Committee of Safety

Posted by $ Temlakos 5 years, 8 months ago to Government
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I have mentioned this before in other threads. Now I thought I'd start one of my own.

What, you may ask, does a Committee of Safety do? Answer: such a Committee sees to the safety of a territory, large or small, that does not have a true "state" to govern it. Membership in such a Committee requires a commitment of time, effort, and resources, toward the common project of ensuring the physical safety of all residents. So this Committee would likely consist of the largest stakeholders--those individuals or groups having the most to lose from a breakdown of civil order, a persistence of crime, or invasion from without. In addition, any large stakeholder might send a proxy with full authority to commit resources on his behalf. Or the commander of a mercenary force might join, to plan jointly and to let the others know he and they are on the same page.

In Galt's Gulch (in AS, that is), I maintain that John Galt, Francisco d'Anconia, and Ragnar Danneskjöld constituted the Committee of Safety. John acted as the proxy of Midas Mulligan. Francisco acted in his own right. Ragnar acted as a mercenary--for that is what a privateersman really is--and provided the only offensive capability Galt's Gulch ever had. When Henry Rearden, and later, Dagny Taggart joined the Great Strike, they each also joined the Committee of Safety, as major stakeholder members.

This Committee, you'll notice, never once asked anyone else in the Gulch to contribute toward the defense or the concealment of the community. Instead they supported one another. John Galt built his famous refractor-ray screen to conceal the valley. Francisco likely provided an armed border guard force--you never see that, but no one brought as many of his workers to the Gulch as Francisco did (though Henry Rearden came close). You'll also remember that Francisco hastily organized Rearden's workforce as an armed militia when word came down of the staged riots. Ragnar, of course, made his profits through his sea raiding and the sale of his booty either directly to Midas or to his counterparts in the People's States, especially in Europe. And when John Galt fell captive, the Committee organized as many male residents of the valley as their planes could carry, into an air-land militia tasked with his rescue. Rearden naturally took part, as we see. Dagny also took part, first as a spy, then as a direct rescuer.

The Committee of Safety seemed to work, at least in the novel. Question for the group: how well would it work in real life, and what is the largest sort of territory that a Committee of Safety alone could keep safe?


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  • Posted by $ blarman 5 years, 8 months ago
    In the parlance of the Founders, I believe that this is what constituted a "militia" - landowners and stakeholders acting in their own interest in protection of their lives, loved ones, and property.
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  • Posted by DrZarkov99 5 years, 8 months ago
    Piracy is difficult to pull off consistently and successfully, except in certain parts of the world (southwestern Pacific has the most pirates with the longest history). A modern Ragnar might use submarines for his ventures. There are several companies that have produced sizable private submarines, and even modest armament shouldn't be too difficult to add.

    The implication in Atlas Shrugged is that the Gulch remained undetectable until government collapse gave law enforcement more other problems to deal with. A security element then should only have to deal with scavengers and looters. During the "Rodney King riots" in Los Angeles in 1992 it only took a few armed store owners to keep the rioters at bay in the Korean district. Discipline and effective training in small arms, as well as planned defensive actions can make even a small contingent a good barrier.
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  • Posted by $ Technocracy 5 years, 8 months ago
    Quote - "Ragnar acted as a mercenary--for that is what a privateersman really is--and provided the only offensive capability Galt's Gulch ever had."

    That is only one kind of force, and in the setting of Atlas Shrugged, not as important as the force of ideas.

    John Galt was the ultimate wielder of this force. His ability to recruit strikers from the inventors/doers/makers was critical to bringing about the collapse. Further the force of ideas continued to grow over time, gaining strength every time a new striker was recruited.

    Ragnar and his forces were very capable, but of limited influence on society as a whole.
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    • Posted by $ 5 years, 8 months ago
      True. But Committees of Safety manage physical force in the absence of government. Yes, John Galt's powerful ideas drew out the achievers. That's what caused the final collapse. But how did the Gulch keep order and keep itself safe in the meantime? For that one needed the Committee of Safety, to decide when and how to protect the Gulch, from discovery at least.
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      • Posted by $ puzzlelady 5 years, 8 months ago
        The need to keep order within implies that there might be insiders who fall away from the communal contract and need to be policed or removed. The ideal society is one where each member has full integrity and adherence to the central principles, i.e. The Oath. Within that bubble of unity there are unlimited ways each individual can create, invent, produce. It is not a case of requiring totalitarian uniformity.

        The freedom of compatible minds leaves room for all the branches and networks of variety and, yes, diversity, as long as the center holds. Such a society has no need to spy on its own for possible traitors. And in its relations with the "outside world" it can present the same principles of trading values and encouraging a philosophy of beneficial self-interest.

        Staying safe when surrounded by potential predators is best achieved by rational persuasion rather than an ever escalating arms race. The fictional Gulch had a cloak of invisibility. Can we have that while in the midst of a society where a majority of individuals subscribe to predatory and violent means of dealing with others?

        This online Gulch is certainly not cloaked. We have participants here of all different persuasions, some of whose ideas may be irreconcilable and may well, at some point, lead to physical harm. Of course, this Gulch has administrators who can block or banish people. Does that constitute a Committee of Safety or at least Civility? At root it always comes down to the single principle of human relations without force or fraud.
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  • Posted by johnpe1 5 years, 8 months ago
    us "voluntarists" love to muse about this! . I have long thought
    that there would need to be a process of joining the group
    which would involve the acceptance of part of the burden
    of defense of the group. . children would be asked to join
    when they gained the age of majority -- whatever agreed
    age that might be. . representatives would be needed
    to represent us common folk in the committee, I would
    think. . what do you think, gulchers? -- j
    .
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  • Posted by $ Olduglycarl 5 years, 8 months ago
    I don't get the justification for "sea raiding".
    True the world and governments were criminal in their actions but did that justify stealing from others?
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    • Posted by $ 5 years, 8 months ago
      Ragnar attacked only those vessels carrying the loot of the productive, or goods that loot had bought. He did not attack private vessels (except Francisco's ore carriers, and Francisco commissioned him to do that). Nor did he try to steal arms and ammunition from ships of war. Eventually he came to the end of his privateering, because even the United States could not collect enough loot to finance any more "global relief" cargoes.
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  • Posted by Herb7734 5 years, 8 months ago
    As I see it, everything depends on the size of the Gulch, and the outside threat to it. The only way such an enterprise can exist is to be not worth the effort it takes to conquer it. That can only happen if it is very small, or has a way of defending itself that will cost its enemy more than it is worth going after. That would likely mean a WMD arsenal and a means of delivery. Perhaps in some parallel universe....
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  • Posted by ISank 5 years, 8 months ago
    The Committee of Safety worked for the Hawaiian overthrow. They got the US military on their side quickly and soon received recognition. So it did work in real life.
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  • Posted by Owlsrayne 5 years, 7 months ago
    My take from Atlas Shrugged, the book and movies is that John Galt was their voice The other main members were the Organizing Committee to get the Gulch up and running. There was no safety committee. You could assume that Ragnar and his band of privateers would eventually become the militia for the Gulch. With the cloaking screen operating running 24/7 and the remote location would make it difficult to be penetrated by any o/s military force. Remote locations offer the best hiding places for a Gulch so long as there are natural resources available to sustain the Gulch.
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  • Posted by term2 5 years, 8 months ago
    I would go for this idea. Its a LOT better than what we have now, where Obama just decides to wage war for his own purposes, makes US pay, and our soldiers die
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  • Posted by $ MichaelAarethun 5 years, 8 months ago
    First you need a piece of territory that is not under the government of another preceding entity by any definition.

    The idea worked one way in 1700s, a second way in the story but would require re-stating in 2016.

    The only way to supplant and not supplement the present government well two ways are get them to openly state they have dumped the Constitution...which in effect is exactly what they have done. At that point anything Constitutional is out the window and doesn't apply except as background for a PT Barnum bit of street theater. You can date that from the evening of December 31st 2015 if not before.

    The second way is a legal and required take over of the present government which is the province of the military although I don't see them honoring their oath of office anymore. "support and defend the Constitution ....against all enemies foreign and domestic.. which certainly applies to that two bit shyster ham'n'egger from Chicago AKA Obey Me.

    In the meantime there is not one square inch of ground that has been abandoned EXCEPT the area in central Arizona from the border up to or past the middle of the State. Formally abandoned by the federal,state and local authorities.

    Anything else would be treated with a laugh and at best ignored at worst find themselves as another Waco target with the liberal press on their ass to justify the action.

    Reason. No power. To be quite blunt the shyster doesn't give rat's ass about the citizens nor the Constitution.

    Neither does a majority of the citizens.
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