Quote of the day—Ayn Rand

Remember that rights are moral principles which define and protect a man’s freedom of action, but impose no obligations on other men. Private citizens are not a threat to one another’s rights or freedom. A private citizen who resorts to physical force and violates the rights of others is a criminal — and men have legal protection against him.

Criminals are a small minority in any age or country. And the harm they have done to mankind is infinitesimal when compared to the horrors — the bloodshed, the wars, the persecutions, the confiscations, the famines, the enslavements, the wholesale destructions — perpetrated by mankind’s governments. Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims. When unlimited and unrestricted by individual rights, a government is men’s deadliest enemy. It is not as protection against private actions, but against governmental actions that the Bill of Rights was written.

Ayn Rand
1963
POV: Man’s Rights; The Nature of Government
[Via email from Stephanie.—Joe]

7 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Ayn Rand

  1. Rand is of course entirely correct, as far as she goes. Devoid of the acknowledgement of any higher law than Man’s law, she makes the curious distinction between “criminals” on one hand and “government” on the other.

    The true distinction is between criminals, whether individual or organized, and the law upholders. Rand cannot make that distinction because, as she puts it, the worst of the organized criminals are “legal”.

    She comes right up to the issue, but cannot address it;

    6. You shall not kill.
    7. You shall not commit adultery.
    8. You shall not steal.
    9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
    10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house, you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is your neighbor’s.

    Those last five deal with our relationship with one another, whereas the first five deal with the acknowledgement of the Authority which made the law. Without that authority it all falls down into tortured reasoning and rationalizations, and denial. It is without that superior Authority that Rand must distinguish between “criminals” and “legal” government. She can’t acknowledge the actual law.

      • Apparently, this was a deliberate mistranslation by the church, in an attempt to maintain control of the people by the church and the secular government. That bit of political bullshit has been causing trouble ever since.

      • Neil Smith has a helpful answer, his “zero-aggression principle”. Rules such as “thou shalt not murder” and “thou shalt not steal” follow directly from that.
        He explains it as “the only principle by which carnivores can safely interact with each other”.

    • You have not improved the argument by asserting those five commandments are fundamental truths. You only moved the argument to a deeper level. You now have to defend against the claim God didn’t really give those commandments and against the argument there are no such things as gods.

      In effect you have made a relatively simple claim of fundamental principles into a much more complex, and hence more likely to have weak links, argument.

  2. I forget the Swiss Canton in which this occurs, but every year there is a meeting of every voter in the canton in a town square and some decisions are voted on that the citizens do not believe should be delegated to the council and other administrators.
    The citizens bring swords to symbolize their reservation of power over their elected representatives. Not only do the citizens vote, but the representatives make speeches to persuade the vote, and as immediate and direct feedback as to the popularity of what the representatives say, the swords are bounced on the ground to remind them of this reserved power.
    This system has much to recommend it even here, in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

    • Appenzell Inner Rhoden.
      Glarus also has the canton meeting (“Landsgemeinde”) but apparently not the rule that all male citizens must be armed.

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