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

in #anarchism6 years ago

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.


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:

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:
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.

" 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.

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.

It is, but that is a government structure that support that - Remove the structure and monopolizing of resources is vanished.


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

I enjoyed this. I have upvoted and resteemed.

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?

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.

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."

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

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

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

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.

Your logical fallacy for the day is the Non sequitur

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

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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.

"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.

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.

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