The Effects Of Ethics
A deep understanding of the non-aggression principle (NAP) creates a significant moral divide, with those who initiate the use of force on one side, and those who reject the initiation of the use of force on the other.
Those who initiate the use of force can rationally be called evil, while those who actively support the initiation of the use of force – who justify it morally – can be called corrupt.
It is also reasonable to accept that someone cannot be responsible for knowledge they do not yet possess. We can easily understand that while a modern doctor who does not prescribe antibiotics for a virulent infection is grossly negligent, a medieval doctor who had no access to antibiotics cannot be held to the same standard.
Between these two extremes lies a kind of “grey area.” When antibiotics were first being introduced and tested, it would have been irresponsible for a doctor to prescribe them for every conceivable ailment (as remains the case today) – however, after a certain amount of testing and verification had been completed, the balance tipped towards prescription.
Someone who has never heard the argument that taxation is force cannot be morally condemned for their ignorance. A baby is not “uneducated” – rather they are in a state of “pre-education.” I do not know Mandarin – this does not make me a fool, or ignorant in general, but rather it is merely the case that I lack the knowledge to speak Mandarin.
The same is true in terms of moral knowledge. I only came to a deep understanding and a consistent theoretical application of the NAP in my philosophy in my thirties – close to twenty years after I began to study philosophy. This does not mean that I was morally corrupt or evil in my twenties, but rather that I was in the pursuit of knowledge that I had not attained as yet. I did not have exposure to some of the more consistent moral arguments in favour of a stateless society, although I must confess that I did on occasion feel a certain amount of unease with the Objectivist approach to certain issues, particularly in terms of ethics.
It was through an acceptance of this unease that I began to develop more original approaches to the issues I found lacking in other philosophies. I certainly make no claim to originality in all these areas, all that I can say for sure is that these ideas were new to me, whether they were new to the world is not something I can really speak to, since I prefer the generation of new ideas to the comparison of those ideas with every other school of thought.
Someone cannot be considered immoral for failing to understand that taxation is force – the crux of the issue arises when they are first exposed to the argument that taxation is force.
This argument is emotionally trying. The fundamental alienation that spreads in the soul of a person who begins to understand that taxation is force is hard to bear.
When a powerful and foundational moral argument is introduced to a person in adulthood, the emotional recoil that they experience is really based upon what has been missing from the moral discourse of their society.
The Libertarian Division
Libertarians of all kinds are constantly making the basic moral argument that taxation is force, and that the government is a violent institution. As moral theories go, that this is not exactly quantum physics. Problems such as abortion, “lifeboat scenarios,” homesteading, capital punishment, and so on are all highly challenging and controversial – the fact that we pay taxes because we are threatened with jail is not.
Why, then, is this basic fact still so endlessly denied, evaded, fogged, and rejected within society?
One of the central problems with pursuing an illusory solution to a genuine challenge – religion, academia, political action – is that it avoids the necessity of elemental self-criticism.
In the business world, this process is called a post mortem, or a strict and stringent review of even a successful project, to create a list of “lessons learned,” and so pursue a program of continuous improvement. Unsuccessful projects are analysed in great detail, and improved practices are put into place to help avoid such catastrophes in the future.
Coming from the business entrepreneurial world, it is truly shocking to me to see the degree to which libertarians avoid performing any kind of post mortems on their projects. The same is true of academics and priests, of course.
The most astounding statements are made with no empirical evidence whatsoever – “Ron Paul can win!” “Educating the public will bring about political freedom!” “Religious beliefs are an essential component of human liberty!”
Even statements made in private, to me personally, are wild assertions – again, with no empirical evidence or reasoning whatsoever. I have been told that libertarians dare not speak about their atheism openly, for fear of alienating Christian supporters – on the assumption that such an alienation would be disastrous for the freedom movement. But how is this known for sure? What logical reasoning or empirical evidence is brought to bear on this assumption?
When I was a young man, I attended the National Theatre School in Montreal, Canada for two years, studying playwriting and acting. I had the juicy role of Cornwall in King Lear, and I vividly remember one rehearsal where we evil characters got news of a disaster. As dedicated method actors, we all turned our attention inwards, and thought about dead kittens and sad films. The director stared at us with shock, horror, and anger. “How the hell am I supposed to know that you have just received the worst news of your lives?”
I tried to explain to him – and how earnest I was – that if I change my inward thinking, it will communicate itself to the audience in some magical and unconscious manner.
His lip curled in scorn, and he asked, “So let us say that I have paid twenty dollars to come and see this play, and I am in row two hundred in the theatre, how is it that I’m supposed to psychically commune with you to understand that your slightly drooping mouth indicates some sort of inner horror?”
All of us actors resisted this crass and coarse showmanship, preferring to imagine that some movie camera was virtually up our noses, and could catch the slightest change in our facial expressions. The next time we rehearsed the scene, again, we went inwards and summoned up visions of bad news in our distant histories. The director leapt up, grabbed the chair that he was sitting on, and threw it across the stage.
He whirled to us, and said: “Do any of you not understand that I am pissed off right now? If you were in row two hundred, would you still be able to somehow figure out that I am pissed off? I don’t care if you do cartwheels or start juggling, just do something when you hear, as these characters, the worst news of your entire fucking lives!”
Strangely enough, this advice followed me very productively into the business world. Whenever a disaster occurred – and troubles come not as single spies, but in battalions, in the entrepreneurial world – I would sometimes hear in my ear this director’s commandment that when something bad occurs, the important thing is to do something – in a way, it does not even really matter what, because anything is better than standing and staring. I suppose that I have brought some of this energy to the libertarian world, and constantly feel surprised – which itself is telling – that an intensely pro-business movement so studiously avoids criticism and the exploration of alternatives in the face of disaster.
It took me quite some time to really begin to understand what is going on in the world of libertarianism that inevitably produces this avoidance. I resisted for quite a long time the inevitable conclusions – the analysis that I talk about in this book – but then I basically thought:
“Okay, let us say that I the Chief Operating Officer at a big company, and I have a division called Libertarianism. This division has been making claims for decades about its ability to increase the size of its market share, to the point where it actually has a dominant majority in the market. However, when I look at the actual performance results of this division, I see that the market – government power – has actually gotten massively larger, while the market share – libertarian votes – has actually shrunk to near insignificance, relative to government power. “This Libertarian division has been sort of a pet project of a doddering CEO (his name is Christian, of course) for quite some time, and it has not been subjected to any of the rigours and disciplines of the free market, because it has received funding from Christian regardless of whether it even remotely achieves its goals. As the COO, I cannot overturn the decisions of the CEO.
“This Division is full of very, very smart people, with doctorates and masters, all sorts of connections and amazing writing abilities, and rich experience in marketing and advertising – so it is not a lack of intelligence or ability that has made this Division so wildly disastrous. This division is full of people who keep talking about how a lack of market discipline and consequences for one’s actions, end up creating lazy and inefficient organisations – so they even have the theoretical understanding of what has caused their own current state.
“Furthermore, this Division has ended up telling our CEO – Christian – whatever he wants to hear, because he is the source of their funding, not the market that they claim they are trying to take over.”
If I were a business executive faced with this problem, it is not too hard to figure out the best course of action.
First of all, I would do whatever I could to stop Christian from funding this Division, because if he continues to fund it, all of the energy and talents of these brilliant people will be entirely wasted, because people respond to incentives, and he who pays the piper calls the tune, and it is essential to turn the attentions of these employees to the actual market, rather than this doddering executive.
Secondly, I would continually remind the people in this Division that they had not in fact achieved any of the goals that they had set for themselves – or, if they had achieved them, there was no way of knowing, because nothing was being tested, measured, reported on, and there were no post mortems whatsoever for any of the failed projects.
As long as Christian kept funding this Libertarian Division, I would be fully aware that the likelihood of instilling any responsibility for the actual achievement of goals, and creating any initiative or desire to change tactics or existing approaches, would be impossible. There would be no point attempting to hire people with greater discipline and focus to join this group, because such people would simply be ignored, scorned, and protected from their own failures. This Libertarian Division, like everyone else, knows exactly on which side its bread is buttered.
I would spend some time trying to get this Libertarian Division to stop taking funding from Christian, by writing about how bad Christian’s business judgement was, and how his money was creating an environment of laziness, pontificating, self-congratulation – and utter futility. Of course, since I am a rational and empirical businessman, I would not beat my head against this wall for too long. After a certain amount of time, if no progress was being made, and if the heads of this Division simply stopped responding to my emails and phone calls, then I would take another approach – you could call it writing a book, if you like.
I could scarcely criticise the heads of this Libertarian Division for failing to be self-critical and empirical, and continue to beat my head against the walls of their indifference and hostility. I would put my criticisms out there, and see what response came back – if those criticisms were ignored, and I were personally attacked repeatedly by employees of this Libertarian Division, then of course I would accept that reality is what it is, and take another course.
Since I was unable to stop Christian’s funding, and since I was unable to get the leaders of the Libertarian Division to review their failures and alter their course of action, I would take the next step in attempting to rescue the goal that we all supposedly share.
I would appeal to the greed of those who wish to spend their lives in pursuit of something which can be achieved, and who wish to add to the practical and achievable virtue in the world, and who wish to begin laying the foundations for a human liberty which can in fact be won.
If a friend who is eager for an enjoyable, productive, and positive work environment tells you that they want to join the post office, what would you tell them?
Surely, you would tell him that joining the post office is a terrible decision, because forty percent of post office employees are ex-military, a stifling and soul crushing union controls everything, there is no free market discipline or opportunity, and everything is politics, abuse, futility, and annoyance.
It is not likely that you will be able to talk people out of being postal workers if they are only a few years from retirement, or are heavily invested in their careers, or who actually do not want to have anything to do with the free market, but rather want to sit around on their unionised asses, eating doughnuts, and bitching about their supervisors.
Thus, to deal with this Libertarian Division, I would focus my efforts not on cutting off Christian’s funding, which is impossible, or on trying to talk long-time division employees out of ditching their over-funded privileges – but rather, the best thing that I could do for the company as a whole would be to try to prevent as many people as possible from acting under the delusion that joining the Libertarian Division would bring them any real happiness, or efficacy, or the contentment and self-esteem that comes from tangible achievement.
I would do my best to communicate to those who were looking to achieve something great with their lives that the last place they should ever go is the Libertarian Division. It is true that this Division continually talks about its grand plans, massive schemes, inevitable successes, and wonderful achievements, but I would continually point out the fact that these only exist in the fantasies of those trapped in the Division. I would continually point out the true facts of the matter, which are that the division constantly wastes money, wastes time, fails to achieve its goals, sits idly by and refuses to reform its approach despite the fact that it is eternally losing ground, gets carpal tunnel syndrome from continually patting itself on the back and publishing self congratulatory articles about its wonderful “achievements,” makes wild statements of both intent and achievement while either ignoring or viciously attacking anyone who dares to point out the basic fact that less than nothing has actually been achieved, and that making up achievements is a pitiful and delusional substitute for actually achieving something in the real world.
You cannot get people to quit the post office who are already there, but you can at least do your best to help people avoid the mistake of joining it.
That, really, is my goal in this book. I may not be able to convince you that the approach I suggest is the best one – and it may not be, for all I know. Like my director said twenty years ago, we have to do something, rather than nothing – and the first step to doing something is to recognise that we are in fact doing less than nothing.
To continue the above analogy, I may not be able to get you to become a self-starting entrepreneur, but if I can at least get you to not join the post office, I have certainly done something worthwhile.
Perhaps in the future people will look back upon the proposals in this book and call them foolish, mad, delusional, ridiculous – and that is completely fine by me! Perhaps all that will come out of this book is the understanding that what we are doing is not working, and that we need to begin to creatively assault the basic problem. I may not be able to prove that the world is round, but if all that I do is convince people that the world is not flat, at least we can begin exploring the alternatives.
The Presence Of Absence
When you tell someone that taxation is coercion, what is their response? Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, they will not deal with the simple fact that their government is a prison built upon a foundation of force.
Unfortunately, due to the three false approaches described above, libertarianism as a movement has never really tried to deal with the basic fact that its most simple argument is almost universally rejected.
When we compare the taxation equals force argument (TEF) to the theory of evolution, it comes up woefully short in terms of general acceptance. Fundamentally, the only reason that someone rejects the theory of evolution is because they are superstitious, and believes that God blew some dust and made a man in His own image, and that we are descended from that man – surprisingly enough, given that we have belly buttons, and we can assume that God does not, unless we need to start searching for His ancestry as well.
Resistance to the theory of evolution is clearly centred around religious bigotry – what have libertarians done over the past few hundred years to identify the source of the near universal rejection of the TEF?
You would think that this would be job one – there is no more important resistance to overcome for libertarians than the opposition to the TEF. If we cannot convince people that the government is force, the entire libertarian position becomes woefully incomprehensible – a random grab-bag of dislike of authority, hatred of outsiders, religious addiction, some crazed desire to return to a mythological past where the Founding Fathers could walk on water – the whole philosophy becomes little more than a nutty fringe element of incomprehensible resistance to – what? Without an understanding of the TEF argument, what on earth are libertarians obsessed with? What is the point?
The basic fact that the libertarian movement has never seriously attempted to answer the question – why do people reject the fact that taxation equals force? – is something that is almost incomprehensible, as long as we imagine that libertarianism is about getting people to accept TEF, which it is not – it is all about getting funding from Christians, and jobs for free-market academics.
If we wish to gain any kind of real traction in society – if we do not want to end up wasting our lives spinning our wheels, then we do in fact have to answer that most basic question: why are our simple arguments so universally rejected?
There comes a time in every person's life when they have to stop blaming other people.
There comes a time in any movement’s life where it has to stop blaming external circumstances.
It is hard to find where in the libertarian movement this most basic question is even asked, let alone answered. When I have brought it up, in various environments, I have gotten the most mealy-mouthed platitudes in return, such as, “Well, change takes time,” or, “People are dumb,” or, “It’s really not that easy a concept to understand,” and so on.
Again and again, in libertarianism, we see these blind assertions of arbitrary “facts” – without any evidence or reasoning whatsoever.
Naturally, this is associated with the exact same Christian habit, such as, when asking where the world came from, “God made it!”
Why People Reject The TEF Argument
As I said above, and as I have argued in more emotional terms in my novel The God of Atheists, the corruptions of the present can all be traced back to the initial decisions of the past.
The decision to ally itself with Christianity turned libertarianism from a social science into a mere mascot for religious bigotry. If libertarians had remained true to the methodology of their discipline, they would have scornfully rejected the financial bait of superstition. Every movement has its price, to be sure, but I do believe that a movement dedicated to rationality, liberty, and independence from arbitrary authority should have held out for more than a few thousand dollars and a bag of musty Bibles.
Once the decision was made to join forces with superstition, a key element became immediately scrubbed from the intellectual arsenal of libertarianism.
If you do not understand at least some of the basic tenets of psychology, you will be largely unable to break repetitive and pointless patterns. Psychology is based upon the principle that there are unconscious and opposing forces or personas within the mind. When we look at the body, we can understand the purpose of each of the organs, given enough time and research, and there is nothing hidden within the body that prevents it from achieving its goals – or, if there is, we call it a visible disease, that we can see and hopefully treat.
In the mind, though, there is a kind of invisible cancer called avoidance, wherein thoughts which cause anxiety, fear, anger, or other kinds of emotional distress can be repressed or ignored.
There is a lot that is controversial about psychology, but three basic principles remain incontrovertible:
- Early childhood experiences have an enormous impact on personality and brain development.
- Significant aspects of the mind remain unavailable to our conscious ego (the unconscious).
- Constantly avoiding or repressing your own thoughts and feelings results in bad mental health.
The relationship between repression and anxiety is very well documented, and the most basic defence against anxiety is dissociation.
Another well documented and well understood psychological phenomenon is that of projection, which is the habit of ascribing our own negative qualities to other people or things. One common example of this which most of us who have debated over the Internet are well aware of is the phenomenon of a man coming into a debate with highly provocative or insulting opinions, who then accuses everyone else of being mysteriously “aggressive.” Similarly, people who have an abusive “inner critic” will often project their experience of endless self-attacks into some external form, such as imagining that various people are out to get them, or obsessing over government regulations or currency manipulations, and so on.
If I were a therapist, and libertarianism were a patient of mine, the first question I would ask, as it lounged on my couch, is why it sees corruption everywhere it looks.
After a certain amount of psychological exploration, we would doubtless discover – as is almost always the case – that the corruption that libertarianism sees everywhere in the world (except itself!) is actually rooted in its own hypocritical decisions. This would actually explain why libertarianism fundamentally does not actually want to eliminate corruption in the world beyond, because that would be psychologically disastrous to most of those involved in the movement.
If we lose the ability to project our negative traits onto some other person or entity, we actually experience the anxiety, fear, and rage within ourselves.
When libertarians decided to take Christian cash, they automatically and unconsciously decided that theirs was a movement that was going to be entirely hostile towards psychology and any depth of self-knowledge.
The reason for this is that all religion is profoundly anti-psychological in nature. The simple reason for this is that God himself is such a primal projection of human nature – fears, desires, and self-importance – that in order to preserve the fantasy that God exists somewhere “out there,” religion has to virulently and endlessly oppose the exploration of the self and an understanding of psychology.
One of the main components of achieving deep self-knowledge is the differentiation between “self” and “other.” This sounds ridiculously simple, but it is actually quite complex. I can only really touch on the surface of this journey, but to give a simple example, when we look at a sports fan painting themselves in silly colours and madly cheering some team, we can easily see that such a person clearly has invested their ego, happiness, and fears, into the uncontrollable actions of others. This is an example of confusing the world, and the people in it, for yourself. Similarly, when someone gets all choked up and dewy-eyed when a flag is raised, or a song is played, then clearly they are mistaking their own personality and values for some external symbol such as a piece of cloth or some notes of music.
It is really impossible to genuinely know yourself if you keep confusing yourself for people in costume, or people playing a sport, or pieces of cloth, or strains of music, or a race, or a language, or a geography – or an imaginary God.
Self-knowledge requires a strong and clear differentiation between who you are, and what everything else is. You cannot accurately identify a cow if you keep thinking that a cow is a “country,” or a “noble soldier,” or “loyalty,” or your “hope for victory,” or a “Jewish zombie who flew up to heaven and eternally judges your brain.”
The growth of psychological and emotional maturity is the slow and often painful process of withdrawing your projections from the world so that you can see what the world actually is.
Again, this sounds ridiculously easy, but it is very often blindingly difficult. Most people wander around the world with highly reflective sunglasses on – but pointing the wrong way – so that they are only seeing a distorted reflection of themselves, rather than the world itself. Religion is the most primal projection mechanism of all. We are alive, we possess rational consciousness; the universe is not alive, and does not possess rational consciousness. We are born, the universe is not. We worry about our virtue, the universe does not. We bring truth into the universe, the universe does not bring truth to us. The degree to which religion facilitates the projection of anthropomorphic characteristics into a dead and empty universe is truly staggering when you begin to really see it.
The pursuit of self-knowledge is in many ways the end of religion. By aligning itself with the primitive superstition of psychological projection, libertarianism entirely walled off its access to one of the greatest insights of modernity, which is the discovery and exploration of the unconscious.
It is in the unconscious that we find the answer as to why people consistently reject the simple and obvious argument that taxation equals force.
The unconscious is an enormous aspect of the mind that processes empirical information with staggering rapidity, and provides value-based responses in the form of emotional reactions.
The causal chain of processing that occurs in the unconscious is unavailable to the conscious mind without a great deal of introspection and self-knowledge. What cognitive psychologists call “core beliefs” only occur to us consciously as feelings. Feelings do result from cognitive associations – a species of logical reasoning, so to speak – but those associations are not easily available to the conscious mind.
We fully understand that if we stick our hand into a fire, a lack of knowledge of neurobiology will not prevent us from experiencing pain. In the same way, a lack of conscious understanding of our core beliefs will not prevent us from reacting emotionally to those beliefs.
In fact, the less we consciously understand our deepest thoughts and feelings, the more those thoughts and feelings have “the ring of truth,” so to speak.
For instance, if we do not understand that patriotism is a collective delusion – the theft of the pride of virtue through the accident of geography – then the warm glow that we feel in the presence of patriotism remains unquestioned for us. As a consequence, when we are evaluating information related to our country, our unconscious tendency will be to automatically accept that which is most favourable to our delusional emotional state, and reject with hostility that which punctures the vanity of our fantasy attachment.
However, once we realise that our attachment to a mere concept (“America!”) is empirically invalid and emotionally hollow, we can begin to deal with our emotions as they really are, with regards to ourselves, and our own personal history, and we can begin to uncover our core beliefs, which are generally formed very early in life, up to the age of five or so, as a result of our early childhood experiences.
Such a process, of course, scarcely benefits those who profit from patriotism.
In the same way, once we understand that there is no God, we go through the natural disorientation and emotional emptiness that our former hysterical “worship” was designed to cover up. In a very real way, this is the inevitable withdrawal that comes when you stop taking a mind-altering drug.
All of the thoughts and emotions that formerly were invested in the fantasy projection of a god now collapse back into the personality, and can be dealt with as self-generated phenomena – not stimulated by some external deity, but created in the personality through personal history and prior decisions.
This is the process known to Jungian psychologists as individuation, or the recognition that all internal emotional states are generated by internal phenomena – not by externalities like stained glass, near-naked bleeding weeping gods, bits of stained cloth, or strains of music. The incredible value that results from the difficult process of individuation is an understanding and mastery of one’s own internal state. No longer are you like the hysterical sports fan whose happiness trembles on the spot where a leather ball may – or may not – land. No longer are you like the brain-addled patriot, who takes wild existential pride in the proximity of certain dirt to their mother’s womb. No longer are you the desperate and fearful religious addict, who begs for the favours and fears the punishments of a God that really “lives” deep within their own brain, in their own amygdala and hypothalamus, shouting up from the invisible caves of early childhood.
When you ally yourself with an organisation that profits from keeping people in a state of psychological retardation, which flourishes only by provoking the most dangerous and infantile aspects of human consciousness, and which grows only as the self-knowledge of its members shrinks, you are not building a bridge to the future, but rather voluntarily throwing yourself into a chasm of prehistory.
Libertarians know this – unconsciously, of course – and that is why they worship a time before the rise of psychology – the golden days of the Founding Fathers, stirring writings and noble paintings, when the Constitution was written with fiery words on the tapestry of history, and a new nation was forged out of the blah blah blah...
On a much smaller level, of course, this is why so many libertarians turned against my show – Freedomain Radio – when I and my listeners began to really talk about psychology and self-knowledge.
This is an indication of the astoundingly rapid processing that occurs in the unconscious. The moment that my show began to turn towards early childhood experiences, practical self-knowledge, emotional defences, and the necessity of withdrawing emotional projections from the world, all the former support I had in the libertarian community mysteriously dried up.
Unconsciously, a sequence flashed with enormous rapidity through the minds of most libertarians, which went a little something like this:
- Stef is talking about undoing emotional defences and psychological projections!
- Religion is based on emotional defences and psychological projections!
- Libertarianism is based on religion!
- Thus Stef is talking about undoing libertarianism!
- I need a pay cheque!
The fundamental reason that libertarians have never asked the basic question – why do people reject the TEF argument? – is that the answer lies in the unconscious, and in deep knowledge of both the self and of other people.
In other words, the answer lies in that which unravels religion.
Since libertarianism relies on religion, and religion survives by opposing psychology, libertarians had no choice but to oppose an increase in psychological understanding.
Because libertarianism is so opposed to psychology, it cannot ask any questions which involve the unconscious. As a result, it is stuck in a blind repetition of earlier mistakes, like anyone who resists self-knowledge. It cannot examine the resistance that society as a whole has towards libertarian arguments, because that resistance is unconscious – and so it has to make up empty-headed stories to explain away its endless failures – thus guaranteeing their repetition.
Psychological, emotional, and intellectual maturity demands that when we do not know the answer to a question, we state with direct honesty: “I do not know.”
This is not an approach that has ever been part of any religion – in fact, religion is a endless cluster of deluded attacks on every reasonable question under the sun!
This is why no post mortem has ever been performed on a libertarian project – because such a post mortem would reveal an appalling ignorance as to its failure. Since libertarianism is full of enormously intelligent people, it would not take very long for them to begin to figure out why they were so abysmally ignorant – which was that they had been avoiding the question.
Once they figured out that they were avoiding the question, the next question would be: why?
And so, step-by-step, down the magic staircase they would go, to the roots of their own evasions and emotions, their fears and greed, the dark side that is in all of us, and all those other difficult and messy aspects of humanity that scare so many “rational” people.
No, no – much easier to just cash in all those juicy Christian checks and go write another useless article about the Federal Reserve.
Withdrawing Projection: An Example
The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq has been called the “Rashomon war” – a reference to a Japanese play where everyone has wildly divergent views of a theft in the woods – due to its ever-changing justifications. None of the “factual” claims advanced to support the invasion held up to any reasonable scrutiny, even before the war began.
Those who do not understand or appreciate psychology will forever root around the surface justifications for such genocidal murders, and remain perpetually baffled and disoriented in this ever-shifting hall of mirrors.
If none of the reasons advanced are the real reasons, how can psychology help us?
If we recall the three fundamental psychological axioms – the enormous effects of early childhood experiences, the existence of the unconscious, and the dangers of repression – some possible sources for the drive to war become much clearer.
George Bush reports that he asked God whether or not to invade Iraq. As long as George imagined that he was communing with some vast interstellar intelligence outside his own skull, the “answer” that he received had the ring of an omniscient absolute.
If George knew even a little about psychology, he would understand that he was not in fact praying to God, but rather “submerging” a question into his own unconscious. Psychology fully supports our general experience that our personalities are composed of more than a single “voice,” in that we often debate with ourselves, experience contradictory impulses and ideas, experience nightly dreams that can be utterly at odds with our conscious values, and so on. In fact, it would be impossible to explain the phenomenon of creative writing – with its varied and believable characters, all coming from one mind – without accepting the reality that our personality is a multiplicity of perspectives, rather than a single and unified dictatorship of the ego.
Thus George cannot be praying to God – since God does not exist – but rather he is asking a question of himself.
When the “answer” comes back, if George is at all interested in self-knowledge and the withdrawal of projection, he will understand that it is not God telling him to invade Iraq, but rather it is an expression of his own unconscious desires.
With this understanding, George can then begin to examine why he himself wants to invade Iraq, rather than operate under the delusion that some eternal and omniscient ghost is telling him what to do.
Once George can begin to examine his own motives for invasion, he can begin the journey of self-discovery, where he will end up exploring one of the potential scenarios below – or another one, which remains obscure:
- As a result of being abused as a child by his mother, George has grown up with a deep hatred of his father, who did not protect him. This hatred is utterly unacceptable to him – and so, when Saddam Hussein threatens to kill George’s father, Hussein is actually expressing a repressed murderous wish that lies deep in George’s unconscious. By attacking Hussein, George is actually “attacking” his own desire to kill his father.
- George’s political ambitions are driven by deep feelings of personal self-hatred, resulting from his early maternal abuse, alcoholic self-medication, and general feelings of invisibility and worthlessness. Deep down, he truly hates the American public for enabling these hollow ambitions, and so takes out his rage against them by committing them to war.
- George’s antisocial tendencies were early expressed by his childhood habit of blowing up frogs – childhood cruelty towards animals is a clear sign of sadism. These expressions of inner torture were really cries for help, which went unheeded in his family, and in his society. His inner horror continually drives escalations of sadism and violence, with the purpose that someone, somewhere, will understand, and empathise with his psychological agony. Unfortunately, rather than empathise with this pain, the American public rewards him by giving him the power of life and death over millions. Since he has developed a habit of acting out violence as a cry for help, he initiates war as the ultimate expression of his truly apocalyptic self-hatred.
- When George was a child, his mother was all-powerful, and abused him emotionally and physically, scratching him violently and screaming at him. Thus George understood that power is always associated with the abuse of the helpless. Furthermore, George’s mother would veer between affection and abuse. Saddam Hussein was a “friend” of the United States, and then became an “enemy,” just as George did with his own mother when he was a child. Furthermore, Saddam Hussein was essentially helpless in the face of US military power, and so George re-enacted the principle “attack the helpless person who was formerly your friend” by invading Iraq.
- Due to the mechanism of projection, George was able to project his own sadism onto Saddam Hussein – which meant that he experienced Saddam Hussein as extremely dangerous. His own increasing murderous rage – which would in fact trigger a war – was projected onto the Iraqi dictator, and so George genuinely felt that Saddam was “about to attack” him – when of course the complete opposite was true.
- The murderous rage that George experienced from his parents was re-enacted against the Iraqi children, half a million of whom died as a result of the US and UK led sanctions against Iraq – started by George’s own father after the Gulf War. Once George continued his father’s role of “destroyer of children,” he could no longer escape the role of “parental abuser,” but could only escalate the murderous destruction of others.
None of the above explanations may be valid, of course – the purpose is merely to highlight the self-knowledge that can be attained when we look inwards, into the myths that have created us, and that we have created – rather than stare into the empty heavens and dream of conversations with dead constellations.
Why People Resist Libertarianism
Once we understand the amazing power of the unconscious, its uncanny ability to process enormous amounts of information virtually instantaneously, we can begin to unravel the mystery of why people reject libertarianism.
Resistance To Truth
Prior to the seventeenth century, all human societies – without exception – were founded on abuse, violence, brutality, and a strict and vicious hierarchy. What fundamentally sustained this hierarchy were lies about the nature of power. Mere men were given the label “King,” and called divine, or divinely sanctioned. Other men, wearing what often appeared to be tea-cosies on their heads, were considered to be in direct and constant communication with divine beings, and so their word was the law of the gods.
The average man and woman saw things very differently indeed, deep in their heart of hearts. We can only imagine how many times throughout history men looked at a fat fool in a gold crown and knew that he was a mortal man, just like them, except worse. We cannot know how many peasants kneeled before a sneering priest, squinting up through their lowered lashes, seeing the snot in his nose, and knowing in their soul that he was just a smug and pompous version of their own selves.
In the old story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” two tailors arrive at a kingdom and promised to make the King a spectacular suit, using a thread with the magical ability to remain invisible to anyone who was not worthy of his position. They began pretending to make the suit, using no thread or cloth at all, but only miming their work. Whenever the king “wears” the work in progress, his courtiers and ministers all express amazement at the beauty of the suit, because they do not want to be revealed as people who are not worthy of their positions. Eventually, the King is carried in a procession through the town, where everyone cries in wonder at the beauty of the suit they cannot see, until one child stands up, points at the King, and asks in a loud voice why the king is naked.
This, in my opinion, is the best fairy tale ever. I really could care less about knights and dragons, but the truth that is contained in this story could fill a book shelf.
Embedded in this tale of course is the general fear that people have about speaking the truth, even when it is perfectly obvious – but what is even more delightful, and terrifying, about this story is the complete absence of violence.
Everyone says that they can see the suit that is not there because of their own insecurities, their fear that they are not fit for their positions – but what society in history has ever been able to maintain a predatory hierarchy such as an aristocracy without the use of violence? For heaven’s sake, we cannot even maintain a parliamentary democracy without threatening everyone with a gun if they do not turn over half their income!
Openly identifying the violence at the root of mythological power was always and forever sheer suicide, throughout our entire evolutionary development as a species. Learning not to see what was blatantly obvious was foundational to surviving as an individual.
The amazing thing about the fairy tale above is that it describes how afraid people are to speak truth to power – and yet it itself re- mains afraid to speak truth to power, because it blames the fear of the people on the internal state of insecurity rather than the external threats of torture and beheading. It also shows the insecurity as radiating outward from the King – in other words, the people are insecure because the King is insecure. It is certainly true that no King can rationally feel that he deserves his position, but it is certainly not true that people were insecure because Kings were anxious and insecure, but rather because their Kings were sadistic and genocidal.
The Rational Fear Of Truth
Many of our desires and fears are hard-wired into our brains, down deep in the neurological cortex of our minds. Our sexual desires, our fight and flight mechanisms, our desire for water when we are thirsty, food when we are hungry, and rest when we are tired – this constellation of passions, needs, and emotions are not learned, but rather innate – babies do not learn to cry when they are hungry, but are born with that ability, as countless red-eyed parents can attest.
We have a natural aversion to that which is highly likely to bring about danger. Natural selection has done a wonderful job of picking those out of the gene pool who do things that get them killed.
The brutal power structures that dominated almost all of human history used endless violence to maintain their rule, but always had to at least provide the appearance that the violence was caused by the immorality – the “disobedience” – of the ruled. Throughout history, mock trials have been the norm, which drape the veneer of justice over what is, essentially, a Mafia hit.
The lies required to sustain the illusion that murder is virtue are virtually without number. The obvious irrationality of the rulers are recast as the “rationality” of gods. The obvious hypocritical double standards of power are “justified” according to the divine right of kings. Any citizens who attempt to break the chains that bind them are slaughtered wholesale, and then labelled “dangerous” to the other citizens – a mind-bending reversal of what is actually true! Societies wracked by dictatorships, wars, plagues, and famines are called “ordered,” while even the thought of a voluntary society not run by genocidal criminals is called “chaotic” and “anarchic.”
Since the dawn of our species, people have been endlessly slaughtered for speaking the simple truth about the violence of those in power. In addition, anyone who listened to such speeches – or was even in the same family, or in the same house – was also tortured and butchered.
Is it so shocking to think that the same instincts that compel us to run from a bear would also compel us to fear and shun those who speak the truth about power?
A bear can be out-run – thugs with clubs in the name of the King cannot.
Furthermore, those at the peak of the pyramid of bloody power always sent spies radiating out through the community, attempting to root out those who might be open to the truth about power. These oily beasts would curl up to peasants, speak subtle treason, and look for agreement. Any slave who hesitated to repel their words would be dragged into the street and dismembered.
Revolution was impossible; the truth was suicidal, and virtually everyone who whispered about the iniquity of power was a slaughtering spy. When the truth about power enters into a conversation, Stone Age defences rise from the base of the brain, creating near pathological anxiety and hostility. In a moment, a civilised coffee shop becomes a fire-lit cave, and all the shiny pleasantries of modern democracy shatter before the emotional percussion of a falling club – revealed in the hands of the ruler only the moment before it lands on the skull of the foolish listener.
These associations are not conscious. This unbelievably rapid sequence of thought is imprinted below the awareness of the ego we know and love so well.
The greater the danger to life, the more automatic and unconscious the response to that danger needs to be. If you accidentally put your hand into a fire, your spine will detect the pain and jerk your hand back before the signals reach your brain. If an unexpected noise reaches your ears while you are sleeping, your brain will yank you awake, your fight or flight adrenaline already pumping.
We are ringed by automatic sentinels that reason not from the reason of the present, but rather from the imminent deaths of history.
If you are not aware of the depth and power of the unconscious, then you will introduce the topic that taxation equals force with no understanding whatsoever of the degree of stress, anxiety, and hostility that your words evoke in others.
The person that you are talking to will probably not have any greater understanding of what is happening to them than you do. The hostility that they feel will arise in them as if out of nowhere.
It is a well-recognised psychological phenomenon that most people will almost automatically and immediately invent conceptual reasons for unexpected emotional distress. First comes the shock, or the fear, or the anger – and then comes the “explanation,” after the fact. Almost everyone reasons ex post facto, in reaction to unexpected emotional distress. Almost every argument you will ever hear is a form of emotional self-management, designed to keep the real truth at bay – not from you, but rather from the person who is arguing.
When someone hears that taxation is force, their unconscious hears all of the implications contained in that statement immediately, at light speed, and leaps into action to protect them from being tortured and killed.
The unconscious does not have a calendar. The unconscious has never heard of the Bill of Rights, or free speech.
The unconscious is a fierce guardian, blind to time.
This aspect of our unconscious developed in a time when we saw people who spoke the truth – or listened to the truth – slaughtered on a whim. Those people who with open and snowy innocence spoke the truth as it occurred to them fill half the unnamed pits of our genocidal history. They did not survive to pass their mutations along.
Those who feared the truth, and feared those who spoke the truth, did survive – to teach their children to fear and shun the truth, and to see those children who did not, taken and murdered.
We are still so early in the development of our species that the world is not run by truth, or reason, but by the unconscious, by the blind and beautiful pit-bull of history that will kill and die to save its master.
Anger In The Face Of Truth
When you speak the truth to someone – let us call him Meletus – he experiences a sudden stab of fear and irritation. He does not want to be in this conversation, but he also cannot leave it, because in the past – our collective past – that would have indicated guilt. You have put Meletus in a difficult situation, and he resents you for it.
Meletus does not believe that he is a slave, for to believe that he is a slave would be to consciously understand the true nature of political power, which is the threat of overwhelming force against the legally disarmed.
Asking Meletus to admit that he is a slave, and to accept the argument that taxation equals force is true, is the direct equivalent, to his unconscious at least, of attempting to throw him into a tank full of sharks.
Historically, slaves were never allowed to point out the violence of their rulers, or to consider themselves slaves at all, since that was just another way of pointing out such violence. Thus Meletus must make up justifications for his rulers because he is frightened of the truth of their violence – because throughout history accepting or speaking that truth got people killed.
Thus, you provoke anxiety in Meletus – anxiety that he cannot consciously admit to himself, since that leads down the path to real physical danger. You have also provoked a feeling of humiliation in him, by creating fear and anxiety within him that he has to avoid.
Most adults, when they experience humiliation, attempt to “level up,” by creating an impression of false superiority. Since Meletus feels “put down” relative to you, he will strive to put you down in return, to restore his feeling of “self-esteem.”
How many times do libertarians experience condescension from those they bring the “TEF” argument to?
How often have libertarians been portrayed – in word or in deed – as naive, oddly resentful, out of touch, or as pointless mavericks, hopeless theorisers, and ungrateful citizens?
How many times do libertarians have to be lectured to about the “social contract,” and the “free-market of democracy,” and the “right to leave if you do not approve,” and so on?
How many times do libertarians have to see their arguments against violence re-framed as arguments against voluntarism?
How many times do libertarians have to see their arguments for voluntarism re-framed as arguments for violence?
Apparently, that number, in the absence of psychological understanding, appears to be functionally infinite.
The Fear Of Others
Deep down, everybody knows that what is called “society” is little more than a series of violent mythologies designed to keep the powers that be aloft.
Biologically, people are designed for conformity with the group rather than integrity to the truth, since conformity encouraged survival, and integrity mostly got you killed.
When you ask someone to admit the violence and mythology of what they call “morality,” it is not the rulers who primarily make them afraid, but rather it is their peer social group – their friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, and family.
I say this based on twenty-five years of experience – I am sure you have had exactly the same experience – which is that I have been arguing for voluntarism and freedom for decades, and have never once been attacked, sanctioned, or even goosed by state agents.
No, it is always and forever only my fellow citizens who attack the truth – who attack me, rather, since the truth cannot be “attacked,” but only accepted or disproved.
When I posed a series of rational and empirical questions and criticisms of the efficacy of the Ron Paul campaign, I was not audited by the IRS or cornered by men in black. Rather, it was the libertarian community and the Ron Paul supporters who turned against me.
Everyone knows that when you begin to question the philosophical and moral assumptions – often unconscious, to be sure, but even more dangerous because of that – of your peer social group, they will turn on you most savagely.
Every Christian knows that if they begin to persistently question the existence of God, they will be rapidly ejected from their supposedly loving peer group. And they also know, deep down, that they will be ejected not because they are wrong, but rather because they are right. Meletus decided to attack Socrates, rather than any of the other thousands of Sophists infesting the culture of ancient Greece – because Socrates was right – not necessarily in all his conclusions, since no one achieves that, but rather in his fluid, empirical, and rational methodology for approaching the truth.
Everyone knows that what they consider necessary conformity is actually just enslavement to error.
Everyone knows that it is not the state that keeps us in chains; we keep each other in chains. The state merely profits from our willingness – eagerness even – to attack each other.
It is far cheaper to keep slaves when the slaves eagerly police themselves.
Religion is fundamentally not a belief in an invisible God, but the fear of attack by the peer group.
Statism is fundamentally not the belief that the government is virtuous, but the fear of attack by the peer group if one dares to say otherwise. Libertarianism is fundamentally not the belief that political action, religious affiliation, and academic education will bring freedom, but rather the fear of attack by the libertarian peer group if one dares to question these axioms.
On A Personal Note
I came relatively late in life to the libertarian movement – I had nothing to do with it until my late thirties, less than three years ago.
Like most people who come to a new movement which seems compatible with many values they already hold, I took what libertarians said mostly at face value. When they talked of their genuine desires to free the world from statism, I thought: excellent! When their articles exploded many of the mythologies I had long suspected as false (“Lincoln freed the slaves!”), I was thrilled! I dug deep into libertarian literature with great excitement and optimism.
I suppose it was because I brought other, more disciplined and empirical skills and experiences to the table – my entrepreneurial endeavours in a variety of fields – that I slowly began to become uncomfortable with the libertarian habit of making baseless claims, and then becoming resentful when asked for evidence.
I had seen enough sleazy salesmen in the business world to know a con when I saw one.
In my mind, I began to divide the libertarian world into the “end of the world nut jobs” and the more rational empiricists. I placed most of the religious libertarians into the former category, but reserved places of honour within my mind for the various scholars and activists who seemed more rational.
I accepted the fact that a few of my early articles were edited to remove any content that may be conceivably offensive to religious sentiments. These articles were not about religion, and so I did not mind particularly that a few sentences or paragraphs were struck out before publication.
As I began to pod-cast, very early on I discussed the empirical and rational arguments against the existence of gods. The fact that my articles were still accepted within the libertarian community despite my outright, vocal, and strong atheism, gave me some comfort that religion was not a core topic for libertarianism.
However, when I began to talk about psychological motives, personal history, and the effect of early childhood experiences on later thoughts and feelings, I began to feel a certain chill shiver through the libertarian community.
Rumours began to spread that Freedomain Radio was some sort of cult, which “commanded” people to leave their families – despite the fact that of the roughly fifty thousand people who have listened to the show, about twenty have separated from abusive families.
I was also called “dictatorial” for asking abusive or aggressive people to stop posting on the FDR forum – about thirty in over two years, or less than one percent of the total membership – pretty good for a forum which deals with such volatile topics!
I have also been accused of “driving” the conversation in particular directions, in other words, towards psychological and relationship issues - which is a truly astounding claim, coming as it does from those who claim a deep understanding of the free market!
For those who do not seem able to grasp how the free market really works, I will provide a brief explanation.
I do not have the capacity to “drive” the conversation. I did deal with some family and psychological issues, starting at about pod-cast seventy – but if people were not interested in those theories, the topic would have been entirely dropped! I also did pod-casts on Shakespeare, which proved to be fairly uninteresting to the vast majority of my listeners, so that topic has not come up again.
The same libertarians who endlessly argue that it is impossible for a corporation to impose its will upon consumers in the free-market, and impossible to gain a dictatorial monopoly – also say that I somehow “control” and “dominate” my customers.
The simple fact is that I follow and talk about what my listeners are most interested in – just like any other entrepreneur. Every Sunday afternoon I ask my listeners what is uppermost in their mind. For at least eighteen months, I can scarcely think of a single topic that has been philosophical or economic in nature. Empirically, objectively, people want to talk about personal ethics, immediate relationships, and the deep struggle we all face to live with integrity in our own lives.
I do not interrupt listeners who are asking about economics and “order” them to talk about highly personal issues – as if that were even possible! Like any good entrepreneur, I let my customers drive the provision of services.
If I did not, there would be no show.
I once talked to a libertarian radio talk show host who tried to do a three-day series on personal relationships, only to have to abandon it after less than two days, due to listener indifference and outright hostility. As a listener wrote: “I listen to your show to find out what’s wrong with the government, not for dating advice!”
That is the awesome power we show hosts wield!
One of the most popular segments in Freedomain Radio was “Ask A Therapist,” where my wife answered questions about personal relationships and mental health. Those who call in to the Sunday show almost exclusively ask questions about personal relationships and mental health. When a listener contacts me for a conversation, it is almost always about personal relationships and mental health.
These are just the facts of market demand – and it is entirely ridiculous that so-called free-market “experts” believe that I can somehow magically control my customers. For the sake of all that is rational, I run a charity, and so am far more dependent on the kindness of strangers than most organisations that provide fee-based products or services!
It is also an astounding monument to hypocrisy that I have been accused of “controlling” my donators by atheist libertarians who refuse to challenge religious libertarians! If I am not dependent upon the voluntary goodwill of my donators, but can somehow magically control them, then why are libertarians so afraid to confront religious donators? Why is it that libertarianism has to endlessly appease its religious supporters, but I am somehow in total control over my donators?
Welcome to the wonderful world of psychological projection!
Psychology An Me
I have been fascinated by psychology since I was in my teens; in my early thirties I went through a few years of very intensive psychotherapy, which I found immensely positive – my wife practices psychology, and runs her own clinic, and was – to her eternal credit – the one who began pushing me towards a psychological understanding of the potentials and challenges of the freedom movement.
I did not at first understand why libertarians – who claim that empirical and rational social sciences such as economics are perfectly valid – would be so hostile towards an empirical and rational social science such as psychology. In my own naivety, I assumed that this was largely because of a lack of understanding of psychology, rather than any innate hostility towards it.
Through my show, I continued to explain the basic tenets of psychology, and participated in a number of listener conversations where I think the value of psychological understanding and deep self-knowledge was more than amply demonstrated. Through Freedomain Radio, people got out of bad relationships, and often into good relationships – they liberated themselves from unproductive and dead-end careers, and revitalised their own work environments. People achieved real freedom in their lives by leaving salaried employment and starting their own companies – and this resulted not from economic explication, but rather a psychological investigation of their own resistance to freedom, which often brought them up against the limitations of their personal relationships.
It was during this phase of Freedomain Radio that I began to hear the first mutterings and accusations that I was running some sort of cult. Several people who were participating on the Freedomain Radio board became volatile and destructive – after attempting to negotiate with them in the hopes of achieving more rational and positive behaviours, I realise that this would be impossible, and I banned them.
Although some people experience my banning of abusive and destructive people with dismay, it is perfectly consistent with my approach to relationships, which is that you try to negotiate and get what you want out of people – and offer them the same opportunity – but if you are unable to come to an agreement on mutually beneficial behaviour, you are in no way obligated to continue the relationship.
I do not view this as an entirely subjective process, of course, since I believe that verbal abuse, name-calling, and passive aggressive provocations, for instance, are not negotiable.
If I host a weekly dinner party, where anyone can drop by, I do have the right to ban people who disrupt the productivity and pleasure of the conversation through verbal abuse.
It is my house after all, and it is testament to the psychological distress of certain libertarians that they rail against my exercise of property rights, while claiming property rights to be a sacrosanct value.
The issue of the Ron Paul candidacy arose shortly after this time. Even before I knew that Ron Paul was a fundamentalist Christian, I criticised political action as merely the illusion of progress, and the draining of resources that could be used more productively elsewhere.
Most libertarians placed enormous hopes in the Ron Paul candidacy, and doubtless experienced my questions, criticisms, and empirical tests for success as irritating, if not enraging – certainly the comments that I received on my videos were spectacularly hostile, and if I had run my private emails through a profanity filter, I would have largely been looking at near-endless rows of asterisks.
I simply could not understand why money was being hurled at a “solution” without any hint of a project plan, testable milestones, and empirical verification of claims – probably as a result of my free-market experience as an entrepreneur, in both the software and artistic fields. The fact that libertarians were wildly enthusiastic about burning through tens of millions of dollars – not to mention countless hours – without once seeming to consider how else these resources could be used – struck me as more of a collective stampede off the cliff of delusion than a rational and disciplined approach to the effective allocation of time and money.
I began to get more suspicious when I saw the “dual-answer” approach to potential donators – those who were concerned with winning were told that Ron Paul could win, while those who were sceptical of that possibility were told that Ron Paul was “educating people.” Again, I had seen enough of this nonsense in the entrepreneurial world, and spotted these manipulations pretty quickly.
Then, I saw exhortations to donate to the Ron Paul campaign – with mad claims that he could still win – when it had become, for all intents and purposes, impossible for him to do so.
To me, this began to look very close to outright fraud.
As I examined the good Doctor’s candidacy, I began to really see the seedy Christian underbelly of the libertarian movement: Ron Paul’s rejection of evolution – from a man well-trained in the scientific method, and so unable to claim backwoods ignorance – along with the crassly exploitive money-grubbing, hostility to rational questions about the efficacy of this candidacy, an increased and almost hysterical pandering to Christians (for the sake of donations of course), and a general abandonment of restraint, reason, evidence, and plain common sense.
Principles were hurled overboard like heavy crates from a sinking ship – the collective hysteria of “now or never” gripped people in its feverish fist, creating volatile and hostile “us versus them” aggression and paranoia. “If you are against Ron Paul, you are against freedom!” – a chilling echo of Bush’s “He who is not with us is against us” – showed just how far down the well of superstitious collectivism the movement had plummeted.
Those few of us who resisted the pressures of these aggressive delusions were soundly and repetitively attacked for raising rational questions during a time of general hysteria – and after the hysteria had begun to subside, we were not praised – or even recognised – for predicting the futility of the campaign in advance. Instead, ex post facto justifications were invented about the value of educating people through the campaign – again, with little to no empirical evidence.
You could also see the gruesomely irrational spectacle of Ron Paul openly saying on the Colbert Report after he lost so spectacularly that he never had any chance at all – while on the very same show, a few months earlier, he had said that there was a reasonable chance that he just might win.
Of course, this is the kind of ridiculous reversal common to those unable to admit their own corruption. If you say after you have lost spectacularly, that you really thought you could win, then you look kind of deranged, and largely out of touch with reality. If a man claims to genuinely believe that he can win Olympic gold in long-distance running, but cannot even struggle around the track once, clearly he is delusional about his own abilities. Thus it is inevitable that Ron Paul would reverse his estimation of his own chances after his spectacular failure – and without any reference to his prior “optimism” – because Ron Paul is a politician, just like every other politician. He goes to Washington and gets money for his constituents; he says whatever he needs to say to maximise his “credibility” and income in the moment, and he makes wild claims while steadfastly rejecting empirical evidence.
How could it be otherwise? He is a fundamentalist Christian.
As the success of Freedomain Radio continued to grow, I was for quite a while rather surprised at the general indifference – and outright hostility – of the libertarian community towards the show. Given that libertarianism is supposed to be all about voluntarism, surely the voluntary nature of the show would meet with their approval. Surely, given that libertarians are constantly claiming that the poor will be educated in a free society, Freedomain Radio would be a wonderful example of just that – since I give everything away for free, and rely on voluntary donations, those who cannot afford to pay for instruction can still receive it.
Surely, since the Ron Paul supporters were so devoted to educating people about liberty, after the failure of the Ron Paul candidacy, they would at least acknowledge the value of a show that continues to grow and spread arguments for freedom!
When a voluntary organisation educates tens of thousands of people without charging a penny, surely that is a wonderful example of the benevolent free market in action. In my rather deluded optimism, I pictured at least some excitement within the libertarian community about this radical application of free-market ideals, innovative use of technology, and pursuit of a highly unusual business plan. I imagined that people would be curious about the success of Freedomain Radio, and cite it as an example of the power and benevolence of voluntarism, as well as a practical example of how people can be educated who cannot afford it.
It's not like I am some entirely non-credible fringe nut – I studied English literature, economics, and psychology at the undergraduate level, and hold a Masters degree in History from an Ivy League university. I got an ‘A’ on my thesis on intellectual history, based on primary sources on Plato, Locke, Kant, and Hegel. I have been a successful entrepreneur who co-founded and sold a fairly large company, and I have also written and directed a successful play for the theatre. I have lived in England, South Africa, and Canada, and travelled throughout North America, Europe, and China for business.
As the success of the show continued to grow, and the number of pod-cast downloads started to run into the millions, the indifference and hostility of the libertarian movement as a whole started to become truly incomprehensible to me, and I decided to sit down and try to figure out what the implications were of this avoidance.
I am very glad that I did this, because I learned an enormous amount about the movement whose goals I care for very, very deeply.
This book does not result from my hostility towards libertarianism, but rather from my love of freedom, and my desire to build a rational and empirical plan to achieve it.
We cannot go through the church to achieve a free society, because on the other side of the church is always a graveyard.
For those with the eyes to see, religion is a spent force fundamentally, surviving only on the fading momentum of the past. The younger generation is far more intelligent and sceptical than we ever were, and no movement can succeed in gaining their allegiance that abases itself before the superstitions of their elders.
There are many noble and brilliant libertarians within the movement, who respect empirical evidence and reasoned arguments, who reject the existence of God – and even the validity of political action – but in general they remain “secret doubters,” who are afraid to speak their minds for fear of attack or rejection, or perhaps from a misguided belief that “infighting” is bad.
This has always struck me as a rather odd perspective for lovers of liberty to possess.
Surely, freedom is first and foremost the freedom to speak one’s mind openly and honestly, with reason and evidence as your guide. If we self-censor within the freedom movement because we are afraid of disapproval, attack, or the appearance of discord, then surely we are missing something essential and elemental about the concept of freedom.
Either libertarianism is a rational and empirical social science, or it is a cult devoted to grabbing money from the superstitious. If libertarianism is a rational and empirical social science – as I believe it is – then it is time to clean house.
This means ditching religious money, and the easy and sleazy money-grubbing of promising political solutions to political problems. It also means a basic recognition of the reality that using the statist protection of academia to teach people about the free market is worse than useless – it actively discredits the values it claims to promote.
Libertarianism recognises that the state is corrupt because its proclaimed values are always undermined by special interest groups, who trumpet their high motives while grabbing cash from the public purse.
The fact that lofty ideals are so susceptible to base financial self-interest is a central libertarian criticism of the state – and rightly so! Since the state exists as an idealistic cover for base money-grubbing, to overturn state power, libertarians must inevitably accept that people are capable of overcoming their immediate financial incentives for the sake of pursuing and achieving a higher moral goal.
Libertarians will say to highly-subsidised farmers that those farmers should be willing and able to give up their funding – and take the short-term financial hit – for the sake of a better world in the future.
Fundamentally, the power of the state cannot be broken if people cannot be convinced to place moral ideals above immediate financial gain. If people are not willing to suffer through the transition from a statist society to a free society – with all the immediate financial losses that will occur for literally tens of millions of people – then the power of the state will never be broken – or even limited – but rather will endlessly increase to the point of collapse, whereupon it will start all over again.
If libertarians are not able to put their own high moral ideals above their immediate financial gain, they have zero moral right to demand or expect this from others. How can a libertarian tell a farmer that they should live without state subsidies, and take the short-term financial losses for the sake of a better world, when libertarians themselves are completely hostile to the idea that they should live without Christian subsidies, and state protection, and take the short-term financial losses for the sake of a better world?
Well, you might say, but state money is taken at the point of a gun, while Christian money is voluntary.
There is some truth in this, but there is much more falsehood.
Christianity – like any cult or superstition – has only survived for thousands of years because it indoctrinates helpless and dependent children, frightening them with tales of eternal vigilance from sky ghosts, eternal punishments for mere thought, the innate evil of original sin, the need to beg for forgiveness for the sin of breathing – and all other varieties of mental tortures that children are utterly unable to evade or resist, as a result of their dependent status.
Libertarians endlessly rail against the pro-state propaganda of public schools, bewailing the fact that children have false ideals inflicted upon them against their will.
However, they call Christian money purely voluntary, as if children do not have the false ideas of religious superstition inflicted upon them against their will.
If you doubt that religion is a virus passed down through intergenerational propaganda, all you have to do is imagine the odds that a child raised in a remote Afghanistan village by Muslim parents, with no exposure to Christian tenets whatsoever, will end up as a note-perfect Baptist. What about a child tossed ashore from a shipwreck on a desert island? With no exposure to religious teachings whatsoever, is it likely that they will end up as an Orthodox Jew, and grow their sideburns into corkscrew curls?
Of course not.
We can debate whether or not the religious impulse is innate to the human soul – but the specific forms of religiosity are certainly not, as is evidenced by their variety and localised reproduction around the world.
Religion is the scar tissue of abusive childhood indoctrination and terrorising – to say that the money that abused children pay to avoid the reactivation of the guilt and fear that was imprinted upon them as helpless dependants is purely voluntary – well, that is to continue the exploitation of those children, by reinforcing the propaganda they will doubtless inflict upon their own children in turn.
Religious indoctrination is child abuse; the “charity” that religious organisations collect as a result of this indoctrination can scarcely be called benevolent voluntarism.
We fully recognise that a child who was raised in Stalinist Russia did not “choose” to become a communist – as they doubtless did – but rather we would be sympathetic towards them, as the victim of vicious and authoritarian propaganda.
There is functionally no difference between statist propaganda and religious propaganda – the first is inflicted through the impersonal power of the state; the second is inflicted through the personal power of the parents.
The Company One Keeps
It is a fair truism to say that a person is judged by the company they keep. When a radical, frightening, and unprecedented idea arises in the intellectual landscape, most people will immediately look for cracks, inconsistencies, hypocrisies, like water attempting to find its way through a wall.
The more unusual the claims, the higher the standard of integrity needs to be. Most of the central tenets of libertarianism are unusual, frightening, and unsettling to the vast majority of people – as a result, those people will look for any excuse to reject libertarianism as a whole.
There is no shortage of nutty ideas in the world, and most of us feel very comfortable rejecting, say, the basic beliefs of those crazed and broken souls who cut their own testicles off and killed themselves in order to merge with some comet shooting through the sky, and ride off to heaven in a blaze of flowing light.
Similarly, with regards to Scientology, I am comfortable dismissing the philosophy – such as it is – as a whole, once I understand that the thesis rests to some degree on the premise that mankind arose from lizard men crashing to Earth several million years ago.
If you are a competent mathematician, and you are handed a one hundred page proof, and you find a massive error on the first page – some-thing along the lines of “3 plus blue equals unicorn” – do you really consider it necessary to grind your way through the remaining ninety-nine pages in order to discover and elucidate every single error?
Of course not.
Life is short – which is why a woman looking for a gentleman does not go on a second date with a man who brings her to a strip club.
The requirements for integrity and rationality rise in proportion to the newness and scariness of the ideas being presented. Old ideas gain a kind of mossy momentum, and just seem true to people who grew up with them, no matter how nutty they are in reality – this of course is the basis of conservatism.
If I put out a pod-cast claiming that my neighbour can walk on water, bring people back from the dead, was born of a virgin, and can heal blindness by touching eyelids, people would assume that I was either joking or insane – but add two thousand years and a bunch of funny hats to the equation, and suddenly it all seems perfectly reasonable.
This is another reason why libertarianism’s association with Christianity has turned the movement into a shallow, ineffectual, and greedy joke. When someone is exposed to a new idea, they generally do not delve deeply into its internal consistency, but first and foremost look at the company it keeps. If someone claims to be able to read minds, but is confined to an insane asylum, surrounded by people who believe they are Napoleon, or can fly, or are Jesus – are you likely to spend time, effort, and money validating their claim?
Add to this scenario the fact that the “mind reader” vehemently denies that they are in an insane asylum, and no one will take their claim seriously at all.
In an increasingly secular society, when someone comes across libertarian claims, the first thing that they often do is look at the company that libertarians keep.
If they find that libertarians hold in great esteem and high regard those who reject the theory of evolution, believe that people can come back from the dead, that virgins can give birth, and that the world was created in six days by some invisible being – and crawl all over each other in a mad stampede to take money from such deluded fools – then they will inevitably be drawn to the rather intelligent conclusion that the standards of proof, evidence, and rationality within the libertarian movement are not particularly high, to put it mildly.
Either they are going to come across libertarians who believe all of this superstitious nonsense – in which case, how are they going to take anything libertarians preach seriously? – or they are going to come across those who hold libertarian beliefs, and who are atheists.
In this case, their interest may actually be piqued – which methodology, they wonder, will win this battle? Will it be the rational empiricism of the atheists, or the delusional superstitions of the theists?
Ah, sadly, almost at once they will find that the atheists claim to hold the theists in high regard, and praise the superstitious for their devotion to truth and virtue!
This will all seem to be far too complex and ridiculous a riddle to even bother trying to unravel – how on earth can rational empiricists proffer such rank praise to the superstitious?
If they decide to spend another few minutes thinking about libertarianism, they will undoubtedly conclude that the majority of its funding comes from religious organisations – and a moment’s research will confirm this fact.
“Ah,” they will say, “so these supposed ‘rationalists’ have just sold out to the highest bidder, which in this case happens to be the Christians.”
They will understand that, like any politician or cowed employee, libertarians of all kinds are simply bowing to those who pay the bills.
Not only will such a potential convert to libertarianism roll their eyes in the face of such pompous hypocrisy, but they will also understand that integrity to the truth is completely optional for libertarians – and in fact, if they spend even a few additional minutes researching the subject, and find out that there appears to be no self-criticism within the movement at all of this bottomless betrayal of reason and evidence – then they will quickly understand that the subjugation of reason to religion is not a topic that these heroic libertarians feel safe even discussing.
After this sad journey into pathetic compromise and self abasement before the deep pockets of deep prejudice, will our potential friend view libertarian theories as a whole as trustworthy? If libertarians slavishly praise – for mere money, no less – religious bigotry and rank irrationality, will they assume that their theories will be monuments to the highest and most challenging forms of integrity?
Of course not.
They will understand that libertarians as a whole are actually more corrupt than the religious – because the religious at least do not praise the abstract principles of reason and evidence, but rather worship the whims of faith.
It is one thing for a witch doctor to do a rain dance; it is quite another for a climatologist to do a rain dance. The witch doctor at least does not claim to respect the scientific method, and has not been trained in rational empiricism.
We would not trust a supposedly-rational climatologist who did a rain dance because a witch doctor offered them a few beads – in the same way, the average citizen will recoil from the hypocrisy of libertarianism, recognising that it is a ridiculously self-contradictory discipline that praises science and superstition equally, but always defers to superstition.
Those with the stomach to dig a little deeper into the movement will wonder how those who claim that government power always leads to evil deal with the complex problems of living within a statist society. As soon as they see how many academic professors there are in the libertarian movement, I am sure that they will be intrigued as to how this contradiction is dealt with.
“Wow, these people claim that state power is evil, and always leads to evil – yet they live lives almost entirely subsidised and protected by the state – what ingenious arguments have they devised to justify this astounding contradiction?”
Sadly, they will find no ingenious arguments, merely sniggering assertions that it is a wonderful thing to use state power to teach libertarian concepts – in other words, that evil can be used to do good!
“But that is amazing!” our friend will think. “Is it not the case that everyone who uses state power believes that he or she is able to use this awesome violence to create good? Do not those who run the welfare state genuinely accept that while charity would be preferable, it is regrettably necessary, given the current circumstances, to use state power to help the poor? Do not those who run the war on drugs genuinely believe that while a voluntarily drug-free society would be preferable, it is regrettably necessary, given the current circumstances, to use state power to prevent drug use?”
The list would go on and on within their mind – the endless, woeful litany of those who condemn the use of violence in the hands of others, but believe that in their hands, such violence can be turned to the service of virtue!
A Universal Contradiction?
I would like to briefly address the criticism that is sometimes levelled at me with regards to profiting from state power, which is that in my entrepreneurial career, there were times when I competed for and won sales contracts with government agencies, and cashed those checks, which contributed to my own income.
This of course is a perfectly fair question, and I would like to do what I can to address it.
First of all, it is impossible to live within a modern statist society and not do business – either directly, or indirectly – with the government. Even if I had avoided government contracts, I would have ended up doing business with private companies that do a lot of business with the government, and would have received the same “blood money,” except with a middleman.
Secondly, at no point that I can recall was the income from government agencies more than ten percent of total revenues. In fact, towards the end of my tenure as a Chief Technical Officer, we began to move away from government contracts, because they were rarely as profitable as private contracts.
Thirdly, we as a corporation were taxed at a very heavy level, and I do not think that recovering money that is taken by force is a particularly egregious moral problem. For instance, I also wrote up, submitted, and defended tax credits that we were entitled to under Canadian law for doing original research and development in the software field. I was perfectly happy to get that money back, and used it to expand the company. Fourthly, during the time that I was occasionally pursuing and winning government contracts, I was not a public advocate of the value and virtue of a purely free-market. I was not at the time even an anarchist – I was a typical Objectivist minarchist, in that I believed the government was required for the military, the law courts, and the prison system. In the ideal society that I believed in at the time, there would still be government contracts that would still need to be pursued and won through free-market competition. I no longer hold these beliefs, and it was not particularly long after I became a fully fledged anarchist that I left the business world completely, and set up a purely voluntary, ultimate free-market business called Freedomain Radio, which relies on no government contracts, gets no special government tax breaks, and receives of course no government subsidies of any kind – or even offers tax receipts for charitable donations. I cannot imagine a more voluntary business than the one I am running now, which is about as consistent with my values as I can conceivably get without building a time machine and vaulting forward two hundred years into Libertopia.
Fifthly – and I think most importantly – I strongly believe that there is an enormous difference between competing for a government contract on the free and open market – without state protection or direct subsidisation of any kind – and joining a state protected and state enforced union which violently prevents competition, subsidies about ninety percent of your salary, and will throw anyone in jail who dares to fire you. For me, this is the difference between working for Federal Express, and occasionally delivering government packages – and voluntarily pursuing, grabbing on to, and holding at all costs a senior position in the Post Office union.
Conflating these opposing approaches to the challenges of living within a statist society makes a mockery of both intent and integrity.
Empiricism And This Book
I would like to finish this part of the book by briefly pointing out a criticism that may be floating around in your mind, which I wanted to openly address up front.
I have put forward some heavy criticisms in this book, and many of those criticisms are founded upon my opposition to those who make wild claims without empirical proof.
You may be thinking – and I do not fault you for that all of course – that I myself have made a rather large number of wild claims without providing empirical proof.
For instance, when I say that libertarianism has an innate hostility towards the discipline of psychology – and in particular, the exploration of the unconscious – because of its financial dependence upon Christianity, what is my proof for such an assertion?
This theory certainly fits and explains the consistent facts of my considerable experience over many years, and I do think that I have made logically consistent arguments as to why those who take their bread-and-butter from the insane can never consistently advocate sanity, but what is still missing is the widest objective and empirical proof for my assertions.
Unfortunately, I do not have the money to run a large study of libertarians, to discover their attitudes towards and knowledge of psychology, and compare it to those with similar educational, familial, cultural, and economic backgrounds – although I do think this would be a an utterly fascinating study!
As a result, I do not claim that my assertions are proven even to the relatively lax standards of your average social science.
However, as I consistently say in my books and pod-casts, there is absolutely no reason for you to take my word for anything.
If you doubt the empirical proof of what I say, my suggestion is this: sit down with the libertarians that you know, and ask them about psychology – their attitude towards it, their knowledge of it, their competence with its concepts, and their ability to apply it.
It could be the case that over twenty-five years, I have just run into an entirely unfortunate set of Objectivists and libertarians, who are almost universally and endlessly opposed to the basic concepts of psychology. I think this is statistically almost impossible, but it certainly could be the case. I have attempted to theorise as honestly as I can from the empiricism of my own somewhat substantial experience in this realm, but I would never have the temerity to suggest that you substitute my experience for your own.
When you sit down with your libertarian friends and colleagues, why not ask them how many books on psychology they have read? I have found libertarians as a whole to be voracious readers, who devour books on a wide variety of subjects and topics, but I have found them to be woefully ignorant of even the basic concepts of psychology, and have learned over the years that it is the one subject that is almost universally avoided.
Secondly, you can ask your libertarian friends – with all due sensitivity, of course – if they have ever been in therapy. Therapy is not at all that unusual a pursuit for people who are attempting to do great and challenging things with their lives, just as athletic coaching is common for those wishing to rise to the top of their game. Since libertarians set enormously high goals for themselves – the reduction of state power, the liberalisation of the economy, and so on – the personal and emotional stresses that arise from pursuing – and eternally failing at – these goals is something that therapy would help alleviate.
Thus it should be entirely possible for you to find at least a few libertarian friends who have gone to therapy – and, if they have successfully completed a therapeutic program, they should not be horrified or embarrassed to talk about it, since they would have come out of such a process with greater empathy towards themselves and others.
If you cannot find any libertarian friends who have gone into therapy, then this would be some empirical evidence for the truth of my propositions. If you cannot find any libertarian friends who have read much – or any – psychology,137 then this also would be empirical evidence for my theories.
Do you think it hypocritical that I do not provide an excess of empirical evidence for my criticism that libertarians do not respect empirical evidence?
Again, this is an assertion borne out of my own extensive personal experience, and data that has been posted above, but there is no reason whatsoever for you to take my experience and information at face value, of course.
If you disagree with me that libertarians avoid empirical evidence for the truths of their propositions, all you have to do is ask your libertarian friends about the evidence that they have seen for a variety of libertarian goals, such as:
- Political action is the most effective way to reduce the power of the state.
- Academic education is the most successful way to establish the credibility of libertarian theories.
- Ron Paul successfully spread the word about libertarianism, and brought many more people to the cause then he drove away.
- As a result of the Ron Paul campaign, many more people are interested in libertarian ideas.
- The Ron Paul candidacy was the best of many alternatives that could have been pursued to credibly disseminate libertarian ideas.
- Libertarianism’s association with – and financial dependence on – fundamentalist Christianity is a highly beneficial way to convince people of the rationality and empiricism of libertarian ideals.
If they can provide empirical studies and evidence to support the above libertarian axioms, I would be highly grateful if you could email these to me, so that I could retract everything that I have said in this book, and grovel apologetically before those I have unjustly accused.
If this empirical evidence exists, and all of the above has been established through independent verification and research, then libertarianism is a complete, futile, and hopeless disaster, for one simple, sad reason:
If we are doing the best that we can possibly do, and we are continuing to fail so disastrously, success is utterly and completely impossible.
We Can Only Hope We Are Screwing Up
I hope that this book has not given you the impression that I do not believe in the pursuit of liberty. Quite the contrary – I desperately yearn for, believe in, and avidly pursue the goal of achieving universal human liberty, though in a way that I believe has never been tried before – an approach that I will talk about in the next part of the book.
If the freedom movement is making catastrophic errors, then there is hope for human freedom, because those errors can be analysed, honestly admitted to, and corrected.
If the freedom movement is not making catastrophic errors, then there is no hope for human freedom, because if the best that we can do is complete failure, then there is actually little point even trying. We may continue to pursue liberty as a hobby, or a way of killing time before we fall into inevitable fascism, but we should not at all delude ourselves that we will alter the eventual outcome one little bit. We may be rank determinists, and pretend briefly that we have free will, in order to play around with the concept, but we recognise that it is a childish delusion that we sometimes regress into, so to speak.
If we are only doing a few little things wrong, then the same analysis applies – if we are driving directly off a cliff edge, but can only turn the steering wheel a single inch either way, we will still go off the cliff edge, the only difference being that our tire marks might be a few feet one way or the other.
If, however, the freedom movement is making a large series of utterly disastrous decisions, then our failures can be turned into hope, change, and true effectiveness.
It really comes down to this:
If we are willing to put our own petty egos and vanities aside, and focus on what we really should be focusing on, which is doing whatever it takes to ensure that the world becomes truly free, then we can be the foundation of the freedom of the future.
If we are willing to stop doing that which does not work, pause and look inward, look critically, and really rebuild what it is that we are doing from the ground up, empirically, rationally, with the constant feedback of perpetual post mortems – if we dedicate ourselves to continuous improvement, we can truly build a bridge to the future brick by brick, knowing that although it may take generations, we shall get there as surely as a rain drop will hit the ground.
If we are willing to rebuild this movement from the ground up, letting go of the financial incentives of enslavement to superstition, and building a new constituency of truly rational and empirical souls, then we shall create a movement that will not be constantly tripping over its own contradictions.
If we are willing to let go of the mistakes made at the beginnings of libertarianism – and all the mistakes that followed – then we shall be able to look to the future, instead of always being dragged backwards into a worship of the past – and we shall be able to gain the allegiance and respect of a new generation of secular thinkers, who will bring a shining rationality into the world that we can as yet only dream of.
If we are willing to accept that we shall not see the liberty that we want within our own lifetime – if we accept that what we are engaged in is a multi-generational project – we will finally be able to quit the useless and feverish pseudo-activities and mindless busy work that is born of impatience.
If we accept the clear historical lesson that all significant leaps forward in human liberty – from the elimination of slavery to the expansion of the rights of women and children to the growth of the market system itself – were all multi-generational projects, and that those who began them did not live to see their completion – then we can give up our mad random sprinting and snatching at thin air in the hopes of achieving something substantial, but rather with patience and dedication, we can sit down and work out a plan based on historical evidence, the modern understanding of the human psyche, a rejection of bigotry and superstition – a plan that will work.
I do believe that I have the bare outlines of just such a plan, but I will not talk about it in this part of the book, because I think that we all need to mourn the loss of false hope before rolling up our sleeves and starting to build the reality of future freedom, brick by brick.
- For more on this, please have a look at my book on Universally Preferable Behaviour, available for free on my website.
- For more information on this, you might be interested in my video/audio series “An Introduction to Philosophy,” available on my website at: http://www.freedomainradio.com/videos.html
- Which, according to the Old Testament, orbits the Earth.
- In fact, Bush claimed as one of his reasons for invading Iraq the fact that Saddam Hussein “threatened to kill my dad”.
- For more on this, please visit http://www.psychohistory.com
- Biologically speaking, of course, your spine is only using you to make another spine, and so its self-interest makes perfect sense.
- For more on this, see just about any Doctor Phil show you can find.
- It is interesting to me that not one of these criticisms has ever come from entrepreneurs who have actually worked in the free-market, but rather only from religious, political, and academic types – for fairly obvious reasons.
- This reminds me of a prominent libertarian I met once who had unbelievably bad breath -- as my wife pointed out, it seemed odd that in a movement devoted to freedom, nobody felt free to point out this basic fact.
- Harry Browne said that if there was only one thing he could change about statism, it would be the privatisation of public schools, since their propaganda was the greatest barrier to the spread of libertarianism.
- For instance, you can have a look here; most of the donating organisations are financial supporters of organised religion: http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipientgrants.php?recipientID=51 http://www.mediatransparency.org/recipientgrants.php?recipientID=1174