Book:Universally Preferable Behaviour/5
The Value Of Universally Preferable Behaviour
A new theory is of precious little value if it only points out the obvious. If physics only provided an accurate description of how we catch a ball, then physics would not be a very worthwhile pursuit, because we already can catch a ball. Discovering that the world is round only aids in long-distance navigation across the sea – it does nothing to help us get down-town Quantum mechanics only becomes useful when other methodologies cannot provide the necessary accuracy – it does not help in building a car.
In the same way, the UPB framework, and the moral rules that it validates or rejects, should ideally provide us with some startling insights about the world that we live in, and our relations to each other.
If all that UPB did was to prove that rape, murder and theft are morally wrong, it would not add much value, since almost no one believes that those things are morally right to begin with.
Thus let us begin applying this framework to the world that we live in, and see what value comes out of it.
The "Null Zone" Revisited
At the beginning of this book, I put forward a way of looking at how we process truth, analogising it to physics. From the “little truths” of catching a baseball, we arrive at the “great truths” of physics – and the great truths cannot contradict the little truths.
The same is true of morality. From the little truths of “I should not murder” we can get to the great truths such as “the initiation of the use of force is morally wrong.”
In the realm of physics, a central barrier to the logical extrapolation of truths from personal experience to universal theory has been religion.
For instance, no man has ever directly experienced a perfect circle – such an entity exists in the abstract, and in mathematics, but neither can be visualised in the mind, nor sensually experienced in the real world. Nowhere in nature, to our knowledge, does a perfect circle exist, either in the “little truths” of personal experience, or the “great truths” of physics.
However, for thousands of years, the science of astronomy was crippled by the quest for this “perfect circle.” Planetary orbits had to be perfect circles, because God would never allow anything as “imperfect” as an ellipse in His creation.
The problem with this approach – well, one problem anyway – was the retrograde motion of Mars. From our planet, Mars at times appears to be moving “backwards,” as Earth “overtakes” it around the sun. The false belief that the Earth was the centre of the solar system, combined with a mania for “perfect” circles, produced the Ptolemaic system of astronomy, which multiplied all of these perfect circles to the point of absurdity, in order to take into account elliptical orbits and the retrograde motion of Mars.
Why was this illusion of perfection considered to be a requirement for celestial bodies? Certainly the evidence of the moon, with its pitted and cratered surface, would seem to support the imperfection of the heavens, but religious fixations bypassed the direct sensual evidence of both immediate and interplanetary imperfections. Galileo’s discoveries of moon-mountains, sunspots and Jupiter’s moons were all attacked as heretical.
We can also turn this analysis to the question of the existence of God as well.
We have no direct, empirical or rational evidence for the existence of God. The most abstract scientific measurements provide no evidence for the existence of God either – yet in between the truth of our own experience, which is that there is no God, and the most abstract scientific measurements and theories – which also confirm that there is no God – a sort of “null zone” is willed into existence, which completely inverts any rational standards of truth.
Beliefs may be true, false, or anti-truth. It is a true belief that the Sahara Desert is in North Africa; it is a false belief that the Sahara is in Scotland; it is an anti-true belief that the Sahara is whatever I want it to be, and exists wherever I want it to exist. The first belief is true; the second is false – the third is a bigoted assertion that detonates the very concept of proof.
We can say:
- Proposition X is true because it is rational.
- Proposition Y is false because it is irrational.
- Proposition Z is true because I want it to be true.
The third assertion is a complete self-contradiction. “Truth” is independent of desire, since desire is by definition a subjective preference, and truth is by definition the conformity of ideas to the objective standards of logic and empirical reality. Saying that something is true because you want it to be true is to equate subjectivity with objectivity, which is a self-contradictory statement.
Bigoted assertions – or “faith” – by definition cannot be tested, since they are not belief in the absence of evidence, but belief in defiance of reason and/or evidence.
We can believe unproven things that turn out to be true – someone doubtless thought that the world was round before it was proven – but the “null zone” is the realm wherein we cling to a belief in things that could not possibly turn out to be true.
If I say that two plus two equals five, I am making a mistake that can be corrected with reference to logic. If I say that I believe that a square circle exists, then I am making an explicitly self-contradictory statement, which disproves itself. If I go further, however, and emphatically claim that “foo plus tury equals desty” – and refuse to define any of my terms – I am making a statement to which logic and evidence cannot be applied.
Next Stop: The "Alternative Universe"
In general, the way that people try to “save” their anti-empirical and anti-logical beliefs is to create an “alternate realm” or “alternate universe” wherein their self-contradictory statements can somehow be true.
If I say: “A square circle exists,” I am asserting that which is clearly impossible within this universe. Thus, if I wish to retain my belief, I must invent some other universe, or realm “outside” this universe where a square circle can exist.
If I make up a realm where self-contradiction equals truth, I can then claim that those who say that a square circle does not exist are themselves bigoted and prejudicial, because they are eliminating possibilities that could be true.
With regards to this “null zone,” only two possibilities really exist. Either this null zone exists completely independently of our universe, and will never be measurable, detectable or discoverable in any way, shape or form – or, at some point, we shall be able to detect and interact with this magical land where self-contradiction equals truth.
If, at some point, it turns out that we are able to interact with this null zone, then we shall have direct sensual or rational evidence of its existence. In other words, it must “protrude” into our universe in some manner. However, the moment that it becomes detectable in our universe, it must have rational and empirical existence, like everything else we can detect. Thus these otherworldly “protrusions” into our universe cannot create the capacity for our universe to support the existence of a square circle.
We can thus be certain that if we are ever able to detect this other universe, the evidence we gather will in no way support the existence of self-contradictory statements. Square circles, gods and other self-contradictory concepts cannot hide there, any more than they can hide in the wet dreams of leprechauns.
On the other hand, if it turns out that we are never able to detect this other universe, and it remains a completely theoretical entity, with no evidence or rationality to support it, then it is simply a conceptual bag in which it is “convenient” to place things that are obviously not true.
Existence Versus Non-Existence
We define “non-existence” as that which does not possess mass or energy, or display the effects of mass or energy, such as detectable relationships like gravity.
God does not possess mass or energy, or display the effects of mass or energy – God in fact is not detectable or verifiable in any way, shape or form, either through the senses, or through rationality.
Thus if I say, “God exists,” what I am really saying is:
“That which exists must be detectable; God cannot be detectable, but God exists – therefore that which does not exist, exists.”
In other words, by saying “God exists,” I have created an insurmountable contradiction. I have defined “existence” as “non-existence,” which makes about as much sense as defining “life” as “inanimate matter,” or a rock as “the opposite of a rock,” or a “square” as a “circle.”
Similarly, if I create some alternate universe where “non-existence equals existence” and “contradiction equals consistency” and “truth equals falsehood” and “irrationality equals rationality,” then what I have really done is create a realm called “error,” put everything in it which is not true, and defined this realm as a place where “error equals truth.”
Of course, people do not create this “alternate universe” in order to invalidate truth within our own universe, but rather to rescue that which is erroneous in reality, and call it true. For instance, no one who argues “God may exist in another universe, so you cannot claim that God does not exist” ever argues “I may not exist in that other universe, so you cannot claim that I exist here.”
They also tend not to respond well to the argument that: “In another universe, you may be agreeing with me that God does not exist, so that makes you an atheist.”
If valid statements about reality can be endlessly opposed because some imaginary realm called “error equals truth” invalidates them, then what is really being said is “no positive statements about truth can be valid” – however, we are wise enough as philosophers by now to know that this very statement is self-contradictory, since it is a positive statement considered to be true that says that no positive statements can be true. If nothing can be true or false – even that statement – then no statements whatsoever can be made about anything. Using words, using English, using comprehensible sentences – all make no sense whatsoever, since in this “alternative universe” such structured utterances may be complete nonsense. If things which can be true in this alternate universe have an effect on statements we make in this universe, then clearly the reverse is also true, which means that no statements can ever be made about anything, since their exact opposite can be equally true.
The true reality of the statement “error equals truth” is the tautological insanity of “null equals null.”
The "Alternate Universe" In Human Society
The reason that we have been spending so much time dealing with this “alternate universe” theory is that it has direct relevance to human society, and is used to “justify” the greatest evils which are committed among us.
In our own personal experience, we know that murder is wrong. In working through the proposition that murder is morally wrong in the above examples, I strongly doubt that anyone was shocked to have their moral instincts confirmed through the strict abstract reasoning of UPB. In this section, however, it is officially permissible for you to begin to be truly shocked.
The greatest leaps forward in scientific understanding are the so-called “unifying theories.” Einstein spent decades trying to work out a unified field theory; and theories of physics which unite strong and weak forces, electromagnetism, gravity and so on remain elusive.
UPB as a framework, however, not only justifies our moral instincts at the personal, philosophical and universal levels – but also has profound and shocking implications for human society.
UPB In Action
The UPB framework validates moral propositions by demanding that they be internally consistent, and universal in terms of time, place and individuals.
If we accept UPB, we must also accept the following corollary:
Moral propositions are independent of costume.
What this means is that a man cannot change his moral nature along with his clothing. The act of changing one’s costume does not alter one’s fundamental nature. Thus opposing moral rules cannot be valid based on the clothes one is wearing.
Soldiers, of course, wear costumes that are different from the average citizen. The average citizen is forbidden to murder; soldiers, however, are not only allowed to murder, but are morally praised for murdering.
Let’s take another example.
Theft is morally wrong, as we have seen above. It is morally wrong for all people in all situations at all times and under all circumstances. Since theft is the forcible removal of somebody else’s property without consent, then taxation is always, universally and forever a moral evil. Taxation is by definition the forcible removal of somebody’s property without their consent, since taxation relies on the initiation of the use of force to strip a man of his property.
What we call “the government” is merely another example of this null zone wherein up is down, black is white, truth is falsehood and evil is good.
Society progresses exactly to the degree that reason and evidence make the great leap from the personal to the universal, and destroy any irrational null zones in the way. Science progresses exactly to the degree that it rejects the irrationality of God and subjective “absolutes.” Medicine progresses exactly to the degree that it rejects the efficacy of prayer and empty ritual, and instead relies on reason and evidence. Philosophy also – and human society in general – will advance exactly to the degree that it rejects the irrational “square-circle morality” of statist and religious ethical theories.
Saying that the government operates under opposite moral rules from the rest of society is exactly the same as saying, “leprechauns are immune to gravity.” First of all, leprechauns do not exist – and one of the ways in which we know that they do not exist is that it is claimed that they are immune to gravity. Everything that has mass is subject to gravity – that which is immune to gravity by definition does not have mass, and therefore does not exist. The statement “leprechauns are immune to gravity” is a tautology, which only confirms the non-existence of leprechauns – it is the semantic equivalent of “that which does not exist, does not exist.” A is A, Aristotle’s first law of logic, does precious little to confirm the existence of that which is defined as non-existence.
In the same way, when we say that it is morally good for soldiers to murder and government representatives to steal, we know that “soldiers” and “government representatives” as moral categories are completely invalid.
If I say that a square circle has the right to steal, I am merely saying that that which cannot exist has the right to do that which is self-contradictory – a purely nonsensical statement, but one which remains strangely compelling in the “null zone” of politics.
If I buy a soldier’s costume at a second hand store, and put it on, clearly I have not created an alternative universe wherein opposite moral rules can be valid. The moment before I put the costume on, it was wrong for me to murder – when does it become right for me to murder? When I put on the trousers? What if I have the trousers on, but not the vest? What if I have only one boot on? What about if both boots are on, but only one is laced? What if my hat is on backwards? What if I have put on a uniform that is not recognised by the first person I come across? Did the Beatles suddenly possess the right to murder when they shot the cover for “Sergeant Peppers”? Did they lose that right when they took off their jackets?
I ask these rhetorical questions because they are in fact deadly serious. Clearly, a military costume does not change the nature of a human being, any more than a haircut turns him into a duck, a concept, or a god.
“Ah,” you may say, “but the costume is invalid because you got it at a second hand store – putting on the uniform of the soldier no more makes you a soldier than photocopying a doctorate gives you a Ph.D.”
The analogy is incorrect, because having a Ph.D. or photocopying a doctorate does not change any of the moral rules that you are subjected to as a human being.
“Well,” you may reply, “but the difference is that the soldier possesses moral rights that are provided to him by the average citizen, for the sake of collective self-defence and so on.”
This raises a very interesting point, which is the question of whether opinions can change reality.
Opinions And Reality
Clearly, we understand that I cannot through my opinion release you from the restraints of gravity, any more than my opinion that “two plus two equals five” makes it true.
“Opinions” are those beliefs which have no clear evidence in reality, or for which no clear evidence can be provided, or which are expressions of merely personal preferences. My personal opinion is that I prefer chocolate ice cream to vanilla – I may also have an “opinion” that Iceland is a tropical paradise, or that God exists, or that rain falls upward. Personal opinions clearly have nothing to do with morality; opinions that claim to accurately describe reality, but which do not, are merely incorrect prejudices. Believing that the rain falls upward does not reverse its course; wearing a Hawaiian shirt to Iceland does not make Reykjavik any warmer.
Thus believing that murder is morally good does not make murder morally good. Since my beliefs about a human being do not change his moral nature, my belief that his murders are virtuous does not change the virtue of his actions. If I close my eyes and imagine that you are a lizard, you do not suddenly lose your ability to regulate your own body temperature. Imagining that you are a fish does not bypass your need for scuba gear.
Opinions do not change reality.
Because opinions do not change reality, I cannot grant you any exception or reversal with regards to a universal moral rule. Since moral rules are based on universal logic, as well as the physical nature and reality of a human being, I cannot grant you the “right to murder,” any more than I can grant you the ability to levitate, walk on water or accurately say that two and two make five.
Government As Voluntarism
The open force involved in the institution of government – the conceptual wrapper that reverses moral rules for a particular group of individuals – is something that is always kept off the table in debates. When talking about government, it is never considered a positive thing to point out “the gun in the room.” Almost by definition, governments are considered to be chosen by and for the people, and to operate with their expressed or implicit approval.
However, this is pure nonsense.
If a man holds a knife to a woman’s throat while having sex with her, that is by any definition an act of rape. He cannot say that the sex is consensual, while at the same time threatening her with injury or death if she refuses to have sex with him. If the sex is voluntary, then the knife is completely unnecessary. If the man feels the need for a knife, then clearly the sex is not voluntary.
In the same way, people say that taxation is part of the social contract that they have voluntarily agreed to.
This is both logically and empirically false.
We know that it is empirically false because no social contract exists. Neither you nor I ever signed a document voluntarily consenting to the income tax – we were simply born into a system that takes our money from us at the point of a gun.
The Gun In The Room
Many people will argue at this point that taxation is not enforced at the point of a gun, but rather that people pay it voluntarily. For instance, I have never had a gun pointed in my face by a tax collector or a policeman, but I have paid taxes for decades.
This may be true, but it is completely irrelevant. If I tell a woman that I will kill her children if she does not have sex with me, and she submits herself to me, we clearly understand that an immoral action has taken place – even though I have used no weapon in my violation. Clearly, if the woman submits to me, it is because she fears that I will carry out my threat. If I told her that my pet leprechaun will kill her children if she does not have sex with me, she would very likely be disturbed, but would not fear my threat in any significant way, since it is impossible for my pet leprechaun to kill her children. Or, if I died, and my will stated that I would kill this woman’s children if she did not have sex with me, clearly she would feel relieved rather than afraid, since I cannot conceivably act out my threat from beyond the grave. Thus we pay taxes because we know that if we do not, the likelihood of being aggressed against by representatives of the state is very high. If I do not pay my taxes, I will get a letter, then another letter, then a phone call, then a summons to court – and if I do not appear in court, or do not pay my back taxes and accumulated fines and interest, policemen will come with guns to take me to jail. If I resist those policemen, they will shoot me down.
To say that force equals voluntarism is completely illogical and self-contradictory. To say that the initiation of the use of force is completely equal to the non-initiation of the use of force is to say that up is down, black is white, and truth is falsehood.
Without the “null zone,” these corrupt fictions cannot be sustained.
The “null zone” is the lair of the beast we hunt.
As we can see, we know that personally it is wrong to steal; we have very few problems with an abstract and logical ban on theft, such as we have worked out above – yet still, there exists this “null zone” or alternate universe where such oppositions can be accepted without any question or concern.
According to UPB, it is wrong for me and you to steal. Yet somehow, in this “null zone,” it is not only allowed, but also perfectly moral, for others to steal. We must not steal – they must steal. It is moral madness!
Let us take our good friend Bob away from his little room of moral theory testing and restore him to his original job as a policeman.
Clearly, when Bob wakes up in the morning, before his shift, he cannot go to his neighbour’s house and demand money at the point of a gun, no matter who tells him that it’s all right.
When Bob has his breakfast, he also cannot attack his neighbour and take his money. On his drive to work – even though he has put on his uniform – he has not punched in yet, and thus has no more rights than any other citizen. When he punches in, however, now, as if there descends an amoral pillar of fire from the very heavens, he gains the amazing ability to morally attack his neighbours and take their money.
Strangely, this is the only characteristic of his that has utterly reversed itself. He cannot fly, he cannot change his shape, he cannot successfully digest ball bearings or live in an inferno; he cannot run one thousand kilometres an hour, and neither can he walk through a brick wall. He is absolutely, utterly, and completely the same man as he was before he punched in – yet now, he is subject to completely opposite moral rules.
Even more strangely, if I am not a “policeman,” but I follow Bob to work, and do exactly what he does – I put on a costume, walk into the police station, and put a piece of cardboard into a punch clock – why, if I then do exactly what Bob does, I am completely and totally immoral, although Bob’s identical actions are completely and totally moral.
What kind of sense does this make? How can we conceivably unravel this impenetrable mystery?
The simple fact is that it cannot be unravelled, because it is completely deranged. The fact that this “opposite world” moral madness is completely irrational – not to mention violently exploitive – is so obvious that it must be buried in an endless cavalcade of mythological “voluntarism.”
We are told that we “want” Bob to take our money – which completely contradicts the fact that Bob shows up on our doorstep pointing a loaded gun in our face. By this logic, I can also go up and down the street stealing money from my neighbours, and then claim to be utterly shocked when I am arrested:
“They want me to take their money!”
“But then why were you threatening to shoot them if they did not give you their money?”
“Because they owe me their money!”
“I thought you said that they want to give you their money.”
“No, no – they owe me. It’s really my money!”
“On what grounds do they owe you this money?”
“We have a contract!”
“Can you show me this contract? Have they signed this contract of their own free will?”
“It’s not that kind of contract! It’s a – social contract… And besides – according to that social contract, I own the whole street anyway – the whole damn neighbourhood in fact! Anyone who refuses to pay me my money can move somewhere else – I’m not forcing anyone!”
“And how do you know that you own the whole neighbourhood? Do you have ownership papers?”
“Yes, of course – have a look here!”
“Well, this is just a handwritten note saying that you own the whole neighbourhood – and it’s the same handwriting as your signature. I’m afraid that we’re going to have to book you – this is just a made-up contract with yourself, which you are inflicting on other people at the point of a gun.”
This is as completely insane and corrupt as me continuing to tell a woman I am raping that she wants to have sex with me. Can you imagine if I were on trial for rape, and there was a videotape of the woman begging me to stop, and I had a knife to her throat, how my defence would be received if I continued to insist that she actually wanted to have sex with me?
In court, I would be reviled, and thrown into jail for my obvious, mad, corrupt and self-serving hypocrisy.
Ah, but in the “null zone” of government, rape is lovemaking, kidnapping is invitation, rejecting theft is evil selfishness, and coercion is kindness.
This is what I mean when I say that this “opposite world null zone” is the most fundamental barrier to human happiness the world over. Stealing is wrong for us; stealing is wrong in the abstract – but stealing is somehow “right” in this insane alternate universe called “government”?
Once the violence of government is intellectually exposed – and the supposed “voluntarism” of citizens is revealed as a vicious fraud – the argument always comes back that we need government to supply us with public goods such as protection, regional defence, roads etc.
I have written dozens of articles exposing the falsehood of this position, so I will not bother to reiterate those arguments here, since they are not essential to a book on morality, but rather would be more appropriate to a book explaining the principles and practicalities of a voluntary society.
The “argument from practicality” in no way solves the problem of violence. If I see you eating cheeseburgers every day, I can tell you that it is impractical for you to do so, if you want to maintain a healthy weight. I cannot claim that it is evil for you to eat cheeseburgers, for reasons that we have gone into already. I cannot justly compel you through force to increase the “practicality” of your actions.
Thus saying that the government is justified in forcing us to become more “practical” is completely false, which is verified by the UPB framework – even if we assume that government solutions are more “practical,” which in fact they are not.
Also, if government representatives claim that a social contract allows them to force an “impractical” population to behave more “practically,” an insurmountable contradiction is created.
If I force a woman to marry a man I have chosen for her, then clearly I believe that I have infinitely better judgement about the suitability of a husband for her than she does. In fact, I do not believe that she is open to reason at all, or has any clue about her own self-interest, because I am taking no account of her preferences, but am forcing her to marry a man of my choosing.
When I force this woman to get married, I can only justify the use of force – even on immediate, pragmatic grounds – by claiming that she is mentally unfit to make her own choices with regards to marriage.
If the woman is mentally unfit to make her own choices with regards to marriage, then clearly she is also mentally unfit to delegate a representative to make that choice for her. If she has no idea what constitutes a good or suitable husband, then how can she evaluate me as fit to decide who will be a good or suitable husband for her?
If a man of extraordinarily low intelligence does not understand the concept of “health,” would it be reasonable to expect him to be rational in his choice of a doctor? In order to competently choose a doctor, we must understand the concepts of health, efficacy, cost, professionalism and so on. In the same way, if I do not allow a woman to have any say in who she marries, then clearly I must believe that she has no understanding of what makes a good husband – but if she has no understanding of what makes a good husband, then she has no capacity to transfer that choice to me, since she will have no way of evaluating my criteria for what makes a good husband.
If I cannot decide what colour to paint my house, and my solution is to sign a contract with a painter allowing him to choose the colour for me – and in that contract I sign away all my future freedoms to resist his decisions, and give him the right to kidnap and enslave me if I disagree with any of his decisions, or refuse to pay for them – then clearly I am not of sound mind. If I give someone the power to compel me for the rest of my life, then clearly I do not believe that I am competent to make my own decisions.
If I do not think that I am competent to make my own decisions, then clearly my decision to subject myself to violence for the rest of my life is an incompetent decision.
Either I am capable of making competent decisions, or I am not. If I am capable of making competent decisions, then subjecting myself to force for the rest of my life is invalid. If I am not capable of making competent decisions, then my decision to subject myself to force for the rest of my life is also invalid.
Even if the above considerations are somehow bypassed, however, it is still impossible to justly enforce a social contract through a government. Clearly, I cannot sign a contract on your behalf, or on my children’s behalf, which will be binding upon you or them for the rest of time. I cannot buy a car, send you the bill, and justly demand that you pay it. If I claim the power to impose unilateral contracts on you, UPB also grants you this power, and so you will just return the contract to me in my name.
In the same way, even if I choose to pay my taxes voluntarily, I cannot justly impose that choice upon you, since a voluntary contract is a merely personal preference, and so cannot be universally enforced through violence.
The Necessity Of The State?
This whole question becomes even more ludicrous when we look at the most common moral “justification” for the power of democratic governments, which is based upon the “will of the majority.”
First of all, “will” is an aspect of the individual, while “majority” is a conceptual tag for a group. The “majority” can no more have a “will” than a “chorus line” can “give birth.” If you doubt this, just try building a tree house with the concept “forest” rather than with any individual pieces of wood.
Two additional objections constantly recur whenever the question of the necessity of a government arises. The first is that a free society is only possible if people are perfectly good or rational – in other words, that citizens need a centralised government because there are evil people in the world.
The first and most obvious problem with this position is that if evil people exist in society, they will also exist within the government – and be far more dangerous thereby. Citizens can protect themselves against evil individuals, but stand no chance against an aggressive government armed to the teeth with police and military might. Thus the argument that we need the government because evil people exist is false. If evil people exist, the government must be dismantled, since evil people will be drawn to use its power for their own ends – and, unlike private thugs, evil people in government have the police and military to inflict their whims on a helpless (and relatively disarmed) population. Thus the argument is akin to the idea that “counterfeiters are very dangerous, so we should provide an exclusive monopoly over counterfeiting to a small group of individuals.” Where on earth do people think the counterfeiters will go first?
Logically, there are four possibilities as to the mixture of good and evil people in the world:
- All men are moral.
- All men are immoral.
- The majority of men are immoral, and a minority moral.
- The majority of men are moral, and a minority immoral.
In the first case (all men are moral), the government is obviously not needed, since evil cannot exist.
In the second case (all men are immoral), the government cannot be permitted to exist for one simple reason. The government, it is generally argued, must exist because there are evil people in the world who desire to inflict harm, and who can only be restrained through fear of government retribution (police, prisons, et al). A corollary of this argument is that the less retribution these people fear, the more evil they will do.
However, the government itself is not subject to any force or retribution, but is a law unto itself. Even in Western democracies, how many policemen and politicians go to jail?
Thus if evil people wish to do harm, but are only restrained by force, then society can never permit a government to exist, because evil people will work feverishly to grab control of that government, in order to do evil and avoid retribution. In a society of pure evil, then, the only hope for stability would be a state of nature, where a general arming and fear of retribution would blunt the evil intents of disparate groups. As is the case between nuclear-armed nations, a “balance of power” breeds peace.
The third possibility is that most people are evil, and only a few are good. If that is the case, then the government also cannot be permitted to exist, since the majority of those in control of the government will be evil, and will rule despotically over the good minority. Democracy in particular cannot be permitted, since the minority of good people would be subjugated to the democratic control of the evil majority. Evil people, who wish to do harm without fear of retribution, would inevitably control the government, and use its power to do evil free of the fear of consequences.
Good people do not act morally because they fear retribution, but because they love virtue and peace of mind – and thus, unlike evil people, they have little to gain by controlling the government. In this scenario, then, the government will inevitably be controlled by a majority of evil people who will rule over all, to the detriment of all moral people.
The fourth option is that most people are good, and only a few are evil. This possibility is subject to the same problems outlined above, notably that evil people will always want to gain control over the government, in order to shield themselves from just retaliation for their crimes. This option only changes the appearance of democracy: because the majority of people are good, evil power-seekers must lie to them in order to gain power, and then, after achieving public office, will immediately break faith and pursue their own corrupt agendas, enforcing their wills through the police and the military. Thus the government remains the greatest prize to the most evil men, who will quickly gain control over its awesome power – to the detriment of all good souls – and so the government cannot be permitted to exist in this scenario either.
It is clear, then, that there is no situation under which a government can logically or morally be allowed to exist. The only possible justification for the existence of a government would be if the majority of men are evil, but all the power of the government is always controlled by a minority of good men.
This situation, while interesting theoretically, breaks down logically because:
- The evil majority would quickly outvote the minority or overpower them through a coup;
- There is no way to ensure that only good people would always run the government; and,
- There is absolutely no example of this having ever occurred in any of the brutal annals of state history.
The logical error always made in the defence of the government is to imagine that any collective moral judgements being applied to any group of people is not also being applied to the group which rules over them. If fifty percent of people are evil, then at least fifty percent of people ruling over them are also evil. Thus the existence of evil can never justify the existence of a government.
If there is no evil, governments are unnecessary. If evil exists, the governments are far too dangerous to be allowed to exist.
Why is this error so prevalent?
There are a number of reasons, which can only be touched on here. The first is that the government introduces itself to children in the form of public school teachers who are considered moral authorities. Thus are morality and authority first associated with the government – an association that is then reinforced through years of grinding repetition.
The second is that the government never teaches children about the root of its power – violence – but instead pretends that it is just another social institution, like a business or a church or a charity, but more moral.
The third is that the prevalence of religion and propaganda has always blinded men to the evils of the government – which is why rulers have always been so interested in furthering the interests of churches and state “education.” In the religious world-view, absolute power is synonymous with perfect virtue, in the form of a deity. In the real political world of men, however, increasing power always means increasing evil. With religion, also, all that happens must be for the good – thus, fighting encroaching political power is fighting the will of the deity. There are many more reasons, of course, but these are among the deepest.
At the beginning of this section, I mentioned that people generally make two errors when confronted with the idea of dissolving the government. The first is the belief that governments are necessary because evil people exist. The second is the belief that, in the absence of governments, any social institutions that arise will inevitably take the place of governments. Thus, Dispute Resolution Organisations (DROs), insurance companies and private security forces are all considered potential cancers that will swell and overwhelm the body politic.
This view arises from the same error outlined above. If all social institutions are constantly trying to grow in power and enforce their wills on others, then by that very argument a centralised government cannot be allowed to exist. If it is an iron law that groups always try to gain power over other groups and individuals, then that power-lust will not end if one of them wins, but will continue to spread across society virtually unopposed until slavery is the norm.
The only way that social institutions can grow into violent monopolies is to offload the costs of enforcement onto their victims. Governments grow endlessly because they can pay tax collectors with a portion of the taxes they collect. The slaves are thus forced to pay for the costs of their enslavement.
In a voluntary society, there would be no taxation, and thus any group wishing to gain monopolistic power would have to fund its army itself, which would never be economically feasible or profitable.
It is very hard to understand the logic and intelligence of the argument that, in order to protect us from a group that might overpower us, we should support a group that already has overpowered us. It is similar to the statist argument about private monopolies – that citizens should create a governmental monopoly because they are afraid of private monopolies. It does not take keen vision to see through such nonsense.
What is the evidence for the view that decentralised and competing powers promotes peace? In other words, are there any facts that we can draw on to support the idea that a balance of power is the only chance that the individual has for freedom?
Organised crime does not provide many good examples, since gangs so regularly corrupt, manipulate and use the power of the government police to enforce their rule, and so such gangs cannot be said to be operating in a state of nature. Also, criminal gangs profit enormously by supplying legally-banned substances or services, and so also flourish largely due to state policies.
A more useful example is the fact that no leader has ever declared war on another leader who possesses nuclear weapons. In the past, when leaders felt themselves immune from personal retaliation, they were more than willing to kill off their own populations by waging war. Now that they are themselves subject to annihilation, they are only willing to attack countries that cannot fight back.
This is an instructive lesson on why such men require disarmed and dependent populations – and a good example of how the fear of reprisal inherent in a balanced system of decentralised and competing powers is the only proven method of securing and maintaining personal liberty.
Fleeing from imaginary devils into the protective prisons of governments only ensures the destruction of the very liberties that make life worth living.
Governments And Religion
The idea that being born creates a contract with a fictional agency, which in practical terms makes you a quasi-slave to specific individuals, is common to both religion and the state – and one other, far more personal agency, which I talk about in my first book “On Truth: The Tyranny Of Illusion.”
Whenever a priest says: “Obey God,” what he is really saying is: “Obey me.” Since God does not exist, any commandment that the priest claims is coming from God, is actually coming from the priest. “God” is just the fictional entity used to bully you conceptually in order to obtain your very practical subservience in the real world, to real individuals, in terms of voluntarily handing over money, time and resources.
It is far more efficient for exploiters to have their slaves consider slavery a virtue, since it cuts down enormously on the costs of controlling them. If I can convince you that it is evil to avoid serving me, and virtuous to be my slave, then I do not need to hire nearly as many thugs to bully, control and steal from you.
Religious and state mythologies, then, are fictions that vastly reduce the costs of controlling populations; they are the lubricant and fuel for the ghastly machinery of institutionalised violence.
Throughout the world, rulers are a very small percentage of the population. How can it be possible for one to two percent of people to control everybody else? There is a certain monopoly on armaments, to be sure, but that monopoly is relatively easy to counter, since most governments make a fortune selling weapons throughout the world.
The sad reality is that people as a whole are enslaved to fictional entities such as nations, gods, cultures – and governments.
Our personal pride would instinctively rebel against a immediate and enforced slavery to another human being – however, we seem to almost revel in slavery to mythology.
Our desire to be good – combined with the thrill of virtue that we get by obeying moral mythologies – has us lining up to willingly hand our resources over to those who claim to represent these mythologies.
One central reason that we know that governments and gods are unnecessary is that they are so effective. We know that most people desperately want to be good because they are so easily controlled by moral theories.
The logic of obedience to mythology is patently foolish. If a priest tells me that I have to obey “God,” this is exactly the same as him telling me that I must obey an entity called “Nog.” Even if I accept that this fictional entity is worthy of eternal obedience, this still in no way would compel me to obey the priest. If I tell you to “obey your heart,” can I then reasonably say: “and I alone speak for your heart”?
Of course not.
When we strip away mythology and fiction from our “interactions” with our rulers, what emerges is a grim, stark and murderously exploitive reality.
Let’s take as an example a very real and present danger: taxation.
I am told that, by virtue of choosing to live in Canada, I owe “the government” more than fifty percent of my income.
Stripped of mythology, what does this really translate to?
In reality, I will wait until the end of time for “the government” to come and pick up its money. Waiting for “the government” to drop by is like wanting to date the concept “femininity.” I may as well try to pay for my dinner with the word “money.”
In reality, when I am told that I must pay my taxes to “the government,” what this actually means is that I must write a check to transfer my money into a particular bank account, which is then accessed by particular individuals. These individuals then have the right to take that money, and spend it as they see fit – these particular individuals thus have complete control over my money.
At no point whatsoever does any such entity as “the government” lift a finger, make a move, open a bank account, or spend a penny. Imagining that a concept called “the government” has the capacity to take or spend your money is exactly the same as waiting for “God” to come and pick you up and take you to church.
Thus the real interaction is that one guy sends me a letter telling me that I owe him money. I have no contract with this guy, and he does not in fact own any of my property, although some other guys wrote a supposed “contract” which claims that he does.
If I do not pay this guy, he will send another guy over to my house to collect the money – plus “interest” and “charges.”
Normally, when a man with a gun comes to my house and demands my money, I have the right to use force to defend myself. In this case, however, because he is in a costume and claims to represent a fictional entity, I am not allowed to use force to defend myself.
Now, if I come to your house tonight dressed as a “high elf of Narnia” and demand the money that you owe to the “Queen of Sorrows,” assuming it is not Halloween, you are allowed to stare at me in amazement, and order me off your property.
If I do not pay the man who comes to take my money, he is allowed to pull out a gun, point it at my chest, and kidnap me – or shoot me if I resist. He can hold me in a tiny cell for year after year, where I will be subjected to the most violent brutality and continual rape, until he chooses to let me go.
Interestingly, if a man legitimately owes me money, I am not allowed to kidnap him and subject him to torture and rape for year after year. Thus taxation utterly violates the UPB framework, since it is the violent transfer of property using the initiation of force.
Stealing, as we have proven, is evil.
Einstein revolutionised physics by claiming – and proving – that the speed of light was constant.
We can revolutionise the world by accepting the claim – and the proof – that stealing is always evil.
Government, Religion, And UPB
When we take the UPB framework and apply it to moral propositions regarding government and religion, some very interesting results occur.
The proposition that is most often used to justify government power is: “the government has the right to take your money.” This, however, is an utterly imprecise and false statement. The “government” does not have the right to take your money, since “the government” is merely a concept, an abstract description for a self-defined group of people. UPB requires a more consistent and objective statement. Since moral rules must be the same for everyone in all places and at all times, we must rephrase the rule in this way:
“Human beings can morally take money from other human beings if they make up a conceptual agency that justifies their actions.”
If we return to Bob and Doug in our little room of moral experimentation, we can very quickly see that this becomes an impossible proposition.
If Bob says to Doug: “I now represent the ideal concept ‘FUBAR,’ which fully justifies me taking your lighter from you. Since you now owe me your lighter, you must hand it over, or I will be compelled to take it from you by force.”
What will Doug’s reaction be? Remember, according to UPB, whatever is valid for Bob must also be valid for Doug. Inevitably, Doug will reply: “Oh yeah? Well I now represent the ideal concept ‘ANTI-FUBAR,’ which fully justifies me retaining possession of my lighter. Since you now have no right to take my lighter, if you try to take it, I will be compelled to defend myself by force.”
As you can see, if Bob has the right to make up imaginary obligations and impose them on Doug, then Doug has the right to make up imaginary obligations and impose them on Bob. Clearly, we immediately end up in a perfect stalemate. If it is morally good to impose made-up obligations on other people, but it is impossible to do it if everyone possesses that ability, then morality becomes impossible. The only way that Bob can impose his made-up obligation on Doug is if Doug refuses to impose his made up obligation on Bob – thus we have a situation where what is moral for one person can only be achieved by the other person acting in an anti-moral manner. Virtue can thus only be enabled by vice, which is impossible – and we have opposing moral rules for two human beings in the same circumstance, which UPB instantly rejects as invalid.
In other words, every imaginary abstract justification for the use of force can be countered by another imaginary abstract justification for the use of force. If I have an imaginary friend that can justify everything I do, then you also can have an imaginary friend that can justify everything you do. Thus neither of us can possess the ability to impose our imaginary obligations on others.
Religion And UPB
The same holds true for religion.
The statement: “You must obey me because God commands it,” must be restated more accurately as: “an entity that I have made up commands you to obey me.” The principle that UPB requires, then, is: “Human beings must impose unchosen positive obligations on others, and justify those obligations according to imaginary entities.”
Here we see the same issues as above. Bob tells Doug: “You must give me your lighter, because my imaginary friend tells you to.” Naturally, Doug replies: “You must not ask me for your lighter, because my imaginary friend forbids you to.” If Bob’s “commandments” are valid, then Doug’s “commandments” are equally valid, and so cancel each other out.
In the same way, if a man claims that his concept called “the government” justifies his theft of my property, then I can claim that my concept called “the anti-government” justifies my retention of my property, and we are both equally “valid” in our justifications.
If this tax collector then claims that his concept called “the government” only justifies his theft of my property, not my retention of it, then we are no further ahead. He can take my thousand dollars, but then I can invoke my concept to “steal” that money back, and his moral theory commands us to spend the rest of eternity handing back and forth the thousand dollars.
UPB And "The Majority"
UPB does not allow for the accumulation of individuals to override or reverse the properties of each individual. Ten lions do not make an elephant, a government, or a god. Ten thousand soldiers might make an “army,” but they cannot reverse gravity, or make murder moral.
Returning one last time to the room of Bob and Doug, let’s introduce “Jane.”
Now that there are three people in the room, we can look at the “majority rule” principle.
If Bob, Doug and Jane take a “vote” on whether or not it is moral to rape Jane, we would all recoil at such an unjust and immoral premise. Clearly, even if Jane were “outvoted,” we would not consider the resulting rape to be transformed into a morally good act.
Well, UPB does not recognise the reality of aggregations, since the “majority” is a mere conceptual tag; it does not exist in reality, any more than “gods” or “governments” do. Thus to claim that the concept of “the majority” has any sort of moral standing is utterly invalid – it is like saying that “the Fatherland” can impregnate a woman, or that one can sit in the word “chair.”
To say that “the majority” has rights or attributes which directly contradict the rights or attributes of any individual also contradicts rational principles, since any conceptual grouping is only validated by the accurate identification of individual characteristics. If I say that “mammals” are warm-blooded living creatures, can I logically include three plastic flamingos in the category “mammal”?
Of course not.
Thus if it is evil for human beings to rape, can I logically create a category called “the majority” and then claim that for these human beings, rape is now morally good?
Of course not.
Can I create a moral rule that says: “the majority should be able to do whatever it wants”?
Of course I can, but it will never be valid or true.
Only individuals act – the “majority” never does. If moral rules can change when a certain number of people get together, then UPB is continually violated.
If it is moral for Bob and Doug to rape Jane because they have “outvoted her,” what happens when Jane’s two friends show up and vote against Bob and Doug’s infernal desires?
Well, suddenly Bob and Doug are the ones outvoted, and rape becomes “evil” for them again.
Nothing substantial has changed in these “outvoting” scenarios, but we have a series of opposing moral rules for the same men – a violation of UPB, and thus invalid.
Rape cannot be good, then evil, then good again, just because a few hands are raised or lowered.
Thus if you think that “majority rule” sounds like a reasonable moral proposition, and a perfectly valid moral theory, then I am afraid you’re going to have to go back to the beginning of this book and start again!
There are other additional proofs that we can bring to bear on the question of universally preferable behaviour.
The Free-Market Economy
A free-market economy is without a doubt the most efficient and wealth-producing method of organising the production and consumption of goods and resources within society. Its material success is without equal in human history, or across the world.
The framework of UPB anticipates, validates and explains the reasons for the material successes of a free market economy.
In theory, a free-market economy is based on the application of a universal theory of property rights. By contrast, communism is based on the explicit rejection of a universal theory of property rights. Since we have proven above that universal property rights is the only valid moral theory, this explains at the most fundamental level why communism is such a disaster, while a free-market economy is so materially productive.
Since human beings do in fact have equal rights of property, any social system which rejects this right is doomed to utter failure – just as any bridge planner who rejects the reality of gravity will never be able to build a bridge that stands.
The Scientific Method
Logic and science are in fact methodologies which exist – along with morality – under the umbrella of UPB. In other words, logic and science are both validated by the framework of UPB.
A central question which needs to be answered is: why is the scientific method infinitely superior to other “methodologies” of knowledge acquisition, such as mysticism?
UPB answers this question.
Since any methodology for knowledge acquisition must be universal, consistent, and independent of time and place, the scientific method meets these requirements, while irrational and subjective mysticism is the exact opposite of these requirements.
One central principle of free market economics is that quality only really results from voluntarism. Coercion, fundamentally, is inefficient – violence always results in poor quality. The old-style Soviet bakeries never carried good bread; a man who beats his wife will never have a happy marriage.
The initiation of the use of force is always counter to any rational moral theory – it is a specific and explicit violation of UPB. Since public schools are funded through the initiation of the use of force, they are a form of forced association, which is a clear violation of the freedom of association validated by UPB.
Since force violates the moral requirement of avoidability – and a lack of avoidability always breeds poor quality – UPB would help us easily predict that public schools would provide education of low quality.
Furthermore, UPB would also have helped us predict that, as more and more force was used in the realm of public education – as taxes, union compulsions and so on escalated – the quality of the education provided would get worse and worse.
This, of course, was – and is – exactly the case.
Before the Scientific Revolution, it was considered inconceivable that the natural world could sustain itself without a conscious and “moral” entity at its centre. The sun rose trailing the chains of a supernatural chariot; the moon was a cold and lonely brother of the sun. Constellations outlined the tales and graves of the gods, and storms stemmed from the rage of demons.
The idea that nature was a self-generating and self-sustaining system was almost unimaginable. The Darwinian revolution, the idea that life was not created, but rather evolved, brought this idea from the material to the biological world.
Before science, at the centre of every complex system lay a virtuous consciousness – without which this system would fly into chaos, and cease to be.
Unfortunately, this “virtuous consciousness” was merely an illusion, to put it most charitably. No such gods existed – all that did exist were the pronouncements of priests. Thus what really lay at the centre was the bias of irrational individuals, who had no idea how mad they really were.
We have yet to apply this same illumination to our conceptions of society – but it is now essential that we do so.
We consider it essential that, at the centre of society, we place a virtuous entity called “the government.” In the absence of this entity, we consider it axiomatic that society will fly into chaos, and cease to be – just as our ancestors considered that, in the absence of gods, the universe itself would fly into chaos, and cease to be.
However, “the government” no more exists than “god” exists.
When we speak of “gods,” we are really talking about “the opinions of priests.”
When we speak of “the government,” we really mean “the violence of a tiny minority.”
The idea of “spontaneous order,” which is well proven in the realms of physics and biology, remains largely inconceivable to us in the realm of society.
However, “governments” are no more needed for the organisation and continuance of society than “gods” are required for the organisation and continuance of the universe.
In fact, just as religions impeded the progress of science, so do governments impede the progress of society. Just as the illusions of religion caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of people throughout history, so have the illusions of government.
Just as the false ethics of religions “justify” all manners of abuse, corruption and violence, so do the false ethics of governments. When we choose to live by fantasy, we inevitably choose destruction, in one form or another.
When we choose to run society according to religious moral mythologies, we end up with wars, violence, repression, abuse, corruption and bottomless hypocrisy.
When we choose to run society according to statist moral mythologies, the results are no different.
We can either choose virtue or compulsion.
We cannot have both.
We can choose to believe that the government is both a necessary and a moral institution. We can choose to believe that, without government, society will collapse into “anarchy,” and the world will dissolve into a war of all against all. We can choose to believe that without the government, there will be no roads, no education, no healthcare, no old-age pensions, no libraries, no protection of property and so on.
Similar superstitions, of course, have retarded the progress of mankind throughout history. The most significant precursor to what UPB reveals about the government is what science revealed about religion.
As science began to practically postulate a universe that could run without a god, all manner of hysterics clamoured that the end of the world was nigh, that society would collapse into “anarchy,” and that civilisation would dissolve into a war of all against all.
Any time a system that justifies power can be conceived of running without that power, all those who profit from the manipulation of that power cry out that without them, all is lost.
Priests did this during the onset of the scientific revolution. Without God, life has no meaning. Without God, man has no morality. Without God, our souls cannot be saved. Without God, the world will descend into chaos and evil.
None of it turned out to be true, of course. In fact, quite the reverse turned out to be true. The end of religion as the dominant world-view paved the way for the separation of church and state, the end of the aristocracy, the rise of the free market, the establishment of many human liberties in significant areas of the world.
The fall of God was the rise of mankind.
In the same way, when we begin see society as the early scientists saw the universe – as a self-sustaining system without the need for an imaginary central authority – then we can truly begin to perceive the possibilities of freedom for mankind.
The establishment of a central and coercive monopoly in society perpetually retards the progress of knowledge, of wisdom, of virtue, of physical and mental health – just as the establishment of a central and coercive monopoly in the universe perpetually retarded the progress of knowledge, of wisdom, and science.
The way to oppose imaginary entities is with relentless truth. The way to oppose God is with reason, evidence and science.
The way to oppose the state – the most dangerous imaginary entity – is with reason, evidence and science.
Whether we like it or not, UPB applies to everything that we do. Human beings have a natural tendency towards consistency, since we are beings with a rational consciousness, inhabiting a consistent and rational universe. Thus whatever premises we accept in our lives tend to compel more and more consistent behaviour throughout our lives – and throughout the “life” of our culture or nation as well.
Thus a man who believes that bullying is a good way to get what he wants tends to bully more and more over the course of his lifetime. A man who believes that violence is good tends to become more and more violent.
In other words, UPB demands consistency even in inconsistency. UPB demands uniformity even in immorality.
The root moral premises of a culture thus dictate its inevitable future. A culture built on justifications for coercion will always become more coercive. A culture built on rational liberty will always become less coercive.
That is why the delineation of a rational framework for ethics is so essential.
What we believe is what we become.
If we believe lies, we shall become slaves.
- This inevitably ends up with comparisons to those who said that Einsteinian physics was impossible, that the world could not be round and so on. Uncertainty in content – i.e. theory – is somehow supposed to be equated with uncertainty in methodology, i.e. reason and evidence. The fact that a mathematical theorem can be disproved does not disprove the principles of mathematics, but rather confirms them.
- Let’s not even get started on the logical nightmare of the truth value contained in the statement “error equals truth.”
- This argument tends also not to work very well with maths teachers – I have never seen a student successfully argue that an incorrect answer may be correct in another universe, and so it is unjust to mark it as wrong.
- See Practical Anarchy.
- See Federal Reserve.
- A perfect balance of good and evil is practically impossible.
- This is the current situation in democracies, of course.
- See Plato’s Republic.
- Probably more, since evil people are always drawn to power.
- For a more detailed discussion of the role that parents play in inculcating the fantasy that “power equals virtue,” see On Truth.
- See War, profit, and the state