Editor's Notes


• A number of readers, impressed with Reason's new format, have asked how well the magazine is selling, hoping that it was selling well enough to justify a continuation of the format. Well, the magazine is selling several times better than last year at this time, despite the higher price. Still, in order to print the next issue(s), I need about twice as many subscribers or a goodly number of renewals. People who like what I'm attempting to develop Reason into can do two of several things: they can renew (or purchase gift subscriptions) or, at the expense of a mere few moments, can fill out the names and addresses of friends or acquaintances likely to subscribe if sent a sample. A self-mailing form has been provided elsewhere in this issue for these two purposes. I should emphasize that, regardless of the receipts that this or future issues draw, I intend to continue publishing Reason (even if in mimeo form) because the benefits I accrue have little to do with the financial success of Reason per se. With the knowledge that my career is that of a writer/intellectual, the reader should be able to see the many ways that the production of this magazine would act as an investment. Incidentally, anyone in Boston interested in learning what's involved in publishing a magazine in exchange for the performance of such exciting production tasks as pasteup and proof-reading should call me.

Presuming that I can continue printing future issues of Reason will continue to evolve toward the ideal form I have in mind. The back-of-the-book, especially the letters forum, will be expanded. Articles will be longer and more complex, no longer brushing aside interesting issues in favor of recapitulation of well-known (to students of Objectivism) principles. We will be printing as many articles as we can obtain that deal exclusively with philosophy, at the optimal rate of one per issue. We are negotiating with Tibor Machan, for example, for the production of several medium length articles on epistemology (as well as several shorter current events pieces). Robert Poole is working on an article on the oceans and ownership. His wife is doing preliminary research (with the aid of the presidents of several pharmaceutical firms who responded to last month's classified ad) for a series on drugs and regulation. Cheri Kent Litzenberger will be producing, sometime in the future, additional articles most of them related to education. Her work currently consists of attending various classes in the San Diego area for the purpose of finding out exactly what kids are being taught—and learning—in college today. Her next article will probably consist of an analysis of the results of this survey. Next month, if negotiations succeed, we will run two articles on racism, one an excerpt from Lillian Boehme's forthcoming (March) book, on moral aspects of racism, and the other, an article by Stanley Lieberman refuting the anthropological base of racism. Meanwhile, my next two contributions will probably include a review of The Careless Atom, and a continuation of my series on press objectivity. Mr. Poole has been invited to a January SAE conference on the topic of auto safety, and if that proves to be interesting (and it should), he will probably report on it. How Mr. Poole got invited is interesting, that's certain.

Well, I hope I've provided enough information to induce you to spend a little time helping to make it happen.

• Introducing a new feature: a letters forum. In the coming months, we will be printing readers' letters on a variety of subjects. To start, we've chosen a letter on a subject that is increasingly becoming the topic of debates among students of Objectivism (especially on the West Coast): the social system known (perhaps erroneously) as "anarcho-capitalism". Do not infer from this particular choice that I am or have become an "anarcho-capitalist" (whatever that may be). Instead, my choice was predicated on two facts: that the debates are now quite widespread and the effects just as noticeable (I've heard that even that stronghold of republicanism, NYC Metro Young Republicans Club, is now discussing the topic) and that the debate is the first of its kind among students of Objectivism (SO's)—one over fundamentals conducted on a non-local (national) basis. In short, the debate is news. For openers, I've obtained a copy of a letter written by Jarret Wollstein to a reader of his magazine, the National Individualist. This is meant to act only as a focal point for others' comment upon and is not intended to limit the discussion to one particular aspect of the problem. If you have an entirely different approach to the problem, feel free to approach. It should not be inferred that, in printing a letter, I necessarily agree with its contents. I will print all letters of interest that indicate some originality of thought. Letters to the editor that are not meant for publication or are not to be cut should be so indicated. Out of kindness to the English language, certain sentences in Mr. Wollstein's letter have been modified. Those who want to obtain the original, unexpurgated version should contact the author directly.

• I am glad to hear from you and glad to learn that you are willing to rationally discuss the question of competing defense agencies vs. monopoly government. I am afraid that you missed the implication of the arguments I stated in my previous letter, and misread by meaning in several cases. I will go into somewhat more detail here, and I believe that I will provide in this letter arguments which you will be unable to logically misunderstand or refute.

At the offset let me emphasize that the central issue in the question of the morality of competing agencies of defense is not how would they work out, but whether or not the concept is moral. As Ayn Rand correctly states, the moral determines the practical, not vice versa. (By the way, I have explicitly considered her arguments asserted in "The Nature of Government" in some detail in my "Society Without Coercion" and shown them to be fallacious. You should have, by now received your copy of this essay. If not, let me know and I will send you another one.)

There is one central issue in the question of morality of limited government as our discussion has so far evolved: Does government initiate force by outlawing and forcibly interfering with competition with its activities, or not? If it does do so, then "limited government" is inherently immoral: if it does not, then limited government is morally permissible. I contend that this issue is not even debatable if one considers precisely what is meant by the concept of "initiating force" To initiate force is to use it for the first time against persons who themselves have not initiated or threatened to initiate force. One can initiate force only by violating someone's or some group's rights.

If a private defense agency confines its activities to retaliating force against criminals, it certainly can not then be accused of initiating force against them. (If it does not confine its activities to retaliating force against criminals, then to that extent it is a criminal gang, as a government is when it initiates force.) Involved in the retaliation of force against criminals (by which I mean those who violate objective moral laws—not those who violate any collectivist laws a coercive state happens to decree), are such acts as arrest, detention, trial and retribution (not punishment—see "Society Without Coercion"). Now at this point I suppose that you will object that only government has the right to arrest, detain, try and force criminals to provide retribution, that it would be "illegal" for anyone else to attempt to do this. But consider further the nature of these "rights of government."

Government can have no rights not possessed by its citizens and voluntarily delegated by them to it. Do I as an individual have the right to arrest, judge and incarcerate? If you agree that I as an individual do have this right, then we no longer have any argument (as you will see), we both agree that I may do anything that a government police force, court, etc., can do, and if I have a right to engage in these actions, then government can not morally interfere with me when I am in fact retaliating. But if you say that I do not have such rights, if you assert that only government may morally engage in such actions as arrest, trial and incarceration, then I ask you WHERE DOES GOVERNMENT GET THE RIGHT TO ENGAGE IN SUCH ACTIONS? Remember that a collective can have no rights which an individual does not have. If I do not have the right to arrest, judge and incarcerate, then government can not have such a right either. If I do not have a right to arrest, judge and incarcerate, then I can not possibly delegate such a right to government—I can not delegate that which I do not possess. Unless individuals possessed the rights of arrest, judgment and incarceration to begin with, then no collection of individuals (whether you call that collection society, the state, government or whatever) could possibly even acquire such rights.

Or do you only say that while I have such rights, that I must delegate them to a monopoly agency of enforcement, i.e., government? But, if I possess something by right, then I have no obligation to delegate it to anyone. That which I possess by right (including such "possessions" as my right to liberty and action) I may morally do with as I please; I may exercise my rights in person if I so choose. (Whether or not it is to my rational self-interest to do so is a different question; objectively a man has a right to be wrong; e.g., to commit suicide even if it is not to his rational self-interest to do so.) To attempt to say that I must delegate my rightful possession is to say that I do not have a right to use and dispose of this possession (in this context, that is to say to exercise my right to retaliate) which means that I do not in fact have such an authority to act—which means that I do not have such a right. But if this were true, as I state above, government could then have no such right either.

Therefore we are forced to the conclusion that either I have a right to judge, incarcerate and arrest, which I may freely exercise myself if I so choose, or there is no such thing as a right to retaliate at all: that no one may judge, arrest and incarcerate. Since I contend that I do have a right to judge, arrest and incarcerate, that these actions are moral when they constitute the retaliatory use of force, I conclude that it necessarily follows that for a collective calling itself government to interfere with either my personal exercise of this right or my delegation of it to an agency other than government, e.g., a private police force, is to violate my inalienable right to retaliation.

Now this also answers your critique of my "short proof" of the immorality of retaliatory force. Your "counter example" to my third premise ("Retaliation of course is moral." consisted of the assertion that I have a "moral duty" to call the authorities after successfully warding off an attack; or restated that if I do not call the authorities, but attempt to instead prosecute a criminal myself I would be violating someone's rights. But as I have proven above, I have no moral obligation to delegate my right to retaliate (as defined above) to anyone else. I have necessarily the same right to deal with the criminal as could any "government".

Now the point of all of this is not that I think it is rational for men to go about carrying guns and spontaneously judging their assailants, but rather to demonstrate that contrary to your (unproven) assertion, for an individual or a private organization to do so is not to initiate force against government. On the contrary, for government to attempt to interfere with my retaliation of force is to violate my inalienable rights.

In a free society very few men would choose, to engage in retaliation themselves personally. It would be far safer, far more economical, far more rational, for them to delegate this function to an outside agency. But they violate no one's rights by simply not delegating the protection of their rights—they commit no immorality against other men, much less against a mythical association called "the state". Further when most men do delegate the protection of their rights, there is no moral requirement that the delegation be made to a "government." Men are morally free to establish and contract with the defense agency of their choice.

Let me make absolutely clear what I have so far conclusively proven. I have so far demonstrated that if one believes in the concept of man's right to retaliate (and arrest, incarcerate and judge) at all, then one must accept the fact that private agencies could morally be established for this purpose, and that government cannot morally interfere with their operation so long as they only retaliate force. Naturally, if they initiate force, government or anyone else could "interfere with them", but recognize that the same moral stricture applies to government also: If "government" violates man's rights then anyone can morally retaliate against it. Note that the same moral principles apply to governmental action as apply to the action of private defense agencies. Regardless of the fact that you think that if there were competing agencies of defense there could be no "objectively defined and enforceable laws" (which is completely false); regardless of the fact that you believe the irrationality of men requires government, the fact remains that IF GOVERNMENT CAN MORALLY RETALIATE AND JUDGE, SO CAN THE INDIVIDUAL AND PRIVATE AGENCIES.

You have further asserted that even if there were competing agencies operating on the basis of objective law, "there would have to be a super-agency or government to oversee their activities." I assume that by this you mean that "government" would be the law-giver and final judge. But where, I ask you, does "government" get the special right to decide what laws are and to judge last. Let us see where your argument leads us. Necessarily there could be only one super-agency or the concept would be meaningless. If your super-agency is to be different from the non-super agencies it must have some greater powers that they do or it would not be super. Being superior to the other agencies, your "super-agency" must have jurisdiction over them (otherwise it would not be superior to them). Now I ask you, how does your government/super-agency get jurisdiction over my private defense agencies. Where does it get the right to reverse their decisions or tell them what to do? Despite your assertions to the contrary, it is obvious that you are in fact claiming "special rights" for your government/super-agency not possessed by any other individual or group. But there is no such thing as special rights. There is no such thing as a super-agency which has an inherent right to dictate to other agencies what they may and may not do. The rights of all men and groups are the same and inalienable.

It is true that competing agencies would need to establish accords for dealing with each other. However this is quite a different matter from your "super-agency." Since I and my private agency have the same right to judge and act as your government, I categorically reject your "super-agency".

You have also said that "The individual implicitly delegates his right of physical self-defense to the government when he renounces the use of physical force," and "The individual who doesn't renounce the use of physical force doesn't have any rights to delegate—for by violating the rights of others, he invalidates his own claim to those same rights." Now I am sure that you didn't mean to say that. By using retaliatory physical force a man is not violating the rights of others. In addition, it is self-contradictory to assert that a man has a right, but must delegate it, as I have shown. My living in a given society, as I state in my last letter, does not imply anything other than the fact that I choose to live in it. I explicitly and emphatically deny that I have "implicitly delegated" my right to retaliation to anyone. I reserve this right for myself. If government attempts to coerce me to patronize their services or prevent me from protecting my own rights, they are simply initiating force against me and betray themselves for the criminal gang which they are.

I also assert, that in the general case, your concept of "implicit delegation of rights" is a moral obscenity. As R.A. Childs points out in a recent letter of his to Branden, any delegation of authority between adults requires an explicit agreement for specific purposes, for a specific time, involving specific agents. In other words there must be a formal contract—not an assumption by an outside party such as yourself of what I have or have not delegated. All of the conditions which Mr. Childs correctly lists are absent in your concept of "implied delegation of rights." (Please don't say that if I vote for a Congressman for two years charged only with the passage of laws on the use of retaliatory force that I am delegating to him the enforcement of my rights. As Lysander Spooner points out, I may simply vote to choose the lesser of evils. Besides, what if I don't choose to vote or my candidate does not win? In what sense then have I delegated the protection of my rights to a man who I opposed and may hate?)

I agree with you that: "A private association (of defense) would at best, be charged only with bringing the retaliatory use of physical force against their clients under control." But the same is true of government. If I do not subscribe to your government's defense force I would not then be their client. (And remember that even in an Objectivist limited statist society there would be no coercive taxation.) Government has no "right" to force me to accept their protection. For the same reasons that it would be immoral for a private defense agency to attempt to force me to accept their "protectio" if I did not want it, it would also be immoral for government to attempt to force me to accept their protection if I did not want it.

In my previous letter I asked you another serious question which I'm afraid you misunderstood. My question was "…what is the moral basis for government's legal monopoly on the use of physical force." You answered that government is "charged with this responsibility." But this is no answer at all. Charged by whom? Show me the contract. You continually use terms such as "the legally constituted authority of the state," as if "the law" (meaning the will of some government) had the right to grant authority to itself. By the very concept of "legally constituted authority" you can only mean that the state has some special authority which other organizations do not. Again I ask, WHERE DO THEY GET IT FROM? That is, prove to me that such a special authority exists.

Up to this point in our discussion I have been rather easy on you, operating defensively by directing my remarks only to issues which you have raised. Now, however, I will go clearly on the offensive and ask you to justify the many implicit assumptions behind your concept of "limited government" (adopted apparently, without modification from Miss Rand's sketchy remarks). First, please outline for me how your "limited government" would operate. Are you going to have elections? For what positions, and what will your legislature do?

What dominion will your "limited government" have over me? Will it be able to commit me to its wars or force me to pledge allegiance to it? Will I be thrown off of my property if I do not vote or salute your flag or patronize your courts in civil cases? Will your government's "agents" trespass on my property in order to "protect my rights" even if I tell them that my property is private and inviolate, that they have no right to come onto it for any purpose so long as I violate no one's rights? What if I and all of the persons in my county get together and decide that we do not trust your government, that we would prefer to provide for our own defense? Will you then still come onto our lands without our permission and jail us for protecting ourselves? If so, BY WHAT RIGHT? What I am asking you now, if you do not know it, is do men have the right to succeed? If they do, then your "limited government" is lost. But if not, why not? However, I will not stop there.

Please tell me further how nations are properly formed? Is it by decree, by one group asserting itself to be the rulers? And how should national boundaries be created? How do you decide who is "the government?" What happens if when you are attempting to form your government you fail to get unanimous support for it? What if 70% or 50% or 1% or one person in the geographical area of your proposed "nation" decide that they would rather not be a party to your government, that they consider their lands under no dominion and no authority save their own; that they do not recognize the authority of your monopoly agency? Or what if they prefer to set up their own "government" and have elections every 2 years rather than every 4 years? By what authority will you stop them? And even if you do manage to somehow establish your "limited government" with unanimous consent what authority does it have on succeeding generations of men; how does it get authority over me and my property if I am born into it? In what manner does the will of my ancestors become morally binding on me.

And how does all of this apply to the United States which was formed at a time when most men could not read or write; when a goodly number of men within the borders of the 13 states pledged allegiance to Britain and the majority of men did not take sides one way or another? And what of the government today, which is little more than a criminal gang, taxing (meaning: stealing) over 40% of my income, preventing me from engaging in a great variety of businesses, killing and enslaving by the thousands my peers through the totalitarian draft? What of its policemen who jail men for charging their own price for their products, evict men from their property in the name of "eminent domain", and enforce a myriad of immoral, irrational and unnecessary laws of the coercive state? Am I to respect and sanction this government also?

I declare that I will not sanction tyranny, slavery and coercion in any form and in any degree. I will not countenance the control of the lives and property of free men by your government. The present U.S. government is a criminal gang, your government would be a criminal gang, and as a man of morality and reason I will have no part of any of them. If you say I am wrong, PROVE IT.

Jarret B. Wollstein, President
Society for Individual Liberty