So now that I have given an introduction to the NAP and a description of how the NAP applies to Libertarianism I should probably explain where the NAP comes from. To what does the NAP owe its existence? Where did I come to the conclusion that aggression is wrong? It would seem logical to assume I just did, right? Everyone knows aggression is wrong, correct? You would be surprised.
To me, the NAP is nothing more than a restatement and expansion of the Golden Rule, which is a simplification of the Natural Law science of justice. I do not want others to aggress against me so I should not aggress against others. If I desire to be free from coercion, should I coerce others? Logically, no. By extension, should I hire another agent to aggress in my stead? I don’t wish others to do so against me, so why should I support any system which monopolizes such agency?
Natural Law is law derived from the observation of the natural universe. Our most basic observations are of our own person. If I observe that I have a preference for the preservation of my life, my liberty, and the protection of my property, it is probably a safe bet that my neighbors do as well. However, we also observe man’s destructive nature. Many will use man’s natural gravitation towards aggression and inborn sin nature to say that the NAP cannot be arrived at through Natural Law.
When interpreting our observations and discerning natural laws one should worry less about an observation of what is, one should instead think about what ought. Simply because natural man is aggressive does not then imply that men ought to be. Again, we arrive at the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule does not tell us how we do act in our sinful nature but rather how we should act. We should treat others how we want to be treated ourselves.
Logically, one who does not like to be aggressed against should not be in favor of committing acts of aggression himself. When living by the Golden Rule it is irrational to treat others in a way which one would not like to be treated. The fact that man is so apt to do so is highly compelling evidence that man is in fact depraved.
But if man is depraved, isn’t his faculty for reason depraved as well? Man should not be able to arrive at the NAP simply by observation of the universe around him. Romans 1 says that the minds of men are darkened and futile. Just as some Christians disagree that we can know God through nature apart from Scripture (Presuppositionalists), some will use Romans 1 to say we cannot arrive at the NAP simply by natural perception or by rational thought apart from Divine intervention. As in a previous post of mine, a basic reading of Romans 18-22 makes this argument mute.
“18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”
Man observes nature and self and understands the existence of God, as well as His attributes and nature. He knows God and understands His attributes just by virtue of being created in the image of God and in being able to observe the creation around him. He knows before he suppresses, he is perfectly able to discern, he just chooses out of his depravity to suppress the knowledge.
If we believe God created nature, does it not make sense to believe that God’s law is visible in it? God did not hide His attributes or character when He created the universe. He made both evident to man by imparting knowledge directly into man, and by giving man the faculty to observe creation. We are doubly without excuse when we deny God or His attributes.
We can discern injustice and justice with our senses, even if we suppress and deny what we observe and act unjust ourselves. We can observe that it does not feel right or pleasant to be aggressed against. We can logically conclude through observation that others feel what we feel and if we are empathetic we will not aggress against them.
Man is perfectly capable of understanding God’s law revealed in nature and in the imprinted “image” of God upon the mind of man. Because of this, man is able to arrive at the NAP through logical reasoning about his observations of justice and injustice in relation to himself.
“But Natural Man has a futile mind.”
Yes, but only because in his sinfulness he suppresses his knowledge of the truth. In a sense even the most aggressive war-monger understands the Golden Rule deep down inside.
We do not believe in utter depravity when it comes to man’s moral ability to do “good” deeds, we only say that man is “totally depraved”. By degree, man is capable of doing “good” even if only for wrong reasons. God’s universal grace prevents mankind from falling into utter depravity and the chaos that would result. Because of this grace, man is capable of grasping some truth and is not utterly darkened in his perceptive capacity or his faculty of reason.
Thus, it makes sense that would could arrive at the Non-Aggression Principle simply by observing the universe around him. Between the imprinted Law of God on his heart and his observation of others, he could rationally conclude that man ought not aggress against man.
Of course, I would be lying if I said I arrived at the NAP by my own observation, the terminology didn’t exist in my mind as a child or young adult. I only knew it as the Golden Rule. In a way presuppositional apologists got this one right. I started with Scripture and validated the NAP. But as I have demonstrated, it is perfectly possible to embrace the NAP through other avenues. The best thing about scripture is that nature validates scripture.