The Zero Aggression Principle

The late, great libertarian Harry Browne was an original founder of the American Liberty Foundation.  This ended up becoming the Downsize DC Foundation.  For tax purposes, this split into the Downsize DC Foundation and

You can sign up at and there are campaigns to email your so-called representatives in Congress on various issues.  They all seek to downsize DC.  The system makes it easy to do, as you can enter in your initial information and then it is easy to send a message to all three of your representatives with basically the push of a button.

Now the Downsize DC Foundation is initiating a project called the Zero Aggression Project.  At its core, it promotes the idea of the Zero Aggression Principle, or ZAP.

The ZAP promotes the idea that you should not initiate force or the threat of force against others.  Most people follow this in their daily lives, but they fail to apply the same principle to what we call government.

Harry Browne was a big advocate of getting rid of the federal income tax.  He said that if you persuade someone on a single issue such as gun laws or the drug war, then you will just convert that person on one issue and they can’t generalize it to a universal principle.

“But”, Browne said, “when you’ve persuaded someone that we need to repeal the income tax and reduce government accordingly, you’ve gained a new libertarian.”

Harry Browne certainly knew what he was talking about, but perhaps he did not go far enough with this idea of persuading on a universal principle.

The Zero Aggression Project and its core principle of the ZAP are there to persuade people based on purely moral arguments.  It’s primary purpose is not to try to persuade people based on their self-interest.  And interestingly, this seems to work better than utilitarian arguments.  And once you have gained agreement on the ZAP, you have gained a hardcore libertarian.

As the Downsize DC Foundation put it, “This contradicted everything we ‘knew’ about marketing [and] the entire structure of the libertarian movement”.

I believe this is the way going forward to achieve a more libertarian society.  We can argue all day long about this or that detail of each law.  But the way to gain new and principled libertarians on a consistent basis is by hitting people with the moral arguments.

The moral arguments should come first.  After some acceptance is gained, then you can start answering some of the details, or perhaps those interested will just do all of the research themselves.

The Zero Aggression Principle is the way forward.  We have to put a priority on using moral arguments first.

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