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What is the Difference Between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and Libertarianism?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 20, No. 11 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the difference between Ayn Rand’s Objectivism and libertarianism?Ayn Rand's Objectivism

MY SHORT ANSWER: In my opinion, the differences are more cultural than real, in political matters. Both Objectivism and libertarianism are based on the non-aggression principle of honoring our neighbors’ choice (not initiating physical force, fraud or theft) and making things right with our victims if we don’t.

Objectivism is a comprehensive philosophy of life that includes not just political beliefs but strong and unified beliefs on virtually every aspect of human existence, including religion, art, romance, and so on. Libertarianism, in contrast, is a strictly political philosophy.

Rand believed that government’s proper role was protection of rights and that government should have a monopoly on defensive force to fulfill this role. Many libertarians agree with her. Others believe that governments are a poor protector of rights and that competition in this realm is right and proper.

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LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for  additional reading on this topic:

Ironically, although Ayn Rand publicly disavowed libertarianism, she is unquestionably one of the most influential figures in the modern libertarian movement and is commonly identified today as a libertarian. And her political views are libertarian, by any common definition of the term.

Here are two short pieces that explore this seeming contradiction. Please note, this is a subject about which many people disagree.

* “What Is the Objectivist View of Libertarianism?“ an essay by David Kelley and William R. Thomas. David Kelley is Founder and Executive Director of the Atlas Society, which promotes Objectivism.

Excerpt: “If we exclude anarchism [that is, the kind of non-government libertarianism advocated by Murray N. Rothbard, David F. Friedman, and others, sometimes known as 'anarcho-capitalism' or 'market anarchism'], we can say that libertarianism is the Objectivist position in politics. But Objectivism includes more than politics. It is a systematic philosophy that also includes a specific view of reality, human nature, and the nature of knowledge. It includes a specific code of morality based on the requirements of life in this world. The Objectivist commitment to individual rights and a ban on the initiation of force is grounded in its view of nature, knowledge, and values. Its political conclusions thus stand on a firm and quite specific foundation …Philosophically, some libertarians are Objectivists, or would at least agree with the core elements in the Objectivist case for liberty, such as the individual’s need to act by means of reason in pursuing his life and happiness as ultimate values.”

* “Objectivism and Libertarianism“ by Nathaniel Branden. In this very short 1999 article Branden, at one time one of Rand’s closest associates, tells how Rand considered, and rejected, the label libertarian — and what that word now means in today’s political world.

Excerpt: “[T]oday libertarianism is part of our language and is commonly understood to mean the advocacy of minimal government. Ayn Rand is commonly referred to as ‘a libertarian philosopher.’ Folks, we are all libertarians now. Might as well get used to it.”

What is the non-aggression principle?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 19 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the libertarian non-aggression principle?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarianism is based on a single ideal, the non-aggression Keep Calm And Be Non-Aggressiveprinciple.

Libertarians oppose the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals. They reject “first-strike” force, fraud or theft against others; they only use force in self-defense. Those who violate this “non-aggression principle” are expected to make their victims whole as much as possible, via restitution.

This “Good Neighbor Policy” is what most of us were taught as children. We were told not to lie, cheat, steal, or strike our playmates, except if they hit us first. If we broke a friend’s toy, we were expected to replace it.

Most of us still practice what we learned as children with other individuals, but we have grown accustomed to letting government aggress against others when we think we benefit. Consequently, our world is full of poverty and strife, instead of the harmony and abundance that freedom (i.e., freedom from aggression) brings.

Simply put, libertarians take the non-aggression principle that most people implicitly follow in their interactions with other individuals, and apply it to group actions, including government actions, as well.

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Would Blackmail be Legal in a Libertarian Society?

in Liberator Online, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 16 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

blackmailQuestion: How would a libertarian society deal with blackmail? Thinking of the blackmailer as a gossip offering the service of his silence for a fee, I cannot find any reason why it should be illegal in a libertarian society. Both parties receive something of value and the agreement is consensual.

My short answer: The criteria for illegality in a libertarian society would be: “Does it threaten first-strike force, fraud, or theft?” For example, if I pay blackmail to someone who would otherwise beat me, they are using the threat of first-strike force to take my money, very much like a thief does. This would clearly be against libertarian law.

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t tell a true but embarrassing tale about me, I am not being threatened with first-strike force, fraud, or theft. Quite possibly, such “blackmail” might (depending upon the circumstances) be considered a private contract under libertarian law. If the blackmailer told his or her story anyway, I might be able to sue for contract violation!

If I pay blackmail to someone so that they won’t lie about me, the situation is not as clear. Many libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Defending the Blackmailer“ by Walter Block. Walter Block has been writing about libertarianism and blackmail for decades. His collected writings on this topic are in his 2013 book Legalize Blackmail.

This provocative selection is a chapter from his classic 1976 book Defending the Undefendable, which you can download as a free ebook from the Mises Institute.

Excerpt: “What exactly is blackmail? Blackmail is the offer of trade. It is the offer to trade something, usually silence, for some other good, usually money. If the offer of the trade is accepted, the blackmailer then maintains his silence and the blackmailed pays the agreed-upon price.

“If the blackmail offer is rejected, the blackmailer may exercise his rights of free speech and publicize the secret. There is nothing amiss here. All that is happening is that an offer to maintain silence is being made. If the offer is rejected, the blackmailer does no more than exercise his right of free speech.”

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Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

“A Masterwork”: Rave Review for Libertarianism in One Lesson

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarianism In One LessonDavid Bergland’s classic introduction to libertarianism, Libertarianism in One Lesson (published by the Advocates), has been given a rave review by longtime libertarian activist and writer Charlie Burris at LewRockwell.com.

Burris begins by complimenting “the brilliant strategic insight of 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate David Bergland which has guided all libertarian realists for three decades in adhering to the Non-Aggression Principle and the refusal to compromise that principle  — ‘Utopia Is Not One of the Options.’

“David wrote and elucidated upon this key concept in his wonderful volume, Libertarianism in One Lesson.”

Continues Burris:  “In 1984, I had the distinct honor and privilege of reading the manuscript copy of the first edition of this brilliantly executed work. In each subsequent edition, David has finely crafted and honed this masterwork into the most concise, understandable work of its kind.”

You can order single or multiple copies at a discount of Libertarianism in One Lesson from the Advocates.

“This brief book remains the best place to begin your exploration of the ideas of libertarianism,” Burris concludes.

Should Slander be Protected as Free Speech?

in Liberator Online by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(By Dr. Mary Ruwart from Ask Dr. Ruwart, Volume 18, No. 14 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here.)

QUESTION: I have questions about a past column of yours on the topic of blackmail. You wrote: “Manyslander libertarians consider slander of a person’s reputation to be a violation of the non-aggression principle; others don’t.”

I’m confused. It seems to me that slander should be protected as free speech in a libertarian society. There’s no aggression involved. So what’s the problem?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Not all libertarians agree on whether or not a lie constitutes aggression. A lie does not necessarily affect only one’s reputation. For example, a service provider could be put out of business by a well-publicized lie and lose all their assets before they were able to set the record straight. I have actually seen this happen to a publicly-traded company, where stockholders lost their investments and the employees lost their jobs.

Does a person have the right to free speech? Of course! Must they take responsibility for the consequences of their speech? That is the real question.

For example, if a person purposely yells “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, and people are killed in the stampede, is he or she guilty of manslaughter if there was no fire? The person yelling “Fire!” has the right to free speech, certainly. Must that person pay restitution to those who are injured or the survivors of those killed?

What if the person thought they smelled smoke and truly believed that there was a fire? They were trying to help people and didn’t lie, but the result was the same. Are they responsible for the dead and injured?

This is where libertarians disagree over this issue. Some libertarians would agree with you that the only consequences that a liar should have to face is damage to his or her reputation, regardless of the consequences of that lie. Others believe that a liar is responsible for the resulting damage.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

As Mary Ruwart notes, libertarians disagree on these issues. Below are examples of differing views.

* Ayn Rand on libel and slander: In the book Ayn Rand Answers: The Best of Her Q & A, Rand answers the question “What do you think of libel and slander laws?” in this way:

“They are appropriate laws, because the freedom of ideas does not permit you to lie about a person. Under the older interpretation of the courts, truth was your defense. If you know something defamatory about someone, and it’s true, then you have the right to say it. But today, you can practically say anything, so long as you’re supposedly not motivated by malice. There are some standards, but they are unclear and impractical.

“This type of law is strictly to protect specific individuals; it has nothing to do with ideas. It’s an issue of whether or not you lied about someone, and caused him damage.”

* Murray Rothbard on libel and slander: In his book The Ethics of Liberty Rothbard argues that libel and slander, while immoral, should not be illegal:

EXCERPT: “Smith has a property right to the ideas or opinions in his own head; he also has a property right to print anything he wants and disseminate it. He has a property right to say that Jones is a ‘thief’ even if he knows it to be false, and to print and sell that statement.

“The counter-view, and the current basis for holding libel and slander (especially of false statements) to be illegal is that every man has a ‘property right’ in his own reputation, that Smith’s falsehoods damage that reputation, and that therefore Smith’s libels are invasions of Jones’s property right in his reputation and should be illegal.

“Yet, again, on closer analysis this is a fallacious view. For everyone, as we have stated, owns his own body; he has a property right in his own head and person. But since every man owns his own mind, he cannot therefore own the minds of anyone else. And yet Jones’s ‘reputation’ is neither a physical entity nor is it something contained within or on his own person. Jones’s ‘reputation’ is purely a function of the subjective attitudes and beliefs about him contained in the minds of other people. But since these are beliefs in the minds of others, Jones can in no way legitimately own or control them. Jones can have no property right in the beliefs and minds of other people.”


 

Short Answers to Tough Questions

Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR “tough questions” on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s brand new book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.