Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Transcript of Freedomain Radio Podcast 70: “The Parable of the Apple – or, How to control a human soul...”

(A transcript of Podcast 70 from The original podcast is available here:

Good afternoon everybody. It is Wednesday, at about 4:27 on January the 25th. I hope you’re doing well. We are going to chat about a most exciting topic today. Not there all not exciting, but this one in particular is juicy to the point almost of being overbearing to one’s intellectual taste buds, to mix metaphors so much that I might as well put my brain on frappe.

So, the topic that I’d like to chat about today is the question of exercising power. How do you exercise power over another human being? How do you corrupt them? How do you take his natural integrity, intelligence, and all the wonder that is the human mind, and turn it against itself and get it to eat itself and get it to be sort of a snake consuming its own tail? How do you wrap people up in neuroses, and how do you make them obedient? How to get them to subjugate themselves to your will without you even having to lift a finger, barely even an eyebrow? And the reason that I want to talk about this is that I’m very interested in starting a cult. No, actually, I think you’ve got to know the weapons of your enemies if you’re going to successfully oppose them. You need to know what they are doing so that you can unravel the damage that historically we’ve all had done to us in this rather messy culture that we live in, so that we can not only begin to reverse the effects of this kind of power structure within our own minds and hearts and souls, but also so that we can help other people unravel the mess that they have become.

I view certain damages that are done early to the mind in life as pretty irrevocable. The mind is not so plastic that you could, say, for instance, be locked in a cupboard for your first twenty years and up as a normal human being. You do experience some particular phases in your brain development which are pretty central and may or may not be reversible, and generally the earlier the experiences the less reversible they are.

Thus I am not saying that we can lickety-split fix ourselves up and be right as rain, but we can at least learn to strengthen where we are weakest. There is always adaptability within the human mind, as we know from seeing people who have terrible brain injuries who find other ways of adapting. So I think that it is well worth having a look at the methodology by which one twists the human mind so that we can to some degree allow ourselves or invite ourselves to become untwisted – which is quite a bit of work, let me tell you! But it is entirely satisfying in its conclusion.

I myself make no claims to be perfectly sane by any stretch of the imagination. I suffered, in a sense, my own intellectual “foot binding” just like everybody else, but what I have done is explored the aches and creaks of my mental joints, to the point where I think I have a pretty good idea or fairly good idea of how a straightening out could occur and what it might look like.

So, let’s start at the very beginning, which is: how do you get people, how do you get children, to detach themselves from two basic things: sensual evidence and simple facts? It really is amazing, when you think about it, how power structures work to do this, and the fantastic success that they have in this area.

So: how do you get children to ignore the evidence of their senses, the evidence of the senses transmitted through the autonomous nerve system which is absolutely outside of our control? We can choose to open our eyes or close them, but we can’t choose, if we open our eyes, not to see – I mean other than pulling a King Lear or, I guess, a Gloucester, gouging out eyes.

We don’t have any control over the actions of our autonomous nerve system in the perception and transmission of external, material reality, or in providing the evidence of external, material reality. So it would seem fairly hard to get children, who love to explore the world, and curl and uncurl their limbs, and figure out object constancy, and figure out how the world works, and so on to stop processing reality. It’s just what children love to do – that’s what a lot of logic games are all about. That’s what a lot of physical games, sports and so on, are all about – exploring the world, controlling one’s body, controlling one’s mind, focusing, and becoming disciplined in a sort of happy way towards the exercise of one’s creative and intellectual powers.

This is a perfectly natural development for children, so how on earth is it so possible and seems so easy to twist children into these obedient neurotic slaves to power, which so many of us end up becoming to one degree or another – not just slaves to power, but infected with this wild Stockholm Syndrome, wherein people end up loving the state? They love religion! They love God! They love all this stuff! It’s more than just, “Well, you know, I was raised this way, and so I guess this is what is considered normal, and what do I know?” I mean, people will go out and have banner-waving, cheering, standing ovations, mad stampede crowd lunacy for the president or for the Pope or for leaders or members of the cultural elite or the political elite or even the economic elite to some degree.

I mean, they are not just hammered down. They are hammered down, reforged, reshaped, recharged, reenergized, and reformed as people who love slavery to the point where they think slavery is freedom! I mean, we live in a 1984 universe, intellectually, and the only reason we don’t live in a 1984 universe physically is because there’s some leftover still from the Enlightenment and from capitalism is which have managed to keep us going to some degree, in a diminishing kind of way. But intellectually, we’re are just… It’s “Spanish Inquisition time” as far as people’s ability to reason goes.

So how is it possible that human beings who are so constructed to love freedom, to love the exercise of ability, to love rationality, to automatically transmit or receive the evidence of the senses, how is it that human beings are so turned against all of this as children?

Well, the first thing that you need to do in order to begin the process of destroying a child’s mind is you to set up categories, empty categories, which are moral absolutes. I know, it’s not exactly in the kindergarten book, but trust me – well don’t trust me, let me reason it out and see if you believe me. This is how it works: You, with great reverence – as the corrupting teacher, or parent, or person with authority – with great reverence, you vividly describe and are enormously passionate about things which the child cannot see.

Of course the first example of this that leaps to mind for most people is God, but that’s just one aspect of these crazy kaleidoscopes of fantasy that children’s brains are squeezed into and cut up on. So, of course, God - people all say: “Let’s have grace, let’s pray, let’s worship.” Of course, Santa Claus is just one thin edge of the wedge in all of this.

So first you speak with enormous reverence and passion about things which the child cannot see. And the child, of course, is baffled. You are playing enormously on the power that you hold over the child – I mean, you hold the power of life and death over this child, there’s simply no way to get around that. That is just the nature of biology: children will cleave to the wishes of their parents above all else, because without the parents there’s no survival, and so, biologically, those children who fought the moral absolutes or commandments of their parents just tended to die off. Parents have absolutely no problem sacrificing children to abstract moral ideals, as we see throughout the history of the world in terms of wars and religious torture and even beatings.

That child is going to inevitably cleave to the will of the parent – and so what you do, if you use are this evil, corrupting parent, is that you will – wild-eyed, or calmly, or passionately, but with some kind of reverence – talk about things that aren’t there, as if it’s perfectly natural, that you would talk about these things that don’t exist.

You basically say that there’s an invisible apple on the table – and this would be your basic approach to wrecking a child’s mind very early on in life.

The child knows apples, and he knows oranges, and he’s getting the hang of that stuff. So he’s maybe two years old, two-and-a-half years old – maybe if he’s bright eighteen months – so he’s getting the hang of material reality, and how to describe things, and categorize things, and understand them.

So what you do, to start to undermine the child’s sense of competency in the physical realm, in the realm of the senses, is you all sit down to dinner – and there is nothing on the table.

Then you, with great solemnity, reach over and pick up an “invisible apple.” You pick up this invisible apple, along with the whole family, and with great solemnity you all take a bite out of this invisible apple, and you say, “That is the best apple I have ever tasted in my life. It tastes like all the sugar and chocolate and glucose and fructose and caramel you can dream of all piled together. It’s a mouth orgasm that I just can’t even speak about!”

And everybody agrees. This is “The Emperor’s New Clothes syndrome.”

Everybody agrees, and then everybody mimes, and so on.

The child, of course, is completely bewildered – let’s say is the youngest child. The youngest child is just completely baffled – he can’t for the life of him understand what on earth is going on. Everything has kind of made sense so far. Every sort of concept or abstraction that he are building on based on the evidence of his senses kind of makes sense.

In the beginning, when you’re playing with a little baby, you roll a ball that they can see. You roll it under a blanket and they just lose interest, because they think it’s ceased to exist. At some point – a couple of months, six months, seven months, eight months – they begin to develop object constancy, where they go, “Ahah! The ball that has rolled under the blanket has not ceased to exist, it is simply under the blanket!” And then they pull the blanket off the ball and continue to play with it, if that’s what they want.

Every abstraction that the child has built up on – that letters mean things on the page that mean objects that are transmitted through the senses, and there’s a correlation between concepts and instances – all of the amazing and fantastic developments of neuron complexity and brain complexity that is going on in a child’s mind for the first couple of years – it all sort of comes to complete shuddering halt during this imaginary fruit eating dinner table conversation, because everything that he’s eaten before has substance, and tastes, and he can see it, and everybody else can see it, and now the whole family, everybody around the table is “eating” something and he can’t see it.

So then you think, as a child, “Well, maybe everyone else can see it!” So you reach out to where everybody seems to be taking the fruit from, and you can’t feel anything! Well what you gonna do? I mean, it’s a bizarre and deranged situation!

There was a play that was put on in the 1930s, I think it was – “Gaslight” – where a man was trying to drive his wife insane, so he just rearranged things within the house. He would put a picture up and they would all comment on how lovely the picture was, and then he’d take the picture down off and she would then say, “Well, where did the picture go?” And he’d say, “What picture?” And she’d say, “Well, the picture we were talking about.” And he’d say, “Well, we were never talking about a picture, what you mean?” He would be completely baffled, and he’d continue to do this over and over again and, of course, completely messing with her sense of reality.

This kind of behaviour at the dinner table is just so astoundingly corrupting and destructive of the child’s mind.

The child’s first reaction is horror and fear, because one of two things is occurring. Either he’s lost the ability to process essential sensual information – which, to living organism, is a death sentence – and a murderously horrible death sentence, because it’s going to be a slow, horrible death. You either can’t figure out what to eat, or you try to eat a pinecone or you can’t hear the lion coming, or you try to drink water and it turns out to be blood or urine, and it just becomes a horrible death sentence if you lose the ability to process essential sensual information - that’s just a terrible thing to happen! There’s almost no worse fate to an organism other than simply a quick death.

So, either the child has lost the ability to process sensual information, or the child has the ability to process essential information and his entire family is lying to him about a very essential fact.

Those are two absolutely, unbelievably terrible options for a child, a young child, to face. “Either I’ve lost the ability for my brain to work effectively with reality, and therefore I’m going to face a life of incredible struggle, danger, and death, and it’s going to be very short life at that, too. Either that has happened, or my family is lying to me in such a fundamentally destructive way that I would actually prefer it if they just beat me across the head with a stick!”

At least you feel that, it doesn’t interfere with your ability to process reality, it doesn’t make you doubt your senses, it doesn’t make you believe in things that aren’t true, it’s just like, “Ow, that hurts,” and you take cover or go for shelter or whatever, but this is much worse! This is worse than a direct assault on the body – which at least reaffirms the evidence of the senses in a brutal kind of manner. This is a direct assault on one’s capacity to trust one’s own senses and one’s own mind to perceive reality!

We can’t survive without a successful or accurate perception of reality at the material level. So it’s a death sentence that the family is passing upon this young mind that is opening to all the wonders of the physical world when they are miming and saying, “Mmmm, that tastes wonderful,” and everyone’s pretending that that they’re eating, and if they’re not eating and they’re lying, it’s unbelievably destructive! It’s the worst kind of abuse, to tell a child that his entire brain has ceased to function correctly!

So the child is placed in an absolutely impossible situation – and if you want to look at the foundation of all the corruption of power that exists within the material world, within human society – everything from a cop pulling you over when you’re going 1km an hour over the speed limit and giving you a big fine because he’s got to meet his quota, all the way to the deaths of millions in the gulags – you can trace it right back, all the way back, to this one core central moment, when the child is faced with people he has to trust, creating a situation where he either has to hate them for their direct assault upon his capacity to understand the world and to live within it – because they’re lying to him – or he has to look within himself and say that he is insane and deranged, and reality no longer makes any sense, and that as an organism he is not going to survive.

Every single aspect of human corruption, and human evil, and human madness, and human hatred, and human fear that is existential in nature, goes directly back to this fork in the road that every child faces when he are in a society, when he is in a family that pretends to believe in things that are not sensual, not rational, not provable, not logical, not true.

Even more horribly, the child also recognizes that his parents and his siblings have no problem doing this to him! How is this going to affect his capacity to love them, and to love himself, and to love the world, and to love the society he’s in if people are perfectly willing to do this to him. In fact, they want to do it to him! They’re not even being forced to it, they’re not even indifferent. It’s a staged show, because every human being that comes into society who is not insane by nature is capable of blowing this nonsensical, irrational, crazy scheme right out of the water, and thus must be inoculated against empirical reality, truth and reason, from the very beginning. Everybody recognizes the risk that is involved in this, and everybody recognizes the danger of somebody breaking through this sick ice and actually finding out the truth about the nonsense that people call truth and reality, socially. So every child goes through this horrible fork in the road where they’re told things that directly contradict the evidence of logic and their senses – which they need, which they must rely on in order to survive as an organism, which they are passionate about, and enjoy the exercise of and development of. This direct assault on one’s identity as a species, as an animal, as a rational creature…

Every child faces this fork in the road, and the destruction and corruption that is everywhere in society flows directly out of this particular fork in a way that we will talk about a little bit further as we go along.

Let’s continue with the steps to destroy a child’s mind. So – there’s this child at the dinner table, and everyone is very seriously telling this child that there is this invisible apple to eat and that they are eating it and it tastes goooood!

What is the child to do?

There is this unbelievable fork in the road, where he either has to hate those who are attacking him in such a fundamentally destructive manner, or he has to doubt his own sanity and capacity to survive as an organism, as a life, as a human being. It is this fork in the road that triggers the true destruction of what a psychologist might call the “true self,” or our honest self, or our integrity, or what I might just call our actual personality, our real personality.

Our bodies have a natural growth to them. We’re going to grow, going to get to a certain amount of height, a certain amount of the average weight. But if we’re put in these horrible contortion machines, then we’re going to end up with an unnatural body, which is all we’ve got to work with. It’s like the foot binding metaphor I’ve used before, that if you’re like these Chinese women in the 19th Century and you have your feet bound for a number of years, you end up with these horrible little curled-under stumps – and that’s what you have to work with. There’s no “original foot” for you to get back to, but there is an “original foot” that you could have had if they had not been bound.

That’s sort of how I feel about the personality structure of a human being, that we’re sort of warped by these insane experiences, but we can get back to something a lot healthier, and that’s the purpose of my conversations with the segments of the world who enjoy this conversation.

The fundamental break that occurs, is a reality break, or a break in belonging, or break in attachment, that occurs at this “dinner table from hell.” The problem that the child is facing is, the statement that sort of scrolls across our minds at these moments. (And I don’t know if you can remember yours. I can sort of remember the after effects of mine. I don’t remember the one directly, but I remember very shortly thereafter. I can mention later if it comes back to my mind.) The statement that is going to scroll across the child’s mind when he or she is at this dinner table is, “I am now doomed to live in an asylum.” And that asylum is called “the world.” That asylum is called “my family.” That asylum is called “those who are close to me.” That asylum is called “society” or “normalcy” or however you want to put it. The basic statement is that, “I am now condemned to live in an asylum.”

That terrible statement encompasses both the options that the child is really facing. The first option is that those around him or her are trying to harm the child and undermine the child’s capacity to have any kind of trust in those who claim to care about him,” and that is, as you know, a horrible thing to contemplate or face.

That is one aspect that is going to occur.

The second aspect that is that people are lovingly and actually seeing these apples, but that the child, is in no way capable of perceiving them, and is therefore fundamentally flawed, dangerous, and sort of mentally ill as a living organism, as a human being.

So the asylum that the child is now facing is that he lives in a world of insanity, and either he is sane but those around him are telling him or pretending to him that he is insane – which means that the asylum is composed of those around him – or, the asylum is actually that everyone else around him is sane, and that he’s the only member of this asylum.

However, the asylum is absolutely there – the asylum is either his own mind or everyone around him. This is the break in belonging that occurs for a child when people around him tell him that things are there and exist and are real that he can clearly and plainly see are not there, don’t exist, and are not real.

Now, of course, the question becomes: “Why does he of often believe that it is him? Why doesn’t he just believe that it’s everyone else around him who is just messing with his head, and just take that approach to the problem of being lied to?”

Well, that is a perfectly valid and logical response, and we’ll get back to that in a second, but first I would like to deal with the problem of virtue.

The problem that power has is not with other people who want power, but rather with people who are moral.

Morality is the opposite of power. Morality is the opposite of dominance. Morality is the opposite of subjugation, or exploitation, because morality is all about finding what is common and true in the world – common to all human beings and true empirically and also biologically – and therefore it’s not about subjugation, because it is creating one rule for everyone, and the only way that you can have subjugation or exploitation is if you create different rules for different people.

Thus the real threat that power structures face is not from those who would wrest that power structure away from them, because they can be beaten or even if they can’t be beaten, the vast majority of those who benefit from a power structure are not those at the top, but those in the hazy middle – you know, the money changers, the legislators in the background, the middle managers and so on.

This sort of bureaucratic parasitical power structure feasts on subjugation and is deathly afraid of morality, because if morality is applied to the situation, the whole gig is up. That’s why they focus so much on owning morality in these power structures.

So who they really have to worry about are those concerned with goodness, who are concerned with morality and righteousness, with brightness and logical consistency.

So – how does this invisible apple eating madness contest, how does it deal with the problem of somebody saying, “You know, you guys are just immoral! You’re trying to harm me, you’re trying to exercise power or control over me!”?

(I mean, obviously that would be highly unusual for a child to say – in fact, I think it would be fairly unprecedented for child to say that, but you never know, they might, as they get into their teenage years or so on…)

So those who are keen on destructive and exploitive power structures, those people are deathly afraid of the moral man, the moral woman, the person who logically points out the inconsistencies in what they’re doing, and the hypocrisy, and the immorality. So what they have to do, the gradient that they have to mix in, is that only bad people can’t see the apple.

Seeing the apple is thus always portrayed as synonymous with virtue.

Thus – if you say to this child, “Mmmm, mmm, mmm! That invisible apple tastes fantastic!” well you’re not going to get a lot of allegiance from the child because the invisible apple doesn’t exist, so it’s not going taste good to them. So why on earth would they involve themselves in this charade?

Well, of course, what you do is say: “Only a only a good little boy or a good little girl can see this apple!

Again, we’re back to “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” which is fantastic – one of the most amazing stories in all of literature, in my view, and entirely unappreciated by those who study politics, because it is politics. I mean, it’s exactly what politics is – and religion, for that matter, and nationalism, and racism, and sexism, and all of the “isms” that so corrupt our natural and common humanity and interconnectedness.

So you say that only a good little boy can see the apple – and the more good you are, the better the apple tastes!

This, of course, is the false dichotomy that is used to trap those children who have a natural inclination towards logical consistency or morality, which is the people that they are most concerned about or afraid of. So the elders say, “Only good little boys can see the apple!”

So, of course, you’re faced with another choice, but now you have a moral element.

You’re not faced with either “I’m insane or they’re insane – either I’m unable to survive or they are trying to kill my mental development.” Now you have an additional element layered into the sickness – or in this case the inculcation of an illness in another – it sort of follows the same pattern as a viral invasion in your body would.

Now you have an additional layer, which is: this lie only enslaves you if you want to be good.

What if you don’t care about being good? We’ll get to that in a second – but if you do care about being good, if you have that sort of empathetic sensitivity and moral nature, it’s sort of innate within you (and I’m not saying this is by any means the majority of people, but it certainly does exist), then you’re going to be very interested in being a good person.

This moral lie also raises the stakes of questioning those who are “totally sure” that there is an apple there and maybe you just can’t see it. You could at least stay at the level of sensual error, an error in the senses or in interpretation of the senses, so maybe they really can see the apple, but if I tell them that they’re wrong, I’m telling them that their sense apparatus is faulty, or their conclusions are faulty, or maybe they’ve been struck with some sort of ailment that they are not aware of that is affecting their vision or their ability to process physical or visual stimuli.

The child obviously isn’t going to say it in that sort of manner, but that’s still a thought that can occur in the mind of a child, how can something “exist” that patently does not exist? They can still trust their senses, and then they can say, “You people who are telling me that this thing exists, you’re obviously not doing very well in terms of your ability to process things, because it quite obviously doesn’t.”

The wonderfully invasive and horrible thing that happens when you begin to say, “Only good boys can see the invisible apple,” is you now raise the stakes for that boy to contradict you. If you’re the evil, corrupting parent, you’ve now raised the stakes for the boy to contradict you, because now you’ve said that only immoral people cannot see the apple.

Thus if you’re the child, you’re then faced with this choice: you then either say, “I’m an immoral boy and I can’t see the apple,” which is sort of surrendering the premise and giving up something even more important, in a sense, than sensual competence (or the ability to process information correctly), which is your moral nature, your goodness.

I would rather be blind than evil, so let’s just say that it would be pretty catastrophic for anybody interested in or with a natural bend towards morality, empathy, and an ethical approach to things to label themselves as evil because they can’t see the apple.

So then, if you don’t want to label yourself as evil – and you can’t approach the parent who is telling you that the apple exists from the standpoint of error, because the parent has said, “Only evil boys can’t see the apple, evil people cannot see the apple. Good people can see the apple” – you are truly stuck.

If you say, “Dad,” or “Mom – I don’t think that you can see the apple because there is no apple there!” – you’re automatically calling them evil, and you’re not going to have a whole lot of luck when you are a child calling your parents evil.

That’s why they layer in this moral dimension. They raise the stakes to the point where if you say you can’t see the apple, then you are evil, but if you say that the apple doesn’t exist and “you guys are trying to screw with my head,” then because the parents have layered in the moral dimension, they cannot withdraw from the position. They have now used the argument from morality – and once you take the argument from morality out of its scabbard, it’s a sword that you just can’t sheath again. It’s out there, and it’s just a fact. You simply cannot withdraw from that; you lose all parental authority.

So that is a pretty important aspect to what happens in this particular realm. You can’t call those who are telling you all this corrupting, immoral nonsense evil, because they simply won’t accept it. And of course, even as a child, the horror of what is occurring at this moment is so hard to understand. It is just so hard to understand and to process this kind of unbelievable destruction of your identity and complete rejection and repudiation of your mental development and crippling blow to your self esteem. I mean, this is the root of neuroses and religious fanaticism and people who grow up to become dictatorial or bullying or overly subservient, this is where the root of all of this starts from.

So if they can get the person who is moral, who’s interested in morality, or the child who is sort of good by nature, wants to please, wants to be a good person, then, by getting the person to believe that if they can’t see the invisible apple they’re bad, well then you torture them and you set them up with this lifelong quest to see an invisible apple which they just frickin’ well can’t do! You’ve put them into this mode of a dog chasing its own tail for the rest of its life and that person is then going to pose absolutely zero threat to the power structures that exist in the world, because he’s going to be so consumed with his own inability to see this invisible apple that he’s not going to raise any sort of basic or sensible questions to those in power.

So that’s how you defuse the moral kid.

There’s another kind of kid who doesn’t necessarily – let’s just theoretically call that person “the older brother” – that person does not have the same amount of natural empathy, probably because that person is now complicit in the destruction of their younger siblings’ minds, and so they have a lot more aggression and a lot more natural dominance built into their personalities. (Whether that’s innate, or based on the fact that they’re an older sibling, I don’t know, but it does seem to follow that pattern; I mean, the birth order is pretty important. Of course there are exceptions, but that’s fine, I can live with exceptions. As long as there’s a general trend that can be identified, that’s good enough for me.)

So this naturally aggressive person becomes, in this moment, when this occurs to him or when he’s inflicting it on someone else, this person becomes cynical.

And that’s perfectly fine for those in power.

If you’re chasing your own tail and wondering why you can’t be a better person and see this magical, invisible apple that everyone else can see, you’re no threat. You’re going to work, you’re going to pay your taxes, you’re obedient, and you’re always like, “Oh, what else can I do to become a better person? I really wanna be a better person!” Blah blah blah.” You’re just running around chasing your own tail, you’re no threat to anybody in power because you’re just sort of a complying weenie.

If, however, you are a more aggressive person, then you’re going to look right through that invisible apple and say, “Everyone’s a jerk, there’s no such thing as goodness, everything’s just about power and control.”

But you can’t use the argument from morality, because you’ve given up your values, you’ve given up the idea that there’s such a thing as right and wrong, good and evil, and you’re just saying, “Yeah, well, this is what they tell you just to control you.”

(I wanted to mention this point earlier but it escaped my mind, one of the ways that you would test the theory of the fact that a lie that is told to children that is not moral in nature can be withdrawn, but a lie that is told to children that is moral in nature or is presented as moral in nature, that it cannot be withdrawn, you would obviously contrast something like Christianity – which is a lie told to children that is moral in nature, or thought to be moral in nature, or fantasized to be moral in nature – versus the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus and so on – which are lies told to children that are not moral in nature – whether parents end up withdrawing this and sort of “Hah hah,” but you don’t get this with religion, because religion is presented as moral in nature, therefore it can no longer be withdrawn from the discussion, because then you’ve portrayed yourself as an unbelievable, destructive hypocrite, which parents generally aren’t that keen on doing, because they want to continue to pillage their children’s time and attention for the remainder of their natural born lives.)

So if you do have this more aggressive style of personality, then when you’re faced with this terrible choice at the dining table, which is to believe that you are insane or other people are bad or trying to control you, then what you do is: you say, “Well I don’t care about the moral argument, that just as nonsense, because I don’t believe in morality, I don’t believe in right or wrong, everyone’s just trying to mess with me!”

So then you become sort of pugilistic and aggressive, and you’re mad, and you’re angry, and you’re cynical, and you’re nihilistic.

Again, you’re absolutely zero threat to those in power. I mean, you can rail if you want, you can fight the cops, you can get mad at them, you can yell epithets at them and so on, you can throw rocks at the police cars – zero threat to those in power. I mean, just absolutely no threat. You might as well just be spitting in the wind and hoping to bring down a cloud with your thoughts.

This is sort of the duality that occurs, and this is somewhat dependant, perhaps, on what occurs, perhaps on birth order, on personality type, the way that in which it’s applied.

You could just have jerky parents who are overbearing… “orifices,” let’s say, to keep my iTunes rating… Those parents are sort of going to yell at you and bully at you and drag you around, and that may produce somebody who’s more aggressive.

And then you have the other type of parent, generally it’s more associated with the feminine, who’s sort of soft and gentle and just sort of disappointed if you don’t see the apple and wants you so desperately to be a good person and guilts and manipulates you and so on – and that is the type of person who’s going to be more of the compliant woman or man through that kind of emotional problem…

Once you have created this invisible category of virtue that is not associated with any logic, is not associated with anything material or anything verifiable, or anything rational, or available through the senses, once you’ve created this incredible imaginary category of virtue, and you have forced your child to have to kowtow to that concept – well, you’re set! I mean, you’re absolutely set!

This child, who grows into an adult, is going to be completely compliant for the rest of his or her natural life. You have won the battle. You have completely realigned their reality processing to not have any concern with things like facts, except as sort of a lesser kind of way, like “I’ve got a drive and put my signal on, and I’ve gotta get groceries and I’ve got to eat when I get hungry and wash when I’m dirty.” I mean they’ll deal with it at that sort of basic level, but when it comes to anything to do with the virtue, they have no interest in fact. In fact (haha), facts are a direct threat to them, because they have now had to swallow this whole lie and base their whole attachments on their family and their basis of their identity and, if they’re moral in nature, the root of their morals on a falsehood!

So any time you start bringing up facts, these people are going to get angry, or petty, or pouty, or withdrawn – they’re going to use some negative emotion to try and coat and repel anyone who gets close to talking about the truth with these people.

This is what Noam Chomsky calls the “narrative.” (I mean, he’s a crazy lefty, but he’s got some good points!)

The “narrative” is the story that people are told about the moral history or the nature of their country, good versus bad, us versus them. The British are great, the Germans are evil, we have nothing in common except right after the war, then we’re going to give money to the Germans . . . . I mean people just make this stuff up all the time – 90% of the e-mails I get is people just making up stuff and thinking that it’s got something to do with reality.

But when you start bringing facts to bear on these people, they start getting hostile in one form or another, either passive-aggressive or otherwise aggressive – and that’s because once they had to swallow this madness of the invisible apple, what relationship to facts could their ethical reasoning ever have in the future?

It simply can’t exist.

Once you believe that something that is invisible is the center of morality, and the center of truth and right and all that is good in the world, what possible reference could you have to facts about ethics in the future? Or about anything, for that matter? About the existence of things? You’re going to be drawn toward emotionally compelling stories, you’re going to be drawn toward emotional bullying, and you’re going to be drawn towards just making other people feel guilty for not believing you, or being aggressive and basically saying, “Well if you believe this or that you’re a bad person.” But you’re not going have any reference to a single fact, or a single statistic, other than those that are made up by people with a like-minded view.

But you’re not going to have any reference to any facts. You’re going to have instantaneous answers that you make up on the spot based on prior prejudices. How could it be otherwise? You’ve already accepted as the core of your reality processing that invisible things exist and have supreme value and ultimate moral authority. How on earth are you going to process anything from even a remotely reality-based or empirically-based or fact-based standpoint ever again? Well, you can’t!

And that’s fantastic for the people in power, because if you can’t track anything to do with material reality, if you can’t track anything to do with facts, if you can’t apply logic and empiricism to something like morality, you’re completely helpless. You are a lamb in a slaughterhouse when it comes to being abused by power, by those in power, by those willing to use violence to achieve their ends.

You’re absolutely without defenses in this realm. You can groan, and you can grumble you can roll your eyes, and you can write in your blog that you’re mad at things and so on. But it really doesn’t matter: you’re fundamentally, absolutely, and completely helpless, because how are you going to question the morality of those in power with reference to logic and facts and our common humanity, when at the very beginning of things, you swallowed this invisible apple and called it tasty? Your reality processing and your logical processing and your central processing is completely wrecked. You might as well drive a car off a cliff and then try and win a race with it. It’s just wrecked, it’s smoking, it’s wheels have fallen off! I mean, it can be repaired, of course, but it takes a lot of work, and the first thing you have to do is recognize that it’s broken.

You’ve got to recognize that your mind is kind of broken, your mind is kind of damaged. What they call “the norm” is an asylum, what they call the norm is mentally ill. What they call the norm is people who believe in things like a government. Government doesn’t exist! There is no such thing as the state! There’s people with guns, and there’s people who obey them. That’s it. There’s no such thing as the state, no such thing as countries, no such thing as gods, or demons. It’s all just such a complete nonsense. Even gender exists in reality. You have biological differences that you can categorize. But nations don’t exist in reality. Culture doesn’t exist in reality.

Culture is just – and I’ll do another podcast on this – culture is just the scar tissue of the child abuse of the invisible apple. I mean, why do Americans believe different things than French children? Why does everyone love their own country and love their own culture? Because of child abuse! Because that’s what they’re told, they’re told all these false things!

My wife is told, “Oh, the Greeks are the best, we gave the world this and that and the other,” and the Italian kids, “Oh, Italians are best,” the British: “Oh, the British are the best.” It’s all just nonsense. You’re filling your children up with complete idiocy and falsehoods and telling them that it’s all “morality” and self esteem based. It’s complete child abuse. All culture that is not based on this simple observable facts of reality is just scar tissue that grows over being lied to as children. But we can deal with that another time.

I think it’s very important to understand the number of things that you’re told as a child that don’t have any kind of reality, that you are told to be loyal to, that you are told to believe in, that you are told to infuse with some sort of moral energy – they’re all complete falsehoods. And the wonderful thing about it is that concepts have no voice. This is the sort of nail in the coffin as far as obeying things like this state and politicians and priests and the military. If “the country” is virtue – my country right or wrong – if the country is virtue, if the country doesn’t exist, then the country obviously can’t tell you what to do. If God is goodness, but God doesn’t exist, then God cannot tell you what to do. So who gets to tell you what to do? Well, the person who claims to represent this fantasy abstract. So it’s how one human being bypasses another human being’s legitimate anger of being bullied and told what to do.

The priest doesn’t say, “Give me your money because my name is Bob and I want your money.” The priest says, “Give God your money, because God wants you to give him your money, because God says ‘help the poor.’” It’s not, “Obey me,” its, “Obey this abstract entity that I made up – because only I know what it wants!”

I mean it is ridiculous! It is absolutely insane! These things don’t exist – and because they don’t exist, they can’t voice anything, and so the people who make them up and get you to believe in them say that you have to obey: “Oh not me. It’s not me. It’s for the good of the country. The country. Your country needs you!” No! Roosevelt needs you! People who profit from the war need you to go and get killed. Your country does not need you because countries don’t exist! God is not telling you to do anything, the priest is telling you to do things! Crazy lunatic monks 5,000 years dead are telling you to do things! There’s no such thing as God, or country, or state. They can’t tell you to do anything because they don’t exist! It’s like trying to get paid with the idea of money – it doesn’t exist! It’s a mere conceptual tag that is imperfectly derived from physical instances – and in the case of country, it’s not even derived from anything. It’s a line in a map in somebody’s head. Your country doesn’t need you – countries don’t have needs because countries don’t exist!

And that’s how they bypass your natural resentment at being told what to do, and it’s time that we got that natural resentment back. Your country doesn’t “need” you – George Bush needs you to go shoot people, or he wants you to. If you reframe that a little bit more accurately in your head, you’ll just see why I say it’s so insane.

George Bush says “I want you to go shoot that guy,” you’re gonna be like, “Well who the hell are you?” But you drape him in all this pomp and circumstance and he is the President of the United States. Well “President” doesn’t exist, it’s just a weird little conceptual label for a political fantasy. The “United States” doesn’t exist, “Iraq” doesn’t exist. There’s desert and there’s people, there’s no such thing as Iraq, no such thing as the United States, they simply don’t exist. A tree exists; the concept of tree, or the abstract notion of a forest, does not exist. A tree exists, a forest does not exist. A forest is an aggregate, it’s a collection, it does not exist.

But if they can get you to believe that these things do exist, then they can say, “Your country needs you to do this, God needs you to do that, your father needs you to do the other!” Tell you what: “father” does not exist. There’s a guy who had sex with your mother whose name is Bob who’s telling you what to do. “Your father, your mother.” I mean, in order to speak sensibly about Christina’s family, we had to start referring to them by their Christian names. You can’t refer to these things in any kind of abstract way that makes sense. “Father” is a category, it doesn’t exist. It’s like “forest.” It applies to more than one person, therefore it doesn’t exist.

“You listen to your father.” “You listen to Bob.” Which one sounds more compelling? If you obey a category, you feel like you’re obeying something larger than the person who inhabits it. “I’m obeying a priest, I’m not obeying Ralph.” Because if you say that you’re obeying Ralph, you kind of feel like a slave, right? But if you say, “I’m obeying the will of God,” you feel a smug kind of virtue creeping over you and fogging up your head. And that’s exactly what the point of all of these abstract moral abstractions are. They’re designed to bypass your natural animal resentment at being ordered around by idiots. And as soon as you stop believing in this nonsense, then you get some healthy anger, which allows you to push back at these people who just make up all this stuff to cripple your minds and to cripple your animal instincts, to cripple your natural self esteem and feel a healthy push back at people who tell you what to do.

And that’s why I dislike these categories so much, because they are the root of abuse. They are the root of exploitation. They are the root of the destruction of the human mind and the human personality and human morality. Humanity’s capacity for morality is completely destroyed if you come up with these all-powerful, overarching moral constructs that have no existence and therefore have to be “interpreted” by individuals who are only doing it to exploit you. I hate these things! They are the cancer of the human soul. As Solzhenitsyn wrote in “The Gulag Archipelago,” secrecy is our cancer. And in this case, dishonesty is our cancer.

There is no invisible apple. Your family was brutalizing you. There is no state, there is no God, there is no country. There is no such thing as a municipality or a city. There are things, there are buildings, there are people, there are guns, there are trees. There are no concepts that exist anywhere in the world. They exist in our minds as useful ways to organize physical objects and that’s it. They mean nothing. They have no existence whatsoever. And to obey a concept is as ridiculous as trying to eat the idea of food. It is as ridiculous as trying to chop down a forest without touching any single tree. It is completely insane! And this insanity is a sickness that human beings have to outgrow, we have to fight our way out of this fog that is placed here to exploit us.

We do this in compassion for ourselves and compassion for those who are our fellow exploitees, but perhaps it’s possible also to find just a shred of compassion for those who claim to be our masters and are as absolutely enslaved in this sick fantasy, as enslaved as everybody else. George Bush is not a free man. Vladimir Putin is not a free man. They’re slaves! They’re slaves to this illusion that we all feed into and try and live on. I mean, it’s not about fighting the rulers; it’s about fighting the falsehoods. It’s not about bringing down the government; it’s about exposing the facts. It’s not about overturning authority; it’s about affirming the truth.

And if we can do that, if we can affirm the truth, if we can simply state the facts that have been so long obscured to us in our own hearts because of the corruption that we all faced as children, the lies that we were all force fed as children, the terrible and horrible choices that we all faced as children, if we had the strength to face up to that, and to speak the truth, and to stay in the conversation about what is real, and what is true, and what exists in reality, rather than what exists as sick exploitive fantasies in other people’s minds, then by god we can free the world! By god we can wake humanity up from this nightmarish ten-thousand-year slumber of the damned! We can end war, we can end poverty, we can end hunger, we can end violence, we can end murder and theft and rape! Because all of these sicknesses can be traced back to that awful crossroads early in life, when we are forced to choose loyalty to lies and corruption over the truth. And if we can reach back to that part of us that could never believe in such sickness, that could never believe that the world is an asylum peopled by those who have power over us – who are insane.

If we can reach back to that part of us that never believed, reach into that part of us which never believed those lies, then we’re really can remake the world. We really can bring a new light to humanity – ha, new light? – it’s the first light! The Enlightenment came close, but they all backed away, because they couldn’t get rid of the state, and they couldn’t get rid of God. They all became Deist and allowed it to trundle along, and so the cancer grew back.

We can make a new world that will be as unrecognizable to us now as we are to people in the Fifteenth Century. We made that leap in the past because we started to recognize things like property rights, and the common humanity of all, and we began to question authority, and remove the state, and remove the intertwining of state and religion, and there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t continue to do it, but we have to continue to tell the truth at all times. So thank you so much for listening, I hope this has been helpful. It’s been quite exciting for me, and I will talk to you soon! : )

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

A libertarian handout for statists...

A Socratic conversation between a libertarian and a statist - written by Stefan Molyneux, Host of Freedomain Radio, the top philosophy podcast on the net, available at

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Ron Paul: A Complete Disaster for Libertarianism

Stefan Molyneux makes the case against electoral politics as a futile diversion for radical libertarians in our efforts to "smash the State".

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

What are the Most Intellectually Stimulating Podcasts?

Ask a smart group of people an interesting question and get some terrific answers. If you're looking for a high-level podcasts from experts who really know their stuff, check these users' recommendations.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Handout For Statists

In the interests of efficiency, I have decided to distill every argument I have ever had with your average statist, so that I can hand it out to those who argue that government is voluntary, if I don’t like it I can leave, taxation is not violence etc.

I thought this might also be of use to you, because life is short.

Me: Tell me, do you think that violence is wrong?

Statist: Yes, violence is wrong – except in self-defense.

Me: Agreed, except in self-defense. So tell me, how do you think that problems should be solved, if we should not use violence?

Statist: Well, I think that people should become more active in government, and that governments should do ABC, X, Y and Z.

Me: But how do you reconcile your objection to violence with your support of government programs, since government programs are paid for through taxation, which is coercive?

Statist: Huh? What are you talking about? Taxation is not coercive.

Me: Taxation is coercive, since if you do not pay your taxes, you are kidnapped at gunpoint and thrown in jail – where if you try to escape, you are shot.

Statist: But this is a democracy, where we choose our own governments.

Me: Being offered a choice between two violent alternatives is not the same as being free to choose. If a store owner gets to choose which Mafia gang he pays “protection” money to, can it be really argued that he is making a “free” choice? If a woman can choose between two potential husbands – but will be forced to marry one of them – can she said to be really “choosing” marriage? People can only freely choose governments, if they have the choice not to choose governments.

Statist: Well there is a “social contract,” that binds people to their governments.

Me: There is no such thing as a “social contract.” Unless they have been granted power of attorney, people cannot justly sign contracts on behalf of others. If one man has the power to unilaterally impose his will on another and call it a “contract,” then logically a man can steal from a woman and call it “charity.”

Statist: But I accept the social contract – and so do you if you drive on the roads.

Me: First of all, your choice to honour a contract does not give you the right to force me to honour it. You can choose to buy a house, but you cannot justly force me to pay for it. If you forge my signature, I am not bound to honour the contract – and I have never agreed to a “social contract” of any kind. Secondly, it is true that I use government services, but that is irrelevant to the central moral question of coercion. If a slave accepts a meal from his master, is he condoning slavery?

Statist: I suppose not. But still, you implicitly accept the social contract by continuing to live in a country, as Socrates argued.

Me: Can I justly create a “social contract” that allows me to rob anyone who lives in my neighborhood – and say that if people continue to live in “my” neighborhood, they are expressly consenting to my new social contract?

Statist: Well, no, but we are talking about governments, not individuals…

Me: Is the government not composed of individuals? Is “the government” not just a label for a group of individuals who claim the moral right to initiate force against others – a right they define as evil for those they use violence against? If you take away all the individuals who compose “the government,” do you still have a government?

Statist: I suppose not. But that is beside the point – you say that taxation is coercive, but I have paid taxes my entire life, and I have never had a gun pointed at my head.

Me: Sure, and a prisoner is not shot if he does not try to escape. If a slave conforms to his master’s wishes because of the threat of violence, the situation is utterly immoral. Does the Mafia have to actually burn your shop down for the threat to be violent?

Statist: No – however, I do not accept the premise that the government uses force to extract taxation from citizens.

Me: All right - is there anything that the government does that you disagree with? Do you agree, for instance, with the invasion of Iraq? [Keep asking until you find some program the statist finds abhorrent.]

Statist: Now, I think that the invasion of Iraq was morally wrong.

Me: Why?

Statist: Because Iraq had done nothing to threaten the US.

Me: Right, so it is an initiation of force, not self-defense. Now – you do realize that the war in Iraq is only possible because you pay your taxes.

Statist: To some degree, of course.

Me: If the war in Iraq is morally wrong, but it is only possible because you pay your taxes – and your taxes are not extracted from you through force – then you are voluntarily funding and enabling that which you call evil. Can you explain that to me?

Statist: I pay my taxes because I’m a citizen of this country. If I disagree with the war, then I should run for office and try to stop it.

Me: All right, if you were against child abuse, would you voluntarily fund a group dedicated to abusing children?

Statist: Of course not!

Me: And if you did claim to be against child abuse, and you voluntarily funded a group dedicated to abusing children, and I said that you should stop doing that, and you replied that you would not – but that if someone did oppose this abusive group, they should try to infiltrate this group, take control of it, and somehow stop it from abusing children, would that make any sense at all?

Statist: I guess not.

Me: If you were against the war in Iraq, but volunteered for it – and agreed to fight without a salary, and spent your own money to cover all your expenses, do you understand that your position would be utterly incomprehensible? You would claim to be against something – and then expend enormous amounts of time, effort, money and resources supporting it?

Statist: Yes, that would make little sense.

Me: Thus do you see that your position that the war in Iraq is a moral evil, but that you are voluntarily funding it through your taxes, makes no sense at all? If the war in Iraq is a moral evil, but is only enabled through your voluntary funding, then continuing to fund it is to openly admit that it is not a moral evil. If you are forced to fund the war in Iraq, you can maintain that it is a moral evil, because it is the initiation of the use of force. However, the taxation that is also the initiation of the use of force against you must also be a moral evil, because you are forced to fund the initiation of force against others. Thus either taxation is coercion, or you are the worst form of moral hypocrite, by voluntarily supporting that which you call evil. Does that make sense?

Statist: I can certainly see that position.

Me: Can you find any logical flaws in my position?

Statist: No, but I still think that you are wrong.

Me: Well, I’m certainly glad that you are reading this article, rather than debating me directly, because as I said at the beginning, life is far too short to waste time arguing with fools.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Freedomain Radio: Universally Preferable Behaviour: The Book -a mini-review

A preliminary review of the book "Universally Preferable Behavior: A Rational Proof of Secular Ethics," by Stefan Molyneux, host of Freedomain Radio, the number one philosophy podcast on the Internet, available at

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Friday, November 09, 2007

I live a secret life as a black man...

I guess the time has come to finally come out of the closet.For the past 20 years, I've been living a double life.The strain of my deception has finally gotten to me, and I wish to officially come clean.I live a secret life as a black man...

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My Secret Life Exposed…

I guess the time has come to finally come out of the closet.

For the past 20 years, I've been living a double life.

The strain of my deception has finally gotten to me, and I wish to officially come clean.

I live a secret life as a black man.

I was brought up in a pretty racist community, and I bought into all the lies about "white power" when I was young, before I began to educate myself. My parents, siblings and friends were all Klan members, and I was taken to rallies when I was in my early teens. I did cheer, but I always felt uneasy.

In my teens, I became fascinated by black history. I read everything I could on the subject – and then, in university, I joined a black power group.

They were hesitant to let me in, of course, since I basically make the Pillsbury doughboy look like Marvin Gaye, but I pointed out that antiracism was the very core of their philosophy, and so to reject me because of my race would be hypocritical.

I was quite open about my racist past, and in time was forgiven for my sins.

I secretly worked as a "blacktivist" for many years, mostly in the back rooms of course, writing speeches and raising money – and eventually felt truly accepted by my colleagues.

I also worked to move my brothers and sisters towards a more libertarian position. They were mostly socialists when I first joined – but also pacifists. I helped them see the contradictions in that position. "The government is force," I repeated, over and over, slowly winning converts to the ideal of pacifism in political as well as racial matters.

However, my secret life came crashing to an end today, so I might as well come clean about the whole mess.

This morning, I was dragged into the office of Ronnie, the chapter leader.

"What the hell is going on, Stefan?" he demanded. "I've just heard that you're still hanging with these racist bastards who raised you."

He threw some grainy black-and-white photos across his desk. I picked them up and leafed through them. There was me at pie-eating contest with my family. There was me playing horseshoes with my racist friends. There was me with a big grin giving the thumbs-up at a barbecue with my childhood companions.

I swallowed, closing my eyes. I guess I always knew it was going to come to this one day.

"Yes, yes. I'm not going to argue with pictures. I'm sorry."

Ronnie's eyes narrowed. "Do you know if these… people are still Klan members?"

I shook my head. "Yes – yes, perhaps. Some of them might be, I think… But I feel that I'm making some sort of progress in…"

He held up his hand. "I don't want to hear it." His fingers rapidly drummed the desktop. "These people raised you as a racist, and you broke away from all that, and saw the light. Great, I've always applauded that. But what the hell are you doing still hanging out with these bigots?"

I coughed, shifting in my chair. "Well, I've been talking to them about being more open about race relations, being more comfortable with different types of people, opening their minds and so on…"

"Oh yeah? And what exactly have your fine words accomplished?"

I paused. "Well, over the years we've had some really interesting debates…"

"Which have resulted in..?"

"What you mean?" I stalled.

"Quit stalling." Ronnie sighed. "You've had these debates, year after year. Have you changed anyone's mind?"

"Well, I think that they're coming along in some ways, though it's always very hard to tell of course…"

"Actually, it's not," said Ronnie abruptly, flicking a sheet of paper across his desk at me.

I caught it and stared. The names of my family – and most of my friends – were listed under the heading "Renewed Klan Memberships."

Ronnie's eyes bored into me. "See?" he said softly. "It's not that hard to tell at all. Stefan, you've been with us for over 20 years. You've been an emissary into your social group about the ideals we treasure. We value peaceful racial relations, we value non-violence, and we value the equality of all the races. You've been out there, making our case, for decades. And what has been the net result of your efforts? Your parents have renewed their Klan memberships. Your brothers and sisters have renewed their Klan memberships. Your friends have renewed their Klan memberships."

"Yes, but…" I stammered, my cheeks reddening (damn it's hard being white sometimes!). "But you have to understand – for them, it's mostly a social club, they don't really know what it's all about, they don't actually directly participate in any…" I paused. The word was so hard to say…

"Lynchings, my brother," murmured Ronnie. "Lynchings."

"Right, right," I stammered. "They don't really know what's going on, what it's all about…"

Ronnie leaned forward. "But you've had over 20 years to tell them what the Klan is 'all about.' Right?"

I nodded rapidly. "Yes, and I think I'm making progress, but you have to be patient about these things, Ronnie…"

"Have you been holding back your best arguments for the last 20 years? Have you neglected to inform them that the Klan is dedicated to the murder of black people? Have you refrained from telling them about the violence they're supporting with their dues, attendance and cheering?"

I opened my mouth, then lowered my eyes. "No, I've told them all that," I said heavily.

"And what has their response been?"

I shrugged. "Oh, they sort of agree at an abstract level, but it never really seems to connect with their actual choices. I mean, I do try and help them make that connection, but it's like pushing string – I never can get them to connect the value of antiracism – which they sort of agree with – with their memberships in the Klan. I just can't get them to live what they believe…"

Ronnie was silent for a long moment. "And you think that is their problem?"

I blinked. "Yes, of course – isn't that what were talking about?"

"No, Stefan. That is not what we are talking about. We are not talking about your family's lack of integrity."

"No? Then…"

"We are talking about your lack of integrity. We are talking about your betrayal of your own highest values."

The little office seemed to tilt suddenly. "What – what do you mean?"

Ronnie reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small white pamphlet. "Do you know what the Klan has to say about the use of violence?" He opened it to a bookmarked page and read: "'The use of violence is entirely justified in the defense of the white race. All minorities – and all who support them – may be legitimately aggressed against. It is the duty of every white man to protect this nation, and his race, using whatever means necessary to expel the corrupted races from his lands.'"

"Yes – yes, I remember that from when I was a kid. I know that it hasn't changed since."

Ronnie placed the pamphlet carefully on his desk. "You realize that your race will not protect you from the Klan. They clearly say: 'All minorities, and all who support them.' If these people have their way – if your friends and family have their way – you and I will be hung from the same tree."

I felt a shock of dizziness then, a vertigo – as if I were tipping over a deep chasm.

Ronnie continued: "You have dedicated your life to fighting the violence of racial hatred. You have renounced your own racist past. You have written the most beautiful speeches defending racial harmony, tolerance and pacifism. You have raised money through peaceful means, you have always counseled us to non-violence, and you have swayed many people here – myself included – to seek non-violent solutions to our problems. My very son was converted by you, and is now running for office instead of taking to the streets. Do you believe all that you have preached to us?"

My throat was suddenly dry. "I do…" I croaked.

"And do you expect other people to give up their racism?"


"Then why are you unwilling to give up your racists?"

The question hit me like a hammer. "I – I think that…"

"You have been trying to change these people's minds for decades, and have gotten precisely nowhere! You have told them repeatedly that violence is immoral, and yet when they continue to advocate violence against your friends – and you – you continue to spend time with them, and laugh with them, and joke with them, and break bread with them. You are destroying this movement, Stefan. You are destroying your values. You are destroying any chance we have of success!"


"Because you cannot ask people to take your values more seriously than you do yourself. If nonviolence is a moral value, then hanging out with people who advocate violence clearly communicates that you do not take your values – or morality – seriously at all! If a Jewish man enjoys hanging with Nazis – who openly wish him dead – then he clearly doesn't take his Judaism seriously at all. In fact, by continuing to hang out with those who advocate his murder, he only expresses his own self-contempt, his own lack of respect for his values, and his own pathetic need to excuse those who wish to do him harm!" Ronnie paused, taking a deep breath. "Do you see where I'm going with this?"

I sat back in my chair, my heart pounding. "So – what, you're saying that I have to give up all my friends and family for the sake of this – ideology? You want me to break off relations with everyone who just sort of disagrees with me? That's – that's just culty!"

Ronnie stared at me, his face impassive. "Do you believe that a woman should break off relations with a man who rapes her?"

"What? Yes, of course."

"And do you believe that a woman should break off relations with the man's family, if they approve of his rape, and want him to rape you again?"


"And should that woman also break off relations with any friend of hers who says that she should be raped in the future, and is willing to pay people to rape her?"


"And if this woman joins a group dedicated to opposing rape in any form, should she remain friends with anyone who believes that all women should be raped, and donates money, time and effort to bringing such rapes about?"

"No," I whispered.

"And if she makes the case to those around her that rape is wrong, and they understand her perspective, and her terrible experience, and the rationality of her arguments, but still donate time and money to make sure that she gets continually raped in the future, should she remain friends with these people?"

I swallow. "No."

"And does it matter if these people happen to be her parents, or her siblings, or friends that she has had for 20 years? If she genuinely opposes rape, can she reasonably stay 'friends' with people who not only approve of rape in the abstract, but devote considerable time and energy to supporting those who wish to rape her in the present?"


"And what if she actually is getting raped in the present? Should she stay friends with those who stand around cheering while she is getting raped?"

I flinched. "Good God no! That would be inhuman!"

Ronnie suddenly leaned forward and pounded his fist on his desk. "So
why are you doing it?"

I sat back and gripped the armrests of my chair. My dizziness was increasing; it felt as if Ronnie's little office was now spinning.

"What are you saying?" I asked, closing my eyes, suddenly close to tears.

"Stefan, you must either give up your values, or those who oppose them. You must give up non-violence, or those who advocate violence. You must start taking your philosophy seriously, or stop pretending to be a philosopher."

There was a long pause. I opened my mouth, having no idea what I was about to say.

Mercifully, Ronnie's phone rang, startling us both.

"Sorry Stef," he said, reaching for the receiver, "but I have to take this. It's an interview, about my son running for office."

I nodded, mightily relieved, and got up to go.

Just as I opened the door, though, it hit me, and I whirled around.

"Now – wait just a minute!" I cried…

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Libertarians and Taxation: To Pay or Not to Pay?

As libertarians, the question of participation in a statist society can be a great challenge. How can we claim to be resolutely anti-state, anti-war and anti-violence while at the same time driving on public roads, consuming public services, and paying the very taxes that make the coercive power of the state possible?

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Reason, Passion and Salvation

Stefan Molyneux
Host, Freedomain Radio

For the audio version of this article, please click here.

When I was younger, and optimistic to the point of being naïve, I had an economics professor – let's call him Dr. Destructo – who repeatedly made the following argument:

"War is good for the economy, because it reduces unemployment, and raises the demand for goods, capital and services. Government demands for gear, men and munitions stimulates production. Men are sent overseas, which creates job vacancies at home. More employment means more income, which in turn creates demand for additional production."

I clearly remember asking him if the elimination of unemployment and so on was a desirable end, and I remember him staring at me as if I were slightly stupid, and saying: "Of course, because it adds to the net wealth of society! And this demand keeps increasing, because in war, goods get continually damaged and destroyed!"

One student, who was much better read than I was, brought up Hazlitt's arguments about the fallacy of the broken window, which is that a broken window will provide work to the glazier, but only at the expense of everyone else, and to the detriment of the economy as a whole.

Dr. Destructo went into a long and convoluted argument as to why this was not the case. No one could follow it, but no one asked any questions, because in those days we were mightily pressed to sell our common sense for good grades.

As I said, in those days I was optimistic to the point of being naïve, and had faith that our teachers truly believed what they preached. After the class, I was walking through the parking lot when I saw a nice Porsche with the vanity plate "Destructo". Humming to myself, I thought about what the good professor had said, pulled out my keys, and scratched his car up and down both sides.

Just as I was finishing, I heard an enraged scream. Dr. Destructo came sprinting up, demanding to know just what the hell I was doing.

I blinked. "Well, I'm increasing employment, of course! Why?"

"You little punk!" he snarled at me. "You're going to pay for this!"

"What? But – why would that be necessary?"

"Why? Because you've just scratched up my car!"

"No – this can be paid for by the increase in the net wealth of society – remember, you said that reducing unemployment was a good thing, and that destroying stuff adds to the wealth of society – which is desirable. So I'm a little confused…"

"Well, damn it, I'm not going to pay for this. We're going to march straight to the Dean's office and call your parents, you little vandal!"

There followed quite an altercation between Dr. Destructo, my parents and myself – which in hindsight could be termed my real education. My parents were not as sympathetic to my perspective as I'd hoped they might be. When I explained my reasoning, my dad retorted: "Everyone knows that professors talk a lot of trash!" I asked him why I should go to university then, but he accused me of changing the subject.

I did end up having to pay for the repairs, and received a fairly poor mark in Professor Destructo's class. I did, however, learn a very valuable lesson, which is that there can be a cavernous gap between what people preach and what they practice.

Why did this professor teach that the destruction of goods was beneficial, but then rail against me when I destroyed his goods? Why did he intellectually believe that war was good for the economy as a whole, but then emotionally he recognized the truth? Why did he scornfully dismiss the fallacy of the broken window, but instinctually grasp that fallacy when he saw me keying his Porsche?

Even more importantly, when he reacted emotionally in an economically sound manner, why did that not cause him to doubt any of his intellectual ideas?

I wanted to know how widespread this rank hypocrisy was. The next semester, I had a sociology professor who preached that the strong must be taxed in order to support the weak – that the able must be forced to serve the less able. I found all this rather hard to swallow, because it bothered me on so many levels, but did my best to understand it. Sadly, my best was not good enough, and I was getting a steady stream of D's in her class. After pondering her instructions for many days, I finally realized – in a burst of illumination – exactly what she had been talking about. I asked her to point out her best student, so I could get some help improving my marks. She pointed out a girl named Sue.

Right after class, I caught up with Sue in the parking lot, and said that I would beat her up if she didn't do my homework for me.

What a mess! Tears, protestations, marches to the Dean's office, threatened suspension and charges of bullying all ensued. I did my best to stand my ground, but it did no good. I told them that I was merely forcing the more able to help out the less able – as I put it, a form of "Marks-ism" – just as I had been taught! I couldn't for the life of me understand why everyone was so angry. "You're like a politician who tells me that it's good to pay my taxes, but when I actually pay my taxes, you throw me in jail!"

This happened many, many times throughout my academic career. I had a history professor who told me that history is completely subjective – then gave me bad marks for getting historical dates "wrong" on my final exam. I told him that if history is completely subjective, then those dates cannot be "wrong," because they are "right" for me. "In fact," I said, "I decided not to study because you told us that history was completely subjective, so studying made no sense. When you asked for dates on the exam, I thought it was a sort of test – and that if I put down 'objective' dates, I would fail!"

Again, this escalated to the Dean's office, where little understanding – and less sympathy – awaited me.

My psychology professor kept telling us that morality was subjective, that there were no absolute standards of right or wrong, and that imposing our own values on others was bad. That was a great relief to me, since it is far easier to buy a term paper than it is to write one. After I handed in my paper, however, my professor dragged me to the Dean's office and accused me of plagiarism. "But," I protested, "you told me that ethics was subjective, and that it is wrong to impose my beliefs on other people. I don't believe in plagiarism, but you do – what gives you the right, by your own theory, to impose your beliefs on me?"

The Dean and the professor both looked at me with a mix of scorn and pity. I can imagine the same look coming from the manager of a corrupt casino, who sees a man keep coming back and losing his money, not realizing that the game is rigged.

Every time I tried to put into practice what my professors taught me, I was violently punished. It took me a long time to figure out what was going on – I did not have the cynicism back then to ascribe it merely to a corrupt form of fraud – but eventually I think I came up with something useful.

The most fundamental barrier to the spread of libertarian ideas is this terrifying gap between theory and practice. "Theory" describes a vague, almost Platonic realm, while "practice" describes merely pragmatic actions in the present.

For instance, I am often asked how a stateless society could conceivably work, and if there are any examples of such a society existing at any time. In response, I ask: "Do you use violence to achieve your goals? How many times a year do you use the state court system? Did your wife marry you voluntarily, or did you kidnap her and lock her in your basement? Did you get your current job by going for an interview and winning the position voluntarily, or did you kidnap your employer's children and hold them hostage?"

I have never met anyone who regularly uses violence to achieve his ends (I'm not saying that such people don't exist, but they tend not to move in debating circles). I have also never met anyone who regularly uses the state court system – though I have met many people who hate the courts for their injustice and inefficiency.

This is very strange, when you think about it. People who don't use violence to get what they want say that not using violence to get what you want is impossible. People who would never pick up a gun and force their neighbours to pay for their children's education enthusiastically support the public school system. People who would never shoot a foreigner just because some gray-haired guy told them to are rabid supporters of military imperialism.

I have written a book called "On Truth: The Tyranny of Illusion" detailing just how this cavernous disconnect between theory and practice arises – but I will sum up one or two additional points here.

The most important lesson my experiences in university taught me is that no one has a clue about ethics. What people really do is repeat the nonsense that they have been told in order to get the things that they want. Professors spout the most irrational nonsense about subjectivity and relativism and argue that destruction equals wealth because if they do, they get to be professors. Court toadies praise the king not because the king is praiseworthy, but because if they do, they get to be court toadies. Rappers have a "posse" due to their wealth, not their virtue.

However, it is fundamentally humiliating to lie about virtue for a living. Misleading the young about morality is a particularly sickening way to earn one's daily bread.

When people do bad things – and what can be worse than teaching the young that evil is virtue? – they have only two choices. They can either stop doing bad things, or they can redefine those bad things as good things.

There are no prizes for guessing which is the more prevalent solution.

The immoral pragmatism involved in making a living by corrupting the young is so ghastly that it can only be sustained by completely separating theory from practice. When you want to keep doing bad things, you must separate your self-justifying theories from your empirical actions, otherwise your guilt and self-hatred will arise and compel you to change your behaviour. You must numb your conscience by repeating over and over that morality has nothing to do with practicality – but only because the practicality that you have chosen is completely immoral.

Of course, when you come across someone who joins theory and practice together – as I did when keying my professor's car – this threatens the split that you have set up between theory and practice, between ethics and action. The rage that you feel is really hostility towards your own corruption, not for my action. You want to punish me because my actions make you feel bad. Since I make you feel bad, punishing me becomes a twisted form of self-defense. Since you are not living up to any kind of decent values, when your real values are put into practice, you realize how corrupt you are, which causes you to lash out.

Recognizing and understanding this psychological mechanism is, I submit, essential to libertarians. The greatest barrier we face is not the state, or taxation, or imperialism, but rather moral hypocrisy. People are well paid to do bad things – it is always emotionally volatile to confront people on their corruption, but it is a habit that we must cultivate within ourselves. We know that we are right, that our arguments against violence and statism are both valid and moral – but the arguments themselves will never change the world.

It is our passionate commitment to those arguments, and the strength we must find in ourselves to confront people on their hypocrisies – and to live our values ourselves – that will save the world.

Reason is the engine, but passion is the fuel. The truth must be defined logically; the world must be saved passionately.


Stefan Molyneux [send him mail] is the host of Freedomain Radio, one of the most popular Libertarian podcasts on the internet. He is also the author of On Truth: The Tyranny of Illusion.