Chapter 6 
   * Some Ethical Concepts Defined  
   * Philosophy Underlies Society  
   * Foundation of Law  
   * Stateolatry  
   * Miscellaneous Ethical Topics  
    * Voting  
    * Majority Rule - Democracy  
    * Assisted Suicide  
    * Abortion  
    * Ethics as Black-and-White  
    * Honesty vs Dishonesty  
    * Crime - The Criminal Mentality  
    * Hate Crimes  
    * Conspiracy  
    * What is a Slave?  
    * Profound Ethical Concerns  
    * Charity - Egalitarianism - Welfarism  
    * Coerced Compassion  
    * Effect of Social Complexity on Statism  
    * Dual Ideologies  
    * Hallmarks of a Conservative  
    * Libertarian Foreign Policy  
    * The Ethical Carnivore  
    * Voluntary vs Coercive - Trade vs Theft  
    * Self-Defense  
    * Preemptive Force  
    * Rules vs Principles  

   Thoreau might have written only yesterday about our government today. 
What makes his commentary so timeless in its application is that he saw 
beneath the superficial manifestations of government to its underlying 
principles of operation. 
   What is important is to define the condition toward which the human 
community should be advancing. To set the social goals toward which the men 
and women of good will should strive; the general relationships that should 
exist between human beings. To produce a schematic for civilized life, a set 
of instructions. This is the intent of my writings on Ethics. 

   * Some Ethical Concepts Defined 

   term:                  genus:                differentia: 

   ethics             human behavior           interpersonal 
   libertarianism     political principle      voluntary 
   statism            political principle      coercive 
   anarchy            political structure      voluntary 
   government         political structure      coercive 

   Ethics is the study of interpersonal human behavior. There are several 
such forms of behavior: sexual, economic, and political, to name a few. In 
each of these behaviors an interaction occurs between two or more people. In 
sexual behavior, for example, the interaction involves erotic stimulation. 
In economic behavior the interaction involves material wealth. And in 
political behavior the interaction involves human liberty. In each case 
there are two fundamental manners in which the interaction can transpire: 
coercively or voluntarily. In sex I would define these as rape vs consensual 
sex. In economics I would define them as theft vs trade. And in politics I 
would define them as statism vs libertarianism. 
   Libertarianism is the statement of a political principle. As John Hospers 
described it: 
   "a philosophy of personal liberty - the liberty of each person to live 
according to his own choices, provided that he does not attempt to coerce 
others and thus prevent them from living according to their choices. 
Libertarians hold this to be an inalienable right of man; thus, 
libertarianism represents a total commitment to the concept of individual 
   Libertarianism, as a political philosophy, is concerned with the 
appropriate use of force. It asks one question: Under what conditions is the 
use of force justified? And it gives one answer: only in response to the 
prior use of force. 
   The opposite of libertarianism is statism, the principle that it is 
proper for the community (or a selected subgroup thereof) to compel the 
behavior of its individual members. 
   Anarchy is a narrower term, contained within the context of 
libertarianism, and referring to the social institution by means of which 
the principle of libertarianism shall be implemented. 
   Government is the social institution by means of which the principle of 
statism is implemented. In practice throughout history, the fundamental 
distinguishing characteristic of government has been that it is an 
institution comprised of the strongest gang of aggressors in a particular 
area at a particular time. Government is not itself a principle but is the 
institutionalization of an ethical principle. The gang of bandits becomes a 
government when it establishes an institution for the purpose of 
implementing its principle of coercion. 
   Consider that when people live together in a society, that is, a group in 
which interactions can take place among all the members, there must be 
institutionalized a set of ethical standards of behavior designed to inhibit 
actions which would result in the violation of freedom. This is the 
ostensible (but NOT historical) purpose of a legal system. 
   A society can have either non-aggression or coercion as its standard of 
behavior. In accordance with the first alternative, the social institution 
(legal system) for implementing that standard of behavior will be an 
anarchy. On the other hand, if coercion is the standard of behavior then a 
government will be the implementing institution. 
   An anarchic society is not a Utopia in which the inititation of violence 
is impossible. Rather, it is a society which does not institutionalize the 
initiation of force and in which there are means for dealing with aggression 
justly when it does occur. The absence of government does not mean the 
absence of violence. It simply means the absence of an official, legal, 
institutional tool for its imposition. 
   A statist society is one in which aggression is institutionalized. 
   * Philosophy Underlies Society 
   Philosophical principles are food for the mind in just the same sense 
that there is food for the body. It is not necessary that you eat poison to 
be sick - is suffices merely that you fail to eat the proper food. For 
example, you will suffer if you fail to eat vitamin C. In just the same way, 
an individual person - or a social organization - will suffer not only if it 
implements wicked philosophical principles, but also if it simply fails to 
implement proper philosophical principles. 
   In the case of an individual, that failure can occur when a person takes 
actions based on his principles. To the extent that the principles do not 
correspond to reality, the actions he takes will fail to achieve beneficial 
values. Thus it is that a philosophical failure will have destructive 
consequences in reality. 
   In the case of a society, the danger arises from the fact that there will 
always be individuals whose personal beliefs lead them to perform actions 
which violate rights. Wicked people are drawn toward the state because the 
state is able to "socialize" the costs of persecution and thereby save them 
the expense (or potential danger) of implementing their wickedness. Many 
individuals would use their positions wickedly if they could. However, the 
institutional arrangements within which people perform their tasks determine 
whether or not such abuses can be carried out. If social institutions fail 
to accomodate this fact, the actions of those individuals will be 
detrimental to the society. Further, the deliberate institutionalization of 
rights-violating behavior (e.g., government) is akin to the dietary failure 
of actually eating poison. Thus it is that a philosophical failure will have 
destructive consequences in social reality. 
   Society doesn't function because government intervenes occasionally to 
resolve disputes. Rather, the vast majority of people depend on continuing 
relationships wherein it's customary to keep one's word, treat others with 
respect, and comply with mutually beneficial norms. These privately-
developed norms are the glue which holds society together, by and large in 
spite of the interference of government. 
   Here are examples of two different norms, each of which produces a 
completely different type of ethical behavior, depending on the acceptance 
or rejection of government interference in an interpersonal relationship: 
   Consider a man and a woman who have lived together in a state of intimacy 
for 20 years. At the end of that time, they decide that the best thing for 
them to do would be to go their separate ways and each live independently of 
the other. So what happens? Each hires a lawyer, goes to court, and attempts 
to induce the government to use its coercive power against the other. This 
sort of divorce occurs so frequently that it is considered a natural 
process, always to be expected, even inevitable. But in fact there is 
nothing natural, expectable, or inevitable about this arrangement. It is 
simply the result of a mistaken cultural norm which is easily corrected by a 
fundamental alteration in the individuals' perspective on government. 
   Consider a man and a woman who have lived together in a state of intimacy 
for 20 years. At the end of that time, they decide that the best thing for 
them to do would be to go their separate ways and each live independently of 
the other. In this case, it would be unthinkable for them to go through the 
above described legal process. Why unthinkable? Well, don't you see, they 
are not husband and wife, but father and daughter (or mother and son). 
   You see, people CAN live peaceful, productive, and cooperative lives - 
once they cease to regard government as an acceptable arbiter of their 
interpersonal relationships. The Hutterite sect of Christianity, which has 
existed for over 400 years, has never experienced an act of murder by one of 
its members. 
   Many people consider philosophy to be very largely an affair of acquiring 
and then displaying certain clever techniques of logico-linguistic 
proficiency. Or they seem to want a philosophy resembling the multiplication 
table or the periodic table of the elements. They want it to be such that 
all philosophy is mechanistically determinate. So that whenever faced with 
an alternative they can simply consult this "look-up" table and thereby be 
relieved of the necessity of intellectual effort. They want an answer to 
every question - even before it has been asked. Maybe what they really don't 
want is the recognition of personal responsibility. They want a philosophy 
that takes this burden off their shoulders. Responsibility must come from 
within, as a commitment to one's own values, rather than from the outside, 
as a duty to God, family, or community. Responsibility in action flows from 
a sense of self-ownership - motivation by values rather than duties - and 
independence of mind. The perspective of personal moral responsibility for 
one's actions is being abandoned - it has nearly been culturally lost - and 
the result is what you see in everyday's newspaper headlines: mayhem and 

   * Foundation of Law 
   Natural Law is an attempt to ground human values in the facts of reality 
and of human nature. A natural law is a necessity imposed on an entity by 
the entity's nature. It is a cause which mandates an effect: appropriate 
behavior. The law arises from the interaction of the facts of the entity's 
nature with other facts of reality: those of its environment. A natural law 
is practical - it must always "work" - because it relates to things as they 
really are. 
   While it is generally recognized that man's physical and even his mental 
nature are subject to the rule of natural law, it is just as generally 
assumed that the area of ethics is completely outside the scope of natural 
law. This assumption is held tacitly, rather than being identifed and 
defended, simply because it CAN'T be rationally defended. It is quite 
foolish to assert that man is a being with a specific nature and therefore 
subject to the rule of principles derived from that nature in all areas 
except his dealings with other men. Do men cease to have a specific nature 
when they come into relationship with other men? Of course not! Natural law 
does indeed apply to human relationships, and it is just as objective, 
universal, and inescapable in this area as in any other. The proof of this 
is that actions have consequences - in the area of human relations as surely 
as in the area of human medicine. No matter how cleverly a man schemes, he 
will suffer if he insists on acting in a manner which contradicts the nature 
of human existence. The consequences may not be immediate, and they may not 
be readily apparent, but they are inescapable. 
   The law of supply and demand, and all other market laws, are really 
natural laws, derived from the nature and needs of man. The fact that market 
laws are natural laws explains why a free market works and a controlled-
market doesn't: natural law is always practical - it always "works." 
   Thus man-made law must be identified rather than invented or decreed, as 
is the case with government legislation. Law is necessary for the survival 
and development of individual liberty, but decreed legislation is its 
   "True law is right reason, consonant with nature, diffused among all men, 
constant, eternal." .... Cicero 
   Arbitrary legislation destroys the very certainty that we seek from 
natural law: People can never be certain that the legislation in force today 
will be in force tomorrow. As a result, they are prevented not only from 
freely deciding how to behave but also from foreseeing the legal effects of 
their daily behavior. 
   Legislation also often disrupts established inter-personal conventions 
that have hitherto been voluntarily accepted and held to by individuals. 
Even the possibility of nullifying these conventions tends to induce people 
to fail to rely on any existing conventions or to keep any accepted 
agreements, no matter how they may have come into existence. 

   Man's only duty is to respect others' rights and man's only right over 
others is the enforcement of that duty. 
   A free society exists when people recognize, as a social, collective 
rule, that individuals have the right to own property and to use their 
bodies and minds as each sees fit. Their recognition of this right consists 
in their accepting a duty not to interfere with these free actions of 
individuals. This social rule has the enormous advantage of being the only 
collective rule compatible with individual freedom and autonomy. This is the 
only rational way in which society can cope with the problem posed by 
nonagreement about "The Good." 
   Every bit of human progress has happened for a single, simple reason: the 
elevation of the status of the individual. Each time civilization has 
stumbled into another age that is a little better, a bit more enlightened, 
than the ones before it, it's because people respected other people as 
individuals. When they haven't, those have been the times of slipping 
   One of America's greatest shortcomings is that almost everything nowadays 
is geared against the individual and in favor of the big institutions - big 
corporations, big unions, big banking, big government. So not only does an 
individual have trouble getting ahead and staying there, he often has 
difficulty merely in surviving. And whenever bad things happen - inflation, 
devaluation, depression, shortages, higher taxes, even wars - it isn't so 
much the big institutions which get hurt, it's the individual, all the time. 
   More and more, individuals are being deprived of the power of decision, 
and being allowed only the power of choice among the things government 
permits. The more you depend on government, the more limited those choices 
become. What must be reinstated is the opportunity for the individual to 
make decisions that count. Small wonder that many people in big cities seem 
so despairing: nothing in view indicates any care for what the individual 
thinks or desires. 
   Hitler: "The individual must finally come to realize that his own ego is 
of no importance in comparison with the existence of his nation; that the 
position of the individual ego is conditioned solely by the interests of the 
nation as a whole... that above all the unity of a nation's spirit and will 
are worth far more than the freedom of the spirit and will of an 

   * Stateolatry 
   The opposite of libertarianism is statism, the principle that it is 
proper for the community (or a selected subgroup thereof) to compel the 
behavior of its individual members. 
   The most firmly held myth in the world today is that society cannot 
possibly exist without government. This myth is as decisive as belief in God 
was for the people of Medieval European Society. This myth is held so firmly 
and fundamentally by many people that they are entirely unaware even that 
they hold it. 
   The stateolatrist is so devout a statist that he views government as an 
object of religious worship. He regards government as being the ultimate 
foundation of morality and ethics, and as an absolute prerequisite to 
civilized human existence. He is unable to conceive that the time could ever 
come when government will fade into an anonymity as deep as that of its 
humblest subjects. He is one manifestation of what Eric Hoffer described as 
a "True Believer." 
   A hallmark of the stateolatrist is the inability to perceive the 
fundamental similarity between government viciousness and criminal 
viciousness. He is not merely a patriot who loves his country, he is so 
overwhelmed by his devotion that he cannot see the reality of government. 

   PATRIOT GAMES by Tom Clancy is a remarkable book. Not for the story 
itself, but for what it shows about the mentality of the author. Never have 
I seen such a blatant display of the stateolatrist syndrome. Clancy, who is 
an excellent writer and storyteller, portrays with great clarity the nature 
of terrorist behavior and the exactly identical nature of government 
behavior, but then distinguishes between them with such a transparent film 
of verbal gloss that in many places I laughed out loud with amazement. 
Clancy's writing is an unparalleled example of a devout statist who is 
totally self-blinded to the fundamental identicality of terrorism and 
   In describing terrorists, one of Clancy's characters remarks: 
   "They don't relate to the people around them as being real people. They 
see them as objects, and since they're only objects, whatever happens to 
them is not important. Once I met a man who killed four people and didn't 
bat an eye; but he cried like a baby when we told him his cat died. People 
like that don't even understand why they get sent to prison; they really 
don't understand. Those are the scary ones." 
   Clancy would be appalled at the idea that this same description could be 
applied to the FBI and the BATF "terrorists" guilty of the Waco massacre. 
   For another good illustration of this syndrome see Heinlein's CITIZEN OF 
THE GALAXY, pg 180. Here you can see someone to whom government is so 
unquestionably pervasive that he describes human culture without reference 
to it, just as you might describe society without reference to the air we 
   Everyone is so immersed in the context of statism that no one really 
knows the other alternative. Even though the governments of the former 
Soviet Union might WANT to establish a free market, they simply do not know 
what it is. Most people do not realize they could even HAVE any control over 
their own economic situation. Because life is so wrapped up in bureaucracy 
and law no one has any idea that government could be circumvented. So long 
as people cannot perceive alternatives for comparison they will never even 
become aware that they are oppressed. They will not only lack any impulse to 
rebel, they will lack even the power of grasping that the world could be 
other than what it is. 
   It is as Orwell said it would be: "You will lose the ability to think 
certain ideas, and then you will be totally incapable of ever trying to act 
on those ideas." 
   The only way out of this statist situation is for people someday to 
realize that governments are NOT necessary for civilization - that in fact 
governments are an impediment to civilization. When the day comes that 
enough people are disillusioned with government, government will simply 
cease to exist. It will go the way of Alchemy, Phrenology, the Flat Earth, 
and other similar errors that were eventually discarded as being useless. 
This is why I do not think anarchism to be utopian. Today it is only a 
dream, a dream that will not soon come true, but if the idea is preserved it 
will be used in the future. 
   Consider this: all government is founded upon Lies. But a lie will not 
fit a fact. It will only fit another lie derived for the purpose. Therefore 
the life of a lie, and of government, is simply a question of time. Nothing 
but truth is immortal: 99.9 percent of all the laws ever passed by 
governments have vanished from the society of mankind. But Aristotle's laws 
of logic, Archimedes' laws of buoyancy, and Euclid's laws of geometry 
persevere immutably. 

   * Miscellaneous Ethical Topics 

   * Voting 
   Thoreau (Civil Disobedience): 
   "All voting is a sort of gaming, like checkers or backgammon, with a 
slight moral tinge to it, a playing with right and wrong, with moral 
questions; and betting naturally accompanies it. The character of the voters 
is not staked, I cast my vote, perchance, as I think right; but I am not 
vitally concerned that that right should prevail. I am willing to leave it 
to the majority. Its obligation, therefore never exceeds that of expediency. 
Even voting FOR THE RIGHT is DOING nothing for it. It is only expressing to 
men feebly your desire that it should prevail. A wise man will not leave the 
right to the mercy of chance, nor wish it to prevail through the power of 
the majority. There is but little virtue in the actions of masses of men." 
   "It is not a man's duty, as a matter of course, to devote himself to the 
eradication of any, even the most enormous wrong; he may still properly have 
other concerns to engage him; but it is his duty, at least, to wash his 
hands of it, and, if he gives it no thought longer, not to give it 
practically his support.... Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper 
merely, but your whole influence." 

   Voting is an indicator of personal intellectual and moral inadequacy: 
anyone whose memory is strong enough to recall what was said during the last 
election - and what was subsequently done by the winning candidates - will 
realize full well the fraudulence and futility of electoral politics. You 
advocated an undertaking you didn't fully understand. You were a participant 
in an activity you failed to supervise. You did not check on the behavior of 
a man whom you knew from experience to be a liar, and you permitted that man 
to screw around with the most dangerous technology in human history. I'd say 
you shirked your responsibility. 

   There is a conflict in voting which is not found in the market. Market 
choices conflict only in the sense that buying a given good leaves you LESS 
money (not NO money) to purchase other goods. While you can buy some 
pretzels and some pizza, you can't vote for some Bush and some Clinton. In a 
market, the individual is never placed in the position of being a dissenting 
(and powerless) minority.  
   In America, voting is an all-or-nothing proposition: you either win or 
you lose. If you can get 51% of the vote, you get 100% of the power. No 
matter whether an office is filled by an 80% voter turnout or by a 15% voter 
turnout, the new office holder has the full power of the office. If you are 
on the losing side - the minority - you get nothing. The alternative 
presented to the voter is absolutely exclusive: the selection of one TOTALLY 
precludes the other. 

   Democracy is the opportunity to choose among rulers none of whom you 
want, and the obligation to accept the ones you end up with. 
   Voting is just a method of choosing oppressors. Every time you step into 
a voting booth you license a potential killer or thief. From the perspective 
of either political party, there is no area of human activity that is 
outside the sphere of government encroachment. 
   Some advocates of voting, when faced with the accusation that they are 
perpetrating this evil, will counter with the assertion that your means of 
control over the situation is to exercise your right to vote, and that if 
you don't do so, you have no right to complain about the situation ("If you 
don't vote, don't complain!" is what they say). Consider the nature of the 
demand they are laying on you: your alternative is either to participate in 
the wickedness (by voting) or refuse to participate and thus be condemned to 
submit in silent acquiescence to being victimized by the wickedness. In 
fact, only those who do NOT vote have a legitimate moral right to complain: 
they are the only ones who give no sanction or support to their persecutors. 
   Imagine a neighborhood in which two bullies dominate and intimidate 
everyone. But they're democratic-minded bullies: they allow all (well, 
almost all) the neighbors to vote every four years in an election to 
determine which of the bullies will be empowered to possess a big stick and 
for the next four years to rule the neighborhood, beating and robbing all 
the residents. Now imagine that one poor persecuted resident complains about 
being beaten and robbed, and in response is told: "Well, if you don't like 
bully D then next time express your preference for bully R - but unless you 
choose one of these bullies, you have no right to complain about being 
beaten and robbed." 
   Such a demand for willing self-immolation is an act of inexcuseable 
viciousness - worse even than the beating and robbing! 
   To commit a crime by proxy is to have someone else impose your will for 
you. The most convenient and frequent manner of committing acts of harm by 
proxy is to use government to commit the crimes you want done. All you have 
to do is vote for whichever criminal promises to use force in the way you 
wish. The very act of voting is an attempt on the part of voters to delegate 
to another person a power that they could not justly possess themselves. 
   When you vote you participate in the selection of an officeholder. Thus 
you acquire responsibility for his subsequent behavior - regardless of who 
holds the office. Your participation is your concession that there should 
indeed BE elected officials with the power of coercion. In voting, you give 
your sanction to the institution that enables the officials to coerce. Even 
though you may not approve of the particular officials who attain office, 
you do approve of the enabling institution. Government is based on coercion, 
but individuals should not have the authority to coerce others, and 
therefore they should not put themselves in a position to delegate such 
authority to third parties, which is the essence of voting. 
   The difference between a bullet and a ballot is that a bullet can be 
precisely aimed at a deserving target whereas a ballot attacks innocent 
third parties who must endure the consequences of the politician who has 
been put into a position of unjust power over their lives. Whoever puts a 
man into a position of unjust power - that is, a position of political power 
- must share responsibility for every right he violates thereafter. 
   There is plenty of mass-media crowing about the "high voter turnout" 
(about 55% - that's high?), as an "affirmation of the system," and a "strong 
endorsement of democracy." Nobody mentions the message of the 45% 

   It is often said that refusal to vote means that one is left with no 
voice at all, but that implies that having a voice in the proceedings of 
government is proper and desirable. 

   When you vote, you are devoting a part of your time and energy to making 
a contribution to the political system. Your participation constitutes that 
contribution, regardless of the intent of, or specific form of, that 
participation. Like they say, it doesn't matter who you vote for, as long as 
you vote. 
   Voting is a willing participation in your enemy's social institution. It 
is a form of collaboration. Any participation in the electoral process can 
be used by tyrants as evidence of sanction for their actions. After all, 
they won - fair and square - didn't they? 
   Voting is not an expression of power, but an admission of powerlessness, 
since it cannot do otherwise than reaffirm the government's supposed 
legitimacy. Participation in electoral politics serves to legitimize the 
entire political process and the existence of government. If people did not 
vote, the democratic theory of government would lose its legitimacy and 
politicians would have to justify their rule on the basis of something other 
than the alleged consent of the governed. This, hopefully, would make the 
true nature of the State more obvious to the governed. And such a revelation 
might have the potential to motivate people to challenge or evade government 
   If you consider voting to be acceptable, then you must consider it 
acceptable for the winning candidates to hold power in a coercive 
government. The ultimate political issue is that of the Individual vs. the 
State. But the voter, by virtue of his behavior, has already cast his lot 
with the State. 
   Each candidate would use the State in a different way - but each would 
use the State. Obviously, this is a game in which only the State can win. By 
playing the game, you demonstrate your conviction that the game should be 
   If voting could have kept this totalitarianism from happening, we 
wouldn't have the police-state we have got, because people are forever 
voting and they've certainly had enough opportunities to stop it or turn it 
aside if that was possible. On the contrary, it is the process of voting 
that has made it possible. 
   Back during the Vietnam era, the protestors used to say "What if they 
gave a war and nobody came?" That represents only a superficial analysis of 
the political system. A more fundamental analysis is represented by the 
question "What if they gave an election and nobody came?" (But then, 
Australia has a solution to that!) 

   Voting would make ME feel like a swim in the sewer. It would leave me 
with a sense of spiritual pollution. 

   John Galt (Part3, Chapter8): 
   "It's the attempt of your betters to beat you on YOUR terms that has 
allowed your kind to get away with it for centuries. Which one of us would 
succeed, if I were to compete with you for control over your musclemen? .... 
I'd perish and what you'd win would be what you've always won in the past: a 
postponement, one more stay of execution, for another year - or month - 
bought at the price of whatever hope and effort might still be squeezed out 
of the best of the human remnants left around you, including me." 

   From Ayn Rand's notes for ATLAS SHRUGGED: 
   By accepting his decisions, which she knows to be wrong, then by helping 
him to carry out bad ideas well, she only helps him to run the railroad 
badly and thus contradicts and defeats her own purpose, which was to run it 
well. She postpones the natural consequences of his bad decisions and thus 
leaves him free and gives him the means to do more damage to the railroad by 
more bad decisions, and worse ones. A bad thing well done is more dangerous 
and disastrous than a bad thing badly done. For example: an efficient 
robbery is worse for the victim than an inefficient one. 

   * Majority Rule - Democracy 
   In America, it is claimed, we have "majority rule." Just what do we have 
in fact? 
   To find out, let us analyze a recent presidential election. I chose the 
Johnson-Goldwater election of 1964 because the winner of that election 
received the greatest plurality of votes of any recent (during the past 
half-century) election: Johnson received 61% of the votes cast. But was this 
landslide victory an expression of "majority rule"? I think not. 
   Certainly Johnson can be said to represent a majority of the voters - 61% 
is, after all, almost two-thirds. But when you consider the total number of 
eligible voters you discover that Johnson represents only 37% of them (they 
didn't all choose to vote, you see). So Johnson represents only a bit over 
one-third of the voting-age population of the country. That can hardly be 
said to be a majority! 
   But even this is not a fair assessment of the situation. Johnson was, 
after all, not merely president over those who chose to vote for him. And he 
was not merely president over those who were qualified to vote. He was 
president over EVERYBODY! And out of that "everybody" how many actually 
expressed a choice to have Johnson as their president? 22%. Yeah, only about 
one person in five chose Johnson. 
   As I said, I deliberately picked this election as an example. Any other 
recent election shows even more strikingly that this so-called "majority" is 
a quite small fraction of the population. 
   The notion of "majority rule" is hogwash! 

   Shortly after the 1964 election I realized that the American electoral 
process contains a fundamental flaw. When you vote, the only choice you have 
is to vote FOR one candidate or FOR another candidate. There is no way you 
can vote AGAINST any candidate. There is no "NO" choice on the ballot, only 
"YES" choices. This realization was one of the things that turned me off to 
the idea of politics. You have no doubt heard (many times) of a disgruntled 
voter going to the polls to choose "the lesser of two evils." I realized 
that the lesser of two evils is still an evil, and to express a preference 
for that evil is to don the cloak of moral culpability for his subsequent 
   I observed with interest a peculiar electoral quirk during the 1976 
elections. The LP, after the expenditure of an enormous amount of time, 
energy and money, was able to get "None of the above" placed on the ballot 
in Nevada. Thus there were three options available to the Nevada electorate 
when they went into the polling booth to elect their congressman: the 
Democrat, the Republican, and None of the Above. The outcome of this 
election was very interesting: the Democrat received 23% of the votes, the 
Republican received 29%, and NOTA received a whopping 47%. Can you guess 
what happened? Very simple: the Republican went to Washington as the 
congressman from Nevada. As of 1990, NOTA is still on the ballot in Nevada, 
and the winner of every election is that PERSON who gains the greatest 
number of votes. Votes cast for NOTA are simply wasted. 
   It is intrinsic to the American Constitution that there MUST be a 
government. The people CANNOT choose "No Government" - that is not provided 
for in the Constitution. Sure, the Declaration of Independence observes the 
right of the people to "alter or abolish" their government, but the 
Declaration of Independence is not a legal document. 
   I found it fascinating to watch the first post-Soviet general elections 
in Russia. They had an explicit choice on their ballots: Yes or No for any 
(and all) particular candidates. Such a large number of the Communist 
candidates (who ran unopposed) received a preponderance of "No" votes that 
run-off elections were held a couple weeks later. Those "No" votes were 
indeed counted - unlike the NOTA votes in Nevada. 
   I found it fascinating also to watch the subsequent Hungarian elections, 
which were held with the stipulation that unless at least 51% of the voting 
population did participate, the elections would be invalid. The Hungarian 
government has at least a more acute sense of "majority" than does the 
American government. In a recent election for the Fremont County, Wyoming 
government, only 13% of the population voted, and yet the government 
selected by a portion of that tiny percentage does indeed rule Fremont 
County. Some "majority rule" that is!! 

   American voter turnout as percent of voting age population, during 
national off-year elections: 
   1966 47.9 
   1970 47.9 
   1974 38.9 
   1978 45.9 
   1982 48.5 
   1986 46.0 
   1990 45.0 

   Since 1972, when 18-year-olds first went to the polls, their election 
participation has steadily declined. In 1990 less than 19% of the 18 to 20 
age group voted. 

   The majority is invariably wrong. Consider the fact that every major 
breakthrough in man's understanding of the world has always been greeted 
with indifference or opposition by the majority. When private individuals in 
18th century England introduced the "barbaric" practice of innoculating 
against smallpox, the majority, including virtually the entire medical 
profession, was appalled. Advances are made by individuals or by small 
groups of cooperating people who OVERCOME majority opinion or indifference. 
The fact that the majority is invariably wrong has interesting implications 
for the concept of democracy - a system which means, in fact, State control 
of the individual and his property in accordance with the supposed wishes of 
the majority. In a word, where majority rules, progress stops. The goal of 
free men should not be majority rule at all but self-rule, a society in 
which not political action but individual action prevails. 
   Political freedom for the individual has become a charming legend from 
the early years of the Republic when individual liberty - rather than the 
will of the majority - was actually considered the core of democracy. 
Nowadays, acceptance of the legitimacy of individual autonomy is a 
contradiction wholly intolerable to the democratic ideology. Under a 
democracy, when a man looks into a mirror he sees one ten-millionth of a 
tyrant, and one whole slave. 

   Some of the devastating consequences of the Ambiguous Collective fallacy 
can be observed in the phrase "we are the government," where the useful 
collective term "we" has enabled an ideological camouflage to be thrown over 
the naked exploitative reality of political life. The government does not in 
any accurate sense "represent" the majority of the people. But even if it 
did, crime is still crime, no matter how many citizens agree to the 
aggression. There is nothing sacrosanct about the majority; the lynch mob, 
too, is the majority in its own domain. 

   A black African guerilla, commenting on democracy: 
   "Vote, what is a vote? I don't have a vote in Mozambique. They don't have 
the vote in Zambia or Zimbabwe or Angola or Tanzania. Nobody has the vote in 
Africa, except perhaps once in a man's life to elect a president-for-life 
and a one-party government. Vote? You can't eat a vote. You can't dress in a 
vote, or ride to work on it. For two thousand rand a month and a full belly 
you can have my vote." 

   * Assisted Suicide 
   Is it right to help someone to destroy himself? 
   Yes. He has a right to live his life - or end it - according to HIS 
choices, nobody else's.  
   But how about selling him cigarettes, or booze, or other destructive 
   The moral duty of a human being is to choose to live according to his 
nature. The best such choices are those that enhance his nature - not those 
that degrade his nature. It would not be ethically improper to sell him 
drugs, but it would not be the decent thing to do. By "decent" vs "indecent" 
I mean actions that contribute to another person's choices to enhance vs 
debilitate his nature as a human being. Death is a normal, natural 
phenomenon. Under the appropriate conditions it is proper to end a life. It 
is not proper to contribute to its degeneracy. 
   He is responsible for how he uses the stuff he buys. You acquire ethical 
culpability only if you know he is going to use the stuff to injure other 

   * Abortion 
   One of the major issues of the day is the argument about Abortion. By and 
large, the discussion is merely a diatribe of emotional invective, 
containing very little in the way of factual analysis (see the remarks 
below, by George Bush). 
   Personally, I am opposed to abortion, but I am even MORE opposed to laws 
which forbid abortions. A law which prohibits abortion is a law which makes 
motherhood mandatory. 

   Here are the best arguments I have found on this subject: 

   Many arguments are based on the contention that a fetus is a human being, 
and is therefore possessed of the right to life. This is the "Human Rights" 
   There are six points of development at which a fetus can be claimed to 
acquire the status of "human being." Any argument from this premise must 
choose and justify one of these points: 
   1. Fertilization 
   2. Implantation in the uterine wall 
   3. Brain-wave activity 
   4. Quickening (when the woman becomes aware of the fetus' movement) 
   5. Viability (when the fetus can be withdrawn and survive) 
   6. Birth 

   Related to this is the "potentiality" argument:   
   Let us not confuse a potentiality with an actuality. The most you can say 
about a fetus is that it is a potential human being. What you have at the 
moment of conception, and for some time thereafter, is not a human being, 
and so destroying it is not murder. If we forbid a woman who desires it the 
right to have an abortion, we are sacrificing the actual - the adult woman -
for the sake of the potential - the fetus. 

   Some argue that whether or not the fetus is a human being, it is not a 
"person" i.e., is not possessed of the complex of psychological 
characteristics that distinguishes any one human being from all others - in 
short, that the fetus, although a human being, does not yet have a soul. 
   Aquinas, rejecting the notion of a "fertilized-egg = person" equivalence 
observed that "the body alone is begotten by sexual procreation, and that 
after the formation of the body the soul is created and infused." 
   On the subject of abortion, Rand viewed "selfhood" far more broadly than 
mere possession of a physical life. She saw selfhood in the sense of 
personhood, and human rights as not rights of a mindless body, arising from 
physical processes alone, but rights of selfhood, or of personality. The 
realm of ethics does not apply to entities which do not possess a human 
level of consciousness - hence, neither do rights. That's why Rand regarded 
the mother, not the fetus, as possessing rights: only the mother is truly, 
fully human (i. e., a "self"). 

   Others argue that even if the fetus is a human being, it is a parasite 
and therefore does not possess human rights. This is the "Parasite" 
   What human has the right to remain, unbidden, as an unwanted parasite 
within some other human being's body? The fetus does not have any right to 
be fed and nourished, because such a right would make the woman its slave. 
The only means of refusal is to expel the fetus. What the woman is doing in 
an abortion is causing an unwanted parasite within her body to be ejected 
from it. (This can be extended to include euthanasia for seriously ill 
adults and dependent elderly people, as well as all those whose continued 
existence requires material support provided by other people.) 
   This argument is countered with the assertion that parasitism is a 
perfectly natural phenomenon (Mankind is itself a parasite upon the earth) 
and therefore parasites do indeed have rights - the fetus has as much right 
inside its mother as does man on mother earth. Both are in their natural 

   And there is the "Infanticide" argument - the contention that a live, 
born child cannot in principle be distinguished from a viable late-term 
fetus: they both have an unconditional need for material support. Therefore, 
if abortion is acceptable, so also must be infanticide. 

   There is also the "Supersession" argument - that the rights of the woman 
supersede any rights possessed by the fetus: 
   Does not a woman have a primary right to her own life? The right to 
determine the circumstances of her own body? 

   The "Contractual Obligation" argument:   
   Conception and pregnancy are foreseeable consequences of even careful 
sex. By willfully causing a fetus to exist, parents implicitly recognize its 
need for support; it's a package deal. When parents mutually enable their 
sperm and ova to join, the parents are not enslaved - they have volunteered. 
   And its rebuff, the "Choiceless" argument: 
   How is it that the fetus, which is an entity incapable of making choices, 
can be said to be a participant in any contract? 

   To claim the existence of a contract assumes that the fetus is not only 
an individual who can contract, but that it had that ability at the point of 
conception, when the contractual obligation is said to have arisen. 
   But the issue of contract is irrelevant. The protection of rights is 
independent of contract. I do not have to contract with my neighbors not to 
kill me or steal from me; my body and property are mine by right. Contract 
enters the picture only when I desire something to which I have no right. 
Through contract, I acquire a negotiated claim over another person. If 
individual rights are possessed by the fetus, then a contract is superfluous 
to the protection of those rights. If the fetus does not possess individual 
rights, then no contract is possible since a contract is a voluntary 
agreement between two individuals. 

   An essential characteristic of an individual is that it be a discrete 
entity, a thing in and of itself. Until the point of birth, however, the 
fetus is not a separate entity; it is a biological component of the pregnant 
woman. As long as the fetus is physically within the woman's body, nourished 
by the food she eats, sustained by the air she breathes, dependent upon her 
circulatory and respiratory systems, it does not possess individual rights 
because it is not an individual. It is part of the woman's body and thus 
subject to her discretion. Only at birth does  the fetus become biologically 
autonomous and a self-owner with full individual rights. Even though it 
cannot yet survive without assistance, this does not affect its biological 
independence; it is simply the social dependence that any helpless 
individual experiences. 
   Birth is the point at which the fetus becomes an actual human being in 
the legal sense of that term. There is no point, other than conception, at 
which such a clear, objective change occurs in the status of the fetus. All 
other changes are a matter of degree rather than of kind and, thus, are 
inadequate for legal theory which demands a definable point of enforcement. 

   When couples who both carry the mutation for Tay-Sachs disease decide to 
have children, they typically elect to have prenatal testing. If a fetus has 
the disease, they usually abort it rather than give birth to a child who 
would succumb within five years to a slow and horribly painful death. 
Because it is always so uniformly hideous in its progression, extremely few 
people believe a child afflicted with Tay-Sachs should be brought into the 

   Scientific American, April 1996, contains an essay on frozen embryos. 
   "Test-tube" embryos, in the two- to eight-cell stage of development, are 
placed in liquid nitrogen and kept in suspended animation until needed by 
couples for subsequent attempts at in vitro fertilization. As the number of 
frozen embryos grows (there are about a million worldwide) it has become 
obvious that a sizable number of them will never be required. The essay 
makes three references to cryopreservation being "fraught with ethical and 
philosophical complications" but makes no specific mention of just what 
these complications might be. (See this chapter's section on * Profound 
Ethical Concerns) 
   See reference 

   The view of the Religious Right, as expressed by George Bush (LA TIMES, 
12/12/88): "Well, it (may) appear to be a double standard to some, but I, 
that's my position, and it's, we don't have the time to philosophically 
discuss it here, but... we're going to opt on the side of life, and that is, 
that is the, that really is the underlying part of this for me. You know, I 
mentioned, and with, really from the heart, this concept of going across the 
river to this little church and watching one of our children, adopted kid, 
be baptized. And that made for me, and it was very emotional for me. It 
helped me in reaching a very personal view of this question. And I don't 

   Also to be considered are the inevitable practical results of anti-
abortion laws, since in the legal context created by such laws many 
abortionists are dangerous and disreputable practitioners resorted to by 
desperate people. 
   As many as 60 million abortions are performed annually, at least 50% of 
them clandestinely in the 100 or so countries where the procedure is 
   Unsafe abortions account for between 105 and 168 maternal deaths for 
every 100K births in the Thirld World countries. This constitutes between 
25% and 40% of all maternal mortality. In some countries the complications 
of unsafe abortion cause the majority of maternal deaths, and in a few 
countries they are the leading cause of death for women of reproductive age. 
   Every year, in six of the Latin American countries where the practice is 
illegal, about 2.8 million women have abortions and half a million are 
hospitalized for related complications. 
   In the USA, the abortion rate for Catholic women is 29% higher than that 
for Protestant women. A study in Boston and Long Island showed that 66% of 
women having their first abortions are young, single Catholics opting for 
abortions rather than sinning repeatedly by using birth control. 70% of 
those who have a second abortion are Catholic. 
   Each year in the USA, out of a total of approximately 6.4 million 
pregnant women, 1.6 million choose to have an abortion. About half of all 
women in the USA will choose to have an abortion at some time in their life. 

   There are some very well-presented arguments at these websites: 
   Doris Gordon against 
   Wendy McElroy for 

   * Ethics as Black-and-White 
   Moral principles are requirements of man's survival proved by reference 
to the most fundamental aspects of his existence and to the deepest premises 
of philosophy. They are life-or-death absolutes. But while the standard and 
the principles of ethics (and morality) are black-and-white - as black-and-
white as are the laws of nature - the personal judgments, choices and 
actions through which an individual realizes those abstract principles are 
matters of degree.  

   * Honesty vs Dishonesty 
   Truth is sometimes so dangerous as to need a bodyguard of lies. 
   There are times when a lie is not only ethically justifiable but is 
actually morally obligatory. "What?! What?!" I hear you croak. "Is this guy 
out of his mind?" Well, let me explain. Imagine that you set out to go 
downtown having in your left pocket $10 and in your right pocket $100. As 
you are trudging along the street a hoodlum snatches you into an alley, 
claps his revolver (a Quickfire Arms Corp. Saturday Night Special) up gainst 
the side of your pretty little head and wheezes softly into your ear: 
"Allright, Cutie, your money or your life!" So you, trembling in fear and 
terror, reach into the left pocket and produce the ten-spot. "Arrgh!! He 
gasps, wafting into your nostril the stench of cheap Sicilian wine, "Izzis 
alla dough ya got, kid?" I maintain that at this point your answer not only 
COULD morally be "yes," but that it actually SHOULD be "yes" and that if you 
answer "no" you are behaving in an immoral, self-destructive fashion. 
   Under ordinary circumstances a lie is an attempt to coerce someone - that 
is, an attempt to separate him (without his consent) from some rightfully 
achieved value. In the context of my little story, the lie is not a 
coercion. Your money is not the hoodlum's rightfully achieved value, and you 
have NO ethical obligation toward him. Your only moral obligation is to 
extricate yourself from the situation in the least self-destructive manner 
possible. Thus we see that a lie can be a perfectly proper act to protect a 
value against an injustice; not a desire to gain a value by faking reality, 
but a fully contextual recognition of the relevant facts of reality. 

   Beware! Dishonesty - for any reason, and with whatever justification - 
can have detrimental effects on your mental health. 
   Your true feelings tell others what your weaknesses are, and there are 
always those who will use them against you - and so over the years you might 
hide them more and more, until eventually you have few, if any, true 
feelings left. 
   Many people lie so much that they scarcely know what the truth is. They 
are comforted by familiar surroundings - with an illusion real enough for 
them to feel more at ease within the substance of a lie than with the truth. 
And so it can come to pass that when they see truth they can't recognize it. 

   * Crime - The Criminal Mentality 
   Richard Adams, in his book WATERSHIP DOWN, made a profoundly important 
identification of a connection between the individual and the group - the 
connection that explains why people will do things when in a group context 
that they would never do when acting as individuals: 
   "The current that flows (among creatures who think of themselves 
primarily as part of a group and only secondarily, if at all, as 
individuals) to fuse them together and impel them into action without 
conscious thought or will." 
   This is the psychological phenomenon that accounts for the clearly 
distinct difference between the behavior of "individual man" and that of 
"group man." How a man will behave in a social context depends very much on 
his self-image. 
   An animal is an animal by nature. It has no choice in the matter. But a 
human being must, by nature, CHOOSE to be a human. The necessity of choice 
arises from the structure of his cognitive apparatus. A part of this choice 
is, as an individual, to choose to think - and, as a member of a society, to 
choose to live by the non-aggression principle. One can not claim to be 
fully human unless one acts from the base of non-coercion.                        
   The Objectivist stand is quite clear: 
   "The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may 
INITIATE the use of physical force against others. No man - or group or 
society or government - has the right to assume the role of a criminal and 
initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man." (From "The 
Objectivist Ethics," in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS.)    

   There are really only two kinds of people in the world: those who bother 
other people without provocation and those who don't.  
   It is the initiation of force that distinguishes criminal from non-
criminal behavior, and it is the acceptance or rejection of the non-
aggression principle that distinguishes a civilized human being from a 
savage; a libertarian from a statist. This helps to explain why the State 
cannot respect - it can only fear. Animals do not have the attribute of 
   The Hindu religion approaches this distinction in its famous "beetle 
test": as you are walking along the road, will you break stride to avoid 
stepping on a beetle, or will you merely crush it and walk on? 
   Branden maintains that the fundamental moral "sin" is the failure to 
choose to think (see THE PSYCHOLOGY OF SELF-ESTEEM, chapter 4). I would draw 
a parallel to this contention in the field of ethics and maintain that the 
fundamental ethical "sin" is the failure to choose to judge. I mean 
specifically failing to make judgments about the ethical propriety of your 
own behavior, and instead allowing yourself to become merely an instrument 
of someone else's will. Rand observed that the most contemptible man is the 
man without a purpose. I believe the most evil man is the man who allows his 
purpose to be determined by others. He makes no ethical judgments about his 
behavior, but falls into the default of having his ethos determined by 
someone else. This is the man who implements in practice the ideas proposed 
by men who would otherwise be impotent. Without this man, Hitler would have 
been nothing more than a house painter. 
   The most widespread excuse for this failure is the claim that "I was only 
doing my job." I call this the "Nuremberg Defense" as it was the most common 
defense offered by the Nazi war criminals during the Nuremberg trials. 
Whenever you hear this claim, what you are hearing is an attempt to justify 
ethical viciousness on the grounds that the perpetrator has abandoned his 
own judgment and accepted the propriety of acting according to the judgment 
of someone else. 
   The Nuremberg Defense tries to divorce choice from action and thus avoid 
the assignment of guilt. The man who makes the choice tries to absolve 
himself from guilt by claiming "but I didn't DO anything," and the man who 
performs the action tries to absolve himself from guilt by claiming "but I 
didn't make any choice." When each has thus eliminated guilt from his 
considerations, both together are capable of a completely unlimited scope of 
wickedness. This "default of judgment" phenomenon lies at the base of all 
government police agencies and all military organizations. Without this 
default, the Hitlers of the world would each have to do his own murders 
personally, and would not be able to act through a social institution 
comprised of people trained to accept any judgment - any choice - governing 
their behavior. Any judgment, that is, except their own. 
   The vast majority of the human race are secretly kind-hearted and shrink 
from infliciting pain, but in a society where viciousness is 
institutionalized they don't dare to assert themselves. One kind-hearted 
creature spies upon another, and sees to it that he loyally participates in 
iniquities which revolt both of them. "In fear of what others might report 
about you, you stoned the woman although your heart revolted at the act." 
   Hitler: "I understood the infamous spiritual terror which this movement 
exerts, particularly on the bourgeoisie, which is neither morally nor 
mentally equal to such attacks; at a given sign it unleashes a veritable 
barrage of lies and slanders against whatever adversary seems most 
dangerous, until the nerves of the attacked persons break down. This is a 
tactic based on precise calculation of all human weaknesses, and its result 
will lead to success with almost mathematical certainty." 
   But this process works only with "group man." It does not work at all 
with the individualist. The individualist is the person who has a higher 
allegiance to his own conscience than to the rules others set down for him. 
The individualist thinks and judges independently, valuing nothing higher 
than the sovereignty of his own intellect. He does not allow others to 
determine his ethos. He is not the sort of chaff that makes good fodder for 
a tyranny. 

   Those who believe that might is right must always perceive themselves as 
   The Criminal Mentality: 
   If two men had walked down Fifth Avenue in March 1933, and one of them 
had a pint of whiskey in his pocket and the other had a hundred dollars in 
gold coins, the one with the whiskey would have been considered a criminal 
and the one with the gold an honest citizen. If these two men, like Rip van 
Winkle, slept for a year and then walked back up Fifth Avenue, the man with 
the whiskey would have been considered an honest citizen and the one with 
the gold coins a criminal. 
   I call this the Rip van Winkle phenomenon. It is useful in understanding 
"psychological" analyses of crime. Any definition of "crime" that is founded 
on government edict cannot ascribe a psychological basis for crime, because 
nothing about the psychology of either of the two men changed during the 
course of their nap. If, however, the definition is based on a fundamental 
principle, then it will have to recognize the criminal nature of much of 
government behavior: tax collectors as thieves - business licenses as 
   If the definition of crime includes victimless activities, then the 
analysis must account for the Rip van Winkle phenomenon. If the definition 
does NOT include victimless activities, then the analysis must consider as 
criminals those people who enforce victimless crime laws. 
   Either the distinction between crime and non-crime is one of arbitrary 
edict, in which case it does not exist in principle, or sociologists are 
looking at the wrong people because they do not examine the government's 
acts of coercion and they ignore the fact that half the prison population 
are merely lawbreakers, not criminals. 

   * Hate Crimes 
   A function of a criminal justice system should be to protect potential 
victims by incarcerating the convicted criminal as long as he is likely to 
repeat his crime. Here group hate is relevant. Someone who hates and kills a 
cheating lover or an abusive boss does not necessarily have a motive for 
killing anyone else. In many cases such a person can be safely released once 
the requirements of punishment and deterrence have been satisfied. In 
contrast, someone who kills a homosexual because he hates all homosexuals 
has a proven motive to kill and kill again. Releasing him puts innocent 
people in danger of their lives. The proper function of "hate laws' is to 
guide the courts and parole boards in reconciling justice for the criminal 
with safety for potential victims. 

   * Conspiracy 
   I regard all conspiracy theories with a great deal of skepticism. Keep in 
mind that the president of the USA (Richard Nixon), with all the power 
available to him, could not cover up a simple second-story burglary. Is it 
really likely that any of the so-called "conspirators" are intelligent 
enough and/or competent enough to perpetuate the globe-girdling conspiracies 
and cover-ups that are attributed to them? I think not. 
   If a field of study is dominated by the premise of collectivism - the 
premise that the group (rather than the individual) is the basic unit of 
analysis - then investigators in that field will tend to perceive conspiracy 
where in fact there exist only individuals behaving in similar manners. 
There is no conspiracy - it is merely the case that the fundamental beliefs 
of the people involved are similar, therefore their attitudes and behavior 
are similar. (Thus you won't find a priest in an abortion clinic, or an 
atheist in a convent.) 
   The fact that many individuals with similar interests tend to advocate 
roughly the same solutions to the same problems should be neither surprising 
nor puzzling. Each is merely advocating what he sees to be obvious remedies 
to the problems he perceives. There is no deliberate conspiracy involved in 
this behavior. It seems like a conspiracy simply because many people acting 
in accord with the same principle will all behave in a similar manner. But 
it is a mistake to assume from this similarity of behavior that there exists 
a collusion. Their cooperation results not from a conspiracy of men, but 
from a similarity of basic premises - and the power directing it is logic: 
if, when faced with a practical problem, some men point to a course of 
action logically necessitated by certain basic premises, those who share the 
premises will rush to follow that course of action. 
   But practical problems merely confront man with the need for action; they 
do not determine what the action will be. It is the predominant philosophy 
(of a man or of a country) that determines the action. For example: Hunger 
will impel a man to take some kind of action - but it will not dictate 
precisely what that action should be. The man's knowledge and ideas will be 
the governing factors in what he chooses to eat. Another example: Loneliness 
doesn't tell you who you need, only that someone is missing. It is up to you 
to define the emptiness of your soul, and make an appropriate choice of 
   America in the last quarter of the eighteenth century was confronted with 
the need for social change. The most influential set of ideas in the minds 
of the men who implemented change was the philosophy of John Locke. America 
was ideologically ripe for Jefferson. The intellectual groundwork had been 
prepared by half a century of education in Lockean philosophy. 
   On the other hand, although the post-WorldWar1 situation in Germany 
necessitated some kind of major changes in the country's institutions, it 
was the philosophy of Immanuel Kant that governed the type of changes. 
Germany was ideologically ripe for Hitler. The intellectual groundwork had 
been prepared by a century of education in Kantian philosophy. 
   If one knows the principles behind a given phenomenon, one can predict 
the direction it will take and its ultimate results. If you know a man's 
convictions, you can predict his actions. If you understand the dominant 
philosophy of a society, you can predict its course. 
   Basic premises, if left unchecked, can force the logically rigorous -
especially the logically rigorous - down destructive paths of thought and 
   For the great majority of men the influence of philosophy is indirect and 
unrecognized. But that influence is real. 

   It is important to remember that social institutions do not have goals. 
Only individual human beings have goals; political and cultural institutions 
merely provide a framework enabling the participating individuals to pursue 
their commonly-held goals. Institutions provide the incentives, 
opportunities and constraints that structure the behavior of goal-seeking 
individuals, but the institutions do not possess goals of their own. 

   * What is a Slave? 
   I see two fundamental distinguishing characteristics of a slave: 
   1. He is compelled to do whatever his master commands him to do. 
   2. He is forbidden to do anything without having permission, explicit or 
implicit, from his master. 
   I will leave it as an exercise for you to determine to what extent these 
two characteristics describe your own situation. Keep this in mind: Just as 
the truly damned are those who are happy in hell, so the truly enslaved are 
those who believe their enslavement is freedom. 

   * Profound Ethical Concerns 
   See reference 
   You will frequently hear people claim that certain issues are fraught 
with "profound ethical concerns." Issues such as research using fetal 
tissue, DNA manipulation, organ transplants, etc. Watch carefully and you 
will see that either they don't specify those concerns, or the concerns they 
do name are simply irrelevant. 

   Here is an example of a rare instance wherein a proponent of such 
"profound ethical concerns" actually makes a sensible statement of the 
concerns he imagines: 
   Gene therapy raises profound ethical concerns. For instance: 
   1. Should therapy be applied simply to improve one's offspring, not only 
to prevent an inherited disease? 
   [He implies that the elimination of an evil, "an inherited disease," is 
perhaps acceptable, but the implementation of a positive good, "to improve 
one's offspring," is of questionable propriety. Why does he object to a 
   2. Who would be empowered to decide? 
   [Here he clearly implies that someone is to have the authority ensuing 
from "empowerment." Why must such an authority exist? Who, after all, is 
"empowered" to decide which people shall be permitted to wear shoes?] 
   3. Is society willing to risk introducing changes into the gene pool that 
may ultimately prove detrimental to the species? 
   [In fact, Yes. Not only does the willingness exist, but the perpetuation 
of such detrimental genes is actually legally compelled by implementation of 
medical techniques that preserve the existence of severely retarded people.] 
   4. Do we have the right to tamper with human evolution?  
   [Everyone who ever selects his/her spouse on the basis of "He would make 
a good father" or "She would make a good mother" is "tampering" with human 
evolution. Why does he object to this selectivity?] 

   Here is another good example: 
   As artificial livers emerge into common medical use, they raise difficult 
ethical issues. 
   1. Is it ethical to deny a liver to someone who has cirrhosis in order to 
transplant it into a hepatitis victim who would have died but for an 
artificial liver device? After all, the hepatitis victim may recover 
spontaneously, whereas the cirrhotic patient almost certainly will not. 
   2. Is it ethical to refuse to put a dying patient on an artificial liver 
when there is a good chance that she will revive only enough to require a 
new liver? 
   [What this ethicist ignores is the fact that the artificial liver is a 
piece of property and the resolution of these "difficult ethical issues" can 
be accomplished by the simple application of property rights.] 

   These are by far the most comprehensive assertions of the "profound 
ethical concerns" syndrome I have ever seen. Usually no precise ethical 
applications are specified at all. I surmise that the people who make this 
assertion have strongly-felt objections to the action under consideration, 
but they have no rational arguments to support their feelings, so the only 
attack they can make is an unsubstantiated one. Perhaps their hand-wringing 
over such matters as genetic engineering and other new technologies is often 
the result of ignorance about the basic scientific principles underlying the 
new techniques. The problem might be that, while simple things like bone-
setting are understood by the ethicists, the basic facts of the science that 
makes genetic engineering a possibility are not. Thus, in typical fear of 
the unknown, a hue and cry against the new technology is raised. 
   Un-anchored as their precepts are to anything real or rational, they can 
and do undergo vast changes depending on political conditions, self-
interest, etc. Viz. these comments from a symposium on medical ethics: 
   "A discussion of ethical principles in biomedical research that ignores 
the socioeconomic heterogeneity of society is not ethical and not worth 
   "The ethics of health management differ within and between industrialized 
and developing countries because of their different economic capabilities." 
   "There were charges of ethical imperialism that ignored the realities of 
economic conditions in the developing world." 
   "When applied to specific circumstances, these ethical guidelines may 
conflict with one another." 
   * Charity - Egalitarianism - Welfarism 
   "Millions are given each year to charities which help crippled children, 
old people, blind people and all kinds of disabled unfortunates; which is a 
perfectly worthy cause. But, on the other hand, has anyone given much 
thought to the crying, desperate need of helping the exact opposite type of 
human beings - the able, the fit, the talented and unusual ones crushed by 
purely material circumstances? That idea of hardships being good for 
character and of a talent always being able to break through is an old 
fallacy. A talented person has to eat as much as a misfit. A talented person 
needs sympathy, understanding and intelligent guidance MORE than a misfit. 
And the question arises: who is more worthy of help - the subnormal or the 
above-normal? Who is more valuable to humanity? Which of the two types is 
more valuable to himself? Which of the two suffers more acutely: the misfit, 
who doesn't know what he is missing, or the talented one who knows it only 
too well? I have no quarrel with those who help the disabled. But if only 
one tenth of the money given to help them were given to help potential 
talent - much greater things would be accomplished in the spirit of a much 
higher type of charity. Talent DOES NOT survive all obstacles. In fact, in 
the face of hardships, talent is the first one to perish; the rarest plants 
are usually the most fragile. Are talented people born with tough skins? 
Hardly. In fact, the more talent one possesses the more sensitive one is, as 
a rule. And if there is a more tragic figure than a sensitive, worthwhile 
person facing life without money - I don't know where it can be found." .... 
Ayn Rand 

   Here is an appropriate response to an unwanted plea for charity: 
   Tax bills continue to take more of my time, hard work and earnings each 
year. Because of this, I have less to contribute to the cause of charity. In 
light of this increasing burden of taxation, I have decided to make 
contributions only to those organizations which do not receive any funds 
from government agencies. Since organizations which do receive such funding 
already benefit from my involuntary contributions, I believe that I have 
provided sufficient support to them. If your organization is one which I 
identify as being free of tax dollar dependency, you can look forward to a 
contribution from me in the near future. Otherwise, good wishes and enjoy my 
tax money. 

   In considering which organizations to support, it would be a good idea if 
you contribute not on the basis of NEED, but on the basis of PROMISE. Ask 
which organizations have the greatest potential for achieving goals that you 
deem to be of value. 
   In the case of an individual, "If you choose to help a man who suffers, 
do it only on the ground of his virtues, of his fight to recover, or of the 
fact that he suffers unjustly; then your action is a trade, and his virtue 
is the payment for your help."... Ayn Rand 
   There is nothing wrong with an individual doing charity work. But charity 
is not a moral ideal, nor does human life depend on it. Achievement is the 
moral ideal because man's life DOES depend on it. 

   When Menon, a Hindu, arrived in Delhi in 1947, he discovered that every 
rupee he owned had been stolen. He approached an elderly, distinguished 
Sikh, explained his plight and asked for a loan of 15 rupees to cover his 
train fare. The Sikh gave him the money. When Menon asked for his address so 
that he could pay it back, the Sikh said, "No. Until the day you die, you 
will always give that sum to any honest man who asks your help." Almost 30 
years later, just six weeks before his death, a beggar came to the Menon 
family home in Bangalore. Menon sent his daughter for his wallet, took out 
fifteen rupees, and gave it to the man. He was still repaying his debt.  

   Demands for "social justice" take two different forms, which can be 
called egalitarianism and welfarism. The difference in these two conceptions 
of social justice is the difference between relative and absolute levels of 
   Egalitarians are concerned with RELATIVE well-being. According to 
egalitarianism, the wealth produced by a society must be distributed fairly 
- it is unjust for some people to earn fifteen, or fifty, or a hundred times 
as much income as others, and since laissez-faire permits and encourages 
these disparities in income and wealth, it is therefore unjust. The hallmark 
of egalitarians is the way they use statistics to describe the distribution 
of income. In 1989, for example, the top 20 percent of U.S. households on 
the income scale earned 45 percent of total income, whereas the bottom 20 
percent earned only 4 percent of total income. The goal of egalitarianism is 
to reduce this disparity; greater equality is always regarded as a gain in 
social justice. Egalitarians have often said that of two societies they 
prefer the one in which wealth is more evenly distributed, even if that 
society's overall standard of living is lower, Thus egalitarians tend to 
favor government measures, such as progressive taxation, which aim to 
redistribute wealth across the entire income scale, not merely at the 
bottom. They also tend to support the nationalization of goods such as 
education and medicine, taking them off the market entirely and making them 
available to everyone more or less equally. 
   The welfarist, on the other hand, has a much more absolutist view of 
social justice. He demands that people have access to a certain absolute 
minimum standard of living. As long as this floor or "safety net" exists, it 
does not matter to the welfarist how much wealth anyone else has, or how 
great the disparities are between rich and poor. Welfarists are primarily 
interested in programs that benefit people who are below a certain level of 
poverty, or who are sick, out of work, or deprived in some other way.  
   To the welfarist, rights are conceived as rights to possess and enjoy 
certain goods, regardless of one's actions; they are rights to have the 
goods provided by others if one cannot provide them oneself. Accordingly, 
welfare rights impose positive obligations on other people. If I have a 
right to food, someone has an obligation to grow it. If I cannot pay for it, 
someone has an obligation to buy it for me... etc. From an ethical 
standpoint, the essence of welfarism is the premise that the need of one 
individual is a claim on other individuals. The claim is an unchosen 
obligation arising from the mere fact of his need. The ethics of welfarism 
does not assert an absolute right to pursue the satisfaction of human needs. 
The "right" asserted is, rather, a conditional one: those who DO succeed in 
creating wealth may do so only on condition that others are allowed to share 
that wealth. The goal is not so much to benefit the needy as to bind the 
able. The implicit assumption is that a creative person's ability and 
initiative are social assets, which may be exercised only on condition that 
they are aimed at the service of others. 
   The egalitarian arrives at the same principle as the welfarist, but by a 
different logical route. The ethical framework of the egalitarian is defined 
by reference to justice rather than rights - by the idea that people are to 
be treated differently only if they differ in some MORALLY (not 
economically) relevant way. The most common position is a presumption in 
favor of equal outcomes, and that any departure from equality must be 
justified by its benefits to other people (as opposed to its benefits to the 
individual who created the departure). But we can see that this is the same 
principle that lies at the basis of welfare rights: the principle that the 
productive individual may enjoy the fruits of his efforts only on condition 
that those efforts benefit other people as well. 
   Both of these social schemes rest on the premise that individual ability 
is a social asset - that the individual must regard himself as a means to 
the ends of others. And here we come to the crux of the matter. In 
respecting the rights of other people, I recognize that they are "ends in 
themselves," and that I may not treat them merely as means to my own 
satisfaction, in the way that I treat inanimate objects. Why then is it not 
equally moral for me to regard myself as an "end in myself"? Why should I 
not refuse, out of respect for my own dignity as a moral being, to regard 
myself as a means to the ends of others? An honorable person does not offer 
his needs as a claim on others; he offers an exchange of value as the basis 
of any relationship. Nor does he accept an unchosen obligation to serve the 
needs of others. No one who values his own life can accept an unchosen, 
open-ended responsibility to be his brother's keeper. The principle of trade 
is the only basis on which humans can deal with each other as independent 
equals rather than as objects of property. 
   The only social constraint laissez-faire imposes is the requirement that 
those who wish the services of others must offer value in return; that no 
one may use the State to forcibly expropriate what others have produced, nor 
claim a right to compel others to serve him involuntarily. 
   "What about someone who is poor, disabled, or otherwise unable to support 
himself?" This is a valid question to ask, as long as it is not the PRIMARY 
question asked about a social system. There is no ground in a rational 
ethics for considering the poor and the sick to be the foundation of 
society, or for regarding their needs as primary. It is in fact self-
defeating to think that the primary goal of a society should be the 
treatment it gives its least productive members. We must remember that the 
needs of the poor and the sick CANNOT be met unless someone chooses to 
produce the means of meeting those needs. Thus the social prerequisites of 
creativity and productivity MUST be accomodated FIRST if charity is to exist 
at all. 

   * Coerced Compassion 
   Consider the vast majority of those who turn to police power to remedy 
distress. Every one of them will say they act purely because of their 
concern, their compassion, for those on the lower rung of life's ladder. Can 
they not trust their own compassion to express itself? Apparently not, for 
it seems, when they turn to government, they are insisting that they must be 
forced to do that which they claim they already want to do. An absurdity! 
People who want to control other people's lives never want to pay for the 
privilege. What they usually expect is to be paid for the "service" they 
impose upon their victims. What they never recognize is that the individuals 
who are forced by government regulation to act against their own interests 
are the very "public" which is supposed to benefit from the government 
   In any case, if you are going to do good for someone, it really should be 
THEIR idea of good, not yours. In all cases, it should be the other person 
who initiates the interaction - by asserting THEIR perception of their own 

   Why was it necessary to have laws to FORCE racists to practice racism? 
After all, the employers, landowners, businessmen, etc., were overwhelmingly 
from the dominant group and were free to segregate and discriminate on their 
own. The answer is that the voluntary structure of economic incentives works 
against this behavior. As long as producers and consumers are free to act 
spontaneously in the context of a free market, there are economic costs for 
discriminating against minorities. There are likewise economic rewards for 
avoiding discriminatory practices. 

   * Effect of Social Complexity on Statism 
   One reason socialism must always fail is that any society large enough to 
be economically and technologically civilized is too large and complex to be 
contained within the minds of any subgroup. The competence of government 
began to decline precipitously after the First World War as society's 
technological complexity began to increase exponentially. It will be the 
final irony of the statist system that, once headless after a catastrophic 
collapse, it will be unable to save itself. The centralized control of all 
aspects of the country will prevent people from asking the questions that 
must be answered before any organized recovery can begin. 

   * Dual Ideologies 
   The claim that countries which call themselves capitalist are guilty of 
misdescription reflects the fact that politicians use dual ideologies - 
those that actually guide their actions and those that are used as 
instruments of deception in waging social conflict. The theory of a 
political system is almost always its surface ideology, and it may be a 
deeply, if not necessarily intentionally, deceptive facade. 
   People almost automatically assume that the goal of a political system is 
to advance the welfare of at least a majority of the population. But this is 
because some such goal is almost universally propounded in surface 
ideologies, and, being credulous, they allow themselves to be taken in by 
the surface ideology and never perceive the real motives that actually guide 
the behavior of the state. 
   Much of the government's "crime-prevention" behavior can be explained by 
the idea that the State has forbidden to the individual the practice of 
wrongdoing, not because it desires to abolish wrongdoing, but because the 
State desires to monopolize it. 

   * Hallmarks of a Conservative 
   The hallmark of a conservative is the phrase "too much." If you press him 
until you can get him to identify the core of his social philosophy, you 
will find that it is founded on a statement containing some variation of the 
phrase "too much." He is not fundamentally opposed to slavery, just what he 
perceives to be "too much" slavery. He is not fundamentally opposed to 
government interference in private lives, just "an excessive amount" of 
interference. He is not fundamentally opposed to tyranny, just a level of 
tyranny that is "far beyond" what he judges acceptable. I call this the "too 
much" syndrome, or the "uncalibrated quantification" fallacy. 
   An excellent example is the following quote from FREE TO CHOOSE by Milton 
and Rose Friedman (page 61): 
   "Some restrictions on our freedom are necessary to avoid other, still 
worse, restrictions. However, we have gone far beyond that point." 
   But consider that the distinction between an acceptable level of 
restriction and an unacceptable level is an arbitrary one, because such a 
distinction is based on a mere variation in quantity rather than a 
difference in quality. The "point" the Friedmans refer to is an undefinable 
position. To such people there is no wall between freedom and tyranny, just 
a fuzzy line in their imagination. Such a mind-set inevitably leads to the 
acceptance of tyranny, because to the man who holds it, first one thing 
doesn't seem too wrong, then another thing doesn't seem too wrong. And 
eventually nothing doesn't seem wrong. He has nowhere to draw a line. 
   Ben Franklin wrote in 1766 that "if Parliament has the right to take from 
us one penny in the pound, where is the line drawn that bounds that right, 
and what shall hinder their calling whenever they please for the other 19 
shillings and eleven pence?" 
   The very best way to distinguish between a conservative and a libertarian 
is to observe the presence or absence of the uncalibrated quantification 
fallacy in his ideas. The libertarian is opposed to ALL tyranny, not just 
"too much" tyranny. The conservative thinks he can make some compromise 
between freedom and tyranny, but his belief that there is a happy middle 
somewhere in between is wrong. That is not how compromise works. (See 
Chapter 3) 
   See reference 

   A second characteristic by which a conservative can be recognized is his 
reliance on religion. Almost all conservatives have religious belief as a 
major foundation stone of all aspects of their philosophy. A noticeable 
exception are the Randites, who are both conservative and atheist. But they 
are atheists who have a god named Government. 

   A third characteristic by which a conservative can be recognized is that 
politically, he is an "anti-". If you ask him what his political philosophy 
is, he will usually reply that he is an anti-communist. This is what makes 
conservatives attractive to philosophically superficial libertarians. Such 
libertarians (who are themselves opposed to communism) see no deeper than 
the "anti-communist" label presented by the conservative and conclude that 
the conservative is their philosophical ally. 
   The libertarians have the idea that to be allies it is not necessary to 
have a noble goal in commmon, but only to have a common enemy; that if your 
ally defines himself only as an "anti-" you can use him without fear that he 
will corrupt your purpose. Sometimes this can be true: an ally of 
convenience, who merely shares a common enemy rather than a common goal, can 
be useful - if you're careful. You have a big advantage: he knows only what 
he DOESN'T want -you know what you DO want. But the flaw in applying this 
idea lies in the philosophical superficiality of the libertarians. They do 
not probe beneath the surface label of the conservative to observe that 
fundamentally what he is FOR is the imposition of some form of coercive 
social institution. This mistake on the part of the libertarians is what has 
resulted in their being co-opted by the conservatives. 

   If morality consisted of social customs and traditions to which 
individuals must conform, rather than principles which they grasp and accept 
by means of reason, then it would be vital for a society to maintain a high 
degree of uniformity in customs and traditions. This explains why the 
conservatives are such strong advocates of immigration limits. An influx of 
people with different customs and traditions poses a severe threat to the 
conservative notion of morality. 

   The conservative believes that  achievement of values is OK, as long as 
you don't ENJOY that achievement - too much. (If you enjoy your achievement 
too much you commit the Christian sin of Pride.) This points out a seeming 
similarity between Objectivism and conservatism: they both approve the 
achievement of values. But to equate the two philosophies on the basis of 
this observation would be grossly superficial. It would be to equate 
opposites by substituting nonessentials for their essential characteristics. 
Conservatives always make this equating when they claim to be Objectivists 
or libertarians. In fact, the Objectivist and conservative theses on the 
fundamental nature of, and the purpose of, human values differ greatly. 

   * Libertarian Foreign Policy 
   Robert Ringer: "I am in favor of complete freedom of trade between 
companies and people throughout the world, but not under the umbrella of 
political partnerships between governments." 
   Thus a proper libertarian policy toward trade relations (a foreign 
policy, as expressed by a free society) should be: We will trade with 
individual people or with private companies, but we will not engage in any 
exchange which is subject to the control of a government. 

   * The Ethical Carnivore 
   The man who eats meat but who won't kill an animal is often described as 
an immoral person with unintegrated values who condones a wickedness by 
enjoying the result of it. He is accused of being equally guilty of the 
   This label of "immoral" smacks of original sin. In fact, it is simply 
impossible to live in America today without taking advantage of knowledge 
that was gained by experiments (many of them quite horrifying) performed on 
animals. Much of chemistry, and almost all of medicine, rest on such 
   For example, here is a note from a researcher on nervous systems: 
   "Some mammals (such as the common laboratory rat) can have their entire 
forebrain excised and are still able to walk, run and even maintain their 
balance to some extent. Although they move with a robotic stride, without 
making any attempt to avoid obstacles placed in their path, these animals 
are fully able to operate their leg muscles and to coordinate their steps." 
   Personally, I would find it completely impossible to conduct such 
experiments. Yet I study and learn from the results of them, with the 
explicit knowledge of how those results were obtained. Although this 
knowledge makes me feel depressed, it does not make me feel guilty. I have 
eaten the Apple, and I must live with it. Am I a hypocrite? 

   What insuperable line prevents humans from extending moral regard to 
animals? The question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can 
they suffer? Infants and the mentally ill do not possess the attributes of 
"normal" or "typical" humans, but they are not left out of the realm of 
rights. Why then omit animals? If there is something one would not do to a 
severely incapacitated child, then neither should one do it to an animal 
that would suffer as much. 
   A scientist who did cancer studies on mice recounts that whenever he had 
doubts about his work, he had only to think about the terminally ill 
patients in the children's ward. 

   Veterinarians are particularly sensitive to the ethical problems of 
dealing with animals - love of animals, after all, was what brought most of 
them into the field. Vets point out that their job is not to prolong life 
but to reduce the suffering of as many animals as possible. Human medicine, 
they aver, is in many ways more heartless: "We're allowed to give suffering 
animals euthanasia, but physicians are required by law to keep their 
patients alive no matter what the cost." 

   Sooner or later man will be going outside the solar system. Sooner or 
later we will meet types of intelligent life much higher than our own, yet 
in forms completely alien. And when that time comes, the treatment man 
receives from his superiors may well depend upon the way he has behaved 
toward the other creatures of his own world. ... Arthur C. Clarke

   Sagesse oblige. 

   * Voluntary vs Coercive - Trade vs Theft 
   As a starting point, here are some dictionary definitions: 
   Acting on one's own initiative. 
   Controlled by or subject to individual volition. 
   Proceeding from the will or from one's own choice or consent. 
   Resulting from one's own free choice; given or done of one's own free 
will; freely chosen or undertaken. Self-determining. 
   Acting willingly and without constraint or legal obligation or other 
external compulsion. 

   Synonyms: deliberate, intentional, spontaneous, willful, willing. 
   Deliberate implies full consciousness of the nature of one's act and its 
   Intentional stresses an awareness of an end to be achieved. 
   Spontaneous refers to behavior that seems wholly unpremeditated, a 
natural response and a true reflection of one's feelings. 
   Willful often implies headstrong persistence in a self-determined course 
of action. 
   Willing suggests acceding to a course proposed by another, without 
reluctance or even eagerly. 

   Coercion: A relationship in which a person is subjected to physical force 
(or the threat of it) in order to compel him to submit to the choices of 
another person. The separation of a person from his rightfully achieved 
values without his voluntary consent. Any course of action calculated to 
inflict physical injury, regardless of whether or not the action succeeds in 
its intent. 

   Fraud: Obtaining material values without their owner's consent under 
false pretenses or false promises. Receiving values then refusing to pay for 
them and thus keeping them by force (by physical possession) not by right, 
and without the consent of their owner. 

   What bothers me about such concepts as "willingness" or "voluntary" is 
that they can be identified only by examining the contents of a person's 
mind. But this is not possible; hence my attempts to define them in terms 
which are objectively verifiable, such as the observable result of a choice 
and the observable conditions of the context within which that choice 
   How can the existence of willingness be determined? A man with a gun to 
his head (or whose values are indirectly threatened) will most likely ASSERT 
willingness, but does his assertion really signify the existence of 
   To determine whether or not something is voluntary, we should examine two 
things: the person's behavior (both word and deed) and the context within 
which that behavior occurs - including the temporal context: the person may 
be operating under a threat laid on him in the past, and which is not to be 
manifest until sometime in the future. 
   The concept "voluntary" cannot apply to any context in which coercion 
occurs as part of the relevant environment. If a person's behavior is 
mandated, regardless of her personal choice, then her behavior cannot 
properly be labeled voluntary. No contract - whether direct, indirect, or 
implied - is valid if it is coercively imposed, or if it is acquiesced to by 
default within a context of coercion. Meaningful consent does not exist 
under these conditions. 

   The fundamental distinguishing characteristic which separates the two 
categories is the relevance of choice to the preservation of values. 
   For example: If I put a gun to your head and demand your money, the 
situation is such that your choice has no relevance: you lose a value no 
matter how you choose. Either your money or your life. 
   If your choice is to give me the money, then you lose the money. 
   On the other hand, if your choice is NOT to give me the money, then you 
still lose the money - and your life, too. 
   No matter how you choose, you lose. That's what makes the situation 
   If a person's choice is NOT relevant to the loss or non-loss of a value 
then the transfer is a theft. If the person's choice IS relevant, then the 
transfer is a trade. 
   There is a situation in which choice seems to be relevant, but 
nonetheless the transfer cannot be termed a trade: when the transfer occurs 
within a context of deception. This is fraud. 
   In considering the nature of deception, we must keep in mind that rights 
impose no obligations on other men except of a prohibitive nature. Rights 
are not a claim to affirmative action. Each man is obliged only to AVOID the 
violation of the rights of other men. Therefore, in my dealings with others: 
   I have no obligation to convince them of anything. 
   I have no obligation to educate them about anything. 
   My only obligation is to refrain from telling them anything I know to be 

   Nozick proposes three conditions for a just transaction: 
   1. It must be freely entered into by both parties. 
   2. There must be no deception on either side. 
   3. The goods traded must have been justly acquired - that is, acquired in 
circumstances that accord with the first two conditions. 
   His third condition raises a critically important idea: the problem of 
trade cannot be solved "out of context," that is, outside the general 
context of the social institutions that shape our culture. Before such 
problems can be fully solved, society must be restructured away from 
institutions of government and toward ethically rational institutions. 

   Keynes described aggregate demand management as "the one kind of 
compulsion of which the effect is to enlarge liberty." 
   Edmund Burke wrote, "Liberty too must be limited in order to be 
   Rousseau, in The Social Contract: "Men must be forced to be free." 
   Page 3 of the 1993 IRS form 1040A starts out with this statement: "Thank 
you for making this nation's tax system the most effective system of 
voluntary compliance in the world." 
   The words "liberty," "freedom," "voluntary," etc. have been appropriated 
by would-be tyrants who use those words to designate the opposite of their 
cognitively correct meanings, thus leaving the majority of people with no 
way to distinguish libertarians from our totalitarian enemies. The only way 
I can see to combat this dismal situation is to attack it not on its 
surface, by making futile attempts to persuade people of the correct 
definitions of those critical words, but at its roots, by presenting the 
notion that "Definitions Are Not Arbitrary". Unless your audience realizes 
this, any argument you engage in will be merely a verbal battle of wits with 
your adversary - the outcome dependent on who can make the most clever use 
of eloquent phrases which are nevertheless meaningless in the minds of the 

   Governments can be contended to be not coercive only if it is assumed 
that they own all the land under their jurisdiction. In which case, property 
and property rights are based on force, and only governments own property. 

   In some cases, it is claimed that my behavior must be voluntary because I 
do not exercise the alternative of departing from the social context in 
which the behavior occurs. (America: love it or leave it!) But by what right 
does my oppressor demand the abandonment of MY homeland as the price I must 
pay to get HIS coercive government off my back? 
   I take my motive from Thoreau, who stated: "Know all men by these 
presents, that I, Henry Thoreau, do not wish to be regarded as a member of 
any incorporated society which I have not joined.... If I had known how to 
name them, I should then have signed off in detail from all the societies 
which I never signed on to; but I did not know where to find a complete 

   Gulliver's Travels: "They look upon fraud as a greater crime than theft, 
and therefore seldom fail to punish it with death; for they allege, that 
care and vigilance, with a very common understanding, may preserve a man's 
goods from thieves, but honesty has no defense against superior cunning; and 
since it is necessary that there should be a perpetual intercourse of buying 
and selling, and dealing upon credit, where fraud is permitted and connived 
at, or hath not law to punish it, the honest dealer is always undone, and 
the knave gets the advantage." 
   Solon believed that "being seduced into wrong was as bad as being forced, 
and that between deceit and necessity, flattery and compulsion, there was 
little difference, since both may equally suspend the exercise of reason." 

   * Self-Defense 
   Libertarianism is not a pacifist philosophy. 
   There are two very different kinds of force: one is coercive or 
aggressive force - that which is initiated against other people, and the 
second is retaliatory or defensive force - that which is used to protect 
human rights. Libertarians oppose only the first of these. 
   The Objectivist stand is quite clear: 
   "The basic political principle of the Objectivist ethics is: no man may 
INITIATE the use of physical force against others. No man - or group or 
society or government - has the right to assume the role of a criminal and 
initiate the use of physical compulsion against any man." (From "The 
Objectivist Ethics," in THE VIRTUE OF SELFISHNESS.) 
   Thus we are not opposed to force when it is used in self-defense. In 
fact, we recognize the inevitable necessity of such force: it is necessary 
to use defensive force to preserve civilized life against those who embrace 
the use of coercive force. 

   Compare the appalling behavior of government with the plausible 
alternative of self-defense: 
   Private handguns are successfully used for self-defense 645K times each 
year. Ninety-nine percent of the times when a private citizen uses a gun to 
prevent a rape, robbery or burglary, no one is shot. 
   Women use guns over 400 times per day to defend themselves against 
rapists. The Federal Justice Department found that of 32K attempted rapes, 
32% were actually committed. But when the woman was armed with a gun or 
knife, only 3% of the attempted rapes were actually committed. In 1966 a 
highly publicized safety course taught women in Orlando Florida how to use 
guns. Orlando's rape rate declined 88% during 1967. 
   In 1982 the city of Kennesaw Georgia passed a law allowing heads of 
households to keep a weapon in the house. Ten years later, the residential 
burglary rate was 72% lower than it had been in 1981. 
   Since the passage of Florida's concealed-carry law in 1987, over 258K 
people have received permits to carry guns. Of those 258K, only 18 have used 
their guns to commit a crime. The homicide rate in Florida has fallen 22% 
during that time. A similar Georgia law, passed in 1976, was followed by a 
21% drop in its homicide rate. 
   A gun kept at home is 216 times more likely to be used for defense 
against a criminal than to cause the death of an innocent member of the 
   Each year, more criminals are lawfully shot by private citizens than are 
shot by police. But fewer than 2% of gun owners ever kill someone 
   Eleven percent of people who are shot by police are innocent of a crime. 
Two percent of people who are shot by private citizens are innocent of a 
   In 1985 the National Institute for Justice reported that 57% of the 
felons polled claimed that they were more worried about meeting an armed 
citizen than they were about encountering the police. 
   Society is safer when criminals don't know who's armed, but government 
will always be opposed to self-defense because any force not under the 
government's control poses a potential threat to the government, and thus 
self-defense must be outlawed. 
   A society where peaceful citizens are armed is far more likely to be one 
where Good Samaritans will flourish. But take away people's guns, and the 
public - disastrously for the victims - will tend to leave the matter to the 
police. In  a recent survey, no less that 81% of the Samaritans polled were 
owners of guns. If we wish to encourage a society where citizens come to the 
aid of neighbors in distress, we must not strip them of the actual power to 
do something effective. Surely it is the height of absurdity to disarm the 
peaceful public and then, as is quite common, to denounce them for apathy. 
   Even worse are the insidious consequences of the denial, by law, of 
individual self-responsibility and self-authority. In a society where the 
individual is forbidden to act freely on his own authority within his own 
personal sphere of influence, a sense of apathy MUST be the inevitable 
result - both a local apathy, regarding his interpersonal relationships, and 
a more generalized apathy, regarding his community. People who are prevented 
from solving their own problems will not solve the problems of their cities, 
   As Kropotkin put it in his book MUTUAL AID: 
   "In proportion as the obligations towards the State grew in numbers the 
citizens were evidently relieved from their obligations towards each other. 
Under the theory of the all-protecting State the bystander need not intrude: 
it is the policeman's business to interfere, or not. All that a respectable 
citizen has to do now is to pay the poor tax and to let the starving starve. 
The result is, that the theory which maintains that men can, and must, seek 
their own happiness in a disregard of other people's wants is now triumphant 
all round. It is the religion of the day, and to doubt of its efficacy is to 
be a dangerous Utopian." 

   I view a mugging as an infringement on my personal view of how the world 
should, and should NOT, be. The criminal is not just attacking a stranger; 
he is attacking something I value. He fills me with indignation, because he 
and his sort are undermining the world I wish to live in. I can't walk past 
such a sight indifferently; and the fact that I don't know the stranger 
personally is irrelevant. It is not the stranger I so intensely value here: 
it is my world as I want it to be. 
   Similar considerations go into my risking my neck to save a stranger in 
peril during an emergency. I don't know anything about the stranger. I do 
know that I am making a personal statement against the triumph of raw 
circumstances over human life - and over my volition. What jumps into my 
head is not, "I have a moral obligation to the stranger," but rather, "Not 
if I have anything to say about this!" You see, it's my world that's under 
   Now, some might ask: "Isn't this irrational? By what standard do you 
project your personal value onto things which, objectively, have nothing to 
do with your personal survival - things which, in fact, could actually 
jeopardize your personal survival?" My answer is that I value these things 
because in sum they comprise the framework of the community in which I live. 
If I do not act to preserve that framework in a proper condition then I will 
in future be unable to act within that framework for the achievement of my 
own personal values. 

   Gun control: 
   The right to keep and bear firearms is not fundamental. It is DERIVED 
from the more basic right to defense of person and property. Thus, any 
weapon which CANNOT be used against an aggressor without endangering 
innocent persons violates the basic right of self-defense of those people. 
The issue of gun control then becomes a technical one of identifying which - 
if any - weapons NECESSARILY constitute a threat to innocent bystanders. 
Nuclear devices and chemical/biological weapons would seem to fail the test. 
(As would voting, as I explained above.) 
   See reference 

   * Preemptive Force 
   Preemptive force is defensive force applied before an aggression actually 
occurs. Within the context of the libertarian ethic of non-aggression, how - 
if at all - can the use of preemptive force be justified? Must you wait 
until your assailant actually shoots you before you can take any forceful 
action to prevent your death? 
   If an ethical principle requires you to abstain from self-defense, can 
that principle be valid? Can any philosophy whose practice results in the 
death of the body or the spirit be moral or correct? As Rand pointed out, 
the only valid morality is one that is life sustaining rather than life 

   The significance of Time: 
   Man cannot live range-of-the-moment. He needs to support his life by the 
continuous use of reason. He must make correct identifications of reality 
which can then serve to guide his behavior through time. 
   "'Man's survival qua man' means the terms, methods, conditions and goals 
required for the survival of a rational being through the whole of his 
lifespan...." (Rand, in THE OBJECTVIST ETHICS) 
   Man is obliged, by his nature as a rational being, to take account of the 

   The point in time at which an event occurs is not philosophically 
fundamental. It is the principled nature of the event that you must consider 
in order to properly evaluate it. To be philosophically comprehensive you 
must judge the event on the basis of the underlying principles manifested 
therein. You must adhere to the principled distinction between coercion and 
self-defense, whether the defensive force takes place before or after the 
coercion. You must remember that when you defend yourself you are not 
fighting for control over your enemy, you are not fighting to compel your 
enemy's behavior, you are not fighting to separate him from a rightfully-
achieved value, you are fighting only to PREVENT your enemy from coercing in 
the future. You are fighting for the preservation of your rights, your 
freedom, and your life through time. 

   In my discussion of Rights  (in Chapter 5) I claimed that the foundation 
of all human behavior - both moral and ethical - lies in the Law of 
Identity. Proper behavior is that which is consistent with this Law; 
improper behavior is that which attempts to contradict it. The violation of 
rights involves a contradiction of the Law of Identity. However, it is 
consistent to take an action which eliminates such a contradiction, even if 
that action, when considered out of context, could itself be a negation of 
the Law of Identity. In ethics, as in the propositional calculus, one 
negative cancels out another. (I find it personally distasteful, but I can 
see no way to avoid the conclusion that two wrongs do indeed make a right.) 
Thus to lie to a man who is trying to rob you, or to kill a man, when 
defending your own life against his aggression, are ethically legitimate 
(i.e., logically consistent) actions. 
   See reference 
   To limit your response would be a form of the pacifist thesis: the self-
destructive notion that you must restrict YOUR behavior while your enemy 
places no restrictions on his. If there is a general principle involved, it 
must apply to both parties, not merely to one (you). Your enemy enters the 
relationship operating on the principle of coercion. If you cling to an 
unrealistic principle of non-aggression that prevents you from defending 
yourself against his coercion, then your enemy will always have the 
advantage of you and you will be destroyed. Such behavior cannot be 
ethically proper.    

   Consider forceful action in response not to previous coercion, but in 
response to the threat of coercion. If we consider threat to have the same 
status as coercion itself, then the use of preemptive force is justified. 
   If someone is pointing a gun at you, it can be argued that this in itself 
constitutes the initiation of force, because it is certainly an effective 
form of coercion - even though he has not (yet) pulled the trigger. And 
therefore if you use force against him you are reacting defensively, not 
   When a man threatens you by asserting an intent to coerce, and has 
available the means to coerce, then you have a right to believe he means to 
do what he says. If he SAYS it, you HAVE to believe he MEANS it. The 
alternative is to place yourself in a value-destructive situation. 

   A good illustration of this problem appears in THE PROBABILITY BROACH by 
L. Neil Smith. The scene on pages 218 to 220 depicts an application of the 
principle of non-aggression that precludes preemptive defensive actions on 
the part of the intended victims. 

   * Rules vs Principles 

   A PRINCIPLE is a general and fundamental truth that can be used as a 
standard of judgment in deciding conduct or choice. 
   A RULE, usually a precept adopted or enacted, is (or should be) the 
specific application of a principle. 
   A rule is a self-contained prescription about concrete actions or 
situations, telling you what to do or how to do it. In contrast to 
principles, rules are specific and limited in scope, prescribing a 
particular type of action in a particular situation. Because they are so 
specific, no set of rules could possibly cover every situation and action to 
which the corresponding principle applies. 
   Rules are formulated for specific contexts, but because humans are not 
omniscient they can never fully specify the parameters of that context. As a 
result, rules almost always have exceptions and they often conflict with one 
another. Someone trying to follow rules without the benefit of broader 
principles will have no way to determine when he is faced with an exception, 
or how to resolve conflicts among rules. 
   By contrast, a principle gives us comprehensive guidance across a vast 
number of circumstances that could not be covered by even a very long list 
of discrete rules, and it tells us how to identify exceptions to the rules. 
Properly formulated, a principle states the relationship between an action 
and a goal. It is a statement of cause-and-effect, and thus a principle has 
no exceptions. 

   To appreciate the problem, consider the Ten Commandments. 
   Leaving aside the first few, which deal with the worship of God, the list 
is not unreasonable, as far as it goes. It's generally a good idea to honor 
your parents, and not to steal, kill, commit adultery, bear false witness, 
etc. But these rules hardly cover the whole of life. Honoring your parents 
is normally a matter of justice as well as affection: giving them what they 
are due for having given you life and nurture. But the fourth commandment 
has exceptions: some parents treat their children with such cruelty or 
neglect that no honor is due them; quite the contrary. But the commandment 
gives us no guidance on this point. The principle of justice does. 

   Because it is so abstract, a principle must be applied to a particular 
situation by the exercise of judgment, taking into account the specific 
parameters of the situation. 
   The exercise of judgment cannot be eliminated from human life, and the 
attempt to do so by erecting a detailed network of rules always has 
destructive consequences in public as well as private affairs. 
   Unless rules are anchored in principles, they cannot be rationally 
justified, and will be experienced by individualists as externally-imposed 
constraints - limitations on their pursuit of happiness. 
   To be non-arbitrary, a moral code must be validated by reference to a 
fundamental fact - an ultimate good to which all other goals of action are 
the means. For Objectivism, that ultimate good is the individual's own life. 
   Moral principles identify the requirements for living successfully, given 
man's basic needs and capacities: Production is a virtue because it provides 
for our needs. Conceptual knowledge is a value because it makes production 
possible. Rationality is a virtue because it is the only way to acquire and 
maintain a conceptual grasp of reality. Honesty and integrity are virtues 
because they are the only way of keeping one's actions tied to one's grasp 
of reality. 

   A critic of rational ethics complained: 
   "If an ethical principle requires me to abstain from self-defense in 
certain cases, then those cases constitute a reductio ad absurdum of said 
principle, and I won't apply it to them. In fact, for any imaginable 
principle, one can devise scenarios in which it will give absurd results and 
must be abandoned. Thus it's impossible to devise principles of ethics which 
will always work." 
   Principles of natural law (such as Archimedes' principles of bouyancy) 
cannot be carried to such "reductio ad absurdum." They ALWAYS work. What 
does this say about so-called ethical "principles" which CAN? It says that 
they are not principles at all, but merely arbitrary rules. 

   The refusal, or inability, to distinguish between rules and principles is 
a manifestation of the concrete-bound mentality that Barbara Branden 
analyzed in her lectures PRINCIPLES OF EFFICIENT THINKING. 

   On to Chapter 7
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