Saturday, June 13, 2015

All Men are Created Equal

It came to my attention during a discussion not long ago that the context of the phrase may have been lost.

The person I was speaking to, not an American, pointed out the obvious: All men are not created equal. Her example was that the son of a prostitute was not at all equal to the son of a doctor. True, except in one regard; we are all created with unalienable rights given to us by our Creator (see previous post for my use of Creator).

At the time that the Founders proclaimed our independence the civil rights regime of every society that I know of was based on God's direct relationship with the various monarchs extant then. The religion practiced by the monarch did not appear to matter. The structure was always the same.You have heard, I am sure, of the Divine Right of Kings. Further, the rights of his subjects were mostly comprised of the rights he chose to confer on them. For the most part they could be given and taken away at the whim of the monarch. (Until after WWII for example, the Emperor of Japan was believed to be the son of god.) There were some exceptions, the Magna Carta, for example, but not many.

For the first time, as far as I know, the American system disengaged the monarch and put the people, all of them, in direct relationship with their civil rights. The first time, ever.
In this respect, and this respect only, were the Founders asserting the equality of men. This was an incredibly revolutionary assertion.

The then existing institution of slavery does not, in my opinion, invalidate their assertion. At that time those who condoned the practice did not consider slaves human. That they were wrong is beside the point. At that time women were generally not considered the equal of men. That they were wrong is also beside the point.

In their context, in their time, the views they held were commonplace. That they were not as enlightened as we are today is entirely predictable and irrelevant. In case it has gone unnoticed, we evolve. Were it otherwise our creation would have been accompanied by the invention of cars, planes, telephones, modern medicine and personal computers. 10's of billions of us lived and died during the thousands of years that humans were such slaves to our needs and environments that there was no time for meaningful innovation.

When did that state of being change dramatically? The Industrial Revolution and the soon to follow establishment of the United States of America, where all men are created equal and a reliable rule of law, not the whim of monarchs, governs. At the time, the only such place on Earth.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why We Have Rules

I have written often about human nature. It is obvious to me that any policy or political philosophy that ignores human nature is bound to fail. How do we know what human nature is?

Its most objective definition is actually stated in the reverse, in my opinion. That definition is the 10 Commandments. After all, who, if not The Creator, would be in a better position to evaluate the character of characters he created.

The first four command us not to do what we naturally do; extol ourselves. These commandments then posit that left to our own unchecked preferences we would all insist that we are god and prefer our own rules to those laid down by others. Thus, the other, laying down the rules must be far more powerful than mere mortals. You can  use your own experience to evaluate the success of the first four commandments.

The fifth commandment instructs us to honor our parents. I'm guessing that whoever wrote this commandment had noticed that children, particularly teens and young adults, routinely consider their parents to be complete idiots and often treat them accordingly. The author was likely the parent of more than one of these offensive beasts.

Later in life parents tend to become a burden to their children. Another appropriate time for the application of the commandment in an effort to ensure that the children, no longer young, are sufficiently afraid of other-world complications that they will abide by the injunction. You can use your own experience to evaluate the success of the fifth commandment.

Numbers 6,7 and 8 tell us what god thinks is part of our nature but commands that we not succumb to our nature and; murder, commit adultery and steal. Considering the current pace of murder, divorce and theft it looks to me, once again, as though The Creator knows his customer. Given the astonishing rate of incarceration and divorce in this country, it seems, once again that he understands our character.

Number 9, "Thou shalt not bear false witness..." points to the fact that many of us are liars. That is apparently so basic and pervasive a human trait that any important document tells us that we must swear that we are not lying.

It is so basic a feature in fact that several words and phrases have been developed to be used to persuade our friends, absent a sworn declaration to the contrary in support of the veracity of our assertion, that we are not lying. These words and phrases include, "frankly", "honestly", "to be perfectly honest", "to tell you the truth" and so on. Don't ever use them.

Number 10 addresses covetousness. As we have all observed humans are extremely jealous creatures. Disastrously so in many cases.

So, our Creator, the bible tells us, for reasons left completely unexplained, decided to create a bunch of creatures who:
1) Have little respect for anyone but themselves;
2) Treat their parents like crap;
3) Murder, steal and commit adultery;
4) Lie constantly; and
5) Live lives fueled by being jealous of their fellow men.

That is the judgment of human nature according to the 10 commandments. Although I refer to god and The Creator, I do so for convenience only. It is clear to me that there is no god and that some other method of creation produced us. Imagine the spectacular idiocy of knowingly creating a group that you know in advance will be severely flawed. Ridiculous. Whoever the authors of the old testament were, they were simply creating a blueprint for socialization using a bogey man as their weapon for forcing compliance. Not a unique tool. Every religion created before and after Judaism proceeds similarly.

The lesson here is that we cannot create policies and/or political philosophies that rely on honesty, respect, fair dealing or selflessness and expect them to succeed without the simultaneous application of severe penalties for transgression.

The spectacular abuse of every social program in this country is evidence enough to prove this point.

Socialism fails at every turn because it must rely on an absence of covetousness to succeed. Can not happen. Capitalism works because it appeals to our true nature. Covetousness, for example, is rewarded if it is accompanied by hard work. Of course, there are those who choose to substitute murder and/or dishonesty for hard work and are also rewarded. The Mob, for example.

So conduct yourselves accordingly. Plan for those you interact with to be liars and cheats if they can get away with it. Your planning will protect you from many of the usual human behaviors. Ronald Reagan may have said it best: Trust but verify. A few moments of thought will lead you to the conclusion that this phrase actually restates, politely, a very old saying: I don't trust him as far as I can throw him.