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Where Does the Non-Aggression Principle Come From?

Anyone else here a fan of Red Ice Radio hosted by Henrik Palmgren out of Sweden? I stumbled on it a few years ago when he was talking with a guest about evidence of ancient European culture in far-flung places of the world, which was fascinating.

Anyway, today I was listening to him interview a guest you might know, Marc Stevens, who was coming from the 'anarchist/voluntarist' point of view that government is an irrational concept, which boils down to people telling other people what to do at the point of a gun, or using the circular logic that their code applies because their code says so.

I get where he's coming from, and I agree with much of what he said; but when it came to the portion where he dismissed the notion of God-given rights, as having no evidence for their existence, I couldn't bring myself to agree. I interpret the world around me to demonstrate that some things are self-evident in our consciences, reflections of a natural law that actually exists, transcendent over the material world.

What I found odd, though, was that he was very vocal about upholding the non-aggression principle, and in decrying violence, deaths in the Middle East, etc. as 'terrible', 'horrific', etc. This made me wonder -- where does he think the non-aggression principle comes from? Why does he speak about it as if it is a real principle that exists, a real reflection of right and wrong? Doesn't that contradict what he had otherwise said about people being delusional that there are actual, real rights that are founded in natural law? Also, on what basis can he decry violence as 'terrible', if there is no overarching principle that is real?

Anyway, I was curious what insights and explanations others here might have to offer to help me understand the thinking on these questions.

Where do you think the Non-Aggression Principle comes from?

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Wisdom + logic! along with a

Wisdom + logic! along with a desire for peace.

I think NAP comes from logical consistency.

Basically, anything else is hypocrisy. For example, you can claim that NAP isn't valid, but you would end up contradicting yourself when you claim that aggression against YOU is bad.


...yeah, it is interesting how some suggest there are ultimately no objective standards in reality, but then when something occurs to them that they don't like, they turn around and appeal to some standard as if it's something everyone should agree on, as to why that action against them was 'wrong'. Seems like everyone has this natural law of the conscience creep in on them?

The answer to your question

The answer to your question about the non-aggression principle is very methodically and explicitly laid out in "The Nature of Government" by Ayn Rand in "The Virtue of Selfishness," among others of her works.

Michael Nystrom's picture

Good God!

Can someone give an answer without citing a reference!

It's like you people don't give yourselves permission to believe what you feel without validation from dead people!

Who cares what Ayn Rand said?

The most important thing is what you feel.

There is no logical answer to this question. It is not T/F. It is not multiple choice. Your answer is yours alone.

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

So Michael, you base your

So Michael, you base your knowledge on feelings? On emotion?

So if you feel that 2 + 2 = 5 then that's okay?

You feel that you can drink a glass of milk with a teaspoon of cyanide in it everyday and live to be 100 years old?

There are absolute facts of reality which all the feelings in the world will not change no matter how much you wish otherwise.

As far as the NAP goes, you have to ask yourself what kind of world do you want to live in? Do you like the world as it is now? Do you like all the killings that go on everyday, do you like that the IRS can put you in a cage or steal your property for making a mistake on it's extortion forms, do you like Adam Kokesh being put in jail for loading a gun, do you like police being highway robbers for you not wearing a seatbelt?

The acceptance of the NAP would eliminate these travesties and that's the kind of world I want to live in.

BTW- Thank you for this site, I enjoy it very much.

Well the first person to elaborate it historically was....

...Jesus Christ. The Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

The natural corollary is if you don't like when it's done to you, don't do it to others. I.e. the NAP.

Michael Nystrom's picture

This is a falacy

Because it is the first person you heard of, or the person you have bias towards.

"Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself." – Confucius (551–479 BC).

"The first person to elaborate it..." Blah blah blah. You're so full of BS.

All art is only done by the individual. The individual is all you ever have, and all schools only serve to classify their members as failures. E.H.

Fair enough.

That said, is there a connection between Confucianism and the enlightenment thinkers (Smith, Voltaire, Locke, Rousseau, etc.)? There is a direction connection, however, between Christianity and enlightenment thinking and writing.

So, it appears Christ may not have been the first. However, it would appear that it was through Christian thought that the principle flowed through into the NAP.

Maybe not...

...the first, but Christ certainly did amplify the fact that 'love your neighbor' includes 'love your enemies'.

If the NAP, or Golden Rule, is a natural law, then it's not surprising that it would be voiced and expressed by various cultures and individuals from the dawn of humanity onward.

God-given rights and Nature-given rights

View this video at 21min 10seconds, where Judge Napolitano explains the religious-based argument and the secular argument for natural rights.


The NAP stems from these facts:

* We own our own bodies
* We therefore own the products of our labour

It then follows that any force used against our body or our property is an aggressive use of force, and thus an immoral and illegitimate use of force.
(Unless of course, that force was utilised due to aggression on our part against another)

This can be logically explained whether one believes in a creator or not.

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!" - Patrick Henry


...I'll definitely watch that youtube (love Judge Nap!) :).

Your point 'We own our own bodies'...

It's interesting that the person in this radio interview said that as well, but then he went on to dismiss the idea of the right of 'property' or 'pursuit of happiness' as a delusion, in that there is no evidence that this right really exists. It sounded like he was saying, yes, we possess things, but what evidence do we have that we have a right to possess them?

Edit: great video of the Judge, by the way. :)


aren't you using a circular logic, that voice in your head telling you what to do? Or some sheep herders writings from eons back? Some people worship god, some government, some worship whatever people on tv tell them to worship, some worship celebrities, some worship the messiah, aka barry.

Point being, everything is in your head, and everyone chooses what to believe based on their life experience and understanding of the world around them.

Your point...

...about everybody 'worshiping' something or other makes some sense to me, since at bottom we all have to have some faith or trust in a concept of what reality is, to build our entire worldview on.

Is the Non-Aggression Principle really all in our heads, though? If you went back to a time on Earth when there were no humans, would that Principle still exist, still be real? Or is it utterly dependent on 'our heads' existing?


Life, it's always about choices, choice may not not exist without someone/thing making it. And the choice also depends on opportunity presented. Energy, reward.

Common sense/upbringing

well, that's where I got it from, anyway. I don't think any single person or group can claim to have been the originator(s) of the idea.

"Treat people how you want to be treated" is what I was always told as a kid. Obviously that doesn't always work on everyone, but for those people you just give them a taste of their own medicine.

Good topic. +1

A signature used to be here!


...common sense seems to be a good way to describe it, which is kind of like saying it's natural law, I guess. Upbringing, then, just helps us underscore and amplify that, rather than suppress it?