Tuesday, July 21, 2015

ZAPping the NAP

There's a lot of talk in libertarian circles about the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), also known as the Zero Aggression Principle (ZAP). Unfortunately, too many libertarians discuss it as though it were a law of nature that somebody discovered, like e=mc2 or the germ theory of disease. It isn't anything of the kind. It's a (drum roll) social construct. No, really, an actual social construct, devised by a human mind as a proposal for a simple rule of ethics, not a description of reality. A law of nature is a description of reality, devised to explain observed facts. A rule of ethics is meant to guide human behavior, not to describe it. It's test is not whether people behave that way, but whether, if they did behave that way, it would result in a stable social order. Some such ethical social constructs are fairly stable, like Catholicism or most of what Machiavelli came up with. The former has evolved rules of thumb over the centuries that work fairly well in keeping civilization going without too much agony, the latter was deliberately devised to do all that.

The ZAP, then, is not something you observe happening, but rather something you try to get people to agree to. It's an echo, sort of, of the golden rule, obviously, which explicitly states what you ought to do, not what you do do.

This thinking was inspired, BTW, by a discussion on Facebook [link] wherein my good friend Matt Bailey (who gets at least half credit for the cartoon up there) tries mightily to show that the ZAP only works when enough people agree to abide by it as an ethical principle. And, I might add, it's only really workable when it's limited to reciprocity. That is, I observe the ZAP with those who also observe it with respect to me. In this, it's oddly similar to pacifism as an ethical principle. If you apply it promiscuously, it's suicidal. If you employ it only with others who agree to employ it with you, it works just fine. In fact, it works all the time, with most people, who don't go around attacking other people at random. But you don't call it "pacifism" unless it is promiscuous.

Anyhow, too many people misuse the ZAP, extending it beyond its reasonable area of application to the use of it in any and all situations, where it would die a quick death, because in most human societies throughout history, aggression is automatic and necessary against the out-group, which can be assumed not to share any zero aggression ideas.

One of the best examples of this is the idiot libertarian notion that one mustn't "aggress" against peaceful foreigners who sneak across the border to soak up the goodies that you and your ancestors produced. No, one must let them in and pay one's taxes (Yeah, you have to. Just try not doing it.) to subsidize them so they can work cheap for the guys who can therefore cut your wages or not hire you in the first place. And wait till they actually rob or rape or kill you, and then you can, when it's too late, do something about it. Or not. With Obama, it's usually not.

I'll finish up here with a quote from Matt Bailey that's too long for a quibcag:

A useful philosophy should decide what you want out of the world and go about getting it, in a practical manner that takes note of objective reality. If you want others to go along with your idea, you should probably explain how it benefits them, instead of trying to philosophize/moralize them into conversion. If they remain intractable or in fact your idea DOESN'T really benefit them, then you're going to have to overcome them at the ballot box/and or the battlefield if you want your idea to carry the day.


  1. Since I literally grew up within yards of the Rio Grande and still live minutes from the nearest legal crossing into Mexico: There are some people who cross over into the United states illegally looking for honest work. There are others who come to steal, sell drugs, exploit other illegal aliens, rape, and murder. This second bunch have already committed an act of aggression. they are not protected by the ZAP, which doesn't include giving the other guy "the first move" (see The Outlaw Josey Wales). read Lines and Shadows by Joseph Wambaugh to get a hint of what went on then and is going on now, even where the Border is mostly sealed.
    To give you a hint how wild and wooly it can get in mostly peaceful El Paso., I know a Border Patrol agent who one time had to tackle and subdue a smuggler (can't remember people or drugs) in the alley in back of his (BP Agents) house.

  2. 1. It is fairly obvious that the subset of people desperate to flee their own country and cross into another illegally will contain a larger percentage of criminals than the general population of either Mexico or the United States. Crossing the Rio Bravo to escape the law is a centuries old tradition in both countries.

    2. There are other problems with immigration that don't involve criminality, and that's not an indictment of Mexico or Mexicans as a whole. By definition, the most successful Mexicans do not immigrate illicitly. Virtually any country could cause problems for another by dumping the bottom of its social ladder on another nation.

  3. Best discussion I've seen of the non-aggression principle. She makes a good case that it's vacuous. It surprised me.


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  5. Yeah, well this non-aggression principle is just stupid all day. Aggression is not illegal. Stealing raping and murder are illegal here, but aggressive tendencies are what separates the Men from the boys and sissies who would rather be a woman. This is just as stupid as feminism who tells boys to vacuum the rug and mop the floor and share the chores so their wives have the time to fuck other men who can't be used as a doormat.
    Life is all about struggle. Anyone who doesn't fight will either die or be enslaved by those who will. Peace is unknown to the weak. Peace is what happens when you destroy your enemies, see them flee before you and listen to the lamentations of their women. Badasses don't need to apologize because only a fool would expect them to...