There are three main threads through everything that I write:
- A rejection of absolutist black & white thinking.
- Strict adherence to the Non Aggression Principle, to the extent that punishment becomes off-limits in favor of forgiveness and prevention of future crimes.
- What I now call Nietzscheanism*–that is: morality is a human construct that primarily exists to keep the strong from abusing the weak; it is a luxury of the middle class, one not allowed to the lower class and one that the upper class isn’t held to.
It’s immediately clear, from the second two bullets–the first is only mentioned because it simply is a common thread, but it’s not the point of today’s discussion–that there is a conflict.
Can there be a greater example of middle class morality than the NAP? In fact, I would say that the NAP is the shining bastion of middle class morality–fully swearing off and condemning all force, violence, and coercion and asking that everyone else do it. Obviously, this can only happen in a world where everyone compromises the middle class. This is the crux of anarcho-capitalism, and the reason I insist that Nietzsche would be an AnCap if he lived today, knowing what we know.
Goodness, there’s just so much ground to cover to bring my ideology full circle. It’s always difficult to explain to people exactly what I advocate, because it is very much circular, and that makes it hard to pinpoint a beginning. Here, we’ve started from Nietzscheanism and objectivism, and that works, but only if there isn’t a deity. After all, if there is a deity giving some sort of meaning to our existence, then life does matter. So before I could really get anyone on board with Nietzscheanism, I have to get people on board with atheism–Nietzscheanism, after all, is nothing but Applied Atheism. But before I can get anyone on board with atheism, there is a whole lot of groundwork to lay, and it’s groundwork that I’m not going to attempt to lay, because atheism and theism are irrelevant to the larger point. I can be right or wrong about individual pieces regardless of the existence of a deity.
However, I would say that before I could attempt to convince someone that there isn’t a deity, I would have to convince them the value of reason over emotion since, by any measurement, faith is an emotion-based position. We will keep going back and back and back until we arrive right back at subjective value determinations, which lands us right back in the territory of Nietzsche and the Austrian economists. I actually made a few years ago a document–a flow chart, for the most part–where one ideology led to the next, and it was clear by the end of it, after I was able to connect Nietzscheanism back to subjective value determinations–because the essence of Nietzscheanism is that morals are subjective–that I had just created a giant web. I know I still have it somewhere, but I can’t be bothered to find it, and it’s not that important anyway.
Morality, Very Briefly
There is no such thing as “morally good” or “morally bad.” These are values that we prescribe to various acts based on the consequences of those acts, the motive behind those acts, and the circumstances around which that act was committed. This is virtually a tautology at this point, but I will take the time to explain it anyway.
Let’s say that I push you down, causing you to break your arm. I have assaulted you. Everyone would agree that I was morally wrong to do so.
However, let’s say that I push you out of the way of an oncoming train that, for whatever reason, you aren’t aware is coming, and I cause you to break your arm. Suddenly most people would call me a hero and say that I’d saved your life.
In both scenarios, I did exactly the same thing: I pushed you, you fell, and you broke your arm. However, in the first scenario I was just being an aggressive bitch. In the second, I was saving you from being hit by a train. Yet the act itself and the consequence of that act are the same in both scenarios: the act was that I pushed you; the consequence was that you broke your arm.
What changed? In reality, what changed were the imagined consequences of me not pushing you. See, morality, as Henry Hazlitt observed in The Foundations of Morality, arises as a result of imagination, that wonderful characteristic that homo sapien has but so few animals share. It is our ability to imagine that gives rise to morality. Without even realizing it, so gifted are we at doing this, we imagine hypothetical alternative scenarios where I did not push you, and we compare the likeliest result of those scenarios with the reality that transpired. Marvelous creatures, we humans! And, in this way, imagination is literally the cause of morality, as it is precisely what allows us to envision these alternative realities.
In the first example, the most likely hypothetical alternative is that you continue standing unassaulted, and your arm is not broken. You go on about your day without a broken arm. By most criteria, that is certainly a better outcome for you, and since I am the reason you do not get to enjoy that superior outcome, it is determined in a fraction of a second that what I did was morally wrong. We do this innately; I’d almost say that we conceive these hypotheticals instantaneously, and the speed and proficiency are the reasons why we forget that morality is the result of imagination.
In the second example, the most likely hypothetical alternative is that you continue standing unassaulted right up until a train plows into you and utterly destroys you. By most criteria, that is certainly an inferior outcome for you, and since I am the reason that you were spared that inferior outcome, it is determined, perhaps instantaneously, that what I did was morally good.
These value statements themselves, though, are built on a few assumptions:
- Empathy: This person is generally like me, and I should do unto this person what I would like this person to do for me. In most cases, what I want is much the same as what this person wants.
- My own preferences: I prefer to not be in pain. I prefer pleasure. I prefer happiness. I prefer to not be sad. I prefer to remain alive.
By combining our own personal preferences with an extension of them onto other people–the very essence of what “empathy” is–we arrive at a criteria by which we assess whether something was good or bad. It’s by no means a perfect system–how could it be, when we are imperfect creatures?
Whenever I think of empathy and the application of my preferences onto others, I recall the time in college that I was behind the desk unplugging my laptop because class was over. While back there, without even asking, I took it upon myself to unplug my neighbor’s laptop, because he was in the process of packing his backpack. It seemed perfectly reasonable to assume that he’d like me to go ahead and unplug his while I was back there. Because I have all the social graces of Dexter, it didn’t occur to me at all to ask if he’d like me to do it; I simply did it. And I immediately learned that his laptop’s battery didn’t work, and that I did a cold shutdown on his laptop. Not a big deal, but something that has always stuck with me about assuming that our preferences automatically apply to others. They don’t. However, generally, they do. I mean, what are the odds that his laptop battery wouldn’t work at all? Under 95% of circumstances, the person would have said, “Oh, cool, thank you!” instead of “Oh, hold… What the hell? Did you unplug me?”
Nietzsche described good as “the will to power” and happiness as “having power.” From a strictly Darwinian perspective, he’s not wrong. He’s clearly not wrong; he can’t be wrong. However uncomfortable it makes us, he’s right. If our criteria is “survival of the species,” then the only thing that makes sense is to let the powerful do what they can. Do the powerful want to wipe out the weak? Turn them into sex slaves? Install governments throughout the world and use those governments to control the weak? Then they must be allowed to, under this perspective, because we do live in a universe that is trying to kill us, where only the strong survive. It’s a straight line from there to Eugenics, to forced breeding programs to breed the “most capable human.” It’s a sickening path.
Now, to be clear, Nietzsche most certainly did not go that far, and he did not advocate any of that. He was merely arguing that morality is a tool used by the weak to neuter the strong, creating three classes of people in the process: the middle class who were strong and obeyed the morality, the lower class who were weak and therefore didn’t have the luxury, and the upper class who were strong and rejected the morality.
With all the above being true, we can see that the moral statement “force, violence, and coercion are unacceptable” is the epitome of Middle Class Morality. For one, this maxim is as close as we can get to a universally applicable morality. Is it true that absolutely no one wants force, violence, and coercion done to them? Certainly not. It’s no longer acceptable to say for some reason, but there are people out there who would genuinely like to be raped, for example. I’ve met a few, and their problem is always the same: they want to be raped without consenting to it, but giving someone permission to rape them is consenting to it, and the odds that a random stranger is going to rape them are not good. Beyond that, if they ran around clearly looking to be raped–wearing excessively revealing clothes and being unnecessarily sensual–it is passively consenting to it. I raise all this to make the point that they don’t want to consent to have it forced on them; they want it genuinely forced on them.
Rumor has it that Angelina Jolie once paid a hitman to kill her. She genuinely wanted someone to do violence to her, assuming it is true–and I don’t care whether or not it is, because there have been enough suicides by cop that it’s provable that some people genuinely want violence done to them. My own mother apparently sought out violent and coercive men. So obviously these things are not going to be universally applicable, because nothing is universally applicable to a species filled with individuals as varied and wild as we are.
In essence, all rights can be distilled to the following: we have the right to not have force, violence, and coercion used against us unless we consent to it priorily. This statement is all-inclusive. Just as you have that right, as does everyone have that right. This means, then, that you do not have the right to use force, violence, and coercion against someone without their consent. The right to free speech, free religion, free trade, free employment, and free everything else–they all stem from this basic right to not have force, violence, and coercion used against us. They are applications of this maxim to specific issues.
Are these inherent rights? Perhaps and perhaps not. It could be argued you have the right to attempt to stop someone from using force, violence, and coercion against you; in essence, it could be argued that you have the right to try to be strong, and, by being strong, subjugate the weak. It depends upon our subjective values–our criteria for determining morality. If we go with the Darwinian approach, then we arrive at this latter system of rights, where one has the right to do anything they can–this is an underground system of rights, the one that lives in the underbelly’s shadows in society, when certain behaviors are outlawed and black markets thrive.
Because that is, after all, the essence of the black market: a place where the forced middle class morality doesn’t apply because it happens in the shadows. The black market is generally created when the state outlaws something it has no business outlawing**, creating a new dichotomy of the strong and the weak, instead of the trifecta of those who can’t, those who do, and those who don’t. Since middle class morality ceases to apply to anyone, you’re left with only the strong and the weak–the victims and the aggressors.
It follows, then, that if outlawing things leads to the creation of a black market–which we know it does, from indisputable proof and countless examples from the drug war to abortions to ration stamps–that is differentiated from society by the fact that middle class morality doesn’t apply at all and we’re left only with the strong and the weak, then if we outlawed nothing, we would utterly eliminate this black market characterized specifically by the rule of the strong and Darwinian morality.
Application of the NAP Against Nietzscheanism
There are two things that must be done for the NAP to be realized, for middle class morality to be universally applicable–as much as it can be, at least. First, the lower class has to abolished and lifted up into the middle class. So let’s state this loudly and clearly:
No nation other than the United States has come close to eliminating its lower class.
This isn’t a bad thing. We look around the United States and, yes, we have a lower class still, but they aren’t really “lower class,” not in the grand scheme of things. They aren’t poor like the man in Ethiopia who throws out middle class morality to steal food for his family. By an overwhelming degree, the American poor abide middle class morality, though they have no qualms about stealing from the state. Seeing as the state is stealing from everyone, I don’t think it’s fair to condemn them for that one. Besides which, without the state and taxation, they wouldn’t be able to game the system to get “back” finger-quotes-wink-wink ten thousand dollars anyway.
Our “lower class” has electricity, clean water, running water, indoor plumbing, heating, air conditioning, vehicles, iPhones, laptops, steroes, flatscreen TVs, cable/satellite, Internet connections… Our lower class is so high on the totem pole that they’d be considered upper middle class in most parts of the world. This is actually part of the problem, since our lower class, our “poor” have totally lost all perspective on how luxurious their lives are.
To clarify the phrasing, the goal is not to kill off the lower class, not by any means. That’s horrible. No, the goal is to lift up the lower class and bring them into the middle class. Yes, this creates a new middle class, because humans naturally form hierarchies, but none of that matters. The point is that the applicability of middle class morality must be extended to the lower class and, if it is, then it is also true that they are not generally facing the threat of starvation, which is the escape clause that gives them an out from middle class morality in the first place.
Secondly, the upper class must be made to abide middle class morality. Currently, they don’t. I couldn’t even begin to guess how much shit the upper class gets away with in the United States. I’m positive that a solid portion of them engage in child sex tourism and pedophile rings. I’m not referring to the Podesta leaks, but a lifetime of hearing whispers and accusations directed at the upper class. It all may be false, but, in most cases, where there is that much smoke there is usually a fire.
But beyond that, does the upper class get away with theft? Holy crap, absolutely. Not only do they take part in the state and steal from us directly while calling it taxation, but they also use the mechanism of the state to create things like intellectual property and eminent domain, utterly gutting our property rights in the process.
Does the upper class get away with murder? Again, holy crap, yes. The death toll of the 20th century was 160,000,000 from war alone as upper classes in various parts of the world put the lower class to use killing lower class members who were fighting for other upper class groups. They call it “war,” but it is murder.
It’s indisputable that the upper class doesn’t just reject middle class morality; they do so brazenly and openly, in full view of everyone else, and they get away with it by using carefully constructed euphemisms, deceit, and manipulation. There are countless people who will insist that taxes aren’t theft. Except… they are, by any definition of theft. And sending a group of armed people to go kill another group of armed people is unequivocally murder. We cannot allow euphemisms and a refusal to face the truth obscure these basic facts.
So yes, it is true that we are animals who need to be strong in order to survive, and that our species as a whole must embrace strength and shun weakness. This does not mean a lack of compassion, though, as I’ve explained elsewhere. See, we have mistaken “compassion” as being hardly anything more than getting down in the floor with someone and crying with them. That is fake sympathy; it is empty sympathy.
If you are a herd of gazelle [humans] and are trying to get away from lions [the universe that kills the weak], and you have a loved one who is injured [weak, for whatever reason], then you are doing no one but the lions a favor by laying down with your weak gazelle friend and crying with them. This is empty sympathy. This is virtue signaling. This is nihilistic.
True sympathy leads one to help the other gazelle get up, heal their injuries, become strong themselves, and flee the lion.
We absolutely must have compassion and must be guided to help the weak–it is why we have our middle class morality. It is as close as we can get to “objective morality,” after all. However, if our gazelle friend refuses to get up, if they instead embrace their injury and their victimization, refuse to try to heal, and refuse to try to escape the lion, then we must cut our losses and flee before the lion gets us, too. There is a line between sympathy and nihilism.
Based on observable cause and effect–since it is impossible to speculate too much into our hypothetical alternate realities, and since we lack omniscience and can never know exactly how anything would really have played out if we had acted differently–we know that leaving the gazelle to be eaten by the lion would be bad, and our application of empathy derived from our own personal preferences compels us to help the gazelle. We know with reasonable certainty that the lion would eat the gazelle, and that, if we did not help, we would bear a portion of the blame in that.
We should all be strong; we should all be middle class, with no one enshrined above [through the state] or below [through poverty] anyone else. Now, what is the mechanism that allows that to happen? What mechanism eliminates the state that allows the upper class to escape culpability for their moral violations? Anarchism. What mechanism has provably lifted up virtually the entire population into middle class territory, where the fear of starvation is exceedingly remote? Capitalism.
So how do we create this world of people abiding the NAP, of all people being strong and none being weak?
* Thanks to the overwhelming number of angst-ridden ultra-emo millennials who think nihilism means “life sucks and death is cool,” I’ve been left with no choice but to change the label, but that’s fine; Nietzsche wouldn’t have approved of “nihilism” as the label anyway. Of course, these people have never read a word of Nietzsche and don’t fully understand the philosophy, because:
and they get lost on that second part: nothing matters. They don’t fully apply it, though, or they would realize that it doesn’t matter that nothing matters. That is completely and utterly meaningless.
** Anything they outlaw is something they have no business outlawing.