AnCap NAP Ethics is Morally Bankrupt & Based on Arbitrary Aggression Against Non-Aggressors

in anarchism •  last year

Anarcho-capitalists (AnCaps) frame their ethics in terms of the non-aggression principle, (NAP) which states that no one has the right to initiate force against anyone else. From this first principle, they attempt to justify the institution of private property.

Communist anarchists (AnComs) have criticized this approach because it is too simplistic and actually justifies certain types of injustice. Furthermore, this approach is actually based on the violation of the NAP.

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Suppose there are two people on a desert island. One of them has a lifetime supply of food and drinking water. There are no other resources on the island. Upon AnCap ethical principles, it is socially acceptable for the one man to monopolize the resources and allow the other man to starve or thirst to death in front of him. In fact, Rothbard himself contends that a woman has committed no injustice if she allows her newborn child to die of starvation or exposure, so long as she does not actively kill him with a knife or something of that nature.

The AnCom is right to reject AnCap ethics. It is certainly more cruel to allow a child to die slowly from exposure or starvation than it is to kill them quickly with a bullet or a blade. Similarly, on the desert island, the man monopolizing all the resources would be committing less of an injustice if he outright murdered the other man. If he withholds necessary resources when there are sufficient resources to meet the needs of both individuals, he cruelly causes the man to suffer and die slowly. And no inquiry into how the first man came to possess and monopolize the resources will change the injustice of his refusal to share his resources with the second man. The true anarchists say that AnCap ethics is totally backwards. A monopoly, even if one “comes by it honestly,” is a form of violence. And capitalistic private property is monopolistic.

And the AnCap’s inconsistencies are not far off now. The second man is faced with inevitable death if he does not take some of the resources away from the first man. This second man, however, has no need to resort to aggression against the first man. He will simply ignore the first man and casually walk over and grab the food he needs. If the first man wishes to enforce his unjust monopoly, then he must initiate aggression against the second man and use physical force to prevent him from taking the food and water he needs to survive. AnCap property is actually predicated on the violation of the non-aggression principle by the proprietor or his representative. Capitalism is a system of violence.

Since many AnCaps claim to be Catholic and to base their ideology on religious principles, it is worth noting that this communist anarchist analysis actually coincides with the analyses of Thomas Aquinas and the scholastics, who have always held that necessity overrides property rights.

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We may frame this conversation better in terms of the “law of equal liberty.” One's right to control of, or exclusive use of, personal possessions in limited by the “equal liberty” of others. As long as necessary resources are in abundance enough to allow others the equal liberty to survive and have sustenance, then all is well. But if you monopolize resources to an extent that prevents others from having equal liberty to survive and/or thrive, then you have transgressed against equal liberty and committed an injustice.

Under conditions of scarcity, where one person cannot monopolize or hoard resources without forcing others to go without, rationing is ethically justified. Communism doesn't necessarily entail rationing, but rationing usually requires something like communism. Thus, for most of the world—most of Africa, most of the Middle East, and most of Central and South America—communistic arrangements are the only sort of arrangements that could possibly be justified. If these places are to have communistic arrangements, I would want them to be libertarian communistic arrangements based upon direct democracy. While communist anarchism isn't the model I would recommend for the United States, I am genuinely supportive of communist anarchism.

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Returning to the Crusoe econ illustration... Let’s suppose that the first man is stronger than the second and is able to successfully uphold his monopoly on the resources needed for survival. The first man, who happens to have all the food and water, does not refuse to give the other man enough resources to survive, but instead puts stipulations on his sharing. He says, “I will let you have some food and water, but only if you will do all of my chores for me.” The second man, if he is not strong enough to resist the first man and take food and water for himself by force, will have no alternative. The second man will have to allow himself to be enslaved to the first man “voluntarily.” Of course, the choice isn’t voluntary since the man’s only other option is death.

In modern capitalism, we find the wage-slave to be in a similar situation. He does not own the means to sustain himself and thrive independently of others, so he has no choice but to “voluntarily” take a job in the wage labor market and go to work for some capitalist who does happen to own some means of production. So AnComs have said that wage labor and the employee-boss relationship is not voluntary, since there is no other alternative but starvation for the working class. Furthermore, the whole arrangement is predicated on violence. The capitalists can only exclude the proletariat from ownership through force. The situation under modern capitalism is really the same as the simple Crusoe economics illustration I gave before. It only appears to be a voluntary or non-aggressive system because everyone knows that violence will come to them if they do not abide by the capitalists’ rules and respect their arbitrary property claims. If you were to try to “steal” the means of production from your employer or take your apartment from your landlord by ceasing to pay rent and homesteading the place anyways, you would be confronted by violent men with clubs and guns and shiny badges. Since it is so well known that this is what would happen, people generally don’t try to take land, machinery, and productive property away from the capitalists and landlords. Thus, it usually doesn’t come down to physical violence. The threat of violence is sufficient to deter people from acting in a way that would require physical violence in order to maintain property privileges for the parasitic classes. Nevertheless, the violence and injustices that are plain to see in the Crusoe econ illustration are still there under the complexities of modern capitalism.

Personally, I think that we should reform American democracy along directly democratic lines, then reform the socio-economic institutions in a way that combines Georgism, mutualism, and libertarian municipalism. Thus, we might create a market system without private property. I'm not going to elaborate on that here, as I've written about it in my other posts and on my website. My goal isn't to convince you that my position is right, but to illustrate that the AnCap position is seriously flawed.

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I'm an ancap and I concede you make valid points here. The NAP is not viable as an absolute principle - it's too easy to come up with counter-examples that violate common sense morality.

But I've written a short article about how ancap philosopher Michael Huemer rehabilitates the NAP in his book The Problem of Political Authority.

Briefly, while the NAP is not valid as an absolute, aggression is usually wrong and thus we should consider an instance of aggression unjustified unless and until it is shown to be justified. Stealing a loaf of bread counts as aggression, but common sense tells us that your're justified in such if it it was the only way you could feed your family.

Still, there is a strong presumption that aggression is wrong, and we should assume state aggression is wrong unless and until it is shown to be justified.

Justification for aggression by private individuals is rare, but it turns out that it's even harder, much harder, to justify state aggression. So much so that those who incorrectly posited an absolute NAP overwhelmingly reached correct moral conclusions on state policies. The Problem of Political Authority explains why stat aggression is even harder to justify.

My article:
http://www.theproblemofpoliticalauthority.com/2015/08/huemer-and-the-nap/

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I think the objections put forth by left-anarchists still apply. Right-libertarians will have a hard time justifying specifically capitalistic property arrangements over usufruct within any NAP framework.

Also, I don't think this NAP argument really works against government action either. See my series on ethics: https://steemit.com/ethics/@ekklesiagora/ethics-3-part-series-summary-anthology
Given such a framework for ethics, which appears to be the only reasonable one, it would be possible to reach a different conclusion. If, for instance, humans would be generally happier and suffer less in a social democratic society than in a fully libertarian society, the former would be preferable to the latter.

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" If, for instance, humans would be generally happier and suffer less in a social democratic society than in a fully libertarian society, the former would be preferable to the latter."

It seems to me that we generally reject such reasoning as a justification for coercion in private life. Suppose you and I and half a dozen others agree to meet for dinner in a nice restaurant. The bill comes at the end of the meal, and as it happens we have no previous agreement about how the bill will be paid.

Someone points out that Bob is wealthier than the rest of us, and argues that Bob should pay the whole bill since the price of the meal has a lower marginal value to him than it does to anyone else at the table, and thus having Bob pay will maximize happiness and minimize suffering at the table.

In private life I think almost everyone would agree that this reasoning puts no moral obligation whatsoever on Bob to comply, and that it would be wrong to compel him to pay for the others even if that maximized utility for table. Bob seems fully justified in paying for what he ordered and then going about his business unhindered.

Given that we reject this kind of coercion in private life as unjustified, I think there is a substantial burden on the statist to show why similar coercive behavior is justified when performed by government.

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A great deal of wealth is unearned income or wealth accumulated from monopolizing natural resources. Furthermore, the accumulation of wealth is only possible because of the framework and institution provided by society, so it could theoretically be justified for society to claim a part of that wealth for itself. https://steemit.com/anarchism/@ekklesiagora/property-as-theft-the-libertarian-socialist-critique-of-property-summary-anthology

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Thanks. I'm still working on a longer post with a more thorough critique of property.

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Why do you wish to sustain 'markets'?
Wouldn't it be better if all the workers of the world just kept working, but stopped paying?
We already do all the work, why are we buying it back?
With the big box structures to serve as distribution we just keep the shelves full.
Then we can look at the near earth bodies for exploration.
Imagine nasa open sourced and not restricted by 'budgets'.

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There's an article on my website where I address that question, among others: http://www.anarchistsocialdemocracy.com/pdf%20Documents/Anarchist%20Social%20Democracy,%20Structure%20&%20Theory%20(Zine%20Format).pdf
You'll have to copy that and paste it to the browser because the link isn't catching the ".pdf" at the end so it won't work right.

Basically, the main reason is that I like Georgism and Universal Basic Income, along with other redistributive schemes, like progressive taxation. It's easier to equitably distribute the excess wealth of society if you have a means of quantifying wealth and doing accounting. As Ludwig von Mises observed: "without markets, there is no pricing mechanism; without a pricing mechanism, there is no economic calculation." Accounting and mathematical/scientific approaches to distributing wealth would go out the window with the abolition of money/markets. Furthermore, I recognize that there is a certain utility and efficiency to money that barter and communism often lack. For instance, if our Food Not Bombs group needs a car, we can do fundraising to get a car. We can get a bunch of people to each contribute a little and then go buy a car. It's easier to do a fundraiser to get cash to exchange for an item like a car than it is to throw a benefit concert with a description that just reads "somebody please give us a car." And the easiest way to contribute to a cause from a distance, whether a social movement or disaster relief, is to send money. The people there on the ground know what they need more than I do; they're better off if I send them money than if I send them sneakers. I also like schemes for mutual insurance and social credit.

I think that money can be redeemed. I think that a monetary institution can be established in such a way that it eliminates all of the negatives that are generally association with money and markets but retains the benefits of them.

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This economic calculation that soooooo trips up the money lovers could be simply solved by good inventory control, only order what you need to replace what you got.
Really, this one is soooo simple, if you need shoes order some, if there is too much supply stop making shoes, really simple,...
Any solution that leaves money in charge leaves you a slave of those that have more.

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The sort of geoist/mutualist municipal socialism that I recommend would be structured in a way that doesn't allow for anyone to accumulate very much more than anyone else....there's redistribution mechanisms built into the structure of my Anarchist Social Democracy. There would be no private property over land or industry, so the money from land value and industrial/commercial profits would be collectivized and divided up in an egalitarian fashion and redistributed back out to all the people as a citizens' dividend or universal basic income. Also, banking and monetary institutions would be collectivized, so the wealth would be redistributed in an egalitarian fashion. Profits would never accumulate into the hands of private individuals. And, there would be a system of voluntaryist progressive taxation built in, as well as a differential tax on the transfer of real estate, so excessive accumulation would be penalized and wealth would constantly be being redistributed downwards so that the society always remained egalitarian. Nobody would be “enslaved to those who have more” because nobody would have much more than anyone else. (This all makes more sense if you read my writings on “Anarchist Social Democracy.” Those writings can be found on AnarchistSocialDemocracy.com)

The "good inventory control" idea doesn't seem like a good enough answer to me. For one thing, how do you know how many shoes need to be made? How do you know how many should be kept in supply? But you could always just choose an arbitrary number and things would work well enough. The real problem is knowing how to best allocate resources.

Suppose we want more billiard tables in Blaville but they want more foosball tables in Yadatown. And suppose that the same materials are needed to produce both products, and that the materials are too scarce to supply us with as many of both as we would like. Then we must choose how to allocate resources. Under communistic arrangements, you have to do a lot of research, discussion, and deliberation to determine how those resources should be allocated. The appropriate way to allocate scarce resources is difficult to determine along communistic lines. If there is a scarcity of necessary resources, then it should go to democratic deliberation. But there is no scarcity of necessary resources in our society, so there's no need for full communism as long as we ensure that everyone has enough money to buy the things they need. Billiard tables and foosball tables are both luxury items. No one will die or suffer much because of a lack of either one. Consequently, there’s no real ethical crisis that demands communism in this situation. The easiest way to figure out how to allocate the resources is to let the people in Blaville and Yadatown each bid against each other. The demand for these items is reflected in prices, so the price signal signifies how resources could best be allocated. Not much research is needed. Then, since productive industry and commercial industry are collectivized under Anarchist Social Democracy, the profits from the sales are simply redistributed back out to all people in an egalitarian fashion. No one is accumulating excess wealth from sales, but the market is still functioning as an easy way to allocate resources without any effort.

Also, you suggested that “When enough inventory is on hand, workers move over to something else” and “When there is not enough supply, bring in more workers.” But this ignores specialization. It doesn’t seem like a good idea to just move workers from one industry to another willy-nilly like that. I would like my dentists to be dentists, my doctors to be doctors, my carpenters to be carpenters. Some degree of overlap is okay, but shifting workers around too much would be inefficient, as they’d always have to be trained on their new jobs and it would take a while to learn to be proficient at the new job, and then they might be moved to something else. Specialization of knowledge has its benefits. I don’t want my surgeon to forget how to do heart transplants correctly because he spends too much time working in other fields.

Furthermore, I think that we should strive to automate everything so that there are no more jobs at all. I want a fully-automated society where everyone gets paid simply for existing but where no one is able to accumulate excessive amounts of land, money, or anything else. Labor should be abolished and replaced by leisure. When people work, it ought to be because they found a hobby or something they enjoy doing, not because of economic necessity. So I look forward to a post-scarcity and fully-automated society, which I think would be possible in the near future. I also fall into the anarcho-transhumanist camp and think we should be striving to develop science and technology in order to extend human life, eliminate illnesses, achieve biological immortality, reach the singularity, and overcome all human limitations.

I guess I just have a tendency to read a lot of different schools of thought and see the strong points in each. I can't force myself to embrace any single ideology or school of thought or model of reality. I can only embrace the unique synthesis that I come up with by taking the good ideas from all the stuff I read and throwing out the bad ideas.

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Resource restriction will still exist even if market/monetary system does not exist, so 'budget' restriction will just get new names in other mechanisms of resource distribution, consumption, and development. It's inevitable.

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I agree that only so much copper comes out of the ground, but if you got the money there is no shortage of it.
We simply replace demand with dollars.
When enough inventory is on hand, the workers move over to something else.
If there is not enough supply, bring in more workers.
If there is not enough on the planet, then I can see no better reason to mine the near earth bodies.

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"We simply replace demand with dollars."
Exactly. So we will alternatively just have other representation of 'demand' replacing the monetary system. The monetary system helps quantify demand, which beyond basic needs and community needs are much harder to quantify. Who can objectively quantify and prioritize one person's desire for fancy cooking equipment, compared to another person's desire of some gym equipment for their personal use? Money is one of the most efficient ways to quantify such demand.

Beyond our basic needs (some/most of which only exist in artificial scarcity thanks to the wastefulness of capitalism), humans do have the aforementioned conflicting 'desires' which are not necessary for survival but improves their life and requires time, space, and material resources to satisfy and produce. Such distribution cannot just be satisfied only through 'bringing in more workers', but also requires prioritizing where to spend our limited human/material/space/time/etc resources at. There's only so many workers and so much time in the world, but there is infinite demand. We cannot satisfy all these arbitrary demands, so we could only try to satisfy as many demands as possible.

We could have majority voices, consensus, local communities, representatives, and other forms of bureaucracy controlling supplies.... A monetary system w/ a proper redistribution mechanism to prevent abuse is a mechanism that could help and ease the distribution of resources by assigning specific values to them, without the need of complicated bureaucracy. Everyone having a certain money/resources to trade in have a direct voice on what they want. They could increase the weight of the demand by increasing the price of products in relation to the cost of the supply. Suppliers could then directly assist in satisfying demands with higher weight of demand, even if they are geographically distanced and does not know their customers.

I think life is about balancing our self-autonomy and ensuring that everyone's basic needs are met when we obviously have the resources to at least satisfies everyone's basic needs. Bureaucracy might be necessary at times, but there's also a benefit in having the ability to directly vote through money/resources/trade goods/etc.

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Are you on steem.chat?

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Not currently. Interesting that someone developed steem chat, though.

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There we could cut out the 6 comment nesting problems.

Knowing human nature, what would incentivize individuals to create value if they didn't feel confident that the value created would be respected as his property?

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There is such a thing as altruism. There is also creativity for creativity’s sake. So, I don’t think the profit motive is the primary motivation for human action, especially when people are removed from the capitalistic framework.

Take the nuclear family for instance. Within the family, arrangements are largely communistic in the sense of “from each according to their ability, to each according to their need.” This is what David Graeber refers to as “the communism of everyday life.” And it extends beyond the nuclear family in rural communities. If I need a trailer and my neighbor has one, he will likely let me use it free of charge. If my neighbor needs help cutting up firewood, I will lend him a hand free of charge. In the rural environment, economic relations are not strictly “economic” in the market/money sense of the term. Rural economic relations tend to be more familial and communistic: from each according to ability, to each according to need. You do things because it is the understood ethics of the country culture, not because you will make a profit or acquire property thereby.

I remember a time when I was young and there had been a bad storm that knocked limbs down everywhere. I went over and cleaned up the yard that belonged to the old lady across the street because I knew she couldn’t do it. I wasn’t expecting anything in return. I wasn’t even expecting to put her in my debt or create an obligation, as with gift-economy theory. I was merely doing the right thing because it was the right thing. People aren’t going to just stop contributing to society if the profit motive is taken away. In fact, most of the people that are really contributing to society today are not motivated by profit at all.

When I look at people that I see as those who have created the most value in terms of their contributions to humanity, I think of people who were almost certainly not very motivated by profits. Was Charles Darwin motivated by the prospect of profits when he was studying and writing about animals he observed in his travels? Was Louis Pasteur motivated by the prospect of profits when he discovered and educated the world about pasteurization, fermentation, and vaccination? Did Oscar Wilde write his poetry in prison because he thought he might make money from it? Was Mahatma Gandhi motivated by profit? Was Martin Luther King Jr?

Furthermore, I have not said that one ought not to have personal possessions. I have not even said that one ought not to accumulate lots of personal possessions. I have merely said that there should be limits set to such accumulation, and that limit should be the point where acquisitiveness starts to impoverish others. And I think this means that the most just arrangement is bound to differ depending on the “particular circumstances of time and place.” Hoarding a certain amount of possessions may be acceptable in New York City, but that same amount of hoarding of resources as private property could be highly unethical in West Kurdistan where resources are so scarce that any amount of hoarding might cause others to starve. Furthermore, I don't think that an individual's property right should keep the community from being able to limit the sort of actions he can take with his property. If you own a piece of land, your community has a right to prevent you from dumping toxic waste into the soil. Property rights ought not to be absolute.

I look at this issue more anthropologically. Property is a human convention. And property arrangements can be altered to suite the particular needs of a particular community at a particular time. The problem is not private possession in itself, but the idea that private property ought to be absolute or that propertarian NAP ethics can somehow serve as a solid theoretical basis for human ethics in general.

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Knowing human nature, both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation exists. Money is merely one extrinsic motivation among many, which turns out to instead undermine our intrinsic motivation according to the meta-analysis of various studies. We would be committing both oversimplification fallacy and false dilemma fallacy, if we simplify both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation into merely consisting of monetary motivation.

"The results indicate that the association between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. The reported correlation (r = .14) indicates that there is less than 2% overlap between pay and job satisfaction levels. Furthermore, the correlation between pay and pay satisfaction was only marginally higher (r = .22 or 4.8% overlap), indicating that people’s satisfaction with their salary is mostly independent of their actual salary.

In addition, a cross-cultural comparison revealed that the relationship of pay with both job and pay satisfaction is pretty much the same everywhere (for example, there are no significant differences between the U.S., India, Australia, Britain, and Taiwan)."

"The first is a classic meta-analysis by Edward Deci and colleagues. The authors synthesized the results from 128 controlled experiments. The results highlighted consistent negative effects of incentives — from marshmallows to dollars — on intrinsic motivation. These effects were particularly strong when the tasks were interesting or enjoyable rather than boring or meaningless."

"Intrinsic motivation is also a stronger predictor of job performance than extrinsic motivation — so it is feasible to expect higher financial rewards to inhibit not only intrinsic motivation, but also job performance. The more people focus on their salaries, the less they will focus on satisfying their intellectual curiosity, learning new skills, or having fun, and those are the very things that make people perform best.

The fact that there is little evidence to show that money motivates us, and a great deal of evidence to suggest that it actually demotivates us, supports the idea that that there may be hidden costs associated with rewards. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we should work for free. We all need to pay our bills and provide for our families — but once these basic needs are covered the psychological benefits of money are questionable. In a widely cited paper, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton reported that, in the U.S., emotional well-being levels increase with salary levels up to a salary of $75,000 — but that they plateau afterwards. Or, as Arnold Schwarzenegger once stated: “Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.”"

"Finally, other research shows that employees’ personalities are much better predictors of engagement than their salaries. The most compelling study in this area is a large meta-analytic review of 25,000 participants, where personality determined 40% of the variability in ratings of job satisfaction. The more emotionally stable, extraverted, agreeable or conscientious people are, the more they tend to like their jobs (irrespective of their salaries). But the personality of employees’ is not the most important determinant of their engagement levels. In fact, the biggest organizational cause of disengagement is incompetent leadership. Thus, as a manager, it’s your personality that will have a significant impact on whether your employees are engaged at work, or not."

https://hbr.org/2013/04/does-money-really-affect-motiv

I enjoyed this. I have upvoted and resteemed.

AnCap is right.
Socialists (or what ever they are calling themselves these days) are wrong.

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Great argument you debunked entire ideologies..... Good Job!!!!!!

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any group larger than Dunbar's number is mentally unstable.
so yeah...I debunked them...rightly so.

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mfw you don't understand how socialism and communism deal with this.......ancap is unstable and will turn into socialism

ancap = debunked by your logic.

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Your logical fallacy for the day is the Non sequitur

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Or perhaps he was being sarcastic and pointing out the non sequitur in your argument, but you were too busy ignoring logic to notice.

This post explains it well. You have earned my sub, resteemed and followed

Are you in the chat?

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I'm Ekklesiagora on Steemit chat

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First off, the NAP is based upon private property, not the other way around.
Second, anarcho-capitalism is a relatively new ideology and you cannot hold all past proponents of it as the God of capitalism. It has been developing over the past decades. I would say most ancaps these days have disregarded the notion that you can let your child die. We believe that if you bring a baby into this world that you have an obligation to see that the baby is cared for and not left to starve.

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"The NAP is based upon private property, not the other way around."
That's my entire point. Private property is based upon aggression, so the institution of private property conflicts with the NAP. There is an inconsistency in the AnCap position.

I also recognize that most modern AnCaps don't agree with Rothbard's defense of infanticide. However, that is besides the point because Rothbard's position clearly follows from the AnCap position, so modern AnCaps who disagree with Rothbard on this point are not being consistent with their own principles.

"Since many AnCaps claim to be Catholic and to base their ideology on religious principles"

Wondering what your basis is for making a Catholic connection?

For what it's worth, I'm an ex-catholic.

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There's been an AnCap vs. Distributism debate going on within Roman Catholicism for decades. Thomas Wood, Jeffrey Tucker, and Alejandro Chafuen argued that AnCapism logically follows from Catholic social doctrine.