Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

10 March 2015

The Context for the Prohibition Against Initiating the Use of Force

Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard: The Verdict After Fifty Years
By Nelson Hultberg
- See more at:
Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard: The Verdict After Fifty Years
By Nelson Hultberg
- See more at:
A talk given at Freedom Fest, Las Vegas, Nevada by Nelson Hultberg entitled Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard:  The Verdict After Fifty Years has appeared as an editorial in the Daily Bell.  He claims that Ayn Rand's principle that one should not initiate the use of force does imply, as Rothbard insisted, that she should have been an anarcho-capitalist as Rothbard was.  He goes on to call for Capitalism with a limited government as the Aristotelian mean and as the only system that could supply objective law.
Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard: The Verdict After Fifty Years

By Nelson Hultberg
- See more at:

This issue of are you for or against the initiated use of force is one of many in which context is critical. 

Ayn Rand basically accepted the American Principle that government was legitimate when its only function was to protect the equal, sovereign right of every individual to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. Such a limited government established a framework in society that then made it possible to live in such harmony with one another as individuals that the initiated use of force among ourselves could be and was forbidden.  Without this context, the most secure one can be in one's own liberty is to be the top dog after the fashion of the warring Barons of Medieval times.  Anarcho-capitalists claim otherwise, but in reality they are unable to provide any better system than that.  A society which cannot eliminate the initiated use of force among individuals by providing a framework with strong protections for individual rights will force almost everyone to give up benevolent regard for their fellow man because threats to one's freedom and safety may come from anywhere at any time.  The resulting society is one of constant suspicion and wariness.

Clearly, welfare and socialist societies make the government a rapacious initiator of the use of force. The problem of initiated use of force is not solved by the anarcho-capitalist model either.  Different voluntary law enforcement groups operating in the same territory will inevitably come to blows. The mean that Rand was trying to achieve was one in which there was one government in a territory, or more exactly one federally associated set of governments in one area, to eliminate the conflicts of anarcho-capitalism's competing governments with a government of such highly limited powers that they were only such as to allow the protection of everyone's individual rights. If you wish to frame this as a matter of seeking a mean, well she was doing just that. 

Given the great complexity and highly multivariate character of individuals, it is not possible to please everyone with the nature of a government. Given an understanding of that, the best approach is to form a minimal government according to the American Principle. Individuals are then allowed the maximum freedom in the private sector to associate and cooperate with one another in as many groupings as they may choose, so long as they do not initiate the use of force.

If 50 people in Iowa want to start a commune together, they are free to do so. If 10 people in Georgia want to worship a golden calf, they are free to do so. If 6 people in Maryland want to operate a material analysis laboratory, they are free to do so. If Joe and John wish to be a domestic couple in Oklahoma, they should be free to do so. If 120 people want to retrieve oil and gas from a shale oil formation in Pennsylvania, they should be free to do so. If 40 people in California wish to generate electric power using coal as a fuel, they should be free to do so as long as they are not creating too much smog, but without regard to CO2 emissions which have no proven harm to others. As far as disappointed socialists are concerned, they can do all they want in voluntary groups. The only limitation is that they cannot force someone to join their group and submit to their rule, because they are not allowed to initiate the use of force. 

If you want to minimize the use of force in a society and promote the ability of people to flourish and be secure in their lives, you cannot do better than this. This is exactly what Ayn Rand was aiming for. This is the way to minimize the initiated use of force. It is the only way to outlaw its use in any objective sense.


samantha said...

You begged the question with your presumption via coincidence of purported context for Rand supporting the non-aggression principle. That is you presumed limited government is the only way to support individual rights. But this is precisely the question, whether it truly is the only way or not. The issue deserves better treatment.

Charles R. Anderson, Ph.D. said...

Thank you for your comment Samantha.

First, I was interested in showing that Rand's and my support for a very limited government which only had the function of protecting individual rights then allows one to support the non-aggression principle in that context.

Is it true that I might have elaborated further on why Big Government and no government models or competing government models fail to support the principle of non-aggression? Undoubtedly. I have very extensively made the argument against Big Government many, many times on this blog.

I discuss no government models very little because 1) when you have Big Government and almost everyone supports that model, you will be very fortunate if you can convince people to change to a very limited government model and 2) I know of no reasonably workable no government model or competing government model except among a very small group of people who become essentially like a family that might be at all workable. As I did note here, there is a tendency for competing governments to come into conflict and I have never believed that arbitration between them was ever going to be practical. I cannot claim to have read all such schemes, but I have seen to little in the ones I have read to encourage me to pursue this line of development.