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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.

They Said It… Andrew Sullivan, H. L. Mencken And More!

in Liberator Online by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Senator Rand Paul


“Don’t be depressed with how bad government is. Use your ingenuity, use your big head to think of solutions the marketplace can figure out, that the idiots and trolls in Washington will never come up with.” — Sen. Rand Paul(R-KY), speaking to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs at the Lincoln Labs Reboot conference, July 18, 2014.

THE DESTRUCTION CAUSED BY POT PROHIBITION: “America’s four-decade War on Drugs is responsible for many casualties, but the criminalization of marijuana has been perhaps the most destructive part of that war. The toll can be measured in dollars — billions of which are thrown away each year in the aggressive enforcement of pointless laws. It can be measured in years — whether wasted behind bars or stolen from a child who grows up fatherless. And it can be measured in lives — those damaged if not destroyed by the shockingly harsh consequences that can follow even the most minor offenses.” — journalist Jesse Wegman, “The Injustice of Marijuana Arrests,” New York Times, July 28, 2014.
CUT THE CRAP ABOUT THE GENDER PAY GAP: “A gender pay gap, albeit one that is rapidly decreasing, still exists; but the good news is that when occupation, contracted hours and most significantly age are taken into account, it all but disappears. In fact, the youngest women today, even those working part-time, are already earning more each hour than men. We need to ask why this is not more widely known and question the motives of those who seem so desperate to cling to a last-ditch attempt to prove that women remain disadvantaged. We should be telling today’s girls that the potential to do whatever job they want and earn as much money as they please is theirs for the taking, rather than burdening them with the mantle of victimhood.” —Joanna Williams, Spiked, “Cut the Crap About the Gender Pay Gap,” July 29, 2014.

President Barack Obama

OBAMA — U.S. TORTURED: “In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, we did some things that were wrong.We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did things that were contrary to our values.” — President Obama, commenting on the new U.S. Senate report on CIA crimes, Aug. 1, 2014.

Andrew Sullivan“Either the rule of law applies to the CIA or it doesn’t. And it’s now absolutely clear that it doesn’t. The agency can lie to the public; it can spy on the Senate; it can destroy the evidence of its war crimes; it can lie to its superiors about its torture techniques; it can lie about the results of those techniques. No one will ever be held to account. … And so the giant and massive hypocrisy of this country on core human rights is now exposed for good and all. The Bush administration set the precedent for the authorization of torture. The Obama administration has set the precedent for its complete impunity. America has killed the Geneva Conventions just as surely as America made them. … The GOP ran a pro-torture candidate in 2012; they may well run a pro-torture candidate in 2016. This evil — which destroys the truth as surely as it destroys the human soul — is still with us.” — Andrew Sullivan on the new U.S. Senate report on CIA crimes, “We Tortured. It Was Wrong. Never Mind,” The Dish, Aug. 3, 2014.

Sheldon RichmanWHY WE SPEAK OUT: “How does one stand by in silence when one is forced by the tax collector tounderwrite aggression around the world against the poorest individuals imaginable? Innocent people — so many children — are killed and maimed, their homes and communities shattered, with the bombs, bullets, mortar shells, tanks, airplanes, helicopter gunships, and drones paid for by you and me through a government that claims to act in our names — while lying as a matter of course. Who can know these things and not speak out — no matter how wearying that may be?” —Sheldon Richman, The Future of Freedom Foundation, “I Can’t Help That I’m a Libertarian,” Aug. 1, 2014
Noted and Re-Quoted

H.L. Mencken“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” — H.L. Mencken, from In Defense of Women (1918), quoted by Ralph Benko at

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.