Question: On the topic of the Second Amendment to the Constitution, Objectivism, as I understand it, holds that the citizen delegates to the government have a monopoly on the use of force. If this is the case, then does Objectivism support the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and if so, how is this apparent contradiction resolved?
does not hold that government should be the only armed institution. It does hold that, for the government to function properly, it must be in a position to defeat any challenges to its power. That said, private security agencies, private arbitration boards, and an armed citizenry are not contradictory to the kind of limited government that Objectivism
holds that a citizen does not have an open-ended right to retaliate against violence. Outside of the context of self-defense, any use of force to apprehend or punish rights-violators would have to be controlled by the government, which means proceeding in accord with established legal procedures. This is to ensure that force is used objectively, and to minimize the degree to which individuals act on passion or other bias. Now the retaliation or arrest could still be done by private individuals, or even the victim, if they proceeded in accordance with the legal requirements. One could not say, philosophically and speaking only to the most general of contexts, what those requirements should be exactly, or what degree of private provision of legal service would work best. That is the territory of legal philosophy and practical legislation, in a given social context. Certainly it should be based on general philosophical principles, but the details will properly differ depending on contextual factors. New York City in 2001 is not the Colorado Territory in 1867 in many respects.
William R Thomas has written on topics in politics, ethics, and epistemology, and has spoken internationally on the theory of individual rights and Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. His works include Radical for Capitalism, and, as editor, The Literary Art of Ayn Rand. He is the director of programs for The Atlas Society. Thomas is currently a lecturer in the Department of Economics of the University at Albany.