"Nip the shoots of arbitrary power in the bud, is the only maxim which can ever preserve the liberties of any people. When the people give way, their deceivers, betrayers, and destroyers press upon them so fast, that there is no resisting afterwards. The nature of the encroachment upon the American constitution is such, as to grow every day more and more encroaching. Like a cancer, it eats faster and faster every hour. The revenue creates pensioners, and the pensioners urge for more revenue. The people grow less steady, spirited, and virtuous, the seekers more numerous and more corrupt, and every day increases the circles of their dependents and expectants, until virtue, integrity, public spirit, simplicity, and frugality, become the objects of ridicule and scorn, and vanity, luxury, foppery, selfishness, meanness, and downright venality swallow up the whole society." ~ John Adams
Frameworks, Virtual Reality and Civil Society: A Manifesto for the Doctrine of Love and Freedom
Column by Glen Allport.
Exclusive to STR
Perhaps I should say this paradigm shift is resuming. The healthier incoming paradigm is a modern, more accurate, better-supported, and better-understood version of one that began the shift towards a free, healthy, and prosperous world more than three centuries ago and which informed the creation of the United States itself: Classical Liberalism.
The Real is Created by the Virtual
Even here, in the real world, human reality is virtual. Paradigms – mental and emotional frameworks – are major elements in our personal virtual reality.
Paradigms determine how we see and feel about the world and are far more powerful than even the most detailed artificial VR simulations. Compared to the OASIS of Ready Player One, for instance, a wide-ranging paradigm can have more emotional punch and more power to warp perception. A paradigm may not change what you see visually, but it can dramatically change what you think and feel about what you are seeing. A paradigm can change your actions relative to what you see and hear; it can change what you expect in the future and how you respond to those expectations; it can change your view of people you meet and your responses to them.
Ultimately, the virtual reality of paradigms creates the "real" reality of the human world – and I mean that literally. The paradigm of Science, combined with the paradigm of Classical Liberalism, created the modern Western world – which is now in the process of being dismantled by the coercive Statist Left / Right paradigm. The stunning and widely-distributed wealth, the trend of increasing compassion and emotional health, and other positive trends set in motion and sustained by the combined paradigms of Science and Classical Liberalism have been not merely slowed by the ever-hardening coercive Statist paradigm but have actually been reversed. Both wealth and compassion are draining from the West as centralized control and a darkening police state replace the social and economic freedoms that had characterized the United States in particular and, to a lesser extent, the West in general.
Bringing Liberty to the Real World will Require a Genuine Paradigm Shift
The struggle for liberty and for a civil society is most effectively waged – really, can only be waged – with paradigms, with frameworks. No wonder the power elite have arranged to control public schooling, higher education, much of our scientific endeavor, and major media of all types, in addition to controlling politicians and every organ of the central government. True control requires control of a nation's paradigms, and true change will thus require a massive paradigm shift. Facts alone are useless against a bad paradigm. Only a new, detailed, more useful and more attractive paradigm will unseat the existing entrenched paradigm of pro-elite, coercive Statism.
The "attractive" part is important. Without attention to that element, the movement for human rights (for liberty, freedom, or whatever you want to call it) will continue to fall behind, to fail, to recede into history. More on this element later.
Consciousness "Sees" Only a Tiny Slice of the Whole
"Reality" is a slippery concept. We cannot know things with perfect objectivity, nor can we always know what we are missing, what types of things and qualities are outside our reach, or the manner in which our instincts, experiences, and other prejudices might be shading perception. For instance, electromagnetic radiation spans a huge range of wavelengths; only a tiny slice of that span is visible as light to humans. Some insects, on the other hand, see into the ultraviolet range; your flower garden looks different to them.
Visible Light is a Tiny Slice in the Wavelength Chart: Image courtesy Wikipedia
Bats, dogs, blue whales, and other creatures hear sounds above or below those which humans can detect. There are many other ways, probably an infinite number of ways, in which experience can, or could, be created from the physical reality that impinges upon us, and most of these ways simply do not exist for us. The physical reality is there, but relevant human (or other animal) experience of that reality is not – or in some cases only some of the possible experiences are created within us, leaving much on the table, unseen, unheard, unfelt.
For example, dogs and cats do not appear to hear music. They hear noise, of course; their hearing is generally better than a human's and so the sound of music coming from your car stereo, say, is picked up by your pet's (probably) keen ears and transmitted to its brain. But what happens next? In humans, the sound of, let's say, Harry Gregson-Williams' Life from the soundtrack to Prometheus creates something more than an awareness of sound: it creates music, which is to say it creates, among other things, an emotional response. The response varies depending on the person, the person's mood, the genre of music, and many other things, but it is this power to connect with us emotionally that draws humans to music and which makes music an important part of our lives. "Without music, life would be a mistake" – said that old virtual-reality master Friederich Nietzsche, and it isn't hard to understand why he felt that way.
But even for humans, music isn't always music. If I start my car and have previously left the stereo on, the first few notes I hear are not music – the notes are discordant noise, meaningless and without any content for me beyond the irritation of being startled by an unexpected sound. But then, very quickly, the noise becomes music and I respond to it differently. I might turn the volume down or even off, but not because what I am hearing is mere noise. The noise becomes music after only a few notes, even when the song starts up in the middle instead of at the beginning. My brain does that; it is, as my initial confusion shows, not something inherent in the physical elements of the sound. Judging by Zoomer's behavior (Zoomer is our small Papillon) his brain does not do anything similar: he never taps a paw to the beat, never smiles dreamily at a melody, never shows any urge to get up and dance. [On the other hand, Zoomer – image below – is quite charming in other ways].
Sound is the vibration of air, picked up by one's ears and fed to one's brain, but music is more; music is created in the brain (of a person) from the raw material of sound-awareness. Spindle cells (spindle neurons) are, or so I surmise, the biological structures responsible for that miracle, for turning mere sound into breath-taking art and toe-tapping rhythm and a sometimes awe-inspiring depth of feeling. Spindle cells are direct pathways from the brain centers that process incoming sound (and more) to those regions associated with deep feeling, and only a tiny handful of species are known to have these cells – humans have small numbers of spindle cells (a few thousand), some other primates have even smaller numbers (by a factor of perhaps 10) of spindle cells, and elephants and some cetaceans – some dolphin and whale species – are also known to have spindle cells.
The point is that it takes a certain kind of brain to create music out of sound. The next point (expressed as a question) is: What other types of experiences are possible but forever beyond human reach, simply because we don't have the right brain structures or instincts or sensory organs or paradigms or whatever that might let us create those experiences out of the physical or social reality we live in? And what new types and varieties of experience might we have if we learned new frameworks for the raw sensations, perceptions, social interactions, and other data we now categorize and understand and feel about in ways that are non-optimal – because our current frameworks were created by others to control us, perhaps, or which are (for whatever reason) a poor fit to the reality of our lives?
Why Your Friends and Family Can't Hear You
Now (at last!) we can talk about why most of the people you know seem to not even hear what you are saying when you talk about the evils of coercive Statism. Centuries of State-imposed or State-caused war, mass murder, torture, theft, environmental destruction, needless famine and poverty – to most people, it's all just white noise. All that devastation, poverty, and death simply vanishes when filtered through the paradigm most people use to perceive and understand such things.
People do hear the words coming out of your mouth, but most people don't have the tools to convert those words into an experience that makes sense of the facts you are conveying when you talk about the State. Your Statist friends can no more truly hear you (can no more experience and understand what you are talking about) than Zoomer can hear the piano music of Erik Satie. Sounds, yes: Zoomer hears sounds, both music from my stereo and English words coming out of my mouth, but he hears neither music nor the meaning of the English words I speak (well, except for "dinner!" and a few other words he knows to associate with certain things).
Likewise, your Statist friends can hear you talk about drug prohibition, say, and the horrors it causes, but they really aren't on the same page, are they? Of course not. They lack an accurate framework or paradigm for making sense of the situation under discussion – just as people once lacked an accurate paradigm for understanding infectious disease, or the movement of the stars and planets in the heavens, or the changing of the seasons. In all those cases, the direct experience (the sights, sounds, and other elemental parts of the experience) were no different than they are now – the stars and planets haven't changed their behavior, for example – but the old paradigms placed the facts into a framework that was not only a poor fit to reality – the old paradigms prevented people from seeing and experiencing the facts in a way that made sense. Newer paradigms made better sense of the direct experience involved, but changing to a new paradigm, no matter how much more accurate and useful it might be, is difficult and even painful. People were actually burned at the stake and otherwise tortured and killed, sometimes, for simply advocating a new, more accurate paradigm at times in the past.
All the facts in the world will not sway someone to an understanding of (for example) liberty, UNLESS that person also has a framework that makes proper (accurate) sense of the facts. Without the framework, the facts are just noise. Without the framework, new facts obfuscate rather than clarify. Without the framework, communication (from an abolitionist, say) cannot happen, just as The Rolling Stones cannot communicate with Zoomer: Zoomer lacks the brain hardware to convert sound into music, just as your friends lack the paradigm to turn the ten thousand news items and other relevant facts they hear about the DrugWar into a sensible response to those facts. "But if we just let people DO WHATEVER THEY WANT, wouldn't that cause ANARCHY?" That and other pre-programmed responses stop the truth (i.e., a more accurate interpretation of events) from ever making it into consciousness for most people.
So: You won't change someone's mind with facts.
You MIGHT change a few minds with a new framework or paradigm, however. It wouldn't take long – maybe 20 years, if my experience as a Johnny Appleseed for liberty is anything to go by – and while it wouldn't be certain to work, using both facts and a more accurate framework would at least include the necessary tool for new understanding. Paradigms are far more important, far more persuasive, than mere facts.
But an existing paradigm protects itself, because paradigms are inherently all-encompassing – at least in a person's mind. A paradigm is a framework that explains a given part of the world, a given set of data – and anything which conflicts with the paradigm is explained away by the paradigm holder, even when that requires bizarre anti-logic, denial of obvious fact, or other mental or emotional gymnastics. People will almost always prefer to force-fit an uncomfortable fact into their existing paradigm than to jettison that paradigm for a new framework that makes more sense. Changing one's paradigm is like getting a divorce: a painful, gut-wrenching, frightening, inconvenient pain the the ass. "The old paradigm worked fine for the last umpty-nine years; why would I want to throw it away for something new and different? For something that might be scary? For something my friends would laugh at? Nah. I don't want to do that."
Feelings are Key
Note the emotional component here.
Paradigms are generally thought of as intellectual in nature, but the desperate maneuvers people make to hang onto their existing paradigms – no matter how badly a paradigm fits the facts and no matter how much harm it causes – show that feelings and emotions are important components. This is true even when the paradigm appears, superficially at least, to involve nothing but cold mathematics and careful, scientific measurement. Again, those unfortunates who were tortured and murdered for espousing new scientific ideas a few centuries ago are perfect examples.
Eliminating the coercion, aggression, and violence of the State would, you might think, appeal to any reasonably healthy person, but we know that most people do not see it that way. A world characterized by love, brotherhood, and compassion also sounds universally attractive, at least to non-sociopaths, but here again: many people believe such a world is unattainable and that even trying to bring it into being is foolish. Indeed, these two points are the major stumbling blocks people experience when they encounter the idea of a free and loving world as a serious thought. Separately, love and freedom appeal to most people, even if some strongly prefer the idea of one quality over the other. But put the two qualities together and something changes. Put those two qualities together and you immediately trigger vague but powerful fears planted by the existing paradigm of coercive, Left-Right Statism.
The most important paradigms today – political paradigms, in particular – are visibly based largely on emotion and feeling, not on science or facts. Addressing this emotional component is critical if we are to encourage the needed paradigm shifts in the world at large. More on this shortly.
Toxic Paradigms CAN be Displaced by Healthy Paradigms
Is it realistic to believe that the paradigm of coercive Statism – deeply entrenched and not merely promoted but actually enforced (that IS the correct word) by the power elite – can be displaced by a different paradigm? In a word, yes. The power elite are fighting to keep the coercive Statist paradigm dominant as if their power, wealth, and even their lives depended on the outcome, but, as Victor Hugo pointed out, nothing can stop an idea whose time has come. And the time HAS come, at last, for mankind to wake up to the con of coercive Statism and, in doing so, end the nightmare imposed upon us for so long.
Still, the power elite control most of the world's wealth, all of its military might, most schooling including higher education, nearly all television programming, most or all major newspapers and news magazines, along with the courts and police forces of every nation, state, and city in this world. How can the rest of us hope to prevail against that?
The answer is "quite simply." Those who oppose liberty, decency, and civil society are one paradigm-shift away from losing it all, and they know it. As we've seen, such paradigm shifts have happened repeatedly in history; often they've come suddenly and unexpectedly. Another – perhaps the most momentous of all – is in progress.
Or perhaps I should say this paradigm shift is resuming. The healthier incoming paradigm is a modern, more accurate, better-supported, and better-understood version of one that began the shift towards a free, healthy, and prosperous world more than three centuries ago and which informed the creation of the United States itself: Classical Liberalism. More on that paradigm, its weaknesses, and the improved modern version of it, later in the column.
"The Matrix is a System Designed to Enslave You"
The toxic, dying paradigm that sustains the elite's coercive power over the rest of mankind concerns human nature and the State. This paradigm has two major components:
First: The paradigm's single most important element is the sanctifying and entrenching of the coercive State, which includes insisting on the State's necessity and canonizing and immunizing from penalty those who control the State and, to a lesser extent, those who do its work.
The Statist paradigm insists that the State's legal monopoly on violence and aggression is natural, beneficial, and assumed; like gravity or air, only fools would imagine life as possible without it. Almost by definition, the selfless men and women in charge of the State apparatus know what is best for all of us and are only concerned with keeping things running smoothly and in creating a better, more compassionate world; to oppose the State is thus profoundly evil. Coercion is necessary for funding of State actions (for some unexplained reason, State actions can only be funded at gunpoint) – and this somehow avoids market forces that would otherwise ensure near-complete lack of customer satisfaction and growing corruption in how the coercively-obtained funds are used.
Perhaps the most important element here is the bizarre idea that those who work for the State can somehow do all sorts of things that the rest of us, tragically, would be UNABLE to do without the politicians and bureaucrats and Big Men With Guns that the State relies upon.
Putting an end to the State (to all that coercion and violence and enforced poverty and so on) scares people, which makes sense because people don't SEE all that coercion and violence and enforced poverty, not really, not for what it is, and when people DO see some part of it almost-clearly, they ascribe the wrongdoing and destruction to a particular side of the Left-Right paradigm or to a particular flavor of Statism itself or to something else entirely, like Big Business (without noticing that the harmful businesses are those in bed with and regulated by and financially supported by the State like, say, the nuclear power industry or Monsanto or the big banks or the ten thousand defense contractors [with their $900 hammers and their constant lobbying for more business – which means, at bottom, for more war] or Big Pharma or, frankly, 90 percent of the big corporations now operating). From childhood, we have all been taught to see things the way the system WANTS us to see them, and to know that some vague, unspecified Bad Thing will happen if the violence and coercion and corruption and enforced poverty were to suddenly stop. Long before childhood ends we internalize that dark, nameless dread, just as we internalize a love for the Masters who rule us and a deep respect, mostly of the fearful variety, for those agents of the Masters who carry out the Masters' will, be it groping our crotches at the airport or smashing in the door at the wrong house to arrest (or kill, should anyone twitch the wrong way) evil-doers who might be using marijuana to quell the pain of their terminal cancer. Deep in our frightened little slave hearts, we are certain that without this huge coercive edifice, this heavily-armed Authority over us, we wouldn't have the slightest chance of getting by.
Government as viewed through the coercive Statist paradigm. Courtesy Bastiat Institute
Second: The paradigm assumes and insists that Liberty and Compassion are not connected and are actually at odds. This lets each quality be falsely used against the other, and thus against the masses.
By convention, those focusing (primarily) on liberty are said to be on the Right, while those focusing (primarily) on compassion are said to be on the Left. When people express anger towards State actions or towards those who direct or carry out those actions, this anger is assumed to be and is treated as criticism of the side currently in power or of a particular person or agency acting in accordance with a particular side. The paradigm thus contains a mechanism for allowing anger and criticism to be expressed without actually threatening the corrupt, coercive system itself. Since both sides behave almost identically, the system continues unperturbed no matter who gets elected – check Obama's policies on aggressive war, on family-killing drone attacks, on zillion-dollar giveaways to favored corporations, on putting non-violent citizens in prison for drug possession, or on dismantling civil liberties in favor of a shocking, unconstitutional police state. Aside from Obama's policies being even harsher and more destructive than Bush's, there are few real differences between the policies of Obama and Bush.
Note in particular how well the paradigm of Left-Right Statism prevents both Democrats (leftists) and Republicans (rightists) from seeing their own standard-bearer's actions clearly. The false Statist paradigm inoculates those infected with it from truly seeing anything that conflicts with the paradigm; individual facts proving the paradigm wrong are explained away, thought to be necessary no matter how horrific they are, assumed to be propaganda from the other side, or in some other way quickly neutralized or forgotten.
A good fictional and symbolic illustration of how powerful and pervasive the coercive Statist paradigm is can be found in the 1988 science fiction film They Live, just released on Blu-Ray. A resistance group has made special sunglasses which let people see Earth's psychopathic alien overlords for the bizarre-looking creatures they are (without the glasses, the overlords look like normal people). The glasses also reveal subliminal messages (such as Obey) embedded in magazines, newspapers, advertising, and on television. Adopting The Doctrine of Love and Freedom is like putting on a pair of those sunglasses: the world suddenly looks different. Propaganda shows up everywhere; otherwise-intelligent people are seen to behave in foolishly destructive ways and to advocate bizarre views of the world. And the coercive elite, the aristocrats of the Statist realm? They seem a lot less attractive and benign than they did before.
There are several names we might use for the anti-freedom, anti-compassion Statist paradigm, including Coercive Statism, Left-Right Statism, or simply Left-Right. Whatever we call it, this paradigm is clearly incompatible with healthy, civil society because aggression and violence are built-in, natural market protections are eliminated (a more horrific problem than you might think; see also here), connected corporations and other favored groups and individuals get preferential treatment, often including subsidies (directly and otherwise) taken from everyone else, and coercive limits on both liberty and compassion are seen as acceptable. The very fact that liberty and compassion are not seen as a mutually-supportive duality is itself a danger. If we want a healthier, more civil society, we will need to find and embrace a paradigm more in harmony with healthy human nature.
Classical Liberalism's Strengths, Weaknesses, and Eventual Fall
A concerted and shockingly deceptive effort to associate coercive State power with compassion long ago eroded understanding of and support for Classical Liberalism's compassionate elements and eventually came to dominate thinking in the United States and throughout the West. Government had somehow become an agent of kindness and compassion and all that is good in the world – or so the new framework proclaimed. (Putting the sunglasses on, one might note the two hundred sixty-two million murders governments committed around the world in the 20th Century – in addition to war dead – which again shows the staggering power of paradigms to alter perception. Coercive government, an agency of compassion? It is mind-boggling that millions of otherwise-intelligent people could be made to believe such a lie about the most violent and murderous institution to ever exist, but again: that's the power of paradigms).
Marxism was only one element in this assault on civil society (albeit a very strong one). The result was constant, gradual replacement of actual compassion and voluntary kindness with bureaucratic programs and mandates that are centrally conceived, planned, and controlled, and which are carried out or at least regulated by the State.
We are now in the late stages of the Statist game – a game that has been played many times in history, with ancient Rome being only the most famous example. Game play runs as follows:
* A republic or other mostly-uncorrupt government is formed (this actually being the first assault on a free, Stateless people in times long past), with the government small and largely run by and answerable to the people (to be clear: yes, most governments have not been so benign even at their beginning). Honest money is used, with gold, silver, and copper coins being the main forms of currency. Taxation is low; government intrusion in both business and personal life is low to non-existent, and the people are industrious, virtuous, and increasingly prosperous.
* The power and scope of government grows, as those who benefit from coercive power push for more of it, always claiming this to be important for the people as a whole.
* Militarism grows; government control and regulation of business grows; taxation becomes heavier. The once-peaceful republic slowly becomes an aggressive empire.
* As taxation and regulation continue to grow, both civil society and the business environment degrade and large numbers of people become poor and many become homeless. To pacify these people and bind them to support the State, the government begins providing "bread and circuses" – free food and entertainment – further reducing the incentive to be either industrious or virtuous. Wealth-creation continues to fall; the great mass of people become ever-poorer even as the State itself becomes richer, siphoning off the people's wealth.
* The State begins financing a portion of its corrupt operations by inflating the money supply, called "counterfeiting" when anyone else does it. In ancient times, before the printing press, this was done by calling in the coinage and recasting it with a portion of base metal. New coinage is also issued containing increasingly large percentages of base metal. Roman coinage went from actual precious metal to, eventually, base metal with a thin film of silver. By 215 AD, the coins were so worthless that foreign merchants refused to take them in trade, and Roman living standards collapsed. Christopher Weber describes the process:
"After 215 AD and the final loss of Rome's position as the owner of the world's currency, Rome's trade, economy and living standards went into tailspins. The "silver" denarius lost so much more of its value that even Roman's [sic] wouldn't take it. Emperor Caracalla introduced a new silver coin, the antoninianus, but immediately started to remove silver from it. Within 45 years, by 268, this coin was nothing but base metal with a thin silver coating.
"I must stress again how quickly and completely Roman living standards fell from the time that the rest of the [world] rejected its money as the world's currency."
~ A Short History of International Currencies [PDF] by Christopher Weber
Classical Liberalism opposes all of those destructive elements – intrusive government, heavy taxation, standing armies and aggressive war, fiat currency, creating government dependency among the poor, and more – but was unable to prevent them from infesting the United States. Here again, my point is that Classical Liberalism's weaknesses made it (and continue to make it) less effective than necessary to do the job of reducing or eliminating Statist evils over the long term.
Classical Liberalism is neither well-defined nor (within its writings) well-supported with scientific references. Despite the powerful and empirically successful wealth-promoting element of Classical Liberalism's Laissez Faire approach to economic life (as seen in British Hong Kong, Switzerland, and the early United States, for instance), there are too many definitions of Classical Liberalism's other elements for it to be as strong a contender against coercive Statism as it might be. For example, the Wikipedia article linked earlier (here it is again) includes the following head-scratcher:
"According to E. K. Hunt, classical liberals made four assumptions about human nature: People were 'egoistic, coldly calculating, essentially inert and atomistic.' In addition, people were motivated solely by pain and pleasure. Being calculating, they made decisions intended to maximise pleasure and minimise pain. If there were no opportunity to increase pleasure or reduce pain, they would become inert. Therefore, the only motivation for labour was either the possibility of great reward or fear of hunger."
No one I know today who identifies with the Classical Liberal label holds such views (then again, there are many people I've never met). Many Classical Liberal (or Classical-Liberal-leaning) figures in the past, such as Thoreau, Thomas Paine, the voluntaryist Auberon Herbert, and others would not likely have identified with such views either; they viewed life with more empathy and less clinical detachment. For example, here is Paine on the Revolution:
"O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted 'round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind."
In that excerpt (from an addendum to Common Sense), Thomas Paine speaks of love for mankind and of an asylum (sanctuary) for all mankind. Until the American Revolution, every government in world history was based explicitly on one person or group ruling – essentially owning, to one extent or another – everyone else. Aggression and violence were the tools of the trade; governments were – as now – nothing but vast criminal empires. The contrast between that and the American Revolution was stunning. The sense of love, compassion, brotherhood, and connection with others – as found in the Declaration of Independence as well as in the writings of many pro-Revolution Americans of the time – was a huge change, and was the most important spark that ignited and then sustained both the American Revolution itself and excitement about the Revolution throughout the world.
Love and Freedom, dear reader. Compassion and Liberty. Brotherhood and complete Laissez-faire. You will never have one for long without the other, because Love and Freedom are one. Love and freedom form a duality in human life, a powerful Yin and Yang that pervade every nook and cranny of human experience whether we are open to this or not. Break the duality and you eventually destroy both love and freedom; break the duality and you destroy society itself.
Classical Liberals of the 1700s and 1800s seemed to understand this – often quite passionately – but, again, they understood it vaguely and without the detail and scientific support possible today. (Not to mention that Jefferson and a number of other prominent Classical Liberals were actual slave-owners; the reconciliation of two opposites – freedom and human slavery, in the minds of America's Southern gentry – is yet another example of how powerful and bizarre paradigms can be in warping thought, perception, and action.) And most definitions of Classical Liberalism include minarchy, usually in the form of a limited constitutional government. Here in 21st Century America, we know how THAT turns out. Our limited, constitutional government has become a vast, bankrupt empire and a dangerous and intrusive police state.
Even those elements of Classical Liberalism that I (and Thoreau, Ron Paul, Auberon Herbert, and many others who are often considered Classical Liberals) might agree with are not well-supported within the old Classical Liberal framework. I don't mean those facts or ideas or theories are not well-supported by modern science (they are); I mean that the century-plus old writings which lay out Classical Liberalism predate 21st and even 20th Century science and understanding generally. Classical Liberalism predates relativity theory, quantum mechanics, and – more importantly – it predates a great deal of well-supported biological, sociological, and psychological knowledge about humans and their societies.
Time to fix all that.
The Doctrine of Love and Freedom:
A Modern, Scientifically-supported Neo-Classical Liberalism
Those who want more material about this paradigm will have no trouble finding it. This will be the one-hundredth column I have posted at Strike-the-Root.com since 2002 and almost all* of those columns describe, in one fashion or another, some part of the paradigm I advocate here. My writings also include many links and references. Any major paradigm encompasses far more than the one or two elements that get top billing; I have done what I can to provide a wide range of relevant fact, theory, prediction, example, and other details that, together, should bring The Doctrine of Love and Freedom** to life for anyone interested.
For now, let me start with what this paradigm is not: It is not mere libertarianism or anarchism or voluntaryism or any other framework that describes a purely political idea, including the idea of completely eliminating the State and its systematic aggression. I call that idea abolitionism and I favor it strongly, but abolition of the coercive State is not enough – not nearly enough.
More than non-aggression is needed for a civil society, and the promise of more than non-aggression will certainly be needed to make abolishing the State attractive to most people. I do not see that as a flaw or weakness in the common person; I see it as a bit of inchoate, instinctive wisdom. People want love, brotherhood, and compassion included in their worldview and ultimately, they want to see those characteristics alive in their society – and they are absolutely right to want those things. Civil society is not possible without reasonable levels of love, brotherhood, and compassion; a decent individual life, for that matter, is not possible without them.
There are many ways to describe The Doctrine of Love and Freedom, beginning with that particular name.
Love and freedom are the two most critical elements, and putting them together in a positive-sounding name is my attempt to begin defusing the instilled fear people have of a free (non-aggressive, non-Statist) society that is characterized more by love and compassion than by the unhealthy and often psychopathic institutions, ideas, and behaviors so common today. Anything which opposes or corrupts either love or freedom is outside the bounds of this paradigm.
We can expand on those two words, of course. Here is the list I use for the framework (for The Doctrine of Love and Freedom, although not using that name) in The Paradise Paradigm:
1. The human world is as we make it.
2. The character of each adult is largely shaped in the earliest months and years of life.
3. Consistent love and respect given early in life create healthy, loving adults who respect others.
4. Any person or group that improves the lives of pregnant mothers, infants, or children contributes to the goal of a healthy world.
5. Enough healthy, loving adults will make a healthy, loving world.
6. Freedom is a necessary part of love. Unfreedom (coercion) is abuse; it erodes and destroys love.
7. Change happens when enough people share the necessary understanding.
In that list, I am emphasizing two things in addition to love and freedom.
First, bringing more love into the world will absolutely require better treatment of infants, children, and pregnant women. There is overwhelming scientific evidence for the power of early experience to affect later thought, behavior, and inner experience; a compassionate, emotionally healthy, loving early life predicts (and sets the stage for) a compassionate, healthy, loving adulthood. Points 2 through 5 all specifically address this, both to provide detail and to make sure the reader understands that this is not a minor "Oh, by the way" addition to the paradigm. Better treatment of the young is a critical element because without it, long-term improvement is impossible.
While working for that society-wide improvement, individual lives are also improved, and that, too, is hugely important. Having freedom isn't enough if you are emotionally repressed, unhappy, and miserable inside – and badly-treated children ARE repressed, unhappy, and miserable inside – even as adults – no matter what the political and social climate is like around them. See the stunning ACE study [PDF] for a powerful look at the ways early experience affects later life. For a long page with more information on the sensitive dependence on early conditions (both good and bad) in human life, with links to many scientific studies and articles about studies, see http://paradise-paradigm.net/science.htm. It cannot be said too often: Freedom alone is NOT enough.
Second, points 1 and 7 are meant to emphasize the workings, necessity, and power of a paradigm-based approach. We CAN change the world for the better, and a paradigm is the only tool appropriate for the task.
That leaves point 6, which asserts the necessity of freedom, and ties it directly to love – where it belongs.
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We could also define The Doctrine of Love and Freedom by direct comparison with the Left-Right Statist paradigm:
|Left-Right Statism||The Doctrine of Love and Freedom|
|The coercive State is necessary||Initiating coercion is a crime, not a necessity|
|Coercion is moral when the State does it||Initiating coercion is a crime|
|Initiated violence is moral when the State does it||Initiating violence is a crime|
|Only the State can do certain things||Coercive State funding ruins State programs|
|The State can create compassion by force||State programs harm compassion, esp. long-term|
|Liberty and compassion are at odds||Liberty and compassion are connected|
|Too much liberty harms compassion||Coercion harms compassion|
|Coercive State schooling is good||Coercion is especially harmful to children|
|We all have obligations to the State||We are obligated to respect the rights of others|
|The State must protect us from ourselves||State efforts at protection cause harm and violence|
You will have no trouble extending this comparison because in every situation, The Doctrine of Love and Freedom opposes initiating coercion, violence, and aggression – while the State is almost nothing but coercion, violence, and aggression. The State's pretense of compassion is shown as a lie by the State's own actions and by the results of those actions. The Doctrine of Love and Freedom supports and encourages actual compassion, which specifically eschews initiated coercion and violence from the State or from any other person or group. Compassion is NOT a product of the State.
Compassion is a healthy inner state (an experience) that fosters compassionate behavior in healthy people, while State laws, mandates, regulations, and programs aimed at implementing compassion reliably do the opposite: State actions cause cruelty, corruption, poverty, violence, dependency, and other harm. The War on Drugs is an example so blatant and egregious that even many Statists want to see it dismantled, but look closely and you will see the same horrific dynamic at work everywhere the State plies its trade. Coercion and violence will never create a compassionate world. Only when large numbers of people understand that clearly will we be on the road to a world characterized more by love and freedom than by cruelty and coercion.
For more detail, including discussion of and links to relevant scientific studies and other corroborating material, please see The Paradise Paradigm (which includes several chapters on the scientific underpinnings of the framework) and my archive at STR. Section 7 (titled "Links, references, examples, and further reading" near the bottom of The Doctrine of Love and Freedom is a good place to start.