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Epistemological Anarchy

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  • 5 years later...

This is indeed the fundamental crux of the issue: vigilantism in the intrinsicist versus the objectivist theory of rights.

In The Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard writes [All italics original in both quotes}:

Many people, when confronted with the libertarian legal system, are concerned with this problem: would somebody be allowed to “take the law into his own hands”? Would the victim, or a friend of the victim, be allowed to exact justice personally on the criminal? The answer is, of course, Yes, since all rights of punishment derive from the victim’s right of self-defense. … Suppose, for example, that Hatfield murders McCoy. McCoy2 then decides to seek out and execute Hatfield1 himself. This is fine, except that, just as in the case of the police coercion discussed in the previous section, McCoy2 may have to face the prospect of being charged with murder in the private courts by Hatfield2. The point is that if the courts find that Hatfield1 was indeed the murderer, then nothing happens to McCoy2 in our schema except public approbation for executing justice. But if it turns out that there was not enough evidence to convict Hatfield1 for the original murder, or if indeed some other Hatfield or some stranger committed the crime, then McCoy2 as in the case of the police invaders mentioned above, cannot plead any sort of immunity; he then becomes a murderer liable to be executed by the courts at the behest of the irate Hatfield heirs

Whereas Rand writes in "The Nature of Government":

The retaliatory use of force requires objective rules of evidence to establish that a crime has been committed and to prove who committed it, as well as objective rules to define punishments and enforcement procedures. Men who attempt to prosecute crimes, without such rules, are a lynch mob. If a society left the retaliatory use of force in the hands of individual citizens, it would degenerate into mob rule, lynch law and an endless series of bloody private feuds or vendettas.

If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.

This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.

A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws.

Rand's argument against anarchist revolves around the issue of whether or not retaliation without objective procedures should be illegal or not. Of course, as Hsieh mentions at the end, the anarchists would say that it doesn't follow that one monopoly government is necessary for objective law, and that's true as far as the deduction goes, but to establish whether that is valid or not, we need additional facts about the nature of objective law. There may be good reasons why it doesn't (Roderick Long, for instance, has argued that objective law is possible without a governmental monopoly, but I find his argument lacking in details and proof.) But, in addition to defending the fact that government is not inherently aggressive, it does rule out vigilantism, and with it the kind of anarchism that Murray Rothbard advocated, and the vast majority of anarchists who advocate vigilante law and intrinsic rights. It would be interesting to see if it can be discovered whether or not objective law can be created and sustained by the competitive process in market-based legal system.

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