Non-Aggression in Politics   Leave a comment

So, it was New Years Day and we were invited to a friend’s house for food and fun. Mostly we paid Risk. There were several people there who we didn’t know and this one woman asked me if I’d signed some Internet petition demanding that President Trump be removed from office.

Image result for image of government aggression

Why, no, I haven’t. So, she assumed I’d voted for Trump and things got a little tense there for a moment. Fortunately, our son was sitting with me at the time and he spoke up before hostilities could resume.

“Nope, she voted for Gary Johnson.”

Thanks, Kiernan. The hostile conversation turned abruptly toward my “utopian” principles. Well, actually, it started with “Who is Gary Johnson?” and sort of went from there.

Image result for image of government aggressionI used to care about politics, but these days, I mostly care about the philosophy behind politics. I came to the conclusion when President Obama and the Democrats took the entire government down the primrose path that voting is the tyranny of a narrow majority against everybody who voted against taking that path. When Obama had a dismal four years as economic leader and foreign policy leader and still won the 2012 election, I realized that our system of elections is apparently rigged. It made no sense to me that state after state had flipped to Republican control at their governor- and legislative levels, but this incompetent was still our president. I had decided at the last moment that I couldn’t support Mitt Romney because until he won the nomination he’d never had more than 40% GOP support and there were some much better-qualified candidates who could have been nominated. So, I voted for whoever was running under the Libertarian ticket at the time. I didn’t expect him to win and there’s no evidence votes for him swayed the Obama-Romney contest at all, but I just couldn’t bring myself to cast a vote between an incompetent and a man who didn’t seem to represent conservatives in the least.

Image result for image of government aggressionSo, in 2016, there were no good choices after the nomination. There were some good choices in the primaries, but that all went away after Super Tuesday. I definitely would have voted for Rand Paul or, had Malcolm O’Malley won the Democratic nomination, I might have voted Democrat against Donald Trump. So, I planned by the weekend after Super Tuesday that I was voting for the Libertarian candidate. I actually think Gary Johnson would have made a good president, though his vice-presidential mate was such a progressive Republican he should have been a Democrat.

This is where I have evolved to over the last few years in the political realm. It was the answer I gave to my host’s sister when she asked me how I could not have taken sides in the election of 2016 and the year following.

I don’t believe that some humans — let’s call them “rulers” — should get moral sanction to use violence against other people – we’ll call them (“the ruled”) — to get what they (“rulers”) want.

If that doesn’t sound controversial to you, you probably agree with me (you’re reading my blog afterall). But it is possible that, like my friend’s sister, you aren’t paying close enough attention to how politics works.

Image result for image of government aggressionAlthough I don’t believe the world is non-violent by nature, I think we should strive to not exert violence on our fellow human beings. Which casts all governments into doubt, because force is the essence of all governments from top to bottom. How did Louis XIV funding the palace of Versailles? Force) When George III raise an army to crush a revolt, he used force to make that happen. Vladimir Lenin redistributed confiscated land by force. Your local police officer enforces any number of laws through the use of threatened force, which amounts to the same thing. In every instance where government operates, you’re talking about people who rely on violence or the threat of violence to achieve compliance for their plans. They ultimately do not ask or require your consent. Their authority ultimately rests on the implied threat that they will beat you up if you don’t do what they say.

Somehow we came to believe that this was a normal state of affairs. It’s not okay to rob people in the park even if it is to pay for mowing the park grass, but it is okay to elect people who rob your bank account for taxes to pay for mowing the park’s grass. I’ve recognized the hypocrisy of that and I reject it. Just because we exert force upon each other through politics rather than guns to the head doesn’t mean we are acting non-violently toward each other. The threat of force makes it violent.

My views are pretty radical because a consistent commitment to non-violence means I don’t think “governments” as we know them should exist. Governments are easily the most organized and pervasive violence-users on the planet. 

Ideals like mine often get confused with utopianism. We’ve all been there. We’ve all heard the refrains – “The world has always been like that,” “Human beings are violent by nature,” and “Human beings always create violent systems/governments, though!” It all boils down to “But that’s utopian!”

With due respect, you’re missing the point entirely.

I believe violence exists and is one of the world’s biggest problems. I even warn you in advance that I believe in the right to self-defense. Since the Fall, humans have been a violent species. Human history is bloody, and we only get better at devising new ways to use violence to kill and manipulate each other. I’m not against violence because I believe that the humans are inherently good or peaceful. We’re not. Treating each other without aggression is not, from my viewpoint, going to make us better at root. We are what we are and we are prone to push each other around. But why shouldn’t we condemn aggression even if we can’t get rid of it?

Why shouldn’t I oppose aggression regardless of our tendency to use it? If humans are indeed corrupt by nature, why wouldn’t I want to limit our access to violence and tools of aggression like government?

Yes, government is a tool of aggression and violence. Consider how a majority of the population was opposed to the ACA prior to its passage, but the ruling class forced us to accept it and now some of us have gotten used to it, regardless of whether others have a different opinion. That was aggression in action – some people (rulers) forcing others (the ruled) do do what the rulers wanted.

Now consider this last year of Trump. What are people rioting in streets for? They fear that the Trump administration will force them to participate in things they don’t want to participate in. And, if they’re right, then government is an instrument of aggression and they are right to resist it.

Think about the problem of police brutality. It existed in the Bush 2 administration, seems to have gotten worse in the Obama administration and has not gone anywhere in the Trump administration. Is the problem who is in charge of the police or is it that the police exist at all? Well, we’ve tried to put different people in charge without a lot of change, so maybe the problem is that the police have the power to conduct violence against everyone else and it is their existence that is the problem.

I don’t think doing away with government will somehow create a society without violence. Human beings will always be able to turn to violence to get what they want. I don’t see a way around it. But that doesn’t mean that reducing government violence would make the situation worse. There’s an awful lot of Americans behind bars for “victimless” crimes that would not be behind bars if police didn’t have a mandate to use violence against them. Those people come out of prison unable to get jobs, which increases their propensity to use violence to get what they need to live. It’s easy to say “if they just didn’t break the law”, but was the law even necessary for a peaceful society and what might happen if we stopped using government to force people to live as we want them to live? You see, my opposition to violence isn’t contingent on a fairy-tale wish fulfillment of a society free of violence. I’m focused on harm-reduction.

There are plenty of things we choose to consistently oppose on ethical grounds: murder, rape, theft, child abuse, etc. These crimes will never go away completely. We don’t make an ethical exception for these acts because they’re inevitable. We condemn them roundly regardless of our inability to completely eliminate them.

So my question is this: why shouldn’t condemn violence even if we can’t get rid of it? So, why shouldn’t we condemn violent governments even if we can’t get rid of them?


The accusation of utopianism misunderstands both utopianism and nonviolence.

The actual utopians we’ve seen in history were social planners. They had a vision for a world they would build, usually from the top down. The communists and the Nazis were by-the-book utopians, as have been the social organizers and religious leaders of hundreds of social experiments and colonies. The really earnest utopians loved to use violence (or the threat of violence) to get the magical new world order they wanted. They weren’t nice guys. They made life hell for everyone around them.


The non-aggression principle is a counter-cultural ideal, resting entirely on the premise of “non aggression.” It doesn’t rule out self-defense against the violence of others. It’s not a vision for what a society should be. It’s not a plan for how millions of people should make their billions of daily decisions. It’s only a prohibition on one way – the destructive way – to relate to other people. It’s a humble way of living with other humans, and it’s effectively a prohibition on utopianism because it’s grounded in realistic optimism

The history of the world is full of darkness and violence, but there have also been flashes of peace and creativity. I don’t think human nature really changes, but it does vary a lot. The countries with the most authoritarian governments are rarely the most peaceful and creative. Think the USSR or China when it was a full-fledged communist regime. And, truthfully, we’ll probably always have some forms of authoritarian system because some people feel comfortable with governments, gangs, warlords and the like. But just because violence and the systems that organize it won’t go away doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for the ideal.



When I ask people to join me in condemning politics, I’m asking them to do the same thing. The great joke about libertarianism is that we are plotting to take over the world and leave you alone. I have no desire to plan a society or create a new human being from scratch. I don’t see utopia ahead. I see a long, slow chain of day-to-day ethical decisions where individuals choose not to agress on one another. Even today, individual people choose in every moment of their political lives whether they will use violence, participate in violence,  or cheer on the “popular” violence done by someone in a government promising them safety or wealth or peace or …. well, name that political campaign.

As for me, I won’t sanction it. Maybe you’ll decide that you won’t either. if enough of us start doing things differently, we might just make the world better. Whether we succeed or not (in our lifetimes or a dozen generations from now), we still have to make a choice for ourselves. I choose non-aggression, and I guess that makes me a radical, but I reject the notion that I am utopian because utopians tend to be aggressive in their attempts to establish the new world order they envision.  


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