Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Feminist Movement Revised

Check out this video about the flaws of the current feminist ideology, and how it is counter productive to the stated goals of feminism, namely gender equality.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Monday, July 30, 2012

Intellectuals and Society: Poverty And Wealth

Intellectuals have a great tendency to see poverty as a great moral problem to which they have the solution. The human race began in poverty, so there's no mysterious explanation as to why some people are poor. The question is why have some people gotten prosperous, and in particular why some have gotten prosperous to a greater degree than others. But everybody started poor, so poverty is not a mystery to be solved by intellectuals. More than that, intellectuals have no interest in what creates wealth, and what inhibits the creation of wealth. They are very concerned about the distribution of it, but they act as if wealth just exists - somehow. It's like manna from heaven, it's only a question of how we split it up.

[...] Most intellectuals in most countries around the world see the issue as how those who are more prosperous should be brought down, and moreover that the people who are lagging should cling to their culture. I don’t know how you're going to keep on doing what you've always done and get results that are different from what you’ve always gotten.

Thomas Sowell

What is wealth?! This is a basic question one might ask. Paper money is not wealth! Wealth are the actual goods and services that a person has access to. Wealth are the goods and services which can be used to satisfy our human desires and needs.

A fish swimming in the ocean is not wealth. A fish caught in the net of a fisherman is wealth. The difference is that the fish in the ocean is not accessible to anyone, it cannot satisfy hunger by the virtue of existing. However, once that fish is caught, it becomes accessible and can satisfy hunger. Then, and only then, that fish is considered wealth.

Rocks found in nature are not wealth. A house that is built with those rocks is wealth, because houses can be used to satisfy the need for shelter.

In other words, our wealth depends on our capacity to transform raw materials found in nature into useful products that we can use in our everyday life. This process requires deliberate actions made by individuals.

A caveman no matter how much wealthier he is compared to his fellow cavemen is much less wealthier than most of the people we consider as poor in our day and age. There are two fundamentally different ways to measure poverty and wealth. The first is absolute measurement; Such measurement would lead us to see how the poor individuals of today are indeed much wealthier than their predecessors. The second way is comparative; That is comparing the wealth of one person to another. However, the second way can lead to disasters in terms of human progress. Most intellectuals on the left-wing of politics focus on the question of wealth in the comparative sense, but without the faintest understanding of how their type of analysis affects wealth in the absolute sense.

Having millions of dollars means nothing if there were no fish to eat, no houses to live in, no cars to drive, or no mobiles to use. In a world without goods and services, it does not make a difference if you have a million dollars or no money at all, because there is nothing to buy in the first place. Money derives its value from the goods and services you can buy, not from any intrinsic value that money has.

Without Microsoft Inc. there would be no MS Windows to buy; Without Apple Inc. there would be no iPads to buy; Without GM Ford Inc. there would be no cars to buy; And without IBM Inc. there would be no computers. Without the effort the individuals behind those companies invested, the products which we take for granted would not have existed. So, is it reasonable to claim that it is unfair that Bill Gates owns more money than other people, when the reason he became rich is that individuals found the products and services his company provided beneficial to billions of people around the globe?! Every single individual who bought MS Windows has participated in creating Bill Gate's wealth: His wealth is proportional to the amount of service he provided to individual people.

There is general fallacy that people generally commit when thinking that paper money is a measure of wealth. For example, let's say a person bought a car for 4000$; Did that person lose wealth or gain wealth?! Most people would say that this person lost wealth because he now has 4000$ less. This is the fallacy of thinking that money is a measure of wealth. 4000$ sitting in a bank account is worthless if you do not benefit from it. So, the person who bought the car has converted "virtual" wealth in the form of paper money into real wealth which is the car. The car itself is the real wealth, not the paper money.

Real wealth is a function of technology (also called "capital"). Real wealth depends on our ability to convert raw materials found in nature into useful products that we can use in our real life. A fishing net is technology: It enables fishermen to extract fish found in the ocean into fish that we can consume. Before the invention of fishing nets, people had to catch fish by their bare hands. Such a method might require numerous hours to get 4 or 5 fishes to eat. Using fishing nets we can now get hundreds of fish to eat in a small amount of time. The fishing net is thus called capital.

It can be easily seen that in a primitive society that has not invented fishing nets would be much poorer (even if the fish were evenly distributed among members of that society) than one where fishing nets have been invented (even if the fish is not evenly distributed) because the second society has higher yield of fish. Yield is the amount of resources required to obtain certain goods; Time is one of the resources that is required obtain goods; So, the higher yield in the second society is because they were able to produce more fish in a given amount of time. This increased efficiency would improve the wealth of society as a whole and the individuals within that society.

In a primitive society, if an oil field exploded in your farm, this would be a disaster, because the crude oil would destroy your crops. In that case, oil is not wealth because the technology that makes use of oil has not been discovered yet. On the other hand, in today's world this would be great fortune, because that oil can be used to run cars or be used in industry; Oil is now a commodity that serves our human needs. In other words, a primitive society cannot convert the natural resource of oil into a valuable commodity, but an industrial society does.

In short, wealth is a function of technology. The discoveries that improve our use of scarce raw materials that are found in nature. Whether it is a fish that you don't have the tools to hunt, or the oil that you cannot put to use in your day-to-day life. And those technological advancements are what creates real wealth.

Technology makes it possible to divide labor and makes better use of our time. In a primitive society (assuming it depended on fishing to eat), all people would be busy fishing because each individual can barely feed himself and his family. However, once the technology of fishing nets are discovered, only a handful of people would become fishermen and the rest would go about their day trying to make other kinds of products that they desire or need. Those individuals can then trade their products with the fishermen to satisfy their hunger, and the fishermen would have excess fish and food that they would be glad to trade their fish for the other services that have now become possible due to the process of freeing up people's time to provide new services. In this scenario, those new products -that were not possible before- are how a society as a whole become more wealthy and prosperous than another society that is not using that technology.

In other words, the technology of fishing nets freed up the time of the people in that society. They can now think about philosophy, make up theories about geometry and math, or make scientific discoveries. All of these endeavors would consequently be used to invent new technologies that would bring that society even more technological advancements that is needed to create more wealth.

Some people worry that improved technology like automated industries are not good because then the people who worked in those factories would lose their jobs. But in reality, this is how real wealth is created; Those people are now freed up and can make better use of their productive capacity and employ that capacity in new services that were not possible before, or in places they are needed more. Those automated industries can now produce more products in less time at a cheaper prince, and the workforce is now available to provide their services in other products and services.

Technology does have the short-term effect of causing some people to lose their jobs. Another example is the email. The mailman might be upset that his job is now obsolete since people can now use the email, but if every new technological advancement had to be discouraged due to it's short-term impact on a small sector of individuals nothing would ever be accomplished.

Wealth creation generally tends to improve society as a whole. And the wealth distribution generally remains roughly constant among different sectors of society like say, business owners and employees. The wealth gap might increase, but this should not be considered as a serious problem.

To give a numerical example, let's suppose that a certain sum of money is going to be divided between you and another person (say, 30% to you and 70% to the other person). In that setup, which is better: Splitting 100$ such that you get 30$ and 70$ for the other person?! Or splitting 1000$ such that you get 300$ and 700$ for the other person?! If you focus on the wealth gap, you would conclude that splitting a 100$ is better because the gap is 40$ compared to 400$. On the other hand, if you focus on absolute wealth you conclude that splitting 1000$ is better because you got more money. [Of course, we should not focus on paper money, but real wealth in terms of products and services, but let's assume that the purchasing power of money in this example is constant.]

Empirical evidence generally shows that the best way to improve the quality of life for all people (regardless of economic class) in the long-term is not to redistribute wealth, but to increase the wealth of the nation in absolute terms. Wealth does naturally flow around, and the more wealth that exists the more there is to go around.

It is a known fact (although not commonly understood and sometimes deliberately ignored) that socialism and communism have negative impact on real wealth. Socialism destroys real wealth (for many reasons that will be explained in later posts), and in the long-run all wealth would ultimately be destroyed, leaving society in dire poverty in terms of absolute wealth. One of the reasons is that our wealth depends on our capacity to transform raw materials found in nature into useful products that we can use in our everyday life. Socialism and communism interfere with the natural mechanisms that enables us to put natural resources into their most efficient use. This in turn would turn the natural progress towards more wealth in the opposite direction of less wealth, until wealth runs out completely.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Libertarianism: Grounds Up Formulation

Introduction and Basic Definition:
In this post, I will informally describe the philosophy of libertarianism from the basic foundations. This is not meant to be comprehensive definition and analysis, however it presents the philosophy from it's foundational principles.

The beauty of libertarianism is it's simplicity. It is the simplest political philosophy to understand, because it rests essentially on a single axiom. Everything else is made through extrapolation from that single axiom.

The axiom of libertarianism is self-ownership: You own yourself. Your body is your property.

Owning property means that you have an exclusive right to control and make decisions about the use and function of the property you own.

With that in mind, this means by definition that owning your body means that you have an exclusive right to control and make decisions about the use and function of your body. Your body is the first property you own once you are born.

By careful analysis and study of the implications of the concept of self-ownership, we reach three further theoretical constructs that are conclusions from the axiom of self-ownership. Theory of property rights, theory of contracts, and theory of crime. I will not go into details of how those theories are formally derived from the concept of self-ownership; I will address that in future posts. Let's briefly discuss those theoretical constructs.

The Theory of Property Rights:
The major question of property rights is how does a person go from owning one property (his body) to owning external things in the world. There are two principles that need to be in place to answer this question.

1- The homesteading principle: The homesteading principle describes how a person might acquire what is previously unowned by anyone else. The principle states that a person gains property by mixing his labor with nature. Since a person owns his body, he also owns his labor. This means that a person can appropriate those parts of nature which he invested labor in.

2- Legitimate title transfer: The legitimate title transfer describes how one person might acquire the legitimate property of another person. A legitimate title transfer is defined as a voluntary transfer of property authorized by it's legitimate owner. There are many ways to transfer property: Giving someone a gift; Exchanging items through trade or barter (buying and selling); Inheritance; Or contractual agreements; All of these are examples of legitimate title transfer.

The Theory of Contracts:
Contracts are necessary to ensure securing property rights. Contracts can be simply understood as future (possibly conditional) property rights. For example, if you lend your friend a sum of money on the condition that they return it next week; This means that you have a right to that sum of money next week to be provided by that same person. If you buy an item on eBay, this means that you have a right to receive the item in question in the future. If you make a bet with someone on the outcome of a football match, it means that the property rights to certain sums of money are conditional upon the unfolding of a future event.

Contracts are important because they provide the necessary tools to secure property rights. In the case of lending someone a sum of money, the lender would have only agreed to voluntarily give up his property under the conditions of the contract. Violating contracts is a violation of the terms of the voluntary exchange under which one party agreed to transfer the property in question.

The Theory of Crime:
In libertarianism there is one -and only one- type of criminal activity: Violations of the property rights of others. In other words, any activity that violates the property of another person is a crime. Any activity that does not violate the property of another is legal.

In this understanding, we see that crimes generally fall under one of three broad categories of property crimes:

1- Crimes against property of the self: Since by definition every person owns his body, then violating the property rights of the body is a crime. Murder, rape, or physical violence are all crimes against the property rights of that person in his body. Murder, rape, and violence are akin to vandalism of the property rights of others.

2- Crimes against external property: Theft and vandalism are crimes against the property rights of others in external objects in the world.

3- Breach of contract: Since contracts are future property rights, thus breaching contracts is akin to theft in retrospective regard.

Libertarian Analysis of Some Political Issues:
The libertarian perspective is utterly simple as has been discussed earlier. All rights are essentially property rights. And all crimes are property crimes, and anything that is not a property crime should be legal.

Should murder be legal?
Murder is a violation of the property rights of individuals in their own bodies. Murder should not be legal.

Should rape be legal?
Rape is a violation of the property rights of individuals in their own bodies. Rape should not be legal.

Should slavery be legal?
Slavery violates the property rights of the individual slaves to control and decide the use and function of their bodies. Slavery should not be legal.

Should theft be legal?
Theft is a violation of the property rights of individuals in their legitimately acquired property. Theft should not be legal.

Should free speech be legal?
Speech does not violate the property rights of any individuals. All speech should be legal.

Should refusing to pay rent be legal?
Refusing to pay rent is a breach of contract. It violates the property rights of renters through retrospective theft. In other words, that person was given conditional rights to use the rented house, and not satisfying those conditions means that this person was retrospectively illegally using the house which they refused to pay the rent for.

Should homosexuality be legal?
Since individuals are the owners of their bodies, individuals have exclusive right to control and decide the use and function of their bodies. Consequently, they have unrestrained right to practice sexuality with any consenting individuals. Consent is required because without it, it would be a property crime (rape).

On the other hand, banning the practice by means of force or violence is a crime, since it is a violation of the property rights of individual homosexuals in their bodies, and their rights to control and decide the use and function of their property.

Should prostitution be legal?
Prostitution similarly is an exercise of the property rights of the prostitute with respect to her body. Prostitution is a legitimate contract since it does not violate the property rights of any individuals.

On the other hand, banning the practice by means of force or violence is a crime, since it is a violation of the property rights of the individual prostitutes in their bodies, and their rights to control and decide the use and function of their property.

Should drugs be legal?
Buying and selling drugs is a legitimate title transfer of property. The use of drugs by itself does not violate the property rights of anyone, thus it should be legal. The individual has the right control and decide what goes into their bodies.

Should driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs be legal?
This is a borderline issue. While drunk driving is not, in and of itself, a crime, it significantly increases the chance of committing a crime (namely, involuntary manslaughter). This question and other similar questions like "Should polluting the environment be legal?" require analysis of the theory of externalities; A theory I have not discussed in this post. The theory of externalities basically deals with indirect violations of property rights. For example, selling expired food imposes an externality on individuals whose health is damaged by such a practice.

Final Remarks:
There is a common saying that goes: "All you need to know about libertarianism you learnt in kinder garden: Don't hit other people, don't take their stuff, and keep your promises." - That is indeed all you need to know to understand the philosophy of libertarianism.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Ayn Rand VS Jesus: Love

{5:44} But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; {5:45} That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. {5:46} For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

source: The Christian Bible / Matthew 5:42-46 (PDF)

When it comes to love, the highest of emotions, you permit them to shriek at you accusingly that you are a moral delinquent if you’re incapable of feeling causeless love. When a man feels fear without reason, you call him to the attention of a psychiatrist; you are not so careful to protect the meaning, the nature and the dignity of love.

Love is the expression of one’s values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another. Your morality demands that you divorce your love from values and hand it down to any vagrant, not as response to his worth, but as response to his need, not as reward, but as alms, not as a payment for virtues, but as a blank check on vices. Your morality tells you that the purpose of love is to set you free of the bonds of morality, that love is superior to moral judgment, that true love transcends, forgives and survives every manner of evil in its object, and the greater the love the greater the depravity it permits to the loved. To love a man for his virtues is paltry and human, it tells you; to love him for his flaws is divine. To love those who are worthy of it is self-interest; to love the unworthy is sacrifice. You owe your love to those who don’t deserve it, and the less they deserve it, the more love you owe them - the more loathsome the object, the nobler your love - the more unfastidious your love, the greater the virtue - and if you can bring your soul to the state of a dump heap that welcomes anything on equal terms, if you can cease to value moral values, you have achieved the state of moral perfection.

The degree of your ability to live was the degree to which you broke your moral code, yet you believe that those who preach it are friends of humanity, you damn yourself and dare not question their motives or their goals.

Ayn Rand

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Morality of Seduction: Is Redistribution of Wealth Moral?

Libertarians generally believe that the actions of government should follow the same ethical principles that private individuals follow. It is generally believed that theft is unethical. Assuming that theft is immoral, should redistribution of wealth through government be considered moral?!

The morality of seduction is the principle that moral human relationships are voluntary interactions (some libertarians do call themselves voluntaryists). The morality of rape is the idea that moral human relationships can be coercive by the use of force. Is redistribution of wealth consistent with the morality of seduction or the morality of rape?!

See this video of Economist Walter Williams making the moral case against the redistribution of wealth.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

To Think or Not To Think

"I exist, therefore I'll think."

"Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking."

"Man’s mind is his basic tool of survival. Life is given to him, survival is not. His body is given to him, its sustenance is not. His mind is given to him, its content is not. To remain alive, he must act, and before he can act he must know the nature and purpose of his action. He cannot obtain his food without a knowledge of food and of the way to obtain it. He cannot dig a ditch – or build a cyclotron – without a knowledge of his aim and of the means to achieve it. To remain alive, he must think.
But to think is an act of choice. [...] In any hour and issue of your life, you are free to think or to evade that effort. But you are not free to escape from your nature, from the fact that reason is your means of survival – so that for you, who are a human being, the question ‘to be or not to be’ is the question ‘to think or not to think’."

"Man must obtain his knowledge and choose his actions by a process of thinking, which nature will not force him to perform."

Ayn Rand

Economics and The Theory of Value (2)

Profit in the Subjective Theory of Value:
In the previous part, we discussed Karl Marx's theory of exploitation, and the thesis that profit is made though exploitation of one person of another. The subjective theory of value provides an alternative explanation of how profit is made in trade.

Let's review the story of Mr. Jesus Lover and Mr. Jesus Hater discussed earlier. In that story, Mr. Jesus Lover got a T-shirt as a gift with "I hate Jesus" written on it. Mr. Jesus Hater got a T-shirt as a gift with "I love Jesus" written on it. In this scenario, both of these individuals have negative valuation of the items they have.

Unlike our previous example, in this scenario, those individuals don't know each other; So, they are not going to engage in direct trade. Instead, let's suppose there is Mr. Trader. Mr. Trader meets Mr. Jesus Lover and offers him 6$ to get that shirt. Later, Mr. Trader meets Mr. Jesus Hater and offers him another 6$ to get that shirt from him.

Note that each of these trades are good bargains for these individuals, since for each of them, the shirt they have is worthless; But now each one of them has 6$ instead of a worthless shirt!!

Suppose now that Mr. Trader puts these shirts on sale. He offers both shirts for 10$. Let's assume that Mr. Jesus Lover values the first T-shirt for 12$, and Mr. Jesus Hater values the second T-shirt for 12$ also. Both of these individuals visit Mr. Trader's shop and buy their favorite shirts for 10$.

Let's examine what happened with this step-by-step table:

As we can see, Mr. Jesus Lover started out with a worthless shirt and 10$ in his pocket. He ended up with a shirt he subjectively values at 12$ and 6$ in his pocket. Giving him a total of 18$ in value. Mr. Jesus Lover has gained the equivalent of 8$ in this process!!

Mr. Jesus Hater started out with a worthless shirt and 10$ in his pocket. He ended with a shirt he subjectively values at 12$ and 6$ in his pocket. Mr. Jesus Hater gained the equivalent of 8$ in this process.

Mr. Trader started out with 12$ in his pocket, and ended up with 20$ in his pocket. Mr. Trader has made a profit of 8$ as well...

As a total for all people involved, we started with the equivalent of 32$ in value, and ended up with the equivalent of 56$ in value. The net gain for all people involved is the equivalent of 24$... Also, note that each step in this process increases the amount of value in the system, because each step is itself a positive-sum game as the people involved wouldn't trade unless each one of them subjectively views the trade as profitable.

By understanding this scenario, we learn three very important lessons:
1- In trade, everyone involved is a winner.
2- Trade CREATES new value.
3- In trade, profit is made in the process of different subjective valuation of the same commodities.

In our scenario, Mr. Trader profited from the process of transferring the ownership title of the two shirts, from the individuals who least wanted those items, to the hands of those who most wanted those items.

In technical economic terminology, profit is made by efficient allocation and reallocation of resources. In our example, the trader served to reallocate the existing resources (the shirts), from it's inefficient initial allocation (as worthless shirts) to their more efficient allocation (valued shirts).

Labor is a resource just like any other resource in the market. And business owners maximize their profit by allocating labor to it's most efficient use. This might not be easily understood as the trading example, and I will elaborate on this in future posts.

Trade brings profit by increasing the efficiency of allocating resources. In the T-shirts example, profit was made by goods simply exchanging hands. But, this is not the only way trade is beneficial. Trade also improves efficiency by conserving resources. See video below as another example of how trade increases efficiency of allocating resources in a more concrete sense.

In this series:
Economics and The Theory of Value (1)
Economics and The Theory of Value (2)
Next: Economics and The Theory of Value (3)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Re-Evaluating Discrimination

Economist Walter Williams gives great lecture about the common myths and misunderstandings about discrimination.

Watch the full lecture, titled "How Much Can Discrimination Explain?".

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Economic Freedom and Personal Freedom

In politics, views are usually divided into right-wing and left-wing politics. However, this 1-dimentional division does overlook some critical differences in political views. One important distinction is economic freedom and personal freedom.

The general trend is that the right-wingers (conservatives) usually support economic freedom, but suppress personal freedom. On the other hand, left-wingers (social liberals) usually support personal freedom, but suppress economic freedom. However, this left-right dichotomy makes people unaware of the existence of those distinctions.

Instead of a 1-dimentional political spectrum, a 2-dimentional political spectrum is usually used. Some people have devised 3-dimentional political spectrum, but that is beyond this post. What this political spectrum shows is the distinction of the classical liberals (usually called "libertarians" to avoid confusion with the more widespread social liberals). Classical liberals support BOTH economic freedom and personal freedom; That is because classical liberalism is based on the idea of least government control in people's lives.

Take this short test to see where you fall on the political spectrum.

On this diagram, notice the personal freedom score and the economic freedom score. In this diagram, going from right-to-left measures how much your views oppose tradition. Right being most traditional, and Left being most opposed to tradition. On the other hand, going from bottom-to-top measures how much you believe that government should control people's lives. The bottom means you believe government should take complete control in people's lives, and top means you believe government should not control people's lives.

To learn more, check those two YouTube videos:
Economic Vs. Civil Liberties
Who favors more freedom, liberals or conservatives?

Monday, July 09, 2012

Economics and The Theory of Value (1)

An important concept in the theory of economics is the theory of value. Unfortunately, numerous economical theories have misguided theories of value. The prevalent theory of value in the 19th century is called "The labor theory of value" and most economists of that time used that theory of value.

Karl Marx in his formulation of the economic system of communism had made five fatal flaws in making in his theories. Those flaws are:
1- Using the labor theory of value.
2- Lack of understanding of information propagation and signaling in the market.
3- Lack of understanding of the role of discovery, learning, and creativity in the market.
4- Misinterpreting the direction of history (historical materialism).
5- Lack of understanding of the laws of causality (the relationship between cause and effect).

In this post, I will address the first topic, namely the theory of value. Hopefully, in future posts I will address the rest of the flaws in Karl Marx's theory of economics. Please note that most of the flaws in Karl Marx's theory were result of poor understanding of economics in the 19th century, so this post is not meant to question the intelligence of Karl Marx, but rather review his theory in the light of advances in economic theory in the 20th and the 21st century.

The Labor Theory of Value:
The labor theory of value states that the value of a commodity is proportional to the amount of labor that went into the production of that commodity. This means that any two commodities that had the same amount of labor invested in them should be equally priced, and sold for the same price. Similarly, if twice the amount of labor went into one commodity, then it's price should be double.

The labor theory of value is part of a sub-class of theories of value, called objective theories of value. Objective theories of value are those theories that state that commodities should have a specific value (and consequently specific price). Labor is one of the metrics that objective theories of value use.

The Subjective Theory of Value:
The subjective theory of value state that the value of a commodity is subjectively determined by both producers and consumers.

To illustrate the flaws of the labor theory of value, let's consider this example:

Let's assume for the sake of argument, that the same amount of labor went into the production of those two T-shirts. Do both T-shirts have the same value?! Certainly not! For a person who loves Jesus, the second T-shirt has negative value. That is to say, that person would not take the second T-shirt even if it was offered for free! Different people would have different valuations for the same commodity. This means that objective theories of value are all necessarily false including -among others- the labor theory of value.

Trade is a Positive-Sum Game:
A positive-sum game is the type of game where the sum of values of all players after the process is larger than the sum of values of all players before the process.

Let's consider an example of a zero-sum game to illustrate the meaning of the term. Let's say that two friends make a bet on the outcome of a football match, such that the loser of the bet would pay the winner of the bet 10$. This is a zero-sum game because in order for one person to gain 10$, the other person has to lose 10$. So, the winner had 10$ before, and 20$ after. The loser had 10$ before, and 0$ after. The sum of money before was 10$+10$ = 20$, and after is 20$+0$ = 20$.

Since, the difference in the amount before and after is zero, then it is a zero-sum game. In other words, in a zero-sum game, in order for one player to gain a certain amount of value, the other player must lose an equal amount of value.

Sexual intercourse is a good example of a positive-sum game. Both parties involved in a sexual interaction gain satisfaction. In other words, it is a win-win situation, where all players gain value.

Is trade a zero-sum game? Positive-sum game? Or negative-sum game?

If we assume that commodities have a fixed objective value, then trade is a zero-sum game. If PersonX owned ItemX and PersonY owned ItemY, and those items had fixed objective values, then a trade will not change the sum of values in the system.

However, when we assume the subjective theory of value, we see how trade is a positive-sum game. To illustrate that, let's go back to our T-shirts example. Say, Mr. Jesus Lover got the "I hate Jesus" T-shirt as a gift. And his friend, Mr. Jesus Hater got the "I love Jesus" T-shirt as a gift. Both of these individuals have negative valuation of the items they received. On the other hand, they both have positive valuation of the item their friend has received.

Let's say, Mr. Jesus Lover proposes a trade to Mr. Jesus Hater. Let's consider the conditions on which this trade will be successful.
1- Mr. Jesus Lover values the shirt his friend has more than he values the shirt he already has; Otherwise, he wouldn't have proposed the trade in the first place.
2- Mr. Jesus Hater values the shirt his friend offered more than he values the shirt he already has. If he did not value it more, he would refuse to make the trade.

From (1) and (2), we can easily see that voluntary trade is necessarily a positive-sum game.

Karl Marx's Theory of Exploitation:
I am not going to explore Marx's theory of exploitation in full, it is a mathematically intensive theory. But what is important to realize, is that the whole theory is based on the labor theory of value, and that trade is a zero-sum game.

According to the theory of exploitation, every trade is either neutral or exploitative. So, if two individuals enter into a trade, they are either going to trade items of equal value, or trade items of different values. In the case two people trade of items of different values, the person who got the more valuable item is an "exploiter", and the person who got the less valuable item is "exploited".

Then Marx focused on the trade between a business owner (the capitalist) and the employee (proletariat). And then went on to prove that the wages employees get is necessarily exploitative. In other words, employees are always exploited.

The proof is relatively simple. The price at which a product that is sold on the market equals the amount of labor that went into making the product. So, the only way the business owner can make a profit is to pay his employees less than the true value of their labor. So, the only way a business owner can make any profit whatsoever, is by exploiting his employees. And the more profit a business owner makes, the more exploitative his wages are.

To give a numerical example, let's say a cars factory owner bought the raw materials (steel and other raw materials) for 200$. This 200$ is the value of labor required to mine those raw materials. He then hires one worker to assemble a car in his factory. Later, the factory owner sells the car for, say, 1200$. According to the labor theory of value, the price of the car (1200$) is the value of the total labor that went into the production of the car. The value that the worker at the factory added is 1000$ (since 200$ was the price of the raw materials). So, if the factory owner gives his worker 800$ as a salary, and keeps 200$ as profit, then the factory owner has exploited his worker by not compensating him for 20% of his labor (200$ of the 1000$).

It can be easily seen, how in the labor theory of value, any profit a business owner makes is necessarily an act of exploiting his workers. Fortunately, it is obvious that the labor theory of value is not a valid assumption to build a theory.

It is also important to note that, Karl Marx's theory of historical materialism is derived from his theory of exploitation, and so, that theory as well needs to be put in question.

In this series:
Economics and The Theory of Value (1)
Economics and The Theory of Value (2)
Next: Economics and The Theory of Value (3)

Sunday, July 08, 2012

How Good Is Greed?!

Is greed a virtue or a vice?! Economist Walter Williams believes that greed is the noblest of human motivations... I happen to agree, do you?!

See this video of Walter Williams explaining the virtues of greed.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Importance of Freedom of Speech

Since knowledge, thinking, and rational action are properties of the individual, since the choice to exercise his rational faculty or not depends on the individual, man’s survival requires that those who think be free of the interference of those who don’t. Since men are neither omniscient nor infallible, they must be free to agree or disagree, to cooperate or to pursue their own independent course, each according to his own rational judgment. Freedom is the fundamental requirement of man’s mind.

A rational mind does not work under compulsion; it does not subordinate its grasp of reality to anyone’s orders, directives, or controls; it does not sacrifice its knowledge, its view of the truth, to anyone’s opinions, threats, wishes, plans, or “welfare”. Such a mind may be hampered by others, it may be silenced, proscribed, imprisoned, or destroyed; it cannot be forced; a gun is not an argument. (An example and symbol of this attitude is Galileo.)

It is from the work and the inviolate integrity of such minds—from the intransigent innovators—that all of mankind’s knowledge and achievements have come. It is to such minds that mankind owes its survival.

Ayn Rand

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Libertarianism: Short Essay

An interesting article by someone who used to be a conservative, then decided to become a liberal, and finally decided that libertarianism is the way to go...

Title: Why I Am A Libertarian: A Brief Treatise About My Politics

Both conservatives and liberals are wrong!

For most of the earlier years of my life, I was a conservative. Like most conservatives I was pro-business, pro-tax cuts, pro-life. I believed that government could tell people what they could and could not put into their bodies, that it should be involved in marriage, and that we needed to go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As I got older, I let altruism and my feelings make me more liberal. I began to think that capitalism was flawed, and that the government needed to do more for people.

I continued down this psychotic path until the election of President Obama. That is when I started to “wake up”. I began to realize that conservatives and liberals are not that different. Both are Statist. Both want to control people—liberals want to control people economically, conservatives want to control people morally, and both are pro-war.

Liberals were never really anti-war, they were anti-Bush. Observe that the war movement among the liberals virtually disappeared overnight after Obama became president. Even though he is now waging three immoral wars, liberals are silent. He has continued the foreign policy of the Bush administration, but you will not likely find liberals rallying or protesting in the streets like they were while Bush was in office.

This leads me to my next point: both conservatism and liberalism are inconsistent and contain within their own philosophies, many contradictions. Upon further examination, the liberals are actually more consistent than the conservatives. For example, conservatives claim to be defenders of capitalism while acting as apologizers. They have a disdain for the welfare state but love corporate welfare. Some of them are advocates of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. How can any moral man be a defender capitalism, i.e., property rights, and be in favor of socialism (redistribution of wealth), i.e., Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid? He cannot. To be in favor of both is a complete and utter contradiction. But such is conservativism.

Conservatives say that capitalism is good, but some parts of it are bad(!). They say that men should be free to trade while at the same time admitting that government needs to impose some regulations and interfere in the market place. Observe the anti-trust laws. Many conservatives advocated them and continue to advocate them to this day in the name of “preserving competition”.

Conservatives, like liberals, are altruistic, though not as much as the liberals. Altruism is incompatible with capitalism. One cannot be a capitalist and an altruist at the same time.

Conservatives are worse than the liberals. Why? They lack intellectual leadership and have failed to defend capitalism by moral default. It is their inconsistency and miserable failures that aid the liberals in their attacks against capitalism, thereby becoming accessories to its destruction.

If I am neither a conservative nor a liberal, then what am I? If I am to be identified by a political label, then I would have to be labeled a libertarian. What is a libertarian? A libertarian is anyone who believes in and advocates individual liberty. They are individualists that are for limited government. They are most often described as socially liberal and fiscally (economically) conservative. They don’t want to control people neither morally nor economically (unlike liberals and conservatives) and believe that men should be free to pursue their own self-interests as long as they do not violate the rights of others.

Many of the Founding Fathers were libertarians, or classical liberals (libertarianism and classical liberalism are the same thing). They created a politico-economic system of maximal liberty and minimal government.

Modern liberals have perverted the term liberal. It no longer means advocating individual freedom. The only way that they are really “liberal” is with other people’s money. Conservatives used to be very classically liberal but the modern conservatives have completely changed that. They are willing to protect only those freedoms that they are comfortable with.

Libertarians do not necessarily believe that there is nothing wrong with certain people like drug abusers or prostitutes. They simply believe that those people should be free to be immoral and that government should leave them alone as long as they do not violate the rights of others.

Before finally deciding to become a libertarian, which was a process that took months, I had to re-examine my core values and beliefs. The very most core belief that I examined was that of man’s agency. Man owns his life and has a right to it. No one else owns his life or may control it. Therefore, man must be free to choose. Freedom means absence of force. No other man may violate his rights, nor may he violate the rights of others through force.

Since each individual man owns his own life, he owns the products of his life: his property! No man may forcibly confiscate the property of others nor may any other man forcibly confiscate his. It is only by voluntary trade that men may obtain resources from each other. This means that taxation is theft. The income tax is a complete and utter violation of individual rights.

Only individuals have rights. No group, or collective, has rights, as collectives do not exist. A collective is only a number of individuals. It is only an abstraction, not a concrete, and can, therefore, not be embodied as a living entity that has rights. Only an individual man can have rights, because he exists. Rights do not come from government, as a government is merely another abstraction composed of individual men who may not violate the rights of others. After all, how can a disembodied abstraction grant rights if it doesn’t even exist at all but is merely a number of individuals? Therefore, rights are merely an effect of existence. We have them because we exist. No majority can vote away the rights of any minority and the individual is the smallest minority of all.

It is for this reason that the founders created a Constitution and a republic (not a democracy) that protects our natural, inalienable rights from the arbitrary whims of government. All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator (whether that Creator is God, or nature, or some other force) with certain inalienable rights: Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of Happiness.

The right to Life, the right to Property, and the right to the pursuit of Happiness are redundancies. They are all one in the same. You do not have a right to your life if you do not have a right to what your life produces. You do not have the right to your life if you are not free to pursue your happiness through trade and living how you see fit. Any limitation on anyone of these is a limitation on all—on life, on freedom.

Therefore, in order to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men. That means that the only proper role and function of government is to protect the rights of its citizens, or, in other words, to protect them from force. That means that the government must have a police force to protect citizens from criminals that are among them. It must also have a strong military to protect its citizens from foreign attack and invasion. It must also supply a court system in order to enforce contracts among traders and settle their disputes if any should arise, all in order to protect them from force and fraud. That is all government may do. Nothing else! Anything beyond that is not morally justified.

Conservatives do not believe this and neither do liberals. Neither is based upon reason or in reality. That is why I reject both. My political philosophy is based on reason. Not on irrationality, not on dogma, not on my feelings, and not my subjective beliefs. This is why I am a libertarian.

source: Why I Am A Libertarian: A Brief Treatise About My Politics

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Socialism: Behind The Curtains

This post is a prelude to posts that critique socialism/communism.

The question is: If it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that socialism would lead to massive poverty, would you still support socialism?! If making everyone equal in terms of financial wealth meant that the average wealth of people in a socialist society is below the average of wealth in a capitalist society, would that change your mind?! What if the average wealth in a socialist society will be below the poverty level by today's standards, would that concern you?!

Would you rather live in a society where everyone is equally "poor"?! Or a society where wealth is disproportionate, but where even the poorest individuals are relatively well-off?!

I would love to hear from anyone who supports socialism/communism their perspective on the subject. Is financial equality the be-all-end-all value?!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Psychology and Politics of Self-Responsibility

Dr. Nathaniel Brandon is a well-known psychologist and gives a talk about self-esteem and self-responsibility, and how it affects the political arena of the current world.

Click here to see the video.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Do The Minimum Wage Laws Cause Poverty?

Government intervention in a free market causes lots of problems. Minimum wage laws are just one example of how the government limiting the freedom of individuals to create contracts hurts individuals.

To better understand how minimum wage laws hurts individuals and causes poverty, check the videos below:
Does the Minimum Wage Hurt Workers?
John Stossel - The State Against Blacks
How the Minimum Wage Creates Unemployment
The Job-Killing Impact of Minimum Wage Laws

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Do We Need Government?!

While I don't have strong beliefs whether a government is absolutely necessary, or can be completely discarded, there are good reasons to believe that it might be possible that we don't need government in any form. The functions of the government might be subject to privatization, and this may lead to more efficient and flexible security implementations.

See those four videos that explain the possible mechanisms that government can be discarded. The first two videos are short straight to the point explanation. The third and fourth videos are complete lectures that provides additional insights how such a system can happen, and how this is already widely used in our current times.

1- Social Cooperation: Why Thieves Hate Free Markets
2- Law without Government: Conflict Resolution in a Free Society
3- Do We Need Government?
4- Anarchy and Efficient Law

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Disposable Male

Check out this video about the social double standards in regards to the treatment of men and women in society, and how men are also oppressed under "patriarchal" systems.

PS: If you find this video interesting, check out it's continuation here

Monday, April 16, 2012

Types of Rights: Positive and Negative Rights

In political philosophy, rights are broadly categorized as positive rights and negative rights. LGBT rights, women rights, and freedom of speech are examples of negative rights. Right to healthcare, right to welfare, right to education are examples of positive rights. If you are puzzled by the notion that LGBT rights, for example, are negative rights, then just bear in mind that positive and negative in this context are not judgements on whether those rights are good or not.

Positive rights are those rights that create duties on others. Negative rights are those rights that are satisfied by simply not taking action by others. For example, when we say that homosexuals have the right to engage in homosexual acts, this right does not create a duty on anyone to act; They are maintained by simply not taking action. In other words, by refraining from taking action to try and stop their sexual acts. On the other hand, a right to education does create duties on others. By claiming education rights, you claim that someone has to build a school, and teachers have to attend the school to provide education.

For this reason, positive rights are usually called entitlements. Saying that a person has a positive right to education, means that the person is entitled to education. On the other hand, negative rights are usually called rights of non-interference. Saying that a homosexual has the negative right to practice homosexual acts, means that the homosexual has a right that others don't interfere and prevent him or her from practicing their preferred sexual acts.

But let's do a thought experiment and assert that LGBT rights are positive rights. In other words, that homosexuals are entitled to engage in homosexual acts. So, let's say that a gay person is walking down the street picks a random stranger and says: "Let's go and have sex." The stranger replies: "But I don't want to." Then the gay person says: "But I have a positive right to homosexual sex." and forces that stranger to engage in homosexuality. Any reasonable person would object and say: "That's a misinterpretation of the concept of a right! Saying that homosexuals have positive rights is a right to rape people! That's nonsense...". This scenario raises a reasonable question: Are positive rights misinterpretations of the concept of a right?! Or are there positive rights that are legitimate?! It is obvious that claiming that homosexuals have positive rights to homosexual acts is illegitimate, but is it the case that all positive rights are really illegitimate?!

Some people claim that a right to education is a legitimate positive right. Or that right to healthcare is a legitimate positive right. But are they really?!

Consider the right to healthcare. If someone goes into a clinic and demands that they get treated for some illness without paying anything to the doctors or nurses who are taking care of him; Is that patient's actions legitimate?! To understand the problem with the proposition that this is a legitimate action, let's see how such a scenario would play out. Suppose the doctor refuses to give treatment for the patient, the patient might use force to get treatment. This would be a form of theft in practice. What about the case that the patient makes the case that the doctor has the duty of providing healthcare. Such duty can only be interpreted as slavery. Claiming that the doctor has an obligation to provide medical care to patients without being compensated, is to say that the doctor is a slave to his or her patients. Moreover, if we establish that patients have the right to medical care without providing compensation to doctors, what would happen to the medical profession?! Would any person desire to become a doctor and go through the process of medical education just so that in the end he would be regarded as a slave?! Under such conditions, no person in his right mind would decide to become a doctor!

In practice, this is not how the right to healthcare is implemented. So, let's try to propose a second scenario that comes closer to practice. Say, a group of people decided that a right to healthcare is desirable. And as such, they created an institution where people pay 10$ each month to this institution, and the people who participate in this institution would receive free medical care from doctors. But doctors don't do it as slaves, they do it with the understanding that they are going to be compensated by the institution that those people participated in. That is all good. Such an institution would be analogous to health insurance companies that we are all familiar with. The problem arises if and when such an institution claims that people should have "free" healthcare, and hence being a member of the institution is not optional, it is mandatory. What if a person decides that they do not want to pay 10$ monthly?! If they are forced to pay the 10$, then this is no longer voluntary participation in an institution, but rather outright theft. Taking 10$ from a person against his will is theft in the most common sense of the word.

Imagine that you go into a shop, and the shopkeeper decided that all customers must buy a bar of chocolate. And you enter that shop, and the shopkeeper puts a gun in your head and demands that you pay for a chocolate bar, and then gives you the chocolate bar. While this is not theft as we are used to it, but the fact that the purchase was forced and not voluntary implies a form of theft, even if you were getting what you paid for.

And this brings us to what actually happens in practice when claiming that people have a right to healthcare. Such a system is implemented through one or both of the following methods: 1- Making health insurance mandatory to all citizens by law. Or 2- Raising taxes to create public sector clinics and paying those doctors. It does not take a genius to figure out that both solutions are forms of theft. Simply claiming that it is required by law to have health insurance, does not negate the fact that forcing someone to pay for health insurance is a form of theft, be it forced by the insurance company itself or by the government. And raising taxes to achieve the same result is also forcing people to pay for healthcare, but with simply creating the trick of changing labels from mandatory health insurance to tax money. It's the same process but under different pretenses.

So just as claiming that homosexuals have a positive right to homosexual acts is in practice (and also in principle) a right to rape others, saying that people with a medical condition have a right to healthcare is in practice (and in principle) a right to steal from others or enslave them.

The same logic applies to the right to welfare, education, and almost every other set of positive rights that are proposed. If someone is entitled to a positive right, then someone else has to provide that entitlement either voluntarily or by force. Therefore, we can see the obvious problem of positive rights; That they cannot be implemented without infringing on somebody else's rights!

PS: Check this video for more explanation about positive and negative rights

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Problem of Welfare State

It is well-understood that the welfare state and socialism are incompatible with Libertarian politics. While the philosophical reasons for this position need to be addressed, however, without such philosophical analysis it can still be easily seen why welfare and socialism are incompatible with liberty and the principles of a liberal society. To illustrate this in the most simple terms, check this YouTube video titled: Self-ownership or Socialism?

Share your thoughts.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Introduction To Libertarianism And Self-Ownership

In politics, the word "liberal" is a label used for various views that support personal liberties. However, not all liberals hold compatible views. The greatest contrast between liberals is their views on economical systems. Libertarians (also called "classical liberals") who support capitalism, and socialist liberals (also called "new liberals") who support socialism.

Almost all liberals agree on social views and advocate social freedom. However, socialism advocates economical statism (read more), while libertarians advocate economical freedom as well as social freedom.

See this YouTube video to get a brief introduction about libertarianism, and it's most important underlying principle of self-ownership.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Satanic Views On Good And Evil

Satanism and Satan are usually related to evilness. However, this is a general misconception. Satanists do not advocate being evil, but reformed understanding of the connection between good and evil.

You can not even define evil without discussing what is good. Therefore, the two are inseparable. One can not understand darkness without experiencing light. One cannot appreciate day, without having night. Opposites compliment, define and complete one another. To destroy all evil in the world means there would be no good left to appreciate, therefore the Satanist does not worship or disrespect either quality! We value ourselves and nature instead and venerate opposition in balance!

The definition of good and evil is subject to change because it exists only as a perception. "Evil" is a label we assign according to our mood swings to those who are politically incorrect. The ascended masters of Eastern Philosophy become the fallen angels of Western Philosophy. One man's "demons" are another man's "saints." Theologians create gods and devils in man's image, then conflict between them to divide the heart and conquer the soul! They pit spirit against matter, then appoint themselves position of supreme arbiter, divine interpreter of right and wrong, good and evil.

"Good" are the things we like. "Evil" are the things we dislike. It often depends on who or what you are. As Diane Vera says, if you're a mouse, cats are evil, but to the pet owner, cats are heavenly. Therefore, evil is not an essence - it is a value judgment. From a Christian point of view, Satan is "evil" because he represents the savage instincts they are attempting to hide or suppress. Satanists are truth seekers who desire to peek behind such labels.

Of course, there are certain ethical wrongs, but they are set by a society or culture so that all can live harmoniously. Examples of these would be thieving, disrespectful behavior and killing or abusing an innocent.

A chief attribute of the trickster god is the role of Devil's Advocate. The Satanist illustrates "opposition in balance," wielding contradiction like a scalpel in the hand of a skilled surgeon. Our objective? Closure to this unnatural dichotomy, this madness you call "good and evil." Bringing flesh and spirit together. The establishment of a New World Order, free of guilt, self-loathing and shame, where every man and woman is the god of his or her own life. We look upon religion as the starter of wars and the breeder of hate and intolerance. We believe that people are intelligent enough to instill moral and ethical codes into a societal structure without a threat of an imaginary supernatural being wreaking havoc on an offender.

source: Satanism Central - Do You Worship Evil?

Although not originally a satanic symbol, the Yin Yang is a symbol adopted by satanic culture, because it does visualize that belief that is commonly held.

This symbol represents the state of everything as the circle. It shows an intricate balance between the lightness and darkness, good and evil, the yin and the yang. And in the light part there is a spot of darkness. And in the dark part there is a spot of light. This is how satanists view the world, as a balancing of the two forces that move the world. Some of it we might like, others we don't. But even those parts that we don't like are there out of necessity. And as evil and dark as they might seem, there is a silver-lining somewhere.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thoughts on Speciesism

I have been lately reading a little bit about the animal rights concept, especially as it applies to justify veganism as an ethical choice, and one concept is introduced titled "speciesism", which is roughly defined as discriminating life forms according to their species. The purpose of this term is to draw parallels between sexism and racism which are generally considered as questionable practices, and raising the question of why speciesism is considered acceptable.

It should be noted that for me personally, my general attitude against racism and sexism is not axiomatic (axiomatic roughly means being regarded as an assumption). It is a derivative position. In other words, it is a consequence of other principles that I consider axiomatic, rather than a position that I hold for it's own sake. Additionally, I believe that people have a right to practice private sexism and private racism, my objection lies in institutionalized sexism and racism. In other words, sexism and racism should not exist in the legal system, however private citizens are still allowed to practice sexism and racism.

If this idea is not clear, let's see what criminalization of private sexism and racism would entail. If private racism was not allowed, there would be laws against having an unequal number of while-skinned and black-skinned friends. Would you think that a law should exist that prevents individuals from having all their friends white-skinned and none black-skinned?! I don't think that such law is desirable in any way. Same applies to opposing private sexism. Opposing private sexism would come into direct contradiction with LGBT rights for example. Should there be laws banning individuals from having sexual orientations like homosexuality or heterosexuality, and requiring all individuals to become bisexuals because this is the direct consequence of abandoning gender discrimination?! Obviously, such law is abusive and undesirable. This does not mean that racism and sexism are desirable in private interactions, however it does mean that there should not exist laws that ban the practice for private citizens.

These examples show why sexism and racism should not be considered axiomatic. This at least opens up speciesism to the view that abandoning this practice should not be considered axiomatic.

Let's explore the reason that animal rights advocates claim that killing animals constitutes speciesism. The argument goes that if we as humans consider it illegal to kill other human beings, why is it that animals are not held in the same regard. Such argument might seem reasonable at first, but I can identify few problems.

The first problem I see is that what animal rights advocates claim to be abandoning speciesism is itself an act of speciesism. It is natural that animals prey on other animals. Animal rights advocates (I assume) would not object if a lion killed a deer for food. But they would object if a human did that same action. Isn't that a form of discrimination?! I find it hard to argue that this would not entail some forms of discrimination. The only solution to this problem is to ban carnivores from preying on other animals, which would bring a whole new set of problems.

Another problem I see is the discrimination of the plant kingdom and animal kingdom, which is being systematically advocated by veganism. This of course is also a form of speciesism(*). Animal rights advocates ask the question of why we are willing to give humans rights, without providing the same rights to animals. But then again, why not give plants the same rights as those animals?! If discrimination is the principle involved that is deemed objectionable, then discriminating animals and plants raises serious questions in regards to that principle.

It should be noted that those problems are not sufficient arguments to discredit animal rights, but they do challenge speciesism as an argument for that position.

(*)PS: Technically, this should be called "kingdomism" not "speciesism". However, the underlying principle is the same. Why is it okay to practice kingdomism but not speciesism?!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Altruism Examined

"We have never learned to understand what is greatness in man. Self-sacrifice, we droll, is the ultimate virtue. Let's stop and think. Can a man sacrifice his integrity? His rights? His freedom? His convictions? The honesty of his feelings? The independence of his thought? These are a man's supreme possessions. To what must he sacrifice them? To whom? Self-sacrifice? But it is precisely the self that cannot, and must not, be sacrificed. A man's self is his spirit. It is the unsacrificed self that we must respect in man above all."

Ayn Rand

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Communication in The Paradigm of Open Relationships

It is my personal belief that honest communication plays an important role in interpersonal relationships. I have stumbled upon an interesting and eye-opening YouTube video that clarifies that importance of honest communication in relationships, and the role of opening up relationships and it's positive effects on communication between partners. Highly Recommended.

Non-Sexual Open Relationships - Part 1
Non-Sexual Open Relationships - Part 2

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Separation of State And Economics

In relation to politics and religion, a general belief is usually held with the slogan "The Separation of State and Church", which holds that a government should not be involved in the private life of citizens, and consequently should not endorse any religious affiliations, and should not regulate the religious life of private citizens. The resulting system is usually called "political secularism".

However, the concept that a government should not be involved in the private life of citizens is usually not applied to economics. A similar slogan can be introduced which can be expressed as "The Separation of State and Economics". This means that the government should not endorse any economic affiliations, and should not regulate the economic life of private citizens. The resulting system is usually called "laissez-faire capitalism".

Some might argue that such a system is actually promoting one form of economics over another, but nothing can be further from the truth, as I will try to explain in this post. What would most likely be confusing to most people is the difference between "state capitalism", and "laissez-faire capitalism". State capitalism is the form of capitalism that most people are familiar with, that is practiced in countries that advocate capitalism as an economic system do. And when people are thinking of capitalism they are usually thinking of state capitalism, because this is the system that is being implemented worldwide in the contemporary time.

To make an analogy with the more familiar concept of secularism, one of the basic tenets of secularism is freedom of religion. This means that private citizens have the right to choose their own religion and practice their religious views insofar that they do not abuse the rights of others to the freedom of religion. For example, in a secular society, the death penalty for apostasy (changing one's own religion) is an illegal practice. This is because penalizing apostasy restrains the religious freedoms. Similarly, laissez-faire capitalism does force individuals to participate in any economic system; It's only purpose is to protect the individuals from being coerced into adopting an economic system. The same cannot be said about state capitalism, which practices coercion in economic matters. In short, laissez-faire capitalism is a direct consequence of what might be called: "Freedom of Economics".

The major opponent of capitalism is communism. While state capitalism is a corrupt version of the ideals of capitalism which as previously discussed is embodied in laissez-faire capitalism, communism cannot be called anything except economic tyranny. It is a system where everybody is a slave. Of course, this claim does require explanation, and I will try to provide some explanations.

The basics of liberty and freedom rely on some concepts, these include: Autonomy, Individual Rights, Agency, and Responsibility. Let's touch these concepts briefly.

1- Autonomy:
Autonomy is defined as the capacity to choose, and act according to the will. This means that a person has the capacity to think and make choices (called: "Freedom of Thought"), and that they can act according to their will without coercion (called: "Freedom from Coercion", also related to the concept of "Freedom from Violence"). The only way that you can force any person to act in contradiction to their will is through aggression, usually in the form of physical threats and violence.

A liberal system would respect the autonomy of individuals.

2- Individual Rights:
The source of all individual rights is what is usually called "The Right to Life". The right to life can be defined as a moral principle that respects the right of the individual to live, and provide the means to sustain their life. This translates to that an individual has the right to take actions whose purpose is the support, furtherance, and enjoyment of one's own life.

Numerous supporting rights exist to protect the right to life. Those rights are usually called "individual rights". Examples are numerous, but to name a few: All the positive freedoms provided by society, such as freedom of religion, speech, and economics. And the negative freedoms that are advocated, such as freedom from violence, racism, and brutality. Some rights have emerged to protect the rights of individuals who are being systematically denied their rights, examples include: Women rights, gay rights, ...etc. Those rights exist to support the fundamental right to life that all humans are morally entitled to.

3- Agency:
Agency is defined as the capacity of an entity (usually, a person) to influence reality. This is a concept that is tightly connected with the concept of autonomy discussed earlier. Autonomy is the capacity of action according to the will. Agency is the idea that an action has observable consequences.

In philosophical context, agency is the opposite of the concept of fate. Fate is the idea that whatever actions happen, the outcome is the same. For example, if it was your fate to have an accident and die tomorrow, then no matter what actions you take, or any amount of precautions you make, the outcome will remain the same. [PS: Don't confuse the concept of fate with determinism.]

In personal and social contexts, the idea of social dynamics is the application of agency. Social dynamic means that a person can change their circumstances. For example, abandoning race-based slavery is an application of social agency. If a person was regarded a slave simply because that person has black skin, then that person lacks agency in his or her status as a slave. Numerous women's rights are also motivated by this social agency concept. If a woman is denied being an active member of society, holding a position of leadership, or work simply because she was born as a female, then that woman is being stripped of her social agency. Similarly, abandonment of bourgeois economics is an application of economic agency. In bourgeois societies, people are born into an economic class and they remain in that economic class. So, people who were in the working class had no means no change that, same applied to the middle class, and the ruling class. However, in capitalism, a person born in a poor family can make good economic decision and become rich. Rich people can make poor economic decisions and become poor or middle class, even sometimes go bankrupt. This phenomenon is called social class dynamic, and is a direct consequence of economic agency.

In short, in this context, agency means that the actions you take as an autonomous agent can and will affect your life.

4- Responsibility:
Responsibility is defined as the recognition that actions have consequences. With the assumption that an individual is an autonomous agent, the individual needs to accept that the actions they make based on their will and the choices they decide to make are going to affect their life due to their agency in their own life. Accepting that proposition is the basis of personal responsibility.

Autonomy and agency are not the same concept, although they are connected. Responsibility only arises when both autonomy and agency are in place. For example, a robot that is remotely controlled by an operator is an agent. But it is not autonomous. It is not autonomous because it does not make choices or decisions. However, this robot can make actions that affect reality, and hence it is an agent. A remotely controlled robot has no responsibility if it's operator directed it to commit murder [it is an the agent of murder in this case]. The responsibility lies with the autonomous agent; Which in this case is the operator of the robot.

On the other hand, if we imagine the existence of an invisible ghost, such ghost can be thought of as an autonomous non-agent. It is autonomous if it can make decisions about various things, for example, it's whereabouts. But, assuming that this ghost has no capacity to actually change anything in reality, this ghost has no agency. This should clarify the distinction between autonomy and agency.

Obviously, as stated earlier, responsibility is a necessity that arises from the recognition that humans posses the qualities of autonomy and agency at the same time. Hence, such humans would be autonomous agents. They are responsible because they can make their own decisions and act on them (ie. autonomous), and their actions have observable consequences on their reality (ie. agents), and recognize the relationship between their actions and it's consequences (ie. responsible). Denying any of those propositions means that person lacks liberty.

From the four principles that we just discussed in relation to liberty, let's see how those concepts apply to a communist economic system. Karl Marx devised a slogan in support of his economic system that states: "From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs." It is obvious that such a slogan contradicts every principle of liberty that we have discussed. If this isn't obvious, let us try and analyze how this principle relates to the economic freedom of the individuals.

First, let's look at the autonomy of individuals in the light of that statement. "From each according to their ability", this implies an obligation of the individual to provide everything they can if they are able to provide it. This denies every concept of autonomy that an individual has. What exactly is the individual ability?! And more importantly, who or what is the arbiter of an individual's ability?! Such a slogan strips humans of their decision making process. They have no choices. You cannot expect a person to do everything that he can do. I can (ie. posses the ability) to take a knife and stab the next person I see. Fortunately, I choose not to act on that ability. I am an autonomous person, I am not a controlled robot. Therefore, the actions I make are based on a process of knowing what I can do, and then deciding if I want to do them or not.

Additionally, as an autonomous person, I can try to make actions that are outside of my ability. I can try to lift a block of steel that weights a ton. I most certainly will fail at that task, because it is outside of my ability, but the important thing here is that I can try to test the limits of my ability.

Therefore, an autonomous person has no obligation to act based on his ability. He might be able to do things, but choose not to do them. And he might be unable to do things, yet choose to make an attempt. It is clear here, that this slogan denies a person his autonomy.

What about need?! "To each according to their needs". Once again, autonomous agents should have the choice of deciding what they need. Do I as an autonomous agent need a big mansion?! Or is a humble cottage enough for my needs?! Again, an autonomous agent should be the one to decide what they need. They are the arbiters of their needs. A liberal government would not prescribe the needs of the individuals, the individuals must decide what their needs are.

Secondly, let's address agency. "To each according to their needs" is a direct violation of agency. Just as claiming that a person with black skin must be a slave, and nothing they can do will change that (hence taking away his social agency), this proposed system means that what you get is predetermined by one's needs. Hence, we are denying the agency of people as to what they can get, by defining what they get by what they need. What if someone has the desire to get something they don't need?! What if someone decides that they don't want to get something that they do need?! Both of these individuals are being stripped of their agency, because regardless of their actions they will get things that have been predefined as their personal needs. Obviously, such a system can be only called absolute tyranny.

Third, let's address responsibility. The primary motive of a welfare state or a communist society is the denial of responsibility. Individuals who advocate welfare states or communism would rather not make any economical decisions, and leave all the decisions onto the government to regulate their economic life. Naturally, no liberty can ever be achieved by individuals who deny their responsibility towards their life, including among others their economic life. Communism strives to create a classless society where all people are of the same economic standing. No rich and poor individuals, all people are of the same economic standing.

Obviously, such desire is based on the desire to eliminate the social and economic dynamics. However, it is ignored that those dynamics are a direct result of social and economic agency. Actions matter. Actions creates change and dynamics. An individual who accepts their own agency, recognized that their actions have consequences. Acting while denying consequences of one's actions is the very definition of irresponsibility. Such irresponsibility is devastating to society, and comes at direct contradiction with the principles of liberty.

Capitalism advocates economic agency. Individuals are responsible for their own economic well-being. The consequences of an individual's actions and economic decisions are what makes them rich or poor. It is a great responsibility, but denying the individual responsibility has devastating effects.

Finally, the issue of individual rights is a vast and complicated issue. It will not be addressed in this entry, hopefully it will have it's own entry in a future post because it would require enormous amounts of explanation. However, to put it in a nutshell, some of the supporting rights relating to the right to life are the right to productivity and the right to property [whose purpose is to support the right to productivity]. The reasons for those rights need further explanations, but it is reasonably understood that in a communist society, the government has a monopoly on productivity and ownership. Such monopoly is devastating to any liberal system, and denies individuals their right to life.

In conclusion, I believe that anyone who proclaims to value liberty needs to think and address the problems raised, and realize that protecting liberty and individual rights has to be accompanied by the principle of separation of state and economics. State intervention in economics is undesirable and contradicts every principle of a liberal society.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Philosophy: Who Needs It?

Who needs philosophy? Ayn Rand's answer: Everyone!

A philosophic system is an integrated view of existence. As a human being, you have no choice about the fact that you need a philosophy. Your only choice is whether you define your philosophy by a conscious, rational, disciplined process of thought and scrupulously logical deliberation - or let your subconscious accumulate a junk heap of unwarranted conclusions, false generalizations, undefined contradictions, undigested slogans, undefined wishes, doubts and fears, thrown together by chance, but integrated by your subconscious into a kind of mongrel philosophy and fused into a single, solid weight: self-doubt, like a ball and chain in the place where your wings should have grown.

You might say, as many people do, that it is not easy always to act on abstract principles. No, it is not easy. But how much harder is it, to have to act on them without knowing what they are? Your subconscious is like a computer -more complex a computer than men can build- and its main function is the integration of your ideas. Who programs it? Your conscious mind. If you default, if you don't reach any firm convictions, your subconscious is programmed by chance - and you deliver yourself into the power of ideas you do not know you have accepted. But one way or the other, your computer gives you print-outs, daily and hourly, in the form of emotions - which are lightening-like estimates of the things around you, calculated according to your values. If you programmed your computer by conscious thinking, you know the nature of your values and emotions. If you didn't, you don't.

The quality of a computer's output is determined by the quality of its inputs. If your subconscious is programmed by chance, its output will have a corresponding character. You have probably heard the computer operators' eloquent term "gigo" - which means: "Garbage in, garbage out." The same formula applies to the relationship between a man's thinking and his emotions.

Ayn Rand

Monday, March 05, 2012

Revolutionazing Education

I have stumbled upon two really interesting YouTube videos that I think are truly eye-openers. They address the limitations of the current education systems, and propose ways things might be improved.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?
Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution!
Sir Ken Robinson - Changing Paradigms

The last video is the longest, and it does repeat some of the things that are mentioned in the previous videos. However, it does add some value and show additional insights. So, it is worth watching.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Dissecting The Concept of Monogamy

Monogamy can be interpreted in two contexts. The common context relates monogamy to romantic love, and the other relates monogamy to marriage. In this post, I am addressing monogamy in the context of romantic love. The concept of monogamy has two common views. The first one is usually called "strict monogamy", the other is usually called "serial monogamy".

Strict monogamy states that a person has one "true love" in his lifetime. This belief is commonly held but rarely practiced. This belief is a direct derivative of the common imagery of the "one true love", and the fairy tales of the prince and the princess meeting and falling in love and living happily ever after. In this belief, there are two scenarios that can happen. The idealistic vision is that a person will experience attraction and love only once in their life, and this would be their one true love. In more pragmatic visions, a person is perceived to experience love several times in their life, but only one of their experiences in love is "true" love.

The pragmatic vision of strict monogamy is usually characterized by the concept of a "soul mate". So basically, the vision is that people live their lives, fall in and out of loves multiple of times, but those relationships that failed, failed because they were not with their soul mate, their one true love. So the people would be entering relationships in the hope of stumbling upon their soul mate, and having an everlasting relationship! In this vision, previous lovers are pictured as being somewhat inferior to the person that one ended up having an everlasting relationship with. That's to say, they were not instances of "true love", your true love is that love you finally got to after successive failures.

Serial monogamy states that a person can have only one "true love" at any point of time. There is strong similarity between the pragmatic vision of strict monogamy and serial monogamy. So, just like in strict monogamy, a person falls in and out of love several times in their life. Serial monogamy is also a commonly held belief, and is much more practiced in real life. The idea here is that a person gets a lover (usually with the title boyfriend or girlfriend), their relationship is maintained for some time, then they break up, and then enter into a new relationship. The difference from the pragmatic vision of strict monogamy that their is no belief that the love of a given person should be superior to all previous lovers. So in this belief system, you can claim that you had more than one experience of "true love". One does not have to denounce previous relationships as inferior to their current relationship in order to claim that their current relationship is sincere.

After this brief introduction to the various beliefs held for monogamous love, let's look at the implications of those beliefs.

Most people (I guess) would identify with serial monogamy. It is after all how most people conduct their relationships, although for some people their inner thoughts and feelings resonate more with the vision of the pragmatic strict monogamy. Pragmatic strict monogamy in my opinion is very insulting to the concept of love.

When I was first introduced to the concept of strict monogamy I was completely abhorred!! And yes, like most people I was introduced to this concept at a very young age. To see why strict monogamy is abhorrent, let's look at a very simple scenario:
Say that you met someone who you find to be absolutely charming, and that you find yourself in love with that person. You would characterize your love for that person as honest and sincere. In other words, it's love in it's most noble form. But then, you foresee that this person may not be in your life forever. That you may have to part with this person at some future point of time. And then you find yourself in a pickle. If you ever met someone else and felt those same noble feelings of honest and sincere love, then you have to denounce your love for the person you are currently with as "not true love"! This is because in that belief system you can only have one true love, so you either have to admit that your current lover is not the real deal, or that it is impossible that any future love that you experience is also sincere because you already consumed your one shot at true love!!

Such scenario is truly disturbing in my opinion. That if you sincerely love a person now, all your future relationships are a "fraud". Or that if you were going to have a future sincere relationship, then your current relationship is a "fraud"!! It is a very disturbing and counter-intuitive idea, and I find it truly immature to hold such belief!

Needless to say, labeling your relationships as insincere or frauds is insulting to the people that you love. So in this setup, you are being forced to insult either your current partner, or all of you future and past partners. You are being forced to value your relationships in a post-facto (after the fact) manner. Such setup obviously does not make the concept of love noble in any way, but rather one has to hold a belief of inferiority of all your relationships that did not turn out exactly the way a person envisions them.

The obvious solution to this dangerous belief is that a person can indeed have sincere feelings of love towards more than one person in his or her lifetime. To me, this instantly made me believe in polyamory. However, the concept of serial monogamy solves the same problem but with an additional condition. So, in serial monogamy it is believed that a person can have sincere feelings of love towards more than one person in his or her lifetime, BUT you can only sincerely love one person at any given point of time!

That's a really big BUT there in serial monogamy. And I believe this additional condition is misinformed. Once we understand why strict monogamy is problematic, we can easily see why serial monogamy is also problematic. I have already addressed this in a previous post, but let's get over it once more. As we have seen with the problem of strict monogamy, we are being forced to denounce certain love experiences as insincere because we perceive it as impossible to experience true love more than once in a lifetime. However, in serial monogamy we are being forced to make that same denouncement of the sincerity of love if our experiences of love happened to overlap in time.

So, for a serial monogamist, if they find that they are developing feelings and emotional connections with someone, they are instantly being forced to decide that one of their love experiences as being insincere. So, you either love this new person in your life sincerely which means that you should terminate your relationship with the person you are currently involved with, or you see the new person as a threat to your current relationship, and must destroy any emotional connection that is developing between you and that new person.

However, this notion is ludicrous in my opinion. The notion that the sincerity of one's love has to be questioned if they find themselves being emotionally connected to more than one person. In my mind, this problem at it's core is not in any way different from the problem that is raised in the context of strict monogamy. And for this reason, I think that anyone who has a problem with the implications of strict monogamy should be equally disturbed by the implications of serial monogamy!!

Again, the limitation of loving one person at a time is nothing more than a misinformed, not properly thought out, externally imposed limitation. There is nothing in our nature (at least for most people) that prevents us from wholeheartedly loving more than one person at any given point of time. And the introduction of this limitation does not make the concept of love more noble. Quite the contrary, it is debasing and insulting to the concept of love, and to the people we love!!

Polyamory, which is the belief that we can love more than one person (even at the same time), is the obvious and natural response to the problems that are being introduced by the concept of monogamy...

There are some challenges to practicing polyamory in system that idolizes serial monogamy. The problem is highlighted with the concept of cheating. In most relationship paradigms that are practiced today, having more than one relationship is indeed insulting to your lover. This is because for a person to love someone other than the one they are currently in a relationship with would involve cheating. And cheating in my opinion does challenge the sincerity of love one has for another. However, this is a problem of design and construction. In other words, when people design their relationships with the principles of serial monogamy embedded in their construction, they create a system where loving more than one person comes at direct contradiction with sincerity.

So our initial problem is persistent in such a design. If, by design, the only way a person can practice polyamory they need to cheat, then it is an obvious flaw in the design. The very purpose of polyamory (in my personal view) is that we do not undermine the integrity and sincerity of our relationships either past, current, or future. For this reason, the open-relationships design is crucial to practicing polyamory while adhering to the principles that compelled a person to hold a belief in polyamory. For a person to be able to truly love a person without compromising their integrity and sincerity with respect to their already established relationships there needs to be an understanding between partners and lovers about the principles of polyamory. So open-relationships is a paradigm design of relationships such that practicing polyamory does not undermine the concept of love, and maintains its integrity...