Do you believe that humans do or should have rights? Whether those rights come from a God, or from man’s conception – do you believe that humans should be afforded certain rights that protect them from evil men?
“Yes, of course. People have rights.”
Alright – now do you think those rights should be equal? Should everyone have the same rights?
“Definitely. Black people should have the same rights as White people. Women should have the same rights as Men. It shouldn’t matter who you are – as long as you’re a human, you should have human rights.”
And would you say that you have the right to steal from me? Do you, for example, have the right to take the money in my wallet? Puts $40 on the table By right, I merely mean – would you escape punishment from both a legal and moral perspective, if you stole my money?
“No, of course not. I would be arrested, prosecuted, and a judge would assign me a punishment for my transgression.”
So you do not have the right to steal from me. What if it’s just some of the money, say just $20. You still can’t take it from me?
And if we’re going along the premise that everyone has equal rights, would you say that nobody, not me, not you, not anyone has the right to steal?
Alright! So we’ve already determined that you believe in property rights. Now another question: Can I give to you something I do not myself own?
“What do you mean?”
Let’s say I have an apple. I can give you an apple, because I have it. However, if I have no apple, I cannot give it to you. Agreed?
“Yes, surely that is a simple matter of reality.”
Alright, now let’s extend that question to certain legal rights. For example, I am notified that a parcel has arrived at a post office, but I am unable to pick it up on time. Can I write you a signed letter, possibly with a copy of some document that identifies me, so that you can pick up the parcel on my behalf, and hold it until such a time as I can retrieve it?
And let’s be clear here – I can only give you that right of attorney because I have it myself. So if my friend Jake receives a parcel, I can’t just pick it up for him without his permission – and so I can’t delegate to you the right to pick up Jake’s parcel, either. I can only transfer something I have.
“Sure, that makes sense.”
Now, back to this right to steal. If you do not have the right to steal my money, you also cannot transfer it someone else. For example my friend Jake. Can you give him the right to steal my property?
“No, that’s absurd – we’ve just covered how one cannot give another what one does not have.”
And what if there is more than one person. Let’s say Jake and I get together, and we decide we want to take your money. Can we do that, because there are two of us?
“Absolutely not! Neither of you individually has the right to take my money. 0 rights + 0 rights = 0 rights. It doesn’t matter how many times you multiply by zero, the result is the same, zero.”
Excellent analogy. So you would then agree that even if there were many people, your rule would hold up? Can many people, none of whom individually possess the right to steal, somehow create that right by virtue of their number?
“No, even a million times zero is still zero.”
Alright. And by this same logic, if they cannot create a new right by virtue of their great number, they can likewise not transfer that non-existent right to someone else, say, someone they have voted among themselves to lead them.
“That’s right, you can’t give what you do not have. Even if a million people get together, they can only give as many apples as they individually have.”
So for example, if I gather together the local community and vote unanimously, except for your vote, that we can retrieve your parcel on your behalf, that would still be theft – correct?
And can we at this point define theft as the mutually involuntary taking of another person’s property?
“Sure, theft is identified by consent. If the person does not consent to handing over their money, then a theft has occurred. Whether that theft happens by force or fraud doesn’t change that it happened and it was not voluntary.”
Then by that same principle – no government, even a democratically elected one, has the right to tax anyone unwilling to pay taxes. A group of people can surely get together and voluntarily transfer their wealth to someone else, but where would they find the right to take someone else’s wealth, who did not consent?
And so we have arrived at this principle – people in government have no more rights than people outside it. There is no magical way to imbue government agents with rights they do not have. Whatever powers they exercise that violate our human rights, they do out of sheer force, or the principle of “might makes right”. In other words, they do it as criminals.
Thus, a consistent application of equal rights results in anarchy – or no coercive rulers. No one can ethically expropriate anyone else, and so a coercive government based on involuntary taxation is ethically inconsistent with the idea of equal rights.
All anarchy is, is the absence of legalized coercion. A man who must with every working hour involuntarily, without his consent, give a portion of his work to someone else or face violent punishment, is a slave.
Market anarchy, consistent libertarianism, voluntaryism. These are nothing less than the opposition to slavery.