Friday, August 5, 2011
Chapter 1: Mother Teresa (Introduction)
Mother Teresa said in 1981, “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
This quote was printed in The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, a 1995 book by English author, public intellectual, and prominent atheist Christopher Hitchens. In The Missionary Position, Hitchens portrays Mother Teresa’s organization – the Missionaries of Charity – as a cult which has promoted the suffering of the poor in order to further its own financial ends.
Being that most of the money donated to Mother Teresa actually ended up in the hands of the Vatican, and that Mother Teresa accepted money from Eastern European dictators, the facts at hand – in addition to the quote which I just read – (aside from causing us to question Mother Teresa’s motives) lay bare two important questions: “How – if at all – does the suffering of the poor help the world?” and “Is it beneficial for mankind to teach the world’s poor to bear, endure, and tolerate their own suffering?”
These are the questions which I intend to answer in this piece.
Chapter 2: World Hunger
Let us begin by engaging in a thought experiment; one which is universally understandable, identifiable, and relatable. It is a problem which is both pressing and immediate, and a problem which pertains directly to the topic at hand, the suffering of the poor. That problem is world hunger.
Nearly a billion people on Earth are close to starvation – more precisely, about nine hundred twenty-five million – while the other six billion people on the planet eat more or less adequately. So how do we solve this problem? I’ll provide three choices.
The first choice is to allow those nine hundred twenty-five million to starve to death, so that the other six billion of us may eat even more adequately, and so that the risk of starvation among the well-fed six billion may become even more remote.
The second choice is to somehow resolve to cut the food consumption levels of the six billion who eat adequately by 13.4 percent, and distribute the unused and left-over food so that the whole world population may eat adequately, saving nearly a billion lives.
The third and final choice is to cut the food consumption levels of the six billion who eat adequately by 6.7 percent in order to save the lives of some four hundred sixty million starving people, although still allowing another four hundred sixty million to die of starvation.
I would imagine that there are very few people who do not find it unconscionable to simply throw up our hands, give up on the poor of the world, continue to do nothing, and to allow all the starving people to die so that the rest of us may live, the prospect of starvation thereby becoming all the more unlikely and remote for the relatively rich and prosperous.
So which of the other two choices seems more compassionate; more reasonable? Do we cut the consumption of the relatively prosperous by 13.4 percent to save everyone on the planet, or do we cut their consumption by 6.7 percent and allow nearly half a billion people to starve to death?
At this point, I imagine that you’re probably thinking: “Certainly you wouldn’t purport that the solution to all of the human suffering on the planet can be found through a cold, amoral, mathematical calculation. Certainly you wouldn’t allow for the possibility that half a billion men die unnecessarily simply to minimize the sacrifice of those who are the best-off. Certainly you aren’t proposing that human lives are worth nothing but the amount of resources which human beings consume.”
Chapter 3: Nozick’s “Utility Monster”
From the standpoint of classicist utilitarian population-economics – the likes of Thomas Malthus, John Stuart Mill, Jeremy Bentham, et cetera – it is to be understood – for the purpose of making socioeconomic calculations – a simple mathematical principle: it is impossible to maximize for two variables at once.
While it is only natural and rational to desire for humanity “the greatest good for the greatest number”, this is simply not possible due to the mathematical principle which I have just explained. That is to say, something must be sacrificed; either some good, some number, or both.
Philosopher Robert Nozick criticized utilitarianism with a thought experiment called “The Utility Monster”. A Utility Monster is a person whom is not subject to the Law of Diminishing Marginal Returns, meaning that the amount of utility (or usefulness, happiness, or good) which such a person acquires through the consumption of resources either stays constant or increases as compared to previous acquisitions of utility.
Nozick posits that if there exist such people, then it is most efficient and most just to sacrifice the needs of all others to them, because such people would be able to extract more happiness from the resources given to them, meaning a net increase and a net production of good in the world.
Assume for a moment that the amount of utility acquired through consumption never increases or decreases, but that it instead stays constant. If we were to attempt to implement a system which brings about the greatest good for the greatest number in such a situation; then it would be just as moral to defend an outcome in which tens of billions of people lived on the planet at the bare minimum level of subsistence; as it would be to defend an outcome in which only one person were left alive, controlling all of the wealth and resources existing on the planet; as it would be to defend any other outcome in between.
But does the amount of utility which is acquired through the consumption of resources stay constant? Does it increase? Decrease? Could it be that the amount of utility which is acquired through the consumption of resources varies depending on the person, the time, and the structures of the social systems and economic systems of production?
Chapter 4: Rights Under Scarcity
In any situation in which there is scarcity – be it artificial (as in hoarding) or natural – either some quantity of good or utility must be sacrificed, some quantity of the population must be sacrificed, or some quantity of both must be sacrificed.
Once we accept this principle, the question no longer remains which percentage cut in consumption is more compassionate or reasonable, but which percentage cut is more realistic and likely; more realistic and likely both to be acceptable and to come about.
Assume for a moment that you have an answer to the question which I posed earlier. Assume that you are perfectly well-prepared to answer and defend whether either a 13.4 percent cut should be made in the consumption of the relatively well-off in order to end starvation; or a 6.7 percent cut should be made, causing only nearly half a billion to die instead of nearly a billion.
Putting aside – for a moment – the questions of “Which proposal is more compassionate?” and “Which proposal is more likely to actually go into effect?”, once you can explain why one of these alternatives should be chosen, then how, precisely, do you plan to implement such a proposal? How realistic is the alternative which you have chosen? How much control must be exercised on the populace in order to realize this proposal?
How many would agree that food, water, and clean air are basic human rights?... How many believe that shelter is a basic human right?... Medicine, medical treatment, health care?...
Suppose that thirty people live together, each of them claiming the right to eat three meals a day. That’s a total of ninety meals a day for the household.
Now say that the household’s income is only sufficient to support the procurement and preparation of seventy-eight meals a day. That works out to an average of 2.6 meals per person per day. How may this problem best be remedied?
Do we draw lots in order to choose which twelve members of the household only get to eat two meals on any given day? Do we get everyone in the household to reduce their consumption by an equal amount? How would we accomplish that; do we monitor everyone’s food intake?
Do we recommend that twelve people voluntarily give up a meal each day? What do we do if an insufficient number of people voluntarily give up a meal; do we put into place a back-up plan which allows us to compel people to give up meals if such a situation occurs? Could such a system still be rightfully called a voluntary system?
Put even these questions aside. Never mind how to implement systems, and the moral questions concerning free will; these are red herrings. There remains an important question which we’re avoiding; namely, “What happened to our rights?... If we agree that everyone is entitled to three meals a day, and not everyone gets to eat three meals a day, where did our so-called rights go?”
Chapter 5: Quantity, Quality, and Standards
The simple answer is that the mere fact that we agree on something does not always make it so. That is to say; believing that we have the right to something does not automatically guarantee us that thing.
The complicated answer is that belief in equal rights and equal entitlement under conditions of scarcity inevitably leads to the rationing of resources. That is to say; our rights are very often conditional because they always depend on the realities of the external environment.
This is why there may be politicians who desire to implement laws which guarantee free health care as a right rather than as a privilege, while the effect is the rationing of medical care. This is why we may experience long waiting periods for medical treatment as distributed by national public health systems. This is why societies may claim the right to be inoculated against diseases, while the effect is a population some of whom have not been vaccinated.
Medical treatment, shelter, food, clean air and water, et cetera, it’s all the same: deciding en masse that everybody has the right to some thing does not necessarily make that thing available in sufficient amounts to bring about the distribution of resources which is desired and which is necessary to sustain a population.
Making something free does not necessarily make it available.
And that’s not even taking into account the relationship between quantity and quality under scarcity.
Using the provision of health care services as an example; under scarcity, an attempt to equitably distribute the services which are available inevitably causes any number of combinations of the following problems as experienced by the individual: a decrease in the frequency of treatment, a decrease in the effectiveness and / or quality of treatment and technology, and a decrease in the quantity of treatment and technology,
And that’s not even taking into account the relationship between quantity, quality, and standards thereof under scarcity.
Under scarcity, higher standards in medical technology, safety, and treatment means fewer people who are sufficiently healthy and cared-for. Higher standards in architectural technology and safety means fewer people who are sufficiently sheltered. Higher standards in clean food, water, and air means fewer people who are eating, drinking, and breathing in a way that is safe, healthy, and sufficient.
And so, rationing may not solely occur as a decrease in the quantity of available resources, but it may also occur as a decline in the quality – and / or the standards of quantity and / or quality – of available resources.
The result of this is that – being that quantity, quality, and standards thereof are interdependent (as in the original thought experiment about world hunger) – in situations in which nobody starves, we may witness such a decline in quality taking place as the quality of life and as the degrees of satisfaction and fulfillment decline among those who see their consumption cut.
In summary, where standards of quality are imposed, quantity decreases; where standards of quantity are imposed, quality decreases.
Chapter 6: Economic Tactics
Let’s return to that second thought experiment; the one about the household. You have seventy-eight meals to feed thirty people per day. Undoubtedly, there are many ways this problem may be solved, given a household of such a low population.
But suppose for a moment that seven of these thirty people are obese. Suppose that fourteen of these thirty people have friends who own and maintain considerable stockpiles of weapons. Suppose that – rather than thirty people – your household contains nearly seven billion people. What then?
You could pass laws that penalize hoarding; i.e., the creation of artificial scarcity. You could even decide to push aside the legal and other traditional institutional methods of problem-solving, and simply steal this wealth back (if such action could even rightfully be called stealing).
But how do you ensure that these resources end up in the hands of the people who need them the most, rather than concentrated in the hands of those who expropriated them from the hoarders on behalf of others? Do you only then resolve to institute legalistic methods of monitoring distribution?
How do you ascertain whom is doing the hoarding? Who do you punish? Wealthy benefactors of familial inheritances whose earnings are derived through no actual labor of their own?
Whichever producers you think have thus far been among the least effective in bringing about a timely, efficient, and equitable production and distribution of resources? Farmers, doctors, mortgage lenders; the owners of the hospitals, the agribusinesses, the pharmaceutical plants and research facilities, and the construction companies?
Do you simply declare them to be the hoarders, due to the fact that they have thus far failed to hand over the resources and the management of the means of production to the masses and to the workers in a satisfactorily timely, efficient, and equitable fashion?
And who will manage production, the workers? How can you be certain that the workers will adequately manage production? How can you be certain that management by workers will not lead to the subjugation of an exploited class of better-qualified former managers, their important advice on responsible management beaten, tortured, and deprived out of them on a routine, systematic basis?
Chapter 7: The United States as an Example
With the United States’ debt-to-G.D.P. ratio currently hovering around one hundred percent (about fifteen trillion dollars), with a Major Fiscal Exposure of an additional sixty trillion dollars, with more than forty-three cents out of every dollar in the federal budget being borrowed, and with the deficit currently increasing at a rate of approximately twelve percent per year, the country is clearly on a path to fiscal ruin.
Being that the president could at any moment decide to declare a national fiscal emergency and impose martial law; suspend all federal, state, and municipal government spending; force all citizens to live on whatever savings they may have stored away; and confiscate all funds earned within the country’s borders; the national debt could be paid off in a single year (five years including all Major Fiscal Exposure).
Documentary filmmaker Michael Moore has recently been heard to say that “America is not broke”. Given the facts which I have just stated, he is correct. But he is only correct if one assumes that all of the wealth and resources which are possessed by Americans are really not private property, but rather public property, a certain percentage of which governmental entities deign to permit their subject individuals to keep.
Now, I’ll admit that Moore would like to see military spending cut drastically, an idea with which I strongly agree. I’ll also admit that Moore would like to see individual tax loopholes closed, and – assuming that Statist taxation as a whole is desirable at all – I agree with this notion as well.
But Michael Moore would also like to see the top marginal personal income tax rate increased to upwards of seventy percent (from its current rate of thirty-five percent), and many on the left would like to see the national corporate tax rate increased in order to help solve the budgetary crisis. I – on the other hand – would challenge these notions.
I’ll admit that the top marginal personal income tax rate is lower than it has been on average for the past century, and so, it could obviously stand to be higher. But to address the issue of the national corporate tax rate, the United States currently has the second-highest such rate in the world, second only to Japan by less than half a percentage point. Each of these two countries’ corporate tax rates is just below forty percent.
So what happens if the U.S. raises the corporate tax rate by half a percentage point, to become the country with the highest corporate tax rate in the world? Are we so naïve as so think this will accomplish anything, other than to perhaps allow our debt-to-G.D.P. ratio to eventually increase another hundred twenty-five percent, putting us on par with Japan?
Are we so naïve to think that we should not risk sacrificing some temporary, immediate corporate tax revenues, and decide to lower our corporate tax rate, if even for just long enough a time period so as to incentivize a new wave of domestic capital investment, so that we may later allow the national corporate tax rate to fluctuate naturally, contingent upon the state of our economy as it pertains to prevailing trends in international trade?
Chapter 8: To Whom Belongs Property?
To whom does all the corporate money which is earned within the borders of a given country belong? Does it belong to the people who earn, possess, and defend it? Or is their ownership invalid and illegitimate due to the fact that it was earned through a type of expropriation which was affected through the disproportionate exploitation of and predation upon the corporations’ employees and investors?
If the latter, does that money belong to the workers, and / or to the collective, and / or to the public, and / or to the government, which – often through the use of force and coercion – wield the power and authority to determine what percentage those who claim to have earned it should be permitted to keep of it?
Does the government – as representative of the people as the public and as the masses – have the authority to right wrongs which were perpetrated hundreds of years ago – and, at times, oceans away – by wealthy land-owners, aristocrats, and kings who kicked the peasants off of the communal agricultural plots which were their homes by right of birth, causing them to be driven to the city centers in order to compete for scarce employment, thereby causing the devaluation of such labor?
Should these past socioeconomic conditions – taken as a whole – be ignored as a significant and preponderant factor contributing to the current states of society and of the market?
Certainly such conditions – often so temporally and geographically remote and far-removed from modern American industrial society – can be ignored; may be ignored; but what would that solve, if anything?
Why shouldn’t modern people discover whom are the benefactors of the inheritances bequeathed by such feudal-era land-owners, aristocrats, and kings; and simply kill them; steal the resources which they wrongfully claim as their property; and distribute such resources equitably amongst the poor of the world according to their needs?
Why shouldn’t modern people determine which producers have thus far been among the least effective in bringing about a timely, efficient, and equitable production and distribution of resources; declare them hoarders; kill them; steal their resources; and distribute them amongst the poor?
Chapter 9: Stealing and Sweat-Shops
Certainly there are many among you today whom would maintain that it is not wrong to steal, as long as it is exploitive, consumerist, multinational corporate chain retailers from which you are stealing, rather than from local distributors, small-business entrepreneurs, and mom-and-pop stores, no?
Certainly your god would not punish you for declining to repent for tipping the playing field away from these exploitive chain retailers and towards the poverty-stricken, a class which undoubtedly includes the thousands of foreign nationals toiling away in sweat-shops and making mere dollars per day as well as yourself, no?
But alas, I say to you today that your god will punish you, so repent! Not only repent, but apologize and make right! What playing field are you so self-deluded as to pretend that you are tipping? Don’t you understand that whatever you take from businesses through shoplifting will by no means come out of corporate’s pockets?
C.E.O.s do not lose money when you steal; those losses come out of profits! And what happens when profits decline? Management raises prices, and so your friends and family whom do not steal pay the price! Customers and investors pay the price!
Management passes down these losses to workers, and so sweat-shop workers’ wages decline! Sweat-shops lose jobs! Poor nations’ economies lose income! Poor societies’ economies lose job markets! Under-developed cultures falter!
Are you so blind as to believe that thousands of years of development of humanistic moral philosophy overrides and invalidates that single objective moral principle proscribing coercion? What part of “thou shalt not steal” don’t you understand!? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; is there not a statement like it in the tenets of nearly every major and minor religion!?
Put yourself in the other man’s shoes. When have you ever worked in a sweat shop? When have you ever earned mere dollars a day? When have you ever had to choose between earning nothing and earning less than is necessary for you to subsist!?
But I say to you now, ignore these questions; and steal! Rob! Take! Take to your heart’s content! Take because it’s there! Take because it’s yours! Take because it was stolen from your ancestors! Take because it was systematically expropriated through exploitation from your far-off, sweat-shop-toiling class-war compatriots!
Steal because it was stolen, and because two wrongs make a right! Steal because you have empathy! Steal because you are cultured! Steal because you are learnéd! Steal… because entitlement is your birth-right, regardless of availability, regardless of natural scarcity, regardless of the efficiency which systems of distribution lack, regardless of the fact that such progress is always ongoing and imperfect, regardless of how value varies over time and from person to person!
Steal, rob, and take; do not repent; and discover all too late whether it will cause you to burn in Hell!
Chapter 10: The Consumerization of Leftism
Now, I don’t need to tell you folks that communism, socialism, and left-wing ethics have become commercialized and consumerized. Hell, we’re all guilty of this; I own more than my fair share of ‘60’s-era classic-rock T-shirts. But no symbol of leftism has become more commercialized than the image of Che Guevara. Clothing, bags, banners, flags, Guevara’s image is everywhere.
Now, how do you think Guevara would feel about his face being plastered in proximity to – and, seemingly, inevitably, in justification of – whatever causes liberals perceive to be remotely left-wing, and for the profit of whatever corporate chain retailers they deem to be the same? Well, that all depends. It depends on how Guevara felt about the exploitation of workers. As I recall, he was against it.
But what is it to exploit? What is it to take advantage? What is it to use?
Certainly one cannot be blamed or faulted for taking advantage of an opportunity, nor for using and exploiting what is available. But using a person? Exploiting a person? Taking advantage of a person? Perish the thoughts!
I’ll ask you again: When have you ever had to choose between making nothing and making almost nothing? Say I put you in that position; say I give you three choices.
Do you make five dollars a day earning your shelter and nourishment? Do you scavenge for food and build your shelter yourself rather than earning any money at all? Or do you decline to choose and be forced to work against your will for the benefit of somebody else?
Unfortunately, this is the state which modern industry and Western globalization have forced upon the non-industrialized and industrializing worlds. The desires for fair and equitable wages and for reasonable minimum standards of living and of income have rendered the collective body of the labor movement that of a shiftless, entitled, self-important, nationalistic, sniveling slug, of which I myself am deeply ashamed and humiliated.
So China, other industrializing countries, and non-industrialized countries have terrible records of human and labor rights abuses. So many sectors of the under-industrialized world cannot afford to pay their workers a wage or an income which is deemed by modern American liberals to be up to reasonable and equitable standards. So many societies do not have free, active, and thriving labor movements.
But does that really merit and justify the boycotting of goods produced in sweat-shops? Does that really merit and justify depriving of profit those companies which contract with sweat-shops, thereby causing those profit-losses to be passed down the chain from management to investors, consumers, and laborers?
Is such an all-or-nothing mentality really tolerable or practical in a rational system of international trade? Should we allow pity of and sympathy for those nations which tolerate lower standards of compensation and conditions to justify the collective punishment of entire foreign markets and of the people who comprise them?
For – make no mistake – this is the very same sentiment which causes the resentment of illegal Mexican and Central-American immigrants for taking American jobs. So is it really sympathy which the labor movement has for foreign workers, or is it mere envy?
Do we have pity of those who work for those low wages which would be considered illegal by American governments, or do we fear that their toleration of lower standards of compensation and conditions will obligate us to lower our own standards of compensation and conditions in the interest of staying competitive?
Is it reasonable that these foreign workers should tolerate some temporary, immediate sacrifice in exchange for some future benefit which could ultimately prove to be conducive to the economic growth and industrialization of their home countries, to which they often send remittances?
Keeping in mind that quality, quantity, and standards thereof condition one another whenever and wherever there is scarcity, wouldn’t an attempt to impose a higher standard of human and labor rights and conditions in an international trade agreement tend to make it more difficult to keep wages adequate? Wouldn’t an attempt to keep wages adequate tend to make it more difficult to keep human and labor rights and conditions adequate?
Furthermore, who are you to purport to be qualified to even attempt to answer such a question? What do you know about suffering? Are we to take your word for it – because you live in a building with adequate heating and insulation, ventilation, and plumbing; but eat at least one serving of Ramen most days out of the month, poison yourself with drugs and liquor, and cut yourself sometimes – that you are qualified to make judgments about international trade, and to lambast politicians for failing to adequately guarantee you and your sweat-shop-toiling class-war compatriots those temporary and tentative privileges which you errantly believe to be your rights?
Chapter 11: Rights versus Privileges
If people – by virtue of birth – had the right to clean air, clean water, food, shelter, and medical treatment, then they would already have those things, or at least the ability to access them. The only things to which people have rights are those things which they either already have or are able to achieve if and when they attempt to do so.
As long as there is death, life may be a privilege, but it is never a right. As long as there are scarcities, shortages, and inefficiencies in the production and distribution of water, food, medicine, shelter, or whatever else, those things are privileges and not rights.
Although there is artificial scarcity, men do not ultimately lack such resources because of kings or politicians; nor because of the exploitation of land, labor, and capital through rent and the charging of interest; men lack such resources because levels of production fluctuate, and because the development of systems of distribution is still ongoing and struggling to keep up with changes in population, geography, and human needs on the collective and individual levels.
As whether we have the ability and the means to distribute that which is necessary to sustain human survival conditions, subsumes, and may override whether we have the privilege or the right to be provided such resources, might truly does make right. To put it another way, right cannot exist without might; i.e., without ability.
Ability – then – is a necessary but not a sufficient condition of right. That is, might alone does not make right; might and ability are both tentative and conditional, because both the availability of resources and whether a person is willing to attempt to seize the resources may vary. Thus, it is not only might, but willingness and availability in addition to might which together make right.
But rights – as they are perceived in the modern political context – are legalistically-codified promises that access to some resource will be procured. What political rights really are – then – are, in fact, privileges; privileges which may be taken away whenever environmental circumstances limit the distribution of the promised resource.
If something is a privilege, you will be promised that it will be afforded you and distributed to you; if it is a right, you are able not only to attempt to reach out and take it, but also to do so with success. Rights, then, do not require legalistic codification.
Under scarcity, privilege – in ignorance of the independent external environmental circumstances which condition and often limit political institutions’ ability to procure access to some resource – is hindered, decreased, damaged, rendered irrelevant, and effectively destroyed.
Chapter 12: Arendt, Stirner, and Governments
In her 1958 work The Human Condition, socialist philosopher Hannah Arendt differentiates labor, work and action. She describes labor as the tasks which men must undertake in order to procure their own temporary, immediate, personal, private necessities of animal survival, and work as the tasks which men undertake in order to create and to innovate for the greater good of mankind.
Arendt contends that “all the values characteristic of the world of fabrication – permanence, stability, durability… are sacrificed in favor of the values of life, productivity, and abundance.” She believes that the means of mere animal necessity have been subordinated to the public realm, a subordination which she calls “the rise of the social”.
Given the pervasiveness of planned obsolescence, mass production, and industrial farming; the widespread existence of food-stamp and supplemental nutrition assistance programs; and the transformation of the American Social Security system from one which intended to function as a safety net to complement the private savings of those past the age of the average life expectancy into one which is relied upon so as to de-necessitate private savings by individuals retiring well before the age of the average life expectancy; we can plainly see that the public realm has become consumed in and burdened by the need to procure, manage, and distribute the funds and other resources which sustain the lives of low- and middle-income consumers of industrially-manufactured goods alike.
As Hannah Arendt said – in describing action, as it stands in contrast with labor and work – “Men are free… as long as they act… for to be free and to act are the same.”
This statement by Arendt may be thought of as an echo of egoist materialist philosopher Max Stirner, who said, “Whoever knows how to take, to defend, the thing, to him belongs property”. Stirner also said, “If the commune does not do what suits me, I rise against it and defend my property… society gives me what I require – then… I take what I require.”
To paraphrase Stirner, if the commune – or the collective, or society as a whole – claims that it gives each of its members what he needs, then if an individual feels that he is being provided for inadequately, he will take what he feels belongs to him according to his assessment of his own needs.
Stirner also said, “The tiger that assails me is in the right. And I – in striking him down – am also in the right.” Thus, Stirner expresses a belief in the inherent right of every living thing to attempt to sustain itself, even to the detriment of other living things.
This is not to be taken as an endorsement of the “kill-or-be-killed”, “dog-eat-dog” mentality enshrined in such concepts as Social Darwinism, however; it is merely intended as an observation. There is no prescription; only description. There is nothing inherently moralistic about Stirner’s statements.
Under scarcity, it is often true that something must die so that something else may live. No promise or guarantee of right or privilege – no matter how strong, coercive, authoritative, or legitimate the entity making the promise – ever negates that essential fact of life. The only thing that makes a difference is which living things are most consistently able and willing to reach out and take that which sustains them.
Thus, we see that the ability and the willingness to give and to receive resources – as well as scarcity and availability thereof – conditions both rights and privileges.
But what if the abilities to freely give and to freely receive are infringed upon by some coercive entity? What if there are laws in place limiting the ability of people to feed the poor and homeless? What if the broad interpretation of what constitutes aggressive and menacing panhandling causes an individual to be ticketed for asking his own friend for a cigarette on a public thoroughfare?
What if governments have the ability to levy duplicative taxes on gifts and inheritances, which were already taxed when the money was originally being earned? What if governments have the ability to change the levels of tax breaks on charitable contributions at any time they please, effectively reducing the incentive to give charitably, while a person could already be punished for giving too generously through untaxed means in the first place?
What if governments have the ability to mandate that an individual may not determine for his own subjective purposes and compensation that which he believes to be the rightful product of his labor?
What if governments decide that a man’s labor is worth some certain minimum value, and that he is cheating and competing unfairly if he decides to expend some extra effort as a gesture of kindness to his employer who capitalizes on his labor, and / or to his labor union which extracts from him his dues, and / or to his government which taxes him based on his income and his property value?
Chapter 13: The Labor Movement
We were all witness to the public-sector labor unions controversy which occurred in Wisconsin’s capital in early 2011; as well as to the vague, half-assed resurgence of the labor movement which accompanied the controversy in the forms of protests and sporadic, minute, insignificant, ineffective general strikes and boycotts.
Undoubtedly, too, some of us were witness to the mindless, automatic, self-deluded yammering amongst wage-laborers expressing solidarity with the teachers and health-care workers upon whose rights were modestly trampled (I, for the record, do not – by any stretch of the imagination – find Noodles & Company to be any figurative form of fascist dictatorship, much less in the strict, literal sense).
But I’ll admit that I do understand why teachers, health-care workers, and wage-laborers do not appreciate being used as political pawns. However, I would contend that such workers are not entirely blameless for that situation.
Before continuing, I’d like to tell a joke: “What do you call someone who doesn’t give a damn whether labor unions have legal rights?... You call them an anarcho-syndicalist.”
If you don’t want to be used as a political pawn in some larger, broader class war, there is a simple solution: stop perceiving your problem as inherently political; i.e., in the formal, institutionalized, legalistic, governmental, Statist sense of how we traditionally conceive of politics.
There was a time in America – a little less than a century ago – when the majority of the labor movement did not have any hope that the government would ever see things their way, nor did they even have a desire that the government take up their causes and enfranchise their struggles.
Regardless of whether the political off-shoots of the early-twentieth-century labor movement were successful – and, to some degree (depending on whom you ask and what their goals were), they were – why should any reasonable member of the modern labor movement expect there to be any further hope of advancing the degree and distribution of workers’ privilege?
Regardless even of this question, why should the modern labor movement trust the same government which passes and enforces any and all laws which restrict the liberty of the individual (be it the liberty to indulge in petty vices or the liberty to feed his fellow human beings), and which rapes, pillages, and destroys foreign nationals and their property around the world only to spend borrowed money rebuilding those sites of destruction when there is plenty of progress in such areas which has yet to be made right here at home to further the goals of organized labor?
Furthermore, how can the modern labor movement morally trust that same government to protect our freedoms, liberties, privileges, rights, and the very bodies in which our souls dwell?
Are we not qualified to protect these freedoms ourselves, or are we merely not willing to do so, preferring instead to delegate our rights to political bodies which claim authority to perform functions which we ourselves are not permitted to do while at the same time claiming that all of their authority is derived from the consent of the governed from whom the authority to perform such functions originate?
Suppose that our nation plummets deeper into debt and fiscal ruin at an even more accelerated rate, and that – to solve the problem – the budgets of most government departments would have to be cut significantly, even in a way that increases personal and localistic liberty (but also responsibility) at the expense of the control of the centralized federal government.
Suppose further that this would require that the privileges of private- and public-sector unions be curtailed slightly in order to temporarily repair the economy so that the markets of the country may eventually rebound and continue to have a future.
Would you desire that the police who remain faithful to the labor unions murder the comptrollers, bureaucrats, politicians, and the police faithful to them – all of whom have a genuine desire to affect a resurgence in market stability in exchange for what they perceive to be a modest and reasonable sacrifice – in the event that such a situation brings about strikes, boycotts, protests, or even riots?
Why must the labor movement be an inherently political one? Why must people lose their liberties and their lives so that the ideals of the labor movement may survive? Is it so lazy and naïve as a movement to entrust a secret band of irresponsible, unaccountable liars, robbers, murderers, and war-profiteers to use manipulation, threats, coercion, and force to do their bidding on their behalves?
Why may the improvement of wages, conditions, and standards of living not be pursued through boycotts, strikes, bargaining, and negotiation without necessitating the involvement of those violent, treasonous goons who constitute such an illegitimate federal government; taking our children away from us if and when we fail to adequately provide them some bogus, bureaucratically-defined, centrally-recommended minimum standards of technologically- and industrially-modernized care and of socially-progressive, dogmatic, indoctrinating education; stealing our money, property, and resources; and leading us into wars haphazardly and without any semblance of legitimacy or justification?
Why should the labor movement trust such a government? Why must anyone who desires that the labor movement become responsible, independent, and mindful of its own claimed rights be tossed by the wayside and dismissed as a member of a discredited fringe element of the right wing?
Must the success of the goals of the labor movement hinge on the viability of the State? Or, could an embrace of capitalism – or, at least, of certain aspects thereof – help secure the improvement of the quality of life, the quality of working conditions, and the adequacy in wages which are so sorely needed in our modern, industrialized society?
Could it be that the labor movement and those desiring the absolute liberty of the individual may actually be conducive to one another’s goals after all? Could it even be that not only can they complement one another, but even that they may act as checks against one another in a manner that could potentially eliminate the need for centralized government in the first place?
Chapter 14: The Division of Labor
Towards the beginning of this piece, I introduced Robert Nozick’s concept of the “Utility Monster”. As I explained, the Utility Monster is some person or entity which experiences a greater degree of happiness or usefulness the more it consumes.
Nozick theorized that if such a person or entity existed, it would be most efficient and just to sacrifice the resources possessed by – and the needs of – all others to them, because a Utility Monster would be able to extract more good from such resources, causing a net increase in the amount of good which exists in the world.
In my treatment of this idea, I suggested that these Utility Monsters do exist, and that the prevalence of their existence in any given society is conditioned by the type of systems of social organization and of economic production which are in place in those societies.
I contend that such Utility Monsters exist most prevalently and thrive best in those societies which endorse and maintain the most widespread and efficient specialization and division of labor possible and practical.
Suppose that a stone pyramid needs to be built, each stone weighing some hundreds of tons.
It is quite obvious that one man – no matter how much time he is given to complete the task – can move even one stone on his own. It is also quite obvious that many men working independently of one another – even if all of them take turns and frequent breaks, and are well-rested, adequately nourished, and in prime physical condition – will also not accomplish the task of moving a single stone.
However, for those same men to coordinate their operations – i.e., their lifting and pulling – in the most organized, systematized, and maximally-efficient manner feasible, such a task may be accomplished, and with much less difficulty and struggle than if any man or any number of men were to attempt to move the stone or stones independently.
The lesson of this is simple; coordinated, cooperative, and organized labor efforts bring about a more efficient utilization of resources and resource-wealth.
But utilization may also be regarded as exploitation. That is; a resource is more efficiently consumed and exploited if and when labor is properly coordinated, and when each component of the divided-labor process is selected based on his specialized ability to perform his task most efficiently and effectively.
The master of the cooperative, coordinated, organized labor effort is the corporation. But it is important to distinguish the corporate entity from the capitalist entity. While they are often one and the same – because a capitalist may often sponsor and finance cooperative corporate labor – a capitalist may also choose to sponsor and finance independent venture-capital projects – including his own – which require no coordination, cooperation, or organization whatsoever.
Specialization and the division of labor are not strictly capitalist or corporatist concepts; as the only specialization and division of labor which is required for an independent capitalist venture is that which reduces the specialization down to the single atomistic unit which is expending the labor; i.e., the individual worker.
Therefore, it is not capitalism alone which makes the corporation; but the capitalism which endorses, supports, and finances cooperative, coordinated, organized labor.
Chapter 15: Social-Corporativism
As capitalism may express itself in either independent or cooperative forms, so too may socialism express itself in either independent or cooperative forms.
The cooperative expression of socialism is obvious; words like “society”, “public”, “collective”, and “commune” never fail to evoke images of inclusiveness, universality, commonality, and sharing.
But within certain contexts, such societies may cease to embrace inclusiveness, and instead ensure only the protection of those rights and privileges which are afforded to groups and to the members thereof, often to the detriment of other groups and / or individuals not associating with the societies in question.
What results is something of a third tier of socialism which rejects both inclusiveness and independence; what results is social-corporatism, or social-corporativism.
It is an obvious understatement to note that capitalism is not particularly well-known for its affinity towards the under-privileged and less-fortunate. Noted “libertarian conservatives” such as Ayn Rand, John Stossel – as well as Steven Malanga and Heather MacDonald of the Manhattan Institute – have even been known to actively discourage giving charitably to beggars. But libertarians are not the only self-described anti-authoritarians many of whom are guilty of willfully neglecting the poor.
What was once a network of progressive, open-minded, inclusive, and tolerant Madison co-ops has become an ambivalent, pretentious, two-faced, ivory-tower, armchair-liberal, self-appointed cultural vanguard which dictates the boundaries of the realm of acceptable, politically-correct social mores, excluding individuals based on the level of their deficits in expressing willing enthusiasm to accept and embrace any and all potential tenets of such a cultish system.
Why, you can’t live at a co-op in Madison unless you’re a vegetarian who’s tried veganism, or have at least considered trying it. Nevermind your ability to pay rent consistently (rent… now, how are you going to have a bunch of social anarchists embracing the practice of the charging of rent?); you can’t live at a co-op in Madison unless you’re ready and able to spout off some rant about what feminism means to you at a moment’s notice at a membership meeting. Exclusion by a group… forget opposition to feminism; exclusion by a group is the true meaning of chauvinism.
But forget living at a co-op in Madison not being enough of a vegan or a feminist; you can’t even stay at a co-op in Madison if you’re homeless. Not enough of the members know you, and you haven’t yet proven yourself trustworthy given little to no opportunity to do so. Nobody sleeps at a co-op in Madison unless they’ve been introduced to everyone who lives there, and there remain no lingering doubts about their upstanding, good, progressive nature.
If you intend to live at and pay rent to a co-op, they put you through a membership meeting. In such cases – and even if you only intend to stay there temporarily – they try to make sure you’re introduced to everyone, so that each member may make a judgment about whether he would be comfortable having you live with and around him.
The co-op has got to make the decision promptly, right? But not everybody happens to be there at that precise moment. So what’s the default position? Everyone votes in agreement with the vote of the house. But there is no house decision, because nobody is willing to stick his neck out and give either an up or down vote.
Therefore, no unanimity – affirmative or negative – exists. Such lack of unanimity is interpreted as a lack of consensus, and so the majoritarian ambivalence which results is taken to be a universal, resounding vote of “we don’t care, so you’re out; good luck on the street”.
It is in this way that the cooperative may exclude, neglect, and discriminate against the disadvantaged; those who have already been made members are given preferential treatment over all others. Thus, power, wealth, and social hierarchy entrench themselves, and passive ambivalence causes prolonged detriment to the poor in the name of inclusiveness, universality, community, liberalism, and social progress.
But terms such as “universality” and “community” are themselves distortions of the idealized anti-discriminatory nature of the public realm. The ideal social paradigm would be inclusive of all people, whereas universality and community connote not total inclusiveness, but the perception of the members of the group as belonging to a single body possessing a oneness, as evident in the “uni-” in “universality”, and in the “unity” in “community”.
This corporeity which many groups and social organizations possess is the “corporatist” or “corporativist” aspect of social-corporativism. There is no willingness to accept any and all potential members willing to associate themselves with the group. It is in this way that the term “chauvinism” – a word which is typically only used in the context of gender discrimination – has become the normative system of leftist social organization. Chauvinism connotes the tendency of a group to be exclusive, as opposed to inclusive.
So what is the significance of the fact that socialism and capitalism alike both embrace independent and coordinated socioeconomic organization under various circumstances?
The significance is that independence – and not cooperative, corporate, organized labor – is the true rival of chauvinistic socialism. Being that the labor unions would not exist were it not for cooperative labor efforts – and being that very little would ever be accomplished in a society which only permitted independent labor efforts – unions and corporations – simply – need one another and rely on each other.
It is in this way that there is something of an interdependent relationship between corporations and labor unions. This is especially evident considering the fact that corporations and their affiliated labor unions often share interests in preventing the rise of competing unions, and in colluding to compel prospective or recent employees to become members of – and pay exclusive dues to – the predominant, well-established labor union which holds the most clout and has the longest history of dealing successfully with management (and – inevitably – of making essential concessions to it now and again).
Aside from corporations and labor unions being interdependent on one another, they may also be jointly dependent on government (which is – in turn – dependent on both for revenue). This is especially evident considering the American federal government’s recent simultaneous bailouts of companies which manufacture automobiles and of the United Auto Workers’ union.
But I digress; it is this interdependence which is distinct from independence; the independence resulting from the “right-to-work” laws – which permit laborers the liberty to choose not to join or pay dues to unions – which such unions abhor; and the independence of workers, unions, and corporations from the constraints imposed by governments which take various forms.
I submit that perhaps the solution to socioeconomic organization is not to encourage and / or compel independent and / or interdependent social and labor systems, but to permit each system to exist and to largely govern itself – save for the direct action brought about through the free, willful exercise of the prerogatives of consumers – and to permit each to operate without attempting to subjugate those who would choose to associate with one and not the other.
Chapter 16: Against Anarcho-Syncretic Solutions
While some may be keen on permitting, emphasizing, and encouraging compromise between socioeconomic systems, it appears – being that there is simply no consensus among the various ideologies about whether institutions such as interest, rent, and property are hierarchical, coercive, or morally acceptable – that it will be necessary – as well as most conducive to both individual and group rights – to not only allow but also to recommend independence, autonomy, and self-determination – in other words, segregation – of those who would choose to belong to the various systems of socioeconomic organization.
Being that no compromise should – or can – be made between those organizational systems (because they have ideological differences with regards to interest, rent, and property), any proposed systems contending that some sort of syncretic system which would combine the best aspects of capitalism and socialism is possible and / or appropriate would – unfortunately – necessitate that some concessions be made by proponents of each idealized socioeconomic system; concessions which could only serve to destroy the idealization of each system involved.
Rather than to attempt to combine, unite, and syncretize aspects of each system – which would inevitably entail such mutually self-defeating concessions – what we should instead seek is that each system tolerate others, but also tolerate the free choice of individual members to associate with and submit to whichever system they feel appropriate, for whatever time period they feel appropriate to do so.
This would allow prospective self-governing autarchs, potentially inclusive communes, and both leftist- and rightist-oriented social-corporative institutions to coexist – often separately – in full knowledge of one another’s preferred system of socioeconomic organization, hopefully preventing each from attempting to impose its respective ideology on others.
It is in this way that socialism and capitalism – properly balanced, self-governing, and guarding against the excesses of one another by way of protection of freedom of association between systems – have the potential to de-necessitate monolithic, centralized governantial organizations.
Real-world application of this principle would entail the institution of social-libertarian mechanisms which would provide for the upholding of the types of individual liberties – at the very least, those types which would enable freedom of and from association – within any and all governantial systems and bodies caring to declare themselves capable and reputable enough to govern and provide for the prerogatives of whatever given societies or communities which would choose to abide by the execution of their decisions and legislative processes.
That is, the freedom of and from association must become a province not only of autarchism, egoism, libertarianism, and other similar systems of social organization which are already predisposed towards the protection of such individual liberties, but also of any and all leftist socioeconomic organizational institutions which would care to come into existence.
Ideally, this would permit only those leftist institutions which are most conducive to and permissive of individual liberty and freedom of association to come to the forefront (in addition to those rightist systems which already embrace such concepts, and – at that, enthusiastically so), and the organizational tenets of such socialist, communalist, and collectivist systems could then be compared and contrasted without requiring people to contend with consideration of the bothersome specter of totalitarian and chauvinistic socialisms.
The application of this principle to such leftist socioeconomic organizational institutions – to the chagrin of those leftists who would endorse the conditional upholding of individual property and liberties according to the consent of some democratic, representatively-democratic, participatorily-democratic, or otherwise majoritarian social organizations (i.e., the potential entailment of the practice of expropriation) – would not permit communities or regional governments to compel any person or corporate body to exercise their freedoms in a way that is perceived to cause detriment to the members of such communities, unless such persons or corporate bodies have already consented to submit to such governance for a given period of time.
That is – whenever they do not deign to be subjected to the execution of such communal decisions – persons and corporate bodies would be permitted to travel and to re-locate whenever – and to wherever – they feel it appropriate to evade that which they perceive to be a threat against the exercise of those processes and practices which they feel are their rights (except those practices which are obvious violations of liberty).
This would necessitate tentative – and, often, temporary – partnerships between regional governantial organizations – and between the members thereof – when such members and organizations deem it appropriate to work together in order to disbar any individuals or corporate entities whose presence they feel causes detriment to the conditions of life and labor which they wish to bring about in the territories (or amongst the associated populaces) over which they practice jurisdiction.
What I am describing and proposing is essentially confederacy.
In the context of the already-extant American federal government, while states would have sovereignty and independence from larger federated associations between such states, communities would have sovereignty and independence from the ties between such communities which comprise those states. Furthermore, individuals and corporate entities would have sovereignty and independence from communities.
But for those who do not lend credence to the legitimacy of American states, the non-Statist conception of confederacy may prove itself useful. The non-Statist conception of confederacy is functionally more or less the same as the Statist conception; all persons, corporate entities, labor unions, and governantial organizations of whatever size, territoriality, or non-territorial association have sovereignty and independence from one another, and are free to form associations, but also to revoke their consent to the proceedings of such associations whenever they feel it necessary (unless they have waived the right to do so for a given period of time).
All in all, confederacy is a system which respects the liberties of each atomistic unit within the greater association to which it belongs. Practiced correctly, it does not require either slavery or subjugation (as understood by those who embrace individual liberty).
Chapter 17: Austerity and Independence
Implemented effectively, confederacy is conducive to any and all attempts of constituent persons, corporate entities, and governantial agencies to secede, to gain independence, and to assert sovereignty.
Confederacy (i.e., freely-instituted independence and isolation) stands in stark contrast to both compulsory independence (i.e., coerced isolation) and compulsory interdependence (i.e., federation and globalization), while at the same time permitting freely-instituted interdependence.
A discussion of compulsory interdependence and of its causes and enforcers is essential now, during a time when social-corporativistic institutions are attempting to consolidate their powers and abilities to impose austerity measures on the governments and banks of indebted nations, and to tether the least indebted nations to the most through the redistribution of debt.
When the imposition of such austerity occurs, it is not always a cop-out or a lending of credence or of legitimacy to the forces which have caused the pertinent crises and have socialized the resulting losses to the public to become austere; on the contrary, it undoubtedly proves beneficial to the members of the public to impose austerity upon themselves; i.e., to save and to spend wisely, and to make sacrifices and to conserve.
The goal of the promotion, encouragement, and recommendation of the free institution and instatement of independence is that coercive governments and predatory lenders will not have to be relied upon – and that the most efficient governantial agencies and systems of production will come to the forefront – in the future.
The hope is that this would permit at least a temporary trend in experimentation in governantial administration and socioeconomic production, for at least a time period long enough for an attentive public to determine which governantial and production systems are most beneficial for themselves, and that less-successful systems may seek to emulate such systems.
The right to free association between systems agreeing with one another against the main current of governantial and economic institutional trends – however – would not be infringed upon, nor would the right to free debate and free choice between such associations.
Chapter 18: Trade or War?
When two countries do not trade with one another, they will inevitably be engaged in either a state of war, or a state of cold war and of hostility.
Applied to the realm of interpersonal associations, this principle dictates that both of two parties to exchange – whether they are engaging in a transaction involving the exchange of labor for wages, or in a simple market transaction involving the exchange of goods for services – will tend to be apprehensive about one another’s desires and values.
When laborer and employer freely contract with one another, each may become aware that the values of each of them are subjective; that is, the laborer values his potential employer’s money more than he values his own labor, while the employer values his potential laborer’s labor more than he values his own money.
Extrapolated and applied to the relationship of parties to simple market exchanges, the seller values his buyer’s money more than he values his own goods and / or services, while the buyer values his seller’s goods and / or services more than he values his own money.
Once one of the parties becomes aware that the other party believes himself to be in a position of benefit (or advantage), he may conclude that he himself must be in a position of detriment (being taken advantage of). But he may fail to take account of his own subjective desires, i.e., that he would likely attempt to take self-perceived advantage of the other party were the opportunity presented to him (and indeed it is presented to him whenever an employment interview – or an offer to purchase some good or service – takes place).
That is, the desire for maximum efficiency dictates that it is the goal of the laborer to procure for himself the highest wage and the best conditions, while it is the goal of the employer to obtain the highest profit and the poorest conditions acceptable to potential laborers. Likewise, it is the goal of the buyer to procure for himself the lowest price, while it is the goal of the seller to procure for himself the highest profit. Each buyer, seller, laborer, and employer has his own self-interest at heart and in mind; therefore, none may accuse another of attempting to take advantage any more than himself.
It is the duty and the province of each party to labor and market exchanges to simply choose for his own purposes whether mutual aid, mutual harm, unilateral benefit, or unilateral detriment is occurring. To assume that the other party is trying to harm and cause detriment is an act of apprehension on the part of whichever party would care to make such an accusation; to do so neglects the possibility of mutual aid based on the subjective values of each party involved.
But to ignore this apprehension and to proceed with the contract or exchange is an act of good faith; it is an act of charity in which at least one party ceases to concern himself with extracting a profit from the agreement, and resigns himself to rejoicing in the opportunity to help and to serve another human being.
It is in this cessation to attempt to procure the furthering of one’s self-interest in exchange for being perceived as fair and reasonable and as desiring of mutual aid that one sacrifices.
It is in this act of freely-self-imposed charitable sacrifice that we waive our right to dwell on the past, and to lend import to the history of the systematic exploitation of the feudal-era serfs; we consent to live in the present, to serve our own self-interest, and to acquire property, property which is never required to be used by us in order to serve solely our own interests in the future.
It is this freely-imposed charitable sacrifice which is the key to both our personal salvation and our socioeconomic crises.
Chapter 19: Asceticism and Sacrifice (Conclusion)
Crucial to the discussion of political, social, and economic sacrifice is the role of clerical (i.e., religious) sacrifice, and that of asceticism.
Religions such as Catholicism and Hinduism urge that members willingly deprive themselves of and deny themselves indulgence in material temptations. This is evident in Christian self-flagellation and mortification of the flesh, and in the holiday of Lent; in both of which such self-deprivation and self-denial are exercised in order to teach oneself to identify with the suffering of Christ. Such actions may additionally be purported to serve as an act conducive to self-identification with the poor and with those suffering.
It is this tenet of various religions – self-imposed sacrifice, self-denial, and self-deprivation – which – in addition to charitable giving – are – as I stated previously – the key to both our individual salvation and socioeconomic crises.
To paraphrase and summarize the conclusions of socialist philosopher Hannah Arendt, men are slaves to their own desires and needs. The Buddha would likely agree. Naturally, the solution to this problem is for men to freely resolve to moderate their own desires, and to fight and to give in to their urges and temptations to whatever degree and in whatever sequence they believe to be most conducive to making most efficient and practical their consumption and production.
To further paraphrase and summarize Arendt, the enslavement of men to the administration of laws and to the execution of the functions of governance – and to socioeconomic systems of production – is trivial as compared to the enslavement of men to their own desires and needs.
It is for this reason that we must relegate the import which we lend to the exploitive tendencies of governments and of socioeconomic systems of production to the realm of relative insignificance in our own minds and hearts, and replace them as our primary concern with the exploitive tendencies of temptation, and of desires which we perceive as necessities.
The natural extrapolation of this clerical or religious principle to the socioeconomic and political realms is that we as individuals must – more often than not – accustom ourselves with putting up with temporary and moderate socioeconomic and political injustices and denials for our own actual – as opposed to perceived – benefit, so that we may eventually use the utility which we extract from what little we manage to gain in the process in order to help others and to encourage others to emulate whatever governantial institutions and socioeconomic systems of production which we find it in our best interest to practice.
This is not to say – however – that such endurance of injustices, denials, and inconveniences should be imposed or enforced by external forces.
Socioeconomic conservatism and the tendencies to oppose social welfare are like religious asceticism in that they purport to attempt to teach the poor to endure their own suffering. However, these tendencies – as well as liberalism, which, from time to time, embraces the same principles – often ignore the role of religion, which is to encourage private charity additionally, and as a complement to the accustomization to endurance.
Instead, conservatism and liberalism at times embrace charitable giving through the coerced extraction of taxes. Such a system relieves the taxpayers’ burden of having to bother to contemplate how to act morally of their own volition, instead delegating the duty of determining morality to government and to the institutionalized mediocrity resulting from the decision-making of the majoritarian will.
This is a perversion of consequentialist morality. As in the statements of the priest regarding the programming of the Alex character in A Clockwork Orange against his own violent tendencies, not being able to do evil does not make us good, so long as we still wish to do evil.
I see political, social, economic, and clerical systems which place emphasis on the role of charity and other giving as exercised by parties to free and voluntary exchanges within the private sphere as inherently more moral than those which do not.
To paraphrase Rabbi Eleazar, the only form of giving which is more holy than anonymous giving to anonymous recipients is to take a man off the street, provide for his most urgent needs, give him a job, and teach him to provide for himself. While the Lord does indeed help those who help themselves, the Lord punishes none for helping others.
Mother Teresa said, “I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people.”
In the context of this statement, I asked, “How – if at all – does the suffering of the poor help the world?” and “Is it beneficial for mankind to teach the world’s poor to bear, endure, and tolerate their own suffering?”
I conclude that it is indeed beneficial for mankind to teach the world’s poor to bear, endure, and tolerate their own suffering, and that it is indeed very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot.
This is not to say – however – that it is not very beautiful for the rich to bear, endure, and tolerate suffering.
Can that statement be used to justify expropriation from the most advantaged? Of course it can.
But should it?
To quote George Harrison, “It’s all up to what you value in your motorcar; it all rests on what it’s cost you getting where you are”.
To quote Napoleon, “Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich”.
So either get religion, or get your machete.
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