Libertarian Ramblings

The Non-Aggression Principle

Posted by gravisman on June 15, 2008

The foundation of liberty theory, to me, is very simple: everyone should be able to do whatever they wish so long as it does not infringe on others’ right to do the same. This is sometimes further simplified to “live and let live.”

Doesn’t that sound beautiful? You don’t tell me what to do, and I won’t tell you what to do! What I definitely won’t do is send men with guns after you to systematically extract a large portion of your earnings throughout your life and spend that money on whatever I wish.

I talk about rights a lot and how I believe in people’s rights, but at the same time I speak out against universal healthcare, something that some people label as a right. So, what gives? How do we decide what’s a right and what’s not? 

I prefer to go a little different direction than answering that question directly, and instead ask, how do we determine what rights are worth while, and what ones are not?

The key to understanding this and how we can all live freely in a non-aggressive fashion is dividing rights into two categories: negative rights (what I like to call liberties) and positive rights. Don’t be alarmed by the adjective – negative does not mean bad in this case.

Positive rights are those rights which require something from someone else in order for you to claim them. For example, if it were decided that every child had a right to have a laptop, then that would require people to build those laptops and people to pay for those laptops. Positive rights can be considered enslavement rights because they must enslave some people in order to provide for others. In the case of the laptops, the people who build laptops could possibly be considered enslaved because they must build those for the children to have them. More realistically, though, it’s the entire population that is enslaved to provide for the children, because it’s their money that is siphoned through taxes to pay for the laptops. That means a certain portion of each person’s work is enslaved service to purchase those laptops. 

Universal healthcare falls within this same category. If everyone is entitled to it, that mean all of us, regardless of our needs, wants, or beliefs relating to medical care, would be forced to give of our income to support the medical care of others. Doctors would be enslaved to treat anyone and everyone – a medical professional loses all rights to say no, and their skills are used against them as they are made slaves to society’s will.

Negative rights (liberties) on the other hand, are those rights that require nothing from anyone else to be utilized – you only need people to not get in your way or prevent you from exercising the rights. Liberties are great, because it is easy to see that they are natural and engrained in human existence. To take away another’s liberties is unethical – who has the right to take away another person’s liberties when that person has done nothing to them? Liberties can include things as simple as the right to run. We all have the ability to run by virtue of being human. All we need to exercise this right is to do it and not have someone tell us we cannot.

Owning a gun is another example of a negative right, or a liberty. Property ownership is a pretty natural thing, and all a person needs to be able to keep a gun is to go buy one and not have the government prevent them from having it (naturally, if the government chose to intervene, they would do so with guns of their own in support – mobs are great).

The truly important concept with positive and negative rights is the understanding that in a society, the existence of high amounts of positive rights and high amounts of negative rights are inversely correlated. That is, the more negative rights you have, the fewer positive ones you have, and vice versa. This is easy to see when we realize that positive rights enslave people, and people who are enslaved lack liberties. Enslavement through positive rights like universal healthcare is undeniably an uncalled for aggression of the mob government over those people who want no part of such a system.

If we could all live and let live, nobody would have to take from me to fill their own desires, but the mob government feels it has the ability to do that, and since they have lots of guns on their side, the reality is they probably can…. I just wish I had a say in my own life. Slavery sucks.

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2 Responses to “The Non-Aggression Principle”

  1. […] A libertarian perspective To expand upon my previous post with a practical example, I’d like to cover an oft-discussed topic with a somewhat less […]

  2. […] As for hate crimes, this is a fine line. Crime is a problem. From the perspective of pure civil rights, the motive of crime is irrelevant. To single out hate crimes as a civil rights issue is to miss the point of non-aggression.  […]

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