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If a country has a laissez-faire government, consisting of only courts, police and military, how much funds would it require to support these services?

Consider United States which has 300,000 million people. If each citizen pays 10 dollars a month to support these services, thats 3 billion dollars per month. Suppose each government person makes 10k a month, this means that 300,000 government employees, police, soldiers can be supported by this money. Recall that large companies such as Microsoft have up to 100,000 employees, so we can support the administrative and court responsibilities of government with such numbers of people. But what about the military? Isn't the largest expense for military that of building weapons? Each one of those rockets or fighter planes costs hundreds of thousands of dollars. Also, although the technological age reduced the number of soldiers needed in the army, is 200,000 soldiers enough to defend United States?

Has anyone in the objectivist community made a calculation with respect to this question? Leonard Peikoff in his Q&A mentioned that it would take a postage stamp to support a laissez-faire government. Is there an article about this, breaking this down to numbers? What would be an exact number that all american citizens would need to pay to support a laissez-government? $10/month, $20/month, $100/month ?

As the number of citizens in a country is reduced, how would the citizen payment change? What would be the price to pay in Israel for example, which has 8 million people, but needs lots of weapons?

Can private companies reduce the cost of developing military weapons as a byproduct of their activities? Is it good if private companies will compete to land military contracts, or would this reduce to the present system of government hand-outs?

P.S. Whatever payment will be made to support the government, it can not be a percentage. A flat tax is still not a fair payment. Everyone should pay the same amount, irrespective of status, just as when people buy a movie ticket.

asked Sep 09 '13 at 13:20

Bop's gravatar image

Bop
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edited Sep 09 '13 at 13:35

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦
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Everyone should pay the same amount, irrespective of status, just as when people buy a movie ticket.

Sounds to me like you're talking about taxation, then.

If the payments to the government are voluntary, it is certain that not every person will pay the same amount. In 2012, the United Way received $3.9 billion in private donations. That wasn't $12 per US resident, nor $0.55 per human.

The end goal is for the payments to be voluntary. I don't see any place for an in-between stage where every person is forced to pay the same amount. As you somewhat allude to, that's unlikely to work.

(Sep 09 '13 at 13:53) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Also, although the technological age reduced the number of soldiers needed in the army, is 200,000 soldiers enough to defend United States?

I think the first question that has to be answered there is whether or not 0 (federal soldiers during peacetime) is enough. The answer might be "no", but I for one would like to hear the convincing argument that it is.

On the other hand, maybe part of the answer is that we're not, and probably never will be, at peacetime. It's probably a good idea for the US to have troops in South Korea, for instance, with North Korea threatening to nuke us and all.

(Sep 09 '13 at 14:13) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Rand covers this in Chapter 16, Government Financing in a Free Society, Virtue of Selfishness. In essence, the military will cost as much as is necessary to defend society and no more. So in times of war, costs will go up. In times of peace, costs will go down.

(Sep 09 '13 at 16:39) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

Anthony: if this a voluntary payment, for the sake of calculation, if everyone will agree to volunteer to pay the same amount, what would be the amount?

Humbug: when there is no war, there needs to be some army in training, with available arsenal. How much would it cost to maintain it?

(Sep 09 '13 at 20:01) Bop Bop's gravatar image

Q) How much would it cost to maintain it? A) As much as necessary, and no more.

Q) Who would determined what is necessary? A) The elected officials.

(Sep 09 '13 at 20:40) Humbug Humbug's gravatar image

The question here is about ballpark calculation.

(Sep 10 '13 at 00:20) Bop Bop's gravatar image

Anthony: if this a voluntary payment, for the sake of calculation, if everyone will agree to volunteer to pay the same amount, what would be the amount?

[....]

The question here is about ballpark calculation.

Since it's your hypothetical, you can hypothesize whatever amount you want.

I don't think it will ever be the case that everyone will agree to volunteer to pay the same amount. Any amount I gave would be equally absurd.

(Sep 10 '13 at 16:02) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Humbug: when there is no war, there needs to be some army in training, with available arsenal. How much would it cost to maintain it?

You mean the state militias? Or something else?

According to Wikipedia, there are 461,796 members of the national guard. According to http://nationalguardhandbook.com/40/national-guard-pay-how-much-can-you-earn-in/ the pay is $3,000/year for training and drill exercises.

Seems like peanuts compared to the cost of ICBMs and nuclear subs and fighter jets. Do we need lots of those? I don't know.

(Sep 10 '13 at 16:50) anthony anthony's gravatar image

What's wrong with having the payment as required for the services provided ? Like a movie ticket. ? You live in a country where your private property is protected -- why not pay for the service ?

(Sep 14 '13 at 10:55) Bop Bop's gravatar image

What's wrong with having the payment as required for the services provided ? Like a movie ticket.

I don't think a movie ticket is very analogous to military services, but even it were... Not everyone pays the same price for a movie ticket. You have first run theatres and second run theatres. You have matinee prices. You have student discounts and senior discounts (and child discounts). You have coupons and special offers.

If it were feasible for movie theatres to directly base ticket prices on income, they would.

And of course some people don't want the service and don't pay anything.

(Sep 14 '13 at 12:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

You live in a country where your private property is protected -- why not pay for the service ?

I would pay for the service if we had a fair system and I knew my money would be going toward that service and not some other "service" that I don't want. But I have a lot less private property than Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, and I think it's only fair that I thus pay less for the service of private property protection than Bill Gates or Warren Buffett.

That said, military services aren't really about protecting private property - they're about protecting the government itself.

(Sep 14 '13 at 12:12) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Here I'll disagree with you. For geographically large private property (like a park), you can hire private security which would call on real policeman when there is a problem. All other forms of protection of private property are related to contract breaches for which the issues are ideological and should be resolved in court. The magnitude of value in the contract (thousands or billions) does not have an influence on the court process. Also, when billions are involved expensive private lawyers can be hired to present the case.

(Sep 15 '13 at 11:36) Bop Bop's gravatar image

It's not clear to me what you're disagreeing about.

As for the enforcement of contracts, one of Rand's ideas for funding that was for the government to offer insurance on contracts, and the idea was that the cost would consist of "a premium in the amount of a legally fixed percentage of the sums involved in the contractual transaction".

I suppose the cost of basic peacetime military funding could be rolled into the cost of such insurance. The purpose of the military would be to keep the court system up and running, and thus is part of the cost of contract enforcement. But what about torts?

(Sep 15 '13 at 12:13) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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This is not a philosophical question. What's more, it can only be answered with a lot of understanding about what it takes to run a military -- efficiently.

What's more, is that when a productive people is militarily threatened, they will pay a lot to their military to help it win. But that depends on how much money they have saved up, what their income level is, etc.

It's also true that to have an effective military you need career leaders, well-trained soldiers, and specialized weapons, all of which require long-term investment in the military. Knowing just how much long term investment is required to create a military with the ability to win all expected wars (and some unexpected ones) is a hard problem.

Regardless, a voluntarily funded military will have to convince the public of its own necessity, and ideally without losing a war.

Again, though, this is not a philosophical question -- there are too many unknowns, and to venture a quantitative answer would be speculative.

answered Sep 15 '13 at 09:33

John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John Paquette ♦
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Can you explain the quote of Peikoff when he said that the cost of postage stamps would cover the government cost? It was during one of his Q&A podcasts ? Is this number not include the military?

(Sep 15 '13 at 11:38) Bop Bop's gravatar image

Can there be a model of laissez-faire government in which the private sector can build weapons ?

(Sep 15 '13 at 11:39) Bop Bop's gravatar image

The private sector does build weapons.

If your question is about whether or not the private sector's production and possession of military weapons should be regulated or unregulated, well, there's a whole debate about that within the Objectivist community. What Rand's opinion on that was is somewhat unclear.

What does seem to be agreed upon is that the government does have the power to regulate the use of weapons. In fact, this is essentially Rand's definition of government - a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force.

(Sep 15 '13 at 12:47) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I meant, big weapons, not hand guns. I mean the kind of stuff a private person will not buy, such as an anti-missile system, or a missile.

(Sep 16 '13 at 10:47) Bop Bop's gravatar image

Anthony, that line from Ayn Rand is not her definition of government.

That quote is from here "The difference between political power and any other kind of social “power,” between a government and any private organization, is the fact that a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force."

That's a description, not a definition of government. It's a statement about all governments, including unjust ones. It's not a prescriptive statement.

(Sep 16 '13 at 12:08) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

Her prescriptive statement is: "A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws."

(Sep 16 '13 at 12:09) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

And her definition of government is: "A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area."

(Sep 16 '13 at 12:10) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

So, I'd say that she'd agree with a man's right of self-defense (including the use of weapons like guns) in situations where the government cannot, in practice, protect him from aggressors.

The government has the legal right to enforce laws. It doesn't have the legal right to disarm men. Men have the right to use physical force in self-defense.

(Sep 16 '13 at 12:13) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I meant, big weapons, not hand guns.

Yes, I did too. Lockheed Martin would be an example of a private sector company which builds "big weapons", under the regulation of the government.

I would say that this question, answered by Leonard Peikoff, is relevant: "In Ayn Rand’s definition of capitalism, she says that all property is privately owned. Is that really true?" http://www.peikoff.com/2008/08/04/in-ayn-rands-definition-of-capitalism-she-says-that-all-property-is-privately-owned-is-that-really-true/

Seems to me in an Objectivist government, the private sector would own all weapons.

(Sep 16 '13 at 20:15) anthony anthony's gravatar image

That's a description, not a definition of government. It's a statement about all governments, including unjust ones. It's not a prescriptive statement.

Are you suggesting that definitions are prescriptive, and not descriptive?

And her definition of government is: "A government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area."

I fail to see how that's substantially different from "a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force". I guess it leaves out "in a given geographical area".

(Sep 16 '13 at 20:16) anthony anthony's gravatar image

So, I'd say that she'd agree with a man's right of self-defense (including the use of weapons like guns) in situations where the government cannot, in practice, protect him from aggressors.

Of course she would.

The government has the legal right to enforce laws. It doesn't have the legal right to disarm men.

It doesn't, or it shouldn't?

Men have the right to use physical force in self-defense.

And in most situations (in practice, when the need for defensive force is not imminent) they delegate that right to the government.

(Sep 16 '13 at 20:20) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I feel I should emphasize the word "use" again here: "What does seem to be agreed...is that the government does have the power to regulate the use of weapons."

Even if some non-government corporations are allowed to make and possess military weapons, which necessarily follows from "all property is privately owned", that doesn't mean the use of those weapons is not going to be regulated.

Given that Rand did not support anarchy, it seems obvious to me that she did feel that government rightfully has the power to regulate the use of weapons (viz. using them for retaliatory force).

(Sep 16 '13 at 21:02) anthony anthony's gravatar image

What would be a financial interest for Lockheed Martin to develop a missile ? A missile will never be purchased by a private company, only by the government. Does this mean that some companies receive government funding to work for it, and sidestep market forces? Can private companies compete naturally to develop big weapons?

(Sep 16 '13 at 22:13) Bop Bop's gravatar image

"It doesn't have the legal right to disarm men"

I was wrong. I meant that it shouldn't have the legal right to disarm (innocent) men.

If government has a legal monopoly on the use of force, that means that it must disarm men.

The government should have a legal monopoly on the use of retaliatory force. Some defensive force must still be left in the hands of individuals.

(Sep 16 '13 at 22:30) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

No, definitions are not prescriptive. But descriptions are not definitions. Descriptions identify attributes (possibly non-essential) of a concept. Definitions identify the essential attributes of a concept.

(Sep 16 '13 at 22:32) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

What would be a financial interest for Lockheed Martin to develop a missile ?

Lockheed Martin does develop missiles. The example of Lockheed Martin was not a hypothetical.

A missile will never be purchased by a private company, only by the government.

I don't think that's true.

Does this mean that some companies receive government funding to work for it, and sidestep market forces?

I'm not sure what you mean by "sidestep market forces".

Can private companies compete naturally to develop big weapons?

Sure. Why not? Is there some special notion of "compete naturally"?

(Sep 17 '13 at 08:01) anthony anthony's gravatar image

The government should have a legal monopoly on the use of retaliatory force. Some defensive force must still be left in the hands of individuals.

While I agree with both of those sentences, I think we have a different take on what they mean.

First off, I take the term "legal monopoly on X" as meaning that X is regulated, not that it is prohibited. Ultimately only human beings can use force. A government will authorize particular uses, and a government will prohibit other particular uses. When we say "governments use force" we are anthropomorphizing.

(Sep 17 '13 at 08:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Secondly, you seem to be drawing a distinction between retaliatory force and defensive force as though the two do not overlap. They do overlap.

Yes, some defensive force [should] still be left in the hands of individuals. But not all defensive force. Specifically, individuals are only permitted by a proper government to use defensive force when the need for that defensive force is imminent, i.e. when waiting for the government to use the force is not feasible.

A government, by definition, has a legal monopoly on the use of force. That means they regulate, not prohibit, the use of force.

(Sep 17 '13 at 08:10) anthony anthony's gravatar image

But descriptions are not definitions.

Some descriptions are definitions.

In any case, I mistakenly referred to a partial definition as a definition. My bad.

Definitions identify the essential attributes of a concept.

Yes, and "a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force" identifies an essential attribute of governments. However, it doesn't identify all the essential attributes, so I agree it's not a complete definition.

(Sep 17 '13 at 08:14) anthony anthony's gravatar image

By the way, if you listen to the podcast, I believe Dr. Peikoff fairly specifically addresses this:

A missile will never be purchased by a private company, only by the government.

"If no one would do it, and if no one wants the instruments of government, then there's no government. But that's not an existing phenomenon." Again, the link is http://www.peikoff.com/2008/08/04/in-ayn-rands-definition-of-capitalism-she-says-that-all-property-is-privately-owned-is-that-really-true/

(Sep 17 '13 at 08:27) anthony anthony's gravatar image

"The only proper purpose of a government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and, as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force."

I think that quote makes it pretty clear that Rand's use of the term "self-defense" and her use of the term "retaliatory force" were not mutually exclusive. In fact, it's not clear to me that they were not essentially synonymous.

(Sep 17 '13 at 08:58) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony, I still disagree with: "a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force" the word monopoly means exclusive permission. That means no-one but the government can legally use force. A "legal monopoly on" doesn't mean "legal permission to regulate the use of". That's a step more indirect.

(Sep 17 '13 at 09:46) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I still disagree with: "a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force"

Well, it's a quote from Rand. She even repeats it twice.

You don't have to agree with it, but it appears to me that Rand found it to be an important point.

(Sep 17 '13 at 14:36) anthony anthony's gravatar image

the word monopoly means exclusive permission. That means no-one but the government can legally use force.

And "no-one but the government" means what? No one but an employee of the government? The government isn't a person. Force is used by people. Force is used legally when its use is authorized by the government. That authorization is not necessarily given only to employees of the government. A peace officer might not necessarily be a government employee, but still might be authorized to arrest for a misdemeanor, and ordinary citizens might be authorized to arrest for witnessed felonies.

(Sep 17 '13 at 14:47) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Here's the important quote from Rand:

"Let me repeat it: a government holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force.

"No individual or private group or private organization has the legal power to initiate the use of physical force against other individuals or groups and to compel them to act against their own voluntary choice. Only a government holds that power."

She's implying the initiation of physical force. You can't take the first line out of context, and expect it to stand on its own, because it doesn't.

(Sep 17 '13 at 14:47) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

So, de facto, each government has a legal monopoly on the initiation of physical force. By existing, government outlaws people from initiating force. (Note, this is good -- it's the reason governments exist.)

Of course, prescriptively, government itself must also be barred from initiating physical force. But that's a taller order.

And yes, "no-one but an employee of the government."

(Sep 17 '13 at 14:51) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

You can't take the first line out of context, and expect it to stand on its own, because it doesn't.

The full quote is at http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/government.html

You left out a handful of key sentences yourself. I'd chalk it up to this character restriction.

But in any case, I don't see your point.

(Sep 17 '13 at 14:56) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Again, "the government has a legal monopoly on the use of force" means no-one but the government can use force. It doesn't mean no-one but the government and those people whom it permits can use force.

The only way to make sense of Ayn Rand's statement is to notice, from context, that by use she meant initiate.

(Sep 17 '13 at 15:01) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

And yes, "no-one but an employee of the government."

That's not an accurate statement, then. Governments routinely act through non-employees.

Again, governments aren't people, so governments don't literally "use force". People use force, and when they do so upon the authorization of government, we attribute the use of force to the government. We do this regardless of any employee/employer relation or lack thereof.

(Sep 17 '13 at 15:03) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Again, "the government has a legal monopoly on the use of force" means no-one but the government can use force.

Surely Rand didn't mean that, as it's trivially untrue.

It doesn't mean no-one but the government and those people whom it permits can use force.

Well, no, it doesn't mean that either.

The only way to make sense of Ayn Rand's statement is to notice, from context, that by use she meant initiate.

If government only holds a legal monopoly on the initiation of force, then how can it regulate the retaliatory use of force?

(Sep 17 '13 at 15:14) anthony anthony's gravatar image

She's implying the initiation of physical force.

I just reread "The Nature of Government" - the whole thing, not some snippets from it. I have to conclude that you're wrong. I don't have enough room to quote the entire context, and I probably wouldn't be respecting the copyright in doing so anyway, but look at the paragraphs surrounding "a government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force."

That quote comes in the sentence after one which starts "A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control..."

(Sep 17 '13 at 15:57) anthony anthony's gravatar image

And a few paragraphs before that is "The use of physical force - even its retaliatory use - cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens."

The legal monopoly on the use of physical force which governments have and which Rand stated that they have is not limited to the initiation of physical force. It is the use of physical force - both when initiated and when retaliatory.

(Sep 17 '13 at 16:01) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Well, you've got me thinking. I'll have to re-read it.

(Sep 17 '13 at 16:03) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

And here's another sentence, this one using the term "self-defense": "There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement."

(Sep 17 '13 at 16:06) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Yes, that's an important sentence. I'll have to re-read, but from that sentence it would appear that having a monopoly on the use of force just means you get to control who can use it. Though that somehow seems contradictory to me.

(Sep 17 '13 at 16:13) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

I'll have to re-read, but from that sentence it would appear that having a monopoly on the use of force just means you get to control who can use it.

Not only can the government control who can legally use force (in a particular jurisdiction), but the government has exclusive control over what use of force is legal (that's the "monopoly" part).

And I can't help but point out that you dropped the word "legal" from "legal monopoly on the use of force"/"monopoly on the legal use of force". The latter phrasing, which comes from The Nature of Government, I believe is more clear in meaning.

(Sep 17 '13 at 16:31) anthony anthony's gravatar image
showing 2 of 36 show all

From the original statement of the question and some of the follow-up comments by the questioner, it's not clear that the questioner is aware of Ayn Rand's main article on this topic, which Humbug described as follows (formatting added):

Rand covers this in Chapter 16, "Government Financing in a Free Society," Virtue of Selfishness. In essence, the military will cost as much as is necessary to defend society and no more. So in times of war, costs will go up. In times of peace, costs will go down.

This is an excellent and concise summation of some key points, although the chapter number is actually 15, not 16. The complete article should prove helpful to the questioner and others who have similar concerns. The article also discusses who would be most willing and able to pay the cost of a proper government, and why.

answered Sep 15 '13 at 18:40

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦
467718

I have read the article, although I should re-read it to refresh my memory. Lets take a look at a concrete case, Israel. Taxes there are at 50%, which are "justified" because the country is at war. Israel also has a huge social program so there are many "moochers". But in conversation with locals, criticism about Israel's low standard of living receives a response "But look, we are at war, and even 50% is not enough". How should the cost for the military be collected, if not through taxes ?

(Sep 16 '13 at 11:12) Bop Bop's gravatar image

The topic of the question is government financing in a free society, a society that consistently upholds individual rights and the resulting system of laissez-faire capitalism. Neither modern Israel nor modern America is a fully free country. If the question is how to establish a free society in Israel (or anywhere else), government financing will be the last aspect to be established, not the first.

(Sep 16 '13 at 15:58) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

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Asked: Sep 09 '13 at 13:20

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Last updated: Sep 17 '13 at 16:33