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Invictus2017

Correcting the nonaggression "principle"

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This would be a good point at which to raise questions:

Quote

neither fraud nor violations of contract involve physical force

I don’t understand what you mean by “physical force”. Let’s consider two other kinds of rights-violations: punching a person in the face, and stealthily taking cash from their home (let’s say, unbeknownst to them, though this could also be with them seeing you do it, if that matters). I presume that you would consider the former to involve physical force, but if not, please clarify. How about the latter? In what way is ‘physical force’ involved? What about a friendly handshake, or accidentally touching a person on a crowded subway. Is that “initiation of force”? And finally… back to the punch in the face: suppose we’re talking about boxers or stuntmen in a movie. Are they initiating force and should they be imprisoned? If not, why not (don’t just say “they agreed to it” – you haven’t shown that agreeing has any bearing on what force is).

You ask how a person can properly defend himself against breach of contract and fraud (“how can a person … properly defend himself against it”, where it can only sensibly refer to “fraud (n)or violations of contract”).  If you are asking “how do you prevent this from this happening to you”, the answer is caveat emptor. If you are asking how you restore your property rights, that is what the legal system is for. You assuredly do not have the right to poke the guy with a knife, as you would if someone were actually beating you.

The problem I see is that you’re attempting to put things under the umbrella of self-defense that have no business there. For one, it simply is not true that “self-defense must be implemented via a government”. If a man attempts to beat me or steal from me, I may quite rightfully defend myself forcibly, without the intervention of the government. It is however correct that such a use of force must be placed under the objective control of the law – every jurisdiction has laws permitting self-defensive force. Self-defense pertains to the immediate situation that arises when the government cannot intervene, i.e. when someone is beating on you right now and the cops are not there, or someone is taking your property right now. When it’s not right now, it’s not self-defense.

Where you say “It is improper for anyone to use physical force or the threat of physical force to prevent or respond to that which another has the right to do”, I have two objections. First, “use physical force or the threat of physical force” is redundant, in fact whenever a principle is stated in terms of “A or B”, that should tell you that the principle is misstated. The mind does not deal well with arbitrary lists. Second,  “prevent or respond to that which another has the right to do” misses the point, which I think is amply made in Rand’s writing, that the principle is about “forcing a mind”, and not the complex list that you set forth. I take the following two sentences from Peter Schwartz’s essay “Free markets and free minds” as the clearest explication of “force”:

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The concept of force pertains only to the volitional. It pertains only to physical actions taken by a volitional being to neutralize the choice of another volitional being

It is my judgment that if you were to focus on what “force” is (and basically accept Schwartz’s sentences, although I highly recommend the whole essay), many (though not all) of the issues that you are facing would go away.

 

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This seems like a giant non sequitur. Loosely summed up, you argue for the basic necessity of government as organized defense against endemic violence. A rational person will choose to organize government and thus acting against the government is acting against the needs of a rational man. Okay, very well. But then you deduce that this includes "withholding information the government needs."

Well, that just plain doesn't follow. You can say that your argument deduces that you shouldn't act against a government, but that would only apply to a government objectively prosecuting its protective function, not just any old thing the government does or claims to be doing. Which then leads us to ask is the government allowed to do any old thing, including coercing information out of people, in pursuit of this function? I would say no.

You then insert the phrase "metaphysical necessasities of government," but this is an empty phrase, the meaning anyone could only fill in with whatever they wanted. Shoes are a metaphysical necessity of government, the government should produce shoes. Food is a metaphysical necessity of government, what quality of food and shoes, well ham sandwiches and nikes, etc etc. you get the picture. In other words, you can't just throw "metaphysical necessity!" onto the end of a non sequitur and make it not a non sequitur.

If it's "endemic violence" were concerned about, the word "endemic" means regularly and systemically occurring, makes no sense to then enshrine endemic initiating of violence. 

 

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On 11/30/2017 at 5:43 AM, Invictus2017 said:

Rand made a habit of making sweeping generalizations and grand statements.  Good for rhetoric, not so good for us mere morals who might want to put her ideas into practice.  I've got my proposed city, which will need a government.  Not an abstract government, but a living, breathing, down and dirty government.  If the limits of government -- and private -- action are not spelled out in advance, some variety of uncontained violence is a near certainty.  So these issues are ones I need to nail down, which is why I started this topic.

I'm sympathetic to the idea that a real city will need a real government, and also that the devil is in the details, and also that the implementation of a philosophical system such as Objectivism is bound to encounter mistake and error and further discovery (whether politically or even simply in an individual life).

Yet I remain committed to the central ideals set out by Rand, until I can be shown that those ideals are faulty (if they are); as such, I think that the project of our political science should be to figure out how a government can be instituted without resorting to the initiation of force, rather than abandon this central principle (as I believe it is central to the Objectivist Politics) when seeming difficulties are encountered.

On 11/30/2017 at 5:43 AM, Invictus2017 said:

I have noticed that some people here aren't really here to have a reasoned discussion, they are here to protect their notion of Rand as God and the inerrancy of His (sic) pronouncements.  I had my fill of that in the 90's, and I either ignore such people or killfile them if they get too annoying. My life is too important to waste it on dealing with their problems.

I do not take you to be one of those people; nothing you have said suggests that you intend to hold a position regardless of the validity of opposing arguments.  And clarity is essential to reasoned discussion; I've found that many disagreements simply evaporate during the search for clarity.  What's that quote about not needing to find answers, but to ask the right questions?

I appreciate your saying so. Reasoned discussion is my aim, and further to recognize the validity of "opposing" argumentation, where applicable (though, even when belatedly recognized, I never consider the truth to be in opposition to my interests; if you convince me of the error of my ways, I am indebted to you).

Am I always as good as my intentions? Unfortunately not. Yet I strive to improve...

With respect to this current discussion, I remain cognizant of my bias -- and it is equally important to me that this is clear to you, too. I've noticed that Objectivists tend to "lean" in one direction or another, regarding this and other common controversies. Where the individual and the state are concerned, and there is a situation not easily reconciled according to extant Objectivist literature, most Objectivists tend to group reliably on one side or the other, either with "individual rights" or "the state." (Of course, probably all other Objectivists would unite to disagree with me on this point, and insist that they are not "leaning" in any direction whatsoever; "perspective," in my experience, is in short supply.)

I lean towards individual rights.

10 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Another essential right is that of self-defense. Without it, each person would be a victim to anyone who decided to be immoral and employ rights-violating force. However, self-defense is not a matter that can be left to the individual. That way lies gang rule and arbitrary acts of force. Instead, self-defense must be implemented via a government, an organization that employs force only when objectively necessary to implement the right of self-defense of those within its jurisdiction.

With this subject (as with so many), I suspect it would be very easy to wander into the weeds... I apologize if I'm about to take us there.

Yet it makes me a trifle nervous when we say "self-defense is not a matter than can be left to the individual." For after all, where do we think these rights of self-defense originate, or the authority of any given governmental body, if not "the individual"? And what do we suppose a government is in fact comprised of, if not individuals? If self-defense cannot be left to the individual, then we have very little recourse, because human society is comprised of nothing but individuals. (Or to put this another way, if self-defense is not a matter that can be left to the individual, then neither is it a matter that can be left to the group of individuals known as a government.)

And so, as a very minor note/correction, I would say that, rather than that "self-defense must be implemented via a government," where "government" is treated as something apart, instead the objective employment of (retaliatory) force to implement the right of self-defense is governance. It absolutely can and must be left to individuals, and find its source of right in individual right, although we also recognize that force must only be used in accordance with the requirements of objective procedure. This is how we refrain from trampling the rights of others, even as we secure and defend our own. This is how we may avoid "gang rule and arbitrary acts of force."

10 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Rand, at numerous places, asserts that force in society may only be used in response to the initiation of physical force and only against the person who initiates the force, the so-called non-aggression principle (NAP) beloved of Objectivists and libertarians alike.

There are some immediately obvious problems with the NAP. In general, neither fraud nor violations of contract involve physical force, so how can a person -- even via his government -- properly defend himself against it? The orthodox solution to this particular problem is so-called "indirect force". I may not have used force in my fraud or contract violation, but when you attempt to retrieve the improperly obtained values from me, I must choose between giving up the values or using force to keep them. If I do the former, there's no issue, but if I do the latter, you may exercise (via the government) your right to self-defense. This "solution" fails because there are means other than physical force to retain values, such as concealment.

I don't mean to quibble over word choices, but I think it clear that -- at least as Rand used it -- "the initiation of physical force" refers to something more than the physics of, say, prying wealth from another person's clenched hand. Fraud is equally the initiation of physical force, as is concealment in the context you've mentioned, as is taxation.

Indeed, if we are literal enough in interpreting "the initiation of physical force," then we might have to question whether the person pointing a gun at you has done so, if he has not yet fired (or if he misses). Yet the effect of pointing a gun at you, taxing you, defrauding you, etc., is to (physically) sunder from you the values which are rightfully yours -- against your voluntary agreement. And in my opinion, that is how we can recognize them all as being the initiation of force.

10 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Be that as it may, a bigger problem for the NAP comes from the fact that a government must function objectively; the last thing anyone needs is a government that behaves according to whim -- even well intentioned whim. But objectivity doesn't "just happen", it is the outcome of a particular kind of process, one that requires obtaining all the facts known to be relevant.

I would agree that a government must function objectively, and not according to whim; but this does not grant a government carte blanche to achieve whatever ends. Or if it does, then there's nothing left to say with respect to "individual rights," for that is a concession that there is no such thing as individual rights.

Of everything I've said on this topic, this is what I most want you to address: I believe that you are making the argument, fundamentally, that there are no individual rights. That whatever the state is judged to need (howsoever we make that determination) individuals must be rightly coerced to provide it. This is true of "facts" or information (as in subpoena), wealth (as in taxation and eminent domain), and manpower/lives (conscription) -- and your argument serves to justify all of these things, as I believe we have agreed elsewhere.

Well, if the government has the right to take "facts" (and also time) and wealth and life itself from the individual, on the basis of its "need," then as I say, that is "individual right" conceded. Whether we agree or disagree, ultimately, I would at least hope that we can agree upon what it is we're discussing. The argument you're making is an argument for statism.

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12 hours ago, DavidOdden said:

I don’t understand what you mean by “physical force”.

I'm not sure that I was entirely clear on this point, but my intent was to take Rand at her word in order to show a contradiction.  So, I meant by " physical force" what I understood Rand's meaning to be.  Therefore, a perfectly valid rejoinder to my argument would be that I misunderstood Rand.  And, if your final quote,

12 hours ago, DavidOdden said:
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The concept of force pertains only to the volitional. It pertains only to physical actions taken by a volitional being to neutralize the choice of another volitional being

is an accurate statement of Rand's position, I have erred in my understanding.  My understanding, in essence, is that, to Rand, "physical force" means a physical action taken by a volitional being against another's physical values, and  "initiation of force" means taking steps toward such a physical action.  So, a punch in someone's face would be physical force, and swinging one's hand in preparation for the punch would be initiation of force.

I reached this understanding because Rand used the concept of "indirect force" in relation to fraud.  Such a concept would be unnecessary if fraud were a species of physical force, as it is under Schwartz' definition.
 

Frankly, I much prefer Schwartz' definition to my understanding of Rand's definition, so henceforth I shall use it instead.  That also means abandoning the concept of indirect force which, as I've indicated, I have real problems with.
 

That said, this redefinition of "physical force" does not seem to affect my argument that a government must have a means to compel testimony and that this is inconsistent with the NAP.  I'll give it some thought....

 

Edited by Invictus2017
copyediting

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9 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I think that the project of our political science should be to figure out how a government can be instituted without resorting to the initiation of force, rather than abandon this central principle (as I believe it is central to the Objectivist Politics) when seeming difficulties are encountered.

I'm persuaded that a government cannot be properly instituted without some equivalent to the subpoena and I don't see how a subpoena can be regarded as anything but the initiation of force (even with my rethinking of force, as prodded by DavidOdden).

But I also think that the NAP is not really central to the Politics.  Rand's goal is not to eliminate force from society but, rather, to bring it under objective control, to make it serve life, rather than destroy it.   The NAP is a means to that end.  However, I think it's flawed.  First, Rand never proves the validity of the NAP.  Second, I don't think the NAP is  necessary to proving the major points of the Politics.  I read it as more a rhetorical device than an actual principle.

Anyway, what I ultimately hope to end up with is a replacement principle for the NAP or a demonstration that the subpoena is not inconsistent with the NAP (along with a proof of the NAP).

(more to come)

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10 hours ago, DonAthos said:

With respect to this current discussion, I remain cognizant of my bias -- and it is equally important to me that this is clear to you, too. I've noticed that Objectivists tend to "lean" in one direction or another, regarding this and other common controversies. Where the individual and the state are concerned, and there is a situation not easily reconciled according to extant Objectivist literature, most Objectivists tend to group reliably on one side or the other, either with "individual rights" or "the state." (Of course, probably all other Objectivists would unite to disagree with me on this point, and insist that they are not "leaning" in any direction whatsoever; "perspective," in my experience, is in short supply.)

I lean towards individual rights.

Objectivism is often phrased in generalities, like "society needs" or "government needs", etc.  But Objectivism is fundamentally, one might even say radically, individualist.  So such statements are, strictly speaking, false.  So let me put a few things in "I" terms:

I need a government so that I don't have to live in anarchy and practice KYFHO.  I need a government that is controlled by reason so that I don't have to fear my government more than I do anarchy.  I need a government that can subpoena so that it will be objective, so that I need not fear false accusations (a subject near and dear to me!) and so that I have effective recourse should my rights be violated.

I'll let you decide which way I lean. :)


 

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10 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Yet it makes me a trifle nervous when we say "self-defense is not a matter than can be left to the individual."

Ah, wasn't it clear that I was paraphrasing Rand?  Here's the original:

Quote

The use of physical force — even its retaliatory use — cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens. Peaceful coexistence is impossible if a man has to live under the constant threat of force to be unleashed against him by any of his neighbors at any moment. Whether his neighbors’ intentions are good or bad, whether their judgment is rational or irrational, whether they are motivated by a sense of justice or by ignorance or by prejudice or by malice — the use of force against one man cannot be left to the arbitrary decision of another.

 

That's very different from what you took me to be saying.  Sorry about that.
 

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10 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I don't mean to quibble over word choices,

By all means do, since using the correct words is essential to clarity.....
 

10 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I think it clear that -- at least as Rand used it -- "the initiation of physical force" refers to something more than the physics of, say, prying wealth from another person's clenched hand. Fraud is equally the initiation of physical force, as is concealment in the context you've mentioned, as is taxation.

Indeed, if we are literal enough in interpreting "the initiation of physical force," then we might have to question whether the person pointing a gun at you has done so, if he has not yet fired (or if he misses). Yet the effect of pointing a gun at you, taxing you, defrauding you, etc., is to (physically) sunder from you the values which are rightfully yours -- against your voluntary agreement. And in my opinion, that is how we can recognize them all as being the initiation of force.

Let me introduce a bit of legal-speak, since I think it may prove helpful.  In law, a choice is often referred to as "voluntary" if the choice is "knowing", "intelligent", and not "coerced".  While the legal beagles are often confused by these terms, they seem clear to me, so here are my definitions:

 

knowing: made by one in possession of all of the relevant facts

intelligent: made by one with the capacity to properly evaluate those facts

coerced: made because of the threat of violence or because of actual violence

When I wrote my post, I was taking the term "physical force" literally, so that only coercion would be counted as physical force.  I did that because that seems to be what Rand meant by it, since she felt the need to classify fraud as "indirect force" rather than as "physical force".  However, DavidOdden introduced me to Schwartz' restatement of force, which I have decided to adopt.   Under that definition, physical force is a physical act intended to make another's choices involuntary, and so would include fraud, and thereby eliminate the need for the concept "indirect force".

I take "initiation" to be along the lines of "bring into being".  When a punch is thrown, the force is "initiated" when the puncher forms the intention to throw the punch.

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11 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I would agree that a government must function objectively, and not according to whim; but this does not grant a government carte blanche to achieve whatever ends. Or if it does, then there's nothing left to say with respect to "individual rights," for that is a concession that there is no such thing as individual rights.

Agreed on all points.

11 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Of everything I've said on this topic, this is what I most want you to address: I believe that you are making the argument, fundamentally, that there are no individual rights. That whatever the state is judged to need (howsoever we make that determination) individuals must be rightly coerced to provide it. This is true of "facts" or information (as in subpoena), wealth (as in taxation and eminent domain), and manpower/lives (conscription) -- and your argument serves to justify all of these things, as I believe we have agreed elsewhere.

There is a qualitative difference between the taxation and conscription powers and the subpoena power that makes all the difference here.  The difference can be found by considering the sentence, "An organization that does not have property X is not a proper government."  If "property X" is "the ability to tax", you do not have a true statement, because a government can fund itself without taxation.  A similar point can be made with respect to conscription, since a government can hire the people it needs.  This, ultimately, is why my argument cannot be used to justify taxation or conscription.

(Yes, I recall my earlier statements.  However, I also made the point that, if taxation or conscription were justified, it would only be in extreme cases.  Rand, when confronted with the possibility that her ethics led to undesirable results in extreme cases, pointed out that they were extreme cases, and that such cases were outside the scope of her ethics and would have to be evaluated separately.  More importantly, she made the point that whatever conclusions one came to concerning lifeboat ethics, they did not affect the validity of her ethics as applied to ordinary circumstances.  I think the same applies here.  So I'm going to take as the context of this discussion that a government can fund itself without taxation and that it can find enough manpower without conscription.  We can discuss the other possibilities at some other time.)

But make "property X" "the ability to obtain the facts necessary to objective judgment".  In that case, the statement is true.  So, the ability to obtain the facts necessary to objective judgment -- unlike the ability to tax -- is a characteristic of a proper government.

Does this make sense so far?

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31 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

I'm persuaded that a government cannot be properly instituted without some equivalent to the subpoena...

I'm sympathetic to this idea -- the subpoena certainly seems to me to be important -- but to be honest, I don't think it's been established sufficiently. I think that this is, thus far, a question begged.

31 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

...and I don't see how a subpoena can be regarded as anything but the initiation of force.

And here again, I don't know that we've exhausted all of our options, or even considered them.

31 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

But I also think that the NAP is not really central to the Politics.  Rand's goal is not to eliminate force from society but, rather, to bring it under objective control, to make it serve life, rather than destroy it.   The NAP is a means to that end.  However, I think it's flawed.  First, Rand never proves the validity of the NAP.  Second, I don't think the NAP is  necessary to proving the major points of the Politics.  I read it as more a rhetorical device than an actual principle.

I really don't know what to say to this. :) I can understand rejecting the Objectivist Politics on the basis of rejecting Rand's prohibition against the initiation of force*, although I would disagree, but not denying its centrality to those politics. Neither do I understand the claim that Rand never establishes the validity of her argument (or at least makes the attempt):

Quote

To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight. Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent, initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man’s capacity to live.

Isn't this her case, in a nutshell? And we're welcome to disagree, but let's not pretend that Rand simply asserted what she did out of nowhere, sans argument. Not only would that be out of character for her (which is not, in itself, an argument for or against anything... still, it is thought-provoking, imo), but I maintain that it is demonstrably untrue in this case.

I also think it's unfair to describe this as a "rhetorical device," which seems to imply that either there is no content to her argument, or that the content is somehow secondary to the emotional power of the language (though I will agree that she also employs striking rhetoric, in this passage and elsewhere), or that the content is even negligible.

I thus far take it that Rand meant what she said, considered the prohibition against the initiation of the use of force established/validated/proven, saw it as central to her Politics (and thus quite important), and that her various rhetorical flourishes were meant to demonstrate the conviction/passion she felt on this point.

___________________________

* I dislike referring to this idea as as "NAP," as convenient as it is against my own unwieldy "prohibition against the initiation of the use of force," due to the confusions many Objectivists have regarding "libertarianism." There are folks who are disinclined to consider any argument, if the language is not phrased for them just so, and typically in the manner to which they are accustomed. Certain other phrases tend to shut down discourse altogether.

14 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

Objectivism is often phrased in generalities, like "society needs" or "government needs", etc.  But Objectivism is fundamentally, one might even say radically, individualist.  So such statements are, strictly speaking, false.  So let me put a few things in "I" terms:

I need a government so that I don't have to live in anarchy and practice KYFHO.  I need a government that is controlled by reason so that I don't have to fear my government more than I do anarchy.  I need a government that can subpoena so that it will be objective, so that I need not fear false accusations (a subject near and dear to me!) and so that I have effective recourse should my rights be violated.

I'll let you decide which way I lean. :)

Fair enough. So allow me to express my own concerns, in kind:

I'm concerned that you're allowing your "need" to trump the rights of other individuals to be left alone, free from the initiation of force. Based on your arguments thus far, I'm inclined to think that this extends to subpoena (though I remain open to argument), but it is more clearly seen when we relate your arguments to topics like conscription. For you could equally say that you need a government, need that government to have the military strength to defend your rights, and thus need that government to be able to draft the manpower it needs to achieve that military strength.

But I disagree, centrally, that your "need" is a claim on the wealth or time or lives of others. And in terms of my own "need," I need a government which will not make these sorts of claims on me, against my will, for the sake of the "needs" of others. But I can hardly argue for my own protection along these lines while denying that same sort of protection to others.

Further... you mention that this touches on subjects "near and dear" to you. I appreciate it. Throughout this conversation, I've been interested in how it touches upon your personal narrative, though I did not want broach the subject myself...

It seems to me that even the best of governments or justice systems will occasionally make mistakes, or reach errant conclusions, even granting the power of subpoena (as the present justice system has, which has failed you regardless). I do wonder, as I have wondered in the past, what the obligation of the moral individual is to a government, given some miscarriage of justice (which again: could take place even under such an ideal system as we could devise). If an innocent individual is sentenced to life in prison, is his moral obligation to accept and carry out the sentence? Is that what I would choose for myself, or for a loved one?

As you continue to design a practical Objectivist government, I would hope you would give attention to all aspects of the criminal justice system, including appeals, nullification, the goals/means of incarceration (if you believe in incarceration), etc. There is much work to be done, and I suspect/fear we are nearer the starting line than the tape.

2 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

Ah, wasn't it clear that I was paraphrasing Rand?  Here's the original:

That's very different from what you took me to be saying.  Sorry about that.

Given the context of this discussion, I don't want to assume that I know which parts of Rand's arguments (on this and associated matters) you accept and which you find fault with, or whether our understanding(s) of a given passage are in concord; but besides, if Rand herself were posting here, I would not hesitate to question her own wording for the sake of both clarity and making my own case.

The subject of the relationship between individual and government, I think, is both subtle and often misunderstood. (Actually, I'm not convinced that it is a completely settled subject, either generally, or on my own part.) There is a sort of stance I find often which I have come to term (for myself, at least), "government is magic," whereby government is imbued with all sorts of powers that individuals are claimed not to possess. And then good luck trying to suss out how the government (in actuality; in reality) rightly gains these powers, or how they are limited in reason, or how some group versus any other gets the nod to act "with consent of the governed," or how one government rises or another falls, or so forth. At some point it becomes difficult to separate this "government is magic" position from "might makes right."

I think the antidote to this (and the several problems it causes down the line, such as arguing that the individual has no right to self-defense, and then trying to square that with some "right to bear arms," etc.) is to be as clear as possible about the actual relationship between the individual and government.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

By all means do, since using the correct words is essential to clarity.....

Eh, yes, but sometimes people use different words to refer to the same concept (in whole or in part), or so forth. Actually, I think that's happened to us a few times already... :)

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Let me introduce a bit of legal-speak, since I think it may prove helpful.  In law, a choice is often referred to as "voluntary" if the choice is "knowing", "intelligent", and not "coerced".  While the legal beagles are often confused by these terms, they seem clear to me, so here are my definitions:

 

knowing: made by one in possession of all of the relevant facts

intelligent: made by one with the capacity to properly evaluate those facts

coerced: made because of the threat of violence or because of actual violence

When I wrote my post, I was taking the term "physical force" literally, so that only coercion would be counted as physical force.  I did that because that seems to be what Rand meant by it, since she felt the need to classify fraud as "indirect force" rather than as "physical force".  However, DavidOdden introduced me to Schwartz' restatement of force, which I have decided to adopt.   Under that definition, physical force is a physical act intended to make another's choices involuntary, and so would include fraud, and thereby eliminate the need for the concept "indirect force".

I take "initiation" to be along the lines of "bring into being".  When a punch is thrown, the force is "initiated" when the puncher forms the intention to throw the punch.

Briefly -- for this is not the aspect that interests me the most -- I think that Rand did not mean "indirect force" to be something apart from "physical force," but rather a type of physical force. As in: there is "direct physical force" and "indirect physical force." And I am also satisfied with "a physical act intended to make another's choices involuntary."

16 minutes ago, Invictus2017 said:

There is a qualitative difference between the taxation and conscription powers and the subpoena power that makes all the difference here.  The difference can be found by considering the sentence, "An organization that does not have property X is not a proper government."  If "property X" is "the ability to tax", you do not have a true statement, because a government can fund itself without taxation.  A similar point can be made with respect to conscription, since a government can hire the people it needs.  This, ultimately, is why my argument cannot be used to justify taxation or conscription.

(Yes, I recall my earlier statements.  However, I also made the point that, if taxation or conscription were justified, it would only be in extreme cases.  Rand, when confronted with the possibility that her ethics led to undesirable results in extreme cases, pointed out that they were extreme cases, and that such cases were outside the scope of her ethics and would have to be evaluated separately.  More importantly, she made the point that whatever conclusions one came to concerning lifeboat ethics, they did not affect the validity of her ethics as applied to ordinary circumstances.  I think the same applies here.  So I'm going to take as the context of this discussion that a government can fund itself without taxation and that it can find enough manpower without conscription.  We can discuss the other possibilities at some other time.)

But make "property X" "the ability to obtain the facts necessary to objective judgment".  In that case, the statement is true.  So, the ability to obtain the facts necessary to objective judgment -- unlike the ability to tax -- is a characteristic of a proper government.

Does this make sense so far?

Except that in the case of the draft, and as I'd observed earlier in the thread, Rand spoke directly to the "extreme case" and still did not find justification for violating individual rights (and she did consider it a violation). For convenience, again she said, "It is often asked: 'But what if a country cannot find a sufficient number of volunteers?' Even so, this would not give the rest of the population a right to the lives of the country’s young men."

Further, Rand's ideas about emergencies and lifeboats are about as controversial as anything else (in my experience on this board, at least), and I would be loathe to decide this question by reference to an equally difficult stance elsewhere. Emergencies and "amorality," in my opinion, are two of the great voids in which people routinely find excuse to violate the rights of others, despite Rand's stressing (repeatedly and with great conviction, or "rhetoric") that rights are inalienable, even in emergencies, and that the initiation of the use of force is never to be countenanced for any purported reason.

Yet you have argued that rights are alienable, that the government may sometimes initiate the use of force, and yes -- your arguments are applicable to taxation and conscription, with or without your permission. :) Indeed, the form of, "we require a government, any government requires X, therefore, the government must be able to initiate force to procure X" is not novel to this forum -- but I think it is most often made for the sake of taxation, by Objectivists skeptical that voluntary funding will be sufficient to support a government capable of meeting all of their "needs."

On the other hand, if we still wish to salvage the government's being able to procure information for the sake of providing justice, why wouldn't our first stop be to mirror our response to worries about a shortage of manpower or wealth? If the government need not tax, because funds can be gathered voluntarily, and need not conscript, because an army can be raised voluntarily, then why not secure trial testimony voluntarily, as well? Have we established this last as impossible, of its nature? And is it truly different in this respect (whether possible or impossible) than the others?

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34 minutes ago, DonAthos said:
Quote

To interpose the threat of physical destruction between a man and his perception of reality, is to negate and paralyze his means of survival; to force him to act against his own judgment, is like forcing him to act against his own sight. Whoever, to whatever purpose or extent, initiates the use of force, is a killer acting on the premise of death in a manner wider than murder: the premise of destroying man’s capacity to live.

Isn't this her case, in a nutshell?

It is.

However, the NAP has two parts.  The first proscribes the use of force except in response to initiated force (I have no trouble with this part) and the second requires that this use of force be applied only to initiators of force.  That quote speaks only to the first part; it does not address the second part, nor can I think of anywhere that Rand explains the second part.

I also don't think that the Objectivist Politics requires the NAP.  It does require the first part, but the second part can be replaced with a corollary of the first part, to the effect that force that does not serve to defend against initiated force is itself initiated force.  This change affects very little, as far as I can see.

BTW, given this replacement, it is also possible to see why a subpoena would be legitimate but taxation and conscription would not.  A subpoena is force in response to initiated force to defend against initiated force.  It therefore is consistent with both parts of the replacement.  But taxation and conscription run afoul of the first part of the NAP, and my replacement does not change that part.

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1 hour ago, DonAthos said:
5 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I'm persuaded that a government cannot be properly instituted without some equivalent to the subpoena...

I'm sympathetic to this idea -- the subpoena certainly seems to me to be important -- but to be honest, I don't think it's been established sufficiently. I think that this is, thus far, a question begged.

Well, unless we're going to assume a society of angels who always comply with legitimate government requests for information (hah!) we have to accept that people (and, by present day evidence, a not trivial number of them) will refuse to comply.  So what's a government to do in that case?

Elsewhere you bring up the idea of voluntary testimony in the same paragraph as voluntary funding and manpower.  In the latter cases, though, these things are voluntary on the premise that the government has offered something of value in return -- government services and pay, respectively.  I just don't think we can make this work for testimony.  Here's an all too likely example of why.

Imagine that I commit some fraud and I possess the evidence needed to prove the fraud.  I'm accused, brought to court, and in due course receive a request for that evidence.  I, of course, refuse to hand it over.  Now what?  They gonna give me enough money to cover what I'm going to owe if I'm found guilty?  Plus whatever else I think I can get away with?  Wouldn't that kinda defeat the purpose of my prosecution?

Anyway, let me turn this around:  How do you propose that a government produce objective judgment in the face of people who will not comply with requests for information?  "Pay them enough" is not an adequate answer.  Nor is "do nothing" or "act without sufficient information".  The former would turn government into a debating society, the latter into a gang.

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2 hours ago, DonAthos said:
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...and I don't see how a subpoena can be regarded as anything but the initiation of force.

And here again, I don't know that we've exhausted all of our options, or even considered them.

A subpoena is a demand for information on pain of government imposed penalty, so it is a use of force.  And there's no requirement that the person who must comply with the subpoena be even suspected of using force.  That sounds like initiation of force to me.  What other option might there be?

 

(Actually, DavidOdden suggested one: that, morally speaking, the initiator of force responsible for a subpoena is the person whose initiation of force resulted in the government's actions.  I can't buy that, but it stirred the thought that a subpoena was essentially collateral damage, in the same category as harm done to a bystander when taking down a gunman.  I'm not happy about that one either, but it might be a step in the right direction.)

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2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I'm concerned that you're allowing your "need" to trump the rights of other individuals to be left alone, free from the initiation of force.

Not at all.  The way I see it, the Randian ethical method asks in each case, "What do I, a rational person, need?"  Because the conclusions are based on premises that always include "a rational person", it is legitimate to shuffle the quantifiers around and say, "a rational person needs...", which is what she actually says.  But the philosophy is ultimately based on statements about the individual, not about statements about "society" or "government".

 

Anyway, when I was making "I" statements, I intended them to mean, "I, because I am a rational animal, need", not simply "I need".  I should have made that explicit.

2 hours ago, DonAthos said:

For you could equally say that you need a government, need that government to have the military strength to defend your rights, and thus need that government to be able to draft the manpower it needs to achieve that military strength.

But I wouldn't make those claims, because they don't follow from my premises.  Evidently, I haven't made them clear... Well, we'll keep talking until I do... or one or both of us becomes exhausted. :)

(more to come, but I have to get off my computer now....)


 

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18 hours ago, DonAthos said:

Further... you mention that this touches on subjects "near and dear" to you. I appreciate it. Throughout this conversation, I've been interested in how it touches upon your personal narrative, though I did not want broach the subject myself...

It doesn't directly touch on my personal narrative, because there was never any effort made to defend me. No subpoenas, no nothing. Slightly deeper, though, it does, because my conviction was the product of intentional attacks on the government's objectivity plus the government's general disinterest in objectivity.

I'd also add this: Were I to follow my emotions, I'd be an anarchist. Government, in my experience, is so evil (I don't think I mentioned the Hell my childhood was, also largely courtesy of government) that nothing short of compelling necessity would allow me to tolerate its existence.  Unfortunately, Rand makes a compelling argument for the necessity of government. Since I'm not prone to letting my emotions dictate to my reason, I accept that argument. All that's left to me is to figure out how to construct a proper government while mitigating its demonstrated propensity for evil.

18 hours ago, DonAthos said:

It seems to me that even the best of governments or justice systems will occasionally make mistakes, or reach errant conclusions, even granting the power of subpoena (as the present justice system has, which has failed you regardless).

This reminds me of another problem I have with the NAP.

Consider what happens if you act properly on any of the Objectivist ethical principles but fail to accomplish your goal.  What are the moral consequences?  None.  Having taken into account everything you could, you are not at fault if things don't work out as you had planned.

 

But now consider the NAP.  It says, without qualification, that you have committed an immorality if you use force against anyone who hadn't initiated force.  There's no exception for innocent error.  So if you believe, after appropriate inquiry, that someone has initiated force and then reply with force, and it turns out that you had erred, you initiated force and thereby committed an immorality.

Of course, there can be no such thing as an innocent immorality.  At a minimum, this requires rejecting the unqualified formulation of the NAP.

This flaw is bad enough for an individual.  It is devastating for a government, for the government's business is to employ force -- it is guaranteed to do so erroneously (by NAP standards) if it is to function at all.

One of the requirements of Objectivism is logical consistency.  If reason requires both the NAP and government, and if government must violate the NAP, even if only accidentally, you have a contradiction.  Something is wrong, either with the NAP, or with the very idea of government (or both).

21 hours ago, DonAthos said:

I do wonder, as I have wondered in the past, what the obligation of the moral individual is to a government, given some miscarriage of justice (which again: could take place even under such an ideal system as we could devise). If an innocent individual is sentenced to life in prison, is his moral obligation to accept and carry out the sentence? Is that what I would choose for myself, or for a loved one?

The NAP (!) provides a definitive answer.  If I didn't initiate force, no one may use force against me.  That doesn't change if the someone is a government agent. So, if I haven't initiated force and the government comes after me, it has initiated force, and I may defend myself against it.  Whether doing so is practicable is another question....

Of course, I don't think the NAP is accurate, so the answer isn't so easy for me.  Once I have a definite answer concerning the NAP and what, if anything, to do about it, then I can work out an answer.

 

As applied to my current situation -- even if I  conclude that one should obey a lawfully obtained but incorrect judgment of a lawful government, this one isn't a lawful government.  I may defend myself against it as necessary.

21 hours ago, DonAthos said:

As you continue to design a practical Objectivist government, I would hope you would give attention to all aspects of the criminal justice system, including appeals, nullification, the goals/means of incarceration (if you believe in incarceration), etc. There is much work to be done, and I suspect/fear we are nearer the starting line than the tape.

I agree.  I haven't read the more recent Objectivist work on law, but what I remember being said basically was that the American system is fine, let's just fix a few minor things.  That's patent nonsense, the sort of noise one hears from people who hear the rhetoric from the legal system without looking at its reality.  There are real problems, problems built right into the structure of the system, that must be addressed before it can be a real justice system.  I think it requires a total rethink.

Anyway, I have lots of thoughts on this, but that, I think should be in a separate topic.

Heh. The current random quote says,

"It should be remembered as an axiom of eternal truth in politics, that whatever power in any government is independent, is absolute also; in theory only at first while the spirit of the people is up, but in practice as fast as that relaxes." -- Thomas Jefferson

A good point to keep in mind when designing a government....
 

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23 hours ago, DonAthos said:

There is a sort of stance I find often which I have come to term (for myself, at least), "government is magic," whereby government is imbued with all sorts of powers that individuals are claimed not to possess. And then good luck trying to suss out how the government (in actuality; in reality) rightly gains these powers, or how they are limited in reason, or how some group versus any other gets the nod to act "with consent of the governed," or how one government rises or another falls, or so forth.

"Government is magic" is both liberal and conservative...and absurd either way.

Government is simply a bunch of people who use force, and its legitimacy has no direct relationship to the consent of the governed.

Yes, I know.  Rand said otherwise.  Rand was wrong.  The whole "consent of the governed" thing is mere "magic".  Besides, people can, and do, consent to horrible governments.  Does that make them legitimate?  Of course not.  What makes a government legitimate is that it protect rights.  And a government that protects rights does not need anyone's consent to do so.

Does that make consent irrelevant?  No. Consent is merely how a rights-loving population keeps its government from going out of bounds.

On Wednesday December 13, 2017 at 1:32 PM, DonAthos said:

At some point it becomes difficult to separate this "government is magic" position from "might makes right."

Of course.  Subjectivity inevitably leads to the rule of force.

On Wednesday December 13, 2017 at 1:32 PM, DonAthos said:

I think the antidote to this (and the several problems it causes down the line, such as arguing that the individual has no right to self-defense, and then trying to square that with some "right to bear arms," etc.) is to be as clear as possible about the actual relationship between the individual and government.

In my view, the only "rights" a government has are those that are transferred from individuals to government agents so that force may be wielded properly.  E.g., without a government, I might have to break into someone's home to retrieve property they stole from me.  With a government, I would have no right to do that but must instead let the government do it on my behalf.


 


 

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22 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

It is.

However, the NAP has two parts.  The first proscribes the use of force except in response to initiated force (I have no trouble with this part)...

All right. Does this, then, represent an evolution of your argument? For earlier, I thought that you were arguing that the government has the right to initiate force (in select circumstances), though perhaps I had mistaken you.

22 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

...and the second requires that this use of force be applied only to initiators of force.  That quote speaks only to the first part; it does not address the second part, nor can I think of anywhere that Rand explains the second part.

Hmm... a fair point. I'm not immediately aware of where Rand explains "the second part," as such. (Maybe someone else can provide some reference.) Speaking only for myself, I guess I see it as fundamentally an application of justice.

But also, I'm drawn to wonder about the nature of "initiation." Earlier, you'd said, "there are circumstances where a person (acting as a government agent) may properly use force against one who has not initiated force." Initially, I took that as advocacy of the government agent initiating the use of force. But now I wonder if you mean to say that the government agent has not initiated force; rather, this is an expression of retaliatory force, albeit not directed against the initiator of force.

But isn't this yet an initiation? It's like... suppose you punch me in the nose. And then, accounting to whatever circumstance, I decide to retaliate against you... by punching your son in the nose! (Your son, who, let us stipulate, played no role in your action against me.) Isn't this yet an instance of the initiation of the use of force (even if I consider it to be a "retaliation")? I think so. I suspect that "the second part" is logically required, if we are to be sensible in recognizing the difference between an "initiation" and a "retaliation" in the first place.

Beyond that, I should also note that "the second part," where retaliatory force is only employed against the initiators of force, is truly the moral/innocent man's protection against force. We may render ourselves (morally) inviolate from force by refraining from initiating force against others. However, if retaliatory force may morally be employed against those who have not themselves initiated force, then that protection (whatever it is worth) is gone. Who knows when any one of us will be held to account for the actions of others, or subject to pay penalty in the name of someone else's "self-defense"?

22 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I also don't think that the Objectivist Politics requires the NAP.  It does require the first part, but the second part can be replaced with a corollary of the first part, to the effect that force that does not serve to defend against initiated force is itself initiated force.  This change affects very little, as far as I can see.

BTW, given this replacement, it is also possible to see why a subpoena would be legitimate but taxation and conscription would not.  A subpoena is force in response to initiated force to defend against initiated force.  It therefore is consistent with both parts of the replacement.  But taxation and conscription run afoul of the first part of the NAP, and my replacement does not change that part.

Consider DavidOdden's argument (or your interpretation of it, at least; I haven't revisited it directly) that "morally speaking, the initiator of force responsible for a subpoena is the person whose initiation of force resulted in the government's actions." You don't buy it, I don't buy it, and my reason for rejecting it is "the second part," for which I am consequently nervous at replacing/changing (without great investigation, at least).

Regarding the draft, I would find it easy enough to construct a parallel argument: the initiators of force (which could be an invading army, but needn't necessarily be; a dictator in a foreign land has also initiated force) are morally responsible for the government's actions in conscription. The criminals who necessitate hiring all of these police, building and staffing these prisons, etc., are morally responsible for the coercive taxation we require to fund them, etc.

21 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Well, unless we're going to assume a society of angels who always comply with legitimate government requests for information (hah!) we have to accept that people (and, by present day evidence, a not trivial number of them) will refuse to comply.  So what's a government to do in that case?

I don't want to assume a society of angels, but it may be right that we have to envision a society with a fairly different (if not quite "angelic") character...

Writing about taxation, Rand said:

Quote

In a fully free society, taxation—or, to be exact, payment for governmental services—would be voluntary. Since the proper services of a government—the police, the armed forces, the law courts—are demonstrably needed by individual citizens and affect their interests directly, the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services, as they pay for insurance.

When she writes "the citizens would (and should) be willing to pay for such services," perhaps our initial instinct -- by "present day evidence" -- would be to scoff. But we must also recognize that, by the time we're able to implement a government in actuality that is anything remotely approaching our ideal, that society itself will have to have been substantially transformed in terms of philosophy. Otherwise, no legitimate government could last, or even function, if the people (i.e. the citizens and the agents) were not the kinds of people to support that sort of government.

I agree with Rand that those kinds of people would (and should) be willing to pay for such services as a proper government demonstrably needs; and I expect that they would comply with a legitimate government's equally legitimate requests for information. (Not to a man, of course, but speaking broadly.)

21 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Elsewhere you bring up the idea of voluntary testimony in the same paragraph as voluntary funding and manpower.  In the latter cases, though, these things are voluntary on the premise that the government has offered something of value in return -- government services and pay, respectively.  I just don't think we can make this work for testimony.  Here's an all too likely example of why.

Imagine that I commit some fraud and I possess the evidence needed to prove the fraud.  I'm accused, brought to court, and in due course receive a request for that evidence.  I, of course, refuse to hand it over.  Now what?  They gonna give me enough money to cover what I'm going to owe if I'm found guilty?  Plus whatever else I think I can get away with?  Wouldn't that kinda defeat the purpose of my prosecution?

I may consider it a slightly different scenario if you are yourself accused of a crime; certainly the prosecution of a crime requires a temporary deference to governmental authority on the part of the accused (under penalty/force), otherwise truly there would be no ability to provide justice. I'd been looking at "subpoena" primarily as regarding some third party (like a witness to a crime). Though perhaps this is an area that requires greater exploration. Maybe we will find our logic/justification for a general subpoena here.

21 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Anyway, let me turn this around:  How do you propose that a government produce objective judgment in the face of people who will not comply with requests for information?  "Pay them enough" is not an adequate answer.  Nor is "do nothing" or "act without sufficient information".  The former would turn government into a debating society, the latter into a gang.

Well, whatever we finally determine with respect to subpoena, a government must produce such justice (via objective judgement) as it can, given whatever circumstances exist. Even giving the government whatever powers to compel, it remains the case that people lie, obstruct, hide evidence, misremember; witnesses go missing or never come forward (or do not even know themselves to be witness to a crime); or investigators blunder, or etc., etc., etc.

Despite this, we do not "do nothing," and as to whether or not we are acting with "sufficient information," that's case-by-case. Sometimes we have sufficient information to render an objective judgement and sometimes we do not (and sometimes we render judgements without sufficient information). Yet we are agreed that it is right to limit ourselves, even in our pursuit of information/justice, according to individual rights/procedural rights -- aren't we?

After all, I could make a case that any limit on governmental authority, such as requiring a search warrant, is too great a hindrance on the gathering of information required to produce objective judgement, or so forth. As I say, I could make this case for any proposed restriction on governmental action, in the pursuit of justice. And it is true enough that, in actuality, sometime these restraints on governmental power will adversely affect the prosecution of some crime. It does limit the government's ability to gather information, or even to use the information that it gathers, and we cannot pretend that this does not have some sort of adverse effect on the provenance of justice, in certain cases. Yet we still find greater value in the preservation of individual right.

I think that whether the government has the power to compel testimony is not fundamentally different, and thus far I believe that compelling testimony is a violation of individual right.

21 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

Anyway, when I was making "I" statements, I intended them to mean, "I, because I am a rational animal, need", not simply "I need".  I should have made that explicit.

But I wouldn't make those claims [that the government needs military strength, and thus a draft], because they don't follow from my premises.  Evidently, I haven't made them clear... Well, we'll keep talking until I do... or one or both of us becomes exhausted. :)

It is clear to me that you do not believe your arguments justify conscription, and that you do not believe yourself to be arguing for it*. Still, I yet believe that a justification for conscription and etc., does follow from your arguments, as presently constructed/expressed in the thread. But perhaps we will arrive at some mutual understanding, either before or after (or long after) the point of exhaustion. :)

________________________

* Except for those times when, perhaps, you are? :) I'm open to arguments evolving over the course of discussion (which speaks to the value of discussion), but I am quite certain that, once upon a time, you offered something like agreement that your argument could apply to conscription, taxation, etc., at least in a given context, as I argued in this post. If you consider yourself to have changed your mind on that point, I'd be interested in your reasoning.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

I'd also add this: Were I to follow my emotions, I'd be an anarchist. Government, in my experience, is so evil (I don't think I mentioned the Hell my childhood was, also largely courtesy of government) that nothing short of compelling necessity would allow me to tolerate its existence.  Unfortunately, Rand makes a compelling argument for the necessity of government. Since I'm not prone to letting my emotions dictate to my reason, I accept that argument. All that's left to me is to figure out how to construct a proper government while mitigating its demonstrated propensity for evil.

Then we share a very fundamental agreement.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

This reminds me of another problem I have with the NAP.

Consider what happens if you act properly on any of the Objectivist ethical principles but fail to accomplish your goal.  What are the moral consequences?  None.  Having taken into account everything you could, you are not at fault if things don't work out as you had planned.

 

But now consider the NAP.  It says, without qualification, that you have committed an immorality if you use force against anyone who hadn't initiated force.  There's no exception for innocent error.  So if you believe, after appropriate inquiry, that someone has initiated force and then reply with force, and it turns out that you had erred, you initiated force and thereby committed an immorality.

Of course, there can be no such thing as an innocent immorality.  At a minimum, this requires rejecting the unqualified formulation of the NAP.

I don't know whether this constitutes breach with the "NAP" (just for bloody convenience), but absolutely innocent error is possible, even in the initiation of force.

How we judge someone to have "acted immorally," and the meaning of that, is an interesting topic in its own right, and perhaps beyond the scope of this thread.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

This flaw is bad enough for an individual.  It is devastating for a government, for the government's business is to employ force -- it is guaranteed to do so erroneously (by NAP standards) if it is to function at all.

One of the requirements of Objectivism is logical consistency.  If reason requires both the NAP and government, and if government must violate the NAP, even if only accidentally, you have a contradiction.  Something is wrong, either with the NAP, or with the very idea of government (or both).

The NAP (!) provides a definitive answer.  If I didn't initiate force, no one may use force against me.  That doesn't change if the someone is a government agent. So, if I haven't initiated force and the government comes after me, it has initiated force, and I may defend myself against it.  Whether doing so is practicable is another question....

Of course, I don't think the NAP is accurate, so the answer isn't so easy for me.  Once I have a definite answer concerning the NAP and what, if anything, to do about it, then I can work out an answer.

There are a hundred threads that could spin off from here. Perhaps we will pursue them, sometime.

2 hours ago, Invictus2017 said:

As applied to my current situation -- even if I  conclude that one should obey a lawfully obtained but incorrect judgment of a lawful government, this one isn't a lawful government.  I may defend myself against it as necessary.

I agree.

1 hour ago, Invictus2017 said:

"Government is magic" is both liberal and conservative...and absurd either way.

Government is simply a bunch of people who use force, and its legitimacy has no direct relationship to the consent of the governed.

Much of this conversation has reminded me of a thread from a couple of years ago, which helped lead me to many of the "government is magic" sorts of criticisms I have today. Though the discussion itself is somewhat turbulent (as it often is, unfortunately) you might find it interesting reading nonetheless.

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Yesterday, I had a power flicker at the wrong moment, and it totally trashed a database I was working on. Of course I had a backup, but I've spent the last day bringing it up to date. It's getting kinda late to read and respond but that's all right, it's a good opportunity to bring up something that I think is getting short shrift.

Objectivism is consistently fact-based. At every stage, it assimilates relevant facts into principles and proceeds forward. These facts are generally taken from ordinary life, and result in principles derived from and applicable to ordinary life.

This is, of course, a good thing. What good would a philosophy be if it only applied to people living on Pluto? :) But there is a "cost" to it, which is that the principles of Objectivism are not universals in the ordinary sense. They are, instead, contextual absolutes, meaning that they apply only within a particular context, generally that of ordinary (or, in some cases, an idealized ordinary) life.

The NAP is one such contextual absolute. It derives from the Objectivist ethics which, in turn, derives from consideration of how an adult human being, living in a situation where long-term planning is possible and acting for the long-term is effective. Neither the Objectivist ethics nor the NAP is a valid principle outside that context.

Objectivism is not useless outside the standard context, as many of Objectivism's principles have much wider context. If one must, for example, derive some sort of ethics applicable to children or to surviving a natural disaster, there are some basic principles that will apply. At the absolute worst, one can always go back to the axiomatic concepts, since they're valid in every context.

Such an ethics might consist of ad hoc propositions or contextually (in the alternative context) absolute principles. Some of the principles might be close to or even identical to those in the Objectivist ethics or to the NAP. But the essential thing is that, until those propositions and principles are derived, one has no guidance at all in the other context. One cannot simply transplant principles from one context to another and get valid principles.

As I mentioned, the NAP has no applicability outside the possibility of long-term planning and action. So, for example, it would not prohibit you from using physical force to knock your friend out of the way of an oncoming bus. The fact of that bus and your friend's likely death should it hit him negates the condition underlying the NAP, that he (because the NAP refers to HIS life) have some life to live. Given the circumstance, you'd rely on a different, and prior, moral principle: acting to keep the value that is your friend. (Of course, you probably don't reason it out, you just act, because you've automatized that principle.)

There are two reasons this is relevant to the topic. First, the NAP derives from the principle that each person has the right to life, and so applies to anything a person has the right to do. But where there are no rights, there is no NAP (although there may be other reasons to not use force). So one solution to my problem of the legitimacy of the subpoena would be a demonstration that no one has the right to refuse a legitimate subpoena.

The second reason is that we can't lump together reasoning about ordinary existence -- life in a stable country, with a functioning and legitimate government, with a generally rational population -- and reasoning about unusual circumstances like an allegedly rational population that won't pay for its government services or volunteer in sufficient numbers to defend the country. Those are two different contexts and require separate analyses.

I'm only going deal with the (idealized) ordinary context from here on. I'm going to assume that we've got a mostly rational population living in circumstances where they can plan in the long term. It is from that context that I'll consider whether the NAP is valid or needs modification and whether the subpoena (and other coercive elements of government) are consistent with the NAP (or its modification).

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