The Historical Societal Problem

Different political systems have been espoused and enacted far into human history. Most constructed societies that benefited a few at the expense of many, but some tried to be beneficial and generous to everyone. A study of history books reveals that the former was often sought under the guise of the latter. Many political systems were proposed and propagated with ulterior motives, by members of the populace as well as the typical component of these systems: the State. By inspecting the origins of formalized political systems, we can begin to understand the intentions of them in psychological terms (hence the inexorable effects of psychology on politics). To do this, however, we must first turn to explanations of how civilizations arose and developed.

Material progress of the human race through innovation is scattered throughout history, over the course of thousands of years. Often an innovation made in one place did not take hold elsewhere for hundreds or even thousands of years (if it took hold at all). So, for the individual, very little change was observed, unless one happened to live during a time and in a place of a remarkable invention—for instance, the creation of the wheel in the Middle East some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago. Compared to what we in developed countries witness today, it was certainly progress at a snail’s pace. Of course, philosophical and psychological innovation was another matter; it had an even slower pace.

Toward the end of the Neolithic period (the late Stone Age), about 10,000 years ago, human beings used more refined stone tools and pottery. Most importantly, they also began to use animals to do work and provide sustenance. In certain geographical regions, people made a key transition from a hunting and gathering way of life to a food-producing way of life. The breeding of livestock and the growing of varieties of plants yielded many advantages over the former way of life. In addition to the obvious utilitarian benefits, the extended seasonal nature of ranching and agriculture broadened people’s outlook. They gradually developed greater understanding of the importance of time because their scope of mental focus now involved long range planning.18

Initially, nomads and farmers in small camps undertook these activities. They harvested wild grains and utilized domesticated animals such as dogs and sheep. The actual sowing of seeds along with the use of other animals, such as goats and pigs, gradually followed. The use of irrigation and more permanent dwellings arose also. Finally, the first civilization was formed (by some accounts) approximately 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia.51

Such marked progressions allowed for the unparalleled production and storage of mass surpluses of goods. This ensured survival and well-being much farther into the future. The formation of communities that stored and exchanged vital supplies created large marketplaces for goods and services.

In addition, communication (and innovation) accelerated especially with written language. Prior to the creation of an alphabet, the oldest known writing occurred about 5,500 years ago. It consisted of pictures and impressions that could stand for whole trains of thought and that could represent all sorts of concepts. This was eventually supplanted by cuneiform script, which was somewhat more precise but still lacked the communication capability of a language with a written alphabet.

An alphabet was first created roughly 3,500 years ago by people in the Middle East (present-day Syria and Palestine) with outside influences by peoples of Egypt, Babylon, and others. The novel idea was to have one sound for each sign, facilitating efficient use of phonemes.27 (As we can see with the English alphabet, the possible combinations of vowels and consonants yield thousands of words. Nevertheless, humans had to wait until roughly 500 years ago for mass transfer of knowledge to take place, which was when the printing press was invented.85 Yet even then, the vast majority of humankind did not (and still do not) have access to the materials by which to learn to read and write.)

While the advantages of the new ways of life in civilization were many, some unfortunately led to potentially greater social problems—ones more destructive than those previous. Surpluses of goods and increasing populations invited a new form of barbarity. With the end of the Stone Age, the Bronze and Iron ages arose, yielding more effective implements for agricultural, domestic and commercial use—and also for war. What followed for millennia up to present day was a variety of dynasties, dominions, reigns, and conquests too numerous to mention.

Formerly with bands, tribes, and to a lesser extent chiefdoms (which were more structured and hierarchical in social order), much of the fighting had been smaller feuds. Though hostility and revengeful tactics and raids of reprisal were widespread, large-scale wars could not be sustained in primitive economies. Further, the actual conquest of other domains was not usually practiced because societies were relatively unproductive (thus having little to offer the conquerors).95 However, larger resource-rich communities offered greater reasons for violence. As Historian J.H. Plumb put it:

Loot was no longer merely women and hunting-grounds, but citadels, treasure and, above all, the labour of peasants. Since the very dawn of civilization, war—with its concomitants—plague, famine, and devastation—has been woven closely into the fabric of human society. And this, too, has influenced the growth of societies in remarkable ways. Societies bent on war need not only specialized, or partly specialized, castes or classes to wage it, but also a heightened consciousness of their social group, a self-identification with a cause or a God, to strengthen resolve for the final personal sacrifice. Ideologies are contemporaneous with the sickle and the sword. Courage is easier with belief and so is labour. And so religion was needed not only to explain and sanctify by ritual the mysteries of fertility but also to provide both social discipline, social consciousness and social aggression. From this time war and belief were linked for humanity’s torment.18(p.24)

It is ironic that beneficial economic changes have generated such terrible societal outgrowths. Wars and their “concomitants” have basically destroyed the very structures and practices that give people life and well-being.

Yet to say that people are naturally driven by such things as greed, hatred, and power over others—a variation of Freud’s “aggressive instinct”—is to overlook the crucial factors. Having outlined the nature of Homo sapiens thus far alerts us to the contradictions in such cynical attributions. Ultimately, they assist in rationalizing past (and present) behavior. In many parts of the world today, conditions are not much different (as the news media often vividly reveals). Only the weapons and technologies changed much—which, coupled with population increases, enabled the slaughter of tens of millions during the last century alone.

The plain fact is that humans are animals quite capable of making life far more difficult than it ought to be. With the capacity to make life wonderfully positive comes the capacity to make life an incredibly torturous hell. Our species has frequently succeeded in cultivating the latter.

With the formation of civilization came the formation of the State, a ruling body of persons that presided over and controlled the affairs of the people. Since civilizations had more people and surpluses of goods, some individuals thought it convenient and in their interests to govern these new enterprises. This governing was often in exchange for services such as the construction and maintenance of “public works” and the formation of a military. The State protected the people from foreigners who possibly wanted to conquer civilizations for the wealth they provided.19

Branches of the obedient military could now be used to enforce the laws and edicts of the rulers to accomplish various ends. Rulers often kept the military loyal by providing them particular benefits and maintaining collectivistic ideologies. Political theorist Albert Jay Nock wrote of the obedient military attitude:

An army on the march has no philosophy; it views itself as a creature of the moment. It does not rationalize conduct except in terms of an immediate end. As Tennyson observed, there is a pretty strict official understanding against its doing so; ‘theirs not to reason why.’ Emotionalizing conduct is another matter, and the more of it the better; it is encouraged by a whole elaborate paraphernalia of showy etiquette, flags, music, uniforms, decorations, and careful cultivation of a very special sort of comradery. In every relation to ‘the reason of the thing,’ however—in the ability and eagerness, as Plato puts it, ‘to see things as they are’—the mentality of an army on the march is merely so much delayed adolescence; it remains persistently, incorrigibly and notoriously infantile.68(p.27)

The formation of the State required more than an unthinking military. The creation of conflicts, and at the same time unified beliefs and goals, were necessary to form governing bodies—for example, different classes, different castes, different enemies, promised safety and protection, sense of community, desire for someone to lead, and the like. High concentrations of people augmented threats of (or desires for) external conquest and, accordingly, the need for internal development and cohesiveness.

On account of States arising from many complex societal conditions, they have taken many forms. As scholar on the subject Lawrence Krader stated, “There have been and are city-states, empire-states, theocratic-states, tribal-consanguineal states, nation-states, centralized states, and decentralized states; autocratic, oligarchic, and democratic states; states stratified by class, caste, and social estate.”49(p.4)

Although primitive humans often squelched autonomy and discouraged new thinking, more “civilized” humans in positions of power used others as expendable parts for evil schemes. Slavery became a way to get various projects accomplished and needs met. Thus, the desires of some were fulfilled at the expense of the dignity of others. Others were treated as means to particular ends (i.e., as sacrificial animals).

Those not enslaved were still relegated to a subordinate role, now to the “interests of the community”—meaning interests of the State. Many lived as peasants under the influence of various empires, kingdoms, fiefdoms, and manorial systems. In exchange for “protection,” they paid their “dues” by providing goods and services.96

Obviously, many aspects of these new societies were no step forward in psychological and political progress. Even though such societies assisted in the promotion of more trade-based and industrial methods, which facilitated economic progress, often the scale of massacre and misery was a hundredfold. Political theorist Murray Rothbard commented on the “black and unprecedented record of the State through history:

no combination of private marauders can possibly begin to match the state’s unremitting record of theft, confiscation, oppression, and mass murder. No collection of Mafia or private bank robbers can begin to compare with all the Hiroshimas, Dresdens, and Lidices and their analogues through the history of mankind.62(p.55)

As mentioned, with the advent of civilization, new orthodox religions formed. They were often utilized by states, monarchs, and emperors to advance destruction. Now enemies were to be crushed, states were to be conquered, lands were to be seized, communities were to be obliterated, and individuals were to be snuffed-out, with the supposed moral backing of the “Will of God” (hence during Medieval Christendom, the notion of the “Holy Wars”).

One could paint romantic pictures about the cultural diversity and so-called interesting ways of life of various peoples throughout the history of civilization. But this would miss the essential characteristic of these societies: rule by the force of the State. As Bakunin wrote:

…all the history of ancient and modern States is nothing more than a series of revolting crimes; why present and past kings and ministers of all times and of all countries—statesmen, diplomats, bureaucrats, and warriors—if judged from the point of view of simple morality and human justice, deserve a thousand times the gallows or penal servitude.63(p.141)

The primary crime that constitutes the very nature of the State consists of using force to attain certain ends. The State’s constant plundering of other countries, communities, and civilizations went hand in hand and was funded by the plundering of its own people. The idea that people belonged to the State was more actual than figurative. While individuals were typically not allowed to use physical force against others in their communities, the State thought nothing of it. “Crime” was a term ascribed by the State only to actions of individual citizens who did such things as murder, rape, and steal. Bakunin pointed out this longstanding legal inconsistency:

What is permitted to the State is forbidden to the individual. Such is the maxim of all governments. Machiavelli said it, and history as well as the practice of all contemporary governments bear him out on that point. Crime is the necessary condition of the very existence of the State, and it therefore constitutes its exclusive monopoly, from which it follows that the individual who dares commit a crime is guilty in a two-fold sense: first, he is guilty against human conscience, and, above all, he is guilty against the State in arrogating to himself one of its most precious privileges.63(p.141)

We might recall an earlier section that discussed the use of force as being an inherently anti-social act. Whether it is used in a primitive tribe or in an advanced civilization, aggression is still inimical to human life and to social interactions. Even though the State disregards the truth of the matter, aggression is no less destructive when declared “legal.” Nock noted of the workings of the State as follows: “The State is not…a social institution administered in an anti-social way. It is an anti-social institution, administered in the only way an anti-social institution can be administered, and by the kind of person who, in the nature of things, is best adapted to such service.”68(p.183)

Yet for various psychological and physical reasons people tolerated such harmful forms of government. Many throughout history grew up not knowing (and not learning) any differently; they matured not knowing the value of their individual minds and persons. A few probably had some vision of how things could be, of what possibilities could be open to them—if only they could rid their lives of tyranny.

By inspecting the developmental side of social organization, we can see why society has been the way it has; we can see how the mentality that drives social dependence is formed. Indeed, the factors that contribute to the genesis and function of both the tribal mentality (collectivism) and of statism are still very active in civilization.

How The Will Gets Weakened

Since ancient times, in exchange for living in the group, people regularly had to abide by the rules of the group. One rule, of course, was to show deference to powerful authority figures. If one disobeyed this rule, one was either punished or ostracized.

A similar situation exists in dictatorial family environments. Parents sometimes enact their substantial ability to foster authoritarian relationships. Many children in unhealthy families must show unwavering deference to their seemingly omnipotent, omniscient, and infallible parents. There are not many good alternatives for those of inferior rank who disagree with this living arrangement. Educational theorist and teacher Maria Montessori had a great deal to say about this kind of psychological milieu. She wrote about parental practices of ruling over the child:

Tyranny defies discussion. It surrounds the individual with the impenetrable walls of recognized authority. Adults dominate children by virtue of a recognized natural right. To question this right would be the same as attacking a kind of consecrated sovereignty. If in a primitive community a tyrant represents God, an adult to a child is divinity itself. He is simply beyond discussion. Rather than disobey, a child must keep silent and adjust himself to everything.

If he does show some resistance, this will rarely be a direct, or even intended reply to an adult’s action. It will rather be a vital defense of his own psychic integrity or an unconscious reaction to oppression….

Only with time does a child learn how to react directly against this tyranny. But by then an adult will have learned how to overcome a child by subtler means, convincing him that this tyranny is all for his own good.

A child owes respect to his elders, but adults claim the right to judge and even offend a child. At their own convenience they direct or even suppress a child’s needs, and his protests are regarded as a dangerous and intolerable lack of submission.

Adults here adopt the attitude of primitive rulers who exact tribute from their subjects without any right of appeal. Children who believe that they owe everything to adults are like those peoples who think that everything they possess is a gracious gift from their king. But are not adults responsible for this attitude? They have adopted the role of a creator and in their pride have maintained that they are responsible for everything that pertains to a child. They make him good, pious, and intelligent, and enable him to come into contact with his environment, with men, and with God. And to make the picture more complete, they refuse to admit that they are exercising any tyranny. And yet has there ever been a tyrant who has ever admitted that he has preyed upon his subjects?66(p.152)

Such a childhood situation can oftentimes be inescapable. Whether it occurs in blatant or in subtle ways, the general themes concerning misuse of power usually remain. Naturally, to realize the later societal manifestations of such practices requires no great psychological leap. The whole process is self-perpetuating: the child learns from parents’ behavior (as well as from others). Parents teach the child the specific ways of dealing with self and others. The child learns what is expected from others and then passes this on (i.e., if he or she fully accepts it).

Social demands on individuals to conform can be sizeable, both within the family and society in general. The inherent imbalances of power in adult/child as well as State/citizen relationships can both invite exploitation. The key distinction, however, is that the State/citizen relationship is always a corrupt one. Due to the aggressive policies of the State, it cannot be made right (a conclusion explored further in subsequent sections). The adult/child relationship, in contrast, simply requires fulfillment of certain obligations to maintain its appropriateness and health.

Nonetheless, people who accept the position of ruler—be it of the family, tribe, or State—are not commonly known for encouraging individuality and pursuit of one’s enlightened self-interest. Typically, they uphold the welfare of the group more than that of any particular person (except, of course, the person ruling the group). In this way individuals can easily come to view themselves, albeit falsely, as naturally dependent beings rather than independent beings.

An independent being must use its own faculties to live and maintain itself. A dependent being just has to follow others and rely on their offerings. Dependent minds encourage obedience and submission, and discourage self-assertion. The assertion of personal values in line with reason and reality is the opposite of the demand for obedience; it never entails destroying the autonomy of others with the threat of force. The tactics of force and intimidation are merely the irrational values of every tyrannical attitude that has ever existed.

Cast in authoritarian predicaments for many centuries, most people tended to overlook the con game of power-lust that was partly responsible for destroying their happiness, their self-esteem, and their lives. They told themselves (as children sometimes do with their parents) that leaders of the tribe or State really “mean well”—and that the welfare of the group should come first.

They concluded that their personal desires, values, and interests were just one person’s among many. To demand that they be treated with respect and dignity—to assert that their lives were at least as important as any in the group—would be terribly selfish.

But, in truth, what gives the group importance is the importance of the individuals within it. Rationalizations are not reasons, of course. They are ways for people to make the conditions around them, and the decisions they have made, seem tolerable; they make certain behavior seem appropriate. Because they are false justifications, they attempt to make the wrong seem right. Naturally, rationalizations gradually wreck one’s self-confidence and self-respect.

To say that the conditions of one’s life are intolerable puts one in a precarious position—a position that demands action. The outcome of such action may be unknown, and taking it may even be dangerous. To disobey the irrational rules of the group may actually jeopardize one’s life and well-being. Even though less and less benefit can be obtained from living in an environment that increasingly exercises coercion, the desired outcome must be worth the risk both physically and psychologically.

For those who lived (and are living) in very cruel social contexts, a life half-lived was thought to be better than no life at all. Historically, many citizens were faced with enormously antagonistic leaders and their compliant followers. Implementation of a better way of life was a colossal project that bordered on the impossible—considering the close-mindedness, disapproval, and hostile attitudes of the people involved. Autonomy can be viewed as a severe threat to those who do not advocate it. Often, nothing can persuade them to strive for a better way of living.

In the past, some tried vigorously and valiantly to change the outlook and behavior of the group. Some had a different vision of human relationships. Usually, only modest strides were made primarily because of the contextual nature of their efforts. The time for psychological steps forward was problematic. The current level of knowledge was minimal and the patterns of compliant behavior were solidified; the pressures to conform to the group were too massive to be altered. Early on, people unquestioningly submitted to their fears of independence.

No doubt, tolerating grave circumstances is a common way to deal with them. In the long run, however, such a practice sabotages the struggle for individuation as well as autonomy—two traits necessary for the mental health of volitional beings. Merely suffering through social injustices also keeps dormant the invaluable political concept of liberty. One can only guess, for example, what form the United States would have taken had the American colonists tolerated the “Injuries and Usurpations” inflicted by Great-Britain. Ultimately, the ideas people have about themselves and about others will establish their way of living, both psychologically and politically.

The tribal or collectivistic mentality has been rooted in the individual psyche for centuries. If context and level of knowledge mean anything, then we can at least understand—though not justify—this phenomenon. This mentality provides safety in exchange for conformity, security in exchange for obedience. In addition, it provides comfort in exchange for emotional denial. Finally, it seeks to make independent thought appear unnecessary. Again, there are near limitless rationalizations to defend such trade-offs, but none of them lead to self-esteem.

Flawed Political Systems From A Psychological Perspective

With the dominance of the State in the affairs of civilization, specific methods of governing the populace arose. Political systems solidified, and economies were influenced by the structure of government and its dealings with citizens.

Every political structure yields a definite psychological context in which ideas are developed and transmitted. To better understand our current ideological and psychological environments, let us inspect some of the basic premises involved in various political structures. This will put the main issues into perspective and provide a clearer picture about why certain forms of government have been propagated so vigorously. Of course, the use of physical force remains a constant throughout these societies. The submission to the will of the State in one way or another predominates all of them.

Monarchies and dictatorships are more formal examples of the tribal mentality. They place control of land and people in the hands of one or a few persons. The rulers that lust for power over others are thus granted their wishes; they may gain a spurious sense of mastery and false sense of self-worth as a result.

Many people under such rule may actually agree with the idea of having a ruler—though they may not agree with their particular political plight and the particular person ruling over them. Many accept being connected to a territory of rule because it reassures them that at least someone is in control of reality in some grand way; someone can make important decisions for them. They also may view an oppressive political system as comfortable and safe in its own twisted way. Forced togetherness and mutual suffering may allay worries about having to go against the system. Such circumstances can distract people from the task of having to think and judge on their own.

Under monarchies and dictatorships people surrender—and are forced to surrender—many freedoms in exchange for purported safety and security; at least this is the idea. No matter how much is provided for them by greatly revered royalty or leaders, most still live in dismal conditions.

For the individual, giving up freedom not only means less opportunities. It also means giving up a piece of self. For every rule that restricts rational behavior, a human mind is held back from whatever it could have experienced and accomplished.

Yet most have been indoctrinated with the idea that the rights of Dictator, King (or God) and country precede rights of the individual—always, of course, “for your own good.” Nineteenth century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche perhaps referred to this sort of mentality in his literary work Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

Some of them will, but most of them are only willed. Some of them are genuine, but most of them are bad actors. There are unconscious actors among them and involuntary actors; the genuine are always rare, especially genuine actors.

And this hypocrisy I found to be the worst among them, that even those who command, hypocritically feign the virtues of those who serve. ‘I serve, you serve, we serve’—thus prays even the hypocrisy of the rulers; and woe, if the first lord is merely the first servant!46(p.281)

People may come to accept this environment when they start to believe that what matters in life is the good of society and service to everything except one’s own self. To do this, they have to distrust their judgments of the obvious. The obvious entails such things as witnessing: all the brutality in the name of King, Dictator, and country; the daily level of unhappiness in people whose routine is to perform duties for the sake of the common good; the excessive reverence and tribute paid to rulers who “protect” people from the “the enemies,” but who really keep nations of people locked in antagonism; the general avoidance of the deeper meaning of one’s emotional state; and finally, the fervent denouncement of any logical ideas that run counter to what everyone is taught.

Every attempt of a human mind to understand its environment is an attempt to live with a proper state of awareness. When these attempts are foiled—for instance, due to threats of rebuke or castigation—individuals may decide to just concentrate on daily activities, and hope for the best; they may choose to put little conscious thought into anything else. Soon, it becomes easier not to look, not to inspect, and not to identify, than to be conscious of one’s predicament. And it becomes harder and harder to live up to one’s capacity of conceptual awareness.

People under monarchies and dictatorships form rationalizations to ease the feeling that something is deadly wrong with their state of affairs. Without rationalizations people would see their societies for what they truly are: more structured formulations of the tribal mentality that deny and destroy many aspects of the individual.

Only the individual is capable of feeling happiness and acquiring self-esteem. To say that society is more important than these values is to say that society is more important than oneself, which is to say that others are more important than oneself—which is to say that no one’s self is important.

The self is the only entity capable of making statements and therefore the only entity capable of denying itself of primary importance. Yet if the self is declared to be not that important, why are the individual selves of others (i.e., society) more important? Clearly, no logical answer can be given, although a rationale exists: Since any particular self is relatively unimportant, it supposedly cannot be an independent entity capable of keeping itself alive; so, it must depend on other (also ineffective) selves to maintain its existence.

Caste systems (such as in traditional India) are a deplorable phenomenon in the realm of dictatorial social and political systems. Essentially, each person is born into a certain level of economic and social status and is supposed to remain there for the rest of his or her life. In so doing, a person pursues his or her “dharma” (duty), which enables the achievement of an enlightened state (traditionally after death). “Karma” is the result of the good or bad deeds that are passed on to the next reincarnation. Depending on the deeds, one either reaches a state of nirvana or perpetuates the cycle of duty.

On the condition that people repeat the same work, free of any passions or distracting desires, they will be repaid fully when they go out of existence. However symbolic of stagnation such a doctrine may be, it can still have widespread appeal. It says, in effect, “You don’t have to be concerned about your future or your happiness. Just stay where you are and perform your daily routines dutifully. You will have found it all worthwhile when you cash in your chips at the end of your life.”

The most disconcerting phrase, of course, is “at the end of your life.” But people may think that anything has to be better than a life of pain, suffering, and excruciating work. When one’s life is not how one wishes it to be and one seeks relief from all troubles, nonexistence might be deemed acceptable. Since wishing is unlimited, death can be trivialized and made to seem like something other than a blank. It is no secret that many societies have preached that real life and happiness occur after death. Aside from calming people’s nerves about death, such doctrines work to numb realizations that social and political situations are of great consequence.

Other political systems offer conditions said to bring happiness and enlightenment, or at least social tranquility, during people’s lifetimes. Three prominent ones are Communism, Socialism, and Fascism. These are the political systems that many people say are inherently good and desirable in theory; the problem is how to implement them effectively, so that they do not become corrupt. Implementation of supposedly ideal political theories has been a chronic problem. The results always end up being different than what people intended, decaying oftentimes into poverty, barbarism, and misery. The reason for this becomes apparent as one inspects these situations: They all implement coercion in one form or another as a way of life.

One may question the nature of doctrines that promote the use of force (whatever the amount) on others as an ideal way to exist in society. Incidentally, this kind of force is not retaliatory force, that is, force used to thwart force that was initiated. Retaliatory force is life-ensuring self-defense. Any force not used in self-defense—that is, any initiation of force—is necessarily an act of unjustified aggression.

Communism advocates total government ownership of the economy and, therefore, control of all property and trade. Ultimately, this means control of all people. Socialism has often been viewed as interchangeable with Communism, but in most cases it represents a watered-down or less totalitarian system of ownership and control; only parts of the economy have been declared governmental property and domain. Fascism is a third variation of statism in which most aspects of the economy are controlled, regulated, or monitored by government; private ownership of businesses is allowed, but only by the permission and direction of government.

hese three systems supposedly free people from particular troubles. Unfairness, risky decisions, and even the burden of making profits are allegedly diminished, if not extinguished. Yet survival in an advanced civilization (through making profits) has to be accomplished by someone. The question then becomes: who is going to work to sustain whom and at whose expense? A main psychological motive of these three systems is quite clear. It consists of wanting to be taken care of by others through forcible means, and declaring this form of parasitism a “right.” The ablest means for a society to accomplish this desire is by the authority of the State. Rand wrote about the main premise of Socialism:

They extolled the State as the ‘Form of the Good,’ with man as its abject servant, and they proposed as many variants of the socialist state as there had been of the altruist morality. But, in both cases, the variations merely played with the surface, while the cannibal essence remained the same: socialism is the doctrine that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that his life and his work do not belong to him, but belong to society, that the only justification for his existence is his service to society, and that society may dispose of him in any way it pleases for the sake of whatever it deems to be its own tribal, collective good.75(p.43)

Socialistic systems try to erase the logical idea of private property. They deny that individuals have an absolute legal and moral right to themselves and material acquired or created. Instead, these systems uphold the idea of community (or public) property. One’s self becomes part of this “property.” Rather than existing for one’s own sake, one exists for the sake of the State and the common good.

Under Communism and many aspects of Socialism (and to a lesser degree, any welfare system), goods and trade are put into the State’s community chest, from which the needs of the people will be attended to in order of necessity. Hence, no one will have to compete against others for “selfish” profits, and no one will have to pay out of his or her own pocket. Instead, all people work directly for each other’s benefit. People work, and government deals with the distribution of money. Greed, which is commonly attributed to capitalism, will supposedly be a thing of the past. Now the only competition concerns who receives what from the community chest (and when).

Basically, society has become a collective whole whereby it fulfills needs by exploiting the individuals who comprise it. Government consequently faces the impossible and immoral job of determining who should be sacrificed to whom. Another impossible task is determining how to allocate workers and resources most effectively and efficiently so that people can live comfortably. The notion of centralized planning has been the unattainable dream of despots everywhere.

Need can be a very relative and subjective experience. It depends on the personal context of each individual, the circumstances of which often have been chosen by that individual. Since need is the supreme factor in distribution in all the variations of Socialism, individuals are enticed to create needs out of nowhere. Government then rations goods and services and has people stand in line. Naturally, this brings about a dramatic state of unfulfillment. Because one person’s productive work goes to someone in allegedly greater need, there is fundamentally no incentive to improve one’s work, or life.

Since one is not allowed to provide for oneself, one must be provided for by someone else—in principle. Such a dependence-oriented economics can only fashion a society of dependence-oriented psychologies. Abdication of self-responsibility and independence can occur when people are forced to meet each other’s material needs. More productive members of society then choose to bear the extra burden, slack off, or completely withdraw their participation.82 (For a brilliantly thorough anecdote of this whole situation, see the Twentieth Century Motor Company exposition in Rand’s novel, Atlas Shrugged.)

People would not advocate a socialistic system if they believed it harmed their self-confidence and self-respect. Instead, they commonly see it as a way to help them cope with uncertainties. Most of these uncertainties, however, were created by this political system in the first place. Inevitably, such a system propels individuals into upholding a harmful cycle of unreality—one that negates the fact that people are independent entities who can think, judge, and work to sustain their own lives.

Some might contend that, since humans are social animals, they must depend on each other in order to live; a socialistic system just implements this fact. But this overlooks that the only moral (and hence the only beneficial and respectful) way to deal with others is voluntarily—since the use of force is the negation of mind and life. Treating human beings as human beings is the only conceivable way to bring about understanding and goodwill, and thus prosperity.

Yet the retort might be made that some people are incapable of thinking, judging, and working to sustain themselves; so, we ought to have a society that caters to this fact. But the amount of grown people incapable of living independently is very small. Moreover, the only way individuals should be helped is by others voluntarily helping them. To coerce people to provide their time, labor, and money for so-called moral reasons makes no sense. Naturally it fosters resentment and cruelty.

Not only is any welfare State an utter perversion of generosity and goodwill, but also it is an inversion of cause and effect for the actions of volitional beings. Individuals are helped because others decide it is appropriate to lend assistance—not because individuals forcibly demand to be helped. Private charities are quite adept at persuading people to help individuals. Naturally this fosters genuine compassion and generosity.

To be directly dependent economically on the group for survival hardly encourages independent thought, judgment, and a work ethic (let alone enlightenment and happiness). In fact, just the opposite typically occurs: institutionalized laziness, psychological stagnation, and in Nietzsche’s words, “poverty, filth, and wretched contentment.” Inspection of communistic nations vividly reveals this.

In response to the manifest coercion and tyranny of the State, a more refined version of Communism was also idealized—true or pure communism, as Karl Marx saw it. Marxism would forcibly turn the ownership of business enterprises from their proprietors over to labor. Marx held that employees should own the fruits of their labors. He thought that simple monetary compensation is insufficient and even exploitative.

Marxism also holds that true communism has no need for authoritarian government. Government is seen as the main cause of Communist downfall; it simply corrupts the whole ideological system. The wealth and power (from the community chest) go to the politicians and bureaucrats, rather than to the people who really deserve it. In this respect, advocates of Marxism are right: Authoritarian government does essentially rob people of their personal resources and goals.

However, one primary idea of Marxism (and of any other collectivistic doctrine) is that of altruism. Altruism holds that to provide for and give to others, rather than oneself, is better and more desirable. By extension, others are supposed to sacrifice in return. As mentioned, this creates many forms of dependency and expectations among perfectly capable individuals.

The idea of expected and even required sharing of goods and services has been a central theme in most political philosophies. It tells a person that he or she does not have an exclusive right to his or her own life. People are encouraged to adhere to a morality that is not designed for the life and happiness of the individual.

When an individual’s life is not held as the central determinant of morality and standard of value, anything outside the self (such as the family, the group, the community, the society, or the country) becomes the standard of deciding good and bad, right and wrong. Consequently, millions of individuals are treated as means to other people’s ends, fodder for other people’s “grand” projects, sacrificial animals for the common good, general welfare, public interest, and so on. Surrender of self and surrender of rational values are unlimited in an ethical system that believes the individual must concentrate on living for the sake of others—who also have no right to exist for their own sake but must exist for the sake of still others—who have no right to live for their own sake either but must exist for…ad infinitum.

As noted, Marxism and the other socialistic doctrines do not identify the idea of private property in the absolute sense. Property is a concept millennia old. It was discussed, for instance, by Aristotle and Plato. The ancient Romans made more formal connections between people and their environments. Their legal interpretations helped to make property an established political concept. From that point through the Middle Ages, however, property was not taken to mean anything inviolable (unless one was a king or emperor).94

To this day, neither statist nor Marxist theories treat property as an absolute concept. They do not resolve the contradictions in their interpretations of it. They fail to realize that any type of property necessarily belongs to an individual or a group of consenting individuals, not to the State or some desired goal of others. Nineteenth century Anarchist Max Stirner recognized the implications of Marxism:

By abolishing all private property communism makes me even more dependent on others, on the generality or totality [of society], and, in spite of its attacks on the State, it intends to establish its own State,…a state of affairs which paralyzes my freedom to act and exerts sovereign authority over me. Communism is rightly indignant about the wrongs which I suffer at the hands of individual proprietors, but the power which it will put into the hand of the total society is even more terrible.37(p.21)

With Marxism we see the effects of a collectivistic mentality overriding genuine human identification of what is true and what is false. Individuals are not just parts of society to be utilized however others think is required to benefit the common good. Each person is an individual, and society is the sum of these individuals. Since persons own themselves, necessarily they should be able to utilize themselves as they see fit. The same applies to their property. All other property is basically an extension of the individual, the most personal property.

The right to have property but not the right to use and/or dispose of it (such as in Fascism) plainly makes a mockery of property rights. If a person owns something, it is his or hers to utilize free of any interferences; only laws of justice enforcing individual rights can intervene. If a person does not own it, then either someone else does—whereby the same rules of ownership apply—or it has not been claimed as property by any human being.

Marxism that is not coercively implemented and maintained basically represents a commune. This assumes one is allowed to leave and move to a place that upholds property rights. Individuals voluntarily enter such an environment and consent to the idea of “communal” property, in which everyone has a share in everything. Communes operate according to the specified rules of the group. No delineation is made about final and official possession of property to specific individuals. Because such an arrangement accepts basically a tribal premise, it can be both legally cumbersome as well as morally problematic. For understandable reasons, communes have not flourished. The situation of communal property tends to create economic stagnation, and it certainly deters self-interested achievement.

Rationalizations for the variants of Socialism are smoke screens for underlying psychological processes. They attempt to deny the fact that, as human beings, we all possess a rational, volitional consciousness. Each of us has the task of finding out exactly who we are and what we should do about it. This thinking process cannot be circumvented with impunity, because to deny a fact of reality is to place oneself against reality. Such a policy inevitably leads to rationalizations that temporarily diminish the anxiety evoked by defaults on genuine thought and judgment.

Thus a chronic policy of choosing not to focus on facts can become ingrained. Individuals may learn to serve all interests but their own, that is, their own rational interests. Various national, religious, or community causes may even ask individuals to sacrifice not only their time and money, but also their own lives. The amount of human immolation in most wars throughout history illustrates the enormity of this psychological pattern.

A fundamental shift in the beneficiary of action from self to others (or State or leader or country) occurs when a human consciousness accepts a doctrine that obviates personal responsibility, negates property rights, and destroys individuality—all in the name of the good of the people. When a person accepts the idea that the group is primary—not the individual—the importance of self is likely forgotten.

Societal Structures Posturing As Proper: Democracies And Republics

The problems that collectivistic governmental systems cause for people both existentially and psychologically are indeed numerous. Yet, the inherent problems in another political system, Democracy, need to be illuminated. Democratic systems of rule exist throughout the world and are typically considered the most desirable form of government.

Governmental Democracy and the nature of a Republic should be distinguished from various voting procedures and small-scale elections in business enterprises and in personal affairs. These latter activities obviously have benefits as well as drawbacks. In these situations one always has the option either to stay in or to bow out of the process. One is not forced to participate and endure potentially unfavorable outcomes. Unlike governmental Democracy, one enters such arrangements in a voluntary manner.

Especially in America, Democracy may conjure thoughts of rugged individualism, personal achievement, and fairness. Democracy denotes representation of each individual in the Republic—“of the people, by the people, for the people.” The idea of “one person one vote” may convince a person that he or she has a definite influence in politics. People are able to voice their opinions and make a difference in the laws and aspects of government; primarily, they can use the ballot box or they can lobby their agendas.

However, throughout the world, voting has had some dire consequences: Many people vote themselves into Socialism or dictatorships, and nearly everyone votes to keep their freedoms curtailed.

Undeterred by this, proponents of Democracy contend that the voting system is truly valuable for the individual. This is true in only one respect: Individuals can vote themselves to freedom; they can vote themselves into a society of liberty. But as we shall see, this requires some philosophical and psychological changes (changes that may make voting an obsolete issue anyway).

Presently only about half the people in the United States think voting is worth the effort. Why do they not vote? To say that tens of millions of people are just wrong, or lazy, or not know what is good for them, would be inaccurate. Actually, most people do not vote because Democracy is a system in which “might makes right” and the majority rules. Thus, it has little to do with the life of the individual (other than the ability to derogate this life).

Individuals have personal values. They seek personal fulfillment. As a consequence, many see little need to include themselves in activities that apparently have little bearing on their own lives. Most people do not vote because they sense a degree of pointlessness in the process. Or, they may think that such matters are better left to those “who keep up with politics,” which is probably the same thought that many politically-minded others have.

Nonetheless, of all the governmental systems on Earth, Democracy is thought by many to be the fairest (although one might hear favorable opinions about “benevolent dictatorships” too). Democracy is alleged to be fair because it still gives people a choice through voting procedures. As noted, this ignores the potentially detrimental impact of this process. Montessori made note of the problems with this sort of thinking: “They seek, as their greatest good, what they call Democracy, i.e., that the people may give their opinion as to how they are to be ruled—that they may cast their votes at elections. What irony! To choose one’s rulers! But those who rule cannot free anybody from the chains which bind all, which render all activity and initiative futile and render them helpless to save themselves.”67(p.16)

That individuals should be elected to offices where they allegedly serve the interests of the public merely confuses the real issues. Even though a Republic has laws and governors representing “the will of the people,” this “will” is basically imposed by force. To allow the majority of people (or representatives) to decide what is right for everyone ought not be called fair. 

Clearly, ideas about fairness often turn into rationalizations. These rationalizations are designed to overlook the central flaws in a political system that allows the majority to dictate irrational guidelines for everyone, many of whom disagree.

Democracy essentially formulates and upholds laws that infringe on the rights of the individual (which we will address shortly). Policies of fairness then arise as ways to obtain influence, entitlements, and special favors from government at the expense of others. Yet many citizens continue to view Democracy as that which protects rights. Nock judged this idea in the United States in the following way:

We have already seen that nothing remotely resembling democracy has ever existed here; nor yet has anything resembling free competition, for the existence of free competition is obviously incompatible with any exercise of the political means [i.e., force], even the feeblest. For the same reason, no policy of rugged individualism has ever existed; the most that rugged individualism has done to distinguish itself has been by way of running to the State for some form of economic advantage. If the reader has any curiosity about this, let him look up the number of American business enterprises that have made a success unaided by the political means, or the number of fortunes accumulated without such aid.68(p.182)

Some people may find it burdensome and difficult to persuade others to “give them a fair shake.” Democracy can enable them to resort to physical means for settling differences of opinion and obtaining particular goals. Of course, many times this is not done in an overt fashion. That would appear too violent and too real. Such governmental activities are often performed discreetly. Because few people name exactly what is being perpetrated, rights continue to be violated. Nineteenth century advocate of freedom Benjamin Tucker noted the real problem with Democracy:

Rule is evil, and it is none the better for being majority rule….What is the ballot? It is neither more nor less than a paper representative of the bayonet, the billy, and the bullet. It is a labor saving device for ascertaining on which side force lies and bowing to the inevitable. The voice of the majority saves bloodshed, but it is no less the arbitrament of force than is the decree of the most absolute of despots backed by the most powerful of armies.30(p.129)

Ideas about law, politics, and government should never be a numbers game, where to the victors lie the spoils. Political systems that use votes instead of logical thought to determine their structure and operations will simply reflect the values of the majority of those casting votes. When the political values chosen or accepted by the majority are irrational, a system of irrationality results. Such a system exposes the fact that people have compromised on a fundamental political principle: rights.

Rights—The Preeminent Political Principle

If one of our main social/political goals is to live together harmoniously and interact in a benevolent fashion, then we must address the idea of rights—human rights. Actually, the term right solely pertains to human beings because only a human consciousness can formulate the concept. To ascribe rights to anything other than humans is rather to name what is of high value to an individual, not something that possesses rights. As in the other key term, property, rights can only mean rights of an individual—not rights of any derivative group.

The idea of rights was formally established by the seventeenth century philosopher John Locke. It was taken to new heights of understanding and implementation by the Founding Fathers, especially Thomas Jefferson. Historically speaking, the idea of rights was facilitated by numerous events in Europe. The following identifies some (by no means all) of these events: the shift from a feudal-state to a merchant/trade-state; the Protestant Reformation, which led to greater emphasis on the primacy of the individual; the blending of natural science with political thought, which marked the decline of the importance of the ecclesiastical past; the development of more formal business contracts, which led Locke to apply the notion of contract to the individual’s relationship with government; and, Locke’s ideas of natural rights and property, which were aided by his further establishment of the ideas of free will and of knowledge acquisition from the senses (Locke held that the mind is tabula rasa at birth—in contrast to the notion of innate ideas). Most of these progressions coalesced in the eighteenth century. Political historian Mulford Sibley wrote:

We may epitomize this climate by saying that it had confidence in the emancipating power of reason; tended to reject the past, and particularly the Middle Ages; thought of religion in deistic terms—Locke’s God of nature; conceived the universe largely as a mechanism, after the model of Sir Isaac Newton, of Hobbes, and of Locke; and thought of intellect as somehow separated from the emotions. These characteristics were true of literature as well as political thought.96(p.386)

In precise terminology, right delimits a moral code of behavior that implies a certain freedom of action in relation to others.76 The Founders ascribed to humans (although not to all humans) the freedom of action necessary for people to exist and prosper as individuals. Freedom of action presupposes choices. So, rights are tied to volition, which is of course part of reason.

By stating for the first time in history that humans possess certain inalienable rights, the Founders identified a profound fact. This identification was to dramatically change the course of political development. People could recognize openly without shame, fear, or guilt, that their lives—and therefore property—belonged to them. They could throw off the shackles of oppressive governmental rule and the dependent psychologies that often go with it. Happiness was now an attainable goal.

The concept of rights could be seen as the first realization that all people are truly individuals. This was an enormous psychological step forward, considering especially the context of all prior history. If we owe any great debt to these scholars, it is to their identification of rights. Even though the Founders did not (or were not able to) take the concept of rights to its full logical outcome, they nonetheless ought to be commended for getting the idea “out there,” into objective reality, for people to see and integrate. This is a crucial step in the realm of new ideas: to make them known. From there, it is up to people’s honesty, confidence, and courage to take further steps.

Taking the concept of rights to its logical outcome entails implementing its full meaning. One must apply it politically to every person, irrespective of race, color, gender, ethnicity, or any other superficial description or inane prejudice. In addition, one has to consider the concept’s devastating implications for the process of Democracy, in which “might makes right.”

As stated, rights pertain to freedom of action. Like other organisms, we sustain our life by action. All organisms need to act in accordance with their nature and distinctive methods of survival. To fail to do so would be detrimental, if not fatal, to their lives and well-being. Since we possess the faculty of reason (and concomitantly volition), our behavior is quite different from other animals.

We are able to constantly shape and reorganize our surroundings to fit our needs creatively, not merely instinctually. Rather than passively adapt and react to our environment, we can change our conditions in innumerable ways. The human mind utilizes opportunities for further satisfaction and achievement, and it can create many values in the material realm from substances in the environment. This is the way we use our distinctive capacities and, therefore, survive on this planet.

In order to fully accomplish our tasks, we need to be free to act and make choices. A conceptual mind requires freedom to think, judge, discriminate, feel, and enjoy things. To see to it that we do not interfere with others and that others do not interfere with us, we have rights. Rights enable expression of values without censorship by others.

Since we possess rights on account of what we are, they are an inseparable, integrated sum. In politics today, though, governments try to divide rights up piecemeal. Governments ignore the fact that rights are the integration of body and spirit; actions of the body are inseparable from actions of the mind. Yet, since most of us were taught that rights are things given to us by the Constitution, the idea of rights is more easily treated as open for amendment rather than an unalterable fact of reality.

One does not have the right to grant rights to others, only to recognize and respect them. Rights can never be given to us by favor or by permission from a government (or any other entity posturing as an authority). The failure to acknowledge this has been the fatal contradiction in political and legal thinking for countless centuries. It has allowed the most depraved and unjust acts to be perpetrated against innocent persons—persons who probably did not recognize their own importance and internal greatness.

Amending rights means negating them. It can lead to benefiting some at the expense of others. Yet the State regularly enables people to obtain various goods and services from others without their consent. Clearly, to claim that the recipients have “rights” to these goods and services is contradictory. Referring to a Democratic Party platform of alleged rights, Rand wrote:

Jobs, food, clothing, recreation (!), homes, medical care, education, etc., do not grow in nature. These are man-made values——goods and services produced by men. Who is to provide them?

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.

Any alleged ‘right’ of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.

No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as ‘the right to enslave.’76(p.96)

All the desirable possessions and experiences for humans must be acquired through their own efforts and at their own expenses (or through voluntary reception). For instance, we have a right to exchange goods with others. We do not (nor does any government) have a right to destroy or seize another’s property (i.e., in violation of laws of justice). We have a right to the fruits of our labors in the way they have been negotiated, for example, with our employers. We do not have a right to take others’ earnings for our own uses or uses of “the country.” We have a right to pursue a course of action that betters our life on Earth. We do not have a right to sacrifice others in the process. We have a right to defend ourselves and our property from another’s aggression (and to seek reparation for damages). We do not have the right to be the aggressor.

Rights imply that we are free so long as we do not inhibit the freedom of others. By doing this, everyone’s life is enriched instead of depleted. In the words of nineteenth century advocate of freedom Lysander Spooner:

In short, every man’s natural rights are, first, the right to do, with himself and his property, everything that he pleases to do, and that justice towards others does not forbid him to do; and, secondly, to be free from all compulsion, by others, to do anything whatever, except what justice to others requires him to do.98(p.97)

Infringing and interfering with others’ freedom to live is equivalent to denying the distinctively human method of survival. Without the ability to make choices to guide our life and ensure survival, we are impotent. We may want to pursue a course of action, but are compelled to do otherwise. Coercion is a primary method of interaction for many kinds of other animals because they lack the ability to reason and make choices and, hence, control their actions. We, however, are guided by our capacity of decision-making—not merely a sensory-perceptual mechanism. Personal choice and conceptual knowledge guide us.

Of course, to deny these truths is to be guilty of a huge contradiction, precisely because one must choose to deny them. To say that reason—and thus voluntary, consensual, agreements—should not be the sole means for humans to deal with each other is, plainly, to exempt oneself from the realm of reason.

Initiatory force—that is, force not used in self-defense and not used to exact justice from an aggressor—is inherently anti-rights. It directly seeks to nullify the capacity for identification, evaluation, and subsequent action (i.e., one’s capacity for living). One can never claim the right to incapacitate the source and creator of rights—the human mind.82

Again, we possess rights innately by virtue of being reasoning creatures. Rights can never be limited, altered, or taken away from us metaphysically—that is, no one can change the nature of human beings. Our rights can, however, be lessened (and are lessened) existentially through political means. Yet, to limit, alter, and take away rights from people politically denies what is real. Since it denies the key facet of the human method of survival, it denies an aspect of reality. And the denial of an aspect of reality is capable to humans through rationalization: In order to distort what is metaphysically, one must distort one’s interpretations and identifications of reality through a variety of contradictions.

The Psychological Side Of The Negation Of Rights

The process of logic is typically ignored by a person who holds incorrect ideas and who acts on them. Without the primary vehicle of rational thought, conflicting emotions are fostered; inaccurate assessments of reality arise naturally from inaccurate identifications.

In such a psychological context, action can become destructive. However, one who initiates force—for example, overt physical violence—does not consider these consequences. While the person acts from an emotional state, he or she simultaneously avoids rational understanding of it. Feelings such as anger, malice, resentment, contempt, superiority, righteousness, inferiority, and fear can be instrumental in the act.

A person might want to act against the facts of reality in this way for a variety of reasons: to achieve purportedly moral ends impossible or improbable through voluntary means; to show supposedly that one is more powerful than others; to create the illusion that one can control the minds of people; to fulfill twisted fantasies of dealing with people like insentient matter or lower life forms; and finally, to act out a subconscious assessment of oneself that evidences a lack of self-respect and self-confidence. In fact, these motivations are interrelated. They all point to a fundamental sense of inadequacy and insecurity about asserting oneself in a coherent and rational fashion.

Instead of being sacrificed or being “inferior” to others, the person who resorts to violence promotes the other side of sacrifice. He or she becomes the one who sacrifices others. In doing so, the person engages in the impossible task of trying to prove wrong his or her feelings of inadequacy. Though evaluations can be right or wrong, feelings just are. Trying to prove feelings right or wrong is just another way to disown or deny them.

Rationalizations are used during this process to make actions seem reasonable. Rationalizations may stave off discomfiting self-images and an uncomfortable self-concept for a time. They may allow one to temporarily protect oneself and possibly deceive others. But, ultimately, one can never deceive the innermost self; one knows somewhere the game that is being played, and one pays a psychological price. Part of the psychological price is diminished self-respect and self-trust.

Additionally, a destructive cycle arises in which one distances oneself from important issues in the psyche. To differentiate right from wrong, truth from falsehood, the real from the unreal, becomes increasingly difficult. One has now made oneself ignorant of a large part of the self.

Pretensions and defensive attitudes are characteristics of people who find the use and examination of aspects of their mind burdensome, unimportant, and/or frightening. Typically, they choose not to stop in the midst of upsetting emotions to examine them. If they did, then behavior would likely not be so harmful to self and others.

As noted, force is the antithesis of rationality. Our rights are violated through the initiation of force. This conclusion is drawn from a long chain of logical abstractions. Without the identification that we possess the survival faculties of reason and volition, we could never fully grasp the concept of rights. We could not arrive at a sound principle, and apply it properly to any circumstance.

Because survival for us means living as rational beings, initiating force against others for survival’s sake is plainly a contradiction in terms. Therefore, it is not a practical way to survive. Yet some may believe that if one can accomplish actions of evil, then one “wins,” like a bank robber who pulls off his escapade and never gets caught.

Certainly from a physical standpoint, a person might benefit from such actions. But what actually gives physical things meaningful value? In order to authentically appreciate and enjoy one’s material values (or any value for that matter), they must be accompanied by the recognition that one has earned them and that one deserves them. Following from one’s accomplishments should be the belief that one has made the right choices—that one has acted appropriately, in mind and in action (which directly involves the virtue of integrity). To not feel that this has occurred puts one in a pathetic condition. Though this condition can sometimes happen to any person with distorted self-worth (irrespective of his or her correct actions), it exists largely for those who decide to get something for nothing at the expense of others.

Of course, one can have certain subjective views about earning and deserving. Such views allow one to tolerate living with oneself by making contradictory actions somehow seem reasonable. This policy undoubtedly has injurious psychological consequences that merely add to previous mental torment. Although some might say, for instance, that a criminal enjoys what he obtains, this perverted joy has little to do with mental health; his subconscious slowly gnaws away at him through guilt, anger, or anxiety.

Survival for humans must include psychological survival, which entails genuinely seeing oneself as being worthy of happiness. Clearly, this entails a high level of mental health. And few would argue that a high level of mental health means being mostly free of debilitating emotional repression and rationalization. Lastly, since initiatory force is an action based on the premise of death, retaliation against it is an action based on the premise of life. Self-defense involves fighting for one’s life, if the circumstances arise. The person who infringes on another’s rights ought to expect justice to be served.

To allow acts of unprovoked force to be perpetrated without any response is basically to endorse them. Rand called this phenomenon sanction of the victim.82 Many atrocities in history as well as corrupt social and political philosophies have depended on it. Even in today’s vast context of knowledge, in which human rights are mentioned commonly in political discussions, people still permit their rights to be infringed in many ways. One may even get the impression that some people do not want to understand the concept of rights. In fact, the term is used so loosely in current media and politics that a clear definition for it is apparently considered passé. Clear definitions are usually preempted by hopeless debates over derivative issues—for example, over violations of amendments contained in the Bill of Rights.

In a society where everyone realized the importance and inalienability of their rights, very few initiators of force would view their acts as practical for their survival and for achieving their goals. In such a society, these subhuman acts would be extinguished—and the perpetrators would instead have their own rights and freedoms diminished. Irrationality stays alive only by feeding off irrationality. When confronted with reason, the denial of reality is seen for what it is, and it is dealt with accordingly.

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