"Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer." ~ Ludwig von Mises
Reflections on Natural-Law Ethics and Mechanisms
It has been said that the purpose of organized society is to encourage good behavior and punish bad. But Aristotle told us that before we can establish a social organization to accomplish this function, we must first discover the behavior best for man; that is, before we can organize a political system (to reward good and punish bad), we first need to know what is good, and what is bad. Until we know proper behavior, we are a ship with no rudder--and we will dash into the rocks soon enough. Some people want more out of life than to end in wreckage. So, how shall we discover this best behavior? Shall we embrace a code of behavior that laid its foundation when men used stone utensils; and perfected when only slaves and slave masters were allowed to live? Would such a code be appropriate for free men--who live in the 21st Century? Or, should we reject it, and begin anew?
It is a popular opinion that a civilized society must be based on religious principles. If this is true, the rights of man will flourish in societies where religion is dominant and will falter where it is de-fanged. If we search our history books for such an example, not an example will we find. But, some people will claim, ' America was founded on Christian principles, and look at the splendid results.' However, founding documents and history books tell a different story. The Constitution, for example, specifies that there shall be no religious test for public office. This is strange; for, never before had a society--whether Christian or pagan--failed to require such a test for public office. Based on this observation, the Founders established their new society neither on Christian nor pagan principles--but on principles entirely foreign to both: the rights of man, or, more precisely, the rights of life and liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness.
Further, ordinary encyclopedias freely report that the roots of communism can be traced back to the early Christians; some commentators call Jesus the first communist. Christianity openly approves of slavery and denounces private property. In this regard, Christianity makes plunder a virtue, productive work a vice; the destruction of life a virtue, its creation a vice. Communism makes them happen. Further, over the past seventeen hundred years, millions of human beings have been murdered in the name of God or Christ. Do we want such a philosophy to serve as the basis for our society?
No matter what we believe the best behavior to be, we are obligated to know that it, in fact, promotes good and punishes bad behavior. We must know the truth, whether it be pleasing or not. The alternative is that we will never know whether or not we mislead ourselves, our children or our neighbors. When we consider that others might believe what we say, we should want to know that we speak the truth - lest we lead others into the rocks. And, civilized men should not want to do this to their children. In other words, if we are civilized men, we are obligated to exhaustively search for truth, or keep our mouths shut.
The thing that separates man from other animals is his capacity to reason; all his other faculties and functions he has in common with most, if not all, other animals. That is, it is the nature of man to have the capacity to reason. This suggests that, if a man is to live as a man, he must develop his rational capacity in the highest degree possible; for, the man who refuses, or is unable to use his reason, is indistinguishable from a farm animal.
It is the nature of man that he must labor for his bread, that he has sexual needs, that he must use his mind to seek light and avoid darkness. Shall we embrace a moral code that makes a crime of all these, that makes man an enemy of himself? In other words, shall we construct a moral code that employs the forces of man's nature to assist him toward his goal, or embrace a code that requires man to war against his nature?
He who learns - and obeys - the laws of nature will always be at an advantage over those who ignore or violate them; for, the one will be able to produce an infinitely greater amount of electricity by harnessing the power of a river compared to those who attempt the same with hand cranks. The one could produce a million kilowatts while the many might be able to produce one fiftieth of a kilowatt. To human comprehension, the difference is practically an infinity.
Some men have learned these laws of nature relative to the physical world; and, their work amazes us if we but contemplate it for a moment. Their work, for example, allows us to travel across a continent in four hours - instead of eight months. Owing to the cumulative work of these innovators, man has made more technological progress in the last one hundred years than in all prior ages.
However, the world of man is divided into two categories: the physical and the spiritual. In one he has become a giant; in the other, he wallows in the cave his ancestors inhabited ten thousand years ago.
Our task is to bring light into the cave, and tell the cave dwellers that there is a splendid and beautiful world beyond the cave. It is a task many men have attempted in the past. Most of them have been burned, stoned, poisoned or hacked to pieces for their trouble. It is dangerous to lift a burden from the shoulders of the common man - or to show him how to live without guilt, or shame - or to tell him how to guide his actions with his mind, instead of the entrails of his ancestors. Once he has learned the routine of his cave, he - usually - has exhausted his capacity to learn.
The failure of man to develop a moral code consistent with his nature has led to the situation where men, who practice a Stone Age savagery (we could hardly call it an ethics), are entrusted with the power to incinerate whole cities with the press of a button, or by speaking one word into a phone.
Dare we be complacent?
To find an ethics consistent with man's nature is the task I aimed at when I wrote Reflections. But my aim was a little different from those who preceded me. While they set out to build an ethics that would tell men what to do in every conceivable situation, I aimed at suggesting mechanisms that would encourage men to determine for themselves what is the best activity for each situation they encounter. I hold that it is impossible to frame an ethics that will tell men how to behave in every situation; for, before we can do that, we must know the particular facts of every situation - and, none can know those facts but the players themselves. All men are different; all situations are different; so we must encourage every man to guide his own actions.
While a main purpose of the book is to suggest mechanisms that would encourage most men to ethical behavior, I discuss some of the ethical perversions that have been foisted onto mankind - and suggest alternatives. For example, I draw the conclusion that a main purpose of religion is to convert sexual activity into sleaze - in order to restrict it to bandit and slave classes; for, if it is so regarded, decent men will not engage in it - or will do so with shame and guilt. Such behavior produces the complaint best expressed by Will Durant, 'We breed from the bottom and die at the top; and the fertility of simplicity defeats the activity of intelligence.' (Durant, ix, 790.)
My suggestion consists of representing sex as normal and beneficial - if done properly (nothing new here). I then suggest that we encourage innovative and productive men to take two or more wives so they can father as many children as they can properly raise and support.
If a man earns fifty thousand grams of gold per year (about $700,000 at current exchange rates), how better can he dispose of his earnings? He can leave this earth a legacy of 20 duplications of himself rather than to let a horde of cannibals - who have collected themselves under names such as government and church - burn him, and then dispose of his accumulated wealth.
The world has been a miserable slaughterhouse for thousands of years because men such as Aristotle and John Locke, Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine, and Beethoven did not leave us a better legacy.
With one we give power to the beneficial forces of this earth; the other, to the powers of sleaze.
If we are to be free - if we are to have a successful and happy life, we must first be ethical - according to the laws of man's nature. Until we can discover these laws, we ply a raging sea with no rudder.
Reflections 2nd ed, (106 pp; $18.00 (15.00 + 3.00 for p & h)). Send blank money order to Anthony Hargis, 2427 N. Tustin Av, Suite B; Santa Ana , CA 92705 MsoNormal c3">