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Here are some starting points that I have:

  1. There are no guarantees that when you threaten someone they will automatically do your bidding. That is, they may be motivated to destroy you instead.
  2. When I am coerced into doing something against my will, even if it's comes in the form of a guilt trip (you don't love me unless you buy me a Valentine present :) ) instead of physical coercion, I become angry as I will view it as an injustice. If I have to repress/suppress my anger then it becomes resentment. And when I am resentful my actions come out as passive aggressiveness which translates to things like sarcasm, procrastination, lateness, doing the minimal required, purposely sabotaging the work, etc.

What other starting points would you recommend to collect the evidence?

asked Apr 08 '15 at 12:49

Humbug's gravatar image


The question asks for "evidence" (i.e., concrete examples) by which to "induce" (i.e., grasp) the "idea" (i.e., fact) that the threat (and/or actual use?) of physical force prevents the victim from functioning by rationality, productiveness, and voluntary trade with others.

Example 1 in the question points out that a victim may choose to fight an attack rather than submit to it. A victim may also choose to flee from the attack, if he judges that fleeing might be feasible. None of these three responses -- submit, flee, or fight -- would constitute rational productiveness or trade.

Example 2 pertains to non-physical "coercion" and seems to put it in the same category as example 1. But non-physical "coercion" is more accurately described as inducement or incentive. It's an issue of trade, leaving both parties free to decide to accept or reject the terms of the trade. Example 2 affects one's future conduct as a result of one's own evaluation of the benefits or costs of accepting or rejecting the proposed trade. It thus does not illustrate the point that physical force paralyzes the mind (preventing rationality and productiveness).

These examples also raise a further point implicitly: when we talk about force paralyzing the mind, do we mean forever, or just for the duration of the attack? It should be easy to see that an actual or threatened use of physical force (i.e., an attack) limits one's options to submitting, fleeing or counter-attacking, and (during the attack) precludes rationality, productiveness and voluntary trade. Numerous further examples can be found in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Physical Force." The "paradigm case" of physical force is a bandit who points a gun at his victim and says, "Your money or your life!" (This case assumes there is no evidence by which the victim can doubt whether the gun is real and loaded, or whether the attacker truly would pull the trigger.)

Whether or not the mental paralysis that occurs during an attack will persist afterward depends on how much actual damage the attack does to the victim, and on the context of what becomes of the attacker and possibly other would-be attackers afterward. For example, are attackers relentlessly pursued, caught, and punished? Or are they free to come back again sometime, maybe often, and do it again? Is the victim left in a state of not knowing who might attack next and when or where, with no retaliatory or retributive recourse by the victim? The uncertainty and lack of protection can become a long-standing impediment to a more rational and normal mode of functioning (as with the chronic state of terror that pervades totalitarian dictatorships).

To understand why a threat of physical force can be just as destructive (in principle) as an actual use of physical force, a good place to begin is with an identification of why the actual use is damaging. The possibility of a threat in advance of an actual use is just a natural extension (or beginning) of the evil of actually initiating physical force against others. For all practical purposes, a credible threat to initiate physical force is the same in principle as actually using the force, except for a possible difference in the degree of damage actually done to the victim (just as there are differing degrees of damage from various actual uses of physical force).

In The Ayn Rand Letter, Vol. II No. 1 (October 9, 1972), Ayn Rand vividly concretizes what happens to individuals when a whole society drifts steadily away from reason and toward physical force. The article briefly describes a system of pure democracy (unlimited majority rule, as in many ancient Greek city-states), then describes today's system, in which:

... people are compressed into groups representing various interests -- and the government acts as arbiter and ruler, who listens to their clashing demands and enforces the will of those it deems to be representative of the public interest. These groups are not elected, they are formed informally, "spontaneously," "democratically," anyone is free to form them -- and to clamor demands for anything....

How do you adjust, to whom, and to what? The first thing to go is your future.... You have no way to plan ahead: if you try to save, you do not know which demands of which groups will eat up your savings in the form of new taxes and higher prices.... You used to plan your course in terms of years; the range of your concerns shrinks to one year, then to one month, and then to next payday: you can see nothing beyond but a blank void.

Strange things happen to a man without a future.... You do not know by what steps your attitude toward your neighbors has changed....

In rare moments, you wonder what has happened to your neighbors. They were decent people once -- you remember vaguely -- they did not act like wild packs scrambling to get at one another's throats (and pockets). You do not know how many of them are wondering the same thing about you. You only know that there was a time when the local bird watcher and the "problem-adolescent" and the poetry-club ladies and Ms. Fatso were of no danger to anyone, but now they are. Why were they better in the past? If someone answered: "Because they did not have a gun" -- you would not understand it.

You have come to believe that people are no good and that force is the only practical way to deal with them, since reason -- they all tell you -- has failed.

These paragraphs appear in Part I. The three-part article is titled, "A Nation's Unity."

answered Apr 11 '15 at 01:25

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

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Asked: Apr 08 '15 at 12:49

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Last updated: Apr 11 '15 at 01:25