Objectivists and Libertarians believe in something called the “non-initiation
of force principle”. You are not allowed to attack someone, but can respond
if attacked. That seems fair enough at first glance, but it has a very
incovenient consequence. If someone makes off with your property, you cannot
grab them, because that would be initiating force! Libertarians could
respond to this by modifying the NOIF principle to it is OK to
use force in repsonse to theft as well as force. (That would
be like the “reasonable force” prinicple of most legal systems).
But that would scupper another of their much-loved principles,
that Taxation Is Theft. The argument is that it is the government
that initiates force against non-payers of taxes by sending them to prison.
But if it is acceptable to initiate force if you have been defrauded,
it alright for governments to arrest tax evaders, because they
are attempting to use public services without providing payment,
which is just as illegitimate as walking out of a restaurant without
1. Assume theft is force. Then people who have used public services
without paying have committed theft, therefore they have initiated
force, therefore the government can legitimately respond under NOIF.
2. Assume theft is not force. Therefore fraudsters and other
non-violent criminals have not initiated force, therefore
no one can use force to catch them, under NOIF.
Thus there is no *one* interpretation that allows you
to catch non-violent criminals whilst leaving taxation illegitimate.
Some libertarians define force as absence of consent. But most
people consent to the system through choosing to remain in the country,
voting for parties which levey taxes in the normal ways, and using
public sevices provided for by taxes.
Note that a citizen of Libertopia can find themselves in a very similar situation.
Assuming they have decided that IoF is acceptable enough for effective law enforcement to exist, and assuming there are private enforcement agencies,….where a private law enforcement agency has a local monopoly, someone who doesn’t like them has a choice between leaving, or staying, refusing to subscribe, and facing the threat of force … from criminals, if not from the agency itself.
My argument was an argument against a typical claim that states are not legitimate, because their monopoly on force contravenes some absolute principle of NIoF . But no one really wants that kind of principle, because it is too inconvenient. A NIoF that is flexible enough to allow you catch wrongdoers is justifiable by its consequences, so the state monopoly on force is justifiable by its consequences…and often is.
it isnt considered wrong for people form vigilante groups and take the law into their own hands because of an unconditional prohibition on force, it is considered wrong because it isnt their job…under conditions where there is a police force. The police have the right to initiate force because they have a set of responsibilities to go with it. Where a society has no such specialists, because it hasn’t evolved them, or because of breakdown, it makes sense for ordinary citizens to do their own crime prevention. That is a clue that the exercise of force by state agencies is exercised on behalf of citizens, that their right to use force is the citizens right which they have handed on to professionals.
The Libertarian can still make the objection that individuals have not consented to taxation;this is based on a narrow definition of consent as an explicit arrangement between individuals.
This doesn’t work too well for public goods, where there are externalities. or where the parties involved aren’t competent adults. Group consent and tacit consent are needed for those. Group consent can be abused outside the appropriate contexts, but you can have meta level principles that define where it’s applicable. And you could write them into your, what I call, constitution.
People who reject absolute NIoF aren’t seeking a free for all, they are seeking a set of carefully constrained and justified exceptions. Likewise group decision making.