Who would not be down with NAP? After all the NAP (Non Aggression Principle for noobs) is the final word. It is the answer to philosophy. It is the biggest thing in metaphysics since the number 42. It is the absolute, axiomatic ethical truth that unlocks the secret of all human behavior! Though an abstract concept, the NAP naturally inherits the properties of a universal physical law. The NAP is a law of nature unto itself. Isn’t it? To break this fundamental universal moral axiom (as I have strictly defined it within a limited context) is to betray your nature as a rational being and sin against… against… something. Right?
Right. So if you want to intellectually hamstring yourself, become a boring drone, publicly display symptoms of mild-to-severe Asperger’s syndrome, or just be a supercilious prick while intentionally alienating friends, family and colleagues, then by all means keep going down this route. And enjoy spending your weekends raging at the statist douchebags on r/Politics.
Those of you who have spent time in libertarian and various anarcho-assbackwardist circles already know that the NAP is an ethical theory on which a variety of so-called “anti-statist” ideologies base themselves. Adherents of these sects, taking their cues from various guru style intellectuals, usually claim the NAP as a universal moral truth and from there attempt to use deductive reasoning to prove that that the rest of their prejudices are irrefutable and axiomatic. Individuals violate their nature as a human beings if they engage in “aggression” against other individuals. “Aggression” of course as defined by whichever variation of the principle is being invoked. It all depends on the starting point and how far you are willing to stretch the already thin logic.
As you would expect when delving into the bizarre and macabre nether realm of anarchist ideology, the various sects cannot agree on exactly what constitutes aggression. In fact they are directly odds with each other on precisely this question. The libertarian/capitalist types define aggression as the initiation of force or threats against people or property. The pinko/commie types define aggression as systems of structured hierarchy (private property being one such system) and the denial of basic human needs. The idea being that individuals only ever submit themselves to hierarchy out of fear of the denial of these needs. Not only are these two definitions in direct contradiction, but both are supposed to lay the foundation of universal objective morality for all humans. Given this irreconcilable schism over what are basically religious doctrines we would expect these two groups of social malcontents to be perpetually engaged with each other in some sort of dramatic, Manichean struggle for the survival of humanity. If the correct interpretation of the NAP is really as fundamental to the future of human society as is claimed, then neither side can compromise. Ever. Victory must be total.
But this will never happen because as we know the issue is not the moral betterment of society. The issue is constructing an oppression narrative for alienated and resentful intellectual types to wield as a cudgel against their perceived oppressors, meaning everyone else in society. In internet chat groups and forums this plays out as a passive aggressive attempt to assert superiority through the back door by catching other people in pre-scripted semantic and logical traps until they give up and quit the debate in exasperation. At this point the anarchist can smugly declare victory in the game of internet anarchy police.
How is the “right” to property that the libertarian axiom depends on established? Since we are basing an absolute moral rule for all human behavior around this concept, it had better be airtight. It has to be axiomatic in itself, or else you cannot derive an absolute moral truth from it. Another issue is that force is often justified, even with in the libertarian paradigm. So how do we know at any time whether this or that use of force is justified? It all depends on property claims, and if there is a conflict, who has the right to step in and settle it? And how did they justly acquire this right under the rule?
For libertarians taxes are defined as a violation of individual property rights. But the state regards them as a just collection of payments due, and they reserve the right to take them by force if they are not offered voluntarily. In another context libertarians would agree that force is justified in the case of a breach of contract. So then what constitutes a valid contract must also be defined, and must also be axiomatic. The whole thing soon spirals into a problem that libertarians theoretically want to avoid, that is too many goddamn rules. But even worse, each rule must be a universal axiom or else it violates the very rule it is trying to prove valid. So it falls into a self-detonating, turtles all the way down problem. The libertarian has a lot of homework to do here if he is going to resolve these thorny issues rather than just paper them over.
For the pinko/commie type anarchist the issue is hierarchy. What is a hierarchy? People telling each other what to do? Someone giving someone else money in exchange for the performance of some tasks? And why is this sort of hierarchy to be opposed? People submit to this sort of hierarchy all the time by choice. People report to an employer because they want to get paid. It is worth it to them to do this. In fact, if prevented from doing this, people will actively seek out another opportunity to do it again. It’s true that they do so because they want to make a living, so they do not have absolute free choice. But no one does. Unless the pinko wants to claim (he does) that not getting your needs met by society is an act of aggression. But where is the actual aggression here? It is the real laws of nature that are actually to blame. So in this case the actual laws of nature are in conflict with the conceptual “natural” law that everyone deserves to get free stuff from everyone else.
How could hierarchy in human relationships ever be prevented without resorting to a hierarchical anti-hierarchy police agency of some sort? It’s the same issue as above. The rule violates itself. And what is need? Where is the line between needs and wants? What material goods make the cut? Is everyone in the universe that does not put food on my plate now committing an act of aggression against me? Don’t answer that.
Rather than setting you free, dedication to the NAP as the endpoint of your ideology traps you in a prison of words and arcane concepts that don’t relate in any meaningful way to actual human relationships. It is incredibly intellectually limiting. And it is boring as hell. If you have ever dealt with NAP disciples you have no doubt noticed that they have not only dedicated themselves to this arbitrary religious concept, they have signed away their ability to have any subjective opinions or preferences whatsoever outside the rule. “As long as it is voluntary” is the familiar incantation. If you display a preference against any behavior that does not violate your “rights” as defined by the NAP, you will likely be chastised for it. So it appears that to many anarchists there is at least one non-NAP violating behavior worthy of criticism, and that is criticism of non-NAP violating behavior! AAArrrgghhhhh………
Obviously in a human society we need rules so that we can have social order, peace and prosperity. I prefer that these rules uphold the subjective right of the individual to own property, keep the fruits of his labor, invest, buy capital assets, gain wealth and have that wealth be secure. This policy has a proven track record of allowing the greatest human societies in history to prosper, and violating this policy has a proven track record of poverty and failure. But these societies emerged out of centuries of human experience, trial and error, organic growth, cooperation, conflict and struggle. They did not come out of the box with an instruction manual. They did not start with some robotic, mathematical formula handed to them out of the world of Platonic forms where ideal concepts exist floating in a void of eternal perfection.
Once I abandoned the NAP as the end all and be all of my personal and political philosophy I found that new intellectual horizons opened up for me. I was able to express ideas that I dared not utter before. I no longer had to play anarchy police with every new person I met. I made new friends and started to actually have interesting intellectual discussions again. I started to actually have… fun. I invite you to join me. Is your body ready?