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Non-Aggression Principle

On July 2009: David Nolan (one of the founders of the Libertarian Party) wrote an open letter to the Libertarian National Committee:

 

...Now, more than ever before, the Libertarian Party must offer a coherent and compelling alternative to the stale policies of statism. People are ready to hear our message -- if that message is stated clearly and boldly. The success of Ron Paul's 2008 campaign and its outgrowth, the Campaign for Liberty, show that millions of Americans are hungry for real change.

 

And there is an important lesson to be learned from the success of the Paul campaign and the C4L. That lesson is that it pays to be bold. Notice that the grassroots uprising sparked by the Ron Paul campaign calls itself the Ron Paul REVOLUTION. Not the "Ron Paul gradual reform movement." They're calling for ending the Federal personal income tax, not just mouthing empty platitudes about "lower taxes" or "more freedom." (Compared to what? What we have now? Obama's proposals?) And they are gaining adherents far more rapidly than the Libertarian Party is; the C4L currently has five to ten times as many members as we do!

 

As I see it, the Libertarian Party has gone far astray from its original mission. Somewhere along the way, our commitment to being The Party of Principle was replaced by a shallow, opportunistic goal of "winning elections now" -- any election, anywhere. Principles be damned, according to the proponents of this vision. We should back off from "scary" positions, tone down our rhetoric, find out "what voters want," and tailor our message to what they want to hear.

 

The nadir of this mindset was reached in a "Monday Message" dated March 9, 2009. It carried the heading "The most important principle is winning."

 

I would be hard-put to come up with a statement more antithetical to our beliefs and purpose. Just for starters, "winning" is not a principle at all; it might be a goal, or a strategy for achieving our goals, but it's not a principle. And if it were, it's not our principle. This is pure opportunistic rubbish -- exactly what you'd expect from a Republican or Democratic party hack.

 

No, the most important principle, for libertarians, is the principle of self-ownership, as set forth in the Preamble to our Platform, and our Statement of Principles. These are the standards by which every policy statement and every campaign must be judged.  Anyone who is uncomfortable with this yardstick probably ought to be in another party  -- one where "the most important principle is winning."

 

My fellow Libertarians, our party is at a crossroads. Either we stand up boldly for liberty, or we lose all relevance. The voters who want real, meaningful, substantive change will direct their energies elsewhere, while opportunists who seek short-term electoral victories will support the Republican and Democratic politicians who offer a far better chance of "winning now."

 

I urge each of you to bear these thoughts in mind during your upcoming meeting.

Yours in Liberty,

 

David F. Nolan

 

July 17, 2009

 

Nolan included the Preamble to the Libertarian Party Platform and the Libertarian Party Statement of Principles

 

Libertarian Party Platform Preamble

 

As Libertarians, we seek a world of liberty; a world in which all individuals are sovereign over their own lives and no one is forced to sacrifice his or her values for the benefit of others.

 

We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

 

Consequently, we defend each person's right to engage in any activity that is peaceful and honest, and welcome the diversity that freedom brings. The world we seek to build is one where individuals are free to follow their own dreams in their own ways, without interference from government or any authoritarian power.

 

In the following pages we have set forth our basic principles and enumerated various policy stands derived from those principles.

 

These specific policies are not our goal, however. Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.

 

Libertarian Party Statement of Principles

 

We, the members of the Libertarian Party, challenge the cult of the omnipotent state and defend the rights of the individual.

 

We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

 

Governments throughout history have regularly operated on the opposite principle, that the State has the right to dispose of the lives of individuals and the fruits of their labor. Even within the United States, all political parties other than our own grant to government the right to regulate the lives of individuals and seize the fruits of their labor without their consent.

 

We, on the contrary, deny the right of any government to do these things, and hold that where governments exist, they must not violate the rights of any individual: namely, (1) the right to life -- accordingly we support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others; (2) the right to liberty of speech and action -- accordingly we oppose all attempts by government to abridge the freedom of speech and press, as well as government censorship in any form; and (3) the right to property -- accordingly we oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.

 

 

Since governments, when instituted, must not violate individual rights, we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals. People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others. They should be left free by government to deal with one another as free traders; and the resultant economic system, the only one compatible with the protection of individual rights, is the free market. 

 

The Non-Aggression Principle

The Non-Aggression Principle (NAP, also called the Non-Aggression Axiom) is a moral principle that prohibits the initiation of force by one person against another . It is considered by many to be the defining principle of libertarianism. The principle asserts that aggression, a term defined by proponents as any encroachment on another person's life, liberty, or justly acquired property, or an attempt to obtain from another via deceit what could not be consensually obtained, is always illegitimate. According to some libertarians the NAP and property rights are closely linked, since what aggression is depends on what a person's rights are. Aggression, for the purposes of NAP, is defined as initiating or threatening violence against a person or legitimately owned property of another.


The Non-Aggression Principle and the Libertarian Party

"The Statement of Principles affirms that philosophy upon which the Libertarian Party is founded, by which it shall be sustained, and through which liberty shall prevail."

The NAP is not just in the membership pledge of the Libertarian Party but also in its Platform and Statement of Principles?

If one repudiates the Statement of Principles of the Libertarian Party, one has repudiated the Party itself.

The NAP From the Libertarian Party Statement of Principles:

We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.

[W]e support the prohibition of the initiation of physical force against others.

People should not be forced to sacrifice their lives and property for the benefit of others.

The NAP from the Libertarian Party Platform:

From the Preamble to the Platform: We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.

From the Platform: No individual, group, or government may initiate force against any other individual, group, or government.

From the Platform: The only legitimate use of force is in defense of individual rights — life, liberty, and justly acquired property — against aggression.

From the Platform: The principle of non-initiation of force should guide the relationships between governments.

The NAP from the Libertarian Party By-Laws

This is also codified in the By-Laws of the Libertarian Party as follows:

Article 3: The Party is organized to implement and give voice to the principles embodied in the Statement of Principles.

Article 4.1: The Statement of Principles affirms that philosophy upon which the Libertarian Party is founded, by which it shall be sustained, and through which liberty shall prevail.

The NAP and the Libertarian Party Membership Pledge:

And here is the Pledge in harmony with the above:

YES, sign me up as a member of the Libertarian Party. To validate my membership, I certify that I oppose the initiation of force to achieve political or social goals.

 

If one repudiates the Statement of Principles of the Libertarian Party, one has repudiated the Party itself.

Thank you to Caryn Ann Harlos of the Libertarian Party of Colorado for contributing to the ideas present on this page.  

 

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