Comments from NoodleFood


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Comment #1

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 3:43:38 mst
Name: Bill Visconti

And the ironic thing is that Wakeland argued against the more hawkish Objectivists saying that the John Lewis, Yaron Brook arguments for warfare condoned the slaughter of innocents. But the same man then expresses his emotional desire to kill American beauracrats and even his neighbors. Yeah, this is scary. I wonder what Tracinski's response will be.

I used to have respect for Wakeland even if I disagreed with him. But its tough to respect a man with those kind of views.



Comment #2

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 6:56:42 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://s7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

"Killing a regulator who does not answer to the will of the people is justice."

Um, "will of the people?" What is THAT all about? Governments need to respect the RIGHTS of the people, and not give one flying damn about their "will."

What is going on here with Mr. Wakeland?!?



Comment #3

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 7:06:27 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Diana,

I just wanted to register my complete agreement with your assessment. You said it so well that I don't really have anything to add.

This is an interesting development on the heels of Rob's Nov 14 TIA Daily, which I was surprised to see stating what I think is a significant departure from the Objectivist view of the role of philosophy in history. (I was going to bring it up on HBL, but Harry beat me to it this morning. :) These two events have given me a lot to think about, vis-a-vis my current assessment of TIA Daily (and its analysis and advice).



Comment #4

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 7:26:42 mst
Name: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two--four.net/weblog.php

Okay; in this context, I'd like someone to explain Ragnar Danneskjold.



Comment #5

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 7:32:42 mst
Name: Trey Givens
URL: http://www.treygivens.com

It's been a while since I've read it, but I thought Ragnar was deliberately trying NOT to kill people. He was just taking back what was stolen and only responded with violence to violence.



Comment #6

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 7:38:15 mst
Name: Dave Harrison

One reason we have government is to help protect us from sickos like Wakeland.



Comment #7

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 7:45:07 mst
Name: Ricard Dover

Trey wrote: "It's been a while since I've read it, but I thought Ragnar was deliberately trying NOT to kill people. He was just taking back what was stolen and only responded with violence to violence."

Didn't Dagny's father Nat Taggart kill a regulator (or a tax collector)?



Comment #8

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 7:53:56 mst
Name: Damon Peichl

I think he simply forgot to put quotes around that passage because, in my reading of the post, he is clearly quoting something he wrote 10 years ago.

For example, the sentence immediately before the passage Diana quoted was this:

"*In those days* I wrote on those issues with the intensity of a minuteman casting rifle bullets for the next skirmish with the British infantry."

By "In those days," he means while working on "The American Republic," a magazine printed in 1995-1996. The wording of the sentence suggests that what follows is a recap of some of those "rifle bullets."

Further, the sentence immediately after the passage in question begins with "Today, I've self-consciously cooled the terms I use on these issues..." which suggests that what was just said was not actually his current opinion.

I really think he simply forgot the quotation marks which would have indicated it was something he wrote an entire decade ago.

If an Objectivist should be held accountable for everything he says 10 or more years ago, with no possibility of changing one's mind or softening one's rhetoric, then I have no hope of ever being considered rational. 15 years ago, I was nearly a marxist. I was a total mess. Reading "Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology" literally changed my life. My public statements of even three years ago are embarassing to say the least. Fortunately, I used a pseudonym.

That being said, if that passage is not a past statement, or if he backs up those words in a follow-up to the moderator's request, I will definitely reconsider my subscription to TIA.



Comment #9

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 8:39:28 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Damon: If he meant something different from what an objective reading of his words would suggest, then he bears the responsibility to clarify and correct them.



Comment #10

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 8:54:35 mst
Name: Glenn

In 95-96 he couldn't be using "Kelo" as an example.



Comment #11

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 8:56:53 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://s7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

The board owner, Stephen, replied to the post. An excerpt of his reply follows:

"I took it as perhaps an act of utter desperation, an act made possible by such an injustice that your life would be over, that there would be nothing left to live for, much like a man who might not want to live when his wife is killed, and he kills the murderer as a last act of retribution."

Seen in that light, I completely understand Mr. Wakeland's comment. If they came for a man and completely destroyed his life and livelihood, I really don't think you should expect him to make any promises about what would happen next. I don't think that you can tell such a man that he still has "peaceful means" to fight such laws if his life is already destroyed by them.

I do think, even still, that Jack's comment was a bit weird. Why are neighbors included in his list of targets? Why does he cite things like the "will of the people?" He owes an explanation for those things, certainly.

But I don't want my comments to be construed as a blanket condemnation of EVER engaging in armed rebellion. Nat Taggert knew that there is a time and a place...



Comment #12

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 8:58:06 mst
Name: Inspector
URL: http://s7.invisionfree.com/capitalistparadise/index.php?showforum=17

That should read, "I completely understand THE MOTIVATION for Mr. Wakeland's comment." I still don't understand the comment itself!



Comment #13

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 9:03:09 mst
Name: Glenn

Ragnar would only attack government ships that had loot, and he put the crew in life boats before he sank them. He also said he would never attack a military ship because what ever they were doing they were also protecting the country.



Comment #14

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 9:05:52 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

1. Nat Taggart was not Dagny's father. He was an "ancestor," though I don't remember exactly how many generations removed.

2. Nat Taggart's action (assuming that the story was true) wasn't taken in response not to a regulator acting on bad philosophy (which an Objectivist should know can only be corrected by spreading better ideas). The politician in question was a criminal trying to make a killing by short-selling Taggart stock, after denying permission to complete a line crucial line. It's not quite the same situation.

3. Just because Ayn Rand once wrote about a relatively sympathetic character who may have done such a thing doesn't make it right -- especially for someone with the (supposedly) Objectivist context of knowledge I referenced above. That is one reason why I'm struck by the coincidence of the two events I described in a previous post. At first glance, they appear philosophically related to me.



Comment #15

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 9:32:12 mst
Name: Damon Peichl

Tony Donadio: "If he meant something different from what an objective reading of his words would suggest, then he bears the responsibility to clarify and correct them."

Using the context of the surrounding statements, I came to the objective conclusion that he was showing "ewv" the kinds of rhetoric he used to use 10 years ago. This is not to say that I didn't find the statements themselves offensive, just that they didn't seem to be very current. In the not too distant past, I said many offensive things myself, some of them publicly. Granted, I wouldn't necessarily quote any of them today without strongly criticizing them, and that didn't appear to be done in this case.

Since I am relatively new to Objectivism, could someone please clarify something? Now that the board moderator has demanded an explanation, should an Objectivist wait a certain time period for that explanation, or is it proper to morally condemn him immediately?



Comment #16

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 9:34:45 mst
Name: Damon Peichl

Glenn: "In 95-96 he couldn't be using "Kelo" as an example."

Quite right. I stand corrected.



Comment #17

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:14:15 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Damon: I'm not morally condemning Jack on the strength of this one (as yet unclarified) comment. (Others who may have been following his previous statements more carefully and critically, and who think that they have more evidence to form such a conclusion than I have, may think differently.) I think in a case like this it is not inappropriate to wait a reasonable amount of time for a clarification. But that doesn't change the fact that his statement is, as Diana put it, "scary," and that reasonable people are justified in responding to it accordingly (and critically).



Comment #18

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:16:30 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

Wakeland:

"If I were financially ruined and could not get a hearng and just compensation, I would serious[ly] consider becoming a murderer."

Diana:

"I'm absolutely horrified. Even onerous government regulations do not justify armed rebellion, let alone the cold-blooded murder of fellow citizens -- not while bad laws might still be fought by peaceful means."

If someone attacks your property, the fruit of decades of your planning and energy, to the point of your financial ruination, you do not have the right to resort to violence in retribution? Perhaps it would be very much against your interest to do so in the present social context, but that is a different issue.



Comment #19

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:24:59 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Eric Dennis wrote: "If someone attacks your property, the fruit of decades of your planning and energy, to the point of your financial ruination, you do not have the right to resort to violence in retribution? Perhaps it would be very much against your interest to do so in the present social context, but that is a different issue."

Not on the Objectivist morality, it's not. "Acting against your interests" is not a morally neutral issue according to Objectivism.



Comment #20

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:27:21 mst
Name: anon

Ayn wrote at some point that as the US deteriorates, it was quite possible that civil war would erupt. She said however, paraphrasing, that 'we still have freedom of speech' ...

There is still time for ideas to work.

We have become the Third Reich -- Look around and switch the words to German and ask yourself - how would I have handled things if I lived there then?

So what actions should one take if a life time of work was taken against your will, by the government, for the benefit of 'others' (the volk)? With and without freedom of speech?



Comment #21

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:30:00 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

Tony,

It is useful to draw a distinction between what is within your rights, and what is moral. In fact that distinction lies at the base of the concept of rights.



Comment #22

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:43:25 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Eric Dennis: "It is useful to draw a distinction between what is within your rights, and what is moral."

Of course it is. However, I don't see how that distinction is relevant to the remark I was commenting on. If you think it is, could you elaborate?



Comment #23

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 10:53:25 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

Tony,

I was separating the issue of whether or not violent retribution is within your rights from the issue of whether or not it is in your interest (i.e. moral). I had stated that it is within your rights. You somehow took that to mean I was separating morality from self-interest.



Comment #24

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 11:10:01 mst
Name: Damon Peichl

Tony Donadio: "...that doesn't change the fact that his statement is, as Diana put it, 'scary,'"

I wholeheartedly agree. I thought the statement was "scary" as well, however, I assumed it was a much earlier statement and perhaps not indicative of his current feelings. I completely missed the word "Kelo" (thank you Glenn), which plants the statement firmly in the present. I was too eager to give him the benefit of the doubt, it would seem.

I am still exceedingly curious as to how he will defend it, and what his editor, Robert Tracinski, might say about it, if anything.

Their response(s) will affect my subscription. For that matter, could anyone point me to a specific article in a past issue of TIA (or TIA Daily) where I could read more of the same? Now that this has happened, I should start reviewing some articles I may have just skimmed over earlier.

I have been a longtime reader of Noodle Food, but I never noticed anything said by Mr. Tracinski or Mr. Wakeland that conflicted with anything said by Diana or any of the other Noodle Foodlers.

If I have been getting a flawed picture of Objectivism over the last two years, I'd like to try to correct it.



Comment #25

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 11:25:30 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Two comments:

(1) While the taking of one's home under eminent domain would be awful and unjust, it's certainly not a life-threatening disaster. You'll lose your home, but you will be financially compensated. Your wife will not be murdered, your children will not be sold into slavery, and your dog will not be shot. (Mind you, the Kelo decision changed nothing about eminent domain. Property was routinely taken for private development before the decision.)

(2) America has plenty of awful laws, but it is certainly not a dictatorship. Still, the government does have the power to ruin lives. If that happened to me, I would never resort to murdering judges, bureaucrats, and neighbors (!!). That would be senseless slaughter. If peaceful agitation for change were possible, I would do that. I would make an issue of my case, all while diligently working to rebuild my life. If the government ever became too despotic for that, I would still never resort to murdering judges, bureaucrats, and neighbors (!!). If I couldn't leave the country for somewhere better, I would join and/or create a resistance movement to overthrow the government.

To put the point bluntly: Senseless killing is not the proper response to government injustice.



Comment #26

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 11:40:32 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

Diana,

I don't know if you were intending to address my comment, but I was drawing a distinction between on the one hand whether violent retribution (against the initiator of force, not random neighbors or bureaucrats) would presently be a good idea and on the other hand whether it would be within your rights. When your propety is attacked under the aegis of the very social apparatus that ought to be acting as your protector, it is clear to me that retribution against the instigator is within your rights. Do you disagree?



Comment #27

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 11:52:20 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Eric: I just re-read your previous comment, and I see your point.



Comment #28

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 11:58:19 mst
Name: Auric

I completely agree with Diana's comment. When I think of the issue of what to do about governmental injustice, I think of the response of the Goldman family to O.J. Simpson's acquittal. Although their son was brutally murdered by Simpson, who has since gotten off the hook and even today is peddling a book that graphically describes the murders, their response has been to morally denounce him and to pursue all remaining legal avenues at justice through the civil courts.

The analogy is not perfect, since Wakeland references the issue of governmental regulation, which is de facto wrong and is always unjust. Nevertheless, one's response to both types of injustice must be the same. One simply cannot take the law into one's own hands. The saying that we are "a nation of laws and not of men" is true, and consistent with Objectivist philosophy. The right of retribution is delegated to government, even if the government itself is a frequent transgressor, as it is today in our mixed economy.

The fact is, one can seek redress in the courts, through legislation, and through suasion in our society. We still have freedom of speech (even if it is being chipped away) and our court system is based on constitutional legal principles (even if those principles have been grossly watered down and violated).

One's only recourse in the case of regulatory injustice is these peaceful, legal means. Extra-legal action is criminal action, and should be prosecuted in all cases. To extend the O.J. Simpson analogy, if Ron Goldman's father took the law into his own hands and shot O.J., he would have to be prosecuted and jailed for that action, no matter how tragic his situation and understandable his behavior.

Until we become a dictatorship, and we are not even remotely close to that as anyone who studies past and present dictatorships knows, no armed action is permissible. The alternative is bloodthirsty, gang warfare. No Objectivist can endorse that.

I might add, although I am not a professional philosopher, I am disturbed by the implication of Wakeland's comment that ideas are impotent, and that it is necessary to simply act rather than pursue change through ideological means. I am not sure of the (mistaken) philosophy implicit in this view, but it strikes me as hugely contrary to Objectivism.



Comment #29

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 11:58:56 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Eric: Regarding your last comment, while I see the distinction you're drawing, I'm not at all certain that your conclusion is warranted. To say that you have the "right" to retaliate against the "social apparatus" that wronged you means: that others have a moral obligation to respect and not to interfere with your act of vigilantism. That's what I understand rights to mean, at least in a political context. And as I said, that conclusion is far from obvious to me.



Comment #30

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 13:37:15 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

Tony,

Well you can only retaliate against certain, responsible individuals that the social apparatus comprises, but yes. Someone uses the sword of the state to rob me and its shield to prevent me from seeking justice -- I have the right to retaliate. In individual cases it may be difficult to identify the exact culprits, and rational disagreements are possible, but the principle is clear. As a bystander, I would certainly not interfere with someone who was seeking justice through a proper application of that principle. I would indeed consider such interference an encroachment on the rights of the justice-seeker.



Comment #31

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 13:48:32 mst
Name: BrianS

Eric said:

"When your propety is attacked under the aegis of the very social apparatus that ought to be acting as your protector, it is clear to me that retribution against the instigator is within your rights. Do you disagree?"

A proper government is the agent of one's self-defense. It is granted authority to act to defend one's rights. And it is granted this authority so as to place the use of force under objective controls. If a government acts instead to violate one's rights - in this example, the right to one's property - it switches its role from protector to criminal.

The question is, however: if one's rights are violated by the government, what recourse does one have to seek redress of that violation? Is -any- violation of one's rights by government "clear" grounds to use force against that government and its enabling constituents? Or are there other means of recourse which still keep the use of force under objective controls?

The latter is the case.

I think an implicit point made in this thread by Diana and others is that government is not properly considered monolithic. It is not a single, homogeneous entity. There are numerous levels and numerous divisions of control within it. As such, if one element of government acts against its sole mandate, there are numerous -other- governmental avenues one may pursue to rectify the violations made by that one element. One can seek higher levels of government, different agencies, different branches of government, not to mention the election of different legislators and the institution of different laws - all of which are objective means for correcting any subjectivity or error in the controls governing the use of force.

This is the idea of political 'checks and balances'.

So long as one does not live in a dictatorship - ie so long as one is free to seek all such remedies to perceived violations of one's rights - the defense of one's rights are still properly delegated to one's agent. As such, "retribution against the instigator" - ie against a judge, a regulator, or a neighbor - is NOT "within your rights." One's rights rights are still properly delegated to the rest of the government agents and agencies which exist to address these uses of force in an objective manner.

I believe it is the failure to fully grasp this wealth of corrective avenues - and one's freedom to pursue them - which leads Eric and Mr. Wakeland to their respective conclusions.



Comment #32

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 14:37:19 mst
Name: Paul Hsieh
URL: http://www.geekpress.com

Clearly, if the government is a dictatorship and is systematically violating one's rights, then one can morally oppose it with force. When the government is corrupt but not quite at the dictatorship stage then things are less clear, although it probably depends on whether there are peaceful recourses still available to the citizens.

But one can imagine realistic scenarios in which a bad government which not yet a dictatorship but fails to act properly, thus forcing citizens to take the law into their own hands.

For instance, in the post-Civil War segregationalist South, suppose that the local law enforcement officials of a Southern town simply refused to protect the rights of black citizens. Whenever a white person lynched, raped, or otherwise assaulted a black person, the assailant would never be pursued by the police, nor ever charged by the white prosecutors. And attempts by the black citizens to get the systematically corrupt law enforcement and justice officials replaced by honest ones always failed.

In that case, it would be much harder to tell an honest black person whose rights were consistently violated by a white hoodlums to simply, "work through the system". For him, there essentially is *no* government (in the sense that there is no agency that wields force using objective criteria to protect his rights). Even though it wouldn't be a dictatorship, in those extreme cases I would have a certain degree of sympathy towards someone like that who chose to take the law into his own hands, if say, his daughter were raped by local white thugs.

(I hasten to add that this is not the case in the Kelo-type situations being discussed here, and I do not condone the sort of violent action described by Wakeland in the context he describes.)



Comment #33

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 15:25:00 mst
Name: Auric

The example Paul Hsieh provides is a good one that appears to support individual action. In essence, there was no law for blacks as he describes it. Blacks went from slavery, where they had no rights, to a lawless netherworld where, although they might have had rights de jure, they had none de facto. It appears to be entirely appropriate for wronged individual blacks to achieve justice through individual action in such a lawless (for them) society.

Contrast the post-bellum South with the United States today, where I cannot think of any realm where there is no opportunity for legal redress. In any regulatory proceeding, there are usually multiple avenues for appeal, both at regulatory hearings and in court proceedings. Furthermore, all Americans today have a nearly inviolate right to denounce an injustice publicly, something blacks could not do in the South in the post-Civil War period. All Americans also have the right to elect better public officials, and through their vote to indicate their displeasure at elected officials who do wrong (witness the recent "thumping" of the Republicans).

Unfortunately, there are cases where individuals might have their wealth wiped out through regulatory action, and where there is no compensation whatsoever. An example is when a plot of land is designated a "green zone" or some other designation where no building is allowed on that land. Fortunately, there is a developing body of law that supports an individual's right to compensation in such cases.

Yet even if one's wealth were destroyed in such an action, one would not have the right to take individual action. Imagine if you did have that right. Who would you shoot? The mayor, a particular member of the city council who supported the zoning that destroyed your property value? Or perhaps the entire city council that approved the law? Maybe the culprit is simply the city clerk whose job it is to deny you your building permit, in accordance with the regulation? Or, should you shoot the entire U.S. Supreme Court, who approved the taking of your property in the Kelo decision?

If one thinks about the implications of endorsing the individual right of retribution in cases like this that do not involve the threat of immediate physical harm (i.e., when a crazy man runs at you with a knife), one can see that America would quickly convert into Iraq or 1970s/1980s' Lebanon. If individuals had the right to make their own determination that they were wronged and to take action on their own to "redress" that wrong, we would have anarchy and blood on the streets, literally.

Even if individual retribution did not lead to lawlessness (which it would), is it right to attack government officials who harm you? If they steal your land, do they deserve the death sentence? Even governments in legal proceedings do not prescribe the death penalty to thieves.

Finally, supposing it were moral to kill government officials (or neighbors!!) who wrong you, would it even be effective? No, it would not. Not only would you not get your land back, so that you were made whole as an individual, but you would do nothing to advance the cause of liberty in the larger sense. You would properly be seen as a crackpot a la Timothy McVeigh. You would discredit your cause.

The only way to "fight back" is through ideas, and legal action if individually wronged. Support the Institute for Justice which fought the Kelo decision in the courts. Although they lost that one, they have won many other decisions and have protected our liberty, in large ways and small. More importantly, support the Ayn Rand Institute, and destroy intellectually the ideological edifice that germinates both the myriad regulations and the myriad regulators who choke us.

As an American you still have a great deal of freedom. Use that freedom to advance your life. Fight back legally where you have to, but use the freedom you do possess to achieve your happiness. That is a more productive way to think, then whom you should aim your gun at.



Comment #34

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 15:45:30 mst
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

Good grief. Wakeland is not outlining the principles that justify and armed revolt against one's institutionalized oppressors; he's fantasizing making a good head-shot.

The only proper answer to such a statement is to say, “how fricken' f-ed up is that!”



Comment #35

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 15:49:00 mst
Name: Auric

Yes, it really goes beyond the pale of discussion.



Comment #36

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 15:53:14 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Precisely, Nick.



Comment #37

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 16:18:01 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

BTW, Nick just posted on Wakeland's homocidal fantasies here:

<http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2006/11/disarming-jack-wakeland.htm>

BTW, Nick originally brought Wakeland's comment to my attention with this post:

<http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2006/11/another-post-election-thought.htm>

Also on Rule of Reason, Ed Cline posted some good comments on Robert Tracinski's recent essay in which he (RT) openly rejects the Objectivist view of the role of ideas in history and in the special sciences. Unsurprisingly, Tracinski totally misrepresents the Objectivist view as deductive rationalism. That's here:

<http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2006/11/intellectual-activists-lost-guide.htm>

In my view, Tracinski abandoned Objectivist principles some time ago, including egoism and individual rights. He's now openly critiquing Objectivism -- and revealing his pathetic misunderstandings in the process. So I recommend that newer Objectivists NOT read TIA Daily. In fact, I recommend that people don't waste their time and money with a subscription. (I have a free student subscription. I'd drop that out of sheer disgust, except that I want to keep tabs on what RT and JW are saying while so many Objectivists are still attracted to their views.) As for my positive recommendation for those newer Objectivists, if you're interested in foreign policy, I strongly recommend the many articles and lectures on foreign policy published by John Lewis and Yaron Brook in recent years.

While I'm speaking of TIA Daily atrocities, I should link to Nick's two-part critique of Wakeland's mind-bogglingly dishonest article "Taking Stock after a Defeat in the War on Terrorism." (It was published in three parts starting around Feb 4th, 2006.)

<http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2006/03/jack-wakelands-treason.htm>

<http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2006/03/jack-wakelands-treason-part-ii.htm>



Comment #38

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 16:22:44 mst
Name: Paul Hsieh
URL: http://www.geekpress.com

I beg to differ slightly with Nick Provenzo. Wakeland is doing more than fantasizing, he's also trying to make an (admittedly brief) argument as to why his hypothetical violent response would be appropriate. I interpreted him as saying in the last quoted paragraph something like, "Regulation is the end of freedom, and is dictatorship and I'm justified in using force to respond."

Hence, that's why I think it has been reasonable for folks to have responded with more than "that's f-ed up" and to have also pointed out (correctly) that (1) this is not a dictatorship and (2) force is not justified in this case.



Comment #39

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 16:38:30 mst
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

I should be more precise; after a few moments of rebuffing Wakeland's pathetically weak justification for his one-man revolutionary murder spree, one should promptly punctuate their remarks with a healthy “How f-ed up is that?”

Why? Because Wakeland’s stand is simply out of bounds. There’s not one word in Objectivism that licenses Tim McVeigh-esq fantasies.



Comment #40

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 16:40:00 mst
Name: BrianS

Paul said:

"I do not condone the sort of violent action described by Wakeland in the context he describes."

I am clear on this point. However I am unclear whether Paul is 'condoning' "the sort of violent action described by Wakeland" - ie murdering judges, regulators, neighbors, etc - in the context Paul describes (blacks in the South). If not, then I am also unclear as to the relation his example has to the discussion at hand.

Nick said:

"Wakeland is not outlining the principles that justify and armed revolt against one's institutionalized oppressors; he's fantasizing making a good head-shot."

While I disagree with Mr. Wakeland's characterization of the situation as one of dictatorship, if one were to accept that context as factual, what is "f-ed up" about the desire to exact justice against those who have violated one's self systemically? For example, I am certain there were more than a few individuals who "fantasized" about 'just one chance' at a "good head-shot" of Hitler - or of those in charge of Auschwitz - or the SS soldiers who would put men, women, and children against the wall and summarily execute them - or any of a thousand other historic examples. In such context, would you tell the victims or their defenders they are really "f-ed up" to desire "a good head-shot" let alone seek one out and achieve it?

If not, then what one disagrees with is the *context*, -not- the strong desire to personally kill such a violator of one's rights. In other words, such a desire is not invalid in and of itself. It is not invalid -regardless- of context. It is not invalid intrinsically.

It is that desire -out- of its proper context which makes it not only invalid but "scary".



Comment #41

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 16:51:10 mst
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

>It is that desire -out- of its proper context which makes it not only invalid but "scary".

Yes. The United States is not Nazi Germany and no serious commentator should ever imply as much. There are "ominous parallels" and we should fight against them, but with pens, pencils and computer key-pads--and not high-powered rifles.



Comment #42

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 16:58:57 mst
Name: BrianS

Agreed



Comment #43

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 17:07:27 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

There seems to be an idea floating around that any violent acts (taken in non-emergency situations) are only within one's rights if one's government is sufficiently repressive. But even in a perfectly rational society there may be cases in which violent retribution is within one's rights.

Suppose a man with whom you had a prior feud kills your wife in front of you, is brought to trial, and is acquitted due to insufficient evidence. (Your testimony is put under suspicion due to the prior feud.) You have lost an irreplaceable value. You have a right to justice. To deny this is tantamount to accepting a collective consciousness kind of approach to rights, in which your actual rights are determined not by the actual facts but other people's understanding of the facts.

It does not matter that the government is the proper agency, in general, for the protection of your rights. You have lost your wife -- your entire existence now leaves the category of "in general." It is not your moral obligation to sacrifice your pride forever because actual justice in your particular case does not fit into some nice formula about the delegation of retaliatory force.



Comment #44

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 17:18:53 mst
Name: DougG

I heard that Harry Binswanger posted a comment on Tracinski's 4 part series "What went right" which is his response to the so-called errors with the Objectivist approach to history. Can anyone give a rundown of what Binswanger's main points were.



Comment #45

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 17:33:36 mst
Name: Auric

Eric,
It would be wrong to kill the man who killed your wife in the situation you describe. You have delegated the right of self defense to the government, except in instances where you face an immediate physical threat (e.g., a man with a gun threatens you). If it were permissible for individuals to use force in such a situation you describe, we would have anarchy. Each of us, even if we might suffer an individual injustice because government fails to act properly, benefits from living in a society where force is the monopoly of government.

Of course, you can choose to kill the man who killed your wife in this situation. But you would go to jail. That would be just.

By the way, in my estimation it would be entirely self-sacrificial to kill your wife's acquitted murderer if it would result in forfeiting your own life in jail.



Comment #46

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 17:41:13 mst
Name: Bill Visconti

Dianna wrote:

"Unsurprisingly, Tracinski totally misrepresents the Objectivist view as deductive rationalism."

I saw that too. And you're so right. It is so totally predictable. I said to myself as soon as I saw it "you've got to be kidding me." I would expect that from someone like Sciabarra or BiDinotto who are notorious for pinning the rationalist label on "ARIan" Objectivists. But I would never have thought that I'd read that comming from Tracinski. But then again given some of the things he's written in the last few years I shouldn't have been suprised. Here's a partial list:

*Has repeatedly claimed that the Foward Strategy of Freedom is just the bad application of an "essentially right idea"

*Has openly championed a "Colonial Solution" to Middle Eastern terrorism as the *only* successful strategy (try selling that one to Yaron Brook)

*Has claimed that the events in Iraq, Lebanon, and the Ukraine are indicative of the great powers of "representative government"

*Has allowed Wakeland to guest write a column that claimed that President Bush despite his flaws is a truly heroic man and that the waves of Objectivist criticism of him was a form of treason against America (See Nick Provenzo's blog posts for more)

*Has consistently presented Bush's insistence of fighting in Iraq as "the virtue of persistence" and argues that withdrawl from Bush's sacrificial war is and must be a sign of defeat for America. Never addresses any of the counter arguments offered by Objectivists.

*Has misrepresented the Objectivist theory of history (see Ed Cline's blog post)

*Has stated that Dr. Peikoff is (paraphrasing) infected with Dominique Francon syndrome; ie Peikoff has a negative view of the world and therefore can see only "doom"

And I'll end with my personal favorite:

*Tracinski and Wakeland commented that soccer is typically European game which glorifies socialism and the penalizing of ablility because it doesn't let players use their hands. Talk about rationalism.

And this is just a partial list. Diana is right regarding TIA Daily and TIA Monthly (oh wait, does that even exist anymore?). Buyer beware.



Comment #47

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 17:59:00 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Eric -- Your premise of a right to vigilante retribution leads straight past government to the bloody violence of anarchism. The whole purpose of government is to subject the use of force to open scrutiny according to objective standards, precisely so that people don't wield force whenever they damn well please, i.e. just because they think themselves wronged. Yet that's what you're claiming that people have a right to do. It's total subjectivism. Even if the vigilante is perfectly certain of the crimes committed by his victims, his actions are indistinguishable from cold-blooded murder to everyone else. He is properly regarded as a threat to them. And he is such a threat: his refusal to submit himself to the rule of law is dangerous on principle: the lack of checks and reviews inherent in the justice system makes mistakes highly likely, if not inevtable.

It's no coincidence that Jack Wakeland's recent comments sound exactly like what I've heard from kooky libertarians over the years.



Comment #48

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 18:13:07 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

Auric,

I don't believe we would have anarchy at all. I believe we would occasionally have husbands who kill their wives' murderers, and the like. I am not advocating trangressing laws in the case of, e.g., someone stealing my car.

Let us take this seriously. Suppose my wife had been murdered in front of both me and you. Suppose the murderer were acquitted. Suppose I were to engineer his death and that you were to find out about it.
Would you turn me in?

It is an intersting question how the law should treat vigilantes. One possibility is that to secure a guilty verdict the state might have to *prove* the innocence of the vigilante's target to some standard, perhaps lower than reasonable doubt.



Comment #49

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 18:15:47 mst
Name: Brian Smith

What Eric propose is not Objectivism but anarchy. I would suggest he consider a few questions:

*Why* does man properly delegate the defense of his rights to an agent?

Is man's agent omniscient and infallible? If not, does one properly accept an agent's judgements ONLY if he agrees with you?

Is the government ONLY one's own agent?



Comment #50

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 18:22:50 mst
Name: Brian Smith

In #49 Eric reverses the logical concept 'Burden of Proof' and also reverses a foundation of justice: innocence unless proven guilty.



Comment #51

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 18:26:06 mst
Name: Auric

Eric,
I will not answer the question of what I would do in your hypothetical example of witnessing your wife's murder.

However, regarding your last comment, although I am not a lawyer or legal scholar, I strongly believe the government should give no breaks to vigilantes, especially in terms of evidentiary standards. Vigilantism is not justice, just because the vigilante has strong reason to believe he is right. Tolerance of vigilantism through different standards of evidence would only encourage individuals to "take the law into their own hands". That would quickly result in "bloody anarchism" as Diana puts it.

Of course, in sentencing a convicted vigilante or any other killer for that matter, a judge would weigh the particular circumstances of the crime to arrive at the correct punishment. My understanding is that judges consider aggravating and mitigating circumstances of a crime when giving punishment. However, a judge would have to be mindful that implicitly he must always uphold the rule of law. The self-described vigilante's sentence would reflect that consideration.



Comment #52

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 18:35:19 mst
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

>Suppose a man with whom you had a prior feud kills your wife . . .

The ancient Greeks dealt with this problem in the play "The Eumenides" (The Kindly Ones) by Aeschylus. It is the third play of a trilogy; the first two ("Agamemnon," and "The Libation Bearers") paint a picture of blood feuds stretching from the Trojan War into classical Athens. "The Eumenides" resolves the feuds by initiating jury trials under the law, transforming the Furies (spirits of revenge) into the Kindly Ones when law replaces vengeance in the play.

The move from the archaic method of justice by personal vendetta to the administration of justice by trial is emblematic of the transformation from barbarism to a civilization animated by reason.



Comment #53

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 18:38:08 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Nick Provenzo wrote: "Good grief. Wakeland is not outlining the principles that justify an armed revolt against one's institutionalized oppressors; he's fantasizing making a good head-shot."

Precisely. Thank you.

That was the aspect of Wakeland's post that I found most disturbing. Let me remind everyone what he wrote, in the section BEFORE he projected his response to the hypothetical case of being a victim of government regulation:

"When I read about these legalized crimes, I can feel the grip of my AR-15 in the palm of my hand, smell the cleaning solvent (I keep 'em clean), see the front sight settling on the target (some bureaucrat, judge, or neighbor's head) and the cool pressure of the trigger against the center of the last pad of my finger..."

Eric, this is one of the reasons why (and with all due respect) I regard your earlier comments as beside the point.

To follow up on those comments briefly, though: I do NOT agree with your suggestion that someone necessarily has the right to "take the law into his own hands" if he is wronged by the government. I do not recognize that such a person is morally entitled to expect ME not to regard him as an objective threat, if he takes it upon himself to impose his personal judgement about how and when to *exercise force* upon others, outside the objective control provided by a government. That is anarchy, and that is the premise that a someone embraces when he engages in vigilantism.

If you're going to contemplate vigilantism or rebellion, part of the context that I think you have a moral obligation to consider is: what are the possible alternatives to the civil society you're removing yourself by engaging in it? In today's context (unlike, for example, during the Revolutionary War), there is NO possibility of establishing a free society by the use of force. So you cannot rationally choose rebellion as means to that end. And as Diana pointed out, whatever the problems with America's government are today, living within its existing protections is still vastly superior (*objectively*) to living in the alternative state of anarchy that rebellion or vigilantism would represent. Absent the possibility of successful rebellion, I think that the threat you face from the government has to be objectively more dire than anarchy before embracing such an alternative can be rational or moral. That's a standard that is not necessarily met by just any example of being the victim of government force.



Comment #54

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 18:53:06 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Regarding Diana's comment in #47: *precisely*. Someone who *does* "take the law into his own hands" does not have the "right" to do it -- that is, is he is not morally entitled to expect others not to respond by treating him as an objective threat. If he does, he takes upon *himself* the responsibility for the potential consequences. There may be "lifeboat" situations in which doing so is not immoral (the events of the movie "The Fugitive" come to mind as an example), but those are circumstances well outside those relevant to a discussion of the typical actions of today's government, or the consequences of being the victim of a Kelo-style taking of property.



Comment #55

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 19:18:51 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Eric wrote:

"Suppose a man with whom you had a prior feud kills your wife in front of you, is brought to trial, and is acquitted due to insufficient evidence. (Your testimony is put under suspicion due to the prior feud.) You have lost an irreplaceable value. You have a right to justice."

No, you DON'T. You do NOT have the right to kill the murderer -- not in the sense that you are morally entitled to expect others to stand aside and NOT treat you as an objective threat if you choose to engage in such vigilantism. If you take it upon yourself to withdraw from the obligation to delegate the retaliatory use of force to the government, you forfeit any claim on their obligation not to use force to keep your actions in check -- in this case, in self-defense, through their agent, the police.

Eric: "To deny this is tantamount to accepting a collective consciousness kind of approach to rights, in which your actual rights are determined not by the actual facts but other people's understanding of the facts."

That latter part is exactly right. And that is because knowledge is *objective*, not *intrinsic*. The proper use of force is dependent upon one's context and knowledge. To take an example: if someone mistakenly thinks you're about to kill his wife, and shoots you to prevent it, he is NOT wrong, and has NOT violated your rights, *if the circumstances are such that his mistaken belief is objective and rationally justified*. That is, the fact that he was wrong _in fact_ does not mean you are morally entitled to have expected him to refrain from that action, _given_ that his mistaken understanding of the facts was rationally justified. Your rights do not entitle you to demand omniscience or infallibility from others.



Comment #56

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 20:18:45 mst
Name: Brian Smith

Tony said: "if someone mistakenly thinks you're about to kill his wife, and shoots you to prevent it, he is NOT wrong, and has NOT violated your rights, *if the circumstances are such that his mistaken belief is objective and rationally justified*."

This assertion is, at best, only half right.

If force is initiated against an individual, his rights have indeed been violated. Whether a private citizen or an officer of the government is acting on the available evidence at the time does not change this fact. The only thing it changes is the proper response to that violation once it has been validly identified. In other words, depending upon the circumstances, it may be correct to say a man is "NOT wrong" to shoot because that is the rational response dictated by the evidence available at the time the wife supposedly needed immediate defense. However, it is incorrect to say that the victim's rights have NOT been violated by this act.

To use the example that was provided: a man shoots you. The fact that he mistakenly thought you were about to kill his wife does not change the fact that he harmed you by putting a bullet into your body. It does not change the fact that he had contact with your person without your consent. In other words, it does not change the fact that he initiated force against you.

That is a violation of your rights.

Lacking omniscence or infallibility does not exempt the shooter from the responsibility for his action once the error has been discovered. Nor does it change the nature of his actions. The fact that it was apparently a reasonable mistake does not change the fact that it -was- a mistake, that you had force initiated against you, and thus that your rights were violated.



Comment #57

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 20:37:41 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Brian: I only have time for a quick response right now -- but with all due respect, what you are describing is a view of rights that is inconsistent with the Objectivist definition. Quoting from memory, a right is a "sanction to independent action in a social context." A right is claim against the actions of others, nothing more and nothing less.



Comment #58

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 21:10:07 mst
Name: Ruth
URL: http://chaostheory.typepad.com

Hi Diana and Paul,

"Killing a regulator who does not answer to the will of the people is justice.

It is the full measure of the evil of regulation that one could reach such a conclusion in (supposedly) civil society. Regulation is the end of the rule of law, representative government, free speech, and society itself. It is dictatorship and when one cannot remove a dictatorship by peaceful intimidation, one makes war on it".

People can dress this up in all sorts of philosophical ways, but all one needs to say is that this person is a neo-con - pure and simple.
Your 'friend' Perigo is a dyed in the wool neo-con also. You cannot argue with these people - it's like trying to argue science with a religious fundamentalist. Anyway, it pleases me no end that more and more people are catching on to what Dr Peikoff has been saying for years about religiosity. They don't know he was at the vanguard, but it doesn't matter.



Comment #59

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 21:14:58 mst
Name: Jim May

BrianS:
"To use the example that was provided: a man shoots you. The fact that he mistakenly thought you were about to kill his wife does not change the fact that he harmed you by putting a bullet into your body. It does not change the fact that he had contact with your person without your consent. In other words, it does not change the fact that he initiated force against you.

That is a violation of your rights."

ME:
No, it isn't -- it's an accident.

BrianS:
"Lacking omniscence or infallibility does not exempt the shooter from the responsibility for his action once the error has been discovered. Nor does it change the nature of his actions."

ME:
But it does change **what he is considered sponsible for**.

The law already takes this into account with the concepts of "involuntary manslaughter" and "criminal negligence". While the nature of the *event* is the same, the nature of what the defendant is charged with and considered responsible for if found guilty, does.



Comment #60

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 21:55:02 mst
Name: Brian Smith

Tony,

"A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context."

"The concept of a "right" pertains only to action - specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coersion or interference by other men."

When you have time for a much less "quick" and a much more -considered- response, perhaps you would care to identify what -exactly- about my post is supposedly not consistent with the Objectivist understanding of rights. For, as it stands, I see no contradiction between my post and the quotes provided about rights. And you have provided no evidence to support your claim that such a contradiction exists.

Therefore I await your arguments which supposedly justify your currently -unsupported- accusation.

In the meantime, I might in turn accuse you ("with all due respect" of course) of not grasping the Objectivist concept of rights yourself. But, instead of simply jumping to that hasty conclusion, I will instead simply suggest you may not have grasped my post. In the future I would hope that you too would refrain from making such hasty accusations.



Comment #61

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 22:30:04 mst
Name: Brian Smith

Jim says:"BrianS:
That is a violation of your rights.

ME:
No, it isn't -- it's an accident."

Are you suggesting it is impossible to unintentionally (ie accidentally) violate the rights of another person? Are you seriously suggesting that depriving someone of their life, liberty, property or pursuit of happiness is somehow -not- a violation of them so long as that deprivation was "an accident"?

I will ask you to consider what, exactly, was "an accident" in your sentence? The violation of that individual's rights. In other words, when you say "it" was "an accident" you are saying the violation of that individual's rights was an accident. You are saying force was not initiated against him on purpose.

But whether or not that force was initiated accidentally or purposefully, such force was still initiated against him. That is what makes for the violation of his rights. And that fact doesn't change, regardless of the intent of the initiator.

--
Jim says:"ME:
But it does change **what he is considered sponsible for**."

If you read my post carefully, you will see that I already addressed this: "If force is initiated against an individual, his rights have indeed been violated. Whether a private citizen or an officer of the government is acting on the available evidence at the time does not change this fact. The only thing it changes is the proper response to that violation once it has been validly identified."

In other words, he (the shooter) is responsible for the violation of the rights of the man he has shot. What changes with knowledge of intent (purposeful or accidental etc) is the response to that violation of rights.

--
Jim says: "The law already takes this into account with the concepts of "involuntary manslaughter" and "criminal negligence"."

It does indeed. And nothing in my post disputes this fact. I would simply point out that the concepts you name are violations of an individual's rights. They simply identify the specific type of violation. As you explicitly indicate:

"...the nature of the *event* is the same..."

In other words, in each instance, they are initiations of force. They are each violations of the rights of another person.

Of course, I said this already.



Comment #62

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 22:32:07 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Brian,

If you want to continue this discussion, then take a less nasty tone. I'm not interested in responding to rude sarcasm.



Comment #63

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 22:36:22 mst
Name: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two--four.net/weblog.php

"This is not a dictatorship."

That's a bullet-proof paraphrase of several statements on the matter, in this discussion.

I have a question:

Is that an evaluation?



Comment #64

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 22:47:58 mst
Name: Joseph Kellard

This is an issue seperate from the one being discussed here, but I think it ties in with the many concerns fellow Objectivists have about Robert Tracinski of late. I learned from Gus Van Horn's blog that others share me frustration with The Intellectual Activist. I'm frustrated with Tracinski’s publication on a few levels, but mainly that it is published so sporadically now, after enduring a couple of years of sporadic publishing as Tracinski launched TIA Daily and worked on re-publishing the back issues -- all the while vowing that he’d get it back on track. He never did. Never even came close.

Ironically, a few weeks ago, I mailed Tracinski a letter saying I no longer wish to subscribe to TIA. I had re-subscribed earlier this year, but only received one or two double issues. Yet, in the mail today, Friday, I received a TIA renewal notice! Not a check reimbursing me for the issues I paid for but I now canceled, nor a notice saying my Master Card would be credited. No, I got a renewal notice! I re-subscribed for a year (or 12 issues), received the equivalent of 2 to 4 issues, yet I received a renewal notice!

Of course, this only underscores my frustration with Tracinski’s management of TIA, and to top all of this off, he either ignores my emails to him, or writes back to tell me he's too busy to answer my queries about when I can expect the next issue to be in my mailbox.

This is downright bad business.



Comment #65

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 22:56:24 mst
Name: Brian Smith

Tony said: "If you want to continue this discussion, then take a less nasty tone. I'm not interested in responding to rude sarcasm."

What was rude was your unsupported accusation that I did not grasp the Objectivist concept of rights. My "tone" to you after you made that quite invalid and offensive claim was not at all "nasty" but in fact -quite_ civilized, given your accusation. It was a -very- polite way of telling you that you should not jump to hasty conclusions about a person based on such little evidence and given any number of alternative explanations (including that -you- could very well not grasp my point).

If you have a problem with others pointing out such logical errors, then there is no point in continuing the discussion. If you do not have such a problem, then I would appreciate an apology for your unsupported and unfounded accusation against me.



Comment #66

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 23:10:37 mst
Name: D Eastbrook

Tracinski is a terrible businessman. He seems to be living in a fantasy world on many levels. There is widespread dissatisfaction with his written work and yet he writes article after article where he pats himself on the back for this "prediction" or that clever "insight" or for the fact that he is a "fact oriented journalist" instead of a floating philosopher like Leanord Peikoff. He also seems to be in total denial that his written publication has become a total failure. He has ruined the once proud status of The Intellectual Activist and yet he is totally oblivious to this. Finally, he sounds like an arrogant man (in the bad sense not the Howard Roark way) and by that I mean presumptious.

I have lost all respect for him.

And oh yeah, he is now deciding whether or not he agrees with Ayn Rand's theory of history as distinct from all those misguided rationalist Objectivsts including Dr. Peikoff. Trancinsky is going to be the next David Kely.



Comment #67

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 23:44:52 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Brian: "I only have time for a brief comment now" is a polite way of raising an issue, with the promise of elaborating later when one has time. It is not, however, a promise to tolerate rudeness and sarcasm. I have no interest in continuing this discussion with someone who is going to adopt that kind of tone, and I won't.

If anyone else participating on the thread would like me to elaborate on my point, please feel free to ask and I will be happy to do so.



Comment #68

Friday, November 17, 2006 at 23:56:09 mst
Name: Jack Wakeland

Wow, I guess you guys really do read what I write...even in an obscure comment on an (admittedly) very well known discussion board.

I'm sorry about my nasty comment.

No, I didn't really mean it.

It was part of a general statement of my hostility to the true danger in American politics--the moribund, but far from deceased left. I was in a dark mood after the leftists obtained control over all the levers of power in Congress and a half dozen additional state governments. I got carried away.

There is really no excuse for it and it's in print, so I can't take it back. I'm sorry I wrote it and I'm sorry you read it.

I know Nick Provenzo was not defending me in general (We haven't been friends for a long time.), but his comment sums up my response to any attempt to discuss whether or not my statement had any merit:

"Good grief. Wakeland is not outlining the principles that justify an armed revolt against one's institutionalized oppressors; he's fantasizing making a good head-shot."

No, I'm not loading up magazines with match-grade bullets so I can shoot various government officials or busy body neighbors. I'm at work right now, working late again. I work for a living. I'm an engineer. I'm not planning a one-man insurgency operation for northeastern Illinois. I'm not even the kind of guy who gets into fights.

And, no, the "evil" Robert Tracinski is not somehow complicit in all this.

It was my own stupid, ugly gaffe.



Comment #69

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 0:04:10 mst
Name: BrianS

Tony has decided no apology is necessary for an accusation that a person has a view of rights "inconsistent" with Objectivism. He also apparently has no problem with making such a hasty accusations based on -one- post. And he apparently sees no problem with a person making accusations without providing support, instead of waiting for a time when he can supposedly provide support for such an offensive accusation.

Furthermore, when called on these problems, Tony apparently has no problem with trying to switch the blame for -his- errors to his victim. And making the accusation that someone is being rude in pointing out his problems seems a convenient (though irrational) way of avoiding having to support the claim which he not only didn't support but which, in fact, is completely false.



Comment #70

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 1:15:49 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

BrianS: Tony owes you no apology for expressing his judgment that you don't understand the Objectivist view of rights. It's not an insult nor an attack. (I've expressed basically the same view in my comments that your view leads to anarchism.)

Your offense at his comment is puzzling to me. I wouldn't be offended in the slightest if you thought that I didn't understand rights. (I'm pretty sure Tony feels the same way.) Really: so what? That kind of judgment is inherent in the disagreement. It's not a criticism of your character or intelligence.



Comment #71

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 1:25:55 mst
Name: Nicholas Provenzo
URL: http://www.capitalismcenter.org

If someone retracts an irrational statement, apologies for their mistake (and explains the source or nature of their error), I think good grace demands that the effort be acknowledged.

I'm not going to analyze what Wakeland’s mea culpa failed to say or forget the vast differences that still remain between him and others (including myself), but in this limited context, I tip my hat to my opponent.



Comment #72

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 1:50:42 mst
Name: BrianS

Diana - perhaps I have missed it, but where here are your comments contending -my- view (presumably of rights) leads to anarchism? Which views of -mine- have you suggested are anarchistic? Perhaps you have confused me with Eric, whom you have indeed suggested holds views which lead to anarchism (a suggestion I independently arrived at and posted about as well here)?

As to what I find offensive, I have already stated twice now. I find offensive the -unsupported- accusation that I hold a view of something in contradiction to a fundamental concept in Objectivism. This is a serious accusation to make against an Objectivist under any circumstances, but to do so on the basis of one post, to do so without any attempt to verify (confirm with the accused) the basis of the claim, and to do so without waiting to provide -any- support for such a serious accusation is, to say the very least, rude (not to mention an injustice). Then, having pointed out, in a very polite way I might add, the fact that Tony -had- jumped to such a conclusion without warrant, let alone due logical process (when many other logical explanations were quite possible), I was accused of being rude and nasty for my troubles.

My offense at these things puzzles you?



Comment #73

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 3:24:18 mst
Name: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two--four.net/weblog.php

Meanwhile; I asked a fair question for a serious reason.

Is there no one who might answer it?



Comment #74

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 5:26:11 mst
Name: Orson Olson

What part of Jefferson's "a little rebellion now and then is a good thing" don't you understand?
http://www.earlyamerica.com/review/summer/letter.html



Comment #75

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 7:35:27 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

BrianS wrote the following, in response to Diana's (correct) observation that the statement that one is assuming a view of rights inconsistent with Objectivism is not an "attack."

"As to what I find offensive, I have already stated twice now. I find offensive the -unsupported- accusation that I hold a view of something in contradiction to a fundamental concept in Objectivism. This is a serious accusation to make against an Objectivist under any circumstances, but to do so on the basis of one post, to do so without any attempt to verify (confirm with the accused) the basis of the claim, and to do so without waiting to provide -any- support for such a serious accusation is, to say the very least, rude (not to mention an injustice)."

Leaving aside that such a remark is not an "accusation" (much less a serious one), BrianS insists on ignoring the fact that I specifically prefaced my comment with the remark "I only have time for a quick comment ***RIGHT NOW***" (emphasis added). The reason, simply put, was that my wife was impatiently waiting for me to leave the computer and join her for dinner. I deleted the two sentences I had written at the end of my post by way of beginning the explanation BrianS obviously wants, because they would have made no sense by themselves, and added the preface cited above to make clear that I recognized that my comment did not stand as written and needed further elaboration. Then I posted it with the intention to return later in the evening and write a follow-up explaining my observation in more detail. I changed my mind when I saw his nasty and sarcastic response -- with which, as far as I am concerned, he has forfeited any expectation of further discussion between us.

Now, for the record: I have no intention of turning Diana's blog into a forum for a posturing over this silly issue. I will not respond to ANYTHING further by BrianS (who is clearly confused regarding just who owes who an apology here), no matter what he writes -- so this will be my LAST comment on the matter. As I also wrote previously: if anyone else on the thread wants me to elaborate the issue I began to raise, I will be happy to do so. Absent such a request, however, I'm not going to bother -- especially since since several others (including Diana) have already made similar points to mine.



Comment #76

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 9:54:34 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Brian: Indeed, I did confuse you with Eric. I apologize for that, particularly since you were one of those arguing against Eric!

That doesn't change my judgment about the question of any due apologies, although my reasonse in this case are rather different. Basically, I agree with Tony that it matters that he was merely offering a quick statement, with elaboration promised later.

I'm sorry that the potential discussion was cut short, as I surely would have found it interesting.



Comment #77

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 11:17:44 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

If I have correctly located the exchange that led to the flare-up between Tony and Brian, there is no question that Brian is correct.

Tony said: "if someone mistakenly thinks you're about to kill his wife, and shoots you to prevent it, he is NOT wrong, and has NOT violated your rights, *if the circumstances are such that his mistaken belief is objective and rationally justified*."

Brian's reply to this was correct. It is a violation of rights, but the motivation and intention based on the error can constitute mitigation. However, because it is murder it has to be looked at very, very carefully - even if it was committed in error. You can't go around killing people merely because you think they are a threat, even if you have good reason to think they are. In any event, whatever led to your action, you have violated the victim's rights. Your context of knowledge or motivation doesn't change that fact.

Also, for the record, as Diana acknowledges, Brian was correctly expressing opposition to the anarchist position of Eric and it's possible that Tony also had him mixed up with Eric.



Comment #78

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 12:48:30 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Fred: I had not confused Brian with Eric. I was responding to a specific statement of his which I think implicitly assumed a view of rights which, as I understand it, is not consistent with the Objectivist definition. And since you've expressed agreement with his view, I have to say, with all due respect, that I think you may be making the same mistake.

I have some errands to do this afternoon, but I'll write up my reasons (as I had originally intended last night) and post them tonight or tomorrow.



Comment #79

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 12:50:05 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Like Nick, I appreciate Jack Wakeland's apology. (I've posted a link to it from the blog entry.)



Comment #80

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 12:59:49 mst
Name: BrianS

Tony said: "Leaving aside that such a remark is not an "accusation""

Tony in fact claimed I was guilty of holding a view of rights that was not Objectivist in nature - one at odds with Objectivism. That is indeed an accusation. I am sorry he does not recognize the nature of his own statements.

Tony said: "BrianS insists on ignoring the fact that I specifically prefaced my comment with the remark "I only have time for a quick comment ***RIGHT NOW***" (emphasis added)"

This is not the fundamental issue here. Even so, Tony is the one who has ignored the fact that I addressed this assertion numerous times now (in my comments to both himself and Diana). As I clearly stated, (on top of all my other complaints about his accusation), if one is going to make a claim that an Objectivist doesn't grasp a -fundamental- concept of Objectivism, one should -not- make that accusation -without- providing support. For instance, one does not properly say that Dr. Peikoff holds a view of rights inconsistent with Objectivism and then say a reason for this accusation will be posted later. If one is going to make such a strong claim of guilt against an Objectivist, one certainly should not be so hasty as to jump to that conclusion without providing -substantial- support for the accusation. And, if one is incapable of containing one's desire to express disagreement with an Objectivist's supposed grasp on Objectivism until such a time when actual support for that assertion - if a man cannot restrain himself and feels he -must- speak *immediately* - he may certainly indicate such disagreement through a more general statement like "I don't have the time to explain why right now, but I wanted to let you know I disagree with Dr. Peikoff's argument here" or some such similar sentiment. Such a statement does not make very broad negative claims about Dr. Peikoff's supposed grasp of Objectivism - claims which decidedly deserve support at the time they are made, as opposed to remaining a baseless accusation for an indeterminte period of time. Tony could certainly have waited (for a number of previously identified reasons) to claim that I did not grasp Objectivism in this instance. Nothing about my post demanded an immediate and unsupported accusation from him. Conversely, Tony could certainly have simply identified the fact that he disagreed with my ideas as I presented them. That would not have been a claim against me and my grasp of my philosophy.

Of course, Tony did neither. Instead he made an unsupported and illogical accusation against me.

In response to this, I originally simply pointed out that he had come to a very hasty conclusion, ignored other potential explanations for disagreement, and had provided no support for his accusation (saying that I await such support and that such support should really have come with such an accusation). I said this very politely and with no request for an apology.

For pointing out these *facts* I was called rude and nasty. At that point, then, an apology did seem in order.

The fundamental issue here - the thing I found offensive (to which many already identified factors contributed) is Tony's *presumption of guilt*. Tony did not simply express a disagreement, which could then be explored to discover its source, and thus would not presume the guilt or innocence of either party. No. Instead Tony claimed - on the basis of one post, with no investigation or clarification, with no consideration of logical alternatives to explain the disagreement, and with no support - that I was guilty of holding a view contrary to Objectivism - guilty of some failure (or worse) to grasp Objectivism in some form.

So much for the presumption of innocence. So much for approaching, let alone treating, a man -justly-.

And, even then, I was -still- quite civil and pointed out these errors in logic and approach. And even though one would have been appreciated, at that point I certainly did not request an apology for that behavior (because I recognized that such behavior can be the result of ignorant error rather than rudeness or malice). Unfortunately, -for- pointing out these errors I was (and still am being) called "rude" and "nasty" and now "silly". That simply added insult to injury. Only then did I suggest an apology was in order.

I am sorry that Diana does not share the view that such behavior is not worthy of apology. Over this we will simply have to disagree.

(PS - Just so no one makes the claim, in the above I used Dr. Peikoff simply as an example. I am in no way trying to comparing myself to him in stature or knowledge etc. The only link being made is both individuals being Objectivists, nothing more. I am merely trying to show that, in both instances, the Objectivist should -properly- be considered innocent until proven guilty {of error or whatever else} - or at the very least, judgment over guilt or innocence should be reserved until -conclusive- evidence is presented. Tony did neither. That made his accusation -improper-. And that is why I focus on the issue. This is a matter of properly understanding and applying the principles of justice. That is certainly -not- a "silly issue".)

--
Tony said:"if anyone else on the thread wants me to elaborate the issue I began to raise, I will be happy to do so. Absent such a request, however, I'm not going to bother -- especially since since several others (including Diana) have already made similar points to mine."

Unfortunately this statement of Tony's is not accurate. No one - not even Diana - has made points similar to "the issue [he] began to raise" but will now not deign to speak with me about - ie about my view of rights. In fact, the -only- other post here related to that "view" has been a subsequent post made by Fred Weiss, who has actually expressed -agreement- with the "view" of rights I previously presented. (Thank you Fred).



Comment #81

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 13:56:32 mst
Name: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two--four.net/weblog.php

Okay, done, then: nobody wants to answer the question.

Is it because the implications are obvious?



Comment #82

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 14:14:37 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Brian, I hope that will be your last post on the matter. Or rather, I'm cutting off the topic. You've had your say, so I think that's fair enough.

For the record, I find your reasoning wholly unpersuasive. Even serious misunderstandings of Objectivism are not moral failings. For Person A to judge that Person B's view on some topic is contrary to Objectivism and represents a failure to understand the Objectivist view does not cast aspersions on his intelligence, character, honesty, or anything else. It's not an assertion of *guilt* at all.

Personally, I've been told -- more times than I could possibly count -- that I don't understand some point of Objectivism. When told that by other serious and thoughtful Objectivists (like Tony), to become offended would waste a valuable opportunity to either clarify my own views or correct my mistakes.

And yes, I do think your analogy to Dr. Peikoff is wholly inapt. Dr. Peikoff knows Objectivism inside and out. He wrote the book on it, literally. So when some random self-described Objectivist suggests that Dr. Peikoff doesn't understand some core principle of Objectivism, that person has a very high burden of proof. It's far, far more likely that the random self-described Objectivist is mistaken than Dr. Peikoff. Your situation is radically different. You're just a random commenter, not (to my knowledge) a widely recognized expert on Objectivism. It's perfectly plausible that you've misunderstood some aspect of Objectivism. And if you have, that wouldn't make you "guilty" of anything, just mistaken.

I didn't mean to go on so long, but so be it. It's my comments, so I'm taking the last word.



Comment #83

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 14:18:14 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Billy, after 82 comments on this thread in just a day or so, do you really expect us all to remember your question? Or search through the comments to find it?

You could at least do others the courtesy of reposting it (or posting the link to it) as you pester us for some reply.



Comment #84

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 21:02:26 mst
Name: Luke

It's #63: http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/comments/view.pl?entry=116374813423006803#63



Comment #85

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 21:53:16 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

Billy Beck said: "This is not a dictatorship." That's a bullet-proof paraphrase of several statements on the matter, in this discussion. I have a question: Is that an evaluation?

I think the proper technical term is "judgment," as it identifies a given concrete as belonging to a given category. It is a descriptive (i.e. not a normative) judgment.

Why ask? (It seems like a totally pointless question to me, but perhaps I misinterpreted it.)



Comment #86

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 23:13:59 mst
Name: Jim May

Brian Smith writes:

"I will ask you to consider what, exactly, was "an accident" in your sentence? The violation of that individual's rights. In other words, when you say "it" was "an accident" you are saying the violation of that individual's rights was an accident. You are saying force was not initiated against him on purpose."

No, the "violation of rights" is not the "it" in my statement. The accident is the shooting itself. That this shooting constituted "a violation of rights" is an *evaluation* of that event, not the event itself.

Regarding that evaluation, Brian asks this question:

"Are you seriously suggesting that depriving someone of their life, liberty, property or pursuit of happiness is somehow -not- a violation of them so long as that deprivation was "an accident"?

Well, how do we define an accident? At first, it looks as though it's a metaphysically-given versus man-made issue; if a meteor falls from the sky and kills someone, it's an accident **because it's completely outside of anyone's control**. If a poorly designed tunnel collapses due to poor workmanship or design, killing a motorist, then it's someone's choice somewhere that led to the the killing event, and they are guilty of a rights violation.

The only problem is that nearly everything that happens around us, in the context of a technological civilization, ultimately sources from someone's choice somewhere. How long must the causal chain be before we can no longer consider such an event "a violation of someone's rights"?

Based on that, I believe my answer to Brian's question is, yes -- accidents resulting in death due to honestly unforeseen consequences can and do happen. I submit a different, ripped-from-the-headlines example here: http://www.snopes.com/horrors/gruesome/leafpile.asp

Here, a truck driver drove through a pile of leaves, not knowing that his young daughter and a friend were hidden in it.

So what is happening here? Is the father guilty of a rights violation, or not? And why?



Comment #87

Saturday, November 18, 2006 at 23:32:55 mst
Name: RT

Diana wrote: "Also on Rule of Reason, Ed Cline posted some good comments on Robert Tracinski's recent essay in which he (RT) openly rejects the Objectivist view of the role of ideas in history and in the special sciences."

Just for the record, I want to clarify that RT, longstanding NoodleFood commenter (i.e. me!), is not the RT referred to above.



Comment #88

Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 1:30:03 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

Jim, you bring up interesting possible counter-examples - the daughter in the leaves and the children in the cardboard box.

Those examples though raise the complication of whether the children had the right to be where they were in the first place. Does a child have the right to hide in a pile of leaves on a street or to play in a cardboard box in a vacant lot? I'm certainly not trying to minimize the horror of their deaths, but if there is no right in the first place there is no right which is violated.

Or take a more straightforward example. Suppose you wonder onto private property inadvertently, say into someone's house which you mistakenly think is a friend or relative's - and the owner, (legitimately) thinking you are a threatening intruder, shoots you. Have your rights been violated? I don't think so. You had no right to be there in the first place.

I don't think Brian would disagree with that. His example I thought concerned an accidental violation of rights where the victim had a right (say, to be where he was when he was accidentally shot).

The bottom line point - which I believe was Brian's - is that a violation of rights, per se, doesn't hinge on the motivation of the violator or on whether the violation was intentional or accidental. In other words, your rights don't hinge on the mental state of others.



Comment #89

Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 1:55:45 mst
Name: Fred Weiss
URL: http://www.papertig.com

Some of the confusion here may be due to the different standard in judging moral culpability in a violation of rights. It is certainly possible to violate a right but without any knowledge that you are doing so, i.e. completely accidentally and innocently. In that case - assuming there is no negligence on your part - you are not morally cupable. However that doesn't change the fact that you have violated someone's rights. That's why even if you were completely unaware that you were violating a right and/or if the violation is totally accidental and unintentional, you can still be sued. But that's also why the father and the truck driver in Jim's cited examples were probably not charged with a crime.



Comment #90

Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 9:30:03 mst
Name: Tony Donadio

Fred Weiss recently wrote the following:

"Tony said: 'if someone mistakenly thinks you're about to kill his wife, and shoots you to prevent it, he is NOT wrong, and has NOT violated your rights, *if the circumstances are such that his mistaken belief is objective and rationally justified*.'

"Brian's reply to this was correct. It is a violation of rights, but the motivation and intention based on the error can constitute mitigation... In any event, whatever led to your action, you have violated the victim's rights. Your context of knowledge or motivation doesn't change that fact."

I briefly stated that I think this analysis implicitly rests on a mistaken understanding of the nature and justification of rights, and one that is inconsistent with the Objectivist view. I'll defend that position in the following post. (Warning in advance: to treat this issue properly, this post will have to be long.)

Let me preface my remarks by saying that of course I do not intend that statement as an attack on or a disparagement of anyone -- neither Fred, nor anyone else who may agree with him. I would have thought that would go without saying, but if it doesn't, then by all means let me say it. I certainly wouldn't take it as a disparaging reflection on myself if someone turns out to be able to argue that it is *my* understanding of this issue is in error. That is entirely possible, and it wouldn't exactly be the first time that it has happened. :)

Let me start by positing two nearly identical scenarios. You are armed, and you witness a man you do not know behaving erratically, brandishing a toy gun, and shouting about how he is about to kill your spouse -- who is well within firing range, and with no cover. You have your weapon aimed at him, when he begins to raise his gun toward your spouse's head. You fire, and kill him.

The two scenarios are identical, except for the following, single difference:

Scenario 1. You know that the man's gun is a toy.
Scenario 2. You do NOT know that the man's gun is a toy.

I would argue that in Scenario 1, you have at the very least committed manslaughter, if not murder -- since there was in fact no real threat to your spouse's life, and you knew it. In that case, I would agree that you have violated the man's right to life. In the second scenario, by contrast, you were acting entirely and legitimately in self-defense. You were entirely justified in believing that your spouse's life was in danger. In an emergency situation, if the police are not present, you have a right to act in self-defense, and there is no legitimate argument to be made that you *ought not* to have shot him. Had the gun in fact been real and loaded, no rational jury in the world could (or should) convict you.

Fred states explicitly that: "...whatever led to your action, you have violated the victim's rights. Your context of knowledge or motivation doesn't change that fact." On that premise, I see only three possible positions to take with regard to these two examples -- since the only difference between them lies in your context of knowledge.

1. In both scenarios, you have violated the victim's rights, and are morally culpable in the victim's death.
2. In both scenarios, you have *not* violated the victim's rights -- irrespective of your knowledge or lack thereof about the gun.
3. In both scenarios, you have violated the victim's rights, but in scenario 2 that violation of rights is somehow "OK" or "justified" by the mitigating circumstances.

From my reading of your objection, Fred, I'm assuming that it is position 3 that you would defend. I state the others just for the record.

(To anticipate one objection relevant to argument 2: I do not think it is legitimate to posit that by his actions, the man has forfeited his right to life in both scenarios. The fact that you have the right to use force in self-defense, and in an emergency situation, does not entitle you to use force when you know that your self-defense does *not* require it, and when you know that you are *not* in an emergency situation. Doing so would make you an objective threat to the lives and safety of others, who would be justified in treating you accordingly.)

Why do I think that position 3 is wrong? This is where I think the Objectivist definition and defense of the nature of rights comes in. According to Objectivism, "A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man's freedom of action in a social context." There are two aspects of this definition that I want to focus on in making my point. The first is that a right is a *moral principle*. As such, like every other principle, it is contextual -- that is, it has a context in which it applies, and there are also contexts in which it does _not_ apply. The second is that it is a "sanction to independent action." What this means is that a right is a moral claim upon the actions of others -- specifically, a claim that they not interfere with your exercise of independent action. I think it follows from this that because rights are moral claims upon the actions of others, that a violation of someone's rights is necessarily an immoral act.

Thus, it doesn't make sense to me to talk of a rights violation that is nevertheless "OK" because of mitigating circumstances. If you violated someone's rights, then the victim had a moral claim on you not to have acted as you did, and what you did was *wrong*; that's what I understand a right to mean. But if what you did was "OK" because of mitigating circumstances, then he _didn't_ have a moral claim against your actions, _under those circumstances_. That's why I think that position 3 entails a contradiction. It's one thing to argue (as an earlier poster did, and I would agree) that mitigating circumstances mitigate the *severity* of the moral breach involved in a rights violation, and thus the appropriate punishment. It's another to say that mitigating circumstances somehow make the rights violation "OK." In order for that to be the case, you would have to have stepped outside the context in which the moral principle in question (the right) applies, and thus you would _not_ be talking about a rights violation at all -- *in that context*.

I think it is helpful in trying to identify whether something is or is not a rights violation to always ask the question: "What did the victim have a moral claim against the perpetrator not to have done?" -- in other words, "What *ought* the perpetrator to have done differently?" When I apply that question to the second scenario above, I can't see a legitimate answer. The man can't have a moral claim on you to hold your fire, given that you have legitimate cause to believe that someone's life was in immediate danger. To say that he does is to ask the impossible -- namely, that you divine causelessly (by "noumenal insight," so to speak) that the gun was fake. A rational and objective view of rights cannot be based on moral claims that demand the impossible.

I think that most of us (myself included) were probably raised (thanks to the influence of religion) with a view of rights that is colored by an intrinsicist perspective. Certainly I think that is the predominant mindset within which most people understand the meaning of rights. In that mindset, rights are a kind of "inalienable possession" that all of us "have" as part of our natures, and which others violate or "take away" from us by certain actions. This is a mindset that I've specifically had to work to overcome over the years, and one which I've found tended to lead me to certain errors in thinking about rights. One of these was to lose sight of the issue of rights as moral claims, and instead to focus on the loss of something that one is "entitled to by right" as the defining element of a rights violation.

I don't want to ask anyone to wear this shoe if it doesn't fit, but it seems to me that something like this is implicit in statements like "...whatever led to your action, you have violated the victim's rights." These place a focus entirely on the outcome, and the facts regarding what the victim has "lost," rather than on what moral obligations the alleged perpetrator can reasonably be expected to have had under the circumstances. The facts of the outcome, and what the victim has "lost," however, cannot be the sole and defining element of a rights violation. If they were, then a rock falling on you during an avalanche would be a "rights violation" as well -- and never mind the fact that moral claims that recognize context of knowledge cannot reasonably be made of inanimate nature.

That's an outline of my basis for thinking that context of knowledge has to be an important factor in defining when something is and is not a rights violation. I'm certainly interested in what others think, in particular about whether there may be any flaws in my reasoning. As Diana said, being wrong isn't a moral failing, and I won't object if anyone can make a case for why I am. :)



Comment #91

Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 11:56:03 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

I've just elevated Tony's recent long comment to a main NoodleFood post. So please post responses on that thread:

<http://www.dianahsieh.com/cgi-bin/blog/comments/view.pl?entry=116395553786327206>



Comment #92

Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 13:03:10 mst
Name: Billy Beck
URL: http://www.two--four.net/weblog.php

"Billy, after 82 comments on this thread in just a day or so, do you really expect us all to remember your question?"

I didn't think it would be that difficult, Diana.

And this is why I asked: it's because while some people assert that there is no dictatorship in America now, other people assert differently, and it is not enough to merely assert the thing one way or another.



Comment #93

Sunday, November 19, 2006 at 13:38:04 mst
Name: Eric Dennis

For the record, I don't advocate anarchism, and nothing I've advocated would lead to anarchism. What I've said is:

1. Arbitrary government seizure of private property is a violation of the owner's rights. As with any violation of rights the aggrieved party is morally entitled to a retribution with which informed bystanders have no basis for interfering -- even if seeking such retribution would be wrong (against one's interests) presently.

2. Even in a rational society there might arise cases (my example of the acquitted murderer) in which one is entitled to a retribution that would require breaking laws, and it might even be *right* to seek it. Regarding bystanders for whom the original facts are not knowable, I have not said that they ought to let the vigilante go free. (Note for BrianS: Nor have I suggested that the state's burden of proof for the vigilante be abridged. I suggested that the state possibly have an additional burden: to prove, under a different standard, that the vigilante's victim was innocent.)

I think the basic error of those on the other side is an attempt to muck around with the meaning of the concept of rights in order to guarantee that the government of a rational society would *never*, even unintentionally, violate rights. But, hierarchically, it is a much more fundamental matter that the aggrieved is morally entitled to retribution. This principle holds independently of whatever complicated conclusions one is lead to in matters of law and state action.

It is simply not possible to construct a state that will always be on the right side of a disputed crime. Our basic system of constitutional protections and a strong burden of proof is the best that can be done. Having realized that and partaken in the immense array of benefits provided by such a social order, one must simply accept the possibility of situations in which one is plundered with no efficacious legal recourse. In most such cases, it is obvious that risking sanctions and/or imprisonment is just not worth the retribution to which one is still morally and *in fact* entitled. Very occasionally in society, a man may find that what is plundered is too dear, and he must risk his status in the social order to seek retribution.

Tony: While I strongly agree with your polemics against viewing rights as, in my terms, metaphysical attributes of individuals, I think your examples are somewhat beside the original point. They involve A possibly violating B's rights when A or B isn't aware of relevant information. We had been talking about cases in which a totally third party C (e.g. government) wasn't aware. When I talk about the *fact*, I mean a fact both A and B know. What C knows or doesn't know cannot alter the state of affairs between A and B. Perhaps I will elaborate later in the new thread if I have time.



Comment #94

Monday, November 20, 2006 at 2:12:30 mst
Name: BrianS

I disagree with points Eric has asserted in his latest post. This disagreement is the same as I have expressed to him in previous posts. In my last to him, I asked that a few questions be considered - questions which remain as yet unaddressed. As such, the reasons for my disagreement with his position (as well as my assessment of it) still stand.



Comment #95

Monday, November 20, 2006 at 2:50:37 mst
Name: BrianS

Jim says: "No, the "violation of rights" is not the "it" in my statement. The accident is the shooting itself."

No. The shooting was not an accident. The shooting was quite purposeful. Thus the "event" as you put it, was not an accident. The -reason- for the shooting was erroneous. That is what makes it an accident.

Put simply, the claim of "accident" just as the claim of "violation of rights" is an evaluation of the "event". As I said, the violation of the rights is the accident.

Jim says: "...accidents resulting in death due to honestly unforeseen consequences can and do happen."

Good. I am glad we agree on that point. And since the point was that an "event" - ie an initiation of force against someone - even if accidental, is still a violation of the rights of the person against whom the force was used, this answer really doesn't address that point. Furthermore, your additional discussion of the ease or difficulty in identifying the initiator of that force does not change the fact that the man's right to his life was violated (anymore than the fact that the force was intentionally or unintentially an initiation changes that fact).

Put simply, whether one can identify the initiator of force does not change the fact that a person's rights have been violated. As such, my original disagreements with your position remain.



Comment #96

Monday, November 20, 2006 at 23:39:17 mst
Name: Matt Miklautsch

Although I said I am willing to agree to disagree with Tony regarding my hiker scenario - like Brian, I would very much like to see what others think about that scenario.



Comment #97

Thursday, November 23, 2006 at 14:09:05 mst
Name: Patri Friedman

response by blog post:

<http://catallarchy.net/blog/archives/2006/11/23/why-cant-we-shoot-back-at-the-feds/>



Comment #98

Saturday, November 25, 2006 at 23:45:30 mst
Name: John T. Kennedy
URL: http://no-treason.com

Diana,

You wrote:

"Even onerous government regulations do not justify armed rebellion, let alone the cold-blooded murder of fellow citizens -- not while bad laws might still be fought by peaceful means."

This would seem to rule out any possible legitimacy for the American Revolution since citizens of the colonies could oppose unjust laws by peaceful means.

Is it your judgment that the American Revolution was morally unjustified?



Comment #99

Sunday, November 26, 2006 at 0:24:16 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

John: From what I know of the history, the American Revolution was most certainly justified. Britain was violating the rights of colonists in ever-more-burdensome ways, e.g. with the Stamp Act. Even as it repealed that act in the wake of protests, Parliament declared its right to impose whatever laws it pleased upon its colonies with the Declaratory Act. Significantly, all peaceful means of protest (i.e. petition to Parliament and King) had been exhausted. The revolutionary colonists knew they could do better by self-government. To protect their rights, they had no choice but to revolt.

Today, the probability of revolt leading to even marginally better government is exactly zero. The only hope for better lies in cultural change, particularly education in the real meaning, value, and foundation of freedom. Yet once that happens, revolt will no longer be necessary, since we'll be able to elect politicians committed to individual rights.



Comment #100

Monday, November 27, 2006 at 0:55:56 mst
Name: John T. Kennedy
URL: http://no-treason.com

Diana,

Gandhi evicted the British from India without even threatening a shot. Indians faced far worse abuses and Americans had the advantage that the British did not dismiss them as "wogs" - the British and Americans identified with each other far more than was the case with the British and Indians.

Gandhi took the route you're advocating, he sought to educate the British and evict them through cultural change. And in this he succeeded,

So how can you say Americans had exhausted all peaceful means of protest? Do you think Gandhi never faced measures as unjust as the Declaratory Act?



Comment #101

Saturday, December 2, 2006 at 10:55:11 mst
Name: Diana Hsieh
URL: http://www.dianahsieh.com/blog

John said: "Gandhi evicted the British from India without even threatening a shot. Indians faced far worse abuses and Americans had the advantage that the British did not dismiss them as "wogs" - the British and Americans identified with each other far more than was the case with the British and Indians. Gandhi took the route you're advocating, he sought to educate the British and evict them through cultural change. And in this he succeeded. So how can you say Americans had exhausted all peaceful means of protest? Do you think Gandhi never faced measures as unjust as the Declaratory Act?"

Obviously, I didn't mean any and all *conceivable* means of peaceful protest whatsoever. (Gee, maybe I could usher in an era of laissez-faire capitalism by hugging every Senator! Or giving every Representative a puppy! Or selling my soul to Satan!) I meant that all *reasonable* means must be tried and found wanting, i.e. all standard means according to the laws and customs of the government at the time. Ghandi's methods -- although successful in the creation of a independent (and socialist) India -- certainly do not qualify.



Comment #102

Sunday, December 3, 2006 at 11:59:15 mst
Name: Sharpshooter

"Legal redress"?

HA! Cluetime

Wakeland might be "jumping the gun" (no pun intended), but two strains I notice here:

1) A complete misreading of people engaged in the legal system (ie, not grasping that the overwhelming majority are "gaming the system").

2) Equating a moral justice system with an immoral gamed legal system.

I guess the American rebels, circa 1775-1781 were a bunch of sicko bastards?

I'm picking up intimations of the characters in "Life of Brian" and their various lieration fronts, with their endless pronoucements.

Stan: "It's symbolic of our struggle against oppression"
RicH: "It's symbolic of his struggle against reality".