Albuquerque Libertarian Examiner: Is the ZAP a principle?
A dear online friend and I have discovered a difference of opinion. She thinks The Zero Aggression Principle is a "value judgment" rather than a "principle", and doesn't think too highly of it in any case.
To bolster her point, she uses Black’s Law Dictionary's definition (copied from her blog): “Principle, A fundamental Truth or Doctrine as of Law. A comprehensive or doctrine which furnishes a basis for legal determination. A Truth or proposition so clear that it cannot be proved or contradicted, unless by a proposition which is still clearer.” Personally, not being a lawyer, I would say the ZAP still qualifies.
I used Dictionary.com to look up "principle" and found this: "an accepted or professed rule of action or conduct". I think the ZAP qualifies. I accept and profess the ZAP as a rule for my action and conduct. It even fits with the other definitions as well: "a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived". I derive a great deal of truth from the ZAP. Such is the difference in a "legal definition" and a regular definition, I suppose.
So moving onto other questions, she says a principle can not vary, while a value judgment varies from person to person. I honestly can't think of a single example of a "principle" that every person on this planet accepts. And I have tried. The only thing I can see concerning "consistency" is that for me personally, the principle that it is not right to initiate force never varies. No matter whether I think it is in my interest at this moment to do so or not. If I go ahead and initiate force I will consider myself in the wrong and will accept my consequences. Someday there may be a situation extreme enough that I will make this choice, but it would still be wrong of me to do.
In fact, I would be so bold as to think that this principle may very well apply equally well in extraterrestrial societies. Would other planets have moralities so different that things that are wrong here would be right there? Probably. Different biologies would call for different moral realities. I can imagine a great many different moral codes, some that would be repellent to just about any human. But try as I might, I can't imagine any society that would think initiating force - attacking others of their own kind - is right. Any society where this is a widespread idea wouldn't survive (not that this proves anything other than the usefulness of the ZAP, of course).
Even among humans we normally see this as wrong for everyone - except for governments in the opinion of statists. This "exception" is a small enough proportion of the actual population that it hasn't doomed us to extinction. Yet. It has just retarded our civilization a great deal; keeping us centuries, or possibly even millennia, behind where we would otherwise be without this millstone slowing the progress of human civilization.
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