Affirmative Action Penalizes The Rational

When I discuss the injustice of affirmative action programs, some will retort that such programs are necessary because not everyone is as rational as I am. The assertion seems to be that there are people out there who will make decisions on school admissions or job hiring based on racial discrimination, so the affirmative action programs are necessary to counter-act that.

But, do affirmative action programs in hiring and educational admissions encourage or discourage rationality? In actuality, they discourage people from acting rationally by destroying the benefit of behaving rationally.

First, I will start with some definitions:

Affirmative action– are policies by private employers, government employers, or universities in which individuals are admitted or hired over more-qualified persons because of the less qualified individual’s race.

Rationality– is the act of conforming one’s actions to the goal of promoting and sustaining one’s life. Such conformance of one’s actions to that goal requires one to recognize the facts of reality and then act accordingly. Reality, to be commanded, must be obeyed. Ayn Rand summed up the purpose of rationality:

My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these. To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge…These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.” Galt’s Speach, _For The New Intellectual_ Pg. 128,

Justice– is the virtue of judging people in accordance with a rational standard and then treating them accordingly. For example, in a fully free society, a criminal is put in jail because he is judged to have violated the rights of some other person to live and act in accordance with their rational thinking. The criminal is put in jail to restrain him from violating the rights of others going forward into the future. An employer hires the most productive employee he can at a given wage because such an employee will maximize the profitability of his business. The profitability of his business is the rational standard by which the employer judges employees. His act of hiring the most productive employee is treating someone in accordance with that standard.

The best way to see that affirmative action programs discourage rational behavior is by looking at some concrete examples:

(1) Affirmative action in college admissions. There are a limited number of spots for students in each freshman class per year. Affirmative action means a less qualified student will be admitted over a more-qualified student based on the less qualified student’s race. This isn’t necessarily a less-qualified non-white being admitted over a white in the United States. Asians would probably have greater admissions rates at some universities if affirmative action were done away with -which I am fine with. If they are the ones that have the best grades and SAT scores, then they are the ones that deserve to be there.

Such race-based admissions mean students and their parents are going to be forced to pay for universities through their taxes, and then their children are going to be denied admission based on their race, even though they have studied harder and done things to cultivate their rationality and expand their knowledge. (Leaving aside the fact that many public schools often seem to do the opposite of encouraging knowledge and rationality in their students.)

Students that are more rational will be penalized in favor of students that are less rational. Furthermore, to the extent a four-year degree is required to obtain a professional license for many areas of work, such as lawyers and doctors, those of us in the public will be forced to use the services of less-qualified minority doctors and lawyers who were admitted not because they were the most intelligent or qualified to work in those professions, but because of their race. This means our rational choice as consumers of things like medical services and legal services is thwarted by affirmative action programs in university admissions.

(2) Affirmative action in hiring. This involves a business hiring or retaining a less-qualified employee over another more-qualified employee based on the less qualified employee’s race. Since any one employer only has a set number of employees at a time, it means some people who are harder-working, more diligent, more productive, and, in a word, more rational, will be excluded from employment based on their race.

This doesn’t just hurt the employee who was not hired, but should have been hired if the business went on the basis of productivity of employees exclusively. Business customers will receive a sub-standard product over what they could have had. Investors in the business will receive a lower return on their investment than they could have obtained. Managers at the business who insist on hiring on the basis of productive ability, i.e., the more rational managers, will be penalized for doing so. The affirmative action program in hiring penalizes rationality and rewards irrationality.

Furthermore, if the business is a government contractor producing goods and services for governmental functions, then the taxpayers are being forced to not only pay taxes, but to pay taxes to employ people who are less competent at their jobs than other job candidates, and getting a substandard product in return. A funny consequence of affirmative action programs would be some of the employees at the United States Post Office. A less funny example would be what happens when less qualified people work on things like military equipment, where the lives of soldiers are at stake, as well as the ability of our country to defend itself from enemy attack. Our free and good society’s very existence is put at risk by affirmative action programs in military equipment contracts. Our continued ability to exercise our freedoms and liberties guaranteed under the constitution is contingent on our military’s ability to protect us from invasion by people who would not respect our right to be rational. Affirmative action programs in defense contracts are therefore a huge threat to those of us who want to be rational in order to sustain and maintain our lives.

If you look around, you can see other examples of treating less qualified people better than they deserve because of their race. Some are more subtle than the above and get into complex social dynamics. For instance, what happens when you invite someone to a party because of their race –you don’t want to be perceived as racist- but they are an obnoxious boor? I won’t go through the details, but the party is less fun.

These examples illustrate my overall point. Affirmative action programs discourage and penalize rationality. To claim that affirmative action programs are necessary because “everyone isn’t rational” is the opposite of the truth. In reality, affirmative action programs destroy incentives to be rational because they destroy the principle of justice -of judging people in accordance with a rational standard and then treating them accordingly.

The Left Is Making A “Mountain Out of a Molehill” Regarding Neo-Nazism

My Facebook feed is currently full of people declaring their opposition to National Socialism (Nazism). This is presumably arising out of the rioting and protests currently going on in Charlottesville, Virginia.

To me, this is like declaring your opposition to people who go around randomly shooting strangers for no reason, or just for the thrill of it. The number of people that engage in thrill killing is incredibly small. Furthermore, there is zero academic, cultural, or media support for thrill killing.

The same is largely true of National Socialism or white supremacy ideas in general. If you include white supremacists with all National Socialists, I think they are an incredibly small number of people. Furthermore, in modern America, National Socialism and white supremacist ideas have no academic, cultural, or media support. There are no university professors advocating National Socialism, and there are no major or local newspapers advocating it.

So why all of the opposition on Facebook to something that, like thrill killing, has no political, moral, or social legitimacy, and is not likely to become a political force in America? There are probably a variety of reasons. I have a few theories, all of which, I admit, are just theories. Partly it may be “virtue signaling”, although publicly proclaiming your opposition to Nazism doesn’t take that much courage, because no one is likely to disagree with you. Part of it may be because the left has so completely conflated Donald Trump and his supporters with Hitler and Nazism, that they can see no difference. In which case, they need to study the history of Germany more. A more ominous possibility is that the left wants to use the activities of an extremely fringe group -neo-Nazi’s and white supremacists- to advance their own political agenda of things like more injustices in the form of affirmative action programs and racial quotas in jobs and university admissions. The left may use the activities of a very small and unimportant group of people, white supremacists, to push for more government power, especially more Federal Government power, in an effort to further erode Federalism and the Constitution.

Hume, Rand, and The “Is-Ought Problem”

I want to take a look at a well-known assertion regarding ethics, or the foundations of ethics, made by philosopher David Hume. It is presented as a sort of “problem”, that seems fairly intractable for those of us who are secularist, and also assert that there are certain “shoulds” or principles of morality that one should follow. This is David Hume’s “Is-Ought Problem”. After I look at what Hume said, I will compare his approach on this subject to that taken by Ayn Rand. My goal is to show why I think the logic of her philosophy would largely regard the “is-ought gap” as a product of Hume’s mistaken view of both reason and his misunderstanding of the fact that the rational IS the moral and the moral IS the rational.

Hume says:

In every system of morality, which I have hitherto met with, I have always remarked, that the author proceeds for some time in the ordinary way of reasoning, and establishes the being of a God, or makes observations concerning human affairs; when of a sudden I am surprised to find, that instead of the usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not, I meet with no proposition that is not connected with an ought, or an ought not. This change is imperceptible; but is however, of the last consequence. For as this ought, or ought not, expresses some new relation or affirmation, ’tis necessary that it should be observed and explained; and at the same time that a reason should be given, for what seems altogether inconceivable, how this new relation can be a deduction from others, which are entirely different from it. But as authors do not commonly use this precaution, I shall presume to recommend it to the readers; and am persuaded, that this small attention would subvert all the vulgar systems of morality, and let us see, that the distinction of vice and virtue is not founded merely on the relations of objects, nor is perceived by reason.” (Book III “Of Morals”, part I “Of Virtue and Vice In General”, section I “Moral Distinctions Not Derived From Reason”, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739))

In essence, Hume says morality is not based in what he calls “reason”. What is “reason” for Hume?:

Those who affirm that virtue is nothing but a conformity to reason; that there are eternal fitnesses and unfitnesses of things, which are the same to every rational being that considers them; that the immutable measures of right and wrong impose an obligation, not only on human creatures, but also on the Deity himself: All these systems concur in the opinion, that morality, like truth, is discerned merely by ideas, and by their juxta-position and comparison.” (Book III “Of Morals”, part I “Of Virtue and Vice In General”, section I “Moral Distinctions Not Derived From Reason”, A Treatise of Human Nature (1739))

Lets contrast this view “morality” and “reason” with the same concepts of Ayn Rand:

If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man’s only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a “moral commandment” is a contradiction in terms. The moral is the chosen, not the forced; the understood, not the obeyed. The moral is the rational, and reason accepts no commandments. My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these.

To live, man must hold three things as the supreme and ruling values of his life: Reason—Purpose—Self-esteem. Reason, as his only tool of knowledge—Purpose, as his choice of the happiness which that tool must proceed to achieve—Self-esteem, as his inviolate certainty that his mind is competent to think and his person is worthy of happiness, which means: is worthy of living. These three values imply and require all of man’s virtues, and all his virtues pertain to the relation of existence and consciousness: rationality, independence, integrity, honesty, justice, productiveness, pride.” (Galt’s Speach, emphasis added, For the New Intellectual, pg. 128,

So, I think that Rand would say in response to Hume:

You say that we cannot find an “ought” from an “is”, where an “is” is based in “…the ordinary way of reasoning…” that an “ought” is not “…founded merely on the relations of objects nor is perceived by reason…”. But, WHY do you make the “…usual copulations of propositions, is, and is not…”? WHY do you make is-statements at all? In other words, to what END do you aim when you REASON (make “is statements” based on your observation and thinking)? Hume makes a distinction between REASON on the one hand (so-called “usual copulations of propositions, is and is not”) and moral directives. But, he never discusses WHY one should reason at all? What is the “reason for reasoning”?

To recap, Ayn Rand says:

If I were to speak your kind of language, I would say that man’s only moral commandment is: Thou shalt think. But a ‘moral commandment’ is a contradiction in terms…My morality, the morality of reason, is contained in a single axiom: existence exists—and in a single choice: to live. The rest proceeds from these….” (Galt’s Speach, For the New Intellectual, pg. 128,

In other words, as I see it, the difference between Rand and Hume on this point is Rand doesn’t just ASSUME that one should go about reasoning -making “is-statements” as a sort of axiom. She says: IF you want to live, THEN you must recognize reality, which is what it is, regardless of human choice to the contrary. Similarly, Rand asks why you should follow ANY “oughts” at all?:

The proper approach to ethics, the start from a metaphysically clean slate, untainted by any touch of Kantianism, can best be illustrated by the following story. In answer to a man who was telling her that she’s got to do something or other, a wise old Negro woman said: ‘Mister, there’s nothing I’ve got to do except die.’…Reality confronts man with a great many ‘musts,’ but all of them are conditional; the formula of realistic necessity is: ‘You must, if—‘ and the ‘if’ stands for man’s choice: ‘—if you want to achieve a certain goal.’ You must eat, if you want to survive. You must work, if you want to eat. You must think, if you want to work. You must look at reality, if you want to think—if you want to know what to do—if you want to know what goals to choose—if you want to know how to achieve them.” (“Causality versus Duty”, Philosophy Who Needs It, emphasis added,

For Rand, the concept of “ought” or “should” or “must” only makes sense IF you ultimately CHOOSE to live. For Rand, both an “IS” statement and an “OUGHT” statement only makes sense if you’ve chosen to live. An “is” without the choice to live is purposeless, and an “ought” without the choice to live is unintelligible. I think that for Rand, the distinction between “IS” and “OUGHT” is not so great. Every “it is” implies an “I should”, IF you want to live. For instance: “Certain strains of fungus kill bacteria” (An “it is”.) Implies “I must try to isolate the substances involved to cure human diseases.” (An “I should.” or “I ought”.) “Plants grow more when they’ve received certain chemical substances in their soil” (An “it is”). I must put these chemicals, called fertilizer, into the soil to increase my crop yields” (An “I should” or “I ought”.)

For Rand, the only “oughts” are those that are based in the choice to live and the nature of reality. Any “oughts” not based in this are to be swept aside. Therefore, most of the “oughts” found in the Bible, are either to be rejected, or only accepted within certain contexts. “Though shalt not steal.” Becomes “Don’t violate the property rights of others.” But, this doesn’t mean you cannot take the property of another in an emergency situation so long as you can recompense them. This is because the “ought” of “respect for property rights” is, like all “oughts” based in the choice to live and the particular facts confronting you in reality.

Hume, and others, get into trouble because they accept “systems of morality” that have innumerable oughts not based in the axiom of “existence exists” and the choice to live. Some religions have ridiculous dietary restrictions that have no basis in principles of health or nutrition -or at least do not in modern times with modern food handling techniques. (Keeping Kosher, or not eating pork.) Some religions have restrictions on what kind of clothing women can wear. (Muslims require women to wear head covers or full-body covers, despite the fact that the Middle East is mostly a hot arid desert, and we have sunscreen today.) One of the Ten Commandments says “Honor your mother and father,” and makes no exception for being raised by psychotic narcissist. All of these “oughts” have no basis in the needs of man’s life, and, rather than simply brushing them aside, or delimiting them to certain factual contexts, Hume and others try to find “is statements” that can justify these commandments from some supernatural realm. This is where I think they get into trouble. They have a mental habit or “mind-set” of assuming we should have morality while never asking why be moral at all? Then that mind-set is combined with the post-Enlightenment mental habit of wanting to be rational and reality-oriented, and that gets them into trouble.

An example of this is someone I used to know who was quite sincerely interested in Ayn Rand’s philosophy, but he had real trouble with her ethics. He had been a fundamentalist Christian in his younger years, but subsequently had become an atheist in young-adulthood. He would find the following statement by Rand very problematic as a result:

Man must choose his actions, values and goals by the standard of that which is proper to man—in order to achieve, maintain, fulfill and enjoy that ultimate value, that end in itself, which is his own life.” (“The Objectivist Ethics”, emphasis added, The Virtue of Selfishness, )

He routinely asked questions like: “But why is life the *ultimate* value?” He could see that it was “a” value, but not the “ultimate value”. He decided that propagating your genes was the actual “ultimate value” and that your life was just your “penultimate value” -the value that you achieve in order to achieve the goal of reproduction. The reason I think he found the idea of gene propagation more satisfactory was because he could see that genes are these sort of small “information vehicles”, and he thought, at least on a sub-conscious level:

“Ah ha! Here is my ‘secular commandment’. Here, at last, is something that I am being commanded to do -by my genes. They are saying: ‘Though shalt reproduce.’”

The remnants of his fundamentalist Christian “mindset” found this very satisfying. Of course, he never asked, if he does find a ‘commandment’, it doesn’t answer the question of *why* he ‘should’ follow the commandment. He would then need an “ought statement” that tells him he is supposed to follow the commandment -as opposed to ignoring it.

The choice to live is a ‘basic choice’, but it’s a choice, not a commandment. *If* you choose to live, then you must do certain things because of the nature of reality. If you don’t want to live, then there’s nothing in particular that you have to do. Furthermore, it’s “either-or”: Either you want to live, or…you don’t. There is no in-between -at least for those who want to live.

My theory on Hume is this: He was a post-Newton Enlightenment thinker. He respected reason and observation, but he was still a Christian when it came to his system of morality. He found certain moral principles to be very emotionally satisfying. He couldn’t justify his morality by anything he observed in reality or any reasoning from such observation. But, he never thought to ask: “Why do I reason?” Without the basic choice to live, reasoning serves no purpose. Once this is understood, then all principles of action that are not based in the choice to live and the nature of reality can be mentally swept aside. At that point the concept of “morality” is salvaged and converted to a completely secular format: Reason as a fundamental *ethical* principle, or guide to action, the purpose of which is the choice to live.

Three Views of The Concept of “Individual Rights”

There are essentially two views on individual rights today:

(1) They are provided by positive law, by a majority or super-majority. So, for instance, you have rights because a super-majority of people ratified the Constitution and that is respected down to today.

(2) They are based in some sort of “transcendent morality”. Provided by god or something like that. Without a supreme being there would be no rights.

Group 2 will criticize group 1 by saying that they don’t actaully advocate rights since they are just permissions granted by a majority (or super-majority) of people. Group 1 will criticize group 2 by saying that there is no scientific evidence for this “transcendent morality” that supposedly establishes rights.

The criticism that both of these groups make of the other has some merit. Since there is no evidence of god and it must be accepted on faith, which is nothing more than somebody’s feelings, then this view of rights seems to have no basis other than in one’s feelings. If rights have no basis other than in the majority’s feelings, then they are only necessary so long as the majority feels that way.

Ayn Rand proposed a different approach. She presents rights as an aspect of her overall system of morality. Moral principles are essential according to Rand because: (1) “Existence exists”. In other words reality is what it is, and has a certain nature. (2) Human beings also have a certain nature, and *if* they want to live, they need to take certain actions. (Grow crops, hunt for animals, build shelter, make clothing, etc.) Human beings must adopt certain “mental strategies” or “guides to action” that will generally lead them to obtain the things they need to live. These “guides to action” are necessary because the human mind has trouble dealing with numerous concrete things in reality without tying them together mentally and recognizing that they are sufficiently similar to other concrete things to be treated the same. For instance, if you have no concept of, “tiger”, then you will treat every such animal you encounter as behaviorally and physically unrelated to the previous tigers you’ve encountered, and you will fail to recognize the benefits and dangers of being around such an animal, and will tend not to deal with tigers succesfully.

Such “mental strategies” or “guides to action” can be called “virtues”. The dictionary has various definitions of “virtue”, but the closest one to what is meant here is “a good or useful quality of a thing.” A human being has a “good or useful quality” if he adopts these guides to action because they will help him to live. For instance, human beings must judge others to determine if they are a benefit or a danger to their survival. This is the virtue (the guide to action) of justice. Human beings must generally refrain from lying when dealing with others in order to maintain their trust so that they will want to deal with them in the future. (This is the principle/virtue of honesty.) Human beings must act in accordance with these principles because simply holding them as ideals without taking action in accordance with them will cause your mind to slowly become disconnected from reality and will make rational thought more difficult. (The principle/virtue of integrity.)

Similarly, the principle of “individual rights” is a guide to action when dealing with other human beings. Since other human beings can be assumed to want to live just as much as you do, then you must give them an “initial presumption” that they will take action to maintain their lives. They will produce the material values necessary for their survival -property. Just as you must not have your property taken from you by means of physical force without your permission, so must they. As such, you must adopt a sort of baseline guide to action when dealing with all other human beings. This is the principle of individual rights, and the specific right that encompases property is the right to private property. (More generally, all rights are subsumed under “the right to life”, which means the right to live the life of a rational being.) If individual human beings are going to live in a social environment and gain the benefits of living together, they must have their individual rights respected:

“‘Rights’ are a moral concept — the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others — the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context — the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.” (Man’s Rights, by Ayn Rand)

As an aside, the concept of “government” comes in because there is a temptation to “cheat”, and violate the rights of others while hoping that they will still respect yours. For instance, there is the temptation to rob someone at gunpoint and take their property, or just to pilfer it while they aren’t looking. If you are suspected of this, though, then others will use force in retaliation to stop your initial use of force. Government helps keep people honest by promulgating a list of prohibited acts that are widely-recognized as rights violations. Additionally, it isn’t always easy for others to tell who the aggressor is and who the victim is in a given situation. For instance, if you come upon someone with a gun held on him, is he the victim or the aggressor? Perhaps the person holding the gun on him was just robbed, but perhaps he is the robber? Government is created to provide for an orderly protection of individual rights by a recognized central authority that everybody generally trusts to be a rights-protector.

Going back to where we started: How is this view of individual rights different from groups 1 and 2? Both group 1 and 2 tend to present the concept of “rights” as something that is “nice to have”, but as unessential to the task of living one’s life. Both group 1 and 2 tend to think that a working social order is somehow possible even without respect for individual rights. They generally see rights as “altruistic” -a restraint from complete self-interest. Group 2 says rights are a gift from god, but if they are violated by persons here on Earth, there won’t be any consequences for doing so. (You might go to hell when you die, is all.) Group 1 says that the majority of people just feel that rights are nice to have, but think that a functioning society is possible without rights, and might even be more “efficient”. Ayn Rand says that “society” is nothing more than a number of individuals, and if the individual cannot live in society, then there can be no society. Ayn Rand’s concept of individual rights holds that they are necessary for the individual person to live in a social context, and that that “society” is only good to the extent that it is beneficial for the individual to live in it.

In essence, both groups today are partly right and partly wrong. Group 2 is right that group 1 seems to have no basis for rights other than the whim of the majority. Rand’s conception of rights isn’t “whim”, but the “law of nature”, i.e., the law of identity. Human beings are what they are -they have a certain nature. If they are going to live in a social environment, then others must respect their life and property by refraining from the use of force “as an initial matter”. I say “as an initial matter” because once a specific individual has demonstrated with a sufficient level of certainty that he will not refrain from the use of force to deprive others of their life or property, then force can and should be used in retaliation.

A society that tends not to respect rights will not exist for long because the individuals that comprise it cannot survive. Rights have a functional basis in the facts of reality.

Group 1’s criticisms of Group 2 has merit insofar as group 2 can present no evidence for their “transcendent” basis for individual rights. I’d also note that regardless of whether Group 2 is right about the existence of god, if they believe that reality has a certain nature, and to the extent that they want to live, then Rand’s conception of rights should also be persuasive to them, and can form the basic intellectual foundation upon which a government can be constructed, regardless of whether we all agree about the existence of a creator.

“Intermediates: A Cuckoo For Mankind” by D.W. Cook

They co-evolved with us. They are unknown to mankind, and have our external physical appearance, with one difference: They phase from one gender to the other, as part of their reproductive cycle, seducing unwitting humans of both genders. Their continued survival as a species depends on taking their offspring from duped human mothers and in regarding mankind as a useful tool. They call themselves “Intermediates”.

Zygote Wrangle Down In Texas: A Novellette

When Toby and Laura decided that only one of them wanted children, divorce seemed like the only answer. But, current technology provided another solution. Toby’s older and old-fashioned sister, Jennie, never liked it. Ten years later, Laura’s career has changed, bringing her closer to her husband -but can Jennie accept the change when she barely accepted their decision to separate marriage from parenthood in the first place? (About 16,000 words.)


Judging Men

Hugh looked up the length of the pipe. From his position, it really could be considered “up” because centripetal acceleration was at a maximum here. The pipe was a uniform two meters in diameter, and it ran from where he stood, on the inside of the outermost wall of the crew habitat, all the way to the engine. The crew habitat of the interplanetary space ship Maine was like a large, circular bicycle wheel with a long metal cylinder, about a fourth its diameter, running through and perpendicular to its center. The crew habitat spun relative to the cylinder, which was the unmanned, fusion-powered engine of the Maine. One end of the pipe Hugh was in terminated when it reached the engine cylinder. The other end of the pipe terminated in the irsing door that Hugh currently stood on. When the Maine was in “dry-dock” for engine repairs, and the crew habitat wasn’t spinning, the pipe could give quick access to an entry hatch on the engine. When the crew habitat was spinning relative to the engine, the entry hatch could periodically be seen by an observer inside the pipe as it passed over the hatch, but it would be impossible to open in the short time it was in proper position.

While the ship was traveling in space, the pipe Hugh was in served a less glamorous function. All along the pipe were small openings that allowed the material collected from the ship’s human-waste-removal units to empty into it. Centrifugal force and air pressure than forced the waste material towards the irising door, which was periodically opened to empty the material into space. It was Hugh’s job to see to it that the tunnel remained clear of obstructions and clogs. Every Tuesday, Hugh would clean a different section of the pipe, 15 meters ahead of the section he had cleaned the previous week. By custom, all of the apprentices on ship were supposed to take turns at this weekly duty, but the Junior Crewman in charge of making the duty roster each week had decided that Hugh would always clean the pipe. The J.C. had a grudge against Hugh because his father had once been laid off by the company Hugh’s father used to own, before the Chinese Prosperity Alliance Space Expeditionary Force had annexed the Earth’s moon and nationalized all non-C.P.A.-owned businesses.

(Read More: judgingMen-2017)

Faith and Force Revisited

In 1960, Ayn Rand published an essay called “Faith and Force: The Destroyers of the Modern World”. At some point around 1995, I read the essay in a book called “Philosophy: Who Needs It”. It asserted that “faith and force are corollaries”:

“I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible. Why do we kill wild animals in the jungle? Because no other way of dealing with them is open to us. And that is the state to which mysticism reduced mankind –a state where, in case of disagreement, men have no recourse except to physical violence. And more: no man or mystical elite can hold a whole society subjugated to their arbitrary assertions, edicts and whims, without the use of force. Anyone who resorts to the formula: ‘It’s so, because I say so,’ will have to reach for a gun sooner or later.” (

I suspect the essay was likely written more as a response to Communism, since Rand regarded the philosophy of “materialism” as “neo-mysticism”. However, the essay applies equally to major world religions, which is what I want to focus on here. (We can leave aside the issue of whether Rand’s description of materialism as neo-mysticism is true or false here.)

In 1995, I found this essay to be very powerful. It made a mental connection for me that I had never even considered. (This often happened when I read Rand.) This connection later gave me a perspective on the events of September 11, 2001 that I have carried forward to today.

What I would like to do now is provide additional context to the following generalization: Faith and force are corollaries, and mysticism, when adopted by enough people, will always lead to the ‘rule of brutality’. (If you don’t like “absolute” statements, then I’m satisfied if you read this and think that mysticism, with a “high degree of probability” will lead to the rule of brutality.)

Before I begin, I want to note who this is written for. It is not written for someone who believes that there actually are revelations from some other realm that is not reality. I don’t expect to persuade the believer in Christianity, Islam, or any other religion not to believe  with this essay. It’s not my purpose. (This becomes more apparent when I define “faith” below.)

This essay is aimed at people who generally already have a “secular” outlook on the world, but who tend not to believe me when I say that a very religious society, regardless of its religious content, is a society that initiates a lot of physical force -either institutionally, through government, or by the acts of individuals. It is aimed at people who haven’t grasped the logical connection between “faith” on the one hand and the “initiation of physical force” on the other. (I say “initiation” of physical force because I am referring to people who start the use of force to gain a value or to destroy a value held by another person who wants to live, as opposed to the use of force in self-defense or to stop a criminal from committing further crimes by putting them in jail.)

At root, I think Rand’s argument is that there is a connection between the “psychological phenomena” of “faith” and the initiation of physical force. By “psychological phenomena”, I mean the actual mental processes going on inside the mind of a person acting on “faith”. How do I define “faith” for purposes of this article? First, I’ll say that there is, in fact, no supernatural realm that is giving people divine flashes of insight. I’m not going to argue that point here. (Which is why this is not aimed at the “believer” –there are plenty of works arguing for atheism, and I’ll leave it to the reader to research them.)

If there is no supernatural realm giving people flashes of revelation, then where are people who claim to be acting on faith getting their “commandments from god”? “Faith” is usually defined as the belief in something without proof or sensory-evidence. What does the psychological phenomena/process of “faith” consist of, if there is, in fact, no supernatural realm? That psychological process is a reliance on one’s <b>feelings</b> as guides to knowledge, or a belief that one’s feelings are the fundamental basis of knowledge as opposed to sense experience or logic derived from sense experience. An idea simply pops into the faithful’s head, probably coming out of their subconscious, and they decide that it feels right, and that is it. Or, someone tells them, either orally or through a book, that an idea is right, and they simply accept it because they feel that they have to accept what this person has told them.

With these terms defined, how can you reach the conclusion that faith and the initiation of physical force are corollaries? In other words, how do you reach the conclusion that routine and systematic use of the psychological process of “faith” will lead, with some degree of necessity, to the act of initiating physical force against others? (Obviously, I don’t want you to take what I say on faith.) I think the only way to arrive at this conclusion is to look at enough examples and try to see if you can find a pattern. I will provide you, the reader, with a few hypotheticals, and then leave it to you to come up with more:

Example 1: Your religion says that you aren’t supposed to keep certain types of meats stored together. You cannot store meat A and meat B together. You enter into a contract with a truck driver who is not of your religion to transport meat A to you in a truck, and you pay him money in advance for that.

When the truck driver arrives with the delivery, it turns out that he has unknowingly stored meat B in the truck along with the meat A he is delivering to you. (The truck driver had another customer and he was going to deliver meat B to the other customer after stopping off at your house.) You say that you cannot accept the meat because it was stored with meat B, and you want your money back. The truck driver says you’re “off your rocker” and refuses to give you your money back or pay “damages” for this alleged “breach of contract”.

A secular court system would say there is no scientific basis for your belief about storage of meat A and meat B together. Your breach of contract lawsuit would be dismissed. You can either discard the meat you paid for, or discard your religion, but in a secular system of government, you cannot have both.

You cannot use rational persuasion to convince the truck driver to give you your money back because he thinks your religion isn’t true. The temptation would be to resort to “self-help” in order to recover your money from the truck driver. This is an initiation of physical force. Your faith has led to the initiation of physical force. If there is a court system that is based on your religion that has jurisdiction, then it will get you your money back. But, this is an initiation of physical force, since the use of physical force can only be justified in self-defense or to recompense someone whose right to life has been violated in some way. Either way, if you act on your religious principles about storing meat A and meat B together, and take it seriously, you are led to the initiation of physical force against the truck driver that doesn’t hold your religious beliefs.

Example 2: Your religion says that a particular piece of land is holy, and is not to be used for any human purpose. According to your religion, the land is just to be left as it currently is. Someone owns the land who doesn’t ascribe to your religion, and decides he’s going to build his house on it. If there is a secular legal system, you will not be able to prevent the house construction. You cannot use reason to persuade him not to build the house, because your belief isn’t based in reason. If you try to point to your holy text, he’s going to say it’s baloney, and he doesn’t believe it. There is only one way to stop him: the initiation of physical force. Once again, either you personally will have to resort to the initiation of physical force, or your theocratic government will have to resort to the initiation of physical force to stop him. Combine this with the fact that any “interpreter” of your religion (priest, imam, rabbi, or whatever), going off of his feelings, can suddenly claim that god has told him that a particular land is “holy” and belongs to members of your religion, and this is a recipe for constant conflict with the non-believers who want to use land for actually living their lives in the here and now. Then combine this with a multiplicity of religions, all claiming some tract of land as “holy” and you get the crusades, the 30-years war, or the conflict in Israel.

Example 3: Your religion has a “holy animal” that is not to be eaten or harmed. Someone who doesn’t ascribe to your religion routinely shoots and eats the “holy animal”. You cannot use reason to persuade him not to eat your holy animal, because your belief isn’t based in reason. Once again, he’s just going to say your religion is false…and he’s hungry. There is only one way to stop him: the initiation of physical force. Once again, either you personally will have to resort to the initiation of physical force, or your theocratic government will have to resort to the initiation of physical force to stop him.

The more all-embracing one’s faith is in their mind, that is, the more they rely on ideas based in nothing but their feelings, and the more they take such ideas seriously, the more they will end up in irreconcilable conflicts like the three examples above, that can only be resolved by either not taking the “holy text” seriously, or by the initiation of physical force against non-believers. There will be a multiplicity of instances like the three outlined above.

My point here isn’t concerning the content of particular directives and commandments contained within any religious doctrine. I’ve made up these particular examples for purposes of illustrating my point, and I don’t even know if they are part of any actual major world religion. My point here is that the religious doctrine is insulated from any sort of ability to resolve a dispute with followers of other religious doctrines or those who embrace a secular view-point because it will create insoluble problems with those who don’t follow the creed, or those who interpret the creed differently.

A follower of a creed based in faith, will be left with the choice of either: (1) separating himself from those who don’t believe. This is probably why you see “religious ghettos” when people of one religion move into a country with a majority that doesn’t ascribe to their faith. These minority religious groups just separate out and live in their own special areas of a city. Or, (2), the believer will use force against non-believers to the extent necessary to ensure that his doctrine based on faith is respected by the non-believers.

Additionally, note that I have made no mention of examples from actual religions concerning directives or commandments that say either: (1) kill the infidels/sinners, or (2), say something that could easily be interpreted as “kill the infidels/sinners”.

For instance, the Bible talks about killing adulterers: (“‘If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” Leviticus 20:10) The Koran talks about killing infidels: “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing… but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone….”

This is because my analysis of “faith” and how it necessitates the initiation of physical force doesn’t rely on the content of any particular religious doctrine. The psychological process of faith itself necessitates the initiation of physical force against others to resolve the conflicts that will occur.

However, when you start looking at the content of actual world religions and some of the things they say regarding how the “sinful” are to be dealt with, and then combine those words -that religious content- with a method of “thought” (faith) that provides no means of dealing with non-believers because reason is jettisoned, you can see why it can be a potent psychological cocktail motivating the initiation of physical force.

Why are the countries in Europe and North America relatively peaceful and free compared to countries in the Middle East? After all, America, and, to a lesser extent, Europe is full of church-going people who believe. I think the difference is the Renaissance and the Enlightenment. If you’re atheist and you talk about religion and science with even the most religious Westerner, he will probably, eventually, say something along the following lines: “There is a place for faith and there is a place for reason.” I suspect this represents a sort of centuries-long compromise or rapprochement between religion and secularism in the Western World. It has sufficiently delimited faith in important areas of human life, especially in the realm of politics, and allowed for the creation of a (generally) secular legal system. I suspect that most Western intellectuals do not realize how “all-encompassing” faith is in the mind of the average Middle Easterner, because we haven’t been there ourselves for centuries. It is why Western politicians and intellectuals tend to describe Islam as “ideology” rather than as religion. For instance, a Dutch politician has noted:

Let no one fool you about Islam being a religion. Sure, it has a god, and a here-after, and 72 virgins. But in its essence Islam is a political ideology. It is a system that lays down detailed rules for society and the life of every person. Islam wants to dictate every aspect of life. Islam means ‘submission’. Islam is not compatible with freedom and democracy, because what it strives for is Sharia. If you want to compare Islam to anything, compare it to communism or national-socialism, these are all totalitarian ideologies.” (“The Lights are Going Out All Over Europe”, by Geert Wilders, emphasis added, )

Christianity once was a system that laid down detailed rules for society and the life of every person too –we just haven’t seen it for about 500 years. As a result, people who take religion that seriously seem strange to the average Westerner –you would have to look to what would widely be regarded as a “cult” here in the West to find a similar mindset. (For instance, the “Branch Davidians” in Waco, Texas.) This is why I believe the average Westerner has a difficult time thinking of Islamic terrorism or the theocracy of a country like Iran as being based in religious faith. Faith is just not as all-encompassing in the mind of even the most religious Westerners.

After the November 2015 attacks in Paris, in which 130 people were murdered, I saw comedian Bill Maher ask, in a not so comedic mood, “Why do they hate us?” ( )

Based on what I’ve said above about the mind of someone who operates primarily on the basis of faith, this is my theory on why so many in the Middle East seem to hate us:

Part of the reason is examples like 1, 2, and 3 above. In these instances, the non-believer doesn’t even know he’s done something that violated their religious faith. I think this is going to enrage a member of the faith, not just because of what the non-believer is doing, but because the non-believer, rightly so in my opinion, doesn’t care about their religion. The non-believer wants to live. The Westerner, with a much more delimited view of religious faith, will take numerous actions to live his life, all of which are offenses against Islam. This lack of concern for religious rituals will tend to infuriate the faithful, and is a spur to violence.

People in the West will tend to think there is some secular reason for the faith-based mind’s antagonism. They will look at factors like “US bombing in the Middle East” or “poverty” or anything besides the terrorist’s proclamations of fidelity to Islam. This is because people in the West have trouble conceiving of a mind that is that “faith-based”. Westerners assume there must be some secular reason that is the “real” reason planes are getting blown up, journalists are getting their heads cut off, and innocent people on sidewalk cafes are being shot. The reality is that they hate us because we aren’t just ignorant of their religious tenants, but because, on some fundamental level, they know we don’t regard their dogma as having any basis in reality. They hate us because we want to live this life, which is the only one we’re going to get.

Corporations as Contract and Government Financing in a Free Society

The philosophy set forth in the fiction and nonfiction of
Ayn Rand establishes an underlying intellectual framework for a
free society. Rand was like a physicist who deals with broad
abstractions about the nature of reality. The engineer then takes
these ideas and builds, among other things, the automobile.
Also like the physicist, Rand the philosopher dealt with the
underlying ethical principles of a free society, but left many of
the details of how a government should be “constructed” to
future intellectuals in the field of law and jurisprudence.1 The
aim of this paper is to help fill in some of the details as to how a proper government should be constituted. Specifically, this
paper deals with the issue of governmental financing in a free
society.  (Read More: Corporations as Contract and Government Financing in a Free Society)

Why Act on Principle?

I recently said to a friend that any form of “gun control” is an initiation of physical force, and that allowing even a little initiation of physical force abrogates the entire principle of individual rights to life, liberty and property. When I thought about this some, I realized that the question might actually have been this: “Why act on principle at all? Why can’t you occasionally violate a principle without throwing it out altogether?” This is a good question, even if my friend wasn’t actually asking it, so I will endeavor to give an explanation to something he may or may not have actually been asking.

First, what is meant when we speak of a “principle”? I will start with an example and then move from there to a definition. Let’s consider the principle of respecting the property rights of others. I’ll reduce this to the following maxim: “Do not take the property of others without their consent.”

But, why shouldn’t I just occasionally steel when I can get away with it? For instance, when I go to the grocery store, I could take a few items and walk out without paying. If I stuck to stealing food, I might get away with this indefinitely. So why don’t I?

If I’m going to start stealing from the grocery store, I need to develop a methodology to maximize my chances of success. Lets take a look at my “game plan” for stealing from the grocery store:

When I go into the store, I have to check for security cameras.

I have to wait until employees aren’t watching. Once I’ve stolen the items, I’ve got to casually head outside, still checking to see if employees, store customers, or the manager have noticed me stealing from the store. These people are now all potential enemies to me –a threat to my existence- so I cannot trust any of them. I would constantly have to be “looking over my back”, checking to see if anyone noticed me stealing.

I have to develop a plan prior to going in, as this will reduce my chances of getting caught. So I will spend some time working it out. This is time I could have spent doing other things.

I probably want to go in beforehand, and scope out the store, but this could look suspicious -going in, looking around and then returning soon thereafter. So, maybe not?

What will be my “take” from stealing from the grocery store? I can only steal small items, so probably my “gain” will be less than $50.

There are also the penalties involved, if I’m caught. If I steal less than $50, then I am only looking at a fine in Texas, but the fine is up to $500, plus the store can sue me for treble damages and attorney’s fees. If I steal more than $50 of merchandise, I’m looking at anywhere from six months to a year in jail, plus big fines, plus the store suing me.

I think it’s legitimate to consider the government-imposed penalties like this in my analysis since I am not an anarchist -I actually think one of the major ways the government protects rights is by imposing sufficient “pain” or “cost” on the person committing the crime that they won’t want to do it. Criminal laws have a “deterrent effect”. (This isn’t the only reason for criminal penalties, however, they also serve as a “restraint”. For instance, locking up a murderer prevents him from committing more murders.)

Additionally, many jobs will be unavailable to me if I’ve been convicted of a crime involving “moral turpitude” like theft. Many employers won’t hire you with a criminal record for theft or fraud.

After any particular episode of theft from the grocery store, I might get $50 to $100 in merchandise, if I don’t get caught. I also stand to loose up to a year of my time in jail, plus all of the fines and civil penalties. That seems like a very “bad bet” to me. All of these “costs” associated with such a life of crime will also add up to feelings of anxiety about getting caught. Anxiety is not a pleasant emotion to feel on a chronic or long-term basis. (I also suppose I could eliminate the anxiety by refusing to think or consuming a lot of alcohol, but that means I’m really likely to get caught if I don’t think about how to get away with it.)

You should also consider the long-term risks of a policy of theft. You might get away with theft once or twice, but the more you do it, the more likely you are to get caught. It hardly seems worth all that pain for $50 of “free” stuff from the grocery store.

I’ve shown that stealing isn’t actually “free”, in terms of your effort and thought. There is actually a “cost” associated with every time you steal. There is the cost of all the mental energy and labor you expend executing your thefts successfully. There is the cost associated with the risk you’ll get caught. Furthermore, the greater the value of the things you are stealing, the greater the risk, because you will face more severe criminal and social penalties. More people will be watching, the more the valuable items, so the more effort you must expend. For instance, it’s a lot harder to steal from a jewelry store than a grocery store because everything is under glass. That means additional labor, time, and energy goes into a jewelry heist.

It seems easier to me to just work a legitimate job, and earn the money I need to buy things at the grocery store. Then, when I walk into the grocery store, I can just get the stuff I want, pay for it, and then walk out.

Additionally, as we saw, if you start stealing from the grocery store, you will wind up “juggling” in your mind, so many variables in trying to pull off a grocery store theft that it will overload your mind’s capacity to deal with all of them at once. This actually points to an important purpose that a “principle” serves. A “principle” is a sort of concept. A concept is a mental summation of relevant observed facts into a generalized “mental tag” -a word and/or a definition. (Although a “principle” is more of a “proposition” –a series of words.) It allows your limited mind to deal with many aspects of reality simultaneously, which would otherwise overwhelm it. You can deal with three or four concrete items as individuals in your mind at one time, but any more than that, and you cannot hold it all successfully. Your mind disintegrates into mental chaos without concepts, and when it comes to concepts of action, which is all I think a “principle” is, your behavior will become equally chaotic.

Given all of this discussion, I will define a “principle” as: “A consistent standard of action you use in the face of a particular set of factual circumstances.”

For instance, “Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” is a standard of action that I use whenever I face a particular set of facts. When I see a man-made thing that doesn’t occur in nature, and I didn’t produce it with my own effort, I do not physically appropriate it for my own purposes without the owner’s consent.

Can there be “exceptions” to this principle? For instance, if you break into a cabin when you are stranded in a snow blizzard in the mountains, have you taken the property of the owner without his consent? I believe this isn’t actually an “exception” to the principle, because “factual circumstances” are different from the grocery store example. You can articulate facts that make the situation different from going into the grocery store and taking groceries without the owner’s consent. The primary factual circumstance that is different is that you are willing to compensate the owner of the cabin at a later date for any loss, so it isn’t likely to be without his consent. (This also gets into the issue of what “consent” is, and whether the owner’s consent has to have a rational basis, but I leave that for another discussion.) Another “factual circumstance” that is different is that it is a “life and death emergency”, which means it is an extremely low-probability event that isn’t likely to occur very often –it is “life boat ethics”. (Remember, that part of the reason you don’t steal from the grocery store is you have to hide it, and the more times you do it, the more likely you are to get caught one of those times.)

By thinking of enough concrete scenarios like the grocery store theft example, I eventually decided that stealing just isn’t worth it. It’s better to adopt a general standard of action in my mind: “Don’t take the property of others without their consent.” I leave it to the reader to think through other examples of general standards of action such as “Don’t kill those who haven’t initiated physical force against you,” (i.e., don’t murder), “Don’t misrepresent facts to gain things from others,” (i.e., be honest), “Judge others according to a rational standard, and treat them accordingly,” (i.e., be just), etc.

How does my definition of “principle” compare to the “socially-accepted definition”? If you perform a “define: principle” search on, you get some of the following definitions (as of 11-10-2016):

“…fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning.”

“…a rule or belief governing one’s personal behavior…”

“…morally correct behavior and attitudes…”

“…a general scientific theorem or law that has numerous special applications across a wide field…”

“…a natural law forming the basis for the construction or working of a machine…”

These definitions are all essentially, compatible with mine, I believe. For instance, regarding the principle “Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” it is a “fundamental truth” that human beings must produce the material values necessary for their survival, because most of what we need to survive or flourish does not exist in nature. It is also a “fundamental truth” that human beings must use their reasoning minds to produce those material values, and that if you want to live with others they must respect your desire to live and you must respect theirs. (It’s also a “fundamental truth” that human beings are not omniscient, so they need an impartial system of laws and an institution with the socially-recognized exclusive right to the retaliatory use of physical force to protect rights.)

“Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” is also “…morally correct behavior…” If one wants to live, and if one’s life is the standard of the good, then, in order to live peacefully with others, you must recognize the property rights of others.

“Don’t take the property of others without their consent,” is also a “natural law” in the sense that it recognizes that the human mind functions by persuasion, not coercion. It is a “natural law” in the same sense that the law of universal gravitation is a “natural law”. If you want to build a rocket, you must take the law of inertia into account, because “nature to be commanded must be obeyed”. Similarly, if you want to have a functioning society, it must respect property rights.

Tying all of this back in, why would any form of “gun control” be an abrogation of the principle of individual rights? What is meant by “gun control”? Does it merely mean: “Prohibiting the possession of a weapon with an intent to commit a crime”?  The intent to use a weapon to violate others rights is the start of an initiation of physical force, and, if it can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it can and should be prosecuted by the government. Taking any physical steps towards the eventual goal of force being used to destroy the values of others is an initiation of physical force, and therefore a violation of the principle of individual rights. Anyone who has ever seen a John Wayne movie recognizes that you don’t have to wait for someone to actually shoot you in the gut before you can defend yourself. When the bad guy “goes for his gun”, John Wayne shoots him, and that is self-defense, not an initiation of physical force.

An example of an rights-respecting gun law is something like the statute found in the state of Vermont:

“A person who carries a dangerous or deadly weapon, openly or concealed, with the intent or avowed purpose of injuring a fellow man,…shall be imprisoned….” (See, emphasis added, last accessed on 11-12-2016.)

This is a perfectly acceptable and appropriate law regarding the possession of a firearm. It only prohibits carrying a weapon if the person can be shown, beyond a reasonable doubt, to have the “intent” or “avowed purpose” of injuring a fellow man. (Presumably, “injuring a fellow man” here means injuries of one’s fellow men other than for purpose of self-defense.)

This, by the way, is why the government could investigate someone who built a weapon of mass destruction in their backyard. Such a device would not be necessary for self-defense. If you walked around with a nuclear bomb strapped to your back for self-defense, even a “low-yield” device, you’d blow yourself up as well as the mugger -and half the city. Your possession of such a device would create the suspicion that you planned to use it for violating the rights of others. There is no likely or probable need for such a device if you are an individual. Now, you might ultimately be able to show that you had an innocent reason for possessing a WMD, but you’d have to go before a court, and the government’s “prima facie case” of an illegal intent is probably satisfied just by showing that you have no business interest in building such a device. For instance, you aren’t engaged in the business of building nuclear bombs for the US military or some sort of mining or industrial concern. After the government makes its “prima facie showing”, the burden can rightly be shifted to you at court to show some reason that doesn’t involve violating the rights of others. (Additionally, you could face civil liability if you create a “nuisance” that invades or imminently threatens the property of others, which a nuclear bomb probably qualifies as.)

But this isn’t what the left means when they speak of “gun control”. What is generally meant by “gun control”, as that expression is used by most members of the Democratic party and the political left, is the following: The government will initiate, or start, the use of physical force against someone for mere possession of a device, in this case, a devise that uses a controlled explosion to release a metal projectile through a tube by means of an explosive material, such as cordite. The government will initiate physical force against such persons even though they have no intent to use the device to violate individual rights. The initiation of physical force by government takes the form of actual or threatened use of force, and, it will continue to escalate the use of physical force until you comply with its commands, or die -whichever comes first.

Here is how government works: If you break a law, you’ll be arrested (force). If you resist arrest, more cops will come to restrain you (more force). If you use a weapon to resist, the cops will use weapons to stop you (deadly force). Ultimately, all laws follow this pattern: “Do not do X, or you will ultimately be killed.” If the government says: “Do not murder, or you will be killed,” then this is fine because murder violates the rights of others. If the government prohibits things like guns and marijuana, then it says: “Do not own a gun or you will be killed,” or “Do not smoke a joint or you will be killed.” At that point you are being threatened with a violent death despite the fact that you are not violating the rights of others. (Like I said, possessing a gun with intent to commit a crime is different, just as smoking a joint and deliberately blowing the smoke in someone’s face is different.)

So what’s wrong with a little governmental initiation of physical force? You face the same sorts of problems that you face with the example of stealing from the grocery store, but this time it’s on a society-wide level. For instance, if the government says you cannot own a gun to defend yourself from a criminal, when there is no time to call the police to protect you, then the government is implicitly saying: “We’re willing to risk your life in order to satisfy a bunch of soccer moms who have an irrational aversion to guns.” How will this be distinguished from other people’s irrational desires that would involve violating your right to life?

Since no one wants to say: “Government officials can arbitrarily murder some people whenever they feel like it,” the legislature and courts will need to come up with some sort of principled distinction between the prohibition on the ownership of a gun for emergency self-defense and any other number of actions you might take to maintain your life. This is why our legal code has become so “Byzantine” with all sorts of “loopholes”, exceptions, and exceptions to the exceptions. Our legal code is mostly unhinged from any principles distinguishing what should be prohibited and what shouldn’t be because we no longer follow the principle of individual rights.

Additionally, once the principle of individual rights is discarded, the legislature will be constantly bombarded by individuals, and groups of individuals, all trying to appropriate the property of others. It becomes a system of constant “pressure group warfare”, a “cold civil war”, if you will, with a particular political faction gaining power and stealing from some to give to others. They will hold onto power, handing out political favors to their cronies, until some other faction takes over the levers of government and imposes their will on others for a bit.

As I said, a “principle” is a sort of concept, which is a mental summation of relevant observed facts into a generalized “mental tag” -a word and/or a definition. It allows your limited mind to deal with many aspects of reality simultaneously, which would otherwise overwhelm it. You can deal with three or four concrete items as individuals in your mind at one time, but any more than that, and you cannot hold it all successfully. Your mind disintegrates into a mental chaos without concepts, and when it comes to concepts of action, which is all I think a “principle” is, your behavior will become equally chaotic. When society-wide principles like individual rights to life, liberty, and property are disregarded, that society will become chaotic. Eventually the “cold civil war”, of political factions fighting in the legislature, will disintegrate into an actual, shooting, civil war, and people will form gangs fighting one another for the scraps of what is left of civilization, or a “strong man” will take over and the country becomes a dictatorship, with his gang appropriating the property of all. Either way, life will become nasty, brutish, and short without the principle of individual rights to guide us.