Does might make right?


Thin Black Line
August 21, 2006, 01:29 PM
I'm looking at mass movements involving thousands of people, not street
level gangs confined more or less to a particular neighborhood.

Whether it's Saddam not recognizing the new Iraqi Government, Milosevic
at the UN, a "People's Court" rebelling against their government, or a
band of revolutionaries who delcare independence, what is it in your
opinion that makes a court/government and the people who follow it
actually legitimate and authorized to use of force --especially for the
armed individuals who operate within it and enforce its laws?

I recall a saying from one of the Founding Fathers to the effect that
"government is not about eloquence, it's about force" and the old Mao
quote that "power flows from the barrel of a gun." The older one that
predates them both is "Might Makes Right."

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August 21, 2006, 01:41 PM
The concept of "Might Makes Right" is not necessarily a "high ideal", but it is often an accurate description of the human condition.

The "right" is not "right" as in "correct" but is "right" as in "one's right to be" and/or "one's right to do".

When left to his own devices, man will dominate others, thus his rights are enforced by his might, not by any social contract or government (and those he dominates lose their rights due to their lack of might).

This is the point of a Republican form of government based on a constitution that forces government into the role of governing by consent of the people and the rule of law. We want to avoid the natural state of man which is "Might Makes Right."

Debating the "ligitimacy of force" is kind of like debating the "ligitimacy of fire".

Thin Black Line
August 21, 2006, 01:49 PM

Yes, that's what I would also mean by "right."

As for my part since I answered "combination" it would mean democratic
representation, economic viability, and the common moral/religious base
within the culture. I would propose that if these three were out of balance
for a society that it would lead to problems for such a system where force
used to back up its rules is either non-existant for some or all of the
population, or on the flip-side, overly repressive against certain segments.

Thin Black Line
August 21, 2006, 01:50 PM
Debating the "ligitimacy of force" is kind of like debating the "ligitimacy of fire".

True. As long as fire has plenty of fuel and air and is not opposed by too
much water or earth.

August 21, 2006, 04:50 PM
When has might not made right?

History is always written by the victors.


August 21, 2006, 04:54 PM
Difficult to determine.

Governments, certainly, do not define legitimacy over those who do not desire to be governed.

Religion, as well, seems to be only able to satisfy True Believers.

In general, I have a tendency to believe that the use of force is only a "right" in the face of immediate, and lethal, threat to yourself and should be applied in equal measure. (Why should the model for nations be any different than that for persons? At least theoretically?)

Of course, believing such makes all things relative. For example:

I have referred to 9/11 as a metaphorical bloody nose. In all truth, that's what it was: no strategic, tactical or economic victory was won. It did not hamper our ability to make war or feed our population. It was purely symbolic of others hatred of us for being the "Great Satan" and meddling in their affairs on a worldwide scale.


However, instead of an equal symbolic response, like terminating OBL's command with "extreme predjudice", we make true their claims of self-righteousness by invading a 3rd-party nation based upon extremely loose evidence and our own self-interest. In sum, we have no legitimacy.

But, "Might makes Right," no?

It is all quite complex.

August 21, 2006, 05:27 PM
I think you're framing the question the wrong way.

Randy Barnett asks, and answers the question "How does a written constitution (geeksNote: or any form of government for that matter) obtain a duty of conscience to obey it?"

Read the book to explain the answer, which this summary does no justice to:

1) The constitution, and it's products (legislation, amendments, etc) must be the result of a fair, consistent, and regular process of user participation.


2) The natural rights of its citizens must be acknowledged and protected


3) Those same rights must also be protected equally for minorities.

August 21, 2006, 05:43 PM
Might decidedly does not make right.

Might makes what is.

Theologians, both secular and religious, will help determine if what is . . . is right.

August 21, 2006, 05:55 PM
I choose: "If its backed up by enough firepower to defeat those who oppose it" for the simple and obvious fact that the winners get to write History.

Had the forces of King George prevailed Washington, Jefferson et. al. would have been hanged as traitors instead of being immortalized as "Founding Fathers".


August 21, 2006, 06:04 PM
Read the book to explain the answer, which this summary does no justice to:

1) The constitution, and it's products (legislation, amendments, etc) must be the result of a fair, consistent, and regular process of user participation.


2) The natural rights of its citizens must be acknowledged and protected


3) Those same rights must also be protected equally for minorities.

Anyone can write a book.

You must think the USA is not legit because we did not start out with any of these.

August 21, 2006, 06:55 PM
As the only one who has picked the economic system answer I feel I should post a note on it.

While it is true that might does make right in combat, a nation is only as stable as its economic basis.

Every major takeover or political 'realignment' that has occured has had at its roots an economic base.

If proof is needed that a nation only requires a valid economic base, look at switzerland, they do have a military, but not one that could stand to defend the nation against sustained attack. And yet the Germans didn't even try to take them over during WWII despite the proximity.

the sound economy and international ties that they deveoped enabled them to exist without having the biggest stick on the block.

You don't need to be the biggest guy in school if you've got twenty cousins who'll look out for you.

Governments don't look to see who is winning a fight when they decide to deal with new nations. they look at the stability of the economy, the potential for benificial trade arangements, and the long term prospects of the leadership.

The world didn't care when Rowanda was fighting, military superiority didn't dictate recognition. They were poor, they had nothing to offer the world, so the world didn't acknowledge them.

August 21, 2006, 07:04 PM
If it is justified, nescessary, and the last possible resort.

August 21, 2006, 07:58 PM
I agree with Fosberry.

Whilst perhaps not relevant, the issue of might and right is being discussed on a Google Group I haunt, it's in the context of a group of anti-hunting protestors in England who, after being ejected by Police from a grouse shoot, descended upon a local river and commenced assaulting fisherman and breaking up their fishing gear. They were reportadle using lumps of wood and crisket bats.

I replied;
"A group of people, believe the legal activity of another group of
people is wrong, and attempt to enforce their beliefs on this other
group using bats and pieces of wood (ie blunt instruments).

I've got some terrible new for you B1ackwater, when you attempt
to force your beliefs on others by force, eventually someone is going
to resist you.

Is there any real difference between these anti-hunt protestors and
Al Queda terrorists? Only one of degrees, both believe they have the
right to inflict their values and beliefs on others by force.

I know of another group, some sixty odd years ago, who believed they
had the right to inflict, by force of arms, their belief systems on
This lot were so convinced that they had the right to do this they even
stamped "Gott Mit Uns" on their belt buckles.The inflicted their
and thuggery all across Europe and across most of North Africa. Then
reached a dirty little Libyan harbor town called Tobruk.......... "

These people had the might, they didn't have the right.

Might must be backed by right.

August 21, 2006, 08:15 PM
It's not as simple as that though. The motivation for anti-hunting-with-dogs (the dogs kill the animal, not a rifle or shotgun) is the belief that this is essentially cruelty to animals and is morally wrong. You might say, "I don't think that, so let me get on with hunting with dogs, that's my choice as a free man". But it dosn't work like that. I believe it's wrong to rape a child, but I'm sure there are people who think it's wonderful i.e. the ones doing it. We don't just let these people be, we force our beliefs upon them. Any law is forcing a belief upon someone who does not share or hold to that belief.

August 21, 2006, 08:21 PM
"Might makes right" is a morally bankrupt concept.


August 21, 2006, 08:54 PM
Morality is independent of who wins.

Might, however, can end the discussion.

August 21, 2006, 09:10 PM
Fosbery, slightly different context.

The anti's have every right to lobby for a change in the law to ban whatever
they dislike, that's called democracy. When they choose to instead stop someone from carrying out their lawful business by force, that's thuggery.

I fully support democracy. I also grew up in a fairly rough neighborhood, am a former soldier and work in a fairly rough environment. My response to unlawful or unwarranted attack upon my person has always been short, sharp and to date, quite effective.

With child rapist example, you're defending the rights of the child. Just as the fisherman has more rights than the fish, the victim has more rights than the criminal.

There's a saying, "Your right to swing your fists stops, one inch from the end of my nose" the Hound Hunter, like the fisherman, isn't inflicting his beliefs on another, he isn't harming a fellow human being, the criminal is.

August 21, 2006, 09:36 PM
Force in and of itself is neither here nor there as far as it being legitimate. It is the legitimatcy of the USE of force that should be in question.

A law abiding person keeping and bearing arms has force. An armed terrorist has force, too. Chances are that the law abiding person is more likely to engage in legitimate uses of that force, such as fending off that armed terrorist. That concept is valid for any scale from man to man on up to one half the world against the other half.

That which constitutes the legitimate use of force is in the mind of the holder of such force. To my mind, force used to protect freedom is legitimate, be it as isolated as for self defense against a criminal, or globally to destroy those who use or would use force to enslave. I believe it is a legitimate use of force to prevent diminishing an individuals access to, and right to keep and bear such force as well.

Might does not make right, but might is necessary to preserve that which is right. Fortunately, over time, human nature will keep the righteous in possession of the most might. Just don't relinquish any of your might or you'll foster a time when the unrighteous will hold the might. That'll bring on a Dark Age faster than anything nature can throw at us.


Look at your rights and freedoms as what would be required to survive and be free as if there were no government. If that doesn't convince you to take a stand and protect your inalienable rights and freedoms, nothing will. If that doesn't convince you to maintain your personal sovereignty, you are already someone else's subject. If you don't secure your rights and freedoms to maintain your personal sovereignty now, it'll be too late to come to me for help when they come for you. I will already be dead because I had to stand alone. B.E.Wood

Art Eatman
August 21, 2006, 11:02 PM
Philosophy 101 has been moved to

Attendance will be checked, and there will be a test next period.


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