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What is the
Basic Issue in the World Today? -- Part 2 of 3
by Ayn Rand
annotated by FM Duck
Feb 02, 2011
"7. How do
we determine that a right has been violated?"
"8. What is
the proper function of government?"
there be a "mixed" social system?"
"10. Can a
society exist without a moral principle?"
7. How Do We Determine That a Right Has Been Violated?
A right cannot be violated except by physical force. One man cannot deprive
another of his life nor enslave him, nor forbid him to pursue happiness,
except by using force against him. Whenever a man is made to act without his
own free, personal, individual,
his right has been violated.
Therefore, we can draw a clear-cut division between the rights of one man
and those of another. It is an
division, not subject to differences of opinion, nor to majority decision,
nor to the arbitrary decree of society.
NO MAN HAS THE RIGHT TO INITIATE THE USE OF PHYSICAL FORCE AGAINST ANOTHER
The practical rule of conduct in a free society, a society of Individualism,
is simple and clear-cut: you cannot expect or demand any action from another
man, except through his free, voluntary consent.
Do not be misled on this point by an old collectivist trick which goes like
this: (1) There is no absolute freedom anyway, since you are not free to
murder, (2) society limits your freedom when it does not permit you to kill,
(3) therefore, society holds the right to limit your freedom in any manner
it sees fit, (4) therefore, drop the delusion of freedom, and (5) freedom is
whatever society decides it is.
society, nor any social right, that forbids you to kill, but the inalienable
right of another man to live. This is not a "compromise" between two rights,
but a line of division that preserves both rights untouched. The division is
not derived from an edict of society, but from your own inalienable
individual right. The definition of this limit is not set arbitrarily by
society, but is implicit in the definition of your own right.
Within the sphere of your own rights, your freedom
8. What Is the Proper Function of Government?
The proper function of government is to protect the individual rights of
man; this means to protect man against brute force.
In a proper social system, men do not use force against one another. Force
may be used only in
that is, in defense of a right violated by force. Men
delegate to the government
the power to use force in retaliation, and
The proper kind of government
initiate the use of force. It uses force
to answer those who have initiated its use. For example when the government
arrests a criminal, it is not the government that violates a right; it is
the criminal who has violated a right and by doing so has placed himself
outside the principle of rights, where men can have no recourse against him
except through force.
Now it is important to remember that all actions defined as criminal in a
free society are actions involving force and only such actions are answered
Do not be misled by sloppy expressions such as, "A murderer commits a crime
against society." It is not society that a murderer murders, but an
individual man. It is not a social right that he breaks, but an individual
right. He is not punished for hurting a collective. He has not hurt a whole
collective, he has hurt one man. If a criminal robs ten men, it is still not
"society" that he has robbed, but ten individuals. There are no crimes
against society." All crimes are committed against specific men, against
individuals. And it is precisely the duty of a proper social system and of a
proper government to protect an individual against criminal attack, against
When, however, a government becomes an
initiator of force,
the injustice and moral corruption involved are truly unspeakable.
For example: When a Collectivist government orders a man to work and
attaches him to a job, under penalty of death or imprisonment, it is the
government that initiates the use of force. The man has done no violence to
anyone, but the government uses violence against him. There is no possible
justification for such a procedure in theory. And there is no possible
result in practice, except the blood and the terror which you can observe in
any Collectivist country.
[And that is why President Obama’s collectivist health care program,
ObamaCare, as well as many of his other socialist programs, must be
abolished: because they are improper uses of the power of government as
they initiate the use of force against individuals on the pretense of
enforcing a nonexistent (and contradictory) “right to receive” and
redistribute private property involuntarily from one individual to another.
This is a prime example of the creature, a government created by free
people, performing the very crimes that it was created to prohibit.]
The moral perversion involved is this: If men had no government and no
social system of any kind, they might have to exist through sheer force and
fight one another in any disagreement. In such a state, one man would have
a fair chance against one other man but he would have no chance against ten
others. It is not against
that a man needs protection, but
against a group.
Still, in such a state of anarchy, while any majority gang would have its
way, a minority could fight them by any means available. And the gang could
not make its rule last.
Collectivism goes a step below savage anarchy: it takes away from man even
the chance to fight back. It makes violence legal and resistance to it
illegal. It gives the sanction of law to the organized brute force of a
majority (or of anyone who claims to represent it) and turns the minority
into a helpless, disarmed object of extermination. If you can think of a
more vicious perversion of justice, name it.
In actual practice, when a Collectivist society violates the rights of a
minority (or of one single man), the result is that the majority loses its
rights as well, and finds itself delivered into the total power of a small
group that rules through sheer brute force.
If you want to understand and keep clearly in mind the
between the use of force as retaliation (as it is used by the government of
an Individualist society) and the use of force as primary policy (as it is
used by the government of a Collectivist society), here is the simplest
example of it: it is the same
as that between a man who kills in self-defense and a murderer. The proper
kind of government acts on the principle of man's self-defense. A
Collectivist government acts like a murderer.
9. Can There Be A "Mixed" Social System?
There can be no social system which is a mixture of Individualism and
Collectivism. Either individual rights are recognized in a society, or they
are not recognized. They cannot be half-recognized.
What frequently happens, however, is that a society based on Individualism
does not have the courage, integrity and intelligence to observe its own
principle consistently in every practical application. Through ignorance,
cowardice or mental sloppiness, such a society passes laws and accepts
regulations which contradict its basic principle and violate the rights of
man. To the extent of such violations, society perpetrates injustices, evils
and abuses. If the breaches are not corrected, society collapses into the
chaos of Collectivism.
[As it is currently happening in today’s government-created recession.]
When you see a society that recognizes man's rights in some of its laws, but
not in others, do not hail it as a "mixed" system and do not conclude that a
compromise between basic principles, opposed in theory, can be made to work
in practice. Such a society is not working, it is merely disintegrating.
Disintegration takes time. Nothing falls to pieces immediately, neither a
human body nor a human society.
10. Can A Society Exist Without a Moral Principle?
A great many people today hold the childish notion that society can do
anything it pleases, that principles are unnecessary, rights are only an
is the practical guide to action.
It is true that society
abandon moral principles and turn itself into a herd running amuck to
destruction. Just as it is true that a man
cut his own throat anytime he chooses. But a man
do this if he wishes to survive. And society
abandon moral principles if it expects to exist.
Society is a large number of men who live together in the same country, and
who deal with one another. Unless there is a defined, objective moral code,
which men understand and observe, they have no way of dealing with one
another since none can know what to expect from his neighbor. The man who
recognizes no morality is the criminal; you can do nothing when dealing with
a criminal, except try to crack his skull before he cracks yours. You have
no other language, no terms of behavior mutually accepted. To speak of a
society without moral principles is to advocate that men live together like
We are still observing, by tradition, so many moral precepts, that we take
them for granted and do not realize how many actions of our daily lives are
made possible only by moral principles. Why is it safe for you to go into a
crowded department store, make a purchase and come out again? The crowd
around you needs goods, too; the crowd could easily overpower the few
salesgirls, ransack the store and grab your packages and pocketbook as well.
Why don't they do it? There is nothing to stop them and nothing to protect
except the moral principle of your individual right of life and property.
[Note how this moral principle has broken down today, if it ever existed,
all across the various collectivist nations in Europe, riots in the streets
of Greece, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, France, and others as the people throw
rocks and bombs at the police, burn cars, and ransack stores to steal goods
as they scream that it is their redistributive “right to receive” the
private property of others. This is the mob rule of Collectivism in its
penultimate stage toward total collapse. This is what will soon happen in
America, too, if the collectivist policies of the current Progressive
Socialism of President Barack Obama are not stopped. The ultimate, of
course -- and highly predictable – is the gross spectacle of Collectivism
degenerating into a World War, as the biggest international gang tries to
grab power from all the other gangs created by today’s predominant
collectivist ideology. Meanwhile, the so-called Intellectuals who created
this Monstrosity of Collectivist Philosophy pretend they did not see it
coming; while the Pragmatists of Collectivism, mostly the central bankers,
are licking their chops at having dragged the Intellectuals down the path of
a World War to hoist the Intellectuals on their own collectivist swords.]
Do not make the mistake of thinking that crowds are restrained merely by
fear of policemen. There could not be enough policemen in the world if men
believed that it is proper and practical to loot. And if men believed this,
why shouldn't the policemen believe it, too? Who, then, would be the
Besides, in a Collectivist society, the policemen's duty is not to protect
your rights, but to violate them.
It would certainly be expedient for the crowd to loot the department store,
if we accept the expediency of the moment as a sound and proper rule of
action. But how many department stores, how many factories, farms or homes
would we have, and for how long, under this rule of expediency?
If we discard morality and substitute for it the collectivist doctrine of
unlimited majority rule, if we accept the idea that a majority may do
anything it pleases, and that anything done by a majority is right
it's done by a majority (this being the only standard of right and wrong),
how are men to apply this in practice to their actual lives? Who is the
majority? In relation to each particular man, all other men are potential
members of that majority which may destroy him at its pleasure at any
moment. Then each man and all men become enemies; each has to fear and
suspect all; each must try to rob and murder first, before he is robbed and
If you think that this is just abstract theory, take a look at Europe for a
practical demonstration. In Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany, private citizens
did the foulest work of the G.P.U. and the Gestapo, spying on one another,
delivering their own relatives and friends to the secret police and the
was the result in practice of Collectivism in theory.
was the concrete application of that empty, vicious Collectivist slogan
which seems so high-sounding to the unthinking, "The public good comes above
any individual rights."
[Listen carefully to today’s politicians, especially the left Liberal
Progressives in President Obama’s administration. ObamaCare is the
pragmatic demonstration of Collectivism in theory. You – and the concept of
Individualism -- are the targeted victims of Obama’s collectivist power
grab. It was not for your health care that President Obama and his
collectivist thugs rammed national socialist health care through the back
doors of Congress; it was for power over you and the power to destroy what’s
left in America of the moral principle of Individualism. Wake up,
Americans. ObamaCare is not about content; it’s about format. Create the
collectivist format, the structure, so Obama can destroy the Individualist
content of a private free market health care system. That’s why Obama’s
2,700-page bill had no rational, decipherable individual content; it was the
collectivist format they wanted. They will strip you of your individual
rights later, using their collectivist structure.]
individual rights, no public good is possible.
Collectivism, which places the group above the individual and tells men to
sacrifice their rights for the sake of their brothers, results in a state
where men have no choice but to dread, hate and destroy their brothers.
Peace, security, prosperity, co-operation and good will among men -- all
those things considered socially desirable -- are possible only under a
system of Individualism, where each man is safe in the exercise of his
individual rights and in the knowledge that society is there to
to destroy them. Then each man knows what he may or may not do to his
neighbors, and what his neighbors (one or a million of them) may or may not
do to him. Then he is free to deal with them as a friend and an equal.
Without a moral code no proper human society is possible.
Without the recognition of individual rights no moral code is possible.
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