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Should duels be legal?

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I have been pondering over this for a few days, now. I am getting increasingly hesitant to believe that duels should be legal, especially since Peikoff talked in a podcast about a similar case and declared it should be illegal. Now, it seems that the only way to infringe on other's rights is by force or fraud (fraud is basically force, but I wanted to make sure no one brings up that case; let us assume both parties to the duel know the terms beforehand and are independent adults). If the government's only purpose is to protect individual rights, and the government is only justified in punishing those who have infringed upon the rights of others, then it seems that dueling should be legal. This is because duels are mutually voluntary contractual agreements. Many people in the chat room who have disagreed with this idea stated that it is not the proper purpose of the government to protect those people who "abandon" their rights. However, it seems that in this case, just like euthanasia, someone is not "abandoning" their rights, but in fact exercising them. The principle behind the legality of euthanasia and dueling seem to be the same: In both cases, one is giving another permission to kill them; the main difference is that death is only a 50% possibility in dueling (depending on your shooting accuracy :)) and euthanasia always entails death. Now, those people that disagree with me (including Peikoff, apparently) assert that someone who has killed someone in a duel is objectively a threat to society. But this does not seem to be the case, since that person was engaged in voluntary interaction, and even if this means that they possibly might have an inclination to kill people (outside of contractual agreements), we all well know that we should never equate the potential with the actual. So, what is the answer to this problem, and why (if at all) does dueling constitute a violation of rights?

To be clear, I am only referring to lethal duels (i.e. duels that end in the death of one person), but any responses can additionally discuss duels in which people are only injured, not killed. However, if anyone does so, it would be helpful if they made the distinction clear. I am also assuming that the duel takes place on private property, there is a written contract, two witnesses are present, and both pistols are cleaned and checked for any possible functional issues.

Edited by ttime
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I've stated in the chatroom, and I'll state here, that I believe duels should be legal. So long as every last bullet stays on -their- property, I'm perfectly fine with it. The duel does not infringe o

Someone explain to me why two people cannot make an informed, voluntary contract between each other on any terms they want. /thread

No, that is not correct. It is not correct to say that because men are ends in themselves, no man may initiate the use of force against another.

I admit that I haven't spent much time dwelling over this issue, but for me, the issue seems obvious. An individual's rights are his own. They are not something separate from the individual which can not be violated, they are part of his being (Metaphorically), and thus he has every right to relinquish his own rights. After all, if he can not, then to whom does his own life belong?

Listening to the podcast, I have to say that Peikoff is being contradictory (And I don't say this in a mocking way. On the contrary, this is one of the very few times I have disagreed with Peikoff). He says that one can exercise one's right to life by committing suicide, but then says that allowing yourself to be beaten should be prohibited by the government. I would say that one is exercising one's right to life (However immoral the action might be) by allowing others to beat you, or even kill you.

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I've stated in the chatroom, and I'll state here, that I believe duels should be legal. So long as every last bullet stays on -their- property, I'm perfectly fine with it. The duel does not infringe on anyone's right, so long as both people mutually consent to the duel, and the bullets do not go on the property of someone who did not agree to allow it.

One of the issues in the chatroom for me was that there's no assurance that the bullets will not miss and hit someone else on accident, which is why I added above that it's legal only in the context that even the bullets themselves stay on the property of the people having the duel (or the property of whoever consented to hold the duel.)

In the chatroom, a number of people claimed that humans could not give up their rights like that, or else that by agreeing to hold a duel, you're not agreeing to die, you're agreeing to risk death. I personally do not see the essential difference between the two in the latter contention, and I don't see why someone would be unable to give up their rights in the former contention.

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It was theoretical, ttime had brought it up for conversation multiple times. I believe it was a simple and possibly even random suggestion for discussion and then unexpected contention arose over the issue.

Perhaps the disputants ought to settle their quarrel with a duel. If there is more than one disputant on each side of the issue then there could be a rumble, with chains and knives.

John Link

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I can't for the life of me think of a less rational way of resolving a dispute. I also can't imagine being so weak willed or thin skinned to believe that some sort of slander or affront has to be answered by a one shot winner lives looser dies duel.

Isn't one of the PROPER functions of government to arbitrate disputes? Don't we ask government to administer laws so that we aren't faced by wild west "justice" and anarchist stupidity?

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Someone explain to me why two people cannot make an informed, voluntary contract between each other on any terms they want.
A contract, necessarily, must be enforceable by the government. That means if you contract with X to perform some act and you do not, then X may take you to court to get you to perform. The court cannot order you to do something illegal -- that would render the legal system incoherent. The court also cannot revoke your rights as a human being, most saliently your right to choose. It follows from this that the court cannot order you to give up your right to choose, thus cannot order you into slavery, nor can it order you to give up your life. (And, of course, the court cannot order you to perform an impossible act).
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Isn't one of the PROPER functions of government to arbitrate disputes? Don't we ask government to administer laws so that we aren't faced by wild west "justice" and anarchist stupidity?
Yes, this is correct. Except: it is also proper for individuals to seek their own private arbitration, as long as the terms are voluntary and agreed on. Laws do not require your agreement, and therefore if you do not agree to respect another person's property right to the apples on their tree, the government can force you to comply with property laws. When two people agree to enter into a relationship, that agreement can include a provision for arbitration of conflicts (which can lead to binding arbitration clauses in contracts). Of course if one of the parties decides to not abide by the decision of the arbitrator, then the matter has to be taken to government courts for actual enforcement. This would be where the government would, quite properly, refuse to enforce a stupid-ass contract provision of the type "disputes must be resolved by duel".

Any person can arbitrate a dispute; only the government can properly enforce an arbitration decision.

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Yes, this is correct. Except: it is also proper for individuals to seek their own private arbitration, as long as the terms are voluntary and agreed on. Laws do not require your agreement, and therefore if you do not agree to respect another person's property right to the apples on their tree, the government can force you to comply with property laws. When two people agree to enter into a relationship, that agreement can include a provision for arbitration of conflicts (which can lead to binding arbitration clauses in contracts). Of course if one of the parties decides to not abide by the decision of the arbitrator, then the matter has to be taken to government courts for actual enforcement. This would be where the government would, quite properly, refuse to enforce a stupid-ass contract provision of the type "disputes must be resolved by duel".

I was going to say that I disagree, but then changed my mind. I was thinking "if I can make a contract delineating punishments, for example, fines, perhaps even corporal punishment, then why not have duels?" But then I realized- in order to be traded or signed over in a contract, the thing has to be alienable. My will is inalienable. Therefore, contractual slavery is impossible (indentured servitude is okay, but not slavery). In the case of a duel, you are signing over your life, in contract form, but since your life is inalienable (without it you don't exist, just as with your will), you can't sign over your life and have that enforced. But making the contract and voluntarily abiding by the agreement is okay. If you give someone permission to end your life, then that is okay. It is just that if you want to back out of it, then you can, as the government can't force you to give up your life (as it wasn't a legitimate/enforceable contract).

So duels should be legal, but agreements to duels cannot be enforced (only voluntarily carried out).

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There are so many complaints within the Objectivist community about Objectivism not being taken seriously. With Objectivism pondering the morality of dueling, I just can't imagine why! I mean, that precisely the kind of question we should be analyzing.

I challenge you to a duel, with AK47s, in mid Manhattan at noon on Memorial Day.

:)

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After reading the responses so far, I am curious as to why no one has addressed the issue of why someone would choose to duel. The discussion seems to be about legalized dueling without consideration of what is being enforced: the "why" of the duel. A "contract is an exchange of promises with a specific remedy for breach." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contract)

Edited by A is A
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After reading the responses so far, I am curious as to why no one has addressed the issue of why someone would choose to duel. The discussion seems to be about legalized dueling without consideration of what is being enforced: the "why" of the duel.
I believe that would be because the original question was a legal one, and responses are supposed to stay on topic.
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I believe that would be because the original question was a legal one, and responses are supposed to stay on topic.

So, what is actually being enforced is off topic? After all, people just don't wake up one morning and say, "let's duel".

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Can you rephrase your question? This doesn't make any sense.

It would have helped if you explained what doesn't make sense, so I'll do the best I can to rephrase.

The posts in the thread have been about the legality of dueling and whether the government should not take any kind of action against duelers by recognizing the right to engage in a duel. The only justification has been that such action is voluntary. Well, it seems to me that an important part of the discussion is why people would engage in a duel. Using "voluntary" as a justification for legality is the libertarian method. The basis for legality should be "rights." For example, if a government enforces my legal will after I die, such action presupposes the legitimacy of my reason for preparing a will, or contract: no one's rights are violated, not that the will was voluntary, which is a secondary consideration. Likewise, I would think it important to know why someone is dueling if one wanted the government to respect, legally, such an action. In other words, does the action violate individual rights, not that the action is voluntary (a secondary consideration).

You replied that such a consideration is irrelevant and off topic because it was not contained in the original question (at least that's the way I understood what you said). If the reason for a contract, or the duel, is off topic for the legitimacy of the contract and the expectation of government enforcement, then I don't understand your position.

So when I said "what is actually being enforced" I was referring to the reason for the duel. When the government arrest someone for murder, it is not just the act of killing someone that is illegal, it is the reason for the death of the other person that is relevant.

I hope this clarifies my point.

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