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, http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/morality.html)

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. https://www.cato.org/publications/commentary/jeff-sessions-justice-department-goes-after-affirmative-actions

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.

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.” (https://www.amazon.com/Philosophy-Who-Needs-Ayn-Rand/dp/0451138937/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1489794988&sr=8-1&keywords=philosophy%3A+who+needs+it)

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….” http://www.thereligionofpeace.com/pages/quran/violence.aspx

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, http://www.truthprovider.com/?app=articles&id=155 )

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?” (http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/14/bill-maher-on-paris-attacks-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.

All Black Lives Matter, But Some Matter More Than Others

There is an aphorism that I find helpful when deciding what to focus my time and energy on. It’s the expression: “Pick your battles.” In my mind, it basically means you shouldn’t get caught up in minor conflicts and should focus on the “big picture” objective you are trying to achieve. You want to focus your time and energy on things that will most effectively achieve your overall goal.

I see something similar happening with white “liberals” and black “civil rights” groups that express concern over the “problem” of unjustified killings of black men by police. Are there bad cops out there? Sure. But, I suspect that the vast majority of cops are hard-working professionals. Are black men sometimes shot by police without legal justification? I’m sure that also happens. Everyone agrees that the unjustified killing of people in America, and the world, should be reduced to zero. But, what is the most effective method of achieving that goal? And, what does it reveal about a political movement when they seem unable or unwilling to recognize the most effective means of achieving the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people?

The “Black Lives Matter” web site is fairly short on specifics, in terms of what their goals are. They make a lot of claims but they back few of those claims up. For instance at “http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/” we are told:

“How Black poverty and genocide is state violence.

How 2.8 million Black people are locked in cages in this country is state violence.

How Black women bearing the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families is state violence.

How Black queer and trans folks bear a unique burden from a hetero-patriarchal society that disposes of us like garbage and simultaneously fetishizes us and profits off of us, and that is state violence.

How 500,000 Black people in the US are undocumented immigrants and relegated to the shadows.

How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.

How Black folks living with disabilities and different abilities bear the burden of state sponsored Darwinian experiments that attempt to squeeze us into boxes of normality defined by white supremacy, and that is state violence.” (see http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/, last accessed 9-5-2016)

I couldn’t find any actual proof on the web site to back up any of these assertions. The biggest “head-scratcher” for me was: “How Black girls are used as negotiating chips during times of conflict and war.” Exactly what wars and conflicts are they talking about? What do they mean black girls are used as “negotiating chips”?

The Black Lives Matter web site does discuss why they were formed:

“#BlackLivesMatter was created in 2012 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted for his crime, and dead 17-year old Trayvon was posthumously placed on trial for his own murder. Rooted in the experiences of Black people in this country who actively resist our dehumanization, #BlackLivesMatter is a call to action and a response to the virulent anti-Black racism that permeates our society. Black Lives Matter is a unique contribution that goes beyond extrajudicial killings of Black people by police and vigilantes…When we say Black Lives Matter, we are broadening the conversation around state violence to include all of the ways in which Black people are intentionally left powerless at the hands of the state.…#BlackLivesMatter is working for a world where Black lives are no longer systematically and intentionally targeted for demise. ” (See http://blacklivesmatter.com/about/, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

There are numerous dubious assertions made here, but I’ll focus on the last one. The assertion that black people are “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise.” The assertion here isn’t just that black people are accidentally or unintentionally being killed due to certain bad government policies. An example of an unintentional death due to bad government policy would be something like this: The state highway commission passes a regulation requiring roads to be made out of a certain type of asphalt, and it turns out that asphalt is more likely to cause cars to skid off the road and wreck.

“Black Lives Matters” is asserting that black people are being “…systematically and intentionally…” murdered -intentionally killed without justification. Since “Black Lives Matters” tends to focus on black people who die while interacting with the police, which is why they tend to use terms like “state violence” and “extrajudicial killings of Black people by police”, it is the assertion that black people are intentionally targeted by police for murder.

To be clear, intentional murder by the state has happened before. It happened during the “rein of terror” in post-revolutionary France in the late 1700’s. It happened during the Soviet famine of 1932–33 when forced collectivization of farms by Stalin killed millions. It happened in Rwanda when the Hutu-controlled government ordered the slaughter of ethnic Tutsis in 1994. But are black people being “…systematically and intentionally targeted for demise…” by one of the fifty states or by the Federal government? It seems highly unlikely, and I think the burden of proof lies with “Black Lives Matter” on that assertion, and they haven’t met their burden of proof. It sounds more like a “conspiracy theory” than reality.

The belief that the major problem facing black people in America is the death of black men during law-enforcement encounters has led to the rise of an associated “Black Lives Matter” group, “Campaign Zero”. (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/, last accessed 9-5-2016; see also, http://reason.com/blog/2015/08/21/black-lives-matter-activists-release-pol, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

This group says:

“More than one thousand people are killed by police every year in America. Nearly sixty percent of victims did not have a gun or were involved in activities that should not require police intervention such as harmless “quality of life” behaviors or mental health crises. This year is no different. There have only been fifteen days this year when the police have not killed somebody. Last month alone, the police killed 100 people. This must stop. We must end police violence so we can live and feel safe in this country.” (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/problem/, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

This group offers the following policy solutions:

(1) End Policing of Minor “Broken Windows” Offenses

(2) Community Oversight

(3) Limit Use of Force

(4) Indepenently Investigate and Prosecute

(5) Community Representation

(6) Body Cams/Film the Police

(7) Training

(8) End for-profit Policing

(9) Demilitarization

(10) Fair Police Union Contracts (See http://www.joincampaignzero.org/solutions/#solutionsoverview, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Without going over all of these policy solutions in detail, I will note that some of them are worthy of consideration. For instance, requiring police officers to wear body cameras could be useful for both the officer and the civilians the officer encounters. However, there is clearly an issue of cost involved. Body cameras cost money, and the government’s funds are limited. So, the question is this: Is it worth the cost? Are we as taxpayers prepared to pay for body cameras for all police officers? Is this the best use of that money? I do not know the answer to this question, and this is why we have legislatures to help make a determination as to how to spend limited taxpayer money in a way that most effectively achieves the goals of government.

Is the major problem facing black people today the fact that some black males are killed by police? Even assuming for the sake of argument that some police officers are committing murder and intentionally killing black men for no legally justifiable reason, is this the major problem facing black people today?

This question is important to ask because, as I’ve alluded to already, resources are limited. Given the goal of reducing the number of unjustified killings of black people, is the best use of time, money, and energy, on things like additional training of police officers in use of force and not to engage in racial profiling when they pull black people over on the road? If we spend money on things like body cameras for cops will that most effectively reduce the number of unjustified black killings in America, given our government’s limited funds? How are most black people who are illegally killed in America killed? Is it at the hands of cops or someone else?

First, we should ask the following question: How many people are killed during a law enforcement encounter? The government tries to collect these statistics:

“After the passage of the Death in Custody Reporting Act (DICRA) of 2000 (P.L. 106-297), the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) began collecting data on deaths that occurred in the process of arrest.” (See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/acardp.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

“From 2003 through 2009, BJS obtained reports on 4,813 such deaths through its Arrest-Related Deaths (ARD) program. About 3 in 5 of these deaths (2,931) were classified as homicides by law enforcement personnel. The remaining 2 in 5 deaths were attributed to other manners, including suicide (11%), intoxication deaths (11%), accidental injury (6%), and natural causes (5%). In three-quarters (75%) of homicides by law enforcement personnel, the underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense.” (See http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/acardp.pdf, last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Since 2,931 deaths from 2003 to 2009 during an “arrest” were homicides by law enforcement, this means that approximately 489 people per year were killed by police over 6 years, where the killing was a “homicide”. A “homicide” is not necessarily an unlawful killing. Killing someone in self-defense is classified as a “homicide”, and it appears that these statistics include both legally justified and unjustified killings by police. (The “…three-quarters…of homicides…underlying offense of arrest was a violent offense…” language suggest this.) But, even assuming that all of these homicides were unjustified police killings, that is 489 killings of people (of all races) per year by cops.

Lets compare these 489 killings per year, of people of all races, by cops to the murder statistics.

In 2013, 2,491 people in the US classified as “black” were murdered, according to the FBI. (See https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls,last accessed 9-5-2016.)

Of those 2,491 black persons murdered in 2013, the race of the offender was classified as “black” in 2,245 of instances. In other words, out of 2,491 black people murdered, 90% of the perpetrators of the crime were also black. How does this compare to the white murder victim rate? The same FBI statistics say that in 2013, there were 3,005 white murder victims, and that the race of the offender was white in 2,509 of those murders. This means that out of 3,005 white people murdered, 84% of the perpetrators of the crime were also white.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that all of the 489 persons per year killed by cops from 2003 through 2009 were black, and also assume that all of those 489 persons per year were illegally killed by a cop, as opposed to a police shooting in self-defense or pursuant to the cop’s legal right to enforce the law. How does that compare to the fact that in 2013, 2,245 black people were murdered by another black person? 2,245 divided by 489 equals 4.59. A black person is at least 4.59 times more likely to be murdered by another black person than he is to be unjustifiably killed by a cop. (Keep in mind, it’s actually much higher, since I made the “generous” assumption that all of those 489 people per year killed by cops between 2003 and 2009 are black and that all of those killings were unjustified.)

If you were betting on a team that was almost 5 times more likely to win than another team, you’d want to put your money on that team. It would be foolish to spend a lot of money betting on the team that is 5 times more likely to loose, and if you did so, people would question your motives and rationality.

So, why do “Black Lives Matters”, and white “liberals”, focus so much time and energy on the much less likely incidence of unjustified killings by cops rather than the much more likely incidence of unjustified killings of black people by other black people? I have a few possible theories:

(1) They are unintelligent. They simply cannot see the truth because they aren’t very good at making logical connections. There is no shame in this. Some people are just smarter than others.

(2) They are ignorant of the facts. They simply haven’t studied the issue in sufficient detail or have never been presented with the evidence. There is no shame in this, as long as one is willing to continue learning. Nobody is omniscient, and it’s impossible to know everything.

(3) They are irrational. They are deliberately, mentally, evading facts and refusing to make logical connections because it satisfies their unexamined and unquestioned emotional whims. There is great shame in this. Irrationality is a major vice. (It’s actually the major vice, but that is for another time.)

(4) Their actual goal isn’t reducing the number of black people unjustifiably killed. (This is actually just another version of theory #3.) Their goal is to find a scapegoat for the fact that there is a disproportionate amount of crime being committed by black people, and that most of that crime is aimed at other, peaceful, law-abiding, and respectable, black people. It’s a way for the “civil rights” movement to divert the attention of law-abiding and good black people onto something other than the fact that they are the victims of crime primarily at the hands of members of their own race. It’s also a way for white “liberals” to focus their attention and outrage on something that is more “politically correct” than the fact that black people commit a disproportionate amount of the crime in America, and that most of that crime is aimed at other black people.

I hasten to add, that with any group or movement, especially one with ill-defined goals and methodology like “Black Lives Matter”, different people within that movement can have different reasons for being involved. That means these theories aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. The movement can be made up of some mixture of people with mental states and goals that match all four of my theories above. It’s also possible there are other reasons, that better explain the facts, and I just haven’t thought of them. (I am certainly open to suggestions.)

A person’s time, money, and energy is limited. He or she should pick a cause that maximizes his or her goal. If your goal is truly to reduce the number of black people being unjustifiably killed, then you should focus most of your time, money, and energy on reducing black on black crime like murder.

How do we best reduce the number of black people being murdered by other members of their own race? I don’t have all of the answers, but I suspect many of them are not political solutions, which is probably why politicians don’t like to spend too much time on the subject –they cannot even appear to be doing anything to solve it if the problem must come from within the “hearts and minds” of individuals in society.

Some possible solutions that I see are:

(1) Ending the cycle of dependence and single-motherhood caused by the welfare state. That means ending welfare and requiring people to live with the consequences of their own choices, or to seek private charity if they truly are impoverished through not fault of their own.

(2) Changing attitudes about sex and birth control. Both the “left” and the “right” have some solutions that make sense on this front. (I also think both political groups share blame when it comes to educating young people about sex and when to have it, but that is for another time.) Young women should be encouraged to use birth control if they are going to have sex. (The “liberal solution”.) However, young women should also be encouraged to be more selective regarding the men that they sleep with, and to only have children with men they are married to. (The “conservative solution.”) If young unmarried women do have accidental pregnancies they should be encouraged to either (a) have an abortion, or (b) give the baby up for adoption. Although it is the subject of debate, it appears that there is a connection between being raised by a young single mother and becoming a criminal later in life. (See http://www.theatlantic.com/sexes/archive/2012/12/the-real-complex-connection-between-single-parent-families-and-crime/265860/ ) It would also seem to make sense that a young boy without a reliable father-figure to model himself on is going to be more likely to make bad choices.

(3) Encouraging young men and young women to educate themselves and to instill “bourgeoisie” values of hard work and thrift.

There are others possible solutions I can think of, but that’s not really the focus here. I also tend to think that inner cities need more police patrolling, not less. But, I am uncertain. I suspect, but cannot currently prove, that a large portion of people, both black and white, are murdered by a friend or family member, and I don’t know how much additional police presence in inner cities is going to change that.

It’s not entirely clear in my own mind how to reduce the unjustified killing of black people by other black people, but it is clear to me that focusing on the relatively low occurrence of unjustified police killings of black people in America is an effort to direct attention away from a much bigger problem. The title of the blog entry is a reference to George Orwell’s short novel “Animal Farm”. At the end of it, the pigs who have taken over the farm declare that while “All animals are equal”, as the revolution had initially declared, “…some animals are more equal than others.” “Black Lives Matter” activists apparently believe that the lives of people like Michael Brown matter more more to the “civil rights” movement and white “liberals” than the lives of people like Jamyla Bolden, and there are a lot more of the later than the former.

A Review of “Altruism as Appeasement” by Ayn Rand

In 1962, Ayn Rand asked a student at MIT why so many of “…today’s young intellectuals were becoming ‘liberals’…” (pg. 32) A few weeks later, the MIT student wrote Miss Rand a letter, outlining his thinking on the subject. Miss Rand wrote “Altruism as Appeasement”, which expands on the response she got from this MIT student. This essay can be found in The Voice of Reason. (My page citations below are to the 1989 Meridian version, ISBN number: 0-452-01046-2)

In his letter, the student told Miss Rand that “The majority of college students…do not choose to think; they accept the status quo, conform to the prescribed code of values, and evade the responsibility of independent thought…’In adopting this attitude, they are encouraged by teachers who inspire imitation, rather than creation.’” (Pg. 32)

However, there is another group who are “…not willing to renounce their rational faculty.” Miss Rand then quotes at length from the MIT student’s letter: “‘They are the intellectuals -and they are the outsiders….They are teased and rejected by their schoolmates. An immense amount of faith in oneself and a rational philosophical basis are required to set oneself against all that society has ever taught…The man who preaches individual integrity, pride, and self-esteem is today virtually nonexistent. Far more common is the man who, driven by the young adult’s driving need for acceptance, has compromised. And here is the key -[the result of] the compromise is the liberal.’”

What is the psychological result? Most “liberal intellectuals” are driven by a strong guilt complex, because a person who sets himself against society in favor of rationality will feel guilt due to his rejection by the mediocrities around him. The “liberal” “…’loudly proclaims the brotherhood of all men. He seeks to serve his escapist brothers by guaranteeing them their desire for social security…’” (Pg. 33) “Liberals” are driven to atone for their false guilt, and they do so by working for “…’their welfare…’” (Pg. 33)

Miss Rand agreed with the MIT student regarding the psychological process he had identified, however: “…the situation he [the MIT student] describes is not new; it is as old as altruism; nor is it confined to ‘liberals’.” She says that this is the “…story of men who spend their lives apologizing for their own intelligence.” (Pg. 33)

Miss Rand then describes how this psychological process works out in the mind of the average college student. In an effort to avoid a massive quantity of quotations, I will summarize Miss Rand’s description of this process as best I can, as well as discuss some of my own observations that have led me to believe that Miss Rand is describing a psychological process that occurs very often in the mind of persons that usually self-identify as “liberals” or, more often today, as “progressives”.

When I originally read this essay in the mid-nineties, I was 19 or 20 years old. I hadn’t had enough experience to know if Miss Rand was right, so I just mentally “shelved” the issue. 20 years later, I’ve dealt with and seen enough people, and I’ve spent enough time thinking about their behavior, that I consider Miss Rand’s theory in “Altruism as Appeasement” to be a highly probable explanation for many people that are college educated, and self-describe as “liberals”, “progressives” or “social democrats”.

Miss Rand observes that bright children have a sense of being trapped in a “nightmare universe” when they are growing up. Growing up mostly in the Bible Belt and going to public school, I can relate to this description of childhood. In the South, large numbers of people will tell you that you are going to hell for some inherent moral vice called “original sin”, unless you repent your non-existent guilt to god. This could certainly be a frightening prospect for a child. In my own case, I started questioning the existence of god around age 13, and my mother must have sensed that because I was made to go to church despite the fact that I wasn’t particularly interested. Fortunately, the church that I was sent to was fairly “liberal”, and didn’t take the bible literally, so it could have been worse, I suppose.

Public schools, especially high school, were filled with their share of bullies -by which I mean children that would engage in low-level initiations of physical force, especially against anyone who didn’t seem to fit in, or that their emotions told them deserved such treatment. (By low-level initiations of physical force, I mean things like handing out quadriceps contusions —a “deadleg”- or being spit on, or having your books knocked out of your hands in the hall, etc.) Although in my case, by the 11th grade, most of the kids that were initiating physical force against others had either been removed from the school to a special “alternative school”, or were already in jail. Additionally, Plano Independent Schools contain a large number of children with parents that actually care about academic achievement and personal success, so my overall public school experience wasn’t what I’d call a “nightmare”. I suspect that an inner-city public school would be four years of complete hell all the way through, and make my experience look like I was living in Galt’s Gulch (a utopia).

I discovered Ayn Rand’s philosophy when I was about 15, and I did note that most people were hostile to Miss Rand’s ideas, if they knew about them at all. I did have a couple of teachers that seemed sympathetic towards her ideas, but that was rare. So, I can relate when Miss Rand says that the intelligent teenager wants to “…understand things and issues, big issues, about which no one else seems to care.” (Pg. 33)

Miss Rand goes on to say that most intelligent teenagers start college with the hope that it will be better, but their first year is too often a “psychological killer”(Pg. 33). He went to college hoping to find answers and meaning, and some companions to share his interest in ideas. She notes that he may find a handful of teachers that live up to his hopes, but “…as to intellectual companionship, he finds the same gang he had met in kindergarten, in playgrounds, and in vacant lots: a leering, screeching, aggressively mindless gang playing the same games, with latinized jargon replacing the mud pies and the baseball bats.” (Pg. 34)

I found Rand’s description of college to be fairly accurate at the University of Texas at Austin, which is easily the most left-wing school in Texas. One English professor was particularly terrible. He interpreted everything we read through the lens of “multiculturalism” and “feminism”. He told the class that Thomas Jefferson was a racist and a hypocrite when he wrote the Declaration of Independence. I raised my hand and disagreed with him. I told him that the Declaration of Independence may not have been consistently applied at the founding, but it formed the intellectual basis on which the nation eventually moved towards abolishing slavery. His response was that the civil war was the reason the slaves were freed. I disagreed, and said that slavery would have been abolished eventually anyway. In that professor’s mind, ideas had nothing to do with it. The use of physical force was all that mattered. It makes me wonder why he bothered to be a professor at all, if he thought ideas were so futile.

Going back to Miss Rand’s essay, how do too many intelligent college students deal with the intellectual wasteland that is college? “There are many wrong directions he can make at this crossroads, but the deadliest -psychologically, intellectually, and morally- is the attempt to join the gang at the price of selling his soul to uninterested buyers. It is an attempt to apologize for his intellectual concerns…by professing that his thinking is dedicated to some social-altruistic goal.” (Pg. 34) She notes that this is rarely a conscious decision on his or her part. It is done gradually and subconsciously and by semiconscious rationalization. She also notes that altruism “…offers an arsenal of such rationalizations: if an unformed adolescent can tell himself that his…subservience is unselfishness…he is hooked. By the time he is old enough to know better, the erosion of his self-esteem is such that he dares not face or reexamine the issue.” (pg. 34)

What is the psychology of an intelligent person who goes to college and professes that he is using his mind to serve others? Such a man or woman has some “…degree of social metaphysics [secondhandedness]…” (Pg. 34) The concept of “social metaphysics” requires some explanation, which Rand does supply: “Basically, a social metaphysician is motivated by the desire to escape the responsibility of independent thought, and he surrenders the mind he is afraid to use, preferring to follow the judgments of others.” (Pg. 34)

If you’ve read Miss Rand’s book The Fountainhead, the character Peter Keating is the ultimate “second-hander” or “social metaphysician”. If you haven’t read that novel, it could be thought of as the “go along to get along” type of personality. (https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/go_along_to_get_along) It does not mean never compromising on non-fundamental or trivial matters. So, for instance if you are going to dinner with a friend, and they prefer Italian food and you want Chinese, and you compromise by going to an Italian restaurant, with the understanding that next time you will pick the restaurant, that isn’t social metaphysics. That is simply recognizing that there are a range of food preferences that vary by person, you can only go to one place at a time, and that friendship is about shared values, which means showing an interest in what your friends are interested in.

The social metaphysician regards society -others- as the standard of reality. The social order as it happens to exist is accepted by him, or her, and then he or she operates within it. A social metaphysician can be quite successful at operating within that social order, but she never questions it. This is why Rand called them social metaphysicians.

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the most fundamental aspects of the nature of reality. Metaphysics are the principles that must be understood before one can study particular sciences like physics or biology. For instance, in Miss Rand’s philosophy, she accepts the existence of an external universe as the given. The entities that make up the universe have a particular nature and those entities act in accordance with that nature. According to Miss Rand’s system of metaphysics, an entity is what it is regardless of anyone’s desires or wishes to the contrary. If one is a social metaphysician, then the metaphysical, i.e., reality, is less important than the “man-made”. The man-made includes all of our social institutions and customs. Unlike reality, the man-made depends on human choice, and could be other than it is. For instance, America is a Republic and not a Monarchy because people chose to make it that way. It’s continued existence as a Republic depends on human choice. The social metaphysician simply accepts these man-made customs as the given, and rarely questions them. In fact, a social metaphysician has so internalized this way of thinking, that anyone who questions generally accepted social institutions will make her feel uneasy.

Social metaphysicians who are less intelligent, and didn’t go to college, are the “good old boys” and “rednecks” that one might see in a small, rural town. The social metaphysician is also quite common in inner cities, but I don’t know what the polite word to describe them would be. For lack of a polite term, I will call them “black rednecks”. A “black redneck” from a large inner city like Chicago or New York will be highly critical of anyone from his neighborhood who studies hard and tries to better his economic standing. He will accuse high-achievers in his race of “acting white”. This is a perfect example of the social metaphysician attitude. The “black redneck” believes there are certain social customs and institutions that are not to be questioned -unfortunately those social customs and institutions in minority communities include the belief that gaining knowledge and education is not in accordance with being of African descent. Anyone from his racial group who defies those customs is therefore a traitor in the social metaphysician’s eyes. There was once a great episode of a show that I didn’t typically watch that covered this topic, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” where the “nerdy” character “Carlton” is accused of being a race-traitor.

Another great essay by Rand describing basically the same mentality as this type of social metaphysician, the “anti-conceptual tribalist”, can be found in Philosophy: Who Needs It called: The Missing Link.

The intelligent teenager who goes to college and has the “social metaphysician” mindset will not become a redneck, though. He (or she) will become a “liberal” -which is the “educated” equivalent. To a social metaphysician college student, it seems like all of his professors and peers accept the idea that the individual must sacrifice himself to the “common good”. This means that in the social metaphysician’s eyes, the idea of self-sacrifice is one of the social institutions and custom of college. It is the social order that is not to be questioned.

The psychology of social metaphysics doesn’t entirely explain the “liberal mindset”, however. The college “liberal” is also engaged in “intellectual appeasement”: “…an intellectual appeaser surrenders morality, the realm of values, in order to be permitted to use his mind. The degree of self-abasement is greater [than the social metaphysician]; the implicit view of the mind -as functioning by permission of the mindless -is unspeakable. (Nor does the appeaser often care to speak of it.)” (Pg. 34)

“There are as many variants of the consequences [of being an intellectual appeaser] as there are men who commit this particular type of moral treason. But certain scars of psychological deformity can be observed in most of them as their common symptoms.” (Pg. 35) Rand then describes some common consequences of being an intellectual appeaser.

First, the intellectual appeaser tends to hate mankind in general, and to regard them as “…evil by nature, he complains about their congenital stupidity…” (pg. 35) I regard the “people are stupid” attitude as the hallmark of the “liberal” or “progressive”. “Liberal” politicians like Michael Bloomberg pass laws to restrict the size of sugary drinks because he thinks people are too stupid to regulate their own caloric intake. The “liberal”, intellectual appeaser view of “…the people at large is a nightmare image -the image of a mindless brute endowed with some inexplicably omnipotent power -and he lives in terror of that image…emotionally, he keeps feeling the brute’s presence behind every corner…The brute is the frozen embodiment of mankind as projected by the emotions of an adolescent appeaser.” (Pg. 35)

In my own experience, the belief that the majority of people are brutish is why most “liberals” are for gun control. They believe that most human beings are seething cauldrons of rage who will snap at the slightest provocation -that they are brutes. I saw this when Texas legalized concealed carry with a license in the mid-1990’s. “Liberals” claimed that it would lead to the “wild west” -with people shooting each other over trivial matters like parking spots. This is not to say that murder never happens, but the world today is arguably less violent than it has ever been. (“Steven Pinker: The surprising decline in violence” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ramBFRt1Uzk )

Second, a “…corollary symptom, in most intellectual appeasers, is the ‘elite’ premise -the dogmatic, unshakable belief that ‘the masses don’t think,’ that men are impervious to reason, that thinking is the exclusive prerogative of a small, ‘chosen’ minority.” (Pg. 36) In politics, this “elitism” manifests itself in the form of two types of “intellectual appeasers”. There are the more aggressive “liberals”, who believe in rule by physical force because “…people are unfit for freedom and should be ruled -‘for their own good’- by a dictatorship of the ‘elite’.”(Pg. 36) These are the Michael Bloomberg’s and Hillary Clinton’s of the world, who want to force people to buy smaller soft drinks or to buy health insurance because they are supposedly too stupid to take care of themselves.

Unfortunately, the other type of intellectual appeaser is predominately found in the Republican Party: “The more timorous type of appeasers, the ‘conservatives,’ take a different line: they share the notion of an intellectual ‘elite’ and, therefore, they discard intellectuality as numerically unimportant, and they concentrate on cajoling the brute (‘the masses’) with baby talk -with vapid slogans, flattering bromides, folksy speeches in two-syllable words, on the explicit premise that reason does not work, that the brute must be won through appeals to his emotions and must, somehow, be fooled or cheated into taking the right road.”(Pg. 36)

This analysis of conservatism provides a possible explanation for the popularity of Donald Trump in the Republican party. One thing I’ve noticed about Trump’s campaign is that it tends to be short on many specifics, but it contains a lot of emotional appeals, bromides, and verbal “put downs” of the other Republican candidates. This is not something new within the Republican party, though. Ronald Reagan was the master of “flattering bromides”, “folksy speeches”, and one-liners at debates. Trump is just a little bit more blunt in his delivery than Reagan was.

A third consequence of being an intellectual appeaser is moral cowardice, which is “…the necessary consequence of discarding morality as inconsequential.”(Pg. 36) For the “progressive” intellectual appeaser, the image of the brute is “…the symbol of an appeaser’s belief in the supremacy of evil…when his mind judges a thing to be evil, his emotions proclaim its power, and the more evil, the more powerful.” (Pg. 36)

This can be understood in terms of what the intellectual appeaser has accepted as “good” or “moral”. The intellectual appeaser is a proponent of self-sacrifice in the service of others, which is generally known as “altruism”. This means that “good” action for the altruist consists in destroying one’s own happiness and sacrificing one’s life in order to serve others. As a result, “good” and “right action” is self-weakening, and self-destructive. To the altruist, those who do not engage in self-sacrifice will be regarded as morally bad. However, the altruist can see that people who do not sacrifice themselves to others are more successful at living. For instance, someone who rejects altruism will have more wealth because they refuse to drain off their financial resources to help complete strangers. The person who rejects altruism has an easier life. In the altruist’s subconscious mind, the good has become associated with self-destruction, while the evil has become associated with the efficacious. The mistake lies in the intellectual appeaser’s belief that self-sacrifice is “the good”, when it is, in fact, the opposite of the good -if one wants to live.

The result of the intellectual appeaser’s inverted moral system is his belief that “…the self-assertive confidence of the good [the good by the standard of those who actually want to live] is a reproach, a threat to his precarious pseudo-self-esteem, a disturbing phenomenon from a universe whose existence he cannot permit himself to acknowledge -and his emotional response is a nameless resentment. The self-assertive confidence of the evil [those who violate individual rights] is a metaphysical confirmation, the sign of a universe in which he feels at home -and his emotional response is bitterness, but obedience. Some dictators -who boastfully stress their reign of terror, such as Hitler and Stalin -count on this kind of psychology. There are people on whom it works.” (Pg. 37)

The final result of this sort of moral cowardice of the “liberal” intellectual appeaser is to oppose those who want to live, the actual good, in order to appease those who want to violate individual rights, and eventually “…to pounce upon every possible or impossible chance to blacken the nature of the good and to whitewash the nature of the evil.” (Pg. 37) This is why so-called “liberals” were always quick to apologize for atrocities and human rights violations committed by the Soviet Union. It’s also why “liberals” engage in ad hominem criticisms of Ayn Rand because she collected social security -like we’re all supposed to be forced to pay into that system and then “fall on our own swords” and not try to collect out of it. (This is altruist thinking.)

A fourth consequence of being an intellectual appeaser can be seen in art. “Progressives” are always fascinated by movies and art that is a “…projection of cosmic terror, guilt, impotence, misery, doom…” (Pg. 37) “Liberals” and “progressives” are fascinated with movies that study “homicidal maniacs” (Pg. 37), like “Natural Born Killers” or “Dexter” because of their subconscious belief that such people are the norm. They believe destruction is the norm, while creation is an aberration, because they hate mankind.

A fifth consequence of being a “liberal” intellectual appeaser is “…the dry rot of cynicism…”(Pg. 38) that eventually sets in. As the “liberal” appeaser grows older, any “…pretense at any belief in altruism vanishes from his [or her] mind in a very few years, and there is nothing left to replace it: his independent capacity to value has been repressed -and his fear of the brute makes the pursuit of values seem hopelessly impractical.” (Pg. 38) I suspect that this is the point that has been reached by a politician like Hillary Clinton. At this stage in her life, she is probably running on fumes. Her denial of any responsibility in the attacks on the American embasy in Benghazi, and her attempt to shift blame onto a YouTube video shows this sort of cynicism. In response to Congressional criticism about Benghazi, Hillary Clinton said: “What difference at this point does it make?” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ka0_nz53CcM) It doesn’t make any difference in Clinton’s mind, because the truth doesn’t matter. All that matters to her is whether she can con the American people into making her President.

Sixth, the intellectual appeaser ultimately spends so much time pandering to her own image of the “the masses” as a stupid, irrational mob, that she eventually “…assumes the standards of those he [or she] professes to despise…Any man who is willing to speak or write ’down,’, i.e., to think down- who distorts his own ideas in order to accommodate the mindless, who subordinates truth to fear -becomes eventually indistinguishable from the hacks who cater to an alleged ‘public taste.’ He joins the hordes who believe that the mind is impotent, that reason is futile, that ideas are only means of fooling the masses (i.e., that ideas are important to the unthinking, but the thinkers know better…” (Pg. 38) In my own experience with self-described “liberals” and “progressives”, this has been true. They will imply to me that reason is just a means of tricking or fooling people, and that objective truth is not even possible.

Ayn Rand had a more realistic picture of the majority of mankind than the “liberal” appeaser: “No, men are not brutes; neither are they all independent thinkers. The majority of men are not intellectual initiators or orginiators; they accept what the culture offers them….their abstract range is limited…The truly deliberately evil men are a very small minority; it is the appeaser who unleashes them on mankind; it is the appeaser’s intellectual abdication that invites them to take over…When the ablest men turn into cowards, the average men turn into brutes.” (Pg. 39)

Ayn Rand was not pessimistic about the future, so long as the more intelligent people refused to become altruistic intellectual appeasers: “No, the average man is not morally inocent. But the best proof of his non-brutality, of his helpless, confused, inarticulate longing for truth, for an intelligible, rational world -and of his response to it, when given a chance he cannot create on his own -is the fact that no dictatorship has ever lasted without establishing censorship.” (Pg. 39)

How does one avoid becoming an intellectual appeaser? By being “…proud of his intelligence -regardless of their [the average person’s] approval or disapproval. No matter how hard this might be in a corrupt age like ours, he has, in fact, no alternative. It is his only chance at a world where intelligence can function, which means: a world where he -and, incidentally, they -can survive.”  (Pg. 39)

Regrettably, I suspect that by the time most people are about 30, it would be very difficult for them to change. They have too many habituated behaviors and thought patterns. But, Ayn Rand remains popular with the young, so I think that there is still a chance.

Bernie Sanders: The Pied Piper of Self-Sacrifice

Bernie Sanders will likely loose the Democratic Party Primary. Despite this, I want to take a moment to discuss his ideology and his philosophy, which must be resisted -if you regard your own life and the pursuit of your own happiness as important. This is true whether you are “rich” or “poor”. I will discuss Mr. Sander’s philosophy in the context of an interview I found online. The interviewer’s name was Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB CEO Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation. Mr. Rosica is a Catholic Priest. The interview with Bernie Sanders was posted on the Washington Post web site, and can be found in its entirety at: https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/politics/bernie-sanders-calls-pope-francis-a-socialist/2016/02/22/9fefd340-d9b4-11e5-8210-f0bd8de915f6_video.html

I transcribed the portions of the interview that I considered to be relevant to what I want to write about here:

Bernie Sanders: [1:00 minutes] “What the Pope has done in a very bold way is not only talk about the dispossessed…people who just don’t have enough income to survive…but what he has also done is raise the issue of the worship of money, the idolatry of money, and to say maybe that’s not what human life should be about…”

Fr. Rosica: [1:40 minutes]“They call you a socialist…do you think he’s a socialist [Pope Francis]?”

Bernie Sanders:[1:54 minutes] “….Well, what it means to be a socialist in the sense of what the Pope is talking about, and what I’m talking about, is to say that we have got to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering, uh, that does not accelerate the disparities of income and wealth. Uh, when he talks about wealth being used to serve people – not as an end in itself- I agree with that. In this country, and obviously the Pope is a worldwide figure, the church is worldwide, we are the wealthiest country in the history of the world, and if you go out in the street and you ask people, “Did you know that we’re the wealthiest country in the world?” They’d say “No, I’m working two or three jobs, I’m making 8 dollars an hour, I don’t know that we’re the wealthiest. I can’t afford childcare for my children.” So, what the Pope is saying is that human life, our existence, should be more than just the accumulation of more and more wealth, and everybody knows that right now we have the wealth, we have the technology, to provide at least a decent standard of living for all of our people, and so few should not have so much, and I think that’s what the Pope is talking about.”

Mr. Sanders isn’t exclusively talking about more welfare for poor people here. This is made clear when he says: “What the Pope has done in a very bold way is not only talk about the dispossessed…people who just don’t have enough income to survive…but what he has also done is raise the issue of the worship of money, the idolatry of money, and to say maybe that’s not what human life should be about…” (emphasis added) Mr. Sanders claims that people “worship” money.

What is money? It is a medium of exchange used instead of the barter system. Money involves trade. It is used when people want to voluntarily exchange goods and services with each other. It presupposes that (1) Each party to the transaction has something that the other regards as valuable, and (2) that each party has a right to use and transfer what he has produced as he sees fit. Why does each person have the right to dispose of what he has produced? It can only be the case if one regards his own life as important to him -if he wants to live. Money is a tool -it is a means of satisfying your material wants and needs by voluntary trade with other people who are also interested in satisfying their material needs. We all have these material needs -we all need a certain number of material goods in order to live. We all need food, clothing, and shelter, and it isn’t provided by nature. It must be produced by someone. If some produce while other appropriate by force what they have produced, then those producers are not free to live their lives. They are slaves to those who don’t produce.

I would hasten to add that it is possible to be irrational about the pursuit of money. It’s possible to pursue it over and above other things that would be more important to a rational human being. In the novel “A Christmas Carol”, Ebenezer Scrooge chooses to pursue more money over a marriage to the woman he loved (Belle):

[Belle:] “Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made, you were another man.”… [Scrooge:]“Have I ever sought release?” [Belle:] “In words. No. Never.” [Scrooge:]“In what, then?” [Belle:] “In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,” said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; [Belle:] “tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now? Ah, no!” He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in spite of himself. But he said with a struggle, [Scrooge:] “You think not.” [Belle:] “I would gladly think otherwise if I could,” she answered, [Belle:] “Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl—you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.” He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed. [Belle:] “You may—the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will—have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!” (http://www.gutenberg.org/files/46/46-h/46-h.htm)

Scrooge was not truly acting in a manner that promoted his own life. He chose a little more money over love of a “dowerless girl”. (A “dowry” was money or property that a wife or wife’s family gives to her husband when the wife and husband marry.) The problem here is Scrooge had already satisfied a certain level of material well-being, but he choose a few more dollars over the love of his life (Belle). Even in this case, who did Ebenezer Scrooge hurt -in the most fundamental sense? He hurt himself. (Belle went on to find a man that valued her in a more rational manner -as shown by a later scene in “A Christmas Carroll”.) Scrooge’s own life was (presumably) of utmost importance to him, but he damaged that life by pursuing more money over Belle.

Rational egoism means making your own life your ultimate value, and recognizing that reality demands that you must take certain actions in order to further it, such as working to produce the material values you need to survive. But, rational egoism means more than just acquiring material wealth. If you want to fall in love, you actually have to go out, and try to meet people, and you have to go out on dates. If you want friends, you have to find people that you have things in common with, and make an effort to make them a part of your life. If you want knowledge, you must read books, go to school, and study new ideas. If you want to be rational, you must study logic, and learn the method of objectivity. If you want happiness, you must discover what will make you happy, and then pursue it relentlessly. The level of wealth that each of us chooses to acquire in relation to other important values is a personal matter, and will often depend on your personal context and situation. One of the values of Capitalism is that it leaves each individual free to decide what level of wealth he will pursue. If he chooses to irrationally pursue additional wealth over love or friendship like Ebenezer Scrooge, that is his choice to make, and he will live with the consequences.

But, Bernie Sanders is not talking about the irrational pursuit of money like the case of Ebenezer Scrooge, because he does not accept the morality of rational egoism. He does not want you to live your life for your own sake. He reveals this when he discusses what it means to be a “socialist”. As a preliminary matter, it must be noted that the actual, accepted, definition of “socialism” is along the lines of: “…a way of organizing a society in which major industries are owned and controlled by the government rather than by individual people and companies…” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/socialism Whether governmental ownership of the means of production is actually in anybody’s rational self interest is more of a question for Economics and History. (I refer you to the old Soviet Union for an example of how socialism just makes everyone poor.) Governmental ownership of the means of production is not what Bernie Sanders is primarily talking about:

Bernie Sanders:[1:54 minutes] “….Well, what it means to be a socialist in the sense of what the Pope is talking about, and what I’m talking about, is to say that we have got to do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering, uh, that does not accelerate the disparities of income and wealth.”

Whose suffering is Mr. Sanders talking about here? Are we talking about you taking action to better your own life and maximize your own happiness? It’s doubtful, given the rest of what Mr. Sanders said, that this is what he means. Bernie Sanders is not advocating “socialism” per se here. He is advocating “altruism”. He does not believe that your own life is important for its own sake, or that you should pursue your own happiness -and leave others free to pursue their own as well. Mr. Sanders says we should all: “…do our best and live our lives in a way that alleviates human suffering…” Service to others and self-sacrifice, i.e., altruism, is what Bernie Sanders advocates. To Mr. Sanders, your own life is secondary to the purpose of alleviating the suffering of others.

Furthermore, for Bernie Sanders, the more successful you are -the more productive you are- the more you should sacrifice yourself to others: “…right now we have the wealth, we have the technology, to provide at least a decent standard of living for all of our people…” However, “wealth” is nothing but the material means by which you maintain your life and pursue your own happiness. Imagine that you want to spend more time furthering your writing career (or painting, or sculpture, or dance). If you want to buy a washing machine so that you don’t have to spend enormous amounts of time washing your clothes by hand, so that you can pursue your career in art, according to Bernie Sanders, you can’t -unless you first buy a washing machine for all the people in inner cities, Appalachia, and the Third World. Imagine that you want to get married to the love of your life. If you want to buy your girlfriend an engagement ring as a symbol of your love when you ask her to marry you, you cannot -unless you ensure that every unmarried bachelor in the world can afford to buy one for his fiance. Imagine that you want to have children. You can’t buy that toy for your child -until you buy a toy for every child, everywhere. Furthermore, would Mr. Sanders even limit this self-sacrifice to the material realm? Once this notion is accepted, shouldn’t you go out and marry a girl you don’t love out of charity? Hell, maybe you have to find a spouse for everyone else first? Shouldn’t you spend time with your worst enemy, who does nothing but denigrate you, rather than seeking out people who would value you and your friendship? What about the “suffering” of someone who chooses to be obnoxious and boorish in any social situation, such that no one wants to be his or her friend? Shouldn’t you put up with his or her undesirable behavior and be friends, even though you gain nothing from the relationship and feel totally “drained” by their toxic friendship?

What motivates support for Bernie Sanders? For some it may be genuine envy -a hatred of those who want to live and are successful at doing so. However, I have too much faith in the good will of my fellow man, so I refuse to believe that this is anything more than a small number of people. I think most people support Bernie Sanders out of fear. They fear loosing their job, they fear getting sick and having no way to pay for it, they fear their child will get sick or starve, and they won’t be able to pay for it. There are no guarantees in life, and that is a scary thought. I understand this fear, and I feel it, too, sometimes. But, the desire to use armed force to obtain from others the goods you need for survival must be resisted -and that is what we are talking about when we talk about the welfare state and socialism. If you refuse to pay taxes for the support of others, the police will come for you and arrest you. If you resist, they will use clubs and handcuffs. If you resist with a weapon, they will shoot you. If they put you in prison for not paying taxes, and you try to escape, you will be shot by the guards. Right now, you may regard someone else as “the wealthy”. You may think that you can “get away with” expropriating the goods produced by “the wealthy”, and make your own material circumstances better. Be aware that you’re playing a risky game. Someone, someday, may decide that you are “the wealthy”. They may also decide they have a big enough voting block and the necessary government force, i.e. a big enough gang, to take it from you. Then you will be the one to have his wealth expropriated.

The Obama Presidency: A Postmortem

I consider the two serious candidates in the 2016 Democratic Presidential primary to be unpalatable. I think that both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders would be a continuation of Barack Obama’s Presidency, and I have become disgusted by Mr. Obama. I voted for Obama in 2008 because I considered him to be the “lesser of two evils” at the time.

Obama’s claim that he would be a “post-racial” President also made me hopeful. At the time, I thought Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech struck just the right balance, and frankly discussed the complications associated with race. In the speech, Obama defended his decision to continue attendance at a church where the pastor had made racist and narrow-minded comments. The basic theme of Obama’s speech on that occasion was that there may be people we care about who hold racist views, but you don’t necessarily have to disown those people because a person’s views on race is not the end-all-be-all when it comes to judging a person’s character:

“ I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe. These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_More_Perfect_Union_%28speech%29

Despite Obama’s optimistic tone in 2008, by 2013, I think Obama had abandoned any pretense of being a “post-racial” President. The event that solidified this in my mind was the George Zimmerman criminal case. I’m not going to go over the specifics of that case, or try to “re-litigate” that issue. I think the jury reached the right verdict in that trial. I studied the facts, and it was clear to me that there was reasonable doubt as to George Zimmerman’s guilt. However, for most of 2012 and 2013, I had to listen to the news media do it’s best to convict Mr. Zimmerman in the court of public opinion.

Mr. Obama, the President of the United States, chose to inject himself into a purely local matter of criminal law. (http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/23/president-obama-statement-on-trayvon-martin-case/) He aided and abetted the news media in doing its best to ensure that George Zimmerman wouldn’t get a fair trial. The fact that Obama did that, regardless of his actual comments on the matter, spoke volumes to me. It said to me that far from wanting a “post-racial society”, where race doesn’t matter, he wanted to play the usual Democratic game of whipping up racial animosity within the black community to garner political support. This game consists of convincing black people that most white Americans are racist in order to get votes.

Race relations under Obama only got worse from the George Zimmerman trial. Next there was the unrest in Ferguson Missouri. In that case, the facts are also fairly clear to me: Officer Darren Wilson acted within the law and generally accepted notions of self-defense when he shot Michael Brown. Despite this, the Obama Justice Department conducted an investigation into the shooting, once again showing me that he was prepared to inject himself into a purely local matter. If a black police officer had shot a white man under similar circumstances, I have no doubt that Obama’s administration would not have concerned itself with it. The message from the Obama administration has been clear: he believes most cops, judges, juries and prosecutors are racist, and the Justice Department must step in to right that “wrong”. Since cops, judges, and juries are all drawn from the general population of America, it means Obama believes most white Americans are racist. Obama believes what his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, believes. He was lying when he talked about a “post racial America” where we can finally move beyond this issue.

There are a lot of other reasons that I have become disgusted with Obama. The Affordable Care Act involved another lie. I specifically remember a debate between Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama in the 2008 Democratic primary in which Obama said he was not in favor of an individual mandate for health insurance:

“OBAMA:…So we’ve got a lot of similarities in our plan. We’ve got a philosophical difference, which we’ve debated repeatedly, and that is that Senator Clinton believes the only way to achieve universal health care is to force everybody to purchase it.” http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/02/21/debate.transcript/index.html

What did we get? An individual mandate to buy health insurance.

Obama says the Bush Administration was mistaken to invade Iraq because it created a power vacuum in that area that gave rise to ISIS. Regardless of whether this is true, what has Obama done? He used military force to topple the Gaddafi regime in Lybia, which has now been infiltrated by ISIS. http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/isis-terror/fighter-jets-target-libya-s-sabratha-40-killed-official-n521506

By virtue of the fact that Barack Obama was our nation’s first black President, his policies on race relations were probably always going to take center stage. His initial promise was that he would move us beyond racial animosity and strife, but instead he has fanned the flames of racial tension with his actions and words. Instead of saying: “I am the President, and I stand for the rights of all Americans regardless of color,” his actions have been otherwise. Obama has shown us that he is more in the “political camp” of Al Sharpton: someone who wants to use the animosities against white Americans that exist in minority communities to advance his own political power. Even on other major issues that don’t involve race, he has consistently said one thing, and then done another.

“The Martian”

I saw “The Martian” last night. I won’t do any plot spoilers, but it was pretty great, overall. A sufficiently faithful adaptation of the book that I was pleased. The overall theme -that reason is man’s means of survival- was translated to the movie fairly well.

They cut out some sub-plots that I would have liked to see, but I understand that has to be done in the interests of time. They also made a reference to religion -the rocket launch scene- that wasn’t in the original book (as best I can recall), but the book is such a powerful statement about the power of human reason that I’m sure the Hollywood PR people were nervous about how that would go over in middle America.

The other thing that really annoys me is how Hollywood has treated this movie. It got some sort of award for “Best Comedy”, which I think is a total back-handed compliment. The movie and the book definitely do have humor in them. You often laugh with the main character as he uses his reasoning skills to solve problems, but to describe the movie as a comedy is a slight on the part of the Hollywood elite in my opinion. It makes it clear in my mind that people in Hollywood don’t just have a left-wing bias, they have an “anti-man” bias. This translates into an anti-reason bias -because they don’t believe man is efficacious and capable of solving problems through the use of his reason. (This is also why Hollywood is so left wing -they think we need a nanny-state to take care of us.) They hate those who want to live life as men, they hate the faculty that is man’s means of survival -his reason, and they hate success. As a result, the movie is not fully “real” or “dramatic” to the Hollywood elite. In their minds, the idea that anybody could use their reason to promote their own individual survival is not fully real -hence the “comedy” label.

“The Purge of the Hunters” by W. Dean Cook

“What do we do now? We’ve pushed through the executive order outlawing the Republican Party, and managed to blame the previous President’s assassination on NRA-extremists.”

“Yes, and the purge of the last of the reactionaries from our own, now-renamed Green-Democratic party is complete. But, we need something really flashy that will show that we intend to make the Earth a garden again, and to destroy this industrial society that has become a cancer on Mother Earth.”

“What about an executive order outlawing all experimentation on animals?”

“No, unfortunately, there are still too many selfish people in our society. They won’t stand for not getting their precious pharmaceuticals. The same goes for all of the people who didn’t become vegetarians until after we banned the killing of domestic animals for food. Their time will eventually come, but we have to ease into it.”

“What about a ban on genetically modified crops?”

“Well, the 200% sales tax we’ve imposed on any food that isn’t organic has already effectively done away with G.M. crops anyway….which reminds me, exactly how bad is the famine in Southern California?”

“You’re actually concerned about the starvation there?”

“Ha! No, of course not, the Earth’s population is going to have to be reduced to under a billion people, so we might as well start with the Southwestern US. I just wanted to know if there is a possibility of revolt in Southern California. We can’t have anyone getting it into their heads that they should try and secede from the Union.”

“Oh, no worries there. We just call anyone who suggests secession a neo-Confederate racist. Besides, the Prefect of California had some of the strictest gun control laws even before our Green Revolution overthrew the corrupt capitalist regime that existed under that document that was a legacy of the white male hetero-patriarchy known as the Constitution.”

“I’m glad to hear it won’t be a problem. Now, back to the issue at hand. We need something ‘splashy’ that will make good headlines in the state-controlled news channel, MSNBC. By the way, have you noticed that MSNBC’s reporting is exactly the same as it was prior to the Green Revolution? We had to purge people from the other news channels, but everyone at MSNBC was already on board with us. Just goes to show you that MSNBC was right -or, should I say ‘left’? HA!- all along. Anyway, what I am thinking is this: We go after the hunters.”

“The hunters? What’s that?”

“Oh, back before they imposed nation-wide gun control under the old regime, and back when that barbaric notion of private property existed, say more than 20 years ago, there were people who used to hunt our brother and sister animals with weapons for sport or for food. It was a horrible crime against mother Earth. Since we are all agreed that there is no difference between a man and an animal, those people are really no different from people who commit crimes against humanity, and they are a small minority group, so no one will complain too much if they are liquidated.”

“How will we find them?”

“We will just go through the old records and round up anyone who ever applied for a hunting license. It’s the same tactic we used to liquidate the gun-owners, just check the government registry. The previous regime’s largely useless attempts to prevent criminals from getting guns did at least make it easy for us to eventually round up that group of undesirables.”

“What will we do with them once we find them?”

“The gas chamber for every last one of them. Like I said, the world has an excess human population, and we might as well get rid of the troublemakers.”

“What about a trial?”

“Don’t be ridiculous. No due process for fascists! We’ll just issue another executive order.”

Why I am not an Agnostic

A friend of mine asked me about being an atheist recently, and I realized that I had written very little directly on that subject, especially in recent years. I typically just refer someone to what others have written on the subject. For instance, I found “Atheism: The Case Against God” by George H. Smith to be a fairly thorough explanation, and to be largely correct, although I haven’t read it since 1994, so I don’t know to what extent I might now have disagreements with that book.

I am a proponent of Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. I am also fully convinced that it is inconsistent to be an Objectivist and be anything other than an atheist, but that is not actually an explanation for why I am an atheist. After all, maybe Objectivism is right on that one issue, and wrong on everything else, or vice-versa, or somewhere in between. So, in my mind, simply saying: “I am Objectivist, therefore I am atheist,” is not a satisfactory explanation to give to someone regarding why I am, specifically, an atheist. In this essay, I will explain why I am an atheist, but I will do so in the context of a related issue: Why I am not an agnostic.

For me, being an atheist rests on a logical principle that is known as “the onus of proof” principle. This is generally defined as something like: “He who asserts a claim has the burden of proof.” Every statement has a truth-value. That statement can be true, it can be false, or it can be “arbitrary”. A statement is “true” if there is evidence to establish that the statement is in accordance with reality. A statement is “false” if there is evidence to show that that the statement is not in accordance with reality. For instance, imagine that person A says: “All swans are white,” and then he shows person B ten white swans to prove it. However, person B then shows person A an eleventh swan that is black, thereby establishing that A’s statement is “false”. Or, Person A says: “All men are law-abiders,” and person A shows person B ten men who are obeying the law. But, person B then shows person A an eleventh man that is breaking the law, thereby showing person A’s statement to be “false”.

It is also possible to make a statement and offer no proof regarding that statement. Such a statement is neither “true” nor “false”, but “arbitrary”. For instance, person A says: “All swans are white,” and B asks for proof, and A says: “Prove that it isn’t so.” As far as B is concerned, A has made an “arbitrary” statement. In B’s mind, there is no evidence to establish it. Notice that unlike the example above, person A did not show ten white swans to prove his statement. He just “arbitrarily” asserted it.

Another example of an arbitrary statement would be if person A says: “Portland is a city in Oregon.” Person B then asks for proof, and A says: “Prove that it isn’t so.” As far as B is concerned, assuming that B didn’t already have any independent proof of this statement, this is an “arbitrary” statement. In B’s mind, there is no evidence to establish it. (In this case, it can be established that Portland is a city in Oregon, but the evidence simply hasn’t been presented to B.)

A more common example of an arbitrary statement will be something more mystical, along these lines: Person A says: “I was Julius Ceasar in a past life.” Person B then asks for proof, and person A says: “Prove that it isn’t so.” A has made an “arbitrary” statement. In B’s mind, there is no evidence to establish it.

So, if someone asserts: “There is a little gremlin standing on my shoulder, but he is invisible, and you cannot see, hear, touch, taste, or smell him, nor can you use any sort of logical reasoning or deduction to establish that he exists, now prove that it isn’t so,” then they have violated the onus of proof principle. Their statement is neither “true” nor “false”. It is merely “arbitrary”.

How should such an “arbitrary” statement by a person be dealt with by the listener? This question depends on what you think the purpose of knowledge is. I assert that human beings use their rational faculties –that they think- in order to maintain or enhance their individual lives. Knowledge, in general terms, is about grasping causal relationships between perceived entities in order to effectively use those things to maintain or enhance your own life. For instance, people study Biology and human anatomy so that they can understand how a particular entity, the human body, works, and how it interacts with things in its environment like viruses and bacteria. This enables them to develop means of curing disease, which maintains and enhances human life. Or, we study planetary motion, which gives us the ability to understand the nature of gravity, which, thanks to Isaac Newton, gave us the law of Universal Gravitation, which eventually, along with other knowledge, let us build rockets. This allowed us to launch weather satellites that we can use to predict hurricanes. Such technology gives us the ability to evacuate cities in the path of a hurricane, thereby saving countless human lives. One last example that isn’t from the natural sciences: We study man’s fundamental nature in order to understand and grasp certain general principles of action that will enhance or maintain his life. These general principles of action for maintaining one’s life are what Ayn Rand called “ethics” or “morality”.

If the purpose of knowledge is to allow human beings to understand laws of nature, i.e., causal relationships, then any assertion which is not backed up by proof or evidence is an attempt to get people to act on ideas that have no established connection to reality. Acting contrary to the facts in this way is typically not life-enhancing. It is more likely to lead to self-destruction. For instance, if I decided that I could flap my unaided arms and fly like a bird, then went to the roof of a building and jumped off, that will likely end badly for me. This is why it is important that all ideas, statements, and assertions be established in your own mind to be in accordance with reality before you act on them.

The onus of proof principle is the primary reason I self-describe as an “atheist”. When someone makes any statement, I expect proof, if I don’t already have it. Thus, if someone says: “There is a god,” I want proof, just like if someone said: “There is a little green man on Mars.” It just happens to be that within our culture, belief in some sort of god is so common that there is a word for what I am: “a-theist”. But, I am also “a-little-green-man-on-Mars”(ist). (If the majority of the human population were “atheist”, then there probably wouldn’t even be a word for it. That would just be considered “normal”.)

I once explained this “onus of proof” basis for being an atheist to someone who was generally a “secular humanist”, and he said that sounded like “agnosticism”. I must disagree. Let’s look at the definitions of “atheist” and “agnostic” found via a “define: atheist” and “define: agnostic” in Google’s search engine:

Atheist: a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.

Agnostic: a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

My interpretation of these two contrasting definitions is that agnosticism says: “I don’t know if there is a god or not, so I am not going to take a position one way or the other.” But, the truth-status of every assertion of fact matters, if you want to live. Imagine if this were done in some other area, such as if you worked at a construction site. If someone said: “There is a crane about to drop a ton of bricks on you,” the truth or falsity of this statement matters. If you look up and don’t see any crane or bricks, then you’re going to think: “This person is a liar. I am going to distance myself from him and not listen to him.” You might also investigate why he said that. Perhaps you will discover that you were standing on a hundred dollar bill you had dropped, and he wanted you to move so that he could get it without telling you the real reason. This says something about his character.

On the other hand, if you look up and see that there is a ton of bricks about to fall on you, then you will take action: you will get out of the way. (In that scenario, you’re more likely to take that person’s word for it, and jump out of the way. But, after the fact, if you see that he was lying, then, if you want to live, it will affect your opinion of him, and how you deal with him -or don’t deal with him- in the future. My point here is that the truth-status of his assertion matters to your life.)

Imagine what agnosticism would mean to your life in practice. Imagine that an advocate of Sharia Law came to an agnostic and said to her: “God says all women should wear a burka.” Is the agnostic going to think: “I don’t want to take a position on this, so I’ll cover my head half of the time, and not cover it the other half of the time,” or: “I will just cover half my head”? The agnostic can’t say: “Prove that there is a god, and until you do, I am going to disregard everything you say on this subject,” because that would be taking a position. If she does that, then she isn’t actually an agnostic in that situation. She is an atheist. Whether she wants to use the word “agnostic” to describe herself to others is a different issue, but in her mind the truth-status of the assertion matters to her, and she refuses to act on arbitrary assertions. She is an atheist, at least on that issue.

I suspect that there are several reasons why most secularists tend to want to self-describe as “agnostic” rather than “atheist”. “Atheist” is synonymous with “immoral” in our culture because most people believe that any sort of respect for the rights of others must necessarily rest in religious faith. (“Religion” and “morality” are synonymous in many people’s minds, although I don’t think that is correct, if morality means “principles of action necessary for living your life”.) Agnosticism also seems more “reasonable” or “middle of the road”, and our culture tends to promote “the golden mean” between two “extremes” as an ideal, but it is not actually more reasonable. Not if you care about living, because that is why we must adhere our minds to reality on all issues.

Ayn Rand Lexicon on “arbitrary“.