Thomas Knapp: Election 2016: Will You Take a NAP With Me?


This article appeared originally at The Garrison Center here.

With the next US national election only a little more than ten months away, you’ll soon be hearing from, and about, candidates of all parties. America’s third largest party, the Libertarian Party, will likely run more than a thousand candidates for local, state and federal office. Some of them, mostly at the local level, will win. As a voter, you owe it to yourself to know what the candidates asking for your vote are all about. So here, in a nutshell, is what the Libertarians are all about.

New members of the Libertarian Party, at the national level and in most state party organizations, must sign a pledge as part of their enrollment: “I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.”

That pledge is reiterated and expanded upon in the Libertarian Party’s Statement of Principles. In shorthand, we refer to it as the Non-Aggression Principle or the NAP.

It means exactly what it sounds like it means. It means exactly what you were probably — hopefully! — taught as a child by your elders and instructors: Don’t assault others. Don’t threaten others with violence to get your way. Don’t steal other people’s property. The only moral use of force is in defense against those who START a fight.

These are the most basic rules of any sane society, and most of us carefully follow those rules in our daily lives. At some point, however, the institution we call “government” successfully carved out an exception for itself.

If you or I demand money at gunpoint from another, it’s called “armed robbery” and treated as a crime. If government agents demand money from us, and abduct and cage us if we refuse to cough up, it’s called “taxation” and somehow magically becomes “legitimate.”

If you or I break into a neighbor’s house and rifle through his medicine cabinet, it’s called “burglary” and treated as a crime. If government agents burst into that neighbor’s house, find medicines they don’t approve of and haul the neighbor off, it’s called “drug enforcement” and somehow magically becomes “legitimate.”

And so on and so forth.

But aggression is never “legitimate,” even if the aggressors carry shiny badges and receive government paychecks.

Next year, the “major party” candidates will offer up all kinds of excuses and justifications for aggression. They’ll try to convince you that they’re running your life and taking your money — at gunpoint and on pain of imprisonment for resistance — for your own good.

Only the Libertarian Party’s candidates will assure you: “We certify that we oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.” And that’s why only Libertarian candidates deserve your vote.

Thomas L. Knapp is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism (thegarrisoncenter.org). He lives and works in north central Florida.

This entry was posted in Libertarian Party and tagged on by .

About Caryn Ann Harlos

Caryn Ann Harlos is a paralegal residing in Castle Rock, Colorado and presently serving as the Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of Colorado, Colorado State Coordinator for the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus, as well as Region 1 Representative on the Libertarian National Committee. Articles posted should NOT be considered the opinions of the LPCO, LPRC, or LNC nor always those of Caryn Ann Harlos personally. Caryn Ann’s goal is to provide information on items of interest and (sometimes) controversy about the Libertarian Party and minor parties in general not to necessarily endorse the contents.

24 thoughts on “Thomas Knapp: Election 2016: Will You Take a NAP With Me?

  1. Shane

    All pointless if you don’t know how to win elections.

    Regardless, the pledge was created to send a signal to the government that the newly formed LP was not created in the same vein of the Black Panthers and other violent groups.

    That’s from my conversation with Nolan and two other founders.

    So essentially the pledge was created out of fear that the government would go after them. It wasn’t some deep philosophical line that Knapp and others have made it out to be, it was simply a cowardly “please don’t shoot” plea to a corrupt and violent government.

    We’d be better off with a pledge where members agree to alter or abolish government through any means necessary. Force has already been initiated against us by government so the so-called NAP is moot.

    Or you can use philosophical carpet wrestling to justify being a pussy like Knapp whose best effort at mounting a revolution is arguing about how many anarchists can dance on the tip of platform.

    The LP needs fewer pseudo intellectuals who have few personal or professional accomplishments to justify their admiration by other party members. Instead the party needs a gang of people who can roll of their sleeves and get things done and win elections.

    NAP schmap, let’s get on with taking liberty or shut up about it.

  2. Wang Tang-Fu

    All pointless if you don’t know how to win elections.

    Likewise, winning elections is pointless if it doesn’t move us towards greater harmony with the non-initiation of force principle.

    Sort of like the yin and yang of libertarian politics.

  3. Wang Tang-Fu

    “Force has already been initiated against us by government so the so-called NAP is moot.”

    Non-sequitur. If force has been initiated, responsive force does not violate the non-initiation of force (AKA non-aggression principle).

  4. Wang Tang-Fu

    “Regardless, the pledge was created to send a signal to the government that the newly formed LP was not created in the same vein of the Black Panthers and other violent groups.”

    Even if this is true, it’s also a non-sequitur, since the non-initiation of force principle has been around for hundreds if not thousands of years before the LP. And given that this principle was central to the beliefs of the Randians and Rothbardians and associated minarchists and anarchists who started the LP, it seems rather hard to believe that they worded the pledge the way they did without at least a double entendre of the non-initiation of force principle.

    But, even if they did, that principle is embedded in the Statement of Principles and much else besides the membership pledge.

  5. Wang Tang-Fu

    ” Instead the party needs a gang of people who can roll of their sleeves and get things done and win elections.”

    Win elections to accomplish what? What is our goal, and how is it defined?

  6. Wang Tang-Fu

    Please don’t get me wrong though; I do agree we need more people who are better at the nuts and bolts of political action. Just not at the expense of giving up any sense of what it is that we are trying to achieve with all this action.

  7. Robert Capozzi

    wtf: If force has been initiated, responsive force does not violate the non-initiation of force (AKA non-aggression principle).

    me: This seems like a non sequitur to me UNLESS you are advocating violent overthrow of the government in response to its force initiation. Are you?

    I think Shane’s point might be that there have always been governments almost always everywhere. They initiate force, but most seem OK with some force initiation to facilitate a civil society.

    Personally, I feel bad for the few who strenuously object, which is why I advocate Harlos Nonarchy Pods, where such people could opt out of government and the civil society’s they facilitate.

    Then the rest of us can argue about how much government is appropriate. Personally, I think most would be better off with less tomorrow, and still less the next day, and so on.

  8. Wang Tang-Fu

    Mr. Capozzi,

    Many apologies as always for my poor English. I really thought ” If force has been initiated, responsive force does not violate the non-initiation of force (AKA non-aggression principle).”
    was self-explanatory, particularly in the context of Mr. Cory’s remarks.

    Mr. Cory’s objection, as I understood it, was that the non-initiation of force principle would keep its adherents from defending themselves against an out of control government that uses forces against them. I replied that this would be retaliatory force not an initiation of force and thus not precluded by the non-initiation of force principle. At what point use of retaliatory force against the established civil order is a good idea is an entirely separate question.

    I’ve not said anything about at what point I would call for the violent overthrow of the government, only that I would not rule it out in any and all circumstances as a consequences of adhering to the NIOF constraint.

    Nor have I said that we can expect a high likelihood of eliminating all force initiation completely, especially very soon and/or very quickly.

    As a practical matter I would settle for minimizing it as much possible, which is not much different in the short term than” less tomorrow, and still less the next day, and so on.”

    I’m still interested in making clear that working towards the eventual elimination of force initiation is my stated goal. Aside from that, I suspect we are largely on the same page.

    Endless focus on the end goal takes away from the practical matters Mr. Cory alludes to, and I don’t want to do that. At the same time, I don’t want to lose sight of my beacon completely.

    I realize I’ve probably failed in my attempts at translation yet again. We’ll keep on working on updating and improving our language translation programs with every generation of Wangs. We’ve been at it for over 6,000 years and I think we are getting better as time goes on, but there’s always room for more improvement in continuing to seek our eventual goal of perfect understanding.

  9. Robert Capozzi

    wtf: Endless focus on the end goal takes away from the practical matters Mr. Cory alludes to, and I don’t want to do that. At the same time, I don’t want to lose sight of my beacon completely.

    me: Well, given this TK essay, CAH’s blood-oath NAP FB page, and my general sense of a significant element of the LP, there indeed does seem to be “endless focus” on the NAP “end goal” with some elements of the LM and LP.

    Personally, I don’t have a specific beacon. That may be because I’m Hayekian, sensibly recognizing that social order evolve and are not constructed, especially by one person.

    The real end goal is evident: You and I will die. Your political end goal — be it nonarchy, a nightwatchman state, or whatever — will almost certainly NOT be achieved, barring the onset of the Frankel Singularity before your assured death.

    It’s my contention that the NAP “beacon” is actually a millstone, severely limiting the real progress that COULD be made in the short- to intermediate-terms. I myself am recovering from the NAP political thought system, which is why I share my critiques of that approach.

    A lessarchist approach could make significant headway, as faith in government and institutions are at all-time lows, social conservatism is increasingly out of favor, government debt is at alarming levels, and endless war is broadly seen as a bad idea.

    But, enough about MY opinions…why do you feel the need to keep your “beacon” in sight? What does that do for you?

  10. Wang Tang-Fu

    Keeps me from getting lost at sea. You may not believe how easy it can be to get all turned around, hopelessly confused and adrift in the Taiwan Strait. Pretty soon you are out in the South China Sea, completely adrift, and…well…best not to dredge up unpleasant memories, but let’s just say I like to keep a compass at all times now and make careful note of my bearings.

    You may not understand this part, coming as you do from a country that is not even a quarter-millenium in existence on a continent barely known of for a half-millenium by your ancestors, but in my culture we do not place as much stock in whether any of us will personally live to see the Frankel Singularity; we tend to put more focus on whether any of our Wang progeny will ever be appreciably closer to our goals than we are today, whether it is five years or five millenia from now. Call it having a long term goal, longer time horizons and more interest in where we are headed than how long it will take to get there. Again, a cultural difference; please accept my apologies for my difficulties in translating it understandably.

  11. Robert Capozzi

    wtf: You may not understand this part, coming as you do from a country that is not even a quarter-millenium in existence on a continent barely known of for a half-millenium by your ancestors,

    me: Hmm, while I’ve not said, I am US born, and my lineage goes back 4-5 generations. But, frankly, I don’t see that as at all relevant. Anyone anywhere can commit to truth seeking. If not, why not?

    wtf: we tend to put more focus on whether any of our Wang progeny will ever be appreciably closer to our goals than we are today, whether it is five years or five millenia from now.

    me: I’d note that other cultures may well have had elaborate, specific end goals one or two centuries ago that certainly have not panned out. Technology changes, philosophies change, and conditions change, leading to undreamed of outcomes, some of them positive from my perspective, others negative.

    If we radically paid attention to the goals/outcome divergence alone, we might be inclined to give up silly long-term goals as the futile exercises that they are.

    The Wang progeny will deal with their own set of social dysfunctions, for that is the human condition.

    wtf: Call it having a long term goal, longer time horizons and more interest in where we are headed than how long it will take to get there. Again, a cultural difference; please accept my apologies for my difficulties in translating it understandably.

    me: Well, I do have something of a long term “goal.” As a theoretical asymptotic anarchist, I think it’s a great idea to explore how far human liberty can go. I just don’t get hung up on using a construct to dictate the next move. Inescapably, that’s a function of political judgment, i.e., what can be sold in the near term.

    If the sale is made, product development wonks can come up with the next iteration on the lessarchist path.

    wtf wtf, ya don’t read to me like a non-native writer. You sound like an American Rothbardian, employing terms like “beacon” to describe your construct. fwiw.

  12. ATBAFT

    Having known founder Nolan longer than probably any one else here (from 1967 to his death), I can categorically state that the principal pragmatic reason for the Pledge was to be able to effectively denounce those who were expected to infiltrate the LP (e.g. white supremacists) and turn it to their own ends. Should such persons become candidates and advocate embarrassing positions, their having lied about NAP could be advanced as evidence they weren’t actually Libertarians.

  13. Wang Tang-Fu

    Mr. Capozzi,

    As a practical asymptotic anarchist, I think it’s a great idea to explore how far human liberty can go. I just don’t get hung up on using a construct to dictate the next move. Inescapably, that’s a function of political judgment, i.e., what can be sold in the near term. In the short term I don’t see any big difference between the paths we are on. And in the long term, we will all be dead. Near as I can tell, on the time scale you want to work with, the only difference between us is that I am of a more practical bent and you are more of a theoretical one. I assure you that your fears about the “millstone” that my long term goals supposedly represent are entirely imaginary. Jump on in, the water’s fine.

    And, as a side, thank you very much for your high compliment on the progress we have made with our translation program that we Wangs have been honing for over 6,000 years now. It just goes to show you, sometimes persistence does pay off in the long run. Then again, perhaps the apparent understanding is just a mirage. I always feel like I am getting lost in translation. But, with the steady compass of my translation program honed by over 6,000 years of trial and error I keep feeling my way in the darkness towards my beacon of mutual understanding, peace and the freedom it brings.

  14. Caryn Ann Harlos Post author

    And LOL Robert, just an FYI, the Blood Oath page isn’t mine. I do help run it, but it was started before I was ever involved, and I am an invited contributor with multiple other people. I do not own that page, and I serve at the owner’s pleasure. I would love to take credit for it, but I cannot. I was quite surprised and honored when the invitation came to assist. Particularly since my focus is, and always have been,the principle itself in the SoP and Platform, not the Pledge in particular. My role there is similar to my role at IPR. Or the LPCO page for that matter. It isn’t my “property.” I do not have any libertarian pages that I own btw. I admin a few libertarian pages and groups, including the NAP Pledge, Libertarian Party USA, LNC Votes, Pro-Life Libertarians, and Libertarian Party History.

    Glad I could clear that up.

  15. Robert Capozzi

    wtf: As a practical asymptotic anarchist,

    me: How do you figure that your ideas are practical?

  16. Wang Tang-Fu

    How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. I still have to remember that my goal is to eat the elephant instead of taking three bites of elephant before abandoning it entirely for all time. Measured steps, long range goals, real world action, theoretical grounding. They can all coexist.

  17. Robert Capozzi

    wtf, of course they can co-exist.

    As to practicality, you might want to rethink your elephant analogy. I’m not sure it’s appetizing or tasty, but even if it is, I’m not sure that eating ALL of it is necessary. I gotta believe the skin is tough and the bones are quite sturdy and likely inedible!

    It’s not even obvious that eating ALL the meat makes all that much sense. Maybe you might realize after eating half the meat — the tastier cuts — that there are more important matters to attend to. Or that your first impulse — to eat it all — was not healthy.

    Check your premises, especially as you progress.

    😉

  18. Wang Tang-Fu

    Check yours. You are thinking too much. Philosophy and action are best balanced, like yin and yang. Thinking without acting, like acting without thinking, is not the best way. Whatever fantasies you have about eating the skin and bones emanate only from your own mind.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *