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Thursday, March 27, 2008

How much aggression is allowed by the Zero Aggression Principle?

Linda Ellis wrote:

BH) When I and Susan Hogarth and every other Libertarian I know talk about the Zero Aggression Principle, they're talking about personally committing/endorsing literally zero aggression.  Not one speck.  Zero. Nada.  You're apparently talking about something like society achieving an absence of aggression.  That's a fine subject to talk about, but if you distort a standard movement label to talk about it, you demotivate people from talking to you about it. (BH

LE) I disagree. Kevin's statement about the meaning of non-agression represents much better the view of any Libertarians who perceive reality as important. I certainly hope that is the majority of the libertarian movement. (LE

I suspect you, like Kevin, are confusing 1) the general libertarian opposition to aggression with 2) the absolute opposition to any commission or endorsement of anything interpretable as force initiation -- even if it's just over-taxing gasoline-generated pollution by a few pennies a gallon.  The latter position is what I'm calling the Zero Aggression Principle.  ZAPsolutists say that even a 1 cent/gallon pollution tax on gasoline is forbidden by the ZAP, because there surely is some purchaser of a gallon of gas somewhere who won't cause a full penny's worth of pollution with it.

Another brand of confusion on this topic is peddled by Starchild.  He admits that force initiation is in some instances justifiable/necessary, but he says that anybody who formally admits this is "rejecting" or "abandoning" the Non-Aggression Principle.  To him I say: if the "Non" in NAP, really means "none", then you've already rejected too.  Opposition to aggression is my most fundamental political principle, and it doesn't mean I've abandoned or rejected that principle if I agree with Starchild that force initiation is sometimes justifiable/necessary.

If you're on a trek to the North Pole, and you take a single step southward somewhere along the way, it hardly means you've abandoned your goal.  There might be a place on your path where a step north instead of south will drop you into a crevasse and guarantee you will never reach your goal.