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One aspect of anarchism that is appealing at least on a superficial level, is defending oneself. I am going to mention the author Lee Childs and The movie, "Death Wish."

Most people say they would take the law into their own hands if no law was available. For example, if they were lost on a desert island they would take care of themselves, but would defer to legal authorities if protection and recourse were available. I agree that it is moral to defend oneself when the law is not around. Self preservation necessitates that we counter violence to ourselves, our family or to our property in an emergency, even if it means we personally harm the wrong doer. I also think it is moral to defend a stranger from violence, in an emergency.

Some people have mentioned a preference for justice in the style of The Old West, as part of the right to bear arms. An excellent writer who depicts a person very ready, willing, and able to take the law into his own hands, is Lee Child.

Lee Child also thinks it is moral to counter violence to a stranger, in an emergency, but what makes his hero, Jack Reacher so compelling is the difference between him and an average citizen. All of us might stop a bullying child from harming another child. An average citizen might stop an injustice to another if he felt no threat to himself, but what if there were a threat to you if you interfered? How far would you go to defend yourself or someone else if you might be harmed? Isn’t it personal fear that stops us from acting in an emergency, rather than our belief in putting the use of force into the hands of legitimate authority? How brave are you?

The hero, in all of Child’s books, is a former military policeman, who sees no necessity in calling 911. His father was a career officer in the Army and his older brother became a Secret Service Agent in charge of anti-counterfeiting. In a style reminiscent of Donald Hamilton, Mickey Spillane, and Ian Fleming, Child’s hero is always morally right before he acts.

Child brings up some other issues that dramatize those difficult gray areas between justice, the law and vengeance. His hero is in the romantic tradition of the old west but the books are set in modern times. I highly recommend them all.

The Death Wish novels and the first movie.

Did the cop look the other way because hauling Paul Kersey into the station would have been bad PR for the city of New York . . . or for some other reason?

If I remember the acting premise, from the ORIGINAL police responder, not his boss, bad PR had nothing to do with his turning away, but ‘justice did.’ The first responding cop’s superior did mention bad PR to my recollection, as his justification for not prosecuting. He may just have been a tough cop who may have been secretly applauding Kersey’s actions, but was acting correctly within a hierarchical military organization, by warning Kersey to get out of town.

Now a really tough question which takes days to thrash through is why the perp’s rights weren’t violated. The short version is that

An Objectivist Government has a monopoly over the retaliatory use of force conferred upon it by the consent of the governed. It permits various jurisdictional agencies within its territory, as long as those agencies uphold the Constitution guaranteeing individual rights. It was an emergency. The cop and Kersey were positive of the guilt of the perp. Kersey then had the status of a jurisdictional agent within the territory of New York City.

For our discussion, the key portions of Rand’s short list as to what is an Objective Government is:

‘It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and ‘no man may initiate the use of physical force against others’. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force ‘only’ in retaliation and ‘only’ against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders.’

End quote

To reiterate, my case would be that the policeman was protecting all individual rights. In this emergency situation Kersey was using retaliatory force against a criminal, who had forfeited his rights. Kersey was acting as an agent of the police. The policeman was protecting Kersey’s rights.

My argument could use some refinement.

Tangentially, if a brutal, confessed murderer is convicted and sent to prison, where he is then killed by another inmate, but there are no witnesses and little evidence, then how hard is The State going to look for the executioner?

There are a lot of tough areas to discuss.

Semper cogitans fidele,

Live long and prosper,

Peter Taylor

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I know nothing about Death Wish beyond its being a Charles Bronson movie and a cultural icon of sorts. (More on that in a different topic.)

Based on the glowing review in The New Individualist, I read four Lee Childs "Jack Reacher" novels. I must have had a lot of time on my hands, because after the fourth one, I wondered why I read the first. Lee Childs himself is interesting. As far as I know, like Tom Clancy and many others, he has no actual experience in law enforcement or the military, or in his case, both at once. I mention that because the technical aspects of the books were their strongest points. The character of Jack Reacher is compelling in a quirky way. He owns nothing. He wears his clothes for a few days, then discards them and buys new ones. (Well, the order of operations is to buy new ones, then discard the old ones, of course.) He does not own a car, or a cell phone. He pays cash for everything. Within the stories, I liked the descriptions of the stalking and hunting, the dodging and weaving. The technical details of the chase and take-down were the selling features for me. And, yes, as the stories as told, the bad guys are evil and Jack kills them all to avenge his friends.

That said...

I point to Stuart Hayashi's "Argument from Arbitrary Metaphysics" on this board, among other sites. On one of those other boards, I wrote about the Radioactive Octopus: "What if you were walking down the street, and a giant radioactive octopus burst through the pavement and grabbed innocent bystanders in its tentacles?" Stuart was more nuanced in his presentation.

I believe that violence is the last resort of the incompetent. I say that as a security professional, a degreed criminologist. Sometimes, it happens that your only "out" is direct and destructive of a threat. It remains a limitation from incompetence. With more time or a better perspective or other tools, a different result could have been engaged. You were caught short and the consequences befall the initial violator. What happens to the perpetrator is just. The problem is what happens to you.

When you are violent, you injure yourself.

The problem with fictional characters like Jack Reacher is that they are not real people. They have only the depth of character needed to move through the action of a novel. Of course, all characters are limited or enabled by the author. A good common set of examples are the novels of Robert Heinlein, which many libertarians know. As Heinlein matured, so did the people in the books. Considering the works of Ayn Rand, Howard Roark's psychology was not as well developed as Hank Rearden's for example. Writing deeper than you are may be impossible. In any case, Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, Jack Riley and Jack Reacher are never affected by their acts or by the actions around them.

Therefore, rather than arguing real world philosophy from fiction, I suggest that we argue from the real world.

The first questions would be: How did you get into this mess? Why are you forced to react violently? Is this situation one that could have been avoided?

Edited by Michael E. Marotta
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