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brandonk2009
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Just a small but important comment:

That would depend on whether that one person used reason or not, wouldn't it? Objectivity does not come from collective approval, nor from written procedures. Objectivity comes from the use of reason. The government's structure and procedures are means to that end, not the end in themselves. Here you are denying that an individual is capable of objective action, that only the collective can objectively enact justice - which cuts objective philosophy off at the knee.

I've heard the word "objective" being used to describe a different concept than what you, mrocktor, is interpreting.

"Objective law" is such that the citizen knows what he/she will get.

So you can have evil objective laws such as: "if you spit into the muslim's face, you will be killed"

versus evil non-objective: "if a Mulsim god doesn't like you, then you will be killed".

You can see an example of a use of this concept of "Objective law" in this (very good) video by Paul McKeever:

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You're not rejecting the validity of the "If all hell breaks loose then this should be prevented by the government" reasoning, you're objecting to the presumption that all hell would break loose. If you did conclude that all hell would break loose, then you'd have to accept the correctness of the Objectivism force-monopoly position. Right?

No, wrong. I am rejecting the validity of the argument. This is why I did not contemplate it when it was made, and as soon as I contemplated it in my answer to you I got exactly the answer I expected.

Whether all hell would brake loose or not is a consequence. If the principle "each man has a is right to defend himself by force" is correct, then all hell will not break loose when he is "allowed" to do so. If it is wrong, then maybe he really needs to be chained by the government so his "inner beast" cannot destroy society.

The point is, consequences follow principles - they do not define the validity of those principles. Thus they are not relevant to this discussion.

I'm sure everyone here grasps this, after all who has never heard the "if there were no welfare millions of people would starve" argument? Is it the fact that millions of people would in fact NOT starve if we were free that makes freedom right? No, it is right because it is derived from man's nature. Since freedom is consistent with man's nature, it "works". It is not right because it "works", it "works" because it is right.

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I've heard the word "objective" being used to describe a different concept than what you, mrocktor, is interpreting.

I am not arguing that the law should be open to individual definition or interpretation, as such I don't think this difference exists. In the text you quoted I'm referring to the objectivity of the action, not to the law.

Again, I think it is important to make a distinction between law qua definition of crimes and penalties versus law qua definition of government procedures. The first defines what each person's rights are and the penalty for violating them, as such it applies to individuals. The second is a means to keep government action objective - since it is answerable only to the law, unlike individuals who are answerable to the government. As such, this type of law has to be seen as a limitation on government.

As an example, the government may be required to provide the independent testimony of three different people to establish something as true in some context. It is not the fact that two people testify that makes it true, an individual can independently know it is true all by himself.

Individuals should be held to a standard of proof required by the law. Thus, in the case of a vigilante and assuming the rule above applies to his case, if the vigilante cannot provide the required testimony he cannot prove his action was legitimate and thus is convicted of a crime. The "other side" of this debate would consider testimony irrelevant - the man used retaliatory force "when he didn't need to" and is therefore a criminal, in their view.

On the other hand, some of this "procedure law" does not involve standard of proof and cannot apply to individuals in any way. For instance "a warrant is required to enter a suspect's home". Lets say the individual saw a man shoot his wife, follows him home and kills him. Lets say he has enough witnesses and evidence that the man did kill his wife so the matter of the original killer's guilt is beyond question. It would be ludicrous to jail this man because he failed to get a warrant. That is a limitation on government action.

It is not the warrant that makes the act objective - it is having objective knowledge that that person is in fact a criminal that does. If the vigilante can prove he got the right guy, he only exercised his rights. If he cannot, he must be treated as a murderer and a burglar.

Edited by mrocktor
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Crime means "a violation of individual rights". If your definition of "crime" is "something that breaks the law", what is your concept for the former?

An objective crime would be violation of individual rights, but the concept "crime" I'm speaking of involves both objective and non-objective crimes, since I only acknowledge crime in a legal context. During prohibition, it was a crime to sell and use alcohol, and the government did punish people for violating the law, but it wasn't a violation of individual rights. Crimes are things which break the laws of a society; in this sense it doesn't matter if the crime is actually objective (a violation of rights) or not.

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I am not arguing that the law should be open to individual definition or interpretation, as such I don't think this difference exists. In the text you quoted I'm referring to the objectivity of the action, not to the law.

Again, I think it is important to make a distinction between law qua definition of crimes and penalties versus law qua definition of government procedures. The first defines what each person's rights are and the penalty for violating them, as such it applies to individuals. The second is a means to keep government action objective - since it is answerable only to the law, unlike individuals who are answerable to the government. As such, this type of law has to be seen as a limitation on government.

Well, I think the crime of "obstruction of justice" applies broadly to anyone who interferes with any aspect of the justice system, private citizen or elected official; in some cases there doesn't even have to be an investigation into an incident to support such a charge (whether I agree with this aspect is questionable).

Lets say the individual saw a man shoot his wife, follows him home and kills him. Lets say he has enough witnesses and evidence that the man did kill his wife so the matter of the original killer's guilt is beyond question. It would be ludicrous to jail this man because he failed to get a warrant. That is a limitation on government action.

Again, it is not ideas that the court system should judge, but the actions. If the prosecutor knows what you just described, that the vigilante literally followed the killer home and killed him, and can demonstrate this to the judge and jury, then this is a case of premeditated murder and obstruction of justice in regards to establishing the killer's guilt. To my understanding, the charge of "obstruction of justice" wouldn't apply to killing a man in self-defense, since the situation required deadly force. But what you're discussing here, following a person home and killing them, is hardly self-defense.

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Again, it is not ideas that the court system should judge, but the actions. If the prosecutor knows what you just described, that the vigilante literally followed the killer home and killed him, and can demonstrate this to the judge and jury, then this is a case of premeditated murder and obstruction of justice in regards to establishing the killer's guilt. To my understanding, the charge of "obstruction of justice" wouldn't apply to killing a man in self-defense, since the situation required deadly force. But what you're discussing here, following a person home and killing them, is hardly self-defense.

No, it is precisely ideas that the court system should, and almost always does, judge. You admit this right there. Premeditation is an idea. Even murder is primarily an idea, as you can kill people without intention or choice. If you are holding a gun, and someone shocks you so your finger involuntarily pulls the trigger, you having killed the person does not make you a criminal. How is the person obstructing justice by implementing it? He isn't. The due process of law is a means to protect the administrator of justice, it is not a sacred, intrinsic right.

Edited by andre_sanchez
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Imagine a society where a bunch of irrational vigilantes are running around shooting people. How would the pursuit of happiness be affected for the rest of us?

You already have imagined it here:

But not every vigilante will be a rational one, in fact most will not.

Your argument is that no one's rights would be violated in such a society and I am asking you to consider everyone else's pursuit of happiness in your society.

And I maintain that if you shoot the person standing next to me in any context except self defense that you are violating my rights. Do you agree?

Also, does the accused have any rights?

Obviously Marc thinks a society where the right to use retaliatiory force is recognized would devolve into chaos. Obviously I do not.

Not so obviously, you admit it would devolve into chaos here:

But not every vigilante will be a rational one, in fact most will not.

It is not an objective form of justice to have one person act as victim, complainant, DA, judge and jury. And then to act as executioner before he has proven his case.

No, it would depend on whether he was correct or not since even rational men can be mistaken. Objective means: corresponding to reality, not: using reason.

I won't be scared away by your use of the word collective, after all, we are talking about society here. We are talking about a society of rational and irrational men where even the rational men are fallible. In such a society we must formulate rules which apply to everyone. The number one rule is: I have the right to be left alone, which is a great rule because it requires nothing of anyone else.

[...] Objectivity comes from the use of reason. The government's structure and procedures are means to that end, not the end in themselves. Here you are denying that an individual is capable of objective action, that only the collective can objectively enact justice - which cuts objective philosophy off at the knee.

The end is Justice and the only proper means to that end are objective ones. It is in everyone's self interest that justice be done. That is why when someone commits a crime it is society that seeks retribution and not just the individual whose rights were violated.

I do believe that an individual is capable of objective moral action (otherwise why would I be here). In a society composed of the rational, the irrational and the fallible where crime is possible, how do we punish that crime? First and foremost the crime must be proven using evidence and obviously that proof must be demonstrated before punishment can objectively follow, this is only logical.

we are discussing whether an individual has a right to enforce that law himself,

Isn't this the definition of anarchy?

There is a crucial difference between forbiding the initiation of force and forbidding retaliatory force. The first is never proper, the second may be.

"Never" is a good word, it allows for the formulation of an objectively definable rule of conduct, but "may be"???? How do you propose to turn this into an objectively defined rule of conduct in which the consequences of your actions are known ahead of time.

Further, how is vigilantism, the explicit private and unauthorized use of force, not a threat to everyone else's lives (i.e. a violation of their rights)?

Except when it isn't!!! which would be most of the time as you have acknowledged. And then too bad for the poor innocent shlub who is lying dead. Civilized indeed.

Reason and force are opposites. A rational man will always renounce force in favor of reason. If you can prove that a man has committed a crime then that is what you should do, and of course, logically, the proof must be demonstrated before the punishment can be meted out.

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And I maintain that if you shoot the person standing next to me in any context except self defense that you are violating my rights. Do you agree?

Why?

Also, does the accused have any rights?

People who are accused of things have the same right as all other human beings, namely, the right not to be aggressed against. It is not the accusation that removes rights, it is the guilt.

Not so obviously, you admit it would devolve into chaos here:

Vigilantes that act irrationaly can be punished, or sent to a medical facility for treatment. The fact that some will act irrationaly doesn't mean society would devolve into chaos any more than the fact there are other types of criminals and otherwise irrational people around.

No, it would depend on whether he was correct or not since even rational men can be mistaken. Objective means: corresponding to reality, not: using reason.

Are you under the impression that formal court proceedings are infalible?

Isn't this the definition of anarchy?

No.

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No, it is precisely ideas that the court system should, and almost always does, judge.

I must say you have been on quite a tear the last couple of days. I have not read every one of your manifold replies but the one's I have read are completely devoid of any Objectivist principle whatsoever -- just like this one.

The idea you promote above is reprehensible, stands in complete opposition to Objectivism and the founding of this country, and is morally repugnant.

Even murder is primarily an idea,

This to me marks you as a troll. Ideas cannot kill someone without action. Can you say Primacy of Consciousness?

I suggest that you stop posting on this forum until you have actually read Ayn Rand.

I am reporting your post to the moderators.

Edit:

As I have reported -- your first quote above is particularly destructive to this forum since it says that ideas should be punishable. Disgusting.

Edit 2:

"says" was "suggests"

Edited by Marc K.
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I must say you have been on quite a tear the last couple of days. I have not read every one of your manifold replies but the one's I have read are completely devoid of any Objectivist principle whatsoever -- just like this one.

I think you are mistaken.

The idea you promote above is reprehensible, stands in complete opposition to Objectivism and the founding of this country, and is morally repugnant.

Neither of those is true. People have freedom of opinion, they do not have freedom of thought. An opinion is a value judgement, divorced from action. Crimes are crimes not because of the physical actions per se, but because of the choices made. Choices are thoughts, which include action, succesful or not. A person is convicted of murder because he chose to commit murder, not because he sliced someone's throat. That is a principle of law that, while not always well formulated, is widely understood and accepted and which forms the basis of the laws of the United States and all other somewhat civilized nations.

This to me marks you as a troll. Ideas cannot kill someone without action. Can you say Primacy of Consciousness?

Perhaps I expressed myself incorrectly? It is not "ideas" per se that matter, but it is thought that matters in all criminal cases.

I suggest that you stop posting on this forum until you have actually read Ayn Rand.

I have read Ayn Rand and Peikoff. I have not read everything they ever wrote, but I have read quite a bit.

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I'm sure everyone here grasps this, after all who has never heard the "if there were no welfare millions of people would starve" argument? Is it the fact that millions of people would in fact NOT starve if we were free that makes freedom right? No, it is right because it is derived from man's nature. Since freedom is consistent with man's nature, it "works". It is not right because it "works", it "works" because it is right.
In this case, I would say that the right of a man to live for his own sake is a higher value than the saving of millions of lives through welfare. Even though I find it implausible that enslaving 20 men as feed-animals could sustain millions who would otherwise die, I'm cold-hearted enough that I can't justify sacrificing the few for the many, so I would say, the millions will just die, then. You can increase the ratio -- billions of people, versus 1 man, and the answer would be the same -- it is not right for 1 man to be made a sacrificial animal.

But you don't seem to be willing to embrace the worst-case outcome of vigilantism. If you had a principled view of the "right to be a vigilante", then you should say that even if vigilantism run amok resulted in massive breakdown of society and wholesale violation of rights, still the "principle" is worth that cost.

Since you have not spelled out the details of how this vigilante-justice defense is to be conducted, it's impossible to argue against your proposal since you don't have a proposal. In every scenatio that I can imagine, it is obvious that vigilantism will lead to massive injustice and rights violation, driven by people's emotional urge to "git some justice" when they feel wronged. This vigilante defense boils down to a get out of jail free card, where you simply have to be careful to set the evidence up consistent with a vigilante defense. I wanna see the proof that you've got protections of the rights of innocent people. You haven't even said what the vigilante will be required to prove in court.

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No, it is precisely ideas that the court system should, and almost always does, judge. You admit this right there. Premeditation is an idea. Even murder is primarily an idea, as you can kill people without intention or choice. If you are holding a gun, and someone shocks you so your finger involuntarily pulls the trigger, you having killed the person does not make you a criminal. How is the person obstructing justice by implementing it? He isn't. The due process of law is a means to protect the administrator of justice, it is not a sacred, intrinsic right.

Premeditation is the idea we ascribe to people who consciously intend to murder or otherwise seriously harm someone in a certain amount of time before doing so. What I'm saying is that the court system should not lighten or over-extend the sentence of a person based on his ideas of why he thinks he should kill a person. Saying that his murder of the killer was premeditated says nothing about why he killed the man, and while I think it is important to know why the man was killed, such knowledge of the justification should hold no sway in deciding the punishment of the crime.

I mean, this is the central issue that mrocktor is discussing with us--whether it is permissible to punish a man for doing what is right: which in this issue translates to justifying his murder of another person.

And I say that it is, because the right to self-defense (and fundamentally individual rights) does not entail the right to in principle use force on people you've deemed to have violated your rights, or the rights of someone else in some manner. Vigilantism is the explicit rejection of living in a civilized society peacefully with others, just as any criminal activity is, and should be treated as such, i.e. as a violation of citizen's rights, because it is.

We also have to keep in mind that while, philosophically speaking, a man who initiates force has thrown out individual rights, speaking in the context of society, the person as a criminal does not become a right-less monstrosity, to be destroyed at the unilateral decision of another private citizen. The objective methods of determining guilt and proof preclude such hasty and unauthorized decisions on the citizens' parts.

In addition, though not essential to the issue, vigilantism is also short-sighted way to look at why crimes are being committed. Not all crimes are committed willingly--some people are forced to do crimes by others, such as hostages. There can be complex and multi-layered reasons why crimes are committed, which won't be unraveled by simply destroying the perpetrator.

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Premeditation is the idea we ascribe to people who consciously intend to murder or otherwise seriously harm someone in a certain amount of time before doing so.

Ok.

What I'm saying is that the court system should not lighten or over-extend the sentence of a person based on his ideas of why he thinks he should kill a person.

You are right, strictly speaking. It should either release the person or execute it, based on his ideas of why he thinks he should kill a person. It should not toy around with the terms of the sentence.

Saying that his murder of the killer was premeditated says nothing about why he killed the man, and while I think it is important to know why the man was killed, such knowledge of the justification should hold no sway in deciding the punishment of the crime.

Yes, it should.

I mean, this is the central issue that mrocktor is discussing with us--whether it is permissible to punish a man for doing what is right: which in this issue translates to justifying his murder of another person.

His killing. Murder implies that you have already made a moral, that is a legal, judgement on the matter. It is always permissible to punish a man for murder. It is not always permissible to punish a man for killing.

And I say that it is, because the right to self-defense (and fundamentally individual rights) does not entail the right to in principle use force on people you've deemed to have violated your rights, or the rights of someone else in some manner.

You are wrong. That is precisely what it means. If you reject it, you are rejecting the very notion that -individuals- have rights.

Vigilantism is the explicit rejection of living in a civilized society peacefully with others,

Why?

just as any criminal activity is, and should be treated as such, i.e. as a violation of citizen's rights, because it is.

A proper vigilante has violated the rights of absolutely nobody.

We also have to keep in mind that while, philosophically speaking, a man who initiates force has thrown out individual rights, speaking in the context of society, the person as a criminal does not become a right-less monstrosity, to be destroyed at the unilateral decision of another private citizen. The objective methods of determining guilt and proof preclude such hasty and unauthorized decisions on the citizens' parts.

If the person has witnessed the other person's crime, he is in fact better able, objectively speaking, of judging the criminal's guilt than a law of court. The use of courts is not meant to protect the accused, in any way, shape, or form. It is meant to protect the justice enforcer, be he a vigilante or the state, from retaliation. Even a state, if it acts in a way that people judge to be arbitrary, if it is seen as being murdering instead of punishing, will be held accountable by the people.

In addition, though not essential to the issue, vigilantism is also short-sighted way to look at why crimes are being committed. Not all crimes are committed willingly--some people are forced to do crimes by others, such as hostages. There can be complex and multi-layered reasons why crimes are committed, which won't be unraveled by simply destroying the perpetrator.

You assume that the vigilante's standard of proof is lower than that of the courts. Such is not necessarily the case. In many cases in fact, a vigilante is the only one capable of objectively determining that a person is guilty, or as the case may be, innocent. Everyone has the right, in principle, to take the law into their own hands both to punish and to prevent punishment. Their actions merely need to be judged, they do not need to be outlawed.

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Everyone has the right, in principle, to take the law into their own hands both to punish and to prevent punishment. Their actions merely need to be judged, they do not need to be outlawed.
You say they do, but you have given not one single argument that a man has the right to take the law into how own hands and use violence as he feels is necessary. Remember that Objectivism is not anarcho-capitalism, and "liberty" is not man's primary ethical axiom. Show us how an individual has this "right".
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You say they do, but you have given not one single argument that a man has the right to take the law into how own hands and use violence as he feels is necessary. Remember that Objectivism is not anarcho-capitalism, and "liberty" is not man's primary ethical axiom. Show us how an individual has this "right".

The reason man has the right to take the law into his own hands is the same reason man has the right to farm with his own hands. Reason guides his actions so that he is able to survive. Man's survival require that he act, not only to produce food and shelter, but to secure his life and his liberty, to secure justice. The law is the particular field of ethics that deals with retaliatory force. Ethics is not collective. It does not require the approval of a "higher body", of a corporate board, in order to be objective. In fact, only individuals can enforce the law, because only individuals can practice ethics. That individuals practice ethics in the field of law collectively, using corporate structures (such as through the State), does not mean that only this practice is legitimate, just like the use of a corporate structure to manufacture cars does not mean that man needs to work in a corporation in order to be a productive human being. There are sometimes gains to doing so, but it is not an ethical imperative.

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Not so obviously, you admit it would devolve into chaos here

Wrong Mark. I think few vigilantes would be rational, but I think few people would choose to be vigilantes at all.

I'm making an effort to keep the mindset that you are arguing in good faith at this point, because it seems you (and David) are trying very hard to shove me into the anarchist mold you are (rightfully) comfortable arguing against. And, since I said that, I might as well say that I'm sorry for the needlessly confrontational tone of my previous reply to you.

No, it would depend on whether he was correct or not since even rational men can be mistaken. Objective means: corresponding to reality, not: using reason.

Does it take a committee to correspond to reality?

Isn't this the definition of anarchy?

No. Anarchy would be if they could do that and not be held accountable for their acts.

Except when it isn't!!! which would be most of the time as you have acknowledged. And then too bad for the poor innocent shlub who is lying dead. Civilized indeed.

The only solution is to jail everyone then, since if anyone commits any sort of murder it's "too bad for the innocent shlub lying dead". Falibility is no basis to take away a man's freedom.

If you had a principled view of the "right to be a vigilante", then you should say that even if vigilantism run amok resulted in massive breakdown of society and wholesale violation of rights, still the "principle" is worth that cost.

Even if vigilantism resulted in the massive breakdown of society and wholesale violation of rights, it still would be right to allow man to exercise his right to use force in defense of his own life and property.

Happy?

Since you have not spelled out the details of how this vigilante-justice defense is to be conducted, it's impossible to argue against your proposal since you don't have a proposal.

You could read what I have written in this thread and find exactly what you are saying I have not done, but I'll make your life easier and restate it.

A government that respects individual rights, and is constituted to protect these rights, must recognize that the rights belong to the individuals. Each individual may or may not delegate his right of self defense to the government, to force him to do so violates his rights.

A legitimate government must recognize, therefore, that an individual's act of force may be legitimate - if in retaliation against a criminal. The government must also safeguard the rights of all innocent individuals. This means a standard is needed to determine the legitimacy of individual acts of force.

The first part of this standard is the law. Law as in the objective definition of what an individual's rights are (life, property, liberty) and what the penalties are for their violation. The second part is a standard of proof, what sort of evidence is required to prove something is true.

In practice this would mean that, when a private act of force is commited, the government, as a guardian of ever individual's rights, must immediately seek and detain the person responsible. The principle that everyone is "innocent until proven guilty" applies. A standard of proof must be met to objectively determine that the person is the actual responsible for the act.

Once the person who commited the act is objectvely determined, he may claim to have been acting in legitimate retaliation (note that this applies to all instances of self defense - in emergency situations or not). He will have to meet a standard of proof for this claim to be accepted. Note that the burden of evidence is reversed at this point - once the individual is proven to have commited an act of force, he must prove it was legitimate.

In most cases of emergency situation, such as a shooting a robber inside your home, this standard of proof would likely be easy to meet. In cases of retaliation after the fact, probably not.

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In practice this would mean that, when a private act of force is commited, the government, as a guardian of ever individual's rights, must immediately seek and detain the person responsible. The principle that everyone is "innocent until proven guilty" applies. A standard of proof must be met to objectively determine that the person is the actual responsible for the act.

Once the person who commited the act is objectvely determined, he may claim to have been acting in legitimate retaliation (note that this applies to all instances of self defense - in emergency situations or not). He will have to meet a standard of proof for this claim to be accepted. Note that the burden of evidence is reversed at this point - once the individual is proven to have commited an act of force, he must prove it was legitimate.

In most cases of emergency situation, such as a shooting a robber inside your home, this standard of proof would likely be easy to meet. In cases of retaliation after the fact, probably not.

I think that, whatever one might call this position, it clearly is not anarchy. I don't think that the arguments that attempt to treat this as anarchy are particularly productive here, either.

What would best be answered: Suppose there is a vigilante who acts justly and can prove before a court of law that his actions fit the standards of an objective government. Whose rights has he violated and what specific right or rights?

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I'm making an effort to keep the mindset that you are arguing in good faith at this point, because it seems you (and David) are trying very hard to shove me into the anarchist mold you are (rightfully) comfortable arguing against. And, since I said that, I might as well say that I'm sorry for the needlessly confrontational tone of my previous reply to you.

I am arguing in good faith and while I'm not trying to push you into anarchism I will point out whenever I see a statement consistent with anarchism because I think that that is essentially what your position amounts to.

I wouldn't call the tone of your previous reply "confrontational" so much as "needling" which is tolerable if it makes a point, I just didn't think it did. However, I do find you to be an honest and contemplative broker of ideas so I am happy to argue with you. :P

I would like you to address the main thrust of my argument (and I thought yours):

Your argument is that no one's rights would be violated in such a society and I am asking you to consider everyone else's pursuit of happiness in your society.

And I maintain that if you shoot the person standing next to me in any context except self defense that you are violating my rights. Do you agree?

Also, does the accused have any rights?

Remember also that the rights of men do not conflict so this seems dubious to me:

Even if vigilantism resulted in the massive breakdown of society and wholesale violation of rights, it still would be right to allow man to exercise his right to use force in defense of his own life and property.

I would also like you to address this:

There is a crucial difference between forbiding the initiation of force and forbidding retaliatory force. The first is never proper, the second may be.

Except when it isn't!!! which would be most of the time as you have acknowledged. And then too bad for the poor innocent shlub who is lying dead. Civilized indeed.

Since rational men have no use for force, my solution is to outlaw all force except when it is necessary to save your life. Your solution is make retributive force available to the rational and irrational alike and then to decide after punishment has been rendered whether it was rightful or not. Your comparison is not equivalent. You are comparing murder with vigilantism, which is fine by me, but you want to make one illegal and the other legal, I don't get it.

I would also like to state emphatically that no man has the freedom to use force. Freedom means: freedom from force.

Freedom means that one has the right to engage in all of the rational activities that support his life, and with respect to others in society, freedom means that one has the right to be left alone; to be free from force.

And context is important. A North Korean and I both possess the same rights and yet he may need to do many more extraordinary things than I in order to exercise his rights. In the Wild West it may have been appropriate for a rational man to seek vigilante justice. But in the context of today, when a government agent is available, there is no need for a rational man to use force except when his life is in danger. In fact becoming a vigilante puts one's life in danger as my previous example of the bystander shooting the vigilante showed.

Reason and force are opposites. A rational man will always renounce force in favor of reason. If you can prove that a man has committed a crime then that is what you should do, and of course, logically, the proof must be demonstrated before the punishment can be meted out.
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One reason why I keep nudging you in the direction of the anarchist absurdity is so that you understand a consequence of your position. It's not that I think you are an anarchist, it's that I don't think you've fully grasped the consequences of your position. I just want you to see "Oh god, that's not a good consequence. If you can't recant your vigilante position, then at least draw bright lines so we can distinguish your vigilantism from anarchism.

Even if vigilantism resulted in the massive breakdown of society and wholesale violation of rights, it still would be right to allow man to exercise his right to use force in defense of his own life and property.

Happy?

I was almost happy -- happy that you said "yes, I accept that consequence", but my mild elation was soured by you invoking "self defense". For the 47th time in this thread, we all appear to agree that a man has a right to use force in self-defense, and the question has been focused on retributive use of force. And yet now you limit your claim to self defense. I'm trying to figure out what jelly we're nailing to the tree here.
This means a standard is needed to determine the legitimacy of individual acts of force.

The first part of this standard is the law. Law as in the objective definition of what an individual's rights are (life, property, liberty) and what the penalties are for their violation. The second part is a standard of proof, what sort of evidence is required to prove something is true.

In practice this would mean that, when a private act of force is commited, the government, as a guardian of ever individual's rights, must immediately seek and detain the person responsible. The principle that everyone is "innocent until proven guilty" applies. A standard of proof must be met to objectively determine that the person is the actual responsible for the act.

To concretize this, let's say Jones invades Smith's house, takes a watch, and shoots Smith in the leg (Smith was just watching TV, not trying to defend himself), alleging that Smith stole Jones' watch. Jones is arrested; there is e.g. photographic evidence of the invasion, shooting and taking, and is tried under the law. Jones need not say anything since the burden of proof is on the government. The photos are that proof, thus Jones is guilty.
Once the person who commited the act is objectvely determined, he may claim to have been acting in legitimate retaliation (note that this applies to all instances of self defense - in emergency situations or not). He will have to meet a standard of proof for this claim to be accepted. Note that the burden of evidence is reversed at this point - once the individual is proven to have commited an act of force, he must prove it was legitimate.
This is the nub: he must make the state's case against Smith. But he can't do that.
In most cases of emergency situation, such as a shooting a robber inside your home, this standard of proof would likely be easy to meet. In cases of retaliation after the fact, probably not.
In fact it would never be possible. This is the fundamental point (and that is where I wanted you to address your efforts).

Apart from the problem that Smith can't make his justification defense (I'm obliquely referring to the procedural / evidentiary law problem that has been lightly touched on in this and that other thread), your response, without qualification, boils down to a get out of jail free card for murder. If you can show that a person violated your rights, you may kill him. If that is not allowed in your theory, show how it is disallowed.

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The reason man has the right to take the law into his own hands is the same reason man has the right to farm with his own hands. Reason guides his actions so that he is able to survive. Man's survival require that he act, not only to produce food and shelter, but to secure his life and his liberty, to secure justice. The law is the particular field of ethics that deals with retaliatory force. Ethics is not collective. It does not require the approval of a "higher body", of a corporate board, in order to be objective. In fact, only individuals can enforce the law, because only individuals can practice ethics. That individuals practice ethics in the field of law collectively, using corporate structures (such as through the State), does not mean that only this practice is legitimate, just like the use of a corporate structure to manufacture cars does not mean that man needs to work in a corporation in order to be a productive human being. There are sometimes gains to doing so, but it is not an ethical imperative.
Your response is non-responsive. Reason and force are opposites and are contradictory, so invoking a "right to use force" that is based on reason makes no sense. If men had the "right to use force" in order to survive, as you imply, then that would simplify contract negotiations. If those farmers are demanding too much money for their produce, just take it by force, because you need it to survive, and it's your right. You're going to have to do a lot better than that to defend this right to force.
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Your response is non-responsive. Reason and force are opposites and are contradictory, so invoking a "right to use force" that is based on reason makes no sense.

That would imply that the state cannot use force. Is that the case?

If men had the "right to use force" in order to survive, as you imply, then that would simplify contract negotiations. If those farmers are demanding too much money for their produce, just take it by force, because you need it to survive, and it's your right. You're going to have to do a lot better than that to defend this right to force.

That's an obscene strawman.

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I am arguing in good faith and while I'm not trying to push you into anarchism I will point out whenever I see a statement consistent with anarchism because I think that that is essentially what your position amounts to.

(...)

I do find you to be an honest and contemplative broker of ideas so I am happy to argue with you.

Thank you!

I would like you to address the main thrust of my argument (and I thought yours): [the pursuit of happiness]

What is necessary for the pursuit of happiness is that man be free from the initiation of force against him. We agree on that. I don't see any reason why a "legitimate retaliation" clause in the law would damage that freedom in any way. It does not permit anyone to go on a killing spree, nor does it give a "get out of jail free" card to criminals. It only gives rational honest men who chose to deal with a crime commited against them personally, and do so objectively, and can prove it, recognition.

I think your main argument depends fundamentally on your vision of the consequences of this "legitimate retaliation" clause. This is why I was so strong in rejecting your envisioned scenarios and tried to keep the debate focused on whether an individual does or does not have a right to use retaliatory force when victimized and why this right is abrogated (or delegated against his will, which is the same thing) the moment a government is constituted.

Remember also that the rights of men do not conflict so this seems dubious to me:

Of course it is dubious. If I'm right, and I would not be arguing this point if I didn't think I was, no such chaos would follow. In fact, I think the distinction would be almost irrelevant - since successful appeals to the "legitimate retaliation" clause would probably be mostry of the "self defense in emergency" type. I really don't think in a functioning free country choosing to "take justice into one's own hands" would be a popular choice - considering that you will be held accountable.

I would also like you to address this: (...)

Your premise is flawed, or rather, incomplete. Rational men have no use of force among themselves. They have an essential use for force when dealing with the irrational who initiate force against them. Keep in mind that using force is a moral imperative when you are victimized.

I share your distaste for force, don't get me wrong. But it is required for a rational man's survival and will continue to be until all men are rational.

I would also like to state emphatically that no man has the freedom to use force. Freedom means: freedom from force.

Correct. He has a right to use force to defend his life, property and freedom (i.e. to remove force used against him and its effects on his life).

If you can't recant your vigilante position, then at least draw bright lines so we can distinguish your vigilantism from anarchism.

The lines are bright enough for other readers.

For the 47th time in this thread, we all appear to agree that a man has a right to use force in self-defense, and the question has been focused on retributive use of force.

They are one and the same. If someone takes your property and you go and retrieve it by force the next day, you are defending your property in the exact same way as if you shot him during the actual robbery. The item does not cease to be your property when you lose sight of it, your right to defend it does not cease to be a right to self-defense just because the criminal managed to get out of sight.

This is the nub: he must make the state's case against Smith. But he can't do that.In fact it would never be possible. This is the fundamental point (and that is where I wanted you to address your efforts).

Jones stands accused of assault, Smith stands accused of robbery. The state must make a case against each. Jones may make it easy for the state, if he claims "legitimate retaliation" he has confessed to the act. The case against Smith may be jeopardized by Jones' act. He may have destroyed or otherwise invalidated critical evidence.

If Smith is found not guilty, Jones is automatically not a legitimate retaliator, does not pass GO, does not collect 200$ and goes directly to jail. If Smith is found guilty, Jones may or may not be able to prove that his actions were legitimate. For instance, if the law states that the use of deadly force when retrieving stolen property is only permitted when there is resistance, Jones would have to prove Smith resisted (which he didn't, so Jones is screwed).

If you can show that a person violated your rights, you may kill him. If that is not allowed in your theory, show how it is disallowed.

No, you can deal him the retaliation permitted by law. Unless you have a death penalty for petty theft, what you stated is not a consequence of what I'm arguing.

Edited by mrocktor
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They are one and the same. If someone takes your property and you go and retrieve it by force the next day, you are defending your property in the exact same way as if you shot him during the actual robbery.
That's where your error lies: there is a fundamental difference between the necessary use of force in defense of rights and the gratuitous use of force (in the deontic sense).
Jones stands accused of assault, Smith stands accused of robbery.
In fact, Jones stands accused of assault, theft, and criminal trespass. Just to keeps the facts clear -- none of his acts are allowed, except some might be allowed if he proves justified retaliation.
The case against Smith may be jeopardized by Jones' act. He may have destroyed or otherwise invalidated critical evidence.
For example, the watch cannot be used as evidence to convict Smith.
If Smith is found not guilty, Jones is automatically not a legitimate retaliator, does not pass GO, does not collect 200$ and goes directly to jail. If Smith is found guilty, Jones may or may not be able to prove that his actions were legitimate.
Not so fast. Smith not only has to be found guilty, but the conviction has to be sustained under appeal. It is not infrequent that people are wrongly convicted and later exonerated including by providing evidence of actual innocence. This is the reason why Rand opposed the death penalty. So part of Jones' burden is to definitively prove that Smith cannot be innocent.
For instance, if the law states that the use of deadly force when retrieving stolen property is only permitted when there is resistance, Jones would have to prove Smith resisted (which he didn't, so Jones is screwed).
I don't see how that makes any difference. Supposing Smith had actually stolen the watch, the law prescribes that such an act is to be punished so Jones doles out punishment.
No, you can deal him the retaliation permitted by law. Unless you have a death penalty for petty theft, what you stated is not a consequence of what I'm arguing.
Now notice that it is never possible for an individual to deal out the retribution prescribed by law. Pick your favorite law and try it -- the punishment is never something that can be enacted by an individual. A person who is the victim of physical violence cannot ever seek vigilante justice by assaulting his assailant. The only conceivable use of vigilante force is to recover stolen property. The catch here is twofold. First, the recovered property thereby loses evidentiary value w.r.t. the alleged initial crime (4th Amendment, fruits of the poison tree). Second, even if there is legal independent evidence for the initial crime, the recovery is still a crime (it involved an unlawful trespass), so the vigilante can't be fully exonerated.

Finally, the use of violence (by the government) is not freely sanctioned when police enforce the law. Police may use force if necessary, but they can also rely on an important aspect of the "reason over force" principle, namely they can issue an order that you are legally obligated to comply with. For example "open up and hand over the watch". Indeed, unless there is good reason to believe that the suspect planned to resist, it would be a legal wrong for the police to kick in the door, whack you on the head, and take the watch. That's a funny thing about the police -- you do have an obligation to comply (an obligation recognized in the law). And you do not have a legal obligation to comply with some Joe who tells you "Gimme that watch". Therefore, no use of force by you is legal.

I think then the bottom line for your vigilante defense is that it only can be exercised when you can do so without trespass, or force, and all you can do is take back the property (nullifying its evidentiary value). And even then, you have to wait a long time, perhaps infinitely long, before it is definitely established that even under appeal, Smith continues to be proven to be guilty. But if you can retrieve your watch without using force and violating the other guy's rights, that is fine -- I'm not sure, but it might even be fully legal as it stands.

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