This article appeared in Consent #18 (January 1993)


- Danielle Metz

{Danielle Metz is an aspiring writer and novelist who is currently completing her high-school studies in preparation for her journalistic career. The following essay was originally written as an English assignment, and touches upon a sensitive philosophical issue: the acceptance of contradictions. }

Despite any assertions to the contrary, the right to initiate force is a fundamental power granted to all established governments.

When confronted with the suggestion, most people I have talked to quickly reply that "of course they don't support the initiation of force" with an indignant sniff that challenges my right to even ask. Yet upon further discussion, I discover that they believe in all kinds of controls based on the very principle they so vehemently deny.

For example, a very confused co-worker of mine (who shall remain nameless) very readily agreed with me that no one had the right to initiate the use of force against another. I asked him to consider it carefully, to compare it with the other beliefs (or lack thereof) he held.

He nodded impatiently insisting that he agreed with my statement completely. Sensing an opportunity to make a point, I dredged up a previous discussion in which he supported a price cap on doctors' salaries. "I don't care who they are," he argued, "nobody's worth half a million dollars a year."

Avoiding the obvious argument concerning his right to judge how much someone was worth (and why this magic number of half a million?), I asked him how he would implement his salary cap should some doctor disregard this arbitrary limit on his income --- given, of course, that my co-worker didn't believe in the initiation of force.

His response was irrational, and predictable with those confronted with a contradiction in their beliefs: "I don't know and I don't care."

Another co-worker of mine also agreed with the assertion that no one had the right to initiate the use of force. He also believes in the 'justice' of social programs, the 'enforcement' of bilingualism, a cap on doctors' salaries, and the sham the government of Canada is trying to pass off as a constitution. When asked how these latter beliefs were to be implemented in light of his initial premise, I was swamped with a morass of irrational and almost unintelligible reasons which had no bearing on the subject whatsoever, the basic gist of which consisted of the moral right of the needy to hold a mortgage on the ability of others.

At this point, I could see that rationality and reason had made a swift exit, and it was time that I did too.

Then there's drug laws. We all agree that drugs are bad for your health. The questions now arise: "Is it the government's job to protect us from ourselves? How do you enforce laws to stop people from taking drugs? As adults, are we not entitled to make our own decisions concerning our health?"

Their answer, avoiding the question, refers to the drain on our health system: "We are forced to pay for these junkies who O.D. and who require medical attention."

I smile and point out the key word of their sentence is "forced". Along their line of logic, the government should have the right to keep us all on diets that prohibit the consumption of fatty foods, sweets, caffeine, alcohol, tobacco --- and to make sure everyone has those sticky things on the bottom of their bathtub. The simple answer is to have everyone pay for their own health care --- therefore decreasing the use of drugs on an economic basis.

My opponents apparently have nightmares about salivating drug addicts toting sub-machine guns through the streets, robbing little old ladies to pay the drug dealers.

I patiently explain that this is an irrational fear based on propaganda; the main reason drug addicts (which, considering the projected use of illicit drugs, are a small minority of the drug community) commit crimes to get their drugs is when prohibition-created black market prices have driven them out of financial reach. Without prohibition, prices would drop so drastically that all of the criminal empires built on the drug trade would crash almost overnight. But none of this is relevant to the fact that the only way government can stop people who want to take drugs is through the initiation of force.

"That's too simplistic," I'm told. "We have to compromise to find true justice." Yet a compromise on an issue of morality is to accept something which you know is morally wrong, no matter how limited the extent of acceptance is. In morality, this so-called "grey" area consists of both white and black, of good and evil. By accepting the grey, one is accepting the black, the 'evil'.

Unfortunately, this lack of consistency and acceptance of contradictions in principle characterizes the majority of people I have spoken with. As a result, most agree that the initiation of force is wrong, but refuse to apply this belief to their hierarchy of values.

Perhaps if more of us had 'forced' ourselves to confront these contradictions when it was still a matter of choice, we might have avoided being 'forced' to deal with the consequences of our evasion and our acceptance of the right of governments to initiate force: escalating taxes, deficits, lost job opportunities, and vanishing freedoms and choices.

In the absence of choice, all issues are resolved as a matter of force. No compromises.

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