Monday, August 22, 2005

A brief history of tomorrow…

How did we get to where are today? How did we get to economic stagnation, the slow strangulation of liberties? How did we get to where we will be tomorrow, with economic collapse and the war of words of all against all?

Here is a very rapid tour through the destruction of rationality.

We start with the ancient world, with Greece and Rome and Carthage. We start with all the hero-worshipping poetry of mass murderers such as Achilles and Hercules. The age of heroism, it is called, with all of its self-mutilating fetish for blood and swords and spilling intestines. The age of heroism is always entwined with the age of magic and gods – and also with the age of rape, where beautiful women, pursued by warriors, dragged off and pillaged. The basic poem is: ‘fight and fuck’, ‘fight and fuck’, and all must worship these Darwinian machines as they knife and rape in service of the creation of a more perfect murderer – these bronzed apes of bloody fantasies. Ulysses will forever be spoken of by stuttering academics as a metaphor for some sort of spiritual quest, as if he is not in fact a sociopathic hired killer turned loose on the world to murder for his master. (A more recent example is that of Macbeth – who the wonderfully corrupt Shakespeare shows slaughtering a hundred innocent peasants without blinking an eye – and then sinking into self-loathing for knifing the head of his criminal ruling gang.)

The age of heroism is also the age of the death cult. Life is portrayed as pain; tortured souls stride the stages, and comedians giggle and spit at the same time. Only three professions are portrayed as noble: the priest, the soldier and the politician. In other words, those who justify murder, those who perform it, and those who profit from it.

The highest goal of the age of heroism is the roar of the crowd, the command of armies and the murder of the innocent. The age of heroism is also the age of liars, since murder must be transformed into honour, cowering youths into murderous demons – and blood-spattered politicians into noble orators.

The age of heroism is always the age of stories, since only in stories can murderous lies be made to glow and roar. It is the age of martial music, false tears and sudden rages. It is the age of incoherence, of ink spilled in water to hide the bodies of children. It is, of course, the age of pomp and manipulation and lies that dwarf cynicism.

Finally, the age of heroism is always worships blood. Family loyalties trump all considerations, since there are no ethics in a world of lies. Fantasies take the place of solid eyesight. Countries, armies and souls rise up to swallow simple humanity. Men vanish in a cloud of blood, replaced by categories and raging labels.

In this age, the merchant is scorned as a coward, since he has not succumbed to the nightmare of a full commitment to self-destruction. The merchant is the man who wants a family, a profession, and a comfortable house. He wishes to trade, not invade. He is bourgeois. He has no spirit. He wishes for nothing but comfort. His love of life and desire for comfort and material success is scorned by the sneering nihilist, who lives only to lie and kill and rape and die. The nihilist supports war and the police and the military and government programs and violence in all his subtle symptoms – and then says that one must be afraid of advertising and voluntary exchange.

Thus Carthage, the trading society, is burned down by the Romans. Thus the false dichotomy between Athens and Sparta arises. Athens is considered rational because its politicians have invented longer words for shorter swords. Sparta is considered martial because they wage war openly – in armour, not robes – and give warning to those they will attack, and do not demand they be disarmed beforehand, as politicians do.

The self-destruction of the heroic societies is always follows the same pattern. The first is that the nihilist needs the producer, but cannot restrain the raging expansion of his own nihilism. The nihilist pillages the farmer until the farmer becomes a nihilist, and then all lay down to starve. The demon of violence, once unleashed, must run its course – often of centuries – until it has bitten the through the flesh of the people and finally broken the bones and lies of their sick imaginings. Only then can the rebuilding begin. In other words, the producers are consumed by the nihilists, so that both die – and then, with the nihilists dead, the honest begin to produce again, only to draw the hungry nihilists back to pillage them, to start the whole cycle once more. (Thus do we get the myth of the vampires who, after consuming the totality of their victims, go to sleep until the victims replenish themselves once more.)

Rome’s self-destruction came from enslaving young men into military service lasting a decade or two – and crippling taxes that, due to transportation limits, could only be levied on those living in towns and cities. Naturally, many young Roman men found the pleasures of city living not worth the price of enslavement and endless theft, and so fled to the country. And so the politicians found themselves with fewer conscripts, and so had to hire more mercenaries – which meant raising both taxes and the length of conscription. This vicious circle grew until, finally, the politicians ran out of money – at which point the ‘barbarian’ mercenaries returned to Rome in search of their paychecks and, finding the coffers empty, sacked the place. The nihilists destroyed another society, and the world returned to a more limited and peaceful existence. During the Dark Ages, men elevated themselves from Roman serfs of war to Christian serfs of agriculture – and, due to Christianity’s hostility to slavery (growing as it did as a religion among slaves), labour-productivity gains could occur without threatening the investment that the ruling classes had in their human chattel.

Then, through improvements in agricultural technologies – shoulder harnesses that did not choke, crop rotations, land consolidation through the Black Death etc. – cities grew again, and so of course did interest in Roman law, since the late Roman war of all-against-all had been forgotten. Laws are the future mirror of society, and yet little critical examination was given to laws which directly resulted in the death of the Republic, and so all the logical contradictions – always exploited by nihilists – were left firmly in place.

The discovery of the value of the scientific method – the true beginning of the Industrial Revolution – by Francis Bacon in the 16th Century marked the death knell of the universal Christian church. The printing press transmitted both the curiously logical rants of Luther and the growing desire to cast aside spurious fantasy for empirical observation.

All this, of course, culminated in the great desire to leash the murderous State and set it to work for the benefit of its traditional victims – to turn the voracious vampire into a placid cook. The growth of mobile capital in the 17th and 18th centuries undercut the traditional power of military might, since gold could be moved and smuggled at will, and did not need or respect the power of the sword. At any given time, only one person can really own a piece of land, and it requires great slaughter to assert and maintain that claim. Gold, however, is fluid, and passes easily under lowered swords. Taxing merchants soon became more profitable than taxing feudal Lords – and traders were far less of a martial threat to boot! Thus laws began to swing to the favour of the merchants, and since the power of the State corrupts everyone, even honest traders, the system which resulted was mercantilism.

Mercantilism was the standard ‘murder for profit’ scheme that always results from the existence of a State. Merchants bribed Kings, who then bribed the military to ensure exclusive trading territories for merchants. The brutal costs were diffused among silent, poverty-stricken and starving consumers, and the gains accrued, as always, to the murderous few.

This all began to die with the birth of the new world, wherein life could begin without the blood-crusted layers of historical slaughterers. The fact of the matter is that healthy people never even think of the need for a State – they are always provoked into surrendering their freedoms by the taunts and provocations of the nihilists, and because it is always their great-grandchildren who pay the most for their failures of integrity.

And then – and then, the nihilists were faced with a true horror, which was that through the success of the new world, it became abundantly clear that the State governed best which governed least. And so – why need a State at all?

And of course the American experiment was fatally flawed, in logic, reality and morality. If all men are equal, who can hold violent power over another? How can a State logically exist at all? The failure of the Founding Fathers to close this loop left it open for constant picking and mocking from the State-fed intellectuals of the Old World.

The slow widening of this logical hole resulted in the two great triumphs of governments in the 19th century. The first was the founding of State education, and the second was the creation of government banks. The first produced State slaves, while the second created a near-bottomless funding mechanisms for State wars.

Thus were the horrors of the 20th century produced. Wars need both money and men – the State banks produced the first, and the State schools the second. Nihilism ran rampant. The First World War achieved everything that was intended – a new class of war profiteers, a clear demonstration of multi-state genocides, and State-dependent women, children and wounded veterans.

And then?

Well, then, women got the vote. Women are many wonderful things, but political economists they are not. Women want food and shelter for their children, and don’t really care about abstract rights. Women have not had the direct experiences of war that men have had, and so did not fear the State to the same degree. The granting of female suffrage was followed within a few years by the creation of the welfare state – more accurately known as bribery politics. This was also made possible by the creation of paper currency and the expansion of State banking powers.

Now that the State could borrow against future multi-generational tax receipts, there was no possibility of preventing the inevitable collapse. Tax revolts were impossible, because the State had trained the children to believe that murder was virtue, and deductions-at-source masked the threat of murder at the root of taxation. The State now owned the poor, the sick, dependent women and children, unions, subsidized businesses, the military, farmers and a thousand other social groups. The average individual now has no chance to stem the growing tide of parasitism and the resulting spread of nihilism.

That is the quick tour – for those with the patience to sink deep into sentences, there is a lot to be gained from review. The source of our current misery and coming collapse is violence, of course, but it is a gang of smiling villains that holds our leash – and they will continue to smile as long as we obey. No society in the history of the planet has ever thrown off nihilism when it has advanced so far – and if anyone doubts this, they should remember that we are now in the terminal stages of our self-destruction, since we have finally entered the age of heroism. Not convinced? Read about the War on Terror and in Iraq, and then reread the first few chapters of this essay. The end is always in the beginning.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

A moral journey...

I am always striving to follow the dictates of reason, and not falter from the consequences of logical premises. The path of pure reason has been a challenging, grueling, startling and joyous adventure, since it turns out that just about everything I have ever been taught – or imbibed through modern culture – is pure fantasy. Reason can be utterly counterintuitive, just like physics. Sensually, we experience the world as flat, the sun as the same size as the moon and both as rotating around us. I grew up believing that we need a government, the police and armies. However, none of this is so.

Morality is like science and medicine, in that it is both incredibly powerful – and completely optional. We do not have to be moral, just as we do not have to be rational, scientific or follow healthy habits – but rejecting morality always results in misery and failure. If we fail to follow the dictates of science, the physical world remains a deadly mystery to us – and if we fail to follow the dictates of morality, the social world remains a deadly mystery to us.

Any system of rational thought requires that principles are derived from entities (‘gravity’ from an apple), and then extrapolated to all related entities (all objects with mass). Empirical validation and theoretical consistency must go hand in hand.

Thus if there are any preferred forms for human behaviour (i.e. negotiation versus violence), then they must be preferred for all people. Morality does not change for a man just because he puts on a uniform; theft does not become moral just because it’s called taxation. Calling the sun ‘the moon’ does not make it stop burning.

The principle of non-violence must be at the root of any system of morality, since all human interactions are based on either violence or non-violence. Violence and violence are opposites, like attraction and repulsion. In the realm of gravity, objects with mass either attract or repel one another – they cannot do both simultaneously. Thus any principle which describes an interaction cannot approve both one action and its opposite at the same time, for the same entity.

Morality describes the ideal methods of human interaction. Either human beings should deal with one another through violence, or through reason – both cannot be condoned, since that would be blatant contradiction, and so both illogical and anti-scientific.

Any moral theory must then either be for violence, or against violence. If a moral theory is against violence, it must be against violence under all circumstances. There can be no situation under which violence is an acceptable solution to human interactions.

The principle of self-defense raises no problems; since violence is evil, it must be opposed. Self-defense has the same relation to violence that surgery does to random stabbing. If health is the goal, destruction (e.g. amputation) may be the means under certain circumstances. If a person has declared himself cancerous by attacking those around him, he may be retaliated against.

Through my articles, I explore the logical consequences of a morality which bans any individual from using violence – as well a scientific epistemology which forbids any elevation of concepts above instances. What the latter means is that if the principle of gravity is derived from the observation of physical entities, no principle of gravity can contradict the properties of any single physical entity it describes. Concepts, in other words, are always derived from tangible instances. In any conflict between the properties of physical objects and a theory which describes them, the theory must always give way. If your theory says that all apples fall down, and one apple falls up, your theory must be amended, or rejected.

What does this mean in the realm of morality? Well, if morality is a principle, it must be absolute and universal – just as scientific theories are. Morality must be derived from the desired actions of individuals, and then abstracted to apply to all individuals. In other words, if you do not use violence in all of your interactions with others, you must choose which path to take – should you use violence or non-violence in all your interactions with others? You can continue to ‘mix and match’, but you cannot claim morality as your justification, just as no pseudo-scientist can claim the support of the scientific for his contradictory and unverifiable claims.

If you choose non-violence as your moral absolute, then all human beings must be subjected to such morality – with no exceptions. Since concepts are always derived from instances, no aggregate of people can escape the moral absolute of non-violence – any more than a bushel of apples can escape the gravity that each individual apple is subject to.

What does this mean in practice? Here is where things get really fascinating. Since concepts such as ‘government’, ‘army’, and ‘police’ do not exist in reality – just as a ‘bushel’ does not exist – then all individuals these concepts describe are subject to the same moral absolutes as everyone else. The only alternative to this view is to say either (a) that all people should have the same rights as government representatives, or (b) there are no moral rules whatsoever. In either case, creating special rules for certain people is both illogical and immoral.

This brings us to the following principle: whatever is allowed to one, is allowed to all. Whatever is disallowed to one, is disallowed to all.

Are individuals allowed to carry guns? If one person is, then all are. If one person is not allowed, then none are allowed. If no one is allowed to carry guns, then policemen and soldiers cannot carry guns. If policemen and soldiers are allowed to carry guns, then everyone is allowed to carry guns.

(Although it is not essential, the argument from absurdity does help here. If the police are not allowed to carry guns, how are they supposed to arrest armed criminals?)

What about nuclear weapons? Remember: there is either only one moral rule for all individuals, or there is no morality at all, and everything is whim, fancy and brute short-term desire. Since there is no such thing as the ‘government’, if you say that the ‘government’ can own nuclear weapons, then what you are really saying is that individual ‘A’ (some leader) can own nuclear weapons, but that individual ‘B’ (some citizen) cannot own nuclear weapons. Why? How can two rules exist for the same species? It’s like saying that one apple is subject to gravity, but another is not.

A corollary of the rule that what applies to one must apply to all is that whatever judgments are applied to one, must be applied to all. If you say that some apples are fruit, then all apples are fruit. If you say that gun use must be restricted because people are hot-tempered and will shoot people indiscriminately, then your judgment also applies to policemen, since policemen are people too, and you have not solved the problem. Similarly, if you believe that governments must regulate businesses because businessmen are greedy and destructive, you must then accept that government bureaucrats will also be greedy and destructive – and with the power of the police and army to boot! Again, you have not solved the problem.

Regarding property rights, again, it is a simple binary proposition. Either property rights exist, or they do not. Since property rights regulate the use of physical objects, this means that either physical objects can be used, or they cannot be used. If no property rights exist, the no one has the right to use property of any kind – including food or shelter – since any use requires ownership. If property rights do exist, then all individuals possess them. Since aggregates do not exist, no aggregation of human beings can possess the ‘right’ to violate the property rights of any other individuals. Taxation, therefore, is immoral – the unholy combination of theft and propaganda. The very concept of ‘government’ also becomes immoral and illogical, since it is a conceptual entity which claims ‘rights’ for certain individuals which are not possessed by other individuals. I can call an apple a pear, but changing its name does not affect its nature and properties. I can call a man a ‘policeman’, but that does not change one atom of his being. The act of putting on certain pieces of clothing does not eject a man from objective reality and his common humanity.

Does this mean that all policemen are evil? Well, to the degree that policemen act to support the self-defense of others, they are moral – but they are no more moral than any other individual who performed the same actions. And if they perform any other actions, they are as immoral as anyone else. A policeman who drags you off to jail for tax evasion is as immoral as a Mafia thug who breaks your legs for failing to pay ‘protection’.

This should be enough to give you a good understanding of the nature and content of my articles. There is only one other aspect of my writing which I should warn you about, however, since gaining a true understanding of morality is not for the faint of heart – as anyone who knows the story of the life and death of Socrates can well appreciate.

Those who advocate separate ‘moralities’ for different groups of humanity are corrupt – even more so than those who advocate prayer as the only effective treatment for cancer, since those who advocate prayer do not demand that those who disagree with them are shot. If those among your friends and family advocate violence in any form – support for the State, taxation, social programs, the military, wars etc. – then you are duty-bound to exclude them from your lives. This is often the hardest pill to swallow from a personal standpoint, so I wish to warn you fairly up front. Living with integrity is not easy, since we are all social beings, but it is the natural and logical conclusion of rational morality. If you are committed to opposing violence, you can make the case to your friends and family, but if they continue to resist your arguments without reason or evidence, then they must be discarded, since a moral man’s loyalty must first and foremost be to rationality, truth, morality and the health of his own soul.

We cannot ask the world to reject irrationality in general if we are not prepared to reject it in our own lives. It is a hard road – as both my wife and I can testify – and all we can say is that there are near-inexhaustible joys on the far side! The truth is the greatest challenge – and the acceptance of it the greatest reward that life has to offer.

I wish you all the best, and look forward to hearing from you. Enjoy.

Stefan Molyneux
Sunday, July 31, 2005
6:03:53 PM

Monday, August 15, 2005

Ahh, the media...

So I read an enjoyable – but terribly predictable – book this weekend called ‘Weapons of Mass Distraction’, about how the media ‘dropped the ball’ on Iraq. Naturally, the writer was shocked and appalled, and hinted at dark conspiracies regarding the FCC, and its impending liberalization of the media marketplace. The networks were expecting to lose $200m in their war coverage in Iraq, he glowers, and so were expecting the FCC to open up the markets so they could recoup their profits after the war. The guy heading the FCC was the son of the guy heading the military – Mr. Powell Jr. – and that media ‘liberalization’ after the war was payback for its positive war coverage and this was all terrible and so on and on.

And what did the author advocate as the solution? All the old left-wing chestnuts that will absolutely amount to jack-shit. ‘Grassroots activism’. Right. Grass is what people walk on. Letter-writing campaigns. Community participation. Argumentative distractions. The appearance of doing something – which is far worse than doing nothing. All such a load of blind, self-righteous nonsense.

Don’t get me wrong (though I admit that that’s rather easy to do!). There’s nothing wrong with speaking out and arguing passionately. In fact, it is essential! But life is short – and so, for the sake of all that is holy stop wasting your precious time! The more powerful your enemy is, the more you have to undermine the very roots of its power! Nagging the buds will never uproot the tree.

Why is the media so complacent about the government? Why, because almost everyone in the media has been educated by the government. This is at the root of it all. It’s really not so very complicated. I mean, how would critics approach the media’s portrayal of GM if every child in the entire country world was educated at GM schools? What they’d say is that the first thing you had to address was the fact that GM spent fifteen years straight pouring its shall we say limited perspective into the delicate brains of impressionable children!

Let’s say next that everyone was forced to buy a new GM car every year. What would the result be? Poor service, of course, and crappy cars. Would intelligent critics say that the solution for this was to write letters to GM demanding more quality and then go and picket GM dealerships appealing for a more positive customer experience? Of course not! They’d say: the problem, my fellow citizens, is that we are being forced to buy a new GM car every year. Get rid of that stupid rule, and GM will reform of its own accord. We won’t have to lift a finger. In other words, voluntary taxation is the only way for citizens to control the government.

The second major problem is that the media must be licensed by the government – licenses which must be re-approved every year. In other words, if you operate a radio or television station without permission from the government, you will be shot. Sure, there are rules about keeping your license, but who cares? If the government yanks your license and gives it to someone else, you’ll be out of business before your lawyer even returns your panicked message. Remember – the government has made it impossible for all but the largest institutions to use the court system, which is exactly what large institutions (and the government) want. Monopolies aren’t granted by ‘single charter’ any more – they grow like cataracts – through slow, rising, chilling misty layers of evil laws. Licenses are first among them.

The third major problem is that there are so many stupid and corrupt laws that the government can make absolutely anyone’s life a living hell. Feel like being audited? Want a health and safety inspection of your home or business? How about being implicated in a drug bust? Can the cops find something in your car or home if they really want to? No one wants to piss of the government, because you just never know where it might end up. There are swarms of mean little civil servants out there with time on their hands and bile in their hearts. So who’s really going to piss the government off? Why take the chance? So if you’re a reporter, ask the easy questions, or attack specific policies – never anything important, like the income tax or any form of media regulation.

Which brings us to – government regulation of the media. All the FCC crap. Of course government regulations end up serving the powers-that-be. What do you think the government creates regulations? To help you? To protect you from the media? I mean really! Turn it off if you don’t like it. Try that with the tax man.

No, media regulation only serves to ensure that the government will grant operating licenses to those outlets which praise it the most. And like all unholy deals, not even a whiff of it will ever make the airwaves. Not even a hint. Everything runs smooth as silk. Broad smiles and hearty cheer. Concern over things going wrong. Tough questions, drinks together afterwards. All the plump self-indulgence of the pretty and the amplified, leaning slightly forward and explaining everything to you.

All that violence requires is what Ayn Rand called ‘the sanction of the victim’ – the cloaking of civility over the sword. They force you, but they want you to believe that you have chosen.
Forget it. No salvation will come from the media, so forget about nagging it. It is owned and operated by the State. If you’re interested in freeing the media from the clutches of violence, then you must advocate the following:

1. abolishment of State education
2. abolishment of the FCC
3. abolishment of the income tax
4. and, eventual abolishment of government

Which media critics will take on the above? Only those who wish to join me in the lonely wastes of the Internet’s ill-visited corners – the crannies farthest from the mirage of power, but closest to the sun of truth.

Why Write..?

So. Interesting weekend. I lazed around a good deal, and read ‘Into the Buzzsaw’, which is a fascinating look into the world of self-censoring news organizations. To every Libertarian, this is standard stuff – i.e. why do the important questions never get asked? – but it also gave me food for thought in a few areas that I rarely deal with.

The first is the realm of lawsuits. Everyone knows that lawsuits are largely foolish, but reading this book this weekend really helped me understand the degree to which large organizations use lawsuits to keep smaller organizations from disseminating unpleasant facts (particularly in England, which has no constitutional protections for the freedom of the press).

The sad and funny aspect to all this is that journalists who get sued invariably end up taking those who sue them to court as well. In other words, those who are abused by bad laws end up trying to use those bad laws to avenge themselves. Of course, it never works.

It also helped me with another personal agony that I’m sure all Libertarians face – the feeling that I should be doing more to help ‘the cause’, but feeling that nothing I do will ever really change anything. Take Harry Browne – a great speaker, and strong thinker, and an excellent writer. Been hacking at things for decades. Nothing. Not a scrap. Not even a tiny part of the national debate. He takes his stabs where he can, but the fact of the matter is that the State is a closed, self-healing system. Nothing lasts, everything goes down the memory hole in a blinding rush of absence. Iraq has no WMD’s – change the story. Prisoners get tortured? Next story. Foreign aid a catastrophe? More foreign aid! The minds of the citizens are crippled by brain-busting, droningly dull education, and then distracted with celebrities, empty whiz-bang movies, false seriousness and sentimental throat-lump patriotism.

So old Harry didn’t get much done – and neither did Rand, or Rothbard, or any of the other major activists for liberty. I’ve read, written and argued for over twenty years, and all I’ve noticed is that people don’t fight back any more – not because they’ve becoming convinced, but because they just really don’t care. They know the deal. Our society was dead before we were even born. Our society died in the First World War – the age of the Fed, the income tax, and the rise of pensions. The Libertarian experiment lasted just over a hundred years. By the time I was born – 1966 – the government controlled nuclear weapons, education, old age pensions, energy, the poor, the farmers, the media – and many corporations to boot. Getting upset with the government is like trying to apply a defibrillator to a corpse from the 19th century. It’s all done and gone. There is no rescuing our societies as they are, as they stand. It has never been done in the past, and it will not be done now. You can’t fight the degree of violence that our society has descended to. Billions of dollars, millions of guns. You can never fight violence with words. You can only expose violence with words – and if that does not galvanize the population, then the society is dead. We’ve been decapitated – all that remains now is the final, spasmodic dance.

So why am I writing? Why, for the same reason that Winston Smith did. Not for me. Not for now. For those who come after.

All that is required, really, is just to hate violence. Just hate it. That’s the one thing that drives me more than anything. Violence is the furnace at the center of my fire. I grew up in a violent family, and I know how destructive and corrupting violence is. I know how no one ever survives using violence. I must have been a pacifist in the womb, since I never retaliated, and have never hit anyone in my life – the very idea makes me nauseous. I have a wonderfully peaceful and loving relationship with my beautiful wife, and have worked hard to get all the crazy people out of my life, both personally and professionally. That is what is required if you are to really oppose violence. You have to ditch the crazies. I have no contact with my family any more, and couldn’t be happier for it! (My wife is the same way.) I can’t do anything about the State, except write and think and talk, and I can’t do anything about the casual violence, instability and unreliability of the average person (read: almost everyone). The only think I can do is live my life as strongly, passionately and peacefully as possible, and say to everyone who will listen that I truly hate violence, and that they should to.

If that’s the only drumbeat of mine that reaches out of this current jungle into the future, beyond the ruins of what is to come, then that is worth everything to me.