Saturday, August 03, 2013


History is not written by the winners. It is written by the writers.

(This is a summary of a critical discussion about the abominably lazy and misleading phrase, "History is written by the winners".)

Friday, August 02, 2013

Things I don't believe: non-aggression principle

I have said previously that I am not a libertarian. This is not only on practical grounds (though how could I really object on practical grounds, as no country has even been libertarian), but also on philosophical grounds.

I know there are a lot of ideas that go into libertarianism, but I disagree with the lynchpin that they seem to think everybody will agree to: the non-aggression principle. Roughly speaking, they define aggression as "the initiation or threatening of violence against a person or legitimately-owned property of another" and state that aggression is always morally illegitimate.

It might not be completely incoherent, but it is as the basis of a political system based on property rights, as the NAP inherently conflicts with the notion of property. Property, after all, is theft. Whatever account used for a theory of property, "aggression" is inescapable. This punches a big hole in reconciling theories of property with political systems built on the absolute theory of non-aggression.

But the second an absolute non-aggression principle is abandoned, then we have to concern ourselves with other criteria for a "just" state. Or, even if the criteria becomes a minimum of coercion, then it takes quite a lot of arguing to claim that the minimum of coercion in society (where property ownership is a type of coercion) occurs when government is at a libertarian minimum of sorts. Perhaps the minimum is achieved in a liberal Scandinavian-style welfare state because individual friction is reduced when few are starving or homeless or lacking medical care. This is not necessarily an argument against the NAP, but it's suggestive that a lot more work needs to be done that, frankly, libertarians are not doing.

I propose instead of the the "non-aggression principle" the "Thrasymachus principle" or "maximum aggression principle": aggression is awesome and should be used to make a just society.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

I don't understand

I really and truly do not understand people who say the "right to bear arms" is one of our most important constitutional right because it guards against foreign and domestic tyranny.

The short answer for why I do not buy the arguments for it is that nations from a similar tradition without this right, such as Canada and Australia, seem to be doing just fine without it. I did not include England because it is obviously tyrannical, being England, after all. "Not buying" the argument is a much weaker condition than not understanding.

I cannot understand why this would be seen as guarding against foreign tyranny because we have a standing army and spend more on national defense than all other nations combined. Other nations, despite lacking the protection of this apparently fundamental right, seem to manage for themselves for the most part. In the case of America, our defense against foreign tyranny is about projection of force, not guerrilla warfare. In nations with some risk of being invaded, arms have a way of getting around when needed and they won't be the pistol you keep for home defense.

Defense against domestic tyranny makes even less sense. First, the only instances of putting down domestic tyrants in American history have been the federal government putting down tinpot dictators, such as when several states in the south tried to rebel and installed their own treasonous government. Or in several instances in southern states when the National Guard (viz: the militia) had to be called up to guarantee the enforcement of certain federal laws about desegregation. Of course, the other side of the argument could point out that we have not had problems with domestic tyranny because of widespread firearm ownership. Canada and Australia, similar nations from the same heritage, however, do not constitutionally protect the right to bear arms and seem to be doing just as well, if not better, on the tyranny front. After all, Canada abolished slavery before America and did so without a rebellion. Setting aside those differences, however, private citizens with whatever arsenal they typically have would be overrun completely by the military in case of a fight against tyranny.

In the case of domestic tyranny, there is also the question of when, exactly, these lovers of freedom deem it appropriate "for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another" and what, exactly, they will do then. One can argue in good faith that Obamacare or the PATRIOT Act are worse in some sense than the "Intolerable Acts". Does this make armed revolution a reasonable response to the Bush and Obama administrations? Where does the line get drawn? How does your gun defend against domestic tyranny? I have severe cognitive difficulties interpreting the charter of the United States as providing an option for armed revolt by private citizens as a last defense against its own government. If anything, one might be able to read it as suggesting the states constituting the USA have that privilege, but that interpretation was discredited after several states tried to invoke that option.

Mind you, this is not an argument about whether the second amendment is good or bad or about whether the government can take your guns or even about whether a gun is good for defending your home. This is a discussion about whether private gun ownership guards against domestic and foreign tyranny.