NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 30, 2004

Pacifists have often claimed nonviolent resistance is always more powerful at righting wrongs. But Dave Kopel writing for Liberty magazine suggests that defensive violence as a weapon for justice has its place in a moral society. For example:

  • Police use violence to subdue criminals in order to make society safer.
  • Every year at least 100,000 Americans successfully use gun violence or the threat of gun violence to thwart violent criminal attacks.
  • Violence established American independence, kept it united, and freed many from slavery.

Moreover, refusing to use violence when necessary to defend against the initiation of force often propagates violence by criminals and tyrannical regimes. For instance, nonviolence allowed the worst violence in history to take place when democracies failed to act against fascism when victory would have been easy.

Even Martin Luther King, a strong believer in nonviolent protest, still defended the right of self defense. He explained that violence exercised in self-defense was "moral and legal" everywhere.

Of course, nonviolence can be as much or more effective than violence: Gandhi's peaceful protests ended British rule in India and the People Power movement in the Philippines removed the Marcos dictatorship.

Source: Dave Kopel, "Two Cheers for Violence," Liberty, September 2004.

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