Visualize a young woman walking downtown with arms full of shopping bags and a purse. Suddenly a mugger grabs her from behind and pushes her into an ally. Holding a knife to her throat, he demands her purse or he will take her life. The mugger’s actions are force. He uses violence to push her into the alley and takes away her liberty to go on her way. He threatens her with violence to take away her property and that he will take away her life if she doesn’t comply with his demands. Clearly, the mugger is starting or initiating the force in this situation. As the mugger turns away to flee with the purse, the young woman picks up a two by four piece of lumber lying on the ground. She pursues the mugger and hits him on the back of the head with the two by four. He crumbles to the ground. She retrieves her purse. She uses violence when she hits him and takes back the purse he stole. While she uses force against him, she did not initiate it. Her force is in retaliation in response the initiation of force by the mugger. While some people initiate force against others and some people use force in retaliation, governments do the same. For example, the young woman pulls her cell phone out of her purse and calls 911. The police arrive and arrest the mugger because it is against the law to commit assault, battery, and theft. This type of law is the use of force by the government in retaliation and against those who initiate the use of force. Governments also initiate force in its laws. For example, the young woman makes it to her car and begins to drive towards home. A policeman pulls her over and gives her a ticket for having a brake light that isn’t working. Driving a car without a brake light is not initiating force against anyone and this type of law is not protecting anyone from the initiation of force. This type of law initiates force to protect persons from a risky behavior. Governments use force in retaliation to protect people’s lives, liberties, and property. They also initiate the use of force to take away the life, liberty and property from people to provide products and services for others. While all governments use force legitimately, not all possible governments initiate the use of force. In addition, those governments that do initiate force do so to different degrees. The focused question is: How much force is initiated by the government? On one end of the continuum is the minimal state. On the other end is totalitarianism.
The character John Galt in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged describes the role of government in his vision of a minimal state utopia.
“The only proper purpose of government is to protect man’s rights, which means: to protect him from physical violence. A proper government is only a policeman, acting as an agent of man’s self-defense, and as such, may resort to force only against those who start the use of force. The only proper functions of a governments are: the police, to protect you from criminals; the army, to protect you from foreign invaders; and the courts, to protect your property and contracts from breach or fraud by others….” (Rand 987) The name of the owner of the doughnut shop is Kelly. Kelly's business did very well and she decided to take a vacation overseas. The night before Kelly left for her vacation, she was reading Atlas Shrugged. Half way through the hero’s long speech, she fell asleep and began to have the strangest dream. In her dream she had just landed at an airport and she asked the Steward, “Where are we?” “We have just arrived at the Ayn Rand Airport in Atlantis,” he replied. As Kelly entered the arrival and baggage claim section of the airport, she expected to see government custom agents ready to check her bags. Instead, she saw people coming and going without being stopped. However, some of the arrivals stopped and waited in line at one of a number of booths selling insurance. The