no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Comments on Comments #20

July 9th, 2008

Jeff Molby left a comment on {P = 0:n } The Game is Rigged:

You neglected to factor in the non-pecuniary benefit of gambling. Many people are simply entertained by the thrill. Those people, ignorant of their zero probability, still receive the entertainment value that they expected.

The “thrill” of gambling is predicated upon a non-zero chance at actually winning. Even the most degenerate of gamblers ultimately wants to win money. If you told someone, in advance, that they could not possibly win the game, even this degenerate would be hesitant to recognize any “thrill” in that sort of wager.

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Tony, whose post inspired {P = 0:n } The Game is Rigged, appreciated my insights. He says lots of people are simply outraged because the State is involved. Pretty much every libertarian agrees; OK, that’s boring.

Tony wanted to spark a discussion of why it’s outrageous, which he did. He’s also provided a follow-up post. Glad to have the discussion, Tony!

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Mike Gogulski left a comment on {P = 0:n } The Game is Rigged:

Mmmmhmmm. Even so, I still maintain that lotteries are a tax on people who are bad at math.

LOL! Lotteries certainly take advantage of people who are bad at math, but they’re not taxes, since nobody has to play them, or else. This is made clear by lotteries which aren’t run by the State, like 50-50 charity raffles and the like. The basic idea behind the 50/50 raffle is that by offering to split the donations by lottery drawing, a charitable organization will net greater proceeds than had it simply asked for charitable donations. Let me qualify: I have no idea whether this argument is mathematically sound, but people must presume this to be the case, otherwise they would just ask for donations.

An individual may very well enter this sort of lottery because he’s bad at math, but even people who know the mathematics of expected values and probabilities may be inclined to contribute money to charitable causes when there exists some probability (even a mathematically poor one) that they might also benefit. I’d wager (again, no pun intended) that practically nobody who buys lottery tickets does so because the proceeds fund the State schools; they buy lotto tickets because they’re mathematically dumb, and they think the might get rich. To the contrary, I’d bet that in the case of 50/50 charity raffles, most people are primarily giving to the cause, where the opportunity of winning creates a small, additional incentive.

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I’ve never been fond of the Pigou tax, as advocated by some libertarians as an appopriate tax, but aside from the whole Taxation is Theft argument, I’ve never quite been able to explain why. Sure, you can look to Coase and say, well, if the market can’t provide for these things, then we should surmise that property rights aren’t well-defined, or that the law is a ass. I’m sure both conditions hold in many instances.Referencing Coase’s seminal paper, “The Problem of Social Cost”, and also Hayek’s analysis of the Knowledge Problem, Ed Lopez at the Division of Labour blog gives his nutshell rejection of Pigou taxes

The knowledge of which things are good or bad, in which circumstances of time and place, and to what dollar amount, are beyond the reach of anyone including policymakers; but even absent the knowledge problem, the incentive problem ensures that the enacted policies would be diverted by compromise from what little we do happen to know of the public interest.

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Responding to people (e.g., Statists on the Mises.org boards) who say things like “government is a necessary evil,” and “government has done some good things for us,” John at Blagnet.net comments:

I have an idea: Let’s try one country or one state without a monopolistic government, and one with, and I can live in one and you in t’other, and we’ll just agree to trade but not bother each other outside of that.

Oh, what? Your moral code doesn’t work that way? You can force me to submit to your State and your morality, but I can’t do the same to you—I can’t even refrain from adhering to yours and leave you alone? Yeah, excuse me for not acting surprised at the fact that such an amoral and antisocial code of interpersonal relations has created most of the death, misery, and poverty the human race has ever known.

Right on. This is not the exception, this is the rule: the greatest threat to man throughout the ages has always been government.

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It’s great to theorize, but a long time ago, all the “unowned” wilderness has been appropriated by governments who fraudulently claim to own them.

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In The Voting Scam, Revisited, FSK notes a common objection to tax resistance, a lot of people say things like:

If I have to pay taxes, then so should everyone else.

They clearly don’t want to pay taxes which is evidenced by the condescension. Some people love to pay taxes, or at least they rationalize it well enough.  The rest of the people, well, they don’t want to pay, but don’t really understand why.  But most people are simply off-the-mark; they are all missing the point: taxation is theft.

Why do they presume to have to pay taxes, too? If they are happy paying them, then they should be satisfied in that. If not, then they shouldn’t try to extend the reach of misery unto others. Almost everyone who complains about taxes is complaining about their own burden, and not generally about some inequity in the system. Unless you’re above the 50th percentile, you have no right to complain about the inequity in the system, unless you’re working as an advocate for those who do.

If you do some research and look through court transcripts (I think I remember reading about Irwin Schiff) you’ll see an interesting pattern: the attorneys for the IRS routinely tell the jury that the defendant has cheated them (as individual taxpayers), in effect poisoning the well with this very same argument.  They also repeatedly deny attempts to leverage certain defenses on the grounds that such defenses are frivolous.  Some of them are, (i.e., it’s probably ridiculous to plead the 5th in a civil case, or is it?  food for though…)

Of course, the determination of frivolousity is made by the accusers, who are trying to collect the tax in the first place.

But there’s no conflict of interest.  Greater good.  And stuff.

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In Reader Mail # 58, referencing my post, No Quarter: An Argument Against War Taxes, FSK points out a number of omissions on my part (e.g., the 16th Amendment was never ratified, taxation is a form of involuntary servitued, 5th amendment right not to be compelled to incriminate oneself, etc.). All of these are lumped under the umbrella of “frivolous” defenses, according to the IRS. I didn’t want to re-invent the wheel. I saw nothing on the IRS site pertaining to the Third Amendment.

He also makes some comments about jury trials:

Trial by jury, as currently implemented, provides no protection to individual rights. Suppose you’re lucky and 1-2 competent people make it onto the jury. In that case, if the jury is hung 10-2 or 11-1, you’ll just be the victim in a brand new trial! Above, I gave an example where a juror who was attempting nullification was kicked off a jury, after the jury had begun deliberating!

It’s interesting that I never really considered the problem of a hung-jury. We say we have a justice system where you’re innocent until proven guilty, but if the jury is hung, the State ultimately gets as many mulligans as it wants. If you have to have a unanimous verdict of “not guilty” in order to be determined not guilty, then you weren’t really “innocent until proven guilty” in the first place. The State failed to convince 12 people (a statistically insignificant minority, in any event) that you were guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You also failed to convince them of your innocence, but arguably that burden of proof is not yours to bear.

Now, because you didn’t prove something that (ostensibly) you weren’t required to prove, the State gets another at-bat.

How’s that for ridiculous?

Citing Spooner, again, FSK notes:

[Spooner] also made an interesting point that bankruptcy law is irrelevant. When you borrow money, you should always pledge tangible property as collateral. In this manner, there is always a 1st mortgage, 2nd mortgage, 3rd mortgage, etc. In the event of insolvency, the 1st mortgage is paid in full, then the 2nd, etc. If there’s only enough money after the property sale to partially pay off the 2nd mortgage, then the 2nd mortgage is partially paid off and the 3rd mortgage is worthless.

I’ll discuss this in greater detail in a forthcoming post called “What is a Loan?”

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By way of Two–Four, I got involved with a heated discussion at Samizdata on the importance of the 2008 election.  When the issue of abstention was brought up, Billy Beck was accused of running and hiding in a dark room somewhere.  He responded in full force:

I’m living in what’s left of the sunshine, sir. Every single day. And I do not submit anything about it to your opinion, a commie’s opinion, or anyone else’s. Sneer all you want, and go submit my rights to a vote all you want, but bear this in mind: I would never do that to you.

I would never do that to you.  That’s the key takeaway, folks.  I would never do that to you.  Yet you insist on doing it, to me.

John W. (TSgt, USAF Ret.), was the least of my concerns, he said, in ALL CAPS:

IF YOU DON NOT VOTE, YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO GRIPE ABOUT THE KIND OF GOVERNMENT YOU GET!

Really?  Because it seems to me, that the primary cause for “the government I get” is other people.  Concurring with “M” whos calls John’s statement “[a] completely banal platitude”, I continued:

…Those of us who abstain on principle have every right to complain. Only when you vote, and you participate in the mockery of justice by which men profess to auction off the rights of others in a popularity contest, do you forfeit your right to complain about the government you get. You, sir voter, are the one who deserves whatever government you receive.

The rest of us, on the other hand, well, it doesn’t much matter whether we vote or not, because nobody is about to give us our damn freedom, no matter how few (or many) of us there really are.

Another commenter, trevalyan, follows me with:

They don’t seem to want to let us go, however. Which is odd, because I’m quite sure people would be willing to buy a large stake of government land, in exchange for the government’s promise to leave the inhabitants in peace. No one really wonders why it won’t happen.

Count me among that large number of people. Of course, (setting aside the moral question of why one should be obliged to purchase his own freedom) you can’t buy Allodial title from the State, because permitting secession would destroy the state’s unique monopoly and erode its power.

If you peruse the commentary at Samizdata, you’ll find that there is another State-apologist who claims to be of “anarchist/libertarian/individualist” ideology.  I discount that assertion as mere patronization, and I’ll soon summarize our discussion (if you could call it that; honestly, you’d think a little mutual respect would be in order, but apparently not).

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So that’s that, for now.  A couple topics that I need to follow-up on: What is a Loan, and a re-cap of the Samizdata “debate”.  I’ll try to get some posts (pre) published before I head out of town for the weekend; whether they’ll be on these topics has yet to be determined.

I just checked my Dashboard, and I have something like 30 posts in the draft stage.  Probably 20 of those will ultimately be deleted.

If you like my posts, submit them to other sites; I’d love to get a piece published on strike-the-root or something like that.  I appreciate all the publicity (which is to say, very little) I can get.  I don’t charge for my posts, and I won’t sue you for posting, referring, or aggregating them elsewhere; but I’d prefer it if you link back to the original.

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  • Jeff Molby says on: July 9, 2008 at 7:23 am

     

    The “thrill” of gambling is predicated upon a non-zero chance at actually winning.

    Close, but not quite. It’s based on the belief of a non-zero change at actually winning.

no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics