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Moral to protect your home to the death?

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The Wrath
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For the sake of argument, let's say that the Supreme Court rules in favor of the government in the current eminent domain case (which I think it will). Twenty years from now, if some local government uses that as an excuse to order me out of my home, am I justified in turning my house into a pillbox and, essentially, engaging in warfare against anyone who tries to force me out? If that were to happen to me, I would be tempted to just sit at a second story window with a bunch of guns and warn people not to come any closer.

Edited by Moose
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Since you posted this thread in the ethics forum, I have to conclude that you are asking whether your action would be ethically justified. The answer is no – such suicidal insanity is not ethically justified. Even if such a policy does not violate anyone’s rights, suicide by cop is still suicide.

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Okay, GC, suppose your country is invaded, and you live near the border. The attacking army wants your house for some reason. You can surrender peacefully or you can resist. If you resist you will certainly be killed, but you might be able to take a few of them with you.

Are you ethically justified in resisting? If so, why is this case different than the one Moose proposed?

Or, going back to Moose's case, suppose that there is a lot of sentiment against this kind of eminent-domain use in your area. You believe that if you resist, there's a decent chance that your neighbors will see you as a hero, raise an outcry against the government and force them to back down before you are killed. Would you be ethically justified then? It's proper to risk your life for something you greatly value, isn't it?

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Since you posted this thread in the ethics forum, I have to conclude that you are asking whether your action would be ethically justified.  The answer is no – such suicidal insanity is not ethically justified.  Even if such a policy does not violate anyone’s rights, suicide by cop is still suicide.

How is this suicidal insanity? I can certainly understand where the "suicidal" part comes from, but insanity? I would be putting my life on the line for something that I highly value. It is suicidal for a soldier to jump on a grenade, but it is not insanity if he values the lives of his comrades.

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These are two of my favorite quotes from a strategist,

"Our instinctual reactions to a challenge are “flight” or “fight,” running away or battling with others. Sun Tzu taught that neither of these reactions get us anywhere. Strategy is focused on progress.

-Gary Gagliardi

"Everything and I mean everything today is teaching people that flight and fight is all there is. There is never a word about strategy, positioning, or progress. 2,500 years ago, Sun Tzu saw how futile this was and warned us.-"

--Gary Gagliardi

In the examples that Moose and Rex Little give, the morality of what to do is clear, you have a right to self defense. But the REAL question you should ask yourself is "what position do I want to be in when I choose to fight?"

So, since the moral question has already been answered I don't think this is in the realm of morality, this really lies in the realm of strategy.

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As was pointed out, it would be suicidal, but it would also be completely justifiable. It's up to you. We are not in fact free in the U.S., though we are closer to it than any other nation (maybe that's not true anymore, I'm not sure). We are semi-slaves, and it's up to each of us to decide at exactly which point we will no longer put up with violations of our rights. You're justified in fighting in defense of your rights at any point.

However, it should be stressed that one purpose of our legal system is supposed to be to allow us to avoid the use of violence to settle things, so a person should at least give that avenue a try before he starts shooting. Always try reasoning with people first, then, if that fails, you have to make the decision of whether or not you're going to bend over and take it, or seek justice.

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Let’s try a cost benefit analysis:

What is the cost? Well, your life, and everything you had hoped to accomplish with it in the future. Possibly the bankruptcy and certainly the sadness of your family at your loss. (I hope at least that you don’t intend to take them down with you.)

What is the gain? Unless there is a revolution brewing, what exactly do you plan to accomplish?

I’m not saying that there is no situation in which it is worthwhile to give your live to a cause. But becoming a martyr is not exactly a selfish thing to do.

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[...] I would be tempted to just sit at a second story window with a bunch of guns and warn people not to come any closer.

How long would you be able to do that -- before falling asleep?

The moral is the practical. How practical is this plan for achieving your ultimate purpose in life, happiness?

To set the context for this discussion, it would be helpful if you answered a question: Are you an Objectivist?

[Edited to add last question]

Edited by BurgessLau
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No, I don't think it's fair to call me an Objectivist at the current time.

While I would almost certainly end up dead after such a stunt, I imagine the whole incident would cause quite a media stink. I really wouldn't want to live in a world where the government can do that, anyway.

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No, I don't think it's fair to call me an Objectivist at the current time.

While I would almost certainly end up dead after such a stunt, I imagine the whole incident would cause quite a media stink.  I really wouldn't want to live in a world where the government can do that, anyway.

I wouldn't put to much faith in the buzz created by the media. It tends to have a very short shelf life. Quick question: what was the guy who armored his tractor and had a standoff for a long time in front of the Washington monument. Even better question: do you even remember the incident. It was fairly recent and generated a whole lot of coverage.

While he is fighting off other inmates in a federal pen somewhere in the showers, nobody remembers what his protest was or even that he did that. Remember Lenny Kozlowski or what a tshirt with "Thank you Canada" means?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here's and interesting dilemma, (again, thinking from the similar standpoint of a tax foreclosure on one's primary domicile)--one is faced with a choice of fight, or become homeless--both choices probably lead to death--either by police bullets, or by exposure to the elements. One's choice is between starting all over again with zero, and raising the cost of state-sponsored terrorism. Clearly the latter is against Objectivist principles of self-preservation, but what about considering the age of the person being evicted? If we are talking about a young family with the ability to rebuild their wealth, clearly the answer is to start over, but if we're talking about an elderly person who cannot possibly attain a quality of life worth living once more, would that person be any more morally-justified in doing as much damage to the initiators of force, as he possibly can?

This is a very personal issue for me, as I live in an area that is experiencing exponential tax increases and property valuation increases. As the saying goes, "I can see the writing on the wall."

'Glad to see some Objectivists discussing this bluntly and openly.

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Here's and interesting dilemma, (again, thinking from the similar standpoint of a tax foreclosure on one's primary domicile)--one is faced with a choice of fight, or become homeless--both choices probably lead to death--either by police bullets, or by exposure to the elements.

If they have any equity in their house, they have the choice of selling it and renting and apartment. Instead, the example assumes that the person will be homeless. The example actually assumes that this person is already bankrupt, with no other choices. The house might be theirs "on paper" but the equity in it belongs to their creditors.

...I live in an area that is experiencing exponential tax increases and property valuation increases. As the saying goes, "I can see the writing on the wall."

Sounds like you need to move now rather than be sitting at a window 10 years from now, rifle in hand. :santa:

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In the most average of circumstances, that would be true. The average homeowner has a property that he/she can sell with average difficulty.

OTOH, take the older homeowner, who built many decades ago, in the pioneering spirit, physically bringing every board on his own back and constructing the home with only weekly paychecks to fund it. The man buys a piece of swamp land (today protected under wetlands laws) for cheap and builds on it. No mortgage, and he moves in with family, while the house is still unfinished. He may have been forced to move out of a conventional house because of an incoming sewer system and city water assessment, which would bankrupt him; hence, he moves to the unfinished house build in the middle of nowhere swampland. The family lives in the house for several decades. Then the area suddenly gets developed by an influx of rich urbanites, fleeing a major city within 100 miles of the location. Taxes proceed to jump 2,000 percent over the next 15 years. The urbanites move in, demanding big increases in town services, a major upgrade of the physical assets of the school system, and downtown beautification. Contractors milk the town, seeing a 'cash cow' and huge cost overruns result. The town is stuck with the afterthought of mismanagement on construction projects for a new high school and intermediate school, to the tune of nearly $100M. Several huge tax increases result.

Now the man who built his house with no mortgage is being taxed because of the million dollar homes that popped up all around him, changing the 'prevailing value' of the area. He is not taxed on the real value of his home, but on the 'fair market value', weighted to the neighborhood standards. He has no mortgage, but suddenly his monthly tax burden is more than any mortgage payment he could have imagined if he had bought a luxury home when he'd bought this particular property.

Due to the nature of the construction, it is considered 'not to code' and 'makeshift', and hence the real ability to find a buyer is very slim, with the price being much lower than the assessed value, based on neighborhood prevailing values and square footage. He is obviously overassessed, but unable to achieve a lower assessement because of the state guidelines for assessors not taking mitigating factors into account.

He cannot sell for enough money to buy an equivalent place somewhere with an equivalent quality of life. If he could sell at all, he would be lucky to afford a mobile home in a trailer park, or a downpayment on a condominium. He would be taking a large plunge in the quality of life, assuming he enjoyed his property that he built with his own hands. It is valuable to him, but not to prospective buyers, who would consider it 'blighted' or fit to be demolished. Because the home may be located on a protected wetland, the ability of a new owner to demolish and rebuild would be tied up in government environmental red tape. This would severely hurt the saleability of the property, thus lowering the offering price even lower.

Such a situation is extremely rare, but do exist. In that type of situation, the homeowner stands to lose his whole quality of life, his security of ownership and his privacy and freedom (let's say he's a rock musician who makes a lot of noise, so he's chosen to live in a secluded area so as not to disturb others).

I'm sure others can come up with some additional diverse examples of colorful extremes of situation, in which the simple rule of selling and drawing the equity would not apply well.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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Since you posted this thread in the ethics forum, I have to conclude that you are asking whether your action would be ethically justified.  The answer is no – such suicidal insanity is not ethically justified.  Even if such a policy does not violate anyone’s rights, suicide by cop is still suicide.

What of those who choose to die for a principle, for honor? Can I die for freedom, or even duty and honor, in the service of a moral cause, because I decide life is not worth living without those things.

For example, you are captured on the battlefield and then asked for information. If you talk, your captors promise that your life will at least be spared, but you will be giving the enemy information that will kill your friends and fellow soldiers - your countrymen as it were. If you don't talk, you will be tortured and killed, but you will retain your honor and die for what you believe in.

Further, let's say your captors are vicious, totalitarian communist thugs who want to enslave your whole country, your family, everyone! Or maybe you are taken prisoner in Iraq by Islamic fanatics who demand information that will be used to attack and kill more American soldiers. If you don't talk, they will behead you.

These are real moral questions faced by real people all the time, in one form or another.

What does Objectivist philosophy say?

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In either of those situations, it would be entirely moral to die for a principal or an idea that you value highly. In fact, volunteer members of our military have made this choice many times over the years.

Edited by GreedyCapitalist
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Even if such a policy does not violate anyone’s rights, suicide by cop is still suicide.

This post seems to suggest that no one can morally use their own life (even if it ends in death) for the protection of one's own values. Objectivism uniquivocally disagrees with this premise, however. This suggests that one must maintain one's own life for some superficial reason ('God' is typically used here) even after it is no longer enjoyable to live. If living without rights (here, the right to one's own property) is not worth living (as in Soviet Russia, for instance), then one may morally spend one's life in defiance of this tyranny. The only difference is that in this case, there is no place to escape to, like America was for Soviets such as Rand.

Ask yourself what Kira would have done if there were no better place than Soviet Russia in the world.

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The current case is just haggling over the details. The principle of seizing wealth to serve the “common good” is a staple of our political system.

Regarding, suicide, it is rational only when a human existence is not possible. This might be because it is biologically impossible due to a crippling illness or disability, because external factor prevent a human life, such as a total dictatorship from which an escape is not possible, or because one has committed to a principle that requires the risk of death, such as a soldier or a spy might.

In the situation above, unless you are a revolutionary who stands a chance of advancing the cause of freedom by your death, suicide is irrational and therefore immoral.

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This post seems to suggest that no one can morally use their own life (even if it ends in death) for the protection of one's own values.  Objectivism uniquivocally disagrees with this premise, however.  This suggests that one must maintain one's own life for some superficial reason ('God' is typically used here) even after it is no longer enjoyable to live.  If living without rights (here, the right to one's own property) is not worth living (as in Soviet Russia, for instance), then one may morally spend one's life in defiance of this tyranny.  The only difference is that in this case, there is no place to escape to, like America was for Soviets such as Rand. 

Ask yourself what Kira would have done if there were no better place than Soviet Russia in the world.

For older property owners, the spectre of losing it all to the government is just too much to bear. I myself am a very material person. I have possessions that could not be had in a multiple unit housing complex. My needs are for a place out in the country, with lots of land and distance between me and the neighbors.

If I were to lose it all, I doubt that I would be able to attain this level of personal wealth again due to age, failing health, energy levels, etc. In fact, I probably would be reduced to an existence akin to peasants prior to the French Revolution. It would not be a life worth living, at least from my frame of consciousness.

If I were alone, it would not be a difficult choice to make. The plan would be simple: to create as much damage and destruction and kill as many of the bastards as possible. (I already thought about collateral damage, and realized that any taxpaying neighbor would be a supporter of the monstrous enemy that would be taking my property, and would therefore not be entitled to any special protection.)

But the reality is, I have a wife and kid (I know, started out late in life) am about to retire and am stuck with property taxes that equal 50% of my net income now. I can't sell, and can't move (and even if I could, the problem would simply reocur somewhere else) and all I can do is get politically active. I'm even thinking of starting a philosophy show on cable public access, but I have been actively writing in the local newspaper for the past 6 years. But I can see the writing on the wall. Taxes are rising and my income is decreasing. Even so, I find few individuals who share my sentiments. It is a very difficult road to travel, when there is no other country to flee to.

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For those that want to read the arguments of that eminent domain case, here is a link:

Kelo Vs. New London

It's the first link in the arguments dated February 21 - March 2, 2005.

[Edited by RC for clarification of link]

Edited by RationalCop
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