Hayekian Escape from Circular Argument

by Chidem Kurdas

Gene Callahan’s incisive post and the absorbing discussion that it generated here on ThinkMarkets can be taken as support for a Hayekian rather than a Hobbesian framework, not the least because by starting with Hayek, you can get to a substantive answer to Hobbes.

Gene, with his usual razor-sharp logic, points out that “if Hobbes is right, and without Leviathan we are in the ‘Warre of all against all,’ then the sovereign is justified in doing whatever is necessary to keep us out of that state.” Ergo, to argue that taxes are an unjust coercion, you have to show “that the State is not a necessary element of social order.”

After 82 comments and counting, there is no resolution. This all-or-nothing way of  looking at government coercion always leads to a dead end. Of course most people fear a short, nasty, brutish etc. life, so they settle for Leviathan with all the trimmings. Put that way, there is no argument against the tax collector. Continue reading

A Circular Argument in Libertarian Reasoning?

by Gene Callahan

Although I have touched briefly on this topic at my (mostly) solo, non-serious blog, the volume of response I received there has prompted me to flesh out my argument and present it here, on the blog where I limit myself to my more sober postings.

The proximate cause of my addressing this topic was a post by Brian Doherty at Reason.com, where he wrote:

“States, after all, cannot function without first aggressing against someone, if only to get tax money to fund their activities.”

But the ultimate cause was my much longer-term conviction that such reasoning simply begs a central question that political theory is seeking to answer, namely, just when is coercion justified and when isn’t it? After all, every wavelength of the political spectrum considers some coercion to be OK, and some to be “aggression.” Continue reading