Ayn Rand supports the existence of a limited government for the protection of people and their property. The ideal limited government would simply represent the interests of the people. Dictators and monarchies are thus cancers to the people: they take without giving back; they exploit their position and rely on the cult of personality rather than represent the majority.
Freedom is of utmost importance to Rand. And it can only be taken away by physical force. Therefore a government must be in place to prevent or rectify situations where physical oppression prevents freedom. So justice – or the threat thereof – should be used as a means to guarantee freedom, not to guarantee punishment. Punishment is a necessary evil to make sure freedom remains unmolested. Fighting force with force should not be an expression of a malignant ego exerting its power over a lesser opponent – that only recreates physical oppression in the form of a “revolution.” Instead, physical force should be used when it is necessary in order to free the enslaved, who are in danger of not only losing their freedom, but losing the very desire for freedom.
Though an advocate of capitalism, Rand understands the potential for abuse: justice must be used to deter cheaters. Capitalism is an impersonal system that – when kept pure – can allow individuals to reach their full potential in the absence of physical oppression. But there are other forms of oppression that occur when one takes advantage of others financially. For capitalism to remain fair to those with potential, the predators must meet justice at every dark corner in which they attempt to fleece the honest.
In addition to dictators and swindlers, there are also criminal elements of society that, when left to their own devices, would engage in crime and sociopathic behavior that only outside justice could curb. So that individuals don’t have to spend their time defending their bodies and their property with guns, a policing system is needed to retrain these careless, cunning or biologically dysfunctional predators.
Everything important that Ayn Rand has to say about justice seems to be tied in to securing freedom and time for creativity for the individual. In a perfect society of well-adjusted adults, perhaps justice would be unnecessary. But, as it stands, predation, crime and slavery exist. And there eradication is achieved, according to Rand, only by meeting the violence that is inherent in this type of crime with a superior violence in the form of representative justice.
Leonard Peikoff, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand.