Thoughts on Word Defining vs. Word Policing in Discussions

This post is some of my thoughts on a comment made by LDS Philosopher. In it I hope to illustrate why Karl Popper was correct that battling over the meaning of a word has political ramifications, but never rational ones. My desire is to put this issue to bed (at least for myself) so that I can just put a link to this post when this issue comes up again. As such, the post is not actually about ‘taxes as theft’ per se, though I’m sure many will desire to respond to it as such. (And that is okay.)

Here is the comment in question:

Taxes are only objectively unlike theft in certain ways if you define theft as “forcible seizure of property, in which the victim has no token of a say in what happens with it.” I define theft as “forcible seizure of property, regardless of what happens next.” So your argument only works if you define theft in your specifically narrow way, which conveniently precludes taxation.

This argument is, in style, a common sort of argument of which I wish to illustrate a hidden logical fallacy in it.

The idea being expressed is that because I (in LDSP’s view) defined the word ‘theft’ wrongly, my whole argument is wrong. But, in fact, this isn’t rationally the case. In fact, I will illustrate that — rationally speaking — it simply does not matter who ‘has the correct definition.’ Continue reading

Thoughts on Income Taxes, Theft, and the Making of a Blog Debate

Politics are patently ridiculous, “testimony” masquerading as rationalism — SilverRain.

I had an epiphany while engaging in this thread that eventually turned into a side thread about whether or not ‘taxes’ were the same as ‘theft.’ I wanted to write it down to remember it. I hope Geoff (who I have to use as an example) will realize that I’m in no way knocking his position. In fact, I hope Geoff will see that he successfully helped me understand his position better.

First, a quick summary of the ‘taxes = theft’ debate. The whole debate was between various conservatives. No liberals or even moderatres (unless you consider me a moderate) were part of the debate. Geoff and some of the more libertarian leaning commenters (LDSP, Rame, Skyler) took the stances that taxes were theft. Adam, SilverRain, and myself (to a lesser degree on this thread, though I’ve engaged in this argument elsewhere) took the stances that taxes, while they should be minimized, are not equivalent to theft. (In a humorous moment, Adam — regularly perceived as an extreme conservative — sent an email to some of us on the thread and said how much he enjoyed finding himself on the other side for a change.)

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I realize that there is a really important point that came out of this that I personally didn’t want to forget, namely that from a certain point of view, both sides were right. Continue reading

My Political Views – Introduction: Apostasy from Ezra Taft Benson’s Politics

More than once, while recruiting people to M*, the first thing they say to me is “I disagree with your politics.” I’m not surprised. I am, without a doubt, the black sheep politically. On the other hand, when Joanna first met me at M* she wanted to know if I was some sort of right wing political nut. I assured her that no one would mistake me for a right wing political nut.

I’m sometimes not even sure what I am. I once told Geoff that I’m ‘politically agnostic.’ But, of course, that’s not really true either since I’m quite passionate about what political beliefs I do hold. Is there such a thing as a politically partial agnostic?

Most of the time I just tell people I’m a moderate conservative and leave it at that. My employer at work, upon hearing me label myself that way, asked “what part of your political beliefs are conservative?” On the other hand, I’ve had a number of conversations with John C at BCC and I’ll bet he’s wondering what part of my political beliefs are liberal.

I really don’t think my political views are that hard to pin down, I just think they aren’t quite within the ‘norm.’ But isn’t that sort of true of everyone’s political beliefs? Is there anyone out there that says of themselves “yeah, I pretty much don’t think for myself, I just go with the party line.” Even if it were true, no one would admit it.

Continue reading