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If it is true that one person's rights are valid only as long as they do not violate (or threaten to violate) the rights of others, and if the Bible and the Koran both exhort followers to kill heretics, why are both not guilty of threatening to violate others' rights?

asked Nov 08 '10 at 20:17

Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

Mindy Newton ♦

edited Jan 05 '14 at 14:20

Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg Perkins ♦♦

A proper government is limited to being an agent of self-defense against physical coercion by other men. As such, it can use force only in retaliation against force, or against the credible threat thereof.

What should count as a "credible" threat in varying contexts is a specialized subject for legal scholars. However, if government is to be limited rather than a totalitarian overseer, the proper standard for an objective threat must be something more specific and imminent than merely any idea or movement that would lead to the initiation of force as its theoretical end-of-the-road. The ideas contained in the Bible or the Koran (and in secular books such as Hitler's Mein Kampf) may advocate the initiation of force, but this fact alone is not sufficient to warrant government action.

It is important to understand why the government has to have a narrow standard for what constitutes a criminal threat. Leonard Peikoff writes in OPAR that "In the long run, this evil [the initiation of physical force] is an inevitable result of irrationality." Irrationality is a very wide category. But the long run can be very long, and there are many human choices along the way. People can change their thinking for the better, or they can compartmentalize away the coercive prescriptions or implications of their ideas. (This latter category includes the vast majority of Christians, Jews, and even Muslims in the United States today.) Even the truly corrupt can have their worst fantasies of violence held in check by the threat of just retaliation from the government. (This category includes many modern racists, anarchists, and theocrats.)

Government is a blunt and dangerous instrument, and it is not equipped to sort out the theoretical implications of religious or philosophical texts, nor the psychological states of individuals who have yet to work out all of the implications of their professed principles. Its retaliatory actions must be restricted to situations in which people have actually made the choice to initiate force. This includes concrete threats or incitements or plots, but not the advocacy of force in the abstract.

answered Nov 09 '10 at 20:19

Andrew%20Dalton's gravatar image

Andrew Dalton ♦

edited Nov 10 '10 at 15:10

Both the Koran and the Bible are guilty of threatening to violate others' rights.

Objectivists typically draw a distinction between Christians and Muslims not due to their teachings, but due to how their teachings are presently interpreted. At present, Muslims actively act on the concept of Jihad. Christians actively act on the concept of "turn the other cheek."

answered Nov 09 '10 at 08:12

John%20Hoffman's gravatar image

John Hoffman ♦

Does not such a threat invalidate their right to own property?

(Nov 09 '10 at 17:37) Mindy Newton ♦ Mindy%20Newton's gravatar image

I also had this issue clouded until I read what Peikoff said. If, in an ideal situation, the government punished everything that logically led to the initiation of force, then it would also have to be made up of Objectivist philosophers and lawyers. My question is: is publishing, to the general public, a call to insurgence against holders of certain principles in the general public equate to a direct physical threat?

(Jan 27 '11 at 11:13) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

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Asked: Nov 08 '10 at 20:17

Seen: 1,424 times

Last updated: Jan 05 '14 at 14:20