|Daniel O'Connor wrote,|
"By the way, I don't completely buy the argument that, "if you want other people to respect your rights, then you must respect the rights of other people. It is certainly true that, if you want other people to respect your rights, then you must not let other people catch you violating their rights."
Although it's true that if other people catch you violating their rights, they'll probably retaliate against you, retaliatory force is not the initiation of force. It doesn't constitute a violation of your rights. Nor does it follow that if others catch you violating their rights, they'll be more inclined to violate yours. If someone commits a crime against me, does that mean that I'll be more likely to commit a crime against him? No, of course not!
You continue, "But if they don't catch you, then I don't see how your crime will make other people less likely to respect your rights."
But that's not the argument! Rand isn't saying that if you violate the rights of others, others will be "less likely" to respect your rights. When she says that you should recognize the rights of others if you want your own rights to be recognized, she's saying that you can't demand that others respect your rights, if you're unwilling to respect theirs. The point is that rights are a moral principle and that if it's okay for you to ignore that principle in relation to others, then it's okay for others to ignore it in relation to yourself.
You write, "I think it's simpler just to say, 'if you violate someone's rights, then there's a chance you'll get caught and get in serious trouble, and it's usually not worth the risk.'"
That may be true in certain cases, but it's not the primary reason that you should respect other people's rights, because there are obviously situations in which others can violate your rights with impunity--for example, the government, or anyone else who stands a good chance of getting away with it. Besides, if that's your only reason for not violating someone else's rights, then there's no reason not to violate them in situations where you're reasonably certain that you can avoid detection and/or retaliation. But that means that people would only have rights when it's expedient for others not to violate them. Do you really believe that?! And, why, under your theory, should the government refrain from passing a law that initiates force against its own citizens? Who's going to catch and punish the government in such cases?! No, the primary reason that it's not egoistic to sacrifice others to oneself is that it sanctions the sacrifice of oneself to others.