This book is an introduction to and application of the theory of individual rights (aka “natural rights”). For a more thorough substantiation of the philosophical roots of rights, see my later book, REASON and LIBERTY.
This is the second edition of FOR INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS. I have mostly tried to keep the original intact, even I might the book differently now. This is for two reasons 1) it saves me work; 2) I don’t want the stylistic opinions of an older man corrupting the work of a younger man. However, where I am certain of being able to convince the younger man that he was in error, I have made the appropriate correction.
Although this work is original, in an important respect, it is nothing more than a systematic restatement and expansion upon the wisdom of the leading founders of America, such as in the following:
“Among the natural rights of the Colonists are these: First, a right to life; Secondly, to liberty; Thirdly, to property; together with the right to support and defend them in the best manner they can. These are evident branches of, rather than deductions from, the duty of self-preservation, commonly called the first law of nature.
All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please; and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another.
When men enter into society, it is by voluntary consent; and they have a right to demand and insist upon the performance of such conditions and previous limitations as form an equitable original compact.
Every natural right not expressly given up, or, from the nature of a social compact, necessarily ceded, remains.
All positive and civil laws should conform, as far as possible, to the law of natural reason and equity.”— Samuel Adams, The Rights of the Colonists, Nov. 20, 1772
“It is at all times necessary, and more particularly so during the progress of a revolution, and until right ideas confirm themselves by habit, that we frequently refresh our patriotism by reference to first principles. It is by tracing things to their origin that we learn to understand them: and it is by keeping that line and that origin always in view that we never forget them.
An inquiry into the origin of rights will demonstrate to us that rights are not gifts from one man to another, nor from one class of men to another; for who is he who could be the first giver, or by what principle, or on what authority, could he possess the right of giving?
A declaration of rights is not a creation of them, nor a donation of them. It is a manifest of the principle by which they exist, followed by a detail of what the rights are; for every civil right has a natural right for its foundation, and it includes the principle of a reciprocal guarantee of those rights from man to man. As, therefore, it is impossible to discover any origin of rights otherwise than in the origin of man, it consequently follows, that rights appertain to man in right of his existence only, and must therefore be equal to every man.
The principle of an equality of rights is clear and simple. Every man can understand it, and it is by understanding his rights that he learns his duties; for where the rights of men are equal, every man must finally see the necessity of protecting the rights of others as the most effectual security for his own.”— Thomas Paine, Dissertations on First Principles of Government, 1795
This book consists of three parts. Part I explores the nature of individual rights. Part II explores the nature of rights violations. (Part III is omitted from this edition.)
The following three chapters elaborate on the nature of your individual rights. Chapter 1 offers a non-technical foundation for individual rights. Chapter 2 examines six fundamental rights in detail. Chapter 3 examines the genesis and nature of government harmonious with individual rights.
A passion for individual rights is the mark of self-respect, just as apathy about them is the mark of a conquered soul.
For the unconquered, it is a self-evident biological imperative to value liberty, to resist interference with one’s own peaceful actions, and indeed, to be angered by such interference. Such feelings are the psychological manifestation of an implicit knowledge of the “Life Principle.”
Just as we naturally learn how to walk with little to aid us other than our own efforts, we each have an innate capacity to directly learn the basic laws of human interaction through our interactions with others. While this implicit learning is mostly sufficient for governing our day-to-day interactions with our fellow man, it is woefully inadequate for governing the creation of laws and institutions. That this is true is evident upon the accounts of many who have visited those living under the most backward political regimes – even in the worst dictatorships most individuals living under them will interact with you in a humane manner in spite of the inhumanity they have been subjected to from the time they were born.
It is no contradiction to hold that certain truths about the nature of inalienable rights are self-evident and also hold that we must carefully examine and apply them. On a local, individual level, human beings learn directly from nature how to behave; it is only when they form larger social systems that what is true and good does not naturally occur to people. Few would desire that our social systems be engineered as inhumane machines that run roughshod over the rights of individuals, yet, even in the best of political systems, victims of vicious government action abound. It is thus evident that truths that seem obvious to us on the small scale do not automatically apply themselves to the complexities of the large scale.
There is no boundary between the small and large scale. There is no such thing as a dichotomy of “micro” versus “macro” issues in the domain of how human beings should relate to one another, there is only a continuum. And so, I begin with uncontroversial observations and principles, many of which would be obvious even to a 5-year-old, and then systematically build to the higher-level principles. This procedure is essential for establishing a foundation of certainty. There are few greater intellectual problems in today’s world than the widespread mentality that finds it normal and acceptable that principles should contradict one another, and the primary reason for this mentality is proceeding directly to high-level ideas without having adequately examined the fundamentals. This poor approach leads inexorably to incompetence at reconciling contradictions among the high-level ideas and to the pretense that such incompetence is the natural and unavoidable state, when in fact it is merely the typical state in today’s imperfect but improvable world.
“Facts which at first seem improbable will, even on scant explanation, drop the cloak which has hidden them and stand forth in naked and simple beauty.”— Galileo Galilei
“Every political theory which does not regard mankind as being what they are, will prove abortive.”— Chief Justice John Jay
The fundamental building block of society is the individual; society is nothing but the individuals that make it up. A sociopolitical system that is, in principle, beneficial to the individual will thus be beneficial to society as a whole; and one that is harmful to the individual must be harmful to society as a whole. It is therefore clear that proper human relations at every scale should be based on the nature of man.
“Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action.”— Ayn Rand
Every living organism acts in order to sustain its life. As a corollary, physical interference or credible threat of physical interference with the organism’s life-sustaining actions elicits self-defense actions against such imminent or actual interference, if the organism can muster it. This is a basic Law of Nature and applies to all organisms: Every organism acts in order to sustain its life; to act for its life is to act against interferences. Both action for and defense against are two perspectives on the same phenomenon. To pursue life is to quell interference with that pursuit. I call this the “Life Principle”; it is the biological basis of rights and of proper human relations (for the philosophical basis, see REASON and LIBERTY.)
Each kind of organism pursues its own life in its own way, just as it quells interference in its own way. Plants seek the sun, water, and have immune responses that emit microbial agents to ward off invading bacteria. Animals seek various forms of food and shelter, have even more active immune systems for dealing with microscopic invasions, and can respond to macroscopic threats. A human being, because of his mind, is by nature and over the long term the best at pursuing life: Man can earn a living in myriad ways, can identify threats unavailable directly to his senses, can create strategies and tools to serve and extend his life, and can respond to threats in highly efficient ways. Humans are also exquisitely capable of working with other members of their species to greatly amplify their abilities through specialization. (Indeed, it is because of this extremely powerful ability, this great gift from Nature, that Man has the consequent responsibility to be acutely concerned that this ability not be misused. Man’s extreme abilities demand an extreme attention to be paid to the field of politics. Yet many who most exemplify this ability – the engineers, scientists and legitimate businessmen – are all too often uninterested in politics, to mankind’s detriment.)
Animals further their own survival by violating the life processes of other organisms. A given species may even feed on members of its own species, but this is rare because any species that did this as a rule would eventually either choose to end the practice or go extinct. Animals do not normally arbitrarily interfere with the life processes of other animals. Predators live by eating other animals, but generally do not attack unless they need to eat. There is a good reason for this: not only is it a waste of energy to arbitrarily attack, but attacking other animals is often risky, precisely because of the Life Principle. Interference with one animal by another can normally be expected to be met with violent resistance in the case that the animal being attacked has the ability to do so. Animals are mostly hardwired by nature to act in a way that maximizes the animal’s chance for survival. This means to intuitively respect the facts of the matter: that it’s not good for the animal’s health to arbitrarily interfere with other animals.
Humans are not hardwired except with the barest of instincts and reflexes. We choose what we do and do not believe, we choose our mode of interaction with all species. We can even choose to be the hunted, by banning firearms in “national parks” where there are dangerous wild animals, and make other choices that are in the long run, suicidal. But to survive we must either hunt and gather or farm, which amounts to either predation or parasitism of other organisms. And we can even choose to attempt to live off members of our own species through force and fraud. We can choose our actions – but we cannot choose to escape their consequences, or the fact that some consequences are better than others, or the fact that preying on your fellow man will inevitably result in retaliation.
Why will humans preying on humans inevitably (but not invariably) result in retaliation? After all, human beings have proven that some animals can be domesticated, which means in part that they can be genetically altered through selective breeding to blunt their natural retaliation response. But human beings cannot be domesticated because they are fundamentally different from animals in the respect that they have the inherent ability to set their individual minds in motion, to identify truth, including the truth that the ideal social system for human beings prohibits individuals from the initiation of physical interference with other human beings. It is the ability to think that sets men apart from animals. To truly domesticate human beings would be to strip away this ability, thereby nullifying any reason one might have to domesticate them in the first place.
This isn’t to say that domestication of human beings hasn’t been tried. Slavery has existed as long as civilization. But, far from being a stable social order, slave societies are marked with tumult and impermanence. A human slave is potentially a thinking human slave, and therefore a permanent threat to his overseer, as many overseers in history have justly discovered. This is why it is critical to recognize the corollary aspect of the Life Principle. As history has proven and as logic attests, man will not tolerate being enslaved. To attempt to defy this fundamental truth is to bring doom upon oneself, or one’s posterity.
As a very young child you probably learned on some level that interference with others’ life processes was a bad policy. Perhaps you took your brother’s toy and he hit you. Or perhaps you pulled your sister’s hair and your mom punished you. On a small scale, most human beings quickly learn that interference with others is bad for both them and you, that retaliation for such interference is a natural thing to expect, that one should regard another as sovereign over his own self and things, and that to not do so is to invite suffering and unhappiness. Why is it that for human beings, the creatures with the highest potential, the world is filled with so much of both? It is precisely because so many of us choose interference with others over non-interference – and the law of cause and effect doles out the consequences.
Criminals act as if they can escape these consequences. History shows that criminals who thought they could get away with their crimes were often mistaken. When populations become aware of an exploitative ruling class, that ruling class is ultimately punished. A common criminal acts like he can get away with his predation, only to find himself prosecuted months or years later. Acting as a predator of other men might obtain some temporary unearned benefit, but because of the intelligence of other men, it is a behavior that is inherently bad for one’s health, including one’s psychological health: a criminal must always be looking over his shoulder to see when other men will identify his malevolent acts and rectify them. Parasites must also look over their shoulders: the victims might not always be so willing. At some point, the parasite has to learn how to earn a living, after having weakened his ability to do so by developing the habit of leeching off of others.
Because criminals do not grasp the Life Principle from active observation, they must be reformed through feedback, as soon as is reasonable. It is well-known that to teach a child or an animal, immediate feedback is required in order for them to learn what not to do. Criminals are in this respect just like a young child or animal, except that instead of being incapable of reason, they voluntarily choose not to use reason. This is why individuals who do choose to follow reason must understand very clearly the corollary part of the Life Principle – that interference can be expected to elicit action against interference – and apply it to criminals as soon as reasonably possible, so that they learn this corollary too, and thus learn to benevolently participate in human civilization. A delay or a non-application of this negative feedback to the criminal is a recipe for crime to run amok and to destroy society through the direct and indirect actions of the criminal.
The chain of causality can be difficult to trace, but almost all violence in modern society has its roots in some early form of criminal action that is tolerated by the majority and later manifests itself as overt criminal action against innocents as a form of “blowback.” For example, the Mexican drug cartels often murder innocent people. In spite of the lessons that alcohol prohibition taught us, few trace the chain of causality back to the governments that created the drug lords through the crime of regarding it a “crime” to grow a plant that has existed for millions of years. This is part of why the corollary aspect of the Life Principle is crucial to emphasize. We need to stop interference as soon as possible in order to prevent innocents from becoming victimized by acts that are often many steps removed from the initial crimes.
“Civilization” has been defined in many ways, but it should be defined along these lines: as a state of society attained over the course of many years by individuals working together for their own mutual benefit in order to develop the intellectual, social, artistic, and economic means to efficiently and reliably meet their individual needs to a very high degree. The idea of “mutual benefit” inherently entails respecting the Life Principle in each other. It is anything but “civilized” to interfere with peaceful men; on the contrary, such is at the heart of the meaning of “barbaric” or “criminal.” The Golden Rule has many variants, such as “Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you” or “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” These are early expressions of the Life Principle: It is our nature to want to pursue our life and not have others interfere with that pursuit.
On an individual scale, interference with another’s life can cause severe retaliation and mutually harmful consequences. When the interference is on a sweeping scale, nothing is improved, even when most victims of interference have been tricked into accepting such interference as if it were a natural and normal part of existence. On the contrary, the far more insidious result is that the consequences of the interferences are misattributed, as the victims get blamed for the crime of being alive and acting as living organisms must, instead of the perpetrators being blamed and the problem being corrected.
Man has only one fundamental choice with respect to his interactions with other men: to respect their Life Principle or not. He can choose either to prey on other men to further his own survival, or not. The choice to be predator or parasite of one’s fellow man is the choice for strife and war; the choice to respect the Life Principle in other men is the choice for harmony and peace. It is a Law of Nature, of cause and effect: to interfere is to invite attack, to rally the natural life processes of the victim into some form of retaliation. To interfere with others in a fully civilized society is to paint a target on yourself by which other men will recognize you as the kind of man who does not respect human life and therefore is a threat. Since we do not live in a fully civilized society, there isn’t this kind of justice. There is another kind – one that results in a common misery, one that few can explicitly identify, but all can feel – unhappiness, poverty, war, declining prosperity, massively unrealized potential. These are but some of the consequences of a sweeping interference with the life processes of men by men. It is a universal law, the law of cause and effect which will invariably operate, regardless of the fact that some men will inappropriately blame man’s nature rather than recognizing that it is their own violation of the laws of nature that is causing the misery.
The system described herein is the idea that Men should respect the Life Principle in other Men with full consistency. Human action can either violate the Life Principle in other human beings, or not. These are mutually exclusive and exhaustive; there is no other alternative. I name these alternatives Natural Rights and Natural Crimes, and henceforth refer to them as simply: rights or crimes. Every human action is either a right or it is a crime. This distinction is scientific-biological, it is not per se moral. Nor is it subjective nor arbitrary: just as one can objectively ascertain whether one animal initiates interference with another (such as when a cat eats a mouse), one can also objectively ascertain whether a human being initiates interference with another. Clearly, such a distinction is useful to those who prefer peace and prosperity over war and poverty: it is obvious that men who act with mutual cooperation, without interfering with one another, will achieve far greater prosperity and happiness than men whose actions conflict.
The ultimate expression of a scientific understanding of the distinction between a right and a crime would be a just system of law. Every accused man who enters a court deserves a scientific, objective treatment of his case – did he actually interfere with another man or not? – there should be nothing subjective or arbitrary about the determination. To use subjective or arbitrary rules in a court of law is not to rectify crimes, it is to commit them systematically and on a massive scale. As every one of us is a victim of illegitimate laws run amok, every one of us should take a personal interest in this science of individual rights.
Differing moral codes do not change whether an act objectively constitutes interference or not, just as a moral code does not determine whether a dropped object falls to the Earth or floats away. Morality comes into play in this subject solely in deciding whether one ought to respect the scientific fact or not. For example, one can decide that one ought to jump off a bridge, but one cannot avoid crashing into the ground below. Similarly, one can come to believe that one ought to interfere with other men, but one cannot ultimately evade retaliation in some form. The laws of physics and the laws of organisms are equally immutable. (For a much fuller account of the moral aspects of individual rights, see my book, REASON and LIBERTY.)
The purpose of analyzing human actions into two mutually exclusive and exhaustive categories, rights versus crimes, is indeed a moral purpose: we seek to specify the kind of human actions that secure the greatest human harmony, realization of potential, and happiness. One’s moral code determines whether one believes mankind ought to pursue the best life on earth that is possible to him – or not.
A criminal act destroys thrice: 1) it destroys the victim’s action to gain and/or keep a value; 2) it destroys the perpetrator’s alternative to act in a productive way; and 3) it destroys the potential for creative action which was replaced with remedying the destructive acts of the perpetrator. This principle, that a policy of interference can only harm individual and collective prosperity, is at once trivial to comprehend and bizarrely overlooked in our modern age, an age where historians claim that blowing things up and killing and maiming countless young men contributes to economic prosperity.
A right specifies any type of human action that does not conflict with the Life Principle in other individuals; a crime specifies any type of human action that does conflict. To formally define these terms: a right is a human action that does not interfere with the non-interfering actions of another human being; a crime is human action that interferes with the non-interfering actions of another human being. Colloquially: your rights end where another person’s begin. This can be expressed as The Law of Origin of Rights: Rights originate in individuals, and therefore nothing constrains them but the rights of other individuals. Every individual has the right to take any action that does not interfere with the rights of another individual.
The meaning of “inalienable rights” should be clear: it is the right of the individual to take all actions that do not interfere with others, where in order to secure these rights, the only human actions that are interfered with are crimes. The number of human beings involved in a crime, or whether they act under the sanction of a group of human beings known as the “government,” makes no difference: a crime is a crime, regardless of how humans combine themselves while committing it.
“From a drop of water, a logician could infer the possibility of an Atlantic or a Niagara without having seen or heard of one or the other.”— Sherlock Holmes
“The natural liberty of man is to be free from any superior power on Earth, and not to be under the will or legislative authority of man, but only to have the law of nature for his rule.”— Samuel Adams
Natural Law is nothing more nor less than the identification of what actions constitute rights and what actions constitute crimes. It is the set of principles that human beings ought to follow by virtue of the fact that they are human beings, regardless of whether the man-made laws of governments exist or not. The word “right” entails two mirror-image perspectives: that of the person taking a rightful action, and that of a person infringing upon this rightful action. That is, to identify a right is to implicitly identify crimes that infringe it; to identify a crime is to implicitly identify rightful actions the crime infringes – to truly grasp the meaning of rights is to grasp the meaning of crimes, and vice versa.
Because it specifies what humans ought to do, Natural Law belongs to the field of ethics (aka morality). It is the only branch of ethics that specifies rules that everyone can rightly be forced to comply with: while it is wrong to force someone to go to college if they don’t want to (even if going might be the moral choice), it is right to use force to stop them from murdering someone, or to force them to return property they have stolen. Thus, it is very important to analyze this branch of ethics very carefully, because a poor analysis lead to inappropriate uses of force – which is itself a crime. Sloppiness in the realm of thought breeds crime in the realm of action.
Knowing your natural rights is often simple. By the Law of Origin of Rights, you have a right to take any action that does not interfere with anyone else. Normally it is easy for someone to tell when they are interfering or when they are being interfered with. Even in primitive cultures, individuals tend to know and respect one another’s rights in day-to-day life, as a tribe where the individual members routinely assaulted one another would not survive. Primitive cultures often get it wrong on larger scales, such as on the relations of one primitive tribe to another. It is unfortunately the case that when humans form into groups, they often tend to lose their conscience. This is an important reason why an explicit analysis of rights is necessary: the “intuitive” knowledge of rights, that mostly works in day to day life, totally breaks down when we form into large groups. A science of rights is needed for just the same reason that we create science in other spheres: to see the truth that lies beyond what is easily perceived.
A proper analysis of rights depends on a proper method of analysis, which itself depends on a proper philosophy. If your philosophy makes you think that demons whisper truth in your ear, or that reality is just a bunch of contradictions, then the more complex the problem, the more your solutions will tend to be bogus (even if for simple cases you tend to get the answers right). But philosophy is beyond the scope of this book, see my book REASON and LIBERTY for more on this issue.
Methodologically, forming a theory of rights consists of considering the full range of human action, using thought experiments or examples from history, considering events that involve force or threats of force, and then analyzing and conceptualizing these events. We begin by seeking to isolate the locus of the initial interference – this is the boundary between right and crime. Many cases of human action are very simple to analyze; however, one must keep in mind that an instance of interference might actually be a justified retaliation for a prior interference, so in some situations one must analyze a long train of history in order to come to the correct conclusion. This is the basic mechanism that a court of law ought to employ. Its sole purpose ought to be to discover whether an alleged act took place, and whether it is a right or a crime.
Since rights are simply a kind of human action which does not interfere with the rights of another, everyone has an unlimited number of them. There is no such thing as a ranking or priority of rights in the sense of one kind of right being able to trump another, since you have the right to do absolutely anything so long as it does not interfere with the rights of another. Certain rights may be more important to you than others at a given point in time and according to your particular purposes, but it is still a crime when someone interferes with any right whatsoever, regardless of its relative importance to you at the time. In other words, to infringe any right of yours is not merely an attack on a principle, it is an attack on your person. This is the meaning of the common phrase “rights are indivisible” – there is no way to parcel away a right, without attacking your whole person.
Just as we can classify and define everything else in the universe according to our purposes, we can define and classify rights in a given context and for a particular purpose. Again, in spite of our classifications, rights remain indivisible. They do not reside in our definitions, classifications, rankings, laws, or any kind of conceptual partitioning of them. In a sociopolitical context, we can divide rights into six fundamental areas:
I will examine each in detail in the following sections, and as you read them I believe it will become clear why I chose these six, why I order them as I do, and why this classification is more precise, useful, and powerful than the usual divisions of rights, namely: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The right of self is the right to move one’s body as one desires, to reside unmolested by others in a given place, and to move from one unoccupied place to another.
The three aspects of this right, which can be viewed as separate rights to one’s body, one’s place, and one’s freedom of movement, are very closely related, as one can easily infer from reflection. It should already be clear to the reader how essential they are to human life and how those who interfere with such rights are indeed committing criminal acts.
This right is violated when we have done nothing to infringe anyone’s rights, but are, for example, threatened, harassed, pushed around, physically attacked, detained, arrested, imprisoned, or kidnapped. In ordinary day-to-day life, most do not encounter any of these actions (although there are certainly exceptions), but everyone, whether they are conscious of it are not, is always experiencing the threat of such action from governments acting upon criminally inappropriate laws.
It is important to recognize that when a man threatens you with a gun and tells you to do his bidding, that there are no important differences between whether he’s physically shoving the gun into your side, whether he’s showing it to you, whether it’s hidden in his pocket, whether he’s following you from ten or a hundred yards, whether he tells you over the phone that he’ll break into your house at four in the morning if he learns that you defied him, or whether ten or ten million of his kind voted on something that orders you around, takes your property, and employs similar threats to control your behavior – I call this the “principle of the hidden gun.” When it comes to deciding whether something infringes a right or not, one can easily infer that there is no difference between a credible threat that it will be violated and the physical violation itself.
“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”— John Philpot Curran, 1790
It is an unfortunate fact that humans have the capability of mentally repressing and ignoring blatant usurpations of their rights, because it means they are violated all the more. In order to stay vigilant about one’s rights, it is essential to think. It takes an active process of thinking to recognize all the ways you are controlled by criminal threats, and how much better your life would be without those threats. The actions of men, regardless of number, do not constitute the law of the universe; they constitute chosen actions that could have been different. When such actions initiate interference with you, then they should have been different, and justice is called for, not acquiescence and obedience.
The right of property is the right for human beings to pursue, acquire, and keep particular material objects, and to prevent others from using or taking those particular material objects.
It is inherent to being alive that an organism must pursue, acquire, and keep portions of the material substance of this Earth in order to sustain its life (but, the fact that an organism needs something is not an argument that it has a right to it). The right of property defines this type of action for human beings. To emphasize an important point: When I use the word “property,” I mean a specific, physical, well-demarcated material object.
The right to specific property, i.e. ownership, is an action, and as such, it must exist as some form of action – otherwise there is nothing to be interfered with and thus no property right. A mere intention is not an action. The required action can be goal-oriented and abstract, but it must exist. For example, the abstract action of building or living in a home does not require that one be on site constantly in order to claim ownership. When one ceases to take actions of ownership, one has abandoned one’s property, leaving it for someone else to claim, precisely because the actions one was formerly taking do not exist any more and thus there is no interference (that it may be difficult to adjudicate this point in some circumstances does not refute the principle).
The following examines in detail the phases of property pursuit, claim, acquisition, ownership, and abandonment. This level of detail may seem tedious for some. More detail would be required in order to properly define a system of law, but at least this much detail is required in order to begin to address the crucial problems of our age.
As the purpose of rights is to define the kind of human action that does not interfere with the actions of other humans, there can be no such right as the right to be the exclusive pursuer of a given object. Pursuit begins in the mind; the first actions of pursuit are mental actions, including the identification of an object of pursuit, the decision to pursue, and the plan of action defining how to pursue. It is clearly impossible that men can read minds, so there is no way to define an exclusive right of pursuit in the mental realm. Similarly, men will begin physical action toward an object that may include preparatory actions such as gathering of resources and movement to its general vicinity, as well as actions leading up to acquisition. It is impossible for one man to know that another man has already started pursuing the same object; a right of exclusive pursuit would create a condition of inherently unavoidable and mutual interference and is therefore a contradiction (this is the basic reason why patents are illegitimate; an issue I will cover in some detail later in this book). This of course does not stop a man from hoping and wishing that other men would not pursue his chosen object; however, any action to prevent their pursuit or acquisition (other than, say, stamping his feet and pouting) would be a crime. Man’s mind is evidently such that he can, if not careful, easily confuse mental objects with material objects; however, the man who fails to correct this improper mode of thinking will never live in peace and harmony with mankind. Such a man is a menace.
To point, delineate, demarcate, emborder, map, describe, file paperwork, jump up and down screaming “It’s mine!” is not to acquire, at most it is an expression of intent to pursue. No man rightly acquires property by mere claim. Otherwise one could point to the whole Earth and thus the first human could have owned it, with everyone else being subjugated to him. Or, he could step onto a new continent and claim it all for himself, attacking anyone who steps foot on it. Such megalomania is not made less absurd when governments, which are merely aggregates of men having no more rights than the sum of those that make it up, indulge in it.
The fact that there can be no right to exclusive pursuit does not justify frivolous pursuit (related to the concept of “frivolous pursuit” is John Locke’s “Lockean Proviso.” See his Second Treatise on Government, chapter 5) by men whose real purpose is not to pursue the same object as another man, but rather, to interfere with his pursuit. Although one cannot, by mere claim or demarcation, own something, if there is plenty of a given substance that you advertise a claim to, where your claim does not impede others from making similar claims, then you do have a right to claim it without actually owning it – this I call the “claiming principle.” Such a claim does not constitute permanent ownership, it merely constitutes an intent. This intent has force from the fact that there is other similar substance nearby, which would mean that competing claims are frivolous pursuit.
Frivolous pursuit of property also includes claiming so many natural resources that it in fact cannot be used by the grabber such that the property, in and of itself, actually furthers his life, or gratuitously destroying or corrupting a natural resource and thus preventing legitimate pursuers from obtaining the natural resource. Such interference constitutes a crime. (One might ask: Who decides whether something actually furthers life or not? All matters of alleged rights violation require an objective application of justice, with a good faith respect for and adherence to the nature of individual rights. We are all dependent on other men having a sensible idea of justice. There are no guarantees that our rights won’t be violated; there is only our best effort at furthering what is true and right. We have enough potential to understand the truth well enough to land man on the moon. I trust our ability to do as good of a job discerning what is right, if only we would choose to.)
Many instances of frivolous pursuit have occurred in the history of man, ranging from a bully who would treat another man like a plaything by observing what he is trying to obtain and getting it first in order to obtain deranged amusement for himself, to a tyrant who would ruin a natural source of food in order to win dominion in a geographic area, such as when the American government virtually exterminated the buffalo species in order to starve Native Americans. Cases like this are not cases of legitimate joint pursuit of the same object, they are criminal acts of interference.
Pursuit of a given object leads to acquisition. In the case of multiple pursuers, two parties might, rarely, acquire a given object at the same time. You can imagine two children running to grab an apple that fell from a tree. It would be rare for them to grab it simultaneously, particularly if both are honestly pursuing it rather than one being engaged in frivolous pursuit. (Mimicry is not a form of frivolous pursuit. If one person gives another the idea that something is valuable, then the second person truly values it, and thus, by going after it he is not engaged in frivolous pursuit, that is, he is not pursuing it to harass someone else, but because he has learned to value something for himself.) But if they are both honestly pursuing, and both grab it, then it is easy to make a rule that resolves the conflict reasonably and amicably: cut the apple in half and share, as neither has any more right to it than the other. Even more rarely, the object cannot be split in this manner and keep its value. Suppose they were pursuing a mouse or frog to keep as a pet (which would be exceedingly rare to grab at the same time). They can’t both have the same pet, but they can timeshare, or agree to keep looking until they find two. Honest, well-meaning children will probably come up with some means of resolving the issue without fighting. And so it is with adults who come upon the rare issue of simultaneous acquisition.
But by far the more common case is that someone has acquired something first, without someone else simultaneously acquiring it. Most of us implicitly understand quite clearly that a person’s property is his property, and it is a violation of his rights to wrest it from him or to threaten him in some way as to make him give it up.
The right to keep what one has acquired, to be in control of a given object as a direct extension of your intentions and actions is to own it. To grab an object from your hands is to directly interfere with your living action as it is in process in that very moment, which is a clear a violation of your rights.
What if the object is not, at the time of the grabbing, under one’s direct control, that is, one is not directly physically connected to the object? Perhaps you find yourself working at a big rock in the middle of the wilderness, you put down your knife to go find a piece of wood, and someone or something comes up and grabs the knife as his or its own. If the entity that grabbed your knife was not human, then you would simply get the knife back however you could; the issue of rights doesn’t enter into it. But if it is human, he will be aware of the fact that his find was surprising, that someone must have made it, and that whoever did might still be in the vicinity, and in fact, you’re right there demanding your knife back. But by what right do you demand it back, and why should it be given back? After all, it was not under anyone’s direct control and action.
The answer to the question requires some analysis. We know that our intentions as human beings go far beyond what happens to be in our hand or pocket. We form goals and take actions that include a far wider scope. We might be building a shelter in the forest, or a cabin, or a skyscraper. During the act of building we must often leave to get more material; when we come back we expect our property to be there for our continued pursuit. Note how we refer to building a skyscraper – this is an abstract action that is comprised of many other concrete physical actions and we have just as much of a right to take this broader action of building as we do to take the more concrete action of hammering; to “build” is no less of an action merely because it is more abstract.
All rational human beings implicitly know that action refers not merely to concrete physical action, but to long-term goal-oriented action. Physical objects are connected to us not merely when we are directly interacting with them; our intentions can be distantly connected to physical objects through specific physical actions over time. We also know how to objectively discern whether a given object is in use in this more abstract, long-term respect or not. You don’t just pick up a knife laying on a rock; you see the knife, and then look around for evidence of its owner. If it shows signs of having rusted there for several days, perhaps you take it and refurbish it and make it your own. You do this on the premise that it was abandoned, that is, it was formerly connected to but is now disconnected from the living action of another human being.
But if the knife is seems to be in use – if the site looks like work has been going on, perhaps there is other nearby property or signs of ongoing activity; in other words, there is evidence of a specific chain of physical actions that took place recently thus connecting the knife to an owner – then to take the knife is to steal it. If the situation is ambiguous, then perhaps you take it, but if the owner asks for it back, you should peacefully turn it over and apologize for the misunderstanding. (In a civilized society it is usually trivial to discern that an object is owned by someone else, for example, land ownership usually makes it obvious that all property in a given area is owned.)
In other words, it is no different to grab a person’s property out of his hands as he is using it, than it is to walk onto a site he is working and start taking things merely because he is not present. Both directly interfere with his living actions, they are violations of the Life Principle and therefore criminal acts. If you inadvertently take this criminal action and pick up someone’s knife while it is in (long-term) use, then he should employ the principle of taking only what action is necessary to resolve the matter. In the case that you were well-meaning, it just means asking for the knife back. To prosecute you for theft would be to go far further than is necessary, thereby committing a crime against you.
It is critical to not misapply the above reasoning to all possible kinds of human intention and thus create a contradiction where there are multiple owners (as in the multiple pursuer case above). There is a radical difference between a physical object that is connected to you through a specific series of goal-oriented physical actions, and a physical object that you merely thought about doing something with. Mere thought or intent is not enough to connect a physical object with your physical being; either it is physically connected through a specific series of goal-oriented physical actions leading directly back to you or it is not.
For most objects on Earth, and in most circumstances, the foregoing ideas are all we need. If someone acquires something first, then it is his until he abandons it (and we must respect the fact that something might be in long-term use before considering something abandoned). However, there are rare but real complications that can occur. Many of these can be resolved by properly forming governments (a subject of subsequent chapters). Some occur regardless of whether a government exists, or between different governments. Two such crucial issues are: menacing physical objects, and frivolous acquisition or destruction of natural resources.
There is a vast difference between a nuclear bomb and a tank. A nuclear bomb can destroy a large city and can at least in principle accidentally go off. It is indiscriminate in its destruction; inherent in setting it off in a populated zone is that many innocents will be killed. On the other hand, a tank has to be pointed at a particular target by a particular individual, who must bear the responsibility for whatever he chooses to shoot. In and of itself, a tank is not menacing. But we can certainly question the legitimacy of even building a nuclear weapon in the first place (I will not explore that issue here). Assuming we decide that it can be legitimate, we certainly cannot allow any random individual to own one and store it at his house. It is an inherent threat and menace to anyone nearby. At most, we might consider letting it be controlled by some huge group, with many guarantees and safeguards, including a safeguard for the destruction of this weapon should the group be under any threat of dissolution. Any individual or group is thus warranted in preventing an individual or unstable group from building or possessing nuclear weapons.
Nuclear weapons are obviously a very complicated and very important topic which does demonstrate that it is not the case that anyone should be left free to build or own any kind of thing; however, this is an extreme case, most objects are not an inherent menace to a whole city. Where do we draw the line? If someone is sufficiently distant that they only destroy themselves if something were to blow up, then clearly we have no business telling them whether they can have this or that explosive, unless we have good cause to think they are at war with us. But if your next-door neighbor were to start stockpiling TNT, then you clearly have good cause to force him to store it somewhere else, barring an agreement among all potentially affected neighbors. TNT, like nuclear weapons, does present a clear and present danger, a potential threat and menace, and it is not a violation of its owner’s property rights to demand that he take reasonable care and store it at a reasonable distance from others and their property.
There are many real-world complications in applying the science of individual rights and it is not possible for any individual to answer every possible issue. That task should be the job of lawyers, whose profession ought to be dedicated to the principle of defending everyone’s right to act in any way that does not infringe on the rights of others to do the same, instead of to the policy of “winning” by using unjust laws and tactics.
The right of medium is the right to use portions of the natural flow of sunlight, water, air, and other natural mediums, as well as the right to defend one’s continued use of such mediums after having incorporated its use into one’s pattern of activities.
The physical nature of mediums is opposite from property in an important respect: rather than having well-defined physical boundaries, they are physically indistinct and unconnected to any particular property or person. The air flows freely across the Earth; water is lifted from the ocean by sunlight and deposited to flow where Nature wills; the medium of the Earth itself is filled with metals and minerals we mine; the medium of whatever substance it is that supports radio waves pervades every property without any clear boundary. With each breath we naturally acquire and then release air from and into the wild. Air is in some sense unowned and not able to be owned, but in another sense, we would defend to the death any threat to our right to breathe. The right to travel is the right to the use of a particular kind of medium according to the mode of travel. Other natural resources differ in how tightly they are coupled to our life, but do not differ in principle regarding our right to come to depend on them and defend our right to continue to use them. No one has the right to pour poison into “his part” of the river, precisely because there are those downstream who are using this medium.
For the types of medium that can be physically acquired, such as drawing a breath of air or pumping a gallon of water, once a portion of the medium is justly obtained, it becomes ordinary property, and all of the ordinary property rights principles apply. But before that time, or when using mediums that cannot be so divided (such as radio wave medium), we need additional principles.
Imagine a boat moving rapidly through the water, or a jet flying through the air. At any given time, it is using some portion of the given medium, but it is also using something beyond that: the medium in front. When a jet is flying through the air, it depends on unrestricted motion for the next several hundred yards. If someone were to move something into its path, and risk a crash and a destruction of the jet, then that would be an infringement of the medium that jet is using. It has a direct claim, via the aforementioned claiming principle, on the medium it is immediately using, as well as an implicit claim on the medium in front of it for some distance. Once the pilot in his jet has passed, he abandons his claim as quickly as he acquired it, but for the time that he depends on it for his very life, it is solely his own. Two jets can be on an inadvertent collision course. In such a case, they had better use similar rules as those in my example of children sorting out conflicts or they will both be killed.
An essentially similar but more complex example comes up with water use. If a person is daily walking down to the river to draw a bucket of water, then no one upstream may infringe on this established use. The river cannot be justly diverted, nor poisoned with pollutants, nor can anyone draw so much water upstream that it infringes on all downstream users’ established usage patterns. This does not mean that everyone downstream is guaranteed water whereas everyone upstream must constrain usage in order to guarantee them water. If all established upstream usage is of a given set of types of uses, and through population growth increases by a multiplication of similar uses, or if natural circumstances ensue that reduce flow, then barring some kind of agreements between upstream and downstream users, those downstream are, perhaps tragically, without just recourse other than adapting to the new reality or moving elsewhere. What is barred from those upstream are new types of use that by virtue of their nature, change the quality or amount of water such that those downstream are harmed. (The topic of water and other medium rights deserves greater analysis than I can give here.)
Air rights are similar. No one may justly build a noisy, smelly new coal plant nearby that interferes with your established use of air of a given quality and quietness. (If a town needs a dirty coal plant, and if affected members of the town are part of a given government, they may have no choice but to accept it. How this can be reconciled with natural rights will be discussed later.) Sometimes, pollution buildup can be a slow and insidious process, and just because the infringement on air quality happened slowly, or was unrecognized without scientific testing (such as mercury pollution of water), it does not negate the right to a clean medium when the pollution can be traced back to a specific source. On the other hand, the mere fact that a given pollutant is present does not imply specific harm. Volcanoes spew many “pollutants” into the air, as do naturally-occurring forest fires. Even pollen might be considered a “pollutant.” No air is “pure,” and the fact that a statistical rise of a given substance is detected and traced to a given source does not imply that any harm or infringement actually happened.
The right of land is the property right to the naturally-fixed portions of a given geographic area, as well as the medium right to the surrounding mediums that one’s land use depends upon. The right of land, being a type of property right, includes all the attributes of property rights except that it is not a well-defined physical object, and it comes with specific and sometimes complicated responsibilities concerning connected areas of land.
Right of land is derived from the right of self, the right of property, and the right of medium. A right of self means you have a right to reside on an unoccupied part of the Earth (since that is an action that does not interfere with anyone else’s right and all actions that are not interference are rights). Further, because of right of self, you have a right to create property on and of the land, to reshape the land into a new form, to build structures, to farm crops, and so on. Since these are your property and you have a right to them, then you also have a right to the previously unoccupied land of which they are an inherent part, as well as to the medium that you depend on.
The extent of physical ownership derives from medium rights to the medium of the Earth, not from a simplistic geometrical idea such as that you own a pyramid-shaped area from the surface of your land to the very center of the Earth. The extent of your rights is not defined by physical boundaries, nor by governments, they are defined by whether or not they interfere with another human being. Here are three examples:
These examples illustrate the fact that rights can have a vast physical extent, even while the physical extent or nature of ownership is constrained (by the normal rules of property ownership as already discussed). Land ownership comes in aspects or respects in regard to a particular form of use, and in accordance with furthering individual life. Uses that do not conflict are each acquired and owned independently from one another. Mistaking these issues can cause substantial social conflict.
The right of land is the ultimate expression of human rights. To respect a man’s right of land is to respect his other rights; to violate it is to usurp all of his rights. This is why totalitarian regimes lay claim of ownership to vast geographic regions that are in truth, unowned – this is a species of frivolous pursuit also known as “land-grabbing.” Some regimes are more honest about their denial of this basic human right; others put forth a pretense of ownership while simultaneously demanding that one pay rent in exchange for them permitting you to “own” (in their contradictory sense of the term) the land.
“By what right do men exercise power over each other?”— Auberon Herbert
The right of consent is the right to make agreements that yield a portion of one’s own rights in exchange for a portion of another’s. The right of consent is the crown of all rights; it recognizes that you are the King of your own rights having exclusive dominion over them, and only by your assent may they be altered or constrained. It is the sole means by which all forms of proper social exchanges and orders are created, including buying and selling, marriage, business, and government. It is how man-made laws are made and remade (as opposed to Natural Law, which is immutable).
Everyone who has ever purchased anything understands consent. You agree to give up your right to a portion of your property, in exchange for the right to possess a certain object or obtain a certain service. Concerning simple trades like this, the modern-day practice and legal system is – at least in “first world” countries (and unlike in many other areas of human activity) – generally very sound, which is part of why it works so well most of the time.
The Law of Conservation of Energy states that the energy in a closed system can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only change forms. This fundamental law of physics explains a crucial aspect of the entire range of physical phenomena. Likewise, legitimate consent is based on a similarly fundamental and analogous law which follows directly from The Law of Origin of Rights, namely, The Law of Conservation of Rights: Rights originate in the individual and may neither be created nor destroyed, but only transferred to others through the individual’s right of consent.
If you understand this law, then you have understood everything I have said thus far and you at least implicitly understand everything anyone could ever say on the subject of human rights, including how all human associations from the most simple to the most complex (including governments) can properly be formed.
Violations of this law through force and fraud (which bypass an individual’s right of consent) abound, particularly in the realm of government. Like those snake-oil salesmen peddling fountain of youth potions, or the alchemists who futilely try to turn lead into gold, governments are engaged in a massive counterfeiting activity of peddling fiat consent as if it were true consent. At the heart of this criminal operation is the villainous wish that government can somehow be exempt from Natural Law. But it is a self-evident absurdity to think that if two people gang up and engage in a criminal act, then the crime magically becomes a right. Nothing is changed when the size of the gang grows to ten, a hundred, or three hundred million. Future human beings, if mankind is to have a future, will undoubtedly look back on our age in shocked disbelief that the majority of mankind actually believed otherwise.
Note that since the definition of “right” includes any kind of non-interfering action, whether abstract principle of action (such as right of property in general) or particular action (such as the right to hold a coin in your pocket), the term “transferred” does not imply that you can consent to yield unlimited dominion of your rights to another party. On the contrary, when adjudicating disputes regarding consent, it is essential to recognize the definition of consent: to voluntarily yield a right in order to obtain a more desirable end. If the right yielded and the end obtained are not reasonably commensurate, then the original contract is null and void. Thus, although one can promise to become a lifelong slave in exchange for an ounce of gold, on the grounds that there was no true consent, one cannot be bound to such a contract. This must be so, if for no other reason than that any contract must be interpreted in order to be adjudicated, and rational interpretation requires dismissal of the absurd. (Another perspective on why slavery would not be upheld in a rights-respecting court is in the next section.)
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”— Martin Luther King Jr.
The right of justice is the right to take whatever action is required in order to force the initiator of a crime to make amends and assure he does not repeat his crime, so long as such action does not go beyond the bounds of what is required in order to do so. While the other five rights represent the first aspect of the Life Principle – that to live is to take action in support of one’s life – the right of justice represents the second aspect, that to live is to quell interference with one’s rightful action.
Justice is proximate “interference” with another, but this proximate interference is ultimately caused by the perpetrator of a crime by eliciting the “Life Principle” response in the victim, namely, that to pursue life is to act against interference. It is a contradiction to hold that a man should on the one hand be left free to pursue life, but on the other hand should not act to stop interferences with such a pursuit. So it is clear that justice is not a criminal act. It is the initiator of interfering acts that is interfering; retaliation for such interference is merely the action that attempts to end the interfering act. It is not itself a criminal act unless it is in excess of what is necessary and goes beyond the actual defense of the originally violated right (this is why a slave contract would not be upheld in a rights-respecting court – a slave who refused to work or who ran away would at most be liable for what he had received in payment for having become a slave). A criminal who is interfered with is not feeling his own rights being violated by another, he is feeling the the law of cause and effect: the consequences of his own criminal acts are reflected back onto himself via the Life Principle of another.
The right of justice belongs to everyone, not only to the harmed party. Third parties are warranted in implementing justice because a criminal’s actions are an implicit declaration of war, not only against the individual attacked at that time, but also against Natural Law and all men who might meet the criminal in similar circumstances.
Since justice permits the interference with another’s life, exceedingly special care must be taken in its exercise, because misguided justice is itself a criminal act. A is A: to defend rights means to defend rights – and no more. To go further is to interfere with non-interfering acts, it is to commit a crime. Conscientious men formally declare their intention and reasons for pursuing justice for these important reasons: First, composing a formal declaration is an aid to the reason, helping insure correctness and certainty in both the nature of the alleged criminal act and the proposed remedy. Second, it permits the alleged criminal to possibly provide details that might exonerate him, or to make amends. Third, it permits others to understand your action so they do not judge you as a criminal menace and retaliate. The Declaration of Independence, formal declarations of war, and justified lawsuits are all forms of declaration of intent to pursue justice.
In order to provide an even greater guarantee on the objectivity and appropriateness of acts of justice, the sensible custom has evolved in human society to delegate one’s right of justice to the judgment of a third party. However, the right of justice is the right of every individual, otherwise there would be no right to delegate to the third party. It is only through consent that any right, including the right of justice, is validly transferred.
Because justice is an interference with criminal action and because human beings are fallible, the legal standard of “innocent until proven guilty” is essential, not only to protect the innocent, but also to protect those prosecuting crimes from the righteous fury of the innocent victims of the miscarriage of justice.
The presumption of innocence principle depends on the logical principle known as the onus of proof principle (aka “burden of proof principle”), one of the most important principles of logic, which states that the burden of proof for a given proposition lies on the party advocating it. A corollary of this is that the party advocating that a given action constitutes a rights violation has the burden of proving that it is. For example, suppose someone advocates for a particular form of “intellectual property rights,” but cannot justify his concept in terms of individual rights (such as I have done above regarding property rights), but insists on applying his concept to you anyway, by force if necessary. If someone can dream up an arbitrary concept and apply it to you by force without having to prove that it is just, then you act by their permission, not your right. Such is a violation of the onus of proof principle and is a criminal act.
Unfortunately, the presumption of innocence principle is often violated by modern courts, most dramatically in cases where someone is convicted of murder, spends half a lifetime in jail, only to be exonerated by DNA evidence later. If the standard “innocent until proven guilty” were actually used, this gross miscarriage of justice would be extremely unlikely. Less destructive but still life-altering examples happen all the time in both the criminal and civil “justice” system.
Another variation of the perversion of justice that permeates modern courts is known as the “precautionary principle,” which is not a principle at all, but rather a complete subversion of all the principles of justice. This “principle” states that if an action has a “suspected” risk of causing harm (as assessed by individuals arbitrarily chosen by the courts), then in the absence of “consensus” (again drawn from individuals arbitrarily chosen by the courts) that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who are taking the action. For example, if you build a campfire and a government official “suspects” that you might cause “global warming,” or if he “suspects” you might cause a forest fire, then you can in principle be thrown in jail for doing it. The burden is then on you to prove that your action is safe. Note that they do not even have to prove that your action is risky, all they have to do is “suspect” that it might be – and then all the burden is shifted onto you. That is, you don’t have a right to take a non-interfering action, but must get their permission to take the action before you do. This is a gross violation of common sense, logic, and your individual rights.
To pursue justice is to pursue justice, which means that if the perpetrator of a crime resists, then one must escalate action until such resistance has been overcome, but such escalation should only happen when faced with resistance, and only as much escalation should be used as would be necessary and proper in order to carry out the ends of justice. As another indictment of our modern legal system are police state tactics of Tasering someone for disagreeing about a speeding ticket, or using SWAT teams because someone might have an ounce of marijuana in their home. The modern “justice” system all too often goes very far beyond the necessary and proper bounds of escalation, and what’s worse, for non-crimes.
Because the modern legal system is not based on the principles of justice, and because the participants in this system know this on some level, the escalation principle is not always applied to those who break the law, and some times rightly so, but other times it leads to actual criminals getting away with crimes and to a general disrespect for the law. For example, it would be quite appropriate for a judge to show “mercy” on someone who broke (victimless) drug laws, but some murderers who also get this “mercy” end up with lesser sentences than those who broke drug laws. This perversion of justice is only possible because the modern “justice” system is, to a substantial degree, not based on genuine justice, but on a perverse mixture of mob rule and elitism.
The converse of the escalation principle is the de-escalation principle. Whereas the escalation principle applies when dealing with parties who have bad faith, the de-escalation principle is for parties who are operating in good faith, but have honest reasons for disagreeing about a complex issue. The principle demands that when dealing with such good faith parties, that one prefer negotiation to violent intervention, that one be willing to take a partial loss in order to prevent meaningless destruction, that one not quibble over the relatively insignificant.
Without this principle, honest mistakes in the implementation of justice become magnified into meaningless destruction, such as all out war.
Justice means nothing more than to stop the ongoing losses a victim suffers at the hands of a perpetrator, and to compensate the victim for his past losses (including the loss of his time and money for having to pursue justice). In the specific case where the perpetrator has demonstrated a proclivity to repeat his crimes, then this is a kind of ongoing loss that must be stopped – the perpetrator stole yesterday, and based on some rational assessment, we expect him to steal tomorrow. Thus, in this situation, some kind of punishment would be called for, but not because punishment is justice, but because justice in this situation would require punishment in order to remedy the condition that causes the perpetrator to repeat his crimes. And in order to truly be justice, whatever remedy we employ should ultimately be paid for by the perpetrator – such cost is itself a form of “punishment” in the sense that the cost of paying for reform is another deterrent to commit future crimes.
Each part of any given criminal act actually consists of lesser parts, each of which are subject to the principles of justice. When a crime is in the process of being committed, then the crime is actually a succession of criminal actions; it is thereby legitimate to force the initiator of any one of the successive acts to make amends during the commission of a crime, and to take steps to assure that he does not continue his pattern of behavior. Such acts of justice thereby stop the overall crime, and constitute the right of self-defense.
That is, when one is under attack, whether that attack be a direct assault on one’s person or property, the principles of justice exist in microcosm. The individual right of self-defense is literally the individual right of justice applied at some phase in the commission of a crime.
The rational legal concept of “suspected” demands actual evidence, not mere feelings of suspicion; the latter is in the province of witch trials.
“It is hard to free fools from the chains they revere.”— Voltaire
Government is the most powerful human agent on Earth, having both the power to protect our lives – and to crush them. It is therefore immensely important for each of us to understand government, both in terms of what it is and what it ought to be. Such an understanding requires a careful examination and respect for reason and reality – not unquestioned tradition and authority.
Patriotism is not a blind and unquestioned devotion to one’s nation of birth, nor is it an admiration for the chains one has bound around the necks of one’s neighbors. Authentic patriotism is a deep reverence for heroic action aimed at jealously-guarded liberty and an admiration for the prosperity and happiness that results as a natural consequence. A patriot is someone who aspires to such action and feels a reverence for the ideals embodied in statements such as these:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”— The Declaration of Independence, United States of America, 1776
“… that mind must be really depraved, which would not prefer the equality of political rights …”— Thomas Jefferson quoting Alexander Hamilton
“Whensoever the General Government (Washington) assumes undelegated powers, its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force.”— Thomas Jefferson
“What I do say is that no man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. I say this is the leading principle, the sheet-anchor of American republicanism.”— Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Peoria, Illinois, 1854
“The fabric of American empire ought to rest on the solid basis of the consent of the people. The streams of national power ought to flow from that pure, original fountain of all legitimate authority.”— Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 22, December 14, 1787
“The fact therefore must be that the individuals themselves, each in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.”— Thomas Paine, Rights of Man
“It is the greatest absurdity to suppose it in the power of one, or any number of men, at the entering into society, to renounce their essential natural rights, or the means of preserving those rights; when the grand end of civil government, from the very nature of its institution, is for the support, protection, and defence of those very rights; the principal of which, as is before observed, are Life, Liberty, and Property. If men, through fear, fraud, or mistake, should in terms renounce or give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the grand end of society would absolutely vacate such renunciation. The right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of man to alienate this gift and voluntarily become a slave.”— Samuel Adams
As many of the Founders of the American Republic well knew and in radical contradiction to the tyrannical form of government they seceded from, government has only one legitimate source of power and authority: the consent of its constituent individuals. Proper government is of, by, and for these individuals, having no existence apart from individuals, and no right to exist without the consent of each and every one of them.
Such a government has only existed, at best, temporarily or on a small scale. No large-scale government today respects the right of consent of every individual – but all of them do have the consent of many. Such is not a proper form of government, it is an incessant state of war – not a clean war against a well-defined enemy, but a chaotic and oftentimes petty war of gang against gang, and gang against individual.
The blood and tears of the casualties of this war flow incessantly, year after year, and mostly just beneath the surface of society. The ugliness of it is widely exposed only rarely, in the form of some kind of blowback; usually the casualties and their families are the only ones aware of the evils of this war and are unaware of its full scale, knowing only their own private misery. The only way to end this war is for many more of us to come to truly recognize the right of consent.
“As in other departments of science, so in politics, the compound should always be resolved into the simple elements or least parts of the whole.”— Aristotle
The individual in the wilderness acquires his own land through the use of his natural rights, and, through the consent of his guests, this sovereign land owner may justly subject visitors to certain “house rules,” the man-made laws that apply to those who decide to remain his guests. As sovereign owner, the host may ask many things of the guest, or require him to leave, so long as their right to consent is not violated. He can ask that the guest perform labor in exchange for residing, or that the guest refrain from certain speech, or that the guest pay rent. So long as the guest chooses to reside on property that is owned by someone else, he is free to either take the terms – or to leave.
As only the true owner of land may dictate conditions of its use (this is the very meaning of “ownership”), such “house rules” literally constitute the law of the land. This sovereign liberty, which used to be exercised by kings, actually belongs to every individual human being and is the starting point for the genesis of legitimate government.
Having imagined a lone individual being the host to guests and subjecting them, through their own consent, to certain man-made laws, we can now easily imagine several individual land owners who together own all the land in a given geographic region, and who through the values they hold in common, agree that certain uniform laws will apply to all guests, including when they are guests of each other. We can easily imagine such an arrangement growing into a town with its own government emerging from the common values of the land owners, and expanding organically as those who wish to become members of the town acquire land connected to the town at the outskirts.
It is evident upon reflection that even men of radically different beliefs actually hold many values in common. For example, virtually all individuals desire to be free from assault, theft, trespass, breaking and entering into their homes, fraud, and other injustice as defined by Natural Law. Thus, even men randomly aggregated in a given area can find much to agree on with respect to a mutual government. Individuals are more apt to disagree on the technology used to implement government – its particular system of laws and branches of government – than on its purpose. But even admitting this disagreement, most individuals in such an anarchic state will be very motivated to correct it, and thus will be apt to accept a reasonable government technology, so long as the stated and recognized purpose of such technology is to secure individual rights. (The principal defect of the United States Constitution is that it lacks a clear statement regarding its ultimate justification and purpose. The Declaration of Independence has, in a terse form, such a statement, but it has no contemporary legal effect.) Wise individuals will see the distinction between purpose and technology, and include in their system a means for it to be perfected over time in accordance to improved comprehension of the purpose and improved technologies for implementing it.
Even while many will agree on technology, many may not. This would create an analogous problem to getting a suburb to agree on a particular telephone or electricity technology. In principle, two technologies could exist side-by-side, but it destroys the economy of scale to a large degree. Likewise, having different jurisdictions in the same local area leads to problems. Chief among these is also economy of scale, and that closely-entangled or intermingled jurisdictions leads to the problem of deciding to what law and what jurisdiction applies to a given act. In extreme cases and with an irrational populace this could lead to war – however, when all jurisdictions (including jurisdictions of a single individual) respect Natural Law, as they should and must if they want to continue to exist – such a consequence is unlikely.
But the problem of potential jurisdictional intermingling is a red herring. It is easy for us to become distracted by this problem, because if our governments were to accept the principle of consent, then this would be among the first problems to arise. Some might also observe that jurisdictional issues do already in fact lead to war in some parts of the world, but this observation does not apply to governments that are not engaged in land-grabbing. In the current world, the problem of totalitarian jurisdictions (the precise meaning of totalitarianism will be examined in detail in the next chapter) foisted on the unwilling is a far greater moral and practical problem, resulting in perpetual suffering and death. Difficult problems are tractable only when solutions are not premised on creating or maintaining other fundamental problems. For example, a drug addict can solve the problem of his troublesome withdrawal symptoms in two ways: he can find a steady source of drugs, or he can go through the pain of withdrawal once and never have the problem again. Likewise, we can “solve” the problem of jurisdictional intermingling by violating the individual rights of each and every individual within a totalitarian jurisdiction, or we can deal with the transient issue of resolving the inefficiencies and other problems resulting from intermingled jurisdictions. And to the extent that jurisdictional intermingling is indeed a real problem for a given group, it is readily solvable, if by no other method than like-minded individuals moving to another locale and organically claiming and acquiring land in such a manner that all land within the jurisdiction is interconnected.
Once jurisdictions of one or many individuals are created, then within the constraints of their individual rights, the laws of the land they create would be their own prerogative. But such laws can be extremely broad and varied. A sample of possible laws they could jointly agree to if they so chose:
What they cannot legitimately do is exceed the bounds of individual rights. They cannot legalize slavery or abuse of children. They cannot grab all the unowned land on the continent. They cannot interfere with those who have natural egress rights through their town. They cannot extend their man-made laws beyond the boundaries of their own land (but their right of justice does permit extending Natural Law to anywhere on Earth; this is the heroism that should animate military forces). The philosophy espoused by certain anti-intellectual brutes in our age when you complain about the government, that “if you don’t like it, then leave” would actually apply, because you could always go beyond the outskirts and make your own kind of town if you wanted, and if you entered the town then you couldn’t complain when you were bound by the rules of the owners.
The mode of government formation described above can be condensed into The Law of Origin of Government: Government originates in the consensual transfer of rights from individuals to representatives in order to enforce Natural Law and man-made laws; the jurisdiction of such a government is solely comprised of land owned by consenting individuals. Legitimate government never extends man-made laws beyond its jurisdiction defined by the land boundaries of its citizens, nor prevents any individuals from leaving its jurisdiction, unless the individual has been justly imprisoned on grounds that can be proven to the world (unjust imprisonment of any individual should rightly be taken by the rest of mankind as an act of war against humanity and a just cause for war).
We may thus define “government” as an association to which its members have consensually transferred a portion of their rights in order to more reliably defend the individual rights of its members than the members would otherwise be able to achieve individually, and for other purposes its members deem desirable. Such members are called “citizens” of the respective government. The Law of Conservation of Rights means that the formation of a new government does not create any new rights. The new government is restricted to exercising only those rights that are voluntarily transferred – and no more. In other words, if an individual citizen did not have the right to take a given kind of action before he transferred a portion of his rights to the government, then agents of the government have no such right. Agents who do engage in such actions are in fact committing crimes, including the crime of the fraudulent pretense of acting in the name of their citizens. This definition of government is radically different from what is practiced today, but is not essentially different from what the Founders of America originally had in mind as evidenced by their own words as quoted above: to secure individual liberty through consent of the governed. The system of government I am describing is not without historical precedent. It is similar to the system of “city-states” that has been used throughout history, including a few rare modern city-states, but especially by the ancient Greeks. The opposite type of system, which lays claim to sweeping swaths of land and asserts its laws onto it, is “totalitarian,” for it seeks nothing less than a total confiscation of wild unowned land and a total assertion of its man-made laws onto anyone who happens to live there, most importantly, through the legalized theft of property known as taxation.
It should now be clear that the root of our modern political problems lies in a misapprehension of the distinction between man-made and Natural Law. Man-made laws must not be asserted onto unowned land and to do so is a totalitarian act of war against humanity; however, for Natural Law to be asserted through the consent of citizens is the ultimate heroism that government is capable of. Impressing a clear distinction between man-made laws and Natural Law upon the minds of the human race is the most desperately needed form of intellectual activism and could lead to the most important political reform of our age.
“The consolidation of the states into one vast republic, sure to be aggressive abroad and despotic at home, will be the certain precursor of that ruin which has overwhelmed all those that have preceded it.”— Robert E. Lee
“For remember, of all possible evils, that of despotism is the worst and the most to be dreaded.”— Samuel Bryan, To the Freemen of Pennsylvania
The progress of the human race critically depends on individuals being left free to pursue their own peaceful ends. It is particularly important that those engaged in long-range research and development be secure in their possessions, for when one feels that a pirate or dictator will steal what you have in the next month, year, or decade, then one is rationally inclined to short-range action. This is why third-world countries remain third-world countries. Thus, the more security can be ensured by proper government from thieves, pirates, and totalitarianism, the more mankind can prosper and achieve its true potential. This is the most critical reason to form sophisticated, large-scale government. Just as the instruments of science permit man ever more precise knowledge of reality and just as the achievements of engineering give man ever more precise control over nature, the institutions of government should ensure ever greater security of individual rights.
It is inevitable that land-owners (who are not under duress from totalitarianism) will aggregate and form city-states, which are neither more nor less than the embodiment of the laws of their own land that they hold in common. It is also inevitable and indeed highly desirable that these city-states will form higher-order governments representing the common laws between them, for the very same reason: to secure their individual rights from criminal aggression, including the large-scale criminal aggression of governments. There is good reason in principle why there should be many levels of government with each higher level of government representing nothing more than the common principles of its member governments.
The guiding principle of each of these levels of government must always be: a consensual transfer of the rights of individuals to the government – and without a single exception. An individual in the wild who may be near a given city-state must not be forced to join, and this is the critical test of legitimate government activity: government exists for the preservation of natural individual rights, not for their usurpation. To violate this principle is to undercut the very basis of government. For this ultimate end, various specific purposes should conceivably be in treaties that form higher levels of government:
Such treaties result in a natural hierarchy of governments, with most rights concentrated with the individual, and successively fewer rights being aggregated toward the higher levels of government in order to accomplish successively more specific and limited purposes. It should be clear that if the Law of Conservation of Rights is adhered to, fewer and fewer rights, more specific and more delimited rights, would be transferred up to each level. At the first level, one can expect that a reasonable human being would be jealous of his own rights, and only very cautiously and judiciously transfer them to someone else. For this same reason, local governments would be loath to part with autonomy and sovereignty, and would only do it for the most crucial ends, and for ends that could not be achieved by other means. Also, just as no one can truly consent to become a slave (see Chapter 2), no one can truly consent to submit to open-ended claims upon one’s rights. It is only through usurpation that vast, sweeping powers can be transferred to the highest levels of government, and to the extent that these usurped powers define the government, it is not actually a government, but rather, it is an anarchic criminal operation, like a mafia but operating on a vastly larger scale and with nothing to oppose it.
Since rights originate in the individual, it is implicit that any rights not explicitly transferred by contract or treaty reside with the individual. This notion was partially recognized in the tenth amendment of the Constitution of the United States: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This amendment should never have needed to be stated, as it is implicit in any contract that those rights that are not surrendered are retained, and indeed, it was an error to make this amendment rather than to address the root issue: that a contract is a contract, even when made by representatives.
This natural, organic method of constructing governments allows for a wide diversity in peacefully co-existing and evolving forms of government. With respect to one another, and in the absence of legitimate treaty, governments must interact with one another (or with other human beings not belonging to any government) on the strict basis of Natural Law described in the Chapter 2. However, citizens of the government may have consented to a wide variety of abridgments (either themselves or by virtue of a previous land owner who transferred ownership with certain constraints). Everything ranging from a free market system to a kind of commune are legitimate. A system of social “safety nets” and a general property tax to pay for them are legitimate. So all the usual arguments people have about what kind of government they want become moot: if they don’t like their current form, they would be free to alter it according to their previously agreed upon rules, or repatriate, or even strike out on their own in the vast unowned wilderness and make up their own laws. Such a system would result in a healthy competition between governments to discover the best sorts of laws that humans can create. Such a system also serves as a “pressure relief valve” for society, as those who have become disenfranchised would be permitted to leave in peace, rather than being forced to stay. Such force only encourages the disenfranchised to become a problem for society, and while we would certainly blame the disenfranchised for their chosen acts against innocents, we cannot withhold blame from a society that refuses to follow the Law of Origin of Government, thereby goading the weak-minded into becoming criminals.
Social systems formed in this manner would be self-correcting and ever-improving:
“Totalitarianism is a political system in which the state recognizes no limits to its authority and strives to regulate every aspect of public and private life wherever feasible.”— Wikipedia
“Everything within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.”— Benito Mussolini
No government becomes totalitarian in the above sense overnight; totalitarianism is a characteristic that manifests to various degrees in all contemporary governments, and that is because it is the principle underlying them. We don’t like to think of our own government as being “totalitarian”, but when that government has left no room for natural and rightful variation in certain areas, and there is in fact no principle that stops it from encroaching into all other areas, then it is totalitarian, even if it is a “kinder and gentler” style of totalitarianism.
“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”— Martin Luther King, Jr.
Human beings are fallible, but some human beings are far more fallible than others, so there can be no worse idea than to force the less fallible ones to be bound by the rules of the more fallible. The shackling of the thoughtful, peaceful, principled, and intelligent men to the rules of the thoughtless, aggressive, unprincipled, and stupid men is the principal evil of totalitarianism. The former ought to be free from the vile inhumanity of the latter so that the former may prosper through virtue, and the latter may learn virtue through bearing the consequences of their own arrogance, power-mongering, greed, and stupidity. A social order such as this is one based on the principles of reason and justice, is harmonious with Nature’s own order, and will lead to ever-increasing prosperity on Earth for all of humanity – even for those who are easily tempted by barbarous impulses. An order such as we have now is the inversion of justice and reason, and can only lead to the degradation and extinction of the human race.
But many take this order for granted as being “normal.” Quite probably the majority who lived through the Dark Ages thought that their dismal condition was the most that could be expected from life on Earth. But there are those of us who know that mankind has an unlimited potential for improvement that has only just begun to be revealed. In spite of the Enlightenment, there have almost continuously been deeply oppressive forces holding us back, a boot stepping on the neck of mankind, and this boot is totalitarianism.
Recall these conclusions from Chapter 3: Totalitarianism is a malignant perversion of government where it asserts man-made laws beyond its justified bounds, whether by annexing land that is either not legitimately owned or without the consent of owners, or by threatening or occupying land that is properly subject to foreign governments. To assert Natural Law on lands one does not own by coming to the defense of innocent non-citizens is not totalitarian, it is heroic. The principles of justice grant every man the right to come to the defense of any other man’s rights, and therefore any government also has that right, when such a right has been consensually delegated. Perhaps the most heroic thing any group can do is consent to come to the defense of the natural rights of another, to assert Natural Law beyond the boundaries of their own government and into other lands. This is not only heroism because it helps others, but also because it is a wise act of self-defense: it is in the nature of totalitarian regimes to expand; totalitarianism anywhere threatens rights everywhere. But in such heroism lies the fatal danger of asserting man-made laws onto those who did not consent to them. When a totalitarian enemy looms, it is easy to be lulled into thinking that totalitarianism at home is a proper means of fighting it. But to assent to totalitarianism at home is even worse than being conquered by a totalitarian enemy: at least if you are conquered you do not lose the desire to remain free, which is to lose your very soul. For what can your life mean when you have willingly surrendered the only thing that can give it meaning: your rights?
Totalitarianism can infect any government to any degree, and formerly good, rights-respecting governments can incrementally devolve into megalomaniacal totalitarian dictatorships as they lose their understanding of the distinction between Natural Law and man-made law. Totalitarianism is the ultimate expression of social decay, government criminality, and barbarism; it is human ignorance and wickedness par excellence.
Man is the self-improving animal. No matter how good his condition is, his natural state is to continuously alter himself and his environment to improve it – this is our greatest virtue as a species. What is the ultimate potential of mankind? Could those who lived in the Dark Ages have imagined the age of technology we live in today? Perhaps a small handful could and did. But it may be impossible to imagine what fantastic things mankind is capable of in the very long run. In any case, the trend is obvious: ever more deep, precise, and extensive scientific knowledge; ever higher degrees of control over matter, of being able to transform it with ever greater ease and precision into devices that serve mankind; and as a consequence of both scientific and engineering prowess, ever greater understanding and control over the matter of our own bodies, giving hope of the ultimate potential to cure all disease and ward off the ravages of old age. Politics ought to mirror the achievements of these other realms, it ought to entail ever more scientific knowledge about and protection of individual rights, and thus lead to an enhancement of the progress in all other realms of human endeavor.
Totalitarianism in its extreme and comprehensive form, which has literally taken control over the entirety of the habitable portions of planet Earth (and beyond), is actually a very new human phenomenon, and ironically, has only been made possible by the exploitation of man’s striving for self-improvement. For all of mankind’s history, except for the last tiny stretch of perhaps only 100 years, man has been free to escape from vicious men, into the frontier. And thus there was always this inherent threat for tyrants: squeeze too hard, and your best will leave. This must have been the source of endless frustration for the dictators who thought that if they could just have total control, then they could achieve whatever it was their barbarous impulses told them was the ideal. One can imagine a perpetual tension: the tyrant trying to force everyone to do his will, but it being relatively easy to just walk off, and thus his being frustrated at having to give his subjects various liberties or watch them leave. It is easy to imagine this pattern stretching back to the earliest tribes that expanded out of Africa.
Indeed, it was this very pattern that in large part led to the creation of America, where many of the best of Europe fled tyrants at home to seek freedom, some in the American cities which were far freer than those in Europe, and some in the American frontier, which was almost totally free. But the American frontier came to an end around 1900, and thus marked a new era in mankind’s history: there is nowhere left to go to escape the tyranny of a total land grab and assertion of man-made laws by governments. There is no historical precedent for this, and thus there is no way to predict what the ultimate consequence will be from historical events alone. Some probable and definite consequences are already evident:
It is beyond the scope of this book to make a complete historical case for what is suggested by the preceding facts, but the fact that totalitarianism is in principle a gross human rights violation, that it aggregates usurped powers stripped from unconsenting human beings into a central dictatorship, that the scale of atrocities in human history has risen alongside the rise of totalitarianism, and that a majority of these atrocities happened after the American frontier was illegitimately closed, makes a very strong suggestion indeed. It should also be noted that the alternative is not: closing the frontier or anarchy in the wilderness. The alternative is: a megalomaniacal police state exerting totalitarian force everywhere or a good-faith enforcement of Natural Law everywhere (a refutation of anarchism will be given in Chapter 5).
To a substantial degree the history of the modern world is the history of totalitarianism. It is the history of one aspiring empire versus other aspiring empires, their infighting and alliances and schemes and millions upon millions of enslaved or murdered victims. It is easy for those who currently live in relative material privilege to be dismissive of such talk. But there is in fact a pile of bodies stretching back in history, many in recent history, that serve as a chilling reminder of what atrocities governments are capable of when they do not respect individual rights. And while many are dismissive of principle, the United States Congress is busy (ca. 2008-2010) repealing the Bill of Rights, taking totalitarian control over the financial system and medicine. At best, this is a recipe for total stagnation, as opposed to the already dismally retarded progress (relative to what it can and ought to be) of mankind in the last several decades. It is impossible to predict what the ultimate consequences of the presently escalating totalitarianism will be, but if history is any guide, those who have not studied the causes for mass starvation in Communist regimes could be in for a very rude awakening.
While it is impossible to predict the outcome of this era of totalitarianism, one thing is certain: it is an inherently unstable system. As long as thinking men exist, they will hate the usurpation of their rights. They will never get over the fact that their consent was violated. Totalitarians will always try to overcome this through oppression and even murder, but as the thinkers go, so goes mankind. No totalitarian regime can support itself without the efforts of thinkers. This is an inherent instability that can never be overcome. The only alternatives are for mankind to either destroy totalitarianism – or to be destroyed by totalitarianism.
“Those of the chemical craft know well that no change can be effected in the different species of substances, though they can produce the appearance of such change.”— Avicenna
“Well, when the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”— President Richard Nixon
“The average person thinks that morality can be applied as directly to the conduct of States to each other, as it can to human relations. That is not always the case, because sometimes statesmen have to choose among evils.”— Henry Kissinger
If a government official decided that he was going to go around to everyone’s house and forcibly require everyone to turn in their gold to him, then most would consider this an abuse of authority and a criminal act that should land that official in jail. Yet for some reason, if the official publishes a decree saying “turn in your gold because I say so,” with perhaps some bromides about the “public good” and signatures from a few accomplices in government, almost everyone regards his act as legal and lets him get away with it. (See US Executive Order 6102, which “criminalized” the possession of gold.)
To an unconditioned mind, the power to transmute a crime into a right would seem astonishing, tantamount to the claim of an alchemist that he could transmute lead into gold, or the claim of a “scientist” that he’d invented a perpetual motion machine. How indeed can a crime be so easily transmuted into a right, by the mere incantation of jargon on a scrap of paper having the “official” stamp of government approval? Well, it is quite obvious that it can’t, and instead there is now a sham of massive proportions taking place in society, a sham that surely must begin with the inculcation of children in order for them to somehow come to believe that such a bizarre practice is acceptable. But certainly, one can understand the motivation behind what is the ultimate kind of criminal power grab. Such “official” criminality is ordinary, to be sure, but it is no less irrational and criminal in spite of how commonplace it is. Cannibalism and slavery were commonplace in some human societies as well, but no one would argue that just because they were accepted and common, they are therefore right, or indeed, even sane. Fiat, an ancient form of mind-control that permits those who wear the mantle of authority get away with crimes, is no more justifiable.
There is only one ultimate authority in the political realm: the principle of not violating someone’s natural rights. Fiat is the ultimate blank check for dictators: a counterfeit authority consisting in the pretense that the authority flows from government officials, rather than from the Law of Conservation of Rights. All of the frauds committed by government have their root in this counterfeiting operation, which takes place at all scales and levels in modern society.
There is no essential difference between fiat and crime; there is only the difference in whether one recognizes fiat as a type of crime or not – and when the purveyors of fiat propound that their actions somehow derive from legitimate authority, then the crime only gets compounded with the crime of fraud. Fiat is thus a political manifestation of widespread frauds and delusions about the nature of rights. So, the concepts “totalitarianism” and “fiat” are inherently associated with one another: you can’t have fiat without totalitarianism, and you can’t have totalitarianism without fiat. Since the basis of fiat is mass delusion, the basis of totalitarianism is also mass delusion.
Most people who believe they hate government really hate fiat, not government. They think they hate government because the only government they have known indulges in fiat as if it were a normal everyday thing to do. Psychologically-healthy individuals hate being ordered around without good cause; they hate being threatened and punished for victimless crimes; they hate following arbitrary rules that have no basis in protecting rights, but only in inflating the power and authority of bureaucrats or funneling money into the pockets of special interest groups.
The potential types and variations of fiat are unlimited. Every kind of human action can potentially be constrained by fiat; every kind of human crime can be allegedly legitimized by fiat. Once government is permitted to indulge in this kind of nonsense, there really is no limit to what they will control, nor any way to prevent a slide toward total control, except to eliminate the bogus notion that fiat is somehow legitimate.
Just as there are Six Fundamental Rights, there is also a fundamental fiat that stands in direct opposition to these rights. A particular fiat constitutes a fundamental delusion about the nature of government authority and the key bulwark and foundation of totalitarianism: Fiat Jurisdiction.
“Some national parks have long waiting lists for camping reservations. When you have to wait a year to sleep next to a tree, something is wrong.”— George Carlin
Since the owner of a given area of land has sole right to create “house rules,” no individual or group may presumptuously declare that their set of man-made laws apply to land they do not legitimately own. Fiat jurisdiction is nothing less than fiat land ownership and is a gross violation of the Law of Origin of Government.
We are indoctrinated with the fiction of fiat jurisdiction at the earliest possible age, when we are given little maps and Crayons and encouraged to identify one swath of the Earth as “belonging” to one nation, and another swath as “belonging” to another. False patriotism teaches children to more strongly associate their self-esteem with the government and its ill-gotten swath of land than with their own achievements. True patriotism should teach children to have reverence for their own individual rights and the individual rights of others, that our common interest is in keeping our hands to ourselves, that mankind achieves the most when we work together in this manner rather than interfering with one another, that the worst enemy of mankind is totalitarianism, that the greatest heroes are those who free men from its vicious grasp, and that they should aspire to be like these heroes in order that they and their posterity can have liberty. To love one’s government regardless of what it does is not “patriotic”; on the contrary, this “unconditional love” of government is treason of the highest order: it is treason against the human beings a corrupted government violates; it is treason against the highest law – Natural Law. True patriotism is a love of Natural Law, a pride in one’s own government for furthering it, and a desire for it to be enjoyed by the rest of mankind.
There simply is no way to justify the assertion of man-made laws onto land that is not, by virtue of Natural Law, legitimately owned. No man can legitimately sweep his arms across the face of the Earth and, by fiat, own it. Such megalomania is clearly a direct assault on every man’s right to land – an implicit declaration of war on mankind. Nor can two men, ten men, or ten million men have any more right to take this megalomaniacal act than any single man – adding more and more human beings can’t magically transform insanity into sanity, it only increases its scale.
This insanity has serious consequences. In our age, even wild animals are afforded more “right” to a spot to live on this Earth than are men. Wild animals are free to move from place to place, building nests or dams or sleeping in caves, whereas many men are “homeless” – it is illegal for them to walk into the wilderness, seek and gain sustenance and build shelter, and reside on a small spot of land. Even on the land governments do permit individuals to “own,” the “ownership” isn’t true ownership; it is rental. Like a landlord, the government dictates what kind of improvements can be made to the property, expects rent in the form of “property” taxes, and if you don’t pay them, they evict you. (But recall that city-states can be designed such that they can rightfully tax.) It gets worse when it comes to conflicting government claims of jurisdiction and ownership: there is perhaps no greater cause for war in mankind’s history than the presumption and assertion of fiat land ownership. George Carlin is right: something is wrong, very wrong. And what’s gone wrong is that we’ve allowed our governments to act as if they can own land, instead of being delegated specific rights by legitimate owners; and worse, we’ve allowed them the pretense of ownership by mere claim.
As if to flaunt their insane land grabbing behavior before God himself, governments have even conspired to form treaties that in effect, and I do not jest, preemptively grab the entire Universe and prevent you from owning even a tiny portion of it. Not only are you not free to peacefully occupy some tiny spot of land for yourself while being unmolested by governments, you are also not free to leave planet Earth and colonize outer space! Behold, the megalomania literally without limit (quoted from the “Outer Space Treaty”, dated October 10, 1967, and signed by the United States and about 100 other countries):
These statements do not merely refer to the immediate vicinity of Earth, to the space occupied by man-made satellites, the moon, or even the solar system; this “mother of all land grabs” extends to the entire Universe. So much for the “Final Frontier” and the distant hope some space enthusiasts have for escaping human tyranny by leaving planet Earth. This is precisely what fiat jurisdiction ultimately leads to: a literally insane mockery of human rights. But these megalomaniacs are not attempting to send a breathtakingly arrogant message to either God or space aliens; they are merely testing the limits to which the populace will let them get away with their fraudulent authority over every last scrap of land and every last human being on Earth. The central motive driving these lunatics will make a fitting epitaph for the human race unless the lunacy is ended: Here lies a race that had infinite potential – until it grasped at infinite dominion.
Consider the true meaning of fiat jurisdiction. Imagine yourself a land owner, who has certain “house rules” that you apply to those who come onto your land. What do you call such people? Guests. Unless you do not allow them to leave, in which case they are your prisoners, bound to follow your rules until they can escape. But at least there is some hope that they could escape – there is somewhere to go. Now focus your mind on the fact that there is no spot on Earth that does not have a megalomaniacal land-grabbing government asserting its man-made rules onto you without your consent. In this respect, you are worse off than a prisoner.
If it is clear why a slave-owner does not want his slaves to leave or why a feudal lord wants his serfs to be bound to his property, then it should also be clear why the entire planet Earth is organized on exactly the same model. If those in power are not able to prevent their subjects from leaving, then given how they evidently wish to act, they will not be able to maintain their power. The best and only way to secure their positions of power is to secure the entire Earth. And this is where the battle for individual rights in our modern age must begin: we must advocate for governments to cease in waging war against those who might choose to live in the wilderness; to cease in recognizing the claims of those world organizations who presume to own unused portions of the Earth; to recognize the sovereignty of the individual land-owner (but only if they own it in a proper, non-land-grabbing sense); and to reconstruct themselves on the basis of actual consent. And they undoubtedly will obtain this consent from most citizens if they commit themselves to securing individual rights, rather than securing all the land on Earth in order to turn it into a colossal human farm.
Don’t wonder why your freedoms have eroded over time. Your freedom was lost when your government first indulged in the high crime of fiat jurisdiction.
Fiat consent is the pretense of consent, whether the pretense is advertised as propaganda by those with political authority, or believed by the weak-minded. Fiat consent is nothing less than to pretend consent was given when it in fact was not, and usually for the purpose of blunting the consequences associated with usurping the rights of those who are perceived as not having the power to defend themselves from the usurpation. It is a show put on to make rights-usurpers and their apologists feel better about themselves, and to prevent retribution for their vile acts.
Those who think to some degree about the crimes of government will naturally be concerned and in need of some kind of resolution of their concerns. For example, if government threatens people into paying taxes, to an honest man, that looks like extortion. Men with some moral sense but who are unwilling to admit that it is indeed as it appears (because, for example, they lack the imagination to figure out how to secure the benefits of government without such crimes) are uncomfortable and in need of some rationalization. Fiat consent provides some degree of comfort, in exchange for the usual payment: your mind.
In spite of the delusion of fiat consent, the fact remains that in order to have an individual’s consent, you must have his consent; the individual must either implicitly or explicitly give it. It is the individual’s untrammeled choice that causes it to be consent. And clearly, any form of “consent” that leaves an individual unable to choose to withhold it is not in fact consent, it is criminal usurpation of his natural rights and an act of war against that individual. Fiat consent has absolutely no legitimacy – regardless of the size of the army standing behind the usurpation.
Just as alchemists sought the “Philosopher’s Stone” that would turn lead into gold, philosophers over the ages, even including alleged defenders of individual rights, have produced rationalization upon rationalization, apologetics for either criminal government acts or their own inability to conceive of rational alternatives; they have attempted and as could have been expected, abysmally failed to transmute lack of consent into consent. In spite of their conundrums and failure to admit them, the issue is simple: Consent is consent. No number of human beings can legitimately vote away or aggregate themselves such that they can legitimately usurp another human being’s rightful consent. A more crude form of attempting to transmute non-consent into consent is the gangster’s tactic of putting a gun to someone’s head and making him sign something. Just as there is no magic recipe or incantation or polling procedure or rational argument that can turn lead into gold, neither can lack of consent be transmuted into consent. Consent cannot be produced from anything but the individual’s own untrammeled choices.
If you want to see proof of fundamentally illegitimate and patently unjustifiable political activity, look for usurpations of individual consent. If you want to see moral corruption in the realm of art, observe the books and movies that incessantly try to pound into your brain that your consent must occasionally be usurped either for the “good of the group” (which ignores the fact that “good” has no meaning for the group as such, but only for its individual members), or for “law and order” (which ignores the fact that usurping rights is a crime). If you want to see an intellectually bankrupt philosopher bent on rationalizing and apologizing for corruption, who is uninterested in the pursuit of truth, observe one who would try to argue that civilization or justice requires forcibly stripping individual human beings of their right to consent to join that civilization.
This bogus notion of fiat consent is one of the Massive Lies of the modern world – we all are forced to belong to a given government by virtue of being born into it, we have no way of leaving, we must simply submit and go along, or be imprisoned, or die. It is impossible to overstate the violence, destruction, and wickedness inherent in this, the hatred and subjugation of the free and independent human spirit, the direct insult to one’s own life’s pursuits, and the violence inflicted on innocents from the blowback stemming from forcing others to do something they, as a self-evident truth and a biological imperative, know that no one has any right to force them to do.
Fiat consent is only made possible through fiat jurisdiction. If governments had integrity to the Law of Origin of Government – to their proper geographic limits, namely, the boundaries of land owned by consenting citizens – then one could always leave a government one didn’t agree with.
In addition to fiat jurisdiction and fiat consent, there are a multitude of other forms of fiat ultimately rooted in and based upon these foundational forms of fraudulent authority. Some would not be fiat, if only they were based on consent. To address all of them would take many volumes, perhaps as many as the United States Code, so I must limit myself to what seems to me the more conspicuous, damaging, or interesting forms of fiat.
“How strangely will the Tools of a Tyrant pervert the plain Meaning of Words!”— Samuel Adams
“If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how can it be otherwise in a body to which the people send one hundred and fifty lawyers, whose trade it is to question everything, yield nothing, and talk by the hour?”— Thomas Jefferson
“If, to the consciousness of having saved some lives, [a physician] can add that of having no time, from want of caution, destroyed the boon he was called on to save, he will enjoy, in age, the happy reflection of not having lived in vain; while the lawyer has only to recollect how many, by his dexterity, have been cheated of their right and been reduced to beggary.”— Thomas Jefferson, To David Campbell
“Woe unto you, lawyers! For ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered.”— Luke 11:52
“The more laws, the less justice.”— Cicero
“Lex malla, Lex nulla – A bad law is no law.”— St. Thomas Aquinas
How can one reply to “Ignorance of the law is no defense” but that which will get one thrown in jail for contempt of court? It is impossible to not be ignorant of the law since it is so vastly huge. Just one part of the United States Code, Title 26 (the U.S. Tax Code), is approximately 17,000 pages in approximately 21 volumes. Certainly the tax code alone keeps plenty of lawyers, judges, accountants, programmers, and IRS agents busy doing make-work that ultimately is far worse than useless to society, but it has nothing to do with what is required in order to run a proper government and everything to do with a the bloated festering stench of fiat justice smothering every citizen in its wretched unwholesomeness.
Was this the noble reason our forefathers dumped British tea into the Boston harbor? So that we could be lorded over by lawyers? How our descendants will look upon us with pity at the pathetic wreck of a government we’ve inflicted ourselves with that would create such monstrosities as the U.S. Tax Code, and they will view us with scorn that we should shackle our descendants to such a system. Indeed, a child maturing in the United States comes upon an inevitable and seemingly endless series of horrific psychological insults as he learns the true nature of the adult world he lives in; it would be better that he were forced to attend weekly shock therapy than learn the truth behind our culturally accepted forms of “justice.” No wonder teachers preach to children “Life’s not fair,” it numbs their natural outrage at discovering the gross unfairness that has been created by adults – and not just any adults – but professionals allegedly dedicated to law and order.
“Ignorance of the law” is completely beside the point. The purpose of a “justice system” is to implement justice, not to slavishly and unthinkingly apply farcical laws. The foundation of every court should be Natural Law. Even man-made laws must conform in the respect that there must be legitimate consent in order for the man-made law to be applicable. Natural Law doesn’t take volumes and volumes to explain.
A good sanity check on whether you’re dealing with Natural Law or with man-made laws is to ask: would you go to war over it, would you attack and kill others to defend it? (Consulting one’s intuition obviously won’t yield anything useful if you are deranged, but it can be a good sanity check if you’re reasonable.) For example, if another government kidnapped your citizens, or stole your land, then those would be seen by reasonable people as acts of war. However, a government that lets its citizens get away with copying your books is clearly a different matter. Few to none are advocating war with China for copying America’s books and movies.
Copyright is not a natural right, but a man-made construct. If a primitive, living in the wilderness, happens upon an abandoned object that you have copyrighted and makes copies, it is a violation of his rights to attack him. The object was abandoned, and his copying in no way interferes with your own pursuits.
Copyrights are indeed sensible, so long as they are created through consent. It is perfectly reasonable to have your city-state, or your federation of city-states, all agree that they will respect reasonable copyright laws, and that those who consented but then “trespass” on copyrights will bear some reasonable penalty. Likewise, it is reasonable to have members of your city-state refuse to trade with parties who do not recognize your copyright laws, thus depriving them of the benefits of your more civilized society, encouraging them to assent to your requirement that creators be paid for their efforts through voluntary trade.
If you are right that your terms are better and if you are generally right on your other man-made laws, then your city-states will prosper and grow, while the ones who do not accept your terms will shrink. The city-states you embargo will feel the pressure to conform to your reasonable rules (as identified in Chapter 3, this is only made legitimate by constraining one’s own citizens who have agreed to live under your system; enforcing your embargo on parties who did not consent to it is illegitimate and an act of war). You’re free to adopt unreasonable rules as well, but the more unreasonable they are, the more your city-state will tend to shrink and fail, while the more reasonable city-states prosper. Indeed, the city-state system, so unlike the totalitarian system we have today, ensures that the more reasonable social constructs win over time; not by destruction of city-states, but by individuals voting with their feet and teaching valuable lessons to city-states before they fail. Totalitarians hate losing what they view as their property (namely, each of us), but it is of extreme beneficence to mankind to strip this monopoly on government from the hands of dictators and place it where it belongs: in the hands of each and every individual.
Reasonable copyright laws support the creation of easily-duplicated but difficult-to-create new objects, without interfering with the productivity of other citizens. For example, a given piece of music can take months or years to create, and it costs everyone else nothing to restrict access to it unless the creator is paid. This new object would not have existed but for the creator, therefore no one is set back by having to pay for it. (It is difficult to ascertain what the ideal and specific terms of copyright could and should be given intelligent people living in free city-states. My support of copyright should not be taken as support of all modern copyright laws, but only as support of the basic idea of protecting literal copying of works through man-made laws.)
“The idea that I can be presented with a problem, set out to logically solve it with the tools at hand, and wind up with a program that could not be legally used because someone else followed the same logical steps some years ago and filed for a patent on it is horrifying.”— John Carmack
“If people had understood how patents would be granted when most of today’s ideas were invented, and had taken out patents, the industry would be at a complete standstill today…”— Bill Gates
Patents are fundamentally different from copyrights, because they do in fact impact the productive efforts of others. Unlike copyright, patents apply not to specific works, but to general ideas applying to an unlimited number of variations and manifestations (note the similarity to the infinite dominion motive that reared its ugly head in connection to “land grabbing” the whole Universe). Two people can easily think of the same general idea, and as one can easily see by observing how the modern patent systems work, often do. This fact alone proves that patents are not natural rights, because there can be no right to a contradiction. If one inventor patents something and another inventor independently creates the same idea, then there is no actual interference by the second inventor, and yet the current patent laws permit the first to confiscate his property anyway, on the pretext that the second inventor actually did interfere with the first inventor. But the only respect in which the second inventor could be construed as “interfering” is that he “interfered” with the first inventors hopes and wishes to monopolize a given area of human life. As was noted in Chapter 2, Right to Property, such hoping and wishing creates a criminal menace from a man. But the fact is that both inventors acted in precisely the same way: they independently conceived of a given idea. How can one have a right to do it, but with the other it was a crime? There is no natural right to a patent.
As it was with copyrights, city-states can choose to implement patents, so long as they don’t apply their man-made patent laws to individuals who are not their own citizens. But unless those patent laws are severely restricted relative to the ones we have in the modern age, that would be a mistake. In the current patent regime, it is very easy to accidentally “trespass,” which severely damages those who materially carry mankind: the inventors. Any city-state that adopted the modern patent system would thus lose all its good inventors to city-states that did not have this megalomaniacal form of patents and therefore collapse. Thus, the modern patent system is merely a consequence of totalitarian fiat and would cease to be as the totalitarian system was abandoned, along with the horde of lawyers, judges, and patent examiners who implement it.
Ancient man and his fellow-traveler the Neanderthal had total freedom to exchange value for value without the meddling of a third party. When modern man engages in the same activity, the legal tender laws treat him as if he were a criminal. To trade value for value without yielding to the illegitimate tax jurisdiction of a regime is to risk imprisonment, or if you resist going along quietly to prison, you will be murdered by the defenders of the totalitarian state. And this system of terrorism inflicted upon innocents is purported to be “civilized.”
The naïve and common view of fiat money is that it’s backed by trust. We “trust” that when we go to the grocery store we’ll be able to buy a loaf of bread for a reasonably predictable amount of fiat money, and likewise, the grocer “trusts” that he’ll be able to take that fiat money and buy what he needs in order to stay in business. On a superficial level, this has some truth to it, but the fact is, if we repeal the legal tender laws, the system would fall like a house of cards as those who know better inevitably stop “trusting” fiat dollars – which is precisely why those laws exist. In other words, fiat dollars aren’t backed by trust, nor are they backed by nothing, but in fact they are backed by guns. The strength of a given unit of fiat money is a direct measure of the military and police power of a given totalitarian state and the corresponding fear the citizens have that they will be violated by their own government for exercising their natural right to trade with one another. When you pull a dollar out of your wallet and see the virtual gun pointed at your head and your fellow citizens cowering in fear and rotting in prison, then you’ve come to understand fiat money. Contrary to some economists, a “gold standard” is not the solution, because any form of currency that is forced upon unwilling victims is fiat money as well. It is not fiat money because of what it is made of; it is fiat money because it is backed by government force and not consent. It makes no essential difference whether the underlying value of the material is relatively low or high; the only difference that it makes is the particular form of evil consequence that results from the fiat.
Unlike many of the other kinds of fiat, fiat money is honestly named, even if it is not well understood. What is not so honestly expressed is the purpose of fiat money. A key purpose is to fund the totalitarian state through money printing, which permits the state to buy what it wants, with the almost unseen and insidious penalty of inflation – the devaluing of the money that everyone who is forced to hold fiat dollars has in their possession. It also has a “side-benefit”: wealth can be transferred as desired from outsiders to insiders in possession of knowledge, and conveniently, no physical transfer need take place nor be recorded. If you know that the dollar will deflate, save and lend; if you know it will inflate, buy assets and take out fixed-interest loans (and if well-connected, take out zero interest loans directly from the Federal Reserve). No one can really know what will actually happen but those who pull the levers. Fiat money stacks the deck for insiders; everyone else has to guess whether there will be inflation or deflation, and they have no control over which they’ll get.
The evil of a third party forcing others onto a system of hidden financial levers should be obvious. Everyone should be free to trade value for value in whatever units of wealth they wish. If someone chooses to use paper for transactions, then that should be their choice, and if someone else wants to use something else, like silver and gold or any kind of terms mutually agreed on, they should be free to do so. As is the case with fiat property, if a given city-state wishes to use paper backed by nothing but an agreement to use it to exchange goods, then that would be their choice, so long as the use of paper is backed by consent, not guns.
“Wherever is found what is called a paternal government, there is found state education. It has been discovered that the best way to ensure implicit obedience is to commence tyranny in the nursery.”— Benjamin Disraeli
“Academies that are founded at the public expense are instituted not so much as to cultivate men’s natural abilities as to restrain them. But in a free commonwealth arts and sciences will be better cultivated to the full if every one that asks leave is allowed to teach publicly, at his own cost and risk.”— Spinoza
“… if there is to be a philosophy at all, that is to say, if it is to be granted to the human mind to devote its loftiest and noblest powers to incomparably the weightiest of all problems, then this can successfully happen only when philosophy is withdrawn from all State influence.”— Schopenhauer
Human action springs from a single source: human beliefs. As a single cause leads to a plethora of effects, so too does a single human belief lead to a plethora of human actions. The key to enslaving people with the least possible trouble and therefore the greatest “return on investment,” is to control their beliefs, both through myths taught when they are young and through misrepresentation and omission in the press and in the history books.
The belief that education is so important that the government must be in charge of it is as powerful a myth as it is revealing. Oh the celebration of any tyrant to find that the populace is not only willing to entrust him with the molding and shaping their children’s tender minds, but are indeed clamoring for him to not only take control of their children, but to extort tax monies for that purpose as well. If Thomas Jefferson were still alive, he would certainly rue the day that he thought that government and education should ever be brought near to one another.
America began with a free press, which was brought to almost total collapse through a highly consolidated media, and precariously, seems to be on the verge of being resurrected by the Internet (ca. 2008-2010). If anything can help cure the world of the disease of totalitarianism, a nearly unfettered Internet can. Time will tell whether the barbarians will figure out a scheme they can use as a pretext to hobble or shut it down, but one thing is certain: such actions by government must be thwarted.
One can go on an on and on identifying the many crimes of totalitarianism, as indeed many have in various books and other media produced over the span of centuries. Many important books have been written in just the last decade. But as my purpose is to underscore the most fundamental crimes, principally fiat jurisdiction and fiat consent, I will end my remarks here.
Some American Indians had earned the wrath of the American people, but many certainly deserved to remain free.
At least Kissinger recognizes that what he advocates is evil, but the idea of “necessary evil” is an odious myth whose object is to enable evil men to get away with evil, right under the noses of men who should know better.
Since delusion is at the root of fiat, the sure sign that some new kind of fiat is looming is when those with authority support and advocate new myths. An important example of this are the many myths spawned by environmentalism.
As has happened with all frontiers, the actions of many enthusiasts are purposefully harnessed by governments in order to enlarge their own dominance in the new sphere. We cannot solve our problems on Earth by attempting to leave it.
It is not my intent to imply that there is an overt conspiracy run by criminal masterminds going on. It is possible for groups of human beings to have goals implicit in their premises and behaviors; anthropomorphizing this group behavior is both convenient and legitimate so long as one does not forget that it is group behavior.
So, there is indeed some truth to the notion that “money is the root of all evil” – money as we’ve known it is indeed near the root of totalitarian power as totalitarian states can only achieve their ends by confiscating the wealth of those within their fiat jurisdiction.
Unfortunately, censorship by even “Western” governments of the Internet is on the rise, such as in Australia.
“As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities”— Voltaire
The ultimate cause of all human action is human beliefs. Good ideas lead to virtuous action; bad ideas lead to vicious action. This chapter examines and refutes a selection of bad ideas.
Unlike true principles, which tend to be limited in number, have a natural logical order, and build upon one another, fallacious ideas are limited in number only by confusion and creative dishonesty, have no definite logical order, and are built only on the naiveté or variable untoward motives of the purveyor.
One of the most revealing phrases of our time, a virtual litmus test for whether evil is prospering or is on the run is “life isn’t fair.”
There are two ways to interpret this statement. The most benign interpretation is that the universe is neutral regarding you and doesn’t care whether you get what you want or not. But this isn’t what is usually meant. Those uttering this phrase hide the true meaning behind the word “life.” They don’t really mean “life isn’t fair,” they mean “people aren’t fair, and don’t expect anyone to do anything about it, especially me” or “I’m not fair, but I have power and authority over you, so get used to it.”
Like the venom of a spider that paralyzes the victim into inaction that it might be safely devoured, the phrase “life’s not fair” is primarily aimed at inducing a state of paralyzed apathy in the victim or his potential champion, so that they just sit there and accept injustice instead of fighting it. This is one of the most useful phrases of human parasites of all kinds, because even children grasp the meaning when they are told by their teacher that “life isn’t fair,” and many adults permit the venomous phrase to poison their minds as well. And so, we have a whole culture of people who have been trained since grade school to roll over and take it when authorities and bullies of all kinds devour more and more of our rights as the years go by.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit a world full of bullies.”— Richard Bobowski
Take this verbal dagger aimed at the heart of justice out of the hands of the fools and villains who wield it and turn it back on them. It’s not that “life” isn’t fair, it’s that certain people thwart justice and should therefore be punished.
The “argument from wickedness” is the notion that the burden of proof lies upon the victim of a crime to demonstrate how the criminal’s life can be acceptable to him if he does not commit his crimes. But if a cannibal is holding you at knife-point and says he wants to hear your argument for why he will be better off by not eating you, it’s not your responsibility to prove anything to him. In fact it might be impossible to do so since he’s so evil he may not be able to produce anything anyway, so what might in fact be best for him is to eat you.
It is not your responsibility to prove the practicality of abolishing the crimes of fiat jurisdiction, fiat money, involuntary welfare programs, and other forms of government usurpation of individual rights. Your only responsibility is to justice – to make sure it is clear to the other party that they are interfering with you. If someone is so evil that they rank their own criminal desires above the fact that they are party to the usurping of your rights then there’s nothing left to say to him. Clearly, it’s his responsibility to keep his grubby paws off of you, not yours to show him how his life will be so much better if once he stops being a barbarian thug.
It is not wrong of course to ask how a system based on individual rights will work. But given the state of the world, we cannot project all the solutions that free men will find to solve problems when they are finally freed from the grasp of totalitarians. Nor is it anyone’s responsibility to prove what a particular solution to a particular problem is. A conversation about how to make things better takes place among moral people (also see REASON and LIBERTY, chapter 3), not as barter for your rights.
Given how commonplace it is for individual rights to be violated in the modern world and how most of us were taught as children to regard this as “normal,” some individuals may be slow to recognize that they are in fact arguing for the usurpation of your rights and thus participating. Their slowness in grasping the issue is not per se a sign of a corrupted mentality.
The historical record is clear. Being polite in the face of evil hasn’t worked. It’s time to speak plainly, to deal with evil for what it is. We the rights-respecting should not lend credibility to vile ideas by responding to them with a polite argument, nor should we permit those who support or indulge in evil ideas get away with the pretense that what they promote is anything but barbarism.
The 2010 version of this section has been superseded by my 2011 essay Against Anarchism.
“Piety requires us to honor truth above our friends.”— Aristotle
Let us give full benefit of the doubt and define “minarchism” as a system of government that claims exclusive jurisdiction to enforce Natural Law in a given geographic region. The key here is the claim of exclusive jurisdiction.
Ayn Rand is perhaps the most noteworthy advocate of minarchism. In the following excerpt from The Ayn Rand Lexicon, Rand is referring particularly to the Rothbardian “anarcho-capitalist” idea of “competing governments,” but her argument is implicitly against the idea of overlapping jurisdictions as such: “One cannot call this theory a contradiction in terms, since it is obviously devoid of any understanding of the terms ‘competition’ and ‘government.’ Nor can one call it a floating abstraction, since it is devoid of any contact with or reference to reality and cannot be concretized at all, not even roughly or approximately. One illustration will be sufficient: suppose Mr. Smith, a customer of Government A, suspects that his next-door neighbor, Mr. Jones, a customer of Government B, has robbed him; a squad of Police A proceeds to Mr. Jones’ house and is met at the door by a squad of Police B, who declare that they do not accept the validity of Mr. Smith’s complaint and do not recognize the authority of Government A. What happens then? You take it from there.”
If it is impossible that Government A and Government B can agree on just principles of enforcement in this situation, then how can it be that Government A and a citizen of Government A can agree? That is, how is Ayn Rand’s worldview here not a bald-faced apologetic for tyranny? Ironically, Ayn Rand’s argument against Natural Law jurisdiction furthers the anarchist position (and indeed, many anarchists came to anarchism directly through the works of Ayn Rand).
We must ask Ayn Rand one of her favorite questions: “By what right?” By what right does one group of people lay total claim to enforce laws upon a geographical region, thereby stripping the natural right to consent and justice from those who do not so choose? Ayn Rand’s sole answer to this is, in effect: “But there would be gang warfare otherwise.” In other words, “We’re from the government, and we’re here to protect you. Now hand over that tax revenue before we beat the living hell out of you and haul you to prison.”
The rationalization “but there would be gang warfare otherwise” is obviously no answer (particularly when you are being made into the subject of a gang you didn’t choose – which is, ironically, a kind of gang warfare against the individual). An actual answer must be founded upon particular individual rights, not the fear-mongering assertion that Government A and Government B are not able to resolve any differences without resorting to gang warfare. Ironically again, Ayn Rand’s denigration of anarchists applies at least as much to her own arguments as it does to theirs.
“All men have a right to remain in a state of nature as long as they please; and in case of intolerable oppression, civil or religious, to leave the society they belong to, and enter into another.”— Samuel Adams
Ayn Rand (evidently inadvertently) argues for totalitarianism in other writings as well, for example, in her definition of government: “A government is an institution that holds the exclusive [emphasis mine] power to enforce certain rules of social conduct in a given geographical area.” This is tantamount to totalitarianism, regardless of whatever remarks Rand made about individual rights elsewhere: suppose some “anarcho-capitalists” individually own land in a given area and want to implement their “competing governments” model on their own land. Samuel Adams surely would have supported the answer: let them try, and let them bear the consequences. Rand’s definition rules that their government is no government, and her view of government as the usurper of a sweeping geographical area (as evidenced in her definition and her other writings) would put them under the jurisdiction of a totalitarian government, which would then forcibly exterminate their competing governments.
We can answer the question I posed to Ayn Rand by citing the Law of Origin of Government: The only right by which one people can lay total claim to exclusively enforce laws in a given geographic region is if they have or have been delegated, through the consent of each and every land-owner, the right to exclusive enforcement that flows naturally from the right of land ownership. But this precludes the sweeping totalitarian fiat jurisdictions that Ayn Rand supported; the right of exclusive jurisdiction can only apply to those areas that are legitimately owned land (as defined in Chapter 2), and only then if no owner violates the rights of those outside of its jurisdiction.
The absurdity of minarchism is also understood from these basic observations:
Thus, when pressed on his premises, the consistent minarchist must ultimately degenerate into a full-scale totalitarian. And this is precisely the sorry state that every government that indulges in fiat jurisdiction has devolved into throughout history. Minarchy is thus a myth at best and a Trojan horse of totalitarianism at worst.
Because “Natural Law” and “fiat jurisdiction” are incompatible, even the best minarchist can only argue for pseudo-Natural Law within a given totalitarian jurisdiction. Unlike Samuel Adams, the minarchist cannot be a true and consistent supporter of the Rights of Man. If some citizens prefer to live in a jurisdiction where there is no prostitution, or no drugs, or where their neighbors have to follow certain building codes, or where there is a kind of “social safety net,” then they have no choice: they must either put up with the lack of what they see as necessary man-made laws, or try to foist their man-made laws on everyone by infiltrating the pseudo-Natural Law government and further corrupting its laws. And the minarchist cannot rationally object to the latter: he is a hypocrite who promotes the violation of Natural Law at the very foundation of his system. He is in no place to argue against a continual chipping away of the liberties he feigns respect for given that he flouts the Law of Origin of Government at the outset and thereby violates the most important of human rights: the right to own land.
Forcing everyone into the same jurisdiction is tantamount to forcing human beings into a cockfight and can only devolve into an unstable social disaster. History has demonstrated this repeatedly.
The proper ideal is not a totalitarian government based in fiat jurisdiction, the ideal is tight communities of a single jurisdiction, justly acquired by the Law of Origin of Government, with its associated man-made laws, and its treaties with other such city-states that confer only a limited set of rights to higher-level governments, for the purpose of securing Natural Law to the utmost degree, such that true consent, peace, harmony, and prosperity can exist.
Minarchists pose as the guardians of individual rights; in truth, they are, because of their posturing, an even greater enemy of them than the worst kind of dictator, because minarchists promote dictatorship and call it individual rights, thereby eradicating an authentic concept of individual rights from the minds of men, trading that which makes every man his own King for a fool’s bauble.
The “Malthusian Catastrophe” is the idea that at some point, human population and resource constraints will reach such a point that a apocalyptic economic crash will happen, one that reduces almost everyone to a subsistence-level existence or worse.
This nightmare situation is, unfortunately, quite possible. But the danger does not lie in the places usually cited, such as fundamentally limited natural resources. Mankind has amply demonstrated its creative ability to invent unanticipated ways of expanding resource production to meet his needs – when he has been left free to do so. The danger lies in how governments typically respond to problems. In the modern era, the typical government response to emergencies is to worsen the conditions that led to the emergency in the first place. As of this writing, the latest crisis relates to financial instruments, the root cause of which is fiat currency. If not for the fiat currency, such a wide-scale financial collapse would be impossible, as everyone would be diversified into widely varied instruments based on their own individual assessments, rather than being corralled by government into a centralized financial system. But instead of rectifying the fundamental problem, governments increase the power and authority of the centralized money system, virtually guaranteeing a future economic disaster of even greater proportions. They seek to hide this by engineering the spread of the disaster across a long span of time (such as through a gradual lowering of standards of living through inflation or other means), so that most do not notice the destruction, but because centralized systems are unstable, the disaster could come all at once as well.
Malthusians relish the idea of society collapsing, and they come in all stripes. Some Malthusians, such as certain extreme environmentalists, hate the human race, and would love nothing more than our species dying out in order to make room for flies and weeds.
Like anarchism, Malthusianism is a way to instill apathy and thus let tyranny run amok. In spite of the stance of most Malthusians, who adopt a self-certain attitude that is superficially impressive, no one can predict the future. The economy is far too large and complex to predict if and when it will collapse to the point of bare subsistence. If history is any guide, it will move along roughly as it has, and if you follow the advice of Malthusians, you will apathetically disengage from society, and the most probable outcome will be you reaching old age only to find a society that hasn’t collapsed, but where you had abandoned many opportunities for personal success, and traded them for the Malthusian vision of watching everyone else suffer. I doubt that anyone with the benefit of hindsight will consider that a good trade.
Economic forecasting is notoriously difficult. If you have a crystal ball and can see for yourself that it is going to collapse, then by all means, run for the hills. If you do not have a crystal ball, and if you cannot see for yourself that there is a solid case that the economy will certainly collapse to subsistence levels, then by all means, hedge your bets to a reasonable level, seek to improve your self-sufficiency, but don’t organize your entire life on the premise that we’re destined for Armageddon.
“If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.”— Bertrand Russell
“In the simplicity of their minds, people more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have such impudence. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and continue to think that there may be some other explanation.” – > “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”— Joseph Goebbels
“Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.”— paraphrasing Adolf Hitler
A substantial portion of government’s immense power is directed at preserving itself in its given form at a given time, regardless of whether the government might in fact be better if its form were altered. This inertia, embodied as massive swamps of bureaucracy, the “deep state”, reams of legislation, the academic establishment, the corporate establishment, and so on, is an enormous obstacle to improvement. To try to fight it all at once is to be doomed to fail. We have to fight it at the source: the basic myths about government people carry around in their minds.
That every tyrannical form of government in history has had its own mythology indicates how central these lies are for sustaining tyranny. At root they are all the same: they all teach men to ascribe God-like powers to government, to implicitly believe that government is an entity that transcends and overrules man’s nature, to believe that government is somehow more than just a group of individuals who happen to possess power and authority over other individuals.
There are three related purposes of such mythologies. First, the mythology instills fear, powerlessness, and subservience in the victims. Second, it causes the victims to feel as if the government is almost another parent, one who in spite of its brutal hand, will protect them from even more brutal enemies (enemies who are often fabricated as part of the mythology). Most important is that the victims come to believe that the government is somehow magically exempt from moral law; that it may do things that would be blatant crimes if ordinary citizens did them. All three purposes represent the psychological, spiritual, and moral disarmament of the victim and thus permit the government to get away with crimes of totalitarian proportions, many in full-view of a citizenry who are too intellectually paralyzed by the mythology to apply the same reasonable standards they use in their everyday lives to the actions of their own government. (To those who have thrown off the mental chains of tyranny-appeasing mythology, who well know that government is merely an institution of men and is bound by the same moral laws, this mythology and the acts it results in often make it seem as if planet Earth is one big insane asylum.)
John Locke dealt a serious blow to the prevailing government mythology of his time when he wrote his two treatises on government. In his time, these mythologies were of absolute monarchy and “Divine Right of Kings.” Locke argued vigorously against this rationalization for tyranny, instead supporting a conception of government rooted in inalienable individual rights and “consent of the governed.” John Locke’s ideas animated many of the Founders of America and directly inspired Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence. Locke railed against the mythology of “Divine Right of Kings,” that heirs of Adam had inherited “paternal rights” over the rest of mankind, and instead championed the idea of natural rights, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights.” A contemporary and counterpart of Issac Newton, Locke believed that human rights and the proper form of government could be understood through the powers of reason, by applying reason to the realm government just as Newton had applied it to the realm of physics.
We have “progressed” since the time of John Locke, not from mythology to science, but from one mythology to another. In today’s world, there are still those who believe that God ordains this or that government bureaucrat; however, most are under a different and more base spell: that might makes right, that if my gang is bigger and stronger than yours then I should get my way, that mob rule is the ultimate justification for everything (also see: legal positivism). In other words, the notion of “democracy” has trumped the place in the minds of many that was formerly occupied by God. Absolute democracy wasn’t prevalent in the time of John Locke, but one can be certain that if it had been prevalent, he would have railed against that as vigorously as he railed against the mythologies of his time. As many have identified and even more have felt, it is no less of a tyranny to be ordered around by the majority than it is to be ordered by a King. Indeed, democracy can be even more tyrannical than a King, who has sole authority and therefore sole blame when things go wrong: a King has to worry about things like angry mobs and the guillotine, and this concern surely regulated the behavior of many Kings, whereas anonymous voters feel relatively safe from the repercussions of their cowardly violations of their fellow man from the presumed safety of the voting booth. (This feeling of safety is illusory, but unfortunately the various forms of blowback that naturally follow the various voting crimes injure not only the voter, but the entire society, including those who are innocent.)
“Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”— John Adams
The fundamental metaphysical premise of demagogues and their dupes is that wishing makes it so – as long as they have a majority vote. For a time, democratic rule that is unrestrained by the principles of individual rights can seem to work, but as it parasitically sucks the blood out of the productive to feed it to the unproductive, the rule of the mob must inevitably collapse, and such a collapse must necessarily be filled with chaos and limitless human suffering and tragedy.
To many, the concept “society” seems almost magical, as if it is something imbued with an inexplicable property that “it” can do things that are completely unjustifiable for you to do yourself. Men have no trouble understanding that they shouldn’t steal their neighbor’s property, nor should a gang of ten men, but for some reason, when “society” does it, they feel it is appropriate. A right is an action that pertains to individuals only, and aggregations of actions are only the aggregations of the actions of individual men. If the right to commit a crime is a contradiction for individuals, then it therefore must also be a contradiction for a group of them – no matter the size nor the number of documents that rationalize such action.
Consider Winston Churchhill’s notions on democracy: “Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time.” But logic dictates that there cannot be something that is right but impossible (a fundamentally moral form of government) or wrong but practical (democracy unrestrained by Natural Law).
Moral-practical dichotomies are not philosophic truth, they are divide-and-conquer strategies for inattentive masses. In the history of man, many scientific-technological solutions to problems have never been tried, but no sane person would claim that we therefore should stop using reason in that sphere to discover new technologies and content ourselves with the best that we could come up with 2000 years ago. Our age is a testament to change for the better in the scientific-technological realm. We should learn our lesson. If we use our minds correctly, we can correctly discover truth and improve our condition on Earth. Moral-practical dichotomy peddlers are interested in only one thing: manipulating you into a state of unprincipled apathy in order to control you.
“Poor human nature, what horrible crimes have been committed in thy name! Every fool, from king to policeman, from the flatheaded parson to the visionless dabbler in science, presumes to speak authoritatively of human nature. The greater the mental charlatan, the more definite his insistence on the wickedness and weaknesses of human nature.” – > “John Burroughs has stated that experimental study of animals in captivity is absolutely useless. Their character, their habits, their appetites undergo a complete transformation when torn from their soil in field and forest. With human nature caged in a narrow space, whipped daily into submission, how can we speak of its potentialities?”— Emma Goldman
Supposing that man were inherently corrupt, then in order for men to productively cooperate rather than incessantly attack and steal from one another, they would need to be coerced. Like undisciplined children, they would need a “parent” to force them to do what they ought, because they will always pursue mischief otherwise. Thus, they would need a Leviathan State to act as if it were parent of all men. So it is no coincidence that tyrants decry “evil” human nature, while simultaneously exemplifying the worst kind of human evil.
But no man can see directly into the soul of another; instead, he infers the nature of all mankind by introspecting upon his own soul. Therefore, men who espouse the philosophy that all men are inherently evil indict themselves. Their cynicism about mankind isn’t an argument, it’s a confession. Thus, there is no refutation to offer such a man, there is only the admonition to redeem his soul from the evil he indulges in, and to stop making unreasonable inferences about other men based on his own wicked state.
A variation on the view that all men are inherently corrupt is that the majority of mankind is inherently corrupt (or stupid), in effect, that man is not a single species, but in fact two species: the common man, who has no concern for reason, truth and morality, and the higher and rarer sort of man, who does. This self-satisfied view is a potent anesthetic for the pain of recognizing just how daunting the task of redeeming mankind from the grip of bad government is, but also has the disastrous side-effect of inducing a state of helpless apathy in that crucial minority of sensible people.
One cannot know the true capacities and potentialities of the “common man” in a true state of liberty, but one can know that man ought to have liberty, and one can know that a paternalistic government turns men who would otherwise be self-sufficient into helpless dependents. We know that men who are enslaved often lose their hope and virtue. What justification then is there to look out at the world as it is now, and presume to know what “average” men are truly capable of? As with all things of great worth, there is no guarantee of successful attainment, there is only the alternative of action or inaction and the knowledge that you either did what you were capable of, or you did not. This view of the inherent inferiority of the “average” man cannot be based on reason, but only on hopelessness and cowardice.
The notion of “necessary evil” is that some measure of evil is necessary in order to further a “greater good.” The scoundrel uses it as a rationalization for his own purpose of usurping the rights of innocents. The hypocrite uses it as cover for his own treasonous cowardice.
When something that is good and necessary to human life has been corrupted, no idea is more helpful to the furtherance and increase of that evil than the idea that it is inherent to that thing and therefore also necessary. No evil is necessary, and nothing that is necessary can be evil; this notion is the trick of the parasite that encourages one to suffer with a disease instead of curing it. Evil rejoices in your embrace of the concept of “necessary evil” and its allied false dichotomies: theory vs. practice, moral vs. practical. Accepting such divisions stops thinking by making thinking in principles impossible. It therefore makes it impossible to discern right from wrong. Which is precisely the purpose of those dichotomies. By accepting them, the not entirely innocent victim voluntarily shackles his own mind, to the glee of the evil that forged the shackles. Don’t fall for it.
The refutation of “necessary evil” is a trivial application of the Law of Excluded Middle, that there is no middle ground between contraries: good and evil are opposites; what is good cannot be evil; what is evil cannot be good. The triviality of the logic reveals what can only be untoward motives behind any acceptance of this notion: that one wishes to get away with something evil, or that one wishes not to have to think or to disagree with authority figures who are engaged in the former.
Evil that is long-suffered can become intertwined with the good in such a way that an immediate termination of evil may cause more evil, just as the crude extraction of an arrow can cause even more bodily harm. But that doesn’t make the original evil “necessary,” it means that a specific gradual process must be used to terminate it.
It is craven to beg a robber not to steal from you because he’s “misallocating scarce resources and interfering with the free market economy.” He’ll just steal and then add well-deserved insult to your injury by mocking you as he makes off with the loot. The robber needs moral condemnation and ostracism and justice, not a lecture on economic theory.
Economics is not the basis of human rights. It is of course true that letting people be free maximizes their potential to prosper. This is not a principle of economics, but is a deeper principle that follows from the Life Principle: to interfere is to elicit retaliation; two beings engaged in interference with each other is destruction, not creation, and will necessarily result in less overall prosperity than two beings engaged in mutually-beneficial and non-interfering action. No theory of economics is needed in order to comprehend this basic and obvious biological fact.
“Man does not live by bread alone. I have known millionaires starving for lack of the nutriment which alone can sustain all that is human in man, and I know workmen, and many so-called poor men, who revel in luxuries beyond the power of those millionaires to reach. It is the mind that makes the body rich. There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else. Money can only be the useful drudge of things immeasurably higher than itself.”— Andrew Carnegie
“[T]he whole content of human life can not be summed up in the production, acquisition, and distribution of wealth. … I have sometimes thought that here may be the rock on which Western civilization will finally shatter itself. Economism can build a society which is rich, prosperous, powerful, even one which has a reasonably wide diffusion of material well-being. It can not build one which is lovely, one which has savor and depth, and which exercises the irresistible power of attraction that loveliness wields. Perhaps by the time economism has run its course the society it has built may be tired of itself, bored of its own hideousness, and may despairingly consent to annihilation, aware that it is too ugly to be let live any longer.”— Albert Jay Nock, The Memoirs of a Superfluous Man
Without wealth, there can be no human life, and especially not the kind of life one would regard as human. But life is more than wealth. A culture that prioritizes wealth accumulation over basic human values such as liberty and justice is a sick culture.
If the credit for a given consequence must be given to the consequence’s essential cause, then the greatest American industrialist and inventor was a man who garnered relatively little credit for it, both in his lifetime and thereafter. This is a man without whom the Second Industrial Revolution could not have taken place, and yet he died in poverty, even while all of America benefited immensely from his inventions, and leading industrialists profited handsomely from them. Even today, more than fifty years after his death, his inventions are being used in novel products. He was America’s greatest inventor, indeed, history’s greatest inventor, and yet America’s leading intellectuals permitted Thomas Edison to defame him both in his lifetime and thereafter. This man was Nikola Tesla.
The story of Tesla’s exploitation by those who historians have traditionally given higher billing is a long one. It began when Tesla arrived in America and started working for Thomas Edison. Edison promised a large bonus to Tesla in exchange for unimaginable (by Edison) improvements in Edison’s DC motor. Tesla made the improvements, and Edison profited, but declined to pay Tesla his due. So Tesla quit Edison’s employ in order to pursue his AC motor (something he could not convince the short-sighted Edison as being worthwhile) – the heart of the Second Industrial Revolution. When Tesla started having success with his motor, Edison, in order to scare the public away from Tesla’s invention, began electrocuting various animals, including horses, dogs, and elephants. Edison even funded the invention of the electric chair and coined the phrase “to Westinghouse,” referring to death by electrocution. It took eight minutes for the first victim of Edison’s chair, whose blood vessels burst and whose body caught fire, to succumb.
While Tesla employed the power of his mind to bring inexpensive electricity to mankind, Edison employed his wealth to produce a horrific killing machine. Tesla’s vision was to harness the power of Niagara Falls for the benefit of mankind. Edison’s vision was to garner wealth and fame for his own benefit, and Tesla had gotten in his way. While Tesla was driven by deep human values, Edison was driven by economism.
The soulless philosophy of economism would strike Tesla again. Westinghouse had agreed to pay Tesla certain fees in exchange for his AC motor. But when Westinghouse met financial difficulties, Tesla magnanimously forgave Westinghouse its debts, tearing up his contract with Westinghouse. Westinghouse went on to profit immensely, while Tesla was left by those who had so richly benefited from Tesla’s efforts to die in poverty.
The same historians who glorified Edison at Tesla’s expense would of course accuse Tesla of being a bad businessman. But those infected with economism only see the world through fascist spectacles. Tesla’s highest desire was to see his motor employed to the betterment of mankind. It was not to maximize the amount of wealth he extracted from his fellow human beings. He certainly could have made a better business decision, but Westinghouse (who, unlike Tesla, was a full-time businessman) could have made a better human decision and protected Tesla from making a mistake. It must have been stunningly obvious to Westinghouse that Tesla was making a mistake – but in the face of such magnanimity on Tesla’s part, where was Westinghouse’s? Should we glorify businessmen who act in this manner? How difficult would it have been for Westinghouse to add a clause that would have compensated Tesla after they recovered from their financial difficulties? Legally, we have to respect Westinghouse’s undeserved gift from Tesla, but we do not have to morally respect Westinghouse’s failure to respond in kind. Nor do we have to morally respect those cultural characteristics that let such a man as Tesla die in poverty and relative obscurity while lesser men such as Thomas Edison are glorified in the history books.
Economism is a cultural-spiritual issue, not specifically a political issue, but as goes the spirit, so goes the body. Economism’s natural political consequence is fascism, for if wealth has higher cultural priority than it should relative to human values in general, then it also has a higher political priority relative to particular human values, such as the values of individual rights.
Consider the following fascist tendencies in the United States (ca. 2008-2010):
So it’s obviously a big racket. Big government likes big business. To borrow a phrase from Ayn Rand: it makes one neck ready for one leash. (Ironically, Ayn Rand’s followers, the Objectivists, can be generally be relied on to come to the defense of big business while remaining almost totally silent on rights-violating actions of government that favor big business at the expense of small business. But this fascist shift is a reversion to a form of serfdom or slavery; it is a step backward for human society and is something that must be understood and fought and reversed.)
It is generally thought that bigger businesses mean bigger economies of scale, but without repealing the laws that favor big business over small ones, it is impossible to know to what degree this is actually true. And what is a better hope and vision for the average man: To be eternally under the direction and control of an employer, to live a major portion of his life in a cubicle building things for someone else; or as an independent, self-sufficient creator of value, who determines the arc of his life according to his own personal values and goals?
Ironically, those who agree that big business gets too many favors react in an exceedingly counter-productive way. Instead of removing those factors in government that favor big business, they compound the problem by adding yet more laws and regulations that grant favors to the employees. And this further harms the small businessman, who is also subject to supplying these favors, and is indeed, less capable of supplying them than the big businessman. So these favor-seekers are really just shooting themselves in the foot.
This unfortunately represents the behavior of the majority of Americans: those who seek favors from government for big business, their apologists, and those who react by putting more burdens on business in general, including the very party most harmed by the burdens: the individual and the small businessman. It is no wonder that the explosion in prosperity that occurred at the founding of the United States, caused by the vast increase in liberty, has been continuously slowing, and is now in fact under threat of reversing: the majority are under the impression that shackling one’s neighbor with laws is the path to justice. One can be certain that legal and bureaucratic profession is prospering from this situation, but it is turning everyone else into slaves.
The problem with “capitalism” is twofold.
First, not only has it never existed in reality, but it has never existed in conception either. We are always told that capitalism is based on “property rights,” but then capitalists proceed to base their system on fiat property of various kinds: fiat money, patents, land grabs, regulations, and licensing that make competition difficult or impossible. The marketing brochure claims “property-rights-respecting capitalism”, but what we always end up with is fiat-property fascism.
The second problem is that capitalists always offer capitalism up as if it is a kind of religion. The idea seems to be to make everyone think almost exclusively in economic terms (economism), and then while they are distracted by the narrow pursuit of property, the rest of their individual rights are grabbed out from under their noses.
Consider Ayn Rand’s definition of capitalism: “Capitalism is a social system based on the recognition of individual rights, including property rights, in which all property is privately owned.” Now consider the Six Fundamental Rights from Chapter 2. Rand’s definition “recognizes” individual rights, but aggrandizes the specific right to property, and further, decrees how such property must be used (“privately”). What about the right to self, consent, and justice? Presumably these are not nearly important enough to associate with the definition of her preferred social system. Suppose that some consenting people would like to set up a commune, a small city where everyone shares in the work and the profits? Would Rand’s capitalism defend their right to perform that social experiment?
What kind of social system do you prefer? One that fixates on property rights (without identifying the evil of fiat property), or one that explicitly respects all of your rights? Should a system concerned with the Six Fundamental Rights be named after a big business term such as “capital”? I of course do not deny the crucial importance of capital, nor the inalienable right to property, but the rights to self, consent, and justice are at least as important.
What should a system based on individual rights be called? It is too important and too true to call it any kind of “ism.” Do we call some part of mathematics “Pythagoreanism”? There was in fact just such a religion. But it was wisely cast off centuries ago, in favor of the science of mathematics. Likewise, we should cast off all such inherently biasing “isms,” such as socialism, communism, fascism, and capitalism, and replace them all with the science of government, which is and can only be rooted in the science of individual rights.
Hypocrites, being vain, love nothing more than seeing their own reflection in the form of other hypocrites. And when they can’t get enough actual hypocrites, their powers of self-deception enable them to readily manufacture them from their betters.
Thus, when one argues that government should not, for example, extort money in order to pay for its services, one hears stupid remarks such as “Well, you use the roads!” or “Well, do you plan on collecting Social Security?” or “Well if you don’t like it then why don’t you leave!” or other such nonsense that is not intended to have you rectify any hypocrisy on your part, but rather to justify the declaimer’s own hypocrisy.
Even these seekers of feet of clay probably understand that when a woman is kidnapped and raped, one does not call her a “hypocrite” for having sex with someone she doesn’t know, one calls her a victim. But it is evidently far beyond them to comprehend that when one is forced to live under totalitarianism, one has a basic alternative: adhere to the “laws of the land,” or die. What would be hypocritical is to not take whatever reasonable steps there are to gaining more liberty, such as trying to convince the feet-of-clay-seekers that liberty is preferable to tyranny.
Some denigrate Natural Law as the “law of the jungle.” They are engaging in the fallacy of equivocation, of deceptively using a given term at times with one meaning and at times with another, and thus obscuring an important truth. Natural Law is the foundation of Rights and all actually legitimate laws. The “law of the jungle” refers to the notion that “anything goes,” “might makes right,” or that “survival of the fittest” is the only proper constraint of human action. These two are opposite ideas, not the same idea.
Ironically, the very people who denigrate Natural Law as “the law of the jungle” are in fact adherents to “the law of the jungle” in the realm of government. For if there is no law prior to government, then for government, anything goes and might makes right.
Pragmatism in the sense I mean it here is not as much an argument as it is incompetence at argument; it refers to the policy of responding to self-contradiction by blithely ignoring it on the pretense that resolving it is “impractical” (i.e. the moral-practical dichotomy). To rationalize actions that contradict one’s professed beliefs, is, of course, to embrace hypocrisy as the rule of one’s life.
When faced with contradiction, every human being is faced with a basic alternative: one can seek to understand the source of the contradiction and then revise one’s ideas – or one can evade the effort and proceed on whim. This whim manifests in two different ways. One can become a zealot, damning reality and proceeding with one’s ideas regardless of the facts. Or, one can become a pragmatist, damning reason and proceeding with one’s ideas regardless of contradiction. Of course, in the final analysis, both approaches damn both reason and reality, they just emphasize a dislike of reason or reality according to their particular whim at a particular moment. Indeed, zealots and pragmatists are very close cousins, and they easily flip from being one or the other, often in the course of minutes.
Pragmatism is unfortunately a major theme of the American public education system, deeply entrenched from the efforts of many including John Dewey, an avowed pragmatist. This is a major reason so many Americans find it difficult to think in a principled manner: they have been trained since the time they were in kindergarten not to do so. An individual saddled with pragmatism finds it very difficult or impossible to follow a principled argument, or to apply the principles to real-world cases, or if he does understand, quickly forgets and reverts to his prior modes of thinking.
Hence, many apparent pragmatists are pragmatists by their own design; they are merely victims of pragmatist teachers and parents. Characteristic of the true pragmatist is not merely the inability to grasp the range of applicability of a given principle, but an actual desire that the principle break down when applied to reality. When talking to a true pragmatist, he acts as if the universality of any particular principle is a reproach to the pragmatist’s entire mental approach to life, and it is. Thus, when discussing principles with a pragmatist, one encounters an endless series of “buts”: “yes, but this, … yes, but that …”
The scientific mind will naturally and appropriately generate exceptions as a means of exploring the meaning of a principle, but unlike the pragmatist, will eventually come to a firm induction of principle from evidence, and will stand by that principle until and unless he finds a contradiction to it, in which case he will seek to induce better principles. The pragmatist uses the flux of apparent exceptions to a principle not as a means of increasing the precision of his knowledge, but in order to wage war on principles. Thus, answering any particular exception with an explanation of how the apparent exception to the principle is only an apparent and not an actual exception is not met by the pragmatist with his being impressed with the strength of the principle or a relief that reason works after all, but rather is met with yet another superfluous exception. The stamina the true pragmatist has in generating apparent exceptions is understood from the fact that his entire way of life is questioned by the applicability of even a single general principle – he is a hypocrite, he likes it that way, and any notion that principles work out in reality after all is viewed as a threat. Thus, when his stamina and creativity finally fail, the pragmatist will call on his last line of defense: changing the subject.
The cure for pragmatism is simple. All one must do is trust one’s ability to know, while remaining sensitive to what one does not know. To fail to apply the former leads to pragmatism; to fail to apply the latter leads to zealotry (again, the same individual usually manifests both behaviors, depending on the circumstance and the particular direction their whim takes them at a given moment). Trusting in one’s ability to know means that one regards the universe as knowable and one has confidence not in one’s present mental state, but in its capacity to improve (in this connection, the perfectibility of human reason was a key idea of the Renaissance and led to vast improvement in human prosperity as men who trusted in their ability to know pursued knowledge). Remaining sensitive to what one does not know means paying very close attention any time you are wrong about something, whether you have a contradiction in your ideas or a misapprehension of the facts, and then seeking to correct the particular mental frailty that led to your mistake. A pragmatist uses a mistake as evidence for why he can’t know anything, as an excuse for being lazy and taking no pride in his own mind. The proper stance is to be curious about mistakes, to put time and energy into discovering why it happened and to train oneself to do better the next time. This is the heart and soul of pride, Aristotle’s “Crown of all Virtues,” so-called because it leads to all the other virtues. Assuming one is normal and healthy, this leads to a constant improvement in one’s mental state, whereas the pragmatist approach leads to a constant degeneration, even approaching a state of self-induced mental retardation, a condition seen in aged, lifelong pragmatists, whose mental scope has withered to a tiny point such that they cannot grasp the simplest of principles.
The pragmatist mentality will sometimes agree “in principle” that you should have your individual rights respected but bemoans that the world is a complex place and that principles “don’t work”. He never says precisely why not, nor why we can do complex things like land spaceships on the moon and control robots on Mars using scientific principles, while simultaneously not being able to construct political systems based on scientific principles.
The reason he never answers why not in any sensible terms is that he’s engaging in an intellectual con-game. Certainly it occurred to this self-satisfied intellectual hoodlum that if principles won’t work, then no principle, including the “principle” that the world is too complex for principles to work, could possibly work either. Or perhaps his superiority complex is not coming from confidence in his ideas, but rather from confidence in prevailing opinion, or in his ability to pull one over on you.
In fact, the case is the opposite from what the pragmatist pretends. Principles are the only method that human beings have for dealing with complexity. We have no alternative of whether we act in accordance to some kind of principle, we only have the choice of whether that principle is well considered, rational, and based on our best good-faith assessment of the facts, or whether we use unverified facts, regurgitated slogans, propaganda, peer pressure, and unseemly motivations as our principle of action.
“Anyone who denies the Law of Non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until he admits that to be beaten is not the same as not to be beaten, and to be burned is not the same as to not be burned.”— Avicenna (980-1037)
When logic gets in the way of looting, the subjectivist has an easy answer: “It’s all a matter of opinion.” He wants you to respect his opinion, while he loots you with corrupt legislation. But it’s not a difference of opinion, it’s a difference of whether you get a gun shoved in your face or not.
“… I consider those laws [the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798]* as merely an experiment on the American mind, to see how far it will bear an avowed violation of the Constitution. If this goes down, we shall immediately see attempted another act of Congress, declaring that the President shall continue in office during life, reserving to another occasion the transfer of the succession to his heirs, and the establishment of the Senate for life… That these things are in contemplation, I have no doubt; nor can I be confident of their failure, after the dupery of which our countrymen have shown themselves susceptible…”*— Thomas Jefferson (letter to Stephens Thompson Mason)
“Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied.”— Arthur Miller
When criticizing government to one’s fellow citizens, one often hears the remark that we should be grateful for our freedoms because there are many people on the planet or in history that have had it worse. Your fellow citizens are in a sorry state when they’re comparing things not to how they ought to be, but to the worst possible examples of how poorly off others are. The inevitable result of this kind of attitude is a slow degeneration of society. A vision of how things ought to be is the soul that animates human action; to lose it is to be condemned to wither away and die.
This irrational defense at the patently unjust on the grounds that someone somewhere had it far worse, is the result of a deep psychological injury. We learn from the time we are children, implicitly or explicitly, that we are under severe duress by our governments. We know that if we do not do as we are commanded to do, we will be murdered: if we do not pay income tax, we will be ordered to court; if we do not show, we will have a policeman at the door; if we do not comply to his orders, we will be arrested; if we do not submit to arrest, we will likely be shot. This sequence, which illustrates the “principle of the hidden gun,” can be discerned on a vast array of issues where the government has tyrannically usurped our rights and substituted for them an empty and hypocritical promise in return: that it will keep us “safe” and “secure.” Ironically, the very lack of security we have against government attacks on our rights only serves to feed our emotional need for someone to promise us safety and security, while the seeming intractability of this life or death problem leads many to self-deception. Most don’t comprehend the irony, but they do on some level sense the horror of it, and it is manifested in the many dystopian books and movies about the final consequence of totalitarian governments. These dystopian works can be viewed as an expression of humanity’s subconscious, the feelings of fear, guilt, and doom resulting from not having created a proper system of government and instead creating a tyrannical monster of a government, one that comes upon us with inhuman powers to seek revenge for the moral crimes of apathy and hypocrisy.
Most do not explicitly come to terms with any of this, and it is consequently very difficult to have a reasonable conversation with them. But it is crucial for them to come to terms, as it is the fundamental reason we are enslaved – and not to tyrants or government agencies operating in secret, but to collective apathy, hypocrisy, and fear. Sapere aude – dare to know.
“Stockholm Syndrome” is defined by Wikipedia as “a psychological response sometimes seen in abducted hostages, in which the hostage shows signs of loyalty to the hostage-taker, regardless of the danger or risk in which they have been placed.” It is illuminating to read the various explanations Wikipedia gives for Stockholm Syndrome. I would put it like this:
Perhaps Stockholm Syndrome is the last great barrier we must cross as a species in order to cure the evils of our governments. Many have crossed and await enough to tip the balance such that we can defeat this common, faceless enemy. In a certain respect this barrier is merely a mirage existing solely in the mind or a reflection of ourselves; there is in fact no hostage-taker, there is only the aggregate opinion of all of us manifested as a brutal physical power. We are in a sense afraid of our own shadows, even while this fear provokes a very real danger to those who would first venture to cross this great barrier, from the pragmatists/zealots who have not yet glimpsed at what is beyond it.
The very phrase “conspiracy theory” as used by most people, particularly those in the mass media, is a dishonest idea, used solely as an ad hominem attack on those who allege that there is something more than meets the eye behind human events. According to their view, it’s plausible that a magician can trick an audience, but it’s impossible that members of a government can trick their citizens. There is plenty of historical evidence that government officials have indeed colluded behind the scenes to manipulate the public, and therefore it is not prima facie unreasonable to speculate on root causes of important human events. Further, grand conspiracies are consistent with human nature. Scientists pursue omniscience concerning nature; engineers pursue omnipotence concerning nature; would it really be that surprising to learn that some human beings attempt to play God with the human race in the realm of politics?
Consider these two obvious facts: 1) Prosperity leads to leisure, which leads to thinking, which leads to truth, which leads to action against those who claim power based on untruth, which leads to their loss of power. 2) It is far easier to destroy than it is to create; to cause mayhem and destruction is not a complicated feat relative to the feat of creating prosperity. Is it really much of a stretch to imagine that those who claim illegitimate power would not tend to favor the creation of the mayhem and destruction that would tend to sustain it? If you had invited a guest into your home, and caught him stealing, wouldn’t you tend to think that he might be capable of even worse things? If some other bad thing happened around your home at the same time, wouldn’t you rightly tend to assign blame to him given his proximity and demonstrated lack of moral scruples? What is the better policy: to trust or to distrust those who claim illegitimate powers over you?
Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to manipulate you:
“[W]e suggest a distinctive tactic for breaking up the hard core of extremists who supply conspiracy theories: cognitive infiltration of extremist groups, whereby government agents or their allies (acting either virtually or in real space, and either openly or anonymously) will undermine the crippled epistemology of believers by planting doubts about the theories and stylized facts that circulate within such groups, thereby introducing beneficial cognitive diversity.”— Cass Sunstein and A. Vermeule, J. Political Philosophy, 7 (2009), Page 219
Evidently our government officials think a reasonable way to defeat conspiracy theorizing is to announce to all conspiracy theorists that they might be getting infiltrated by the government! Just why do government officials think they have any role in implanting us with any kind of information, let alone proposing infiltration of groups whose views they disagree with and engaging in blatant acts of fraud (and probably prosecutable fraud if you aren’t an agent of the government)? Is it even legal for the United States government to use taxpayer dollars to wage a psychological war on its own citizens? If they really want to solve the “problem” of conspiracies, the solution is, in principle, easy: be trustworthy. When government officials start being motivated by what is true and good and cease in their willingness to manipulate us, then the populace will naturally stop engaging in conspiracy theories. Until governments cease and desist in violating our individual rights, conspiracy theories will persist, in spite of further attacks on our individual rights. If you want to be trusted, being trustworthy is an obvious prerequisite. So, who is more of a “nut,” a man like Sunstein, who would write thirty pages trying to escape from the reality that trust requires trustworthiness, or the man who would doubt the motives of such a man?
But even history and open admission by government officials of intent to commit fraud against citizens whose views they do not like does not cure some people of their delusions. So clearly, those who allege that someone’s a “conspiracy nut” merely because of theorizing about hidden causes are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.
That obviously does not mean that everyone who believes in conspiracies has valid reason. Many “conspiracy theorists” are suffering from what I call “Reverse Stockholm Syndrome.” Those suffering from it anthropomorphize the unthinking machinery of government and find conscious intent where there is evidence of none. They are certain they are being attacked by specific conspiring individuals, when in truth all one can discern is the operation of a machine, which may or may not be controlled by any individual conscious of the consequences of the machine’s operation. This is not a surprising response. It is a simple fact that modern government indeed holds all of us hostage to a host of corrupt rights-usurping laws. It is a natural and healthy response to develop distrust in it. Indeed, those suffering from Reverse Stockholm Syndrome are more mentally-healthy than their counterpart; at least they have the self-esteem to reject the usurpation of their rights. Unfortunately, they fail to discern that the majority of interference originates not from sinister individuals out to get them, but from the unintended consequences of incompetent barbarians running a government without any concept of individual rights. Individual rights are the science that must be used in order for government to operate properly; to attempt to use anything else is akin to a witch-doctor thinking he can rebuild an airplane that crash-landed in the middle of the jungle by jumping up and down wearing a mask and pleading with magical spirits.
No psychological derangement is beneficial and Reverse Stockholm Syndrome is no exception. Reverse Stockholm Syndrome causes a misdirection of human energy. Among fervent conspiracy theorists one almost never hears mention of the scientific principles by which government ought to run, instead they are almost exclusively fixated on specific government figures or acts. Now, if one has a theory supported by evidence that a given government official colluded in a certain way in a crime, it certainly is a good thing to try to bring him to justice. But the problems of our age do not flow from powerful politicians or businessmen. They flow from a general misapprehension of the Three Fundamental Laws: The Law of Origin of Rights; The Law of Conservation of Rights; and The Law of Origin of Government.
The psychological derangement of Reverse Stockholm Syndrome causes a corresponding derangement in political action: to worry too much about conspiracy theories in the face of the fact that the government openly commits so many criminal acts represents inverted priorities. If we can’t get the government to stop committing criminal acts in the open, it is a folly to even worry about the crimes it allegedly commits in secret. So, by and large (and with important exceptions), “conspiracy theories” are a distraction. Indeed, they are such a large distraction of the energies of those who are open to the idea that the government isn’t unquestionably good that one can imagine government officials conspiring to create conspiracy theories in order to keep people distracted from the real problems that plague government (if nothing else, this “conspiracy theory” will hopefully encourage Reverse Stockholm Syndrome sufferers to consider altering their habits).
“[Killing the chickens to scare the monkeys] is the cruel yet effective tactic of killing one to tame a hundred: As monkeys misbehave in the treetops, annoyed humans violently kill chickens in front of the monkeys. From fear, the monkeys get silent and tamed.”— The Korea Herald
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”— Benjamin Franklin
“We’ve got to protect our phony baloney jobs, gentlemen.”— Governor Le Petomane, Blazing Saddles
Consider the risks of various external causes of death in the United States:
Cause of Death vs. Lifetime Odds:
You are at least as likely to be killed by your own government as you are by a terrorist. Take into account the American Civil War and the latest trends in government (ca. 2008-2010), including the erosion of the Bill of Rights, and you are far more likely to be killed by your own government than by a terrorist. And yet your government, and its handmaiden the mass media, spend far more energy propagandizing on matters of terrorism than on any of the other preventable causes of death. The government in particular is persistently attacking the Bill of Rights on the pretext of protecting citizens from terrorism. How much effort do they spend protecting the citizens from the terrorist acts of government? Stories of excessive use of force by police juxtaposed with zero legislation in Congress aimed at correcting this problem paints a grim picture of the government’s actual concern for its citizens’ well-being. Yet many are compliant and apathetic in the face of this tyranny. Slavish obedience is a dangerous vice.
Any terrorism is too much terrorism. That is why it is such an outrage how little effort our governments have spent identifying is actual causes, while at the same time spending enormous amounts of our money on insane attacks on our civil liberties. But asking why terrorists attack us is derided by politicians and pundits as being “unpatriotic.” We aren’t supposed to wonder if maybe some of these terrorist attacks constitute blowback from illegitimate United States activities in the Middle East, or regarding domestic terrorism, blowback from rights-usurping legislation. Instead, Americans hear from the mass media that in effect the terrorism is causeless, that it’s coming from various kinds of lunatics who have absolutely no comprehensible reason to attack, and no one deeply investigates how they became lunatics in the first place.
Due to our worse than useless mass media, most Americans have little idea of the activities of its government in other countries, nor of the insidious problems legislation causes at home, and thus the notion that terrorists attack us out of the blue and without cause seems plausible. But in fact, there is plenty of good cause for wondering about the activities of the United States government:
Understanding the factors that cause someone to attack innocents does not excuse their attack – they have free will and their choice to indiscriminately attack innocents was their own. But a government that incessantly usurps the rights of millions of people is incitement, and at least a portion of the blame for the predictable consequences of such incitement should rest on those who participated in it.
Consider terrorism’s close conceptual relative, “extremism.” There is definitely something very bizarre about those who on the one hand get apoplectic about “extremists,” while on the other hand, condone breaking into someone’s house with a SWAT team in order to confiscate a harmless plant from a peaceful human being. Considering the mass fear government and media incite concerning terrorism, and add to that the persistent attacks on innocent human beings who opt to smoke a plant that has been on Earth for millions of years, one can easily become confused regarding who are the actual protectors and who are the terrorists.
“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”— Barry Goldwater, 1964 Republican Party acceptance speech
The concept “extremism” is the natural by-product of the pragmatist mentality. Consistency is the ultimate enemy of pragmatism, and thus it does not matter to this mentality whether one is consistently good or consistently evil, all that matters to the pragmatist is that he regards consistency as his enemy. He zealously worships his own hypocrisy, and anyone who doesn’t will not be tolerated. Ironically, this is, by its own definition, a form of “extremism,” but unsurprisingly, such hypocrisy does not trouble the pragmatist. On the contrary, hypocrisy is seen as the highest virtue, and to fail to be hypocritical is seen as a sign of trouble. Indeed, pragmatists in the United States Department of Homeland Security have gone to such an extreme as to brand supporters of Ron Paul (a principled defender of human liberty), Chuck Baldwin (a supporter of the Constitution of the United States), Bob Barr (a Libertarian Party candidate) and others espousing a principled view on government as “extremists” and potential “terrorists.” One naturally wonders why an employee of the United States government, who has sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States against both foreign and domestic enemies, would possess such an extreme hatred of those who call for them to uphold and defend the Constitution. Perhaps their true concern lies not with protecting the citizens of the United States, but rather with their own guilty conscience about their own actions, and about the potential consequences of those actions.
The epithet “extremist” is not merely a verbal attack on principled individuals, it is an attack on Constitutionally-protected freedom of speech, and has already been deployed against innocent citizens displaying nothing more than a bumper sticker stating “Don’t Tread on Me.”
A similar concept to “extremism” is “radicalized.” The mass media’s penchant for nonchalantly calling a criminal “radicalized” while ignoring radicalized police officers, SWAT teams, and other government agents that engage in gross violations of individual rights under the color of law means only one thing: their definition of the word is “radicalized” is dishonest. What they really wish to convey is that the idea that when ordinary citizens do the same kinds of things that governments routinely do, it’s bad, but when government does these same radically criminal things, it’s good. In other words, their purpose is to propagandize against individual rights, and promote the bogus notion that the State is God and may do anything it wants to you. This is about as radical and extreme as it gets: they promote government-sponsored terrorism against their fellow citizens.
The cynical refrain “think of the children” is the clarion call of totalitarians. The reality is that this call is a deranged, cynical hypocrisy that feigns concern for children while ignoring what’s in a child’s best long-term interest. The primary desire of most children is to grow into mature adults and thus gain the freedom to live their lives as they deem best, but this call to “think of the children” is nothing less than stealing that freedom before they ever had a chance to exercise it by modeling government on the notion that it should treat all of its adult citizens as if they were children. Thus, this refrain is similar to the claim about allegedly “corrupt human nature,” except instead of regarding everyone as if they are corrupt, it regards everyone as if they are naïve and in need of parenting.
This refrain of totalitarians is, like many of their protestations, ironic, since it is totalitarianism that causes the most human suffering. In today’s reign of totalitarianism, about 15 million children die every year from starvation. This pattern has been going on for decades, while the same tired solution is offered: more tyranny, including the tyranny of stealing resources from one group and handing them to another group.
If our “free” press ever discusses the true causes of the mass starvation it is rare, and probably because a guest to one of their shows was not well-screened in advance. And yet the answer stares everyone in the face: mass starvation is the ultimate consequence of denying human beings of their fundamental rights, including their right to self, property, medium, land, consent, and justice. People in the “third world” aren’t hopeless and apathetic because they have a genetic predisposition to be lazy. They know that if they build something, it will be torn down; if they grow something it will be stolen; if they acquire personal property they will be mugged. And yet what do our governments send them? Food for the next week, to be stolen by the nearest thugs and sold for arms used to further oppress the innocent. They don’t primarily need charity, they need their rights to be respected, so they can plan and act long-range, and grow their own food and build their own shelter, etc. We should be very concerned when our government and populace thinks that the best solution to mass starvation is theft from people who aren’t starving to deliver food into the hands of thugs that don’t use it to feed the starving but instead sell it for more guns in order to continue oppressing the starving, whereas the idea that a respect for fundamental human rights would fix the problem is nowhere to be seen.
What starving masses of people need is for the totalitarian boot to come off their necks. And our government uses these starving people as an excuse to stamp down on our necks more firmly.
The real solution to these problems is simple. Prosperity has always been the natural consequence of liberty. Set a good example to the world. Show others how freedom really does work by abolishing tyranny in every form. Any country that establishes a consistent respect for fundamental rights will become a beacon to the world, a shining example of how things ought to be. This by itself will likely cure the rest of humanity’s ills.
But if stubborn totalitarian regimes stay in power, then voluntary charity might be in order. Educate their populace to the virtues of individual rights and the prosperity that results. Drop leaflets, smuggle books, or broadcast into their borders. The resulting civil unrest might by itself be enough to topple the totalitarian regime. By all means, send food and clothing if you can ensure it won’t be used as a tool to prop up the dictatorship and further oppress the populace. Other more drastic acts of charity might also be called for, depending on the situation.
“To argue with a man who has renounced his reason is like giving medicine to the dead.”— Thomas Paine
“Even if you persuade me, you won’t persuade me.”— Aristophanes
At the root of one’s philosophy is the choice to regard reality as either subject to hopes, whims, wishes, or not subject to them. It would certainly be nice that whenever we cry, we get what we want. This desire is probably naturally present in every toddler, who must learn that the only tool an infant has for supporting his life is to be discarded when one is no longer an infant. Perhaps the greatest harm a parent can ever do to a child’s mind is to pander to this fundamental human frailty and thus condemn the child to a lifetime of mental infancy.
There is no talking to a person who has not discarded this infantile hoping and wishing and stamping one’s feet, who thinks that consciousness has primacy over reality, because their understanding of any part of reality – including any argument you might offer – is fundamentally distorted. They are literally in an infantile state of mind and reasoning with them would be like reasoning with a spoiled child.
There is only one hope for those who think that wishing makes it so: it is to experience enough consequent misery that they become open to questioning that premise. Unfortunately, with our current totalitarian political systems, they not only bring this misery upon themselves, but upon the rest of us as well, and thus are never in a position to clearly see that the blame for their misery truly lies with their own infantile premise that wishing can make it so.
“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.”— President Gerald Ford, Address to a Joint Session of Congress, August 12, 1974
When so many of your fellow citizens think that wishing makes it so, it is unsurprising that they want the concrete manifestation of something that might have the power to fulfill those wishes: a despotic rights-usurping government.
Any false right is always an attack on legitimate rights. For example, if someone claims a “right” to healthcare at your expense (and assuming you did not consent to pay into a general pool), then that is an attack on your right to your own property. Animal “rights” are yet another kind of attack.
Rights are inherently a two-way street. If a given entity inherently cannot respect rights, then such an entity has no rights. Therefore, if some human being captures and kills a duck and eats it, then in spite of insane protestations from animal “rights” advocates, that is his right.
But that does not mean there is not an important relationship of rights to the animal kingdom. A “right” is a human action that does not interfere with the non-interfering actions of another human. A “crime” is a human action that does interfere with the non-interfering actions of another human. This is a specialization of the more basic biological distinctions related to the concepts of predator and parasite. The only difference between the general concept of predator/parasite and the more specific concept of “criminal” is that a criminal is a human being who has the choice not to be a predator or parasite of other human beings and then makes the wrong choice. Only human beings have volition and reason, therefore only human beings can make the choice, and therefore only human beings have rights.
That does not mean that it’s “anything goes” with respect to animals. One cannot frivolously destroy natural resources (see Chapter 2), and that includes the wanton destruction of animals. Furthermore, there is nothing wrong with communities adopting man-made laws that make it illegal to torture animals, or to kill those animals that the local culture regards as pets, so long as the laws do not convey the notion that animals are more important than humans (city-states have the right to regard animals as more important, but they would tend to fail over time as the more sane human beings left them).
“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”— Jefferson Memorial
Some people seem to worship the Constitution as if it were the word of God, ignoring the fact that it was written and amended by men. This worship is obviously absurd, and goes against everything that Founders such as Thomas Jefferson believed. To the degree that the Constitution of the United States of America upholds Natural Law, it is a perfectly valid document. To the degree that it does not, it is in need of amendment. Importantly, it should be amended to apply only Natural Law to wild lands, and only those man-made laws that have been consented to.
The notion of “State’s Rights” is similarly misguided. States as such cannot have rights, only individuals can. At best, States can have a limited set of rights consensually transferred to them by citizens or their representatives. When the concept of “States Rights” is wielded in order to take back rights that had been usurped by the Federal Government, then that is a good thing. But when States seek to violate Natural Law, then it is completely proper for the Federal Government to override their usurpation. Since the concept of “States Rights” implicitly embraces both, then it cannot be regarded overall as a source of good, although the concept could be redeemed if advocates of “States Rights” explicitly founded them on the basis of strict consent and thus claimed only those rights the State actually had, as set forth in Chapter 2 and 3.
Depending on the minarchist they make varied claims about what their government is entitled to enforce, some are willing to suffer some “small” degree of taxation; some imagine a form of government funded “voluntarily” (a term they use in spite of a conspicuous lack of consent to such a government by individuals).
China had the “Mandate of Heaven”; the United States had its “Manifest Destiny.” It is not my purpose to explore the various kinds of mythologies used to justify government crimes, but one can be certain that wherever there is government crime, there are myths backing it up. It would be an interesting work in its own right to explore the various kinds of government myths that occurred in history and how those myths led to the usurpation of individual rights.
See “Tesla, Master of Lightning,” by Margaret Cheney and Robert Uth.
For just one among many, many examples, see: http://www.popularmechanics.com/science/health/snakebites-about-to-get-more-deadly
Anyone who understands this and reflects on the usual teaching methods in public school should readily understand why they produce so many pragmatists/zealots.
By “in principle” he means: in the realm he assiduously tries not to live in.
See also: “Why Should One Act on Principle?”, Leonard Peikoff’s excellent 1988 lecture on this topic.
All one must do is research “false flag attacks” to discover this truth about governments in general, and “Operation Northwoods” to discover it about the United States government in particular. These are just the tip of the iceberg.
There is an element of truth to Cass Sunstein’s view, and that is that most “believers” do indeed have a “crippled epistemology.” But so too do most “non-believers.” Evidently, victims of Stockholm Syndrome are not regarded by Sunstein as a problem, and therefore it is reasonable to suppose that his true aim is not a wiser populace, but rather, the power that flows from blind faith in his authority.
This is a reference to physicist Richard Feynmann’s concept of “Cargo Cult Science” as presented during a commencement address to the California Institute of Technology.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 2006 (excluding entry: “Terrorist” attack).
No government-sanctioned estimate available (given how much they pound into our brains the risks of terrorism, one wonders why). Based on one 9/11-type attack occurring every 10 years, where the average lifespan is 75 years, the number of people in the U.S. is 300 million, and the number killed in the attack is 3500.
I use scare quotes around “terrorist” when I regard its usage in a given context as intellectually dishonest. Terrorism is a tactic of war, it is not itself an enemy. To declare war on a tactic is to ignore the enemy and its reasons for attacking you.
See “Extremism,” or The Art of Smearing, in Ayn Rand’s Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal.
Tales of the criminal actions of government caused from the “war on drugs” abound. For example, consider the case of Cheye Calvo, mayor of DC suburb Berwyn Heights, who when a party unknown to him delivered marijuana to his door, was raided by a SWAT team, who broke down his door, shot and killed his two family dogs, and then after their extremist acts of terrorism, determined that the mayor was innocent. Also see http://www.cato.org/raidmap.
This information was revealed by two patriotic police officers who forwarded a secret “Missouri Information Analysis Center” (aka MIAC) report to Alex Jones. But other “Department of Homeland Security” documents echo the sentiments therein.
After the MAIC report was released, in May 2009, a man was detained for half an hour in Louisiana merely for having a “Don’t Tread on Me” bumper sticker on his car.
Chapter 6 of this book is pending.