From Chapter 11 of Man Alive, Indomitable you.If you have been paying attention to the slow-motion train wreck going on among the allegedly capitalist nation-states and their undeniably socialist central banks, you will have heard terms like “crony-capitalism” or “entitlement mentality.” Perhaps the pundits you have read have been honest enough to use a more comprehensive coinage – such as “moochers.” All of these ugly phenomena, and many others, are manifestations of a practice economists call “rent-seeking.” That term is used to mean market or legislative manipulations by which someone collects economic “rents” without providing any value in exchange. Crony-capitalism – more accurately characterized as Rotarian Socialism – is rent-seeking by means of government loans or subsidies, special favors or legislation inhibiting or outlawing competition. The entitlement mentality is the testy insistence that I should profit from your labor but you should not.
Suppose I show up at your house with a couple of my henchmen. We grab you and lock you up in shackles. We frog-march you back to my place and jail you in my basement. In the morning, we take you over to my neighbor’s house and compel you to do his yard work – for which service he is willing to pay me a princely sum. He doesn’t pay you anything, nor do I, but I do provide you with food, shelter and clothing – “Do not bind the mouths of the kine that tread the grain” – along with all the locks and chains you can stand. That is rent-seeking in its naked essence. I am providing none of the economic value. You are, albeit at my command. But I am collecting all of the “rents” for the value received.
That’s slavery, of course, and every form of rent-seeking is simply a more-attenuated and more-complicated form of slavery: I profit from the economic values you own or produce and you do not. We are apt to think of slavery as being a two-party transaction – you work on my land – rather than the three-party trade described here. But Caesar’s friend Crassus went all of this one better: He went into the slave-improvement businesses. He would march the captives of his conquests back to Rome, and, rather than sell them for chump change as mining or galley slaves, he would have them trained as carpenters or masons and then he would sell them for much higher prices as skilled tradesmen. That’s the spirit of capitalism – economic value added by the application and cultivation of human capital – in the service of a life of crime!
And I have no doubt that you understand thoroughly that my conquest of your person and my selling your labor for my profit would be crimes. Whether you are willing to accept – yet – that every other sort of forceful intervention into a putatively free economy is also crime – filigreed felonies committed by thugs in thousand-dollar suits – is your business. The world will run along on its current vector of motion, at its current pace or still more quickly, until that pace is slowed and the direction ultimately reversed. That could occur slowly, by means of repealing legislation, though nothing like that is happening now. Or it could happen quite rapidly, in a national or global economic collapse. You don’t have to accept any part of this argument, now or ever. The human mind is always free to call rocks trees and house-cats vegans, irrespective of facts. But a vitally important law of economics can be expressed in these simple words: If something can’t go on forever – it won’t.
But what of the morality of our hypothetical slavery scenario? If I should enslave you, that would move the marker of my self very far to the left on the number line of self-regard – wouldn’t it? Using the Calculus of Loss, we can see that my evil would move your marker leftward, too, although not as far. But you cannot rationally claim that you would love your life just as much or even more if you were graced with the opportunity to see and feel – and remember forevermore – your body in chains. As above, you could make such an absurd claim – just not rationally.
But could there be another moral evil, committed by you, that would be worse for your own self-image than seeing yourself in chains? How about seeing yourself cooperate in my evil scheme? If my minions and I capture your body, you have not taken any affirmative action in self-injury. If we chain your limbs and then essentially carry you to my basement, with your toes barely scraping the ground, you have not volunteered to be imprisoned. But when you actually undertake to do the yard work – even though you are under duress, coerced by violence or the threat of violence – at that point you are not simply being despoiled, you are participating in your own despoiling, are you not?
Do you care to dispute that claim? Do you quake with the need to quibble? There is a bright-line distinction between being pushed around and pushing yourself around in behalf of your despoilers. A captive is a victim. He is being injured through no fault of his own. But a slave is a volunteer. He does not volunteer to be enslaved, but by the self-initiated actions he takes in his despoilers’ behalf, he becomes morally-complicit in his own despoliation.
No one likes to think about this. You always want for it to be some other guy who done you wrong. But just as you were responsible for your own past spasms of mindlessness, it is you and no one but you who has forged the chains by which you are bound.
Do you still want to say, “Yeah, but…” I hear that particular thoughtful construction all the time. The “yeah” is a concession, and the “but” is a quibble. But what is really happening any time you consent to participate in an evil action – any time you go-along-to-get-along? If we were to invert the question Socrates asked you before, acknowledging that either response requires a Calculus of Loss, we could instead say, “Which would be worse for your own self-love, now and in the future: To inflict an injury upon another person, or to have an injury inflicted upon yourself?” Are you willing to concede that there is third factor in play – voluntarily inflicting an injury upon your self – and that this is much worse for your own immediate and on-going self-adoration?
The slave-master has it all much worse, of course. He bellows, “Do it or I’ll kill you!” – but this is simply his unthinking confession of his own impotence, his concession to his own unexamined conclusion that he is unworthy of the fully-human life. Brutes surround themselves with the trappings of luxury in order to delude themselves into believing, at least for a few precious seconds at a time, that they are getting something of value in exchange for their progressively more squalid self-loathing. But they have to drown their minds in liquor or drugs or indiscriminate sex or compulsive gambling, because they can never silence the screams of that five-year-old child within, that child who knows with perfect certainty what is just and what is unjust, who knows without having to be told that no one can live a life of Splendor while pursuing Squalor.
But what of your self? Why are you cooperating with the slave-master, and is there any limit to your cooperation?
We all know that slavery is abominable, a vile and vicious practice, indefensible on any grounds. And yet we may not know – or may know but do not want to admit we know – that many, many slaves, throughout human history, have clung to their captivity and vehemently resisted manumission – freedom. And while you may want to insist that you would never prostate yourself like that – begging to be chained, begging to be abused, begging to be despoiled – precisely what is it you are doing when you sign your tax return? When you mail in your property tax check, paying, over and over again, so that the brute of the state will not confiscate the land you allegedly own? What are you doing when you show up, hat in hand, in one government office after the next, begging for permission to stay alive for one more day – so that today’s earnings can be expropriated just like those of the day before and the day before that, on and on for every day of your life?
There are a lot of different things I can say, when I meet people, to find out if they are still capable of thinking with the clarity of mind of any normal five-year-old, or if they have walled up their minds in some dank dungeon of mindlessness. This is one of my favorites, a truism that sorts the sheep from the shepherds from the living minds just like that:
Every time you lick a stamp, you’re kissing the master’s ass.
There is obviously no reason for mail delivery to be a state monopoly, no reason but mindless tradition and the inertia of thoughtless habits-of-mind. And there are obviously many good reasons for every sort of communications business to be handled by free-market enterprises. And yet you kiss the master’s ass with every piece of mail you send or receive, and the master rewards your obedience by piling vast hordes of unkempt, slowly-meandering union men on your shoulders, paying them at least five times what their skills and abilities are worth and conferring upon them million-dollar retirement plans – to be paid for by your hard work. You may have to subsist on oatmeal and ketchup when you come home for the last time from your working life, but every functionary of every branch of the state will be doing just fine – at your expense.
And you glance at me briefly and then you look away. You smile weakly and you shuffle your feet and you look this way and that and then you say, “Oh, well, you know…” I do know, alas. I live just as you do, half-free, half-slave, smiling and shuffling and trying not to notice too mindfully when I find myself begging – again – for the privilege of living my own life in my own way. I want to live, and so I volunteer to live as a slave. I want to have a nice home for my family, nice things for my wife, good food for us and for our pets. And so I kiss the master’s ass again and again – and so do you. I don’t care how much money you make or don’t make. I don’t even care if you yourself are a government functionary. If you are not living off the land – completely “off the grid” – as a feral human being, you are complicit in your own despoiling. You are a voluntary participant in your own enslavement.
And isn’t that a dainty dish? Just now, government functionaries at all levels of the state are desperate to figure out how much more wealth they can squeeze out of you – how many more sweetheart deals they can bilk you for, how many more lavishly-paid “jobs” they can give to their friends, how many more votes they can buy from grasping welfare slaves with your income. Here is the question they should be asking themselves: What will you do when you have had enough of being bilked and milked and pushed around?
This is a true fact of your nature, a statement of ontology, an undeniable, inescapable manifestation of being irrespective of what anyone thinks about it:
You are indomitable.
You cannot be caused to take any purposive action by anyone or anything but your self. Philosophy begins with ethics – “What should I do?” – but the purpose of all those bogus arguments of moral philosophy is to conceal this fact from you: To gull you into believing that you really are being unavoidably compelled to cooperate in your own despoiling. To delude you into thinking that your complicity in your own enslavement is not a consequence of your own freely-originated, completely-voluntary choices – instantly reversible – but is instead some magical mystical mandatory manifestation of metaphysics: God’s will or the spirit of the age or the consent of the governed or the needs of the needy or the glory of the state or the historical inevitability of one-world socialism or the sacred social compact or the divine right of kings or the purity of the race or the practical benefit of uniform law – or simply the bad temper of the slave-master, hung-over from yet another night of trying to drown his misery with liquor you paid for.
That belligerent slave-master knows – with an icy dread that will never, ever stop churning through his guts – that you are not really a slave, that you are not doomed to a life of servitude that you can never escape. He knows it beyond all doubt, and that’s why he is always holding a gun to your head – always threatening you with fines or jail or torture or death. He hopes and prays that you don’t know it – and he pays his shamanistic “philosophers” to keep coming up with newer and better rationales for this palpable irrationality, ever-more-unintelligible justifications for the vicious injustices upon which his life depends.
You’ve been taught your whole life to worship the state with a devotion no church ever demanded. Where the church asks for ten percent of your income as a gift, the various branches of the state take half or more. But they have you so cowed that they don’t actually have to take it – you’re a volunteer slave after all. The motivation behind your voluntary participation in your own despoliation is fear, not worship. You recite all the most popular patriotic gibberish, but what gets the checks signed and the senseless regulations obeyed is your dread of being arrested, publicly shamed, chastised by a judge dressed up in a high-priest’s costume, locked up like a slave.
Did you notice that the state – sacred and noble, according to you, or at least according to the propaganda you imbibe and then regurgitate mindlessly – behaves just like that bully on the playground? When you capture his attention, he captures your person, ignominiously “perp-walking” you in the public square, slandering your name and your reputation, trying you in the court of public opinion long before you ever have a chance to defend yourself. He demands that you attack or be attacked – betray your neighbors or be betrayed by them – and all of the mindless “citizens” look on with their faces frozen in a smirk of faked scorn, each one of them secretly delighted that it is you and not him who has the bully’s attention for the moment.
Is this really what you would choose for yourself, if you could choose how your relationships with other people are to be managed?
I am not admonishing you to storm the Bastille. I promise you I won’t be doing that, not today and probably not ever. I don’t love being a slave, but I doubt that I will enhance my future self-adoration by becoming a martyr. We got into this mess by pursuing a vector of mindlessness over the course of centuries, and we can only get out of it – albeit perhaps only after the collapse of the whole insane house of cards – by applying our minds to reality, by reversing that vector and moving human civilization rightward on the number line as far as we can as quickly as we can, by finally living up to and embracing our responsibility to be the philosophers our nature commands that each one of us must be in order to lead the fully-human life. For my own part, I’m not interested in solving every one of the world’s problems immediately. This cannot be done. The world can only be changed one mind at a time, and so my objective is simply to persuade you to think carefully about human indomitability, where, until now, you have thought about it carelessly – or not at all.
So: Taking account that every unique type of entity in the universe has an inviolable nature, and further that this nature is discoverable by the human mind, and that, still further, acting in consonance with that nature produces good results while acting in violation of it produces poor results – taking account of all of that, how should you act toward other people? Brutes will be brutes, as will be their mindless minions. But how should you behave, recognizing that, as a matter of ontological fact, you cannot cause another person’s purposive actions – and that trying to do this will imperil your own life and will induce in you the relentless, unforgiving self-loathing that is the unavoidable fate of every mindless brute?
It’s simple, isn’t it? Everything is, when you train your mind to see the world as it really is and not as you insist it “must” be. All each one of us has to do, in order to live in peace with one another, is leave each other alone. You don’t mess with my life, and I don’t mess with yours. We cooperate where we identify a mutual benefit in cooperation, and we go our separate ways where we don’t. When our interests conflict, we resolve our disputes peacefully. And when we run up against a brute who cannot live in peace – a malignantly narcissistic paranoid schizophrenic dominating personality – we must either induce him to dispatch himself from our presence or one of us must dispatch him from life itself.
Am I saying that someone should take the law into his own hands?!? There is no valid law except natural law. There can be useful man-made rules of mutually-voluntary conduct, but statute law – fiat law – brute law – exists for the sole purpose of enslaving you – and then rubbing your nose in it. If you want to dispute this, we can talk about it the next time you have to visit the State Department of Motor Vehicles. I’m being snide, but it remains that you cannot dominate other people, so you should stop trying. They cannot dominate you without your on-going completely-voluntary complicity and consent – instantly reversible and then some – so they should stop trying. This is what we are as a matter of ontology – as a matter of being – and if you want to live and to love your life and your self and all of your values, you should act accordingly. You will not cause the universe to not-be-what-it-is by bellowing at it – or by shooting a gun at it – but you will destroy every human value in your life, eventually, as the only enduring consequence of your insane belligerence.
And, yes, I am talking about anarchy, an on-going state of statelessness. You have been indoctrinated with a long list of lies about anarchism by all of those theologians, philosophers, academics, artists, journalists – and especially politicians – with whom you have encysted your mind. But if you can manage to think around the mental cacophony of their outraged bellowing, just how much worse does your life have to get before you are willing to concede that you are heading in the wrong direction? If forty percent taxation hasn’t convinced you, will sixty percent swing the balance? If bearing half of your body weight in moochers hasn’t crushed you yet, how many more rent-seeking parasites will it take to do the trick? You are reading this book because you are scared to death that this entire insane Rube Goldberg machine could come crashing down around your ears, landing you in a chaotic place where you might have to watch your own children starve to death. Are you really sure you cannot possibly consider any alternative to more and more mindlessness?
As I’m sure you know by now, I can answer any caveat or quibble you can come up with – about anything I have to say – along with many more objections you will not have thought to raise. I don’t intend to belabor this topic for now. I’ve written extensively on the subject of political philosophy elsewhere, but it is hardly a priority just yet. You are in a philosophical lifeboat right now, and your most important job is to keep bailing – so you and your loved ones don’t drown. By the time you get back to dry land, you will have worked all this out for yourself. All you really have to do to get all the way there is practice the art of ontologically-consonant teleology and act upon your self and other people as they really are.