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Leapfrog the West

by Michael S. Rozeff

Tunisians, Egyptians, Bahrainians, Omanians, Libyans, Saudi Arabians, Yemenis, Jordanians, Palestinians, and all the other many peoples of the world who are striving for better forms of government that will lead to real improvements in your lives, I wish you well. You are engaged in a difficult enterprise. Many of you are risking much to achieve it. May God be with you.

If I were to sit down with one of you in your country as your guest, after the exchanges and pleasantries of friendship, the conversation might turn to the ways of life that you wish to bring into being. That is my subject.

Your desire to imagine and create new ways of life, to cause to be where nothing was before, is the central human capacity, one that is given by God and one that is shared by all human beings. This creative power is freedom.

To love God I take to be man’s mission and God’s desire. We are in this together. To love God is to love his creation, which includes other people. To love one’s neighbor implies, at a minimum, tolerance of his freedom and the ways of life that he creates. Be slow in judging him. Be slower still in using force to hinder and dominate him. If, in your eyes, his ways are strange or evil, tolerate them. I am not speaking of the crimes such as murder, theft, arson, and rape of which we all know, but of the myriad of other behaviors on which human beings are prone to disagree.

If you desire a good society, you should not pursue it as an abstract goal, nor should you pursue it as a general goal obtained by the State’s uniform laws or by customs dictated to all or enforced on all by social means as supposed ways to make people good. Focus instead on the person, on each and every person. Each person has the highest value, over society and over state. These are not persons. They are merely organizations and tools to achieve other purposes and they are always seriously flawed. The good society is good when its people are able to be persons, which means they are in possession of the unhampered freedom to create.

My advice to you who are now involved in various revolutions and protests is something like the following, in very brief outline.

Leapfrog the West. Learn from the mistakes of the West. Don’t imitate the West blindly in the heat of the moment of attaining new governments. Opportunities like this do not arise often. Make the most of them.

Do not immediately or quickly fasten upon some more or less standard political agenda. They are all deeply flawed. They reflect the sins and mistakes of the West, which the West has not overcome. Seek instead to understand the fundamentals of human life and the human being as a basic guide to social, ethical, and political life.

If your educated class is promoting grandiose social schemes and promising grand results, don’t believe them and don’t approve their agenda. Such promises have been made in the West for several generations. These social engineering and wealth redistribution schemes all are coming to a bad end here. Don’t be enticed into repeating the Western follies.

My view is that the essence of the human being while on this earth is the free human personality. Our being is tied up with freedom at its very root. Every sacrifice of freedom that arises from the pressures, domination, and coercions of family, friends, business, church, society, and state, or from our own personal sacrifice and enslavement by ourselves, destroys a portion of that being or suppresses it, thereby causing a degree of non-being. As I understand the human condition, God created us as free persons. We are free to choose good or evil. Non-being is evil. Being, which presumes freedom and actualizes freedom, is good. The free human personality, as God’s creation, is good. It is a value that is above family, friends, society, organizations, and states. Its worth is above any of these.

Therefore, nurture freedom of the person. Nurture freedom of conscience. Nurture freedom of creativity. Nurture freedom of thought, expression, speech, and action. Nurture all of these at the level of each single person. Do not nurture domination by society, religion, state, family, business, or any other institutions. That which is good is the free spirit in each person.

Make no attempt whatsoever to create the “good life” or happiness or welfare of citizens (or subjects or individuals or voters) by means of the state or any institution or association that dominates and suppresses the person. That approach is godless and wrong. It invariably leads to a confusion of means and ends. The state uses violence as a means. If you allow the state to use violent means in the hope of achieving the ends of happiness or general welfare, you will destroy the freedom of the person. But freedom of the person is the good. It is what God brought into being.

Do away with notions of sovereignty by any person or group or institution. The U.S. Constitution is deeply flawed from the outset in its assumption that We the People are sovereign. Sovereignty is a godless concept. It is entirely at odds with the idea of a free person. God is not sovereign over human beings either. He does not determine what we do with our freedom. Even being sovereign over oneself distorts the idea of a free and creative spirit. In the same vein, the libertarian notion of “owning oneself,” although consistent with and correctly emphasizing the idea of freedom, is essentially a cold and bloodless view of a human being. The human being has a more fiery, passionate, hotter, and loving core in its free and creative spirit. The attempt to justify freedom by beginning with a natural right or self-ownership derives from an agnostic or atheistic view of human life. It doesn’t ground freedom in God and his creation. It treats the human being as matter or as a socially-derived institution of property. It doesn’t make us all brothers and children of God. It isolates the personality and thrusts the human being toward egoistic individualism. This is not an entirely false depiction of fallen human nature, of course. And yet the human spirit naturally reaches out to other similar spirits and to God. It reaches backward to creation and forward to the last days and the Kingdom of God. Purely rationalistic concepts of the human being that were born in the Enlightenment and have carried through in different forms to modern day democratic, social-democratic, socialist, and communist governments are insufficient to understand human nature and insufficient to move firmly away from the many varieties of slavery, overt and covert, and toward freedom. These old Western ideas have resulted in Western governments that suffocate and suppress persons. They culminate in efforts to spread the same kind of governments worldwide and to have one worldwide government.

The U.S. Constitution gets off on the wrong foot by making the general welfare an end. This leads only to the sacrifice of the person. Utilitarianism, which is the philosophy that sets happiness as the ultimate human value, is deeply flawed. It is basically another godless concept and one that leads to the adoption of violent means to create the end of happiness, thereby sacrificing the free person, which is the actual value.

Do not attempt to eliminate the everyday human failings and limitations by using force or the powers of society and state. Human beings must be free to choose between good and evil things. They must be free to make mistakes. Human beings cannot be moral beings without making choices for and by themselves. They cannot share in God’s grace without such freedom. Do not be legislating personal morals. Do not be imposing societal sanctions on beliefs, speech, clothing, art, sexual behavior, and discovery. Do not be attempting with such broad powers to create earthly utopias. This is not only impossible, but attempts to accomplish this go directly against the free and creative human personality, which is God’s creation.

Don’t bother catching up to the flawed Western ideas of politics. Surpass these ideas. They are not rooted in God, despite the rhetoric to that effect that attempts to fuse God, country, nation, and State. As such, the Western ideas lead to godless behavior. This was evident early on in America and is becoming increasingly marked over time.

Do not create theocratic states, however. They too are inimical to human freedom of thought, conscience and action. Power over the human person cannot be turned over to priests, clerics, and ayatollahs any more than to secular politicians. The combination of a powerful church and a powerful state is a recipe for suppression of the person.

Separation of church and state is a good idea. In practice, however, the State makes itself the new God. It tries to surround its immoral activities with an aura of high morality. In the U.S., there are many religious denominations. Somehow, though, the churches either make very little noise about the welfare-warfare State or else support it outright. The State has managed to get organized religion on its side, by and large.

Revolutions usually go about constructing a new State that is in no essential way much different from the old one. Avoid this at all costs. Otherwise, the people are doomed to another 50 or 60 years until the next revolution breaks out.

You simply must understand the nature of the State if you are to leapfrog the Western political structures. If you understand it thoroughly, then you will wish to minimize the State.

The State is the sword, that is, power. Its essence is power: holding power, increasing power, and administering power. This has been evident for several thousand years if one examines the rise and fall of empires throughout the entire world as well as their conquests, wars, and legalities. The state has no central interest in justice, righteousness, rights, or the freedom of people, its own or others. It would just as soon enslave everyone if people did not resist. It would make war continually against others or against its own citizens if it could. It makes war to prevent peaceful secessions. It claims territory through war and dictate, through ruse and stratagem, through conquest, blood and violence. It claims all within its boundaries.

The totalitarian states of the twentieth century provide clear examples of the demonic nature of the State. The worst of them under Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot butchered untold millions of persons. They sought meticulous control over economy, press, thought, money, and travel. The Western social democracies are not far behind in these respects, and they are already past masters at making war. Reject them as a model of government. Jesus rejected “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.” Follow his example.

If it were not for man’s craving for a universal kingdom, his craving for power, his fears and desire for security, and his susceptibility to the hypnotic temptations that the State generates, this evil institution would not exist. It exists now only to be overcome and bypassed by humanity. Do your part in this endeavor.

The State promises order. Its order is a superficial pastiche of arbitrary laws and measures that typically discriminate unjustly while also imposing uniformity on those affected. The State promises to remedy chaos, but it creates chaos and non-being by suppressing the creative spirit of persons.

The idea of the State as a thing to win is an incentive to warfare and chaos. When a state loses control over the people, warfare often erupts among groups that cannot tolerate one another as all strive to gain control over a new state and impose their agenda on everyone.

One of the worst features of the State is that whatever is immoral for a person is made out to be moral for the State. The State uses its people to kill and maim, to torture and spy, to inform and rat on others, and to assault and destroy, and all of this is approved of and applauded as if nothing were wrong. Brutality becomes something that wins medals and is glorified in motion pictures. The most corrupt and lying politicians gain the most respect.

Putting in place a Western-style democracy is not going to create prosperity. It only introduces a source of friction at the heart of a society. It will be an institution that endangers property rights, seeks greater power, won’t allow secession, won’t tolerate any serious challenge, manipulates the public, caters to special interests, wastes resources, taxes onerously, corrupts the money, and takes every opportunity to control the people.

Taking foreign aid from the West is one of the worst things you can possibly do. You will simply doom yourself to being a satellite of the West and part of its machinations. You may well end up at the mercy of its bankers.

Rather than thinking about a new government, think instead about how to build a vibrant society in which persons can exercise their creative spirits freely, for that is the basis of a good society. Think about generating tolerance. Think about generating trust. Think about well-defined property rights. Think about free markets. Think about incorruptible money. Think about a variety of institutions of justice and defense. Think about justice itself.

The West is strangling in its own debt, its own corruption, its web of lies and deceits, its fearful peoples, and its overly large governments. Why look to the West? Why go backwards when you have a chance to go forwards? In short, leapfrog the West.

March 11, 2011

Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York. He is the author of the free e-book Essays on American Empire: Liberty vs. Domination and the free e-book The U.S. Constitution and Money: Corruption and Decline.

Copyright © 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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Let My people go

by Michael S. Rozeff

“And afterward Moses and Aaron went in, and told Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD God of Israel, Let my people go, that they may hold a feast unto me in the wilderness.” (Exodus 5:1)

Today I was sent an e-mail that asked me to click through and examine H.R. 3200, the health care legislation pending in Congress.

But if I read every word of it and write as many words about it as are contained in that bill, what good will that do? None at all, because I will be playing by the Pharaoh’s voting and political rules. Why should I play in a card game with marked cards and a dealer whose hands are quicker than the eye?

I have a different idea, and it will take less than one page to outline.

It is to follow the example of Moses. Exodus from health care laws.

(1) Form a “people,” and this people shall have one objective, which is to be let go by the Pharaoh from any and all legislation relating to health care.

This people shall form by electronically signing a statement to that effect on a web site for that purpose and only that purpose.

This people shall remain where they live. This is their promised land already. Only it has been infected by bad laws and needs cleansing. They need to cleanse their lives of bad health care laws.

(2) Find a Moses who will personally convey the message of this people to the reigning Pharaoh in Washington and be a public spokesperson for letting this people go.

(3) Moses and this people shall NOT attempt to change the course of history by voting on H.R. 3200 or any other such unlawful laws. They shall NOT confirm the procedure by doing that. They shall NOT argue against such laws so as to affect votes in Congress.

There is no need whatsoever to be involved in any legislative process. It is a very great error to go in that direction solely with no other avenue of action.

(4) Instead, appeal publically and directly to the Pharaoh, in the name of God. Place the Pharaoh directly under God’s sanctions for any disobedience of his to the consent of this people who are asking for nothing more than their freedom.

(5) Do not waver in any way from this appeal. It is all or nothing. If God hardens the Pharaoh’s heart against this people for the time being, so be it.

God may bring sanctions against Pharaoh for his unwillingness to let this people go, and if he does, a Moses may have to ask again and again and again and again as did Moses in Exodus.

August 11, 2009

Copyright © 2009 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

Good and bad government

by Michael S. Rozeff (Originally posted here: http://lewrockwell.com/rozeff/rozeff299.html.)

Aggression is the act of attacking, invading, or injuring a peaceful or innocent person. Peaceful or innocent behavior is non-aggressive behavior. (Peaceful behavior does not exclude defensive behavior, which may include actions to repel aggression.)

Human government is the means of coordinating interpersonal human action.

There is good government and there is bad government. To begin with they are defined next according to the libertarian view, which is then expounded. Later, I look at good and bad government in greater generality.

The defining feature of bad government is coordination by aggression, that is, either compulsion (power, violence) or imposition (deception, fraud, trickery, cheating) against the wills of peaceful people who are not using either compulsion or imposition.

Good government is government that is not bad government.

A (political) State is an organization that employs bad government.

(General) political freedom is the (general) social condition of human action in which there is not bad government.

A particular political freedom is a variety of human action undertaken in a condition in which bad government does not coordinate that human action. For example, freedom of assembly occurs when bad government does not affect the wills of people in the act of assembling, or when neither compulsion nor imposition affect the wills of people in the act of assembling.

Since the set of human action is indefinitely large, the set of all particular political freedoms is indefinitely large. Any list of political freedoms is bound to be incomplete.

Since a State employs bad government, a State does not protect political freedom. A State destroys political freedom.

Any supposed freedom, such as freedom from starvation, that is obtained by use of the State, and thus by use of bad government, cannot be and is not a freedom, since the very use of bad government affects the wills of some peaceful persons. So-called positive freedoms, compliments of the State, are merely instances of bad government in action.

A political right is the same as a political freedom, except that it is couched in different terms. Everything that is called a right is not a right, anymore than everything that is called a freedom is a freedom, as the case of positive “freedoms” demonstrates. For example, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.” Since such an entitlement requires bad government, there is no such right and no such freedom. (This does not mean that good government cannot bring about protection of the family.)

Since rights are the same as freedoms, no complete list of rights can be made.

All of the preceding that begins with the definition of good and bad government is libertarian political philosophy, and it all follows from the definition of bad government.

While this clarifies the libertarian case, it does not solve the problem of philosophical conflicts.

Suppose that political opponents, libertarian and non-libertarian, agree on what compulsion and imposition in government mean. Then they may still disagree about what is good and bad. The libertarian argues that any compulsion and imposition is bad under most or even all circumstances, while the non-libertarian argues that some compulsion and imposition is good under some or even many circumstances.

What the libertarian thinks is bad government, the non-libertarian may think of as good government.

This argument cannot be settled because different people have different ideas of what is good and bad. In order to choose among the alternative forms of government, a person has to decide what is good and bad.

Suppose the non-libertarian succeeds in imposing his form of government on the libertarian. Then the libertarian is unhappy because he experiences what for him is compulsion and/or imposition. Now suppose the opposite. Suppose that the libertarian succeeds in imposing his form of government on the non-libertarian. Then the non-libertarian is unhappy because he thinks that the good is going unachieved and/or that things are bad without the presence of compulsion (or what the libertarian thinks of as bad government).

A solution to this conflict is available. If each man chooses his own government and allows the other man the equal freedom to choose his own government, then each can live in peace with the government of his choice. As there is freedom of worship, which is non-compulsion in the choice of religion, there can be freedom of government, which is non-compulsion in the choice of government. Each may think that the government of the other is bad, but each also thinks that his own government is good. What is required for a solution between them is abiding the other man’s government.

I believe this is a good solution. For one thing, it establishes an open competition. Each person can observe the outcomes of his own choice and learn about the outcomes of alternative choices made by others. He can switch governments, in the same way that he switches cars, churches, and pizzas. The governments that supply their clients then have to change their ways of operating toward satisfying them or else losing membership. The incentive works in the direction of greater client satisfaction.

Two things, at least, stand in the way of this outcome. One is intolerance and the other is the attempt to dominate others and gain from it. Utopia is not going to break out suddenly.

The perfect should not, however, be the enemy of the good. It is the idea of a variety of consensual governments operating on what is now the territory of a single government that matters here. It is the concept that government, which is the coordination of interpersonal human action, need not necessarily be a single government over all persons in a given region. A very great amount of interpersonal action can be coordinated in different ways for different people who are living near one another. For example, a good many people wish to sleep when it is dark, and they do not want to be disturbed by loud music and other people mowing their lawns at 3 a.m. Government coordinates this by various laws, but people also do this themselves by choices of location; and property developers who owned and leased property could do this by creating rules that satisfied lessors.

The U.S. government says that every citizen must participate in a variety of social programs. These are a major part of government today. This is like saying that there is one church in America and everybody is a member, whether they like it or not, and every person must contribute a certain amount of their income which will then be distributed according to certain rules decided by an official church body. Let those who want such rules and programs have them, and those who do not want them not have them. Open these programs to membership only upon subscription and not by compulsion. Let neither side force its views on the other. Let each side mind its own business and keep its hands off the business of others.

Some people want lots of government, others want little or none. Both cannot have their way if there is a single government. Both can have their way by choice of government. To get this, both have to give up the goal of making others conform to their own choice.

One of the main principles that Americans hold dear and have in common is freedom. Freedom involves acting without being compelled to act against one’s will. There cannot be freedom without tolerance of what other people do with their freedom. There is freedom of movement to the extent that we tolerate where other people travel; we do not interfere with their movements. There is freedom of work to the extent that we ignore what others do when they choose their work; we do not interfere with their work. There is freedom of worship because we ignore the religions of others and how they worship.

In the case of work, the U.S. has developed rules that govern every aspect of hiring and firing, hours worked, overtime, safety, liability, unionization, and so on. Freedom has been drastically reduced. In order to opt out, many businesses have moved to overseas jurisdictions. A single government backed up by a single judiciary coordinates the personal interactions of millions of employers and employees, whether they like it or not. Why can’t those who want to opt out of these arrangements be able to opt out? The only thing keeping many of them within this system is government force that is designed to favor certain interests at the expense of others. In this arena of human interaction as in many others, it is easy to conceive of multiple governments on the same territory. If one business and its employees want a government that meticulously sets the work rules, let them have it. And let those who do not want such a government coordinate their interactions in other ways. One can easily have one business operating with one set of rules in the same county or region or state as another business operating with a different set of rules. That is what goes on in the world today among countries.

The American Dream is a dream of general freedom. It has become a nightmare of compulsion and imposition in the eyes of those Americans who have different ideas of good and bad government from the government that they are forced to live under and that routinely violates their freedom.

Let Americans through their government stop being busybodies, busily interfering with each other’s lives constantly and in minute detail. This is the opposite of freedom, done in the false name of freedom.

There is only one way out: choice of government. This does not mean a vote for one of two parties that runs a single monopoly government. It means consent over the very form and content of one’s government. This consent will lead to multiple non-territorial governments.

May 25, 2009

Michael S. Rozeff is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.

Copyright © 2009 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.

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