I had a person write to me, taking issue with my repeating of the common sentiment that "Your right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose." His reason was that this constitutes "assault" even before the nose is touched. He is right to a point. I would like to thank him for giving me permission to post my reply here.
Here is my take on the "assault" issue.
I think that "assault" is a legal concept which has no basis in reality, apart from the government. Thinking this, I would still claim that until actual force is initiated, or a credible threat is made, no rights have been violated. A person swinging his fist at a high velocity toward your nose is a credible threat. Inertia would prevent him from stopping before contact is made. Knowing the laws of motion, you could make a reasonable assumption that your nose was in real danger and could strike back.
Otherwise, with "laws" regulating fist swinging, I can't help but wonder how much distance from nose-tip to fist would be demanded. It would vary from person to person, depending on a lot of issues. The "assault" wouldn't even need to necessarily be aggressive in nature for a particularly "brittle" person to make an issue of it. Then again, even a standardized "legal distance" would be pointless since unless the judge and/or jury were present during the event, a subjective interpretation would make the same action seem different to various observers.
This is why I still see the right to swing your fist ending at the tip of my nose, as long as no contact is made, or would be made without intervention.
HOWEVER, in a free society you could take action to defend yourself against perceived aggression using your best judgement (or reflexes) and then take your chances with a dispute resolution organization or a private "court", which would be more open to actually achieving justice than current government courts are. After all, they will have free market competition so will need to maintain a spotless reputation in order to attract "business". If I were hired to rule on such a case, I would not fault a person for striking back against someone who was swinging a fist at his nose, even if the nose in question were not touched. And I seriously doubt anyone else would either.
Just because a right exists does not mean that the exercise of that right is always the best course of action. This is where I think responsibility comes in. You may have a right to swing your fist up to the tip of my nose, yet you have a responsibility to not do so, and if you choose to do so, you may find yourself on the dangerous end of a gun barrel. And rightly so. You must accept any and all consequences of your actions, or you will find yourself getting a bad reputation and possibly shunned to the point of starvation (or living on charity).
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