Monday, February 8, 2016

A Simple Question



Is it possible for a property owner (for ease of dealing with this philosophical question, call him a homeowner) to commit a violation of the non-aggression principle on his property?

I don’t mean physically possible.  I mean permissible while remaining true to the non-aggression principle.

If you choose to weigh in, please provide more than a “yes” or “no.”  I welcome any links to articles or papers that you or others have written on this topic.

Addendum

I believe the question isn’t simple enough; I even confuse myself when I read it.  I will illustrate with examples.  First, from my clarification in the comments:

I invite a guest to my house for coffee. After enjoying a cup, I shoot him. There was no intervening confrontation of any sort, I just decided to do it.

I tell you, in passing, that I am taking my yacht to the Bahamas.  You ask if you can come along.  I say sure.  Half way there, I throw you overboard.  Maybe I decided I didn’t like your hair.  Or maybe…nothing.  Anyway, I never promised I would take you all the way to Nassau.

You are on my private jet.  You take off your shoes, and the color of your socks reminds me of my ex-wife – she wall-papered the entire house in that color.  Out the door you go, at 35,000 feet.  No parachute.

Are any of these permissible within a consistent application of the thinnest interpretation of the NAP?

53 comments:

  1. " Is it possible for a property owner...to commit a violation of the non-aggression principle on his property?

    ...while remaining true to the non-aggression principle."

    Is the question can the owner violate the NAP while not violating the NAP?

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    1. Rick

      Your question demonstrates the difficulty I have in writing the question.

      Let's try this: I invite a guest to my house for coffee. After enjoying a cup, I shoot him. There was no intervening confrontation of any sort, I just decided to do it.

      Is this permissible within a consistent application of the NAP?

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    2. Here is one for Rick Miller. Someone tells me "I am going to murder Rick Miller. I've murdered people before, and I am going to kill this guy no joke. Would you mind telling me where he is?". "Sure", I answer, "I will point out his location on the map".

      That guy then kills Rick Miller, but only the killer has violated the NAP, according to Rick Miller. Great not to have that one on my conscience.

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    3. "I invite a guest to my house for coffee. After enjoying a cup, I shoot him. There was no intervening confrontation of any sort, I just decided to do it."

      I have emailed Dr. Block a similar question:

      "Another difference between the Rothbardian shoplifter and the trespasser is the scene of the crime(s). The bubble gum monger is inviting people onto the property- as many as he can possibly receive, whereas the orchard owner is excluding all except those who are contributing to production of apples. Have you written or lectured on that concept of exclusion vs. eager inclusion of outsiders (strangers) on private property?"

      I'll let you know if he gets back to me!

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    4. Matt

      I want to stay focused in this thread, also in this thread I prefer that the comments aren't personal.

      Separately, I laughed out loud at your comment about killing a child for downloading music. That was really good.

      Delete
  2. Yes.

    There's numerous examples, even if we say homeowner and not just property owner.

    If I live on a hillside in suburbia, and rainwater floods down from my uphill neighbor (property is not abandoned) who has neglected simple flood control remedies (very simple), and the interior of my home subsequently floods as a result, for all intents and purposes it's aggression by neglect.

    I had a usable home, someone who chose to be my neighbor [assuming, I held the local property before this alleged aggressor moved in next door] neglected their property and caused mine to be less than usable.

    AnCap utopia or not, there's a loss for me here by no fault of my own, and nature itself isn't to blame either, I can't tell the rain to stop, but I can mitigate it's efforts. There's plenty of places that receive rain that aren't subject to flooding, because property is maintained. It's not unreasonable to think your neighbor won't intentionally harm you, your property, or your effects - whether this suburbia is in AnCap utopia or here in this world.

    This is a real world scenario I experienced. Libertarians will be pleased to know the issue was solved without the use of State aggression.
    ----------------------------------------

    While I might be loathe to entertain a certain theory any further, I can even take this to a certain extreme.

    Let's say I'm a homeowner somewhere in No Man's Land. A lost family comes onto my road, pulls up in front of my driveway, and comes to my front door hoping they can get directions. I have no gates or fences, let alone signs indicating I won't abide uninvited guests. I answer the door, hear their plea for help, but all I can say is:

    "Sorry, you're trespassing and woke up my napping babe. I choose to murder at least one of your children as compensation"

    Unreasonable? Unlikely? Sure, just as unlikely as the fictional scenario that (I'm unfairly assuming) spawned this question, posed a month or so ago (Which I don't mind, I think this is an important question worth exploring - it determines if Libertarianism is worth advocating or not, at least to me. But I do not yield to certain folks being the Judge on such a matter.). But it sounds like the sort of scenario only a firebrand Patron Saint of Anarcho-Capitalist Purism can defend, despite it's blatant violation of the NAP.

    I might be a blasphemer to such a paragon of Purist Anarchy, but I'd be very likely to violently oppose such a property owner on sight before adhering to his demands of retribution, let alone cheering his exercise of property rights.

    Any red blooded father would likely do the same, and to expect otherwise is at best laughable, and woefully ignorant at it's worst.

    Obviously, on the other side, if I invited the party in after these pleas, said party would be perfectly within their rights to expect no harm done unto them. If said home owner pulls out his .357 and fires rabidly while invoking AnCap as his guiding light, the guests clearly are not the aggressor.

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  3. I have two answers for you.

    The first: No, it isn't permission if the NAP is a sufficient condition for liberty. Or 2: Yes, it is permitted but NAP is not a sufficient condition for liberty.

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    1. A thin application of the NAP should yield one or the other answer; thereafter we can discuss if the NAP is a sufficient condition for liberty (which offers a robust dialogue on its own merits - once we get through this topic, I might throw that one out there).

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  4. Wenzel is hilarious. I give him credit for taking what he says to its extreme conclusion, even if he refuses to accept that those conclusions could ever happen.

    So now Walter Block has offered the fig leaf of 'signage' to bridge the gap between Wenzel and the detractors of Wenzel's PPS. Wenzel has rejected even signage, so now we have even more hilarious scenarios.

    You are invited in for a coffee by John. After the coffee John excuses himself for some minutes and invites you to take a look around the house. "You have free reign of the house but use your discretion". So you take a look around the house and enter a room. Then you are confronted with John, now holding a firearm. "I told you that you have free reign of the house, but never to enter this room". You answer "No, John, you didn't say that. You mentioned something about using discretion". John then says "Enough! I am not obligated to give you warnings or provide signage! We live in Wenzel's PPS now, and you have violated the NAP! Prepare to die...".

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  5. For what it's worth...

    A simple question with no simple answer maybe. In general though, my position (and I think a consistent libertarian one) is that "property in person" takes precedence over physical property. This is because physical property derives from person but property isn't person.

    I also believe in right of property. Thus I think there has to be a compromise with the bias in favor of person over property.

    So I believe under libertarian law (given the above) that it should be unlawful for a landowner to violate the NAP for a person who's on his land by invitation and is not in turn doing harm to him or his property. This should be absolute.

    Also absolute the landowner should not be permitted to use excessive or lethal force to remove a child from his land because a child legally should not be considered a responsible person.

    Further that the landowner should have a "limited" right to violate the NAP to remove a trespasser in so far as using only the force needed to remove the person without causing injury.

    That the landowner not be lawfully allowed to use excessive or lethal force unless the trespasser poses a credible imminent threat to the landowner. As in he should legally be able to "stand his ground" on his own property.

    And if there are police in the landowner's society, he should be required to call them to remove the intransigent trespasser again unless the trespasser is a threat to his person or others.

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    1. You share this sentiment with Bionic, as can be seen here:

      "...if I don’t have property in my body, I don’t have property."

      http://bionicmosquito.blogspot.com/2016/02/robert-wenzel-stop-digging.html?showComment=1454772179833#c1973525300252031054

      Can you guys expound on why "...'property in person' takes precedence over physical property...because physical property derives from person but property isn't person."?

      When you say 'person' are you referring to the mind, spirit, or soul? Or, are you referring to the flesh and bone which said mind, etc. controls?

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    2. I consider "person" to be the conscious mind (as living information basically). And mind-body to be like a computer. The mind the "software" and body the "hardware." So no matter in what physical vessel the mind inhabits, that vessel should be considered the property of the mind that it contains wherever or whatever the body happens to be. The mind then being the object of person as in the "individual," and the body being its support system.

      Even if one day humans are able to migrate the mind to a computer network or device, it seems to me the "identity" of the individual should be maintained in tact (say a shared server for minds). How that is achieved or even if it makes sense to maintain individual identity at that point is beyond me.

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    3. Rick / Spencer,

      You are going much deeper than I care to on this point. Property comes from mixing labor (I am unconcerned about defining this further) with a previous un-owned resource (also unconcerned with defining this further).

      No life = no labor = no property.

      Alternatively, tonight you are confronted by a group of thugs: "your money or your life."

      Which will you give up?

      Of course, your answer might be different than mine. Value is subjective.

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    4. Spencer,

      "...no matter in what physical vessel the mind inhabits, that vessel should be considered the property of the mind that it contains wherever or whatever the body happens to be. The mind then being the object of person as in the "individual," and the body being its support system."

      The body is the support system of the mind- as all justly acquired property ultimately is. The fence and guard dogs, as well as the land between the home and the fence, the door with a lock on it, and finally the body- each link in this chain are tools designed to "support" the mind in removing the unease of possible extinction. Other forms of property- stick to retrieve coconut, wheel, coffee maker- remove various other worries for the mind.

      Thus, property is not discernible in the terms, "in person" vs. "physical property". These two concepts are the same thing expressed two different ways. The term "property" includes any legitimately acquired tools of the mind to remove unease.

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    5. RM: Thus, property is not discernible in the terms, "in person" vs. "physical property". These two concepts are the same thing expressed two different ways. The term "property" includes any legitimately acquired tools of the mind to remove unease.

      I don't see it that way. But I think I'm guilty of creating confusion like many libertarians do over terms like "property in person" and "self-ownership." What I mean is "self-sovereignty," "proprietorship in self" or "personal autonomy."

      "Property" is a social construct. You and I are not.

      I see property consisting of a set of legal precepts for the purpose of delineating what's yours and what's mine based on what *it* is. For libertarians there should be no confusion over who should control you and who me.

      So there's an important distinction to be made. That the person has exclusive title to their mind and body which are products of nature while property requires definition and justification as products of man. Property is a means to an end while person ultimately is the end. So for me self-sovereignty, self-defense, and NAP naturally come first and property rights follow.

      The landowner's right to exercise his authority on his property then should be moderated by the higher order of the trespasser's right to their person even though he is trespassing. Which for me necessitates a system of justice and dispute adjudication as the means of moderating these conflicting principles. And not solely up to the property owner as Wenzel proposes with the PPS because of course doing so completely usurps the other's self-sovereignty.

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    6. Spencer-

      This puts you at odds with Bionic, when he says the farmer who comes to kill the thief in the thief's abode can be justly killed by the thief in defense. Paraphrasing,


      "The thief's right to exercise his authority on his property then should be moderated by the higher order of the farmer's right to their person even though he is trespassing."

      After all, it is possible the farmer was simply going to walk through with his gun pointed at the thief to the kitchen to take an apple, and then eat it and go back home and take a nap, right?

      Here is another question, if "...the person has exclusive title to their mind and body which are products of nature while property requires definition and justification as products of man", does a person who uses a prosthetic limb have less than "exclusive title" to their prosthetic because it is a "product of man"?

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    7. RM: This puts you at odds with Bionic, when he says the farmer who comes to kill the thief in the thief's abode can be justly killed by the thief in defense.

      Don't think I am.

      RM: After all, it is possible the farmer was simply going to walk through with his gun pointed at the thief to the kitchen to take an apple, and then eat it and go back home and take a nap, right?

      The (angry) farmer entering the thief's property with a gun and without the thief's consent presents a clear, credible and imminent lethal threat to the thief. As a matter of self-defense, he should be able to legally shoot the farmer.

      In my Libertopia (ideally a voluntary state), there are police and courts. The farmer realizing someone stole his apple should pursue a civil or criminal complaint. The system of justice then should respond.

      RM: Here is another question, if "...the person has exclusive title to their mind and body which are products of nature while property requires definition and justification as products of man", does a person who uses a prosthetic limb have less than "exclusive title" to their prosthetic because it is a "product of man"?

      Not in this case. This gets into the question of what *it* is from above (the actual property object). In this case, his leg is his possession. For me, there is no possible way to treat property as an all-or-nothing, black-and-white or one-size-fits-all matter.

      The artificial leg gets into grey area that courts would wrestle with as technology merges more with humans. When does the artificial leg reach the point of sophistication it has in essence become part of his body? I don't need to have an answer so long as the libertarian principles guiding the courts give them the means to arrive at the equitable "closely" libertarian judgment. At some point, people just have to figure things out themselves because there is too much complexity and we can't see the future.

      Different types of property of necessity must be treated differently with respect to the law. The nature of human society demands it. The challenge then for libertarians is to do so most consistent with libertarian philosophy and at the very least not contravene it. So for instance, a possession is treated one way while land another and IP still another. We (libertarians) should identify types of property and then how best to construct the laws that "civilize" its treatment while not undermining libertarian values. Rothbardians though are not interested in doing this because they are "wishing upon the no-state star."

      But wrt to person, I see the law as much more clear and absolute. Even so, there are conditional exceptions such as the treatment of children and incompetent adults. For them in my Libertopia, they should have right of the NAP but limited self-sovereignty since they will need a guardian until they can act as independent persons (a guardian acting as their trustee not as their OWNER as Rothbard proposed... :P).

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    8. Spencer,

      "The (angry) farmer entering the thief's property with a gun and without the thief's consent presents a clear, credible and imminent lethal threat to the thief. As a matter of self-defense, he should be able to legally shoot the farmer."

      How does one as a property owner at the time of trespass discern between an invader who "presents a clear, credible and imminent lethal threat" and one who is not? Unless the property owner is omniscient, it is impossible.

      "In my Libertopia (ideally a voluntary state), there are police and courts. The farmer realizing someone stole his apple should pursue a civil or criminal complaint. The system of justice then should respond."

      How come the thief/property owner cannot just realize the angry farmer is not there to kill him, but hold him at gunpoint whilst enjoying a tasty treat from the cupboards? Perhaps he should pursue the matter in a court, right?

      Now the prosthetic limb-

      "...there is no possible way to treat property as an all-or-nothing, black-and-white or one-size-fits-all matter.
      The artificial leg gets into grey area that courts would wrestle with as technology merges more with humans. When does the artificial leg reach the point of sophistication it has in essence become part of his body? I don't need to have an answer so long as the libertarian principles guiding the courts give them the means to arrive at the equitable "closely" libertarian judgment. At some point, people just have to figure things out themselves because there is too much complexity and we can't see the future."
      Both the artificial and natural parts are the exclusive property of the owner. There is no “point of sophistication” which can transform the essence of the thing; it is not a grey area, it is black-and-white. This is important to me, as I am counting on science delivering life extension, and I don't want people trying to yoink away stuff arbitrarily! Hands off!

      "Different types of property of necessity must be treated differently with respect to the law. The nature of human society demands it."

      What are the essential factors that distinguish "different types of property"?

      How does "the nature of human society" demand that there is a differentiation?

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    9. >> How does one as a property owner at the time of trespass discern between an invader who "presents a clear, credible and imminent lethal threat" and one who is not? Unless the property owner is omniscient, it is impossible.

      He uses his judgment. If he shoots and is arrested, he appears in court and must convince the judges he acted in self-defense. The court based on the evidence and testimony then renders a decision. If they find him guilty of murder, he should have an appeal option.

      This is generally the law today with differences state to state. If someone breaks into a home, he is by his actions creating a clear, credible and imminent threat to the residents.

      >> How come the thief/property owner cannot just realize the angry farmer is not there to kill him, but hold him at gunpoint whilst enjoying a tasty treat from the cupboards? Perhaps he should pursue the matter in a court, right?

      Again, someone breaking into a home is a de facto threat unless the intruder has made it clear he means no harm (eg the neighbor looking for his lost child and thinks she's in the thief's home). But the farmer has invaded the thief's home with a gun in hand. That qualifies as a clear threat.

      And we need to emphasize "alleged thief"... What if the farmer has made a mistake? Again, a system of justice serves to interject sanity into an otherwise emotionally charged, conflicted, and confusing situation.

      >> Both the artificial and natural parts are the exclusive property of the owner. There is no “point of sophistication” which can transform the essence of the thing; it is not a grey area, it is black-and-white.

      It's a grey area in that the artificial limb is a product manufactured by other humans. In question are issues like product liability, warranties, etc. The artificial limb does belong to the owner but... other people have an interest in the limb too. As a person (not including dependent persons like children), no one has a claim on you. But if you use a product, even one to augment your person, others now have an interest in that device. An interest that could end up in court.

      >> What are the essential factors that distinguish "different types of property"?

      This gets complicated. Property can be classified as manufactured or natural, persistent or perishable, physical or intellectual, and so on. Rules can be developed to make claims equitable and compatible with libertarianism. For instance, the homesteading principle can apply to a patent (I'm pro-IP). What then is an equitable libertarian rule set for a patent claim? And on and on.

      >> How does "the nature of human society" demand that there is a differentiation?

      I believe that all things in nature except a person can be property. But property as I alluded to above comes in a variety of forms. And the laws defining the property should be consistent with the nature of the property. This should be an exercise in logic. For instance (and unlike Wenzel), I believe IP should have a time limit. But why? And how to arrive at an equitable term? Questions that require thought.

      But if libertarians do believe in property on principle, we then have to examine the subject objectively (not dogmatically), critically and with sophistication to develop the rules (laws) by which people can co-exist in a society with as little conflict as possible that is also as consistently libertarian as possible. This has to be a deliberative undertaking because (unlike what ancaps seem to think), the libertarian society ain't going to invent itself.

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    10. Spencer,

      -Trespassing-

      Your position is that trespassing by walking through the door to someone's home is “a de facto threat”, but trespassing by walking through a gate or climbing a fence is not such a threat. Therefore, trespass can be repelled by lethal violence in the home, but cannot in the area between the fence and the home. Can you explain why the libertarian is to make this distinction?

      In either case, unless the defender is omniscient, the only option available is to speculate as to the intentions of the invader. It can never be truly known what the intentions of the trespasser are. Do you agree?

      Now, if you are saying the defender is required to go to court, it must be presumed here that there is a government which lords over both of the people in our scenario. In other words, “Libertopia” is a State. (I thought a libertarian was supposed to hate the State!)

      If either guy has no affiliations which could bind him to law, there is no justification to coerce one or the other into the courtroom.


      -Artificial Limbs-

      “It's a grey area in that the artificial limb is a product manufactured by other humans.”
      “When does the artificial leg reach the point of sophistication it has in essence become part of his body?”

      An artificial limb, by definition, is not natural. There is not a particular level of “sophistication” which can transform the artificial to the natural, thus allowing exclusive ownership under your interpretation.

      Why is the libertarian required to believe that man-made products are property that can never be owned in the full sense of the word?

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    11. RM: Your position is that trespassing by walking through the door to someone's home is “a de facto threat”,

      Simply walking through someone's door isn't. Climbing through a broken window likely is. The threat needs to be clear, credible and imminent. Above I said a neighbor coming into a home searching for his missing daughter is not a threat. But angrily marching into someone's living room with gun in hand is.

      RM: Therefore, trespass can be repelled by lethal violence in the home, but cannot in the area between the fence and the home. Can you explain why the libertarian is to make this distinction?

      Only if the resident is able to present evidence that a reasonable person would consider he was threatened. I consider the NAP to be limited to bodily harm. And a clear, credible, imminent threat to cause bodily harm also qualifies. The murdered person can't defend himself after being killed.

      RM: In either case, unless the defender is omniscient, the only option available is to speculate as to the intentions of the invader. It can never be truly known what the intentions of the trespasser are. Do you agree?

      Yes and no. Uncertainty is inescapable and comes down to a reasonable person's opinion all things considered if the individual was justified to act in self-defense. That's the mission for the justice system - weigh the evidence and render an opinion.

      RM: Now, if you are saying the defender is required to go to court, it must be presumed here that there is a government which lords over both of the people in our scenario. In other words, “Libertopia” is a State. (I thought a libertarian was supposed to hate the State!)

      Yes, my Libertopia is a state. "Hate the state" is Rothbardian dogma (not without good reason though). I hate the corrupt state.

      I'm a pro-state anti-government libertarian. I see the state as inevitable and necessary to have a libertarian society. You can see (I do at least) the game of logical Twister ancaps have to play both here with BM and with Wenzel to try and reconcile a libertarian principle like the NAP with Rothbardian no-state position... "cultural governance," the "PPS"... It's fun to watch but gets us nowhere closer to realizing a libertarian outcome.

      So, I love the state but hate the government.

      RM: If either guy has no affiliations which could bind him to law, there is no justification to coerce one or the other into the courtroom.

      But my presumption is that they do if they live in the same political society (ie polity).

      -Artificial Limbs-

      RM: Why is the libertarian required to believe that man-made products are property that can never be owned in the full sense of the word?

      To be clear, I'm not saying the owner of the leg doesn't have full possession of it. After buying it and assuming there are no restrictions he agreed to otherwise, he should be able to do whatever he wants with it so long as he doesn't harm another. Use it as a door stop if he wants.

      But there are limitations. For instance, even though he owns the leg he shouldn't be able to take of the manufacturer's logo, put on his own and resell it. Or what if he modifies the leg then gives it to a friend... by his modification his friend falls down a flight of stairs. Shouldn't someone be liable? Who?

      In the "I should be able to do what I want with my property" sense, that still holds. But... to the extent that the property can have negative impacts on others, there needs to be a set of rules governing how such conflicts are resolved in the most consistently libertarian way.

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    12. Spencer,

      "I'm a pro-state anti-government libertarian."

      This sure helps explain where you are coming from! Thank you!

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  6. You do not gain ownership of someone when they are on your property, whether invited or as a trespasser. Any force beyond what is needed to protect your property, expel the trespasser, violates the NAP. See “Ethics Of Liberty” by Rothbard.

    So, in your invited guest examples, once you decide they are no longer guests your property rights extend to demanding they leave, and to use force only if they refuse to comply. If unable to comply (while trapped in your jet), you can only use the minimal force needed to expel them (land the jet, then push them out).

    I would go further and say an invitation is a contract by convention. It is understood that you have certain responsibilities to invited guests. Among those would be the understanding you would not try to harm them.

    Among those I call my friends, such an invitation would include the understanding that I am responsible for their safety to some extent as well. I would render medical aid in an emergency, protect them from intruders, etc. To say an invitation isn’t a promise (“I never promised I would take you all the way to Nassau”) to treat them as conventional guests is just “lawyerizing” the language.

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    1. Jeff, this is all a reasonable application of the NAP. Thank you for commenting.

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    2. Long-time reader, first-time commenter. Love your stuff, BM! Keep up the good work. Anyway ...

      We have before us the question of just what a property owner may or may not do with respect to visitors on his property, especially when those visitors have offended him in some way (or when they are perceived, correctly or incorrectly, to have violated the property owner's rights or prerogatives).

      I am skeptical that the NAP can answer this sort of question in any but the broadest of senses, if at all. Unfortunately, some people (especially among those who hold the notion that the NAP must be regarded as the sole arbiter in such matters) take this as meaning that "anything goes" - and that property owners may therefore act towards others in any manner they please, so long as they are on their own property and claim some violation of their idiosyncratic "house rules." However, this is unsatisfactory for a number of reasons that you and others have identified (and which I will not address here).

      I simply wanted to point out that what Jeff Bell referred to above as "the understanding that I [as the host of guests who are on my property] am responsible for their safety to some extent [...]" dovetails perfectly with the customary "hospitality law" of some medieval and pre-medieval societies. Under such, hosts did not have the right to just do as they pleased to their guests, even if their "house rules" were violated. They were, for example, understood to be obliged neither to cause their guests to be harmed nor to allow their guests to come to harm from others. Abrogations of this obligation could be redressed with force or force-backed demands for restitution. (And this is yet another example of "governance" without "government" ...)

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    3. Agree. Re "trapped in your jet" situation - as far as I remember Walter Block said something like this while answering Tom Wood's similar quesion at his show.

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    4. Occam

      Thank you for offering one more glimpse of how the Middle Ages played a positive role model for a healthy, decentralized society.

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  7. Depends on whose definition of "violation" one wishes to follow, doesn't it? If some twisted, dark-minded person wants to kill someone outright, she would most-likely weigh the consequences of others interpreting her actions as such a violation.

    The guest shot over coffee or dropped from great heights would probably not be living without friends and family. If his last whereabouts were the vicinity of the killer, then let the NAP interpretations fall where they may. This would be, hopefully, a necessary deterrent toward flagrant abuses, holding killing-of-others somewhere closer to a more justifiable action of self defense.

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  8. "Is it possible for a property owner (for ease of dealing with this philosophical question, call him a homeowner) to commit a violation of the non-aggression principle on his property?"

    Yes! Really, I can't figure out where the idea comes from that people leave all their property rights at the door, so to speak. A person on my property still has ALL of his rights. If this person is not (or is no longer) welcome, he has to leave or be removed with minimum damage to his rights. If I "evict" a trespasser by pushing him off a cliff to his death, I'm still a murderer.

    You could say that there is therefore a hierarchy of rights, with the rights of the property owner being superior, but that's a far cry from saying that the other guy has no rights at all.

    Igor Karbinovskiy

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    1. I like Igor. I'd feel comfortable visiting him as well as doing business with him.

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  9. It's amazing to me that many of us as Austrians embrace subjectivity in economics and argue against the notion that central planners can't objectively predict human action, but then try to reject it when it comes to applying/understanding the NAP.

    When Rothbard argued that murder for the theft of bubblegum was a violation of libertarian law, he did so on the basis of "proportionality"- which can be subjective to some extent(as RW points out, but strangely I can't get RW to acknowledge his disagreement with Rothbard).

    The idea of subjectivity applies in the two phases of rectifying a NAP violation IMO:

    1. Restitution
    2. Punishment

    To me, this is a simple extension of the concept of "natural law". And how is "natural law" derived?

    Culture...(which also explains the distinction between some cultures punishing a thief by cutting off his hand while others find it repulsive- interestingly the restitution phase may be the same though the punishment differs)

    Don't get me wrong, we should try to make the restitution phase as objective as possible, but that's not always possible...I see punishment a cultural/natural law issue(for now).

    So in answer to your question, in American society it is currently a NAP violation to kill someone under the scenarios you described above. I made that judgement subjectively and find myself comfortable with it based on my cultural upbringing and the resultant "natural law".

    There is a possibility that other people find my understanding of the NAP reprehensible, they or me might have to transition to a society that embraces different values if they so desire...or in the least we should avoid each other if no such society exists either way.

    This surely will not make some people happy- but I can't abide by the incongruity of accepting & arguing for subjectivity in understanding economics and then toss it or even condemn subjectivity in understanding/applying the NAP.

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    1. Subjectivity cannot be avoided - it is a factual condition of being human. It is not - at least from anything I have read or otherwise deduced - derivable from the NAP.

      With that said, we should consider that all actors on this stage are subjective actors - not merely the farmer who had his apple stolen by the child.

      The father of the child who was shot by the farmer also is subjective; the friends and relatives of the father are also subjective; others in the community are also subjective.

      How to take into account the subjective values of each of these actors? I wonder....

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    2. "How to take into account the subjective values of each of these actors? I wonder...."

      I don't think there's a perfect way, but some system of justice has to exist which removes a good deal of the subjectivity due to mutual agreements of right and wrong. Without it, things would probably break down into generational feuds. Such a system could be non-governmental, no? Like the private constitutions agreed upon by settlers joining a wagon train headed West.

      How to keep the mutual agreement focused on individual rights....

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  10. In each of your examples, you have invited the person onto your property. In that case, they would not be violating the NAP and would not justify aggression on your part. So, your murdering them would be a violation of the NAP. There is a difference between someone being an invited guest and someone trespassing on your property. The question, as I understand it, isn't whether you can kill people you invite onto your property, but whether there is a limit to the level of aggression you can mete out onto those trespassing on your property.

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    1. Yes, that is the question. But my point is another matter. If I am absolute sovereign on my property - as Wenzel advocates (judge, jury, executioner) - by what right (via the NAP) does anyone have to stop me (or even disagree with me) about shooting or shoving any of these invited guests off of my property?

      It is my property, after all.

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    2. But they have not violated the NAP (being your invited guest). If I understand Wenzel's argument, it only applies if someone has trespassed onto your property (violated the NAP). I don't believe he's advocating a license to kill (you are not allowed to aggress against someone who has not aggressed against you). I can see both sides of the argument and am still sorting it out myself. I can see Wenzel's side that, in a truly anarcho-capitalistic world, I do think a person should be free to defend their property as they see fit; however, I also see your point that there would seem to be a limit to what is an allowable/justified response to a NAP violation. I'm not sure what the answer is, but I do enjoy the back and forth debate.

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    3. "If I understand Wenzel's argument, it only applies if someone has trespassed onto your property (violated the NAP)."


      Define "violated the NAP."


      Wenzel believes that if anyone other than the property owner has any say over what happens on or regarding the property owner's property, this is statism - or at minimum, minarchism.

      I am testing this by providing three scenarios - each with slightly more "aggression" than the one before it - merely to test this out.

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    4. I should re-state:

      Define "violated the NAP" in a universally accepted manner - in all places, for all circumstances, for all people, for all cultures.

      Make it simple to understand, such that seven-billion people can internalize it.

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    5. Anonymous, under Wenzel's PPS there is no due process. The only condition required to execute someone on your property is for you to make an assertion that they violated the NAP. Whether someone actually violated the NAP or not is not relevant under Wenzel's PPS.

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  11. I left a comment before the post was clarified.

    In all situations, it sounds like there was a clear invitation. It's not out of the question to think that when I'm invited somewhere I can come as I am, and I'm within my rights to expect to leave in the same condition (Barring unfortunate accidents, but that's likely not the scope of this discussion).

    It's like an implied contract. A store owner can't deceive me into thinking I'm coming in to get a bargain on goods (via an advertised sale, let's say), when all he wants is to have a pack of thieves run through the aisles to pick my pockets.

    If there's a chance that a host is going to want to do me harm over something or nothing, I'm likely owed some sort of warning before accepting. Despite this, it's a clear violation of the NAP, as I've come to understand the NAP.

    NAP, and respect for property rights, doesn't mean that we have to applaud the Propertarian Emperor, or that we should.

    I define a violation of the NAP as when an individual or said Individual's custodies (property, children, friends, guests, family, etc) becomes victim of an aggression greater than his own aggression.

    If I get shot at, I can escalate my own aggression to the point of shooting back. I can't launch a missile at the shooters house and take out the shooter, his house, his family, and potentially his neighbors. This isn't within bounds of the NAP, as I understand it.

    If it were, then Libertarians couldn't object to much of the aggressive history of the United States (Hiroshima and Nagasaki, post 9/11 foreign policy, etc.), whether we toe the line of canonized history or not.


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    1. "I can't launch a missile at the shooters house and take out the shooter, his house, his family, and potentially his neighbors. "

      Why not? I agree with a proportionate response (eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth) but that has nothing to do with NAP. If the only means available by the victim against the aggressor is the missile, then the aggressor is the one to blame.

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    2. No. You are to blame. If someone has violated the NAP by shooting at you, you do have a right to fight back with a proportionate response. By using the missile, you are now also violating the NAP by killing his neighbours and his family. You are not absolved of any responsibility in the deaths of others by having been shot at first. It is your direct action that lead to their deaths, not the original shooter.

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    3. Not that I disagree with Adrian, but Jaime's comment does prove that there's a problem with what defines the NAP.

      On one hand, Jaime has inadvertently justified the response to Pearl Harbor. (I'm ignoring potential X factors for the sake of discussion, let's just assume official history is true. If it helps, let's say the context is between rival communities or families, and not rival States.)

      On the other, Adrian has just said if a victim's only option is complete and utter devastation, then the victim should wince and take it, if the victim is going to adhere to the NAP.

      I'm probably thinking too hard about it and splitting a bunch of hairs that aren't going to exist. But if the NAP is a principle, then there has to be a core to it that doesn't waver. I think when all is said and done, that's the point of the post.

      I'm not even satisfied with my own answers, aside from wondering if we can call the Non Aggression Principle a principle at all. Principles don't need asterisks and exceptions.

      I'm hoping for some clarity from a more informed mind than mine.

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    4. Black Flag, you touched on what I was going to react, by summarizing that: "Adrian has just said if a victim's only option is complete and utter devastation."

      Pearl Harbor is not a good example, though.

      Too much circumstantial evidence that these uSA had been pushing Japan into a corner, deliberately, including uSA Navy in Japanese waters. To the point where Japan were in immediate danger of an attack. These uSA had taken over the Philipines and held it by military force and these uSA were supporting European Colonies in Asia. All being used against Japan in an economic/trade war.

      But I get your point.

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    5. "On the other, Adrian has just said if a victim's only option is complete and utter devastation, then the victim should wince and take it, if the victim is going to adhere to the NAP."

      Not necessarily. Since other people were hurt when Jaime fired the missile, it means there are other people present at the scene. Even in today's world, some people seeing someone attacked would potentially come to their aid. What about calling for help from the private police? Also, if you have a missile near to hand, why wouldn't you have a gun?

      In the end, my main issue with Jaime's statement which I did not state clearly was the last part: then the aggressor is the one to blame. He certainly did start it and you did have a right to respond but you also committed murder in the process. The aggressor starting it does not excuse Jaime from being charged with murder for the family and neighbours (not for the shooter).

      I appreciate the healthy and constructive responses though. The intention of the post as you say is to establish some core or general foundation to the NAP as a principle. I do not think it can be done though. The nap and its sister private property seem more like core principles. You need more meat on those bones. Perhaps something like a constitution and bill of rights. Even with this though, social and cultural norms play a crucial role.


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    6. Thank you Adrian and Jaime for the discussion.

      Even just between the three of us, there are three different interpretations of the NAP, and a struggle to find it's proper application - despite our willingness to adhere to the NAP.

      As an aside, there's an article that Gary North wrote some time around 2010 when secession became a topic even for mainstream folks to entertain, in which he describes a fictional "Texas Corp". Essentially a private sector provider of "governance".

      I'm struggling to find it, but if anyone could there might be something relevant to this discussion there.

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  12. Why should anybody accept the morality of absolute sovereignty over territory? Killing for the theft of an apple or fatally expelling no-longer wanted guests out of vessels is self-evidentially immoral. If a system such as PPS justifies these actions as acceptable, the system is morally bankrupt in my view.

    Sovereignty can only be rationally based in the self, the complex of body and its emergent consciousness, whether viewed as a creation of a higher power or merely as highly improbable exceptions to random disorder. All other claims of absolute sovereignty are immoral. Property over things external to the body is not an essential human right or a necessary condition for voluntary society. However, voluntarily accepted forms of property rights can be useful for promoting productivity and social harmony among like minded people, among other things. That does not make such property rights absolute.

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  13. I left a comment that I don't mind you publishing, but I'm not sure if my definition of an NAP Violation was sufficient.

    My definition doesn't account for an elderly woman getting mugged on the street, as an example. Said mugger may not be armed, but the elderly woman isn't going to win in a contest of brute strength.

    I can't argue that the elderly woman cannot use a knife, a pistol, or whatever means she chooses to defend herself when she's clearly outmatched.

    Maybe Non-Aggression Principle is the wrong word for what Libertarians describe. Maybe it should be Non-Aggression Ideal.

    Or maybe my own interpretation of the NAP is the flaw.





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  14. Yes in all cases. It reminds of when Walter Block defended child abandonment - parents shouldn't just leave a child to die but seek guardians for the child yet they don't have to.

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  15. NO. Of course it is not permissible.

    For the NAP to have any meaning or to be logical, there has to be a common understanding by both parties in the invitation.

    An invitation is a sort of contract based of what it means to be allowed into another's private property. If it is not commonly understood that the invitation mean no aggression towards each other, then the NAP is worthless. If the invitation does not imply the ability of the guest to egress, no human interactions and no human existence is possible.

    If the invitee's egress is limited due to the context, the airplane and boat in the examples, the host is imposing on himself a delay in ejecting the guest.

    So, whatever the definition of aggression is, the host, by extending an invitation that is accepted and executed by the guest, implied the guest's freedom to leave at the earliest possible time.

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  16. To me these are all aspects of justice, and justice requires things like proportionality, an objective concept, whose application in a particular situation will involve qualitative (not merely subjective) analysis.

    So yes, you can violate the NAP on your own property, even outside of easy cases like violating a contract on your own property.

    However, in an authentic PPS, the 'objectively determinable' natural law will putatively only be the initial rule and measure, or the lodestar, for the bodies and communities that actually help resolve disputes (whether they are invited to do so or not). Those communities and bodies may evolve their own cultural rules that, in their mind, are consistent with their view of the first principles of justice.

    For example, Walter's latest email (posted at Target Liberty) brings up the same point I made at that site. At a minimum in a PPS, you could have competing claims to the same property based on differences in the application of the homesteading principle.

    You can approach that problem by (1) resorting to mutually trusted dispute resolution, such as the decision of the proverbial village elder, or (2) stake your claim with 100% conviction and without involving any third party, and be willing to go to war for it and bear the associated high cost.

    #2 will be quite rare in a true PPS, due to the fact that its very maintenance requires a strong binding culture. It can also result in disproportionate force fairly easily and is susceptible to human error, since a party would not be involving a neutral third party to help resolve the dispute.

    It is a fact that a person could be 100% right, and be upset that they can't just easily enforce their claim without involving the "village elder". But that's the constraint of authentic human culture, in that others in the community may come to doubt the property claims of persons who act as their own judge and jury, which will push even the stubborn and the crazy to act more cautiously before "enforcing" their rights.

    And just to be provocative, consider the hypo of a man on his property, in plain sight, about to kill his 5 year old son. I believe any person, or a government (put aside tax support, in a PPS we assume otherwise), could use force to prevent that harm, despite that the man is on his own property and dealing with his own son.

    Like the Salamancans, I see human life as having the highest value, and rights to private property become self-contradictory if they involve imminent and clear threats to innocent human life. There are obviously a ton of problems if people take coercive actions against others on this basis very often (that is, dispensing justice without the consent of the person receiving it), but I believe a PPS community would take action in the clear cases (like my example).

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