Study their behaviors. Observe their territorial boundaries. Leave their habitat as you found it. Report any signs of intelligence.

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Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Anti-Aggression Principle: Better Than NAP/ZAP

 What I like best about my salvo tonight in my debate with StarChild is that I finally have come up with a nuanced but succinct Market Liberal alternative to anarcho-libertarianism's most important piece of bumper-sticker philosophy: the Non-Aggression Principle.  As embedded in the LP Pledge, the NAP (or Zero Aggression Principle) calls for absolute abstinence from the initiation of force.  I today christen my alternative the Anti-Aggression Principle, a name whose single use found in a libertarian context by Google or Yahoo was just as a synonym for NAP/ZAP. The AAP says: the role and incidence of aggression in human society is to be minimized. This is precisely equivalent to saying that the role and incidence of liberty in human society is to be maximized.

The challenge here was how to gesture in a short slogan toward the following two ideas. 1) It's more important to minimize aggression than to demand abstinence from it. 2) That liberty is the best way to maximize human well-being is a default general principle, rather than inviolable and unquestioned dogma.   The first idea motivates the "Anti" in the AAP's name, and the word "incidence" in its body. The second idea motivates the word "role" in the body, and references the economic theory of market inefficiency to distinguish between absolute and optimal levels of liberty.

StarChild and I have for several days been debating the wisdom of increased inclusiveness in the Libertarian Party. The most interesting new things I say are excerpted after the horizontal rule below. StarChild's attire and career are even more flamboyant than Wikipedia says, but he's also exceedingly intelligent, well-spoken, passionate, sincere, polite -- and handsome. Were it not for his vocational flamboyance, he would count as a formidable and serious Libertarian candidate anywhere in America, instead of just in San Francisco.

Thanks to Derek Jensen for pointing me to the Libertarian Purity Test by GMU anarcho-capitalist blogging economist Bryan Caplan. I got a 57.  Caplan is one of my favorite economics bloggers, and I hadn't realized he was the author of the Anarchist FAQ.  A couple years ago I had reviewed his FAQ's attempts to solve the public goods problem, and I still find his arguments unpersuasive -- and his historical examples even less so.

Under my revised Pledge, the party automatically becomes more ideologically pure as it becomes more successful, because as America moves north in Nolan space, the revised Pledge excludes marginal liberty-increasers that it used to include.

My guess is that 5% to 15% of Americans eligible to vote would agree that America should have both more personal/social freedom and more economic freedom. I think the extremism of the LP is the most important second-order reason for it not having anything like that mindshare. The most important first-order reason is the wasted-vote syndrome, but the biggest enabler of that syndrome is that the LP is too extremist to adopt a big-tent voting-bloc brokerage strategy to counteract the syndrome. I think the LP could be several times its size if it maintained 90% of its ideology while embracing the tactic of brokering the votes of the millions of Americans who want a net increase liberty.

I dispute the premise that the Non-Aggression Principle (or Zero-Aggression Principle) is the essence of libertarianism. I would say that the essence of libertarianism is the Anti-Aggression Principle, which says that the role and incidence of aggression in society is to be minimized. (This is precisely equivalent to saying the role and incidence of liberty in society are to be maximized.)

I define a government (i.e. the state) as the institution, or hierarchy of institutions, that maintains a formal monopoly on the initiation of force in a given territory.