NAP: Non Aggression Principle

The non-aggression principle is the beating heart of freedom. Without it freedom is not possible. In order to achieve freedom it’s absolutely essential that we adhere to NAP.


One should not commit aggression.


The initiation or escalation of coercion against others.


Force, threats of force or fraud.

Example 1

If Jack swings a stick at peaceful Jill, Jack is “initiating or escalating” coercion against Jill and thus committing aggression.

Jill using the minimal amount of force necessary to block Jack’s attack to prevent injury is not aggression, because Jill is not “initiating or escalating” coercion.

But if Jill kills Jack and his friends in retaliation, then Jill is committing aggression by “escalating” coercion against Jack and “initiating” coercion against his innocent friends.

Example 2

If Nazi’s show up at Jill’s door and pretend to be Bible salesmen to fool Jill into inviting them in, that’s fraud and an “initiation” of coercion.

But if Jill lies to the Nazi’s to protect her Jewish friend hiding in the basement, that’s not aggression, because the fraud Jill uses to defend her friend is not an “initiation” of coercion.

When I say initiating or escalating coercion against “others”

I’m referring to “other human beings including their body and their property.”


Whether Jack initiates coercion by hitting Jill’s body, stealing Jill’s TV or smashing Jill’s car… he is committing aggression against Jill.

By ”property”

I mean physical items acquired legitimately in one of the following ways…

    • Voluntary exchange with the rightful owner.
    • Voluntary gift from the rightful owner.
    • Homesteading resources that have never been used or have currently been abandoned by other human beings.

In contrast, if Jack steals something, I don’t consider it to be Jack’s property because it was not legitimately acquired in the ways I just mentioned.

By “rightful owner” I mean someone who acquired the property via

    • Homesteading resources that have never been used or have currently been abandoned by other human beings.
    • A mutually voluntary trade with the person who homesteaded it.
    • A series of mutually voluntary trades that can all be directly traced back to the person who homesteaded it.

By “homesteading” resources

I mean putting to use, or mixing one’s labor with something to make it more valuable to human beings.

I can homestead an abandoned field by planting, irrigating and harvesting crops each year throughout that field.

I cannot homestead an entire continent by simply planting a flag in the ground, because at that point I’ve only made use of and thus homesteaded 1 square inch of soil.

Verbal abuse

Personally I believe the initiation or escalation of harmful verbal abuse can be a form of aggression as well.

Humorous insults among friends, comedy, constructive criticism, protests, tough love, saying things you believe that offend others… these are all examples of legitimate expression, and everyone should be free to express themselves as long as they don’t harm others.

But screaming hurtful words at your innocent child is traumatic, may cause mental health problems and does involve a victim. Getting in someone’s face and yelling is an initiation of physical force simply because you’re body is blocking their path. Yelling into someone’s ear may actually cause physical damage. Saying hurtful malicious comments to an innocent spouse day after day is abusive, can adversely affect their health and does involve a victim.

So my advice is to refrain from initiating or escalating harmful verbal abuse as well. Besides I really don’t think it serves any useful purpose.


If Jack gives you consent to hit him, and you hit him, you’re not the one who initiated force. Jack initiated force against himself by giving you consent to hit him. Since he’s initiating force against himself and not against others, he is not committing aggression and neither are you.

If two mixed martial arts fighters both voluntarily sign a waiver so they can fight in the ring for a title belt, it’s not aggression. It’s a mutually voluntary fight. Each fighter initiating force against himself. As soon as one fighter taps out or goes limp, he’s withdrawing consent to continue the fight according to the contract. Any violence after that is aggression, because the attacker no longer has the other’s consent.

What if one act of aggression could prevent a more harmful act of aggression?

Imagine a mass shooter killing innocent people. He’s using a hostage as a human shield and heading toward the entrance of a crowded building. You only have 1 minute to stop him before he enters and kills the people inside. But shooting him will kill his innocent hostage. Do you shoot?
These lifeboat scenarios are great for exercising our brains and stimulating conversation, but they tend to be incredibly unrealistic.

      1. It’s rare to find yourself in the situation described.
      2. You rarely have this kind of omniscient awareness of all characters involved, what they’re going to do next, and what the consequences will be.
      3. Your choices are rarely limited to 2 horrible options. There are typically many options available for preventing the scenario from occurring, and for dealing with it once it occurs.
      4. You’re rarely the only person capable of stopping an act of aggression.

But just for argument sake, how could we deal with this situation?

Freedom requires responsibility. It’s up to you to take precautions and avoid danger so you don’t find yourself in this ridiculous scenario.

Responsibility also means being prepared. Not relying on others to bail you out. You should always carry emergency tools with you. Tools that provide more options for dealing with emergency situations without violating NAP.

  • A video and audio recording device to serve as a deterrent and evidence
  • Less lethal weapons (a taser, pepper spray, etc.) with which to incapacitate an aggressor without risking grave injury to innocent casualties.
  • A smart phone to call for help and aid navigation
  • A first aid kit for saving lives

If none of your preps allow you to resolve the crisis, you still should not kill an innocent person to stop the bad guy. If you really want to be a hero, and you have a weapon with which to stop him, then pursue him until you can without violating NAP. Try blocking his path some other way. Get creative.

Don’t act like a government agent. Government agents often act recklessly with other people’s lives possibly because that’s how they were trained, or because they generally don’t face real justice for the harm they cause. They use the argument that aggression can stop more harmful aggression all the time. That’s the basis for their whole ugly system. That’s how they justified dropping bombs on millions of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That’s not us. That’s not the world we want to live in.

You need to be careful when you use force in defense. Plus, for all you know, in the situation described, there could be someone waiting inside the entrance ready to safely dispatch the criminal as soon as he enters the building.

Don’t act like an action hero who destroys the city, kills the bad guy, and everyone else survives. That’s a fantasy.

I’ll discuss defense against violent criminals in great detail in the HTAF (How To Achieve Freedom) podcast. For now, just realize, if you want freedom in this world, you must take responsibility for yourself. You must do what you can to avoid tragedy. To prepare for tragedy. And if tragedy strikes, you still should follow NAP.

If you violate NAP, you should be held accountable. You should do what you can to make the victim whole again. But if you kill an innocent casualty, it’s impossible to make the victim or his loved ones whole again. In my opinion, that’s an unforgivable crime.

What if an act of aggression is medically necessary to save someone’s life?

Some life-saving treatments have potential side-effects and complications a patient may not want to endure. A patient may not want chemotherapy because of the suffering it causes, or not want CPR because it may break their fragile ribs.

Some religions oppose specific life-saving treatments. Many Jehovah’s Witnesses will not voluntarily accept blood transfusions.

If you perform a life-saving treatment against the patient’s wishes, you are initiating force and thus committing aggression. So to adhere to NAP, you should ask for consent before treating a patient.

If the patient is not mature enough to make their own life and death decisions (a 3-year old for example), then you should ask their guardian for consent to treat the child.

If the patient is mature enough to make their own life and death decisions, you ask them directly for consent.

If the patient cannot speak, you can instruct them to indicate yes or no some other way (blinking their eyes twice).

If the patient is unconscious and there is no guardian, the patient may still be able to communicate their wishes by carrying a medical wrist band or note with instructions on what they do and do not consent to.

If the patient is unconscious, with no guardian, and no indication as to what their wishes are, then the patient is unable to give or deny consent. In this case, you must make a judgment call and live with the consequences.

Personally, if the scene appears to be a suicide attempt, I would respect the patient’s right to do what they want with their own body, and leave them alone.

If there is no clear indication that it’s a suicide, I would assume the patient would give consent if they were physically able, and thus would proceed to treat them, and face whatever consequences result from that intervention.

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