Goodness

Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

It's fairly clear what “evil” is, we know it when we see it. But what is its opposite, goodness? And are human beings basically good, evil, neutral or something else?

It's important to understand that, because if for example mankind is marred with a bias towards evil, the case for a restraining government, as Paine and others have counseled, is hard to overcome. He wrote in his Common Sense that “Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.” So he saw humans as “wicked” and “vicious,” being afflicted with original sin.

Paine was right in line with the Judeo-Christian view of the matter; for example, “rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil” (Romans 13:3). That “justification” for the existence of government therefore has ancient roots. Is it well founded?

If it is, the case for anarchism is pretty well destroyed and we might as well all go home. To advocate the abolition of government is to say no government is needed, for people are not so evil as to be in need of restraint; that Paine was wrong and that the Bible is wrong. Those who oppose us on the grounds that “anarchy means chaos” or leads to chaos, have this dark view of human nature in mind. And I'd have to agree; if man were intrinsically evil, to let people behave the way they want would spell doom.

That would still leave the paradox that the only possible way of constituting government is with human beings, and if they too are evil then evil would be “restraining” evil, for which arrangement I'm unaware of any logic to show how goodness could result. The “solution” offered in Romans 13 alleges the existence of a just and benevolent God who “ordains” governments and so presumably oversees them to limit the evil they do. As well as being impossibly flimsy, that explanation suffers from thousands of years of actual history, in which governments have wrought vastly more evil, misery, destruction and mayhem than any individuals could possibly have brought about. It simply doesn't wash.

Conclusion so far: humans are not evil, tales of serpent and apple notwithstanding.

Evil certainly gets done, however, so clearly we have the capacity for evildoing, and I've suggested from the case of the Bolsheviks that evil may be activated when a person acquires power over others. That's not to say it always is so activated, for many times such power is possessed and no harm is done; for example, a parent wholly controls his young child, yet very seldom hurts him. So the condition of having power over someone is necessary for evil to happen, but not sufficient. Another ingredient is needed: malice.

Goodness, however, prevails almost everywhere we look. Almost anyone we encounter, casually or more closely, exhibits kindly or at least harmless behavior towards us, in their capacity as individuals. It's as if they instinctively know that our company has some value to them, at once or potentially, hence courtesy is appropriate – just as it will be in a free society. Only when someone acts in his capacity as a criminal or government officer (forgive the redundancy) is that benevolence replaced by menace. I've encountered IRS agents, for example, who are perfectly sociable in the normal courtesies of life before discussion about taxes begins, but who then become sinister and malevolent. It's the mantle of power that introduces the evil – that takes over an intrinsically good person.

Updated conclusion so far: mankind is intrinsically good, until handed power over others.

Now let's probe a bit what that “goodness” is. It does consist of the kind of respect that leaves people alone to run their own lives, their own way, but that's just a kind of negative goodness – an abstention from interfering. Is there more to it?

It's at this point that rational ethics parts company again with prevailing cultural values, based as they are on Judeo-Christian religious teaching. The latter holds that altruism is the goal or nature of goodness: living for the benefit of other people, or self-sacrifice; and doing so on the basis of external authority – a “thou shalt,” or shalt not as the case may be. The Decalog is not presented as the Ten Suggestions. “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” it says in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18) and in the New, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

It's not at all necessary for a person to be a fundamentalist in any of the three Abrahamic religions to have absorbed those standards as values describing “goodness.” They have deeply penetrated the culture over two or three thousand years, for 55% of the world's population, and perhaps of much of the remaining 45%.

That's the religion-based ethic of self-sacrifice, and it's amazing that its deadly absurdity has not been more widely observed: by that standard, to be “good,” one must sacrifice oneself for the benefit of someone else. Therefore, the “someone else” can not be good! -- including those needing help through no possible fault of their own, such as those born with a physical or mental disability. Further: goodness depends on a continuing supply of people in need, and to the extent that kindly assistance succeeds, that supply will shrink and so the possibility of being or becoming good – never higher than about half the human population -- will shrink also. Conversely the self-sacrificers may work so hard as to exhaust themselves or die of literal sacrifice, as in Dulce et Decorum Est, Pro Patria Mori; then, the residual world will be helpless and entirely evil. Obscene, either way.

So, the conventional ethics which saturate everyday life worldwide are founded upon the authoritative decrees of an entity for whose actual existence there is not a shred of proof and for whose nature there is no known definition, and which make it impossible for more than a small and shrinking number of people to aspire to goodness. It fairly reeks of myth.

In contrast, rational, objective ethics begins properly with the axiom -- the undeniable premise -- of self-ownership, then reasons that goodness must be what enhances the self, not what abnegates it. Even though many of their practical actions and outcomes may be closely similar, such rational ethics are opposed directly to the altruist ethics of sacrifice. There is no moral obligation on anyone to help anyone else; there is, however, an obligation on everyone to help himself.

The nature of goodness, therefore, is to enhance one's own enjoyment of life by whatever actions one judges will do the job, and so 100% of everyone has ample access to virtue.

Experience will quickly teach that such enjoyment springs from self-respect, and that in turn can come from many sources, including the pleasure derived from helping someone anonymously, so that nobody but the donor alone knows it was provided; the pleasure resulting from doing so confidentially to donor and beneficiary alone; the pleasure derived from helping someone publicly (though not of course boastfully – that brings blowback) with resulting reputation enhancement; the pleasure of becoming known as a reliable and trustworthy trader; the pleasure of simply accomplishing some objective, and so on.

It will also teach the importance of evaluation in the long term, not just the short one. Such experience will show that breaking one's word, for example, is not consistent with a desire to expand any business requiring trust. That frequently getting stoned does not help concentration on the building of wealth – or of a family. That generosity wins friends and brings a good reputation. That refusing to accept a fair but adverse court verdict, in the case of some dispute, will swiftly diminish one's career prospects. And so on.

This is such a radical reversal of conventional ethics that it's hard to get one's mind around it at first; it may be objected that ordinary, everyday acts of kindness are best done without thought of any return they may bring in terms of enhancing one's reputation, etc. Actually, that objection serves not to counter my case but to support it. All of us practice goodness in such forms every day without such calculation because it's normal human behavior! -- because ordinary experience tells us it brings satisfaction. That's to say that rational, self-first ethics is what humans naturally practice, and that the irrational, altruistic, religion-driven ethic of self-sacrifice is what's unnatural.

Lastly consider love; a vital component of goodness. Is love excluded from rational ethics?

Very much the contrary. The meaning of the word has again been twisted by long association with sacrifice, as in John 15:13 above, but it really has to do with the intense pleasure we each derive from the company or contemplation of another person. To say “I love you” means “I want to have you near me, always” or “I don't know how I could live without you.” It's altogether to do with enhancement of one's own happiness in life. Magic happens when the person so addressed reciprocates!

In his excellent article The God Slide, author Tzo gives some powerful reasons why faith in a supposed God is hard to reconcile with a serious commitment to voluntaryism. These thoughts have, perhaps, added one more: All frequently encountered religions preach that mankind is morally bad and needs God (and his hand-picked representatives, of course, along with their powers to forgive, punish, promote, excommunicate, etc.) to come to the rescue. Hogwash. For all his tendency to perform wickedly when holding power over others, man is by nature good and when institutional power over others is eliminated, in the coming free society, that goodness will flow unhindered.

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched http://TinyURL.com/QuitGov , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?"

Comments

B.R. Merrick's picture

I think that what humans perceive as evil is whatever, in their minds, looks like it leads to death.  Therefore, those who believe in the supposed goodness of our government and its enforcers can see smoke rising from a Middle Eastern city center and see good instead of evil, because those that create the smoke are allegedly weeding out those who would allegedly cause the deaths of Americans.
 
As Jim points out in the article, we are essentially "good," meaning oriented towards life building.  I think this is because our bodies are programmed to continually divide cells in an effort to perpetuate the life of the entire body, since cells die off rather quickly.  Anything that we suspect will slow down or stop this process outright becomes "evil."
 
Love these kinds of thought-provoking articles.

nost8r's picture

This reminds me of Rothbards arguments for libertarianism. Ending statism is the best solution whether man is good, evil, or some mix. See Myth #5. http://www.lewrockwell.com/rothbard/rothbard12.html

Regarding self-sacrifice, oftentimes self-sacrifice is necessary to "enhance one's own enjoyment of life." This requires a long term view of happiness which most humans don't grasp, but any Dad who has turned off the evening news to wrestle with his toddler understands this concept.

Are humans mostly good or mostly evil? I'm not sure, but I do think we're mostly stupid. I wonder if Albert Nock was right when he hypothesized that there are two different species of humans.

Paul's picture

"For all his tendency to perform wickedly when holding power over others, man is by nature good and when institutional power over others is eliminated, in the coming free society, that goodness will flow unhindered."

Boy, that would be a society that would really scare me. Sounds a bit like the man-made heaven portrayed in Ira Levin's book, "This Perfect Day."

Sorry, there will never be a "new Soviet Man". Humans will always be the cussedly ornery creatures they are now. Some people will be more good than evil, others more evil than good. I prefer to take people as they are.

Anyway, every time I hear someone going on about good and evil, it seems to be an attempted justification for the speaker doing some evil himself, e.g. "Axis of Evil"...

This talk of good and evil is also somewhat beside the point. There is no need for us to convince individuals that humans are fundamentally good, as some sort of justification for letting us be free. (Although the related point, that power fosters evil, can never be emphasized too much.) We simply need to convince them to leave us alone. Even some of those who believe humans are fundamentally evil can be talked into that.

It's a good thing too. I'd hate to think our finding liberty depends on first convincing all members of Abrahamic religions that the Bible is wrong on a fundamental point. Good luck with that job...

Jim Davies's picture

No argument: it's a big job to change any religious belief. All the more reason not to delay starting. But I for one am living proof that it can be done. Once every decade or so, everyone's mind opens.
 
Even so, I doubt that you'll need to do much hating; Goodness nowhere says that "our finding liberty depends on first convincing all members of Abrahamic religions that the Bible is wrong on a fundamental point." It does suggest that "faith in a supposed God is hard to reconcile with a serious commitment to voluntaryism" - hard, but not impossible. Some claim to have done it.
 
In contrast what would be really hard would be to "convince them to leave us alone" when "them" means a continuing government, unabolished. That would be to expect people to govern and not govern at the same time. Good luck resolving that contradiction.

Suverans2's picture

Ever heard of deism, JD?

deism noun belief in the existence of a God on purely rational grounds without reliance on revelation or authority; esp., the 17th- and 18th-cent. doctrine that God created the world and its natural laws, but takes no further part in its functioning ~ Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, page 372

How would that belief make it "hard to reconcile with a serious commitment to voluntaryism"? Obviously, to the rational mind, it wouldn't. Is that why you have steadfastly ignored it, because it isn't compatible with your belief that there absolutely, positively can be no first cause, no intelligence behind creation?

"THE only idea man can affix to the name of God, is that of a first cause, the cause of all things. And, incomprehensibly difficult as it is for a man to conceive what a first cause is, he arrives at the belief of it, from the tenfold greater difficulty of disbelieving it." ~ Thomas Paine

Paul's picture

So, getting people to jettison fundamental beliefs AND leaving us alone, is easier than NOT getting them to jettison fundamental beliefs, but only to leave us alone? Please explain that to me.

Your apparent contradiction comes from thinking collectively, i.e., "government". Government is not a sentient being. There are only individuals. Some individuals may be convinced to leave us alone; others may have to be shot first. Those in government may indeed decide it is better to leave anarchists alone, if the risks in not doing so are large enough, and the benefits small enough. Some of them may even think it is the right thing to do.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Paul,

I am in wonderment here. You said "man is fundamentally good". Is this from anecdotal experiance or is there something else that has you to believe this. I guess for me we have a mix of both and it will depend upon the time, the place and the circumstances whether we remain good or whether we let the evil side out to play.
Note this is not a criticism or an attempt at an argument. I just honestly wondered if there is something else other than anecdotal experiance that leads you to believe this. Recently there was this woman whom killed two children seven and five years old and also killed the family pet (she was a sitter). It's suppose to be because her husband was away in his truck hallin somewhere. There are a multitude of exemplary examples of this, probably more than what we ever hear about.

Reapectfully,
Glock27

Paul's picture

You're confusing me with Jim. He's the one who says humans are fundamentally good, not me. I happen to look at it about like you do.

Glock27's picture

Cheers Paul,

I have a tendency to misread people. Maybe if I had paid more attention I wouldn't have asked, but glad I did anyway. Thanks!

Glock27's picture

I am thinking on this before a commit to some foolish remark.

tesla921's picture

Gotta go with Thomas Paine on this one.
Deism is the most rational idea when it comes to the creation of the universe.

.....I think.

Jim Davies's picture

Fortunately, Tesla921, anyone can believe anything around here without fear of being burned at the stake. To declare one's beliefs, however, always reveals something about the quality of one's mind, and your pair of credos doesn't say much complimentary about yours, alas. Fortunately you're still "thinking", which is a lot more than many do. Here are my comments.
 
By aligning yourself with Thomas Paine, you're declaring that government is a "necessary evil" - that, as my article said, you think humans are wicked and vicious. You therefore plunge right in to the same contradiction as his: the only "remedy" is to have wicked people ruling other wicked people, and expecting virtue to result. Do you not see the folly and contradiction of that? - and that if it were true (that humans are wicked) then there is zero hope anywhere of arranging society in peace and harmony and that therefore ALL attempts to do so (including mine, to rid it of rulers) are doomed, a complete waste of time?
 
The only rational action to take on the basis of that is to eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.
 
Then about Deism, which you call "rational." Hmmm. Let's take a look; and as I understand it, this religion holds that a supreme being created the Universe and then walked away, revealing nothing about himself (and I use that pronoun just for convenience.)
 
Contradiction #1 is that he existed before the universe existed; for "universe" means "everything that exists." This contradiction applies of course to all creation myths.
 
Contradiction #2 is that having done so, he walked away. Where to? - again, if the universe is everything, he had nowhere to go except the universe.
 
This theory provides an "answer" of a kind, to the question "where did stuff come from?" but raises the question "Where did god come from?" which is even harder to answer since nobody (yes?) has even defined what "god" means. Hence, far from beating back the boundaries of human ignorance, it makes them stronger.
 
A rational approach to this is to say something like "We humans have made awesome progress in understanding the nature of the universe, and on that basis I have reasonable faith that eventually we shall discover and explain its origin; but at the present time we have a theory or two but not more; in summary we simply DO NOT KNOW."
 
An extension to that is to note that quite possibly, the universe did not have a beginning at all. Within that there are two possible theories: (a) there was a "big bang" about 14 billion years ago, prior to which there was an infinite series of contractions and expansions, each with a period of about 28 billion years, or (b) the universe has always been in a "steady state" with matter alternating between energy and substance for ever. The Steady State Theory had many distinguished adherents half a century ago, but lost ground to the big-bangers after evidence appeared of expansion from a point. The expansion was until recently thought to be slowing down under gravitational attraction, but recently I hear that's been reversed and it's thought to be accelerating under some unknown force of repulsion. Point is, every few decades more is discovered that tends to turn previous understanting on its head. So the SST may yet emerge triumphant. Meanwhile, "the most rational idea" is just to admit that we do not know.
 
Contradictions exist only in the minds of those who fail to think straight, so I hope the final word in your post means what it says. Have a happy T-Day.
 
 

tesla921's picture

Wow! Jim,

Thanks for your input. And thanks for letting me know that even morons like me can feel free to post on STR. That being said, I agree that the lesser of two evils is still evil and that the state is evil. However I do not condemn Paine nor align myself with Paine on everything he ever said. I do admire some of what the man did. I think his best selling book "Common Sense" helped motivate many of the colonists toward a revolution for freedom from state coercion. I think his book "The Age of Reason" was a genuine attempt to understand just why the hell we are here. Ultimately, of course, you are right. WE SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW.

Thanks for all you do to advance the cause of freedom.

Tesla921

Glock27's picture

Well, I'm still going to withold my comments for now. By the time all the smoke settles maybe I can stir up a dust storm or two that remains from this. But. getting just a bits ballsy Jim, it sounds like maybe you were not completely finished with your article. I am seeing a lot of whiz bang from this one.. Thanksgiving is over and I have begun my trek into your article. I'll call mine a thesis because that's what it feels like at this moment.

Jim Davies's picture

The day after Goodness appeared, I noticed a blog post on LewRockwell.com by Lawrence Vance, who often writes there from a Christian perspective. This one reported a statistic that in human history there have been 14,500 wars - and Mr Vance said of it that "it shows the depravity of man and the evil of a central state like nothing else."

Depravity of the state, yes - though not just a central state. But why that of man?

I don't know, but suppose his answer would be that governments consist of men.

Root Strikers might care to follow through on that, by way of an intellectual exercise. Vance says the huge number of wars prove that mankind is depraved - just like the Bible does but contrary to my reasoning in Goodness. Suppose, for now, he's right. What's the fix, the remedy?

Christians will wriggle a bit on that, I think, but will begin by forthrightly pointing to the offer of redemption, the purchase by Christ crucified, the gift of eternal life in heaven, held out to all who will accept it.

Fine and dandy, but by "fix" we normally want to know what solution is offered to the actual problem, here and now in the world that certainly exists, not in the alleged Hereafter that isn't proven to exist. That's where Christians will, I think, wriggle; for they don't have a fix. On the contrary, eventually they will admit that this world is, in their world-view, destined for the trash-heap. Some of them at least will preach about the Rapture; that at some moment in time in perhaps the near future, believers will be instantanously removed from this world and transported to heaven, leaving the rest of us to cope as we may.

Don't know whether Lawrence Vance is of that persuasion, but I'm fairly sure he has no temporal fix anyway - except, perhaps, to try to achieve a minimal government. If he called for abolition (anarchism) he'd run foul of the Biblical claim that governments are ordained by God, and who would he be to question the design of the creator of the Universe? - so minarchism might seem the least evil alternative. If mankind were depraved, there couldn't be a fix, could there?

That would mean that wars, tyranny, torture, misery, poverty and oppression would continue, but on a smaller scale. Until the Rapture, that is, after which all unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire with a great wailing and gnashing of teeth, Amen.
 

Suverans2's picture
    Deismnoun:  

    A system of belief which posits God's existence as the cause of all things, and admits His perfection, but rejects Divine revelation and government, proclaiming the all-sufficiency of natural laws. ~ Jewish Encyclopedia, 1906

    the form of theological rationalism that believes in God on the basis of reason without reference to revelation ~ WordNet 3.0

    The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation. ~ American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

    belief in the existence of God based solely on natural reason, without reference to revelation ~ Collins English Dictionary

    Deism is the belief in a God who created the world but hasn’t gotten involved with people since then — as opposed to theism, whose God still takes an active role in the world. ~ Vocabulary.com

    a movement or system of thought advocating natural religion, emphasizing morality, and in the 18th century denying the interference of the Creator with the laws of the universe ~ Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary, 11th Edition

    The religious philosophy and movement that became prominent in England, France, and the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries that rejects supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and divine revelation prominent in organized religion, along with holy books and revealed religions that assert the existence of such things. ~ Wordnik

    Belief in the existence of a personal God, accompanied with the denial of revelation and of the authority of the Christian church. Deism is opposed to atheism, or the denial of any God; to pantheism, which denies or ignores the personality of God; to theism, which believes not only in a God, but in his living relations with his creatures; and to Christianity, which adds a belief in a historical manifestation of God, as recorded in the Bible. ~ Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

    1. The belief in the existence of a god, by or through reason.
    2. The belief in a god or gods who set the universe in motion, then ceased to interact with it. ~ Wiktionary

    The doctrine or creed of a deist; the belief or system of those who acknowledge the existence of one God, but deny revelation. ~ GNU Webster's 1913

    “The term "deism" should be used to refer to a belief in God (or Gods) and "religion" to refer to a social group with a particular doctrine about God (or Gods).” ~ Dan Agin: Practicing Science -- With or Without Religion?

    the belief in a single god who does not act to influence events, and whose existence has no connection with religions, religious buildings, or religious books, etc. ~ Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary

    the belief, based only on reason and on evidence in nature, and not on any supernatural revelation, in the existence of a god who created the universe. ~ The Wordsmyth English Dictionary-Thesaurus

    The deists were what nowadays would be called freethinkers, a name, indeed, by which they were not infrequently known; and they can only be classed together wholly in the main attitude that they adopted, viz. in agreeing to cast off the trammels of authoritative religious teaching in favour of a free and purely rationalistic speculation.... Deism, in its every manifestation was opposed to the current and traditional teaching of revealed religion. ~ The Catholic Encyclopedia

    The doctrine or creed of a deist; the belief or system of religious opinions of those who acknowledge the existence of one God, but deny revelation: or deism is the belief in natural religion only, or those truths, in doctrine and practice, which man is to discover by the light of reason, independent and exclusive of any revelation from God. Hence deism implies infidelity or a disbelief in the divine origin of the scriptures. ~ Webster's 1828 Dictionary

    Deism is a rationalistic, critical approach to theism with an emphasis on natural theology. The Deists attempted to reduce religion to what they regarded as its most foundational, rationally justifiable elements. ~ The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, 2011

    “Oh and most of the scientists and thinkers who believed in deity, believed in "deism".” ~ Matt Browner Hamlin

Nowhere could I find a god that “walked away”, JD. You can check the rest, here, yourself to see if you can support that particular element of your sophistry.

And, you have still failed to answer this important question; How would that belief make it "hard to reconcile with a serious commitment to voluntaryism"? Obviously, to the rational mind, it wouldn't.

Is that why you have steadfastly ignored it, because it isn't compatible with your belief that there absolutely, positively can be no first cause, no intelligence behind creation?

Samarami's picture

Jim Davies:

    "...Some of them at least will preach about the Rapture; that at some moment in time in perhaps the near future, believers will be instantanously removed from this world and transported to heaven, leaving the rest of us to cope as we may..."

Trucking down south (think it was in Mississippi) I came across a large, old car plastered with bumper stickers with religious admonitions typical for that part of the world. One said:

    Caution! In Case of Rapture This Car Will Be Unattended!

Precious few root-strikers in that car, I'll venture.

Sam

Glock27's picture

Cheers Sam,

I have searched the good book for the rapture but i just can't find where its actually mentioned. Can you reference it for me? Thanks.

Glock27

Samarami's picture

Glock27:

    "...I have searched the good book for the rapture but i just can't find where its actually mentioned. Can you reference it for me?..."

It ain't.

Sam

Glock27's picture

Cheers Sam,

Dat's right, it ain't. I's gots no ideas how someone cut and pasted to get a rapture but I'm bettin on a rupture.

Suverans2's picture

Cheers Glock27,

It's right next to the reference to "Easter", in any Bible, but the King James Version.

Easter n. {M.E. ester < O.E. eastre, pl. eastron, spring, Easter; orig., name of pagan vernal festival almost coincident in date with paschal festival of the church < Eastre, dawn goddess...] ~ Etymology from Webster's New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition, page 439

Eastre, dawn goddess

Exodus 23:13 And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect: and make no mention of the name of other gods, neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.

Rather difficult to do when there are "the name of other gods" in the "infallible, inerrant" version making that very admonition, I should think.

I was once asked a question, "How do you KNOW that the Bible (any version) is "the Word of God?" The only honest answer I could come up with was, because some man told me it was, and I chose to believe him.

Rather difficult to do, also, when all the days of the week, here in modern-day Babylon, are named after "other gods".

And, please know, I am not attacking you; just giving you some "food for thought".

Samarami's picture

Good response, Suv.

We "anarchists" and/or "libertarians" (I've yet to see a good explanation as to the difference between those labels -- but I know "we" love labels, 'cause I once posted to this forum a list I'd gleaned that exceeded 50 "labels" -- now it's up to 60 or more, but I've quit paying that much attention) -- we may come across to the newcomer as having all the answers.

"We" don't (the quotation marks are to remind me I can't speak for you -- I can only speak for me). The only thing I can diagnose with some certainty about "us" is that we'd like to be left alone to choose our own behaviors and we'd like to be free of tyranny. And "we" are fairly well all agreed that none of us has the right to impose his or her will upon another.

That leaves the child-rearing conundrum, which I will not deal with here.

"Religion" and "Sex" (sexuality in general) are two of the top sacred cows. Of the former there are untold "authoritative opinions" here on STR as to how you or I "should" approach religion -- or manifest our beliefs (of which we all have -- even those of the atheistic religion). But none of the opinionators seem to be capable of understanding the dichotomy between "belief" and "religion", so I disregard 'em all and have come to quit whanging away at either the naysayers or the religiously inclined, because I'd only be whistlin' Dixie like the rest -- what the hell do I know?

Sex -- sexuality -- can be as confounding: "Evolutionists" side-step that one, as do "anarchists". The anarchist might mumble something like, "...well, a guy and a gal make a contract with each other to be 'faithful' (whatever that's supposed to mean), and if one of them violates that contract, well.....well....."

So they are bug-a-boo's that we can zing and zang each other with all we want, but nobody here that I know of is that much of an authority -- they just babble a lot. Certainly about "religion" they do. I try to avoid all "bible" controversies -- because that's exactly what they are. Few can have what I deem "reasonable" discussions around that all-time best selling Hebrew Book without getting hot under the collar and insinuating insulting agendas.

So thanks, Suv, for the "food for thought".

Sam

mhstahl's picture

Jim,

Has it occured to you that human's don't need to be "fixed"? The problem with governments is they allow people to act with no-or limited- consequence;what do you expect? On a social level, I should think things would be much better if no one group held overwhelming force, not because of some outbreak of morality or athiesm but because there would be the prospect of real consequences for being a jackass. Consequences from which government currently shelters perpetrators.

There's a catch though: you are totally responsible for yourself. There is no overwhelming force to appeal to, nothing to protect your "rights", and no one to make everyone else "leave you alone." The way you survive is by being part of a protection group, probably your extended family-you retaliate as a group if its needed, and you negotiate with other groups as a group if you have a dispute. As a result, the whole community is quite stable, and predominantly peaceful-but the specific rules are both fluid and varied. Serious physical violence, though, is almost always going to result in severe consequences(but not too severe, since the agressor also belongs to a protective group.)

Michael van Notten wrote of this after he lived within a non-government society in rural Somalia and Ethiopia in The Law of the Somali's. His observations are wonderful, and his appreciation of the culture and its peoples is both touching and obvious.

Oddly, in the later chapters he proposes "fixes" to the culture, much as you did with american Indians, and seem to want to do to all of us. He wanted the Somalis to write down thier customary law so that it could be predictable-which would have destroyed its mutability, and created a government though he did not intend any such thing.

I would say to you that I could care less what any other human being believes or if they are moral or not: in today's world I protect myself as best I can while avoiding government as much as I'm able. Without government, I would be more  able to secure my self and anything I wanted to keep-and any adversaries would at least not be as powerful as the government. Even if everyone else becomes a zombie.

I intend to respond to you whole article at some point soon, along with my un-libertarianish disdain for the non-libertarian ideas of Ayn Rand. Perhaps I'll write an article. I would ask a question about what constitutes "evil" or "depravity" and whether that can ever really define a person:

Was Thomas Farabee depraved or evil? Did he think so? Do you think so? What if you polled Americans?

He was the bombadier on the Enola Gay. He never commited any act of moral turpitude outside of the war.

What if you polled Japanese?

Food for thought.

If you celebrate it, enjoy the holiday.

Mike

Jim Davies's picture

Mike, I celebrate it by becoming an accessory after the fact of the slaughter of an innocent bird, and thank you for your good wishes. You too.
 
No, I can't say it's occurred to me that humans don't need fixing - or rather that human society doesn't need fixing; a fixing of human nature on the other hand would be as needless as it is impracticable. The overwhelming evidence of 14,500 (or however many) wars provides me with sufficient proof that society does, most definitely, require a massive fix.
 
I have van Notten's very interesting book, and agree with your praise of it, but admit I'd not noticed his desire to capture the Somali secret might have damaged it. I'll have to think more on that. Why do you think that writing down their principles would have destroyed their mutability? - surely one can describe in words a system that adapts itself to new circumstances?

mhstahl's picture

Jim,

"...surely one can describe in words a system that adapts itself to new circumstances?"

Except you really can't. The "system" already exists, remember, and, if I recall (I actually gave my copy away to someone who was curious about it a few years back...so I'm working from memory-darn altruism ;)) van Notten's goal in writing it down was to standardize it in order to facilitate trade, because he rightly saw the unpredictable nature of the customary system as making it virtually impossible for a complex market economy to exist.

This is a conundrum. Because he is right at the core-the Somali's are not going to become a "developing" society in the market sense without predictable laws. The problem is, predictability requires more than simply writing down the rules.

Since the customary system-and this is fairly common among such systems-varies considerably in specifics between groups and changes over time, writing it down is useless. You are only writing down the rules of one group at one time as they apply to one instance. The restitution agreed upon for breaking someone's arm only applies to that instance: the next time it happens the parties involved must re-negotiate from scratch-or rather within a customary range which can be quite broad. This unpredictability is part of what makes the system stable-without it, breaking someone's arm becomes akin to paying a fine, which might be worth it if you really don't like the person. However, in an unpredictable system there is nothing stopping the victim's family from seeking massive restitution, or foregoing it and simply retaliating, other than the risk of retaliation from the perpetrators' side. BUT, you can only expect so much from your family, embroil them too often in conflict and you risk being cast out or being unprotected.  The result-people tend to avoid getting in the situation in the first place.

If you write down a price for breaking an arm, then for it to mean anything you must also enforce the written rules, otherwise everyone goes back to what they are doing. Well, that would seem to require a third party with enough force to compel co-operation between the victim and the perpetrator, would it not? And by setting the rules for consequences before an event, you limit the victim's recourse.

Anthropologists look at the structure of such societies somewhat differently than van Notten did: I looked but am unable to find any free journal articles to illustrate this, but I would recommend Max Gluckman's Politics, Law, and Ritual in Tribal Society which I see is available used from Amazon for just a few dollars: http://www.amazon.com/Politics-Law-Ritual-Tribal-Society/dp/020230860X/r...

It would be great to have both predictable rules as well as no overwhelming force within the society-but I don't see how that would be feasible. Even if your notion of universal morality should come to pass, there would inevitably be disagreement over specifics-who decides? 

At least that is how I see it, I'm happy to be shown wrong.

Best,

Mike

 

Jim Davies's picture

Mike, I fear we'll have to leave that question because you mentioned here a much bigger one: "Somalis are not going to become a 'developing' society in the market sense without predictable laws."
 
So you're saying a market economy cannot function without laws?
 
That's the antithesis of my understanding of liberty. A market economy cannot function without freely drawn contracts, certainly, but those are totally different from laws.

mhstahl's picture

Jim,

How, exactly, do you suppose those "freely drawn contracts" will be enforced without an entity with overwhelming force to resolve disputes? Contract law-and its enforcement through courts with overwhelming force- is most certainly a huge undertaking of government, and an effort of positive law the history of which can be verified. Indeed, the shifts in English contract law are one of the predicate legal changes that lead to the government generated "Industrial Revolution."

So, no, contracts in most cases as currently understood really are not "totally different from laws."

"Contracts" that are self-enforcing-and the first thing that comes to mind is a pawn-style collateral loan-certainly could exist, since there is no future need for force.  What I usually hear from libertarians, though, is a strangely myopic notion that contracts that bind future behavior based upon nothing but the contract's implied violence are acceptable-Walter Bolck's voluntary slavery contract discussion comes to mind-without discussing the feasibility of such an agreement.

For myself, I don't think it is particularly moral to coerce future behavior, even if it is agreed to in advance. Morality though, plays no part, since without overwhelming force complex contracts that require future behavior to be fulfilled cease to be feasible-because there is no predictability and no effective recourse.

That does not mean that there can't be "deals", or even that some arrangements for things like future payment, etc., might exist based upon reputation or trust-but those are going to be small in scope. Finance as we know it is out of the question. Indeed, finance contract enforcement is once again one of the tools medieval government used to entrench itself by relieving key individuals of the burden of losing money on bad-credit decisions-see the Statute of Merchants of 1285:

http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/source/1283stat-merchants.asp

I never said that a market could not exist without government, but rather that the Somali's would not become a "developing" country as defined in the terms of the modern "free market" that is  dependent upon the intervention of government force to function. I stand by that.

Trade certainly can, does, did, and would be carried out without government-it would, however, be radically different in structure to what is seen today. I would expect that most exchanges would be non-monetary (money, and its forced use being how governments pay for themselves) which would, I believe, make such economies technically barter rather than market in econo-speak. Such an economy would seem to me much better suited to the unpredictable environment that would necessarily accompany freedom. However, no matter what you call it, I see no reason why individual liberty needs to be pegged to any particular economic model. 

I agree, it is a larger topic; but I wanted to make myself clear.

Best,

Mike

Paul's picture

"Has it occured to you that human's don't need to be "fixed"? The problem with governments is they allow people to act with no-or limited- consequence;what do you expect?"

Going even further, it seems to be the aim of those in GOVERNMENT to "fix" humans, and/or human society to use Jim's distinction (a distinction without a difference - how could one fix society without fixing the individuals in it?). Fixing people is the disease caused by hubris, along with too much time on one's hands. If we want to be free, the first thing we need to do is shuck our own statist baggage, and stop trying to fix people or making them "think right".

"On a social level, I should think things would be much better if no one group held overwhelming force, not because of some outbreak of morality or athiesm but because there would be the prospect of real consequences for being a jackass. Consequences from which government currently shelters perpetrators."

Wyoming is an interesting case. This state has a higher per-capita percentage of government employees than any other state except (perhaps) Alaska. The people also seem to have a lot more respect for law than seems wise. So, one would expect the worst government depredations there.

And yet, it is one of the most free states. How can this be?

Wyoming has no cities to speak of. It is a small town state. Everybody knows everybody. It is impossible to be an ass and suffer no repercussions, because within a week everyone in town will know what you did. Hell, how many states do you know of, where the cops wave to you, and don't have a fit seeing a gun on your hip? That's what small town culture does for you.

Glock27's picture

According to the KJV the first bite of the apple made you need fixing and Romans 13:3 suggests that governments were instituted by God to be the correcting force, unless they became and abusive force then (God was suppose to fix the government he gave divine blessings to. [My interpretations from the dusty ancient commentators]).

Suverans2's picture

(1) Is it rational to believe that, because your forebearers reportedly broke a law thousands upon thousands of years ago you are held personally responsible, and must make atonement for it? Is is rational that a Man would take the life of his own son to make atonement for something someone else did? How is that just?

That same version of the "good book" that you refer to also says, "Ye are a royal priesthood..."; "Ye are bought with a price; be not ye the servants of men"; because he, "...hath made us kings and priests..."; "...hast made us, unto our God, kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth". We are, each of us, according to the way I read that, "sovereigns without subjects".

(2) The Preamble declares that: "We the People of the United States .... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." The meaning is clear that all authority originates from the People.

Please, do not take this as a personal attack, Glock27, I'm just using your comment to make a couple of points.

Glock27's picture

Oh for goodness sake, I'm a jus an anti-KJV because it seems to be the only text that is the authority, the holy of holys, the "that I am" book and no one seems to be aware of other translations, other biblical scholars, other biblical archeologists, biblical linguists and etc. I figure if the Force wanted to tell us something he wouldn't use the most fallable resource to do it. If the Force is capable of all this in the Universe the Force most certainly has a better manner to communicate with Its creation. And for goodness sakes I don't take it as a personal attack. Its all in the goodness of fun isn't it?

Suverans2's picture

Good.

Glock27's picture

My goodness, I'm glad that's settled.

Jim Davies's picture

Paul wrote "a distinction without a difference - how could one fix society without fixing the individuals in it?" and I'm sorry if my poor phrasing led to his confusion.
 
My meaning was that I see neither need nor opportunity to change human nature; it is what it is, and while I think it a good deal kindlier than Paul says he does (except perhaps in Wyoming?) libertarians are sometimes accused of expecting to change it and I see that accusation as false.
 
What can and must be changed is the way society organises itself - namely, by having governments. That's what I meant, and I apologize for not making that clear enough. Governments are diametrically opposed to human nature. They are a grotesque anomaly, an unnatural and ruinous appendage. Their removal from the scene is what I meant by the urgent need to fix society.

Samarami's picture

Paul:

    "...If we want to be free, the first thing we need to do is shuck our own statist baggage, and stop trying to fix people or making them "think right"..."

Hear hear!

In the early/mid 70's a gentleman wrote a book that launched me on a journey toward freedom. His name was Harry Browne (1933-2006). The book: "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World".

It took me some time to come to understand Harry did NOT mean I had to make everybody else free before I could be free. No, Harry's promise to me was that I could be free in an UNFREE world. And a piece to the liberty puzzle was in becoming able to resist the temptation to join "movements" and try to free up everybody else.

Doesn't mean I can sit back and avoid the task of promoting liberty at every opportunity. But the example I set will do more than all my blabbering might accomplish. Sam

Jim Davies's picture

It's a fine book, Sam, which I often recommend.
 
But at Century's end Harry bust a gut - twice! - to try to "free up everyone else" by running for Prez as a Libertarian. Never mind the flawed tactic, note his purpose. I met him during his preparation for the first of those runs, and was impressed by the tight, businesslike focus he employed to get the job done. Of all the LP candidates (the more recent of whom have admittedly been a mixed bunch) I reckon Harry was the best.
 
So how do you reconcile that intense, dedicated activity with the way you're interpreting his earlier words? - and if you can really be free while everyone else is not (while government still exists) why do you bother "promoting liberty" at any opportunity, let alone "every" one? By example or by blabber?  Not, surely not, because you feel some kind of altruistic obligation to the world? - say it ain't so.
 

Glock27's picture

Still reading that one Sam. I have to admit that time spent here is helping me understand his material a little better as I come in and out of it. I haven't accumulated the ability to set down and just plow through it. It's not one of those books you read in a setting like so many other books I have that I am tryng to get through.

Take care of yourself. There are a lot of people depending upon you.

Respectfully,
Glock27

Samarami's picture

Jim Davies:

    "...But at Century's end Harry bust a gut - twice! - to try to "free up everyone else" by running for Prez as a Libertarian..."

Yeah, but Jim, Harry's run for Grand Wizard ain't the point. That falls into Ad Hominem argumentation. I, too, had to forgive him for that.

I, and John Pugsley.

Harry, Ron Paul, and you, however, all share a similar proclivity: the belief that you can only be free by changing others. Each has done remarkable work in making that happen (to the extent that it can happen).

And you're correct in pointing out Harry's flim-flam from what he wrote in "Freedom in an Unfree World" to his decision to "run" for political "office". The Freedom book did indeed help turn me around in 1974 after having been in a lot of trouble and feeling I could never again be "free" -- I owe Harry for that.

Ron Paul and the late Harry Browne (at the end, at least) believe(d) that if "we" can just get the right people with the right ideas into that monopolistic grouping of psychopaths called "government", why, everybody will become free again. You, thankfully, do not fall into that trap. Everything you write eschews that idea -- that a little "government" can be a good thing.

I truly salute you for that insight. Please, Jim, don't run for president.

Doug Casey had a piece on the Lew Rockwell page yesterday in which he said:

    "...it's a tough row to hoe, trying to explain things to people who are so set in their thinking that they truly and literally don't want to hear anything that might threaten their notions. A person who feels threatened by ideas and who responds with emotion is acting irrationally. How can we have a discussion with someone whose emotion trumps their reason? How do we even begin to untangle the thinking of people who will gather this week to give thanks for the bounty produced by freedom and hard work – the famous puritan work ethic – by eating a turkey bought with food stamps?..."

I believe the problem goes much deeper than that, but this post has gotten too long and I'll quit for now.

Sam

Jim Davies's picture

Very well, Sam, since you ask me not to, I promise not to run for President. I ought to confess, however, having toyed with that idea back in 1997. The draft platform is still up on the Net, at http://www.takelifeback.com/pres/
 
Each time an LP candidate asks me for a contribution, I refer him to that. So far, I've never heard from any of them again. So it does perform a useful purpose.
 
The "belief that you can only be free by changing others" is, however, pretty well self-evident. If someone's jackboot is on my neck, I can become free only by causing him to remove it.

Jim Davies's picture

Correction, it must have been later than 1997, for it refers to 9/11.  Memory fades, at my age.

Suverans2's picture

The obscure word orgulous, for some strange reason, just popped into my mind.

orgulous adjective affected, aloof, arrogant, blustering, boastful, boasting, bragging, conceited, contemptuous, disdainful, egocentric, egoistic, egoistical, egotistic, egotistical, fanfaronading, flaunting, grand, grandiose, haughty, immodest, imperious, inflated, insolent, intolerant, lofty, lordly, narcissistic, overproud, overweening, patronizing, pompous, presumptuous, prideful, scornful, self-applauding, self-flattering, self-glorifying, self-important, self-magnifying, self-praising, self-satisfied, thrasonical, vain, vainglorious, vaunting ~ Burton's Legal Thesaurus, 4E. Copyright © 2007 by William C. Burton. Used with permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Samarami's picture

Would there be a clandestine message hidden here, Suverans2???

Yuk Yuk Yuk.

Sam

Suverans2's picture

Gosh, no, Sam! Are you one of them "conspiracy theorists", or somethin'? Yuk Yuk Yuk.

Glock27's picture

self-aggrandizing, self-interest, self-centered, benefit of self, I, me, mine, giveme, government.

mjackso6's picture

This site seems to have a decent run-down on Easter and the various deities (or different names of the same deity) associated with it before it was 'adopted' by the early Christians. I thought that Astarte was one of them, and if I remember correctly, she's also associated with early Judiasm. I know that she's mentioned (and villified) in the Old Testament. Sorry this appears down here at the end of the thread, but I screwed up logging in; it was meant to be a reply to a much earlier post.

http://www.toolong.com/easter.htm

de Raet's picture

To say of evil that "we know it when we see it", we must reply, do we?" When we use terms like good, evil, right, wrong, we are citing values. Values do not exist in nature, values are held in the minds of specific individuals as the result of their judgments. Any statement of good, bad, right, wrong, moral or immoral implies a specific individual making a statement about a specific fact or relationship in reality. Values presuppose a valuer.

For reasons addressed below, we must reject those dictionary definitions of evil which describe it as some sort of disembodied force or spirit and those which equate it with accidental as opposed to willful actions. Those mystics who accept these definitions will describe property damage and loss of life from such natural events as earthquakes and forest fires, or unintended actions (accidents) for example, as evil.

To have a clear understanding of the term, and to make sure we mean the same thing when we both use the term, we must define what we are talking about.

If we are to take a scientific approach to the subject, when we talk about a theory of morality, we are making a statement about those aspects of an action or entity is right, good, or moral as opposed to bad, wrong or immoral which apply to all men everywhere all the time. The theory of natural rights and its corollaries is a complete theory of morality.

Rights are actions which do not require permission. The concept presupposes that man must choose among various courses of action in reality (where else?) which are available to him at the time in order to secure his life. Central to classical liberal political theory is the idea that every man owns himself (if he doesn't, who does?) Every man has the right to do with his body whatever he and he alone wants to do with it.

Private property is that portion of the physical world which a man has under his control for the purpose of sustaining and furthering his life. The theory of private property is that each owner of property is the ultimate authority regarding use, transfer and disposition of that property (self, real and private). Each man's rights, then, end at the objective boundary of his property.

The corollary implication is that a man has the right to do nothing whatsoever with the property of another without the express consent of that property owner. This has been referred to as the theory of negative rights.

No man has the right to the property of another man. Let us say Person A wants property Person B has. In any human interaction, there are three, and only three, possible moral (right, good) outcomes; 1) A convinces B to adopt A's proposition and surrender B's to A, 2) A adopts part of B's proposition and B adopts part of A's proposition, 3) A and B cannot convince each other to abandon their original position and both walk away unsatisfied. What we are talking about is negotiation (persuasion), the intellectual process of verbal exchange whereby two (or more) parties try to come to agreement from disparate points of view toward a common goal. In our first case, A persuaded B to completely adopt his position, in the second case, A and B adopt portions of each other's position, in the third case, neither party to the negotiation successfully convinced the other and both are left unsatisfied. All of these outcomes, although completely different in result, are completely moral. This is the basis of contract (private) law.

The only other possible outcome is for A or B to initiate force against (coerce) the other in order to obtain their desired outcome against the will of the other. In human affairs, it is only the initiation of force against others people that can prevent them from using their property as they see fit. When we talk about evil we are talking not about natural disasters or accidents, we are specifying certain willful actions of one man against other men. The initiation of force is always evil.

Only individual men can have rights. Groups of men can have no more or different rights than the individuals that comprise the group.
Morality is based in choice and groups cannot choose, in fact, groups have no characteristics whatsoever. A groups is not 6'0" tall, does not weigh 180 pounds, does not have black hair, is not intelligent, swift of foot, a great singer, or any of the other attributes we ascribe to individuals. Even if certain individuals that comprise the group possess one, a few or even all of these characteristics, the group does not. There is no such thing as a group mind and since morality means choosing among various available alternatives, no group can choose; only individuals can choose.

To ask if man is basically good, evil, neutral or something else is nonsense outside the theory of natural rights. The question assumes a uniform standard by which all valuers at all time employ in such evaluations. Good, in whose estimation? Good, for what purpose? This, as with all knowledge, is completely subjective. There is no such thing as objective truth, which is not at all the same as saying there is no such thing as objective reality. Reality simply is, truth is the recognition of such which requires the judgment of an individual mind. Truth is that which corresponds to reality but that correspondence is a subjective evaulation.

Each man is unique possessing different intangible characteristics, desires, attitudes, abilities, motivations, intellect as well as physical characteristics. All you have to do is to know a few people to know this to be true. Further, each man has different characteristics at different times in his life. As man grows older, his characteristics change, for instance by having particular long term needs of survival already met and also as the result of changes in his intellectual, emotional and physical abilities. The older man, for example, may not place as high a value on baseball and may instead desire more opera. Or, due to physical failings, may have to give up playing basketball for chess.

All men are causative agents in reality in which each must act to sustain their lives. Those actions toward survival and prosperity (long term survival) are a natural result of the human condition in a physical environment of scarce resources. None are "by nature" good nor bad, only the actions they take can (and must) be judged so. The same individual may at times act in a way that some may judge as "good" or moral while the same act may be judged as "bad" or immoral by others. Both benevolence and aggression are natural expressions of human action. The concept of morality is the discrimination of good, right and moral human behavior from bad, wrong and immoral behavior.

It is impossible for any group of men to have the same combination and extent of intangible characteristics, desires, abilities, goals, capabilities, attitudes, et cetera, let alone physical characteristics. All individuals are unique down to the biochemical level. In any group of men, there may be some who share certain characteristics, but never all. However, the larger the group, and the greater the number of characteristics considered, the fewer the number of shared characteristics to the point of uniqueness at the individual level. Groups are formed around certain goals, objectives, purposes, et cetera such as country clubs, fraternal organizations, sports activities, and so forth. This suggests that in any group of men, as the number of members increases, the number of goals, rules, et cetera uniting the group, in order to be inclusive of and still serve the intensions of the individual members of the group must be fewer, not greater.

The idea that if man is "basically evil" then government is warranted is truly at odds with this position. Menger improved on the Aristotelian definition of reality by pointing out that reality consists of all the entities in nature "and the relationships between them". He recognized that intangible relationships between entities are just as much facts as the tangible entities themselves. Government, as Rothbard said, is simply a relationship between some people and others in the same political system. (The recognition of the fact of this reality is one reason Austrian economics is able to deal with economics as science, that is, rational deductions based on facts.) Government is the systematic initiation of force and the threat of the initiation of force by some members of society against other members. It is not, like country clubs, fraternal organizations and sports clubs, a voluntary institution; one may not simply opt out.

If all men are basically evil and all men must act in reality to sustain their lives and government is simply the relationship of some men to other men based on force, how does the necessity of government in an ostensibly free society arise? We must ask Paine if naturally evil men lose their evilness by simply joining government or are those men likely to use government to their own ends. If their position in government is such that their livelihood is dependent on it, and since government is nothing but force, should we not expect those in government to use force increasingly and more extensively? After all, government is only a massive wealth redistribution system which can only give to some what it first takes from others. (Hoppe, by the way, has pointed out how this fact demonstrates that minarchy is impossible.)

Morality is the independent judgment of individual actors in reality about their own property and the person and property of others. With his own property (self, real and personal) a man may do whatever he likes unhampered by the desires of others. With the property of others, he may do nothing at all without first having obtained the consent of the owner of that property. That is the moral claim of the theory of natural rights.

What about those in need? The situation changes not at all. The owner of property may give away as much of his property as he sees fit and has nothing at all to say about the use of his neighbor's property. The real or perceived needs of others changes the moral formula not a bit. In the time before government welfare, private charity provided for those unable to provide for themselves. Through the institution of government welfare, charity changed from being a voluntary into a compulsive system and thereby from an expression of morality to a system of obedience.

Government holds itself out as a moral agent by claiming the authority to take from one and give to another because of need (real or perceived). In doing so, government is said to acting against the natural "greed" of property owners for the "greater good" by which is meant the good of society. This illustrates how the meaning of words are purposefully twisted, misconstrued and redefined to serve the needs of those in power. Taking the property of one without their consent is simply theft, calling by the name "taxation" does not alter the facts of the event. Government programs to relieve poverty exacerbate the problem of poverty, they do not alleviate it. In other words, government anti-poverty programs are functioning exactly as designed, their purpose being to inculcate dependency.

It cannot be denied that the division of labor (the application of Ricardo's Theory of Comparative Advantage) leads to the production of maximum wealth in society. Those truly wishing to escape poverty would take a job instead of a handout, that is, desire a fishing pole instead of a fish. Handouts do not produce anything, they are simply a system of redistribution, and they inculcate a sense of dependency on the recipient, not one of empowerment.

What I have described above is a prudential system of morality. Judeo-Christianity advocates a providential system of morality. It (indeed all mystically based moral systems) admonishes believers to take care of others ("you are your brother's keeper") and they will likewise be taken care of. When providential moral codes become part of political policy, they quickly devolve into a system of forced extractions. Charity, voluntary giving, becomes welfare funded by taxation. It devolves from a voluntary system to a coerced system and thus is no longer a system of morality, which is a choice, but a system of obedience.