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Government Police on Privately-Owned Roads

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Tanaka made excellent points; but they still rely on human beings behaving rationally in the heat of the moment, which may be asking a lot at our crude level of social development.

My suggestion is based on the observation that human beings usually behave rationally in these situations. It doesn't require that all human beings do that, only that most of them do.

Which they do, be it in casinos, malls, amusement parks, etc. The idea of private security works just fine, in the real world, it doesn't require some unrealistic assumption about human nature.

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Okay, first off, don't be a smart ass. If you go back to the first page, you will see that I am directly addressing the OP. The thread has already gone off on related tangents.

The property owner does not have the right to interfere with the Police doing its job. As long as their use of force is objectively justified, the property owner's wishes are irrelevant. In case

Yes, that was a little smart-alecky of me and I apologize but the point is that I don't understand how someone with so many posts on an Objectivist Forum, at least some of which as I recall were good

First of all the nature of the two interactions is completely different: one is involuntary the other is voluntary.

Yet both involve the same principle: rights are being violated. Either it is the proper function of the police to protect my rights domestically, or it is not. If it is, then they should protect my rights in all cases, not just when it's convenient or practical.

Beyond that is the practicality issue. We don't and shouldn't have preventive or proactive law. Most of the TV stealing and speeding that goes on today is not caught by the police but that isn't a reason to have a police officer assigned to every person to ensure that they don't commit a crime. I suppose you could be ensured of no rights violations that way but I wouldn't call it a free society.

What is preventative or proactive about pulling over someone who is currently abrogating another's rights?

I'm sure most private road owners would invite the police to travel their roads, would be glad that they did and it would be a good selling point for their product.

I agree, but your post seems to indicate those police wouldn't be doing anything. Why have the police travel my roads if they're just practicing preventative or proactive law? If there are private roads, would the police be pulling people over?

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In fact, I think most if not all social change occurs as a result of increasing technical or contractual forces, in spite of history's focus on personalities. For example, without radio, the Battle of Britain would probably have gone the other way. That seems to me much more relevant to history than whatever psychological hijinks the Allies thought Hitler was falling for.

- ico

There would not have been a Battle of Britain without radio because the German bomber formations flew along directed radio beams transmitted from certain land-based radio facilities to find their way to the targets. Churchill revealed this in the "The Wizard's War" chapter of his five volume history of that war.

Personalities cause innovations in technical means, including the technicalities of philosophy.

Speaking of the philosophy of history, whatever happened to Peikoff's new book? Shouldn't it be out by now?

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Yet both involve the same principle: rights are being violated. Either it is the proper function of the police to protect my rights domestically, or it is not. If it is, then they should protect my rights in all cases, not just when it's convenient or practical.

My answer is contained in my last post but if you want me to be more explicit I will.

It is the proper function of government to protect our Rights but there is a division of labor. Notice that we don't send judges and juries to fight a war.

The proper function of police is to protect your rights when they are in imminent danger. You are not in imminent danger if someone is driving 5 mph over the speed limit. You might be in imminent danger if someone is driving 100 mph over the limit, and you most certainly are in danger if they are weaving all over the road. Driving 5, 10 or 15 mph over the speed limit (on highways) is a contract dispute between two willing contractors and is not comparable to a thief breaking into your house.

If the road owner has evidence that someone is consistently driving 10 mph over the speed limit and he wants to do something about it, then he can take that person to court. He's going to be in court a lot, will probably lose customers and would probably be unprofitable. But, as I indicated before, no smart road owner would do this. Either a different standard would be adopted like "driving unsafe for conditions" or a much more rational and lenient speed limit would be set (85th percentile or some such). It would be a non-issue in a free society.

What is preventative or proactive about pulling over someone who is currently abrogating another's rights?

It seemed as if you were headed down the road to saying: "If the police don't pull over every motorist who is going 5 mph over the speed limit, then my rights are being abrogated". This is absurd and unworkable and as I said, a non-issue in a free society. However, if this isn't where you were headed, then I apologize.

I agree, but your post seems to indicate those police wouldn't be doing anything. Why have the police travel my roads if they're just practicing preventative or proactive law? If there are private roads, would the police be pulling people over?

Yes, for egregious violations that actually threaten peoples lives.

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The proper function of police is to protect your rights when they are in imminent danger. You are not in imminent danger if someone is driving 5 mph over the speed limit. You might be in imminent danger if someone is driving 100 mph over the limit, and you most certainly are in danger if they are weaving all over the road. Driving 5, 10 or 15 mph over the speed limit (on highways) is a contract dispute between two willing contractors and is not comparable to a thief breaking into your house.

I don't know what you mean by "imminent danger." You're making some arbitrary distinction between what is a rights violation and what is not a rights violation when an objective distinction is glaringly evident. If the T.V. is mine, and someone is taking it from me, then my rights have been violated. There's nothing "imminent" about it. If the road is mine, and I get to set the rules by which people use it, and someone is violating those rules, then my rights have been violated. Again, there's nothing "imminent" about it.

You seem to be saying, "Well, stealing someone's T.V. is more important than breaking the terms of any contract." Yet I can't determine by what obective measure you're making this claim.

It seemed as if you were headed down the road to saying: "If the police don't pull over every motorist who is going 5 mph over the speed limit, then my rights are being abrogated". This is absurd and unworkable and as I said, a non-issue in a free society. However, if this isn't where you were headed, then I apologize.

I've been maintaining that it is the responsibility of the police to protect my rights domestically; they must prevent, to the best of their ability, anyone from violating my rights. Whatever rules I set on my road are part of the contract for the use of that road. I expect the police to prevent anyone from breaking the terms of that contract, or to prevent further contract violations. Therefore, they could be pulling people over on private roads.

If the terms of my contract are so rigid as to forbid anyone from traveling 5mph over the speed limit, then I would expect the police to stop anyone who is driving 5mph over the speed limit. I would also expect not to have many people using my road, but that is beside the point. It is not the responsibility of the police to establish some arbitrary limit, or to determine some subjective point at which the traveller's actions are "imminent[ly] dangerous." The police don't get to decide when my rights are being violated when an objective measure of that violation is clearly evident. It is my right to determine, objectively, what rules I expect to be followed on my roads. Once those rules are determined, and the terms of the contract are established, I fully expect the police to prevent any rights violations.

Yes, for egregious violations that actually threaten peoples lives.

Again, you're making some subjective determination that such-and-such action violates the right to suck in oxygen, and is therefore more important than some-other action which only violates one's right to earn a living. Both rights have equal importance since both violate my one fundamental right to life. "The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life." - Ayn Rand

Violating the terms of the contract which governs the rules of my road "actually threaten" my life.

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You seem to be saying, "Well, stealing someone's T.V. is more important than breaking the terms of any contract." Yet I can't determine by what obective measure you're making this claim.

...

Violating the terms of the contract which governs the rules of my road "actually threaten" my life.

Physical force is the only way to violate someone's rights, the political rights that everyone has. That is objective.

It is obviously false that your life is threatened merely by a contract dispute.

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I don't know what you mean by "imminent danger."

Well that's what dictionaries are for, I bet you can even find one online.

If the T.V. is mine, and someone is taking it from me, then my rights have been violated. There's nothing "imminent" about it. If the road is mine, and I get to set the rules by which people use it, and someone is violating those rules, then my rights have been violated. Again, there's nothing "imminent" about it.

Well if you don't know what "imminent" means, then how do you know when a situation presents "imminent danger" or not. First look it up and understand it, then make your definitive statement, that's the logical way.

You're making some arbitrary distinction between what is a rights violation and what is not a rights violation when an objective distinction is glaringly evident.

Nope, you are making stuff up. I never said anything about them not being rights violations. Instead what I concentrated on was the division of labor in our government. Courts also deal with rights violations in case you hadn't noticed. Apparently you are all for sending judges and jurors to fight our wars and I suppose that means you want the military to man our civil courts.

You seem to be saying, "Well, stealing someone's T.V. is more important than breaking the terms of any contract." Yet I can't determine by what obective measure you're making this claim.

As Steve D'Ippolito so kindly points out, we have different ways of handling criminal and civil disputes in this country -- I suppose that's just arbitrary too.

I've been maintaining that it is the responsibility of the police to protect my rights domestically;

Yup, I guess the courts are just for decoration.

Whatever rules I set on my road are part of the contract for the use of that road. I expect the police to prevent anyone from breaking the terms of that contract, or to prevent further contract violations.

Wrong, not "whatever". If you set the terms such that if I exceeded your speed limit by 5 mph, then you could take my heart from me -- even if I signed the contract no police or judge would ever enforce it and they have no obligation to.

If the terms of my contract are so rigid as to forbid anyone from traveling 5mph over the speed limit, then I would expect the police to stop anyone who is driving 5mph over the speed limit.

How far do you want to take this? 4, 3, 2 mph? If you did, the police would say "we can't enforce this, we don't have the equipment". And if you then took it to court (which is where it should be) and the driver said "I set my cruise control but it can't maintain 3 mph" and it is found that it indeed can't, then you would lose in court. Then the police might have to be called if you continued to harass other motorists with your unreasonable conditions.

Violating the terms of the contract which governs the rules of my road "actually threaten" my life.

Actually, as I've demonstrated above, sticking to the terms of an unreasonable contract could threaten my life.

I've answered you kindly up until now but I'm not especially interested in arguing with you for 5 pages only to have you turn around and say "just kidding, I don't really believe any of the arguments I'm making and you shouldn't have expected that I would" as you said here, so tell me, for real, do you actually believe anything that you advocate here? I just want to get you on the record.

Edited by Marc K.
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Contract violations are considered civil matters, not criminal matters. You sue the person violating the contract, the state doesn't arrest the other party. Cops don't get involved.

Yet the police are sometimes used to ensure contract violators appear in court. Why would they not be used to apprehend road contract violators?

"A crime is a violation of the right(s) of other men by force (or fraud). It is only the initiation of physical force against others—i.e., the recourse to violence—that can be classified as a crime in a free society (as distinguished from a civil wrong)." - Ayn Rand

Violating the terms of the contract which governs the use of my road is a violation of my rights by fraud. It is an initiation of (indirect) physical force against me. It is a crime.

Physical force is the only way to violate someone's rights, the political rights that everyone has. That is objective.

It is obviously false that your life is threatened merely by a contract dispute.

My rights are not violated if someone breaks the terms of a my contract? Surely that can't be what you're saying.

"A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force...." - Ayn Rand

Just as the T.V. thief is using physical force to haul my property away, the speeder is using physical force to use my road, my property, against my wishes.

"If a contract is broken by the arbitrary decision of one man, it may cause a disastrous financial injury to the other . . . . This leads to one of the most important and most complex functions of the government: to the function of an arbiter who settles disputes among men according to objective laws." - Ayn Rand

I make my living by selling the use of my road. My ability to market and sell that use is directly related to the rules I choose to put upon that road as well as my ability to ensure those rules are followed - that the expectations of my customers, based upon those rules, actually comport with reality. If my rules are broken, if what I advertise is not the reality of my road, then people will likely not want to use my road. How, then, am I to survive?

Breaking the rules of my road, violating the terms of the contract that govern the use of my road, violates my rights and is clearly a threat to my life.

@Marc K. - Well, I tried. I tried to engage with you again in the hopes that perhaps you had matured, but instead I see you still grasp the inability to reason through your arguments as an adult. Once again, as you see your argument fall apart, you revert to personal attacks and petty remarks. It's unfortunate, really. What this world needs is more people who calmly and rationally think through their arguments rather than people who devolve into playground antics. We already have too many of those. I made the mistake of thinking you had learned that. I won't make the same mistake again. Good luck, and thanks for the previous discussions.

Edited by JeffS
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"A crime is a violation of the right(s) of other men by force (or fraud). It is only the initiation of physical force against others—i.e., the recourse to violence—that can be classified as a crime in a free society (as distinguished from a civil wrong)." - Ayn Rand

"A unilateral breach of contract involves an indirect use of physical force...." - Ayn Rand

"If a contract is broken by the arbitrary decision of one man, it may cause a disastrous financial injury to the other . . . . This leads to one of the most important and most complex functions of the government: to the function of an arbiter who settles disputes among men according to objective laws." - Ayn Rand

The difference between indirect and direct use of force would appear to be the distinction between what makes an act a civil or criminal wrong. A direct use of force is also obvious (you can tell by the blood, the forced entry, etc.) while an indirect use of force requires a judge and possibly a jury to examine the contract to determine if there was a violation at all.

Policemen exist to keep the peace by enforcing the law, the real law not any arbitrary contract which they have no way of knowing nor power to arbitrate. The law is constituted of the legislated statute law and judicial directives in particular cases.

Note also that government's role as an arbiter between parties is precisely the function which she proposes to sell on a per-contract basis with proposed contract fee or tax in "Government Financing in a Free Society". Criminal cases are always a defendant versus the state as accuser, and would not be conditioned on a payment of any sort either to have a case brought or to avoid one.

Do you accept or reject the distinction between criminal and civil law?

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Do you accept or reject the distinction between criminal and civil law?

Accept, though that runs contrary to what Ms. Rand wrote:

"A crime is a violation of the right(s) of other men by force (or fraud). It is only the initiation of physical force against others—i.e., the recourse to violence—that can be classified as a crime in a free society (as distinguished from a civil wrong)." - Ayn Rand

She describes fraud, and a unilateral breach of contract, as an indirect use of force, therefore an indirect use of force is a crime just as a direct use of force is a crime. I don't know what a "civil wrong" would be and have found no other use of this term in the Lexicon.

However, I agree that what you describe is how our legal system operates today. In an objectivist society, I'm not sure how it would work. Our civil code comes mainly from common law - i.e. precedent and judicial rulings. In an objectivist society, with objective law, what room is there for precedent? What room is there for the subjective ruling of a judge in making law? Certainly there is room for judgement based on context, but their decision wouldn't become law.

Furthermore, I don't believe the direct use of force is always so obvious. If your wallet is sitting on your work desk, and I walk by and take it, is that now a civil matter while my breaking into your desk to steal your wallet a criminal matter? Is the only distinction, "Was something, or someone broken in the act?"

In an objective society, the police would be used to counter physical force, and prevent or stop apparent rights violations. A man pointing a gun at another man - apparent rights violation; call the police to counter the physical force. A man refuses to leave a restaurant - apparent rights violation; call the police. A man is speeding down my highway when I've clearly posted a speed limit - apparent rights violation; call the police.

The courts would be used to arbitrate differences between men when the violation of rights, if any at all, is not so clear. Now, perhaps the man pointing the gun just took the gun away from the man he was pointing it at because the man he was pointing it at attempted to rob him - not so clear whose rights were violated; call in the courts. Perhaps the man refused to leave the restaurant because he's a part owner and his partner and he are arguing - not so clear whose rights were violated; call in the courts. Perhaps, though I've clearly posted a speed limit, I give a little leeway and I don't want to prosecute the speeder - not so clear if rights were violated; call in the courts. If it is determined that a violation of rights has occurred then, according to the quote above, a crime has been committed.

Again, I don't know where "civil wrong" fits into this.

This entire discussion began with the assertion that the police would not be on private roads pulling people over. That, objectively, is simply ridiculous. If we were to accept that conclusion, then we would have to accept that the police would be nowhere. In an objectivist society, all property is private property. If the police can't act on roads because they're private property, where then can the police act? If the police can't make a determination as to whether rights are being violated on private roads because they are private roads, how can they make a determination as to whether rights are being violated anywhere? Would there be no police on private sidewalks arresting people for fighting? Maybe the owner of that sidewalk is a fight promoter and he's training new boxers.

Slightly ridiculous, yet still plausible. My point is that the police are not a deliberative body. They can't be tasked with determining who is at fault, they can only be tasked with stepping in when an apparent rights violation has occurred. If they were wrong, then that is what the courts are for. When the terms of the contract for using my road are clearly posted, and an officer sees someone breaking the terms of that contract, pulling him over is no different than an officer stopping someone on a private sidewalk who's pointing a gun at another person. Just as my life is at risk when a man points a gun at me, my life is at risk when someone uses my property against my wishes.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I don't know where "civil wrong" fits into this.

"Criminals are a small minority in any semicivilized society. But the protection and enforcement of contracts through courts of civil law is the most crucial need of a peaceful society; without such protection, no civilization could be developed or maintained." ("The Nature of Government", The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 130)

"All credit transactions are contractual agreements. A credit transaction is any exchange which involves a passage of time between the payment and the receipt of goods or services." ("Government Financing in a Free Society", The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 137)

In the same article, Ayn Rand writes:

"It may be observed, in the example given above, that the cost of such voluntary government financing would be automatically proportionate to the scale of an individual's economic activity; those on the lowest economic levels (who seldom, if ever, engage in credit transactions) would be virtually exempt--though they would still enjoy the benefits of legal protection, such as that offered by the armed forces, by the police and by the courts dealing with criminal offenses." (p. 140) (Bold emphasis added by me.)

Police don't enforce violation of a contract. In fact, that they would do so implies that all contracts must be preemptively provided to the government, and that it is forbidden for two people to make a private contract (which might only be revealed if one sues the other).

What if two people have an amendment to an earlier contract, which the police don't know about? What if such amendment is verbal? (Which is, of course, risky to either party, but should not be illegal, as each party may trust the other.) By "enforcing" the first contract in lieu of the amendment, police would be violating their rights.

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The government has the right to use the appropriate level of force when responding to a crime. For instance, when a suspect runs through a store, church, or mosque (oh my God, the humanity), the Police have the right to follow without permission. If he runs into some strangers house (and he committed a serious crime, he's not just someone who let his dog poop on the sidewalk and failed to pick it up), the Police have the right to break down the door and go after him. If it's a terrorist with a bomb, the authorities even have the right to level whatever building he ran into, even if it's someone's property.

Of course they would also have the right to use the private road, even against the owner's wishes. If the owner actively thwarts their efforts, he can be arrested for obstruction of justice. Property rights are not a meme, they are the application of the principle of rights, in various societies. In some contexts, the application of that principle often means someone doesn't get to draw a physical line in the sand and say: no one can cross this - because such a line might actually contribute to a violation of someone else's rights. The principle isn't the line in the sand, it is far more complex than that. It involves related concepts such as rationality, justice, etc.

I agree. When we form a government we delegate some of our rights in order for it to function; I think property is one of them so that the government could administer justice at every location.
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Police don't enforce violation of a contract. In fact, that they would do so implies that all contracts must be preemptively provided to the government, and that it is forbidden for two people to make a private contract (which might only be revealed if one sues the other).

Then who would enforce violation of a contract? The police are the only governmental body (aside from the military) able to enforce anything. The police and military are the force "arms" of the government. Courts do not enforce anything, they don't have the resources to do that. Courts pass judgement.

Suppose you come into my restaurant, do something I don't much appreciate, and I ask you to leave. You refuse. What can I do? Can I physically remove you? If you agree the government has a monopoly on the use of force, then shouldn't I call the government? Whom in the government should I call? Should I call my local court? Do I wait until the court has issued an order for you to leave my premises? I hope you would agree this is a ridiculous course of events. Yet, to argue I must call the courts when someone breaks the rules on my road is to argue I must call the courts when someone breaks the rules of my restaurant.

In fact, I would call the police to have you forcibly removed from my restaurant. It's not necessary for them to know everything I do and do not allow in my restaurant; it's not necessary for them to know why I want you out of it. They only need to know that it is my restaurant and I don't want you in it. Similarly, it's not necessary for the police to know all the terms of the contract which governs the use of my road, only that someone is on my road and are currently violating my rights. It's not necessary for the police to know the terms of every contract, only that one party is alleged to have violated them, or is in the process of violating them. If more deliberation is needed - if there's some dispute as to whose rights were violated, or even if any rights were violated - then the courts are brought into the picture. If it is determined that rights have been violated, then you can bet it won't be the courts enforcing their decision - it will be the police because they are the only ones equipped to do so.

What if two people have an amendment to an earlier contract, which the police don't know about? What if such amendment is verbal? (Which is, of course, risky to either party, but should not be illegal, as each party may trust the other.) By "enforcing" the first contract in lieu of the amendment, police would be violating their rights.

Sounds like a good time to call in the courts to sort out whose rights were violated.

If the police are not charged with protecting my rights, what are they charged with?

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Then who would enforce violation of a contract?

The courts would decide disputes relating to contract violations.

The police would only enforce specific court orders--not interpret the contract.

Suppose you come into my restaurant, do something I don't much appreciate, and I ask you to leave. You refuse. What can I do? Can I physically remove you? If you agree the government has a monopoly on the use of force, then shouldn't I call the government? Whom in the government should I call? Should I call my local court? Do I wait until the court has issued an order for you to leave my premises? I hope you would agree this is a ridiculous course of events. Yet, to argue I must call the courts when someone breaks the rules on my road is to argue I must call the courts when someone breaks the rules of my restaurant.

This is not a contract situation. It's simple trespassing, once the person has been asked to leave. If the person has a contractual right to be there based on an earlier agreement, and the restaurant owner lies to the police about this fact, then the removed person can sue the restaurant for recompense later.

In fact, I would call the police to have you forcibly removed from my restaurant. It's not necessary for them to know everything I do and do not allow in my restaurant; it's not necessary for them to know why I want you out of it. They only need to know that it is my restaurant and I don't want you in it. Similarly, it's not necessary for the police to know all the terms of the contract which governs the use of my road, only that someone is on my road and are currently violating my rights. It's not necessary for the police to know the terms of every contract, only that one party is alleged to have violated them, or is in the process of violating them. If more deliberation is needed - if there's some dispute as to whose rights were violated, or even if any rights were violated - then the courts are brought into the picture. If it is determined that rights have been violated, then you can bet it won't be the courts enforcing their decision - it will be the police because they are the only ones equipped to do so.

Your earlier message suggested that police would proactively enforce speed limits on private roads, which does require that they know the terms of the contract. Rather, I'm suggesting that in a proper system, the police would only enforce a request by the owner to the police to remove somebody. They might additionally gather evidence or serve as witnesses as to whether speeding occurred, at the request of the owner.

If the police are not charged with protecting my rights, what are they charged with?

They are charged with stopping crimes in progress, investigating crimes, and enforcing court orders (including carrying out arrest warrants for crimes being investigated).

The entirety of your response ignores the difference between crimes (direct initiation of force or threats of force from one individual to another, anywhere) and contract violations (failure of one party to carry out the terms of an agreed-upon obligation, which spans a duration of time, between two people who have previously agreed to such). A violation of a contract is, in most cases, not a crime, barring certain exceptions such as fraud (an intentional act), or entering the contract with prior intent not to fulfill it.

A violation of a contract (even unintentional) is a rights violation, but it's under the purview of the courts, not the police.

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The entirety of your response ignores the difference between crimes (direct initiation of force or threats of force from one individual to another, anywhere) and contract violations (failure of one party to carry out the terms of an agreed-upon obligation, which spans a duration of time, between two people who have previously agreed to such). A violation of a contract is, in most cases, not a crime, barring certain exceptions such as fraud (an intentional act), or entering the contract with prior intent not to fulfill it.

A violation of a contract (even unintentional) is a rights violation, but it's under the purview of the courts, not the police.

So, if you intentionally speed on my road, then it's a crime and the police should get involved?

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Are you arguing that a property owner must always be consulted to comply with the owners terms before the police may properly carry out their job? If that's the case then all you have to do is think about how that would work out in reality. If that police chase scenario were to happen consider how the criminal is already speeding anyway, whether you agree with it or not.

Imagine a psycho has snapped and breaks into a clock tower. He brings a sniper rifle and begins shooting at people from the top floor. Are we supposed to think that the police need to track down the property owner of the clock tower and get his permission before they act on capturing the criminal? What if he is out of state and not able to be contacted? What if he is a pacifist who's terms are that no policemen wield guns on his property? I mean, it's just completely absurd. The Police exist to limit and put an end to criminal actions (a criminal use of force) as quickly and efficiently as possible. They are reacting because rights are under concrete physical attack by someone who doesn't respect them to begin with.

Come to think of it this is almost a mirror of the policy situations in the Middle Eastern wars. The military has to act more like a service provider than an authority within their region. They have to get permission to act under strict terms (such as leaving mosques alone etc.). The result is that the enemies gain the upper hand by virtue of not giving a damn about terms and rights while the enforcers are crippled with policy. (And yes I do realize the powers and context of a domestic police force and a military war are different, but this specific analogy is helpful)

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Are you arguing that a property owner must always be consulted to comply with the owners terms before the police may properly carry out their job? If that's the case then all you have to do is think about how that would work out in reality. If that police chase scenario were to happen consider how the criminal is already speeding anyway, whether you agree with it or not.

I'm not sure to whom this is addressed, but I want to make it clear that this is not my position. My position is that the police are the force arm of government, and as such must apply that force when rights are being violated. If the terms of the use of my road are clearly posted (e.g. a speed limit sign), then I fully expect the police to intervene when those terms are being violated (i.e. someone is speeding). Just as I would expect them to use force when someone tries to leave a store with something they haven't paid for, or tried to pay with some form of money the merchant doesn't accept. A unilateral breach of contract is as odious a crime as taking someone's life. Just because it doesn't involve immediate physical injury to another doesn't relegate it to the back burner of government protection.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Apologies for my late responses; I hadn't subscribed to the thread and forgot to check back for replies.

So, if you intentionally speed on my road, then it's a crime and the police should get involved?

Yes, if police have evidence of intent. Particularly if one or more individuals are scheming to find ways to frequently speed and avoid detection.

However, small-scale speeding, like within 15mph above the speed limit, is more evidence of carelessness or accident than intent. Once we're looking at large amounts, like more than 25mph over, then intent (or gross negligence) can be presumed, and police may rightfully act without consulting the property owner on the basis that the person is a threat, rather than that they are violating a contract.

Are you arguing that a property owner must always be consulted to comply with the owners terms before the police may properly carry out their job? If that's the case then all you have to do is think about how that would work out in reality. If that police chase scenario were to happen consider how the criminal is already speeding anyway, whether you agree with it or not.

No, I'm not arguing this (if this question is directed at me). If the police observe behavior that appears to be a crime, they can presume that it is, in fact, the plain thing they are seeing, and they don't need to refrain from acting just on the slim possibility that such behavior is sanctioned by the property owner.

Are we supposed to think that the police need to track down the property owner of the clock tower and get his permission before they act on capturing the criminal? What if he is out of state and not able to be contacted?

How do you get this from my posts? I made clear that according to my view, the police can act in crimes. A person going on a shooting spree is not a contract violation; it's a crime.

What if he is a pacifist who's terms are that no policemen wield guns on his property?

He has no right to set such terms, as police can rightfully enter a property without permission to stop a crime in progress. Therefore, the owner's "terms" are not the issue.

Just as I would expect them to use force when someone tries to leave a store with something they haven't paid for, or tried to pay with some form of money the merchant doesn't accept.

I agree with this--shoplifting is a crime because no prior agreement exists.

A unilateral breach of contract is as odious a crime as taking someone's life.

I don't agree with this. If a person doesn't return their rented DVD on time, that's a crime? Forgetting by a day is no different than walking out of the store with unpaid merchandise? I'm not arguing that it's not a rights violation, but that's different than a crime.

I suggest you rethink whether accidental, unplanned contract violations are as "odious" as intentional acts to harm another. They're not morally in the same category, and they're properly legally regarded as separate, as well. A criminal is a threat to everyone. A person who fails to uphold a contract (except in cases of intent or fraud) is not a threat to society at large; it is each person's choice of how much risk to accept when dealing with him. The courts will back up a contract if the wronged party sues but the lack of an open-ended threat means that the police don't proactively get involved.

Just because it doesn't involve immediate physical injury to another doesn't relegate it to the back burner of government protection.

It's somewhat misleading to describe the courts as the "back burner" of government protection as the police will enforce a court order. Rights violations in a contract are ultimately backed up by the same force as the police can provide to stop a violent crime in progress.

But in another sense, I disagree--the different branches of government should disproportionately place resources on stopping immediate, severe physical threats, as contract violations can be worked out after the fact and recompense paid.

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Yes, if police have evidence of intent. Particularly if one or more individuals are scheming to find ways to frequently speed and avoid detection.

And how would the police get such evidence of intent? A guy blows past a cop traveling 15mph over the speed limit, is that evidence that he did not intend to travel at that speed? If so, how so? Nearly everyone I know who speeds intentionally travel at some rate over the posted speed limit. I'm sure you've heard such justifications like, "If you only travel 5 mph over the speed limit the cops won't pull you over." Isn't this intentional speeding? Your delimiting of 15mph over is not a crime, but 25mph over is a crime is arbitrary. If not, I would like to know what objective fact of reality these limits are based upon. What is the objective fact of reality proving that a car traveling at 15mph over the speed limit is not a threat, but the difference of an extra 10mph is?

I agree with this--shoplifting is a crime because no prior agreement exists.

Shoplifting is a crime because it's theft of another's property. Your argument is akin to arguing the cops shouldn't stop a shoplifter who only stole something worth a couple bucks, or some other arbitrary value.

I don't agree with this. If a person doesn't return their rented DVD on time, that's a crime? Forgetting by a day is no different than walking out of the store with unpaid merchandise? I'm not arguing that it's not a rights violation, but that's different than a crime.

Is it not fraud to keep another's property "without the consent of [the] owner?" Is fraud not a crime? Is a crime not a "violation of the rights of other men by force (or fraud)." (All quotes Ayn Rand)

I suggest you rethink whether accidental, unplanned contract violations are as "odious" as intentional acts to harm another.

Is the effect not the same? If I intend to prevent you from earning a living, aren't you just as injured as if I didn't intend to prevent you from earning a living? If I shoot you, aren't you just as injured whether the gun accidentally went off in my hand or I meant to shoot you? Should the police not get involved if they believe I didn't intend to shoot you?

Your argument rests upon this nebulous determination of "intent." How can you objectively determine whether someone intended to defraud another? If you're lucky, you get some witnesses to testify that the criminal told them their plans, but you're not going to get that with someone speeding. The objective facts of reality are: 1) the road owner set a speed limit on his road as a condition of using his property, 2) an individual is travelling over that speed limit, 3) thus, that individual is in the process of violating the rights of the property owner. Placing the police in the position of making some arbitrary decision about whether the individual intends on violating the rights of the property owner is not only irrational, it's not within the purview of the police. The police are tasked with using force to stop rights violations. They are not tasked with deliberating and contemplating the finer points of rights violations - they are not judge and jury.

It's somewhat misleading to describe the courts as the "back burner" of government protection as the police will enforce a court order. Rights violations in a contract are ultimately backed up by the same force as the police can provide to stop a violent crime in progress.

But in another sense, I disagree--the different branches of government should disproportionately place resources on stopping immediate, severe physical threats, as contract violations can be worked out after the fact and recompense paid.

The courts call in the police when they have determined a rights violation has occurred and it is necessary to force the violator to comply; when deliberation and examination of facts is required in order to determine a rights violation has occurred. Why would the courts need to get involved when the objective facts are as clear as a posted contract and a clear, objectively determined (i.e. speed>posted speed) violation of that contract?

What are "severe physical threats?" If I only steal your property, is that severe and physical? If I make it impossible for you to do business without ever raising my hand to you, or threatening you, or doing anything physical to you, is that a "severe physical threat?"

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However, small-scale speeding, like within 15mph above the speed limit, is more evidence of carelessness or accident than intent.

I'm not sure what you are basing that statement on, but that is not reflected by the behavior of any court in which I've testified. Speeding is prima facie evidence of intent to speed. Whether or not it is carelessness or negligence (not accidental) is a matter to be determined by a judge in a courtroom in which the defendant pleads his position, should he choose to do so.

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I'll respond to the first part of this quote at the end:

If not, I would like to know what objective fact of reality these limits are based upon. What is the objective fact of reality proving that a car traveling at 15mph over the speed limit is not a threat, but the difference of an extra 10mph is?

The objective fact of reality is that a little bit of safety margin is built into speed limits, so slightly speeding is not an inherent threat whereas larger amounts of speeding are.

In a real-world situation if we had privatized roads, the police and property owners might operate under an understanding. If somebody is speeding under a certain amount, the property owner's private enforcement vehicles would be responsible for fining the driver (or whatever remedial action is specified in the contract). However, for larger amounts, the police would regard it as a threat.

I am not really sure precisely where the breakdown would fall. The point is that police don't proactively enforce all contracts between two private parties.

Shoplifting is a crime because it's theft of another's property. Your argument is akin to arguing the cops shouldn't stop a shoplifter who only stole something worth a couple bucks, or some other arbitrary value.

No, my speed limit example is different because there is a prior contract involved. My "arbitrary value" was speculating about when the police would regard a behavior as threatening above and beyond the fact that it might also be a contract violation. Therefore, it does not imply that I regard shoplifting below some small, arbitrary value to be not a crime. Shoplifting any amount is a crime.

Is it not fraud to keep another's property "without the consent of [the] owner?"

Correct, it is not necessarily fraud. Fraud means it must have been willful. And then, fraud is a crime.

Is the effect not the same? If I intend to prevent you from earning a living, aren't you just as injured as if I didn't intend to prevent you from earning a living? If I shoot you, aren't you just as injured whether the gun accidentally went off in my hand or I meant to shoot you? Should the police not get involved if they believe I didn't intend to shoot you?

One of the effects is the same. The loss to the victim is the same.

Another of the effects is not. The threat that the perpetrator presents society is not the same. Furthermore, the material loss to the victim is not the sole determiner of punishment.

Killing another is such an egregious case that even many cases of unintentional deaths are crimes, because a high degree of care is expected in activities that might result in the death of another (for example, in gun handling).

Ask a different example: If I accidentally knock over and destroy a vase in a store, should the police not get involved if it appears that I am remaining at the scene to speak with the store owner about reimbursing? Particularly if the police see it and ask the store owner "Everything handled?" And the owner says "Yep, we've worked it out." I think they shouldn't. Yet if the police observed me smashing a vase deliberately, they might well arrest me and charge me with a crime regardless of whether the store owner separately is able to extract compensation.

Your argument rests upon this nebulous determination of "intent."

A well-known concept in criminal law. The degree of intent is what distinguishes murder from negligent homicide, for example.

How can you objectively determine whether someone intended to defraud another? If you're lucky, you get some witnesses to testify that the criminal told them their plans, but you're not going to get that with someone speeding. The objective facts of reality are: 1) the road owner set a speed limit on his road as a condition of using his property, 2) an individual is travelling over that speed limit, 3) thus, that individual is in the process of violating the rights of the property owner.

Indeed, you determine it through the available facts. But in the case of speeding on private roads, civil recompense to the property owner is provided for regardless of intent, so it's not an issue.

Placing the police in the position of making some arbitrary decision about whether the individual intends on violating the rights of the property owner is not only irrational, it's not within the purview of the police.

In most situations it isn't the purview of police. But it might be if they are investigating organized crime, or planned heists. But the primary distinction that is relevant to most of the examples in this thread is whether something is a contractual violation or not. Sometimes, police do need to make the determination of intent, but mostly it is evident from the type of act being observed.

Do you really think that returning a rented item late is no different than shoplifting the item? Do you really think that if you are behind on a rented item by one day, the police should be able to enter your house to arrest you or reclaim it (absent evidence of prior intent to not return it)? Eventually, there is a process of repossession--if the contract calls for it--but that's initiated by the lender, not the police.

The courts call in the police when they have determined a rights violation has occurred and it is necessary to force the violator to comply; when deliberation and examination of facts is required in order to determine a rights violation has occurred. Why would the courts need to get involved when the objective facts are as clear as a posted contract and a clear, objectively determined (i.e. speed>posted speed) violation of that contract?

On a private road, neither the courts nor the police would need to get involved in most cases. The government police would not be doing the work of enforcing minor traffic violations on private roads as that would be a subsidy. The road owner would be doing it at their own expense (ultimately paid for by the users, or by fines of violators, or some combination of both). That's exactly why an "arbitrary" limit on the amount over the speed limit is rational.

In Ayn Rand's essay "Government Financing in a Free Society", she stated, regarding court enforcements of contracts:

"Yet, today, this service is provided gratuitously and amounts, in effect, to a subsidy." (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 136)

What are "severe physical threats?" If I only steal your property, is that severe and physical? If I make it impossible for you to do business without ever raising my hand to you, or threatening you, or doing anything physical to you, is that a "severe physical threat?"

I shouldn't have said "severe". Rather, any immediate physical threat. I stand corrected on that point.

(Separately, it could be worth making the point that government should allocate resources to more severe threats, but in contrasting to crimes vs. contract violations, "severe" doesn't come into play.)

Going back to your first paragraph, and also the post by RationalBiker:

And how would the police get such evidence of intent? A guy blows past a cop traveling 15mph over the speed limit, is that evidence that he did not intend to travel at that speed? If so, how so? Nearly everyone I know who speeds intentionally travel at some rate over the posted speed limit. I'm sure you've heard such justifications like, "If you only travel 5 mph over the speed limit the cops won't pull you over." Isn't this intentional speeding? Your delimiting of 15mph over is not a crime, but 25mph over is a crime is arbitrary.

I'm not sure what you are basing that statement on, but that is not reflected by the behavior of any court in which I've testified. Speeding is prima facie evidence of intent to speed. Whether or not it is carelessness or negligence (not accidental) is a matter to be determined by a judge in a courtroom in which the defendant pleads his position, should he choose to do so.

I was thinking under a possible system of private roads, where the same determinations would not necessarily be in effect. I will defer to what you have stated regarding prima facie evidence of intent regarding public roads.

What I had in mind with my distinction is the difference between occasional, unplanned speeding (under the knowledge that anytime one speeds one has a random chance of getting fined and thus cannot do it with impunity) and something like routinely speeding using a radar detector, or live reports of the location of speed traps, only slowing down when a cop is nearby--basically, operating under a pre-planned routine by which one can (attempt to) continually beat the system.

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I am not really sure precisely where the breakdown would fall. The point is that police don't proactively enforce all contracts between two private parties.

You're "not really sure precisely where the breakdown would fall" because there's no objective measure to be found. I think you need to re-evaluate what really qualifies as objective facts of reality.

How is stopping someone currently violating the rights of another considered "proactive?"

No, my speed limit example is different because there is a prior contract involved. My "arbitrary value" was speculating about when the police would regard a behavior as threatening above and beyond the fact that it might also be a contract violation. Therefore, it does not imply that I regard shoplifting below some small, arbitrary value to be not a crime. Shoplifting any amount is a crime.

No, my analogy stands. Shoplifting is a crime because taking another's property makes it impossible for him to live by his own reason. Unilaterally breaking the terms of a contract is a crime because it is the taking of another's property in another way, as such it likewise makes it impossible for him to live by his own reason.

You need to focus on principles here.

Correct, it is not necessarily fraud. Fraud means it must have been willful. And then, fraud is a crime.

Then you disagree with Ms. Rand on this point?

Another of the effects is not. The threat that the perpetrator presents society is not the same.

Who is this "society" guy and how did he get involved in a contract between two individuals?

Ask a different example: If I accidentally knock over and destroy a vase in a store, should the police not get involved if it appears that I am remaining at the scene to speak with the store owner about reimbursing? Particularly if the police see it and ask the store owner "Everything handled?" And the owner says "Yep, we've worked it out." I think they shouldn't. Yet if the police observed me smashing a vase deliberately, they might well arrest me and charge me with a crime regardless of whether the store owner separately is able to extract compensation.

Neat little hypothetical you've set up here. So, the guy sticks around? What if he didn't? What if he... oh, I don't know... say, broke the vase as he ran through the store and continued running when he was outside? Should the cops stop him then? If the police saw it, why would they ask if the store owner had it "handled?" Are you suggesting they would get involved if the owner did not, in fact, have it "handled?" If so, why should they? Why would the police arrest you for deliberately breaking a vase in a shop where you pay to break vases? Shouldn't they deliberate on whether or not a crime has actually been committed? Shouldn't they consider that it was only a small vase, and certain "cushions" are built into all businesses to allow for some losses due to breakage? Or, should they consider that you may be a serial vase breaker and a dire threat to "society?"

A well-known concept in criminal law. The degree of intent is what distinguishes murder from negligent homicide, for example.

We're not discussing degree of a crime. We're discussing whether a crime has been committed at all. You're arguing that speeding by some arbitrary number over the posted limit is not a crime, while speeding over that arbitrary number is a crime. You're using this arbitrary number to arbitrarily claim it to be proof of intent.

Indeed, you determine it through the available facts. But in the case of speeding on private roads, civil recompense to the property owner is provided for regardless of intent, so it's not an issue.

I don't understand what you're saying here. Can you explain further, please?

In most situations it isn't the purview of police. But it might be if they are investigating organized crime, or planned heists. But the primary distinction that is relevant to most of the examples in this thread is whether something is a contractual violation or not. Sometimes, police do need to make the determination of intent, but mostly it is evident from the type of act being observed.

Like perhaps noticing that a property owner has the terms of use of his property clearly posted and that someone else is violating those terms?

Do you really think that returning a rented item late is no different than shoplifting the item?

Of course they're different, but they are both rights violations. Do you really believe the police should not get involved in rights violations?

Do you really think that if you are behind on a rented item by one day, the police should be able to enter your house to arrest you or reclaim it (absent evidence of prior intent to not return it)?

Of course, do you really believe I should be allowed to get away with rights violations because you've made some arbitrary determination that they're really just not that egregious? When does objective law make its debut?

On a private road, neither the courts nor the police would need to get involved in most cases. The government police would not be doing the work of enforcing minor traffic violations on private roads as that would be a subsidy. The road owner would be doing it at their own expense (ultimately paid for by the users, or by fines of violators, or some combination of both).

We're not discussing whether the police or courts "would need to get involved in most cases." We're discussing whether or not they can, and whether or not they should. Whether or not they "would" was handled long ago when I pointed out that road owners would need to objectively determine where to place the limits, and whether to prosecute those who were ticketed.

That's exactly why an "arbitrary" limit on the amount over the speed limit is rational.

Hmmmm, nothing arbitrary is ever rational.

In Ayn Rand's essay "Government Financing in a Free Society", she stated, regarding court enforcements of contracts:

"Yet, today, this service is provided gratuitously and amounts, in effect, to a subsidy." (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 136)

This is a topic for another thread because it deserves a far greater depth of discussion than what I'll provide here. I'll only say that you should think about what this means. Does it mean that enforcing contracts is not a function of government; that unilateral breach of a contract is not a rights violation, and therefore not under the purview of the government? Or, does it mean that paying for the government to provide that service would be in the rational self-interests of the contract parties?

What I had in mind with my distinction is the difference between occasional, unplanned speeding (under the knowledge that anytime one speeds one has a random chance of getting fined and thus cannot do it with impunity) and something like routinely speeding using a radar detector, or live reports of the location of speed traps, only slowing down when a cop is nearby--basically, operating under a pre-planned routine by which one can (attempt to) continually beat the system.

The point is the police have no way of objectively determining whether a speeder is acting under the former or the latter. The police have only the facts that 1) there is a limit, and 2) the driver is travelling over that limit. You're arguing that only the latter is a crime (since it is premeditated), and that cops should get involved in crimes, but there's no way for them to distinguish between the two - certainly not by setting arbitrary limits over the posted speed.

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That's exactly why an "arbitrary" limit on the amount over the speed limit is rational.

The point of objective law is to provide the citizen with a clear description of what constitutes a violation of the law. In the case of speed limits, regardless of how it is actually enforced in real life, that is the point of putting a particular number on the sign - citizens know exactly what speed if exceeded can result in punishment. It is irrational to put one number on the sign while KNOWINGLY enforcing some other arbitrary number. So no, it is not rational to enforce an arbitrary limit when another limit is posted because the citizen cannot know what is expected of him by law. if the speed limit should be enforced at a higher speed, the rational thing to do is post the higher speed as the limit and enforce it consistently at that limit.

The only rational reason for having any latitude in speed limits is a variance allowed based on the accuracy of speedometers, usually within 1-2 mph above or below the actual speed.

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I agree with your replies here but I think you should give your opinion on the titular question as I'm sure it will be well reasoned.

While, of course, you are not obligated to do so, and, of course, you may answer any individual point raised, I think you are sending the wrong message by doing so. JeffT, while perhaps being wrong on a point or two, is correct in the principles he is advocating while JeffS is wrong. So it appears as though you are sanctioning JeffS's illogic at the expense of JeffT's principled argument.

Thank you for your consideration.

Edited by Marc K.
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