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Why libertarians should reject the NAP

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Sukrit Posted: Mon, Apr 8 2013 10:18 AM

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

"Many libertarians believe that the whole of their political philosophy can be summed up in a single, simple principle. This principle—the 'non-aggression principle' or 'non-aggression axiom' (hereafter NAP)—holds that aggression against the person or property of others is always wrong, where aggression is defined narrowly in terms of the use or threat of physical violence."

It was good of the author to confirm he has no idea what he's talking about... in the very FIRST sentence LOL. Stephen Kinsella explains why libertarianism doesn't rest upon the NAP (in brief: the NAP depends on property rights, meaning it can't be the foundation of libertarianism, as we need a pre-existing theory of property rights before we get to the NAP): http://mises.org/daily/3660

In point 5 he says what I just noted above. I don't see how that leads to a rejection of the NAP. So what if it's dependent on a theory of property rights? Why should we reject it because it's not a stand-alone theory, that's just the nature of things isn't it? Is he trying to say something in point 5 that I'm not understanding? We should reject the NAP because... "even if it's right, it's not a stand-alone theory".

Rothbard was wrong on a few things (I can't remember exactly what) but how does point 5 support the idea that we should reject the NAP. If I have a theory on why the sun rises in the west but not the east but it depends on another theory about why the earth spins on its axis, why does that lead to a rejection of the first theory? (this might not be the best analogy, but hopefully people get the idea).

I just read point 1; doesn't make sense to me. The NAP doesn't prohibit all pollution. Even if I pollute your lake, yes technically speaking that might be aggression on your property right, but you can allow me to pollute if I pay you a fee to do so. Many people would voluntarily enter into such arrangements.

Point 6 has been addressed by Walter Block in his writings on children's rights.

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FlyingAxe replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 12:07 PM

I think the point of point 5 is that NAP is tautological. The concept of property is "that which is legitimately under control of only one person (owner) or set of people (owners) and not others; that which is illegitimate for others to control or to force the owner not to control".

That idea already includes in it the concept that it is not legitimate to aggress (violate others' property rights).

The objection to the above argument is that some may believe in a gray area of property. That sometimes it is legitimate to violate property rights. Hence the NAP which says: nope, it never is.

But that again is tautological. You might as well say that property is "something which is legitimate only for its owners to control, unless..." (and have the set of rules when it's OK to violate property rights). NAP merely states that there is no "unless"; it's a more strict definition of property.

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FlyingAxe replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 12:11 PM

Sukrit:
I just read point 1; doesn't make sense to me. The NAP doesn't prohibit all pollution. Even if I pollute your lake, yes technically speaking that might be aggression on your property right, but you can allow me to pollute if I pay you a fee to do so. Many people would voluntarily enter into such arrangements.

No, the point is that any time you drive your car, even on your own property, you're polluting the atmosphere for the rest of the world. So, are you going to enter into an arrangement with the rest of the world? With every single person individually, or with everyone collectively (somehow)?

But I am not sure what the alternative is. Should we say that we are allowed to pollute because it's not really aggression (for whatever reason)? Why not just write that in into the definition of aggression (as I mentioned above)?

Point 6 has been addressed by Walter Block in his writings on children's rights.

Some people find Block's views on children incoherent, counter-intuitive, and fuzzy. If I don't change my car's oil, how is it that you can come in and take it away from me? What if I don't feed my child regularly?

But it's not clear what the alternative is. Children's rights are not covered well in libertarian theory in general, in my opinion, because libertarian theory addresses wilfull interactions between wilfull, awake, rational adults.

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Conza88 replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 1:28 PM

Re: "From this principle, many libertarians believe, the rest of libertarianism can be deduced as a matter of mere logic."

= Not for those in the Rothbardian tradition. It's actually from the concept of self-ownership, and original appropriation which necessarily leads to the NAP.

[1] Re: "The NAP implies that all of these activities must be prohibited, no matter how beneficial they may be in other respects, and no matter how essential they our to daily life in the modern industrialized world. And this is deeply implausible."

= No it doesn't. In short;

"...a) the polluter has not previously established a homestead easement;
b) while visible pollutants or noxious odors are per se aggression, in the case of invisible and insensible pollutants the plaintiff must prove actual harm;
c) the burden of proof of such aggression rests upon the plaintiff;
d) the plaintiff must prove strict causality from the actions of the defendant to the victimization of the plaintiff;
e) the plaintiff must prove such causality and aggression beyond a reasonable doubt; and
f) there is no vicarious liability, but only liability for those who actually commit the deed..."

For those that would be violations of the above and constitute aggression it then imparts an onus on businesses to develop ways (often innovative technological solutions) of not violating the rights of others. Furthermore it indicates owners can set forth rules regarding their property... be it "smoking is allowed", or "smoking is not allowed". Consent here being the obvious clincher. The alternative is disastrous:

The Friedmanites concede the existence of air pollution but propose to meet it, not by a defense of property rights, but rather by a supposedly utilitarian “cost-benefit” calculation by government, which will then make and enforce a “social decision” on how much pollution to allow. This decision would then be enforced either by licensing a given amount of pollution (the granting of “pollution rights”), by a graded scale of taxes against it, or by the taxpayers paying firms not to pollute. Not only would these proposals grant an enormous amount of bureaucratic power to government in the name of safeguarding the “free market”; they would continue to override property rights in the name of a collective decision enforced by the State. This is far from any genuine “free market,” and reveals that, as in many other economic areas, it is impossible to really defend freedom and the free market without insisting on defending the rights of private property.
— Murray N. Rothbard, For A New Liberty, p.325

[2] Re: "No amount of aggression, no matter how small, is morally permissible. And no amount of offsetting benefits can change this fact. But suppose, to borrow a thought from Hume, that I could prevent the destruction of the whole world by lightly scratching your finger?"

= See: Sacrificing One for the many?

“...Once again, we are concerned in this theory with the rights of the case, not with whether or not a person chooses voluntarily to exercise his rights. In our view, the property owner or the heir of the killed would have a right to prosecute and to exact proper punishment upon the aggressor. The fallacy of the contextualists is to confuse considerations of individual, personal morality (what should Smith do?) with the question of the rights of the case. The right of property continues, then, to be absolute, even in the tragic lifeboat situation…”
— Murray Rothbard

[3] Re: "But, to borrow an example from David Friedman, what if I merely run the risk of shooting you by putting one bullet in a six-shot revolver, spinner the cylinder, aiming it at your head, and squeezing the trigger?"

= It's called intent. FYI Hoppe differs from Rothbard and Block here. I strongly recommend the brilliant article:

"...Clearly, while “objective” (external, observable) criteria must play an important role in the determination of ownership and aggression, such criteria are not sufficient. In particular, defining aggression “objectivistically” as “overt physical invasion” appears deficient because it excludes entrapment, incitement and failed attempts, for instance. Both the establishment of property rights and their violation spring from actions: acts of appropriation and expropriation.

However, in addition to a physical appearance, actions also have an internal, subjective aspect. This aspect cannot be observed by our sense organs. Instead, it must be ascertained by means of understanding (verstehen). The task of the judge cannot-by the nature of things-be reduced to a simple decision rule based on a quasi-mechanical model of causation. Judges must observe the facts and understand the actors and actions involved in order to determine fault and liability."
— Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Property, Causality, and Liability

There's also: "Ethical Entrepreneurship"

[4] Re: Fraud:

“Under our proposed theory would fraud be actionable at law? Yes, because fraud is failure to fulfill a voluntarily agreed upon transfer of property, and is therefore implicit theft. If, for example, A sells to B a package which A says contains a radio, and it contains only a pile of scrap metal, then A has taken B’s money and not fulfilled the agreed upon conditions for such a transfer-the delivery of a radio. A has therefore stolen B’s property. The same applies to a failure to fulfill any product warranty. If, for example, the seller asserts that the contents of a certain package include 5 ounces of product X, and they do not do so, then the seller has taken money without fulfilling the terms of the contract; he has in effect stolen the buyer’s money. Once again, warranties of products would be legally enforceable, not because they are “promises,” but because they describe one of the entities of the agreed-upon contract. If the entity is not as the seller describes, then fraud and hence implicit theft have taken place.[13]”
— Murray Rothbard, The Ethics of Liberty, Chapter 19.


[5] Re: "Even if the NAP is correct, it cannot serve as a fundamental principle of libertarian ethics, because its meaning and normative force are entirely parasitic on an underlying theory of property."

= Right... which is why its not presented as such. For the legitimate basis see: argumentation ethics.

Re: "Thus, “aggression,” on the libertarian view, doesn’t really mean physical violence at all. It means “violation of property rights.” But if this is true, then the NAP’s focus on “aggression” and “violence” is at best superfluous, and at worst misleading. It is the enforcement of property rights, not the prohibition of aggression, that is fundamental to libertarianism."

= Potentially. It's a simplification. It's a marketing aide by and large.

"If … an action is performed that uninvitedly invades or changes the physical integrity of another person's body and puts this body to a use that is not to this very person's own liking, this action … is called aggression … Next to the concept of action, property is the most basic category in the social sciences. As a matter of fact, all other concepts to be introduced in this chapter - aggression, contract, capitalism and socialism - are definable in terms of property: aggression being aggression against property, contract being a nonaggressive relationship between property owners, socialism being an institutionalized policy of aggression against property, and capitalism being an institutionalized policy of the recognition of property and contractualism."
— Hoppe, A Theory of Socialism and Capitalism, pp. 12, 7.

[6] Re: "the NAP implies that there is nothing wrong with allowing your three year-old son to starve to death, so long as you do not forcibly prevent him from obtaining food on his own. Or, at least, it implies that it would be wrong for others to, say, trespass on your property in order to give the child you’re deliberately starving a piece of bread."

= Walter Block cleared this up and properly added to the analysis "Libertarianism, positive obligations and property abandonment: children's rights". Excerpt:

"...But in the present case what is being shielded from homesteading is not land, but rather a baby. This would be equivalent to murder, and those responsible for be treated very severely[19]. Second, take the case where the parents who are abandoning the baby place no physical barriers against the entry of would be homesteaders of it to their home, but instead fail to notify anyone of their intention. Again, a similar result applies: the parents are guilty of murder.

Their position is an intellectually incoherent one[20]. They claim to be abandoning the baby, but, as we have seen from the case of the sweater considered above, they have succeeded in doing no such thing. Rather, they are in a situation with regard to the baby where it is still in their care, but they are not caring for it. That is the paradigm case of child abuse, a serious crime indeed, and if it persists until the death of the child they are guilty of murder also..."

Finally, sure there needs to be a Thomas Khun paradigm shift of sorts. The answer however is a stronger focus on praxeology, a sharper lens when it comes to indicating the fields of knowledge under examination... not an ever more blurring effect - which is what the author of this article and website "Bleeding Heart Libertarians" would hope to achieve.
 

Ron Paul is for self-government when compared to the Constitution. He's an anarcho-capitalist. Proof.
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It depends how you approach libertarianism

There is the utilitarian viewpoint and then the deontological one.

Deontological one starts from the self ownership principal, which then nap is derived from?

“Since people are concerned that ‘X’ will not be provided, ‘X’ will naturally be provided by those who are concerned by its absence."
"The sweetest of minds can harbor the harshest of men.”

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.org

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Bogart replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 1:56 PM

Agression requires two people: Aggressor and Aggressed.  If there is no aggressed party then there is no aggression, or if the damage is so minor that it is not worth the aggressed seeking regress.  I would ask the author why this is so hard to understand?  Pollution for example is always aggression but what is the damage done by driving your car to someone else?  If I park the car in their yard and then spill oil all over the place then I have aggressed and the damages are large enough that the owner may want restitution.  But if both of us pollute the Earth with CO2 where there is legitimate debate then to be an aggreived party you would have to produce evidence of damage and quantify the damages.  Furthermore it would probably be kind of you know odd that a person who drives a car powered by fossil fuels, yes even electric cars are powered by fossil fuels, then you would be arguing degrees.

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Bogart replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 5:14 PM

And the Libertarian response to the worst argument of the author in item 2: Prohibits Small Harms for Large Benefits.  This is the "To make an omlet you have to break some eggs" argument.  So as long as you aren't the egg you are sitting pretty.  Of course the small harms normally pile up to become rather large harms.  And look who determines which harms are small and which are large?  Why the people with the guns do, of course.

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Sukrit replied on Mon, Apr 8 2013 10:37 PM

No, the point is that any time you drive your car, even on your own property, you're polluting the atmosphere for the rest of the world.

This is an even worse argument. Let's say some smoke particles go and aggress against a neighbour's property after you burn some wood in your fireplace. The victim has to prove this BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT, as Rothbard writes in his "Law, Property Rights and Air Pollution". So in reality, the NAP doesn't prohibit all pollution, as the evidentiary standard is incredibly high.

And even if in the future they are able to invent machines linking particular smoke particles to particular individuals so as to establish the high evidentiary requirement, the principle of NAP also includes the principle that if you move into an area where there is industrial pollution/smoke pollution, KNOWING that it is a high level of pollution in that area, then you have NO RIGHT to sue for damages. This is because the polluters already established, by the first user/homesteading principle, that they are able to pollute in that area:

It should be clear that the same theory should apply to air pollution. If A is causing pollution of B's air, and this can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then this is aggression and it should be enjoined and damages paid in accordance with strict liability, unless A had been there first and had already been polluting the air before B's property was developed. For example, if a factory owned by A polluted originally unused property, up to a certain amount of pollutant X, then A can be said to have homesteaded a pollution easement of a certain degree and type. (p. 146)

There is more that could be said even if you don't agree with the first pollution homesteading principle given by Rothbard above. For example, it could be argued that pollution from driving your car is too low level to have caused DAMAGE as ONE individual (although I agree a class action against multiple defendants would be possible):

The same doctrine applies to low-level radiation, which virtually everyone and every object in the world emanates, and therefore everyone receives. Outlawing, or enjoining, low-level radiation, as some of our environmental fanatics seem to be advocating, would be tantamount to enjoining the entire human race and all the world about us. Low-level radiation, precisely because it is undetectable by man's senses, interferes with no one's use or possession of his property, and therefore may only be acted against upon strict causal proof of harm beyond a reasonable doubt.

The guy clearly has not thought through the qualifications to the NAP, and I don't know how he is an academic philosopher. Certainly he is no lawyer:

Air pollution, however, of gases or particles that are invisible or undetectable by the senses should not constitute aggression per se, because being insensible they do not interfere with the owner's possession or use. They take on the status of invisible radio waves or radiation, unless they are proven to be harmful, and until this proof and the causal connection from aggressor to victim can be established beyond a reasonable doubt. (page 152)

The children's rights issue is the most clearcut, in the sense that Stephan Kinsella would agree with what I've written.

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