Defamation is Not Aggression, Ergo, Not a Crime

Tom Wood’s is absolutely correct when he laments that today’s young libertarian is just not studying the classics, the theorists that came before. Here’s one recent anecdote of someone who can’t even properly define aggression in the libertarian sense, which mistake confuses him into believe that defamation is a crime which should be legally prohibited. Judge for yourself. u/Sui_ci_de (who calls himself a “LaVeyan Ancap”) began with: “He’s talking about slander (and libel), not free speech.”


Skyler: Libel and slander are free speech. Defamation is not a crime under libertarian theory because you don’t own your reputation, which only exists in the minds of other people.

Sui: Wrong – https://donotpay.com/learn/slander-vs-freedom-of-speech/ + You don’t get to define what is and isn’t a crime under libertarian theory. Have a good day.

Skyler: The entire basis of the claim is centered around reputation. If reputation is unowned then damaging reputation is not an act of aggression. Only acts of aggression (uninvited force) are crimes under libertarian theory because only acts of aggression may be responded to with force. The same mistake is made when people claim that ideas are property and that copying an idea (piracy) is a crime. It’s not.

Sui: Intangible assets exist, that shit’s basic economics. Duckduckgo “good will” if you have to be convinced of even that, i’m not going lower than this.

aggression

n. Hostile or destructive behavior or attitudes.

It’s acting on that, not with a physical assault, but it’s still acting on aggression. He’s fully entitled to respond in kind/equal force.

Silly comparison. Piracy doesn’t remove anything, it merely copies and potentially lowers the chance of a purchase (although in reality it often has the opposite result, if the intellectual property’s worth the requested amount at least). Attacking someone’s character/personhood and trying to demonize them into some predefined enemy class/otherwise dehumanize them is removing something. It’s an attack, just like falsely accusing someone of something horrible like pedophilia is an attack. There is measurable harm caused through defamation.

Skyler: Nobody’s saying that it’s not a shitty thing to do, but it’s not aggression in the libertarian sense, an uninvited physically forceful act, a physical trespass. You haven’t demonstrated that it is, and so you may not respond to it with physical force or else you become the aggressor. Respond in whatever way you can except with physical force, and you’re fine.

“Harm” is not and cannot be the standard. Convincing my girlfriend to leave me and be with you harms me. Painting your house a vomit texture harms me. Calling me a bad name harms me. None of these are aggression, so therefore none of these are crimes.

Sui: Find a unified definition of aggression “in the libertarian sense”. I’ll wait. In the meantime i’ll stick with the dictionary definition. The intent is to cause harm, if it causes harm it’s an act of aggression. It doesn’t need to be a physical action, only the results need to be so they can be proven.

“Calling me a bad name harms me.” Aw petal, I had no idea you were so delicate! I’ll just leave you to your safe space and coloring crayons, ok?

Skyler:

The intent is to cause harm, if it causes harm it’s an act of aggression. It doesn’t need to be a physical action, only the results need to be so they can be proven.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, what matters is that the response is proportionate to the action. Responding to non-violence with violence (or non-force with force) is disproportionate. By your logic, I may punch (or murder?) anybody who calls me a poo-poo face and hurts my feelings. Simply put, you are wrong. Aggression, according to every libertarian theorist I’ve ever read, is an uninvited act of physical force against person or property. Defamation does not qualify as an uninvited act of physical force against person or property, and so may not be responded to with the like (which is what prohibition laws do). It would be disproportionate.

You are committing a fallacy of equivocation by defining aggression in a way that doesn’t allow for retaliatory force and then claiming that defamation (or name-calling, or breaking hearts, etc.) is aggression and should be prohibited by law (force) as a crime. You are wrong.

Sui:

Responding to non-violence with violence (or non-force with force) is disproportionate

Strawman.

Aggression, according to every libertarian theorist I’ve ever read, is an uninvited act of physical force against person or property.

Citations (you’ve actually expanded how many citations are necessary by exaggerating the claim) required.

You are committing a fallacy of equivocation by defining aggression in a way…

I didn’t define it, I don’t write dictionary definitions.

You are wrong.

Sure. Sticks and stones may break my bones but WORDS CAN REALLY HARM ME, OK GUIS PLEASE STOP OR I’LL TELL MY MOMMY.

Exaggerated for lulz, but you provided the joke so thanks 🙂

Skyler:

Sticks and stones may break my bones but WORDS CAN REALLY HARM ME, OK GUIS PLEASE STOP OR I’LL TELL MY MOMMY.

You betray your position with this sarcasm. You know that words (speech, like defamation) are not aggression, and can’t hurt you in the same sense that a fist to your mouth can hurt you. You’ve lost.

Citations (you’ve actually expanded how many citations are necessary by exaggerating the claim) required.

You’ve obviously never read any libertarian theorists, like Rothbard, Block, Kinsella, Hoppe, Richman, Read, Long, et cetera, or else you’d realize how completely wrong you are about what aggression is. Some company’s dictionary is irrelevant when libertarian theory defines aggression and then uses it as defined. Pick up any introductory book on libertarianism and you’ll find the libertarian definition of aggression, which is fundamental to all libertarian theory. Here are some examples:

https://mises.org/wire/what-aggression

https://mises.org/wire/aggression-versus-harm-libertarianism

https://mises.org/wire/relation-between-non-aggression-principle-and-property-rights-response-division-zer0

https://www.lewrockwell.com/2003/02/walter-e-block/turning-their-coats-for-the-state/

https://reason.com/2015/03/29/how-many-rights/

https://libertarianinstitute.org/articles/is-the-non-aggression-principle-axiomatic/

https://mises.org/library/what-libertarianism

I didn’t define it, I don’t write dictionary definitions.

You are assuming definitions every time you speak and write, and when your argument switches definitions, it’s an equivocation fallacy: https://www.txstate.edu/philosophy/resources/fallacy-definitions/Equivocation.html

Sui: You equated something that falls under free speech, insults, with something that doesn’t fall under free speech, defamation. How cute!

If me saying that your previous statement of being harmed by words is funny to me is somehow me losing, then your previous statement of being harmed by words is a clear surrender.

Mine doesn’t state words can never cause harm, merely insults hurting your fee fees do not. And they don’t cause tangible and physical harm.

Defamation does cause tangible and physical harm though.

Your position is mutually exclusive from words ever doing harm however, yet you’ve already claimed that you think they can. Oopsie! I wasn’t going to take the cheap win before tbh, but as you’ve tried it when it didn’t even apply.. Live cheap die cheap, you forfeit by your own standards. If they can even be called that.

GG little fella. You surrendered, in a round about way, it’s over.

What’s left, bunch of links that don’t matter as you forfeited… Another fallacy, another assertion of me using a fallacy, which don’t matter. As you forfeited.

Skyler:

Defamation does cause tangible and physical harm though.

Define “harm”. Being insulted is “harm”. Losing your girlfriend to a rival is “harm”. Losing value on your house because of an asshole neighbor is “harm”, but none of those are “harm” in the aggression sense. You have failed to make the case that defamation is aggression. You don’t even seem to know what aggression is, in a libertarian sense (the only sense that matters as it concerns politics and law). You can pretend to have “won” all you want. You’ve behaved irrational so far, so keep at it. I’m sure it will serve you well.


It’s a shame that this person is so confused on basic definitions under libertarian (and anarcho-capitalist) theory. Yes, I think Tom Woods is correct, not enough reading and critical thinking of the giants that came before us.

Save as PDFPrint
Liked it? Support this contributor on Patreon!

Written by 

Founder and editor of Everything-Voluntary.com and UnschoolingDads.com, Skyler is a husband and unschooling father of three beautiful children. His writings include the column series “One Voluntaryist’s Perspective” and “One Improved Unit,” and blog series “Two Cents“. Skyler also wrote the books No Hitting! and Toward a Free Society, and edited the books Everything Voluntary and Unschooling Dads. You can hear Skyler chatting away on his podcasts, Everything Voluntary and Thinking & Doing.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
13 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Alex Knight
Alex Knight
10 days ago

Once again, your “adversary” here does a lousy job of defending his position — however, in this case, I agree with you. Up to the point where you equivocate this with intellectual property (a topic you definitely seem to be hyper-obsessed with?). Slander is expression of an opinion/free speech — even when it’s a lie, and stated with deliberate malintent. Taking the invention or idea of another for the purpose of profit (or otherwise) without permission is another matter altogether — you conflate the two in grave error. I have iterated and reiterated my position (and that of other libertarians)… Read more »

Alex Knight
Alex Knight
10 days ago

😀 I might say the same of your broaching of the topic to begin with?

Alex Knight
Alex Knight
10 days ago

And which is why I cited it as a false equivocation. Apples and oranges. An idea is not a “non-scarce pattern of information.” It is the product of an individual mind. So long as one can prove one’s self as the originator of a specific ideation, it qualifies as property. To utilize that without permission of the originator/creator is theft. Mere expression of opinion is not. The lines could not be more clear.

I said I wasn’t going to revisit this, and look at me. 😀

Alex Knight
Alex Knight
10 days ago

“Brains are scarce. What comes out of them are not.” You have that precisely in reverse — which nixes all the rest of your position. Albeit I could go even further: I see no reason why non-scarce resources cannot also qualify as property (though they need not be so in all cases).

Last edited 10 days ago by Alex Knight
Alex Knight
Alex Knight
10 days ago

There is no shortage of dirt. Lots of people can use it at the same time. I call 20 acres of it home, and you are not allowed to use or remove even one teaspoon of it without my permission.

Are you saying I have no claim to my dirt?

Alex Knight
Alex Knight
10 days ago

Ahh…MY dirt, then. Not just ANY dirt?

Alex Knight
Alex Knight
10 days ago

And I’ll leave that right there. Case closed.