practice. As an illustration, you and Egoist in the last issue of Liberty consider each the other an aggressor in a certain case.
Is not government really a bungling attempt, but perhaps the best we could do up to this time, to settle the question, roughly and arbitrarily, between parties who each regarded themselves as within their right and the other as the aggressor?
So it would appear to me. Even the land laws and other laws which seem primary are, I think, only secondary. I am not profoundly versed in the history of law, but I am inclined to think that statutes and the generalizations of common law have sprung from the collocation of many individual decisions, each decision being the best that could be arrived at under the circumstances of the time.
If this is at all a fair description of what is,—that is, if law is a rough attempt to draw the line between liberty and aggression, and not a conscious deliberate fraud committed by the privileged upon the oppressed (and I think the notion of the State being "a conspiracy" is as empty as the parallel notion of some of our secularist friends that the Church is a conspiracy of priests),—if the State is the result of attempts to determine the limit of liberty, no theory that dispenses with the State is complete unless it otherwise defines that limit.
The essence of aggression, the reason that it is forbidden, is that it causes pain. Pain, even when caused by, or a concomitant of, properly limited liberty, is in itself a wrong,—an antagonist of personal or social progress. If aggression were uniformly pleasant, it would be regarded as commendable.
So that if in the exercise of my liberty I give pain to anybody, in so far as I give pain I am committing an aggression. If I bathe naked before one who is shocked by such exhibition, doubtless his prudery is unjustifiable; that, however, does not alter the fact that I have deliberately injured him,—I have committed an aggression.
In trying to logically define this limit, I have cast about in various directions. At one time it seemed that individual liberty included a right to all non-action. That is, that people have a right to say to any one: "You are injuring us by your proceedings; you must stop"; but that they have no right to say: "It is essential to our happiness that you should do this or that."
I am not sure that this is not a correct idea, but the statement lacks precision, and I have not so far been able to attenuate it.
The best thought that I have yet had is that what is called "non-resistance" is the true guide. A better word would be "non-retaliation," yet even that is not quite right.
At the bottom there is a feeling that no one attacks another nowadays for fun. If a man attacks me, I immediately conclude that I have injured him, or that he thinks that I have injured him. If I could "paralyze him by a glance" or otherwise "resist" him without injuring him, I should hardly call it resistance. Usually, however, there are but two courses open. One a timely apology; the other a counter attack. If I adopt the latter and disable him or kill him, the question of who first aggressed is undetermined. I have assumed an aristocratic attitude of impeccability; sociality does not exist.
As for those who take pleasure in aggression, it is an evanescent type. They are hospital subjects, reversions to an ancestral type, certainly not responsible individuals.
Briefly, the question of what constitutes aggression can be settled onlyby compact between individuals. In order to arrive at an understanding