A Thought Experiment In Morality

permalink         categories: politics         originally posted: 2006-11-26 03:11:15

Scenario One

A man comes to your house one day and asks for money. He has a gun, and says if you don't give him the money, he'll shoot you.

Is that moral? No, it's stealing, and it's wrong.

Scenario Two

A man comes to your house one day and asks for money. He has a gun, and says if you don't give him the money, he'll shoot you.

He says the money isn't for him; he needs the money to pay for treatment for his sick mother.

Is that moral? No, it's stealing, and it's wrong.

It doesn't matter whether or not the money would be used for a good cause.

Scenario Three

A man comes to your house one day and asks for money. He has a gun, and says if you don't give him the money, he'll shoot you.

He says the money is for a new bridge in town, and when the bridge is built you'll get to use it for free.

Is that moral? No, it's stealing, and it's wrong.

It doesn't matter if the money will be used for something you yourself might enjoy.

Scenario Four

A man comes to your house one day and asks for money. He has a gun, and says if you don't give him the money, he'll shoot you.

He says he's collecting for a neigborhood project, and everyone in your neighborhood thinks you should give him the money.

Is that moral? No, it's stealing, and it's wrong.

It doesn't matter how many people he represents.

Scenario Five

A man comes to your house one day and says he's a "policeman" from "the government". He asks for money, which he calls "taxes". He says you haven't paid your "taxes", and if you don't pay right now he's going to take you someplace called "prison". He says if you won't go with him, he'll use his gun to force you to go, though he says he "doesn't want to shoot you."

When you say you don't want to give him the money, he points out all the wonderful things this "government" does with the money, like health care for the elderly, and that new bridge being built in town that you might enjoy.

"Don't make me do this the hard way," he advises.

Is that moral? No. Taxation is theft.

Yes, the money might be put to good purposes. Yes, you yourself might benefit from government services. Yes, perhaps the government represents the wishes of thousands or even millions of other people. But none of these statements magically transform taxation into a moral system of government funding.

(Inspired by, or perhaps adapted from, "Libertarianism In One Lesson" by David Bergland, Chapter 8, "Taxation As Theft".)

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