Do we need taxes to pay for the courts?


I received another comment on my “Taxation is not theft?” post.  This time the comment came from someone whom I assume is a minarchist, so the arguments will be different than the ones presented by the author of Whistling in the Wind.

Let’s get into the comment:

The flaw here is that the non-aggression principle does not establish a means to adjudicate disputes when one person claims another has violated it. The non-aggression principle serves as a good foundation for law, but it says nothing about what the penalty should be for breaking it, nor how we shall determine if someone has broken it, nor who is to enforce the penalty.

I completely agree with this commentary on the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) except that it creates a flaw in my argument.  My arguments do not hinge on any of what is critiqued.  The only time I mentioned the NAP in my rebuttal to Wind was when I said that generally the only rules that businesses ask you to adhere to when you patronize them is the NAP.  As a matter of fact, I have consistently argued that the NAP is not axiomatic.

This argument is a basically a straw man of my position.  Yes, the NAP is associated with my argument, but my actual argument is that the state cannot make a legitimate claim on property simply because it says it can.

Neither is it legitimate to claim that those who use the court system shall be responsible for paying its costs, because if my rights to life, liberty and property are to mean anything, I must have the right to seek redress from the court for offenses against them or accusations against me even if I am indigent.

Why is it not legitimate to expect someone who uses a good or service to pay for it?  That is not to say that a market approach to the legal system would require individuals to pay court fees themselves, but whether it is through a dispute resolution organization (DRO) or insurance company, someone associated with the court case would pay the costs.  The fact that private arbitration must be purchased does not diminish your right to pursue arbitration any more than the fact that cars must be purchased does not diminish your right to pursue cars.

If you are going to use indigence as an argument for socializing the courts, then why couldn’t someone use indigence as an argument for socializing food and healthcare?  Certainly being fed is much more important than being able to afford a lawyer in case someone decides to take you to court.  Why do some libertarians argue for socialism of the courts while simultaneously decrying the horrors of socialized healthcare (and socialism in general)?

The best piece of evidence to support the workability of private arbitration and courts is that they already exist.  If you ever have the opportunity to look at the fine print of a purchase order, for example, they usually (maybe always) designate private arbitration if a dispute arises.

Furthermore, justice can only be dispensed by a neutral arbiter, not one who is being paid by one or both of the parties he is judging, else he will be liable to favor the party that pays him (more). For this reason, we regard bribery not as a free market transaction, but rather as a crime against the people and indeed, against the very concept of justice itself.

If a judge is being paid by both parties, let’s say equally, then how is he partial to one party over another on the basis of who is paying for his services?  It is likely that DROs or insurance companies would already have agreements in place among each other that specify which courts would be used and how payments to them would be made.  Remember, it is in the best interest of those taking an issue to court to have it be as smooth and efficient as possible because it keeps the costs down and the results coming quickly.

In order to advertise that your arbitration business is the best, i.e. fair, the results of cases would be available for public review.  If an arbiter were accused of being bribed, then he could simply open his books.  But would it even need to come to this?  I would imagine that auditing potential courts would be common practice among users.  Similarly, this would be a great opportunity for private regulation to flourish where a stamp of approval signifies that a private court meets certain standards.

It might make sense for a private arbiter to accept a bribe in the short term, but it makes about as much sense as a supermarket having the incentive to sell food that makes people sick.

How would a state court be neutral?  If the state ever brings a citizen to court, the set up will be a private citizen versus the state in a court that is paid by the state.  What does that say for the concept of justice?

It follows then, that since the courts cannot be justly funded by voluntary contributions or by user fees, that there must be some external means to pay them, or alternatively that public service must be rendered by conscription as a citizen’s duty. Therefore, to have a functioning court system to adjudicate disputes and a law enforcement to enforce the court’s decisions, these public offices must be paid out of either revenue derived from the use of the commons or else by taxes assessed by some equitable means.

So if you are unable to think of a way that courts could be privately funded, it makes it okay to steal from people to fund it?

But if the “external means” would be raising the money in some voluntary fashion, so long as people aren’t forced to use this court system, then this would be perfectly permissible and would not constitute a state.

It follows then, that not only is it not theft to assess taxes, it is theft to refuse to pay the taxes duly owed, for whoever does so is refusing to pay the wages he owes to those who enforce his rights and compelling his neighbor to pay more than is required of him.

No, it would still be theft.  There are some situations where theft might be justified if there are literally no other options that would prevent some worse evil from occurring (like death).  If I steal a loaf of bread because that is the only way I can continue to live, it is still theft.

If someone decides to perform a service for me without asking me if I want to exchange some sort of payment for their service, I am under no obligation to pay them.  Depending on the situation, it might be a good thing for me to give them something to show my appreciation if it was something that was actually beneficial to me.

I have a real life example of this.  This past January, my area experienced a blizzard over a weekend.  One of my neighbors went around to each of the houses in my cul-de-sac with his tractor equipped with a front end loader and a plow (this happens when you live out in the sticks) and cleared the snow off the driveways.  Since he saved me hours and hours of work, to show my appreciation, I gave him a twelve-pack of good beer.  Let’s say I didn’t give him anything and my neighbor decides that he wants money from me, so he shows up to my door and threatens to harm me if I don’t pay him.  Would he be justified in doing that?  Of course he wouldn’t!  Therefore, if someone decides to set up courts and police without first ensuring that I want to participate, I am under no obligation to pay them.

The same principle applies to the common defense. Either we are to hire and equip a professional military out of the public revenue in order to secure ourselves from invasion and/or insurrection, or it is each citizen’s duty to enroll in the militia for a period of time at his own expense to the same end. These duties of the State to protect its citizens extend to protecting them from foreign bombardment and neutralizing aggressors so that they cannot repeat acts of aggression should their intent to do so be clear and convincing.

This is a convenient false dichotomy when you ignore the possibility of voluntary alternatives.  It’s as if the argument comes from the position that the state is the only way to provide for defense and then the arguments are developed to rationalize the position as opposed to developing a philosophy and coming to conclusions based on the philosophy.

So why is it not possible for insurance companies to take care of defense?  It would make sense for a business to have a pay a bit of money to make sure its consumer base isn’t blown away by a foreign invasion.  Considering that many attacks nowadays are the results of government meddling in foreign affairs, which is very expensive, it is not likely that foreign interests would invade a stateless society, so it should be considerably less expensive to fund a private military than it would to fund an aggressive state military.

One may justly object to the amount of taxes assessed to him or the manner in which they are assessed, and even to dispute the amount of the assessment if he has non-frivolous reasons for doing so (i.e. the tax collector is claiming he incurred more tax liability than he believes he did), but to refuse to pay the taxes one duly owes makes one a thief, robbing those who enforce his rights of their wages and robbing his neighbors of their rights.

When you say that you are a thief for not paying your taxes, you are begging the question that taxation is the only way to provide such important and necessary services.  But economics tells us that when there is such a high demand for a good or service, it will attract suppliers to the marketplace in order to sate that demand.  So the question for minarchists is why the laws of economics are different for some markets than others?