Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Life, Liberty, and Property, or Individual Rights and the Use of Defensive Force

We hold from God the gift which includes all others. This gift is life — physical, intellectual, and moral life.

But life cannot maintain itself alone. The Creator of life has entrusted us with the responsibility of preserving, developing, and perfecting it. In order that we may accomplish this, He has provided us with a collection of marvelous faculties. And He has put us in the midst of a variety of natural resources. By the application of our faculties to these natural resources we convert them into products, and use them. This process is necessary in order that life may run its appointed course.

Life, faculties, production — in other words, individuality, liberty, property — this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts from God precede all human legislation, and are superior to it. Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.

What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all. [emphasis added]

Frederic Bastiat, The Law, 1850

I believe Bastiat would tell you himself that these are not necessarily his own original ideas, but a true reflection by careful observation of the proper state of individual men in the world.

Do you still believe the collective right is superior to the individual right? That I do not have a right, save with permission from nine other humans who wear black robes, to own or posses the tools necessary to defend my life, the lives of my family and friends, and my own property? That those same black robed men have the right to disarm me simply by expressing their wish to do so? That I should be an unarmed and willing victim to whomever wishes to harm or rob me? That I should sacrifice myself to your greater good in order to make others feel safe?

Tell me truly. You may even comment anonymously. I promise not to make fun of you.

Friday, January 14, 2011

In Defense of Self Defense and the Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms, Part II

The state of war is a state of enmity and destruction: and therefore declaring by word or action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled design upon another man’s life, puts him in a state of war with him against whom he has declared such an intention, and so has exposed his life to the other’s power to be taken away by him, or any one that joins with him in his defence, and espouses his quarrel; it being reasonable and just, I should have a right to destroy that which threatens me with destruction: for, by the fundamental law of nature, man being to be preserved as much as possible, when all cannot be preserved, the safety of the innocent is to be preferred: and one may destroy a man who makes war upon him, or has discovered an enmity to his being, for the same reason that he may kill a wolf or a lion; because such men are not under the ties of the common-law of reason, have no other rule, but that of force and violence, and so may be treated as beasts of prey, those dangerous and noxious creatures, that will be sure to destroy him whenever he falls into their power.

And hence it is, that he who attempts to get another man into his absolute power, does thereby put himself into a state of war with him; it being to be understood as a declaration of a design upon his life: for I have reason to conclude, that he who would get me into his power without my consent, would use me as he pleased when he had got me there, and destroy me too when he had a fancy to it; for no body can desire to have me in his absolute power, unless it be to compel me by force to that which is against the right of my freedom, i. e. make me a slave. To be free from such force is the only security of my preservation; and reason bids me look on him, as an enemy to my preservation, who would take away that freedom which is the fence to it; so that he who makes an attempt to enslave me, thereby puts himself into a state of war with me. He that, in the state of nature, would take away the freedom that belongs to any one in that state, must necessarily be supposed to have a design to take away every thing else, that freedom being the foundation of all the rest; as he that, in the state of society, would take away the freedom belonging to those of that society or common-wealth, must be supposed to design to take away from them every thing else, and so be looked on as in a state of war.

This makes it lawful for a man to kill a thief, who has not in the least hurt him, nor declared any design upon his life, any farther than, by the use of force, so to get him in his power, as to take away his money, or what he pleases, from him; because using force, where he has no right, to get me into his power, let his pretence be what it will, I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away every thing else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i. e. kill him if I can; for to that hazard does he justly expose himself, whoever introduces a state of war, and is aggressor in it.

And here we have the plain difference between the state of nature and the state of war, which however some men have confounded, are as far distant, as a state of peace, good will, mutual assistance and preservation, and a state of enmity, malice, violence and mutual destruction, are one from another. Men living together according to reason, without a common superior on earth, with authority to judge between them, is properly the state of nature. But force, or a declared design of force, upon the person of another, where there is no common superior on earth to appeal to for relief, is the state of war: and it is the want of such an appeal gives a man the right of war even against an aggressor, tho’ he be in society and a fellow subject. Thus a thief, whom I cannot harm, but by appeal to the law, for having stolen all that I am worth, I may kill, when he sets on me to rob me but of my horse or coat; because the law, which was made for my preservation, where it cannot interpose to secure my life from present force, which, if lost, is capable of no reparation, permits me my own defence, and the right of war, a liberty to kill the aggressor, because the aggressor allows not time to appeal to our common judge, nor the decision of the law, for remedy in a case where the mischief may be irreparable. Want of a common judge with authority, puts all men in a state of nature: force without right, upon a man’s person, makes a state of war, both where there is, and is not, a common judge [emphasis added].

John Locke, The Second Treatise of Government, 1690.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In Defense of Self-Defense and the Individual Right to Keep and Bear Arms

Noted for the concept of the separation of powers, so highly regarded by our republic's founders that they based our Constitution on the idea, Montesquieu had this to say about self defense:
The life of governments is like that of man. The latter has a right to kill in case of natural defence: the former have a right to wage war for their own preservation.

In the case of natural defence I have a right to kill, because my life is in respect to me what the life of my antagonist is to him: in the same manner a state wages war because its preservation is like that of any other being.

With individuals the right of natural defence does not imply a necessity of attacking. Instead of attacking they need only have recourse to proper tribunals. They cannot therefore exercise this right of defence but in sudden cases, when immediate death would be the consequence of waiting for the assistance of the law [emphasis added].

Baron de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws, 1748 (Nugent, trans. 1750), Book X, 2.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Major Dick Winters, Commander, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Infantry (Airborne) Division, RIP

It escaped my notice until today, but one of the greatest men ever to serve his country in battle died on 2 January. He was nearly 93.

Winters was immortalized by his heroic actions as depicted in the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, based on the Stephen Ambrose book of the same name. If you have not seen the series, I most strenuously advise you to put it into your Netflix queue. It is that good. Winters, and several others, share their thoughts and memories in contemporary interviews to open each installment of the series. The last episode is comprised solely of these interviews, and requires some emotional endurance to watch.

Winters, and the men he commanded, would all say that the real heroes were the men who died. Winters and his men chose to fight, fought hard, fought well, and defeated an evil the world did not want to face. They were all heroes.

Lanccaster (PA) Online obituary.

Major Dick Winters's story at CMOH has his story, including paintings an photograps.

HBO's Band of Brothers

"No Free Man Shall Be Debarred the Use of Arms"

Here is a quote which Thomas Jefferson copied into his Commonplace Book regarding gun control laws:
"False is the idea of utility that sacrifices a thousand real advantages for one imaginary or trifling inconvenience; that would take fire from men because it burns, and water because one may drown in it; that it has no remedy for evils, except destruction. The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm those only who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. Can it be supposed that those who have the courage to violate the most sacred laws of humanity, the most important of the code, will respect the less important and arbitrary ones, which can be violated with ease and impunity, and which, if strictly obeyed, would put an end to personal liberty - so dear to men, so dear to the enlightened legislator - and subject innocent persons to all the vexations that the guilty alone ought to suffer? Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man. They ought to be designated as laws not preventive but fearful of crimes, produced by the tumultuous impression of a few isolated facts, and not by thoughtful consideration of the inconveniences and advantages of a universal decree."

Beccaria, Cesare: On Crimes and Punishments (1764, trans. Paolucci, 1963), p. 87-88, as quoted in Halbrook, Stephen P.: That Every Man Be Armed: The Evolution of a Constitutional Right (1984), p. 35.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Gun Control and Political Ideology

A few thoughts on the recent atrocities in Arizona:

Did gun control laws stop the shooter in Arizona? Or Virginia Tech? Or Fort Hood? Or any other place in the world where a defective/degenerate type decides to commit murder?

Are regular Americans who own guns responsible for the atrocities committed by a defective/degenerate type? Are the gun manufacturers? Or ammunition manufacturers? Or the retailer that sells firearms and ammunition if all the laws regarding sales of these products are followed?

Is a political ideology which recognizes the sanctity and sovereignty of the individual and his right to his own life responsible for a defective/degenerate who commits murder? Or is an ideology which seeks to debase and control the individual the more likely culprit? How long did it take for certain individuals representing the latter ideology to politicize murder?

Are we not allowed to be angry? Are we not allowed to call out evil when we see evil?

All emotions are acceptable, but certain actions must be restricted or prohibited. That is the nature of freedom in the civil society.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. May they find peace.