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THE GREAT ABROGATION

I am wrong or right or neither.



THE NON-AGGRESSION PRINCIPLE

Aggress not, lest ye be aggressed upon in turn. I wouldn't want to be ostracised by the society I lived in. That's an anxiety that many people do experience now, though not I, since my responsibility to not be a dick has been somewhat abrogated by the structures of power around me. But then what is society, what's wrong with how it's constituted now, and if something is wrong, what should be done?

Surely society is the product you get from letting two or more humans interact, however fleetingly or rarely, but generally in a context where they can engage in exchange; of news, stories, advice, solace, intimacy, or material trade.

I wonder what might imbalance that dynamic...

The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) is simply a statement that to aggress against others is immoral. Most libertarians, whether they are classical liberal, minarchist, or anarchist, take the view that aggression is any wilful act that infringes on the property rights of other people.

Your life, thoughts, feelings, and body are your inalienable property for the simple reason they're self-evidently yours. To even try to use language to define those few things otherwise is self-defeating and absurd. They are yours because you are stuck in control of them and cannot give them away without impairing your self-hood. Please don't try to do that now just to prove a point.

Matt Zwolinski attempts a bold feat for a Libertarian, by going for the throat of the NAP in an attempt to persuade others to consider an alternative first principle for the liberty movement. Does he succeed? I don't know. Stefan Molyneux certainly doesn't think so;


But a word of caution. Stef comes on very strong. He reminds me of William Lane Craig, but for libertarianism. Instead of arguing that God is literally real, Molyneux's position is that the state is unreal, a collective fiction that we subscribe to because we've imbibed its ideology from birth. Stef will assert that natural rights and universally preferable behaviour are verifiable in the world around us, unlike many people including me, but that's for another day.

Now I'm not a libertarian anarchist/anarcho-capitalist as Stef is, but neither am I strictly a classical liberal like Zwolinski. So I will endeavour to explore the liberty in libertarianism, in order to arrive at a contingency (no conclusions on this blog, I'm afraid) as to how useful the NAP is and whether another principle enunciated in the video above might be of value.

I am of course talking about YAD, or "you're a dick", which is Stef's way of summing up those situations where property might be aggressed against but either unintentionally or without consequences. If you smash someone's property while running for your life you're probably not going to end up in big trouble over those damages, because the person filing suit against you is, by definition, being a dick.

While it's not the way I would seek to rationalise good living and a good legal system, Stef does give us a nifty example of the mutability of the non-aggression principle. It's a principle, not a law. It's comparative logic time!

Thou shalt not kill is a law; judge not lest ye be judged is advice. Aggress not lest ye be aggressed upon is, evidently, also advice.

Good advice, too. A community taking against one of its members for carrying a pregnancy to term with no father around could be said to aggress against that person. Or is this just an example of Stef's YAD? Again, I don't know. This is all definitions, and I like to arrive at definitions consensually.

What is the NAP for? Peace, prosperity, and freedom from repression! Now, concerning repression, we need to talk about the responsibilities that the NAP and living in liberty throw up, and the ways in which liberty is enfeebled, intentionally or not, by the actions of the unique social phenom that is the state.



THE ABROGATION OF INDIVIDUAL RESPONSIBILITY

Every expansion of state power has to come at the expense of the other part of human society, which is to say civil society, the civilian sector, or the private sector. Those three terms all mean the same thing.

What responsibilities might the state assume? Cash transfers to the elderly, disabled and impoverished? Rules governing the wearing of seatbelts? Record-keeping rules for private sector organisations? Maybe even buying up an industry or two and merging the firms within them into legislated monopolies?

I'll write a blog post about regulation in the near future. For now, it's time to ponder. What happened to the people who did those things above before the laws were made? What happened to the practices of people before the state legislated their livelihoods away.

In 'Economic Calculation in the Socialist Commonwealth', originally published in 1920, Ludwig von Mises neatly makes the case that, for example, Socialists are abrogators of human social responsibility;
Anyone with a genuine sense of moral values experiences no hardship in deciding between honor and livelihood. He knows his plain duty. If a man cannot make honor his bread, yet can he renounce his bread for honor’s sake. Only they who prefer to be relieved of the agony of this decision, because they cannot bring themselves to renounce material comfort for the sake of spiritual advantage, see in the choice a profanation of true values.
But socialism is not alone. Every expansion of the state, regardless of the intent, and regardless of whether there is an ideology behind it, enfeebles civil society just that little bit more.

The fact that the government is not a deliberate conspiracy to ruin you doesn't change the fact that if it could, it would, simply out of a lack of an economic impetus to tell government what should and should not be done. I cannot



WHAT IS THIS LIBERTY?

You could be entirely unfree, with not just your body but your mind gagged and manipulated from outside of yourself. That would be the total absence of freedom. At the other extreme you could be the invader, robbing others of any self-determination even in their thoughts.

The first person has no freedom, and the second complete freedom. Neither situation looks great to me. At the bottom of the scale is prostration of one's very personhood, and at the other is license taken over the lives, decisions, even thoughts of others.

So a paucity of freedom is imprisonment, and an excess of it is license. Is liberty somewhere in between, then? I mean it isn't imprisonment, or license. We have those words to describe those conditions. What does the condition of liberty look like?

The contingency I come to is pretty mundane, and arises naturally out of humans just dealing with each other; the free action, choice and speech you practice everyday with respect for everyone else's chance to act just as freely.

If your freedom treads on someone else's, then you done tipped over into license. Now, tiny episodes of license happen all the time; we often see one person dominate others in a social situation, but generally when the situation changes that dominance ends.

Passionate teenage philosophy students are fleetingly guilty of license, which is to say running their mouths. I was when I was 17 to 19, but I never harmed anyone lastingly. Hopefully that remains the case.

Because the more a person takes in a social situation without meeting resistance, the further they'll go until they're egotistical or sometimes even megalomaniacal. I am reminded of Ernesto Guevara, Idi Amin, even the less horrifying instance of Steve Jobs.

Then again, Jobs was a CEO, and so his egotism was contained in the private marketplace. Che and Amin were never so restricted. I appreciate that only one of them was actually a dictator, but both were tyrannical, brutal and oppressive to be around.

What makes liberty so difficult to achieve? Well, the gigantic, unending conversation that is human society has been heavily co-opted by powerful political forces that necessarily crowd out a few syllables of what would have been said absent that loud co-option.

Pretty much all popular politics is a giant, impersonal version of that rowdy teenaged philosophy student above who didn't know when it was his turn to speak, and once he'd opened his mouth, just loved the sound of his own voice. Sorry to my fellow A-Level Philosophy students, by the way.

And we want liberty, right? And my definition above wasn't controversial, was it?

Is the dissonance of national politics good or bad for liberty? People's lives would probably be just fine without politicians posturing and competing with each other to offer the biggest handout of goodies, which really just distracts people from living in a state of liberty, since to do so makes demands upon us.

Remember, aggress not, lest ye be aggressed upon. You vote for the party that offers you and your perceived comrades the most goodies. Those goodies have to be paid for. Those same politicians will then levy taxes on others to pay the bill. But sometimes it isn't just a tax rise.

Sometimes it's borrowing. And more often than not that means concocting money out of the air at the central bank to meet the obligations now, with no thought for the inflation that results from that monetary policy, and the subsequent impact on those who are only children or not yet born when the levy is first raised.

And so the responsibility of each citizen living in liberty, to respect the liberty of others, is abrogated for short-term and ultimately illusory gain. Nobody really wins except those people who are the initial recipients of the redistributed wealth.

So in conclusion, to live in liberty is to live with unfettered freedom over everything you own. By definition that gives you no freedom over anybody else's property unless they explicitly grant that permission.

If any other condition prevails then you are not living in liberty, and order, justice, and peace are just hollow buzzwords being thrown around to keep you in line. Enjoy!



On the next Ecomony Blogtime; Mister Matthew debates the ethics of wearing 'Che' t-shirts now that he has despaired of his socialist ways.

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