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–7 votes
Should I expect a consistent anarchist to be for or against using initiatory violence against other people?

Does consistent anarchism require adherence to the non-aggression principle?
by (380 points)
To live is an act of involuntary aggression...that's what I don't like about the NAP principle. For all the an-caps and vegan pacifists out there, there is the option of suicide or jainism. Jainism sometimes entails starving yourself so that you aren't doing harm to any of the worlds living creatures. Anarcho-capitalism necessarily implies some sort of mafioso security to instill delusional ideas of private property and inviolable, permanent ownership.

Remember, statecraft takes various forms, just because you call your asset-protection peacekeeping security forces anarchists doesn't mean that they aren't police

I don't have to explain how I would do it without violence. I'm only suggesting how it is possible and preferable to function without initiating violence. The NAP is not 'without violence'. It recognizes the necessity for self-defense at times. When in the judgement of the individual his non-aggressive stance has been so abused that it constitutes aggression against himself then it may be time for self-defense to come into the equation.

If you observe the real life activities of bounty hunters and bailiffs for e.g. they often resolve potentially violent situations, such as perhaps the 'shovel' dispute, with tricks learnt from years of experience.

When you say things such as "also at that point it seems worth it to just get a new shovel instead of hiring an army of goons to get a rusty shovel you weren't even using" it implies I came up with the Shovel scenario. I didn't. I notice it's been brought up elsewhere on this site to supposedly counter so-called 'an-caps', a  term I will address in the appropriate thread, and the NAP.

We could back and forth with variations on the scenario like 'now that I know you are coming for it, and I put it in a padlocked shed, would you violate the NAP by vandalizing my lock and shed?'. I could talk about locksmiths etc. But none of it is really the point which is that as a general approach to life not initiating violence and the conditions that may foster it (e.g. by taking a shovel in the first place) is a 'good' principle. Better than no principles at all. We could argue all we like about it. The simple fact is that people apply this principle all the time in their everyday lives. If they don't they will most often be corrected in their behavior by others who do hold to the principle. It's all around us because it's a simple principle that is taught to 3 year olds.

There is only really a problem when there is a large imbalance of power. Which, ironically in my view, you are making reference to with 'armies of goons'. Which army of goons do you prefer - the one you selected and paid for out of your own choices or the one you are forced to pay for up front and that will do whatever it likes, whether you like it or not? Yes, at some point our subjective values come into the equation. Why not at this point, when we select our preferred 'goon squad'? Choice or no choice. Which is more compatible with freedom?

Of course we'd all like to live in a world in which 'armies of goons' aren't necessary at all. But many of the points made by others here make it clear that's not always going to be possible (what if some 'goon' comes and takes your shovel?). Advocating the NAP is not denying the existence of violence and conflict, in fact just the opposite. It also helps to clarify who's really violating ordinary common sense and principle when an army of goons shows up at your door demanding prepayment for their 'services'.

I meant "Can, not necessarily would". DDs point made later illustrates why:

"also at that point it seems worth it to just get a new shovel instead of hiring an army of goons to get a rusty shovel you weren't even using"

He may be right ...

Taking stuff that isn't in your possession (even if it's 'just lying about') is behavior that can tend to lead to violent conflict (Palestine comes to mind). Another thing most people learn by age 3. Most people, naturally in my view, develop some level of attachment to their personal possessions and understand that taking others is 'wrong'. The Shovel example is disingenuously attempting to create a 'non-violent' scenario that is clearly based on an initial wrong in an attempt to relativise the initiation of violence with the lesser wrong of theft and hence make it seem more like an arbitrary, subjective distinction. As I've mentioned elsewhere people, all the time, everyday, use their own judgement to make those distinctions and they are not as generally as arbitrary and subjective as you are attempting to portray.

"To live is an act of involuntary aggression...that's what I don't like about the NAP principle."

What I like about the NAP is that you have to come up with some fairly distorted ideas to deny that not initiating violence in the vast majority of our interactions is 'good'. Here we have such a case, which dovetails nicely with that other anti-human idea 'environmentalism' (but I won't go there now).

I believe I have a sense of what you're referring to (I'm sure you'll correct me if wrong). Little children come into the world demanding, expecting and taking anything and everything using violence if necessary etc. That's why, generally, we teach them not to take that which doesn't belong to them and the NAP.

What I like about the NAP is that this works pretty well, for most people, most the time (again I'll leave it to others to come up with distorted outlier cases). Many of the problems appear to arise when these simple principles that are violated on a small, or large, scale.

I believe I've been branded (incorrectly) an 'an-cap' on this site. Thank you for your generous option of suicide. I hope you're not a powerful agent of the State, in which case it will remain an option I can ignore forever.

I'll discuss what "Anarcho-capitalism (whatever that is) necessarily implies" in the appropriate thread.

We can slap labels onto anything and it often becomes necessary to define what we really mean by a label to prevent further misunderstanding - "anarcho-capitalism" is a good example. The only distinction I'm trying to make is between police/security services you choose, and those you don't/can't.
@dns you have a stunted, myopic conception of freedom.  to be honest i shy away from the word, because its basically meaningless in conversation.  the 'choice' you describe in reference to choosing the 'army of goons' is such a hollow choice as to be meaningless.  our problem with the government is not that we dont get to chose them, otherwise this site would be called 'democracy101', but that they are there at all.

3 Answers

+2 votes
Best answer

[changed from a comment]

violence/non-violence is a false dichotomy. when people don't even agree on what those terms mean, why try to create ideological boxes based on them, and shoe-horn people into them?

i tend to think of people's behavior - what they do, not how someone labels what they do. behavior that is unacceptable to me in one situation may be completely acceptable in another. and behavior that is acceptable to me in some situation, may be completely unacceptable to another in a similar situation.

again, context is key. to me, principles are guidelines based on desire and experience (and maybe other stuff too); they are not "rules". the context of any situation will determine how any principle i might hold factors into my thoughts and behavior in that situation. i might ignore a principle entirely, if the situation calls for it. or i might adapt the principle for that situation.

the nap, like any rigid ideological stance, has no concept of context. hence, it is useless to me.

by (13.4k points)
selected by

I consider 'violence' to be another form of theft. A physical 'taking' that is both objectively and subjectively dishonest. How do we determine objectively dishonest? By reference to a broadly held principle - I suggest the NAP. How do we determine subjectively dishonest? By reference to our own (and perhaps our peers) understanding of the context.

The question: "Is the initiation of force preferable to the non initiation of force?" concerns the initiation of violence rather than violence itself. What constitutes 'violence' is possibly a subject for a separate thread but I believe most people have a reasonable understanding if the discussion is limited to the physical.

We refer to objective principles because they help us to maintain a logical consistency despite the multitude of subjective factors that may pervade any given context. Just because someone subscribes to the NAP in preference to the USV doesn't mean they have to function within a rigid ideological cage. It still leaves individual responsibility to determine how the NAP is applied from one context to the next. As you said yourself:

"the context of any situation will determine how any principle i might hold factors into my thoughts" - so you might hold a principle. Being relatively honest and clear and stating that that principle is the NAP is not something to be ashamed of because it violates someone else's rigid ideology that says there can be "no universal moral principles". It remains an individually held principle, even if one encourages everyone else to subscribe to it. The key is that if you don't subscribe to it for any reason no-one who does can enforce it upon you anyway.

Can you give me a context in which you might ignore the NAP entirely?

dotnetspec: "How do we determine objectively dishonest?

By reference to a broadly held principle - I suggest the NAP. "

well that clears things up....

It's clearer than USV (unprincipled subjective violence).
i don't know what that means.

ba@, i had mentioned "unprincipled subjective violence" as a completely sarcastic response to all this nap/apv crap.

dns, as should be clear from many comments in all the exchanges around this beaten-to-death-horse-of-a-discussion: violence, aggression, initiation, even principle.... ALL those terms are subjective, and mean different things to different people in different situations.

sorry, but i have no interest in dragging out your repetition ever more. it seems clear that you have reached your peter principle on this. perhaps i have too.

perhaps we could all take a nap in an suv and see how that goes....


The topic is the preference or not for the initiation of violence

"i might ignore a principle entirely" - which would be unprincipled

"behavior that is unacceptable to me in one situation may be completely acceptable in another" - subjective

All that is in your answer to the question. So is your answer 'completely sarcastic' as well? Or are you hedging so that you don't appear to be contradicting anyone else (other than the 'an-cap' of course)? I'm sorry if that sounds 'belligerent' but sometimes I feel compelled to call it out when I see it and I can't think how to put it more diplomatically (my shortcoming, perhaps).

In this 'beaten-to-death-horse-of-a-discussion' I have patiently (and despite quite a bit of condescension and outright insult) attempted to explain why I believe it is not advantageous for 'anarchists' (leaderless) to conflate a preference for the initiation of violence (something the State needs to preserve itself) with a NAP that most learn at a young age, and serves us all quite well as a general principle to live by, by insisting that it is ALL subjective. You disagree. There it is.

What sounds to you perhaps as "repetition" is the sound of someone disagreeing with you. It is most odd, but perhaps revealing, that you finish with another insult, albeit a little more subtle than some I have received here (and 'perhaps' applied to yourself which you may, or may not, actually believe). The vehicle is by reference to a management theory and organizational hierarchies (incongruous for an 'anarchist) . I appreciate you may be referring to the 'there is a strong temptation for people to use what has worked before, even when this might not be appropriate for the current situation' part of it, but still, you are subtly implying that I am somehow incompetent (to do what exactly?).

Anyway this point could just as easily be made the other way round. The only difference is that I don't appear to have any support for my perspective here. Whose to judge? The 'hierarchy' on this forum or each of us as honest individuals?

As ba suggests, perhaps we could sleep, or dwell, on that point ...

actually, i'd like to use some unprincipled subjective violence to kill this question....

ok, last last time.

dns, sorry to disagree, but your repetition is you repeating yourself. it is very clear by simply reading your comments. you are using the same words to say the same thing, over and over. the fact that i (and others) disagree with your perspective is no doubt a reason for your repetition; but it doesn't somehow change that you are being repetitive.

your constant reference to the state when articulating your own aversion to violence speaks to one of my earliest comments to you (probably on another thread): you seem to have a myopic obsession with a single institution of domination (albeit a very relevant one), without any discernible comprehension of the relationship between that particular institution and other major ones - such as the capitalism that you came here promoting with your crypto-worship, much less contextual individual-to-individual relations. it is as if you need to justify your perspective by pointing at your boogeyman and saying "see, they do it, so it MUST be wrong".

as i have said previously, i appreciate your seemingly earnest (and largely respectful) engagement with a bunch of folks that disagree with you. but when you talk about condescension, let's not forget your comment that went something like: "well, i know technology, so it makes sense that i understand crypto stuff better than you all". bogus assumptions, much?

there is no possible reason to continue this discussion, other than trying to change people's minds (which obviously isn't happening). if you want to have the last word, have at it.


My perspective has as, at times, been over-simplified, misunderstood and misrepresented. Correcting that I accept may have come across as (unnecessary(?)) repetition for anyone reading. Please remember that I'm responding to others who disagree with me as well, rather than just one to one.

Perhaps with all the other diverse perspectives the sense of the State as "a very relevant one [institution of domination])" didn't strike me as the prevailing or consensus view, however, if it is, then we're 
more in agreement than it appeared to me at that time.

I am familiar with the relationship between capitalism and the State. In earlier times I have attempted to make this relationship more recognizable and raise 'class consciousness' such that ideas like structure and super-structure, alienation, labor theory of value and dialectical materialism etc. are more generally and easily understood. Not only is this an uphill task, but in the process I have found it necessary to honestly reflect on my own motivations and desires and they are not always determined by such 'lofty' ideals and the interests of the 'oppressed'.

Interesting and important as those ideas may be, I now tend to focus on those forces specifically holding me back from making more choices in my own life and by extension advocate for the same freedoms generally. I am not blocked by 'capitalism' even though it may attempt to exert it's forces upon me. We are all free to ignore the multitude of ideas out there until those ideas are imposed upon us by physical force. The only vehicle that I am currently aware of that imposes it's ideas on me via physical force is the State. This would also be the case if the State was Communist, Socialist, Fascist, Monarchist, Republican, Democratic, a gang of goons etc. Far from 'promoting capitalism' I'm opposed to it insofar as it can, in some manifestations, result in the imposition/initiation of physical force upon me. But so can all the other ' isms' . Anarchism potentially could and in that instance I would be opposed to it as well. I intend to discuss 'capitalism' in another thread. But, in short, here, I support 'free market' (with the emphasis on 'free'), which is different.

To date, anarchism, for me, appears to represent the most coherent, practicable, anti-political alternative to the State in whatever form it manifests itself because of it's focus around the individual. But it would help for more individuals in wider society to understand that. Freedom is infectious. So often thinking people get distracted by 'politics'.

When you say 'crypto worship' it suggests why you may also have concluded that I'm repeating myself. That tends to happen when you're not being listened to and/or misrepresented. I have repeatedly stated that I see technology as a two-edged tool that, in the case of crypto, holds the potential to implement counter- economics. A way to withdraw from the State (whatever State that imposes itself via physical violence) 
and cut off it's economic lifeblood. That's a form of action, not just words and theories about 'oppression'. It's hardly 'worship', I accept some of what's been said about potential for misuse and given links where that argument has been better articulated than it could be by me. I suggest we become more familiar with P2P software (like ZeroNet) in general, not just crypto because the battles of the future are going to increasingly take place in cyberspace. Ignore, laugh, mock whatever you like. At the end of the day I'm not going to fund a 'gang of goons' to come knocking on your door to finance my vision of a crypto P2P 'utopia' because you MUST see it my way (unlike your average, mild-mannered, everyday voter). Whether I can justify my perspective or not makes no difference to the more heavily armed aggressor. In other words every vision and 'ism' ultimately manifests itself through the same vehicle, so it makes sense to point at that vehicle rather than some relatively vague phenomenon like 'capitalism'. When it is another entity functioning in a State like way - initiating theft and aggressively holding onto the stolen items I might then have another label that would prevent me from having to keep repeating the same word (nb. I wouldn't choose such an entity myself and choice is key).

If your example of my 'condescension' is the crypto one you gave then I feel exonerated because firstly I deliberately wrote 'perhaps' as I did not intend to presume anything and secondly I only wrote it as some of the responses appeared to indicate a possible lack of understanding of how crypto actually works and I wanted to ascertain to what extent that was the case. As soon as you (and one or two others) mentioned their IT background etc. I didn't bring that up again. As you are experienced in IT the point appeared condescending - it wasn't meant to be.

I was going to leave the last word to ba's joke about a nap in the suv although it was a mild piss take. But I felt I had to respond to your post.

I will be away for the next two weeks and not sure how much Internet access I will have. I'll leave this particular thread for now as it seems like the right time. I will look at the threads concerning 'an-caps' and consider the extent to which myopic focus and 'box' creation applies and perhaps uncover a 'bogus assumption' there.

Thanks for sharing your views. No doubt the differences will re-emerge elsewhere, but that's the nature of debate.

+2 votes
Neither, and no.
by (8.7k points)

so your answer to the problem of conflict in your proposed world is simply 'Would hiring different security services to defend ourselves ... inevitably lead to full scale conflict?', i guessing banking on the fact that something not being inevitable means its unlikely -which isnt the case-.  you try to provide evidence this by linking to a wikipedia article about 'conflict resolution'.  bahahah.  you realise what has to happen for conflict to be resolved, right?  the clue is in the name.  you dont even try to distinguish your desired world from what we have now, admitting that this is what already happens!  bahahahah. #nicetry

your security force might try to mediate, but i pay mine to simply move into the area and fortify it, believing this to be both my right as the owner of the land, and a savvy business decision given that i can make money from the land, pay a portion to the security company, and keep the rest.  the relevant image a security company needs to keep up -if it is going to be successful- is precisely that it can provide the client with their desired outcome.  you might think my action isaggression, as you think you own the land, but you arent going to get me to move without force.  you can hire all the negotiators you like. #nicetry

and no, in the case of the eastern congo, the congolese central government has little to no control over the jungles and hills were the mines are, though more so recently.  militias and rebels fight for their own control of the territory around those mines, using the proceeds to fund their lifestyle and further expansion.  #nicetry

also this 'respected' 'independent' 'third-party' 'arbitration service' are going to need there own forces to make sure their decision is upheld, unless you somehow believe that pieces of paper have magic powers, in which case write 'i dont have to pay taxes' on your door and see what happens.  this 'respected' 'independent' 'third-party' 'arbitration service' kind of sounds familiar.  lets call the arbitrating section of it 'the legal department' for ease of use, and the enforcement section 'the policing department' for similar reasons, and oh look its just another state.  #nicetry

so dns, if i understand you, "nap" to you amounts to you taking on a personal ethic of not using "initiatory violence", and also trying to persuade others to do the same.

i don't know what you mean by "consistently applied to the state" though.

if you think about it, the laws of the state today dictate that people (other than police and armies) cannot use "initiatory physical aggression" against each other, or against the state....and if they do, they'll likely end up in prison. and even the state has so-called "rules of engagement". so the state today advocates for its "citizens" to follow the "nap".

i just don't see how "nap" has anything to do with anarchy. it does not for me. you have a preference to live that way and to convince/advocate to others to live that way. i understand that. but i don't intend to do any persuading, or to ask other people to act "consistently" according to it.

Why would my 'answer' be just another question? I was questioning your assumption regarding the inevitability of conflict between security service providers, not answering the problem of conflict in my 'proposed world' (especially since the thread topic is preference for initiatory/non-initiatory violence).

Believe it or not conflict can be resolved without violence although it's very difficult to achieve in relation to 'unprincipled subjective violence' (usv), which is why it's important to be clear on that point. I included the wiki link to underline that even States make a show of attempting this despite all the advantages war brings them. It makes much more sense for security companies to find peaceful solutions (and, for anyone so inclined, they could support and advocate for those companies that are best at it). I'm trying to distinguish how we think (state of mind) about our world today rather than idealize a 'desired' future and I therefore consider how the initiation of violence, in principle, plays into the hands of the State (because it is the basis for the State). Only when those who claim to 'oppose the State' understand this, can the State actually be opposed. Otherwise, as you have correctly pointed out, the State will simply re-create itself in new forms.

If "simply move into the area and fortify it, believing this to be both my right as the owner of the land, and a savvy business decision" are genuinely a reflection of your thoughts then I would suggest you would be re-creating the State in new forms. How I felt about it could depend on a lot of factors, but one thing is for sure and it's the distinction I'm making - you would be free to choose the security service that best represented your world view. Like all 'normal' commerce you would choose first then pay. Not like all extortion rackets where you pay first and get whatever, whether you like it or not. Was Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. the 'client's desired outcome'? How far would Blair have got with a privately funded security firm for his Iraqi adventure? It is only ever possible with previously extorted funds. I'm talking about yesterdays, and today''s, world, not some fantasy.

TBH I've not focused on Eastern Congo but turning briefly to Wiki I find in the first paragraph on causes of the first war "corrupt and inept government". Of course that doesn't tell the whole story, but it is a common theme. Did the ordinary people choose and support those militias and rebels or are they being extorted by them (perhaps indirectly through the mines etc.) as well? None of this detracts from my point, rather it supports it.

There's no reason why the same companies that subscribe to the arbitration service wouldn't also support (or provide part of) it's enforcement services. Again, you could decide which arbitration services best reflected your values. I don't need to somehow believe that pieces of paper have magic powers for this to approach to better reflect my/your/or anyone else's values.

If the 'legal department' sent members of the 'police department' to my house and threatened to put me in a cage if I didn't pay for the 'legal department' and the 'police department' to exist then I would agree. So far the only 'service provider' that has ever done that is the State.

omfg this 'conversation' is exactly like that fucking patrick meme.  whether or not i decide to support a specific fucking company doesnt stop some rich fucker just paying some doods to just take my things.  in your system, if im poor and cant afford a big enough security company, then there is nothing to stop some rich guy just paying some doods to take my things.  i know what your response to this is, because you have already given it to me - 'that would just be recreating the state'

but that is exactly my fucking point!  you arent proposing that anything change, youre just insisting that things should 'get better' and be 'less violent', with no idea of how that might actually look.  in your scenario the state would simply reassert it self because 'the state' isnt a a fucking dragon that you can kill, its a psychological, socio-economical situation that allows people with power and wealth to just steamroll everybody-else, a situation that your proposal has left entirely untouched.  urgh


Try to calm down and let the dissonance subside. You could stop them. With a gun. The only thing preventing 'poor' people from defending themselves if they are too poor to hire anyone else is the State. Perhaps the idea of 'ordinary' people having the relative power and will to defend themselves is shocking to you? Of course the security company could outgun the individual, but you have to admit if everyone was armed the balance of power would be tilted in favor of the 'ordinary poor' and rather different calculations would need to made to justify invading your home and taking your things. How determined are you going to be to defend them relative to the the 'rich fucker' who doesn't really need your stuff anyway?

Again, you presume to know what I'm thinking. THAT would not be just re-creating the State. It would go a long way to re-balancing the extreme current imbalance between individuals and the State. Would things just "get better' and be 'less violent'" - perhaps, if everyone had the NAP in mind, but not if they have a USV state of mind. Which one you adopt is up to you. I'm sure you're wiser in reality than your posts suggest.

Do you really believe what I"m suggesting here represents the status quo that allows people with power and wealth to just steamroll everybody-else?
–1 vote
Example: My friend becomes an 'anarcho-capitalist', and then I give him a stiff kick in his ass. :)

The way I understand it is that anarchism isn't a moral prescription. It doesn't and can't dictate how people should act. I'm still trying to figure out how to reconcile this with my previous conception of anarchism as a moralistic save-the-world type utopian social anarchism and Egoism. I am a confused puppy.
by (2.5k points)

""psychological and emotional abuse. manipulation, idk anything" - indeed, but I specifically related the NAP to 'physical violence' which you would know if you read my earlier comments."

if I don't agree with the NAP, why would I argue within its framework? you asked me what kind of non physical things can incite someone and those are my answers, I don't have to agree with the NAP. fuck off.

me taking the shovel and it turning physical with you trying to get it back is an example of you being incited to be violent by something non violent

if you only want people to talk to who will respond according to the NAP then go to an ancap forum

No, you don't have to agree with the NAP and that's the point. But since you adhere to no principles at all it seems that whatever subjective "psychological and emotional abuse. manipulation, idk anything" idea that pops into your head from moment to moment informs your judgment and subsequently your actions.

In such a state of mind you probably wouldn't notice that:

"me taking the shovel and it turning physical" - is you turning it physical and initiating violence. After that, it would be self-defense on my part as I've said many times already.

I want to talk to people whose own statements, on reflection, highlight the potentially dangerous consequences of their own unprincipled, subjective, position, especially in the context of political violence. I want to talk to you DD, but something tells me I'm safer doing it online ... I hope I'm wrong about that, at least.

The online equivalent of the last resort argument: "if you don't like it why don't you go and live in [insert relevant State controlled territory (or Antarctica))]". I don't go where I can find people to simply agree with me. It's harder, but more interesting, to go where there's disagreement. How about you?

But since you adhere to no principles at all it seems that whatever subjective "psychological and emotional abuse. manipulation, idk anything" idea that pops into your head from moment to moment informs your judgment and subsequently your actions.

that is correct

"me taking the shovel and it turning physical" - is you turning it physical and initiating violence.

what I meant is it turning physical when you try to take it back. remember? that has been established because we said you left it unattended. I already reminded you of the situation funky originally laid out for you. you leave it unattended, I take it, how do you take it back without initiating apv.

this plasticity, forgetfulness, and inability to connect what I say to what was said only a few messages ago is why I stopped responding.


everything I have said has been directly related to what you said before.

It turns physical when someone makes it physical. In those moments are they thinking in terms of avoiding violence (nap) or do they make calculations based on, as Sky put it: 'egoistic, individualistic extension of my power and will to relate the way i want to to the world and people around me, using whatever means i think will be the most effective.' so that if they happen to simply be bigger and stronger the 'shovel dispute' is easily resolved in their favor.

Which mental state is preferable when confronting the problem as laid out by funky?

I advocate for the NAP in a world absent the State. You don't. Disagreeing is not "plasticity, forgetfulness, and inability to connect" it's seeing the same problem in a different way to you. Just as I would approach the shovel problem in a different way to you ... and I believe, fortunately, so would most people who look to non-violently resolve their differences.