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I am referring here to the initiation of physical force and coercion. Under Objectivism this is considered immoral because, fundamentally, it violates the victim's right to their life. It prevents the victim from acting according to their own judgement of what is best for them. To accept the general principle of force initiation would be self-defeating for that reason.

Force initiation can be overt, a robbery, seizure of property by the state, a murder, an invasion by foreign military forces. Here it should be easy to identify force has been initiated.

Force initiation may be "covert". Some examples:

- Imposing restrictions on free trade

- Minimum wage regulations

- Taxation

- Fraud

In the case of covert force initiation, the nature of the action is that they may be permitted by the victim. The act is not packaged in such a way as to make it's nature as force initiation immediately obvious. Some victims agree to the "crime" being done to them because they already consent to it willingly and don't recognise any involvement of force.

Taxation may be used to fund infrastructure, schools, emergency services, welfare payments and much more. Many taxpayers will want to benefit from such services, and may think that life would be worse if the government didn't provide them.

I have had debates with people who claim dropping welfare would mean to take us back to the times of Dickens, meaning cruel and inhumane treatment, terrible living conditions, no meaningfull access to justice for the majority. They scoff at the idea of charities providing welfare because they consider people to be fundamentally of bad nature and would not reduce suffering on a scale achieved by the government, however imperfect it may be or even though its achieved by force. Being forced to do "the right thing" is OK in their view.

There is also the question of whether their can be cases of "consensual" force initiation. Where consent is implicitly rather than explicitly given.

A notorious example from The Fountainhead is when Roark technically rapes Dominique.

Is taxation in today's society ever a case of "consensual" force initiation? If not, why not? Is submission to tax the same as permission? If not, why not?

What about implicit slavery, where one person is forced to work for another, but does not identify this as the true nature of the relationship. Is the slave still a slave or should we view it as a trader relationship if that's how both parties parse it?

What are the indisputable grounds for identifying what is both explicitly and implicitly a true initiation of force?

Thanks for your views :)

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1 hour ago, Jon Southall said:

I have had debates with people who claim dropping welfare would mean to take us back to the times of Dickens, meaning cruel and inhumane treatment, terrible living conditions, no meaningfull access to justice for the majority. They scoff at the idea of charities providing welfare because they consider people to be fundamentally of bad nature and would not reduce suffering on a scale achieved by the government, however imperfect it may be or even though its achieved by force. Being forced to do "the right thing" is OK in their view.

Your post opens up a rather wide variety of topics. But I thought I'd focus on this particular passage, because of the reference to "the right thing." In general, we in Western liberal democracies have long ago bought into the notion of the social contract. Entire generations of children are born into our social order with their parents' debts figuratively yoked to their shoulders. And every generation accumulates and compounds more debt. The main reason we find ourselves in such a situation is a philosophical one. Laws are designed to implement an ideal of justice, and we (the majority, not speaking for myself) have accepted altruism, and a sort of corrupted notion of the social contract, (some might argue that that is redundancy, but that will have to be addressed on another thread.) Once the ideal becomes a matter of law, the justice system is obligated to enforce those laws. Metaphoric reference abound when discussing economic arguments, but I always liken socialism to alcoholism. Once a man overuses/abuses alcohol and chooses to alleviate the suffering of his hangover with "a hair-of-the-dog", he makes his situation worse, potentially beyond the point of recovering his health. He may struggle to recover through fits of the delirium tremors, or worse yet, death. Socialism has had the effect on the majority of worsening the economic well-being of all, but in the short run, some people have a benefit from the welfare system. Politicians and popular publications are quick to point this out. Metaphorically, we are in "Happy Hour." When the day arrives that command economics leads to massive failure, people seem to expect that another dosage to socialism will do the trick. Convincing people of the actual effects of the welfare-state is no easy task. In fact, the process of dismantling the whole thing will be extremely complicated, painful, and nearly politically impossible. Metaphorically, the effects will be comparable to the delirium tremors. But the alternative will certainly be much worse. If we're talking about implicit slavery, those too young to understand will be the most enslaved. When I hear people defend the morality of the welfare-state with claims that "it is for the benefit of the children," I wish someone were able to present this argument.

From what I've read about Charles Dickens, his father mismanaged his estate, and his children suffered. With "Big Brother" collectively managing our estates, all of our children will suffer.  Can we allow this to be the morality we empower through force of government?

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On 1/10/2016 at 0:51 PM, Jon Southall said:

What are the indisputable grounds for identifying what is both explicitly and implicitly a true initiation of force?

The use of force is taking place whenever men are not dealing with each other through voluntary agreement (and is never taking place, if there is voluntary agreement). As for who initiated it, that's complicated, and the only way to sort it out is to understand what men's rights are, and what the boundaries are between individuals' rights.

Let's say a man walks out onto the prairie, builds a house, then builds a fence around it, and then starts working the land within his fence. Then another man jumps the fence, takes a carrot and eats it, when the first man is asleep. Why is the other man initiating force? Because the first man had the right to that carrot, and the second man took it by force (he used physical force to pick up and take the carrot).

Now let's say a man walks out onto the prairie, and declares that all the wild animals within 100 miles are his. Even builds a fence. And then another man jumps the fence, kills a rabbit and eats it. Is he initiating force? Obviously not, even though he's doing the same exact thing as in the first scenario.

So, really, we can talk about initiation of force, and non-aggression principles, and non-initiation of force principles until we're blue in the face. They're not gonna help us settle even something as simple as the scenario above, because the actual foundation of political principles is individual rights, not non-initiation of force.

Within the context of a well defined system of rights (including property rights, which can get very, very complicated), non-initiation of force makes sense: property (in essence, defined as that which a person creates, be it physical or intellectual) is an extension of a person, and using force against property is the same as using force against the person.

Outside such a context, non-initiation of force means nothing.

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On ‎1‎/‎10‎/‎2016 at 5:51 AM, Jon Southall said:

Is taxation in today's society ever a case of "consensual" force initiation? If not, why not? Is submission to tax the same as permission? If not, why not?

No.  Because, consent cannot be given for the unknown or bad faith, those fall outside of what has been consented to and that is fraud. If consent is given for particular action the trade is voluntary and does not constitute initiation of force.

No. Submission to tax is not voluntary because it is made under threat of force (threat of incarceration or theft) i.e. if you do continue not to pay taxes you eventually will go to jail or your property forcibly taken.

On ‎1‎/‎10‎/‎2016 at 5:51 AM, Jon Southall said:

What about implicit slavery, where one person is forced to work for another, but does not identify this as the true nature of the relationship. Is the slave still a slave or should we view it as a trader relationship if that's how both parties parse it?

Force is well defined.  A worker may feel "compelled" to trade certain actions in exchange for a colleague not "telling on you" but this is not physical force (including fraud) or the threat thereof. 

Although force is force regardless of how the parties "parse" it conceptually, force objectively requires some element of the non-voluntary, so the mental content of the parties cannot be wholly ignored. People fight in rings for sport, the distinguishing factor for the "first punch" being sport, is the consent of the "receiver" of an action which otherwise would be a crime.

People are fallible, and conceptually may be oblivious to the their own rights, their own lack of consent or even the threat of force.  An oppressive government bureaucrat and his hapless victim of a citizen may both be oblivious to the implicit threat of "treason to the state" always hanging over a relationship that "feels" like glorious service to the state, through performance of an action, in the name of duty.  Force here is omnipresent whether or not the citizen has chosen to recognize they are NOT free to choose or act otherwise, instead zealously holding onto the evasion, the self-delusion, that they don't "want to be free to choose".  The fact IS, although man has free will, IF you choose otherwise you will be arrested, incarcerated, possibly killed.  The insanity in such societies does not negate the objective presence of force, which would immediately prevent free action, should anyone awake from the insanity and attempt to deviate.

On ‎1‎/‎10‎/‎2016 at 5:51 AM, Jon Southall said:

What are the indisputable grounds for identifying what is both explicitly and implicitly a true initiation of force?

Rand has covered this very well throughout her writings.  The AR lexicon does a good job here:

http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/physical_force.html

 

Hope this helps.

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1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

No.  Because, consent cannot be given for the unknown or bad faith, those fall outside of what has been consented to and that is fraud. If consent is given for particular action the trade is voluntary and does not constitute initiation of force.

I consider taxation to be theft, because taxation serves altruism; others get to dispose of the wealth I produced, and I do not get a say in it. So we are agreed in the conclusion. Playing devil's advocate, someone could say "ah but you do get a say in it - you get a vote. If enough people felt that tax was theft, then we would stop taxing people!"

If you do voluntarily accept to be ruled democratically - the argument goes - then you voluntarily accept the consequences which is to pay tax should "the people" vote for it. If you don't give consent - if you refuse to pay tax then you are in breach of contract as a citizen of a democracy. This supposedly justifies the use of force against you.

I think we need to explore Rand's concept of inalienable rights here - don't you? Her argument was there are some rights which cannot justly be voted away by others - such as the right to life, the right to property. (An idea of mine would be a citizen's veto - a constitutional right to veto any policy that infringes their inalienable rights). If we accept these rights cannot be voted away, (or taxed away), then it comes back to consent, and how it is given.

Does choosing to live in a democracy mean that we are consenting to tax, when that is what the majority rule in favour of?

1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

Although force is force regardless of how the parties "parse" it conceptually, force objectively requires some element of the non-voluntary, so the mental content of the parties cannot be wholly ignored. People fight in rings for sport, the distinguishing factor for the "first punch" being sport, is the consent of the "receiver" of an action which otherwise would be a crime.

Good example - In the case of ring fighters, the whole point is to initiate force on the other but that is understood and accepted by all parties so it is voluntary - it takes on the form of a trade where the use of force is the currency. Do citizens in a democracy, who know that being taxed is a likelihood, voluntarily sign up to it via a "social contract" when they choose to be a citizen? It is customary in all Western democracies to pay tax (as you know I disagree with establishing rights premised on customs - but I make the point for the sake of exploring the issues)

1 hour ago, StrictlyLogical said:

People are fallible, and conceptually may be oblivious to the their own rights, their own lack of consent or even the threat of force.  An oppressive government bureaucrat and his hapless victim of a citizen may both be oblivious to the implicit threat of "treason to the state" always hanging over a relationship that "feels" like glorious service to the state, through performance of an action, in the name of duty.  Force here is omnipresent whether or not the citizen has chosen to recognize they are NOT free to choose or act otherwise, instead zealously holding onto the evasion, the self-delusion, that they don't "want to be free to choose".  The fact IS, although man has free will, IF you choose otherwise you will be arrested, incarcerated, possibly killed.  The insanity in such societies does not negate the objective presence of force, which would immediately prevent free action, should anyone awake from the insanity and attempt to deviate.

I agree with your conclusions; do you think that both the citizen and the bureaucrat are being defrauded then - i.e. they cannot truly be said to be giving their consent because they are ignorant of the involuntary nature of the interaction?

Rand wrote:

"Representative Government

The theory of representative government rests on the principle that man is a rational being, i.e., that he is able to perceive the facts of reality, to evaluate them, to form rational judgments, to make his own choices, and to bear responsibility for the course of his life.

Politically, this principle is implemented by a man’s right to choose his own agents, i.e., those whom he authorizes to represent him in the government of his country. To represent him, in this context, means to represent his views in terms of political principles. Thus the government of a free country derives its “just powers from the consent of the governed.”...

As a corroboration of the link between man’s rational faculty and a representative form of government, observe that those who are demonstrably (or physiologically) incapable of rational judgment cannot exercise the right to vote. (Voting is a derivative, not a fundamental, right; it is derived from the right to life, as a political implementation of the requirements of a rational being’s survival.) Children do not vote, because they have not acquired the knowledge necessary to form a rational judgment on political issues; neither do the feeble-minded or the insane, who have lost or never developed their rational faculty. (The possession of a rational faculty does not guarantee that a man will use it, only that he is able to use it and is, therefore, responsible for his actions.)"

The power of the government to tax could, by our oponents, be argued to be something that we have consented to as I wrote above. I would like to further explore the nature of consent in relation to the initiation of physical force to get to the bottom of this. I think it is a fact that inalienable rights are not fully respected by any democratic regime in currently in existence. So does that mean no rationally acting Objectivist truly consents to being governed in this manner, or if we do is it because we are being defrauded?

I don't think you (meaning - any Objectivist) could argue it is OK to accept our form of government knowing that it does not fundamentally protect our inalienable rights, and in fact knowing full well it would initiate force against you if you were to try to protect them yourself. You could exploit such a regime to your benefit (a kind of depravity perhaps), or keep a low profile and tolerate low level infringement for an easier life (sanction of the victim), but either action would be self-defeating. Surely we should be saying No.

What are your thoughts - to what extent does a citizen of a representative democracy consent to being subjected to force initiation? Going back to the cage fighter example - let's face it even a fighter who likes a scrap doesn't want to lose the ability to defend himself, he doesn't want to have his shin snapped in half or suffer a major brain injury. But he has voluntarily waived his rights to a degree. What do you think are the differences?

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1 hour ago, Jon Southall said:

Does choosing to live in a democracy mean that we are consenting to tax, when that is what the majority rule in favour of?

I would not use the term "we" here.  Each person consents or does not consent individually.  Many people, including myself, simply do not consent to be "ruled" by government in accordance with the systems of today, which includes taxation.  Unlike a historical slave of the southern states 150 years ago, there is no where to run to in today's world, but like the slave of the south, deciding the risks of attempting to escape are too great, deciding to remain does not mean consent to being enslaved.

1 hour ago, Jon Southall said:

Do citizens in a democracy, who know that being taxed is a likelihood, voluntarily sign up to it via a "social contract" when they choose to be a citizen? It is customary in all Western democracies to pay tax (as you know I disagree with establishing rights premised on customs - but I make the point for the sake of exploring the issues)

No.  Custom here matters no more than it would if all the territories of the globe were ruled by tyrants or communists.  A decision not to take up arms in revolution does not and would not mean consent.  Like many others with the correct philosophy, the hope is that improper, oppressive, rights-violating government will one day, through peaceful change, cease to be.

1 hour ago, Jon Southall said:

I agree with your conclusions; do you think that both the citizen and the bureaucrat are being defrauded then - i.e. they cannot truly be said to be giving their consent because they are ignorant of the involuntary nature of the interaction?

I would not say that they are both being defrauded.  They are both making a number of grave mistakes, errors, and possibly evasions.

 

1 hour ago, Jon Southall said:

So does that mean no rationally acting Objectivist truly consents to being governed in this manner, or if we do is it because we are being defrauded?

No.  Assessment of the risks of any other course of action other than attempting to use persuasion to change the system lead Objectivists to decide to stay notwithstanding the injustice of modern democracy.  No Objectivist "truly consents" to being ruled by an improper government, i.e. one which does anything other than protect individual rights.  Of course non-Objectivists are free to so "truly consent".

 

1 hour ago, Jon Southall said:

Surely we should be saying No.

We ARE saying "NO".  AR, LP, ARI, a number of academics... loudly and clearly.  Some are hearing.  Change is slow.

 

1 hour ago, Jon Southall said:

to what extent does a citizen of a representative democracy consent to being subjected to force initiation? Going back to the cage fighter example - let's face it even a fighter who likes a scrap doesn't want to lose the ability to defend himself, he doesn't want to have his shin snapped in half or suffer a major brain injury. But he has voluntarily waived his rights to a degree. What do you think are the differences?

Physical action against one's will, by definition action without a person's consent, (lack of that consent is part of the essence of the initiation of force), cannot be at the same time consented to.

In the ring fighters agree to something but still disagree to something else.  As a fighter I agree to your attempt to knock me out, using the strength and speed appropriate to that, but I do not agree to your attempt to kill me, or crush my head or snap my neck, not the strength speed and techniques appropriate for that result.  Here the agreement is to "box". 

Edited by StrictlyLogical

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On 1/10/2016 at 5:51 AM, Jon Southall said:

There is also the question of whether their can be cases of "consensual" force initiation. Where consent is implicitly rather than explicitly given.

A notorious example from The Fountainhead is when Roark technically rapes Dominique.

Since it seems important here, it's not that Roark forced Dominique, or that Dominique didn't consent. As far as I remember, she was just feeling weirdly angry despite still wanting to go through with it. She called it rape retroactively, after Roark left. As far as consent is concerned, if a person still maintains their autonomy, and you respect their autonomy, that's what counts.

Literally speaking, people do consent to taxation at times. Insofar as someone wants to pay already, they're consenting. I wouldn't say their rights have been denied, or they're failing to notice their rights are violated. The problem is that if you don't consent, you still must pay. -Someone- is having their rights violated.

A better question is if you can consent to slavery. Can you tell a person you consent to being beaten and raped at a job, and want your autonomy denied? It ends up as a weird paradox. The important point I think is that consent is based on ongoing autonomy. Consenting to a boxing match doesn't deny your autonomy, there's even freedom to retract consent if the going gets rough.

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Rand's tweak on Aristotelian causality is that no one can "force" anything to behave in a way that is not in accordance with it's nature.

Can you force a broken TV to work?

If you stick a gun to another persons head and tell him to give you his wallet, and he does, does this mean that you "forced" him to give you his wallet?  Or does it mean that he CHOSE to give you his wallet?

If Congress passes a law, do they "force" people to obey it?  Do they really have that type of ontological power?  Are they supernatural Gods, violating causality?

Rand boiled this issue down in the scene in Atlas Shrugged where the persons who were torturing Galt realized that they can't "force" him to do a damn thing.

Force is for fools.

Edited by New Buddha

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Buddha said:


 

"Rand's tweak on Aristotelian causality is that no one can "force" anything to behave in a way that is not in accordance with it's nature."

 

Aristotle's notion of force was consistent with his law of identity. Where did Aristotle claim anything to the contrary? 

Buddha said:

"Can you force a broken TV to work?"

Yes, by grasping what caused it to break, one can enact the necessary physical conditions that satisfy a working television. [through the application of what physicist call force] That has nothing to do with violating identity.

Buddha said:  

"If you stick a gun to another persons head and tell him to give you his wallet, and he does, does this mean that you "forced" him to give you his wallet?  Or does it mean that he CHOSE to give you his wallet? [...] If Congress passes a law, do they "force" people to obey it?  Do they really have that type of ontological power?  Are they supernatural Gods, violating causality?"

This is an equivocation on the meaning of "force" here. One who "sticks a gun to another persons head and tell him to give [him] his wallet" is threatening the use of force to coerce another into making choices they would not make without the threat of force. Likewise with a government law. It is a coercion of actions with the threat of force. 

The government and the robber do have the ontological power to make good on their threat.

Edited by Plasmatic

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I'd like to apologize, in advance; I'm short on time, but I'd just like to make a few observations.

 

"Inalienable rights" is a moral concept. It is based on a specific ethical code and serves as the basis for a political code.

 

The basis of the Objectivist idea of "rights" is analogous to a passage from "Faith and Force". To approach it sideways:

Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us.

 

This is why there is no such thing as "animal rights". Animals cannot communicate (some of them can do similar things, but not in the full meaning of the term); they cannot give their consent; when they are hungry, they will not be moved by any argument about your own "right to life".

In dealing with people, though, there are alternatives to violence. We can reason with them. And by communicating and cooperating with them (even if only in the "cooperation" of not interfering in their private lives) we can all live longer, healthier, happier, better lives.

In any group of people, when all of its members treat each other a certain way (interacting only with the consent of all participants, in any issue), each of its members recieves an exponential benefit - which makes it selfish for each member to behave accordingly. The requirements of this sort of behavior are what we refer to as "rights".

 

And they are not technically inalienable. When someone behaves the way wild animals do (i.e. violates these requirements and interferes in other peoples' lives, without their consent) then we're back at square one - or, rather, they are. This is what makes the retaliatory use of force necessary and moral.

 

---

 

On the subject of "consentual rights violations", at one point in Atlas Shrugged, Henry Rearden realized that his wife thought she held a mortgage over every waking moment of the rest of his mortal life (in the form of their marriage). He asked himself: By what right can a person forfeit any happiness they might ever have had? By what right can one person demand that another throw themselves into a sacrificial furnace?

Isn't that the point where the concept of "rights" leaves its proper context and loses any legitimacy?

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