Libertarian Foundations – The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP)

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I could not discuss libertarian foundations without first talking about the non-aggression principle (hereafter referred to as NAP).  Simply put, the NAP is one of the cornerstones of libertarian belief.  It is one of those things that bind us but at the same time the discussion of what NAP is and how it should be applied often divides libertarians and I think if there is a long-standing discussion in libertarianism it is how this principle should be applied.  It should also be noted that because of this there are a number different versions of the NAP.

Before I get into my particular definition of the NAP, I want to point out something that is fairly obvious about the NAP and that it is a ‘principle’.  It is not a law, rule or something arbitrary.  It is an overarching philosophical framework not necessarily something that libertarians get draconian about in its applications.  In fact applying the NAP can lead to a lot of different results.  In applying the NAP one can discover that the principle may nor apply in certain circumstances.  One can also find oneself on both sides of an issue because one see that he NAP applies to both sides or opposes both sides in certain areas.  One can also find that by applying the NAP, that multiple solutions can present themselves requiring a different debate altogether on which one of these solutions is the best course.

I want this understood because too many libertarians themselves drop criticisms against other libertarians saying they are not following the NAP, but in truth they may be from a certain point of view. The real trick of the NAP is that you must be able to see all points of view before it can truly be applied effectively.  It really has that aspect of ‘practice’ like you find in doctors practicing medicine or lawyers practicing law.  Libertarians practice the NAP, they don’t really enforce a particular definition of it as it is more about principle than rule or law.

The NAP has been defined many different ways.  Ayn Rand gets credit for putting it in more formal terms first:

“The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships. … In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.”

Murray Rothbard put it this way:

“No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.”

He rightly notes that this is the cornerstone principle of the foundation of libertarianism.  That said I think as a Christian there is one other person’s words that might have described the essence of the NAP in different but similar terms:

 “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

Yes, I feel Jesus was hinting at this principle in a lot of what he taught and it is most noticeable in this verse that he teaches his disciples.  It is primarily this connection between the teachings of Christ and the NAP that lead me to being a libertarian.

Now for my definition of the NAP:

No one can commit violence or threaten violence against another man’s person, rights or property.  The only proper use of violence or the threat of violence is against such people who commit such violence or threaten violence in defense of one’s own person, rights or property or in the defense of someone else’s person, rights or property.  Violence or threat of violence can only be used against an aggressor and should not be used against a nonaggressor.

In this particular case, I do borrow heavily from Rothbard but I think my definition is clearer in some ways at least to me.  That said we do have to define a few things further.

One is that violence or the threat of violence can have many forms.  It might be conceded that fraud is a form of violence in that is seeks to deprive people of their property by use of the rules and laws of a land to gain an advantage in stealing people’s property.  There is more to violence that just overt acts such as rape or murder.  It is about forms of aggression not just physical violence. There is a broader context to consider when it comes to what violence or threat of violence entails.

Secondly, this is not about pacifism and violence and threats of violence can be used in response to the aggressor.  That is what some libertarians like myself get a little frustrated when people accuse us not lifting a finger to help someone under attack.  The NAP does justify violence or threat in the case of defense of either self or others.  A woman who pulls a gun on her would be rapist and shoots him is not violating the NAP. A man who sees a woman being raped and pulls his gun and shoots the rapist is also not violating the NAP.  A rebel who is fighting for his human rights against an aggressive and tyrannical government is also not violating the NAP.  The NAP does not outlaw force, it simple states there is very few justified uses for it.

Finally, this also explains why libertarians dislike government or at minimum work hard to shrink government.  In large part it is that they recognize that the government has the legal monopoly on the use of force but they also realize that this monopoly must have restrictions on it so it does not violate the NAP.  Like I said earlier this can get quite complicated but the thing that is being given the most effort is to not use any form of violence or the threat of violence in the violation of someone’s person, rights or property. Given that the government can and often does this is why libertarians prefer a government that has its right to use its monopoly of force severely restricted to very specific things and also works hard to defend and define rights that should not be subject of government force.

Blessings and Cheers!!!

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Libertarianism Defended – zompist.com’s “What’s Wrong with Libertarianism?” – Part 1

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This is the first post in a series of counter-arguments to an article a friend of mine sent me that she said expressed her concerns over libertarianism.  You can read it for yourself here.  I am going to take my time here and deal with each part of this as best I can.  It isn’t actually, in my opinion a good argument, and that is because it starts out very poorly with a few lousy assumptions about libertarianism.  I will try to get as far as I can with this each time I write on it but there will come a point where because of length of article I will stop or because I believe the nature of the argument the writer is making takes a major turn.  Let’s begin.

The author of What’s Wrong with Libertarianism? starts:

Apparently someone’s curse worked: we live in interesting times, and among other consequences, for no good reason we have a surplus of libertarians. With this article I hope to help keep the demand low, or at least to explain to libertarian correspondents why they don’t impress me with comments like “You sure love letting people steal your money!”

Well, the first thing I can say as a libertarian is that I do believe that some forms of taxation are theft, particularly those that involve taking away the product of someone else’s work or a corporation of any type of productivity.  The argument goes that only a thief would go into a person’s house and take twenty percent of their paycheck, but with the government as the middle man, it’s perfectly legal.  The author isn’t really trying to show open mindedness right out of the gate.  He is basically saying: “libertarians don’t impress me because what they say is stupid.  Why is it stupid, because I say so.”  Just because a standard saying might on the surface look stupid, does not mean that the philosophy behind it is stupid. Moving on.

Good libertarians and the other kind

This article has been rewritten, for two reasons. First, the original article had sidebars to address common objections. From several people’s reactions, it seems that they never read these. They’re now incorporated into the text.

Second, and more importantly, many people who call themselves libertarians didn’t recognize themselves in the description. There are libertarians and libertarians, and sometimes different camps despise each other– or don’t seem to be aware of each other.

It is nice that the section title acknowledges that there are several types of libertarians that the author calls good and the other kind.  They make note that the original article had sidebars which they discarded because the comments on this article indicated to them that people were not reading these.  As an author, sidebars are rarely read, so you might as well put everything your going to say in the article.  Free advice there for all you writers out there.

He then goes on to differentiate who he is talking about from who he is not talking about. He states it this way: ‘ There are libertarians and libertarians, and sometimes different camps despise each other– or don’t seem to be aware of each other.‘  Well, I am glad the author does understand there are differences in libertarian philosophy but I think they then should specifically mention which school of thought they are attacking as these schools do have names.  If they are attacking a particular school of thought (and I think after reading this whole article they are attacking one particular school of thought – more on that in a moment), that should be reflected in the title, so as not to throw the whole of libertarian philosophy under the bus.  Whether the different schools of libertarian philosophy despise each other is debatable.  Libertarians as a general rule tend to be very passionate and thoughtful people.  It may look like they despise each other to outsiders, much like people may conclude members of the same family don’t like each other because they argue all the time, in reality there are a lot of common elements between the schools that bind them together when push comes to shove.

If you–

  • have never heard of (or don’t think much of) Rothbard, Rockwell, Rand, and von Mises
  • accept that the FDIC is a pretty good idea
  • want a leaner, more efficient government, but don’t dream of getting rid of it

…then this page isn’t really addressed to you. You’re probably more of what I’d call a small-government conservative; and if you voted against Bush, we can probably get along just fine.

On the other hand, you might want to stick around to see what your more fundamentalist colleagues are saying.

I don’t think you can say that people that read certain authors automatically fall into the camp the author is opposing.  There are many types of libertarians as mentioned before and a majority of them probably have had a time spent reading Rothbard, Rand and von Mises at some time in their life.  Reading these authors might actually make you informed to what they actually wrote instead of going forward with assumptions.  Some of what these authors have to say is very good and many of us libertarians do practice the art of eating the meat and spitting out the bones when it comes to our philosophers.

Is the FDIC a good thing?  Honestly I am not to going to evaluate here, but the point of libertarianism is that no government agency of any type should be beyond criticism.  The issue is does a government agency actually protect citizens freedom and liberties or does it interfere or unjustly remove those liberties? Libertarians are simply saying that no government agency should be beyond this criticism, revision or removal – including the FDIC.

If you want a smaller, leaner government but don’t want it to go away, you are a libertarian in some form, except for one school of libertarian thought – anarchism.  The author labels as fundamentalist libertarians.  This is where his argument goes down hill in a quick hurry because throughout the article he uses ‘libertarian’ indicating the larger majority, when actually he is addressing the very small group of libertarians known as ‘anarchists’.  This becomes pretty clear in the next paragraph.

Libertarianism strikes me as if someone (let’s call her “Ayn Rand”) sat down to create the Un-Communism.

Communism: Property is theft, Totalitarianism, Capitalists are baby-eating villains, Capitalists are baby-eating villains, The poor are oppressed.

Libertarianism: Property is sacred, Any government is bad, Capitalists are noble Nietzchean heroes, Worker activism is evil, The poor are pampered good-for-nothings.

Hello Straw Man.

  1. On the issue of property.  If the author does not believe in property rights being a natural right than I want him to live that out.  Like it or not we all have this notion that what is ours is ours.  Especially if we create it or buy it.  I would say most human beings, if they are not otherwise coerced, would think that they have the right of property ownership and it is this notion that is what make stealing a crime.
  2. Totalitarianism vs. No government. This a false dichotomy in relation to libertarianism.  Particularly if you are going to apply it to all libertarians or these so called fundamentalist libertarians.  This is not the view of the vast majority of libertarians, only anarchists.  Libertarianism is much about the debate of what the specific role of government should be and how small it should be.  That is far more complicated that the author of this article is trying to make it.
  3. Capitalism: I don’t think libertarians think that capitalism is all peace and love, but they do acknowledge one thing.  Capitalism has done more to make our lives better than anything the government has done.  Just look around you and ask the question of any object you see: was that object or service provided to you by capitalism or the government?  It will be exceedingly rare for you to say, if you are honest, the government.  Libertarians like capitalism and for good reason, but I doubt Nietzsche had much to do with it.  More like Adam Smith.  It isn’t about survival of the fittest with most of us, but simple idea that we have the right to free enterprise and a free market economy.
  4. Worker Activism: I don’t think most libertarians would restrict the rights of workers to organize if they choose to do so.  I am not sure where the author would get this idea as libertarians are about personal freedom.  The issues is the idea that such workers should not force their fellow workers to join, nor should they force those workers to pay dues to support things they may not agree with.  Unions should be volunteer based, not coercion based.  Even anarchists are not against free will voluntary associations, in fact their ideas kind of depend on those.
  5. The poor: I don’t even think anarchists all think the poor are good for nothings.  The issue is not so much that the poor are bad according libertarians, so much as they don’t want the rich automatically labeled as evil.  This is more Ayn Rand’s point in many of her books and she does not take aim at the poor so much as those who attack people that achieve things and try to steal those people’s achievements through government or other means.  I doubt any of us would say that the genuine poor are pampered. Some might say that some of welfare recipients are, but that is a different issue than poor vs. rich.

My largest point here is that the author is not really addressing general libertarianism here but a specific school of thought anarchism, which I don’t think is the majority opinion of libertarians.  He admits he is attacking the fundamentalist arm but he defines libertarianism very badly according to his own preconceived notions about certain authors. He should have labeled what he calls libertarianism as anarchism and as such his article should have been called “What’s Wrong with Anarchism?” But I doubt that would have engendered as much attention as even most libertarians are arguing for smaller government, not no government.

More Later in Part 2.

Blessings and Cheers!!!

The Rabyd Libertarian – It Begins

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It Begins…  I have been thinking about starting this blog for a long time.  My other blog All Things Rabyd has been my blog for many years now and I don’t think that will change other than it will become more of a theological journal blog with some fiction writing thrown in.  This blog is more about Libertarian politics and education.  It is a response to ignorance.  Ignorance I see in people who either don’t know anything about libertarians or our philosophy.  Ignorance in the form of ‘you can’t be a libertarian and a Christian’.  Ignorance in the form of ‘Libertarians just want anarchy’.  Etc.  Mostly it is about educating people on what Libertarianism is, instead of putting up with the lack of knowledge.

Most of this has been piling up for the last few months as I have been debating my friends on Facebook who seem to think I have lost my mind, but I have thought it through over the last several years and I am now convinced that there is an adage that it true: “When you are young you embrace liberalism because you have heart, when you are an adult you become a conservative because you have a brain, when you truly arrive, you become a libertarian because you realize its OK to have both a heart and a brain.”

For me freedom and liberty are not just words they are principles that I try to live out in my life.  They are as necessary as life is.  The real struggle over the years has been coming to terms with the implications of what it means to have liberty and what it means to give others liberty.  It is about coming to terms with the fact that both heart and head can be engaged on any issue when it comes to freedom.

Posts on this blog will take many forms from information to politics to opinion pieces.  I like to write in series, so I can take things apart in thus help you, the gentle reader, digest things in smaller pieces.  The elephant of libertarianism can be eaten, if you take it one piece at a time.  It should also be noted that I don’t put up with much nonsense on my blog.  Name calling in the comments section will just get you deleted.  If you want to actually discuss the issues presented, I will be happy to have you and talk with you.  If the blog gets bigger off course it may be difficult to do this as much but for now it is just one writer and a post with no followers. (August 7, 2016 – 5:56pm)

My friends and family members will probably wonder what my plans for this blog are.  As money becomes available I will probably give this thing some customization and a proper domain name.  Right now it is in free mode and represents an experiment.  It is an experiment in seeing if I can (a) handle two blogs and (b) have enough interest and knowledge to write on this topic at least three times a week.  I should have that level of interest seeing I am a political science major right now, active in politics on local school boards, and running for office.   The issue is time and whether or not I have the desire to spend some o it educating the masses on libertarian philosophy.

I am going to begin by responding to a webpage someone sent me and said that it was their basic issues as to why they were having a problem with libertarian philosophy.  It is actually not well done, but it is an example of the kind of ignorance that is out there that I will be trying to refute regularly so it will be a good start.  Hope you enjoy it.

Blessings and Cheers!!!