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I think the argument made in retort would go along the lines of - What happens if you don't pay the tax, or don't turn up to school?

All over a governments abilities boil down in their extreme to their monopoly on violence.




This is a common belief among libertarians, but it doesn't reflect how governments actually work. Governments that have to rely on physical force tend to be unstable, very small, or limited in their ability to effect policies.

Most people's decisions whether to follow or disobey laws are more heavily influenced by social pressures and conventions than the fear of imprisonment or physical assault by cops.

Incidentally, what usually happens when you don't pay taxes is you get nasty letters. If you have wages they might be garnished, and if you have assets they may be seized. Employers comply with garnishments and banks comply with seizures mostly for social reasons, not because of a fear that they will be imprisoned or shot for selflessly protecting a deadbeat.


That comment is very much in need of some sort of citation. I find it extremely hard to believe that a significant portion of people pay taxes because of social pressure and convention rather than the fear of punishment.

A reasonable thought experiment is to imagine what would happen if the government convincingly announced that it would no longer perform any physical enforcement of any laws. I for one wouldn't immediately go out and murder or burgle anyone, because my reasons for not doing those things are firstly my ethical intuition that such an act is wrong and secondly the fact that people are likely to fight back. But you better believe that I would immediately disregard some laws, particularly ones prohibiting so-called victimless crimes.

I would make essentially the exact opposite argument as you. I think that most people believe that government is not primarily in power because of violence, I think they're wrong, and I think history (ancient to modern) makes it extremely clear that they're wrong.


I'm not going to engage with you (we've had this conversation before at excruciating length) but I do want to call one thing out: the government supporting and enforcing laws is necessary for the laws to be perceived as credible. People will only accept prohibitions of behavior they wish to engage in if they believe it is a credible restriction instituted by a legitimate authority.

Governments that rely on violence may be perceived as legitimate by force but they frequently lack credibility.

Locke's _Two Treatises of Government_ is one of the earlier sources for this model, but it's a common theme in liberal political theory.


I don't recall our previous conversation, and I don't share your professed reluctance to engage in discussion. I agree that the vast majority of people in many countries (probably all developed countries) perceive their country's government as a legitimate authority. But whether most people in a society perceive their government as a legitimate authority is entirely orthogonal to whether the government uses violence and the threat thereof to enforce its rules.


I think that there is a non-negligible chance that I personally would follow the tax laws. (Although it seems very likely that at some point in time I would choose not to, it seems plausible to me that I might for some significant amount of time opt to follow the non-enforced laws, possibly even most of it (provided that the government was still stable and such) )

Not that I inherently oppose the use of violence to ensure that certain things that society has agreed on are enforced, Just that in many cases, I believe I would follow a current law set by a government even if there was no chance of punishment by the government (other than perhaps a public record)

(This is not to say that this is true of the majority of a given population, just that I believe that it is probably true about some people because I think it is probably true about me. (though I of course could be wrong in how I model myself) )

Note that I am claiming that there exist laws that I would follow without enforcement, but would not follow if they were not laws, but I am /not/ claiming that, for all laws, whether or not I follow said law is not affected by whether it is enforced.


I believe that most people would feel that they have a civic duty to contribute a portion of their income to the government. I just think the portion would be smaller than their actual tax rate for the vast majority of people.


That seems fairly likely to me. ( I don't think this contradicts what I said.)


It's worth noting that the sole reason the government can garnish your wages and seize your assets, is because they have the understood threat of eventual guns to back up it all up. Without the guns and the threat of potential violence, they could never manage it. You're confirming the parent.

Try seizing houses from people without the threat of guns and violence, see how that works out.


I addressed that. Employers cooperate with garnishment orders because they wish to continue to be perceived as law-abiding, and because they have accepted the proposition that paying a reasonable amount of tax is a civic duty. The same is true of banks.

What possible motivation would employers have to shelter a lawbreaking employee, at no benefit to themselves? Why would the threat of violence be remotely necessary?


> Employers cooperate with garnishment orders because they wish to continue to be perceived as law-abiding

What makes you think that? As far as I know, there is no easy way for a third party to determine whether any given company cooperates with garnishment orders, so how can this incentive exist?

> and because they have accepted the proposition that paying a reasonable amount of tax is a civic duty.

I imagine that most citizens think some level of taxation is a civic duty. But I also suspect that a large portion of citizens think their own level of taxation is too high, and would give less to the government if the government changed its rule to "give us whatever you think is appropriate to fulfill your civic duty."


The way I have heard it described is that governments have a monopoly on the "legitimate use of force." That is, if someone commits a crime, or doesn't pay taxes, or doesn't hold up their end of a contract, the government is the only entity allowed to physically (or otherwise) force someone to do something (go to jail, pay a fine, etc.).

I like this definition better because it avoids some of the objections people have responded with. 1) it avoids the word "violence" - the use of force does not require violence, and I think most people would hope that governments wouldn't use violence in their enforcement of laws (though we know that in practice this is often not the case), though the threat of force is more consistently necessary) and 2) it acknowledges that it's not a monopoly on the use of force, as the reality is that many people use force, but on its legitimate use.

I know it's even called "monopoly on violence" in the wikipedia article, so it's not that I think you're mistaken, but rather I prefer this definition. The article mentions the term "monopoly on violence" in English is indeed common, but also controversial.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monopoly_on_violence


For the nth time, the government doesn't have a monopoly on violence, otherwise there'd be no such thing as the right to self-defense. Even insofar as the state does have coercive powers, it does not follow that all state activity is based on coercion, any more than an individual's legal capacity for violence means that its the locus of their life's activities.




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