“The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably not true. It is the chief occupation of mankind.”
~ H.L. Mencken
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.