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The conventional Objectivist argument against Anarchy is riddled with contradictions. The initiation of force by a Government upon a man who acts upon the need, Objectivists claim exists, for a Government, Objective Law, is such a contradiction. I am referring of course to competing courts, police, Government.

I have a very simple non-contradictory line of logic which disproves Anarchy.

  1. A free market can only exist in a free society.
  2. A free individual presupposes a force in place that protects his rights.
  3. A Government cannot freely function in a competitive market [of Governments] that presupposes the existence of the function of Government.

But it does not prove Objectivism.

It does not explain the morality of initiating force upon a man who acts in the protection of individual rights through Objective Law. Every attempt at explanation that I have read is contradictory in nature. Maybe someone here can break through.

This question is marked "community wiki".

asked Jun 13 '11 at 10:34

dreadrocksean's gravatar image


edited Jun 14 '11 at 13:36

can you give a reference for the conventional argument and the contradictions?

(Jun 13 '11 at 11:42) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

... and your final paragraph puzzles me: Objectivism holds that the initiation of force is never moral, period. See for example the section in Peikoff's book Objectivism which states and explains the principle: "The Initiation of Physical Force as Evil". There is nothing to "explain"/defend because this is nothing an Objectivist would endorse in the first place.

(Jun 13 '11 at 11:48) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg, if I erect a company that competes with an established governmental monopoly on the retaliatory use of force by doing the same while adhering to objective law, force will be initiated upon me.

(Jun 13 '11 at 11:54) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

You need to demonstrate that such is in fact an initiation of force; obviously it is a use of force, but that is not enough for your point. I can certainly throw the first punch in a fight without being the aggressor.

(Jun 13 '11 at 12:06) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Initiation of force includes its threat, yes. I am a billionaire. I introduce an independent court founded upon sound legal principles. I privately fund a string of jails and police stations all fully staffed and equipped. I even privately open colleges and training facilities offering majors in everything legal from Law to Police Enforcement to Forensics. My aim is to perfect the art and applications of the protection of individual rights such that none have ever seen. I offer scholarships to entice the most brilliant minds to the formation of just laws. Why will your government attack me?

(Jun 13 '11 at 12:25) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Your argument against anarchy begs the question. Premise 2, that a free society presupposes the existence of government, is exactly what an anarchist would deny.

(Jun 13 '11 at 18:46) Kyle Haight ♦ Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

I can't even understand your second sentence. It is too long and convoluted for me. When your third sentence says "of course" then you've totally lost me because you are implying that your second sentence is easily comprehensible as written. Perhaps some examples of "The initiation of force by a Government upon a man who acts upon the need for a Government" would help. I just don't know what you are talking about.

(Jun 14 '11 at 08:58) John Paquette ♦ John%20Paquette's gravatar image

John, your post comes across as petty and personal. Your criticism of my grammar is unfounded. This is a forum of reason and the same grammatical rules apply to that of a legal document. This is not a story writer's forum. Be that as it may, the insertion of "Objective Law" in my subject question, as the reason for Government, is pertinent and central to my point.

(Jun 14 '11 at 10:19) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Actually, John's criticism of your writing is not out of line: I struggle to understand you as well, and that sentence in particular is quite confused/confusing. It isn't necessarily petty and personal to let you know that we're having a hard time understanding you; it's an invitation for you to clarify things so that we can address what you really want to have addressed. I would take that as friendly, not hostile.

(Jun 14 '11 at 10:41) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

There is a difference between asking for clarification through the admittance of ignorance and direct criticism of my grammar. I defend it as I should. Should a French person accept John's type of criticism because John does not understand French well enough to comprehend what he chose to reply to? I do not want to make this into an English Grammar debate, which I am perfectly capable of taking on. So please drop it and I will in return.

(Jun 14 '11 at 11:58) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

It is also not unusual to be be met with this type of response whenever the Monopoly of Government Retaliation is questioned. But please understand what I was CLEAR about. I am not challenging that Anarchy should prevail [I have already proven its immorality- without rational dispute to date]. I am challenging the contradictory defense of the monopolistic approach as posted in this forum and other sources. Saying that you 'feel' or 'believe' that it would end in chaos is not proof. We should all want something more solid to stand up on in armed guard of our vision.

(Jun 14 '11 at 12:03) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

dreadrocksean, are you taking offense that someone might try to help you appreciate that you, in fact, did not write well enough to be understood? If so, then that seems counterproductive: not only do you forego an opportunity to improve your clarity when it really can be improved, but you also drive away those who would otherwise be happy to provide you the information you seek.

(Jun 14 '11 at 13:01) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

And again I would repeat my first comment: can you please provide the the "conventional Objectivist argument against Anarchy" you have found to be so troubled, so we can appreciate the troubles you see in it?

(Jun 14 '11 at 13:06) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Greg, I was clear in what I took offense to. Read 'There is a difference...'.
To be even clearer - 'dreadrocksean, I am having difficulty understanding what you wrote. Could you blah blah...' is acceptable. Accusing me of bad grammar (convoluted, not easily comprehensible and the deleted 'run-on sentence' accusation) is not. My aim is to be understood. The moderaters of this board tend to be advanced in their use of English so I did not assume the need to dumb down. Ayn Rand's is advanced reading tending to legal documents in her construction. I am in an Ayn Rand forum.

(Jun 14 '11 at 13:12) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

And I would repeat my comment about your closing: There is nothing to defend or explain because that is NOT an Objectivist position; Objectivists are 100% against the initiation of force, period. If you think you have identified a use of force which is both endorsed by Objectivism and an initiation of force, then you need to demonstrate that, not just smuggle it in as an assumption.

(Jun 14 '11 at 13:14) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

And Greg, are you implying that my being misunderstood is proof of some fact that I did not write 'well enough'?

(Jun 14 '11 at 13:15) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

I have not forgotten your 1st request. I apologize for the delay in gathering the most concise information to lay for my case. Your request is reasonable.

(Jun 14 '11 at 13:18) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

You see, therein lies the contradiction. It indeed is NOT an Objectivist position. So why position yourself there? It is no less a retaliation when a competing government applies force to a criminal (the initiator of the force), providing that they observe objective law, than when a monopolistic government does the same.

(Jun 14 '11 at 13:25) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Dreadrocksean, sure, there is a difference: John didn't merely say he couldn't understand you -- he happened to have the skill to identify why you were hard to understand. And he was right. Please explain what is so offensive about his going to the trouble of pointing out a fact you didn't know, and that would even help you achieve your ends. I am especially curious because you seem more than happy to engage in the same practice with others here.

(Jun 14 '11 at 14:02) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image

Well then you obviously have no problem deviating from the subject and I will require exactly what you require of me: Proof and not mere assumptions; in this particular case, for the following: 1/ What is the fact that I 'did not know'? 2/ Why was I 'hard to understand'? 3/ What was he 'right' about? 4/ Does it point to an objective grammatical fault of mine?

(Jun 14 '11 at 14:08) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

I will also add that if this is a RANDIAN movement, I will remove myself. If this is a forum upholding the rational discussion of Objectivist Principles regardless of Ayn Rand's personal behaviour, then I will remain as long as you will have me.
Please let me know as soon as possible.

(Jun 14 '11 at 14:11) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

Dreadrocksean: Again, OA is not a discussion forum. It is a Q&A site where anyone (like you) is welcome to ask questions of Objectivists. I have so far shrugged your various antics off as matters of style and ongoing personal development. However, to now suggest that the difficulties you have felt here are a result of others' irrational fealty to a person rather than to reality would be deeply unjust, unwarranted psychologizing. That can't be shrugged off, and you are hereby suspended pending satisfactory resolution of the matter in email. Please write to admin@objectivistanswers.com.

(Jun 14 '11 at 15:58) Greg Perkins ♦♦ Greg%20Perkins's gravatar image
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No, government is not contradictory to Objectivist principles. The Objectivist politics is very clear on the need for government as the protector of individual rights, and on the rejection of anarchy. Now, the Objectivist position on this issue may be internally contradictory or otherwise wrong -- although I don't think it is -- but were that the case it would mean that Objectivism is wrong, not that anarchy is compatible with Objectivism.

Your stated argument against anarchy begs the question. Premise 2, that a free society presupposes the existence of government, is exactly what an anarchist would deny. If you want to disprove anarchy you need to try to concretize its operations, not deduce from abstractions.

Now let's consider the case you provide in the comments: a billionaire sets up his own system of courts, laws, police, and jails. Stipulate that the laws in his system are rights-protecting. What's wrong with this? Consider the possible responses a government might take to such a situation.

The government also has an obligation to protect rights, and it can't simply take the billionaire's word that his parallel legal system is rights-protecting across the board. It has to apply its own judgment, and once applied that judgment has to be enforced. In other words, the billionaire's legal system has to be integrated with the government's legal system. If that's done, though, you aren't talking about anarchy any more because the government remains the final arbiter of the use of retaliatory force. The billionaire's courts and laws look like binding arbitration. His police are private security guards. His jails only house people who have ultimately violated some law as judged by the government. (We have privately-run prisons in the United States today.) And all of the employees in the parallel legal system, and all of its operations, have to be compliant with the requirements of the law as applied by the government.

The other possibility is that the government abdicates its role as final arbiter. It does not assess the rights-respecting nature of the parallel legal system and it does not integrate its operations under the aegis of government law. In this situation you do have anarchy, but you don't have stability. There is nothing to prevent another person from setting up a third legal system, or a fourth, or a hundredth, and there is certainly nothing to guarantee that all such additional legal systems are themselves rights-respecting. With no final arbiter you wind up collapsing into gang warfare, which benefits nobody.

It is the rejection of the government as final arbiter over whether a particular act constitutes the initiation of force that is the essence of anarchy. If your hypothetical billionaire accepts the government's role as final arbiter then he has done nothing wrong and the government should not act against him -- but he isn't an anarchist. If he rejects the government's role as final arbiter then he is asserting that the government's law does not apply to him, and that he will by implication resist its application by force in the event of a disagreement. That's a recipe for civil war.

answered Jun 13 '11 at 19:19

Kyle%20Haight's gravatar image

Kyle Haight ♦

How does it beg the question? There is only one way that an individual or a group of them (society) can be free - that is if their rights are protected. Who is providing that protection? There are only 2 options. 1/ Government and 2/ Multiple Governments. The 'Multiple Government' option is in itself a competitive market but is it free? No, and precisely because of my 3 points that you call 'begging the question'. There is no circular logic involved. Your deduction (civil war) is arbitrarily based on your own subjective opinion. Actually that is more prone to an Anarchist's attack.

(Jun 13 '11 at 21:12) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

An excellent overview of the Objectivist understanding and rejection of "competing governments" is contained in The Ayn Rand Lexicon under the topic of "Anarchism." A key issue is whether or not the alleged government "holds the exclusive power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area." The question (and some of the questioner's follow-up comments) seem to suggest that the proposed "competing government" does have such a geographical monopoly, which it strives to enforce. In that case, such a government is not so very different from the Objectivist view of government and how governments arise. In the world today, for example, there is a government in the U.S., another government in Britain, and so on. Each of these governments has a monopoly on the retaliatory use of physical force within its own designated geographical region.

That is not the Objectivist understanding of "competing governments," however. Refer to the "Anarchism" topic in the Lexicon for further details. The key excerpt in that topic comes from Ayn Rand's article on "The Nature of Government," republished in both VOS and CUI.

To clarify the issue of geographical monopoly still further, the question seems to assume that a new government is formed within the territory of an existing government. What happens, then, if someone else decides to start a third government within the territory covered by the second government? "Competing governments," as understood by Objectivism, refers to a situation where "government services" (i.e., physical force in self-defense) are available from different "providers" on an individual-by-individual basis within the same geographical territory. Next door neighbors might be patrons of different "governments," with no territorial monopoly by any government. Objectivism asks, quite rightly, how that could ever be any different from anarchy. How does an arnarchy of individuals become any less anarchical when the individuals affiliate together in groups? The model for that actually already exists in the world today, but it's called "gangs" rather than "competing governments."

If the "groups" are not "gangs" because they follow objective principles, who or what assures and enforces that? The question hypothesizes that the "competing governments" would follow rational principles of rights protection and objective law. But how can a dispute between patrons of different governments be resolved without some higher governmental authority to adjudicate it? Which government would adjudicate the issue, when one government tries to apply retaliatory physical force against a patron of another government? Would it not become a conflict between two governments in such a case? (In the world today, in conflicts between citizens of different countries, there are often treaties between the different governments to establish some semblance of reasonable order, along with the factor of where the dispute is arising, i.e., in which government's territory.)

The Objectivist analysis of "competing governments" also points out that the retaliatory use of physical force is not an economic "service," like utilities and supermarkets and the like. The threat of depriving someone of his life, liberty or property is not an issue of voluntary trade at all. It is a necessary response to the initiation of physical force against others, and the initiation of physical force inherently nullifies a person's freedom to engage in production and trade. Mind and force are opposites, inherently so.


In the original question (and echoed again in a comment), the questioner presents a three-point "line of logic" and then states that "it does not prove Objectivism. It does not explain the morality of initiating force upon a man who acts in the protection of individual rights through Objective Law."

Evidently the questioner is seeking (in part, at least) further explanation of the foundation of Objectivist politics and its link to morality. Although the questioner's liberty to participate in this forum has been suspended, as Greg explains in one of the comments, it appears that others may still be interested in this issue.

My original answer refers to the topic of "Anarchism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, which definitely should be studied in detail for an understanding of the Objectivist view of "competing governments." In addition to that topic, anyone who is interested should also consult the topics of "Physical Force" and "Government" in the Lexicon. These topics provide an excellent overview of the Objectivist politics, from its moral foundations to the nature of a proper government. I have not seen any agrumentation from the questioner or others so far that addresses the actual Objectivist positions as explained in those references, and the specific situations that those references cite as needing clarification by proponents of "competing governments."

The foundation of Objectivist politics, as I understand it, can be summarized as follows. Objectivism looks at reality, which includes man. Objectivism looks at man, who must act in order to survive and who cannot act without using his rational faculty to acquire knowledge of reality and to define a course of action. Objectivism concludes that man survives by production guided by reason, and by voluntary trade with other rational producers (if any) who are willing and able to trade. From the facts of reality, Objectivism identifies man's life as the essential standard of value for man, with reason as man's means of implementing that standard, and with his own life and happiness as the only moral purpose of his actions. Objectivism observes that some men may attempt to survive by initiating physical force against others, and that physical force inherently paralyzes a rational mind, endangering the life of the victim. Objectivism concludes that the initiation of physical force against others is evil and must be banned from human existence. Objectivism recognizes that retaliatory physical force is the only way to do this, when someone does initiate physical force against others. The initiation of physical force must be stopped by retaliatory force. Objectivism further recognizes that even the purely retaliatory use of physical force cannot be left in the hands of individuals, but must be placed under the objective control of a proper government.

The questioner claims to accept the view that the retaliatory use of physical force (i.e., force in self-defense) cannot be left in the hands of individuals. The questioner claims to agree that the retaliatory use of physical force must be placed under objective control by a proper government. The main point of dispute is over whether the "government" has to be one or many. But the question doesn't attempt to specify how many individuals it takes to form a valid "government," who decides how many it takes, who decides what principles each "competing government" will follow, who enforces those principles, what happens when a citizen of one "competing government" comes into conflict with a citizen of another, how often and under what circumstances an individual may change the "government" with which he is affiliated, who enforces the rules of "government selection" by individuals as well as the rules of government formation in general, and so on.

Objectivism does not take "freedom" as an axiomatic primary. In Objectivism, man's need for freedom derives from facts of reality, which also define and delimit the kind of freedom that man needs. To live, man needs freedom of productive action, freedom to engage in voluntary trade with willing trading partners, freedom of action in a social context, freedom from the initiation of physical force by others. Physical force, in turn, is fundamentally different from rational production and trade. Physical force is the destruction of production and trade; it is purely destructive, not creative. Even physical force in retaliation against initiators is destructive; it destroys the destroyers. Individuals and trading enterprises certainly can trade with others to provide security services and bodyguards, but any use of physical force by such service providers still must come under the objective control of a government. To be consistent, understandable, and predictable, the government must be one, not many independent "governmental forces" competing with one another -- "competing" by force, with no central authority.

If there is an implicit concern that a one-government approach carries too much risk of becoming oppressive, the concern is certainly well founded. That is precisely why America's Founding Fathers went to such great lengths to create a constitution-based system of checks and balances (and why multiple governments on the worldwide scale may indeed be preferable to a single world government). There were a few flaws in the underlying philosophy of America's Founders, which Objectivist political theory identifies and seeks to rectify. But abandoning the principle of a single central government in favor of anarchy (i.e., no central government) solves nothing. This view of government conforms to reality; it does not contradict reality, nor does it contradict a rational code of morality based on reality.

(There is also a strong element of "rationalism" in the question -- treating logic as a floating axiom. But logic is based on reality, too. Refer to the topic of "Rationalism vs. Empiricism" in The Ayn Rand Lexicon for a very brief overview. Subsequent writings and lectures by Leonard Peikoff have elaborated further, such as his article, "The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy" in ITOE 2nd Ed., in the section titled "Logic and Experience.")

answered Jun 13 '11 at 22:59

Ideas%20for%20Life's gravatar image

Ideas for Life ♦

edited Jun 16 '11 at 00:51

Paragraph 1 - I am not interested in what is, wrt today's existing politics.
Paragraph 3 - The word 'Anarchy' means 'without a ruler'. It does not mean chaos. Therefore, simply pointing to Anarchy as an argument's logical end is meaningless.
Paragraph 4 - Much more to the point but only subjectively claims disorder. My proof shows that, objectively, the competition is not guaranteed to be forceless in battle since that guarantee is what is being competed for in the first place.

I am an advocate for Objectivist Politics. I was not always one. But I view its proof as incomplete.

(Jun 14 '11 at 12:24) dreadrocksean dreadrocksean's gravatar image

If neighbors subscribed to different, competing governments, the territorial monopoly of each would not necessarily overlap.

(Jun 15 '11 at 14:26) anthony anthony's gravatar image

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Asked: Jun 13 '11 at 10:34

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Last updated: Jun 16 '11 at 00:51