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+1 vote

Yeah, someone seriously tried to make the point that in refusing to obey governments people are stealing.

For the record, I'm aware this is a trick question but I'm posting this question here as a way to preserve this ridiculous argument and that other future generations of anarchists can appreciate how absurd opponents can be.

That all said, this is something of a followup to my previous question regarding how to respond to arguments against the social contract. To better understand this argument, I recommend responders first look at it before answering this question.

That said, I got into yet another debate recently which stemmed off from the social contract argument and ended in a bizarre justification for being made to obey governments.

It's so weird and out there that I seriously think it deserves a spotlight here.

It all initially started when I responded to a government proponent using the classic "if you don't vote, you have no right to complain" argument.

Obviously as an anarchist I've ever right to complain and abstain from voting for a system I never agreed myself to obey.

In comes the social contract argument.

For the sake of context and better answers, I'll attempt to give his complete answers.

Here was his first response:

Yes, you did, or more correctly your parents/family did and you inherited the freedom AND responsibility of being a US citizen. 

If you don't like your inheritence, then either VOLUNTARILY forfiet it and get out; or quit whining like a spoiled brat. Everyone has to work to be free, every generation, and silver spooned first world complainers are just embarrassing. 

If you can't get off your backside and do something about it, don't expect anyone other than your crybaby cohorts waste any time to listen to you.

So I argued with him a little bit more, told him I was't even going to argue or debate the validity of such absurd political theories that justified the rule and hierarchies of elitists.

I pointed him the direction of Spooner's dismantling of the social contract just to see how he'd respond to criticism of it.

It resulted in this reply which was a fallback to the appeal to authority fallacy:

It isn't your planet, by the law of nature and mankind it belongs to those who can take and hold it. Right, wrong or indifferent, whine all you want, that is the way it is and isn't going to change by complaining and opting out. 

Someone poured resources into you until you reached the age of majority. Where ever you live, you didn't carve it out of raw unclaimed wilderness. You inherited advantages. You want to steal the assets of inheritence without bearing the liabilities that go along with it. 

The individual as a military unit became obsolete with Philip of Macedon's phalanx. Your only choice is being part of a herd or a pack. If you don't you will either be trampled by the herd or slaughtered by the pack.

Read history, Spooner was wrong. There are no rights or liberty GIVEN at birth by nature. The rights and liberty you and I received at birth were paid for in blood by those that came before us. When we accept them, we also accept the obligation to defend them and pass them down to the next generation.

I attempted to point out his use of the appeal to authority argument and that there was no obligation to upkeep elite run societies.

The result:

The fatal flaw in your "I never voluntary agreed to it" position is that it is based on theft. 

In the micro, from your birth until you are able to provide for yourself, someone somewhere invested resources in the necessities of life and the luxery of education. To refuse to acknowledge some level of debt is theft. 

In the macro, from your birth to this date the society you live in has also helped feed, educate and protect you. To refuse to acknowledge some level of debt is theft. 

The "I didn't ask to be born so everyone who invested in me is just out of luck because I am petulant and don't like the cards I was dealt, waah " is theft. 

Want to find out how small the level of debt is from a first world country? Go to Syria and explain to ISIS that you never voluntarily agreed to the caliphate and see what that gets you.

I honestly was stumped. I didn't know how to respond. As much as I hated to do it, I ended the conversation and told him I was in no mood for further debate.

He smugly took the opportunity to berate me for even trying to argue with him and, despite my best efforts, to refute his points.

Considering the case made by such a proponent of government and being made to obey others, how would one reply to the claim that by refusing to help or maintain governments are you in fact stealing from others? 

Or, to put it another way, does birth into a state society automatically mean you are obligated to give back to this who help maintain governments and the rule of the elite?

by (570 points)
edited by
why are you talking to this person? do you think that you are going to convince them? do you think that the other readers on the site are convince-able?

you have already got answers to the question you pose (at least the one you end with). it now sounds like you're looking for help to win an online argument with someone who you disagree with too much to have a viable conversation.
perhaps that's just me.
you might want to tell them: "yeah, well...that's just like...your"

on a more serious note, when someone tells me (as you've said this person said to you) "that's the way it is", i ask them to explain what the statement means. define "that's", define"it", define "is", define "the way". because imo they haven't said anything.

and of course i'd answer "no" to your question.
ba@: i wouldn't say it doesn't make us thieves. i would say that it depends on how you define thief.

the other person in this argument is setting all the terms.

refusing to think of thievery as a bad thing is another excellent approach (depending on who the actual audience is).
dot, yes, i'd considered that. good point.

but based on the terms given here (as far as i can understand them - i don't know exactly what "stealing the assets of inheritance" means), i'd answer no, especially if all i have to do is "acknowledge some level of debt" in order to not be labeled a thief (by the person setting the terms).
Dot, I'm not looking to win an online argument, I knew that I wasn't going to convince him so I threw in the towel.

Because his points were so bizarre and weird I felt like I had to post them up here to see what people's perspectives on his points would be like.

Plus I do want to preserve such a stupid question so others can appreciate how insane our opposition can be.

1 Answer

+2 votes

a. this question raises the more significant point (to me) of what is the purpose of online communication and/or talking to people who start out on a different planet.

b. when talking to someone face to face about this (although probably ba@ has more experience), if you actually care about what they think and think they care about what you think or if you're speaking in front of a group of people who fit those criteria, then i believe the procedure is to gradually step back each time you are confronted with places where the two of you disagree fundamentally. the stepping back involves finding something to agree on before you move forward. usually on this site it means being more careful about definitions of words or terms. this defining process can be a negotiation. for example with ancaps on here i was informed that for (some of?) the negative aspects of what i call capitalism, ancaps use the word corporatism. if i were willing to use their word, i have that choice, and whether i would do depends on the main point i'm trying to get to.

this is a long and slow process, usually, and both online and in person it's easy to get distracted by other lines of thought and feeling.

i do think it can be absolutely worth doing. it can absolutely make one's thinking clearer, and it can make for much more interesting conversations if not with the original conversee, then with people who are spectating. but it does take focus and willfulness. online we can take more time to think about our responses, which is nice.

ps: this is not an answer. but i think it is appropriate here anyway.

by (53.1k points)
Yeah, you're right and make good points.

I tried one more reply that tried to apply what you suggested and, sadly, it didn't work. The user is so biased towards supporting authoritarianism and insisting I had to comply with governments I gave up once and for all.

And honestly, I'm not expecting a direct answer to this question. It's one of those no-brainer questions that you can simply say "no, that's ridiculous" and that's all you need to say really.

Like I said in the question itself, I want to preserve this absurdity for others to view for future generations of people who fight against authoritarianism.