The Aristotelian Mean of Identity

We currently live in a world where the ideal of individualism is reaching its extreme. Gender is now fluid. Race is a social construct. These group identifiers based upon biology are now optional. Everyone is a unique individual, completely unlike any other person, and has the complete capacity to choose who they want to be and how they want to identify on a whim. We are all also completely interchangeable. If this is not an extreme, I don’t know what is. The final nail in the coffin of this extreme is post-humanism; the idea that we can now become something other than human, and that is certainly our last collective identity.

At the other end of the spectrum, we have collectivism, whose extremes include communism and fascism. During the twentieth century, both of these ideologies have shown themselves to be extremely detrimental to human civilization. However, collectivism is not the same thing as a collective identity.

As human beings, we are by our very existence social beings. We are born into a family, or at least to a mother, and are raised in a world with other humans. We are born male or female, barring rare exceptions, and we are most often born into one race. These are collective identities determined by genetics, and genetics determines more than these two factors in our lives. Our height, hair and eye color, athletic disposition, intellectual capacity, and several other aspects that are intertwined with our genes are decided for us at conception. Additionally, epigenetics can change our expressed genetic profile given our environment. This subject is outside of the scope of this article, however, it is necessary to point out our initial framework as humans.

Essentially, our genetics make us a unique individual on this planet. However, we share the vast majority of our genes with the rest of humanity. We are both unique individual configurations of DNA, and we are part of a genetic collective. We exist in a balance of individualism and collectivism, and we must recognize this if we are to survive.

The great Greek philosopher Aristotle argued that the ideal state of any virtue was to be found in the mean between its extremes. Courage is a noble virtue, however, too much courage is foolhardy and too little is cowardice. We have to find the balance between excess and deficiency in all things. This is true for identity as well, however our balance is between individual identity at one end and collective identity at the other.

In order to avoid the extremes, we must first recognize the difference between chosen identity and predetermined identity. Predetermined identities are things that are unchangeable by reality; race, gender, height, eye color, IQ, pretty much the things you get in trouble for saying cannot be changed. Chosen identities include; religion, political ideologies, sports team affiliations, recreational activities, etc.

You can tell we are in a place of extreme individualism by the fact that the most controversy within the identity discussion arises when discussing race, gender, and national identity, especially when genetic determinism is discussed. You can choose any religion you want, change it on a whim, and no one cares. You will get more pushback from a Browns fan if you decide to become a Steelers fan than if you are a Catholic and choose to become a Protestant or an agnostic. We recognize the choice inherent in these latter collective identities, however, we cannot seem to accept the reality of an absence of choice in the former identities mentioned.

The extreme of individualism insists that all identities must be optional, including the predetermined ones bound by genetics and reality. In this extreme, you can choose to be a man, a woman, or something else entirely. You can decide to be white, black, Hispanic, or anything else you want (there is controversy over this, however, the principle applies.). You will soon be able to choose between human and cyborg. We can tell this is an extreme because it ignores, and sometimes violently so, reality. The research regarding genetics, and the arguments about national identity are irrefutable. Japan is Japan because of the Japanese people. It has nothing to do with the land other than that the Japanese people live there. The same is true for the UK, France, Germany, Italy, and every other European country. It is also true for the United States. Americans are not Mexicans, and to assume flooding the States with 30 million Mexicans will not change the structure of the country is foolish and an obfuscation of reality.

Being born white is not evil. Neither is being born black or Hispanic. However, making value judgements based upon race is very evil. We have to recognize that our predetermined identities will characterize our lives and our preferences, and we will make choices based upon those. Recognizing that individuals of different predetermined identities will have different preferences for their lives is necessary in order to survive as humans. No group characteristic defines an individual, however, predetermined group identities will influence an individual’s choices. Just as a tall person will most likely prefer a home with tall ceilings, a white person will most likely prefer a home in a majority white neighborhood. There is nothing wrong with this, and to assume there is, is to characterize the desired state of being as one of self-loathing. If I like myself, it stands to reason that I would like being around other people like me. To demand otherwise is to demand individuals hate the very characteristics about themselves they cannot change, and this position is completely untenable.

So what must be done?

We must recognize that even being an individualist is a collective identity, and collective identity is not a bad thing. We must recognize that all individuals have preferences, and those preferences are influenced by their choices and their genetic realities. We must recognize reality and not back down from insisting that it be recognized. We must also not back down from living by our preferences and insisting they be respected. Assuming that all people can happily live together under one monoculture is foolish and ignorant of reality, and we must push back when such ideas are asserted.

Where does anarchy come into this discussion?

Anarchy is a state of the absence of coercive laws and institutions, one in which all people are free to choose where and how they want to live. Individuals in a state of anarchy are free to choose with whom they want to live, collectively organize, choose where they want to live, and choose how they want to construct their societies. As long as they aren’t imposing their will on the unwilling, there is nothing immoral about this. It is only through this absolute freedom of association that humanity can prosper and flourish. Instead of warring with each other about how we all should live, let us separate and decide for ourselves in our own lands. We must bring identity back into its balance between individualism and collectivism by embracing collective identity and letting all groups of people live separately if that is what they want.

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.