Accepting Aggression

The Tree of Woe contemplates the Non-Aggression Principle:

The Non-Aggression Principal or NAP is considered to be a defining principle of libertarianism. It been presented in different ways, each with slightly different implications. Infogalactic lists seven formulations of the NAP by thinkers dating back to John Locke. Of the seven, it is the Mid-20th Century formulations by Murray Rothbard that have had the most influence, and upon which we’ll focus:

Murray Rothbard (1963): “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.”

In addition to being a fundamental principle of libertarian thought, the NAP also appears as a second-order principle (derived from more fundamental rules) in many other ideologies. Many religions, typically those which do not espouse complete pacifism, espouse some variant of the NAP. Lockean liberalism espouses some variant of the NAP as well.

Because libertarians tend to be highly intelligent, highly disagreeable, and extremely online, virtually every aspect of the NAP has been extensively debated; the corpus of conversation about it almost approaches theological proportions. Since my readers here at Tree of Woe are also highly intelligent, highly dis—well, anyway, since you guys probably know most of that stuff, I’m not going to explore the NAP in breadth.

Instead, I’m going to drill down one particular aspect of the NAP which I have always found problematic: The issue of non-physical aggression. Thinking about non-physical aggression has persuaded me that the NAP is not correct, not for individuals, and not for nation-states.

Read the whole thing. I’ve never accepted the NAP; it has always struck me as an a priori non-starter. And frankly, the more I’ve read and understood of Murray Rothbard, the more I’ve concluded that libertarianism is just another alternative to Christian morality that proves to be an intellectual dead-end.