Finding Solid Footing
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings
First Steps - The Logic of the NAP
To establish the rationale for the
First we need to determine what we know for certain. One thing that seems irrefutable, at least to me, is that I exist. To borrow from the mathematician Rene Descartes, “I think, therefore I am”. I cannot logically deny my own existence and I suspect you will conclude the same about yourself. Though we may not know why we are here or for how long, we are here now. Our recognition of this reality is where we begin our journey.
What next seems obvious is that we are each responsible for the movements of our own bodies. I can think of a basic action to perform and my body will do it, within reason. No one else seems capable of controlling my body the way I can. I therefore must be the owner, or possessor, of my body. This is the concept of Self-Ownership. Equally important, I cannot control any other person’s body by my thoughts. I therefore cannot rationally assert that I am the owner of anyone else.
On the Move - Human Action
The next thing we discover is that, in order to live fully, we must be free. We are animated beings, not rooted plants.
- To survive, we must be free to move, to procure our food and drink.
- To be moral, we must be free to reason and to choose. We cannot allow ourselves to be ruled by base instincts less we be mere puppets. Neither can we allow ourselves to be ruled by others less we become slaves.
- To thrive, we must be free to reach into the unknown, to feed our mind’s curiosity and to discover what lies beyond.
Whether an infant grasping for a first touch or an elderly person reaching out for a final one, whether or not we even have the capability, each of us has the desire and the fundamental need to move and to be free. Without freedom, our lives are greatly diminished.
Pausing for Reflection
We as human beings are one of the few animals that can recognize ourselves in the mirror. More importantly, we have an innate ability to recognize our fellow human beings and are able to reflect on and consider other people's situations empathetically.
One thing we quickly notice is that we are all in the same predicament. To live we are all compelled to take action, and by necessity we must step into the spaces that separate us. It is here that we encounter each other and discover the need to tread carefully and respectfully.
Negotiating the Outside World
As sole owners of our bodies, we are logically responsible for our own actions. Equally obvious, we each have a rational claim to the products of our labors and can make no claim to the products of others.
In asserting ownership of our individual efforts, however, there are complications. Our productive endeavors require interaction with the world outside, both for a supply of raw materials and as a storehouse for our output. In extending beyond the boundaries of ourselves, we inevitably find ourselves at risk of conflict with each other. With regard to the spaces that previously separated us, the need to negotiate and reach agreements becomes vital.
Harmony and Balance
To deal fairly and peacefully with each other, it thus becomes crucial to establish rules to provide fair and reasonable access to source materials as well as to support each other’s claim to our own productive output. The aggregation of these rules is the concept of "Property Rights".
- The Non-Aggression Principle is based on the concept of Self-Ownership. We are ultimately free to act as we wish but are also responsible for our actions.
- In our interactions with others, there arises a need to provide orderly access to resources as well as protect the products of each person’s labor. One solution is the institution of Property Rights.
Governments devoted to war must work aggressively to override empathy and the natural aversion to killing. This is often done by using propaganda to dehumanize others and to create an atmosphere of fear and anger. For additional details see On Killing: The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman.