Is Government Property Always Unjust?

I want to spend a little more time on the notion in Paul’s third principle that “justly acquired property” is “privately owned,” which implies that government (or public) property can only be unjustly acquired. I suspect the primary libertarian principle at work here is “taxation is theft,” a right-wing perversion (or theft, if you will) of Proudhon’s original libertarian socialist principle that “property is theft.”

It seems to me a bit sneaky of Paul not to put his cards flat on the table and admit that that is precisely his meaning here, if that is his meaning. Of course it would open him wide up to the charge of  supreme hypocrisy for having accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years of  “unjustly acquired” income as a representative to the Congress from his district in Texas. Perhaps he might argue that this injustice he participates in is excusable given that the  society that rewards him so well fails to follow his principles of a free society and is, thus, beyond the reach of libertarian justice anyway, so what the hell? Perhaps he understands his principles to be for a utopia, not for a practicable society?

Or perhaps–and maybe this is the best explanation we can hope for–Paul believes that government is, at some level, just, that is, that it has some social utility and a need to be well designed. This would imply that he might view at least some government property as justly acquired, unless he naively believes government needs no property to operate, whatever those operations society decides it needs from government might be.

If you look at the rest of his principles, in fact, you get very little guidance on what he views as legitimate roles for government in his “free society”: all the principles are admonitory against government excess. He does mention money, war, and law courts, so presumably he sees some role in government for defense, monetary policy and some kind of legislative and judiciary functions. Does he not also, then, implicitly accept some need for revenue collection (to use the term for those too delicate to hear the frank and rude word “taxes”), to pay for the government’s expenses–its weapons and barracks and uniforms, its courtrooms and legislative halls–not to mention its revenue collectors and other government functionaries? Or would Paul prefer purely voluntary contributions to government? If we like what government does, we can send a contribution, but if we don’t, we can use private alternatives to the government instead (Halliburton interstates, Monsanto food and drug inspection and Blackwater transportation security, perhaps)?  Or does he believe all the functions  of government should be owned privately in the future? (At least they would all be “justly acquired” businesses in his book.)

Again, I would very much appreciate the help of Paulists or libertarians with these, to my mind, very self-contradictory ideas.


One thought on “Is Government Property Always Unjust?

  1. Pingback: What Is Ron Paul’s Notion of Justice? « Tragic Farce

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