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If something like a massive flood, hurricane, volcanic eruption, aftermath of war, or plague happened, should the government attempt to mitigate that destructiveness? Should say, the National Guard, be the government agency of response to these crisis?

I'm not talking about year round assistance, government medical and public health initiatives, and such, only short-term emergency things. Thanks in advance.

asked Oct 06 '13 at 21:31

TheBucket's gravatar image


edited Oct 07 '13 at 22:41

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

If the services involve the use of defensive or retaliatory force, then the government may provide them. If not, it shouldn't.

This assumes a voluntarily funded government in the first place. If people are willing to volunteer the funds for operation, and the services don't involve the use of defensive or retaliatory force, why can't the services be provided by an ordinary non-governmental organization?

I say "may", rather than "should", because to some extent in an emergency government is, by definition, unavailable. Arguably, once government returns, it's not an emergency but a disaster.

(Oct 07 '13 at 07:09) anthony anthony's gravatar image

I've noticed that many people today hold a "paternalistic government" perspective," in which government acts as a central authority to provide "care" to everyone who needs it (always, not just in emergencies). Objectivism asks: (a) What is government? (b) Why (for what purpose) does man need it? And (c) what do these answers imply about the proper functions of government? The result is a completely non-paternalistic government. Our Founders, for example, were primarily concerned about man's "inalienable rights" and how to protect them. And Objectivism does not recognize an emergency situation as justification for paternalism. As Anthony's comment mentions, Objectivism's view of government includes only protecting individuals and enterprises from physical force by others, i.e., protection from looters, rioters, vandals, common criminals, foreign invaders, etc., but not providing other services that private individuals and businesses could provide (which, if provided by government, would require initiation of physical force against others, since government does not create wealth but obtains it from individual producers). Under non-paternalistic government that is limited to protecting individual rights, individuals are free to rely on insurance, personal savings and other assets, charity, voluntary help from neighbors (as an act of good will), etc., to deal with emergencies that do not involve an initiation of physical force against them by others (or their government).

Update: Victims of Governmental "Services"

From a comment by the questioner:

... isn't government intervention into emergency situations useful? ... [What is the] evidence [that] non-paternalism during non-man made emergencies [is] working?

"Useful" -- to whom and for what? "Working" -- by what standard? Governmental "intervention" inevitably depends on initiation of physical force against innocent victims who are viewed as a social "resource" for others to dispose of as the "society" deems fit. Government does not create wealth, but obtains it only from individual producers and enterprises.

The initiation of physical force against others is evil, whether it is done by other individuals or by government. It is destructive of human life. This is true regardless of whether or not there might be some limited peripheral "good" coming out of it in some cases. Government services are not "good" if they depend on initiation of physical force. For evidence, one need only look at what physical force does to the victims, at how it paralyzes their minds and thereby diminishes their lives and their capacity for living. The questioner may already know all this without ascribing any particular significance to it, and other readers of this website may not already know it.

The question and comment express the moral-practical dichotomy, i.e., morality and practicality as separate and distinct and unrelated. But there is no dichotomy between the moral and practical when morality is reality-based and rationally integrated. And Objectivism vigorously opposes the sacrificing of the individual to the collective.

answered Oct 07 '13 at 12:41

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Oct 09 '13 at 21:47


Thanks, but isn't government intervention into emergency situations useful?

For example, while the modern theory of small pox was developed by a regular doctor and it was eradicated worldwide by health organizations, it was eradicated in the western world by mandatory vaccinations.

NOTE: I've been on "our side of the fence" for a while on these issues, I know all the "philosophy-based" answers. I would simply like evidence to back up this opinion of non-paternalism during non-man made emergencies working.

(Oct 07 '13 at 20:33) TheBucket TheBucket's gravatar image
Government services are not "good" if they depend on initiation of physical force.

True, but judges and police officers don't work for free any more than anyone else.

(Oct 10 '13 at 08:55) anthony anthony's gravatar image

That's why Objectivism advocates a system of voluntary taxation, precisely to avoid the initiation of physical force that mandatory taxation represents.

(Oct 10 '13 at 20:26) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

So government services don't depend on the initiation of physical force.

If the government spends voluntarily provided tax money to rescue people trapped in a flood, does that depend on the initiation of physical force?

(Oct 10 '13 at 20:39) anthony anthony's gravatar image

Are you asking if government, like an individual, should be free to do whatever it wants as long as it is voluntarily funded and does not initiate physical force? That is not the Objectivist view. Objectivism's view of the proper functions of government is far narrower than that and is based on the reason why man needs a government at all.

Government services today do depend on initiation of physical force, because we do not have a proper, voluntarily financed government today. A proper government would be very limited in its functions and voluntarily financed, and its functions would not include attempting to compete with or displace private charities and enterprises in issues that do not involve the use of physical force.

(Oct 11 '13 at 21:27) Ideas for Life ♦ Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image
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Asked: Oct 06 '13 at 21:31

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Last updated: Oct 11 '13 at 21:28