Tuesday, January 27, 2009

The Basic Question

This morning while driving I tuned the radio to Neal Boortz, an Atlanta talk show host who bills himself as libertarian. He said that although the liberal has an answer for many things, there is one question he cannot answer.

I post this here. I use "progressive liberal" rather than just "liberal" as there is a difference. Traditionally liberal has meant one who believes in liberty or being liberated - freedom to be oneself and freedom to be politically free. I think today, however, most liberals are progressive liberals who believe that the role of government is to redistribute property in order that all people have the same existential means to live their life. This is a new term for the old fashioned one: socialism.

Boortz: Do you think it is alright if I choose to give a homeless person $10?

Progressive Liberal: Yes.

Boortz: Do you think it is alright if you choose to give a homeless person $10?

Progressive Liberal: Yes.

Boortz: Do you think it is alright if I hold a gun with the shooting end touching your forehead and tell you to give $10 to the homeless person?

Progressive Liberal: Absolutely not!

Boortz: Then why is it alright if I go to Washington and ask the politician to hold that gun to your head to get that $10 for the homeless person?

Progressive Liberal: Hemming and Hawing. No answer.

We know Obama's answer: "It's fair." But is it? Is using force to get what YOU want fair? Is using force to get what a majority wants fair? By what standard?

Monday, January 26, 2009

What's Happening to the American Spirit?

(When I read this article, I got excited. There is a lot wrong with the underpinnings of this man’s viewpoint and yet he is putting his finger on a crucial aspect of the energy and drive, and the resulting creativity of our culture at this point in history. Culturally we are bound to serve others and the government is only able to pass laws forcing us to do so because we accept that that is a proper goal for our society and, therefore, one’s life. When a man has produced goods and services which others have bought because they see the value in them and yet he is asked to “give back”, the underlying assumption is that the voluntary trade of value for value is actually immoral – lying, stealing, merely material, etc. This is a horrendous fallacy and injustice, and anyone who accepts it deserves the guilt he will experience from living his life as he must in order to survive. We live in the era of the New Slavery.

His title is true in one sense and not true in another. The laws bind us to being less powerful in our lives and at the same time, they can never bind us since ultimately we only accept the victim status psychologically if we say so. This distinction is crucial for the future of political freedom from the heavy hand of government force. My comments are in green.)

Wall Street Journal, January 26, 2009

How Modern Law Makes Us Powerless
The real barrier to Barack Obama's 'responsibility' era.


Calling for a "new era of responsibility" in his inaugural address, President Barack Obama reminded us that there are no limits to "what free men and women can achieve." Indeed. America achieved greatness as the can-do society. This is, after all, the country of Thomas Paine and barn raisings, of Grange halls and Google. Other countries shared, at least in part, our political freedoms, but America had something different -- a belief in the power of each individual. President Obama's clarion call of self-determination -- "Yes We Can" -- hearkens back to the core of our culture.

Cartoon by David Klein

But there's a threshold problem for our new president. Americans don't feel free (Because objectively they aren’t free) to reach inside themselves and make a difference. ("Make a difference" is one of those unobjective buzzwords that has come to mean "make a difference with other people as a purpose for living one's life." It is true that what one creates and produces can make a difference with other people but it can never be an authentic purpose for one's life. Making a profit means one is making a difference because people traded their money for what you produced.) The growth of litigation and regulation has injected a paralyzing uncertainty into everyday choices. All around us are warnings and legal risks. The modern credo is not "Yes We Can" but "No You Can't." Our sense of powerlessness is pervasive. Those who deal with the public are the most discouraged. Most doctors say they wouldn't advise their children to go into medicine. Government service is seen as a bureaucratic morass, not a noble calling. Make a difference? You can't even show basic human kindness for fear of legal action. Teachers across America are instructed never to put an arm around a crying child.

The idea of freedom as personal power got pushed aside in recent decades by a new idea of freedom -- where the focus is on the rights of whoever might disagree. (Rather than the objective violation of a person’s right to his life and his property, the visible expression of his life.)

Daily life in America has been transformed. Ordinary choices -- by teachers, doctors, officials, managers, even volunteers -- are paralyzed by legal self-consciousness. Did you check the rules? Who will be responsible if there's an accident? A pediatrician in North Carolina noted that "I don't deal with patients the same way any more. You wouldn't want to say something off the cuff that might be used against you."

Here we stand, facing the worst economy since the Great Depression, and Americans no longer feel free to do anything about it. We have lost the idea, at every level of social life, that people can grab hold of a problem and fix it. Defensiveness has swept across the country like a cold wave. We have become a culture of rule followers, trained to frame every solution in terms of existing law or possible legal risk. The person of responsibility (Responsibility is a function of reaping and experiencing the consequences of one’s actions. Government force erases responsibility. One cannot be responsible for that which he had no choice but to do.) is replaced by the person of caution. When in doubt, don't.

All this law, we're told, is just the price of making sure society is in working order. But society is not working. Disorder disrupts learning all day long in many public schools -- the result in part, studies by NYU Professor Richard Arum found, of the rise of student rights. Health care is like a nervous breakdown in slow motion. Costs are out of control, yet the incentive for doctors is to order whatever tests the insurance will pay for. Taking risks is no longer the badge of courage, but reason enough to get sued.

There's an epidemic of child obesity, but kids aren't allowed to take the normal risks of childhood. Broward County, Fla., has even banned running at recess.

The flaw, and the cure, lie in our conception of freedom. (And that lies in the understanding of man’s nature and the type of consciousness he has.) We think of freedom as political freedom. We're certainly free to live and work where we want, and to pull the lever in the ballot box. But freedom should also include the power of personal conviction and the authority to use your common sense. Analyzing the American character, Alexis de Tocqueville, considered "freedom less necessary in great things than in little ones. . . . Subjection in minor affairs does not drive men to resistance, but it crosses them at every turn, till they are led to sacrifice their own will. Thus their spirit is gradually broken and their character enervated."

This is not an ideological point. Freedom in daily choices is essential for practical reasons (and spiritual reasons) -- necessary for government officials and judges as well as for teachers, doctors and entrepreneurs. The new legal order doesn't honor the individuality of human accomplishment. (The new legal order doesn’t honor the existence of individuals.) People accomplish things by focusing on the goal, and letting their instincts, mainly subconscious, try to get them there. "Amazingly few people," management guru Peter Drucker observed, "know how they get things done." Most things happen, the philosopher Michael Polanyi wrote, through "the usual process of trial and error by which we feel (Really? I don’t think that captures it. He’s missing the mind’s cognitive role in our actions.) our way to success." Thomas Edison put it this way: "Nothing that's any good works by itself. You got to make the damn thing work."

Modern law pulls the rug out from under all those human powers and substitutes instead a debilitating self-consciousness. (Reality consists of what there is to be conscious of and also one’s own consciousness – that tool of survival in the world. The proper processing of information from one’s senses requires focusing out there and also being responsible for one’s mechanism by which one grasps and processes that information.) Teachers lose their authority, Prof. Arum found, because the overhang of law causes "hesitation, doubt and weakening of conviction." Skyrocketing health-care costs are impossible to contain as long as doctors go through the day thinking about how they will defend themselves if a sick person sues.

The overlay of law on daily choices destroys the human instinct (man does not possess instincts. He is a living entity and for man, he must choose to live. Nothing automatically propels him in that direction other than his nature as a living entity has built into mechanisms which indicate to him that he is doing that or not doing that. But what he does about the information he gets from his body – the pleasure or the pain – doesn’t tell him what to do. He has to discover that. Hence no instincts. An instinct is an automatic propensity toward life that works to sustain him. Animals have that, but not man. Man is quite capable of choosing suicide and often does.) needed to get things done. Bureaucracy can't teach. Rules don't make things happen. Accomplishment is personal. Anyone who has felt the pride of a job well done knows this. (This is the experience the unification of the mind and body in performing an Ego Unit. The Ego Unit is a discovery of mine which supports a person to grasp the nature of real accomplishment and consciously engage in that practice if he so chooses.)

How do we restore Americans' freedom in daily choices? Freedom is notoriously malleable towards self-interest. "We all declare for liberty," Abraham Lincoln observed, "but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing."

Freedom, however, is not just a shoving match. Freedom has a formal structure. It has two components:

1) Law sets boundaries that proscribe what we must do or can't do -- you must not steal, you must pay taxes.
2) Those same legal boundaries protect an open field of free choice in all other matters.

The forgotten idea is the second component -- that law must affirmatively define an area free from legal interference. Law must provide "frontiers, not artificially drawn," as philosopher Isaiah Berlin put it, "within which men should be inviolable." (Our Constitution is the document that is the means of carrying out The Declaration of Independence. In that it states that every man has a RIGHT to his life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, i.e. the freedom to be free of other men telling him what to do. This has been done. So what is the REAL problem? What is it that has taken us in the direction away from something that we already know works and releases the creative energy of men? This is the real question which this author does not answer. He keeps his argument at the level of laws and yet those laws are carrying out more fundamental beliefs. What are they?)

This idea has been lost to our age. When advancing the cause of freedom, law today is all proscription and no protection. There are no boundaries, just a moving mudbank comprised of accumulating bureaucracy and whatever claims people unilaterally choose to assert. People wade through law all day long. Any disagreement in the workplace, any accident, any incidental touching of a child, any sick person who gets sicker, any bad grade in school -- you name it. Law has poured into daily life. (This is why I no longer take on architecture in the way I once did. In my lifetime, the building code has gone from a small 5x8 book about an inch thick to a 4’ shelf of 9x12 binders specifying dimensions and layouts and surfaces and construction and everything. One can do nothing without consulting the building code and trying to figure out what is meant. Creative energy is sapped by bureaucratic energy. Working on big buildings thoroughly contained by all these laws and dictums which, by the way, are never finalized in the books since the government interpreters are constantly changing them, is to render oneself a drone for life. That’s not me and I’m not interested. So I shrunk my sphere of operation to small private creative projects that I am stimulated by and yet avoid the bulk of government regulation.)

The solution is not just to start paring back all the law -- that would take 10 lifetimes, like trying to prune the jungle. We need to abandon the idea that freedom is a legal maze, where each daily choice is like picking the right answer on a multiple-choice test. We need to set a new goal for law -- to define an open area of free choice. This requires judges and legislatures to affirmatively assert social norms of what's reasonable and what's not. "The first requirement of a sound body of law," Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. wrote, "is that it should correspond with the actual feelings and demands of the community." (We need to understand that no one has the right to tell us what to do and compel our action and at the same time none of us has the right to infringe the same right of another person. This in practice means the separation of economy and state in the same way that in our past we have separated church and state. This separation is breaking down too.)

The profile of authority structures needed to defend daily freedoms (So what is this concept “daily freedoms?” This kind of thinking is typical of a person who is stopped from thinking by wanting to please people, I say, rather than identifying the nature of things. This is why this article, although capturing the spiritual essence of our New Slavery is poor at identifying what has to be seen differently if things are to change and man is able to live free once again.) is not hard to imagine. Judges would aspire to keep lawsuits reasonable, understanding that what people sue for ends up defining the boundaries of free interaction. Schools would be run by the instincts and values of the humans in charge -- not by bureaucratic micromanagement -- and be held accountable for how they do.

Government officials would have flexibility to meet public goals, also with accountability. Public choices would aspire to balance (balance has nothing to do with the solution of this problem. Rather it has to do with acting from objectively true principles.) for the common good, not, generally, to appease someone's rights.

Reviving the can-do spirit that made America great requires a legal overhaul of historic dimension. (The legal overhaul cannot proceed without moral guidance as to which kinds of actions are consonant with man’s nature and need to be protected by the law. Thus the deeper problem is the re-examination of the dominant moral code and the assumptions about existence and consciousness upon which it depends. I’m of the opinion that the surrender of one’s mind to a higher authority – be it God or Society – must be thrown out lock, stock and barrel. Rather, people have to question all of these underlying structures and see whether they work and why or are they allowing them in their lives for other reasons – such as social acceptance.) We must scrape away decades of accumulated legal sediment and replace it with coherent legal goals and authority mechanisms, designed to affirmatively protect individual freedom in daily choices. "A little rebellion now and then is a good thing," Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison, "and as necessary in the political world as storms are in the physical . . . ." The goal is not to change our public goals. (Well there is no such thing as a public goal. In fact there is no such thing as “the public.” “The public” is a collectivist floating abstraction. Anything said in the name of the public is total BS because the public is nothing more than a collection of individuals. So ascribing anything to the public means that the speaker wants his values and the rest be damned. Whoever those other people are at the moment of his speaking do not exist. He may think he speaks for the public, but that is a fat lie too.) The goal is make it possible for free citizens to achieve them.

(In today’s culture, no one with a public voice is speaking for individualism. All leadership, some faster and some slower, is leading us into the slavery of the individual to the collective. In this context, there were no good political candidates this year. The New Enslavement is speeding up)

Mr. Howard, a lawyer, is chair of Common Good (http://www.commongood.org/), and author of the new book "Life Without Lawyers," published this month by W.W. Norton & Co.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

President Obama

Watching the inauguration, I am again thankful that America is able to turn over power in a rational manner – for the most part.

I am thinking, though, about Obama being elected and now assuming President of the United States of America. When all is said and done, what is the meaning?

I say: This is the beginning of the end of black as victim and white as privileged.

Obama has, in effect, said – with his life – “I’m the one. I will be held ultimately accountable. I’m not willing to use my race to gain favor. Why? I can’t. It won’t work.”

If Obama has a good intention, by itself it won’t work. If he is not acting when he should or acting when he should not, it won’t work. And if he manipulates people as he did in the campaign, it won’t work. And above all, excuses won’t work.


Reality takes no prisoners. It is absolute. The facts are the facts. Men cannot change that. (Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts. -- Daniel Patrick Moynihan) Men can only change their relationship to the facts and the faster they correctly recognize the facts the more ably they can take actions that will work.

Among reality’s constituents are people. And they have a nature too. Fundamental to man’s nature is man’s form of consciousness – a conceptual consciousness. Every man must craft purposes and achieve them to survive and flourish. He has no choice.

In our nature we are all equal. That is where the equality ends. Each man has different capacities, different resources, different purposes. In his world each uses those to advance his life. Will Obama recognize this or will he try not? Whichever he chooses will determine his success.

Depending on his actions, Obama will forward the meaning of his election or not.

For my part whatever guilt I absorbed for being white,it is at an end. In the wake of Obama’s election I will treat my black “brothers” as I expect to be treated – accountable for my actions. It would be a step backward to not rise to this occasion and hold you to account if that is required given the new standard.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” -- Martin Luther King, August 28, 1963. (45+ years ago) That dream is now to be realized. In this context, I wish Obama great success and the country will prosper.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Nitty-gritty of Race

This is from The Atlas Society, an alternative (alternative in the sense of different from, not equal to) objectivist-influenced organization (alternative to the Ayn Rand Institute, the organization charged with the intellectual consistency and furtherance of objectivism by virtue of Leonard Peikoff being the intellectual and financial heir to Rand's estate.)

Thoughts on Racial Thinking
By Edward Hudgins

January 17, 2009 -- January 2009 finds the issue of race front-and-center with the celebration of black civil rights leader Martin Luther King's birthday followed by the inauguration of Barack Obama as America's first black president, in Washington, D.C., a majority black city with a black mayor.

With Obama's election, discussions of race have tended to be framed in two ways.

First there has been an increased focus on values in black communities and culture. For example, comedian/actor Bill Cosby has received much attention for his strong pronouncements about the need for blacks in the lower class to teach their children personal morality, clean up the coarseness in their own culture, and focus more on self-improvement.

These sentiments have been expressed for years by a small but now-growing number of conservative blacks, sentiments that were often ignored by too many other blacks, who looked to government as a principal source of personal improvement. But the well-articulated message of personal responsibility from a high-profile liberal like Cosby is less easily ignored.

Second, because Obama ran as a candidate who wanted to "transcend" race, there has been concern among many old-school black leaders that the new president, as he tries to do what he sees as right for all Americans, will ignore what these leaders see as the unique needs of blacks. It's no surprise that these Leftists see more government handouts and preferences as what blacks "need."

But the issue of race should be framed in a more fundamental way, in terms of the individual versus the collective, in this case membership in the black racial group.

The individual is king

Martin Luther King was right in the hope he expressed in his famous 1963 civil rights speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

The reason we judge people by their character is that character is something over which individuals ultimately have control and for which they can rightly be praised or blamed. And one's own ideas and actions, even more than one's environment and upbringing, form one's character and support one's own survival and flourishing.

During the initial years of the Civil Rights Movement the goal of leaders like King was not only to change laws that discriminated against blacks but also to change the moral attitudes of many Americans. Whatever one thinks of Obama's policies today, his election with 43 percent of the white vote and 54 percent of votes from whites under the age of 29 shows how far the country and culture have come in the past half-century, from the days when the ideas of the Ku Klux Klan could command the attention of far more than a handful of fringe bigots.

Race to government

But in spite of King's focus on individual character, most black leaders after King-self-appointed, media- created, or otherwise-actively sought to keep the focus on racial identity rather than on the individual. This was in large part because they sought not simply equality before the law but also special government handouts and privileges based on race, ostensibly to make up for past wrongs.

Needless to say, special treatment did not raise blacks to the same economic level as whites; it's not handouts but personal enterprise and initiative that bring prosperity.

Worse, special treatment encouraged many blacks to think of themselves as helpless victims who had to depend on others for their wellbeing.

Further, to secure special privileges black leaders had to encourage whites, and especially politicians, to continue to think in racial terms as well. Even the majority of individual whites who might have had nothing to do with discrimination or the legal barriers to blacks had to see themselves as somehow collectively responsible for the plight of blacks.

Seeing the world in black and white

But by encouraging racial thinking, black elites opened a Pandora's box.

Most individuals aren't scholars. They often make judgments based on impressions rather than deep analysis. So consider an impression they might get by thinking in terms of race.

In 2005 there were 194 murders in Washington, D.C., a city that is 57 percent black. That year neighboring Prince Georges County had 173 murders; it is 66 percent black. The next highest number of murders in the Washington metropolitan area in 2005 was in Fairfax, Virginia, which had only 24 killings. That city is only 9 percent black. Go 30 miles up Interstate 95 to Baltimore, which is 65 percent black, and you have 269 murders. You see a similar pattern in metropolitan areas across the country.

While murder rates and rates for many other crimes have steadily declined in the D.C. area and throughout the nation over past decades, we can still ask, "What impression do we get from judging first in terms of race?" The answer: Avoid black neighborhoods. They are dangerous. Even black cab drivers are sometimes known to refuse to pick up other blacks in certain neighborhoods; these cabbies seem to have a rational prejudice since they see that the danger of becoming crime victims is higher in certain neighborhoods and from individuals of a certain race.

For years black elites and white liberals argued that it is poverty and economic differences that cause high crime rates. But over time and across other ethnic groups this pattern has not held. Poverty as such doesn't equal crime.

Further, most individual poor blacks are not criminals. Somehow their below-the-national-average incomes don't compel them to rob liquor stores.

Abandon the collectivist perspective and you see that factors like the moral character and personal responsibility about which King and Cosby spoke are more important determinants of who becomes a criminal and, more important, who lives a successful and happy life.

What's in a name?

Other black elites still blame racism and discrimination for the plight of many blacks, even though legal barriers were removed decades ago.

For example, in 2003 Marianne Bertrand, of the University of Chicago, and Sendhil Mullainathan, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reported on an experiment they conducted to determine whether employers react adversely to black-sounding names, which would indicate a tendency to discriminate. They sent out 5,000 resumes in response to 1,300 job advertisements. Some of the resumes contained black-sounding names-Keisha, Aisha, Rasheed- while identical resumes contained white-sounding names-Jay, Brad, Kristen. The researches found that the resumes with the white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to get a callback from prospective employers.

But rather than demonstrating the existence of an irrational racism, the study might really show that the collective identity promoted by black elites has had another sad affect. Why? Blacks have special privileges under a plethora of laws to sue for alleged acts of discrimination. Evidence of actual discrimination need not be proved against the employer; the twisted uses of statistics can substitute. Further, black elites have made an industry of promoting and financing such suits.

So employers who learn to think and see the world in terms of a racial group rather than individual potential and achievement will be reluctant to increase their chances of getting sued by hiring members of a litigious group.

They might also remember those high crime rates. And they might remember that out-of-wedlock births, with all the associated pathologies, for non-Hispanic whites is about 25 percent compared to nearly 70 percent for blacks. If one is thinking in terms of groups, the impression is that this one doesn't seem to be very responsible.

The colorblind mind

Of course, more important than what others think about us is what we each think about ourselves and the world in which we live; about our own goals and aspirations; about how we might best achieve those goals.

Many of our ideas, values, assumptions, and expectations ostensibly come from others, from parents and teachers, and the transmission belt of the culture in which we find ourselves. Thus those who are critical of particular ideas and values found in black culture are on the right track.

But when individuals tie their sense of identity and self- worth to membership in a group or culture, they are likely to have an immediate, negative, emotional, and thought-stopping reaction to any criticism of the group's values.

This is why it is crucial for every human being, and especially those who want to see the black pathologies of the past disappear, to hold up as high virtues the importance of critically examining all of one's values and ideas, and the importance of using one's own individual, independent mind to make such judgments rather than accepting ideas simply because they are found in one's group or culture.

During the presidential election Barack Obama came in for much criticism for his twenty-year membership in the Trinity United Church, presided over by Pastor Jeremiah Wright. Wright was a vocal purveyor of anti- Americanism, bizarre conspiracy theories, and a racist black liberation theology that was featured on the church's website. Obama said he missed the sermons containing Wright's wrong-headed rantings.

But what of the other members of this, the largest black church in Chicago? What of those thousands who over the years have screamed "Hallelujah" at such nonsense?

Wright has supposedly expressed the view that the government might have spread AIDS and drugs in black communities. These are views found among a number of black elites; indeed Rep. Maxine Waters, a black California Democrat and chair of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, has for years gone after the CIA for supposedly being involved in drug trafficking in inner cities. What of those who, out of anger rather than evidence, walk around with such an improbably and unproven notion in their heads about who is behind the pushers? What about those who base their judgments about the source of black drug addiction on this notion, and who use this notion to guide to their political actions and thus continue to vote for Waters?

To think as an individual, to abandon group-think, requires calm consideration, not mind-blinding emotions. This is a crucial lesson that those who want to see America become a truly "transracial" country must learn.

Obama's D.C.

In Washington, D.C., President Obama will turn on the TV and every week, sometimes every day, see what he saw in Chicago and what can be seen in any major American city: tearful locals holding candlelight vigils for murder victims-too often children. They declare through their grief that, "This must stop!" But soon the sad scene will be repeated. The faces of the mourners and the victims are most often black. And when the killers are caught, they too are mostly black.

The problems of race today aren't those of the white bigotry which sadly was the rule through much of America's history. The problems are found in wrong ideas and wrong values.

Obama has an opportunity to help complete the American Revolution, which promised life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to each individual. But securing and enjoying these rights require a morality of individualism, independent, critical thinking, and a culture in which we each view one another as individuals to be judged not by the color of our skin but by the content of our characters.

------------Hudgins is executive director and a senior scholar at The Atlas Society, the Center for Objectivism.

Thomas Offers...[an objective view] on Social Safety Nets

William Thomas, TAS director of programs, answers questions on Objectivism that come in through our website. Appropriate for the first week of the new Obama administration, his topic is:
* "Social safety nets - Is it wrong to join them?" January 15, 2009

Even productive individuals can fall victim to illness, disability, and disaster. Thomas discusses self- interest and private safety nets.
The Atlas Society website contains over 170 questions and answers about Objectivism. You can view them all or ask your own question by visiting our Q&A section.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Constant and A Variable

Life consists of two parts: a constant and a variable. The constant piece follows from the nature of man as a particular kind of living entity. The variable piece follows from the myriad ways of fulfilling on the requirements of the constant.

A man is a living being. Life, at root, involves taking the actions which forward and maintain life otherwise life is over. It goes out of existence. Although the lower animals and plants have no problem with this issue in that they are programmed to maintain their life, that isn’t the case for man.

Why? He possesses volition, the capacity to choose.

Man doesn't know automatically what to eat and not eat. He knows he has to eat, the constant, but some things are good and nutritious, some things are bad and poisonous, the variables. He has to learn, i.e. use his mind to gain knowledge, the effects of various things in nature, the variables, on his life if he chooses to live and flourish.

He even gets to choose whether to live or not. We see many people who give up on living and drift or take actions which, short term or long, will end their lives. None of this is a given for man.

Key to all of this is man's means of survival: his reason, his rational capacity. He must live by that or die. A cheetah will catch him. An elephant will crush him. A bug will poison him. He cannot compete in life on the level of the animals.

So the first thing one has to assess is: "Where is my mind in regard to the using of it? Do I seek the facts so I may know them first hand or do I take someone else's word for them? Do I trust someone (in the form of a political speech or a quote from a philosophy or a religion) who says HOPE for the things I need and enjoy, or do I trust someone who says ACT for the things I need and enjoy? Do I trust someone who says the way to get what I need is through politics or the way to get what I need is to construct a plan and take the action to achieve those things?"

(I don't mean by HOPE the benign use of the word when one has constructed his plan, checked it twice, taken the actions to fulfill that plan to the limit of where he had control of events and then had to wait for the results to come in or not. If you need a job and have done everything you know how to do to get one - you have put together your resume, gone through the list of jobs in the paper and on Craig's List, contacted your friends and colleagues to let them know what you have to offer, gotten in the car and driven to the places where you would like to work and talked to them, written articles on the subject you would like to work in so that others who want you could find you, etc. and then you release all of that effort and listen for someone someplace to respond, that is not the kind of HOPE that I'm talking about in this or my previous post. This benign use of the word means the law of cause and effect sometimes takes time, you know it and you honor it. I am reminded of the Serenity Prayer used by AA. God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. --Reinhold Niebuhr)

The great thing about the constant is it allows, actually it necessitates, one to induce principles which support one to live well and flourish. How does one do this? He observes human beings living. Life's requirements comes in the form of needs. Needs include the material things like food, clothing and shelter and they also include the needs of consciousness such as pleasure, beauty and knowledge. To fulfill needs one must take action.

Other people's observations can be a support in learning the eternal nature of human being and the principles that work for living, but the important thing is that one has to see for himself how these principles operate, i.e. they have to pass the muster of his own mind as to whether they correspond to reality. Without this standard, he destroys his mind and his capacity for happiness - the enjoyment of his success in living. If he does not do this, he is chained to other people's minds or his feelings - not a tool for knowing - and thus is left adrift. Following either will not give him happiness nor serenity. He's what is known as a lost soul.

When Moses carried the Ten Commandments down from the mountain top, what happened? Essentially, to his mind he had a good idea. He was thinking of the tribe of Jews that he wanted to give guidance to so they could survive. He knew they had to stick together so the requirements of the tribe was the standard. Individuals doing their own thing was out. When he promulgated the dictum "Thou shalt not kill," he wasn't thinking of exceptions or how to formulate a law that corresponds to reality. He was affirming the fact that they can't be fighting each other and keep survival of the group in mind. Insofar as the principle is concerned, there are times when it is appropriate and a requirement, if one wants to live, to kill - even someone else in the tribe.

It was only later that religious leaders discovered that a very effective way to control a group's behavior is to issue them a law that makes no sense to apply in every instance and then hold them in place with guilt - that corrosive feeling that is a powerful controller of a human being. All tribes - be they primitive or modern states - and religions based on faith at some level control their people through guilt and fear of tribal disapproval and ostrasization, i.e., eternal damnation. All tribes and all religions require you to sacrifice one thing - your mind, that which makes you YOU. This is the meaning of the story of Abraham and Isaac.

Ethics is actually a science grounded in the observation of human beings for the purpose of learning the principles, learning the nature of the constant, that govern human action which when applied work to insure one’s ability to gain the values that support, maintain, and further one’s life such that one flourishes and attains happiness. When one arrives at such principles, he incorporates them into a body of knowledge that he lives by. This is his code of morality – the moral principles that he lives by. His character is the result. This determines his soul and is the meaning of the fact that a man is a being of self-made soul.

Objectivity is not the following of some principle that sounds good and other people observe as a custom as if were true in and of itself. That is rationalism, not rationality nor objectivity. Rationalism is the negation of one’s mind and will be a source of frustration, anger and ultimately depression and death if one practices it or attempts to. It may even be a true principle in the sense that it corresponds to the nature of human being, but if one doesn’t see how it works and adopts it by his own volition, it will still destroy his mind and render him unhappy. Ultimately he practiced it because of others or his unexamined feelings (fears).

Happiness and the serenity that is an aspect of authentic happiness is, for the most part, because one lives independent of what others think of him and according to true principles which he sees are true. True means a statement which corresponds to reality. Living in such a way will produce over time the results he wants.

This approach to ethics is known as rational egoism. It applies whether one lives alone on a desert island or in society. It applies to people of the West and people of the East, to whatever culture you belong or whatever skin color you have and no matter if you are Muslim, Christian or atheist. None of those attributes of the particular human being matter for it is the eternal nature of human being that governs whether a particular principle works or not.

In our era, the constant is not only neglected but reviled. "Do whatever you want. Who are we to judge another’s actions. After all it is his life" – as if he were some entity free from the law of identity. "Whatever the culture says is true is true," they say. "One should be pragmatic," they say. "The only thing that can work is to reassess every moment and change one’s mind depending on what public opinion will accept." None of these people have learned the role of the mind nor the role of true leadership. They drive their lives looking in the rear view mirror. The reason that primitive tribes remain primitive and socialist principles do not work is because they both chain the mind to the group which ultimately means the individuals jettison their own minds in favor of those who have power over the group. No one is thinking.

The United States was an historic achievement. It was the first society that was formed recognizing that it is the individual human mind that must be free. The tremendous success of this nation and the tremendous attraction of it to people around the globe is because here it was possible that a man could be free to live according to his own purpose and according to the observations and conclusions of his own mind. That’s the essence of our greatness.

It is heartbreaking to see every public voice peddling the dictates of an opposite philosophy and peddling as fast as they can in that opposite direction. If when things are going bad and you don’t know what to do, I can countenance your hoping that God will reveal a way for you. Just remember, though, God is not out there. He is you. Essentially He, whatever that floating concept is, is a product of Your mind. Get rid of the dichotomy and embrace your mind, your life and its requirements, the constant, and I promise, things will start to look up for you. You will have given up the passive acceptance of life and that empty concept of HOPE.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Selling Hope, the Real Con

This morning I read in an article that no one, 20 days before Obama's inauguration, knows what to expect. All are in HOPE.

How does HOPE arise and what is its source?

Man, to survive, as does any living thing, does so by having beneficial, pro-his life results by which he can continue to live. There are two categories of benefits: Those where the beneficiary does nothing to enact its cause, and those where the beneficiary enacts the cause.

An example of the first kind is when Aunt Louise dropped off a casserole in the afternoon and you didn't have to do much to cook dinner that evening; or when a snow plow plowed your street and you didn't have to dig yourself out to a passable road; or when a rainstorm came in the night and you didn't have to water the lawn the next day.

An example of the second kind is when you got in your car, visited the businesses you would like to work for and landed a job; or you painted a painting you had been thinking about and now either enjoy it yourself or sold it.

Benefits beyond one's control, one can only HOPE for.
Benefits that one can cause, one can ACT for.

The latter are known as VALUES: "that which one acts to gain and/or keep." (Rand)

Obama sold HOPE as a VALUE - which it is not. And that is the con. HOPE is never, never a VALUE anymore that snake oil is a cure.

With the exponential, unbridled growth of government robbing us of our resources and regulations restricting the myriad solutions to the needs we must fulfill in order to live, isn't it clear that whatever we need in life is going to become increasingly something we can only HOPE for? With our power removed they become ever less something we can ACT for?

HOPE is for the powerless. ACTION is for the powerful.

Obama's appeal was to the powerless (and those that believe that the powerless have a claim on the powerful - a fallacious ethic) for the purposes of creating more of them. The powerless take what they can get. The powerful get to decide what they want and act to gain it. In Obama's case that includes deciding what he will give the powerless. He gained our nation's permission by means of his snake-oil charms and now we are going to get what we asked for - alms.

Say bye-bye to your vaunted standard of living. These are the sunset years for that. You are living in the afterglow of a dying fire - yours. Given this state of affairs your only alternative is to get yourself high - I mean high on the Powerful One's list so that some of the benefits you can only hope for gratuitously fall on you. (There is another alternative: become independent.)

Inside this society's system, we're all beggers now - as some of our vaunted businessmen and state governors are amply proving.

And this is why Obama is oh so, so evil - more evil than Bush ever was. Bush was a mixture of premises that still believed in your freedom and although his knowledge of what that means and what he needed to do to enact it was corrupt, his motive wasn't evil.

Obama doesn't even feign loyalty to your right to ACT for your VALUES - i.e., your freedom. He plans to substitute positive rights to benefits for the negative rights protecting your individual freedom to live in society. Obama turned the page. He is a watershed President for the United States and until we grasp what is going on, there is but one direction for us. DOWN. Now corruption will be a way to survive for all. Get out those knee pads.

( Thanks to Dr. Tara Smith in her book Viable Values, p. 84, for this distinction.)

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The Problem with the Double Standard

When will the double standard finally kill us as a nation?

The problem with the government is that it is everything that we aren't or can't be. Madoff got the lesson as well as are many million others these days.

Let's see, haven't I heard this before? Where we are limited in our knowledge, God is omniscient. Where we are limited in our power, God is omnipotent. Where we are limited by time and place, God is omnipresent. So, is belief in the State to provide what we can't anything but another religion? Doesn't look like it.

And who spends oodles of time and money schooling people in this belief - this faith - whether it be in God or State? I don't see the difference between a liberal fundamentalist and a religious fundamentalist.

My experience of both is they are dogmatic, unreasoning and live a compartmentalized life. That brain has a fault line and is subject to biologic tremors. "Don't bother me with the facts, ma'am. They might upset my precious point of view which is here to protect me from discomfort, risk and well, you know, a life fully lived."

The root evil is initiatory force. Forcing the mind of another means the forced person cannot be moral because he cannot choose the forbidden whether it applies in a particular circumstance or not. Initiatory force thus lowers a man to a sub-human level. He cannot be responsible so he learns not to be. It doesn't pay.

This is the mental/psychological climate that allows a Madoff to get as far as he did. It is the mental/psychological climate of our country right now. As man jettisons his mind, Madoff's are really attractive.

Who is your Madoff?