I read through yesterday’s comments with some level of fascination. The discussions about the greater good were simply too good to pass up the opportunity to continue them by posting an article with my thoughts on the topic. As many of you may remember, I am a proponent of social darwinsim. I understand that in some people’s eyes, that makes me evil. I can live with that, simply because I reject your definition of evil. I have seen evil in my lifetime. It can take many forms. I saw pure evil in the eyes of men. But the purest evil I know is that which takes the form of a smile as someone tells me they have the right to control another’s destiny in order to serve “the greater good”. So I thought I would write out some thoughts here and merge them with the Atlas Shrugged content that I was going to share. I think the place where many are getting hung up is the idea of true freedom….
Allow me to be clear up front. I understand the concept of true freedom in exactly the way that BlackFlag, JAC, PeterB, and many others espouse it. Furthermore I embrace the concept of it, and I want to find a solution that refuses to contradict it, if that is possible. Perhaps BF is right and it cannot be done in government (or whatever I would choose to call it going forward). But until that is proven to me, I will fight on. In that way I will remain diligent. I do understand that I often make small errors in my interpretations. Small amounts of contradiction that I then have to consider and attempt to correct. Where I take my pride from is that I will conform to logic and reason in an argument 100% of the time. If you can logically and conclusively show me where I am wrong, I will discard my old position and adopt a new one, more consistent with reality and the universe.
And because of that tenet of mine when debating or discussing, I seek out opportunities to test my thoughts for consistency and figure out where I may be gummed up in my thinking. Today is an attempt to do just that. I promise to try and keep up with the conversation and answer what I can and discuss throughout the day, or for as long as we want to keep this thread active. But it seems that there are two very different trains of thought in the forums here. On one side, sacrifice for the “greater good” is not only justified, but essential and worthy of scorn for refusal to do so. On the other side, all sacrifice of any kind must be voluntary, no exceptions. I respectfully fall much closer to the second, but may stray a few times so I want to also discuss how to do some things that may be getting in my way, or in your way.
Social Darwinism, under my definition, means that you adapt or die. If you have no means to procure, through some form of behavior, the means to live, then you are unfortunately a weak link in the species. A great beggar has a talent, and therefore will survive. A great industrialist has a talent, and therefore will survive. Someone who is content to live off the work of others, has no talent, and therefore is flawed and subject, through selective breeding, to extinction of his or her blood line and its genetic flaws. It is a tough stance to take, I agree. But it is consistent, in my opinion. Because under my theory, there is no ability to use coersion to change your lot in life. You will find a way to do things without coercing others, or your bloodline will perish, as survival of the fittest demands. That doesn’t mean I look to “destroy” anyone or that I refuse to offer a helping hand. But my helping hand is limited to giving an opportunity to develop or use a skill to change your lot. I refuse to accept the notion that I must support someone for good who cannot support themselves. I may choose to but I will be damned if I should be forced to.
Does that make me evil? Maybe. I don’t know. Who am I to say? I don’t think I am evil. I am more than willing to help those in need so long as I see them helping themselves. A woman with 6 children and no father around is likely to have not helped herself. If I had two kids and no father, no education, no way to feed them, etc. I would quickly decide that I am not having sex with anyone without major protection. I would leave almost nothing to chance. The person who does not do this, has a flaw, and therefore has been selected by the universe for extinction. Unless of course she develops a talent and uses it to feed her children, thus ensuring survival.
That is social darwinism, at least my version of it, in a very small nutshell. I am happy to answer any questions as we go, and I didn’t want to spend all day discussing it, as I have written whole articles on the subject that any of you can find in the archives.
So on to the greater good. I submit that the “greater good” is a myth. There is no such animal. The greater good, as defined by those who discuss it today, is nothing more than an excuse to impose their will on those who would disagree with them. It is used as an excuse to form society in a way that they deem acceptable under their particular standards and desires. Most importantly, the greater good is, in modern times, the greatest threat to freedom and liberty we have. It is the tool most used by political pundits as a reason to impose their ideas and philosophies on those who would not otherwise conform. But I do understand the greater good as a concept, when it is used as an idea of an action that will be of benefit to society at large. The problem is, the greater good is usually in no way being served by those who use it as their excuse.
Let’s talk turkey here. I will use names, not to embarass anyone or call anyone out, but instead just to eliminate the need to re-type entire lengthy conversations in order to set up my thought. BlackFlag rejects the coercive actions taken in order to take from one group in order to give to another group in order to serve the “greater good”. Mathius is completely OK with sacrificing his loot to help serve the greater good, and is also OK with forcing others to share his level of sacrifice. The argument is then made that BF is evil, for he cares not to save that little starving child (an emotional appeal at its finest I might add). In this case, I don’t believe that BF is evil. He is perhaps heartless if he watches misery and does nothing. But evil… absolutely not.
And this comes down to a fundamental difference of core beliefs. I, along with BF, JAC, Peter, and others, believe that I was put on this earth to serve myself. By serving myself, I serve society (my own little take on objectivism). I will call that option A. Chris, Mathius, Ray, Todd, and others believe that man is put on earth to serve society. By serving society, they serve themselves. I will call this option B.
I watched the fruitless argument against option A. Sure, Mathius believes that many of us will be charitable and help those that deserve help. But he concludes that there are others that will not. Thus, they should be forced to contribute. The argument against option B, however, isn’t as clear cut, but in reality option B requires massive contradictions and coercive force to make happen. What Mathius, and others are missing is that when you decide to force the hand of others, you breed resentment, thus damaging society much worse than poverty or starvation currently damage society. And in the zealotry to demonize the wealthy as a means to gain public support for a greater percentage of their wealth to be taken for “the greater good”, you breed both resentment for the wealthy, and resentment from the wealthy.
And let me be clear here, the wealthy, the producers, the job creators, the “have’s”, reaching a state where they resent the rest of the population is the most damaging thing you could possibly do to “the greater good”. The absolute worst scenario you could create for the starving, the poor, the destitute, is to have the people with the means to help decide that they are no longer willing to help. To have them decide that a society that stopped recognizing their rights is not worthy of their providing anything to that society. We see this already. How many businesses out there, that provided jobs, insurance, and support for American workers, have been punished to the point of them deciding that they hold no moral obligation to continue to support those workers. Instead they took their factories, manufacturing, etc., overseas. To a country that respected their right to make as much money as they have the ability to make.
I hear the calls from the left to do something about the companies that take jobs overseas. We should tax them harder. We should punish them in some way. We should do something to stop them from leaving. It smacks of Mr. Mowen of Amalgamated Switch and Signal Company proclaiming “there oughta be a law” as he watched businesses pack for Colorado. And their solutions, I have no doubt will come in the form of something that has the feel of the “Public Stability Law” that forbade Eastern businesses to move out of their states. It is madness, and for those that are making the calls for action such as this for “the greater good”, I submit that you have fallen to the lowest rung on the ladder of morality, choosing to demand action from another for your own selfish concerns.
We all know what evil is when we see it. Theft is evil. Start with with that premise. Do you refute it? I don’t think anyone will do so. So how do we define it? BF sees forced taking of one’s wealth and giving it to someone in need as theft. Chris Devine sees this as responsibility, not theft. So who is right? Theft, as a defined thing is the seizure of property that does not rightly belong to the person doing the seizing. I adhere to that definition. It serves as a fair and accurate version of what theft is in my eyes. So where do we go from there?
Chris and Mathius both stated that the seizure of wealth from those who have more than enough to survive on is acceptable for “the greater good” (I know that they worded it differently, but in a nutshell that is what they said). The wealthy already provide 90% of the tax money collected in the United States from personal income. But even that is not enough for them. They want more, because those they seek to take it from “can afford to sacrifice more”. If that is a moral justification for theft, then as a society we are nothing but a long list of contradictions in terms of the laws that Chris and Mathius fully support.
Surely then, the burglar who breaks into a home and steals a TV is not a criminal if they do so because it was to feed their children. The auto thief who needs to get to work is completely justified in stealing a car from General Motors, as GM (especially now that they are backed by government) has more than enough wealth to sacrifice that car without even noticing. Any person needing a meal is well within moral bounds to walk into a restaurant and eat their meal and consequently skip out on the tab. The restaurant can surely eat the cost of that meal, while the thief had no money to pay.
Make it more personal. Knowing that Chris is a smart guy with the ability to earn more wealth, government is well within the realm of morality to knock on Chris’s door, tell him they have seized his home to be used as a daycare for single mothers. After all, Chris is sacrificing his home for “the greater good”, as he has the ability to earn the money to get another home. Mathius, your wife has a car, so in order to enable the government to begin road construction that will provide jobs for those without, they have decided that you must turn over the keys to your truck. It will make a useful highway construction vehicle. It serves “the greater good” though, so I am sure you will be fine with it.
And there is the crux of the problem when those who espouse the morality of “Option B” take their stand. There is no way to draw the line once you begin. If you justify taking 10 dollars from the man with $100,000, then you have justified the taking of ANYTHING in any situation where the seizure results in something better for two people than for the one person who owns that thing. After all, benefitting two people does more for the greater good than benefitting one person.
THEFT IS THEFT, NO MATTER THE REASON. If it is mine, and you take it by force, you are a thief. I have no obligation to “the greater good”, no matter how much you tell me that I do. I, USWeapon, choose on my own to benefit society in the ways that I see fit. I do so on moral grounds. If it is immoral, I choose not to do it because being moral is something I believe in. If it benefits me, I will choose to sacrifice something that is mine to sacrifice. The benefit may be nothing more than feeling good about my sacrifice. But the choice is mine to make because the sacrifice is mine. You have no right to offer the sacrifice of something that you did not earn or that you do not own.
Now make it less personal. The do-gooders will argue that the wealthy are corrupt. They will argue that big business has no heart, no soul, and no compassion. They will argue that without their intervention, big business, the wealthy, and the “have’s” will screw everyone for their benefit. They will skirt paying taxes. They will dump toxic waste. They will organize in a way that squeezes out competition. And then they will argue that big, bad government will save us from those evil people.
Bulldookey. In 250 years of trying, government has yet to stop a single “big business” from doing exactly what government claims they will stop. They don’t have the power to “regulate” business. They don’t have the means to do it effectively. And they absolutely DO NOT HAVE THE POWER OR THE MEANS OR THE DESIRE TO DO IT MORALLY. There is only one group on earth with the power to control business:
The consumer has bankrupted corrupt business after corrupt business. And the best part of this whole argument is that those on the left absolutely know this. When government doesn’t have the ability to shut Glen Beck up, what do they do? They ask the consumer to do it for them, unwittingly proving that consumers have powers far beyond what government will ever be able to accomplish. Those on the right should thank the left for this clear admission of the power of consumers where government, and rhetoric, and partisan bullshit falls impotent. The consumer is the viagra of an impotent political movement. Yet while asking the consumer to do what the government cannot, they still cry that government is the answer to the ills of big business. Nothing like being de-pants’d in front of the whole class….
So what does all this mean. It means that “the greater good” is a scam. It is a ploy. It is the attempt to win the argument when their logical attempts at doing so have failed. Nothing more and nothing less. Those who claim to want to take from one to give to another in the name of “the greater good” are doing nothing but attempting to justify theft in the name of their cause. Unwilling to sacrifice all that they have, they demand that others sacrifice in their place. And I refuse.
Our government has played a very cruel trick on the American people. They have fooled the people into believing that they are looking to help them. Yet we can point to example after example from both sides of the political spectrum that prove that government has no interest in making things better. They only want to make them “better enough” to quell a rebellion. Their desire is for power, and they have duped many on the left and on the right into serving their cause in the name of “the greater good”.
I will leave you with a quote from Francisco D’Anconia, in reply to Bertram Scudder, a philosopher who feels that he is “enlightened to the greater good” and thus proclaims that “money is the root of all evil”. D’Anconia, wise in the fact that money is a tool used for trade, made possible by the efforts of productive men. When I hear of the evils of the wealthy, I remember that they are who make the society in which we live possible and the words of Francisco return to my mind:
Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and exchange value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?
But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak. What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product on man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is MADE – before it can be looted or mooched – made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.