Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Oh Boy: "Six Reasons Libertarians Should Reject the Non-Aggression Principle"

Joshua Byers emails:
I saw this article being linked to on Facebook by a Students for Liberty Executive Board member.  The same board member, Eglė Markevičiūtė, who advocates for NATO military intervention in the Ukraine.  The title, "Six Reasons Libertarians Should Reject the Non-Aggression Principle”

I suspect Eglė is going to discredit herself with a significant portion of the liberty community.  It is hard to say though as young people typically lack discernment.  It is a fairly logical to see her reject the NAP if she’s calling for NATO in Ukraine.  Is this a case of a young person’s heart and hatred of Putin trumping her better judgment due lack of experience?  Or is it a case of an operative of NED attempting to undermine the liberty movement’s commitment to a non-interventionist foreign policy?  Difficult to say.  I lean toward the former, perhaps with a hopeful but potentially naive optimism.

http://www.libertarianism.org/blog/six-reasons-libertarians-should-reject-non-aggression-principle?Nonagression

Finally, these developments remind me of an article I read from Rothbard describing the libertarian movement of the early 80s and the fissures that developed.  Seems there is nothing new under the Sun.  History is repeating itself.

http://www.lewrockwell.com/1970/01/murray-n-rothbard/it-usually-ends-with-ed-crane/

RW note: It is also interesting that the article was originally posted at the Koch-funded web site Libertarianism.org.  The Koch brothers were, of course, behind the early 1980s fissure also, as Rothbard noted in the above referenced article:
On Black Friday, March 27, 1981, at 9:00 A.M. in San Francisco, the “libertarian” power elite of the Cato Institute, consisting of President Edward H. Crane III and Other Shareholder Charles G. Koch, revealed its true nature and its cloven hoof. Crane, aided and abetted by Koch, ordered me to leave Cato’s regular quarterly board meeting, even though I am a shareholder and a founding board member of the Cato Institute. The Crane/Koch action was not only iniquitous and high-handed but also illegal, as my attorneys informed them before and during the meeting. They didn’t care. What’s more, as will be explained shortly, in order to accomplish this foul deed to their own satisfaction, Crane/Koch literally appropriated and confiscated the shares which I had naively left in the Cato Wichita office for “safekeeping,” an act clearly in violation of our agreement as well as contrary to every tenet of libertarian principle.

28 comments:

  1. As Laurence Vance mentioned before, a person stating he/she is socially liberal and fiscally conservative doesn't mean that person is a libertarian. Egle's Twitter description states just that and nothing libertarian.

    When make distinctions between the two (social and economic), you're picking and choosing on your own whim of what is right and wrong for others. Economics and social should never be seen as separate.

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    1. You have no idea what you are talking about. Do you always take your bios from 2 line twitter notes? Here is what her SFL page says:

      " Eglė is a third year student at Vilnius University, currently pursuing a Bachelors degree in Political Science. Eglė is also a Vice-Chair and Political Officer at Lithuanian Liberal Youth. She became interested in the ideas of liberty and liberalism (in an European sense) after spending one year at her university, where discourse on criticism of liberalism is particularly popular. Eglė thinks it is important to question oneself and ones ideas, however, after having acquainted herself with both libertarian and social-liberal literature and ideas, she is now an active supporter of libertarian ideas."

      http://studentsforliberty.org/european-students-for-liberty/egle-markeviciute/

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    2. Rejecting NAP shows a rejection of Libertarianism no matter what a bio says about her "support" of those ideals

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    3. And I agree, Anon. Just saying we could see this beforehand.

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    4. I disagree Anon (the 1st one)...I don't accept the NAP anymore, and yet am a free market, noninterventionist, individualist anarchist. I'd say that's fairly libertarian. I'm not supporting the SFL ideas presented in the linked article at Libertarianism.org, however, there are many ethical theories, or lack thereof in libertarian tradition. My theory was developed by me alone, so it isn't well known, but Max Stirner predates almost all other strains of libertarians and he advocated amoralism (a complete rejection of even the concept of ethics) in favor of egoism. Ayn Rand was the statist version (albeit minarchist) of this anarchist Stirner egoism.

      No particular ethical theory can claim monopoly over libertarian philosophy....what matters is the result of those theories. If in action we ACT the same, the theories that bring us to those actions are rather irrelevant. Libertarianism isn't just about theory; it's really about what you do (action and inaction, and when).

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    5. Do you accept property rights? If so, how is that an amoral egoism, assuming your custom theory is close enough to Stirner's to prompt your mention of it? If not, how are you libertarian?

      You've illustrated that to be anti-state is not necessarily to be libertarian.

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  2. I decided to stop calling myself libertarian a few months ago for reasons that are basically number five on that list.

    The NAP could only functionally exist in a universe where all agents accept the exact same definition of property rights. Either that or give up on the once attractive theoretical purity and make a 'but most of the time...' argument.

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    1. So what? You're conceding to a argumentum ad populum justification. Quantity of acceptance says nothing of its validity or appropriateness.

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    2. Re: Bill A,
      -- The NAP could only functionally exist in a universe where all agents accept the exact same definition of property rights. --

      Does that mean that you personally cannot accept the definition of property rights as stated by libertarians - i.e. that which you possess - only because there's no absolute agreement?

      This is an interesting argument. So if there's at least ONE person in the Known Universe who does not subscribe to the definition of property rights, then you cannot subscribe to the same definition? Does that mean you feel then justified to rob and steal from others?

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    3. Bill A. That is one of the most poorly thought out arguments I have ever seen. It amounts to nothing more than "x is only valid if everyone in the world agrees on a definition". Please tell me your ideal world, I'm betting that you are a statist. Regardless of how small or large your ideal government there is no possible way you will get everyone subject to your government to agree on definitions and interpretations of your law... Therefore (by your own argument) your political philosophy is invalid.


      Boom. Roasted.

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    4. "The NAP could only functionally exist in a universe where all agents accept the exact same definition of property rights. "

      So if you are no longer a believer in the NAP, what is it you do believe in?

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    5. The point is that if different views of property rights exist in the population, then the exchange of physical force can occur with no parties viewing themselves as the initial aggressor. The application of the non-aggression principle can become asymmetrical from different perspectives, which makes it ineffective.

      I personally like both the non-aggression principle and libertarian property rights best among all the systems I have seen, but I also know there are many other people who refuse to accept those tenets regardless the persuasiveness of the argument delivered either by myself or competent orators.

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    6. I'm curious as to what theory you developed or decided to accept that replaced the NAP, as you can't logically abandon one ethical theory until you have another to replace it (or choose to become a Stirner amoralist).

      I also don't believe in the NAP anymore, but I found almost all the reasons on that list to be pretty flimsy, honestly. The reason I would have found more profound and interesting would have been extreme and rare circumstances where violating the NAP is necessary to self preservation or the preservation of loved one's lives. In 1st World nations, these circumstances are so rare as to be almost unthinkable, but in 3rd World nations they aren't exactly rare at all, relatively. The NAP is much easier to believe in 1st World nations than 3rd World nations for this reason. It also illustrates a possible "special case" (a reference to the Theory of Relativity in science, which has a Special Case because of the invalidity of Relativity as a complete "Theory of Everything").

      But without a "Theory of Everything" in ethics (which I think I found to my satisfaction), we shouldn't abandon the NAP (equivalent to the Theory of Relativity in my comparison).

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    7. Well... since I am only one individual, then I can maintain an internally consistent definition of property rights and adhere to a functional non-aggression principle from my own perspective. External parties may view my actions, apply their own principles, and reach different conclusions, however. In those circumstances my options are to negotiate, modify my own concept of property to be consistent with the other, attempt to convince the other party to sacrifice some of their principle, and/or effect change by physical means.

      It feels like a mess but dang it being a human is tough sometimes.

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    8. Re: Bill A,
      -- The point is that if different views of property rights exist in the population, then the exchange of physical force can occur with no parties viewing themselves as the initial aggressor. --

      That's irrelevant. Even if people have different views on how to treat each other's property, the concept itself is unaffected by opinion. Either a thing is, or it is not. Either property is what you own, or it is not.

      -- The application of the non-aggression principle can become asymmetrical from different perspectives, which makes it ineffective. --

      Your logistical problems are meaningless when it comes to the validity of a concept or a principle. If you know that the initiation of force is bad, is immoral, is evil, then the fact that someone is stronger than you does not affect the principle.

      -- External parties may view my actions, apply their own principles, and reach different conclusions --

      Even if that were so, that a group of people reach different conclusions about other people's property, you can bet that among themselves, property rights would be pretty secure. The concept of ownership is axiomatic, it cannot be proven wrong because doing so would mean you cannot own anything, even your own mind - a perfunctory contradiction. Property rights stem from the axiom of ownership and thus it is irrefutable. That does not mean that your property will have a magical shield against evil doers but it does mean the evil doer will KNOW that he's taking someone else's property, not that the property belongs to him by right.

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    9. I'm not arguing against the concept of ownership.

      There are details of property that the axioms do not firmly establish.

      Those details can be reasonably interpreted in different ways, which makes conflict possible where no parties view themselves to be violating the non-aggression principle. This is the pathology of the concept that turns me away.

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    10. Bill,

      "There are details of property that the axioms do not firmly establish.

      Those details can be reasonably interpreted in different ways, which makes conflict possible where no parties view themselves to be violating the non-aggression principle."

      What are the "details" you are referring to? Also, can you illustrate a conflict "where no parties view themselves to be violating the non-aggression principle"?

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    11. Re: Bill A,
      -- There are details of property that the axioms do not firmly establish. --

      Like what?

      -- Those details can be reasonably interpreted in different ways, which makes conflict possible where no parties view themselves to be violating the non-aggression principle. --

      I believe you're confusing the normal disputes arising because of fuzzy boundaries with a confusion about the NAP per sé. When people cannot make an easy determination of ownership of properties that share boundaries, there will be a conflict but this does not undermine or contradict the NAP, unless you can show me that the only reasonable response when a conflict arises is to have a fight to the death instead of seeking mediation or other non-violent alternatives.

      Remember one thing: the NAP as a concept is born from rationality, from reason. It is always better to live in peace than in conflict, as conflict only breeds animosity and risk of an early death, would you agree? If you agree, then it is reasonable that others will agree as well. If you find that position reasonable, then it follows others will find that position reasonable. So why would you think that a dispute here and there will always and invariably lead to something that contradicts the NAP? And again, the NAP is an ethical standard, it is not a magical shield that protects your person against aggression; but it does provide a moral standard by which to live with others and with which to prosper, better than the ethical standard of Might is Right, for instance.

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  3. The closest thing that I see as a sance libertarianism is "now an libertarian ideas". Tricky tricky slick willy. "Supporting ideas" of something still leaves room for picking and choosing and for future political associations.

    I have seen this so many times with Christian church.

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  4. She quotes Rothbard a few times in this piece (in a way that seems deliberate, like using our own ammunition against us) but then goes on to say:

    "Libertarians haven’t written much about the issue of pollution"

    It seems likely to me she hasn't read any Rothbard. I imagine there's a pile of Rothbard quotes/opinions/positions at her disposal in her organization that all the writers reference. If she actually read Rothbard (or Block) she'd know that her pollution arguments are easily refuted.

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  5. F.Y.I., I'm pretty sure Tucker is mixed up with this libertarism.org business. I remember reading him praising it as, "an extension of what I was doing at Mises."

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  6. It is fine to reject the NAP...just stop calling it "libertarianism"!

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  7. Attacking Non-Aggression? Gotta love it! Lol.

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  8. I have an extremely hard time believing that Rothbard believes that letting a 3 year old starve to death is OK morally (or whatever she said in the article). Can someone please help me understand what he actually said?

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    1. Rothbard explicitly states that his example of letting a child starve to death would be viewed as immoral. Ethics of Liberty, Ch. 14, Children and Rights.

      You can replace for your purposes "abortion" with "starvation" here:

      "2. What we are trying to establish here is not the morality of abortion (which may or may not be moral on other grounds), but its legality"

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    2. I do find that people have a hard time separating non aggression from morality. It's totally possible to not violate the nap while acting immoral

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  9. Ok, I get it. The "radical paradigm shift" craved by Zwolinski will be motivated by the assumption that there is no such thing as aggression at all. To wit:


    "There comes a point where what you need is not another refinement to the definition of 'aggression' but a radical paradigm shift...".

    -Matt Zwolinski, Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of San Diego

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  10. I love a good argument, and was really hoping to see some insightful takes on the NAP that would cause me to doubt it. Not even close. That this came from a college professor is somewhere between frightful and sad.

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