Cognitive Factors In Reasoning
The preceding section about rights involved application of the Law of Non-Contradiction. This law will enable us to tackle other sizable topics, such as the determination of the ideal, enlightened society. In the next couple sections, we will explore further how we can understand and utilize our mind so that our conclusions will be correct.
Mental processes, be they problem-solving, reflecting on thoughts, or understanding emotions, require observations. From these observations we make inferences, form connections and integrations, draw conclusions. At any moment, however, we can drift away from full mental clarity; we can lose focus on the nature of specific mental events.
Sometimes we may find it difficult to fully concentrate on a particular issue. Or we may have conflicting signals regarding how to approach it. Moreover, we may have emotions tied to certain conclusions that affect how we examine it. Particular experiences can also play a role in our conclusions and assumptions.
Aspects of consciousness speak to us in many different ways, after all. As mentioned, the subconscious is an important part of our psychology. Much of who one is and has been is contained in the subconscious. The mind consists of all assimilated experiences and the interpretations, evaluations, and extrapolations made from them (including countless imaginary creations). To grasp much of this at any given moment is simply impossible. So, the conscious mind acts as a selective filter. It utilizes and relates aspects of the rest of the mind that are relevant at any specific time.
To be precise, we do not always consciously filter and utilize parts of the subconscious. The process may happen mostly automatically, without our direction. In fact, often we may lose track of where our conscious thoughts end and our subconscious input starts. This is most noticeable when performing tasks that do not involve step by step, explicit deliberation—such as driving a car, an athletic performance, playing a musical instrument, or even casual conversation. The skills we have automatized, or infused subconsciously, are allowed to operate.
Yet, subconscious input may be tied to specific emotions. This can further influence how we analyze particular situations or ideas. As we direct our conscious thought processes, then, we need to recognize the factors that can affect our thoughts and decisions. By choosing to do so, we can develop a greater awareness of our emotions. And, we are more likely to notice when we are using feelings to distort our thought processes. We are also more likely to notice when we are repressing certain feelings.
Interestingly, the cognitive mechanism that we use to repress feelings is also the one we use to keep out presently useless information. Information such as facts, figures, names, and memories of skills and procedures that could detract from the performance of particular mental and physical tasks is kept out of awareness. But, since we can repress material that is actually very important—such as significant experiences, feelings, and evaluations—the subconscious can be used also in maladaptive ways.
When failure and inefficacy are deemed unacceptable, we can also repress various thoughts and feelings that reflect badly on our abilities. Additionally, we may channel behavior away from activities that were initially thwarted, punished, or at which we simply faltered. A person might declare things such as “I don’t have the talent,” or “I’m not good at doing that.” As a consequence, one may avoid mind/life-expanding activities that seemingly pose large risks of failing. One may restrict behavior to only those activities at which one is proficient, and rely on this circumscribed ability for feelings of self-worth and self-esteem in general.
The many types of cognitive difficulties we can have are not simply innate mental deficiencies (contrary to what standardized intelligence tests would have people believe). Volitional organisms need to focus on the proper conceptual relationships required to gain knowledge and acquire skills. This must be done among a plethora of other, improper conceptual routes. At any time a person may get sidetracked on the wrong cognitive path. This says little about a person’s innate intelligence. It just points to where he or she (hopefully beginning in childhood) needs the proper information, practice, or encouragement. A more global type of self-confidence and self-esteem can be fostered as a result. (We will deal with these issues more in the next chapter.)
From birth onward, our mind collects data and turns it into information to store subconsciously. Early on as young children, awareness of the environment is our number-one priority. Far before we were conscious of it, our mind performed adaptive actions of integration by way of our sensory and perceptual faculties. Information was transformed into knowledge and arranged according to its apparent importance and relevance. With the indispensable help of language, we were able to name and hold concepts in memory as well as evaluate every event in our life by means of these concepts. Of course, much of this arranging and evaluating occurred subconsciously.
As our brains matured in the many months after we were born (forming more neural networks), our consciousness matured to a point at which we could keenly differentiate ourselves from everything else; we developed a refined sense of self-awareness. We then had the task of determining what our thoughts and feelings were (versus others), and what was part of the outside world—thereby developing a sense of objective reality. We also had the task of understanding ourselves and discovering our capabilities and limitations. As a result, we had the task of sorting out what we were responsible for, and what was not in our powers and outside of us. The people we encountered early in our life up to present day could either help or hinder these tasks. More importantly, they could show us how to best (or worst) approach the job of making sense of things.
Naturally, self-awareness poses a whole new set of challenges. It involves more than just observing the outside world and acting accordingly. Humans are literally self-generators and self-regulators. We are also self-evaluators, which presents a new array of psychological tasks.
We are not born with any ideas about these challenges. We have to acquire knowledge about how our mind functions and, hence, who we truly are as human beings. Sometimes, we can become frustrated, confused, or even bewildered by certain mental processes (as well as by the behavior or ideas of others). It can be easy to get lost in a daydream, distracted by a wandering imagination, upset by a feeling, and so on. Moreover, to explain one’s mental contents at any given moment can sometimes be complicated. We normally grasp whatever is in our conscious focus, while the rest remains in the periphery of awareness, subtly fading in and out, affecting our conscious focus in different ways and to varying degrees.
But ultimately we need to proceed with what we know. Logic helps us to know that we are correct. After all, the belief that we cannot discern the correct from the incorrect cannot be a correct belief (the fallacy of self-exclusion). Without understanding of the concept correct, we of course could not grasp the meaning of incorrect.
By realizing the process of noncontradictory identification, we can discover truth and determine what is valid and what is invalid. Logic is the great cleanser of all the possible confusion about our ideas, our assessments, and our feelings. In the following section, this most valuable asset will be explored further.
Identity And Causality, And The Use Of Logic
As stated earlier, the most basic concepts are axiomatic concepts. Consciousness, identity, and existence are implicit in everything we experience. Since we have dealt with the properties and aspects of consciousness extensively, we now turn to identity and existence. Doing so allows us to gain the broadest understanding of objective reality. Objective reality implies that consciousness is distinct from external reality. Thus, consciousness perceives objective reality; consciousness does not create it.80
Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the fundamental or underlying nature of entities or existence in general. Entities (as well as the energy derived from them) comprise the entire universe, which makes the term “universe” all-encompassing. Hence, the question “What is outside the universe?” is a nonsensical one, because the universe is everything.
Because logic is the method by which we identify reality in a noncontradictory fashion, we can apply it to whatever aspect of reality we want to scrutinize. In order to make logic fully understandable, though, we need to grasp the two most basic laws of reality involved in its use. These laws are tied directly to the Law of Non-Contradiction; essentially, the Law of Non-Contradiction follows from them.
The two fundamental laws of the universe are the Law of Identity and the Law of Causality. The Law of Identity was formalized by Aristotle and was clarified by Ayn Rand over 2,300 years later. In condensed form it means that A is A; A is not non-A.82 An entity can never be different than what it is, by virtue of what it is; it can never be itself and not itself. Entities are what they are—in accordance with their inherent actions, properties, attributes, and structure.
Every entity in the universe, including the innumerable relationships of these entities, has a certain identity. From its certain identity, an entity will act accordingly—which is the Law of Causality. An entity will behave only in ways consistent with its nature (its identity). Nothing will ever act in contradiction to its particular identity. For something to act in opposition to its nature is—metaphysically—impossible.
The laws of Identity and Causality obviously require each other: By determining what something is, we can determine what it will do; by observing what something does in relation to other entities, we can begin to grasp what it is. So, the two Laws are inseparable. One is always involved in the other. Necessarily, any attempt to deny or undermine either of these two fundamental laws is contradictory—it does not follow from valid reasoning, and it is an impossibility given the facts of reality.
All this may seem simplistic, somewhat like ordinary common sense. But applying and utilizing these laws in the realm of complex abstractions and psychological processes can be demanding. Logical epistemology, which involves the noncontradictory identification of concepts (especially in philosophical knowledge), depends on the two Laws. The laws of reality enable us to determine what can and cannot be validly claimed as fact, truth, and knowledge. Therefore, they enable us to attain certainty—which is important for scientific knowledge.
On account of this, we need to make a slight digression to address the state of modern science. Science today regularly endorses philosophical skepticism, not certainty. To be skeptical is to subject claims about human beings or nature to the scrutiny of scientific methods; before one can accept such claims, demonstration and empirical investigation are needed for validation. However, skepticism maintains that all scientific knowledge must be accepted on a provisional basis—because what is known about reality now may be overturned by future discoveries.
Granted, discoveries in science at times invalidate past hypotheses and theories. Sometimes our interpretations of reality may be flawed on account of various oversights, or our present conclusions may be tentative on account of limited available evidence. Yet this should imply nothing about objective reality. We can know for certain that objective reality will be the same in the future: it cannot contradict itself. Skepticism errs by confusing interpretations of reality (i.e., contextual scientific knowledge) with reality itself.
As a consequence, rather than recognizing logical metaphysics and epistemology, skepticism results in having to investigate every sort of postulate people make—in spite of what we already know about reality. Of course, science needs to investigate events of nature. A task of science is to discover things. When someone postulates an event concerning entities—also called existents—based on verifiable evidence or proof, it is definitely worthy of inspection. However, when someone claims an occurrence that defies the nature of the existents involved, a logical (and metaphysically untenable) problem arises.
Naturally, what is to be discovered by science must be in the realm of what is possible, given the identity and the causal relationships of the entities involved. Investigation of allegations of impossible phenomena is therefore unnecessary.
As an example in this matter, let us analyze claimed instances of the parapsychological (e.g., telepathy, clairvoyance, extrasensory perception, out-of-body experiences, precognition, psychokinesis, etc.) and the paranormal (e.g., spirits, ghosts, goblins, witches, warlocks, etc., including “miracles”). Scientists need to point out that these are overt denials of the laws of Identity and Causality.
The parapsychological and the paranormal are metaphysically impossible. They are not just physically improbable, or impossible “so far as we currently know.” Scientists need not continually endeavor to disprove all the various claims about these phenomena as they arise. The list of falsifiers and charlatans is far too long (although many sincere people make claims too).
In these matters, science must consult two absolutes: reality is what it is (i.e., things are what they are, act in accordance with this, and do not change on an ineffable whim); and, every concept must have a definite meaning in order to be valid (i.e., a logical definition specifying its distinguishing characteristic(s) from all other concepts). Reality is solid and knowable, and science’s goal is to show us that everything is explicable in some form or fashion.
Here, we will not pursue in detail the debate about atomic theory and some of the quantum theoretical views about the nature of matter (and the universe) being postulated today. Plainly, Newtonian physics is unable to explain subatomic events, and quantum mechanics is required for precise models. Yet, real existents and energy forces are involved. Since no contradictions can exist in reality, any apparent metaphysical conflicts in quantum theory are necessarily contradictions in conceptualizations, that is, problems in understanding the nature of the existents and processes involved.
With logic, let us briefly refute parapsychological phenomena, starting with mental telepathy. Being telepathic purportedly means that one can communicate without one’s senses. With a little inspection, the stolen concepts in this idea stand out. Communication in this context is defined as the transmission of meaning (be it perceptual or conceptual) to another living entity. This can only occur by some kind of sign or movement of the organism in such a way as to convey something. Necessarily, the only way a communication can be received is through the senses. Reception entails detection. And detection is the registering of an event by means of a sensory apparatus; the opposite of detection is to remain concealed, to not be registered.
This method of clarification emphasizes that concepts must be clearly defined and noncontradictory in order to be properly understood. Also, their proper referents in reality must be explained. To claim that thoughts can travel from one person to another without some form of sensory communication (note that the phrase “sensory communication” is redundant) is to reject the fact that thought is an attribute and process of the human brain. Thoughts arise from neural synapses via bioelectrical/chemical transfers among brain cells. By what means do telepathists proclaim that thoughts can travel through air molecules and enter the mind of another if they are not first transformed into language (elicited and received either by visual, auditory, tactile, or bodily, means)? Their answer is usually a quite mystical one: Blank out.
ESP (alleged perception without one’s senses) and clairvoyance (alleged perception of things beyond one’s senses) are just variations of such concept-stealing. They deny that the senses are the only means of acquiring percepts and then knowledge about reality—while they simultaneously rely on the senses to make the denial. ESP and clairvoyance dismiss reason as the process that identifies and integrates sensory and perceptual material.
So, given their definitions, both phenomena are invalid. We cannot sense things without our senses. As beings with finite and hence limited sensory mechanisms, we cannot directly sense many things (e.g., subatomic particles, infrared light, radio waves, microwaves, etc.). But we know that such things exist by virtue of the fact that we can sense them through indirect methods. People design instruments for indirect perception using their conceptual faculty in concert with their sensory-perceptual mechanisms.
Precognition (alleged perception of future experiences)—in the vernacular, being “psychic”—is yet another contradictory concept. In essence, it ignores the nature of time. Time is fundamentally the measurement of motion (of entities).81 Such measurement presupposes a standard of motion. A few specific standards of motion have been commonly used in civilization: two astronomical time scales—the orbit of Earth around the sun (ephemeris and solar time) and the apparent motion of a distant star (sidereal time); and, two more modern and accurate time-calculating inventions—the quartz crystal oscillator and the atomic clock (which is based on the microwave resonance of certain atoms in a magnetic field). Thus by these standards, we have microseconds, milliseconds, seconds, minutes, hours, etc.
The present is the current position things, and the past is the former position of things. The future is where all existents will be after a specified time (depending on their particular identities). Knowledge of the future position of existents can only be achieved through scientific prediction (based on analyses of past and present motions). One needs an understanding of the characteristics of the particular existents involved. Knowledge of the future thoughts and experiences of volitional beings, however, is incalculably more difficult. In most instances it is impossible. We cannot move ahead of time (in time) to acquire such knowledge of people’s futures. For the same reason, we cannot go back in time (in time) to acquire knowledge of the past (e.g., via a “time machine”). Both are illogical: either going backward in motion that has already happened, or going forward in motion that has yet to happen.
These conclusions may raise a few questions about the space-time continuum related to Einstein’s theory of relativity. Some scientists contend that “worm holes” connect black holes in space. From this, they postulate that one could theoretically travel through one and emerge in a former time. Assuming that such things as worm holes can and do exist and that alleged black holes give rise to them—and that one could remain physically intact during a journey through one—the idea of going “back in time” is of course metaphysically impossible.
Regardless of the standard of motion and one’s relative velocity, time always moves “forward” at some speed, which is to say that things are always in motion; time is merely the measurement of entities moving. If nothing moved anywhere in the universe, there would be no time (and perhaps, for that matter, no universe). Scientist Eric Lerner related his physics perspective on this subject:
So temporal irreversibility derives from system instability. But all real systems evolve so slowly that we can treat them as stable, but only abstract systems, isolated in our imagination from all other influences, can be absolutely stable. The problem of ‘reversible time,’ then, arises because scientists improperly abstract reality and believe their highly accurate equations to be absolutely, infinitely precise. It is reversible time that is subjective, an illusion, not irreversible time. The real world is continually coming into existence, created by an infinitely complex web of instabilities and interactions. As Prigogine [a Nobel prize-winning theorist] puts it, ‘Time is creation. The future is just not there.’54(p.321))
Probably only a small number of psychics have sufficiently studied the nature of their subject. An understanding of the concept of time might cause a few to rethink the credibility of their activities. Nonetheless, people continue to pay millions of dollars annually for psychic services. While some patrons may see psychic readings as just amusing fun (like horoscopes), many people are consciously or subconsciously looking for someone to give them answers. And, they are willing to believe a variety of outlandish claims in the process.
Psychokinesis (alleged movement of objects with only one’s mind) represents another variation of the idea that wishing will make it so. When we are unsatisfied with the limits nature places on us (due to our identity), we may long for this power. Just as thoughts themselves do not travel through air molecules, neither can they move external matter. Thoughts have certain causal properties that make them thoughts. That is why they are not cars, or elevators, or excavators, or dump trucks.
Out-of-body experiences and the large variety of alleged paranormal phenomena are further creations of individuals’ imaginations. Even though some experiences may be personally compelling, they still defy the Law of Identity and the Law of Causality. Again, the mind is the attribute of the brain, which is integrated with the body. It can only do certain things that its nature allows. Having an unbridled imagination is definitely one of these things. Angels, spirits, ghosts, goblins, witches, and warlocks may be important and interesting characters in fantasy or horror genre of films and books, but they have no place in reality as such. Alleging the actual existence of such things conflicts with what is real.
If such claims have a purpose, it does not involve clarity and scientific discovery. Rather, it involves obfuscation and disintegration of conceptualization. Whoever lends credence to these arbitrarily postulated phenomena is faced with the huge intellectual problem of incomprehensibility. These claims portray reality to be different than it is—something mysterious and unexplainable—especially at one’s whim.
A million dollars has been offered as a prize for those who can prove their allegations to James “The Amazing” Randi and his associates. Randi is a former magician who scientifically debunks alleged parapsychological and paranormal phenomena. The prize money will continue to collect interest, because such phenomena are impossible. And potential participants will continue to say that their powers cannot be subjected to Randi’s experimental biases (i.e., the rigors of the scientific method).
Entities cannot perform feats that defy reality. Future advances in nanotechnology notwithstanding, a boulder cannot turn into a tablecloth. A dog cannot sprout wings and fly. A television cannot turn into a pillow. A cow cannot jump over the moon.
Yet, skepticism holds that such events are astronomically improbable, but not impossible. It sometimes considers reality to be merely an amorphous, statistical flux of molecules—that is, a place where entities have no definite identity. A version of quantum theory following from the Heisenburg Uncertainty Principle, for instance, entertains the possibility (albeit a very remote one) that a person could dissolve and reappear somewhere else, or walk through a concrete wall. After all, a person is basically a conglomeration of atoms.
Ultimately, modern science needs to promote the fact that some things are an impossibility. Clearly if everything were possible, then the concept itself would make no sense. Possible is simply that which is not impossible. Scientist Carl Sagan had some important words on the topic of strange claims and the proper stance of science with regard to reality:
If I dream of being reunited with a dead parent or child, who is to tell me that it didn’t really happen? If I have a vision of myself floating in space looking down on the Earth, maybe I was really there; who are some scientists, who didn’t even share the experience, to tell me that it’s all in my head? If my religion teaches that it is the inalterable and inerrant word of God that the Universe is a few thousand years old, then scientists are being offensive and impious, as well as mistaken, when they claim it’s a few billion.
Irritatingly, science claims to set limits on what we can do, even in principle. Who says we can’t travel faster than light? They used to say that about sound, didn’t they? Who’s going to stop us, if we have really powerful instruments, from measuring the position and the momentum of an electron simultaneously? Why can’t we, if we’re very clever, build a perpetual motion machine ‘of the first kind’ (one that generates more energy than is supplied to it), or a perpetual motion machine ‘of the second kind’ (one that never runs down)? Who dares to set limits on human ingenuity?
In fact, Nature does. In fact, a fairly comprehensive and very brief statement of the laws of Nature, of how the Universe works, is contained in just such a list of prohibited acts. Tellingly, pseudoscience and superstition tend to recognize no constraints in Nature. Instead, ‘all things are possible.’ They promise a limitless production budget, however often their adherents have been disappointed and betrayed.92(p.270)
The metaphysical idea of Primacy of Consciousness resides in most parapsychological claims. This idea is basically the philosophical counterpart to the psychological theory of constructivism. It holds that consciousness creates reality; in a sense, “perception is creation.”
Granted, things are created in the mind by perception. But Primacy of Consciousness takes this observation an irreconcilable step further by claiming that all of reality is perception. This view therefore places no limitations on the mind, while disavowing the mind’s specific traits and attributes. As a consequence, those who conjure all sorts of incredible claims stand by them with a stubborn indifference to the facts. The “facts” are something they have designed to their own liking.
By understanding the laws of Identity and Causality, we can apply them to claims that should have been dismissed long ago. By trusting our judgment and heeding our own rational perceptions of reality, we can stop such claims from overtaking civilization like a mind-crippling plague. Exactly when a claim should be dismissed is determined both by the acquisition of broad philosophical concepts (e.g., Identity and Causality) and by specific scientific knowledge (e.g., knowledge of brain physiology or elementary physics). As scientific knowledge continues to expand, we will gain more insights about the entities under inspection. This will further augment our ability to determine what is in the realm of the possible (and impossible).
Philosophical thinking must determine the limits and validity of scientific endeavors, because only it can outline a logical epistemology. We all must clearly grasp the awesome fact that we live in a real reality (if one will excuse the tautology)—from which we will one day vanish forever. Fears about this vanishing need to be confronted. Otherwise, they can impel one to make reality incomprehensible, distort truth, and wish for mysterious dimensions to “other realities”—that is, to make the unreal real and the real unreal.
A main way to use the method of noncontradictory identification is to begin by examining one’s conscious ideas. From there, one can see how they are affecting feelings and actions. The fact always remains that contradictions are inherently anti-life both in thought and in action, to the extent that they are perpetuated and not corrected. Anti-life does not mean that a single contradiction, or even many, will kill a person. It simply means that contradictions tend to work against an individual’s well-being and psychological health when they are not examined and learned from. Since contradictions are misrepresentations of reality—be they introspective or extrospective, conscious or subconscious—they cannot enable us to survive. Instead of open more possibilities for our existence by making things comprehensible, they unavoidably work to narrow our view of things. They can create a situation in which undefined terms and unresolved conflicts are considered “the way life is.”
Of course, to have held no contradictory thoughts is impossible, because it would defy the nature of volition. Since we are born without any ideas about the world, many logical thoughts will not come automatically for us, especially those that are more complex (abstractions from abstractions, from still other abstractions). Unfortunately, our current culture of ideas and behavior does much to thwart the method of logic (e.g., by lending credence to parapsychological and paranormal phenomena).
Conceptualization is a hierarchical and expansive process. Life can be viewed as a gigantic learning process with various phases and stages, in which conceptual mistakes must come as naturally as correcting them. This by no means trivializes the nature of contradictions. Though the process of correcting them provides us benefit, if contradictions are held to be more important than the search for truth, then the mind begins to languish.
All contradictions start out as incorrect identifications or evaluations. For any number of reasons (cognitive, emotional, or experiential), a person can reach an incorrect conclusion. This is simple enough. As a normal part of the process of abstraction, one has to properly differentiate and relate units among a very large array of particulars and conceptual possibilities. Yet a crucial turning point is reached when one halts the logical process after a false conclusion has been reached, or proceeds without examining the error (building errors on top of errors). Soon, what began as simple mental mistakes can metamorphose into willful evasions or rationalizations to defend certain contradictory chains of thought.
This leads us back to the choice to concentrate on thoughts immediately recognized as implausible, in order to promote the practice of resolving contradictions. Yet this choice can be affected by how one feels about the situation—how one feels about changing ideas that seem to help or comfort, but have obviously deterred one from truth and new possibilities.
The comprehension of tens of thousands of words indicates that an individual has already done an extraordinary amount of logical thinking. Actually, we use logic on a daily basis. Identification of facts either at work or at leisure is virtually inescapable. Solving a mathematics problem, viewing an educational program, and even ordinary interaction with others, all involve noncontradictory identification. In this regard logic is somewhat all-encompassing. Many of these activities involve simple or basic abstractions. Logic can tend to lose its power, however, when concepts become more complex, and especially when ideas begin to take on a personal tone that touches on deeper parts of one’s self-concept. After this happens, emotions and the belief systems connected to them can start to short-circuit the logical process.
At any time we can decide to value truth, and therefore reality and our own life, enough to override our sometimes uncomfortable feelings about doing this. We can let rational thoughts annul mostly irrational subconscious thoughts. The degree to which we strive for self-respect, honesty, and courage will determine how far we go. As noted, because the mind is such a vast continent, aspects of one part of it may be easier to reflect on than others. Nevertheless, resolution of subconscious contradictions about who we think we are, what we think is possible to us, and what we think we are capable of, can definitely alter how we approach this internal continent.
Has the chosen persistence of contradictions been the key factor in retarding human development personally and socially? Or is this too simple? Should we say that complex psychological factors and processes within any person might encourage him or her to form and hold contradictions, which in turn can impede his or her development? Further, does the fundamental choice to use logic lead to a pattern that encourages enlightenment personally and politically? All of these questions ask us to use logic to sort out the correct from the incorrect. Ultimately logic empowers us to draw definite conclusions about the ideal and proper society.
Since we cannot logically identify and integrate reality automatically like a fictitious robot or Mr. Spock (or Commander Data) from Star Trek, we have to rely on our ability to focus diligently. By the way, the Star Trek character Spock (or his counterparts in the present Star Trek serials), displayed an inconsistent trait: If he were to logically and objectively integrate the meaning of his existence, he would have to evidence a pure joy in being alive (the sort of sense of life discussed in a later chapter).
As mentioned, a conceptual being must experience life as good for it physically. Emotions are tied to sensual experiences. A person must be capable of pleasurable feelings of some sort to encourage survival and maintain optimal psychological health. To portray the use of logic as an emotionally neutral, passionless, or impersonal practice is to overlook the value and purpose of this faculty—which is illogical. Contrary to typical dogma, the use of logic allows one to align oneself with reality and, thus, to experience uplifting emotions. In other words great emotions can be direct effects of the utilization of logic.
What happens when we relate the knowledge of the previous chapters to society at large—politically? How can we apply logic to human rights and form a political philosophy? As we employ the principles that Homo sapiens is the only species in the world that possesses rights, and the only way to violate these rights is by initiating force against them, we necessarily have to examine more closely the ever-present legal institution known as government.
The Nature Of Present Government
A prevalent idea in our culture is that governmental and political issues are more complex than issues on the individual level. Yet as we deal with society as a whole, the topics need not become more difficult and the opinions more obscure. Politics is not a realm for only the so-called experts to discuss. We each need a clear understanding of our social context. So at this point, we have to inquire about the nature of government.
In essential terms, any present form of government is a group of individuals that acts as an unsolicited agent of the people in a specific geographic area. This agent performs the duties assigned to it, usually by a constitution and various democratic processes. Typically, government’s duties are derived from a hodgepodge of traditional beliefs that include many unscrutinized philosophical assumptions (which will be explored shortly). Both common and statutory laws provide a formal basis for government’s functioning.
Any government (totalitarian or democratic) postures as the final legal authority in human relationships. Governments determine essentially what people residing within their geographic borders can and cannot do. They attempt to establish certain ethical and legal guidelines for the behavior of their citizens. Yet they often render themselves unable to differentiate ethical issues from legal issues. Oftentimes, they pass and enforce laws that try to restrict or direct behavior—irrespective of whether or not such behavior is, by objective standards, rights-respecting. This is supposedly done in order to keep society “under control” and cater to particular needs.
Actions involve (if only implicitly) moral decisions, that is, decisions that affect or have implications for one’s mental and/or physical well-being. A law that infringes on the rights of the individual is necessarily an attempt to run the life of the individual (i.e., an attempt to direct morality). Thus, criminal acts and governmental laws that infringe on individual rights can be logically viewed as controlling the inherent freedoms of the individual. In contrast, the invaluable activity of exacting justice represents the defense of individual rights. It upholds moral freedoms by preventing injustices.
Governmental control has regularly been viewed as the best way to ensure a civil society. Yet this tends to engender both compliant and rebellious attitudes. As a result, such attitudes lead typically to more regulatory measures, which come to be viewed as appropriate. Fostering a society of enlightened people is quite another matter. Primarily it involves treating human beings with respect (i.e., as their nature demands). Bakunin stated the following about the nature of government:
Its essence consists not in persuasion, but in command and compulsion…. [Government]…cannot conceal the fact that it is the legal maimer of our will, the constant negation of our liberty. Even when it commands the good, it makes valueless by commanding it; for every command slaps liberty in the face; as soon as the good is commanded, it is transformed into the evil in the eyes of the true (that is, human, by no means divine) morality, of the dignity of man, of liberty; for man’s liberty, morality, and dignity consist precisely in doing the good not because he is commanded to but because he recognizes it, wills it, and loves it.30(p.83)
Since childhood, we have been taught political ideas that defy logic in many respects. Possibly these ideas carry with them a secret hope by their disseminators that none will question the system, the system purportedly designed for everyone’s benefit. But we are not “everyone” and neither is anyone else. Regardless of the type of government or country, this is a reliable way to create intellectual dependency. Perfection of collectivistic thinking occurs when we do not desire to realize the nature of our dependency. Lesser perfection occurs when we argue and quibble about political nonessentials and minutiae, while overlooking the main ideas that have contributed to our predicament.
All of us were probably taught to take for granted that coercive government is necessary and proper for people to live together—and to overlook the coercive aspect. Because large populations and advanced economies have so many interactions and business activities, the potential for greater social problems and legal disagreements is augmented. However, we ought not draw the conclusion that we need even more government for things to operate smoothly.
Also, we need to question the idea that a governing body, which supposedly represents the people and their interests, is the best prescription for any society desiring to be civil. As in the book Lord of the Flies, we need to reflect on the nature of humans in relation to government. Briefly, this book is a story about a group of children who get stranded on a deserted island. In order to survive, they deem it necessary to form a kind of government with a designated hierarchy of leadership. Soon the system formed to protect the interests of the group becomes the children’s worst enemy. Horrible cruelty and vicious brutality eventually envelop their social system, until it becomes “every man for himself” and “survival of the fittest.”
Many draw the conclusion from this that somehow, in some way, human nature is flawed, and that the only way order can ever be maintained is by creating a better way of governing people. In this story, as in numerous others, the blame falls on human nature rather than on contradictory ideas. Where did the children get their ideas about devising a system of government? Obviously, they obtained them from the society from which they had been separated, the same social system that their parents and teachers had told them was required for tranquility and peaceful relations. The typical response in defense of “the system” is that in theory it works; we just have to be careful about applying it wrong. But a theory that produces bad results ought to be rejected. Naturally, a contradictory theory will yield bad results.
The popular assumption that a government should preside over civilization arises mainly from the idea that law and order would not exist without government. The underlying premise is that government has the right to determine the fate of people within its boundaries (i.e., to rule over those in a certain geographical area). Let us examine the salient implications of the law and order idea and see how much law and order government provides.
Government is a group of individuals designed by themselves, the people at large (the majority), or both, for the purpose of passing and enforcing laws of the country, state, county, or city. The services provided by government vary from country to country, but at a bare minimum usually include (in concert with headquarters and branch offices) police forces, law courts, and a military. Since government is the sole provider of these services, government holds a legalized monopoly on them.89 So, plainly, government acts as the involuntary agent of the populace. Governments are explicitly designed to deny any competition within their arbitrarily designated political and geographical boundaries. Those who disagree with this state of affairs have no alternative in their particular governed region.
Present and past governments share another key problem. Many of their laws are non-objective—that is, they are not validated by the process of logic and do not follow from the principles that ensure human survival. Since non-objective laws are not based on the method of determining truth, they cannot possibly uphold the fundamental principle of rights. Non-objective laws by definition violate people’s rights.
Every form of government must initiate force to maintain its non-objective laws. Force is permitted not to ordinary criminals (at least in principle), but instead to government itself. One can see what sort of double-standard this sets up in civilization: Governmentally declared criminals—a group consisting of violators of others’ rights as well as nonviolators of others’ rights (declared so by non-objective laws)—are to be penalized for their acts, while government is able to commit similar crimes (albeit on a far greater scale) without a question. Usually if there are any questions, they have little to do with the fundamental contradictions involved.
Probably no political contradiction is worse than the idea that aggression towards others is wrong for criminals but somehow moral and just for government. The foremost enactment of this is the method by which every government is currently able to function: taxation. If taxation were actually voluntary, it would not be a crime to prevent government from taking one’s property (viz., money).
Essentially, government provides services that have not been chosen by the recipients. Chosen services imply voluntary, contractual payment for them. Taxation does not involve voluntary, contractual payment for services rendered. Rather, it involves the imposition of governmental activities on individuals and the requirement of compensation for those activities.
A concrete example is in order. Suppose some people whom you neither know nor have solicited come to your house one day and begin repainting it, say in a different color. In spite of your initial questions about their actions and then your protests and demands for them to stop, they continue until the job is finished. (On the other hand, you could have tried to force them to stop and tried to make them leave. If you had done so, they would likely have responded—if you did not thwart them—by arresting you and locking you in a prison.)
Upon completion, the painters demand payment for their services. Actually, the cost does not really matter—it could even be “free”—because it still involves trespassing and meddling with your property. Nonetheless, they will not leave you alone until they have extracted payment from you. You rightly state that what they have done as well as what they are demanding is preposterous, and it is in violation of your inalienable rights (viz., to property).
Since you refuse to pay, they require you to go to court and face numerous fines and incarceration—on the grounds that you are in violation of their “rights” to your money. After attempting to explain the nature of your case in court and stating intransigently that you will not pay for (or accept) services for which you did not contract, the painters and their loyal subordinates proceed to take some of your possessions or seize your bank account and/or incarcerate you. What is their main explanation? The taking of your property—not to mention your time spent in this episode—is necessary for the common good.
Interestingly, the only “painters” who get by with this sort of theft are those called government. Of course, this means that some individuals are permitted to initiate force against others solely by virtue of the title they hold. Tucker put it this way many decades ago:
In the first place, all the acts of governments are indirectly invasive, because dependent upon the primary invasion called taxation….The very first act of the State, the compulsory assessment and collection of taxes, is itself an aggression, a violation of equal liberty, and, as such, vitiates every subsequent act, even those acts which would be purely defensive if paid for out of a treasury filled by voluntary contributions. How is it possible to sanction, under the law of equal liberty, the confiscation of a man’s earnings to pay for protection which he has not sought and does not desire?…To force a man to pay for the violation of his own liberty is indeed an addition of insult to injury.30(p.129)
Yet to keep its power, government endeavors to remain immune from accusations of criminal activities in a fundamental philosophical sense (not merely in terms of violating current statutes). Government seeks to retain an unfounded connotation of law and order. Of course, no rational justification can ever be made for this disregard of the facts of reality and human beings’ basic tools of survival.
Imagine the confusion created in the minds of children when they are taught that it is normal to accept contradictions of this magnitude. Soon, to not question the morality and function of government becomes a matter of psychological habit. The role of government is continually thrust into the “not to be questioned” realm of ideas. The terms “morality” and “justice” acquire such tenuous and vague meanings that eventually most minds give up the search for a clear sense of them. Usually what remains is the inarticulate and sometimes overwhelming feeling that something is wrong with society and strange about human relationships.
The words of anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon describe in detail what government has the power to do (depending on the laws it does or does not uphold and enforce). Although Proudhon held some highly contradictory political beliefs himself, his description here is rather timeless. It informs us of our responsibility to never misunderstand the ominous nature of coercive government:
To be governed is to be watched over, inspected, spied on, directed, legislated, regimented, closed in, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, assessed, evaluated, censored, commended; all by creatures that have neither the right, nor wisdom, nor virtue….To be governed means that at every move, operation, or transaction one is noted, registered, entered into a census, taxed, stamped, priced, assessed, patented, licensed, authorized, recommended, admonished, prevented, reformed, set right, corrected. Government means to be subjected to tribute, trained, ransomed, exploited, monopolized, extorted, pressured, mystified, robbed; all in the name of the public utility and the general good. Then, at the first sign of resistance or word of complaint, one is repressed, fined, despised, vexed, pursued, hustled, beaten up, garroted, imprisoned, shot, machine-gunned, judged, sentenced, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed, and to cap it all, ridiculed, mocked, outraged, and dishonored. That is government, that is its justice and its morality!…O human personality! How can it be that you have cowered in such subjection for sixty centuries?37(p.15)
Probably most people believe that the United States government’s policies should not be included in the majority of these depictions. After all, the United States was the first country ever to devise a bill of individual rights and a constitution of checks and balances. These documents were devised to ensure that government serves and protects people, rather than oppresses them.
As mentioned, the authors of these documents deserve enormous respect for what has been, so far, the greatest political achievement in the history of the human race: the Bill of Rights—even though it has been continually misconstrued and thus depreciated since its implementation.
However, the sort of government that exists presently is far different than the initial U.S. government. As noted by many present advocates of governmental reform, the degree of government’s encroachment on its citizens has greatly escalated over the last 200 years. Men such as Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, and Thomas Paine would likely be appalled about the present condition of politics. Perhaps they would be stunned to see how their ideas have been twisted, manipulated, and misinterpreted by all the power-hungry bureaucrats who have held political office and lobbyists who have pandered to them.
So, the all-important question arises: Where did it all go so wrong? Logical examination of the Constitution and related political documents enlightens us about the crack in the foundation of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
In addition to its immediate authorization of taxation on the public, the Constitution grants to government powers that no individual could ever legally possess—on account of their rights-infringing nature. Since aggression in human relationships destroys a rational being’s ability to function, the creation of laws that uphold this subhuman act are inherently flawed, regardless of their intent. Contrary to the Machiavellian principle “The end justifies the means,” the illogical initiation of force nullifies any end sought because it is a self-refuting means.
Again, Democracy, in which the majority rules and implements laws, represents a futile attempt to circumvent the immutable laws of nature. It says, in effect, “Might makes right.” The same applies to a democratically elected Republic such as the United States. Even though it seeks to create “a nation of laws, not of men,” law must be objective in order to uphold individual rights and prevent corruption.
Sanctioned aggression was the crack in the foundation of the Constitution. Once created, the task of securing individual rights became hopeless. “Rights” that were open for amendment to satisfy anyone’s contradictory vision of the just, moral, or needed replaced the absolutism of rights. Because of this, it was only a matter of time for the political system to erode and erase the however benevolent intentions of the Framers.
For the most part, the system of “checks and balances” was, at best, a weak inhibitor of tyranny. However, it did slow the process of decay. The creation of inherent functional inefficiencies and cumbersome decision-making abilities, coupled with usage of common law, restrained the power of the State. Corrupt power was not allowed to run rampant, as in dictatorships. Additionally, valuable policies and various good ideas were able to surface on a large and complex forum of debate. But this system also hindered people’s ability to see the roots of political problems and, hence, discover basic solutions.
Most of the thousands of intricate laws passed from one part of Congress to another, from one legislature to another, from one committee to another, from one debate to the next, from one vote to the next vote, have been merely variations on the same theme——treating human beings in an involuntary manner. Since such laws were non-objective from the start, they would be non-objective at the end when they were enforced. Even when brought to the judiciary system, their objectivity was not typically questioned. Mainly the “legality” of their essence or applications was interpreted (validated or invalidated, upheld or reformed) throughout the considerable array of state and federal courts. A few were given the final stamp of approval or disapproval by the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, although popularly held in high regard, has a long record of expedient and arbitrary rulings (majority as well as unanimous) over state laws. Many vague and inconsistent interpretations of constitutional amendments have also been bequeathed to the justice system and to the American public.
All these troubles merely reflect the contradictory nature of non-objective law. Instead of interpret laws from a logical perspective, the courts typically have judged whether or not they conform to the Constitution. Yet something declared “constitutional” may not necessarily be logical, and something declared “unconstitutional” may not necessarily be illogical. The Constitution has been used as a replacement for logical thinking involving adjudication of rights. It was problematic precisely because it did not (nor will it) fully respect the concept of rights. Since the government and its law courts have been, and still are, the largest violators of rights, their authority to make rulings concerning rights should have been held suspect from the beginning.
Although many view it as a contractual agreement between the populace and government, the Constitution of course cannot be considered a valid legal and binding contract. Only a handful of individuals signed the document a couple centuries ago. It certainly cannot have contractual validity for hundred of millions presently. Yet a trust is placed in the Constitution to be an upholder of rights. After all, a populace does need to outline and concretize its laws.
To have objective laws codified and written for people to embrace is helpful as well as necessary. The fundamental question concerns how such laws are established, and by whom. Since only individuals—not a coercive government—can own anything in the strict sense, only they can ensure peace and tranquility in their environment. The property that people own constitutes the domain on which they can enforce whatever personal rules they think are appropriate. Since infringement of the rights of others in this process would be contradictory, rules must involve informed consent; contractual relationships (both implicit and explicit) become the norm.
Property owners and those with whom they contract can therefore maintain law and order. They can devise a system of justice to uphold and protect individual rights—for ultimately, only each individual who understands the meaning of and reasons for rights can uphold them.
Nonetheless, many fervent and passive advocates of the Constitution overlook these observations. In No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority, Spooner scornfully distinguished three types of constitutional supporters. During his lifetime though, the nineteenth century, the scale of corruption was obviously much smaller:
The ostensible supporters of the Constitution, like the ostensible supporters of most other governments, are made up of three classes, viz.: 1. Knaves, a numerous and active class, who see in the government an instrument which they can use for their own aggrandizement or wealth. 2. Dupes——a large class, no doubt——each of whom, because he is allowed one voice out of millions in deciding what he may do with his own person and his own property, and because he is permitted to have the same voice in robbing, enslaving, and murdering others, that others have in robbing, enslaving, and murdering himself, is stupid enough to imagine that he is a ‘free man,’ a ‘sovereign’; that this is ‘a free government’; ‘a government of equal rights,’ ‘the best government on earth,’ and such like absurdities. 3. A class who have some appreciation of the evils of government, but either do not see how to get rid of them or do not choose to so far sacrifice their private interests as to give themselves seriously and earnestly to the work of making a change.98(p.16)
The rejoinder might be made, however, about the good intentions and effects of many laws that have been passed and enacted in society. One could say that many laws resulting from the Bill of Rights are both effective and beneficial. Could not, for instance, involuntary servitude laws, free speech laws, gun ownership laws, self-defense laws, and so forth, be viewed as ensuring rights and creating a society of fairness? But this is really epistemological stealing of the concepts of law and rights. Laws are designed to protect rights that we already possess by virtue of being human. Laws cannot create rights. Again, rights cannot be given to us as a privilege or favor, even though all governments that disregard them pretend to.
Since government-provided “rights” are likely to be undermined or even erased as time goes on, they usually are written down and established in law. Of course, such rights are also susceptible to a lot of misinterpretation. The framers of the Constitution were well aware of this dilemma, so they created the Ninth Amendment. It states: “The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.” Yet, the system supposedly designed to prevent rights from being erased is the same non-objective system that erases them (the image of the fox guarding the chicken coop comes to mind). Moreover, the various “rights” enacted by government are often granted to some at the expense of others.
Law and order are terms associated with government because it has chronically had a monopoly on the particular services catering to law and order. Government has normally been the sole agent for people in matters concerning their liberties. However, the idea of agency implies that one chooses another individual (or group of individuals) to act on one’s behalf and in one’s best interests. Government, being a coercive monopoly of select individuals (placed there by voting procedures), for all practical purposes nullifies the concept of agency.
The individuals in government are not voluntarily selected. Many gain positions through secret ballot (and others are, in turn, hired by them). Basically, an unseen majority selects agents for everyone, and it disregards what the minority desires. Such a process clearly denies the idea of personal contracts. Spooner assessed these practices in the following way:
This is the kind of government we have [speaking of a system of secrecy]; and it is the only one we are likely to have, until men are ready to say: We will consent to no Constitution, except such an one as we are neither ashamed nor afraid to sign; and we will authorize no government to do anything in our name which we are not willing to be personally responsible for.(p.30)
If any number of men, many or few, claim the right to govern the people of this country, let them make and sign an open compact with each other to do so. Let them thus make themselves individually known to those whom they propose to govern. And let them thus openly take the legitimate responsibility of their acts.98(ibid.)
Such statements appeal to the self-respect and responsibility of individuals. Most individuals in their private lives generally take responsibility for their actions. For instance, most would wince at the thought of breaking into someone’s home (or bank account) and taking a percentage of his or her possessions. Most would also be repulsed at the thought of clubbing a peaceful person over the head and holding him or her captive on account of not doing what was demanded.
On the other hand, most people do not seriously examine the propriety of various forms of taxation and coercive rules and regulations. In fact, most people steadfastly advocate such actions. Yet ironically, often much time and effort is spent “cheating” on taxes, for instance. This, of course, is where moral uncertainty generates irresponsibility.
For those in government, the matter of self-responsibility is just as vital. Government is by far the largest employer in the United States (not to mention in other countries). It has progressively increased its share of the job market, which definitely makes self-responsibility in the economic realm difficult. Many appealing financial opportunities and employment positions are connected to government, with which the so-called private sector cannot compare or compete. Even so, governmental employees need to be aware of the political contradictions that entail infringement of others’ rights—as well as the deleterious consequences of such contradictions. This would enable them to consider the real alternatives to the present system. To take full responsibility for one’s actions is to pass judgment when and where it is needed.
Self-responsibility relies on the conviction that one is both the voluntary creator and voluntary inhibitor of one’s actions. The correctness of one’s premises should determine whether or not one takes an action. Ultimately, one is responsible for one’s own actions, no matter what another person requests or offers. For instance, to act on a request to commit a crime makes one responsible for it—regardless of the intent or consequences. (Of course, this assumes that one is not brain damaged or mentally crippled in a way that diminishes or incapacitates volitional functioning.) In a trial, however, the level of intent (mens rea) determines the nature of criminal accountability. The perpetrator’s knowledge of the consequences of his or her action and the degree of recklessness or carelessness tied to that knowledge are factors to be considered in a court of law.
The military has provided numerous examples of what can happen when individuals shirk responsibility. Some of the worst improprieties and unspeakable atrocities known to the human race have resulted from following unquestioned “orders from above.” The factors involved in soldiers carrying out their ordered duties are certainly complex. Soldiers rely on contracts of trust in superiors to make competent and legal decisions. Yet such decisions often demand logical justification.
In any job, a person assumes responsibility for the activities performed. Part of one’s job is to become informed, instead of acting blindly. Thus, military soldiers need to be just as knowledgeable about the ramifications of their actions as military leaders.
The nature of justice demands it. This is all the more true in our world’s currently depraved socio-political context. Holding “war machines” accountable for heinousness is nonsensical, because those who take the actions are responsible—as are the persons who give the orders.
In general, government can be used by some as a shield that protects wrong actions. The anonymity of collective force directly diminishes both self-responsibility and personal accountability. Yet wrongdoing is often rationalized. Be it individual or political, it is typically painted in the best light possible——in order to seem either right or unintentional. Persons may try to make themselves oblivious to internal and external signals warning them of contradictory activities.
Those in government are no less human than the rest of our species. They are just involved in the destructive nature of a coercive system. Government really offers a mixed bag of services; some are logical, while some are contradictory. Still, many of the services they offer use retaliatory force to defend individual rights.
Rights-respecting services must be in the range of choice for the individual. But choice is not a concept to which government by nature is friendly. Real and whole people welcome choice. Independent and sovereign minds can think and judge for themselves. Indeed, to consider ourselves capable of making choices on this fundamental level is to resolve many contradictions and internal problems. Such an attitude can only broaden our horizons and expand our possibilities.
Let us explore further what acceptance of coercive government entails. Government decides for citizens what is right or wrong, legal or illegal, through the Constitution and laws of the rulers. Citizens are supposed to be placated by being allowed to vote for these rulers, who in turn appoint their own servants. The implication is that people outside the governmental group are incapable of making important decisions to provide for their well-being—incapable of choosing what is right for them. Most laws will be decided arbitrarily by the governmental group and enforced by them, because only they are capable or good enough to devise such laws. The implication is that people outside the group cannot think for themselves on such matters and draw sound conclusions.
The governmental group then contends that they must deal with people by force in order to achieve ends sought by themselves or by the majority. In other words, people are to be treated as means to other people’s ends, as sacrificial animals—not as human beings. The implication is that people outside the governmental group are not capable of beneficial self-regulation and are unable to function properly in reality—unless they are continually beaten over the head with a club (both figuratively and actually).
Ironically, the Constitution requires governmental officials to include themselves in the system designed for everyone else—the supposed society of incompetents. If all of the above were true, why would those in government contradict their ideas by allowing themselves to also be governed by government? By admitting that they are the same as everyone else, the following query arises: If people need to be governed in principle, then who governs the governors?
Caring about contradictions is not likely to be on the governmental system’s agenda. Spooner stated the following about one of Homo sapiens’ greatest contradictions:
The truth was that the government was in peril, solely because it was not fit to exist. It, and the State governments—all but parts of one and the same system—were rotten with tyranny and crime.(p.72)
…It is clearly time for the people of this country to inquire what constitutions and governments are good for, and whether they (the people) have any natural right, as human beings, to live for themselves, or only for a few conspirators, swindlers, usurpers, robbers, and tyrants, who employ lawmakers, judges, etc., to do their villainous work upon their fellow-men.98(p.80)
Since human beings cannot change their nature, all are fundamentally the same (regardless of how they look, think, or behave); they all possess a rational faculty. What they choose to do with this faculty might make them quite different from each other, but that does not change their fundamental nature.
Fundamentally then, do people need other people to govern them? Do people need to be forced to accept the choices of others concerning their rights? Do people need to be forced to do things “for their own good,” or “for the common good”? Do people need to be treated in an involuntary manner? Do people need to be taken care of, no matter at whose expense? To be sure, the issues here are metaphysical, moral, and psychological, not merely political.
Regardless of our circumstances and of all the possible ways we can be impaired, the principle remains. Forcing peaceful individuals to behave in desired ways is contradictory. Even if we are in a condition that requires physical or mental assistance in order to survive (which incidentally happens to be the case of every child), we have no right to use force. In reality, all the preceding about fundamental human incompetence, weakness, and iniquity becomes self-fulfilling prophecy for those who agree with it, whatever their motivations. Certainly, to treat people essentially as unreasoning animals does not encourage moral behavior. We have already noted that contradictions by nature do not work. They will always be psychologically and existentially destructive.
Capitalism And Current Political Views
Now that we have examined government in greater detail, we can scrutinize dominant themes and political viewpoints tied to it. All of these ideologies take place in a market of human interaction of course—an economic system. While most believe that the United States has a capitalistic economic system, the term “capitalism” requires a good deal of clarification.
Capitalism is briefly defined in the Oxford American Dictionary as an economy in which trade and industry are controlled by private owners. In regard to property, the term “private owners” is basically a redundancy, on account of the fact that public property is basically a contradiction in terms. In order to own anything, one must have an identity—that is, be a specific person. The term “public” deceptively means “everyone”—without any specific identity allowing one to use and/or dispose of property as the owner(s) sees fit. Again, ownership is an individual affair, however large the group of contracted individuals. This thereby facilitates absolute rights to the property at hand.
“Trade and industry” are meant to encompass the actions between human beings. Trade involves material as well as spiritual values. Exchanging and offering things of value, such as ideas, physical products, or services—all lie in the realm of trade. Industry depicts the modern technological era in which complex productivity that involves specialization and division of labor is the norm.
Notice that the above definition for capitalism makes no mention of the type, or even the existence, of government. However, it does imply that economic situations exist in which private owners do not control trade and industry. In actuality, nowhere in Homo sapiens’ past or present can one find an example of real capitalism.
Classical Liberalism of the nineteenth century in America is the closest human beings have come to unchaining themselves from coercive government. Even then, however, government ran its enterprises on extorted wealth (i.e., taxation). And, in addition to many personal infringements during this period, larger businesses were already gaining from government more aid and regulations biased in their favor.61 Though the U.S. government subsequently grew too large and intrusive to be considered a Classical Liberal system, a revival in Classical Liberal ideas is now occurring in America.
The main section of the Libertarian Party has an agenda that upholds the essential principles of Classical Liberalism. Its presidential candidate, Harry Browne, promotes a well-outlined set of policies that would reduce government to its real Constitutional limits (as intended by the Framers). Additionally, many current Libertarian “think tanks,” such as the Cato Institute, can be classified as advocates of limited government and more individual liberty—definitely vast improvements over status quo policy institutes.
The Libertarian agenda provides a strategic interim base from which to achieve a noncontradictory political system. At this point, though, certain philosophical inconsistencies among its proponents remain in the background. Libertarianism’s proponents actually can be divided into three ideological classes: those advocating limited government funded through minimal taxation (i.e., a Classical Liberal system); those advocating limited government funded through voluntary contributions (i.e., a Laissez-faire capitalistic system); and lastly, those advocating free market justice services instead of government (i.e., an Anarcho-capitalistic system).
Obviously, these differing viewpoints need to be logically scrutinized. Since the next section will analyze Laissez-faire Capitalism in detail, and subsequent sections will analyze Anarcho-capitalism (in this book called Self-Governing Capitalism), we will now further inspect the system designed by the Framers.
As noted, Classical Liberalism contains a fatal flaw—it permits the initiation of force by government (taxation being merely one example). A sample of modern Classical Liberal thought was outlined by political theorist Milton Friedman:
Our principles offer no hard and fast line how far it is appropriate to use government to accomplish jointly what it is difficult or impossible for us to accomplish separately through strictly voluntary exchange. In any particular case of proposed intervention, we must make up a balance sheet, listing separately the advantages and disadvantages.31(p.32)
Such reasoning represents philosophical pragmatism, which means doing what “works,” despite possible violation of logical principles (e.g., of morality). Pragmatic thinking permeates many aspects of our culture. The moral and the practical are sometimes considered to be mutually exclusive. Ethical contradictions aside, fabrication of a balance sheet to determine the pros and cons of using initiatory force is an affront to human dignity—even with the best of intentions or to achieve possibly otherwise unreachable ends.
Rights are simply not at the disposal of a “well-meaning” bureaucrat or the populace. At base, liberty is not open for debate. When government decides to use coercion to help others, it has forgotten the real meaning of human liberty. Another statement by Friedman reveals this:
The need for government in these respects arises because absolute freedom is impossible. However attractive anarchy may be as a philosophy, it is not feasible in a world of imperfect men. Men’s freedoms can conflict, and when they do, one man’s freedom must be limited to preserve another’s—as a Supreme Court Justice once put it, ‘My freedom to move my fist must be limited by the proximity of your chin.’31(p.25)
Unfortunately, a world of imperfect men can be immortalized by way of such a view, a world of men who resort to government to cure their ills (and create many more). Here we need a specific definition for “freedom.” Freedom, as a political concept, depends on the concept of rights. By having inalienable rights enacted each human being is free. This necessarily entails not infringing on the rights of others; one can never be “free” to take away the freedom of others. Absolute freedom is ensured not by limiting freedom, but by protecting it. Therefore, absolute freedom means having absolute rights. They are basically one and the same.
Though Classical Liberalism is, again, a better system than those in existence, it differs only in degree. Governmental intervention and violation of rights still remain. Currently in any part of the world, one can find social systems that pay lip service to freedom of trade and industry. But with minor inspection, these so-called free systems reveal themselves for what they are: economies ruled by the State. What we have in the United States today is an economy that contains many aspects of Fascism and Socialism—in sum, a Semi-Fascist Welfare-State.
The government allows people to own and run businesses (although not all) while it controls aspects of the profits, spending, investment, supply and distribution, prices, and many other management practices. In addition, thousands of laws against more personal freedoms are enforced on a daily basis. Just as devastating is the fact that government controls the primary medium of exchange in the market system, the standard of value for goods and services traded between individuals—money.
In this country and throughout the world, children as well as adults are taught that capitalism means any kind of market situation in which goods and services are traded. The restrictions present in the market—regulations, levies, tariffs, taxes, duties, directives, subsidies, special favors, and exclusive privileges—are barely mentioned. Clearly, one can begin to understand why the world is in its present condition, at least from a politico-economic perspective.
So embedded do ideas about basic human ineptitude and iniquity become, that most view coercive forms of government as necessary. The monstrous contradictions involved are casually brushed aside. Impositions are commonly defended with the idea that the market simply cannot operate properly without them. While the ideas of total social planning and pervasive welfare systems are running thinner today, they are far from dying out. The ethical behavior of the market—the morality of the market—still remains in question. Overwhelming evidence has shown people the effectiveness and efficiency of the market; the responsive forces of supply and demand are undeniable. Yet such evidence needs to be viewed with logical principles in order to be ethically convincing.
Even though the market is the place in which people voluntarily exchange values, some view it in other terms. Some make remarks about an “evil profit motive,” “selfish greed” of businessmen, “unfair” distribution of wealth, and “immoral” actions of citizens. Flaws in the system are seen as residing with others and rarely with self. Of course, by making it a battle between “my good nature” and “their bad nature,” one never need address more fundamental and personal issues of psychology and philosophy.
The common criticism is that capitalism is practical but not moral; it may work fine in terms of economics, but it fails in the realm of treating people fairly and with compassion. Let us define our terms in this context. “Practical” is defined as that which works, and “moral” is defined as that which is good. As mentioned, individual life is the ultimate standard of value. If the good is that which benefits individuals, and what works is that which achieves of the good, then something practical should be that which is moral. Accordingly, something moral should be that which is practical. Obviously, those who reject the capitalistic economy on “moral” grounds do not have the welfare of individuals in mind. If they do, then they are entertaining a large ethical contradiction.
As noted, fairness and compassion are not created by the negation of rights. In any discussion, definition of the concepts and types of actions involved is critical. Running on what feels right or simply what one uncritically believes often produces contradictory results. Before one can consider something good or bad, one must determine what that something is (i.e., understand the nature of what is being judged). Even though feelings are tremendously useful indicators, one still needs to logically identify their nature. The Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises commented on the arguments for socialistic systems:
…People do not ask for socialism because they know that socialism will improve their conditions, and they do not reject capitalism because they know that it is a system prejudicial to their interests. They are socialists because they believe that socialism will improve their conditions, and they hate capitalism because they believe that it harms them. They are socialists because they are blinded by envy and ignorance.64(p.46)
Mistaken philosophical premises play a large part in these views. Such premises enable the exchange of rational values to be seen as wrong or immoral. They enable denunciation of the only system capable of creating enormous amounts of capital, which raises everyone’s standard of living (many times over those in communistic systems). Mistaken philosophical premises also enable criticism of large-scale production of goods and services that conveniently and cheaply take care of most existential needs—beyond the wildest imaginations of primitive people (or even past kings for that matter).
Some of these premises are indeed the result of today’s tremendously distorted capitalistic system. The two ever-thriving political parties, Democratic and Republican, create many of the problems with the current system. They are part and parcel of the maintenance of irrational premises. The Democratic Party, often associated with being a “Liberal,” advocates more freedom of trade in the mental realm (e.g., more freedom of personal choice and expression); freedom of trade in the material realm, however, should be controlled to a greater degree (e.g., more restrictions, regulations, and taxes on businesses).
In order to obtain a developmental and historical perspective of this attitude, we turn to the words of advocate of freedom R.A. Childs Jr.:
According to the liberal, in the nineteenth century there was an individualistic social system in the United States, which, when left unchecked, led inevitably to the ‘strong’ using the forces of a free market to smash and subdue the ‘weak,’ by building gigantic, monopolistic industrial enterprises which dominated and controlled the life of the nation. Then, as this centralization proceeded to snowball, the ‘public’ awoke to its impending subjugation at the hands of these monopolistic businessmen. The public was stirred by the injustice of it all and demanded reform, whereupon altruistic and far-seeing politicians moved quickly to smash the monopolists with antitrust laws and other regulations of the economy, on behalf of the ever-suffering ‘little man’ who was saved thereby from certain doom. Thus did the American government squash the greedy monopolists and restore competition, equality of opportunity and the like, which was perishing in the unregulated laissez-faire free market economy. Thus did the American state act to save both freedom and capitalism.61(p.217)
Probably many of us have encountered similar notions more than once in our academic experiences. Such emotional propaganda is taught to millions of adolescents in high schools and colleges. Among other things, it is designed to rationalize the current corrupt state of affairs. Politicians and lobbyists utilize it to continue enhancing their own positions at the expense of justice and rights. Yet such misinformation appeals to those who feel they have little control over their purchases and employment.
The idea that big businesses engage in concerted efforts to chain customers to particular products and services is simply an impossibility under true capitalism—that is, where there is no coercion. Only by virtue of the State can businesses coercively control their markets and disrupt a competitive economy.77 Apparently, some would rather blame the voluntary actions of others for society’s problems, rather than the forceful actions of governments and their abettors.
Alternatively, the Republican Party, often associated with being a “Conservative,” advocates more freedom of trade in the material realm (e.g., less taxation, less regulation of businesses, less bureaucracy—supposedly); freedom of trade in the mental realm, however, should be controlled to a greater degree (e.g., harsher laws against certain personal choices and “socially unacceptable” behavior).
Since conservatism concedes the same premise as liberalism—permission of initiatory force—it merely differs in the degree to which the material realm should be controlled; the same can be said for the spiritual realm. The two ideologies just have different versions of “the good.” This is why Republicans (or Conservatives) sometimes charge Democrats (or Liberals) with stealing their agenda whenever the latter advocate cuts in programs and reductions in bureaucracy. Democrats, in comparison, sometimes accuse Republicans of being less moral, because the latter (at times) may favor less governmental welfare programs and less taxation on wealthy, productive (so-called greedy) members of society.
Nevertheless, in principle both viewpoints are the same political philosophy. Both favor illogical laws and regulation of capitalism, albeit in vaguely different ways. Any distinctions tend to be superficial and illusory. Neither one allows absolute freedom in all realms of trade among consenting individuals.
Democrats tend to see governmental impositions as a way to bring “fairness” to the marketplace. Republicans tend to see governmental impositions as a way to bring “morality” to the marketplace. In either case, they attempt to impose their particular moral and economic values on the marketplace; everyone has to conform to their supposedly proper viewpoints.
No matter what goals one has for people or society, example and persuasion are the only ways to espouse values (regardless of their rationality). Forcing people who disagree or are ambivalent is completely wrong. Only when someone’s rights have been violated is force allowable (which, of course, is retaliatory force).
An example of trying to force one’s morality on the marketplace concerns the issue of abortion. Fortunately, the Supreme Court has rightly judged abortion to be legal. Every woman has dominion over her own body and, hence, physiology. Since a fetus is tied to and part of a woman’s body, it is in her domain.
Nonetheless, abortion is controversial for certain reasons. The fetus comes to resemble an actual baby during its development, so some believe that it should have rights of its own, able to be violated. Yet one cannot reverse cause and effect by saying that a fetus has a “right” to a woman’s body and a “right” to life, for rights can only reside in the creator of rights, the woman. The dividing line between rights and non-rights is not fertilization of an ovum. Nor is it any other particular stage in fetal development. A zygote and all its subsequent amazing transformations cannot have rights that supersede the rights of the individual in which it transforms.
Despite claims that abortion is murder, murder by definition can only be done to an actual person, not a fetus. Certainly, doctors who perform abortions are highly aware of the ethical issues. Competent physicians attempt to act in the best interests of those who seek their services. When a woman decides, or a physician recommends, aborting a fetus in the later stages of development, the health of the woman is usually at stake. If the fetus can remain viable outside the womb, anyone is free to take responsibility for it. Viability outside the womb basically determines the right to life. While this issue will undoubtedly become more complex as medical technology progresses (for instance, enabling younger fetuses to remain viable outside the womb), the rights of the woman will always remain.
As some individuals strive to institute rights for the embryo or fetus, they may ignore the existential, developmental, and psychological contexts of potential mothers. To force a woman into motherhood (or into a dangerous black market abortion) is definitely not compassionate, let alone logical or legal. If one’s goals are to prevent unwanted pregnancies and to ensure the birth of healthy babies with physically and psychologically healthy mothers, one must uphold the right of individuals to choose their own destinies. Additionally, one must believe that human beings naturally desire to see life flourish—which must start with their own adult lives.
Force is currently used in the United States in thousands of ways to achieve allegedly otherwise unachievable ends. A prominent and emotionally charged example is discrimination laws, or rather, “anti-discrimination” laws. Government requires property owners (i.e., businesspersons and employers) to cater to all individuals equally (e.g., those with any type of genetic lineage, physical appearance, age, anatomical structure, and so on—the list is practically endless).
Essentially, if one can posture as a victim, one can use the barbaric methods of government to make others (viz., employers) provide for oneself. This appears to be the political version of the parental intimidation technique, “You will do this because I say you will do this.” But victim is a legal concept requiring a perpetrator who initiates force in some form. Being denied employment has nothing to do with rights infringement.
Anti-discrimination laws disregard that employers have the right to do what they want with their property—in this case, to decide who works with them and for how long, as well as who patronizes their establishments. If employers fail to select individuals based on their particular merit, employers are the ones who lose; people will work and shop elsewhere.
Why would one desire—through legal mandate—to work with someone who entertains particular inane prejudices? Maybe on account of feelings of injured self-worth after being treated unreasonably. Usually this self-worth has been sought in all the wrong places (everywhere but the mind), and so it hangs in the balance of others’ decisions and actions.
Those who seek fair treatment typically do not reflect on the real legal nature of the supposed wrong. They may contend that the whole process of punishing employers and their businesses is carried on in the name of “liberty.” Yet such laws are by nature anti-liberty. They incapacitate a property owner’s sovereign right to choose. Even when others perceive an owner’s choices as unpalatable, rights must still be honored. Again, no other rights are possible when property rights are not upheld.
One who enters a work contract with any particular property owner (i.e., any business enterprise), by definition does so voluntarily. Having the sovereign right to choose in this matter plainly does not entail the “right” to work with any employer not agreeing to the relationship. Unless stipulated otherwise in the contract, one does not have the “right” to be treated “fairly,” or even the “right” to have a “non-hostile” work environment. Such situations usually have nothing to do with physical violence or threat of force, but rather with general disrespect. One especially does not have the “right” not to be fired (at any time or for any reason). This corresponds to being able to quit employment (at any time for any reason). People are not slaves.
All these false rights simply represent the desires and wishes of people. Even though many of them are probably well intentioned, one thing is certain: Wishes will not come true by forcing them to come true. This just precludes hope for a better, saner, social environment, because force is insanity incarnate.
In the end, both Liberal and Conservative views bypass the distinctively human method of survival and tragically choose the inhuman one, the method that destroys one’s right to decide. One cannot correctly declare a right to one’s actions when they involve violation of the rights of others. To destroy the source of rights—the choosing mind—is not a right.
When force is seen as the most appropriate way to deal with people, liberty quickly becomes an equivocation. Rand noted the hypocrisy in Liberal and Conservative proclamations on behalf of liberty:
We stand for freedom, say both groups——and proceed to declare what kind of controls, regulation, coercion, taxes, and ‘sacrifices’ they would impose, what arbitrary powers they would demand, what ‘social gains’ they would hand out to various groups, without specifying from what other groups these ‘gains’ would be expropriated. Neither of them cares to admit that government control of a country’s economy—any kind or degree of such control, by any group, for any purpose whatsoever—rests on the basic principle of statism, the principle that man’s life belongs to the state. A mixed economy is merely a semi-socialized economy—which means: a semi-enslaved society—which means: a country torn by irreconcilable contradictions, in the process of gradual disintegration.77(p.192)
When individuals since early childhood continually see people treated as means to other people’s ends, they might conclude that this is natural. They might conclude that they do not have a full right to the wealth they have created and the future wealth they seek; instead, they may feel guilty about amassing it and then give it away in the name of philanthropy. They might believe that they do not have a right to their happiness and achievements without thinking they have somehow violated or harmed other people. They might think that “service to the customer” is the main validation for running a business; they might render the idea of productive achievement a lesser value. They might even feel that groveling and pandering are good ways to attract customers. They might conclude that to deny their interests is actually in their best interest. They might routinely focus on the interests of others, while those others perform the same act of self-denial. They might think that they are just one person among many; who are they to assert their personal desires and ideas? Who are they to stand by their judgment and declare that human beings have certain inalienable rights, one of which is to not be sacrificed for the “common good” or the “general welfare”?
When people have grown up constantly seeing fallacies treated as facts, contradictions ignored, and the effects of these practices strewn all over television, radio, newspaper, and the Internet on a daily basis, they might conclude that human nature will always have a wicked and dark side. They might conclude that, for the most part, trusting a stranger with anything personal will always be an impossibility; they might conclude that having to put locks on every possession and alarms in every house and vehicle will always be a necessary part of living among others. They might determine that values are relative and that one should never question the value systems and beliefs of others. They might think that everyone has a different cultural background, tradition, and different needs; consequently, people will never be united by common truths about the facts of reality (and their subsequent love of life); hence, laws need to be made accordingly to solve the “imbalances” these beliefs present.
They might think that government’s duty is to serve as Robin Hood by stealing from the rich, the not-so-rich, and the poor, in order to give (some of) the money back in a “better” fashion. They might think that to use government as a tool to care for the “needs” of society is proper; they might even feel a bit of righteousness as they complete their tax forms, while still pursuing their more “selfish” interests. They might conclude that the only way people will be generous, benevolent, and have goodwill is by way of coercion; they might conclude that intimidation and fear are the primary methods of “moral persuasion.” They might decide that the only way to get ahead in the world is not by being sacrificed to others but, rather, by sacrificing others to self; they might conclude that in this competitive world (i.e., “the rat race”) the “nice guy” finishes last (for he is frequently the sacrificee caught in this psychological paradigm).
Finally, people might conclude that there are no absolute truths, logical principles, rational codes of morality, and noncontradictory ideas. Thus, they might believe that endeavoring to truly and permanently remedy the current existential situation is both futile and foolish—futile because “human nature” can’t be changed, and foolish because “people” will never allow anything different to develop. They might instead believe that the best we can do is address the currently prevalent issues and problems—such as the homeless, infrastructure deterioration, urban sprawl, low wages among workers (and the “appropriate” legislated minimum wage), various minority “rights,” illegal immigration, corporate downsizing (and “excessive” CEO salaries), teenage pregnancy and abortion, school violence, drug abuse, discrimination and sexual harassment, the “national” debt, etc., etc.—while specifically disregarding any wider abstractions (i.e., principles) involved.
Accordingly, the news media ritually takes polls and conducts surveys in this climate. But the emotional state of most participants is usually not conducive to intellectual clarity. Feelings of apathy, emptiness, confusion, defensiveness, indignation, contempt, and anxiety, typically affect the forum. Such emotions can perpetuate the whole process and cause debate to degenerate into misguided criticisms of personal, economic, or political vicissitudes.
In these matters, we need to distinguish the essentials from the nonessentials. We need to grasp what beneficial human relationships entail (and why). Capitalism need not become an equivocation, and society need not lose its vision of what is possible.
Laissez-faire, A More Enlightened View Of Capitalism—And Its Contradictions
With knowledge of our present political conditions, we now address the only governmental system that has plausibility: Laissez-faire capitalism. As one might know, the French phrase laissez-faire (literally “let do”) means let people do as they please, especially in economic matters. Necessarily, the entity that is being told to keep from meddling in the affairs of the people is government.
Laissez-faire capitalism means a free market system that has a totally voluntarily funded government; taxation is ruled out, on account of its coercive nature. Government is instituted to ensure that justice is served and rights are protected from potential violators within the country’s boundaries and from foreigners. Thus, citizens acquire a new right: the “right” to have their rights protected by someone else. In this situation, the guaranteed protector of rights is monopolistic government.
Government would consist essentially of a military, a police force, and law institutions. Selection of employees for these services is not thoroughly outlined. Perhaps it would follow the U.S. Constitution’s procedures; a voting system of majority rules might be used, and then the elected officials would appoint assistants.
Laissez-faire does not firmly establish how the country’s boundaries would be determined in the free market area. Since everything would be privately owned, such determination might be left to all the various property owners. Of course if unanimity were not reached, the problem of a severed country and consequently a severed government would present itself. Because this outcome is unacceptable to Laissez-faire, most likely either the majority of property owners would determine the boundaries, or governmental officials would (following the Constitution again).
As stated, government would ask for voluntary donations in order to function and provide its services. One would have the choice to make contributions, but not the choice to seek governmental services elsewhere—unless one moved to a location with a different government, that is, to a different country (where one would still face the same situation). This obviously creates a “free-rider” problem. Some individuals may decide not to pay for the government’s services. Although some writers have tried to resolve this problem, it proves irresolvable.
By putting discretionary use of retaliatory force in the possession of one group—government—Laissez-faire capitalism supposedly ensures objective authority. Government is deemed the ultimate arbitrator of disputes. Political theorist Robert Nozick described it this way:
Presumably what drives people to use the state’s system of justice is the issue of ultimate enforcement. Only the state can enforce a judgment against the will of one of the parties. For the state does not allow anyone else to enforce another system’s judgment. So in any dispute in which both parties cannot agree upon a method of settlement, or in any dispute in which one party does not trust another to abide by the decision…the parties who wish their claims put into effect will have no recourse permitted by the state’s legal system other than to use that very legal system.(p.14)
A state claims a monopoly on deciding who may use force when; it says that only it may decide who may use force and under what conditions; it reserves to itself the sole right to pass on the legitimacy and permissibility of any use of force within its boundaries; furthermore it claims the right to punish all those who violate its claimed monopoly.69(p.23)
So, citizens would be essentially forced to use the services of this one group regardless of how poor, corrupt, wasteful, inefficient—and hence expensive—they are. Any business student who has done his or her homework knows that a legalized monopoly (i.e., a monopoly in which laws protect it from competition) has serious economic consequences. It will never provide the best service or product at the lowest price possible in a free market. In terms of moral consequences, though, any legalized monopoly will always commit injustice by its use of governmental force to keep others out of the market. When that force is used for its very own perpetuation—that is, when government itself is the monopoly—we witness a double crime.
But Laissez-faire holds that people are not forced to choose this state of affairs. Government is considered not to be in violation of rights because it is devised to protect them. Laissez-faire maintains that government is in a class by itself—the class that protects rights. Further, government offers its services in a voluntary manner—that is, one can choose not to have one’s rights protected by this monopoly of protection.
Who could claim the right to choose someone other than the “supreme” adjudicator of rights? Such a choice, according to Laissez-faire, would be equivalent to defying authority—supposed “objective” authority. This form of the State also contends that the term monopoly only applies to the market. Because the services of government are considered in a different class, they are thought to be exempt from market scrutiny.
Ostensibly, this system is for the people’s own good, because Laissez-faire maintains that the idea of “competing governments” is incompatible with objective law. Therefore, those who proceed to offer similar services that enforce the fundamentals of human freedom and the inviolateness of individual rights should immediately be declared frauds and criminals. Because the State postures as the final authority on all matters of right and wrong, legal and illegal, only it is allowed to convict people of fraud and criminality. In order to prevent others from encroaching on governmental domain, any newly formed “criminals” must be immediately forced to stop their actions, and their customers must be considered criminals too. Thus Laissez-faire coercively establishes a monopolized court of final appeal.
Necessarily, the Laissez-faire system of politics begins to fall apart in the bright light of logic. Logic is still needed to properly apply the basic political premise of non-initiation of force. Determination of the final, noncontradictory political system for human beings on planet Earth (and wherever else we may venture) demands the use of logic.
Let us examine the meaning of objective law under the Laissez-faire system. Objective law can only occur by examining the facts of existence and making judgments accordingly. Two facts of existence are that human beings have a volitional capacity and a right to exist as they see fit (while respecting the rights of others). Therefore, any individual or group of individuals must be able to choose any other individual or group of individuals to serve as a rights-protecting agent—to ensure that the right to exist (and all it entails) is not diminished.
Indisputably, in an advanced civilization individuals would prefer to hire professionals in the service of justice; it would be immensely more convenient and effective for citizens. Citizens could dedicate their time and resources to fields of work that truly interested them, and professional agents would be objective third parties. Such professional third parties could validate and objectify the circumstances of any incident or contract, as well as make a resolution legally binding and publicly known.
The principle here is the freedom to delegate one’s right to exact justice—making sure that the facts of reality are not betrayed. While one could personally try to correct whatever wrong had been done based on the right to self-defense and the laws of justice, such an action (depending on the situation) might not be in one’s best interests. As mentioned, one could not publicly objectify the conflict. And, one might not be able to prove who was, in fact, innocent or guilty or liable. A professional third party competing in the market of dispute resolution and restitution would be more capable.
Under any system of justice, we have to scrutinize the idea of someone else protecting our rights—and what this demands of such an agent, as well as this agent’s rights.
No person or government has the right to forcibly act as an agent for another person or persons, for this would be the master/slave relationship. An agent not voluntarily chosen is a contradiction. By claiming a certain geographical area all to its own, government holds sovereign dominion over people—even if it asks for payment instead of demands it.
The notion of national boundaries constituting monopolistic governments exposes more of the problems of Laissez-faire. As noted, the borders for various potential Laissez-faire countries would be drawn either by unanimity among property owners, or by government. Of course, contracts among individual property owners are violated when government (through official decree or majority vote of property owners)determines the “country.” The rights of the minority of dissenters are not upheld because an unsolicited government is imposed on them.
If a group of property owners were all to agree about a particular monopoly of force, the size of it would likely be small. Due to the nature of knowledge acquisition and decision-making, widespread agreement concerning such services would be enormously difficult to achieve. Whenever someone decided against such a monopolistic government, however, he or she would have every right to establish or utilize another professional service of justice.
As a legal concept, what does “country” mean? In the presently confused condition of politics, it means an area where a distinctive government and its non-objective laws dominate. But, in a Laissez-faire society, a country would represent an area where logical, objective laws of a single government preside. Consequently, laws in various Laissez-faire societies would be basically the same. They all would reflect the use of logic—at least up to the point of the concept of Laissez-faire itself. No basic difference would exist between governments, for all supposedly act as upholders of justice. Therefore, the idea that no more than one organization (here no more than one government) can properly uphold justice is invalid.
Furthermore, the idea that no more than one organization can uphold justice in the same area is called into direct question. That a single government must have sole jurisdiction and must be the final arbiter among a population simply defies logic. Such a notion even defies how the presently corrupt system operates. In any dispute or conflict, for example, somecourt has to take the case. The question is: Which one? In the United States, the judicial branch of government has multitudes of court systems. Each has the task of determining which system should hear certain cases. Although the Supreme Court is commonly thought to be the “final court of appeal,” it judges only a fraction of the particular cases that were screened for review, which were drawn from a larger pile of cases still.
In the United States, residents of the various states are involved in commerce that is governed by differing laws of cities, counties, and other states (as well as other countries). Yet people usually are able to conform to these numerous jurisdictions and abide by the laws of other areas in which they travel and do business. When they encounter conflicts or commit crimes, they may be subject to different police and different courts depending on the zone of occurrence. And ironically, these laws and organizations are quite far from being either objective or consistent (or accountable to the consumer). Few of the laws in the assorted states have been devised and enforced in accordance with a rational moral code of individual rights (i.e., a proper code of justice).
In spite of these facts, Laissez-faire still asserts that “competing governments” within any country will always encounter or provoke irreconcilable conflicts. Of course, this also means that various governments throughout the world (Laissez-faire or otherwise) must inexorably conflict—for they are competing too, albeit on a wider scale. In other words, conflict and war are inevitable.
Should we then have a one-world government instead? Or better yet, a one-galaxy government, or best of all, a one-universe government? Such an idea does not deal with the main premise and problem of statism: unsolicited and forced agency. Although disagreements are inevitable under any political system, war and violent conflicts are not. By perpetuating monopolistic government, the statist ideology merely avoids dealing with issues of rights and justice.
Any system of government raises questions about its composition and functions. Since government is simply an institution that coercively claims the sole “right” to govern, it is inherently contradictory. Individuals govern themselves. Individuals have the right to choose whom they want to protect their rights. Their choices cannot be made for them by force—in the case of Laissez-faire society, by virtue of their place of residence. Mere geography ought not mandate who provides justice services.
The idea that governmental services are somehow exempt from natural market consequences also needs to be examined. Even though they involve (among many other tasks) the use of retaliatory force, they are still services. Incidentally, the degree of integrity of the individuals working in government is not, in principle, important. Even if they were the most virtuous individuals in the world, they still would be operating within a contradictory political system.
How people should treat each other is important. Should it be by force or by voluntary means, by authoritarian measures or by freedom of choice? The words of advocate of absolute freedom Jarret B. Wollstein are succinct here:
There is nothing necessary or moral about a limited government. What defines the morality and practicality of any organization of retaliatory force in a free society is not whether its agencies are one or many, but whether they are just and objective. A ‘social monopoly of retaliatory force’ whose existence depends upon the initiation of force is worse than a contradiction in terms—it is an epistemological absurdity.103(p.17)
This leads us to another very important question. Who determines the concept of rights and the corresponding laws of justice in a society? Does the government or do the individuals in the populace? Herein lies the main basis for Laissez-faire government: By legalizing a monopoly on its services, it can keep centralized control and “objectivity” in an arbitrarily selected geographic area. Naturally, this implies that the individuals in the populace are incapable of determining what is proper. Only those with the title “government” (sanctioned by the majority of voters) are proficient enough to interpret the fundamental principle of rights. The general public is considered unqualified to implement the non-initiation of force principle.
Hence, the capitalistic market cannot be relied on or trusted to form the correct legal system. Individuals should not be allowed the foundational choice to entrust their rights to someone they think is reputable. Do not these imperious declarations eerily remind one of all the collectivistic and statist systems that we have studied? All of them result in the subordination the individual mind and judgment to the group and the rulers.
The main psychological premise for monopolistic government apparently is that people cannot be trusted. Yet, even if this were true, those in government would have to be distrusted too. Though some might believe single government keeps untrustworthy people in check and oneself safeguarded, it merely begs the question. The real problem is not with people. It is with the system itself.
Even though human beings can choose to act differently at any time, free will does not make them undependable or untrustworthy. Such a view of human nature would imply that happiness, integrity, and justice are not sought and maintained for greatly beneficial reasons, but rather on a whim.
Since those in government are certainly part of the populace, we can conclude that laws arise from the commonly accepted principles of human conduct—what is thought permissible and impermissible. Obviously, devastating legal repercussions result when humanity lacks knowledge of human nature. Logical explanation of the fundamental characteristics and faculties of human beings is crucial.
The particular form of government is an inescapable consequence of the basic thoughts and mentalities in a culture. It is merely a reflection of the dominant ideas in a society—its political beliefs, its ethics, its psychology, and so forth. Ideas outline the form, role, and existence of government. So, under the weight of logical analysis by an enlightened populace, even the best-intentioned Laissez-faire government would eventually fall to pieces. The mistaken ideas about the nature of government and the nature of laws would be recognized.
But some theorists take a backdoor approach to the Laissez-faire system. They contend that competing agencies of justice—rather than remaining diverse and in the same area—would eventually form into one unified State agency. This would produce a monopoly in any given area. Though competing agencies are allowed to exist, they nonetheless cannot or will not occupy the same geographical area; a State monopoly is therefore most feasible. Political theorist Tibor Machan wrote about this scenario:
So it appears that the nature of the service implies some type of geographical homogeneity among the areas to be serviced by the agent that is hired to protect human rights. The same goes for preserving human rights. In this case the courts which would hear cases of dispute would have to be accessible to those who have employed them. By breaking up the area served by each court and each police unit, the identification of the violation of human rights and the corresponding enforcement of the remedies would be rendered impossible; that is, without violating the rights of those not party to the relationship between citizen and government, the government (Rothbard’s defense agency [speaking of Murray Rothbard, a proponent of competing agencies]) could not function for the citizenry.(p.149)
One can call this a defense agency system if one likes, but it would still be true that the only moral means by which people could delegate to others the authority to protect and preserve their human rights is by uniting into homogeneous human communities, with one legal system per community, administered by a given ‘firm’ or government.60(p.150)
Such a system supposedly seeks to do away with challenging issues of different agencies (being in the business of instituting justice) and their various clients (the seekers of justice) potentially not agreeing with each other. Yet, it simply raises more questions. For instance, who devises such a system, and how does one attain unanimous consent of property owners? As Wollstein stated, such agencies must be just and objective. They have no right to exclude other justice agencies from the market. Today’s monopolized governments certainly give sufficient indication of the scale of incompetence and corruption that can be foisted on citizens.
One must also take into account the implications of the fact that everything is privately owned in a capitalistic market. This includes the services that justice agencies offer. Excluding logically patented property, monopolization can remain viable only in two ways: when government prevents others from entering the market (a coercive monopoly), or when prices are so low and the product or service so good that no one else can gain a competitive foothold (a market monopoly). In the latter instance, if prices rise or the service or product becomes less desirable, other enterprises may offer their products or services; this is one of the basic principles of the law of supply and demand.
The contention that every person in a “homogeneous” area will choose the same justice agency is simply unfounded. It runs counter to a free market. A person seeking a certain agent cannot inhibit another (by virtue of mere geographic proximity) from seeking a different agent. The nature of contracts allows this freedom. And likewise, an agent operating in one area cannot inhibit a different agent from operating in the same area. However, this is commonly done today to property owners through, for example, governmental zoning. Zoning laws clearly are instruments of force. In contrast, voluntary covenants among real estate owners, which sometimes give rise to “gated communities,” are rights-respecting. All community members agree to certain policies and rules. Conceivably, they could also agree to a specific police and court system.
Yet even gated communities cannot insulate themselves from issues of justice. Anyone has the right, based on a rational moral code, to ensure that objective laws remain so. Additionally, other agencies have the right, based on the principles of justice, to pursue alleged criminals (just as government does today). Naturally, disagreements would occur among agencies concerning jurisdiction and enforcement. However, since they would be agencies of retaliatory force—not initiatory force—such disagreements would be settled peaceably.
Enlightened people and a free market would encourage competition (or the possibility of it) not so much to foster honesty and scrupulousness (although these tend to be beneficial byproducts). Competition provides a continuous contrast and comparison of business perspectives. Each customer and area is essentially a different business context. Competition also keeps a constant check on prices, so that a business does not isolate itself. A free market presents a wide variety of supply and demand avenues and resources, which affect cost alternatives.
We should keep in mind that businesses are not in the business of “competing.” Rather, businesses create and maintain values. Since the implementation of justice is the paramount political value in a free society, businesses will provide accordingly. The nature of individual rights grants them this capacity.
Yet many Laissez-faire supporters believe that if no final and sole authority is present to uphold rights and enforce laws, individuals would take law into their own hands, or violent inter-agency conflicts would erupt. They believe that society would degenerate into chaos or mass vigilantism reminiscent of stories of the Wild West.76 In a sense, to forecast that competing agencies of retaliatory force will do battle with each other is to lack trust in human beings to do what is just. If one cannot be confident about others, one cannot be confident specifically about those in government either. As mentioned, the problem is not with people; it is with the system. A monopolized State, no matter how minimal, does not fully respect individual rights.
Even in today’s political world, government is not what keeps most individuals on a daily basis from killing and maiming each other, or from defrauding each other, or from breaking agreements and violating contracts. Rather, people’s basic premises about human relationships do. Contrary to statist ideologies, the declared legality or illegality of an act does not determine the conduct of people. Conduct is determined by people’s views of such an act as well as its consequences for self and others. Laws serve to outline and reinforce particular political consequences.
Yet again, some maintain that, instead of being forced on the people, single government must arise inevitably out of a market of competing agencies. Nozick wrote about this:
Out of anarchy, pressed by spontaneous groupings, mutual-protection associations, division of labor, market pressures, economies of scale, and rational self-interest there arises something very much resembling a minimal state or a group of geographically distinct minimal states. Why is this market different from all other markets? Why would a virtual monopoly arise in this market without the government intervention that elsewhere creates and maintains it? The worth of the product purchased, protection against others, is relative: it depends upon how strong the others are. Yet unlike other goods that are comparatively evaluated, maximal competing protective services cannot coexist; the nature of the service brings different agencies not only into competition for customers’ patronage, but also into violent conflict with each other. Also, since the worth of the less than maximal product declines disproportionately with the number who purchase the maximal product, customers will not stably settle for the lesser good, and competing companies are caught in a declining spiral.69(p.16)
We have already addressed many of these ideas, of course. These agencies provide services that involve the implementation and enforcement of justice. Customers necessarily would judge the proficiency or “strength” of such services, and make decisions accordingly. But it does not follow that businesses that institute justice cannot coexist, and further that they will violently conflict. Under capitalism both customers and businesses would seek justice. To project onto them the behavior of an unprincipled person who seeks to accomplish injustice in his dealings with others is misguided. An enlightened populace would not tolerate such behavior. Defying rational principles is simply too costly—economically and psychologically.
In today’s monopolistic systems of force, the scale of corruption and injustice is immense precisely because no alternative systems of justice exist. Though greatly effective and beneficial, the widely-used enterprises of private arbitration and mediation function within a contradictory political context. Government is still the final authority with regard to the law.
As a result, unprincipled people readily bribe or make deals with those in government. They try to evade wrongdoing and obtain what they want at the expense of more law-abiding and respectful people. Coercive monopolies will always lead to injustices, and monopolies of retaliatory force will lose sight of justice when they are coercively imposed.
Rather than cause violent conflict, competition enables the most reputable agencies to exist and coexist. To do otherwise is to lose business. Such agencies profit by being fair and reasonable, not irrational. Again, it is not government—or even agencies—that creates justice, but rather the premises of individuals desiring it. Other than in the case of a temporary market monopoly, various people in the same city or region would not all do business with the same company forevermore. Such a notion would be contrary to basic knowledge of economics.
Moreover, a temporary market monopoly is unlikely, due to the multifaceted nature of justice services. In fact to monopolize any market in the service industry is nearly impossible. Most temporary market monopolies that have existed have been of products (such as ALCOA aluminum).
In market monopolies, initial capital investment for others is too high and the efficiency and prices of the current business cannot be matched (thus yielding little profit for new companies). Still, others usually begin to offer alternatives. Products of different composition or design or with new functions may catch the attention of consumers. For instance, though many have described Microsoft Corporation as a market monopoly, it is not. The important fact is that Microsoft has competitors actively seeking to gain market share. If the company becomes less efficient, less customer-oriented, and its products more expensive or less functional, it will lose its strong competitive position (and maybe even fall by the wayside).
Lastly, some advocates of Laissez-faire might say that the notion of competitive justice services is a moral issue, not an economic one, because it involves the use of force. Certainly, they are correct. But no contradiction should exist between the two. To say that these agencies will be fraught with irreconcilable conflicts among each other is to entertain some major fallacies about human nature. This, in short, represents the moral/psychological issue of obedience over autonomy, or subjugation over choice: The omnipotent State demands obedience; hence, there can be no “conflicts,” because no one can disagree with the “ultimate” arbiter of disputes. Mindless people who unquestioningly accept the judgment of others are what any State seeks. It does not seek justice.
Justice agencies would arise because psychologically healthy people want to reach agreement and continue stable and fulfilling relationships; such values are in their self-interest. To see strangers as potential enemies not to be trusted and dealt with in a benevolent fashion is the stance of the xenophobe—which incidentally is the kind of person that governments (inadvertently or otherwise) spend much of their energy cultivating throughout the world.
If individuals cannot come to an agreement on their own, their recourse should be any person or institution that will assist them in finding agreement by applying the laws of justice. In such situations, either of the two individual’s justice agencies could handle the case. However, if neither individual desired the other’s court to have final jurisdiction, then they would either appeal the judgment or refer the case at the outset to an outside court. Either this court would have final say on the matter, or another appeals process would be devised.
Alleged criminals would face the same situation. No individual would be immune from principles of justice. Objective law plainly does not require the consent of an alleged violator of rights in order to be administered. Hence, no individual could prevent immediate or outside courts from administering justice—for that would be a double crime, and dealt with accordingly. Of course, rational due process would ensure that rights are protected—and if violated, restored.
Jurisdiction of objective law courts must stem from contracts to enforce the principles by which people live safely, peacefully, and intelligently. Justice agencies would operate voluntarily with the will of individuals doing business with them. Government courts, in contrast, maintain their jurisdiction by forcing it on the populace—regardless of the rationality of their judgments or the size of the dissenting minority.
Law courts of the future will be concerned with defending and upholding individual rights. This necessarily includes the rights and responsibilities of individuals who have contracted with other justice agencies. Anything else would be contradictory.
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