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Laboratory Coordinator, Texas A&M University Corpus Christi


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Must government rest upon violence? If so, what are the implications?

All extant governments rest upon violence. That is, there is no government that does not have at its disposal the means of violence, willingness to use such means, and desire to restrict or even monopolize the means of violence. Furthermore, these means of violence have always turned out to be used more than once in a self-serving fashion, of government against the people, even in countries where this is theoretically "impossible"--if nothing else, some official starts to treat a police or military entity like a private gang of thugs. What is more common is convenience of government is given automatic priority over rights of the people and the means of violence are used to enforce this convenience.
Is this a fundamental necessity of government? Must government have at its disposal not only means of violence but willingness to use them? If the answer to this question is "yes", will this always mean that these means of violence will end up at some time or another being used against the best interests of the people?


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    Feb 16 2014: I don't really think the U.S. government "rests upon violence." It rests upon reason, in my mind, but, since some people are unreasonable, the government has force at its disposal to counter those unreasonable people.
    • Feb 16 2014: Hey brother, we've already established in other conversations that I'm a bit of a pessimist, but I've got to say, we don't have a very peaceful history and reason we rest on seems to be economic reasoning in most cases. If you get a chance I recommend Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States". There's some criticism of the book on a few facts and interpretations of some events but it seems to be a good reference to balance what we were taught in school.
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        Feb 17 2014: well, I think the guy hosting the convo is mostly talking about government using force against its own people, whereas you're talking about the U.S. going to war against other countries? What is your position on the government using force against its own people, you think it happens frequently in the U.S.?
        • Feb 17 2014: Our early history as a country speaks for itself, though the government didn't see native American as its people, or people at all really. To be fair I cant speak to how much native American s saw the whites as their own people. Onward to slavery with the same issue. Wide spread abuses of workers enforced by government power, before, during, and after the rise of the labor unions. Civil rights movement was met with both police violence and police indifference to mob violence. Protestors to this day can pretty well count on batons and tear gas unless they "behave themselves" in areas where local, state, and the federal government decide its ok to protest in. It seemed we were for a short time in the last couple decades headed in a good direction, but the last few years have taken a hard turn and it sure feels like a lot of our "rights" are being whittled away.
        • Feb 19 2014: Greg, It happens every day.

          Remember WACO, and a lot of others.
          The WACO religious nut went shopping each and every Friday night
          at the same old supermarket with his wives. Law Enforcement could
          have arrested the man at the supermarket, with most likely no effort.

          Instead, they put a comic army around his temple and blew him and
          his wives and children away. Survivors were sent to prison.

          Hundreds of like stories abound. Google awaits your pleasure sir.
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        Feb 17 2014: well, come to think of it, you're right, Jacob, those are bad examples. But we got past them, nowadays does it not seem that government attempts to be nondiscriminatory?

        As far as I know, if you protest peacefully you won't get gassed or batoned. But you do have to show some respect when you protest, you couldn't do it in a way that, for example, impeded traffic, because some of the people in those cars don't agree with your protest and they have places they need to get to.

        What is the hard turn we've taken? What rights are being whittled away?
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        Feb 18 2014: jacob, I'll read the one on nafta, but if you have the energy can you summarize what it says. I don't know, I hear people complain about the patriot act, but I can't see that it has affected me too much. Has it affected you? Ditto on health insurance paying for abortions, birth control, etc.
        • Feb 18 2014: To be honest, those are just links I found, I should have taken the time to find better examples. Sorry about that, there's no point in me joining these convos if I'm not gonna think about what I'm saying. Thank you for calling me on it!

          This was in the Dallas news: In a major legal victory for Texas businesses and a loss for workers, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that companies can require employees to sign contracts prohibiting them from taking class action against the company.

          I think we can both be glad we haven't experienced the negative side of the Patriot Act because that would mean we were suspected of treason orterrorism. Things like illegal search and seizure, right to a lawyer, right to a speedy trial can be and have been suspended for a lot of people. This is all done in the name of security but there have been cases reported of people being "detained" for years before they were found to be innocent amd released. I think the main issue for a lot of people is that some agencies can now operate outside of the system of checks and balances.

          Personally I'm all for the free birth control, abortion is a big issue and I never have come to a clear opinion of it (wrong or right seem too narrow for such a complicated issue). I understand though that some people's faith answer this question for them and this being a country with freedom of religion I think they should be able to opt out of supporting it financially.
        • Feb 19 2014: Greg, Yes it has affected me.

          My telephone and new computer sent my meta-data-stream to the
          NSA and DHS. I did not authorize the Federal Government access
          to my computer. Any Telephone or computer with a new operating
          system needs to be checked for bugs. Ask the NSA and DHS to tell
          you where they are located in your phone or computer, or call AT&T
          or Verizon, or your operating system manufacturer and ask them.

          Greg, you might want to check your computer. If you cannot,
          at least check your printer for those little yellow dot fingerprints.
          Look and find them. You cannot find them if your afraid to look.
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        Feb 18 2014: no, I wasn't calling you on it, Jacob, it's just that the article on Nafta was kind of dense and I just didn't have the energy to read through it at the moment.

        Well, in general I don't feel that hemmed in by government myself any more than ever. You've given me some general examples, but can you bring them down to the level of just you? In your daily life, is there anything you do differently than you did five or ten or 20 years ago because of government?
        • Feb 18 2014: The workers rights issue is the only one I've had direct experience with, though the patriot act worries me. Checks and balances are supposed to be a fundamental part of our form of democracy.
          I worked in a warehouse about 5 years ago that cut our benefits over the course of a year resulting in about $3000 less in annual income and terrible insurance. We were spitballing contacting a union and we were told that we would be fired if that happened, our positions would have been cut or some such thing is what they said. Its my understanding that at least here in texas employers no longer have to give reasons for doing things like this, the burden of proof is on the employee to show wrongful termination.

          Edit: always a pleasure conversing with you sir! It might not have been your intention to call me on it, but you got me to think deeper about it and I appreciate that!
        • Feb 18 2014: Ill pose a question to you. Should we only care when these things happen to us directly? Should I care if someone else is detained without a lawyer indefinitely? My religious beliefs do not conflict with birth control so should I care if legislation is passed that infringes on religous freedom? I think so, what can happen to them may one day happen to me. The town I grew up in has a minimum security prison that started out as a internment camp for japanese Americans during ww2. Was it right or wise fir people to turn a blind eye to this abuse?
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        Feb 18 2014: well, by spitballing you mean you were thinking it over, talking about it, etc.? So what happened, you continued working at the warehouse and just accepted the benefits cut? So tell me, Jacob, in Texas can an employer fire employees if they talk about joining a union, is that a legal firing? If it's illegal, but they did it anyway, then I guess it would be on you to bring a complaint against them, wouldn't it? I don't see where it would hugely help you if the employer had to give a reason for firing you, because if they were firing you for considering a union but that's an illegal firing, and they had to give a reason, they would just give a phony reason, no? Then it would be up to you to show they are lying?

        Yes, we should care about other people, but I do measure other people's life against my own life. If I'm a pretty average person and my rights haven't particularly changed, I would tend to doubt that others have, either?

        I tend to doubt that anyone is being detained without a lawyer indefinitely, that's a rumor one might hear but I doubt it's true at least here in the U.S., maybe in other countries. The religious freedom issue I don't care about too much, being part of a country is always a little difficult because you have to sometimes pay for things you don't agree with. For instance, someone could be a pacifist and dislike that some of their taxes go to the military, but life would become too complicated if everyone could pick and choose where their taxes go, you get a lot of benefits from living in a country and you may have to accept that occasionally you will have to slightly help pay for things you don't agree with. You do get some voice through voting, writing your politician, etc.
        • Feb 18 2014: I wouldnt have been fired, my "position would have been eliminated" downsized in other words. There's always a way around most laws. I quit a few weeks later. I could see clearly what kind of company it was and wanted no part of it anymore.

          I don't doubt people's rights are being infringed on because our govenment(maybe all governments) have a track record of doing just this. I understand focusing on your own needs and situation, its not like I'm taking to the streets over these issues, but I will say that all the "rights" we enjoy, all of them, we have because a relatively small group of people at some point, did care enough about the well being of themselves and others to fight and sacrifice to get them. I really recommend putting "A People's History Of The United States" on your list of books to read. Its aneye opener.
          As too the religious issue, what if a eextremely religious person was elected president and passed a law saying your taxes were going to pay for religious ceremonies or some such thing, something you feltto be wrong and offensive, would you care then? The protection of these "rights" is supposed to be what the U.S.is about.
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        Feb 18 2014: Well, I don't agree "there's always a way around most laws." Laws really do protect people but you may have to do some work to get that protection. Let's just say, Jacob, your position had "been eliminated," but you checked back with your friends at the company a month or two later and you found they had hired other people to take your place. Would you have a pretty good grounds for a complaint?

        well, I'm sure from time to time the government infringes on people's rights. Of course, it's not just the government that does this, from time to time individuals infringe on other individuals' rights as well, correct? But it doesn't seem built-in to government that it will infringe on people's rights, if it does it's just because some people in government make mistakes or are corrupt, not because government in the abstract or as a concept is corrupt.

        No, I wouldn't like paying for religious ceremonies. But to me that seems more clearly wrong, the ideas of religion are more debatable, less certain, than the idea that a woman should have a right to an abortion. Neither idea is 100% certain, but the right to abortion comes closer.
        • Feb 18 2014: Thats fair about government in the abstract not being corrupt by nature, but governments are just collections of people, usually people seeking power, and corruption seems, at least historically, to go hand in hand with the pursuit of power.
          Yes the ideas of religion are more debateable but the separation of churches and state are not supposed to be. The article I link d was pointing to the fact that these businesses are being forced to choose between acting against their faith (paying for birth control and abortions, etc.)or paying fines that may put them out of business. It makes me think of the draft and conscientious objectors. It seems wrong to force people to do things that they feel "are sins" or are against their beliefs, like forcing pacifists to go into battle and kill people. Like I said above, I don't hold beliefs that are against contreception or a womens right to choose, but I respect the fact that some people do, and I don't think the position they are being put in abides by our professed freedom of religion or the separation of church and state.
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        Feb 18 2014: well, how important do you think the desire for power is, Jacob, when someone chooses to get a government job? Is it the number one aim? What exactly does motivate someone who seeks to lead? I try to be a leader in coming up with new ideas, I think I enjoy just trying to come up with a better way of doing things, I suppose that could motivate someone to seek political leadership, that they just enjoy trying to do things better than they are currently done, or better than they were done in the past.
        Well, I think everyone appreciates that it is a little difficult for a businessperson who doesn't believe in abortion to have to pay taxes to support it. Hasn't that actually been the case for a long time now, like before we had Obamacare we had state programs like Medi-cal, I imagine one could get an abortion through them though I don't know for sure. But like I say, that just goes with being a citizen in a country, you're going to have to occasionally have to help pay for things you don't agree with. It would be too complicated if everyone could only pay the taxes they agree with. And then some people would lie and say they didn't agree with something just so they could get out of paying taxes.

        You might be interested in something I was exposed to at Stanford called consensus decision-making. Consensus decision-making means you don't make a decision as a group until everybody agrees with it. One dorm practiced it. When the dorm had to make a decision, they would keep discussing it until all 60 dorm members agreed with the decision reached. It might take five minutes, it might take five hours, but they wouldn't stop until everyone agreed. But could that work for a country?
        • Feb 18 2014: My older brother just became a councilman of the city he lives in, i trust him above any other man on this rock, a better man than me any day of the week. I think he wants to be a positive influence in the city he lives in and set an example for my nephews. Leadership is one thing, the pursuit of power is another and city council is a long way from washington. What is the quote "power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" or something like that.

          Religious "rights" and taxation is a complicated issue and as always brother, I have no answers only questions.
          As to consensus, I'm not sure there has been a consensus on any issue in the history of our nation, ha ha. We are a diverse nation with varying values and beliefs, maybe we will live to see a consensus in our lifetimes.
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        Feb 19 2014: well, is there any reason why someone who did politics on a larger scale couldn't be just as positive as your brother, you say your brother wants to be a positive influence in the city he lives in, if we take, for example, a state politician, could we not say they want to be positive influence on the state they live in, or, if we take a federal politician, could we not say they want to be a positive influence on the country they live in?

        Another nice thing about leadership is that you get to meet a lot of people, that might attract people to leadership. And I think you probably have more variety in your life, you get to deal with a greater variety of situations?

        Well, I've given you my answer on the question about religious people having to pay taxes to support abortions. I maintain that in a country you will sometimes have to pay taxes to support things you don't agree with. For example, I don't agree with Obamacare, yet I will have to pay taxes to support it? It comes with being part of a country, doesn't it?

        Well, in the dormitory I mentioned, Jacob, there were 60 people with varying values and beliefs, yet they managed to reach consensus on decisions the dorm had to make, where all 60 people agreed with the decision reached. If 60 people can do it, in theory could 300 million people do it? But practically speaking it would be difficult.
        • Feb 19 2014: Hey man anything is possible! Maybe not always probable, but I'll admit that this could just be my pessimism, though it feels more like a healthy skepticism, ha ha. Its absolutely possible (in theory at least) for someone to maintain their convictions and morals in the climb through politics. Its the nature of campaign finance and the part it plays the higher up you go (the higher up the ladder you climb, the more time and effort you have to spend on fundraising for your next campaign) that makes we wary of those in power or those seeking to get there. I've never met any politicians or gotten to know them, they might be great and moral people, but as I looked back through our history, there have been enough examples of corruption and comprimised morals to make me distrustful of our political system.

          I tried to think yesterday of any one subject that the whole of America could agree upon and I couldn't come up with anything. What do you think? Surely there's something.
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        Feb 19 2014: well, here's an article from the Washington Post about how much time congresspeople spend fundraising: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/07/29/congress-spends-too-much-time-fundraising-but-its-less-time-than-you-think/ the numbers don't sound completely terrible to me? I was looking for info on how much time a city councilperson might spend on fundraising, but I couldn't find any. Maybe you could ask your brother?

        Well, there's probably lots of issues america would agree on. Wouldn't everybody agree murder is a bad thing, for example? But I would like to note, jake, that with consensus you don't necessarily start out with consensus, but as you discuss and discuss you might reach consensus. Like I say, sometimes in the dorm the 60 people can reach consensus in five minutes of discussion, sometimes it takes five hours of discussion. But practically speaking i don't know how 300 million people could keep discussing an issue until every single person agreed on the decision reached?
        • Feb 19 2014: Therein lies the rub though, there is a lot of info that is contradictary, who do we listen to and how much of this is up to interpretation. Heres an article saying they only spend 1/3 of their time legislating, though they dont give any specifics about fundraising itself.

          "Even when in Washington, actual legislating -- working with other lawmakers to draft laws, hold hearings and vote on bills -- occupies only about a third of a member's time. The remaining time is taken up with constituent service, politics, fundraising, media relations and administrative work, according to the first-of-its-kind study."

          I really don't have any answers. There's definitely room for improvement though. About murder, not every has the same definition of murder. You mentioned abortions, which a lot of folk see as murder, there's the question of executing prisoners, assisted suicide, denial of healthcare due to lack of insurance and money to pay for procedures. I think most of us would agree that robbing and killing someone is bad, but we cant agree about the practical ways to prevent it, the causes of it (sociologically speaking), or how to punosh those that do it.
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        Feb 21 2014: well, there are laws that govern campaign fundraising to keep it clean. If someone runs afoul of these laws, they get in trouble, right, we read about it here and there. But in general the system is okay, because we only see an occasional person getting in trouble?

        well, as far as consensus, jake, you can mourn for religious people who have to pay taxes to support abortion. But one good thing is that those people can continue to fight what they don't agree with, they can push for change to the laws, they can write to their local newspaper, they can write to their congressperson, they can demonstrate. So in that way isn't the political system okay? If they couldn't push for change, then I would say the system was wrong.
        • Feb 21 2014: You are definitely a glass half full kind of guy brother! Its my understanding that these laws are a little vague. For example, I cant give you money to pass through a piece of legislation that will benefit my company, but when your term is over I can give you a ridiculously high paying job in my company, like a lobbyist or some such thing. A bribe, delayed and legal, but still a bribe.

          Nah man, I'm not mourning anything. Like I said I have no problem with the contraception and the right to choose. I was just using that instance as an example of rights being whittled. It would have been illegal 10 years ago to force someone to act against their faith. As for pushing for change, can you give me any examples since the civil rights movement of protests affecting change? How many millions of people were in the streets protesting the war a few years ago? Did it accomplish anything? My glass half empty view is financial lobbying is the only effective influence on our legislative and judicial branches, but with the legalization of super PACs, who can compete with corporate America?
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        Feb 23 2014: well, that one's a little tricky. If it is not discussed at the time, where someone says if you vote for this I'll give you a high-paying job when you leave, it's not a bribe.

        doesn't it seem like politicians have a pretty strong motivation to do the right thing? For one thing, many intend to run for reelection. But even if they don't, they still don't want to hear a bunch of complaints about what they're doing, which is what they'll get if they do the wrong thing.

        I would think in a country nobody gets everything they want. I don't call that rights being "whittled," that's just the reality of living in society.

        well, there's many ways to push for change. You can write your political leaders. You can ask for an appointment to talk to your political leader. You can follow up your letters and conversations with phone calls to see what your leader is doing with your concern. You can contact media, such as newspapers, television, and radio. You can make a YouTube video. You can run for political office. And so on. Protesting can effect change. Haven't we withdrawn from iraq and afghanistan, this would probably partly be due to political sentiment?
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        Feb 23 2014: sorry, jacob, I didn't mean our withdrawal from iraq and afghanistan was due to "political" sentiment, I meant it was due to public sentiment, as evinced in protests.
        • Feb 23 2014: I think the main reason we left iraq is because the Iraqis didn't want us there and because “The cost of getting [Iraq] back under control ... was too high in terms of dollars, in terms of lives of Americans [and] in terms of lives of Iraqis.- Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser. Also there are fewer economic reasons to sttay

          Afghanistan however has vast mineral resources for instance an estimated $1 trillion worth of lithium deposits. Not to mention the unocal pipeline.

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        Feb 23 2014: well, thanks for calling to my attention that some congresspeople get lobbying jobs. But is it so clear it's a bribe? Actually, it seems like a lobbying job would be a pretty good fit for an ex-congressperson because they know the political system, they know how bills gets passed, and so on. Your second link asserts that there are some rules limiting influence, and also that the number of congresspeople who go into lobbying is small?

        I would have to think, Jacob, that protesting a war helps influence politicians. They're like the rest of us, they're influenced by everything they hear, read, everyone who speaks to them. Of course, they weigh many factors in deciding how much any person or group is going to influence them?
    • Feb 18 2014: So, then, if someone decides to substitute a different "reason" than that used by the US government, the US government will NOT employ the instruments of violence to enforce its own "reason". What is the "reason" behind such silly things like "Wickert v. Filburn", which established that a man could not grow grain on his own property to feed to his own chickens because that could potentially reduce the amount of chicken feed that he might have to buy, and part of that chicken feed might have been a product of commerce between the states?
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        Feb 18 2014: well, if you don't agree with the reasons a certain law exists, you have the means to try to change it. You can attempt to win your congressperson over to your point of view so that they'll change the law. Or you can sue in court, aren't we seeing that with gay marriage, which is slowly working its way through the courts and may end up before the Supreme Court. But I have looked into how some laws are made, and the government does do research and consult experts before they establish a law, so there probably are a lot of good laws. I don't know about Wickert v. Filburn, your description sounds a little hard to believe, the government almost never forces people to buy anything (that debate came up with Obamacare where in fact some are being forced to buy health insurance, but Obamacare is a rare exception.)
        • Feb 18 2014: Therefore, all use of force by government is always right and "reasonable" so long as it falls within the letter of the law as interpreted by a court at that particular moment! Thus, Jim Crow was 100% right and reasonable while it was the law of the land!
        • Feb 18 2014: Look up Wickert v. Filburn, then. Stop being a blind cultist of government. Wickert. v. Filburn is the basis of the over-extension of the "commerce clause" of the Constitution. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wickard_v._Filburn

          Stop being a blind pro-government cultist.
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        Feb 19 2014: well, I started trying to research wickard v. filburn. I'm trying to find out if it is still in effect today, I see that it was put into effect during the great depression, which was rather a unique time. Do you know if it's still in effect today, bryan, or can you give me a link that says whether it's still in effect, as I'm having trouble finding it.
    • Feb 18 2014: Let's put the matter another way: Is it your contention that it is ALWAYS unreasonable, NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES, to oppose the US government? If so, then was it not unreasonable to oppose slavery when it was legal under federal law? Was it not unreasonable to oppose Jim Crow and other racial segregation measures when they were unreasonable under federal law? Why worship government as infallible. After all, you posit that it is always "unreasonable" to resist government.
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        Feb 18 2014: well, you're right, bryan, government has made some mistakes. But at the time the government supported jim crow, it was kind of in line with the whole country, most non-government people supported jim crow also. And some brave people stood up against those laws and they got changed. But at least it could change, the fact that it could change would demonstrate that government is not inherently corrupt?

        I would think if you talked to government workers today, they would be embarrassed that government ever stood for segregation. But at least things did change.
        • Feb 18 2014: Now you're just weaseling and trying to back-and-fill. You made a flat statement and when called on it, you resort to this tactic. If government is ever not reasonable, then there is no rational basis for presuming that it will always be reasonable. Either we are to trust government 100% of the time, with no questions, or it is permissible to question government. If we presume that government is, AS YOU STATED, "reasonable" (no qualification given on your part), then it is ALWAYS wrong to oppose government. I'm just taking you at your word.
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        Feb 19 2014: well, what did you mean originally when you said government "rests upon" violence? Did you mean the main quality of government is being violent? Did you mean that one aspect of government is being violent, but that's not the main aspect? Or....?
        • Feb 20 2014: I mean that, as far as I can tell, all governments ultimately use violence and look upon such use as normative.
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        Feb 19 2014: no, Bryan, the U.S. government sometimes does things wrong. But one thing about the U.S. government is that it has mechanisms where people can try to change it if they disagree with one of its policies. So doesn't that bring it into the sphere of reasonableness?

        Again, when Jim Crow was in effect, it wasn't just the government that believed in it, most people in the country believed in it? Yes, in hindsight it was wrong, but hindsight is 20/20, yes? But people peacefully protested (a right granted by the constitution?), and it changed for the better.
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        Feb 20 2014: well, dude, your use of the word "violence" is confusing. Let's say someone is lurking outside your house with a gun, and you're afraid they mean you harm. You call 911, and the police come and capture this person or perhaps engage in a shootout with him or her and kill him. The police are representatives of the government, correct? Would you say they employed violence to kill this person who was a threat to you, an innocent person? I would say they used force against an unreasonable person.
        • Feb 21 2014: I think you were responding to Bryan, but itnotified me so I'm gonna chime in with my $0.02. I would assume anyone on my property with any weapon is there to do me or my family harm, and I would act accordingly as I assume the police would. My actions would be relative to the assessed level of threat to me and mine. If they had a knife I may just try to disarm them from a distance but if they had a gun I would give them less leeway. Ithink the main difference in philosophy between myself and some of the pacifists in this conversation is that an armed and violent criminal puts his own life at risk when seeking to harm others. As I said above, our rights are just social contracts, if you violate that contract by trying to harm others, then your rights are forfeited.

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