Non-aggression Against Tyranny
A core libertarian value is the non-aggression principle. Refraining from first strike force is fundamental, as is refraining from any form of theft, bullying, coercion, misrepresentation, false witness or slander whether carried out by individuals or organisational systems – as each are a form of aggression against the individual, causing harm to others. The antidote to all these things is respect for individual rights, a determination to let evidence be the guide before judgement and to avoid any tendency of the end justifying the means.
Organisations and individuals that uphold such principles are hard to find, and we can experience disappointment because of the human frailty or bad dealing we sometimes come across. Because of libertarians’ acceptance of non-aggression, favouring truth, justice, fairness and reasonableness, they are unwilling to lend their loyalty to individuals and organisations that fail to display these important attributes – whether those organisations be governments, businesses or even political parties. In a nutshell libertarians reject aggression wherever they find it.
Sadly, the tendency to abuse power and to control others, is sometimes found in human nature. Some even draw the conclusion that peace and happiness can only be achieved if their particular vision of perfect order is achieved – regardless of the means by which it comes about or which principles they break in the process. As Jeffrey Tucker put it:
“People who can’t imagine order without imposition always end up favoring power over liberty.”
Such people cling to power, even as that clinging damages the very thing they want to cling to. Even those who think they pursue liberty can become, to coin a phrase, ‘authoritarians for liberty’. A contradiction that betrays their core values, becoming in a moment the very thing they oppose. But true liberty cannot be obtained or preserved by abandoning the principles on which that liberty relies.
What can libertarians do when they come across organisations or individuals whose behaviours do not match libertarian principles that are important to them? If it’s some way of working, or organisational culture they are unhappy with they might try to use persuasion, they might present evidence to support their position and make a good case, they might seek to work to bring about the needed change, but if that fails then what? If aggression is directed against an individual then self defence is a permitted response for libertarians, but even that is held within reasonable bounds to avoid the individual overstepping and becoming a first aggressor themselves. Libertarians don’t let the fear of others’ aggression lead them to become first aggressors preemptively. Defensive action being reasonable, the requirement for allegations to be supported by evidence, are all part of libertarian values of non-aggression. If someone wants to bypass these principles to get their own way, even in the belief they are in the right, they might unwisely temporarily (or permanently) abandon the principles they claim to espouse and try to use force, to behave unfairly, to break their own rules, to seek to bully or manipulate others into adopting their wishes. They might seek to justify their ruthless use of aggression in the process, imagining that the ends justify the means. But to so do would be a total dereliction of core values.
There remains one other course of action. As Larken Rose explained:
“When enough people understand reality, tyrants can literally be ignored out of existence…”
When persuasion and evidence have failed, and aggression or tyranny remains, a peaceful, non-aggressive alternative is for a libertarian to exercise their right to freedom of association and move on. In moving on libertarians may consequently relinquish power – but this is something they of all people ought to find comes naturally – clinging to power is not for libertarians. In doing so libertarians may come to find that departing, of their own free will, from the tyranny they deplore is the appropriate peaceful, non-aggressive, response to it – and the most libertarian thing they can do.