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The Non-Aggression Principle: Treating Government like Mafia’s Grossly Retarded Big Brother

“The Libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the “nonaggression axiom.” “Aggression” is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion.”

Prof. Murray N. Rothbard, For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto

Besides the self-ownership and free choice axioms, the Non-Aggression Principle is the lynchpin of the philosophy known as libertarianism. As an ethical system for freedom, justice and prosperity, the Non-Aggression Principle simply states that “no one shall initiate the use of force or the threat of force.” This means that violence should never be employed against peaceful individual(s), however, peaceful individual(s) have the option to use force in self-defense.

The Non-Aggression Principle, sometimes called the Zero Aggression Principle, is applied to all human behavior. As such, it prohibits murder, rape, battery, kidnapping, robbery, enslavement, torture, and fraud. Libertarians see all aggressors, including governments, as bullies. To the libertarian, if it is wrong for an individual to commit violent crimes against another, the same restriction must be applied to the conduct of governments. If the average man in the street is prohibited from murdering or stealing, why should government possess some special legal right to commit these crimes?

If someone takes your property without permission, it is theft, regardless of how the money is used or who committed the violent act. Nor does it matter how many people are involved in the violent act. Theft is theft no matter if it is perpetrated by one robber or one thousand thugs. The injured individual is still victimized no matter if it is inflicted by street gangs – the Bloods, the Crips, the Mafia – or by the Internal Revenue Service.

It is improper for governments in a free society to be the initiators of force and violence. The American founders explicitly set up a very limited government. They wanted to prevent government from imposing coercive dictates and controls over its citizens. They saw government as an impartial referee, to protect individual rights from bullies, criminals and cheaters, not to be the major player.

The Non-Aggression Principle is perhaps one of the most important ethical ideologies to arrive in the latter half of the 20th Century. Time will tell whether governments will stop acting like dogs marking coveted new territories, and start behaving in a peaceful, civilized manner.

L.K. Samuels wrote these short opinion articles as chair of LPMC in the 1990s and later as Northern Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007). They are freely available to anyone who wishes to post or publish them.

Free Choice on Everything: A Libertarian Alternative

Individual choice makes people free. Choices give alternatives and flexibility. We want to be able to pick and choose what we think is best for ourselves and our children. We want to make the final decision. We want every opportunity to live life by our own rules. We hate being told what to do. If we wanted a dull, choiceless life, we would simply live with our parents under their rules for the rest of our lives. But that is not what freedom is about. Freedom is independence and self-responsibility. It is about individuals making their own decisions about their own bodies, lives and future. We want the ability to choose where to work, where to buy a home, what stores to patronize, and how to retire — all with an equal responsibility to make certain no one is physically harmed by our choices. This is our American heritage — decisions being made by the individual affected instead of by neighbors, pressure groups, lobbyists or central authorities. To choose is to give everyone the ability to make decisions. Without choice, only a selected few have that ability.

Unfortunately, the concept of freedom has suffered recently. Many have forgotten what it means. All too often, centralizing authorities make choices for citizens and disguise their control by offering “free” services — medical, housing, food, etc. — to be funded by people who may or may not ever use these services. Governments then place more controls on those who receive the freebies, in a futile attempt to stop waste and fraud. Taxpayers are forced to pay more into the mandatory system, and the beneficiaries are saddled with more draconian laws. The individual is no longer independent to make choices, but must seek permission from governmental bodies — bureaucratic committees, boards, councils, etc. — which mainly seek more control, money and power.  Freedom dies, the economy falls, and society becomes corrupt.

Free choice allows people to be autonomous, self-governing and self-reliant. It permits everyone to enjoy the successes of life or to experience the agony of mistakes. Freedom is the ability to mold our lives into our own creations and to seek out what we believe is best for ourselves and the world. Any other way would make us enslaved to the compulsory control of others, which is the antithesis of independence and individual liberty.

This article is from a series of short opinion pieces written by L.K. Samuels during the late 1990s and early 2000s as chair of the Libertarian Party of Monterey County and later as the Northern Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of California (2003-2007)