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162



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THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 162, February 25, 2002
Debates Dominate

Some Limitations of the Non-aggression Doctrine

by Patrick K Martin
warhawke@mediaone.net

Exclusive to TLE

Part II: As concerns the community at large

In the first part of this article, I discussed some of the problems one discovers in attempting to adhere to the non-aggression doctrine as an individual. Now I will attempt to show the even greater difficulties in discovering how to apply it to government.

"A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation. 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." -- L. Neil Smith

I left the name of our esteemed publisher attached to this, because it is Mr. Smith who has popularized this principle through his work in science fiction (and because it never hurts to kiss up to the boss a little). It is also the work of Mr. Smith that helps to demonstrate the problems one discovers envisioning a government attempting to adhere to it.

"All government is force . . . " -- George Washington

If you look at our two statements for a moment, the problem becomes clear. Libertarians believe that government can be of positive social benefit, provided that it is limited to protecting the rights of its citizens. The primary means of doing so are, police to protect us from criminals, courts to protect us from fraud, and a military to protect us from invasion. The theory goes that if we can limit government to these functions and not allow its power to expand beyond them, everyone gains and nobody loses. The question is how can the government perform these functions, while not initiating force?

In his book The Probability Broach, Mr. Smith discusses a war in Europe which is analogous to World War 1. In the book, the North American Confederacy (the U.S.) declares neutrality and refuses to help, as a nation. However, volunteers mount a huge expedition, which eventually crushes the forces of Prussian totalitarianism. What good is a declaration of neutrality, if people simply ignore it and rush off to war? If the citizens of a country are permitted to engage in foreign hostilities, what is the government’s function in the area of foreign relations? If the citizens have the right to ignore the government’s edicts, is not industry also allowed to sell the means of war to any or all of the combatants as well? And, while we’re on the subject, how does one reconcile the actions of these characters with the non-aggression principle?

The supposed rationale behind government action is to provide guidance for the whole of the population. In the example, had the government not declared itself neutral, the people would be free to do as they pleased, but when it did make the proclamation, it assumed the burden of enforcing it. Therein lies the problem. A state without the power to enforce its will is not a state. A state which allows a portion of the population at large to initiate force against another state or population is effectively nonexistent, and has no authority to speak for that population.

If you wish a state to provide police protection, you must allow it the authority to compel compliance. The police cannot say to the lawbreaker, "come with us, or we’ll leave you alone." The police, by the very nature of the job they are expected to do, must say "come with us, or we will force you to comply." To do otherwise, is to prevent them from doing the job you require. The rapist, thief, or murderer has no incentive to do as you wish, if he faces no penalty for noncompliance. He respects no law, no rights, only force, and if you allow no force on the side of good, who wins? Sure, you might say that he initiated force and you are only reacting to it, but if he escapes the scene of his crime, is he not presumed innocent until his guilt is proven? How will you prove it if you have no authority to question him? How will you gather evidence of his guilt without violating his property rights, if he refuses to allow it?

How do you expect the courts to determine the merits of your case, if the person you accuse of defrauding you refuses to answer your charges? If shredding documents and destroying evidence is all that is required to avoid any penalty for his actions, is it not in his own best interest to do so? How can the courts prevent this action, if they have no authority to compel? He would be better served by simply ignoring you and moving on to another local. How will you prevent him? How will you identify him to the rest of the population, if he should find some unscrupulous plastic surgeon to alter his appearance? How will you impose justice, if you allow the criminal to simply ignore it?

If faced with an invasion, how do you resist effectively, without taking the war to the enemy? Do you simply allow the enemy to maintain his war machine without interference? One of the most effective means of forcing your will on the enemy is to deny him the means to continue offensive operations. Well, how do you intend to do that without attacking his means of production? Have you ever heard of the Korean conflict? How about Vietnam? In both cases, the enemy was allowed to operate from safe havens outside the main battlefield, and in both cases our side was unable to win. If attacked, our country must be able to interdict or destroy the invader’s men and supplies. How would we accomplish this without the means to carry out offensive operations? How would we do this without endangering members of the enemy’s population who might not support the war? Should we stop the war once the enemy has withdrawn from our shores? If we continued the war beyond that point, are we not then initiating force?

All government is force, because government without force is government in name only. If one expects a government to assume the responsibility for providing services, then one must provide the authority to get the job done. Thus we arrive at the slippery slope, because once we acknowledge that the state has the authority to initiate force on our behalf, we acknowledge its right to do so on the behalf of others, against us. There is no alternative, either we have a state and allow it to act, or we reject the state and move on from there.


Next; Part III - conclusions and answers (maybe)



The State vs. The People, by Claire Wolfe and Aaron Zelman

Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.

Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?

The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"

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