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Violence by proxy

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No, it's not purely pragmatic. Initiation of force is evil because it is the only way to not allow a person to use his rational faculty. It's the ONLY way. Nothing else can. Including paying, convincing, asking, etc. somebody else to do it. When A hires B to kill C, no matter how convincing A is, for how long he pleads or how much he is willing to pay, C can continue to lead a happy life. C becomes involved in this only when B acts, because only B is using force. All the arguments that I bring in my post are intended to show that the implementation of a policy which only punishes B would work. But that's only the practical side. Such a policy should be implemented not because it works, but on principle.

What principle?

As far as I know, Ayn Rand has never said anything about this violence by proxy. I think this was later added by others who just couldn't figure out a solution to the hitman problem. Correct me if I'm wrong.

What have you read by Ayn Rand? Edited by Nicky
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If you initiate force via an agreement with an agent (or third party), you are still initiating force.  Hitler is guilty of initiating force.

Oh cool. So I can pay someone to murder my hypothetical wife, and if someone tells the police on me, I don't have to worry about getting arrested, AND if someone does murder her, I STILL don't have to

Bogdan,   This sounds like the application of the 'labor theory of value' applied to crime.  Do you also think that a businessman who hires and pays other men to do labor is NOT to be credited with

@bogdan: One of the problems is that the world isn't as simplistic as you paint it. Yes, maybe if A hires B to kill C, then B does not have to agree, and no force is being used on B, only persuasion. But, what happens when A's goons, X and Y, pay a visit to B and say "you either do it or we're going to kill your two kids (e and f)." Now, the threat of that violence may make B decide to go through with it. But the only reason X and Y even made that threat to B is because they were afraid that if they didn't abide by A's wishes, then they would be killed by J and K. 

 

But in that whole (yes, somewhat comical) example, you would only find fault in B and only at the point that he actually committed the crime, and not a minute sooner (not even when he was on his way over to C's house with a gun. I guess police would just have to observe him right up to the point of the crime, and arrest him afterward). But A is not at fault, in your view, and neither is X and Y or J and K. And yet the whole scheme is fear built on fear built on fear. 

 

I think the proper view is to know that to plan to initiate force, and to take measures toward carrying out that plan, is criminal if it can be determined that desire and initiative would in all likelihood have ended with the crime being committed. . 

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But, what happens when A's goons, X and Y, pay a visit to B and say "you either do it or we're going to kill your two kids (e and f)." 

 

B says "No, thanks, I have better things to do". It's obvious to him that it's obious to both X and Y that if they do anything to him, wife, children, etc. they're in trouble since A is off the hook and only X and Y are initiating force.

 

 

... then they would be killed by J and K.  

 

Kicking the can to the end of the alphabet is not going to avoid the main point: When any of these guys think "I'm going to use force", the next thought that goes through his head is "If I do, I'm alone in this. At best I will live in fear for a while until one of them decides to tell on me and end up in jail anyway. Just me." And he won't do it. None of them will.

 

 

 

And yet the whole scheme is fear built on fear built on fear. 

 

That's the way it works today. B is afraid of X and Y, who are afraid of J and K, and so on. That's the case because they're ALL in this. There is a sense of conspiracy which gives them incentive to go ahead and use force. They're all thinking "He won't tell on me, 'cause he's in trouble as well if he does".

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What principle?What have you read by Ayn Rand?

 

The principle is that in a free society anybody is allowed to do anything he wants as long as he does not initiate physical force against anyone else or their property. Again - physical force. Not orders, or rewards.

 

I have read pretty much everything, but my memory is letting me down lately so I might have forgotten. So, what does she say about it?

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This sounds like the application of the 'labor theory of value' applied to crime.  Do you also think that a businessman who hires and pays other men to do labor is NOT to be credited with being productive?

 

I know nothing about this theory, so I'll just answer the question: No, I don't.

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The principle is that in a free society anybody is allowed to do anything he wants as long as he does not initiate physical force against anyone else or their property.

That's not a principle, that's just a definition. A principle is an abstract truth about the world, not just an explanation of what a word or expression (in this case, "free society") means.

As an aside, the above is not the Objectivist definition of a free society. Ayn Rand defined a free society as one in which the government is tasked with and limited to the protection of individual rights. Regarding force, she posited one principle: that individual rights cannot be violated without the initiation of physical force. That does not mean that only the direct use of physical force makes one guilty of violation rights. Far from it. There are many cases where the indirect use of physical force is a criminal's method of choice: fraud, contract evasion, violation of intellectual property rights, and the use of force by proxy are some of them.

 

These are nonetheless criminals. Your error is that you hold "initiation of force" to be the crime. Ayn Rand doesn't. Ayn Rand holds the violation of rights to be the crime. The fact that initiation of force is involved in every rights violation is true, but that doesn't mean only the person initiating force is a criminal. Those who willingly aided him, conspired with him, or provided any material support to him, are just as guilty, or often more so. 

 

Not only that, but the actual agent initiating the force might be wholly innocent. In your cop arresting a drug dealer example, the cop is the one initiating force, but the people responsible for it, the criminals, are in fact the voters and lawmakers who created the law. The cop is innocent (not because he has no choice, btw.: he does have a choice to resign his job - it's because his choice to be a cop is the moral choice, despite the fact that some laws are immoral).

 

I have read pretty much everything, but my memory is letting me down lately so I might have forgotten. So, what does she say about it?

Re -read Atlas Shrugged for instance. In it, Ayn Rand holds people who order crimes to be committed not just equally, but more responsible for those crimes than the actual perpetrators, at every turn.

Edited by Nicky
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P.S. If we defined a crime as "initiation of force", then you would in fact be right. Person A in your example would be innocent. (so would Hitler, obviously, and for the same reason).

 

But we don't, we define a crime as "the violation of someone's rights" (by we, I mean Objectivists). That's because we're not Libertarians, we studied Rand's philosophy rather than just steal a slogan or two.

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P.S. If we defined a crime as "initiation of force", then you would in fact be right. Person A in your example would be innocent. (so would Hitler, obviously, and for the same reason).

 

But we don't, we define a crime as "the violation of someone's rights" (by we, I mean Objectivists). That's because we're not Libertarians, we studied Rand's philosophy rather than just steal a slogan or two.

 

I have no interest in getting involved in the issue of "violence by proxy," but I feel the need to comment here because I believe there's generally a lot of confusion on this topic.  "Libertarian" seems often to be employed as a poorly understood boogeyman.

 

Yes we do define crime as "initiation of force" which is the same thing as "the violation of someone's rights."  By we, I mean those who have read Ayn Rand's writings on these topics and agree with her, as for instance when she wrote the following (from "What Is Capitalism?"; emphasis in original):

 

Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.

 

The recognition of individual rights entails the banishment of physical force from human relationships: basically, rights can be violated only by means of force. In a capitalist society, no man or group may initiate the use of physical force against others. The only function of the government, in such a society, is the task of protecting man’s rights, i.e., the task of protecting him from physical force; the government acts as the agent of man’s right of self-defense, and may use force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use; thus the government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of force under objective control.

 

Once you have eliminated the initiation of force, you are done insofar as governance is concerned.  There is no other proper role for government.  And to suggest that there are other "crimes" outside of the initiation of force -- other means of violating rights, which the government must somehow prevent -- is to empower the government itself to initiate force against those who have not done so, which is wrong and certainly outside of the bounds of Objectivism.

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Yes we do define crime as "initiation of force"

I think I explained why that's not the case. You just didn't understand me.

And to suggest that there are other "crimes" outside of the initiation of force

I thought so. I didn't suggest there are crimes OUTSIDE of the initiation of force.

What I said was that a crime is not defined as initiation of force, even though it does always involve the initiation of force.

That is why, just because someone doesn't personally initiate force, they can be criminals by using force indirectly (by relying on someone else initiating force for them, to violate someone's rights). In such cases, the main rights violator is in fact not the person projecting physical force, but the person who set into motion a plan or chain of events for the purpose of violating someone's rights.

P.S. If I told you that riding a bicycle is not defined as a bicycle, would you then conclude that I just said that riding a bicycle doesn't necessarily involve bicycles? That's what you just did, but with force instead of a bicycle. It's pretty frustrating to have to explain something this simple more than once. There's no reason why you should have misunderstood that, except that you're not really interested in what I have to say, and are just looking for disagreement for the sake of disagreement. If that's the case, I'm not your guy. Just knock it off, or I'll put you on ignore.

Edited by Nicky
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In such cases, the main rights violator is in fact not the person projecting physical force, but the person who set into motion a plan or chain of events for the purpose of violating someone's rights.

 

I agree with DonAthos. It may be that his choice to use "outside" was unfortunate, but his point his very clear: "...initiation of force" which is the same thing as "the violation of someone's rights.". He doesn't say that the violation involves force, as riding would involve a bicycle. But that it is. What you said in the quote above is a slippery and dangerous slope. A man who kills  a doctor who performs abortions is not an innocent victim of his priest. We don't put the priest in jail even though he might have triggered the chain of events.

 

There are many cases where the indirect use of physical force is a criminal's method of choice: fraud, contract evasion, violation of intellectual property rights, and the use of force by proxy are some of them.

 

I was hoping we wouldn't get into the definition of physical force. Someone who steals money from someone else's account by hacking into that account, is physical force, even though the account holder doesn't shed a single drop of blood. It is taking someone's property without his approval. With that in mind, the 3 types of crime you mention are, at one point or another, perpetrated by someone directly initiating force. And that's the action that is immoral and he's the guilty person. No one else. And that's also the case with the 4-th type, the subject of this topic.

 

 

 

Re -read Atlas Shrugged for instance.

 

Um... it might be overkill. Any other suggestions, something I could do in, say, a couple of hours, maybe... ?

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Your argument treats human relationships too simply:

 

You first assume that A will turn in B. (why would he do that? to get out of paying B? if A is wealthy enough to pay hitmen, and has decided he wants multiple people dead, what does he have to gain by turning in B? there will be no legal repercussions to A if he doesn't turn in B. the only incentive A has to turn in B is if A is faced with charges of his own, and will get a lighter sentence if he gives up B's name. in your scenario, that would not be the case.) so A has no incentive to turn in B, since B is important to A.

 

Further, I think it's highly unlikely that B has no idea who A is, or if A has scammed or turned in other hitmen in the past. There must be some degree of trust/past history involved. Since B's have the most to lose, they need to be able to trust A before they do anything for A. that trust can be built in many ways..

 

Your argument also assumes that the police will find definitive evidence linking B to C's murder, if and when B kills C. Since B kills people for a living and loves his freedom, he will probably be damn careful when killing C's. If the only thing that links B to C's murder is A's testimony, that is not enough for a conviction.

 

As incentive, the police might offer a reward to anyone with information - A in this case. ("WHOAA!!" - I can hear the readers of this screaming with indignation. "Not only A is off the hook, he also makes money off of it!!"). Yeah, well, it will happen only for a few cases, get over it.

 

While I could agree that my view is simplistic, you're presenting a very specific case. A has a list of people to kill and he must have a verifiable history of relationships with hitmen. B, on the other hand, desperately needs to trust A so that he can sleep well at night after committing murder.

 

It's true that A's testimony might not be enough for a conviction. But, really, that's a detail. What's important is that B simply cannot trust A. This is not a little love secret shared by a teenage girl. This is life in jail, or electric chair, or lethal injection.

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I think I explained why that's not the case. You just didn't understand me.

 

That may be. Though honestly, I don't think I did misunderstand you. But if we're on the same page now, it is just as well.

 

I thought so. I didn't suggest there are crimes OUTSIDE of the initiation of force.

What I said was that a crime is not defined as initiation of force, even though it does always involve the initiation of force.

 

Even if you agree with me that there is no practical distinction between a violation of rights and the initiation of force -- reducing this apparent discrepancy to semantics -- I still think you're mistaken in your formulation. (Unless you can cite for me where Rand has otherwise defined "crime"?) Here's Rand from "Textbook of Americanism":

 

All actions defined as criminal in a free society are actions involving force—and only such actions are answered by force.

 

Here's from "The Objectivist Ethics":

 

The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.

 

Note how Rand does not say that the basic political principle is to refrain from violating one anothers' rights? But rather that no man (and further that no group, including the government) may initiate the use of force against any other. I think her formulation is intentional and to good purpose, to reduce the possibility for ambiguity in assessing whether someone's actions violate another man's rights.

The litmus test is: do those actions amount to an initiation of the use of force?

If it does, then it is a rights violation. If not, then not. For after all, from "The Nature of Government":

 

Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment.

 

Thus, that is the only question that needs to be answered for Hitler or any other. Did he personally initiate the use of force? My answer to that (which is incidental to my purpose here, but what the hell) is that he did.

But if you conclude that he did not, then you should also find that he did not violate anyone's rights.

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What you said in the quote above is a slippery and dangerous slope. A man who kills  a doctor who performs abortions is not an innocent victim of his priest. We don't put the priest in jail even though he might have triggered the chain of events.

 

There are very real differences between a priest saying "abortion is evil, and abortion doctors are murderers;" a priest saying, "The abortion doctor John Doe on First Street is a murderer and should be killed;" and a priest saying, "Hey, Bob. The abortion doctor John Doe on First Street is a murderer. Here, take this gun and go kill him." 

 

You're treating all those scenarios just the same. While the second one may be approaching yet falling short of the definition of conspiring to commit murder and being an accessory to it, the third clearly is conspiring to commit murder and being an accessory. 

 

There are clear ways to define whether one is an accessory to a crime. If I drive the getaway car in a bank robbery, I am an accessory to the crime, whether I was the one who walked in with the gun or not. There may indeed be some areas where it may be hard to determine if someone is an true accessory to a crime or not, and in those cases the default ruling would be "innocent," however that is no argument against the very real fact that if a person commits acts to knowingly aid in the committing of a crime, then that person is also held at fault.

Edited by secondhander
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There are very real differences between a priest saying "abortion is evil, and abortion doctors are murderers;" a priest saying, "The abortion doctor John Doe on First Street is a murderer and should be killed;" and a priest saying, "Hey, Bob. The abortion doctor John Doe on First Street is a murderer. Here, take this gun and go kill him." 

 

You're treating all those scenarios just the same. While the second one may be approaching yet falling short of the definition of conspiring to commit murder and being an accessory to it, the third clearly is conspiring to commit murder and being an accessory. 

 

There are clear ways to define whether one is an accessory to a crime. If I drive the getaway car in a bank robbery, I am an accessory to the crime, whether I was the one who walked in with the gun or not. There may indeed be some areas where it may be hard to determine if someone is an true accessory to a crime or not, and in those cases the default ruling would be "innocent," however that is no argument against the very real fact that if a person commits acts to knowingly aid in the committing of a crime, then that person is also held at fault.

 

All of the above, true as it might be, is superfluous. You're only stating how things are here, today. The point of this topic is how it should be. And I say that in all the 3 cases the only guilty person should be the killer. Not the priest. Why? It's difficult to explain... let me think... Oh, how about this: because only the killer initiated force.

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I agree with DonAthos. It may be that his choice to use "outside" was unfortunate, but his point his very clear: "...initiation of force" which is the same thing as "the violation of someone's rights.".

Force is a concept in physics. Rights are a political principle. The notion that the initiation of one is THE SAME THING as the violation of the other is so absurd I won't even try to address it.

Um... it might be overkill. Any other suggestions, something I could do in, say, a couple of hours, maybe... ?

If you wish to have a conversation about Ayn Rand's views, then you need to know the contents of Ayn Rand's writings.

Even if you agree with me that there is no practical distinction between a violation of rights and the initiation of force -- reducing this apparent discrepancy to semantics

I don't agree with you on that. Like I explain above, the distinction between the two concepts couldn't be more obvious. One is a concept in Physics, the other one in Philosophy. And "practical distinction" is just nonsense. Distinctions are correct or incorrect, not practical or unpractical.

But we are having a semantic disagreement. You started a debate over the definition of individual rights, remember? You're claiming that the violation of individual rights are defined as initiation of force, I'm claiming that they're not (I'm not gonna bother defining them, because individual rights are defined in the AR Lexicon, for instance, in the "individual rights" entry, first paragraph; violating them just means preventing a person from exercising them).

There's no need to explain why this particular distinction matters. This whole thread is the evidence that it matters. If OP was correct in assuming that a violation of individual rights is defined as "initiation of force" rather than preventing a person from exercizing his rights, then he would also be correct in saying that hiring a killer is not a violation of rights. After all, I'm no Physicist, but I'm still pretty sure that hiring someone, or ordering something to someone, or even being Hitler and ruling Germany with an iron fist, is not initiation of physical force.

Edited by Nicky
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Just to refresh your memory, DonAthos: we had an argument concerning the relationship between rights and physical force before. It was about libel laws.

In it, I was arguing that it is impossible to violate someone's rights without the use of physical force (note that I wasn't arguing that a violation of rights is THE SAME THING as initiating force, only that there's a logical relationship between the two), and therefor libel laws are illegitimate (no force is used to harm someone, through libel - they are harmed, of course, but not through the use of force).

Meanwhile, you had a convoluted defense of libel laws, which involved arguing that "physical force" as used by Ayn Rand is something other than the concept "force" used in Physics. Do you still believe that? If you do, this conversation is over for the same reason that one was.

Edited by Nicky
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If you do, this conversation is over for the same reason that one was.

 

If you say so.  I don't remember the conversation you're talking about; I tend to argue against libel... and suspect you might be thinking of someone else.  But whatever.  I'm tired of dealing with this sort of juvenile bs.

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All of the above, true as it might be, is superfluous. You're only stating how things are here, today. The point of this topic is how it should be. And I say that in all the 3 cases the only guilty person should be the killer. Not the priest. Why? It's difficult to explain... let me think... Oh, how about this: because only the killer initiated force.

 

Hi Bogdan,

 

Here's the truth: I am starved for actual conversation.  So I'd be happy to try to answer your arguments on this topic, and you're free to respond (and hell, so is Nicky if he can manage to be civil about it).  Lately I've just been distressed by the kinds of conversations that abound here.  But that's not your problem, is it? :)

 

I'm pressed for time this morning, so here's a quick starter to get us going:

 

Let us say that we're agreed that it is immoral and (ought to be) criminal to initiate force, and moral and just to respond to force with force.  I believe then that the central question we have to resolve (and likely our initial disagreement) is what it means to "initiate force."

 

So... if I walk up to you in a bar and hit you without warning or provocation, clearly I've initiated force against you.

 

But what if I walk up to you and cock my fist back, intimating that I am about to strike you.  Have I yet "initiated force"?  Are you yet justified to act in defense (i.e. to use force in response, by hitting me first or something similar)?

 

I would say "absolutely."

 

If I fire a gun at you, it is not the case that as the bullet travels from the gun, I have not yet initiated force against you... until the bullet strikes.  I initiate force when I fire the gun.  When I brandish the gun at you in such a way as to intimate my intentions to harm or kill or rob you or etc.  When I threaten you that I have a gun somewhere on my body, though I have not yet displayed it, and I mean to use it against you.  When I tell you that if you do not comply to my terms, I will employ force against you in a week's time.

 

All of these are examples of the "initiation of force."

 

Now consider the case of conspiracy.  I plan on killing you, though you do not know it, and I take steps to bring that into reality.  That is an initiation of the use of force as surely as targeting you with a sniper rifle as you walk down the street.  (Whether it is different in degree sufficient to warrant a different criminal charge is another matter.)  This is true whether alone or in league with others.

 

Imagine a group that decides that they want to kill some man.  They make plans together, commit their resources together to the project (perhaps to accomplish something that none of them could alone), and then, on the last day, they draw straws to determine who shall be the "trigger man" and take that final step that will result in the death of their target.  Is it the case that force is only initiated when the physical trigger is pulled (and no actions in self-defense were warranted before that time)?  Is it the case that only the randomly selected assassin is responsible for the forceful actions that now take place?

 

No.  The initiation of force happens well before the gun is fired, and the guilt of the crime extends to everyone complicit.

 

What do you think?

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Up to the last paragraph I agree with you almost completely, with a small note: It's not about initiation of actual force, but of a threat to use it. The threat is real, it's directed at me, which entitles me to defend myself and hit you first, or have you arrested or whatever. It might not matter for this thread though. 

 

 

 

Imagine a group that decides that they want to kill some man.  They make plans together, commit their resources together to the project (perhaps to accomplish something that none of them could alone), and then, on the last day, they draw straws to determine who shall be the "trigger man" and take that final step that will result in the death of their target.  Is it the case that force is only initiated when the physical trigger is pulled (and no actions in self-defense were warranted before that time)?  Is it the case that only the randomly selected assassin is responsible for the forceful actions that now take place?

 

No.  The initiation of force happens well before the gun is fired, and the guilt of the crime extends to everyone complicit.

 

Not quite. Your conclusions are too bundled up. Here is my take, assuming that the scenario you describe actually takes place.

 

I will break it in a few steps.

 

1. The group starts planning to kill C. When the plan has gone far enough (just like you I won't go into the details) the initiation of a threat to use force against C has indeed occured. What's important though is that they are acting together, as a group. Therefore they are all guilty. C is entitled to preemptive action against them all (or against any of them).

2. They draw straws and B2 is the designated hitman. As far as your scenario goes, B2 is the only one that will actually perform the killing, while the others in the group will just sit back, relax and watch the show. They will not act in any way. At this point they are still all guilty. Nothing has really changed.

3. The day of the hit arrives, B2 picks up the rifle and takes position. The others in the group turn the TV on and wait for the news. And this is the point where it all changes. In fact, this is the moment we can actually talk about an A and a B. Up to this point, there was no A. There was only a bunch of B-s. So at this point the rest of the group becomes innocent and B2 is the only guilty one. The delegation of responsibility has occured. B2 is the only one against whom defensive action may properly be taken. It's pointless to arrest or shoot B3 who is taking a shower and, as you might have guessed by now, is laughing at the stupidity of B2. (Yes, the police might get information from B3 about the details of the hit and stop B2, but that's an insignifficant sub-scenario).

 

As I previously said, if B2 goes ahead and kills C, if he is caught, he is the only one going to jail. The other members of the group are off the hook. If B2 changes his mind and walks away, the guilt is again shared by all, just like in the first 2 steps.

 

So... Steps 1 and 2 are really outside of this topic. We are talking about a criminal gang who, together, are planning to kill someone. Since there is no A, we don't discuss them. My original post never claimed to rid once and for all of all crime. Criminals, alone or in groups, will still exist. Step 3 however, is exactly what the topic is about. And my take is that as soon as he draws the short straw, B2 says to himself "Screw this, I am going home". How the hitman is determined, whether he was paid, brainwashed, convinced or selected at random is irrelevant.

 

Above I assumed that the scenario you describe actually takes place. I don't think it will. Or if it does, it will be partially. All the Bs are initially thinking "I'm going to go with this because I really hate C and there is one chance in ... that it won't be me to actually do it". But it's obvious for all that they're all thinking this. So they won't even start planning. They'll just turn the TV on and wait for the news that C has died of natural causes.

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Up to the last paragraph I agree with you almost completely, with a small note: It's not about initiation of actual force, but of a threat to use it. The threat is real, it's directed at me, which entitles me to defend myself and hit you first, or have you arrested or whatever.

 

All right, let's try to clarify some of this then.

I'm contending that the "threat of force" we're discussing is the initiation of force. My aiming a gun at your head, though I never touch you, or telling you that I will kill you a week next Tuesday, or plotting in secret with my cabal to poison your cigar, all of these are the opening of hostilities, just as (if we were speaking with respect to governments) a declaration of war. You may "initiate force" without bodily contact yet occurring (e.g. standing in front of your driveway, preventing you from coming home; firing a bullet at you though the bullet has not yet struck).

But it is possible, as Nicky seemingly does, that you draw a distinction between such a "threat" and the "initiation of force."

It is an important point to determine whether this "threat" is or is not an "initiation of force" in this manner. You claim the right to self-defense in the face of such a threat, and the right to throw the first punch (what you would call the "initiation of actual force"), yet note Rand (from "The Objectivist Ethics," emphasis added):

 

The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.

 

If you believe that the man who threatens has not yet initiated the use of physical force, then how do you believe that you have the right to use physical force in retaliation?

 

1. The group starts planning to kill C. When the plan has gone far enough (just like you I won't go into the details) the initiation of a threat to use force against C has indeed occured. What's important though is that they are acting together, as a group. Therefore they are all guilty. C is entitled to preemptive action against them all (or against any of them).

 

Okay.

So let's pretend for the sake of my response that we're now agreed on the preceding manner; that such a threat is itself the initiation of force, and thus allows for (or even requires) retaliatory force, in the name of self-defense (and justice).

And indeed -- you agree with me that these men are "guilty" of something, entitling you to take action (including physical action) against them.  So do you mean to contend that... their guilt goes away at some subsequent point?  On Monday, they belong in jail due to their criminal actions, but on Tuesday it would be immoral to put them there, because they've actually done nothing wrong?

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I'm contending that the "threat of force" we're discussing is the initiation of force.

[...]

So do you mean to contend that... their guilt goes away at some subsequent point?  On Monday, they belong in jail due to their criminal actions, but on Tuesday it would be immoral to put them there, because they've actually done nothing wrong?

 

This approach doesn't allow for the case whereby the person who threatens to use force, subsequently withdraws the threat, apologizes and goes home. It may be that to consider that he's done nothing wrong is exaggerated  but surely the threatened man is no longer entitled to 'self-defense'. Some 'retaliation' is in order, but certainly not to the same extend as if the threat was still active. Equating a threat, which is a potential use of force with an actual use of force would mean that the same 'defensive' actions maybe taken at any moment after the initiation regardless of what the perpetrator does later on. The actual use of force does damage. The threat itself (while it may do some damage such as emotional trauma) might very well end in no damage being done.

 

So, yes, the group, as an entity, is guilty Monday and not guilty Tuesday, since they have changed their minds. All the information they have gathered, all the tools and weapons they have purchased, all the planning they have done - they have decided not to put it to use. For all practical purposes they no longer represent a threat to their previous target. Previous, get it? :) It is not the case with B2, obviously. He has decided to go ahead and use the weapons, tools, plan, etc against his target.

 

Men have the right to use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use

 

Well, what can I say? According to Objectivist standards you got me here. It's there, black on white. However, I believe that Ayn Rand didn't go into details of this subject, because it's not really a philosophical issue, but more of a legal/criminal one. If she had, she would have probably made a clear difference between 'self-defense' and 'retaliation'; she would have mentioned that the self-defense sometimes, or should I say 'in most cases', is properly performed by the threatened person with no delegation whatever; and she would have rephrased the quote above to the more cumbersome form "... those who initiate its use or a threat to use it". But, hey, these are just speculations, right?

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she would have mentioned that the self-defense sometimes, or should I say 'in most cases', is properly performed by the threatened person with no delegation whatever; 

 

Weird, huh? I am quoting myself... In fact the above is somewhat explicit when she says in The Objectivist Ethics

the victim does not grow richer by killing a holdup man

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Equating a threat, which is a potential use of force with an actual use of force would mean that the same 'defensive' actions maybe taken at any moment after the initiation regardless of what the perpetrator does later on.

 

No one is (at least I'm not) equating a threat with actual use of force. It has to be shown that there was intent (through planning, taking steps towards, etc.) to carry out the threat.

 

 

The threat itself (while it may do some damage such as emotional trauma) might very well end in no damage being done.

 

Or it might very well end in you losing your life. 

Edited by thenelli01
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