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Should duels be legal?

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Well, actually, what he does is state that "given a certain action, I transfer property title to 1000 US dollars to you", the action being not showing up. Therefore, when he doesn't show up, the other guy now has a right to $1000, as per the contract.

I'm not sure about this reasoning. Suppose I agree to pay some individual $1000 as a gift (i.e. in exchange for nothing), on a certain date (perhaps even with a written agreement signed by both parties). If I fail to pay on the appointed date, should the courts force me to do so, and why?

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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'm not sure about this reasoning. Suppose I agree to pay some individual $1000 as a gift (i.e. in exchange for nothing), on a certain date (perhaps even with a written agreement signed by both parties). If I fail to pay on the appointed date, should the courts force me to do so, and why?

If you relied on the promise (went to great lengths to invite family, friends, and coworkers to a party and paid $1000 to an entertainer to host the party), then yes, for the same reason as any other breach of contract.

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I'm not sure about this reasoning. Suppose I agree to pay some individual $1000 as a gift (i.e. in exchange for nothing), on a certain date (perhaps even with a written agreement signed by both parties). If I fail to pay on the appointed date, should the courts force me to do so, and why?

Well, it depends. If you just say "I promise to give you X" then no, I don't think so. If you say "I transfer title to X to you on Y date" then yes. A promise is not a transfer of title, whereas the latter is. You might say it is semantics, but the difference is important. Enforcing things because you promised them is ridiculous, as engagements are basically promises to get married, and people promise things to people all the time. A promise is an agreement with the backing of my honor (you are saying they can depend on you because of your character, basically). A transfer of title is an agreement with the backing of law (you actually gave it to them, it is there's, say's so in the contract/agreement/transfer of title).

Breaking promises aren't cases of fraud either, as fraud is the taking of someone's property without their consent through deceit. If you break a promise, you didn't do that, as the property wasn't there's (you didn't actually transfer the property title), whereas in my case of transfer of title, the property is rightfully there's and a violation of it would the the expropriation of their property through force.

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Also, forgive me since I have not the time nor the inclination to read every post in here, but is this thread decidedly on lethal duels?

Yes, the OP said he was referring only to lethal duels, the intent being to kill the other person.

I use the following "quote" BBcodes only to show what I gathered from the poster's posts, not actual quotes.

I've studied Victorian, Edwardian, cultures, etc. Saying "yes" to every duel was really important back then!

Sure. But it's not coercive force when entered into voluntarily. It's merely a wager one can choose for or against.

The social (or emotional or whatever other) penalties cast on the duel participant by the society around her are, I would argue, unsound. But they are irrelevant to the decision of whether the voluntary agreement/contract (whichever it is) should be allowed individuals by government to be entered into.

specific contract

Whether the contract is specified or not or we detail the entire 'Robert's Rules of Dueling' (in both volumes :D ) on this thread, I was thinking that the question is whether it should ever even be considered in the legal process, i.e., whether it should be legal.

At this point, after having read the entire thread, I see it this way:

If you have the right to end your life, I would think you have the right to wager it.

When one agrees to a duel, she wagers her life for the other participant's. The point to this wager, I thought, is the desire not to be living along with the other person at the same time. 'One of us must die.' To me, it's more similar to a non-drafted soldier than a boxer. In some sense it involves trying one's hand at killing another person who is also trying to kill the first; not being willing to live while the other person is alive.

I have yet to understand any of the arguments against its legality.

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I have yet to understand any of the arguments against its legality.
Grames gave that I consider to be the best argument: that its illegality follows from the definition of murder. The flaw in that, IMO, is that it depends on presuming that participation in a duel is proof that a person does not wish to die, and that it could be legal to kill a person only if they have provably no will to live. However, as I argued, this does not follow from a proper definition of murder.
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Grames gave that I consider to be the best argument: that its illegality follows from the definition of murder. The flaw in that, IMO, is that it depends on presuming that participation in a duel is proof that a person does not wish to die, and that it could be legal to kill a person only if they have provably no will to live. However, as I argued, this does not follow from a proper definition of murder.

To be fair, I don't really belong in this thread as I need more solid backing as to the legal system and its just use and whatnot.

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David Odden:

I have a couple questions but first let me see if I understand your position, please tell me if I don't.

Someone has to propose the duel (I'll call him the Initiator) and someone has to agree to the duel (I'll call him the Agreer). And let me stipulate that this is a duel to the death and that the death of the opponent is the only compensation that the Initiator wants. No money is to change hands.

You maintain (and I agree) that an agreement to duel cannot be a contract because it cannot be enforced by the government. And just to be super clear, the agreement cannot be enforced by the government either, right? My point in asking is to establish that then there can be no rules for this duel, or, at least no rules to which the participants can be legally held, right?

So let me propose a couple of scenarios:

First: an Initiator proposes a duel to me. I am thinking in my mind that "this guy is crazy. He wants to kill over something I've said. I haven't threatened his life and yet the only compensation he is willing to take for my insulting words is my death. It seems to me as if this person will continue to be a threat to me even if I decline to duel." So I agree to the duel.

I immediately go to the police. I tell them that a man has threatened my life and proposes to kill me at a place and time certain. I want them to come as witnesses. I will have no bullets in my gun and I want them to arrest the Initiator as soon as we start pacing off the ten required steps. Can and should the police arrest the Initiator?

Second: an Initiator proposes a duel and I agree. Comes the day of the duel and we stand back to back and start pacing off the ten required steps before we are allowed (by agreement) to turn and fire our pistols. After two steps I turn and kill the initiator. Can the police arrest me? And if they do can I claim that I was acting in self-defense and that the Initiator was a threat to my life? Because the only thing I had ever done to him was insult him and yet he wanted to kill me?

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And let me stipulate that this is a duel to the death and that the death of the opponent is the only compensation that the Initiator wants.
Well, I don't see that you can apply the concept "compensation" here. Outcome, yes, but there is no trade, as implied by the word "compensation".
My point in asking is to establish that then there can be no rules for this duel, or, at least no rules to which the participants can be legally held, right?
No, there could be "rules", where a person voluntarily agrees to participate in the duel, but only if the rules are obeyed. For instance, a person could agree to a death-duel with cutlasses, and if the opponent then draws a pistol and shoots him, then that would be a prohibited act, something that the person did not agree to -- and thus, murder.
It seems to me as if this person will continue to be a threat to me even if I decline to duel." So I agree to the duel.
That's not really the right response, unless you mean that you express apparent agreement, so that you can make your escape. The crucial thing is there has to be an actual agreement, not a perfunctory verbal act.
Can and should the police arrest the Initiator?
I guess, assuming that you weren't hallucinating the threat. Whatever it is that the guy got you to agree to, the point is that you were presumably being threatened, and if you had had a video camera with you it would be obvious to any observer that the guy was initiating force -- that he would have killed you right then and there if you had not agreed to the duel. Though if this is just a you say / he says matter, they the police won't have a substantial reason to believe you as opposed to him.
After two steps I turn and kill the initiator. Can the police arrest me?
Yes, since there is a 10-paces rule, and he did not agree to you turning and shooting him way prematurely. You cannot claim self-defense since killing the opponent is not necessary (and necessity is properly part of a self-defense defense). All that is necessary is that you declare that the duel is canceled.
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David,

I'm sorry, but I still don't completely understand your position. I think we are talking past each other a bit. The reason I brought this up:

And just to be super clear, the agreement cannot be enforced by the government either, right? My point in asking is to establish that then there can be no rules for this duel, or, at least no rules to which the participants can be legally held, right?

was to agree with you that agreements, just like contracts, to duel could not be enforced by the court and that since this is the case there could be no rules binding the duelers, which would mean a free-for-all, like the wild west. I thought there was something in the nature of dueling which prevented it from being enforced by the court. But it sounds like what you actually mean is that there are some legal semantics which differentiate agreement from contract and that an agreement can be enforced by the court. Yes?

I think what you are saying is that without rules there would be no agreement. And once the two parties have agreed to the rules, then any breech of those rules would be grounds for the govt to step in and charge the breecher with murder.

As to the first scenario I proposed, I think you read it as two different situations. I should have made the first two paragraphs one so that it read:

First: an Initiator proposes a duel to me. I am thinking in my mind that "this guy is crazy. He wants to kill over something I've said. I haven't threatened his life and yet the only compensation he is willing to take for my insulting words is my death. It seems to me as if this person will continue to be a threat to me even if I decline to duel." So I agree to the duel and immediately go to the police. I tell them that a man has threatened my life and proposes to kill me at a place and time certain. I want them to come as witnesses. I will have no bullets in my gun and I want them to arrest the Initiator as soon as we start pacing off the ten required steps. Can and should the police arrest the Initiator?

Does that change your answer?

The purpose of this scenario is to demonstrate the objective threat I would feel from anyone who wanted to kill me over something I said and how I would get the police involved in such a situation.

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The purpose of this scenario is to demonstrate the objective threat I would feel from anyone who wanted to kill me over something I said and how I would get the police involved in such a situation.

Actually it should make you feel safer knowing who wants to kill you for the things you've said instead of having to guess at it. :)

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agree with you that agreements, just like contracts, to duel could not be enforced by the court and that since this is the case there could be no rules binding the duelers, which would mean a free-for-all, like the wild west.
Let me put my position somewhat differently: AFAICT, rules governing a duel do exist and must be followed, except that actual performance (in any form) is entirely optional. The import of the agreement is solely a statement "I consent to participating in this event only if the following restrictions are observed". If the rule of the duel is that the parties must not turn and fire until "ten" is announced, then if follows that you are not consenting to participate in a mutual shooting match where one party fires at the count of 9. If one party shoots another without the shot party's consent, the courts will rightly get involved. In such a case, the courts are, indeed, involved in enforcement, but not enforcement of a contract. Rather, they would be involved in enforcement of criminal law, i.e. the law that says that you can't shoot a person without their permission.
As to the first scenario I proposed, I think you read it as two different situations.
I did assume that this ("first") was a single scenario. My interjected point there focused on the difference between actual agreement, and giving the appearance of agreement to save your skin until you can call the law in. Thus you would not agree to a duel, you would "say that you would duel" or "pretend to agree to the duel". The threat that this guy poses will not cause you to actually agree to what he wants, since you're a sane person. You simply need to trick him into thinking that you've agreed, so that you can make your escape.
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The threat that this guy poses will not cause you to actually agree to what he wants, since you're a sane person. You simply need to trick him into thinking that you've agreed, so that you can make your escape.

Yes, and then call the police and have them arrest the man simply for having proposed a duel. Or, as in the scenario, wait until the duel is actually supposed to take place in order to demonstrate the Initiator's intent. Would this be legitimate? Should the police arrest him?

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Yes, and then call the police and have them arrest the man simply for having proposed a duel.
Ah, no. The act of proposing a duel is not a violating of rights, because it does not inherently mean that the person will shoot you if you don't agree to the duel. I was assuming that there was some other objective evidence of his intent to kill you no matter what, such as him saying "If you don't agree to this duel, I will just shoot you in the head".
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David,

I know that you are against anarchy and I've heard you argue against a situation similar to the wild west, characterizing it as uncivilized (please correct me if I am misremembering). Do you not think that this is a step in that direction?

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Duelling, when it was legal, was a part of the gentleman's code, which followed the previous code of chivalry. Under chuivalry the nobility spent their time doing battle for fun and glory at the expense of the peasants, who they robbed, raped and killed for fun and profit, which was justified as being moral, as they were doing it in the name of God. The gentlemens code followed. Under the gentlemens' code, gentlemen could raise their prestige by killing a few other gentlemen in duels, it being a good idea to pick opponents who were weak or aged and thus against whom one was likely to win. Pressure was easy to apply, as a person who tried to avoid a duel was seen as cowardly and ungentlemanly. A great system for second handers, but of no particular benefit to rational, self sufficient people. Duelling was quite rightly outlawed. Walter Scott was a critic of chivalry, see 'Ivanhoe.' More recently Ken Follett has portrayed chivalry in 'Pillars of the Earth' and 'World Without End.' Donald Hamilton criticises the gentlemen's code in 'The Big Country.'

A more recent manifestation is what one might call the playground code. As little children we learn rules such as "you aren't supposed to hit someone when he is down," "You aren't supposed to hit smaller kids,* "Boys aren't supposed to hit girss," etc. Does this mean it is all right to hit someone who is standing, or your size, or the same gender? In fact, the correct rule is that the use of force is not propper except in self defense. The playground rules are easy for bullies to manipulate. When former peacenik hippies who were opposed to self defense got older and started taking over the senior teaching jobs and positions as principlals and administrators, they started punishing the kids who tried to defend themselves instead of the bullies, and Columbine and other similar school disasters were the result.

Under the gentlemen's code a gentleman could only be challenged to a duel by another gentleman. If challenged by a member of the lower classes a gentleman was within his rights to give him a good caning. Perhaps we should note that anyone who would want to reintroduce duelling is a second hander, and therefore not a gentleman, then take a good stout stick and give him a sound thrashing!

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Duelling, when it was legal, was a part of the gentleman's code...

The question is not "should initiation of force be illegal/banned?" (duh, yes it should), but rather "is dueling an instance of initiation of force?" It isn't obvious, as it is a consensual activity (perhaps with somewhat higher standards of proof of consent than most other such activities, but consensual just the same). It probably wouldn't be rational to ever participate in a duel (I can't think of an instance, though perhaps it will come to me), but that does not mean it should be banned. I can't think of any instance when the use of heroine would be rational, but it shouldn't be banned either. And I very much doubt that anyone who is for the legalization of dueling actually wants to duel; it is a question of what delineating exactly what qualifies as an "initiation of force", and thus clarifying Objectivism's ideal legal code.

Finally, "pressure" does not have any bearing in a legal code. Is someone threatening you with force? If not, then whatever they are doing is legal and non-coercive. Refusing to trade with you because they think you're a coward is not an instance of coercion, and so has no role in the legality of the instance of dueling that may result. Threatening someone with refusal to trade isn't coercion (in the legal sense) either. So, that section of your post has nothing to do with dueling at all. Also, welcome to the forum.

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