jamesd on September 22, 2010, 06:20:08 pm
I'm in the category of anarchist who will live (and possibly die) by the Zero Aggression Principle. 

Zero aggression is impractically purist.  A more realistic program is zero aggression to people who deserve zero aggression and belong to groups that deserve zero aggression

Example:  Xenophon and ten thousand Greeks have to march across Asia to get home.  In between them and home are a bunch of groups who refuse to let them pass, and/or refuse to let members of their group sell anything to outsiders without permission or buy anything from outsiders without without permission.   

So what is Xenophon going to do?  You guessed it:  Rape, slaughter, burn and loot.  And when he got back to Greece some people complained about this behavior.  In the twentieth century he would have been accused of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and sexism.  To which accusation he made a famous defense.

MacFall on September 22, 2010, 06:23:45 pm
It is certainly not "impractically purist". I have not initiated force on anyone since I became a libertarian in 2006, and I am pretty damn sure I will die without having done so ever again. I call people who cannot obtain to that standard "criminals", and I believe that they are a tiny minority of the human race.
Government is not, as is often believed, a "necessary evil". Rather, it is a plain evil of such power that it has been able to convince people of its necessity.

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on September 22, 2010, 06:55:58 pm
[Zero aggression is impractically purist.  A more realistic program is zero aggression to people who deserve zero aggression and belong to groups that deserve zero aggression.

The set of people who deserve zero aggression are those people who have not aggressed against others. "Groups" are simply collections of people.

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Example:  Xenophon and ten thousand Greeks have to march across Asia to get home. 

...having aggressed against many of those who they will meet again on the return.  They weren't on a "pleasure trip" getting there.

Now the "zero aggression principle" is not sufficient; in addition, some form of "penal theory" is needed to determine appropriate and acceptable responses to aggression -- e.g., death would not generally be an appropriate response to bumping someone in a crowd.

MacFall on September 22, 2010, 08:57:17 pm
Involuntary nuisances are not aggressions in the first place, so no, it certainly wouldn't. And the ZAP already implies proportionality in retribution, because any retributive force that exceeds proportionality is itself aggressive.
Government is not, as is often believed, a "necessary evil". Rather, it is a plain evil of such power that it has been able to convince people of its necessity.

NeitherRuleNorBeRuled on September 22, 2010, 09:10:23 pm
Involuntary nuisances are not aggressions in the first place, so no, it certainly wouldn't. And the ZAP already implies proportionality in retribution, because any retributive force that exceeds proportionality is itself aggressive.

Both of these depend on the precise definitions of "aggression" and the ZAP itself.  I've been following this since the ZAP was known as the NCP (Non Coercion Principle) and then the NAP (Non Aggression Principle) and I've never seen generally accepted definitions of these that would clearly imply that  "involuntary nuisances" are not aggression or that "retributive force that exceeds proportionality" is aggression.


wdg3rd on September 22, 2010, 09:33:37 pm
I'm in the category of anarchist who will live (and possibly die) by the Zero Aggression Principle. 

Zero aggression is impractically purist.  A more realistic program is zero aggression to people who deserve zero aggression and belong to groups that deserve zero aggression

I never claimed to be practical.  I can not initiate force against anyone.  I can only react to aggression.  This is self-programming I have been doing to myself for almost forty years since I found out I'm a berserker (not the robots in the stories, but the sort you find in Celtic and Norse legends and history).

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Example:  Xenophon and ten thousand Greeks have to march across Asia to get home.  In between them and home are a bunch of groups who refuse to let them pass, and/or refuse to let members of their group sell anything to outsiders without permission or buy anything from outsiders without without permission.   

So what is Xenophon going to do?  You guessed it:  Rape, slaughter, burn and loot.  And when he got back to Greece some people complained about this behavior.  In the twentieth century he would have been accused of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and sexism.  To which accusation he made a famous defense.

Southern Europe never was my field of study (aside from math history) but I have to assume that Xenophon and his troops pissed off a lot of people on their way east before they had to turn around in failure and go back through ground they'd covered with corpses.
Ward Griffiths        wdg3rd@aol.com

Men will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.  --  Denis Diderot

MacFall on September 22, 2010, 10:18:14 pm
. . . I've never seen generally accepted definitions of these that would clearly imply that  "involuntary nuisances" are not aggression or that "retributive force that exceeds proportionality" is aggression.

It seems like you're trying to play a "gotcha" game here. I'm not playing. It's not too hard to figure out that an extraproportional response to aggression is something other than defensive or restitutive force, and since there's only one other kind of force (aggression), there's not much room for ambiguity, regardless of what your definition of aggression is. Unless one defines it so differently from its generally accepted definition as to render it meaningless, of course.
Government is not, as is often believed, a "necessary evil". Rather, it is a plain evil of such power that it has been able to convince people of its necessity.

J Thomas on September 22, 2010, 11:39:07 pm

Example:  Xenophon and ten thousand Greeks have to march across Asia to get home.  In between them and home are a bunch of groups who refuse to let them pass, and/or refuse to let members of their group sell anything to outsiders without permission or buy anything from outsiders without without permission.   

So what is Xenophon going to do?  You guessed it:  Rape, slaughter, burn and loot.  And when he got back to Greece some people complained about this behavior.  In the twentieth century he would have been accused of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and sexism.  To which accusation he made a famous defense.

Southern Europe never was my field of study (aside from math history) but I have to assume that Xenophon and his troops pissed off a lot of people on their way east before they had to turn around in failure and go back through ground they'd covered with corpses.


They got hired as mercenaries to support a coup in Persia (Iran). They did their job adequately but the coup failed anyway. Their employer was dead and nobody wanted them, except maybe as slaves. They chose to try to get out following a route they hadn't traveled before. But who wants a foreign mercenary army in their backyard? If they start breaking your laws and you tell them not to and they don't stop, you have to put up with it or fight them....

We could get a modern analogue. Say you join a mercenary outfit that gets hired for a coup in Zambia. You're in Zambia when the coup falls apart, and the government forces are hunting you. You run for the border, but your problems are not over when your force crosses into Angola, or the Congo, or Tanzania. It's worse nowadays because you need bullets and gasoline, and if you use those up and there's no more to be bought or taken, then you're broken. Xenophon had men holding sharp objects, and they could keep fighting while they could get food and water.

Bruce Chatwin wrote about being a tourist caught in a failed coup just like that, in Benin. He wound up imprisoned for being white, because he *could* be one of the mercenaries trying to get away. He shared a cell with a frenchman who had been hunting birds, wearing camouflage. Ouch. Luckily the prison commandant was shot for being on the wrong side, and so they were both released. Or something. It was hard to tell what was really going on. Probably in Xenophon's time whatever Greeks happened to be nearby got into a lot of hot water for possibly being escaping mercenaries. But they weren't Xenophon's problem.

J Thomas on September 22, 2010, 11:51:04 pm
It's not too hard to figure out that an extraproportional response to aggression is something other than defensive or restitutive force, and since there's only one other kind of force (aggression), there's not much room for ambiguity, regardless of what your definition of aggression is. Unless one defines it so differently from its generally accepted definition as to render it meaningless, of course.

If you have a cohesive community where people are agreed about all the details, then it isn't hard to see what the agreement is.

Given different communities, all bets are off. In one community it might be a deadly insult to call someone a schmoo but calling him a boojum is completely OK, in a different community it could be reversed, while a third community might hold that nothing you *say* justifies physical violence.

When strangers meet and both have good will and a generous disposition, they can sort out this kind of thing and come to an agreement that works for them.

quadibloc on September 23, 2010, 12:05:51 am
Seems to me that the only "rule" an anarchist needs to check, very roughly stated, is: "Is the subject's behavior interfering with me or my interests?"
That sounds like the wrong question to ask. "Is the subject's behavior violating my, or anyone else's, rights?" would seem to be the correct question.

I agree.  When I suggest eliminating the state, I typically get a response like "Eek! Blood in the streets!" and nothing I say dispels that image.
Is the state necessary?

I don't believe that all human communities require a governmental structure in order to function. If we're talking about twelve people stranded on a deserted island, to suggest that they should have elections for a representative assembly is ludicrous.

So, the idea of a frontier society existing with minimal government like the one in EFT isn't implausible to me at all.

The state does, though, seem necessary to me to achieve these goals:

  • to organize into a single entity an unnaturally large number of people, who are diverse rather than sharing common goals, and
  • to organize a continued and ongoing defense against the depradations of other states.

That's it. Incidentally, I do also think that even if people can voluntarily organize to defend themselves in a crisis, a crafty state enemy can bide its time, and wait until people get bored with constant effort for no apparent reason.

It seems like you're trying to play a "gotcha" game here. I'm not playing. It's not too hard to figure out that an extraproportional response to aggression is something other than defensive or restitutive force, and since there's only one other kind of force (aggression), there's not much room for ambiguity, regardless of what your definition of aggression is.
To start with, since the purpose of defensive force is to prevent an aggression from being accomplished, proportionality does not apply. The limitation on defensive force is to ensure it doesn't hit innocent targets.

To distinguish restitutive force from aggression, I agree that community involvement of some sort is likely to be a requirement. That can bring in a requirement that the amount of restitution is proportional.

My question is whether such a requirement is consistent with the zero aggression principle.

Maybe this sounds silly to you. You appear to be starting from an assumption that excessive restitution constitutes aggression.

I do think that there is a good case for ensuring that excessive restitution cannot be demanded for inadvertent or accidental injuries to others, on the basis of the kind of society most people would want to live in.

But when it comes to a deliberate and intentional violation of another person's rights, I'm not so sure.

In some cities, there are laws against fortifying your dwelling place, because criminals running crack houses have fortified those buildings - giving them time to destroy the evidence when police come to search. Such laws would not exist in an AnCap society. So, we can agree that a potential robber's rights are not violated by building your house in such a manner that it is impossible for the robber to succeed in breaking into it.

If that is the case, how are a robber's rights violated by decreeing that the penalty for breaking and entering with intent to commit theft is death? If he wishes to live, he may choose not to rob. Increasing the severity of the penalty for robbing until it is unreasonable... is just another way of effectively making robbery impossible. It isn't quite as certain as fortifying every house, but it's a lot cheaper.

That, of course, is an example that presupposes the existence of a government, going around decreeing penalties for crimes. If you don't have a government, it would seem that a man's home is his castle.

Each sovereign individual has authority over that which is his. You may only have that which is his by voluntary agreement with him. Period.

So, if A steals from a sovereign individual, and B decrees that the sovereign individual may demand no more than X from B as restitution - then, A and B together have obtained something that belongs to that sovereign individual... for a decreed price of X without the necessity of the consent of that sovereign individual. The power to limit restitution for torts is, therefore, inherently equivalent to the normal state power to initiate force arbitrarily.

That's why I am insisting that, at least on a theoretical level, demanding proportionality flies in the face of the Zero Aggression Principle. That doesn't mean it's "bad", just that if you want to include proportionality in restitution as part of AnCap, you should write it into the definition explicitly. And some thought as to the cases where proportionality is "obviously reasonable" might help in determining how that principle might be written.

The problem is that a way to avoid abusively low definitions of proportionality is needed - good old quis custodiet again. Even an AnCap society can't seem to get completely away from it. But then, maybe that was admitted all along; I know, for example, that I've been, quite reasonably, chided for demanding that an AnCap society should do better than a totalitarian state at completely suppressing crime.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2010, 12:40:22 am by quadibloc »

jamesd on September 23, 2010, 03:27:43 am
Example:  Xenophon and ten thousand Greeks have to march across Asia to get home.  In between them and home are a bunch of groups who refuse to let them pass, and/or refuse to let members of their group sell anything to outsiders without permission or buy anything from outsiders without without permission.   

So what is Xenophon going to do?  You guessed it:  Rape, slaughter, burn and loot.  And when he got back to Greece some people complained about this behavior.  In the twentieth century he would have been accused of colonialism, imperialism, racism, and sexism.  To which accusation he made a famous defense.

Southern Europe never was my field of study (aside from math history) but I have to assume that Xenophon and his troops pissed off a lot of people on their way east before they had to turn around in failure and go back through ground they'd covered with corpses.

As I said "when he got home".  He succeeded.    War is hell - but refusal to allow trade and free passage is justly grounds for war.

jamesd on September 23, 2010, 03:29:00 am
It is certainly not "impractically purist". I have not initiated force on anyone since I became a libertarian in 2006, and I am pretty damn sure I will die without having done so ever again.
And may well die without freedom.

jamesd on September 23, 2010, 03:36:39 am
The set of people who deserve zero aggression are those people who have not aggressed against others. "Groups" are simply collections of people.

OK:  Suppose you have an enemy group:  Any member of the group that trades with you will be executed by other members of the group.  If you travel through areas where that group is predominant, some members of the group, impossible to distinguish or separate from other members of the group, will kill you.  If you stay far away from areas where that group is predominant, they will make demands that you must submit to, and if you conspicuously fail to comply, will raid into lands where they do not have significant membership in order to kill you.  Those of the group travelling in far lands to kill you are not readily distinguishable from members of the same group that are not trying to kill you, and those trying to kill you will receive protection and quiet support from those that are not trying to kill you - perhaps that support is not always willing support, but support it is.

There is an anarchic solution to this problem, and it worked, worked rather well.  It was, however, far from zero aggression.

mellyrn on September 23, 2010, 10:49:36 am
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That sounds like the wrong question to ask. "Is the subject's behavior violating my, or anyone else's, rights?" would seem to be the correct question.

Quadibloc, I don't believe in "rights".  But stay on the bus with me for a moment:

"Rights" exist only in community.  If you are Robinson Crusoe on your island, you have no "rights"; the very concept is irrelevant -- until Friday shows up.  "Rights", therefore, are things granted or conceded or otherwise respected by someone else, some person else (a tiger may contest your abililty to live, but he ain't gonna argue your 'right' to live).  Privileges are also things granted, conceded, or respected by someone else.  In practical terms, the only difference I see is the spelling of the term -- or whether or not they are backed up by the larger community, which gets us into "laws".

The closest I can get to "rights" is this:  we humans do have a sense of boundaries vis-a-vis each other.  I have many years' experience living with my own kind.  I can make a pretty good guess (though still only a guess even as I get to know you better) as to what behaviors of mine will be regarded as trespass.  If I knowingly engage in a trespassing behavior anyway, I really don't get to pretend to be surprised or offended when you defend your boundaries.

I can, and do, respect your boundaries, to the best of my ability to guess them.  It makes my life so much simpler, most of the time.  You may, if you wish, claim that you have a 'right' to my respect of your boundaries, which is a kind of demand, but the claim/demand alone conveys nothing except your emotional intensity about it.  I don't claim that I have a 'right' to your respect of my boundaries.  I assume you will do whatever it is you do, and if I want my boundaries respected, it's my job to fend you off, not go to sleep on the assumption that you will not trespass.  In my sanity, I will make it as easy as possible for you not to cross my boundaries.  It would be nice if you did the same for me, but I don't expect it and I certainly don't demand it.

("Excessive" restitution -- by the very use of the descriptor "excessive" -- crosses the recipient's sense of boundaries.  When we cross someone else's frontier uninvited, we aren't exactly going to get them cheerfully signing on to our team.  What outcome do you want?  If you want a cessation of violence & hostility, excessive restitution is counterproductive.  If you want an excuse to go on fighting, then by all means carry on, and you don't get to be surprised or offended when hostilities escalate, unless you're really, really new at being human.)

You can say, "These are my rights."  You can also say, "These are my boundaries."  Both phrases warn me that I am taking a risk in violating them.  I prefer 'boundaries', as being less mystical.

I realize that "rights" is a word heavily freighted with emotion, and that merely by suggesting it might be rather an empty word, I am inviting some hostility.  Please know that I am not offering any hostility myself; I'm just saying that I personally find no practical value in the term -- except, as hinted before, as an emotional marker as to how strongly the user feels about the activity designated as a 'right'.  I respectfully request that, before you begin your reply (if any), you tell me if I've even made any sense, here.

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I do also think that even if people can voluntarily organize to defend themselves in a crisis, a crafty state enemy can bide its time, and wait until people get bored with constant effort for no apparent reason.

The beauty of a decentralized system is that there may well be no need to 'organize' for defense.  I note how well a large and powerful state did not do vs the defenders of Vietnam (US), or of Afghanistan (USSR).  Have you read The Sovereign Individual, by Davidson & Rees-Mogg?  It's a fascinating look at violence in terms of when it's worth it and when it isn't.

Brugle on September 23, 2010, 11:03:50 am
The state does, though, seem necessary to me to achieve these goals:

  • to organize into a single entity an unnaturally large number of people, who are diverse rather than sharing common goals, and
  • to organize a continued and ongoing defense against the depradations of other states.

Regarding your first goal: converting everyone into a Borg unit would be useful to those who run that particular Borg, but some of us diverse unassimilated people have other plans.

The local library had a campaign a few summers back, something like "Wouldn't it be great if everyone read the same book!"  My first reaction was "how creepy!"  Some government employees must have liked the idea.

Regarding your second goal: in general, rulers do not defend their subjects from other states' depredations.  Rulers coerce their subjects into defending the rulers from other states--in particular, into retaining their rule over their subjects.  It might happen that the ruler and the subjects have a common interest in resisting another state, but that would be coincidental.  What would a typical ruler do, given the choice of a) give up power to avoid a war (for the benefit of the subjects) or b) fight a long and bloody war to retain power (with the subjects paying the cost and getting no benefit)?

 

anything