Category: Non-Aggression Principle


LukeVrsDarthEmpIf you’re a Star Wars fan from my generation, you’ll immediately recognize this age-old question, “Which movie was better, ‘The Empire Strikes Back‘ or ‘Return of the Jedi‘?”, and have a very strong preference for one or the other. Most people I’ve encountered over the years have fallen on the “Empire” side, and I can see why. It’s fun. It’s full of exciting battles, wild escapes, mind-blowing revelations, lots of humor and a bit of romance.

For me, though, the answer has always been “Jedi”. The reason? That final confrontation between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Emperor Palpatine. Luke tries not to fight, and chooses not to kill, his father; but instead, reminds him that he was once a Jedi, that he stood for something other than what he had become, and pleads with him to come back. Ultimately, Vader (Anakin Skywalker) chooses his son’s life over that of his Sith master. That, to me, is the defining moment of the whole series: the redemption of Anakin.

Now, what does this have to do with market-anarchism, voluntaryism, the ever growing militarized police-state and all that? For that, we must turn back to Étienne de La Boétie, who asked, “If a tyrant is one man and his subjects are many, why do they consent to their own enslavement?” A tyrant, whether an emperor, president, parliament, etc. is always a small minority. How do they maintain their power when they are so vastly outnumbered? Well first, they dole out favors to a favored political class, who are given money, power and priviledge so long as they tow the Party line. But what of the masses? They are controlled through an army of thuggish enforcers: the police, military, and intelligence services—the stormtroopers of our day. They keep the Hoi polloi in line through fear tactics, constant intimidation, and the use of violence: beatings, kidnappings, rape, murder, etc.

But again, why do these enforcers enforce the ruler’s edicts against their own. Firstly, they are given power and an elevated status in society. This helps distance them from the people they abuse. Secondly, they are imbued with an almost mythical ideology that they are protecting the weak and serving the people, when in fact they are protecting and serving the political class.

It is this ideology that we must attack. Yes, civil-disobedience is important. It challenges the legitimacy of the rulers, makes others aware of the immorality and unjustness of their laws, and strips them of their mystique. However, civil-disobedience tends to have less favorable effects as well. More often than not, it is seen by the police as an attack on the system that they instictually defend. They shut down critical-thinking and become defensive—solidifying their statist ideology and devotion to their masters. Likewise, Dorner-esque violence, while viscerally satisfying, only causes the enforcers to close-ranks and act even more irrationally and violently to maintain the system: as we witnessed when the LAPD went on a terror-spree in their hunt for Dorner.

Thus, we can neither defy nor fight the enforcers without entrenching them even deeper in their faith in the rightness and righteousness of what they are doing. What we can do is confront them, not as enemies, but as family concerned with a wayward relative. We can ask them why they became police officers, or joined the army, or Homeland Security. We can ask them if what they do now is in service to those goals. We can ask them how they feel when they are not. We can awaken them to the fact that they serve as bodyguards to a corporatist elite, not as protectors of their fellow citizens; that they are more like over-seers on a farm of human-cattle, than the heroes they imagine themselves to be. We can ask them what they would change, how things could be different. Here and there, we can add in our own thoughts: about the Non-Aggression Principle; about the inefficiencies, corruption and abuse that naturally arise in a system of monopoly justice; market and community alternatives to the state’s “justice” system, etc. And by so doing, we can gently introduce them to market-anarchy.

Granted, we cannot save them all—perhaps, not even most. Many are hopelessly mired in their lust for power over other men. As Frank Herbert put it, “Absolute power does not corrupt absolutely, absolute power attracts the corruptible.” But I believe that there is humanity in, and hope for, even the worst of us. And while some may easily come to see that their means do not match the ends they sought to effect by becoming enforcers, many will resist the truth tooth-and-nail. Still, even a few victories would weaken the state; and more importantly, destroy the myth of the state-sponsored thug as ‘benevolent protector’.

This is a slow and difficult path; but there is no more satifying victory than to turn your enemy into your ally, or even a friend. We can topple the power of authoritarians by depriving them not only of our obedience, but also of the obedience of their enforcers. And the more enforcers we awaken, the more others will question their service until an avalanche of defectors leaves the rulers weak and ineffective, if not entirely powerless.

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break in pieces.”
— Étienne de La Boétie

So next time you see a cop, rather than flipping him off, yelling “ACAB”, or fantasizing about burning his patrol car, stop to ask him what he thinks about his job. It may be the start of a conversation that leads to conversion to market-anarchism, … and redemption.

My wife was recently lamenting the demise of the Spielberg-inspired science fiction show, Terra Nova. While it was a fun little escape, I have to admit that I was always a bit uncomfortable with it—from the under-stated “worker’s-paradise” economy, to the obvious military-junta that ruled over everyone. But what was most disturbing was the lack of moral-clarity. The white-hats (Terra Novans) and black-hats (Sixers) behaved much the same. Each had something they thought worth fighting for and used much the same methods of violence and coercion to attain them.

In one episode, the supreme white-hat, Commander Taylor, tortures a citizen of Terra Nova on the suspicion that he is working with the Sixers, who are trying to take down Terra Nova. In another episode, Taylor violates his own order that no one is to leave the colony boundary. When stopped by a junior officer, he and Jim Shannon, the de-facto Sheriff of T.N., laugh—the rules do not apply to the rule-makers. And in a very revealing episode, Dr. Malcolm Wallace, the chief science officer for the Terra Nova colony, is too busy to do Shannon a favor, testing a blood sample. Shannon responds by smashing Wallace’s lab equipment and experiments one by one until Wallace capitulates.

We watch these shows, our younger siblings and children watch these shows, and then we wonder why people grow up to start fights, start wars, become violent rights-violating cops and soldiers, or police and politicians who believe that “the rules are for everyone else, not me“. They have learned the lessons of the entertainment media—that there is no fundamental behavioral difference between the bad-guys and the good-guys. These are merely labels for two groups which are morally equivalent—that is, both violate the Non-Aggression Principle and the Law of Equal Liberty.

These are just a few examples from one silly little sci-fi show. Now look at the plethora of cop shows and legal dramas on television and you will find even more egregious examples.

Popular culture and entertainment influences our real-life interations. And the actions of everyone from presidents and politicians to local beat-cops and teachers—and our response to their behavior—strongly influences popular culture. If it is wrong for a police officer to get away with a crime he would have apprehended a non-officer for, then we must not glorify such behavior in our fiction. If it is wrong to initiate violence, we must not panegyrize it in our fictional “heroes”. Instead, we must steadfastly declare what makes the good-guys the good-guys.

The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that 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.”
— Murray N. Rothbard, “War, Peace, and the State,” The Myth of National Defense

If we want to change this into a more peaceful and free world to live in, we need to start with our culture. Everything begins with ideas. If we can elevate our ideas, educate people about the NAP and LEL, and get them to live it, then we can transform the world.

The recent tragedy in Japan has triggered some unexpected reactions—from an inane Facebook meme declaring that the earthquake is “payback” for the now six-decade old attack on Pearl Harbor, to some who question whether it is Karma for Japan’s permittence of whaling, to others who postulate that it is the result of a U.S. techtonic-weapon being deployed. These surprising notions have highlighted, in the clearest terms, a way of thinking which forms a barrier to our escape from the bondage of statism.

Firstly, they are all narratives. We humans are story-tellers. We are curious and we want to understand things, especially in times of tragedy when fear and sorrow overwhelm our reason. However, we are often at a loss to immediately see the cause of some event—or, because of some preconcieved notions (often mystical), we refuse to accept the rational and empirical and go reaching “beyond”. Put these traits together and what you get is a susceptibility to the Narrative Fallacy (“illusory correlation”)—the tendency to construct stories around facts which, while emotionally satisfying, lead one to err.

This is understandable and something we have likely all experienced at one time or another. However, within this human quirk lies a more insidious flaw: what some call a “yearning for meaning” is really a desire to ascribe a top-down order to events in our lives—which is to say, “A greater power than XYZ has put this in motion.” It is an appeal to archy, to the overseer mentality—whether it be from a leader, messanger, god, demon, mother nature, karmic force, etc. It is a backward, self-effacing, subservient way of thinking that humans extend to many other facets of their lives. If you don’t believe me, just substitute “Government” for “God”—as many people do. Whenever something goes wrong in our lives, we look to government—either to lay blame or plead for a solution. How can we hope to build a voluntary society, one in which order emerges spontaneously through the self-interested non-coercive actions of individuals (bottom-up organization), when irrational top-down thinking pervades our every waking thought?

I do not wish to debate the merits of holding spiritual or supernatural beliefs. Nor do I wish to weigh the likelihood of various conspiracy-theories. Instead, my concern here is with a destructive habit of thinking: the constant and consistent attempt to attribute events and phenomena to top-down hierarchical organization, despite the fact that all the evidence points to a universe in which order emerges spontaneously from lower levels of organization. The nasty implications of which are that people are all too ready to embrace command-and-control structures and expect order to emerge from chaos by some leader’s fiat.

Secondly, as someone who embraces the libertarian ethos of self-responsibility, I fully reject the notion of collective guilt and punishment for individual actions. It is wholly repugnant for me to accept, as so many do, that some transcendant force of “justice” would punish an innocent for the purported transgressions of another. This turns the whole notion of Justice on its head. To assert, for instance, that some Japanese child who died in the quake or subsequent Tsunami “had it coming” because someone (who died before he was even born) bombed Pearl Harbor is absurd. Similarly, the notion that the child’s death was “Karma playing out” because some special-interest group (and their corresponding greased-palms in government) maintain the practice of whaling is idiotic, not to mention heartless.

“The fundamental axiom of libertarian theory is that 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.”
— Murray N. Rothbard

How does this relate to statism and statist thinking, you ask? Well, how many people accept the statist notion of “collateral damage”? We are told again and again that the tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children who die every year in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, etc., due to U.S. military strikes are collateral damage—that their deaths are a “neccessary evil” in the government’s retributive War on Terror. ‘We have to catch the bad-guys and, unfortunately, because these people happen to live in the same geographical region…they must die too‘. This immoral act of aggression against non-aggressors is simply shrugged off by most people. Why? Because to them, even God (the universe, karma, etc.) kills innocents to get at transgressors. So how could lowly humans be expected to be any better? And further, the repugnant notion of collective guilt is employed as a balm to sooth our own guilty feelings. We tell ourselves, because these children belong to the same race, culture, imaginary line in the sand called a ‘national border’, etc., they somehow must bear some responsibility for the attacks on the Twin Towers. Ridiculous! And yet the evil intellectual fraud that is collectivism allows us to turn a blind eye to murder.

These are the lies people tell themselves—to comfort themselves with uncertainty, to distance themselves from unpleasantness, and to avoid difficult moral choices.

But the truth is far more simple, powerful, and liberating! The universe is built from the bottom up, from fundamental forces and principles, to higher and higher levels of organization and order spontaneously emerging from their interaction—and is all the more beautiful, mysterious and powerful for it. And Justice demands that we, each individually, bear the burden and consequences of our actions—not someone else for ours, or ourselves for someone else’s.

“Anarchism, to me, means not only the denial of authority, not only a new economy, but a revision of the principles of morality. It means the development of the individual as well as the assertion of the individual. It means self-responsibility, and not leader worship.”
— Voltairine de Cleyre

When we finally learn to accept these truths we will be ready to apply them to every aspect of our lives. We will finally be ready to throw off the shackles of statism. We will be ready to accept the consequences of our own actions and not spread them to others. We will rise and fall of our own accord, neither limited from above nor seeking to limit those around us. We will, at last, embrace the powerful creativity and freedom that comes from the spontaneous organization inherent in voluntary markets.

But none of this will come to pass so long as we remain prisoners in our own minds to governments and gods.

In the summer of 2008 I was studying mathematics and computer science at the University of Arizona. I was also, briefly, learning to Tango. It was in one of my Tango classes that I met Kristine Goodwin, a senior manager at Raytheon Missle Systems. She offered to procure me an internship (and thus a foot in the door of this and other industries). I declined; but for a time, I wrestled with this decision.

“Non-cooperation with evil is as much a duty as is cooperation with good.”
— Mohandas Gandhi

This was long before I had even heard of agorism, anarcho-capitalism, libertarian anarchism, and the like. And while I had an implicit libertarian ethos (a respect for private property, the Non-Aggression Principle, etc.), I had not yet made my convictions explicit. I couldn’t even satisfactorily articulate my beliefs to the woman who is now my fiancée.

In retrospect, I’m pleased that I made the right choice. I cannot personally abide the thought that I could have had a hand in the design of some weapon which, at the whim of a distant bureaucrat under orders from his corporate cronies, could be lethally deployed against innocent men, women and children in some foreign land or even here at home.

It baffles me how anyone calling himself a libertarian could. I know a certain Raytheon employee who recently ran for office in Arizona’s Congressional District 8 under the banner of the Libertarian Party. It’s enough of a contraction that a person who damns the “political means” of living, as Oppenheimer put it, should run for public office. Even more so when the same person claims to abide by the Non-Aggression Principle and believes that the State is a murderous den of thieves, then chooses to serve one of the largest suppliers of the State’s terror machine.

One might argue that he is serving a private company and not the government—that it is the end-user which is violating the NAP and that he has no control over that. He could be likened to someone working for a gun manufacturer. However, this is not the case. The guns produced by the typical gun manufacturer have many non-governmental clients who use the weapons exclusively for morally justifiable reasons, such as hunting and self-defense. But Joe Blow isn’t going to be buying a Laser Area Defense System, Microwave weapon, or Joint Standoff Weapon from Raytheon. This company is a supplier for governments—predominantly the US. Thus, serving Raytheon serves the State. I hope that this man comes to realize that his efforts are empowering the same murderous, thieving empire he hopes to restrain — and resolves to serve no more .

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.”
— Étienne de La Boétie, Discourse on Voluntary Servitude

At any rate, what inspired this post was the following clip from the movie Good Will Hunting, which was recently posted by a liberty-loving friend on FaceBook.

classic anarcho-punk song by Crass, which needs to be heard by any of the non-libertarian anarchists who would impose their will on others by force (making them no different than the governments they replace).

Violent revolutions have unintended consequences—in statist terms: “collateral damage”. They have also been historically unsuccessful at eliminating statism, since they present no non-coercive, non-violent alternative. Angrily (and blindly) stripping away the old coercive regime with violence will only result in replacing it with another coercive, violent regime.

Agorism is about peaceful evolution away from statism through attrition and replacement of government services with voluntary free-market alternatives. If and when the final death-throes of the state lead to the use of force, agorists will act in kind only in self-defense. At that point, the state will have already withered to such an extent that it will go out “not with a bang, but a whimper”. The state will die and life will go on. It’s services will have been replaced with non-coercive free-market alternatives developed in the (formerly) grey and black markets. Only by being fully consistent with the Non-Aggression Principle can we hope to create a stateless society that is not based on aggression.

CrassBloody Revolution

You talk about your revolution, well, that’s fine
But what are you going to be doing come the time?
Are you going to be the big man with the tommy-gun?
Will you talk of freedom when the blood begins to run?
Well, freedom has no value if violence is the price
Don’t want your revolution, I want anarchy and peace

You talk of overthrowing power with violence as your tool
You speak of liberation and when the people rule
Well ain’t it people rule right now, what difference would there be?
Just another set of bigots with their rifle-sights on me

But what about those people who don’t want your new restrictions?
Those that disagree with you and have their own convictions?
You say they’ve got it wrong because they don’t agree with you
So when the revolution comes you’ll have to run them through
You say that revolution will bring freedom for us all
Well freedom just ain’t freedom when your back’s against the wall

You talk of overthrowing power with violence as your tool
You speak of liberation and when the people rule
Well ain’t it people rule right now, what difference would there be?
Just another set of bigots with their rifle-sights on me

Will you indoctrinate the masses to serve your new regime?
And simply do away with those whose views are too extreme?
Transportation details could be left to British rail
Where Zyklon B succeeded, North Sea Gas will fail
It’s just the same old story of man destroying man
We’ve got to look for other answers to the problems of this land

You talk of overthrowing power with violence as your tool
You speak of liberation and when the people rule
Well ain’t it people rule right now, what difference would there be?
Just another set of bigots with their rifle-sights on me

Vive la revolution, people of the world unite
Stand up men of courage, it’s your job to fight

It all seems very easy, this revolution game
But when you start to really play things won’t be quite the same
Your intellectual theories on how it’s going to be
Don’t seem to take into account the true reality
Cos the truth of what you’re saying, as you sit there sipping beer
Is pain and death and suffering, but of course you wouldn’t care

You’re far too much of a man for that, if Mao did it so can you
What’s the freedom of us all against the suffering of the few?
That’s the kind of self-deception that killed ten million jews
Just the same false logic that all power-mongers use
So don’t think you can fool me with your political tricks
Political right, political left, you can keep your politics
Government is government and all government is force
Left or right, right or left, it takes the same old course
Oppression and restriction, regulation, rule and law
The seizure of that power is all your revolution’s for
You romanticise your heroes, quote from Marx and Mao
Well their ideas of freedom are just oppression now

Nothing changed for all the death, that their ideas created
It’s just the same fascistic games, but the rules aren’t clearly stated
Nothing’s really different cos all government’s the same
They can call it freedom, but slavery is the game

Nothing changed for all the death, that their ideas created
It’s just the same fascistic games, but the rules aren’t clearly stated
Nothing’s really different cos all government’s the same
They can call it freedom, but slavery is the game
There’s nothing that you offer but a dream of last years hero
The truth of revolution, brother………………. is year zero.