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Living Freedom by Claire Wolfe. Musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves.

Want to Comment on a blog post? Look for and click on the blue No Comments or # Comments at the end of each post.

Claire Wolfe

Tax sale: just how immoral would it be …

Friday, December 7th, 2012

So. The county recently had a sale on properties foreclosed for non-payment of taxes.

I’ve never paid attention to such things before, considering any form of tax sale or asset-forfeiture sale to be out of moral bounds.

This time somebody pointed out that two of the parcels up for sale were hilltop acreages near the end of winding dirt roads. Not far from this neighborhood in miles, but a world away in possibilities.

I went so far as to look them up online and do some sighing over them. Of course I didn’t consider bidding. But I admit that was mostly because a) I didn’t have the money and b) I didn’t have time to investigate things like … oh, whether angry, heavily armed owners might still be squatting on them or whether it would cost a zillion bucks just to put in a septic system. You know, the technicalities. Not c) this just wouldn’t be right.

Had I had means to take care of a) and b), I’d have at least been tempted to ignore c) for the sake of d) great, cheap land. Probably wouldn’t have. But I admit to having moments of not feeling like a moral giant.

There’ll be another sale of tax-foreclosed properties next year (assuming the Maya don’t fool us all by turning out to be right).

So … would buying one tax-foreclosed parcel of land be like “being just a little bit pregnant,” or what?

And if you had the chance to pick up five acres of primo forest land, complete with spectacular view, for, say, $5,000 or $10,000 … would you be tempted? Especially if you were somebody who didn’t have money to burn?

34 Responses to “Tax sale: just how immoral would it be …”

  1. just waiting Says:

    Karma aside, thats some muddy water you might not want to swim in Claire.

    I went to one of those tax sales once. It wasn’t tax foreclosure, just selling the right to collect the back taxes plus interest. My town does it twice a year. Found out later, when I read they got indicted for fraud, that most of the buyers are in collusion with each other so each get some properties and they set interest rates. The buyers would have to wait 9 mos-1yr to begin foreclosure if the owner didn’t pay.

    One thing I wondered about was mortgage. If an owner is behind on taxes, chances are they’re behind on mortgage too, if they have one. Who pays that, if you buy the tax foreclosure?

    Like everything else, the morals and ethics of buying these properties is fluid. Like you asked, is the property still habitated? Even though its nots technically you, would your buying a property be putting someone out of their home? Whether they’re big and mean or not, I think thats just bad karma.

    But if its already vacant, and the price is cheap enough, well, I used to be in the moving business Claire, let me know when you need a truck and a crew.

  2. RickB Says:

    I’ll second Just waiting’s comments. The complications could be horrible. As much as I hate to, I would suggest talking to a good lawyer before jumping into something like this.
    But you asked about morality…
    If the property has been effectively abandoned then you have as much right to homestead it as anyone else.
    The fact that a local criminal gang requires protection money before they allow you to do so doesn’t affect your moral right.
    Now, the tough question.
    What if the property hasn’t been abandoned? Does the purchaser become a “fence,” a receiver of stolen goods? Yes. If I buy the property from him ten years from now am I purchasing stolen goods? Yes.
    If I borrow a book from a public library am I a receiver of stolen goods? Yes.
    The whole world, it seems, is so over-governed today that it is often impossible to act in a perfectly moral fashion.
    In such an ambivalent situation I would ask myself, “will I feel remorse (betray my principles) if I purchase this particular property?” You know the rest.

  3. Pat Says:

    RickB – Please explain why books in a public library are stolen goods, and why borrowing those books would make you “a receiver of stolen goods”. I’ve willingly donated many books to a public library so they could be borrowed by other people. I don’t understand your thinking here.

  4. Old Printer Says:

    You do a title search of the property first to determine if there are any liens other than the taxes. Any title company will do this, for a fee of course. Then you can place a bid based on an appraised value. A real estate agent will provide you with a working appraisal, also for a fee. I don’t know how rural Washington State counties work, but usually you must qualify for the bidding by either a letter of credit from a bank or actual cash at hand.

    As to c) – there could be a number of reasons why the property taxes weren’t paid. A common one is that the owner is old, infirm, senile, and without heirs. Or they are eccentric to the point of crazy like the Flavel heirs who own half of downtown Astoria, Oregon. They don’t maintain their property, let the taxes lapse, and end up in lawsuits.

  5. Old Printer Says:

    One other thought: this is southwest Washington, right? It rains a LOT there. Maybe these hill top parcels are unstable and subject to slides. The owners couldn’t find a buyer, read sucker, and let them go back for taxes.

  6. MamaLiberty Says:

    Absolutely everything is taxed in this country, most many times over. So, even though we all understand too well that taxes are theft, we calculate that into our purchasing and deal with it the best we can – avoiding taxes when possible, and living with it the rest of the time.

    When one purchases property such as land and house, the tax burden is KNOWN and one would be a fool not to include it in their budget process. A lot of people buy places far beyond their means to pay for, and that includes the tax, but one might not feel too sorry for people who make bad choices.

    These days, however, many people have lost their jobs, savings accounts and other assets, so even if the property was within their means when they got it, that may no longer be the case. Something’s got to give then, and it sure won’t be the bureaucrats.

    I never thought of it before (since I’m in the same boat with no money), but if a person did have some money and needed a place, they might be able to use some social networking in the local area to find folks at the beginning of this death spiral and offer them money and terms to sell out before the tax sale was even a gleam in a bureaucrat’s eye… That would be a win/win for both buyer and seller, even if not necessarily quite so cheap.

  7. Sam Says:

    I bought my farm from a bank out of forclosure. One of the things I did was higher a lawyer and for $250 the checked the property out and saw that there was a tax lean on it. So in my offer to purchased the property I put in that the bank would have to clear the title before I took possesion of the property. I knew the farm had not been lived in for years but I went and talked to my soon to be neighbors and found out the history of the place and the people that had owned it before. I feel no guilt for trying to make a go of it on a spot where others failed. The farmhouse is over 200 years old and need massive work but we were able to buy it for 1/3 market value and I couldn’t have afforded it if not for the bank sale. I can only tell you my experience and you must decide what is ok with you. If you would feel bad then the cheap price isn’t so cheap.

  8. Matt, another Says:

    My parents bought several empty lots from tax sales at one time. I’ve never considered the morality. Hmmmm… Other than purchase price, there were other legal requirements to fulfill to give the owner most opportunity to redeem their property. In their cases it appeared the owners stopped paying taxes when they found out the “investment grade” vacation home lots were not worth the cost of the taxes. They only purchased empty lots, never home or occupied housing. They did their research as well to make sure there wasn’t a lien etc.

  9. G.W.F. Says:

    I would second the title search idea. You will always want to be sure you know of any liens that may exist on a property before buying. I would really check the fine print on the offering. What they government may be selling is just their lien on the property, there could still be a loan on the property so a bank could also have a claim. The banking side can be muddy. If you do a first mortgage on a property the bank you use will have the first lien position (first in line to repossess and sell to satisfy the lien), but state/local/fed governments can actually jump to the front of the line and will get paid first in a default situation. Although this does not apply to land (usually) the same is true for anything with a homeowners’ association. They can also jump ahead of the first lien holder and foreclose on a property ahead of the lender with that “first position”. It is the reason most lenders will require borrowers to escrow taxes and fees. Most banks today will actually take a proactive approach. If a home/property is at risk of foreclosure for taxes or association fees its much cheaper for them to pay those and remain in that first position. If a tax authority can sell the property, chances are pretty good there is no existing lien from any major lender.

    Morality issues would boil down to a case-by-case basis for me personally. I could never buy a property where I had to force some family out on the street. Often its simply a case of someone passing away without heirs and the taxes go unpaid. Someone is going to get the property, so why not you?

  10. Joel Says:

    I’m with you on moral dilemmas, Claire. Bottom line, I’d walk away because that’s a long-time mental load. But oh, the temptation…

  11. Claire Says:

    Good thoughts, advice, and cautions. I still grapple with the morality, though the practicalities you bring up are pretty vital, too. Research. Yeah, research.

    The acreages that caught my eye have never been built on. In fact, with few exceptions nearly everything in the recent sale was vacant land — which is of course the easiest thing to walk away from. The two most interesting did have some evidence that somebody had once taken an interest in them (though not much of an interest; one had a travel-trailer on it with one wall cut away to accommodate the door to the porta-potty that was jammed against it; another was so heaped with old tires and vehicles it looked like — and might have been — a toxic waste dump).

    These properties have already all been foreclosed and the ones that didn’t sell at the tax auction get deeded to the county and can be sold via negotiation.

    Since I’ve never even been curious about tax sales, it never occurred to me that a little clique of regulars might form a bidding cartel (as jw describes). This isn’t New Jersey (State tourism slogan: “Come Visit the Famous Land of Corruption!”), but it’s hardly immune from that sort of thing. I know one of the local real estate brokers here is notorious for buying up and reselling distressed properties in ways that might not be quite kosher.

  12. Mic Says:

    Yes, I would buy from a tax sale. I don’t see the morale dilemma here. First, I am not the one who implemented the tax or the corresponding sale. I am simply a buyer in a process that will go on with or without my participation. I know this may seem cold to some, but I guess I see it simply as a transaction once it reaches the tax sale standpoint. A transaction that I didn’t force or do anything to speed up and actually truth be told did everything conceivable to fight the taxes that led to this in the first place.

    Like MamaLiberty said above everything we buy and most things we participate in have a tax buried in there somewhere. If we avoid all of those things we would starve and live a pretty miserable albeit short life.

    The problem isn’t the end result of the taxes but the taxes being levied in the first place. That is the part that is immoral and the part we should ALWAYS fight against. For example, I have not voted for a SINGLE property tax levy in years. Not one, not for schools, orphans, zoo, library, parks, quality of life, etc. Nothing.

    I consider them ALL to be immoral and a waste of tax payer money, but once they are passed I am paying for them whether I like it or not. So at that point I use them. Similar to the way Ron Paul acted in Congress, I guess. Same with tax sales, I am strongly against the concept that got people to the point of the sale, but once it is there I don’t see the problem with being part of it.

  13. Jim Klein Says:

    “So … would buying one tax-foreclosed parcel of land be like ‘being just a little bit pregnant,’ or what?”

    I haven’t read the comments, so sorry if this is repetitive or misses something.

    No, it would only mean that you didn”t have the nerve to steal it yourself. Or, as is more likely in the case of land, the ability!

    I love auctions; they’re one of my favorite things. Pure trade, willing seller and willing buyer. Government seizure auctions are a whole ‘nuther thing. It’s the same as the difference between a pawn shop and fence.

  14. lelnet Says:

    Honestly, under those circumstances, I would feel no guilt whatsoever in buying land from a tax auction. The “owners” are almost certainly either individuals who have died without apparent heirs, or corporations which are defunct. By the time the land gets to such a state that by bidding in a tax sale you’d be contending for the immediate purchase of clear title, I have no qualms about declaring it to have been abandoned.

    Want to suppose that the owner is a rugged anarchist of the same stripe as yourself? Fine. Let him declare the government to be irrelevant and common law land tenure the only valid definition of ownership, and I’ll be right there at the barricades with him. So. What are the requirements of common law land tenure? Simple. Enclosure, improvement, and defense against intruders. If you don’t enclose, then you’ve failed to publicly state a valid claim. If you don’t improve, then you’ve neglected your claim. And if you don’t defend, then you’ve abandoned your claim.

    Oops. Seems like the hypothetical owner fails on those counts, too, unless there are improvements (and a few violently-dead Sherriff’s deputies) that Claire has thus-far neglected to mention. (I’ll concede that the land is probably enclosed, although I would be unsurprised to discover that this requirement was also missing.) Possible, I suppose, but I suspect that if there were such facts, she’d have mentioned them. They’d be tough to miss.

  15. Kent McManigal Says:

    Back about 9 years ago I was living in a fairly nice house, with (occasionally) my wife. The house had been bought with my money (from selling my previous house) as a downpayment. Unfortunately, when we signed the papers, the realtor wouldn’t put my name on the paperwork because of some technicality which I don’t remember now. My wife assured me that we would put my name on the house ASAP.

    However, almost immediately our marriage started imploding/exploding/crumbling.

    She stayed with her mom in an apartment about 33 miles away, and would only come to the house once a week or so (to do laundry).

    This only lasted a while before we both found new love interests and our relationship became hostile (on her end).

    About this same time she started getting notices from some taxing “authority” claiming she hadn’t paid some tax at closing. I know for a fact she had paid everything she was told to pay. She chose to ignore the notices, since she was busy running up a huge phone bill in my name talking to her out-of-state boyfriend.

    I left.

    Even a year or so later, in another state over halfway across the country, I had people coming to me trying to serve her with papers concerning the taxes, and threatening a tax sale.

    She lost the house. So, the taxers got paid twice, since I am certain she had already paid, and that the “taxes due” was a clerical error of some sort. Still, I am glad someone got the house and was able to do some nice remodeling, and I hope the house suited them better, and was a “luckier” place for their family.

    I think I’ll go be depressed now.

  16. Tom Blanton Says:

    Laws regarding tax sales differ from state to state. For example, in Virginia a judicial tax sale voids all other liens as the tax lien is superior to all others.

    I am a title examiner and have done literally hundreds of title searches for these judicial tax sales in Richmond. The vast majority of these were for properties that had in essence been abandoned. Generally, parcels have no improvements or buildings are boarded up. Often, the record owner acquired a deed many years ago and has most likely since died, leaving unknown (or perhaps no) heirs.

    In any case, it is certainly possible to acquire cheap property, free of liens, without putting penniless widows and orphans on the street.

    The last batch of tax sale properties I dealt with all belonged to an ex-cop shyster slum lord who was paying neither taxes or mortgage payments as he was serving 10 years for real estate related fraud.

    By the way, in Richmond, tax sales can be avoided by working out a payment schedule and paying a minimal amount. Elderly people with little income are eligible for tax credits up to 100%.

    Taxes on real estate is still theft. But, this is the situation we have inherited. Too bad the Georgists and geo-libertarians can’t figure this out. They’d be happy if government renamed real estate tax to “ground rent”.

  17. Jorge Says:

    A lifetime ago I bought a building at a tax sale. It was in a blighted area, where the entire block was abandoned. A large percentage of buildings in the surrounding blocks were abandoned as well.

    I had no qualms then, and no second thoughts since. However, it is a case by case decision. If the property has clearly been abandoned, then no moral issues whatsoever. If not…

  18. Claire Says:

    Ah … Tom Blanton a title examiner! Wish you were here.

    Because this whole thing just got a little more interesting. I just learned the results of the auction.

    I had my eye on three properties. The best of those went for $10k to its next-door neighbor after some of the hottest bidding of the sale. The other two went no-bid. Which means they’ll be deeded to the county and now anyone can negotiate to buy them.

    Now, one of those is basically a dump. Neat location. Hilltop splendor. But a tearer-downer house, old vehicles, heaps of tires. Plus when the owners realized they were going to lose it, they logged some spectacular old trees off it and left it an even worse mess. Might be more of a liability than anybody but a gambler would want to mess with.

    The other is a different story. Nearly five acres at the end of a funky little road, very private and seemingly in decent shape. I don’t know what drawbacks it may have, other than the neighborhood being funky. But the thing is, it could be picked up for under $3,000. I’d have to do a lot more investigating. But five pretty isolated acres for $3,000 …???

    BTW, from what I’ve been able to learn, only one property in the sale, out of several dozen, was apparently ripped away from an unwilling owner. (Friends of his were there trying to buy it for him, but it turned out to be one of the most expensive in the lot and an investor outbid them. He was a working-class guy who couldn’t afford his taxes and the people trying to buy it back for him admitted he’d have trouble paying in the future, too.) Everything else was basically abandoned.

    In one case, a relative of the abandoner was even there helping the winning bidder to get the place.

    Small towns. You find out these things.

  19. Matt, another Says:

    Tearer downer house can provide materials for firewood, small projects etc. old windows, door, fixtures might have modest resale or collector value. Junk cars can be worth 200-400 dollars each for scrap. Tires are worth 2-4dollars each for recycling, or using for earth-ship construction. Lots of potential in old, ugly building lots.

    As for the tax sale itself, if the taxes levied are immoral, then seizing property because of unpaid immoral taxes would in itself be immoral. Therefore I could see participating in said tax sale being immoral. Morality and immorality is something that free individuals get to decide for themselves.

  20. S Says:

    Buying land from an owner is a completely legal and ethical act. There is nothing immoral or improper in the transaction.

    Stealing land from its rightful owner is a crime, and that fact is not changed by the name or title of the thief, the pomposity of the ceremonies, or documents that are produced during the theft.

    Removing land from the control of an entity that is inherently incapable of making producing use of the scarce resource is a valuable service to both the new owner and to civil society.

    Governments are incapable of rational economic calculation, as all of their actions are based on coercion and violence rather than mutually beneficial trade. The closest state actors can come to approximating rational economic action is by looking at the prices set by the private sector. Since every piece of land is unique, the approximation will be poor, and the savvy buyer may be able to pay prices well below what the free market would have commanded.

    The practical aspects discussed by other commentators are real and valuable, but there is no moral defect in buying land and finding its best and highest use. Quite the opposite: it provides a valuable service to civil society.

    Good luck!

  21. Tahn Says:

    My perspective on property sold for taxes or assessments due to government action to be the same as stolen property. Title is held by the last person to ethically own it, prior to the theft.

    I live on family property that was not lived on or improved for 25 years prior to my moving here, although the taxes were paid each year. The land did not suffer at all from the absence of man.

    Purchasing property from a loan foreclosure is totally different as it was a consensual contract, which was not fulfilled.

    If the last legal owner can be contacted you might offer to purchase a quitclaim from them for their rights but you are still using the govt. as leverage.

    We should all probably try to purchase a quitclaim from the Native American tribes on whose land we now squat as it was mostly taken by government force. Sigh.

  22. NorthIdaho Says:

    Morally? It’s receipt of stolen property (under color of law). Any other position validates the concept that land is owned by .gov, not the buyer.

  23. M Says:

    Normally if I have to ask myself if something might not be ethical for me to do – then I reevaluate if I am trying to justify doing something unethical.

  24. puptent Says:

    Twenty years ago, back in Park County, Colorado, tax sale announcement day was a big deal. The entry way and hall of the Clerk’s office were plastered with announcements of specific tax delinquent properties, most bare land or abandoned projects. The owners had a grace period to redeem their property after it sold at tax sale, if that happened, the buyer was paid interest on his purchase amount. Now, as to the ethics of the matter… I had to unhinge my mental jaw just to swallow “property”… ;)

  25. Randall Says:

    While it’s unethical to use the govt to coerce or threaten anyone away from their property (life, liberty, etc.) the sad fact is that someone will purchase this. It may was well be someone of high morals, such as yourself.

    Also, if considering the moral implications, you could always contact the prior owners and give them an opportunity to buy it back. If they say, “Thanks, but no thanks, Claire” then you’re really resolved the issue, haven’t you?

    I went for years, not filing taxes, until a friend made the point that I was actually HELPING the govt. by not getting my tax money back (I refused to deal with criminals, was the idea back then.).

    You could do more good by making an offer, and making the winning bid. Think of the possibilities!

    1. Organic community garden
    2. Organic community gun range
    3. Organic community hunting area
    4. Organic community militia training ground.

    I’m sure that the bright minds here can think of other uses pertaining to Liberty.

    Wouldn’t a collaborative work be great if it included the prior owners? This way, they don’t lose their property, but are given a chance for some free-enterprise solutions.

    Otherwise, they lose it, and some dirtbag might use it as a retreat for Congresscritters!

  26. Kent McManigal Says:

    “…might use it as a retreat for Congresscritters!

    As long as you are talking shallow… um, “retreats”, it sounds like a grand idea!

  27. Tom Blanton Says:

    Five acres for 3 grand sounds like a good deal, pretty much anywhere. I’d check to find out if there is a period of time in which the property could be redeemed by the prior owner. Also, if I wanted to build on it, I’d find out if the land percs if there is no water and sewer service to the property.

    As for the morality of buying delinquent tax property, I’d say there is nothing morally reprehensible about it. It’s not like the government is taking the property to enrich the purchaser. Also, the non-taxpayer knew when they acquired the real estate that their ownership was subject to paying real estate taxes on their property.

    There’s no way around the real estate tax other than tax credit programs that may exist at the whim of the taxing authority. Even if you rent, be sure that the tax is being paid through your rent payments to the owner.

    There is a way to avoid the government taking the property – pay the tax. You can borrow the money if you can qualify for a loan (which is unlikely if you can’t afford to pay the taxes), or you can sell the property and pay taxes from the proceeds. If the tax due exceeds the value of the property (it often does), then you’d have to have money to pay the taxes in order to sell it because nobody wants to acquire land, even for free, if there is a tax lien that exceeds what the land is worth.

    Real estate tax is immoral and so is sales tax, but I’m not seeing any refusing to buying items they need to live because the sellers are collecting an immoral tax.
    Also, I think we all benefit to some degree from government expenditures of stolen loot, largely because there is no choice.

    Here’s the deal, as long as folks want government – and most libertarians do – then get used to paying taxes. Real estate taxes predate income and sales taxes. I wish they’d leave me out of their mess, but they insist on being ruled. So, I try to dodge the government anyway I can, but you can’t dodge real estate taxes unless you can figure out how to move your land somewhere they can’t find it and take it away from you.

  28. Claire Says:

    Thanks for the follow-up info, Tom.

    While poking around, I also discovered that the property next door (owned by a woman who apparently inherited it a couple of years ago) is also tax-delinquent. That one is still in the control of its private owner. She hasn’t paid the taxes since she got the place, so I’m guessing she’s either unable to or not interested enough to do so. Hm. Maybe she’d be glad to have somebody take it off her hands.

    These parcels are both in a rather scary area — most of the structures in the vicinity are shacks and trailers built long ago, heaped with garbage, abandoned, and now falling apart. The parcels aren’t easily buildable, either. There have been sex offenders and meth heads living in the area and even the more “upscale” dwellings … aren’t. Any number of properties up there have simply been abandoned over the years and gone into tax sales.

    But its so splendidly isolated. And man, are there some pretty views.

  29. Claire Says:

    Kent — You are a baaaaaaaad boy.

    Randall — You are a creative idealist and have some cool ideas. But the more I learn about the properties in that area, the less inclined I’d be to involve their owners/former owners in anything.

    Gardening is dubious; land too steep to stand on in most places. Hunting … no need; there are state and timber company lands all around. Gun range … Hm. Could be worked out.

    Excellent logging land.

  30. Tom Blanton Says:

    Claire – The property next door has all the earmarks of being a good deal if you can get it before the delinquent taxes (plus penalties & interest) pile up. If the property is otherwise free of liens, the owner may be willing to do a no money down deal and finance it with you taking title subject to the delinquent taxes.

    You may also be able to work out a payment plan with the taxing authority to bring the taxes current instead of paying it all off at once.

    This is the kind of deal that people who buy Get Rich Quick From Real Estate books on late-night infomercials dream of finding.

  31. Jim Klein Says:

    Claire, I finally had a chance to read more closely; I hope you don’t mind a bit of a ramble. But even if you do, I’ll live with it. It so happens that’s the point of the ramble!

    The practicality has been covered fairly well, though I notice no mention of mineral rights at all. That’s a VERY complex issue which will NOT be solved by title searches (depending on the specifics of state law), nor even title insurance generally. Plus, mineral rights are superior to surface rights (for good reason, it turns out) and in these days of fracking square miles, it can matter. And then, as has been mentioned, you’ll inevitably be competing with pros who do this frequently and it’s always risky business competing with pros on their turf. But you already knew that.

    It’s the morality that interests me. As some have pointed out, NO person escapes dealing with “The Man” one way or another, directly or indirectly. So it becomes a personal judgement, as to whether you want to participate to that degree or not. Yes it’s stolen, period…even abandoned property did not go to the rightful heirs nor even follow a procedure for adverse possession. A tax sale is not a foreclosure or bank sale; it’s a tax sale, duh.

    It doesn’t matter how anyone else judges it. All that matters is how YOU judge it. It’s THAT with which you must live forever, for any action, always and evermore. All any person can do, is do everything with her eyes wide open and do it forthrightly. Me, I just couldn’t do it, but that’s me. I do other things that maybe others would find wrong. Big deal…we each live with our own choices, and that’s all that matters.

    Really, without picking on anyone in particular, I just wanted to share some lines from this thread that IMO represent the GENERAL principles (read “rationalizations”) that got us to where we are. They are all reasonable in their own way, but in the context of a society that is rapidly degenerating into full-blown tyranny, I think they deserve a mention. These are all intentionally taken out of context because they’re not meant to reflect the commenter’s argument, rationality or decency.

    They are meant to point out a PRINCIPLE, and it’s a principle that every one of these lines share. Specifically, it’s the principle that YOUR morality can somehow rest on what SOMEONE ELSE does. That’s the biggest error going, and it’s the one that violates Mama Liberty’s axiom—“I own myself.”

    I am trying to make a simple point. Until people understand that they, and they alone, are responsible for whatever the hell they do, this is never going to end. But as soon as they do, it’s game over for the Bad Guys. This is because nearly everyone is decent and has just been trapped into this silliness that what someone else does, can somehow justify (or not) what you do…

    “Someone is going to get the property, so why not you?”

    “I am not the one who implemented the tax or the corresponding sale. I am simply a buyer in a process that will go on with or without my participation.”

    “It’s not like the government is taking the property to enrich the purchaser.”

    “I am strongly against the concept that got people to the point of the sale, but once it is there I don’t see the problem with being part of it.”

    “If the property has clearly been abandoned, then no moral issues whatsoever.”

    “Taxes on real estate is still theft. But, this is the situation we have inherited.”

    That’s it. Every commenter had their own reasons for doing what they would do. All I’m asking is that each person understand that what someone else did, has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the morality of what we ourselves do. Or at least never to the good side…there are admittedly times when the evil of the other guy is so extreme that we must engage that which we’d prefer not to. But that’s a “less bad” scenario, not a “more good” one…a “calculus of loss,” in the words of my erstwhile friend Greg Swann.

    For my money, the best line in the whole thread was this…

    “Morality and immorality is something that free individuals get to decide for themselves.”

    That’s exactly right, and then they get to live with it.

    Best wishes whatever you decide, Claire; thanks for the space and everything you do.

  32. JB Says:

    Pat – I will just weigh in on the library book question you asked Rick, since I do not see an answer from him. As far as most library books go, they are bought with money that is confiscated from people other than those who are reading them. The whole idea behind a “public” library is that people want books to read, without having to pay for them. They get government to take the money from other people and build a library and buy some books. If I want to read a book, why should I make my neighbor pay for it? Authors also miss out on the royalties of selling books. If we did not have these “socialist book stores,” as radio host Jan Mickelson calls them, then the free market would spring forth something much like current video stores. People could pay with their OWN money to rent a book, and the author and publisher would collect a royalty on that. Or people could just buy the book. If books are donated, then I suppose it does not apply as much, although the librarians and facilities are being paid for with confiscated money.

  33. Michael W. Dean Says:

    Neema and I had a conversation about Claire’s question on the Freedom Feens podcast today. Claire asked me to post the link here.

    Starts 91 minutes in:


  34. Pat Says:

    To JB: Thanks for your response. I didn’t know that “as far as most library books go”, they are confiscated. Confiscated from whom?

    I do know that most libraries are built with tax money, but most people want a library in their towns and are willing to pay for the bonds to build one. (This is still a democracy – for what that’s worth – so if the majority votes for the library, then one gets built. Re: the books, I know some librarians have bought books to stock their shelves with money that came from those bonds.)

    I would prefer to rent books from a library myself. I’m not sure that authors get any royalty from rentals, however. Do you know that that’s true, or are you talking about a more desirable situation in a free/freer society?

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