Human beings are a tribal species, and like most of the lower species on this planet, they prefer to travel in herds. Truly free thinkers have always been a desperate minority, and it has been the unfortunate destiny of such individuals to periodically carry the world forward on their backs, often having to apologize for their discoveries, recant their theories under torture, or have their earnings plundered by their inferiors. In a world culture based on the nonsensical concept that all men are created equal, these individuals have broken from the herd in their thinking, transcended commonly accepted “truths” and challenged the orthodoxy of the day. Their discoveries and powers of production have done exponentially more to raise the standard of living the world over than the efforts of all the hand-wringing social planners of the planet combined. The politicians of the world would have nothing to redistribute were it not for the outstanding minds and abilities of these scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs. To say that these persons are only the equals of the hordes who benefit from their exceptional minds can only be called the triumph of ideology over reality.The breeding ground of all innovation is freedom; the freedom to challenge the unassailable, to think the unthinkable, to doubt the cherished myths of the culture, and should one be successful, the freedom to keep as one’s own property the product of one’s efforts. One of the greatest myths of all time is that the purpose of our life is to live for others, a belief that runs counter to both rationality and reality. A basic axiom of all conscious existence is that we must work to assure our own survival, and that in the case of man, survival is obtained by the use of our mind. When the existence of lower species is threatened by some force of Nature, instinct requires fight or flight, and many or most die in the process. Man, on the other hand uses his mind to understand and harness the forces of Nature, to bend those forces to his will. In the process he has gone from being one of the weakest and most vulnerable of species to exercising a fundamental control of all of Nature, with the possible exception of viruses. Like most other species, humans are hardwired to compete with each other for dominance, to seek power within the herd just for the sake of that power, and also to compete sexually. It stil matters who obtains the favors of the female and succeeds reproductively. Again, like other species, the male of the human species will strut “his stuff” to show his desireability. One of the most seductive blandishments of a human male is the demonstration of power over others in the herd. As Henry Kissinger is famously known to have said, there is no greater aphrodisiac than power. This explains a great many phenomena such as why guys with expensive cars get laid more often; men with power or wealth, or even the mere appearance of such attract females much younger than themselves; why even physically homely rock stars attract hordes of beautiful, adoring women. It also explains a great deal of consumerism, or the need to constantly acquire new toys; the appearance of wealth and power is usually just as effective a means of displaying one’s standing in the herd as the reality of them. Much of Nature is based on camouflage and deception in order to succeed at reproduction.
There are essentially two ways to compete in the acquisition of power and assets: one is to create value through innovation and production, and the other is to plunder the values created by others. The more free a society is, meaning the more likely an individual is free to think for himself, without coercion, and the more free s/he is to keep the product of his efforts, the greater the aggregate innovation and productivity of that society, or herd, as a whole. In other words, more freedom and less plunder equals prosperity. One has only to look at third world petty dictatorships to see the net result of a herd dominated by plunder by their own petty chieftains; anyone with ‘Get-Up-and-Go’ in their tribe has gotten up and gone. Your best minds will go where they are more likely to be able to keep the fruits of their labor. Incredibly, your greatest minds are “selfish”. They want to keep what they have earned, and they want control over its disposition. If they are charitably inclined, they want to decide on the worthiness of potential recipients of their largesse, and they resent expropriation of their earnings by any gang of power lusters who seek control of the producers in their society. They see no need to apologize for their success, nor do they feel morally obligated to expiate unearned guilt by giving away their wealth. If they are as accomplished at the art of philosophical introspection as they are at physical creation of value, they understand that theirs is the only moral form of economic activity and for which no apology is required.
As far as the plunderers are concerned, there are only two basic types, and both types rely exclusively on one source of power: the power of a gun. The first type are the dictators of the world, who make no pretense at their goals and their methods. They exterminate anything and anyone in their path. They often make feeble efforts at philosophical or theological justifications for their power lust, but they generally achieve their rise to power due to physical intimidation and violence, and the general vapidity of humans in a herd. Inexplicably, humans in the face of mortal threats to their freedom and very existence, often react like a doe in the headlights of an approaching vehicle. They freeze up and in many cases pay the price of their own destruction. Just as often, a herd population will endorse a potential dictator because they support the use of his strongarm methods to achieve goals of their own. This is why in modern societies, the rise to power of some autocrat or other is frequently and enthusiastically applauded by intellectuals and journalists who see themselves as part of the power structure of the new regime, or they see this regime change as an opportunity to impose on the general population ideologically-based imperatives that would otherwise be rejected in a free society. It rarely occurs to these people that the tyrants they put in power have no regard for life or property of anyone, including their own supporters. Without a rule of law, everyone is at risk, and the new tyrants are quick to turn against their own supporters as potential threats to their power.
The second type of plunder is through democracy. The real challenge of political philosophy is not to make the world safe for democracy, but to make the world safe from democracy. Democracy is nothing more than a euphemism for mob rule or gang warfare. The majority rules. Period. As NY Times columnist Russell Baker once said, ‘I despise the implied assumption of all minorities that if the tables were turned, they would be different.’ If you didn’t get that statement, read it again and think about it for a moment. All minorities, meaning any group of any description whatsoever, chafes at the restrictions and limitations imposed on them by their majority rulers. Their only recourse is to work at undermining the power structure of the powers that be in order to supplant the dominant party by their own. One group, or gang, is pitted against the others. Whenever a minority achieves its objective and comes into power, they immediately seek to use the levers of government power at their disposal to reverse their fortunes, and now impose their cherished values on the new dissenters. Even in a democracy, the ultimate power is the power of a gun. Each faction seeks control over the legislative process, first to perpetuate their own power base and maintain control of the public purse, and the penalty for noncompliance with new laws is inevitably fines, imprisonment, or worse. In the United States, our system and our prisons are overflowing with the abuse of elected power.
In a democratic society, as in all of Nature, camouflage and deception are the norm. One’s real goals can never be stated. All controversial legislation is ALWAYS framed in humanitarian terms, in order to cast the opposition as selfish, ruthless, egotistical, or worse. Moral high ground is always sought as the ultimate mask in any ideological struggle, ending with each side out-shouting the other in their professions of love, compassion, and self-sacrifice. Not the self-sacrifice of the power-lusters, but your self-sacrifice. Power mongers are notorious for creating exceptions for themselves in the sacrifice business. Almost all populism falls into this category; it panders to the greed and ignorance of the masses. Not understanding the creation of wealth, and envious of those who have more than they, however earned, the masses enthusiastically support any legislation to “soak the rich”. In their eagerness to pick the pockets of those above them on the socio-economic ladder, they forget there are many below them just as eager to pick their pockets. So a fundamental question is, Who gets to pick the pockets of others? And who gets to be the victims? The mob will rule. So a few years ago, in an effort to expropriate more of the wealth of the producers, legislation was passed at the federal level called Alternative Minimum Tax, which was designed to make the wealthy pay more taxes regardless of their legitimate deductions. In other words, individuals above a certain income level were to be denied tax deductions that were legal for everyone else, in order to make them pay more taxes. That was an example of populist legislation, since there are a lot less rich voters than those not rich. The legislation appealed to the greed of the masses. The middle and lower classes were more than happy to pick the pockets of the higher-ups in order to pay for their pet entitlement programs. Why not? But the legislation backfired because in the next few years the incomes of large numbers of the middle class grew so much, by inflation or otherwise, and threw them into the ranks of the “rich”. Hey, they had never approved the picking of their own pockets; AMT was designed to pick the pockets of others! The politicians hastily threw together new legislation revising the AMT to relieve these screaming voters.
Free societies regularly and incrementally vote themselves into slavery. In the beginning they always believe they are merely imposing their own “appropriate” and “moral” and “unimpeachable” objectives on an unenlightened society; the giving away of freedom is always preceded by an arrrogance and elitism of the few who feel compelled to fix the world and tell everyone else how to live their life, and to overrule any disagreement with the power of the government’s gun. No one is safe in any so-called free, democratic society, unless there is a firm rule of law, beginning with a Constitution limiting the power of the government and its voters. It means there are some rights, individual rights, that can never be voted away by any majority, no matter how wildly popular with the masses. The masses of voters are a herd, and they are educated by popular television, and can easily be induced to run off a cliff to their own destruction. The media are largely indoctrinated by the universities, which are heavily influenced by an intelligentsia that favors collectivism, altruism, and government control of the masses. Markets are also subject to herd mentality, and when they run off a cliff, the government usually steps in and says Step aside, we can do this better. They then create the virus of the next financial pandemic, and in the process accrue and consolidate power over more and more of the subject population and its economic activities. Rarely is freedom lost all at once. That’s all for today. John Bechtel, Greenville, SC