So What is Aggression anyway?

At the heart of true libertarianism is the non-aggression principle. Throughout the ages mankind has expressed understanding of the idea that we should “live and let live” to the extent that we can do so. Around 300 BC Epicurus told us that “natural justice is a symbol or expression of usefulness, to prevent one person from harming or being harmed by another.”

“No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a non-aggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.” ~Murray N, Rothbard

Walter Block once said that the difference between libertarians and most people who give lip service to the non-aggression axiom is that libertarians really mean it.  We’re rabid about it and we make deductions from it. The way to be successful in analyzing a given situation, from a Libertarian perspective, is to keep your eye on the non-aggression axiom; never violate it no matter what. Of course, hand in hand with the non-aggression principle is the idea of property rights. One may not legitimately aggress against an innocent man nor his rightfully owned property. This solid core of libertarianism, the non-aggression principle, is in many respects a kind of political corollary to the Golden Rule.

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On Twitter the other day some friends were talking about the non-aggression principle and the question of “what is aggression” came up. After all, it is all well and fine to be against aggression but to be against aggression means you have to know what aggression is in the first place. No?

So what is “aggression”? Aggression is the initiation of violence or the threatening of violence against a person or his legitimately owned property. Specifically, any unsolicited actions of other people that physically affect an individual’s property or person. This includes force, fraud, and intimidation. It does not matter if the result of these actions is damaging to the individual or not, it is still considered aggression when the actions are against the owner’s free will and interfere with his right to self-determination and the principle of self-ownership or violate his property rights. Aggression is harmful behavior that is forceful, hostile, or attacking. I reject the definition used (often in the social sciences) that aggression is a response by an individual that delivers something unpleasant to another person. After all,  telling another person the truth is often unpleasant to them but that does not make it aggression! Leave it to the social sciences to undermine the clear meaning of a word.

It is easy to see that if I hold you up with a gun and take all your money that I have committed aggression against you. It is likewise easy to see that if I swindle you out of your money via subterfuge that I have committed aggression against you. Similarly, it is easy to see that if I deface your house in an act of vandalism that I have also committed aggression against your property rights. But what about verbal aggression? The Twitter conversation had Ken tweet that “I don’t mean simply verbal threats because that is obvious, I mean all forms of verbal aggression.” So what is “verbal aggression”?

It is difficult to nail down “verbal aggression” if we use the phrase in the modern usage of the “everyone is a victim” mindset of modern America. For the purposes of the non-aggression principle and libertarian law one must hold that any threat must be a credible one. If I say to you that I am going to blow you up with a bazooka as I stand in front of you unarmed, I have just made a non-credible threat. In terms of libertarian law I have not committed an actionable crime, but I certainly have disturbed the peace and tranquility! On the other hand, if I point a pistol at you I have committed an act of aggression without even saying a word!

One thing aggression is not is when I simply tell you my opinion. If I say that the new hair color you had done at the hair dresser today is not very faltering, or that it is downright horrible, I have not committed aggression. If I tell you that you are a damn idiot, I have not committed aggression. It is not true that every mean utterance by someone is aggression. Don’t get me wrong, I think that being mean is immoral and we should teach our young to be nice to people, but in terms of the Non-Aggression Principle we don’t include statements that are simply mean things to say. If we did we would have to round up everyone in all the middle schools at jail them! Let us keep our eye on the ball and remember that  any unsolicited actions of other people that physically effects an individual’s property or person is aggression, and not if that other person says we are a “poopy-head”. (a major insult in the kid world I understand)

Even though one can say mean things without violating the non-aggression principle let us not forget that intimidation is a violation. Intimidation is intentional behavior, physical or verbal, that would cause a normal, reasonable person to fear of injury or harm. I suspect that there are many different opinions of what constitutes intimidation and that will continue to cause some controversy — especially when children and parents are involved. I can only offer the observation that some children love to play the victim so be careful before you believe that every mean comment made to your child is “intimidation”.

As I re-read the above I suspect that I will revisit this topic again when time allows me to post more in-depth on this topic. Perhaps this coming summer should I live that long and WordPress lets me keep publishing these random musings. The idea of that dividing line between verbal intimidation and just being mean is one place that aggression becomes a little fuzzy. Thanks to Ken for bringing up the topic.

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The Commandments of Rational Debate

Various similar lists of the 10 commandments of rational debate have been posted thousands of times on the net, and today it is my turn to post a list of commandments. Keep in mind that the list concerns rational debate and not rhetoric.

1. Do not attack the person or his character, but only the argument itself. (“Ad hominem”)

2. Do not misrepresent or exaggerate a person’s argument in order to make their argument easier to attack. (“Straw Man Fallacy”)

3. Do not reduce the argument down to only two possibilities. (“False Dichotomy”)

4. Do not claim that just because something has occurred before something else then it must be the cause of the second thing. (“Post Hoc/False Cause”)

5. Do not argue your position by assuming one of its premises is true. (“Begging the Question”)

6. Do not claim that because a premise or argument is popular then it must be true. (“Bandwagon Fallacy”)

7. Do not argue that because of our ignorance at this point in time that your claim must be true or false. (“Ad Ignorantiam”)

8. Do not assume “this” follows “that,” when there is no logical connection. (“Non sequitur”)

9. Do not appeal to an outside “experts” to claim support. (“Appeal to Authority”)

10. Do not claim moral authority as support for your argument. (“Moral high ground fallacy”)

Here is a link to the list of logical fallacies at Wikipedia.

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In scientific debates and political debates alike we should strive to remain logical and truthful at all times. In political debate we should look at reality and human nature and not at some Utopia that we dream of. With both Austrian Economics and Rothbardian political analysis we strive to understand reality and so logical debate is valued over emotional sputterings.

Learn the fallacies and learn to spot their use by others.

Militarization of the Police

I was asked a couple of weeks ago to say a few words about the graphic below by Zoey DeGarmo who posted it at arrestrecords.com. So, naturally I said I would be happy to post it here and say a few words about what the graphic means to me. I wish my schedule had let me get to it faster than I have. First the graphic and then a few words.

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After looking the graphic over I realized there was nothing I had not read before in it, but all that information in one place is powerful. Plus, that is a very professionally done piece of artwork. It communicates the problem very well in my opinion. The only problem I have is that this only scratches the surface. That the local police and its SWAT goon squads have become more and more militarized is very true, but it is also true that many federal agencies have also beefed up their “enforcement” capabilities. It is almost as if the central government is preparing for a civil war.

There have been those who claim that the central government has realized that it is headed toward hyper-inflation or default on its debt which could touch off a civil war since more than half of the nation receives some sort of welfare and lives at the expense of the minority of workers. If those welfare “entitlement” checks become worthless due to the money being worthless, I could see a full scale civil war erupting. So perhaps the preparations by the central government is an indicator of how much they realize that the situation has gone too far to salvage.

Regardless of the central government’s role in the all this, we can all agree that the local police forces around the country have become military units and that is very bad for all of us. Can this be stopped? I really don’t think there can be a rollback until the country falls apart. We have become the police state that the U.S.S.R. was back in its day and I predict the U.S.A is headed for the same fate. The question is: will the U.S. go to the trash heap of history in a bloodless revolution like the Russians pulled off or will we see another bloodbath like the War Between the States in the 1800s?

Time will tell my friends, but for now just be sure and tell your friends and family that the police are not your friends.

Insurance, Homes, and College Education

Guest Post by Mickey Ellison

Insurance, Homes, and College Education

Most people say that some things in life are just “so” expensive and the cost of those things will just continue to rise no matter what. If we want to buy a house, thank God there are banks and mortgage companies to give us a loan to make those houses a reality for us. There is also college tuition. Man, those costs are skyrocketing, and without student loans, very few would ever be able to afford college. And of course there is the cost of healthcare. If I didn’t have access to health-care insurance, I could never afford healthcare. Healthcare has gotten so expensive that it took a literal act of Congress to make it affordable for all of us.

What if I told you none of that is true, and that the very thing that you and I assume are making homes, healthcare, and college a possibility is what is making three things cost so much. Let’s take houses, healthcare, and college one at a time.

Houses:
Why has the cost of buying a home increased so much? Does it really cost more money to build a house that cost $20,000 in 1970 that now costs $200,000? Think logically about this. Has technology improved since 1970? Is it easier or harder today to chop down a tree, send it to a lumberyard, and cut it into two by fours? Did it take more time in 1970 to build a house than it does in 2014? I’ll answer those questions. Technology has improved significantly in the last 44 years. It’s easier to turn a tree into a two by four today than it was in 1970 and it definitely takes less time to build a house today than it did four decades ago. If one thinks logically, shouldn’t those three things alone make it cost less money to build the house? So why is it so expensive to buy a house today? Debt! Who benefits more from debt when buying a house, the bank or the borrower?

It’s really pretty simple to understand why a house costs so many more dollars today than it did in 1970. We deposit $1000 into the bank, and they magically loan out $10,000 that didn’t exist before you made the deposit. If today there was only $1000 available to buy the house, but tomorrow there was suddenly $10,000, do you think I could charge more for the house? That drives the cost of the houses up making need for more loans that continue to drive the cost of houses up even more, making even bigger loans necessary to buy a house. The solution is also simple. Stop borrowing money. This wouldn’t be good for the banks, but it would definitely bring down the cost of a home. We saw that exact thing happening in 2008, but the Federal Reserve and government put a stop to that by bailing out the banks for making bad loans, and the Fed has continued to make more and more money available to drive those prices back up. Would the price of a home dropped to a level where we could buy the home without a loan? We will never know since the bankers and politicians distorted the market.

College Tuition:

It appears to be a given that the cost of college is going to increase every year no matter what. Even the cost of a home dropped from 2008 to 2010, but according to USA Today, the average tuition at a 4 year public university increased by 15%. In one of the presidential debates in 2012 President Obama boasted about how he was making college educations more attainable by making Federal Student Loans easier to get and keeping the interest rates down. Has anyone stopped to think that the loans may actually be what is causing the cost to go up so much in the first place? Let’s see, if I have a product, say education, where the government is going to give out unlimited amounts of money in the form of student loans, what is my incentive to keep the price down? What a great thing if you run a college or university? What a great thing if you get to collect the interest on those loans for the next 20 years? What a great evil it is to tell our children that they must have a college education to succeed, then provide them unlimited money at age 18 to get that education, and make them slaves for much of their adult life to debt that they can’t even write off should the declare bankruptcy! Just like the houses, stop borrowing money for college and in time the price will go down!

HealthCare:

Now this is a hot topic today since we have ObamaCare! While I’m no fan of The Affordable Care Act, the law is nothing more than a symptom of the problem, and the central planners have never seen a symptom that they couldn’t fix. Except, they typically make the problem worse. I believe the problem is that most of us have no idea what medical care actually costs since we have all been told that we have to have health insurance most of our lives. Is the problem really that insurance premiums are too high or that the cost of medical services are too high. Seeking to “make” healthcare insurance more affordable does nothing to treat the problem. In fact, making insurance more available might cause the problem, the cost of healthcare, to become worse.

In healthcare there is what I call the “Unholy Trinity” of big government, big insurance, and big medical. Let’s think hypothetically here. If my focus is on the cost of my insurance, who’s focus should be on the cost of healthcare? You would think the insurance company would want to keep the costs down as much as possible right? Wrong! To keep it simple let’s say that I have an operation. On my insurance statement it shows that the surgery would have cost me $100k, but my insurance company was able to negotiate the price down to $50k which is what they pay. This is great because of the great negotiating power of my insurance company right? When in reality the surgery only really cost $10k, the hospital got paid $50k, and the hospital was able to write off the $50k that they didn’t get paid maintaining their not for profit status. The insurance company can make their money through premiums that we pay even though they paid $40k more for the surgery than it really should have cost. Visit www.surgerycenterok.com to find out what it really costs for many operations when they only take self-funded insurance plans and cash. This is a simplified version of the “Unholy Trinity”. The disease can never be cured if we only focus on the symptoms.

We have been so indoctrinated that we now believe that a little inflation is a good thing, the cost of college should always go up, and that medical care is too expensive. It doesn’t have to be this way, but fixing these lies will take people that are willing to question what they have been taught and start asking why and how! Why is it good for me, the individual, when my bread costs more this year than it did last year? How does paying $4 for a gallon of gas benefit me when 10 years ago, I could have bought gas for a $1? Why do I have to keep borrowing more and more money to buy a house or get a college education? Who does that benefit? Seek the answers to these questions and you will find that we have nothing close to a free market and we are being manipulated and because we have been indoctrinated so thoroughly that we believe this is all good for us. Stop borrowing money and THINK!

by Mickey Ellison