The Non-Aggression Principle

Non-aggression is always preferable to aggression…

Many libertarians are familiar with the non-aggression principle (NAP), though not all really understand what it means. In this context, aggression means any trespass of anyone’s person or property. For those who aren’t familiar, the NAP is akin to the Golden Rule that many can remember being taught as children. The Golden Rule is to treat others how you want to be treated. I define the non-aggression principle like this: Non-aggression is always preferable to aggression. The NAP isn’t a rule that all must follow for there to be a libertarian utopia. Rather, it is a philosophical axiom that is essential to understanding libertarian ethics.

Non-aggression is always preferable to aggression. This is undoubtedly true. To argue against the validity of the NAP is to choose a non-aggressive solution. If two people wish to resolve the question of if the NAP is a valid axiom, it is always preferable for them to act non-aggressively. This isn’t my opinion, but is logically necessary. It is impossible to resolve an argument by using violence. To resolve an argument requires finding an agreed upon answer, even if that answer is agreeing to disagree. If the goal is to resolve the question of whether the NAP is a valid axiom, only non-aggressive behaviors can be preferable. Using aggression, like violence, cannot be said to be preferable in this case because it does not arrive at an agreement.

This doesn’t mean that people don’t prefer to act aggressively in certain situations. Everyone has individual preferences, but non-aggression is universally preferable. In other words, aggression cannot be universally preferable because that would mean everyone would prefer aggressing against others as well as being aggressed on. It is absurd to imagine such a world where aggression is universally preferable.

So, non-aggression must be universally preferable to aggression. It follows that people living in a free and peaceful society would clearly demonstrate the existence of the NAP. They would prefer voluntary interactions, associations, and exchanges rather than coercive or forceful interactions, associations, and exchanges. For private individuals, the NAP is usually observed in our society. People tend to trade rather than steal. However, governments are only able to act aggressively. Everything governments have, they have only at the expense of taxpayers or other victims of expropriation.

If you accept non-aggression as a universally preferable behavior, you must reject the state. Any state that can be funded voluntarily isn’t a state at all, but would in fact become a business. Logically, libertarians must be anarchists.

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