Why can\'t we shoot back at the feds?

On Noodle Food, Diana Hsieh responds to a post saying:

The injustices under Kelo and other draconian regulatory orders that dispossess and ruin individuals always wakes the fury in me. When I read about these legalized crimes, I can feel the grip of my AR-15 in the palm of my hand, smell the cleaning solvent (I keep 'em clean), see the front sight settling on the target (some bureaucrat, judge, or neighbor's head) and the cool pressure of the trigger against the center of the last pad of my finger...

It is a good thing that I have never been in the position of victim in one of the state-sponsored crimes. If I were financially ruined and could not get a hearng and just compensation, I would serious consider becoming a murderer. I would consider it because I know I'd be in the right. Killing a regulator who does not answer to the will of the people is justice.


I'm absolutely horrified. Even onerous government regulations do not justify armed rebellion, let alone the cold-blooded murder of fellow citizens -- not while bad laws might still be fought by peaceful means.

With those comments, Mr. Wakeland declared himself to be a grave potential threat to law-abiding citizens. I can only hope that he is treated accordingly.

First, I think it is enormously naive to think that bad laws, which constitute the vast majority of laws, and have been steadily increasing in number for at least a hundred years, can be fought by peaceful means. I'd like to see some empirical evidence for that claim. Any reasonable statistical extrapolation of the proportion of Objectivists in the voting population will show you that the voters are going to be choosing bread & circuses for the foreseeable future.

Second, I am curious as to what she thinks the proper response is to rights violations by government officials. Government officials of the DEA and the BATF violate rights constantly as part of their job, which is to enforce immoral, coercive laws. Since those laws are, obviously, legal, no redress is possible from the courts or police. What options remain? To me, it seems overly tolerant of this massive, continuous barrage of rights violations to say that self-defense is not permissible.

Let's clarify the scenario a bit and take some of the emotion out of it. Suppose that the local government has declared your home forfeit because they think that the land would better be used for a new Whole Foods. They are paying you $50,000, when it's true market value is $250,000. Your lawyer has informed you that you have zero chance of winning in the courts - this is clearly legal under local, state, and federal law, as confirmed by Kelo. They send bulldozers to destroy your home - in what ways is it moral for you to defend yourself?

I would argue that the men with bulldozers are, at a minimum, trying to steal two hundred grand from you. It seems to me that anything that it is moral to do in defense of a thief trying to steal two hundred grand, it is moral to do here. I believe the Objectivists are in favor of the use of force in self-defense - why is this situation an exception?

To me, the difference is that one is faced with overwhelming force. With the thief, if you shoot him, it's over. If you shoot the bulldozer operators, you will end up in jail, or dying in a shootout with a SWAT team. I would rather give up my home than my life. But that is purely a pragmatic argument about the course of lesser evil. I would not morally condemn someone who defended their property, with reasonable force, against theft. Say, shooting over the heads of the bulldozer operators, and warning them that if they come onto your property you will kill them, then shooting the SWAT team that they send. I don't see how this is any different than standing on your property, in the wilderness, in a state of nature, and defending it with force against brigands coming to take it. When the brigands have the law on their side, the opportunity for peaceful resolution is over.

Diana later writes, in a comment:

America has plenty of awful laws, but it is certainly not a dictatorship. Still, the government does have the power to ruin lives. If that happened to me, I would never resort to murdering judges, bureaucrats, and neighbors (!!). That would be senseless slaughter. If peaceful agitation for change were possible, I would do that. I would make an issue of my case, all while diligently working to rebuild my life. If the government ever became too despotic for that, I would still never resort to murdering judges, bureaucrats, and neighbors (!!). If I couldn't leave the country for somewhere better, I would join and/or create a resistance movement to overthrow the government.

To put the point bluntly: Senseless killing is not the proper response to government injustice.

Totally agreed about the neighbors, of course. But I don't understand how killing the people who choose to steal your property, or who physically try to coerce you into giving it up, is senseless. It is directed retribution against the violator of rights - isn't that justice? Leaving the country is all well and good for reducing future rights violations - but it does not create any redress against those which have already happened. The criminals are left unpunished - that seems rather unjust to me.

It sounds like she is saying that judges and law enforcers, because they are working within "the system", are justified in everything they do. That seems to me to be a horrible conflation of moral behavior with legal behavior. Wrong is wrong - whatever the laws say. Isn't it immoral to enforce an immoral law? I don't see how one can conclude otherwise without reference to pragmatism, to comparing the harm done by enforcing bad laws with the gain from enforcing good ones, which is a position that Objectivist orthodoxy, and Diana, are strongly against.

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