Among the issues most commonly discussed are individuality, the rights of the individual, the limits of legitimate government, morality, history, economics, government policy, science, business, education, health care, energy, and man-made global warming evaluations. My posts are aimed at intelligent and rational individuals, whose comments are very welcome.

"No matter how vast your knowledge or how modest, it is your own mind that has to acquire it." Ayn Rand

"Observe that the 'haves' are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the 'have-nots' have not." Ayn Rand

"The virtue involved in helping those one loves is not 'selflessness' or 'sacrifice', but integrity." Ayn Rand

26 July 2020

How to Change a Society from a Largely Free Democratic Republic to a Fascist Socialist Totalitarian State

1.  Divide individuals by gender, by ethnicity, by wealth and income, by education, by age, and by sexuality; 

2.  Pit one group against another using the force of government to provide unearned rewards to some at the expense of others by putting limits on the rights of individuals to earn a living, limiting their freedom of association, and their freedom to cooperate with one another; 

3.  Thereby, creating distrust and hatred as the factions fight to control the government that insists on hurting many, making it a threat to all, thereby making it a matter of life and death for each group to control the government;

4.  Watch a country that once honored merit in the market place, but became an unlimited democracy, succumb to greed for the unearned with the development of ever more special interest groups dependent upon government largess;

5.  The government-run and funded education system becomes a tool promoting more and more government powers, seeks to suppress all private education alternatives, seeks to suppress individual rights especially freedom of speech and the freedom of the press or media, promotes the collective rights of some groups at the expense of the rights of the individuals in other groups, and promotes versions of the country's prior history that diverge ever more from the truth such that more and more power and money flow to the government and the education system;

6. In which a majority coalition of those who have less wealth and want government forced transfers of wealth to themselves and those who most lust for power turn the country into a socialist, fascist country (very poor, primitive countries usually turn communist instead);

7. Which in turn comes to be ruled by the most brutal elements of the power lusters with a total loss of individual rights.

I read William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich the summer after the 9th grade and came to understand most of this.  I think I understood some of these lessons better than Shirer did.  There have been many further examples of this process since WWII.

Here is a very interesting analysis video of what we are presently facing based on a young woman's experience during the disintegration of Yugoslavia.




19 July 2020

Robert Bidinotto -- Many People Embrace Altruism Because They See Relationships as Win-Lose in a Zero-Sum World

I, Charles Anderson, have long argued that the private sector -- a broader concept than the free market -- allows everyone to pursue relationships offering mutual benefits, while the government sector is "dog eat dog" under the rule of brutal force. I have not railed much against altruism as a chosen philosophy, though Ayn Rand and many other Objectivists have. Instead, I have simply tried to convince people that our relationships should be worked to our mutual benefit and government should be limited by the principle that it should not be hurting anyone, not even with a rationale that it was acting for the "Greater Good."  

Yet before reading Robert Bidinotto's comments below, I did not quite recognize that many people were so repulsed by being an oppressor in a world they saw as a zero-sum game that they chose instead to be a victim.  In dealing with zero-sum win/lose governments, I have made this choice myself.  This repulsion for being the bully/oppressor serves as the reason that many people act as though they are altruists, the philosophy of self-sacrifice.  Fortunately, the free private sector is very accommodating to win/win relationships and we can develop a society in which self-sacrifice is not a necessary choice to avoid becoming a monster oppressor.

In a Facebook discussion, Robert Bidinotto, the author of the Hunter thriller novels, made what I believe to be unusually perceptive and brilliant observations that made this much clearer to me. As he says, this explanation for the popularity of altruism needs to be understood and promulgated with vigor.  With his permission, I am reproducing his comments here:

Robert Bidinotto:  On the Origins of "Self-Sacrifice" as Moral "Ideal"

Politics is force -- and the initiation of force necessarily creates zero-sum situations of victimizers vs. victims. This means politics necessarily fuels resentments, hatred, and social "polarization," because politics invariably, unavoidably results in "win/lose" relationships.
  
This state of affairs is the exact opposite of the voluntary, non-coercive trade relationships in a free society, which are to mutual benefit and are thus "win/win." In the marketplace, all parties to an uncoerced transaction walk away afterward believing that they are better off than before. It's why when we pay for something in stores, we customarily say "thank you" -- and so do the sellers. We are happy to get the goods and services sold to us, and they are happy to get our money in exchange. There are no victimizers, and no victims.

You'd think people who truly wanted a peaceful, benevolent, harmonious society would realize this, embrace the free market, and reject government coercion as the central organizing principle of society. But no. 

Why? 

I think that's because a huge percentage of people harbor a fundamental zero-sum, winner-loser view of economic and social relationships. Few people ever become leftists because they read turgid tracts by Marx and Engels about "class warfare." They become leftists because they see social and economic relationships in terms of either gaining power over others, or of submitting to the power of others. They see human interests as being fundamentally in conflict, so that the "self-interest" of some necessitates the "exploitation" of others.

This worldview or Narrative is rooted deep within humanity's tribal past, where human relationships *were* all about either domination or submission. We have to remember that capitalism, historically, is very new -- and from the outset it was misinterpreted through the conventional, long-standing filter of that zero-sum, win-lose worldview. Capitalists were thus "robber barons," not society's creative benefactors. Marx, and generations he influenced, interpreted capitalism and all human relationships in terms of class warfare. Today, "identity politics" rests on the same view of inherent conflicts of interest among demographic groups. Society, to the left, is all about "power relationships."

If I'm right about this, then many people's idealization of the ethics of "self-sacrifice" makes a kind of sense. Altruistic self-sacrifice is not so much the result of philosophical/ideological persuasion, as it is the result of a deep-seated core belief in inherent conflicts of interest -- and the subsequent conclusion that the only way for people to live in social harmony is to forgo their "selfish interests." 
This puts a different interpretive spin on the age-old popularity of altruism. On its face, self-sacrifice makes no sense. Acting in opposition to one's best interests is bizarre, and why people should *want* to accept it as a "moral ideal" is even more bizarre. So Ayn Rand, for one -- viewing human action as powered by abstract philosophical ideas -- tried to explain altruism's prevalence by imagining that malicious philosophers and thinkers have pushed it upon the gullible as a self-contained "ism," and embedded it into various philosophies. You can read endless articles from Rand and her followers bashing "altruism" per se, as a causal force in society. You also see that their critiques have had little societal impact.

My explanation for this failure is that the attacks on altruism per se are strategically misplaced. If what I said above is valid, then altruism is less a moral cause than a moral *conclusion* -- a logical choice for those who believe that socio-economic relationships involve inherent conflicts of interest. If that's your Narrative about the social world -- if you see transactions as nothing but power relationships about dominance and submission -- then you have a logical choice to make: either to become a cold-blooded, predatory brute, or to become (or remain) "nice" and allow yourself to be an exploited victim. Those who truly believe in this Narrative may conclude that they'd rather keep their self-respect by being victimized than join the ranks of criminals and brutes. Altruism thus becomes evidence not of low self-esteem, but rather the misguided quest to *retain* one's self-esteem and humanity in a world of brutes and barbarians.

Is this interpretation far-fetched? I observe that in discussions of emergencies and "lifeboat situations," even many Randians recoil from a view that sees these as zero-sum conflicts, which would require them to behave as ruthless brutes, surviving at the expense of others. Most would prefer to keep their humanity and self-esteem by dying nobly, rather than survive like predatory beasts.

Well, then imagine how you'd *live* (and vote) if you truly believed that *normal social life* was all about zero-sum conflicts of interest -- that each transaction under capitalism entailed someone gaining at someone else's expense. You'd conclude, logically, that economic winners were all rapacious predators and "robber barons." You'd conclude, logically, that to keep your soul, you'd have to sacrifice your prospects for economic well-being and do your work solely for the love of it, not for commercial success. You'd conclude, logically, that to keep the economic predators in check, you needed a powerful, highly regulatory government to suppress predatory "greed." You'd conclude, logically, that Marxism's "class warfare" worldview was valid -- as were Marx's proposed remedies -- which would explain the stubborn, indelible appeal of socialism, despite its epic, bloody failures wherever it is tried. 

If I'm right about this, then the *main* target of individualists' moral proselytizing ought to be the Zero-Sum Narrative, i.e., the belief in inherent conflicts of interest among people -- and not altruism per se, which is mainly an emotionally driven *reaction* to the zero-sum worldview. We need to teach people that economic relationships in a free society are "win/win," not "win/lose." We need to teach what 19th-century thinker Frederic Bastiat labeled "Economic Harmonies." 

And we ought to teach that the "win/win" marketplace, based on voluntary, unforced trades, is the moral antithesis of the world of politics, where all relationships *are* in fact coercive, zero-sum, and "win/lose." We ought to teach that if you want a world that minimizes the coercive victimization of some people by others, then we need to keep relationships in the *private sector* -- that the *political sector* is the *last* place you should turn for solutions, and that politicians are the *last* people you should turn to as saviors. 

And that my friends is a very wise analysis of most of our societal problems, if you think this through for yourself.  Thank you ever so much Robert Bidinotto.

By the way, the Bidinotto novels are a rare pleasure to read.  Here is his author page on amazon.com.