A Biblical Defense of Anarcho-Capitalism: “Property Rights and the NAP”

In a previous post (found here) I very briefly laid out the Biblical basis for the ANCAP system of non-government. The next step will be to describe and support what could be termed as the two pillars of Anarcho-Capitalism; private property rights and the non-aggression principle (referred to as NAP). This post will be somewhat more lengthy, due to the large amount of ground that needs to be covered if a blog such as this, limited as it is, is to accurately convey and defend these two principles.


Property Rights

     We shall start with a definition of terms. A property right can be defined as: “the exclusive authority to determine how a resource is used, whether that resource is owned by government or by individuals.” A good example of a property right at the public level would be a national park. The Federal government claims property rights over an area of land and can restrict access.

Private property rights operate with the addition of two principles. Firstly would be “full and free access to the services of the resource”.  So, for example if a landlord has full property rights to an apartment building, he or she could determine which units to rent out, who to rent units to, what to charge for rent, etc. Another good example of access to the services of a resource would be the owner of a vehicle. Your neighbor, for example, has no authority to come to your house and demand use of your vehicle. You as the owner decide who uses the vehicle, when they use it, the stipulations of use, and all other factors associated with access to the services of the resource. The second principle would be that as the owner of a resource with full property rights, you have the right to sell, rent, or delegate any portion of your rights by way of gift, exchange, or sale at any price you as the owner see fit. Using our above mentioned example of the owner of a vehicle, he or she could sell or rent their property rights to the vehicle to another individual, provided the second individual is willing to pay the agreed upon price. When you sell a vehicle to someone, there is an exchange of the car itself, but on a more basic level you are selling your rights to access and use of the vehicle. A link to a more full definition of property rights will be provided in the footnotes of this post for any that are interested.

The affirmation of full and free private property rights distinguishes the ancap system from all other systems of government. Even our current system in the U.S. does not affirm full and free private property rights, and in a socialist system whether guided by a central government or not, full and free private property rights are deemed anathema.



The Non-Aggression Principle

     The NAP can be defined quite simply as: “aggression is inherently illegitimate”.  To flesh this out just a bit; aggression of any kind is not allowed. Violence and threats of violence are immoral and unacceptable with the caveat that violence used in self defense, or defense of another individual is allowed. This is not pacifism in the extreme, but does not allow for pre-aggression of any kind. To get into the particulars of how the NAP might apply in the plethora of situations that arise in the course of life is not within the scope of this post. A simple groundwork being laid will suffice. A link will be provided in the footnotes for those that wish to pursue a bit further.

Moving on from our defining of terms, let us deal with private property rights. It should be stated at the outset that ultimately

“The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains,
The world, and those who dwell in it.” – Psalm 24:1

Even when Israel was given the promised land, Yahweh made it very clear the land was his:

“The land, moreover, shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are but aliens and sojourners with Me.” – Leviticus 25:23

     We are simply stewards of that which belongs to Yahweh. That being said, scripture affirms that which we come by rightfully does indeed belong to us. For what is the eighth commandment in Deuteronomy but “thou shalt not steal”? In order to steal from someone, ownership of a thing must be presupposed. There is quite a bit of Old Testament Law devoted to private property rights, what to do in case property is damaged or stolen, under what conditions certain punishments or compensation is to be made, regulations for reimbursement, and the like.

In the New Testament, we have the story of Ananias and Sapphira wherein Peter states

Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back some of the price of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not under your control? Why is it that you have conceived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.” – Acts 5:3-4

     It is clear from the text that the sin of Ananias was not that he held back his property from the community, but that he sought to misrepresent his gift as being the entirety of the money he received from the sale of his field. So we have seen, in plain writing, the affirmation of private property rights in both the Old and New Testaments.

     Moving on to the NAP, I find it unnecessary to defend the tenant of the NAP that prohibits pre-aggression using scripture. That acts such as murder, rape, theft, and threats of these kinds of actions in a coercive manner are sinful is plain to see. There might be an attempt at some Christian arguments for pre-war from a utilitarian worldview, but that will be the subject of another post. There might also be a case made for extreme pacifism, and it is this thinking I will address here. Self defense, and the protection from harm of others allowed within the NAP can be defended biblically from the following scriptures:

“Rescue the weak and needy; Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked. ” – Psalm 82:4

“If a thief be found breaking up, and be smitten that he die, there shall no blood be shed for him.” Exodus 22:2

And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,  and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’ – Ezekiel 33:1-6

     This passage in Ezekiel illustrates the necessity to warn others of impending danger. While the use of lethal force in defense of others is not explicit in scripture, wisdom in these situations, should they arise, coupled with the principles taught in scripture to protect the innocent, execute justice, care for the widows and the orphans would lead me to believe that the use of lethal force in the defense of another is allowed in certain situations. As disciples of Christ, we should not default to a position of aggression, even when being executed in self-defense or the defense of another. We should seek for peaceful resolutions as a primary course of action whenever possible,  but we should not do this to the suffering of others. There is no command that one must use force in defense of themselves, but whenever possible, we should look to defend the innocent. The matter becomes even more clear when a man starts a family. As a husband or a father, we are charged with the defense of our families and with their protection.

     In summary, we can see the strong biblical support for both private property rights, and the NAP. The property or resources we rightfully come by do in fact belong to us and we are free to do with them as we see fit, keeping in mind of course, that everything belongs to the Lord and we are only stewards. This does not give another human, or any government agency the right to lay claim to that which we are in charge of. The NAP does the best job of describing the morality that a follower of Christ ought to be striving towards. Violence and threats of violence towards another are prohibited. Use of force for self-defense and for the defense of the innocent is allowed in certain situations, according to the wisdom and guidance provided by the Lord.

Property Rights





Ep. 566 Why Are Some Libertarians Rejecting the Nonaggression Principle?


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