Some background is necessary in order for Politics to make any sense, starting with clearing up some key misconceptions.
1-1 Reality Check
If you were to close your eyes and try to imagine a benign, successful future for humankind, what would you see? A handful of trillionaires who own everything and run everything? Vast global government ruthlessly enforcing incomprehensible law?
If you don't want to wind up in a certain place, what sense does it make to be marching precisely in that direction?
Most people in their right minds aren't all that fanatically interested in politics. If you were to write down a list of the 5 most important things in your life, chances are politics might not even be one of them. But it should be near the top of the list, because it impacts everything. To prove it, just relocate yourself and those 5 otherwise-important things to North Korea.
The situation on the Korean peninsula is a tragedy for the Korean people, but an invaluable object lesson for all of humanity. There it is in black and white: relative prosperity in the South and abject misery in the North.
The situation can't be blamed on "racism" or any of the other usual suspects in the "divisive political scapegoats" pantheon. Same people, same dirt, same everything on either side of the DMZ, except for one thingpolitics.
The subjects of the North Korean regime can do nothing to remedy their predicament, having been carefully and systematically deprived of everything necessary to effect any such remedy. Helplessness is a fundamental precondition for slavery, but the most important precondition of all is plain ignorance.
It has been said that the truth will set you free, which shouldn't be too hard to believe because it is 100% for certain that untruth will enslave you. The only hope had by people who can't embrace truth and reject untruth (or even discern between the two) ever to enjoy Freedom is if someone else hands it to them on a platter.
There is, as it turns out, an unbreakable link between Truth and Freedoma fact which hopefully will be made clear by the coming discussion on what Freedom actually is and what's required to achieve it.
At the foundation of everything (including politics) is Truth, or Reality. To reference Reality, we're going to be using a 3-tiered model.
The 1st tier includes: TRUTH, LAW, ARBITRATION, JUSTICE, etc.
This first layer represents Reality As It Actually Is. Unfortunately (or perhaps not unfortunately) this view of Reality is beyond the limits of human understanding. So, other than having made note of the fact that it exists, we'll set it aside for good.
The 2nd tier includes: Truth, Law, Arbitration, Justice, etc.
This layer represents our best, good faith effort at understanding Reality, within our unavoidable limitations, but uncompromised by self-delusion, wishful thinking, fraud, or malice. Since it is the absolute best we can do at any particular time (which does tend to improve over time), it is either good enough for our purposes, or else it isn't, but through no fault of our own.
The 3rd tier includes: truth, law, arbitration, justice, etc.
This layer represents our ordinary, run-of-the-mill approach to things. At this layer we may or may not have any relation to the 2nd layer, depending on whim, but no concerted effort to conform to Reality can be found here. It is at this 3rd tier that we find such things as junk science, junk religion, junk politics, junk debate, junk law, and other assorted junk. What all of these junk disciplines have in common is the triumph of agenda over Truth.
So, in effect what we're doing with the Reality Model is: (1) recognizing that we constantly have a choice whether or not we're even interested in Reality, and (2) using what amounts to proper names to label our best guesses at Reality, in contrast to ordinary nouns labeling our less-rooted-in-Reality efforts.
The important thing to understand about Reality is that it existed before any human being, that the "Arbitration" referred to isn't the human variety, and that no person had anything at all to say about Truth, Law, Justice or any of the rest of it.
Our normal human effort, on the other hand, is all about human arbitrationhuman whim. While circumspect people of good will may try to stay rooted in Reality to the best of their ability, others of us imagine we can just blow off Reality and indulge our fantasies, not in some private entertainment, but in our public (i.e. political) interaction, and do so at no cost.
You can even hear some guru wannabes claim things like: "The truth is whatever we believe it to be."
Interesting theory. We can put it to the test with a simple experiment. Let's send two skydivers up in a plane. The one who doesn't "believe" in gravity won't need a parachute, correct?
What we've got to get through our thick heads is that objective Truth exists. It is whatever it is. It can't be changed in the tiniest iota of a detail by wishful thinking or sloppy analysis. The Truth is something we get no opportunity to decide, only discoverif we have the ability and will to do so.
But the situation is even more dire than that: the Truth is our judge, jury and executioner. We either adequately come to understand and conform to it, or we suffer the fate of those who don't.
Looking back over human history, we can see that our perceptions, behavior, and culture have changed radically, while Reality has persisted. The Law of Gravity didn't suddenly come into existence when Galileo or Newton or Einstein finally conceived it, it was there all along.
We live in a Universe filled with Rules, and for as long as we've been searching we've been discovering new onesa process with no end in sight. So far, none of them has shown the slightest malleability to any human belief. If belief has no effect on Reality, then it becomes necessary for Reality to affect belief.
So are we saying that something like optimism, for example, is a waste of time? Of course not. Our mental state has no impact on Reality, but it can have a huge impact on our behavior, changing it in a way that takes better advantage of existing Reality. If we don't believe something is possible, we're unlikely to take the steps necessary to find out if it actually is.
Attitude, in fact, is the difference between Winners and Losers. Winners aren't people who never lose, merely people who never give up. Paralyzed actor Christopher Reeve used to play "Superman" in the movies, but he turned out to be Superman in real life and Attitude made that happen. We can't always choose our circumstances, but we can always choose our Attitudes, and if we choose badly we can expect to do badly.
Likewise, we ought to be careful about jumping to premature conclusions about what Reality is. It's been said that if people were meant to fly, we would have been given wings. What we were given, as it turns out, is an ability to understand aerodynamics and to create technology that takes advantage of it. (Whether we should have or not is another matter, but after a century or so the results of that particular decision look mostly positive.)
And since we're not omniscient, and only part-way toward understanding what we are capable of comprehending, we often find ourselves resorting to alternatives to certaintylike guesswork, conjecture, speculation, faith. You know, factsif you have themare great. But what happens if you don't? Are facts the only possible basis for making a decision?
If facts were the only usable basis for decision-making, we'd have a problem because some facts we have, while many more yet elude us. Fortunately, there are alternative bases, and one of them is risk.
For example, suppose you had to decide whether the notion of "free will" is reality or fantasy. Setting up a scientific experiment to conclusively prove the matter one way or the other might be a pretty tall order. However, from a risk standpoint the problem becomes embarrassingly easysimply assume that free will exists! If it actually does, then you've made the smart choice, and if not then you were just doing what Fate forced you to do. In other words, you have nothing to lose by pretending that free will is real and nothing to gain by pretending it isn't.
Here's another example: the Universe is either a Creation or else it's not. If anyone has an open-and-shut case for either scenario, it hasn't been widely publicized. But what are the risks of believing the Universe is a Creation if it isn't, and what are the risks of believing it isn't if it actually is?
What we can observe is that people will often, when faced with an absence of convincing proof, simply believe whatever they choosewhatever seems to give them comfort. (In fact, this approach is so popular that we even resort to it when contradictory evidence is readily available.)
What's even more amazing is that, while some people will choose to believe something uplifting, others will choose something bleakeven without clear proof one way or another. It's as if they're comforted by negativity, when more positive choices were equally viable based on any available evidence.
But wishful thinking, cynicism, and the other shortcomings of human nature are something we're going to have to rise above if we want to Succeed. Our understanding may be a work forever in progress, but we have to make the best decisions we can regardless, and that means making the most of whatever we have to work with.
1-2 Success vs. Failure
What is success? We can hear all sorts of people described as "successful"including those who seem to be all about their own gratification and dominating others, the accumulators of vast wealth and power for purposes of their own. If there's such a thing as Real Success, though, we need some understanding of what it may be.
The idea of "humanism" has developed a bad reputation in some circleswell-deserved if it tries to make humanity the be-all, end-all, center of the Universe. The Universe is a mighty big place.
But we ought to have a healthy interest in the fate of our species. The Human Cause is our cause. Who's supposed to take responsibility for it if we don't?
So we have two kinds of Success to pursue: collective and individual.
By "collective Success" we merely mean the Success of the Human Cause itself. Although we may each have all kinds of notions as to what may qualify as a Successful outcome to the Human Project, we're necessarily in the realm of speculation. Hopefully, most of us can agree that Success probably doesn't include our near-term extinction. (Anyone who's unwilling to embrace even that minimal precept is excused from further discussion, and be sure to make an appointment with a qualified therapist on your way out!)
It's pretty hard to score a touchdown when you can't figure out where the goal line is, and that's the situation in which we find ourselves. We really don't know what we're doing, and we can't expect to remedy that anytime soonmaybe ever.
Does that mean we're whipped? No, thanks to an approach ready-made for the ignorant like ourselveshedging our bets. This multi-tack approach is an automatic result of Freedom, in sharp contrast to the sort of lockstep march toward disaster we see under Slavery. Tyrants are a serious liability when it comes to finding the goal line, since they tend to be insane but will tolerate no dissent or deviation from their master plans.
Despite the conviction of an endless succession of delusional megalomaniacs who're sure their mission on Planet Earth is to hijack the Human Project, it is in reality a team effort, and a multi-generational effort at that. How can any person claim to be its sole owner? It stretches back to dim, unknowable prehistory, and forward to some even more unknowable future.
We're all its owners, and we each bear responsibility for it. We all Succeed together, or we all Fail together.
Owing to our individual responsibility for the Success of the Human Cause, it becomes obvious that individual Success depends on our individual contributions to our collective Success.
Suppose that in the very last instant of your time here on Planet Earth, you were suddenly granted wisdom enough to understand the real value of your contribution to the Human Project, if any.
We don't know if anything like that happens, and it wouldn't matter much if it did, since it would be too late. The time to develop an understanding of what your contribution ought to be is while you still have enough time left to do something about itwhich, not knowing when that is, basically means at once.
Some people see their mission on Planet Earth as all about contribution, and others see theirs as all about gratification. But some of the most gratified people ever to livepeople who had their own way as often as they could arrange it, at whatever cost to othersare already pushing up daisies. Their successors will be joining them in due course. And no one will ultimately care about how wonderfully gratified they were, not even themselves.
What it all boils down to is this: contribution lives, gratification dies. We can work to the benefit of succeeding generations, as many of our unknown forebears have already done, and be Successful people, or we can be Failures in the very gravest sense.
And make no mistake about itthere are no bigger Failures than Tyrants, whose net effect is to thwart the potential contributions of innumerable others by Enslaving them. They're willing to place our whole Mission in jeopardy just for the sake of their delusions. As Tyrants become ever more sophisticated and grandiose, that jeopardy only increases.
That's something that should concern us all.
What exactly it is that we came to Planet Earth to accomplish is something we each have to figure out, isn't it? But speaking generically, we can say that we all came here to do our best. And 3 things (of a political nature) deserving special recognition in that regard are listed in the following table, along with their opposites:
|aids to Success||aids to Failure|
|individual responsibility||group "responsibility"|
It's no coincidence that the encouragements to merit (Persuasion, Competition, individual responsibility) associate with Freedom, and that the discouragements to merit (Coercion, Monopoly, group "responsibility") associate with Statism. Freedom is pro-merit and Slavery is anti-merit. Marxists are all about Political Power, not Success, and the relatively poor performance of Marxian societies is simply a reflection of that.
The relationship of these principles to Success and Failure is straightforward. The odds of being able to Persuade others go up or down depending upon how right or wrong we are, whereas being able to Coerce others doesn't require us to be even a tiny bit rightjust ruthless. (Note that Excellence, being naturally attractive to people, doesn't need Coercion. What does that leave?)
Competition obliges us to do our best. Monopoly allows us to do our worst and still get bythat's its whole point. Monopoly is not only Slavery, but an outright admission that we have no desire to do as well as we'd have to in order to be competitive. It's a way for Losers to steal the rewards that rightly belong to Winners.
Individual responsibility creates incentives based on something we can actually controlour individual behavior. That corresponds to basic human psychology. Being held responsible for what we have no way to controlother people's behavioris seriously de-motivational because it runs counter to basic psychology.
A few other things (of a non-political nature) are worth mentioning in the context of Success, and one of them is Good Judgment. Not being omniscient or otherwise infallible, we have great need for an ability to make reasonably good approximations, and an inability to separate the wheat from the chaff means winding up with a shortage of wheat and a surplus of chaff.
Like everything else, Good Judgment is something that some people will have more of a knack for than others. But we all should develop whatever aptitude we have for it to the fullest, because it will be in absolutely constant demand in any Free Society. Poor Judgment makes effective self-control virtually impossible.
Another is Reason itself. Logic is a powerful capability, and possibly the only one unique to humans. Dolphins or elephants may have rich spiritual lives, who can say? And even the family pet can display a whole range of emotions. But we're the only species in our acquaintance (so far) that can do The Calculus. Reason isn't all-powerful, any more than we're all-powerful, but if it can put people on the Moon, it can offer much-needed leverage in putting people on a Free Planet Earth.
Last but not least is a tool that we alone are fortunate enough to possessRecorded History. Hopeless people make the same mistakes over and over. Smart people learn from their mistakes, and really smart people learn from the mistakes of others. Humankind is afforded a unique opportunity to learn from the most tragic and unrepeatable mistakes of countless of our forebears, as well as benefit from their genius. That's an offer we can't refuse, and still claim to be doing our best.
We're not talking about memorizing what year the Battle of Hastings was fought in order to get a grade in History classwho cares? But anybody aspiring to Freedom needs to know why battles were fought, how they were won or lost, how they've been avoided (and at what cost), and everything that's ever been discovered about how force or fraud have been used to Push People Around.
Here are some examples of what the people who came before us have been able to figure out:
"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you." Pericles (430 BC)
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Benjamin Franklin (1759)
"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined." Patrick Henry (1788)
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Lord Acton (1887)
Human nature is a mixed bag, but included with it is the ability to make the most of what we've been given. Selfishness can be harnessed to produce a healthy lack of dependence on others, becoming less of a burden on them, or it can be allowed to degenerate into the pathological exploitation of others. Competitiveness can be used as a spur to ingenuity and effort, or become an excuse for vanity and chauvinism. And on and on.
The choices are ours, but the judgment of History will belong to others.
1-3 Science vs. Religion
In the popular culture, science and religion are often portrayed as antagonistic, as opposites. Actually, since they each encompass the Universe in its entirety, they necessarily overlap, and would more properly be regarded as complementary.
To be sure, they differ substantially in approach. Although they both benefit from reason, inspiration, intuition and the like, science is based on skepticism and religion is based on faith, i.e. speculation. While some may be offended by this comparison between faith and speculation (faith being assumed to correspond to Truth and speculation not necessarily so), the point here is that both can happen, by definition, in the absence of proofsomething that science intentionally doesn't embrace.
Now, as we all know, skepticism is a good thing and speculation is a bad thing, right?
Wrong. It all depends on what's True. In other words, skepticism about Untruth is helpful, but skepticism about Truth is counterproductive. In like manner, speculation about Truth is helpful, but speculation about Untruth is counterproductive. Therefore, leverage would be available in our use of skepticism and speculation if we could somehow make educated guesses about what we'll later discover to be True.
What this means is that science, as potent as it has turned out to be in many instances, nevertheless suffers from an inherent handicap: it's biased in favor of ignorance. That is, it prefers ignorance to unproven Truth. The same skepticism that is its strength is also its weakness. As a result, science has been a great help when it comes to things that can readily be subjected to experiment and proof, but leaves us hanging in other areas, some of which unfortunately happen to be the most critical to politics.
Another thing about science that's not always kept in mind is that, although its insistence on proof means science has a high likelihood of yielding correct answers (when it does yield answers), its reliability can never be 100%, thanks to human fallibility.
One problem, that isn't the fault of science but rather of human nature, is this tendency we have to become fat-headed about our accomplishments. We can be reminiscent of the 12-year old kid who says: "When I was 11, I only thought I knew everything, but now I really do know everything!" It never seems to occur to us that our understanding is a work forever in progress.
So, the situation we find ourselves in is the following:
None of us knows the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. All of us put together don't know it. Science can't be expected to solve this problem for us anytime soon, yet if we don't base our politics on the Truth we can expect to suffer the consequences of that. Do we have any way to take up some of the slack in our understanding?
Yes, we doreligion.
Now, some people would be aghast at the suggestion of any involvement of religion in politics, particularly those who advocate the "separation of church and state" (an impossibility, by the way, because there's really no such thing as the absence of religion, or equivalent belief in things unproven).
Their reservations aren't unfounded. While science has a long track record, religion has an even longer one that's very mixed. Theocracies are some of the worst societies ever endured, and self-righteous zealots have perpetrated all manner of atrocities against "heretical" unbelievers. However great a problem agenda-based junk science is, agenda-based junk religion is even more prevalent, and dangerous.
Also, while lots of people don't believe in a particular prophet (or in any prophets), everyone believes in the existence of false prophets. But how do you tell who's real and who ain't? Not to mention the fact that prophets and even their "interpreters" seem to have lost any trace of their human fallibility.
Still, religion at its best has made a unique contribution to the Human Cause thus far, one we would have been much worse off without. And while it's Truthwhatever that isthat really matters, Truth is exactly the thing real religion has grappled with for a very long time, with impressive results.
The amount of commonality among real religions is very interesting. Not that popularity of an idea is proof of being on the right trackit isn't. But while contradiction can be more apparent than real (like the story of the blind men describing the same elephant in contradictory terms), real contradiction is a killer, since it proves at least somebody's wrong. So in that sense at least, commonality can be a good sign.
The point is not that clerics should be calling all the political shots, merely that to exclude religion from the list of things we use to inform our understanding is to risk missing an opportunity we may not be able to afford to miss. Particularly so, since the kind of human interaction that politics involves is well-studied in many religions, and not yet well-understood by science.
This war between science and religion that some people seem to want doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Based on our experience with them, there's no reason to completely discount either, and ample reason for concern about both.
Did you know that our "free will" is actually a Divine oversight that Theocrats have been appointed to correct? Did you know that needing to advance some religion at gunpoint in no way reflects badly on what it has to offer?
Meanwhile, the scientific community is populated by intelligent and highly educated people. But amazingly, many of these otherwise bright individuals seem unable to grasp what appears to be common sense: that not everything that can be done ought to be done. That some paths lead ultimately to joy and others to misery, and that discernment or good judgment is crucial to making the right choices.
Suppose a group of scientists wanted to conduct a cutting-edge experiment in particle physics. Suppose further that an opposing group of physicists claimed that such an experiment was very dangerous and might result in the creation of a black hole, but that the first group of physicists dismissed those concerns as nonsense. How do you, perhaps not an expert in particle physics yourself, know whom to believe?
Freedom allows people to risk their own lives in whatever pursuit they like. Risking the lives and welfare of others whose approval was never sought or given is another thing altogether. If Dr. Frankenstein forgets that it's the unwashed rabble of the countryside who must bear the brunt of any screw-ups, the reminder may come in the form of something nasty involving torches and pitchforks.
And what does all this have to do with politics? Just thisthat any enterprise that chooses to take no account of human fallibility is pretty shaky from the get go. Anyone who has never made any errors or been mistaken about anything is entitled to utter confidence. The rest of us should bear our histories in mind as we go forward.
Those who refuse to entertain even the possibility of being wrong have little hope of being right. Anybody can make a mistake. The less likely people are to believe that, the more likely it is to actually occur. Hubris is a disaster in general, and politically disastrous in particular. That argues for circumspectionnot trembling cowardice or phobic timidity, just reasonable caution and an open mind.
The hallmark of open-minded people is that they change their mindsnot constantly, about everything, but occasionally, about things which they've had the chance to learn more about. Whereas, the kind of conviction that's uninterested in (or even hostile to) any countervailing evidence corresponds to closed-mindedness. Closed minds are a boon to Slavery but a bane to Freedom.
People can say all sorts of things, but ultimately, Truth is Truth. If it is known to some, then there should be a good chance that it can be verified by others. Being put in the position of simply having to take somebody's word for something is a Power Accumulation approachpolitically, a terrible idea, as we shall see later.
1-4 Socialism vs. Individualism
Socialism, as a political notion, has a lot of fans. Individualism, the opposite notion, also has a lot of fans. But both of these notions are rooted in misunderstanding.
The "we're all in this together" idea behind Socialism is not only perfectly true, it's absolutely critical. We are all in this together. The Human Project is a team effort, whether we like it or notwe all Succeed together or we all Fail together.
Where Socialism goes astray is in the totally unwarranted inference it then makes: Because we're all in this together, therefore we need Joe Stalin (that trustworthy champion of "social justice") to force us all at gunpoint to do "socially just" things and refrain from doing "socially unjust" things.
On the other hand, the sort of self-serving, self-centered, self-obsessed "individualism" envisioned by some blatantly ignores the unavoidably social nature of the Human Project. It does have something going for it, howeverindividuals are real.
"Society" isn't. Society, in fact, is a conceptan abstraction. It's a tool for trying to think about and label what is actually a group of disparate (although politically interrelated) individuals. Now, it might be possible to claim that the individual is also an abstraction, but if it is, it's the level of abstraction that counts because individuals have brains.
Youan individualthink, therefore you are. Society does not think, therefore it is not. Individuals are sentient, and can make choicesand be responsible for those choices. Society doesn't "want" or "need" anythingit is individuals who want and need things. There is no onenot even Joe Stalinwho is in a position to speak for Society. The individual members of Society must speak for themselves.
An accurate understanding of the relationship between (intangible) Society and the (tangible) individuals it comprises would result in a better political notionone that might be referred to as Social Individualism. That is, the choices we individuals make ought to be informed by an appreciation of the social nature of our common undertaking. That's a job for educationfor enlightenmentnot Joe Stalin and his thugs.
It is Social Individualism that encompasses both Real Freedom and Real Social Justice. Not only aren't Freedom and Justice mutually exclusive things, you can't have one without the other!
Socialism, which talks the talk of "social justice" while walking the walk of Slavery, has as little as possible to say on the subject of Liberty (unless it's couched in Orwellian-speak that tries to make night sound like day). Anymore, Political poverty is the source of all povertywhich makes Socialists' emphasis on (bogus) economics while resorting to forced Political impoverishment all the more ironic.
Socialism comes in many flavors, including:
Communism, Fascism, Nazism, Leninism, Stalinism, Maoism . . . ad nauseum
Some people will no doubt want to split hairs between this or that variant on Socialistic Statism, but they're all unrecoverably dysfunctional. We'll be referring to them collectively as "Marxism" (after the godfather of communism, Karl Marx).
In the minds of many, democracy somehow equates to Freedoma dangerous misconception. Democracy would be more accurately characterized as the Dictatorship of the Fifty-One Percent. It's a political philosophy based on the notion that 49% of the people are entitled to 0% of the say-so. That has precious little to do with self-determination.
Another problem with the winner-take-all "popularity contest" is that there's no automatic link between popularity and Truth. There was a time when considerably more than 51% of the public believed that the Earth is flat, but that didn't make it so.
It's worth noting that government is not even necessary for implementing the wildly popular, but it's real handy for foisting the semi-popular off at gunpoint.
Winston Churchill's jokeabout democracy being the worst form of government except all the othersis very witty and even true, as far as it goes. But to say that democracy is better than the kind of appalling alternatives we've seen thus far in human history is not actually much of an endorsement.
Still, democracy does have some real benefits. For one thing, it offers us a regular opportunity to throw the worst of the (elected) bums out. Needless to say, taking advantage of that opportunity depends a great deal on whether corruption and malfeasance by so-called "public servants" can be brought to our attention. That's not a given, what with political censorship (from whatever source) of the press being as common as it is.
Also, history has shown that military aggression is drastically less likely from democracies than from autocracies, which strongly favor imperialism. That's Real Imperialism, mind you, not the cheap political slur bandied about by hypocritical Marxists, but the real dealthe unprovoked invasion and indefinite political oppression of other nations.
(For the record, America's own Imperialism was pretty much confined to the 19th century and the North American continent. In the 20th century, Americain partnership primarily with the scattered remnants of Britain's ex-Empireproved to be the world's foremost anti-Imperialist, managing to stop the Japanese, German, and Soviet real Empires at considerable cost in lives and treasure. Amazing, isn't it, how a lie endlessly repeated can call even the patently obvious into question. As for those who can't tell the difference between influence and coercion, or at least hope you can't, Freedom is not their game, as we shall see later.)
One other positive thing about democracy is that it allows the possibility, at least, of a transition to Real Freedom should a majority of citizens ever come to understand what such a transition offers and what it involves. In practical terms, a substantial majority would be necessaryenough to democratically overcome the kind of resistance that can be expected from those who see some personal advantage to Slavery.