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Archive for the ‘Core Principles’ Category

the-angry-mob

There are a number of folks who have disagreed with some of my statements and some of my methods. I treat the absurd with absurdity, I ridicule the ridiculous and whenever someone is being obtuse to the level of it being profane, I response with the acute use of profantity – e.g. ‘Fuck that shit!’

con-man4When debating particular ideas, concepts and the corresponding societal movements that all-too-often spring up as a result of them, I tend to be rather particular to not only attack the ideas themselves, but to then specifically condemn the people that ‘follow’ such ideas.

Whenever an idea exists, not based primarily on the self-evidence that is good or right, but instead leans upon consensus as a means to gain prominence, there is inevitably some charismatic figure making a good pitch leading the charge. It is the general practice of others when addressing such ideas being broadcast from a primary source of one or a small number of individuals, to attack the source. The problem is, the ideas don’t exist on evidence, they exist on consensus. The slickest con-man in existence is entirely irrelevant if no one swallows his magic elixir!

More specifically, whenever anyone is making a claim that will not stand on it’s own, it can only stand as a result of others supporting it. It can only resonate in society if a ‘mob’ gets behind it and forces it to become an actionable reality. Thus whenever anyone claims to support the idea, they aren’t simply supporting the assertions of the charismatic figure, they are taking on those assertions and becoming the means by which they achieve relevance.

Furthermore, were there not so many willing idiots, there wouldn’t be a market for the snake oil salesmen to begin with!

Let me give an example to get to the heart of what I mean. Someone comes up to me supporting some statist idea that the government should be empowered to collect taxes from me under threat of force. Those who disagree with my methods are making an assumption that the individual is simply enabling the use of force by not standing in the way of it being carried out. They aren’t the ones directly responsible because it is someone in a statehouse somewhere that proposed it, and it’s someone in a police force somewhere that will enforce it and make it actionable.

But in reality, especially in any society with representative governance, such ideas will never ever exist unless a significant enough number of people – individuals – either support it or allow it. Whether it be authoritarian concepts of statist politicians or similar principles being stated from pulpits by evangelical preachers, the ideas themselves are irrelevant until individuals make them actionable.

philosoraptor-choose-not-to-decide

To quote RUSH from the song ‘Free Will’,

“If I choose not to decide, I still have made a choice”

In other words, as the passive thinker stands there and tells you “I think this politician is right when he says you must be forced to help others” or “I think this preacher is right when he says you should not be selfish and sacrifice for the needy”, the most important part of either of those sentences is the first two words, “I think”. They are in essence telling you “You need to be forced to comply with what ‘I think'” – supporting the third party is simply a convenience to that individual in that someone else is energetically telling them ‘I’ll happily force them on your behalf!’

Thus, I don’t play nice with such people. If you say you support someone else doing me harm – you, in my mind, are saying harm should be done to me. If you help propel ideas to prominence that only propel to prominence because people like you help them get that way, you are the one making the concept actionable.

I still hold the statist or the theist responsible for promoting bad ideas and will challenge them regularly on the falsity, absurdity and profaneness of those ideas, but it is the individual that ‘believes’ the bullshit that I hold the MOST responsible for it’s existence!

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The following is an example of an extreme allegorical situation. In that it is an extreme, it serves only as an example scenario to examine a moral premise under more contrasting circumstances.

Imagine you are taken captive by a group of thugs. You are with someone you truly care about deeply and someone who is just a good friend. One of the more sadistic of the thugs tells his comrades to hold you at gun point and to shoot any of you if you ‘try anything funny’.
He somehow managed to figure out that you were closer to one of the people you were with than you were to the other, so he grabs the person you care deeply about and holds his gun to their head. He then reaches down to his belt with his other hand and pulls his knife out of it’s sheath and throws it to your feet. Then he commands you to slit your good friend’s throat or he is going to shoot the person you care deeply about in the head.

What made me bring this up was a combination of a number of people around me arguing in favor of pragmatic decisions combined with a quote I had on my facebook some time back:

“I have learned that I have it in me to be a prick to people who earn that treatment and deserve it, but I do not have it in me to do the ‘wrong’ thing regardless of what someone else does.”

I left the above scenario intentionally unqualified for the most part, but assuming you are well overpowered and doing anything other than what you are told is going to end up in at least the person you care about being shot in the head, and resisting or trying to fight back may well result in all of you ending up dead.

Do you pick up the knife and cut the throat of your friend?  What about if it was someone you didn’t even know well? Would that (or should it even?) make a difference in your decision?

Sometimes using an ‘extreme’ scenario puts things in better focus by drawing the contrasts more vividly between moral rights, moral wrongs, causes and effects. Let’s examine some of the things that are either specified, apparent or implied by this scenario.

  1. Regardless what you do or don’t do, you are being commanded to take a given course of action by someone who is a sadistic thug
  2. This thug wants you to kill someone, something you (should) know is morally wrong
  3. The thug is counting on you to follow his orders because he is holding something you care about ‘more’ hostage to get you to do harm to something you care less about, presumably for his own amusement.

The other thing that made me think of posting this scenario was a quote someone posted today from John Galt’s radio broadcast from the Ayn Rand book, Atlas Shrugged:

“Now that you know the truth about your world, stop supporting your own destroyers. The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. Withdraw your sanction. Withdraw your support. Do not try to live on your enemies’ terms or to win at a game where they’re setting the rules. Do not seek the favor of those who enslaved you…theirs is a system of white blackmail devised to bleed you not by means of your sins but by means of your love for existence.” – John Galt [from Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged]

The point of this analogy is to point out a very extreme case of pragmatism. The reality of the situation is that when you deal in evil or attempt to deal with the irrational, you have no reasonable expectation of a result. If you cut the throat of your friend, not only have you committed a moral wrong, but you only have a passing assurance that no further harm will come to you or the person you care about. All you have done is ‘buy a little time’ while demonstrating that under extreme enough of circumstances, you will do what you are asked to do so long as the stakes are high enough for you to not be willing to accept a potential alternative.

I’m sure most of you can guess as to the other reason I am posting this example. Some of you may think this example is too extreme to be relevant. I admit it is extreme, but only for the sake of pointing out the factors involved in more vivid detail. If a thug holds those you care about at the point of a gun, it is the thug that will bring them to harm one way or another, whether you willingly go along with their insane demands or not.

It is the thug that takes away your choice in such a situation. It is the thug that puts you at risk. It is the thug that poses the threat to the life of the one you love. It always was and it always will be — until you pick up the knife! The question is whether you become evil along with them for the sake of expedience. The question is whether you end up with blood on your hands.

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William James - philosopher and author of 'Pragmatism'
For some time I have dubbed myself a ‘theoretical idealist, but a practicable realist’. But at the same time, I am a very staunch denouncer of pragmatism. I was thinking more on the differences between ‘practicable realism’ and ‘pragmatism’ lately and finally hit on a succinct way to describe the difference.

When I say that of myself, what I mean is that I can conceive of the ‘best’ course of action or the ‘best’ possible result in any circumstance, but that I also understand the nature of reality. Reality is such that not only are some results not possible, but in some cases, some courses of action are either not available or not worth pursuing when faced with the potential for success.

When I refer to pragmatism, specifically in my condemnations of it, what I refer to is the practice of placing the most worthiness or value in courses of action that are the likeliest to succeed and/or to produce a desired result. More often than not, ‘likeliest’ also entails, the ‘easiest’ course or the one requiring the least effort to accomplish.  It materializes through cliches such as “the ends justifies the means” and “picking the lesser of two evils” and is often referred to as ‘acting out of expedience’. Pragmatism is rampant in both the behaviors of our politicians and in the votes of those electing them, so it is often a subject for me when speaking on politics, as well as many other areas of life where it appears.

The reason I find a problem with pragmatism is that most people oversimplify situations. The term ‘lesser of two evils’ is a prime example of this. In most cases where this phrase is applied, two alternatives do not constitute the entire pool of choices. Instead, the ‘two’ refers to the ‘two’ pragmatic, or most-likely/easiest choices. The less likely choices are disregarded out of expedience, and often become a self-fulfilling prophecy since the pragmatic never pursue them in the first place — especially in populist arenas like democratic elections or assemblies.

The main and most outstanding difference between this form of pragmatism and what I refer to as ‘practicable realism’ is that realism requires taking all possible or available options into account. Acting in this way, one might use pragmatic-like criteria to determine their actions (picking the lesser evil from a given list of alternatives) but ONLY when no other alternatives exist. In contrast, the pragmatist ignores or otherwise disregards the difficult or unlikely choices in favor of the easy or likely ones.

Besides being bad philosophy, this pragmatic approach to decision making is lazy, cowardly and irresponsible. If a better alternative exists, you should pursue the better alternative in ALL CASES. This does not mean that some aspects of pragmatic thinking might help you determine what is the ‘best’ alternative, but it means that you must rank likeliness as secondary to what is proper, good and right whenever considering a course of action.

** editor note: to further differentiate this concept from ‘pragmatism’ which is often expressed through ‘practical’ solutions, I am changing my wording to use the word ‘practicable’ (which is more accurate to the concept anyway) for better clarity.

“If you have standards that you wish to live by, by all means live up to them and demand the same from others around you. To do otherwise is to be disingenuous to yourself, to others and to those standards you hold.” – Scott Webster Wood

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How many times have you ever heard someone say that they want a love that is unconditional?  That love itself is selfless?  Has no strings attached?  No preconditions?  I say hogwash!

First off, most people that tell you this are generally people who are telling you what they ‘desire’ in a loving partner. The same people will tell you that love itself is a form of desire. Yet ‘desire’ is a form of want and want a matter of selfishness.

When someone is describing the ‘kind of love’ they desire (want) they are essentially telling you what their selfish desires are. Thus it is a bit odd when their ‘selfish’ desire is to find someone ‘selfless’.  Furthermore, when they describe such a partner, it is generally implied that they have the full intention of offering the same kind of ‘un-conditional’ love in return.

Emotions

Love is of course an emotion. I was a big fan of Leo Buscaglia growing up for a number of reasons. He used to host various television shows and series on the topic of love as well as published a number of books on the subject which I read. Buscaglia described love as a ‘learned’ emotion and discouraged people from using terms such as ‘falling in’ and ‘out’ of love. In fact, he often went on to describe most if not all emotions as being ‘learned behaviors’ and I share this way of thinking.

Consider this. Our minds are rather complex mechanisms that process various stimuli and information on a number of different levels. As we go through our lives our minds create concepts to allow us to sort through the various individual and combined sensory data that our various sensory organs collect for us. For more complex combinations of multiple concepts, our minds will create an amalgam as a new concept. For example when we see a fist sized white leather ball with red stitching we think ‘baseball‘ rather than ‘fist sized white leather ball with red stitching‘.

In our early years we are taught many concepts before we can attach words to those concepts and many of these concepts are the fundamental building blocks on which the rest of our lives will act out. Various schools of psychology place a great deal of emphasis on this early development as key factors in the formation of our personalities and traits. Many of our concepts for emotions are formed at this time in the manner of the way a foundation is formed under a house, and we build upon those concepts over our lives.  But how often do we stop to look at what that foundation is actually made of?

Emotions themselves are learned behaviors and responses, often quite complex combinations of multiple multiple sensory data that relates to either past experiences (concept formation) or to notions we have formed through our process of learning (fantasy scenarios).  If you are told over and over and over again that Love is a magical feeling and is some kind of mystical state of bliss, if you hear or see many stories told in books and movies about fantasy love scenarios that make you feel good (remind you of past experiences or fantasies) you will incorporate those into your fuzzy-wuzzy feel good conceptualization of ‘love’.

Then when you meet someone who’s behaviors and interactions inspires enough of those many many combined concepts that helped you build your notion of love combined with your own excitement, or apprehension, nervousness, shyness, sexual arousal or other factors – woah, it feels like those concepts your brain pieced together over the years! This must be love!!!

You so want love to be ‘magical’, like you have been told over and over and over again, that you don’t stop to realize you have been hyperventilating and your adrenaline is spiking as you are trying to work up the nerve to ask that cute girl for a kiss.  You conform to your concept and believe it to be ‘real’ magic.

Love is a Concept

When in fact you step back and look at all the various factors of what you both believe and think are parts of what love actually ‘is’, if you are honest enough with yourself and thorough enough in the integrity of your reduction of the concept as you know it, you will find that in fact it is based on real factors.  Factors that are for the most part based on things that you consider of benefit to you, but in some cases that you were either convinced were something they aren’t or that may even be irrational in nature.

So if love is just another amalgam of multiple concepts, then you can not only rationally approach the concept but you can strive to both control it and seek to maximize it.  As an ethical egoist, my suggestion of course is to optimize it rationally to your maximum benefit.

So is Love really Un-Conditional?

As I described above, most people that describe love as unconditional ‘seek’ out that form of love.  i.e. they desire it.  They place as a condition, the pre-requisite that the person they seek shares their (flawed) view on what love is.  And upon doing so, they do so by way of selfish reasoning!  The sad part is, that means they are half way there – but they never quite make it the rest of the way.

The truth is that none of us would really ‘want’ a ‘selfless’ love or for someone to love us ‘unconditionally’. For someone to do so absolutely without condition it would mean they gain no individual benefit from doing what is considered ‘loving behavior’ whatsoever.  Just stop and think what this really means:

  • They are not with you because they ‘want’ to be with you, but out of a sense of duty to their concept of what ‘love’ is.
  • They don’t do things for you because they desire you to be happy, but because they feel obliged to do it.
  • They cannot have any pre-conceived notions at all of what ‘they’ think is right or even what ‘you’ think is right. For you to ‘want’ is just as ‘conditional’ as for them

Does it sound a bit robotic?  A tad idiotic?  It’s being mutual slaves out of obligation to self-sacrifice. It makes you ponder that the ultimate ‘unconditional love’ is a suicide pact.  Who wants that?

As for me, I ‘want’ a selfish lover. And I seek to be a selfish lover. When I am with someone, I desire someone that I ‘want’ to be with and take great ‘joy’ in being with them – and them with me.  I selfishly crave a partner that greedily craves my company. I willfully desire to offer of myself to them in exchange for their offering of themselves to me.  I want them to be happy, because it brings me joy for them to be that way. And I fully expect them to meet my pre-condition of seeing love the same way.

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I am no fan of pragmatism.  Pragmatism is the historical cop-out.  I am not a fan of apathy or complacency either, but these are the direct off-spring of pragmatic thinking.  The combination of these elements turn even the most principled men (and women) into wet noodles and ultimately into willing slaves.

An interesting concept popped into my head this week.  It’s one that I’ve actually spoken on in the past such as with my previous entry on Galt’s Oath.  For lack of a better term for it, I am going to call it ‘anti-pragmatism’, but it is in fact a form of pragmatism and one made possible through either apathy or complacency.

My thoughts on this concept came up, among other discussions, in regards to a discussion on the ‘Sanction of the Victim‘ from Atlas Shrugged.  The Wiki entry does a good job of explaining this concept from the book saying:

The concept “Sanction of the victim” is defined by Leonard Peikoff as “the willingness of the good to suffer at the hands of the evil, to accept the role of sacrificial victim for the ‘sin‘ of creating values”.[23] This concept may be original in the thinking of Rand and is foundational to her moral theory: she holds that evil is a parasite on the good and can only exist if the good tolerates it.

This ‘Sanction of the victim’ extends from the kind of pragmatism I speak of, a pragmatism spawned from either a complacency or a judgment call on behalf of the individual.  Those that choose to call it a judgment call will defend it staunchly as the ‘moral’ and ‘rational’ choice.  This is the principle I have been mulling over in my head this week – is it really?  In reality, this is the concept I’ve been mulling over my whole life – probably that most volitional people struggle with – but I have arrived at a different conclusion.

My life is non-negotiable!

Property that has been ethically obtained is a product of the application of one’s life.  When someone comes to appropriate your property without proper cause or your specified consent, they are appropriating a portion of your life.

If someone came and demanded your foot, or your eye, or your kidneys would you be so willing to concede out of expedience?  Yes, I understand, one cannot survive without a lung and losing a hand is more significant than losing 25% of your latest check, but that’s the point – that’s why it’s easier to take your paycheck – because you will accept it!  Because you will tolerate it!

There is an evil embedded in those that will take advantage of the willingness of people to accept levels of tyranny knowing that those exploited will tolerate it rather than fight it.  There is an evil inherent in those that are fully aware of this fact and continually push the border of it gradually, but stay just short of exceeding the tolerance of such tyranny.  But that evil is enabled by the evil that is the tolerance itself.

Pragmatism is summed up by ‘the ends justifies the means’, but the type of reverse-pragmatism I speak of is summed up by asking ‘What difference will it make to compromise your own ethics and morals [for the sake of expedience] if the end result comes out the same?‘  In other words, it results in convoluted logic such as “I pay my taxes because the government forces me to.  I do it because they hold a gun to my head.”  I say if that is your argument, then make them show up with the gun – then and only then pay with reluctance.  It is because people continue to comply that nothing ever changes.

How many of you have actually had a tax man show up at your door with a gun?  What you are saying is that it ‘could’ result in that, and I don’t want to put up with that.  (what would the neighbors think?  what would my boss think?)  I can’t afford to and still maintain the ‘other’ things I want. (after all, you might have to give up the SUV or the big screen TV!!!)  I’ll trade my morals for security and comfort.   You are saying in big bold letters to all the lawmakers “my life is negotiable so long as the balance is tolerable.”

The end result is the same.  Government grows, freedoms wane and tyranny wins because people are willing to tolerate a given quantity of it.

I say again, My life is non-negotiable!  When you tolerate a given amount of evil for expedience, you only teach those pursuing the evil that there is an amount of it you will tolerate.  At that point, all they need to do is change that level in gradual steps, bit-by-bit, until it is too late for you to realize you are a slave.

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Someone accused me today of being a hypocrite because I draw unemployment compensation when I am seeking work.  (Let me add that this individual is a ‘public employee’ and a member of a ‘public employee’s union.  i.e. They work for the government.)  I wrote the following in response:

I am fully aware unemployment is little more than a welfare transfer.  But not much unlike social security, it is sold as an ‘insurance’ system.  It is something that they charge your employer in any W4 based position.  I know, because I have kept books for people hiring others on a W4 basis before.  So, let’s imagine an analogy…
Let’s say someone breaks into your car and steals your laptop and your car stereo.  The cops catch him but he has already sold the thing, even admits to it, but there is no way to recover the stereo or laptop.  However, he does have the cash.  The cops offer you the cash in return for your lost stuff.  Are you gonna turn it down?

Or let’s say you retire, are you gonna turn down your social security check after having the money deducted from your paycheck for 40-50 years?

How’s about this one?  You are required by law to get insurance to drive your vehicle.  Someone smacks into your car.  Are you going to refuse the check from the other guy’s insurance company?

How is it hypocritical to take advantage of a program that you ‘WOULD NOT QUALIFY FOR’ if I hadn’t worked a minimum amount of time in the last 18 months?

I also went on to clarify that unemployment is a ‘state’ (as in State of Mihigan) run agency and that I thought the existence of such programs was at least more justified than federal ‘welfare’ programs due to the 10th amendment.

Among other things, the individual also chose to make implied criticisms on my life and lifestyle asking “you’ve done well?”  I decided to have fun and play a little Francisco D’Anconia on this one:

Is that what I’m doing?  Well isn’t that what they want me to be?  Am I not living up to the [progressive] ideal?  Or am I?

Who is John Galt?

I thought it worthy to make a few more public comments on the subject.  First off by asking, by what standard do we call that hypocrisy? And what is a hypocrite?

Who is more justified in arguing against a welfare state?  Someone that has a job and pays their bills or someone that is currently seeking work and could actually benefit from a ‘transfer payment?  Is either ‘more qualified’ to state facts and argue ideological vs. objective principles?

Could you not say of the person with the long-standing, government job protected by a public employee union that they have ‘no frame of reference’ for someone that is seeking work or low on money?  Could you not call them a hypocrite or at least accuse them of having no frame of reference one way or another to take either side in the issue? (kind of like how some say men should not be involved in a debate on abortion, or whites europeans having a say in civil rights issues)  Would such be justified?

Who do we find that lives up to a claim of ‘no hypocrisy’ when we use this kind of standard?  Do we invent one such a the persona of Jesus represents to the church?  (I’d suggest some even in the O’ist community come dangerously close to doing this with John Galt or even Ayn Rand herself)  Who’s standard of living do we set up as the ‘ideal’?

It would depend on the principles being argued and the ‘solutions’ being suggested now wouldn’t it?  It would depend on the facts!

Although there are some situations where ‘do as I say, not as I do‘ is worthy of consideration for criticism, I don’t think this is such a situation.  Furthermore, even if you could make a case that it was I don’t think criticism is warranted.

If someone takes bread from my table and offers me bread down the road when I needed bread, I would be a fool not to take it – especially if the alleged justification for taking it (against my will) in the first place was to provide it to me later.

So what’s makes the difference?  What am I arguing for/against?

I am arguing that government should be limited:

The only legitimate role for government in a free society is to do for it’s people that which they cannot reasonably or should not morally do (or participate in doing) on their own behalf.

I am arguing that no one should be punished or rewarded in a free society [without cause]:

A truly free society is one where every man has equal opportunity to pursue his goals, and where no man has special privilege granted to assist in achieving them.

I am arguing that individuals should be held responsible for themselves, and that ‘not’ helping someone is not ‘doing them harm’ – that helping someone when it does someone else harm is not compassion:

Fulfilling someone’s immediate needs does not necessarily equate to compassion. Helping enable someone to fulfill their own long term needs (that facilitated the immediacy) does.

I argue that it is not government’s job to solve people’s personal problems:

You can’t legislate away stupidity, and to try to do so is to legislate away freedom.

I argue that we should encourage others to be responsible and think for themselves and not to abdicate that role to the state:

Proselytize responsibility, accountability, self-sufficiency and critical thinking.

I am arguing that I should be able to keep my bread and that others be allowed to do so also.  I am asking that each person be responsible for themselves including seeking the voluntary ‘good will’ of others if they ever have need.

When compared with progressive principles, the desire of a progressive is to use government power to enforce an ideology upon others.  To use government threat-of-force to impose their concept of what constitutes right and wrong.  Not in a reactive nature as when responding to a crime, but in a proactive sense which presumes guilt of the achiever [without probable cause or due process] before the fact, something that I thought was forbidden [by the 4th and 5th amendments] in our society.  To require one person to labor for another’s benefit against their will, something that is forbidden [by the 13th amendment] as well.

THIS is what I am arguing against.  Some might argue that any government is enforcing an ideology on others – guess what, I AGREE.  And to this end, I think therefore that ANY GOVERNMENT should be AS LIMITED A GOVERNMENT AS POSSIBLE.

Power does not necessarily ‘corrupt’. Rather positions of power attract corruptable and power hungry men. And corrupt power hungry men should be given as little ‘power’ as possible.

Hot For Words did a great vid on the word ‘hypocrisy’ and it’s origins, which stemmed from acting or playing a role.  What about my position is acting?  The long and the short of it is, I am not asking for government to do anything for me.  I am asking government to stop doing things for anyone and to stop making other people pay for it.  Taking back some of what was taken from me, under the same premise justifying it’s seizure is hardly hypocrisy.

(see these quotes and others on my ‘Facebook Stati’ page)

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  • (rational) selfishness as your prime motive = life

  • duty to sacrifice = death

“A doctrine that gives you, as an ideal, the role of a sacrificial animal seeking slaughter on the altars of others, is giving you death as your standard.” – John Galt’s speech, Atlas Shrugged

If you haven’t read Atlas Shrugged, see if you can find a copy of Galt’s speech online somewhere. It really does come down to the fact that any notion whatsoever that says a man is obliged or otherwise duty bound to give up something that he spent his time, mind and effort (life) to gain for the sake of another, really is extolling ‘death’ as a virtue.

Of course, the thing that the altruists try to do is to find the amount you are willing to tolerate of them forcibly taking your livelihood without revolting in mass against them.

This means ANY notion of duty, requirement, pre-requisite or any other assigned notion of your being compelled to give up something you earned without compensation AND individual motive (choice) and reward is the philosophy of death.

A requirement to forfeit your life is a requirement to die. The rest is just a matter of degrees.

This goes for religions, governments, environmentalism, animal “rights”, etc.

It is in your best interest to protect your environment. It can be in your self interest to help your neighbor. You can gain value from supporting charities. You gain value by supporting a government that protects it’s citizens against undue threats.

Social welfare is not a function of a rational government, and any notion that is not ‘by choice’ of the individual is the virtue of allowing another to take of your life against your will.

(see also: Money = Life)

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My only allegiance is to ‘reason’. My only duty is to my own self-interest. My only obligation is to the pursuit of both with the least imposition upon my fellow man.

I have seen a lot of Objectivists and fans of Ayn rand posting “Rand’s pledge” to various places on the net:

I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.
John Galt’s oath from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

I understand the intention of Rand’s statement and also assume an act of identifying with it by those sharing it on the net, but I’m going to dare to go one step further and suggest that my version is superior and say why.

First off, Rand’s pledge is an unattainable ideal at present. In a perfect objectivist utopia it would not be – where all men would behave to others in a rational fashion. Well guess what, we aren’t in such a utopia, and it’s likely one will never purely exist.

Remember that I identify myself as a theoretical idealist but a practical realist. By stating this I am saying that I can imagine the ‘perfect world’ that should – or at least that I would ‘like’ to exist, but I also can observe the real world as it really does exist.

The fact is that whenever we place any task in the hands of other men such as with government (which here-to-fore seems to be a necessary evil amongst civilized men) there will inevitably be disagreements as to what the functions of that government should ultimately be responsible for and how it should go about achieving it.

Again, in a perfect world, it would behave and it would structure rules such that rational men could co-exist. But inevitably some irrationalities sneak in through various means at the hands of men desiring undeserved rewards from government and men in government willing to dole them out in exchange for power, money or some other self-serving motive.

So desire as you may, try as you may, wish as you might (which is mysticism btw, and thereby irrational, but it is kinda what making such a ‘vow’ really consitutes), chances are your participation within an imperfect system of imperfect men will inevitably, indirectly lead you to contribute to that system that is by itself breaking that vow.

Therefore, even though it is not your own intention or your own direct action, it does extend from your own participation in the system that enables it. Yes, such participation may be coerced, but we always have a choice to stand up to coercion. Instead we make comprimises – practical realism – where we base our decisions on the most rational combination of good and bad that arrives at the best combination of ‘good’ available to us – or at least we strive to.

By that reasoning, and with that desire in mind, my statement above is a better statement of fact that does not entail an unattainable pledge.

(see also My New Mantra for my original breakdown of this)

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Money = Life

The subject of money, who has it, who needs it and who deserves it, is a big part of the political forums in recent decades.  I thought it might be useful to examine just what money is and what it represents by breaking it down into a series of simple correlative statements.

Money is a Symbol of Value

I love life

I $ove life

What is money?  Pure and simple it is a mutually agreed symbol.  A symbol of value.  Various currencies come in quantities, denominations, sizes and shapes representing different quantities of a pre-defined system of value.  That value may change in relation to other similar symbols of value but any form of money currency is just that – a symbol of value.

Money is a Means of Exchange

Why the need then for money?  OK, we have this agreed upon symbol representing some value, but what for?  When interacting with other people in society it is necessary to have some mutually agreed upon symbol as a means of exchanging things of value or exchanging the symbols of value themselves.  One man has something another one wants, the other man wishes something of value in exchange.
If both have some ‘thing’ the other one wants, they can simply trade outright.  But lacking such a mutually satisfied need, one person may choose to exchange a ‘thing’ of value for a ‘symbol’ of value that he can later exchange for some other ‘thing’ he needs.  Thus the need for the symbol, as a means of exchange of value.

Money is Earned or Made

Since money currency is a mutually agreed upon symbol of value and means of exchange, how does one ‘get’ money?  Well they could exchange some ‘thing’ of value for it as in with the example above.  That ‘thing’ could be something someone has already acquired in the past, something they created themselves or even a product of their own labors. (see below)
Therefore, by making an exchange of a thing or action, it is said that one ‘earns’ the money they obtain.
Our country is somewhat unique in world history in that we also have a notion that one can ‘Make Money‘.  How do you ‘make’ money?  In general it would be by applying your labors and abilities to ‘create’ something that someone wants that may not have existed before.  (unfortunately, we have departed from emphasizing this notion in our society as most opt to instead ‘earn’ money rather than find ways to ‘make’ it, but that is a subject for another essay)

Things Earned or Made are the result of Effort, Experience and Knowledge

If money is ‘earned’ or ‘made’ through one’s labors and abilities, what are labors and abilities and how are they applied to generate income in the form of symbols of value?  Labor is the application of one’s physical efforts and time.  Ability is the accumulation of one’s individual experience and knowledge – experience and knowledge that was acquired in essence through physical efforts (trial and error or research) and time.  So essentially, even experience and knowledge boil down to efforts and time.

Effort, Experience and Knowledge are Facets of Human Existence

Unless you are completely apathetic and lethargic, you could accurately describe your every day functions as some combination of the passing of time and the application of efforts.  Efforts directed (hopefully) by the insights resulting from your accumulated experience and knowledge and further honed in the form of new experience and further knowledge learned in the process.
If your every day functions can be described as application of effort over time guided by knowledge and experience, then these very components are the core of existence itself.
Earning value from the application of one’s efforts, knowledge and experience is how we, as societal animals, co-exist with other people, exchange the value derived from those efforts and obtain the essentials we need to continue existing.

Existence is Life

All of the things described above – application of effort guided by experience and knowledge – to re-iterate, are part-and-parcel of being alive.  The value gained, exchanged, earned and made in the process are values gained from living itself.  As already described, money is a mutually agreed upon symbol of value, of that value (the value gained from efforts, experience and knowledge), the value gained from ‘existing’ in a way that benefits ourselves and our fellow men in exchange for value that we need, want or desire.
All this can therefore only logically lead to one conclusion….

Money = Life

The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden

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My new Mantra

My only allegiance is to ‘reason’.   My only duty is to my own self-interest. My only obligation is to the pursuit of both with the least imposition upon my fellow man.

To break it down:

My only allegiance is to ‘reason’.

i.e. rationality, logic, common sense, objective fact. Should anyone suggest I should be a patriot to my country simply because I am a citizen, beholden to my race simply because of my genetics, faithful to my company simply because I work there to earn my living, an advocate of my gender simply because I have a penis, a proponent (of any type) of hunting simply because I prefer to harvest my own food whenever possible, a defender of my family simply because they are ‘blood’, etc – I say NO!
I support my country when my country allows me to be free and when my government is limited and serves the people it governs.  I support my race because of it’s positive traditions and history.  I support my company if my company behaves ethically and fulfills my needs to the same extent I fulfill theirs as agreed in my terms of employment.  I support my gender when men behave as men should not simply how other men ‘expect’ them to behave.  I support hunting when it is done with concern for the species harvested and the outdoors as a whole.  I support my family because my family is true, moral and good (and I am not afraid to point out when I think they are straying from that path).

My only duty is to my own self-interest.

In short [rational] egoism (do not confuse this with ‘egotism’).  I think ‘EVERYONE’ makes every decision or undertakes any course of action for maximum self-gain and/or minimal self-loss. Even the most avowed ‘altruist’ behaves thus due to some personal motive to be that way.
I assert that I have no ‘duty’ to fund an irresponsible government, support failing public programs, maintain employment with an unethical company and so on. This does not preclude being a good citizen, devoted family man, exemplary employee, charitable person, contributing community member, etc.  You support and pursue those things because of the benefits you receive from all of the above or to avoid the consequences of not supporting them (in the case of funding irresponsible government for example, e.g. paying taxes under penalty of law) – self-interest!

My only obligation is to the pursuit of both with the least imposition upon my fellow man.

Given the first two statements, the only obligation I have is the pursuit of ‘common sense’, living my life as rationally as possible – and doing so in such a way as to have the least adverse impact upon anyone else.  My own self-interest should not negatively impact the ability of anyone to achieve the same desired results, even if their pursuits are not completely rational or misguided through some perceived notion of altruistic motive.  By the same token, I will also do my best to hold others to the same standard when it comes to imposing on my ability to pursue these things.

(a further elaboration on this and a comparison to Ayn Rand’s ‘Galt’s pledge’ can be found under My Axiom)

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