Non-Aggression or Non-Violence? by Chris Dates

Publisher’s Note: Chris wrote this a while ago but I think it bears repeating. Chris makes the important distinction between pacifism and the act of self-defense. Murder begins where self-defense ends which means that every time the state initiates or condones or subsidizes the murder of human being whether in war, abortion, the statist death penalty or the sadistic and rampant maiming and killing conduct by government police daily. How many times in your travels do you run into the unthinking reactionaries who condemn a religion planet-wide or think taxation is virtuous even though it is based on the creed of the criminal highwayman? How many of your friends and family think voting is fine and the tens of thousands of fellow tax cattle buried deep in the gulag system is a sure sign of law and order? Everyone I just mentioned is an entrenched and committed enemy of freedom and liberty whose collaboration runs in their DNA.

Chris rocks the proposition.

Resist. -BB

How does a person come to hold the belief of absolute nonviolence? What about this belief draws people to it? Is nonviolence the logical conclusion of non-aggression? These are the question that I have been asking myself as of late, because there is a growing number of people within the liberty movement who are latching onto the belief of absolute nonviolence. I’d like to explore this idea, and try to lay out an argument as to why I think it is not only wrong, but also dangerous to adopt this belief.

One who believes in, and adheres to, the non-aggression principle makes a fundamental moral distinction between aggressive violence, and retaliatory violence. One who adheres to a principle of nonviolence does not make the same distinction. Or, perhaps they do, but they see retaliatory violence as violence nonetheless, and therefore wrong, or immoral, or “against God” or something else. It is important to note here that I will not be discussing  non-aggression and nonviolence from a pragmatic point of view, rather I will be discussing these things from a position of principle.

The absolute pacifist paints themselves into a tough philosophical corner. In order to remain consistent they necessarily have to abandon other positions they hold in order to avoid contradictions. For instance, any concept of justice that involves any level of violence must be rejected by one who adopts this belief. It would be a contradiction to advocate for any form of justice that involves capturing and punishing a criminal; any concept of justice that condones the use of physical force to apprehend and contain a criminal must be abandoned. Likewise, any form of government that was not wholly voluntary would also have to be discarded. It may be the case that the entire concept of government will have to be abandoned if it’s not absolutely nonviolent. The only form of government that would be possible if the nonviolent position is adopted is autarchy–absolute self government.

I think it is a non-sequitur to make the jump from non-aggression to the position of absolute nonviolence. I am of the opinion that these beliefs are spawned from two completely different principles. Non-aggression does not presuppose nonviolence, as the person who holds the belief in non-aggression will violently defend the self, while the person who adheres to the belief in nonviolence will not. A person who has chosen to defend themselves using retaliatory violence necessarily believes that their own life is of higher value than a belief in nonviolence. The belief in absolute nonviolence presupposes that the concept of nonviolence is greater than the value of one’s own life. Non-aggresssion is a belief that is founded in the self, and absolute nonviolence is altruistic. This is why I claim it is illogical to jump from one belief to the other, because they are based upon two principles that could not be farther apart from each other. Any person who makes the illogical jump from non-aggression to nonviolence demonstrates a  profound misunderstanding of the principles involved. I believe that even the doubt of self defense would exhibit that same misunderstanding.

Yet, I claim this is exactly the jump that some are making. I think the focus is being placed on the wrong thing. It is true, that, in some cases, nonviolence is a perfectly reasonable tool, and I believe that these particular instances are being mistaken as nonviolence being the correct principle in all cases, but that is a clear error in reasoning. It is important to remember that one who adheres to the non-aggression principle will defend themselves because their ultimate goal is self-preservation. As I mentioned before, non-aggression is premised on the self, and if there is an instance where utilizing retaliatory violence will endanger the self, then, rationally, it ought to be abandoned in that case.

One of my favorite parts in the movie, Rob Roy is the scene where the MacGregor Clan is contemplating on what to do about the feudal landlord thugs who destroyed their home and property. Rob Roy comes to the conclusion that it is more reasonable to not retaliate, because he fears the retribution from the retaliation will be swift and ruthless. He understands that everyone is still breathing in and out, and that property that is lost can be regained except for the self, once that is lost, it’s lost forever. I would like to expand further on this point, because I think it cuts right to the heart of the matter. In this movie scene, Rob Roy demonstrates that even the concept of personal property is not of higher value than one’s own life. One cannot recreate and rebuild if one is not alive.

Where else might retaliatory violence be a bad idea? When one is faced with overwhelming odds it may be reasonable to abandon the use of violence. I don’t think I need to give many examples of this, as I’m sure you, the reader, can think of many instances where you may be out manned, out gunned, out witted, or just simply out classed. Many people in the liberty movement believe that armed resistance to an oppressive government is not the right solution–and I happen to agree with them–but this instance should not be mistaken for nonviolence being universally true. There are many differences between resistance to a rogue government, and resistance to a petty thug.

There is a vast epistemological difference between the actor performing under what they believe to be legitimate government authority, and the actor who has actually chosen to become a thug. The thug is the one who is conceptualizing evil, and bringing it into existence. This may not be the case for the government actor. Even though the end results may mirror each other, the two actors are operating under very different premises. One is bringing evil into existence by way of premeditated thought, and one is bringing evil into existence by following orders.  This is precisely why the use of reason may still be wielded on the government actor with some positive result; they have not yet crossed over into the dark side. There is still hope that there is a human being inside of that mortal coil.  This is why nonviolent resistance to a violent government may be effective. Think about it: Would you nonviolently resist if you knew  the person you were facing was acting out of pure evil? Is it reasonable to do so?

Here is a quote from Martin Luther King that touches on this subject…

“When, for decades, you have been able to make a man compromise his manhood by threatening him with a cruel and unjust punishment, and when suddenly he turns upon you and says: ‘Punish me. I do not deserve it. But because I do not deserve it, I will accept it so that the world will know that I am right and you are wrong,’ you hardly know what to do. You feel defeated and secretly ashamed. You know that this man is as good a man as you are; that from some mysterious source he has found the courage and the conviction to meet physical force with soul force.” (Martin Luther King, Jr. — “Why We Can’t Wait”, 1964, chapter 2, “The Sword That Heals”, p. 30)

Would it be reasonable for one who believes in absolute nonviolence to utilize this same tactic against the home invader in the middle of the night? I do not think so. The home invader has made the conscience decision to carry out this act, and has prepared himself physically and mentally to carry out this crime. This example is light years apart from the government actor who is carrying out orders he perceives to be legitimate. The reason that non-aggression is adopted as a principle and not nonviolence is because the goal is to keep on living with their own life being the highest value.

The person who adheres to the non-aggression principle does not paint themselves into that same philosophical corner the absolute pacifist does. The libertarian will adopt whatever they believe to be the most reasonable choice in any given instance. Some of you may be thinking, “but that’s pragmatic!” No, it’s not, because non-aggression is but a tool for the deeper axiom of self-ownership. This is why the self-owner can use the tools of non-aggression and nonviolence interchangeably, because their axiom is their own life. I cannot say that about the person who adopts the principle of absolute nonviolence as they necessarily believe that there is something greater than their own life, and that is false to fact.

In my opinion, it is dangerous to let this type of thinking creep its way into the liberty movement. When a person desires liberty, what they mean is they desire liberty for themselves. The desire to have liberty in one’s own life drives that individual to advocate that all other individuals also have liberty. The adherence to nonviolent resistance–even at the cost of ones own life– is premised on the idea that there is some greater cause that exists out there other than one’s own life and happiness. This is the exact idea that Statism is premised on. That there is a “greater good” out there, and the individual may have to be sacrificed in the pursuit of this concept. I, the individual, reject this type of thinking, and I believe it is up to the individualists in this movement to defeat this type of altruistic, collectivistic thinking wherever it pops up–even within our own ranks.

“No man is free who is not a master of himself.”

~ Epictetus

23 thoughts on “Non-Aggression or Non-Violence? by Chris Dates”

  1. Boon Vickerson is out there

    In light of the truth Chris contends, non aggression is resistance, non violence is submission. Which to choose is the order of a man. To choose non violence is certainly ones liberty. To choose non aggression is liberty.

    Statism is the ruse of non violence by way of submission of people under its thumb for the profit of a state that employs threat of violence as its only means of justifying its illegitimacy, the very existence of the few over the many. It is a profoundly bloody system of diktat, a cunning contradiction in principles and terms where everyone is conveniently a victim at the pleasure of the few.

    That in itself justifies any means of resistance and defiance in of itself alone. Yet non aggression goes far further, it is more than principle, it is option, it is open ended choice, it demands resistance and defiance if one is to be a freeman. There is no other way for true liberty in all its glory for nothing less is itself the very crux of why statism, the state, its actors can exist to begin with. It is a con so unwholesome it beggars the mind how so many fall for it.

    Non violence in itself for its own sake is consent of violence of the state. A contradiction in terms most foul. It is the ultimate form of subservience entirely suited to tyrants and their power.

    Non aggression is passive aggressive resistance, till it isn’t, it is choice with a caveat. That caveat is the reservation that use of violence is an option in defense of ones life and liberty. That in itself is holy justification, it is legitimate cause of being, there is no higher plane, no greater power of the individual but the hand of God who placed the sovereign will and life of the individual above all else.

    The question which must be asked, and so being, what must be done to secure ones liberty and life, is the question of which is greater, the legitimacy of ones self, ones liberty and life, or the tyranny of and submission to others?

    Give me liberty or give me death?
    Maybe, but a myriad of options remain as resistance has many forms, the essence of freedom to choose, choice, it all comes down to choice. And that is the beauty of being free.

    Give me liberty or in securing life and liberty violence becomes the ultimate option. Drastic? Or necessary? That is each of our liberty to determine.
    The state has no compunction about employing violence as a means. It is the threat of violence which substitutes the state its absence of legitimacy. It is an illusion of monopoly of force illegitimate in every sense of the word. It is the escalation of force to ultimately employment violence against any and all who resist and refuse to comply which flies in the face of reason.
    Where the state and its use of violence is wholly justified, yet a man and his liberty is not justification enough to use the same against force which seeks to deny him his God given sovereign?

    I don’t think so.

  2. Bill –

    This may be a little esoteric to some but I believe in and practice a third way. That is – active, non violent resistance. People usually fall into one of two camps: those that think violence solves problems and those that are pacifist. Now, in the interest of full disclosure I’m a Christian anarchist / voluntaryist / abolitionist (to use your nomenclature). I’ve come to believe that violence doesn’t produce a positive result in any situation. Neither does pacifism.

    I believe Jesus provided a great model for behavior. He was certainly not a patsy despite some perverted church teachings. He stood up to tyranny without resorting to violence. Christians of the first three and a half centuries practiced active non violent resistance until they sold out to Constantine.

    The choice of violence or pacifism limits us to a “fight or flight” mentality while ignoring the middle ground. This middle ground, the third way if you will, can produce amazing results. I’m not under the illusion that it will succeed 100% of the time. However, it is a certainty that violence or pacifism WILL fail.

    Here are some of the characteristics of that middle ground:

    * Seize the moral initiative
    * Find a creative alternative to violence
    * Assert your own humanity and dignity as a person
    * Meet force with ridicule or humor
    * Break the cycle of humiliation
    * Refuse to submit or to accept the inferior position
    * Expose the injustice of the system
    * Take control of the power dynamic
    * Shame the oppressor into repentance
    * Stand your ground
    * Make the Powers make decisions for which they are not prepared
    * Recognize your own power
    * Be willing to suffer rather than retaliate
    * Force the oppressor to see you in a new light
    * Deprive the oppressor of a situation where a show of force is effective
    * Be willing to undergo the penalty of breaking unjust laws
    * Die to fear of the old order and its rules

    Walter Wink wrote about this in a couple of books excerpted here:


    1. David,

      I agree with every point (except the last, I don’t understand it). I am not a traditional religionist BUT I see the value of Jesus as the original insurgent who said any mortal vessel between you and your relationship with God is illegitimate.

      You do me a great kindness by employing the term abolitionist and please use it far and wide, I need no credit for that at all. I think the term really makes the constructs stark and unassailable.


      1. Bill –

        I admit, the last point is a little confusing to me too. My thought is that it relates to how deeply entrenched old thinking is and that we have to relegate it to the dust bin.

        I am more and more using the term abolitionist although most of the time people look like a deer in headlights. It takes some explaining to convey what I mean. You are right, language matters and in the strictest sense I am an abolitionist like you.

        We’ll see how this active non violent philosophy works in a very real way when I go to Palestine in a couple of weeks. I’ll be in a position daily where I’ll have to practice what I preach so to speak. It will be interesting to be sure.


    2. “Third way” is just an original version of Progressive Socialism and was revived into modern politics by the Clintons, Al From and the euros.. just a different name for chains. It is still directly connected to Hillary as well as SI.

  3. In principle the concept of non-violence is a sound one, but only if your opponent shares to some extent your moral code. Too often we project our own moral scruples onto those who do not deserve the benefit of the doubt. MLK’s passive resistance, Gandhi’s fellow example, and the others who act in like vein, operated within moral societies where even those who were discriminated against were still viewed as human. The Jewish people under the NAZI regime were not so lucky. In such an environment non-violence earns you a quick trip to the death-camp and incineration. I submit that the transformation window between the two types of society is VERY small…And that almost 100% of the ruling elite of today belongs to the 2nd type.

    1. That’s the way I see it, GreyStranger. David, your ideas reek of decency and a desire to be rationally human, but the problem IMO is this…

      “Meet force with ridicule or humor.”

      That might be okay on an intellectual level, as in “The ultimate answer to Kings is not a bullet but a belly laugh,” from . But of course, that doesn’t mean when the King’s henchmen are on your doorstep.

      The distinguishing factor of force is that it’s NOT on an intellectual level. Indeed, since humans are creatures of the mind, that’s WHY force initiation is wrong…BECAUSE it’s not intellectual.

      Maybe it’s cuz I’m from Detroit, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that meeting literal force with ridicule or humor is a losing strategy, virtually 100% of the time. The only mitigating factor can be just what GreyStranger says…if the force initiator shares some slice of your moral code. Generally, sadistic thugs do not.

      Great piece, Chris. You’re kickin’, Boon.

      1. Boon Vickerson is out there

        Jim, you guys are tiptoeing around something I think will be like a freight train with no brakes before long.

        Reminds me of Gandhi, he was pretty smart, he knew exactly how to employ non aggression. But here’s the thing, he would have ended up taking the dirt nap first if he tried it with a psychopath like Mao or Hitler. And Ill bet both my testicles it is not beyond the pale of the psychopaths running America. Not for a NewYork minute do I doubt they will do what it takes to keep anyone from attaining the kind of leadership that inspires the little people to revolt.

        Personally, among not a few convenient deaths of potential existential enemies of the Obama regime, Andrew Brietbart found out how non aggression works against a ruthless state. Andrew is not the first.

        Waco comes to mind. What, 125 men woman and children, they was murdered in cold blood. You ever seen the blood dancing photos of various armed badges “law enforcement” agents in trophy shots, standing on the burnt to a crisp remains of children’s carbonized bodies cemented to the floor of the Davidian’s bunker, like a hunter with a trophy buck?

        Ah hello! They used non aggression. This happened in America.

        This happened in America. This happened in America.

        Should I say it again?

        Those Americans, they got the dirt nap.


        Cause they resisted the state.

        Got this to say about it in simple terms. My wife, God bless her soul, says I see the world in black and white. She is kinda right. I see it in liberty, or tyranny. There is no half assed in between. One is totalitarian, no bullshit about it. No such thing as a little bit of tyranny motherfucker.
        The other is total, or it isn’t. There is no such thing as a little bit of liberty. That right there motherfuckers. Anything else is total fucking bullshit.

        Don’t give me any crap about it or tell me how we got to be contrite with madmen who got nothing but contempt for what belongs to us totally.

        I ain’t being mean or hateful. I’m talking straight.

        I’m of a mind, I’m a man who has tolerance, it makes me civilized, a man of reason.

        Here’s the thing:

        My tolerance it is now choice, I’ve made the choice I’m done with tolerance, it has not worked, it has not changed my world, it will not help my liberty, nor my happiness or prosperity. I’ve made peace with this cold reality. Now I’m just trying to understand my choice and what I can do about it and how I can be ruthlessly effective securing my liberty

        Liberty has come to this:

        Don’t fuck with me, I wont fuck with you.

        That is my black and white.


        I’m willing to give anything for it.

        That is how much I believe in it. I don’t have to understand anything else. There is nothing for it but to have it.

        Without abolition there is no true liberty. How can it be otherwise.

        Abolition is like fresh air. It is a drink of cold water in a desert of madness, it is salvation, it is liberty’s savings grace.

        And Jim my friend. You know that great and humble axiom you wrote, about how it all begins with each of us?

        Have this nifty piece for you. Its a dandy.

        God bless us all please your humble sovereigns, for there but the grace of you we go.

        1. Got it, Boon; thanks. I found it inspirational just like your writing, but it brought to the fore that one nagging fact—this is what most people want, at least right now. That’s how it always is with Tyranny, and I just don’t see it changing. Everyone here understands, but so what? People get what they value and right now, the vast majority value the madness.

          I see no possible resolution to that, except to press on regardless. Owing to the nature of Tyranny, I find that plan very wanting, but I can’t think of any others. Basically that’s why I think the only realistic choice is not to destroy what is, but somehow create what isn’t, and let the chips fall where they may. Onward.

    2. GreyStranger, your comment is right on the money, IMO. Non-violence is a perfectly reasonable tool to use, but that tool relies on the enemy one is facing. I’m paraphrasing a quote I heard once, but if MLK, and Gandhi would’ve tried to use their tactics against the NAZIs, their heads would have been floating down the River Rhine.

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  6. Bullshit!

    “Just following orders” was rejected by The Powers That Be after WWII when it was convenient for them (and it was justified then), so it should apply to them fully now.

    The Talmud says “if somoene comes to kill you, rise up and kill him first.”

    I don’t care what costume they’re wearing, I’ll follow that advice every time.

  7. It is possible to take life from a person without killing them. The state actor who is simply “following orders” or passing judgement is worse than the home invader. They are seeking to take life, via unsubstantiated incarceration, without interjecting their own objective thought, reason, morals, etc. At least the home invader is acting through some thought process, right or wrong. The state actor has willingly given themselves over to the state to act on their behalf, for nothing more than a paycheck. Just like the home invader, they have sold their souls.

    Punishing me when I do not deserve it, also punishes my wife, children, family, and friends. Is that fair? Should we all sit idly by and not resist the state actor simply because he may (or most likely not) be redeemed one day? We, and our family’s, pay a price for our lack of resistance, but even the redeemed do not.

    No. Not me. I shall resist any unjust infringements. If you want to sit in jail unjustly, more power to you. I think it is a stupid choice to give up your life like that, because the cops, prosecutors, and judges sure won’t give a shit.

    “Violence, naked force, has settled more issues in history than has any other factor, and the contrary opinion is wishful thinking at its worst. Nations and peoples who forget this basic truth have always paid for it with their lives and freedoms.”
    – Robert A. Heinlein

  8. Men, to include the female species by default, are all animals by nature and the concept of “civilizing” is an attempt to de-animalize potential serfs into a more compliant existence.. breeding out if you will the natural need to free choice.. this is where we find ourselves today, feminized males and dominant females raising confused offspring not sure of how to survive..

    Violence in defense of your own in every sense of the word is justified by default as a natural survival choice by all beings even in those who claim to be civilized and suffer the violence of those they were civilized by.

  9. If an individual offers violence or physical harm to another, the other person should respond with an equal or greater effort. I would prefer my comment not be viewed as religious, that’s not my intent, but going back through several thousand years of society, there’s been only two views that have been the foundation for everything;

    A-the person who observes moral standards such as manners, discretion, et al… and B-the person who doesn’t give a shit about anyone else. The Bible verse isn’t to contradict what I typed above, it’s given as an early example of Rightful Liberty.

    “If a thief be found breaking open a house or undermining it, and be wounded so as to die: he that slew him shall not be guilty of blood.” Exodus 22:2

    Good points from all, thanks for posting this, Bill.

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