The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense.
In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against
those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of
physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral
If some “pacifist” society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be
left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such
a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing
evil, it would encourage and reward it.
The individual does possess the right of self-defense and that is the right
which he delegates to the government, for the purpose of an orderly, legally
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.
Just as an individual has the right of self-defense, so has a free country if
attacked. But this does not give its government the right to draft men into
military service—which is the most blatantly statist violation of a man’s
right to his own life.