A friend, “moralibertarian”, tweeted me on Twitter with this:
I’m all for non-aggression as a principle. Doesn’t mean there’s no place for political action. Call me an anarcho-pragmatist.
The devil is all in the details every time, and I did not have the time that day (one must work and earn a little bread sometimes) to get a definition of “principle” and “political action” but I am going to try to answer my friend anyway. I’ll just assume that he meant pretty much what I think he did; which is just common usage of those terms and not something unusual. I’ll cover those terms and how I use them first.
Libertarians worth the name “libertarian” have as their first, most basic principle the non-aggression principle (sometimes called the non-aggression axiom). It is for this reason that most libertarians, at least the radical ones, end up being anarchists sooner or later as I mentioned in a post on the subject here. Let us also state that Anarchism is not “chaos” as our opponents try to claim but just means “no rulers” or no entity that has the monopoly on the legitimate use of force in a given territory. A principle is one of our starting points and provides a foundation for the development of other rules, laws, and/or beliefs.
Walter Block once wrote:
The non-aggression axiom is the lynchpin of the philosophy of libertarianism. It states, simply, that it shall be legal for anyone to do anything he wants, provided only that he not initiate (or threaten) violence against the person or legitimately owned property of another. That is, in the free society, one has the right to manufacture, buy or sell any good or service at any mutually agreeable terms. Thus, there would be no victimless crime prohibitions, price controls, government regulation of the economy, etc.
If the non-aggression axiom is the basic building block of libertarianism, private property rights based on (Lockean and Rothbardian) homesteading principles are the foundation. For if A reaches into B’s pocket, pulls out his wallet and runs away with it, we cannot know that A is the aggressor and B the victim. It may be that A is merely repossessing his own wallet, the one B stole from him yesterday. But given a correct grounding in property rights, the non-aggression axiom is a very powerful tool in the war of ideas. For most individuals believe, and fervently so, that it is wrong to invade other people or their property. Who, after all, favors theft, murder or rape? With this as an entering wedge, libertarians are free to apply this axiom to all of human action, including, radically, to unions, taxes, and even government itself.
In my view politics is aggression, but since we live in a world ruled by politics and probably will be for some time I do understand the libertarian who claims that he must engage in politics to defend himself. The true “libertarian” is one that takes the non-aggression axiom to its logical conclusion and sees that market anarchy is the only solution for our human condition. We need no ‘rulers’ ordering us about. But we live in the here and now and that means we do live in a political world at present.
So, what about voting? I don’t vote for the reason that I view the citizens withholding their vote as the best strategies in bringing about an end to the State, but some believe that voting is engaging in aggression. I once took a look at that issue in a past post and now quote a bit from that essay:
Murray Rothbard expressed criticisms against ethical non-voting and did not see voting as violating the non-aggression axiom because you don’t sign on to a “social pact” with the government by the act of voting. Murray did not vote or donate money to any candidates, but did root for various politicians over the years including Ron Paul.
According to Rothbard, there was nothing inherently unethical about voting since the voter was placed in the position he finds himself by the state. Thus, in Rothbard’s view, it is not unethical to use voting as a tool of self-defence, just as it is not unethical to use government-controlled roads. Rothbard gave an interview to a small NYC newspaper in 1972 on this very issue …
I’ll give my friend on twitter the point that we can be “pragmatic” if by that he means voting in a defensive manner. For example, voting for Ron Paul since we expected him to attempt to dismantle the State as much as possible in his administration or by sending a message by voting for the Libertarian Party candidate. But if by “pragmatic” one means engaging in politics to use the force, fraud, and coercion of government to enforce your will upon others then I have to say no. We may not achieve moral ends by using immoral means — it is a law of this universe.
To me, the “Anarcho-pragmatists” must be one who works to educate the masses on our message of freedom, liberty, prosperity, and non-aggression while engaging in the political process rarely and only as a self-defense.