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Post 100

Sunday, May 21, 2006 - 3:13pmSanction this postReply
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 Bill, remember this statement:
This is the very foundation of objective law, defining what is and is NOT physically coercive action.  We are not talking about mental actions or their expression in speech, we are talking about physical action.  Do you mean to tell mean you lump these all under the broad category of "action" with all being potentially cause for criminal liability?
Bill, I am not saying writing a letter or giving a speech is not a form of action.  I am saying you are blurring the line between actions of speech and physical coercion, by lumping them all under the category of "action".  These are different types of actions and there is a clear line between these.  Words do not punch you in the face, fists do.   One constitutes the use of force and the other does not and this is the basis for establishing the laws against physical coercion. If you listen to Rand's tape on Objective law (can be found in Ayn Rand Bookstore) and her articles, she states that the basis for objective law is to clearly delineate these types of actions.  I don't see your problem with this?  The earlier statement from AR can be found in the Lexicon (pg 176) and the fuller statement reads:
What I challenge (and not only because of this particular case) is the interpretation of demonstrations and other actions as so-called "symbolic speech".  When you lose the distinction between action and speech, you lose, eventually, the freedom of both....There is no such things as "symbolic speech".  You do not have the right to parade through the public streets or to obstruct public thoroughfares....If they [the demonstraters] were permitted to do it, the Nazis should be permitted as well.  Properly, both should have been forbidden.  They may speak, yes.
She italicized the word "actions".  Bill, and this speaks to my point, I don't think she is saying that speech is not a form of action, but that you have to separate speech from conduct.  The law is concerned with objectively defining those actions that constitute physical force.  I can see why Rand's statement above or my statement of "criminally liable for their actions, not their words" would lead you to assume that expression of speech is not a category of action--so you are right to pick on that.  But what my earlier statement says and what AR statements says is that you need to keep a clear line between these two forms of actions, particularly in law where the whole basis is objectively defining what constitutes physical force.  What I don't understand, Bill, is your failure to see the line between the two and why this distinction is important, particularly for law? Why do you lump these all under the category of "action" without the necessary further delination of the concept of "action"?  It is necessary because the law deals with physical force (and threats of it)--that is the perspective through which one views legality.

Remember her testimony to HUAC?  She delineated the Communists NOT by their right to speak or exchange ideas, but their violent actions.  In the Journals of Ayn Rand (pg 382-3) she writes:
Joining it [Communist Party] involves more than a matter of ideas.  It involves an agreement to take orders to commit actions--criminal and treasonable actions....Membership of the Communist Party is a formal act of joining a formal organization whose aims, by its own admission, includes acts of criminal violence.

Here, she is again illustrating the line between speech and physical force, making it the basis for their criminal prosecution.  In cases like fraud, for instance, false promises become a form of physical coercion because it is a substitute for theft.  Or a "real" threat of violence is criminal because it constitutes a threat of physical force--that is the basis.

And that speaks to your bomb example.  It is not speech alone but a threat of physical force.  It doesn't not mean the law requires omniscience about whether one should know a bomb is in the bag.  Using the "reasonable person" standard, for instance,a person carrying a black bag on an airplane and making a bomb threat would be construed by a reasonable person as "real" threat of physical force.  Didn't this just happen last year in Miami, where a guy threatened a bomb but didn't have one and the US Marshalls shot him dead?  They are right, of course, because where there is a "real" threat you are perfectly justified in taking protective measures. I was arguing earlier, which I stated countless times, is how do we evaluate a "real" threat.  In that case it is obvious by any standard used, but I was asking the broader question of what standard should we use and why is it valid.

For your "heckler" example, it does not mean he has the right to take over your forum, your property (or whoever the property belongs to that granted you the right to use it to speak).  It is an initiation of force against property rights, like the person who demands a microphone from somebody else to broadcast his ideas.  The heckler has a right to speak, but not at the expense of taking over one's property.

As to your last post, NO, he is not criminally liable.  To be criminally liable you have to meet the mens rea specified in the statute, which in that case was purpose.  The court found he didn't so he is not prosecuted under that statute.  They would have to find another statute for another crime or one with a lesser mens rea.  Also, there is the option of civil action if it can match one of the torts.

Michael

(Edited by Michael Moeller on 5/21, 3:25pm)




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Post 101

Monday, May 22, 2006 - 12:57amSanction this postReply
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Given your latest explanation, Michael, I don't know why you think I disagree with you. Where did I ever imply that I thought there was no difference between legitimate, non-threatening speech and physical force. The point I was making, which I thought was clear, is that threatening statements like Toraine's can qualify as acts of physical force in the same way that a bomb threat can - that they cannot blithely be excused as examples of free speech.

- Bill



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Post 102

Tuesday, May 23, 2006 - 1:34pmSanction this postReply
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Bill,
I didn't think you would be endorsing that, which is what baffled me.  People blur the line between speech and conduct all the time and use "borderline" cases for the justification.  This is a crucial distinction that needs to be clearly, conceptually separated instead of all being lumped under the broad category of "action".  Rand mentioned the examples of people obstructing streets with their protests or taking over university buildings as examples of "speech".  Some liberals also seem to think marketing and advertising "coerces" people into buying useless junk that they don't want--an attempt to turn speech into conduct.  At any rate, touche for misinterpreting your position.  BTW, my "sophistry" comment referred specifically to Crime and Punishment and your brand of determinism, I've seen you give some very good, well-reasoned arguments elsewhere (recently on the analytic-synthetic dichotomy), which makes you somewhat of an enigma to me.
Regards,
Michael




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