What's Wrong With NAP

"If you are waiting for the government to change, or society to change, or for some program or movement to be successful to find freedom, you will never be free."

What's wrong with NAP? The same thing that is wrong with the Ten Commandments.

[NOTE: NAP is the acronym for the, "non-aggression principle," the view that the initiation of force or threat thereof (aggression) against any other individual or individual's wealth is immoral and is incompatible with civil society.]

All the Ten Commandments, except two, are prohibitions, that is, "thou shalt nots." Of the two that are not prohibitions, almost no one keeps the first, "remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy," and the second, "honor thy father and thy mother," while loosely observed, is not even possible to many people, whose parents have passed away or who, for various reasons, have no idea in the world who their mother and father are. The "shalt nots" are thou shalt not kill, steal, lie, make up your own religion, fornicate, covet, or swear.

True moral principles are neither arbitrary (dictated or pronounced by fiat) nor contingent (dependent on any agency's, whims, or moods). Moral principles, like all truth, are determined by the nature of reality itself; and, like all truth, are discovered, not decided or dictated by anyone, not even a God.

Those who claim there are no objectively discoverable moral values mean they have not discovered any. Human beings have a specific nature and live in a world of a specific nature and it is these facts that determine the moral principles by which human beings must conduct their lives to live successfully and happily in this world.

What is wrong with the Ten Commandments are that they are neither moral or principles.

Morality Determined by Principles, not Codes

The moral systems of the religions all consist of, moral codes, which are nothing more than lists of prescriptions (things we must do) and proscriptions (things we must not do). While many of the things on these lists are things a moral individual would observe, no moral code can possibly be a good ethical system for at least three reasons:

  • Moral principles and a moral code are opposites and contradictory. Moral values are not commandments, they are principles which one uses to judge which actions are morally right in any given circumstance. Morality pertains only to choice. A commandment eliminates choice. Those who accept the authority of commandments (or the dictator who issues them) have removed themselves from the sphere of morality; they exchanged choice for obedience, surrendering their choice to the will of some authority.

  • A Code of any kind takes the place of judgment. Choices are made by applying principles to circumstances to determine the appropriateness of an action. Principles enable one to determine consequences and to base choices on the reality of which actions will produce which results. A moral code eliminates the very essence of moral choice, judgment, by dictating action in all circumstances without regard to consequences or reason.

  • A Code that does not cover every possible circumstance (no code can) provides no means of determining behavior in those cases not covered by the code. There will always be more situations in the life of any human being requiring choices with moral consequences than any code, however extensive, will ever cover. With only a moral code and no moral principles, the individual is left with no moral guidance whatsoever in most of the moral issues of life.

Missing From the Ten Commandments

The point of ethics is to tell us how we ought to live in this world. One of the first things one notices about the Ten Commandments is, except for the two mentioned, they are all negative. It's fine to tell us what we should not do, but, the real question of ethics is, what should we do? To that question, the Ten Commandments provide no answer.

If you tried to live strictly by the Ten Commandments, the only thing you would be required to do is honor your parents and spend Saturday doing nothing (to keep it holy). The Ten Commandments do not require you to do anything else, and so long as you never kill anyone, steal, lie, make up your own religion, fornicate, covet, or swear, you are perfectly moral. Of course, you won't be worth a blessed thing to yourself or anyone else in the world and will starve to death if someone else does not undertake to feed you, but, according to the Ten Commandments, those, apparently, are not moral issues.

NAP: Useless As A Moral Guide

As a moral principle NAP has the very same shortcoming as the Ten Commandments. If one uses NAP as a moral guide, so long as they never initiate force, or threaten to, against anyone else, they believe they are nice moral individuals. Just like those who believe they are moral because they keep the Ten Commandments, a NAPster is not worth a blessed thing to himself or anyone else in the world if NAP is his guiding principle.

The problem with NAP as a moral principle is that it is negative. Real moral principles are all positive so an individual can know what he must do to live happily and successfully in this world, not what he must refrain from doing.

[NOTE: For an overview of true moral principles see "Freedom and Individualism Notes: Principles"

NAP: Useless Social/Political Idea

Philosophical politics is the application of moral or ethical principles to or in a social context. Since NAP is essentially useless as a moral principle for individuals, it is hardly going to have any use in determining ethical social relationships.

The very idea of NAP is an insult to every moral individual. They do not need to be instructed to not do what they would never even imagine doing. An individual who neither seeks or desires anything in life he has not earned or merited by his own choice and effort is never going to be a threat to any other moral individual.

And those who would consider using force are not going to be convinced or deterred by someone else's NAP policy.

Every society is whatever the individuals that make up that society are. For a society of moral individuals, who would never be a threat to anyone else, NAP is superfluous. For an immoral society made up of mostly immoral individuals, all a threat to each other, NAP is simply an attempt to force the immoral to live as though they were moral, and that can only be done by force, which NAP supposedly forbids.