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The Brownshirts Are Here

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softwareNerd
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Daedalus, you are attacking a straw man. No one is arguing against the self-evident proposition that failure to gain political freedom means suffering the consequences. No one here is asking to be freed from any legitimate responsibility. And no one is whining about anything.

Splendid! Delighted to learn of your agreement with the statement from Mr. Don Watkins that "When a man’s government steps beyond its proper bounds, when it violates his liberty, it is his responsibility to secure his liberty."

If you agree with that, then we have no quarrel.

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Splendid! Delighted to learn of your agreement with the statement from Mr. Don Watkins that "When a man’s government steps beyond its proper bounds, when it violates his liberty, it is his responsibility to secure his liberty."

If you agree with that, then we have no quarrel.

I haven't Read Don's article, so I don't know the context of that quote. More importantly what he has to say is irrelevant to this discussion. I'm arguing with your statements and still think that, at the very least, they are unclear and focus on inessential, if not nonexistent, aspects of the case. In any instance of injustice, unless there is positive evidence to indicate a default of responsibility on the part of the victim that contributed to the situation, it is inappropriate to concentrate on the their supposed failure to avoid the infringement of their rights. Your position seems to be that the very fact that an injustice occurred indicates some culpability on the part of the victim. That position is absurd. It's akin to saying a rape victim was "asking for it" because she chose to wear revealing clothing. But worse, because there's no evidence the poor internet user did anything that could provide a shred of justification for what happened to him.

Finally, let me say that a major element of doing all one can to make sure that we have a proper government is denouncing those who commit rights violations. In the case that started this thread, it's clear my time is better spent pronouncing judgment on the "brownshirts," not the people they are harrassing.

Mark

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Deadalus, you are attempting to set up an impossible standard. Our responsibility is to do that which is in our power to oppose statism. Our responsibility is NOT to actually CHANGE the government, since that would require a power far beyond any one individual.

How can you claim that no matter what we do, if we fail to actually stop statism we bear responsibility? Are you saying that the life of Ayn Rand, with her intransigent stand in defense of individual rights and ability to reach an audience of millions was NOT ENOUGH to absolve her of responsibility for statism? This is simply ridiculous. The crimes of statism consist of initiations of force by other people - how can you say that spending a lifetime opposing such force is not enough, that one still bears "responsibility" for the crimes of others?

The only being that could possibly live up to your standard, as has been mentioned, is an omnipotent God. Please give us an example of the life of any *human being* that would satisfy you enough so as to not place responsibility for statism on their shoulders. I suspect none exist.

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I haven't Read Don's article, so I don't know the context of that quote.

Then click on the link I provided.

More importantly what he has to say is irrelevant to this discussion.

Unless you are determined to operate only on a concrete-bound level, the article is positively relevant.

I'm arguing with your statements and still think that, at the very least, they are unclear and focus on inessential, if not nonexistent, aspects of the case.

They are none of these things.

In any instance of injustice, unless there is positive evidence to indicate a default of responsibility on the part of the victim that contributed to the situation, it is inappropriate to concentrate on the their supposed failure to avoid the infringement of their rights.

I'll explain it again to you: Responsibility cannot be lost, suspended, revoked or renounced. Since you are the sole and exclusive owner of your body, your life, your liberty -- the ultimate responsibility for that life remains with you until the day you breathe your last breath.

Fate may be cruel. It may leave you crippled, blind and penniless. But misfortune does not absolve you of the responsibility of sustaining your life and maintaining your values.

Similarly, brute government may trample your freedoms and turn you into a mere slave. But government can do nothing to absolve you of the responsibility for securing your own freedom. "If by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overturn their bad government and choose a better one, then they have to pay the price for the sins of their government." (Ayn Rand)

Either overturn the government or pay the price. But spare me this talk of having no responsibility in the matter.

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Deadalus, you are attempting to set up an impossible standard. Our responsibility is to do that which is in our power to oppose statism. Our responsibility is NOT to actually CHANGE the government, since that would require a power far beyond any one individual.

1. If you and I are not responsible for changing bad government, who the heck is? Are there two classes of citizens, responsibles and non-responsibles?

How can you claim that no matter what we do, if we fail to actually stop statism we bear responsibility?

2. The same way I can say that a man is responsible for his own life even if he fails at making an income no matter what he does.

Are you saying that the life of Ayn Rand, with her intransigent stand in defense of individual rights and ability to reach an audience of millions was NOT ENOUGH to absolve her of responsibility for statism?

3. She didn't absolve herself: "A political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it." (Emphasis added)

The crimes of statism consist of initiations of force by other people - how can you say that spending a lifetime opposing such force is not enough, that one still bears "responsibility" for the crimes of others?

4. See point 2 above.

The only being that could possibly live up to your standard, as has been mentioned, is an omnipotent God. Please give us an example of the life of any *human being* that would satisfy you enough so as to not place responsibility for statism on their shoulders. I suspect none exist.

5. Ayn Rand did not demand omnipotence. She merely stated that people are ultimately responsible for the government that rules them.

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A boy drafted and sent off to war pays a much higher price than the politician who sent him there. A businessman, who is ordered by the Anti-Trust Division to stop certain "monopolistic" ways of marketing his product, pays a much higher price than his competitors.
I see. And it is your position that the boy who gets drafted, sent off to war and killed in combat -- and the businessman who is prosecuted and jailed under the Anti-Trust laws -- both got what they deserved for failing to change the government. Both "paid for the sins of the government" since it was their responsibility to change it and, having failed to change it, they have no right to complain or expect different treatment. This is what you think Miss Rand meant.
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I see. And it is your position that the boy who gets drafted, sent off to war and killed in combat -- and the businessman who is prosecuted and jailed under the Anti-Trust laws -- both got what they deserved for failing to change the government.

Nope.

Both "paid for the sins of the government" since it was their responsibility to change it and, having failed to change it, they have no right to complain or expect different treatment. This is what you think Miss Rand meant.

Paying for the sins of one's government and deserving those sins are entirely separate matters. That is why we have two different words to describe the phenomena.

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Paying for the sins of one's government and deserving those sins are entirely separate matters. That is why we have two different words to describe the phenomena.
So your position is that we don't deserve to pay for those sins, but we are responsible for paying for those sins nonetheless.
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So your position is that we don't deserve to pay for those sins, but we are responsible for paying for those sins nonetheless.

We are all responsible for getting the kind of government that does not impose immoral obligations on us. As for meeting those obligations, unless you can find a buddy willing and able to pay your costs for living in a mixed economy, you will have to pay those costs yourself. I don't see any other way around it. This is known as coming to terms with reality.

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We are all responsible for getting the kind of government that does not impose immoral obligations on us. As for meeting those obligations, unless you can find a buddy willing and able to pay your costs for living in a mixed economy, you will have to pay those costs yourself. I don't see any other way around it. This is known as coming to terms with reality.
The fact that I can be forced to pay does not prove that I am responsible for paying. This is known as a non-sequitur.

Paying for the sins of one's government and deserving those sins are entirely separate matters. That is why we have two different words to describe the phenomena.
If I don't deserve to pay for those sins, it is ridiculous to claim that I am nonetheless responsible for doing so. This is true no matter how many times you quote Miss Rand out of context.
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The fact that I can be forced to pay does not prove that I am responsible for paying. This is known as a non-sequitur.

If I don't deserve to pay for those sins, it is ridiculous to claim that I am nonetheless responsible for doing so. This is true no matter how many times you quote Miss Rand out of context.

This has already been covered. The fact that you are responsible for securing your own liberty by means of getting a proper political system in place does not mean that you are morally to blame for particular coercive acts of officials. Why not look at my posts? I never said anyone is "responsible for paying" for bad government. What I said was that people are responsible for making sure they have a moral government. And if they don't, they will pay for the sins of that government.

If you don't wish to take responsibility for securing your liberty and installing a sound, constitutional government, fine. It's a semi-free country. But I'm with Ayn Rand: "A political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it."

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We still bear the responsibility for the government that rules us. Ayn Rand: "a political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it."

You may choose to see yourself as "alone and afraid in a world I never made." As for me, I am the "captain of my fate and the master of my soul." http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pag...support_reasons

How is this any different from Original Sin?

As software_nerd said, if everyone is necessarily responsible regardless of what they do, then the concept of responsibility loses its meaning. Ok, I'm responsible. What of it?

If my degree of responsibility isnt increased or diminished by my actions, and if the responsibility doesnt imply any moral failing, then why should I care whether I'm responsible or not? What does it even mean to be 'responsible' here?

Edited by Hal
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Please give us an example of the life of any *human being* that would satisfy you enough so as to not place responsibility for statism on their shoulders.

Daedalus, your use of the word "responsible" renders it basically meangingless. If everyone is "responsible" for the actions of the government, regardless of their efforts to change it and their actual ABILITY to change it, then what is the significance of pointing out this responsibility? It becomes trivial.

Please give your definition of responsibility.

Again, please answer my question that I quoted above. Give an example of any hypothetical person or set of actions that would satisfy you as to be absolved of responsibility for the crimes of the government. Unless you can offer such a person or set of actions, you must admit that "responsbility" is not in the realm of free will, and hence pointing out "responsibility" is about as meaningful as pointing out the fact that the sky is blue (so what?).

Edited by Spano
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I never said anyone is "responsible for paying" for bad government.
So we don't deserve to pay and we are not responsible for paying. That is certainly different from what you said in post 21;

If people (including the library internet users in question) neglect their responsibility to institute moral government, then they must pay the price.
You put the emphasis on the word "must" in that statement.

If you don't wish to take responsibility for securing your liberty and installing a sound, constitutional government, fine.
This is a lame attempt at the argument from intimidation.

But I'm with Ayn Rand: "A political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it."
When you quote Miss Rand out of context, and ignore everything else she has said on the matter, you are not "with her", you are merely exploiting her statements to cover your pre-selected position.

As Miss Rand said:

"But, you see, I don't think any information can be conveyed by any one sentence out of context. If it could be, then we wouldn't need to write a book. Therefore, when you read a particular sentence, you have to take cognizance of the context which has been established." (ITOE, pg 174)

If you want to be "with her", you need to follow this and stop dropping context. That remark of hers, which you keep quoting like a mantra, concerned the issue "innocent" civilians in a dictatorship that has threatened a free nation and whether or not the presence of such people negate a free nation's right to defend itself -- not the issue of citizens using Internet terminals in a library in a welfare-state that is still semi-free. And if you doubt that this distinction mattered to Miss Rand, you only have to look at all of the other quotes I have provided.

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So we don't deserve to pay and we are not responsible for paying. That is certainly different from what you said in post 21;

You put the emphasis on the word "must" in that statement.

They must pay in the sense that they will be forced to pay. (Unless they somehow circumvent the political system by bribing an official, taking on a fake identity or going underground.) I trust you understand the distinction between a legal obligation and a moral obligation. They are hardly one and the same.

This is a lame attempt at the argument from intimidation.

Really? Is it an act of intimidation to inform someone that he faces a jail term if he refuses to pay his taxes? Would you have us live in blissful ignorance of what a mixed economy entails for individual freedom?

When you quote Miss Rand out of context, and ignore everything else she has said on the matter, you are not "with her", you are merely exploiting her statements to cover your pre-selected position. If you want to be "with her", you need to follow this and stop dropping context.

I have given context by providing links or citations for every quotation I've used. If it is your position that Ayn Rand's views were misrepresented, please explain in particular how the context changes the meaning of her words. Note: if discussing a few sentences from a larger work is impermissible, then any discussion of, say, Galt's Speech would be ruled out unless we submitted the entire text of Atlas Shrugged!

That remark of hers, which you keep quoting like a mantra, concerned the issue "innocent" civilians in a dictatorship that has threatened a free nation and whether or not the presence of such people negate a free nation's right to defend itself -- not the issue of citizens using Internet terminals in a library in a welfare-state that is still semi-free.

Ayn Rand's answers included a discussion of a citizen's responsibility for the government that rules him. She made it perfectly clear that not only were the inmates of slave states responsible for their political system, but the citizens of mixed economies as well. ("as all of us are paying for the sins of ours," "we bear the responsibility for it.") And, yes, that would necessarily include "citizens using Internet terminals in a library in a welfare-state that is still semi-free."

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Please give us an example of the life of any *human being* that would satisfy you enough so as to not place responsibility for statism on their shoulders.

When we arrive at a society where no statism exists, we will have a population that, at least in its voting majority, has meritoriously and successfully abjured the initiation of force by government.

Daedalus, your use of the word "responsible" renders it basically meangingless. If everyone is "responsible" for the actions of the government, regardless of their efforts to change it and their actual ABILITY to change it, then what is the significance of pointing out this responsibility? It becomes trivial.

Please give your definition of responsibility.

I point it out for the same reason that Ayn Rand pointed it out. Your life is dependent on the kind of political system you live under. To some extent all governments rely on the support or acquiescence or negligence of the citizenry. Therefore, you, I and everyone else bear responsibility for it. I have previously explained that responsibility is the dynamics of cause and effect applied in a social context.

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Ayn Rand's answers included a discussion of a citizen's responsibility for the government that rules him. She made it perfectly clear that not only were the inmates of slave states responsible for their political system, but the citizens of mixed economies as well. ("as all of us are paying for the sins of ours," "we bear the responsibility for it.")
First, let me point out that you are using a phrase from a statement made in 1972 to make a claim about a statement from 1976.

From 1972:

"If by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overturn their bad government and choose a better one, then they have to pay the price for the sins of their government—as all of us are paying for the sins of ours."

From 1976:

"But we should care about having the right social system, because our lives are dependent on it—because a political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it."

You might be able to claim that the phrase "as all of us are paying for the sins of ours" implies that the 1972 statement applies to all situations, dictatorships and welfare-states alike. But you cannot stretch it to cover a completely seperate statement made four years later.

In the second place, and more important, it is clear from the question she is asked and her complete response, that “bear responsibility" means “expect to be destroyed” if you live in a dictatorship and it attacks a free nation.

In the third place, in any apparent conflict between what Miss Rand said extemporaneously, as in a question and answer session with a diverse audience free to ask about any subject, versus what she wrote, greater weight must be given to her written word. That is why you cannot simply dismiss a quote like the following:

"Third -- and most important -- the young people of today are not responsible for the immoral state of the world into which they were born. Those who accept the welfare-statist ideology assume their share of the guilt when they do so. But the anti-collectivists are innocent victims who face an impossible situation...." (The Question of Scholarships in “The Voice of Reason”, pg 42)

Previously, you claimed that you saw no contradiction between the statement above and your notion that all citizens, under all conditions, "bear responsibility for their government and must pay the price for its sins". This would mean that "innocent victims" in an "impossible situation" must still "bear responsibility" for that situation. And it means that “people not responsible for the immoral state of the world” are still responsible for the political system created by that immorality. It means that the “anti-collectivists” who do not “assume a share of the guilt” are just as “responsible” as the collectivists who do “assume a share of the guilt”.

But the fact is that in order to escape these obvious contradictions, you have conceded that we do not deserve to pay for the sins of the government, that we are not to be morally blamed for those sins, and that we are not responsible for paying for the sins of the government. Given those stipulations, what is the meaning of the first statement that you made on this issue:

Regrettable, but as Objectivism views it, the library Internet user must ultimately assume responsibility for what happened to him.
If the "library Internet user" does not deserve the treatment he got, if he is not morally to blame for it, and if he is not "responsible for paying the price for the government's sins", then what does it mean that he "must assume responsibility for it"? What does responsibility mean under these conditions? The answer is it means nothing more than "if you cannot prevent it, it will happen".

When asked to provide a definition of responsibility, you said:

I have previously explained that responsibility is the dynamics of cause and effect applied in a social context.
Those who are working against the welfare state are obviously not a cause of the welfare state; this means, according to your own definition, that they are not responsible for the welfare state.

In fact, in assigning responsibility to everyone, you are ignoring cause and effect by lumping the causers and the non-causers into the same collectivistic pot and declaring them equally "responsible".

A far more reasonable interpretation, and in fact the one given by Miss Rand, is that we are responsible for opposing statism intellectually and philosophically at every opportunity; but if we devolve into a dictatorship, we cannot expect to be exempt from the retaliatory force used by any free nation the dictatorship attacks.

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You might be able to claim that the phrase "as all of us are paying for the sins of ours" implies that the 1972 statement applies to all situations, dictatorships and welfare-states alike. But you cannot stretch it to cover a completely seperate statement made four years later.

I don't know what you mean by "stretch." Ayn Rand said that we are paying for the sins of our government. I agree. She also said we bear responsibility for our government. I agree again.

In the second place, and more important, it is clear from the question she is asked and her complete response, that “bear responsibility" means “expect to be destroyed” if you live in a dictatorship and it attacks a free nation.
Ayn Rand said, "But we should care about having the right social system, because our lives are dependent on it—because a political system, good or bad, is established in our name, and we bear the responsibility for it." She's right. Our lives are dependent on government, and our lives could be destroyed if we take a sharp turn towards socialism, are taken over by religious fanatics, or are sent to jail for surfing the wrong web sites.

In the third place, in any apparent conflict between what Miss Rand said extemporaneously, as in a question and answer session with a diverse audience free to ask about any subject, versus what she wrote, greater weight must be given to her written word. That is why you cannot simply dismiss a quote like the following:

We're going round and round over previously tread territory. I've already pointed out that not being "responsible for the immoral state of the world" is not the same as bearing responsibility for the government one has.

Previously, you claimed that you saw no contradiction between the statement above and your notion that all citizens, under all conditions, "bear responsibility for their government and must pay the price for its sins". This would mean that "innocent victims" in an "impossible situation" must still "bear responsibility" for that situation. And it means that “people not responsible for the immoral state of the world” are still responsible for the political system created by that immorality. It means that the “anti-collectivists” who do not “assume a share of the guilt” are just as “responsible” as the collectivists who do “assume a share of the guilt”.

I agree with Ayn Rand: "If by neglect, ignorance, or helplessness, they couldn't overturn their bad government and choose a better one, then they have to pay the price for the sins of their government. . ." And she ended the sentence with "—as all of us are paying for the sins of ours." Yes, ours. We are all paying -- through taxes, through inflation, through economic interventions, through social engineering, through homeland security brownshirting -- for the sins of our government.

But the fact is that in order to escape these obvious contradictions, you have conceded that we do not deserve to pay for the sins of the government, that we are not to be morally blamed for those sins, and that we are not responsible for paying for the sins of the government. Given those stipulations, what is the meaning of the first statement that you made on this issue:

If the "library Internet user" does not deserve the treatment he got, if he is not morally to blame for it, and if he is not "responsible for paying the price for the government's sins", then what does it mean that he "must assume responsibility for it"? What does responsibility mean under these conditions? The answer is it means nothing more than "if you cannot prevent it, it will happen".

No, people didn't deserve to be in Soviet concentration camps for disagreeing with their rulers -- nor in American jails for viewing the wrong sort of web sites. But if people do not change their government, whether they can help it or not, they are still responsible for their own lives and liberty.

When asked to provide a definition of responsibility, you said: Those who are working against the welfare state are obviously not a cause of the welfare state; this means, according to your own definition, that they are not responsible for the welfare state.

The fact that you took no actions that led specifically to the establishment of a welfare state, does not make you any less responsible for securing your own liberty by means of establishing a proper Objectivist government.

In fact, in assigning responsibility to everyone, you are ignoring cause and effect by lumping the causers and the non-causers into the same collectivistic pot and declaring them equally "responsible".
Read the thread. I have consistently made it clear that not everyone is equally to blame for evil government. See my post about Soviet dissidents vs. the Politburo.

A far more reasonable interpretation, and in fact the one given by Miss Rand, is that we are responsible for opposing statism intellectually and philosophically at every opportunity; but if we devolve into a dictatorship, we cannot expect to be exempt from the retaliatory force used by any free nation the dictatorship attacks.

If we devolve into a dictatorship, we cannot expect to be exempt from the initiatory force used by all dictatorships. We will then have to pay an even heavier price for the sins of our government.

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We're going round and round over previously tread territory. I've already pointed out that not being "responsible for the immoral state of the world" is not the same as bearing responsibility for the government one has.
Yes, you have done a lot to explain what "bearing responsibility" does not mean. You have explained that it does not mean that we deserve to pay for the sins of the government. You have explained that it does not mean that we are to be morally blamed for those sins. You have explained that it does not mean that we are responsible for paying for the sins of the government. And you have explained that it does not mean that we are all equally responsible. What I am still waiting to hear is what "bearing responsibility" does mean.

As near as I can tell, it means nothing under these circumstances. Of course, you are free to repeat another out-of-context quote from Miss Rand, but unless you come up with something new, you will not be doing anything to give your position on "bearing responsibility" any meaning.

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I agree with Daedalus that citizens living in a certain country are ultimately responsible for the actions of their government. No state can rule without the (implicit) consent of the people.
If you mean that the citizens of a country, in the aggregate, usually get the type of government they deserve, then you're right. Or, if one makes a guess that the two library users are average Americans, then too one could say they're partly responsible for what happened to them.

Neither of those two propositions were at the core of the disagreement above.

The real question is: Would you say that those library users were responsible, regardless of who they were, what they believed, what choices they made, how much they protested against the current system, what they had done to change it...and so on. That, basically is the issue. The question is: are they responsible by virture of continuing to live in that geographical area?

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What I am still waiting to hear is what "bearing responsibility" does mean. As near as I can tell, it means nothing under these circumstances.

I have previously explained that responsibility is the dynamics of cause and effect applied in a social context.

So "bearing responsibility" means nothing other than that one suffers the consequences?

If so, then why not just say so rather than using a word ("responsibility") which has so many other connotations?

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If you mean that the citizens of a country, in the aggregate, usually get the type of government they deserve, then you're right. Or, if one makes a guess that the two library users are average Americans, then too one could say they're partly responsible for what happened to them.

Neither of those two propositions were at the core of the disagreement above.

The real question is: Would you say that those library users were responsible, regardless of who they were, what they believed, what choices they made, how much they protested against the current system, what they had done to change it...and so on. That, basically is the issue. The question is: are they responsible by virture of continuing to live in that geographical area?

Hmm, that depends on the proper context. I remember reading somewhere that Ayn Rand said that you aren't obligated to sacrifice yourself if voicing disapproval would get you killed by the police. In that scenario I don't think the people who do all that they could are responsible. But then again, you don't know in advance whether or not someone is like that. I can think of multiple scenarios related to war where you wouldn't have time to find out if the civilian in question was responsible for his situation or not.

Personally speaking, I would not care to live like that. I am not sure if there are proper grounds to condemn them as sanctioning evil, and thereby being immoral, though.

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So "bearing responsibility" means nothing other than that one suffers the consequences?

If so, then why not just say so rather than using a word ("responsibility") which has so many other connotations?

If you'll read the whole thread you'll see that resposibility is not merely about suffering the consequences. Responsibility is the idea that one must think and act in order to obtain one's values, including life and liberty. Or as Don Watkins III puts it, "The right to liberty is the right to take those actions necessary to secure one’s liberty – the responsibility for taking those actions is one’s own." http://www.capmag.com/article.asp?ID=4367

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