Non-Aggression Principle

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    Libertarianism is said to be based on the Non-Aggression Principle, that it is immoral to aggress upon someone else. My question is: What is the foundation for this claim? On what basis is the claim made that ‘people have rights’?
    My dad’s argument is that the concept of “natural rights” requires acceptance of God. Is this accurate? What basis did the great libertarian speakers give for the existence of rights?


    Go to and read the first chapters of ‘Ethics of Liberty’ (Rothbard) or the first chapters of ‘For A New Liberty’ (Rothbard) for a shorter explanation.


    Also see the YouTube video “The Philosophy of Liberty” which discusses the concept of self-ownership.

    As John Locke wrote in his Second Treatise of Civil Government, “…every man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself.” In other words, our rights are derived from the fact that you own your body and life. Hence, no other human can claim title to your life, liberty, or property.


    I just boil it down to the golden rule: I don’t tell others what to do — and certainly don’t attempt to compel them — unless they’re interfering with me, all I ask is the same. It really seems like the only morally and logically sound end to allowing folks to live their lives as they see fit.


    Ethics of Liberty is here.
    For a New Liberty is here.
    The Philosophy of Liberty video is here. (short, but I haven’t watched it).

    There is also this by Hoppe.

    Does your father believe there is such a thing as “human rights”? If so, where did “human rights” originate? If he says something like “the UN, governments signed a UN agreement to recognize those rights” well then where did governments get that perogative? If he says something like “well, in each member-state there is an underlaying social contract on which such rights are based,” upon what does he think those rights are based? The original agreement of the people who founded the society? Well then they had to have the right to do that. (Note this is a weak argument, but it’s the foundation of social-contract theory. So you will be following the logic of his own argument in pursuing this line of questioning).

    Either people have what we call “human rights” intrinsically, or they’re based on a “socially constructed contract” – the later of which begs the question because where then did they get the right to make such an agreement and have it be mutually binding.

    If he doesn’t believe in any of that, then share this with him, and further ask him how he treats people and expects to be treated and on what normative grounds? Try to expose “performative contradictions” in his argument.

    (I use “human rights” for shorthand. Personally I don’t think it is correct to speak of “rights” – it is correct to speak of liberty. Loose talk of “human rights” leads to such fallacies as “economic rights,” when the only appropriate thing to speak of is “economic liberty,” as a facet of liberty as a whole, for example. But getting into that would be too much detail).


    My dad would certainly say that people have “natural rights”. He just holds that those rights are God-given, and thus believing in God is a central component to liberty. Otherwise, he would argue, without God’s role in creation what separates humans from other animals? I guess he is skeptical of the idea that self-consciousnesses or self-awareness is what makes it wrong for one human to kill another human, but not for one wolf to kill another wolf.


    I’m just going to think out-loud here, but I think it has to do with what you mentioned, our consciousness and self-awareness. The depth to which we can contemplate ethics, and the death of ourselves or others is unmatched in the world. That is in itself a very unique thing that separates us from the rest of the animals roaming about. A wolf cannot know what it is to die or to suffer like a human can. The idea that we are created by God, and therefor have natural rights (because we are essentially His property) could be considered in the reverse sense: If, we being uncreated (no creator involved) have no rights by our very nature, then God also has no rights by His very nature (being uncreated). Isn’t that wild? I could be wrong, but interesting to think about.


    You may find some value in this talk I gave on rights theories.

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