Rand’s favorite method of dealing with this issue is to try to convince herself and her followers that the men of force don’t constitute that much of a threat. Consider the following argument:
The men who attempt to survive, not by means of reason, but by means of force, are attempting to survive by the method of animals. But just as animals would not be able to survive by attempting the method of plants, by rejecting locomotion and waiting for the soil to feed them —so men cannot survive by attempting the method of animals, by rejecting reason and counting on productive men to serve as their prey. Such looters may achieve their goals for the range of a moment, at the price of destruction: the destruction of their victims and their own. As evidence, I offer you any criminal or any dictatorship.
This is a typical appeal-to-sentiment argument, no different, in form, then what one would find in a religious sermon or a humanitarian tract. Rand suggests, without explicitly saying so, that men of force can only achieve their goals “for the range of a moment, at the price of [their] destruction.” Yet what exactly is she saying? That marauders only succeed for a few moments and then die? But that clearly isn’t so. And what are we to make of Rand’s “evidence” of “any criminal or any dictatorship”? Since there are many examples of criminals and dictators who succeeded for decades (can a decade qualify as “range of the moment”?), Rand’s evidence, far from proving her case, in fact undermines it.
Another favorite ploy of Rand in relation issue is her notion of the “sanction of the victim,” “The ‘sanction of the victim’ is the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of the evil, to accept the role of sacrificial victim for the ‘sin’ of creating values,” writes Peikoff. “If some men attempt to survive by means of brute force or fraud, by looting, robbing, cheating or enslaving the men who produce, it still remains true that their survival is made possible only by their victims, only by the men who choose to think and to produce the goods which they, the looters, are seizing,” wrote Rand. An underlying implication of this view is that the one of the reasons why men of force have succeeded throughout history in looting the producing class is because producers have “sanctioned” the looting (by accepting the premises of altruism). If the producers would only withdraw this sanction and “fight” for their values, things could be different.
However, it matters little whether the producers condemn looting if they are not also good at fighting for their property. Unfortunately, the skills that go to making an excellent businessmen tend to be different from the skills that go into making an excellent warrior. Businessmen tend to be foxes, not lions; and as a business-driven society becomes wealthier and wealthier, manners soften and the will to fight weakens. Rand’s so-called “sanction of the victim” may be little more than a rationalization of cowardice made by individuals lacking the stomach or the ability to fight for what is theirs.
Another tendency in Rand’s thought regarding this issue is her view that these men of force are mere bullies who “feed on appeasement” and would “retreat placatingly at the first sound of firm opposition.” (Los Angeles Times, Nov. 11, 1962) While it is true that men of force “feed on appeasement,” it is not true that they can be counted on to retreat if they are firmly opposed. Neither Hitler nor Saddam Hussein retreated at the first sound of firm opposition, but kept fighting to the bitter end, even when the odds were greatly against them. Some of these men of force are obsessed with saving face, and would rather die then back down. This may not be a problem if these individuals can be conquered and defeated by overwhelming force; but what happens when this is no longer the case? What happens when these violent men with a mania for saving face get their hands of WMDs? What then?
The man of force cannot be so easily dismissed or explained away as he is by Rand. His collection of personality traits constitute a direct threat to Rand’s political ideals. Rand and her followers have not only failed to present a solution to the problem of man of force, they don’t seem to fully comprehend the seriousness of the threat.