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Economic warfare is the practice of capturing or depriving the enemy of resources so that they cannot fight a war properly. This has been accomplished in the past by blockade, blacklisting, preclusive purchasing, and outright seizure.

My question: is blacklisting businesses owned and operated by the enemy a legitimate exercise of government authority to wage war and defend individual rights? Or is this a step too far in abridging the rights of businessmen to conduct themselves as they see fit?

asked Jan 15 '13 at 10:10

JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

JK Gregg ♦
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According to my understanding of objectivism, blacklisting is a superfluous act. If a business is considered the enemy in an economy and is depriving citizens of their rights then it would be in the citizens best interest to no longer transact with that entity. A businesses' survival is dependent on revenue, generated from the demand for its products (by the citizens) therefore if a business is harmful to a population it will simply die out on its own accord as it will no longer be operating in the best interest of those who supply its revenue.

(Jan 23 '13 at 17:06) John Galt John%20Galt's gravatar image

You seem to be making the assumption that people always do what is in their best interest. They don't. If they did, we wouldn't have wars in the first place.

(Jan 23 '13 at 21:16) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Yes I agree, yet this question should be answered according to Objectivist views as this is the very nature of this website. Blacklisting would constitute as a controlled economy and a restriction on trade. It is the use of force to counteract a fair exchange of value between two parties, regardless of their nationalities. The Governments purpose is to protect its nation against physical threat (domestic and foreign) by the issuance of physical protection ie. the Military and police force. That is the extent to which they should act.

(Jan 25 '13 at 05:55) John Galt John%20Galt's gravatar image

If you want to answer this according to Objectivism, you should consider that Rand, in 1964, that she "would advocate a blockade of Cuba and an economic boycott of Soviet Russia". (This is not to say that such a stance necessarily makes sense today, but only that Rand believed that this type of warfare is at least sometimes justified.)

Part of protecting a nation against physical threat consists of stopping people from aiding the enemy.

(Jan 25 '13 at 07:56) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Anthony, was she speaking about employing the state to execute these blockades and boycotts?

(Jan 30 '13 at 10:23) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

As a blockade involves the use of force (in the case of Cuba, presumably a navy), surely she meant that she advocated that action being done by the government.

What she meant by "an economic boycott" is more ambiguous. I mostly kept that part of the quote so as not to be accused of misquoting. A blockade stops people of all countries from engaging in trade with the enemy country, so it is more severe than merely stopping trade from people of a single country.

That said, from a point of practicality, the effectiveness of measures short of a blockade is more questionable.

(Jan 30 '13 at 14:19) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Assuming Rand thought the government could initiate a blockade or a boycott, can you or anyone else reconcile that with what she outlined as the proper role of a government (i.e. one that does not regulate free, consensual commerce)?

(Jan 30 '13 at 15:38) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

I don't see what Rand has said which suggests that there is a right to aid the enemy (or even a fugitive).

Do you think there is a contradiction between Rand's outline of the proper role of government, and laws against aiding and abetting and accessory after the fact?

(Jan 30 '13 at 15:54) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I do, at least at first blush. If an American company wishes to contract with an Iranian company which employs Iranians, why shouldn't they be able to contract? No force is being initiated. No rights are being violated. Why isn't a proper government blind to this sort of activity?

(Jan 30 '13 at 16:01) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

What do you mean no force is being initiated? Do you deny that Iran has initiated force against the United States?

I assume you agree that Iran is properly categorized as an enemy of the United States, which means that Iran has initiated force against the United States. If not, then we should pick a different example.

A proper government is not blind to activity which aids the enemy, because activity which aids the enemy is a threat to its citizens.

(Jan 30 '13 at 16:12) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I do recognize Iran's threat and its initiation of force against the U.S.

Are you saying Objectivism supports the regulation of free commerce if that commerce aids an enemy?

(Jan 30 '13 at 16:17) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

I'm definitely not saying that. I've tried to avoid terms like "regulation of free commerce" because it hasn't been well defined, and because it's not a basic principle (it's a highly derivative principle, if it is a valid one at all).

You characterized Rand's outline of the proper role of a government as "one that does not regulate free, consensual commerce". While read in a certain context this is probably true, it is by no means a starting point, which you seem to be taking it as. Read in that context, aiding and abetting the enemy is not part of "free, consensual commerce".

(Jan 30 '13 at 16:20) anthony anthony's gravatar image

So you're saying that any action should be viewed within its full context. Trade between two parties, viewed with a confined, specific context may not raise an eyebrow, but viewed in the larger context, could constitute a larger "crime" like aiding and abetting an enemy.

Do I have that right?

If so, how far can the context stretch? What are its limits? I can foresee a situation where an action is deemed by the state to be detrimental in the long long-run and thus barred from occurring.

(Jan 31 '13 at 09:50) JK Gregg ♦ JK%20Gregg's gravatar image

I wouldn't put "crime" in quotes when referring to aiding and abetting an enemy. Aiding and abetting an enemy is properly a crime. There's no need for scare quotes.

I do think actions should be viewed within their full context. On the other hand, my comment above was about the fact that principles should be viewed within their full context.

As for the question about what the limits are, the limit is when an action constitutes the initiation of force (which means it constitutes a violation of rights). Not "detrimental in the long long-run" if by that you mean some utilitarian standard.

(Jan 31 '13 at 12:48) anthony anthony's gravatar image

To restate in a way that I would support, I am saying that Objectivism supports the criminalization of intentionally aiding an enemy.

I wouldn't call that "regulation of free commerce", though, any more than I'd call the criminalization of murder-for-hire "regulation of free speech". The term "free commerce", like the term "free speech" or "initiation of force", is a term which entire books could be written to try to define. In fact, I'd say most of the 1,096 page book "Capitalism: A Treatise on Economics" could be viewed as an attempt to properly define "free commerce".

(Jan 31 '13 at 13:14) anthony anthony's gravatar image
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Asked: Jan 15 '13 at 10:10

Seen: 971 times

Last updated: Jan 31 '13 at 13:23