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Re: SAY WHAT? [Hallam-Baker demands more repudiations or he'll write!]

At 03:19 PM 9/24/96 -0400, Simon Spero wrote:
>On Tue, 24 Sep 1996, attila wrote:
>>         go back to your beloved England and your labour unions
>			your roots are showing :-) ----^
>>         NO, I will not outright reject Jim Bell's "Assassination
>> Politics."
>Assasination politics is  impossible to defend from a classical 
>Liberal/Libertarian position. Bell advocates arbitrary applications of 
>violence and coercion without restriction. There is no way to justify the 
>initiation of force without abandoning any pretence of being a 
>Libertarian (which, to be fair, Bell doesn't claim to be).

You're wrong on at least three counts:  I absolutely do claim to be a 
libertarian, for one.  Secondly, while I advocate a system which I call AP, 
I do not "advocate" the MISUSE of that system for the act of attacking 
people who have no initiated force or fraud.  On the other hand, to be 
intellectually honest I can't exclude the possibility that this will happen, 
any more than a libertarian who advocates a free society  deny that somebody 
might abuse the freedoms of that society by initiating force.  There is no 
contradiction here, except in the mind of a person who believes that people 
can't be given any freedoms it is possible for them to misuse. 

It's clear you haven't read AP part 7.  Here it is; maybe you'll learn 
something from it.

1.  I defend AP from a classical liberal/libertarian position.

2.  I don't advocate arbitrary applications of violence and coercion without restriction.

3.  I only _advocate_ responding to force/fraud with force.

"Assassination Politics" Part 7, by Jim Bell

Dear libertarian Friend,

I very much understand the concerns you voiced about my idea which I call, 
"Assassination Politics," because this essay is nothing if it 
is not radical and extreme.  I wrote it, in the middle of last year, partly 
because I think libertarianism and libertarians in particular need to 
address what is, if not a "contradiction," is at least an intolerable 
reality:  On the one hand, we are told not to initiate agression, but on the 
other we are agressed against by the government every time it collects a tax.  

I much appreciate the way some people I know have "dropped out" of the 
system, and the guts that such a tactic requires.  But that's the problem, I 
think:  Only those with the "guts" do it, which gives the government fewer targets so 
that it can spend more time attacking the few who oppose it.  The reality is 
that the government STILL collects taxes, and it STILL uses that money to 
violate our rights.  We all know that's wrong.

My position is quite simple:  If tax collection constitutes agression, then 
anyone doing it or assisting in the effort or benefitting from the proceeds 
thereof is a criminal.  This is quite analogous to current law which 
prosecutes co-conspirators.  While I am not holding out "current law" as 
some sort of gold-standard of reasonableness that we must always accept, on 
the other hand I think it's plausible to use it to show that once we have 
come to the conclusion that taxation is theft, the prescription follows 
directly by a form of reasoning allegedly acceptable to society: It is 
reasonable to "attack the attackers" and their co-conspirators, and everyone 
who is employed by the government is thus a co-conspirator, even if he is 
not directly involved in the collection of those taxes.  That's because he 
IS involved in _benefitting_ from the proceeds of these taxes, and he 
presumably provides a certain level of "backup" to the young thugs that 
governmental organizations often hire.

I realize, and you should too, that the "non-agression principle" says nothing about 
the EXTENT of the self-defense/retaliation that one might reasonably employ 
in defending one's own rights:  In a sense, that sounds like an omission 
because it at least suggests that a person might "unreasonably" defend 
himself with lethal force when far less drastic means might normally be 
called for.  For what it's worth, I think most people will behave 
responsibly.   But I think it is pretty straightforward to argue that whatever 
means are necessary to stop the attack, are reasonable given the terms of 
the non-agression principle:  If a given means are known to be inadequate to 
actually stop the attack, then further and more serious means are reasonable 
and called-for.

To set up a reasonable analogy, if I'm walking down the canonical "dark 
alley" and am accosted by a man wielding a knife threatening me with it, it 
is presumably reasonable for me to pull a gun and threaten back, or possibly 
take the encounter to the final conclusion of gunfire.  Even if I should 
choose to hold my fire and test to determine whether my actions deterred 
him, I can't see that this possibility binds me morally.  And should he 
advance, despite the gun, as if to attack, I should feel no remorse in 
shooting him and taking myself out of danger.  If you accept the premises so 
far, you apparently accept the principle that escalation of the 
self-defense/retaliation is reasonable as long as if the current level of 
returned counter-threat is inadequate to stop the agression initiated by the other 
party.  To believe otherwise is to believe that ultimately,  you are 
obligated to accept a certain high level of agression simply because you do 
not have the resources (yet) to resist it.  I totally reject this concept, 
as I hope you would.

So if, hypothetically, I could have an anonymous conversation with a 
hard-nosed government employee, and asked him, "If I killed one of your 
agents, would you stop trying to collect that tax from me," his predictable 
reaction would be, "no, we would continue to try to collect that tax."  In 
fact, he would probably hasten to add that he would try to have me 
prosecuted for murder, as well!  If I were to ask if killing ten agents 
would stop them, again they would presumably say that this would not change 
their actions.

The conclusion is, to me, obvious:  Clearly, there is no practical limit to 
the amount of self-defense that I would need to protect my assets from the 
government tax collector, and to actually stop the theft, so I suggest that 
logic requires that I be morally and ethically allowed (under libertarian 
principles) to use whatever level of self-defense I choose.

You raised another objection, that quite frankly I believe is invalid.  I 
believe you implied that until a specific level of escalation is reached ( 
such as the Feds showing up on your doorstep, etc) then it is not legitimate 
to defend oneself.  Delicately, I must disagree.  As we all well know, 
government ultimately operates primarily not on actual, applied force, but 
simply the threat of future force if you do not comply.  True, there are 
people who have decided to call the government's bluff and simply drop out, 
but the reality is that this is not practical for most individuals today. 
This is no accident:  The government makes it difficult to drop out, because 
they extort the cooperation of banks and potential employers and others with 
which you would otherwise be able to freely contract.   In any case, I fail 
to see how not "dropping out" makes one somehow morally obligated to pay a 
tax (or tolerate the collection of one).   I trust you did not inadvertently 
mean to suggest this.

The reason, morally, we are entitled to shoot the mugger if he waves the 
knife in our face is that he has threatened us with harm, in this case to 
our lives, but the threat the government represents to the average citizen 
(loss of one's entire assets) is just as real, albeit somewhat different.  
Since government is a past reality, and a present reality, and has the 
immediate prospects of being a future reality as well, I sincerely believe 
that the average citizen can legitimately consider himself CONTINUOUSLY 
threatened.  The agression has already occurred, in continuously occurring, 
and has every prospect of continuing to occur.  If anything would justify 
fighting back, this would.

To continue the analogy, if you've been repeatedly mugged by the same guy 
down the same dark alley for each day of last month, that DOES NOT mean that 
you've somehow consented to the situation, or that your rights to your 
assets have somehow been waived.  With my "Assassination Politics" essay, I 
simply proposed tht we (as libertarians as well as being ordinary citizens) 
begin to treat agression by government as being essentially equivalent to 
agression by muggers, rapists, robbers, and murderers, and view their acts 
as a continuing series of agressions.  Seen this way, it should not be 
necessary to wait for their NEXT agression; they will have always have been 
agressing and they will always BE agressing, again and again, until they are 
stopped for good.

At that point, the question shifted to one of practicality:  Sure, 
theoretically we might morally have the "right" to protect ourselves with 
lethal force, but if they have any reputation at all, government agents have 
a habit of showing up in large numbers when they actually apply direct 
force.  To take a position that you can only defend yourself when _they've_  
chosen the "where" and "when" of the confrontration is downright suicidal, 
and I hope you understand that I would consider any such restriction to be 
highly unfair and totally impractical.  Understand, too, that the reason 
we're still stuck under the thumb of the government is that to the extent 
it's true, "we've" been playing by THEIR rules, not by our own.  By our own 
rules, THEY are the agressors and we should be able to treat them 
accordingly, on our own terms, at our own convenience, whenever we choose, 
especially when we feel the odds are on our side.

I understand, obviously, that the "no initiation of agression" principle is 
still valid, but please recognize that I simply don't consider it to be a 
valid counter-argument to "Assassination Politics," at least as applied to 
targets who happen to be government agents.  They've "pre-agressed," and I 
don't see any limit to the defenses I should be able to muster to stop that 
agression completely and permanently.  Not that I don't see a difference 
between different levels of guilt:  I fully recognize that some of them are 
far worse than others, and I would certainly not treat a lowly Forest 
Service grunt in the same fashion as an ATF sniper.

Now, there is one more thing that I would hope we could get straight:  As I 
originally "invented" this system, it occurred to me that there could be 
certain arguments that it needed to be "regulated" somehow;  "unworthy" 
targets shouldn't be killed, etc.  The "problem" is, what I've "invented" 
may (as I now believe it to be) actually a "discovery," in a sense:  I now 
believe this kind of system was always inevitable, merely waiting for the 
triad of the Internet, digital cash, and good encryption in order to provide 
the technical underpinnings for the entire system.  If that is genuinely the 
case, then there is no real way to control it, except by free-market 

It would be impossible, for example, to set up some sort of 
"Assassination Politics Dictator," who decides who will live and who will 
die, because competition in the system will always rise to supply every 
demand, albeit at possibly a very high price.  And if you believe the maxim 
that "absolute power corrupts absolutely," you wouldn't want to accept any 
form of centralized control (even, perhaps, that of your own!), because any 
such control would eventually be corrupted.  Most rational people recognize 
this, and I do too.  I would not have invented a system where "Jim 
Bell" gets to make "all the decisions."  Quite the contrary, the system I've 
described absolutely prevents such centralization.  That, quite frankly, is 
the novelty and dare I say it, the beauty of this idea.  I believe that it 
simply cannot be hijacked by centralized political control.

As I pointed out in the essay, if _I_ were running one of the organizations 
accepting those donations and offering those prizes, I would selectively 
list only those targets who I am genuinely satisfied are guilty of the 
violation of the "non-agression principle."  But as a practical matter, 
there is no way that I could stop a DIFFERENT organization from being set up 
and operating under DIFFERENT moral and ethical principles, especially if it operated 
anonymously, as I antipate the "Assassination Politics"-type  systems will 
be.   Thus, I'm forced to accept the reality that I can't dictate a 
"strongly limited" system that would "guarantee" no "unjustified" deaths:  I 
can merely control my little piece of the earth and not assist in the abuse 
of others.  I genuinely believe, however, that the operation of this system 
would be a vast improvement over the status quo.

This, I argue, is somewhat analogous to an argument that we should be 
entitled to own firearms, despite the fact that SOME people will use them 
wrongly/immorally/illegally.  The ownership is a right even though it may 
ultimately allow or enable an abuse that you consider wrong and punishable.  
I consider the truth of such an argument to be obvious and correct, and I 
know you would too.

I realize that this lacks the crisp certitude of safety which would be 
reassuring to the average, "pre-libertarian" individual.  But you are not 
the "average individual" and I trust that as long-time libertarians  you 
will recognize rights must exist even given the hypothetical possibility 
that somebody may eventually abuse them. 

I do not know whether I "invented" or "discovered" this system; perhaps it's 
a little of both. I do genuinely believe that this system, or one like it, 
is as close to being technologically inevitable as was the invention of 
firearms once the material we now know as "gunpowder" was invented.  I think 
it's on the way, regardless of what we do to stop it.  Perhaps more than 
anyone else on the face of this planet, this notion has filled me, 
sequentially and then simultaneously, with awe, astonishment, joy, terror, 
and finally, relief.

Awe, that a system could be produced by a handful of people that 
would rid the world of the scourge of war, nuclear weapons, governments, and 
taxes.  Astonishment, at my realization that once started, it would cover 
the entire globe inexorably, erasing dictatorships both fascistic and 
communistic, monarchies, and even so-called "democracies," which as a 
general rule today are really just the facade of government by the special 
interests.  Joy, that it would eliminate all war, and force the dismantling 
not only of all nuclear weapons, but also all militaries, making them not 
merely redundant but also considered universally dangerous, leaving their 
"owners" no choice but to dismantle them, and in fact no reason to KEEP them!

Terror, too, because this system may just change almost EVERYTHING how we 
think about our current society, and even more for myself personally, the 
knowledge that there may some day be a large body of wealthy people who are 
thrown off their current positions of control of the world's governments, 
and the very-real possibility that they may look for a "villain" to blame 
for their downfall.  They will find one, in me, and at that time they will 
have the money and (thanks to me, at least partially) the means to see their 
revenge.  But I would not have published this essay if I had been unwilling 
to accept the risk.

Finally, relief.  Maybe I'm a bit premature to say it, but I'm satisfied we 
_will_ be free.  I'm convinced there is no alternative.  It may feel like a 
roller-coaster ride on the way there, but as of today I think our 
destination is certain.  Please understand, we _will_ be free.

Your libertarian friend,

Jim Bell

Jim Bell
[email protected]