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The Childs-Peikoff Hypothesis

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Dennis Hardin
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Again, we are back to looking at the real world as opposed to a fantasy world.

As long as the private court did everything the government court would do, everything would be lovely. The problem, of course, is that it is very likely that the private court might not follow all of the procedural safeguards that a government court is required to follow. And in that event, someone’s rights have been violated. If the private court is operating separately from the government’s oversight, the government cannot do its job of protecting individual rights.

The difference between a private company performing a specific service and the government is that the government's responsibility is to make sure that something does not happen--that force is not used improperly. That's why it requires jurisdiction over any agencies that may use force in any way.

Sure, it would be "lovely." So then, since justice is a province of human reason, the correct prodecures can be differentiated from incorrect ones, and therefore bandit (or rights-violating) courts differentiated from free market (or rights-respecting courts), which by your own admission no other agency has a right to intervene in, then you implicitly endorse market anarchism. The argument that okay but one agency is needed to "provide oversight" is debunked in #23:

Well this is interestingly similar to the theist's cosmological argument. A "first cause" is needed to explain the existence of the universe, but then a first cause is needed to explain the supposed "first cause," and so on, until you have an infinite regress. So the government is overseeing, in Nozickian fashion, that the correct procedures are being followed. But then if these other agencies require a "super-agency" to oversee the correct procedures are being used, who is to oversee the super-agency to ensure it is following the correct procedures? Does being a member of the super-agency somehow endow you with the ability to be objective, whereas being a member of any of the other agencies does not?

But moreover, we have this picture of the government as a "licensing agency," so to speak, granting licenses to act within a certain set of legal rules, and being the "overseer" as Hardin wants it, of these other agencies. First of all, what exactly this means can have varying interpretations (I'll skip listing all of them for now), but suppose that means something like the state confines itself to doing what Hardin wants it to do, ie,. to oversee that all other agencies are adhering to the correct procedures of justice. If one believes, as we both do, in such a single, uniform standard, then what possible objection could you have to this?

You see, saying "well yes, if they use the correct procedures, then it's okay, as long as one agency oversees the correct procedures" doesn't escape Don Athos' question. Let's think what this would look like for a second. We're supposed to have a variety of competing agencies on the free market, and one organization takes upon itself the job of forcing all the other agencies to conform to the single, uniform standard of objective justice. But it's the only organization doing this, so then suppose another organization enters that field and competes in the job of being the "licensing agency" certifying in accordance with the same exact principles of justice. Does it then prohibit competition in that field? Even if the other agencies are "overseeing" in accordance with the exact same principles, as per Don Athos' question? If so, then it is an unjust aggressor on its own grounds, for if the coercive imposition of these objective principles of justice is permissible, then it is permissible for anybody. Secondly, it is also undesirable on incentive grounds (the same reasons we don't want licensing laws, e.g. in consumer protection or for the medical industry), since all coercive monopolies (and licensing laws) lack the very checks and balances that make us want competition in the first place, and so this type of argument completely fails on its own grounds.

But apart from that point, you state "it is likely" that a private court would violate the correct prodecures. I must concur with Don Athos in asking how you made such a determination. If we analyze the actual incentive structures of monopoly versus competition, I think we can find powerful reasons why a monopoly, with a captive customer base and insulated from competition, also facing calculational and informational problems (due to familiar Misesian/Hayekian reasons) and the ability to externalize costs onto other parties, faces an inferior incentive structure for the "likelihood" of solving problems aggressively as compared with market institutions.

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What would a 'private court' be?

And how would the existence of such a system of justice not be operational only by the principle of might makes right, as opposed to the idea of a government of laws and not men?

And why to be mora,l do free men need incentives?(begs the question of incentives provided by...?)

Alot of the reasoning behind the defense of the idea of a free market of legalism, at least coming from 2046, seems to be predicated on the idea of 'incentives',is this like the choice betrween the carrot and the stick? If so, who in reality gets to wield them? What is the rational way to determine who 'gets to' hold that power?

Edited by tadmjones
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What would a 'private court' be?

This question runs deep, in my opinion, so get comfortable. We might be here for a while.

Let me first try to describe a "private court" in the context of this conversation. The idea of the modern state is a government with a monopoly on the use of legitimate force (primarily, though with more or less allowance for personal self-defense) in a given territory. One of the services such a government is expected to provide is a justice system, typically incorporating courts. A "private court" would be an entity within that state which also provides justice, though not-affiliated with the government which claims "monopoly."

Now, I believe that the question before us is this. Imagine for a moment that we took seriously the idea that it is wrong to initiate force, and that we wished to govern ourselves by that idea. That "government" means that we commit our force, individually and collectively, only in response to its initiation -- via self-defense and retributive justice. If we did such a thing, and enshrined our idea in a Constitution so that our land were governed by the principle of the non-initiation of force, and some entity within our land set up a "private court" as described above, would we take action against that court for the purpose of preserving our monopoly?

And to that question, my answer (thus far) is: we should only take action against that court if that court, itself, were initiating the use of force by acting contrary to the principles of justice. If, however, that "private court" were equally committed to the principle of the non-initiation of force, and acting only to provide objective justice, then we would have no call to take action against it. Indeed, to act against such a court would be an initiation of the use of force on our part. But then, if we allow the establishment of such a court... what has become of our "monopoly"?

For after all, the idea of a "private court" is ultimately a self-contradiction, is it not? Insofar as the word "private" is meant to mean apart from governance, and that role which government is meant to play in effecting justice within a society, there can be no "private court"; every court is government of its nature. Equally suspect is the term "anarchy," thrown around in this thread and elsewhere. To suggest that the creation of an additional court which provides objective justice means to have no government whatever is flawed on its face, when we're actually talking about a net increase in... uh... archy.

So if we take "anarchy" to mean "without government," then the idea of a "private court" is not a blow for anarchy at all, and rather its opposite. It does, however, take aim at one feature of the modern state that is typically assumed to be part and parcel with governance itself (in, perhaps, a bit of a "package deal"): that a particular government (meaning here: certain specific individuals and established institutions) must have a monopoly on the functions of governance. But as we've seen, insofar as other individuals within a state or a society administer objective justice apart from the previously recognized "monopoly government," then to take action against those individuals for the purpose of maintaining one's monopoly would be an initiation of the use of force.

Thus, I find that the establishment of a "monopoly government" is incompatible with the principle of the non-initiation of force. And after all, we may imagine whether a John Galt, say, would feel a call to take action against some portion of Galt's Gulch who decided to administer government themselves, so long as they continued to do so according to the principles of objective justice. I'd imagine that his response would be something like, "so long as they don't initiate force against another man, they can do what they'd like."

And how would the existence of such a system of justice not be operational only by the principle of might makes right, as opposed to the idea of a government of laws and not men?

If I'm right about all of this (and, full disclosure: most of these ideas are very very new to me; and I've certainly not tried to articulate them before)...

...then I believe that what I'm discussing is actually the full flower of "a government of laws and not men." Or not even "laws," per se, but enshrining the principle of the non-initiation of force at the very peak of governance.

After all, what gives a "monopoly government" its legitimacy? How does one man, or group of men, decide that they are capable and authorized to enact justice, and no other? Is it the first to claim that "he is the government"? Is it that act which grants him moral leave to initiate force against any other man who would make a similar claim? I suspect that historically this is so, in combination with the size of his rock or club -- the very "might makes right" which perhaps (hopefully) you would decry.

But if might does not make right -- if only right makes right -- and if we take "right," politically, to mean the observance of man's rights through the principle of the non-initiation of force, then I think that we also must not initiate force against another man or group of men who are equally committed to protecting man's rights through the principle of the non-initiation of force... even if that means that there is no such thing as a legitimate "monopoly" on these activities.

In one sense -- viewing "government" as a particular set of defined institutions and individuals which have a monopoly on the administration of justice -- this will seem like "anarchy," despite what we've discussed above. In another sense, however, it can be understood that these "private courts" would actually be operating within one government -- but it would be a government aligned around the principle of the non-initiation of force (which would have the only monopoly remaining: a philosophical monopoly), as opposed to being aligned around specific men and specific institutions. It would be a full recognition of the objectivity of justice, which does not derive its legitimacy from the "official" nature of those who enact it, but from the nature of the act itself -- what is just is just, and what is not is not.

Edited by DonAthos
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One wonders at how many people would read Ayn Rand's novels if such a criteria as "well that seems rediculous on its face" were applied. And how do you expect to argue against a position if you won't even investigate what that position is saying? It is one thing to display lack of comprehension of some point and strive to understand it, and maybe never succeeding, but it is quite another to say "I refuse to even look through Sr Galileo's telescope, off to the index librorum prohibitorum with you!"
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What would a 'private court' be?

And how would the existence of such a system of justice not be operational only by the principle of might makes right, as opposed to the idea of a government of laws and not men?

And why to be mora,l do free men need incentives?(begs the question of incentives provided by...?)

Alot of the reasoning behind the defense of the idea of a free market of legalism, at least coming from 2046, seems to be predicated on the idea of 'incentives',is this like the choice betrween the carrot and the stick? If so, who in reality gets to wield them? What is the rational way to determine who 'gets to' hold that power?

Every political system has a corresponding incentive structure. Monarchy has one structure of incentives, democracy another one, dictatorship another, communism, corporatism, whatever. Imagine if we got the idea that we wanted objective law, so we task Joe Jones with writing and enforcing all laws, which we trust he will do objectively. Now this kind of system would face certain incentives, for example, Joe Jones might find himself with all sorts of long-lost cousins, and people who suddenly want to be his best friend. That's one type of incentive structure.

Now suppose we say that this a bad system because it does not provide its constituent agents an incentive to resolve disputes according to objective law, but rather incentivizes arbitrariness, cronyism, favoritism, bribery, etc. Would we feel much better if we then said, well we still want the Jones family to have a coercive monopoly, but instead we will have a better incentive structure if we decentralize the legal system with checks and balances and separation of powers. We'll have Joe's brother Jim exclusively writing all the laws, Joe will be restricted to just enforcing the laws that Jim writes, and good old Aunt Nene Jones will be the "final arbiter" of interpreting the laws that brother Jim writes. Well... okay this is probably better than Joe Jones doing all of these things, but it's still a bad incentive structure for objectivity. It is in this way that limited government, through the principle of checks and balances and separation of powers, perhaps unbeknownst to its supporters tries to actually imitate the features of the market, but falls short at actually satisfying. And this helps to explain why limiting government in the long run has proven futile, and would probably not work, or at least, work as well as a fully decentralized free market legal order.

Edited by 2046
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DonAthos said

After all, what gives a "monopoly government" its legitimacy? How does one man, or group of men, decide that they are capable and authorized to enact justice, and no other? Is it the first to claim that "he is the government"? Is it that act which grants him moral leave to initiate force against any other man who would make a similar claim? I suspect that historically this is so, in combination with the size of his rock or club -- the very "might makes right" which perhaps (hopefully) you would decry.

Though the constitution of the United States is not a 'perfect' document, it is the closest mankind has gotten to founding a government of laws and not men. That the current society/culture has allowed those principles to be at the least corrupted or even blatantly ignored does not then mean that the idea of a constitutional republic vested with the monopoly use of justified force, that which is needed to protect all individuals within a society, is essentially flawed. By needed , I mean the idea that all are equal before the law means that those who break the law are accountable to the "law", which would be the government( aside from the ideas of seperating specific jurisdictions eg states , federal, local municipalites, which should all ultimately comform to the principles of a constitutional republic, so in that sense it can be described as a 'monopoly' government).

Edited by tadmjones
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Though the constitution of the United States is not a 'perfect' document, it is the closest mankind has gotten to founding a government of laws and not men.

This may be so. Where it falls short of "perfection," it allows for (or even demands) the initiation of force against the people for whom government is supposed to be a protection against such force.

That the current society/culture has allowed those principles to be at the least corrupted or even blatantly ignored does not then mean that the idea of a constitutional republic vested with the monopoly use of justified force, that which is needed to protect all individuals within a society, is essentially flawed.

I have demonstrated the "essential flaw" of a "monopoly" on justified force in the arguments I have laid out, and which you have not addressed. That the preservation of a monopoly would require the initiation of force against those who would assert their own governance, even if they were not themselves initiating force, and even if they were acting in full concord with objective justice.

You are furthermore not even addressing that portion of my post(s) which you have quoted. Can you describe the process by which a "monopoly government" initially gains its legitimacy?

Since you have upheld the U.S. Constitution (and one assumes, by extension, the U.S. Government) as being "the closest mankind has gotten," would you say that its inception was legitimate, despite, upon inception, upholding various features such as, to name one, slavery? Does that count as a legitimate government with respect to a philosophy which holds the non-initiation of force as its guiding political principle?

Edited by DonAthos
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This may be so. Where it falls short of "perfection," it allows for (or even demands) the initiation of force against the people for whom government is supposed to be a protection against such force.

I have demonstrated the "essential flaw" of a "monopoly" on justified force in the arguments I have laid out, and which you have not addressed. That the preservation of a monopoly would require the initiation of force against those who would assert their own governance, even if they were not themselves initiating force, and even if they were acting in full concord with objective justice.

You are furthermore not even addressing that portion of my post(s) which you have quoted. Can you describe the process by which a "monopoly government" initially gains its legitimacy?

Since you have upheld the U.S. Constitution (and one assumes, by extension, the U.S. Government) as being "the closest mankind has gotten," would you say that its inception was legitimate, despite, upon inception, upholding various features such as, to name one, slavery? Does that count as a legitimate government with respect to a philosophy which holds the non-initiation of force as its guiding political principle?

Yes its inception was legitimate, it was written by men in the 18th century they had differing views on peoplehood. I am not sure how to answer you question , do mean that a government could only be legitimate if its guiding politcal principle were the non-initiation of force? I would say that the guiding principle should be the recognition and protection of individual rights. I do understand that the only way to actually violate rights is the use or threat of force, so perhaps basing guiding principles on force is more fundamental, but I am not sure.

Edited by tadmjones
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Yes its inception was legitimate, it was written by men in the 18th century they had differing views on peoplehood.

They had "differing views"? All right. They had differing views -- what of that? I'm interested in finding the objective criteria as to what makes a government legitimate, and I do not believe it depends on the subjective views that a group might have, per their time, their culture, etc. Folks in the Soviet Union, and etc., may have had "differing views on peoplehood." I do not take it that, as a result, we must uphold that government as being "legitimate." (Unless all government is somehow "legitimate.") Do you take seriously the idea that man has rights of his nature? And that government's purpose is to uphold and defend those rights? If that is true now, then it was equally true then... unless man's fundamental nature has changed over the years.

So you say it was "legitimate," and now I want you to describe what makes it so, in your view. Obviously it's not respecting rights, or setting "might" on the side of "right," because that didn't happen then and has not happened subsequently. Unless I'm mistaken, coercive taxation was there from the beginning, and slavery as we've discussed, and if I were to investigate early American government, I suspect I could find all manner of other things that we would account rights violations. Do you disagree?

Now, what I mean by "rights violations" is 1) turning the very purpose of objective governance on its head, by setting the government against the citizens it is supposed to protect, and 2) an abridgement of an individual's life, liberty, property, etc. So... should the individual whose rights are abridged -- whose life, liberty, property is attacked by the government -- regard that government as being "legitimate"? Should a man pronounced a slave by governance in the 18th century have respected that judgment, because after all, the legitimate monopoly government said that it was so, and people just didn't know enough back then to be expected to do anything different?

What fealty does an individual owe to a government that does not respect rights -- as no government on earth ever has -- and what is the precise source of that obligation?

And further, how does an individual -- or a group of individuals -- become a legitimate government in the first place? Is it just a matter of getting a gun, pointing it at a group of heads and then proclaiming "I am the government now"? Does that carry moral force in impelling those targeted to bend their knee and obey my commands, because they must obey someone? Where does that moral force -- the "legitimacy" of a government -- come from?

(And btw, tadmjones, I'm not asking you these questions either because I think you must have the answers, or to pick on you, but because these are the questions I'm currently asking myself.)

I am not sure how to answer you question , do mean that a government could only be legitimate if its guiding politcal principle were the non-initiation of force?

Yes. I think so. I think that no individual should accept anything less.

Where a government is not guided by the non-initiation of force in its actions, it is initiating force. It is curtailing rights. Hurting the people it is meant to protect. To accept that morally (to grant it "legitimacy"), I think, is to concede that "some sacrifices must be made" where the "sacrifice" might be you, me, your father, my son, etc.

Edited by DonAthos
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Yes its inception was legitimate, it was written by men in the 18th century they had differing views on peoplehood. I am not sure how to answer you question , do mean that a government could only be legitimate if its guiding politcal principle were the non-initiation of force? I would say that the guiding principle should be the recognition and protection of individual rights. I do understand that the only way to actually violate rights is the use or threat of force, so perhaps basing guiding principles on force is more fundamental, but I am not sure.

The relationship between force and rights is a very important one. At the beginning of his thread, I suggested that defenders of anarcho-capitalism read Understanding Objectivism. One of the key points covered in that book is the connection between the evil of force and individual rights.

The following is a brief summary of my own notes on this topic as taken from the book.

From the perspective of the hierarchy of Objectivism, the principle of the evil of the initiation of force is more fundamental than individual rights. However, this does not mean that you can move from the evil of force directly to politics and government (as anarchists typically do). Another step is necessary, and that step is the clarification of the nature of rights.

The nature of individual rights is the base of politics. When discussing rights—or any other issue related to politics—we must hold the context of everything that precedes politics, including all of ethics. The evil of the initiation of force is part of ethics. But one cannot proceed from “force is evil” to “government should ban it.” Government does not exist for the purpose of upholding morality. It cannot outlaw dishonesty or sexual promiscuity or pornography.

The principle relating ethics to politics is: What is moral in ethics must be possible in politics. Society must institutionalize the conditions which enable man to live morally. That’s why Rand defines rights as “conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival.”

“If a man has a right to his own life, then he has the right to take all those actions that are necessary, by his nature as a rational being, to sustain and protect it. In order to prove that a certain action is in fact a right, you have to prove that it is required by man’s nature.”

Ayn Rand, Objectively Speaking (p. 47)

Consider the implications of this for another ‘hot button’ issue with anarchists: copyright laws and patents. Objectivism says that, in accordance with the requirements of human life, a man should be able to profit from the efforts of his own mind. Therefore, he has the right to control who profits from his artistic creations and inventions. But the anarchist says that, because this will require “initiating” force to stop others from duplicating his work without permission, the artist and inventor has no such right.

The reason such anarchists cannot find any such “right” is that they have never grasped that the issue of the evil of the initiation of force is not a primary. Just that principle alone is not sufficient to build a political theory. It is necessary to understand why it is evil. It is not an axiom.

Paraphrasing Peikoff: If you start with the non-initiation of force as your axiom, there is no way to know how to interpret or apply that principle. That error alone--an error which reflects the epistemology of rationalism--underlies most of the massive folly called anarcho-capitalism.

I have no illusions that anarcho-capitalists will grasp this and suddenly “see the light.” The implications of this are obvious, but I am not about to waste my breath repeating myself while certain posters keep telling me that I have not ‘addressed’ this or that issue when I have addressed it over and over and over again. I have better things to do than to try convince anarchist “true believers.” My primary purpose in posting this is for the education of other readers on this thread.

For more clarification on this, please read Peikoff’s Understanding Objectivism.

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Way less articuously, the main idea of DH's post was going to be the basis of my response to DA's questions. I was also going to try and explore the use of 'monopoly' as a qualifier in the anarcho scheme of things, since depending on context (always , everything depends on context) the use of the term 'monopoly' to designate or qualify an entity's sphere of action, is not normative.

Edited by tadmjones
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So it doesn't make sense to take the nonaggression principle as an unquestioned axiom, and this might lead to poor applications of the NAP, such as those libertarians that are against copyright. Okay. But what does this have to do with our position here? I'm sure there are some libertarians that do take the above position on the NAP, but what does that have to do with me? Thus far I can only consider this post to be a sort of "if you really understood, then you would see that you're wrong!" But nowhere does the foregoing actually apply itself to our position.
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Also another point, going a bit off topic, but in line with another thread. Hardin cites Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism and claims the above mistake is made in regards taking the NAP as an ungrounded axiom. But Hardin cites no one. Which libertarians? What anarchists do this? In fact, I have Peikoff's UA right here and nowhere does he cite anyone on this either. No one would accept such nonspecific claims in the academic world. This is not just a complaint about the appalling lack of basic scholarly standards among some Objectivists, but really to the point of being totally ignorant of the material they are referring to.

Hardin uses the copyright position of some libertarians to demonstrate his point, but I doubt he is familiar with this literature because these libertarians do not claim the NAP as an ungrounded axiom, but rather they take a different grounding (a conflict-avoidance grounding, instead of Rand's Greek eudaimonist grounding.)

And libertarian scholars are way ahead of explaining why this is, as Charles Johnson explains the phenomenon of "grounds thickness" when a libertarian is committed to a different value set underpinning the theoretical foundations of the NAP, this can lead to "application thickness" wherein there can be disagreements about what exactly constitutes aggression (eg, disagreement over abortion, war, etc.) (See Johnson "Libertarianism through Thick and Thin" 2008, The Freeman.) And that shouldn't be surprising. But here there isn't disagreement over the NAP's grounding, but rather its consequences, so appeals of this sort are of no avail.

Edited by 2046
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The relationship between force and rights is a very important one. At the beginning of his thread, I suggested that defenders of anarcho-capitalism read Understanding Objectivism.

It is somewhat hard to tell whether this post is directed at me at all or not. On the one hand, it contains no response to any of the arguments or the questions I've raised across several posts... so it's tempting to think that it has no connection to the ongoing discussion whatsoever. On the other hand, coming in the context of the preceding conversation, one expects that Hardin's post would contain a such a response. Especially since it seems that no other response is forthcoming.

If I took this as a response to the things I've actually said, and not the anarchist boogeymen it otherwise appears to address, it would be severely disappointing, and for a number of reasons... but it seems that it is maybe the likeliest scenario, and so I'll address it accordingly, even if ultimately unnecessary.

In the first place, I don't consider myself to be a "defender of anarcho-capitalism," though I'm not familiar enough with that term to honestly say one way or the other. As I've said before, however, I don't really believe that "anarchy" has anything to do with the subject I've been discussing. The question isn't whether there should be any kind of "governance," or to suggest that there shouldn't be any such thing, but to sort out whether a monopoly on such activities is consonant with the principle of the non-initiation of force. And also, as a related question, I've been exploring the legitimacy of an initial claim to government, and its origin. But it appears that nobody else wants to deal with such questions substantively -- after all, what is "discussion" for? -- so I guess I'll not try to revisit that topic, until or unless somebody shows interest.

One of the key points covered in that book is the connection between the evil of force and individual rights.

The following is a brief summary of my own notes on this topic as taken from the book.

From the perspective of the hierarchy of Objectivism, the principle of the evil of the initiation of force is more fundamental than individual rights. However, this does not mean that you can move from the evil of force directly to politics and government (as anarchists typically do). Another step is necessary, and that step is the clarification of the nature of rights.

The nature of individual rights is the base of politics. When discussing rights—or any other issue related to politics—we must hold the context of everything that precedes politics, including all of ethics. The evil of the initiation of force is part of ethics. But one cannot proceed from “force is evil” to “government should ban it.” Government does not exist for the purpose of upholding morality. It cannot outlaw dishonesty or sexual promiscuity or pornography.

This is vague and passive-aggressive, and it's not at all clear what the point is (except possibly to build straw men for the purpose of burning them down). Nobody has called for outlawing dishonesty or "sexual promiscuity." Nobody has said that government exists "for the purpose of upholding morality." Hardin says that "we must hold the context of everything that precedes politics" -- and yes, we must bear relevant "context" in mind in discussing this, or anything else. But there is a profound difference between a general (and empty) call for "context," and directing our attention to something that actually pertains.

So government doesn't exist for the purpose of upholding morality? That's good to know. It was also, perhaps incidentally, never in question. What remains is that people acting in the capacity of "the government" must act morally (for just like Soylent Green, "government" is people). Where politics is concerned this means that the government may not initiate the use of force.

In Galt's speech, Ayn Rand said:

Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others.

Though perhaps she was confused when she said "no man"? Perhaps she meant to add "except of course Dennis Hardin and anyone he appoints may, should he deem it necessary for some greater good"? Though even if she had done, I believe we ought to call it into question.

The principle relating ethics to politics is: What is moral in ethics must be possible in politics. Society must institutionalize the conditions which enable man to live morally. That’s why Rand defines rights as “conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival.”

“If a man has a right to his own life, then he has the right to take all those actions that are necessary, by his nature as a rational being, to sustain and protect it. In order to prove that a certain action is in fact a right, you have to prove that it is required by man’s nature.”

Ayn Rand, Objectively Speaking (p. 47)

Ahh... so that's the relationship of ethics to politics, per Objectivism? "What is moral in ethics must be possible in politics." And... "ociety must institutionalize the conditions which enable man to live morally."

I fear to know -- though the possibility suggests itself to me -- whether this formulation opens the door for certain initiations of force (which I would deem "immoral" otherwise), if done in order to "institutionalize the conditions..."

Furthermore, it seems to me that these are (again) rather vague, and unlike what I've come to expect from both Rand and Objectivism. If only there were something more... simple. More clear-cut.

Oh. Wait.

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. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut...

Whether one accepts Rand's phrasing, or prefers Hardin's... "interpretation," we should further recognize that none of this actually addresses any of the matter under consideration. Though perhaps that's the point?

Consider the implications of this for another ‘hot button’ issue with anarchists: copyright laws and patents. Objectivism says that, in accordance with the requirements of human life, a man should be able to profit from the efforts of his own mind. Therefore, he has the right to control who profits from his artistic creations and inventions. But the anarchist says that, because this will require “initiating” force to stop others from duplicating his work without permission, the artist and inventor has no such right.

We could do this... or we could stick to the actual topic at hand. Though if you would like to discuss intellectual property, I assure you that there are a multitude of other threads in which you can speak your piece.

The reason such anarchists cannot find any such “right” is that they have never grasped that the issue of the evil of the initiation of force is not a primary. Just that principle alone is not sufficient to build a political theory. It is necessary to understand why it is evil. It is not an axiom.

Once again, nobody has claimed that the "evil of the initiation of force" is an axiom. Perhaps if we could find someone to make all of the claims against which you're arguing, you would do quite well, and solve many controversies. Unfortunately, in the context of the replies which have come before yours, these straw men and obfuscations will not serve.

Paraphrasing Peikoff: If you start with the non-initiation of force as your axiom, there is no way to know how to interpret or apply that principle. That error alone--an error which reflects the epistemology of rationalism--underlies most of the massive folly called anarcho-capitalism.

Fortunately, no one (here) is doing this. Though there are actual posts in this thread with actual arguments that perhaps, when you have time and interest, you could attempt to address...

I have no illusions that anarcho-capitalists will grasp this and suddenly “see the light.” The implications of this are obvious, but I am not about to waste my breath repeating myself while certain posters keep telling me that I have not ‘addressed’ this or that issue when I have addressed it over and over and over again. I have better things to do than to try convince anarchist “true believers.” My primary purpose in posting this is for the education of other readers on this thread.

...or not.

In any event, I agree that the "implications" of your regrettable post are obvious. You either do not know how to defend your position against the questions that have been put to it, or there is no way to do so, because you are wrong.

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Way less articuously, the main idea of DH's post was going to be the basis of my response to DA's questions. I was also going to try and explore the use of 'monopoly' as a qualifier in the anarcho scheme of things, since depending on context (always , everything depends on context) the use of the term 'monopoly' to designate or qualify an entity's sphere of action, is not normative.

Do not concern yourself with eloquence, except to endeavor to speak clearly. I'll take you at your words to the best of my ability. As for "the use of 'monopoly' as a qualifier in the anarcho scheme of things," I'm not quite certain what that's supposed to mean, though I invite your clarification. Take it for granted that we agree that context is important; if you introduce relevant context, it shall be considered.

If you mean/meant to try to explain how a government initially gains its "legitimacy," as I've invited you to do -- even with the example we've been using, which we're agreed is the best government so-far in the U.S. Government and Constitution -- perhaps I can help you to focus your response:

With everything taken into account, those who established the U.S. Government (though any other real world government could be substituted, and this would still hold true) asserted that they had the "right" to infringe the rights of others... at least through coercive taxation, and, in our present example, also extending to the protection of outright slavery.

Do you believe that they had the right to do that? The right to form a body which assaults the rights of others? If so, whence do they gain that right? (And in the name of "monopoly," how/why would you say that nobody else could do the same?) And if they did not have that right in the first place, then in what sense is the government "legitimate," and what does an individual/citizen owe to that government in terms of fealty, or obedience, or deference?

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If you mean/meant to try to explain how a government initially gains its "legitimacy," as I've invited you to do -- even with the example we've been using, which we're agreed is the best government so-far in the U.S. Government and Constitution -- perhaps I can help you to focus your response:

With everything taken into account, those who established the U.S. Government (though any other real world government could be substituted, and this would still hold true) asserted that they had the "right" to infringe the rights of others... at least through coercive taxation, and, in our present example, also extending to the protection of outright slavery.

Do you believe that they had the right to do that? The right to form a body which assaults the rights of others? If so, whence do they gain that right? (And in the name of "monopoly," how/why would you say that nobody else could do the same?) And if they did not have that right in the first place, then in what sense is the government "legitimate," and what does an individual/citizen owe to that government in terms of fealty, or obedience, or deference?

First of all I would ask what is meant by 'gaining' legitimacy, some thing is either legitimate or not , according to O'ism. I assume then the argumnet is whether or not the government of the US is legitimate as expressed in the Constitution. I would further assume that you would accept the idea that there is a differnce between the principles of what government should accomplish and the actual offices, agencies and other stuctures, the mechanism of the government.

The Preamble to the Constitution states why the need for government is legitimate and that those to be governed give their consent to the governance. The main body that follows is laying out how, in accord with the principles of liberty, this will be accomplished structually. Where in the Preamble does it say that people(the 18th century understanding) can enslave each other? Is that a principle that is even implied?

It seems to me that this is not a statement by a group who considered themselves to exist as a group outside of the 'people', not one group imposing its will on others and claiming legitimacy by some arbitrary power.

I think also that the focus or purpose of establishing this type of governance was predicated on the idea that basing it on the principles of individual rights would result ,for the first time in human history, in a 'legitimate' government.

The question of whether or not they succeded in this goal can be argued from many differnet perspectives.

Franklin's admonitions come to mind here.

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So it doesn't make sense to take the nonaggression principle as an unquestioned axiom, and this might lead to poor applications of the NAP, such as those libertarians that are against copyright. Okay. But what does this have to do with our position here? I'm sure there are some libertarians that do take the above position on the NAP, but what does that have to do with me? Thus far I can only consider this post to be a sort of "if you really understood, then you would see that you're wrong!" But nowhere does the foregoing actually apply itself to our position.

OK. I will spell it out for you.

The fundamental issue is how we determine what is a proper, moral governmental action.

One cannot use a concrete act of initiating physical force to define what government can and cannot do. That is not the determining factor. Government’s role is defined by the delineation of individual rights. The use of force alone does not define rights. Rather, we define rights according to the requirements of human nature and proper human survival.

Three obvious examples where the question of literal physical force is an insufficient criterion of proper government conduct are patents, copyrights and fraud.

The government may initiate an act of physical force to deter someone from stealing someone’s intellectual property. And it may initiate an act of physical force to take money away from someone who has effectively stolen money through deception—e.g., selling bogus tickets to a concert or show. In these cases, no literal act of physical force occurs until the government takes action. These are obviously exceptions to the rule that the only way to violate individual rights is by initiating physical force.

If you acknowledge that the government may initiate force in these instances—in the name of protecting individual rights-- there is no longer any moral force to the argument that the government may not initiate force (stop the unregulated use of force by private police agencies) in order to insure that it can do its job of protecting individual rights. There is no longer any moral force to the argument that the government should not have a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.

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OK. I will spell it out for you.

Yay! It's great when people decide to "spell [their argument] out." (Literally in this case, given that this is all typed and what not.) It helps to simply say things in a straight-forward manner! It saves time!

The fundamental issue is how we determine what is a proper, moral governmental action.

One cannot use a concrete act of initiating physical force to define what government can and cannot do. That is not the determining factor. Government’s role is defined by the delineation of individual rights. The use of force alone does not define rights. Rather, we define rights according to the requirements of human nature and proper human survival.

Three obvious examples where the question of literal physical force is an insufficient criterion of proper government conduct are patents, copyrights and fraud.

The government may initiate an act of physical force to deter someone from stealing someone’s intellectual property. And it may initiate an act of physical force to take money away from someone who has effectively stolen money through deception—e.g., selling bogus tickets to a concert or show. In these cases, no literal act of physical force occurs until the government takes action. These are obviously exceptions to the rule that the only way to violate individual rights is by initiating physical force.

If you acknowledge that the government may initiate force in these instances—in the name of protecting individual rights-- there is no longer any moral force to the argument that the government may not initiate force (stop the unregulated use of force by private police agencies) in order to insure that it can do its job of protecting individual rights. There is no longer any moral force to the argument that the government should not have a monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force.

Emphasis added.

And, once more, yay! It's now clear where we stand, so thank you for "spelling out " your case. Now, if you would allow me again to draw your attention to a quote or two from Rand that I'd raised earlier? (In this case, the emphasis is the author's original.)

Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate—do you hear me? no man may start—the use of physical force against others.

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. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut...

Here's another (from Textbook of Americanism):

A right cannot be violated except by physical force. One man cannot deprive another of his life, nor enslave him, nor forbid him to pursue his happiness, except by using force against him. Whenever a man is made to act without his own free, personal, individual, voluntary consent—his right has been violated.

Therefore, we can draw a clear-cut division between the rights of one man and those of another. It is an objective division—not subject to differences of opinion, nor to majority decision, nor to the arbitrary decree of society. No man has the right to initiate the use of physical force against another man.

If these appear to directly contradict Hardin's conclusion -- that there is not any moral force to the argument that the government may not initiate force to do X, where X is what Hardin wants the government to do, or believes that it should -- that is because: they do. In fact, I would argue that it is precisely in anticipation of Hardin's type of claims that Rand was so clear and so adamant in her language. She doesn't leave it to implication that the government cannot initiate force, or protect some rights by abridging others (though we could easily draw out those implications from other passages and works, if it were necessary); she says flat out that the government must not initiate force. She has Galt ask "do you hear me?" And I cannot help but feel that some... do not.

***

If it actually matters to anyone reading along, so far as I can tell, the Objectivist case for intellectual property and against fraud do not rest on the notion that the government has some special power in those cases to initiate the use of force. Rather, it contends that property held via fraud or in violation of intellectual property amounts to an initiation of the use of force. But these are matters best suited for examination in their own threads, if need be. What is salient here -- and what has been laid clear -- is that some here agree with Rand's position that the initiation of force must be removed entirely from society (and certainly including the government). And some believe that the initiation of force on the part of the government is at times necessary, for the greater good.

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***

What is salient here -- and what has been laid clear -- is that some here agree with Rand's position that the initiation of force must be removed entirely from society (and certainly including the government). And some believe that the initiation of force on the part of the government is at times necessary, for the greater good.

What is salient here is that Rand said the initiation of force should be removed from society, which has been laid clear. What but government provides the necessary conditions for a 'society' ? Does it not follow then, that society must be dependent on a government ? If it can be shown that a governemnt would ensure a society, why would it by necessity be under the same constraints?

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First of all I would ask what is meant by 'gaining' legitimacy, some thing is either legitimate or not , according to O'ism. I assume then the argumnet is whether or not the government of the US is legitimate as expressed in the Constitution. I would further assume that you would accept the idea that there is a differnce between the principles of what government should accomplish and the actual offices, agencies and other stuctures, the mechanism of the government.

It sounds like you're making many "assumptions." I don't know whether any of them are necessary to engage this question I'm asking you. Frankly, I don't believe that this is quite so complicated as maybe you're making it for yourself.

When the government of the United States was established, it rested upon coercive taxation and it protected the institution of slavery, to cite two examples of how it violated rights. That means: this government we're discussing violated human rights from moment one, in an ongoing fashion, and as part of its very framework.

Did the men who set up this government have the right to do that? Did they have the right to violate the rights of other men?

I feel like I've asked this same question a number of times and in a number of ways, but I'm not sure that I've actually yet had an answer. Do you believe that they had the right to set up a government that violated other people's rights? Because if you examine the record, I think you'll find that this is exactly what they did.

The Preamble to the Constitution states why the need for government is legitimate and that those to be governed give their consent to the governance. The main body that follows is laying out how, in accord with the principles of liberty, this will be accomplished structually. Where in the Preamble does it say that people(the 18th century understanding) can enslave each other? Is that a principle that is even implied?

I've read the Preamble to the Constitution. It is very nice. The US Government is (just as it was when created) much more than the Preamble to the Constitution. We cannot examine the government of the United States by reading the Preamble alone.

It seems to me that this is not a statement by a group who considered themselves to exist as a group outside of the 'people', not one group imposing its will on others and claiming legitimacy by some arbitrary power.

And yet it certainly was imposing its will on others. Though that's not strictly to our point; insofar as a person's actions are just (and politically we mean responding to force, with force), it is right to impose one's will on another.

But in part the US Government imposed its will via coercive taxation, and treating human beings as property, regardless of how the Preamble might have read.

I think also that the focus or purpose of establishing this type of governance was predicated on the idea that basing it on the principles of individual rights would result ,for the first time in human history, in a 'legitimate' government.

The question of whether or not they succeded in this goal can be argued from many differnet perspectives.

Franklin's admonitions come to mind here.

Indeed. The perspective I'm interested in is the objective perspective, where we determine whether or not a government is legitimate (I would argue... and, in fact, am arguing) on this basis: only if it is committed in structure and philosophy to the elimination of the initiation of force, and itself responding with force only against its initiation; i.e. according to the principle of the non-initiation of force. For without this, there are no "individual rights" left (as the slaves in the early American Republic could possibly have told you).

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What is salient here is that Rand said the initiation of force should be removed from society, which has been laid clear. What but government provides 'society' therefore it must be dependent on it(government). It does not follow then that government must also be included.

Are you saying that you believe that the government is exempt from the prohibition against the initiation of force?

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Indeed. The perspective I'm interested in is the objective perspective, where we determine whether or not a government is legitimate (I would argue... and, in fact, am arguing) on this basis: only if it is committed in structure and philosophy to the elimination of the initiation of force, and itself responding with force only against its initiation; i.e. according to the principle of the non-initiation of force. For without this, there are no "individual rights" left (as the slaves in the early American Republic could possibly have told you).

I would add to .."committed in structure and philosophy to the elimination of force "{in society}.

Force is the only thing that violate rights. When we qualify the use of force it has to be within a context. When an individual uses force against another individual , that particular incident is easily recognisable. Describing the actions of a government against a particular individual or dicernable group is another animal entirely , considering we would have to define what exactly a government is, which I think is actually the crux of the matter.

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Once again, nobody has claimed that the "evil of the initiation of force" is an axiom. Perhaps if we could find someone to make all of the claims against which you're arguing, you would do quite well, and solve many controversies. Unfortunately, in the context of the replies which have come before yours, these straw men and obfuscations will not serve.

Also another point, going a bit off topic, but in line with another thread. Hardin cites Peikoff's Understanding Objectivism and claims the above mistake is made in regards taking the NAP as an ungrounded axiom. But Hardin cites no one. Which libertarians? What anarchists do this? In fact, I have Peikoff's UA right here and nowhere does he cite anyone on this either. No one would accept such nonspecific claims in the academic world. This is not just a complaint about the appalling lack of basic scholarly standards among some Objectivists, but really to the point of being totally ignorant of the material they are referring to.

Libertarian references to NIOF as an axiomatic principle

“The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the ‘nonaggression axiom.’ ‘Aggression’ is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else.”

For A New Liberty, Murray Rothbard, p 27 (second edition-1978)

Chapter entitled “The Nonaggression Axiom”

“No one has the right to initiate aggression against the person or property of anyone else. This is what libertarians call the nonaggression axiom, and it is a central principle of libertarianism.”

Libertarianism: A Primer, David Boaz, p. 74

From the wikipedia article on the Libertarian Party:

“Since the Libertarian Party's inception, individuals have been able to join the party as voting members by signing their agreement with the organization's membership pledge, which states, based on the Non-Aggression Principle, that the signer does not advocate the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”

from LewRockwell.com:

In Defense of Libertarian Purity, Anthony Gregory

“I consider myself a principled libertarian. Or a radical libertarian. I suppose there are many ways of saying it. Murray Rothbard called it "plumb-line libertarianism," and Walter Block has seen fit to embrace that terminology. I see it simply as the belief that initiating force is wrong.”

Evicting Libertarian Party Principles: The Portland Purge, by L.K. Samuels

[Objecting to the “LP Reform Caucus” in 2006]

“So what are some of the principles that they believe must go? First and foremost is the non-aggression principle, which is considered the main threat to an election-oriented populism. If Libertarians would simply throw away this ideal, explaining LP policies on taxation, the drug war, foreign policy and military intervention would no longer be a campaign embarrassment.”

From a libertarian blog (technoeudaimonia):

:

The Problem with Axiomatic Libertarianism

“Many libertarians, following in the tradition of Murray Rothbard, propose that liberty is an axiom; that is, liberty is a self-evident fact. They include such thinkers as Hans-Hermann Hoppe with his libertarian version of argumentation ethics, Stephan Kinsella with his conception of estoppel, and Stefan Molyneux with his "universably preferable behavior". Non-aggression is thus singled out and separated from the rest of ethics, which leads to a separation of what is "right" and what is "good"; this is evident, for example, in many of the writings of Walter Block.”

From a wikipedia entry on Hans-Hermann Hoppe:

Argumentation ethics argues the non-aggression principle is a presupposition of argumentation and so cannot be rationally denied in discourse. Many modern libertarian scholars have accepted Hoppe's argument, among them Murray Rothbard, Walter Block, David Gordon and Stephan Kinsella."

I think the above might suggest that someone here is, indeed, "totally ignorant of the material they are referring to."

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If these appear to directly contradict Hardin's conclusion -- that there is not any moral force to the argument that the government may not initiate force to do X, where X is what Hardin wants the government to do, or believes that it should -- that is because: they do. In fact, I would argue that it is precisely in anticipation of Hardin's type of claims that Rand was so clear and so adamant in her language. She doesn't leave it to implication that the government cannot initiate force, or protect some rights by abridging others (though we could easily draw out those implications from other passages and works, if it were necessary); she says flat out that the government must not initiate force. She has Galt ask "do you hear me?" And I cannot help but feel that some... do not.

Ayn Rand argued that fraud and violations of copyright/patent laws were indirect uses of force. As such, they do not involve anyone exercising literal physical force. The initial act of literal physical force is that of the government when it intervenes to stop such indirect violations of individual rights. It is clear that Ayn Rand understood these situations to be exceptions to the general prohibition of initiating physical force. I know that some people, namely rationalists, have difficulty dealing with the complexity presented by exceptions. Ayn Rand did not.

Incidentally, this is exactly the same thing that the government would do when it intervenes to stop a private defense agency: using a literal act of physical force to prevent an agency from indirectly threatening the rights of all citizens by acting independently of the government.

If it actually matters to anyone reading along, so far as I can tell, the Objectivist case for intellectual property and against fraud do not rest on the notion that the government has some special power in those cases to initiate the use of force. Rather, it contends that property held via fraud or in violation of intellectual property amounts to an initiation of the use of force. But these are matters best suited for examination in their own threads, if need be. What is salient here -- and what has been laid clear -- is that some here agree with Rand's position that the initiation of force must be removed entirely from society (and certainly including the government). And some believe that the initiation of force on the part of the government is at times necessary, for the greater good.

Saying that violations of intellectual property "amount to an initiation of the use of force" acknowledges that such acts are similar but different. That is exactly what Ayn Rand would say and what I am saying. They amount to an initiation of the use of force because they deprive the victim of his individual rights. Again, the key issue is rights, not force. Since they are similar but different, the first, initial act of literal physical force is taken by the government when it stops such actions.

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Ayn Rand argued that fraud and violations of copyright/patent laws were indirect uses of force. As such, they do not involve anyone exercising literal physical force. The initial act of literal physical force is that of the government when it intervenes to stop such indirect violations of individual rights. It is clear that Ayn Rand understood these situations to be exceptions to the general prohibition of initiating physical force.

These are not exceptions to the prohibition against initiating physical force. If you hold my money in your wallet, having taken temporary and illegitimate possession of it through fraud, and refuse to give it to me, it is as much an initiation of physical force as standing in my driveway and refusing to let me up to my front door, or breaking into my car and driving away. "Physical force" doesn't depend on waiting for actual human-on-human contact; you are physically keeping me from acting in the manner which is my right.

So yes, they are "indirect," but they are nonetheless instances of the same.

I know that some people, namely rationalists, have difficulty dealing with the complexity presented by exceptions. Ayn Rand did not.

See? This is an "indirect" insult. It is passive-aggressive and off-target, but it is an insult nonetheless.

But besides this, what you've argued above aren't exceptions. (And neither are they pertinent. "Fraud" is not the topic at hand.) As for actual exceptions -- cases in which force is initiated, by an individual or the government -- Rand ruled them out completely and clearly in passages which I've quoted, now multiple times.

Incidentally, this is exactly the same thing that the government would do when it intervenes to stop a private defense agency: using a literal act of physical force to prevent an agency from indirectly threatening the rights of all citizens by acting independently of the government.

Not at all. "Acting independently of the government" does not equal "indirectly threatening the rights of all the citizens" or any citizen. Acting independently of the government in a just manner -- even in the capacity of a "private defense agency" -- is just, as you have already agreed in another post:

As long as the private court did everything the government court would do, everything would be lovely.

And you are right.

Saying that violations of intellectual property "amount to an initiation of the use of force" acknowledges that such acts are similar but different.

Two and two "amount" to four.

That is exactly what Ayn Rand would say and what I am saying. They amount to an initiation of the use of force because they deprive the victim of his individual rights. Again, the key issue is rights, not force. Since they are similar but different, the first, initial act of literal physical force is taken by the government when it stops such actions.

Rights and force are two-sides of the same coin. You uphold/preserve/protect rights by eliminating the initiation of the use of force, and only in that manner.

Rand:

A right cannot be violated except by physical force.

Though I understand that you disagree:

[There] are obviously exceptions to the rule that the only way to violate individual rights is by initiating physical force.

Further, whether we approach this from "rights" or "force," it remains that a "private defense agency" or "private court," if it acts according to objective principles of justice and self-defense, does not deprive "the victim" of his individual rights; indeed, there is no "victim" at all.

Unless you can show the contrary? I've provided this example before, and I do not believe you responded to it, but we'll try again! Take a "private court" which observes justice in the same manner as a just government would. This private court tries a murderer, finds him guilty, and administers punishment. Who is "the victim" in this scenario? Whose rights have been violated (directly or "indirectly")? How so?

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