The Limits of the Non-Aggression PrincipleSubmitted by battleforce on Sun, 06/09/2013 - 07:25
The Limits of the Non-Aggression Principle
JUNE 07, 2013
by SANDY IKEDA
One of the mainstays of libertarianism is the non-aggression principle, or NAP for short. One version of the NAP states that while it is legitimate to use physical violence in defense of one’s rights, initiating violence against another person is wrong and can be met with proportional violence in self-defense.
In this formulation, aggression means “initiating physical violence” in violation of another person’s rights to person and property. If Jack hits Jill, Jack aggresses against Jill and Jill is the victim. But if Jack hits Jill because Jill is coming at him with a knife, then Jack may simply be acting in self-defense—that is, in defense of his rights. Jill is the aggressor. (The classical-liberal legal theorist Richard Epstein addresses scenarios like this in this important essay on strict liability.)
Now, some libertarians argue that any kind of taxation by the state constitutes wrongful aggression because it threatens violence (e.g., arresting and imprisoning) against a person if she merely tries to protect her rights to her property by refusing to pay. Others argue the state does not aggress when it uses or threatens physical violence in the course of its legitimate duties (e.g., taxing to finance national defense), but does violate the NAP when it goes beyond those duties (e.g., taxing to finance a war of aggression). But people often strongly disagree about what those duties are or how they are defined: What exactly constitutes national defense?