The first of Mr. Neff's theoretical claims (as distinguished from his irrelevant moralizings) is that "Justice is desired by many persons and is the object of (some of) their purposeful action."* To begin with, can justice be the object of an action? The answer requires a definition of the concept "justice". Mr. Neff offers none and any attempt by Mr. Neff to use this assertion as a premise for an argument establishing some other assertion must be viewed as necessarily meeting with failure. The onus of proof lies on Mr. Neff since the statement is an affirmative one.
To be just, to act justly, to MAINTAIN justice (not produce it, for production can be just or unjust, depending on the context) is part of what it is to be moral. To act unjustly may or may not involve the violation of rights. When it does, we deal with it not only within the framework of morality but also political philosophy.
Political philosophy considers the means by which justice with respect to human rights, is to be maintained, i.e., within the social context. The MAINTENANCE of justice IS an economic service, JUSTICE IS NOT.
Justice pertaining to human rights is everyone's BY RIGHT. That there be a JUST society, that no man's rights be violated, is what is RIGHT FOR MAN. It is not something anyone should have to pay for. Otherwise, in order to have his rights recognized, acknowledged, and respected in action, one would be required to pay the potential violator. This would render nonsensical the concept of "rights".
Everyone has a right to justice. But when justice is violated within the social realm, it becomes to one's self-interest to seek reparations and to discover means by which to reduce the probability of unjust actions. Retaliatory force is the answer to the former eventuality, self-defense to the latter. Since it is also to one's self-interest to BE just, both retaliation and self-defense involve moral principles. To maintain justice justly, man needs an objective legal code, i.e., the realm of morality pertaining to the maintenance of justice within a social context. Since morality pertaining to private conduct is the business of only the individual human being, no "book of morality" is needed. Since morality pertaining to the social context is the business of everyone within a given society, it requires a book of morality, namely a legal code. The concept of "law" is not conceptually dependent on the concept of government, it is vice-versa. (This may be demonstrated both historically and epistemologically. Though the concept of "state" does not depend on the concept of "law", all governments are based on some moral law, however, confused. The concept of "law" is used within such entirely unpolitical contexts as logic, metaphysics, ethics, physics, games, etc. Even anarcho-capitalists talk of natural laws; some go so far as to admit the need for a code of objectively defined laws to which protection and arbitration agencies would adhere in response to "market forces"—whatever that means in this context.)
The laws of social interaction are identifiable (discoverable, definable), and can, in consequence, be judged right for man, but no one's agreement to a legal code is needed for it to be PROPER to act in terms of it. As an example, I can retaliate and defend myself against an aggressor even if he disagrees that I may do so. Because it is everyone's responsibility to secure his own self-interest, however, the ESTABLISHMENT OF MEANS for retaliation and self-defense is not possible on a societal scale (involving more than one person) without explicit agreement. The maintenance of justice is secured by men individually or in (voluntary) cooperation. It is evil to force a man to fund a service for his protection if he does not wish to be protected. To force "self-defense on someone is a contradiction in terms—even though it IS his MORAL responsibility to protect himself whenever it is in his self-interest to do so. But that moral responsibility cannot be enforced; to do the morally right thing it is necessary that an individual do it himself.
Those men who voluntarily gather and agree to have their self-protection and retaliation secured (maintain political justice) cooperatively are morally justified in doing this. When they choose to hire an agent to do this for them, and contract with this agent to the effect that protection and retaliation will be done morally—justice maintained justly—they choose to create government (by the consent of the governed). Insofar as they do not force anyone to join in their venture, they may select some (specific, non-aggressive) way to pay the agent hired.
There is, therefore, nothing so far NECESSARILY evil (coercive) about the phenomenon of government. The allegations about necessary evil and coercion are based on what some anarcho-capitalists maintain about A. Rand's concept of "monopoly". Suppose government has a monopoly on the use of retaliatory and protective force (and none hold that the latter is the case, though limited governmentalists claim that protective force is governed by law, also, e.g., even if I do not agree that A should be hired to protect me, if I am protecting myself against B, who does agree that A should protect him against the violation of rights justly, and do so unjustly—say when he steals my cigarette I threaten or intend to chop off his hand—his agent has the right to protect against that act of "protection", treating it now as aggression; A is acting as B's agent, and B is surely entitled to a just retaliation or protection); it is then a monopoly established NATURALLY. The concept of "monopoly" is generic to "coercive monopoly" and no libertarian can consistently object to monopolies which are non-coercive. Since the government established by the above specified means, does not involve coercion, and since the government is the only agent which has been selected to maintain justice, it has a monopoly on maintaining justice for those who selected it. (This may be viewed in part as analogous to the relationship between a person and his power of attorney. The latter has a monopoly on the performance of certain services for the former. Surely the same /one/ service cannot be performed by two attorneys in the same /one/ respect.) Since the agent (government) was hired to maintain justice, justly, for G group of voluntarily gathered individuals, no other agent can do so without first securing the dissolution of the contract between the group and the agent in question. That is the meaning of the monopolistic status of governments.
Finally, the limitation of governments to geographical areas is also held to entail coercion. But the government considered above is restricted in its operations to a certain geographical area, namely that occupied by those who hired out for it. Those not in agreement with the selection of an agent to maintain justice would have no government. Their geographical areas would not be governed. If such people engage in the violation of rights AMONGST EACH OTHER, the government of others will have nothing to say or do about it. If they violate the rights of those who have hired agents for maintaining justice, they will have to contend with retaliation from such an agent. (Since the retaliatory use of. force is morally justified, retaliation against an aggressor can be performed by anyone, the aggressed OR his hired agent.) There is no SPECIFICATION in Ayn Rand's political philosophy for HOMOGENEOUS geographical restrictions; but it is clear from what Miss Rand and Mr. Branden have said that they view it as a (practical) outcome of the instantiation of their concept of government that geographical homogeneity would obtain. Their grounds, to the best of my knowledge, have to do with certain facts about communication, travel, all men's self-interest, the required technical arrangements for the maintenance of justice, etc. Such facts, to the degree I am aware of them, bear out their contention. Still, this provision is a matter of HOW governments would perform their functions and what the results of having to perform them would be under the conditions of these facts. The Objectivist definition of government is "THE MEANS OF PLACING THE RETALIATORY USE OF PHYSICAL FORCE UNDER OBJECTIVE CONTROL—i.e., under objectively defined laws." That "government holds a monopoly on the legal use of physical force" and "a government is an institution that holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area" is true; that is to say, these are facts about governments; but they are not what DEFINE governments, nor the facts which serve to distinguish governments from other kinds of things in existence. (Consider that a shoe is what most people put on and take off their feet. But we are a far cry from having defined shoes—the concept "shoe"—by having said that.) These facts are, furthermore, contextually entailed by the definition of the concept "government". (And if the context—reality—were known to be different, what is entailed by the definition of the concept of "government" could also be different. But the onus of proof is on those who deny the significance of geographical limitations and exclusive (monopoly) power (use of physical force) in the face of the above discussion to show the contradiction between morality and these constituents of the concept "government". Those who introduce a new context must give the reasons why it should be accepted by rational people.)
These are the essential matters of Mr. Neff's focus of attention.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "A Note on Neff's Anarchism".