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brandonk2009
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Your proposal for a right to use force is the true obscenity.

Are you against the use of force in self-defense? Are you against the use of force by the state? That does not seem to be the case. It's interesting that you ignored the only question in my post. You are purposefuly evading the fact that yousupport the right to use force in order to preserve one's life.

You don't have an argument, you are just asserting arbitrarily that men have the right to take the law into their own hands.

The right to use force is not the right to use force arbitrarily. You put up a strawman when you implied that this was my position.

If you wish me to deal with your example, okay, let's do it. In fact, man does have a right to use force against the grocer IF the only alternative is death (as opposed to trade or production), because life is the standard of morality, not property rights or the respect for other men. Man is not a sacrificial animal, ethics does not tell him to die, ever. Ethics aids man's survival, and that is the source of its legitimacy.

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I have found your fundamental problem and this is it, taken together:

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.

Because this is the only proper function of government. If you aren't going to let it do that, you might as well not have one.

I share your distaste for force [...]. But it is required for a rational man's survival [...].

No. This is a fundamental misunderstanding of what is required for man's survival, and is actually the opposite of what is required for man's survival.

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).

No, not correct. Since force is the only thing that can prevent one from acting on his own judgement -- from living his life, it is the one thing that must be outlawed. There is no right to use force, only the right to be free from force.

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If you wish me to deal with your example, okay, let's do it. In fact, man does have a right to use force against the grocer IF the only alternative is death (as opposed to trade or production), because life is the standard of morality, not property rights or the respect for other men. Man is not a sacrificial animal, ethics does not tell him to die, ever. Ethics aids man's survival, and that is the source of its legitimacy.

So what you are saying here is that man is not a sacrificial animal UNLESS your life is on the line in which case you can sacrifice the grocer's life. Is this grocer not a man? I would hope that you do see this blatantly obvious contradiction.

The grocer does in fact have a right to his property because the ownership and right to dispose of that property is by extension a right to his life and that which is necessary to support it by use of reason, not force. Your bogus claim to a right to use force on him is a perversion of the Objectivist concept of rights which reduces men to that of animals whose survival depends on tooth and claw, brute force, might is right, not reason and rationality as supported by Objectivism.

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So what you are saying here is that man is not a sacrificial animal UNLESS your life is on the line in which case you can sacrifice the grocer's life.

What you are saying is that man is not a sacrificial animal, unless RIGHTS, as floating abstractions, is the altar on which he is to be sacrificed. Rights have a source. What is it?

Is this grocer not a man? I would hope that you do see this blatantly obvious contradiction.

He in fact is. I do not see this contradiction. Ethics is not based on collective identity.

The grocer does in fact have a right to his property because the ownership and right to dispose of that property is by extension a right to his life and that which is necessary to support it by use of reason, not force.

The means you use to support life are secondary. They are not unimportant, but they are not the primary from which they are derived. When the primary conflicts with the secondary, it has primacy over it. Rand herself realized that lifeboat situations required a different standard. She realized that, if you put a gun to a person's head (and that gun does not need to have a human agent behind it), his actions are not in concert with reason, as the term is used by her. If a man with a gun to his head shoots another, she did not believe that he had acted in contradiction to ethics.

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If you wish me to deal with your example, okay, let's do it. In fact, man does have a right to use force against the grocer IF the only alternative is death (as opposed to trade or production), because life is the standard of morality, not property rights or the respect for other men. Man is not a sacrificial animal, ethics does not tell him to die, ever. Ethics aids man's survival, and that is the source of its legitimacy.
A proper moral code does not lead man to pursue survival at all costs either. In a free society, a truly rational man would have any number of alternatives to robbing and killing a grocer to get his next meal. Using force as in your example, would really solve nothing. Having robbed and killed the grocer for your lunch, what would be your plans for dinner? Force can only be morally justified as a response to the initiation of force. The grocer in your example has not initiated force upon you by the mere fact that he is in posession of something you need. Rights are not determined by need, neither is morality. You would be the initiator of violence and would rightly be removed from society and put behind bars--but at least, in a round about way, you would have solved your hunger problem. You get three meals a day in prison.
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Responding to strawmen gets old you know?

A proper moral code does not lead man to pursue survival at all costs either.

What do you mean by "at all costs"? Man should not pursue survival at "any" costs, he should pursue survival at the cost that he actually has to pay for it. Most of the time, the cost is what Rand calls "reason". Sometimes, it is not. Reason is not a primary. Reason is justified by survival, not the other way around.

You do not live so you can practice ethics, you practice ethics so that you can live.

In a free society, a truly rational man would have any number of alternatives to robbing and killing a grocer to get his next meal.

Indeed. That was not my example. I was very clear on my example.

Using force as in your example, would really solve nothing.

In fact, it would. Not using force on the other hand, would not.

Having robbed and killed the grocer for your lunch, what would be your plans for dinner?

If he is dead already, which is what the example is based on, he would have no plans for dinner. Only the living can plan. If however he lives, he can have a wide variety of plans for dinner.

Force can only be morally justified as a response to the initiation of force.

You need to remember why force is justified under those conditions. It is the same reason force is justified in the conditions I have set up.

The grocer in your example has not initiated force upon you by the mere fact that he is in posession of something you need.

Indeed, he has not.

Rights are not determined by need, neither is morality.

I'll bite. Please explain exactly what they are determined by, either in your own words, or through a link or quote. I realize Ayn Rand made such a statement, but her statement had a context which yours lack.

You would be the initiator of violence and would rightly be removed from society and put behind bars--but at least, in a round about way, you would have solved your hunger problem. You get three meals a day in prison.

It is injustice to remove a man's freedom for him having done what was required for his survival. If you do so, you are a threat to me, and to society in general. As such, you must be removed from it. As I am not your slave to provide you with care, this removal does not involve prisons, it involves graveyards. It is my sincere hope that you do not make such a choice at any time in your life.

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It is injustice to remove a man's freedom for him having done what was required for his survival.

Is it your contention that so long as a man acts in a way in which he believes his survival requires that he is not to be punished? Are you not suggesting that it can be right to sacrifice others, like the grocer, if you believe that your survival depends on it?

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Returning to the subject of vigilante justice itself, if the moderator will be so kind as to allow my thoughts to be seen by you, how do those of you who claim it is illegitimate reconcile the fact that it is an integral part of Rand's work? It's almost as if you people haven't read "The Fountainhead". It is a perfect example of the vigilante process at work. Howard Roark took the law into his own hands, was subject to judicial review, and then was released. Not to mention Ragnar Danneskjold, the philosopher-pirate. By your standards, he has no right to "use force", yet he was one of the book's heroes.

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People have freedom of opinion, they do not have freedom of thought.

Before one can have opinions, one must have thought about them. Without freedom of thought, there is no freedom of opinion.

An opinion is a value judgement, divorced from action.

Aren't opinions the expression of value-judgments, and therefore necessarily are actions?

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.

Not all actions include thought, and not all choices are thoughts.

And what about the crime of trespassing? It's the physical action of trespassing that is convicted, not his thoughts regarding the issue. If the trespasser can provide evidence that he was not intentionally trespassing (e.g. demonstrate somehow that he was sleepwalking), then that can be taken into account, but the charge and conviction would be in regards to his action.

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the punishment is never something that can be enacted by an individual

Only because you do not grant the difference between law qua definition of crimes and penalties versus law qua definition of government procedures. I called attention to this quite a few posts ago, and speculated that your extensive legal knowledge could be causing you to ignore the distinction. So long as this issue remains unaddressed, we are discussing at cross purposes.

It is obvious that an individual cannot perform the procedures the law mandates for the police and the courts. I get that. I never said otherwise.

Because this is the only proper function of government. If you aren't going to let it do that, you might as well not have one.

This is a non sequitur. By this logic there is no reason to have restaurants unless you "delegate your right to cook", no reason to have barber shops unless you "delegate your right to shave". I know it is a ridiculous reductio, but I hope you get the point. The fact that it is the only proper function of government is not an argument for it being an improper function for the individual - in fact it cannot be so, since the legitimacy of government retaliation is derived from the legitimacy of individual retaliation.

Since force is the only thing that can prevent one from acting on his own judgement -- from living his life, it is the one thing that must be outlawed. There is no right to use force, only the right to be free from force.

The use of retaliatory force is a moral imperative. Do you agree or disagree? If you agree, how can you say it is not necessary? Granted, its necessity is conditional (to having been the victim of a crime), but since criminals exist (this is metaphysically given), I think the condition may safely be assumed.

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It is obvious that an individual cannot perform the procedures the law mandates for the police and the courts. I get that. I never said otherwise.
OTOH this is the first time that you've admited that -- that is, we're discussing a nullity. Which is to say, it is never actually possible for a person to use a vigilante defense against a charge. If you're acknowledging that, then this is the first time I've seen you admit that this is a "right" which in principle cannot be implemented. And thus the discussion is simply over whether there is an abstract "right to vigilantism, as long as it's never invoked".

Still, I harbor a suspicion that you have in mind that you intend to remove all procedural protections of rights. This would allow coersion as a method of extracting confessions, remove chain of custody and other rights-protecting rules regarding evidence, and nullify the need for search warrants. As long as the police (officers) are sufficiently confident they can get away with it, they needn't get a warrant to break in to a house, and any kind of coersive methods of extractinc confessions would be okay, as long as there was a conviction. So the police would have to judge whether they were confident that they would get a conviction, before using some particular level of force.

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Procedural protections of rights exist to protect you from the government, since it is accountable only to itself (i.e. to the procedural law). Individuals who exercise retaliation should be held up to the standards these procedures defend, not to the procedures themselves.

Some procedures exist to guarantee the government acts against the right person, including standards of evidence and the process used to obtain it. If, after the fact, an individual is found to have acted against the right person, even if he did not follow the procedures mandated to government, the fact that he did act against the right person is what matters.

Some procedures exist to guarantee the government does not cause "collateral damage" to innocents. If, after the fact, an individual is found to not have caused "collateral damage" to innocents, even if he did not follow the procedures mandated to government, the fact that he violated no one's rights is what matters.

You don't need to suspect anything. I have stated explicitly, more than once, that "procedure law" is a limitation on government and not on the individual. The individual is held accountable by the government, the government only to itself. Thus the conceptual disconnect I mentioned in the post above remains.

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This would allow coersion as a method of extracting confessions, remove chain of custody and other rights-protecting rules regarding evidence, and nullify the need for search warrants. As long as the police (officers) are sufficiently confident they can get away with it, they needn't get a warrant to break in to a house, and any kind of coersive methods of extractinc confessions would be okay, as long as there was a conviction. So the police would have to judge whether they were confident that they would get a conviction, before using some particular level of force.

I think it is worth noting that all of the "problems" you cite do not follow from what I am advocating. One by one:

1. Torture for extraction of confessions

The private individual may torture the criminal who attacked him. Whatever information he extracts is obviously inadmissible in court. When the government tries the original attacker, he will have to be convicted on independent evidence. If that evidence does not exist, the man is found innocent and the vigilante is convicted of assault. If independent evidence is found and the original attacker is found guilty, the vigilante's action may still be judged criminal if the level of force permitted by the law in retribution for the original attacker's offense is less than that which he used.

No problem here.

2. Chain of custody

The principle still applies. To the government. Obviously any evidence the vigilante has access to will be considered suspect from the start. If the vigilante invalidates the evidence that would demonstrate the legitimacy of his act - that is his problem.

No problem here either.

3. Search warrants

Still applies. To government. An individual who does a search on his own will be either found guilty of trespass and possibly theft or found to have broken and entered into the guilty party's property and thus acted legitimately. Once again, he runs the risk of corrupting the very evidence that would legitimate him.

No problem here either.

Note that you equivocate freely between allowing individuals to act and then answer to the government for their acts with releasing government agents (police in particular) from their procedural requirements. Yes, a policeman may act in his individual capacity and flout procedure - but he gets to stand trial for his actions. And his contract as a policeman may state that any such act is grounds for dismissal - I see no problem with that either. Since he chooses to become a policeman, it is fair to require him to give up his right to retaliate except in emergency situations.

Edited by mrocktor
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