Down With Power Audiobook!

L. Neil Smith's

Number 862, March 6, 2016

Here was a rational ethical guideline, a way
for Killer Apes to trade and get along without
eating one another, that was more profound,
better "engineered", and more universal in its
application than either the Golden Rule or
Kant's Categorical Imperative.

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

ZAP: The Heart, Soul, Spine, Guts, and Cojones of Libertarianism
by L. Neil Smith
Publisher and Senior Columnist

Bookmark and Share

Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor will a libertarian advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else.

Those who act consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim.

The natural enemy of a rational social order appears to be the shrimp cocktail, or the bacon-wrapped shrimp. Stick with me, while I attempt to explain how the corrupt desire to be invited to all of the "right" cocktail parties undermines and threatens the most admirable and fundamental philosophical achievements of the libertarian movement.

I have always loved seeing people get ahold of some corner of an otherwise slippery universe and hang on. An example of that would be the ratio pi, which features so highly in the fabric of reality. Or for that matter, creating the entire body of something like plane geometry from a couple of axioms and some applied skull-sweat. Or consider the mechanical design of a Remington rolling block rifle, which uses nature against itself, only locking at the precise moment it fires. I was taken at the time by how succinct and tidy Ayn Rand's insistence was that nobody had a right (not just proclaiming that that it is "wrong") to initiate force or the threat of force against another individual. It solved practically every problem of human interaction.

By "force", naturally, Rand meant brute, physical force. (I had met socialists already who argued that the fact one had to work for a living somehow constituted force.) She contended that physical force or its threat were the only way one's rights could be diminished or taken away altogether. Perhaps she couldn't imagine a time when an individual's character could sink so low that he could be intimidated out of exercising his rights by calling him a "racist" or a "homophobe" if he failed to comply with the latest politically correct edict.

But before we get too smug, let us acknowlege that libertarians, and the libertaria movement are subject to exactly the same kinds of pressure. Every now and again, certain idiots arise that you have to deal with, before their all-too contagious idiocy spreads. A few years ago, the decent and rational among us were compelled to do cyberspace battle in a series of Flame Wars with a flock of parasites, morons, and bow-tie wearers asserting that what we had created with our minds did not really belong to us, and that it did us no harm for other, non-creative specimens to use our intellectual property as if it were theirs.

Eventually, this pack of thieving jackals subsided, although I do not assume they have gone away altogether, theft being such a popular custom that entire civilizations (notably socialist ones) are based on it.

But just now we seem to be the unwilling hosts for a brand new variety of verminous frauds (you know who you are) who would have us believe they are libertarians, at the same time they irrationally deny and denounce the philosophical foundation on which libertarianism is built. I wonder, does this fall into Ayn Rand's category of the Stolen Concept?

I was still relatively young the first time I read about what was then called the "Non-Aggression Principle" (I even remember where I was standing at the moment I stumbled across this revelation, in an Ayn Rand essay.) It taught me what "epiphany" means. Here was a rational ethical guideline, a way for Killer Apes to trade and get along without eating one another, that was more profound, better "engineered", and more universal in its application than either the Golden Rule or Kant's Categorical Imperative. You didn't have to accept it on any basis other than what it was. You didn't have to be religious, non-religious, or even particularly law-abiding. And yet it was the key to everything that Mankind has ever sought on Earth, a road to peace. There's a saying that Will Smith attributes to his mother in a movie: "Don't start nothin, won't be be nothin." The one thing that everybody wants to know about any conflict is "Who started it?"

What the libertarian philosopher and economist Murray Rothbard called "the non-aggression axiom" (it is not an axiom—look it up) almost certainly arose from this natural human tendency. It has been attributed to many thinkers, over the years. Rand and Robert LeFevre both called it the Non-Aggression Principle, which is closer to correct. In this acronymically-plagued era, I have urged other people to say "Zero Aggression Principle", "ZAP" being so much more dynamic and persuasive than "NAP". It also has he virtue of taking the word "zero" away from the "zero-tolerance" crowd, a vile lot, to whom the entire phrase usually means zero tolerance for individual rights and self-defense.

The one trouble with the ZAP is that it's damned inconvenient at times. I remember arguing once with a city councilman who regarded it as an unbearable and "impractical" burden—which, of course, is precisely what it was meant to be. "But how will government ever get anything done?" I pretend to hear you demand. "Exactly, "I pretend to reply.

People who have never heard of the Zero Aggression Principle might be excused if they fail to observe it, but once they know what it means and violate it anyway, they are morally responsible for whatever happens afterward. I will not knowingly turn my back on such an individual, and while he's around, I'll take the thong off my hammer spur.

By renouncing the Zero Aggression Principle,they are proclaiming to the world that they are criminals, simply waiting for an excuse to exercise a right they fallaciously imagine they have, to initiate force against you and me whenever and wherever they may find it convenient.

The bottom line is this: aside from those oh-so-respectable shrimp cocktails and those trendy bacon-wrapped shrimp I mentioned earlier, which the aggressors concealing themselves among us crave, if some lying thug, pretending to be a libertarian without any philosophical basis whatever for his claim, wants to deprive us of the protection afforded by the Zero Aggression Principle, it's probably because he wants to do something to us—something like eminent domain—that he and his Republican buddies couldn't do to us if it were still in place.

I'll repeat that for clarity: if some lying thug wants to deprive us of the Zero Aggression Principle, it's because he wants to do something to us he couldn't do if we still had the Zero Aggression Principle.

It's that simple.

Really it is.

Was that worth reading?
Then why not:

payment type

Just click the red box (it's a button!) to pay the author

This site may receive compensation if a product is purchased
through one of our partner or affiliate referral links. You
already know that, of course, but this is part of the FTC Disclosure
Policy found here. (Warning: this is a 2,359,896-byte 53-page PDF file!)

Big Head Press