principles of morality

I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and
my judgment and never do harm to anyone. - Hippocrates

On this page:
Golden & non-aggression rules
Foundations of morality
The Law
Final thoughts

What is moral? What is immoral? How can two parties be at odds, each believing they are right, when chances are one of them is wrong. Assuming they are faced with same information, I suggest it is because they are applying different standards of right and wrong. I've outlined the weaknesses of the two more popular principles and an objective standard which, I hope makes a lot of sense once it is brought to the surface. There will always be human differences in perception and interpretation of events, but just as we need a common understanding of words to communicate, we need a common understanding of morality to behave morally.

In an ideal world, everybody gets along in peace and harmony. For the most part we do. The proof is in the quality of our complex and advanced civilization. It takes an extraordinary amount of social cooperation to operate at this level. For that reason, this article will emphasize social cooperation.

Fundamentally we cooperate with others because we have an unquenchable instinct for wanting to improve our future circumstances over our present circumstances. If we tried it alone, we could do no better then survive at a primitive level. Grouping together enables us to benefit from the output of time and skills we don't have. By working together or by exchanging with others produces more output then any of us could do alone.

We trade when we are willing to give up something of less value for something of more value. Society advances materially through countless trades. This is why civilization evolved into a market society; no other way works better.

Yes, there are slackers, incompetents and the helpless.  Fortunately a market society has the surpluses to afford charity. Otherwise that class is outside the scope of this article. Our concern here is for the antithesis of peace and harmony: violence and disharmony.

At the core of violence and disharmony is another facet of our nature: the urge to dominate and control. It manifests to different degrees at every level of society, from individuals to nations. Most times we recognize it when we see it. But it is more difficult to see it when it is in us. This is where principles of morality can provide an objective standard by which to regulate our behavior. It is not a perfect technique, but it's a vast improvement over letting thoughtless feelings rule our behavior.

There are approximately six billion people in this world, each with a unique set of values. It might seem most comfortable if everybody shared agreeable values, but that is never going to happen. If we are frustrated enough, we might first try persuasion by reasoning, pleading or scolding. Obviously we are going to meet with limited success. This is where the temptation to use aggressive methods enters our consciousness. Civility ends where coercion starts.

Where coercion starts, self defense begins. No one argues about the moral right to self defense. Stopping aggression is form of self preservation and fundamental to common law.

Competition is as fundamental to nature as it is to a market economy as it is to sports. Athletes compete by agreed upon rules. Men and women compete in the affairs of the heart. Workers compete for jobs. Businesses compete for market share. Politicians compete for office. Nations compete globally. Animals compete for food.

Religious dogma belies any claim that belief in God leads to a more moral society. The dogma of sin is so petty, arbitrary and undefined, as to be meaningless. For a God father or any father to send his innocent son to die for the guilty, perverts the meaning of justice. The idea of eternal punishment hell is meant to constrain by intimidation but it's horribly unjust.

There isn't a system of organization more corrupt then government. Ostensibly governments fulfill the role of defense, to protect our life, liberty and property from the predations of criminals and foreign nations. In practice, it's been perverted into a system of fraud, corruption, plunder, persecution and mass murder. No other type of organization has brought more misery to the human race then government. Whether civilization evolves to find that happy balance between too much and too little government is anybody's guess. Right now it's choking us.

There is a tendency for people when they get attached to something, they'll defend it as if they were its mother. Moral behavior is not predicated on who the actors are; it is based on actions no matter whom or what the actors are. Objective reasoning requires that we think in terms of X and Y, not me or you or them or us.

The Golden Rule

Do unto others what you would have them do unto you-is commonly perceived as one of Jesus' greatest moral teachings. It's over-rated.

12So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. (Matt. 7:12)

31And as you wish that men would do to you, do so to them. (Luke 6:31)

The Golden Rule is a primitive guideline to moral behavior. It tells us to measure our actions by our personal values, which saves the trouble of considering the values of others. So when a person wishes others to be more to his liking, it's easy to rationalize aggressive action as being for his own good.

Some examples: "Homosexuality is immoral and needs to be abolished." Or: "A moral society needs more religion; therefore we must do more to get public schools to teach the word of God." The Golden Rule has even been used to justify the invasion of Iraq, on the grounds that a westernized style democracy would be good for them.

Secondly, the Golden Rule stresses benevolence or the lack of it. A person accustomed to refusing help during times of hardship could use the Golden Rule to refuse to help others experiencing hardship. On the receiving side, there is practically no limit to the benefits most of us would be willing to accept from others, at whatever cost to them.

Negative Golden Rule

The negative golden rule is an improvement over the Golden Rule. As stated in Confucius' Analects:

Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state. (Analects 12:2)

With its emphasis on restraint, it cuts down on the aggressive acts which the Golden Rule enables. But it shifts aggression in the opposite direction towards asceticism.

The Ten Commandments provides some examples. "Do not worship other Gods" would compel you to accept one God. The Commandment to not covet your neighbor's wife gets into thought control. It is in law where we find the Negative Golden Rule most applicable. Laws carry penalties. Laws can be used to plunder. Laws provide the basis by which a minority can wield control over a majority.

Secondly, the Negative Golden Rule provides the justification for maintaining traditions, such as religious traditions. Whether this is good or bad depends on how much it is enforced against your will.

The nonagression axiom

The two golden rules are better then nothing at all, but they can be rationalized in favor of coercive behavior. The nonaggression axiom goes right to the heart of the matter. I first learned about this axiom decades ago in For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto by Murray N. Rothbard. The following segment was extracted from the book.

THE LIBERTARIAN CREED rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the "nonaggression axiom." "Aggression" is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synony­mous with invasion.

If no man may aggress against another; if, in short, everyone has the absolute right to be "free" from aggression, then this at once implies that the libertarian stands foursquare for what are generally known as "civil liberties": the freedom to speak, publish, assemble, and to engage in such "victimless crimes" as pornography, sexual deviation, and prosti­tution (which the libertarian does not regard as "crimes" at all, since he defines a "crime" as violent invasion of someone else's person or property). Furthermore, he regards conscription as slavery on a massive scale. And since war, especially modern war, entails the mass slaughter of civilians, the libertarian regards such conflicts as mass murder and therefore totally illegitimate.

All of these positions are now considered "leftist" on the contemporary ideological scale. On the other hand, since the libertarian also opposes invasion of the rights of private property, this also means that he just as emphatically opposes government interference with property rights or with the free-market economy through controls, regulations, subsi­dies, or prohibitions. For if every individual has the right to his own property without having to suffer aggressive depredation, then he also has the right to give away his property (bequest and inheritance) and to exchange it for the property of others (free contract and the free market economy) without interference. The libertarian favors the right to unrestricted private property and free exchange; hence, a system of "laissez-faire capitalism."

In current terminology again, the libertarian position on property and economics would be called "extreme right wing." But the libertarian sees no inconsistency in being "leftist" on some issues and "rightist" on others. On the contrary, he sees his own position as virtually the only consistent one, consistent on behalf of the liberty of every individual. For how can the leftist be opposed to the violence of war and conscription while at the same time supporting the violence of taxation and govern­ment control? And how can the rightist trumpet his devotion to private property and free enterprise while at the same time favoring war, con­scription, and the outlawing of noninvasive activities and practices that he deems immoral? And how can the rightist favor a free market while seeing nothing amiss in the vast subsidies, distortions, and unproductive inefficiencies involved in the military-industrial complex?

While opposing any and all private or group aggression against the rights of person and property, the libertarian sees that throughout his­tory and into the present day, there has been one central, dominant, and overriding aggressor upon all of these rights: the State. In contrast to all other thinkers, left, right, or in-between, the libertarian refuses to give the State the moral sanction to commit actions that almost every-one agrees would be immoral, illegal, and criminal if committed by any person or group in society. The libertarian, in short, insists on applying the general moral law to everyone, and makes no special exemp­tions for any person or group. But if we look at the State naked, as it were, we see that it is universally allowed, and even encouraged, to commit all the acts which even non-libertarians concede are reprehensible crimes. The State habitually commits mass murder, which it calls "war," or sometimes "suppression of subversion"; the State engages in enslave­ment into its military forces, which it calls "conscription"; and it lives and has its being in the practice of forcible theft, which it calls "taxation." The libertarian insists that whether or not such practices are supported by the majority of the population is not germane to their nature: that, regardless of popular sanction, War is Mass Murder, Conscription is Slavery, and Taxation is Robbery.

The Foundations of Morality

In The Foundations of Morality, Henry Hazlitt argues that the foundation of morality is social cooperation. I highly recommend this book for the way it discusses various ethical issues. I give credit to greater minds that have preceded me. Some excerpts follow.

Introduction

Ethics is not a science in which that word is applied to the physical sciences-to the determination of matters of objective fact, or to the establishment of scientific laws which enable us to make exact predictions. But ethics is entitled to be called a science if we mean by this a systematic inquiry conducted by rational rules. It is not mere chaos. It is not just a matter of opinion, in which one person's opinion is as good as another's, or which one statement is true or as false or as "meaningless" or as unverifiable as another. If by science, in short, we mean simply rational inquiry aiming to arrive at a unified and systematized body of deduction and conclusions, then ethics is a science.

The Moral Criterion

For ethics is a "normative" science. It is not a science of description, but of prescription. It is not a science of what is or was, but of what ought to be.

All our desires may be generalized as desires to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory state.

For men find that they best promote their own interests in the long run not merely by refraining from injuring their fellows, but by cooperating with them. Social cooperation is the foremost means by which the majority of us attain most of our ends.

Social Cooperation

The aim of each of us is to maximize his own satisfaction; and each of us recognizes that his satisfaction can best be maximized by cooperating with others and others cooperate with him.

The great means of social cooperation is the division of labor. The division of labor enormously increases the productivity of each of us and therefore the production of all of us.

The voluptuary's fallacy

There is no irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the individual and those of society. If there were, society could not exist. Society is the great means through which individuals pursue and fulfill their ends. For society is but another name for the combination of individuals for cooperation. It is the means through which each of us furthers the purposes of others as an indirect means of furthering his own. And this cooperation is voluntary. It is only collectivists who assume that the interests of the individual and of society (or the State) are fundamentally opposed, and that the individual can only be led to cooperate in society by Draconian compulsions.

The ascetic's fallacy

But ascetics, by a confused association, conclude that the restraint, deprivation, sacrifice, or pain that must sometimes be undergone in the present for the sake of the future, is something virtuous and praiseworthy for its own sake.

The need for general rules

It is the results of previous human experience that have framed our traditional moral rules. When the individual is asked merely to follow some accepted rule, the moral burdens put upon him are not impossible. The pangs of conscience that may come to him if his action does not turn out to have the most beneficent consequences are not unbearable. For not the least of the advantages of our all acting according to commonly accepted moral rules is that our actions are predictable by others and the actions of others are predictable by us, with the result that we are all better able to cooperate with each other in help­ing each other to pursue our individual ends.

Ethics and law

The essential requirements of law have seldom been better described than by F. A. Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty. It must be free from arbitrariness, privilege, or discrimination. It must apply to all, and not merely to particular persons or groups. It must be certain. It must consist in the enforcement of known rules. These rules must be general and abstract rather than specific and concrete. They must be so clear that court de­cisions are predictable. In brief, the law must be certain, gen­eral, and equal. "The true contrast to a reign of status is the reign of general and equal laws, of the rules which are the same for all."

As John Locke put it: "The end of the law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom.... For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others, which cannot be where there is no law."

Traffic rules and moral rules

One of the purposes of traffic rules, like on of the purposes of all law and all morals, is to learn how to keep out of each other's way.

"The problem of the law is to keep conscious free-willing beings from interference with each other. It is so to order them that each shall exercise his freedom in a way consistent with the freedoms of all others, since all others are to be regarded equally as ends in themselves.

Egoism, altruism, mutualism

What we condemn, in brief, is not the pursuit of self-interest, but only the pursuit of self-interest at the expense of the interests of others.

A society in which each worked for exclusively for the good of others would be an absurdity. The most successful society would seem to be one in which each worked primarily for his own good while always considering the good of others whenever he suspected any incompatibility between the two.

It is a confusion of thoughts to think that ethics consists of the rules that "society" imposes on the "
"individual." Ethics consists of the rules that we all try to impose on each other.

If we are to frame a workable and acceptable moral rules, we must imaginatively look at each hypothetical or real situation from all three standpoints-that of the Agent, that of the Patient, and that of the Impartial Observer. 

The problem of self-sacrifice

The antithesis so often drawn between the "individual" and "society" is false. Society is merely the name we give to the collection of individuals and their interrelations. It would be clarifying and useful, in fact, if in sociological economic, and ethical discussion we were most commonly to define society as other people.

Normally and usually the actions that best promote the happiness and well-being of the individual best promote the happiness and well-being of the whole of society.

To the extent that an overzealous or misdirected self-sacrifice tends to reduce the sum of human happiness and well-being, its value is lost or becomes negative.

Moral rules are designed precisely to promote individual interest to the maximum extent. The true contrast is between the kind of self-interest that is incompatible with the interest of others and the kind of self-interest that is compatible with the interest of others.

The ideal moral rules are those that are most conducive to social cooperation and therefore to the realization of the greatest possible number of interests for the greatest possible number of people.

Ends and means

Evil means cannot be justified on the argument that they are being pursued in order to achieve a "good" end. But the reason most of accept this adage is that we do not believe that really evil means are ever necessary or that they can in fact lead to a really good end.

Duty for duty's sake

The truth is that the mere capability of a rule's being consistently or universally followed is not in itself a test of the goodness or badness of the rule. That can be determined only by considering the consequences of following it and the desirability or undesirability of those consequences. Morality is primarily a means-a necessary means to human happiness. If we declare that duty should be done merely for duty's sake, without regard to the ends that are served by doing our duty, we leave ourselves with no way of deciding what our duty, in any particular situation, really is or ought to be.

Intuition and common sense

But if there are no moral "intuitions," how have so many philosophers, and so many other intelligent persons, come to think that there are? The reason is that most of our moral judgments seem immediate, seem to be instantaneous and made without consideration of the probable consequences of an act. But this is so because these judgments have been, as it were, built into us by the social traditions and conventions, and from our earliest infancy. They are built into the language. From its earliest days an infant hears the words "good baby" or "bad baby," "good doggie" or "bad doggie." Moral judg­ment is embodied in description, and confused with it. We absorb our moral judgments with our language.

This moral code grew up spontaneously, like language, religion, manners, law. It is the product of the experience of immemorial generations, of the interrelations of millions of people and the interplay of millions of minds. The morality of common sense is a sort of common law, and based on a practically infinite number of particular cases.

The law of nature

Taken literally, the advice is unnecessary and absurd. It is impossible to violate the laws of nature; man cannot help obeying them.

Asceticism

Deeply embedded in the Christian ethical tradition-in fact, deeply embedded in nearly every ethical tradition that rests on a religious foundation, is a broad vein of asceticism.

Asceticism when it is carried to its logical conclusion can only result in suicide, or voluntary death. No man can suppress all his desires.

The ascetic can survive only because asceticism is not obligatory upon everybody. Others must work productively so that he may live on part of what they produce.

It ascetics suppress all sexual desires, then they must depend on others to keep the human race from dying out.

All theories that insist on Virtue and Duty for their own sake are almost necessarily dreary and joyless. They place their emphasis always on self-denial, self-deprivation, self-sacrifice for their own sake, and tend to lead to the fallacy that suffer­ing, mortification, and flagellation are pleasing to God.

Free will and determinism

There is no irreconcilable antithesis between Determinism and Free Will when both are rightly understood. Determinism simply assumes that everything, including our every act and decision, has a prior cause. But it does not assert or assume that every cause or force acting on us is outside of us. On the contrary, it assumes that our own character, which we ourselves have helped to form,our own past habits, resolu­tions and decisions, help to determine our present acts and decisions, and that these in turn will help to determine our future acts and decisions. And Free Will, rightly understood, means that we are not necessarily the slaves of our immediate appetites, but are free to make the choice among alternatives of conduct that we consider most rational. We are free to choose our ends. We are free, within limits, to choose what we con­sider to be the most appropriate means to our ends. What more freedom do we really need?

Rights

Law and Right are correlative terms. They are two sides of the same coin. All private rights are derived from the legal order, while the legal order involves the aggregate of all the rights coordinated by it.

The very conception of a legal right for one man implies an obligation on the part of somebody else or of everybody else.

The term Natural Rights, like the term Natural Law, is in some respects unfortunate. It has helped to perpetuate a mystique which regards such rights as having existed since the beginning of time; as having been handed down from heaven; as being simple, self-evindent, and easily stated; as even being independent of the human will, independent of consequences, inherent in the nature of things. This concept is reflected in the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evindent, that all men are created equal, that they are en­dowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Yet though the term Natural Rights easily lends itself to misinterpretation, the concept is indispensable; and it will do no harm to keep the term as long as we clearly understand it to mean ideal rights, the legal rights that every man ought to enjoy. The historic function of the doctrine of Natural Rights has been, in fact, to insist that the individual be guaranteed legal rights that he did not have, or held only uncertainly and precariously.

The ethics of capitalism

The effect of competition is to take production constantly out of the hands of the less competent managers and put it more and more into the hands of the more efficient managers.

Competition per se is neither moral nor immoral. It is neither necessarily beneficial nor necessarily harmful. Competition in swindling or in mutual slaughter is one thing; but competition in philanthropy or in excellence.is quite another. Competition does not necessarily imply relations or enmity, but relations of rivalry of mutual emulation and mutual stimulation. Beneficial competition is indirectly a form of cooperation.

This social cooperation runs throughout the free-market system. It exists between producer and consumer, buyer and seller. Both gain from the transaction, and that is why they make it.

For each consumer, by his purchases of abstentions from purchase, daily casts his vote for the production of more of this commodity or less of that; and the producer is forced to abide by the consumers' decisions.

Social­ists are never tired of condemning "poverty in the midst of plenty." They cannot rid themselves of the idea that the wealth of the rich is the cause of the poverty of the poor. Yet this idea is completely false. The wealth of the rich makes the poor less poor, not more. The rich are those who have something to offer in return for the services of the poor. And only the rich can provide the poor with the capital, with the tools of production, to increase the output and hence the marginal value of the labor> of the poor. When the rich grow richer, the poor grow, not poorer, but richer. This, in fact, is the history of economic prog­ress.

The system of capitalism, of the market economy, is a system of freedom, of justice, of productivity. In all these respects it is infinitely superior to its coercive alternatives. But these three virtues cannot be separated. Each flows out of the other. Only when men are free can they be moral. Only when they are free to choose can they be said to choose right from wrong. When they are free to choose, when they are free to get and to keep the fruits of their labor, they feel that they are being treated justly. As they recognize that their reward depends on their own efforts and output (and in effect is their output) each has the maximum incentive to maximize his out-put, and all have the maximum incentive to cooperate in helping each other to do so. The justice of the system grows out of the freedom it insures, and the productivity of the system grows out of the justice of the rewards that it provides.

The ethics of socialism

I am going to be dogmatic at this point and say that all so-called middle-of-the-road systems are unstable and transitional in nature, and in the long run either break down or lead toward complete socialism.

Their motto is: From each according to his ability; to each according to his need.

The two parts of this slogan are incompatible. Human nature is such that unless each is paid and rewarded according to his ability and effort and contribution he will not exert himself to apply and develop his full potential ability, to put forth his maximum effort, or to make his maximum contribution. And the general reduction of effort will of course reduce the pro­duction out of which everybody's needs are to be supplied. And that each will have "according to his need" is an empty boast-unless need is to be interpreted as meaning just enough to keep alive. (Even this, as the history of famines in Soviet Russia and Communist China has shown, is not always achieved.) But if "needs" are to be interpreted in the sense of wants and desires, in the sense of what each of us would like to have, it is a goal never to be fully achieved as long as there is an acknowledged shortage or scarcity of anything at all. If "need" is interpreted simply as other people's need as estimated by a Socialist bureau­crat, then no doubt the socialist goal can be sometimes achieved.

Under conditions of equal distribution regardless of individual production, a man's output, or the intensity of his effort, will be determined not by some abstract, over-all, collec­tivist consideration but mainly by his assumption regarding what everybody else is doing or is going to do. He may be willing to "do his share"; but he'll be hanged before he'll break his back to produce while others are loafing, because he knows that it will get him nowhere. And he will probably be a little generous in measuring how hard he himself is working and a little cynical in estimating how hard everybody else is working. He will be apt to cite the very worst among his co-workers as typical of what "others" do while he slaves.

Economic life under socialism, in short, is organized on a military model.

Capitalism depends on the division of labor and on social cooperation. It therefore depends on the principle of peace, because the wider the field of social cooperation, the greater the need for peace.

Morality and religion

The belief that morality is impossible without religion has dominated the thought of the Western world for nearly twenty centuries. . Santayana satirizes the same type of argument: "It is a curious assumption of religious moralists that their precepts would never be adopted unless people were persuaded by ex­ternal evidence that God had positively established them. Were it not for divine injunction and threats everyone would like nothing better than to kill and to steal and to bear false witness."

The absolute character of religious morality has made it emphasize the sanctions of fear—the terrifying consequences of disobedience. I do not wish to ignore the fact that the greatest reli­gious teachers have laid more stress on the love of the good for its own sake. But in the latter respect they have not been different from such great philosophers as Democritus, Aristotle, or Spinoza, who regarded morality as its own reward.

Religion has made a virtue of cruelty. Bloody sacrifices of human beings to appease the gods fill the pages of history.

Cruel persecution and intolerance are not accindents, but grow out of the very essence of religion, namely, its absolute claims. So long as each religion clams to have absolute, supernaturally revealed truth, all other religions are sinful errors.

It is hard to see how religious beliefs by themselves can give any guidance to the specific moral rules that should guide us. We are brought back to the old theological problem: Religion tells us that we ought to act in accordance with the will of God. But is an action right simply because God wills it? Or does God will it because it is right. . Which, logically or temporally, comes first: God's will or morality?

Broadly speaking, the ethical precepts of the Old and New Testaments are not only in contradiction with each other in detail, but even in their general spirit. The Old Testament commands obedience to God through fear; the New Testament pleads for obedience to God through love.

The ethical doctrines of Jesus present serious difficulties. We can, in large part, command our actions; but we cannot command our feelings. We cannot love all our fellow men simply because we think we ought to.

The most powerful religious belief supporting morality, however, seems to me of a much different nature. This is the belief in a God who sees and knows our every action, our every impulse and our every thought, who judges us with exact justice, and who, whether or not He rewards us for our good deeds and punishes us for our evil ones, approves of our good deeds and disapproves of our evil ones.

There is no doubt that decay of religious faith tends to let loose license and immorality. This is what has been happening in our own generation. Yet it is not the function of the moral philosopher, as such, to proclaim the truth of this religious faith or to try to maintain it. His function is, rather, to insist on the rational basis of all morality, to point out that it does not need any supernatural assumptions, and to show that the rules of morality are or ought to be those rules of conduct that tend most to increase human cooperation, happiness and well-being in this our present life.

The Law

The Law by Frederic Bastiat is an excellent 75 page booklet on law and morals. The book can also be read on the web. This is a sample.

The Complete Perversion of the Law

But, unfortunately, law by no means confines itself to its proper functions. And when it has exceeded its proper functions, it has not done so merely in some inconsequential and debatable matters. The law has gone further than this; it has acted in direct opposition to its own purpose. The law has been used to destroy its own objective: It has been applied to annihilating the justice that it was supposed to maintain; to limiting and destroying rights which its real purpose was to respect. The law has placed the collective force at the disposal of the unscrupulous who wish, without risk, to exploit the person, liberty, and property of others. It has converted plunder into a right, in order to protect plunder. And it has converted lawful defense into a crime, in order to punish lawful defense.

Final thoughts

The term "pecking order" describes the hierarchy among birds based on aggressive pecking in which the most dominant bird out pecks all others, the second most dominant bird out pecks all the others, and so on down the hierarchy. Human society is structured according to pecking order.

At the top of the human pecking order is the nation-state. With organized police and military to support it, it has a monopoly on the use of force. Ideally, it is a necessity to protect person, property and liberty. In practice it has been the source of the world's worst evils: war, plunder and persecution.

How did it get this way? Most people do not believe that power is evil when employed by States. They condemn common criminals. They condemn the imaginary power of free-market capitalism. But they glorify their State. I'm going to make an amateur psychologist assertion that State power brings a sense of vicarious power and belonging. The same psychology applies to religion, where true believers get a sense of fulfillment in 'knowing' somebody powerful is looking after their welfare.

Power draws persons to a particular religious faith and political ideology. With power comes aggression. They feel more of a sense of power as their cause becomes more powerful. This is what I believe leads to wars and persecutions.

To think of oneself as an independent individual requires an ability to tolerate a certain amount of isolation. I am me-period. Most cannot do it, even when they have a satisfying social life.

Whether or not this is going to change in the distant future does us no good in the here and now. I take the position that evil cannot be reduced unless there is a critical mass of people who recognize it. Until that day comes if ever it does, awareness increases our sensitivity to it. It gives us more time to protect ourselves and we don't contribute to it. In this way we can contribute to reducing it.

End