Choice, force & guilt

Corey Robin, author, blogger & professor of political science at Brooklyn College, is not a fan of libertarians. At all. However, his exposure to them leans overwhelmingly toward the U.S. mainstream understanding of the term as depicted by the Cato Institute, so in a way I understand.

Recently on Twitter, Corey ended up encountering some people that according to his assumptions & experience shouldn’t exist: left-libertarians. The conversation came to focus on the idea of responsibility for crimes of the State, with Corey arguing (since he believes the Government Is Us myth) that not evading taxes is morally equivalent to endorsing what is done with them, in this case war. That the decision is clearly separated from who gets the bill for it doesn’t even come into play for him. Smelling a contradiction being baked, I jumped in with the following:

So you wouldn’t complain & call it selfish if every anti-war citizen took up tax evasion?

As a standard issue “progressive”, Corey Robin’s attitude towards taxes from what I can tell up to this point is agreement that they’re the price we pay for civilization, rather than being the price for the clash of such as dL would describe it, or a form of institutional fraud (due to the implied promises made of the alleged representative state to citizens) as I’d call it. Yet, here was his reply:

I think it would be great if a movement of citizens refused to pay taxes to support war machine.

Think this through: he starts off from an assumption that what government does is our call, then by implying that anti-war tax resisters would be in the right versus the government basically admits the opposite. Otherwise, what is there to oppose?

Such a stance as what I offered doesn’t just emerge out of nowhere, there is a principle behind it. “If I don’t do this, I’ll be hunted down and shot” is not consent, as it appears even Corey has acknowledged. Question is what that means to the rest of his political philosophy, because that particular chunk doesn’t fit.

If I had to guess, it’ll mean nothing, & he’ll forget having said it. Well, not if I can help it… *reaches for “publish” button*


About b-psycho

Left-libertarian blogger & occasional musician.
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One Response to Choice, force & guilt

  1. ricketson says:

    I don’t twit, so I’ll chime in here…

    Refusing to pay taxes does not require rejection of the legitimacy and authority of the state. Progressives often hold up this ideal of loyal opposition. For instance, they point to Thoreau’s essay “Civil Disobedience”, in which he refused to pay taxes for the Mexican war, but still allowed himself to be imprisoned. Likewise, some war resisters intentionally impoverish themselves so that they are not obligated to pay taxes. This is different from someone who refrains from reporting income in order to reduce his tax burden. Perhaps the point is that this approach signals one’s sincere belief in the cause, so that one’s behavior is not interpreted as selfish. Another benefit of submitting to the authority of the state is that it limits the risk of escalation. Straight-out rebellion may be viewed as irresponsible.

    Leaving aside the above issues, we may also want to ask what is needed to justify non-cooperation. Wars are radically destructive activities…not simply bad policies. Furthermore, people can oppose wars based on general principles of non-violence. Such broad, clear-cut objections may not be applicable to issues of property rights.

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