Is the Non-Aggression Principle realistic versus rule of law?

“No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.” (Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer, 1816)

In a previous article titled, Rule of law or free anarchy, I addressed what law is according to the state or government that passes, enacts and enforces it. Law is a tool enacted by men to force and coerce other men into obeying them. Law is by itself without power, the power of law is in the obedience to it and force used to ensure it is followed.**

Liberty in need of a light

Liberty in need of a light (Photo credit: Henrique Vicente)

As a voluntaryist I have embraced the non-aggression principle which is easily defined by the quote above. There are many approaches to the non-aggression principle, however, the core of this principle is simply, to not commit aggression against another. The principle itself does not prevent the defense of self, in fact, it promotes it. What is most often argued at great lengths by those who claim to embrace this principle is the definition of aggression.

To understand what aggression is it is first necessary to understand self-ownership. Others will argue that you must also understand property rights as well. I disagree, not because I do not believe that we can and in fact do have inanimate physical property, but because self-ownership encompasses this. Self-ownership can be defined by using common and classic definition, first we will separate the combined word into its two main parts. Self is defined as, a persons essential being that distinguishes them from others. Ownership is defined as, possession with the natural right to transfer possession to others. The legal definition of self-ownership is long and drawn out and is based in laws enacted and enforced by men. However, if we use the commonly held definitions of the two words that make up self-ownership we can see that it can easily be defined as, the possession of ones essential being with the natural right to transfer possession of a one’s essential being to others.20130209-081907.jpg

Slavery is often decried as evil by civilized society, and though slavery in many forms exists today, the average citizen of a first world nation shudders at the connotation that they are potentially slaves or that slavery still exists. However, unless we as individuals have self-ownership and embrace that ideal, we tend to be slaves of whatever system rules the society where we live presently. By embracing the rule of law over anarchy, we as a society are indenturing ourselves to the government or state in charge. We are effectively slaves, simply because, we are unable to freely transfer our selves to others if we so desire. We do not have the natural right to our own bodies and in fact as can be seen with the drug laws alone, we are not allowed the natural right to decide what we can and cannot do with our own bodies. Essentially, because rule of law exists, we are slaves of whichever state or government rules with the greatest force supporting it at the time.

English: Cuneiform symbol "ama-gi", ...

English: Cuneiform symbol “ama-gi”, usually considered to signify ‘freedom’ Español: Símbolo cuneiforme “ama-gi”, habitualmente traducido como ‘libertad’ Slovenščina: Klinopisni simbol “ama-gi”, navadno prevajen kot ‘svoboda’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now lets look at the word aggression, originally this word comes from the Latin aggressionem which means, a going to, an attack. This Latin word is drawn from the past participle stem of aggredi, which means to approach, or attack. The modern word aggression is drawn directly from the French word aggression which means, unprovoked attack. Over time the word has been treated with the 1984 approach and redefined and used out of context to the point where it is now seen with some confusion. For the purposes of this paper I will use the common definition currently in use as found in the Merriam Websters dictionary. This definition is, a forceful action or procedure, an unprovoked attack, especially when intended to dominate or master.

The Non-Aggression Principle therefore may be defined using common definitions as, No aggressive or unprovoked action or procedures especially with intent to dominate or master over another individual. Again, I fully expect the various self-proclaimed philosophers of the voluntarist community to explain why my approach simply cannot be correct, however, it is again necessary to clarify that this is the definition I have come up with through the use of common definitions and the etymologies of the words included. Without commonly accepted or used definitions language is by itself useless as a tool for communicating ideas and more. Therefore, my use of common definitions is meant to clarify for those who do not understand the principle.20130209-220839.jpg

The question is, is the Non-Aggression Principle realistic versus rule of law? My response will be yes, it is. The principle does not require others to adhere to it, only that those who embrace it adhere to it. I live my daily life per the non-aggression principle and live in relative peace. If someone were to threaten my life or intend me or those under my charge (my children) harm, I would use aggressive defense. I will not, however, initiate aggression against others without equal provocation. Because I believe strongly in self-ownership and property rights as well, my principle encompasses my property also. This means only that if someone intends me harm or through theft of my property causes me or my family harm I am justified in utilizing provoked aggression against the offender. This does not mean that I become a vigilante.

Instead because I believe that aggressive action that harms others should be proved to have occurred, I will seek to gain proof of guilt before taking provoked aggressive action. My adherence to this principle also means that unless a life is taken or destroyed, I will not seek another’s life. Punishment must be equal to the crime itself, in the case of theft, return of the property or recompense of the amount of damages incurred are sufficient and so on. Again, it is necessary to understand that the non-aggression principle in no way requires anyones adherence except those who embrace it. Because modern rule of law exists and because of the ability of the state to levy overwhelming force against those it deems a threat, my adherence to this principle is at times restricted by the rule of law.What will I resist with

Theoretically, however, if the state was no longer a viable entity with regards to being able to force or coerce others to follow its will, the non-aggression principle would be by default quite logical as an approach to replacing the currently utilized rule of law. The principle itself requires only that those who adhere to it understand that responsibility for all choices they make now fall solely on themselves and no one else. If my readers have questions, or would like to submit essays with their own approach or arguments, please do so. I am always willing to publish others theories, ideas and reasons. For all others, do you embrace the non-aggression principle and if so why? If not, why?

Free the mind and the body will follow

**As with many things it becomes easier to use generalities in writing for a blog versus a scientific or legal journal. In this case, my use of the Rule of Law is based primarily on state based law, at the present all laws are state based, originated by the state or ruling government body too control others. Regardless the type of law, be it tort or criminal, law is an invention of individuals desiring control. The article is meant to show that the principle of non aggression is far more beneficial to individuals.

About Jesse Voluntaryist Mathewson

Jesse Mathewson is the author of the popular blog, and provides commentary to many varied places based on a background that includes education in criminal justice, history, religion and even insurgency tactics and tactical training. His current role in his community is as an organizer of sorts and a preacher of community solidarity and agorism. He also runs Liberty Practical Training, a self defense school specializing in the practical applications of defensive approaches versus the theoretical. As an agorist, voluntaryist and atheist his life is seen as crazy and wild by many, though once they get to know him most realize he is a bluntly honest individual who will give you the shirt off his back if he believes it is necessary to help you.
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