In Soviet Wales, Organ Donates You!

Last year, I was with friends in Wales, (Wrexham to be specific). On one afternoon we went shopping and they told me that I had to pay 5p for any bags I used. In other words: supermarkets, grocery stores, retail outlets – if you want to bag your goods there is a 5p mandatory fee for the bag. Why? Because the Welsh government passed a law forcing all retailers to impose a 5p fee on shopping bags. On principle, I refused to buy a bag in any store I went to. I even carried my goods the old fashioned way. Silly? Petty? No. Because this is the thinking behind the Welsh government in plain terms:

  1. People aren’t giving enough to charity, in our wise opinion.
  2. We want people to give more to charity, despite the fact they already have the free choice to do so and obviously are choosing not to.
  3. If we point a gun at private citizens who own retail shops, they will have to do whatever we tell them.
  4. Let’s do just that, and order them to surcharge their customers, other private citizens, into paying for carrier bags.
  5. Let’s then give that money to a charity/charities of our choosing.

Stop for a second and ask yourself what the reaction would be if a private corporation used its economic power and customer loyalty to increase its profits by simply raising prices on items that customers couldn’t do without? There would probably be uproar and boycotts and harsh language and another round of “blame all the greed and evils of the world on capitalism”. Actually, it might not get that far: the government might step in to stop one group of innocent private citizens from agreeing terms with other innocent private citizens because another group of citizens doesn’t like the idea. However, that same latter group of objectors is usually the sort which despises the very idea of a free enterprise gaining wealth through voluntary trade through value exchange, but has absolutely no problem with the State using its monopoly of physical force to dictate, at the point of a gun (because that is what physical force ultimately is), what two people may or may not trade and for how much, and whether your right as a human being to aid those in need, or not, is acceptable.

But it’s all for a good cause, isn’t it?

No. For years I have warned and written about fascism in our governments and how it will only keep increasing. I can use all the clichés I’d care: a slippery slope; the thin end of the wedge; the tip of the iceberg. The point is the same. When my friends told me that the law required a 5p compulsory charge on carrier bags, my first reaction was disbelief. ‘What a blatant and horrific abuse of political power!’ But, because it’s in the name of charity, the law was passed. (Of course, it wasn’t a law, it was a statute. A law in classic terms is one that protects the rights of human beings. Historically, no one is above the law, not even the Monarch or the government. Our governments get around this by issuing statutes, which are only valid because we don’t know any better to object. Of course, we are led a merry dance by a legal system, in league with lawyers, magistrates and the police, into thinking we have no lawful recourse. We do. It’s called the word ‘no’. But I digress…)

For one thing, charity at the point of a gun is not charity. If you want to give to charity, why do you need to be forced to pay for a carrier bag to do so? And even if you’re lazy and/or mindless enough to tolerate such decisions being taken off your fragile little mind, please don’t pretend to speak for the rest of us.

This is what happens when a government thinks it is on a holy crusade to make the world a better place. Why is this a bad thing? Because it comes down to how a government gets its own way, as opposed to the way the rest of us get what we want. It comes down the difference between economic power and political power. What is the difference between the two? What is the line? Where is the line? This is a question that is almost never asked in political debates, and never answered. Too many people have too much to gain by clouding the issue. The difference is this: physical force. As much as the Left would like you to believe differently, a vast corporation can only get to the top through exchanging values (it can get there through bribery and corruption, but only by the very system the Left wants). A corporation is only successful when it wins and retain customers. Customers are FREE to choose a corporation or its competitors. If they have no choice, then the corporation is the only one which can give them what they want. Without that corporation, they couldn’t have what they wanted anyway. This is economic power – the power to leverage based on the values you possess. Political power is exactly the opposite. Political power is this: do what I say, or I will hurt you. Or: do this and I will hurt you. No corporation is allowed this power, rightly so. Governments should have this power, otherwise they couldn’t function. But that is why this power should be used so sparingly and be strictly limited. The power of the government is: the right to point a gun at a person and force them to act (or not act), or punish them for acting (or not acting). This is why a government’s roles must be clearly defined. In other words, we the people invest our right to self-defence in the government and say: only you may use physical force, for everyone else it is banned. This, this and this, is where you should use it, and in no other circumstances.

It is the government’s sacred duty to protect our Rights. It is most certainly not the government’s job to decide whether or not we are giving enough to charity, and force us to charge other people on carrier bags!

If the government can use its power so flagrantly and arbitrarily, what else will it decide to do? What other moral crusades will it embark on?

When I heard about the 5p carrier bag levy, I said ‘it won’t stop there.’ And I was right…

http://news.sky.com/story/1110822/wales-approves-organ-donation-opt-out-law

…because now the Welsh government has decided that all its citizens are organ donors, unless they state otherwise. Let’s think about the implications of this for a moment: by simply living in Wales, this agency has assumed that it has the power to make claims over your body! The fact that you can opt out is irrelevant. The level of sheer arrogance and abuse of power to instantiate such a statue is mind-boggling. It is despicable and evil. By what possible power does such a government even base such a ruling on? How on earth does it get away with such a blatant violation of individual rights?

Let me say this again, because it’s being trotted out by those wishing to defend “paying back Caesar’s things to Caeser”: the fact that you can opt out is irrelevant! The very notion of “opting out” implies that if you don’t, you have consented to be an organ donor, which implies that the government’s claim over your organs is valid, which means that the government owns your organs…unless you explicitly claim them for yourself! I try to keep a modicum of decency on my blog, but, seriously, WHAT THE FUCK?!

What greater example could there be of a government claiming: ‘your life belongs to us’?

This is collectivism through and through. This is why a government that acts for “moral” reasons should never be trusted. This is why altruism and collectivism are two sides of the same coin. It is why collectivism always leads to Statism. It is why altruism is inconsistent with human well-being.

Almost all of us have come across the “classic moral dilemma” thought experiment at one point in our lives. The scenario usually involves a runaway train and people lying on the track, or a doctor who needs to save ten people at the cost of one organ donor. Even when confronted with the ten versus one “dilemma”, most people wouldn’t choose to kill the one innocent man to save ten (or even a hundred) because we recognise that regardless of the numbers involved, that one man’s life doesn’t belong to us. We also know, in our hearts, that the needs of the many do not outweigh the needs of the few. Or perhaps we’re more comfortable with the thought of a faceless government taking from a faceless man, something we wouldn’t be prepared to do ourselves if we had to look him in the eye and explain why.

But here, the Welsh government (perhaps drunk on the power of finally being able to rule its staggering population of 3 million (less than a major UK city)), has turned that thought experiment into reality. Oh dear, it seems they’ve actually taken it literally: what do you do when you aren’t getting enough organ donors? Claim ownership of all the people you are faithfully entrusted to protect, and their organs. It’s amazing what you can do with power, isn’t it?

Of course, this raises the question: why are organ donations so low? Well, I don’t claim to have all the answers to that, but it seems to me that organ donations historically rely on one key factor: someone has to die. (But hey, we might not have to even wait for that in the future.) Maybe organs are becoming harder to get because fewer people are dying? Which raises an even more interesting thought experiment: what if, due to medical advances (no, don’t laugh – even with the NHS, it could happen…), the quality of life greatly reduces the incidence of death, and life expectancy increases? What if, due to these factors, organ donations drop 90% over the next 50 years? My question to the Welsh government is: what then?

Of course, the obvious retort might be: “we’re not saying more people have to die, just that more people have to donate”, (although it seems somewhat hard to do one without the other…). So, maybe there are plenty of deaths (hoorah), but not enough people consenting to be organ donors? It almost makes you think there could be a perfectly valid moral reason that free individuals have chosen not to be cannibalised for their parts after death. Or, maybe many just never give it a second though. (I admit, I would happily be an organ donor but I haven’t given it that much thought. Is this laziness on my part? Maybe. Does this mean I’ve defaulted on my duties and now my body belongs to the State? Nope.) Perhaps raising public awareness and education is the way to go? Maybe people aren’t feeling particularly generous towards others (I can think of a few reasons why, in this day and age – what, when everyone seems to be lobbying the government to get something off you)?

Nah, much easier to do it by force. And the most damning part of this is that the statue passed by 43 votes to 8 with two abstentions. That’s 81% of the government which saw no problem in claiming property rights over the people it exists to protect.

This wicked and inhuman action by a tin-pot government sets a very dangerous precedent, just like the silly 5p carrier bag fee did.

And the saddest part is that the most outspoken critics of this action are religious leaders! Jesus Christ, what have we come to when the people who believe in invisible beings in the sky are the ones leading the charge for morality?! Oh but don’t worry, these are the nasty religious zealots the left-wing humanists are so eager to get rid of before they fill your kids’ heads with nonsense (in their Church of England or Catholic school, where they’d probably get a better education than your secular state school anyway).

The arguments in favour of the bill? “It will save lives”. The British Medical Association praised the bill, also praising how Wales was “leading” the UK on the ban on smoking in public places years ago. The only thing the Welsh Assembly is leading is the march towards statism (and given the competition that’s an impressive feat).

It will save lives.” When that is the strongest moral justification for the monstrous violation of an individual’s sovereign claim to his own life and property, things will only get worse. I was going to make a rather macabre list of all the people who could be sacrificed if the end goal was simply to save more lives, but I won’t. I’ll leave it to you to think through the implications of this line of reasoning.

This little fiasco is, for me, a perfect example of the socialist mindset in action: erode the notion of genuine acts of kindness and compassion between human beings by assuming that such actions are a duty, not a free gift. Therefore, undermine the only genuine basis for human compassion (free will) by making charity a penance to be exacted for the sin of not giving enough.

Remember this the next time someone tries to tell you you’re living in a democracy. Did you give the State the power to lay claim over your body? Probably not. Even if you did, does any government have the moral right to take such a power even if it were offered up? Even if it could, do you have the right to claim the body and organs of another, using the government as your proxy? Does anyone group, no matter how large, have such a right? Does the number of people who claim your body change the fact that it is yours, your property, and no one else’s? Does any group, gang, minister, assembly, or representative have the moral right to make such a claim?

Only if your life belongs to the State by default. Which means that, after thousands of years of recorded history, having resigned tribalism to primitive corners of the earth, after the feudalism and despotism of the Dark Ages, having survived the Pharaohs and the Emperors and the Lieges, having outgrown the Divine Right of Kings and slavery, having fought civil wars to establish constitutional republics, having written the Magna Carta and the Constitution of the United States, having fought at least one world war against fascism, after seeing “The People” of communism intentionally starve millions , and “The Father Land” of German slaughter millions in its quest for perfection, after bringing the Berlin wall down… in the year 2013, in Wales, if you do not explicitly declare your body to be your own property, the State needs must take it as it wills.

It’s said the Welsh Assembly is “leading the way”. The scary thing is, where there are leaders there are followers.

Who watches the Watchers?

I recently wrote about 21 year old Liam Stacey, a man who was arrested for making racist comments on Twitter. Well, he’s now been imprisoned for 56 days. To be fair to our current justice system, when politician Diane Abbott make racist remarks on Twitter, she too was arrested and thrown in prison for 56 days. Oh no wait, that didn’t happen in this universe – my mistake. She apologised without an arrest, trial or sentence.

Let’s remind ourselves what Abbott said: “White people love playing ‘divide & rule’“. Nice. A disgustingly generalised brush to tar all white people with an innate love of slavery and conquest.  These comments are horrifically offensive to me, not least because I despise slavery and racism, but here is a black woman (who seems to assume she has a right to comment as a supposed victim of racism simply because she is black) insulting all white people (simply because, as white people, they are supposed perpetrators of slavery and imperialism, simply because they are white.)

Why is one white man imprisoned for making racist remarks on Twitter about a black person, but a black person isn’t so much as arrested for making racist remarks about all white people on Twitter? And Diane Abbott has a history of making racist remarks! Why has she gotten away with it in the past? Why did she get away with it on Twitter? Would her comments have been met with jail-time if she was white making comments about blacks?

About Abbott’s comments, Met police said: “We reviewed the circumstances of the comments and having considered all of those circumstances and the information available to us, we do not believe a criminal offence has been committed.”  I agree. No criminal offence was committed – because voicing an opinion, no matter how stupid, no matter how wrong, no matter how evil, no matter how publically, is not a crime! (The only exception to this is slander, because you are not free to lie about someone else.) Why were Abbott’s comments not a criminal offence, but Liam Stacey’s were?

And of course at face value, and you can call me cynical, Diane Abbott is a black female politician, and Liam Stacey is a white male civilian – the demographic with probably the fewest “rights” in this country.

Of course there will be the “me-tooers” and politically-correct crowd, eager to high-five themselves that a free citizen who made racist remarks has gone to prison, blissfully ignoring the real issues going on around them: our freedoms and liberties are being eroded month after month, year after year, sometimes behind closed doors (like with the European Union) and sometimes right before our eyes amidst cheers of multiculturalism and zero-tolerance.

But the laughable irony here is one which is blatantly staring people in the face: they want zero-tolerance…but only for the things they don’t like. They want inappropriate speech to be banned, as long as they get to decide what is inappropriate. In short, everyone wants to play King and rule the kingdom. Am I saying that everything should be allowed? No. But the very idea of a free society, the thing we should all be most proud our species has voluntarily established, is the recognition that we can’t just get our own way by magic just by stamping our feet like spoilt brats. So we all agree to recognise the freedoms of each other to believe, say, speak and do whatever we want – with one common stipulation: don’t harm me and I won’t harm you. Sadly, in this pathetic celebrity-obsessed postmodern philosophically-bankrupt guilt-ridden eco-crazy mentally-stunted irresponsible socialist cesspool called the modern Western world, everybody thinks everyone else’s stuff is up for grabs to the one who shouts loudest; so everyone points the finger, everyone compares wallet sizes, everyone claims that “the other guy” is offending him, and the slightest disagreement means someone goes running to teacher. And teacher, oooh… teacher is only too happy to lay down the law. After all, he’s only dealing with children…

But then in the playground, who watches the Watchers?

After thoughts: a friend made the statement “Freedom of speech does not cover incitement and obscenity”. Obviously I disagree with this. In fact, by definition freedom of speech should most certainly cover such things. Here is the Wikipedia article on freedom of speech in the UK based on current law. I must point out that am not challenging the criminalising of racist comments based on the current law, but that is precisely my point: the law regarding freedom of speech is phrased in such a way as to ban that which is deemed socially unacceptable. In this sense, the law is simply circular: “you are free to speak, unless it’s illegal”, which really means “you are free to say anything legally acceptable”, which just re-defines free speech to be that which is not illegal. In other words, if you say something which is now deemed illegal, it couldn’t have been “free” in the first place. So what then is free speech? Whatever the government decides it is.

There is a place for a restriction on speech by law but only when it is objectively shown to infringe the rights of another. Objective law isn’t based on the latest mood of society, referendum, moral outrage, an over-powered and bored police force, or a politician looking for votes.

Links: “What you can and can’t say on Twitter” – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-17530450

Racism more important than Fascism

In another demonstration of how your freedom of speech extends only as far as the State allows it, a 21 year old man has been arrested for alleged racist remarks on Twitter. Story. It’s incredible the depths we’ve sunk to when this is just reported as being perfectly acceptable, with Swansea University and Treorchy RFC distancing themselves from the man, as if this were just an everyday regular police investigation of a crime. Everyone is quick to play the “me too” card, as if not expressly declaring “I’m not a racist!” might make you a suspect.

Racism is not a crime. A crime requires the violation of an individual’s Rights by another. Having a racist opinion doesn’t make you a criminal. Vocalising a racist opinion doesn’t make you a criminal. Initiating violence against someone does make you a criminal, whether you do it because your victim is black, white, yellow, fat, thin, tall or short.

Yes, racism is anti-human and as well as that is just plain stupid. But you could say that about any irrational ideas that people hold. Some fundamentalist Christians and Muslims hold extremely offensive and evil beliefs related to race, gender and sexual orientation. Astrology might not be as viciously anti-human but is still irrational. Those who claim to be psychics and talk to the dead are frauds, duping the gullible or emotionally-vulnerable to make money. I find that offensive. I also find socialism and communism offensive: two variations on the same theme that the individual must defer to the State and sacrifice his interests to the “greater good”. For that matter, I find modern “art” and postmodernism offensive. I also don’t like R&B music and would rather listen to nails down a blackboard than hip-hop.

But, I can accept that other people don’t agree with me and I’m fine with that, because no one is putting a gun to my head and telling me to hold a particular opinion, or not hold the one that I do. The idea of individual freedom is that you can like whatever you want, choose whatever you want, do whatever you want, as long as you don’t infringe on the freedom of others to do the same. In fact, it’s inevitable that human beings won’t always agree – which is precisely why individual rights enshrine this principle of freedom! Some will believe this, some will believe that, some will be right, some will be wrong, some will be moral and some will be evil – but that’s the point! You can’t pick and choose what opinions to allow in society because then nothing would ever change; whatever the status quo or popular opinion of the time was, that would be the unchangeable “truth”, and heresy against the Accepted and Allowed would be a crime. Ironically, that’s exactly the case in other parts of the world like Iran, a totalitarian religious dictatorship where freedom of speech is a concept as foreign as sexual preference. But isn’t that what makes us better than them?

You can’t pick and choose politically acceptable speech because no one has the right to make that decision. Sure, you can give it to the government and leave the State as moral arbiter of acceptable speech (and behaviour), if you’re a fascist. But the idea of freedom of speech is that…you might not always agree with it! It’s not freedom to speak…unless you don’t like or agree with it. It’s not freedom to speak…unless it’s wrong. It’s not freedom to speak…unless it’s socially frowned upon. It’s not freedom to speak…unless it’s evil. In fact, the principle of free speech exists precisely to protect the unpopular and marginal viewpoints from being banned by the majority. Saying “ah, but racism really is evil and we as a society have decided to outlaw the expressing of such opinions by force”, is defeating the very principle upon which anyone is allowed to voice any opinion anyway! Tomorrow, it could be your opinion that clashes with that of the majority of society, and should you be silenced? So then, the only way to never have a clash of opinions and find yourself on the “wrong” side of the State is to conform to whatever the collective opinion is at the time. In the words of Bill Hicks: “you are FREE…to do as we tell you.” But since the collective opinions of a society at varying points in recent history have been xenophobic, homophobic, sexist and more – you’d be taking your chances even by being a sheep.

Look, this isn’t about racism. The issue is not whether racism is acceptable or not, or what “we” do about it – as if the State were a true reflection of the will of the people – as if such a collective entity existed in the first place. The matter at hand is: do we want a society with freedom of speech, or not? There are no half-measures. You can’t have it both ways. If speech should not be politically endorsed or condemned, and if force shouldn’t be used by the government against civilians for holding an unpopular opinion (whatever it is), then it is unconscionable to arrest someone for a racist remark. And yet here we are in the United Kingdom, where saying something offensive is a crime. But not just anything offensive: only particular speech is a crime (you can insult someone for being fat, but not of a different colour), which means the government makes a decision about what is acceptable speech (and conduct) and what isn’t. You might say “well I’m ok with that”, which is honest at least – but you’re a fascist.

Speech is a natural form of human expression. Human expression is a result of individual choices and motives. Choices are a product of thinking or believing. Thinking and believing are mental activities inextricable to human nature. Banning speech is like banning thought. That is why the State restricting speech is anti-human.

There is a great hypocrisy going on here though: an ounce of rationality will tell you that banning unpopular opinions (even morally reprehensible ones) doesn’t eliminate anything. All it does is leave the belief to fester, unspoken. People who are truly racist won’t be “cured” by being treated like criminals, they will just feel aggrieved and even more hostile. But the fascists who support banning “hate speech” don’t care about curing irrational ideas, they just care about not offending people – and that’s the critical issue. There are countless ways to offend someone and the people in charge of deciding what is acceptable or not are the same ones whose sole purpose in life is to curry favour by winning votes and appealing to the masses. Hardly a great combination.

The way to defeat an opinion is intellectually. Truly false beliefs of years past didn’t disappear because the government banned them, but because they were shown to be simply wrong. Racism should not be treated like a taboo, as something hush, hush “we don’t talk about”. It needs to be discussed openly and objectively to lay it to rest once and for all. Let the racist have his opinion…and then destroy it. If he continues to hold it, he’s declared himself to be foolish and irrational in front of the world, along with his opinions. If he changes his mind, the world has one fewer cretin and the case for the truth is made all the stronger.

I’ll give you another illustration based on a true story: someone I know is homophobic (actually due to their religion a lot of people I know are). Some of the opinions this person has stated have been anything from “it’s unnatural” to “it’s disgusting” to “I think they get bored with the opposite sex and go after the same sex” to “it’s a perversion” to “it’s a conscious choice.” Now, I know if people like this were put in a room with others and voiced these opinions they’d probably be shouted down. They might fall silent or feel oppressed. Imagine if they were imprisoned for their opinions! But they’d still hold them. But this could be an otherwise kind well-intentioned person labouring under a false belief (God knows there are plenty of them in the world). Similarly, in the past as well as today, there are those who genuinely believe that race is a factor with human intelligence, ability and morality. The Hitler Youth were shown “scientific proof” that blacks were inferior; what were they to believe? If you want to get rid of irrational and immoral ideas, do you merely silence them with a gun, or do you prove in front of the world exactly how and why they are wrong?

Where does curtailing free speech end? If the government gets to decide what is offensive “enough” to be banned, how long before any potential opinion or speech of yours crosses the line? Will you be able to insult anyone, for anything? What is an acceptable topic for humour? What about “racist” friendly banter? What if you voice an opinion about say, the Euro or inflation or taxation, and it’s deemed harmful to the common good? Some British citizens have already been told what flags they can or cannot display (on their own property!) in case it offends others. These issues aren’t new; they are as old as dirt: a government with the power to dictate lifestyles to its people will inevitably use that power to do just that. And it happens because the people let it, because they believe it’s well-intentioned.

Fascism is different in approach today than it was in the dictatorships of the 20th century. Fascism doesn’t come to you and say “don’t you think your speech and behaviour should be sacrificed to the collective good of society, with politicians deciding what is acceptable for you to say, or what food and drink you’re allowed to consume?” No, modern fascism, nicey-nice Left-wing fascism today says “don’t you hate racism? Isn’t it just bad? Don’t you think we as a society should take steps to get rid of it? Don’t you think the rightfully elected ruling body of a society should outlaw such behaviour?” It also says “isn’t alcohol bad for you? Don’t you hate the number of alcohol-related violent crimes? Aren’t saturated fats bad for you? Wouldn’t it be easier and safer if certain foods were just banned to save you having to decide for yourself? Don’t you think it’s only fair to tax the naughty food and drink more than the stuff we decide is ok?”

Forget the content of the words, look at it like this: a private citizen, using his own computer, to post his comments on another privately-owned website (however visible) to make bad words appear on the screens of other people – is officially a criminal, an enemy of the State. Now consider on principle: if the State can pass judgement on what’s acceptable or not on any private property but simply because it’s visible (popular with free admission doesn’t make it “public”), then where does the future of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and the entire internet lie? You don’t need to try hard to imagine, there is already a place today where freedom to say whatever we want with whomever we want is forbidden by law: Communist China.

Animal treatment and Rights

One story that made the news recently is that of two police dogs who died after being trapped in a car for six hours in the heat of the day. Link.

Across the internet, animal lovers everywhere have condemned the man and called on him to face heavy punishment. Some have even offered prayers and chain postings in memory of the two dead animals.

The topic of animal welfare has been raised and most arguments in support of stiffer punishment for animal mistreatment rest on the presumption that animals have rights. In this article I want to comment on cruelty to animals, whether animals do have rights and the implications of this, and why it matters. I’ll also tell you what I care about and why.

Cruelty and/or mistreatment

Cruelty is the needless and wanton infliction of suffering on a sentient creature. (Contrary to some popular misconception and aided by science fiction, sentient doesn’t necessarily mean intelligent, it means capable of experiencing sensations.) So by this definition, cruelty is always irrational. Being irrational is antithetical to human well-being (that of one oneself and others), and is therefore evil. Cruelty is therefore always evil.

There’s a line of thought that goes: a man who likes to hurt animals will also like to hurt people. I’m not a psychological expert but I wouldn’t disagree with this. I think a person who gets any kind of pleasure from cruelty has poor ethics at best and mental health problems at worst.

Mistreatment of animals is by no means as clear cut: what defines mistreatment? Certainly all handlers agree that animals should be trained and kept in line. Is hitting a dog mistreatment? How hard is acceptable? Leaving it out in the rain? Leaving it out at night? I don’t have the answers to this and I don’t think it’s important to scrutinise it in depth here. But what must be said is: an owner is responsible for their pet and how they treat it. If a pet hurts someone or damages property, the owner of the pet is made to pay compensation, rightly so. Buy why? Well it’s obvious but needs explicitly stating because some people out there (who don’t so much love animals as hate humans) will gloss over this vital truth: animals are not capable of rational action, which means they cannot make moral choices. Therefore, they are not morally responsible for their actions. A human owner is however.

Rights

If you disagree with what I’m about to say, the first thing you must do is offer your own definition of Rights and justify it. Remember that emotions don’t stand up in court, and the issue of Rights and legal action is precisely what we’re talking about.

The philosopher with the most (and only) rational and objective description and justification of Rights was Ayn Rand. Her attention to detail and philosophical genius don’t need restating here. She defined Rights as moral principles defining freedom of action. But why does a being need Rights? Simply put, to act freely. But what good is the freedom to act unless one is capable of freely choosing in the face of alternatives? None. Human beings must consider the choices available to them and make free moral decisions. Being a moral being, which we are, is meaningless though unless we are also free to act. After all, what good is the freedom to choose if we aren’t free to act? Prisoners aren’t free, like hostages aren’t, or mug victims. So our nature as free moral agents necessitates Rights. But then the obvious conclusion to this fact is that creatures which aren’t moral agents, which don’t have the ability to think rationally and choose in the face of alternatives, cannot have Rights. Remember: rights are not entitlements; they aren’t blessings or favours which are granted to certain people from others, from society, from the State, or from God. They are principles inherent in our nature. So by definition, animals cannot have Rights.

That doesn’t sound right to me

That is something I hear a lot. It’s something I had to come to grips with too. It does fly in the face of a lot of what we’re brought up to believe and get told. But there is a false assumption implicit in the deniers of the fact that animals don’t have Rights: they perhaps think “if animals don’t have Rights, it’s ok to abuse them”. But that is not the case! The false premise lurking here is that Rights are somehow based on the ability to feel pain. But as I’ll explain next, that doesn’t make sense:

As we saw above, Rights are moral principles to guarantee freedom of action for moral agents like humans. It is the Right to Life, which all of us have, that gives rise to all our other rights: the right to pursue happiness, the right to liberty, the right to not have force used against us. To say that a person has the Right to live but not have the right to not be killed for food, is an obvious contradiction which no one in their right mind would claim. We don’t kill people for food (culinary arguments aside), not because they have a “Right to not be eaten for food” but because they have a Right to life! The “Right to not be eaten for food” makes no sense! And who would claim that a person has the Right to avoid suffering, but not have the Right to live? If this were true, it would be legal to murder someone, but not torture them! Bear this in mind when we talk about animal rights: animals are killed for food by the millions every day. Some small sects aside (like vegans), even those who believe in animal rights still accept that it’s ok to eat them for food. But there is a massive contradiction here: if animals have the right to live, they should not be killed at all! I wouldn’t accuse well-meaning people of being hypocrites, as I think a lot of us do and have made this mistake in innocence, but I think a lot of people could do with stopping and checking their own premises. As a good writer said to me: “if you believe in animal rights but eat meat, stop right there – go away and rethink your position.”

“But surely animals have Rights to protect them from cruelty?” some say. That sounds fair, it sounds nice, but it is false. Rights aren’t based on the ability to suffer, but on the necessity for freedom which only a moral agent needs.

Why does it matter?

It matters because the real issue here isn’t whether animals have Rights or not, it’s what Rights actually are. The issue of individual Rights is possibly the most important issue in human history because all crimes committed by one person against another involve the violation of Rights, that’s why it’s important to be very particular about the concept. ‘But why is this about human rights and not animal rights?’, you might ask. It’s about human Rights because Rights are the principles that say to every one of us “you may act as freely as you want, but you must not violate the Rights of others.” Which means you and I are totally free to live our lives as we choose. Your Right to live doesn’t clash with my Right to live: as long as we don’t infringe on the Rights of others, there is no contradiction between our lives, or Rights, ever! In fact, when understood this way it is clear that Rights simply cannot conflict. To illustrate this, let’s say that you have the Right to your earnings after a day’s work. I come along and claim that I am hungry and need your money. I claim that I therefore have a Right to your earnings. Here we have a conflict, but it’s easily resolved. If you have the Right to life, you must have the freedom to pursue that life. One of the ways of doing this is through work and earning money – in other words: property. Your right to property is a result of your Right to life. So since the property is rightfully yours, it cannot be rightfully mine. Your right to life, and property, and earnings is the only claim that matters. I can therefore have no “right” to any of them.

Humans versus animals?

Now, because humans make moral choices, we can choose to not violate the Rights of others, and most of the time we do this quite well. I choose not to violate your Rights and you choose not to violate mine. But, animals can never make this kind of choice. An animal does what it does either by training or by instinct, but never after rational and moral consideration. If animals were to have Rights, they would necessarily clash with human Rights, since we would be forced to respect their rights but they could never respect ours. There would be no resolution to the contradiction: humans would necessarily have to surrender their Rights to unthinking amoral animals. Imagine the full implications of this: no meat for food – at all. No wood for homes or fuel if animals need the trees. No cultivating fields to grow vegetables in case it displaces or kills animals. A world where animals have Rights is a world where humans can’t.

So where does the Law come into this?

If we accept that the job of the Law is to protect Rights (and how could it be anything else?) then it becomes clear that only humans should be protected by the Law. One of the ways it does this is to arbitrate in legal matters. Consider how silly it would be if we put cats on trial for killing mice, lions on trial for killing gazelles, dogs on trial for mauling babies. Consider the travesty of proper justice if we appointed lawyers for gerbils or took testimony from rabbits. ‘You’re being silly now. No one goes that far!’ some might say. Yes, these are ridiculous examples, but I’m not the one saying that animals should be protected by the legal system. If we “gave” animals Rights, they would have all the benefits of a legal system they can’t comprehend, and none of the consequences.

So it’s ok to abuse animals?

No no no. But before we condemn the actions of genuinely evil people, let’s take a step back. What do we mean by “ok”? Do we mean “legally accountable” or “morally reprehensible”? Before you jump to answer, think about this because there is a difference. In days gone by, homosexuality was punishable by death. It still is in some parts of the world. Sex outside marriage and blasphemy were (and are) also considered criminal acts and worthy of capital punishment, based on some rather warped moral opinions. Am I equating cruelty to animals with being gay or blasphemous? Of course not. The point I’m making is that the law isn’t there to police morality, but to protect Rights. There are many people out there who’d love the chance to use the Law to police their version of morality on you. The last thing we want is a government that polices morality. We’ve seen it before, we’re seeing it now, and it never looks pretty.

So animals aren’t protected at all?

Actually, they are. There is a very important exception to how animals should be protected under law, and that is as the property of humans. If a person harms or kills a pet they should absolutely be punished.

Do I care about animals?

They say it’s bad form to answer a question with a question, but I’ll do both. I’d say “which animals?” Do I care about animals? Well, do you care about humans?

You see, I look at the millions of human beings, beings of our own kind, around the world dying from starvation or disease – I look at scientists, thinkers, creators, businessmen – exploited and robbed of their property – I look at the successful and innovative penalised for the crime of being successful and innovative – I look at how our governments keep infringing on human Rights, granting more and more power to the state and less and less freedom to individuals – I look at how fiat currency and government-caused inflation and recession has caused economic collapse and riots across the continent and how it might well come here soon – and I think there are more important issues than two dogs dying in a car.

I care about my animals. I can’t pretend to care about yours, and if you really care about some random animal you have no connection with, why not that one and not the millions which are butchered for food every day?

How do we fight animal cruelty?

The same way we fight any legal but morally wrong action: by social ostracism. We condemn the person and refuse to deal with them. We can encourage others to do the same. The person might lose their job, their reputation, their relationships, and most likely won’t be able to buy another pet from someone else.

What we shouldn’t do is think of the law as our personal exactor of vengeance. The fact that the Law must ruthlessly protect human rights makes it all the more important for it to only protect human rights – because no other Rights exist.

Priorities

I think it’s time for a wakeup call, people.  Fellow humans are having their Rights violated every day, in the simplest to the grossest of manners. This is the sort of thing we should be shining a spotlight on and spreading chain e-mails about. Our tempers should burn when we hear the plight of an innocent man robbed or doctors put on trial by despicable governments for trying to tell the truth, or yet another business being double-taxed and charged for being “too big”, or teenage girls being groomed for sexual abuse or drug dealers and their empires, pathetic little teenagers and their gangs spreading mayhem and violence around towns… These are crimes committed by humans against their own kind. The least we can do, out of respect for ourselves and our fellow beings and our respect for justice and individual rights, is to consider where our priorities lie and what we want to be campaigning for.

Online gaming debate plus stupidity equals fascism

 Just when I think that nothing can further lower my opinion of certain campaign groups, something like this comes along and demonstrates just how clueless some people really are; the same people who are otherwise clever enough to form an activist group, lobby support, publicise their ideals and call on the government to initiate even more force against innocent citizens who, it is felt, have violated the campaigners’ righteous standards for decency.

To summarise: in Vietnam a 15 year old boy who’s addicted to online gaming lured a 7 year old girl to the woods, where he beat her to death with a rock and robbed her to fund his “addiction”.

The most obvious question that no one seems to be asking is: where are the little psychopath’s parents? Another good question is: how many hundreds of millions of people around the world also play online and don’t feel the need to murder? Furthermore: what kind of a warped and psychotic mind treats murder as casually as shoplifting, and who seriously thinks such an individual would not end up acting violently sooner or later anyway?

The idea of violent games producing violent behaviour is a bogus argument in the first place in that it begs the question. That is: do violent games produce violent behaviour, or do violent people enjoy those sorts of games? And why do the enormous majority of gamers act responsibly and peacefully regardless of game content?

Elizabeth Woolley lost her son to suicide, apparently because of his addiction to online games. She says “Until governments around the world recognise it’s a problem, it’s just going to keep getting worse and worse in terms of murders and crimes caused by excessive and obsessive online game play”. With all due respect to Elizabeth’s loss, I assert that she is talking total and utter tripe. Speaking as someone who, by any standards, was addicted to an MMO for two and a half years, if you choose to kill yourself over an online game (for whatever reason) you have far worse problems than mere addiction. You are either an idiot, or have deep emotional issues and probably psychosis. Why is no one mentioning this nasty fact? Why is no one talking about mental health problems? Why is no one asking where the parents are as their children live online and then kill themselves or others?

A human being that consciously chooses to end their own life has either reached such depths of despair or hopelessness that there is no way out, or is suffering terrible depression or emotional devastation, or perhaps chronic agony, or loneliness. It is not a decision that one reaches lightly. Now consider the mental state of the person who decides to kill themselves over a computer game…and then tell me “it’s all the game’s fault.” Blaming a computer game for suicide is stupid. Yes, some mentally ill people have blamed their behaviour on songs, TV shows, movies and games – that’s why we call them mentally ill. Surprise!…emotionally disturbed and psychotic people do weird things!

To correct Miss Woolley’s statement above, I’d alter one word. Just one: ‘Until [parents] around the world recognise it’s a problem, it’s just going to keep getting worse and worse in terms of murders and crimes caused by excessive and obsessive online game play.’

She continues: “It’s exactly like drugs or alcohol – once people get addicted, they feel they have to have it. There are always certain people who will get addicted to a drug, and in gaming we estimate it’s about 20% to 30% of people.” Well you see, it’s NOT exactly like drugs or alcohol at all. In those cases there is a physical dependency which cannot just be broken. In the case of some drugs, immediate cessations can even cause death. Online gaming addiction is purely psychological, if that. Adults are responsible for taking care of their own physical and mental health. Parents are responsible for taking care of their child’s physical and mental health. If your child kills himself or goes off and murders another child and you think it’s because of an online game, instead of asking Big Brother to step in and pass more fascist laws, maybe you should be asking yourself what YOU could have done better. Did you know how much time your son played online? Do you know what he was playing? How did he get the game in the first place? Who was paying for it? Did you investigate the content? Did you set limits on his time? Did you make him do chores and other activities? Were you always there for him? Did you make him feel secure and loved at home so that he wouldn’t want to escape into a fantasy world?

No, let’s not bother with personal responsibility. It’s 2011, let’s get with the times. This is how we do things nowadays: ‘Dear Government, could you pass a law dictating to game creators and the 99.9999% of their customers who CHOOSE to make and purchase certain types of games for their own private recreation, what they can and can’t produce and enjoy?’

The worrying thing is not just that this is yet another call for fascism, made blindly and stupidly by those who might otherwise have good intentions, but the sheer idiocy of the position and the total denial of parental responsibility which, if it was better, could arguably prevent a lot of social and criminal problems in the first place. This is the worrying thing; not the ever-increasing slide towards fascism around the world, but the millions of idiots who brainlessly offer up their freedom and their minds to such a cause. And in doing so, offer everyone else’s up too.

Sexism and political correctness

Sexism is essentially the judgement of another person based primarily on their gender. It isn’t exclusively the physical discrimination of a person, for example by treating them as inferior or denying them equal opportunities, because these actions are preceded by the belief of sexual superiority in a person’s mind.

Since a person’s character should be evaluated by their chosen morals and free actions, to judge someone based on unchosen factors is to ignore the only basis on which to properly evaluate another human being. Not only is this irrational, but it treats the other person as sub-human; a being without a mind, without conscience, with volition. And since rationality is the most fundamental moral choice, irrationality is antithetical to all human life. In short, sexism, like racism, is an evil.

Throughout history, and mainly due to religion, women have been seen as second class citizens. It was ultimately reason and (its corollary) political freedom that enabled women the chance to demonstrate their ability on equal footing with men. A similar thing happened with race. Sadly, there are many parts of the world where these revolutions haven’t taken place.

I can’t help but notice a similarity between the revolution of female political freedom and that of the American Revolution; both based on the principle of individual rights which demands equality before the Law. Whilst the US was founded on the right ideals, the driving principles were not clearly identified and thus became distorted, hence the total mess that is the modern concept of Rights. Similarly, whilst the sexist ideas and discrimination of women slowly started to evaporate (and in many respects and places, still need to), they have morphed into something else; a formless mess of false notions and irrational demands. The same could be said of other groups demanding more Rights, such as ethnic minorities or gays.

Let’s be clear: the basic principle underlying the moral evaluation of all human beings is: we are all free-willed individuals with the capacity for reason. We should be praised or condemned for our actions, not those who share our gender, skin colour, or race. The political expression of this moral principle is freedom before the law, i.e.: no forcible discrimination against us and no special favours either. Political freedom means freedom from the use of force from other humans; it means equality of treatment by the government. It not does not apply to the chosen interactions between private citizens, which may or may not be moral or rational.

Political correctness has taken the concept of Rights and equality as moral and political ideas and corrupted them in terms of practical effects. The egalitarians operate on the same premise. In other words, whilst all human beings should be politically equal, the simple fact is that we are not all morally, intellectually, or physically equal. As these factors are not determined by our gender or race, they cannot be equalised by special treatment in favour of said gender or race. Egalitarianism in politics and metaphysics is impossible and self-contradictory, and so is political correctness. It is wholly hypocritical. It is hypocritical because it pretends that all human beings are necessarily equal regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, height, age, weight, skin colour, but in an attempt to make the practical realisations of individual traits equal, it promotes certain groups of people over others, based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, height, age, weight, or skin colour!

From what should be a demand for political equality: the right to life, and therefore the right to liberty, the pursuit of happiness, property, the right to vote – various pressure groups, such as women’s rights, gay rights, ethnic minority rights – are all demanding more and more. But it’s actually special treatment they are asking for; the entitlement to something beyond political equality, for example a job or a pay rise.

I’m not saying that these groups are treated perfectly; far from it. Even today in the western world, sexism, racism, and sexual ignorance are present. They should be opposed ideologically and intellectually. But they shouldn’t be opposed by over-compensating and granting a group of people special consideration. Special consideration is precisely what activists claim to be fighting, when it isn’t in their favour, that is.

I am totally supportive of those who are discriminated against for irrelevant attributes. What I don’t support is the use of the word “Rights” here. There is only one type of right: individual; individual rights apply to all individuals, but only individuals.

It is true that men and women, gays and straights, whites and blacks all have rights, but to say “women’s rights” or “gay rights” is to misuse the word. It seems harmless enough, but it conceals a false premise: that a certain group is entitled to something. But contrary to popular belief, a right is not an entitlement; it is the freedom to act. It’s the freedom to try and get a job, but not freedom to be given a job because the employer already has “too many” of a certain colour. Freedom to vote, but not freedom to be given what you demand, like a minimum wage. Freedom to marry whom you wish, but not freedom to be approved by the ignorant by flaunting your sexuality for prestige, “cool” points, or to make a political statement. Freedom to work hard and merit a pay rise, but not freedom to be promoted or remunerated to meet an “equality” quota. Freedom to use reason to overcome bias, prejudice, and discrimination, but not freedom to have respect or followers through emotional blackmail.

I oppose feminism, because it is not a movement asking for freedom and equality, but special treatment to evade and ignore the reality that men and woman are different. Not different intellectually, morally, or politically – but different emotionally and physically. To take one example: the feminist campaign to have the New York fire department’s criteria for strength changed so that a certain (arbitrary) number of women could pass the requirements test. To use an extreme example, should the requirements be further changed to allow the wheelchair-bound or blind to become fire-fighters? The strength requirements would exclude many men who fell short, but the feminists didn’t want the rules changed to be more objective and tolerable for all, but for women simply because they are women.

The premise of feminism is that women are disadvantaged deliberately based on gender, and thus feminists must fight for entitlements based on gender. But this isn’t equality! And it ignores the truth that the real requirements for a great many things have nothing to do with gender, but objective standards (for example, being a fire-fighter, or simply being good enough to obtain a job). Arguments for equality should be made by pointing out why exclusionary criteria are objectively wrong, not by promoting women simply because they are women. Men and women do have natural differences and although neither sex is “better”, it is a fact that some tasks are more suited to one gender than the other, and that people of one sex tend to prefer certain occupations over the other, hence the apparent disproportion in occupational demographics. But to pretend these differences don’t exist is a denial of sexual identity.

What we should all be demanding is what we have earned, and not be demanding what we haven’t; the word we should be using isn’t equality or Rights, but justice.

A critique of Universal Utilitarianism

Introduction

A popular writer in the atheist “freethinker” blogosphere once offered a moral code called “Universal Utilitarianism” (UU). It is, I believe, an honest attempt to provide a secular non-mystical objective foundation for morality. A lot of the ideas are good. A lot of the intentions sound noble. But they are held in a vacuum without reference to antecedent principles or identification of the concepts involved, despite the writer’s desire to “cut straight to the heart of the matter.”

I will demonstrate why UU is not objective, its terms are poorly-defined (or not at all), and is contradicted by the writer’s (Ebonmuse) politics. Through each stage of the author’s article – I will contrast UU with Objectivist ethics, and show how the former cannot hold a candle to the latter in terms of philosophical robustness, and ultimately – truth.

Reality and morality

Ebonmuse begins by rejecting relativism, and he is very true when he says: “the position of moral relativism is self-contradictory and logically incoherent and therefore must be rejected.” For the purposes of this article, we will take for granted the self-evident fact that relativism is self-annihilating. Also, since Ebonmuse and I agree that only objectivity is worth considering, there is no need to discuss this further.

Ebonmuse says “If intelligent beings were to cease to exist, morality would cease to exist as well.” This is also true. Objectivism sees morality as a code of values to guide actions (through choices). Without life, there is no choice. Without choice, no morality is possible.

He also says: “True, morality is not exactly like science. It is not something that exists independently of us, “out there” in the world. Unlike scientific truths, the basic principles of ethics cannot be discovered by empirical inquiry, no matter how careful. There is no atom of morality, no elementary particle of good or evil.”

Note that Ebonmuse accepts that morality relates only to intelligent beings (I would use the word rational), but he cannot establish the connection between reality and those beings. He states it cannot be “out there” in the world, or identifiable like any other matter of fact, which raises the question of how he connects morality to reality in the first place. This is a connection he never manages to make throughout his system.

Ebonmuse goes onto further explain why moral relativism is silly and self-defeating, which I agree with – so I need not address that here.

Now he gets into the “heart” of the matter: What is the most basic principle, the most fundamental goal, that should underlie the way we treat each other? What is the goal we are trying to achieve, what is the end we are trying to maximize, when we conceive of a moral philosophy?

Note that, at the outset – Ebonmuse presumes that morality is a matter of “the way we treat each other”. But why? He then asks “what goal we are trying to achieve?” But surely the answer to that question has already been assumed; we want to “treat each other” well? But where is the justification that morality is about “how we treat each other”? It might be. It might not be. But you don’t assemble a moral foundation on your preconceived ideas – this is begging the question.

Ebonmuse mentions several political systems (which are predicated on ethics indeed, but they are not ethical systems; he treats political systems as competing ethical systems and then criticises them for not justifying themselves), and asks: “Why should [they] be the foundation of morality and not something else?”

Note also that, thus far – Ebonmuse has not actually defined the word “morality” as he intends to use it.

Ebonmuse now, very shrewdly and correctly observes the following: “If some proposed moral system claims that the ultimate virtue is something like justice or obedience or duty or piety, we can always ask why that should be, why we should choose that quality and not a different one. Granted, there cannot be an infinite regress of justifications; any chain of explanations must stop somewhere. However, we should not stop sooner than we have to. If we are truly to reach the roots of morality, we should keep asking the question of why as long as it can be meaningfully answered.”

If one devotes some thought to the matter, I believe it will become obvious that there is, and can be, only one answer. No matter what quality anyone proposes as the root of morality, it is always possible to ask why we should value that quality and not some other – except for one.

Ebonmuse uses the term “ultimate virtue”, but does not define “virtue” in this context. A virtue is not the same as a value, which is either a grammatical or philosophical mistake on his part; probably the latter. Objectivism defines them: a virtue is that which enables one to achieve a value and keep it. A value is that which one acts to gain and/or keep. For example, self-esteem is a value, which one achieves through the virtues of productiveness and pride.

He uses the words quality and virtue interchangeably here, but the word he is looking for is value. Accepting that, what he says is right – there is only one ultimate value man can have in life, because the alternative is self-defeating. He wants to look deeper and deeper until we find an ultimate quality that we can value. But this is epistemologically false. A quality, which I assume is a virtue – is only an attribute that helps us achieve a value. Ebonmuse has not identified any values so far – he has not even defined the word.

“There is only one quality that is immune to this question and that therefore can truly serve as the foundation of morality, and that quality is happiness.”

Ebonmuse does not define happiness – and such definition is essential, because it will form the basis for UU’s entire system. Unfortunately, because he does not identify the term and its nature – UU is on shaky footing from the outset. “Happiness” is not the root of the issue: what is happiness? Why do we desire it? Why is it “good” to be happy? Note that happiness is an emotion; Ebonmuse bases UU on the pursuit of an emotion – without identifying the place of emotions in man’s life – or whether they are indeed good or bad. Ebonmuse presupposes that pursuing happiness is “good” – but good is a moral question, but isn’t that what he’s attempting to lay the foundation for? Why is happiness good for man? In fact, what is good for man? As above, Ebonmuse begs the question.

At this point, I’ll offer the Objectivist theory of ethics: as a rational being, man interacts with reality, and reality can have positive and negative effects on him – things that both enhance and further his life, or things that stifle, ail, or end it. Man can live or die – based on what happens to him (which might be outside his control), or he can act for the furtherance of his life. Therefore, man is faced with a choice – to pursue his life or die. That which enables the former is good, that which furthers the latter is bad. The field that helps man determine between the two is called “morality”. The Objectivist code of ethics therefore is: always act consistently with your hierarchy of values, and never sacrifice a higher value for a lesser (or none) value. Notice how Objectivism identifies morality as arising directly from the nature of man and his relationship to reality? Notice how, since it is objectively possible to identify that which furthers man’s life versus that which detracts from it – we do have a “real life” reference guide to these terms. Which means, that ethics is a science: just as we can establish the distance of the earth to the sun – we can establish whether drinking poison is good or bad, whether violence is good or bad, whether freedom is good or bad, whether happiness is good or bad.

Man’s Nature

If we can identify the good from the bad for man, another question is: “what actually are the requirements of man?” This of course depends on man’s nature. I will forgo the full exposition of Objectivism metaphysics and state that man’s fundamental nature is “rational being.” Objectivist morality is therefore a code of values to guide man as a rational being, in pursuing the good (for his mind and body) and avoiding the bad (for his mind and body). Also notice that the context of good and bad is: man’s life. The choices he makes (choices he can’t make are irrelevant to morality) are ultimately either good for his life, or bad. So here we have the “ultimate value” that Ebonmuse is looking for: man’s life.

Now, it is indeed true that by realising his values, man achieves happiness – but happiness is the result, the reward, the emotion. Objectivism at this point does what Ebonmuse is yet (and incidentally not going) to do; define happiness: “the non-contradictory joy that comes from realising one’s values.” Happiness in itself tells us nothing about HOW to get there; HOW to live our lives – which is the entire purpose of morality.

Happiness is not, as Ebonmuse asserts, the end in itself – it is a consequence. Happiness is the only moral purpose of life – but it comes from pursuing the thing that makes happiness, and indeed all other values, possible: life. Whose life? The life of each one who wishes to live, of course – that is in other words: an individual. And since we are all individuals – the moral code for one is the moral code of each of us.

Ebonmuse does attempt to identify the nature of man, but he is in error: “The occasional aberrant pathology aside, human beings are social creatures, designed by evolution to live in groups.” Whilst it’s true that evolution has selected for certain behaviours that are advantageous – the fact of evolution says nothing about right or wrong. For example, a side-effect of selecting for pattern recognition in the human brain might be drawing mental causal links where none exist; hence the tendency to believe in magic. Would Ebonmuse argue that man is a magical thinker because evolution has selected for these traits too?

Claiming that man is a social creature is in fact a gross error; it actually ignores the nature of man. Since man’s most fundamental identifying feature qua man is his capacity for reason, and man must apply his mind to pursue his values, his own mind and his own thoughts determine his actions. No one can think for another – therefore no one can act for another. The problem of survival is one that must be addressed individually – whether one is alone or in a city. For example, if man “the social creature” is alone on an island, or perhaps has no friends, he does not suddenly go into mental shut-down and die – he is still left with the challenge of identifying what is good or bad for him; the reality doesn’t change – if he pursues the wrong thing he will suffer and perhaps die. He must think and act, constantly – to stay alive, and flourish. In other words, regardless of where he is, man still needs a moral code. This is the crucial flaw that Ebonmuse has made when considering ethics: that morality is irrelevant unless others are involved. And of course, this is patently false.

Man – by metaphysical nature, does not depend on other men to survive. He survives by use of his mind. Whatever the accident or incident he finds himself in, however much he benefits from or avoids society – the prime mover is man’s mind. Man is not a “social creature” but a “rational creature.” To finally concretise this point: you can take man out of society and he is still a man. But take the mind out of man and he becomes an animal. UU is an ethical system for man that doesn’t correctly identify man, and is therefore doomed to failure.

Ebonmuse continues: “Just as food and water are basic human needs and therefore it is generally a good thing to provide them”. It’s not generally a good thing to eat and drink – it IS a good thing to eat and drink! It’s essential. Of course, that raises the question of WHO will provide these things, which we will address later.

So too it seems that living among happy individuals can significantly contribute to one’s happiness.” Ebon is right here, but vague. Living among happy people can certainly be a positive thing, but if one is not realising one’s values in life, being surrounded by happy people is of no comfort. Other people being happy, in and of itself, says nothing about your happiness. For example, just knowing that other people in the world are happy doesn’t make the man happy who just lost his family in a house fire. Who these people are is a vital factor in how it affects you. Also notice that he justifies considering the happiness of others on selfish terms: it contributes to one’s own happiness. (This is in fact the Objectivist ethics, that morality is egoistic.)

Ebonmuse: “In addition, there is a strong, purely practical reason to create a moral system that encourages individuals to contribute to the happiness of others, rather than the opposite.

Remember, the purpose of a moral system is to tell man how to live his life; as we saw above, it cannot mean anything else. Now, Ebon phrases this strangely: a moral system should – as a consequence of training man to pursue his life, mean he also values people in his life. But Ebon makes the sudden leap that a moral code should also encourage man to “contribute” to the happiness of others. If by “contribute” Ebon means ‘give at no cost’, he hasn’t in any way explained why this is a benefit. Bear in mind that man will always try to pursue his perceived vales, which includes the people he cares about. “Contributing” to another’s life in this sense is not only perfectly fine, but rationally necessary. One would have no hesitation in being generous with friends and family. But Ebon uses the word “others” without identifying who he means. Since those one values are covered by the Objectivist theory of ethics, and presumably Ebon concurs, who else can he mean? Does he mean we should contribute to those we DON’T value? Does he mean that the happiness of others that we don’t value should be a concern in our lives? If so, he doesn’t explain why. A moral code for a man’s life that doesn’t relate to that man’s life is meaningless.

As noted, he tries to root “contributing” to others in “selfish” terms – i.e. that it ultimately benefits us in some way – but he breaks the connection between those who man chooses to value, and those he doesn’t or chooses not to value. And again, it is not clear whether Ebon is saying that we should contribute to others’ happiness because it will make us happy, or whether we should contribute to others’ happiness because it will make them happy – regardless of how we feel. And again, remember that Ebon is still yet to define happiness – nor explain HOW ones arrives at it. And again, Ebon misses the point that since happiness comes from realising values, and only individuals can think and pursue their values, it is simply not possible to pursue someone else’s happiness for them. We can of course help other people – but that is not what I believe Ebon means.

Also, the whole notion of happiness without a context is so vague it’s almost meaningless. For example, if one is happy under the influence of drugs, should one wish to maximise this pleasure for all humanity? If one is happy cheating, or stealing, or lying, or having unprotected sex, should we maximise this? Well it depends how you define happiness. Is happiness the same as pleasure? Which sources of happiness are good or bad for man? Objectivism clearly defines all of this and prescribes moral decisions on all. UU doesn’t even come close.

Ebon continues: “if your happiness is obtained in a way that makes other people unhappy, they will always oppose you and work to hinder your goals. On the other hand, if your happiness is derived wholly or partially from other people’s happiness, they will be far more likely to assist you, since their goals align with yours, and you will be more likely to achieve your own ends and be happy as well.”

This is where I believe Ebon is totally confused. For a start, he immediately assumes that the happiness (the word he should use is interests) of rational men are automatically in conflict. He does not justify this unspoken assertion. He assumes that man can derive happiness from the unhappiness of others – but what is the justification for this cynical worldview? This highlights how if one has faulty premises, one’s resultant chain of thinking will be fatally flawed.

We saw above that man is a rational being (NOT a social one); he must use his mind to identify his values and pursue them. A man knows that he can wish for water and food and shelter and love, all his wants – but wishing doesn’t make it so. A rational man doesn’t wish or pray for his values, he knows he must act to pursue them. He knows that when he produces, he has earned. But by extension, (and I am not doing full justice to Objectivist ethics here), he does not wish for results he cannot earn. He knows that praying for a fountain, or a house, or a job – won’t make it magically appear. And he knows that wanting what he hasn’t earned is irrational, because there is no moral or logical link between the two. He knows that the only way he is able to think and act in the first place around others is freedom. He acknowledges that this freedom is essential for him to pursue his values as a man. Therefore, he must necessarily accept that this freedom applies to other men too. And so a man knows that he is free, but that freedom ends where another man’s life begins.

So Ebonmuse is wrong that the “happiness” of men conflicts. Again, since he talks of happiness which is the result of achieved values, he ignores the actions that make those values (and ultimately happiness) possible. That is why he should really use the word “interests” instead. Since the pursuit of a man’s life does not clash with another man’s pursuit of his life, there are no conflicts of interest between rational men. (For a full elaboration on this, I recommend Tara Smith’s book: Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics). Because man should not desire the unearned, and because man cannot claim another man’s life – if there appears to be a conflict between men, the dispute will not be rational. (This is a principle – I will not apply it to real life examples here, such as wanting the same job, or the same woman – but can do so separately if prompted). Essentially, I am observing that Objectivism sees no conflict between the rational interests of men on principle – and how UU does not explain what men’s interests are, how they are achieved – but just vaguely alludes to happiness as some goal to be achieved (how?) and assumes without argument that men must necessarily clash at some point.

Ebonmuse: “the straightforward conclusion is that happiness should be maximized.” Whose happiness? How? If Ebonmuse intends to maximise the achievement of values for individuals (and therefore happiness, but since he hasn’t explained how else happiness is to be achieved I must provide the Objectivist version), how does he propose to do this? Since the pursuit of values is primarily an individual effort, what Ebonmuse should be saying is that the happiness of the individual should be maximised – in other words, man should try his best to achieve his values – in other words, we need a social system based on this moral code that best allows man to achieve his values. As we saw above, since man achieves values through the use of his mind and resulting action – the best way to ensure this happens is freedom.

Now Ebon makes another unwarranted and illogical leap forward in saying: “Giving aid to people whose aim is to reduce the happiness of others…will actually decrease, not increase, the total net happiness of humanity.” What does the “net happiness” (whatever that means) of humanity have to do with a moral code to guide man the rational individual? Collectives don’t think and choose – only individuals do – so moral codes only apply to individuals. And “humanity” or “society” is just a collection of individuals.

If morality is not a guide for individual living, i.e. if an individual’s life is not his ultimate value, then what else is? What else can morality apply to? There is nothing else. Remember, although Ebonmuse never uses or defines the term “value”, Objectivism defines it as that which one acts to keep and/or gain. A value without a valuer is a contradiction in terms. Ebonmuse wishes to claim that “net happiness” is a value, or that “humanity” is a value – a value to whom?? This is actually an appeal to intrinsicism – a mystical notion that must posit some external standard of valuation. In religious circles, this is explicitly given the name of “god”. Ebon makes the same mistake, only he doesn’t call it god, he calls it “humanity”. But “humanity” is of value to no one – only individuals can value, and a value to man’s life external and beyond that life – is a contradiction in terms.

Ebon: “Aiding people who already enjoy a high level of comfort is unlikely to increase their basic happiness significantly, and so is far less urgent than aiding people who are in need of basic necessities.” Urgent – to whom? Significant – to whom? Need – whose need? Notice the error? Ebonmuse commits the fallacy which Ayn Rand called “concept stealing”. Ebon uses the words urgent, significant, and need – which presuppose some standard of valuation. He then severs the link between valuation and any party which can value. As I don’t need to remind Ebon, there is no god looking on weighing up human lives and counting “value”. Now, certainly, people who “need” “significantly” “urgently” value their own lives, and people who are wealthy and happy value their own lives. Are less happy people more valuable than happy people? Valuable to whom? Why?

Is there a cosmic scale “we” need to balance up? What is this scale? Where is it? What is its name? How does it value? Only living beings can value – could this external intrinsic immanent valuer be given another name – say, God??

Social interaction and Rights

Ebon: “Regardless of whether we recognize it or can tell what it is, there is one way of living, one way of structuring society, that will produce greater happiness than any alternative method for all concerned. That one true path is what constitutes objective morality.” What Ebon is now getting onto is a system that regulates social interaction based on a moral code. However he reverses the order of morality and social interaction. Social interaction does not constitute objective morality, rather: morality constitutes how one should interact socially. Morality therefore lays the ground for politics – not the other way around. Before you even get to politics, to social interaction, you have to know why are you right, and why this or that is good or bad. Objectivism provides a moral code for individuals from the start, but UU stumbles and assumes its way to social interaction, then tries to work backward. This is the classic fallacy of putting the cart before the horse. It is also why UU’s politics, as we shall see, fail.

As I briefly mentioned earlier, Objectivism identifies that man needs a moral code to live his life – wherever he is. How does he live his life? By using his mind and acting accordingly. Ebon would agree that there is no dichotomy between the mind and the body – the mind/body problem or dualism as theists would put it (bear this in mind as we go on). Man’s action, and his produce – are the physical realisation of the mental effort to pursue his life. Man may choose how to live, but it is only by property that he can exercise this choice. Unless his property is his own, his mind is not his own. Without his mind, man is nothing but an animal. There is only one thing that can prevent man acting freely: force. When you introduce force, you prevent man from following his own thoughts through to their conclusion. And, since this is the only good way for men to live, force is antithetical to individual well-being. And, force can only exist in social settings. On an island, there is no one around to use force against a man – but in a society, there is. It is therefore necessary to establish a moral principle that restricts the initiation of force. This principle governs how men should interact with each other. This is the foundation for the concept of Rights. Since Rights arise from the principles of individual well-being, Rights only apply to individuals.

Rights only impose a negative obligation on others: “you must not initiate force against me.”

Now, rather than recount the entire Objectivist philosophy here, I am trying to point out how detailed, objective, logical, and grounded in reality Objectivist ethics are compared to what Ebon presents in UU. Notice how Objectivism defines all its terms, and works from the start through each link in the chain in a consistent rational manner? UU does not do this. It uses ill-defined or undefined terms, taken without context, with too many unwarranted assumptions, starts with incorrect premises, and makes too many non-sequitorial leaps to its next stage. At this point in my critique, UU is actually less consistent than another ethical theory: religion. Religion states and defines its premises much clearer than UU has done. Religion is open about its mysticism and appeal to intrinsic values external to man. UU, like all secular humanist positions, borrows these religious premises without noticing.

Ebon continues: “Justice – defined as giving people what they deserve and not giving them what they do not deserve – is and must be a bedrock principle of universal utilitarianism.” He is right. Objectivism similarly defines justice as “a concept to designate the act of judging a man’s character and/or actions exclusively on the basis of all the factual evidence available, and of evaluating it by means of an objective moral criterion” (ITOE). Ebon further explains why justice is important: “It is easy to see why: a society where justice is not ensured vastly increases both the actual and potential suffering of all its citizens, actual because of people who legitimately do not receive the reward their efforts merit, potential because all people will have reason to fear that the same will happen to them.” However, the Objectivist theory of ethics has already established a principle upon which people receive the reward for their efforts: individual Rights. Since no one may use force against another, man can fully realise his rewards, but only his rewards. Therefore, reality ensures that man gets what he’s earned but no more – and freedom prevents him losing it through force (or fraud). In other words, assuming force is not introduced, justice is easily realised by simply letting reality be the arbiter of success or failure, not some external bureaucrat.

Ebon goes on: “By a very similar argument, we can establish a basis for many fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, the right to pursue happiness, the right to freedom of conscience, the right to freedom of expression, the right to freedom of protest and assembly…” Ebon asserts that the basis of human rights is therefore justice. However, justice itself is based on a preceding moral code. Ebon throws all these Rights together as one – without clearly identifying the causal connection: it is a man’s Right to his own life (and therefore property, without which the former would be meaningless) – that gives rise to his corollary rights to pursue happiness, freedom of speech, etc.

Now, the principle of justice means that just as man is entitled to his own rewards, he is also responsible for his own failures – and he is morally accountable for his actions. We can dismiss the concept of “original sin” as mystical nonsense, because justice tells us that moral guilt is not transferable. But if a man cannot take the blame for someone else’s crimes, he cannot take the praise for someone else’s virtues either. In practice, a man cannot take the rewards for someone else’s effort.

Therefore, morally and judicially, a man’s life and his rewards are exclusively his own. So far, UU would seem to agree with this.

Ebonmuse asserts that the political system that is based on freedom and justice is “otherwise known as democracy.” He has not defined democracy at this point, nor explained why democracy is necessarily based on these things. Democracy is, essentially, unlimited majority rule. It makes no assurances that individual rights will be fully protected. It’s not certain why Ebon automatically leaps to the conclusion that democracy is the only moral politic setup, as if this was a given, except perhaps that he’s already picked it as his favourite. When establishing an ethical system from the ground up, one needs to do a little better than this.

He is right though, when talking of “fundamental human rights…that these rights exist not for mystical or supernatural reasons, but because they are the principles that, when enshrined into law and consistently obeyed, create a society that guarantees the best chance of peace, security and happiness to all of its members.” Notice that: consistently obeyed (or applied). A principle that cannot be applied consistently is not worth applying at all. Since Ebon agrees that individual rights must be consistently applied, he must favour a political system that consistently applies this principle to its logical conclusion.

However, when perusing Ebonmuse’s statement of principles I encountered more in the way of his politics that are not the logical application of his own ethical system, and wildly diverge from the alternative objective morality I have contrasted his with (Objectivism).

Incidentally, Ebon identifies his metaphysics as “atheist” – with is not a metaphysical position. One cannot base an entire worldview on one isolated opinion that is the result of rational enquiry; by definition, rational enquiry can only be conducted once one has established a metaphysical basis.

Ebonmuse identifies himself as a classic liberal, and believes that democracy is the only fair and feasible choice. He does not define democracy (again), but suggests that it “gives all adult members of a society an equal say in how that society should be governed”. He once again begs the question in assuming that society needs to be governed in the sense he means. What exactly do adults in society need to decide on? What matters are appropriate for vote and which are rightfully outside that power to change? And why? To what extent should “government” govern?

Ebon says: “To safeguard the rights of minorities, however, every society should agree to bind itself by a constitution which guarantees fundamental human rights and puts them beyond the shifting dictates of popular will.” Ebon is right that Rights should be constitutionally guaranteed, but makes another flaw (or assumption) that “minority” rights must be given extra consideration in case in the future some power of the majority changes society. The glaring oversight he makes is that in a system where Rights are guaranteed, no one may change them at any time, by any action or majority vote. There cannot be a Right to violate a Right – therefore you either have the Right to vote to violate someone’s Rights or you don’t. You have either initiated force against another person, or you haven’t. That is why there is no such thing as “minority Rights” – there are only Rights – and remember, the smallest minority is the individual! Under such a system, every man has the same Right to his own life and property, whether he is rich or poor, black or white, a businessman or a janitor.

Ebon’s system pretends to establish itself on Rights, then, in an attempt to solve a problem of its own imagination (that is, that Rights will necessarily clash), it declares that some Rights need to be protected more than others. Not only is this merely an assumption, and a contradiction of its own system, but it’s egregiously false; Rights are, by definition – the same for everyone.

(What I believe Ebon is alluding to, is a preconceived Egalitarianism notion that, quite simply, not all men are born equally beautiful or clever, and that this is unfair and we must artificially compensate for this perceived inequality. Note, egalitarianism is not the belief that all men should be treated equally; the principle of individual Rights ensures this. Egalitarianism wants to make all men equal in consequence, but not action; equal in effect, but not cause. As Ayn Rand said: “Since personal attributes or virtues cannot be “redistributed,” they seek to deprive men of their consequences—of the rewards, the benefits, the achievements created by personal attributes and virtues.” As she also points out, since it’s not possible to reverse reality – the simple fact of existence that some people are smarter and more productive than others, and therefore more successful – since egalitarianism can’t change reality, it tries to change people. And since the ones with “more” have supposedly received some lucky advantage, they must be penalised in practice to compensate those with “less”. In other words, the best of humanity is penalised for being the best, and the worst is rewarded for being the worst.)

At this point I should point out that, despite stating that UU ensures Rights are respected – Ebon has not, nor will, define the word Right. I did this some time ago on behalf of Objectivism. Ebon, like so many other concepts, takes their meaning for granted without clarification or justification. What is the UU basis for individual Rights? There isn’t one. Since Ebon doesn’t identify or morally justify Rights, he lets distorted interpretations of the term creep into his political system.

You see, the full exercise of properly-defined individual Rights can only be realised by the political system of laissez-faire capitalism, which is founded on the non-initiation of force principle.

Politics and Economics

I recognize the power of free markets to generate economic growth and spur innovation, yet when unchecked, they lead to greed, corruption, and inequality that’s impossible to justify by any rational accounting and corrosive to society as a whole.” This is a slew of unsubstantiated assertions and accusations. Ebonmuse here directly attacks capitalism, yet he would be unable to provide any historical evidence for his claim. Laissez-faire capitalism has never truly existed, but the closest the world came to it was 19th century America – and any historian will tell you this was the longest period of sustained and highest economic growth in history – and, by no coincidence, also the longest era of peace the world had seen until that point, and since. (Should we compare this to those periods and regimes that embraced the opposite ideals of capitalism, i.e. the rejection of individual Rights? Nazi Germany, Imperialist Japan, Soviet Russia, Communist China – all spring to mind.)

Ebon believes that free markets need to be regulated (a contradiction in terms) “To ensure that markets serve the needs of society, rather than vice versa.” Notice again the malevolent premise taken for granted? That if one man wants to be successful (or ‘happy’ to use Ebon’s word of choice), another one must pay. He offers no metaphysical justification for this claim. He does not explain why the nature of man is necessarily predatory (because it isn’t), or why one man’s achievements must come at the expense of another’s (because they don’t).

Also note that the sentence above removes the individual from the picture altogether. But what are the needs of society? Are these any different to the needs of its constituent individuals? Why? Society is not a lifeform, therefore it has no needs or values. The individuals in society do have needs and values, but as Objectivism clearly demonstrates (and UU is powerless to), these values are pursued through individual effort, and the reward is individual happiness. Is this not what Ebon seeks to maximise? What other kind of happiness does he want? “Net happiness”? Since Ebon seems to clearly believe that the happiness of men will always conflict (and therefore he seeks to redistribute “happiness” – how?), and some men are happier than others (though he doesn’t identify why), he must mean that the happiness of some men is more important than the happiness of others. Important to whom? And why? He doesn’t explain, because there is no possible answer. I think Ebon assumes that this is somehow important to “us” in some way – and by “us” he doesn’t mean “us” the individuals, who clearly cannot have a vested interest in every other person in society as a whole, but “us” the collective – the mystical consciousness that arises from society – which is an appeal to supernaturalism; it is just a secular take on pantheism.

The regulation of productive individuals in order to “serve” some other collection of individuals is the founding principle of the systems socialism and communism; communism being the same moral principle applied totally.

Trade

There is one essential and beautiful aspect of human interaction that Ebon, and other collectivists, totally ignores: trade. In Objectivism’s words: “The symbol of all relationships among [rational] men, the moral symbol of respect for human beings, is the trader. We, who live by values, not by loot, are traders, both in matter and in spirit. A trader is a man who earns what he gets and does not give or take the undeserved.” Since Objectivism defines happiness as the lasting non-contradictory joy that arises from the achievement of values, and since Objectivist morality is a moral code of values to guide action, the loss or surrender of values therefore leads to unhappiness. I cannot compare Objectivist ethics to UU’s in this regard, because Ebon did not define happiness, or value, or how happiness is achieved – he just tells us to increase it (somehow…)

During trade, men exchange value for value – and they both win! During trade, because no party can force another to agree to something they do not want, there are no losers. During trade, both men give something of value in exchange for a greater value (to them). Note again that values (in this case material) have their place in the context of man’s life; a man who buys a new car does not want his own cash anymore – he wants the car! The seller has no interest in keeping the car – he wants the cash! But both parties recognise that neither of them have the Right to the other’s property outside of trade. The car dealer cannot take the cash and not provide the car, and the buyer cannot drive off in the car without paying. Of course, the principle of individual Rights outlaws such behaviour in a free society by making the use of force (and fraud) illegal.

Ebon: “I advocate strong regulations and a system of progressive taxation that reinvests the bounty of the market in ways that benefit all members of society”. Ebon asserts that the market, which is really just a very complex series of interactions between individuals, belongs to society. To put this in explicit terms, this is what he means: the myriad private agreements of voluntary trade between free men belong to all the other men that are not involved in any voluntary agreement. There is no justification for this thinking that isn’t based on mysticism; only believing in collective consciousnesses will get you here – and last time I checked, I don’t have any Borg nanites floating in me.

This shouldn’t need further deconstructing, but I shall do so anyway: consider the trade example of the car above. Does a passer-by in the street have a vested interest in the transaction? No. Does his family? No. Does his village or city or nation? No. Now, I imagine Ebon would argue that all members in society (I don’t object to this term, as long as it’s used properly) have an interest in what happens in it. This is only half-true – and let’s be clear: you can’t have in interest in something which you cannot affect (for example, you can have an interest in going to college to educate yourself and get a better job, but you can’t have an interest in an asteroid not destroying the earth.) Individuals in society do have an interest in what happens in that society, inasmuch as it affects them and it’s within their right to act on it. But how are we to tell who has an interest in what? Fortunately, there is already a principle in place to identify where the interests of men lie: trade! We can see where men’s interests lie by who they choose to deal with. A party external to a trade cannot have an interest in that trade, because they cannot act to influence it, not should they. Wanting a piece of someone else’s pie is not having a rational interest.

The collectivist might argue that even in buying a table there is more involved in the trade of that table than simply handing over money for wood – but collectivists drop the context of trade, specifically: the division of labour. Every link in any transaction, from cutting down a tree, to transporting the wood, to assembling the table, to varnishing it, to selling it – involves free trade between individuals – as those traders pay for each step along the way with those involved. The man who buys the table doesn’t need to pay the courier; the supplier already did that. The supplier doesn’t need to pay the van driver; the wood-cutter already did that. And so on. No matter how vast, complex, or interrelated the traders involved, you can be sure that all of them played their part in “the market” and exchanged value for value. But, what Ebon wishes to assert is that, on an undefined principle, all external parties to any market have an interest in that market and must be “served” (his words) by that market. In fact, he must necessarily mean people who played no part in the market because, if they were involved, they’d be covered by the trader principle above and exchange value for value. Ebon wants external parties to do nothing and receive values. Why is this good for anyone? How is this at all consistent with Ebon’s declaration of justice above; to give people what they deserve and don’t give them what they have not deserved?

If trade is the free exchange of value for value, what is the exchange of value for nothing? If men produce to share their work and mutually benefit, what happens when a man works for another with nothing in return? If trade is voluntary – to give in order to receive, what it’s called when man doesn’t have a choice but to give with nothing in exchange? This is the alternative to trade: slavery.

When Ebonmuse says that “the market”, in other words, all markets – all voluntary trades between specific individuals, must serve society – he is saying that individuals who trade must serve those who are not involved in the trade and those whom one hasn’t chosen to deal with. There is simply no other word for this than slavery. He is saying that all other men you aren’t dealing with have a claim on your business, your property, your life. Property is how man physically pursues his life; to have a Right to one without the other makes no sense. Is this justice?

The Wealth-Happiness Contradiction

But there is another contradiction in Ebon’s politics and a rather glaring one too. Remember, UU seeks to maximise happiness (leaving aside that “net” happiness is a stolen concept, and because Ebon never asks WHY some people are happy and some aren’t; WHY some are successful and some aren’t, a question that Objectivism certainly does answer) – but happiness comes from fulfilling values – it cannot be redistributed! Objectivism shrewdly observes that simply giving someone what they “want” (or even need) will not make them happy, because you cannot substitute it for the rationality, productiveness, and pride – that goes into achieving values. Objectivism also points out that merely existing isn’t the same as living and flourishing. This is of course why earning a car or house through hard work brings happiness, but simply stealing doesn’t. And why making love to the partner you adore is more fulfilling than having sex with a prostitute. Should there also be a government program to redistribute lovers from one person to another, because some have “too many” and some have none?

When UU seeks to redistribute happiness, what it really means is redistribute wealth (“progressive taxation”). Since the former is impossible, Ebon settles for the latter. This is what he really wants. He thinks that redistributing the values of men that have worked to produce, to those who have not worked nor earned – will make the latter happy. But he then goes onto say: “There’s no reason not to do this, anyway, since wealth doesn’t buy happiness.” Well if wealth doesn’t buy happiness, there is no reason to redistribute it! If simply taking wealth from those with to those without, won’t make those without happy – and it certainly won’t make those with happy – whose happiness is actually being increased? Is Ebon, in Ayn Rand’s words “raising men to the mountains” or “razing the mountains”?

UU gets it right and then sadly wrong

Let us briefly return to individual Rights and show that Ebon is not consistent or true to his own premises: “following the principles of justice and human rights and being consistent in doing so, even if an immediate gain can be realized by violating them, is the course of action that truly will produce the best outcome in the long run. There is and can be no conflict between universal rights and specific situations; the conflict is only apparent, due to our limited perception which can see the immediate consequences of an act but cannot as easily view all its ramifications.” (Bold mine).

Ebonmuse is spot on. In fact, so cogent and remarkable a statement is this I have trouble understanding how he goes so wildly astray. I don’t know what he means by “universal” rights but I’ll assume he means individuals Rights which of course apply to everyone.

It is precisely because we cannot foresee every single outcome that we need principles. Objectivism defines them thus: “A principle is ‘a fundamental, primary, or general truth, on which other truths depend.’ Thus a principle is an abstraction which subsumes a great number of concretes. It is only by means of principles that one can set one’s long-range goals and evaluate the concrete alternatives of any given moment. It is only principles that enable a man to plan his future and to achieve it.” Ebon points out, rightly so, that it’s useless to speculate on specific incidents that appear to cause a moral dilemma; we should simply apply our principles consistently. With this in mind, does UU fully apply the principle of individual rights, or does it pay lip-service to those Rights, but then convolute isolated examples in society that appear to cause a dilemma, or “conflict between universal rights” – and then contradict those principles in order to solve its own “dilemmas”?  It most certainly does.

One such “conflict” is that some men are happy and some men aren’t. Since happiness is an end, a result – and not a commodity, it cannot be traded or even pushed upon men. Property can however, through force. UU sees a conflict between the property of some men and that (of the lack of such) of others. But, since we know that man has a Right to his own life and necessarily property, the apparent contradiction is resolved: there cannot be a Right to violate a Right; so the apparent Right of some men to the property of others is an illusion. As I said above, principles that cannot be applied consistently should not be applied at all.

But if you want to think in terms of consequences, and put effect before cause, or argue that the ends justify the means – even that will get you nowhere; the consequences of a system that does not consistently apply Rights will be of ever increasing restrictions and violations of those Rights; observe that every regime and nation in history that did not apply this principle had, and has, slid into Statism – investing more and more power into the government, and decreasing civil liberties. The end result of collectivism fully realised is communism. Socialism is a less potent facade for this. The principle is the same.

Again, if you want to talk about consequences, observe that free men can only exchange value for value – they cannot exchange value for fresh air. They exchange currency for value, but they cannot exchange paper. Observe that money represents actually produced but unconsumed goods. But when you have an agency that can replace value for paper, or take without return, or consume the stock seed (capital) of citizens, and pretend that paper can replace actual goods – you get inflation and recession. Only one institution has this power – and that is the one vested with the duty to protect Individual Rights: government. You cannot protect a cause by violating it.

If you want more consequences, consider that every single totalitarianism regime in history; every war ever started; every butchering or genocide of people; every sacrifice of an innocent life, was justified on the grounds of an appeal to “the greater good”; the tribe, the gods, the führer, the state, the society. Every dictator in history demanded that the needs or Rights of some collective outweighed those of the individual; that the individual must come second to others. Now consider that absolutely no evil, no enslavement, no crime, no war, could ever be achieved under capitalism. Under capitalism, every human being, including the government – is constitutionally prevented from violating another’s Rights. No one has ever justified dictatorship or enslavement on the grounds of capitalism and individual Rights. Why? Because it simply is not possible. So if you really want to achieve freedom and peace (and happiness) – what does experience tell you is the best way of getting there? Capitalism or collectivism (in all its forms)?

Finally, even if the sacrifice of values was moral (it can’t be), and even if giving up values instead of pursuing them made you happy (which it doesn’t), and even if it was moral or noble to pretend some men are more worthy of value than others simply from having a deficit (which is meaningless) – the forced redistribution of wealth would still not be moral, even under UU’s own rules, because if morality is a code to guide actions, then where choice is impossible morality is impossible. You cannot force someone to do a moral deed. At the point of a gun, it doesn’t matter what you choose. You cannot be praised or condemned for it. If freely choosing to help someone is noble, how is being forced to? One might call this Universal Totalitarianism.

If you’re so convinced your political system is the only moral one, the only one based on reason and practical for man, trying to force it upon others is a gross contradiction. What do collectivists have to be afraid of? I’ll tell you: collectivism cannot work without force. It is based on the initiation on force, on the premise that man must be compelled under duress to act against his will, in order to do the right thing, but this somehow is “good” for everyone. This is the noble system Ebonmuse advocates?!

Miserable view of life

The worst part of UU is that it actually undermines genuine sources of human generosity, benevolence, and compassion. UU wants to achieve these things, by force. It thinks it has the best system to achieve happiness, but if you don’t agree – you’ll be thrown in prison. Force is what you use when you can’t get someone to agree with you through reason.

The kind of heavy regulation of people under a government that sees its citizens as cash-cows, instead of clients – is incredibly impractical. By comparison, capitalism needs no such artificial manipulation and restriction. Capitalism doesn’t see men at war with each other – nor does it need to force them to act against their free will through force and tax. Capitalism actually requires nothing – except the prevention of force. Hence, capitalism needs a government dedicated to protecting individual Rights – and since such a government’s only purpose is that protection, it cannot become the violator, for any reason.

When men are free to deal with each other as traders, i.e. as equals – neither slaves nor moochers – they are demonstrably more generous (where do you think aid and charity comes from, if not free people?) – and as with all trade: everyone wins. Man will necessarily seek to act in his best interest. Rather than pretend this is a vice, capitalism is based on the fact that this is man’s nature – and it’s a good thing. Name any noble or moral deed, and I will show you the selfish interest in it. No good action is born out of selflessness, ever. In every action, a man will be pursuing something he sees as a value in his own life. This isn’t something to be critical of, but appreciative! Human beings can choose to deal with each other – where they both win! Doctors can save lives; parents can bring children into the world; free citizens without having their investment capital squeezed dry by a greedy power-hungry government can choose to help others, if they encounter people they consider worthy. Similarly, businessmen can pursue wealth and prosperity for themselves, and countless others directly and indirectly benefit as a result of their innovation and business needs.

I am sure Ebonmuse might counter with a hundred examples of emergency dilemmas, or apparent “conflicts” (his words) between Rights. But by his own reasoning, he knows that even apparent moral dilemmas do not violate principles. It is not my intention here to review potential objections and elucidate how Objectivism overcomes them. It is not even possible unless one first rejects their improper view of man and their mystical metaphysics. A discussion of what capitalism means for an economy is fascinating and illuminating – but this isn’t the place. Doubts are not valid philosophical objections. I’m sure Ebonmuse would agree that using “God of the Gaps” reasoning, and suggesting that just because some aspects of a free society are unclear in practice – does not invalidate the legitimacy of the principles upon which it’s based. “What if?” is not a philosophical rebuttal, but merely the enquiry as to how some objective principle will be applied in practice.

An objection I often encounter from honest enquirers regarding a free society, is what happens to those who can’t directly support themselves. It’s a legitimate question. I will not answer it here, as I have written on my blog before on this subject, as have other Objectivists. The reason I mention this is because I find it rather illuminating as to a person’s worldview and their view of man. The cynics say “if no one was forced to help others, no one would.” What they are really saying is one of two things:

1. ‘I am so good and generous and caring that I would always look after people, but you can’t count on others to be as moral and noble as me – so we should force our noble ideals on them.’

2. ‘If no one was forced to pay for others, I know deep down that I never would. So it’s a good job the decision is taken out of my hands, meaning I don’t have to think about the problem.’

I have a much more optimistic view of the human race. I think that human beings, when left to rely on their own minds and reason, act more rationally than one might generally expect. It takes no great mental effort to see that living in a benovelent and respectful society is to one’s own direct advantage. It is obvious that fostering a friendly atmosphere amongst people costs so little and reaps great rewards, especially when this is natural and free, and not forced. I believe that having an intrusive government that interferes in almost every aspect of human life has atrophied man’s thinking process and rendered his moral capacity useless. As a result, people are so used to government regulation and involvement they find it hard to foresee any alternatives.

As regards optimism, speaking for myself, I respect others unless they give me a reason not to, and I treat other humans with dignity, and am more than willing to assist people, but I have no desire to serve them, nor rule them. Should I not expect that other people are at least as virtuous as me? I believe that when the collectivist criticises the benevolent nature of people left to their own devices, they are revealing a much more sinister and cynical view of the world than they’d care to admit.

The economic facts are, whilst charity might have its place, even ignoring tax altogether, no one “contributes” more to society than a businessman.

Summary

UU is a hodgepodge of isolated notions and ideals, taken out of context, weakly joined by faulty logic and leaps of faith, and founded on the altruistic basis of religion, itself a product of supernatural metaphysics. UU is another example of collectivist mentality and altruist ethics. Altruism is the code that says you must sacrifice your values. Religion and UU are just variations on this theme.

However, I do believe that UU is an honest and genuine attempt by Ebonmuse to provide a secular foundation for morality. It is no mean feat, and credit must go to Ebon for tackling the problem – especially when so many in the world today see non-religious morality as impossible. If I didn’t believe Ebon’s intentions were genuine, or that he wasn’t beyond honest discourse, I wouldn’t have taken considerable time to compose this critique in the first place.

Unfortunately, Ebon’s mistake is that rather than build an ethical system from scratch after basing it on objective reality – he actually assumes all his premises and does not define his terms – and then goes from there. Ultimately, Ebonmuse begs the question.

Ironically, as a self-professed champion for humanity, freedom of thought (and by corollary: property and action??), and opponent of mysticism – Ebonmuse, like all secular humanists, would do well to find an ally in Objectivism – which provides what they so clearly lack: an objective philosophical foundation from which to defend their ethics and politics. Until they do so, they will be trapped in the same nihilistic mire as the irrationalists they seek to oppose.