Anarchists contend that the Objectivist conception of government -- and its monopoly on the retaliatory use of physical force -- contradicts itself by disallowing the formation of competing agencies in which a private organization seeks to establish its own legal system.
This is encapsulated by Roy Childs Jr. in his article An Open Letter to Ayn Rand where he makes the following argument:
Why is Childs's argument false?
In a previous question, Kyle Haight points out (and I believe rightly so) that when a government "abdicates its role as final arbiter [...] [t]here 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." Mr. Haight's answer certainly points out the impracticality of anarchism, but only tangentially speaks towards its moral failing (which is not meant to be a criticism of Mr. Haight given the broader context of the previous question). Moreover, the Ayn Rand Lexicon entry on Anarchism discussing "competing governments" does much the same. This question seeks to focus more on the moral deficiencies of anarchism.
Doesn't the flaw in the anarchist augment reside in its conception of force and its wrongful initiation, perhaps derived from their belief that the non-initiation of force principle is axiomatic?
For future reference, as a concise answer to the original question as asked, I would like to call attention to the following exchange that occurred in the comments, and expand on it a little.
First, a comment by the questioner:
Childs's criticism simply states that in barring the use of retalitory force, a government is itself initating force. Why is he wrong?
And the response by John:
He's wrong because his view of the initiation of force is concrete-bound. To mount a threat, in the form of an alternative police force, is to initiate force against citizens who are to be protected by the standing police force. The mere claim to be a just government is not sufficient to permit the organization of a police force.
Normally a proper government, as I understand it, would not act against a group who decide to function as a private policing agency until and unless the private agency begins to use physical force (or credibly threatens to do so) without being affiliated with the existing government in any way. The government's intervention in that case is not an initiation of physical force, but only a response to the use of physical force by others.
To further clarify this point, suppose an attacker (A) initiates the use of physical force against a victim (V); V hires private security firm (B) to use physical force on behalf of V against A, in retaliation for the attack by A; then government (G) intervenes and uses physical force against B in response to B's use of physical force against A. Is G then guilty of initiation of physical force against B, thereby making G's use of force immoral?
First, note that G did not start the use of physical force in this scenario. G's use of physical force is entirely a response to the prior use of physical force by B (and A). G's use of force is a retaliation, not an initiation. Recall Ayn Rand's emphasis in Galt's Speech:
Whatever may be open to disagreement, there is one act of evil that may not, the act that no man may commit against others and no man may sanction or forgive. So long as men desire to live together, no man may initiate -- do you hear me? no man may start -- the use of physical force against others.
Note Ayn Rand's italicized emphasis on "initiate" and "start" here. To initiate just means to start. When a government (G) acts against agency B (and against attacker "A" as well), G is not starting the use of physical force. G is actually ending it.
Speaking of "A", does G in this scenario act against A in any manner? If not, then G is effectively aiding and abetting A, which makes G an accessory to A's attack. In that case, G is as guilty of wrongdoing as A is.
A proper government would act against both A and B. That, in turn, would make any use of physical force by B largely unnecessary. If there is some practical reason why G would need help from B to use physical force in retaliation against A, it could be done by making B an agent of G, subject to proper supervision and restraint by G. That is effectively the system we have today, with private security agencies operating under close governmental supervision, often even being authorized to carry guns and to use them under specific, well-defined conditions enforced by the government.
Thus, I concur with John that the answer to the Roy Childs argument is that G's use of force against B normally would not qualify as an initiation of physical force, since G did not start it. But if G fails to act against A at the same time, then G becomes a de facto accomplice of A and shares A's moral status as a wrongdoer.
To repeat, a proper government does not use physical force against B unless or until B has actually started to use physical force, or has built up enough of an arsenal of weapons and ammunition with corresponding indications of intent to use them. There are many private investigative agencies today, for example, that are free to investigate within the limits of the law, but are not agents of government and have no police authority -- no authority to compel witnesses to give evidence, no power to arrest anyone (other than the ordinary power of "citizen's arrest" that every citizen has), no power to obtain search warrants and conduct searches, and so on. The government does not act against such agencies until they go beyond the bounds of any authorization they may have from the government in using physical force.
answered Mar 12 '12 at 03:55
Ideas for Life ♦
Say you have two legal systems, A and B, with the same jurisdiction. If, under system A, a given act is punishable, but under system B, the same act is NOT punishable, then if I commit said act, system A would aim to punish me, whilst B would seek to punish the agents of system A for attempting to punish me.
The obvious result would be warring gangs of cops, with no higher authority to settle the dispute.
This is why government, as such, must be unified and hold a monopoly on the legal use of retaliatory force.
It's not that it is morally wrong to attempt to be an agent of the defense of individual rights. It's that if more than one agency considers itself authorized to use physical force to achieve its ends, conflicts will arise which will, of necessity, be settled by force.
It's hard enough having one government. Two governments means two sets of laws you must follow -- two sets of potential thugs you must keep on the good side of, and no guarantee that if you succeed in creating positive change in one of the governments, that it will be government that has the most power to affect your life.
Government must codify and execute the rule of law. If you don't like those laws, you cannot set up your own government that follows different laws. One set of laws means one government.
If instead, you are talking about competing police forces which are somehow magically able to stay out of each other's way, and who are somehow able to both magically follow one book of law which makes them never run afoul of each other, and which appeal to a single legal authority for trying criminals, then perhaps it could work. But the sum of all of this would still be one government.
Governments, of necessity, rule over everyone in a particular jurisdiction. There can't be two governments because it is logically impossible for them to rule over each other.
answered Feb 28 '12 at 19:15
John Paquette ♦