Letters to the Editor
Please include the name and address of Tallahassee Students of Objectivism in your next issue.
Tallahassee Students of Objectivism
P.O. Box 1075
Tallahassee, Florida 32301
Thank you, it is greatly appreciated.
I was very interested by your letter in [Mr. Nathan's] in the December, 1969 issue of Reason magazine, particularly in the differences, as you see them, between the anarcho-capitalist and limited constitutionalist viewpoints. For the record, I think that my position could be generally classified as anarcho-capitalist, in that I don't hold to the idea of a monopoly state as a matter of principle. I don't even describe myself as an Objectivist, or student of Objectivism, etc.; but, for purposes of this argument, I can argue from the Objectivist position on the anarchy vs. archy matter, my disagreements with Objectivism not being crucial in nature regarding the subject.
At the end of your letter, you state, "I…advocate limited constitutional government…" I dislike to use the word "advocate". It calls to my mind the classical hypothetical situations in which a person is confronted by two buttons, pushing one of which will bring "constitutional government" into being, the other "anarchy". Each of those terms could be applied to a wide range of situations I can imagine, and I would prefer some of the constitutional situations to some of the anarchic ones, and some of the anarchic ones to some of the constitutional ones. I wouldn't want to make a blanket endorsement or condemnation of either.
Let me clarify with some examples. Suppose I was in a lifeboat, having been shipwrecked in the middle of the ocean, and was drifting, in a strong current, towards two islands between which the current flowed. By steering, I could choose to land on one island or the other, but that subsequent travel between them (by me or the inhabitants) was impossible. Suppose further that on each island a number of people, representing a cross-section of the American population, had recently settled. At last report, one island had set up a limited constitutional government similar to the one we have in the U.S. today, while the other had chosen anarchy, various individuals and groups announcing their intent to retaliate for force used against any person electing their protection (to simplify, let's further suppose that all communication was lost with the islands shortly after these systems were set up). Which island would I steer for? I would choose the constitutional government one. For all of the abuses that would probably be visited upon me, my best estimate of the other island would be that, if it hadn't already, it soon would break down into wild-in-the-streets, bloody-chaos-type so-called "anarchy" (actually, mob rule, not true anarchy at all). Compared to this, taxes, the draft, etc., would be preferable.
On the other hand, suppose I had a ship that was outfitted as a radio station, and wanted to go into the "pirate" radio business, and had two choices as locations. These locations were near two islands similar to England in the mid-1960's (the heyday of "pirate" (i.e., unlicensed, offshore) radio). Around one, the situation was that which in fact did obtain around England at that time (i.e., virtual anarchy, with each station undertaking retaliatory action against those whom were considered to have initiated force against them). Around the other, the station owners had gotten together and had formed an association to act as arbiter and enforcer of all disputes, in a manner similar to that used by owners of professional sports teams to form leagues and set up Commisioners (i.e., essentially a constitutional government). To simplify again, let's assume that, unlike the actual situation off England, there is no reason to expect anyone on shore to interfere with the operation of stations in either case; and that the "constitutional government" has been supplied with more men, guns, ships, etc., than any existing station owner by himself could muster (or than I could muster). Which island would I choose to operate near? In this case, I would choose the anarchic situation, under the general maxim that "any government big enough to protect one's property is big enough to take it away." If they hadn't already, I would expect the "constitutional government" to restrict potential newcomers to the market in any way possible, since they wouldn't take kindly to competition (the actual "pirates" didn't like newcomers, although there wasn't any central organization to do anything about it). Perhaps they would ban "immigration" to their "territory"; perhaps they would "regulate" the frequencies and powers to be used by stations; maybe they would levy "taxes" on stations. In any case, knowing the sort of people that the operators were, I would expect their "government" to effectively prevent me from setting up a viable radio station by whatever means, fair or foul, they found most efficacious, and so I would choose to operate in the "anarchic" situation.
But, of course, all of these situations are hypothetical. Having established that it is a good idea to avoid general, sweeping statements unless one if fairly sure that they are, in fact, always true (or unless the limits of truth are well-defined), let's look at the limited constitutional government vs. anarchy question in the light of the actual situation that exists in the world today. Just as I presented two pairs of alternatives for a "constitutional government" vs. "anarchy" choice, I have found that most of the advocates of the former have one pair of alternatives in mind, and advocates of the latter, another pair.
The constitutionalists I know are usually considering two worlds that have the same general distribution of ideas, attitudes, opinions and values as our own world. The "limited constitution" world differs from ours in that, in place of the constitutions presently found (which leave much to be desired from the Objectivist viewpoint), there is an improved constitution; and in place of our present officials, there are men of honesty and integrity. On the other hand, in the "anarchy" world, the present apparatus of government has been removed without specific replacement. The anarchist might say that, while the former condition, as stated, would be very nice, it is impractical: constitutional "limitations" on governmental power have not proven very effective in the long run, and no way has yet been thought of to insure that all (or even most) officials will be "men of honesty and integrity" when the society at large is composed primarily of irrational men. In other words, the constitutionalists are inconsistent: regarding the first world, they stress the desirability of the state of affairs, and recognize the practical difficulties in a footnote, if at all. On the other hand, when discussing the anarchic world, the impracticalities are stressed, and the ultimate desirability of the condition is footnoted.
At this point, it is interesting to compare this position of the limited constitutionalists with that of traditional, left-wing anarchists. The left-wingers see the same basic alternatives; only they stress the practical difficulties involved in limited government, and the ideal of pure anarchy: just the reverse of the limited constitutionalists. For my part, I view both ideal cases as being not bad places to live at all (in fact, examined closely, they may be the same situation; more about this later), and the practical difficulties of each formidable. As I understand it, this is the anarcho-capitalist position. Given the present philosophical/political/moral climate, there isn't going to be any long-term, general support for either truly limited government or for pure anarchy (a lot of people may claim to be, and sincerely believe that they are, for one or the other of these things; but, in the final analysis, most of them turn out to be advocating only that the unlimited government's power be used differently). Therefore, any approach to anything vaguely resembling truly limited government or pure anarchy would have to be imposed from above—as by mounting a clever public relations campaign, perhaps, or maybe by a coup by an Objectivist elite. However, when this sort of change-from-the-top has happened in the past, the only long-run change that usually results is a change in the personnel and the rhetoric; otherwise, things return to business as usual after a short time.
This brings us to the alternatives that the anarcho-capitalist usually has in mind when he considers the merits of anarchy vs. those of limited constitutional government. He supposes that, in order for there to be any serious chance of either coming into existence, rationality will have to be the prevailing viewpoint in society. It won't necessarily have to be universal: a certain number of criminals and other irrational people can be dealt with. The spectrum of views toward rationality would merely have to be similar to that towards, say, socialism in a country like Sweden when that system was adopted there. In such a case, of course, your argument against anarchy from the general irrationality of the human race would be inapplicable, and the danger of concentrating power in the hands of a government is the main consideration. Let me put it in a "statistical" framework: in a generally irrational population, distributing the power "at random" virtually guarantees that most of it will be in irrational hands; the "probability" of a predominance of power in rational hands is minute even if rational people comprise a large minority of the population (say, one third). On the other hand, if we have a single government, with a single chief, there is at least the hope, desperate though it may be, that, somehow, a rational person might come to power. Such hopes encounter the difficulties I discussed above, but the illusion remains among some people. In a world that is largely rational (say, one third irrational), the reverse of the above applies.
All of this "statistical" analogy assumes a single government in a given jurisdiction. This is a common position among those who advocate limited constitutional government, and gives rise to the serious problems of defining jurisdictional boundaries, and defining the proper government within each. In that respect, your position is most interesting. You dispose of the problem by supposing multiple governments with loose, overlapping jurisdictions. However, in so doing, it seems that the distinction between your "governments", and the anarcho-capitalists' "private defense agencies" almost vanishes. The key lies in the definitions of the two terms. Two sets come to mind. The most straightforward set defines a government as an entity providing retaliatory force on behalf of another entity. The usual provision concerning a legal monopoly on retaliatory force found in most limited government advocates' definitions must, of course, be omitted if you allow loose, overlapping jurisdictions. Given this definition of government, I think most anarcho-capitalists would define "defense agency" in the same way. This, by the way, eliminates the difficulty you brought up of assuming that all "defense agencies…(are)…valid, pro-rights institutions." No such assumption is made. Naturally any individual, acting alone or as an agent of a defense agency (or, for that matter, as an agent of a government, if the distinction retains any validity) guilty of initiating force is a criminal, and has no more rights than any other criminal guilty of the same offense.
On the other hand, if you want to talk about the inherent rights of "defense agencies", (as the above quote seems to imply), then we would have to define "defense agencies" to mean entities providing retaliatory force on behalf of another entity, and never engaging in initiatory force. In this case, defense agencies are pro-rights by definition, any entity initiating force ceasing to be a defense agency, even though it might continue to so style itself. However, if you adopt this definition, it would be capricious not to apply the same standard to "government", defining erstwhile governments who initiate force as not being governments at all. On the other hand, most people differentiate between the concept "government" and the concept "rightful government", a difference the above definition eliminates. Combined with your previous deviation from accepted usage in the matter of monopoly in government, this makes it doubly questionable whether it makes much sense to refer to the system you advocate as "government". Perhaps you are an anarchist without realizing it (by the way, I notice that you still pay lip service to the idea of monopoly government in spite of allowing loose, overlapping jurisdictions; this is like saying "Entity X shall have a monopoly on engaging in activity Y", and then defining Entity X as "all entities engaging in activity Y"; this sort of " monopoly by definition" seems somewhat circular to me, and hence not of much use).
One other thing in your letter bothered me. You make repeated reference to the relative "status" and "institutional recognition" of competing defense agencies. What do these terms mean? Let me illustrate my quandary by using another hypothetical case. Suppose some people are shipwrecked on an island, and the prevailing view is that an anarcho-capitalist system should be followed. Some members of the Mafia who were aboard set up the "Black Hand Defense Agency". Besides their families and friends, a number of people subscribe to their services on the theory that nobody will mess with them in the face of the threat of retaliation from the BHDA. Some others are less enthusiastic, but, in the interest of "avoiding trouble", subscribe anyway. The other survivors get worried about the BHDA and its reputation, and decide to protect themselves by subscribing to the "Untouchable Defense Agency" organized by some FBI agents who were on the ship.
After a while, one of the BHDA boys roughs up a UDA subscriber in an attempt to get him to buy their "protection". The victim reports the incident to the UDA, and the UDA boys decide to get their guns and go after the BHDA boys. In the meantime, the BHDA boys hear about this development, and get their guns, and go out to meet the UDA boys. In the middle of the island, they meet and start shooting it out. There are many casualties, among bystanders as well as both sides. Finally, night falls and both sides withdraw to regroup for the next day. That night, the UDA subscribers (the vast bulk of the island's population) hold a meeting and decide that anarchy isn't working; this "gang warfare" has got to stop; giving "equal status" to both sides is a travesty; it's high time the forces of "law 'n order" were given the "institutional recognition" they deserve. In the end, a constitution is adopted, and a "limited constitutional government" is installed. Its first act is to swear in the former UDA boys as the Official Island Police. Come morning, the Official Island Police set out to arrest the Criminal Gang. As before, the Criminal Gang resist arrest, and there are heavy casualties on both sides, among bystanders, etc., etc., etc.
The moral of the tale is, how much "wronger" were the Mafiosi for having lost their "status" as a "legitimate" defense agency?' How much "righter" were the FBI men for having gained superior "status"? How many more or less guns or bullets did either side have because the FBI men were given "institutional recognition"? In short, what difference did it make, moral or practical, that the previous night's activities had taken place? Once again, I think the problem lies in different people considering different pairs of alternatives. When most people think of a "duly constituted government", they imagine a behemoth like the combined Federal, state, and local governments in the U.S.; and when they think of a "criminal gang", they think of a small group of furtive men. On the other hand, when they think of "competing defense agencies", there is a tendency to think of two groups more or less equal in strength. Actually, of course, the labels applied don't have any necessary connection to relative strengths of entities under consideration. If the people in the right are stronger than those in the wrong by a comfortable margin, then they will probably have little trouble handling the situation whether they are called a "defense agency" or a "government"! If the forces are about equal, then the fight will probably be long and hard in either case. Let's hope for the former, but let's not pretend that labels make any difference (of course, if they help rally support for the right side, by all means choose the most attractive; but don't get swept up by your own propaganda).
In short, I think that the disagreements between supporters of limited constitutional government and those of anarchy are, to a considerable degree, superficial, and most can be attributed to imprecise semantics and invalid comparisons.
Erwin S. "Filthy Pierre" Strauss
An excellent letter, Mr. Strauss. —Ed.
Since you have now seen fit to give Jarrett Wollstein space in your magazine, in full knowledge, (I assume) of his vicious attacks on Miss Rand in the past and of his misrepresentations of her philosophy, I wish my name removed from your mailing list. Nor do I wish my name listed in your magazine at any time in the future under the heading of "Pro-Objectivist groups".
Your magazine will as of this date be removed from our mailing list.
Edwin A. Locke
Silver Spring, Md.
Should we view your request for your group to be excluded from future lists of pro-Objectivist groups as an admission that it is not pro-Objectivist? (Otherwise, it makes no sense.) —Ed.
Recently, you have chosen to publish two negative criticisms of Ayn Rand without publishing at the same time any intellectual support or justification for these judgments.
I quote: "By the way I have explicitly considered her (Ayn Rand's) arguments asserted in the "Nature of Government" in some detail in my "Society without Coercion" and shown them to be fallacious." (November, 1969 p. 16) "As you may know, both of the major sources of Objectivist literature and other materials have disgracefully defaulted in this area…" (December, 1969 p. 19)(Parenthesis mine)
Granted, these judgments were not made by you; but I do not feel that your editorial disclaimer absolves you of the guilt of the decision to publish such unsubstantiated material. I feel that such an unvalidated act not only hurts the cause of Objectivism, it also shows a profound lack of intellectual responsibility.
Therefore, I would like to cancel my subscription and ask that you please refund to me the unused portion. It seems to me, my friend, that since you obtained your philosophy from Miss Rand, before you allow attacks on her, you god-damn better well have good and sufficient reason.
Ophelia Betty Hendrie
One question of you, Miss Hendrie: had the criticisms here printed "without intellectual support or justification" been "positive" would they have upset you half as much? —Ed.
"Song of Joy" by Miguel Rios (a Canadian). I just heard it on KMET—it's a wild/mind blowing version of the last movement of Beethoven's 9th. It alternates between full orchestra to chorus & Rios' singing the Ode to Joy in English—Beethoven's rhythms have been accentuated but not altered—Ludwig is enough of a swinger not to need alteration. It's very much on the interface between rock & classical—I like it!
Santa Barbara, Calif.
I admire the excellent issues you continually turn out. Keep up the good work.
I am especially interested in the letters to the editor column as this sort of discussion is the type that generates new ideas.
I have been following the "Argument About Anarchy vs. Archy" with great interest and hope to contribute something that may help clarify thought in this area.
In the premier issue of Pine Tree, Robert LeFevre lays to rest (for my money, that is) the use of the word "anarchy." He traces the origin of the word to mean a condition of no government; however, it is implicit that it also means a state of socialism (ostensibly voluntary) would exist. As far as I am concerned, a litertarian use of the word "anarchy" to describe the libertarian philosophy would be entirely self-defeating.
Mr. LeFevre prefers the word "autarchy" to describe or represent the libertarian philosophy. But this word has similar connotations to oligarchy or monarchy. Hence, I think it too will be self-defeating.
I recently proposed to Mr. LeFevre a newly-coined word to represent the libertarian philosophy: "autocybernism." It derives directly from the Greek "Auto" meaning self, and "kybernan" meaning to steer or to govern. Although this word doesn't have the "pizazz" or the familiarity of other words, its etymology is correct and it may gain currency if used in intellectual circles. (Of course, it resembles its brother word: "cybernetics" which is slowly gaining currency.)
I think a great deal of thought should go into the discussion of and choice of a proper title for a libertarian movement. We must avoid, above all, choosing words that can be commandeered by the collectivists and scandalized by the socialists. I propose "AUTOCYBERNISM." "AUTOCYBERNISM FOREVER!"
David Michael Myers
La Plata, Md.
What do readers think? —Ed.
In answer to your question in the recently published REASON as to what percentage of the cost of a prosecution the victim should pay I would conclude none.
Let us assume that I am attacked by some nasty person who attempts to inflict injury on my person and who, in the course of his assault, relieves me of my property, say, a watch.
The police company (either a private corporation with which I have a defense contract or the monopoly government's defense agency) pursue and capture, after an investigation which lasts one week and which involves two detectives, seventeen dollars worth of petrol, the use of telephone communications, a computer which identifies this vile person from my description, and other instrumentalities and individuals and which costs say, three thousand, five hundred seventy-four dollars ninety-nine cents.
The man is identified and arrested. I think it only proper that I should be able to reclaim my property and should be able to do this via civil proceedings: on this account I am backed up by Rothbard (second chapter of Vol 1, Man, Economy, and State) and by Wordsworth Donishthorpe (whose excellent book, The Law of a Free State is mentioned in Rothbard's appendix) a nineteenth century libertarian author. After this the Police should institute criminal charges against my assailant. This may cost another thousand dollars.
The thief should be required to pay all costs accruing from his crime—he violated my rights and not the opposite. Since I and the police could have been doing something else with our time and money he should also be required to pay the prevailing interest rate (compounded at the bank rate average) as well as a fine and perhaps civil damages for injuring my person (which is, after all, my property.)
It could be argued that the thief should not have to pay all this because I am the one who instituted the actions against him—that is, I have paid to be protected and therefore should have to carry part of the costs involved.
This overlooks the question of who violated whose rights. Did I attack that man and force him to steal my property—did I go up to him and say: "Look vile person—either you lay violent hands on my person and relieve me feloniously of my possessions or I will do physical damage to you!"?
Even though I have a contract with the Police (private company or public monopoly, in this issue they would and should act the same) to protect my rights he, the thief, has no right to attack me. He is the initiator of the action. Yes I subscribe to a protection agency, but because of persons such as him. My contract, say with the GM Protective Field Agency Inc., is to involve them in the protection of my rights against possible transgressors; it's an insurance policy similar in principle to fire or life insurance. (In a free society by the way, one would have similar contracts with the local fire department, although their contract would be far easier to enforce—after all, a house on fire need not be chased, and I might have been killed by the thief, which would mean a much longer and costlier investigation, one in which my murderer would be unable to work off his fines—he would, properly, be killed himself.) As to capital punishment there is only one question which need be asked—has one conclusive proof of the suspect's guilt? The parameters of acceptable proof would have to be stringent and for that reason execution might be rare. One could imagine, however, a faultless lie detector and mind reading machine, say, with a visual hook-up showing how the man murdered. In such a case I could think of no justifiable objection to executing murderers.
John H. Costello
Does anyone agree with Mr. Costello? —Ed.
My comments are in response to the letter of Mr. J.B. Wollstein in your November 1969 issue. I will begin by saying that I have read the article "The Nature of Government" by Ayn Rand and am in complete agreement with it.
Mr. Wollstein's basic contention is that government (of the form advocated by Rand) "initiates force by outlawing and forcibly interfering with competition with its activities." The upshot is that Rand is advocating immorality and that new thinking must save Capitalism from Objectivism. The new thinking has developed the idea of "competing governments" or "competing defense agencies."
Well, "competition" is an economic concept and ill suits this kind of discussion, but an analogy might be made. For instance, just as business cannot exist without private property, so government can't exist without sovereignty. That is, just as a business could not exist without someplace to produce, so a government could not enforce without someplace to do it. Let's examine an illustration.
What would a person do when walking down a street and observing one man forcibly restraining another? Would he follow the policy of non-involvement and ignore it? That would entail a great deal of latitude for allowing criminals to roam around freely. Or would he interfere? That could likely get him arrested for interfering with an arrest, which might even be more dangerous than the first alternative. In other words, if there were competing defense agencies, no one could tell the cops from the robbers.
Perhaps all the cops could wear uniforms to identify themselves. But there could be no law that they had to and one could never be sure who was which. (Besides, what would stop the criminals from dressing in a similar manner: cops would be arresting each other all the time to try to avoid it or else they would assume anyone unknown wearing such a uniform worked for a different agency.) And even if they all agreed to look alike, how would one know if a particular cop were enforcing a good law or a bad one? Would all the agencies subscribe to the same code of laws? According to Wollstein, there is no one to say that they do. So how does a person know, not only who are cops and who are robbers, but who are good cops and who are robbers?
The society in which this situation prevailed would be a savage society not a civilization. Thus we see that "competing defense agencies" is no more than a euphemism for gang or tribal warfare.
Wollstein assumes that since the proper function of a "monopoly government" is protection, that government would necessarily be engaged in the protection racket, i.e., forcing you to accept its "protection." Such, however, would not be the case; the government would merely protect others from any violation of their rights which might stem from your acts of self protection. That is, the government would not allow arbitrary acts of force (initiatory or retaliatory). If you did not want to be protected then the government would leave you off its list. But as soon as someone violated your rights and you went out to get him (or hired someone to), the government would not allow it unless you could prove that you were right (and it would also see to it that the punishment or retribution fitted the crime and was not unjust).
This is what Ayn Rand calls "the separation of force and whim".
Anything that a man does is not necessarily rational and just simply because he does it. That is why the precondition of a free society is "the barring of physical force from social relationships."(Rand) Since force cannot be renounced categorically, i.e., since it must be available for retaliatory purposes, the only safe way to make it available is to have the machinery for using it out in the open where everyone can see it and know, in advance, when it will act and what it will do. This is the concept of law; it means that the law must be supreme, i.e., objective, not arbitrary. (Such a system would, incidentally, incorporate elections. The purpose would be to assure that everyone knows what is going on and can have a say about it.)
The concept of "competition" is totally inapplicable in this context. If the law isn't objectively codified and rigidly, unalterably enforceable, then a free society cannot exist.
Mr. Wollstein states that regardless of any other consideration "the fact remains that IF GOVERNMENT CAN MORALLY RETALIATE AND JUDGE, SO CAN THE INDIVIDUAL AND PRIVATE AGENCIES." This is wrong. The correct statement is: since the individual can judge and retaliate, so can the government, i.e., THE GOVERNMENT DERIVES ITS JUST POWERS FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. The relationship involved is one of servant and master, not one of a contest.
"If I have the right to engage in these actions," says Mr. Wollstein, "then government can not morally interfere with me when I am in fact retaliating." This is true, but the emphasis should be on the "in fact." The only way that a complex society can exist is for its members to know that whenever physical force is used without meeting certain requirements, a crime is being committed. Those certain requirements are: that the person it is used against has committed a crime, that this has been proved by means of standard, rational procedures and that the enforcement is carried out by a known, thoroughly defined mechanism and method. If force is used in a civilized society, its members must know why, in fact, it is being used. The only possible means by which this can occur is the full definition, in advance, of why and how retaliation can and will operate. This will differentiate initiation from retaliation. But there must be no question in people's minds, or they will not know fully what they can expect from other men and no complex civilization can exist.
Therefore, the law must be objective. There can be no "competition" about it: the law must be sovereign.
(Included in the objective definition of retaliation would be conditions covering situations in which immediate action is required to defend life or property. These conditions would protect the defender after the fact, i.e., he would have to prove his justification. Mr. Wollstein's statement is true in this context: it would be immoral for the government not to allow people to prove that they were justified.)
Just as men must create better and better technological tools to advance the productiveness and happiness of their lives, so they must produce better institutional tools. In a savage society a rational man must try to look after himself. As there are more and more rational men, they can band together for mutual protection against those who live by force. Soon they can delegate the responsibility to a part of their number. As civilization advances, the job of protection can be handled by fewer and fewer. At the same time that job becomes more complex and long-range. As a society becomes more complex, i.e., larger and more technologically advanced, men's rights must be more and more clearly defined (defined over a wider range of possible activities and consequences) so that people will know what they are not allowed to do and what the consequences will be for choosing to act criminally to any degree and for any reason. Only a sovereign government can perform this function. If there were more than one government, there would be no government and civilization would collapse. The "special right" that Wollstein condemns the "monopoly government/super agency" for possessing is nothing more or less than the objective, non-negotiable fact of "The Rights of Man."
Further Mr. Wollstein says, "If I do not have the right to arrest, judge and incarcerate, then government can have no such right either." This is not true. "Arrest, judge and incarcerate" are stolen concepts in this statement. Only a government can arrest, judge and incarcerate. A person can forcibly restrain another, tell him he's a bastard and lock him up, and this may be a case of moral judgment but it is not a case of legal judgment. A government does not derive the powers to arrest, judge and incarcerate from the right of the individual to arrest, judge and incarcerate. A government derives those powers from the right to self-defense of those governed. Those powers are the tools the government uses to do its job; tools created by men because they were needed to do the job, i.e., the job couldn't be done without them. A government is not the same as a person any more than a telephone is.
To conclude I will take time to answer the questions Mr. Wollstein asks when he goes offensive. My concept of government is in no way modified from Rand's so-called "sketchy remarks." Nor, indeed, have I said anything she hasn't said already.
Question: "What dominion will your 'limited government' have over me?"
Answer: It will have the sovereign authority to be the mechanism of recoiling your initiation of force upon yourself to whatever degree possible. (You can read Isabel Paterson's THE GOD OF THE MACHINE further on this matter.)
Question: "Will it be able to commit me to its wars or force me to pledge allegiance to it?"
Question: "Will I be thrown off of my property if I do not vote or salute your flag or patronize your courts in civil cases?"
Question: "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?"
Question: "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?"
Answer: It depends on what you do to protect yourselves. If you do not trust a government based on individual rights, what is it that you want to defend?
Question: "If so, BY WHAT RIGHT?"
Answer: The Rights of Man.
Question: "What I am asking you now, if you do not know it, is do men have the right to secede?"
Answer: Men do not have the right to secede from a proper government and establish another. The only basis for "competition" would be the violation of men's rights.
Question: "If they do, then your 'limited government' is lost."
Answer: If people are seceding all over the place, then it is true that a limited government will be lost, i.e., the society will be disintegrating. It will still be true, however, that a limited government would be the proper type.
Question: "But if not, why not? However, I will not stop there. Please tell me further how nations are properly formed?"
Answer: By the consent of the governed. It takes much thought for men to decide what kind of government they should consent to; it takes much work to create and maintain it; it will take a long time. But there is no other way.
Question: "Is it by decree, by one group asserting itself to be the rulers?"
Answer: No. On second thought, I could qualify this answer to: maybe. It could be that in a semi-savage society a group could get together, tell others that it is a new government and see how they liked the idea. This might be practical. Nowadays it would be impractical, though; nobody would listen to you.
Question: "And how should national boundaries be created?"
Answer: In a world of Capitalism, it wouldn't make any difference. In a world with only some capitalist countries, the boundaries would probably be determined by what the government(s) could efficiently protect.
Question: "How do you decide who is 'the government'?"
Answer: By the consent of the governed. Elections are a very reasonable tool for conducting such affairs.
Question: "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?"
Answer: That's perfectly OK as long as they don't interfere. The government is not an institution to control all the people in a given geographical area; it is only to control those who initiate force. If enough people can get together in a particular area and set up the mechanism of a proper government (financing it, manning it, etc.), then the only way that other people in the area could make a difference would be if there were enough of them inclined to destroy the rest. Those who didn't want to live by force and didn't think the government worth the effort of support would be unaffected (although they might derive some gratis benefits).
Question: "Or what if they prefer to set up their own 'government' and have elections every 2 years rather than every 4 years?
Answer: I can't conceive that frequency of elections would be that great an issue.
Question: "By what authority will you stop them?"
Answer: The Rights of Man.
Question: "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?"
Answer: The Rights of Man.
Question: "In what manner does the will of my ancestors become morally binding on me?"
Answer: In the manner of justice. If your ancestors were just and moral men who devised a just and moral government, then you are morally obligated to recognize its just powers. You can be immoral if you want, but just because you want it doesn't make it any less immoral. That is, if you are born into a Capitalist society (or any society for that matter) you are immoral if you don't become a Capitalist.
Question: "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."
Answer: Your first sentence is a fine statement. However, the second is rather paradoxical. If the government controls the lives and property of the men, then they are not free men (nor is the government the type advocated by Rand). If they are free men, then their government is moral. If you will not sanction a moral government, what will you sanction? Guess I didn't have to ask that, did I?
Now, small comments on a couple more of Mr. Wollstein's defensive statements and that's all.
He says, "If I possess something by right, I have no obligation to delegate it to anyone." Perfectly true. It can be said that no man is obligated to live in a rational society or in an advanced, complex civilization; he can live in a different area or even in the same area and simply not deal with any of its members. However, if one does wish to live in a complex civilization, he can only do it in a manner consonant with the nature of man. That means that the civilization must be Capitalist, which means that the man in it must renounce the use of physical force (except in self-defense emergencies) and embody its retaliatory use in a government.
"One can initiate force only by violating someone's or some group's rights." This oddly worded statement contains at least one large error: the concept of "group rights." There are only individual rights. Thus, talking of "rights of government" or even "special rights of government" is very confusing and allows erroneous conclusions to develop. For instance, "Government can have no rights not possessed by its citizens and voluntarily delegated by them to it." This statement is not relevant to a discussion of the Objectivist concept of government. The government of a Capitalistic society would not have any rights, nor would it claim to. Its citizens would not delegate their rights to it (rights are inalienable), they would only agree for it to be the sole repository for the use of physical force to protect their rights. The government would not take over their rights nor possess any special ones of its own. It would bear no resemblance to today's government. To argue against an Objectivist government on the basis of the immorality of today's government is ludicrous. If you don't discuss government in terms of its "rights," if you know that it is merely the tool of individuals protecting their rights, the discussion of competing defense agencies would never come up.
Ann Arbor, Mich.
In the name of a rather noble set of ethics—objectivism—you've committed a number of gross misapplications. It suits me at the moment, though, to leave the exposure of all but one of these to my readers. My purposes are satisfied by pointing out only one example of context-dropping. Your fourth paragraph begins: "What would a person do when walking down a street and observing one man forcibly restraining the other?" Doesn't your question assume public ownership of the roads? Otherwise, it would seem to hold no argumentative strength. If the roads were privately owned then, what one should or could do to aid an underdog would be determined by implicit and explicit contractual agreement and good sense. —Ed