This question spawned from watching too many Batman movies. As we all know, Batman is a vigilante who takes the law into his own hands. But, he is also doing what nobody else is. Philosophically, this question has to do with the "impotence of evil." Evil wins by default when the good do nothing, says Ayn Rand. She's right. Batman is someone who doesn't stand by and let criminals control society. (He's fighting them with a moral code he never abandons--and that is what makes him a hero. The Joker tries to get Batman to break his moral code, but he fails. I think Ayn Rand would have loved The Dark Knight for that reason alone.) However, Batman's actions are still unsanctioned from the police department. The police consider him a vigilante and they would arrest him if they could. So the question remains: Would an Objectivist support Batman?
The reason that vigilantism is illegal is not that it isn't well-intentioned.
It's illegal because the government's monopoly on the use of force is the means of keeping the moral use of force under objective control. Government, ideally, acts according to a system of laws, rather than emotional spurs of the moment or personal prejudices.
If vigilantism were not illegal, we wouldn't have one government, but many governments each consisting of one person, i.e. anarchy, which means no government at all.
In any movie where a vigilante is a hero, it's because, in the story, the government is relatively impotent against the villain. It depends on the story, but each such story presents a government that is either unable or unwilling to do what is right, and so the vigilante must step in.
We can all sympathize with the man for whom justice is not served, due to government incompetence. We can understand wishing for a vigilante in such a case. But what we should want first, is competent and effective government.
answered Jun 28 '12 at 09:51
John Paquette ♦