Initiation of Force

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Another deceptive libertarian shibboleth. All property and indeed all real rights are based on violence, coercion, initiation of force. Libertarians claim there is an invisible right to property which magically exempts property from being intrinsically violent. In other words, they deceptively hide the violence they like as a mystical, made-up "right".

The problem with the “initiation of force” arguments of libertarians is that they boil down to “Uses of force that we like are retaliation; anything we don’t like is initiation of force.” Humpty Dumpty couldn’t have said it better himself when he pays words extra to mean what he wants.

For example, libertarians also consider fraud to be initiation of force. How is fraud force? And there is no individual right to be free of fraud: remember "let the buyer beware"? Or do should we make up that right too?

Libertarianism does not shun initiation of force at all: it just calls it retaliation. If a starving man starts to peacefully eat fruit from a libertarian's tree, a libertarian can violently attack him, initiating force, while screaming “My property! Mine!”

Real rights, such as legal property rights, do not attempt to conceal the violence: they have obvious means of enforcement. Philosophical twaddle from Ayn Rand can't hide this simple fact about real life. Which is why "initiation of force" (her term) is deceptive.

Libertarians may claim the idea of initiation of force is widespread in laws in many cultures, but that overlooks the fact that (a) no laws use the libertarian meaning, (b) other cultures' laws conflict wildly and (c) the libertarian meaning is so vague that it can be used to support slavery (as Walter Block and some other libertarians do.)


Libertarians are Huge Fans of Initiating Force [More...]
Matt Bruenig points out the obvious: that initiation of force is a coded term referring to the libertarian theory of entitlement. If you don't buy libertarianism, it is obviously bullshit.
Libertarian pundit Adam Kokesh defends Las Vegas shooters for “not necessarily unjustified violence” [More...]
"[L]ibertarian pundit, gun rights activist and former resident of a D.C. prison Adam Kokesh partially defended the actions of Jerad and Amanda Miller, the far-right extremists who recently killed two police officers, a civilian and themselves in a Las Vegas public shooting."
Violently Destroying Liberty Is Important For Flourishing, Libertarian Argues [More...]
"Thus we can't ever actually be debating about whether we are for or against aggression or coercion. That's ridiculous. Folks on all sides of the debate are for using force that is consistent with their theory of what belongs to whom (called "defense") and against using force that is inconsistent with their theory of what belongs to whom (called "aggression")."
What a World Following the Non-Aggression Principle Looks Like [More...]
Matt Bruenig points out that the "grab-what-you-can world" where people freely expropriate other people’s possessions is the only one where nobody initiates force directly against another person’s body.


[...] it's clear that when the libertarians talk about not initiating force, they are using the word "initiation" in a very idiosyncratic way. They have packed into the word "initiation" their entire theory of who is entitled to what. What they actually mean by "initiation of force" is not some neutral notion of hauling off and physically attacking someone. Instead, the phrase "initiation of force" simply means "acting in a way that is inconsistent with the libertarian theory of entitlement, whether using force or not." And then "defensive force" simply means "violently attacking people in a way that is consistent with the libertarian theory of entitlement." This definitional move is transparently silly and ultimately reveals a blatant and undeniable circularity in libertarian procedural reasoning.
Matt Bruenig, "Libertarians are Huge Fans of Initiating Force"
Non-initiation of force is a phrase which is used to hide the entire baggage of libertarian theory of entitlement. Since every culture has different theories of entitlement, using the same phrase just conceals the basic question of entitlements.
Mike Huben, in comments for "Taxation Is Not Theft"
The appeal of the NAP [Non-Aggression Principle] lies in its apparent simplicity and intuitive plausibility (tautologies tend to be intuitively plausible), but it’s typically deployed in a way that amounts to a kind of shell game: I argue that socialism must be rejected on the grounds that it violates this one simple moral principle, and hope my interlocutor doesn’t notice that I’ve essentially begged the question by baking a theory of strong property rights incompatible with socialism into my conception of “aggression,” when of course libertarian property rights are ultimately backed by the threat of (individual or state) violence as well.
Julian Sanchez, "The Non-Aggression Principle Can’t Be Salvaged -- and Isn’t Even a Principle"
My goal, in the immediate stage, is to force libertarians to stop pretending that things like non-aggression, coercion, and force initiation do anything in the debate. They don't. Since the words get their meaning from an underlying theory of entitlement, the debate is always and anywhere about theories of entitlement. It is not about aggression or coercion or force. All arguments that turn upon those concepts are vacuous and question-begging. All of them.
Matt Bruenig, "Violently Destroying Liberty Is Important For Flourishing, Libertarian Argues"