But Who Will Build The Death Camps?

This week marks the seventieth anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. A group of about 300 survivors revisited the camp where 1.1 million people were murdered by agents of the German state. The general feeling among many of them was a need to ensure that future generations do not forget the lessons of the Holocaust after those who experienced it first-hand, most of whom are now at least in their 80s, have left us.

But what are the lessons of the Holocaust? There are several which are commonly discussed; that hatred based on ethnic or religious affiliation can lead people to commit atrocities, that active euthanasia programs victimize innocent people, that being obedient to authority can psychologically allow people to do that which they would never do on their own. But there is one that does not receive the discussion that it deserves.

When libertarians have discussions with statists, we are frequently asked questions such “But without government, who will build the roads? Who will provide military defense? How will criminals be stopped and punished?” Then we are asked for empirical examples of these ideas in action. Such questions have been dealt with by many writers, myself included. But sometimes it is best to answer a question with a question. Without government, who will build the death camps?

Of course, there are no examples of anarchist death camps or anarchist genocides. Let us examine why this is the case. The absence of a state within a geographical area means that there is no group of people who exercise a monopoly on initiatory force within that area. This has many important implications.

No monopoly on initiatory force means that no one has the ability to impose laws upon everyone. This means that no centralized force would be making people discriminate against a particular minority group. Therefore, anyone who wants to do business with members of a particular minority group can do so. This helps members of that group remain economically connected to the rest of society, giving other people less cause to view them as evil aliens worthy of violent opposition and more cause to view them as partners in trade. As Bastiat said, when goods cross borders, armies do not.

No monopoly on initiatory force also means that there is no government monopoly on education. Thus, there would be no single curriculum which could be corrupted by racists to create a generation of people who hate a particular minority group. Some curricula might still contain racist elements, but other curricula would not, and competition in education has a tendency to eliminate falsehoods. Therefore, less children would be taught to be racist than in a statist society where racists control the curriculum.

But suppose that trade and proper education are insufficient and someone still proposes to build and operate an extermination camp for members of a particular minority group. That camp must be located on some piece of physical property. Everyone who opposed such an operation could simply buy up any land considered by those who wish to build an extermination camp and refuse to sell it. Without a state and its powers of eminent domain, there would be no entity that could legally make them sell.

Now let us dispense with any naïveté. Those who are so evil as to want to start exterminating members of a particular minority group are not going to be deterred by oppositional public opinion or peaceful measures of resistance like occupying and refusing to sell land. Such people will necessarily resort to force to achieve their goals. Without a government monopoly on military services, such services would be open to free market competition. This means that those who wish to commit genocide would not have the entire military might of a statist society where they wield power. They would only have whatever military might that they could pay for. It also means that another private defense force, quite possibly larger, would be standing in their way, as those who are targets for extermination would be looking for protection and quite willing to spend money for it. The lack of monopolized laws also means that there would be no gun control (or more appropriately, victim disarmament) laws, so the targeted minorities would be much better able to take matters into their own hands than they would be in the presence of a state.

Finally, suppose that the worst happens. Education fails to produce a less racist society, trade does not lead to tolerance, property rights are trampled, and defensive violence fails to stop the aggressors. The only thing left to do is to flee. No government means no immigration policy or national borders. Thus, the minority group members can escape to other lands much easier than they could in a statist society. Historically, those who commit genocide are seeking to remove people of a certain group from a certain geographical area and will settle for a mass exodus if they cannot carry out an extermination.

To conclude, there are so many factors weighing against the possibility of genocide in an anarchist society that it is a virtual certainty that without government, no one will build the death camps. As such, the most important lesson of the Holocaust is that the state is an enabler of the worst kinds of evil. It is imperative that the state be abolished so that the occurrence of another genocide of that magnitude is made impossible.

The fallacies of blaming Walmart for obesity

A recent study by Charles Courtemonche and Art Carden purports to show that there is a correlation between the presence of Walmart Supercenters and an increase in obesity. Using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System matched with Walmart Supercenter entry dates and locations, they found that an additional Supercenter per 100,000 residents is correlated with an average body mass index (BMI) increase of 0.24 points and a 2.3 percent increase in the obesity rate. Based on this result, they claim that Walmart Supercenters are responsible for 10.5 percent of the rise in obesity in the past 25 years.

There are several problems with the methodology and conclusions drawn. Let us examine these.

First, there is the troubling use of BMI as a measure of obesity. While it is the standard in the health profession, it does not account for a large number of important variables, such as age, muscle mass, bone mass, the location of excess body fat, and waist size. There is also the matter that it puts people into starkly delineated categories; e.g. a BMI of 24.9 is healthy, while a BMI of 25.0 is overweight.

Questionable methodology aside, the conclusion that Walmart Supercenters are responsible for increasing obesity rates is a cum hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because there is a correlation between the two does not mean that there is a causal relationship in one specific direction. It is possible that this is just a coincidence. It is also possible that there is a causal relationship in the other direction; namely, that increasing obesity drives the creation of new Walmart Supercenters. This would make sense in terms of a demand for unhealthy foods leading the market to provide a means of creating and distributing a supply to meet that demand. Finally, it is possible that some other factor is responsible for both developments. Government subsidies that make unhealthy foods (such as corn syrup and soybean oil) widely available for an artificially low price could help to grow both the number of Walmart Supercenters and the BMIs of the people who shop at them.

Finally, there are the implicit assumption behind calling out Walmart Supercenters specifically. The authors implicitly assume that if Walmart did not exist, then its market niche would go unfilled. Not only is this an unprovable claim, as alternate realities are unknown and unknowable, but it defies logic. If there is a demand that is possible to meet while making a profit, then someone is going to figure out how to do it. If not Walmart, then Target, Costco, or some other company would be fulfilling the desires of customers currently served by Walmart. The authors also implicitly assume that the customers whose BMIs are increasing are somehow not responsible for making their own decisions. They reason that it is Walmart’s fault for providing the possibility of making unhealthy choices, when as mentioned above, government subsidies create the conditions for an obesity epidemic.

If we wish to be serious about solving the drastic rise in obesity over the past few decades, then we must stop making such illogical attacks upon the market and place blame where blame is due. Those who make unhealthy choices must be personally responsible for their actions, and governments should stop incentivizing people to make unhealthy choices.

How The USDA Ruined Burns Supper

As I write this, it is Burns Night, the occasion of a traditional Scottish celebration that honors the birthday of Robert Burns (1759-1796), a poet and lyricist of both the English and Scottish languages who inspired classical liberals and socialists alike. The occasion is marked by a Burns supper, which begins as any other gathering. The host welcomes everyone and the festivities begin. A traditional prayer is said, after which an opening course of soup is served.

The main course of haggis is then brought in to a fanfare of bagpipes. The host, or perhaps a guest talented in oration, recites Address to a Haggis. A Scotch whisky toast is made and the meal of haggis with potatoes and rutabagas begins. After this, dessert, cheeses, and/or coffee may be served and various speeches and toasts are made. These typically include a speech about the life and works of Burns, a speech by the host, a toast to the lassies by a male guest and a response to the laddies by a female guest.

People then sing songs and recite poems written by Burns, which could go on for as long as the host and guests wish. Finally, the host calls on a guest to give the vote of thanks, after which everyone stands, joins hands, and sings Auld Lang Syne to end the event.

Although I have no Scottish ancestry of which I am aware and am only scarcely familiar with Burns, I have found the above custom to be a great deal of fun. But the Burns supper, like so many other fun things, has been ruined by government regulation. The USDA ruled in 1971 that “[l]ivestock lungs shall not be saved for use as human food,” although they can still be used for pet food.

Sheep lungs are a key ingredient in haggis, along with the heart, liver, and suet of the animal. Oatmeal, onions, and spices are also used. These are all minced, stuffed into the stomach of the animal, and baked. Thus, it is impossible to purchase a proper haggis in America. Unless one has access to a livestock farmer who can provide a sheep for slaughter or can go hunting for a wild bighorn sheep, one must find a lung-free substitute.

Having eaten both a proper haggis and a lung-free substitute, I can tell you that the lungs make a profound difference. A lung-free haggis is more of a cross between sausage and livermush than a proper haggis. The lungs contribute a certain lightness and peculiar flavor that set the haggis apart from other offal dishes with similar ingredients.

So why did the benevolent overlords who wish to dictate to us what we may or may not consume decide to ban lungs from being used as food? Clearly it is not a matter of food safety, as many regional cuisines throughout the world feature lung dishes, with no demonstrated ill effects for those who consume them. It is also not a matter of appearances; while some people do not like the idea of eating something which may have been exposed to bodily fluids, this reasoning fails to explain why lungs are banned but stomachs and intestines are allowed.

Perhaps it is the lung mucus that motivates the ban, but this can be disgorged by parboiling them, as anyone who has prepared a lung dish of any kind can attest. We are left with no reason but the usual one: government regulator busybodies telling the rest of us what to do simply because they can. As there is no logical or empirical reason to sustain the lung ban, let us take a stand for food freedom. Remove pointless regulations, restore the Burns supper, and bring back the haggis!

A case for self-defense against Child Protective Services

In an ongoing case described in three articles at Reason, Danielle Meitiv, a Maryland mother of two was reported to Child Protective Services for letting her children, ages 10 and 6, play in a park two blocks from their house and walk to and from unsupervised by an adult. Two agents showed up at her house to inform her that this is illegal. (In fact, it is not illegal, let alone immoral.) She then called CPS and was told that “judges have interpreted the law to include parks—in spite of the fact that the language is VERY clear about enclosed spaces—so a cop could charge us $500, or a judge could give us 30 days in jail, if my daughter is without supervision at the park.” We have a mother who wants her children to learn to operate independently and get some exercise. The state, on the other hand, would rather use the fact that she is not with them every step of the way as a pretext for extortion or kidnapping and caging. The reasoning here boggles the mind; “spend time with your kids or we’ll make sure you can’t for a month!,” say the agents of the state.

Higher-level CPS agents realized that the case was foolish and dropped it. The following month, her husband Alexander dropped off the children at a park about a mile from their house. They walked home together and were reported again. Police responded when the children were halfway home and took them the rest of the way home in a police car. The officer asked for the man’s ID, and he refused. She said she would call for back-up, and six police cars arrived. He then agreed to get his ID. She responded, in front of the children, that shots would be fired if he came back with anything else. She then followed him upstairs, despite having no warrant to enter the house. The older child called his mother crying, saying that police were there and his father was going to be arrested. The man stepped outside to try to spare his children more emotional distress. He disagreed with the officer about the danger posed to the children, to which she asked him, “Don’t you watch TV?” He answered that he did not. After taking notes, the police left the scene.

After this, a CPS agent arrived and told the father to sign a temporary plan saying that the children would not be left unsupervised until the following Monday, when further contact with CPS would occur. He refused, after which the agent called the police and said that they would take the children immediately. He gave in to the threat and signed the plan.

Several weeks later, the Meitivs were contacted by a CPS worker named W. Don Thorne. He made an appointment for them to come to his office on Jan. 9. He then called the Meitivs again, saying that he needed to come to their house. They refused, but he showed up unannounced with police escort on Jan. 12. He insisted that he had the right to enter, despite what the Fourth Amendment says. The Meitivs refused to let him enter. Then they noticed a sticker from their children’s elementary school on his jacket, leading the Meitivs to suspect that he had interviewed the children at their school with their parents’ knowledge or consent. He would not confirm or deny this, and left the scene. The children later confirmed it.

This is a clear case of government oppression. The question is how to respond to it. Let us see what is allowed by libertarian philosophy and classical logic. From the act of argumentation, one can show that morality is a valid concept and that there are moral rules which should be considered binding upon all people at all times. Neither costumes nor badges contain moral magic which excuse their wearers from moral rules which are binding upon everyone else. Agents of the state derive their authority solely from force of arms, as any other standard either disallows the establishment of such authority or makes its continuation impossible. Such authority is therefore anti-rational, as the universal preferability of reason over initiatory force is a precondition of rational argumentation. Thus, we should hold any agent of the state to the same moral standards as a private individual. The essence of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle, which says that it is never morally acceptable to initiate the use of force, and that the use of force to defend against a force initiator (a.k.a. aggressor) is always morally acceptable.

Now, let us examine the particulars of the above case. In the above case, the police who transported the children would be guilty of kidnapping if they were not state agents, although the charge might be mitigated by the fact that they took the children to their home. After this, the police officer entered the Meitiv’s land and house against their will, which would be wanton trespass on private property if the officer were not a state agent. This is cause for the use of as much defensive violence as necessary to remove the trespasser. The officer then made a murder threat against Alexander Meitiv, which is also cause for the use of as much defensive violence as necessary to end the threat. When the CPS agent gave the parents an ultimatum, this was a threat to kidnap the children, which may be prevented by as much defensive violence as necessary. The later incident with the CPS agent visiting the children at school is creepy, but not actionable. However, the fact that the children are forced to be in government schools by murder threats (laws) made by violent sociopaths (politicians) who win popularity contests (elections) and enforced by thugs in costumes (police) is cause for the use of force.

None of this is to say that the Meitivs should have taken up arms and used force to repel CPS agents and government police officers. That is a value judgment that they alone must make. After all, the likely outcome of this would have been yet another innocent family murdered by agents of the state. The number of people willing to defend themselves from such aggression is not yet large enough to mount an effective resistance. But the moral case is clear; the Meitivs have the right to defend themselves, regardless of the costumes and badges worn by the aggressors and the organization the aggressors claim to represent.

The Dark Side Of Decentralization

Decentralization is viewed by many libertarians as the best path to freedom, and there are none to speak of who would discount it entirely, even if they think it to be a secondary tactic to some other method. Thus far, decentralization has taken many forms. Bitcoin can grant its users freedom from taxation, currency debasement, and capital controls. Peer-to-peer file-sharing has limited the abilities of government to enforce intellectual property laws. 3D printers have the potential to render both gun control laws and patents irrelevant. Onion routing has freed many people from censorship and allowed for marketplaces that circumvent drug bans. These results are positive and growing with each passing day, despite the occasional minor setback.

All of these tools (and more) have been used to great effect to promote liberty by circumventing state power, but decentralization itself is fundamentally amoral. It is a tactic that can be used by the forces of darkness as well. The most prominent example as of this writing is Islamic terrorism.

There was a time when major terrorist attacks, like those of 9/11, were the biggest fear of people in the West. This was the height of centralized terrorism, when 19 agents of al-Qaida hijacked four airplanes and killed nearly 3,000 civilians in a well-planned, well-funded, highly coordinated operation. Here, the state displayed its strong suit: it can effectively destroy centralized enemies. If there is a physical target that can be bombed or a living person that can be exterminated, states are usually able to carry out those acts. (Of course, they frequently go overboard with their bombings and killings, which gives more people cause to become terrorists, but statists rarely care about this, as prolonged war is prolonged health of the state.) The regimes of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein quickly fell after the US military invaded their respective lands. But in their wake came decentralized enemies in the form of anti-occupation insurgents and new terrorist cells. These have proven difficult, if not impossible, to defeat. After all, governments, with their bureaucratic red tape and intrinsic inefficiencies, must be correct every time. Islamic jihadists, with their ability to remotely recruit and train new terrorists anywhere in the world, need only be correct once. They can even strike from beyond the grave, as videos made by the late Anwar al-Awlaki are still bringing new people into the ranks of Islamic terrorism.

So, what to do about the dark side of decentralization? It, like the darkness of centralization, is best fought with the light side of decentralization. We already have some examples of how this might work. After the Boston Marathon bombing, the city of Boston was put under martial law. But agents of the state did not find Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; a private citizen found Tsarnaev hiding in his boat. After the Charlie Hebdo shooting, 10,000 soldiers filled the streets of Paris. But they did not find the shooters; a man hiding under a sink in the building they occupied informed the authorities of their location. In both cases, locating terror suspects was better performed by private individuals than by government agents. The next step is to decentralize the means of dealing with the threat posed by terrorists by using competing private security forces against terrorists. This would increase effectiveness because private security forces would compete with each other to provide the best service at the lowest cost and could be fired for incompetence and/or overreach. And because aggression increases the cost of providing security, the sort of foreign policy misadventures that magnify the number of Islamic terrorists would be drastically curtailed, if not eliminated outright, if government militaries were replaced with private security forces.

Of course, central governments will not stop oppressing their populations unless and until they must, which will only happen with a combination of advancing technology and a willingness to use it in self-defense. In such oppression, centralization and the dark side of decentralization are allies, together for the long haul. For the state to win the war on terrorism would be against its rational self-interest, as the terrorists give the state an excuse to operate, grow, and oppress private individuals in the name of national security. For the state to lose the war on terrorism would also be against its rational self-interest, as failing at the one job it is supposedly solely capable of performing would quickly lead to its overthrow. The terrorists, for their part, need the state to motivate new recruits who would not be brought in by religious fundamentalism alone, as the military interventions that anger people in their home countries would be difficult, if not impossible, with competing private security forces in place of government militaries. In this sense, the state and Islamic terrorism are symbiotic enemies that must defeated together by the third side of libertarian decentralization.

Police Assassinations Versus The Non-Aggression Principle

In the wake of recent assassinations of NYPD officers and violence against police elsewhere, libertarian authors at Reason Magazine and Liberty.me have called the shootings “horrific and unjustifiable,” “assassinations,” “executions,” and “murder.” Let us examine these claims from first principles and see whether this is the case or whether killing government police officers is within the bounds of the non-aggression principle. Then, we will look at some of the philosophical objections raised by these authors and others and see whether or not they are valid.

Did Ismaaiyl Brinsley murder officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, or were these killings justifiable?

Let us begin with the essence of libertarianism: the non-aggression principle. The non-aggression principle says that it is never morally acceptable to initiate the use of force, and that the use of force to defend against a force initiator (a.k.a. aggressor) is always morally acceptable. We should then explore its limitations. Like any logical statement, the non-aggression principle is subject to logic in the form of rationality and consistency. To claim that one should be free from victimization by aggressors while committing acts of aggression is a performative inconsistency. As such, only a person who abides by the non-aggression principle is logically able to claim protection under it. To abide by the non-aggression principle, one must not initiate the use of force and if one does, one must make restitution for doing so. This means that one may employ violence against any aggressor at any time for the purpose of obtaining restitution for aggression and/or repelling the threat that an aggressor poses, and that one may escalate the use of force as far as necessary to accomplish these goals. Let us look at some basic examples to see how this works:

  1. Alfred is walking down a street. Bob picks Alfred’s wallet out of his pocket and runs away. Alfred chases down Bob, puts Bob in a submission hold, and takes back the wallet as well as Bob’s wallet. This is acceptable. The use of force was initiated, defensive force appropriate to the situation was used, and restitution was made. Concerning Bob’s wallet, Bob cannot claim a property right to his wallet while violating Alfred’s property right to his wallet, so Alfred may choose to take Bob’s wallet without penalty.
  2. Cate breaks into Daniel’s house and steals from it. Daniel hires Acme Dispute Resolution to investigate. Their agents find forensic evidence linking Cate to the crime with complete certainty. They send agents to recover the stolen goods if possible and deal with Cate if necessary. The agents find Cate with the stolen goods and attempt to negotiate with her. Cate uses deadly force to try to repel them. The agents kill Cate, recover the stolen goods, and return them to Daniel. This is acceptable. The use of force was initiated, Daniel hired agents to help him do what he may morally do but may be practically incapable of doing himself, an attempt to obtain restitution was made, the aggressor escalated the situation to the point of deadly force, defensive force appropriate to the situation was used, and restitution was delivered to the victim.
  3. Elle is walking down a street. Farkas approaches, points a gun at Elle, and demands Elle’s purse. Elle hands it over. Farkas runs away with the wallet. Gina witnesses this from a few blocks away. Gina pulls out a gun, runs toward Farkas, and shoots Farkas dead. Gina returns the purse to Elle. This is acceptable. Even though Gina was not the victim and was not hired by the victim, an aggressor who threatens deadly force against people may be stopped with deadly force by anyone who is willing and able.
  4. Hector murders Ivan. No one finds out about it until Jacob is able to prove it with certainty 25 years later. Jacob then kills Hector. Upon being questioned, Jacob presents the ironclad case that Hector was a murderer. This is acceptable. Even though a long time has passed, Hector initiated the use of force and committed a crime for which no restitution is possible, as the life of Ivan cannot be restored. Hector cannot claim a right to his life while having violated Ivan’s right to his life by murdering him. Jacob (and anyone else who figures out that Hector is a murderer) is therefore entitled to choose whether to kill Hector.
  5. Karl has done nothing wrong. Lana hires Mark to murder Karl. Karl kills Mark in self-defense. Lana hears of this and hires Neville to murder Karl. Karl captures Neville and asks him who hired him. Neville refuses to answer, so Karl tortures him until he does. Neville finally tells Karl that Lana hired him. Karl does more research to confirm this, hunts down Lana, and kills her. This is acceptable. Karl is obviously justified in killing Mark to protect himself from being murdered. Karl is justified in torturing Neville because it would be inconsistent for Neville to claim rights to his body while he is seeking to deny Karl rights to his body by murdering him. Karl is justified in killing Lana because while she is not acting directly to murder him, she is hiring agents to do it for her, which makes her vicariously liable. There is also the matter that the alternative is absurd; Karl should not have to spend his life dodging hitmen hired by Lana until he finally fails to do so and gets murdered.
  6. Omar owns a store. Omar has signed no contract with the mafia for their protection, and would rather hire other security forces or defend his property himself. Patrice is a mafia member sent to collect protection money from Omar. Omar informs Patrice of a robbery that occurred at his store the previous week, and refuses to pay on the grounds that the service was unsatisfactory and that he does not want the mafia’s protection. Patrice tells Omar that the mafia has no obligation to protect him and threatens to beat Omar and lock him in a cage if he does not pay. Omar demands that Patrice leave his store. Patrice refuses to leave, begins to attack Omar, and Omar is no match for Patrice in a fight. Omar pulls out a gun and kills Patrice. This is acceptable. Patrice violated Omar’s freedom of association, trespassed on his property, and physically assaulted him. Omar did what he had to do to defend himself and his property (although he may have to do more in the future, as the mafia will be after him now).
  7. Quentin is selling batteries on the street, and no one has demanded that he leave their private property. Roger, an agent of Sally’s Coercion Cartel (SCC), approaches Quentin and tells him that in accordance with SCC policy, he is not allowed to sell batteries in the area without paying 10 percent of his profits to SCC. Quentin demands to be left alone. Roger attacks and kills Quentin. SCC summons a council of non-SCC members who are threatened with punishment for not responding. These people are to judge whether Roger has done something criminal. The proceeding is conducted entirely by SCC personnel in a location chosen by SCC leadership. The result is that Roger is exonerated. Tara finds Roger and kills him. She then hires Ultimate Defense Agency to help her apprehend the leadership of SCC and stop them from stealing from and killing any more merchants. They kill some SCC leaders and capture the rest. This is acceptable. Roger has committed an act of murder, and it is therefore inconsistent for him to claim a right to his own life, so he may be killed. The case of the SCC leaders is more complex. Like Lana from Example 5, they are not acting directly, but are hiring people to initiate the use of force for them, to the point of murdering those who do not comply with their extortion. But as they continually employ agents who initiate the use of force, they are presenting a constant threat which may be answered with as much force as necessary to end the threat. Some surrendered once presented with defensive force, while others kept initiating the use of force and were killed.

Examples 6 and 7 bear closer examination. What if Patrice is not a mafia member, but a government tax collector? What if Roger is not a member of Sally’s Coercion Cartel, but a government police officer? What if the SCC leadership were government legislators and executives instead? From a moral standpoint, nothing would change. It matters not what costume one wears or what organization one claims to work for; the non-aggression principle is a moral absolute. Its violation by an aggressor, along with a refusal by the aggressor to stop aggressing and make restitution for the aggression, may be defended against by as much force as is necessary to end the threat.

The caveat here is that officers Ramos and Liu are not known to have killed anyone in the performance of their jobs. But they are known to have chosen to become government police officers, the job description of which is to enforce the laws and to be paid from government coffers for doing so. To enforce the laws is to present a consistent threat to initiate as much force as necessary to stop a person who is known to be breaking the laws. The laws are not determined in accordance with the non-aggression principle, but by the whims of politicians. As some of the laws are contrary to the non-aggression principle, those laws are immoral. Thus, to become a government police officer is to choose to present a consistent threat to initiate the use of as much force as necessary to stop a person who is known to be breaking immoral laws, or in other words, acting morally. Also, the money paid to a government police officer was collected through taxation, which violates the non-aggression principle by forcing people to turn over their money to the state or be subject to initiatory force. As officers Ramos and Liu chose to enter a profession where they presented a consistent threat to initiate the use of as much force as necessary to stop people who are doing nothing immoral while receiving stolen money for doing so, it would be inconsistent for the non-aggression principle to apply to them. Thus, killing them to defend innocent people from their aggressions is within the bounds of the non-aggression principle.

Now, let us consider common responses and objections which were not dealt with above:

So Ismaaiyl Brinsley was a hero?

Although he eliminated two aggressors, he also killed an innocent person, which makes him a murderer. He was therefore not a hero.

By using force against another person, the cop-killers of New York are now playing the state’s game.

This objection shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the proper use of force and the nature of the state. The state’s game is initiatory force. By using force against government agents, cop-killers use defensive force. To equate the two is a serious error unbecoming of a true libertarian.

In a battle between government agents and civilians, there can be no victory; only blood spilled upon blood.

The idea here is that an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind. This is only true if matters reach the point of large-scale conflict and the numbers on each side are roughly equal. The number of civilians is far larger than the number of government agents, and it would only take a few percent of civilians defending themselves against government agents to render the government inert. But even the threat of power has power, and it is unlikely for a large-scale conflict between government agents and civilians to erupt if the civilians strategize correctly. After all, centralized power has consistently been shown to be ineffective at dealing with decentralized opponents. At the point of this writing, the hazard of being an NYPD officer is perceived to be so high that police are drastically limiting their activities. At some point, the hazard of being a government agent would become so high that it would make more sense to go do something productive for a living than to go up against so many people who are willing to use defensive force as to face almost certain death.

Police are human beings. They do the best they can. Their lives are valuable.

People who choose to initiate the use of force are almost certainly not doing the best they can, and if they are, then their survival is dependent on immorality, which makes their survival immoral. Also, value is subjective, and it is possible to subjectively value the human life of an unrepentant aggressor at zero or less.

Absentee parents are the most powerful predictor of problematic children. Killing government agents results in absentee parents because dead people are necessarily absent. This will cause an increase in violence as these problematic children grow up and commit crimes.

It is important to remember that this is not a zero-sum game. Government police officers, if left unchallenged, will enforce all of the laws and thusly imprison innocent people, which results in absentee parents and the accompanying problems described above. Also note that an increase in violence is not necessarily a bad thing if the recipients of violence are aggressors far more often than they are innocent people. Such an increase in violence would serve as a chilling effect against aggressors by eliminating some aggressors and raising the cost of engaging in such behavior for the remaining ones, thereby resulting in a long-term drop in violent crime after the short-term rise.

All police are not collectively responsible for the acts that a few individuals among them have committed.

This is only true in a direct sense. While not all (or even most) government police officers have gotten away with a murder in the line of duty, they are all willfully part of a system that helps the few who have avoid responsibility and retribution for their crimes. Such action creates vicarious liability. They are also still guilty of continuously threatening innocent people with potentially deadly force for engaging in behaviors that politicians happen to dislike.

We have a justice system. Why can’t we use and trust it to hold government police officers accountable?

We cannot use the system because it is inherently biased. In a criminal proceeding against a government police officer, a government police officer is being tried in a government courtroom presided over by a government judge in a case presented by a government prosecutor (who likely has a working relationship with the police officer) to a jury convened by the government under pain of fines and/or imprisonment for not responding for jury duty. How such an astronomically large conflict of interest can be tolerated by a free people is frankly baffling.

If killing government agents is acceptable, why don’t you start shooting?

Just because an action is not forbidden does not mean that it is obligatory. It might also be positive but not obligatory, neutral, or negative but not forbidden. While using defensive force against government agents is morally acceptable, it is usually tactically unwise. Although the NYPD has significantly lessened its oppression of the populace in response to the loss of two of its officers, this is incomplete and impermanent. To completely end the oppression of statism through defensive violence will require a critical mass of people who are willing to participate, and these people will have to be reasonable people who are fed up with the abuses of statism and have realized that no other options are going to work in their lifetimes, not lone wolves with mental illnesses who cause death and destruction to innocent people as well. Without such a critical mass with the proper motivation, such efforts will only serve as an excuse to bolster government police and military forces while curtailing liberty further and making libertarians look like dangerous extremists.