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.

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The BBC ‘TV license’ Tax

Having a tough time paying the bills? Council tax, car tax, road tax, value-added tax, tax on earnings, tax on savings, tax on your business, tax on exports, tax on imports, national insurance tax, tax to pay for the EU, tax to pay for foreign aid, tax for people who can’t work, tax to dig up roads and then fill them back in (oh sorry I said council tax didn’t I?), green tax, carbon tax, tax for other peoples’ healthcare, tax to sit in a waiting room long after your stated appointment surrounded by people who’ve never worked a day in their life to see a doctor who has to rush you in and out as quickly as possible (oh sorry I said national insurance didn’t I?), tax on top of tax. Is it too much? Probably not. Which is why the government has chosen this time to remind you, by way of threats, that it’s a criminal offence to own a viewing screen without a license.

Yup, owning a display screen requires you to have a license. I suppose that’s fair. After all, there are many things you need a license for: driving a car, selling alcohol in a public place, having gambling machines on your premises, manufacturing and distribution of narcotic and psychotropic drugs, practicing medicine. It only makes sense that, to protect the Rights of Televisions, you are required to prove that you’re worthy to take care of one. And by ‘prove’, I mean: pay the State a yearly fee which is given to its nominated broadcaster.

A broadcaster with an anti-industrial anti-capitalist pro-Green pro-EU multicultural politically-correct Left-wing agenda. A corporation whose corruption has been exposed time and again. A corporation whose interests and services aren’t dictated by a free market of voluntary customers, but through expropriated funds to push whatever agenda its leaders desire. A corporation that is neither brimming with quality self-produced British programming, nor particularly likeable, interesting or varied approaches to presentation, broadcasting nor punditry. (The latter is a personal opinion, but compare how the BBC does sport to Sky.)

So here is the latest video campaign to shame non-payers and remind everyone that failing to have a TV license is a criminal offence:

http://news.sky.com/story/1105038/tv-licence-dodgers-excuses-in-video-campaign

Of course, that depends how you define “criminal”. In my naivety, I’d have thought that a criminal offence is one that makes you a criminal, which means there is a victim to your crime. If there’s no victim, then whose Rights have I violated? And if no one’s Rights have been violated, doesn’t that mean a “crime” is pretty much whatever the State, without representation, says it is?

I’ve written about this before (and before) of course, and of the “excuses” that many innocent citizens give for not paying their license fee, the not-so-ridiculous ones that failed to make the video are: “I didn’t pay my license fee because I want to know…

  • Why should I pay for a service I don’t use?
  • If the license fee is not a tax for supporting the BBC, why does the money from the fee only go to the BBC?
  • How many households’ worth of license fees did it take on this video campaign to warn people not to avoid paying their license fee?
  • Why does an electronic device capable of viewing live television, which we already had to pay at least 20% tax on, require a license to own?
  • If the license was originally for owning a television set, when was it changed to include any other type of display device? Why?
  • If I don’t own a TV but a computer monitor, why does that require a license? If I don’t have a monitor but have a mobile phone, why does that require a license?
  • If I haven’t violated anyone’s Rights, why would I be considered a criminal for not paying the most laughable and audacious tax in history?
  • Why does the BBC not fund itself the way every other corporation has to: by winning and keeping customers?
  • Why is ‘so you don’t have to sit through adverts on two of their stations’ a legitimate justification for tax?
  • Does it not encourage stagnation and poor service when a business is not answerable to its clients? Why should I help the BBC to maintain the status quo?
  • If the BBC is so confident in its quality programming, why not let its loyal viewers support it voluntarily?
  • Would the government or BBC agree to give the license fee funds to another broadcaster, like ITV, Channel 4 or Sky? If not, why?
  • Why does the BBC’s collection agency pretend to have TV-signal-tracking equipment to catch you when it doesn’t?
  • Why does the collection agency pretend to have the power to knock at your door and extract the fee by force, when it doesn’t?
  • Why is a third-party collection agency used at all for enforcing criminal law in this country? Isn’t that the job of the police, when an actual crime has been committed? If you set the local park on fire or run over someone in your car, who turns up at your door: a private collection company or the police?
  • If a private company demands money from me for breach of contract, can you show me the contract I signed?
  • If a license inspector turns up at your door, do they have any authority to search your premises? If not, isn’t it true we can just say ‘no’ and turn them away?
  • Why does the BBC deserve to be the State-sponsored broadcaster of choice (not ours), paid for by the already over-taxed British public? Why does it merit this privilege? How does this not constitute a coercive monopoly, the very kind that the Left Wing BBC would claim only happens under capitalism?
  • Would it be fair to say that the license fee paid the wages of those many child molesters that went about their perverted business for decades in the BBC? And the wages of those who covered it up for so long?”

***

And those are just off the top of my head. Did I miss one? What would your “excuse” be?

I object on principle to tax, of course – but in our current society I understand it is necessary (for now), and wouldn’t propose to overturn it overnight. (I am not unrealistic. Long before our political system becomes freer, our culture needs to change.) There are many governmental services we should pay for. Owning a television isn’t one of them.

In other countries, such as Finland, the license fee varies based on income, with the very poor exempt. Although that’s not how it works in Britain, you have to ask: if it is a license fee we are talking about, why should it be connected to your income? No other legitimate (or even common sense) license is “progressive” in that sense. Why? Because there is no practical reality-based reason for the State demanding money for you owning a license. (If there was, they would give one.) The license fee is not a license fee; it’s just a hypothecated tax.

If there were a reason for this TV tax it would simply be: to fund State broadcasting. Now, as much as I would still object to that, I could stomach this far better. Historically, the reason that countries introduced this tax was for such a purpose, which made sense (in context) at the time. But the TV tax does not go towards State broadcasting, which might have a place in times of emergency or national crisis (but really, with technology being what it is and the amount of money the government has as its disposal, even that is a flimsy excuse); it goes towards the BBC! The BBC taxes us to keep itself in business. So it can keep pushing its incredibly one-sided Left Wing agenda on a public that by and large still seems to think of the BBC as an honest even-minded British institution, instead of the arrogant corrupt socialist monster of a corporation that it is.

The arguments in favour of the license fee are usually collectivist nonsense like this. Notice how the author justifies everything on the grounds of the Greater Good of Society. This is the sort of rhetoric that is claimed, shouted, assumed, without argument – just put out there and hoped it will be swallowed, because it usually is. He blames the “scourge of individualism”, and claims it is growing. Oh, if only! But he’s damn right it’s individualism, and long may it live! Anyone who needs to attack individual freedom because he doesn’t like the choices you might make, doesn’t have an argument; he has collectivist propaganda. He says: “just because YOU don’t see the value in it doesn’t mean we should scrap it.” Which of course raises the question: ‘so WHO does see the value in it?’ But of course, what the author really means is: ‘it should not be scrapped, because I (the author) see the value in it.’ To which I say: if YOU see the value in it, YOU pay for it. That is after all the only meaningful definition of value. Oh, what’s that? If you gave people the choice they might not make the right one (the one the author has decreed in his capacity as spokesman for the Public Good, to be the only acceptable one)? Hmm, can’t be much of a value if people don’t want to fork out £145 a year for it. Most people spend more than that on a weekly shop, mobile phones, games, sports, hobbies, transport etc. Funny how when people are left alone they don’t have much of a problem finding the money for the values they really want…

Which again just proves: there are two ways to make people agree with you: reason or force. You can’t have both.

Of course, there are countless ways for the BBC to be funded without a gun, but the author’s primary motive? He doesn’t want to sit through adverts. Oh, well, you’ll forgive me for not rushing to open my wallet because you don’t like adverts. What’s that word when you use the State to force other people to go along with your unreasoned convictions?

My personal opinion is that lawful rebellion has its time and its place. There are of course far more important things to protest about (like our involvement/support/invasion of other countries). There are more immediate concerns over which we should refuse to cooperate with the government (like wind farms, carbon taxes, the welfare state, bailing out failed businesses). But something as small as the BBC Tax is a good place to start. It raises public awareness of just how stupid this tax is, it makes us question this immoral behemoth, it forces tough answers to simple questions, and it makes those in power realise that they cannot pull taxes out of thin air and expect us to pay up every time. We are far too accommodating and obedient to our bureaucratic overlords in this country. Once we refuse to pay this despicable BBC tax (they can’t and won’t send everyone to court, even if they do catch you with their magical detectors), we can move onto the other unwanted schemes our expropriated cash is spent on by an unelected undemocratic elite.

The ‘good of The Game’ and other ‘Higher Purpose’ fallacies

One of the most common pieces of rhetoric I hear is what I’ll call the “greater good” fallacy – though it comes in many forms. You even hear it in football circles when people refer to this mysterious and supernatural force called “the good of the game”. Outside of football it’s “the good of society”, but it’s all variations on a theme: some transcendent higher cause external and beyond us. “Us” of course can only mean some limited number of individuals, you and me.

Here’s an example of this nonsense in action. The details are irrelevant here and I’m paraphrasing: a football manager recently was denied permission to speak to another club who wanted to hire him, which they had every right to do. He resigned, but they rejected his resignation. One commenter essentially said: ‘yes he has a contract there and yes they have the right to reject approaches for him under contract, but at some point you have to think about what the manager wants and what’s best for the game.’ What does that even mean? What is this “game” being referred to? Football. Ok…so what does “football” want? What does “football” like and dislike? What is its favourite meal? Does it like music?

Absurd? Yes I think so too. But notice how this “good of football” rhetoric can be applied to just about anything and make as much sense. In the example above let’s flip the comment to: “yes the manager wants to leave and yes he has a right to resign and accept another job if he wants to, but at some point you have to think about what the club wants and what’s best for the game.”

“A club can in theory pay as much as they like for a player and they can pay that player whatever wages they want…but at some point you have to think about what’s best for football”. Ok, so salary caps then. But hang on a second, couldn’t we just say: “You might not like to see such disproportions in salaries and exorbitant fees exchanging hands over one player…but at some point you have think about what’s best for football.”

Here’s another example: “yes a man has the right over his own mind and body, and yes he has a right over his own property and choices, but at some point you have to think about what’s best for society”, and you can justify taxation. But that exact same sentence could be used to justify conscription or anything else you can think of. (Hell, it could be used to justify cannibalism). And that’s why it’s fallacious: there is no logical connection, no necessarily chain of reasoning from the premise to the conclusion. The “greater good” fallacy rests on an unspoken assumption implicitly accepted by all parties (unless they are shrewd enough to reject the bankrupt ethics at work): that there is actually a higher purpose at work. Even if there were, it would still not necessarily follow that the Higher Purpose™ demanded this, that and the other from us – not without a sound argument. The examples above prove this: you can twist the “good of the game” or “best for football/society/community/whole” to mean whatever you want it to mean. I could say that I don’t expect you to buy beggars on the street meals for the rest of their lives, but at some point you need to think about what’s best for society.

As it happens, there’s no such force at work anyway: there is no Higher Purpose. There is no such thing as the “good of football” and don’t be taken in by the ignorant who spout this rubbish on TV to justify their particular subjective opinion. In football, there are only fans, players and owners, each of whom are individual human beings with their own values. But there is no such thing as a value disconnected from an individual person – and whenever you hear anyone imply differently the alarm bells should be going immediately! Only living entities have values, so when you hear someone talk about a “good” above and beyond any individuals, what they’re really saying is that this thing is value…but to no one in particular!

What do all these “good of the [insert higher purpose higher]” fallacies have in common? What do they play on? As I said above, they rest on the unspoken (and wrong) premise of a value external to us (which is a contradiction in terms). But this is really transparent when we break the assertions down: they all ask for a sacrifice; they work by saying ‘your personal interest might be this…but you must give it up’. And this works because it’s just assumed that a “higher purpose” is necessarily beyond our petty selfish individual values – and this is actually true, in the same way that no one has ever seen the Invisible Pink Unicorn – but it isn’t because she’s invisible! Everything that is a value in this reality is a value to someone. If it weren’t, it wouldn’t be a value! (Who would value it??) So the only way to get someone to accept this garbage concept of Higher Cause is to define it as being of no personal value. In other words: ‘it’s a Higher Value precisely because you don’t value it.’

Once you understand this fallacy you will see it everywhere, especially in politics. The reason it’s so popular is because if your audience accepts it, you can get them to do anything without any argument. It’s so simple: tell them it’s for a Value they don’t hold, and if they don’t see how that benefits them tell them that’s precisely the point! If it benefited you (i.e. any individual), well, it wouldn’t be “Higher” then would it?!

The Head versus the Heart – Is Love Rational?

In the words of Chris de Burgh, “it’s the classical dilemma, between the head and heart.” The head says one thing, the heart says another. The rational cold objective facts versus passion and senseless emotion. Is love irrational? Is there a necessary conflict between head and heart? I don’t think so.

Food and drink

But, there would seem to be. It’s quite obvious that love can make people do crazy things or act in irrational ways. In fact, on the face of it, there would seem to be an innate conflict in human nature between what we want and what’s best for us. A trivial example is one that I’m all too familiar with: a good curry. I could probably eat curry every day and never get bored with it; I love it. But my rational mind tells me that too much too often of the saturated-fat ridden delicacy is deleterious to my health, and waistline. Is this a conflict between head and heart, or mind and body? Well, instead of curry let’s say it’s something far more pernicious: heroin. In the words of one user it’s “as if you are kissing the creator.” I really can’t imagine how psychologically and physically pleasurable it must be but let’s say that, again in the words of the user: “you will NEVER feel that way again, although you will certainly try.” It’s certain that whilst the body might crave the pleasurable (a perfectly natural desire), not every desire is good for us. And just as we are beings of body and mind, so there are things which are bad for our bodies, our minds, and both. Heroin might feel amazing, but it’s not good for either, if “good” is taken to mean “that which is proper to the life of a rational being” which is how the philosopher Ayn Rand described it. Conversely the bad is “all that which destroys it.

So if we desired heroin, our rationality should win over and say “no”; we’d have to say that the desire is bad. Knowing that, we shouldn’t even want it. I’m not talking about addicts going through withdrawal here, as their rational judgement is indeed comprised, but it’s to illustrate that there’s a reason that the 99.99% of the planet who aren’t addicts aren’t smacking up every day, and it’s not just because the drug is illegal; it’s because most of us realise that it’s not in our selfish best interest to get high, despite any transitory euphoria. So the “conflict” isn’t really a conflict at all.

That might not sound very convincing so far. That might sound like word play, trying to define the contradiction away. ‘The conflict still exists’ some might say. That would be true, if human beings were slaves to emotions and had no way to control them. Fortunately, we do. Ayn Rand saidEmotions are produced by man’s premises, held consciously or subconsciously, explicitly or implicitly.” What this means essentially, and quite elegantly, is that our emotions are properly the results of our actions (or of events, of course). Just because it’s true on principle that pleasure feels good and human beings seek pleasure, it does not therefore follow that we should seek all forms of pleasure, as if the desire for pleasure was a primary. Otherwise we would think ‘I like to feel physical pleasure. Heroin gives physical pleasure. Therefore I should take heroin.’ Of course we want physical pleasure (or any pleasure) but we choose how to obtain it. How do we choose? By reference to our standard of “good” and “bad” of course, as described above: that which is proper to our lives.

To continue the heroin example just a bit longer: as rational beings we have identified this drug as not proper to our lives well-lived. We have programmed our emotions to react accordingly, just as I have programmed myself to not over-indulge on unhealthy food. One of the benefits of forming our value judgements so that they correspond to what is actually proper for us is that we don’t feel guilty when indulging in something we shouldn’t – and for the same reason we don’t indulge in that which will make us feel guilty. For example, we all know the “guilty” pleasure of having a double helping of ice-cream for example, or an extra curry, or another bag of crisps, or one-too-many drinks; we feel guilt, to ourselves, because we are (in an admittedly trivial sense) betraying our principles. We know it’s not good for us, but we’re doing it anyway – we are (again, in a rather trivial example of a much grander principle) acting contrary to our well-being and our lives. But whilst this is a conflict, it’s not a necessary one. Juxtaposed to the guilt, how much better does a “well earned” curry or glass of wine feel when it’s consonant with our life, when it takes its proper place as a treat, something to be savoured in our diet, and not us ‘pigging out’ because we can’t help ourselves? And why does it feel better? Because we’ve programmed (consciously and subconsciously) our emotional response to appreciate pleasure more when it serves our rational interests. That is, emotions should serve us, not the other way around. Or to put it in scientific terms: cause should precede effect.

I don’t think this is anything special or unusual. Most of us do this every day without thinking. For example: the alarm goes off and you’re in bed. It’s cold and dark outside, you’re nice and warm in bed. You’re tired. You’d love an extra hour of sleep. But you have work. The senseless pleasure-only creature would think “stuff work” and turn the alarm off. But no rational person, no matter how tired or comfortable, could possibly enjoy that lie-in knowing they were jeopardising their job (and therefore well-being). To flog this dead horse one more time: a conflict between mind and body, head and start, only exists if one is irrational to begin with. The rational person sees no conflict because his emotions serve him, not the other way around. In fact it’s quite easy to project what would happen to a person who served his or her emotions; living a proper life would be impossible.

Friendship

We will get to love but before then it’s necessary to lay the groundwork for all the elements of it. Let’s take friendship, which also involves a form of love. Friendship is undoubtedly one of the most rational endeavours one could ever engage in. With platonic friendships this seems a no-brainer: no one is friends with someone they hate. Nobody wishes to not be friends with someone they deeply admire. Friendship is probably the best example of the head and heart working together (as they should) because all the psychological and physical benefits we get from friendship are a naturally and rational consequence of the objective and “cold” truth that another human being is a value in our lives. (Friendship is better than family in a sense since we cannot choose our family, which may or may not be a good thing – fortunately for me it is). Friendships don’t happen by accident. They happen because we encounter people who share values with us. The more our values align the easier it is to form bonds, and the more fundamental and life-affirming the values being shared the deeper the friendship. For example, one pair of friends might get on well because they support the same football team, but would their bond be as profound and deep as another pair who are passionate about individualism and human freedom, about life-affirming values as such whether they agree on any particular optional values (like football clubs)? In other words, which bond would be easier (or possible) to break, the former or the latter?

We simply don’t make friends with people we dislike. We don’t like to help them or support them or even associate with them. We get no pleasure from them and might even feel displeasure at the thought of them flourishing. Again, this is a perfectly rational response – the emotion logically flows from the objective value judgement in our head; the head and heart sing from the same hymn sheet. We love our friends and we hate our enemies.

Sex

Before we discuss romantic love, there’s another mind/body issue: sex. Like a good curry, sex is pleasurable. Of course, not everyone likes curry, and not everyone likes the same thing in sex. In the words of Phoebe Buffet “sometimes men love women, sometimes men love men”. It’s obvious that simply say “sex is good” is far too lacking in context: a gay person, although he or she likes sex, doesn’t want it with a member of the opposite sex; they have no desire for that and would gain no pleasure from it. I always find it laughable when people say that “sex is just sex” when even by the loosest of any standards it’s not: there is always a psychological and emotional factor at work, no matter how shallow. If there weren’t, it wouldn’t matter if you were gay or straight, it quite literally wouldn’t matter who the other person was – and obviously this is never the case. And if anyone says ‘I’ll sleep with anyone’ I’d reply ‘so you wouldn’t mind being raped?’ Crude, I know – but it does hammer the point home: sex, like every other ‘physical’ aspect of our emotions is still a programmed response to our values. On a lighter note, one might’ve had the experience to feel a gentle lady run their fingers through your hair only to turn around and realise it was your big hairy male best friend. “Ooh that’s nice that” turns into “get off me you fag!” All in good humour of course. But the point is: our bodies respond to pleasure automatically and naturally – but even then in context. Without giving this blog an adult-rating, I’m sure the reader can discern what I mean when I say that “a good feeling” is a good feeling is a good feeling, right? Well, not quite. We might like something sexual, but not when performed by say, a family member or, depending on your preference, the same sex – even though the physical action would be the same. To illustrate: if a genderless and sexless alien visited earth it might not be able to comprehend that if you enjoy some particular physical contact, why it matters who is causing it! To the alien it might be just as incomprehensible as a human not enjoying a curry just because it’s on a different coloured plate!

Of course, to us humans it does matter, which is the only point I wanted to make: our values are a factor in sex. Even if the values are shallow, poorly chosen, contradictory or ignored, they are present. We can question our motivating factors and values, often rightly so, but very rarely (if ever) will our sexual response be inharmonious with our values.

But this all seems rather tautological doesn’t it? Isn’t this just another way of saying: we don’t want what we don’t want; we don’t desire what we don’t desire; we don’t get turned on by that which doesn’t turn us on? We want what we want and we get turned on by that which turns us on? Hardly a ground-breaking philosophical discussion so far.

But actually, that is my whole point: if our emotional response is programmed by our rational values, if our heart is led by our head and not the other way around, that is indeed the case! It is logical and obvious, and even redundant to say, that we like what is good for us and don’t like what is bad for us (or in a broader ethical sense, that which furthers the life we want to life as we want to live it, or that which does the opposite).

Love

So then why the popular notion that romantic love causes a split between the head and the heart – a conflict between what we want and what is good for us, between the sensible and the crazy? Reflecting on this article so far, assuming we accept the conclusions reached, this notion doesn’t seem to make much sense anymore: this is where the three elements covered so far all come together in harmony: pleasure (psychological and emotional), friendship and sex. If all three are present with romantic love (incidentally when I say sex I don’t necessarily mean the physical act, just as long as there is sexual attraction, otherwise the relationship is indistinguishable from friendship), and we’ve seen that all three as emotional responses are logical results of our rational values, why should it be any different when they’re all together with someone you’re in love with? In other words, is there a necessary conflict between the head and heart where being in love is concerned? Clearly, no.

Why then does it seem this way a lot of time? The answer, or at least my answer, goes back to what I said above and is based on the philosophy of Ayn Rand: if there is a conflict it’s because one is putting the heart above the head; trying to serve emotions or chase consequences instead of acting rationally to achieve values. To be sure, achieving values (like love) gives emotional pleasure, our body’s “success” response. But it doesn’t mean that one can “shortcut” their way to success without going through the rational steps. Actually, this is precisely what “whim worshipping” and emotion-chasing is: trying to cheat your way to the finish line without running the race; pretending that if one can only feel good it doesn’t matter how or why. As we saw above, of course these conflicts exist, but are they necessary – does it have to be this way? Definitely not.

There are physical factors at work with love. It’s well documented that being in love produces hormones and endorphins that cause a “high”. These feelings can be profound and can cloud judgement, especially in the young who might be overcome for the first time and have a ‘brain overload’. Only recently I heard the story of a friend of a friend who killed herself because her boyfriend finished her. I don’t think we can totally blame love for this but it does show how crazy it can make people act. Like an addict chasing a high, someone in love might act rather odd or lose inhibitions or their sense of judgement. As the Merovingian from the Matrix says: “it is curious how similar the pattern of love is to the pattern of insanity.” Whether this is true or not is open to opinion and it depends on the context: as I’ve said if one listens to the ‘senseless’ heart and ignores the rational, that is almost by definition insane. But not every apparently “crazy” act might really be crazy: someone in love might be acting very logically and rationally to pursue that value: their actions are consistent with their rational objectives; to them it does make sense. For example, throwing oneself in front of a train would be considered mad, but we might not think so if that action saved a lover’s life. And to those who suggest that giving up one’s life for a lover is an act of emotion, not reason, well that person has very sadly missed the point. Pursuing love is totally a rational course of action: it’s the attempt to gain or keep a value – and who in their right mind would suggest it’s rational to NOT pursue values?! (By extension: who would throw themselves in front of a vehicle to save a stranger but NOT to save their lover?) (Incidentally, in that scene from the Matrix Trinity is prepared to die killing all her enemies because of her love for Neo. That sounds perfectly rational to me.)

So if our emotions and psychological measures of “success” or “failure” are the result of the values we hold and if our values are harmonious with our life then our emotions will respond accordingly. As I said above, we already do this most of the time anyway. This proves that a conflict between our head and our hearts doesn’t have to be; it is not fate, bad luck or some unavoidable incomprehensible existential labyrinth which manifests itself with that “lost” feeling I’m sure all of us experience at one point in life.

So is love rational? Yes. If one defines what love is, why it is, and how we respond to it – it is almost rational by definition. In fact, it is frankly ludicrous to suggest otherwise. Show me someone to whom, in Ayn Rand’s wordsit makes no difference whether one deals with a genius or a fool, whether one meets a hero or a thug, whether one marries an ideal woman or a slut.” The person you want to fall in love with should be your ideal of what a human being should be. Who on earth would seek out the most despicable dishonest cruel careless lazy cowardly thug and fall in love with them? And what could we say about the values of the person who wanted to find such a person? Would we call them life-affirming?

The emotions of love are so powerful because they are the highest possible response to the deepest and most fundamental values in life. Just as one feels more heartache when one loses a spouse or parent to death than say, a dog – so the emotional “success” rating in our souls (a term to nicely encapsulate the human essence as a being of body and mind, not one or the other), is at its highest or lowest when the core of our being is at stake – and since with love it is that very thing we expose and invest in another person, the intense emotions in play are perfectly natural and understandable. In fact, it would be irrational if they weren’t! It would be crazy to not expect them to be as strong and compelling given the values involved. It would be like shrugging off the death of a parent but having your heart smashed over discovering a dead goldfish. Surely that would be a disparity between value and response!

To love that much means to invest that much and feel as much. So again, is this a conflict between reason and emotion, between the head and the heart? It can’t be. I’ll let Ayn Rand have the last word:

“Love is a response to values. It is with a person’s sense of life that one falls in love—with that essential sum, that fundamental stand or way of facing existence, which is the essence of a personality. One falls in love with the embodiment of the values that formed a person’s character, which are reflected in his widest goals or smallest gestures, which create the style of his soul—the individual style of a unique, unrepeatable, irreplaceable consciousness. It is one’s own sense of life that acts as the selector, and responds to what it recognizes as one’s own basic values in the person of another. It is not a matter of professed convictions (though these are not irrelevant); it is a matter of much more profound, conscious and subconscious harmony.”

Racism in football. Neil Warnock being an idiot, again. Sepp Blatter.

A long time ago, I ranted about the mediocre big-mouthed out-spoken irrational buffoon that is the football “manager” Neil Warnock. Football is a marginal topic for me these days and I hardly think it’s worth the effort to write about it, especially when there are far more important things to discuss in the world right now. But this was so horrendous, almost laughably so, that I had to comment.

As most people are aware, the FIFA President Sepp Blatter, head of another overly-influential football governing body; corrupt  and parasitic and power-hungry – himself another buffoon but of the bumbling and ignorant type, has outraged everyone with his recent comments on the treatment of black people in football. He originally said “There is no racism, but maybe there is a word or gesture which is not the correct one…The one affected by this should say this is a game and shake hands.

Yeah, ok Sepp. We should shake hands with our own destroyers. We should look evil in the face, then offer it our hand. We should acknowledge that racism is the most sick and disgusting expression of irrationality in human history – then put it behind us? So much for “zero tolerance.”

Obviously, many in and out of football have come out and had their say. Most people are genuinely moved to speak out against these ludicrous and stupid comments, (and others see it a great chance to jump on the “racism is bad! Look at how good I am!” bandwagon to score brownie points with voters.)

One of these is the aforementioned Neil Warnock, who, if there was an award for ironic foot-in-mouth comment of the year, would get the trophy hands down for 2011: “I think the only way we could get him out of the situation that he is in if every black player in the country, in every country, refused to play in the next international game.”

Right…so the only people who should be moved to action by racism should be…black people? Is that because they are the only ones affected by bigotry? Or do they feel more strongly about it, say, because of the colour of their skin? Why should a white person be any less inclined to boycott matches than a black person? Are we saying to blacks: “hey, did you hear what he called you? That’s terrible that! You should refuse to play.” Racism is, should be, offensive to every self-respecting rational human being, because any racist slur on any person is a slur against all people. In the words of Ayn Rand: “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage—the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.”

So if you say that all white British people are naturally superior, and I’m British (which I am, and white), this is in fact a racial slur against me, because it asserts that my qualities, my virtues, what is best about me, is not the result of my effort, my work, my honesty, myself – but simply the luck of a genetic pool into which I was born, things I had no control over, the chance of my skin, my accent, my language. No thank you, you can take your racial compliments and throw them on the pyre with your racial epithets.

If I was a professional footballer, and a boycott was planned to force Blatter out of power, I’d be on the strike line as fast as anyone. And if I was playing against a footballer who was proven to be a racist, I wouldn’t shake their hand – no matter if they were white, black, yellow, brown, red or blue – and I’d like to think most footballers would do the same, not just the black ones.

The New Atheists have just changed God’s name

Tim Sandefur over at his blog has posted a total demolition of a Sam Harris blog post entitled “How rich is too rich?” It’s called “Sam Harris, anti-reason“, and here’s the link.

Sandefur brilliantly illustrates how Harris, like Hitchens, Dawkins, and other Neo-Atheists, who are nearly always Left-wing Liberals, have simply taken all the unspoken and mystical assumptions of religion, but replaced service to “God” with service to “others”; the “others” being, well, anyone but ourselves. Service to society, the public good, those “in need”, those without what we have. They have taken the self-sacrificial preachings of Christ and simply blotted out the nasty “god” parts. They have regurgitated the mysticism and ephemeral bilge of religion, all in the name of rationality, atheism, science, and all that good “free-thinking” stuff.

Even more worrying is the total economic ignorance Harris shows, so we shouldn’t wonder that his followers across the blogosphere, all the internet atheists, demonstrate this level of ineptitude and misunderstanding of economics. And not just economics, politics. And not just politics, but ethics.

As Sandefur himself points out, Harris and the Neo Atheists are superbly adept at pointing out all the logical fallacies and loopholes in the arguments of the religious, yet Harris can’t even define his own simple terms. He contradicts himself. His premises are unspoken, unjustified, or simply wrong.

It’s very rarely I criticise religion on my blog anymore. In fact, I haven’t written anything anti-religious in years. Why? Because I really don’t see the religious (with the exception of Islam and the fundamentalist Right-Wing American Christians) as the primary threat to my well-being. It’s the socialists, the collectivists, the Left, which the Neo-Atheist “rational” crowd flock to, which is a far greater problem. In fact, it’s probably more accurate to say I don’t see the religious as more or less of a threat than the New Age Atheists, it’s that I lump them all together; I see them as just different types of the same problem.

Whatever your political persuasion, you should really read the article.

Are you selfish or selfless?

The more I think about the nature of selfishness, the more transparent it becomes that all moral and noble acts are selfish. It’s so obvious, (but then everything is in hindsight) I can’t believe I didn’t come to this conclusion myself long before reading Ayn Rand. But the reason I didn’t, and many people haven’t, is due to the corruption of the language and concepts involved.

Obviously selfishness is assumed to be evil and bad in almost all cultures today, and altruism and selflessness deemed to be good. It’s interesting that this is the moral code of religion which atheists have blindly adopted too, but that’s another discussion. Selfishness is taken to mean acting without any regard for others, sacrificing them to oneself, whilst selflessness is taken to be acting for the good of others without regard for oneself. However, Ayn Rand identified a huge flaw with this thinking, namely a false dichotomy; we are left with two polar options that exclude another type of interaction between humans: behaviour that requires no sacrifice of anyone to anyone else!

“How can this be?”, some might ask. “Surely, ultimately, we are acting either for ourselves or others?” This is actually true. All choices and actions we take, however large or small, are in pursuit of values. The question is, are those values our own or others’? Values are things which living beings strive to gain or keep to further their lives. Notice that: their lives. We pursue food, to further our lives. We pursue careers, music, art, entertainment, love – because they further and enhance our lives. All our values are directed at one thing: our lives. If this weren’t true, we would actually strive to acquire values that were of no benefit to our lives, or even detrimental to them. But if this were so, they wouldn’t be “values” since they wouldn’t be valuable. A value is only a value if it’s a positive enhancement. And of course the thing we must all strive to enhance, either consciously or otherwise, is our own lives.

“But I strive to enhance the lives of others!”, some might object. That’s true and I’ll get onto that. But first reconsider the above paragraph: it is only your continued life that allows you to take any action, pursue any value. If you’re dead or incapacitated, you can’t act for the enhancement of anyone. It is therefore life which makes value possible. Your own life gives rise to your values. Before we pursue anything, we must first pursue our own lives.

“Well, that’s obvious enough. What’s your point?” The pursuit of our own values (and therefore life) is a selfish act. We must evaluate things in our life, judge them as worthy, evaluate them as positive or negative, and pursue or avoid them. Each of us has to do this. No one can think for us, and we cannot think for another. We must act in our self-interest, because the alternative is misery and (ultimately) death. This may sound dramatic or radical, but it’s undeniably so: eventually you are either pursuing life, or its opposite.

“But if each of us pursues our own lives, what becomes of relationships?” Actually, it is only self-interested behaviour that allows for the beauty of human relationships; family, friendship and lovers. Consider: every person you hold dear is a value in your life. As such, they enhance and further it. It is positively selfish to have friends and lovers. If it weren’t, the people in our lives would actually be those we didn’t care for at all! But the best part is that just as the people in our lives are our selfish concern, so we are theirs in their life! What sort of friendship would it be if our “friends” were not values to us, but we maintained contact out of duty or guilt or fear? Would you want someone as a friend under these terms? Would someone want a lover based on force or blackmail? What sort of meaningful relationship could exist if the person we wanted didn’t really want us? And who would want another person who wanted us but whom we felt nothing for?

Obviously, self-interest is at the heart of not only every rational action of individuals, but it is the foundation of all honest human relationships. In voluntary relationships, both parties give, both receive, but no one loses out! This is the essence of the idea of not giving more than you should, nor withholding more than you should. A relationship where one gives and gives but doesn’t receive requires the sacrifice of yourself to another. A relationship where one takes and takes and never gives requires the sacrifice of another to yourself. No one wants a relationship like that. But this is the very definition of selflessness!: sacrifice, altruism, self-denial. Yet no proper human relationship could or does work this way.

The notion of selflessness has corrupted and bastardised the true virtue of selfishness, to the point where good noble actions towards other people have been couched in altruistic terms – as if it were not possible to be selfish and also be good towards other people. But as we’ve seen, not only is it possible, it is only selfishness that allows true benevolence to others.

“But what about strangers, whom aren’t a value in our lives? Surely that means they mean nothing to us and we shouldn’t regard them?” It is true that strangers are of significantly less value to us than people we know. But there are very practical and moral reasons to be kind to others, based on self-interest of course. Consider the simple act of holding a door open for another. This may appear to be putting yourself, rendering a service expecting nothing in return. But not so! If I hold a door open, I lose nothing except seconds of time. In exchange I get a thank you or smile from another thinking person, a person like me, one of my own kind – which makes me feel good. I have helped someone at no cost to myself, another bonus. I have directly contributed to a feeling of good-will between individuals, and since society is nothing more than a collection of individuals, I have contributed positively to the society I live in. This might encourage other people to act the same, and obviously living in a society of good-willed people is a selfish concern of mine – it is much preferable than living in a society of cutthroat thoughtless thugs. I also go up in that person’s estimation; they think higher of me and I want people to think highly of me, because it might open up opportunities for me down the line.

In fact to deny this is patently stupid: who would assert that consistently acting negatively to others is actually in one’s self-interest? Consider the person who consistently acts with disregard for other people. That person consistently loses the estimation and praise of others (a selfish and often necessary requirement), and their personal and professional relationships. What would we think of the self-esteem of such a person? If they do not bother (or care) to act in their own self-interest, they cannot have a very high opinion of themselves to consider themselves worthy of their own benefit. If they cannot care to pursue their lives, they certainly cannot care about others’. And no one would want that person as a friend. And why? Because friendship only works between selfish individuals. The selfless person is thoughtless and self-destructive, since they care less about their own life. Now think how ridiculous it is to assert, for example, that a thrill-seeking drug abuser is acting selfishly: to act for your own destruction without regard for one’s life or the thoughts of others is actually the most selfless thing one could do! Only a virtuous selfish individual abstains from short-term pleasures due to rational long-term goals. Such is the ultimate act of a healthy ego.

To briefly return to the issue of our values versus those of others – there is no competition here. If someone is a value in your life, their values become your values – and the pursuit of those is still selfish. To deny this would be to claim, for instance, that whilst you care about your child you don’t care if they do well in school or not. Or, that whilst you love your partner, it is irrelevant to you whether they exercise regularly or drink themselves into an early grave.

Being selfish in relationships forces us (in a casual sense) to cultivate positive qualities which make us more valuable to those we care about. Notice how we gain by becoming a better person and the other person gains to? And neither loses out. In fact, because we are a value in the lives of others, and the values of others are values to us, we become our own values! Likewise, the other person is not only a value to us but also to themselves through us. What perfect harmony! How does this manifest itself? Well there are countless ways but some obvious ones could be wanting to keep ourselves healthy (and more attractive), or better educated (and a better communicator), or braver, bolder, more confident. In short, whatever benefits us benefits the other, and whatever benefits them enhances us. But none of this would be possible on a foundation of sacrifice and self-denial.

There are extreme examples of selfishness, such as in emergencies, that are beyond the scope of this article. But to address them very briefly: it’s possible that another person is such an immense value in our lives that life without them would be unbearable. It such situations, we would be prepared to undergo anything to help them, perhaps even at the cost of our own lives. But this too, is selfish. The person who denies this essentially says that dying to save a lover is no different than dying to save an enemy. What’s the difference? The difference is selfishness. We don’t care about the enemy. We care about our lover. Our value, in our life.

So are you selfish or selfless? I’m selfish. In fact I strive to be a little more selfish every day. And I’m proud of it.