In a political context, freedom has only one specific meaning — freedom from the initiation of force by other men. By initiation of force I mean those who start the use of force to achieve their ends, i.e., a bank robber. Only the initiation of force against a man can stop his mind, thus rendering it useless as a means of survival. Only by the initiation of force can a man be prevented from speaking, or robbed of his possessions, or murdered. Only through the initiation of force can a man’s rights be violated.
To use force in retaliation — in self defense against those who initiate it — is not a moral option, but a moral requirement. A moral man has nothing to gain when a man tries to kill him, but he has much to lose if he does not defend himself. For this reason it is right, just, and proper to use force in retaliation and self-defense. The use of force, in and of itself, is not evil — but to initiate (start) force is. Contrary to the vile doctrines of the pacifists, force used in self-defense is a species of the good.
Any man (or group of men) who initiates force against others is a dictator — a monster — and should be treated as such, to the extent he initiates force.
Citizens may not delegate the right to initiate force to government, as they do not possess the right to start force to begin with.
As Ayn Rand has commented “there is no such thing as the right to enslave.”
As no individual in his private capacity, as a citizen, may initiate force against others, neither may he in his public capacity as a state official start force either.
Under no conditions may government violate anyone’s rights, by initiating force against others. A proper government is permitted to use force to retaliate against a thief who has initiated force against someone (in the act of robbing them). However, a proper government is not permitted to copy the means of private criminals by initiating force against its citizens. The government is not even permitted to rob them of their wealth–even, or rather especially, if the stolen loot is to be used for so called “noble” purposes, such as for the sick and poor. No end (even for the “poor”) ever justifies an illegitimate means (the initiation of force). Any man who initiates force against others is a dictator, and should be treated as such, to the extent he initiates force.
No one may initiate force for any reason whatsoever, even if that alleged purpose is for the “public good”. For is not the individual whose rights are being violated for the “public good”, a member of the “public” also? How can such a violation be in the public’s good? For is not his good also the good of the public, of which he is a member? The truth is, such violations are only in the irrational interests of a division of the public, but are not in the interests of the entire public.
The power of a bureaucrat of a statist society is the power of fear — the power to initiate force. He can force you to do his bidding by legally threatening your life and freedom. Such power is derived by destroying, or threatening to destroy values — such as when your local IRS man confiscates your home for not paying your taxes, or the DOJ threatens you with a jail sentence for being too successful.
What is the difference? The difference between political and economic power is the difference between plunder and production, between punishment and reward, between destruction and trade. Plunder, punishment, and destruction belonging to the political realm; production, reward, and trade belonging to the economic realm.
The symbol of the businessmen is a positive — the dollar — given to you voluntarily by trade. The symbol of a bureaucrat is a negative — a gun — pointed at you. The man who prefers the gun to the dollar, is the man who thinks he will be controlling the gun. The joke is on him — the results are upon all of us.
Laissez faire recognizes that political power (destruction) should only be used to fight destruction, i.e., force should only be used to retaliate and defend against those who initiate force — whether they be a gang of street thugs, or a whole nation bent at war.
Observe that a man gains nothing from killing an attacker, he is no better off then before he was attacked — he has only prevented a greater loss (his death) by putting an end to the attacker. Only the mind creates, force destroys. When force is directed towards destroying force, its use is entirely proper, since it protects those who create.
Rights may be violated in only one way — by the initiation of physical force.
All rights are rights to freedom of action. That is, the right to those actions necessary to support ones life — so long as they do not violate the rights of others. Keep in mind that rights are not guarantees that those actions will always be successful. Thus, the right to pursue happiness, does not necessarily mean achievement — it only means one is free to pursue what one thinks will make one happy.
Pursuit does not mean attainment, though it is a necessary precondition to attaining it. Similarly the right to life, is the right to take those actions necessary to survive, free from the physical compulsion and interference of other men. The right to life does not mean that one can force others to support ones life against their will. [what rights do guarantee is that if your actions are successful, no one may rob your of the results of those actions].