Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Non-Aggression Principle

If you had to boil down libertarianism to its essence, it's very core philosophies, I think it comes down to two things: self ownership, and the non-aggression principle. Today I want to talk a bit about the latter. First, a video featuring Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio explaining the non-aggression principle.

The non-aggression principle, or NAP as I'll be referring to it henceforth, isn't something that a group of wise philosophers came up with. It is something written on our souls, something that has a place in the tenets of every major religion on earth. It is nothing short of the Golden Rule itself: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Don't hurt people. Don't steal. Don't be a bully; talk things out, and do your best to persuade others using only words, not coercion and threats. Our parents taught this to us, as their parents taught it to them. It is the only way to truly treat others as equals. When you encroach on someone's person, whether it be with physical violence or theft or even angry words, you are, in essence, saying "I matter more than you do. My needs outweigh your needs."

We all expect this of ourselves and of one another, even though we all fail to put it perfectly into practice. The NAP is the standard to which a moral person and a moral society is held. Yet beyond our private lives, we live under a system completely based on the use of aggression. What is wrong for an individual has been made legitimate for the State. The State hurts people. The State kills people. The State steals from people. The State kidnaps people. The State enslaves people. The State is a bully. The State is coercion, force, aggression, and domination. To the State, you are not significant. Every time a new law is passed that violates even one person's natural rights, the State is saying "We matter more than you do. Our needs outweigh your needs."

Every time you pay a tax, you are being robbed. If you resist, the "at gunpoint" part becomes real. Every 18 year old boy who is forced to register for the Selective Service risks possible enslavement and even injury or death in the event the State decides to resume conscription. Failing to do so leads to more kidnapping and theft, in the form of a $250,000 fine or 5 years in cage. Behind every law, just or unjust, is a loaded gun. Behind those loaded guns are officers of the State "just following orders."

Most recently, a very terrifying bill has been passed by the Senate that would allow the military to arrest American citizens and indefinitely detain them without charges or a trial. As long as you are seen as a "threat", you can be held, even sent to Guantanamo Bay. Before you start to think that the kinds of people who will be picked up are the kinds of people who plot to crash planes into buildings and blow up hotels, take a look at this list of things which are now considered "suspicious". Included are such dastardly deeds as paying in cash, having missing fingers, and buying a flashlight. If you are a survivalist and keep more than one week's worth of food in your house, you are suspicious. This bill is not the result of the actions of people who respect others and their rights. This is the result of a State flexing its totalitarian and fascist muscles. Can you imagine what this would look like on an individual level? It would be like giving your neighbor the stink eye, so he locks you in his basement. It's beyond creepy.

The only legitimate role of government is to protect the rights and liberties of individuals. Beyond that, however, it represents an illegitimate use of force. Remember: if it's wrong for you to do, it's also wrong for the State to do.


  1. Nice write-up! I guess I will make sure to protect my fingers! :-P

  2. Taking the concept to the next step: If it is wrong for us to do, it is also wrong to authorize someone to do it on our behalf. Thus, whether passively doing nothing or aggressively voting for just about anyone put forth by our "masters," we authorize others to steal or kill on our behalf. Haunting.

  3. Good point, ScottRees! So many people would feel uncomfortable coercing their neighbors and using force against them, but have no problem having the State do their dirty work for them.


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