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the threat of force

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mikachusetts Posted: Tue, Jun 21 2011 7:03 AM

Why does the libertarian conception of aggression include the threat of force?

I understand why force itself is bad: it is a violation of property in someone's self or belongings, property is to be respected, therefore no force against another person is to be tolerated.

But the threat of force or extortion is different.  It isn't an actual violation but the threat of a violation, and threats on their own are ok.  I can threaten to withold love from my children if they don't eat their vegetable but I can't threaten to step on my neighbors garden if he doesn't paint his house blue.  I can threaten to tell the neighborhood about Mrs. Smith's affair if she doesn't pay me off, but I can't threaten to vandalize her house if she doesn't repent.

So my question is: on what grounds does aggression and by relation the NAP come to include the threat of force?

 

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James replied on Tue, Jun 21 2011 7:14 AM

If the threatening party creates a reasonable impression of immanent force, he is estopped from making legal claims to the contrary...  That would be a condolence of misrepresentation/fraud.

Self-defense isn't possible if you can't react to threats of immanent force.  You can't act to prevent harm that's already been done.

 I can threaten to withold love from my children if they don't eat their vegetable but I can't threaten to step on my neighbors garden if he doesn't paint his house blue.

"Witholding love" is a bit vague to know whether you're actually threatening force against your children.  It could mean anything.  That exact same threat to your neighbour certainly wouldn't be construed as a threat of force, though it might be construed as a bit weird.

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Nielsio replied on Tue, Jun 21 2011 7:37 AM

A person who threatens is a dangerous person. It could lead to people voluntarily disassociating from that person (a business disallowing him). But if the threat is really bold then it could result in people acting on it to make sure the person isn't able to do any harm.

This works pretty straight forward in my model of a voluntary society: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tE9dZATrFak .

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If the threatening party creates a reasonable impression of immanent force, he is estopped from making legal claims to the contrary...  That would be a condolence of misrepresentation/fraud.

Ok, but all that means is that If I extort someone, I have no legal recourse to not be extorted myself.  Not to mention, estoppel as a legal theory doesn't just exist in the abstract.  In order for someone to actually be estopped, there would have to be a legal framework in which that were true.  The NAP doesn't provide such framework, so estoppel doesn't really explain why the threat of force is prohibited.

Self-defense isn't possible if you can't react to threats of immanent force.  You can't act to prevent harm that's already been done.

"Pay up, or I will take the money by force" -- at what point is self-defense to be used?  The threat itself doesn't justify any act of aggresion besides another threat.  In other words, it wouldn't be ok to tie someone up and lock them in a room after -just- saying that because it would be unproportional and constitute a new act of aggression.

"Witholding love" is a bit vague to know whether you're actually threatening force against your children.  It could mean anything.  That exact same threat to your neighbour certainly wouldn't be construed as a threat of force, though it might be construed as a bit weird.

I didn't mean anything by this really.  I was just illustrating how certain threats are ok, so long as they don't violate property, and how sometimes what is permissible and impermissible according to the NAP borderlines absurdity (I can't tresspass, I can ignore a drowning man, etc.)

 

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A person who threatens is a dangerous person. It could lead to people voluntarily disassociating from that person (a business disallowing him). But if the threat is really bold then it could result in people acting on it to make sure the person isn't able to do any harm.

I agree, but its not really what I'm trying to figure out.  There are tons of reasons why extortion would not be tolerated and I have no doubt that a stateless society would be able to mitigate it just like any other problems.

All I want to know is why the NAP includes the threat of force.  The threat is ok on its own, and the force hasn't yet been committed.  Accodingly, the NAP should allow for extortion. 

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Nielsio replied on Tue, Jun 21 2011 8:24 AM

A threat of force is not ok because it's anti-social. It is the start of the initiation of violence.

If someone starts building a nuclear reactor in his backyard, that is also the start of the initiation of violence, because there is an X chance that thousands will be killed.

If someone is driving 100 mph and flying past other cars, that is also the start of the initiation of violence.

All of these things are OK to take action against.

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Autolykos replied on Tue, Jun 21 2011 12:48 PM

If I swing my fist at you, but you move out of the way before it hits your face, have I initiated force against you? Or have I only threatened it?

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mikachusetts:
So my question is: on what grounds does aggression and by relation the NAP come to include the threat of force?
None.  It is purely axiomatic. In other words, we simply assume it to be true without any pretense of proof or grounds. 

Beyond that, it makes the NAP a little more practical and palatable. 

Before calling yourself a libertarian or an anarchist, read this.  
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Groucho replied on Tue, Jun 21 2011 1:57 PM
Aggressive acts and constructive threats to commit aggressive acts can both be violations of the NAP. At least it seems that way to me.
An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. -H.L. Mencken
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Charles Anthony:
None.  It is purely axiomatic. In other words, we simply assume it to be true without any pretense of proof or grounds. 

The axiom is more fundamental then the NAP though.  It is absolute property in one's self and Lockean homesteading which are taken as axiomatic, from which the non aggression principle is derived and not the other way around--its feasible that someone accepts the NAP first, and then reaches conclusions about property, or just accepts every normative libertarian claim at face value, but I'm addressing the logico-deductive approach in the Rothbardian tradition which includes Block and Hoppe (somewhat).

Autolykos:
If I swing my fist at you, but you move out of the way before it hits your face, have I initiated force against you? Or have I only threatened it?

By threat of force I really mean extortion.  A verbal or written threat that if you don't comply, I will use force against your property.  According to both Rothbard and Block (and I assume Hoppe and other Rothbardians) extortion is an act of aggression, which, is to be prohibited on the grounds that aggression violates property.  The scenario you bring up has problems, but I will cede to you that a swing and a miss counts as inititation of force.

Here is where my whole point is going:

Taxation is a threat of force.  If you do not pay taxes, the state will put you in jail.  The threat itself though, does not constitute a violation of property.  To prohibit taxation on the grounds of the NAP is to prohibit something on the possibility of a future act of aggression--that is, people who choose to pay taxes (however grudgingly it may be) are not being aggressed against in that capacity.  So the NAP cannot allow for force to be used against taxation without allowing for force to be used against any act which might lead to future aggression (a very slippery slope).  Therefore, the NAP is not sufficient grounds for opposing government.

Ultimately, anarcho-capitalism in the natural rights /deontological tradition rests on faulty reasoning.

Please note that I do not advocate taxation or extortion.  What I'm trying to express is that the theoretical framework which the NAP is built upon does not actually lead to the NAP as it is defined in the Rothbardian tradition, but rather to a principle which is unworkeable without an appeal to utilitarian grounds.  And once there is an appeal to utilitarianism, there is no reason to believe that natural rights and property are able to deductively lead to any meaningful political philosophy which can stand on its own.

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Bert replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 12:09 PM

Does the individual or group making the threat have the means to carry out the threat?  It's not a child saying "Give me your money or I'll put you in jail", it's a group of people who will and have put people in jail.  If I get a letter from the government saying if I don't pay my taxes I'll go to jail I take this as a threat, in their case a 'warning'.  I know the threat will be carried out if I do not comply.  If someone comes to your house and points the cannon of a tank at your front door, that's a threat.  These are serious and have damage to life and property.  The example of threatening your neighbor with stepping on flowers isn't life or property threatening (except to the flowers, and unless it's a rare flower that deserves some special seat of honor in a botanical garden, I don't seeing it being that serious).  I also want to distinguish between blackmail and a threat.  A threat is an action against a person(s) or property.  Blackmail on the other hand is the witholding or releasing of information in payment, that the payment will keep the information private and/or safe.  It's not a physical crime, and doesn't lead to physical crime.  "If I don't receive a thousand dollars I'll release the information I have on your affair".  This person could release this information or not, and it's generally negative in most cases, but the blackmailer is actually now going within the market and putting a price on the information he has.  It's up to the person being blackmailed to really think if it's worth the price.

I had always been impressed by the fact that there are a surprising number of individuals who never use their minds if they can avoid it, and an equal number who do use their minds, but in an amazingly stupid way. - Carl Jung, Man and His Symbols
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Bert:
Does the individual or group making the threat have the means to carry out the threat? . . .The example of threatening your neighbor with stepping on flowers isn't life or property threatening (except to the flowers, and unless it's a rare flower that deserves some special seat of honor in a botanical garden, I don't seeing it being that serious).

But the NAP on its own doesn't have any way of determining whether the threat is likely or, whether the severity of the threat makes it more or less ok.  In either case, you must appeal to some other rule (usually utilitarianism) which could have been used as an ethic or law to begin with.

I also want to distinguish between blackmail and a threat.  A threat is an action against a person(s) or property.  Blackmail on the other hand is the witholding or releasing of information in payment, that the payment will keep the information private and/or safe.

I'm using threat differently, as in "If you don't do x, I will do y."  Now, Y can either be force against property (what I call extortion) or it can be some other action (blackmail).  I think this is a pretty fair definiton that fits in with how its been used in most libertarian literature.

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First off, I think Rothbard was quite clear on the point.

"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."  - Rothbard

 

Second, by your logic a person has no legitimate recourse until he's already been shot.  Such interpretations of the NAP would be practically useless, let alone potentially fatal. 

Last I checked, there was no inanimate thing called a NAP walking around and doing things.  So your use of phrases like "the NAP does this" or "the NAP does that" leads one to believe that you've overlooked the human action part of the equation.

And you've done nothing to show any faulty reasoning in the Anarcho-Capitalist position.  Don't expect us to do that for you either.

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K.C.,

I was under the impression that the NAP was derived from a theory of property first, otherwise, it is just a proclamation of how society must organize itself according to Rothbard's vision.  I know that the threat of violence is prohibited and thats exactly what I'm questioning--on what grounds is that conclusion reached?

I don't feel like going through how Rothbard (or Hoppe) come to justify self-ownership, but assuming that self-ownership and right to property are true, then it follows that any use of force against a person or his property are a violation of someones rights.  This is the general position of natural rights libertarians, its not me making things up.

The problem is, the THREAT of violence does not guarentee violence, and, if violence doesn't occur, using force to prohibit the THREAT alone constitutes an act of aggression, not self-defense.

Second, by your logic a person has no legitimate recourse until he's already been shot.  Such interpretations of the NAP would be practically useless, let alone potentially fatal.

I've granted to Autolykos already that I'm not talking about imminent danger, but a situation where the threat is significantly in the future (at least days).  If i were to say "pay me $100 or I will kill your daughter in 25 years," I think there is a serious dilemma as to whether or not you can use force against me right now.

Last I checked, there was no inanimate thing called a NAP walking around and doing things.  So your use of phrases like "the NAP does this" or "the NAP does that" leads one to believe that you've overlooked the human action part of the equation.

I was using those statements as shorthand for "those who advocate the NAP on objective ethical grounds say/do/think...."

And you've done nothing to show any faulty reasoning in the Anarcho-Capitalist position.  Don't expect us to do that for you either.

Not the anarcho-capitalist position as a whole (which I fully support) but the approach which says that a consistent application of the NAP necessarily leads to anarchism and not minimal government.  That is true, except that the NAP (when it includes the threat of violence) is not consistant and is therefore not a true statement based on previous axioms.  It only makes sense as a baseless normative claim, which is not at all what Rothbardian's believe it to be.

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 6:12 PM

mikachusetts:
By threat of force I really mean extortion.  A verbal or written threat that if you don't comply, I will use force against your property.  According to both Rothbard and Block (and I assume Hoppe and other Rothbardians) extortion is an act of aggression, which, is to be prohibited on the grounds that aggression violates property.  The scenario you bring up has problems, but I will cede to you that a swing and a miss counts as inititation of force.

Actually, I didn't mean for my question to imply that one or the other possible answer was "correct". I asked the question in the hope of gaining more insight into your personal semantics - if that makes sense.

With this issue, as with just about any other, semantics is paramount. How are you defining things like "force" and even "initiation"? One definition for "force" is "physical harm". By that definition, A throwing a punch at B's face and missing does not constitute force. However, another definition for "force" is "physical harm or the threat thereof". Using this definition, the situation above does constitute force. Which definition is the right one? Neither. They're simply different definitions.

Regardless, does "aggression" have to be defined exactly the same way that "force" is defined? Of course not. In fact, Rothbard and Hoppe both seem to define "aggression" as "the initiation of force or the threat thereof". This is as good a definition for "aggression" as any other, if not better (because it seems to coincide well with our instinctive attitude here).

mikachusetts:
Here is where my whole point is going:

Taxation is a threat of force.  If you do not pay taxes, the state will put you in jail.  The threat itself though, does not constitute a violation of property.  To prohibit taxation on the grounds of the NAP is to prohibit something on the possibility of a future act of aggression--that is, people who choose to pay taxes (however grudgingly it may be) are not being aggressed against in that capacity.  So the NAP cannot allow for force to be used against taxation without allowing for force to be used against any act which might lead to future aggression (a very slippery slope).  Therefore, the NAP is not sufficient grounds for opposing government.

If I hold a gun to your head and demand that you give me your money, would you say I've initiated force against you? Or would you say I've only threatened to do so? Either way, if you define "aggression" so as to include both the initiation of force and the threat thereof, I don't see how the deontological tradition of anarcho-capitalism necessarily rests on faulty reasoning.

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Autolykos:
In fact, Rothbard and Hoppe both seem to define "aggression" as "the initiation of force or the threat thereof". This is as good a definition for "aggression" as any other, if not better (because it seems to coincide well with our instinctive attitude here).

Rothbard is not against the word aggression but the concept denoted by the word--the concept of "the intitation of force or the threat thereof."  And he is not merely against the concept for the hell of it, but because it is a violation of the natural rights of property (which I am assuming to be valid for the sake of discussion).  However, what I keep trying to demonstrate is that:

  1. the "threat" part of threat of force doesn't constitute a violation of rights
  2. the prohibition of "the threat of force" DOES constitute a violation of rights so long as the threat is never carried out

This isn't a matter of confused definitions, it is using the terms as they are defined by Rothbard et al.

If I hold a gun to your head and demand that you give me your money, would you say I've initiated force against you? Or would you say I've only threatened to do so?

This is a whole seperate issue which I'm trying to avoid.  The fact that the threat of force and the use of force can be similar enough in some examples doesn't change the fact that they can also be significantly seperated in other examples.  If you want to press the issue, my ultimate position is that until you touch my body, no force has been initiated.  Obviously, thats kind of a problem for me (and most people) which is one of the many reasons why I don't support the non-aggression principle.

Either way, if you define "aggression" so as to include both the initiation of force and the threat thereof, I don't see how the deontological tradition of anarcho-capitalism necessarily rests on faulty reasoning.

Because of points 1 and 2, the prohibition of taxation is a violation of the NAP, on its own grounds.  Taxation is only the threat of force and in the vast majority of cases never results in actual force.  According to the NAP, taxation is to be prohibited, but it cannot because doing so would be an act of aggression.  The solution is to allow for threats of aggression, which means taxation is permissible, which means anarcho-capitalism is not necessarily the ultimate conclusion of the non-aggression principle.

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 9:21 PM

mikachusetts:
Rothbard is not against the word aggression but the concept denoted by the word--the concept of "the intitation of force or the threat thereof."  And he is not merely against the concept for the hell of it, but because it is a violation of the natural rights of property (which I am assuming to be valid for the sake of discussion).

I understand all that, but thanks anyways.

mikachusetts:
However, what I keep trying to demonstrate is that:

  1. the "threat" part of threat of force doesn't constitute a violation of rights
  2. the prohibition of "the threat of force" DOES constitute a violation of rights so long as the threat is never carried out

This isn't a matter of confused definitions, it is using the terms as they are defined by Rothbard et al.

I don't think your first point is so clear-cut. Take the case of trespassing. Someone sets foot on your property, but doesn't cause any physical damage to it (in your own estimation). Was there a violation of (property) rights or not?

Here's another case: non-violent sexual assault. This is akin to trespassing against someone's own body. Again, assume no physical damage occurs. Was there a violation of (property) rights or not?

Regarding your second point, if threatening to initiate force is part of Rothbard's definition for "aggression", then one does not have to actually cause physical damage in order to be considered a (Rothbardian) aggressor. Essentially, you seem to be claiming that Rothbard's definition of "aggression" is somehow incorrect or inaccurate. Yet how can that be the case when definitions are inherently arbitrary?

mikachusetts:
This is a whole seperate issue which I'm trying to avoid.  The fact that the threat of force and the use of force can be similar enough in some examples doesn't change the fact that they can also be significantly seperated in other examples.  If you want to press the issue, my ultimate position is that until you touch my body, no force has been initiated.  Obviously, thats kind of a problem for me (and most people) which is one of the many reasons why I don't support the non-aggression principle.

First off, I certainly hope that your last sentence didn't contain an argumentum ad populum.

Second, to say that no force has been initiated until I touch your body (assuming you mean the hold-up example specifically) is fine by me. The question then is, what do you think constitutes a threat of initiating force?

If I understand you correctly, your fundamental claim is that violations of rights occur only when force is initiated (per your definition thereof - physical contact with [if not damage upon] a person or their property). This is contra the Rothbardian view, which also considers threats of such contact or damage to also constitute violations of rights. Now, if your claim is a priori, it's simply your definition of "violations of rights" and nothing can be argued here. Otherwise, if our claim is a posteriori, I'd like you to provide reasoning that you think serves as a basis for it.

  • mikachusetts:
    Because of points 1 and 2, the prohibition of taxation is a violation of the NAP, on its own grounds.  Taxation is only the threat of force and in the vast majority of cases never results in actual force.  According to the NAP, taxation is to be prohibited, but it cannot because doing so would be an act of aggression.  The solution is to allow for threats of aggression, which means taxation is permissible, which means anarcho-capitalism is not necessarily the ultimate conclusion of the non-aggression principle.
  • Taxation doesn't result in actual force in the vast majority of cases because the vast majority of people simply go along with it. But again, I think your view of "violation of rights" and the Rothbardian view are simply different a priori, and so they can't be resolved or reconciled. Under the Rothbardian view, prohibition of taxation is certainly not a violation of rights, for the reasons I stated above. Since you seem to define "violation of rights" differently, your conclusion is necessarily different.

    On another note entirely, I think the line between government and anarchy is blurrier than many may think. Indeed, it could be argued coherently that we already live in an anarchic world, and what we anarcho-capitalists want is simply a different kind of anarchy. Conversely, it could be argued coherently that we simply want a different kind of government. Once again, it all depends on your definitions. :)

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    I don't think your first point is so clear-cut. Take the case of trespassing. Someone sets foot on your property, but doesn't cause any physical damage to it (in your own estimation). Was there a violation of (property) rights or not?

    Here's another case: non-violent sexual assault. This is akin to trespassing against someone's own body. Again, assume no physical damage occurs. Was there a violation of (property) rights or not?

    I don't think I brought up physical damage a single time so I don't know why you suddenly made that a criteria for rights violation.  Assuming property rights to be valid, both situations you bring up are violations, and have absolutely nothing to do with what my first point says.

    Regarding your second point, if threatening to initiate force is part of Rothbard's definition for "aggression", then one does not have to actually cause physical damage in order to be considered a (Rothbardian) aggressor. Essentially, you seem to be claiming that Rothbard's definition of "aggression" is somehow incorrect or inaccurate. Yet how can that be the case when definitions are inherently arbitrary?

    Rothbard can define aggression however he wants.  However, if he wishes to prove that aggression is to be prohibited following logical deductions from property rights and homesteading principles, the the definition of aggression must be such that it contains only the acts that violate the rights he concieves of.  By including the threat of force as part of its definition, he has introduced an act that does not violate rights on its own.  You said you understood that, but I don't think you do. 

    If I understand you correctly, your fundamental claim is that violations of rights occur only when force is initiated (per your definition thereof - physical contact with [if not damage upon] a person or their property). This is contra the Rothbardian view, which also considers threats of such contact or damage to also constitute violations of rights. Now, if your claim is a priori, it's simply your definition of "violations of rights" and nothing can be argued here. Otherwise, if our claim is a posteriori, I'd like you to provide reasoning that you think serves as a basis for it.

    Forget about my definition of what consitutes the actual initiation of force--I was giving my personal opinion and has nothing to do with my argument.  It seems to me that you believe the NAP to be a arbitrary proclaimation which is no more than a value reflection of how natural rights libertarians choose to define their terms.  Basically the answer you seem to give me is that the threat of force is aggression because Rothbard said so and aggression is bad because Rothbard said so.

    My conclusions still hold unless someone can explain why the threat of force violates property rights.

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    Eric080 replied on Wed, Jun 22 2011 11:10 PM

    I don't think the threat of force alone violates property rights, but it depends on how feasible you believe the potential violation of rights is.  If somebody points a gun at me, it is reasonable to assume that this person's intent is to shoot me.  If I don't comply with his demands, then he will shoot me, hence it's not a free choice since he will initiate violence against me, hence the violation of my freedom.  Maybe that's what it's getting at?

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    JackCuyler replied on Thu, Jun 23 2011 10:57 AM

    By including the threat of force as part of its definition, he has introduced an act that does not violate rights on its own.

    This is where you and Rothbard disagree.  He claims that the threat of force does violate rights on its own.  The split is not over the definition of agression, but whether threats of violence are themselves rights violations.  Rothbard says yes; you say no.


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    I've done some searching through the Ethics of Liberty (which is what I should of done before posting) and it really seems that Rothbard makes no justification as to why the threat of force constitutes a violation of rights, but that it just does.  In this case, I really have no argument I guess.  Rothbard claims what is and is not permissible without justification, and thats that.

    I guess my question then is why should anyone agree with the NAP if it is not a logical deduction of a previous truth?

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    JackCuyler replied on Thu, Jun 23 2011 12:59 PM

    I've done some searching through the Ethics of Liberty (which is what I should of done before posting) and it really seems that Rothbard makes no justification as to why the threat of force constitutes a violation of rights, but that it just does.  In this case, I really have no argument I guess.  Rothbard claims what is and is not permissible without justification, and thats that.

    His claim is that the "palpable, immediate, and direct" threat of violence is an invasive act against person or property.  "Thus, suppose someone approaches you on the street, whips out a gun, and demands your wallet. He might not have molested you physically during this encounter, but he has extracted money from you on the basis of a direct, overt threat that he would shoot you if you disobeyed his commands. He has used the threat of invasion to obtain your obedience to his commands, and this is equivalent to the invasion itself."

    That's certainly an attempt at justification.  Whether you agree it is enough justification is another matter.


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    Jack Cuyler:
    His claim is that the "palpable, immediate, and direct" threat of violence is an invasive act against person or property.
    .... which will always be subjectively determined in practice anyway. 

    Who gets to decide what is palpable, immediate and direct?  What if the alleged aggressor disagrees with the paranoid perception of the alleged victim? 

    At some point, we have to resign ourselves to subjectivity.  Either accept it in our definitions of the NAP or accept it in practicing the theory. 

     

    mikachusetts:
    I guess my question then is why should anyone agree with the NAP if it is not a logical deduction of a previous truth?
    There is no reason why anyone should agree with the NAP.  It is a choice and a preference. 

    Anarchists and libertarians who follow the NAP must stop looking for an objective morality or pretending that one exists.  None exists on Earth.

     

    Before calling yourself a libertarian or an anarchist, read this.  
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    There is no reason why anyone should agree with the NAP.  It is a choice and a preference. 

    Anarchists and libertarians who follow the NAP must stop looking for an objective morality or pretending that one exists.  None exists on Earth.

    I'm so glad someone actually agrees with me on this. 

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    Who gets to decide what is palpable, immediate and direct?  What if the alleged aggressor disagrees with the paranoid perception of the alleged victim

    I'm unsure about palpable, but certainly immediate and direct, at least in this context, are objective terms. 

    • Immediate:  Right now.  The gun pointed at my head is an objective fact of reality.
    • Direct:  Clear.  The gun's barrel is clearly pointed at my head.  The man holding the gun has clearly told me of his itent to shoot me if I do not give him my money.  These are objective facts.


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    Jack,

    None of those are objective fact AFTER the alleged transgression has occured.   What actually happened, when it happened or how it happened will always be debateable and under dispute. 

     

    By the way, who is to say that you did not deserve to have a gun pointed at your head? 

    Who is to say that you are not hallucinating, for that matter? 

    Before calling yourself a libertarian or an anarchist, read this.  
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    I've had thoughts similar to mika's. Suppose someone walks up to you in a park with a gun in their hand, but not pointed at you, and says, "I have a business proposition. How about you give me your wallet and I protect you from people with guns?" Is this theft or is it a voluntary exchange? Who determines if it is a threat? Maybe the person really was looking to offer defense services.

    I think this boils down to a problem of language. In common practice, someone with a gun asking for money means robbery. But if I take a Rothbardian stance, then as the creator and thus owner of my words, it would seem to follow that only I can determine what they mean. The only alternative is to say that language is in effect collectively owned (uh oh) and that its meanings are determined through patterns of use. But in an unequal society, words (at least in legal terms) have a strange way of being defined in order to serve the elite. Suppose a company had armed guards to defend itself against "intruders." Now suppose your boss approaches you with one of his "escorts" and asks you if you could stay overtime to finish a project. Of course, you choose to stay "voluntarily." But suppose you carry a gun to work for your own protection and walk into your bosses office to ask for a raise. Now you've held your boss "captive." You're a "robber," an "extortionist," a "terrorist!" And it is thus in our present society that, with the help of our Big Brothers, exploitation has been defined into nonexistence.

    "The limits of my language mean the limits of my world." ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein
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    I was under the impression that the NAP was derived from a theory of property first, otherwise, it is just a proclamation of how society must organize itself according to Rothbard's vision.  I know that the threat of violence is prohibited and thats exactly what I'm questioning--on what grounds is that conclusion reached?

     

    The solution should be grounded in considerations of private property.

     

    If an individual X threatens you with bodily harm, of course you can defend yourself, as much as you could if they had not made the threat. In fact, the threat makes it easier for you to defend yourself, as you have been given warning that the individual may attack you.

     

    You asked whether threats are prohibited, but that is only a half-question. Prohibited by whom? If everyone prohibits threats that just means that each individual has declared that no one may make threats while using his or her private property (that is, residing on or using their land), and they reserve the right to take action against the making of threats by others, as well as whatever punitive action they see fit to take. Of course, if every individual prohibited the making of threats by all individuals then only property owners would be left with the power of making threats (since it makes no sense to say that one is prohibiting oneself except in the psychological sense, where here we are concerned with Human Action).

     

    The NAP is not enforceable or observeable, so it is not subject to tests of consistency, as natual laws would be. One can see that it is absent where agression is not defensive. That is, an individual or individuals have violated it by their actions. But it is unenforceable and not like a penal code or rule that is decreed by an authority. It is self-justifying.

     

    There are only a few positions that one can logically consider regarding the use of force. Either force justifies itself ("might makes right"), force is never justified (pacifism), or force may only be used in self-defence (non-agression principle).

     

    I think there is much more I could say, but I am attempting to clarify what we are discussing first.

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    The "threat" part IS a violation of rights if the threat is made in contravention of another's private property. If you come to my justly-acquired-through-homestead house and threaten me on my porch, in violation of my decrees that you may not take such actions, you have violated my property. No physical damage has occured, and most libertarian law, like common law, stresses equalization. In this case, you being removed from my property would bring about this equalization. If you failed to remove yourself from my land it would be consistent with the NAP for me to use force to remove you from my land. Agression against property is as defensible as agression against persons, since justly-aquired property is an extension of persons.

     

    If you made threats towards me while standing in my neighbor's yard and my neighbor had no problem with that, no rights would be violated. It seems pretty clear cut to me.

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    Who gets to decide what is palpable, immediate and direct?  What if the alleged aggressor disagrees with the paranoid perception of the alleged victim?

     

    Who decides what I shall eat for breakfast?

     

    I think we need to clarify what we are actually discussing. I think that one assumption was that our society is an anarcho-capitalist society. But in such a society, each individual is free to exchange and dispose of his land, labor and capital as he sees fit. Just as I choose what to eat (or not eat) for breakfast, I also choose how to settle disputes with other individuals, rather than be forced to use the "service" of government courts, police, etc.

     

    No one individual decides what the facts are in a dispute that arises between two people, unless those two people decide to take the matter to one person, and they agree that he shall be judge, jury and executioner (the "tribal chief" model of justice). Many kinds of justices may arise, but it is impossible from an economic point of view to predict what level of variety their would be. We can speculate.

     

    For instance, one part of the legal process involves fact-finding. Now the more time and resources that are devoted to this task, the easier will be the task of the jury (which may be one individual or many, or the same person as the judge, ...). But as we live in a world of scarcity, and I assume an anarcho-capitalist world will also be scarce, the level of fact-finding that is purchased will be determined by those who are paying for the trial or hearing. If the judge takes a personal interest, even he may chip in a few coins, so long as he is not barred from doing so by his employer or in any contracts.

     

    If a party in the proceeding is unsatisfied with the outcome, he may not use the services of the court in the future, he may express his displeasure to others, and so on. The court will have to allocate available factors of production in order to continue satisfying customers or risk going out of business, and this is especially true for the marginal producers. As the wealth in society increases, and to the extent that individuals have a demand for dispute resolution, their savings may be used to lengthen the production process in the area of dispute resolution. Some courts may use the newly saved money, for instance, to do research into land property records and land title, research that is too expensive for other courts, or not their area of expertise. These "land records" courts could specialize in cases involving disputes over land ownership. Maybe the next scientific innovation they would adopt as wealth further expands is the use of satellite technology. And so on.

     

    The "decision," then results from two individuals (or individuals representing companies, firms, etc.) purchasing the services of a court.

     

    Which leads to another question (at least in my mind). "How can the decision have the force of law (or be enforced)?"

     

    In the matter of what constitutes justice, I admit that much that I have read on the matter coming from libertarians appears to be very unenlightening. One popular conception of justice is equalization, or making the victim whole. This may be correct from an ethical point of view, or even a good starting point in deriving an ethics of justice, but it tells us nothing about the operation of justice in a free society. It always runs aground on issues of how to force the perpetrator to make the victim whole, i.e. how to force the perpetrator to accept decisions that are unfavorable for him.

     

    Of course, there is no law (in the monopolistic sense) in anarchy (which is not to say that there is no order). Now if the society is very poor, then enforcement (or failure to enforce) will fall upon each individual, since the resources to pay other individuals to enforce the decision are being allocated by each individual to other wants, or they are hoarding. This is the method of shunning, where each individual shuns the person who has a judgement against them. But I only use "shun" for lack of a better term, it can range from refusal to transact with a person, to some limited charity towards the outcast. Each individual decides how to behave toward the shunned person.

     

    If we have specialization, then the enforcement of the decision will be by an agency or individual wholly separate from the courts, an agency or individual whose services are purchased on the market. If resources are available and a specialized agency for enforcement exists (due to consumer demnad), then again the market will determine the actions of the individuals running the enforcement agency. Maybe one agency will make notice of judgements against a person and compile "blacklists" for use by businesses or the self-employed. In such a way, the owner of a road or commercial building may prevent someone who is blacklisted from using their service, or charge them a higher fee, or act as a collector for the damaged party. For example:

     

    X agresses against Y (fact). X flees from the scene of the crime. Y (or his insurance company) pays agency G to compile information regarding the incident (similar to a police report, but obviously superior since we now have a profit-seeking business instead of a monopolistic, bureaucratic, wasteful and consumer-unresponsive agency). G contracts with A, where A is the owner of the land where the incident took place. A sells G video from cameras that A had set up. This video will provide evidence when Y makes his case. Y also contracts with H, which is a company that specializes in finding people. H compiles a list of "suspects" for Y. Now Y goes to J, an agency whose business is to disseminate information about alleged criminals. J purchases from Y all of the information about the suspects (who happen to include X) and sells that information to security agencies. These security agencies, concerned with maintaining the safety of individuals on various pieces of private property (those purchasing security services), eventually locate the suspected individuals (including X) and inform them of the claim being lodged against them.

     

    Now none of these individuals need to "surrender", as they are merely suspects. However, to the degree that the charge against them is serious, they will tend to turn themselves in (or agree to dispute resolution with the party that is making a claim against them). They face, beyond possible physical exile (which would mean they could not cross the property of any other person), varying degrees of forced autarky. Being suspected of a crime would have an effect similar to a bad mark on your credit. When a person's credit is ruined, that just means that creditors are unwilling to lend the individual money, or to do so but at a much higher premium than otherwise. Similarly, a tarnished reputation means that other individuals are unwilling to let the suspect or criminal use their service for fear of what he might do. The suspect/criminal may say he just wants to use the road to get to where he is going, but the road-owner has reason to suspect that he might be a highway robber. The suspect or criminal will be hampered until he agrees to dispute resolution.

     

    And so the market has a way of bringing about settlements, because of the preferences of the consumers for safety on roads they pay for, or at places of business, or anywhere else, in addition to the preference of individuals to obtain the lowest price for goods and have access to an abundance of vendors, which is hampered by a black mark on one's name.

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    Autolykos replied on Tue, Jul 5 2011 10:24 AM

    mikachusetts:
    I don't think I brought up physical damage a single time so I don't know why you suddenly made that a criteria for rights violation.

    As far as I can tell, I didn't actually make physical damage a criteria for rights violation. In both situations, I explicitly stated that no physical damage occurred merely for the purposes of clarification and unambiguity. I'm sorry if it seemed like I was doing otherwise.

    mikachusetts:
    Assuming property rights to be valid, both situations you bring up are violations, and have absolutely nothing to do with what my first point says.

    Well, would you say that a trespasser has employed force in trespassing? How about a person who has committed non-violent sexual assault?

    Maybe I'm confused about your use of the word "force". I personally equate it to the word "violence", but maybe you don't?

    mikachusetts:
    Rothbard can define aggression however he wants.  However, if he wishes to prove that aggression is to be prohibited following logical deductions from property rights and homesteading principles, the the definition of aggression must be such that it contains only the acts that violate the rights he concieves of.  By including the threat of force as part of its definition, he has introduced an act that does not violate rights on its own.  You said you understood that, but I don't think you do.

    And why is that, exactly?

    The question is whether threat of force violates rights. I would argue that, in the two situations I presented, no force was used. Yet I (and presumably Rothbard) would say that rights were still violated.

    mikachusetts:
    Forget about my definition of what consitutes the actual initiation of force--I was giving my personal opinion and has nothing to do with my argument.  It seems to me that you believe the NAP to be a arbitrary proclaimation which is no more than a value reflection of how natural rights libertarians choose to define their terms.  Basically the answer you seem to give me is that the threat of force is aggression because Rothbard said so and aggression is bad because Rothbard said so.

    Of course the Non-Aggression Principle is arbitrary. All morality and ethics are arbitrary, as Charles Anthony pointed out. There are no objective definitions for "threat of force", "aggression", "property rights", etc.

    As I see it, the debate here is about whether Rothbard's reasoning is consistent with the premises (including definitions) that he uses. From what I can tell, they are. I've tried to provide reasoning to demonstrate that, and maybe I've failed so far, but I'm certainly willing to engage the matter further with you.

    mikachusetts:
    My conclusions still hold unless someone can explain why the threat of force violates property rights.

    If there are actions which don't even threaten force, but are still considered to violate property rights (e.g. the two situations I brought up), then threat of force also violates property rights. But again, it all comes down to semantics - in this instance, the definitions used for "force" and "property rights".

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    Autolykos replied on Tue, Jul 5 2011 10:28 AM

    mikachusetts:
    I've done some searching through the Ethics of Liberty (which is what I should of done before posting) and it really seems that Rothbard makes no justification as to why the threat of force constitutes a violation of rights, but that it just does.  In this case, I really have no argument I guess.  Rothbard claims what is and is not permissible without justification, and thats that.

    How can there be logical reasoning without any premises? Rothbard simply includes "threat of force" in his definition of "aggression". You, of course, are free to do otherwise.

    It seems to me that you're searching for an "ultimate justification" for libertarian theory. With all due respect, I'm convinced that any such search can only end in failure.

    mikachusetts:
    I guess my question then is why should anyone agree with the NAP if it is not a logical deduction of a previous truth?

    Why should anyone agree that killing is wrong when one's own life isn't already threatened or attacked?

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    Autolykos replied on Tue, Jul 5 2011 10:33 AM

    Charles Anthony:
    There is no reason why anyone should agree with the NAP.  It is a choice and a preference.

    Amen. Of course, just to be clear, there's also no reason anyone shouldn't agree with the NAP. Choices and preferences are two-way streets.

    Charles Anthony:
    Anarchists and libertarians who follow the NAP must stop looking for an objective morality or pretending that one exists.  None exists on Earth.

    Indeed. As surprising as it may sound, I stopped looking and pretending a long time ago. However, I think most humans instinctively hold to the NAP, or something similar to it, most of the time. That's why I consider the NAP to be rather self-evident, as it seems (to me) to be an articulation of our moral instincts.

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    Autolykos replied on Tue, Jul 5 2011 10:34 AM

    Charles Anthony:
    Jack,

    None of those are objective fact AFTER the alleged transgression has occured.   What actually happened, when it happened or how it happened will always be debateable and under dispute. 

     

    By the way, who is to say that you did not deserve to have a gun pointed at your head? 

    Who is to say that you are not hallucinating, for that matter?

    In that case, why are we debating anything? Why don't we all just shut up, stop worrying, and love the State?

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    Loving the state is not the only options when dealing with the reality. 

    The other option is encouraging a market for law which.   An anarchist market for law stands on its own without depending on any omniscience of what objectively happened in an alleged crime. 

    Before calling yourself a libertarian or an anarchist, read this.  
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    jay replied on Tue, Jul 5 2011 2:04 PM

    "Forgetting" NAP for a moment, what about:

    The threat of violence results in an unequal transaction (I give you my money for you to withdraw the gun from my back). It was a transaction I never intended to enter nor saw benficial to myself, and I can't withdraw from the transaction peaceably (I get shot in the back, possibly die). Therefore, the threat of violence results in an involuntary, unequal exchange.

    "The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated, but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -C.S. Lewis
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    Autolykos:
    Well, would you say that a trespasser has employed force in trespassing? How about a person who has committed non-violent sexual assault?

    Maybe I'm confused about your use of the word "force". I personally equate it to the word "violence", but maybe you don't?

    Force might be a weird word, I'm just using it since it's sort of a traditional word choice in libertarian literature.  At any rate, I'm using it synonymously with breach of property, where property is assumed to privately held and include one's self, as in the classical liberal and libertarian conception.  So threatening force would mean threatening to violate property.  Thats actually a much better way to get at what I've been trying to say.

    Of course the Non-Aggression Principle is arbitrary. All morality and ethics are arbitrary, as Charles Anthony pointed out. There are no objective definitions for "threat of force", "aggression", "property rights", etc.

    As I see it, the debate here is about whether Rothbard's reasoning is consistent with the premises (including definitions) that he uses. From what I can tell, they are. I've tried to provide reasoning to demonstrate that, and maybe I've failed so far, but I'm certainly willing to engage the matter further with you.

    From the starting point of the NAP as formulated by Rothbard, his reasoning (and subsequent reasoning by his followers) are consistent.  My issue was that I believed that the NAP was founded upon a more fundamental premise of absolute property rights (self ownership and homesteading), and I'm sure Rothbard thought so too, after all he was an ethical objectivist and natural rightster.

    If we wish to treat the NAP as a rule developed on an arbitrary set of values held by certain people and nothing more (this is what I think you are suggesting), then we must recognize that any appeal to the NAP as an explanation or justification for this or that is no more meaningful than saying "cuz i feel like it."  For you and I and anyone else who see's it this way, we simply admit that we value libertarian values and suggest other people value them for various reasons, not because of some rule.

    But like I said, I find it hard to believe that anyone thinks that its an arbitrary rule and then constantly evokes it as justification for or against a given behavior.  The people who I am posing my questions to, are those who believe that the NAP is a rule deduced from some other axiom, namely, property. 

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    It would depend on the situation and the victim of the violence own opinion of the violence whether the case would even reach arbitration. For an example if two people are in a fight at a bar, it is unlikely that the one would sue the other party, if the victim also played a part in the fight. If a case from a bar fight does reach arbitration it will most likely because of an unprovoked and harmful attack that requires some form of compensation or retribution.

    People would only have the right to defend themselves and their property from violence and not initiate violence, that is the NAP.

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    None of those are objective fact AFTER the alleged transgression has occured.   What actually happened, when it happened or how it happened will always be debateable and under dispute. 

     

    By the way, who is to say that you did not deserve to have a gun pointed at your head? 

    Who is to say that you are not hallucinating, for that matter?

    People can, and often do, debate objective facts.  That in no way negates the objectivity of the facts.  The gun is pointed at my head, or it isn't.  The person holding the gun has said he will shoot me, or he hasn't.  One of us could be lying or hallucinating, sure, but neither changes the the objective facts.

    That I deserve a gun pointed at my head also does not change the (objective) fact that there is a gun pointed at my head.


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    JackCuyler:
    That I deserve a gun pointed at my head also does not change the (objective) fact that there is a gun pointed at my head
    You are saying that the truth of what happened is out there.  That may be so but pointing a gun at your head -- without any other facts -- alone is not enough to say 100% that an act of agreesion took place.   An arbiter has to decide whether the action was against your consent. 

    In practice of libertarian law, an arbiter ends up deciding how a dispute is resolved or you fight your own battles.  Neither situation requires objectivity of any facts.  If you provoked the pointing of the gun at your head, an intelligent arbiter would consider that an initiator of force was you.  That is where the inherent subjectivity of the NAP comes in. 

     

    The NAP is inherently subjective because it addresses what you deserve rather than what happened and there is nothing wrong with that subjectivity.  It just is. 

    Before calling yourself a libertarian or an anarchist, read this.  
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