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« Global Warming – Missing of the Minds | Main | Prop23 – Some (Private Sector) Unions Get It »

18 September 2010


Bob Hobert

Wow! Big ideas and big words. I feel fortunate to not be intellectual enough to care about M-theory. Maybe they are only trying to convince themselves. I'll content myself with Occam's Razor. Thanks.

Paul Emery

This reminds me of a friend of mine who is an agnostic, dyslexic insomniac who stays up all night wondering if there is a dog.

Michael Anderson

Thanks George, that was a fun word trip. Now I need a nap.

But seriously , I have found that the tension between the logical tautology and rhetorical tautology of who are we? and why are we here? provides me with the ability to have a meaningful conversation with God.

And that's all I need. Whether the toast I had for breakfast this morning came from an ID or a yet-to-be defined M-theory equation remains unanswered for now. And so I carry water for neither.

George Rebane

Well said MichaelA. Until He (again) says 'I am here', that's about as good a plan as any.

Ron Krumpos

In "The Grand Design" Stephen Hawking postulates that the M-theory may be the Holy Grail of physics...the Grand Unified Theory which Einstein had tried to formulate and later abandoned. It expands on quantum mechanics and string theories.

In my e-book on comparative mysticism is a quote by Albert Einstein: “…most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and most radiant beauty – which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive form – this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of all religion.”

E=mc², Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity, is probably the best known scientific equation. I revised it to help better understand the relationship between divine Essence (Spirit), matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and consciousness (f(x) raised to its greatest power). Unlike the speed of light, which is a constant, there are no exact measurements for consciousness. In this hypothetical formula, basic consciousness may be of insects, to the second power of animals and to the third power the rational mind of humans. The fourth power is suprarational consciousness of mystics, when they intuit the divine essence in perceived matter. This was a convenient analogy, but there cannot be a divine formula.

George Rebane

Good thoughts RonK. From my readings, almost all great physicists who have had parted curtains for us, tell of their experiences as being mystical and in some way transcendent.

Paul Emery

Interesting stuff. Getting specific, where does God's involvement in property rights come from? Is it part of some cosmic equation?

"Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty,
and his property".

From the BTA

Mikey McD

Paul, see 10 Commandments...

Ron Krumpos


Heisenberg, Schroedinger, de Broglie, Jeans, Planck, Pauli, and Eddington were supporters of mysticism. A good reference is "Quantum Questions / Mystical Writings of the World's Greatest Physicists," edited by Ken Wilber (Shambhala 1984, 2001). I had read 40 books on physics, biology and psychology while writing my e-book, but am certainly not a scientist.

Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, Nobel physicist, in 1959 invited me to the University of Chicago's Yerkes Observatory. He introduced me to mysticism and the universality of the Universe. Chandra once said "God is man's greatest creation." He wasn't questioning God just people who shape God to their preferred image.

Paul Emery

There are some pretty good ideas in the 10 C's. But I don't see the specifics about defending property.

George Rebane

RonK - yes, those and many more came to the conclusion that man is a transcendent critter, and what we see and can think of is but a very small fraction of what is.

Paul - The Old Testament is full of the acquisition, defense, disposition, and husbanding of property with and without the blessings of God. It is treated there by the prophets (authors) as a natural function, therefore a natural right of humans. Its successful husbanding is one of the few legitimate ways the Bible acknowledges for accreting wealth. I suppose Bastiat derived it as a natural 'God given' right from there. Most certainly he worked it well into the minimum set of integrated rights upon which others could be built, and without which the addition of no others could be sustained.

Do you have in mind an even smaller set that eliminates property rights yet gives basis for a beneficial and benevolent society of humans?

Paul Emery

There are many. The Maidu, for example, for hundreds of years regarded the acquisition of property as a sign of poverty. Your wealth was determined by how much you gave away. As long as we frame our references to European post tribal history it's pretty materialistic but humans have been on this earth a long time and, unless God is a modern invention for White post tribal cultures you would think also that other cultures in the history of man would be also blessed with so called divine instructions that may be quite different than messages that came from the nomadic tribes that are attributed as messengers of the Old Testament.

Mikey McD

Paul, The Ten Commandments explicitly describe property rights. "Thou shalt not steal [obviously stealing implies ownership]. Do not covet your neighbors house...nor anything that IS your neighbors" [IS = ownership].

Maidu's- I believe humans to be inherently selfish. I don't accept a belief that past cultures were freely altruistic or non-selfish by choice (without law/cultural law); the Maidu's you describe are fantasy.

This is not to condone the hoarders or miserly among us. It is simple to prove that property rights are a part of God's law.

Paul Emery


I do not believe in the inherent selfishness of humanity. This topic is way beyond the chatter of a blog to explore. I doubt if the property rights of man is very important to whatever God is.

Mikey McD

"I do not believe in the inherent selfishness of humanity."
Paul, I sincerely consider you a lucky man.

My experiences (daily news, full prisons, ridiculous # of lawyers, all worldly relationships, books, business, churches, government, hate based religions, songs, movies, plays, etc) keep me from believing man is anything but selfish.

I think God understood/understands that without basic laws (including property rights) man would run amok and chaos would ensue for eternity.

George Rebane

I cannot find any cultures, especially the Maidu, whose views on property ownership would make me want to trade places with them. But then again, I am only a child, student, and defender of western culture.

Paul Emery

Of course because you view property ownership as a God given right which is your belief system. I only brought them up as an example of other belief systems that have existed for thousands of years.

Let's follow this path for a bit

God creates man who is inherently selfish requiring property rights laws, Therefore those laws become Gods laws. Am I on the right path to understanding this concept of Property Rights ?

George Rebane

In the Judeo-Christian tradition working for and retaining the fruits of your labor is not considered selfish. It is from such accretions that a free-willed inidividual can start demonstrating the direction, intent, and extent of his charity. And it is for such accretions that man will work to feed, shelter, and generally provide for his kith and kin, instead of going out to plunder what is not his.

Michael Anderson

I, like Paul, also do not believe that mankind is inherently selfish. I also don't believe that mankind is intrinsically evil and must be shown the way to heaven. We are clothed in naked truth and beauty at birth, and some are lucky enough to have very little of that stripped away during our lives. Others, unfortunately, begin to train in evil early on, and so they are the ones who need our help finding the righteous path (once again) as adults.

Western Culture has a split personality on good vs. evil. I'm not sure if the split is opening wider, or healing.

George and Mikey, come with me to Burning Man in 2011 and I will show you intrinsic good and inherent unselfishness. I'm serious.

George Rebane

MichaelA - Rereading Paul's comment, is it not he who posits a selfish man? I posit Man as having evolved into a survivable critter, however, you want to characterize him then. I do believe from study and being a parent, that the human child comes into this world as the embodiment of selfishness, subsequently being taught within his culture what the proper ways are to behave toward his fellows and the things around him.

Mikey McD

"Mikey, come with me to Burning Man in 2011 and I will show you intrinsic good and inherent unselfishness." Wouldn't this be a selfish exercise? And what about the lifestyles and choices of the attendees in the days before and after the event?

"God creates man who is inherently selfish requiring property rights laws, Therefore those laws become Gods laws." God created man with free will and man (Adam and Eve) chose to dis-obey (sin against) God. 'The fall' required that God create structure (read laws; property rights). 'We' forced God to create laws by our selfish nature.

Mikey McD

MichaelA and Paul, are your hearts not burdened by the hate which fills the daily headlines? The corruption/compulsion of governments around the globe and throughout history? The ability of our fellow man to lay an unloving finger on a child, spouse, elderly? Man's propensity to indulge in vices? The greed/materialism present worldwide? An ever booming population of lawyers (present due to more disputes)?

Is it not the acknowledgment of the aforementioned ills which require structure/code of morals/law? One of the most common first words in any language is "mine."

Paul Emery


"In the Judeo-Christian tradition"

Correct George. If I accept that qualification for Property Rights being inspired by God you may be right in speaking for hat group of people. What about the other 80% of people on earth? Many cultures and spiritual paths of inspiration do not necessarily share those thoughts. To make a statement such as "Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property". and use that as a universal truth is a bit presumptuous to say the least if it's intend it to be the word of "God" for those that are not part of that "tradition"

George Rebane

The other 80% of the people may choose or not to defend their property, give it away, or abandon it. But I do believe that even they have a natural right to defend their property should they so choose. I am not dictating their obligation to do so, and neither do I want them to interfere with my natural right to defend my property.

Paul Emery

I have a problem with any political philosophy that uses as it's credo statements that it's "God's" law. Who's God? My God or your God or his or their God. More people have been slaughtered in the name of "God" than any cause of defense of land or liberty. Let's keep "God" out of this.

George Rebane

That's not a problem, please recall the subject of this post and, also, who directed the comment thread into examining the role of 'God' as a promoter/denier of property rights. The Bastiat Triangle of rights works with or without the insertion of God. Without God, it still represents the minimum set of mutually supporting and government guaranteed rights that has led to beneficial societies. The collectivists have laid down numerous trails of blood and tears when they used the power of the bayonet to organize societies on other principles. In the final argument the secular humanist can and should support the BT with fervor equal to the theist, simply because the BT is consistent with human nature.

Mikey McD

Paul, to go down the road you now abruptly swerved to go down it would require that I accept that there is no God. My knowledge of The Truth makes turning down 'your road' impossible (futile at best). I was lead to The Truth via studying philosophy (Plato, Kant, Aristotle, Aurelius, etc). It became obvious that society could reach optimum functionality (peacefulness) by using the 10 commandments as a foundation (regardless of one's 'faith'). To expect a utopia to form based on the lyrics of John Lennons "Imagine", for example, seems like a fantasy on steroids.

Michael Anderson

George wrote: "I do believe from study and being a parent, that the human child comes into this world as the embodiment of selfishness, subsequently being taught within his culture what the proper ways are to behave toward his fellows and the things around him."

I know what you mean George, I've raised (and continue to raise) 4 boys (men) myself. They are 24, 22, 9, and 5 yrs. old respectively. And yes, they are certainly the embodiment of a human tabula rasa, in terms of what is proper behavior.

I was blessed with the sacred gift of watching all 4 of my boys descend the birth canal and pop out into the world all bloody and hungry and full of spunk. I observed their needs not to be selfish, but instead self-serving. There's a big difference.

I have worked very hard all of my life to make sure my inherently unselfish and intrinsically good boys, and now men, do not let their natural self-serving needs become adult selfishness. Lessons in service, compassion, and altruism are how we do it in our household, as I am sure is the case in yours as well.

That's the thing George, I think we are talking about the same thing, only from very different angles. One of the reasons I really enjoy this blog is because I truly believe it is a touchstone for moving the human experiment forward.

"Selfishness implies the intention to serve oneself, hence knowledge of what one stands to gain from a particular behavior" Frans de Waal

Michael Anderson

Mikey wrote: "To expect a utopia to form based on the lyrics of John Lennon's 'Imagine,' for example, seems like a fantasy on steroids."

Can't speak for Paul, but I have to agree with you there. However, you capitalized The Truth later on, which troubles me since everyone's Aunt Mable makes The Perfect Apple Pie:

I was raised an Episcopalian and Mormon simultaneously, so you'll have to excuse my theological ennui. I ended up crafting my own spiritual path which is a mix of Christian-Buddhist theosophy. Take it or leave it. And I don't really care what you believe, as long as your beliefs don't involve car bombs, suicide vests, rapture parties, or other dangerous and demonstrative spittle.

Michael Anderson

Mikey wrote re. my Burning Man 2011 offer: "Wouldn't this be a selfish exercise? And what about the lifestyles and choices of the attendees in the days before and after the event?"

The exercise would be no more selfish than attending a Giants game. Trust me on this.

Mikey, check out this Bloomberg video...I am a co-founder of the BRC municipal airport and have been involved with the Burning Man project for almost 2 decades--you and George would be distinguished guests at 88NV:

Michael Anderson

Mikey wrote: "MichaelA and Paul, are your hearts not burdened by the hate which fills the daily headlines?"

Again, can't speak for Paul. But yes, my heart is burdened. And I seek to forgive at every turn, though it is very hard.


Paul Emery

Let's look at a couple of the Ten Commandments and see how well they have been adapted by God fearing capitalists

Though shall not kill except in defense of thy material possessions or being ordered by thy government or by designing weapons that will be used to kill innocent civilians. Or by knowingly selling a product that addicts and kills people such as tobacco .

Though shall not steal unless you are in a business that takes taking advantage of those weaker than you for a profit. Look at Americas manifest destiny or European colonialism or ripping off the defenseless so corporate execs can make billions.

From the writings of Peter Weiss in his play Marat Sade

"And so we stand here and write into the declarations of the rights of man the holy right of property
And now we find where that leads
Every man's equally free to fight fraternally and with equal arms of course
Every man his own millionaire
Man against man, group against group
in happy mutual robbery.
And ahead of them the great springtime of mankind
the budding of industry and one enormous financial upsurge "

As living creatures bound to this earth our survival depends on our self interest to insure we eat and live in reasonable comfort, health and safety. How we choose live beyond that perhaps is our greatest challenge as human beings. I believe we are inherently good but we live in a time when materialism is our inflicted quest and greatest temptation.

Yes John Lennon Imagine..... how different it could be if we truly lived by the Ten Commandments. I agree it's a pretty good start on the path to whatever it's all about.

Paul Emery


The conversation steered in this direction when I asked the question about how the God, which you say is still on his feet after the interrogation of The Great Design relates to the God referred to in the doctrines of the Bastiat Triangle Alliance. I was interested if that was the same God that has an interest in the defense of Property Rights as described. For my convenience you have removed him from the statement helping me to understand that you believe this is a right that is installed in the human animal and is not to be confused with any sort of divine equation.


I don't believe in utopia. The job of an artist is to help us see with our heart. John Lennon does that to me.


If we were neighbors we would get along fine. I enjoy conversing with you.

Mikey McD

Michael A "I observed their needs not to be selfish, but instead self-serving. There's a big difference." I think we are speaking semantics. Selfish and self-serving are interchangeable words in my lexicon. I need you to paint more on this canvas before I can grasp your definition (and difference) between the two words.

Michael A: I will review the burning man links when time permits. It is refreshing to see someone such as yourself passionate about an 'event.'

Paul: Would be a pleasure to break bread and discuss this wild world with a neighbor such as yourself.

I am grateful to George for managing a platform to discuss such heavy, important and too often ignored topics.

George Rebane

Perhaps this might help.

‘Self-serving’ connotes an attribute of a behavior. An act can be self-serving while it also has other attributes like ‘helpful to others’, ‘magnanimous’, ‘beautiful’, ‘bashful’, ‘overt’, … . It is an attribute, for instance, on which all business transactions and, therefore, capitalism is based. There need be nothing immoral, hurtful, or unethical per se for us to engage in self-serving activities, because the overwhelming proportion of our behaviors are also self-serving. In the large, self-serving is topical.

‘Selfish’, on the other hand, is understood to be an attribute of character. Selfish behavior gets for itself at the cost of denying others something that in the large is considered their ‘fair share’ within the framework of a zero-sum enterprise. Selfish implies looking out for number one at a (potential) cost to others. Selfish is more or less a long-lasting stigma that is attached to someone, in that sense it has some permanence and, therefore, may be viewed as a synoptic attribute.

Mikey McD

Thanks George. I will have to noodle on this for a bit.

Paul Emery

Indeed. I see your point. Then what restraints need to be put on capitalism to restrict the ability of the selfish to attain unlimited riches and power? Is is not a form of stealing to take advantage of the less capable or educated or defended for the purposes of obtaining unlimited wealth ? Under the Ten Commandments what is the definition of stealing?

George Rebane

Paul, I think I see where you want to take this. If it is a zero sum game, then the smarter will always be able to get more of the pie. But I think we (conservatives and collectivists) have a wide gulf in our meanings for 'steal'. It appears that your definition involves anything that violates the 'just allocation' of wealth, both created and yet to be created, under a system of justice that may be peculiar to you.

You seem to be coming back to a notion of 'unlimited wealth' that is an amount which is somehow immoral to own even if its creation, ownership, and deployment lifts many more to a higher quality of life. Given that the dumber and more ignorant are not capable of creating such wealth (see L. von Mises on this), why would one use the established notion of envy (see Kahneman & Tversky) to stop wealth creation and ownership at some arbitrary level so that some arbitrary lower quality of life can be imposed more evenly? That trail of tears seems to be the eternal quest for socialists and communists.

Paul Emery

So do you prescribe any restrictions on the accumulation of personal wealth and any moral and perhaps spiritual standards by which it can be gained?

I am trying to establish some kind of earthly definition of stealing as prescribed in the Ten Commandments which, according to some Christian advocates is the word of God. Can you give me any help on this?

Mikey McD

"what restraints need to be put on capitalism to restrict the ability of the selfish to attain unlimited riches and power?" Capitalism must not be allowed to use government as a club and competition must be present.

The beauty of Capitalism is the abundance of choices it provides EVERYONE. One is free to choose how to participate (or not) in a capitalist society while benefiting from the efforts of all who choose to be productive.

George Rebane

First, please understand that I am a student (of von Mises, von Hayek, Hazlitt, Friedman) and devotee of what is often pejoratively called ‘trickle down’ economics. Not everyone can instigate and operate a wealth creating enterprise, and even a smaller proportion will be qualified to do so as technology advances. But once such an enterprise is created, then its salutary form should be to maximize the trickle. I don’t know enough to prescribe a rule or algorithm that restricts accumulation, and would not spend time worrying about it – it is against my nature to do so. Collectivists concern themselves with such pursuits. I am more concerned with the ability to effectively distribute enough of such wealth as to improve the largest number of lives to the largest extent (this is called achieving a Pareto optimal solution).

The progressives have revised the history of the so-called robber barons of late 19th century. But a more accurate interpretation of their effect on society shows that the barons were a wholesale blessing on the landscape and the people they enabled. Today we cannot turn or lift our eyes or hands without basking in their heritage, their trickle down heritage. And that process, while under renewed attack from the ‘this time we can make it work’ collectivists, is still thankfully giving us an ever abundant life. I don’t know how long it will last, but I can guarantee that it will not be shortened for the lack of restrictions on the ability to accumulate wealth.

And now the “earthly definition of stealing” (I think you meant ‘proscribed’ in the Ten Commandments). To me, and I believe to the tribes of Israel, stealing means simply taking surreptitiously something that belongs to another in a manner that it denies its owner the future benefit of it. (Taking something overtly with the threat of force is called robbery or plunder.)

The ownership of yet-to-be-created wealth is an eternal conundrum for the socialist, he simply doesn’t know what to do with it other than knowing that its free and unregulated creation, let alone its subsequent redistribution, goes somehow against his very grain. It is all so unequal, and therefore it must be unjust, maybe even stealing was involved. He would just rather not see that wealth come into being, than have to confront it with his bag of tools - a philosophy which he knows to be dysfunctional – to sort things out later. Better to stop it in its tracks and muddle on.

Paul Emery


Could you point me to some examples of the Golden Age of Capitalism that thrived under the Free Market Economy policies that you believe in. Anything contemporary that you like?

Todd Juvinall

George, Channel Six had a show last night about the "Tank Man". Remember Tiananmen Square 1989? Anyway, they expanded the show past wondering what happened to the TM, and in my humble opinion, one of the bravest, more important people in the 20th Century, on to China and its embrace of capitalism.

Perhaps Paul could watch the show and many of his questions would be answered. It is amazing to me that Red China is trying to out capitalist America.

George Rebane

Paul, rather than becoming your research librarian, I would ask you to google 'captains of industry or robber barons, history' and go to as many of the links there as you can tolerate. The point here is that our school system only teaches the robber baron part of business history with little copy given to the Boss Tweed episodes of government corruption that ran concurrently (and still does). While not puritans or saints, these business men gave rise to the great corporations that would employee millions of workers of very limited mental capacity or propensity for risk, and in the process give them the wherewithal for raising their families and leading rewarding lives. And what these barons or captains did with their spare cash has funded entirely new dimensions of our American culture the counterparts of which don't exist anywhere else in the world. It was they who created the environment which allowed the little guy to flower like he never had before in history.

Paul Emery

Actually George I meant to ask about countries and governments and when in history they supported the type or free market enterprise you appreciate so much. It will give me an idea of what to expect if our country goes in the direction you'd like it to.

George Rebane

Paul, there are no precedents to the Great American Experiment. The closest we may come before our own revolution was the laissez-faire capitalism that was practiced in the Protestant Low Countries (and what later became northern Germany) since the Renaissance. It allowed that piece of foul weather, mud-soaked Europe to become the flower of trade, commerce, art, and thought.

Michael Anderson

Man, it's hard to keep up with this thread. I don't necessarily disagree with any of the directions, and it seems like we are wandering different paths that are heading to the same destination.

Mikey D.: The passion of the 'event' is a social and economic experiment called the Burning Man Gift Economy (BMGE)[Note: this is not the barter economy for which it has been mistakenly portrayed.]. The only way this BMGE works is if there is a more realistic and functional complex capitalist society wrapped around it, creating goods and wealth that people can pack into their planes, trains, cars/trucks/RVs, bikes, backpacks and bring to the 'event.' But once there, everything you have is everything you have. No vending, no buying, no commercial activity onsite allowed at all, except for ice sales which benefit Gerlach high school girls basketball, and coffee which Burning Man LLC profits from (very low margins for sure).

George: Thanks for doing the heavy lifting on the selfish/self-serving differentiation. I couldn't have said it better, and I agree with you 100% that the self-serving attribute of our behavior is innate in human beings, is key to human existence and survival, and that the unique character of the American story has attracted people from all over the world who share, honor, and emphasize self-serving behavior (which obviously requires a lot of hard work)[Calvinism?]. This creates wealth and abundance, which builds great societies and cultures, from which many benefit.

Paul: Sorry, didn't mean to diss JL. I know you're not a utopianist, and you're right about art visioning our hearts, though I would also our souls to that. I was addressing Mikey D.'s claim that you sought utopia, sorry to drag you and Lennon into it.

Michael A.

John Stoos

Michael said you all were having quite a discussion over here :)

As an alternative to "Imagine" and Hawkins, may I suggest a visit to the Book of Beginnings, Genesis.

There is just the first eleven chapters you find the answers to the tough philosophical questions that cannot be properly answered without it. "In the Beginning God created the heavens and the earth" sets up the proper Creator/creature relationship. Man is created in the image of God with God saying, "let us make man in our own image." Theses familiar verses provide the worth of man and the solution to the age old problem of the one and the many with God revealing Himself as an eternal Trinity!

The dominion mandate is given so we know that people are a good thing and that we are to be good stewards of the creation that God has graciously given us. Next we have the fall of man into sin which accounts for the tension discussed above over how to distinguish serving actions [under the dominion mandate] from selfish actions caused by sin. In other words, we are all made in the image of God and under the curse of sin. Finally, we are given the solution for sin when God declares that the seed of the woman, Jesus will crush the head of the serpent, Satan.

That is all in the first three chapters and then we learn about the nations of the world, the diversity of the animals in creations, the judgment of God with the flood and a new beginning with Noah. All of that before we ever get to Abraham and any of the history we usually discuss.

Now here in America, we have written off or ignored almost all of those first eleven chapters with even most Christian making more excuses for them rather than proclaiming the foundational truths found there. Doing so leaves us without the foundation of rock that Jesus said we would need to handle the storms of life or the difficult questions of philosophy [see Matthew chapter seven].

Hope this helps and a big thank you to George for starting such a stimulating discussion.


Paul Emery

Thanks everyone for the lively discussion. I have much to say to add to this but it will have to wait till I have more time.

George, now that I understand that the expansion of the American experiment, during what I guess is the 19th Century before inconvenient anti-monopoly, workers safety, environmental and child labor laws imposed government restrictions on free enterprise, is the model for what you would like to see in the future I have to ask where is all the free land, resources and cheap immigrant labor that fueled the Manifest Destiny that you admire going to come from in the future?

Mikey McD

To go along with George's Skylon post I would suspect the cheap labor to come via our very own poorly educated masses and ever-open boarders with Mexico.

re: child labor/enviro/safety I ask: who was responsible for the supply and demand of child labor? In a free market are not a society's value structure enough to save the planet [no one is forced to buy from or work for a polluter]? Isn't it in a business owners best interest to protect his employees/investments from harm? Were not the robber baron's using government as a club to 'create' monopolies?

It is easier for me to accept a nanny government during the early stages of growth (think 3rd world) but, once a country steps up on Maslow's pyramid the powers of government should subside and give way to a more enlighted and invested citizenry.

George Rebane

I agree with Mikey, but there's more. Paul, those improvements in labor conditions were not the impediment to free enterprise that you impute. It was the taxes, fees, trade laws, competition stifling regulations, etc that came afterward. And these keep coming at an ever greater rate where now we can argue that they are on steroids.

Today the administration (which I presume you admire) is doing everything to deepen/prolong the economic crisis so as to maintain and promote progress toward socialism and world government. Even Andy Stern of the President's Fiscal Responsibility Commission (yes, believe it) is now formally the purveyor of "workers of the world, unite!", explaining that this can come about only with the downfall of capitalism. And he's just one many voices in the administration on record touting the same ideology.

Paul Emery


Please don't attempt to estimate my admiration for the the current administration. I am disappointed but for probably different reasons than you.

As for this " barons were a wholesale blessing on the landscape and the people they enabled" are you implying that the end justifies the means? Are you implying that the people who toiled in sweatshops for 16 hours a day six days a week for subsistence wages to feed heir families just to enhance the obscene riches of the ruling class, were justifiably sacrificing themselves so the rich will become richer and trickle down on the working masses blessings of abundance that will grace future generations. George, you should know better than most the prison of the underclass, a prison that only a few escape from.

Your historical references to the Protestant low countries post renaissance are a little too obscure for me to respond to but I am curious for more details.

Yes, Westward expansion and the genocide to the Native American populations may have been an inevitable progression of the expansion of European domination of his Continent but was it moral and just or does that matter? If it does not matter than we must submit to the inevitability of social Darwinism being the natural course of e human experience on this planet. The strong survive, the weak disappear. If we submit to that premise then let's not pretend that we are guided and created by any spiritual source or "God" that has any compassion or interest in the inevitable evolution of their creation when it comes to the life of an individual human being. My very rudimentary understanding of he teachings of New Testament Christianity is that the salvation and importance of the individual was the message of Jesus. Perhaps that's why I'm what you might call a secular humanist. To me there must be a better way. No, I'm not at all convinced that so called socialism is the answer but I'm also convinced that unregulated capitalism is not the answer either. Perhaps that's why being in Denmark in the mid 90's was such a enlightening experience for me for reasons I've already expressed. Is that system vulnerable? Probably. Is that system immoral? Not from my experience.

George Rebane

Paul, I believe you are comparing apples and oranges in the working conditions of the times. America was a workers' paradise in every sense of the word when compared to what was happening in Europe and Asia. People, then as now, literally died to get here. Your arguments about American capitalists are staid.

These pages are full of my beliefs that I don't believe in "unregulated capitalism" - I have even published in the Union on needed government regulations. This discussion will not go far if you just keep repeating what is not here. And I already commented extensively on Denmark and the European countries. Their unsustainable socialism is collapsing (for the latest see Sweden) as they run out of other people's money and the American defense umbrella.

Mikey McD

Paul, one man's hell is another man's heaven (Denmark sounds like hell to me).

"George, you should know better than most the prison of the underclass, a prison that only a few escape from. " Paul, the more progressive or socialist the economy the lower the odds of ever escaping the underclass prison. Capitalism provides far better odds of escaping the underclass prison while providing liberty/freedom (win-win).

The example of Manifest Destiny again supports my belief that man is inherently selfish (sinful). It does not, however, provide evidence against God existing. Furthermore, the new testament does not focus on the "importance of the individual", rather the exact opposite. The two greatest commands are to love God and love your neighbor (both altruistic ends using love as the means). Christ actually calls us to "Die to self"... I digress...

I consider myself a libertarian and I still acknowledge the need for government (I am not an anarchist). But, our government (fed, state and local) is overbearing today (taxed on every single action I take, forced to get permission to make improvements on my own home, forced to get permission to start/operate a business, pigeon holed into using public education, forced to participate in SS, forced to use fiat currency, forced to buy gov regulated food, etc etc. etc etc etc etc....). All this to say no one is calling for anarchy, just the freedom we once had.

Paul Emery

I was referring your agreement with Mikey that "child labor/enviro/safety I ask: who was responsible for the supply and demand of child labor? In a free market are not a society's value structure enough to save the planet" as a follow up about when I implied that you supported unrestricted capitalism. Perhaps that was an overstatement. I'm interested if the defination of stealing that you offer "stealing means simply taking surreptitiously something that belongs to another in a manner that it denies its owner the future benefit of it." would apply to the conquest of the native peoples on our continent?

Mikey. I agree with you about over regulation. However do we not embrace the need for some kind of building regulations to protect investments in our property. The classic question of whether someone has the right to have a pig farm in a residential neighborhood forces an answer.

One of the things about the Bible it it supports many different conclusions so I don't mean to impose my interpretations on you.

Mikey McD

"the right to have a pig farm in a residential neighborhood forces an answer"- It does not make business sense to have a pig farm in a residential neighborhood.

"we" absolutely stole from some native Americans.

"do we not embrace the need for some kind of building regulations to protect investments in our property"- I don't believe that the government's role is to protect my investments, that is my personal responsibility. I paid an enormous fee for a permit to install an new heater at my house. I believed that the County would check the work and insure that the wiring and installation were correct. Nope. The inspector never even got out of his truck. It was extortion, not a protection of my investment or any insurance on the safety of the installation. I bought a brand new house which the contractor paid $50,000 in fees to the County... no services were rendered by anyone at the county and the roof leaked, flooding the house during the first rain storm. Extortion. I could go on... the point is let me take care of my self instead of relying on a broken, inept and corrupt government.

Paul Emery

Thanks Mikey for the thoughtful response

You are very articulate in expressing your Libertarian views on these topics. I have and still do flirt with LIbertarian idealism so I'm very open to the discussion of the proper role of government in a modern society. This brings up a major contradiction that is easily displayed in this discussion. Doesn't the Libertarian viewpoint depend on the innate goodness of man to do the right thing without government requirement? Let's change slightly the situation of a pig farm, from a commercial venture in a residential neighborhood to a person who choses to raise pigs in a residential neighborhood causing smell, noise and possible health concerns. Inherently conscious and considerate people will not want to do that but others may consider it their right to do so and therefore affecting close neighbors and residents. Libertarian idealism would accept the consequences of their decision to raise pigs as respecting the inherent rights of the property owner. Under current laws this would be prohibited therefore taking away those rights for what is considered the common good.

It is I who spoke of the inherent goodness of man yet would support anti pig in neighborhood restrictions as a way of enforcing good behavior through the power of the law therefore not trusting the goodness of man to do the right thing. On the other hand, you're belief that man is inherently selfish and self serving would accept the reality that selfish exercises of freedom would likely occur that could degrade our health and safety and we should live with it as an expression of the rights of man.

Interesting stuff. It seems that both of us in good faith are searching for the best ways for us to live in health harmony and freedom with each other. In reality if we were able to haggle over this on a case by case situation we would likely arrive at pragmatic solutions that would incorporate the best of both idealism's which is the purpose of government making laws that are enforced by the sword, so to speak.

I have an inherent distrust of government in general. Historically it is easy to demonstrate that government is usually the agent of the ruling class that uses it as an enforcer of their power. This is true whether we live in a democracy, kingdom, socialist state or dictatorship or whatever Puntah controls the forces of power that can dominate the people at the wishes of whoever is in charge whenever they feel the power of the ruling class may be disrupted. I can go on with this but I think you get the idea.

Yes indeed we did steal from the native Americans. It seems to be a trait of human beings to steal from the weak to strengthen the stronger. The road to "progress" is indeed littered with the blood of war and conquest. How that fits into the mandates of the Ten Commandments is an ongoing question.

Thanks for your time

Michael Anderson

Mikey and Paul,

Thanks again for moving the discussion forward.

For me, it is all about justice. This is why I think the three branches worked so well historically, though we need some political reform now in the 21st century because the societal and technological changes are too much for a gov't invented in the late 1700s.

As both Paul and Mikey mention, often the bureaucrats at the end of the legislation get it wrong. There are lots of reasons for this: laziness, corruption, lack of oversight, incompetence and stupidity, and "s**t happens," among other things.

The best part of the American system, which might also be simultaneously the worst part, is the justice system. We have a whole lot of lawyers making sure all the moving parts of the legislative and executive branches are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

That means if the hog guy doesn't follow the rules, you can sue. That means if the building inspector extorts but does not protect, you can sue. The court of law options offered in the USA is a heck of a lot better than the old-guy sharia village idiot who gets to interpret his version of the law however he wants, and according to which village you are attempting to make your case.

I am thankful for our coterie of lawyers. They also annoy me to no end. The United States of America has the worst justice system on the planet, except for all the other ones.

Michael A.

George Rebane

Scientist David Eagleman writes 'Beyond God and atheism: Why I am a 'possibilian''.

Paul Emery

I'm surprised that nobody took of the defense of Capitalism that profiteered from the blood, plunder and stealing of Native American lands and the genocide of it's peoples. This is the part of our grand and glorious history that we call Manifest Destiny. We conquered their lands because we could. Is this moral according to the Ten Commandments and does it amount to stealing and murder? In most cases it cannot be attributed to self defense since we invaded their lands.

I know this will be defended as the inevitable course of history but isn't it the problem that we still face when we look at the current state of the world where we justify our invasion of Iraq with lies when our real purpose was to secure strategic resources, oil just because we have the power to do so. Anyone who thinks otherwise about our purpose in Iraq needs to take a serious look at our history in the Middle East at least as far back as the covert CIA invasion of Iran in 1952 where we disposed of an elected ruler, Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh and replaced him with the dictator the Shah of Iran, who was more to our liking and certainly preferred by the Western oil companies who profited and instigated the coup.

The question as to whether free marked capitalism can thrive without blood and plunder is a fundamental moral issue that needs to be discussed.

George Rebane

Paul, what is there to defend? Western civilization, espousing capitalism in its various forms, raped, pillaged, and burned wherever and whenever they met more primitive civilizations sitting on resources they desired. Such policy was not invented by either capitalists or Christians – it was humanity’s modus operandi since before the dawn of history. And as such was practiced with equal gusto by princes, prelates, and presidents in all parts of the world by all races and ethnicities. Our tradition goes back to Moses returning the Jews to their promised land which, inconveniently, was held by the Canaanites who were attacked and slaughtered by the nation of Israel.

Nevertheless, capitalism did create economies that permitted the greatest concentrations of wealth that founded nations in which literature, the arts, science, and liberal forms of governance flowered and grew to the benefit of all. To date the pinnacle of governance reached is the constitutional democratic republic which we inherited from our Founders. Western civilization has attempted, if at times poorly, to emulate this format, and in doing so has created lands that attract people from the rest of the world to come and make their homes.

When we have screwed up and taken detours to collectivism, which is again the current siren song in America, then we have created miseries even greater than those suffered by the primitives under any and all previous heels placed upon their necks by others. But are we now perfect? Not at all; just a hell of a lot better than the tired reprises of tyrannies that haven’t worked which the historically naïve and/or politically evil want us to revisit.

And if we believe all this, will we westerners ever use force again to satisfy our needs for survival or growth – you bet! But force has not been the only arrow in our quiver, and given that our ability to generate wealth remains intact, we will continue the attempt to ‘buy’ them before we have to ‘bomb’ them. When we can no longer do that, we will be no more. In the interval we are attempting to perfect the methods and means to do peaceful business first. But for America that will only work as long as our enemies see that we maintain the ready alternative.

And then there’s the Singularity.

Paul Emery

So, if I may assume that under the banner of Western nationalism , capitalism and Christianity it is our God given right to plunder, murder and exploit those weaker than us. How is that different than what you define as the Islamic desire to conquer the world according to their religious persuasion?

So since both sides march forward with guns in their hands and God on their side perhaps Marx was right when he said

"Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions.
It is the opium of the people."

So what value are the Ten Commandments when we become Christian soldiers marching for whatever our nationalistic cause is at any given time.

Keep in mind I do not confuse religion with spirituality but that's another topic.

Mikey McD

This is a false assumption: "it is our God given right to plunder, murder and exploit those weaker than us."

Humans plunder because...way for it... we are sinful. God did not condone our treatment of the Native Americans (one example).

The Ten Commandments are perfect, the men called to live by them are not.

Today, in America, the masses are plundering the wealth generators. Imagine being one of Obama's targets making above $150k year- you are portrayed as the enemy/evil...when in fact production is the only cure for what ails our country (financially speaking). It is amusing when collectivists side with those who were plundered in the past while carrying pitchforks to plunder against their fellow Americans today.

Paul Emery

I was referring to George's affirmation that "Western civilization, espousing capitalism in its various forms, raped, pillaged, and burned wherever and whenever they met more primitive civilizations sitting on resources they desired."
Since this exploitation of he weak to possess their resources was the fuel for Capitalism in this country during the 19th and early 20th century (the Golden Era before government intrusion) cannot it be assumed that this behavior was Gods will since it was the direct result of mans selfishness and self serving nature that must nave been the intent of God since man is his (or hers) creation. I'm just patching together assumptions based on commonly held beliefs of religion and the nature of man.

George Rebane

Paul, adding to Mikey's words and in answer to your question - who said that the fundamental objectives of western and Islamic civilizations were different? Both would like to see a world in their own image, and both see the other's image as evil, corrupt, and not in accord with the dictates of their god.

And all Marx did was to insert his own god (yes, atheism is a religious belief) to complete the current triumvirate of social orders wishing to dominate the world. If any of them win, we will indeed have a peaceful world order. But peace comes in many configurations; be careful of the one you wish for. Fortunately the peace of Marx now has many precedents.

Mikey McD

"cannot it be assumed that this behavior was Gods will since it was the direct result of mans selfishness and self serving nature that must nave been the intent of God since man is his (or hers) creation."

No this cannot be assumed because God gave us free will. Nor will I accept that terrorists of today get 72 virgins and extra credit from their god for killing innocent people. Though I have never plundered I do reap the benefits of those that did, what does that make me?

Paul Emery

That's a good question Mikey we all have to look at as we look to the future.

Okay George, well spoken. Are you referring to such "precedents" as Denmark since WWII as an example ?

I don't consider atheism a religion. It is instead an arrogant assumption that man knows what he doesn't know, if that makes any sense. I have no faith based on any religion or organized spiritual inspiration other than my own and I don't pretend to know the grand scheme of things that could be called God..

That said, in this thread I have been pushing for insight on whether the form of capitalism, that you advocate is moral since it depends on exploitation, blood and plunder to gain the resources that it needs to feeds it. In the future, according to you, if weaker cultures and countries cannot be bought out they will indeed be battered by the sword to submission even if they have a democratic system of government, as in the case of Iran in 1952,

According to you the trickle down blessings of this exploitation are more than worth the suffering and war it took to get to that point.

How this fits into the Christian ethic if for Christians to decide. It is my fair observation that causing suffering and misery for personal gain does not seem to be the teachings of the Christian prophet Jesus.

We are now faced with the reality of the decline of resources, including oil and the bounty of the ocean making the value of the remaining resources more valuable encouraging more exploitation for control .

Obviously we need to look for new economic ideas for a sustainable future.

Once again Ecclesiastes 1:4 — "Men go and come, but earth abides."

George Rebane

Ecclesiastes is good, let’s leave that abiding earth to its devices, and stick to ours. We will pay dearly enough if we screw up. In the internval, let’s not don sackcloth, cover ourselves with ashes and the stripes of lashes in order to ‘save the earth’ – it needs no saving.

According to my lights, atheism is indeed a religion to the extent that it 1) takes a strong stance on the existence and nature of God (it denies both the necessity for and the existence of God), 2) takes a strong stance on the transcendence of Man (it denies that Man is anything more than a particular configuration of matter whose destiny after death is oblivion), and 3) does not allow its belief to be falsifiable. As such it shares these characteristics with all known religions on earth. And the proof is in the pudding, go talk to an atheist and witness the uncompromising fervency of his belief system.

“… whether the form of capitalism that you advocate is moral since it depends on exploitation, blood and plunder to gain the resources that it needs to feeds it.” Upon investigation, something is ‘moral’ if it is “of, pertaining to, or concerned with the principles or rules of right conduct or the distinction between right and wrong; ethical: moral attitudes.” Right conduct and right/wrong are culture specific attributes that attach to behavior. For example, are the Islamist ragheads (q.v.) acting morally when they explode, shoot, stone, amputate their selected victims. You bet they are because they can cite chapter and verse from their scripture that not only is such behavior moral, but it is compelled by Allah. You will not dissuade them with your moral arguments because they take theirs from the Messina verses of Quran.

Is capitalism moral? According to my belief system it is the most moral economic system yet discovered by Man. It does not “need” the flaying of blood and guts that socialists ascribe to it. The conquering – bloody or otherwise – of other nations and tribes by those who also espouse capitalism was not done in the service of capitalism per se, but in the service of some other political or cultural objective. Nations and tribes conquered each other for eons in ways most bloody and long before capitalism came on the scene. In our recent history, it has been the collectivist nations that have laid waste to land and people in order to gather means of generating wealth or eliminating embarrassing examples of more salutary forms of governance in their vicinity.

With all its faults, capitalism has brought out the best in humans. Where practiced, it has invited, permitted, and rewarded a flowering of creativity and industry that, while not equally, nevertheless, has abundantly trickled down to those not so bright, industrious, lucky, plucky, or fleet of foot. No other economic system comes close, and in those so claiming, closer examination reveals that their productive parts are those wherein capitalism is permitted to its greater extent.

And since you went biblical on me, here’s Mathew 25:14-30 that may shed some light from the Christian tradition informing capitalism.

The Parable of the Talents

14“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his property to them. 15To one he gave five talentsa of money, to another two talents, and to another one talent, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey. 16The man who had received the five talents went at once and put his money to work and gained five more. 17So also, the one with the two talents gained two more. 18But the man who had received the one talent went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

19“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. 20The man who had received the five talents brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents. See, I have gained five more.’
21“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

22“The man with the two talents also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; see, I have gained two more.’
23“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

24“Then the man who had received the one talent came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. 25So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

26“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? 27Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

28“‘Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents. 29For everyone who has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him. 30And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’"

Paul Emery

I'm not through with this yet. "We will pay dearly enough if we screw up. " Yes indeed we will. The notion of donning sackcloth, and covering ourselves with ashes and the stripes of lashes" is such an extreme example of a response to a genuine concern that it requirers no comment. George, let me ask you this very directly. Are you at all concerned about the possibility of climate change due to human activity and are you concerned about the depletion and pollution of the ocean ? We went to war in Iraq because the Republication administration offered us a theory on WMD's that proved to be false. I didn't hear a demand for "proof" from the same factions that now demand "proof" about global warming.

The idea of leaving earth to it's own abiding destiny is cynical beyond belief. Even a Bear doesn't crap in his own backyard.

I'm not into debating the definition of atheism. It may well be a form of inspiration that qualifies as a religion.

Nice story from the bible. The amazing thing about the Bible is that you can go to it with any preconceived belief or idea and find scripture to justify your belief. The bible had very clever editors indeed.

George Rebane

Paul, your short comment contains convolutions of more concerns and issues than my meager brainbone can sort out. When talking to a liberal about ‘saving the earth’, one has to be careful whether to take them literally (earth as Gaia) or to ignore resurrection of the sloppy metaphor (their real concern is saving humanity). And then in the same context bringing in how/whether/why evidence for WMDs was or not required before invading Iraq, leaves me in the dust. I and others similarly limited have always had this experience when attempting to rigorously dissect something with progressives – in the conversation the topics and issues follow each other like sparks from a sparkler. I do believe that we adhere to fundamentally different logics. This is why I recently started ‘The Liberal Mind’ category on RR.

A major theme expanded in this blog is my view of the existence/influence of AGW on climate change. It is there for all to read. But one more time, in sum we are dramatically and dangerously reacting to a politicized characterization of AGW that has basis only in bought and paid for science. Evidence abounds, continues to roll in (e.g. the recent discovery of a new and major carbon sink in earth’s carbon cycle by the Chinese), and has been documented lavishly that can all be gathered under that notorious anti-scientific banner ‘The Debate is Over!’ which takes you right back to the Middle Ages.

What tires me to continue in the AGW debate is that the progressives refuse address the point that only the rich countries are in a position to do anything about pollution in all its forms, and they do it only while they generate the discretionary funds to fight pollution. We have been the poster child for that truth. With the insane programs now underway in America, we will beggar ourselves as Europe has already realized while China/India/Brazil refuse to follow.

Paul Emery

My question that you avoided answering was pretty simple. If you've already explored this please earlier refresh me since I am not an expert on your blog entries. The question is: "Are you at all concerned about the possibility of climate change due to human activity and are you concerned about the depletion and pollution of the ocean"

This has nothing to do with what should or should not to about it if indeed it is a problem.

Since you chose to refer to the "Liberal Mind" as a way of marginalizing individual thought into something comfortable for you to relate to I will do the same when I ask about why the Conservatives were supportive of Bush and his WMD pitch, demanding no proof, and ask for proof about global warming due to human activity.

George Rebane

"A major theme expanded in this blog is my view of the existence/influence of AGW on climate change. It is there for all to read. But one more time, in sum we are dramatically and dangerously reacting to a politicized characterization of AGW that has basis only in bought and paid for science. Evidence abounds, continues to roll in (e.g. the recent discovery of a new and major carbon sink in earth’s carbon cycle by the Chinese), and has been documented lavishly that can all be gathered under that notorious anti-scientific banner ‘The Debate is Over!’ which takes you right back to the Middle Ages." Paul, I answered it here, and the answer is of a complexity that has been handled in these posts. This blog is searchable - simply type in a few key appropriate key words and it would take you to posts like this one

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