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Can we really say that Andrew Stack was wrong to fly a plane into the

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Asker of Questions
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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Austin_suicide_attack

 

For those who may not remember, Andrew Stack was the guy who flew a plane into the IRS building in 2010, killing one IRS agent and injuring about a dozen other people. He reportedly did this because the IRS had confiscated his retirement savings. It doesn't appear to me that he did this in the hope of changing anything about how the world works; it was purely an act of revenge. Though around the time the story broke, I saw Objectivists universally condemn his actions, I can't say that I think they were necessarily morally wrong. If the IRS's obviously unjust actions towrad him brought him to the point that he felt his life was no longer worth living, and he could no longer hold life as the standard of morality, how was he wrong to strike back at them on his way out? That IRS agent he killed probably reveled in his ability to shake people down and ruin their lives, but now he's in the dirt as a direct consequence of his choice of a purpose—seems like justice to me. And is anyone who works for the IRS really innocent? Maybe there were some innocent kids in the lobby or some innocent contractors there cleaning the windows or something, and that's the only reason I can think of not to do this. He might have damaged the anti-IRS movement by causing people to associate it with terrorism, but he had no reason to care about causes anymore. What do you think? Were his actions evil?

Edited by Asker of Questions
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It's easy, but fallacious, to think that the government is something apart from its citizens, with a special ruling class of politicians and a special class of bureaucrats who act as their representatives to bully ordinary citizens. It's easy because that's the physical concrete we see. It is fallacious because it ignores the fact that we -- as a collective of citizens in a western democracy -- get the government we deserve.

 

That IRS guy is there because granny (maybe not yours, but the stereotypical one) wanted him there. Hopefully you're not suggesting we should crash a plane into her cottage too!

 

This is an intellectual battle that involves convincing people about the right philosophy. Meanwhile, the moral thing to do is to understand what can and cannot be changed, and make the best life within the aspects that will not change in your lifetime.

 

Committing suicide is not rational, and clearly not moral if one's moral standard is to live a happy life.

Edited by softwareNerd
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Committing suicide is not rational, and clearly not moral if one's moral standard is to live a happy life.

 

But what if, due to repeated, severe violations of his rights, he determined that it was impossible to lead a happy life anymore? Does he have a right to retaliate against the people whose actions made his happiness impossible?

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But what if, due to repeated, severe violations of his rights, he determined that it was impossible to lead a happy life anymore? Does he have a right to retaliate against the people whose actions made his happiness impossible?

If we're to judge him, we cannot accept his determination as final and necessarily accurate. Rather, we have to judge it. If I was aware of this incident when it happened, I've forgotten about it now. So, I don't know anything about the case. The wiki article does not give too many details, but it sounds like Stack was not paying all the income taxes due. What did he expect would happen. From his manifesto, it sounds like he had all sorts of trouble, but blamed it all on the government. [Reading between the lines, I think he decided to use his understanding of the tax law -- there are even some web-sites that say that legally one need not pay tax. He speaks of talking to experts. Well, turns out they weren't experts after all... sounds like they sold him a bunch of fake advice and then squealed when the heat was turned up. 

 

At any rate. the point I made in my previous post is really different. People love to blame Barack Obama, but many of your neighbors voted for him. Similarly, everyone likes to complain about the IRS, but they want the rich to pay high taxes, and want the IRS to collect. It's not the government clerk that's to blame for Mr. Slack's problems. 

Edited by softwareNerd
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I imagine that one of the reasons why Ayn Rand took the time to define exactly what a dictatorship is ( http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/dictatorship.html ), was precisely so that her philosophy couldn't be used as a justification for acts of terrorism in societies that aren't dictatorships.

 

Yes, in a dictatorship, the government has total power over an individual's life, making the happiness of an individualist impossible. That indeed warrants retaliation in kind, from the victims of tyranny.

 

But the US isn't a dictatorship. The government is not an almighty force against individual achievement. If Andrew Stack "determined" that the IRS was to blame for his failed life, that's because he failed to look at his life objectively. Like SN said, the IRS operates by a pre-determined set of rules that any individual who wishes to be productive CAN and SHOULD plan for and live with.

 

The suggestion that taxes make it impossible to be happy is absurd.

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 That IRS agent he killed probably reveled in his ability to shake people down and ruin their lives, but now he's in the dirt as a direct consequence of his choice of a purpose—seems like justice to me.

The IRS agent, murdered by Stack's actions, had performed two tours of duty in Vietnam. He was Vernon Hunter, a 68-year-old man, a father, and that is all of the known facts to my knowledge. I did not know him personally, but I find it difficult to believe that Mr Hunter had a malevolent attitude toward American taxpayers.

 

Please explain your sense of justice regarding this man's death.

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I cannot improve on Nicky and sNerd so I'll just make it concise: The man demonstrably murdered another human being and injured many more by initiating force.  Trying to claim self defense is absurd.  If he had lived he would have deserved the death penalty due to murdering another human being and doing so beyond a reasonable doubt.  

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  • 4 weeks later...

Sorry, Harrison, I'm not buying that argument. One homicidal-suicidal terrorist, acting only and without the support of any other group, could hardly constitute any formally acknowledged war. If anything, this case appears to have been an act of futility and frustration, the only possible outcome being the death destruction of government property, one private aircraft, and a few (or one, in this case) people with no possible result of change to tax laws, assuming that that was Stack's concept of victory. The suicide of Andrew Stack was without any purpose.

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One homicidal-suicidal terrorist, acting only and without the support of any other group, could hardly constitute any formally acknowledged war.

If he wanted to revoke his delegated right to retaliatory force (which seems safe to assume) then I don't think it'd be a stretch to call his suicide an act of one-man war.

If it was a rightful war then Peikoff's thoughts on "collateral damage" would be completely applicable. Isn't that, in fact, one of the reasons you shouldn't support evil; that it gives others the right to destroy you in order to undo that evil?

I'm not completely sure how that ought to apply to foriegn civilians. However, if it applies to them then it most certainly applies to the tax collectors.

The suicide of Andrew Stack was without any purpose.

That's true. And that's really the only sense in which I'd agree that it was immoral: his actions were literally(!) self-destructive.

However, if he was lashing out for the sake of justice in a world he believed devoid of it - is that evil, as such?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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However, if he was lashing out for the sake of justice in a world he believed devoid of it - is that evil, as such?

Yes. What he believed is irrelevant. What matters is what is. The 9/11 terrorists believed the same exact thing this guy did. They were just as wrong.

Have you read the thread, by the way? This stuff comes up you know.

Edited by Nicky
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Have you read the thread, by the way?

Believe it or not, I don't actually enjoy pointing out every single mistake I see people making. I would rather post the correct answer as if I weren't aware of all the previous ones, so that nobody feels obligated to defend their opposition to it. That's my attempt at tactfulness (which I never have been much good with).

Is there anything in particular you'd like me to respond to?

Edited by Harrison Danneskjold
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The 9/11 terrorists believed the same exact thing this guy did. They were just as wrong.

From the Suicide Note which detailed his reasons for attacking the IRS:

"The communist creed: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

The capitalist creed: From each according to his gullibility, to each according to his greed."

The failure to distinguish Cronyism from proper Capitalism is no different from living your entire life according to some unintelligible supernatural - ?

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