site author: Anthony Wheeler email: email@example.com
Force invalidates and paralyzes a man's judgment, demanding that he act against it, thus rendering him morally impotent.
Ayn Rand, Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal
Humans across the globe disagree about every important question: what is the meaning of life? what is the proper way to live? are we alone in the universe? is there a god, or gods, to worship? what is my relationship with my neighbor, my family? what duties demand my attention? what is good, and what is evil? does my life mean anything?
We can argue about the existence of universal truth, but one thing seems indisputable: consensus about the most important questions has yet to be reached. The brightest and wisest minds today teach radically different views. Intellectual history records vast distances between philosophers and thinkers in every age, and especially those straddling cultural boundaries. Given human nature, these circumstances are unlikely to change. Agreement about the fundamental nature of nature, or the attainment of universal enlightenment, seems beyond human reach.
Imposing one set of values on the unwilling creates unnecessary pain and suffering. Restricting personal activities based on culturally determined morality limits human potential. If everyone shared the same values, and served the same morality, laws against personal behavior wouldn’t be necessary. But we don’t…share the same values.
The only thing we share as humans is pain and suffering. We don’t share the same visions, or experiences, or dreams, but we all suffer pain in arguably the same way.
Then again, every sentient living thing suffers – that is part of nature, and something that cannot be changed. But nobody favors pain and suffering that is unnecessary, unjustified, and unwanted.
Given that people don’t agree on what matters, and that the wisest cannot assert with certainty what is right and wrong, and that every living human has the ability—the necessity even—to decide for themselves, and that the application of force creates additional pain and suffering, and, as Ayn Rand indicates at the beginning of this chapter, invalidates a person’s judgment, the most viable political option, the one that promises the least amount of unnecessary pain and suffering coupled with the most opportunity for people to maximize their personal satisfaction, is to grant the individual’s sovereignty, and to limit social restrictions to the minimum.
Institutions that use violent force (brigands, pirates, warlords, nation states) hurt people: sometimes directly, with guns and bombs, but most often by confiscating some, or all, of their wealth. Humans are violent apes, and as such, require the existence of armed institutions to protect society from criminals and aggressive nation states. Expanding such institutions into commercial, cultural and private realms, however, brings violence, or the threat of violence, where it intrudes unnecessarily. Doing so causes new violence (in the War on Drugs, for instance) or destroys wealth (Social Security). It also inhibits alternative futures by limiting opportunities that most people don’t even miss. In other words, what could be, given genuine freedom, will never be known. A loss beyond reckoning.
Many good-hearted people, along with very intelligent thinkers, believe that government intervention creates more value than it costs. Or at least they think governments do good. These people are either ignorant/naïve, in that they don’t understand the way the world actually works, or they are cynical/power brokers, in that they understand perfectly well the negative impact of government intervention, yet support it for the power and influence it provides. In many cases, the actual cost of government intervention isn’t even questioned, let alone calculated. Public Education, for instance: who analyzes the cost of wasted academic years, where society (through taxes) pays a student’s way, and then suffers the years of lost labor by the students during those same years? When does the cost of advanced education justify the investment? When does the loss get multiplied when that student never utilizes their education in an economically viable way? People don’t even argue this, or question the squandered wealth, or how over-educating the population brings with it costs that cannot be properly calculated. The analysis isn’t done at any level. Education is ‘good’, therefore the government should provide. But everything in life requires balance. Nothing is absolutely necessary, that cost doesn’t matter, unless one’s life directly depends upon it (a rare case). The cost of any action or item is always balanced with the value of something attained. We make these value judgments everyday, ever mindful of our time, our energy, and our resources.
Finally, we frequently refer to the costs of intervention in relation to the realized benefits. Keep in mind that both ‘costs’ and ‘benefits’ include more than finances: everything a person values must be included in the equation. And there is only one entity that can solve the value-question, and that is the individual. And only a free individual can make the calculation without submitting to the threat of violent force. A completely free person can only exist within a Genuinely Free Society.
It is enough; Lord, if it pleases you, simply unharness me.
Richard Powers, Goldbug Variations
In many respects, the principles that provide the philosophical foundation for a Genuinely Free Society are fairly simple. This might be considered a serious weakness of the Altruistic Libertarian, given the complexities of modern society, and the absence of specific solutions for so many daunting modern challenges.
This site includes serious criticism of current and historical institutions and policies, without offering a positive vision of what a Genuinely Free Society would entail: how would people live? what would they do? what about poverty, crime and hunger? What, in the end, would society become if driven only by genuinely free individuals?
The simplicity is quite deliberate, and relates to a critical insight, one that lends extraordinary strength to the political philosophy of the Altruistic Libertarian, and rational support for a Genuinely Free Society.
It is true that complexities exist in abundance. Just consider the following examples:
Just about every industry and every sub-culture on Earth contain deep complexities and unique markers. Within these industries and sub-cultures, experts exist, people who have mastered the arcane logic and esoteric wisdom within their realm.
Independent of these cultures, a few individuals exist who see the world in ways utterly different from the rest of us. They envision that which doesn’t yet exist, futures to be, say, or insightful interpretations of nature. Perhaps they hold within themselves imaginative works of art yet to be created.
These industry experts, cultural visionaries, and creative geniuses can change the world in wonderful ways. Lives can be saved, wisdom can be shared, and futures created that change our children’s lives in fantastic ways. New technologies, life-enhancing insights, opportunities for personal growth, quality of life improvements, new ways to live, exciting discoveries, artistic masterpieces—all within the realm of probability in a Genuinely Free Society.
And all completely and utterly unpredictable. It’s impossible…literally impossible…to predict the future in any meaningful way, given the trillions of variables, most of them unknown. It’s not even possible to predict with certainty the outcome of a single professional football game.
What people need, what society needs, is the opportunity to do anything. Anything they desire. Create new ideas even when others mock. Consume substances even when others condemn. Pursue dreams no matter how absurd. Work hard to gain wealth, or sit on a couch, watch football, and eat Doritos.
As demonstrated in later sections, when governments get too involved, things stagnate: transportation, education, and retirement – all moribund after decades of government intervention. Enormous amounts of wealth wasted, leaving the economy—and quality of life—in the slow lane.
Yes, complexities exist, perhaps the greatest argument against government intervention. Government institutions are not well suited for innovation, or wealth creation, or public service, or regulatory oversight into complex industrial and cultural realms.
All government can do is halt progression, prevent people from doing what they want to do, keep them from innovating or exploring new possibilities. Governments cannot create wealth (what value they do provide always cost more that it’s worth, thereby destroying wealth) and they cannot innovate. What they can do most effectively is protect its citizens from criminals, and the nation from aggressive foreign powers.
The political philosophy of the Altruistic Libertarian can be simple, because it grants human genius full license to manage specific complexities. It frees people to work for what they want, to live how they desire, and for others to work hard to provide it. A Genuinely Free Society sets no limits on people, posts no specific goals for society, and manages nothing. Thus, the Altruistic Libertarian doesn’t need to develop complex solutions for particular cases: the ingenuity of free men and women will do so, in ways arguably supreme.
What alone can regenerate us? Envisionment of what is perfect.