A simple question

21 September 2009 by Mike Gogulski
Posted in philosophy, war | 29 Comments »

You see Donald Rumsfeld on the street. A man with a gun jumps Rumsfeld, apparently bent on killing him.

Who will you defend?

We’re probably all talking past each other, but this is a followup to “Why I am not specifically a voluntaryist“.

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  1. 29 Responses to “A simple question”

  2. By Chris Blizzard on 21 September 2009

    I would defend Donald Rumsfeld – even if the other guy only wanted to rough him up a bit

  3. By Jason on 21 September 2009

    My off-the-cuff answer…

    i wouldn’t interfere.

    Rumsfeld should pay for his crimes, but well, he should also have the chance to go down fighting.


  4. By Chris Blizzard on 21 September 2009

    Rumsfeld is an elderly man. Whether he should be subject to legal prosecution is a separate matter to whether he should be aggressed against.

    It seems you would feel that justice is done if he was to be murdered?

    So the NAP is waivable for him but not for you?

  5. By Adam on 21 September 2009

    What if I took my time on pulling my weapon and it just so happened to be too late for Donald. But then shot the robber.

    But I agree with Jason mostly. Can’t allow aggression and holding politicians accountable is a touchy subject amongst anarchist/voluntaryist. Some think its ok to go right to the top offing guys, others think that its the system the majority support therefore if that system were ended, they get a free pass? IDK I hear both sides.

  6. By Jason on 21 September 2009

    For some people, like high-ranking government officials and heads of state, there is no court of law that can or will convict them.

    However, you and I can be assured of their guilt because we have witnessed the crimes of underlings, the excuses and lies of the higher-ups, and the fact they are ‘in charge’, and have the power to either end the crimes or resign. They are directly responsible.

    It is only the lone man jumping out with the gun who can hold people like Rumsfield accountable for their actions.

  7. By Kyle Bennett on 21 September 2009

    Why are the answers focused on whether or not he deserves to be killed?

  8. By BillyWitchDr. on 21 September 2009

    The way I see it, Rumsfeld and other war criminals should be put on trial, everything outside of this, excluding actual self-defense violates the NAP.

    As for your hypothetical; I think of it this way, would I risk my life trying to save Ronald Rumsfeld? No I would not.

  9. By Nitroadict on 21 September 2009

    I’m sorry but I see no conflict or dilemma here.

    The voluntaryist can choose not to associate with either, therefor circumventing the possibility that a voluntaryist would somehow “rationalize” coercion, or act a certain way counter to their philosophy.

    I see no moral problem in not trying to defend a criminal from another criminal, & choosing not to bother.

    It’s similar to seeing a public brawl between two persons, & not instantly feeling some moral imperative to interfere, out of self-interest for the preservation of one’s own life.

    The fact that they are two criminals doesn’t change anything.

    Even the possible argument of “pre-emptive” aggression against Rumsefeld, on the possibility that he will involved in future acts of aggression via the state (being that he is a statist agent) is a slippery slope to rationalize coercion for others as well, methinks.

    I have no problem with you refusing the voluntaryist label (labels can be silly things), but I find it a little pointless since it seems to be based upon semantics, unless I’m missing something of course :\

  10. By brian on 21 September 2009

    i don’t think the NAP applies to aggressors like rumsfeld – people who have demonstrated on numerous occasions that they will not observe the NAP. i don’t have a problem using force against aggressors.

    if a person murders an innocent person in the street, is it an act of aggression to kill the murderer? what if you don’t and years go by before you see this dude again? does the passage of time absolve him? does the passage of time and the circumstances of rumsfeld’s mass murders absolve him?

    i’d say that until a known aggressor, like rumsfeld, is brought to justice, then he’s fair game assuming no one’s attempting (like the victims) to bring him to justice.

  11. By Chris Blizzard on 21 September 2009

    Brian – Your assertion, that the NAP does not apply to certain people, shows that you do not hold it as a principle at all.

    All of the people whose actions, subsequent to ‘instruction’ from Rumsfeld, were to carry out policies which he ‘set in motion’, have their own volition, and we should make a moral judgement on them all.

    To hold Rumsfeld to account for the actions of many, by choosing not to apply a principle which you would claim for your own defense, is totally immoral.

  12. By Darian on 21 September 2009

    It is not in my interests to elevate the level of violence in the struggle against statism, but I certainly wouldn’t help a known murderer like Rumsfeld nor help punish his attacker in any way whatsoever.

    Thoreau and Spooner were right to defend John Brown.

  13. By Adam on 21 September 2009

    isn’t the beauty of voluntary societies that there is no one answer for this? I mean some communities or people would handle this manner by taking the chance to ‘kill’ two birds with one stone. Or others would hold the robber accountable for his act of aggression, no matter the reason.

    Either way I don’t think there is a correct answer to this, too many variables and depending factors. Like all of us being different, therefore, handling this differently. Though we all know we are responsible for our actions.

  14. By brian on 21 September 2009


    you may be mistaken on what the NAP actually means. do you believe in an individual’s right to use force in defense? if so, does a person have to wait until a gunman, who has killed multiple people around him, finds the barrel in his face before responding, or is he justified in using force against someone who is demonstrating a lack of respect for the person or property of others?
    i posit that there is no wrong in using force against aggressors that have not been brought to bear for their crimes. they have demonstrated that they will not respect the rights of others and therefore there is no obligation to respect theirs, since such force can be considered defensive in nature.
    there’s no such thing as aggression against aggressors and that violates the NAP in no way.

  15. By b-psycho on 21 September 2009

    There’s distance between realizing that someone merely being jumped and murdered isn’t justice & concluding that you have a duty to save them…

  16. By gyakusetsu on 21 September 2009

    I can’t really tell you what I would do in the heat of the moment, but only what I think that I personally ought to do.

    I hope that I would be able to stop the person with the gun by vocally intervening (yelling to show others are watching, talking him down, etc.), or by placing myself between them, if possible. Yes, I realize that I could get shot.

  17. By anon on 21 September 2009

    Not exactly on topic but on the same vein what if one of the anarchists that most people think of when they think of anarchy showed up in your extreme voluntaryist society he’s raping girls, women, wives, guys with impunity while the people are watching he doesn’t give a damn how many people you have watching all he wants to do is rape. Maybe depending on your reponses he’ll start killing people in order and try to get you to be his slaves.

  18. By Chris Blizzard on 21 September 2009

    Brian, I understand NAP, thank you very much 😉

    Counter-coercion is of course moral. I just don’t see how murdering Rumsfeld as he walks home one night could be described as counter-coercion.

    What is the end you would be striving for? Justice? According to what philosophy?

    Surely a better approach would be for rational, ethically-sound individuals who are against Rumsfeld for his statism, have nothing to do with him, and he becomes ostracised?

    If you want to round up everyone in the world you consider criminal and shoot them, then you can forget about freedom – which is, I assume, the reason you’re on this thread in the first place.

  19. By anon on 21 September 2009

    “If you want to round up everyone in the world you consider criminal and shoot them, then you can forget about freedom – which is, I assume, the reason you’re on this thread in the first place.”

    If this is in reponse to me how would that preclude freedom exactly since true freedom would be where you could do anything you wanted to do depending of course on your capabilities. As for those that I consider criminal I would not be the only one in such an anarchist society no doubt.

  20. By anon on 21 September 2009

    in response to what I see or know about. I of course am probably not going to go around looking for people who are what I think are criminals unless maybe I join a security company.

  21. By Lee on 21 September 2009

    use the photo opportunity.

  22. By George Donnelly on 21 September 2009

    I do not support the death penalty. So even in the most severe outcome of a trial of war criminals, I would support a punishment of ostracism and/or banishment.

    These hypotheticals are kind of silly. Their attachment to reality is minimal.

    Let’s instead talk about what we are going to do.

  23. By Mike Gogulski on 21 September 2009

    So here’s my own thought on this.

    Rummy is a war criminal, with the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people on his hands. An outlaw, by any reasonable standard of justice and recompense, and therefore not deserving of defense by anyone.

    Me? I’m up for helping the gunman reload and get away safely.

    We have words for people who slay the monsters around us. One of them is “hero”.

  24. By The New Anarchist on 21 September 2009

    I like how people jump to whether or not they should or shouldn’t save him. Morals or not, the guy doesn’t have any power anymore, won’t be tried and will never understand the truth. So, shot or not, it doesn’t really matter.

    But, since we’re being hypothetical, I would wait until the gunman had done his deed and run away, return to the scene of the crime, shit on Rumsfeld’s dead (or dying) body and write a note that says, “Donald Rumsfeld was a secret Muslim. Go America!”

  25. By Marty on 21 September 2009

    I’m a big fan of the sentiment that a long life seeing your goals all fail would be a much better punishment than a violent death (especially one as “clean” as being shot), So most likely, I would attempt to verbally intercede, even if I wouldn’t dream of physically defending Rumsfeld.

    While it is certainly true that Violence has produced successful Revolutions, I’d like to point something out: A revolution is defined as “a single complete turn”, as well as the government definition. In other words, we end up where we started. What we want is not a revolution, but an Evolution: “a process in which something passes by degrees to a different stage (especially a more advanced or mature stage)”

    That’s not to say I’m a pacifist. Far from it. Self defense, IMO, is not only morally right, but morally necessary. By not defending yourself, you are acknowledging the assailant’s right to your property. That doesn’t extend to others, though. There’s no moral obligation to jump in the path of the bullet to save Rumsfeld, or to toss a rope down to the guy in the well. There’s not even any moral obligation to say “Hey, no, don’t shoot him.” I’d still do it anyway, because some nutjob shooting a politician and screaming “Viva la Revolucion!” is only going to hurt my cause.

    Violence against the power structure should only come as a defensive action once there is sufficient mass of (to coin a term) Evolutionaries. Once violence is joined, there’s no reason that it can’t be guerrilla warfare. It just should not be initiated by us.

    (Both definitions from Definr( )

  26. By Brian on 21 September 2009

    I don’t feel that it’s inappropriate to kill a known killer who has not been brought to justice. He is an outright threat to anyone in his proximity and I wouldn’t feel the need to wait for him to attack me to take action.

    Technically, I don’t find it immoral to disregard the rights of anyone who has violated the person or property of others to any extent. On the other hand I would t neccessarily support killing someone who stole a loaf of bread and I would most likely refuse to associate with someone who did that, but the act tself doesn’t qualfy as immoral.
    So, I agree with you about rumsfeld’s ostracism, but the original question was not what I recommend, but what is moral and what isn’t.
    In summary, there’s nothing immoral about using force against known rights violator, who have not been brought to justice, it just isn’t what I would choose everytime.

  27. By Chris Blizzard on 22 September 2009

    Will people stop referring to Rumsfeld as a known killer? To assert he is a killer because of his tenure as SoD is to a) deny that every individual has volition, and/or – b) assert that every American who pays taxes and does not oppose state-led wars as a killer also.

  28. By Mike Gogulski on 22 September 2009

    I won’t…

  29. By DixieFlatline on 22 September 2009

    I gotta agree with Nitro.

    And I gotta disagree about being a hero.

    Justice is about restitution, not revenge. Rummy owes restitution to the victims and the estates of the victims he has harmed.

    Some might take a Blockean position, that a life for a life but ultimately, only the victims can determine what the appropriate justice is. To act as their agent, without their consent, is no different than the justification for a social contract.

    I think Rumsfeld is a dirt bag, but in the long run, we’re all dead. I’d rather see him work off the rest of his days changing bed pans and scrubbing toilets, than lying in a pool of his own blood.

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