sean

Defence of property.

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Shooting a person in the back to stop a them from running off with Yours or someone else's property. Morally right or wrong?

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Every individual has a right to self-defense, to protect themselves from the force of another. It is this that one allocates (which means to assign, not give up) to a moral government, so the individual also maintains it and can use it in certain situations. Obviously the person you describe has used force against another and is about to make off with a person's property, if a person does not have a right to the property they own then they do not have a right to their own life. So, you could shoot the person and possibly kill them. But, I would also offer the if one is going to shoot someone that the context should fit the shooting.

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Shooting a person in the back to stop a them from running off with Yours or someone else's property. Morally right or wrong?

If property is not defended by force, then soon no property will be safe which means people will be denied the right to hold property and derive benefits from their property. So I have to assume that whatever degree of force is required to protect property is o.k. to use.

In the example, I would shoot for the legs first. Killing to protect property is generally not necessary, but using force is.

I have no principled objection to using concealed leg hold traps to defend one's home, provided warning signs are posted. If someone is stupid enough to try breaking and entering after being warned of snares and traps, then maybe they deserve to lose a leg.

Achtung! Minen!

Bob Kolker

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If property is not defended by force, then soon no property will be safe which means people will be denied the right to hold property and derive benefits from their property. So I have to assume that whatever degree of force is required to protect property is o.k. to use.

I agree with this but not about the booby traps. Traps that indiscriminately spring on intruders, children or those seeking emergency help alike are probably a bad idea.

But yes, if property can't be defended by force (what other defense is there?) then there is no right to property.

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Imagine a security guard shooting a shoplifter in the back who made off with a couple stolen candy bars, then he dies because the bullet went through his heart. To me, it doesn't seem like the punishment fits the crime. You should probably try to restrain the fleeing criminal, although who knows if they have a gun or a knife? It could be unsafe. I'm not sure what to do about this situation.

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Actually, thinking about it again, I think the best thing to do would be to try to get as accurate of a description of the criminal as possible for the police. Instead of drawing your gun you should probably be drawing your cell phone and calling 911. I think it would be completely wrong to shoot someone in a situation like I wrote above, and probably should be illegal. Threatening them with the gun should be fine though, if it is used to hold them until the police arrive.

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I think it would be completely wrong to shoot someone in a situation like I wrote above, and probably should be illegal. Threatening them with the gun should be fine though, if it is used to hold them until the police arrive.

You mean you would threaten him with an act that both of you know full well you are not going to commit? How long would he stay?

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I think it would be completely wrong to shoot someone in a situation like I wrote above, and probably should be illegal. Threatening them with the gun should be fine though, if it is used to hold them until the police arrive.

You mean you would threaten him with an act that both of you know full well you are not going to commit? How long would he stay?

The gun is there so that he does not try to harm you while you hold him for the police. If he attempts to attack you, you are justified in shooting him.

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I think it would be completely wrong to shoot someone in a situation like I wrote above, and probably should be illegal. Threatening them with the gun should be fine though, if it is used to hold them until the police arrive.

You mean you would threaten him with an act that both of you know full well you are not going to commit? How long would he stay?

The gun is there so that he does not try to harm you while you hold him for the police. If he attempts to attack you, you are justified in shooting him.

True, but I meant that if he knows you aren't going to shoot him first because it's illegal, why wouldn't he just keep running?

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Sorry, I guess you can't read my mind. I was imagining a security guard who had caught the man, keeping the gun on himself for personal protection, or pointing it at the criminal.

From what I understand, people routinely run after thieves (at a potential danger to themselves) and can place them under citizens arrest. It would make sense to use a reasonable amount of force to detain the man (not shooting at him, but capturing him in some way) and then holding him there at gunpoint.

But I don't think we should have the right to shoot people running away with our property, like in the original post. The government is the sole agent of retaliatory force. We should be able to defend ourselves, which means our own bodies and maybe our home with a gun because we are in great physical danger. But self-defense does not really carry over to our property, at least not with regard to the use of deadly force.

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But self-defense does not really carry over to our property, at least not with regard to the use of deadly force.

That's a bit too blanket, and even now there are laws in certain places that disagree.

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Shooting a person in the back to stop a them from running off with Yours or someone else's property. Morally right or wrong?

Under what circumstances? Bob is right that force must be used to enforce property rights or they will not be enforced at all. This is not a matter of 'turn the other cheek'. But a proper government is supposed to bring the use of force under objective control, and that doesn't include leaving you free to shoot people in the back and killing them for every wrong you detect against your rights. You had better be willing to take the consequences for the degree and intensity of your own actions in stopping a crime.

Today there is so little respect for property rights that you have to suspect that if you don't do what you need to to stop a crime no one else ever will. But along with that you have to suspect just as strongly that if you do that then the government, the lawyers and everything else will come down on you like a ton of bricks. It is not in your moral self interest to subject yourself to that by lashing out at criminals even when you know they are the ones getting away with murder.

So if you are going to shoot someone in the back for stealing a pencil, or something far more serious, you had better assess what is or should be morally proper as well as the current legal system and its consequences for you.

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Shooting a person in the back to stop a them from running off with Yours or someone else's property. Morally right or wrong?

Under what circumstances? Bob is right that force must be used to enforce property rights or they will not be enforced at all. This is not a matter of 'turn the other cheek'. But a proper government is supposed to bring the use of force under objective control, and that doesn't include leaving you free to shoot people in the back and killing them for every wrong you detect against your rights. You had better be willing to take the consequences for the degree and intensity of your own actions in stopping a crime.

Today there is so little respect for property rights that you have to suspect that if you don't do what you need to to stop a crime no one else ever will. But along with that you have to suspect just as strongly that if you do that then the government, the lawyers and everything else will come down on you like a ton of bricks. It is not in your moral self interest to subject yourself to that by lashing out at criminals even when you know they are the ones getting away with murder.

So if you are going to shoot someone in the back for stealing a pencil, or something far more serious, you had better assess what is or should be morally proper as well as the current legal system and its consequences for you.

Texas at least is still pretty good on this matter. If a burglar breaks into your home in Texas, you basically can shoot on sight, no questions asked.

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So if you are going to shoot someone in the back for stealing a pencil, or something far more serious, you had better assess what is or should be morally proper as well as the current legal system and its consequences for you.

A simple risk/benefit analysis would yield the conclusion it is not worth injuring someone for a stolen pencil. If one did such an injury he would be open to both criminal and civil legal processes. On the other hand if the loss of property is substantial and there is no other alternative than to apply force at the time the property is stolen, damaged or compromised then either one uses force, or one suffers the property damage or loss.

In principle the loss of little property or much property is the same thing/principle (abstractly) but one must factor in practical consideration as well. Principle sometime has to be constrained in the name of practicality. Sometimes. Not always.

Bob Kolker

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This topic was touched on in a different thread some time ago. While ewv makes a very important point about the practical legal consequences of defending your property, I think it's important, certainly for Objectivists, to at least understand the *moral* point involved. Rationally, any value is a personal value, and some particular property is the personal value of its *owner*. There is no such thing as an intrinsic value.

The naive intrinsic view would hold that it's more "ethical" to consider shooting a thief making off with $100,000 in gold, rather than, say, a photo album. Suppose that the photo album contains irreplaceable photos that are extremely meaningful and provide emotional fuel to their owner - but to anyone else they are nearly worthless scraps of paper. So the thief gets a free pass because the "objective" value is nearly zero?

In my view, it is the *thief* who should assume 100% of the risk of his theft. If he chooses to steal something that is dear to its owner he should be prepared to pay for it with his *life* if necessary, and it was his choice to make, and his life to lose.

Even with the pencil example - suppose it was an old mechanical pencil that was used by an architect, which he used because his grandfather, also an architect whom he greatly respected, also used it. Let's say a 6'4" thug brazenly takes it off of his desk in his office and proceeds to walk out with it.

In point of fact, the architect has a perfect right to take back his pencil - and if the thug resists, to shoot him dead. I am speaking of the moral principle involved, not the current legality.

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Texas at least is still pretty good on this matter. If a burglar breaks into your home in Texas, you basically can shoot on sight, no questions asked.

In the back?

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Texas at least is still pretty good on this matter. If a burglar breaks into your home in Texas, you basically can shoot on sight, no questions asked.

In the back?

For pencils, it is the back - side :D

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This topic was touched on in a different thread some time ago. While ewv makes a very important point about the practical legal consequences of defending your property, I think it's important, certainly for Objectivists, to at least understand the *moral* point involved. Rationally, any value is a personal value, and some particular property is the personal value of its *owner*. There is no such thing as an intrinsic value.

The naive intrinsic view would hold that it's more "ethical" to consider shooting a thief making off with $100,000 in gold, rather than, say, a photo album. Suppose that the photo album contains irreplaceable photos that are extremely meaningful and provide emotional fuel to their owner - but to anyone else they are nearly worthless scraps of paper. So the thief gets a free pass because the "objective" value is nearly zero?

In my view, it is the *thief* who should assume 100% of the risk of his theft. If he chooses to steal something that is dear to its owner he should be prepared to pay for it with his *life* if necessary, and it was his choice to make, and his life to lose.

Even with the pencil example - suppose it was an old mechanical pencil that was used by an architect, which he used because his grandfather, also an architect whom he greatly respected, also used it. Let's say a 6'4" thug brazenly takes it off of his desk in his office and proceeds to walk out with it.

In point of fact, the architect has a perfect right to take back his pencil - and if the thug resists, to shoot him dead. I am speaking of the moral principle involved, not the current legality.

The practical legal consequences to you in defending your property is also a moral issue. There is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. It would be irrational and therefore immoral to sacrifice yourself by dropping the context of all the relevant factors.

If you were robbed by a gang of thugs with guns and knives it would not be in your moral self-interest to suicidally try to fight them off, as if the only value were whatever it was they were stealing at the time. What about the rest of your life? What the goons deserve is not the only relevant moral factor. The delayed consequences of unjust government action are no less morally relevant to you, even though you know fully well what those goons in fact deserve. All factors must be taken into account or you will find yourself flying a plane into an IRS office in a futile act of revolution.

One of your moral and practical values is subordination of use of force to objective principles in a civilized society, which does not preclude appropriate self defense. In a society where rights are not protected, which is the current relevant context that cannot be ignored, all aspects become exaggerated and turned against you. Important personal values are at greater risk of loss -- from thieves in and out of the government; and adverse "legal" consequences arising from your defending yourself are more severe for all the wrong reasons. There is no solution to this through your own actions alone, which is why a civilized society in which your rights are protected is a moral requirement to begin with.

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Texas at least is still pretty good on this matter. If a burglar breaks into your home in Texas, you basically can shoot on sight, no questions asked.

In the back?

Doesn't matter; if they break into your home you can shoot to kill on sight. I think they call it the Castle Law.

Texas has a good history of not prosecuting homeowners when they shoot burglars or home invaders.

A rather surprising case was in Lubbock, TX when a drunk college student was returning home at night. He was so drunk that he mistook a neighbor's house for his own, then when his key wouldn't work he tried to open/break a window to get in. The homeowner--terrified and thinking it a burglar--shot and killed the drunk college student, and was not indicted, nor do I think were charges pressed against him.

It's a tragic example, but it shows that at least in law they place the primacy of importance on the homeowner who is having his house invaded against his volition.

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Texas at least is still pretty good on this matter. If a burglar breaks into your home in Texas, you basically can shoot on sight, no questions asked.

In the back?

Doesn't matter; if they break into your home you can shoot to kill on sight. I think they call it the Castle Law.

Texas has a good history of not prosecuting homeowners when they shoot burglars or home invaders.

A rather surprising case was in Lubbock, TX when a drunk college student was returning home at night. He was so drunk that he mistook a neighbor's house for his own, then when his key wouldn't work he tried to open/break a window to get in. The homeowner--terrified and thinking it a burglar--shot and killed the drunk college student, and was not indicted, nor do I think were charges pressed against him.

It's a tragic example, but it shows that at least in law they place the primacy of importance on the homeowner who is having his house invaded against his volition.

Wasn't there a case where an older Texan shot an illegal immigrant who had just burglarized his neighbor's home, on his neighbor's property?

The shooter saw the thief coming out of the neighbor's home, called 911 to let them know that there was a crime in progress and that he planned on shooting the criminal. Political pressures got the shooter a murder indictment but he was found not guilty. Now, all kinds of groups are suing the shooter on behalf of the burglar's family (they're in Mexico.) He could loose his house.

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The practical legal consequences to you in defending your property is also a moral issue. There is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. It would be irrational and therefore immoral to sacrifice yourself by dropping the context of all the relevant factors.

Rand wrote, in CUI, "The Wreckage of the Consensus":

Once in a while, I receive letters from young men asking me for personal advice on problems connected with the draft. Morally, no one can give advice in any issue where choices and decisions are not voluntary: "Morality ends where a gun begins."

Normally it is true that there is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. That is no longer true when force is initiated. To be *practical* ultimately means to be able to follow one's mind in the pursuit of one's values in order to best live one's life. When another man uses force he's destroyed some ability to do that. In the extreme limit, he's destroyed ALL ability to do that: either by killing the valuer or by tying him up so thoroughly that he's only nominally alive, where all action is forcer-approved (or politically, state-approved).

It is not, strictly speaking, *practical* to have to alter one's rational actions out of fear of the initiation of force. It is literally a pragmatic necessity. And at some point, some men choose to buckle under permanently; some choose to leave entirely and no longer be in thrall; and some choose to fight back. In the latter case, it becomes an issue of rationally chosen strategy and tactics. When you go to war, you work to ensure that it is the *enemy* is dying and not yourself, in as many numbers as is necessary for an utterly demoralizing defeat, using maximum technological leverage. If you fail you probably die - but at least it was standing up - and it wasn't by adopting the enemy's self-proclaimed righteousness in their supposed divine right of coercion. And if one cannot realistically foresee a victory - or is unwilling to do what it takes to win (war, after all, is hell) - then the best choice is to leave the domain of the coercer.

To concretize these options - if one was a slave in the old South, you had no chance of defeating your enemies. So the choice, such as it was, was to either buckle under to slavery or to escape North. If one was W. T. Sherman leading the Union army, the situation is quite different, even if the enemy is the same. (And ultimately justice did come to the slavedrivers, and it wasn't by talking them to death.)

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Texas at least is still pretty good on this matter. If a burglar breaks into your home in Texas, you basically can shoot on sight, no questions asked.

In the back?

Doesn't matter; if they break into your home you can shoot to kill on sight. I think they call it the Castle Law.

Texas has a good history of not prosecuting homeowners when they shoot burglars or home invaders.

A rather surprising case was in Lubbock, TX when a drunk college student was returning home at night. He was so drunk that he mistook a neighbor's house for his own, then when his key wouldn't work he tried to open/break a window to get in. The homeowner--terrified and thinking it a burglar--shot and killed the drunk college student, and was not indicted, nor do I think were charges pressed against him.

It's a tragic example, but it shows that at least in law they place the primacy of importance on the homeowner who is having his house invaded against his volition.

As you probably know, a lot of places are now the full opposite -- sometimes with government agencies leading the invasions. I have for years occasionally read news reports of homeowners being charged with murder or attempted murder for defending against obviously illegal, threatening break-ins.

In the 1990s in the Santa Monica Recreation Area in southern Starnesvornia (Betsy's utopian state), the National Park Service wanted the ranch belonging to a remaining private inholder. NPS connived with other authorities on a phony drug charge against the owner. Under this pretext they broke into his home in the dead of night. The owner came out of his bedroom to the top of the stairs with a gun, naturally thinking the intruders were burglars. The case never reached the court -- they shot him dead on the spot. This case was covered by ABC 20-20 at the time, giving these goons a small part of the publicity they deserved, but nothing was done to the "authorities". NPS was furious with ABC for daring to expose them (which I helped them do). Heaven help the owner if he had lived -- too bad he didn't live in Texas. So much for subordinating the use of force to objective law.

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The practical legal consequences to you in defending your property is also a moral issue. There is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. It would be irrational and therefore immoral to sacrifice yourself by dropping the context of all the relevant factors.

Rand wrote, in CUI, "The Wreckage of the Consensus":

Once in a while, I receive letters from young men asking me for personal advice on problems connected with the draft. Morally, no one can give advice in any issue where choices and decisions are not voluntary: "Morality ends where a gun begins."

Normally it is true that there is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. That is no longer true when force is initiated.

According to that, self defense is amoral on principle, which I disagree with. Self defense is profoundly moral when it is realistically achievable. The situation to which Ayn Rand referred was certainly in itself immoral, leaving the victims without the moral choices to which they were entitled and making certain normal standards of conduct inoperable.

Given that at least some potential draftees had decided to evade the draft, it certainly was possible to give them advice -- during that time period there was practically an entire industry on how to dodge the draft, with all kinds of alternatives available, from published material including whole books to trained "draft counselors". Tens of thousands (or more) took advantage of that. Ayn Rand could not herself give general advice to someone whose particular circumstances and possibilities she did not know, and she apparently did not know the detailed legal and political strategies.

She also made another statement (I forget the source, probably at some Ford Hall Forum): when someone asked what he should do when threatened by the draft she said that it would be illegal for her to give her answer, which made the point very well.

Ayn Rand's (well known) statement about the draft that you quoted is also different from what she said at an earlier time, which, as I recall it, was that to avoid the draft was an act of civil disobedience for which one should be willing to take the consequences (which I disagree with). I think that statement is quoted in print in the recent Objectively Speaking so it's not on your CD.

To be *practical* ultimately means to be able to follow one's mind in the pursuit of one's values in order to best live one's life.When another man uses force he's destroyed some ability to do that. In the extreme limit, he's destroyed ALL ability to do that: either by killing the valuer or by tying him up so thoroughly that he's only nominally alive, where all action is forcer-approved (or politically, state-approved).

It is not, strictly speaking, *practical* to have to alter one's rational actions out of fear of the initiation of force.

You are referring to the practical, and the simultaneously moral, necessities for a proper society. It doesn't mean that either the practical or the moral cease to be meaningful when force is involved in a less than ideal situation where there is still some choice available on how to react. Morality arises because we must make choices and it matters to your life which ones you pick. As long as there is some choice available that still holds, even though you may be put in a situation in which the general moral principles based on the requirements for the life of a rational man in a civilized society are thwarted. If morality were irrelevant in any context at all involving force, virtually nothing we did in this society could be regarded in the realm of moral choice. Your choices are diminished, but not obliterated.

It may or may not be moral for you to directly take on the thugs, depending on what you are trying to realistically accomplish in what time frame. It may very well be practical to alter your actions out of fear of initiation of force if that is the context your find yourself in. That doesn't mean that your choices still encompass the positive values that you have a right to, and it does not mean that you should sanction the thugs or acquiesce in principle, or not try to find a way around the goons to get them some other way or at a later time. People are confronted with this all the time.

It is literally a pragmatic necessity.

I wouldn't use the term "pragmatic" at all in the context of "necessity" or "practical" because it implies pragmatism, which wipes out all objective criteria in thought and action, including the possibility of knowing even what is happening to you! If there is nothing practical left that is possible then the "pragmatic" won't help either! It never does. (As Leonard Peikoff once succinctly put it, "the trouble with pragmatism is that it doesn't work".)

And at some point, some men choose to buckle under permanently; some choose to leave entirely and no longer be in thrall; and some choose to fight back. In the latter case, it becomes an issue of rationally chosen strategy and tactics. When you go to war, you work to ensure that it is the *enemy* is dying and not yourself, in as many numbers as is necessary for an utterly demoralizing defeat, using maximum technological leverage. If you fail you probably die - but at least it was standing up - and it wasn't by adopting the enemy's self-proclaimed righteousness in their supposed divine right of coercion. And if one cannot realistically foresee a victory - or is unwilling to do what it takes to win (war, after all, is hell) - then the best choice is to leave the domain of the coercer.

It is neither practical nor moral to literally go to war over the theft of a pencil or much of anything else we have discussed here; and revolution in the current context is not practical and therefore not moral for you to engage in. You know in advance that you can't possibly win that way, either personally or in changing the form of government for the better.

Sometimes you find yourself in circumstances overwhelmingly beyond your control. You may have to give up, but never give in. That is "leaving the domain of the coercer" without "adopting the enemy's self-proclaimed righteousness" -- which is the moral and practical thing to do at that point.

It is true that "at some point, some men choose to buckle under permanently; some choose to leave entirely and no longer be in thrall; and some choose to fight back". What one properly does in different circumstances depends on a whole range of complicated factors involving what is possible at what cost for what values relative to what other values. It is never proper to "choose to buckle under permanently" in a psychological sense, but some are driven to that through the shear magnitude of the oppression, just as some are driven to irrational acts in the name of "fighting back". But that is a crushing destruction, not a moral choice.

To concretize these options - if one was a slave in the old South, you had no chance of defeating your enemies. So the choice, such as it was, was to either buckle under to slavery or to escape North. If one was W. T. Sherman leading the Union army, the situation is quite different, even if the enemy is the same. (And ultimately justice did come to the slavedrivers, and it wasn't by talking them to death.)

If your life is not threatened, there is still a choice not to become part of the violence and consequent self destruction: You still have the choice whether or not to shoot a burglar where that is legal or illegal; there is still that choice even though he is doing something to you that gives you no choice in other aspects of the situation because he is imposing force.

That was not the case for slaves or potential draftees, whose lives were permanently threatened and being routinely and systematically destroyed. The only artificially limited choice left was to try to resist by escaping in one way or another, which is the moral thing to do in the face of the intolerable. The underground railroad was morally admirable, and so was the strike in Atlas Shrugged.

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Normally it is true that there is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. That is no longer true when force is initiated.

According to that, self defense is amoral on principle, which I disagree with. Self defense is profoundly moral when it is realistically achievable.

Well, obviously. I have no idea how anything I said could be construed as implying that I considered self defense to be amoral. How do you equate the *initiation* of force with self-defense? The primary context, both in the example of the draft and in thousands of other rights violations perpetrated by modern governments, is when force is initiated onto victims who are not practically able to defend themselves. What then?

The situation to which Ayn Rand referred was certainly in itself immoral, leaving the victims without the moral choices to which they were entitled and making certain normal standards of conduct inoperable.

A situation exactly analogous to others in which statist governments initiate force - as everyone on this forum has experienced firsthand, yourself perhaps more than most.

If your life is not threatened, there is still a choice not to become part of the violence and consequent self destruction: You still have the choice whether or not to shoot a burglar where that is legal or illegal; there is still that choice even though he is doing something to you that gives you no choice in other aspects of the situation because he is imposing force.

Wait, how does self-defense - in which I certainly include the defense of one's values external from one's self - become "part of the violence and consequent self destruction"? How would anyone know if the burglar is there "just" to steal your stuff or is also there to rape and murder? That is exactly why a more rational jurisdiction (as has been described for Texas in this context) takes a broad view of using lethal force against a home intruder.

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Texas at least is still pretty good on this matter. If a burglar breaks into your home in Texas, you basically can shoot on sight, no questions asked.

In the back?

Doesn't matter; if they break into your home you can shoot to kill on sight. I think they call it the Castle Law.

Texas has a good history of not prosecuting homeowners when they shoot burglars or home invaders.

A rather surprising case was in Lubbock, TX when a drunk college student was returning home at night. He was so drunk that he mistook a neighbor's house for his own, then when his key wouldn't work he tried to open/break a window to get in. The homeowner--terrified and thinking it a burglar--shot and killed the drunk college student, and was not indicted, nor do I think were charges pressed against him.

It's a tragic example, but it shows that at least in law they place the primacy of importance on the homeowner who is having his house invaded against his volition.

As you probably know, a lot of places are now the full opposite -- sometimes with government agencies leading the invasions. I have for years occasionally read news reports of homeowners being charged with murder or attempted murder for defending against obviously illegal, threatening break-ins.

In the 1990s in the Santa Monica Recreation Area in southern Starnesvornia (Betsy's utopian state), the National Park Service wanted the ranch belonging to a remaining private inholder. NPS connived with other authorities on a phony drug charge against the owner. Under this pretext they broke into his home in the dead of night. The owner came out of his bedroom to the top of the stairs with a gun, naturally thinking the intruders were burglars. The case never reached the court -- they shot him dead on the spot. This case was covered by ABC 20-20 at the time, giving these goons a small part of the publicity they deserved, but nothing was done to the "authorities". NPS was furious with ABC for daring to expose them (which I helped them do). Heaven help the owner if he had lived -- too bad he didn't live in Texas. So much for subordinating the use of force to objective law.

I had to look this up now to see for myself, and was quite shocked to find it all true... that's simply unbelievable.

Everyone who cares about liberty should just move to Texas... corporations and hard working citizens are fleeing states such as California, Michigan, NY and Maine, and many of them are ending up in places like Texas. We are honestly becoming like the Colorado of Atlas Shrugged.

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