The More We Do To You

Column by Alex R. Knight III.

Exclusive to STR

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. The mediocre mind is incapable of understanding the man who refuses to bow blindly to conventional prejudices and chooses instead to express his opinions courageously and honestly." ~Albert Einstein (1879 – 1955), physicist

Now that the 2012 version of the bi-annual charade known as American Democracy is at a close, it may profit those of us in the Voluntaryist community to take stock of where we’re at progress-wise . . . and what we’re up against.

My activism this time around as a libertarian anarchist (and I use the term here this once in lieu of Voluntaryism in order to point to Gerard Casey’s new book, Libertarian Anarchy: Against the State [Continuum, 2012], which I just received via U.S. government postal monopoly, and expect to be a good read – please stay tuned) consisted mostly of my usual non-voting, placing my own personal Strike The Root “I Don’t Vote” lawn sign in front of my house (yes, a 2010 picture of it was the featured photo here on Tuesday, November 6th), and noodling around on Facebook, posting anarchist anecdotes, engaging in discussion.

The results? Hard to tell, of course. Perhaps my lawn sign, during the five weeks it was plainly visible to motorists traveling south on the piece of two-lane government blacktop that abuts my house and land, garnered some visitors to this website, or otherwise caused some passers-by to challenge their own belief systems. My own abstinence from participating in the election, such as it was, no doubt at least served to not compound the notion that there is anything legitimate about the idea of political governance and the violence that is so inextricably inherent to its implementation and continuance.

But as for my social networking activities, this resulted in at least three people becoming riled to the point of anger, sarcasm, and denunciation. If there were others, at least, they didn’t make themselves known anywhere near as vociferously as those in question.

The first among them, a very nice and interesting man with a long and even more fascinating past and background in the very core of the 1960s and 1970s rock & roll scene, became extremely offended when one of my Facebook postings (and it was a Share – not anything original by me) suggested that government was basically a form of terrorism. This man, who happens to be black (okay, African-American, if we need to be “politically correct” about it – but indeed, can’t we all just get along?), subsequently stated that he felt my post disrespected his ancestors, who picketed, demonstrated, and otherwise protested in order to gain suffrage – and were in turn beaten, humiliated, and even killed in the process.

There is of course nothing untrue about those historical facts. Certainly, at the very least all the way through the 1960s civil rights movement, injustices such as described above were visited upon members of the black population in their struggle for equality. I did not and would never contest that. But it also has little to do with my initial point – unless you consider that members of the white governmental establishment prior to civil rights reforms were in large part responsible for the persecution of blacks – something I would most certainly label as terrorism. But I would also ask in response to this: Would it have ultimately made more sense to revile, denounce, and seek the abolition of the very institution that made such heinous activity possible – or to simply seek equal footing within its existing structure, in order to be able to deal out such violence with similar impunity alongside those so positioned? True social reform, to my mind, would mean a full-scale renunciation of all such violence, no matter the guise given it.

But the man in question will not be swayed by such arguments. He views voluntaryism as naïve, impractical, undoable in the “real” world. And he has made his fierce loyalty to his family and ethnicity quite clear. Reason of any kind will scantly penetrate such precepts.

The other two individuals in question were both high school mates of mine once upon a time, and it would seem that government-owned, tax-financed institution did a remarkable job of molding both of them into state-worshipping, conformist robots (even though one of them currently makes his living in the Los Angeles punk rock scene – no “Anarchy in the UK” or elsewhere for him, evidently) since any suggestion of anything other than total idolatry of their deity (Obama) was unwelcome blasphemy. Their typical responses to my well-outlined reasoning -- before they both thankfully opted out of my life forever (and at my suggestion, I might add) – were such deeply analytical rebuttals as “Yay, Obama!” and “Take your wet blanket somewhere else.” The kind of intellectual greatness that moves mountains, in other words.

It is perhaps by no coincidence that Stefan Molyneaux of freedomainradio.com, in his most recent video, “Life After Politics: Lessons from the 2012 US Elections,” points out that the vast majority of people categorically do not form their opinions on the basis of an objective analysis of information. Their belief systems are based upon a widespread conglomeration of prejudices, emotional conclusions, and subconscious impulses, all designed in order to achieve social acceptance. In fact, Stefan further points out that attempting to shift a person’s beliefs by using logic and reason is almost always, statistically, counterproductive: The individual in question will simply dig their mental heels in, and hew to their preconceived beliefs more strongly than ever. He in fact equates the process with putting up an umbrella in order to stop Mother Nature from raining.

This presents we voluntaryists (libertarian anarchists) with a bleak picture. Not an impossible one, of course, but bleak, for all of that. Our philosophy is nothing if not rooted in reason, logic, and the morality inherent to such.

One of the most heinous figures in Nazi Germany, the butcher of Auschwitz, Josef Mengele, once said something directed towards the general population: “The more we do to you, the less you seem to believe we are doing it.” Hitler and his henchmen were well-chosen by the master propagandist himself in terms of understanding the inner workings of human psychology. Their rise to the summit of political power is nothing if not testament to this fact. Likewise, their ultimate demise was due to a lack of logical reasoning to underpin the house of cards they’d constructed with the help of the German people. And for the same reasons, such is the invariable fate of every government that has ever been, is, or ever will be.

Question then: How do we get to the statistical 10% of committed voluntaryists that sound scientific data demonstrates will successfully pierce through the dysfunctional emotional barriers most of the population are possessed of? In fact, after that 10% has been achieved, voluntaryism then presumably becomes itself the “emotional prejudice.” The rest of society then goes along to get along with the new order of things. The cycle of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” will be broken.

It’s a question I can’t yet and wouldn’t want to pretend to be able to answer here. I think a serious discussion needs to be had amongst voluntaryists, and the Comments section here seems a good enough place to start. We can scarcely stop projecting our rational philosophical observations. At the same time, we want to achieve a voluntary society as completely – and yes, soon – as possible.

How might we better appeal to people emotionally, and not exclusively on the merits of our logic? How can we infuse what the statists do to us all into emotional depth-charges that prompt the uninitiated into the same committed passion we feel? The fate of our movement may well hinge upon the answers.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 111

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales, including Tales from Dark 7.  He has also written and published poetry; non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues; and is former Communications Director for the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire.  In 1998, he was awarded Activist of the Year for that organization.  He now lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University, and looks forward to living in a governmentless society of liberty.

Comments

tzo's picture

Same strategy the opposition uses: Get 'em while they're young and impressionable.
 
The difference being, of course, that you want to impress them with logic and fact instead of fantasy, which will produce a foundation that will not be subject to irrational claims later on.
 
Of course indoctrinated people will scream "Oh, sure, brainwash kids to your way of thinking. That's no better!" That is because they cannot differentiate between fantasy and reality, opinion and fact.
 
When "my fantasy is just as valid as your fact" becomes a way of thinking, it's tough sledding trying to break through.

Jim Davies's picture

You provoke thought, Alex, and end with a key question. I agree with Tzo's reply, though strictly speaking he doesn't answer "How might we better appeal to people emotionally, and not exclusively on the merits of our logic?" but rather says we continue to use reason but get to our prospects while younger. Good.
 
Yet your own story relates how two "high school mates" ended up diametrically opposed to you, on Facebook. Therefore, they (or you, more likely) encountered an influence after leaving school, which made all the difference. So "getting 'em while young" can't be the whole answer.
 
Emotion, rather than reason, is important but dangerous. To rely on it needs careful preparation. You mention Mengele, and his comrades; they came to political power using emotion and they directed their appeal to two well-embedded emotions or cultural values: (a) deep patriotism, and (b) a sense of fairness, which let to outrage at the wickedly unfair settlement imposed at Versailles. Hitler shared both and was the Century's finest orator, so he swayed the crowds and got elected. We know where that led. Emotion is important, but dangerous.
 
My answer, like Tzo's, is that generally "we don't." Reason will suffice, for humans are above all animals with the power to reason; but reason is not a technique that works well with crowds so we do it one by one. You know how.
 
 
 
 

Mark Davis's picture

The typical anarchist is someone who would willingly take the Blue Pill, a truth seeker that uses intellectual and spiritual inspiration to fuel their quest.  This is a small minority of people.  The vast majority of people want the Red Pill, happiness seekers that use physical and emotional gratification as their stimulus.  This is a majority of the people.
Those that seek truth value logic and reason as tools that enhance understanding and lead to wisdom.  Those that seek happiness value emotions and sensations derived from physical stimuli to enhance their life experiences.  Each category, of course, has people with traits from both, but tend to primarily lean toward one or the other.  Libertarian anarchist arguments tend to appeal to the logic and reasoning side of people, no matter how small it may be.  This will never be enough for most of the population that has a 60 second attention span and equates the status quo with "reality".
I submit that, in the interests of maintaining our sanity, we simply proceed as we have as individuals providing a light on the table for all to see.  Some will open their eyes, but most will continue in their intellectual and spiritual slumber.  Change will come when physical discomfort with the status quo overwhelms the emotional attachment people have to the institutions they have been conditioned to believe are "as good as it gets".  We can only keep the remnant alive and dynamic until that day comes.  We will then have a brief moment in history where our numbers, as a percentage of those who survive this cataclysmic event, will be at a peak and, hopefully, significant enough to foment change for the better.  

Suverans2's picture

The vast majority of people want the blue pill, Mark Davis."You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.... Remember, all I'm offering is the truth, nothing more.... Follow me..."

Paul's picture

I think he just got the colors mixed up. :-)

Mark Davis's picture

Thank you Suverans2, it has been a while since I've watched the Matrix and mixed them up.  Now I have  a good reason to go back and watch them again.  Hopefully, my point was not lost.

Suverans2's picture

You're welcome, Mark Davis (and I agree, Paul); it's just that I know that you like to be accurate. Hope I didn't cause too much of a distraction with the correction. If I did, please accept my apology.

Glock27's picture

Greetings Mark,
Thank you for your remark "and spiritual inspiration to fuel their quest." Not everything comes down to simply rational thought and logic, though they are certainly tools that provide a function in working things out. We have no ability to utilize or use logic until we have imagined the likelyhood of something better. I am one who takes a creative approach and it may not always be reasonable nor logical, but in time, if it proves to be then logic and reason can come into play. I don't know what your position is regarding this. John Hasnas opened the idea of man being an imaginative being over logical and rational, Chapter 8, Anarchy/minarchy. He does an excellent job of explanining the difference and convinced me this is the most appropriate venue to proceed from. Now I am not excluding logic and rational reasoning from the scene, I just don't believe it is the exclusive tool that some tend to idolize and the be all end all. I think via imagination opens up a whole new realm of bringing someone over to your side of the table but if you insist on the utilization fo logic and reason there will be an eternal dead-lock.

Fespectfully,
Glock 27a

Alex R. Knight III's picture

Thanks to all of you so far -- you've had some introspective things to say and ruminate upon.  I will continue to refrain from commenting, as such, since I'm just drinking all of this in and pondering the various points made.  Hopefully, this discussion continues, and more viewpoints still are offered.  :-)

Samarami's picture

Nice work, Alex!

    "...Question then: How do we get to the statistical 10% of committed voluntaryists that sound scientific data demonstrates will successfully pierce through the dysfunctional emotional barriers most of the population are possessed of?..."

I don't believe "we" do. My goal is to act free -- to be free. Not an easy task at times in a world full of what appear to me to be indentured servants.

I'm not responsible for anybody's liberty but mine. I'm responsible for the example and the message -- not their behavior.

Sam

Jim Davies's picture

Sam, what you say is correct, and your "responsibility" and mine are to ourselves, not to anyone else. I'm responsible to myself for being as free as possible, because only in that way can I maximize my potential, my enjoyment of life, etc.  And you likewise, to yourself. We have no responsibilities to anyone else outside of explicit, voluntary contracts we may choose to make; not even, perhaps, to convey a clean "example" or an accurate "message." Why would we have?
 
However (perhaps you expected a big "however" :-)) there is no way I can maximize my enjoyment of life while being harassed by government goons at almost every turn. The analogy of a slave plantation is rather close; a thoughtful slave could figure out he was truly a self-owning human being by right, and take a deal of pleasure in that thought, and do what he could to behave accordingly to his fellow slaves, but it would have been ludicrous for him to pretend that he was free in any serious, practical sense. Manifestly, he was not; he might have "acted free" but he could not "be free."
 
Accordingly, would you agree that the only way one can fulfil one's responsibility to oneself to enjoy a fulfilled life is to do whatever is feasible to persuade the rest of society to stop aggressing?  - to do something like what Alex suggests in his question?
 

Suverans2's picture

I'm curious; is it merely the three hundred and fifteen million humans reportedly living in the U.S. portion of North America, or is it the seven billion humans that make up the Earth's population, that you have to convert into atheistic anarchists before you can "can maximize your enjoyment of life", Jim Davies?

My analogy of the situation is that of a "corporation", where more than a few of the "employees" hate their jobs, but are too fearful of losing their benefits and privileges to ever "quit".

But, even if we adhere to your "slave plantation" mentality, as an individual secessionist, [a "runaway slave", if you will], I'm here to tell you, your 'massa' is having a very difficult time maintaining 'his' grip on three hundred and fifteen million "slaves"; and with so many county, city and state, corporations, (subsidiaries of the federal corporation), either bankrupt, or on the verge of bankruptcy, and with the federal corporation itself over sixteen trillion dollars in debt, harassment at every turn by government goons is getting less and less frequent all the time.

And, if you insist on likening your situation to that of a "slave plantation", where would those slaves be today if "the government" hadn't "freed" them?

"Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains or slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take but as for me; give me liberty or give me death!" ~ Patrick Henry

I DO NOT CONSENT TO BE A MEMBER OF YOUR POLITICAL CORPORATION AND I WAIVE ALL MEMBER-ONLY BENEFITS. MY LAW IS THE NATURAL LAW.

Samarami's picture

Jim Davies:

    "...would you agree that the only way one can fulfil one's responsibility to oneself to enjoy a fulfilled life is to do whatever is feasible to persuade the rest of society to stop aggressing? - to do something like what Alex suggests in his question?..."

(Emphasis mine): Please never doubt, Jim, my respect for you (and Alex) and your communications for liberty over the years. You and a few like you and the many men and women writing for this and other anarchist sites have been responsible for my being here and staying here (and finally belonging here). I'm truly grateful for your effort. I've shared and posted many of your quotations and entire articles (with links to original) more times than I can count.

That covered, I believe in and encourage the putting forth of one's best efforts to transmit his message. Often the message is not in agreement with mine (yours for the most part is) -- but I still encourage the effort.

I also caution against feeling responsible for the outcome. You are responsible for the message -- not it's acceptance or rejection. At times you will feel like is reported by the prophet Ezekiel (the famous "dry bones" prophesy in the Hebrew book) -- that you're "...preachin' to the wind".

But preach.

Sam

Glock27's picture

Cheers Sam,

I appreciate your response to Jim and Alex. It is important that we are able to demonstrate respect for one-another on STR despite the few who find it self-gratifying to disparage others points-of-view or beliefs.

Stay safe, stay well and watch your six.

Respectfully,
Glock27

Jim Davies's picture

Sam, I fully agree that of course, none of us can be held responsible (to whom?) for the outcome of any efforts to promote liberty. Nobody can do more than his best, and the self-ownership axiom prevents us using force to achieve the desired result.
 
That is no excuse, though (would you agree?) for failing to do what is feasible; and I don't refer to quantity of work but to its quality. We have a big job; we have no choice but to work smart.
 
The responsibility to "do what is feasible" is each to ourselves, nobody else. I want to see an abolition of government because its jackboots are on my neck; I cannot enjoy freedom until it vanishes. That's all of it; local, state and federal and while we're at it, international. You and I are residents of the Planet Earth, and if we choose to travel elsewhere I for one expect not to be subjected to restrictions.
 
Again, a big job. But not as big as it seems at first. Remarkably simple, actually.

Samarami's picture

Jim Davies:

    "...That is no excuse, though (would you agree?) for failing to do what is feasible; and I don't refer to quantity of work but to its quality. We have a big job; we have no choice but to work smart..."

Just got back from a long truck run and missed this.

One of my character defects is a malady called "perfectionism" -- refraining from taking action out of fear that my efforts might not result in perfect outcomes. That's changed significantly, thankfully.

Another is my failure at times to take credit for the effort I do expend. Yet I'm fully aware that if I put forth my best effort I can handle the outcome no matter what it is.

Now as to this "bein' free" business, you and I agree fully -- but with somewhat opposite approaches. That's fine. You're a frontal-attack man: you saw the enemy as that group of psychopaths referred to by the abstract term, "government" -- and you rolled up your sleeves and you took action to weaken and (hopefully) destroy that enemy. I salute you for that.

I, on the other hand, tend to side with our friend Mark Davis, who once stated (paraphrased), "...if you're going to be free you must begin to act free..." I had to declare myself a sovereign state (yes, the dreaded "s" word) and become free in order to feel capable of extending the hand of freedom to my family, friends and neighbors. Keep in mind I have a neighbor across the street who is a "state representative" (I avoid the argument that he does not represent me, but he so suspects) and his aunt who is my next door neighbor. I have a daughter who is head of a large state bureaucracy and a son who is a "lawyer" -- and two other sons who are hardwired Ron Paul supporters, along with their families. So I have to "...temper the north wind to the shorn lamb..." much of the time.

We indeed must "do what is feasible" even when we do not all agree with the action.

Sam

Jim Davies's picture

Glad for your safe return, Sam. I think we are in agreement, but am not quite sure.
 
I was hoping you'd join me in recognizing the rather obvious fact that while government exists full freedom is impossible, and therefore we have a duty to ourselves to do what's possible to cause its demise. Liken that to self-defense, if you will. The plantation slave might psych himself to recognizing that he was in truth a self-owning human being, but if he was taken to the fields in shackles he was, blatantly obviously, free only in the most limited of senses.
 
So I'm wondering whether you and I are using the word "free" to mean two different things.  You wrote that you had to "declare [yourself] a sovereign state... and become free..." but with respect, you are no such thing. How can you meaningfully call yourself free when (as you also say) you are surrounded by people who in one degree or another are forcing you to act against your will? And who apart from yourself cares a fig what you "declare" yourself to be?  To say "I am sovereign!" is perfectly true as of right, but perfectly false as of practical fact. Until, that is, government evaporates - which it won't do on its own.
 
So my understanding of "free" is the condition of being unrestrained, to exercise in practice the rights I most certainly have now in theory. Do we share that, or do you have a different understanding?

mhstahl's picture

Jim,

You seem to have generated a paradox.

How is it that someone can force you to act against your will?

Barring surgical intervention, or some sort of disease or injury, my body does exactly what I decide. Now, I'm beset by possible consequences for what I choose to do, but navigating that is nothing but life and is certainly not going to go away simply because government goes away. I choose to behave as I do, just as the degenerates who direct government or who organize private violence choose to behave as they do.

My "freedom"-which is an interesting word to examine-is not predicated on my ability to control them or their behavior. I'd like to see the "state wither away", but not because it will bring "freedom" to me, but rather because the state creates an artificial, and rigid, social structure that only benefits those few who are connected....it is literally a gang of thieves. Without the state, robbers are nothing but robbers....there would probably be a-lot more of them.

Your notion of freedom, correct me if I'm wrong, relies upon the you being able to control other people so that they do not violate your "rights." I can't help but wonder how freedom equals obedience.

Best,

Mike

Jim Davies's picture

That's an easy one, Mike. Anyone can "force me to act against my will" by starting to pull out my fingernails, or performing any other kind of physical or mental torture. You're technically correct to say that the consequent action taken is "my will", but that will was forced to choose between an action I disliked and another I disliked even more.
 
My "notion of freedom" is to be left alone to make my own choices for my own life. What's yours?
 
I wonder why you imagine that a zero government society would suffer from "more" robbers. Might you have overlooked the important subject of how such a society will be brought about, and what effect that process would have on those with aggressive inclinations? - and perhaps the likely nature of the justice system in that society?

Samarami's picture

Sorry to cut this short, because it is a good and necessary discussion for this forum to identify "freedom" in general, "freedom from parasites and predators grouped into an abstract called 'state' " in particular.

But my trailer is loaded, I'm headed back East. I'll do my best to sidestep the DOT's and predator "bears" on the trip.

I'm free. I'm sovereign.

I've had this discussion with whining ex-cons for 30 or more years: I learned to become free in the "hole". Over fifty years ago. If you're not familiar with The-Hole, it's a special consequence in lockup for non-compliers.

I'm a non-complier.

You can lock my ass up. You can excoriate my skull and scorch my brain.

But you can't incarcerate my mind.

Sam

mhstahl's picture

Sam,

I'm familiar with "the hole" myself. Not for very long, but just long enough. I never stopped being free-in fact I realized I was free. I also realized how silly most of the "truths" I brought in with me really were.

Have a safe trip.

Best,

Mike

Jim Davies's picture

Good trip, Sam, and if "East" includes NH, send me a PM about meeting up. I look forward to your fuller reply after you return.
 
I think I get what you mean about feeling "free" while in close captivity. The mind cannot be caged, right. But in the ordinary usage of English, when you are in a cage you are absolutely, positively, emphatically and objectively NOT free; rather, the diametric opposite. You can say "I'm free. I'm sovereign" as often as you like, but that doesn't make it true - except in that important but highly limited sense.

mhstahl's picture

Jim,

One is always confined-the only difference between a jail cell and a park bench is where the walls are. One still makes constant decisions that effect both the immediate and distant future-in fact it was my experience (from my, gladly, short stay) that there are more decisions that are more vital when the walls are closer. At the time I likened it to water running through a hose nozzle- as the waterway constricts, the water moves faster.

That's not quite right, but it does cover one aspect of the experience. The greatest observation I made was not loss of freedom, but instead the shear, utter, and total waste of it all.

"But even though I was behind a thick wall, not one of my townsmen was as free as I was." as Thoreau put it.

I might note that the idea of jailing people for crime is rather new, driven by Jeremy Bentham, with the idea being not punishment but...re-education.

I'd be interested in Sam's thoughts as well, but I can tell you that being in such a situation, even for just a few weeks as I was, offers a powerful perspective on humanity, and on freedom. I do not, however, recommend it.

Mike

Glock27's picture

Cheers Jim,

Curious here, you said "...,and your 'responsibility' and mine are to ourselves, not to anyone else." If my neighbors home is burning and he is not at home I don't have a moral and ethical responsibility(M&ER) to get help and try to stop the fire, if a woman is being beaten by a goon I have no M&ER to provide what assistance I can, if I come upon an accident I have no M&ER to assist however I can and etc. This is what I am garnering from your statement to Sam but I don't believe that you really mean that. Are there any corrections you would like to exemplify regarding that statement or does it honestly stand as it is?

mhstahl's picture

That is an excellent question, Glock. I suspect I can quess the answer, but I'm still curious.

I do wonder, where do you think moral and ethical responsibility ends, and better yet who determines it?

For myself, I do think that there is such a thing as decency, and while I would never endorce coecion, some things are worth doing just to help without any personal gain. I decide what those things are for myself, based on my own judgement.

Best,

Mike

Glock27's picture

Cheers mhstahl,

I was merely curious. There is much yet that I need to understand and that is why I ask what is probably stupid questions. I am not trying to disparage anyone with my observations or questions, just trying to see how all the pieces fit together. I am sure there are multiple different responses and if I don't ask or observe then I remain stupid to the circumstances presented.

Thanks for your reply.

Glock

Glock27's picture

I guess to me moral and ethical responsibility begins and ends with me and I determine it, of course for myself. I can believe and feel that you too have moral and ethical responsibilities as a member of the human race, but you and only you can decide. I do not believe that I or anyone else can or has the Natural Right to coerce you into anything. I may be able to share with you why I think you should respond to A,B and C but that is the maximum I can do. I feel I have a moral and ethical responsibility to certain applications, yet at the same time I alone cannot meet all the needs. If I see a person lying on the side of the road I do believe that you and I have a responsibility to stop and see if help is needed. Could be a ruse for a robbery or it could be a person seriously ill and in need of immediate medical attention. Now. I made a decision that I believed you have a moral and ethical responsibiliity to render aide but there is no way I can force you into it.
I still pick up hitch hikers because I have been there and need a ride and hitch hiking was the only way I could accomplish what I desired.
That's it.
Stay safe, stay well and watch your six.
Respectfully,
Glock27

Jim Davies's picture

Glock, I agree with mhstahl: excellent questions.
 
My answer is NO to each. My ethical responsibilities are only to myself, and yours are only to yourself.
 
Recall the notice Dagny found at the entrance to Galt's Gulch: "I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine." This is basic, to rational ethics! We would otherwise be slaves.
 
So if you or I encounter someone in trouble, the question is not "does some external authority command me to help?" but "If I render assistance, shall I increase my self-respect and enhance my reputation?"
 
There may not be much difference in outcome, between the two ethical systems (rational or religious.) But there's a vast difference between their bases.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Jim,
I live obviously in a different world and clearly have not made the transition. What you say seems or makes Libertarianism, anarchism, voluntarism and etc. out to be a bunch of selfish, self-aggrandizing, self-centered butt heads.
I read your piece on Galts Gulch. As I have said before you are one hell of a writer. I look but I just don’t see. I hear, but I don’t see to listen. I understand what you have said without having to understand. But at the same time I detected a thread there betwixt the lines that these people were not selfish individuals despite the slogan. They seem to reflect more compassion, understanding and decency than what I note on this site. I think a moral and ethical responsibility is a part of the Human Condition. If someone lies on the side of the road bleeding I personally feel a moral and ethical obligation to help that person. If I can be a part of preventing a woman from being raped then I will do so. If we have no sense of obligation of respect and decency toward one-another then what good is a libertarian, anarchist or voluntarist.
Do you see what I am saying. Even in Galts Gulch I have to believe that these people have the same feelings or they would not be there. But then Ann was an objectivist, so how does she fit in here and would she even want to be a part of this melee?

Stay safe, stay well and watch your six.

Respectfully,
Tom (Glock)

Jim Davies's picture

"A bunch of selfish, self-aggrandizing, self-centered butt heads"? Not quite, I think. You're correct, you "look but... just don’t see." There's some homework to be done. It's not always easy to write without being misunderstood, but I hope you'll do your part by hitting the books, avoiding a superficial read.
 
Nonetheless, your comment here has moved me to write an article on the topic of ethics, specifically what is meant by goodness. If our Editor permits, it may appear this coming week.

mhstahl's picture

Jim,

I think this is worth some more discussion.

Did not Rand go even further, and include a negative-that it was immoral to commit acts of true "altruism" where one could not justify it with some self-serving motive? 

Do you agree with that as well? If so how does that comport with freedom? Or, frankly, reason?

Also, isn't the "does some external authority command me to help?" something of a straw man? What "authority" commands me to help someone? If there is one, I'm unaware of it-and I certainly don't ask myself that question before I do something (anything, actually...) I'm don't subscribe to any religion, but most religions contain only weak admonitions to help others in need, or "be charitable", or something similar. At any rate, I really don't think religious people offer aid in specific situations because "God commands it"...

EVEN if they do feel "commanded" by "god", I have not noticed a lot of smiting going on lately-so how is religious morality any less voluntary, or rational, than Rand's morality? Isn't the very idea of a objective morality tantamount to religion?

I'd appreciate you thoughts.

Best,

Mike

Jim Davies's picture

It is, Mike; and I think you're right, Ayn Rand did. And yes, I agree 100%. Either we are each sovereign, or we're not; and if we are, our only responsibility is to enhance the quality of our own lives. It comports perfectly with freedom and reason, for both lead to individual sovereignty.
 
But no, I can't see that there is any "straw man" in the alternative of some external authority. The whole Judeo-Christian system of ethics, for a major example, has to do with such an external authority; the Decalog is not a list of ten principles that wise men had figured out for themselves, it was and is portrayed as "thus saith the Lord", or specifically "And the Lord said unto Moses, Hew thee two tables of stone..." (Exodus 34.)
 
If as you say you do kind things because you feel like it rather than because a god commands it, that might be because you'e a libertarian or something...  it's perfectly natural. It's what humans do.
 

mhstahl's picture

Jim,

Rand, as I'm sure you are aware, believed in her unequivocal way that her morality required a government, even if everyone was totally moral. I think that might be the only thing I agree with her on.

I did not see a commandment to "go forth and be altruistic, or thou shalt burn in hell" in that passage of Exodus-or frankly in the Bible. It might exist, but I'm not familiar with it. At most, it is presented as a moral positive to "be charitable" as far as I'm aware, and that is not coercive. Religion, at least in the western world, is a totally voluntary pursuit anyway-so it is not possible for it to truly be coercive.

Besides, can "unies" coerce, or create morality? I think rather not. Since neither the "unies", or their priests, are running about threatening people(and neither is government) if they are not altruistic, how is the whole question about "altruism" not a straw man?

And, I would submit, one designed to be deliberately provocative in order to market books-that is then conveniently backed away from with the claim that altruism does not exist since every one acts in self-interest anyway(so what was her point, again?)  Rand was too smart not to recognize the circularity of this.

Does that not mean that we are talking about the same basic concept in any objective moral system as religion?  Since Rand believed that such a system was required for "freedom" to exist as she defined it, and that it absolutely required a government with overwhelming force to exist how is it not reliant upon an external authority? And, more importantly, how can objective morality exist without an external authority?

I look forward to your forthcoming article on ethics-I hope you explain what honestly appears to be a paradox.

Best,

Mike

Jim Davies's picture

Hmmm, if Rand's perceived need for a government is "the only thing I agree with her on" then perhaps I was wrong earlier to suggest that "you might be a libertarian." She was not, of course, and made no pretense of it; and that perception is the main point on which I for one disagree with her.
 
Several of your other points are covered in my in-prep article, so let's postpone discussion if we may. Your question "how can objective morality exist without an external authority?" is particularly good and I hope you'll find an answer to it there.
 
What's a "Unie"? Define it. please.

Paul's picture

He's right about that, Glock27. I have no moral and ethical responsibility to stop a rape. Responsibility is something you explicitly agree to, or something at least implied by your previous actions (e.g. having a child). However I may consider it to be in my self-interest to stop it, merely because it is intolerable to live in a society where rape is rampant. But even that is conditional. If a woman makes a practice of getting sloppy drunk in bars and going half-naked, despite the fact that no one (except maybe a rapist) ever deserves rape I might think, "Maybe she will try not being so stupid from now on," and not intervene.

We intervene (when we do) always because it is in our interest. When it's not, we don't.

Glock27's picture

Cheeers Paul,
Thanks for your reply.

Sometimes I have a difficult time in making myself clear. I too have felt that way that if a woman conducts herself in that manner does she have the right to say no. However, crime is a non-contractural agreement. She has not given her concent to be raped even if she goes into a bar butt naked. Yes. She is living on a dangerous line that is going to draw the attention of some male whos sexual drive is going to target her. Daily I see lots of women dressed in a manner that stirs my elderly juices, but rape is not my perfered manner of engagement. I relish the consentual aspect.

Under our current legal system the law still recognizes a womans right to say no despite her prostitutional past or the way she dresses or exposes herself. All she has to say is no and no means no. The tragedy to me is that these women do more harm to their own comrads by degredating themselves as women. It is no different than pornography. Some men can watch a few minutes of it, become excited, but can and have the power and control of themselves to shut it down or go somewhere he knows he can get laid.

Yes. I completely agree with you in this statement, but I also agree with the otherside of the coin. If I here a slutty looking woman being mauled by a man and all appearances is that he is going to rape her (maybe even murder her after the event) I feel a human compulsion to step in, especially when I here her say no, stop it, leave me alone. So, are all A.L.V's (anarchist, libertarian, voluntarism, etc.) excluded from moral/ethical responses. The 'Self-interest" comes down to being for personal benefit and I don't observe that self-benefit means cold heartedness against others. Your personal reputation gets put on display when you could have stopped a violent act. I came here because I was under the illusion that Non-violence was a principle issue here and more strictly speaking against the government.
If I walk away from the woman being raped (and murdered) have I not placed myself under the part and parcel of the crime--a co-conspiritor.

Paul. This is not a criticism of your statement. It is an observation of mine and a way I feel about the issue. Am I in the wrong place? Should I be somewhere else? Have I missed the underlying tenents of A.L.V.? Do you have something that that fortifies my walking away as if it were none of my busines of what transpires between the two? Do I misunderstand Compassion from the A.L.V's perspective?

Respectfully,
Glock27

Paul's picture

" The 'Self-interest" comes down to being for personal benefit and I don't observe that self-benefit means cold heartedness against others. Your personal reputation gets put on display when you could have stopped a violent act."

I think what appears to be a disagreement here is more just semantics. Clearly, voluntarists are going to be more attuned to the notion of rescue than people in a statist society, because the former can't get out of it by saying, "the cops will deal with it". There are no cops (other than private security firms, which aren't exactly the same thing) in a voluntary society. If one wants a decent society, one has to do the thing oneself; there is no passing the buck.

The semantic difference here is in what *motivates* a person to intervene. The conventional view is that it is selfless behavior. My view is that there is no such thing. Even Mother Teresa was not selfless; she did what she did because it was good for Mother Teresa. I think if we really examine what motivates ourselves with a critical eye, we will always discover self-interest.

Of course, there are different opinions over how that interest is best served; better and worse methods. A few idiots think robbing and raping serves it, but most people have the sense to go in the opposite direction because they understand they have to live with others. One's personal reputation is a very large part of that. In a voluntary society, reputation will be much more important than it is now.

Glock27's picture

Greetings Sam,
Nice response. "My goal is to act free--to be free."
I'm getting more interested in this Executive Order crap. If the King can via Executive Order decree a law without having to go through congress than what good is congress?

Suverans2's picture

"Perhaps my lawn sign, during the five weeks it was plainly visible to motorists traveling south on the piece of two-lane government blacktop that abuts my house and land, garnered some visitors to this website, or otherwise caused some passers-by to challenge their own belief systems."

It is not "government blacktop", Alex R. Knight III.

Highway. A free and public roadway, or street; one which every person has the right to use.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Suverans2,

I would not argue with your definition but you must agree that the government takes the position that it is a privilage to use the highways not a right. At least that what I have been told.

Suverans2's picture

Greetings Glock27,

Food for thought; using the highways is a right, a natural right, ”driving is a privilege”. Suffice to say "driving" is a commercial term, just like "hunting" and "fishing".

Glock27's picture

Cheers Suverans2

I was just kidding around there, since it is our mney that goes into its construction and not the governments then we have the right to travel across the black ribbon more so than the government because they pay nothing for the use of the property we own.

Nice to hear from you.

Sstay Safe, stay well and watch your six

Respectfully Glock

Suverans2's picture

"The right to travel is a well-established common right that does not owe its existence to the federal government. It is recognized by the courts as a natural right." ~ Schactman v. Dulles 96 App DC 287, 225 F2d 938, at 941

As Jack McLamb (retired) of the Phoenix Police Department wrote:

    Some of the confusion on our present system has arisen because many millions of people have waived their right to travel unrestricted and volunteered into the jurisdiction of the state. Those who have knowingly [and unknowingly] given up these rights are now legally regulated by state law and must acquire the proper permits and registrations. There are basically two groups of people in this category:

    1. Citizens who involve themselves in commerce upon the highways of the state. Here is what the courts have said about this: "...For while a citizen has the right to travel upon the public highways and to transport his property thereon, that right does not extend to the use of the highways...as a place for private gain. For the latter purpose, no person has a vested right to use the highways of this state, but it is a privilege...which the (state) may grant or withhold at its discretion..." State v. Johnson, 245 P 1073. There are many court cases that confirm and point out the difference between the right of the citizen to travel and a government privilege and there are numerous other court decisions that spell out the jurisdiction issue in these two distinctly different activities. However, because of space restrictions, we will leave it to officers to research it further for themselves.

    2. The second group of citizens that is legally under the jurisdiction of the state are those citizens who have voluntarily and knowingly [and unknowingly] waived their right to travel unregulated and unrestricted by requesting placement under such jurisdiction through the acquisition of a state driver's license, vehicle registration, mandatory insurance, etc. (In other words, by contract.) We should remember what makes this legal and not a violation of the common law right to travel is that they knowingly volunteer by contract to waive their rights. If they were forced, coerced or unknowingly placed under the state's powers, the courts have said it is a clear violation of their rights. (from Aid & Abet Newsletter)

What Jack apparently didn't realize is the fundamental principle that “citizens” are “legally under the jurisdiction of the state” simply because they are citizens. “'citizens'...are members of a political community who…have…submitted themselves to the dominion of a government…”

I am not a citizen. I DO NOT CONSENT TO BE A MEMBER OF YOUR "POLITICAL COMMUNITY" AND I WAIVE ALL MEMBER-ONLY BENEFITS. MY LAW IS THE NATURAL LAW.

Quod ad jus naturale attinet, omnes homenes aequales sunt. All men are equal before the natural law. Dig. 50, 17, 32. ~ Maxim of law – Black's Law Dictionary, Sixth Edition (c.1990), page 899

Suverans2's picture

G'day Glock27,

"the government" can't travel, my friend, it is a fiction.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Suverans2,

Come on. Give me a break. You knew exactly what I was saying. Why are you beating up on me? What have I said that deserves this, huh!

Suverans2's picture

I wasn't "beating you up", Glock27, I was merely giving you some substantiation for what I had said. Sorry, if it seemed that I was.

Glock27's picture

Suverans2,

Ihave been having some bad experiances on this site recently for some reason. My handle is being use deleberately in an attack on me, the moderatr felt I was being overly sensitive to the foulness of the assault, then it was suggested to me that I stay off the site until I had completed a course. It's like I have nothing at all to offer because I am some sod buster.

I understood what you ment and my reply was just a joke back, but even those seem to be seen as arrogant responses. I have enjoyed this site and some of the people here have been exceptionally decent to me and encouraging, but I am beginning to feel that maybe I should just leave and go it on my own. Sorry for my comment. Should I remain I will try to be more cautious in my efforts to be humorous.

Respectfully,
Glock27

Suverans2's picture

We have no problems, you and I, Glock27. All is well.

If you were 'talking' about this; "the government" can't travel, my friend, it is a fiction, regarding beating you up, it was only meant as a gentle reminder that if we think and talk in those "slavespeak" terms we actually start feeling like "the government" is a tangible entity.

Sometimes "dry" humor is not detectible in the written word, so I try to remember to place an lol [laugh out loud] after them to help avoid misunderstandings. Just a suggestion.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Suverans2,

I would not argue with your definition but you must agree that the government takes the position that it is a privilage to use the highways not a right. At least that what I have been told.

Suverans2's picture

If there was a "delete" icon, you could have easily gotten rid of this duplicate post, provided no one had replied to it.