Recently, on a 2016 presidential election forum on Facebook, a friend of mine, Andy, was debating the idea of government coercion as a means to effect moral outcomes in society (e.g. “equality of opportunity”…whatever that means). Presumably, the person with whom he was debating, Randy, leans to the left; which means that he, presumably, appeals to the supreme power (the superior ability to render destruction upon its adversaries) of the State to create conditions of opportunistic equality…again, whatever that means. (And don’t try to figure it out; there is no real logical premise, and thus, no real logical conclusion…but whatevs).
“…any success that I have in this world happens IN SPITE of government programs and not because (regardless of what party implemented them). It happens when I use my God-given creative capacity to find a way to engage in a fair exchange of value for value with another individual as a means of ensuring my own existence as a person while at the same time valuing the existence of the one with whom I am engaged in said exchange. That is the TRUE definition of fairness and equity and morality.”
To which Randy replied:
“If only you could make that work for 375 million of us I would vote for you as president.”
Now, before I being this article, and to critique the inherent ideological and philosophical flaws in Randy’s statement (and they are prodigious), I must make a disclaimer. First, I am neither Republican nor Democrat. I have an official political affiliation, for voter registration purposes, with the Libertarian party; however, I would not say that I am, in the modern political sense, a true Libertarian, the reason being that libertarianism, like conservatism and liberalism, assumes, I submit, the metaphysical necessity of governing man. That is, it assumes that since man MUST be governed, that government is the means by which man obtains his “freedom”. The contradiction and cognitive dissonance of this idea should be patently obvious to anyone who can put one premise in front of another and validate the conclusion. Like, if you can understand how and why 1+1=2, you can understand how and why problems which arise from State force cannot be remediated by implementing State force. Sadly, many libertarians cannot or do not understand this. Which is why I don’t necessarily affiliate myself philosophically with libertarianism or libertarians. Anyway, I mention this only in the interest of disclosure.
Also, I’m not “taking Andy’s side” here, either. While I do agree ostensibly with his comment, I did not read the the full discourse. Thus, I am only commenting on a small excerpt of their exchange, and specifically Randy’s comment, and the vast and dreadful and destructive outcomes it implies.
Let’s read it again:
“If only you could make that [the idea of individuals exchanging value for value, privately with their own property (the product of their labor and the extension of their own existence), and according to their own perceived needs, for their own edification and progress, without the coercive violence of the state commandeering said property and redistributing it to the “less fortunate”, whatever that means] work for 375 million of us I would vote for you for president.”
Okay, let’s examine that sparkling little tidbit of Marxist tyranny and death.
For me, this would have likely been the end of the conversation. I would have gone no further until the metaphysics were settled…and they wouldn’t have been, because metaphysical contradiction is at the very heart of Marxist sentiments like Randy’s, and in almost all cases people like Randy are simply unable to see this contradiction, let alone look beyond it and consider a more rational alternative. So…yeah, this would have been the end of the conversation. I would have had no more use for Randy in this context. He’s a blind man who somehow needs to recognize that he’s blind before he can be in a position to actually want to see. And that’s not anything any rational argument can do. This has everything to do with a person desiring truth; and that must come from themselves. One cannot manufacture desire in another. It just doesn’t work.
Randy’s comment clearly reveals his root collectivist metaphysic. And it is downright stark. I have often remarked that all disagreements, big or small, boil down to the metaphysics. They always boil down not to the question “Who owns man?”, as some empiricists and objectivists and other devotees of Aristotelian philosophy and its many progenies assume, but rather, “What is man?” That is, what is the root essence of human sentience? What is that irreducible thing which makes man man?
I argue that man is Self, and self is absolute and singular, and the fundamental root of that is Ability. And so the proper metaphysic of man is: the Ability to be Aware of (to Conceptualize) Self–of I, Me, My–as a singularity, absolutely distinct from Environment, Other…all that is Not Self. The rationally consistent conceptual juxtaposition/reconciliation of Self and Other is called Reason; and Reason’s Standard is Self. Or said another way, truth and morality are a function of reason (rational consistency), and the Standard of Reason, meaning the reference by which anything is declared reasonable or not, and thus moral and good or not, is Self.
According to Randy, man is “group”. He is a full-on advocate of collectivist metaphysics. Man is never himself, because that makes man an individual. But an individual cannot by definition be responsible for the “well-being” or “equality of opportunity” (whatever that means) of 375 million people. Expost facto, man cannot actually be Self, but “us”, or “group”. He, insofar as we can call man a “he”, in the singular, only has any real existence if we acknowledge his utter dependence upon “other”. Which means there is no actual dichotomy between man and his environment…but rather man, at the root of it, is his environment. He is Self AND Other; he is Self AND Not Self. Thus, his moral obligation, to be consistent with the collectivist metaphysic, is, contradictorily (and impossibly) to be both dependent upon and self-sacrificing to the group. To that which is NOT Himself; because “Self” is a false metaphysic; and thus any appeals to unforced exchanging of value between individuals as the only rational and moral form of economics reads like Greek to people like Randy. Two individuals doing private business makes about as much sense as two halves of pi. You cannot split the root metaphysic; and the root metaphysic of man is “collective”; which means you identify with the group.
Okay, but which group? Well, that’s an easy one. The group is whatever group the necessary central Authority which claims to speak on behalf of the group, and to compel by violence the behavioral outcomes the group, decides that group is. “Group” can be the “less fortunate”, which in America means anyone not white of any social status, as long as they are liberal; the “nation”, the “workers/people”, the “party”, the “body of Christ” (successfully twisting this biblical doctrine into a Marxist abomination is just about the only thing in which the modern American Institutional Church excels), and so on and so forth.
According to Randy’s metaphysics, the idea of Man as Self (as Individual) is illusory at best, criminal madness–demanding the punishment of the State–at worst. And this punishment, by the way, is always the functional conclusion of Randy’s political and economic philosophy…and I can declare this simply because I understand his metaphysics. Do not doubt me. Any collectivist who decides to debate is merely engaging in a standing on ceremony…a pretense of a commitment to ideas and discourse, nothing more. The fundamental and only true of source of “morality” is violence committed by the group’s central Authority which claims a transcendent mandate to compel outcomes of individuals in service to the group.
Boiled down, this demands the following equation: violence = morality. Metaphysics is a function of the group which means the individual can know nothing (epistemology) because he is not actual, which means that ethics (personal interaction) must be compelled by force (violence) from the ruling Authority (Politics) which is appointed or “called” to lead the masses into right thinking and behavior to and for collective interest, which they alone define. And this is the sum and substance of Randy’s philosophy. Full stop.
You see, in Randy’s economic paradigm, categorically due to his collectivist metaphysic, the only moral action that any one person (who isn’t real, remember, existentially speaking…the individual metaphysic is specifically rejected) can take is sacrifice to the group. And since, as I’ve said, Authority in this paradigm is necessary to define the existential terms of the group, sacrificing to the group means, in the context of modern American politics, sacrificing to the State. And what this then really means is that the sum and substance of human existence is simply the arbitrary sacrifice of one group of people to another group of people. And the reason I say “arbitrary” is because there is no actual reason involved. There is no rational consistency. It merely boils down to who possesses the greatest amount of power which can be translated into violence (physiological/biological, psychological, intellectual, financial) and the abject and pragmatic willingness to use it. A willingness which is empirically verified. For example it does no good for the United States to claim status as the world’s most militarily powerful (greatest capacity for violence by Armed Forces) nation if it does not demonstrate its power and, most importantly, its willingness to use it under circumstances it alone defines as “necessary”. Thus: Nagasaki and Hiroshima. (Note: I am not criticizing the use of the A-bomb in WWII, necessarily, I’m only arguing that its use was inevitable).
Here is Randy’s comment, again:
“If you could make that work for 375 million of us, I’d vote for you for president.”
Now, let’s remove the pretension, faux contrition, and underlying sophistry and render this statement according to his assumptions. Here it is, properly translated:
“If you can somehow successfully combine your own individual interests with the interests of 374,999,999 other people, I would vote for you as president. But since this is obviously a contradiction in terms, and therefore impossible, your entire argument that men have a right to exchange the product of their own labor with other individuals according to their own, self-determined objectives and fully in service to the affirmation and promotion of themselves, is invalid. Thus, I am fully correct and morally inviolate when I vote for people who, in keeping with my own intention and desire to force you into my subjective opinions, will point the guns of the State at you and your family in order to intimidate and threaten you into your obligation of self-sacrifice to the collective, as I have defined “sacrifice” and “collective”…that is, what I have decided is the PROPER sacrifice and PROPER collective. And further, I submit that the collective is morally and PROPERLY defined by the context of that which I will call the “disadvantaged”, according to my own subjective definition of such a context; meaning that my definition of “disadvantaged” is purely arbitrary, being based on nothing more than my own sentiments regarding my own subjective opinions about who is in “need” and when and by what means and according to which “oppressor” and purveyor of “unfairness”, and is thus “deserving” of your property, removed from you by violence or threats of violence, making this whole discussion moot, and simply a deception to trick you into thinking that I actually employ reason, and not purely emotion and feeling, according to my subjective whims, when it comes to formulating my ideas.
Moreover, I aver that man, if left to himself, must inevitably capitulate to his inherent depraved nature (which is a sophist euphemism for “inherent and intrinsic insufficiency to his own existence”), and exploit and abuse his “weaker” (according to my subjective rendering of the concept), and “less fortunate” (according to my subjective rendering of the concept) neighbor. And this means that without government there could exist nothing but abject and unrestrained murder, theft, and destructive chaos. Thus, since government is necessary for the good of the group, by man’s very metaphysical insufficiency, government is perfectly withing its rights (which are absolute, and thus, not “rights” at all, but merely its own desires, no matter how capricious and paradoxical) to use force to compel the more “privileged” (according to my subjective definition of the concept), yet depraved, individual into “right” thinking and behavior.”
Of course, since this explication specifically demands a totally depraved metaphysic–which then, in order to correct the metaphysical error, which even they with all their sophistry cannot deny makes the entire existential equation unworkable–it thus demands a COLLECTIVIST metaphysic, or a “man is good (good meaning: sufficient to practical and efficacious existence) if man is group” metaphysic. Therefore, people like Randy can never really reconcile how government, which is comprised of individuals can bring order to the inexorable chaos of individual existence; can bring peace to he who is infinitely violent; can bring “equality of opportunity” (whatever that means) to society. Further, since ruler/citizen dichotomies are by definition unequal, I’m still waiting to hear just how there can possibly exist any real equality of opportunity, since such a society is clearly and abjectly unequal at its root, and must be, according to the irreducible assumption: man’s collectivist metaphysic.
And that is the corner into which I always back them.
You see, we can argue ancillaries and tangentials until the sun burns out, but until we can agree upon the metaphysics its all merely pretense…semantics…tautology. Meaningless; effecting no change. The rock and the hard place metaphor. And this is where those of us who laud reason never lose. You see, with all the sophism and emotion and ad hominem, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that the collectivist has a rational point, and that you merely disagree with his reason…but not that his reason is, in fact, entirely unreasonable. It is easy to assume that the idea of the “common good” can have a rational meaning. But the reality is that “common good” is the most vapid, meaningless, reason-less idea which man ever conjured in the dark, wretchedly pungent and smoke-filled back rooms of Marxist devil-worship. There is no such thing…but enough people accept it to maintain the illusion that collectivists actually have a solid trump card in any argument by appealing to the notion of “common good”. But in reality the cognitive dissonance, the suspension of disbelief, and the abject contradictions necessary to sustain such a notion are so deep that it becomes so absolutely subjective that there seemingly exists an answer for almost everything. The answers are never right, mind you, but since there is an answer, and answers again seemingly never-ending, they are able to maintain the effective facade of possessing an argument which is inherently given to avoiding logical corners.
But this doesn’t work with the metaphysics. And it cannot.
Since the metaphysics are utterly irreducible, there is ONLY a corner…for everyone, including me. Eventually, all ideas must begin with a definition of man, and there are only two to choose from: Man is Self, or Man is NOT Self (Man is Collective; man is Laws of Physics; Man is Effect from External Cause; Man is Objective Reality Outside Himself, Man is Creation from Nothing; man is Product of Divine Will/Determinism, etc.). And one is clearly rational, and one is clearly an impossible contradiction. One must lead to the rational fulfillment of existence, and one must lead to abuse, exploitation, and murder.
As I have said in the past, get the metaphysics right and you will get everything right. It’s all about the metaphysics. And it’s either Door A or Door B; X or Y; Red Pill or Blue Pill. There is only one absolute; one is absolute Truth and the other absolute Lie. One is absolute Good and the other absolute Evil. Are you you? Or are you not you? That’s the question upon which literally everything else depends.
People who extol the virtues of an epicenter of ruling Authority by which their subjective morality can be thrust upon everyone else are not actually opposed to oppression, exploitation, violence, murder, and chaos, no matter to what degree they may claim thus, and no matter how successful they have been in convincing themselves they are truly pacifists who want nothing more than the “disadvantaged” cared for, and opportunity equalized (whatever that means). They merely view said violence and chaos, et. al. “moral” when it is centralized; when it is the sole jurisdiction of a select group of men who claim the divine/transcendent/etc. right to determine “goodness” and “truth” for everyone else by virtue of their “calling” to existentially define the collective for those individuals who comprise the collective. Just as “gun control” advocates aren’t actually for gun control, they are only for controlling the guns outside the purview of the State Authority, so these Marxists are not for “peace” and “equality” and “compassion” and “justice”; they merely seek such “outcomes” amongst those outside of the power of the State Authority. Of the rulership. The Authority may employ all manner of violence, inequality, arbitrary punishment, and moral relativism in order to bring about said “peace” and “compassion” and “justice”, et. al.
The cognitive dissonance is thinking that peace can be a function of violence; that justice can be a function of compelling people against their will; that equality can be a function of setting up a State by which different rules apply to “leaders” and the “people”. In other words, violence and abuse are fine as long as they are a function of the central Authority in order to bring about the subjective “morality” people like Randy assume. Whatever is necessary to get the collective to obey Randy, as long as it is via the central Authority, is perfectly acceptable.
Further, if violence and abuse and oppression is used to affirm whatever group Randy decides is the moral plumb line–in this case the poor/unfortunate/marginalized/minority/disadvantaged/etc.–then said violence et. al. is fine. It is just. It is only evil if it is employed by the individual…someone using it in defense of their own, singular Self.
But the functional conclusion, according to their own metaphysics, must be the same for the “poor” and “unfortunate” and “minority” as it is for the “privileged” or the “majority”: humanity must be destroyed. And, if the philosophy is followed to its logical conclusion, humanity will be. The only “moral” difference is whether the destruction comes via the individual or the central Authority.
Randy’s comment is a non-starter for me, period. If I had been in my friend, Andy’s, shoes, I would have demanded he explain the contradiction or I would have withdrawn.
And here’s a teachable moment: people like Randy–latent or blatant Marxists–NEVER want to address the metaphysics, because they can’t, having spent no time considering them in the first place. Therefore, these political discussion groups merely bat around the same old tired issues, like a cat batting around an old ball of yarn because, having little or no object permanence, believes it to be new and novel, and eventually find their way to the same old conclusion shared by every political party in existence: man needs to be governed; which means that man needs an Authority to define his reality for him (to define Self), which means man needs to be forced against his will–his own will being merely an illusion–which means inevitable violence, which results in man being utterly removed from himself at the metaphysical level, which means that the only point of the individual’s existence is for that individual to be destroyed.
And once that’s the conclusion, political differences of opinion are merely semantic. Irrelevant. A distraction from truth, not a path unto it.
This is why I no longer vote. I aver that above all one’s vote is the greatest philosophical concession they can make to the idea of the State as the Standard of morality and truth. Not the individual. And the very fact that even limited-government libertarians assume that reductions in government must come from the actions of elected government officials acting in the capacity of ruler…as facets of that very same government reveals the rational disconnect within the minds of even the most well-intentioned people.
In short, once we assume that limited government can only happen BY government we have already conceded the right of government to infinitely grow and to compel all of man’s outcomes.
And this is the root of Randy’s argument. He assumes that since all truth and morality can only be a function of those “called” to rule the collective, what works for the individual is only valid if it works for the whole of the group. And what works for the group can never be a product of the individual because the metaphysics are mutually exclusive…it’s “group” versus “self”, and the only true metaphysic is the collective one, according to Randy; which means reality can only be defined by the governors of the collective, which means they must be in a position to force the individual into the “common good”.
What’s good for Andy MUST be exclusive of what’s good for the collective. Which means Andy must be forced into sacrificing himself for the common good. And this is the very heart of what Randy believes.