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Dustin86

If the USA was "the first moral society" on Earth...?

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In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand states that "The United States was the first moral society in history." In Atlas Shrugged, Rand states that "morality ends where the gun begins".

If the USA was "the first moral society in history" and "morality ends where the gun begins", how does that square with the fact that it was created by violent revolution in which tens of thousands of people were killed and 5% of the population1 was displaced from territory claimed by the USA, the vast majority of whom ended up fleeing to territory still held by the "irrational" monarchy of George III?

1Rothbard, Murray. Conceived in Liberty, Vol. 4.

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Pretty easily. Great Britain initiated force, thus it is morally justified to revolt with force. Yes, it was violent (albeit not as violent as other ones). The only legit question I think is what portion of those killed were civilians, who killed them, and why. As far as I know, people were only "displaced" if they voluntarily decided to leave, and not because it was tyrannical or dangerous.

EDIT: Misread a word in OP

Edited by Eiuol

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2 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand states that "The United States was the first moral society in history." In Atlas Shrugged, Rand states that "morality ends where the gun begins".

If the USA was "the first moral society in history" and "morality ends where the gun begins", how does that square with the fact that it was created by violent revolution in which tens of thousands of people were killed and 5% of the population1 was displaced from territory claimed by the USA, the vast majority of whom ended up fleeing to territory still held by the "irrational" monarchy of George III?

1Rothbard, Murray. Conceived in Liberty, Vol. 4.

So where's the contradiction? Great Britain initiated force by imposing unnecessarily harsh terms on its colonists; the colonists resisted this initiation of force. Indeed, some blood is spilled in the course of human events. And if the course of events leads to greater freedom for the individuals who took the risk of defending themselves, then that's one giant leap for mankind. Defending one's self, or one's nation of free people, is a moral cause for bloodshed.

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So you think that violent rebellion with the aim of overthrowing the government is justified whenever any government "initiates force", as you put it?

Edited by Dustin86

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9 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

So you think that violent rebellion with the aim of overthrowing the government is justified whenever any government "initiates force", as you put it?

If we're discussing the American War for Independence, could we please stay on point, and not meander into a scatological and hypothetical scenario. The conflict between the American Colonists and Great Britain was violent. In contract to other historical uprisings, I would argue that none have resulted in as few deaths in the cause of extending personal liberty to so many people. The very idea that men have "natural rights," as opposed to rights granted by supernatural powers, or through monarchical bequest, was revolutionary. Those specific rights, "to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," spelled out a very well-defined objective in light of the fact that monarchical powers (powers of church and state) were the only established means of governing over law-abiding people up until that time. The immorality institutionalized under "the Divine Right of Kings" was in the temptation for abusing that power on the monarch's subjects. We are not subjects; we are free individuals. At times, it is necessary to maintain that freedom through violent action. And while it may be argued that contemporary Americans are voluntarily forfeiting their natural rights, we preserve most of the concepts of personal liberty as conceived by the Founders. 

Dustin86, if you have some notion about some scenario involving an imaginary government that may require violent rebellion aimed at regime change, then make your intentions known. Create a hypothetical scenario, if you wish. But trying to cast aspersions on the motives, results, and morality of America's Revolutionary War, and on its leaders, is a losing proposition. So if you feel so inclined, elaborated on the "immorality" of the defense of liberty carried out by the American Colonists from 1774 to 1781.

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You're misunderstanding the "morality ends where the gun begins" quote.

Ayn Rand doesn't mean that violence is immoral. She just means that Objectivist Ethics doesn't teach you how to wage war, or how to be violent, it teaches you how to live in peace...when peace is possible, because no one is initiating force against you.

When it's not possible, you have to do what is necessary to defeat or evade the people who are initiating force. The principles that guide a man's life in peace time can't help you do that. As an obvious example, the virtue of honesty won't help you spy on your enemy, or deceive enemy spies (the way the Allies did before the Normandy landing, for instance). You can't treat your enemy with benevolence, respect and honesty, you have to treat him for what he is: a sub-human, irrational thug. You don't try to reason with him, the way Objectivist morality prescribes you to interact with people willing to respect your rights, you interact with him like you do with a mindless animal.

Just to make sure you don't read anything I didn't say into my post: Objectivist moral and political principles DO help you determine who your enemy is. For instance, you can't just declare all Muslims your enemy, because some of them initiated force against you. There are principles that tell you that the enemy are those groups and people who are complicit in the initiation of force, not the millions who just happen to belong to the same religion.

Edited by Nicky

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15 hours ago, Eiuol said:

It can is the short answer. My long answer, well, I made a thread and discussed some of it here.

 

Louie, I don't really understand either your short or long answers. It can? Who gets to make these decisions? Does one person disgruntled by laws or taxes that he disapproves of gain the right to violently overthrow the government from an entire country?

Edited by Dustin86

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25 minutes ago, Dustin86 said:

Louie, I don't really understand either your short or long answers. It can? Who gets to make these decisions? Does one person disgruntled by laws or taxes that he disapproves of gain the right to violently overthrow the government from an entire country?

It's not a who decides - it's what principle to use. Initiating force may morally be met with force. The question to ask next is if someone really did initiate force, and if it's a stupid idea to fight back. If the government did initiate force, and winning is realistic, I say it's a good idea to revolt by any possible means. I wouldn't say a "right" to overthrow, I'd rather say it requires careful thinking.

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

I wouldn't say a "right" to overthrow

I'm confused. It would seem to me that if there is no right to overthrow, then nobody should be overthrowing!

Edited by Dustin86

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It's just the connotation of the word I don't like there. Probably because it didn't specify being a response to force. I prefer not to say any acts of force are rights per se for that reason. Here, it's a matter of who initiated. There's a right in the sense "sometimes it is appropriate and right".

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1 hour ago, Eiuol said:

If the government did initiate force, and winning is realistic, I say it's a good idea to revolt by any possible means.

But what government in the world today or anywhere in history has never initiated force? That's what governments do. They lay down the law and they enforce it.

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1 hour ago, Dustin86 said:

But what government in the world today or anywhere in history has never initiated force? That's what governments do. They lay down the law and they enforce it.

It'd often be justified in today's world, but enforcement of the law is different. It's not that government by nature requires force that I am talking about, but initiation of force. Law enforcement is not force initiation per se, but it is initiation if the law being enforced also initiates force. All governments enforce the law, by definition. After determining if the law is unjust, next you decide what to do about it. A lot of the time, a revolt is unlikely to work, so sometimes a protest is smarter. AnCaps like to argue that law enforcement is initiation of force, and interestingly, albeit for different reasons, a Communist sees government as inherently coercive. But, one, I don't see how enforcement requires initiation, two, government isn't coercing people to follow laws except possibly people who intend to initiate force. It's not coercion to say "murder is illegal", as murder is force initiation.

DW I'd need to think about it, but my intuition is you're right.

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7 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

Ok, I think I understand what you mean now, but what about taxes? What government today or in history does not initiate force in order to collect taxes, and/or against tax evaders?

Why don't you read up a little on Objectivism? You're spending hours on this forum, getting nowhere. Wouldn't that time be better spent actually learning about the subject you keep asking loaded questions about?

Edited by Nicky

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13 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

What government today or in history does not initiate force in order to collect taxes, and/or against tax evaders?

None that I know of. Why are you asking?

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If according to Objectivism, a government "initiating force" provides a moral justification for violent overthrow of that government, and every government in the world or that ever was initiates force to collect taxes and against those who evade taxes, then there would seem to be a moral justification according to Objectivist morality for the violent overthrow of every government in the world.

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Dustin86,

It seems you're not very interested in the moral justifications for the American War of Independence. Rather, you seem bent on a clear definition of the moral justifications for a violent overthrow of one's government, by terms of Objectivist standards:

10 hours ago, Dustin86 said:

If according to Objectivism, a government "initiating force" provides a moral justification for violent overthrow of that government, and every government in the world or that ever was initiates force to collect taxes and against those who evade taxes, then there would seem to be a moral justification according to Objectivist morality for the violent overthrow of every government in the world.

If you're looking for "tipping point," wherein the "Objectivist collective" is mad as hell, and we're not gonna take it anymore, I offer you this conjecture: We ain't anywhere near such tipping point.

On the other hand, if your government were to sent representatives to your door, taze you, expropriate your valuables, and leave you with the assurance that they, the government, would determine your living-standards, including the option of being impressed into a labor camp or service on the front-line of a foreign war, would any such scenario interest you in joining a resistance movement?

Obviously, we ain't anywhere near that. But if one were to exist in such a hypothetical place and time, the resistance movement would benefit greatly if they had a set of principles, perhaps even a philosophic ideal motivating the commitment and loss of life that likely would result. Without intending to redirect this discourse, I site the lost opportunity of the Decline and Fall of the Soviet Union. Here was a population living under conditions much like the one in my  for-mentioned scenario. When the time came for toppling the government of status quo, the common people were confronted with chaos on a scale of magnitude that they willingly embraced the return to strongman-authoritarianism, such as now exists. And it may be preferable for many within the current boundaries of such a dictatorship, as opposed to chaos. But that (chaos vs dictatorship) is a false set of alternatives, and we in the West know this. The rather clueless masses of Russia apparently do not. But again, it is not my intent to discuss the conditions of any foreign government. Only to point out that while the downfall of the USSR was relatively bloodless -- nonetheless complete -- the problems of their government were far from over. Whereas laws and institutions respecting individual rights existed within the British-American colonies of the 18th century, such laws and institutions were absent in Moscow in 1992, and are not likely to arise any time soon.

As of 1789, an experimental form of government was initiated on the North American continent. It was not perfect, however it did serve to provide a more perfect unity among its governed people. Internal rebellions have occurred since then, but none that have ended the experiment. The process of ensuring liberty to ourselves and our posterity continues to be a complex process. I cannot say that I speak for all Objectivists. However, I believe my relationship to my government is based on rational self-interest, and within Objectivist standards. Speaking for myself, I see no motivation for any rational person to take arms against the government of the United States of America, whether on a federal, state, or local level. Certainly not at this point, and we ain't anywhere near that point.

Is there any reason that makes you believe that Objectivism constitutes any threat of violent overthrow of the USA, (or any other nation-state for that matter)?

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8 hours ago, Repairman said:

Is there any reason that makes you believe that Objectivism constitutes any threat of violent overthrow of the USA, (or any other nation-state for that matter)?

Well, Louie, who is a Moderator at the largest Objectivist forum just said one post before yours that there exists an Objectivist moral justification for the violent overthrow of every government in the entire world, the only limitation being the physical/military practicality thereof. So yes, I would think that would constitute such a reason, should Objectivism continue to gain followers.

Edited by Dustin86

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24 minutes ago, Dustin86 said:

So yes, I would think that would constitute such a reason, should Objectivism continue to gain followers.

I do not think it's wise or sensible, so it's usually immoral on those grounds. Retaliatory force is not where the moral issue is, that's all. It's not like I'm going on about needing to, today, create some sort of revolutionary organization like the Sons of Liberty. In that way, there is no threat of a revolt; Objectivism has no particular theory of political action. Insofar as Objectivist politics is largely inclined to Republicanism originating in Rome, revolution in the form of political ingenuity is often preferable to violently responding to less extreme force initiation. Taxation is less bad than, say, genocide.

Edited by Eiuol

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So Louie, do you think that governments have the right to collect taxes and punish tax evaders, or do you think violent overthrow is justified whenever governments collect taxes or punish tax evaders?

FTR, Repairman, I am indeed finding fault with the American Revolution. I agree with the both of you that certain extreme circumstances such as genocide may justify the overthrow of the government. But nothing remotely like that was happening in British North America in 1776. As the eminent Revolution scholar, Professor Gordon Wood, states:

Quote

“The social conditions that generally are supposed to lie behind all revolutions—poverty and economic deprivation—were not present in colonial America. There should no longer be any doubt about it: the white American colonists were not an oppressed people; they had no crushing imperial chains to throw off” (Wood, Gordon. The Radicalism of the American Revolution.)

Mere "initiation of force", in the form of collecting taxes and punishing tax evaders for instance, is not an acceptable reason to violently overthrow the government.

Edited by Dustin86

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