Mental Levers

Mental Levers

Zero Aggression Principle
The Zero Aggression Principle (ZAP)*  is the key libertarian idea. It says — Don’t threaten or initiate force, or ask politicians to do it for you. This means…

Libertarians want to create a world where governments never initiate force, even for good intentions. Governments must only use force defensively — to serve rather than rule. If this idea attracts you then please join us. Subscribe! And share this page with others!

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* – Zero Aggression Principle and the acronym ZAP were first coined by L. Neil Smith as an alternative name for the Non-Aggression Principle with its too pacifist-sounding, lethargic acronym, NAP.

Comments 19

  1. I am trying to apply this to my life. I just commented on my friend’s Facebook page. Her son is gay and she posted something about Christian bakers and making wedding cakes. I was just going to ignore it at first but I went back and made a comment (knowing that it wouldn’t probably go very well!) saying that why would you want to force somebody to bake a wedding cake (or anything) if they didn’t want to do it? I felt that there were plenty of folks who would bake you anything you wanted and didn’t care if you were gay or whatever..only if you could pay for it. She replied that it set a precedent – what if restaurant owners refused service to gays, or Asians, or anybody of a different race or religion and I replied that they probably wouldn’t be in business for very long.
    I know that there are other folks, just like me, out there that you are educating and we are trying to steer discussions this way. I just want to keep you encouraged. Thank you!

    1. Good job Lisa. I think one importance of the freedom of association, which includes the freedom to NOT associate, is that it makes visible who the bigots are. Now, I’m not saying that people who don’t want to cater gay weddings are bigots. That issue is a bit more complicated, given the religious angle. But it works the other way too, just as you say. Why would you want to give your gay wedding business to people who disapprove of you?
      When it comes to racial issues things are even more clear, or should be. I would like to know who the racial bigots are, so I can punish them by NOT giving them my business.
      I think people get confused. Just because it was right to oppose government enforced segregation does not mean that it is right to use government force in the other direction, to forbid all discrimination. We discriminate when we choose sexual partners. Should that be outlawed? We need to keep working to help people think through these issues. And we will continue doing so. Thanks for the encouragement.

    2. As a 63 year old trans-grandmother, who is trying to rebuild my county LP as chair pro tem, I often talk to other members of the local LGBT community. I tell then I fail to understand why they wish to force someone to profit from doing business with them when they are opposed to our existence. This usually gets them thinking pretty hard. They just have not thought of it in that way before. Personally, I’d rather deal with someone who supports us and am willing to pay a bit more to do so.

  2. This is probably the most blatantly ignorant stance I have ever seen. You call it leveraged thinking, I call it brainwashing and indoctrination. You aren’t promoting free thinking, or even active thinking, merely thinking along lines established by your own agenda.
    I have an IQ near 160.
    I’m an outstanding critical and abstract thinker.
    I would no more engage in what you call “leveraged thinking” than I would any other type of indoctrination or limits on my own thought processes.
    You’ve shown nothing about how your process has any real benefits other than the subliminal coercion to think like what you refer to as a Libertarian… kinda Jonestown stuff, ya know.

    1. Hi Hardy. Your argument contradicts itself. You say that you’re an outstanding critical thinker, and yet, critical thinking uses exactly the kind of mental tools that we’re talking about, and that you’re disparaging. Critical thinking uses rules — rules of logic and rules of evidence. That’s what theories are too. We develop theories to explain what we observe in nature, and then apply those theories. Rules of logic, rules of evidence, and scientific theories, are all mental levers. If, as you claim, you don’t engage in leveraged thinking, then you are NOT, as you claim, outstanding at critical thinking.

    1. Hello again Hardy. Once again you are failing to live up to your own claim that you are excellent at critical and abstract thinking. You equate persuasion with slavery. The two are not the same — they are opposites.

    2. Hardy, it is critical to teach people *how* to think. You confuse this with brainwashing, which is teaching people *what* to think. The ZAP advocates are not teaching you what to think.
      If you can come up with some logical refutations for the arguments and facts presented here, please, we would love to read them.
      Until then, you have not offered any real criticisms and mostly appealed to your own authority.

  3. I’ve always seen the folly of the argument put out there by gays demanding they be catered to by whoever they chose to do business with. It has always appeared to me that it is the gay person in that situation who is the bigot and the aggressor while the other person is just trying to run their life according to their own ideals that harm no one save for offending or hurting the feelings of a handful of gay persons.
    The gay community tries to equate the sexual preference they are born with to racism that black people are sometimes subjected to. But when blacks or gay persons act in a racist or bigoted manner they will claim that it is impossible for them to do so because they are black or they are gay. I call BS on that argument all day long. Just because you are black does not mean you can not be racist. If you are black and do something racist they will argue against you all day long saying they can’t be because they are black, and that is the stupidest argument I’ve ever heard in my life. Now gays are also using this stupidest of false arguments to try and win the arguments when they are the aggressor doing something bigoted. These things are encouraged by some sources of prominent media outlets and by the respective communities of the blacks and gays. Please don’t think I mean to just single out blacks comparing in this example, it also is meant to encompass any person of their race that acts that way against others who are not of their race or may be the same race but are gay. It does not include white race because whites are covered by default as being the racist ones by all other races so so called reverse racism is an impossibility.

    1. Hi Matt. We support the freedom of association. No one should be forced to associate or do business with anyone. This approach has two advantages. First, it respects individual conscience. Second, it exposes bigots to public view. If I know that someone will not serve black or gay people I will punish that person by not giving him or her my business. The contrary approach, of prohibiting discrimination, hides the bigots from public view, and prevents consumers from punishing them for their bigotry.
      A different standard must apply to The State however. When The State discriminates freedom of conscience is destroyed, and all are forced to behave like bigots, even when they are not.

      1. Great point about the State, Perry. Your points concerning individual conscience and exposing bigots is well taken, as well. Would you say that a Christian, Muslim, or Orthodox Jewish baker is bigoted if they would serve a gay couple anytime except for a wedding ceremony? Or would that be a reasonable way to deal with the issue of conscience and freedom of faith (religion, if you prefer), especially if the baker went out of his(or her) way to refer the customer to a gay wedding supporting baker who would offer the same price? These are some of the issues being dealt with due to the Supreme Court’s ruling.
        Frankly, I believe that neither side is likely to convince the other of the rightness of their cause. In such cases, both sides should, ‘live and let live’ and respect the other’s beliefs.

      2. Freedom of association is acceptable up to a point – that point is when a service or product is essential. In the 1940s, a black person driving across the country may literally DIE if a gas station owner were to refuse to provide him gasoline which was seen as the station owners right at that time. Thus we got the public accommodation laws, where hotels, hospitals, and certain other public essentials were required to provide service to all people regardless of gender or race.
        Baking a wedding cake, or hosting a wedding, is clearly not an public essential service or product. But issuing a marriage permit _is_ (at least as long as a force initiating government requires said permit for a variety of things). Likewise if you are the only grocery store in 50 miles you can not refuse to sell to a person for almost any cause that wouldn’t get that person locked up anyways (not that you have to give them any better price than anyone else….)

        1. JJ,
          If you agree that freedom of association is acceptable, up to a point, and your “point” is “essential products and service”, you appear to also be saying that coercion is acceptable up to a point. You can’t say that non-aggression is the right way for almost all products and services but these other products and services we have to force people to sell them to people. It’s not logically consistent. Either aggression is required, either a little bit or a lot, or non-aggression is required, all or nothing.
          I understand where you are coming from. You feel that some products and services are so important to human beings that they should never be denied to anyone willing to pay for them, even if that means aggressing against them to get them to comply. While, it is true, that some products and services are required for the continuation of life, such as food, water, shelter, and security, these products and services don’t exist in a vacuum. Just because A doesn’t want to sell gas to a person with dark colored skin, doesn’t stop B from starting up his own gas station and selling only to people with dark colored skin.
          It was true in 1940’s United States that a person with dark colored skin couldn’t start their own gas station. The State, and some people, were willing to aggress against a person with light colored skin to even allow dark colored skin people to use their gas station. The State was willing to use violence to make sure that the majority held opinion of the day was upheld, even though they wouldn’t have had a problem with a dark skinned person owning and operating a gas station that served only dark skinned people (providing, it was so far away from light skinned people that they didn’t have to see it). This is a logical inconsistency with bigotry. As long as a bigot can’t see it happen, it doesn’t bother them.
          If you initiate force against someone, whatever the reason, you’ve also agreed that they can also initiate force against you, for whatever their reason. This is the problem of having the State. If you think your cause is good enough to initiate force against someone, eventually, someone will convince enough people that what you are doing requires the initiation of force against you. The only logically consistent principle is that no one has the right to initiate force against anyone.

          1. I agree with Forrest…the principle of non-aggression does not get overridden by circumstance, even though you present a sympathetic argument about a retailer denying food gas, etc, when they are scarce. The gas station or store owner has no obligation to be in business or to exist for anyone else, although he will not survive if he does not serve the public well. If I was refused service out of bias to my detriment, I might choose to tweet, youtube, facebook post, etc, the hell out of it, and it would be a rare station/store that could withstand the kind of powerfully negative public opinion that would ensue. In the extremely unlikely condition of a true life and death circumstance when minutes or seconds made the difference, I might choose to violate the law and take what I needed, and let the courts decide who was more at fault. The likelihood of such a circumstance is quite remote and does not outweigh the incredible moral advantage and benefits that would come from a full recognition of the NAP.

          2. Gary is just arguing consequentialism, but the ends don’t justify the means. We have to respect individual choice, and freedom to associate or dissociate are inalienable rights. Even if it means refusing to serve gasoline or food to a person of color, even if their lives depended on it. For if you open that door, you open the door to slavery (now people can be forced to labor for others because of *need*).
            And as Forrest pointed out above, nothing occurs in a vacuum. Removing the aggressive force of the state from our lives means more choices, more opportunity, and less institutionalized violence. People of color may open their own gas stations and grocery stores without fear of government prohibition, and can compete on a level playing field. So it works both ways.
            Is it perfect? Does freedom to associate/dissociate guarantee fair outcomes and a banishment of bigotry and racism? No. But it’s a set of first principles that must be adhered to no matter what, and we work to solve the problems of society *within* that framework.

          3. Sorry, I am going to continue to disagree.
            there are too many places in this country where a refusal of service (something one could not know ahead of time) could spell literal death.
            Since, as things are, certain businesses require licenses in order to be such a business it is a trivial additional requirement to have as part of their license a caveat that essential services provided by a business be available in spite of any choice of accommodation. No one has to run a business that provides such services thus there is no ‘slavery’ involved as long as the rules don’t change without notice (which is why I am against the bakery decision).
            Should we ever have a society more free of government interference like business licenses I am certain that industry organizations could form that would include such anti-discrimination language (AAA approved gas stations, AMA approved hospitals, Etc.) No one would be forced to be a member but everyone would know that the KKK approved gas stations meant discrimination and the AAA ones meant the reverse, and maps of such things would be available and signs clearly posted. No sneaking discrimination that would strand my grandfather for a week because the gas station refused to sell fuel to a mixed race couple.

  4. Your two principles of ZAP thinking are something I adopted over two decades ago after contemplating the nature of inalienable rights as discussed in the Declaration of Independence. I concluded that since government is the power to use force (aggression), meaning that it is used to deprive people of life, liberty and/or property, then the only moral use of force is to counteract people who use force against others. Thus, government should never initiate force, that is, to compell someone who has not tresspassed against the life, liberty or property of another to do anything. And, the moral standard I chose to what I’m willing to support government doing is what would I be willing to use force to compell my own children to do. Which means there is very little of what government does that I consider moral.
    Thanks for putting these ideas down so clearly for others.

  5. I was musing about the ZAP and other’s political positions being portrayed in music, in particular, John Lennon’s Imagine. There are quite a few things in the original version of the song that don’t quite fit my vision of America, so I revised it:
    Imagine no TSA,
    Harassing when you fly.
    No wands, and scanners gone
    patdowns will end, hassles too.
    Imagine all the people
    traveling, being free
    Imagine no police state,
    it isn’t hard to do.
    Police men serve, not dictate
    as they once tried to do
    Imagine moral people walking with out fear
    You may say that I’m a dreamer
    and that this cannot be won
    I hope someday we come to freedom
    and the State will be undone.
    Imagine all the parties,
    Atheists, Christians too,
    setting aside their bias,
    not seeking ways to rule
    Imagine all the people letting others be-ee
    You and I, we are both dreamers,
    In world where rights seem done,
    We hope someday we can restore them
    and we’ll ZAP the State as one

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