Oct 052016


There has been much discussion about “property rights”, “human rights”, “self-ownership” and the “non-aggression principle” or N.A.P. Most of the ideas on these subjects that seem worth discussing are existential in nature. For instance one often hears questions like,

  • Does “property” actually exist?

  • Do “rights” actually exist?

  • Does anyone really “own” anything?

  • What does it mean to both “be oneself” and “own oneself”?

  • …and what implications do these questions have concerning the validity of the N.A.P.?

While many academic philosophy buffs like to argue who has the best answers to such questions, the significance of their arguments is more a matter of ego aggrandizement than one of applying ethics in a practical way.

This body of subject-matter leaped into the minds of modern libertarians when Murray Rothbard introduced it as a way of understanding the libertarian perspective. Briefly, he opined that self-ownership is self evident… axiomatic. And based on that assumed logical starting point, deduced that therefore anything one’s body produces is also one’s own property. From this he went on to define property rights and expanded the definition to include anything found unclaimed in nature or acquired by voluntary trade. His logical equivalent of the N.A.P. was a further logical outcome of this thought path.

Rothbard’s reasoning is a good example of weak logic leading to correct conclusions. Some of the weaknesses include:

  • Rights” are not actually things…you can’t put them in a wheelbarrow.

  • The clear definition of “property acquisition” doesn’t actually explain the existential relationship between property and its owner.

  • And, most importantly, most people don’t intuit self-ownership, because they were indoctrinated as preschoolers to believe that their parents “owned” them, and later their teachers “owned them”, and in many cases their employers subsequently “own” them.

A consequent weakness in the N.A.P. is the common belief that it constitutes a complete ethic rather than a principle based on an ethic. While the N.A.P. forbids behavior deemed “bad”, it fails to define behavior deemed “good”. Thus use of the N.A.P. as the sole determinant of ethical behavior leaves much to be desired.

An Alternative Algorithm for Ethical Behavior

For a much more comprehensive discussion on this topic, check out this article on Ethics, Law & Government. Here I summarize some of the article’s conclusions without including the derivations covered in the linked article.

An act is said to be ethical (synonymously good, just, right, or righteous) if it increases truth, awareness, love, or creativity for at least one person, including the person acting, without limiting or diminishing any of these resources for anyone. An act that does diminish any of these resources for someone is said to be unethical (or synonymously bad, wrong, unjust or evil). An act that has neither effect is said to be “ethically trivial”.

Based on the foregoing definition, is is a simple exercise in logic to derive a set a dozen or so principles that can assist one in making ethical decisions on a day-to-day or moment-to-moment basis. Foremost among these is the fact that ethical “ends” require “ethical means” …which in turn must be ethical ends in themselves.

At this point, I hope you can see that the N.A.P. effectively defines unethical acts while leaving trivial acts and ethical acts undefined. So an act that complies with the N.A.P. could be either ethical or trivial. For anyone wishing to live their life as ethically as possible the N.A.P. fails to deliver the best guidance available. In other words the N.A.P. tells us what not to do but leaves us in the dark concerning what to do.

The ethic that I’ve recommended above not only tells us what specific resources are most worth amplifying, but it also opens the door to a way of organizing human institutions so that they make consistently ethical decisions. For a comprehensive explanation of how this can work, I invite you to read FLOURISH…An Alternative to Government and Other Hierarchies.

Jun 072013
Sovereign Man

June 7, 2013 
Maule Region, Chile

For some, it’s hard to even fathom… as if the headlines were ripped from the Onion instead of Atlas Shrugged or 1984:

* NSA Is Wired Into Top Internet Companies’ Servers, Including Google and Facebook

* NSA reportedly collecting phone records of millions

* Former NSA head defends agency reportedly spying on millions of Americans

* US gov’t defends NSA surveillance, slams ‘reprehensible’ journalists

* The Supreme Court Authorizes DNA can be taken from anyone Arrested


Even more, just within the last few weeks we’ve seen the Justice Department confiscating news reporter phone records… the IRS caught bullying political opposition groups… and now this.

It should be as plain as day at this point. Yet some people still have a hard time understanding that they’re living under an oppressive, destructive, unaccountable government.

Most other cultures get it. If you go to Argentina, Vietnam, Italy, or China, people there have absolutely no trust or confidence in their governments.

It’s something that’s -almost- uniquely American– a lifetime of steady, bombastic propaganda that inculcates a deep belief that our system is the ‘best’.

And, even in the face of such overwhelming evidence, it’s still hard for people to break from this programming and acknowledge that their government is just as corrupt as Mexico’s… albeit slightly more sophisticated.

The politicians running the nation are sociopathic criminals, plain and simple. If you or I were to tap people’s phones or hack their Facebook accounts, or use our authority to bully opposition groups, we would be tossed in the slammer in no time… and branded by the media as moral delinquents.

Yet politicians get away with it. They even have prominent members of the press championing their criminality, like this quote from Forbes today:

“this is in fact what governments are supposed to do so I’m at something of a loss in understanding why people seem to be getting so outraged about it.”

The simple reason is because the system is a total failure.

In the ‘free world’, society is based on a principle that a tiny elite should have the power to kill. To steal. To wage war. To debase the currency. To deprive certain people of freedom. All in their sole discretion. And for the good of everyone else.

We’re just supposed to trust them to be good guys and be proficient at their jobs. And in case they happen to completely screw it up and wreck the nation, they get a pass.

It’s a completely absurd. We’re ruled by criminals, plain and simple.

This is a hard lesson for an entire society to learn, but perhaps the most important.

Unfortunately, the second lesson is even harder: that there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it.

We’ve also been led to believe that direct democracy and grassroots movements can be a force for change. Yet it rarely, if ever, happens.

Short of outright revolution, the system isn’t going to change. It has to completely crash… and hit rock bottom… before it can be rebuilt. And we’re still a loooong way off from that.

Like ancient Rome before, the Land of the Free can look forward to being governed by a long series of criminals in the foreseeable future, notwithstanding the occasional sage.

Nations rise and fall. This cycle is inevitable. And history shows that the world’s most dominant nation typically has a long, grinding decline. It’s going to take a while.

That’s why, instead of trying to change the system, it’s so important to invest time, energy, and capital in the things that set up you and your family for maximum freedom and prosperity.

You can’t stop a speeding train by standing in front of it. You just want to make sure you’re not on it as it heads towards the cliff.

Until tomorrow,
Simon Black
Senior Editor, SovereignMan.com