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Isn't a minimal government potentially endangered?

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10 replies to this topic

#1
ParaSait

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Hi.
First off, I am new to objectivism. I have been getting interested in it recently and I find that I can agree with it for most part. But there is something I have been wondering about.

On the wiki of this website, on this page, it says:

Not true, Objectivism does in fact support government with a monopoly on the use of force. This government, however, is only to use force against those who initiate its use to violate others' rights. The three tasks of government in this function are (as stated by Ayn Rand): "...the police, to protect men from criminals—the armed services, to protect men from foreign invaders—the law courts, to settle disputes among men according to objective laws."


Seems fair, but I see a problem with this however.
Suppose there is a hypothetical society with an objectivist government. There is a group of people who decide to conspire and grow very powerful; so powerful that they outdo the power of the government.
Technically, the government cannot act against this development, since this group hasn't actually initiated any force! They've only armed themselves to the tooth and that's it.
This group can now freely commit crimes and violence against the people. The government should now act, but is now in fact powerless against these mobs, because all they could previously do is sit and watch how they become outnumbered.

I have been thinking about this and see no reason why this cannot happen. Is this really a problem of objectivism or did I misunderstand something?

#2
Reidy

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If enough people, simultaneously and in concert, undertook to ignore their government's laws, the government could not stop them. This is true of any society, regardless of the government it has. Even if a government used prior restraints, a large enough resistance would still be able to overcome it.

This is no more a problem for Objectivism's political theory than for any other, because people don't behave this way. We often hear what-ifs as objections to free-market economics. What if everybody suddenly decided not to give to charities any more? What if all sellers colluded to raise prices and keep them up, regardless of the incentives to offer a better price? And so on. My answer to these questions is the same.

Stop worrying and sleep soundly.

(And if the situation you described did come to pass, nothing in Objectivism says the police or National Guard or potential victims couldn't be ready for them.)

#3
softwareNerd

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Seems fair, but I see a problem with this however.

Welcome to the forum, and to Objectivism.

It is legitimate to outlaw serious, objective threats of force. For instance, picture a person walking up to you a few yards away, aiming a machine gun at you, while threatening to kill you. It would be legitimate to be fearful for your life. If you had a gun and decided to use it to stop the person, a jury would be right to agree that you acted in self defense. I realize this example is different from what you have in mind, but I'm purposely constructing an "obvious" example to highlight the fact that some types of threats ought to be criminal.

Back to your example, it is legitimate for a government to disallow the formation of a force that is -- objectively -- a serious threat to its citizens.

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#4
Dormin111

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I call this an "argument from anamoly." A theoretically, physically possible event which is so unlikely that it is not worth thinking about and therefore does not constitute a valid argument.

#5
Nicky

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Seems fair, but I see a problem with this however.
Suppose there is a hypothetical society with an objectivist government. There is a group of people who decide to conspire and grow very powerful; so powerful that they outdo the power of the government.
Technically, the government cannot act against this development, since this group hasn't actually initiated any force! They've only armed themselves to the tooth and that's it.
This group can now freely commit crimes and violence against the people. The government should now act, but is now in fact powerless against these mobs, because all they could previously do is sit and watch how they become outnumbered.

I have been thinking about this and see no reason why this cannot happen. Is this really a problem of objectivism or did I misunderstand something?

Yes, you are misunderstanding the meaning of that quote. The government does in fact have the power to act preemptively against objective threats.

When a group of people conspire to violently overthrow the government, that is an example of initialization of force. It is action that is part of the process of overthrowing the government. As long as there is proof that that is their intention, the government does have the right to act.

It of course doesn't have the right to act against all gun owners, or any random "militia", only people and groups proven to be planning crimes.

Edited by Nicky, 13 April 2012 - 12:06 PM.


#6
JMeganSnow

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It of course doesn't have the right to act against all gun owners, or any random "militia", only people and groups proven to be planning crimes.


I also think that it's legitimate for the government to prohibit the private ownership/manufacture/sale of weapons that cannot be used in a manner other than to be a threat to mass numbers of people. You can defend yourself against a specific attack with a handgun or shotgun or even an assault rifle without (much) risk to innocent bystanders. You CANNOT defend yourself with a nuclear missile or a vial of anthrax in this fashion, and, in fact, YOU are now a legitimate threat to all those innocent bystanders who should rightly be able to defend themselves against YOU. So, it's legitimate for the government to prohibit private individuals from owning nuclear weapons and vials of anthrax, or, say, tanks and HE shells, etc. Maintaining a monopoly on the exercise of force does practically entail maintaining a certain degree of monopoly on the means for exercising that force.

For, say, a militia full of gun-toting cultists to be a "legitimate" threat, they do have to at least declare their intention of violating other people's rights. Even if every single citizen in the entire country decides to buy a gun and join the Neighborhood Watch, this isn't a threat even though they could theoretically overpower the government if they decided to do so. Their goal is self-defense, not assault.
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#7
Leonid

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Minimal government takes responsibility on military, police forces and courts. These are all legitimate government functions. Therefore only government can possess nuclear weapons, tanks, ICB missiles, warships etc...As for chemical and biological weaponry, as far as I know they are prohibited by the international law.

#8
JMeganSnow

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As for chemical and biological weaponry, as far as I know they are prohibited by the international law.


International Law is a contradiction in terms. You can have international agreements, treaties, alliances, but no laws, because there's no super-government body that can create and enforce said "laws". If there were, it'd BE the government, and all the members wouldn't be (sovereign) nations, they'd be states or districts.
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#9
Spiral Architect

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This misrepresentation is common unfortunately since property rights are roughly treated as axiomatic by its traditional supporters. In fact, it was one of the early realizations on my part that made me realize why I could not call myself a so-called Conservative or Libertarian. In this case if you treat property rights as such a floating abstract you invariably end up either defending property rights subjectively (libertarian/anarchist everything goes) or intrinsically (the conservative version of rights granted by authority).

When one remembers that property rights are a moral value since they allow man to thrive according to his nature it becomes easier to define the social application through law that determines what protects property rights and what threatens them. Or to be more exact, what protects the life of the individual and what threatens the life of that individual.

If my neighbor owns a gun he does not threaten me and I have no reason to initiate force to protect myself from him. If he builds a nuclear bomb he does threaten me and the entire community at the same time and there is good reason to initiate force for self preservation. Outside of the ridiculous nature of owning something of mass destruction one would have to question the psychology of someone who would even consider carrying such a device around. You don’t carry a nuke to protect yourself – You intend to inflict unimaginable death and destruction on a mass scale unconditionally on anyone and everyone.

This is an extreme example but it does demonstrate the principles involved which can be implemented from there through other examples. A militia has the right to go organize in the woods (we have them here in Michigan and they threaten no one). Association is a right for many practical reasons and allows people to thrive. They do not however have the right to organize and stockpile military hardware and proclaim the desire to overthrow the current Government. Well, at least in the context of today’s American government. Elsewhere in the world it could be rational and moral. The Government should not “turn the other cheek” and ignore the threat no more than it would be moral for a person to do so. As long as the government is of the people and moral then it is ethical for them to act in self-preservation since that is the exact reason it was formed by its people – To protect them from threats that would violate their rights.

Moral of the story: We didn’t give Government the monopoly on force to sit around with its thumb up its ass while someone else unleashes their force on us. If so, then the Government has no right to exist since that is the primary reason to form one.
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#10
Leonid

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International Law is a contradiction in terms. You can have international agreements, treaties, alliances, but no laws, because there's no super-government body that can create and enforce said "laws". If there were, it'd BE the government, and all the members wouldn't be (sovereign) nations, they'd be states or districts.


And by what law in your view the international court of justice operates?

#11
JMeganSnow

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And by what law in your view the international court of justice operates?


There shouldn't be any such body. If several countries see the need to convene such a court, it should either be under the auspices of a treaty organization such as NATO, or they should form a delegation to address the specific issue.
my blog: http://literatrix.blogspot.com

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