Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘anarchist’

An Expanded Version of the NAP

Posted by M. C. on October 31, 2021

Regarded by many as the keystone of Libertarian philosophy.

This essay offers an expanded version of the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). The traditional forms have been very useful as introductory statements into libertarian discussions. However, the Anarchist/Voluntaryist movement has matured to the point where the NAP requires formulations that are more sophisticated.

The simpler versions of the NAP

For the uninitiated, the typical NAP expressions have the advantage of simplicity, such as

“It is wrong to initiate force, threat of force, or fraud against others or their property, without consent”.

This speaks to a shared basic morality at the heart of human interactions. Moreover, it is highly comprehensive: a great deal is conveyed in a single sentence.

However, the expression fails in many cases. If I grab my watch back from a pickpocket, it may seem to a bystander that I am the thief. Relying strictly on simple forms of the NAP does not help, or at best creates confusion. It does not meet the needs at hand.

The need for an expanded formulation

Anyone who has engaged in conversations about the NAP has likely faced challenges, such as edge-cases or other difficult scenarios. Additionally, articles and blogs have been written presenting outright challenges to the NAP itself.

We can easily see the limitations of the simple form of the NAP, by examining what is not mentioned, or at best implied:

  • The terms “force” or “aggression” imply coercion by direct human action. They do not specifically mention the words we use, or physical objects under our control. This leaves many actions open to interpretation such as verbal abuse, pollution and other nuisances.
  • It does not account for degrees of force. Minor actions can be debatable, such as harmless threats.
  • It does not allow for degrees of harm. Trivial aggressions can appear as NAP violations.
  • Intent is only weakly implied. Pure accidents can appear just as egregious as willful coercion.
  • The concept of consent itself can be misinterpreted; a fraud victim may appear to give consent.
  • It does not address actions taken in defense of third parties. This leads to debates as to whether such defense is “initiated” force.

An enhanced version of the NAP

The author wishes to stress that this formulation of the NAP is by no means intended as definitive, complete or final.

The following is offered as an enhanced version of the NAP. It separates and emphasizes the fundamental concepts that underpin the principle, as it pertains to the actors and their actions. The concepts are: Initiation, Intent, Compromised Consent, Harm, and Causal Role.

To consider a human action as wrong, all components of the Non-Aggression Principle must be present:

  • Initiation. An action is initiated by a person or by means of property they control
  • Intent. The action is intentional, or its results are reasonably foreseeable
  • Compromised Consent. The subject either lacks reasonable capacity to give consent to the relevant actions, or has such capacity but is deprived of the choice to freely opt out of the harm
  • Harm. The subject experiences non-trivial harm to their person or property
  • Causal Role. The action has a sufficiently significant causal role in undermining the subject’s consent.

This formulation has the advantage of being useful across various normal and abnormal human interactions. It attempts to eliminate controversy by detailing the NAP’s components, then applying the situational specifics to these components.

The alert reader will likely notice the use of several subjective terms, such as “reasonably”, “freely”, “non-trivial”, “sufficiently” and “significant”. These are used by design. The purpose of this particular version of the NAP is to simplify discussions about detailed, specific cases. If it is to succeed in this, it must use terms that are both broad enough to generalize, yet meaningful enough to make sense when applying them.

The spectrum of right and wrong actions

Human interactions fall along a spectrum that extends from purely peaceful voluntary actions, to acts of pure violence. My Super Bowl ticket changed hands when my wife purchased it…a purely peaceful exchange. It changed hands when she gave it to me as a gift…again, peaceful. I got into a brawl and hurt a bystander; the ticket changed hands again when I gave it to him…as restitution for the harm I caused. Later it changes hands again…when he is murdered for the ticket.

The issue is not that these examples are difficult to resolve; our common sense tells us exactly which cases are right and which are wrong. The problem is that simple forms of the NAP are not always useful when we try to apply them to specifics. Our time is spent debating how to interpret the NAP and its terms. It is not a failure of our common sense, nor of the spirit of the NAP as a principle. It is rather because the formulation is too broad to adequately handle specifics.

Refer to this supplemental essay for examples demonstrating the value of an expanded formulation.


This essay’s use of the NAP terms is anarcho-capitalist, and based on contemporary scholarly understandings of property, consent, and Austrian economic theory.

Some terms used in the expanded NAP formulation…


This addresses the particular action that “started it” and makes defensive actions easier to evaluate. For example, the thief “started it” by stealing the watch. If a week later the owner takes it back, the owner did not take an “initial” action even though the two events were spaced apart in time. Rather, he responded to the thief’s initial action.

“Initiated…by means of property they control”

This insures that if physical objects are a factor in the action, the person controlling or responsible for the object is culpable. A dog’s owner allows it to run free and the dog then bites a child. The owner cannot claim to be innocent on the grounds that he personally did not commit the act of aggression.


Assumes the scarce-goods (rivalrous, conflictable) model, which includes a person’s body and justly acquired material objects. Ownership is essentially the right to exclude others from use.


In general usage the word “action” appears to subsume all forms of human activity. In this essay, “action” implies intent and purpose…the exercise of will. “Action” is therefore contrasted with (and does not include) other human movement such as moving while asleep, or accidental motions. To be sure, the phrase “The action is intentional” is self-describing. However, it is retained to make explicit the importance of intent when evaluating specifics.

“Intent is a necessary ingredient in human action; if there is no intent, then there is no action, only behavior: involuntary physical movements guided by deterministic causal relations.”

(Stephan Kinsella; Patrick Tinsley, Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics, 07/30/2014)

For example: there is no intent to harm if, while walking, I faint, stumble and injure someone. But if I drive drunk and then injure someone, my driving in this condition was intentional (and, of course, its consequences reasonably foreseeable). This is why intent is a component in affirming or rejecting a NAP violation.

“Compromised consent”

This helps clarify the victim’s ability to agree to the interaction and its outcomes. Any one of the following can be considered a victim, whether they appear to give consent or not: a person sleeping or comatose, a child, a mentally challenged person, a person unaware of the conditions at hand.

“The subject…is deprived of the choice to freely opt out”

The core element of consent is the freedom to opt out of the interaction altogether. Choosing between a 10-year Life policy and a 20-year policy actually entails three options, the third being the choice to opt out. But say a parent pays a ransom for their child’s life. Using the simpler version of the NAP, one might argue they “consented”. However the opt-out aspect is absent and thus consent is “clouded”. Inclusion of the choice to freely opt out makes clear there is no consent.

“Non-trivial harm”

This eliminates unreasonable claims of NAP harm. The traditional libertarian challenge case is shining a flashlight at someone, who then claims a NAP violation, as they did not consent to being struck by light photons. This is trivial harm.

“Sufficiently significant causal role”

The action must have enough significance in causing the harm. Several examples presented in the supplemental essay show the importance of this part of the expanded NAP.


The Non-Aggression Principle is already highly implied as a basis of traditional common law and civil law. As we move toward a stateless society, the NAP will be refined in ever greater detail. Eventually a free society’s legal code is likely to have a highly robust formulation of the NAP as its foundation. This will represent the moral and philosophical aspect of the NAP; but its utilitarian aspect will emerge with each individual application, where the particulars will be examined within NAP legal frameworks.

Mark Maresca

March 2020

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About Two Years … – Gold Goats ‘n Guns

Posted by M. C. on October 22, 2020

If you are truly on an honest journey to find the right path for your own personal behavior, then rigorously applying the NAP (Non-Aggression Principle) to all facets of your life leads you to shedding the precepts of the necessity of the coercive state to shape and hold society together.

Author: Tom Luongo

There’s an old joke that runs through hard core libertarian circles that goes something like this.

An overly earnest newbie at a Libertarian Party meeting one night during a lull in a heated discussion of comma placement in a new rule change proposal asks, “What’s the difference between an anarchist and a minarchist?”

The grizzled party chair looks up from his copy of Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty and replies, “About two years.”

And I can tell you that that joke, like all good jokes has a nugget of deep truth in it. Embracing Minarchism is the toe-dip into the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). It’s your first tentative step into the scarier world of imagining it without a state.

And it’s a position that’s comforting. But it is also rife with contradictions. Those contradictions weigh on a person who is trying to live up to the ideal of the NAP.

If you are truly on an honest journey to find the right path for your own personal behavior, then rigorously applying the NAP to all facets of your life leads you to shedding the precepts of the necessity of the coercive state to shape and hold society together.

Anarchy in the You ‘Kay?

Because you begin to see the break points, the fault lines of our society in NAP terms. For me, I quickly no longer gave credence to the idea that in order for my individual rights to express themselves I have to submit to a human authority with a granted monopoly power on the use of aggressive force, which the NAP itself stands in opposition to.

At the core of all collectivist thinking is this basic tautology that your rights stem from the negotiation of what others define them as. Only by submitting to a higher human authority over you can you have a hope of retaining any of them, so you need to negotiate them down from the ideal.

Sound complicated? That’s because it is and it’s also insane.

A far simpler interpretation is to state I have a right to life. I have a claim of ownership of myself. Any abrogation of that claim of ownership and right to it by an aggressor is wrong.

Clear, concise, powerful.

Once you come to that conclusion and are willing to apply it consistently then you can become comfortable with freeing your mind of the need for the state.

But it also comes with responsibility. How do you defend those rights? Will you defend every assault on them no matter how minor?

But here’s better questions, ones Marxist will always throw at you to trip you up…

If you don’t defend yourself against a minor theft, say a pen or a coffee mug, was your right to property taken from you? Do you still have it in practical terms if you can’t defend against a murderer?

The answers are, in order, No and Yes. Just because the property was taken or the threat made, you always reserve the right to express the right to defend it.

That you choose not to is… wait for it…

… also your right.

“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”

Neil Peart – Free Will

That leads to basic economic questions like: Should you always do so? When is forgiveness or acceptance better than retribution?

Is it worth my precious time to chase down a guy who sold me a fake watch rather than chalk it up to experience and go about my other business?

These are basic questions that form the filter on which to view the world around you and are the basic seeds of the growth from being mired in the inconsistencies of Minarchism and blossoming into the flower of Anarchism.

The Right Stuff

It leads you to conclusions about how to find ways to minimize, not eliminate, coercive forces on your life. That we live in a world circumscribed by tyrants constantly climbing over each other for the power to tyrannize is irrelevant. They may in real terms suppress the expression of your right to life but it most certainly doesn’t negate it.

You can always choose to say, “No.”

Notice to this point I haven’t spent one word talking about implementation or politics. Because implementing these ideas isn’t a system to be imposed. That, itself, is a violation of the NAP, the idea of imposing Anarchy is a Collectivist perversion of the process.

We’re seeing this in the hyper-violent rioting of Antifa and BLM wanting to impose their new system that they call anarchy at the point of a gun and an open-ended wrench.

Anarcho-Capitalism isn’t a political system, it is a behavioral model and a filter with which to view the world. It is a philosophy whose name implies an internal vision of the world we want rather than the world we have.

And that filter is an incredibly powerful tool to analyze the world — especially economics and politics as both lie at the intersection of behavioral dissonances within a given population.

(I talked with Jay Fratt, The Conservative Hippie, about Anarchism on his podcast over the weekend.)

It is also a personal goal most people share — the best versions of ourselves possible. Where the differences lie along the political landscape is the extent to which taking on the responsibility of fixing problems which are not ours leads to violence, i.e. the State and before that revolution.

And that leads to the next two-year process, the one of realizing that there is no Utopia where sin is expunged, theft conquered and sociopathy eliminated.

There is only the minimization of these things because people are capable of tremendous generosity and tremendous violence. All of us. At all times.

Sometimes simultaneously.

And the real struggle is coming to terms with that fear. Fear drives Communists to overreach and hubris. AnCaps are driven by the acceptance of their limitations.

Only a culture which reinforces this idea of personal responsibility for one’s actions rather than glorifying thieves as winners will put us back on the right path rather than the wrong one.

Given where we are right now, that’s going to take a heckuva lot more than two years.

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Ayn Rand’s Political Philosophy | Mises Institute

Posted by M. C. on April 25, 2019

Good article if one is of a philsophical bent.

Me…I have to open my Wikipedia before I start.

David Gordon

Foundations of a Free Society: Reflections on Ayn Rand’s Political Philosophy. Gregory Salmieri and Robert Mayhew, Eds.  University of Pittsburgh Press. Xi + 460 pages.1

This excellent book mirrors in its choice of contributors the odd relationship between Ayn Rand and libertarianism. On the one hand, her own proposals for the political organization of society are a version of minimal state libertarianism, and her novels and essays have had an enormous impact on many libertarians. On the other hand, she not only denied she was a libertarian but denounced libertarianism in characteristically fierce fashion. The anarchist position of Murray Rothbard especially aroused her opposition.

Many of the contributors to the book are members of the “official” Objectivist organization of philosophers, the Ayn Rand Society, but others, including Matt Zwolinski, Peter Boettke, and Michael Huemer, are not Objectivists. The “official” Objectivists are more inclined than was Rand herself to acknowledge the similarity between her political thought and libertarianism, but, like her, they criticize libertarianism and denounce Rothbard’s anarchism.

In what follows, I shall address the criticisms of Rothbard’s anarchism, as these are likely to be of most interest to readers of Before turning to this, though, I should like to examine the more general criticism of libertarianism raised by the Objectivists, as this has considerable philosophical value.

Given the manifest similarity between Rand’s political proposals and minimal state libertarianism, why are Objectivists so critical of libertarianism? One is tempted to ask them, “All right, you don’t like anarchism, but why isn’t support for a minimal state that has no power to tax and for laissez-faire capitalism enough for you? What more do you want?” Their answer is that non-Objectivist libertarianism lacks proper philosophical foundations. In the absence of these foundations, libertarians are unable adequately to support their political conclusions.

As an example, Darryl Wright, a philosophy professor at Harvey Mudd College and a rising star among Objectivist philosophers, criticizes Rothbard for not grounding his non-aggression principle in normative ethics. Although Rothbard accepted an ethics of natural law, he also held that political philosophy was autonomous, and this was his fatal error: “The source of the difficulties with Rothbard’s conception of aggression. . .lies in a particular way of understanding self-ownership, which in turn proceeds from Rothbard’s commitment to what I will call the autonomy of political philosophy. By this I mean the view that political philosophy should be independent of normative ethics—that is, independent of any substantive ethical theory applicable to the whole of one’s life.” (p.107). More generally, Wright says, “Since Rand’s approach to philosophy is holistic, a proper understanding of the[non-initiation of force] principle requires us to see how it grows out of her more fundamental positions in ethics and epistemology. . .” (p.16)…

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Attention High School Seniors – LewRockwell

Posted by M. C. on February 6, 2019


You are now in the midst of applying for admission to university. Here is a letter from an unhappy college student which may be of relevance for the choices you are now making:

My name is XYZ. In my current university, numerous professors label me as a cultist and an ideologue, as I am a student of the Austrian school; put simply, I am also an anarchist. My question is, why do mainstream economic/political science professors label students of the Austrian school as cultists? Is it because we neglect positivism as we study economics through the lens of praxeology? Moreover, I can understand how one would think Randians are cultists, but us Austrians never verbally shout “no you’re wrong, get out of here!” — as Rand would do.

Thanks for your time. Cordially, ZYZ

Here is my response to XYZ:

What school do you now attend? Is there any chance of you transferring to Loyola? See below.

Now to answer your question. Read the rest of this entry »

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