What’s This About a NAP?

For about 2 years now I’ve labeled myself politically as an anarcho-capitalist.

Most folks have never heard that label. Prior to that I called myself a more familiar label: libertarian. Looking back now I get the impression that I didn’t really know what a libertarian was back then. I just thought a libertarian was someone who valued liberty, and valued it more than the average run of the mill conservative. It wasn’t until I learned about the non-aggression principle and its broad applications that I fully understood what a “libertarian” is.

So, what is the Non-Aggression Principle or NAP? How should it be applied to society? Why am I an anarcho-capitalist and not just a libertarian?

Murray Rothbard defined the NAP this way in his essay War, Peace, and the State:

“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.”

In short the Non-Aggression Principle holds that no initiation of force is morally legitimate unless it is in response to another’s initiation of aggression or force. Any act of violence which is not self-defensive is an act of aggression, and aggression is morally wrong. Any act of coercion is also morally wrong. No one may coerce another with violence or threats of violence and maintain good moral character.

This is not controversial to most people or at least it should not be. Many Christians ask “Where do you find the NAP in the Bible?” To them I answer: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” And “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”

To me the NAP is essentially a restatement of these laws as “Do not initiate force against others who have not initiated force against you.” And “Love your neighbor as you love yourself by not committing violence against them.”

Even that seems reasonable to most decent people, so what’s the big deal?

The controversy of the Non-Aggression Principle becomes evident when it is taken to its logical conclusion and applied outside the sphere of individual interaction.

According to the NAP, all coercion is immoral. All non-defensive force is immoral. If those two statements are held to be true and they are taken to their logical conclusion, how can we tolerate an individual or an entity holding a monopoly on aggression?  If the The State is nothing more than a coercive monopoly of aggression, how can we not rationally call for the abolition of the State? How can we support an entity whose entire purpose is to coerce society into following it?

Many answer these questions by assigning privileges and rights to the State that individuals do not have.

Is there some right or privilege inherent in the collective that the individual does not have? Do entities composed of individuals possess moral authority that the individuals do not? If the government derives its authority and power from the individuals under it can it have authority that the individuals themselves do not? More particularly, does it have the authority to aggress in violation of the NAP? Can government break moral axioms just because it is the State?

Leftists and Neoconservatives alike would have to say “yes” to those questions. If they disagree they would have to oppose the pre-emptive wars we are currently waging in the Middle East. They would have to oppose the violence inflicted on citizens through the theft known as taxation. They would have to oppose stringent regulations on the free market that aggress against the rights of producers and consumers. In order to support the State as it is, one has to assume the State has some higher moral authority than the individuals who give it its authority.

Old Right Conservatives and Libertarians would say “no” to the questions above. Old Right Conservatives more in foreign policy than elsewhere. Broad application of the NAP is what makes libertarianism different from other political ideologies. Within libertarianism, however, there is a great deal of infighting about just how far the NAP goes.

What makes a libertarian? In short, a libertarian is an individual who believes the Non-Aggression Principal to be axiomatic and strives to mold the political structure of society into a voluntaryist structure and not a coercive one.

Some who claim the libertarian mantle are nothing more than statists in practice. They want “freedom” but only at the point of a gun. These people are basically war-lords, concerned with protecting their own liberty and property, everyone else be damned. They have no problem with a monopolized entity of coercion as long as that entity is them.

Some neo-cons are notorious for calling themselves “libertarian” but neo-cons cannot hold to the NAP consistently. They may rightly oppose the aggression of the State against committers of victimless “crimes.” But when they also support the aggression of the State against foreign nations, not in self-defense, but as preemptive “security”, they violate the NAP and forfeit their privilege to use the label. Aggression is aggression, and it is all immoral under the Non-Aggression Principle. Fully realized, the NAP allows for no exceptions. Aggression of any sort is out. If we have to use the State to “enforce” freedom we are violating the NAP and are no longer worthy of the libertarian label.

There are also “libertarians” who are perfectly happy with the government extorting money to provide for the greater good. As long as government sticks to building roads and schooling children but stays out of the bedroom or the private lives of individuals, these people are perfectly content letting the State coercively take money from individuals to distribute it as it sees fit.

True libertarians fall into two camps, or somewhere between them. On one side you have the minarchists, those who believe in a small, limited government, given to the task of justice and defense. On the other you have anarchists, those who believe that no central authority is necessary for such things. What generally ties the two together is free-market capitalism. What distinguishes them has much to do with how they view the free markets ability to provide EVERYTHING as opposed to NEARLY everything.

I won’t insult minarchists and call them statists, but most of them have not taken the NAP to its rational conclusion. They still cling to the idea that one small entity needs to hold a monopoly on coercion in order to provide justice and defense. They still support the most coercive part of all societies.

While most minarchists I have met would like to uphold the NAP in all areas, most have never seen a private justice system or an effective private defense firm and for practical reasons believe some centralized entity must exist to provide them. They are pragmatists, which I can’t necessarily fault them for.

I however, am no pragmatist. I’ll cling to my principles even if no practical example of said principles exists. In order to maintain consistency, I will take the NAP to its logical conclusions, therefore, I am an anarchist. I believe the free market is capable of creatively providing all services and products known to man. It may be difficult to work out the logistics of some of these services (mostly because we are so used to them being monopolized) but it is certainly worth the effort if we are to be consistently moral people.

If all non-defensive force is immoral aggression, what should we do when an individual or an entity holds the monopoly on aggression? To me the answer is clear: we abolish that monopoly and replace it with a fully voluntary economic system. We become anarchists. This is the only consistent application of the NAP.

Before the NAP

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As I have stated before I grew up a conservative. This meant that I was pro-war, even when I was not entirely sure what the war was about. It didn’t seem to matter much, what mattered was “supporting the troops” and “being proud of my country.” Now, I’m not going to bash troops or be some kind of pinko commie, so cool your jets.

Some of my earliest memories of war was watching the CNN coverage of the first Gulf War. We watched endless coverage of green tinted night vision video of missiles being launched and things blowing up. We tied yellow ribbons around our trees and the antenna of the family minivan. We were proud of our soldiers and proud that our nation was at war.

As I got older, America always seemed at war, and with the exception of some of our involvement in Bosnia (that was a Clinton war) we always seemed to support it. When I watched the towers fall in 11th grade I felt the same desire to invade somewhere and take revenge as everyone else did that day. My college days were spent writing letters to the editor in support of invading this country or that and making bumper stickers that said “War for Oil? Who Doesn’t Want Cheap Gas?”

The only war I might have been opposed to was the Vietnam War, and that was only because my favorite singers were hippies. It’s hard not to sympathize with really good musicians. (Though shockingly I never became a pinko commie like them.)

Those are some embarrassing years for me.

I’m not entirely sure when I was introduced to the Non-Aggression Principle or NAP. It may have been a gradual change, it may have been after listening to one or two Tom Woods podcasts. I honestly don’t remember. All I know is that now I am totally on board with the NAP and because of that I don’t support offensive or pre-emptive wars anymore.

But it isn’t just aggressive war that I oppose, it’s all forms of aggression.

State aggression takes its form as taxation, the prosecution of victimless “crimes”, compulsory public education, business regulations, inflationary practices, et al.

Social aggression can be as subtle as racism, sexism, or other forms of bigotry. It can also be as obvious as rape or abortion.

The NAP even extends into my personal life and how I relate to all people, including my own children. I have learned to see people in a new light, much of the “Us v Them” attitude has gone out of my life. I no longer see people as one group or another, but as individuals deserving of at least my respect as humans. Even growing up I believed all human life had value, because every person is made in the image of God, but it seems I never had any problems with bombing them into oblivion. Now I see every person as a neighbor and potential economic ally.

Is the NAP biblical? Isn’t Anarchy just chaos? Doesn’t Romans 13 say we should have a government? Who would build muh roads? All of these questions and more I hope to answer over time.

There is a meme out there that says something along the lines of “I became a libertarian when I was introduced to the NAP, I became an anarchist when I realized there are no exceptions.” This is pretty much true for me.

In my next post I’ll explain the NAP and what it means to me.

My Brain

Before we go too much further, it may be helpful to describe my brain.

Most people think linearly, like so:

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These people are Power Point.

My brain however is like this:

my-brain

I am Prezi.

I made friend maps before Facebook invented them. Just to see how everyone was related.

Every bit of data that enters my mind has to be connected immediately to another bit of data, or it probably won’t stick.

And when I have a conclusion to get to I tend to stop and make a connection everywhere. Everything in my mind is somehow connected to everything else. That’s why it takes me so long to change my mind on something. That’s also why sometimes my posts may get rambly. I promise I am going somewhere!

Part of the reason I started this project is to learn to focus and stay on a single track. That doesn’t mean that when I start tagging my posts you won’t see a million different topics tagged, but it hopefully means you’ll only read about one topic at a time.

So bear with me. I’m learning to control this brain of mine. Someday maybe it will make sense to everyone…

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My Chief End

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Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

That is the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This, I believe, is the Bible’s answer to the commonly asked question “What is the meaning of life?” If I was asked about the meaning of life, that would be my answer. How that answer is applied is a bit more nuanced.

As seen on my definitions page I define truth as “that which corresponds to reality” and economy as “household management”. If I had to apply the first catechism question to my life I would say my chief way of glorifying God is to learn true truth and apply it the best I can to my personal economy.

“True” truth is objective. In our post-postmodern world, most would say there is no truth. To most in our world truth is as subjective as one’s feelings about a subject. As feelings change, so also does truth. This has led to a myriad of confusion on a number of topics, gender and sexuality being two of the more recent hot buttons. Confusion about reality used to be called “psychosis” where now it is often labeled as just another version of reality. Raised in a world where truth is subjective, we are quickly becoming a generation of psychotics.

My biggest earthly goal is to gain the proper perspective of the truth and not rely on my subjective viewpoint of it. This can be tricky of course, as my mind is finite, flawed, and my perceptions are skewed my own sinful nature. As a created being, I will never know the full extent of all truth in the universe, only God can know that. But it doesn’t mean I should stop trying.

Where does one find truth? This is a hotly debated question among Christians. Some insist that truth can only be found in the Bible while others feel truth can be observed in other places. I tend to be of the latter camp.

The Bible contains the only necessary truth for saving the human soul from damnation, but it does not contain every truth or the only truth that man can know. There are some in the Reformed camp who believe that man can know nothing outside of scripture, but I think a basic reading of Romans 18-22 makes this argument mute.

“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”

Man observes nature and self and understands the existence of God, as well as His attributes and nature. He knows God and understands Gods attributes just by virtue of being created in the image of God and in being able to observe creation itself. Man knows before he suppresses, he is perfectly able to discern, he just chooses out of his depravity to suppress the knowledge (this is normally where I point out to Presuppositional apologists that man is “without excuse”, but that’s another topic for another day).

It’s not just the nature and attributes of God that man can observe and understand in nature, it’s anything which God chooses in His sovereignty to allow man to know. For instance: we can know truths about nature, about economics, about physics, about math, and about our physical bodies, all without consulting the Bible. Sinful man may never get a full view of every subject, and our imperfect views may lead us to false beliefs about a topic, but with enough observation it is possible for us to get a workable grasp on reality.

Some would say that our finite minds and flawed thinking prevent us from having real knowledge, but I think it’s close enough that we shouldn’t squabble with semantics. We can know well enough to put our knowledge to good use.  We can understand our physical reality enough to manipulate it for our needs, otherwise we would have never survived life outside the Garden.

Should we rely solely on our observations to comprehend reality? No! Scripture contains enough truth about other matters (besides Salvation) that we can make comparative analysis. When we make an observation about the physical universe Christians can and should consult scripture to see if our observation matches with scripture. If it does not match scripture, either our interpretation of scripture is wrong or our interpretation of what we observe is wrong. In many matters it is impossible to discern which is which (thankfully those matters have little to nothing to do with our salvation, it is quite clear in scripture what man must do to be saved).

For example: the question of creation. Folks will argue endlessly about young earth vs old earth creationism, one side finding irrefutable evidence in the Bible, the other finding irrefutable evidence in nature. While the Bible states that God created everything, it is not specific on the actual process by which creation took its shape. This is a topic for another day, but let’s just leave it with this: either the young earth interpretation of Genesis is incorrect or the old earth observations of nature are incorrect.

My chief desire in life is to find the truth about as many things as I can and live my life as consistently with the truth as I can. This means all matters of my personal economy must be consistent with reality, even if that reality is not observed by the world at large. This has created some conflict in my life. This should create conflict in all Christian’s lives. All Christians are going to live a life that is in conflict with the fallen world.

But what if the conflict comes within the church? What if what I think is the “truth” about a topic is disliked or even condemned in the church? Obviously as a Reformed Christian I have only the Bible to turn to. On many topics it seems the church at large is hasty to adopt the larger cultural perspective. Whatever the prevailing attitude of the world is, so too is the prevailing attitude of the church. In other topics, the church often seeks to distance itself so far from the world that it misses whatever truth the world may actually be promoting.

The truth about any subject will only be found when the church bases its moral attitudes in scripture. I often stop Christians who are railing about a certain topic to cite me chapter and verse. It is truly depressing the number of believers who simply can’t come up with anything more than quotes from church patriarchs. No disrespect to the patriarchs, but they may have been wrong. And until one has at least a tentative grasp of what scripture actually says, he should probably avoid quoting flawed men. If there is a question about a matter, one should first consult scripture, then consult a multitude of sources to explain what he does not understand.

What is my point in all of this?

Seek truth, seek it in the Bible, seek it in nature, and seek it in the wisdom of church patriarchs. Then seek to live your life in accordance with your findings.

Some Definitions

So before I launch into a bunch of posts that may bore or confuse folks, maybe I should take the time to give some definitions of some of my more commonly used terms and my most common topics. These are my definitions, the dictionary or Google may disagree. I’ll add more as I find them of course.

Adiaphora: things which are amoral. Things neither specifically condemned or commanded in Scripture. See: CRAS.

Aggression: violence propagated without provocation. Offensive violence as opposed to defensive violence. Coercion.

Anarchist: One who believes that the world and society should operate without coercion.

Anarcho-capitalist: One who believes in the free (non-coerced) trade of goods and services for the benefit of mankind.

Art: The expression of man’s ability to creatively tap into reality or fantasy using various media (paintings, literature, sculpture, photography, music, etc.)

Capitalist: One who uses their talents or material goods to benefit others while also benefitting themselves.

CRAS: Commonly Regarded as Sin, those things which may or may not be sinful depending on who you ask. Usually these things are adiaphora.

Economics: From the Greek οίκος – “household” and νęμoμαι – “manage”. Literally household management.  Most people think of money when they think of economics, but economics encompasses all human actions and the externalities (negative and positive) that result from them.

Family: the basic unit of the economy, can consist of an individual or a group of closely related individuals.

Libertarianism: a political theory broadly defined as those who adhere to the NAP though this is a loose definition. The Libertarian political party consists of those who are in general social liberals and fiscal conservatives. Libertarians for the most part only agree on one thing: liberty and freedom are preferred over tyranny and government coercion.

Non-Aggression Principle: AKA the NAP. A principle which states that no individual may commit or threaten aggression against another individual. All such acts are immoral. No violence may be morally perpetrated against a non-aggressor.

Property: That which is lawful possession of an individual. By definition property is a tangible object able to be traded, bartered, given away or disposed of as an individual sees fit.

Reformed: A system of Christian theology having its roots in the Reformation of the 16th century church, though the ideals and beliefs of this system reach back into the 1st century during Christ’s life on this earth. Reformed Christians generally agree on the Five Points of Calvinism (Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the Saints) and the Five Solas: Sola Fide: by faith alone, Sola Scriptura: by Scripture alone, Solus Christus: through Christ alone, Sola Gratia: by grace alone, and Soli Deo Gloria: glory to God alone. All of these will be defined in later posts as I have time.

The State: AKA the government, the State is a general term for any entity that has a monopoly on force in a given geographical region.

Truth: That which corresponds to reality. Real truth is objective, only our perspective of reality is subjective.

Voluntaryist: One who believes in free (non-coerced) interactions between individuals and groups of individuals. All agreements and contracts should be agreed to without aggression or threat of aggression.

Busy Week

It’s been a crazy week with the holiday and all, but I did manage to get my scanner up and scanned all of my summer paintings. You can find a few of my favorites here: