Monday, November 16, 2009

The key to enduring personal happiness AND ending barbarism

Deep down we all know that it is immoral to use coercion against people who have done no harm. When we do so it is because we are afraid and it is easier to control others than it is to control our fears. But the key to both enduring personal happiness and ending barbarism in the world at large is developing the courage to do unto others as we would have done unto to us and to face and overcome our fears instead of seeking to control other people.

It is key to enduring personal happiness because when we act in disharmony with our conscience our conscience will punish us relentlessly. We can try to silence it by lying to ourselves in various ways but any relief achieved by this means is only temporary. The shame of having caused harm to others endures and forever prevents us from experiencing deep and enduring joy.

It is key to ending barbarism because the decision to use coercion against another is the spark that lights the flame of the cycle of barbarism by which low level conflicts escalate into large-scale violence.

The key to ending it all is for each of us to make a moral commitment to resist the temptation to impose our will on other people and to encourage others in our sphere of influence to do the same.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Private property is not evil

I believe that moral codes are immoral.

They are not only unnecessary but they exist for the purpose of deceiving ourselves into believing that an action we wish to take or have already taken is moral when we know that it is not.

True morality is innate and requires no written code.

We act morally when we act in harmony with our conscience.

We act in harmony with our conscience when our empathy is stronger than our fear because empathy enables us to feel what others feel as if we were them. We do unto others as we would have done unto us.

When our fear is stronger than our empathy we act immorally, because when we are consumed by fear we cannot feel what others feel and we are capable of harming them without remorse.

It is that simple.

Our conscience punishes us for doing so, and we feel the need to morally justify ourselves in a vain attempt to anesthetize our own conscience.

Such is the case with the belief that private property is evil.

We all know that there is nothing inherently evil about owning private property.

The act of owning it does not, by itself, cause harm to any person.

People might harm themselves by judging themselves harshly because they have less of it than others, but this hurt is an imaginary hurt that occurs solely in the mind of the individual.

Fear causes good people to do evil things.

What is really behind this belief that private property is evil is fear.

Fear that they are somehow inadequate because they have less of it than another.

Fear that it can and potentially will be used to cause harm to others.

Fear that those who have more of it somehow have more power than those who do not, leading the later to feel a self-inflicted sense of powerlessness.

Those who profess a belief that private property is evil hold that belief in their moral code because they intend to take what does not belong to them, or to support others who intend to do so or to morally justify the fact that they have already done so.

Were they to allow themselves to feel empathy for their victims they would realize that theft is immoral.

But their fear is stronger than their empathy, so they act immorally.

Moral codes are immoral.

They are invariably driven by fear but seek to camouflage themselves in fake empathy.

Wealth redistribution does not have anything to do with a genuine concern for the welfare of the poor.

This is a lie that the socialists tell themselves to morally justify what they know in their heart to be immoral.

What is to be done?

In the beginning were the barbarians.

They had been endowed by natural selection with a highly evolved sense of fear. The fight-or-flight response to the impulse of fear enabled them to survive in the hostile and threatening “survival of the fittest” environment in which they evolved over millions of years.

In time the barbarians triumphed over all of their rivals to become the undisputed masters of the animal kingdom. That triumph represented a major evolutionary turning point for the species of homo sapiens.

In the absence of predators the heightened sense of fear which had served them so well ceased to be an asset and instead became a liability. Natural selection began to reverse itself.

In the mind of the barbarians fear turned to anger, hatred and aggression with such ease and rapidity that it led them to inflict all manner of immorality on each other from theft, to rape to murder to the wholesale slaughter of millions, and they lived their lives in a constant state of conflict of varying intensity.

Their fear of death led them to invent religions which promised an after-life.

Their fear of each other lead them to divide into tribes and to go to war with each other.

Unable to control their fears they sought instead to control each other via the establishment of “the rule of law” and armed groups of men to inflict their will on each other.

The resulting cancer of government grew to assume control over nearly all aspects of the lives of the barbarians in their nation state tribes leading to paralysis, stagnation, and economic depression. The state grew in proportion to the inability of individuals to control their fears, and the inability of individuals to control their fears grew in proportion to the state. This vicious self re-enforcing and recurring cycle ended with unstable tyrants ascending to the pinnacle of power and unleashing unrestrained barbarous bloodbaths.

The history of the triumphant species of homo sapiens has many stories that differ in their particulars but the underlying story is always the same – the inability to control their fear lead to unremitting conflict and suffering.

The species was victorious but it was still emotionally immature. They had evolved a rational mind and were able to fend off some attempts of the more ancient fear-based mind from seizing control but they were not yet able to assume total dominance over their own destructive emotions.

The war of consequence was not without but within. It was a war for control their own mind. It was a war between the primitive fear-based brain of the barbarian and the rational mind of the post-barbarian. At its core it was a battle between fear and love, for one could only gain at the expense of the other and love was the means by which the rational mind assumed and maintained control – for the simple reason that the fight-or-flight response to fear robs the brain of the oxygen it needs to function properly.

With each passing generation the rational mind assumed greater dominance. Unbeknownst to all, natural selection was still at work and the unremitting warfare between tribes was actually serving the evolutionary purpose of cleansing the species of those most unable to control their destructive emotions.

Over the eons of barbarous warfare emerged a new type of homo sapiens - the non-barbarian - one who was able to control his fear and thus felt no need to control his environment.

The non-barbarian was able to control his fear of death and thus had no need for religion.

The non-barbarian was able to control his fear of others and thus had no need for government, the rule of law, power or coercion of any sort.

The non-barbarian naturally embraced the philosophy of voluntaryism.

The ascent of the non-barbarian represented a large evolutionary step forward in the history of the species. The triumph of love over fear enabled the rational part of the mind of homo sapiens to achieve dominance over the destructive emotions of his barbarian ancestors.

As the others continued to war and kill each other off the “evolved ones” continued to grow in number and to congregate amongst themselves and to ask the question:

What is to be done?

How do we survive and thrive amongst the hordes of emotionally unstable barbarians?

Whereas we see a world of unbounded opportunity for joy, the fearful barbarians see only threats.

Our very existence is a threat to them.

They seek to control us with their laws, and their governments and their threats of punishment and brutality.

They enslave us by looting our income at gun-point with taxation.

They throw us into their dungeons if we refuse to comply with their cowardly laws.

To live amongst these barbarians is a challenge to our tolerance for tyranny and immorality.

What is to be done?

The answer to that question depends upon the answer to another:

Has a majority of the species evolved to the point where they are physiologically capable of assuming control over their destructive emotions and resisting the temptation to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion?

An answer of “yes” suggests one course of action, whereas one of “no” suggests another.

In the final analysis, there are but two options, and the choice to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion is the deciding factor. To the extent that people continue to make this choice our civilization will remain stuck within the age of barbarism.

Option 1: Empowerment

Those who are willing can be counseled to change their conditioned response to the impulse of fear.

Instead of allowing the fear to grow to the point where the fight-or-flight response is triggered and coercion is embraced, they can choose to face and overcome the fear itself.

They can choose to allow themselves to be consumed by the natural enemy of fear - empathy, compassion and love - and to consequently naturally act in accordance with the Golden Rule instead of resorting to coercion.

This choice leads inexorably to enduring happiness.


Because it enables us to live in peace and harmony with our conscience.

Because each time we overcome a fear we achieve an enduring sense of empowerment by expanding our comfort zone. When we do so the world becomes a less threatening and more beautiful place - not because it has changed but because we have.

Because the vacuum resulting from the absence of fear is naturally filled by empathy, compassion and love.

Option 2: Natural Selection

On the other hand there are those who are unable or unwilling to control their destructive emotions.

They continue to choose to allow themselves to be consumed by fear and subsequently choose to use ever more evil forms of coercion against others.

In time, they will be dealt with by those they have chosen to harm.

The converse of the Golden Rule is the Law of Reciprocity.

If one’s conscience is not strong enough to enforce the golden rule, the desire for retribution amongst the victims of the tyrants will get the job done.

We need merely sit back and allow nature to take its course. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword. No action on our part is required.

Were we voluntaryists of many lands to give in to intemperance, however, we might perhaps seek to accelerate natural selection somewhat by encouraging the barbarians in our respective nation state tribes to war amongst themselves more voraciously so as to eliminate themselves from the gene pool more quickly.

Eventually, natural selection will ensure that the emotionally unstable barbarians will become a tiny minority and they can be dealt with by mental health professionals. As long as the inmates are running the asylum, however, a means of decreasing their numbers is required.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The destruction of the state is a moral imperative

Good and evil

What is morality?

What is right and wrong?

How do you answer this question?

Different people answer it differently.

Different philosophies answer it differently.

Different religions answer it differently.

Different legal systems answer it differently.

However, that which is perhaps most fascinating is not what is different but what is the same.

Beneath all the rules of all of the moral codes of all of the philosophies, religions, legal systems and individual belief systems of all the inhabitants of all of the continents of this planet throughout all the ages lies a single rule from which all other rules are derived and all morality springs.

It is the Golden Rule.

“Do unto others as you would have done unto you”.

Ponder that truth.

How can this possibly be?

It is my belief that the golden rule is seared into our very DNA.

It emerges from the neuro-chemistry of our brains.

The seed from which the Golden Rule germinates and the very foundation of morality is the emotion of empathy.

When we feel empathy for other beings we cannot harm them or through inaction allow harm to come to them because we feel their pain as if it were our own.

We do unto them as we would have done unto us.

What we refer to as our “conscience” is the powerful emotive force of empathy that guides our decision making.

When our empathy is strong we are at our happiest and feel most driven to share our joy with others and to treat them with kindness.

We do unto them as we would have done unto us.

Love is the word we use to describe a state of deep and consuming empathy.

We know intuitively that those who have the most love in their hearts are the ones whom always seem to have that sense of inner peace that comes from acting in harmony with their conscience.

They are the ones who are constantly seeking to bring joy to (and alleviate suffering from) the lives of others.

Unconditional love is the means by which a state of maximum empathy can be maintained.

When we feel unconditional love for others there is nothing that they can do which would cause us to stop loving them.

We are at our very best as human beings when we are consumed by feelings of unconditional love for others.

Why then does there appear to be so much evil in this world?

If morality is innate because we are all born with empathy, why does there so often appear to be such a dearth of it?

Empathy is not the only emotive force which drives us.

It has a powerful adversary in the emotion of fear.

Empathy and fear are constantly at war for control of our mind.

Some of our decisions we make under the influence of empathy, but some we make under the influence of fear.

Our destiny is shaped by which of these two powerful winds we choose to fill our sails with.

The power of empathy is inversely proportional to that of fear. One can only gain at the expense of the other.

When we feel fear our empathy for our fellow human beings is switched off.

The greater the fear the less we are able to connect with them.

The greater the fear the less we are able to feel their pain or joy as if it were our own.

The greater the fear the more self-absorbed we become.

The greater the fear, the more likely that the “fight or flight” response will be triggered and the fear will turn to anger.

The greater the fear the more likely we are to lash out at that which triggered the fear and bring pain to others.

Consequently the more likely we are to receive retaliation and to jointly descend into a downward spiral of barbarian conflict.

The inability to feel the pain of others, combined with the destructive emotion of anger can escalate into hatred, physical violence and even murder.

Are not most of the violent and unstable people we know men and women who are ruled by fear?

In a very real sense this neuro-chemical battle between empathy and fear is the battle between good and evil that rages within us all.

The impulse of fear puts us on trial and our conscience is the judge, jury and executioner.

How we choose to respond to the impulse of fear will put us on the path towards good or evil.

The root of all evil is the choice to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion against others.

The root of all good is the choice to respond to the impulse of fear by courageously seeking to overcome the fear itself and avoiding the temptation to initiate force against others.

The former is a choice to not to feel empathy for those who seek to control.

The later is a choice to embrace empathy for them and utilize it as a motivator for us to overcome our own fear.

Those who choose coercion chose to embrace the immediate gratification of short term pleasure at the cost of the long-term suffering of being tortured by their own conscience.

Those who choose to courageously face their fears choose to embrace short term pain in exchange for the reward of the enduring joy of living in harmony with their conscience.

The decisions we make under the influence of fear are not moral though we invariably try to deceive ourselves into believing that they are.


When you are unable to control your fear what do you do?

Be honest with yourself.

When you cannot control your own fear do you not seek instead to control your environment?

Do you not seek to control others?

Do you not seek to use coercion against them and limit their freedom?

When you do so are you really giving any thought as to the pain that you are causing them or are you too self absorbed by your own pain to feel theirs?

Is your empathy turned on or off?

Do you truly have their best interests at heart?

Be honest with yourself.

When the fear subsides do you not feel remorse?

Do you hear your conscience screaming at you “do unto others as you would have done unto you”?

What do you do about the screaming?

Do you embrace the short term pain of undoing what you have done in order to make peace with your conscience?

Or do you cower in fear at the thought?

Do you tell yourself lies?

Do you seek to silence the screaming by morally justifying your coercion against others in some fashion?

Does this really work?

Are you truly happy?

Are you able to experience deep love and intimacy without feeling pangs of guilt?

If you truly seek to silence your conscience there are but two ways to do it.

You can make peace with it by embracing empathy, choosing to make amends for the harm that you have caused and resolving to be a better person henceforth.

This is a choice that leads to a life of unremitting joy.

It is the choice that was made by the greatest human beings who have lived. The ones whom we revere.

People like the Buddha and Jesus.

The other way to silence your conscience is to choose to live your life consumed by the destructive emotions of fear and anger and to never experience love.

This is a choice that leads to a life of unremitting self torment.

It is the choice that was made by all of the great monsters of history who were driven by fear to ascend to the pinnacle of state power and use it to slaughter other people by the millions.

People like Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler.

The physical manifestation of evil

What is government?

What is the state?

Why does it really exist?

Please really think about that.

Is not the state simply an organization that forcibly robs from us and utilizes the loot to create and enforce all variety of laws with which to control us?

Recall for a moment the time in your life you were the most consumed by feelings of love and joy.

Picture yourself actually reliving that experience.

Recall the sights, sounds and smells that remind you of that moment.
Feel now as you felt then.

Now ask yourself the following question.

Is the existence of the state moral?

What was your initial gut reaction to this question?

Did you initially say “No”?

Did you then feel fear at the consequence of that answer and change your mind?

Did you search for a way to morally justify its existence somehow?

When you made this decision were you filling your sails with the winds of love or fear?

Do you accept the truth that decisions made under the influence of fear are not moral?

Is it moral to take what does not belong to you?

Is it moral to put a gun to the head of your neighbor and steal their hard-earned income?

Is it moral to stand by and not defend them as they are being gang-raped of their possessions by the state?

Is it moral to support and encourage the police state to inflict the will of the many on the few?

The prison system of the state is overflowing with people who have done no harm to any person who are being dehumanized, brutalized and raped as you read these very words.

Is that moral?

Deep down you KNOW it is not.

Why do you pay taxes when you know they will be used to finance barbarism?

Why do you vote when you know that the system would collapse without the consent of the voters?

Why do you refuse to resist evil?

Is it not because you like the security of believing that the things which you fear are being controlled by a big brother who cares about you?

Are you sure about that?

Do those coercion lovers who fight their way to the pinnacle of power truly have feelings of deep love for you? Is that what truly motivates them?

Even if it were true, have you ever asked yourself what price others are paying for your sense of security?

Do you have the courage to open your heart and allow yourself to feel the pain of your victims?

Is the existence of the state moral?

What is the state *really*?

The root of all evil is the decision to respond to the impulse of fear with coercion.

The state is an organization which exists solely for the purpose of enabling people to inflict their will on other people without ever having to look their victims in the eye.

As such, it attracts into its ranks the very worst elements of humanity – Those who are ruled by fear and who consequently actually enjoy using coercion against others.

The state is nothing more and nothing less than the physical manifestation of the evil that lies within us all.

The destruction of the state is a moral imperative.

But the way to do that is not by attacking the state itself.

Rather it is to focus on the force that gives rise to it.

The size and power of the state is directly proportional to the inability and/or unwillingness of the people within its domain to control their own fear.

Each time that each of us summons the courage to face and overcome our own fear instead of choosing to use coercion against another is a victory.

Overcoming fear in this fashion brings great joy to our lives because it enables us to live in harmony with our own conscience.

Conquering fear expands our comfort zone, and builds our self-confidence in our own abilities, and makes the world a little bit more beautiful than it was before.

And each time that one of us does this we deal a blow to the state.

In this fashion, love will overcome fear, good will triumph over evil, and the state will die a well deserved death.

The age of barbarism will come to an end and where coercion once ruled a new voluntaryist civilization of peace and prosperity will emerge in its place.

And in changing the world we will change ourselves.

After millions of years of evolution, our species will finally have transformed itself into one which has mastered fear.

Imagine what we could accomplish.

All of this can be achieved by the simple practice of choosing to overcome our own fear instead of using coercion against others.

All of this can be achieved by simply choosing to follow the Golden Rule.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Beware the demagogue

No matter how independent we are, we all have people who we respect and look up to as leaders and role models.

How do you choose your leaders?

I have a couple rules of thumb that I use to filter out candidates.

Rule #1: If they seek power they are disqualified.

Rule #2: If they appeal to destructive emotions they are disqualified.

Power seekers

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
~Jimi Hendrix

We all fall into the trap of choosing to use coercion against others from time to time. But when the fear subsides and our empathy for our victim returns, our shame reminds us that that such behavior is morally wrong. We may seek to deceive ourselves into believing otherwise but our conscience knows better.

Self-confident people do not desire power.

Only those who lack the emotional maturity to control their own fear seek to control their environment instead.

Power seekers seek power because they fear they will not be able to handle to consequences of not forcing others to behave as they wish.

They lack the courage to allow others to choose their own path.

They lack the requisite compassion to connect with others to understand the deeper reasons why they do what they do.

They lack self-confidence in their own ability to persuade others to voluntarily adopt their way of thinking.

They lack the patience to allow others to see the rightness of their position.

Perhaps worst of all, they lack the courage to question the correctness of their own beliefs.

Intuitively we all know that those who seek power are the last ones to whom it should be given.


“Whatever is begun in anger ends in shame.”
~Benjamin Franklin

We all fall into the trap of allowing ourselves to be overtaken by destructive emotions from time to time. However, we know in our hearts that this sort of behavior is nothing to be proud of.

Those who seek to motivate others by appealing to fear and anger are not worthy of respect.

Those who use fear to move others do so because this is how they motivate themselves. They lack the emotional maturity to control their fear so they choose to harness it instead.

Those who use anger to move others do so for the same reason. Uncontrolled fear invariably turns to anger and hatred.

Fear turns off empathy – the source of our conscience and sense of morality – and is thus the root of all evil.

It kills the ability to connect with other human beings and makes civilized discussion impossible.

It causes us to focus on the very worst qualities in others and to see them as a “threat”.

It leads to the division of society into camps of “us” and “them”.

When fear turns to anger, “us” and “them” go to war with each other.

Those who allow themselves to be lead by such people are choosing the path of barbarism.


Those who both crave power and seek to appeal to the destructive emotions of others are demagogues or demagogue wannabes.

Regardless of the underlying issues, choosing to follow a demagogue is a very bad idea.

They are the leaders of the barbarian tribes and they should be shunned by civilized human beings.

P.S. The author is aware of and amused by the irony of advising others to beware of those who advise others to beware. ;)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The violence of non-violence

I am a big believer in the philosophy of non-violence.

People like Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. are heroes of mine.

What really gets me steamed though is all of the activists out there who claim the heritage of these men, and who claim to genuinely believe in non-violence, but who simultaneously strive to achieve their goals by using the power of the state to inflict violence on others.

I find this to be exasperating for two reasons.

First of all, by behaving in this fashion they smear all of us who believe in non-violence with the label of hypocrisy and dissuade others who might otherwise be attracted to this philosophy.

Secondly I believe that many of those who practice this hypocrisy are not actually aware on a conscience level that they are acting at odds with their own beliefs.

I believe this to be so because the very existence of the state blinds them to the reality of what they are doing.

I believe that the impulse to use coercion against our fellow human beings is fundamentally due to an inability to control our fears.

When we are unable to control our fears, we must choose between the fight or flight response. When we choose to fight we usually choose to exercise control over our environment in some fashion.

When we do this ourselves by directly imposing our will on other human beings there is at least the possibility of connecting with that other human being. There is the chance that we will become aware of the pain and suffering that we are causing to them.

There is a chance that we may choose to stop hurting them.

There is a chance that we may choose to feel remorse and to seek to make amends for causing harm to them.

Of course, if the inability to control a strong fear is significant, we may instead choose to turn off our empathy for them, become self absorbed, get and stay angry and to morally justify what we know in our heart to be immoral. This is, of course, the path chosen by all of the monsters of history.

So, when we choose to do the deed ourselves, there is at least a chance that we will not descend into evil.

However, when we choose to exercise coercion indirectly by asking someone else to do it for us, this possibility is much more remote.

When we choose to vote this is what we are doing and this is why voting in particular and democracy in general is so incredibly evil.

When we cast a ballot we are choosing to employ another human being to exercise coercion on our behalf.

Laws are passed for this purpose.

The violence of the state is then used to impose force on our victims.

But all of this is out-of-sight and out-of-mind for the voters.

We never have to see the pain and suffering that these human beings feel, thus we are never able to feel remorse for what we have done.

And nobody who works for the state is willing to accept responsibility for this evil.

They all pass the buck.

The police officers who serve the fines, and throw human beings into dehumanizing cages where they will be raped and brutalized always say the same thing … “I’m just following the law” … “I’m just doing my job”.

And when our victims seek empathy from organs of governments who administer these laws, they always say the same thing … “I’m just following the law” … “I’m just doing my job”.

Few people in our society realize what is really going.

Few people see the big picture.

Few people understand the true dynamics of the larger forces that are really at work here and where all this is ultimately leading us to.

Few people understand the role that they themselves are playing to bring this about and the role that they could play to prevent it from being so if they so chose.

A vicious self-reinforcing cycle is at work …

The state grows in proportion to the inability of individuals to control their fears and the inability of individuals to control their fears grows in proportion to the growth of the state.

The increase in the rate of taxation …
the increase in the ferocity of invasive laws which destroy individual liberty and seek to control every aspect of the life of the individual …
the increase in the dependency of the individual on the state and the feeling of dis-empowerment …
These symptoms of the growth of the state serve only to increase the stress of the individual who more often than not seeks to decrease that stress by paradoxically giving the state more power.

We choose to vote “our guy” into office to respond in kind to the individuals who are perceived to be inflicting the pain on us via the state.

This cycle of barbarism is absolutely identical to the cycle of barbarism that unfolds between individuals in conflict [] except that it is practiced between organized gangs of individuals who band together to increase their strength.

And unless the cycle is broken it leads to the same destructive ends except on a much more massive scale.

Each time one group attains power they seek retribution on the other and use the force of the state to achieve that goal.

It is a vicious cycle that is destined to end in an explosion of barbarism and bloodshed.

We know this is true because it is not the first time this has happened.

It would seem to be a naturally occurring pattern.

The last time that the world was consumed by the total state philosophies of communism and fascism tens of millions were slaughtered, great cities were leveled and entire societies where devastated and traumatized.

These philosophies are identical in all respects but one – who they chose to focus their hatred on and who, consequently, those in control of the state chose to use the power of the state to focus their extermination efforts on.

As the state grows so grows evil.

This is the path which we are traveling.

Anyone who has ever read about the holocaust cannot help but be struck by the fact that the people who lead the jews to the gas chambers responded to pleading for empathy from those who were about to die with the usual cold response of the government employee: “I’m just following the law” … “I’m just doing my job”.

Those who consider themselves to believe in non-violence should remember this quote from Martin Luther King Jr.

“We should never forget that everything Adolf Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal’”.

The choice between violence and non-violence is the choice between coercion and voluntarism.

Support for the existence of the state is 100% at odds with support for a philosophy of non-violence because the state is an institution that exists solely for the purpose of inflicting coercive and violent force against individuals.

Gandhi’s philosophy of Satyagraha explicitly sought to combat the impulse to coercion not only because it does not work but because this path leads us to become just like those whose behavior we are seeking to change.

If the goal is to achieve enduring change, coercion will never work. Indeed it can have the deceptive effect of appearing to work in the short term but actually making things much worse in the long term.

The goal is not to use force against the evil doer.

The goal is to encourage the evil doer to transform themselves by connecting with them, forcing them to face their own conscience and to voluntarily choose to stop exercising coercion.

Deep down we all know the difference between right and wrong because morality is innate and is rooted in empathy. When we feel empathy for other human beings we cannot cause harm to them because we feel their pain as if it were our own.

Stayagraha seeks to turn on the empathy of the one who chooses to exercise coercion. In so doing it forces them to face their own conscience.

Destructive emotions have the opposite effect. When we choose to respond to force with force we are actually helping the evil doer to deceive themselves into thinking that their actions are moral because we are helping them to keep their empathy turned off.

This is what the destructive emotions of fear and anger do. They kill empathy and in so doing blind the conscience.

This path leads to the division of society into warring tribes who use ever increasing means of violence against each other. Sooner or later the violence of voting, taxation and law-making will escalate into even more brutal forms of violence, barbarism and war making.

This time around perhaps we will end up wiping out our entire species?

I believe that those who profess to believe in non-violence but who inadvertently end up choosing the path of coercion should choose to practice Satyagraha on themselves and to lead by example.

This is the path that has the best chance of not only avoiding a deep dive into barbarism but actually bringing about positive, peaceful and enduring change in the world.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The State Is Not The Problem

Picture in your mind for a moment the image of a crazy man angrily shaking his fist at a non-existent foe.

Many libertarians are passionate defenders of the right to bear arms. They say things like …

“Guns don’t hurt people. People hurt people.”

I would argue, however, that libertarians who blame the state for violence have a lot in common with those who blame guns for violence.

The state is just another kind of weapon is it not?
It doesn’t hurt anyone on its own.
It’s just a tool.

“The state doesn’t hurt people. People hurt people.”

Ponder that disturbing truth for a moment.

The state is not the problem.

The state is just one type of weapon that people use to impose their will on each other.

The problem is not the weapon.

The problem is with those who seek to use the weapon to force their will on others.

More specifically, the problem is the pattern of thinking that gives rise to the desire to exercise control over our fellow human beings.

I submit that if people did not desire to impose their will on each other there would be no state.

The real enemy of freedom and the root cause of all conflict and violence in the world is that pattern of thinking in the mind of man that gives rise in him to a desire to impose his will on his fellow man.

So the critically important question to ask is “Why?”.

Why do people desire to impose their will on each other?

You need only search your heart to find the answer.


The state is not the problem.

FEAR is the problem.

You can completely destroy the state but if man has not learned to condition his mind to overcome FEAR he will just find another weapon he can use to impose his will on his fellow man.

Somalia proved that did it not?

Admittedly, this is a humbling truth that is difficult to accept. Many libertarians have spent their entire lives railing against the evils of the state.

If you are one of these, please consider the disturbing possibility that the crazy man shaking his fist at a non-existent foe might be you.


My apologies to any of my libertarian friends who might find this to be offensive. My goal was not to offend. Rather it was to challenge your thinking. I have found that sometimes patterns of thinking are so deeply ingrained that it sometimes requires a bit of a shock in order to get us to question them.

I believe very strongly that achieving the free society we all dream of requires us to radically change our entire way of thinking about the nature of the problem and, consequently, the range of solutions that might be effective in solving it.

One of the most fascinating things about the world in which we live is that problems which at first appear to be complex and intractable often turn out to have staggeringly simple root causes that can go undetected for decades or more. In such situations, solving the problem by dealing directly with its root cause can result in an almost magical melting away of the heretofore observed complexity.

I strongly believe that to be the case here and make the following bold prediction: The day that man learns to condition his mind to face and overcome his fears will be the day in which the state itself will cease to exist. More so, all forms of coercion, conflict and violence will simply disappear as humanity enters into a new age of emotional maturity and bids farewell to the age of barbarism.

The resultant ripple-effect of changes to human society of this one simple change will be of such staggering vastness that it may well be impossible to predict exactly what the world would look like. There is, however, one thing of which we can be sure. It is a world worth fighting for.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Ayn Rand's Error

Ayn Rand is the author of the classic novel “Atlas Shrugged” and one of the foremost thought leaders of the freedom movement.

Her critique of socialism, and socialist thinking is quite good.

Her defense of freedom is IMHO significantly less so.

To my mind her argument is a variant of the following:

Greed is good.
Selfishness is a virtue.
Everyone should support it because it has trickle down effects that will benefit all.

This is hardly motivating.

I believe that Ayn Rand fundamentally misunderstood the basic nature of exchange.

The way she saw capitalism was not entirely different than the way that the socialists see it.

She saw people who acted greedily doing well for themselves and attributed the fact that they did well to the fact that they acted in their own self interest without regard to others.

This is simply a fundamental error in her interpretation of reality.

She basically adopted the same view of the world as the socialists and sought to defend it.

But it is the view itself that is erroneous.

It is, of course, true that many very successful people do, on occasion, act in a way that can be seen as greedy. But it is a logical fallacy to attribute their success to this behavior.

Invariably such people become wealthy not because of greed but in spite of it.

Consider the examples of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs.

Both of these men became very rich not because they sought to “take” for themselves but rather because they sought to “give” something of value to the world.

Bill Gates dreamed of a computer on every desk. He wanted to provide the software for that computer which enabled people to utilize this incredible new technology to make their lives better.

Steve Jobs had a similar dream. Apple Computer delivered the very first such desktop computers to the world. He saw an opportunity to deliver value to people and he pounced on it. He did the same with the iPod and the iPhone. He saw a need that was not being met and he took it upon himself to meet that need.

Both of these men, at times, acted greedily.

But each time that they did, however, it hurt them rather than helped them.

Bill Gate’s attitude towards competition, for example, hurt him badly.

He seems to have instructed his product managers to focus on the main competitors for each product with the intent of wiping out the competition.

Influenced by game theory he believed that fewer competitors made it easier to win.

Creating monopolies tends to kill innovation however. This was not his intent. He was all about innovation. But without healthy and vigorous competition the financial incentive to innovate deteriorates.

A fear-based view of competition which sees competitors as a threat is a selfish view because the act of wiping out a competitor does not “give” to anyone. It is an act of taking. It is a barbarian instinct to use force against an external threat to make it go away.

[Note the association of “fear” and “selfishness”. Fear is the destructive emotion which causes us to turn off empathy and become self-absorbed. I’ve written about this extensively elsewhere:]

Instead, people who view competition as something that should be enthusiastically welcomed tend to do well without creating feelings of animosity towards themselves. Competition drives self-improvement and helps us to give more to others.

Ultimately the bad feelings generated towards Microsoft as a result of this behavior led to anti-trust lawsuits being filed against the company.

Having created so many enemies Microsoft was left without any defenders to fend off this attack from the state.

Contrast that behavior with those of the executives of Google whose motto is “Don’t be evil”.

Google continues to grow and has done so without making enemies.

The state, therefore, is loathe to attack them because if they choose to do so, Google will be able to rally public opinion behind them in a way that Microsoft was not able to do.

Ayn Rand was simply wrong.

Selfishness is not the cause of success.

The opposite is true.

Selfishness is the cause of failure.

The universe gives back to each in proportion to what they give to it.

The universe also takes from each in proportion to what they seek to take from it.

It’s all about give and take.

Some incorrectly believe that they can get away with stealing a little more for themselves without having to pay for it.

They are mistaken.

The law of reciprocity is real.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fear Is Our Adversary

The primary audience to which I address this article is those who are already convinced of the need for greater freedom in our societies and are seeking a mechanism by which to achieve this. I’m speaking both to those who desire more social liberty as well as those who yearn for economic liberty. I’m speaking of those individuals who self-identify as libertarians, minarchists, anarchists, anarcho-capitalists, objectivists and the like.

The secondary audience is anybody else who is angered by the actions of those who crave power and who choose to use that power to enforce their will on us and those that whom we care about. Such people also desire more freedom in the world.

I ask you all to answer the following question honestly:
Is it not true that you desire more freedom for yourself but that you fear granting more freedom to others?
This is what I refer to as the “freedom for me but not for thee” phenomenon.
Might it not be the case that those who choose to restrict your freedom feel exactly the same way?

I submit to my fellow believers in freedom that there is a very crucial but simple truth that we have been neglecting to deal with head on.
There is an elephant in the room that we have been avoiding.
The primary obstacle towards achieving the freedom we desire is not entrenched power.
It is not those individuals whom at the moment happen to be holding the guns.
It is not the state.
Nor is it the ideological flavor of the week that those-in-power or those-who-seek-power subscribe to.
Our primary foe is “fear” in general and “fear of freedom” in particular.

Let’s have the courage to be honest with ourselves.
This fear exists not only in the hearts of our fellow human beings.
It exists within our own as well.
Fear is the obstacle that must be overcome if we are to achieve the free society that we dream about.
But by overcoming fear we will achieve much more than that.
We will enable the human race to elevate itself out of the age of barbarism all together.

I submit that “the amount of freedom that exists in a society varies in direct proportion with the ability of the members of that society to face and overcome their own fears.”
It is fear that compels us to seek to control our environment.
It is fear that compels us to restrict the freedom of others.

If you accept the truth of this statement then the way forward is clear.
Electing libertarians to office does not deal with the issue.
Endless ideological debates will not help either.
Such efforts bypass entirely our primary enemy and represent wasted effort and squandered resources.
It has been said that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

In his book “Practical Anarchy”, Stefan Molyneux mentions the example of Somalia.
When the government of Somalia fell that society reverted to tribal warlordism.
This, in fact, suggests that those who fear freedom are in fact justified.
Let’s have the courage to admit it.
The truth is not something to be feared.

It is not enough to simply remove those who are currently inflicting their will on a society from the equation.
If the ability of those within that society to face and overcome their fears has not been dealt with, another force will eventually just rise up to take the place of the previous oppressor.

This has NOTHING to do with ideology.
It has everything to do with the natural fear that is wired into our very brains by natural selection itself.
The incredible barbarism that we see in the world today and hope to overcome is not the result of ideology, it is the result of the fact that we (the human race) are barbarians by nature.

The destructive emotions of fear, anger, hatred and self-pity that exist within each of us are there for a reason. They enabled our ancient cave dwelling ancestors to survive and thrive in a predatory environment of scarcity. I discuss this in more detail in “The Barbarian Mind

We have evolved since then, of course.
Our predators have all been slain and the environment of scarcity is no more.
We are now at the top of the food chain and we live in a world of overflowing abundance.
And our very brains have changed as well.
The logical center of our brain (neo cortex) has gradually grown to evolve and assume a measure of dominance over the more ancient emotional center (amygdala).
But we have not quite achieved total dominance yet as is evidenced by the incredible amount of brutality and suffering that we continue to see on the daily news.
Nevertheless, we are slowly but surely moving in the right direction.
We cannot help but to do so of course as evolution and natural selection are making this happen with our without our contribution.
Those who are less able to control their destructive emotions are busy committing suicide, killing each other off, going to prison or otherwise eliminating themselves from the gene pool.

How then should we make the best use of the resources at our disposal to advance the cause of freedom and bring about its attainment in our lifetime?
I submit that the way forward is simply this …
Seek not to convince others of the need for more freedom by ideological arguments.
When people are consumed by fear they are incapable of hearing logical arguments.
As Daniel Goleman pointed out in his book “Emotional Intelligence” negative emotions actually serve to lower our IQs.
There is a physiological reason for this.
Blood rushes to the extremities and away from the brain when the fight or flight response is triggered.
This happens to ALL of us.
Trying to reason with a person who is consumed by fear is like trying to have a philosophical discussion with a monkey.

Seek instead to help them face and overcome their fears.
The way to do to that is to first learn these methods ourselves and then to lead by example.
We should seek to become masters of our own destructive emotions.
We should seek to achieve self mastery of this sort and to share the techniques that enabled us to do so with others.
In this way and only in this way will we be tackling directly the one and only impediment that stands between where we are today and the world of freedom that we wish for tomorrow.

Fear is the path to barbarism.
Fear leads to the fight or flight response.
When we choose to fight we enter the cycle of barbarism.
Self-pity turns off our ability to empathize and keeps us locked in the barbarian mind states.
These negative emotions must be actively combated via the adoption of a program to develop Emotional Intelligence.
We should seek to focus our minds on the development of such a program, and to teach to it to ourselves and others.

Self mastery is the key to developing dominance over our inner beasts.
Until the majority of people in our society have achieved such self mastery we will not be able to pull ourselves out of the age of barbarism.
No amount of ideological debate will change this.
We, as a species, cannot transition out of the age of barbarism until we have tamed the barbarians within.
That is where we should be focusing our efforts and our resources.

And by the way, seeking to develop Emotional Intelligence has the side benefit of enabling us to live much happier and more prosperous lives ourselves.