No Government, No Force

The Non-Aggression Principle or Axiom

This morning I spent over an hour searching for the exact wording of the “Non-Agression Principle”.  I found many, none of which qualify as “IT”. 

This source of the following is Wikipedia — never exactly reliable, but…

Historical formulations of the non-aggression principle
Year Formulated by Formulation
300’s BC Epicurus “Natural justice is a symbol or expression of usefullness, to prevent one person from harming or being harmed by another.”[58]
0 – 36 Jesus “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” Jesus of Nazareth advocated, and is closely associated with, the Golden Rule, otherwise known as “the ethic of reciprocity.”
900’s Abu Mansur Maturidi, Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyya, Averroes These Islamic theologians and philosophers wrote that man could rationally know that man had a right to life and property.
early 1200s Ibn Tufail In Hayy ibn Yaqdhan the Moorish philosopher discussed the life story of a baby living alone without prior knowledge who discovered natural law, and natural rights, which obliged man not to coerce against another’s life or property. Ibn Tufail influenced Locke’s notion of Tabula rasa.[59]
1682 Samuel von Pufendorf In On the Duty of Man and Citizen he wrote “Among the absolute duties, i.e., of anybody to anybody, the first place belongs to this one: let no one injure another. For this is the broadest of all duties, embracing all men as such.”[60]
1689 John Locke In Second Treatise on Government he wrote “Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.”[61]
1722 William Wollaston In The Religion of Nature Delineated he formulated “No man can have a right to begin to interrupt the happiness of another.” This formulation emphasized “begin” to distinguish aggressive disturbances from those in self-defense (“…yet every man has a right to defend himself and his against violence, to recover what is taken by force from him, and even to make reprisals, by all the means that truth and prudence permit.”)
1790 Mary Wollstonecraft In “A Vindication of the Rights of Men” Mary Wollstonecraft states: “The birthright of man … is such a degree of liberty, civil and religious, as is compatible with the liberty of every other individual with whom he is united in a social compact, and the continued existence of that compact.”
1816 Thomas Jefferson “No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him.” (Thomas Jefferson to Francis Gilmer, 1816)
1851 Herbert Spencer In Social Statics, he proposed the law of equal freedom“Every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man.” – as the best political arrangement to promote social progress. This being the implication of his theory of human social evolution he developed from Lamarckian use-inheritance.
1859 John Stuart Mill The harm principle formulated in On Liberty, states that “the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”
1961 Ayn Rand In an essay called “Man’s Rights” in the book “The Virtue of Selfishness” she formulated “The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships. … In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use.”[62][63][64]
1963 Murray Rothbard “No one may threaten or commit violence (‘aggress’) against another man’s person or property. Violence may be employed only against the man who commits such violence; that is, only defensively against the aggressive violence of another. In short, no violence may be employed against a nonaggressor. Here is the fundamental rule from which can be deduced the entire corpus of libertarian theory.” Cited from “War, Peace, and the State” (1963) which appeared in Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature and Other Essays[65]

Natural law theorist Murray Rothbard traces the non-aggression principle to natural law theorist St. Thomas Aquinas and the early Thomist scholastics of the Salamanca school.[66] This, in turn, may be seen in relation to Aquinas’ view on greed, “a sin against God, just as all mortal sins, in as much as man condemns things eternal for the sake of temporal things”, and on envy, which be defined as “sorrow for another’s good” (cf. Seven deadly sins).

Early formulations that use terms such as “harm” or “injury,” such as those of Epicurus and Mill above, are today generally considered imprecise. “Harm” and “injury” are too subjective; one man’s harm may be another man’s benefit. For example, a squatter may make “improvements” that the owner considers detrimental. Modern formulations avoid such subjectivity by formulating the NAP in terms of individual rights or observable conduct (initiation of force/violence).

In modern social-political culture advocating civil liberties, laissez-faire markets, and limited government, i.e. by the US Libertarian Party (US LP) and by Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), similar formulations of NAP are commonplace (see the libertarian pledge).[67]

I feel I must add this from the Libertarian Platform:

“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.”

In this alone we find why it is necessary to replace the Force of governments with a Voluntary System.


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Updated: 09 Jan 2017 — 16:01:05


  1. I have just read this article and am quite impressed with it. All groups of people have studied aggression/non-aggression over the centuries man has existed. I, too, am Libertarian, and I subscribe to the notion that there are two valid reasons for aggression, in which case I wouldn’t call it “aggression”. One reason is defense. The other reason is to prevent others from harm. Rather than aggression, I would call the first self-defense, and the second I would call protection of other innocents. I’m not sure all Libertarians see the second reason I list as valid, but I suspect most do.

    Good find!!

    1. A perhaps-eternal question arises there, which would be “Whose responsibility would it be in the case of protecting other “innocents?”

      Each man would have his own opinion about “who is innocent, and of what?”

      And then we must get into the question of whether each man decides for himself, or forfeits that right to some bureaucrat or politician or government?

      There be Man, and there be Other Men. What is the “difference” between them which justifies one Man using his own mind, yet cedes that supposed intelligence to some Other who may not? Then, when One becomes Ruled by that Other, does that not negate the entire concept of “intelligence”?

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