Libertarian History/Philosophy

A Day in Court and the Nature of the State

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Jeffrey Tucker of the Mises Institute spends a day in court, and takes a close look at the real nature of the state's relationship with the disadvantaged: petty thief and tyrant. In its small, observant way, one of the most illuminating bits of political science you'll see this week; touching, infuriating, and true.

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  1. Anybody who has had to go to court for any reason has seen this. For me, the real kicker was in NY state. People would go before the judge for the most minor of “crimes”, and the judge would be very reasonable and assess very low fines. But NY has a “court surcharge” that is assessed on any guilty verdict (and they are all guilty verdicts), above and beyond any fine. The surcharge, unlike the fines, are not subject to a judge’s discretion.

    So you would have some guy pleading guilty to making a turn without signalling, the judge would fine him $75 (he reduced it because the person was poor), and then he would add on the surcharge…of $250. Countless people walked away from the judge paying more in “surcharges” than in fines.

    Blatant theft, and no one does a thing about it.

  2. Describes my experience to the letter. And it turned me libertarian because the system contains zero common sense.

    Fine a poor person a significant percentage and the only way this victimless criminal is going to be able to pay is to commit further crimes.

  3. Can someone please define “victimless crime” for me?
    Do we fine based upon ability to pay? Fine the crap out of the “wealthy” to compensate for the inability of the “poor” to properly atone for their lawlessness?

  4. Can someone please define “victimless crime” for me?

    Having not yet RTFA, I’m going to take a stab at answering this one:

    Is it… a crime with no victim?

  5. I agree with MikeP.

  6. I liked the article; it mirrors perfectly my attempt to battle a traffic ticket and being told that myself and a witness were not enough to overturn the authority of a meter maid.

    However…

    It is inherently implausible, if you think about it, that the state could be an effective administrator of justice, for which there is a supply and demand like any other good.

    I don’t feel it’s necessary to have started the article like this. I get it, you’re an anarcho-capitalist…yippe-kai-yay. But the paragraph was completely unnecessary and revealing of the bias. You might appeal to more people without declaring a contentious point within in the libertarian community as an oh-so-simple to grasp point.

    Maybe someone can point me in the direction of a good explanation of what it would mean to buy and sell “justice” like any other good.

  7. You might appeal to more people without declaring a contentious point within in the libertarian community as an oh-so-simple to grasp point. easy to understand fact of life.

    That’s what I was going for.

  8. re: victimless crime…
    Is it… a crime with no victim?

    I’ve always thought this has been emphasized backwards, to our rhetorical detriment. A crime is a violation of the social order. A victim is a person who, due to events, has been harmed.

    Smoking crack, according to those definitions, creates a victim (a person ends up suffering addiction), but isn’t a crime, i.e. there is no perceivable effect of the action upon the social order.

    It’s not that they’re victimless, it’s that they’re not crimes (in the metaphysical sense). This tack avoids the whole “haven’t you ever seen a person who was addicted to heroin? they’re fucked up” line of counter-argument that is quite persuasive with those who are repulsed by the human cost of chemical addiction.

  9. I began the article with my own thought process about this question of the supply and demand for justice. I wasn’t trying to show off anarcho-capitalism or whatever, and, in fact, I don’t think Ancap has anything to do with it. In this holiday season, we marvel at the incredible coordination between supply and demand at all levels of society: then you go to court and you see this insane and cruel central plan in operation. That’s all I was observing.

  10. Elemenope | December 17, 2007, 10:24am | #A crime is a violation of the social order.

    We have a pretty screwy social order here in the deep south. I would personally prefer to view crime as doing things that are against the law. Basing it on social acceptability is more dangerous. It is also what the christians would like to see, basing the law on their social norms which are founded in the bible.

  11. I would personally prefer to view crime as doing things that are against the law. Basing it on social acceptability is more dangerous.

    Increasingly, though, things that aren’t socially acceptable are against the law, so I’m not sure this distinction means much any more.

  12. social order != social acceptability. I never meant to imply that. I was making the simpler point that a non-violent act against oneself undertaken in the privacy of one’s home cannot have any practical effects relating directly to the preservation of the social order. It does not much matter in this case whether, if the acts were observable by others they would be accepted as moral or right actions…since they are not observable by others.

  13. Smoking crack, according to those definitions, creates a victim (a person ends up suffering addiction), but isn’t a crime, i.e. there is no perceivable effect of the action upon the social order.

    I disagree. The perceived threat to the social order is exactly the basis of victimless crimes. The presumption is that the person who smokes crack is a worse father, a worse neighbor, a worse employee. His action is detrimental to the social order and must be outlawed.

    Rather, I think victimless crime must focus on the crime — i.e., who was wronged by the act. In a victimless crime, the state is not prosecuting on behalf of anyone who was actually wronged: The prosecution represents only the state. When a victimless crime comes to trial, no one can testify against the perpetrator as a victim, only as a witness.

    Once you bring in “social order,” you empower the state to a whole new line of thinking…

  14. I agree with Elemenope on that distinction.

    Jeffery – good observations. I’ve always wondered why revoking licenses of people who have not comitted a driving-related crime has been an acceptable practice. Shouldn’t the punishment for violating even stupid laws (public intoxication) be consistent with the offense? (no, i’m not implying forbidding him from walking)

  15. Epistarch,

    Here in Texas, we have a similar sort of deal. If you’re cited for a traffic violation which is then dismissed, you still have to pay a “dismissal fee.” In other words, you pay even if you were never guilty of anything.

    Now, I’ve spoken with lawyers who know Texas government, and apparently there isn’t a shred of legal anything anywhere that entitles the courts to collect “dismissal fees,” they just do. And nobody argues with it.

  16. Complaining about a surcharge? Just be glad they don’t taser you on the way out.

  17. The presumption is that the person who smokes crack is a worse father, a worse neighbor, a worse employee. His action is detrimental to the social order and must be outlawed.

    That only follows if it actually comes true. If a person is a bad father, a bad neighbor, a bad employee, the actions that mark them as such are, by-and-large, public actions, with their own consequences (legal or otherwise).

    In my mind it is beyond the wisdom of men, never mind the State, to suss out exactly *why* a person is a bad father, neighbor, or employee, except by accounting for all factors. I’ve met many a douchebag who were teetotalers.

    Fact remains that all humans have habitual vices which act to the detriment of their performance as social creatures. However, many of those vices are quite legal. You still lose your job or get thrown in jail for the night if you are drunky-drunk in public or at work, because that is where and when the behavior of *drinking* impacts the social order directly.

    By taking the vice out of the context where it actually causes direct harm, the state oversteps its bounds by engaging in rank speculation about which vices turn men evil and to what extent, absent particular evidence.

    “Noah was a drunk; Look what he accomplished.”

  18. Once you bring in “social order,” you empower the state to a whole new line of thinking…

    I wholehearedly concur. In my fantasy world of justice, the state exists only to protect people from others. People do NOT exist to further the aims of the state, laudable though that may be. When the state decides and enforces noble aims, e.g. people should be sober in public, injustice inevitably occurs.

    Public intoxification is used, in real life, as a way to keep the underclass in their place. IOW to inhibit social mobility, and deny equal treatment under the law. I’m a white middle aged male, if I walk down the street in a suburban neighborhood while snot slinging drunk, a police officer will give me a lift hame and tell me to sleep it off. This is from personal experience. If, however I’m walking in the same neighborhood while drunk and displaying excessive melanin, and insufficient wealth, I can expect a misdemeanor arrest, a booking, and a fine that will cause real hardship, delaying my climb out of poverty.

    C’mon, all of you social justice liberals. Your silence is deafening.

  19. In my mind it is beyond the wisdom of men, never mind the State, to suss out exactly *why* a person is a bad father, neighbor, or employee, except by accounting for all factors.

    In case you haven’t noticed, the state is not seriously constrained by worries of wisdom or sussing.

    Someone proposes a plausible or implausible story of harm to the social order, and the state uses that as justification to declare actions with no victims to be crimes.

  20. Episiarch: “Blatant theft, and no one does a thing about it.”

    I was running right straight at DMV law over twenty years ago.

    Somewhere around here, I still have that tape-recording.

  21. Courts are a real horror show. Visit one and you feel like a pig visiting the honeybaked ham factory.

  22. Bhh: In 1995, a drunk driver destroyed my Harley Sportster, while I was sitting on it and doing sixty-five miles an hour.

    This this is another whole long story. However, the essence of it, for the purpose of this discussion, is in how the State of Georgia came along and appropriated that crime. In the end, they soaked the perp for five thousand dollars, which went straight into their various budget deficits. I got a wrecked bike out of the deal. The real kicker is in how I was foolish enough to turn up in a De Kalb County court to see how they handled him. I sat there for over an hour before an ADA approached me very self-consciously, suspecting who I was, and informing me that the case had been “disposed” the week before.

    And they never thought to even drop me a phone call. There I sat: like an idiot.

    Another lesson hard-learned for a fool.

  23. Billy, its not the criminal justice system’s function to obtain reparations for you for injuries done to you. That is what insurance and the civil system is for.

  24. I’ll agree that the court system is kind of a mess and like everything else tends to disproportionally affect the poor.

    However, libertarians are bad about on one hand doing their best to starve the government of resources and then turning around and complaining when it doesn’t run well.

    Also, the author’s idea that “justice” should be doled out on a “supply and demand” basis is stupid on its face.

  25. “Billy, its not the criminal justice system’s function to obtain reparations for you for injuries done to you.”

    Explain to me, then, the rationale for their getting involved in that episode to begin with.

  26. I’ve always wondered why revoking licenses of people who have not comitted a driving-related crime has been an acceptable practice.

    What if I don’t have a license? Do they take away my library card? Actually I don’t have one of those either. I wonder what they would do to give me that extra special kick in the nuts that removing a drivers license would normally provide.

  27. Maybe someone can point me in the direction of a good explanation of what it would mean to buy and sell “justice” like any other good.

    The state has a monopoly on the lawful use of force, the court system, etc. If you eliminate this monopoly and allow competition, many private protection agencies (to use a common phrase) will compete for your services. IOW, people buy and sell “justice” (loosely defined) in the marketplace.

  28. If you eliminate this monopoly and allow competition, many private protection agencies (to use a common phrase) will compete for your services. IOW, people buy and sell “justice” (loosely defined) in the marketplace.

    Utterly fucking terrifying.

    Maybe I’m alone here, but one of the places for which the state was designed to have a monopoly was the use of force against its citizens through police power, precisely because (in a nominal democracy) the state is the only agency that is sanctified by the citizenry’s periodic approval.

    I imagine such a system would take “forum shopping” to a whole and utterly baffling new level.

  29. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

    “…the state is the only agency that is sanctified by the citizenry’s periodic approval.”

    …the War on Drugs.

  30. If you eliminate this monopoly and allow competition, many private protection agencies (to use a common phrase) will compete for your services. IOW, people buy and sell “justice” (loosely defined) in the marketplace.

    Utterly fucking terrifying.

    LMNOP, Only if you think it through.

  31. Explain to me, then, the rationale for their getting involved in that episode to begin with.

    To punish the drunk driver.

  32. If you eliminate this monopoly and allow competition, many private protection agencies (to use a common phrase) will compete for your services. IOW, people buy and sell “justice” (loosely defined) in the marketplace.

    Alternative dispute resolution in the form of mandatory arbitration is a pretty standard term in many contracts these days, which makes it a form of free market selection of “justice”, I guess.

    Of course, its a very long way from having an alternative dispute resolution and having competing police agencies. Weren’t we all just hatin’ on Blackwater in Iraq?

  33. He did not harm anyone but me, R.C.

    How does that warrant anyone else presuming to “punish” him?

  34. the article would have been more effective without the self-pitying rationalization of his rolling through a stop sign.

  35. Interesting article, and if there wasn’t a blatant/falsehood/lie in it, I might be more inclined to actually listen to it.

    ~~~
    “Oh, one more thing. This lady was banned from Wal-Mart for life. Now, this sounds extreme, but it was the only decision taken that day that had the feel of something potentially reasonable. Might Wal-Mart have handed down this penalty itself? Isn’t this a good principle, keeping the thieves away from its store? Makes sense, perhaps not for a lifetime but perhaps for a year or two.

    But there is one problem. Wal-Mart can’t do that. Its shopping space is considered under federal law to be a “public space,” even though it is entirely privately owned. You can’t decide who you are going to let in or out so long as you charge no membership fee. You have to accept all comers. Only the state can ban people from public property. And so Wal-Mart must use the state’s services. It is coerced like everyone else. A compassionate and reasonable private solution is against the law.”
    ~~~

    That is completely false. Walmart does have the right/power to ban someone for life if they have committed a crime (like shoplifting) or are a danger. Some malls have successfully banned folks for wearing peace symbols, or anti-bush (non obscene) shirts. Walmart doesn’t for a very simple reason. They want shoplifters to run through the system, it is certainly cheaper from their point of view. Plus the judge can now jail her for going back, where if Walmart wanted to ban her and jail her for traspassing it would cost them money, money they would much rather have the gov spend for them (welfare queens, isn’t that what we call people who let the gov do their work?)

    So, is he just dumb to the facts, or is he lying, either way…

    About as impressive a showing as a neo-con supporting the war. Not very.

    And really, that is a shame, because what he was writing about is an important a topic. Far to important to be that sloppy.

  36. Maybe we fight back if we think we can win.

    I think this is an important aspect that contributes to judge’s attitudes and decisions and the court’s financial penalties. In my similar experiences with traffic and misdemeanor court I’ve found that from the judge to the “pay fines here” desk clerk, a bullying, in-your-face mentality is always present. I’m assuming they employ it to intimidate and prevent challenges to their authority and to keep anything from entering into an area outside of their control. You can’t ask why or question the fairness of a decision or penalty without risking additional fines or time.

    The court acts like a threatened police officer. If someone doesn’t fall in line, the court, not having a taser or gun, will increase fines or use jail time to show its authority. The law can never appear weak.

  37. What if I don’t have a license?

    Well then you better get one so the state has something to take away from you.

  38. There are pretty strict rules that stores must comply with in order to ban someone, and the best strategy is to have the state declare that person a shoplifter. Otherwise you expose the store to all sorts of liabilities. more here. Then there is the private club option but Wal-Mart doesn’t want to take this path of course. So I have no idea what the vituperative comment above is talking about. Privately owned stores that are open to the public have long been considered public property under US law.

  39. How does that warrant anyone else presuming to “punish” him?

    That’s the rationale for the entire criminal justice system, Billy. It doesn’t preclude you from collecting against him (and his insurance company) in civil courts.

    The alternative (the state doesn’t punish anyone, but the victims get to) is probably not conducive to a stable society.

  40. The alternative (the state doesn’t punish anyone, but the victims get to) is probably not conducive to a stable society.

    There is the middle ground: All prosecutions are private or privately prompted, and punishment is by restitution as much as possible — but the states run the courts, referee the restitution, and dole out their own punishments for particularly egregious or expensive crimes.

    In other words, only victims can initiate prosecutions, and primarily victims receive damages. The state simply formalizes the process to preserve the stability of society.

  41. “That’s the rationale for the entire criminal justice system, Billy.”

    You’re just going in a circle, Dean.

    Me: “The rationale?”

    You: “Punishment.”

    Me: “Of whom?” (Look: this is the essence of the question. A “criminal” can only be defined in terms of the harm he has done to others.)

    You: “The rationale.”

    Nothing about what you’ve said addresses the reasoning for it.

  42. I’d think of the “court surcharge” a tax you play to keep the court system going. How else do you want it to be supported?

    And for those who want to have “privatized justice”, um, what’s the difference between this and a lynch mob…? We already have some pretty ghastly stuff out there allowed if you’re a “bounty hunter”. Get the wrong door and grab/shoot up the wrong person? Oh well, so sorry. (I know the police seem to be far too likely to be doing this anyway in the War Against Drugs, but adding more people to the mix can’t help matters.)

  43. In other words, only victims can initiate prosecutions.

    That was pretty much the rule, pre-drug war. Back in the day, there was no point in indicting someone unless the victim wanted it done, because you weren’t going to get a conviction without the victim’s testimony. Murder being the exception, of course.

    It was the rise of victimless crimes that brought an end to that.

    Billy, the criminal justice system has not been about restitution for the victim since, probably, the 1700s. There are a couple of reasons for this.

    Number 1, you can’t get restitution from a stone, and a “judgment-proof” defendant with no assets would essentially walk from a conviction, while someone with assets would be penalized. Where’s the fairness in treating two people who committed the same crime so differently? From the other end, the restitution for an assault might break a poor man, but your latter-day Bill Gates could pay it out of pocket change.

    Number 2, restitution doesn’t get criminals off the streets.

    Number 3, there is a deep human need to see people who do bad things suffer. Restitution doesn’t really feed that need.

    Hope that helps.

    Once you’ve crossed the bridge into having criminals punished instead of merely providing restitution, the need for an evenhanded system for doing so becomes even more important. Competing private justice systems can’t provide that kind of evenhandedness.

  44. The fine collected goes to the police. The court fee goes to the court system. I’m not quite sure about the outrage about the difference between the two — the judge, to be lienient, cut the fine that goes to another government agency, while keeping the full tab for the part financing his salary. So, are you interested in consistency or mercy? Because if you’re interested in consistency, the judge will keep the police dept’s cut at 100% — no way is he going to reduce the coercion financing his salary.

    I’ve had some run-ins with the law in my younger days, but managed to keep from ever getting incarcerated. I have, however, been on the good side of the bars in some prison tours for my old gig with the legislature, and between that and what I glimpsed from hanging around in court, I pay the state their vig and feign respect to any law enforcement officer asking me questions rather than risk getting tossed into that horrorshow.

  45. Of course, its a very long way from having an alternative dispute resolution and having competing police agencies. Weren’t we all just hatin’ on Blackwater in Iraq?

    Big time pet peeve of mine on display here.
    The gov’t hiring more men with guns is a step away from anarcho-capitalism, not toward it.

  46. Maybe someone can point me in the direction of a good explanation of what it would mean to buy and sell “justice” like any other good.

    The most cogent explanation is probably the one in David Friedman’s “Machinery of Justice,” which is available in paperback. I personally don’t see it working (not in our lifetimes, anyway), but Friedman makes about the best case you can for it.

  47. I think Abe Lincoln’s dying words were “I never should have replaced the Pinkertons with government employees.”

  48. …David Friedman’s “Machinery of Justice,”…

    Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism

    …including an online chapter “Police, Courts, and Laws — on the Market” covering exactly this topic.

  49. The fine collected goes to the police. The court fee goes to the court system.

    Not in NYS. It goes into Spitzer’s goodie fund the State Treasury:

    The mandatory surcharge provided for in subdivision one of this
    section shall be paid to the clerk of the court or administrative
    tribunal that rendered the conviction. Within the first ten days of the
    month following collection of the mandatory surcharge the collecting
    authority shall determine the amount of mandatory surcharge collected
    and, if it is an administrative tribunal or a town or village justice
    court, it shall pay such money to the state comptroller who shall
    deposit such money in the state treasury pursuant to section one hundred
    twenty-one of the state finance law to the credit of the general fund.

  50. i’ll second the NY complaint from #1 comment. every fucking small ass town there has their own police force that just sits around looking for traffic violations. went to school in upstate NY, and being from pennsylvania they loved to fuck with me. i think i passed through the same small town maybe a half dozen times and got pulled over twice…once was for a partially broken brake light….the judge reduced the fine to 50 bucks but court fees were 50 bucks as well so i had to pay a hundred.

    sad part was i just stopped driving through that town and drive through another and as a result spent my gas money elsewhere…

  51. “Billy, the criminal justice system has not been about restitution for the victim since, probably, the 1700s.”

    You never once saw me write that word. (“Restitution”.) There is a very good reason for that, which is that that is not what the question is about.

    Let’s try it like this: I’m not interested in the habit of precedent. I’m not talking to the Supreme Court or congress or any of the rest of it: I’m talking to you. Tell me by what right it is that the state is morally authorized to intervene in an affair like the one I described.

  52. Can someone please define “victimless crime” for me?

    It’s a crime where the state makes you a victim even though you didn’t make anyone else a victim.

    I would personally prefer to view crime as doing things that are against the law.

    That may be a technical/legal definition, but it begs the question of whether an action should be against the law.

    I would define a crime as intentionally and unjustifiably violating another person’s rights against their will.

    Smoking crack, according to those definitions, creates a victim (a person ends up suffering addiction),

    I think not. To be a “victim” implies that the person is unwilling to suffer the condition. If a man rapes a woman, she is a victim because she didn’t want to be raped. If a man hires a prostitute she is not a victim because she willingly exchanged sex for cash.

    The “social order” argument is an excuse to prosecute willing participants in activities the government views as illegitimate, but which none of the participants consider themselves harmed by.

    However, libertarians are bad about on one hand doing their best to starve the government of resources and then turning around and complaining when it doesn’t run well.

    IOW we should increase the government’s resources even though doesn’t run well? And I bet even you can’t say, “If the government had more resources it would run well,” with a straight face. The government hasn’t been on short rations for decades.

  53. Tell me by what right it is that the state is morally authorized to intervene in an affair like the one I described.

    None, of course. Now, the real question is, does the state have the right to intervene in an affair concerning murder?

  54. Now, the real question is, does the state have the right to intervene in an affair concerning murder?

    Whoops, caught myself making an error there.

    Of course, the State has no rights; it has privileges granted to it. Now, should individuals grant the State the ability to intervene against murderers on an individual’s behalf?

  55. “Whoops, caught myself making an error there.”

    I was about to jump you on that.

    “Now, should individuals grant the State the ability to intervene against murderers on an individual’s behalf?”

    Because of the non-coercive nature of what you’re talking about, it’s no longer about government. You’re talking about a business arrangement, and at that point it’s up to the individuals and it’s none of my affair.

  56. What Mike P. said. Machinery of Freedom. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  57. I was about to jump you on that.

    You’ve taught me to be a little more careful with my words. I grudgingly praise so take that for what it’s worth.

    Because of the non-coercive nature of what you’re talking about, it’s no longer about government.

    So you’re saying the individual seeking justice negotiates a contract with a justice-providing agency. I was talking about a murder, though…do you contend that the murderer should not be punished absent anyone interested in negotiating the above contract?

  58. “You’ve taught me to be a little more careful with my words.”

    You think I’m an asshole. I don’t care. Believe it or not, what you just said is a great deal of what I have in mind with action like that other thread.

    I’ve said it a million times: nobody has to be an idiot.

    Onward.

    “…do you contend that the murderer should not be punished absent anyone interested in negotiating the above contract?”

    I mean what I say: it’s none of my business. In political conditions like what we’re talking about, Christ help the murderer that I ever have to deal with. Beyond that, though, “everybody gets to go to hell in their own go-cart.” That’s what I always say.

    Let me try to point out some of the principles of the matter with these notes:

    My own view is that there are some murderers who must be completely destroyed. This is conditioned with my knowledge of murderers who will never again be a threat to anyone. I once worked a gig in the Oregon State Penitentiary at Salem, and met a man who killed a woman in a bad drug deal in the early 1970’s. I met him in the mid-80’s and corresponded with him for almost ten years. I would gladly have made room for him in my home on his release. That man was beyond anyone’s reach, except (an exception he always offered before I could get to it) for his victim’s family: he knew more than anyone in the whole world what he had done to himself, after of course addressing the stark horror of the fact of his victim. I would bet my life that Murphy will never hurt anyone ever again.

    Some murderers, however, are obviously completely out of reach of any sort of redemption, and when I think about them (like, maybe Manson, for example) I marvel at the fury with which I believe I would deal with them if I had to. I could snap that bastard’s head right off and sleep like a baby.

    All this is an enormous moral responsibility, and (here’s my central point) that is exactly why I summarily reject government death sentences: I will not have my name anywhere near anyone else’s indictment. If it’s my affair, then everybody gets to shut the fuck up and stand back. If it’s not, then I want no part of it.

  59. If it’s my affair, then everybody gets to shut the fuck up and stand back. If it’s not, then I want no part of it.

    I feel like we’re back to where you we started, Billy. Let’s assume that were the wronged, the transgressed and you are about to enter mortal combat with the aggressor, be he thief or rapist. If I and my merry, voluntary band of self-protectors walked up and assessed the situation and determined that, since we can’t figure out who’s really the threat here (and I have a rational self-interest in neutralizing violent threats), we’ll just play it safe and you both die (’cause we got the guns and the numbers, ya know…).

    What then? Your friends are going to contract out a justice agency to bring us down…and guess what…we’re going to war.

    And that’s just over a rational misunderstanding. In your example of Manson, he pisses you off so badly that you could kill him and be OK with it. That’s a good thing, Manson’s a monster. What if I’m more petty in who pisses me off, or just more violent? That is, what if I wouldn’t have a problem killing an unfaithful lover and her new beau? It’s my affair, you better stay the hell out of it.

    Could you imagine, in a world where people are killed over cutting someone off in traffic, billions of people everywhere having the ability to pick and choose not only what issues their going to get violent over, but how they’re going to do it? If I decide you just need to die, but some other agency wants to torture the ever-loving shit out of someone…

    I know this isn’t what you want, but I’m not seeing any way around it.

  60. “If I and my merry, voluntary band of self-protectors walked up…”

    It’s none of your business. What would make you do that?

    “Could you imagine, in a world where people are killed over cutting someone off in traffic…”

    No, in fact. I have no such delusions, for lots of reasons.

  61. Another thought:

    “What if I’m more petty in who pisses me off, or just more violent?”

    I say you’re taking an enormous chance with your own life in that condition. You can do that if you want to, but it’s not smart. However…

    “It’s my affair, you better stay the hell out of it.”

    …you understand me perfectly. I have my own affairs to attend, and you can count on me.

  62. It’s none of your business. What would make you do that?

    What? For a series of reasons…we could just be out and about and you two have just decided to haul up and duel in the streets. Or, because I want to….whatever the reason. And I have evaluated and pondered and decided that you are both initiators of force (actually, you’re not, that’s impossible, but regardless, I don’t have the time, compunction or desire to hold court right there) and a threat to me and mine.

    Elimination. And, like I said, your friends are never going to believe you initiated force and they, or their justice company they hire, is going to come after me. And I will fight back…and then some of my merry band’s friends are going to get involved…etc. etc.

  63. “….whatever the reason.”

    If that’s how you get through your day, you’d better not go out of the house.

  64. If that’s how you get through your day, you’d better not go out of the house.

    Alright, I see you’re not actually serious about this discussion, in that you want to argue about WHY I happened upon your hypothetical duel. I was honestly trying to dialogue, despite whatever misbegotten notions you may have about me.

  65. “…in that you want to argue about WHY I happened upon your hypothetical duel.”

    That’s the root of the matter. If we’re not talking about reasoning beings, there is no discussion of this subject at all. You might as well be talking about tigers running up and down the streets, and there is nothing involving ethics or politics about that.

    Now, look: I’ll stand it once in a while if you say I’m dishonest, because you’re not squared-away on elements necessary to the context, but it’ll get old in a big-time hurry, because it’s not true.

  66. That’s the root of the matter.

    Perhaps you can explain to me why that’s the root of it, Billy. Individuals do things for all kinds of reasons and never think them through or consider why they’re doing a thing. I wasn’t saying “me” per se, the me was a hypothetical individual and his friends, who have happened upon your duel. This hypothetical individual could be there just because he feels like it or he could have good, explainable reasons for being there.

    I’m failing to see why hypothetical person’s reason matters for being there.

  67. “I wasn’t saying ‘me’ per se…”

    I’m not like the morons running around here kicking the sofa-cushions around on a hunt for their cheez-puffs. I understand hypotheticals. Now, look:

    “Individuals do things for all kinds of reasons and never think them through or consider why they’re doing a thing.”

    Nobody actually qualified to conduct a discussion like this is ever going to call that “reason”.

    “I’m failing to see why hypothetical person’s reason matters for being there.”

    Okay, then. If that’s true, then it doesn’t matter whether I just start stitching him up with an AK have done with it.

    …except for one thing: it matters to me.

    Again, and it really cannot be put more simply than this: if there is no recourse to reason in any of it, then all bets are off.

  68. if there is no recourse to reason in any of it, then all bets are off.

    Well, hypothetical man is assessing whether you are a threat to him or not. Right now, from where he’s sitting, you look prepared to kill a man (for reasons unbeknownst to him). Why do you think you’re going to be able to reason with him at this point? He has seconds to assess whether you are a threat and determine what to do with you. Where is there the time to hold court?

  69. “Why do you think you’re going to be able to reason with him at this point?”

    The way you’ve set him up, I don’t.

    That’s my general point.

  70. I’ve set him up as having a “flight or fight” instinct. Do you believe it possible for reason to overrule and control instinct in all places and times?

  71. Soldiers do it all the time. And all it takes one example to prove the fact that “instinct” is no qualification in this arena.

  72. Yes, Billy, trust me, I know that Soldiers do it all the time. However, when I hear a loud “boom” signifying an incoming round, don’t I run because of my instinct to run?

  73. You’re changing the context: that in no way compares with the hypothetical that you set up, in which everything is plainly observable before events.

  74. And all it takes one example to prove the fact that “instinct” is no qualification in this arena.

    So, if one person (example) can use his reason to override his instinct, it’s possible of all people?

  75. Yes. And I don’t even stipulate to the “if”. This is just the way we’re built.

  76. Billy – we’re built to breathe naturally through two lungs, but cystic fibrosis are unable to do this due to genetic defect.

    We’re built to pump blood through our veins with a functioning circulatory system; however, sufferers from sickle-cell anemia are unable to fully exercise this function in the way we’re “built”.

    Is it not possible that there exist those with genetic or psychological disorders who are unable to reason?

  77. “Finally 11 AM rolls around. The court had already raised for itself some $20,000, from my calculation. The judge says that there will be a short recess before he hears the not-guilty cases, mine among them. He will then assign public defenders to those whose income is low enough and then schedule jury hearings.

    In other words, I would have to wait and then return at some later date. I realized that there was more involved in beating tickets than I knew. I would need to make it my vocation – and perhaps not prevail.”

    Since when is an hour later, after the judge eats lunch, “some later date”?

    “My kids, who came with me, persuaded me that this was hopeless and ridiculous and very costly. I should declare my guilt and pay the $200 and be free. They didn’t want their dad entangled anymore in this system. This is what I did, and I was free to go and join the multitudes who put up with this system of blackmail and money extraction every hour and know better than to attempt to use the system to challenge it.”

    WTF? He showed up, sat through the first half of the docket and then didn’t go through with fighting the charge? He’s already taken the time off to go to court for the day.

  78. You might not believe this, “A_R”, but I figured that you were going to try to qualify anomalies.

    They have no place in this discussion. This is not to say that they might never be encountered in the field, but that doesn’t matter. We are not talking about a culture of anomalies.

    And I would refer you to That Woman’s admonition that “life is not a lifeboat.”

  79. You might not believe this, “A_R”, but I figured that you were going to try to qualify anomalies.

    I believe you, Billy, because it’s when you talk about everybody having the ability to do X, I’m of course going to object that not everybody can do X. Does that mean you’re stipulating that not everyone can reason? That not all men are “built” that way?

    I’m also not sure what you mean by the term “qualify”…could you explain that?

    And I would refer you to That Woman’s admonition that “life is not a lifeboat.”

    Serious question – don you believe it was a failing of Rand’s to address the ethics of “lifeboat” situations?

  80. Serious question – do you believe it was a failing of Rand’s NOT to address the ethics of “lifeboat” situations?

  81. “Does that mean you’re stipulating that not everyone can reason? That not all men are ‘built’ that way?”

    Isn’t this implicit in the concept of “anomalies”? C’mon, man. Work with me.

    “Serious question – don you believe it was a failing of Rand’s to address the ethics of ‘lifeboat’ situations?”

    No more than anything else she failed at.

    I have no patience with the garden-variety dolt who likes to jump up somewhere and slag her as a philosopher. I see it all the time, of course, and I know that it generally comes from abject ignorance. Here’s what, though: one doesn’t have to go through a hell of a lot of philosophy to understand that the organization of her work can leave a lot to be desired. It’s also not completely comprehensive. She titled the “Introduction To Objectivist Epistemology” for a good reason: it’s an introduction.

    There are all kinds of things that she didn’t really flesh out.

    However, for all that, an issue like the lifeboat thing doesn’t bother me for the reason that she stated in the aphorism that I quoted. It is manifestly obvious to me that we don’t go around watching out for every meteor that falls out of the sky or the freak chance that the earth is going to reverse its rotation. Sensible people craft their lives along the general parameters of essentials, and what you’re talking about is not part of that.

    I don’t worry about it. My principles are squared-away enough that I believe I can find the right way through if things ever come to something like that. I carry a big-league average, in general. It’s not a big deal to me.

  82. ({hah} Somehow, I read you correctly the first time. Maybe it’s time for me to be more careful.)

  83. Billy – these “anomalies” that are unable to reason aren’t all that anomalous, in that a child’s ability to reason is an uncertain quantity and almost non-existent in its early stages. In addition to that, I understand that most individuals are reasonable enough to take care of themselves. Children are not.

    Of course, this lends us to an abortion debate as well, in that violence against rational beings is intolerable, but who is to say when rationality occurs in children?

  84. “Billy – these ‘anomalies’ that are unable to reason aren’t all that anomalous, in that a child’s ability to reason is an uncertain quantity and almost non-existent in its early stages.”

    Okay, let’s put this back in context of what we were talking about: we’re now looking at a hypothetical in which children are running around feuding each other with guns.

    How am I supposed to take that seriously?

  85. Ps. — if you’re smart, you won’t attempt something like “Somalia”.

  86. How am I supposed to take that seriously?

    You’re not required to, but it happens in countries around the world that lack strong rights-enforcing governments. You’ll note Israel suffers at the hands of children frequently; children soldiers exist, impressed into servitude not by governments but by warlords, in places like Somalia, yes.

  87. “You’re not required to, but it happens in countries around the world that lack strong rights-enforcing governments.”

    Okay; that can only mean that you think it would happen here if the government didn’t exist to keep the little urchins in check.

    You think people generally behave themselves in America because of government.

    There’s not a lot to work with in that because of how wrong it is.

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