiction of voting equaling consent (a point that equally applies to the “You can just leave!” argument):

“In truth, in the case of individuals, their actual voting is not to be taken as proof of consent, even for the time being. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, without his consent having even been asked a man finds himself environed by a government that he cannot resist; a government that forces him to pay money, render service, and forego the exercise of many of his natural rights, under peril of weighty punishments. He sees, too, that other men practice this tyranny over him by the use of the ballot. He sees further, that, if he will but use the ballot himself, he has some chance of relieving himself from this tyranny of others, by subjecting them to his own. In short, he finds himself, without his consent, so situated that, if he use the ballot, he may become a master; if he does not use it, he must become a slave. And he has no other alternative than these two. In self-defence, he attempts the former. His case is analogous to that of a man who has been forced into battle, where he must either kill others, or be killed himself. Because, to save his own life in battle, a man takes the lives of his opponents, it is not to be inferred that the battle is one of his own choosing. Neither in contests with the ballot – which is a mere substitute for a bullet – because, as his only chance of self-preservation, a man uses a ballot, is it to be inferred that the contest is one into which he voluntarily entered; that he voluntarily set up all his own natural rights, as a stake against those of others, to be lost or won by the mere power of numbers. On the contrary, it is to be considered that, in an exigency into which he had been forced by others, and in which no other means of self-defence offered, he, as a matter of necessity, used the only one that was left to him.”



The Utility of Government Coercion

If my claims about morality hold true, the “pragmatic” aspects of taxation cannot outweigh the immorality of force. It is a red herring to speak about public utility; my opponent assumes a moral framework in which public utility is of the highest important, and I have dealt with this already by explicating the limits of morality.

Quoting Robert Nozick:

“The claim that the proponent of the ultraminimal state is inconsistent, we now can see, assumes that he is a 'utilitarian of rights'. It assumes that his goal is, for example, to minimize the weighted amount of the violation of rights in the society, and that he should pursue this goal even through means that themselves violate people's rights. Instead, he may place the non-violation of rights as a constraint upon action, rather than (or in addition to) building it into the end state to be realized. The position held by this proponent of the ultraminimal state will be a consistent one if his conception of rights holds that your being forced to contribute to another's welfare violates your rights, whereas someone else's not providing you with things you need greatly, including things essential to the protection of your rights, does not itself violate your rights, even though it avoids making it more difficult for someone else to violate them.” (Anarchy, State, and Utopia)


Conclusion

It has been shown that natural law is the only law; taxation violates natural law; that which violates natural law is immoral; taxation is immoral; the “utility” of taxation plays no part in this judgement.

Cobalt

Con

I'll quickly address the two important points that the opponent has argued to legitamize his position, then I'll finish up by explaining the implication of the truth on these two issues. The two issues at hand regard the nature of law and the nature of morality.

The Law

My opponent claims I have made the "assumption that governmental decrees make the law" and goes onto talk about a fundamental or "natural law".

On the first, I'll simply say that I did not claim that governmental decrees "make the law", but rather referred to the "governmental decrees" as "laws". You can essentially replace every instance of the word "law" in my argument with "governmental decree" as I was not trying to imply some "rightness" or justification for these laws.

Rather, I was explaining that "theft" is defined as a particular offense that breaks the law. I made the assumption that "the law" in the definition referred to governmental decree, since that is the only "law" we live under in the US. This is where the opponent's second argument comes in -- as he claims there is a different, more fundemental kind of law.

Natural Law

In order to justify the existence of this "natural law", he quotes a person claiming that this law does exist. The person in question argues that this law comes from God, but does not in any further way attempt to justify the existence of this law. Rather, he attempts to explain what this law is, in his view.

I contend that there is not ample enough evidence to claim that God exists, so by extension it cannot be said that this "natural law" exists in any meaningful way. It is absolutely clear, however, that "governmental decrees" or governmental law does exist.

My opponent further discusses the implications of "bad laws", like slavery, claiming that I cannot say these governmental laws are just. And he is absolutely correct -- I never claimed that governmental law was just. It does not need to be for me to prove my point. I merely need to prove that the definition of "theft" means taking another's property in an unlawful way. The actual "justness" of the laws in question do not matter.

If the Great Principality of Q'sar decided that the government owned the air and that taking this property of the government was not legal, then all people in that country who breathed would be comitting theft. Whether this is "fair" or "right" is of no concern to the resolution, as we are not (in this point) discussing morality, but rather definitions.

To summarize, as far as laws are concerned, in the US it can be said that only one law objectively exists, with no other laws having objective and proveable existence in the jurisdiction of the US. The definition of "theft" specifically references the law, so something is theft if and only if it is done so in a way that is against the law. Again, it is irrelevant as to whether this is seen as "fair".

The opponent's second premise falls as a result of the first falling. "Consent" is an irrelevant part of the equation when it concerns the taking of one's property in a manner consistent with the law.

Morality

The most important thing to address is the opponent's supposed proof that morality is objective, as this directly clashes with my contention that it is not. Let's look at this argument:

1. For subjectivism to be true, agent X must be able to "freely advocate" action Y being done to agent Z.
2. This must hold true for agent Z advocating action Y on agent X.
3. If action Y involves stripping the power to freely perform actions from it's target, this results in a contradiction: If agent X advocates and action which, if directed to him, would deprive him the abiity to advocate that action, he is debasing his ability to make such a choice at all.

The wordiness of this argument disguises the fact that it is incomplete and innaccurate. Allow me to reword the argument:

1. For subjectivism to be true, Bob has to be able to want to enslave Craig.
2. Craig must also have to be able to want to enslave Bob.
3. If Craig's enslavery of Bob removes Bob's ability to want to enslave Craig, then that makes Bob inable to want to enslave Craig.

When we replace "freely advocate" with "want" it becomes clear that this argument does not correctly conclude that subjectivism isn't possible.

Agent X's desire to do some action is the not same as X's ability to do that action. Removing X's ability to do something does not necessitate the removal of X's desire to do that thing. Furthermore, subjectivism contends that morality does not exist objectively, such that actors X and Z could have fundementally different moral systems. Just because action Y may be offensive or undesirable to both parties does not mean Y is wrong simply because it is wrong in both systems. Additionally, man moral beliefs indicate that an action is "ok" to do to someone else, but that it is not ok for it to be done to that agent. Ie, person X might believe "it is ok for me to shoot Bob, but it is not ok for Bob to shoot me". This is a logically valid belief without contradiction, as subjectivism does not require agents to judge the validity of action Y from a universal standpoint, but merely their own.

As such, the opponent has failed to demonstrate that morality is objective. As a result of this, it cannot be meaningfully said that anything is universally moral or immoral in an objective way.

General Arguments (The Opponent's)

Consent

I've already demonstrated that the definition of theft does not always require the exchange of property to be consensual and that "consent" cannot be said to be universally good or bad due to the non-existence of objective moral absolutes.

As such, consent is irrelevant to the resolution at hand. If we had entered this argument with the assumption that an absolute morality existed, then a great conversation could be had over whether consent is objectively good or bad. Unfortunately for the opponent, that is not the framework in which we entered this discussion.

The Utility of Government Coercion

The opponent begins the argument with "if my claims about morality hold true...", which should make it clear what I'm about to say. I've demonstrated that the opponent's "proof" of objective morality was not correct, meaning that the opponent's claims regarding morality have not been found to hold true. As such, the discussion on "pragmatism" vs "the nature of force" is not one that is central to upholding my position, so I wil not waste the voters' time on it.

A Note on my "extra arguments"

I included a few extra arguments regarding the pragmatism of taxation in order to dispell the notion that taxation was in some way "draconian" like slavery. However, I feel it is unnecessary to continue to uphold them as the scope of my argument does not require their existence.

Conclusion

I have demonstrated that theft is a word with a clear definition and that this definition compares the action to the law. I've shown that the only law we know exists it governmental decree and that the opponent's assertion that natural law exists is unfounded and unproven. In this, I've demonstrated that taxation is not theft.

I've furthermore shown my opponent's logical argument for the existence of an objective morality to be flawed, negating his claim that taxation can be universally and objectively immoral.

In both of these points I have upheld my end of the resolution and negated the opponent's. He must defeat both of these points to be considered to be upholding his end of the resolution.

I look forward to the opponent's response.
Debate Round No. 3
ShabShoral

Pro

The Law

By my opponent’s own admission, he is using “government decree” and “law” interchangeably – this paints a picture far different than reality, wherein the Law carries a much deeper meaning. I have shown why his conception of law fails, thus debasing his case. .

Natural Law

My opponent has claimed that I have provided no justification to accept Natural Law; however, this is blatantly not true. I have shown that Natural Law exists insofar as it is impossible to reject it, specifically, that Natural Law precludes the rightful use of force, via indisputable a priori reasoning.

The idea that “justness does not matter” is absurd when my opponent is making claims about the legitimacy of certain laws. If law X, decreeing that taxation is not theft, is not legitimately a law, none would recognise anything drawn from it. My opponent must be saying that the legitimacy of unjust laws go unquestioned, a conclusion that, as much as he would like to avoid its explicit formulation, is a moral carte blanche.

The underlying question: Why should the Great Principality of Q’sar even get so far as to be considered a legitimate lawmaker?

If a decree contradicts Natural Law, how may it be just? If a law is unjust, why should it be recognised? If a law is not to be recognised, is it law?


Morality


As this argument requires subtlety, I will go line-by-line.


“Agent X's desire to do some action is the not same as X's ability to do that action. Removing X's ability to do something does not necessitate the removal of X's desire to do that thing.”

Is it not a contradixion to want a goal while advocating that all paths to achieving that goal be closed?

“Furthermore, subjectivism contends that morality does not exist objectively, such that actors X and Z could have fundementally different moral systems. Just because action Y may be offensive or undesirable to both parties does not mean Y is wrong simply because it is wrong in both systems.”

This misses the point. In acting at all, each agent is asserting their moral system as the one which should be followed. Thus, both X and Z must be asserting their moral systems, and their simultaneous assertions lead to contradixions and inconsistencies in each’s systems. The only way to eliminate contradixion is to adhere to the metaethical principle of non-aggression.

“Additionally, man moral beliefs indicate that an action is "ok" to do to someone else, but that it is not ok for it to be done to that agent. Ie, person X might believe "it is ok for me to shoot Bob, but it is not ok for Bob to shoot me". This is a logically valid belief without contradiction, as subjectivism does not require agents to judge the validity of action Y from a universal standpoint, but merely their own.”

I addressed this in my first round:

Axiom: All essential things being equal but the agent, moral judgments retain their validity.

Extension: "X should do Y" is equivalent to "X' should do Y" if X and X' are essentially indistinguishable.

My opponent must give a good reason to treat two moral agents, who are essentially the same in all relevant qualities, differently.


General Arguments (The Opponent's)

Consent; The Utility of Government Coercion; “Extra Arguments”


I have upheld my metaethical framework, and thus my opponent has dropped these points; weigh this against him if it is decided that Objectivism holds.

This debate has now been reduced to the moral component – the winner will be decided on moral grounds.



Conclusion

I have shown:

That there exists objective Natural Law;

That all “laws” in contradixion with Natural Law are not laws in the proper sense;

That Natural Law precludes the initiation of force;

That taxation is the initiation of force;

That taxation is thereby unlawful theft and immoral.

Q. E. D.

Cobalt

Con

I enjoyed this debate! It is a good sign for this community that it is still possible to have debates like this. Here, I'll combat the opponent's claims one last time, as well as provide closing arguments.

The Road So Far

The opponent's entire case rests on two assumptions.

1. Natural Law is an inherently existant thing.

2. X and X' are essentially indistinguishable. (In the argument, X should do Y is equivalent to X' should do Y.)

I'll show why the opponent's assumptions are lacking evidential and/or logical backing, then explain the implications of this.

Natural Law

I didn't claim that the opponent didn't have justification for Natural Law, but rather that the justification was so ill formed and dubious that it does not hold as something we can accept as true.

The opponent first defines Natural Law as what "nature, or rather God, has bestowed upon every one of us..." This clearly ties the existence of Natural Law with the existence of an objective and divine Lawmaker, which I stated the opponent has failed to demonstrate as existent.

The opponent can claim that this reasoning is "indisputable a priori reasoning", but that does not make it so. The fact remains that the opponent claimed that Natural Law exists because God does, but never made any attempt whatsoever to demonstrate that this God exists and that he chose to make the Law. Given that, we cannot assume the Natural Law to be an existent thing.

Governmental Decree

I must again reiterate that (in this argument) I am not concerning myself with the "justness" of governmental decree. (Henceforth, lowercase 'law'.) I am not claiming that these laws are morally legitimate, but instead that these laws objectively exist. It cannot be doubted that governmental law exists, as policymakers have put these laws into place. In the U.S., the existence of the Constitution is direct evidence that governmental law exists.

The term "theft" is defined with respect to the law. The definition does not explicitly say this law must be governmental, but seeing as I have shown that governmental law indisputably exists while Natural Law's existence has not been solidified, the former should be preferred. And with respect to governmental law, something is only definitionally theft if it is an act of property transferrence that occurs in a manner not prescribed by that law.

In determining whether an act is "theft", we are looking at definitions. Not morality, not "justness" and not "moral legitimacy". Just definitions. And in terms of definitions, I have demonstrated taxation to not be theft, as taxation is in accordance with governmental law.

Morality

The opponent's defense of his syllogism clarifies his exact mistep, which is apparent in the axiom "All essential things being equal but the agent, moral judgements retain their validity."

This axiom is used to attempt to prove that objectivism is true, but fundementally assumes that objectivism is already true in its construction. After all, if we are discounting the moral judgements of individual agents, through what system do we judge whether their actions are "valid"?

Furthermore, it's critical to point out that in "subjective morality", no action is considered valid in an objective sense. Actions are only valid or invalid in the minds of these "moral agents". As such, moral judgements cannot "retain their validity", as they have no validity in the first place.

Finally, we should understand that there are no two moral agents X and X' that are "essentially indistinguishable". Our subjective morality is based solely on our own opinions on right and wrong, which stem from the mind. Each person that lives, has ever lived or will ever live has a distinctly different mind than anyone else. This means that the opinions that define their subjective morality will always be different, meaning we cannot consider any two different moral agents to be "essentially indistinguishable".

Given this, we know that A) the opponent's fundemental axiom utilizes circular logic, attempting to justify objectivism while fundementally utilizing objectivism in its formation, and B) that even if the axiom is valid, it cannot be applied, since there do not and cannot exist two moral agents X and X' that are different, but essentially indistinguishable. What's more, it cannot be said that someone utilizing a subjective morality believes that it is "one which should be followed" by others. Rather, it is simply the unobjective and fundementally unproveable system of "morals" which they have chosen to abide by.

Additional Arguments

Consent; Coercion; Extra Arguments

If it is decided that the opponent's logical proof of objectivism is valid, then this argument does weight against me. However, I believe I have effectively demonstrated that the opponent has failed to adequately prove the claim of objectivism. (A reminder to the voters, the opponent accepted the full burden of proof. It should not be judged based up "most likely's", but rather from the standard of "absolute proof".


Conclusion

I have demonstrated that my opponent has failed to prove either of the claims he was burdened to prove.

In the case of theft, I have demonstrated that taxation is not theft based upon the very definition of theft. I have further demonstrated that the opponent's "Natural Law" claim was not proved to be true.

Regarding morality, I have shown that logical flaws exist in the single logical argument for objectivism that was presented. The opponent presented an "axiom" which we cannot believe is true on its own (regardless of how it's labeled.) The axiom utilized circular reasoning and was not even applicable in a literaly or philosophical way.

It is clear that the opponent has not provided adequate proof of either claim. As such, the vote should clearly rest with me tonight. I'd like to thank the voters for voting and the opponent for debating.
Debate Round No. 4
12 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by ShabShoral 1 year ago
ShabShoral
Thanks for the votes, guys!
Posted by Midnight1131 1 year ago
Midnight1131
This was a quality debate right here.
Posted by Ragnar 1 year ago
Ragnar
Voting on behalf of the Voter Union... FYI my votes give a lot of commentary from my thoughts as I read your arguments, and general advice. That I call out certain obvious fallacies, doesn't mean I've dismissed the points, merely that I am literate enough to understand them.

---RFD (1 of 3)---
S&G: When using such large block quotations, I suggest beginning each like with a renewed quotation mark (still only the one end quotation mark), and further indent it (as detailed here: https://docs.google.com...),

CONDUCT: Please be very careful with double-quotation marks referring to hypothetical statements, as they can easily turn into Strawman Fallacies or worse.

ARGUMENTS: Pro outright failed on theft, but did ok on the moral questions (but if either side of the resolution fails, it's rejected).

SOURCES: Con's dictionary quotations were good, but I consider dictionaries to be neutral (even if I greatly appreciate their use). Whereas pro's quotations from various philosophers kept the debate interesting (of note would be Robert Nozick's words, which kept the morality of taxation in question), and while they did not win the arguments, they greatly strengthen them keeping him in the debate longer. They were in essence how he met his side of the BoP.
Posted by Ragnar 1 year ago
Ragnar
---RFD (2 of 3)---
It became immediately apparent that the missing definitions from R1 would pose a problem. You want to prove something, but it should be proved along certain assumption, namely that the definitions are true, and that people indeed can own things. Con had a good idea with common sense definitions, but I suggest if doing that in future do an appeal to authority of a certain dictionary.

Arguments...
Theft: Pro used a new definition for theft, which con disagreed with. As the new definition is not taken from any common English dictionary (and pro did not specify the special definition bundled with acceptance), con's is preferable (here is that effective appeal to authority I mentioned a minute ago). Surprisingly pro did not lose here, as he argued Natural Law superseding governmental law (it was a nice quote, but it was a bit short on analysis to be able to win anything, at this point you just stayed in the game). The problem was his quote that con exposed was it depended on a certain deity existing, and all laws stemming from said deity, without first doing anything to show it existed.

Con's analogy of a company which has harmed someone is very good, because it makes readers consider if pro's definitions for both theft and morality thereof would apply to that case. Pro chose to rather than rebut this, to rebut a strawman he built "the company willfully violated the rights of the injured party," nowhere in con's case was the company stated as having intentionally harmed someone (not dismissing this, merely pointing out that it was made less effective through how obvious the error was). Whereas quoting con directly on the morality topic was very effective (I think the whole company thing has moved more to Morality than Theft, but leaving the headings alone).
Posted by Ragnar 1 year ago
Ragnar
---RFD (3 of 3)---
Morality: Con challenged pro's definitions for being circular, and pulled a K questing if morality can be measured (it mostly goes back and forth from there without much of interest happening).

Choice: Con argues people choose to take part in taxes, supported with the free ability to leave, and of course implied consent by using services paid for by taxes. Pro's counter "government has no moral right to its land," was interesting, but instead of follow through to make a strong point, decided to pull the slave card. "forego the exercise of many of his natural rights" was a nice bit, but said rights taken away has not been proven yet, so it doesn't have the support it is intended to have.

Utility: This was a subsect of Morality. A good point on it was "There cannot be a doubt that society is better off because of the existence of governments." Pro did manage to call the validity of this into doubt (within the scope of the debate) with a good quote from Robert Nozick, but it was still nicely worded.

Conclusion: "The idea that 'justness does not matter' is absurd." This holds true for the morality side to the debate, but not the theft side. The morality remained circular, but well supported; I'd have difficulty voting if the resolution concerned solely the morality... Yet the left side was by definition lost, pro did not even seek to uphold his claim on God which his theft lines of reasoning hedged.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
canis
No. I know..A stone can not swim. My mother can not swim...My mother is a stone...But it seems that the "most happy people in the world" are at the same time the most taxed.. A good reason could be, that by high taxation they do not have to worry about a lot of "ecential" things.. Healtcare = 0 $. Education 0 $...Loosing your job is no problem. The state will pay you what you need to live the life you are used to, (average)..
Posted by CaptainScarlet 1 year ago
CaptainScarlet
@canis. Correlation is not causation.
Posted by canis 1 year ago
canis
I think in the Nordic countries they have a total taxation around 50 %..."The most happy people in the world", (2014-2015)...But that is only possible as long as there is no corruption..
Posted by Cobalt 1 year ago
Cobalt
I'll have my response up in 3 to 4 hours.
Posted by CaptainScarlet 1 year ago
CaptainScarlet
Most people do not want taxation at least to the levels we experience it in the Western mixed economies. If most people wanted taxation as you suggest (and at the levels we experience it), we could make taxation voluntary and we should see limited impact on contribution rates. But I would hazard a guess that it wouldn't work, and if true what does that tell you about how much people want to be taxed? Pro is right, tax is government sponsored force.
2 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Vote Placed by Midnight1131 1 year ago
Midnight1131
ShabShoralCobalt
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: RFD: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ghFuHwnWggXnwXLz1t9bte9DB3iOdDJ7cSUhb2aRbUc/edit?usp=sharing
Vote Placed by Ragnar 1 year ago
Ragnar
ShabShoralCobalt
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments. In short pro bit off a little more than he could chew with the double resolution.