Tag Archives: Judge

Personal Examination of Experimental Repetition

I once had a blog. I guess it was near 10 year ago, now. Would’ve made me 15, 16 years old. Yikes. Glad it’s not still around (although a part of me wishes I could still see what I wrote, and only me). But I’ve always been a scatterbrained little boy, for a multitude of reasons.

This scatterbraininess has its perks, such as giving me a lot of creativity. But it has also sucked very frequently throughout my life, as I either forget or can’t concentrate on important matters because my mind is always adrift. The only way I have found to combat this “driftfulness” is to repeat myself.

The first time I ever recall this happening was when I first attempted to get my driver’s license at 16: the “normal” age. A combination of stubbornness, philosophy, immaturity, anxiety, and obliviousness caused me to be a really late bloomer, as it were. Stubbornness, as I didn’t understand why I needed a car or a license, as I was content with staying at home (“leaving” meant hanging out with people. I was perfectly content with being alone. In fact, I never felt like I had enough alone time at home. A loud TV was the norm. I guess a license could have given me that alone time I wanted, but at any rate); philosophy, because it always bugs me when I can’t get to a real “root” of a matter (I stew relentlessly until I come up with something), immaturity (should be obvious), anxiety (I’ll get into that in a second), and obliviousness (related to the anxiety).

The philosophy and stubbornness overlap. I have always tried to understand things as deeply as possible. Well, at least with certain things. I remember being a kid, on a baseball field (as part of a team, in the middle of a game), in the outfield, picking up flowers, looking up at the sky, and wondering “Why am I here?” I wasn’t sad. Just curious. The contrast between the grass and the sky fascinated me. The color. The fact that I could touch the grass, but not the sky. The clouds moved, but the ground did not. I wanted to know more. And when I couldn’t learn more, I became very, very depressed. (Finally, I gave my attention to the people yelling at me to go get the ball. What in the Hell is going on here? I have no idea. But, to the ball I went. And I’m sure I threw it quite shittily. Yes, I’ll get lost in my own head: surrounding reality be damned).

A quick detour: my love for philosophy was quickly frightened into the deepest recesses of my mind by my introduction to religion. My natural desire to be curious was crushed by teachings (which eventually became my beliefs) of OBEDIENCE. “Curiosity” and “obedience” are on opposite ends of the “philosophical perspective” spectrum. This introduction introduced a whole host of anxieties to an already anxious little boy. I was frightened by inaction. (If you currently feel the need to preach to me about “God’s goodness”, or something, save it. Meaning don’t even say it).

But I avoided getting my license, or a car, because I truly didn’t understand why I needed it. I thought cars were just for hanging out with friends, and I just wanted to stay at home. I couldn’t understand it, so I wasn’t getting it. And that was that, even if it caused Hell on the whole family (which, regrettably, of course it did).

Also, anxiety became more and more of my “norm”. Absolutely tortuous levels of anxiety. A chaotic home life (just a continuance of just about as long as I can remember) and excruciating boredom just made me absolutely depressed. I didn’t care about anything. Suicide was a frequent thought, but I never actually harmed myself. Just stayed depressed. Mom is crazy and fighting with Dad and now she’s gone but she keeps coming back and leaving over and over and over and over. A quick slap in the face. And: whaddaya know! She’s gone again. (I’m not going in chronological order, as a particular slap that I’m thinking of happened before my driver’s permit time, but everything that was shit in my life just feels like one giant blur). The boredom was bad as well. If I would’ve known how to organize my thoughts better, I think writing could have saved me. But the very (and I mean very) few times I tried to write (way back in elementary school) never materialized into anything, because I could have an idea for an alien landing in my backyard, but I couldn’t figure out the words to start it. So the writing came to a halt until I got a Facebook page, and starting writing everyone’s eyes off there. And then, eventually, there was the blog.

I don’t recall what my first few blog posts were about. I’m sure they were a bunch of whining, as they are now. A lot of bad writing. I can’t remember the topics. But I remember letting a girl that I went to school with read something I had written. I was proud that I had written something. But she said it was very repetitive, and I felt devastated. I don’t think she understood the point that I was trying to make in the post, and I barely recall trying to explain it to her, but it didn’t do any good. I thought “What is the point in writing this if I can’t explain it for someone to understand?” I think I took a pretty long hiatus after that point.

I’m not quite sure why I keep jumping around chronologically, and I apologize for it. I guess everything just feels like a blur to me, and I have no rhyme, nor reason, for why things come out of my head in the way that they do. I suppose that’s still one thing that remains true about myself to this very day.

Yes, I was born a very quiet child. A sense of humor finally came out of me. It made me laugh, and made the people around me laugh, and that made me feel very good. There were still tremendous sadnesses within me, as I sometimes wonder still exist, but at least there was humor as well. A humor that provided me with a life and vitality that had been cheated of me at a young age, thanks to a reckless mother and various pastors.

I could spend a lifetime, and indeed, think I just might, thinking about why I am the way that I am. I believe that it is easier now than it has ever been; as youth provides one with a sense of depression at one’s, for a couple of examples, lack of ability, or “uniqueness”, that, it seems, can only be alleviated with age. The shortcomings of my youth, at the time, felt insurmountable. The only “answer”, it seemed, was to be depressed. And so, life sucked. Until, by divine intervention, it was alleviated. Not completely, but to a noteworthy degree. It comes and it goes, but I’m not sure that it has ever consumed me the way that it did back then. Isn’t that interesting? Although this certainly isn’t a certainty, it certainly does seem like the teenaged years are the worst years of the lives of most. Only the most unfortunate of us experience the worst years of our lives earlier or later than at teen age. That is quite fascinating to me. It is interesting. If I hadn’t spent so many years clogging up my ears with hymns, and would have paid more attention in biology class, I’d understand hormones, and puberty, better than I do now. But, as it stands, I can only speculate as an ignorant philosopher who has devoid his intellect of scientific understanding, and thus, here I remain, with but a small interest in science, and of such a variety as isn’t biological, but more of the physical. Alas, such is life, I suppose. Thanks, religion. I’ll move on and let go of my grudges some day. With some help…

Yes, I, like so many other children, although to a much lesser degree than a lot, learned of being cheated at a young age. And absolutely nothing I could do would fix it. I was absolutely helpless. To a careless mother. Sadness engulfed me tremendously. I shudder to think of creating a child as sad as I was, and I hope my mother shudders from it from this day forth. It’s the least that she deserves. I trust, and hope, that she has been in Hell from it since its inception. If she has, then I suppose I will forgive her in due time, when I deem fit. And if she hasn’t been tormented by it, and only provides crocodile tears, well, I suppose I will still forgive her when I see fit.

Yes, although sadness engulfed me, reality did not care. I still had schoolwork that I was supposed to do. Things that I needed to learn how to do for my own betterment; especially in the future. I was a confused and depressed mess of hormones. Oh, teenaged years. I pity the one who looks back positively at that time of his life. The poor bastard must be more wretched now than I have ever been (if God is as just as Christians say, at least. At least, if His justice is to be distributed equally among us all (which I don’t believe, exactly, is the case; for if it were, we should all be in Hell at this very moment)). Thankfully, I was blessed with such an intellect as to make most of my schoolwork quite easy, with little effort needed to complete the assignments, and with “good enough grades”. But boredom became introduced with the depression. And the self-examination and self-judgment socially grew as well. The latter grew, but was alleviated both with other “misfit” peers, and a growing apathy of socialization which I can only understand through my current introversion now. I suppose it was always there, to a certain degree. It was there very young, disappeared quite a bit, and then returned, mercifully. But the boredom wore on my soul, for what felt like an eternity. I never thought I’d see an end to the boredom. A bored 14 or 15 year old, with nothing to look forward to but a job: much like his parents had, and hated. His parents, who had always told him to do something different, and better, with his life, than they had, would soon be living the very life that they had lived. I was, and to this very day, still remain, a giant failure in that regard. I accept it now more than I did back then, but I have to wonder if I made a mistake by taking my parents at their word. I have to wonder if their desire for me to have a better life, and my believing in them, didn’t set me up for tremendous failure. At the very least, I suppose it supplanted within me a desire to succeed. Time will tell if that will remain enough in the face of cumulative errors. No, back then, more than ten years ago now, there was nothing to look forward to in the future but lots of hatred, exhaustion, and misery. This, and the boredom, introduced another wave of depression.

But, reality did not care. Back to the driving. My aloofness got the best of me. In more ways than one. The driver’s ed “course” bored me, and I couldn’t take what was being taught and think about it “in the real world”. The only experiences I had with driving were few, and they involved me slamming on the gas while a bunch of adults screamed at me. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience. So I was already not a fan of it. I didn’t understand the importance of a license because I didn’t want to drive anywhere, and I didn’t want a job because…well, jobs suck, of course. My dad always told me to “do something” with my life. He worked in a basic plant for all of his life. I respect him a helluva lot more than I ever did in the past. Especially, when I consider the Hell that I frequently put him through. Or, rather, I empathize with him more effectively than I used to. If I ever do “make something” of myself, he’ll be the first person I thank. (And I thank him, anyway). But I put a lot of anxiety upon myself to make sure I “did something better” with myself. I interpreted a “job” as a failure. Because I felt like I was going down the same road as my father, and, to the best of my knowledge, that wasn’t what he wanted for me. I felt like I was letting everyone down, because I should’ve been able to succeed. At 16, mind you. A little early, in hindsight. Did I have any skills? Of course not. At least none that I could actually get paid for. But Dad wants better for me, dammit, and I’m doing this shitty ass job already. I’m a failure. And the job sucks.

This, of course, isn’t mentioning my disastrous philosophy of money. Interestingly enough, later on in life, I had a “religious experience” when I had a breakdown about money. In the “Christian” faith, money is often seen as evil. Everybody, including non-Christians, complain about rich people. They complain about “greed” being sinful. That “the love of money is the root of all evil”. Well, I had accumulated a good bit of money (a couple hundred dollars) over the course of a couple of birthdays and Christmases. And wouldn’t you just know that I actually loved it? Ah, yes. Here we come to a gigantic contradiction between “faith” and “the real world”. Once again, save your preaching, please. I beg of you. But I hated money. My damn soul depended on that hatred! Sure, it buys me stuff! But at what cost? I can’t have this stuff! So laziness and anxiety kept me from getting a job longer than it should have. I finally reached a breaking point when I realized that “the world revolves around money”, and I knew I needed to make it. I decided to start studying money, and jobs, and all of it, right at that moment.

So I was very reluctant to finally go get my learner’s permit. Of course, the first time I went, I failed the computer test. It was all gobbledy-gook because I didn’t pay attention in class. So I had to go tell my dad I failed. And we went back the next day. And the next day. And I kept failing, and feeling like shit, because I still didn’t care about driving. Finally, I thought “Cody, you need to learn this. Dad ain’t gonna stop taking me here. Just focus and pass the goddamned test.” Of course, I have to thank my dad for not enabling me, as embarrassed and depressed as I was. He stuck with me, even if it was out of necessity for his own mental health. Some tough love was what I needed, even though I don’t suppose I ever really took it. Lamentation.

And, I believe, if memory serves me correctly, this was the first time that I had ever written anything upon my own hand. I wrote myself a little reminder on my palm in black Sharpie. The letters “LFE”. They stood for “Learn From Experience”. I, clearly, was not learning from the experiences of failure at the driving test. And I needed to learn from the experiences of my driving test. So, knowing that I am naturally a very stubborn, philosophical, immature, anxious, and oblivious person, I gave myself a little note, a little reminder, which was to serve as a self-helping contradiction to my own nature. I, philosophically, didn’t understand why I needed my license. But my dad wasn’t going to let me stop until I got it. Once I finally got it, I thought my troubles were over. But my father wanted me to drive him around to gain more experience. I, of course, resisted this as much as I could.

At one point, he bought me a car: a Nissan, either Altima or Maxima, I’m not sure, and I recall not the year. It had a manual transmission. I believe he got it for me for my high school graduation, as that was when he first told me to drive it (I do not remember if he had the car prior). He drove me to the nearest convenience store (much to my own personal inconvenience: especially, as you will soon find out), then told me to get in the driver’s seat. I think I was trying to back up, and killed it. All I really remember from this instance was another car pulling up to the convenience store and yelling at me (I guess I was taking too long to back up, or something), and my father, who very rarely lost his temper, ejected from the passenger seat and commenced to yelling with the driver.

I was absolutely overcome with embarrassment. He got back in the car and tried to commence with the lesson. I told him that I couldn’t do it. That I wouldn’t do it. I was already scared as it was, and that person losing their temper at me further recluded me into my shell. Finally, my angry father relented. He drove me back home, and told me, in so many words, that I needed to “develop a shell”. To let stuff roll off my back. I scoffed and went inside the house: no doubt, fueling my father’s anger more. Or maybe sadness or helplessness. I’m not sure. But even though I couldn’t take his advice back then, I still hear it in my own head today. I still struggle mightily with it, and I feel like I work on “developing my shell” constantly, but that is one area of life that I have a very long way to go before I can say I’m “done” with it, if I can ever say that.

That experience wasn’t my first time behind the wheel. No, successive failures led me further and further away from the steering wheel. This is where my obliviousness came into play. Changing lanes without checking mirrors, driving too close to mailboxes and trucks on the interstate. My mind could not have cared less about driving. I was only doing it because I was told to do it (yes, Cody, sometimes a little blind obedience will do you more good than your daydreaming curiosity, eh? Oh well). I did not care about it. Even if it endangered both myself and my father. And the more he attempted to correct me, the more it scared me away from driving. I clearly didn’t know what I was doing, and it scared me away from the wheel. I suppose I could’ve just…oh, I don’t know…listened to him. But I was a know-it-all, as I was always accused of being, so I basically never listened to much of anything (other than what I wanted to hear). It remains to be seen how that’s going to play out long-term. Some of it has worked, other things, clearly, have not.

I wanted to think about other things: not driving. I didn’t understand its importance. So I avoided it for as long as I could. Until I realized that I couldn’t avoid it any longer, and needed to get my license, and a car. Thus, the “LFE”.

I had kept my permit even when I was finally able to go and obtain my license. It took me a very long time to care about driving. To realize why it was important. Interestingly enough, my mother was the same way: at least that it took her longer than “normal” to get her license. Neuroticism runs in the family. And, I guess, some other things that are actually good do as well.

It’s also fascinating to remember being in the car with my mother and father while he tried to teach her how to drive a “straight-drive”. I do not remember how old I was, but I remember my mother attempting to drive a straight-drive while I was in the backseat, and my father in the front, with her. That’s very fascinating. I was born a couple of months before her 20th birthday, so she must have been in her early-to-mid 20s in this memory of mine. I remember where she drove. I vaguely remember her, seemingly, buying several different cars in the course of a short time period. I’m not sure if I was in a car that we had already owned, or was in a car that she just recently bought, or was planning on buying (but needed to learn how to drive). I just recall my dad trying to each her how to drive a straight-drive while I was in the back seat. Interesting how the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. That tragic tree, perhaps with a relation with the one which bested Adam and Eve.

It makes me hesitant to think about having kids in the future, as I am afraid that I will, inadvertently, treat my children the way my mother treated me during my youth. I don’t expect to slap my child, or abandon its home and stay out all night, only to return briefly to talk to my wife, and then be gone back out of the house again, even as my child sits in the yard, crying for attention from me, only for me to leave again. I certainly don’t anticipate being that negligent. But I get the sense that most parents want to parent differently (and better) than their parents, but seem to fall within certain traps. If that is the case, I don’t want to have children just in case I start falling into traps that my mother created for me. I’m not going to take a chance at torturing a small child like that, even if I wish that I’d not torture the child at all, even as I’m inadvertently doing it.

But, to continue (and repeat myself), life sucked for a very long time, and I sucked right along with it. I did not handle challenges well at all. Reality hit me in the face, and I had a hard time dealing with it. And the only thing that I could think of to do was write down what it was that I needed to do to overcome what it was overtaking me. Writing “LFE”, for “Learn From Experience”, was the first thing that I remember doing that seemed to work. I wore it on my hand through high school (I remember not exactly how many years of high school that I wore it). I’d try to keep my palm from public view, as I didn’t want to explain what I have explained here. I remember one girl, whom I always sat with on the bus, noticed it once, and grabbed my hand to look at it. She asked what it meant, and I told her it meant “Learn From Experience”. I don’t think I explained to her exactly why it was there. She was interested in it, however, and said “Cool”. (Don’t worry: I’m not projecting the interest that I wished she had upon her. She actually was interested in it).

So I kept “LFE” written on my hand in black Sharpie. I soon discovered that “LFE” wasn’t going to provide me with all of the answers. I couldn’t apply it to every issue I faced. So: what to do now? I had to start making decisions. I had choices that I was going to have to make. So I changed the letters on my hand. I began to keep a Sharpie in my pocket, just in case something that I thought would be more effective came to my mind. I decided upon “MMOD”: Make My Own Decisions. I knew I had to. I didn’t know how to gauge my decisions, but only that I had to start making them. Very quickly, this “MMOD” changed to “MMODAL”: “Make My Own Decisions And Learn”. It was a bit unwieldy, and didn’t look as tidy as the blockal “LFE”. But I felt like it had to be done. Once again, I tried applying this to every area of my life, with, obviously, mixed results. Some holes are round while your peg is square. But I tried to do the best that I could, remaining depressed all the while…

I watched science programs on television, and would go outside and stare at the stars. I’d go for walks around the local school in the evenings (the school had a walking track where people could walk after school let out), and just think. I’d look at one of the Dippers, and in my head, see a traffic light. A traffic light in the sky that I had seen ever since I could remember riding in cars. This is one of those scenarios that seem to exemplify my creativity and ostracization, but I shall tell it anyway, for catharsis. Three of the stars, nearly perfectly aligned, in one of the Dippers, looked like a traffic light to me. Now, I’m sure that the top star wasn’t more “red”, the middle star more “yellow”, and the bottom star more “green” in reality. But in my mind, that’s what I saw. Perhaps I was bending reality. But I saw a traffic light. I saw it every time I was in a car at night time. I began to look for it. And I would just stare at it, and think about it. A bit bothered that they weren’t in a straight line like an actual traffic light (I suppose that makes me “obsessive-compulsive”. I’d had an “interest” in traffic lights for as long as I could remember). Around this time, also, I developed a new message for my hand which I shall only mention briefly, simply because of how asinine my message was. It was “Understand Everything”. Yeah, right. I’m not even going to get started on how fucking terrible that path went. I took my desire to learn just a little bit too far, to say the least.

My brain was still scattered, and my words were still poor. I was still very depressed. But the stars, and learning about them, and space, on television, brought me a little happiness. The atheistic side of things began to take a toll on me, as I felt myself becoming an asshole. Or, rather, a different kind of asshole. I was an asshole during my younger religious days as well, condemning all of those who didn’t go to my particular church, with a little red in my face. But although I felt like an asshole as an atheist, I also felt a little relief. I still had problems, but at least they weren’t the old problems. At least, some of them were different. The fear of what would happen to me after I died still remained.

One thing that brought me happiness during this time in my life was basketball. Basketball became my escape. I’d shoot for hours by myself. I’d either shoot in the backyard, or down at the school when it let out, sometimes well into the dark. It gave me something to focus on and work on that I could actually do (putting the ball in the basket), and gave me an escape from all of my failures. My failure of struggling so hard to get my license, which was eating me alive. My failure to rid myself of my depression. My failure to comprehend money, and jobs, and the universe, really. I was depressed and bored and failing. And basketball seemed to be the only thing that made me feel any better about it.

I continued looking to my palm for messages. I kept “LFE” for a while, and tried to apply it to as many things as I could. I remember staring at light bulbs, and wishing I could understand the “science” behind light. Now, that requires a lot of mathematics. I’m philosophically-minded: not mathematically-minded. But I’d stare at them, and wish I could really understand them scientifically. I wanted to learn more science. The cool kids in school were atheists, and “worshiped” science, and didn’t believe in God. I wanted to be that cool. I was also tired of being afraid of God. So I started shedding myself of my old religiosity, and I embraced the cold, depressing realities of scientific atheism. It actually was not as terrifying as being a Christian had been to that point. I was afraid that abandoning God would bring the worst upon me, but the truth was that I had already been through Hell religiously. I had already spent my youth envisioning Hellfire engulfing my bed as I masturbated, and believing all lightning strikes to be God warning me of my own sin, so becoming an atheist, although still difficult, and anxiety-inducing, actually produced less anxiety within me than I had experienced prior. It was still there, to a severe degree, but provided me with a relief, as I tried to think about science, and absorb it as a philosophical manner of being to replace my prior terrors. It wasn’t that I wasn’t afraid, but it still provided me with some relief.

In truth, I found science classes to be very boring. My mind always drifted. Experimentation and taking notes and the like bored the fuck out of me. That wasn’t my idea of “science”. My idea of “science” was more of an anti-religiosity. Interesting to see this in other people today. I still tried to think of, say, light, and I thought “What’s the science behind that?”, with no mathematics to guide me. “How did they create those rafters from which the lights hang in the gym? Why does it get dark outside? Why is there artificial light at night time, and why is there sunlight in the day time?” (Sidenote: I associated artificial lights with creepiness. Instead of being scared of the dark, I associated that common fear that children have with the only sources of light around. I don’t know why. Perhaps I’ve always been obsessed with light, and couldn’t stop thinking about them, even among my fears which are normal to all children. Although, my fear “of the dark”, I guess you could say, was magnified by my past learnings about evil things in the world, which I had absorbed both through television news, my church, and, more than my church, sermons on the radio on the way to church). “How did they create these artificial lights? How does electricity work? Who are these teachers here at this school? Why do they come here everyday? What are we all doing here? Why does this person have this ‘job’ and this person has this ‘job’?” Yes, one constant in my life has always been the questions (once again: thank God).

I transitioned into what I believed to be a more “scientific” mind. In truth, I had always been curious about why things worked the way that they did. I recall being in a booster seat in a car (I had to have been four or five, at the oldest), and facing the windshield, and seeing the yellow lines in the middle of the road. (Then again, maybe I’m confusing a time that I remember being in a booster seat with another time that I recall looking out the windshield and seeing those yellow lines. I’m horrible with exact chronology. Everything just runs together for me). They fascinated me. I also saw the white line on the right side of the road. I wanted to understand what they were. I tried to follow the lines, but they moved too fast. I tried looking out the side window as they passed, but I was too short to see them (maybe I was sitting in the middle instead of sitting beside the door), and the blur of the outside made me very carsick. It is quite remarkable to me that I remember these details so vividly. (Like remembering a time a guardian accidentally clipped my thigh between a seatbelt and its holder). Whenever I can remember something vividly, I get scared. Scared that I haven’t made any progress from that day that I remember. But I think that’s a topic for another piece.

On a small tangent (which is actually related, so I guess that means it isn’t actually a tangent): I went for a small drive recently near my home. To roads that, much to my amazement, I hadn’t yet been down. They led me to familiarity, but it was the roads themselves that were foreign to me. I had known they existed, but had never traveled down them. And as I did, some interesting memories came to me, as sometimes happens.

It was late, and I had my bright-lights on. A car passed me by in the other lane, and I had forgotten they were on, and turned them off as the car was passing me. I turned them back on, and looked at my dash. And I recalled, seemingly, for the first time since it happened, seeing that same blue icon in my father’s old Plymouth Horizon. As a kid, I guess, partly, because I was tiny, and couldn’t see out the windows that well, I stared at the dash. I saw the green lights flashing (those were the turn signals). And I saw the blue light. It looked like something. I couldn’t figure out what it was, or what it meant. My dad kept flicking a switch constantly (for what reason, I did not yet understand), and the blue light would disappear and reappear. And, occasionally, the green lights would flash as well. I recall looking at the “Hazard Lights” button. Those three triangles (or however many there are). I think I wanted to touch them. Of course, I couldn’t. I remember seeing the defrost buttons. Why do they look similar, but are also different? And why is there heat coming out of these things? And why is there ice on the front windshield that you have to scrape off? And why do we have to get up for school today? Ah, yes. It all blends together. And the “whys” still remain (once again: thank God).

I remembered, as I took this night drive, thinking, at one point, that the blue lights looked like a jellyfish: or, rather, the first time that I saw a picture of a jellyfish (it might have even been on Spongebob), I thought of that blue icon. I’m sure the latter was the case. I saw a jellyfish “on its side”. Likewise, the first time I saw a house drawn, a triangle on top of a square, I thought of those green turn-signals that I had first seen in my father’s Horizon. Yes, on this night drive, I was consumed by my memories of my own creativity. I missed it. It had been taught out of me by peers and adults alike. “Hey, this looks like this!” “That’s nice. Have you got a car yet?” Yes, the creativity has always been something that has ostracized me (not even just the example I just mentioned, but in conversations with my peers for as long as I can remember), but, being an introvert, I’m ok with that, to some degree. I tried to train it out of myself to become better socialized, but on that night drive, I continued to realize that now is the time to let back out my creativity. That I am a creative man. That I need my creativity. I need to let it all out, and let it all flow. There will be plenty of criticisms, good and bad, on the road ahead. But I am happy when I am creative. I am happy when I experience deja vu. I am happy when I write. And so, thus being recently invigorated, and feeling justified, in expressing myself creatively, I have desired to write this here. It was begun before this particular moment of inspiration, but I have realized that I need to accept my creativity, and not run from it. I have ran from it forever, for several reasons. I’m sure that all of them felt justified at the time. I’m sure, if I really wanted to sit and think about it, some of them would be justified now. But my best friend is always in “imagination-land”. He can’t concentrate on anything other than the fantasies within his own head. He desires to be a fiction writer. And he dreams constantly. His dreams, and the written word, both reading and writing, are how he “escapes” the monotony of his work that pays his bills. But, in truth, these dreams of his were sparked long before he became an adult who needed to make money. His persistence, despite his struggles, inspires me. He desires to be creative, come Hell or high water. And he frequently struggles. But he doesn’t give up. And that inspires me. It inspires me to tap in to my creative nature that has been defeated. And to see what all can come out of it. I look forward to it, and can’t wait to see what all is in store for me as far as my creativity is concerned. One result that I am most anticipating is a tremendous level of happiness.

So now, as my desire to read and write have increased, I become aware of my limitations in both of these regards. Particularly, when other obstacles, not related to either of these, present themselves to me. I was driving, and thinking about something fictional that I wished to write, being inspired by the mountains that I saw before me. I couldn’t write it down, as I was driving, but I desperately wanted to remember it. So I started repeating a mnemonic in my head so that I could remember it when I actually had a chance to write it down. And as I was repeating it to myself over and over in my head, I realized a lot of different things. I realized that some things never seem to change about oneself. That repetition was just a tool that I was going to have to use for my benefit, regardless of how “weird” it seems to others. That words have significant power for me, in that words help me remember to do things which better my life. And if words have this kind of power over me, perhaps I need to invest more to them, even if that includes writing words that only I can understand. I’ll have to take that chance of social ostracization if it means that I can repay back the words that have benefited me so.

I need to have repetition in my life. I can’t live, or function, without it. My need to repeat things in my head in order to remember them has not changed. And they are still, if not more so, approaches to challenges, instead of, say, remembering to buy milk (which, considering my love for the drink, I never forget). I’ve been very lucky thus far in life, even if I haven’t realized it. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking that it is a miracle that I am where I am today. I’m sure that friends and family members have thought that far back in time. I must say, I have to join them in that surprise. I’m pleasantly surprised, no doubt, but I have definitely been lucky. In large part, thanks to my hard-working parents (yes, even my mother, who helped me out later on in my life while she had abandoned me in my youth), who picked up my slack when I was too stupid and lazy to do it myself (and I can’t forget stubborn). Even if I should have been more proactive, I just want people to know why I wasn’t. Whether it is justified or not, I want to be honest with my feelings and my thought processes with the world. That makes me happy. I don’t look forward to the feedback, but the catharsis is fulfilling.

I have always needed some pen and paper, or electronic device, handy, so that I could write things down. I feel a great relief when I write, and feel much pressure when I desire to write, but am physically unable to, either because I am driving, or am at work, or have forgotten my phone with which I take notes, or whatever. Lately, I have discovered a great many internal roadblocks that I won’t even begin to mention in this piece. Look forward to them, God only knows how long from now. But this is something within me that I was just born with. It has been a struggle to do it over the past several years, and those times that I have done it haven’t been masterpieces. They’ve barely been amateurish. But I did them. My heart desired them, and I did them to the best of my meager abilities. And I expect the world to judge them harshly. But I can’t let that stop me. Regardless of how hard the world laughs at them, or how viciously they hate them, I can’t stop writing them.

And the next time that I am faced with some difficult task, in which I must repeat something to myself over and over in my head, to remember the specific task, or to remember a certain way of approaching the task, I need to remember that all I am doing is repeating words to myself. (Or, in some fucking way, that I’m actually thinking clearly. Calm down, Cody. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Breathe. Manage your fucking anger, Cody). Isn’t that that writing is? Thoughts and words. So if I desire to write, what’s wrong with keeping thoughts in my head? If repeating things to myself constantly helps me to remember to do tasks, and helps me remember things to write down the instant I can do so, why would I feel embarrassed at this? Yes, once again, youth shows itself. “Won’t people think you’re crazy for, say, talking to yourself? Or repeating some weird phrase in your head constantly? Or writing on your fucking hand, for God’s sake?” In truth: yes, of course they will. As many people have said, I must develop letting other people “roll off of my back”. It is challenging. But words are how I have always dealt with difficulty. I don’t anticipate this changing. I know not how difficult the future will be, but I know that I am going to need all of my words to conquer that future. I should not be embarrassed of anything which helps me improve as a writer, because that will help me improve my lot in life; and, indeed, I believe that it will help me become a better person as well. I welcome all of these possibilities with open arms, and will try to dedicate myself more to my own personal thoughts, and my own words, and getting better at communicating them in writing. This paper was very difficult to write, but that makes it very worthwhile. I know not if it will be received as my previous blog post was by that girl that went to my school, who said that she couldn’t understand what it was that I was trying to say, but I don’t anticipate that it will, and even if it did, I think I’m content enough with it to deal with that. My words are going to be with me forever. I want to use them as much as I can see fit. I want to improve upon them on my own terms, the best that I can, until I’m as satisfied with them as I can be. I want to write down all of my thoughts, and hope that my thoughts are of good quality, and that if they aren’t, I can fix them somehow. And if they are, that they will be received as such, and that the world is not in such a state as to hate that which is good quality (a state which, I fear, is upon us at the moment). I don’t look forward to any feedback, as that isn’t the point of any of my writing. None of my writing is for “approval”. If you approve, you approve. If you don’t, you don’t. My writing is my catharsis, and how I cope with my problems. You do with them what you will. (I’m still learning how to deal with feedback, both positive and negative, in case you couldn’t tell by my last outburst here. I can’t get ahead of myself. One step at a time. I need to love it before I incorporate feedback. God, help me).

Sanity has been a thought that I have been obsessed with for a long time. I’ve thought myself insane for many different reasons over the years. I used to get dizzy, and the room would spin, when I would try to go to sleep at night. My thoughts would race at times. I spent many years worrying about whether or not I was sane. I spent many years obsessed with what my peers thought of me, despite the fact that I also tried to fight against this. The truth of the matter is that, at the current time, I wish to do what makes my heart happy. This makes my heart happy. Honest expression makes my heart happy. I don’t look forward to mischaracterizations, which I know will be forthcoming. I don’t look forward to critiques, whether they be justified or unjustified. I don’t look forward to anger from others. I don’t look forward to any of this. I desire peace. But I learned a long time ago that the world doesn’t care. Someone out there doesn’t care. There will always be someone out there who wishes to destroy you, and would be gleeful if he does. That’s just something I have to accept as I continue to write honestly and openly, and attempt to improve at it the best that I can, and know how to. Lord, help me. Please. I’m desperate. I know You already know this, but I’ve announced it publicly. Will that help me?

I will stew on a problem until I have a solution, and sometimes, even after I’ve come up with a solution. Sometimes, I have a hard time getting my solutions to stick. I naturally have a restless constitution, for some reason, so am always looking for the novel. I’m always looking for the homerun. Thankfully, family has helped me realize recently that my expectations are far too high. That I’m too hard on myself. I only realized this because my anger almost got the best of me. I almost snapped. I was really angry with myself. But I have to work on managing my anger. Lowering my expectations. And a bunch of other shit that I’m not going to put into this piece.

So, I guess what I’m trying to say, and I have no idea if this came out as I wanted it to or not, is that I’m trying to mature. I’m too hard on myself. I’ve got problems. I get ahead of myself. I need help, and I’ve got friends and family to help me when I need them. I can’t do everything by myself. But when I do start to find out how to deal with myself, it will involve talking to myself: repeating things to myself. I guess everybody thinks, and thinks in words. So repeating things to myself are just ways that I remember to do things to make myself better. I have to accept that. I can’t feel socially anxious simply because I’m talking to myself. I need to keep my expectations low, and not be so hard on myself, and slowly, very, very, slowly, learn how to deal with myself and the rest of the world. This will involve rumination, but it also has to incorporate other coping mechanisms if I’m to not lose my mind, instead of having my mind and only having others think I’ve actually lost it. Pray for me. Thank you.

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Wants

Ideological conflict is human nature. Us humans were given life on this planet, without a say so in the matter, and we live. Our very existence is a conflict. Within our existence, there exists “nature”. This “nature” provides us with things we need to live (air, water, etc.), and also things that can kill us (air, water, (hurricanes, etc.) etc.). This troubles me. It is often said that those things which one cannot change should not be the cause of stress, because there is nothing one can do about those things. But it is precisely the fact that I cannot do something about a thing which bothers me the most. Realizing the constant state of conflict in the world wears on my soul. It wears on all of our souls. It will always wear on all of our souls. We will be given breaks for indefinite amounts of time. But it will always wear on our souls. And that fact wears on mine.

I truly should be thankful for those times in which I live in the moment. In some ways, I think it is almost impossible not to be. Almost instinctively, we say the phrase “I am thankful.” There are often situations which are so great to us that we feel compelled to say thank you. The phrase “I am thankful” itself signifies gratitude, so there is an inherent gratitude that overwhelms us whenever we are thankful. It is in those exact moments that we are freed from the conflicts that we otherwise cannot escape.

I suppose this is a good time to bring up a specific conflict that I’ve had in mind. Quite simply, the conflict amounts to these two separate ideas: 1) that our wants do matter, and 2) that our wants do not matter. Among these, there, of course, branch off several different beliefs attached to each of these ideas.

I will approach the second idea first. The idea that our wants do not matter. This can be approached from several different standpoints. There is a religious standpoint (particularly self-defined as “Christian”) in which our wants do not matter because there is a “higher” purpose. This “higher purpose” is “God”. And I don’t want to discuss fully the idea of what “God” is in this sense, because that would take me forever to do so (and I probably would not be sufficient at doing so, anyway). The idea basically comes down to a few things: that we are sinners, and that we deserve to be punished. That we should punish ourselves for our own sin so that when we die, we may be rewarded. And it attempts to identify what is a sin (what should be avoided) and what isn’t, and, every single time, it creates anger, resentment, confusion, depression, guilt, and hopelessness upon the person weighing his own sins. His time is to be preoccupied with these emotions, and happiness just doesn’t fit into the equation. In fact, “happiness” means he is enjoying his sin. His flesh (including his mind that isn’t preoccupied with Heaven and Hell) will lead him to a path of eternal damnation; an eternal pain and suffering caused by an everlasting fire. But some mysterious spirituality residing in specific buildings will help him when he dies, say, 40 years from now. Constant guilt and beating oneself up for one’s whole life will show God that one is, in fact, holy, and worthy of being saved. The key to avoiding Hell when one dies is to not allow yourself to escape from thinking about it while here on Earth. That, in a nutshell, is the gist of the idea. It doesn’t make any sense to me (anymore), but that’s the idea.

There is also a standpoint with regards to the philosophy that our wants do not matter from a “depressed”, “defeatist” attitude. The idea that life itself does not care about our wants, because our wants are so often devastated, often horrifically, by things outside of our control. A lot of scientists and atheists take this approach. In the case of science, this “defeatist” attitude often comes from a lack of repeatable evidence. This isn’t always true, but it happens enough for there to be a noticeable “tendency”. The idea that life was an accident of nature. That everything was “just right” for life to come into existence, but without a purpose for coming into existence. The “Descartesian” approach: that reality is perceived through the senses, so all realities must be measurable by the senses in order for something to truly be a reality (even though he admits he’s a Christian in his writings. In college, my professor brought it up that he probably would’ve been tried for heresy if he hadn’t have admitted such, so that makes me “doubt” (haha) whether or not he truly identified as a Christian). “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Beliefs” cannot be seen, smelled, heard (from an outside source; they originate from “within”, and then can be talked (and, therefore, “heard”)), tasted, or touched. They are something separate from “the senses”. It is evident that beliefs are separate from the senses as someone can deny (through, say, shock) something that is seen in front of them, heard over the phone, etc. “Faith” is something that transcends the senses. It doesn’t have to be called “religious faith”.

Take, for instance, the case of a loved one dying in the hospital. No one wants to believe that the loved one is going to die. They know it is either possible or likely, but they still hope that the person lives. Knowing that they are likely to die is different than believing they are likely to die. Hope transcends the senses. Optimism, in this case, transcends the senses. The belief that the loved one will recover is an essential emotional tool. You can’t see, smell, taste, hear, or touch the recovery that you hope to happen, but truly believing that someone isn’t going to pull through is very difficult emotionally. People believe the loved one is going to make it through because it makes them feel better. There’s certainly a lot of scoffing at the idea that one would ignore a reality just because it makes one “feel” better. I’m included among these “scoffers”. But belief is an essential emotional tool for us humans. Optimism, hope, belief, and faith are essential. What makes one optimistic, or why one is hopeful, believes, etc., is up for debate. But the most obvious answer is that it makes one feel better, and this, by itself, does not disprove anything. The fact that one is hopeful that the loved one lives does not disprove that the loved one is going to live (of course, this goes without saying, that hope does not prove that the loved one will pull through, either). Hope, faith, etc. are things which cannot be measured, and are truths that exist separately from realities that are perceived through the senses. So, in conclusion, if the creation of life itself has no “purpose”, and our existence has no “purpose”, then why would our happiness have any “purpose”? If life was a happy accident, why can’t happiness be a happy accident? Why should we treat it as anything more than a “fortunate accident”? This, I think, explains, on at least some level, the noticeable depression among many “atheistic/scientific” types. This is one “atheistic/scientific” approach to “wants”. (There are, of course, atheists who believe that “purpose” is whatever we ascribe to our realities, and they aren’t particularly nihilistic. But the nihilistic atheists are worth mentioning). I should mention that I went through my own atheistic period, just to make sure the reader understands that I am not critiquing atheism because I was raised religiously and accept what I was taught uncritically.

The temperatures of space and the sun can be measured. The infinite majority of the universe is uninhabitable. There are searches for hospitable planets in the depths of space, but for every chance there may be a planet where life could exist, there are countless examples of places in space where life almost certainly cannot exist. If you very deeply value the idea of there being life outside of Earth, this fact, of course, will produce depression inherently. If you don’t care about whether or not there exists life outside of the Earth, this will not bother you. It is a matter of differences in personal values.

There are other “types” that believe that our desires to not matter from a philosophical standpoint. Unfortunate life circumstances have a tendency to make one extremely pessimistic and depressed. This will, of course, make one believe that the world doesn’t care. And that perspective certainly makes sense. “If God loves us, why does He allow for war, famine, and disease to happen?” I personally find that to be a very poignant question. A lot of Christians run from that question, for fear of angering God and suffering His wrath. But how can anyone not ask that question? It’s a very valid question. When it comes to matters of spirituality, I believe that honesty is always the best policy. Opening up your soul to The Great Beyond is always important and therapeutic. It is important to believe that one is able to do this. You can’t have peace spiritually if you are afraid. Comfort requires peace, and quiet, and poignant honesty. Admitting that you have problems with something. We, as humans, should not avoid the nature of our brains when we discuss spirituality. We can’t run from ourselves. It only makes us more miserable than we were when we first started running. And if God loves us, as Christians preach, why can’t we ask Him tough questions? Why can’t we say we have problems with Him? Why can’t we be angry at Him? Jesus Christ is said to have been God in human form. Human. It is said that we were made in God’s image. We, as humans, were made in God’s image. What does “image” mean, exactly? Well, perhaps the way we look is a part of it. I don’t know what “God” looks like, but Jesus was a human. I think it’s more than just cosmetics, however. The Bible makes it clear that God can both love and hate. Can’t we also love and hate? Of course we can. I think this is also what is meant by being made in “His image”.

So if there is, according to Christian doctrine, a strong connection between humanity and God, let’s think about some specific instances of relationships between humans. Let’s take loved ones for example. Can we not get angry at loved ones? We still love our loved ones. But can’t we get angry? Can’t we forgive our loved ones when we believe they have wronged us? I have to believe that these are also what is meant by us being made in God’s image: sharing some of His characteristics. That He can get angry at us, but also forgive us. That makes sense to me. I can’t comprehend completely the level of, say, His anger, or His forgiveness, but I can accept that He can “experience” both.

The atheists and Christians come together in their resentment of human choice. Speaking broadly, of course, the atheists’ nihilism leads people to believe that their actions have no significant influence, and the Christians’ condemnation leads people to believe that their desires are evil. Both of these stifle action. And action, of course, is driven by desire. Both the atheists and the conservatives are about creating misery. The sad thing is that they spend so much time fighting each other that they can’t see that, in that respect, they’re the same. “It doesn’t matter what you want because God isn’t real and life has no meaning and we’re all going to die” is, of course, an extremely similar message to “It doesn’t matter what you want because what you want is going to lead you to an eternity of suffering after you die.” Notice the similarity? (Hint: it isn’t just the fact that “in the long run, we’re all dead”).

This attitude of “it doesn’t matter what you want” extends beyond any religious/spiritual spheres. It’s common even among non-religious discussions. Of course, the basic fact is “You can’t always get what you want.” But there’s a certain attitude that comes with this reality that I rather despise. It, similarly, amounts to “It doesn’t matter what you desire”, which is ridiculous. Much like the hospital example I gave earlier. Does the fact that a loved one is almost certain to die mean that I should just “Get over what I want”? This attitude is extremely pervasive; not about loved ones, but desire in general. You can be that way if you wish, but I find it disgusting and repulsive.

Once again, I think this largely has to do with unfortunate life circumstances. Perhaps there’s an underlying depression that manifests itself through anger among those that so proudly declare to dreamers that “It doesn’t matter what you want” when the listener of those words is deciding upon which course of action to take in the common course of his life. It’s usually very hateful, which is a red flag to me. I’m not against hate completely, as there are many things that I “hate”. But the way that I so often hear “It doesn’t matter what you want” raises a red flag to me. It has for a very long time. I had this attitude for most of my childhood simply by observing my parents. I watched them leave for work everyday, and complain about it every single day. Of course, I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this. But, to my child mind, I wanted something different (my parents certainly had a lot to do with planting this seed in my head in other, more intentional ways, as well). I grew up basically expecting that adulthood was going to suck, and that I’d never experience happiness again after childhood. It’s interesting, because that perspective influenced me in other regards as well. It basically became my overall demeanor for a long time.

It goes without saying, but several different things have affected my perspective. Religion affected my perspective; my mother abandoning me affected my perspective. The most embarrassing thing which affected my perspective in childhood was porn. I consumed porn as a child that affected my perspectives about women. Apparently, looking back on it, I must’ve been reading some dominatrix porn. At the time, I didn’t know anything about “kinks” or “normal human relationships”, so I thought this was just the way that women treated men. It made me resent them. Hey, it’s embarrassing. But honesty is therapeutic to me. (I must include that in addition to this porn, religion severely affected my perspectives about women. It made me hate the fact that they made me feel “sinful things, and made me resent them because of it. Once again, it’s embarrassing. I already know what is going to be said: “Wow, sounds like Ed Gein.” Go ahead and get that out of your system. I know you’ll feel better for hating me). But the type of porn I discovered, along with religious guilt about sexuality in general, made me want to stay as far away from women as possible. Even to this day, I do not particularly desire women. It’s no surprise why. I realize that will make many readers angry, but hey. Therapy is good.

Also, as is the case with many, if not all people, you have crushes during your childhood that lead to absolutely nothing. And it continues through your teenage years. If it happens frequently enough, and you’re emotionally sensitive enough (as I was), you put your guard up. All of these facts lead up to why I don’t particularly enjoy dating, nor sex. I try to avoid attractive women because I don’t even want the thoughts to enter my mind. I’m developing a healthier attitude towards sex due to the way my life philosophies have changed regarding happiness, but the idea of being in a relationship does not interest me in the least. Casual sex doesn’t either, honestly. Friendships, of course, are fine: provided that I don’t get too physically or romantically attracted to the friend. Then, that just leads to more complicated feelings that I wish I could rid myself of. (I should also mention that my desire to be alone also originates just from my natural demeanor, without being influenced by “outside forces”. I just naturally enjoy my alone time).

It is quite unbelievable how long I spent trying to run away from my emotions about women. Trying to run away from physical attractiveness in particular. It doesn’t surprise me that it happened, but I can’t believe how long it has taken me to say “Uh, that’s just dumb.” I’m basically having to teach myself that sexuality is ok, and that’s a really bad thing to have to do. That should be taught from the beginning. I don’t recall exactly who “taught” me otherwise (I really don’t think it was my parents. I remember them speaking to me about condoms, and I was so overwhelmed with embarrassment that I tuned them out. I think it was pastors on the radio, or something. It’s crazy how one sermon can completely change your life forever. For the worse, even). Emotional sensitivity, shyness, dominatrix literature and conservative preaching have all been factors towards my feelings about women. I don’t hate women. Women are human beings. I know this. But I prefer to be alone and guarded. I know this will change with time, but it doesn’t really bother me that I am this way. It bothers me that people are going to think the worst of me based on what I’ve said, but it doesn’t matter what you do or say, you’re always going to have people that think you are an evil person. It’s just how it is. I’ll concede that I am a stupid person, but, hopefully, you understand why I’m a stupid person. I’m working on it, slowly but surely, and a large key to this is going to be my “happiness” philosophy. I’m having to retrain myself that my wants actually matter. That my wants aren’t “evil”. And I just don’t want romance. I’m also still hesitant about being sexually attracted to women, but there’s just some things that you can’t help. THERE TRULY ARE SOME THINGS THAT YOU JUST HAVE TO “ACCEPT”. Once again, I know you’ll think I’m weird, and that’s acceptable. Because I am weird. I just hope you understand where I’m coming from, and can maybe empathize with me, is all.

So, slowly but surely, I’m learning that wants (especially sexual) are not inherently evil. Physical attraction is not evil. It makes me uncomfortable, but it isn’t evil. I can see how trust is important when it comes to relationships. Learning that trust, love, etc. are important to relationships does not occur in the way that learning to fear God through the Ten Commandments happens. A major problem I have had is hearing basic facts about the world and judging them through this “Ten Commandments” logic. “Is this sinful, or is this not? I’m going to judge this to the fullest extent of holiness to see if it stacks up to God’s plan.” Basically, it is the idea of treating, say, the fact that love is built on trust to mean that you must trust anyone you have any attraction to at any time or else you are an ethical failure with regards to trust, and I guess that means you’re going to be punished for not trusting. This, of course, is a result of being taught that lust (a.k.a., sexual desire) is unholy unless you are married to the person you sexually desire. So it isn’t surprising to believe that you must develop an intimate relationship with anyone you physically desire, but it’s excruciatingly tragic. You push your warped logic to its extreme end. Most of us are aware of “conservative crazies”, but sadly, too many of us are those “conservative crazies”. It’s really stupid and depressing. There’s many of us that understand what warped conservative ideologies say, and, thankfully, many people that are critical of it. The amount of times that I treated being attracted to a girl to mean that I had to date her is physically repulsive to me. Shitty conservative ideas: “lust” (looking at a woman with sexual attraction with no intention of “marrying” her) should be avoided at all costs, you should ask God for forgiveness, masturbating is a sin, yadda yadda yadda. It truly is emotional child torture. It is so weird how, over the course of your life, people can affect you for the worst. Some people make your life better, others make it worse. Just another inescapable fucking reality of being here on Earth.

Interestingly enough, in addition to me being a fucking retard about women, I’m also a doormat. When I was younger, I made sure not to step on anyone’s toes, and this came at the expense of me asserting myself pretty much at all. You want to date me? Sure, why not. It doesn’t matter what I want: I exist to make other people happy, because that’s a holy thing to do. Showing that I “care for others” as God commands. Jesus fucking Christ: when have I not been stupid? Time after time after time, I dated a girl simply because she wanted to, when I had no interest in doing so whatsoever. Because I’m just a pushover that couldn’t assert myself. Of course, I doubted myself because of perceived “peer pressure”: “Everyone else is fucking, man! Why don’t you care about dating?” Finally, after several years of emotionally tormenting myself, I accepted that I just wasn’t interested. I was still physically attracted (and emotionally attracted a few times), but not interested. That was a huge, great first step for me. Asserting myself. Defending myself is the next step I see, but there is a value in ignoring criticisms, whether they be just or not, and entering your own bubble. That’s blasphemous to those who aren’t being widely criticized, but privacy and solitude are beautiful blessings indeed.

The final step, at least thus far, towards my “accepting happiness as a valuable, worthy goal” philosophy was tackling religion on a different front. Not the religious ideas that I’ve already mentioned in this piece, but ideas that I’ve mentioned before in other pieces. I reached a breaking point as far as money and God were concerned. The conflict between making money on the one hand (thus, avoiding God, in my mind) or choosing God and remaining in poverty on the other proved to be my breaking point (the dichotomy, of course, existing because “this world is sinful”, etc.). By a miracle, I finally accepted that the two ideas were not mutually exclusive: they were not incompatible. The misery I experienced in my youth regarding my parents being miserable with their jobs was gone. I always ran from my desire for money by saying “Well, if my parents don’t like making it, why should I make it?” “If money is the root of all evil, why shouldn’t I avoid it?” “If CEOs are greedy, horrible people, why would I want money?” Then, of course, when I actually needed money, I faced a huge contradiction. Thankfully, this was resolved for me by realizing that I can choose both. A truly revolutionary idea that has basically zero traction in common discussion, which goes: Either we should focus on God and not care about money (because of “greed”) or we should abandon God altogether. I have not seen many connect the two dots. I have not seen many say that one can be wealthy and be a Christian. Often Biblical verses are cited to prove that one cannot be both simultaneously, but I’d have to be skeptical of this analysis from several points. On the one hand, why should poverty be something to be “helped” if wealth is also a bad thing? In other words, how can poverty and wealth both be conditions undesirable to God? What other “state” is there? Middle class? Is there a specific amount of money that God will allow? That seems ludicrous to me. Let’s say I start out at this “specific” amount of money that makes me “holy”. If I buy something, I’m “below” that monetary amount. Likewise, if I sell something, I’m “above” it. Is the amount which determines “holiness” dependent upon money, or materials? How exactly is this “value” to be measured? Once again, I consider the whole idea of God demanding a “specific” amount of money to be a Christian a ludicrous idea. I also consider the idea of there being a holy “range” of money to be just as ludicrous.

Many interpret the Bible to mean that Christ hated wealth itself. As I’ve been studying economics for quite some time now, I find this to be absurd. I have learned that wealth is created through common, beneficiary exchange. Why would God dislike humans working together to become happier? Still yet, others may say it is the wealth disparity that God hated. Once again, I don’t think this would be the case. On the free market, wealth is created through voluntary exchange, whereby individuals trade because they believe to be better off. Those that are wealthy have traded more valuable things to more people, and thus, have increased the happiness of all of those involved in the trading (of course, there is such a thing as “buyer’s remorse” and “seller’s remorse”, but one buys or sells when one believes one will be better off, more satisfied, when he or she buys or sells). Why would God be upset with the traders if they are benefiting the people around them more so than the poor? (Of course, many will say that, for example, those with disabilities can’t trade as much with others, if, in fact, at all, and thus, are at an economic advantage. Surely God cares about the disabled, correct? The argument I’m making isn’t that God hates the poor because they are poor, but that He doesn’t hate the wealthy just because they are wealthy. I don’t think He hates the wealthy simply because the poor exist. I don’t think God is a Socialist (I don’t think He has ever been accused of being an egalitarian in hardly any sense: He’s been condemned for being a “favoritist” more often)). Certainly I don’t think it is wealth that God has a problem with. I’m sure he has problems with how wealth is created (I don’t see how God can issue a commandment “Thou shalt not steal” but be ok with stealing from the rich to give to the poor (it is a commandment, afterall). But what about the murder commandment? What about “just holy wars” where people die? What about self-defense? All valid questions that I don’t have answers to), but I don’t think there is a problem with wealth per se. Wealth can do great things to people. One has to be wealthy in order to donate wealth to others. In other words, you can’t donate unless you have. Why would having be evil, while giving be praised? Once again, I think the whole idea is ludicrous. And even if a rich person spends their money “selfishly”, other people are still getting paid. Whatever the rich person buys is being given to the people involved in getting the product (or service) to the rich person, whether it be producing, distributing, storing, or whatever. The whole idea that God hates wealth is nonsense. Why would Heaven be described with “streets of gold” if gold (a symbol of wealth) is this inherently evil thing? I don’t think God is displeased with us humans because, within the past several centuries, wealth has been created for humanity on a scale never before created in humanity’s history. (This makes me think of conservatives, who lament at “the good old days”, back before people were “Godless”). I can’t believe that God has a problem with the free market, and that He has a problem with wealth. Of course, it is easy to compare the rich to the poor, but the fact that all money that is spent helps out somebody is a reality that should be understood. Whether a rich person gives it to another rich person that owns a business and employs people and gives customers goods and/or services, or gives it to a charity to help children born with life-threatening conditions, it should be understood that his wealth helps whomever he gives it to. (It should be noted that there would be no money to give to charities without profit). I do not think this means that God has a problem with saving (“hoarding”), because saving simply exists for future consumption. Everyone knows that it is dumb to, for example, be buried with your money after you die. I think that is part of the problem with wealth that God may have: stuff that is already obvious to us. I think the fact that it is obvious to us is evident that God would have a problem with it (the “human connection” between God and man).

My life changed forever on that day when I realized that God and money were not completely incompatible. I desired to learn about what money actually was, and I’ve been studying economics ever since. I’ve also, largely thanks to my best friend, been developing a “happiness” philosophy. I enjoy introspection, and unraveling why I am how I am. I’m always going to do this with my writing. This, typically, is done in retrospect. But now, I actually have a philosophy to anticipate developing in the future. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a time in my life where I actually looked forward to the future (pun unintended), at least long-term. It’s really overwhelming: I’m not quite sure what to do at times. I feel like a dog that has been abused, who, thanks to a very loving owner, wags his tail violently and jumps and runs around uncontrollably simply due to glee and relief. I love listening to my best friend talk about religion. He has taught me a lot, and I owe him a lot. His personal battles, past and present, are interesting to me, and I’m interested in seeing how God develops us over time. What will our similarities within the faith be, and what will be the differences, as I’m sure there will be? I’m very interested in finding that out.

I, also briefly, would like to mention something else regarding to my past sensitivities, morality, etc., and that is the idea of debating. I don’t really believe I was taught this, but it has just always been a natural disposition of mine. When I was younger, I never liked it when people “debated”. I hated arguments (even harmless ones), and I didn’t like loud noises. I never liked gregariousness (which explains why I spent so much time alone, away from, for example, my father). Of course, you learn, change, and grow over time. People help influence you, and I’m clearly different than I was as a child (God, I would hope so). But now, I dislike debating for other reasons. I won’t mention them all here: I’ll save them for other pieces. Change always makes me wonder why in the fuck I was ever the original way in the first place, but, at least if the change is clearly for the better, I can be thankful that it, at least, happened at all.

I’ve been influenced for the better; I’ve been influenced for the worse. I guess I’m just a human being.

I certainly understand the idea that “you can’t always get what you want”. But what I don’t understand about people who so proudly declare that “it doesn’t matter what you want” with so much sass is that everything we do is an attempt to satiate some desire that we have. What we desire drives our actions. I don’t understand why this isn’t widely believed, or, at the very least, why it isn’t widely disseminated. I am indebted to various economists I have read over the past several years for the revelation that “human beings use means to achieve ends”. This, of course, means that humans desire. Desire is what drives all economic activity: the desire to live, and to live how one wants to the best of his abilities, doing the best he can for himself because he desires what he considers to be in his best interest. So, in other words, all of those miserable people who, so proudly, declare that it doesn’t matter what you want, are, essentially, driven by their own wants. Once again, I don’t know why this isn’t widely accepted and disseminated. The conservatives want to go to Heaven, and the best way they can see to do this is by condemning the “sinful” world around them (sadly). Atheists, I suppose, want to learn sensible truths, or, at the very least, want to avoid the negativity that often comes with being religiously conservative, and want to call out those who make others purposefully feel like shit, even if for a “higher purpose”. Of course, there’s countless motivations and reasons for what people do, but the point is that they are driven by intrinsic desire to obtain their goals, and they take actions in an attempt to satisfy these goals for themselves. This, in the words of Mises’s magnum opus, is “Human Action”.

I personally refuse to accept that what I personally desire isn’t valuable: that it is a “waste of time”. I certainly reject the proposition from a Christian standpoint, which, ultimately, I believe, is the “life” standpoint. As a Christian, I refuse to believe that God loves and cares about me, but somehow doesn’t care about my happiness. Once again, if I said I care about, say, my best friend, but didn’t care about his level of happiness, can I really say that I care about him? Sure, I can rationalize and try to be “moral” and “preachy” and tell him all the reasons why what makes him happy is wrong. But the idea that being happy itself is wrong is, quite simply, just wrong to me. Incorrect.

Because, as I have said, I don’t desire debating, I’d rather not go into too much detail into what it is that I want. As I’ve said, I know I’ll get a billion different reasons as to why I shouldn’t want what I want, or why I’ll never get it, etc. etc. Of course, I write about what I want all the time, but I want to defend wanting itself in this piece.

Despite the fact it will always be the case that I will never be completely satisfied always, this does not mean that there is something wrong with wanting in general. I sincerely hope more people discuss this (I’m probably just looking in the wrong places) and understand that every thing we do is an attempt to satisfy some want. I hope more people will become more comfortable with expressing and accepting their honest feelings about wanting. While I certainly understand the phrase “You can’t always get what you want”, I reject the notion that what I want doesn’t matter. I implore everyone else to believe the same thing for themselves.

And people trying to tell you that what you want doesn’t matter or is impossible to achieve will only make the satisfaction of that desire all the more sweet. (Let’s say that what you want is impossible to achieve, and you finally realize this, and change course of action. …Who cares? Who should be the one to decide when one should change course of direction, and to which direction?) That’s a gigantic motivation for me, personally. I want to prove people wrong that say I’m never going to succeed at what I want to succeed at. More than anything. Almost more than the success itself. “What do you possibly have to offer to the world, Cody?” Let’s just wait and find out, shall we?

Life is a learning process because we aren’t omniscient. Our wills drive us. Our entire lives will be battles between satisfying our desires and the desires of others, and not satisfying our desires nor the desires of others. Human interrelations are so complex that it is seemingly impossible to discuss all of its nuances. Sometimes, we do good, and other times, we do evil. Sometimes, we helplessly make things worse, while other times, we do good accidentally. I don’t really have any good way of explaining why things are the way they are between us all. I’d be highly skeptical of the one that says he does have a good way of explaining it. When you get right down to it, ultimately, the answer to the question “Why?” does seem to come down to: “It just is.” But we should all ask “Why?” as often as we are comfortable with asking, and, for me, that’s quite a bit. Why are many people content with not doing so? Who knows. “They just are.” But if they proclaim, from a deeply philosophical sense, that my wants (or anyone else’s wants, for that matter) simply don’t matter, they are wrong from multiple standpoints. In my opinion, they are taking the easy way out because they themselves are miserable, and that’s the great tragedy behind all of this. I may not know why some men commit heinous evils while others do not, but I can be thankful that I don’t want to commit evil, and I can be thankful for the others that feel that way as well. I am thankful that we don’t all want to be evil, even though, inevitably, it will slip out from all of us, from time to time, to varying degrees. That’s the best I can hope for while I’m alive: that our evil doesn’t destroy us too much. That remains to be seen, but I’m hopeful. Of course, I’m not in a gulag, so that’s easy for me to say now. If I were, I probably wouldn’t be as hopeful. But, in the long run, maybe that’s all we have: hope. Because we want good, even when we create bad. (I reserve the right to be pessimistic, especially for comedic purposes).

Personal Happiness as a Virtue.

Insightful.

Chapter 13 of Murray Rothbard’s “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto” (1978) entitled “Conservation, Ecology, and Growth”

Liberal Complaints

Left-liberal intellectuals are often a wondrous group to behold. In the last three or four decades, not a long time in human history, they have, like whirling dervishes, let loose a series of angry complaints against free-market capitalism. The curious thing is that each of these complaints has been contradictory to one or more of their predecessors. But contradictory complaints by liberal intellectuals do not seem to faze them or serve to abate their petulance – even though it is often the very same intellectuals who are reversing themselves so rapidly. And these reversals seem to make no dent whatever in their self-righteousness or in the self-confidence of their position.

Let us consider the record of recent decades:

1. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, the liberal intellectuals came to the conclusion that capitalism was suffering from inevitable “secular stagnation,” a stagnation imposed by the slowing down of population growth, the end of the old Western frontier, and by the supposed fact that no further inventions were possible. All this spelled eternal stagnation, permanent mass unemployment, and therefore the need for socialism, or thoroughgoing State planning, to replace free-market capitalism. This on the threshold of the greatest boom in American history!

2. During the 1950s, despite the great boom in postwar America, the liberal intellectuals kept raising their sights; the cult of “economic growth” now entered the scene. To be sure, capitalism was growing, but it was not growing fast enough. Therefore free-market capitalism must be abandoned, and socialism or government intervention must step in and force-feed the economy, must build investments and compel greater saving in order to maximize the rate of growth, even if we don’t want to grow that fast. Conservative economists such as Colin Clark attacked this liberal program as “growthmanship.”

3. Suddenly, John Kenneth Galbraith entered the liberal scene with his best-selling The Affluent Society in 1958. And just as suddenly, the liberal intellectuals reversed their indictments. The trouble with capitalism, it now appeared, was that it had grown too much; we were no longer stagnant, but too well off, and man had lost his spirituality amidst supermarkets and automobile tail fins. What was necessary, then, was for government to step in, either in massive intervention or as socialism, and tax the consumers heavily in order to reduce their bloated affluence.

4. The cult of excess affluence had its day, to be superseded by a contradictory worry about poverty, stimulated by Michael Harrington’s The Other America in 1962. Suddenly, the problem with America was not excessive affluence, but increasing and grinding poverty – and, once again, the solution was for the government to step in, plan mightily, and tax the wealthy in order to lift up the poor. And so we had the War on Poverty for several years.

5. Stagnation; deficient growth; overaffluence; overpoverty; the intellectual fashions changed like ladies’ hemlines. Then, in 1964, the happily short-lived Ad Hoc Committee on the Triple Revolution issued its then-famous manifesto, which brought us and the liberal intellectuals full circle. For two or three frenetic years we were regaled with the idea that America’s problem was not stagnation but the exact reverse: in a few short years all of America’s production facilities would be automated and cybernated, incomes and production would be enormous and super-abundant, but everyone would be automated out of a job. Once again, free-market capitalism would lead to permanent mass unemployment, which could only be remedied – you guess it! – by massive State intervention or by outright socialism. For several years, in the mid-1960s, we thus suffered from what was justly named the “Automation Hysteria.”1

¹ Ironically, the conservative economist Dr. George Terborgh, who had written the major refutation of the stagnation thesis a generation earlier (The Bogey of Economic Maturity [1945]), now wrote the leading refutation of the new wave, The Automation Hysteria (1966).

6. By the late 1960s it was clear to everyone that the automation hysterics had been dead wrong, that automation was proceeding at no faster a pace than old-fashioned “mechanization” and indeed that the 1969 recession was causing a falling off in the rate of increase of productivity. One hears no more about automation dangers nowadays; we are now in the seventh phase of liberal economic flip-flops.

7. Affluence is again excessive, and, in the name of conservation, ecology, and the increasing scarcity of resources, free-market capitalism is growing much too fast. State planning, or socialism, must, of course, step in to abolish all growth and bring about a zero-growth society and economy – in order to avoid negative growth, or retrogression, sometime in the future! We are now back to a super-Galbraithian position, to which has been added scientific jargon about effluents, ecology, and “spaceship earth,” as well as a bitter assault on technology itself as being an evil polluter. Capitalism has brought about technology, growth – including population growth, industry, and pollution – and government is supposed to step in and eradicate these evils.

It is not at all unusual, in fact, to find the same people now holding a contradictory blend of positions 5 and 7 and maintaining at one and the same time that (a) we are living in a “post-scarcity” age where we no longer need private property, capitalism, or material incentives to production; and (b) that capitalist greed is depleting our resources and bringing about an imminent worldwide scarcity. The liberal answer to both, or indeed to all, of these problems turns out, of course, to be the same: socialism or state planning to replace free-market capitalism. The great economist Joseph Schumpeter put the whole shoddy performance of liberal intellectuals into a nutshell a generation ago: “Capitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets. They are going to pass it, whatever the defense they may hear; the only success victorious defense can possibly produce is a change in the indictment.”² And so, the charges, the indictments, may change and contradict previous charges – but the answer is always and wearily the same.

² Joseph A. Schumpeter, Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy (New York: Harper & Bros., 1942), p. 144.

The Attack on Technology and Growth

The fashionable attack on growth and affluence is palpably an attack by comfortable, contented upper-class liberals. Enjoying a material contentment and a living standard undreamt of by even the wealthiest men of the past, it is easy for upper-class liberals to sneer at “materialism,” and to call for a freeze on all further economic advance.³ For the mass of the world’s population still living in squalor such a cry for the cessation of growth is truly obscene; but even in the United States, there is little evidence of satiety and superabundance. Even the upper-class liberals themselves have not been conspicuous for making a bonfire of their salary checks as a contribution to their war on “materialism” and affluence.

³ Cf. the interpretation in William Tucker, “Environmentalism and the Leisure Class,” Harper’s (December 1977), pp. 49-56, 73-80.

Fortunately, black groups are beginning to understand the significance of liberal anti-growth ideology. In January 1978, the board of directors of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People opposed President Carter’s energy program and called for the deregulation of oil and natural gas prices. Explaining the NAACP’s new position, chairman of the board Margaret Bush Wilson declared:

“We are concerned about the slow growth policy of President Carter’s energy plan. The issue is what kind of energy policy will lend itself to. . . a viable expansive economy, one that is not restrictive, because under slow growth blacks suffer more than anyone else.”

Paul Delaney, “NAACP in Major Dispute on Energy View,” New York Times (January 30, 1978).

The widespread attack on technology is even more irresponsible. If technology were to be rolled back to the “tribe” and to the preindustrial era, the result would be mass starvation and death on a universal scale. The vast majority of the world’s population is dependent for its very survival on modern technology and industry. The North American continent was able to accommodate approximately one million Indians in the days before Columbus, all living on a subsistence level. It is now able to accommodate several hundred million people, all living at an infinitely higher living standard – and the reason is modern technology and industry. Abolish the latter and we will abolish the people as well. For all one knows, to our fanatical antipopulationists this “solution” to the population question may be a good thing, but for the great majority of us, this would be a draconian “final solution” indeed.

The irresponsible attack on technology is another liberal flip-flop: it comes from the same liberal intellectuals who, thirty-odd years ago, were denouncing capitalism for not putting modern technology to full use in the service of State planning and were calling for absolute rule by a modern “technocratic” elite. Yet now the very same intellectuals who not so long ago were yearning for a technocratic dictatorship over all of our lives are now trying to deprive us of the vital fruits of technology itself.

Yet the various contradictory phases of liberal thought never completely die; and many of the same antitechnologists, in a 180-degree reversal of the automation hysteria, are also confidently forecasting technological stagnation from now on. They cheerily predict a gloomy future for mankind by assuming that technology will stagnate, and not continue to improve and accelerate. This is the technique of pseudoscientific forecasting of the widely touted antigrowth Club of Rome Report. As Passell, Roberts, and Ross write in their critique of the report, “If the telephone company were restricted to turn-of-the-century technology 20 million operators would be needed to handle today’s volume of calls. Or, as British editor Norman Macrae has observed, “an extrapolation of the trends of the 1880s would show today’s cities buried under horse manure.”4

D. Meadows, et al.The Limits to Growth (New York: Universe Books, 1972); P. Passell, M. Roberts, and L. Ross, “Review of The Limits to Growth,” New York Times Book Review (April 2, 1972), p. 10.

Or, further:

While the team’s [Club of Rome’s] model hypothesizes exponential growth for industrial and agricultural needs, it places arbitrary, nonexponential, limits on the technical progress that might accommodate these needs. . . .

The Rev. Thomas Malthus made a similar point two centuries ago without benefit of computer printouts. . . . Malthus argued that people tend to multiply exponentially, while the food supply at best increases at a constant rate. He expected that starvation and war would periodically redress the balance. . . .

But there is no particular criterion beyond myopia on which to base that speculation. Malthus was wrong; food capacity has kept up with population. While no one knows for certain, technological progress shows no sign of slowing down. The best econometric estimates suggest that it is indeed growing exponentially.5

Passell, Roberts, and Ross, op. cit., p. 12.

What we need is more economic growth, not less; more and better technology, and not the impossible and absurd attempt to scrap technology and return to the primitive tribe. Improved technology and greater capital investment will lead to higher living standards for all and provide greater material comforts, as well as the leisure to pursue and enjoy the “spiritual” side of life. There is precious little culture or civilization available for people who must work long hours to eke out a subsistence living. The real problem is that productive capital investment is being siphoned off by taxes, restrictions, and government contracts for unproductive and wasteful government expenditures, including military and space boondoggling. Furthermore, the precious technical resource of scientists and engineers is being ever more intensively diverted to government, instead of to “civilian” consumer production. What we need is for government to get out of the way, remove its incubus of taxation and expenditures from the economy, and allow productive and technical resources once again to devote themselves fully to increasing the well-being of the mass of consumers. We need growth, higher living standards, and a technology and capital equipment that meet consumer wants and demands; but we can only achieve these by removing the incubus of statism and allowing the energies of all the population to express themselves in the free-market economy. We need an economic and technological growth that emerges freely, as Jane Jacobs has shown, from the free-market economy, and not the distortions and wastes imposed upon the world economy from the liberal force-feeding of the 1950s. We need, in short, a truly free-market, libertarian economy.

Conservation of Resources

As we have mentioned, the selfsame liberals who claim that we have entered the “postscarcity” age and are in no further need of economic growth, are in the forefront of the complaint that “capitalist greed” is destroying our scarce natural resources. The gloom-and-doom soothsayers of the Club of Rome, for example, by simply extrapolating current trends of resource use, confidently predict the exhaustion of vital raw materials within forty years. But confident – and completely faulty – predictions of exhaustion of raw materials have been made countless times in recent centuries.

What the soothsayers have overlooked is the vital role that the free-market economic mechanism plays in conserving, and adding to, natural resources. Let us consider, for example, a typical copper mine. Why has copper ore not been exhausted long before now by the inexorable demands of our industrial civilization? Why is it that copper miners, once they have found and opened a vein of ore, do not mine all the copper immediately; why, instead, do they conserve the copper mine, add to it, and extract the copper gradually, from year to year? Because the mine owners realize that, for example, if they triple this year’s production of copper they may indeed triple this year’s income, but they will also be depleting the mine, and therefore the future income they will be able to derive from it. On the market, this loss of future income is immediately reflected in the monetary value – the price – of the mine as a whole. This monetary value, reflected in the selling price of the mine, and then of individual shares of mining stock, is based on the expected future income to be earned from the production of copper; any depletion of the mine, then, will lower the value of the mine and hence the price of the mining stock. Every mine owner, then, has to weigh the advantages of immediate income from copper production against the loss in the “capital value” of the mine as a whole, and hence against the loss in the value of his shares.

The mine owners’ decisions are determined by their expectations of future copper yields and demands, the existing and expected rates of interest, etc. Suppose, for example, that copper is expected to be rendered obsolete in a few years by a new synthetic metal. In that case, copper mine owners will rush to produce more copper now when it is more highly valued, and save less for the future when it will have little value – thereby benefiting the consumers and the economy as a whole by producing copper now when it is more intensely needed. But, on the other hand, if a copper shortage is expected in the future, mine owners will produce less now and wait to produce more later when copper prices are higher – thereby benefiting society by producing more in the future when it will be needed more intensely. Thus, we see that the market economy contains a marvelous built-in mechanism whereby the decisions of resource owners on present as against future production will benefit not only their own income and wealth, but the mass of consumers and the economy as a whole.

But there is much more to this free-market mechanism: Suppose that a growing shortage of copper is now expected in the future. The result is that more copper will be withheld now and saved for future production. The price of copper now will rise. The increase in copper prices will have several “conserving” effects. In the first place, the higher price of copper is a signal to the users of copper that it is scarcer and more expensive; the copper users will then conserve the use of this more expensive metal. They will use less copper, substituting cheaper metals or plastics; and copper will be conserved more fully and saved for those uses for which there is no satisfactory substitute. Moreover, the greater cost of copper will stimulate (a) a rush to find new copper ores; and (b) a search for less expensive substitutes, perhaps by new technological discoveries. Higher prices for copper will also stimulate campaigns for saving and recycling the metal. The price mechanism of the free market is precisely the reason that copper, and other natural resources, have not disappeared long ago. As Passell, Roberts, and Ross say in their critique of the Club of Rome:

Natural resource reserves and needs in the model are calculated [in]. . . the absence of prices as a variable in the “Limits” projection of how resources will be used. In the real world, rising prices act as an economic signal to conserve scarce resources, providing incentives to use cheaper materials in their place, stimulating research efforts on new ways to save on resource inputs, and making renewed exploration attempts more profitable.6

6 Passell, Roberts, and Ross, opcit., p. 12.

In fact, in contrast to the gloom-and-doomers, raw material and natural resource prices have remained low, and have generally declined relative to other prices. To liberal and Marxist intellectuals, this is usually a sign of capitalist “exploitation” of the underdeveloped countries which are often the producers of the raw materials. But it is a sign of something completely different, of the fact that natural resources have not been growing scarcer but more abundant; hence their relatively lower cost. The development of cheap substitutes, e.g., plastics, synthetic fibres, has kept natural resources cheap and abundant. And in a few decades we can expect that modern technology will develop a remarkably cheap source of energy – nuclear fusion – a development which will automatically yield a great abundance of raw materials for the work that will be needed.

The development of synthetic materials and of cheaper energy highlights a vital aspect of modern technology the doom-sayers overlook: that technology and industrial production create resources which had never existed as effective resources. For example, before the development of the kerosene lamp and especially the automobile, petroleum was not a resource but an unwanted waste, a giant black “weed.” It was only the development of modern industry that converted petroleum into a useful resource. Furthermore, modern technology, through improved geological techniques and through the incentives of the market, has been finding new petroleum reserves at a rapid rate.

Predictions of imminent exhaustion of resources, as we have noted, are nothing new. In 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt, calling a Governors’ Conference on natural resources, warned of their “imminent exhaustion.” At the same conference, steel industrialist Andrew Carnegie predicted the exhaustion of the Lake Superior iron range by 1940, while railroad magnate James J. Hill forecast the exhaustion of much of our timber resources in ten years. Not only that: Hill even predicted an imminent shortage of wheat production in the United States, in a country where we are still grappling with the wheat surpluses generated by our farm subsidy program. Current forecasts of doom are made on the same basis: a grievous underweighting of the prospects of modern technology and an ignorance of the workings of the market economy.7

On these mistaken forecasts, see Thomas B. Noln, “The Inexhaustible Resource of Technology,” in H. Jarrett, ed., Perspectives on Conservation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1958), pp. 49-66.

It is true that several particular natural resources have suffered, in the past and now, from depletion. But in each case the reason has not been “capitalist greed”; on the contrary, the reason has been the failure of government to allow private property in the resource – in short, a failure to pursue the logic of private property far enough.

One example has been timber resources. In the American West and in Canada, most of the forests are owned, not by private owners but by the federal (or provincial) government. The government then leases their use to private timber companies. In short, private property is permitted only in the annual use of the resource, but not in the forest, the resource, itself. In this situation, the private timber company does not own the capital value, and therefore does not have to worry about depletion of the resource itself. The timber company has no economic incentive to conserve the resource, replant trees, etc. Its only incentive is to cut as many trees as quickly as possible, since there is no economic value to the timber company in maintaining the capital value of the forest. In Europe, where private ownership of forests is far more common, there is little complaint of destruction of timber resources. For wherever private property is allowed in the forest itself, it is to the benefit of the owner to preserve and restore tree growth while he is cutting timber, so as to avoid depletion of the forest’s capital value.8

On timber, and on conservation generally, see Anthony Scott, Natural Resources: The Economics of Conservation (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1955), pp. 121-25 and passim.

On ways in which the federal government itself has been destroying rather than conserving timber resources, from highway building to the indiscriminate dams and other projects of the Army Corps of Engineers, see Edwin G. Dolan, TANSTAAFL (New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1971), p. 96.

Thus, in the United States, a major culprit has been the Forest Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which owns forests and leases annual rights to cut timber, with resulting devastation of the trees. In contrast, private forests such as those owned by large lumber firms like Georgia-Pacific and U.S. Plywood scientifically cut and reforest their trees in order to maintain their future supply.9

See Robert Poole, Jr., “Reason and Ecology,” in D. James, ed., Outside, Looking In (New York: Harper & Row, 1972), pp. 250-51.

Another unhappy consequence of the American government’s failure to allow private property in a resource was the destruction of the Western grasslands in the late nineteenth century. Every viewer of “Western” movies is familiar with the mystique of the “open range” and the often violent “wars” among cattlemen, sheepmen, and farmers over parcels of ranch land. The “open range” was the failure of the federal government to apply the policy of homesteading to the changed conditions of the drier climate west of the Mississippi. In the East, the 160 acres granted free to homesteading farmers on government land constituted a viable technological unit for farming in a wetter climate. But in the dry climate of the West, no successful cattle or sheep ranch could be organized on a mere 160 acres. But the federal government refused to expand the 160-acre unit to allow the “homesteading” of larger cattle ranches. Hence, the “open range,” on which private cattle and sheep owners were able to roam unchecked on government-owned pasture land. But this meant that no one owned the pasture, the land itself; it was therefore to the economic advantage of every cattle or sheep owner to graze the land and use up the grass as quickly as possible, otherwise the grass would be grazed by some other sheep or cattle owner. The result of this tragically shortsighted refusal to allow private property in grazing land itself was an overgrazing of the land, the ruining of the grassland by grazing too early in the season, and the failure of anyone to restore or replant the grass – anyone who bothered to restore the grass would have had to look on helplessly while someone else grazed his cattle or sheep. Hence the overgrazing of the West, and the onset of the “dust bowl.” Hence also the illegal attempts by numerous cattlemen, farmers, and sheepmen to take the law into their own hands and fence off the land into private property – and the range wars that often followed.

Professor Samuel P. Hays, in his authoritative account of the conservation movement in America, writes of the range problem:

Much of the Western livestock industry depended for its forage upon the “open” range, owned by the federal government, but free for anyone to use. . . . Congress had never provided legislation regulating grazing or permitting stockmen to acquire range lands. Cattle and sheepmen roamed the public domain. . . . Cattlemen fenced range for their exclusive use, but competitors cut the wire. Resorting to force and violence, sheepherders and cowboys “solved” their disputes over grazing lands by slaughtering rival livestock and murdering rival stockmen. . . . Absence of the most elementary institutions of property law created confusion, bitterness, and destruction.

Amid this turmoil the public range rapidly deteriorated. Originally plentiful and lush, the forage supply was subjected to intense pressure by the increasing use. . . . The public domain became stocked with more animals than the range could support. Since each stockman feared that others would beat him to the available forage, he grazed early in the year and did not permit the young grass to mature and reseed. Under such conditions the quality and quantity of available forage rapidly decreased; vigorous perennials gave way to annuals and annuals to weeds.10

10 Samuel P. Hays, Conservation and the Gospel of Efficiency (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1959), pp. 50-51. See also E. Louise Peffer, The Closing of the Public Domain (Stanford: Standord University Press, 1951), pp. 22-31, and passim.

Hays concludes that public-domain range lands may have been depleted by over two-thirds by this process, as compared to their virgin condition.

There is a vitally important area in which the absence of private property in the resource has been and is causing, not only depletion of resources, but also a complete failure to develop vast potential resources. This is the potentially enormously productive ocean resource. The oceans are in the international public domain, i.e., no person, company, or even national government is allowed property rights in parts of the ocean. As a result, the oceans have remained in the same primitive state as was the land in the precivilized days before the development of agriculture. The way of production for primitive man was “hunting-and-gathering”: the hunting of wild animals and the gathering of fruits, berries, nuts, and wild seeds and vegetables. Primitive man worked passively within his environment instead of acting to transform it; hence he just lived off the land without attempting to remould it. As a result, the land was unproductive, and only a relatively few tribesmen could exist at a bare subsistence level. It was only with the development of agriculture, the farming of the soil, and the transformation of the land through farming that productivity and living standards could take giant leaps forward. And it was only with agriculture that civilization could begin. But to permit the development of agriculture there had to be private property rights, first in the fields and crops, and then in the land itself.

With respect to the ocean, however, we are still in the primitive, unproductive hunting and gathering stage. Anyone can capture fish in the ocean, or extract its resources, but only on the run, only as hunters and gatherers. No one can farm the ocean, no one can engage in aquaculture. In this way we are deprived of the use of the immense fish and mineral resources of the seas. For example, if anyone tried to farm the sea and to increase the productivity of the fisheries by fertilizers, he would immediately be deprived of the fruits of his efforts because he could not keep other fishermen from rushing in and seizing his fish. And so no one tries to fertilize the oceans as the land is fertilized. Furthermore, there is no economic incentive – in fact, there is every disincentive – for anyone to engage in technological research in the ways and means of improving the productivity of the fisheries, or in extracting the mineral resources of the oceans. There will only be such incentive when property rights in parts of the ocean are as fully allowed as property rights in the land. Even now there is a simple but effective technique that could be used for increasing fish productivity: parts of the ocean could be fenced off electronically, and through this readily available electronic fencing, fish could be segregated by size. By preventing big fish from eating smaller fish, the production of fish could be increased enormously. And if private property in parts of the ocean were permitted, a vast flowering of aquaculture would create and multiply ocean resources in numerous ways we cannot now even foresee.

National governments have tried vainly to cope with the problem of fish depletion by placing irrational and uneconomic restrictions on the total size of the catch, or on the length of the allowable season. In the cases of salmon, tuna, and halibut, technological methods of fishing have thereby been kept primitive and unproductive by unduly shortening the season and injuring the quality of the catch and by stimulating overproduction – and underuse during the year – of the fishing fleets. And of course such government restrictions do nothing at all to stimulate the growth of aquaculture. As Professors North and Miller write:

Fishermen are poor because they are forced to use inefficient equipment and to fish only a small fraction of the time [by the government regulations] and of course there are far too many of them. The consumer pays a much higher price for red salmon than would be necessary if efficient methods were used. Despite the ever-growing intertwining bonds of regulations, the preservation of the salmon run is still not assured.

The root of the problem lies in the current non-ownership arrangement. It is not in the interests of any individual fisherman to concern himself with the perpetuation of the salmon run. Quite the contrary: It is rather in his interests to catch as many fish as he can during the season.11

11 Douglass C. North and Roger LeRoy Miller, The Economics of Public Issues (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), p. 107.

In contrast, North and Miller point out that private property rights in the ocean, under which the owner would use the least costly and most efficient technology and preserve and make productive the resource itself, is now more feasible than ever: “The invention of modern electronic sensing equipment has now made the policing of large bodies of water relatively cheap and easy.”12

12 Ibid., p. 108. Also see James A. Crutchfield and Giulio Pontecorvo, The Pacific Salmon Fisheries: A Study of Irrational Conservation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1969). On a similar situation in the tuna industry, see Francis T. Christy, Jr., “New Dimensions for Transnational Marine Resources,” American Economic Review, Papers and Proceedings (May 1970), p. 112; and on the Pacific halibut industry, see James A. Crutchfield and Arnold Zellner, Economic Aspects of the Pacific halibut Industry (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of the Interior, 1961). For an imaginative proposal for private property its parts of the ocean even before the advent of electronic fencing, see Gordon Tullock, The Fisheries – Some Radical Proposals (Columbia, S.C.: University of South Carolina Bureau of Business and Economic Research, 1962).

The growing international conflicts over parts of the ocean only further highlight the importance of private property rights in this vital area. For as the United States and other nations assert their sovereignty 200 miles from their shores, and as private companies and governments squabble over areas of the ocean; and as trawlers, fishing nets, oil drillers, and mineral diggers war over the same areas of the ocean – property rights become increasingly and patently more important. As Francis Christy writes:

… coal is mined in shafts below the sea floor, oil is drilled from platforms fixed to the bottom rising above the water, minerals can be dredged from the surface of the ocean bed. . . sedentary animals are scraped from the bed on which telephone cables may lie, bottom feeding animals are caught in traps or trawls, mid-water species may be taken by hook and line or by trawls which occasionally interfere with submarines, surface species are taken by net and harpoon, and the surface itself is used for shipping as well as the vessels engaged in extracting resources.13

13 Christy, loc. cit., p. 112.

This growing conflict leads Christy to predict that “the seas are in a stage of transition. They are moving from a condition in which property rights are almost nonexistent to a condition in which property rights of some form will become appropriated or made available.” Eventually, concludes Christy, “as the sea’s resources become more valuable, exclusive rights will be acquired.”14

14 Ibid., pp. 112-113. For a definitive discussion, economic, technological, and legal, of the entire problem of the ocean and ocean fisheries, see Francis I. Christy, Jr., and Anthony Scott, The Common Wealth in Ocean Fisheries (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1965).

Pollution

All right: Even if we concede that full private property in resources and the free market will conserve and create resources, and do it far better than government regulation, what of the problem of pollution? Wouldn’t we be suffering aggravated pollution from unchecked “capitalist greed”?

There is, first of all, this stark empirical fact: Government ownership, even socialism, has proved to be no solution to the problem of pollution. Even the most starry-eyed proponents of government planning concede that the poisoning of Lake Baikal in the Soviet Union is a monument to heedless industrial pollution of a valuable natural resource. But there is far more to the problem than that. Note, for example, the two crucial areas in which pollution has become an important problem: the air and the waterways, particularly the rivers. But these are precisely two of the vital areas in society in which private property has not been permitted to function.

First, the rivers. The rivers, and the oceans too, are generally owned by the government; private property, certainly complete private property, has not been permitted in the water. In essence, then, government owns the rivers. But government ownership is not true ownership, because the government officials, while able to control the resource cannot themselves reap their capital value on the market. Government officials cannot sell the rivers or sell stock in them. Hence, they have no economic incentive to preserve the purity and values of the rivers. Rivers are, then, in the economic sense, “unowned”; therefore government officials have permitted their corruption and pollution. Anyone has been able to dump polluting garbage and wastes in the waters. But consider what would happen if private firms were able to own the rivers and the lakes. If a private firm owned Lake Erie, for example, then anyone dumping garbage in the lake would be promptly sued in the courts for their aggression against private property and would be forced by the courts to pay damages and to cease and desist from any further aggression. Thus, only private property rights will insure an end to pollution-invasion of resources. Only because the rivers are unowned is there no owner to rise up and defend his precious resource from attack. If, in contrast, anyone should dump garbage or pollutants into a lake which is privately owned (as are many smaller lakes), he would not be permitted to do so for very long – the owner would come roaring to its defense.15 Professor Dolan writes:

With a General Motors owning the Mississippi River, you can be sure that stiff effluent charges would be assessed on industries and municipalities along its banks, and that the water would be kept clean enough to maximize revenues from leases granted to firms seeking rights to drinking water, recreation, and commercial fishing.16

15 Existing “appropriation” law in the Western states already provides the basis for full “homesteading” private property rights in the rivers. For a full discussion, see Jack Hirshleifer, James C. DeHaven, and Jerome W. Milliman, Water Supply; Economics, Technology, and Policy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960), Chapter IX.

16 Edwin G. Dolan, “Capitalism and the Environment,” Individualist (March 1971), p. 3.

If government as owner has allowed the pollution of the rivers, government has also been the single major active polluter, especially in its role as municipal sewage disposer. There already exist low-cost chemical toilets which can burn off sewage without polluting air, ground, or water; but who will invest in chemical toilets when local governments will dispose of sewage free to their customers?

This example points up a problem similar to the case of the stunting of aquaculture technology by the absence of private property: if governments as owners of the rivers permit pollution of the water, then industrial technology will – and has – become a water-polluting technology. If production processes are allowed to pollute the rivers unchecked by their owners, then that is the sort of production technology we will have.

If the problem of water pollution can be cured by private property rights in water, how about air pollution? How can libertarians possibly come up with a solution for this grievous problem? Surely, there can’t be private property in the air? But the answer is: yes, there can. We have already seen how radio and TV frequencies can be privately owned. So could channels for airlines. Commercial airline routes, for example, could be privately owned; there is no need for a Civil Aeronautics Board to parcel out – and restrict – routes between various cities. But in the case of air pollution we are dealing not so much with private property in the air as with protecting private property in one’s lungs, fields, and orchards. The vital fact about air pollution is that the polluter sends unwanted and unbidden pollutants – from smoke to nuclear radiation to sulfur oxides – through the air and into the lungs of innocent victims, as well as onto their material property. All such emanations which injure person or property constitute aggression against the private property of the victims. Air pollution, after all, is just as much aggression as committing arson against another’s property or injuring him physically. Air pollution that injures others is aggression pure and simple. The major function of government – of course and police – is to stop aggression; instead, the government has failed in this task and has failed grievously to exercise its defense function against air pollution.

It is important to realize that this failure has not been a question purely of ignorance, a simple time lag between recognizing a new technological problem and facing up to it. For if some of the modern pollutants have only recently become known, factory smoke and many of its bad effects have been known ever since the Industrial Revolution, known to the extent that the American courts, during the late – and as far back as the early – nineteenth century made the deliberate decision to allow property rights to be violated by industrial smoke. To do so, the courts had to – and did – systematically change and weaken the defenses of property right embedded in Anglo-Saxon common law. Before the mid and late nineteenth century, any injurious air pollution was considered a tort, a nuisance against which the victim could sue for damages and against which he could take out an injunction to cease and desist from any further invasion of his property rights. But during the nineteenth century, the courts systematically altered the law of negligence and the law of nuisance to permit any air pollution which was not unusually greater than any similar manufacturing firm, one that was not more extensive than the customary practice of fellow polluters.

As factories began to arise and emit smoke, blighting the orchards of neighboring farmers, the farmers would take the manufacturers to court, asking for damages and injunctions against further invasion of their property. But the judges said, in effect, “Sorry. We know that industrial smoke (i.e., air pollution) invades and interferes with your property rights. But there is something more important than mere property rights: and that is public policy, the ‘common good.’ And the common good decrees that industry is a good thing, industrial progress is a good thing, and therefore your mere private property rights must be overridden on behalf of the general welfare.” And now all of us are paying the bitter price for this overriding of private property, in the form of lung disease and countless other ailments. And all for the “common good”!17

17 See E. F. Roberts, “Plead the Ninth Amendment!” Natural history (August-September 1970), pp. 18ff. For a definitive history and analysis of the change in the legal system toward growth and property rights in the first half of the nineteenth century, see Morton J. Horwitz, The Transformation of American Law, 1780-1860 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1977).

That this principle has guided the courts during the air age as well may be seen by a decision of the Ohio courts in Antonik v. Chamberlain (1947). The residents of a suburban area near Akron sued to enjoin the defendants from operating a privately owned airport. The grounds were invasion of property rights through excessive noise. Refusing the injunction, the court declared:

In our business of judging in this case, while sitting as a court of equity, we must not only weigh the conflict of interests between the airport owner and the nearby landowners, but we must further recognize the public policy of the generation in which we live. We must recognize that the establishment of an airport. . . is of great concern to the public, and if such and airport is abated, or its establishment prevented, the consequences will be not only a serious injury to the owner of the port property but may be a serious loss of a valuable asset to the entire community.18

18 Quoted in Milton Katz, The Function of Tort Liability in Technology Assessment (Cambridge: Harvard University Program on Technology and Society, 1969), p. 610.

To cap the crimes of the judges, legislatures, federal and state, moved in to cement the aggression by prohibiting victims of air pollution from engaging in “class action” suits against polluters. Obviously, if a factory pollutes the atmosphere of a city where there are tens of thousands of victims, it is impractical for each victim to sue to collect his particular damages from the polluter (although an injunction could be used effectively by one small victim). The common law, therefore, recognizes the validity of “class action” suits, in which one or a few victims can sue the aggressor not only on their own behalf, but on behalf of the entire class of similar victims. But the legislatures systematically outlawed such class action suits in pollution cases. For this reason, a victim may successfully sue a polluter who injures him individually, in a one-to-one “private nuisance” suit. But he is prohibited by law from acting against a mass polluter who is injuring a large number of people in a given area! As Frank Bubb writes, “It is as if the government were to tell you that it will (attempt to) protect you from a thief who steals only from you, but it will not protect you if the thief also steals from everyone else in the neighborhood. . .”19

19 Frank Bubb, “The Cure for Air Pollution,” The Libertarian Forum (April 15, 1970)

1. Also see Dolan, TANSTAAFL, pp. 37-39.

Noise, too, is a form of air pollution. Noise is the creation of sound waves which go through the air and then bombard and invade the property and persons of others. Only recently have physicians begun to investigate the damaging effects of noise on the human physiology. Again, a libertarian legal system would permit damage and class action suits and injunctions against excessive and damaging noise: against “noise pollution.”

The remedy against air pollution is therefore crystal clear, and it has nothing to do with multibillion-dollar palliative government programs at the expense of the taxpayers which do not even meet the real issue. The remedy is simply for the courts to return to their function of defending person and property rights against invasion, and therefore to enjoin anyone from injecting pollutants into the air. But what of the propollution defenders of industrial progress? And what of the increased costs that would have to be borne by the consumer? And what of our present polluting technology?

The argument that such an injunctive prohibition against pollution would add to the costs of industrial production is as reprehensible as the pre-Civil War argument that the abolition of slavery would add to the costs of growing cotton, and that therefore abolition, however morally correct, was “impractical.” For this means that the polluters are able to impose all of the high costs of pollution upon those whose lungs and property rights they have been allowed to invade with impunity.

Furthermore, the cost and technology argument overlooks the vital fact that if air pollution is allowed to proceed with impunity, there continues to be no economic incentive to develop a technology that will not pollute. On the contrary, the incentive would continue to cut, as it has for a century, precisely the other way. Suppose, for example, that in the days when automobiles and trucks were first being used, the courts had ruled as follows: “Ordinarily, we would be opposed to trucks invading people’s lawns as an invasion of private property, and we would insist that trucks confine themselves to the roads, regardless of traffic ingestion. But trucks are vitally important to the public welfare, and therefore we decree that trucks should be allowed to cross any lawns they wish provided they believe that this would ease their traffic problems.” If the courts had ruled in this way, then we would now have a transportation system in which lawns would be systematically desecrated by trucks. And any attempt to stop this would be decried in the name of modern transportation needs! The point is that this is precisely the way that the courts ruled on air pollution – pollution which is far more damaging to all of us than trampling on lawns. In this way, the government gave the green light, from the very start, to a polluting technology. It is no wonder then that this is precisely the kind of technology we have. The only remedy is to force the polluting invaders to stop their invasion, and thereby to redirect technology into nonpolluting or even antipolluting channels.

Already, even at our necessarily primitive stage in antipollution technology, techniques have  been developed to combat air and noise pollution. Mufflers can be installed on noisy machines that emit sound waves precisely contra-cyclical to the waves of the machines, and thereby can cancel out these racking sounds. Air wastes can even now be recaptured as they leave the chimney and be recycled to yield products useful to industry. Thus, sulfur dioxide, a major noxious air pollutant, can be captured and recycled to produce economically valuable sulfuric acid.20 The highly polluting spark ignition engine will either have to be “cured” by new devices or replaced altogether by such nonpolluting engines as diesel, gas turbine, or steam, or by an electric car. And, as libertarian systems engineer Robert Poole, Jr., points out, the costs of installing the non- or antipolluting technology would then “ultimately be borne by the consumers of the firms’ products, i.e., by those who choose to associate with the firm, rather than being passed on to innocent third parties in the form of pollution (or as taxes).”21

20 See Jane Jacobs, The Economy of Cities (New York: Random House, 1969), pp. 109ff.

21 Poole, op. cit., pp. 251-52.

Robert Poole cogently defines pollution “as the transfer of harmful matter or energy to the person or property of another, without the latter’s consent.”22 The libertarian – and the only complete – solution to the problem of air pollution is to use the courts and the legal structure to combat and prevent such invasion. There are recent signs that the legal system is beginning to change in this direction: new judicial decisions and repeal of laws disallowing class action suits. But this is only a beginning.23

22 Poole, op. cit., p. 245.

23 Thus, see Dolan, TANSTAAFL, p. 39, and Katz, passim.

Among conservatives – in contrast to libertarians – there are two ultimately similar responses to the problem of air pollution. One response, by Ayn Rand and Robert Moses among others, is to deny that the problem exists, and to attribute the entire agitation to leftists who want to destroy capitalism and technology on behalf of a tribal form of socialism. While part of this charge may be correct, denial of the very existence of the problem is to deny science itself and to give a vital hostage to the leftist charge that defenders of capitalism “place property rights above human rights.” Moreover, a defense of air pollution does not even defend property rights; on the contrary, it puts these conservatives’ stamp of approval on those industrialists who are trampling upon the property rights of the mass of the citizenry.

A second, and more sophisticated, conservative response is by such free-market economists as Milton Friedman. The Friedmanites concede the existence of air pollution but propose to meet it, not by a defense of property rights, but rather by a supposedly utilitarian “cost-benefit” calculation by government, which will then make and enforce a “social decision” on how much pollution to allow. This decision would then be enforced either by licensing a given amount of pollution (the granting of “pollution rights”), by a graded scale of taxes against it, or by the taxpayers paying firms not to pollute. Not only would these proposals grant an enormous amount of bureaucratic power to government in the name of safeguarding the “free market”; they would continue to override property rights in the name of a collective decision enforced by the State. This is far from any genuine “free market,” and reveals that, as in many other economic areas, it is impossible to really defend freedom and the free market without insisting on defending the rights of private property. Friedman’s grotesque dictum that those urban inhabitants who don’t wish to contract emphysema should move to the country is starkly reminiscent of Marie Antoinette’s famous “Let them eat cake” – and reveals a lack of sensitivity to human or property rights. Friedman’s statement, in fact, is of a piece with the typically conservative, “If you don’t like it here, leave,” a statement that implies that the government rightly owns the entire land area of “here,” and that anyone who objects to its rule must therefore leave the area. Robert Poole’s libertarian critique of the Friedmanite proposals offers a refreshing contrast:

Unfortunately, it is an example of the most serious failing of the conservative economists: nowhere in the proposal is there any mention of rights. This is the same failing that has undercut advocates of capitalism for 200 years. Even today, the term “laissez-faire” is apt to bring forth images of eighteenth century English factory towns engulfed in smoke and grimy with soot. The early capitalists agreed with the courts that smoke and soot were the “price” that must be paid for the benefits of industry. . . . Yet laissez-faire without rights is a contradiction in terms; the laissez–faire position is based on and derived from man’s rights, and can endure only when rights are held inviolable. Now, in an age of increasing awareness of the environment, this old contradiction is coming back to haunt capitalism.

It is true that air is a scare resource [as the Friedmanites say], but one must then ask why it is scarce. If it is scarce because of a systematic violation of rights, then the solution is not to raise the price of the status quo, thereby sanctioning the rights-violations, but to assert the rights and demand that they be protected. . . . When a factory discharges a great quantity of sulfur dioxide molecules that enter someone’s lungs and cause pulmonary edema, the factory owners have aggressed against him as much as if they had broken his leg. The point must be emphasized because it is vital to the libertarian laissez-faire position. A laissez-faire polluter is a contradiction in terms and must be identified as such. A libertarian society would be a full-liability society, where everyone is fully responsible for his actions and any harmful consequences they might cause.24

24 Poole, op. cit., pp. 252-53. Friedman’s dictum can be found in Peter Maiken, “Hysterics Won’t Clean Up Pollution,” Human Events (April 25, 1970), pp. 13, 21-23. A fuller representation of the Friedmanite position may be found in Thomas D. Crocker and A. J. Rogers III, Environmental Economics (Hinsdale, Ill. : Dryden Press, 1971); and similar views may be found in J. H. Dales, Pollution, Property, and Prices (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1968), and Larry E. Ruff, “The Economic Common Sense of Pollution,” Public Interest (Spring, 1970), pp. 69-85.

In addition to betraying its presumed function of defending private property, government has contributed to air pollution in a more positive sense. It was not so long ago that the Department of Agriculture conducted mass sprayings of DDT by helicopter over large areas, overriding the wishes of individual objecting farmers. It still continues to pour tons of poisonous and carcinogenic insecticides all over the South in an expensive and vain attempt to eradicate the fire ant.25 And the Atomic Energy Commission has poured radioactive wastes into the air and into the ground by means of its nuclear power plants, and through atomic testing. Municipal power and water plants, and the plants of licensed monopoly utility companies, mightily pollute the atmosphere. One of the major tasks of the State in this area is therefore to stop its own poisoning of the atmosphere.

25 Glenn Garvin, “Killing Fire Ants With Carcinogens,” Inquiry (February 6, 1978), pp. 7-8.

Thus, when we peel away the confusions and the unsound philosophy of the modern ecologists, we find an important bedrock case against the existing system; but the case turns out to be not against capitalism, private property, growth, or technology per se. It is a case against the failure of government to allow and to defend the rights of private property against invasion. If property rights were to be defended fully, against private and governmental invasion alike, we would find here, as in other areas of our economy and society, that private enterprise and modern technology would come to mankind not as a curse but as its salvation.

PDF here.

More Murray Rothbard.

Even more Murray Rothbard.

There ain’t nothin’ wrong with makin’ people mad…

…if it’s for a good cause.

Offend the Fuck Out of People.

Liberal.

Fem.

Offensive.

On the Confederate flag.

My business model.

Insane in the membrane.

My controversial opinion over the racial slur used for black people (I use the word).

A question about the logic of animal rights.

If animals have equal rights as humans, then can we try animals that kill other animals in the wild for murder?

Or would they be too incompetent to stand trial and would thus always plea insanity?

If you say that humans and animals have equal rights, then you must believe that animals killing other animals is murder, and that they should have to go through the same legal processes as humans if they kill “someone” that is “equivalent” to a man.

If you don’t believe this is the case, then isn’t that a case of “speciesism”? First of all, if you believe in “equality“, then animals must go through this same process as well, or else you are illogical and don’t actually believe in “equality.” But if you think that animals are a special case, then they aren’t really “equal” to humans, then, are they?

Liberalism.

Feminism.

Voluntarism and Capitalism.

Logic.

Things that I have for sale on Kindle.

Where you can financially support me if you so desire.