Wednesday, May 04, 2011

"Credible threat"

A couple of posts on a couple of different blogs, especially in the comments, inspired some thoughts that I will share with you. It concerns striking the other guy before he has a chance to strike you.

One detail that seems to trip up many people when the Zero Aggression Principle is discussed is when it's OK to act in self-defense before a serious, or even deadly, blow has been struck against you. I think the only time it is OK is when there is a "credible threat" of harm.

To me a credible threat is when, to the best of your knowledge, the threatener has the intention to follow through with the threat and the means to actually carry it out.

A braggart who just wants to look big in front of his friends, but who is too weak to actually do you any damage and who is unarmed (listen up, goverthugs in the Pentagon) is not a credible threat no matter what he says, and an armed person who has no intention of attacking you, even if they are justified, (listen up, LEOs) is also not a credible threat.

Of course, if you attack first anyway, he has no obligation to take it without fighting back, and once you attack, no matter who you are or what you think your "job" is, YOU are a bad guy. Even if you "win". If that is OK with you, then who am I to tell you to get a conscience? You do what you think you must and live with the consequences, all of them, like a self-responsible person.



  1. Though I have my own answer to this, would you find retribution acceptable? Say for instance I'm jumped from behind, beaten senseless and several bones are broken-when healed am I justified in threatening force to secure restitution? How about my family or another agent I designate?

    Is there a time limit? Would a family member of a 9/11 victim have been justified in killing, or threatening to kill, bin Laden(assuming he was involved, and frankly his recent dunking has caused me to seriously question that for the first time)in an effort to gain restitution?

    Voluntary restitution might be best, but certainly it will not always be effective. Thoughts?

    Oh, and by the way, I aaaam trying ;p. lol Hopefully I'll know something soon.

  2. I should have wrote, his recent dunking and all associated b.s..

  3. I don't think revenge is a good idea. I don't think it would be very popular in a free society. In that case, if you know for sure who attacked you, you could ask for restitution and if they refuse you could advertise their aggression AND their refusal to pay restitution.

    In a society free of the protections of The State to keep bad guys from suffering the full consequences of their actions, I doubt many would avoid some form of restitution.

    However, the attack put your attacker in debt and if you attacked him you would both be in debt to the other, which would cancel out... as long as one of you didn't get a huge upper hand on the other. The real danger is making a mistake about who is actually responsible for the initial attack. At the scene of the attack is about the only place and time such a mistake would be very unlikely. As time goes by, memories get fuzzier and false memories are likely. You may "remember" exactly what the guy who attacked you looked like, but human memory is faulty under the best of circumstances. If you attack the wrong person in retribution, you have become the bad guy.

    In the case of bin Laden, I doubt any family members have indisputable proof he was behind the death of their loved-ones. Governments lie, and governments and their lap dogs/media are the only sources they have for that information. I smell a cover-up, and it's not a sweet smell.

    I would bet bin Laden was a pretty nasty character, but I am not certain enough of that that I would have killed him if he wasn't attacking me or any innocent person right in front of me.

  4. A well thought out response, and I tend to agree though for a somewhat different reason. I've always had an issue with the concept of "non-agression" or ZAP or whatever you will. Not because I think it's a bad idea per se, but rather that it is a reactionary one. As near as I an tell, the axiom was first put forth by Rothbard(and then modified by L. Neil Smith) as a near mirror to Weber's definition of the "state" as an entity with a monopoly on the "legitimate" use of force(or violence depending on the definition. This is great as a counter-state notion, but it has problems in practice.

    For instance, and anthropologists have documented this voluminously, in currently existing stateless societies the incentive to not wrongly pursue grievances is not so much that one becomes "bad", but rather that one and ones family becomes a target for retribution in turn-or risks some variation of "outlawry", an unsurvivable condition. Therefore accusations are carefully made, and follow through of threats is rarely necessary. This is what anthropologists call "peace in the feud".

    This is not because of any moral imperative, but rather self-preservation. Rothbard, and later Smith, put the emphasis on the wrong syllable, I think, the issue is not the violence, but rather the monopoly on it that is the problem.

    I want to suggest a book, "The Law of the Somalis" by Michael von Notten. It illustrates current African tribal law, is short and accessible for readers not used to anthropological jargon(which is dense and utterly presumptuous). I think you'd like this Kent, if you are interested I own a copy, email me and I'd be happy to gift it to you.

  5. By the way, I've resurrected my "milk with knives" blog and with be making an effort to make regular posts.

  6. It isn't even violence that is the issue; it is throwing the first punch- the initiation of violence. In many cases, violence is the proper response to violence. It is often the best way to stop an attack in its tracks. A lot of people don't like to hear that, though.

    And, yes, I'd like to read that book- so email on the way.

  7. Is intent/intention necessary to a "credible threat?"

    Say my neighbor has built a primitive fusion bomb, just to have it lying around.

    The conventional explosive charge used to send the small wedge of fissile material into the bigger sphere (this is a "gun" type device) is a stick of TNT with a "light it and run away" kind of fuse.

    He's also experimenting with metallurgy, and he has that bomb, with its fuze, sitting right next to a forge fire and an anvil, on which he is beating the hell out of something with a hammer, throwing sparks everywhere.

    He doesn't have anything against me. He hasn't threatened to set off the device to immolate me. But he's doing really stupid things that create a significant real risk of injury to me.

    Is that a "credible threat" upon which I can act?

  8. First, I would wonder how you knew the intimate details of your neighbor's life. But imagining that he either talks a lot or does this stuff out in the open, I think that case would probably justify your intervention. Or at least might be a case of do what you think you must and accept any consequences.

    If I were asked to arbitrate the case, I wouldn't hold you responsible for reasonable actions to defend yourself from the threat of his bomb. What is "reasonable"? That would depend on the actual actions of both parties.

    If you point out the danger to him and he refuses to fix the situation I would say he now has crossed the line into "intent".

    It is telling, though, how far from the realm of everyday experience we must reach to find difficult "what-ifs", isn't it.

  9. Consider this scenario: .Gov has initiated a nationwide sweep for "Right Wing Extremists" and a patriotic fellow is 100% certain that he's on the list.

    Is our patriotic fellow justified, under ZAP, in avoiding his imminent arrest (and likely worse) by pre-emptively defending himself against the LEO who would come his way...say at the donut shop?


  10. This is a accepted method of military strategy and practice and has been used for centuries.

    .Gov doesn't expect us to play by their rules. They think we will follow the sheeple laws.

    If you have to take the pre-emptive route, remember Kerodin's write up on Nodes.

    If ya gotta hit em...Hit em where it hurts.

  11. Kerodin- Under the ZAP you shouldn't use force until force has been initiated or threatened. But a LEO who is threatening to "arrest" you (and often even less) for violating a counterfeit "law" is threatening to initiate force.

    Under your scenario I wonder how the "patriotic fellow" knows for certain that the cop in the donut shop will be the one who comes for him. As much as I dislike and distrust cops, I know there is a tiny minority of them who would look the other way while the "patriotic fellow" slips away. I just can't advocate killing folk you aren't 100% sure need killing. I'd give just about anyone the chance to do the right thing.

    However, I wouldn't be too hard on someone who chooses a different course of action. This falls under "do what you think you must and accept the consequences".

  12. Pineywoods Patriot- The government doesn't expect us to play by their rules, and many won't. They also won't expect anyone to have principles, since they don't. I think a lot of different strategies will be needed and they will all (or most all) be useful. Keep them confused, scared, and guessing.

  13. Excellent points, Kent. Good thinking. :)

  14. Thanks Kent, I think you and I are very close in our perspective on this topic.


  15. Kent,

    You write: "First, I would wonder how you knew the intimate details of your neighbor's life."

    A perfectly reasonable thing to wonder about. Let's say that we have adjoining back yards with no privacy fencing and that he talks to himself, loudly, such that I understand what he's doing without rousing myself to intrusive surveillance and such.

    I threw out the most wildly absurd case of non-intent negligence I could think of not because I had to stretch to that, but because I find it interesting to start at the absurd/obvious and then see how far it can be walked back before it gets non-obvious enough to be less clear-cut.

    In this case, the "walk-back" line might be something like reckless driving under the influence of an intoxicant -- once again, no intent, but once again an arguable high risk of harm/damage.

    I'm not claiming to have the answers, mind you. I'm just interested in that angle to the questions.