My entry into Liberty Thinking—to paint a broad, all-inclusive stroke—was neither via Libertarianism nor Objectivism (more properly labelled Randianism, as in Ayn Rand). It was by a dude who was a self publisher under the pen name of Frank R. Wallace, representing the names of his three children: Frank, Ruth, and Wallace. His name was Wallace Ward.
You’re welcome to Google all about it if you like.
Wallace was a PhD physical chemist for DuPont with a decent number of patents under his belt. Then he read Rand, went all Liberty, and the rest is history. Except for one critical thing. He was a professional poker player in Vegas after DuPont and sort of integrated his liberty philosophy with what he observed about human behavior around a poker table. His Poker: A Guaranteed Income for Life by Using the Advanced Concepts of Poker is a very amazing read (I have an original hardcopy sitting beside me as I write). Who would have guessed? It’s also online, free. Scanning the table of contents, you may get a sense that while it’s truly a poker manual, it serves also as a metaphor for how various levels of false authority in society extract unearned livelihoods from an unsuspecting populace. Wallace coined the term Neocheating to describe this phenomenon.
This experience is culminated in The Neo-Tech Discovery—114 tightly integrated conceptual identifications about conscious human life. Rather than go through traditional publishing, he toughed it out and marketed internationally through classified ads and direct mail, having that book translated into about a half dozen languages—even Arabic—which he ran all through a single office staff in Las Vegas.
Wallace became a good friend of mine until his death in 2006 from being hit by a car while out on his daily run.
But what does this have to do with Propertarianism? I’m glad you asked. First, way back, Wallace’s work got this dude to completely shift his entire worldview—born-again fundamentalist Baptist, former divinity school student, Navy Officer on exchange with the French; age 29—to an atheist, quasi-anarchist way of thinking. …In a split second. I still remember it vividly. I’m laying on my couch in Toulon, France—after a breakup with my live-in Françoise—and I picked up that black and white book and within an hour or two, everything I thought I knew was completely and utterly false for me, forever.
It’s close to three decades ago. I have never looked back. It’s easy when you simply discover your own errors rather than find some new thing to believe in—as though life is an endless search for the best belief and the best faith, rather than just dumping the premise entirely. That’s what I did.
I was always unsatisfied with Libertarian and Objectivist thought and nipped at their asses way back in the day on Usenet, writing over 10,000 pages worth of debate material from about 1994-1998 when I put theory to practice and built a real business that did several million per year.
This was the core thing. What clearly differentiated Ward from Libertarianism and Objectivism was principally a couple of things:
- Every human is either a net value producer (pays his costs, has leftover for others and society…the commons) or a parasite (loots or is a drain on the commons)
- While coercive taxation is theft, there are many ways to pay “excess taxes,” where not only do you pay your fair share, but you lift society (the commons). “Excess taxes” are generated through hard-nosed scientific, technological, entrepreneurial, and business activities—creating jobs and wealth.
And this is how I grew up in this Liberty, and why I was always unsatisfied with Libertarianism and Objectivism, though I tacitly supported them both because it was the only game in town. Moreover, I found Neo-Tech to be a much harder sell, since it’s designed to shed you of or at least make you very skeptical of literal belief in theism early on, such that you have the capacity to better grasp the much wider integrations involving rampant The Matrix-like parasitisms that infest society—and various clergy play a critical role in that by propping up false authorities that institutions of higher parasitism can call upon to sanction their activities.
I did, finally, come up with my own gig as an offshoot of Anarchy. I never qualified the term. I was never an anarcho-capitalist, an anarcho-syndicalist, an anarcho-communist, anarcho-agorist….or any of those prescriptive, normative designs on what is, simply, a negation. They’re all like atheism as a religion, where your hobby is to NOT collect stamps. Same thing. I just don’t believe, and top down imposition of anarchy—or even revolution—is as self-contradictory as is The Libertarian [political] Party.
But everyone always wants to have their cake and eat it, too.
My unique brand of anarchism is, simply: Anarchy Begins At Home. Here’s a 17-minute introduction I gave at the Ancestral Health Society in 2012, sponsored by Harvard Law School: Paleo Epistemology and Sociology.
The gist of it is four simple things:
- What is the quality of your knowledge?
- What is the quality of your social relationships?
- To what extent is an overbearing State required to ensure 1 and 2?
- Could you be better off with home-grown collaborative and reciprocal relationships and contracts, trading mutual value for mutual value?
We are not socialists. We are social animals. The distinction is that in that latter, you get to choose who are your social and value-trading partners.
Given the rather lengthy introduction, I want you to clearly understand that Propertarianism grabbed me just as easily as Neo-Tech and almost as quickly. It’s an honest integration. Fully Integrated Honesty is the term Ward used (also, Wide-Scope Accounting in that context, where not only are benefits accounted for, but costs as well). Propertarianism uses the term Truth Telling. At first, I split hairs on that—truth being static, and therefore, subject to manipulation through the telling of a matrix of truths, dishonestly integrated; whereas, honesty is dynamic—but it’s not worth splitting those hairs, for now.
Propertarianism—The Philosophy of Western Civilization in Scientific Terms—is the work of Curt Doolittle, who writes vociferously—to say the least—on both the blog and his Facebook profile. This all came to me by way of Keith Norris, who, in a comment thread at the Theory to Practice Facebook Group, introduced me to Megan Kusui, saying that he though we had a lot of ideas in common. That turned out to be true.
…But at first, we talked past each other a bit, and I rolled my eyes without reading anything. I’d grown accustomed over almost three decades of same shit, different day—and yea, I can smell the cinnamon in the poop. But Megan had demonstrated an astute and sharp mind, so I was persuaded to at least take in this 30-page PDF she sent my way. I started out ready to rip it apart—as I can do with any of a million bullshit screeds—but I couldn’t, and then I became rather amazed that I couldn’t. Nothing more than a minor quibble here and there. Suddenly, I’m onto something that feels like it did neatly 30 years ago. True discovery and grand in terms of unification of ideas I could never quite reconcile.
So, in this respect, I owe Curt the same level of gratitude—even awe—that I have always recognized toward Wallace. Two truly unique minds and I’m privileged to have been able to access them as I have, and so quickly and clearly. And, thanks again to Keith and Megan for getting me there.
…So let’s get into Propertarianism. The very first thing to know is that it’s all about property, the root of all rights and by extension, all civilization itself. Don’t waste a day or so thinking it’s about “what’s proper,” LOL, as I did, which is as normative as is “Objectivism.” Let’s dive in and have some fun. I’ll mostly discuss the things most relevant and of interest to a typical Libertarian or Objectivist…
BACKGROUND THESES AND PRINCIPLES
Propertarianism is a scientific, rational, empirical, approach to understanding and analyzing human behavior, incentives, norms, institutions, cooperation and conflict.
At first, readers may think the differences in these three systems of thought to be somewhat mundane hair splitting—pleading an allegiance, belief, or love of liberty as our first cause anyway. That much is true. We all have that in common. But, if you wish to advance that cause, then you’re best off at least getting your first principles, or premises, as right as you can. Libertarianism and Objectivism (and many others going way back) are all reasonable—and in some cases, heroic—efforts to do just that. But, a core methodology or guiding light in Propertarianism is: The Philosophy of Western Civilization in Scientific Terms. One could even say accounting terms, economic terms, or business terms because all of these have a counting system associated with them. We can measure, which lends a bullshit detector to philosophy.
Let’s put the core distinctions as succinctly as possible.
Now let’s get into the discussion, whereby I’ll argue that while the Libertarian and Objectivist views are something one can hold and get my approval and congratulations for holding, they are nonetheless the equivalent of religious views, or literature.
Before we look at the libertarian and Randian views on rights and property, understand that Propertarianism is a wholly scientific approach to these questions. From Core Concepts, by Eli Harman:
Science, or the “scientific method” is an empirical method for gaining understanding of reality and access to truth. Many people, including many so-called “scientists” do not understand the scientific method, why it works, or why it is valuable. You can be sure you are dealing with a pseudo-scientist whenever you hear phrases like “settled science”, “scientifically proven”, or “the scientific consensus”. The errors of these pseudo-scientists are rooted in “justificationism” the philosophical belief that science is about acquiring factual support or supporting evidence to “justify” theories. In this view, truth is “justified true belief”. Not only must belief be true to qualify as knowledge, but it must also be “justified.” One must have a good reason for believing it.
In contrast, critical rationalism, an epistemology (philosophy of truth and knowledge) developed by Karl Popper and others, advances a standard of “true belief.” Knowledge, as “true belief,” does not need to be justified, because it cannot be justified. It only needs to be true. And the method of arriving at true belief is not justification, but falsification, “conjecture and refutation.” We advance towards the truth by identifying and discarding error, by process of elimination. [emphasis added]
Now, given that bolded section, how many times have I written that the true struggle in life is not in being right, but in in being a little less wrong every day or iteration?
Let’s begin with Ayn Rand’s justification for man’s rights. She held that men have a right to life, and every thing derives in corollary fashion, from there. The logic flows like this:
- All organisms, to live, must secure the values required for survival.
- A value is that which an organism seeks to gain and/or keep.
- Humans are unique in that they must choose to do this; they do not run on instinct.
- Moreover, humans can also make the choice to default to death slowly, or make it quick by willful suicide.
- Accordingly, humans have a choice ingrained in them by nature itself.
- Therefore, humans have an implied natural right to that choice afforded by their natures.
- And that’s the derivation of natural rights according to Rand.
Well, OK, but who’s going to insure it?
Now let’s cover the Libertarian take. Some Libertarians come via the Ayn Rand Express, some via church, some others via Constitutionalism, and still others from the love of pot…. From Core Concepts:
Libertarian moral and descriptive theories are usually internally consistent, but not externally correspondent with observable reality. They are not scientific. They are not empirical. Like Marxism, they are rationalism and moralism.
To correct these errors, Propertarianism seeks to reconcile what is salvageable from the libertarian project, from classical liberalism, and from pre-enlightenment Aristocracy, by subjecting it to the scientific method, falsifying what is false, retaining and incorporating what survives into a new body of theory, knowledge, understanding and practice necessary and sufficient for the restoration of Western Civilization (and others.)
Ayn Rand and by extension, libertarianism, holds to the non-initiation of force principle (as did Neo-Tech), but it just fails. I’ll quote David D. Friedman from an old book. The Machinery of Freedom—in the Problems post-script section—which I read in 1994 and then dismissed the non-initiation-of-force principle as unsupportable.
One problem with deducing libertarian conclusions from simple libertarian principles is that simple statements of libertarian principles are not all that compelling. Lots of people are in favor of initiating coercion, or at least doing things that libertarians regard as initiating coercion. Despite occasional claims to the contrary, libertarians have not yet produced any proof that our moral position is correct.
A second problem is that simple statements of libertarian principle taken literally can be used to prove conclusions that nobody, libertarian or otherwise, is willing to accept. If the principle is softened enough to avoid such conclusions, its implications become far less clear. It is only by being careful to restrict the application of our principles to easy cases that we can make them seem at the same time simple and true.
The easiest way to demonstrate this point is with a few examples. In order to define coercion, we need a concept of property, as I pointed out at the beginning of this book—some way of saying what is mine and what is yours. The usual libertarian solution includes property rights in land. I have the absolute right to do what I want on my land, provided that I refrain from interfering with your similar right on your land.
But what counts as interfering? If I fire a thousand megawatt laser beam at your front door I am surely violating your property rights, just as much as if I used a machine gun. But what if I reduce the intensity of the beam—say to the brightness of a flashlight? If you have an absolute right to control your land, then the intensity of the laser beam should not matter. Nobody has a right to use your property without your permission, so it is up to you to decide whether you will or will not put up with any particular invasion.
So far many will find the argument convincing. The next step is to observe that whenever I turn on a light in my house, or even strike a match, the result is to violate the property rights of my neighbors. Anyone who can see the light from his own property, whether with the naked eye or a powerful telescope, demonstrates by doing so that at least some of the photons I produced have trespassed onto his property. If everyone has an absolute right to the protection of his own property then anyone within line of sight of me can enjoin me from doing anything at all which produces light. Under those circumstances, my ‘ownership’ of my property is not worth very much.
A similar problem arises with pollution. Libertarians sometimes claim that since polluting the air over anyone else’s property is a violation of his property rights, pollution can be forbidden in a libertarian society except when the pollutor has the consent of the owners of all affected land. This argument is used to attack schemes such as effluent fees (discussed in Chapter 26), which are designed to limit pollution to its economically efficient level—the point at which further reductions cost more than they are worth—but not to eliminate it.
Here again, the problem is that an absolute right to control one’s property proves too much. Carbon dioxide is a pollutant. It is also an end product of human metabolism. If I have no right to impose a single molecule of pollution on anyone else’s property, then I must get the permission of all my neighbors to breathe. Unless I promise not to exhale.
The obvious response is that only significant violations of my property rights count. But who decides what is significant? If I have an absolute property right, then I am the one who decides what violations of my property matter. If someone is allowed to violate my property with impunity as long as he does no significant damage, we are back to judging legal rules by their consequences.
OK. Both of these well meaning, Golden Rule-like systems of thought and principles both reduce to the level of just believe it. And it’s fine to believe it. I do, generally—uphold it would be more accurate—and I’ll still use these often when confronting someone from the unwashed masses because these ideas have been around for a long time and its’ far easier to persuade someone to adopt them than the far more radical ideas of Neo-Tech or Propertarianism.
So, while Golden Rules and Good Will Towards Men are generally admirable traits, they are also contextual. It’s like having an open mind is good, just not so open that your brains fall out. From Core Concepts, Non-Aggression vs. Non-Parasitism:
But there is also no reason to extend enemies the benefit of non-aggression if they will not extend the same to you. That’s non-reciprocal. That’s a cost without benefit. You have to forego the benefits of aggression against your enemies, either preempting their aggression or actually plundering, looting, enslaving, or killing them, and you don’t get anything in return for your generosity or forbearance. They certainly won’t avoid doing any of that to you if they have the opportunity. […]
If you will permit me to speak metaphorically, the cold hand of Darwin will punish us just as surely for not engaging in aggression judiciously as for engaging in aggression injudiciously. Libertarians are content to leave the benefits of judicious aggression on the table for the sake of principle. But a principle of leaving benefits on the table is not an evolutionarily competitive one and that’s why libertarianism has never gone anywhere and never will.
One of the problems with various schools of philosophy, not limited to libertarianism and Randianism, is speaking in literary or metaphorical terms—which is excellent for literature and to convey meaning in appropriate contexts—but is downright sleight-of-hand and manipulative when testing scientific hypotheses. Having read The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes many years ago, I had always had a deep appreciation for how metaphor is a core component of consciousness that took humans from the equivalent of dis-integrated left-brain/right-brain schizophrenics, to an integration that ushers forth true literature. But I was missing something in the context of what we’re trying to get at here. I quote from the section on Operationalism from the Core Concepts, again:
Operationalism means speaking in operations or actions, like a recipe or a computer program. Science is operational because a proper, non-pseudoscientific, science paper is basically like a recipe. “Set up this experiment in this way and conduct it just so and you should observe these results.” If someone follows the recipe and observes different results, the conclusion will have to be revisited.
People frequently do NOT speak operationally. They speak in metaphors, analogies, meanings, or existence claims, instead of actions and operations. When you do not speak operationally it is easy to engage in error, bias, wishful thinking, suggestion, conflation, fraud, or deception.
So let’s get into Rights 2.0 from a Propertarian standpoint.
Property In Toto (all that we invest in and protect is our property)
The first question to ask is, “why don’t I just kill you and take all your stuff?” You can quote the Libertarian or Randian take on things, but what compels me to listen or take it to heart, sword in hand, at the ready…ready for loot and the pleasure of your females—who will come to me anyway, as soon as you’ve been dispatched? More historically, what compels a group of marauders to not take all your village stuff and kill, imprison, or enslave all the males, take all the amassed wealth in stored foodstuffs and livestock, and take pleasure in your wives and girls? There is much historical precedent.
Oh, on that one, I know your answer already: Civilization. OK, then, was civilization built on the back of Libertarian and Randian principles, or by means of insurance, by which I further mean, through cooperation and reciprocity?
It’s a waste of time to make moral claims about your property when you can simply buy the best insurance money can and can’t buy, which is mutually insuring one another as best you can through familial bonds, friendship bonds, informal kin-bonds, and community bonds. What that means in practice is simply not being sitting ducks. You impose costs upon would-be encroaches on all levels. And this worked in limited fashion for a long time so that civilization could gain a foothold once plant and livestock agriculture became a technological thing and then, bingo, there’s assets and wealth to steal. Don’t forget thats it’s reciprocal—not libertarian mental masturbation to justify looting of the commons or Randian selfishness (“blank out”). Even if a trading parter altruistically comes to your aid to impose a higher cost on your would-be raider, it might mostly be because you are a value to him as a value producer. Think of it like helping and protecting a vendor for your manufacturing operation.
It’s important to understand how the internal and external imposition of costs for raiding helped evolved civilization.
…Suppose you’ve organized a highly trained, organized, and discipled band of raiders. Do you think you’re going to be able to keep your innovations a secret, or are you going to eventually encounter competition? Well, communication over any significant distance sucked back in the BC, and well into the AD. You couldn’t keep tabs on your raiding competition, so you organized, invested relative lots for the next raid—only to ride two weeks to find your target village already looted, killed, conscripted into service, and raped.
So what’s the natural innovation? You’re back to insurance. What if you establish a force of protectors who remain on-site in various value-producting villages, by means of wealth-generating agriculture, in order to fend off other raiders and invaders? And, instead of burning it to the ground, you protect it from other raiders and extract taxes over the long term?
You have just established proto-governance that’s still in force on earth to this day, and it’s bigger than ever.
It has grown to become the modern nation state and there are vast swaths of history and geopolitics to learn, to try to understand it. But all you need to understand is that villages welcomed professional protectors. And libertarianism fails when it sees these arrangements as protection rackets. No, they are insurance operations. Moreover, they become more efficient (cost lowering while raising costs to would-be raiders) over time by training and organizing the population itself into a grand militia, where everybody fights.
…Humanity went through various stages as things formalized and institutionalized. First and foremost is that myth became organized and institutionalized quickly as an innovation of cost cutting in terms of insurance. Because the population was dumb and illiterate, the task was simply a matter of finding the most resonate myths and formalizing them, with lots of narrative and story telling. This, in one shot, increased the cost to rebels, and lowered the cost to allies. All enhancements and costs go to an accounting of property and insuring property.
Eventually, you had a church of narratives and myths becoming what was the modern nation state. They could insure protection of property at the lowest cost ever seen—that much, primitive peoples understood, even if they only understood it as stored blood, sweat, and tears. It was a visceral allegiance.
Virtually all leaders of state still rule by some form of divine sanction, with absolute authority, because nobody understands it’s simply a means to insure the protection, preservation, and taxation of net value-producing wealth, at root. All the things that sustain and in cases, lift civilization to higher and higher levels.
What a brilliant idea, really; create myths, stories, and narratives to pacify the populace and so, lower the costs associated with insuring their wealth creation by making rebellion costly and punished, while rewarding alliance and fealty. And taxing.
The secularization of the State we’ve observed—beginning with The American Experiment, where for the first time, the State was suborbinate to man-made principles and not the theistic interpretations of politicized clergy—was at first hugely successful. It was like opening the cages and doors to to the whole human zoo. Progress exploded and the Industrial Revolution had something very profound to bear as a standard.
…We live in a modern era now, where the old myths don’t seem to satisfy the young which, on its face is a good thing. The problem is that adults over the last 3-4 decades have been criminally negligent to a level where they ought to be sued by their “insurance company” for taking undue advantage of services.
It’s so awful, and few kids would know what a “property” is beyond their own smart phone. When I grew up on a 10 acre narrow strip along the Truckee River—that runs from Lake Tahoe to Pyramid Lake—I knew what my grandfather’s property was, because it was posted as such.
He once got his face beat in with a club and as the drunk and stoned hippies tried to gouge his eyes out while shouting “show me the deed,” his next door neighbor and brother showed up to insure. With a long barrel .44 magnum—nope, no catechisms of Libertarian or Randian doctrine. Rather, he came with a “Bible.”
The way toward greater levels of wealth creation and value storing is through value exchange via cooperative and reciprocal arrangements where, in conjunction, enormous costs are placed upon looters, parasites, and raiders.
Libertarians and Randians: stop your mental masturbating as justification to loot the commons and selfishly “live your life for its own sake,” get off your asses, put you morality were your mouth is, and create net values for yourself, others, and society—and make anyone regret that they ever tried to mess with it. Dismiss mommy’s basement-like libertarian angst, intellectually jerking-off in squalor. Radriods: get out of your ivory towers for the purpose of preaching to choirs. Stop asking “what would Ayn do?” and go do stuff and learn form your mistakes.
See the Propertarianism Table of Contents for links and info about this whole project. You can also support Curt Doolittle and the Propertarian Institute easily on Patreon.