Anarchy Is Everywhere

I write about a variety of topics, and I have not yet touched on all of them. I do this because I have a wide variety of interests and because there are so many interesting things in the world I wish to learn. I seek a somewhat high degree of competency in those things as well because I believe that is the only way to truly understand and appreciate them. I write about all of these things in the guise of anarchy because anarchy is everywhere.

Anarchy is defined as the absence of coercive control. In your life, almost every decision you make is made in a state of anarchy. From your choice in breakfast food to the house you live in to the car you drive to the place where you work, and to the person you love, these choices are all made in a state of anarchy. No one is threatening violence against you if you choose to eat cereal over a bagel for breakfast tomorrow. Likewise, no one is going to hang you if you marry the love of your life, even if your family disapproves. Now, you may say that all of these choices are freedoms, and if we are truly free, we have the freedom to make those choices. With that I would agree.

It is only within a state of anarchy that we are truly as free as possible to live our lives as we see fit. Think about all of the myriad of choices you are going to make today, tomorrow, Friday, next week, next month, next year, and ask yourself, am I making this choice free from violent coercion? If so, then you are making that choice in a state of anarchy. Through anarchy we achieve freedom, and through freedom we flourish. I hope you join me in my quest for anarchy so that all of humanity may flourish.

 

What Idols Do You Worship?

What is religion if not the worship of idols? Let’s have a look at two of the most prominent religions in the world, Christianity and Islam. In Christianity you idolize Jesus Christ, and in Islam, you Idolize Mohammad. These men are touted as the idealized version of what a man can become at his greatest. This will not be a critical analysis of the differences between the religions’ idols and therefore their differing outlooks on the world and how to live, although that would be an interesting topic. Instead, we are going to discuss the idea of idol worship.

Christianity and Islam forbid the worship of other gods, and they both claim the supremacy of their respective god over the dominion of man. They present their respective saviors as the idealized version of man, and all followers of the religions should seek to be just like this one man. I ask you, is this idea of just one ideal compatible with humanity? How many people have you met that are exactly like other people? Are most people even that similar, or do we all have unique personalities with different perspectives and perceptions of the world? You may argue that Jesus or Mohammad had attributes that their worshipers are seeking to portray, but that is not what the religion advocates. It says the traits of these men are the exact traits you should achieve, and if you do not you will not receive salvation/reach paradise. This leaves little variability in the actions of the faithful. They must do exactly what is written in their holy texts, or they will not be like their Idol.

Does this make sense for humans? Should we all seek to be the same? This is one of the reasons why I find the ancient pagan religions of the Greeks and Romans, or even the modern religion of Asatru to be more appealing. They have many gods, and you as the individual can choose to worship whichever god or gods suit your personality or interests. The gods were also not perfect, but they aspired to be better. This is very reflective of human beings. We are all flawed, but the degree to which we aspire to better ourselves speaks to our character as individuals. When you overcome your fears or you achieve goals in the face of adversity, you are improving as a person. You get stronger and better. You are not ever going to be perfect, but at the end of the day you will know you have gotten better.

I ask you, what idols do you worship? Who do you idolize? I idolize the best version of myself. This is not a conceited statement; it is a commitment to self-improvement. As I grow as a person, I aspire to be better every day. My understanding of what that means changes and improves daily because I am changing and improving daily. Who I am today is far better than I was ten years ago, and who I will be in ten years is a better man than I am now. I know this because I seek to achieve a virtuous life every day, and every day I deepen my understanding of what that means and how I am doing in my pursuit.

I know I am not as financially successful today as I thought I would be a decade ago, but I know I am a better man. I have more strength, both physical and mental, more courage, more empathy, more knowledge, a deeper understanding of the world around me and the people in it, I have far more hope for the future, and I have a far deeper understanding of who I am as a man. I also know that as long as I continue pursuing self-improvement, I will become a great man by my own standards, and that is all any of us can ask for.

Seek out your ideals, discover your idealized self, and start practicing at the altar of self-improvement every day. You will find happiness, love, meaning, and self-fulfillment, but if you do not understand what these ideas mean, you will be lost in the dark. Instead, find the light within yourself, discover what it is that makes you special, and seek to make yourself better!

What Is Economics?

Traditionally, economics is defined as the study of how individuals allocate scarce resources. While this is an accurate description, it is not adequate. Individuals do allocate scarce resources, but in order to do so they must act. Subsequently, if we are to completely understand economics, it is those actions we must endeavor to understand. This is why economics in actuality is the study of human action.

In economics, we take as a given that humans act. One cannot acquire bread without taking action to do so. If we could manifest matter out of nothing, not only would we be defying physics, but we would live in a fictional reality closer to that of Star Trek. Given that within our reality resources are scarce and humans must act in order to thrive, let alone survive, it is those actions with which we must concern ourselves. We discussed the three requirements for human action in Why We Do What We Do. Assuming those requirements are met, the individual will act.

We are not concerned with why they act, as in what are their internal motivations. Why someone values chocolate ice cream over vanilla is not within the realm of economics. The fact that they have a subjective value is. All values within economics are subjective relative to the individual. It does not matter why someone will choose chocolate over vanilla, however, the fact that nine times out of ten they will make that choice is something that falls within the realm of economics. It is an outcome that is quantifiable and it tells us valuable information about the subjective preferences of the individual. We can take these preferences and collectivize them with the preferences of hundreds or thousands of other people and conclude that all things being equal, more people prefer chocolate to vanilla. This is not a value judgement on chocolate or vanilla, however, if you are a grocery store owner, it will indicate that you should stock more chocolate ice cream than vanilla.

All voluntary exchanges necessarily leave both parties better off. This is also a given within economics. It is a given because it logically makes sense that the only way I am going to give you my apple for your orange is because I want your orange more than I do my apple and you want my apple more than you want your orange. There is no other logical conclusion. Could it be that my fruit preferences are indifferent between apples and oranges, but you hate oranges, and because I value your happiness over my own fruit consumption I make the exchange? Certainly, but we are still both better off because of the exchange. You are happier, and I am happier because you are happier.

Humans are funny with their subjective valuations, but they will always act in a way that will result in them increasing their perception of happiness. Will they always be right? Not necessarily, but happiness is the end goal. This is why self-knowledge is so important; the more you know yourself, the more likely you are to be happy. We will discuss economics more in future posts, but for now, this is a good place to start.

Avoid Presumptions When Dating and Meeting New People

Has this ever happened to you? You meet someone to whom you are attracted, they seem to be attracted to you, and so one of you asks the other out on a date? I’m hoping the answer is yes, otherwise what I am about to describe won’t be entirely relatable. How did you feel? Were you excited? A little nervous? Dreamy perhaps? Even overly critical? These emotions all come with the flood of hormones that douse your brain in the evolutionary response to the prospect of procreation. Let’s be honest, at the end of the day, all your DNA wants to do is replicate, so when you find someone that might want to replicate with you, your body is designed to tell you what you are doing is a good thing. What I want to talk about today is why biology is not always our best friend in these situations and how we can avoid mistakes.

When we meet a new potential love interest (we do this with potential new friends as well but to a lesser extent), we have a tendency to project our desires upon them. They may have a nice smile, so we hope they are kind. They may have soulful eyes, so we hope they are insightful or compassionate. They may have a great laugh, so we hope they are entertaining and funny. These are all attributes that we are projecting upon the person without knowing if they are attributes that they actually have. This is not a bad thing as it can give us valuable insight into what we are looking for, but it is important to be aware that we are doing it. What we do not want to do is presume the other person has these attributes without seeing them for ourselves.

If we presume the person is who we want them to be, two things happen. First, we make decisions and interact not with that person, but with the person we want them to be. This results in miscommunications at best, and horrible confrontations at worst. If you think Sally likes dogs because her smile reminds you of your aunt who loves dogs, and you take Sally to a dog park, you may be in for a world of hurt when she tells you that she is allergic or deathly afraid of the four legged furry creatures. This gets worse with personal preferences within the relationship regarding personal space and communication style. The second thing that happens is you miss out on the person as they actually are. When you spend so much time thinking the person you are dating is one thing, and they are something else entirely, you miss out on how your relationship could be different, even better, if you actually dated the person you need to discover and not the person you presume yourself to be with. This, of course, presumes the other person is not intentionally misleading you.

When you lie to yourself about the person you are in a relationship with, you are setting yourself up for failure. You are wasting your time as well as the other person’s, and you are missing out on the opportunity to appreciate another person for who they actually are. This happens because we want so badly to be happy and to find that person with whom we connect and truly appreciates us for who we are. This is an argument for authenticity within a relationship, but that is not where I am going with this. So, where am I going?

Do not place expectations on the person you are going on a date with. Instead, spend time getting to know them for who they are. Do not presume they are something they are not, and do not put the pressure on yourself of believing that the relationship has to work out, especially on the first date. It doesn’t matter if he is the cutest guy you have ever dated. If he cares more about his hair than why you cannot eat spaghetti because it makes you think of worms, chances are good it won’t work out in the long run. Certainly have standards, but don’t be too upset if those standards are not met. This is just one meal in which one stranger tries to get to know another for who they actually are while presenting their authentic self. If it works out, great! If not, you learned a little about yourself and about a perspective partner that you now know will not work out.

The Importance of the Independent Self Within a Relationship

I was talking with a friend of mine at work today about the importance of self-identity within a relationship. She recently went through a breakup from a relationship that lasted two years, and was having a hard time finding motivation or anything to get excited about. I started asking her about what hobbies she had or what interested her. She seemed to be at a loss for answers. This is not uncommon, but it is something that she needs to remedy if she wants to find meaningful connection and motivation for life. So often it happens when we are in a relationship that we lose sight of who we are as individuals. Certainly, when you enter into a relationship, your decision making processes change, but you should not forego who you are as an individual for the sake of the relationship. The right person will love you for who you are as a unique person, not for the parts of yourself you are willing to sacrifice for the relationship. A truly great relationship is one in which your partner loves you for who you are, not who they think you are, and you love them for the same reasons. This is the ideal, but how do we find it?

The answer lies within finding ourselves. What makes you special? What are your hobbies, interests, and meaningful life pursuits? More importantly, what are your virtues? Virtues are attributes such as honesty, integrity, curiosity, empathy, compassion, strong work ethic, and any other attribute that describes consistent actions that improve the wellbeing of the self and others. Lying, deception, anger, hate, these are attributes that do not make you or other people better, and they should be eschewed as often as they are confronted. If you find someone that is constantly lying to you or simply won’t tell you important details about their life, run away as fast as possible as those are huge red flags. But, I digress. Why do we need to know these things about ourselves?

Through self-knowledge we gain an understanding of the world. The better we know ourselves, the better able we are to know the world. How do you know if someone has empathy if you do not have empathy yourself? If you are not curious, a curious person may seem annoying to you. However, if you are consistently trying to empathize with others, or struggle to tell others the hard truths but do it because you know it will be better for them, then you are able to recognize these attributes, these virtues in others. Not only that, but you will appreciate them. So, when you are on your next date, and the person across from you stutters or mumbles because they are nervous, instead of thinking they are weird you will be able to empathize and sympathize with them, thus deepening your connection.

Hobbies, or more specifically personal pursuits, are incredibly important as well. Whether you are learning the guitar, running a chess club, or like me pursuing strength, your ability to dedicate yourself to a pursuit you value is reflective of your ability and willingness to commit to other things you value, such as a relationship. Meaningful pursuits teach you a considerable amount about yourself. You are going to face adversity. There will be chords you struggle to learn or weights you cannot pick up, but your willingness to persevere demonstrates your strength of character. It gives you valuable skills so when you get into an argument within a relationship, you are able and willing to work through the conflict. It teaches you that there is reward for your effort on the other side of that struggle. Personal pursuits also help you stay attached to your independent sense of self within a relationship.

It is very common for individuals to lose themselves within a relationship. People stop hanging out with their friends, stop playing guitar, stop pursuing strength; they stop doing the things by which they defined themselves previously. It is important to be fully present in a relationship and to fully give yourself to your partner, but you must maintain a self to give. You must resist the impulse to give up everything you are as an individual for the sake of your partner. This leads to two people melting into an arbitrary goo of what was once individual people. Neither of you particularly cares what you do, where you eat, what movie you see, how you spend your free time, or how you define your relationship. You simply end up on the couch ordering pizza and watching Netflix every Saturday night, complaining about how boring your lives are. You stop having sex, and then you stop having any sort of a relationship at all. You are an empty vessel devoid of all vestiges of uniqueness or purpose to life. You have to start over, and you have to start first by defining again who you are as an individual.

Instead, maintain your independent self, and bring that with you to your partner when you are together. If you love seeing live music, don’t stop that passion. The right person will go with you to shows, even if he or she is not that into live shows. This is because you are valued as the unique individual you are with the passions and interests you have, and your happiness is their main concern. If your partner likes obscure sporting events, watch them with him or her. The passion, excitement, and joy from your partner will make the experience far more enjoyable, regardless of whether or not you like seeing competitive cheese rolling.

For success within a relationship, find yourself first, and then be that person every time you are with your significant other. Your partner will appreciate you more for it, and if they don’t, knowing to move on becomes easy. Find your independent self, and you will find happiness.

Rights, Do We Have Them?

Definitions are important in order to ensure proper understanding. If I say my favorite fruit is an orange because I love the crisp crunch and bitter sweet taste as I bite into its green flesh, you are going to look at me like I am strange. Clearly what I am describing as an orange is actually a granny smith apple, and the concept of orange is different between the two of us. This is why the analogy of comparing apples to oranges makes sense. In my example, I am literally confusing an apple with an orange. This makes for very poor conversation, so I will always try my best to present the best definition possible for ideas I am discussing. That being said, I will now address the question at hand; do we have rights?

A quick Google search of “What is a right?” will return the following definition that is most pertinent to our discussion: “a moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” When we think of rights, we think of the right to life, liberty, happiness, freedom of speech, to bear arms, and in more common dialogue, the right to healthcare or education. Let’s break this down a little bit. If we have a right to life, we are entitled to live, which means other people are obligated to not interfere with our life. This puts a claim on the actions of others. If I have a right to the freedom of speech, then others are obligated to let me speak in a public forum. If I have a right to healthcare, then doctors and nurses are obligated to treat me when I am ill or injured. A right, by definition, obligates others to affirm a claim I have as a living person. So, where do rights come from?

Natural Law would have you believe that your rights come from your humanity. You are a human being, so you are entitled to life, liberty, and property. This means other people are obligated to not interfere with your life or your freedom so long as you are respecting the rights of others, and to allow you to acquire property as long as you are not violating the rights of others. These are called negative claim rights as they do not require any positive action on the part of other people. However, these rights still place an obligation on other people. If you were on a tropical island with no other people, your need for rights would not exist as there would be no other people there. What about healthcare or education?

The United Nations has declared healthcare to be a basic human right. This means that other people are obligated to give you healthcare; doctors and nurses are obligated to give you care. Education is also often referred to as a human right. This means teachers are obligated to teach you. In fact, I would argue that if education is a human right, then anyone that knows more than anyone else is obligated to educate the less knowledgeable. Perhaps that’s why I’m writing this? I digress. These rights would be positive claim rights as they require positive actions on the part of other people. Doctors and teachers must intervene in your life and expend their time, energy, knowledge, and resources to give you something. This certainly does not seem just. Are we doomed then, to live an unjust life in an unjust world?!

That seems a bit hyperbolic, so let me put an end to this rhetoric of rights. Rights, as a physical entity, like say your shoes, do not exist. They are purely a construct of the human mind. Worse yet, they are a fabrication, and an elaborate one at that. Not only is the right to healthcare a farce, but so too is the right to life. There is no real difference between positive and negative claim rights as negative claim rights still place an obligation upon other people, even if that obligation is simply to do nothing but recognize that you are a person. At its worst, the right to life could be construed to mandate that all potential life has a right to life, meaning all eggs in a woman must be fertilized and granted life as a human. This would bind all living people to perpetually living for the not yet born, thus putting precedent on creating new life over living your own life. As rights to not exist, they are neither useful nor helpful in understanding our relationship with reality or each other. Instead of having a right to life, simply recognize that we exist, and any attempt to interfere with our existence from others violates the non-aggression principle. For more on that see my post, The Moral Framework. With all this talk of rights, who benefits?

Qui bono? That is the phrase we should always ask when unraveling a complex philosophical structure meant to deceive us. Who benefits from humans believing that we have rights and that they must be recognized and respected by other people? Why, those that enforce the rules for respecting those rights; governments and politicians. If I can convince you that you have an illness, and I am the only one with a cure, are you going to buy that cure from me? Of course you are! You get to feel better, and I get to take advantage of your ignorance. Governments have a direct incentive to grant the people as many rights as they can conceive of as those same governments will grow in size, scope, and revenue in order to preserve those rights. You have a right to life? Here’s a system to make sure people aren’t killing you. You have a right to property? Here’s a system to make sure people aren’t stealing from you. Oh, and we have to steal from you to pay for it, but we are going to call it taxation. What’s that? You want a right to healthcare? Of course! Here you go! You just have to wait six months before you see a doctor. You have a right to healthcare, but no one said you have a right to healthcare right now. Oh, and you definitely have a right to education. How else are we going to prevent you from thinking critically about any of our laws or your “rights” unless we indoctrinate, I mean educate you about them or how wonderful we are for providing them to you?

There is also the Positivist legal theory. This states that all rights are granted by the government. You can do only what the law allows you to do, and all power resides within the government to grant freedoms. You have the right to live because the government has given it to you. You have the right to speak as long as the government says it is OK. While this approach is more honest about the nature of rights, it is morally corrupt and logically inconsistent. To address the latter claim first, we know that ownership is defined as exclusive control over an object. In this case, we are referring to your body. If the government is the sole entity that can grant you the right to speak or move or live, then you are not the owner of your body. This is a contradiction of reality and it cannot stand. Governments understand this, which is why they use the threat of violence at the barrel of a gun to enforce their laws. This is also why this approach is morally corrupt. Enforcing the notion that the government has the authority to grant rights to people requires a violation of the non-aggression principle, and this is morally wrong. Positivism also fails to grant humans rights. So, what is the answer?

At this point, we can unequivocally say, “No, we do not have rights.”  Do you know the saying, “beware of strangers bearing gifts?” The government is one big entity of strangers, and the gifts they bear are called rights. Reject their rhetoric wholesale lest you get caught up in their convoluted mess of what rights you do or do not have and when, where and how. Instead recognize two simple truths. One, rights do not exist so you do not have them; and two, the ten scariest words in the human language are these, “I’m from the government, and I am here to help.”

 

Why We Do What We Do

Have you ever wondered why people do what they do? Why do people act? Ludwig von Mises set out to answer just that question in his fantastic work, Human Action. In that book, he lays out three requirements for human action. First, you must have an unease with your current situation. Next, you must perceive a better situation. And, finally, you must believe that positive action will get you from where you are to where you want to be. These can be somewhat confusing, so let’s break them down.

Do you like your sofa? If you do, are you likely to go out and buy another one? If you don’t like your sofa, are you considering getting a new one? Not liking your sofa is an example of unease with your current situation. You do not like your sofa, so you want to relieve your unease with it.

Assuming you don’t like your sofa, how do you know can improve your situation? Perhaps you saw a commercial on TV for a new sofa, or you went to a furniture store. This is a presentation of the second requirement for human action; you perceive something better. If there were no new sofas, you would not pursue getting a new one, and therefore would not act. In our scenario you do see a new sofa, however, this is still not enough for you to act.

The last requirement for human action is the belief that positive action will get you from where you are to where you want to be. Where do you want to be? Sitting on a new sofa! Where are you now? Sitting on a crappy one. How do you get a new sofa? If you already have the money saved, you go buy a new one. This belief that going to the store and purchasing the new sofa will get you the new sofa results in you going to the store and buying a new sofa.

Consumer goods are an easy representation of this concept, however, it is just as valid with all of our actions. It applies to why we go to work, why we eat food, what food we choose to eat, the friends we have, the places we live, the relationships we cultivate, everything. If you can work through this framework, you can understand why you do what you do and why other people do what they do. I will go into this in further detail in subsequent posts. Thank you for reading, and I hope you stay tuned!

An Opportunity Lost

I believe art is the highest form of human flourishing expressed, so from time to time I will share some of my art here. I am a hopeful romantic, and my art will reflect that. Poetry is one of my favorite forms, so I give you a poem:

An opportunity lost?

What was I thinking?

Your pretty face,

My heart was sinking.

I saw your smile,

No sense was I keeping.

An opportunity lost?

Why didn’t I speak?

What can I say,

My constitution was weak.

In that moment I doubted,

My outcome got bleak.

An opportunity lost?

Please heaven forgive!

To see you again,

What wouldn’t I give?

Yours is a face,

That makes a man want to live!

An opportunity lost?

I refuse to believe!

Please God I beg you,

Grant me reprieve!

And if I see her again,

In you I might believe.

An opportunity lost?

I will not let it be so!

I’ll find you again,

And this poem I’ll show,

And on to our future,

Together we shall go.

An opportunity lost?

I will not regret,

We locked eyes for a moment,

I will never forget.

I will hope for future moments,

We have yet to beget.