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.

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.

 

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 Irony of Collective Individualism

Individualism triumphs the idea that humans should be evaluated on individual merits, not on the merits of the group to which they may belong. For example, a black man should be evaluated on his individual capacity to perform a job, not on the actions of the black people that destroyed Charlotte recently. This is a perfectly reasonable and good position to have. It is illogical to assume that every member of any group thinks the same way and has the exact same capacities, especially when that group affiliation is not freely chosen. The irony is that this line of thinking, that individualism is the ideal, requires a large collective of people, a vast majority, to value it in order for individualism to matter.

This can be plainly seen by the hatred toward white people and cops coming from the rioters in Charlotte and any other place Black Lives Matters shows up. The hatred, also known as racism, directed at whites by the black rioters is collectivism pure and simple, and no matter how much the white guy getting curb stomped in the parking garage values individualism, every black person there is beating his ass because he is white. The guy getting his skull crushed didn’t choose to be white, yet the color of his skin is the only thing the collectivist, racist, blacks care about in that moment.

The case for the cops is similar, but you still have the choice to be a police officer. There was only one police officer that pulled the trigger that killed Scott, yet all cops are being blamed, attacked, and hated for it. The vast majority of cops are good people, including the one that pulled the trigger in the incident as it was justified. Despite this, because there are a few bad apples, all cops are being demonized. This is also collectivism, and as a society that values individualism, we should not tolerate it. We have systems in place to evaluate when an individual acts inappropriately; we must have the courage to stand up for what is right and get rid of the bad apples.

When we evaluate every Muslim or refugee by the same standards of collectivism, believing they are all bad because they are Muslim or because they come from the Middle East, we are not living by our standards of individualism. Should we ban all Muslims from entering the country because some of the ones that come in may murder some people? Until we can find an adequate way to evaluate them as individuals, yes. Letting them all in because a majority of them are good is just as much collectivism as is not letting any of them in because a minority of them are bad. The difference is, you can only guarantee the safety of the domestic population by excluding everyone until you have an adequate screening process. Islam as a political ideal is a subject for another time, but it is a collectivist system worse than communism.

Given all of the different factions in our world attempting to establish dominance for their specific group, how are we as individualists expected to maintain our culture of individualism? This is where the irony comes in; we must form a collective movement. A collective movement of individualists is the only way we can advocate for our values and virtues. We must collectively work together to make sure each individual is evaluated as an individual, not as part of a group. This is not to be mistaken for the reality that a person’s voluntary affiliation with a group does speak to their character, however, it is not the only component, nor is it a disqualifying characteristic. We should not prevent a terrorist from entering our country because he is a Muslim; we should ban him because he wants to initiate force against the citizens of this country.

The idea of collective identity or collective organization can be a foreign one, especially to me as someone who takes great pride in my individualism. However, I know that if I want to continue to live in a world that values individuals, I must find likeminded individuals, and we must work together as a collective to ensure our ideals are achieved. Those of us that value individualism must work together not just for our own survival, but for the survival of our culture and because it is the right thing to do. I hope, like me, you are apprehensive about the idea, but I hope like me, you are willing to give it a shot. This fight is far too important.

Is Social Media Engineered Distraction?

Humans are social beings by nature and by evolution. As an individual, humans are not particularly well suited to survive. We don’t have sharp claws, massive amounts of strength, and we aren’t particularly fast. What we have is a cognitive frontal lobe that allows us to problem solve and create abstractions to better understand our environment. This alone, though, does not give us any advantage over a predator unless we can plan in advance a way to defeat the predator. What do we have then?

Humans are excellent at cooperating with each other. Together we can build traps and walls to keep out predators, cultivate land for a consistent food supply, and build houses and structures to protect us from nature. Effectively, we built civilization out of cooperating with each other. This cooperation requires us to be informed about the other members of our community as well as our own standing within that community. We have to know who is reliable and who is going to not shirk their responsibilities. We must also know how others perceive us; are we liked, do others find us dependable and trustworthy or are they going to kick us out of the group? Out of the necessity to be informed about the other members of the group and our standing within it, we have developed a hypersensitivity to social life.

In today’s world, we have the internet and social media; effectively social life on steroids. Not only can we keep up on the lives of everyone we went to high school with but on the lives of celebrities, politicians, and complete strangers. We are socially so well connected that our capacity to process and function in life is inundated at times. How much of your life have you wasted scrolling through your Facebook or Twitter feed? While it can provide necessary distraction from time to time, largely it distracts us from more productive activities. We could be improving our relationships with our friends, family, or significant other; we could be improving our knowledge base; we could be discovering virtue within our own lives and impacting the world. Instead, we are all consumed with what Suzie did on her last vacation, or if Terry from high school is doing as well as we are in social standing. The negative impacts of this on our life are evident, but I want to know if this detriment is intentional.

What if Facebook was designed to distract us from a failing economy, worsening race relations, international conflict, a European migrant crisis, potential currency collapse, chronic unemployment, and an international cabal of governments and corporations intent on constructing a supranational governmental body that supersedes national sovereignty and therefore individual sovereignty? I don’t think the original intent of any social media platform was to do just this. I think they were designed as a way to improve communication and provide a form of entertainment for internet users. I do, however, believe that the various platforms have been coopted for just the purpose of distraction and obfuscation of the truth.

When you see Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube actively policing posts or content providers for reasons that are clearly intended to silence their voices, and Google limits search results, the question of motives comes into play. When you have the owners of Facebook, Microsoft, Google, and Apple all encouraging and supporting the United Nations, a supranational governmental body not beholden to any sovereign people, taking over the internet, you must ask why. Are these people technocrats that honestly believe they can use technology to reshape the thinking of humans? Do they believe they can control you if they limit the information to which you are exposed?

Yes they do. These people are no different from any other authoritarian in the past that has believed humans are flawed and must be reshaped into something better. Socialists, Communists, and Marxists all believed this. Proponents of the public education system believe this as indoctrination is the sole purpose of public education. If the government can control the information you are taught for twelve years, they can control how you approach any topic or idea for the rest of your life. Unfortunately for them, the human spirit desires to be free. Fortunately for humanity, those of us that desire freedom above all else are endeavoring to use every means necessary to fight back.

Social media is useful at distracting and controlling the sheeple, but it is also incredibly useful in waking them up. The phenomena of “Red Pilling” is something that was made famous in the movie The Matrix, and it has been overwhelmingly adopted across the internet thanks to freedom fighters and their use of social media platforms. People are waking up every day thanks to the internet and the moral virtue of individual freedom. Freedom is good and it is the best virtue to fight for. That is why it will win. The entirety of the world’s armies cannot adequately oppose men with morality on their side. Moral conviction is the strongest motivator within human action, so I ask you to take up the cause of freedom with me. Let us stand together as we wage the war for freedom all across the internet. No longer shall we let Suzie’s vacation pictures or Terry’s new car distract us. Let us be the content providers for how the future should be. Let us fill everyone else’s feeds the ideas of freedom, liberty, and anarchy. Let us espouse moral virtue as our guiding light so that others may find it and join us on this journey.  Together, we will achieve anarchy, we will achieve freedom!