American Equality is Not Egalitarianism

Egalitarianism

Chapter 4 of America’s Revolutionary Mind (2019) moves from the prior chapter on “We hold these truths to be self- evident….” to the second phrase:  “that all men are created equal”.    What exactly did they mean by “equal”?  C. Bradley Thompson teaches us that The Founders understood and accepted John Locke’s concept of equality – “species equality”.  They did NOT mean the ridiculous egalitarian perverse prioritization of equality over everything.

 

The only way to understand the Revolutionary notion of equality is to fully comprehend and embrace inequality.  Thomas Jefferson wrote there is a “natural aristocracy among men.  The grounds of this are virtue and talents”.  Obviously everyone is not equal with regard to intelligence, virtue, beauty, strength, productivity, speed, etc. – we’re extremely unequal.  James Madison wrote that the “rights of property originate in the diversity in the faculties of men and the first object of government is the equal protection of the unequal faculties of acquiring property”.

 

Egalitarianism is not only wrong politically because it’s not what The Founders meant, it’s also evil because it attempts to justify hurting people who are deemed too wealthy/strong/smart – whatever attribute to be forcibly leveled. We are created equal – with equal rights and dignity, but then we acquire inequality relative to almost everything else – including moral action.  We are not equal with regard to moral virtues such as rationality, honesty, integrity, fortitude, courage and productiveness.

 

Inequality is natural. Human attempts to change it are immoral.  Egalitarianism is a wrecking ball to a flourishing life.  The right to equality prevents subordination among our species except those which arise from different capacity, disposition and virtue.  Thompson writes:   “Equality recognizes and is the foundation for inequality rightly understood.  Thus equality and inequality are brought together in harmony in the philosophy of Locke and therefore also in The Declaration.”  Equality means sharing a common nature with common attributes.  It does not mean an equality of attributes.

 

This seems so damn obvious to me that I’m dumbfounded by those who would argue otherwise. A free society will naturally experience a plethora of differences and natural inequalities that cannot and should not be altered:  Loosely quoting a revolutionary reverend:

Superior wisdom and abilities will have superior influence and effect in society. Superior strength and activity of body will also have advantages peculiar to themselves.  In making these natural distinctions, nature evidently designed to qualify men for different attainments and employments.  And while she gave to all the nature and the rights of man, she assigned to some a capacity and a power to make a much more useful improvement and exercise of that nature, and of those rights, than she has given to others.

 

Next week, we move to the curious contradiction between the revolutionaries’ avowed principle of equality and the brutal reality of slavery. We will see that slavery is not as much of a paradox for American freedom as our evil egalitarian enemies try and argue.  To the contrary, the ideas in The Declaration of Independence lead ultimately to the abolition of slavery.

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Freedom + Reason = Truth

Human lungs Function

Chapter 3 of C. Bradley Thompson’s America’s Revolutionary Mind (2019) (Self-Evident Truths) establishes a wonderfully clear base line of exactly what TRUTH is.  He writes that in order to establish truth, you must have both freedom and reason.  “Freedom is to reason what oxygen is to the lungs.”  The Founders appealed to moral principles that are true – absolutely, permanently, and universally true in order to justify their independence from England.

 

Self-evident truths are the critical starting premise to The Declaration’s wildly successful and indisputable (to honest arguers, maybe not to propagandists) status as truth.   Here are some quotes from his book that make the point:

 

“truth is great and will prevail if left to herself….she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition disarmed of her natural weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them.”

 

”there is a necessary connection between truth and freedom of mind. The freedom to think is both an aspect and requirement of human flourishing…. The freedom to think (e.g. to collect, weigh, and judge evidence) and to choose is the necessary precondition for the discovery of true principles of right action, both morally and politically.   Human nature requires freedom – the freedom to think and act – in order to pursue the truths and to acquire the knowledge necessary to live and live well.”

 

“Freedom can, however, be corrupted, which is why it must be guided by reason and true moral principle. Likewise, reason can be corrupted, which is why it must exist in freedom, so that ideas can compete with one another in the search for truth.  Errors of knowledge and logic are the testing ground for the ascent to truth…. Freedom and reason are the necessary preconditions of truth.”

 

This Blog is an intellectual and moral exertion (morality is not static, it takes work) on a quest for knowledge and truth about property rights. There is, of course, truth that is not knowledge:

Epistemic

We’re not interest in that. We seek true knowledge on wealth, power and morality – it takes a lot of hard cognitive work – reading, researching, analyzing, summarizing and then articulating a synthesis along the journey.  Next week, we move on to his next chapter on equality, while continuing to expand that yellow circle of knowledge.

 

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New War Chest Assets

AssetsNew

This is a supplemental post to point out some recent work that we can add to our War Chest of wealth awareness. First, on the more mainstream economic front, John Cochrane over at his Grumpy Economist blog just finished a most excellent 5 part series on Wealth and Taxes.  He explains why and how bad ideas are wielded to attack those who control wealth.  The honest bottom line, a wealth tax is really designed to destroy wealth.  Off with their heads!  Billionaire’s should not exist!

https://johnhcochrane.blogspot.com/2020/01/wealth-and-taxes-overview.html

 

Second, on the more philosophical, perhaps deeper moral level, Scott Alexander over at his Slate Star Codec blog decade recap dove deeply into the topic. Scott intelligently writes about everything under the sun (and I mean everything).  His thoughts on wealth and property rights are interesting.  I wrote here on 10/1/19 – that he’s on to us! (“us” being hard-working, smart, virtuous owners of moderate wealth).  Here’s the section from his 1/8/20 post that is relevant to our War Chest (I stopped at the link mentioned here in October):

“I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup produced this blog’s first “big break”, but it admitted it didn’t really understand the factors underlying “tribe”. Since then Albion’s Seed helped provide another piece of the puzzle, and a better understanding of class provided another. I went a little further discussing why tribes have ideologies associated with them in The Ideology Is Not The Movement, how that is like/unlike religion in Is Everything A Religion?, and hammered it home unsubtle-ly in Gay Rites Are Civil Rites.

I wrote the Non-Libertarian FAQ sometime around 2012 and last updated it in 2017. Sometime, possibly between those dates, I read David Friedman’s A Positive Account Of Property Rights, definitely among the most important essays I’ve ever read, and got gold-pilled (is that a term? It should be a term). I’ve since been trying to sort this out with things like A Left-Libertarian Manifesto, and trying to move them up a level as Archipelago. James Scott’s Seeing Like A State and David Friedman’s Legal Systems Very Different From Ours were also big influences here. Like all platitudes, “government is a hallucination in the mind of the governed” is easy to understand on a shallow level but fiendlishly complicated on a deep level, but I feel like all of these sources have given me a deep understanding of exactly how it’s true.

The rightists (especially Moldbug) get the other half of the credit for helping me understand Archipelago, and also deserve kudos for teaching me about cultural evolution. My first attempts to engage with this topic were nervous and halting – see eg The Argument From Cultural Evolution. I got a much better feel for this after reading The Secret Of Our Success, and was able to bring this train of thought back to its right-wing roots Addendum To Enormous Nutshell: Competing Selectors. I’m grateful to the many rightists who argued about some of these points with me until they finally stuck.

I had more trouble engaging with leftists. I started with Does Class Warfare Have A Free-Rider Problem,”

 

It’s fun to read Scott Alexander but it takes a lot of time!  David Friedman’s article he cites on positive property rights is intriguing:

http://www.daviddfriedman.com/Academic/Property/Property.html

It explains the non-moral, non-legal reasons for the triple coincidence of our control of wealth, which is that it’s:  1) morally just, 2) economically efficient; and 3) in fact, the current reality.

 

Today we pound one more fence post into the Schelling Fence protecting my family, friends and clients.  If you’re wondering what in the world a Schelling Fence is (it’s a credible pre-commitment to defend a moral/intellectual position)  – see my 11/13/18 post or read Scott Alexander’s explanation from 2012:

https://www.lesswrong.com/posts/Kbm6QnJv9dgWsPHQP/schelling-fences-on-slippery-slopes

 

Back to our regularly scheduled programing Tuesday.

 

 

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Declaring the Laws of Nature

TownCrier

The Declaration of Independence did a lot more than declare the 13 colonies independent from England. It declared the fundamental laws of human nature.   Chapter 2 of America’s Revolutionary Mind (2019) gives us 32 pages and 75 endnotes on why and how The Founders did this.  The author painstakingly unpacks The Declaration’s philosophic structure and logic.  All of chapter 2 is just on the first paragraph, which he shows us is rich in reason and natural moral law.

 

The phrase “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind” indicates how crucial reason was to the revolutionary mind.  The real revolution was not the war.  It was in the human mind.  The author writes of an intellectual and moral revolution to free the minds of men to pursue truth in the light of reason and freedom.  Men were no longer “afraid to think”.  The revolution changed everything – it forever changed the way we view the world.

 

The Declaration is didactic. It tells us how to live and, more importantly, why this is so.  It starts by declaring the laws of nature, the “is” (human nature), and then logically moves to the “ought” (living a free and flourishing life).  To deny the principles set forth in The Declaration is to deny reality.  To claim that, which is true, as untrue, is a blatant, immoral lie.  The gullible ignorant masses today who do not understand or accept the natural moral law set forth in The Declaration should read from page 57:

 

For he, who attempts these things, on other principles, than those of nature, attempts to make a new world; and his aim will prove absurd and his labor lost. These makers of new worlds who deny or do not follow the laws of nature are utopians, who deny the reality of this world; they are fantasists, who always resort to force to make people accept their untrue ideas.  In the context of the time, they become Jacobins.

 

Don’t be a ruthless, immorally wrong Jacobin.

 

Truth is a branch of morality and “honesty” is the first chapter in the book of wisdom. The Founders were honest with the world and themselves.  They knew reason and freedom are inseparably one, the conglomeration of which gives us truth.  Next week, we see how the Founders indisputably established and logically proved their self-evident truths – war chest wisdom safely secured.

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Where Are We Going This Decade?

Leadership And Goals

Rory Vaden writes about achieving personal goals in his book Take the Stairs: 7 Steps to Achieving True Success (2012).  A self-discipline concept/tactic he uses is “visioneering”.  Develop specific goals, write them down and then share your progress of achieving those goals.  I have many personal goals – physical training, business, family, financial, etc. This blog happens to be a reflection of my goal towards greater intellectual and moral understanding.

 

As we excavate the minds of our Founding Fathers in the coming weeks and months, my specific goal by March 2020 is to be standing at the zenith of a mountain of evidence and reason (and it is a mountain) that rejects progressive views that truth is relative and unknowable; because if that were the case, then the freedom of thought and speech necessary to pursue truth would be irrelevant and meaningless.

 

Wrongheaded intellectuals reject the moral, political and economic principles of our Founders. They oppose individualism, natural rights, limited government and free-market capitalism.  They argue that “the common good” (defined by them) is the primary unit of moral value and for the use of coercive power against those who refuse to submit and for socialism as the highest form of social organization.  They are mistaken and if they try and forcibly impose their views, immoral as well. We shall not submit.  I will continue to demonstrate for years to come that it not moral to confiscate my clients’ wealth, to suppress our speech or to dictate our mode of thinking.

 

I believe there is a moral obligation to understand the Founders’ philosophy. They built an enormous amount of “moral capital”, which many are trying to dissipate today.  What’s important is not just the moral capital we have inherited via a Burkean chain of virtue and tradition.  Rather, we build moral capital right now through intellectual exertion.  It defends us against current attempts to derogate the value of mind and property (see my 7/16/19 post).  We live in an age contemptuous of any claims to knowledge of the truth.

 

Here’s an article Yuval Levin wrote after learning of the death of Irving Kristol’s wife on 12/30/19.

https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/12/the-historian-as-moralist/

 

It highlights the immense moral value of studying historical philosophy. He quotes Lionel Trilling at the end, who taught us that objectivity is the effort “to see the object as in itself it really is”.  The object, whether it be a phenomenon of nature, or work of art, or an idea or system of ideas is not to be seen as it appears to us in our habitual thoughts but rather as it really is, in itself, on its own terms.  It takes much cognitive effort and often results in frustration and fatigue.  But it’s worth it.  Trilling writes:

In the face of certainty that the effort of objectivity will fall short of what it aims at, those who undertake to make the effort do so out of something like a sense of intellectual honor and out of the faith that in the practical life, which includes the moral life, some good must follow from even the relative success of the endeavor.

 

I continue to endeavor, to climb the mountain of knowledge with intellectual honor. Let’s have a great decade!

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New Year – Timeless Morality

Retro style clock New Year's Eve 2020 with christmas and new year decorations.

Chapter 1 of America’s Revolutionary Mind (2019) explains how John Locke and our Founding Father’s tackled morality – by answering 3 important questions:

  1. How is certain and absolute moral knowledge capable of discovery and demonstration?
  2. What are the moral laws and rights of nature?
  3. What are the rewards and punishments associated with the moral laws of nature?

First, the moral laws of nature are capable of discovery; but it’s not easy, as we saw in the book Science and the Good – The Tragic Quest for the Foundations of Morality (2018).  The tragedy is that many thinkers on the quest to discover morality using science keep searching for ever new modern methods.  But science is not like morality.  We continuously advance in our knowledge of science; not so with morality.  It’s already been discovered.  We just need to unearth the right method: A) Begin with self-evident clearly defined propositions, B) Examine the relationship of these moral concepts; C) Deduce necessary consequences with a strong chain of reasoning.

 

Question 2 – What are the moral laws and rights of nature?

Understanding the moral laws of nature begins with, what was at the time, a radical first principle – self ownership – moral sovereignty of the individual.  How did Locke get there?  Man’s natural condition has two primary qualities (self-evident truths): A) Freedom of action – to dispose of his possessions and person as he deems fit within the bounds of natural law; and B) Equality –  those of the same species, born to the same advantages of nature and the use of the same faculties are naturally equal without subordination.

These two immutable facts of nature combine to derive a moral principle: “Every man has property in his own person”.  Locke took a what is (freedom and equality) and deduced a what ought to be (self-ownership).  Incidentally, the book Science and the Good (2018)* discusses the is vs. ought problem (supposedly you can’t argue an ought based on an is because they are totally different).  But Aristotle solved that problem with Nicomachean Ethics (350 B.C.) as we saw here on 6/11/19 – you can mix prescriptive and descriptive premises but only if they are self-evident.

Locke’s chain of reasoning lead to the revolutionary moral concept of natural moral rights – Everyone’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of property. Thomas Jefferson changed pursuit of property to pursuit of happiness in the final draft – but as we’ve learned here, they mean the same thing.

 

Question 3 – What are the rewards and punishments associated with the moral laws of nature?

Some will obey the laws of nature and some will violate them. The motives to obey natural law are threefold:

  1. Natural – the pleasure of doing what’s right – well-being and happiness for adhering to them and pain and guilt for violating them.
  2. Social – peer pressure – the law of opinion and reputation – natural social sanctions for bad actors and approbation for good behavior.
  3. Civil – government enacted laws, with official sanctions like imprisonment and even death, for violating them. Civil law must reflect and support natural law.

 

We turn to natural law next week. Happy New Year!

 

*The authors of that book conclude that the “is vs. ought problem” is not an impediment to moral reasoning because that would cordon off the sphere of morality from factual reality (see end note 28 of Chapter 1); and also look at end note 23 about www.edge.org. The credibility and sincerity of the authors we examine here are critical – perfidious, polemic propagandists are everywhere – they are noise to the signal of natural moral law.

 

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The American Mind is the Mind of John Locke

Locke

C. Bradley Thompson establishes indisputably in chapter 1 of America’s Revolutionary Mind (2019) that The Declaration of Independence is a manifestation of the American mind, which is, in fact, the mind of John Locke (1632-1704). He’s not speculating. The author is a scholar who bases his work on empirical evidence, having spent decades studying revolutionary period writings – virtually all of them – legal documents of all kinds, pamphlets, newspapers, legislative debates, petitions, resolutions, circulars, treatises, essays, sermons, speeches, diaries and private letters.

 

The Enlightenment intellectual movement in Europe had 3 core types of ideas:

  1. Metaphysical – the philosophy of fundamental reality – that it is knowable, non-contradictory based on causality.
  2. Epistemological – the notion of knowledge – reason (unaided by faith, speculation or tradition*) is what gives us knowledge.
  3. Ethical – natural moral law based on human rights.

 

Of these core ideas, morality is the most fascinating, most elusive and most important foundation to The Declaration of Independence and our American mind.  The structure of the book builds a foundation on metaphysis [fundamental reality] in Chapter 2 (Declaring the Laws of Nature), then epistemology [knowledge of reality] in Chapter 3(Self-Evident Truths) and then starting with Chapter 4 (Equality) and future chapters we move on to the difficult to grasp but so very crucial….ethics – knowledge of what is “good, right, just and true”.

 

This Blog is organized around the same ideas, which is why I’m spending so much time on this particular book. There is a serious “discourse” on morality occurring among smart, honest humans.  It’s hard to hear sometimes with all the noise, bullshit and “anti-discourse” promulgated by the mob of immoral, dishonest, dumb losers that we examined with Kevin Williamson’s book – but it’s there for those with eyes to see.  And it’s not new.  It’s as old as Greek philosophy and The Declaration of Independence.  The arrogance and wrongness of current “intellectuals” is obvious to many of us.  Pay attention to the people who know what they’re talking about.  I know, easier said than done but let’s keep at it.

 

We walked through the book The Science and the Good (2018) earlier this year, which cites John Locke along with many other serious moral thinkers.  Let’s focus on them and avoid unserious, close minded polemicists as we begin to excavate the true moral philosophy of America.

 

C. Bradley Thompson frames natural moral law as John Locke and the Founders did, with 3 questions:

  1. How is certain and absolute moral knowledge capable of discovery and demonstration?
  2. What are the moral laws and rights of nature?
  3. What are the rewards and punishments associated with the moral laws of nature?

 

We answer these three questions next week, beginning the New Year with a deeper understanding of what it is to be good, right, just and true. True virtue is more than static non-evil.  It takes cognitive effort and energy. Morality gives rise to affirmative duties and obligations to understand, not just lazy, blind acceptance of the ready-made views of others.  Individual morality is the source of peace, love and joy.  Merry Christmas* from the Estate Planning War Chest!

Merry Christmas Typography Light Bulbs on Black Wood

*Religious faith, family values and tradition have their place amidst pure reason.  We saw that here 12/5/17 – 1/30/18 while exploring Yuval Levin’s book The Great Debate (2014) – revolutionary thinkers Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke battled.  Burke won with his wardrobe of a moral imagination clothing unaided, naked reason.

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