Re: Why We Need the Nonaggression Axiom

@Alex Peak: “The problem with the whole it’s-okay-to-initiate-force-against-nonviolent-assholes idea is problematic because of the slippery slope.”

I suppose that there is a slope, and maybe the slope is slippery, but is that really what you see as the problem with the judgment that “it’s Ok to use violence against people who are being major assholes”? I mean, when I read something like that, my main problem with it is that it’s a despicable sentiment, which praises thuggishness and the use of violence with the explicit purpose of domination and control. It may also have downstream consequences on other people’s behaviors in different situations which also suck, but even if it does not have those downstream consequences, it’s still a pretty sucky attempt when it comes to being a human being.

@Alex Peak: “None of this ought to be taken as a rejection of what Charles Johnson calls thick libertarianism. My understanding of (certain approaches to) thick libertarianism is that it is the view that liberty would be most easily achieved or maintained if society also adopted certain norms—e.g., rejecting racism, sexism, and homophobia—but that an embrace of these norms needs not, and ought not, be coupled with a rejection of the nonaggression axiom.”

Thanks for the nod; you’re certainly right that the thick conceptions of libertarianism that I would defend are not conceptions where the idea is to provide loopholes for justified aggressive force or fraud, or where the “thickness” erases the content of the “libertarianism” in select cases. The idea is that there are forms of oppression, abuse, social evils, etc. which are acted out by means other than physical force or fraud, and it’s important to recognize these where they exist. Not so that you can respond to them with aggression, but rather so that non-aggressive forms of oppression or abuse can be met with serious, confrontational, nonviolent resistance.

@Alex Peak: “And libertarianism, very simply, is the belief that people should be free from aggression”

@Alex Gleason: “Apparently you have cast Egoists out of the libertarian movement, Mr. Peak.”

I’m not sure how. There is nothing in most versions of philosophical egoism which require the egoist to be in favor of aggression (as Alex defines it). Indeed, egoists have generally been against that, and thought that people should be free from it; although they suggest that it’s instrumentally or strategically valuable, rather than being valuable for its own sake. That’s rather the point of Stirner’s Union of Egoists — the claim that there are egoistic reasons for free selves to abandon aggression in favor of mutual alliance.

@Jacob Vardy: “are you familiar with the Spanish term ‘acracia?'”

There is a cognate term in English-language philosophical writing, usually spelled “akrasia.” Unfortunately it already has another, mostly unrelated meaning It got picked up because the Greek moral philosophers wrote about the problem of ἀκρασία, which used to be translated “incontinence” but now is more commonly just transliterated to “akrasia.” The Greeks (and hence now English-speaking philosophers commenting on the problem) used it to refer to the predicament of people who believed in a moral principle but didn’t live up to it — who acted contrary to it. Thus Socrates seems to have argued that akrasia was impossible (if you acted contrary to the principle, he held that you must not really have believed in it in the end); Aristotle thought that it was possible but had something nuanced to say about the best way to describe the predicament; etc. Anyway, that usage also came about because of the literal meaning of “without command”; but the English-language use is meant torefer to a lack of control over yourself (the Greeks’ idea being that akratics were enslaved by their own passions or appetites), rather than a lack of control over others.

@Drew: “How about this – the state is antithetical …to individual liberty”

Isn’t that what a libertarian (at least, the kind of libertarian who would refer to the State as a criminal gang) usually means by the statement that the State is criminal?

@Anok Kropotkin: “Oh, and ‘crime’ is a general term used to define what governing bodies consider undesirable behavior.”

I don’t think that’s the only meaning of the word “crime.”

Certainly, sometimes people use “crime” just to mean “whatever the government has forbidden.” But when someone describes, say, Donald Rumsfeld as a “war criminal,” or when someone describes the Holocaust or other examples of state mass-murder as “crimes against humanity,” that they mean to claim that Pinochet or the Nazis or whoever were somehow doing something illegal. What they did was perfectly legal, according to government law, and authorized by the governing bodies (since these criminals were in charge of the governing bodies). So to describe it as “criminal” must mean something other than simply disapproval from governing bodies.


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