The NAP and the use of violence


The NAP and the use of violence

The Non-Aggression Principle states that no one has the right to initiate force against the property of others and is the basis of objective morality as defined in MtH. In regards to the use of violence, it is usually assumed that violence is only morally acceptable in the defense of property in the presence of the initiation of force. For example, someone initiates force against your property by slapping you in the face, you have the right to defend yourself against further attacks. I argue that isn’t the only case in which violence is morally acceptable.

Not all things are owned. If you find a previously unknown island, that island, because it was previously unknown, has no owner. In that case, you’re free to do as you wish with the island without violating anyone’s property. In fact, using your own property to physically claim the island makes it yours, should you wish it to be (maybe you don’t want it, and, in that case, you can decline ownership). It may seem obvious that there is no moral problem doing whatever you want with something that belongs to you (assuming you aren’t violating the property of others), or with objects that belong to no one. 

Let’s assume that there’s a collective of people in an imaginary land who call themselves Tnemnrevog. The Tnemnrevogs have a system set up where they intimidate people into giving them money which they spend on various things, like cars for their agents, water mains, electrical transformers, buildings, weapons, etc. But none of the Tnemnrevogs claim ownership of any of these things. In fact, you go around and interview every Tnemnrevog in the land, but every single one denies that they own the things that they’ve bought. Some say that everyone owns them, including the people they’ve taken money from. But there’s no record of that ownership, the people who are the supposed owners aren’t allowed use the items, nor are they allowed to sell them or sell shares in them. In reality, the Tnemnrevogs control a lot of assets that they don’t actually own. 

Keeping that in mind, let’s say that Bob hates carpenters and wants to stop them from building things. He’s very frustrated that they continually build, and build, and build things. He’s even thrown away his principles in order to justify physically harming the carpenters themselves in his efforts to stop their building. What Bob doesn’t realize is that to stop carpenters from building things, he doesn’t have to hurt anyone at all. He can leave the carpenters alone completely and still physically stop them from building, by destroying their tools. Bob can make it so difficult and expensive for the carpenters to build by continually destroying their tools, that building is no longer worth it or even impossible. After all, destroying things is much easier than creating them. Another advantage to that strategy is that he doesn’t have to declare war on the carpenters. He can, whenever he has time, break a saw, or steal a hammer or put a hole in a carpenter’s truck’s engine block. Bob’s carpenter-hating friends could do the same whenever they had some free time. Not hurting the carpenters themselves might mitigate the risk of public backlash, and, if Bob and friends use a little humor while tool-destroying, they may even gain public support. 

Of course, Bob shouldn’t violate the property of carpenters, since they have an entitlement to their property and destroying that property would be immoral. The two cases above are just unrelated points, one about philosophy and the other about strategy. To sum it up, you can do what you want with unowned things and destroying the tools used to do the things you don’t want done can stop people from doing those things. 

Wink, wink. Nudge, nudge.

Conceptual logician, libertarian philosopher, musician, economist, almost-ran businessman and other stuff.
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