MYOB: As Important as NAP?


Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR

If you have not yet read Eric Frank Russell’s classic And Then There Were None, it would help understand this article. “MYOB” means “Mind Your Own Business.” Of course, every libertarian and anarchist knows what “NAP” is (although I have always wondered why it has two names, “NAP” and “ZAP,” or even--shudder--“NAP/ZAP”).

Sometimes I get the impression libertarians think only NAP is needed to get on in this world. This may at least partially explain why they stereotypically are often seen as socially inept.

Imagine what some have called “Lib Par,” Libertarian Paradise--one version of that, anyway. In this version, NAP is general and reigns supreme; but MYOB is no more common than in our current situation.

How nice a world would it be, anyway? People constantly arguing with each other and sticking their nose in others’ business? People sure that “others have it wrong” and that they need to be corrected, if only by persuasion? Big discussions over whether some event is an example of initiation of force; or more justifiably, a response to it?

At the very least, religions would remain as a constant source of conflict. We see it even here on Strike The Root at times, the bashing of people for their religious notions?

Now, try adding MYOB to this version of “Lib Par.” Doesn’t everything get a heck of a lot easier? Isn’t NAP so much easier to maintain, when people aren’t sticking their nose in your business all the time?

You want to experiment in drugs or alternative marriage? Nobody else’s business. Train your kids in an alternative school? Nobody else’s business. Build a dwelling or a farm building on your property, or chop a tree down? Nobody else’s business. Put a Nativity scene in your front yard? Nobody else’s business.

In fact, it really only becomes their business when your actions trample on them, or theirs. Conflict melts away, when MYOB is the norm.

Remember, conflict is the handmaiden of the State: “Divide and Conquer.”

Heck, even a world with MYOB consistently practiced, but not NAP (a bit hard to imagine) still looks pretty darn good. One example would be Panarchy, where there is still plenty of aggression within most of the polities--but when you say “MYOB,” those in other polities have to leave you alone.

I don’t think you have to get everyone to believe as you do, to be happy (although it does help to live with your own kind if you can find them). You need only that the others leave you alone.

In fact, personally, I would find it less interesting to live in a world where everyone believes the same. Not everyone has to be an anarchist.

By the way, this is one reason the occupation of policeman is so inherently objectionable: it essentially amounts to a complete negation of MYOB. To the policeman, everybody else’s business is his business, and his job is to scrutinize all behavior.

Look at the example of Alcohol Prohibition. It started as the Temperance movement, seemingly innocent or even good in many respects. But, it was lacking in MYOB; and when persuasion did not work, it transitioned easily into the violence of Prohibition.

Now, there seem to be a small subset of issues for which MYOB seems inadequate--for example, the existence of slavery, or of female genital mutilation (FGM). Should slavery be tolerated in other polities? Should we turn a blind eye to it?

I don’t see how slavery can exist in Panarchy. A slave need only declare himself a member of a different polity, and he must then be freed. FMG seems different though, as it is practiced on very young girls who are not in a position to declare anything.

I don’t know what the answer to this is, but note that it is but an extreme example of the general problems surrounding childhood and the raising of children, that libertarianism generally has had difficulty addressing. I am aware of Molyneux’s attempt to address these issues but find his recipe as bureaucratic and objectionable, as what it replaces. Perhaps it could be made to work, though.

One other possible problem with MYOB is that any “Lib Par” necessarily depends to a larger extent than is current, on social pressure to keep the behavior of people within reason. MYOB would seem to be a way to cancel that social pressure out. However, shunning still exists as the tool of social pressure.

I think libertarians ought to learn to utilize MYOB better, both as something we might say to others, and as something that may in turn be used on us. I find the nonviolent resistance opportunities of MYOB to be intriguing. Could it become commonplace to tell cops to mind their own damn business? Might that start to restrain their anti-social activities, if it caught on? Might it also restrain the meddlers and do-gooders who can make life so miserable?

Your rating: None Average: 9 (2 votes)
Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 106


mkghandi's picture

NAP, I assume, stands for Non Aggression Principle. MYOB is a meaningless concept to collectivists, and authoritarians. So is NAP. The same as absence of empathy is to a sociopath. Because these people do not understand these concepts, the only exceptions to such principles is to punish those who violate them, and to reward those who honor such principles. They will of course complain (hypocritically) that such discipline is aggression. Fortunately, (or maybe unfortunately) the only people who need to be impressed with this discipline are those who hold power.

Thunderbolt's picture

MYOB sounds good to me, Paul. The NAP often has to be explained. Everyone immediately knows Mind Your Own Business.
Since nearly everyone despises cops, I am surprised that they are not shunned in businesses such as restaurants. I presume they would extract revenge in the form of tickets and harassment.

Samarami's picture

One of your better -- best -- presentations, Paul.

But tell me this: where would STR go if all of us would abruptly decide to adhere to the MYOB principle?

Scary, is it not?


Paul's picture

Heh... Yeah, you have a point. Similar to the apparent conflict I noted between social pressure (aka shunning) and MYOB.

I suppose "everything in moderation" is the answer. One does not normally respond with either shunning or MYOB to every provocation. Neither is very pleasant, and both come with costs. But I think, both will be needed and used in a free society.

Standing on a soapbox and holding forth, as we do here on STR, probably doesn't rise to the level of invocating MYOB anyway. One can more easily and simply, walk away.

Tom S's picture

MYOB seems to apply to male genital mutilation just fine.