Natural law is a concept that stems from human thought process and it pertains to nature of man. Since it is a concept, it doesn’t exist physically. Rather, it is the description of observations a man makes in his nature while interacting with other men. That is, natural law is the result of individual human thought which is based on reason and it cannot be forced. The natural law describes the best ends a man should pursue to achieve a harmony with his nature. The natural law is the objective moral order which can be experienced by any man by using his rational faculty.
While the nature of a man is an evolving concept, there is a basic anatomical, physiological and psychological behavior that binds man from the society and fellow men. This basic nature is based on some objective values that are recognized as good or bad. These objective values are unchangeable and they are determined by the natural law. Thus, natural law is the universal set of laws that are generally accepted by the human society.
The natural law is an objective concept that won’t change, it can be realized only by the virtue of our rational faculty. In order to understand the nature, a man is equipped with his rational faculty that he uses to observe things in general. These observations are based on three classic laws of thoughts that are the law of Identity (A=A), the law of non-contradictions and the law of either-or.
“Natural Law theory rests on the insight… that each entity has distinct and specific properties, a distinct “nature”, which can be investigated by man’s reason” [Murray Rothbard1 ].
Since the natural law begins through the application of reason, it is genuine that our ability to understand and accept the natural law increases as our reasoning abilities increases or progress. Morality is directly based on the natural laws and as we begin to apply reason to understand human natural law in a better way, we begin to accept higher and greater morality. Thus, the social morality at any given time of a society is the ability of individuals of that society to understand the natural laws. Since this understanding varies, the morality varies and hence it seems to be subjective. However, the subjective morality is not the fault of natural law which is certainly objective; rather it is the fault of individuals who commit mistake in conceptual identification of natural laws. The closely accurate an individual understands the natural law, the higher morality he accepts.
Non Aggression Principle or Non-Initiation of Violence
Society is a human construct that doesn’t exist, but the individuals exist and they interact with each other through reasonable negotiations instead of initiation of force or violence. That is, human interactions are not obligations; rather they are voluntary in nature. To elaborate more, individuals cooperate with each other through mutually beneficial contracts to promote harmonious civility and to develop complex cooperative inter-relationships between individuals. Initiation of violence is simply against natural law because it cannot lead to harmonious ends. Without initiating violence, individuals can construct a civil society based on free voluntary contracts. Such a voluntary society will remain free of theft, enslavement, and manslaughter unless an individual or a group of individuals decide to initiate violence. However, each individual can attain maximum chances to invest their labour to produce wealth through natural resources that will help in creating a better, stronger and developed free voluntary society. Initiation of violence is certainly against reason.
Initiation of violence is thus corruption of natural law which is due to faulty reasoning of people or group of individuals that leads to a diseased society which is not harmonious. Such a society based on initiation of violence cannot sustain the best interests of all Individuals because such a society is strictly against the natural laws. Natural laws can only be corrupted or diminished by the initiation of violence or through the false belief that one’s best interest can be achieved through submission to a group. Such a diseased society that is based on initiation of force or on the belief of Individuals that they can achieve better ends by submitting their freedom to a collective group cannot sustain itself and is meant to crumble against its own collective weight. Such a society is based on immoral principles or inaccurate or corrupt natural laws.
Thus, a voluntary society that is based on the principles of natural laws and hence, the individual liberty to pursue their interests and to apply their rational faculty to develop the reasoning ability and morality shall be the most harmonious, and lawful society at any given time. Any corruption of natural laws that allows initiation of violence is certainly enough to destroy such a society.
What are natural Rights?
“The source of man’s rights is not divine law or congressional law, but the law of identity. A is A—and Man is Man. Rights are conditions of existence required by man’s nature for his proper survival. If man is to live on earth, it is right for him to use his mind, it is right to act on his own free judgment, it is right to work for his values and to keep the product of his work. If life on earth is his purpose, he has a right to live as a rational being: nature forbids him the irrational.” (Atlas Shrugged)
The natural rights are derivatives of natural law. Natural rights are the concept that suggests what should be the position of an individual within a civil society that is based on natural law and not on initiation of violence. That is, natural rights are the concepts of a Voluntaryist society that defines the freedom of an individual to act in his best interest. Natural rights suggest that a man cannot be compelled or forced or interfered by other men to pursue a goal.
The basic Individual rights of a free society are2 :
The right to life: (Freedom from the initiation of violence/force/aggression)
Reasoning: In a society, any man who is worried about his physical well being due to external threats of violence or aggression from other individuals will fail to employ his mind and efforts to attain their best interests. Rather, he will have to devote all his energy to protect himself against the oppressors. This will reduce his productivity and it will also harm the oppressors because the potential of such a society to produce wealth will be largely reduced. On the other hand, in a voluntary society, every man will be free to devote his rational faculty and efforts to produce the maximum according to his ability and skills. This will not only enrich him but since he is associated with a Voluntaryist society, the whole society will enjoy greater harmony, order and progress.
Self Ownership: (Freedom from Enslavement):
Self-ownership is derived from the right to life which expresses freedom from enslavement. Self ownership simply means that an individual owns himself and no other person can own any part of his personality. If a man submits his own self to collective society, he reduces his ability to use mind to achieve his best ends. This again reduces his potential to produce and achieve the best. Self-ownership also represents the man’s right to the product of his labour. If he doesn’t own himself and is forced to apply his own body and mind to work and produce for others, or if he is forced to offer a part of his fruits of labour to other individual or a group of individuals, then he will have no or reduced incentive to produce maximum he can and he and the society as a whole lose the long term achievements of creative efforts of individual.
The Right to Property: (Freedom from Theft)
The right to property is again derived from the right to life and self-ownership. Since a person owns himself and he has an innate right to life, he is responsible for sustaining his life through his own efforts. The right to property is the only means to implement right to life and self-ownership.
If an individual or a group of individuals is allowed to confiscate or claim access or control over other’s property or a share of it, no one will have an incentive to invest their efforts and resources to produce wealth and property. Such a person will actually be enslaved to produce for others and hence, he will fail to apply his mind to its best.
Objective morality is the acceptance of objective natural law and natural rights or the Non Aggression Principle. The source of Objective morality is the law of non-contradiction and the law of either-or.
The non-initiation of violence or the non-aggression principle is the objective morality that suggests that we control and have sole authority over our bodies, mind and lives. If non-initiation of violence or non-aggression is true for us, it must be true for others as there cannot be contradiction of logic. In order for an idea to be objective it must apply to all people in the same way so if we believe in self-ownership then it means we do not have control or authority over others.
This basic easy simple to understand principle is true for all people at all time and defines what objective morality is for all people.
Any act is MORAL as long as long as the act does not violate the right to life, right to property and self-ownership of any other individual. As long as we do not initiate violence in order to try and take over this control and authority of an individual, the act is not IMMORAL. Any mutually voluntary agreement or act is not immoral EVER. Whether it is moral that is up to the individual. Some call this Non Aggression Principle, other call it self-ownership and still others call it Universally preferred behavior but they all basically boil down to as Larken Rose3 puts it:
“I own me and you own you I have no right to take your time, your efforts, or your property, unless you voluntarily choose to deal with me. And the reverse is also true. However many people you get together and whatever you call your club, a gang, a government or a soccer team, you have no right to take what is mine unless I choose to give it to you. We can make any deal that is agreeable to both of us, but no one has the right to take what I produce, what I earn, and what I have acquired by trade, without my consent.”