This essay was originally written in 1985 and because it was written in a lost e-file I had no easy way to post this, my first essay. I did retain a hard copy and took the time a few years ago, to re-enter the work into my current word processing program with the intent to update and elaborate on some of my early ideas. Since that project has been stalled long enough, I decided to publish the original with minor spelling corrections with the intent of refreshing this when and if I finish writing the revised, updated product. If you see fit to comment and critique this I’ll welcome it.
There’s a disease ravaging this society that is bringing an end to our affluence. We live in a democracy that governs largely by consensus and the rules are made by people who attain positions of power by being popular with a majority of the electorate. The majority of the electorate are economically ignorant and fail to understand what causes prosperity. This failure to understand the cause of prosperity, combined with a belief that it is possible to get something for nothing, causes the disease. Ironically, it’s because we live in a democracy, the comprehension of the victim is needed to cure the disease. This essay attempts to explain the illness and suggest a cure.
However, to cure the disease requires that we start with an attitude of optimism. We need to believe that the problem can be cured and for that, we must hold the view that logic can explain reality, That there was a reason why we achieved the prosperity we often take for granted. Our society became prosperous and affluent because the policies we followed were based on reason, on natural law, on reality – the exact opposite of the destructive policies being followed today.
We need to hold as true, a personal conviction that natural laws are irrefutable but non-the-less comprehendible, and that miracles are not possible. We’ll then know that wishing will not change anything – that nothing is free. Believing that the world is understandable and that we control our own actions, places the onus for our well-being, our survival, on our own shoulders. We need to be aware that the problems on this earth are caused by man, not by a devil or some other mythical force, and that the problems can only be corrected by man.
With those thoughts forming the base, reason tells us that our protection can only come from our own actions rather than the actions of a deity. To agree that the world is understandable places us in a position where we do control the conditions that create our well-being. To disagree means chaos, that anything goes, that understanding nature is impossible and hence, futile, and the result is cynicism, complacency and personal despair
At stake is a society that recognizes the individual’s right to life, the only defendable form of self-protection available to every individual on the face of this earth. But self-protection ultimately depends on personal awareness and understanding of the facts of reality, on not basing our thinking on misunderstandings. We need to recognize that there is a vast difference between fact and fiction. In a democracy, affluence depends on our ability to recognize that difference and to act on knowledge.
One of the great misunderstandings of today is the accepted interpretation of what are the natural resources of a country. There is widespread support for the idea that human beings and their products are the resources of a country. And because governments have assumed ownership of the resources in each country, such an idea can only result in a disaster. When such things as factories, personal wealth, and human minds are considered to be natural resources, the result can only be confiscation and redistribution of property and human slavery.
Fuzzy thinking and deliberate obfuscation about property rights and human rights are at the root of all the social problems facing mankind today. Notice for example, that one of the unifying threads common to poor countries of this world, is the disregard their governments share for private property rights. The citizens of those countries are held to be subservient to the rulers. Poverty will be with us until many more people understand that Karl Marx was wrong. Human products are developed by individual human minds and as such property rights apply. And property rights are the foundation of affluence, a fact that can be proven by a brief look at man’s history when industrialization began.
Many years ago our ancestors set the stage for the society we live in today by using their brains. When thinking became man’s means of survival, the mold was cast. Modern society is the product. A man’s ability to survive still depends on his determination to think. Our survival rests on that base, the capacity to think and make use of the thoughts of others.
Our affluent society rests on three cornerstones. Three inventions were required to raise humanity from the jungle and create this society, making possible all the subsequent inventions that benefit our lives. They are language, indirect exchange and limited, democratic government. A clear understanding of these three inventions and the abstract concepts that are their root is necessary to guarantee our well-being for knowledge determines our actions. When our actions fail to generate affluence, we need to reassess what we consider to be knowledge and for that, we need to use language.
Few people understand the immensity of the task performed by a language. Some take language for granted, as something mankind has always had. Others consider language to be arbitrary, that words can mean anything to anyone. There are still others who consider language to be only a tool of communication. Such is not the case. Man invented language to store knowledge. The value of a language stems from its capacity to store ideas, to physically document man’s thinking process.
This storage of ideas has created a vast pool of knowledge, accessible to all, which is the basis of our well-being our very existence. Every idea, every thought, to be passed on, must be expressed in a language. Language stores our knowledge, and knowledge is the foundation of our society. However, there is rot in the foundation. Our knowledge base is permeated with myth, fiction and with outright lies. That is the root of the problem.
But language is but one leg of a triad. Granted that it is the most important leg, still, it is just one of three elements that glue our modern society together. Just as language stores our ideas, the next significant social invention allows us to store work, or effort, or labour, whatever one chooses to call it. I’m speaking of money, the basic unit of indirect exchange.
The invention of the indirect exchange of a money system generated a second forward leap in the evolution of mankind. Money gives flexibility to the producers of products; it stores value, it stores effort. Money is the most convenient way to show ownership of property. Money made possible the division of labour, the greatest productivity improvement that has ever been discovered.
But in order to understand money, we must understand its function. Money was invented to store work. The person who gladly accepted gold for his effort, did so because he was sure that later he would be able to buy other products with that gold, an IOU for use in the future, an entitlement to productive goods. Paper money was legitimized because it could be exchanged for gold. It is only the possibility of exchange for a production good that makes money acceptable in return for work.
Today we are experiencing defaults on these IOU’s .the value of the money we have saved, the money we have invested is being eroded. Anyone holding paper money is being systematically robbed. Some perceptive people see what is happening and are moving to hard investments. This, however, is not a long term solution to our problem.
The erosion of value in currency is caused by the third most important social invention, the last leg of the triad that supports our society. For it was the invention of limited democratic government that made possible the level of prosperity we enjoy today. Ironically the people who now control government have turned government into an instrument that is destroying our modern way of life and they use the machine that has contributed the most to make knowledge accessible to all – the printing press.
Democratic government was invented in order to eliminate the confiscation of property, the destabilizing factor common to all earlier societies. Before the formation of democratic governments, kings and other tyrants ruled the general population by way of induced guilt and physical force. The regulation of physical allowed private wealth to accumulate and made possible the living conditions we value today. Prior to this, large undertakings were only possible through the use of slave labour. Today, in the free world, human beings are paid for their efforts and allowed to accumulate rewards for themselves.
It was for the protection of person and property that our forefathers invented democratic government. Without government, there is anarchy, exploitation through the use of force. Force creates nothing, it can only destroy. Logic shows us that the creation of wealth can only place through peaceful means, never through war. Without limitations on the use of force only meagre accumulations of wealth are possible. The final step to civilized conduct is the limitation of the use of force – the recognition that persuasion is the appropriate way for us to deal with each other paved the way for the affluence we often take for granted and are losing today. Wealth has only accumulated in nations that restrict the exploitation of individuals by recognizing that each person has the right to benefit from their own actions.
And here I must clarify the meaning of a concept whose meaning has been virtually destroyed. We consistently apply the term government to any group that makes the rules in a geographical area. We have been taught that the term government applies to all those who hold the power to restrict the actions of private citizens through the use of force. We have been trained to equate the terms lawmaker, ruler, and government.
This is a fallacy and a gross misrepresentation. The government was invented to protect life and property from those who consider that might makes right. The correct term for a dictator is criminal and a dictatorship is in fact gang warfare on innocent, unarmed people. When force is used to confiscate, rather than protect the property of private citizens, the group of people that perpetrate the confiscation cannot properly be called a government.
Today the greatest exploiters of citizens are the very governments that claim the role of protector, therefore I prefer the use of the term officialdom to describe the groups that are dedicated to the redistribution of wealth, the confiscated efforts of productive people.
Today the control of the money supply, the currency of a country, is in the hands of the officialdom of that country. As well, there are few countries in the world today where runaway inflation is not the single greatest threat facing that country. Inflation is, of course, the destruction of the value of the money units of a money system. Inflation is the taxation of on savings, on yesterday’s earnings, on investments. We know that inflation starts with unjustified increases in the money supply and as supply and demand determine the price of an article, it follows that unjustified increases in the amount of money in a country create the demand that drives up prices. Placing money in the hands of those who did not earn it, increases the number of purchasers and the increased cost is a tax on all the productive activities in that nation.
Blatantly ignored is the fact that paper money is nothing more than a promissory note to show an entitlement to other produced goods or services, an IOU if you will for past performance. Inflation is the act of defaulting on IOU’s held by private citizens, defaults carried out by the controllers of the money supply, the so-called protectors of the currency.
There are two distinct ways that private citizens are being exploited by officialdom. Firstly through indiscriminate deficit financing, and run-a-mock printing presses officialdom destroys the physical wealth of a nation and secondly, they teach misinformation. Few officials will admit liability for generating inflation yet the consequences of increasing a money supply is well known to them. In times of war, it is standard practice to counterfeit your enemy’s currency with the intent of destroying his currency. Is it conceivable that these same officials could be ignorant of the consequences of currency debasement in their own country?
Important though it may be, the destruction of physical wealth can be considered almost insignificant when compared with the ultimate crime, the crime of teaching misinformation. Here-in lies the most insidious consequence of the redistribution of wealth policy as money is the greatest teaching devise ever invented. In a free market, money accumulates with the people that serve the market best and those individuals will direct the activities of the greatest number of other people. In this way, untrained individuals direct their efforts to productive ventures, ventures they may not understand but for which they are able to earn rewards and so support their lives.
This is the most dangerous consequence of the re-direction of money by officialdom – the misinformation this teaches the receivers of these funds. Our civilization is now at a stage where few people hold correct basic knowledge about economics. The challenge for us is to avoid the catastrophic collapse that occurs when those who control a civilization fail to make correct decisions, decisions based on rational thought. There must be a dramatic reassessment of what is considered right, correct, true and moral on a global scale. Yet reassessment can only begin on an individual scale.
That is why one cannot overstress the seriousness of adding fiction to man’s knowledge base. Misinformation undermines the foundation that supports everyone. When an individual’s programming is faulty, there’s no defence against exploitation, no rational way left to support life.
Officialdom uses misinformation to sell their programs and most of the salespeople, the educators, the spreaders of knowledge as well as misinformation, spread this misinformation because they believe it is correct.
We are continually bombarded with fiction misrepresented as fact. For example, we know that officialdom is not the creator of wealth. Original wealth comes from private sources, from every person productively employed in the country. Yet officialdom spends millions annually telling us how much they are doing for us., while denying the source or acknowledging any ownership of the expropriated funds. The propaganda turns individuals into complacent sheep, accepting robbery as a benefit. The scope of the problem can be appreciated when we see how much effort is absorbed in appeasement of public officials, both to obtain funding and to obtain favourable regulations and primarily this bypassing of the market systems destroying our material affluence.
Our problem though is much more severe than just control by a group that abuses a money system. It is a lack of integrity throughout our entire society. The elected officials lack integrity because there is a lack of integrity in the citizens of the country.
A country or a society is nothing more than a collection of individuals and it’s the strength of these individuals that add up to the strength of that society or country. Today there are few people who feel guilt while demanding unjustified support and few people feel outraged at having to provide that support. Our problem is that the question of induced guilt was never resolved by any generation even though force was controlled for some time.
A free society is not a society that allows some to play loose and fast with the efforts of others. Rather, a free society recognizes a universal right to be productive instead of the right to exist without production. To exist without production is social cannibalism for this depends on living by confiscating the productive efforts generated by another.
Social cannibalism is taught. It is not natural. If it were natural, mankind would never have left the cave. We would have no society. Few educators question the correctness of what they teach, yet the philosophy that is taught is false.
However my purpose is not to cast blame, but to draw attention to a most serious situation. We can’t repair something until we admit it is broken. We need to halt the spread of misinformation and get back on the right track.
In this short essay, I do not attempt to give a philosophical discussion to show the road to recapturing our lost integrity and provide a rational value system. For that, I refer to my source, the works of Ayn Rand, the founder of Objectivism. There is however one philosophical principle upon which I base my argument that is relevant to this discourse. I do not accept that anyone, regardless of reason, can have an entitlement to the efforts of another human being. I believe a free person must have the right to dispose of his own effort. Anything to the contrary is nothing more than blatant slavery.
A permanent solution to our economic problems will require a philosophical about-face. The altruist code of ethics, that needs justifies confiscation, must be exposed for what it is, as simply a licence to exploit. The misconception that governments have an obligation to redistribute wealth to those in need and that anything goes so long as that end is served must be eliminated. We must recognize that charity is not generosity with another person’s effort.
But is there something we are able to do to slow down the confiscation of our own effort? We know that until the concept of private property is once again recognized there is no safety in any investment, let alone paper internments, be they bank deposits, stock certificates, or paper currency.
It is only the investment in a hard currency system or other physical investment that can defeat government-induced monetary inflation. On a personal level that investment is open to everyone and while it is not possible for any single person to modify or undo the evils in general, it is possible to retain some of your own property by investing in the products of the market, rather than paper money.
And it is impossible to overemphasize the importance of the money system, the indirect exchange system, to modern society. Modern societies run on money transactions and to return to a barter system would mean the death of vast numbers of people.
The destruction of the present currency is widely predicted and considered almost complete. For this reason, everyone should do all they can to protect themselves and their property, their earning. To change the government from an agent of destruction in time to save the money system may well be impossible but we need to do all that we can to protect ourselves.
However, we must never forget that the value of a currency is only the productive good it can be exchanged for, not from any intrinsic value of its own. As such the preservation of the production system is vastly more important than owning gold. The richness of our lives depends on being able to purchase the products that are created by a capitalist system.
It is the willful, conscious destruction of capitalism that causes the suffering that many individuals in our society are experiencing today. Capitalism rewards the best efforts of a man rather than his worst. We cannot generate prosperity by making transfer payments to unproductive ventures As a nation we are committing suicide. For personal prosperity and safety, it is up to each and every one of us to do what we can to halt the destruction of capitalism. The strongest and most rational defence of capitalism is to be found in the works of Ayn Rand. Her ideas supply the ammunition need to halt the social suicide that is taking place around us.
At the start of this essay, I listed the triad that is the foundation of modern society. The vehicle of every idea, including this essay, is language. The range of an individual in this society is limited by the incorrect ideas held by that person. As such, it is the ideas, the philosophy that needs to be repaired to repair society and improve the quality of life for all of us.
The redistribution of your wealth will not eliminate poverty but it will eliminate your wealth. Every individual controls his own actions. An individual’s well-being requires that his personal efforts be directed by rational thought. Until the concept behind the thought is understood, many men will continue to perceive their best interests will be served by exploiting their more productive fellows rather than developing their own talents. Yet exploitation is surely the least secure support base for a living being to rely on – one can never predict when the worm might turn. Support provided by another person requires a willingness to provide that support, something that can be withdrawn at any time.
Personal safety depends on a different attitude. Throughout life, a human being has access to only two resources – the physical material on the face of the earth and the ideas held in that person’s brain. Effort directed by knowledge supports the life of a human being. For life, all that is required is the freedom to act rationally and to retain your production. It must be recognized that the act of retaining the products of your effort exploits no one, that it in fact helps everyone.
The phenomenal achievements of the past two hundred years were made possible by capitalism, the only system that recognizes an individual’s right to own property. It was because earnings were retained by the creators of wealth and reinvested intelligently that our society became affluent. Capitalism took the playthings of the rich, the scientific inventions that were once only the amusements for kings and mass-produced these items for the benefit of the common person, for us. This is the social system that is denounced.
Capitalism has eliminated most of the natural obstacles to personal well-being. Man-made obstacles now present the greatest obstructions to freedom – to well-being – to life. The right to life and the right to support that life with one’s own effort is the basis for an affluent society and needs to be re-established. To achieve affluence, we require only a clear conception of individual rights.
To stand by and let the most phenomenal social system ever devised die by default would be the ultimate evil. The philosophy of Objectivism shows that reason is the only way to prevent that death. The philosophy of Objectivism teaches one how to deal with the question of guilt, the only real hold that incarcerates the productive individuals of this world.
Only in a slave state can one conceive of owning another human being’s effort. Because money is directly exchanged for effort, monetary inflation is simply a vehicle of slavery, and the government is the driver of that vehicle. The driver’s licence is a misconception, that widely held idea that socialism shows concern for people and that capitalism only shows concern for money. The misconception is destroying our lives.
The fight is with ideas. This slavery is sanctioned by creative victims, the productive people it destroys. Silence and apathy are destroying the greatest social system ever devised. For that reason I ask you to scrutinize the spending of your effort, to do all you can to deny support to the persons that claim you have no right to your wealth. Be it misguided fools of hardened Marxists, the verbal poison that is being spread needs to be challenged on every possible front. Those who advocate destructive policies must be shown the impossibility of surviving while advocating those policies. It is only the complacency of productive people that supports them now.
So to sum it up. Firstly you require knowledge – in order to act correctly, in accordance with reality and by that means, to enhance your personal life. Secondly, you must have a means of storing the products of those actions for a time when physical illness or a natural phenomenon creates a disruption in your ability to act, to support yourself. And thirdly you need a guarantee that it is not all for nothing– that yes, what you work for is yours and what your friend works for his and that cooperation means mutual respect., not ‘let’s gang up on the third guy so we won’t have to work’.
And with this thought, I want to end this essay. I consider it immeasurably more benevolent to teach nothing than to teach falsehoods. Information will always contain a personal bias and you will do yourself irreparable mental harm by blindly accepting anything. Faith destroys thinking and only by applying the scientific method, what we call reason, logic to all that is said can we be certain we are dealing with knowledge. This work is no exception. Independent judgement is the single most beneficial human trait, the force that serves to maintain a view of reason, of rationality, upon which the preservation of individual freedom depends. It is time to demand reason from those who call themselves educators and leaders.