Thoughts on Society, Truth, Statism, and More

Interesting clip by Stefan from Freedomain Radio:

… in there he talks about how most people basically have no interest in the truth and actively oppose and deny it. This is the reason why rational people, true philosophers, contrarians and the like are constantly confrontend with the same old, tired, boring, shallow, and predictable reactions from the unenlightened masses.

And here he explains (the rather obvious but little understood reasons) why statism equals terrorism:

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Ethics, Human Nature, and Government – A Manifesto for Liberty

The Scope of Normative Ethics

The universe is an ongoing sequence of events. Every event is an effect of something and a cause of something else at the same time. An event describes the movements of objects within specific limits. Objects are atoms or combinations thereof. The nature of an object is a complete set of rules about what specific effects specific events involving that object will have on it. (For example: An apple, let fall, will drop to the ground.) The total collection of all events and the natures of all objects I will refer to as reality.

Humans are objects within the universe. They possess the ability to utter statements about events and the natures of objects. These statements are beliefs. The total of all those beliefs that match reality is referred to as truth. The pursuit of truth is what we commonly refer to as science.

Science enables humans to understand what events enable objects to let their natural faculties come to full fruition, and what events are destructive to them. The former are referred to as good, the latter as bad.

By virtue of the fact that humans are objects in the universe, a human being, too, has a nature. Specific events affecting a human, will have specific effects. A human action, or simply an action, is an event consciously precipitated by a human. A group of humans, connected via actions, is what we refer to as society. To discover which actions are good and which are bad for human society, and thus to establish a set of rules that is universally applicable to every human being at any given point in time, is the objective of normative ethics.

Human Nature

Every human being, man, once born, possesses full ownership, meaning control, over his body. This is an irrefutable truth. Anyone who tries to refute it would be exerting ownership over his own body in the very process. This self ownership is in the very nature of man. It is a necessity for the development of his faculties.

The desire to stay alive, too, is in the nature of man. Whoever tries to refute this truth would be doing so while being alive. If he didn’t want to live he would have no business arguing the point in the first place. If he were to shoot himself he would cease to exist and no ethics would be necessary to determine what would be good or bad for him. Thus life becomes the most commonly pursued good among humans.

But man cannot survive without utilizing the land around him. In fact, he cannot even exist without it. The existence of man would be unthinkable without his environment. Even if he was not consuming anything, wearing anything, or putting his hands on anything, at the very least, and before anything else, he needs to occupy standing room.

He possesses the ability to fully comprehend and memorize cause and effect of specific events involving specific objects, the ability to reason. Thus he can obtain and retain knowledge. He possesses the unique ability to first and foremost let his reason guide his actions. The animal’s actions are, on the contrary, first and foremost guided by its instincts. Action guided by reason is referred to as rational action while action guided by instincts is reflexive action. This is what we mean when we say man is a rational being. He can apply his knowledge to objects and events that he has already memorized, or infer from the nature of certain known objects that similar unknown objects will have a similar nature, and put this knowledge into action.

Once the desire to live is satisfied, man strives for objectives beyond that. At any given point in time, he feels uneasy about something. This uneasiness is a purely subjective phenomenon and differs from person to person. It may also be more broadly referred to as “that which makes man act” in case the term uneasiness causes misunderstandings. He thus always acts in order to remove uneasiness. In fact, every rational voluntary action is only performed because man feels that it will improve his condition. He would never perform a rational action that he’d deem detrimental to his own perceived condition. The fact that men aim at objectives and employ means to attain them is, again, irrefutable. Whoever sets out to refute its correctness would be aiming at an objective, employing means to attain it.

The Scope of Political Philosophy

Man can thus employ his reason to utilize the scarce land around him by applying his acquired knowledge. He can mix his labor with this land in order to create consumer goods or factors of production. He utilizes those goods in order to remove perceived uneasiness.

When he utilizes and transforms unused land, he obtains ownership over new objects. Ownership over such objects is called private property. Thus his self-ownership over his body is extended to ownership over material objects. He can utilize those objects as means to his ends. By the virtue of this he shows that this procedure, too, is in the very nature of man.

Other men can do the same thing. They can then, if they so desire, enter into exchange transactions. All these acts are performed voluntarily and enable men to extend their scope of removal of uneasiness and let their natural capabilities come to fruition. All property obtained via initial appropriation (homesteading) or voluntary exchange is considered to be justly acquired property. During an act of voluntary action both parties enter because each of them prefers to own the good to be obtained to the one surrendered. They both attain the objective aimed at. By the virtue of this, these acts are to be considered good.

But when one man obtains ownership over goods owned by another man without that man’s consent, or alters their condition in any form, or physically harms that man’s body, all acts of aggression, he only removes uneasiness for himself, but adds to the other man’s uneasiness. Thus, this act cannot possibly be in line with a normative ethic which is supposed to spell out universal rules applicable to every human being. If, furthermore, all people were to perform such acts on everybody, mankind would at once cease to exist. Such an act can thus not possibly be considered good in any way.

But the fact that some men desire to perform such acts makes it necessary (for the preservation and further development of mankind) for the attacked to perform violent acts of defense. A right is defined as a defensible claim to an object, meaning a claim that, if necessary for the preservation and development of mankind, may be defended violently. Man thus has a right to the ownership of his body and his justly acquired property. The absence of aggression or threat thereof against his body and property is referred to as liberty. That part of normative ethics that ultimately deals with questions of the proper use of violence in different cases is called political philosophy.

Morality

Morality really falls under the sphere of political philosophy. It defines which binding behavioral rules about inflicted behavior are logically inconsistent and/or can in no way be universally applied to all humans at all places and at all times. It defines such rules as immoral.

A binding behavioral rule is a statement about what a human should or should not do. A binding behavioral rule about inflicted behavior is a statement about what one man should or should not do to another man. Example: The rule “One person should rape another.” could in no way be applied to the latter person while the former performs the act. It thus qualifies as a binding behavioral rule about inflicted behavior that is not universally applicable, viz. immoral. The same goes for acts like murder and theft.

Abstaining from immoral behaviors can be referred to as moral. All rules that we intuitively perceive as immoral can be successfully examined via this rationale.

The Nature of Government

The idea that man has a right to defend his property and his body is not a mystical or arcane one. It is, in fact, commonly understood. Most people agree with it and condemn those who initiate aggression against others. There has, however, throughout history been one type of organization, which has, again and again, been able to aggress against individuals with impunity and with support by public opinion. This organization is referred to as government. It obtains goods by aggressive means, also known as taxation. This is the inherently unethical, anti-social, or simply bad nature of government.

Nowhere has the essence of the State as a criminal organization been put as forcefully or as brilliantly as in this passage from Lysander Spooner’s No Treason where the actions of a robbing highwayman are compared to the government’s modus operandi:

It is true that the theory of our Constitution is, that all taxes are paid voluntarily; that our government is a mutual insurance company, voluntarily entered into by the people with each other. . . .

But this theory of our government is wholly different from the practical fact. The fact is that the government, like a highwayman, says to a man: “Your money, or your life.” And many, if not most, taxes are paid under the compulsion of that threat.

The government does not, indeed, waylay a man in a lonely place, spring upon him from the roadside, and, holding a pistol to his head, proceed to rifle his pockets. But the robbery is none the less a robbery on that account; and it is far more dastardly and shameful.

The highwayman takes solely upon himself the responsibility, danger, and crime of his own act. He does not pretend that he has any rightful claim to your money, or that he intends to use it for your own benefit. He does not pretend to be anything but a robber. He has not acquired impudence enough to profess to be merely a “protector,” and that he takes men’s money against their will, merely to enable him to “protect” those infatuated travellers, who feel perfectly able to protect themselves, or do not appreciate his peculiar system of protection. He is too sensible a man to make such professions as these. Furthermore, having taken your money, he leaves you, as you wish him to do. He does not persist in following you on the road, against your will; assuming to be your rightful “sovereign,” on account of the “protection” he affords you. He does not keep “protecting” you, by commanding you to bow down and serve him; by requiring you to do this, and forbidding you to do that; by robbing you of more money as often as he finds it for his interest or pleasure to do so; and by branding you as a rebel, a traitor, and an enemy to your country, and shooting you down without mercy if you dispute his authority, or resist his demands. He is too much of a gentleman to be guilty of such impostures, and insults, and villainies as these. In short, he does not, in addition to robbing you, attempt to make you either his dupe or his slave.

Thus economic policy, if it wants to attain its objectives, can do nothing but limit the extent to which matters are organized by government and the scope of its intrusion into the lifes of individuals within the territory it oversees, or ideally completely abolish the institution of government itself. So long as the government confines its activity to the protection of individuals against aggression and theft only little harm can be inflicted. Every expansion of governmental powers, however, will inevitably expand the use of unethical and destructive action within society.

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Anarchism – The Ultimate Fruition of Liberty, Peace & Happiness

I have been meaning to write a bit more about anarchism. I have always defined anarchism as follows:

Anarchism is a system of division of labor under private ownership of all factors of production. No government exists under anarchism.

The above definition by necessity implies that anarchism means absence of aggression. It thus requires vigorous and violent defense against any attempts to aggression.

When talking to unenlightened people, whoever defends anarchism will usually have to address the same boring, tired, false and predictable arguments and objections. “If there is no government, then who will protect us from crime? Who will regulate traffic? Who will build the roads? Who will run the schools? …” etc.

I came across a few brilliant and concise videos on youtube that explain essential concepts of anarchism that should help those people who have still not been able to understand anarchism’s benefits:

Police:

Health Care:

Roads:

Education:

Defense:

Courts:

Currency:

There is only one system under which nothing, absolutely nothing stands in the way of Freedom, Liberty, Peace, Prosperity, and Happiness. This system is anarchism.

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Murray Rothbard – One of the Greatest

Lew Rockwell is always a good read. In The Uncompromising Rothbard he writes:

There are many varieties of libertarianism alive in the world today, and they owe a great debt to the work of Ludwig von Mises. His top American student was Murray N. Rothbard, and Rothbardianism remains the center of its intellectual gravity, its primary muse and conscience, its strategic and moral core, and the focal point of debate even when its name is not acknowledged. The reason is that Rothbard forged a blend between Austrian economics and natural-rights political theory of the old liberal school to create a modern libertarianism, a political-economic-ideological system that proposes a once-and-for-all escape from the trappings of left and right and their central plans for how state power should be used. Libertarianism is the radical alternative that says state power is both unworkable and immoral.

“Mr. Libertarian,” Murray N. Rothbard was called, and “The State’s Greatest Living Enemy.” He remains so. Yes, he had many predecessors from which he drew: the whole of the classical-liberal tradition, the Austrian economists, the American antiwar tradition, and the natural-rights tradition. But it was he who put all these pieces together into a unified system that seems inevitable once it has been defined and defended. The individual pieces of the system are straightforward (self-ownership, strict property rights, free markets, antistate in every conceivable respect) but the implications are earthshaking.

Once you are exposed to the complete picture – and For A New Liberty has been the leading means of exposure for more than a quarter of a century – you cannot forget it. This book has been out of print but will appear early next year from the Mises Institute. More than any other of his works, this book explains why Rothbard seems to grow in stature every year (his influence has vastly risen since his death) and why Rothbardianism has so many enemies on the left, right, and center.

Quite simply, the science of liberty that he brought into clear relief is as brilliant in the hopes it creates for a free world as it is unforgiving of error. Its logical and moral consistency, together with its empirical-explanatory muscle, represents a threat to any intellectual vision that sets out to use the state to refashion the world according to some pre-programmed plan. And to the same extent it impresses the reader with a hopeful vision of what might be.

Rothbard set out to write this book soon after he got a call from Tom Mandel, an editor at Macmillan who had seen an op-ed by Rothbard in the New York Times in the spring of 1971. It was the only commission Rothbard ever received from a commercial publishing house. Looking at the original manuscript, which is so consistent in its typeface and nearly complete after its first draft, it does seem that it was nearly effortless joy for him to write. It is seamless, unrelenting, and energetic.

It is also striking how Rothbard chose to pull no punches in his argument. Other intellectuals on the receiving end of such an invitation might have tended to water down the argument to make it more palatable. Why, for example, make a full case for no state when a case for limited government might bring more people into the movement? Why condemn the US? Why go into such depth about privatizing courts and roads and water? Why enter into the sticky area of regulation of consumption and of personal morality? And why go into such detail about monetary affairs and central banking and the like?

Trimming and compromising for the sake of the times or the audience was just not Rothbard’s way. He knew that he had a once-in-a-lifetime chance to present the full package of libertarianism in all its glory, and he was not about to pass it up. And thus do we read here: not just a case for cutting government but eliminating it altogether, not just an argument for assigning property rights but for deferring to the market even on questions of contract enforcement, and not just a case for cutting welfare but for banishing the entire welfare-warfare state.

Whereas other attempts to make a libertarian case, both before and after this book, might typically call for transitional or half measures, or be willing to concede as much as possible to statists, that is not what we get from Murray. Not for him such schemes as school vouchers or the privatization of government programs that should not exist at all. Instead, he presents and follows through with the full-blown and fully bracing vision of what liberty can be. This is why so many other similar attempts to write the Libertarian Manifesto have not stood the test of time, and yet this book remains in high demand.

Similarly, there have been many books on libertarianism that have appeared in the intervening years that covered philosophy alone, politics alone, economics alone, or history alone. Those that have put all these subjects together have usually been collections by various authors. Rothbard alone had the mastery of all these areas to be able to write an integrated manifesto – one that has never been displaced. And yet his approach is typically self-effacing: he constantly points to other writers and intellectuals of the past and his own generation.

In addition, some introductions of this sort are written to give the reader an easier passage into a difficult book, but that is not the case here. He never talks down to his readers but always with clarity. Every page exudes energy and passion that the logic of his argument is impossibly compelling, and that the intellectual fire that inspired this work burns as bright now as it did all those years ago.

The book is still regarded as “dangerous” precisely because, once the exposure to Rothbardianism takes place, no other book on politics, economics, or sociology can be read the same way again. What was once a commercial phenomenon has truly become a classical statement that I predict will be read for generations to come.

I can only concur. For a New Liberty is, next to The Ethics of Liberty, one of the most amazing books I have ever read. I was already leaning toward libertarianism, but this book sealed it for me. Nowhere have I ever read anything so precise, uncompromising, and consistent. His approach is the mother of all out-of-the-box thinking. I promise, whoever reads it will experience one eye-opener after another.

Rothbard doesn’t shy away from bringing up controversial issues, such as the separation of government from almost anything. He always backs his proposals up with unshakable, logical, and sound reasoning. Some people may not like what he writes, but they are at a loss when trying to debunk his logic.

Ideologies change over time, and the mood may swing from one side to another again and again. But truth and scientific facts are eternal. That is why I, too, believe that Murray Rothbard’s work will be remembered for many many generations to come. Once mankind recognizes the correctness, consistency, and completeness of libertarianism, For a New Liberty may even be the manifesto to lay the foundation for a new world, a world of Freedom, Liberty, Peace, Happiness and Prosperity for everyone.

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