Posted in philosophy | 18 Comments »
Fellow agorist blogger FSK late last year explored the question: “Is Participating in the State Economy Immoral?“
The short answer, of course, is an emphatic “no”, unless you’re going to adopt the patently insane position that we’re all criminals for doing so, as Francois Tremblay does in saying “We are all war criminals” — a position which I will contest to my last breath.
In exploring the question, FSK links to my first “Educating for anarchism” post, and elaborates on a theme that I’ve heard before — and rejected.
This post was originally going to be a reply comment to FSK’s post, but since it grew so long and was so long ago, I thought it deserved a post of its own, here:
I noticed this post by Mike Gogulski, where he refused a job for the State. The fallacy in his reasoning is that *ANY* on-the-books work supports the State via taxes. Suppose I have two choices. I can do $10k of work directly for the State, or $10k of work in a wage slave job. Suppose my income taxation rate is 50%. In the $10k wage slave job, I contribute $5k directly to the State. Similarly, if I accept the $10k job working directly for the State, I pay $5k directly back to the State in taxes. (In some countries, income on State jobs is tax-exempt. I’m ignoring that possibility here.) If I don’t accept the $10k State job, someone else will take it, still getting paid $10k but perhaps doing marginally worse work. However, by refusing the direct State job, I am forced to accept a marginally lower salary. Overall, the net damage to the State by my refusal to work directly for the State is negligible.
“I refuse to work directly for the State” is an attitude that only works when vastly more than 50% of the population has been convinced “The State is evil!” By that time, the State has already lost anyway. Once a vast majority of people have been convinced “The State is evil!”, then it’s already all over for the State. In the meantime, if you refuse to work directly for the State, then someone almost as qualified will gladly take your place.
Hello, FSK! I’m finally circling back on this post, which has been open in a browser tab since, er… last year I’m just gonna reply to the bits that mentioned me.
The fallacy in his [i.e.: my] reasoning is that *ANY* on-the-books work supports the State via taxes.
This is true. However, you overlook something here, though you do kindof address it later — though I have a quibble with that as well.
If I earn $10k making sex toys (something which, as far as I know, no state anywhere actually produces, nor desires), and surrender $5k of my earnings to the state, the state receives a net benefit of $5k, minus collection and enforcement costs, which may be held to be negligible.
If I earn $10k making ICBMs for the state and surrender the same $5k in income tax, the state receives a net benefit of $5k cash PLUS whatever benefit the state assigns to the missiles.
By choosing to make sex toys which do not benefit the state in any way (other than by the taxes imposed upon them) rather than missiles which benefit the state directly, I at least keep my hands off of a transaction which would create greater evil.
I put it to you that by refusing to do the state’s work I am creating a benefit for freedom. Certainly, in the inverse case, you would not praise me for finding a quasi-agorist method of doing work to help provide the state with ICBMs. The object of the work matters as well as the economics.
That was quibble #1. Quibble #2 is this:
[I]f you refuse to work directly for the State, then someone almost as qualified will gladly take your place.
Arguably true, given today’s circumstances. However, in my particular case, there are only a very small number of professional translators who both speak English as their native language and who have a high level of competency in translating the Slovak language. Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that I have a real niche market, and that there are only ten other people in the world, including me, who can deliver the same Slovak-to-English translation job at the same level of quality as I can. My refusal takes me out of the pool of available labor, and thus the state has only 90% of the potential labor force available to it. At any given time, this tends to make getting the state’s work in translating Slovak to English more difficult, as there are fewer resources which can be applied to the task. It might also have the side effect of driving up prices among those other nine translators who are willing to work for the state. At some point, when prices are driven up high enough, the customer stops buying.
However, there is yet another benefit. When I tell one of my agency clients that I do not do any work for directly governments, that I do not do any work on non-governmental company/charity projects that are funded by governments, that I do not do any work for organizations that derive more than X% of their revenues from taxes, that I do not do any work for organizations which engage in certain objectionable statist activities, I am making a contribution toward anarchist education. I have alerted one or more people at that translation agency that there is a moral objection which might be raised against taking certain kinds of work.
In many cases, that message may well fall on deaf ears today. Maybe only 1 in 100 translation agency employees might have their own beliefs modified by coming into contact with mine in this way. But it will be remembered, and perhaps in the future those same people might think over the issue again, or tell a story to a colleague or a friend: “Hey, there’s this Mike guy who says ‘All taxes are theft!’ and ‘I read FSK!’ and won’t take certain kinds of jobs from us, isn’t that funny?” And it can spread from there.
And now, quibble #3:
There is a moral argument for refusing to take jobs and income from the state. All of the state’s money and property is stolen. When we freely accept known stolen property in trade, if we do not become accessories to theft ourselves we at least become facilitators of that theft, in that if we refused to accept unearned wealth in trade and convinced those around us to do the same, then the criminals stealing it would no longer have an incentive to do so, as they could never spend it. I, personally, do not want to be paid out of money stolen from other people through taxation. Recognizing that eliminating this entirely under the statist system may be impossible, I still hold it as my own duty to minimize the occurrence thereof and to encourage others to do the same.
A drop, perhaps, in an ocean of statist shit. But it’s my drop, damnit, and I’d like you to see all sides and all possibilities.