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Defending the Non-Aggression Principle

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capitalist Posted: Thu, Dec 10 2009 2:09 AM

I run into this type of argument against the NAP. How would you counter?


A camper is in the woods and gets lost. It is very cold, he is hungry and scared. He finds an empty cabin, breaks in, and uses their phone to call for help. The non-aggression principle holds that it is wrong for that man to break into the cabin on the grounds that the breaking in is an act of aggression towards the cabin's owner, which seems to be a silly conclusion. Any logic that leads to such an absurd conclusion must be flawed.

 

Thanks.


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nandnor replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 2:20 AM

An act of crime yes, but by the proportionality principle the punishment cant be big either.

The more serious issue IMO is with more dynamic concepts of property, like that of moving materia(ie rivers, air, radio frequency ownership, etc)

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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 2:39 AM

There is nothing flawed about it.  It is aggression, the cabin owner is not responbisble for your getting lost, so why should he pay for it with a broken door?

There are plenty of cases where any moral person would indeed commit aggression (eg there is a baby drowning so you steal a boat to save it). The difference is a moral person would take responsibility for it after the act and submit himself to the consequences of it and not try to wiggle out of it .

In this case it means that if you pay for the damages you and the cabin owner can still be friends. But if you claim that it is not your responsibility and refuse to pay up then you are obviously a moral degenerate.

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the NAP doesn't necessarily say that such aggressions are "wrong", it says they are morally wrong.

So I'd recommend that the camper break in to the cabin.  But also acknowledge that technically what he did was morally wrong, and accept responsibility for his actions afterward.

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Marko:
In this case it means that if you pay for the damages you and the cabin owner can still be friends. But if you claim that it is not your responsibility and refuse to pay up then you are obviously a moral degenerate.

Even if you pay the required penalty, your breaking in would be a wrong act at the point when you did it. You couldn't have been aware of the consequences of your act (maybe the owner would starve if you used the phone, because it costs him £1000 a minute etc.) You couldn't have known he would accept a contract of X damages for the violation of his property.

Thus you must resolve not to break in, as it is wrong, regardless of what you expect the owner to do.

In any case, one has to wonder whose forest it is the individual is lost in, and why they don't have a mobile phone etc.

The difference between libertarianism and socialism is that libertarians will tolerate the existence of a socialist community, but socialists can't tolerate a libertarian community.

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Thus you must resolve not to break in, as it is wrong, regardless of what you expect the owner to do.

What if the owner is away for weeks? What if this was a life or death situation? At some point you have to weigh the pros of being a perfectly virtuous anarcho-capitalist against the cons of dying of hypothermia, thirst, or bear-mauling. I'd say, in this specific scenario, to commit the crime and pay the consequences. Committing crime for the purpose of self-preservation is nothing new. I wouldn't say it's justified, but it's necessary.

The great thing about the message of complete liberty is the promise to deal with crime as effectively as possible through market forces. Let's not get bogged down by setting unrealistic standards for those who wish to adhere to libertarian ideals.

Sure, I look at the NAP as an ideal to live by, but if I'm at a bar and some guy calls my girl a bitch, and then looks me in the eye and calls me a pussy, you better damn well believe that I'm about to violate the NAP.

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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 6:46 AM

Thedesolateone:

Even if you pay the required penalty, your breaking in would be a wrong act at the point when you did it. You couldn't have been aware of the consequences of your act (maybe the owner would starve if you used the phone, because it costs him £1000 a minute etc.) You couldn't have known he would accept a contract of X damages for the violation of his property.

Thus you must resolve not to break in, as it is wrong, regardless of what you expect the owner to do.

In any case, one has to wonder whose forest it is the individual is lost in, and why they don't have a mobile phone etc.



You misunderstood. I did not mean to say you count on the good will of the owner. I said you accept full responsibility for all the consequences of your act and give yourself up to the mercy of the court and pay whatever price they assign without signing a sigh. If your phoning caused the owner to starve then that price is going to be that much higher.

No, I don`t think the hiker should die in the forrest before he should break in and use a phone. What if he had found a child lost in the forrest and as calling on both of their behalf? What if the child is yours? Should he still not call for the fear that it might cause damages to the cabin owner he can not foresee? If he is moral he will take the responsibility for commiting this aggression to save the child.

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Marko:
I said you accept full responsibility
full responsibility for having done what was morally wrong; a property crime. to avoid falling into error on the point, the aggressor must admit that he should not have aggressed from the moral standpoint. The reasons or excuses as to why he aggressed come form his having put that standpoint below other standpoints. 

Marko:
If he is moral he will take the responsibility for commiting this aggression to save the child.

being 'generous' in providing 'assistance' is not a moral issue. its a question of taste. if he is moral he will refrain from doing immoral things. if he is moral all the times he is moral except for when he is not. then that's what he is.

This topic was debated endlessly on the Sterba thread

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 7:02 AM

nirgrahamUK:

to avoid falling into error on the point, the aggressor must admit that he should not have aggressed from the moral standpoint.



I don`t know what "falling into error on the point" means. You are going to have to use less fancy phrases.

Taking responsibility means that you declare you were aware what you were doing, were aware of the consequences that were certain to stem from your action, were aware that further consequences could stemm from your action and that you are ready to pay the full price for your action and all the consequences, foreseen and unforeseen. It does not require of you to admit you should not have done it. And it has nothing to do with reasons or excuses.

 

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are things that are immoral things that you should not do ? what does immoral mean aside from that you should refrain from doing it.

certainly, people should take responsibility for their actions; i could not and would not argue against that. but this will not allow anyone to sustain that immoral acts should be done under X conditions (like taking responsibility after) 

indeed, taking you up on your point.....

Marko:
. It does not require of you to admit you should not have done it. And it has nothing to do with reasons or excuses.
 if there is no reason to admit you should not have done it..... if having done it was not immoral of you.... then you take responsibility for having committed an act that was not immoral, you take responsibility for having done -nothing wrong-

 

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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Thedesolateone:
 Even if you pay the required penalty, your breaking in would be a wrong act at the point when you did it. You couldn't have been aware of the consequences of your act (maybe the owner would starve if you used the phone, because it costs him £1000 a minute etc.) You couldn't have known he would accept a contract of X damages for the violation of his property.

Thus you must resolve not to break in, as it is wrong, regardless of what you expect the owner to do.

It seems kind of silly to extend the principle as far as you have. I would submit that, if you were in the camper's situation and it seemed to you to be life or death, you enter the empty cabin and call for help. Not even Rothbard takes the NAP as far as you do.


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excuse me, help me locate where Rothbard advocated aggressing against property rights so as to attain some 'utilitarianly' preferable outcome?

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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scineram replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 10:13 AM

We already wasted 60 pages on this not too long ago.

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capitalist:
A camper is in the woods and gets lost. It is very cold, he is hungry and scared. He finds an empty cabin, breaks in, and uses their phone to call for help. The non-aggression principle holds that it is wrong for that man to break into the cabin on the grounds that the breaking in is an act of aggression towards the cabin's owner, which seems to be a silly conclusion. Any logic that leads to such an absurd conclusion must be flawed.

Rephrasement of the stealing bread to survive story. Yes its a crime to steal bread to survive and to break into a cabin that isn't yours. Correctly labeling a crime as a crime is not absurd logic.

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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 10:45 AM

nirgrahamUK:

are things that are immoral things that you should not do ?

Immoral things are those things that should you commit them will mean that you are (to some extent) an immoral induvidual.

nirgrahamUK:


what does immoral mean aside from that you should refrain from doing it.

It is only you who phrased actions as moral/immoral. Until now I have only talked about moral/immoral persons.

No, I do not belive breaking the NAP is always an immoral act.

nirgrahamUK:

but this will not allow anyone to sustain that immoral acts should be done under X conditions (like taking responsibility after)

Again. It is you who are phrasing such and such acts as we talked about as immoral acts. I did not agree to this. 

Nobody is "allowed" or "disallowed" to break the NAP. The NAP is there to determine what actions carry the consequence of punishment and which actions do not carry the consequence of punishment. It is grounds for the only possible legal system.

It is not there to determine which actions are moral and which actions are immoral. It is possible to do something immoral without breaking the NAP.

In certain theorethical circumstances, that are extremely unlikely in real life and that the was overwhelming mayority of people will never find themselves in, certainly not me or you, the moral thing is to break the NAP and later on accept your full punishment. In essence - sacrificing yourself. 

The problem arises when people want to break the NAP but not accept the punishment, thus sacrificing others rather than themselves.

nirgrahamUK:

if there is no reason to admit you should not have done it..... if having done it was not immoral of you.... then you take responsibility for having committed an act that was not immoral, you take responsibility for having done -nothing wrong-

I take responsibility for the damages inflicted on others without their permission. The same way I accept a hangover when I have had too much to drink. It does not mean I was wrong to drink.


EDIT: I must say it is only a possibility when the aggression is of such a nature that the aggressed upon can later on be compensated for to a satisfactory degree. For example property damage or bodily damage that can heal.

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you are confusing the Non-aggression principle - which is the principle that it is wrong and immoral and should be refrained from aggressing the property of innocennts

with the non-aggression without due compensation principle - which is a peculiar modern invention of this forum, some of the blame I lay at the feet of Walter B, even though I am largely a Blockean.

 

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 10:56 AM

nirgrahamUK:

with the non-aggression without due compensation principle - which is a peculiar modern invention of this forum, some of the blame I lay at the feet of Walter B, even though I am largely a Blockean.



Fancy words again. I don`t know what you are talking about.

 

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bloomj31 replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 11:03 AM

So break into the cabin and pay the guy for a new door. 

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Rothbard (for one) is terribly clear that Natural Law is a body of Ethics, that entails certain legal principles for the functioning of a prosperous and moral society. you are overfocused on the legal principles that he highlighted in their legal aspect; and you have somehow managed to ignore their connection to the dictates of morality; indeed the very analysis he used to discover and justify them.

the reasoning Rothbard uses to sift through candidates for good earthbound Law puts the greatest weight on such Law as being moral. The Law is not empty of normative values (at least, they should not be for you in so much as you follow Rothbard, if you do... perhaps you do not follow Rothbard....)

the NAP is not a normatively empty proposition and Rothbard did not treat it as such, Hoppe does not treat it as such. Unfortunately with Block, sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't. there is some confusion over there on his part.

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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bloomj31:

So break into the cabin and pay the guy for a new door. 

This is obviously the right answer. Property does not exist for its own sake; rather it exists for the well-fare of humanity and when the common good requires that property rights be put to the side then it is only proper to do so (human life > a door). 

Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found.

          - Edmund Burke

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bloomj31 replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 11:25 AM

laminustacitus:

This is obviously the right answer. Property does not exist for its own sake; rather it exists for the well-fare of humanity and when the common good requires that property rights be put to the side then it is only proper to do so (human life > a door). 

Yeah, and if he never pays for the door, then he's a criminal.

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capitalist replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 11:36 AM

bloomj31:

So break into the cabin and pay the guy for a new door. 

From this, wouldn't it follow that a hungry man with no money would be just in stealing a loaf of bread and than paying the baker back at some other time?


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AJ replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 11:37 AM

capitalist:
A camper is in the woods and gets lost. It is very cold, he is hungry and scared. He finds an empty cabin, breaks in, and uses their phone to call for help. The non-aggression principle holds that it is wrong for that man to break into the cabin on the grounds that the breaking in is an act of aggression towards the cabin's owner, which seems to be a silly conclusion. Any logic that leads to such an absurd conclusion must be flawed.

If you believe it right to do something that you believe is always wrong, then clearly you don't really believe it is always wrong.

There are only two possibilities, either:

A. The NAP and its associated ethical principles (such as the proportionality and homesteading) allow for exceptions and flexible interpretations, or

B. They do not allow for exceptions and flexible interpretations.

If A, then they are only guidelines, not absolute principles. If B, the results by turns defy common sense and by turns are utterly monstrous and horrific. Objective ethical theorists (shall we call them "central ethical planners"?) can keep adding more and more new provisions to avoid such shocking results: proportionality, upgrades to Lockean homesteading, Block's idea that a child becomes an adult when he or she leaves home, "two eyes for a eye," allowance/outlawing of free banking or patent or copyrights, etc. But at some point we might ask when the creation of such centrally-planned[ok we'll say suggested] ethical content becomes too much.

With each new addition the content becomes more and more controversial, and why not allow for realize that the free market to will produce the best results?

Moreover, let us remember the lesson of Hasnas, that the letter of the law means nothing; interpretation of the law means everything. If we accept this, then it doesn't seem to matter to the vision of society that there is something called the NAP, if private courts and arbiters are going to be the ones interpreting it.

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capitalist:

bloomj31:

So break into the cabin and pay the guy for a new door. 

From this, wouldn't it follow that a hungry man with no money would be just in stealing a loaf of bread and than paying the baker back at some other time?

If the man were in dire threat of dying of hunger, then yes.

Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found.

          - Edmund Burke

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bloomj31 replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 11:39 AM

capitalist:

From this, wouldn't it follow that a hungry man with no money would be just in stealing a loaf of bread and than paying the baker back at some other time?

Depends.  If they come to that agreement after the first time, yeah.  If they don't, he's just a lousy thief.

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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 11:40 AM

nirgrahamUK:

Rothbard (for one) is terribly clear that Natural Law is a body of Ethics, that entails certain legal principles for the functioning of a prosperous and moral society. you are overfocused on the legal principles that he highlighted in their legal aspect; and you have somehow managed to ignore their connection to the dictates of morality; indeed the very analysis he used to discover and justify them.

the reasoning Rothbard uses to sift through candidates for good earthbound Law puts the greatest weight on such Law as being moral. The Law is not empty of normative values (at least, they should not be for you in so much as you follow Rothbard, if you do... perhaps you do not follow Rothbard....)

the NAP is not a normatively empty proposition and Rothbard did not treat it as such, Hoppe does not treat it as such. Unfortunately with Block, sometimes he does and sometimes he doesn't. there is some confusion over there on his part.

Would Rothbard break into a cabin, of whose owner he is certain would under no circumstanes be OK with that, if it meant the difference between the life and death of someone other than himself?

Would it be immoral for Rothbard to watch a stranger bleed out to death, if he were in a posession of a bandage and knew how to tie it but chose not to?

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i dont know whether would be immoral or not.

i dont know whether he was immoral in real life. maybe he stole stuff. i doubt it. i'm sure you can find a better way to gain insight than asking me questions about how another human being would behave.

Marko:
Would it be immoral for Rothbard to watch someone bleed out to death, if he were in a posession of a bandage and knew how to tie it?
it would only be immoral if he had some obligations through prior title-transfers to deliver such services; or at least he would have to release his bond. otherwise it would also be immoral if he had been the cause. In all other circumstances he would not be immoral.

Where there is no property there is no justice; a proposition as certain as any demonstration in Euclid

Fools! not to see that what they madly desire would be a calamity to them as no hands but their own could bring

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capitalist replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 11:53 AM

laminustacitus:

capitalist:

bloomj31:

So break into the cabin and pay the guy for a new door. 

From this, wouldn't it follow that a hungry man with no money would be just in stealing a loaf of bread and than paying the baker back at some other time?

If the man were in dire threat of dying of hunger, then yes.

So you are a utilitarian, I presume? You justify theft if it saves a man's life?

 


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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 12:00 PM

nirgrahamUK:

it would only be immoral if he had some obligations through prior title-transfers to deliver such services; or at least he would have to release his bond. otherwise it would also be immoral if he had been the cause. In all other circumstances he would not be immoral.

It would be an evil thing to do, and to commit evil is immoral. But  you are right in that it would be neither just nor unjust.

NAP deals with justice. But morality does not equal justice. Justice is that morality which can be legislated. But there is a part of morality, called goodness (opposite to evil, rather than to injustice) which can not be legislated, but must be left entirely to our conscience. While it is virtually impossible to imagine goodness colliding with justice (ussually they are one and the same) it is possible to construct a theorethical scenario where they do and in such a case it is better to commit an injustice if the injustice is smaller than the demands of goodness and of such a nature that it does not have to be permanent, but can be temporary provided we take responsibility for it and make amends/pay compensation.

Injustice is righted by justice being served. Evil is forgiven when sincere penance is made. Righting an injustice commited by oneself requires no admission of wrong, only the admission that the act was commited and a full acceptance of all the legal consequences. Only forgivness for evil requires admission of guilt.

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capitalist:

A camper is in the woods and gets lost. It is very cold, he is hungry and scared. He finds an empty cabin, breaks in, and uses their phone to call for help. The non-aggression principle holds that it is wrong for that man to break into the cabin on the grounds that the breaking in is an act of aggression towards the cabin's owner...

I don't think any one person is perfect.  The camper may not understand the woods very well, and so being out there in the first place is questionable.  The woods are the woods.  Prepare for cuts, bears, cold, potentially blowing numerous times to get that fire going, and broken bones.  No mommies or daddies around to help.  No big brother.  If anybody has regular experience camping, even in the northern climate winters, the person knows how to prepare for the worst before-hand.  Foresight is a well-cultivated practice to be exercised.  Even a person that has been in the woods for numerous years off and on comes across unique challenges, and sometimes upon first entry mistakes are made.  Loud sounds, not being too careful, not acclimated yet, etc....  First entry (upon each and every entry) can be the most dangerous time.

The woods are a completely different environment than urban life.  After awhile even the animals get used the person, and are not as easily spooked because the person begins to blend in more and the actions of the person become more natural to the environment, etc...  The person isn't making sudden odd movements as much.  Smells more like the woods.  The list goes on. 

This is all basic to those that have been in the woods a lot.  People that put themselves in desperate situations, by lack of preparation ie. having the necessary supplies, the knowledge of what one is getting into and ready to take on the risk, etc....  Obviously in this situation the camper put him or her self into this mess - such people become desperate.  How do desperate people operate.  Do they become beasts or rise in courage to the occasion.  At least in this situation the blame is totally on the camper and not the government.  The camper completely f-k up on their own.

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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Thedesolateone:

why they don't have a mobile phone etc.

I can't stand mobile phones.  I find no use for them.  They are another hum-drum that I don't need.

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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Juan replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 1:37 PM
So break into the cabin and pay the guy for a new door.
Wow. A sensible answer...

February 17 - 1600 - Giordano Bruno is burnt alive by the catholic church.
Aquinas : "much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death."

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scineram replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 1:49 PM

Indeed. His life saved, owner compensated.

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Juan:
So break into the cabin and pay the guy for a new door.
Wow. A sensible answer...

But, according to the logic of this answer, it would be right for someone who is hungry and without money to steal bread as long as he pays the baker back at another time. This is utilitarian and violates the non-aggression principle. 


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bloomj31 replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 2:09 PM

capitalist:

But, according to the logic of this answer, it would be right for someone who is hungry and without money to steal bread as long as he pays the baker back at another time. This is utilitarian and violates the non-aggression principle. 

Well then obviously the guy should freeze to death in the woods or whatever in keeping with a philosophical theory. 

 

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Marko replied on Thu, Dec 10 2009 2:37 PM

capitalist:

But, according to the logic of this answer, it would be right for someone who is hungry and without money to steal bread as long as he pays the baker back at another time. This is utilitarian and violates the non-aggression principle.



I think a utilitarian would actually say that the hungry man can steal bread wheter he intends to pay back the baker or not.

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capitalist:

...it would be right for someone who is hungry and without money to steal bread as long as he pays the baker back at another time.

What is amazing is the doublespeak that is rampant in society.  Right is steal.  As the other thread points out Obama is the character in the play that represents war is peace.

Even if "right" was taken out of that post, it's amazing you call it stealing.  Outstanding!

"Do not put out the fire of the spirit." 1The 5:19
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wilderness:

capitalist:

...it would be right for someone who is hungry and without money to steal bread as long as he pays the baker back at another time.

What is amazing is the doublespeak that is rampant in society.  Right is steal.  As the other thread points out Obama is the character in the play that represents war is peace.

Even if "right" was taken out of that post, it's amazing you call it stealing.  Outstanding!

This is exactly my point, I was attempting to show the problem with justifying theft of bread. Read the post again, jackass.

 


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capitalist:

justifying theft...

up is down; glad you attempted "to show the problem", thus, it's a problem.  If that's your attempt, then we agree, so, why you incline to get emotional about this tug of war in your own making, is undoubtedly complicated.  Implying a connection was your original post and once you venture into this type of thought experiment, then you instantly put yourself on the side of doublespeak.  But in fact you stated originally, "which seems to be a silly conclusion." that it is wrong for a person to break into a person's cabin, correct?  So if it is a problem but you state it's not a problem by it being a "silly conclusion", really?

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wilderness:

capitalist:

justifying theft...

up is down; glad you attempted "to show the problem", thus, it's a problem.  If that's your attempt, then we agree, so, why you incline to get emotional about this tug of war in your own making, is undoubtedly complicated.  Implying a connection was your original post and once you venture into this type of thought experiment, then you instantly put yourself on the side of doublespeak.

I am looking for ways to justify the non-aggression principle in hypothetical "lifeboat" situations because that is a common method of attack. Does the NAP apply in such scenarios? Or is it more flexible than that, allowing for occasional instances of aggression-initiation if one's life is one the line? 

 


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