Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Man and Freedom

Why should we be concerned about the political philosophy of those for whom we vote? Because it’s a matter of life and death. We will live as human beings ought to live, or we will die as humans and live as some other organism, based on the ideas of those we elect. I’m not going to try to give a really detailed development of these points, and I’m not going to offer a defense of them. I figure I’ve spent 20 to 30 thousand hours over the past 25 years in studying, thinking, discussing, and arguing about this. I’ve earned these conclusions. If you have different ones, make sure you’ve earned them.

Which is more appropriate for Mankind (or “Man,” as I insist on calling the human race) statism or anarchy? Fortunately, we aren’t stuck with choosing between the two extremes, and, no, I’m not advocating compromise! Compromise is like mixing manure with ice cream; it doesn’t help the manure, but it ruins the ice cream. In any compromise between wholesome food and poison, only death can win. If a rifle is shooting to the left, and the rifleman adjusts the sights to make it shoot nearer the center, that isn’t a compromise!

Man lives as an individual. He eats, sleeps, goes potty, votes, and dies as an individual. There is no such thing as “society” if the term is used to mean anything other than a collection of individuals. He is a being of an integrated mind and body. A consciousness without a body is a ghost. A body without a consciousness is a corpse. Both are symbols of death. As his body is his own, individual possession, so is his mind. Man exists in almost infinite variety, and the likelihood of two people being totally identical, mentally and physically, is zero. Whether you believe, as I do, that we were made so by God, or that we evolved so matters not a bit. Man’s consciousness is, at its core, a rational faculty, consisting of sensory mechanisms that give him information on the world around him, and a cognitive mechanism that allows him to identify, organize, evaluate, and manipulate the information provided by his senses. (For the devotees of First Officer Spock, Man’s consciousness includes emotional mechanisms that are every bit as real and valid as his more linear, or rational mechanisms. Man’s emotions spring from what he thinks about what he thinks he knows, and as such are a critical part of his rational faculties. There is no dichotomy between reason and emotion.)

Man’s means of living is the exercise of all levels of his consciousness. Since his consciousness is unique, he will settle on unique conclusions and courses of action. The things that drive and please an individual are as unique as his body and consciousness. This is his essential nature. Man can accomplish nothing without the use of his mind to direct his body. He can’t eat or go to the bathroom without it. Without it, he can’t pick berries or find grubs or plant crops or preserve canned food so that it will be wholesome for years. He can’t find, kill, or skin an animal. He can’t select a mate, love, or reproduce. For Man to live as is appropriate – that is, for Man to live as Man, rather than as some other animal – he must be free to think and to act according to his thoughts. This is equally true whether you subscribe to Evolution or to the Scriptures, which tell us, “Man is, that he might have joy.”

Without life, there can be no thinking or decision making – there can be no right or wrong. The one, immutable fundamental that makes the very existence of ethics and politics possible is life, specifically Man’s life as a rational being. Man’s life must be the standard of moral value against which all things are measured. If a political idea contributes to or protects Man’s life as Man, it is moral; if not, it is immoral. I don’t know if other philosophers understood the need for a standard of moral value, but Rand did, and her construction of what I’ve just said is exquisite and unassailable.

Anything that interferes with Man’s thinking and acting accordingly is destructive to his life as Man. It is anti-life, for to force a Man to live as a beast is to destroy his life. That which allows Man to live as Man is good and moral. A moral government is that which allows Man to live as Man, protecting his freedom to think and act on his thoughts.
Man will, by his nature, gravitate toward freedom. He will fight against that which confines or restricts him. This is human nature, and has been so from the beginning.

There is a political system that recognizes Mankind’s rights to live according to the nature of the species: Capitalism. Capitalism allows people to observe the world around them, draw conclusions based on that sensory input, and formulate plans of action according to those conclusions. More important, it allows them to act on those plans, and to reap the consequences of those actions. This is a critical distinction! The dominant political philosophy in America for the past 70-90 years has been to let people think and plan, but to either limit their actions, or to confiscate the products of those actions. We have seen great debate and much yapping and screeching about “left” and “right,” and “liberal” and “conservative,” but in reality, the only difference we see between the two is how far toward absolute tyranny they are willing to go. Actually, it may not be as much a matter of how far, as of how soon. For once we have accepted the principle that the government has the moral authority to control how free we are, the only remaining debate is over how fast we’ll go to where the government says we need to be.

My professor’s contention that the difference between liberals and conservatives is their preferred rate of change toward tyranny is probably one of the truest things he said all semester.

Now, hold it right here while I shoot hell out of a fallacy. How many times I’ve heard something on the order of, “But freedom is bad because it allows one person to bully another and take his freedom.” Bullcrap.

I stipulate as a given that all men are created equal, and are endowed with certain rights. They don’t all have equal ability, but they all have equal rights. That’s why Jefferson specifically mentioned rights. If a person does not accept this premise, the argument is over. Get out of my face or fill your hand. (Having a right and being able to exercise it are two different things, you hairsplitting, anal retentive jerk.) Can one man have a right to infringe on the rights of another? This is tantamount to saying there is a right to enslave. Absurd. The rights of one individual end where the rights of another begin. To bully someone is immoral and wrong, and the victim is within his rights to defend his liberty, even unto the shedding of blood. If a man can persuade another to do something, that’s fine. The latter has the right to choose. The problem is when the former forces something on the latter. The evil is not in what the latter was forced to do, but in the use of force, itself. In my opinion, this is one of Rand’s greatest points, that the fundamental human evil is the initiation of force. (Biblically, that was also the fundamental evil, being the one that led to the downfall of Satan. See how truth is truth, whether one finds it in the Scriptures or in the work of a feisty, Russian-born history teacher.)

Anarchy, as a political philosophy, is based on the premise that anyone has a right to do anything he can get away with, and only the skill at arms of his victim stands in his way. Such a system would lead to horrors beyond the known use of the word. Every man and woman would live in a combat footing every second of every day. The formation of alliances would be inevitable, and human society would disintegrate into a bloody cauldron of gang warfare and feudal tyranny. Anarchists are, perhaps, the only group I detest more than pacifists, and for the same root reason – they both have defaulted on the responsibility of the individual to think and distinguish right from wrong, life from death. The anarchist says, “Anything I choose to do is moral.” The pacifist says, “Anything anyone else chooses to do is moral.”

So back to the main thread. A moral government is that which allows Man to live as Man, protecting his freedom to think and act on his thoughts. As much as I respect Ronald Reagan and what he did for this country, he was dead wrong on this point. His position was, “The purpose of freedom is to allow people to work and earn, so they can pay taxes to the state. You can be free to work all you want, but we’re gonna take our cut of your product.” This is a major obscenity.

If Man, to be Man, must be allowed to sustain his own life as he sees fit, is it not obvious that he must be allowed to think, to act, and to reap the consequences of his actions? Whether we allow him to plant, and then take his crop, or not allow him to plant it in the first place, what is the moral difference? There is none. The idea that freedom is the right to work as a slave for the state is very old, and very despicable. More than that, it is vicious and savage.

In this, I believe, we see the main difference between Democrat statists and Republican statists. With some exceptions, they all recognize that people need to be free to work. They disagree only on how much the government ought to take. The current crop of statists are the most radical in American history, going so far as to say how much an individual needs to earn, and that the state has a moral prerogative to seize the excess.

The difference is one of degree, not of principle. There is an old story in which a fellow asks a woman if she’d sleep with him for a million dollars. She thought about it, and said, “Probably.” He then asked if she’d do it for two bucks. She said, “Of course not! What kind of a girl do you think I am?” He answered, “We’ve already determined that, Darlin’. We’re just haggling the price.”

Both major parties are whores. One is cheaper and more diseased than the other.

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