If liberty is the objective, is the non-aggression principle sufficient? If the non-aggression principle is insufficient, what might that mean for those who wish to develop a proper theory for the realization of liberty?
A Somewhat Discordant Introduction
I came across an interesting tidbit:
And, as predicted by the theory, these seven moral rules – love your family, help your group, return favors, be brave, defer to authority, be fair, and respect others’ property – appear to be universal across cultures.
The authors studied sixty societies and found these behaviors to always be considered morally good. These behaviors were found across continents, not limited to any particular culture or region. Further, there were no counter-examples: no societies in which any of these behaviors was considered to be bad.
This does not mean to suggest that the moral values were manifest identically in each region, or that they were held in the same priority:
‘Morality as cooperation’ does not predict that moral values will be identical across cultures. On the contrary, the theory predicts ‘variation on a theme’: moral values will reflect the value of different types of cooperation under different social and ecological conditions.
In other words, just because these different communities hold to these same rules, it doesn’t mean that the application is identical. The concepts are the same; the lifestyles might be quite different.
What is the purpose of these moral rules?
Converging lines of evidence – from game theory, ethology, psychology, and anthropology – suggest that morality is a collection of tools for promoting cooperation.
Who cares about cooperation? Given the antonyms, you might care about the absence of cooperation: hindrance, hurt, injury, antagonism, disagreement, discord, disunion, disunity, hostility.
A reminder from an earlier post:
Ethics and Morality: These two terms are often thought of and used synonymously. This is not entirely correct but there are similarities inasmuch as both words have their origin in common. One is the Greek and the other is the Latin word for “custom.”
From Paul VanderKlay:
It is the moral duty of the individual to conform themselves to the larger structure that exists.
Troubling for the non-aggression principle, I know.
What’s It All About, Alfie?
These seven common moral rules were learned and developed over countless generations and centuries. Societies that figured out how to cooperate have survived; those that did not…did not.
Yet, governments throughout the west are working diligently to destroy these behaviors. On topics ranging from immigration, welfare, divorce, family, patriarchy, religion and, of course, property – the government supports, subsidizes and enforces culture destroying behaviors. With these destroyed, cooperation is lost and therefore more government is “demanded.”
Let’s look at these seven common moral rules again, and consider each one through the lens of the non-aggression principle:
Not required by the non-aggression principle: love your family, help your group, return favors, be brave, defer to authority, be fair.
Required by the non-aggression principle: respect others’ property.
The non-aggression principle addresses only one of the seven common moral rules. A reminder of the purpose of morality: a collection of tools for promoting cooperation. What happens without cooperation? We have hindrance, hurt, injury, antagonism, disagreement, discord, disunion, disunity, and hostility.
Returning to VanderKlay’s statement: “it is the moral duty of the individual to conform themselves to the larger structure that exists”; it seems this should be considered if one desires achieving and sustaining liberty.
Does this mean any “larger structure” will do? Hardly. Most fundamental, it is a larger structure that has been built up from custom and tradition – with these organically modified – and not a larger structure artificially created top-down by the state. Second, it is clear that the one society where the idea of individual freedom was best developed is Western Civilization.
Will your property survive in a society absent the other six moral rules? It seems to me not. Does the non-aggression principle survive in a community filled with hindrance, hurt, injury, antagonism, disagreement, discord, disunion, disunity, and hostility? I don’t think so.
Is libertarianism sufficient for liberty? Everything about man’s cultural and moral evolution answers with a resounding “no”; everything about how cooperative relationships are formed answers with a resounding “no.”
So why are some libertarians afraid to talk about it? Why are some even antagonistic to the necessity of a common culture and tradition as a foundation for a society to move toward liberty? If libertarians want to move liberty forward, incorporating this reality into the discussion is necessary.
The common separation between theory and practice is an artificial and fallacious one. But this is true in ethics as well as anything else. If an ethical ideal is inherently “impractical,” that is, if it cannot work in practice, then it is a poor ideal and should be discarded forthwith.
I have taken Rothbard’s advice. I think we need to work on our theory.
Is this a criticism of the non-aggression principle? Not at all; I consider a defense of the non-aggression principle.
Consider it, instead, a criticism of those who believe that the non-aggression principle is sufficient for liberty; consider it a criticism of those who leave the beauty and value of the non-aggression principle open to easy and obvious ridicule.