Refuting Criticism Of The Non-Aggression Principle

A few months ago I critiqued an article at Faith and Heritage regarding libertarianism. Venturing through their site once more, I came across a 2014 article titled Open Borders, but No Freebies”: Refuting Wilson’s Libertarian Position on Immigration. The author, who goes by the alias Nil Desperandum, demonstrates a profound ignorance regarding the application of the the Non-Aggression Principle and, like so many before him, insist on treating libertarianism as though it were a complete moral theory.

How many more times must we point out that it is limited to the use of force, and nothing else?

In a subsection of the article titled “The Falsity of the Nonaggression Principle,” he writes (bold emphasis added):

Now would be a good time to mention that the NAP is a demonic falsity born of the Enlightenment, and that libertarianism, or “classical liberalism,” is equally antichristian. The nonaggression principle teaches that all aggression is immoral, where “aggression” is defined as initiated violence towards a person or his property. This qualification of initiated violence is important, as NAP adherents believe in the legitimacy of violence exercised in self-defense – yet only for that reason.

Aggression is unjustified violence against an innocent person or their property. That is rather important to mention, wouldn’t you think? If I shoot a man without just cause, it’s murder. If I shoot a man trying to stab me, it’s self dense.

As you can probably already guess, the author will not offer any pretext upon which aggression is or is not justified, having inferred that aggression is acceptable under certain circumstances.

He goes on:

Though it is ordinarily applied in discussions respecting the civil realm, the NAP is by its nature a comprehensive principle, and its comprehensiveness helps to display its errors. Observe the erroneous consequences of the NAP in its implications on family or domestic government: per the NAP, not only would slavery be immoral, but all parental discipline as well. No physical harm can befall any individual except in self-defense, and children are not excepted; this undermines any parental rights to corporal punishments. Hence “voluntaryists” today actively discourage filial discipline as a violation of children’s rights. Even worse than the degradation of family government, however, is the havoc this principle wreaks upon the divine government itself. God’s justice is retributive,1 but the NAP plainly requires any violence initiated by God to be out of self-defense, which of course would never occur.2 Frankly, if this proposed principle for all human authority flatly contradicts the execution of God’s moral governance, and if there is to be some kind of analogy between divine and human governance, then such an enormous point of disconnect should cause alarm in all NAP proponents.

Slavery immoral? Perish the thought!

The author confuses force or violence with aggression regarding child discipline; because parents are caretakers or stewards of their offspring, they hold a special relationship over them in which certain types of force or violence are justified.

Further, even libertarians who oppose corporal punishment admit that it is difficult to conceive of an entity that would intervene on the child’s behalf without resembling a state.

As for his argument about God and self-defense, let us grant that the NAP has theological implications. His point is still absurd. Not only does justice by its very nature permit, if not demand the use of force to carry out its decrees, but the Bible teaches that God created everything. Ergo, everything that exists is his property and can be done with however he pleases. The verse “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and compassion on whom I have compassion,” is the declaration of a property owner regarding his property.

Furthermore, under Christian doctrine, no one is innocent in the eyes of God, so nothing God does is a violation of the NAP.

The author writes further:

On to civil polity. The NAP is likely applicable to the civil realm only if it is postulated as a general principle for the divine and domestic governments as well – for, inter alia, the nation is an outgrowth of the family, and human authority reflective of the divine – but regardless, we can still criticize the obvious falsity of a merely civil NAP without recourse to such reasoning. The argument is plain and conclusive: Scripture contradicts it. The Old Testament case laws include numerous instances where “victimless crimes” are punished, and therefore where the civil government commits violence against individuals for reasons other than self-defense.3 A shining example of such aggression against nonaggressive behavior is the execution of sodomites commanded in Leviticus 20:13. Unless a libertarian would strive to present these laws’ motivating principle (general equity) as related solely to the temporary and ceremonial character of theocratic Israel, and as entirely unrelated to the general moral principles of national well-being and government – a hard argument to make – he must concede that Scripture provides us with moral principles by which the civil magistrate is to punish “victimless crimes,” and hence to violate the NAP.

The author is confusing man’s perspective with God’s; a sin is not by its very nature an act of aggression against man, but it is against God, for it is a misuse of his property, i.e. the human. Not I nor anyone else have the right to carry out wrath and judgement on God’s behalf, unless He specifically authorizes it or commands it.Has this author received a divine message commanding him thus?

God’s commandment in these instances cited above applied to a theocracy that was directly governed by God himself; it had no earthy king and no ruler until the time of Saul. That God ordained or approved of certain practices within that theocracy is irrelevant to modern governance by men with neither direct nor indirect divine inspiration or guidance.

Yet even if this scriptural argument were unconvincing – along with the historic practice of Christendom, and even the rest of the world, in refusing to implement this utopian dream – the very fact that civil (not merely divine) justice is retributive should cure the NAPster of his delusion. The Word of God accords with natural reason in presenting the primary end of justice as vengeance, the infliction of suffering as recompense for a past evil committed, proportionate to the nature and heinousness of that evil. This is displayed in God’s moral government and is imaged as well in human civil government: the magistrate “is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil” (Rom. 13:4).

Someone please explain how Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were ministers of God. If they are not the magistrate, then who is, and how do we know this?

Libertarians, inasmuch as they truly cleave to the NAP, have no category for this. They deny that any individual could ever have a right to inflict retributive suffering upon another individual, so insofar as civil governments truly punish anyone and do not solely defend, libertarians must reject this God-given role for the state as well.

And the author cannot explain why Stalin wasn’t a minister of God, and if he wasn’t, then who was during the 70-year communist regime in Russia? And how do we determine this?

I have a feeling we already know the answer.

At best libertarians can posit fantasies having the appearance of civil retribution, as is present in all “social contract” theories: an individual, having the God-given right to inflict violence and death on himself as he wills (he doesn’t), delegates this right to a violence-inflicting institution, promising to accept penalties for ill behavior in exchange for that institution’s protection from others (why not just pay them?). To make this less repugnant to common sense regarding the nature of society, libertarians then hold that all children in a society, in their choice upon maturation not to depart from that institution’s general jurisdiction, thereby “implicitly contract” the same arrangement as their imaginary forebears. Among other flaws, never mind that such a dire choice – leave or submit – is itself imposed upon their precious individual rights!

Enough with this falsehood. The NAP generates the Jacobin breakdown of all order, and the libertarianism which feeds on it must perish with it.

Christian libertarians believe that no man owns another; all are owned by God. If someone sins against God but violates no other man’s rights, then the matter is between that individual and God.

The author above heavily insinuates that some men are divinely appointed to rule over others, and that those destined to be ruled have no right to resist their enslavement. Conveniently, I’ve never encountered such men who believe they were divinely selected to serve as the slave to another man.

Kinists such as this author would be pleased to know his disgust for libertarianism is shared by Pope Francis; the same man who welcomed millions of foreigners hostile to Christianity recently warned of an “invasion of libertarians” (was there ever a more foolish man ever to reign over the Vatican?)

Michael Mahharrey at Godarchy explains why Francis and those who think likewise either misunderstand the philosophy or create strawmen out of it:

The non-aggression principle lies at the heart of libertarianism. It rejects the use of coercive force. It rejects the notion that I can hit you in order to advance my conception of the common good. It rejects the belief that I can point a gun at you and force you to participate in my “community.”

In essence the NAP mirrors the Second Great Commandment – love your neighbor as you love yourself.


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One Response to Refuting Criticism Of The Non-Aggression Principle

  1. I guess I dont get the crkticisms of NAP. Doesnt that dovetail w/ js mill’s and utilitarianism? I dont agress against my offender because its not useful until it reaches a point of assault against person or property. I think the criticism on parenting is absurd. First, l8berty to discipline ones kids’ is not a role of govt. It is an unspoken assumption that abuse towards ones kids is different than loving consequences. Thanks for tjoughtful post!


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