The basis for libertarian thought is the NAP or the non-aggression principle. defined as (from the Mises Institute):
“The non-aggression principle is an ethical stance which asserts that “aggression” is inherently illegitimate. “Aggression” is defined as the “initiation” of physical force against persons or property, the threat of such, or fraud upon persons or their property. In contrast to pacifism, the non-aggression principle does not preclude violent self-defense.”
I think there are several flaws in this ethical stance, and I think that Christianity does a good job of covering this ethical stance (the NAP seems to come from the Biblical verse Matthew 7:12 which states, “So in everything, do to other what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”) and filling the holes that are left. Here are four general scenarios that I don’t think the NAP covers and I think Christianity does very well:
- The NAP doesn’t make you a better person, Christianity does – The NAP is more of a command because without something actually changing your spirit and making you want to live a better life. With this in mind, the NAP is done purely by human willpower, and if history teaches us anything about human willpower it is that it is fallible and generally should not be trusted because few people have it in any real amount. The NAP forces you to change yourself and again this is asking an imperfect being to be perfect, something that may happen for short bursts of time, but will never happen forever. The Holy Spirit works in you forever, if you are willing to let it. This is how you become a better human being, by allowing God through the Holy Spirit to work on you throughout your lifetime.
- The NAP does not deal with the consequences of violations to the ethical statement – What happens when someone violates the NAP, well that is up for debate, and that is bad. In my experience, without a reason to be merciful, humans tend to be very vengeful. This vengeful nature is completely reasonable within the confines of the NAP, and I believe that this is a problem. I have heard that certain people believe that the NAP is so sacred that any violation of it should result in death. Sounds a bit extreme for an ethical statement that is supposed to bring us more freedom. The Bible teaches humans to be compassionate and forgive the wrongs of our neighbors and I am confident that this breeds more love and compassion. Two verses that specifically deal with vengeance, the first is Proverbs 20:22, “Do not say, ‘I will pay you back for this wrong!’, wait for the Lord and he will avenge you.” The second is 1Peter 3:9, “Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.” This also breeds more comfort within human communities and I think this leads to less violations of the ethical boundaries to begin with.
- The NAP is to vague and therefore leads to to much human interpretation – Now certainly there are parts of the Bible that are up for interpretation, however, there are also over a thousand pages of stories and descriptions explaining to the reader what type of action is required in different instances. For the NAP, there is the one statement, and that is it. How do we deal with pollution, or the erosion of the land, or disagreements of property rights? There are some people who would say that these are technical problems that can be figured out when society gets to that point, but the problem is that every instance is different and every person is different.
- The NAP was thought of by men for men and therefore is not perfect – Everyone in the world should agree to this, no human being is perfect, we are all flawed in our various ways. Though we should be accustomed to this to some degree, this also means that any ethical stance that men come up with will have its holes that we may not be able to see, and therefore should take with a grain of salt and a bit of skepticism.
These are the three major problems that I have with the NAP. I think that this ethical stance is a good start for anyone that is looking for a good ethical guideline, however, because it is created by men for men it is imperfect. Though it appears that the NAP is taken from the Biblical verse, Matthew 7:12, accepting the NAP as an ethical stance will not change your character the way that Christianity does and that is the main reason why the NAP is a good starting point but should not be the ending point.