While the portion quoted at WRSA is indeed one of Rand’s most concise pieces on individual rights (well, compared to Galt’s 90 page speech in Atlas Shrugged at least..), it also demonstrates that Rand was her own antithesis. It’s also the reason I don’t consider myself an Objectivist.
Toward the middle of the bit posted over at WRSA, she says this about the right to self-defense..
The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.
If some “pacifist” society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it
..only to turn around and say something one would expect from a breathless Brady Bunch press release.
If a society provided no organized protection against force, it would compel every citizen to go about armed, to turn his home into a fortress, to shoot any strangers approaching his door—or to join a protective gang of citizens who would fight other gangs, formed for the same purpose, and thus bring about the degeneration of that society into the chaos of gang-rule, i.e., rule by brute force, into perpetual tribal warfare of prehistoric savages.
And then she takes it one further and says something the Brady Bunch have generally been afraid to say publicly since they changed their name from Handgun Control Inc.
There is only one basic principle to which an individual must consent if he wishes to live in a free, civilized society: the principle of renouncing the use of physical force and delegating to the government his right of physical self-defense, for the purpose of an orderly, objective, legally defined enforcement.
Rand was brilliant when it came to economic theory and rights in general, but this idea of the role of government is downright puzzling. In this very same piece, she talks about how government has exploited loopholes in the Constitution and “is arrogating to itself the power of unlimited whim,” yet she would still trust government to have all the guns.
Yea, yea, I know, contradictions don’t exist, if you think you’re facing one, check your premises, and all that.
Well, in this case, her very own premise is that government “should be an impersonal robot, with the laws as its only motive power.” Likewise, she seems to suggest we just need better rules to limit government power so that it can be controlled.
But until we invent something like Skynet to govern us, does not Lord Acton’s Dictum apply to the men in state issued costumes given virtually absolute power via a monopoly of force? Would not a disarmed society face the same threat as her example of a “pacifist” society (and, later in the piece, her example of an anarchist society) when the first thug comes along to seize the apparatus of the state? Since the government we have now ignores existing restrictions placed upon it in the Constitution, why would it obey more rules? And how exactly would one go about controlling an Objectivist government run amok after relinquishing one’s right of self-defense to same?
Rand once referred to libertarians as the “hippies of the right,” who substitute anarchism for capitalism. Anarchism, in turn, she dismissed as the “most irrational, anti-intellectual notion ever spun.” But what is so intellectual about saying better, objective rules are all that’s needed to control the government? That doesn’t end the argument. Control of any government is only the beginning of the argument.
All this isn’t to say I feel anarchism would work as a system, per se. In my *cough* objective opinion, nothing will work indefinitely. Least of all while humans have anything to do with politics.
Starting at the left, Marx’s Utopian dream of communism would eventually lead back to competition and capitalism as human nature clashed with the dreadful, collectivist sameness. In the real world, where Marx’s purportedly intermediate socialism as as far left as one can realistically go, the poverty caused by dragging everyone down to the lowest common denominator would spark the same competitive spirit. Just as Rand herself was a ultimately a product of the Russian Revolution.
On the other hand, should capitalism (or something vaguely resembling it) be allowed to work, overall prosperity is sure to follow. Prosperity, however, gives people free time to dream up wacky schemes to control other people. Likewise, prosperity also breeds complacency as people forget how much hard work went into creating it. Complacency, in turn, often leads to people assuming prosperity is a given. People who then begin to think like Marx and decide they can kill the proverbial golden goose in order to share all the golden eggs.
On a long enough timescale, rinse. Repeat.
As such, my position as an anarchist “hippie” isn’t to destroy government, but as a foil to statists on both sides. In reverse, my support of restoring the Constitution isn’t because I particularly like government, but because a limited Federal government offers the best chance at some degree of autonomy within my lifetime. Well, unless it collapses under the weight of its own debt first, but, yea..
If everyone else, like Rand, feels (at the very least) that some government is a necessary evil to protect society from force, then so be it. As long as you don’t initiate force against me, enter into whatever flavor of mutual defense pact you like.
But either way, I reserve the right of self-defense no matter which variety of statist is in charge. This is nonnegotiable.