I personally find the helicopter and “physical removal” memes the “Alt-Right” produces amusing and funny. They sometimes consist of Chilean dictator Pinochet saying “Go be a Marxist someplace else” and depict someone being thrown from a helicopter. I know it’s morbid, but I have a dark sense of humor. Sometimes these memes show Stefan Molyneux saying something similar (the facebook pages “Stefan Molymemes” and “Not An Argument” are such pages). There is another page called “HHH Physical Removal Service” that is similar in content. Some of these are in jest while some are dead serious about it. Christopher Cantwell is one such individual who is serious; he even offers a helicopter ride hoodie. The ones who are serious are saying that they are justified in “physical removal” through the Non-Aggression Principle. Their argument consists of the following:
- Taxation is theft.
- Theft is violence.
- People who advocate violence are warranting reciprocal force done against them in self-defense.
- Therefore, throwing communists out of helicopters does not violate the NAP.
Sure this sounds “logical” on the surface if one has a misinformed view of the NAP, but it makes a damning logical jump that invalidates it. I have talked at length multiple times here at Logical Anarchy about the concept of Estoppel and its use in arguing for a form of lex talionis justice. Lex talionis is “the law of retaliation, whereby a punishment resembles the offense committed in kind and degree.” Estoppel is a legal term that keeps individuals from making claims they otherwise would be able to make had they not engaged in previous behavior that would contradict the claim. We need to clarify what the purpose is of argumentation is first and Stephan Kinsella does a great job doing so. He says:
“Dialogue, discourse, or argument—terms which are used interchangeably herein—is by its nature an activity aimed at finding truth. Anyone engaged in argument is necessarily endeavoring to discern the truth about some particular subject; to the extent this is not the case, there is no dialogue occurring, but mere babbling or even physical fighting. Nor can this be denied. Anyone engaging in argument long enough to deny that truth is the goal of discourse contradicts himself, because he is himself asserting or challenging the truth of a given proposition. Thus, the assertion as true of anything that simply cannot be true is incompatible with the very purpose of discourse. Anything that cannot be true is contrary to the truth-finding purpose of discourse, and thus is not permissible within the bounds of the discourse…This is why participants in discourse must be consistent. If an arguer need not be consistent, truth-finding cannot occur.”1
The purpose of debate is to find truth and in order to do so we need to have all individuals engaged in discourse to remain consistent in their positions in order for truth to be found. This is common sense but we need to lay this down to understand how estoppel shows where these Alt-Right people go wrong. The way this is shown is in the contradiction that occurs in having force used in response to ideas.
Obviously, the NAP is an ethical principle that only allows defensive force to be used and estoppel further clarifies this by showing how punishment is only justified when it is in the same kind and degree as the violation committed. As an example, let’s say that Jim murders Bob. Bob’s family takes Jim to court for punishment and Jim is found guilty. He is now awaiting his punishment from his peers and the community. Jim decides to protest the punishment (which may be compensation to Bob’s family or his own death, who knows?). This is because he feels that the “initiation of violence” against him in the form of punishment is wrong. Jim, however, would be “estopped” from making such a claim since it is a fact that he initiated violence against Bob when he murdered him. If Jim wishes to condemn the force used in punishing him he must also condemn the force he used when murdered Bob. Because he engaged in violence, he cannot claim that he should not be punished by those advocating for justice on Bob’s behalf (which is defensive force). Therefore, Jim has no choice but to accept the proportional punishment laid on him by the court. The punishment is deemed “just”.
What about another example that can show how estoppel is useful in proportionality as well as showing the illegitimate nature of prosecuting “victimless crimes”? Let’s say Stan lives in an area where the government outlaws pornography. Stan elects to create a pornographic website business anyways because he feels the law is unjust and his pornographic business would be staffed by willing and voluntary employees. His business does not infringe on the person or property of anyone else, therefore, he feels it is within his right to do so. After a few months of business the police break into his home and arrest him for operating an illegal pornographic business. It is well within Stan’s rights to protest the force used against him in enforcing this law. The agents of the state could say “well it’s the law”, but they would be estopped from trying to say that Stan is wrong in this. Stan really has the right to use physical force to defend himself from the authorities and the authorities would be estopped from claiming otherwise since they are initiating violence against Stan and Stan has not previously initiated violence against anyone else. Stan may not have the realistic means to defend himself, but the fact that it is his legitimate right to do so shows that the government thugs are in the wrong.
How does this apply to tossing commies out of helicopters? Well, Lets say that instead of a pornographic website, Stan creates a site that advocates for communism. Does his site threaten the property of others? Sure, he is advocating for violence, but he has not engaged in any as of yet (by say, seizing the means of production). Since he has not engaged in any physical violence, any Alt-Right “libertarian” that would try to throw Stan from a helicopter is giving a punishment disproportional to the “crime”. Since Stan has not become physical himself, he would not be estopped from protesting and defending himself from now offensive force of the Alt-Rightist. And since he is justified in defending himself, because he has not engaged in any previous physical violence that would contradict his claim, the violation of the NAP is shown to actually be perpetrated by the advocate for helicopter rides. So you can see how in the Alt-Right argument presented above, the illogical jump is in the third point that says “People who advocate violence are warranting reciprocal force done against them in self-defense.”
What would Stan’s website warrant? He is making threats of physical force with his claims to other people’s property so the only thing that is warranted is a response in kind. Meaning, “If you come near my property and try to take it against my will, I’ll use an equal amount of force to defend it. And if you attempt to use deadly force against me, you will receive deadly force in return.”
Trust me, I despise communists and left anarchists as much as anyone else. They are morons without a shred of intellectual honesty, but if we sink to the same level as them or the state, punishing people for victimless crimes, how are we any better? If we are going to punish people for what they might do, then we are justified in killing someone like Cantwell who advocates for stricter border control and walls. Why? Because those sorts of things are going to be stolen from us through taxation and funded by initiating violence. And as their arguments point out, taxation is theft and theft is violence. Anyone advocating violence deserves to thrown from a helicopter in self-defense. So that means someone like Cantwell is condemned to death by their own logic. Clearly these Alt-Right people are wrong; the NAP does not allow “Pinochet’s Helicopter Rides and Physical Removal Service” to be justified by it. Like the fake left libertarians, the Alt-Right is just an abhorrent form of statism by another name and flavor.
- Kinsella, S. Punishment and Proportionality: the Estoppel Approach. Journal of Libertarian Studies 12, No. 1 (1996): 51–73.