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Rand's dismissal of the hypothetical from The Mike Wallace Intervi

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brian0918
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Again, like I said in my reply that you quote, this is just another escape route that can be corrected with another sentence that does not make the situation impossible but less likely.
So the original question was whether the situation could arise where every nation in the world was hell-bent on nuking the US, and the US did not have any uranium supplies except on Old MacDonald'd farm (and he refused to sell the uranium to the bomb-makers). Well, as I pointed out, this uranium is not vital to Americas defense, because we could just use laser-initiated direct fusion bombs (which would be vastly more powerful than piddly little A-bombs). It is impossible that these supplies would be vital. Do you now understand? If you want to offer an arbitrary correction to your scenario, but then I am allowed to offer a counter-correction.
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Other individuals, not "the government", become the rightful owners of that property. It's just like the case of the Native "Americans". They lost their "right" to North America because they failed to use their property in a sufficiently rational manner. They refused to recognize the need for an objective system of law, complete with clearly defined property rights. The irrational, uranium-owning holding is guilty of a similar refusal: the need of a non-nuclear fallout saturated area of the world in which he, and his government, can operate.

So yes, the irrational, uranium-owning holdout would lose his rights - it's simply a matter of by whom. By the immoral, irrational foreign aggressors or by the moral (ie: desiring to live), rational individuals working for (and supporting) his government.

Then the question becomes: which other individuals? Would Farmer Bob’s land be regarded as unclaimed territory, open to ownership by the first person to plant his flag on it or homestead it? Or would the land go to the most “rational” person to claim it. Since in your Post #28, Farmer Bob was regarded as “not practicing the virtue of independence, but indulging in the vice of irrationality” for refusing to sell or surrender the needed material, would the new, rightful owner be the one who qualifies as the most rational? Would he, say, be the one who is willing to give away the Unobtanium or sell it to the government for the lowest price?

Furthermore, if the refusal “to recognize the need for an objective system of law, complete with clearly defined property rights” can be a basis on which to deny people ownership of the property they occupy, why not take land away from Marxists, communalists and collectivists of all stripes? If the answer is that a Marxist is not necessarily occupying property vital to the survival of his rational neighbors, the response would be: not all Indians who were dispossessed stood on land necessary for the continued existence of European newcomers.

Of course, from the outset this discussion has been centered around an exceptional situation. There will always be some people who oppose the legitimate activities of their government which serve to protect their very right to oppose it. But in the vast majority of contexts their opposition has no effect on the outcome of those activities.

[Your response to Exaltron:] Justice exists in the world also; independent of the government's ability to implement it. Does that mean that when some injustice is perpetrated and the government - because the victim refuses to cooperate with it as best he can - fails to correct it that justice hasn't been achieved? Absolutely not. A "victim" who, irrationally, refuses to recognize that government is the best means of protecting his rights gets exactly what he deserves - the victim status he chose. That's reality's justice.

I think we can agree that government is the body that is instituted to implement justice in a given area. Could we say, then, that it is appropriate for government to refrain from protecting the rights of a person who “refuses to cooperate with it as best he can”?

Let’s say a man refuses to testify in court against another man arrested for a felony. Or refuses to sell his land that adjoins an expanding police station or air force base. Would “reality’s justice” be served by denying this non-cooperator the protection of the law against criminals?

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Other individuals, not "the government", become the rightful owners of that property.
Other individuals do not become the rightful owner of another man's property by force. Only the government may properly use force to deprive a man of his property, under the control of objective laws. The violation of a man's rights is never "rightful"; it is wrong for these hypothetical, mythical nations like "Kanada" to initiate force, and the moral responsibility for the violation of MacDonald's rights rests with Kanada. The government may regulate that use of force, as best it can, by taking the Unobtanium, and minimize the violation of his rights to that level required to still exist. When we have destroyed our enemies and are in the reparations stage of the post-war era, MacDonald has a legitimate claim against Kanada arising from his loss. MacDonald's property does not become the property of the American government, much less the property of one or more individuals, except by voluntary exchange of property.
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Other individuals do not become the rightful owner of another man's property by force. Only the government may properly use force to deprive a man of his property, under the control of objective laws. The violation of a man's rights is never "rightful"; it is wrong for these hypothetical, mythical nations like "Kanada" to initiate force, and the moral responsibility for the violation of MacDonald's rights rests with Kanada. The government may regulate that use of force, as best it can, by taking the Unobtanium, and minimize the violation of his rights to that level required to still exist. When we have destroyed our enemies and are in the reparations stage of the post-war era, MacDonald has a legitimate claim against Kanada arising from his loss. MacDonald's property does not become the property of the American government, much less the property of one or more individuals, except by voluntary exchange of property.

"Rightful", in this context, means "what is necessary in order to bring about the best possible outcome." Which means: to protect the lives of the rational (and, incidentally, the irrational) faced with the imminent threat of nuclear destruction. It is "right" to act to protect your life and "wrong" to not do so (or to refuse to assist someone else in doing so). It means that other individuals, some of them acting as law enforcement agents of a self-governing nation, are rightfully acting to protect themselves (and the uranium owner) from destruction. It does not mean that the taking of the uranium is sanctioned or perpetrated by some other hypotheical government within the hypothetical situation which advocates depriving men of their property for purposes other than averting a national emergency. In fact, to protect against this type of government is percisely why the action is taken in the first place.

Of course, the uranium-owning holdout, after the crisis had been averted would have the right to seek compensation from the aggresor, foreign nation for the property that was taken and disposed of. In fact, the government (which still exists because of his uranium) would be the means by which to obtain it.

But, in this context, he can only seek compensation. "Property", in this discussion, has always meant the uranium. The word has never been used to mean the real estate where it is.

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Then the question becomes: which other individuals? Would Farmer Bob’s land be regarded as unclaimed territory, open to ownership by the first person to plant his flag on it or homestead it? Or would the land go to the most “rational” person to claim it. Since in your Post #28, Farmer Bob was regarded as “not practicing the virtue of independence, but indulging in the vice of irrationality” for refusing to sell or surrender the needed material, would the new, rightful owner be the one who qualifies as the most rational? Would he, say, be the one who is willing to give away the Unobtanium or sell it to the government for the lowest price?

Furthermore, if the refusal “to recognize the need for an objective system of law, complete with clearly defined property rights” can be a basis on which to deny people ownership of the property they occupy, why not take land away from Marxists, communalists and collectivists of all stripes? If the answer is that a Marxist is not necessarily occupying property vital to the survival of his rational neighbors, the response would be: not all Indians who were dispossessed stood on land necessary for the continued existence of European newcomers.

No, the Europeans didn't need all of the land that they claimed from the natives, but neither did the natives. Religiously inspired reverence for the environment aside, the vast majority of the North American continent was, for all intents and purposes, wasteland until Europeans made it valuable. Essential to that was the maintenance of a government.

The Native "American" example was used analogously in order to show that all values - including the value which is a government created to protect the value which is private property - require certain specific actions to bring them about. The issue of "homesteading" in the case of the uranium-owning holdout isn't essential. The government doesn't need his land, it needs his uranium. The rightful (read: most rational) owner of the uranium should be the person(s) who is both willing to, and capable of, using it in a nuclear bomb with which to destroy the foreign enemy.

Also, Marxists, living under an Objectivist government, would in fact be following an objective system of laws, their complaints about them notwithstanding. If they oppose the laws and policies that that government enforces and interfere with it's ability to enforce them, that doesn't change the fact that those laws are necessary and proper. However, until that point comes their rights will not be denied.

I think we can agree that government is the body that is instituted to implement justice in a given area. Could we say, then, that it is appropriate for government to refrain from protecting the rights of a person who “refuses to cooperate with it as best he can”?

Let’s say a man refuses to testify in court against another man arrested for a felony. Or refuses to sell his land that adjoins an expanding police station or air force base. Would “reality’s justice” be served by denying this non-cooperator the protection of the law against criminals?

These questions assume that the choice to protect him or not - once he has denied them the means by which to do so - is still optional. Reality doesn't operate that way, nor should the government. Both reality and a proper government simply follow cause and effect. The government would not be seeking to build an Air Force base on his land, or to mine it for it's uranium, if it wasn't absolutely necessary for the government's - and thus, his - existence.

Cooperating with the government in it's legitimate requests is the right (read: rational) thing to do because it is the practical thing to do: Why would someone refuse to testify against a suspected criminal? Because he's afraid of the defendant? What does he think is going to happen when the defendant gets accquitted? Likely, he is going to continue to prey upon the man who he knows is never going to fight back, even in a court of law.

Why would someone deny the government use of something which is vital to it's ability to defend the nation? What does he think is going to happen when the government is defeated? Likely, he is going to experience the very denial, by his new government, of his right to private property which, applied rationalistically, brought them to power over him.

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DavidOdden,

No one has a right to demand that someone else allow himself to be sacrificed for their sake - and certainly not for the sake of their property. This includes individuals who work for the government; they have every right to self-defense that anyone else does. If, in this hypothetical situation, all that the people in government are acting for is their own sake, it would still be proper to take the uranium.

Certainly, no one can properly (read: rightfully) expect the potential payer of a ransom to cooperate with extortion simply because it means that the criminal will be caught, and thus not be able to commit further crimes. However, someone else cannot properly (read: rightfully) be expected to allow the criminal to go free, and to have to live with that threat, simply because he wants to avoid having to violate the payer's "right" to refuse payment.

There is no recourse on either side except to determine which outcome is more valuable (or, more accurately, less detrimental). This is done through reason. In the case of the uranium-owning holdout, there is every reason to think that without his uranium, the foreign aggressors will attack - meaning the death of both sides of the disagreement. Property is certainly a value, but it is not as valuable of a value as life is. To treat them as equal is wrong, not right.

Also, the question of compensation does not involve the piece of uranium which is destroyed inside a nuclear bomb. That particular uranium cannot be returned to it's original owner any more than the time without the ransom money can be returned. All that can happen is that the original owner be given something of equal value by the formerly aggressive foreign nation. If, for some reason (like, say, nuclear annihilation), the foreigners possess nothing, and assuming they are still some alive, he can benefit from their enslavement (read: payment of war debt) until he has recouped the amount of value he lost. If they are dead, then that's just too bad. He isn't owed anything by any of his rational countrymen; including those who work in government. In fact, he owes them something: his gratitude for having saved his life.

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Does that then mean that you still do not understand why your statement "Other individuals, not 'the government', become the rightful owners of that property" is completely false? Forget this other stuff about whether people should roll over and die to protect another man's property rights; I just want to see if you understand "rightful ownership".

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No, the Europeans didn't need all of the land that they claimed from the natives, but neither did the natives. Religiously inspired reverence for the environment aside, the vast majority of the North American continent was, for all intents and purposes, wasteland until Europeans made it valuable. Essential to that was the maintenance of a government.

The Native "American" example was used analogously in order to show that all values - including the value which is a government created to protect the value which is private property - require certain specific actions to bring them about.

In Post #73 you wrote, “They [indians] lost their ‘right’ to North America because they failed to use their property in a sufficiently rational manner.”

So naturally I presume that your basis for recognizing property rights is use of “property in a sufficiently rational manner.” Given the example of the Indians you offered, may I infer that if European Settler A proposed to use Property X in a manner that meets the minimum “sufficiently rational manner,” we would recognize his right to seize X from Native American B whose use did not meet the minimum?

If so, could we not also say that in a future society ruled by a moral government, it would be acceptable for Citizen A to seize property from Citizen B, so long as A can put it to a rational use that B is unwilling or unable to put it to?

The issue of "homesteading" in the case of the uranium-owning holdout isn't essential. The government doesn't need his land, it needs his uranium. The rightful (read: most rational) owner of the uranium should be the person(s) who is both willing to, and capable of, using it in a nuclear bomb with which to destroy the foreign enemy.

You have made a distinction here, and I want to observe it carefully. The government doesn't need Farmer Bob’s land; it needs his uranium. Yet in all cases that I’m familiar with, uranium deposits occurring in the natural world are incorporated into the land. How could the government acquire Bob’s uranium without first performing operations on Bob’s real estate?

Next, once we rule the non-cooperative Bob out as the rightful owner of the uranium (and presumably of the excavating rights on the land where it is to be found), how do we go about deciding the new owner if there is more than one claimant? Suppose Bob has not one but two or three or more neighbors each with a clean record and a sincere offer to extract that uranium like crazy? Do we welcome each and all on to Bob’s farm and let them go at it in a free-for-all?

Also, Marxists, living under an Objectivist government, would in fact be following an objective system of laws, their complaints about them notwithstanding. If they oppose the laws and policies that that government enforces and interfere with it's ability to enforce them, that doesn't change the fact that those laws are necessary and proper. However, until that point comes their rights will not be denied.

If that is the case, then wouldn’t we have to say that Indians who were not opposing the laws and policies of the European newcomers should not have had their lands taken away from them?

These questions assume that the choice to protect him or not - once he has denied them the means by which to do so - is still optional. Reality doesn't operate that way, nor should the government. Both reality and a proper government simply follow cause and effect. The government would not be seeking to build an Air Force base on his land, or to mine it for it's uranium, if it wasn't absolutely necessary for the government's - and thus, his - existence.

I’ve known military bases to expand onto private land by the rude process of eminent domain. But I suppose we are looking to a society in which eminent domain is not a feature of government. Are you saying that if Bob doesn’t sell the air force his farmland to build another runway, Bob will likely cease to exist?

Cooperating with the government in it's legitimate requests is the right (read: rational) thing to do because it is the practical thing to do: Why would someone refuse to testify against a suspected criminal? Because he's afraid of the defendant? What does he think is going to happen when the defendant gets accquitted? Likely, he is going to continue to prey upon the man who he knows is never going to fight back, even in a court of law.

Why would someone deny the government use of something which is vital to it's ability to defend the nation? What does he think is going to happen when the government is defeated? Likely, he is going to experience the very denial, by his new government, of his right to private property which, applied rationalistically, brought them to power over him.

So let me see if I follow you correctly. If you fail to testify when a Proper Objectivist Government asks you to or when you fail to sell you land when the P.O.G. asks you to, then you are not helping the government defend the nation. And not helping to defend the nation is to act contrary to what is necessary for one’s own continued existence. And that is self-destructive and irrational. Thus, people who fail “to use their property in a sufficiently rational manner” may justly lose it.

Perhaps there’s hope for eminent domain after all.

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Does that then mean that you still do not understand why your statement "Other individuals, not 'the government', become the rightful owners of that property" is completely false? Forget this other stuff about whether people should roll over and die to protect another man's property rights; I just want to see if you understand "rightful ownership".

Why? If you think that I'm advocating violating rights in any other context besides the one described in the title of this thread, explain to me how I am.

I'm not here to participate in surveys or to rehash basic Objectivist concepts. I'm here to discuss topics which I find interesting.

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In Post #73 you wrote, “They [indians] lost their ‘right’ to North America because they failed to use their property in a sufficiently rational manner.”

So naturally I presume that your basis for recognizing property rights is use of “property in a sufficiently rational manner.” Given the example of the Indians you offered, may I infer that if European Settler A proposed to use Property X in a manner that meets the minimum “sufficiently rational manner,” we would recognize his right to seize X from Native American B whose use did not meet the minimum?

If so, could we not also say that in a future society ruled by a moral government, it would be acceptable for Citizen A to seize property from Citizen B, so long as A can put it to a rational use that B is unwilling or unable to put it to?

A fair question. My use of the word "sufficiently" was unnecessary and only confused the issue. When I said "... they failed to use their property in a sufficiently rational manner", I should have said "...they failed to use their property in a rational manner."

As an aside, on the issue you allude to, I would like to make it clear that I do not advocate a government which directly assists in the "survival of the fittest or the survival of the rationalist." Pun intended. Certainly, towards the Native tribes who, to a limited extent, practiced a loose approximation of law which respected property rights, it would have been irrational for European settlers to interfere with that. Property rights presuppose property (read: productive activity) and so the trading benefit - as meager as it might have been - of leaving these communities intact outweighed the benefit of taking their land; especially in a place with so much of it. I only vaguely know of few, isolated instances of this in history - mostly in the North East.

You have made a distinction here, and I want to observe it carefully. The government doesn't need Farmer Bob’s land; it needs his uranium. Yet in all cases that I’m familiar with, uranium deposits occurring in the natural world are incorporated into the land. How could the government acquire Bob’s uranium without first performing operations on Bob’s real estate?

Next, once we rule the non-cooperative Bob out as the rightful owner of the uranium (and presumably of the excavating rights on the land where it is to be found), how do we go about deciding the new owner if there is more than one claimant? Suppose Bob has not one but two or three or more neighbors each with a clean record and a sincere offer to extract that uranium like crazy? Do we welcome each and all on to Bob’s farm and let them go at it in a free-for-all?

They would leave his real estate once they have retrieved what they needed. Why would they stay? They have a bomb to build and a war to fight. Besides, once the war was over, it would be a waste of tax money to mine uranium for bombs that have no targets. The Constitution prohibits wasteful, extraneous government activity.

If that is the case, then wouldn’t we have to say that Indians who were not opposing the laws and policies of the European newcomers should not have had their lands taken away from them?

Who were these? As I've said, there were a few, very isolated instances of this. To some extent, every tribe (and by extention every individual who chose to remain part of their tribe) resisted. Even today, Native "Americans" oppose the laws and policies of The United States by demanding that property be owned tribally instead of individually and that certain laws not apply on that property. The fact that the government caves in to these demands does not make them legitimate. Let alone the fact that many tribes' explicitly, and officially, denied the very concept of private property on religious grounds.

I’ve known military bases to expand onto private land by the rude process of eminent domain. But I suppose we are looking to a society in which eminent domain is not a feature of government. Are you saying that if Bob doesn’t sell the air force his farmland to build another runway, Bob will likely cease to exist?

If the military exists to protect his life from foreigners who want to kill him, by not helping them he's not helping himself. It's one thing to disagree with the government's claim that their desire to build a base on your land is essential. It's quite another to deny, on principle, that the government has any right to do what is necessary in order to perform it's legitimate functions.

So let me see if I follow you correctly. If you fail to testify when a Proper Objectivist Government asks you to or when you fail to sell you land when the P.O.G. asks you to, then you are not helping the government defend the nation. And not helping to defend the nation is to act contrary to what is necessary for one’s own continued existence. And that is self-destructive and irrational. Thus, people who fail “to use their property in a sufficiently rational manner” may justly lose it.

Perhaps there’s hope for eminent domain after all.

There certainly is hope. In the very, very unlikely event that Mike Wallace described. You might think it impossible, but that's another issue entirely. Yes, if it's impossible then it follows that eminent domain is useless as a legal tool, but that is why it should be abolished, not because, theoretically, people have the right to destroy themselves and in the process prevent others from protecting themselves. I'd like to emphasize that I do not think Wallace's scenario is impossible.

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Why? If you think that I'm advocating violating rights in any other context besides the one described in the title of this thread, explain to me how I am.
You are repudiating the concept of rights and misrepresenting the Objectivist position on both ownership and the role of government in protecting the rights of individuals. You are also evading your error, and I am having a hard time seeing how you are doing so with intellectual honesty. As I mentioned before, other individuals do not become the rightful owner of another man's property by force. I furthermore pointed out that only the government may properly use force to deprive a man of his property, under the control of objective laws. I understand that you may not wish to acknowledge your mistake, but you should understand that I will point out your mistake, because it is egregious. I wasn't certain whether your mistake was merely an innocent error or confusion on your part, but now it is clear that it is a willful repudiation of the Objectivist position on the role of government and the nature of man's rights.
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Let’s consider the hypothetical you offer:

“If someone is shooting at you while holding an innocent in front of him, you are perfectly justified in shooting back, even knowing that you might hit the wrong person. That person, in this case (perhaps as in the case of Farmer Bob), *even* through no fault of his own, has no right against your right to self-defense.”

I take this to mean that at some point an innocent man (A) did possess the right not to be shot. However, once he became a hostage of (B) to be used against another person ( C ), who also might become a victim, then A no longer enjoys the right not to be shot.

I’ve heard this example used before. I find it troubling in this respect: why should C’s self-defense right supercede A’s? I understand C’s need for and right of self-defense. But what I’m not clear about is precisely how A’s right disappears in the presence of C’s emergency.

I think there are a lot of misunderstandings here, and I suspect the root of it, again, is that you're not fully understanding the difference between an intrinsic view of rights and an objective view. That's ok - it's a toughie. I had a lot of trouble with it myself, and I still wouldn't claim to have a complete understanding of the issue. (If I did, I could probably make this post a paragraph instead of a treatise.)

One thing that helped me a lot was mentally translating rights claims into a formulation that involves not just the rights-bearer, but all parties involved. (Or at least mentions them, to keep it clear in my head that they're relevant.)

Let's briefly unpack a right. Take my stereo - I have a right to it. What does that mean? Well, a right to property is really a right to various forms of action with respect to it. I can play CDs on my stereo, I can sell it, I can destroy it, etc, and under normal circumstances it would be wrong for others to stop me. But to say I have a right to certain forms of action doesn't mean I have a *guarantee* to them - for instance, if no one wants to buy my stereo, my right to sell it doesn't imply that someone should be forced to buy it. It means I have a right not to be impeded by force from taking the sorts of action that I have a right to. Impeded by whom? Other people. So really, to say that I have a right to x means that each other person in the relevant context has a moral obligation not to get in my way with respect to x.

This might be a bit silly, but it might help clarify. Picture two stickmen in your head, one on the left and one on the right. The one on the left has a right to something. Now, obviously, rights don't have physical locations, but, speaking non-literally: in your mental diagram, where would you place that right? It's not in the stick figure. It's somewhere between them, maybe like this:

O <---> O

In other words, rights aren't properties of people; they are principles of relation between people.

In sum, when you hear "x has a right to y," try to be able to mentally translate it to something like "because of certain facts about x and the relationship of others to x, others should not impede x's action with respect to y."

Complex. And maybe not well-stated. But helpful, I hope.

Now, coming back to the example above. Since rights are really just generalizations of moral principles which apply between individuals, there can be situations where one may have a right with respect to one person that one doesn't have with respect to another. This happens all the time. Say I sign an agreement with you that you can borrow my stereo every Saturday. That doesn't mean my right to my stereo "disappeared"; if it meant that, my stereo would be completely up for grabs by *everyone* on Saturdays. Rather, it means that our relationship has changed, such that my right against your use of my stereo on Saturdays no longer applies. And to translate that, again, it means that whereas certain facts about our relationship in the past meant that it wouldn't have been ok for you to take my stereo on Saturdays, those facts have changed, such that it's now ok. It's a new context, a new situation.

That's much like what is happening in the situation above. A's relationship with C has changed, because while he certainly would *usually* have a moral claim against C shooting him, he no longer does. It's not that C's right to self-defense is somehow more important than A's right against being shot, and it's not that A has no right not to be shot, since he certainly has some claims against B shooting him. It's that, because of B's threat on C's life, it simply *can't* support C's life to avoid shooting A, if that's what living requires. And, in the end, the *only* claim we have on others acting in accordance with particular principles is that such principled action is *good for them*. So A has no right not to be shot by C.

Here's something interesting... let me quote your last paragraph.

In fact, I would argue that if A somehow had the ability to prevent C from shooting him (even though A lacked any way to free himself from B or kill B), A would be justified in doing so. I would argue that even if it meant taking C’s life.

But I would not argue that any person’s rights, particularly a self-defense right, can disappear or be subordinated to someone else’s.

Absolutely. If C is a threat to A's life, as he apparently is - however innocently - A has the right to defend himself. Even if it means killing C. At that moment, when bullets are flying, neither owes the other anything. *With respect to each other* (and only in that respect), neither has a right not to get shot. Both still have a right against B.

So in sum, again: no rights disappear. A right isn't something you carry around with you; it arises out of a recognition that dealing rationally with others requires certain restraints on people's actions because our lives depend on it. In an emergency, sometimes our lives don't depend on it. In such situations, it's not that rights disappear, it's that they didn't arise in the first place.

--SpiralTheorist--

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Oh, and just for the sake of being careful (and given where I'm posting), I feel a bit obligated to add this caveat. I haven't read any of Ayn Rand's articles about rights for at least a few years. My thinking on the subject has certainly developed somewhat during that time. So while I suspect that the above is consistent with the Objectivist theory of rights, I'm not sure of it.

--SpiralTheorist--

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A fair question. My use of the word "sufficiently" was unnecessary and only confused the issue. When I said "... they failed to use their property in a sufficiently rational manner", I should have said "...they failed to use their property in a rational manner."

As an aside, on the issue you allude to, I would like to make it clear that I do not advocate a government which directly assists in the "survival of the fittest or the survival of the rationalist." Pun intended. Certainly, towards the Native tribes who, to a limited extent, practiced a loose approximation of law which respected property rights, it would have been irrational for European settlers to interfere with that. Property rights presuppose property (read: productive activity) and so the trading benefit - as meager as it might have been - of leaving these communities intact outweighed the benefit of taking their land; especially in a place with so much of it. I only vaguely know of few, isolated instances of this in history - mostly in the North East.

Yes, but just how would we, or a system of law, distinguish between “rational” and” irrational” use of a parcel of land? The arrival of Europeans on the North American continent was characterized by the development of land to support a higher population density. Cities, factories and high yield farms took the place of wilderness. Is this what you mean by using “property in a rational manner”?

I have in mind a particular tract of land that I’ve visited a few times over the past 20 years. I’ll call it Rock Creek Valley. Once, of course, it was Indian territory. The discovery of arrowheads suggests that it may have been a hunting ground. Later, it became farmland. Here and there one can spot the ruins of stone walls and chimneys. Today the land is owned by one family. It has returned to a natural state of meadows and forests, perhaps not much different than its condition when it was first walked by men. The only visitors these days are hunters and hikers.

I ask, is the current use of the property irrational? The owners don’t live off the land, don’t make money off it; in fact, it costs them thousands each year in taxes. But they do derive an aesthetic pleasure in keeping the land undeveloped.

If someone were to propose clearing the property and growing soybeans or raising cattle or building houses on it, would that use be more rational? Would that form of development entitle the newcomers to seize the land from the current owners?

If not, then describe just how one would lose his property by failing to use it in a “rational manner” (Your Post #73).

They would leave his real estate once they have retrieved what they needed. Why would they stay? They have a bomb to build and a war to fight. Besides, once the war was over, it would be a waste of tax money to mine uranium for bombs that have no targets. The Constitution prohibits wasteful, extraneous government activity.

I have previously asked “which other individuals” would become the new, rightful owners of the land (and/or uranium) that Farmer Bob refused to sell to the government. I wondered if title to the property would be settled by a race to get there first or develop it first (homesteading). You answered, “The issue of ‘homesteading’ in the case of the uranium-owning holdout isn't essential. The government doesn't need his land, it needs his uranium. The rightful (read: most rational) owner of the uranium should be the person(s) who is both willing to, and capable of, using it in a nuclear bomb with which to destroy the foreign enemy.” (Your Post #80) But I am still no closer to understanding the process that would be used to replace Bob with a new owner, which you have said would not be the government (your Post #73).

Yes, I know you have said, the "rightful (read: most rational) owner of the uranium should be the person(s) who is both willing to, and capable of, using it in a nuclear bomb . . " but that does not tell us who that might be if there is more than one contestant to perform that task.

Who were these? As I've said, there were a few, very isolated instances of this. To some extent, every tribe (and by extention every individual who chose to remain part of their tribe) resisted. Even today, Native "Americans" oppose the laws and policies of The United States by demanding that property be owned tribally instead of individually and that certain laws not apply on that property. The fact that the government caves in to these demands does not make them legitimate. Let alone the fact that many tribes' explicitly, and officially, denied the very concept of private property on religious grounds.

The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole, who occupied much of what is now the Southeastern U.S., were regarded as completely civilized by the late 18th century. They recognized private property, had good relations with their white neighbors and in no way threatened the legal order of the federal or state governments. Their farms and villages were in many instances indistinguishable from those of white settlers. These Indians were forcibly relocated west of the Mississippi as a part of the largest federally subsidized land grab in U.S. history.

As for current Indian tribes, I do not know of a single one that does not respect or recognize the existence of individual property. Because of violated treaties there are tribes that have argued that certain lands be returned to their sovereignty. That does not necessarily imply that there would be no individual owners of such property. Nor is it true that Indian tribes on the average are more antagonistic to individualism than our present federal government is.

If the military exists to protect his life from foreigners who want to kill him, by not helping them he's not helping himself. It's one thing to disagree with the government's claim that their desire to build a base on your land is essential. It's quite another to deny, on principle, that the government has any right to do what is necessary in order to perform it's legitimate functions.

There certainly is hope. In the very, very unlikely event that Mike Wallace described. You might think it impossible, but that's another issue entirely. Yes, if it's impossible then it follows that eminent domain is useless as a legal tool, but that is why it should be abolished, not because, theoretically, people have the right to destroy themselves and in the process prevent others from protecting themselves. I'd like to emphasize that I do not think Wallace's scenario is impossible.

Let’s take it as a given that the military exists to protect a citizen’s life from foreigners who want to kill him. Does it then follow that the government/military may take any action it deems necessary to perform its role, including such actions as seizing certain lands and resources?

We do not have to stick to the Mike Wallace example of uranium. Suppose in the future we finally get a voluntarily funded, properly limited government in this country. At some point that government finds itself under attack by invaders who wish to steal our private property or, worse, impose a form of collectivism on us.

To meet this crisis the government calls on the citizenry to increase their financial contributions. However, the response is inadequate to meet the sudden, dramatic demands on the military.

To save itself and its free population, may the government resort, temporarily, to coerced contributions, i.e. taxation?

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"for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice"

-"Man's Rights," The Virtue of Selfishness, 93

If an individual judges that he is in an emergency and has to act in a manner that would violate other people's rights, he is morally right to do so. It is then for a court of law to decide by a rational standard if the situation was indeed an emergency and whether he was acting to protect his rights.

In light of the above an emergency such as the one in this thread would be resolved thus...

1) One or more individuals judge that the situation warrants that they act to save their own lives even if it means violating someone else's rights.

2) The individual whose rights are violated files a case in court

3) The government (law courts) decide the legal consequences.

The key here is that only individuals have positive rights, the government (a collective) does not.

Frankly I dont see why there should be so much confusion on this issue especially since the resolution I suggested is the most probable one to actually happen.

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Yes, but just how would we, or a system of law, distinguish between “rational” and” irrational” use of a parcel of land? The arrival of Europeans on the North American continent was characterized by the development of land to support a higher population density. Cities, factories and high yield farms took the place of wilderness. Is this what you mean by using “property in a rational manner”?

I have in mind a particular tract of land that I’ve visited a few times over the past 20 years. I’ll call it Rock Creek Valley. Once, of course, it was Indian territory. The discovery of arrowheads suggests that it may have been a hunting ground. Later, it became farmland. Here and there one can spot the ruins of stone walls and chimneys. Today the land is owned by one family. It has returned to a natural state of meadows and forests, perhaps not much different than its condition when it was first walked by men. The only visitors these days are hunters and hikers.

I ask, is the current use of the property irrational? The owners don’t live off the land, don’t make money off it; in fact, it costs them thousands each year in taxes. But they do derive an aesthetic pleasure in keeping the land undeveloped.

If someone were to propose clearing the property and growing soybeans or raising cattle or building houses on it, would that use be more rational? Would that form of development entitle the newcomers to seize the land from the current owners?

If not, then describe just how one would lose his property by failing to use it in a “rational manner” (Your Post #73).

First, I'd like to suggest to the mods that this be split into another thread.

Certainly, this land you describe belongs to it's owners. It serves a rational puropse: Their enjoyment of it's aesthetic beauty. The only reason why they are able to own it is because they own some other type of property (not necesarily land) which generates profit which they then use to pay the taxes to continue to own the land. The legitimacy of property taxes aside, in order for this land to be protected by the government (from foreign and/or neighborly encroachment) they government needs that many more resources to do so - even if it's just an extra gallon of gas for the local sheriff to drive by it once a week. If someone comes along and wants to build a factory on it, the only way to determine if this is a rational, preferable activity is to consider what the impact of the factory would be on the land owner's life. Suppose he values (and by that I mean, should value) whatever the factory will make more than the enjoyment of the land, then he should sell it. But if the factory is going to make something which isn't valuable to his life, he won't sell it. Obviously, he'd also consider the impact of the money he'd get for it.

Also, to address your more fundamental, first question: no, the possible, superior economic performace of one activity over another does not disqualify the owners of the actual, inferior economic performance of another activity from the real estate on which they perform it. What does disqualify them is if they fail to accomplish even a bare minimum of organization and/or material progress that makes it clear that their lives are intimately connected to this, particular tract of land and that it's deserving of legal recognition and protection.

The Native "Americans", before the Europeans came, did not conciously decide "well, we could industrialize this area and stop being nomadic - and thus needing more real estate" - they defaulted from the responsibility and left themselves at the mercy of nature. A nomadic lifestyle - that is, being nomadic long-term - is not human nature. It is the irrational, emotional reaction to the fear or death and the pain of starvation which makes people keep moving in search of food instead of stopping and learning how to build a better life.

I have previously asked “which other individuals” would become the new, rightful owners of the land (and/or uranium) that Farmer Bob refused to sell to the government. I wondered if title to the property would be settled by a race to get there first or develop it first (homesteading). You answered, “The issue of ‘homesteading’ in the case of the uranium-owning holdout isn't essential. The government doesn't need his land, it needs his uranium. The rightful (read: most rational) owner of the uranium should be the person(s) who is both willing to, and capable of, using it in a nuclear bomb with which to destroy the foreign enemy.” (Your Post #80) But I am still no closer to understanding the process that would be used to replace Bob with a new owner, which you have said would not be the government (your Post #73).

Yes, I know you have said, the "rightful (read: most rational) owner of the uranium should be the person(s) who is both willing to, and capable of, using it in a nuclear bomb . . " but that does not tell us who that might be if there is more than one contestant to perform that task.

I don't know who would be chosen. How about "Joe"? This isn't a question for philosophy to answer; it's a matter of government policy. How does the government decide any issue of outsourcing? They put out a call for bids and people make their case and the best case wins.

Also, I never said that it wouldn't be the government. It could be the government if no one submitts an adequate bid. When I said, in my very first post "this isn't an issue of the individual vs. 'the government'" I put 'the government' in quotes for a specific reason. As I've said a number of times already, and which a few people on this board have been unwilling to understand, the justification for taking this guy's land is the protection of individual rights; including the protection of the individuals who constitue "the government".

If every citizen was on Farmer Bob's side, the government would still be justified in taking his uranium, not because I support socialism, but because the individual who, inextricably, make up the government, have a right to defend themselves against foreign aggression.

Conversly, if a 3rd private citizen saw the need for Farmer Bob's uranium, appealed to his governmen to seize it, and the government refused - siding with Farmer Bob, that private citizen would have every right to take matters into his own hands for exactly the same reason: His own self-defense against foreign aggression.

The Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Seminole, who occupied much of what is now the Southeastern U.S., were regarded as completely civilized by the late 18th century. They recognized private property, had good relations with their white neighbors and in no way threatened the legal order of the federal or state governments. Their farms and villages were in many instances indistinguishable from those of white settlers. These Indians were forcibly relocated west of the Mississippi as a part of the largest federally subsidized land grab in U.S. history.

As for current Indian tribes, I do not know of a single one that does not respect or recognize the existence of individual property. Because of violated treaties there are tribes that have argued that certain lands be returned to their sovereignty. That does not necessarily imply that there would be no individual owners of such property. Nor is it true that Indian tribes on the average are more antagonistic to individualism than our present federal government is.

The key here is the late 18th century. By that time they had been significantly influenced by European political thought. But anyways, I don't know the details of the "Trail of Tears", I just know that people shouldn't be given particular land - as some kind of historical relic or cheap, zoo-like recreation of their "natural environment" - simply because they had been wandering around on it for centuries.

Also, yes, the whole concept of dividing people up into even just slightly-autonomous tribes based on nothing except historical accident serves to, sooner or later, completely undermine the concepts individual sovereignity and private property. No treaties should have ever been signed and no reservations should have ever been created - and today, they should all be abolished. These particular tribes, in and amongst themselves, may recognize the property rights of their individual members, but that doesn't change the fact that people from the outside, people who aren't part of the tribe, arent free to buy that property and declare it no longer part of the reservation. At least not with a certain level of unnecessary, race-based complication.

Let’s take it as a given that the military exists to protect a citizen’s life from foreigners who want to kill him. Does it then follow that the government/military may take any action it deems necessary to perform its role, including such actions as seizing certain lands and resources?

We do not have to stick to the Mike Wallace example of uranium. Suppose in the future we finally get a voluntarily funded, properly limited government in this country. At some point that government finds itself under attack by invaders who wish to steal our private property or, worse, impose a form of collectivism on us.

To meet this crisis the government calls on the citizenry to increase their financial contributions. However, the response is inadequate to meet the sudden, dramatic demands on the military.

To save itself and its free population, may the government resort, temporarily, to coerced contributions, i.e. taxation?

Yes, and precisely because it (that is: the people inside the government) are the only ones fighting for, or supporting, a legitimate cause. They have every right to defend themselves, and whatever violations of the right to innocent people (which I use generously since simply laying back and not supporting, or engaging in, the fight against collectivism is pretty contemptible) are on the heads of the foriegn aggressors.

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