Tired: The Non-Aggression Principle
From the Social Justice Encyclopedia, but still an acceptable definition:
The non-aggression principle (NAP) (also called the non-aggression axiom, or the anti-coercion or zero aggression principle or non-initiation of force) is an ethical principle that forbids actions that are inconsistent with libertarianism’s conception of property rights and other rights. The principle asserts that violation of these rights is “aggression“. NAP advocates deem violation of such rights to be a wrongful “initiation of force” by one party against another. The principle is a deontological (or rule-based) ethical stance. The NAP is considered by its supporters to be a defining principle of libertarianism. The NAP conception of aggression is dependent on and closely linked to a particular conception of property rights, since aggression in this context is defined by what a person’s property rights are. Because the principle defines aggression in libertarian terms, use of the NAP as a justification for libertarianism has been criticized as circular reasoning.
The NAP is an exercise in circular reasoning (tautology). It depends on a definition of property rights which must first be accepted. This is axiomatic thinking, which is the root of any logical system. The problem with logical systems? They are purely conceptual, they are merely models, which may or may not have any reference back to reality (empirical content).
In a math problem we start with certain axiomatic rules, such as the order of operations and the logical operations themselves, then we say “let X = 5″ and we can construct a logical proof that a certain set of operations will yield a consistent result. The problem? Well, if X changes from 5 to 7 in the middle of the operation, then it fails. How can X change from 5 to 7? If you’ve ever written code then you have probably made the beginner mistake of referencing a global variable in a function, in which case X may then be modified outside of the scope of the local function. So, you think X = 5, but somewhere else, while you aren’t looking, X becomes 7 and your perfectly logical function fails.
In this software example, the function is logically correct, provided that X does not change due to an outside force. In other words, the model works correctly, until it is tested empirically, in which case it can fail. This is the central problem of the NAP, the model doesn’t work in the real world (it cannot survive empirical criticism).
The axiomatic basis of the NAP is the conception of property, as though property is real, as opposed to merely being an norm, or an agreement of behavior. I explain this fully in the post Property and Norms. The NAP depends upon the Lockean Labor Theory of Property, which asserts that an object becomes property once a human homesteads it or mixes his labor with nature. What is the mechanism of the transmutation of an object into property? No one knows. How does the labor mix itself with nature? Are there atomic bonds which are broken and reformed during this process? No idea. Feasibly, it could be the same mechanism that powers transubstantiation: the change of substance by which the bread and the wine offered in the sacrifice of the sacrament of the Eucharist during the Mass, become, in reality, the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Or maybe it is the same process by which ancient alchemists could transmute lead into gold. Who knows? No libertarian alive can explain exactly how this process occurs, without in essence resorting to magic.
That’s how we know the NAP is tired.
Wired: The Non-Parasitism Principle
Curt Doolittle has never used this phrase (to my knowledge), it’s one of my own invention. I use it because I think it might be a useful bridge from Libertarianism to Propertarianism. An essential approach of the Propertarian method is to start from observable phenomena (empiricism) and work out from there.
Science currently warranties speech by requiring the following tests, that demonstrate we are not adding imaginary or allegorical content, to our statements:
1) External Correspondence (we can observe the phenomenon)
2) Internal Consistency (logical)
2.1) Identity : The Logic of Naming
2.2) Mathematics: The logic of relations
2.3) Physics: the logic of causation
2.4) Logic: the logic of language
3) Operationally defined (existentially possible)
4) Falsified (parsimonious)
The Labor Theory of Property fails on tests 1, 3 and 4. However, do notice that the LTP passes #2, it is logically consistent. It just happens to not be externally correspondent.
#1: We cannot observe the transmutation of an object into property.
#3: Because we cannot observe the operation, we cannot define the operation by which objects are transmuted into property.
#4: How is the LTP to be falsified? I don’t think it can be. How do you falsify the existence of an operation which cannot be observed? This is like trying to prove that God doesn’t exist.
What is the Non-Parasitism Principle?
The argument works like this:
- Living beings require resources to survive and reproduce.
- Living beings, given the choice between defending a required resource, or death, will choose to defend (conflict, violence) that which is required for survival and reproduction.
- Humans working in cooperation (conflict minimized) are able to produce more resources (which may be consumed for the purposes of survival and reproduction), than humans working separately (division of labor) or humans in conflict.
- Humans have an incentive to maintain the benefits of cooperation, and thus to discover mechanisms which maintain cooperation and to teach these mechanisms to others within a cooperative group (tradition, culture, norms).
- Parasitism (theft, fraud, murder, etc.) destroys the incentive to cooperate, which has the result of decreasing the benefits of cooperation within a group.
- The norm of non-parasitism, when discovered, disseminated and enforced maintains the incentive to cooperate and thus is a competitive advantage to those groups which implement the norm.
The NAP essentially states that it is morally wrong to aggress against another’s property, where property is some holy, magical thing that shall not be violated. The NPP essentially states that the the Norm of Property (non-parasitism) provides a competitive advantage to groups that maintain the norm, therefore there is an incentive to maintain the norm. Nothing magical to it.
In essence, the NAP and the NPP are similar, with the exception that the NPP yields a greatly expanded portfolio of capital (property) which must not be parasitized. The goal of the NAP is similar: to maintain group cooperation, but it’s simply a rationalization which is used to advocate for certain behavior (non-aggression), and it is fundamentally flawed because it depends on magical thinking.
The NPP has the advantage of being scientifically (testimonially) and biologically correct. It’s time to break magically thinking about property and rights, and learn that these are merely norms, traditions and culture (contracts).