Life Is Action

There is no idle in life. Get busy living, or get busy dying. Utopia does not exist. This idea that we can create a world of endless pleasure and ease is a fantasy. Any system humans create must be maintained by humans in perpetuity. Even if we create robots, someone still has to maintain and program them. Do you want to change the world? You have to get out and do something about it.

This world is shaped by those that interact with it. Our society is like a clay pot, and we are the hands that shape it. If we are not getting our hands wet and working the spinning wheel, we aren’t doing anything. Hypothesizing about different molding techniques and spin speeds without actually touching any clay will not accomplish anything.

I’m not saying you have to get involved with government, but you do have to engage with other people in your community. At the very least, you have to get engaged in a positive way on the internet.

I don’t like voting or the concept of voting because I don’t like government. However, when there is a policy issue or candidate that I think will make a difference, I will vote. Supporting a policy initiative or a candidate that will lead to more freedom is never a bad thing. As much fun as it is to discuss hypotheticals and ideals, it is not the world in which we live. Ideals and theory are great for giving us a direction, but we must navigate with them through the world in which we live, not the one in which we wished we lived.

Here’s an analogy: you are walking through the woods and you come across a crack in the ground. You walk on top of it for a while, but eventually, it starts to split and deepen. You have to choose a side. You decide to go left. Now, you’ve been walking for over an hour and you are four miles down that left path when you look out and realize the trees have cleared and the path in front of you leads to a desert and death. You then look to your right and see on the other side of the chasm, which is now a mile across and 3000 feet deep, a flourishing and vibrant forest with lush greens and ample fruit. You know that continuing on your current path will leave you dead. You also know that crossing the chasm from where you are to where you want to be is impossible, even though you really want to get over to the other side. So what do you do? You turn around and retrace your steps until you get to a place where getting back on the right path is an option.

We are on the left path, and we are facing a desert if we continue in our current direction. Making hypothetical arguments is as helpful as wishing for a bridge to get across the chasm. We have to make the practical journey back the way we came so we can start again in the right direction.

Progressives are lauded today as being the best and most virtuous people on the planet. However, progressing in the wrong direction is still progress, and our progressives are driving us into that desert as quickly as possible.

We have to stand up and oppose the direction in which we are being dragged kicking and screaming. We also must recognize that although we know where we want to go, the path back may not be pretty or nice. Those of us that support human flourishing must engage in society so we can start to shape it as we see fit. Making arguments in rooms of likeminded people will not change minds outside of that room, and our goal must be to change those minds.

Government and society are comprised of individuals, and they are led by people that interact with it. We need to start being those people that stand up and lead society so we can all end up in a better place.

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

The Moral Case for School Vouchers

How much do you know about public school funding? If you do not have children, I would be surprised if you knew very much. If you do have kids, it could quite possibly be the biggest headache of your life. The reason for this is due to the fact that public education funding is drawn from property taxes, and the higher your property value is, the greater the revenue is for the local public school. This may seem pretty straight forward, and it may even seem equitable or fair, but I can assure you it is not.

The purpose of public education is to ensure every child has equal access to education. That seems simple enough, yet, as with all things involving people, the idea is not so straight forward. Every child is different, and what constitutes an education varies widely. In an effort to parse these ideas into concepts that are manageable, let us accept that every child is different, because in reality they are, and let us also define education as the development of skills and accumulation of knowledge that helps an individual flourish.

By this standard, our current public schooling system fails miserably. On the front end, we have a system that tries to universalize standards and teaching methods across the board. Every student must sit in a desk and be lectured to. If they do well in this environment and like the subject matter, they get good marks and get to move on. However, if they are not engaged physically, creatively, or intellectually, they flounder. Worse yet, graduation rates being one standard of success for schools, in an effort to show improvement, the standards for graduation are reduced so more kids, who are not engaged properly, are pushed through a system that has effectively taught them nothing.

To add insult to injury, standardized testing has stripped individual children of their curiosity and interest in learning. Teachers are no longer teaching children so they can flourish in life; teachers are teaching children so they can pass a test. Life is not about your ability to fill in the correct bubbles on a test; it is about applying your innate talents, developed skills, and acquired knowledge in a way that will help you experience happiness as often as possible. No part of our current system teaches this to children, let alone prepares them for it.

On the back end, our children are suffering even more. After going through the meat processing plant that is our current public education system, our children are not equipped to handle a regular nine to five job, let alone get married, buy a house, and have kids. These were the standards of the American Dream, and instead of improving our institutions to ensure all of our kids can accomplish this dream if they want, we have changed the dream itself to simply, “Be happy with what you can get.” Upwards of fifty percent of college students need remedial courses upon enrollment. This is a clear statement of the failure of our current system.

I personally have first-hand experience with how inadequate our system is. I graduated from one of the wealthiest school districts in the state of Ohio. You are probably thinking, how is that a bad thing? It is a bad thing because it is proof our system works just well enough for those with means to not complain about it. My mother did everything she could to get me into the school district I went to, which meant moving within its jurisdiction. She was fortunate enough to be able to move me there, and I benefited greatly from the choice she made. The problem is that access to great education should not depend upon your zip code. If the people that moved into affluent areas with wealthy school systems were forced to send their kids to the same underperforming institutions the less affluent have to endure, the system would be changed in a matter of months. Instead, because those with the power to change the system can simply move to an area where the system is still working, nothing changes.

I do not fault these people for moving. In fact, I applaud their hard work to ensure their children have the best possible opportunities, just as my mother did for me. The people I do fault are the legislators for seeing the broken system and being either too controlled by teachers’ unions or too afraid or lazy to make the changes necessary. What are those changes, you might ask? Simple. A publicly funded voucher program.

As it stands, all of the money gathered locally for schools goes to the public institutions, and the kids are sent there based upon their zip code. The state and federal governments have money that they grant for various programs, some of which are voucher programs, but a large portion goes to the institutions as well. A voucher program will instead send the money to the children directly. Every child, regardless of zip code, will receive the same amount of money from the state for the purpose of funding the child’s education. The parent will then be able to choose to which school they will send their child. This will allow for a whole new market in educational services to grow.

Private schools, charter schools, online schools, Montessori schools, other institutions unimaginable right now, and yes, even public schools will all be competing with each other to provide the best possible education for our children. If a parent does not like what their child is learning, or if the child expresses dissatisfaction with their teachers or school, the parent can change where the child learns in a matter of days. Schools will have to work to serve the children, and not the legislative mandates and bureaucratic entanglements that ensnare and obfuscate progress on a daily basis in our current system. Teachers will have the freedom to teach their students in a way that accords with their abilities and beliefs, and the students will have the freedom to choose the teachers that suit their aptitudes and interests. If our goal is to help every individual child flourish, a voucher system is the only solution that can come from a publicly funded educational program.

The argument is simple. If human flourishing is our standard of value, forcing children to go to underperforming institutions with poorly designed educational programs and unsatisfactory methods of teaching clearly fails our standard. Our children are suffering, and the most in need of quality education are suffering the worst. The system we have still works for the wealthy, and they should not be faulted for taking advantage of it. For those of us that see the problem, it is our job to point it out and educate all those around us so they too can see the truth. If we want to live in a society that works for everyone, we must admit when society is failing those among us that need our help the most. The educational system we have is failing, and it will be only a matter of time until it affects everyone, even the wealthy. This is why we need to tackle this problem now and start working towards a better future. Take voucher programs seriously, and start advocating for school choice today. If we want a better future, we must help the children that will inherit tomorrow flourish today.

By this point you may be wondering, “What does this have to do with anarchy?” After all, in a world of entirely voluntary interactions, the only “public” education would be that provided by private charities or voluntary community organizations. We do not live in that world. We live in a world with public education, and if we ever want to get into a state of anarchy, we must start pushing for a freeing of the educational system so that the ideas of freedom start permeating the minds of our children. That can only happen today through a system of school vouchers and school choice. This is why it is relevant to anarchy, and it is why, if you are reading this blog, it should matter to you.

What Is Politics?

A friend of mine recently told me that politics escapes her. Given that we recently had a presidential election in the United States, I thought it would be appropriate to take a stab at trying to explain the concept because it is clearly lost on many people.

The first thing we have to understand is that politics is the end of a much longer and more in-depth train of thought that begins with morality. I am going to define three concepts that all build upon each other, and I will start with morality.

Morality- The discussion and determination of the rightness and wrongness of an action based upon a universal standard of value. (See my discussion on morality here.)

Ethics- The discussion and determination of the rightness and wrongness of enforcing morality.

Politics- The discussion and determination of the rightness and wrongness of a system designed to enforce ethics in order to achieve justice.

These may seem esoteric and possibly difficult to conceptualize in these terms. So, allow me to simplify with an example. Murder is one of the most commonly cited morally wrong and universally banned actions, and as such, I will use it to explain how the action fits into my definitions.

When discussing morality, we ask, “Is murder right or wrong?” I think every person can agree that murder is wrong. Why murder is wrong is also something discussed in morality, and let me put it simply that murder is wrong because it violates the self-ownership of the victim. (Again, see my blog here for more.)

Now that we have accepted that murder is morally wrong, we must ask, “Is enforcing a ban on murder right or wrong?” As an aside here, you may be wondering if we should ask, “Should we ban murder?” The answer may seem a self-evident “Yes!” but for any detractors I will say this. What would be the point in determining if murder is right or wrong if you weren’t going to ban it on some level? Even restricting you own actions against murder because you know it is morally wrong is a ban on the act. If murder is wrong, and a ban on it is something we should support, even if only on a personal level, would it be acceptable to tolerate a murderer living amongst us? This would be a contradiction of morality. If a ban on murder is good, then people violating that ban are bad and must be dealt with. Thus, we establish that enforcing a ban on murder is right.

We know that murder is morally wrong and enforcing a ban on murder is ethically right, but how do we implement our ethical determination? This is where politics comes in. Politics is the engineering in a world where morality is the physics. What works neatly in theory does not always work with the materials available. Bridges used to be built with stone and wood, then brick and mortar, then steel, and now with steel, titanium, concrete, and computers. The materials improved and thus so did the bridges. The physics was always the same, but the engineering adapted to the materials. In politics, our materials are individual people. The physics is still the same; morality remains unchanged. The only way to improve our materials is to improve people’s understanding of morality and enhance their capacity to act upon that understanding.

Politics is like bridge building with rocks, bricks, wood, steel, titanium, and the occasional computer design; you never have enough of any one input to build a bridge perfect for your material, so you cobble together what you can where you can. This is pretty much why politics sucks. Imagine you are a piece of steel trying to justify the building of a bridge that you are capable of supporting, but you are talking to a bunch of timber, bricks, and rocks. Are the rocks going to be able work with you on that bridge? Most likely not. To dispel the idea that I am calling stupid people rocks in this analogy, think of it this way. How hard is it to build a bridge of rocks and stones compared to a bridge made of steel? When building with steel, the complexity increases considerably. With rocks, you just stack rocks until you get your bridge. Both are applying physics to meet a desired end, and one does it with far less complication. When discussing politics, you want to be the rock, not the steel.

To our idea of murder, how do we enforce a ban on murder in a way that does not violate morality while simultaneously achieving justice? Answering that question is the purpose of politics. The system devised is limited by the people devising it, implementing it, and to which it applies.

If the people devising the system believe that, while murder is wrong, forcible imprisonment is right, they might devise a system in which every single person is in solitary confinement all the time. Murder would certainly be stopped, but so too would anyone’s will to live.

If you lived on a world where the intelligent people were three feet tall and blind, while the aggressive and violent were six feet tall and had no compunction against murder, the implementation of any system the intelligent people designed would fail.

If all of the animals of the jungle were to try to devise a plan in which murder was banned, the entire ecosystem would collapse. The predators such as lions, cheetahs, and tigers would all die off as they would not be able to eat, and all of the prey species would overpopulate and decimate the vegetation, thus killing themselves off in the process. Trying to apply politics to that scenario would undoubtedly fail.

For humans, if we were all perfectly rational, well informed, and had a strong grounding in morality, we would have no problem building a political system out of rocks. Ideally, anarchy is a world in which the rocks work freely together with the rocks, the steel works with the steel, and whoever wants to build whatever wherever is perfectly free to do so because every participant is doing so voluntarily. Unfortunately, we do not live in that world, and few of the materials in our political metaphor understand politics, let alone anarchy. So, we are stuck building the best bridge we can with the inputs we have.

The Want-Need Relationship

It has come to my attention that many people believe that they can go through life happily not getting what they want as long as they get what they need. This is an odd belief and it shows a lack of understanding about the want-need relationship. Allow me to elaborate.

Do you need to eat food and drink water? You’re immediate answer is probably yes, but the correct answer is no. There is nothing that you inherently need to do. You don’t even need to breathe air. That is, unless you want to survive. You don’t need to eat food or drink water unless you want to live. You don’t need to have shelter unless you want to survive the elements of nature. You don’t even need to wear clothes unless you want to live in society, nudist colonies notwithstanding.

The want-need relationship is imperative to understand because without knowing what you want, you will never know what you need. Do you want to be happy? Then you need to live a virtuous life directed at being a good person. Do you want to be healthy? Then you need to eat a plant based diet and exercise regularly. Do you want to be loved and feel desired in your intimate relationship? Then you need to be a virtuous person, find a virtuous partner, and work to make sure each of you is engaging the other to be better every day.

Your desires are the guideposts by which you orient your life. The desires you have express your maturity and values. A child may desire candy and cookies, but that is because he doesn’t know any better. An adult who desires candy and cookies has a very immature mentality and does not value health or long-term happiness.

Philosophy should help you determine what it is you want out of life and how best to get what you need in order that you may experience happiness as often as possible. Philosophy is not merely understanding the want-need relationship; it is determining what you as an individual need so that you may accomplish what you want.

As you grow and change as an adult, what you need will invariably change because you will develop a more profound understanding of what it is you want out of life and why. Experiencing happiness is what we all want, but what it is that makes us happy is different for everyone. It is also different for the same person over time. Future you will undoubtedly need different things than current you needs in order to experience happiness, and what current you accomplishes will impact what future you needs. Future you’s understanding of happiness will be tempered and encouraged by what current you experiences. Philosophy will put into perspective the importance of knowing what you want now and in the future, and it will help you prioritize so that you may experience happiness as completely as possible. (I talked about the relationship between current you and future you in a previous post, here.)

If your desires are the magnetic poles, then philosophy is your compass. Understanding the want-need relationship is the equivalent of building a state of the art GPS system, launching the satellites into space, developing a cool interactive and user friendly interface, turning it into an easy to use app, and making sweet, sweet moolah. Money isn’t everything, but metaphorical money used to represent happiness? Those are the dollar bills to stuff under your mattress, stack in your safe, and hopefully have enough of one day to do a Scrooge McDuck style high dive into and swim around in. That is a dream worth achieving.