- The Essence of the Ruling Class
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
If you have government, you have a ruling class, by definition. No, I’m not talking about governance, the sort we see in managing property, a business, a charity, or any other private organization. A ruling class are those who calls themselves “government” or “the state“, or in some times and places “the church”, the organization(s) in society whose sole purpose of existing is to make and enforce rules, the first of which involve the generation of “revenue”. While that’s what the ruling class does, that’s not what the ruling class is. Here is the essence of what the ruling class is:
The ruling class is the only group of people in society allowed to make and enforce claims without supporting evidence.
Take a member of the non-ruling class (everyone else). Let’s call him John. John approaches me and tells me that I owe him money. Naturally, I inquire is to why he believes this. He tells me that because I’m wearing a blue shirt, I must pay him a fee.
I inquire further, “Why must I pay you a fee just because I’m wearing a blue shirt?”
He answers, “You’re in this area, and anyone wearing a blue shirt in this area must pay me a fee.” Then he lifts his own shirt to show me his gun. The decision is mine to either pay him his so-called “fee”, or risk getting hurt.
We’ve all either been there, seen it, or heard about it. What’s actually occurring here is a mugging, or in more formal terms, an act of extortion. Typically there’s no pretense of justification (clothing), but just, “Give me your wallet!” John has no evidence that I owe him a fee just because I’m wearing a blue shirt. His claim is completely arbitrary and only supported by his supposed willingness to hurt me if I don’t pay him. To any observer, John is a criminal engaging in a criminal act.
Let’s take another member of the non-ruling class. Let’s call him Dave. Dave approaches me and tells me that I owe him money. Once again, I inquire is to why he believes this. He opens his briefcase and shows me a loan agreement I made with his employer 12 months ago, which has come due. As I am always one to pay my debts, I hand him my debit card, which he swipes on his cell phone. He then prepares and signs documents declaring the loan paid in full, and we each go on our merry way. Dave is not a criminal, but rather, a businessman.
Although both John and Dave initially claimed that I owed them money, John’s claim was made without any supporting evidence, while Dave’s was not. Dave had factual evidence to support his claim that I owed him money. John only had a gun.
Now take a member of the ruling class. Let’s call him Officer Smaldiq. As I’m driving along the freeway minding my own business, a police cruiser gets behind me and turns on his red and blues, which equates to a demand to pull over. So I do.
Officer Smaldiq approaches my vehicle and informs me that I was “speeding” and that he is going to write me a ticket. I inquire is to the purpose of the ticket, and he informs me that the ticket means I have to pay his organization a fine.
I follow up, “I don’t understand, Officer Smaldiq, but why should I pay you anything. To my knowledge, I’ve done nothing wrong and owe you nothing.”
He sighs, and responds, “You were traveling 85mph in a 70mph zone. The law calls that speeding, and since you were speeding, you’ll have to pay us a fine.”
Then me, “Is it your claim that your law applies to me?”
Him, “Yes, of course it applies to you. It applies to everyone in this area.”
I scratch my chin, “Do you have personal, first-hand knowledge that the law applies to me just because I’m in this area?”
Getting annoyed, he responds, “Yes, I do! Do you see this badge? That badge means I have authority to enforce the law in this area.”
Me again, “I’m not asking what authority you have. Since you are claiming personal, first-hand knowledge, what evidence can you give me to support your claim that the law applies to me just because I’m in this area?”
Getting triggered due to my asking him uncomfortable questions, he responds, “The law applies to everyone in this area, sir!”
Me, “Aren’t you just repeating your claim without offering any supporting evidence?”
At this point he puts his right hand on top of his gun holster and unbuttons it. He then demands that I exit the vehicle. Since it’s obvious that I risk getting shot if I don’t comply, I exit the vehicle.
The preceding could unfold in any number of ways. I could have taken the ticket and then proceeded to question the prosecutor in like fashion. Or after the prosecutor chooses to proceed charging me without any evidence supporting his claim that his laws apply to me, question him and/or the officer on the stand, agitating all of them, and their colleague, the judge.
Or, such questions can be directed at “city councils” or any number of bureaucrats or politicians or law professors or clergy who are claiming people must behave in certain ways, or pay them. In every case, their final resort to prove their claim that their laws apply will not be to provide any factual evidence, rather, it will be to pull their gun out and threaten me with it.
So ask yourself, which of the two individuals above is more like members of the ruling class, John the mugger or Dave the businessman? There is no denying, without commiting grievous intellectual sin, that what sets the ruling class apart from the rest of society is their willingness and success to make and enforce claims without supporting evidence. Which begs the question, why are they so successful?
Because people like you and I allow them to get away with it due to our ignorance, cowardice, and/or complacency.
- Feminism or Masculinism? Neither…
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
What would a non-argumentative definition of feminism look like? Ideally, feminists, non-feminists, and anti-feminists could all endorse it. If that’s asking too much, all these groups should at least be able to accept the proposed definition as a rough approximation of the position they affirm or deny. My preferred candidate:
feminism: the view that society generally treats men more fairly than women
What’s good about my definition?
First, the definition doesn’t include everyone who thinks that our society treats women unfairly to some degree. In the real world, of course, every member of every group experiences unfairness on occasion.
Second, a large majority of self-identified feminists hold the view I ascribe to them. Indeed, if someone said, “I’m a feminist, but I think society generally treats women more fairly than men,” most listeners would simply be confused.
Third, a large majority of self-identified non-feminists disbelieve the view I ascribe to feminists. If you think, “Society treats both genders equally well,” or “Society treats women more fairly than men,” you’re highly unlikely to see yourself as a feminist.
I really, really, really like this definition of feminism. I think it fits very well with my overall experience with feminists from various “waves”. According to this definition, you correctly identify as or are identified as a “feminist” if you believe that society generally treats men more fairly than women.
Am I a feminist? No, I do not believe so. If I’m not a feminist, does that mean I’m a masculinist? Well, let us offer the same non-argumentative definition of feminism, but replace it with masculinism:
masculinism: the view that society generally treats women more fairly than men
That’s certainly something to think about, but no, I do not believe that I fit that definition. I suppose it would be most accurate to say that I am neither a feminist, nor a masculinist. What I am is somebody who believes that both men and women are treated unfairly, in different ways.
Men were/are drafted into military service to be used as cannon fodder, biased against in a custody battle or domestic violence dispute, treated as a pedophile if they associate with children, portrayed as bumbling and foolish fathers in popular media, told to “man up” instead of receive real help for mental and psychological issues, expected to work the most dangerous jobs, have their need for physical touch viewed as sexual only, routinely have their genitals mutilated, assumed to be weak or incompetent if they choose to be a stay-at-home dad, et cetera.
Women are constantly told they are victims, were/are considered property of their fathers and husbands, considered slutty if they show a desire for sex, presumed incompetent at many tasks commonly performed by men, required to wear top clothing (and cover up while breastfeeding), weren’t/aren’t allowed to vote in democratic government elections, often told they should prioritize the well-being of their husband and children over their own, have their insecurities over their bodies encouraged, communally pressured to bear children, et cetera.
In light of the many and varied types of unfairness that both men and women endure today and have endured throughout history, I can’t say that one gender has been treated more unfairly than the other. Both are and have been treated like shit for the benefit of others.
But maybe we can agree that the one group of people that is and has been treated the most unfairly… is children.
Is there a word for the view that society generally treats adults more fairly than children? I can’t find one, but here’s a related word: childism. Chantel Quick wrote about this last September:
Racism, classism, ableism, nationalism are all things so many of us want to understandably speak out on and bring awareness to, but hardly anyone wants to acknowledge where all the -isms begin, and that is childism: a systemic belief and prejudice against children on the ground of a belief that they are property and can (or even should) be controlled, enslaved, or removed to serve adult needs.
In addition to the two open-ended lists above on how men and women are treated unfairly, children in general must also endure such routine injustices as having their bodily autonomy violated, their curiosity punished, their passions and interests disregarded, their need for expression and emotional release disrespected, their desire to work, earn money, and learn responsibility made illegal, forced to eat when they aren’t hungry, forced to participate in activities they dislike, forced to associate with people they hate or fear, et cetera. The list could go on, and on, and on…
Goddamnit we humans sure have treated other humans like shit, especially our young. What the fuck is wrong with us? In any event, I’ve resolved to engage in childism no longer, and my children couldn’t be happier. Same goes for treating other men and women unfairly. Please consider doing likewise.
- Advice to My Children, and Everyone Else
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
As my children grow up, they are beginning to ask more questions about complex concepts. In the last few weeks, my 8yo daughter has asked me what a citizen is and whether or not I believe in God. Answering those objectively while providing food for thought was a difficult and personally rewarding experience for me.
While driving my 12yo son to an orthofacial surgery consultation this week (part of his orthodontic treatment to expose a stubborn canine), we had some time to kill, so I asked him what he knew about “anarchism”. Not much. His only exposure has been the Green Arrow villain “Anarky” and seeing the circle-A symbol in a few video games.
I thought it was a good time to introduce the concept, which is very simple. I started with etymology. “An” is without and “archy” is rulers in the original Greek. Anarchy means “without rulers”. The next step was talking about what a “ruler” is, and how its different from a leader. Rulers are people who try to control other people by threats or force. Leaders are people who inspire others to listen or to follow them. He guessed correctly at what kind of people are rulers, ie. presidents, kings, and criminals.
Then I told him that because I don’t believe that people should be rulers over other people, I considered myself an anarchist. I asked him if he was an anarchist, and he said he was. Then we talked about parents being rulers over their children and what that looks like. This went into my commitment not to be a ruler over him, even though in the past I was. He remembered those experiences, I’m sad to say. But he knows I’m trying, and now he understands a little bit more about my philosophical and ethical reasons for trying not using violence or coercion toward him in any respect.
I’ve given this entire learning experience some thought over the last few days, and the following stanza sums up my principles nicely:
Don’t hurt people.
Don’t take their stuff.
Don’t ask permission.
This is the advice I will be giving and reinforcing in my children as opportunity arises, and its advice I give to the rest of humanity. Let’s dig deeper.
Don’t Hurt People
I don’t believe that hurting people is ever the proper course of action in getting what I want out of life. It’s sure to create enemies who will desire to hurt me back. Plus, I won’t be doing my conscience and future happiness any favors by living a life of victimizing other people. I desire peace and society with my fellow human beings, and hurting them is a poor way to achieve it.
Don’t Take Their Stuff
Like hurting people, taking their stuff is wrong for all the same reasons, plus, I don’t want people taking my stuff. I work hard for the stuff that I own, which brings my life comfort and enjoyment. When property is insecure, life and markets are far more unpredictable and uncertain. People can’t solve problems effectively when the tools to do so are always at risk of confiscation by criminals.
Don’t Ask Permission
I know what you might be thinking, doesn’t this contradict the first two points of advice? Actually, no, because this final point of advice can only be properly understood within the context of the first two. Hence I stuck it at the end. If you’re following all three points of advice, then there’s no conflict. What you aren’t asking for permission for is not something that would hurt another person or affect their stuff. What you aren’t asking permission for is living your life on your own terms, and allowing everyone else the same freedom. So long as what you are doing does not violate the first two points of advice, do it without shame.
That’s all there is to the anarchist philosophy, really. The anarchist doesn’t hurt other people or take their stuff. And the anarchist doesn’t ask permission to do what he’s allowed to do by virtue of it not being a criminal action. Asking permission to exercise liberties is to recognize authority that doesn’t really exist. Obviously you may do so for practical reasons as a form of risk mitigation, I get that, but this, in my opinion, shouldn’t be our default approach to living our life on our own terms. (Rather, engage in civil disobedience and challenge their claims of jurisdiction.)
What do you think about this advice?
- The Choice is Voice or Violence
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
It’s so incredibly bizarre to me to see college students chanting or yelling in order to prevent someone they disagree with from speaking. What in the world is going on at the university these days?! Isn’t college where you are supposed to have your preconceived and prejudiced ideas challenged?
As much as capitalistic tendencies have done for humanity over the last two hundred years, children in large measure are raised in socialism. They only get bits and pieces of capitalism as it falls from the adults’ table.
Children are regularly silenced, coerced, and traumatized, so is it any wonder that some might not internalize the importance of allowing everybody a chance to voice their opinions? Not really.
If there’s a constant in human nature over the millenia that we have existed, it’s this: you will allow voice, or you will get violence. Free speech is arguably the greatest liberty we have in terms of its capabilities to speak truth to power and topple status quos. Hence its the first liberty to be forcefully removed by the powers that be who profit so richly from certain ideas remaining en vogue.
And the result of silencing voice? Sooner or later, silenced people refuse to tolerate their censorship, and pick up a stick. You see it in antisocial, violent behavior that emerges in silenced, coerced, and traumatized children. You see it in revolutionary young people. You see it in oppressed minorities and repressed majorities who clamor for freedom.
The bigger issue here, although, is what that voice means. Does it result in desired outcomes? Or does it result in one-size-fits-all central authoritarian policy? Even the perception of having a voice quells much violence, methinks, but not forever.
Expression, I believe, is a basic human need, like food, water, shelter, and social connection. When that need is individually or institutionally violated, nasty effects may, nay, will be realized.
Are you silencing or censoring your children? Are you silencing or censoring your partner? Are you silencing or censoring your peers? Are you silencing or censoring your enemies? Think twice, please.
- In Few Words, What is Freedom?
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
Here’s what I came up with while driving home just now, after checking in on my Airbnb which was just cleaned and prepped for my next guests, on the question, “What is freedom?”
Freedom is living life on my own terms, and respecting the freedom of everyone else to do likewise.
There are volumes of philosophical thinking on freedom packed within that one simple, elegant sentence. Try to imagine living under such a condition as this. When freedom is respected totally in society, there is no crime, public or private. The only forces standing in the way of doing anything you want in life are completely natural.
As a toddler, if you want to explore something, you are showed how to explore it safely. As a child, if you want to scream and play, you are showed how to do so in a suitable environment. As an adolescent, if you want to bury your head in books or video games, your chosen activities are respected. As an adult, if you want to build a business, nobody except unimpressed potential customers stand in your way.
These are but a microscopic fraction of the types of activities free people may engage in without hindrance. The only obstacles that must be dealt with are those which the universe has put in our way. Never are they the unjustified demands of other people. If someone has something we want, we ask them how we may get it for ourselves.
Freedom is beautiful. It’s a warm cup of coffee in the morning, a sunny walk or drive to our preferred destination, an activity engaged in for the sake of interest, and the loving arms of someone who loves and cares about us.
I think that if we want freedom, we must acknowledge what freedom is, and commit to living in freedom. My life is mine to do with as I please, as is yours. I don’t ask for permission, and neither should you.
- Am I Being Detained?
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
What is the practical difference between a state (government) and any other institution in society? The license to detain (coercively restrain, by threat or physical force) a person indefinitely without just cause, I’d say. Let’s think it through.
“Just cause” is a relative concept. It means different things in different contexts. In the context of voluntaryist legal theory (the only logically and ethically valid kind of legal theory, methinks), someone has just cause to temporarily detain another person when that person is in the process of committing a crime.
Crimes are not simply the violation of a rule, rather, crimes are those behaviors which cause injury to another person or their property. Crimes are the result of aggression. All behaviors which are not criminal, are liberties. I explore this in more detail in “Two Types of Laws; The Voluntaryist Perspective on Politics“. During the commission of a crime, a person may be justifiable detained. It’s a matter of self defense.
May a person accused of a crime after the fact be detained? That depends on whether or not they actually committed the crime. Even in a free society, people accused of crime will be detained when the preponderance of evidence is such that the person or institution attempting detention is confident of guilt. After all, they are liable for injury if their detention is without just cause. Arrest someone who, it turns out, is innocent of any wrongdoing, and you’ve committed the crime of kidnapping and false imprisonment yourself. Restitution is owed.
States routinely detain people not on criminal grounds herein defined, but for the violation of a rule. This is patently unjust. Further, states protect their officers on the basis of qualified immunity, as well as itself on the basis of sovereign immunity. Only states enjoy these privileges, which protect its officers and its stakeholders from liability for wrongdoing.
Regular people, churches, charities, businesses, corporations, et cetera are far less likely to answer in the affirmative with sufficient follow through to the question, “Am I being detained?” They have their own financial interests to protect. For this reason, and many others, states are uniquely positioned as institutions in society with a license to detain a person indefinitely without just cause.
- How the State Has Usurped the Administration of Justice
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
The state has coercively usurped the important societal function of administering justice, or rather, the righting of wrongs. Even so, those who have been damaged may still sue for redress in state courts dedicated to ruling on tort claims. These sorts of cases are typically titled something like, “John Doe vs. Jack Mayweather”. John Doe has suffered damages to some degree by Jack Mayweather, he alleges, and so John appeals to the state to hear his case, decide impartially, and then use its power to enforce its decision.
Sometimes these “civil suits” involve many plaintiffs, and at a certain number, they take on the moniker of a “class action”. Companies and other institutions are usually the defendants, being accused of some wrongdoing, in class action cases. Whether large or small, civil suits are an attempt to seek justice by those who believe they have been made the victims of injustice. In a free society, one without a central authority monopolizing the administration of justice, all grievance redress would be torts, or civil suits.
In an unfree society, one with a central authority monopolizing the administration of justice, there are two types of suits: tort and criminal. Torts, as already explained, are civil suits, titled, “Party A vs. Party B”. Crimes, on the other hand, are always of the nature of being a violation of a law, or statute, and are categorized by degrees, eg. a felony, a misdemeanor, et cetera. The plaintiff in criminal suits are always named, “The State”, so a typical title of a criminal suit would be something like, “The State vs. Jack Mayweather”. What is always primarily alleged is the violation of a statute. The statute may be a prohibition of driving a certain speed, parking a vehicle in a certain spot, possessing a certain item, or hurting another person. In every case, what the defendant is being accused of is the violation of a rule.
Being accused of violating someone’s rules begs the question: what does that rule have to with the defendant? The non-responsive answer to this question given by people who call themselves “government” is something along the lines of, “You did what the law says you shouldn’t within the territorial jurisdiction of the law.” This answer is nonresponsive because it merely repeats the claim that the defendant violated the law. When pressed by being asked what evidence these people are relying on to support their claim that the law applies just because of the defendants physical location, they will again offer a non-responsive answer to the effect of, “The law is the law, and it applies to everyone!”
What soon becomes obvious to the honest seeker of truth is that these claims of jurisdiction are totally without factual merit. They are the arbitrary opinion of people who wish to profit at others’ expense. When the allegation involves only the disregard or disobeying of a law against nonviolent action (ie. a liberty), this reality is easier to swallow. However, when the allegation involves not only the violation of a law, but also an injured party, this reality is a bitter pill.
The issue at the heart of some people accusing other people of violating their rules is due process. The attempt to pass off arbitrary opinion as concrete fact in order to demonstrate guilt is a gregious violation of a defendant’s right to be treated fairly, to be presumed innocent, and to have facts and evidence prove his guilt. Instead, plaintiffs are claiming their rules apply, and because they apply, the prohibited activity resulted in a valid and justifiable claim by the plaintiff to take possession of the life, liberty, or property of the defendant.
In every “The State vs.” suit, the defendant is being accused of violating an applicable law. Everything else is secondary, and in every case the injured party is “The State”, not the actual victim(s) of a violent crime. The grievance being redressed is not that which is being held by the true victim(s) of a violent crime, but that of “The State” having its rules disobeyed.
And what is the result of a conviction in such a criminal suit brought by “The State”? The defendant is charged, must pay some fine to which “the State” will profit, and/or lose his freedom by being forcefully kidnapped and thrown in prison, of which his life expenses are paid not by “the State”, but by everybody else, including the original victim(s). As should be obvious, this is the creation of more injustice and the prevention of justice on behalf of those who were wronged.
Every “The State vs.” criminal suit amounts to the violation of due process, the prevention of justice sought by victim(s), and the increase of injustice throughout society in which the particular group of people calling themselves “government” operate. It matters not what the charge is, whether or not it involves a violent act. In every instance, “The State” is coercively usurping the administration of justice for its own gain. It’s high time society recognizes this fact, and refuses to tolerate it.
- Laws Don’t Deter Crime, They Create Crime
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
Not to toot my own horn, but the voluntaryist is in the unique position of having a clear perspective on what laws created by groups of people calling themselves “government” really are. The first point to understand is that laws are an opinion backed by force. The second point to understand is that laws fall under one of two types: 1) those which prohibit crime (aggression), and 2) those which prohibit liberties.
A major superstition maintained by those who believe in government (the state) is that without their laws, criminals will run rampant in the street preying on anybody and everybody who can’t personally defend themselves. Laws that prescribe harsh punishments on criminal behavior, it is believed, will deter most people from engaging in a life of crime.
But I don’t believe that’s true. In fact, I believe the opposite is true: laws don’t deter crime, they create crime. How, you ask as you lean forward and rub your chin?
Government law creates crimes in two ways. The first is by creating laws that prohibit liberties. Immediately, anybody who engages in these now prohibited liberties are by definition, committing a crime. As the ink dries on the newly minted law of the land, entire classes of people are labeled as criminal through no fault of their own. It doesn’t matter that the liberties in which they engage are peaceful and nonviolent. Such prohibited liberties include things like using recreational drugs, drinking alcohol, operating a business, selling sexual services, braiding hair, feeding the poor, et cetera.
The second is related to the first, the prohibition of liberties creates black markets in the provision of now prohibited goods and services. And who is poised to make large sums of money in black markets? Ruthless entrepreneurial types who are less risk averse and more comfortable with the use of violence than others. Can this be denied? Not without denying reality and history.
It’s a fact of life, I’m afraid. Government laws do not deter crime, they create it. What deters crime is the likelihood of being shot or stabbed by your victim (or by a vigilante). When society is well armed (either culturally or physically), criminals think twice. Laws prohibiting liberties, including the liberty to adequately defend oneself, should be repealed or left unenforced if society is to rid itself of crime.
- “Daddy, What’s a Citizen?”
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
Our family nighttime routine includes watching a show or two together before going to bed. One of the Netflix series we are enjoying is “One Day at a Time“, which showcases a Cuban-American family of 4 (single mother, 2 teenagers, a grandma) and their goofy Canadian landlord.
Last night’s episode touched on the idea of obtaining American citizenship and the “importance” of voting. Typical mainstream thought, but the grandma had always resisted obtaining American citizenship because it meant renouncing her Cuban citizenship, and she’s not yet ready to do that. She still has hope that she’ll be able to return one day to see the country following better political leadership. The irony in the critical implication of Cuban government to an episode dedicated to promoting voting was not lost on me.
As is my children’s wont when encountering ideas they are unfamiliar with, my daughter asked me, “What’s a citizen?”
My wife became (allegedly) an American citizen 9 years ago this month. I became (allegedly) an American citizen the moment I was born, in Salt Lake City.
This question is not as easy to answer for me as it once was. Before understanding the facts about government, I would have answered to the effect of , “A citizen is someone who is a recognized subject of the government.” *almost vomits* (My apologies, but that was very difficult to write.)
Or rather, in a way understandable to an 8-year-old. Today, that’s not the answer that I can honestly give. So at first, I resisted, and made a few jokes. I needed to time to think on it. While we were brushing our teeth, the following ensued:
Me: Rosie, let me help you understand what a citizen is.
Me: Let’s say that I didn’t like pink hair and I told you that I was making a rule that nobody could dye their hair pink who lived around here, including you. If you did, then I would put you in jail. Would that make me a good guy, or a bad guy?
Rosie: That would make you a bad guy.
Me: That’s right. Because you can dye your hair pink if you want and it’s nobody else’s business.
Me: That’s sort of like what being a citizen, or not, means. It means that somebody else’s rules interfere with how you want to live your life. And if you don’t follow their rules, they will put you in jail.
Rosie: Hmm… okay.
I have no doubt this or related questions will come my way in the future. I want to be very careful not to teach my kids to believe in either lies, myths, or things that are not true. It’s not easy. The above is the best way I could think of, using her language, and I’m sure very little of what I conveyed really stuck.
Laws regarding citizenship are like any other laws: arbitrary opinions by busybodies backed up by violence. If these laws don’t apply, and there’s not a single shred of evidence that they do, then nobody is, factually, a citizen. Some people just think they are, and are willing to use violence in support of their belief.
That’s absolutely terrible, in my opinion.
- When Does Action Become Aggression?
Post by Skyler J. Collins (Editor).
A few discussions recently have got me thinking about when physical force may be justifiably used in response to the actions of others. There’s little controversy around using physical force to defending oneself when being physically attacked. Even most pacifists (in my experience) acknowledge that not using physical force even in those instances is a personal choice, not an ethical statement.
I consider the libertarian non-aggression principle to be quite useful most of the time in determining justified action and reaction utilizing physical force. Let me begin by defining my terms.
Physical force is the application of energy in action or movement. Examples: walking around the block; hugging a loved one; picking up or moving stuff around.
Violence is physical force applied in a destructive or potentially destructive way. Examples: punching somebody; throwing a glass against the wall; breaking an object apart.
Aggression is the initiation of physical force or violence against another person or their property without their permission. Examples: hugging someone without their permission; punching somebody without their permission; throwing somebody else’s glass against the wall without the permission of either the glass or wall owners; taking, handling, or breaking somebody else’s property without their permission.
The libertarian non-aggression principle states that a person is not justified in using aggression against other people or their property. It’s really quite unremarkable, but has enormous implications. With this principle, we can categorize most actions as either justified, or not. Here are two examples: punching a boxing opponent is justified, punching a stranger is not; moving my friend’s sofa to his new apartment is justified, moving a stranger’s sofa to my new apartment is not.
Libertarians love analyzing which actions on the fringe of human behavior constitute aggression, and which do not. The following is an example of just such analysis.
At what point should an action be considered aggression, of which it would be justified in responding with physical force or violence? Most obvious forms of uninvited physical force or violence should be considered aggression. I’ve given some examples of those. Other examples are different types of theft, battery, kidnap, rape, and murder.
I posit that trespassing, the act of entering another person’s property, is not always aggression. Sometimes it is, such as when the owner is unsure of a trespasser’s intent. Is the trespasser lost, or does he plan on hurting or robbing me or my property? It’s an unknown, and so treating it as aggression or probable aggression is not unreasonable. However, I believe there are cases where classifying a trespass as aggression is not reasonable.
Here’s one such case: a transient walking through a golf course. In this case, the transient is merely passing through. He’s not damaging or displacing the golf course in any quantifiable way. I would consider any use of physical force or violence against his person or property to be unjustified, and thus an act of aggression in and of itself. He would thus be justified in using physical force or violence in self-defense.
No, he does not have permission by the golf course owner, and yes his passing through the golf course is technically a trespass. However, it is not a trespass in any meaningful way, certainly not to the extent needed to justify the use of physical force or violence against him. What if he’s been approached once before and asked not to pass through? What if he’s been approached multiple times in the past and asked not to pass through? I still consider the trespass benign and all that entails.
At this point, the only recourse the golf course owner has is in better security. If he doesn’t want transients passing through, he should build a fence.
I think the logic used in this analysis can be applied to all sorts of situations. The relevant key in determining when the solution is physical force or violence, or when the solution is better security is the concept of quantifiable damage. Does the action produce or will it probably produce quantifiable damage? In the case of a transient passthrough, the answer seems to me to be negative.
What about a case where someone picks up and looks at someone else’s property without permission? It seems the answer is negative as well. What about a case where someone decides to squat in an unoccupied vacation home? It seems the answer is affirmative to me, as this action typically requires breaking before entering, displacement of property inside, and the threat of damage to property and/or the owners once they arrive.
Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” I consider that apropos on the question of how to prevent unwanted albeit non-aggressive actions by others as it concerns our property. I predict that in a totally free society, security will be a higher expense on our personal financial statements than will be reactionary force or violence. And without a central authority either monopolizing or subsidizing the use of violence, property norms will develop in such a way as to minimize these expenses.
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