The Initiation of Physical Force As EvilOctober 14, 2004
By David V.
For all living beings, life is an ongoing process that requires continuous action to gain and keep the values necessary for their survival. Whether they do it by complex biochemical processes, such as plants and simple organisms, by hunting down they prey, such as the higher animals, or by living in a modern industrial society, such as human beings, all living beings must daily affirm their nature, instinct, or desire to remain living.
Like all living beings, man requires certain values to survive, but he is unique in that he can and must choose the values necessary for his life because he has no automatic means of doing so. His ability to reason, or to experience the world around him and comprehend it by the use of logic gives man the capacity to both understand the values his life requires and the knowledge of how to achieve them. Faced with the basic moral alternative of acting to remain alive or drifting towards death, man must use reason to choose the values necessary for his life, and then achieve them. From the earliest hunter and gatherer, whose work consistent almost entirely of manual labor to a computer programmer (or a philosopher) whose work is almost entirely intellectual, each man must exercise his mind to create the values necessary to sustain his life.
To be successful in his value-pursuits, each man must treat reality as his only absolute. He cannot allow his emotions or the conclusions of others, whatever their form, to substitute for his own rational judgment. For example, if an engineer wants to design a great new car, he must accept reality, including the nature of the material he works with as well as the laws of combustion and aerodynamics as his only absolutes, and design a vehicle that best exploits the properties of the materials he works with. Even though he relies heavily on the knowledge of others, he must first understand that knowledge within the context of his own understanding of reality to apply it successfully. He cannot let a fear of the unknown, the irrational demands of his boss, or the expectations of his peers to interference in his judgment – not if he wants to design the best car that he possibly can.
Achieving values requires both a dedication to reason and the freedom to act on one’s choices.
A restriction on freedom in any form forces man to focus not on the absolutes of reality, but on the arbitrary ideas of others. If the boss of the automotive engineer requires the new car model to use an engine made by his favorite contractor, the judgment of the engineer is rendered irrelevant. His means to achieving his value of a great design is no longer shaped by his grasp of reality, but by the arbitrary edicts of his boss. The kind of engine he deems best is now irrelevant, because he no longer has the ability to act on his judgments. Even he believes his choices to be superior, a man cannot do the thinking for another, since he cannot act as an intermediary to reality for anyone else.
In a free, capitalist society, any company characterized by managers who impose arbitrary decisions on their employees will quickly go out of business – their best minds, unable to apply their mind, will either quit, or produce mediocre work designed to match their bosses’ expectations rather than their own judgment of the facts. In a free society, a man can choose to not associate with those who do not respect his judgment – by finding a new job, new friends, or a new lover. Even if there is no one to share his ideas, every man is still free to present his own vision – by becoming an entrepreneur and launching a new product, or by writing a book with a revolutionary new philosophy, or by engaging in intellectual activism to convince others of his views. However, as soon as man faces the threat of physical force, the possibility of any such alternatives becomes irrelevant.
The opposite of freedom is the initiation of physical force, which renders man’s mind impotent as a means of survival. The initiation of force presents an impossible alternative: to abandon reason as a guide to action or to face physical harm. Whatever its form, the initiation of force destroys man’s ability to pursue values to the extent that overrides reason with the edicts of the aggressor. If the engineer from the previous example finds that some new environmentalist regulation has outlawed the type of engine he considered using, his own judgment becomes irrelevant –faced with an arbitrary decree, his mind is no longer a means to achieve his values in that area of his life. Likewise, the initiation of force in any form immobilizes man’s mind. A thug who robs a man at gunpoint or a politician who taxes away his victims legally take not only their victims property, but their ability to choose how to direct their productive activities to benefit their life. The greater the aggression, the more it destroys man’s ability to pursue his values. Slavery, whether in a primitive society in a totalitarian state, takes away almost all meaningful choices from men: their choice of vocation, family, or residence. By incapacitating its victim’s minds, a slave society ultimately destroys itself, since the enslaved are unable to pursue values, and their masters cannot act as an intermediary to reality for them. Murder is an especially evil form of force: it destroys man’s ability to pursue values totally and permanently. Likewise, even the very threat of destruction incapacitates man’s mind: the looming threat of another terrorist attacks means that all my plans for the future might be rendered futile by the actions of some crazed lunatic.
Man’s life requires a process of continuous action of pursuing the values necessary for his life. The means by which chooses which values to pursue and how to achieve them is reason. By using reason, he can process his perception of reality, decide which actions will further his values, and then act on those ideas. To sustain his life, man must have the freedom to act on his own judgment – the freedom of thought and freedom of action are corollaries for him, meaningless without the other. As long as he is free from force, he is able to succeed or fail in his value-pursuit. To the extent that he is faced with force, his intellect is rendered impotent. When man is unable to act on his judgment, his mind, the primary tool of his survival becomes useless. The great evil of the initiation of force is the fact that it destroys man’s ability to live by invalidating his primary means of doing so.