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Questions re: Proper role of government

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Tejia
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Of late, I have been reading a lot of anarchistic literature, and am finding the philosophies to be... well, logical. This is somewhat of an alarm, as I've spent the past few years embracing Objectivist philophies... which clearly portray anarchism as an immoral philosophy.

With that in mind, I thought I'd lay out my questions here, and see if they have already been pondered - and subsequently answered - by others.

It is my understanding that Objectivism opposes the initiation of force. It is also my understanding that Objectivism involves a governmental body which is limited to the courts (laws), the police (internal defense) and the military (external defense).

My questions revolve around these two points.

Firstly, if a government is required to provide these services, through the nature of it being a government, is taxation compulsory or voluntary?

If compulsory, how is this not an initiation of force? I'm not meaning to be smarmy; if it is the case that Objectivism supports compulsory taxation, I really am unclear as to how this would not be an initiation of force. It is an honest question.

Conversely, if it is voluntary, how would an Objectivist nation contend with competing agencies (in those three areas)?

For example, if taxation is voluntary, and I excercise the option not to pay the tax, I would assume that the service would no longer be rendered - for example, if I'm not paying the national police, I would not then expect that they would show up to my 911 call. What if I wish to pay a different organization to answer my 911 call? Am I allowed to pay someone else to do the same service, or are my options limited to a: paying for the national service or b: foregoing police protection?

Please note that I'm not asking whether or not I would be allowed to pay an organization to enforce different laws than the national police, only whether or not I would be allowed to pay an organization to enforce the same laws as the national police, but in what I believed to be a more efficient manner.

If I am not, why not?

If I am, then what is to prevent the police force from being subjected to the same laws as the free market? If the government police force is optional, and I can get the same - or better - service elsewhere, is it still a necessary component of government?

I have the same question in regards to the courts and the miltary.

For the courts, I am not asking whether or not people would be entitled to support any laws they wish - I am asking whether or not they would be allowed to pay for a different organization than the national court system, which enforced the same laws but in a more efficient manner. Likewise, with the military, I am not asking whether or not people would be entitled to hire private armies and then attack other nations, or each other - I am asking whether or not people would be allowed to pay for a different organization than the national military to protect them from outside threat.

If this type of competition is not allowed, why is it not allowed, and how is preventing it not an initiation of force?

If this type of competition is allowed, why is a government necessary to provide these services? That is, if there exists the possibility that the large majority of people would decide to fund non-government organizations that provided the same services, then what would be the purpose and necessity of government?

Thank you in advance to those who take the time to answer any of these questions.

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Objectivists hold that government financing should be voluntary. However, voluntary taxation is the last step in creating a free nation. I believe it was Ayn Rand who came up without the idea of having a voluntary enforcement fee be the option of every transaction, so that if paid, the government would enforce the contract and if not, they simply would not. She also mentioned a lottery to help pay for government functions.

I see no problem with private protection agencies that only react in self defense to their clients' individual rights. Hiring such an agency to respond to a direct threat on your life is acceptable.

If I am not mistaken, I believe that we already have a loose system of private courts. When two people have a dispute, they may go to a mediator, who gives his legal opinion on the case which is not legally binding, or an arbitrator, whose decision is actually legally binding. You would have to ask a lawyer how this works exactly. I remember hearing something about it in a business course. I believe that this is also in line with Objectivist principles.

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The lottery system is interesting. Using Maryland 2009 Lottery profits divided by the number of Maryland residents, I come up with $86.53 per person earned by the Maryland Lottery system per year.

Extrapolating that to the national population , I come up with $26,566,915,833 - so $26.5 billion dollars from lottery revenue being plausible.

The US military outlay was over $1,400 billion dollars. We would need a voluntary tax of $4,600 per person per year, give or take, to fund the military. Clearly the lottery is one possible revenue stream, but not a likely one to meet our total needs.

Also, since an Objectivist nation would stress total rationality, one would expect most of the nation to recognize that the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math---so I wouldn't expect an Objectivist funded lottery to do nearly so well. I mean, I only play about $5 every 3 months or so, for the fun of the speculation...so I'm already 75% short of expected earnings. :)

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Rand stated clearly that a lottery and the contract enforcement charge was simply one possible idea to deflect criticism of it not being workable, it was not the definitive solution. a combination could be used or it could work entirely on voluntary donation people have an interest in maintaining a police force, obviously there is the free-rider problem, but since it is in the interests of the rich they will donate more. however, no solution can be reached until society is at a much more advanced stage.

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Of late, I have been reading a lot of anarchistic literature, and am finding the philosophies to be... well, logical.

Don't be surprised. Large swaths of anarchistic literature make sense (basically anything not related to the use of force - such as economic matters). The trouble is that anarchistic (and thus many Libertarian) ideas are grounded on... nothing.

I once used the following metaphor in a discussion with an anarchist:

Let us say two people are discussing baseball. One of them understands the principle of gravitation, while the other simply assumes “the falling principle”.

While the discussion is restricted to Earth, they agree completely – their concepts produce the same results. But one day they start talking about how it would be to play baseball on the Moon.

At this point the guy who simply uses “the falling principle” is out of his depth, but he doesn’t know it. The claims of the other guy will seem absurd (mile long home run hits???).

The fact that his “principle” is not grounded in solid understanding, but a floating abstraction, renders him incapable of following the guy who actually understands gravitation. And makes that guys claims seem quite absurd.

In this case the Objectivist, who’s concept of rights is firmly grounded in a coherent ethics derived from basic facts and actual philosophical axioms is like the person who understands gravitation. The guy who blindly applies “the falling principle” because he doesn’t know better is the libertarian.

And when the Objectivist tries to explain to the libertarian that in certain contexts his understanding is incorrect, the libertarian answers “ah so you are in favor of aggression!”. Or, in our metaphor, “ah, so you are saying things don’t fall!”.

So while Objectivism is grounded on reason and the facts of reality, anarchism (and most "Libertarianism") is based on a "non-aggression principle" which is just assumed. As it happens, non-aggression is actually a proper principle - but since they don't know what aggression is in the first place, they carry the "principle" to very wrong places.

It is my understanding that Objectivism opposes the initiation of force. It is also my understanding that Objectivism involves a governmental body which is limited to the courts (laws), the police (internal defense) and the military (external defense).

Correct.

Firstly, if a government is required to provide these services, through the nature of it being a government, is taxation compulsory or voluntary?

Government funding should be voluntary. Thus, not taxation.

For example, if taxation is voluntary, and I excercise the option not to pay the tax, I would assume that the service would no longer be rendered - for example, if I'm not paying the national police, I would not then expect that they would show up to my 911 call. What if I wish to pay a different organization to answer my 911 call? Am I allowed to pay someone else to do the same service, or are my options limited to a: paying for the national service or b: foregoing police protection?

Your assumption is incorrect. A proper government will protect your individual rights whether you choose to fund it or not. This is for two reasons. First and foremost, if you must pay to have your rights secured (i.e. to be free from the threat of force) this is actually a form of extortion. Threat of force being used against you (in this case by third parties) being used to take your money. A proper government is not a protection racket.

Second, in protecting your rights the government is in fact securing the rights of the people who do actually fund it. Letting criminals get away with and benefit from crime is a threat to all peaceful citizens - not only to the immediate victim. So even though you (in this example) are not rational enough to realize funding this government is a good deal for you, it will still protect your rights - in the interest of the more rational people around you.

(I'm asking) whether or not I would be allowed to pay an organization to enforce the same laws as the national police, but in what I believed to be a more efficient manner.

This is entirely a different issue since, as mentioned above, you will receive full protection of your rights regardless of your choice to fund the government or not.

The standard position you will see with regard to this issue is that any organization wielding retaliatory force (note: not force for immediate self defence, actual retaliation) within the country other than the government is by definition a threat and therefore that it is legitimate to the government to preemptively use force against this organization to remove this threat.

The following is my personal application of Objectivist principles to the issue and not the Objectivist position on the matter

Personally I'm not satisfied with this line of reasoning. A threat consists of means and intent to violate rights.

The trouble with the standard doctrine above, in my view, comes from two related issues. The first is assuming that retaliatory force wielded by and individual or private organization is by definition arbitrary and therefore a threat. This contradicts the basic fact that using force in retaliation against violation of one's rights is itself an individual right. In society this right is delegated by individuals to the government. But "delegated" implies that it is voluntarily ceded. Thus just as not financing the government is permissible (though not rational) in a free society, retaining your individual right to retaliate should be as well.

Would a society where the individual has the option to retain his right to use retaliatory force not in fact be anarchic? No. The individual's actions are not themselves immune from the law. So if in retaliating against a criminal an individual or organization violates any rights not forfeit in commiting the crime, that individual or organization has itself commited a crime and is subject to government retaliation.

This means that the law would have to be clear with respect to which rights are forfeit when each type of crime is commited, what measure of force is proper in each circumstance. These already exist implicitly in police operating parameters (i.e. you don't shoot a shoplifter, you do shoot a hostage taker if it allows you to save the hostages etc.). Which brings us to the second related issue with the standard position: applying limitations on government to individuals.

The government, being the ultimate arbiter is answerable to nothing outside of itself. The law, therefore, provides procedural limitations to its action in order to protect individuals from having their individual rights violated by the government. This, for instance, is why law enforcement cannot enter your home without a warrant. This sort of limitation on government is frequently extended to individuals - and this is a fallacy, in my view. This particular argument against individual or private retaliation goes "but if you enter the thief's home to retrieve your stolen wallet you have done so without a warrant and therefore are trespassing". The same logic can be applied to various other scenarios.

The thief, in taking your property against your will and carrying it into his property has forfeit his right to keep you out. This is evident, since the police can and will enter his property (after appropriate procedural actions) to retrieve it. If he had not forfeit that right, the police could not enter his property either. Rights pertain to individuals. Committing crimes forfeits them, it is therefore not a crime to use force against the criminal to the extent that he has forfeit his rights. It is not a warrant that voids the criminal's right to property - it is his crime. The warrant is a limitation on government.

What if you break into the wrong person's house? What if you break into the actual thief's house but cannot prove that he actually stole from you? In both cases you will be found guilty of trespass by the government. You, after all, are not the ultimate arbiter. You are not subject to the procedural limitations of government but you are subject to the law.

My view, therefore, is that every use of force must be treated like a potential crime by the government - the ultimate arbiter in the land. But just as there is a "legitimate self defense" justification for some uses of force (such as shooting a burglar in your home), there has to be a "legitimate retaliation" justification for other uses of force (such as tasering the burglar as he runs away down the street).

One essential thing to note: even in my scenario anyone who chooses to use retaliatory force will be treated as a potential criminal - until it is proven that his use of force was legitimate. It is easy to imagine a scenario where there is evidence that you used force against someone (let's say you held him at gunpoint until the police arrived) but no evidence that he commited a crime against you first (lets say he pickpocketed you but successfully ditched the goods before you caught up with him and drew your gun).

In these cases even if the use of force actually was legitimate it may be impossible to prove - meaning you end up in jail even though you actually retaliated against the right person. So not delegating your right to retaliate to the government is (in almost every circumstance) a poor choice - just as not funding a proper government is a poor choice.

(...) I have the same question in regards to the courts and the miltary.

These cases are probably less contentious. With regard to the courts, any mutually agreed uppon arrangement between individuals is valid. If they opt for private arbitration of a dispute, that is fine. But note: if one of the parties subsequently refuses to abide by the arbiter's decision it falls to a government court to find him in violation of the agreement and to the government to physically make him comply with whichever terms he originally agreed to. In this case there may be a extremely developed private structure but it rests on the ultimate arbiter which is the government.

As for the military, any actions outside the country are by definition outside government jurisdiction. If you have a private army and go take out Hugo Chavez or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad there is no reason why the government should care about that. Of course if you use your private army against peaceful countries or if you try to move it into the country proper there are pretty clear grounds to consider it a threat - and eliminate the threat.

Edited by mrocktor
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Conversely, if it is voluntary, how would an Objectivist nation contend with competing agencies (in those three areas)?

It wouldn't. Objectivism calls for a voluntarily funded government that is tasked with providing people with the only thing the free market cannot, objective justice.

It is possible that some people would prefer to hire private companies to provide self defense or defense of property, but competing private agencies could not, by the definition of the term, provide objective justice.

The greatest achievement of Greek and Roman culture was civilization, the notion that a society in which men obey a set of objective laws which apply equally to everyone, and are enforced by an impartial government which does nothing except apply those pre-established laws, is superior to one in which every argument is decided by whichever side has the biggest gun. That was the logical conclusion to reach, and there is nothing logical about turning back on over two thousand years of civilization, and reverting to tribalism.

The logical thing to do is make sure the government is impartial and just, by implementing individual rights as the standard by which laws are written, and putting checks and balances in place to ensure neither lawmakers nor the executive and justice system deviate from that standard.

My view, therefore, is that every use of force must be treated like a potential crime by the government - the ultimate arbiter in the land. But just as there is a "legitimate self defense" justification for some uses of force (such as shooting a burglar in your home), there has to be a "legitimate retaliation" justification for other uses of force (such as tasering the burglar as he runs away down the street).

Actually, the standard by which a person is judged to have acted in self defense, after committing an act of deadly force, is "reasonable fear of physical injury or death". Not "a burglar in your home".

I don't think "fear of injury or death" can be translated into the realm of retaliatory force, the way being legally permitted to just shoot any burglar, on principle, if they're in your house, would.

Edited by Jake_Ellison
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Firstly, if a government is required to provide these services, through the nature of it being a government, is taxation compulsory or voluntary?

If compulsory, how is this not an initiation of force?...

Conversely, if it is voluntary, how would an Objectivist nation contend with competing agencies (in those three areas)?

Contributions by a citizen are voluntary. But they are contributions to a unique thing, the government's agency for law enforcement, where there can be no competition.
For example, if taxation is voluntary, and I excercise the option not to pay the tax, I would assume that the service would no longer be rendered - for example, if I'm not paying the national police, I would not then expect that they would show up to my 911 call.
In fact your right to your rights is not contingent on you paying, so you may legally call on the police even if you did not contribute to funding the police. It would be irrational to not make contributions, but it would be legal to not contribute, and that does not change the obligation of the government, which is to protect your rights. Thus the so-called "free rider problem" is a "problem" only in the way that the "crazy person problem" (the fact that there are crazy people) is a "problem" for any other theory of government. It's possible that someone will try to get a free ride, and so what? A free society is possible only in a rational society, so if everybody is fundamentally irrational, no form of government or anarchic self-government can work.

Though as others noted, you may call on anyone in an emergency for self-defense. The distinction is that a self-defensive agency cannot retrieve your property: that must be done under the law.

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The US military outlay was over $1,400 billion dollars. We would need a voluntary tax of $4,600 per person per year, give or take, to fund the military. Clearly the lottery is one possible revenue stream, but not a likely one to meet our total needs.

The US spends 45% of every dollar spent for military purposes worldwide. That's more than the next 10 countries combined. China, by comparison spend 3%. I am pretty certain that we could maintain our security without supporting the more than 800 military bases on foreign soil around the world that we do. Our current level of military is only necessary for empire building and "protecting our interests" and is far more than would be necessary to only maintain national security.

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The trouble with the standard doctrine above, in my view, comes from two related issues. The first is assuming that retaliatory force wielded by and individual or private organization is by definition arbitrary and therefore a threat. This contradicts the basic fact that using force in retaliation against violation of one's rights is itself an individual right. In society this right is delegated by individuals to the government. But "delegated" implies that it is voluntarily ceded. Thus just as not financing the government is permissible (though not rational) in a free society, retaining your individual right to retaliate should be as well.

No general disagreement except with your definitions here...

I do not agree with your interpretation - specifically with regard to the assumption of the arbitrary nature of retaliatory force. I think the correct interpretation is that the standard doctrine recognizes that retaliatory force *may* be arbitrary, not that it is *always* arbitrary.

Clearly, if someone begins pummeling you, you have an immediate, obvious case where you should defend yourself.

Secondly - your definition of "delegate" is incorrect. When one delegates authority, one does not surrender it, nor is the surrendering implied. When you delegate your right to retaliate to the Government, likewise, you do NOT surrender your right - you instead recognize, as you go on to explain, that there are situations where you cannot fairly judge what retaliation is proper.

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I would definitely throw out the term "tax" when speaking about the voluntary funding of government services. Tax, whether strictly or not by definition, does in practice involve the intiation of force. I advocate that you eschew the use of that term completely when discussing methods, proposals & ideas for voluntary funding.

I think that at its highest, voluntary methods of funding achieve at least two aims simultaneously: raising funds to pay for government services and providing a tangible benefit to the individual. For instance, contract insurance puts money into the government coffers and buys court time at cut-rate pricing in case of default on the contract.

In my view, not buying contract insurance should not leave you without recourse in the courts. Rather, you would be faced with paying the "going rate" or the "posted fees," which might be fairly steep. So, if someone foregoes purchasing insurance, all they have done is saved a handful of pennies or dollars (depending on the value of the insurance contract); if the contract concludes satisfactorily, they have saved that insurance.

But if they run into difficulties enforcing the contract, then being able to bring a lawsuit would require having the funds to do so.

This is how contract insurance would gradually come to be seen to be in one's own best interest. All it takes is seeing a friend experience contract default without contract insurance, and people would be sure to purchase their own coverage.

In additiona, I see that by and large, it will be companies buying it automatically with every employment contract, joint-venture project, financing arrangement etc etc into which they enter. In that way, companies would properly end up laying out a lot of the funding for the courts/government/police, which would in the long run be paid by their customers as part of the cost of the products, goods & services. When compared with the bloated costs these days thanks to the tax system, it will not even be noticeable as an inflator of costs. On balance, the net costs WILL be decreased a great deal.

That of course covers the civil side of things, not so much the criminal. Working out how to handle the criminal side of things is something I've only just begun to turn my mind to. For one thing, should the government be the initiator of actions? As in, should the Crown, Her Majesty, or The State of New Idaho be the named plaintiff? If so, where does funding come for that? Again, it must be raised voluntarily. There is zero justification for the initiation of force, so there is no room to compel, coerce or otherwise force anyone or everyone to kick in $2 each (or what have you).

As for the military, should costs be covered somewhat, mostly or not at all out of the proceeds of contract insurance? That may be an issue that can be addressed when one buys the insurance. A term could be included allowing that 5% of the premium may be spent on military needs. Alternatively, people could choose from an array of lottery tickets, some of which are purpose-built. This is similar to the way things are now, where there are lottery games part of the proceeds of which are to benefit a hospital, or disease research or a school gymnasium project etc. Being able to buy the ticket of your choice is how you "vote" for where the funds are going. Even in such broad strokes as that, it will be possible to show support for a particular military operation (or alternatively keep funds away from those with which YOU disagree.)

Should it matter that 90% of the population does support that military operation? No, not really. If you disagree with it, then having the ability to direct your funds to other uses is about the best that can be arranged in a free society.

These are just a few of the ideas I've been thinking about. I've thought most about the contract insurance angle, since for a new country, that would be the fastest way to begin to raise cash to pay for immediate needs of a court, judge and police. Being able to defend ourselves militarily against invaders is something that will have to come as soon as productivity generally is underway and there are funds for same.

Taking a rational approach and banning the initiation of force would tell our future neighbours that we do not intend to invade their land. We will simply ask them to kindly refrain from invading ours and ensure that if they try it, they'll be filmed and immediately broadcast on the internet doing so.

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Have you read "Government Financing in a Free Society" by Ayn Rand? It is an included essay in The Virtue of Selfishness.

It address the issue (at the end) of how those at higher economic levels would have more to protect and therefore, logically, shoulder a larger burden of the costs because it is in their self interest to live in a safe society (to protect what is theirs).

Those that benefit from this are doing so indirectly and imposing no sacrifice on anyone. She uses an example:

"... if a railroad were running a train and allowed the poor to ride without payment in the seats left empty, it would not be the same thing (nor the same principle) as providing the poor with first-class carriages and special trains.

Any type of nonsacrificial assistance, of social bonus, gratuitous benefit or gift value possible among men, is possible only in a free society, and is proper so long as it is nonsacrificial. But, in a free society, under a system of voluntary government financing, there would be no legal loophole, no legal possibility, for any “redistribution of wealth”—for the unearned support of some men by the forced labor and extorted income of others—for the draining, exploitation and destruction of those who are able to pay the costs of maintaining a civilized society, in favor of those who are unable or unwilling to pay the cost of maintaining their own existence."

- Government Financing in a Free Society by Ayn Rand

As for how realistic you think it is, just think of it by the numbers... Calculate what a company like Exxon pays to the government now (and how overblown the government is). If a scenario were available where they could contribute, voluntarily, less than that sum, wouldn't that be the option they choose?

If I got to take over Arizona and could tell any and all comers... "Come here, pay no taxes... live in a free society - All you have to do is contribute what you want to the protection of this free state." People would come, contribute... OR, they wouldn't... the state would fail, and they'd go back to being FORCED to pay more while getting less.

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Thank you for all of the feedback!

@Mr. Wynand:

We are mostly in agreement. There is one statement of yours that I feel I must respectfully disagree with, however, and that is that "voluntary taxation is the last step in creating a free nation." My understanding of the coercive nature of taxation, and the historic pattern of governments that use it, leads me to conclude that the elimination of compulsory taxation (or simply 'taxation', as a voluntary tax is not truly a tax, but a payment / donation) would be the first step in creating a free nation. If you (or anyone else) would like to debate this with me, I would be more than happy to do so, and fully admit I may be wrong - I would ask that a new thread be opened for that discussion, however.

@mrocktor:

Thank you for the detailed feedback - you clarified a few issues for me. I agree that voluntary taxation is not actually taxation. It am confused as to why an Objectivist government would incorporate voluntary payment for services while simultaneously covering people regardless of whether or not they paid for these services.

You stated that, "if you must pay to have your rights secured (i.e. to be free from the threat of force) this is actually a form of extortion." I would counter that this would depend on the source of the force that you were paying to be protected from. If the individual or organization which you are paying for protection is the source of the force that is threatening you - or is in some way associated with the force that is threatening you - then I would agree that this would be a protection racket, and would be entirely immoral. However, if the source of this force is not associated with the proposed protector(s), how is this a protection racket?

"Second, in protecting your rights the government is in fact securing the rights of the people who do actually fund it. Letting criminals get away with and benefit from crime is a threat to all peaceful citizens - not only to the immediate victim. So even though you (in this example) are not rational enough to realize funding this government is a good deal for you, it will still protect your rights - in the interest of the more rational people around you."

This makes a great deal of sense to me - especially the part regarding protecting those who are funding the government by opposing all criminals. However, I disagree with your assumption that, if someone chose not to fund this government, the only explanation for this behavior would be that this person is not rational. If I do not have to fund the government, and do not wish the services offered by the government, then not funding the government is not irrational. For example - if every dealing Joe has had with people has been reasonable and rational, and any dispute has been easily settled by bringing the matter to mutual friends; if Joe does not know of any criminal element in his neighborhood, and the one time he encountered a mugger, he drew his gun and prevented the mugging; and if Joe feels no threat from outside nations, because his analysis of the political situation has led him to conclude that other nations find trading with his nation far more profitable than an invasion, and that other nations are intimidated at the thought of invading a nation wherein anyone might own any weapon. Would it be rational for Joe to pay for government services?

Put another way: if I own a building downtown, and notice that there is increasing gang activity, I might hire a private security agency to ensure that no damage occurred to my property. As I value my property, and see a high likelihood of it being damaged if I do not take steps to prevent it, this would (to me) be considered rational. However, if, three years later, I re-evaluated the situation, and realized that there was no longer any gang activity occurring, then I would likely stop buying the services of the security company. As I no longer see any need for protection, this would also (to me) be considered rational.

I think my real confusion in all this relates to the Objectivist position on retaliatory force. You stated near the beginning of your post that "while Objectivism is grounded on reason and the facts of reality, anarchism (and most "Libertarianism") is based on a "non-aggression principle" which is just assumed."

Objectivism is a well-defined philosophy; it is a line of thought beginning with metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics, all of which lead to definitive answers in regards to politics. The category of Objectivists includes only those individuals who are in agreement with the Objectivist line of thought. Anarchism and libertarianism are not well-defined philosophies in this sense; they are very loose categorizations. The category of anarchists includes only those individuals who are in agreement with the anarchist line of thought, and the same goes for libertarians; however, this line of thought consists of "I believe there should be no government" for anarchists and "I believe in freedom" for libertarians. What I mean by this is that, if someone proclaims themself an Objectivist - and they are honest - then you already know a great deal about this person. You know that their positions in regards to metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, aesthetics, and politics, are all going to be in tune with the Objectivist position, and you can learn what Objectivists believe by studying Objectivism.

However, if someone proclaims himself an anarchist or libertarian, you have only learned that they believe in no government or that they believe in freedom, respectively. You do not know what their metaphysical, epistemological, or ethical beliefs are; you do not know whether or not they have thought about deeper issues, whether or not they have a unifying philosophy, whether they have sound reasons based in reality or whether they just feel that the philosophy seems right. To say that anarchists 'just assume' is, in my view, highly erroneous.

Previously, I would have described myself as an Objectivist. I would also, based on my understanding of libertarianism, have classified myself as a libertarian. Currently, I would classify myself as an anarchist. The arguments against government that I have read currently make more sense to me than the Objectivist arguments in favor of government. While I still agree with 99% of the Objectivist conclusions and reasonings, my current state of finding a 'no government' argument to be more logical means I cannot claim to be an Objectivist. However, it is not enough for me to label myself and then be done with it. If that was my nature, I would still be Catholic. Thankfully, it is not. I have held many positions in my life that later turned out to be erroneous. Being aware of my potential for arriving at incorrect conclusions, I now prefer to step back and analyze new conclusions before embracing them. The anarchist idea that there should not be a government seems something that I would especially want to analyze, as the vast majority of people believe 'no government' to be an incorrect conclusion. Therefore, either the vast majority of people are wrong, or I am wrong. If I am wrong, I do not want to be wrong.

In short, I am not asking these questions in an attempt to prove anarchy and disprove Objectivism, or vice versa. I am asking these questions because I wish to know whether the anarchist idea of no government or the Objectivist idea of limited government is more rational. In order to assess this, it is important that I not make assumptions regarding what Objectivist limited government would look like, or how it would work - my first assumption, that an Objectivist government would not protect those who did not fund it, was incorrect.

If the Objectivist position on retaliatory force is that it is acceptable, but only for a government, why is it only acceptable for a government? I understand that you differ from this official position; however, you stated that the government's right to use retaliatory force is a result of this right being "delegated by individuals to the government." What happens if different people delegate this right to different organizations? You also stated that ""delegated" implies that it is voluntarily ceded." I am unclear on this. How can one cede a right? I have a right to property; I can cede my property, but I can never cede my right to own property. I have a right to life; I can cede my life, but I can never cede my right to life. I can forfeit it, but that is different than ceding. If I have a right to use force "in retaliation against violation of one's rights", then I can cede my retaliation, but I cannot cede my right to retaliate justly. I may delegate someone to retaliate in my stead, just as I may delegate someone to argue my case in court; but if retaliation is a right, then at any point I may choose to excercise my right to retaliate, if I find that the individual(s) I delegated the retaliation to are less effective than I would be.

Finally, you claimed that the ultimate arbiter of justice is the government. How does a government justify claiming this right? My personal view is that the ultimate arbiter of justice is reality. Do you disagree with this? Would you be willing to explain why?

I apologize if you feel that I have attacked you. It is not my intent to attack, but to identify the truth of the matter. You raised many questions in my mind, and clarified the Objectivist position in many areas, and I for that I thank you.

@Jake_Ellison:

"... competing private agencies could not, by the definition of the term, provide objective justice." Why not? What aspect of the definition of objective justice disallows competing private agencies? If Joe wishes to enforce objective justice, and Susan wishes to enforce objective justice, why may they not compete with each other?

This argument appears to be similar to the argument that morality requires religion. If morality is subjective, then this is true. If morality is objective, however, then morality no longer requires religion. Morality requires observe of objective reality. I fail to see how objective justice differs. If justice is objective, then it does not require a codified set of laws. It simply is. If slavery is unjust, the absence of a law stating that slavery is unjust does not make slavery any less unjust. In the case of slavery, slavery is unjust because the slaves' rights are being violated. As the slaves' rights are being violated, objective justice would seem to say that anyone may step in and correct the situation, not just individuals comprising the government.

I admit that I may be in error; if you see a mistake, please let me know.

@DavidOdden:

"A free society is possible only in a rational society..." I agree. What I am unclear on is why a government would be necessary in a rational society. I understand that rational people still have disagreements; however, if we are presupposing that those who are disagreeing are rational, then why would these people not see the benefit in a peaceful solution? The claim appears to be that rational people will resort to irrational applications of force without the presence of a governing body. If these people are willing to resort to irrational applications of force, how can they be said to fit the definition of rational?

~~

Thank you again for taking the time to engage in this conversation; I look forward to your replies.

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What I am unclear on is why a government would be necessary in a rational society.
Note that "rational society" does not mean "a society where absolutely each and every member is always rational", it means one where the members are predominantly rational. There will be irrational people, and their existence does not a rights-respecting rational society impossible. Rational people are not the problem, the problem is the 1% or 5% or 20% or whatever who are irrational, who must be dealt with via the use of retaliatory force (regulated / administered exclusively by the government).
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@DavidOdden:

"A free society is possible only in a rational society..." I agree. What I am unclear on is why a government would be necessary in a rational society. I understand that rational people still have disagreements; however, if we are presupposing that those who are disagreeing are rational, then why would these people not see the benefit in a peaceful solution? The claim appears to be that rational people will resort to irrational applications of force without the presence of a governing body. If these people are willing to resort to irrational applications of force, how can they be said to fit the definition of rational?

A government has something that private companies do not, a set of objective laws (the constitution) that was written by the people and ensures that the government does not exceed its boundaries. Now, some people say "expansion of the government is inevitable this is nonsense" I would say 1. Our current constitution failed due to a variety of reasons, there was a much different situation going on back then when they drew it up, and there are numerous loopholes and other issues which led to its degradation, history is your friend. A proper constitution can be written given the proper ideas are placed and made completely *clear* to eliminate loose or out of context interpretations by the statists. Things such as force by the government that is not justified by X or X is not allowed etc. there is a sample constitution in the wiki with some changes and additions made. Also, obviously, if they resort to irrational uses of force to get what they want out of a situation then you must have improperly evaluated them as "rational". The justice system will take care of that problem.

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"... competing private agencies could not, by the definition of the term, provide objective justice." Why not? What aspect of the definition of objective justice disallows competing private agencies? If Joe wishes to enforce objective justice, and Susan wishes to enforce objective justice, why may they not compete with each other?

Your argument rests on using the words provide and enforce interchangeably. I guess there are, even today, bounty hunters and bail bondsmen enforcing justice. But the justice is provided by an impartial Court of Law, which is appointed to apply the law. A private agency, working for one of the parties, would not be impartial.

This argument appears to be similar to the argument that morality requires religion. If morality is subjective, then this is true. If morality is objective, however, then morality no longer requires religion. Morality requires observe of objective reality. I fail to see how objective justice differs. If justice is objective, then it does not require a codified set of laws. It simply is. If slavery is unjust, the absence of a law stating that slavery is unjust does not make slavery any less unjust. In the case of slavery, slavery is unjust because the slaves' rights are being violated. As the slaves' rights are being violated, objective justice would seem to say that anyone may step in and correct the situation, not just individuals comprising the government.

I admit that I may be in error; if you see a mistake, please let me know.

The mistake is using objective as if it means intrinsic or self evident. Justice "is objective" means that it applies without bias, not that it is present in nature, or that it is self evident without rational men formulating its laws and applying them in a manner that is impartial and consistent. An impartial, rational third party as judge in a conflict is essential, if objective justice is to be had, as are laws and precedents known to everyone ahead of time (since the average person cannot be expected to guess how the basic principles of justice would apply to every possible action he may ever take, when even the most accomplished legal scholars can have a hard time doing that, and will often reach conflicting conclusions while each acting in good faith).

This last part (rule of law) is the cornerstone of civilization, because it is an essential check on the power of the judges who would otherwise not be limited in their decision making (and automatically cause people to reject their decisions, and seek to resolve their grievance through the arbitrary use of force: subjective justice). The rule of law makes waking up in the morning, and knowing exactly what is and isn't allowed, possible. Without that, life would be extremely unpleasant for everyone, even those at the top of the power pyramid.

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The US spends 45% of every dollar spent for military purposes worldwide. That's more than the next 10 countries combined. China, by comparison spend 3%. I am pretty certain that we could maintain our security without supporting the more than 800 military bases on foreign soil around the world that we do. Our current level of military is only necessary for empire building and "protecting our interests" and is far more than would be necessary to only maintain national security.

I can't guarantee this, but I think SoftwareNerd has a handy dandy graph some place, contradicting that 45% claim. (because the people who made it popular doctored the statistics) But I of course agree with the general point, even if that one number is lower than 45%.

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Note that "rational society" does not mean "a society where absolutely each and every member is always rational", it means one where the members are predominantly rational. There will be irrational people, and their existence does not a rights-respecting rational society impossible. Rational people are not the problem, the problem is the 1% or 5% or 20% or whatever who are irrational, who must be dealt with via the use of retaliatory force (regulated / administered exclusively by the government).

May I regulate or administer the use of retaliatory force? It appears that you are saying that I may not. If this is correct - why not? More importantly, if I cannot, why is it that individuals within a government can? Why is it that those in government have different rights than those not in government (that is, the right to regulate or administer retaliatory force)?

A government has something that private companies do not, a set of objective laws (the constitution) that was written by the people and ensures that the government does not exceed its boundaries. Now, some people say "expansion of the government is inevitable this is nonsense" I would say 1. Our current constitution failed due to a variety of reasons, there was a much different situation going on back then when they drew it up, and there are numerous loopholes and other issues which led to its degradation, history is your friend. A proper constitution can be written given the proper ideas are placed and made completely *clear* to eliminate loose or out of context interpretations by the statists. Things such as force by the government that is not justified by X or X is not allowed etc. there is a sample constitution in the wiki with some changes and additions made. Also, obviously, if they resort to irrational uses of force to get what they want out of a situation then you must have improperly evaluated them as "rational". The justice system will take care of that problem.

Why cannot private companies have a set of objective laws? I recognize that they do not - but neither does any government. If a government is capable of having a set of objective laws, and capable of adhering to them, why is it that private companies are incapable of having a set of objective laws, or incapable of adhering to them? Also - how does one ensure that a government does not exceed its boundaries with a document? How will the document prevent the government from expanding? If a government is defined as being that organization which possesses a monopoly on retaliatory force within a given region, then what happens if this government, ten, twenty, thirty years down the road, redefines what does or does not constitute retaliatory force? If the government ceases to retaliate in response to a specific violation, but possesses a monopoly on retaliation, then this violation will no longer be retaliated against, and the right in question will no longer be being protected. If the government begins to retaliate in response to a non-violation as if it were a violation, but possesses a monopoly on retaliation, than those who are having their rights violated by this government will be unable to retaliate against the government.

If it is argued that, if either of these situations occurred, that the government in question would no longer be legitimate, and that the people in this society could cast aside this government in favor of a government that followed a set of objective laws, then how is it accurate to say that the government is protecting the rational from the irrational? It is the rational individuals' understanding of what constitutes objective justice that is protecting them from the irrational, whether it be in the form of an individual or a government. If a government depends on the majority of its citizens being rational in order that the government restrict itself to its prescribed legitimate activities of retaliatory force, then this means that the majority of the citizens are aware of what does and does not merit retaliatory force, and that the majority of citizens are aware of what does and does not constitute a rational approach to regulating retaliatory force. If this is not the case - if the majority of citizens are unaware of these things - then there is no safeguard against government expansion, as people would be unaware that the government was expanding into an area that it should not be involved in.

If the majority of citizens are aware of the aforementioned things, however, then why is the government necessary to regulate retaliatory force? If rationality is prevalent enought that citizens can prevent a government from overstepping its bounds, then why is it that these same citizens cannot be allowed to regulate retaliatory force themselves, or designate competing agencies to regulate retaliatory force in their stead? Why would these competing agencies not be held to the same standard as governments - that is, why is it that a government can be kept in check, but competing private agencies cannot?

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Your argument rests on using the words provide and enforce interchangeably. I guess there are, even today, bounty hunters and bail bondsmen enforcing justice. But the justice is provided by an impartial Court of Law, which is appointed to apply the law. A private agency, working for one of the parties, would not be impartial.

The mistake is using objective as if it means intrinsic or self evident. Justice "is objective" means that it applies without bias, not that it is present in nature, or that it is self evident without rational men formulating its laws and applying them in a manner that is impartial and consistent. An impartial, rational third party as judge in a conflict is essential, if objective justice is to be had, as are laws and precedents known to everyone ahead of time (since the average person cannot be expected to guess how the basic principles of justice would apply to every possible action he may ever take, when even the most accomplished legal scholars can have a hard time doing that, and will often reach conflicting conclusions while each acting in good faith).

This last part (rule of law) is the cornerstone of civilization, because it is an essential check on the power of the judges who would otherwise not be limited in their decision making (and automatically cause people to reject their decisions, and seek to resolve their grievance through the arbitrary use of force: subjective justice). The rule of law makes waking up in the morning, and knowing exactly what is and isn't allowed, possible. Without that, life would be extremely unpleasant for everyone, even those at the top of the power pyramid.

Why would an individual within a private agency be less impartial than an individual within a government agency?

An objective law cannot mean a law which 'applies without bias', because a subjective law can still be applied without bias. For example, if there is a law that states that anyone who is taller than the king shall be put to death, this law would be highly subjective. However, a judge could apply this law without bias, by measuring the king and then measuring individuals accused of being taller than the king.

I was using objective to mean something that is based in reality, as opposed to subjective, something based in opinion. For example, a law stating that, "because property rights are an observable phenomenon, and because theft is a hypocritical action wherein one attempts to first deny property rights and then assert them, theft is prohibited" would be more objective than a law stating that, "because Joe took my wallet and this upset me, theft is prohibited."

An impartial, rational third party as judge in a conflict is not essential. If I claim that the force of gravity on earth is five meters per second squared, and someone else claims that the force of gravity on earth is nine point eight one meters per second squared, then we do not need an impartial, rational third party - we simply need an impartial third party, reality. We have simply to take some rocks, drop them from various locations, and time them. Reality will swiftly prove me wrong, and my opponent right. Likewise, the impartial third party could be logic. If I claim that it is okay for me to steal from you, and you point out that the only reason I wish to steal is because I wish to keep the stolen property, thus affirming property rights, but that I am hypocritically denying you those same property rights, then logic will have proven me wrong and you correct. If I am a rational individual, then I will see that my belief that it is okay for me to steal is contradicted by my desire to keep what I have stolen. If I am *not* rational, then I fail to see how an impartial, rational third party is going to make any difference. If I am irrational, then it is not a judge which is called for - it is self defence, or, if I steal your wallet and take off, retaliatory force in order to regain your wallet.

An impartial, rational third party as judge in a conflict is convenient; it is not essential. If I know that Joe trusts Susan's ability to think clearly, and I know I trust Susan's ability to think clearly, and I believe that Susan has integrity such that she will not be swayed by anything other than facts, then it may be more expedient for myself and Joe to ask Susan to arbitrate our dispute, rather than spend the time necessary to come to a complete agreement. The problem is that if both myself and Joe are willing to accept Susan's judgement, no matter who she supports, then we have just demonstrated that we could have worked it out ourselves - because we have both granted the possibility that we could be wrong. It is not that we need Susan's arbitration, it is that we feel subjecting ourselves to Susan's arbitration will save us time, as we believe she will make the correct decision.

Edited by Tejia
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May I regulate or administer the use of retaliatory force? It appears that you are saying that I may not. If this is correct - why not? More importantly, if I cannot, why is it that individuals within a government can? Why is it that those in government have different rights than those not in government (that is, the right to regulate or administer retaliatory force)?
I think you're getting way ahead of yourself. The best thing to do is focus on (1) the nature of rights and (2) the nature of government. Are you familiar with The Virtue of Selfishness? That lays out the basics for you.
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I think you're getting way ahead of yourself. The best thing to do is focus on (1) the nature of rights and (2) the nature of government. Are you familiar with The Virtue of Selfishness? That lays out the basics for you.

Since there is no such entity as "society," since society is only a number of individual men,...

~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, Man's Rights, paragraph 4

I agree. However, if the reason that there is no such entity as society is that society is only a number of individual men, then why would it be invalid to say that there is no such entity as "government," since government is only a number of individual men?

A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort, or enslaves him, or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind, or compels him to act against his own rational judgement - a society that sets up a conflict between its edicts and the requirements of man's nature - is not, strictly speaking, a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang-rule. Such a society destroys all the values of human coexistence, has no possible justification and represents, not a source of benefits, but the deadliest threat to man's survival.

~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Nature of Government, paragraph 6

If there is no such entity as society, then a society cannot rob. It cannot destroy all the values of human coexistence. A society cannot simultaneously not exist as an entity and possess qualities that only entities can possess, or perform actions that only entities can perform.

If men are to live together in a peaceful, productive, rational society and deal with one another to mutual benefit, they must accept the basic social principle without which no moral or civilized society is possible: the principle of individual rights.

~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Nature of Government, paragraph 7

A society cannot be peaceful, productive, or rational. A society cannot be moral or civilized. There is no such entity as society.

The necessary consequence of man's right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.

~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Nature of Government, paragraph 11

I agree (with the disclaimer that a society, as mentioned, cannot be civlized). However, I was led to believe that Objectivism holds self-defence and retaliatory force to be seperate from each other; whereas the literature you asked me to read uses them interchangeably. If force may be used only in retaliation, then self defense is either retaliation or may not be used. If retaliatory force is a government monopoly, then self defense, being retaliatory force, is infringing on this monopoly.

If a society provided no organized protection against force, it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door - or to join a protective gang of citizens who would fight other gangs, formed for the same purpose, and thus being about the degeneration of that society into the chaos of gang-rule, i.e., rule by brute force, into perpetual tribal warfare of prehistoric savages.

Again, if a society as an entity does not exist, then it cannot provide and it cannot compel. Also, the absence of organized protection would not necessarily lead to the situation described. The absence of rationality would.

The use of physical force - even its retaliatory use - cannot be left at the discretion of individual citizens.

~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Nature of Government, paragraph 14

Any group or "collective," large or small, is only a number of individuals. A group can have no rights other than the rights of its individual members.

~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, Collectivized "Rights", paragraph 7

The necessary consequence of man's right to life is his right to self-defense.

~Ayn Rand, The Virtue of Selfishness, The Nature of Government, paragraph 11

If a necessary consequence of man's right to life is his right to self defense, and a group can have no rights other than the rights of its individual members, then how can the government have the right retaliatory force, while individual citizens cannot?

My questions were,

May I regulate or administer the use of retaliatory force? It appears that you are saying that I may not. If this is correct - why not? More importantly, if I cannot, why is it that individuals within a government can? Why is it that those in government have different rights than those not in government (that is, the right to regulate or administer retaliatory force)?

The literature you directed me to for answers to these questions did not provide answers. I may administer retaliatory force, as this is right is a necessary consequence of my right to life. I may not administer retaliatory force, because the use of retaliatory force may not be left up to individual citizens. Individuals in government do not have different rights than I do, because rights stem from the individual. Individuals in government do have different rights than I do, because they may administer retaliatory force and I may not.

If you have answers to my questions, I would love to hear them. Telling me that I am getting way ahead of myself and that the best thing to do is go read a book, however, is an insult - especially when the book recommended has contradictory information regarding the answer to my questions.

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Why would an individual within a private agency be less impartial than an individual within a government agency?

Because you defined it as being in competition with others, trying to get hired to do a job, by one of the sides in the conflict. They will be partial to that side.

An law cannot mean a law which 'applies without bias', because a subjective law can still be applied without bias. For example, if there is a law that states that anyone who is taller than the king shall be put to death, this law would be highly subjective. However, a judge could apply this law without bias, by measuring the king and then measuring individuals accused of being taller than the king.

Objective law is the application of the principles of objective justice. A judge would apply objective law, while lawmakers would apply objective justice while writing the laws. SCOTUS and other high courts would interpret the laws, and set objective precedents.

Competing private agencies could not do any of those things.

An impartial, rational third party as judge in a conflict is not essential. If I claim that the force of gravity on earth is five meters per second squared, and someone else claims that the force of gravity on earth is nine point eight one meters per second squared, then we do not need an impartial, rational third party - we simply need an impartial third party, reality.

That's why no Objectivist is suggesting the government should legislate the laws of physics, only the laws of men.

If I claim that it is okay for me to steal from you, and you point out that the only reason I wish to steal is because I wish to keep the stolen property, thus affirming property rights, but that I am hypocritically denying you those same property rights, then logic will have proven me wrong and you correct. If I am a rational individual, then I will see that my belief that it is okay for me to steal is contradicted by my desire to keep what I have stolen. If I am *not* rational, then I fail to see how an impartial, rational third party is going to make any difference. If I am irrational, then it is not a judge which is called for - it is self defence, or, if I steal your wallet and take off, retaliatory force in order to regain your wallet.

The answer to what is rational in each situation is not self evident, it's not easy to determine, and even fully rational men will often reach conflicting conclusions about it.

An impartial, rational third party as judge in a conflict is convenient; it is not essential. If I know that Joe trusts Susan's ability to think clearly, and I know I trust Susan's ability to think clearly, and I believe that Susan has integrity such that she will not be swayed by anything other than facts, then it may be more expedient for myself and Joe to ask Susan to arbitrate our dispute, rather than spend the time necessary to come to a complete agreement. The problem is that if both myself and Joe are willing to accept Susan's judgement, no matter who she supports, then we have just demonstrated that we could have worked it out ourselves - because we have both granted the possibility that we could be wrong. It is not that we need Susan's arbitration, it is that we feel subjecting ourselves to Susan's arbitration will save us time, as we believe she will make the correct decision.

An if/then statement is not proof that your conclusion is correct. You ignored the "else" part completely. What about if you get into a conflict with someone who doesn't want your friend Susan arbitrating anything, in fact he feels he's doing just fine with that gun he's holding doing the arbitration for him?

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Actually, the standard by which a person is judged to have acted in self defense, after committing an act of deadly force, is "reasonable fear of physical injury or death". Not "a burglar in your home".

I was evidently not trying to describe strictly the conditions under which the law admits the use of deadly force, only give an example of a situation where it might be proper. Nevertheless your correction displays exactly the kind of principle that the law should establish for the private use of force:

1. A level of retaliatory force (in this case, deadly force)

2. The types of rights violation in which the criminal forfeits his rights to the extent of warranting this level of force (in this case, "presenting a threat of physical injury or death")

This kind of structure can be applied to bracket all sorts of retaliatory acts and strictly delimit the conditions in which they are proper.

I do not agree with your interpretation - specifically with regard to the assumption of the arbitrary nature of retaliatory force. I think the correct interpretation is that the standard doctrine recognizes that retaliatory force *may* be arbitrary, not that it is *always* arbitrary.

Clearly, if someone begins pummeling you, you have an immediate, obvious case where you should defend yourself.

You are treating immediate self defense and retaliation under the same concept of "retaliatory force". I actually agree that they are of the same nature, however the standard position is that while immediate self defense is proper (under the "emergency situation" category), private retaliatory acts after the immediate threat has been removed are criminal.

Treating every private retaliatory act as criminal by definition implies the assumption that every such use of force is arbitrary. If one does not accept this assumption (and I do not), one must defend a legal system where one may individually retaliate and subsequently be found innocent of any crime by the government, assuming you can meet a burden of proof as to the retaliatory nature of your act and that the retaliation is appropriate to the crime commited against you by an objective criteria such as the one exemplified above.

Secondly - your definition of "delegate" is incorrect. When one delegates authority, one does not surrender it, nor is the surrendering implied. When you delegate your right to retaliate to the Government, likewise, you do NOT surrender your right - you instead recognize, as you go on to explain, that there are situations where you cannot fairly judge what retaliation is proper.

Good correction. However this also implies that the individual may at any moment choose to exercise his own right. There claim "you must delegate your right to retaliation to live in rational society" is internally contradictory since it implies that the individual has delegated his right to retaliation (and thus retains the right - is free to exercise it) and at the same time implies that the individual must not exercise his right. The correct word for this formulation would be "surrender" and not "delegate".

However, if the source of this force is not associated with the proposed protector(s), how is this a protection racket?

Good question. It would not strictly be a protection racket (where the persons offering protection and presenting the threat are the same). Nevertheless, freedom is what exists when an individual is not threatened by the use of force against his person and property therefore you could not say the choice to fund government is voluntary (i.e. free) if it must be made in the context of being under the threat of force (by the government itself (which is taxation) or third parties (which would happen if a "voluntarily" funded government denied protection to those who do not pay up)).

However, I disagree with your assumption that, if someone chose not to fund this government, the only explanation for this behavior would be that this person is not rational.

Also a fair point. As David Odden mentioned, however, the discussion of goverment is within the context of reality - where criminals exists, where even honest individuals have disputes. A function for police and courts will always exist to some extent.

You are entirely correct, though, that in real circumstances there could be many rational reasons to not support the government at any given time. For instance, the current government is increasing staffing beyond what you judge necessary, or is spending on equipment you don't consider necessary, or is implementing policy you don't agree with. All these can happen even in a free country with government based on Objectivist principles.

This feature of voluntary government funding is, in fact, one of its greatest positive traits! The fact that you can choose how much to pay and whether to pay at all constrains the government to spending efficiently and in a matter that is considered reasonable by the people.

You do not know what their metaphysical, epistemological, or ethical beliefs are; you do not know whether or not they have thought about deeper issues, whether or not they have a unifying philosophy, whether they have sound reasons based in reality or whether they just feel that the philosophy seems right. To say that anarchists 'just assume' is, in my view, highly erroneous.

Fair enough distinction. There are certainly individuals who call themselves anarchists or libertarians who actually have some philosophical basis for their beliefs (not to say a correct basis). This is not the case for anarchism or libertarianism, which simply refer to the conviction itself (respectively "no government" or "no agression") without any concern for a basis for these beliefs - as you identified yourself. This complete disregard for grounding their "principles" describes the absolute majority of anarchist and libertarian individuals I have had discussions with.

If the Objectivist position on retaliatory force is that it is acceptable, but only for a government, why is it only acceptable for a government? I understand that you differ from this official position

For that reason I'm not the best person to defend it. The argument I have seen is the one I described in my previous post.

Finally, you claimed that the ultimate arbiter of justice is the government. How does a government justify claiming this right?

This I can answer, since I have no dispute here. The legitimacy of a government (which is what you are asking about) is based solely on whether it protects individual rights. While this might seem to not answer your question, consider:

1. If a government (i.e. ultimate arbiter of justice and wielder of force in a given jurisdiction) strictly defends individual rights, no one has a right to challenge it.

Challenging an entity that strictly defends individual rights means using force against the innocent. No one has the right to do that.

2. Rights are facts of reality - you cannot have two governments enforcing conflicting law and yet both strictly defending individual rights. If a "competing government" also strictly defends individual rights, the two organizations will actually never conflict - except over procedural matters. What can happen is:

2a. Both organizations have an objective means to settle their procedural conflicts. In this case you actually have one de facto government, though different parts of it call themselves by different names, and not "competing governments". Just as the current federal and state governments are not "competing goverments".

2b. The two organizations do not have an objective conflict resolution mechanism. In this case there is a potential for violence when the two organizations conflict in some matter. This is not a credible arrangement if both are actually strictly defending individual rights (this case would quickly evolve to 2a.)

2c. One (or both) governments is not actually strictly defending individual rights. In this case the potential for violent conflict is real as is the potential for injustice (when one organization fails to protect some individual's rights because of fear of reprisal from the other). This is, essentially, a civil war which can vary from a cold war (where fear and insecurity is the visible effect) to a regular people shooting in the streets sort of civil war.

What the "competing governments" or "private law enforcement" brand of anarchist or libertarian fails to see, therefore, is that either all these entities are actually defending individual rights objectively - in wich case they are actually only parts of a de facto government, or they are not - in which case they are at war.

In most cases they fail to realize this because they do not believe individual rights are actually objective facts of reality - and they want to be "free to define their own rights" so to speak, or "to be free to do whatever they want" - which amounts to the same thing.

I apologize if you feel that I have attacked you.

By no means! You show all the signs of being in search of truth. We appreciate that around here.

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I was evidently not trying to describe strictly the conditions under which the law admits the use of deadly force, only give an example of a situation where it might be proper. Nevertheless your correction displays exactly the kind of principle that the law should establish for the private use of force:

1. A level of retaliatory force (in this case, deadly force)

2. The types of rights violation in which the criminal forfeits his rights to the extent of warranting this level of force (in this case, "presenting a threat of physical injury or death")

This kind of structure can be applied to bracket all sorts of retaliatory acts and strictly delimit the conditions in which they are proper.

I can't think of any conditions, within a civilized community, in which killing someone without a fair trial would be proper. Outside of sucha community, of course, but if it is possible to do it the civilized way, I can't go along with that.

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I can't think of any conditions, within a civilized community, in which killing someone without a fair trial would be proper. Outside of sucha community, of course, but if it is possible to do it the civilized way, I can't go along with that.

I agree. I think the use of deadly force by individuals should be reserved for immediate self defense (as it is now). I can't, however, find reason to support banning the use of non-lethal force by a victim to retrieve stolen property after the fact. That is the sort of situation which is debatable, in my opinion.

Edited by mrocktor
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