Article Image
News Link • General Opinion

On Civilizing Mankind


Whether you believe that Western Civilization is dead, or only in a state of irreversible entropy, it should be evident that much of our culture no longer serves the interests of human beings. The major cause, which may lead to the extinction of our species, is found in our willingness to identify with abstractions which, by their very nature, reside beyond ourselves. Whether we find our identities in our race, gender, age, ideologies and other belief systems, nationality, economic interests, political parties, social/political causes, or other products of our thinking, we divide ourselves from one another and generate conflict. My book, Calculated Chaos: Institutional Threats to Peace and Human Survival, elaborated upon how we create institutions, through which we organize ourselves based upon our identities. Because the existence of institutions depends upon these divisions, their interests require the constant creation of conflicts that are so destructive to the lives of human beings.

Is it possible for us to learn to live in other ways? We are social creatures for whom organizing with others is both necessary and beneficial. But on what basis do we organize?  Because of the "division of labor" principle, Robinson Crusoe and Friday could each live more productive lives by exchanging their surpluses with one another, than if each tried to be isolated and "self-sufficient." Why is this so? Might there be some underlying factor that facilitates this.

Franz Oppenheimer identified the two basic means by which people can acquire wealth in the world: [1] the "economic means," and [2] the "political means." The "economic means" consists of relationships in which individuals voluntarily engage in transactions for the exchange of goods and services. The "political means" involve the forced taking of wealth belonging to one person and bestowing it upon another. In mutually-exclusive ways, these two methods implicate a principle whose support for or violation of determines the comparative civility of a culture: the private ownership of property. The "economic means" are premised on contracts (i.e., two or more persons freely exchanging ownership claims with one another), while the "political means" are grounded in confiscation (i.e., the taking of property by theft). 

Every legal or social dispute, every conflict between/among two or more persons, is grounded in the fundamental property question: who gets to make decisions about what? I am half-finished writing a book, to be titled From Abortion to Zoning: How All Political Issues Are Property Questions. As my wife persists in reminding me to complete this book, I shall undoubtedly do so fairly soon. The distinction between "victimizing" and "victimless" crimes turns on a very simple point: was there a trespass to the property interests of a person? "Murder" is the violent taking of a victim's ownership of self; while "prostitution" – being based on contract – does not. In fact, for the state to punish the prostitute or her customer would, itself, be an act of victimization!