BROADLY SPEAKING, there are two opposing philosophies of human relationships. One commends that these relationships be in terms of peace and harmony. The other, while never overtly commended, operates by way of strife and violence. One is peaceful; the other unpeaceful.
When peace and harmony are adhered to, only willing exchange exists in the market place—the economics of reciprocity and practice of the Golden Rule. No special privilege is countenanced. All men are equal before the law, as before God. The life and the livelihood of a minority of one enjoys the same respect as the lives and livelihoods of majorities, for such rights are, as set forth in the Declaration of Independence, conceived to be an endowment of the Creator. Everyone is completely free to act creatively as his abilities and ambitions permit; no restraint in this respect—none whatsoever.
Abandon the ideal of peace and harmony and the only alternative is to embrace strife and violence, expressed ultimately as robbery and murder. Plunder, spoliation, special privilege, feathering one’s own nest at the expense of others, doing one’s own brand of good with the fruits of the labor of others—coercive, destructive, and unpeaceful schemes of all sorts—fall within the order of strife and violence.
Are we abandoning the ideal of peace and harmony and drifting into the practice of strife and violence as a way of life? That’s the question to be examined in this chapter—and answered in the affirmative.
At the outset, it is well to ask why so few people are seriously concerned about this trend. William James may have suggested the reason: “Now, there is a striking law over which few people seem to have pondered. It is this: That among all the differences which exist, the only ones that interest us strongly are those we do not take for granted.”1
Socialistic practices are now so ingrained in our thinking, so customary, so much a part of our mores, that we take them for granted. No longer do we ponder them; no longer do we even suspect that they are founded on strife and violence. Once a socialistic practice has been Americanized it becomes a member of the family so to speak and, as a consequence, is rarely suspected of any violent or evil taint. With so much socialism now taken for granted, we are inclined to think that only other countries condone and practice strife and violence—not us.
Who, for instance, ever thinks of TVA as founded on strife and violence? Or social security, federal urban renewal, public housing, foreign aid, farm and all other subsidies, the Post Office, rent control, other wage and price controls, all space projects other than for strictly defensive purposes, compulsory unionism, production controls, tariffs, and all other governmental protections against competition? Who ponders the fact that every one of these aspects of state socialism is an exemplification of strife and violence and that such practices are multiplying rapidly?
The word “violence,” as here used, refers to a particular kind of force. Customarily, the word is applied indiscriminately to two distinct kinds of force, each as different from the other as an olive branch differs from a gun. One is defensive or repellent force. The other is initiated or aggressive force. If someone were to initiate such an action as flying at you with a dagger, that would be an example of aggressive force. It is this kind of force I call strife or violence. The force you would employ to repel the violence I would call defensive force.
Try to think of a single instance where aggressive force—strife or violence—is morally warranted. There is none. Violence is morally insupportable!
Defensive force is never an initial action. It comes into play only secondarily, that is, as the antidote to aggressive force or violence. Any individual has a moral right to defend his life, the fruits of his labor (that which sustains his life), and his liberty—by demeanor, by persuasion, or with a club if necessary. Defensive force is morally warranted.
Moral rights are exclusively the attributes of individuals. They inhere in no collective, governmental or otherwise. Thus, political officialdom, in sound theory, can have no rights of action which do not pre-exist as rights in the individuals who organize government. To argue contrarily is to construct a theory no more tenable than the Divine Right of Kings. For, if the right to government action does not originate with the organizers of said government, from whence does it come?
As the individual has the moral right to defend his life and property—a right common to all individuals, a universal right—he is within his rights to delegate this right of defense to a societal organization. We have here the logical prescription for government’s limitation. It performs morally when it carries out the individual moral right of defense.
As the individual has no moral right to use aggressive force against another or others—a moral limitation common to all individuals—it follows that he cannot delegate that which he does not possess. Thus, his societal organization—government—has no moral right to aggress against another or others. To do so would be to employ strife or violence.
To repeat a point in the previous chapter, it is necessary to recognize that man’s energies manifest themselves either destructively or creatively, peacefully or violently. It is the function of government to inhibit and to penalize the destructive or violent manifestations of human energy. It is a malfunction to inhibit, to penalize, to interfere in any way whatsoever with the peaceful or creative or productive manifestations of human energy. To do so is clearly to aggress, that is, to take violent action.