The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may
initiate the use of physical force against others. No man—or group or
society or government—has the right to assume the role of a criminal and
initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man. Men have the right to
use physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate
its use. The ethical principle involved is simple and clear-cut: it is the
difference between murder and self-defense. A holdup man seeks to gain a value,
wealth, by killing his victim; the victim does not grow richer by killing a
holdup man. The principle is: no man may obtain any values from others by
resorting to physical force.
It is only as retaliation that force may be used and only against the man who
starts its use. No, I do not share his evil or sink to his concept of morality:
I merely grant him his choice, destruction, the only destruction he had the
right to choose: his own. He uses force to seize a value; I use it only to
The principle of using force only in retaliation against those who initiate its
use, is the principle of subordinating might to right.