The non-aggression principle (NAP) is one which many libertarians accept, but few can defend. It states that it is wrong to initiate force or threat of force. This is, for situations where it applies, meant to replace a moral analysis.
Morality is knowledge about making choices. It tells us which are right and wrong to make. It tends to be quite complex, and we certainly don't know everything about it.
Now, to assert the NAP requires some argument that, in all situations, the right choice is not to initiate force. Regardless of the details. I've never heard such an argument. Does anyone know it?
(I know some people like the spirit of the NAP, and don't actually pay attention to what it says. I don't think they should support it, but acknowledge they don't need the argument I request.)
And don't tell me the NAP is right because it's self-evident, or I will have to WRITE BIG CAPITAL LETTERS AT YOU. mwahahaha!
Minimum Necessary Force
A certain variance *on either side* of the right amount of force is reasonable -- only people who use significantly more than the right amount should be prosecuted. Also, the right amount to aim for is more than the "necessary" amount, strictly speaking, because we shouldn't have to take undue risks. The minimum necessary force concept pulls against both these points, and is thus highly misleading.
Please Steal Some Oil For Us
by Staff Writer
"French oil companies, unlike US ones, are actually government owned. Or to put that another way, the French government unlike the US one, is actually oil-owned," the anonymous tipster whispered. This was just the beginning of an interesting phone call.
A little work turned up some interesting facts. It turns out that France is very reliant on oil imports, especially from the Middle East, and has none of its own oil. If the oil stops flowing from the Middle East, France would have a serious problem. In fact, France has the most to gain of any Western country from the resumption of a cheap and stable oil supply under a docile Iraqi leader.
The Washington Post reported(1): "It's pretty straightforward," said former CIA director R. James Woolsey, who has been one of the leading advocates of forcing Hussein from power. "France and Russia have oil companies and interests in Iraq. They should be told that if they are of assistance in moving Iraq toward decent government, we'll do the best we can to ensure that the new government and American companies work closely with them." But he added: "If they throw in their lot with Saddam, it will be difficult to the point of impossible to persuade the new Iraqi government to work with them."
The French establishment, still bitter about the loss of their North African colonies to the Arabs, cares about Arab oil not the Arab people. My anonymous leak said the whole anti-American attitude by the French is a media facade. "We see eye-to-eye with the Americans on nearly everything. But we need Middle Eastern oil, so we are forced to maintain the public image that appeals to the Arabs. By controlling the oil, they control us." He told me that most of the populace disagrees with many of the articles in the French press, but is sophisticated enough to read between the lines.
Perhaps the most shocking revelation was a phone call my anonymous source overheard. "I was going to his office, and I didn't realize he was in the middle of an important phone call. He didn't see me, and I stood outside the door to wait." The man being overheard is a top French government official, though I cannot disclose his name or specific position. He was speaking to a US diplomat. The content of the phone call is really amazing: "Please steal some oil for us, when you attack Iraq. We really need it." My source could not believe his ears! This was so important he felt compelled to share the information with the American press.
To return to the introduction, although it may not be literally true, the oil companies do have significant influence in the highest levels of the French government. They very much need a war on Iraq, but at the same time must keep the right image so that the entire Middle East continues to sell oil to France. It is a tricky double-bind, but the French are handling it impressively. Indeed, they had me fooled...until I got a phone call yesterday.
If ya didn't get it, this is a joke. I wrote it September 2002. Ran into it again just now.
Have faith in your values. Don't expect people to disagree. True ideas win arguments. True ideas win converts. True ideas get popular. Good values reward you. Bad values "reward" their holders (no need to do anything to them).
And as to "rewarding" holders of bad values -- it's a form of imposing one's values, and thus needs a non-arbitrary, non-reversible justification.
To explain "Don't expect people to disagree" this comes up a lot with parenting. Like people will ask "What if my child wants to commit murder?" Well, why the fuck would he want to do that? You're right that murder is wrong, aren't you? Yes, you are, so why expect child to disagree..? Comes up with the pro-death people too, who think it'd be wrong to waste extra life watching TV, but expect people to do it...
Premise: Jack and Jill have a relationship.
Challenge: Name one obligation Jack has to Jill. "To act rightly," does not count, as all people should do that all the time anyway.
My Solution: Can't be done. Details of some physical events needed. (Comment if you have another...)
Conclusion: Relationships, in and of themselves, do not create obligations.
Imagine you traveled back in time and met Bob the Caveman. And imagine you tried to tell him about cars. "They're made out of metal...umm, it's like rock but harder, and they are empty inside, and they have wheels...these are like feet, and they go really fast and they are powered by fire. They can cover a day's walk in the time it takes to eat a meal." Bob might find this a bit far out, but it's within the realm of possibility.
Now, imagine you tried to tell him that people drive them around according to very strict rules, and though there are millions, going very fast, they rarely hit each other. Everyone follows little bits of paint on the ground -- that you have to look for to notice -- and obeys colored lights. Now Bob would laugh. How could so many people be so organised, with very little enforcement, just some signs, lights, and paint!? How can they, when two lanes merge, weave cars together one by one -- acting in unison with total strangers? How can they take turns at a stop sign, and let pedestrians walk in front of them? How does anyone ever manage to change lanes in heavy traffic? The amount of consent created over driving, is far more amazing than the cars themselves.
Parenting strategies that rely on parents being larger, cannot be right.
Parenting strategies that rely on children having bad memory, cannot be right.
Parenting strategies that rely on children always agreeing with the first idea a parent has, cannot be right.
In different situations, the answers to various questions that depend on the circumstances, can be different.
People who do not understand a proposition, can't know if it's horribly false or exceptionally true.
To live morally, requires creativity.
A mechanical parenting strategy, cannot be right.
People do not do things for no reason.
It cannot be right to ask someone to sacrifice infinately before retalliating.
It cannot be right to come kill me, for the purpose of going to the dentist.
To fully maximise the realisation of one's intentions, one must be willing to change one's intentions to ones that are better realisiable.
Statements like this are interesting due to their truth, and also can provide a framework for solving various problems. But what should we call them? I've been considering them epistemic. This is perhaps not ideal. I don't have a better idea. Normally, I don't care about categorisations such as this, but it seems valuable to me to be able to communicate the idea that I'm referring to statements like this.
Suppose an approach to answering moral questions is, in the limit, convergent with the truth, but the calculations involved are more complex -- require more computing resources. This would be, in the limit, a *wrong* approach. At the least, because wasting all these resources (as opposed to using the right approach) means less resources to avoid mistakes, create value, etc...
Well before the limit, this allows us to say the non-utopian versions of consequentialism and deontology may well be convergent with true morality, but are still wrong to hold or use.
Another Problem with the NAP
Deterrence policies tell some person/group that actions in a certain category will be met with a certain response. The point is to prevent the deterred party from performing some evil action that would otherwise be performed, without the consequences. The consequences chosen will specifically be things that would be of questionable morality without the announced declaration, because otherwise they'd just be expected. (No need to tell thieves that if we catch them in the act, we won't allow them to continue.)
Two examples would be to tell Saddam that if he nukes Israel, we will kill every last member of his extended family, and a policy of sending every nuke we have at the USSR should it send a single nuke at the USA.
Are these specific policies justified? That's debatable. They have to be evaluated by how effective they will be, what they will prevent, and what we will have to do should they fail (to not follow up would make all future deterrence policies ineffective and is generally not an option).
But by the NAP, they involve initiating force against people who did not initiate force against us. Killing Saddam's family if Saddam attacks us, or blowing up Russian cities should the Russian military fire a nuke, respectively. The NAP cannot accommodate deterrence policies. Whether these specific ones are right or not, the NAP fails to include a general case argument why all deterrence policies that initiate force must be wrong, and is thus an unreasonable way to approach the issue.
Suppose you are a bad person. You get angry a lot, have trouble valuing much, arent very successful, blame others for your troubles, and hurt your children often. But, whatever, youre life isnt so bad. You get through it, enjoy a fair amount of it.
Now, suppose someone claims to be moral, and you notice the implication that you are not. And suppose this person lacks all your bad traits. This might well make you feel bad.
And then you might write a letter to the so-called moral person, attacking him. The content might be along the lines of (if you were exceptionally intelligent and clear, for a bad person): You bastard, fuck you. Youre totally wrong. Oh, and if you reply in kind youre just like me, except also a liar. Nope, just sit there and take it, Mr. High and Mighty. Oh, and you cant get resentful because that would violate your moral code, huh? But you are mad at me, arent you? Yep, youre a hypocrite. Now stop implying Im bad, and get back to your stupid, lucky life.