Libertarians Should Not Reject the Non-Aggression Principle

Matt Zwolinski, professor of philosophy at the University of San Diego and blogger at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, wrote an article for yesterday claiming libertarian philosophy needed,

“A radical paradigm shift in which we put aside the idea that non-aggression is the sole, immovable center of the moral universe.”

You can read the full article here

His premise is the non-aggression principle (NAP), when applied to certain scenarios, leads to absurd conclusions. For instance, as long as a father does not forcibly prohibit his three year old from eating, he would not be in violation of the NAP by allowing the child to starve. On its face this seems like a good reason for abandoning the NAP. However, it ignores the nature of a principle. A principle is the foundation for a system of belief. The system of belief built upon the NAP is libertarianism and its various branches. The true value is not its ability to lead one toward some earthly destination, but to serve as a conceptual framework in analyzing reality.

Should Christians abandon the golden rule because in a hypothetical situation, where a man sexually forces himself on a beautiful woman, he would not be in violation?

Should Democrats abandon their pursuit of social justice because taken to an extreme it leads to a Leveller’s utopia? Of course not, although I wish to hell they would.

To be human is to err. Our principles serve as the road map in our journey to an unreachable destination. I view the NAP in the same light as Plato’s noble lie:

“This myth would have a good effect, making them more inclined to care for the state and one another.”

While I resent Plato’s sentiment toward the state, the lesson is not lost. If the NAP can have even a marginal influence in the political arena, then in my opinion, everyone just got a little bit more free and a little bit more safe.

Had Dr. Zwolinski merely wanted to conduct a thought experiment by imagining libertarian philosophy without the NAP, we would welcome any resulting contributions. But calling for its outright abandonment seems to be the cavalier act of a bored academic.

Dr. Zwolinski ends his article by claiming libertarian philosophy needs a Copernican Revolution.

In response to that I say,

Dr. Zwolinski, the non-aggression principle is humanity’s Copernican Revolution.


Greg Lenz is a reformed Conservative. I've slowly evolved my position from Conservative Republican to it's current status of Libertarian Republican. I'm aware people hate the Libertarian Republican label, but ultimately I'm a pragmatist. Economic issues are my primary concern therefore I do support Republican candidates from time to time (Rand Paul 2016). As of late, I find myself flirting with Minarchism. The writings of William F. Buckley, Ayn Rand, and Thomas Jefferson have played the biggest role in shaping my beliefs.