We Are All Slaves!

Column by Stephen Nichols.

Exclusive to STR 

This article was partly inspired by a video I recently saw: "The Story of Your Enslavement."  I highly recommend that video to everyone!

slave - a person who is the property of and wholly subject to another; a bond servant (www.dictionary.com)
Modern government is the most ingenious form of slavery ever invented. If you really look at it, you'll be awestruck by the cleverness of its design and dumbfounded by the simplicity of its implementation. I aim to deconstruct the basis of our enslavement through this text and to prescribe a path to freedom. Being a citizen of the USA, I'm really only able to speak to the system of slavery that exists here. By way of observation, it seems that this ingenious system exists elsewhere, but I'm without doubt that it exists here. Quite literally, if you live in the USA, you are a slave.

In most minds, it seems, slavery is thought of as an overt use of force to control the body of the slave and extract useful labor from him or her. One imagines chain gangs, sweatshops or prison-like settings where the imprisoned are confined and threatened with severe punishments if they don't do as they're told. This fanciful imagining, while clearly an extreme form of slavery, is demonstrably under-productive and, as such, is only utilized by the most unenlightened of slave owners. You need go no further than your own imagination to understand why this is so. Imagine yourself being overtly enslaved to perform some laborious task. Wouldn't you do just the work necessary to avoid punishment and no more? Of course you would. Thus, as an overtly enslaved person, you would be far less productive than if you were pursuing your heart's desires. This is obvious.

Those who own slaves clearly want the most productive slaves -- as slave ownership exists to add the productivity of the enslaved to the masters. Clearly, the goal of any slave owner is to extract the maximum productivity from the enslaved. How perplexing it must have been for early slave owners to solve this problem. Relying on the whip to extract labor is terribly detrimental to the well-being of the slaves. And, as such, productivity suffers. What was needed is a way to effortlessly extract labor from the slaves while allowing them to pursue their heart's desires.

If you disentangle moral qualms about slavery from your thinking, I'll wager you can see a clear path to achieving this "effortless" form of slavery. Put yourself in the shoes of the master. How would you design an ideal system of slavery? A system where the slaves don't realize they're enslaved. A system where the slaves pursue the kinds of labor that you desire. A system where you would benefit greatly from the productivity of the enslaved. It's my observation that such an ideal system of slavery exists today and that we're all inexorably caught in its grasp.

There are several pillars to the existing system of slavery that we endure: brute force, economics, education, information control and illusion of choice. I call them pillars because that description best captures my desire. I want you to see them as I do . . . as things to be attacked and undermined. When sufficiently undermined, no pillar can hold its weight. And, if any one of these pillars fall, the entire system will be compromised.

Let's dig in on each of these pillars:

Brute Force

The starting point for any system of enslavement is brute force. The smart master will only punish when necessary. Yet, to keep all the slaves in line, occasional excessive punishments are required. Brute force is the first and last line of enslavement. The threat of force is pervasive under such a system. If you don't palpably perceive the undercurrent of force in America, you're not observing very carefully. Drive too fast? Punishment ensues. Don't pay your taxes? Punishment ensues. Ingest the wrong substances? Punishment ensues. Burn a flag? Punishment ensues. Disagree with a cop? Punishment ensues. There are literally countless numbers of laws (local, state and federal) defining criminal behaviors that results in punishment.

The police and military serve as the physical form of brute force in America. Yet brute force is also economic. Indeed, many times punishment is exacted financially versus physically. Unless, of course, you can't afford to pay -- then it's jail time for you! Extracting time from the enslaved is the central theme in our system of enslavement.


The most important aspect of slave ownership is to efficiently extract labor from the enslaved. And to do this efficiently, the master must avoid overtly interfering with the desires of the enslaved. What better way to do this than to enforce a common currency for all slaves to use? Once the system of brute force is implemented, forcing an economic system is quite feasible.

A centrally-controlled universal currency is a most efficient means of extracting labor. Once the slaves have fully accepted the currency, then all of their labor is expressed as a quantity of that currency. Put another way, time is money. 

Taxation is a clear form of this labor extraction, and our masters have come up with an ingenious way to extract it mostly painlessly. They force the employer to withhold the taxes from your pay before you ever see it! You see, if you had to pay the taxes out of your own pocket every quarter (like those self-employed among us) then you might feel a sting. Sure, you may look at your paycheck and wish it were more, but in fact you can't really miss what you never had. I wonder if that has any bearing on why the USA enacts policies that make being self-employed so difficult?

Fines, fees, taxes and bribes are all concrete forms of extracting labor from the enslaved. But there's a more subtle form of this labor extraction . . . a most ingenious form of it. The government is capable of spending money it doesn't have through borrowing and money printing. That money (your labor) is extracted indirectly through the resulting inflation that's caused. A country's debt is the promise of future labor of the citizens. When debt rises, the enslaved are on the hook for it! Quite literally, the master spends your future time!

This abstraction of labor through centrally-controlled currency is what allows the masters to generously permit you to pursue your desires. Regardless of what you pursue, the required labor will be extracted. Yet, in truth, you can't be permitted to pursue anything you desire. And that's where education comes in.


Once the systems of brute force and economics are firmly in place, education is the next pillar to erect. Massaging young minds to accept, without question, the authority of the masters is most important. Otherwise, they might grow up to critically analyze the status quo. Critical analysis of how things are is the bane of any system of enslavement. The masters must permit those capable slaves to educate themselves enough to be happy, productive members of society. A happy slave is a productive slave! Yet, critical thinking must be carefully crafted and controlled. Core concepts underscoring the authority and benevolence of the masters must be instilled into young minds early and reinforced regularly.

This is why there's compulsory schooling in America. And the quality of that compulsory schooling is dismally poor. The goal of our schools is not to create well-educated people. It exists to create capable slaves that will happily accept the status quo and quietly contribute to the system of labor extraction.

Even in the states where homeschooling is a legal alternative, the percentage of slaves participating is very small. This is likely due to the myth that homeschooling is too difficult or that only the teachers blessed by our masters have the correct skills for teaching. It’s sad, but true.

This massaging of the young purposefully undermines their abilities for critical thinking. As such, their ability to choose self-fulfilling work is also undermined. What is left is what is available . . . jobs in offices doing work that they don't care about; waiting for the weekend and dreaming about the possibility of "doing their own thing" but not knowing how to get there. A great attitude from the master's point of view!

Information Control

After the pillar of education comes information control. Regardless of how well educated the slaves are, they are still capable of absorbing new information. So, controlling the information that slaves receive is critically important to the stability of the system. Some systems of slavery treat information control with an iron fist. Not here in America. We relish our First Amendment right to free speech! It's important to understand that disallowing any form of speech gives that speech a martyr-like effect. Denouncing speech just gives credence to it. It's much better to allow all speech than to deny the speech unpopular with the masters.

All that needs to be done is to control the majority of the information received by the slaves. Sure, a minority of slaves will speak out against the system, yet they can be systematically ignored by the master's media outlets. And if a slave is lucky enough to influence a large number of his peers, then the master's media can denounce the speech. Not overtly, of course, but through "analysis" that is based on misinformation. Most of the slaves are incapable of truly critical thought, so they accept these flawed arguments as fact.

Mass media in this country is undoubtedly controlled by the masters. Have doubts? Look no further than the systematic mistreatment of promising political candidates . . . and the lack of contrary views expressed on major media outlets. Mass media serves the master. And it's not to be trusted!

Illusion of Choice

The final pillar of our enslavement is the illusion of choice. No matter how well the masters spin the news or educate the young, slaves are still likely to grow discontent with the system, especially after some egregious treatment at the hands of the masters. The slaves need an outlet for this discontent. Left to foment, it would boil over into rebellion, which is precisely what the masters are trying to avoid.

The solution? Elections! Every few years, the slaves are permitted to vote for other slaves to represent their interests in government. On the surface, it sounds like an ideal system. But, like so many things, the Devil's in the details.

Being elected into any office (except, perhaps, very local offices) is an expensive proposition. We're talking millions of dollars here. Travel expenses, marketing expenses and staffing expenses are not to be sneezed at! Now, unless the candidate is self-funded or can get a significant grassroots funding operation together, any significant public office is just out of reach of most people. Public office is not available to most slaves. And the more people you try to represent, the more expensive the campaign to achieve your goal!

This means that most candidates need significant funding from outside sources. And that funding is generally only available to those career politicians who support the status quo. Sure, these candidates have some superficial differences. Yet, at the end of the day, the available choices are much alike. Regardless of who gets voted in, the system remains intact. No real change comes.

This is by design. If, by chance, there is a slave who can get enough funding and support to make a run for a prominent office, then he or she is still at the mercy of the master's media outlets! So, in reality, their chances of getting elected are essentially zero.

This pillar allows the slaves to vent their frustrations, but because of their limited faculties, they are unable to detect the sham of elections for what it is. So they lurch from election to election, feeling some measure of vindication as office turnover occurs. Yet nothing really changes. It's like running on a treadmill to nowhere!


The five pillars of brute force, economics, education, information control and illusion of choice form the most ingenious and powerful form of enslavement invented so far. The first step to changing this is to see the pillars! Only when we see them clearly can we take steps to erode their strength.

What can be done about this? If you're expecting quick results, not much. This system of enslavement has been built over a long time. Eroding it will take a long time, too. My prescription is simple:

1. Pick a pillar
2. Work hard to educate your fellow slaves about it
3. Proactively undermine the pillar's foundation

As I stated before, if any one of these pillars were sufficiently undermined, then the entire structure of our enslavement will come crashing down. I'd love to see this happen. I long for true freedom! Don't you? If so, then work hard to see the pillars. Work hard to erode their strength . . . only then will change happen. Only then will we glimpse true freedom! Keeping it is another matter.
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Stephen Nichols's picture
Columns on STR: 4

 I'm a professional game developer with a love of philosophy and liberty!  Check out my blogs:


Darkcrusade's picture


In Anarchy, State, and Utopia (1974), Harvard philosopher Robert Nozick recounts what he calls the Tale of the Slave, and invites the reader to consider himself as the slave in the story. The story moves through nine stages.

First: You are a slave at the mercy of a brutal master, who forces you to work for his purposes and beats you arbitrarily.

Second: The master decides to beat you only for breaking the rules, and even grants you some free time.

Third: You are part of a group of slaves subject to this master. He decides, on grounds acceptable to everyone, how goods should be allocated among you all.

Fourth: The master requires his slaves to work only three days per week, granting them the other four days off. They can do as they wish during their free time.

Fifth: The master now allows the slaves to work wherever they wish. His main caveat is that they must send him three-sevenths of their wages, corresponding to the three days' worth of work they once had to do on his land every week. In an emergency he can force them to do his bidding once again, and he retains the power to alter the fraction of their wages to which he lays claim.

Sixth: The master grants all 10,000 of his slaves, except you, the right to vote. They can decide among themselves how much of their (and your) earnings to take and what outlets to fund with the money. They can decide what you are and are not allowed to do. We can suppose for the sake of argument that the master irrevocably grants this right to the 10,000 slaves. You now have 10,000 masters, or a single 10,000-headed master.

Seventh: You are granted the freedom to try and persuade the 10,000 to exercise their vast powers in a particular way. You still do not have the right to vote, but you can try to influence those who do.

Eighth: The 10,000 grant you the right to vote, but only to break a tie. You write down your vote, and if a tie should occur, they open it and record it. No tie has ever occurred.

Ninth: You are granted the right to vote. But functionally, it simply means, as in the eighth stage, that in case of a tie, which has never occurred, your vote carries the issue.

Nozick's question is this: at what stage between 1 and 9 did this become something other than the tale of a slave?

Suverans2's picture

Very good, Stephen Nichols. Thank you.

I agree with virtually everything you wrote here except your conclusion, that I should spend the rest of my life trying to educate my fellow (sic)[1] slaves about one of the five pillars. To what end, Mr. Nichols, to what end?

    "You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system that they will fight to protect it." ~ Morpheus

The only thing I would like my fellow humans to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that it is their natural, (i.e. inherent, inborn), right to withdraw their consent to be a "slave", if they so choose.


    Live Free Or Die; Death Is Not The Worst Of Evils. ~ General John Stark


[1] sic adverb▸used in writing after a word that is not spelled or used correctly to show that you have written it that way because you are repeating what someone else said or wrote ~ Macmillan Dictionary
[2] Notice to the agent [slave], is notice to the principal [master].

Stephen Nichols's picture


You know quite well to what end. I summed it up in the conclusion:

"As I stated before, if any one of these pillars were sufficiently undermined, then the entire structure of our enslavement will come crashing down. I'd love to see this happen. I long for true freedom! Don't you? If so, then work hard to see the pillars. Work hard to erode their strength . . . only then will change happen."

I don't prescribe that you should spend the rest of your life trying to educate your fellow slaves. Do that if it's what you're passionate about, or don't. I believe that coercive government (and its uniquely ingenious form of slavery) is something to be undermined. I want to see people treating it as the system of coercion and control that it is. As such, I'm passionate about discussing it and educating my fellow slaves about it.

I agree that we all have the natural right to withdraw consent to be a slave. Just as those that enslave us have the natural right to force us into bondage. Natural rights are interesting to me. Looking at things logically, it seems reasonable that I'm actually free to do anything I want within the laws of physics. I'm not free to put the moon in my pocket, but I am free to do anything my body is capable of doing. This includes working, stealing, loving and murdering. I'm actually free to do anything I choose. That's natural law in my opinion. Utter freedom. We are never not free under natural law.

Now, when I choose to act on my utter freedom, I have choices to make. And those choices depend on my mental model and possible consequences. I'm utterly free to eat poison, but I choose not to because the consequences are sickness and death. I'm utterly free to murder someone, but I choose not to because of my mental model (i.e. murder is wrong to me). I'm utterly free to do as I please so long as my mental model allows for it and I can accept the consequences.

Ignoring the state is ideal, because it erodes legitimacy. Yet, if one is to live in this place (Austin, Texas for me), one is subjected to regular reminders of servitude: police misconduct, high levels of taxation, ridiculous public schools, absurd media outlets and election shams. I do my best to avoid all interactions with the state (up to my level of comfort). I show disgust for the police and teach my children about them. I look for any way I can to avoid paying taxes. I home-school my children and encourage others to do the same. I happily point out the absurdities in the media to those with interest -- and pay heed to it only to better understand the mechanics of propaganda being used against us. I also choose not to vote, have taught my children the same, and try to spread that meme far and wide.

Simply ignoring the state isn't enough for me. I want to see its influence over my life reduced further. I could, of course, minimize my involvement with "society" even further. I could easily buy some land out in the sticks and live as a "free" hermit. I could also easily choose to pay no taxes and suffer the consequences (although my wife and family may disagree). As always, I am utterly free to do what I want so long as I'm okay with the consequences. There's the rub. I'm not okay with being a hermit. I'm not okay with the consequences of not paying taxes. So, I grumble and comply. Steve the hermit and Steve the martyr will do no good for anyone.

This is why I write. To influence the thinking of those interested folks. And, they are out there. My core message is: government should be voluntary. It's that simple. I desire a world where participation in government is voluntary. And the only thing standing in the way of this reality is my fellow slave's thinking.

Each successive abuse of power by the government fuels potential discontent. Taking advantage of these opportunities helps spread the message. I understand if you believe that simply ignoring the state is good enough. I'd go further. Convincing my fellow slaves that the involuntary state is bad for everyone is a primary concern of mine. Your mileage may vary!

Glock27's picture


Nice work. You have just done something I see very little of on this site--you gave a solution, at least for yourself. I don't have a complete solution. My kids are gone so I can't teach them. I would love to discover how to pay less taxes, I am retired and the gov sucks out nearly $15,000 of my retirement leaving me with such a small amount left that it makes getting through the months a little tough. I am beginning to think like my youngest son, buy some drugs and start selling. This goes against my better nature, but I feel trapped.

My youngest got a notice from a take over company where he use to work. He has a retirement account there and he can lump sum it out or roll it into an IRA. He wants the lump, but Uncle wants 20%. When he discoverd what 20% came too he was outraged--I was also because 20% is over his actual tax bracket. This government is nothing more than a modern day organized crime syndicate--a mafia and we have no FBI to stop them.

Every year over the past six years I have had to come up with an additional $5000 for Uncle. If you have some suggestions how a retired person can elude the fed on taxes I would love to hear it--then there is health care also. If [o]bama gets in again I loose my current health coverage and get pitched into [o]bama land. My alternatives are getting short and a 9mm is beginning to look like the only escape remaining.

Sorry to be so glum.

Nice work.

Stay safe, stay well and watch your six.

Respectfully Glock27

Stephen Nichols's picture


You wouldn't be the first person I've known to resort to selling drugs to make ends meet. It's all too common under this oppressive taxation we all live with.

I'd suggest finding a skilled accountant that can help advise you on the best way to shelter your income from taxes. If you're not using a professional, you're likely leaving money on the table when it comes to taxes. If you lived in Texas, I could give you some recommendations. Beyond that, ask some small business owners in your area for recommendations.

Without breaking the law, you're really kind of stuck in this situation. Even when you minimize your liabilities, the government wants their excessive take. It's demoralizing, for sure. I can only imagine what it would be like on a smaller fixed income. Don't let it get you down, though! There's still plenty of great things in the world... the 9mm ought to be your last resort.

Suverans2's picture

I stopped reading at this inane remark, "Just as those that enslave us have the natural right to force us into bondage."

If you truly believe that I have no right, i.e. no "just claim", to my life, my liberty and my justly acquired property, (which is precisely what that says), then this conversation is done. In the words of Samuel Adams, "...may your chains set lightly upon you..."

"That men should take up arms and spend their lives and fortunes, not to maintain their rights, but to maintain they have not rights, is an entirely new species of discovery..." ~ Thomas Paine

Stephen Nichols's picture

I'm sorry that you stopped at that remark because, right after it, I explain in more detail what I mean. I summarized it again in another response below.

I absolutely believe that you have a right to your life and property. I've never said anything to the contrary. Methinks that you are jumping to conclusions, sir. :(

Suverans2's picture

I went back and read the rest, Stephen Nichols, and I have no regrets at stopping at that remark.

Never said anything to the contrary?

"...those that enslave us have the natural right to force us into bondage." ~ Stephen Nichols

Unless I voluntarily give it to "them", they DO NOT have a "just claim", (which is what a right is), to my life, liberty and lawfully acquired property. And, whether you know it, or not, your quote says "they" do.

You changed, in your so-called detailed explanation, from what we have a right [i.e. "just claim"] to do, to what we are free to do. You define "free" as "capable".

Mr. Nichols, you need to know, just because you are "capable" of enslaving another man, woman or child, that capability does NOT give you the "right" to do so; it does NOT give you a "just claim" on another man's liberty. He can only lose that natural right via his own consent, (either express or tacit[1]), or forfeiture[2], (which is an act of consent).

[1] TAC'IT, a. [L. tacitus, from taceo, to be silent, that is, to stop, or to close. See Tack.] Silent; implied, but not expressed. Tacit consent is consent by silence, or not interposing an objection. So we say, a tacit agreement or covenant of men to live under a particular government, when no objection or opposition is made; a tacit surrender of a part of our natural rights; a tacit reproach, &c. ~ Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

[2] FOR'FEITURE, n. 1. The act of forfeiting; the losing of some right, privilege, estate, honor, office or effects, by an offense, crime, breach of condition or other act. Ibid.

Stephen Nichols's picture

This is where we have marked disagreement, for sure.

I'll start by reiterating this: I believe that no person has "just claim" to initiate force on another person for any reason. I also believe that voluntary association is the only sane form of societal organization. My delving into the philosophy of natural law and objectivity does not undermine these beliefs.

To me, natural rights extend no further than what is possible. If you are capable of doing something then you are within the rights provided by natural law (i.e. reality) to do so. Quite literally, we are utterly free to do as we please based on our capability. Any modifications or limitations to that utter freedom are purely conceptual. Free will is a bitch! :)

What you describe as a right (i.e. "just claim") is conceptual. It's a concept that I wholeheartedly agree with. But it is a subjective concept, not an objective reality! The fact that all people don't share the same concept of "just claim" ought to make the subjective nature of it crystal clear. Just in case it isn't, I'll dig in on it...

The very phrase "just claim" requires understanding of concepts that describe "just" and "claim." Something is a "just claim" when the observer decides that it is based on the mental model and conceptual framework it's working with. Two different observers may have completely different opinions of "just claim" based on their memories, concepts, ideas and beliefs. And, from their point of view, each determination of "just claim" seems completely accurate.

What makes one right and the other wrong? Why, our judgment does of course! We have concepts, memories, ideas and beliefs that we use to filter and make sense of reality. How we see things is directly attributable to our mental model of the world. The obvious inference here is that there is no such thing as an objective concept. Concepts are inherently subjective. I believe this is a core issue.

This lack of objective concepts is the core issue we face when dealing with any ideology (statist, religious, political, business, personal, etc.) Each individual builds up their own personal library of memories, ideas, concepts and beliefs. They carry around this baggage, thinking it's objectively right. Their ability to relate to those they disagree with is directly proportional to the rigidity of their beliefs. And, sad to say, most people are extremely rigid in their beliefs.

Any belief that is held without question or volition is a potential source of rigid and destructive ideology. Said another way, the more comfortable you are with being completely wrong the more potential there is for seeing truth.

This is my point... that statists are within their natural rights when they inflict their misery on us. They are exercising their utter freedom in the best way they know how. The misery they inflict is not the fundamental problem. The fundamental problems are the memories, ideas, concepts and beliefs that support the actions they take. It's this grievous error in judgment that allows people to think they are objectively right about anything. Thus ridiculous and destructive ideologies maintain relevance.

The only way to deal with this is to undermine the conceptual framework that supports ideology. Not with the aim of replacing it with another ideology, but with an acceptance of the fact that we cannot have objective concepts at all. At best, we can have provisional concepts that may at any moment be proven completely false by reality.

None of the ideas outlined above undermine the concept of "just claim." It just puts into perspective the absolutely critical need to use reason when describing any concept to others. The moment that "just claim" or "property rights" or any other concept is couched as an absolute, you're in deep water.

Suverans2's picture

"...those that enslave us have the natural right to force us into bondage." ~ Stephen Nichols

"I believe that no person has [a] "just claim" [a right] to initiate force on another person for any reason." ~ Stephen Nichols

Which is it, Mr. Nichols? It can't be both.

Stephen Nichols's picture

Of course it can be both.

Take the time to review my definition of "natural law." That's where I derive the first statement you quote me on. Because those that enslave us are capable they are within the rights provided by natural law to do so.

Then there's my belief on the matter. Notice how the second statement you quote begins with: "I believe." This is critical. I believe, based on my concepts of "just claim" that no person has a just claim to initiate force on another person for any reason. That's my belief on the matter, nothing more. Reality doesn't care either way.

Suverans2's picture

"I believe that no person has "just claim" to initiate force on another person for any reason." ~ Stephen Nichols

"The moment that "just claim" or "property rights" or any other concept is couched as an absolute, you're in deep water." ~ Stephen Nichols

Would you say that the first of these two quotes is "couched as an absolute", Mr. Nichols?

And, does the first of these two quotes mean that you believe that I cannot "initiate force" against my seven year old grandson to take a loaded gun away from him before he accidentally kills himself or someone else?

Stephen Nichols's picture

No, I don't couch that first quote as an absolute. It's my belief, not an absolute. I'd think this would be obvious based on the lengthy explanations I've already provided.

I see the logical trap you're trying to lay for me. For fun, let's go there. :)

I also have a 7 year old son. I don't see stopping my son from hurting himself or others as initiating force. It all depends on how you approach the situation and what the intent of the child is. An innocent 7 year old is likely unaware of the danger of wielding a gun. Or, more likely, the danger of a hot stove or crossing the street. Is it initiating force to intervene and correct the child's behavior? No.

Well, if you run over and punch the kid in the face and take the gun then, yeah, it is initiating force. If you just take the gun and correct the behavior then it's not.

If the intent of the child is to initiate force then you've got a just claim to stop him. You need not wait until the child pulls the trigger to intervene. Similarly, if the child is acting out of ignorance and putting himself or others in danger then you have the right to intervene to correct the situation.

The ideas are not mutually exclusive.

Suverans2's picture

"The moment that "just claim" or "property rights" or any other concept is couched as an absolute, you're in deep water." ~ Stephen Nichols

I absolutely, positively, without a shred of doubt, have a "just claim", i.e. a "right", a "natural right", to my own life, liberty and lawfully acquired property. Would you say that I "couched [that] as an absolute"? And, if so, is it your opinion that am in "deep water" for doing so?

Stephen Nichols's picture

Yes, if you couch those as absolutes that have no reason behind them then you are in deep water. That's what I'm saying. Absolutes without reason are the core issue. You won't reach a single person that believes differently unless you can provide a reasoned argument as to why you believe as you believe. That's the "deep water" I'm describing.

I agree completely that you have a just claim to your own life, liberty and lawfully acquired property. I agree with you completely for a very specific chain of reasons. I don't agree because I think that property rights are an absolute.

Becoming defensive about your position is the first sign of rigid ideology in my experience. It'd be far more productive to help me understand your reasons for believing as you do about life, liberty and lawfully acquired property.

What is your reasoning for those beliefs? I have my reasoning but I'd like to hear yours.

DP_Thinker's picture

"Just as those that enslave us have the natural right to force us into bondage." Wow!

"Rights" are a concept. They do not exist in nature. Concepts deal with the relationship between objects. In the case of rights, they refer to ownership over property. Hence they are describing the relationship between myself and what I do with my property. I have a right to do what I wish with my property.

Now back to your statement. You are somehow saying that those that enslave us own us? Because that is what a "right" is, to do what you want with your property. In this case you think that we (the enslaved) are the property of the state?

Also, that's great that you want to educate people. But if you haven't learned you must learn that unless a man is inquisitive about such things, it is a waste of time to try and teach him. You will only cause more damage by doing so.

Lastly, you must not believe in property as you stated that stealing is ok under natural law. Are you a left anarchist? Property exists, and what makes something moral or not can usually be answered by asking the following question: "Whose property is this?"

Suverans2's picture

"Rights" are a concept. They do not exist in nature. ~ DP Thinker

Ah, but they do. Certainly, they most likely cannot hold concepts about them the way that most (some?) humans can, but to see these rights, in action, all one has to do is watch animals, which are protecting their life, liberty and property.

It is a well-know fact that smaller fish, which are protecting their [possessive pronoun] territory in an aquarium, for example, have been know to hold off much larger and stronger fish, presumably, because they both know, instinctively, who is in the "right", and who is in the "wrong". It is a case of "right makes might".

Question for you to ponder, DP Thinker, is an animal which kills an human while it is protecting its own life, [There's a clue!], "right" or "wrong" for doing so? Obviously, it is in the "right", because it can't be "wrong" for any living creature to protect its own life. Rights do exist in nature, but most humans never give it a second thought.

And, no, I am not a tree-hugging P.E.T.A. member. I love eating venison [wild game], just as the so-called American Indians, did. And, at least some of them thought of all living creatures as their brothers and sisters. Not a bad concept to hold, in my opinion.

DP_Thinker's picture

Rights exist just not as an object. I never said they didn't. But they are a concept, not an object. Concepts can either be true of ralse.

Can you show me a right? What size does it have? What does it look like.. Rights deal with the relationship between two objects. This is a concept.

Do rights exist?: http://consentient.wordpress.com/do-you-have-the-right/

Objects vs. Concepts: http://integratedpost.blogspot.com/2012/08/objects-vs-concepts.html

Stephen Nichols's picture

I knew that my comments on natural law would ruffle some feathers. Relax. Take a deep breath and read what I'm writing, not what you think I'm writing. Your lack of open mindedness is a barrier to learning something new here.

The fact that you can jump to the conclusion that I believe that the "masters" rightly own us makes clear to me that you aren't reading what I'm writing. I have no such belief. I own me. You own you. Yet, natural law isn't as clear cut as some would claim.

Of course I believe in property. The key word being "believe." As was pointed out, rights are a concept. I agree. So is property. The fact that I can believe in it makes it so. It's a useful concept. A wonderful concept. I love it. Long live private property rights!

I can almost hear the protests. "No, private property isn't a concept, it's real!" Well, the fact that there are other people that don't believe in private property rights belies the truth. These are concepts, not facts.

Let me summarize my points once again in the hopes that you'll better understand me:

People are utterly free. They are free to do as they please within the limitations placed on them by reality. That is the fact. That is the natural law. To go any further than that is, in my opinion, an obfuscation of natural law. Everything else on top of that is conceptual.

I'm open to the idea that natural law is more encompassing than this. But I see no reason to believe that at this point.

In any case, by that reasoning isn't it obvious that the slave owner is exercising his freedom? Just as the slave is? Sure, by my reckoning, the slave owner is wrong. But, from his reckoning, he's right. This is the core problem. This statist-vs-freedom struggle is one of beliefs. It's a case of competing concepts.

The conceptual framework that supports statist philosophy must be undermined if we are to make any progress in realizing more limited government (or purely self-governance). We can't do that if we don't understand the core mechanisms for its existence. That mechanism is belief.

If you can't tolerate competing beliefs enough to understand them -- and provide a rational argument against them -- then the cause is lost. You will reach no one.

DP_Thinker's picture

Your idea of natural law is a description of impossibility vs possibility. You aren't dealing with morals here, you are dealing with physical possibilities. Impossible - that which requires repealing a law of nature. Possible, within the laws of nature.

That is where the confusion comes in. Just because you CAN do something within nature doesn't make it right. What is right? Rational and Moral. And yes, there are moral absolutes.

"I can almost hear the protests. "No, private property isn't a concept, it's real!" Well, the fact that there are other people that don't believe in private property rights belies the truth. These are concepts, not facts."

Absolutes exist. And when they do, they are universal and do not rely on the belief in them by all people. Take gravity. I can choose not to believe in it, but that doesn't make it untrue. In fact, gravity is a concept. Concepts can be true or false. Again, concepts can be true or false.

Property does exist, it's objective, and it doesn't matter if some people believe in it or not. Yes, there are different beliefs but you will always have that. If your goal is for everyone to believe the same thing well then I bid you good luck. And like I said, if you try to educate someone who doesn't want to be educated you will do them more harm than good.

What would be good to do is to provide the masses with a product, called freedom. They do not need to understand it to accept it. How many people understand the equations behind making a tv? Not many, but everyone uses it. If I went into a tv store and a salesman started talking physics with me I'd go elsewhere. Education is not the best way to go about achieving freedom.

Stephen Nichols's picture

"Absolutes exist."

I wish that were true because it would make discussing these issues with others so much easier. One could point to a self-evident truth, like gravity, and rest one's case.

I, of course, believe in a perceptible reality. Existence exists. The fact that existence exists does not mean that absolutes exist. Your example of gravity is lacking in my mind. Gravity is a law of nature. It is part of that which exists. I presumably do not need to believe in gravity for it to exist.

Yet, I do have to believe in property for it to exist. Not the physical object that I call property, but the idea of ownership. Answering the question of: "Whose property is this?" requires concepts and belief. To see private property as sovereign, I must understand what property is and have a foundation of belief that supports such ideas. These are conceptual constructions. They are not absolutes.

For example, take the fact that I can give you my property and it becomes yours. What changed? Our beliefs about the property. The object is the same, just our thinking about it changed. Thus, ownership is conceptual.

I'm not arguing against private property. I'm simply stating that private property is a concept. It's a good concept. Once that more people should believe in. So, how do we get there? Not by quasi-religious arguments about the absolute truth of private property. I think it more productive to make a reasoned argument in favor of the belief of private property.

But that's just me!

DP_Thinker's picture

As far as absolutes go, I will say we are at an impasse as I do believe in absolutes, and in moral absolutes. I also am not a fan of metaphysics.

Maybe we can get some precision on what we define as absolute? If by absolute you mean something that has never been proven false, then yes, we definitely have those.

Let me just also add that, what is impossible is by nature not allowed, all that is impossible is an absolute. If there are laws of nature, those in themselves are absolutes. Otherwise they aren’t laws of nature, but “occurrences”.

As far as moral absolutes, it would be quite impossible to talk about anything dealing with morality as non-conceptual, as morality is a concept of itself. I think of it this way, one has personal morality, and relational morality. Personal morality is a concept between you and whatever God you pray to. Relational morality deals with behavior between two objects, you and another person. If you believe that ownership and property are “right” concepts, then relational morality can be answered with the question “Who owns the property?”.

Stephen Nichols's picture

I missed your last paragraph somehow: "What would be good to do is to provide the masses with a product, called freedom. They do not need to understand it to accept it. How many people understand the equations behind making a tv? Not many, but everyone uses it. If I went into a tv store and a salesman started talking physics with me I'd go elsewhere. Education is not the best way to go about achieving freedom."

I have to disagree. Education is the only way to achieve more limited government (ultimately self government). We are already utterly free. The problem is that others, based on their flawed thinking, are using their utter freedom to steal from and limit me against my will. The only way to deal with that in a lasting way, in my reckoning, is to change their thinking.

Sure, most folks won't be interested. But some will. I'm not willing to dismiss the whole of humanity as unreachable. I can only do my best to influence as I can.

Man, wouldn't it be nice if freedom were a product. Perhaps a nice injection. :) Sadly, it's not. It is our natural state. We are free now. The problem is how we use our freedom... not that we don't have freedom. Our thinking and beliefs bring us to act in ways that limit others. That's the problem. Not the action, per se, but the thinking and concepts that drive the actions.

DP_Thinker's picture

The masses are dogmatic. This is in their nature. I believe my example sufficed to show that they don't care HOW something works, they care if it works.

I would also add that visual advertising is stronger than "education".

Stephen Nichols's picture

Advertising is education. At least at a surface level.

And, I agree, people are dogmatic. They are generally very inflexible in their beliefs. Not just "them" but us as well! This is a big problem. How to stay open minded is a big problem.

Of those that are interested in changing, and they do exist, I'd like to influence them. Of those that aren't interested, I say let them wallow. Yet, I'll continue to point out to those within earshot (or "eyeshot") the flaws in their thinking that lead to their misery. Reality has a way of causing pain to those that make "wrong" choices. That's the impetus for change.

mhstahl's picture

DP Thinker,

I need to pick a small bone:

Gravity is NOT a concept, no more than "dirt" is a concept. It is a term describing a physical phenomenon whereby objects attract each other, the specifics of which can be measured and tested by experimentation and are totally reliable. The planet Earth, for instance, attracts objects toward the center of its mass at 32 feet per second per second barring wind resistance until terminal velocity is reached. Always, every time. The rate of fall can be calculated by the mass of the attracting object. The exact mechanism of how and why this phenomenon occurs is literally the cutting edge of experimentation in physics. There is no debate that gravity "exists", and while you can indeed choose to disbelieve it one would be quite reasonable in questioning your sanity if you were to do so.

Contrast this to the concept of "property." Property is totally abstract. Objects exist. So do people and animals. Property is a term to identify the emotional relationship between a person and an object. There is no actual, measurable, connection between a person and their "property" as there is between that person and Earth, or the Earth and the sun. Property includes the moral belief that violence is acceptable to maintain property, the specifics of which are totally mutable by either social custom, individual morality, or law (current "property" is only a matter of positive law.) The gulf that exists between the philosophical, ethical, and moral concept of property and the scientific reality of gravity is immense.

This is important, not to assault "property", but to defend it, and to support its birth. A weak argument such as the bald and demonstrably false pronouncement that property is either "natural" or worse "objectively real", and comparable to gravity damages the credibility of the concept. Better to defend the defense of property on moral and ethical grounds. That is, if it needs defending-no one here has challenged it that I'm aware, instead they have challenged some dearly held, but not particularly useful, terms. In the same token, should we not examine ethical and moral principles as they relate to "property?" I certainly think so.

Not to butt in, but that seemed an important point to me, and related to the notion of "natural law" being discussed in another thread.



mhstahl's picture

Oops, I see Stephen already responded with similar a similar line of argument.

I didn't mean to double-team, but I do think the point about defending beliefs bears repeating.



DP_Thinker's picture

I would also add that "natural law" as commonly referred to deals with morals. You are talking about possibilities in nature. That is the confusion.

Stephen Nichols's picture

I can see that. If you believe that natural law includes belief structures then we're coming from very different places.

Morals are choices based on belief and concepts. I am open to the idea that there are moral absolutes. I invite you to help me see one that is not sourced in concepts and belief.

DP_Thinker's picture


No problem. Thanks for pointing that out as I did overlook Stephen's critique on my views of gravity.

I still disagree however, with the argument that gravity is an object. To be fair, please don't assume I don't believe gravity does or does not "exist". That is not my concern. My concern is with what gravity is. Is it an object?

What makes an object an object? It has a shape, you can see it, it has a location and you can point it out. That's the problem with comparing dirt to gravity. One you can see, point out it's location and size. One you cannot. Hence it is a concept.

A concept isn't just something that describes something. A concept deals with the relationship between two or more objects. Hence gravity deals with humans, and the earth. Two objects!

Light is even a concept. Yes it "exists" but it is not an object. It describes the relationship... you know the rest.

Dirt has a shape, location, etc. Gravity does not. They are not the same. I would strongly urge you to read: http://integratedpost.blogspot.com/2012/08/objects-vs-concepts.html

Also, to be fair my view of "property" was misstated. I know that it is a concept, but it is a real concept. It is a rational concept that is true. And when comparing it to "natural law" you must also realize that by natural law I am not stating a law of nature, but those natural laws that coincide with natural rights. As I said before, that is where I think the confusion sets in. As I stated before, and I also stated "If you believe that ownership and property are “right” concepts, then relational morality can be answered with the question “Who owns the property?”." Hence I do belive that property is a concept. I never said it was "objectively real".

mhstahl's picture

DP Thinker,

I'm glad my post was of some use. I believe I'll respond from the bottom up.

I based my commentary on property on this statement you wrote above in this thread:

"Property does exist, it's objective, and it doesn't matter if some people believe in it or not."

To be honest, I'm not sure how, "I know that it is a concept, but it is a real concept. It is a rational concept that is true." differs substantially from "objectively real"-though I concede you did not use that exact phrase. Honestly, I'm a bit confused about your view on property, you have written several statements that appear to be contradictory, for instance:

""Rights" are a concept. They do not exist in nature." and "Rights exist just not as an object. I never said they didn't. But they are a concept, not an object. "

I don't know how to interpret that-but having read the suggested blog post at integratedpost, I think I might be able to help us clear some of the mud from the conversation by making my position more clear. If anyone does not care about the integratedpost article-skip down three paragraphs.

First, I believe the author is presenting a false dichotomy. One need not choose between "objects" and "concepts" in order to define existence. There is also phenomenon-the predictable and measurable reaction between objects, particles, and sometimes waves. Gravity(which I never claimed was an object, by the way)is one of these phenomena, along with quantum attraction, magnetism, electricity, and various form of radiation(including heat and light-neither of which are concepts). That gravity does not have mass does NOT that it is not specifically definable, measurable, predictable, and it in fact DOES have a location-between two objects. Why do you think "dirt" is what it is? It is mostly empty space, with tiny particles bound together though a combination of the above phenomena. One can go to a chemistry of physics lab and see all of these natural phenomena in action. They exist objectively. In fact, they are existence!

These phenomena exist every bit as much as physical objects with mass, this is known because they are measured by the impact that they have on physical objects. I applaud the author at integrated post for delving into unfamiliar areas of thought, as he wrote in another post on the site, "These fields of study are incredibly complex and difficult. But I have wrapped my head around a fair share of difficult subjects in the past, so I figured I'd give it a shot.  Well, I was wrong.  Not only was I baffled, but I think I found some contradictions and irrational proposals in all 4 fields."

I would submit that Mr. Huttner jumped into the deep end of the theoretical physics pool without first learning to swim-or even what swimming was- and that as such most of his assertions of "contradictions and irrational proposals" are the result of ignorance and misunderstanding of what is being proposed. As a quick example, he is convinced that the "bending of space" is an irrational concept, this is because he does not understand fundamentally what is being described by the phrase. It does not mean that space is literally bent,  rather it means that(to describe only one aspect of this) the impact of natural phenomena on objects is altered by the proximity of other phenomena-in the case of "The space around Earth is bent or warped" that he rejects, all that is meant is that light and other phenomena alter their impact on objects because of the Earth's gravity and electromagnetic charge(he doesn't like fields either...but he does not understand them either.) This effect can be and has been measured-it is not conjecture.  Light(which can by the way be a particle)performs a much more radical feat every time it encounters a mirror(for some of the same reasons.)

To get back on point, I'm quite happy to acknowledge "property", "natural law", "natural rights", "law of nature" or any of the other abstract concepts that are being compared to natural phenomena such as gravity as a "rational concept that is true" just as soon as you can describe a way for me to consistently measure "property's" effect upon an inanimate object. If not, I would hope that you would concede that they are in fact social constructs that may indeed be vital to (peaceful) human interaction but are in the end products of the human mind: concepts.

I think that the confusion here is partly by design, for a long time there was a concerted effort by "social scientists" to apply a warped version of the scientific method to unrelated academic disciplines. This is and was, I think, a very dangerous notion since it pretends to validate the notion that within philosophy there exists scientific fact. Probably this is why Karl Marx liked it so much, if I may recommend:


I hope I've cleared up where I am coming from, and more importantly why I think the distinction is so critical.



DP_Thinker's picture

Sorry if I contradicted myself in a way. It was not on purpose. Let me explain what my view on the statement "Property does exist, it's objective, and it doesn't matter if some people believe in it or not."
I said that property is objective, (not that it is an object) and it is not subjective.. It is quite objective where my body starts and ends, my objective property. If you look at the concept of property, it cannot be subjective as to what the piece of property is. Property as a concept determines ownership and control. If I am controlling something, that would be quite objective, right? That doesn’t mean control is an object. Nor is control the only piece of the puzzle to have property. I believe in the axiom of self-ownership, and that it “exists” due to many different theories. One of the good ones is Hoppe’s argumentation ethics. Property is a concept, and concepts can be either true or false
Maybe you can clear something up for me? You said “One need not choose between "objects" and "concepts" in order to define existence.” So are you saying that a concept can exist? I would agree. We know gravity exists, yes. But whether it exists or not is not why I am saying it is or is not a concept. I am saying it is a concept because it has no size, location, shape etc.. Sure, it might act in a specific location but that’s it. It deals with the relationship between two objects. “Dirt” is a descriptive term, for a bunch of objects, Yes. Just as the attraction between two atoms is a concept, not an object. But put together, you have an object, dirt! Put control, rightful ownership, and an object together, and you have property! A descriptive term, or concept.
“These phenomena exist every bit as much as physical objects with mass, this is known because they are measured by the impact that they have on physical objects.” – that’s my point, that concepts can be either true of false. Objects have characteristics. Both CAN exist. A magnet is made up of objects that have a pull on attractive objects. This is a concept. I say phenomena is a concept, and I think I do it correctly. Maybe not.. I believe everything is either a concept or an object. Phenomena I don’t separate from concepts.
Leaving the authors failings aside, that also does not mean he is wrong 100% of the time. I truly think that article was the best articulated one yet. Sure, we all don’t have EVERY answer, but we do have some. I believe he did. So I’m glad he learned from his mistakes. You learn more from mistakes than when you succeed.
I’m also not sure if using the scientific method is “wrong” for the social sciences. That is how we come up with the many psychological hypotheses, or other ideas about humans and how they interact. Pavlov and his dogs, incentives, etc…
To summarize my main points.
If something exists or not, is objective.
Objects and concepts can exist.
Concepts can either be true or false, and when attached to objects can “exist”.
Gravity is a concept. It exists.
Property is a concept, it exists, Bastiat agrees with me: http://bastiat.org/en/property_law.html

Property implies ownership, which is made known by many theories. (Prove you don’t own your mind and I might disagree)
I will read the link you posted also. But what would you say to the fact that Newton's first law of thermodynamics could be implanted in philosophy? Nothing exists that hasn't been created. I believe in absolutes, and we have few. Of the ones we do have they are mostly scientific fact.

I will concede some of this is new to me, and I am trying to blend it all together. I hope I have explained it correctly. I could be wrong about everything I wrote for all I know. Thanks for taking the time to educate me.


Suverans2's picture

This, from Webster's 1828 dictionary, may help with the discussion of the natural law.

    3. Law of nature, is a rule of conduct arising out of the natural relations of human beings established by the Creator, and existing prior to any positive precept. Thus it is a law of nature, that one man should not injure another, and murder and fraud would be crimes, independent of any prohibition from a supreme power.

    4. Laws of animal nature, the inherent principles by which the economy and functions of animal bodies are performed, such as respiration, the circulation of the blood, digestion, nutrition, various secretions, &c.

    5. Laws of vegetation, the principles by which plats are produced, and their growth carried on till they arrive to perfection.

    6. Physical laws, or laws of nature. The invariable tendency or determination of any species of matter to a particular form with definite properties, and the determination of a body to certain motions, changes, and relations, which uniformly take place in the same circumstances, is called a physical law.

The two most frequently confused are the one's highlight in blue, the law of nature, or natural law of humans, and the laws of nature, or physical laws.

And, please, no knee-jerk-reactions at "established by the Creator"; if you are off-ended by that phrase, leave it out, it won't change the fundamental context.

Suverans2's picture

Moved this to a reply, because this format gives us no opportunity to delete.