David Colborne: The Libertarian Party of Nevada and the Non-Aggression Principle

lp nevada

Mr. Colborne saw our discussion on IPR regarding Brett Pojunis, LP of Nevada’s current chair and candidate for the chairmanship of the Libertarian National Committee, rejecting the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP). I asked in a comment if this was a recent development, and David contacted me with some information. He wrote this proposal, which has very recently been passed.

David Colborne is currently Northern Regional Representative to the Libertarian Party of Nevada.

Regarding the proposal, I put in language in it to explain what we were trying to accomplish and why:

Currently there is no benefit to registering to vote as a Libertarian in Nevada, and several drawbacks – among them, Libertarian-registered voters in Nevada are ineligible for participating in Republican or Democratic caucuses or primaries. By allowing any Libertarian-registered voter to choose their candidates for partisan office, the Libertarian Party will finally achieve competitive parity with the major parties in Nevada. Additionally, by striking the 30 day voter registration requirement and the requirement to become a member of the national LP, this will allow LPN candidates to bring excited supporters to our conventions, have them register (or update their registration) at the convention door, support their favorite candidate, and become a productive part of the nomination process. At the same time, though, the LPN still wants to encourage members to become further engaged in the LPN, either by donating labor or money to the Party. To that end, certain Party business can be restricted to dues-paying members -those who have paid their dues either in money or sweat equity. This business can include serving in a leadership capacity, choosing Party leadership, shaping the Party’s governing documents, creating county affiliates, serving as representatives for the Party in the National Convention, and so forth.

Expanding on the above a bit, there were several problems we wanted to solve:

Convincing people to register as a Libertarian Party voter in Nevada was an uphill battle because, outside of certain psychological benefits, there was really no point in doing so. We considered LP Oregon’s example of using voter registration as a criteria for membership, noted that the Party up there did not, in fact, collapse, and decided we could safely offer the same benefits to registered LP voters that the GOP and Democrats offer to theirs – namely, the ability to choose their local and statewide candidates.

We also noted that there are people who might want to support LP Nevada but, for various reasons, might feel uncomfortable supporting the national LP. Given that it’s possible to support the national LP without supporting any state affiliates, we decided that forcing LP Nevada members to support another organization that they might be less comfortable supporting was inappropriate, especially given LP Oregon’s recent issues.
At the same time, we also wanted to reward those that assisted LP Nevada. To that end, we increased our dues from $25/year to $60/year but also provided an in-kind donation path so that those without money could still participate and lead LP Nevada – all they have to do is make a few phone calls or walk a few precincts. This further lowers the barriers of entry into LP Nevada.

As for the pledge, many of us have had several issues with it for a number of years. First, many of us disagree that it is, in fact, a “non-aggression pledge” or that it reflects the Non-Aggression Principle. For example, let’s say someone who has signed the pledge is pulled over by a police officer and given a speeding ticket. Following a particularly shallow understanding of the concepts behind the pledge, one could argue that the police officer “initiated aggression” – therefore, all aggression in response to that initiated aggression is morally acceptable. Want to kill the police officer? Well, they initiated aggression, so why not? Blow up the police station? Well, their organization initiated aggression, so why not? Kill the police officer’s family? Well, the police officer is a product of the cultural norms and traditions passed on to that officer, and that officer was clearly conditioned to view initiating aggression as morally acceptable, so I’m within my moral rights under the pledge to respond with any and all aggression needed to stop the aggression that was initiated with me. If I only kill the officer, they will just be replaced by additional officers, after all, so I better strike decisively at the source.

Call me unprincipled, but, if a principle can be twisted to exterminate entire families, that’s not a principle I’m interested in subscribing to.

At the same time, if we take a more serious and morally constricting interpretation of the pledge, what happens if a Libertarian Party candidate gets elected? As any self-respecting anarchist will tell you, casting a vote is aggression – you’re using your electoral power to counter someone else’s political power. If a Libertarian is elected to public office, it doesn’t matter if they’re elected 51-49 (or 34-33-33) or 99-1, there will be at least one person they nominally represent that won’t subscribe to their political ideals; yet, I think everyone here would expect – no, demand! – that a Libertarian public office holder would use aggression (the vote) to install a low- or no-government platform in their jurisdiction. This would arguably be a violation of the very pledge that we used to require all candidates to sign before we let them run for public office, yet if they didn’t violate that pledge, they’d be completely ineffective once elected.

In short, either the pledge does far too much or far too little, depending on how you read it – so why should anyone sign it or agree to it?

That’s why we removed the pledge from our membership requirements. If you believe the Non-Aggression Principle is the foundation of Libertarian philosophy (a position that’s open to debate, even among libertarians), the pledge doesn’t accomplish any of your goals. If you don’t believe the Non-Aggression Principle is the foundation of Libertarian philosophy (perhaps you prefer Consequentialism – the belief that Libertarian philosophy, when practiced, produces the best outcomes – or self-ownership), the pledge is an incoherent, contradictory mess. Either way, we believe requiring members to sign or otherwise signal agreement to the pledge extracts far more value than it provides to the Libertarian Party of Nevada.

112 thoughts on “David Colborne: The Libertarian Party of Nevada and the Non-Aggression Principle

  1. jstryder

    I’m confused. So LP Nevada no longer renounces the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals, because some people might misconstrue the N.A.P. as a justification for disproportionate self defense? Anything can be misconstrued, especially complex political theories like consequentialism or preference utilitarianism.

    The N.A.P. is likewise not idiot proof, but has the great advantage of being succinct. When regular people ask you what the LP stands for, you can tell then in a few words without asking then to enroll in a philosophy seminar. It’s what convinced me to register LP 30-some years ago, and motivates my participation now.

  2. langa

    For crying out loud, I’ve read stuff by Riley Hood that made as much sense as this pile of rubbish!

    So, any principle that can be twisted to produce absurd straw man scenarios should be rejected, right?

    I guess that means the Nevada LP doesn’t believe in property rights, either. After all, you could twist that concept to justify detonating a nuclear weapon on your own property. The hell with your neighbors! It’s not their property, right? Or how about, to take an example similar to your ridiculous speeding ticket analogy, if a store clerk sees a teenager about to shoplift a candy bar, he’s justified in shooting him in the back, right? No? Then you must not believe in property rights.

    Or how about the Golden Rule? It could be twisted to argue that a masochist is justified in torturing others, or to give someone who is suicidal a license to commit murder, couldn’t it? I guess that since it could be misconstrued, it’s worthless, huh?

    If the Nevada LP is going to jettison any principle that could possibly be misinterpreted, I guess they will be left without any principles at all.

    If that’s the idea, could you guys at least change your name? How about the Nevada Consequentialist Party? Your slogan could be “The Party of No Principles” — no, wait, that wouldn’t work. There’s already a couple of those. How about “Another Party with No Principles”? Catchy, huh?

  3. Thomas Knapp

    I wonder how many state parties have never had, or have at some point jettisoned, the “pledge?”

    So far as I know, my old home state LP in Missouri never required it, and one year we passed a resolution asking our national convention delegates to support a bylaws motion to remove it at the national level (I seconded and supported that resolution; obviously it failed at the national convention).

    We even had one member join the Missouri LP even though he was from Washington, since the Washington LP required it and we didn’t — that was the late RW Bradford, publisher of Liberty magazine.

    I oppose the pledge because it’s both useless and harmful:

    1) People who DO support initiation of force will have no compunctions about lying about whether or not they support initiation of force, so it doesn’t keep anyone out except honest people.

    2) People who understand that the pledge commits them to anarchism and are not anarchists won’t join the LP if they are honest.

    3) People who want the pledge but aren’t willing to admit what it implies make themselves look dishonest by attempting to defend it as a “we just mean we don’t plan to overthrow the government” measure. And that defense also implies that the people they’re talking to are idiots — hardly the thing to tell someone you’re trying to recruit.

  4. robert capozzi

    L: Or how about the Golden Rule? It could be twisted to argue that a masochist is justified in torturing others, or to give someone who is suicidal a license to commit murder, couldn’t it? I guess that since it could be misconstrued, it’s worthless, huh?

    me: Actually, I’d say the GR is counsel and encouragement. Rigidly read as a kind of commandment, you are correct, L. Masochists should torture and the suicidal should murder. (And, btw, they do…far too frequently.)

    I’d say that masochists and the suicidal are insane, so they need a lot of help in finding peace.

    The GR is not the same as laws governing a civil society. Those laws tend to work best when they are clear, straightforward, and as unobtrusive as possible. Undoing most of the current line up of laws is a daunting task. Undoing all of them is, for most, unimaginable and certainly unsustainable as the Somalian experiment has shown.

    L: If the Nevada LP is going to jettison any principle that could possibly be misinterpreted, I guess they will be left without any principles at all.

    me: Definitely sounds to me like you are catastrophizing. Certainly it’s the case all language can be misinterpreted. Remaining silent, however, doesn’t seem like a way to be consequential. That’s the deal.

    Extreme and absolutist rhetoric (which also happens to be untrue) is what the LP has been saddled with all these years. Sounds like NV gets that.

    Perhaps there’s hope after all that a L party could include a range of Ls, not just NAPsters and the unwashed, leaky poseurs they tolerate.

  5. langa

    People who DO support initiation of force will have no compunctions about lying about whether or not they support initiation of force, so it doesn’t keep anyone out except honest people.

    Regardless, it gives the LP an alibi when somebody like Invictus or Sonny Landham claims to be one of us.

    People who DO support initiation of force will have no compunctions about lying about whether or not they support initiation of force, so it doesn’t keep anyone out except honest people.

    I’m not sure we want those kind of people in the LP. I can understand and respect minarchists who think that the existence of the state results in a net reduction in aggression. They’re mistaken, but at least their heart is in the right place. But if someone knows the existence of the state is a net negative for liberty, and they still support it, I’m not sure that person is a libertarian at all.

  6. langa

    Actually, I’d say the GR is counsel and encouragement. Rigidly read as a kind of commandment, you are correct, L. Masochists should torture and the suicidal should murder. (And, btw, they do…far too frequently.)

    You clearly misunderstand the Golden Rule. It says that you can only do to someone else what you would consent to have them do to you. Since no one (including masochists and the suicidal) would ever consent to being aggressed against, the GR forbids all aggression. Of course, it also forbids some other stuff that does not constitute aggression. Nevertheless, the NAP is a subset of the GR, and can be logically deduced from it. If it couldn’t, then I wouldn’t support it.

  7. langa

    I screwed up the quote in one of my above comments. It should have said:

    People who understand that the pledge commits them to anarchism and are not anarchists won’t join the LP if they are honest.

    I’m not sure we want those kind of people in the LP. I can understand and respect minarchists who think that the existence of the state results in a net reduction in aggression. They’re mistaken, but at least their heart is in the right place. But if someone knows the existence of the state is a net negative for liberty, and they still support it, I’m not sure that person is a libertarian at all.

  8. Shane

    The pledge thing is overblown. It’s not sacrosanct.

    TK on your third point, the pledge was put in place because party founders feared the government. Nolan’s words to me were, “At the time, Nixon was going after groups like the Black Panthers and we didn’t want him to go after us.”

    It’s not some secret bible code for libertarians. Some people are acting like its the ring of power and without it, Libertarians are doomed.

    Get rid of it, it’s dumb. Sure, it’s necessary for anarchists but let’s be real, what anarchist who has an itch for power would honor nap? Just look at Somalia. Warlords have the most fun and the best toys. Non-Aggression in the face of anarchy is a pipe dream. That will happen when unicorns come back, rainbows rule and we all walk around in white robes and flitter about while still trying to look contemplative.

    If we’re going to have any pledge it should just say, “I pledge to not steal another libertarian’s shit and will do my best not to shank a bitch who annoys me.* [Rule only applies to fellow party members. Shanking and stealing from Republicans or Democrats is accepted and encouraged.]

  9. Thomas Knapp

    “I’m not sure we want those kind of people in the LP. ”

    I’m sure that I do, because they’re a gain in two ways:

    1) As a POLITICAL PARTY, the LP gains by having the support of anyone who wants more liberty and less government. Since our statement of principles requires 7/8ths to modify, the danger that “inconsistent libertarians” will wreck our principles is practically non-existent. Capozzi et. al have raged against it for years, but it’s still right there. People who come into the party as “inconsistent libertarians” either become “consistent libertarians,” or leave, or find ways to be productive even if they grumble that they can’t have their authoritarian way on their deviations.

    2) As a manufacturer of “consistent libertarians” — which in my opinion has been the chief positive function of the LP over the years — we need feed stock. “Socially tolerant conservatives” and “low-tax liberals” come in the front door and there’s a good chance that whether they stay or leave, they will eventually become “consistent libertarians,” also known as anarchists. Why should we actively attempt to prang our own success in that regard?

  10. Thomas Knapp

    Shane,

    I was always disappointed that I could never get Nolan to admit that obvious lie.

    You’re right. The pledge is not “secret bible code.” It openly uses a term of art that was well-known to the party’s founders to mean a certain thing to the exact groups they came from and were targeting. Pretending that it meant anything other than what it obviously meant was silly and should have been embarrassing.

  11. langa

    TK, I agree with you about converting inconsistent libertarians into consistent ones. Where I disagree is what constitutes an inconsistent libertarian. I used to be an inconsistent libertarian, but it wasn’t because I ever believed that aggression was justifiable. I just believed that some form of the state was necessary to minimize aggression. I later decided that I was wrong about that. Pretty much every time I’ve heard any former minarchist discuss their conversion to anarchism, they’ve told the same story. They used to think the state was a necessary precondition for freedom, and later found out just the opposite was true. But if someone understands that the state is the enemy of freedom, but still says, “Screw it! I care more about X, Y and Z than freedom anyway!”, I don’t see that person as a libertarian at all. They’re simply an authoritarian, and the chances of successfully converting them are slim to none.

  12. robert capozzi

    L: You clearly misunderstand the Golden Rule. It says that you can only do to someone else what you would consent to have them do to you.

    me: Believe what you will, of course. But thanks Pastor Langa. The actual words — sometimes quoted slightly differently — are “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The word “consent” is not there, even if you imagine it is! Kinda like the CotOS, which is also not anywhere, except possibly in the residue of the Ba’ath Party.

    Personally, I like the idea of adding in consent to the equation. But I don’t delude myself that the word is in the text. Maybe that’s what JC meant to say. Perhaps he was misquoted. Perhaps the multiple translations got all messed up. Hard to know. Don’t have a WayBack Machine! 😉

    Regardless, the GR is not law. JC was largely about ignoring Caesar, anyway, and suggesting the means to Heaven. Such conflation of spiritual counsel and civil and criminal law leads to Talmudic-type places, and is misplaced, IMO.

  13. Shane

    TK, you perpetuate the myth that the pledge is meaningful.

    Nolan and most of the other founders were not the “liberty or death” type. Few really are.

    They were starting something they thought would be big and didn’t want to attract Weather Underground types or the attention of Nixonian spies and infiltrators.

    Made sense at the time but today it doesn’t matter as we’re all spied on in everything we do.

    Brush that off as a “lie” but it is what it is. Over time, most phrases and lines become far more than they were ever intended to be.

    It’s just sad that anarchist sheep that are coming into the party see it as some type of definition for libertarians. It’s equally pathetic that they actually believe that the LP is the torch bearer for libertarian thought and think the party controls the definition of “libertarian.”

    The party’s name may be its fatal flaw. Being a Republican just means you generally support Republican candidates. Being a Libertarian comes with much more thought-baggage and a shitload of non-productive debate.

  14. robert capozzi

    L: Regardless, it gives the LP an alibi when somebody like Invictus or Sonny Landham claims to be one of us.

    me: Not sure what you mean by “alibi.” Do you mean there’s a basis for excluding liberty-toxic candidates from representing the LP? If so, it strikes me that there is no substitute for eternal vigilance, with or without the NAP.

    L: I’m not sure we want those kind of people in the LP. I can understand and respect minarchists who think that the existence of the state results in a net reduction in aggression. They’re mistaken, but at least their heart is in the right place. But if someone knows the existence of the state is a net negative for liberty, and they still support it, I’m not sure that person is a libertarian at all.

    me: I and Dr. Freud appreciate the honesty! 😉

    As TK likes to remind us, knowing whether or not any state is a net positive or negative for liberty provokes the calculation problem. I’m sure I don’t know one way or the other!

    In the here and now (as opposed to Construct Land), I’m quite sure we could use a lot less government. Politics — as opposed to political theory — is the game of advancing an agenda in a direction.

  15. Thomas Knapp

    Shane,

    Like I said, it’s not complicated.

    The founders of the Libertarian Party were influenced by Rand and Rothbard. In fact, followers of those two in particular were two of the three groups cited as targets in Nolan’s article calling for the formation of a Libertarian Party.

    If the point of the pledge had been to keep Weather Underground types out and the FBI off the party’s back, all kinds of language could have been used to convey that. They chose language that had specific meaning to them and to pretty much anyone who had spent more than 30 seconds studying libertarianism.

    The claim that they did so by accident or coincidence is insulting to the intelligence of anyone being asked to believe it.

  16. robert capozzi

    fwiw, I agree with TK on a technical basis. The 89 20-somethings were mostly Randians and some Rothbardians, as I understand it. They — in their immaturity — bought the NAP hook, line, and sinker. They tried to not sound too wacky, so much of the foundational language is cryptic, e.g., “…governments, when instituted…,” comes to mind.

    I don’t have any doubt about that. While The Nolan later claimed it was Weather Underground immunization, I suspect it was both that and undiluted NAPsterism.

    An entire reset seems indicated, but unlikely.

  17. Caryn Ann Harlos

    This is a completely contradictory hot mess.

    But that being said, we don’t require the pledge for membership in CO either.

    The issue for me is always the SoP, and the NAP is contained therein, and with that, no, contrary to the above article, there is NO legitimate debate as to whether it is the foundation of Libertarian Party libertarianism. It is.

    I see Weinman’s hand trying to rewrite history, but the NAP is in fact part of the LP foundation- whether one believes it for deontological or utilitarian reasons is a different (and uninteresting to me) matter.

    If this is the kind of convoluted nonsense that would come out of a Pojunis chair, then my choice has been made.

    And don’t speak for “self-respecting anarchists” – if you are going to pull stuff out of rears.

  18. robert capozzi

    cah: …whether one believes it for deontological or utilitarian reasons is a different (and uninteresting to me) matter.

    me: It could be for both reasons, couldn’t it? Does everything have to come down to ONE reason?

    Last I checked, a true radical is willing to check premises. To radicals, that’s ENORMOUSLY interesting.

    Kool Aid can taste good, but it’s not especially satisfying, I’ve found. 😉

  19. Thomas Knapp

    Here’s where my disinterest in the SoP comes in. It’s not about whether it’s deontological, utilitarian or what, it’s:

    1) Only a handful of people spend much time thinking about it. Outside of that handful of people, not only is it not a big issue, it’s not an issue at all. It’s done nothing to hold the party back because both the party and the public largely ignore it in practice; and

    2) It requires 7/8ths to change, and there will always be more than 1/8th to vote against changing it, so worrying about it is like worrying about whether or not the tide will come in and go out. It’s there. It’s staying there. If you can’t handle it, don’t choose to live on the beach.

  20. robert capozzi

    tk, yes, few pay attention EXPLICITLY to the SoP…that makes sense. But — as you know — there’s the seen and the unseen. The unseen is that many NAPsters have Langa’s attitude: That THEY are the REAL Ls, and non-NAPsters are not.

    That, IMO, is an organizational cancer.

    That’s why I got off the beach. After a while, when the cadre keep telling we non-cadre: My way or the highway, it becomes just too exhausting and dysfunctional. I and many non-NAPsters have gotten the message loud and clear: Unless you are willing to drink the NAP Kool Aid, you are not welcome.

    But, I’ll still vote L or I’ll stay home.

  21. Thomas Knapp

    Bob,

    Well, I would encourage you to not discount the possibility of a new party — a more broad-based “small-l” party, or perhaps a single-issue party that you think captures the zeitgeist in a productive way — coming along to give you other options.

    I know you didn’t fancy the Boston Tea Party’s version of incrementalism, and/or felt that there could only usefully be one vehicle for the “l” vote and that for the moment the LP was that vehicle. But that doesn’t mean you’ll NEVER find an offering that strikes you as good enough to replace the LP and with a significant chance of doing so.

  22. Robert capozzi

    Tk, thanks. I don’t discount any possibility. I’m a radical, after all.

    It’s definitely challenging, given the state by state technicalties. If it were to happen, I suspect the LP would shrink down to only the purest of cadre.

  23. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    I cannot agree with the LP NV’s verbiage AT ALL. The paragraph of what the NAP could possibly mean is creative distortion at its best. I’m very sorry to see a state party take this turn away from a key principle to the LP.

    I sure hope we’re able to keep our party out of the wrong hands during the 2016 convention.

  24. Caryn Ann Harlos

    I agree Jill. That was absolutely ridiculous. There are some thoughtful parsing out of the NAP- complex moral issues get complex. But this wasn’t thoughtful, it was completely shallow, ludicrous, and anti-historical.

    Obviously an affiliate can do what they want (huge supporter of affiliate autonomy), but try as they might, removing the Pledge doesn’t do a thing for the Statement of Principles, which is required for affiliation. All that showboating is meaningless. but I did solidify my support behind Sarwark. Such gross mishandling of basic philosophy (both weak and strong points) is not acceptable for leaders I will choose.

    I am proud to say that CO in its last convention strengthened its support for our Party principles. And no, we don’t require the Pledge for membership and AFAIK never have (or it was a long time ago), but we reaffirmed and strongly re-stated our support of the SoP and the principles therein. If anything, amendments from the floor were even stronger than proposed.

    CO stands firmly behind our principles. And we put 32 candidates on the ballot, and have one of the (if not the) strongest candidate on the L field, Lilly Tang Williams. As far as delegate allocation. we are strong. We have 32. I can’t imagine very many (if any) CO delegates voting for such a mangling of principles.

  25. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Tom,

    To the extent that was directed at me. I bring it up because when I hear the hue and cry that someone want to “remove the NAP” – I like to remind them that it is impossible. Getting rid of the Pledge won’t do it. The Pledge is referring back to the SoP. You don’t get rid of the root by plucking a leaf, and this root is dug down so deep that you can’t pull it out without destroying the tree. So I just to bust these balloons of those who think they can say that the NAP isn’t a foundational principle. It is. There is absolutely no argument to be made. It is incoherent at best, and absolutely dishonest at worse, and I don’t have tolerance for either. Particularly from leaders. So the incoherent mess about police officers and candidates above is irrelevant. Removing the Pledge does NOTHING to “cure” that alleged concern for it is in the SoP. If NV wants to argue that the LP’s virtually unchangeable principles make it impossible to be a candidate, then I wish them the best of luck in forming a Party outside the LP that doesn’t have that alleged deficit. Because they have ratified the SoP as a *condition of affiliation* with the national Party. The statements above were all heat and no light. Of more concern is removing the 30 day requirement. That is a disaster waiting to happen. How fast we unlearn the lessons of NY.

    The reason the deontological v utilitarian does’t matter or interest me in the slightest is because the SoP doesn’t make it matter. It simply says the principles. It doesn’t care how one arrives at them. Jesus could have appeared in a piece of toast and told you it was so for all the SoP cares.

  26. robert capozzi

    cah: …this root is dug down so deep that you can’t pull it out without destroying the tree.

    me: The tree as I see it is withered and stunted. It’s if anything dying a slow death, which is no surprise given that the roots are atrophied and unable to nourish the tree.

    A healthier sapling COULD be planted in its place and, given the rise of L thought and a generalized disgust with the Rs and Ds, has the potential to grow strong into a world-class tree, bearing much fruit.

    I’m curious, CAH, if you saw the great exponent of NAPsterism (Walter Block) has founded Ls for Trump. (TK and I discussed this, and I’m pretty sure you’ve cited him as a great influence of yours.) I was curious as to your reaction.

  27. Anthony

    So I guess we have a test case now, right? The LPNV should see a tremendous influx of new members, who were held back all along by the “Pledge.” Or, said removal is gonna make the LPNV quick and nimble, no longer held back by ossified principles, and thus a membership-building machine.

  28. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Anthony I actually don’t have an issue with removing the Pledge (well I do, but nothing to get lathered up about) for non-dues paying members. To me that is shrug-news, perhaps because we don’t require it in CO. Though for dues-paying members? That is different. It was the cringe-inducing vapidity of the rest.

  29. robert capozzi

    A: The LPNV should see a tremendous influx of new members, who were held back all along by the “Pledge.”

    me: Unlikely. This merely clips off one small dead branch.

    To see an influx over time, the LP’d need to strike the root, the self-limiting NAP itself, inviting all Ls as equals, expunging the plantation mentality.

  30. Anthony

    Yea, I basically stopped reading the statement when he got into his laughable “Cop Scenario.”

    But enough about that. I have babies to starve, shipwreck survivors to kick off a lifeboat, and the slow torture of a particularly bratty kid who walked across my lawn one time.

  31. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Anthony, you too? I thought I was the only one who had an exciting NAP-filled day!

  32. Thomas Knapp

    Ah, a prime example of the cargo cultist mentality. No matter how much the LP accommodates their desire that it be less than it was, their excuse for success not transpiring is always that THAT won’t happen until it finally agrees to become nothing.

  33. Caryn Ann Harlos

    ==THAT won’t happen until it finally agrees to become nothing.==

    That’s the spirit!

  34. Shawn Levasseur

    All questions on what the pledge means aside, I feel that removing the pledge as a membership requirement isn’t going to help boost membership.

    Personally, the minimal restriction it provides, does require one to pause and actually think about what Libertarianism means, even if they don’t all come to the same exact thoughts on it. It may give people who see the LP as a mere brand name pause before treating it as such. What it means to be a “D” or an “R” has been rather fluid over the years, almost to the point of being meaningless.

    In my opinion, the pledge is not a purity test, just a speed bump, and one I don’t mind.

  35. Michael H. Wilson

    Some new member I was working a booth with was asked by a gentleman what we were all about. My fellow Libertarian replied by saying it was all about the nap. I had to laugh at that point but just before he walked away the gentleman said “I thought you were talking about milk and cookies.”

    A promotional piece that’s clear, concise and consistent it ain’t. It is good for humor.

  36. robert capozzi

    tk: No matter how much the LP accommodates their desire that it be less than it was, their excuse for success not transpiring is always that THAT won’t happen until it finally agrees to become nothing.

    me: Are you kidding? Has anyone really advocated “nothing”? Or are you catastrophizing?

    Oh, no! The big bad non-NAPsters want to strip the SoP and Pledge crafted so perfectly by 89 post-adolescents 40+ years ago, replacing them with nothing!

    Sacrilege!

  37. David Colborne

    Hi everyone.

    Regarding the cop scenario – of course it was ridiculous. It was intentionally so. I was circumnavigating the same point that TK made at the beginning of the thread:

    1) People who DO support initiation of force will have no compunctions about lying about whether or not they support initiation of force, so it doesn’t keep anyone out except honest people.

    2) People who understand that the pledge commits them to anarchism and are not anarchists won’t join the LP if they are honest.

    3) People who want the pledge but aren’t willing to admit what it implies make themselves look dishonest by attempting to defend it as a “we just mean we don’t plan to overthrow the government” measure. And that defense also implies that the people they’re talking to are idiots — hardly the thing to tell someone you’re trying to recruit.

    The example I gave was a clear cut example of (1) – a person who would seriously think like that and act accordingly won’t care about what the Pledge or the NAP says or means. Obviously the pledge didn’t stop them from being a homicidal maniac, and, well, if it can’t even stop familial homicide, it clearly can’t stop anything. I then followed it up by circuitously making point (2) – most anarchists I know that really, truly believe in the NAP or the spirit behind the pledge believe that voting is either aggression or pointless (or, my personal favorite, both). Since “voting” is a basic prerequisite for an organization calling itself a political party, at least in our current system, pledging members to implicitly treat all political activity as aggression is ultimately self-defeating.

    Cutting to the point, regardless of where you stand on the NAP or the SoP, the Pledge doesn’t work. It never worked. So we got rid of it.

    Now, having said all that, do I expect membership applications to flood in? Do I think that one checkbox was the key to unlocking the LPNV’s potential? Of course not. Do I think the ideals behind the SoP are important? Sure, though I think they more closely reflect the foundational nature of self-ownership in libertarian philosophy than the Non-Aggression Principle (I recognize others disagree and that’s fine). Do I think the Pledge served as a useful summary of either the SoP or the NAP? Not in the slightest. It either does too much or too little, depending on how much you care about it.

    So, since it doesn’t work, why keep it around?

  38. Caryn Ann Harlos

    David that is deepening the absurdity:

    ==The example I gave was a clear cut example of (1) – a person who would seriously think like that and act accordingly won’t care about what the Pledge or the NAP says or means. Obviously the pledge didn’t stop them from being a homicidal maniac, and, well, if it can’t even stop familial homicide, it clearly can’t stop anything.===

    The intention was never to be kryptonite against a maniac. Or being a liar. Let’s get rid of marriage vows or swearing to tell the truth in court. Because sociopaths.

    == I then followed it up by circuitously making point (2) – most anarchists I know that really, truly believe in the NAP or the spirit behind the pledge believe that voting is either aggression or pointless (or, my personal favorite, both). Since “voting” is a basic prerequisite for an organization calling itself a political party, at least in our current system, pledging members to implicitly treat all political activity as aggression is ultimately self-defeating.==

    More nonsense since the authors of the Pledge were minarchists and obviously didn’t hold to that (and anarchists IN THE PARTY generally don’t either). This is a nonsense interpretation that would require the authors to be so stupid that they walked into walls face first.

    ==Cutting to the point, regardless of where you stand on the NAP or the SoP, the Pledge doesn’t work. It never worked. So we got rid of it.==

    If you are expecting it to be a forcefield against sociopathy, nothing works. It certainly works for the Nolan-reason – we officially are nonviolent. And it certainly works as an ideological statement. For what it is intended to do (whichever or both interpretations), it works just fine. It doesn’t accomplish nuclear fission either, but that is hardly a failing of the pledge since it was never intended to.

    ==Now, having said all that, do I expect membership applications to flood in? Do I think that one checkbox was the key to unlocking the LPNV’s potential? Of course not. Do I think the ideals behind the SoP are important? Sure, though I think they more closely reflect the foundational nature of self-ownership in libertarian philosophy than the Non-Aggression Principle (I recognize others disagree and that’s fine). ==

    Property rights and non-aggression are two sides of the same coin and since the SoP actually SAYS “we support the prohibition of the initiation of force” it is beyond any belief that the SoP doesn’t reflect explicitly the NAP which of course means you can’t aggress against other people because you do not own them.

    ==Do I think the Pledge served as a useful summary of either the SoP or the NAP? Not in the slightest. It either does too much or too little, depending on how much you care about it.==

    The Pledge came after the SoP. Everything, according to the 1972 bylaws, was judged by the SoP, and thus yes it is. Or it wouldn’t have stayed.

    My reasons for not favoring it in CO are sheerly logistical. We don’t have paid memberships. If we did, I would absolutely champion it. Our membership is defined by the state as all registered Libertarians and since that signing up is done with the state, and not with us, we certainly cannot require it. In states where that is the case, it makes sense, and it also makes sense to have paid memberships in which a deeper commitment is required.

    BTW, the SoP doesn’t “work.” There are people who read it, are in the Party, and still kill and rape and steal. Let’s get rid of all ideological statements, none of them “work.” Because bad people. Because reasons.

    PS the cop example wasn’t the worst one… the voting one was. Since acting to reduce aggression isn’t aggression. If it was, you shouldn’t do it, anarchist it or not. Because self-ownership (using your example). Why are you violating someone’s self-ownership by removing their means of forcing their coercive illegitimate policies on others? Because that ridiculous and you are not. It is not aggression in any world to remove coercion. By any means. It boggles the mind.

  39. ATBAFT

    Nolan was worried about infiltration and agent provacateurs “bad actors” doing non-libertarian things in the name of libertarianism. So NAP was designed to stop liars so much as to allow the LP leadership to say, “These people taking these actions are in violation of LP principles. But, the founders being heavily Randist, saw it as another way to say Galt’s pledge to “never live for the sake of another man or ask another man to live for mine.” Perhaps this wouldn’t or couldn’t square with political action (though it must be remembered Rand herself engaged in political action that certainly could be deemed as forcing other men to live for her sake (e.g. tax support for the space program.))

    While 7/8 support for change is very unlikely, it is not impossible to have a majority of the LNC be anti-pledge and just decide to ignore it in all printed literature, etc. etc. Then hard-core NAPsters could decide to leave the LP if they so chose.

  40. Caryn Ann Harlos

    ATBAFT, the Pledge doesn’t require 7/8 to remove. It isn’t the SoP and doesn’t carry the importance of the SoP which is why I rarely argue from it. And yes, sure the LNC can ignore it. They *could* ignore the whole platform and libertarian principles if they choose too. I would hope no Libertarian is advocating that a governing board should ignore its governing documents.

  41. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Removing or modifying the Pledge nationally would be 2/3 vote. Only the SoP requires 7/8 vote. Only the SoP is virtually impossible. And it isn’t a matter of getting 7/8 to agree. That would be hard enough. It was purposefully made even more difficult than that, so is pretty close to say “this is impossible.” It is 7/8 of *registered delegates* which means you have to have 7/8 of all registered delegates on the floor at one time AND get them all to agree. Won’t happen. It isn’t intended to be a real possibility.

  42. Caryn Ann Harlos

    And Nolan’s explanation strains credibility. I certainly believe that was the exigent reason for requiring an actual Pledge for membership. That was NOT the reason for the “content” of the Pledge. This is simple logic – which Tom has gone through many times.

    To use a religious analogy, a Church might require someone to affirm the Apostle’s Creed as a way to require people to publicly identify with the Church (perhaps in a time where there was a price to pay for the public commitment and they only wanted those willing to be martyrs) But the “content” of it is not the same as the exigent reasons.

  43. Jeffery Thomasson (Not my real name)

    The NAP is the only thing that makes the LP a real political party.

    The Republicans and the Democrats are not really political parties anymore. They have no core philosophy. They rewrite their platforms every year. People hate that.

    The NAP represents one of the LP’s best aspects. I think it is one of the things that is attractive to people. Americans are hungry for purpose and plain speaking. They hate politics as usual. The NAP is our proof that we stand for something.

    When I first got active I too thought the NAP and unnecessary barrier to entry. That is no longer true. I have never had anyone balk at joining the LP from the NAP. Quite the opposite, telling people about the NAP when out OPH tabling is one of our biggest draws. People really like what the NAP says. They love that there is a tangible point to define what it means to be a Libertarian. Instead they balk at the membership fees.

    People are simply sick of ambiguity in politics. They feel battered blown about by the winds of political convenience. The NAP is a great anchor in contrast and empowers us with trust the other parties will never again gain.

    There is an old time meme in the party: “When the NAP goes, that is when we know the GoP infiltrators have finally taken over.” The origins of which reach far before my signing on. I have been told that it goes way back to the Rads versus Trads split that created the party. It was the Radicals who started the LP. It was the Traditionals that stayed with the GoP. I think that the metaphorical truth in the statement began to manifest in larger ways.

    Our fight is one that require long term strategies to undo over 100 years of autocracy and fascism being baked into law. A significant part of our fight in engaging the electorate is going to be generational. You cannot maintain a vision for that long without a vision statement. That is what idealism is. It is a force and you have to be careful with the scope you apply it.

    Like all ideals the NAP is general in its wording to provide strong illustration. It is non-specific and should never be used as a litmus test. The NAP it is brilliant for determining weight in truthiness to our common goals. It provides contrast helping eliminate the sometimes hard to define grey areas the real world is made up of.

    Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are prospering because they stand out and make bold statements that challenge people. I am NOT rooting for what they are using as ensigns. One is evil the other naive. Their bold statements make them seem like they stand for something definite. The NAP is what makes us stand for something definite. It is our 40 year old proof and an asset of consistency.

    Wanting to change the NAP in my experience is a hallmark of someone intent on leaving a mark on the LP. Someone seeking to be its savior. We don’t need saviors. We need to be good people. We need to stop focusing our energies internally, and instead be reaching out to educate and recruit our fellows. This constant bickering over redefining us is killing us. Touching the NAP is sacrosanct, because wanting to touch it means you are focused on the wrong targets. Changing the purpose of an organization is the definition of hijacking it.

    Joining into dishonest game of ambiguous politics as usual, disconnecting ourselves from our defining ensign, and throwing away a time proven asset for the sake of thin and unfounded arguments feels like pure foolishness to me. Save the NAP.

  44. David Colborne

    Joining into dishonest game of ambiguous politics as usual, disconnecting ourselves from our defining ensign, and throwing away a time proven asset for the sake of thin and unfounded arguments feels like pure foolishness to me. Save the NAP.

    I agree with everything except the last sentence.

    Here’s the thing – it’s possible to reach Libertarianism through paths that don’t involve the NAP. In fact, several people have not only done just that, they’ve documented why they think the NAP is insufficient. Some of the reasons are, admittedly, more intellectual than others, but it proves definitely that it’s quite possible to hew to the principles of big-L Libertarianism while having serious reservations about the utility of the NAP.

    The Libertarian Party of Nevada is not the Non-Aggression Principle Foundationalist Libertarian Party of Nevada – it’s the Libertarian Party of Nevada, representing all Libertarians in Nevada, regardless of their feelings on the NAP. If you’re in favor of the NAP and live in Nevada, welcome to the LPNV! If you’re not in favor of the NAP and live in Nevada, welcome to the LPNV! Either way, if you call yourself a Libertarian and are willing to consistently advocate smaller government, for some definition of “smaller” (0 and 99 are both smaller than 100, after all), welcome to the LPNV and enjoy your stay.

    Either way, you’re certainly not going to become more Libertarian working with Democrats and Republicans on a regular basis.

  45. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    As most of you know, my writing style is not filled with lovely words and nuances. I’ve written business letters for so long that I’ve learned that more words can often create unintentional problems, so this is why I’ve developed such a style. (Frankly, though, I am a bit envious of people who do write well, using uncommon words and colorful phrases).

    Anyway, short and simple is why I like the NAP. It’s easy to understand. If someone can really take to heart what it means to not initiate force, I think the understanding of libertarianism can start to really take hold to a newcomer. I can’t imagine explaining what we’re all about without it.

    I agree with Jeffrey. I have NEVER had someone find the NAP to be a deal-breaker. Rather, I tend to see people experiencing some kind of “Eureka” moment when I explain it.

  46. Caryn Ann Harlos

    ==I agree with everything except the last sentence.==

    Since the last sentence is the natural conclusion of everything that went before, no you can’t.

    ==Here’s the thing – it’s possible to reach Libertarianism through paths that don’t involve the NAP.==

    That is a bait and switch. It is possible to get to Libertarianism through divine revelation. It is possible to get to Libertarianism through eating bad piece of ham. This isn’t about how one gets there, but what it is. The path isn’t the destination.

    == In fact, several people have not only done just that, they’ve documented why they think the NAP is insufficient. Some of the reasons are, admittedly, more intellectual than others, but it proves definitely that it’s quite possible to hew to the principles of big-L Libertarianism while having serious reservations about the utility of the NAP.==

    Another bait and switch. No one (or they shouldn’t – and no one really immersed in this stuff) claims that it is *sufficient*- they claim it is *necessary.* And foundational. And you simply contradicted yourself. No it isn’t possible to hew to the principles of the big-L Libertarianism and reject the NAP. Why? Because Big-L Libertarianism is self-defined by the Libertarian Party (which self-definition all affiliates agree to as a condition of affiliation) as including certain principles. One of which is the NAP. You basically just said it is possible to hold the principles why denying them which is utterly incoherent.

    ==The Libertarian Party of Nevada is not the Non-Aggression Principle Foundationalist Libertarian Party of Nevada – it’s the Libertarian Party of Nevada===

    An affiliate has every right to add or take whatever they wish… with the exception of the principles in the SoP which is a condition of affiliation. Now you can thumb your nose at that and break the voluntary agreement. I would think THAT would be against Libertarian principles. LPNV ratified the SoP. It is a condition of affiliation. The Pledge or no Pledge. I think your last comment kind of put paid to the initial assertion that this was some big concern about what “works.”

    == representing all Libertarians in Nevada, regardless of their feelings on the NAP. If you’re in favor of the NAP and live in Nevada, welcome to the LPNV! If you’re not in favor of the NAP and live in Nevada, welcome to the LPNV! Either way, if you call yourself a Libertarian and are willing to consistently advocate smaller government, for some definition of “smaller” (0 and 99 are both smaller than 100, after all), ===

    Sounds very Republican. So, wanting .001% less is now Libertarian Party Libertarianism? I think Jeffery had it nailed. This is messiah complex and completely contrary to the principles. The SoP isn’t merely about “smaller government” and never has been. Sorry but that is the fact. It is about moving to voluntary cooperative and non-coercive governance. Exactly how much? That is where things do get pretty fuzzy admittedly, but it is also as clear that .001 less is not Libertarian Party Libertarianism. And how is it judged? By the coercion against rights (i.e. aggression against property). I remind everyone again…

    SoP: We, the member of the Libertarian Party…. [follows from this introduction] support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others.

    Pro:tip- you can’t oppose and support something at the same time and the same way. To borrow from Ayn Rand: A is A.

    ==Either way, you’re certainly not going to become more Libertarian working with Democrats and Republicans on a regular basis.==

    Nor by denying the principles of the Party. I don’t see why not working with Democrats and Republicans on a regular basis. Your vision sounds like you just want to replace the Republican Party but be okay with hookers and pot.

    I also remind everyone what the National Party said. We welcome people from the Democratic and Republican Parties who now hold to the libertarian principles of self-ownership and non-aggression.

    The Pledge is a smokescreen. The NAP is in the SoP which isn’t optional to the definition of Libertarian Party Libertarianism. Now, again, someone may not “like” that but that has been part of the Party’s self-definition since 1972.

    PS: It is also a bait and switch to try and claim (obliquely) that having principles means that those who do not adhere to them 100% is not welcome. It simply means that they deviate (for whatever reason, and they may be absolutely right) from the standard line set. And that is inevitable. If you make X principle “optional” as a standard-line, then those that say it isn’t deviate. It isn’t possible to avoid. The Libertarian Party has set its anchor and its standard, and it includes the NAP.

  47. Gene Berkman

    I attended the founding convention of The Libertarian Party in Denver, Colorado, at the Radisson Hotel in June of 1972, so I can give some historical background.

    Dr John Hospers wrote the Statement of Principles, which was modified with a few changes of wording in committee – I was on the committee that approved the Statement of Principles. Dr Hospers came up with the phrase “We the members of The Libertarian Party challenge the Cult of the Omnipotent State and defend the rights of the individual.” Dr Hospers was a limited government libertarian, influenced by Objectivism; he was never an anarchist.

    The term “Omnipotent State” is derived from a book by Ludwig von Mises titled “Omnipotent Government:the Rise of the Total State and Total War.” The first book in English written by Dr von Mises, “Omnipotent Government” is an analysis of the rise of National Socialism in Germany – the Third Reich was without doubt an “omnipotent state” as was Stalin’s Russia.

    The one weakness of the term is that practically speaking, most of our opponents – from George W Bush to Bernie Sanders, don’t believe in an omnipotent state – just a very powerful state, strong enough to limit our liberties and take our property.

    The Libertarian Movement existed prior to The Libertarian Party. It is commonly dated from the Young Americans for Freedom convention in 1969. The main intellectual currents were Objectivism of Ayn Rand and Austrian Economics of Ludwig von Mises. The Non-Aggression Principle was considered the fundamental basis of libertarianism – the rejection of the initiation of force. To reject the non-aggression principle means the acceptance of the initiation of force in some circumstances.

    The 89 people who attended the convention in Denver were not duped into accepting the language about the Omnipotent State or the Non-Aggression Principle – they went to Denver already committed to the NAP and to opposing omnipotent government.

    The Pledge itself had a purpose that was clear at the time – expressed to me by Dave Nolan although it was already clear. In 1972 many libertarians did not believe in political action or voting – a few on principle, based on obscure arguments by Robert Lefevre, but most libertarians just did not believe that political action could be effective in limiting government power. The point of the Pledge was two-fold – to convince libertarians that The Libertarian Party had a protection against people coming in and adopting a platform that would support statism, and a hope that the pledge would work to keep out people who would want to change the party from libertarian to some form of statist organization.

    Dave Nolan or someone came up with the excuse that the Pledge gives us deniability in case a terrorist is found who had joined the LP. But the real reason was to try to convince libertarians that it would be safe to be involved in a libertarian political organization.

    I personally think the Statement of Principles is more important than the Pledge.

  48. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Gene, very honoured to interact with you. I am going to copy and add your comments to my historical article here on the SoP and you reflected EXACTLY my understanding. It isn’t an anarchist pledge. That is patently ridiculous (and I am an anarchist).

    And yes, I have argued that the Statement of Principles is what is at issue. Not the Pledge. The Pledge has been used as a smokescreen and diversion.

  49. David Colborne

    ==I agree with everything except the last sentence.==

    Since the last sentence is the natural conclusion of everything that went before, no you can’t.

    I can and will. Saving the NAP is not a natural conclusion at all – it assumes that the NAP is actually valid, foundational, or needed, all of which are openly subject to debate. At best, it gets half of Libertarianism right, but still misses a useful framework for restitution in the event that aggression occurs, inadvertently or intentionally, and requires significant handwaving to avoid “stray photons” from “aggressing” people.

    ==Here’s the thing – it’s possible to reach Libertarianism through paths that don’t involve the NAP.==

    That is a bait and switch. It is possible to get to Libertarianism through divine revelation. It is possible to get to Libertarianism through eating bad piece of ham. This isn’t about how one gets there, but what it is. The path isn’t the destination.

    I’ll take both points of this.

    When we’re talking about what belongs on a membership form and what criteria should be used to determine membership in a political party, we’re absolutely talking about “how one gets there”. After they become a member, then we can start talking about destinations.

    As for destinations, as previously discussed, the NAP is not a workable theory of justice or political action. It does not convey any useful guidance regarding the proper response when aggression does occur, nor does it provide any guidance regarding appropriate political action – in fact, as Gene pointed out quite recently, it could be argued quite convincingly that the NAP actively precludes political action since political action is, by definition, coercive.

    == In fact, several people have not only done just that, they’ve documented why they think the NAP is insufficient. Some of the reasons are, admittedly, more intellectual than others, but it proves definitely that it’s quite possible to hew to the principles of big-L Libertarianism while having serious reservations about the utility of the NAP.==

    Another bait and switch. No one (or they shouldn’t – and no one really immersed in this stuff) claims that it is *sufficient*- they claim it is *necessary.*

    No. Quite a few people – including the people I linked to previously – not only believe it is unnecessary, they believe it is harmful to actually understanding the foundations of Libertarianism.

    And foundational.

    Again, no, for reasons previously discussed. To quote from one of the articles I previously linked:

    Despite my previous status as a card-carrying Rothbardian, I abandoned the NAP. I abandoned it in part because I came to believe that the NAP is not a foundational principle of justice. To see why one might agree with me, let’s consider why one should accept any normative principle as foundational.

    A normative principle is foundational just when it provides an ultimate or non-derivative explanation of the normative force of a suitably broad range of considered normative judgments. A foundational principle should therefore have at least two theoretical virtues: it should be (i) comprehensive and (ii) ultimate or basic. A principle should be comprehensive in virtue of explaining the force of a wide range of our moral and political intuitive judgments. A principle is ultimate or basic if it’s normative force is non-derivative. In other words, its normative force is not derived from some more basic principle but is compelling in itself.

    On this score, consider consequentialism, which loosely holds that all moral facts are made true solely by facts about consequences. The principle is simple and elegant, and also plausibly basic. Caring about consequences just seems morally relevant. However, the common worry about consequentialism is that it fails to ratify many of our core moral judgments. This is why historically consequentialists have had moral views at significant variance with the societies they lived in (from Bentham to Peter Singer). Some consider this radical stance a virtue, but accepting a moral principle with radically revisionary implications for morality has a theoretical cost because it is not suitably comprehensive.

    To have good reason to endorse the NAP, we need reason to think that its explanation of our intuitions about justice is comprehensive and ultimate or basic, that is, compelling in itself. Matt has argued that the NAP lacks comprehensiveness: it cannot explain a wide range of our intuitions about justice. But we should also reject the NAP as a foundational principle because it lacks ultimacy.

    Back to you…

    No it isn’t possible to hew to the principles of the big-L Libertarianism and reject the NAP. Why? Because Big-L Libertarianism is self-defined by the Libertarian Party (which self-definition all affiliates agree to as a condition of affiliation) as including certain principles.

    1. The Libertarian Party does not get to “self-define” what Big-L Libertarianism is. It is a political arm (not the, a – there are more than one political arms) of the broader Big-L Libertarian movement, much of which (as Gene mentioned previously) long predates the Libertarian Party.
    2. The Statement of Principles does not directly mention the NAP. It is, at best, loosely based on the NAP; it can also be argued that it’s based on… let’s just quote some more of that article:

    In the end, libertarianism actually relies on four principles (as Nozick saw): a principle of bodily ownership, a principle of acquisition of external property, a principle of transfer of external property (and perhaps some parts of the body) and a principle of rectification for when the first three principles are violated. Let’s call these the principles of self-ownership, acquisition, transfer and rectification.

    Back to you…

    You basically just said it is possible to hold the principles why denying them which is utterly incoherent.

    Sure – if you believe that the NAP is synonymous with Libertarianism and vice-versa. I don’t. Libertarianism predates the formal establishment of the NAP by at least a century, for starters, which goes a long way toward demonstrating that the NAP is not, in fact, “foundational”. It’s a little difficult for a “foundational principle” to be foundational for a movement that predates it.

  50. Caryn Ann Harlos

    I have to go back to work for most of this evening and have meetings tomorrow but will be responding in full as you simply confounded and obfuscated the issue once again. I find it ironic that you simply disregarded what the original authors and affirmers stated the SoP was about. Whether or not you think it is “right” is an entirely different issue from it is “is.” Which I will be back to.

  51. Caryn Ann Harlos

    For the record, this is absolutely and unequivocally false:

    ==2. The Statement of Principles does not directly mention the NAP. It is, at best, loosely based on the NAP; it can also be argued that it’s based on… ===

    You didn’t even attempt to deal with the language but quoted an article that had nothing to do with the SoP. And there is a huge hint (and large large elephant in the room int he part you did quote… amazing). I will be responding to this point first because by taking this out of order, it demonstrates the irrelevance to the argument of most of the rest (as I am not going to post a position paper taking weeks from a major cut and paste that didn’t deal with my point). I could cut and paste from a back of communists claiming property rights and self-onwership aren’t foundational. Hardly the point.

    And arguing for consequentialism isn’t an argument that the NAP isn’t the foundation for libertarianism… it is arguing that consequentialism is superior to libertarianism. Consequentialism =/= libertarianism. They can be compatible. They can overlap. And to some they overlap 100%. But they are not the same thing… another very large bait and switch. Libertarianism values the rights of the individual (and LP Libertarianism in particular). Consequentialism values outcomes even if they conflict with the rights of the individual. For some libertarians, they never (or rarely) conflict. That is the position of the Radical Caucus btw. But where they do conflict…. where you are attempting to justify aggression – consquentialism is not libertarianism. In the same way, I am a pacifist. My pacifism doesn’t conflict with my libertarianism, but it is not the same as my libertarianism. You are doing some major conflating.

  52. robert capozzi

    jt: The Republicans and the Democrats are not really political parties anymore. They have no core philosophy. They rewrite their platforms every year. People hate that.

    The NAP represents one of the LP’s best aspects. I think it is one of the things that is attractive to people. Americans are hungry for purpose and plain speaking. They hate politics as usual. The NAP is our proof that we stand for something.

    me: Where to begin? Guess I’ll just take it point by point. I’ve seen zero evidence that people hate that the Rs and Ds rewrite their platforms every year. Show us some if you have any.

    I certainly agree that people hate politics as usual. I see NO evidence that they are attracted to the NAP and the LP. Both remain asterisks for decades now.

    The truth is that NAPsters love that the LP is a NAP party. Virtually no one else gives a rat’s ass about the NAP. People vote as they do for many reasons, often for emotional reasons…I like him more than her, kinda thing. Deep political theory and constructs are the least of their motives in most cases.

    Force initiation is not on the minds of most voters. If pressed, I believe you’d find that most recognize that force initiation has been around forever and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. For practical reasons, pointing to the impossible is emotionally inept.

  53. robert capozzi

    cah: consquentialism is not libertarianism.

    me: By what authority do you make this claim? Consequentialism may well not be Harlosian L-ism, but that’s different than saying what you said.

  54. Gene Berkman

    Robert – yes it is true, most people don’t think about the Non-Aggression Principle, so it is likely that the LP’s commitment to non-initiation of force is not the reason the Libertarian Party has not had more success. Therefore, eliminating the Non-Aggression Principle, and substituting some other fundamental principle, will not guarantee greater success for Libertarian political endeavors.

    People are most likely to be interested in The Libertarian Party if they see Libertarians promoting a view on a public policy issue that they care about. Legalization of marijuana, ending the income tax, opposing interventionist wars of regime change – these issues might bring people into the orbit of The Libertarian Party. And our stand of each of these issues is an attempt to apply libertarian principles – fundamentally the principle of the non-initiation of force – to actual social change.

    If someone objects to the principle of the non-initiation of force, what other principle can be substituted to determine what constitutes the Libertarian position on any public controversy? Inquiring minds want to know.

  55. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Gene what is said usually is “property rights” which is cringingly incoherent because the two are inseparably wed to each other. It is like saying, I don’t like heads so I will take tails as if they weren’t the same coin. Property rights describes what we have– non-aggression describes what we can do. Property rights are meaningless without a theory of aggression, and a theory of aggression is meaningless without property rights. Those who go, its just “self-ownership” — okay… what does that mean? What, so I cannot violate your self-ownership.. notice that word “violate,” those who try to neutralize the NAP can’t help but smuggle it back in under another word. They don’t even cover their tracks all that well. But most people don’t logic very well so it gets past them. Particularly if the panic button is pushed hard enough OZMG! THE LP WOULD BE SO MUCH MORE POPULAR IF WE WERE COOL WITH AGGRESSION.

    It is turtles all the way down.

  56. robert capozzi

    gb: what other principle can be substituted to determine what constitutes the Libertarian position on any public controversy?

    me: Even with the NAP, there is a range of views among Ls on any public controversy. So, I check your premise and I find it wanting.

    Since when does there need to be THE L position?

    Even among the abolitionist, NAP-genuflecting Ls, one finds all sorts of differences.

  57. robert capozzi

    cah: notice that word “violate,” those who try to neutralize the NAP can’t help but smuggle it back in under another word. They don’t even cover their tracks all that well. But most people don’t logic very well so it gets past them.

    me: Thank you. I may now see why you avoid me. I DO “cover my tracks” well!

    I stipulate that the NAP is a fine sentiment. I just don’t confuse the NAP for an operative, useful concept for playing the game of politics.

    As for logic-ing well or not, what’s your take on one who fancies himself a master logician, Walter Block, and his creation of Ls for Trump?

  58. robert capozzi

    gb: Dr John Hospers wrote the Statement of Principles, which was modified with a few changes of wording in committee – I was on the committee that approved the Statement of Principles. Dr Hospers came up with the phrase “We the members of The Libertarian Party challenge the Cult of the Omnipotent State and defend the rights of the individual.”

    me: Been meaning to ask you: Did anyone on the committee flag the fact that there is no such cult? Was any concern expressed that the language sounds fringy and even Manson Family-esque?

  59. Thomas Knapp

    How is it possible to flag a “fact” that isn’t one?

    Tell Stalin or Ceausescu that there is no cult of the omnipotent state. They were high priests of it.

  60. Gene Berkman

    Thanks, Tom, for mentioning just 2 of the many accolytes of the Omnipotent State cult.
    The Statement of Principles was written in the 20th Century, a century characterized by war and statism.

    Communists still controlled Russia and East Europe, an avowed Fascist Party was still represented in the Italian parliament, and Francisco Franco still controlled Spain. Two years before The Libertarian Party was founded, a young man in New Orleans named David Duke started a National Socialist Liberation Front.

    In 1972, the same year The Libertarian Party had its founding convention, officials from the Nixon campaign hired workers from the National Socialist White Peoples Party in an attempt to force the American Independent Party off the California ballot. And around that time Billy Hayes was arrested for possession of Hashish in Turkey – watch Midnight Express to see how an omnipotent state outside the Soviet bloc operated.

    So yes, Robert, there is a cult of the omnipotent state. Worse still, there are omnipotent states. Some still exist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cN9K2eY2188

  61. langa

    The actual words — sometimes quoted slightly differently — are “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The word “consent” is not there…

    Consent is implied, by the use of the word “have” (used, in this context, to mean something like “permit”). Otherwise, the GR would allow for rape. Is that your “interpretation” of it?

    Regardless, the GR is not law.

    I never said it was a law. It’s a rule of moral conduct. It’s not the Golden Suggestion.

    Not sure what you mean by “alibi.” Do you mean there’s a basis for excluding liberty-toxic candidates from representing the LP?

    I mean that when someone like that claims to represent the LP, we can say, “No, that’s not what we’re about, and when that person joined the party, they claimed that they weren’t about that, either. If we knew that they were, we wouldn’t have accepted them as a member to begin with.”

    The unseen is that many NAPsters have Langa’s attitude: That THEY are the REAL Ls, and non-NAPsters are not.

    It really irks you when people insist that words actually have meanings, doesn’t it? I bet you must really find dictionaries hard to tolerate. I mean, they actually devote whole books to defining the correct ways that words can and cannot be used. And sometimes, they even have the nerve to say that a particular meaning of a word is wrong. How dare they endorse such a “my way or the highway” idea? What jerks!

    To see an influx over time, the LP’d need to strike the root, the self-limiting NAP itself, inviting all Ls as equals, expunging the plantation mentality.

    Translation: They would need to completely strip the word “libertarian” of all meaning, and accept anyone who claims to be a libertarian, regardless of how many authoritarian policies they advocate.

  62. langa

    …it’s possible to reach Libertarianism through paths that don’t involve the NAP. In fact, several people have not only done just that, they’ve documented why they think the NAP is insufficient.

    And on what basis do you consider those people to actually be libertarians? Because they say they are? Glenn Beck, Neal Boortz, Bill Maher, Howard Stern, and many others have called themselves libertarians. Are they also qualified to redefine the term?

    Saving the NAP is not a natural conclusion at all – it assumes that the NAP is actually valid, foundational, or needed, all of which are openly subject to debate. At best, it gets half of Libertarianism right, but still misses a useful framework for restitution in the event that aggression occurs, inadvertently or intentionally, and requires significant handwaving to avoid “stray photons” from “aggressing” people.

    It also doesn’t tell you how to fix a flat tire, how to find true love, or about a billion other things. So what? Is it your contention that any principle that is not a theory of everything should be discarded? And, of course, it must also be capable of being easily interpreted, without using any common sense at all, right? Please be so kind as to name any principle that meets either of those criteria, let alone both.

  63. langa

    …short and simple is why I like the NAP. It’s easy to understand. If someone can really take to heart what it means to not initiate force, I think the understanding of libertarianism can start to really take hold to a newcomer. I can’t imagine explaining what we’re all about without it.

    You’re absolutely right, Jill. Unfortunately, the people who are so intent on scrapping the NAP aren’t interested in explaining libertarianism, but in neutering it.

  64. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Langa, I am working on my full response to the relevant parts of that argument against libertarianism (ultimately that is what is– at the very least Libertarian Party Libertarianism) but you picked up the same very obvious point I did, so I will extract a portion of my response here to echo you:

    David claims that the NAP “misses a useful framework for restitution in the event that aggression occurs”— did you also notice that it misses a useful framework for identifying the location of Delaware on a US Map? Yeah, me too. Perhaps because that isn’t what it is intended to do? It isn’t a full theory of recompense (and whatever the heck that means other than a lot of words intended to give an impression of uncertainty but shockingly missing a useful framework for its own interpretation) other than any recompense cannot be a fresh act of aggression. Fleshing out practicalities is part of any principle. “Property rights” BTW also doesn’t give a useful framework for restitution in the event that violations (whatever that means — that is just a way to smuggle in a theory of aggression) occur either.

  65. Caryn Ann Harlos

    To make it say absolutely nothing at all, langa you are right. I LOL at how any of these shallow attacks on the NAP can be so easily applied to ANY Libertarian principle. So we end up with the Ken doll of ideology.

  66. robert capozzi

    Stalin was long dead in the early 70s. Ceausescu was doing his thing. Whether either was omnipotent Gods seems obviously false.

    But even if they were, what the fuck is an American startup political party doing worrying about Romania? We challenge Ceausescu seems really flat and off point.

    But, wait, there’s more. Hospers, Nolan, & Co. lacked the foresight to see that the world circumstances change, And yet they booby trapped the SoP for, presumably, ever. Really? Forever!

  67. robert capozzi

    L: I never said it was a law. It’s a rule of moral conduct. It’s not the Golden Suggestion.

    me: Are you sure? I’m pretty sure it’s not even in the Bible, that GR is a term made up later, capturing a universal concept that — yes — is a strong suggestion.

    L: I mean that when someone like that claims to represent the LP, we can say, “No, that’s not what we’re about, and when that person joined the party, they claimed that they weren’t about that, either. If we knew that they were, we wouldn’t have accepted them as a member to begin with.”

    me: There are many, many ways to do this. And, oh yes, haven’t some pretty wacky folk been Ls? Was the alibi invoked? Has the LP used that for the latest wack-job, Invictus?

    L: It really irks you when people insist that words actually have meanings, doesn’t it? I bet you must really find dictionaries hard to tolerate. I mean, they actually devote whole books to defining the correct ways that words can and cannot be used. And sometimes, they even have the nerve to say that a particular meaning of a word is wrong. How dare they endorse such a “my way or the highway” idea? What jerks!

    me: Irks? No. On so many levels. Words very often have multiple meanings, as I’ve explained to you many times, and you run away when I point this out.

    More importantly, I hope you recognize that there’s a difference between a discrete thing like a “chair” and a complex and abstract notion like a “political philosophy. If you don’t see the difference immediately, let me know and I’ll try to explain it to you.

  68. robert capozzi

    cah: shallow attacks …. Ken doll of ideology.

    me: But you repeat yourself!! 😉

    NAPsterism in your mind is deep, profound, albeit simple.

    Every other approach is Ken doll. Got it. Spoken like a true newbie.

  69. Andy

    robert capozzi said: “But, wait, there’s more. Hospers, Nolan, & Co. lacked the foresight to see that the world circumstances change, And yet they booby trapped the SoP for, presumably, ever. Really? Forever!”

    If you don’t like what the Libertarian Party founders did with the SOP why don’t you quit and start a new political party that does not have an SOP, or that has an SOP that is more to your liking?

  70. robert capozzi

    L: Is it your contention that any principle that is not a theory of everything should be discarded?

    me: No, not at all. I do think that the more absolute and extremist a theory gets, the more skepticism should and does arise.

    a: If you don’t like what the Libertarian Party founders did with the SOP why don’t you quit and start a new political party that does not have an SOP, or that has an SOP that is more to your liking?

    me: I’m sure I’ve said many times I did quit. Or, more precisely, I allowed myself to lapse.

    And I’m sure I’ve told you specifically that I’m not interested in starting anything. I just enjoy the conversation.

    I do note that many in the LP are waking up to the obvious fact that the NAP is nice sentiment, not the first and only commandment. It’s a positive sign when someone says to the naked emperor that he has no clothes on.

    One thing that I’ve found is that the truth really does set you free.

  71. Thomas Knapp

    “Stalin was long dead in the early 70s. Ceausescu was doing his thing. Whether either was omnipotent Gods seems obviously false.”

    What, a cult’s beliefs have to be TRUE for it to be a cult? Who knew?

    Like all cults, the cult of the omnipotent state has its own variations. Some of its cultists believe the state IS omnipotent. Some merely believe it SHOULD be omnipotent. Some want it to exercise its omnipotence fully, some selectively.

    It’s mind-boggling that anyone who spent any significant amount of time living in the 20th century could come to believe that the cult that killed 170 million under slogans ranging from “all power to the Soviets,” to “everything within the state, nothing outside the state” to “one people, one reich, one fuhrer” doesn’t exist.

  72. robert capozzi

    TK, even if there was a significant threat and it was 1943, there might have been a case that the CotOS was semi-germane to the American experience. In the 1970s, the minor countries that still were using the Stalin/Mussolini/Hitler model were far less germane, IMO, as they didn’t represent a significant threat, aside from possibly the soon-to-die Mao. (My sense is that Stalin was the last of that model in the Soviet Union.)

    There are still cult-of-personality totalitarian states today, but these are minor nations.

    But EVEN IF there was something like an actual cult that wanted a truly omnipotent state, it may or may not have been good rhetoric then. Now, it just sounds ridiculous. Worse still was the arrogance of booby-trapping the language with a 7/8ths hurdle.

    That was then. This is now.

  73. Thomas L. Knapp

    “That was then. This is now.”

    Correct. And yet despite all the intervening years, you’ve been unable to get over it.

    The cult of the omnipotent state remains alive and well in America. If you don’t believe me, ask Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders or their supporters if there’s anything they can’t do, given control of the state’s levers of power.

  74. robert capozzi

    tk, while I am no fan of DT or BS, I missed the part where they are advocating an “omnipotent state.” It seems to me to suggest so borders on hysteria.

    But, maybe CAH could get Block to elaborate on the point, supporting DT and knowing BS from back in the day, iirc!

  75. robert capozzi

    tk: you’ve been unable to get over it.

    me: Recall that I too once applauded the CotOS language, as a Randian-Rothbardian who is now in recovery.

    With fresh eyes, maybe 12 years ago or so, did I realize just how wacky it sounds.

  76. Thomas L. Knapp

    Bob,

    You seem to be missing the point. Which isn’t unusual, as you’ve gone out of your way to miss it for years.

    Trump is going to “make America great again.” How does that happen? Um … reasons. All we have to do is vote for him and it will just happen. It will be yuuuuuge. We’ll like it very much, trust him.

    Sanders offers us “a future to believe in.” How is he going to pay for his promises? Oh … reasons. Just vote and there will be a health care provider in every pot.

    The cult of the omnipotent state doesn’t consist of someone saying “I want the state to be omnipotent.”

    The cult of the omnipotent state consists of lots of people assuming that it IS or SHOULD BE omnipotent — that all they have to do, or should have to do, is elect the right person or choose the right fuhrer or pass the right law or impose the right diktat to cause anything they might happen to want to come true.

  77. robert capozzi

    tk: all they have to do, or should have to do, is elect the right person or choose the right fuhrer or pass the right law or impose the right diktat to cause anything they might happen to want to come true.

    me: Actually, it sounds to me that it is you who are not paying attention. I see no evidence that DT or BS supporters believe their candidate can cause ANYTHING to happen. Rather, they think the country has gone off the rails and it needs to be righted, and that a great leader could help doing so. Personally, I agree with them to some extent, but that they are betting on the wrong horse.

    Leadership is important. I’d like to see a L leader who points in a lessarchistic direction. I don’t see how social change happens otherwise. Most of the heavy lifting is of course done by the people, make no mistake. But someone needs to prioritize where to begin the undoing of the state, picking the laws to abolish and repeal and so forth.

  78. Alexander S. Peak

    Mr. Colborne writes, “Following a particularly shallow understanding of the concepts behind the pledge, one could argue that the police officer ‘initiated aggression’ – therefore, all aggression in response to that initiated aggression is morally acceptable. Want to kill the police officer? Well, they initiated aggression, so why not? Blow up the police station? Well, their organization initiated aggression, so why not? Kill the police officer’s family? Well, the police officer is a product of the cultural norms and traditions passed on to that officer, and that officer was clearly conditioned to view initiating aggression as morally acceptable, so I’m within my moral rights under the pledge to respond with any and all aggression needed to stop the aggression that was initiated with me.”

    Wow, I have never in my life seen anyone attempt to twist the nonaggression axiom nor the Libertarian Party pledge in such an absurd fashion.

    There are two major flaws with this pseudo-“interpretation.”

    First, the non-aggression axiom does not say that it’s okay to use aggression in response to aggression. Aggression is initiatory force or fraud. For one to say that the non-aggression axiom accepts aggression in response to aggression is to say that the non-aggression axiom accepts initiatory force in response to initiatory force. Obviously, this does not make sense. If x violently attacks y with a baseball bat and y uses defensive violence in order to repel x‘s attack, y is not initiating force, and is thus not using “aggression” in response to x‘s aggression. The only aggressor in this scenario is x, the one with the baseball bat.

    Second, even if Mr. Colborne had instead written, “therefore, all force in response to that initiated aggression is morally acceptable,” it would still be incorrect. Let’s go ahead and use his speeding ticket thought experiment in order to elucidate this. The state gives you a ticket for driving at a speed it decided was “too fast” on a road that it claims to own but has, in actual fact, acquired through forced expropriation and, therefore, has no legitimate claim thereto. Is this aggression? Yes. Does this mean you may legitimately use any level of force you wish in response to this aggression? No. One must conform to what I call the principles of proportionality and of directionality. Both of these principles are discussed in Rothbard’s The Ethics of Liberty. Please allow me to quote two relevant passages. (All footnotes are omitted.)

    (1)

    “Secondly, we may ask: must we go along with those libertarians who claim that a storekeeper has the right to kill a lad as punishment for snatching a piece of his bubble gum? …

    “I propose that this position suffers from a grotesque lack of proportion. By concentrating on the storekeeper’s right to his bubble gum, it totally ignores another highly precious property-right: every man’s—including the urchin’s—right of self-ownership. On what basis must we hold that a minuscule invasion of another’s property lays one forfeit to the total loss of one’s own? I propose another fundamental rule regarding crime: the criminal, or invader, loses his own right to the extent that he has deprived another man of his. If a man deprives another man of some of his self-ownership or its extension in physical property, to that extent does he lose his own rights. From this principle immediately derives the proportionality theory of punishment—best summed up in the old adage: ‘let the punishment fit the crime.’

    “We conclude that the shop keeper’s shooting of the erring lad went beyond this proportionate loss of rights, to wounding or killing the criminal; this going beyond is in itself an invasion of the property right in his own person of the bubble gum thief. In fact, the storekeeper has become a far greater criminal than the thief, for he has killed or wounded his victim—a far graver invasion of another’s rights than the original shoplifting.”

    Murray N. Rothbard, “Self Defence,” ch. 12 of The Ethics of Liberty (New York: New York University Press, 1998; orig. 1982), pp. 80–81.

    (2)

    “To be more concrete, if Jones finds that his property is being stolen by Smith, Jones has the right to repel him and try to catch him, but Jones has no right to repel him by bombing a building and murdering innocent people or to catch him by spraying machine gun fire into an innocent crowd. If he does this, he is as much (or more) a criminal aggressor as Smith is.

    “The same criteria hold if Smith and Jones each have men on his side, i.e. if “war” breaks out between Smith and his henchmen and Jones and his bodyguards. If Smith and a group of henchmen aggress against Jones, and Jones and his bodyguards pursue the Smith gang to their lair, we may cheer Jones on in his endeavor; and we, and others in society interested in repelling aggression, may contribute financially or personally to Jones’s cause. But Jones and his men have no right, any more than does Smith, to aggress against anyone else in the course of their “just war”: to steal others’ property in order to finance their pursuit, to conscript others into their posse by use of violence, or to kill others in the course of their struggle to capture the Smith forces. If Jones and his men should do any of these things, they become criminals as fully as Smith, and they too become subject to whatever sanctions are meted out against criminality. In fact if Smith’s crime was theft, and Jones should use conscription to catch him, or should kill innocent people in the pursuit, then Jones becomes more of a criminal than Smith, for such crimes against another person as enslavement and murder are surely far worse than theft.”

    Ibid., pp. 189–190.

    Any proper understanding of the nonaggression axiom must include both of these principles. And thus, you do not have legitimate authority to use any ol’ level of force you may wish in response to receiving a speeding ticket from the state’s henchman. This means two things. (1) In concert with the principle of proportionality, you may not kill the cop, or even injure the cop, whose only crimes are (a) forcing you to remain stopped on the side of the road even when you do not wish to remain there and (b) forcing you to take a piece of paper you do not want. (2) In concert with the principle of directionality, you may not kill, injure, steal from, or in any other way aggress against the cop’s mother, neighbour, or anyone else, as they have done nothing to you.

    What may you legitimately do? A few options pop into mind. (1) You may, if you believe it will be less of a burden on your future endeavours to do so, just pay the ticket. (That’s what I do.) (2) You may pay the ticket but scheme to steal back from the state funds roughly equal to that which the state took from you. (3) You may simply ignore the ticket. Sure, the state may suspend your licence, but it’s within your power to ignore that, too. Of course, if you are caught speeding on a suspended licence, they may be other unsavoury repercussions (which I, personally, would rather simply avoid by paying the ticket, even though I’ve no moral or ethical obligation to do so), but as long as you do not use force against any nonaggressor in your attempt to escape said repercussions and only use as much force as it necessary to escape said repercussions, and not an iota more, you are still following the principles of directionality and of proportionality. If ever you go beyond those precepts, you are not in concert with the nonaggression axiom.

    In summation, when one opts to use any ol’ level of force she or he may wish in response to aggression, she or he runs the clear risk of becoming the aggressor, and thus losing legitimacy.

    Mr. Colborne continues, “Call me unprincipled, but, if a principle can be twisted to exterminate entire families, that’s not a principle I’m interested in subscribing to.”

    But the principle cannot be twisted so. The so-called “interpretation” you provided is blatantly absurd, so absurd, in fact, that even a child could easily see that the wording of the party’s pledge could never be used to justify such a horrific response.

    “I hereby certify that I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.” Nobody reads that and thinks, “Oh, yeah, so this means that the people who recite this advocate mass slaughter.” (Moreover, if you wish to get technical, this doesn’t comment whatsoever on what sorts of actions are legitimate, only that one particular action definitely is not, in the view of it reciters, legitimate.)

    Moreover, in contradiction to the fallacious insinuation that the pledge is a liability, history hath shown that it is actually an asset. When that nut-job Timothy McVeigh tried to convince people that he was a libertarian, the LP was able to point to the pledge in order to delineate the difference between real libertarians and the McVeighs of the world.

  79. Alexander S. Peak

    Mr. Colborne then writes, “At the same time, if we take a more serious and morally constricting interpretation of the pledge, what happens if a Libertarian Party candidate gets elected? As any self-respecting anarchist will tell you, casting a vote is aggression – you’re using your electoral power to counter someone else’s political power.”

    This is just wrong. There are plenty of self-respecting anarchists that have absolutely no problem voting, that do not view voting to be ipso facto some sort of act of aggression. Indeed, I’m one of them.

    The vote is like any other weapon. Guns can be used both offensively and defensively; likewise with votes.

    Mr. Colborne writes, “If a Libertarian is elected to public office, it doesn’t matter if they’re elected 51-49 (or 34-33-33) or 99-1, there will be at least one person they nominally represent that won’t subscribe to their political ideals.”

    Let’s say that the elected Libertarian is named Jane. Will there be “at least one” person who believes that Jane should put a gun against Bob’s head and say, “Your money or your life”? Not necessarily. A universe could exist wherein every individual is opposed to all forms of aggression, including taxation. But, even if there is one individual (or millions) who believes Jane should put a gun to Bob’s head, is Jane aggressing against this unnamed individual (or these unnamed millions) by not putting a gun against Bob’s head? No. Just as being-libertarians is never an act of aggression, so too is voting-to-cease-aggression not an act of aggression. Thus, when Mr. Colborne writes that “everyone here would expect – no, demand! – that a Libertarian public office holder would use aggression (the vote) to install a low- or no-government platform in their jurisdiction,” I can easily say that I expect Jane to use the vote but to simultaneously refrain from using aggression in pursuit of promoting the libertarian agenda. In short, voting is not “arguably” a violation of the aforementioned pledge nor of the aforementioned axiom.

    I hope this does not sound unduly harsh, but although Mr. Colborne calls the party’s pledge an “incoherent, contradictory mess,” it seems that it is actually Mr. Colborne’s own reflections on the axiom that are incoherent and contradictory. He even goes so far as to say that it is debatable whether opposition to aggression is foundational to libertarianism and suggests, rather confusedly, consequentialism and self-ownership as alternatives, when in fact they would be more properly viewed as adjuncts. What is libertarianism if not the ideology that promotes maximising human liberty? The definition is built into the term. And what is liberty if not freedom from initiatory force or fraud? All libertarians, whether minarchist or anarchist, aim for the maximisation of human liberty, and thus the minimisation of aggression. What ultimately differentiates minarchists and anarchists isn’t the question of whether aggression should be minimised as much as humanly possible, but rather a simple disagreement on the most effective method of minimising aggression as much as humanly possible.

    Libertarians are not utopians. The minarchist and the anarchist both recognise that, regardless of whether one chooses to condone some level of aggression or not, as long as humans have the power to place guns against the heads of other humans and to say “Your money or your life,” aggression will never be fully eradicated, and thus some method must exist by which to minimise aggression if and when it does rear its ugly head. The anarchist advocates a number of methods of attaining this minimisation: self-defence, neighbourhood watches, private protection companies, private arbitration, aggression insurance, mutual aid societies—the list goes on. The anarchist anticipates that these voluntaryist methods will be much more effective (and efficient) than the state—even the best, most classically liberal state. The minarchist, by contrast, fears that these methods would not deter aggression as much as the anarchist anticipates, and that the level of aggression that would persist in an anarchist society (albeit much lower than the level of aggression present in our current, authoritarian situation) would actually be slightly higher than the level of aggression that would exist in a severely limited state. Thus, the minachists advocates the minimal state, not out of some misguided love for aggression, but precisely because the minarchist believes that it is the most effective (indeed, the only) way to minimise aggression as much as humanly possible.

    (Given that the disagreement between minarchists and anarchists is a disagreement on methodology and not a disagreement on goals, given that both minarchists and anarchists aim to limit aggression as much as humanly possible (and thereby to maximise human liberty), I think it is only fair to conclude that both minarchists and anarchists properly are libertarians.)

    Consequentialism, therefore, is not, properly understood, an alternative foundation for libertarianism, but rather a justification for libertarianism. Indeed, libertarian consequentialism is not the view that whatever causes happen to lead to the “best” consequences may be called “libertarian”; rather, it’s the view that libertarian causes invariably lead to consequences that may be called “best,” and that, for that reason, libertarian causes are to be advocated. To state the matter more concretely, a libertarian consequentialist is someone who aims to maximise human liberty, to minimise aggression in human affairs, because she or he believes that liberty leads to the best consequences. Consequentialism is not a paradigm in competition with the nonaggression axiom; it’s a paradigm in competition with natural law theory. Whereas natural law libertarians (such as myself) advocate the nonaggression axiom because we believe aggression violates natural law and is thus inherently unjust, consequentialist libertarians advocate the nonaggression axiom because they believe refraint from aggression to lead to the most socially-desirable consequences. (And, to be fair, even this distinction is very often over-exaggerated. For example, I am of the view that consequentialist considerations lend themselves admirably and with alacrity to the natural law view, if as nothing else, as a general guidepost. Indeed, it would seem quite queer if the precepts of natural law required humans to act in such a manner that the ultimate consequences was utter turmoil and suffering. I have argued elsewhere, for example, that natural law dictates that negative rights (e.g., the right to not be raped, taxed, enslaved, murdered) and positive “rights” (e.g., the “right” to rape, to tax, to enslave, to murder) cannot both coexist, that one must be ultimately real and the other ultimately fictitious. Would any disagree that consequentialism lends itself admirably and with alacrity to preference for the former over the latter?)

    Neither is self-ownership an alternative foundation for libertarianism. Instead, self-ownership is a justification for natural law theory. The case remains that talk of self-ownership is empty without the nonaggression axiom; after all, if I truly own my own body, does that not mean I have a right to prohibit acts of aggression against my person?

    I don’t mean to come off sounding rude, and I truly hope that I do not, but Mr. Colborne does seem rather confused on this entire subject. I do hope he will take some time to reflect more deeply on the matter. Whether or not he ultimately changes his mind on the matter of the party’s pledge qua pledge, I hope further reflection will move him to abandon his belief that opposition to aggression is worthless qua principle and his belief that said principle can be honestly twisted to justify the horrors he described.

    Respectfully,
    Alex Peak

  80. Alexander S. Peak

    Mr. Knapp writes, “People who DO support initiation of force will have no compunctions about lying about whether or not they support initiation of force, so it doesn’t keep anyone out except honest people.”

    It sounds as though you’re contradicting yourself. If all advocates of aggression are willing to lie, it must stand to reason that someone who is unwilling to lie (i.e., honest people) cannot be an advocate of aggression, and if honest people are ipso facto opponents of aggression, it must stand to reason that the pledge does not keep out any honest people.

    I think the error is in saying that “[p]eople who…support initiation of force…have no compunctions about lying.” I disagree. An advocate of aggression can still have compunctions about lying. And, therefore, I agree with your conclusion that the pledge only keeps out certain honest people.

    Yours,
    Alex Peak

  81. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Alexander, you NAILED IT.

    My poor response, that I am still working on, will pale in comparison. You nailed it so well. A few highlights for me (and you noted in how I did that the idea of aggression is smuggled in in all their attempts to deny it):

    First this, ==This is just wrong. There are plenty of self-respecting anarchists that have absolutely no problem voting, that do not view voting to be ipso facto some sort of act of aggression. Indeed, I’m one of them.==

    Yes. Me too. I love it when other people tell me I am not self-respecting. Nonsense.

    ==I am of the view that consequentialist considerations lend themselves admirably and with alacrity to the natural law view, if as nothing else, as a general guidepost. Indeed, it would seem quite queer if the precepts of natural law required humans to act in such a manner that the ultimate consequences was utter turmoil and suffering===

    YES TEN THOUSAND TIMES YES! I was just making this argument yesterday in response to the Radical Caucus’ belief that natural rights are harmonious with consequentialist outcomes.

    ==I hope this does not sound unduly harsh, but although Mr. Colborne calls the party’s pledge an “incoherent, contradictory mess,” it seems that it is actually Mr. Colborne’s own reflections on the axiom that are incoherent and contradictory. He even goes so far as to say that it is debatable whether opposition to aggression is foundational to libertarianism and suggests, rather confusedly, consequentialism and self-ownership as alternatives, when in fact they would be more properly viewed as adjuncts. What is libertarianism if not the ideology that promotes maximising human liberty? The definition is built into the term. And what is liberty if not freedom from initiatory force or fraud? All libertarians, whether minarchist or anarchist, aim for the maximisation of human liberty, and thus the minimisation of aggression. What ultimately differentiates minarchists and anarchists isn’t the question of whether aggression should be minimised as much as humanly possible, but rather a simple disagreement on the most effective method of minimising aggression as much as humanly possible.===

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    His whole post and followup were a muddle of confusion and illogic. I would add one correction to yours though (and seriously, I am saving your post to my archive, it is THAT good), and that is to the final sentence. Minarchists and anarchists also disagree on whether or not the monopolization of defensive force and law IS aggression and right-violating. We all (at least those being consistently libertarian) that aggression is inappropriate, but at the far edges may disagree on the lines. Rand argued it was not. I disagree with her, but acknowledge her argument. To the extent that someone agrees something is aggression and is okay with it, they are not libertarian in that area.

  82. Alexander S. Peak

    Mr. Knapp writes, “People who understand that the pledge commits them to anarchism and are not anarchists won’t join the LP if they are honest.”

    langa writes, “I’m not sure we want those kind of people in the LP. I can understand and respect minarchists who think that the existence of the state results in a net reduction in aggression. They’re mistaken, but at least their heart is in the right place. But if someone knows the existence of the state is a net negative for liberty, and they still support it, I’m not sure that person is a libertarian at all.”

    Although I do not support discarding the pledge, as I think it does more good than harm (see my comment above about Timothy McVeigh), this line of dialogue is requiring me to play devil’s advocate.

    To start off, I do agree with Mr. Knapp that the pledge is, technically, anarchistic, even if Mr. Nolan himself wasn’t. One does not have to be an anarchist to wish to see aggression minimised as much as humanly possible. (Again, see my comments above.) But, one does have to be an anarchist in order to not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals. Thus, while the pledge does nothing to prevent anarchists, minarchists who do not yet understand that the pledge is (if interpreted strictly) anarchistic, and liars from joining, it does dissuade from joining those minarchists who (A) refuse to lie and (B) do understand that the pledge is (if interpreted strictly) anarchistic.

    That is, really, the only drawback to keeping the pledge, and while I still believe we gain more from keeping the pledge than from jettisoning it, I do admit that that one drawback does exist.

    I also agree with langa that minarchists who think that the existence of the state results in a net reduction in aggression are to be respected. And, I likewise agree that they are mistaken, but that their hearts are in the right place.

    Where I have to disagree with langa is her or his opposition to having minarchists who (A) refuse to lie and (B) do understand that the pledge is (if interpreted strictly) anarchistic join the party. langa seems to infer that such a minarchist must invariably understand that “the existence of the state is a net negative for liberty,” but why she or he infers this, I know not. A person can be a minarchist who (A) refuses to lie, (B) understands that the pledge is (if interpreted strictly) anarchistic, and (C) think that the existence of a minimal state will result in a net reduction in aggression. Thus, I think langa ought to agree with Mr. Knapp that we do want minarchists joining the party. (I know I do.)

    I also wish to add that I agree with both Mr. Knapp and langa on radicalisation. langa comments on having once advocated the state under the belief that it was necessary to minimise aggression and then deciding she or he was wrong about that, writing, “Pretty much every time I’ve heard any former minarchist discuss their conversion to anarchism, they’ve told the same story. They used to think the state was a necessary precondition for freedom, and later found out just the opposite was true.” I know that was true in my case. Mr. Knapp comments on the LP’s radicalising function. I don’t know that I can say that the LP is what really radicalised me, at least directly, but it certainly did indirectly. How? By first exposing me to ideas towards which I was already slightly leaning and giving me a label for these ideas, libertarianism, which in turn led me to the discovery of other libertarian institutions and thinkers, which in turn exposed me to still more radical ideas.

    Best,
    Alex Peak

  83. Caryn Ann Harlos

    I disagree that the Pledge is anarchistic, though it can be taken that way. I do not believe that the framers of it were so daft they unwittingly excluded themselves. Further the Statement of Principles (written by minarchists) preceded the Pledge and would remain even if the Pledge were gone. And the SoP contains the same ideas, so if the Pledge, strictly interpreted is anarchistic, so is the SoP. Except it isn’t. The fact is that broad ideologically statements cannot be so rigidly interpreted, particularly if it makes them contradictory to their own authors. We must be charitable enough to not presume utter incoherence on their part to what they were binding themselves. to.

  84. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    I think Alexander Peak’s comment with his response to Colborne is so excellent I think perhaps it warrants being its own article. Caryn, I’ll wait until yours is ready and include it, if you’d like. This discussion will likely be an issue at the National Convention, so I think conversation prior to that is appropriate.

    Mr. Peak, is it all right with you if I feature your comment along with a few other responses to Colborne is its own article?

  85. robert capozzi

    cah: And the SoP contains the same ideas, so if the Pledge, strictly interpreted is anarchistic, so is the SoP. Except it isn’t.

    me: The better term is “anarchist friendly.” In the current context for most folks, the distinction between Rothbardian anarchism and Randian minarchism is miniscule. Both are pretty threatening, risky, and reckless to and for most people, from their perspective.

    Most non-Ls don’t have the patience to sort out these fine distinctions. Abolish all government or 99% of it looks pretty much the same to them.

  86. Andy

    robert capozzi said: “Most non-Ls don’t have the patience to sort out these fine distinctions. Abolish all government or 99% of it looks pretty much the same to them.”

    There are a lot of people out there who consider cutting government by 1% or 2% to be a radical step.

  87. Thomas L. Knapp

    Actually, there are a lot of people out there who consider any reduction in the speed of growth of government to be not just a cut, but a “draconian” cut. They consider the idea of a balanced budget on any timeline less than decades to be complete insanity. And if you ask them if government should do X, it will never enter their minds to wonder whether or not government COULD do X if called upon to do X.

    I think maybe there’s a term for those people. Yes, I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere, maybe in the statement of principles. Some kind of religious metaphor. I wish I could remember it … it’s right on the tip of my tongue …

  88. robert capozzi

    A: There are a lot of people out there who consider cutting government by 1% or 2% to be a radical step.

    me: Oh, you certainly can’t please everyone!

    If that was polled, I’d be surprised if 20% of people would find the idea of a 2% cut to be “radical.”

  89. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Jill, yes please. I will have mine done this weekend. And since I know it would be used for this purpose, I will clean it up a bit, and I will not cover as thoroughly the points that Alex did, though I wouldn’t have done nearly as well. The piece would be primarily his response… mine is an empty hull compared to his, though there are some points of particular interest to me that I do cover more thoroughly.

  90. Andy

    “Thomas L. Knapp
    March 25, 2016 at 16:10
    Actually, there are a lot of people out there who consider any reduction in the speed of growth of government to be not just a cut, but a ‘draconian’ cut. They consider the idea of a balanced budget on any timeline less than decades to be complete insanity. And if you ask them if government should do X, it will never enter their minds to wonder whether or not government COULD do X if called upon to do X.”

    I’ve run into what I’d call a disturbing number of people like this while gathering petition signatures. Several years back I was gathering signatures on a couple of city petitions in Colorado, one was to reduce some local taxes, and the other one was for a balanced budget or spending limits (or something like that). I thought that these were modest proposals that were steps in the right direction (towards reducing government), but I’d sometimes run into people who’d start screaming at me, acting as though the city would collapse if these issues passed.

    There are people out there who freak out over the suggestion of cutting government, or slowing the growth of government, even by a small percent.

    This is yet another example of why libertarians may never achieve a free society unless we separate ourselves from people with a mentality like I just mentioned above. The Libertarian Zone concept may be the best way to go.

    http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2014/07/andy-jacobs-the-libertarian-zone/

  91. robert capozzi

    tk: Actually, there are a lot of people out there who consider any reduction in the speed of growth of government to be not just a cut, but a ‘draconian’ cut.

    me: Depends on what you mean by “a lot.” I doubt that 10% of the population is aware of what the rate of growth is, much less that slowing it would be Draconian or not. That’s something only wonks are aware of, is my sense.

    But, OK, is there polling to back your claim?

  92. robert capozzi

    more…

    I’m of course talking about aggregate spending, not specific programs.

  93. langa

    I’m pretty sure it’s not even in the Bible…

    Actually, the Golden Rule (or slight variations of it) can be found not only in the Bible, but in the teachings of virtually every major religion, and many minor ones as well:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule#Religious_context

    Words very often have multiple meanings, as I’ve explained to you many times…

    And as I’ve explained to you an equal number of times, there is a huge difference between having multiple meanings, and having an infinite number of meanings.

    …I hope you recognize that there’s a difference between a discrete thing like a “chair” and a complex and abstract notion like a “political philosophy.

    Sure, there’s a difference, but it’s not relevant to the point I’m making. That point is that words are used to communicate ideas. That is no less true for abstract ideas than it is for concrete ones.

    If I want someone to think of a chair, I use the word “chair” to facilitate that understanding. I don’t use “chair” when I am talking about a bed, because that would hinder communication. The same holds true for abstract notions. I use the word “libertarian” when I want to efficiently communicate a certain set of beliefs. The ability to do so with a single word makes communicating much more convenient, but that convenience would be lost if you had your way, and “libertarian” was simply a meaningless collection of letters, akin to a linguistic tabula rasa that could be used by anyone to describe literally any set of beliefs.

  94. robert capozzi

    me: I’m pretty sure it’s not even in the Bible…

    L: Actually, the Golden Rule (or slight variations of it) can be found not only in the Bible, but in the teachings of virtually every major religion, and many minor ones as well:

    me: Hoo boy. I mean THE LABEL “the Golden Rule.” That’s not in the Bible…the words “Golden Rule” together. K?

    It’s a wonderful concept. Big practitioner myself.

    L: The same holds true for abstract notions. I use the word “libertarian” when I want to efficiently communicate a certain set of beliefs. The ability to do so with a single word makes communicating much more convenient, but that convenience would be lost if you had your way, and “libertarian” was simply a meaningless collection of letters, akin to a linguistic tabula rasa that could be used by anyone to describe literally any set of beliefs.

    me: Well, I would say I have had my way, if you want to give me credit (which I don’t deserve). Probably if we did an open-ended poll asking people to what “libertarian” means, we’d get many, many answers.

    Things like:

    “very conservative and anti-war like Ron Paul”

    “economic conservative, social liberal”

    “aren’t they some kind of socialists?”

    “Ayn Rand’s politics”

    “druggies and deviants”

    “Republicans on pot”

    Somewhere near the bottom, we’d see the answer:

    “adherents of the non-aggression principle.”

    Do you think my assessment of L’s perceived meaning in the Public Square is fair?

    I too wish there were more clarity in politics and political discourse. But the truth is: There isn’t.

  95. langa

    Alexander, I would like to add to the others here in thanking you for your eloquent and persuasive rebuttal of Colborne’s argument.

    As for the minor disagreement with me that you cited, I think (but am not sure) that it is more of a misunderstanding, as opposed to an actual disagreement. You write:

    Where I have to disagree with langa is her or his opposition to having minarchists who (A) refuse to lie and (B) do understand that the pledge is (if interpreted strictly) anarchistic join the party. langa seems to infer that such a minarchist must invariably understand that “the existence of the state is a net negative for liberty,” but why she or he infers this, I know not. A person can be a minarchist who (A) refuses to lie, (B) understands that the pledge is (if interpreted strictly) anarchistic, and (C) think that the existence of a minimal state will result in a net reduction in aggression. Thus, I think langa ought to agree with Mr. Knapp that we do want minarchists joining the party. (I know I do.)

    What I meant to say was that I do not think that there are many minarchists (quite possibly none, in fact) who view the very existence of the state as violating the NAP. Of course, they all recognize that the state does many things that violate the NAP, but the key point is that these are things that they don’t think the state should be doing. Those things that they do think the state should be doing (prohibiting aggression against its citizens by private actors and/or foreign governments) do not, in their mind, constitute any sort of aggression at all. Rather, they are a form of (admittedly imperfect) self-defense. At least, this was the way that I viewed it during my time as a minarchist, and the perspective of other minarchists I have talked to since then. Thus, I don’t think that minarchists see the NAP (or the pledge) as anarchist.

    On the other hand, imagine someone who agrees with the LP platform on most issues, but does so for purely consequentialist reasons. They are not inherently opposed to aggression, and on some issues, they openly favor it. For example, they realize that taxation is theft, but still support redistributive taxes, simply because they value equality more than freedom. These are the people I do not want in the LP.

    I will close by quoting part of one of Caryn’s comments from earlier in the thread, as it neatly sums up the point I have been trying to communicate, and does so much more succinctly than I have managed:

    Minarchists and anarchists also disagree on whether or not the monopolization of defensive force and law IS aggression and right-violating. … To the extent that someone agrees something is aggression and is okay with it, they are not libertarian in that area.

    Precisely. The only thing I would add is that if a person has no fundamental opposition to aggression (however they may define it), then that person is not even “inconsistently” libertarian. They might be “coincidentally” libertarian on some issues, but if they fundamentally reject the NAP, that is unlikely to change, and thus, bringing them into the party is just a waste of time.

  96. Thomas L. Knapp

    I usually unthinkingly refer to the pledge as being “anarchist,” but when I slow down and write more carefully, what I come up with is this:

    Taken in its obvious historical context, the pledge clearly derives from a Randian and/or Rothbardian worldview and therefore — at a bare minimum — clearly and indisputably binds its takers to a no-coercive-taxes approach (which even the “Randian minarchists” held to), and less clearly and less indisputably (but still arguably) to Rothbardian anarchism.

    The only way to get around that conclusion is to assert that the framers of the pledge were a bunch of drooling morons who in some strange trance state spontaneously and collectively forgot the entire content of the ideas they stood for, while simultaneously functioning efficiently enough to put together an organization to politically support said ideas — even running a presidential ticket as early as a year after the party’s formation — and who just happened to randomly pick words out of the dictionary which were identical to nearly two decades of predominant phraseology relating to those ideas, for the purpose of saying something entirely different.

  97. robert capozzi

    L: The only thing I would add is that if a person has no fundamental opposition to aggression (however they may define it), then that person is not even “inconsistently” libertarian.

    me: Why the need for “fundamental opposition”? I for ex. find the NAP to be a fine sentiment. I just don’t find it to be particularly helpful in the effort to maximize liberty.

    As the first L Lao Tzu taught us, to “oppose” is counterproductive. Seek instead the path of least resistance toward virtue.

    I’ve not seen an airtight case for your oppositionalism. Has anyone made one, to your knowledge?

  98. langa

    Why the need for “fundamental opposition”?

    I’m not sure if this is a serious question, or if it’s one of your silly semantic diversions. If it’s the latter, then who cares? If “fundamental opposition to aggression” rubs you the wrong way, you can use “fundamental support for individual sovereignty” or something similar in its place. The point remains exactly the same.

    On the other hand, if you’re asking why it matters whether a potential libertarian is fundamentally opposed to aggression, then consider the following example: Two new members, Bert and Ernie, join the LP. Both of them are libertarian on some issues, and not on others. The difference is that Bert is fundamentally opposed to aggression (that is, he believes in the NAP and takes it seriously), while Ernie is not.

    So, for example, Bert supports the wars in the Middle East, because he has bought into the MSM spin that they “hate us for our freedom” and that there are giant hordes of Muslims intent on establishing a global caliphate, and blah blah blah. In other words, he supports the wars because he views the Muslims as the aggressors, and thus he sees the wars as self-defense. If we can just show him that the real cause of the Muslim attacks is blowback, then he will likely become an opponent of the wars. Similarly, he supports laws prohibiting discrimination by private businesses because he has been brainwashed into thinking that discrimination is a form of aggression. If we can explain to him the basic principles of freedom of association and property rights, he will likely see that it is the business owner who is being aggressed against, instead of the other way around. In short, he “gets” the basic idea of libertarianism; he is just confused about some of the specific applications of it.

    Ernie, on the other hand, understands that anti-discrimation laws violate freedom of association, but he doesn’t care. For him, fighting discrimination is simply more important than protecting property rights. For the same reason, he supports laws against hate speech. He knows they violate freedom of speech, but he doesn’t care. Same thing with unreasonable search and seizure. If it helps catch bad guys, that, in his mind, outweighs any potential rights violations. In short, he has no problem with aggression, as long as its used for the “right” things.

    It should be easy to see that, after being around other libertarians, Bert is likely to abandon many of his deviations, while Ernie will likely abandon few, if any, of his. This is because he, unlike Bert, simply does not approach issues from a libertarian mindset. Sure, he might support marijuana legalization, not because he believes you have the right to ingest whatever you want, but because he believes marijuana is not really harmful. Similarly, he might oppose gun control laws, but only because he has read studies that say that gun control increases crime. If he thought gun control would make people safer, he would be all for it. Liberty is, at most, a minor concern for him. In other words, he’s not really a libertarian, and he likely never will be.

  99. Robert capozzi

    L, have you read the work of the Rothbard-identified first libertarian, Lao Tzu? It does not sound as if you have.

    It is not just about semantics. It provides a perspective on how one perceives and responds to the unfolding drama we label as the world.

    It lacks the sanctimony, judgmentalism, and anger that MNR was unable to grasp and undo, apparently.

  100. George Phillies

    Tom Knapp wrote
    “Taken in its obvious historical context, the pledge clearly derives from a Randian and/or Rothbardian worldview and therefore — at a bare minimum — clearly and indisputably binds its takers to a no-coercive-taxes approach (which even the “Randian minarchists” held to), and less clearly and less indisputably (but still arguably) to Rothbardian anarchism.”

    However, I asked David Nolan about this, and he said an exact opposite, namely that the sole intent of the pledge was to make clear that we were here to be a lawful political party, not to overthrow the government like the hippie bomb-planters.

    You could propose that this was a white lie in order to advance libertarianism, but that would be a strange proposal. You have these people who say they are against fraud for political purposes. The white lie interpretation is that the first reaction of these people, when asked about their statement on fraud, is immediately to resort to fraud for political purposes.

    The other point, speaking as a supporter of liberty, is that anarchy is incompatible with liberty.

  101. robert capozzi

    more…

    L: [Bert] “gets” the basic idea of libertarianism; he is just confused about some of the specific applications of it.

    me: Yes, if you feel it useful to you to employ a tautology. Bert gets and buys into YOUR def of L-ism, so therefore he’s more likely to buy into your entire approach (deontological NAPsterism).

    There are, of course, many other considerations and many other premises other than the NAP. Lao Tzu’s short version might be the virtuous civil order involves maximizing peace and peaceful relations.

  102. George Dance

    I don’t understand why people keep quoting Nolan on the pledge? That may be what he believed, and/or what he told his ex-Republican friends to get them to sign it, but he’s not the author. NAP was put into the Statement of Principles by John Hospers – he’s the guy who wrote it – and was passed by the delegates at the first convention. Hospers was a Randian, and so, in those days, were the majority of party members, and they put it in for their reasons. Hospers’ website also credits him with the pledge; I haven’t confirmed that – but the same delegates who passed the SoP also passed that bylaw, and it’s reasonable to assume they did it for the same reason.

  103. Alexander S. Peak

    Ms. Pyeatt,

    I don’t mind my response being featured as its own article, although I’d probably want to tweak it slightly to make sure grammar and syntax are sufficient. Email me at allixpeeke at yahoo dot com, and I’ll try to email you a tweaked version sometime this week.

    Cheers,
    Alexander Peak

  104. Caryn Ann Harlos

    And I really hope to have my comments done this weekend. So busy! I really want to address the historically false (with all due respect to my good friend David) assertion that the NAP is not in the SoP. I would like to listen to the 1972 convention recordings I have where the SoP was adopted. But even without that, it is just a basic fact of meaning.

  105. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Excellent! I won’t have time to work on it until this weekend, anyway, since I’ve got all the CA convention information to get out there (oh, yeah, and that tax deadline coming up–)

  106. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Upfront comments: David is a friend I respect greatly, and I believe the feeling is mutual. Strongly worded disagreement should not be taken for anything other than that. He has gone above and beyond in helping out in many areas and his dedication to the LP is without question.

    After clearing out some of my task list, I am ready to respond a bit more fully but no where as much as I would like. In order to do more orderly and logically things have been taken in a different order, since obfuscation can often be exposed by putting first things first- as it is in this case- along with a healthy dose of ignoring inconvenient facts and Party a-historicity—because we are talking about the Party here… not libertarianism writ large or over the arc of history. That is important to keep in mind. I will not be block quoting outside sources, but sticking to the Party issues with only an occasional detour into logical conclusions of libertarian ideas in general. Whether or not the Party is wrong is an entirely different issue from the objective fact of what the Party presently is. This is a diversion that often happens of which I am notoriously unwilling to allow—it will be no different here. Complaining that water is wet is a different issue from whether or not water actually should be wet.


    ;tldr Water is wet. Libertarian Party Libertarianism contains the NAP as an essential foundation. That fact that it may suck that water is wet or that the Libertarian Party has embedded the NAP into its existence charter is irrelevant to the objective realities.


    Big-L Libertarianism

    ==1. The Libertarian Party does not get to “self-define” what Big-L Libertarianism is. It is a political arm (not the, a – there are more than one political arms) of the broader Big-L Libertarian movement, much of which (as Gene mentioned previously) long predates the Libertarian Party.==

    If one is going to resort to non-standard terminology uses, one can prove anything. It is routine to refer to Big-L Libertarianism as being the Libertarian Party. So to avoid this kind of game, I will merely state that the Libertarian Party gets to define what Libertarian Party Libertarianism (LPL) is. This is self-evident. And to nearly everyone else, Big-L Libertarianism is the Libertarian Party. To someone who insists on non-standard terminology, insert “Libertarian Party Libertarianism” (LPL) instead of Big-L.

    This is how the LP defined LPL:

    Statement of Principles

    2. The Statement of Principles does not directly mention the NAP. It is, at best, loosely based on the NAP==

    This is the worst statement frankly of the bunch as it is demonstrably wrong. I have had the pleasure of listening through a good portion (not yet the complete audio) of the 1972 discussions on the adoption of the Statement of Principles. The NAP simply wasn’t in dispute, it was assumed throughout ALL of the proposals that were submitted.

    This statement is in fact the NAP. It isn’t loosely based on it, it is the heart of it:

    We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

    And it appears again later, and the one candidate who has made deriding the NAP his calling card absolutely conceded that this is the NAP:

    [W]e support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others.

    Is it the complete formulation? Actually, it is since the SoP after later says we … support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.

    It is completely and utterly untrue… simply contra-factual to history and reality and the basic medium of language that the NAP is not directly in the SoP.

  107. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Broken into two parts…

    Foundational Principles

    As far as claiming to affirm Party principles while simultaneously not affirming them:

    ==Sure – if you believe that the NAP is synonymous with Libertarianism and vice-versa. I don’t. ==

    Synonymous implies co-extensivity, which I didn’t say. But of course, we are talking about the Libertarian Party here, and the Libertarian Party has self-defined itself as having the NAP (through the SoP- defended absolutely above) as its foundations. David is free to think the LP is out of its tree to do so, but do so it has.

    And this was since before the first convention and is in the 1972 Bylaws. Someone is being very contrary to LP history here. Hint: it isn’t me.

    And outside of these facts, this was certainly the LNC’s understanding:

    ==In the end, libertarianism actually relies on four principles (as Nozick saw): a principle of bodily ownership, a principle of acquisition of external property, a principle of transfer of external property (and perhaps some parts of the body) and a principle of rectification for when the first three principles are violated. Let’s call these the principles of self-ownership, acquisition, transfer and rectification.==

    That is a mischaracterization of Nozick as not supporting the NAP… which is completely false. The very idea of “violation” shows that. Woven throughout Anarchy, State, and Utopia is the idea of aggression and it not being permitted. Go get the Kindle version. Do a word search. See for yourself.

    From this very paragraph from Nozick, the NAP is completely presumed. In fact, taking away the NAP destroys the very purpose for ASU.. to acknowledge the rightness and strength of the anarchist position of non-aggression and rights and to show how the minimal state could arise without violating them (I believe he failed, but he accepted the anarchist premises).

    “Isn’t it irrational to accept a side constraints C, rather than a view that directs minimizing the violations of C? If no violation of C is so important, shouldn’t that be the goal? How can a concern for the nonviolation of C lead to the refusal to violate C even when this would prevent more extensive violations of C? What is the rationale for placing the nonviolation of rights as a side constraint upon action instead of including it solely as a goal of one’s actions?

    Side constraints upon action reflect the underlying Kantian principle that individuals are ends and not merely means; they may not be sacrificed or used for the achieving of other ends without their consent. Individuals are inviolable.”

    Consequentialism =/= Libertarianism

    The two can be consistent (for many libertarians, including the Radical Caucus- they are) but they are not equivalent. And can be contradictory. As in fact one of the LPNV board members has said that they would be in favour of force-funding [insert program X] if that was the most efficient way to benefit the most people and that Liberty should not be the highest political goal of the …. Wait for it…. Libertarian Party. That may be in fact be the “right” (i.e. moral- depending on perspective) answer. But what it is not is the “libertarian” answer. It would not only violate non-aggression but self-ownership property rights. And it would be completely contrary to the Statement of Principles. You know, those definitional principles that he Libertarian Party embedded with a practically impossible parliamentary threshold.

    Consequentialism might be right. It might be consistent with libertarianism (I believe it is). It is not the same thing. And can easily conflict. We are the Libertarian Party (as self-defined). Not the Consequentialist Party or the Utilitarian Party which might look very different. After all, no people other than sociopaths favour bad consequences for their own sake. Most people believe that whatever their view (socialism, libertarianism, whatever), it is the view that comports with the most human flourishing. If one is willing to tolerate a bad consequence, it is not for love of the bad consequence.

    The extended incursion into a consequentialist defense then isn’t particularly relevant here. If David wishes to argue that consequentialism is superior to libertarianism where the two ever conflict, he is free to do so. In fact, I think it is the rare bird that is 100% consistent libertarian and never holds that some other paradigm in some instances might be better (whether that is right or wrong is pretty irrelevant to the fact that it is) To that extent he departs from libertarianism. I believe they are generally consistent with each other, with the foundations of the NAP and property rights. If he (or anyone) is willing to use a person as a means to an end of another person, that particular action is not libertarian which upholds the rights of the individual. This is the historical position of the Libertarian Party… which… remind me again… is still what we are talking about right?

    Process v. Destination

    == When we’re talking about what belongs on a membership form and what criteria should be used to determine membership in a political party, we’re absolutely talking about “how one gets there”. After they become a member, then we can start talking about destinations.==

    No, when someone becomes a member they are joining a specific “thing”: a destination of ideology, thus the Party of “Principle” not the Party of “Process.” How they got there can vary widely and have multiple valid paths. A membership form tells them what they are signing up for, if there is one. And call me crazy, but it seems that the Party of Principle might have actual defined principles… and I know… this is nuttier than a squirrel’s breakfast, but humour me…. They might be actually found in the document called “The Statement of Principles.” Sneaksy of them. Those lolbertarians… you never know what tricks they will devise next.

    ==As for destinations, as previously discussed, the NAP is not a workable theory of justice or political action. ===

    Ipse dixit. Then neither is property rights. It is the basis of libertarian theory of justice and political action as the conjoined twin of property rights… at least according to the Libertarian Party. That is what we are talking about. At least we are supposed to be. I keep getting confused because David seems to be talking about everything but.

    == in fact, as Gene pointed out quite recently, it could be argued quite convincingly that the NAP actively precludes political action since political action is, by definition, coercive.==

    No, that is a complete abuse of what he said… he said that he NAP was the way to insure that political action was NOT coercive. I hope this was just typing too fast and not absorbing what he said, because if this was intentional, it is a horrid twisting of someone else’s words. Let me quote Gene himself:

    == But the real reason was to try to convince libertarians that it would be safe to be involved in a libertarian political organization.==

    The NAP was intended to prove to Libertarians that political action was NOT precluded if boundaries were prescribed. David turned what he said on its head. I sure hope that wasn’t on purpose. I also note that the rest of what Gene was said was discarded an inconvenient narrative.

    Loose Ends

    On Jeffery’s fantastic post, David stated he disagreed with everything but the last sentence. That will not do since the last sentence is merely a conclusion of what before. It won’t do to say that it assumes that the NAP is foundational, because that is what the rest of the piece did.

    David claims that the NAP “misses a useful framework for restitution in the event that aggression occurs”— did you also notice that it misses a useful framework for identifying the location of Delaware on a US Map? Yeah, me too. Perhaps because that isn’t what it is intended to do? It isn’t a full theory of recompense (and whatever the heck that means other than a lot of words intended to give an impression of uncertainty but shockingly missing a useful framework for its own interpretation) other than any recompense cannot be a fresh act of aggression. Fleshing out practicalities is part of any principle. “Property rights” BTW also doesn’t give a useful framework for restitution in the event that violations (whatever that means — that is just a way to smuggle in a theory of aggression) occur either.

    And this strawman…

    ==inadvertently or intentionally, and requires significant handwaving to avoid “stray photons” from “aggressing” people”==

    And of course then “self-ownership” requires the precise same hand-waving (which of course it doesn’t—all theories involve the very fact of the realities of basic life and if no damages can be proven that are not simply parts of existence, there is no violation—and fact is that societal custom is always a factor, always) since your looking at me or breathing on me or bumping into me violates my self-ownership property rights in the exact same way. Every single critique of non-aggression applies equally to any principle. If David wants to argue that libertarianism itself is incoherent, he is free to do so but that wouldn’t then be relevant to arguing for libertarianism. He seems to want to ignore the fact that de mininis is a thing without which, society itself, libertarian or not, would collapse.. Argumentum ad ridiculum is fallacious in any world other than navel-gazing arguments for the sake of argument (it is like posting a picture of conjoined twins and saying “Self-ownership REFUTED!”)

  108. George Dance

    David Colborne: “On this score, consider consequentialism, which loosely holds that all moral facts are made true solely by facts about consequences. The principle is simple and elegant, and also plausibly basic. ”

    It’s also, if taken as a fundamental ethical principle, a violation of the is-ought gap. In order to derive any ‘moral facts’ from consequences, one needs to have decided, in advance, what consequences are morally good, and what are morally bad; which can only be done using other, more fundamental principles, like the Principle of Utility.

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