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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How Many ZAPs Add Up To One Golden Rule?

Harland Harrison wrote:
> BH) "A" zero aggression principle? Sorry, but there's only one ZAP, and the TP shows that most people would disagree that it is inviolable. (BH
The context there was the question of whether the Trolley Problem
undermines the standard (deontological anarcholibertarian abstentionist)
version of the Zero Aggression Principle. You had just said "The
Trolley Problem actually proves the validity of a zero aggression
principle" and so I was trying to make sure you weren't moving the goal
posts. My bullseye was on Rothbard's ZAP.

There is indeed one primary denotation when most Libertarians use the
label "ZAP" -- it's the same one that the LP Pledge Police try to use as
a bludgeon. However, there are multiple distinct-but-similar concepts
that can be called "Zero Aggression Principle", depending on the free
variables in libertarian ethics and on the other considerations I
mentioned. I'd love it if most Libertarians came to agree that more than
one concept can qualify for the label "ZAP", but we're not there yet.

I'm very impressed that you produced that quote, which I didn't
remember. I don't always agree with what I've written in the past, but
it's always fun to try doing so. :-)
> Of course, any ZAP defines libertarianism. Most ordinary people just don't call it ZAP; the say "Golden Rule", "Law of Karma", humanity, Buddha nature, and so forth.
The ethical principle of reciprocity is not quite identical to the
principle of non-aggression. An ex-alcoholic Christian could arguably
be following the Golden Rule if he prohibited me from drinking with the
expectation that I would do likewise if he were overcome by temptation.
The Golden Rule can justify various forms of force initiation and
positive rights, all of which a NAP/ZAP either prohibits or is silent about.

I'm skeptical of claims that most people are libertarians but just don't
know it. I talk politics with too many non-libertarians to drink from
that Kool-Aid. I prefer Bob Barr's formulation that "most people are
libertarian about at least one thing". He said that repeatedly during
the campaign.