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Aiden Gregg talking about sex and tax and violence

On the last Friday of May, May 31, the Friday coming up, which happens also to be the last day of May, the speaker at my regular Last-Friday-of-the-Month meeting at my home will be Aiden Gregg.


I bumped into Aiden Gregg at another talk we both attended at the Institute of Economic Affairs, and quickly discovered two things about him. He is an academic psychologist, to be more specific: a lecturer at Southampton University. And, he is a straight-down-the-line, uncompromising libertarian. Those two facts alone were enough to get me inviting him to give a talk at my place. Libertarian economists are, if not two a penny, at least quite numerous, hence the existence of such institutions as the Institute of Economic Affairs. But libertarians in other academic specialities are much rarer, and we must, I think, do everything we can to encourage and make much of such people.

Just being a libertarian, and mingling and continuing to mingle with the kind of academics who are just about never libertarians and who in many cases have no idea that such a thing even exists, is itself something of an achievement. Even if you say very little about your libertarianism, and perhaps especially if you say very little, this can have all kinds of consequences. One particular consequence is that knowledge of what academic psychology typically consists of will be drawn into the libertarian movement. They may not learn much about our opinions, but we are far more likely to learn about theirs. As the late Chris Tame used to say, we need our people everywhere. And by that he meant especially everywhere in academia.

So, my attitude to Aiden Gregg is: well done mate, for just being what you are, never mind whatever else you might manage to do for the cause of liberty by actually saying stuff to your academic colleagues, and publishing things.

In that spirit of admiration, I said to Aiden Gregg, just talk about whatever you want to talk about.

Here is the email he sent me in which he said what he will be talking about:

The title of my talk will be “Sax and Violence”. “Sax” is not a typo but a contraction of “sex and “tax”!

In the talk I shall argue that, ethically speaking, the proactive seizure of one’s body and property by others, including for the greater social good, are analogous at an fundamental level.

According, it is either the case that both are generally legitimate, or that neither are generally legitimate, but not the case that one is generally legitimate but the other is not.

In Western cultures, however, the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s property (or income, its monetary representation), for the purposes of enriching some while impoverishing others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is readily accepted by most democratic voters, and is seen not only as permissible, but also as obligatory, or at all events, regrettably necessary.

In contrast, in the same cultures (though not others), the proactive seizure of a portion of someone’s body, for the purposes of sexually satisfying some while sexually dissatisfying others, if democratically elected rulers so dictate, is firmly rejected by most democratic voters, and is seen as not only forbidden, but also as repugnant, and in any case, wholly unnecessary.

If, ethically speaking, it is not the case that one is legitimate but the other is not – and I shall attempt to rebut several key objections – then the acceptance of the first, but the rejection of the second, is an ethical bias stands in need of explanation.

One theoretical approach to accounting for such a bias would be system justification theory, developed by left-liberal thinkers to explain the persistence of social hierarchy, but arguably even better suited to explaining the perceived legitimacy of statist authority.

So, the talk will feature some ethics and some psychology.

So, this will be a talk that is in several ways outside the usual libertarian boxes, both in terms of who is giving it, and what it will be about. Good.

If this or any other of these meetings are of interest to you, and you aren’t already on my email list, get on it by emailing me. Click where it says “Contact”, top left, here.

7 comments to Aiden Gregg talking about sex and tax and violence

  • Aiden is also pencilled in to give a second performance of his talk at the Libertarian Home meetup http://www.meetup.com/Libertarian-Meetups/events/112423842/ (as distinct from a libertarian‘s home meetup 😉


  • Julie near Chicago

    “In the talk I shall argue that, ethically speaking, the proactive seizure of one’s body and property by others, including for the greater social good, are analogous at an fundamental level.”

    I would very much like to hear this talk. (As time is short, please send my ticket and paid-up airline reservation as an attachment to your e-mail.)

    One reason, I think, why people generally are less opposed to taxation and eminent-domain seizures (which is the right word, “justly”–i.e. financially–compensated or not) than to bodily assault or murder is that the link between one’s property and his life is not so generally obvious.

    Who takes my property takes my TIME–that is, a portion of my lifespan. This is abhorrent.

    Yet, the seizure of a (small) part of my life is less abhorrent than serious damage to my body, and still less abhorrent than to end my life.

    So I hope he addresses that very important issue.

    The best of the counterarguments is that while that may be true, taking a (small) portion of my property via taxation, or a (“justly compensated”) portion via eminent domain, is justified because of the gain I personally get from the proceeds: The argument being that in the best circumstances, the protection of the taker (the government, as is–ideally–endorsed in its members and its enactments by the people as individuals, all of whom may suffer the same indignities) is enjoyed by the insulted, as are whatever benefits all of the people enjoy because of the eminent-domain taking.

    Persons will believe whatever they believe, but I hope that his rebuttal to this argument is the strongest, most convincing possible.

    It certainly sounds as if he has hold of the right issue. So as I say, send me tickets please. :>)

    Oh–and a transcript, please, or a video, or both. :>))

  • Talks at the Rose and Crown are videoed Julie, for exactly that sort of reason. Since this one will have been rehearsed and chewed over by good people I’m looking forward to a very good bit of video. (No pressure Aiden).

  • Mr Ed

    Well in WW2 the Japanese Empire dragooned ‘comfort women’, mainly ethnic Koreans I believe, to provide ‘comfort’ for their soldiers. They were blatant about it, and the Mayor of Osaka has recently commented on it, it terms hat are not necessarily to his advantage.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    And I guess Gregg’s point would be that this comfort women story has caused outraged comment all around the world. Whereas, governments stealing money is just business as usual, and inevitable, and (in most eyes) necessary.

    My slight disagreement with what Aiden Gregg says is that stolen money can be redistributed, and to some extent it is, that being the universal justification for such predation. Sexual repaciousness by rulers, on the other hand, was mostly just that, and entirely for their own pleasure and self-perpetuation. There was no attempt being made to “redistribute” sexual favours, nor any pretence along such lines.

    On Friday, this can all be argued about.

  • Laird

    It’s been a long time since I last read it, but doesn’t Huxley’s Brave New World treat sex as freely available to all, and thus essentially common property? I don’t recall that the government there “took” it per se, but wasn’t everyone required to consent to sex upon request by anyone? That seems analogous to “redistribution”.