The Bounds of Free Will

What is destiny? What does it mean to believe in fate? Are we all destined for greatness or to an end beyond our control? What if our delusions of grandeur are a subconscious projection of our innate capacity fully realized in the world? If this is the case, how would we even tell? What if fate is our ex-post-facto justification for our own choices? What if destiny is the lie we tell ourselves for not making better choices? Is free will a delusion we thrust upon ourselves to feel our lives are meaningful? After all, if we aren’t free to choose and our destiny is set, what is the purpose of doing anything at all in our lives? I cannot speak to the existence of fate or destiny, but I do believe in free will.

The notion of unadulterated free will is a straw man designed to give the nihilistic determinists a foe they can burn. Unadulterated free will does not exist, and it is not possible for it to. In order for the concept to exist, it must be bound by reality. More importantly, it must be enacted by actors composed of matter bound by reality. The existence of anything bound by matter immediately gives it restraint. This is one of the arguments against the existence of God. If God is all powerful, all knowing, and essentially limitless, then he cannot exist because existence would give him constraints. This argument is worth discussing in further detail another time, but hopefully it illustrates the point. Unadulterated free will cannot exist because we are actors bound by existence in matter in space and time. So what sort of free will does exist?

Activistic determinism is the theory that our free will is bound by our existence in space and time. More specifically, our choices are limited to our environment and the circumstances of our actions. I cannot simply choose to buy a new car, even though I might desire to do so, and given the means I would. If I lack the money for a new car, my will is restrained by that fact of reality. Likewise, if I want to be able to deadlift a truck, but I cannot pick up a barbell, I am not going to be moving any car. This, however, does not mean I cannot make choices in order to better enhance my freedom of will. If I work harder, or take a job that earns more money, I will be able to get a new car. Likewise, if I train regularly with weights, eat correctly, and probably take some steroids, I will be able to lift that truck.

Ludwig Von Mises believed in three requirements for human action: one, an unease with your current situation; two, a perception of something better; and three, the belief that positive action will get you from where you are to where you want to be. These too are restraints on your free will.

Choice implies action or the option to act. If you have no desire to improve your situation given the lack of a sense of unease, essentially you are completely content, you will not act, and therefore are not exercising your will. In this instance, you would be oblivious to the possibility of something giving you unease. Likewise, if you are ignorant of any perception of something better, despite living with a sense of unease, you cannot act, and therefore are not exercising your will.

Let’s say, however, that you have a sense of unease, and you perceive something better, however, you do not believe you have the capacity to take positive action. You are still making a choice about your capacity to act, and are therefore exercising your free will. In this instance, your will is bounded by your own belief in yourself. This is often the greatest limiting factor for so many people; they simply lack the belief in their own capacity to improve their own lives or the world around them.

Lastly, let’s look at the scenario in which a person recognizes their sense of unease, perceives something better, and believes they have the capacity to change their situation. This person is at the maximum capacity of their free will. Regardless of their choice to act or not to act, their will is not bounded by a lack of capacity, and is therefore at its greatest potential. They are also in a position to take full responsibility for their choice. If a person lacks the capacity to make a change, they can hardly be faulted for not trying. However, it is the person that can make a change and chooses not to that shoulders the consequences of their choice to not act. Despite this capacity for actualization of the personal capacity, the actor is still bounded by external constraints.

An individual may be uneasy about his inability to transport himself places, recognize the potential of owning a car, and believe that getting a job will help him pay for that car and know he can get a job that pays enough. He still faces external boundaries. He will be limited by the kinds of jobs he can get, either by his own skills or the market. He might want to and be capable of drilling for oil on the moon, however, that does not mean that job is available to him. Likewise, he might want a five wheeled car, however, those are not readily available. Even at our greatest capacities for exercising our wills, we are still bounded by reality.

It is possible that destiny is the sum of all of our choices, given the limitations of our reality, both external and internal. However, it is not possible that our free will is boundless. Nor is it nonexistent. Anarchy is simply the realization of our own limits, our desire and capacity to find them, and the moral imperative not to limit others with aggression, coercion, and initiated force. I hope it is within your capacity to join me in the splendor of anarchy, and I hope you choose to do just that.

Thanos Needs an Economics Lesson

To those of you that are Marvel movie fans, this is a spoiler warning. If you have seen the movie, or have no interest in seeing the movie, then please continue. You have been warned.

In the latest Marvel movie, Avenger’s: Infinity War, the big bad guy is named Thanos, and he has a plan to eliminate half of all conscious life from the universe. How he has to do this is less important than why he thinks he has to do this. Thanos believes that while some life is good, too much of it leads to deplorable conditions and a meager, subsistence lifestyle. He believes that by eliminating half of all life, there will be a state of abundance left for the survivors, and they will flourish. When you look at it from his perspective, his choices seem noble. However, morality aside, you have to be completely ignorant of economics to think his actions are a good thing.

If ever there was a real life historical figure with which the fictional Thanos would agree, it would be Thomas Robert Malthus, a political economist and cleric that lived in the late 18th century and early 19th. Malthus was famous for the idea that became known as the Malthusian Trap. It stated, as food production increased, the standard of living for individuals in said society improved. Malthus observed, however, that the improved living standards led to a population increase, which resulted in living standards returning to subsistence levels. This cycle of improvement, growth, reversion to subsistence, was what Malthus called the trap, and he believed it would prevent humans from reaching a utopian existence. In fact, what he actually believed would happen was humanity would continue through the cycle until all of the natural resources were used up and we faced a catastrophe. That same catastrophe is what Thanos believes he is saving life from reaching in the Marvel Universe.

Imagine what life would be like today if half of all people that have lived from the dawn of recorded time had never lived. We may have never had Socrates, Aristotle, Plato, Caesar, Augustine, Aquinas, Newton, Jefferson, Washington, Tesla, Mises, Rand, Rothbard, and any number of other great individuals whose ideas shaped our world for the better. Perhaps eliminating half of all life on earth would make more iPhones available to those that are left, but there would not be as many great minds remaining to invent the next revolutionary piece of technology. And that is why Malthus and Thanos were wrong.

Technology was the factor that Malthus never considered when he was writing, and it is the one input that Thanos completely disregarded. There are seven billion people on the planet right now, and if we are to assume that our living standards would be better if there were only three and a half billion, that is a hypothesis we can consider. Around 1966, the population of the planet was about three and a half billion. Would you say our standard of living has improved since then? I certainly would, although I wasn’t alive at the time. Let’s go back even further. If reducing population by half is good, why not by three quarters or even six sevenths? It was right around the time Malthus was writing, 1800, when the population was at approximately one billion people. I think it is safe to say our lives are considerably better now than they were then.

So what is the reason for this discrepancy between what the movie villain proclaims and what reality demonstrates? It is individual human action that leads to an improved standard of living, and the more individual humans we have working towards that goal, the better your standard of living will be. The agricultural revolution moved us out of a subsistence lifestyle, and from that, we were able to move into cities and start to industrialize. Industrialization led to an incredibly high demand for innovation, and the freedom of the capitalist market system allowed for that innovation to occur. The more productive people you have, the more potential innovators and improvers you have working towards the goal of flourishing.

Technology allows for better use of material inputs and a better outcome, which in turn leads to more opportunities to innovate and improve. Only if you believe that we are not capable of innovating and improving our lives would you think that eliminating half of all life is necessary to preserve the rest. In our current age, the only thing holding individuals back is onerous laws and regulations stifling critical individual innovation for the sake of maintaining government control and power over the people.

Thanos is the government, or the government is Thanos, however you want to look at it. When governments run out of the money to spend as they please, when they run out of the influence to rule as they please, and when they run out of the consent of the governed, they will go to war in an effort to kill off as many of their own population as possible in order to reaffirm control. Governments have even outright killed their own under the guise of the common good. Stalin killed 50 million or more citizens of the Soviet Union, just so he could “effectively manage” the economy. Chairman Mao killed upwards of 70 million Chinese in the Great Leap Forward, so as to improve the living conditions of the rest of the country. Thanos is the greatest villain in the Marvel Universe, but the government is the greatest villain in ours.

Say Goodbye to Starbucks

Starbucks is going to fail. Sorry to all of you caramel half frap, double whip, macchiato, cappuccino lovers, but the coffee empire is going to go out of business. Why, you may ask? Because they put ideology over profits. The recent flop of Solo, A Star Wars’ Story is evidence of this same phenomenon.

Star Wars is a beloved movie franchise, and because the producers and directors put ideology over profits, the fans have had enough. The movie tanked, and no one wants to see Star Wars movies anymore. They don’t buy the merchandise, and lifelong fans are walking away. Expect the same to happen with Starbucks soon.

There won’t be any one incident that shows Starbucks their future, but several years of declining profits and customer satisfaction will put the chain out of business. The reason is you cannot preach ethics to your customers through a customer dependent organization. You can make your ethical standards known, and hope people will choose to patronize your business, however, you cannot get a large customer base from being mostly neutral on ethical stances, and then take a radical stance, all the while expecting your customers to be OK with it.

The economy is going to start to constrict, and customers’ budgets will constrict with it. This is going to force people to decide where their loyalties lie, and they aren’t going to side with the organizations that are preaching moral superiority to their customers.

Additionally, losing 12 million dollars’ worth of revenue to put all of their employees through implicit bias training, something which is a complete scam, is clear evidence of poor business practices. If I were a stock holder in Starbucks, I’d be selling, and I won’t be surprised when others start to do that as well.

Another example of companies choosing ideology over profits and suffering for it is ABC Network cancelling Last Man Standing, and most recently, Rosanne, simply because the producers do not like the actors’ personal political views.

Businesses cannot dictate ethics to a society. They can only profit from them or suffer because of them. If selling sex slaves is very popular in your society, you will make a lot of money if you are really good at selling sex slaves. If, however, you insist on being a sex slave seller that berates his customers about the evils of slavery, you are going to go under quickly. Business serve customers. If you don’t like what the members of your society are buying, offer a better option or try to change the society. Don’t attempt to rebuke people into buying what you are selling. They will resent you for it.

I don’t care for Starbucks, or coffee in general, however, apparently their coffee is good. If they want to survive as a company, they need to get back to selling products customers want, and keep their cultural commentary to themselves. The same is true for ABC and Disney. You will not survive as a company expecting people to buy what you want to sell them instead of selling them something they want to buy.

The Virtue of Personal Responsibility

People will always look for a reason to misbehave. We know the difference between right and wrong, so when we find an opportunity to skirt around the edges, we take it. We know that drinking until passing out is wrong, however, it is excused so often for college students that some people will go to college specifically for the purpose of testing their liver. We know that smoking weed is a bad idea, however, when at a rock concert, it can be excused. So, we light up a doobie. It is evident that we know these actions are wrong simply by the time and place in which we choose to indulge. It is not OK for a 40 year old practicing attorney to show up black out drunk when defending a client, which is why no one does that outside of college unless they are an alcoholic. The same is true for smoking dope. We even use the rhetorical question, “Are you high?” to indicate our displeasure with someone’s choices. Our unwillingness to take personal responsibility within our culture is an epidemic worse than any amount of drunkards or potheads could inflict upon our culture. We are so incapable of taking personal responsibility for our actions, that now we no longer take personal responsibility for our feelings.

The idea of the special snowflake is one designed to describe the condition in which a person finds themselves to be so unique that any action by another person that is different from what they themselves would accept or undertake, is considered to be offensive and it is the actor that must apologize, regardless of whether or not any harm was done. Your speech must be limited because your words and ideas offend me. This is the new cry of our activist youth. While some go to college to test their livers, others go to test their outrage. Keg stands used to be cool. Now, organizing protests and getting teachers and administrators fired is the new cool thing. Notches on your belt used to be about your sexual conquests. Now, they are about how many lives you can ruin by making false rape allegations. Neither scenario is good. I am merely illustrating a point.

I feel the need here to explain that I am not a rape apologist or a victim blamer. I have never drank nor smoked weed. I am probably very much a prude by most people’s standards, and I cannot count the number of times I have been told I need to lighten up and relax. It is a testament to the depravity of our intellectual culture that I need to justify my personal character in order that my words not be dismissed on account of my personal choices. It used to be that we valued the content of the argument over the quality of the person presenting it. Now, it no longer matters what you say, only the groups with which you identify as you are saying it. Pedophiles and child sex traffickers go free as long as they endorsed Hillary Clinton for president, while lifelong devout Christians get thrown under the bus for suggesting that fathers are equally as important as mothers when raising children. We live in a sincerely bizarre time currently, however, the pendulum is coming back. If we want to survive and have some influence on where it lands, we must take a stand. Determining where that stand should be is hard. Good thing for you is, I have a solution.

Personal responsibility.

When we do not take responsibility for our actions, we weaken our character and cheapen our self-worth. One excused poor choice leads to another, and the spiral of self-degradation lands us in a pit of our own self-hatred and worthlessness. When we excuse ourselves from the consequences of eating too much cake because it’s someone’s birthday, we start eating desert every night, even though we know it will lead to poor health. When we get blackout drunk because we’re in college, it makes us more likely to be heavy drinkers later in life, which of course leads to poor health. Lifestyle related diseases are the number one killer in the West, and they arise due to a lack of personal responsibility.

I know why it happens. Taking personal responsibility is hard. Turning down cake at the next employee’s lunch birthday party will make you look like the bad guy. Sure, you might be looking out for your own health, but you are also pointing out to everyone else there how indulgent and irresponsible their choices are. What’s worse is you are showing them how weak they are in the face of temptation when you so easily say no to what they are so clearly enjoying. Their brain is receiving dopamine from all of that sweet, sweet sugar. Their subconscious is telling them, you really shouldn’t eat this because it’s bad for your health. Their conscious is telling their subconscious, shut-up it’s Steve’s birthday and I don’t get cake all that often. And by telling them no thank you on the cake, you are saying, choosing my own long term health and wellbeing is more important than my immediate indulgence and denying that indulgence really isn’t that hard. This makes them feel like crap, so they make you feel guilty by saying you don’t like Steve, and they guilt you into eating the cake all because they don’t want to take personal responsibility for their own crappy choices.

If, however, people took personal responsibility for their choices, denying themselves cake wouldn’t be so hard. We are a strange species. We are pre-programed with a set of natural drives that help us live. In every other species, those drives are called instincts, and in our natural environment, those instincts would serve us well. We are programmed to seek out and indulge in sugar because in our natural environment that sugar is found in fruit, which is incredibly healthy for us. Our number one indicator for longevity is fruit consumption, and the more fruit you eat the longer you are likely to live. However, we do not live in our natural environment. We live in a world of our own making because we have that capacity. Now sugar comes in almost every man made food on the store shelf, so we must be diligent in our consumption of it, lest we succumb to illness. Denying cake should be easy, if we would recognize our own power.

In Christianity, it is a moral virtue to resist temptation. According to Aristotle, finding the middle between indulgence and abstinence is the good. In our current society, blaming others for the way their actions and words make you feel is the good, and becoming the biggest victim is the highest moral virtue. Personal responsibility is the antithesis of our current creed of oppression Olympics, and it is also the cure to it.

Each one of us is responsible for the choices we make, and for the consequences of those choices. I am responsible for the words on this page, however, you are responsible for the way they make you feel. I have chosen to write, you have chosen to react. The action of writing is my choice, your reaction is your choice. We are each responsible for our own choices, and no one else’s. However, if we are to live in a civilized society, we must hold each other accountable for the consequences of their actions. If my words were libelous, I would be responsible for libel. If your eating habits lead to heart disease or diabetes, you are responsible for your related medical expenses and shortened life. It is unfair to burden your neighbors with your mortgage payment when you forgot to earn the money for the bill.

There is great freedom to be gained from personal responsibility because it grants everyone that wields this strength great power. When you take responsibility for your actions, you do not require laws, governments, or police because you will police your own actions, govern your own emotions, and write your own code for acceptable human behavior. We know the difference between right and wrong, justice and equity, and good and evil. We must shoulder the burden of living by the code of personal responsibility ourselves, and then we can start to hold others accountable.

This is not an easy path to walk, but it is at the core of anarchy. A world without coercion, one in which everyone lives by the non-aggression principle, can only be achieved if enough people take personal responsibility. Stop looking to others for direction on how to live, what choices to make, what clothes to wear, and what food to eat at Steve’s office birthday party. You are better than that. You are greater than needing someone else to tell you how to live. You are a strong, self-determining, personally responsible, empowered individual, and you are capable of greatness. Go find it.

The Uniting Quest for Individualism

The goal of my work is to help human beings flourish. I want individuals to achieve their highest and best selves, but I also want humanity to unite under one common understanding. That understanding is that we are all individuals. Life is not a spectrum, rather it is a confluence of indivisible units. Every single human being is a unique individual. We are not small parts of larger groups. We are whole entities in and of ourselves. While we may be part of larger groups, whether defined by gender, race, geography, or sports team fandom, those affiliations are only a small part of our identity. Who we are is an entirely subjective experience, and it is only able to be understood completely by ourselves. The only thing that truly unites us all is the paradox that we have nothing in common except that we have nothing in common. We are all individuals struggling to define and comprehend the enormity of our own individuality.

How do you define yourself? Are you a morning person? A night person? A cat or dog person? Do you do yoga, or lift weights? Do you eat meat, or are you a vegan? Do you like to read, watch movies, or are you a TV junkie? Do you watch videos on the internet? What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? These are all very small aspects of how we characterize ourselves in order that we are better able to relate to other people. However, even in these relatively inane categories, the deeper meaning of our preference for chocolate ice cream over vanilla is really only understood by ourselves. The reason for this is that no one else has our tongue, its taste buds, or our brain. No other human being is capable of experiencing our subjective experience of the enjoyment that comes from that sweet chocolaty goodness. And, the only thing we have in common with other chocoholics is that while we all experience joy from chocolate ice cream, our experience of that joy is entirely our own.

Do you identify as part of a gender or racial group? We are all part of one whether we choose to align politically with those that share our designation and coalesce as a political movement based upon choices we were unable to make. The problem is, no matter how you identify, or with whom you align yourself, no other person can know what it is like to be you. Other individuals can empathize with experiences you may have gone through, and our emotions are similar. We all feel pain when injured, but only we can feel the pain of our own injuries and what that means to us.

We have the capacity to unite together in groups to advocate for our race, our gender, the oppressed, the disenfranchised, the abused, and the huddled masses yearning to be free. We also have the capacity to unite for higher political ideals such as freedom, liberty, and justice for all. We can fight for equality of opportunity, or equality of outcome. We can go to war for capitalism or socialism, communism, or liberty. We can even riot together because our favorite sports team just won or lost the championship. No matter how we choose to unite ourselves in any given moment, the only thing that truly unites us is our individuality. No two of us are alike, and on that we must all agree.

Being able to express our own individuality is the highest purpose of life. I would argue it is the only purpose. We must understand and be able to express who we are as unique individuals, or we will never be happy. Being able to love, experience joy or sadness, feel responsibility or shame, and express pride or disappointment, are all aspects of our own individuality, and while those might be experiences worth living for, they are merely expressions of our own uniqueness as individuals. We may have a commonality with all other individuals in our ability to experience all of these feelings and aspects of life, however, what they mean to us and how we experience them is an entirely subjective experience all our own.

We are all unique and complex individuals, united only in our shared quest for individuality. So, the next time someone tries to characterize you as part of one group or another, using three or fewer adjectives to describe you, know that they are trying to put you in a box so they can easily dismiss you or control you. Anyone that does not recognize you as a unique individual wants to use you for their own ends. Anyone that does not want to let you flourish so that you may express fully your own individuality, is threatened by it.

A world full of complex and vibrant individuals, all expressing themselves peacefully as they see fit, is a complicated world to try to rule. This is why those that seek to rule you want to keep you small and collectivized into easily defined groups. People are easier to rule and dispose of when they are all just parts of one group. However, when you recognize that they are all unique individuals, they become very real, and very hard to justify their extermination. It was easy for the Nazis to kill the Jews, but Lenny your next door neighbor, he’s real to you, so killing him is hard. The bourgeois under Marxism, the Kulaks under Stalinism, and the poor under Mao all had the same fate. Those same broad collective groupings are appearing again today.

We are all categorized as white, black, brown, Hispanic, Asian, male, female, cis, trans, straight, queer, etc. etc. These categorizations seek to do one thing; strip us of our individuality. Without our individuality, we are not real, individual people, with real, meaningful lives. We are just part of the other. No matter how we identify, we are always the other to someone, and therefore, eligible for hate. Instead of identifying ourselves through part of a group, why don’t we quest to identify ourselves as unique individuals? If we united under the shared realization that we are all unique individuals in search of our own individuality, we might just find common ground upon which all of us can stand.

Justice Is a Social Construct

If you’ve spent more than five seconds on the internet, chances are good you have heard of the concept of a social construct. Most notably, social justice warriors tout the idea that race or gender are social constructs. This discredits the idea that social constructs actually exist because race and gender are both biologically determined and determinant. There are distinct attributes that separate the races, and there are specific sex organs that separate the genders. These are scientific facts and the debate of which are outside the scope of this article. However, what I would like to discuss is the fact that justice is a social construct.

A social construct is defined as a jointly constructed understanding of the world that forms the basis for shared assumptions about reality. What then is justice? A cursory dictionary search will produce several definitions, but the only descriptive and meaningful definition in this context is, the administering of deserved punishment or reward. There are several questions that we must now ask. What is deserved punishment? Who decides what is deserved? How should it be administered? Who is responsible for administering the justice? We will see in the answering of these questions we must come to a shared and chosen agreement between ourselves as to what is just; we must construct in a social setting what we believe justice to be.

What is deserved punishment?

I think we would agree that the punishment must fit the crime. Surely taking off someone’s hand for stealing a loaf of bread is a bit extreme, however often the practice may have taken place in more barbarous civilizations in the Middle East and Africa. Letting the crime go unpunished also seems a bit too lenient. There is also the possibility that the owner of the bread may take mercy on the thief if he or she is starving and may let him or her have the loaf as an act of benevolence. We see then that there are many conditions that go into determining a just punishment. We must consider the crime, the intent and motivations of the perpetrator, and the wishes of the aggrieved. Surely it would not be just to throw a man in prison for stealing a loaf of bread when the baker that baked it would rather the man eat the stolen bread than go to jail. Also, it would not be just to let a rapist go free simply because he justifies his rape on the grounds of a lack of sex. We must also consider if killing violent offenders is something we consider just. Is jail the correct option, or is indentured servitude a better solution? This leads us to our next question.

Who decides what is deserved?

As we discussed earlier, who is aggrieved by the crime must have a say in what is deserved, at least in so far as if punishment should be administered. A grieving mother may want to see the murderer of her children flayed openly in the public square, however, the rest of the members of society may find that punishment to be entirely too severe, or at the least something not worth displaying publicly. Who else should be involved? The elders of the society who have seen the outcomes of crimes and punishments administered in the past? Perhaps scholars who have researched the best applications of different punishments? What about a jury of your peers? These are questions that must be answered and agreed upon by every member of society, otherwise no system of justice will be recognized as just.

How should justice be administered and who administers it?

Think of your current legal system. In America we have police, attorneys, prosecutors, judges, juries, and a prison system. We have determined that police should apprehend offenders, prosecutors should bring charges against them, a judge ensures their trial is fair, an attorney defends them, and a jury judges them. Sentencing is also often carried out by the judge, and then the administration of that punishment is carried out by the prison system. Is this the best solution possible? How do we even decide what the best solution ought to be? This leads to our final, and yet unasked question.

What is the purpose of justice?

The concept of justice is often represented as a blindfolded woman with a scale in one hand and a sword in the other. The blindfold assures there is no bias in the evaluation of wrongdoing; only the facts are heard. The sword ensures that the society and the system are defended and the capacity to mete out punishment is adequate. Finally, the scale is there not to ensure the punishment fits the crime, but to attempt to restore the value that was destroyed by the initial crime. If you steal my car, I not only lose the value of my car, but also the convenience of being able to transport myself wherever whenever. This may include my job, so I may lose wages. It may include my girlfriend’s house, so I may lose pleasure. It may include the movies, so I may lose leisure. Returning my car to me does not rebalance the scale. I am owed the value of my lost wages, pleasure, and leisure, plus the depreciation on the car that occurred while it was not in my possession. Replacing my stolen car with a new one may rebalance the scale, depending on the value of my old car. However, if it does not, I am owed some form of additional compensation. Locking a man in prison will most likely not regain me my lost value from the crime, so the punishment may not be just.

So what is the purpose of justice? The purpose of justice is to restore the value that was lost during the original crime. We as individuals have to decide the value of things in our lives, and we as members of society must agree upon a system that is best suited to restore that value when it is taken from us by acts of aggression and violence. We must agree that all values are subjective, and that any system we devise will be inadequate in restoring that value, regardless of how detailed or intricate our system is. This is why we must strive to live in a society without crime in the first place. It is only through such a pursuit that we can flourish, and it is why I believe in anarchy so much. We must be free to determine our own systems and beliefs by which we choose to live our lives because otherwise we will never be able to construct a system of justice, let alone a just system for life.

All Rights Are Positive Rights

If you’re not familiar with rights theory, two classifications of rights are said to exist, positive and negative. Negative claim rights came first, and they are called negative claim rights because they are considered to exist in absentia of other people. These include the right to life, liberty, and property mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights in the Constitution of the United States. These are considered negative claim rights because they do not require other people in order for them to exist. Positive claim rights, on the other hand, do require other people to be involved. These include, but are not limited to the right to healthcare, education, social security, and any other promised free handout a government wants to sell you. I cannot get healthcare without a doctor to treat me, and I cannot get educated (in theory) without an educator to teach me. This is why they are positive claim rights. In this article, I am going to argue that all rights are inherently positive claim rights. They are all derived from a positivist approach to legal theory.

There are two theories of law, natural law and positivism. Natural law is the idea that our conduct as humans is governed by an observable, objective set of moral principles. Murder, rape, theft, and deception are all considered crimes under natural law because they have an observable victim that has been harmed. These laws are believed to exist as gravity exists; they are a condition of reality. Legal positivism, on the other hand, believes that laws are socially constructed, are relative to the society that creates them, and are established by best practices within a given society. Under such a legal system, you have the right to free speech if and only if the law allows it. The only rights you have are those granted to you by the government.

At this point it would make sense to connect natural law to negative rights, and positivism to positive rights, and that is typically what has happened throughout most of our public discourse on rights and legal theory. However, rights do not exist. They are not a tangible part of reality. My water bottle and this computer are tangible. My physical body is tangible. Rights are not. They are beliefs held in your head, and sometimes they are written on paper. No matter their presentation, whether in your head or on paper, they require recognition from other people in order to be real. It is not a right that is observed when someone does not steal from you. You are witnessing a choice being made by an individual person. Choices are real, and actions are observable. However, the reasons people have for their choices are always up for debate. In any case, your right to life and your right to property are every bit as dependent upon the choices and actions of others as are your rights to healthcare and education.

Due to the fact that negative claim rights are as dependent upon the actions of others as are positive claim rights, all rights must be characterized as positive claim rights. Natural law does not require the recognition of rights, only the presentation of an aggrieved party. Also, anarchy does not require the recognition of rights, only the recognition of reality, part of which is self-ownership, something I discuss here.

Now, the argument can be made that natural law depends upon the actions and choices of others to recognize the suffering of the aggrieved party and act in a way to ameliorate that suffering. It can also be argued that anarchy demands that others recognize self-ownership. While both arguments are valid, natural law and anarchy require only that members in society live in accordance with observable reality. It is easy to observe when someone is the victim of a crime, and it is easy to observe self-ownership. In fact, one is using self-ownership when they engage in the act of observing. Determining when something is wrong, in the sense that it does not comport with reality or violates self-ownership, is like observing the weather; you need only pay attention. I would like to note here that punishments for crimes, justice, vengeance, and retribution are all positive acts and thus require a positivist framework within which to operate. These are concepts outside the scope of this discussion.

I do not argue from a rights perspective because rights do not exist, and the argument over rights is like arguing about whether or not a hypothetical rain storm will extinguish the fire that is currently consuming your house. So much time, effort, thought, and language goes into arguing and debating rights that in so doing we miss the very obvious wrongs being perpetrated by our governments and the people that run them. Taxation is theft. War is murder. Citizenship is slavery. Until we, as individuals, start recognizing reality for what it truly is, we are doomed to live a dimmed existence of our potential selves.

The Three Justifications for Morality

Morality, defined here as conformity to how one ought to act, has three different foundations throughout history. They are God imposed, State imposed, and self-imposed. All three of these theories are also theories of ownership because it is only through ownership that proper action can be dictated. Ownership is defined here as the ability to execute exclusive control on an object. This includes your body. So, who owns you? Our perceptions about ownership have defined our lives in the past and our legal structures that subsequently evolved. It is through our understanding of this history of ownership that we can seek to liberate ourselves and achieve true freedom and flourishing.

The first ideas of morality come to us from religion. These ideas are God imposed, most notably in the Western European world as the Ten Commandments, and they have been implemented and followed throughout our legal systems to a large extent. My concern here is less with the history of the legal systems and more with the ideology that governs our recognition of authority when it comes to dictating morally correct action. In the God imposed theory of morality, we are all owned by God. Jesus is our shepherd and we are but lambs, and language of the like. The very mentality of the religious believer is that the individual is incapable of knowing right from wrong; only God can know such things. So, in order to be virtuous, I must do what I am told by God. God controls my fate, and it is only by his grace that I shall make it into heaven, lest I be cast into hell. God has the power to dictate how you ought to live, and this can only be established through the recognition and acceptance of God’s ownership over your body.

Of course, it may also be argued that God has given us freewill, and we have the capacity to choose our actions. This may be technically true, but God still dictates which choices are correct and incorrect. We lack judgement over our own actions, a fundamental necessity of ownership. In the religious view, we are no different from a cow owned by a farmer. We may choose when to eat grass and where, but our choices are limited by the fence around the field. Yes, the fence may offer us protection from predators, but it also prevents us from eating whatever grass we may desire, and it has also deprived us of the choice to erect our own fence should we choose to have one. We are not autonomous creatures that own ourselves.

The second idea of morality comes from government. Sometimes called rights, the government dictates to us what actions we can take, and which ones we cannot. The punishment and reward systems are not as prolific as those in religion, namely freedom from jail is heaven and jail is hell, however, they do still exist. Instead of listing commandments, the government grants rights. Governments take a more positivistic approach; they tell you what you are allowed to do, and if it isn’t listed, you cannot do it. In some legal traditions, most notably common law, it was understood that if the law didn’t explicitly forbid it, you were allowed to do it. This interpretation has since given way to the more explicitly positivistic approach in which the government allows you certain freedoms through rights. An example of this is with the U.S. constitution. When the first amendment was written, James Madison marveled at its relevance. He argued that the right was superfluous because nowhere in the constitution did the government have the capacity to regulate speech. This interpretation has since been turned on its head and every free speech battle has been about what the first amendment allows the citizens to do and not what power is given to the government by the constitution.

Governments steal from their citizens through taxation and asset forfeiture, they limit services we can provide or receive, they decide who can provide what services and how through licensing, they mandate how we can receive medical care, they dictate what constitutes money, and they regulate what we are allowed to put into our bodies. Again, it could be argued that we have the freedom to decide these things because we have the freedom to vote, but this is even less reassuring than freewill. At least with freewill we can make choices on a daily basis. With voting, we get a choice maybe once every two, four, or six years. And even then, politicians rarely keep their campaign promises. We are owned by a schizophrenic, sociopathic master, with no regard for our wellbeing, and every incentive to sell us out as chattel to the highest bidder. We are not just cows in a fenced in field anymore; we are in the back of a semi-truck on our way to the slaughterhouse and all we get to decide is who is driving the truck.

Finally, we come to our final theory of ownership, and thus basis for morality; self-ownership. I am the only being capable of moving my fingers to type this article. I am the only being capable of blinking my eyes, turning my head, or walking a mile on my legs. You can put a gun to my head and force me to do these things, but you cannot control my body as I can. No being on the planet is capable of exclusively controlling the body of another living creature. I cannot will a rabbit to eat grass, a gazelle to run from a lion, or a person to read this article. I can use force or the threat of force to compel action. I can use compelling speech or coercive deception to compel action. However, I have no capacity to will action from another being. This is because self-ownership is self-evident, it is a priori, and it is a condition of reality. Once we recognize this, no other basis for morality is possible save our own self-imposed one.

I am not arguing for moral relativism, i.e. the idea that every individual has their own morality and thus can to whatever they feel is right at the given moment. No, I am arguing for a morality that acts in accordance with our observed reality, the one that demonstrates that every living being owns his, her, or its body, and to try to compel action from another necessarily requires force or coercion, which violates the self-ownership of the being actively being compelled into action. You are the only person that can decide to use your eyes and your brain to read and interpret this article. If I put a gun to your head and force you to do it, I am violating your ownership over yourself. Your exclusive control over your body is being violated by my threat of complete destruction lest you choose to comply with my dictates. My actions would be immoral because they do not comport with reality. Indeed, they violate the evidence of reality.

Self-imposed morality, or a morality based upon self-ownership, dictates that in order to be moral, we must act in accordance with reality. Reality very evidently shows that you own your body and I own mine. For anyone to attempt to violate that ownership, they must aggress against us, and thus their actions are immoral. This is where the concept of the non-aggression principle is derived. It states that the initiation of the use of force is morally wrong. This is a valid moral principle because the initiation of the use of force always results in a violation of someone’s self-ownership.

Self-imposed morality also gives us the freedom to decide for ourselves how we ought to act. We are limited only by the immorality of aggressing against other living beings. We are free to decide what relationships we value, what labors to pursue, what virtues to embody, and how happiness is best experienced. Religion is unnecessary, however, you are free to follow one as long as you or your congregation are not violating the non-aggression principle. Governments are also not necessary, however, should you and your neighbors choose to form a voluntary coalition with common goals, you are free to do so as long as you do not aggress against anyone. You are free to make or earn your bread as you so choose. You are even free to characterize this state of existence as anarchy, and I encourage you to do just that.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

The revolution will not be televised. We’ve heard this expression countless times throughout our lives, but have you ever stopped to consider what it means? The most obvious explanation is that the major news organizations have a vested interest in the status quo, and, having no incentive to broadcast the change in operations, hide the news of the revolution from the audience. This is a perfectly reasonable explanation, and given our current understanding of the bias of the major news media and their reasons for it, it is a likely one. However, I would like to pose a different explanation.

The revolution will not be televised because television as we know it will cease to exist by the time the revolution happens. We can see it happening more and more every day. Millions of people get their news and commentary from the internet. They increasingly look there for entertainment as well. YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming sources all provide far superior outlets for news and entertainment, and there are countless blogs and websites that are putting print media into the dust bin of history. This, however, is not the only reason the revolution will not be televised.

The revolution will not be televised because the revolution itself is not a singular event. We might like to think that the global financial markets will melt down one day, and from the ashes of ruin, a phoenix of free market capitalism and sound money shall rise, however, this is very unlikely. Yes, the global financial markets are built upon a Ponzi scheme of fiat money and trillions, if not quadrillions, of dollars of debt, but that does not mean the world will end when that system collapses. It also does not mean that the collapsing of that system will be the revolution.

The revolution is already happening. It has been happening. The revolution is not one singular event. It is the creation, evolution, and adoption of new systems that improve our quality of life. The revolution in human communication occurred when the telephone was invented, it evolved into cell phones, and everyone now uses them. The same happened with education. Once the internet was invented, improved upon, and accepted into mass usage, you can learn anything you want online, whether formal or informal via a YouTube video. Transportation is another revolution that has occurred over the last century. We went from horses, to trains, to cars, to airplanes, to everyone having their own car and driving wherever they want.

The last great revolution that will occur is in money. I know that the government runs and controls many things via the threat of a gun, but it is monopoly control over the money supply that affords them the power to rule over us. If we can do with money what we have already done with communication, education, and transportation – that is to say, create something better than the fiat we use, let it evolve into something that works for almost everyone, and get it adopted by the mass population – we will liberate ourselves from the shackles of tyranny seemingly overnight.

Many will argue that our beacon of hope is crypto currencies, and while I like the technology quite a bit and believe it has tremendous potential for contributing to human flourishing, I can’t get my head around the idea of a series of digits on a screen having intrinsic value. They are a great medium of exchange, or currency, but they are not money. Going into further detail on the discussion of crypto currencies is beyond the scope of this article, however, know that they are an alternate and competing system with our current fiat based currency system and they offer some hope for the revolution continuing according to the needs of human flourishing.

Just like the formerly skinny person that wakes up fat one day and wonders, “How did this happen?” so too shall be our revolution in human flourishing.  The observed situation did not occur overnight with the now fat person, rather it was a series of little decisions over the course of many years. Our revolution will happen much in the same way. We will make one individual decision today, and then another tomorrow, and one the next day, and before you know it, we will all wake up one day and realize, we live in a pretty great world.

You Are the Variable

What is the purpose of a life well lived? What is the purpose of life? What is the purpose of anything? Purpose denotes meaning, that there is a reason something happens. There is no preexisting reason you are alive. You exist. That is all. What you do with your existence is up to you. No one can give you anything you aren’t willing to take, no one can take from you anything you aren’t willing to give, and no one can show you things you aren’t willing to see. Reality is a constant, you are the variable, and you have the power to choose. You create your reality. Looking at a tree does not change the tree. I will remain the same whether you see it or not, but you will be different after you have seen the tree. What you do with that experience is up to you, because you are the variable. You change, and while you have the power to change the world around you, the greater change is always within yourself.

Let’s say you remodel your kitchen. What was it like before? It had some cabinets, a refrigerator, an oven, a stove top, counter tops, a sink, and maybe a dishwasher. What is it like now? It has some cabinets, a refrigerator, an oven, a stove top, counter tops, a sink, and maybe a dishwasher. It really hasn’t changed, at least not from what our concept of a kitchen is. Now, let us ask, how have you changed?

You went from being dissatisfied and possibly even distraught over the sight of your old kitchen to being positively elated! You love your new granite counter tops, your stainless steel fridge, and your center of the island stove top. You are so happy to be in your kitchen, and you love cooking in it. The chores that were a complete bore are now an absolute joy! Yet, your kitchen isn’t functionally any different than it was before. You could cook, do dishes, and feed your family just as well then as you could now. So what has changed?

You have changed. You took a reality you did not have control over, the original design of the kitchen, and you took control over it. You asserted your existence upon the kitchen. You have done this with other aspects of your life, but perhaps you weren’t aware of it. Every time you choose to change something in reality that exists so that makes you happier, you are asserting your existence. It is easier to do with inanimate objects, but it can be done with people too.

When you are in a relationship, whether with a friend or a lover, you assert your existence by stating your preferences and clarifying your boundaries. No matter how crazy of a story your buddy has, you don’t want him calling you at two in the morning to tell you about it. No matter how good the sex is, you will not tolerate an abusive lover. You do not have direct control over them in the way you do the kitchen, but you can control whether or not they are in your life.

Anarchy is the recognition that everything in the world is chaos, and we choose to forge from that chaos order. There is no meaning to life unless we choose to give it. Anarchy is the recognition of the fact that there is no reason why you are reading these words, unless you choose to give your action of reading meaning. What’s more, anarchy is recognizing that by reading these words, they will not change, but you will. You are the variable. Everything else in life is a constant.