Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Is Morality "Natural," or was it "Invented?"

Here's another question for you: Why do most humans avoid killing, stealing, telling lies, and breaking promises? In other words: why are most of us moral agents? There are basically three competing hypotheses. All three assume that morality is ultimately a brain activity.

The "Good-Natured Hypothesis" (GNH) argues that beginning in the Pleistocene era, (3 million years ago) biological evolution (natural selection and sexual selection) endowed us with a "natural" set of mental mechanisms that facilitate living in small, cooperative groups. Some of these mechanisms are "rational" (located in the outer layers of the brain) some are "emotional" (located in the outer layers of the brain). Despite these mechanisms, it's also obviously true that, today, some of us modern humans still act like Chimpanzees, that is: kill, steal, lie, and break promises? (The question of whether Chimpanzees are good-natured or bad-natured is open to debate.) In fact, some human groups are literally "infected" with immoral behavior: organized crime syndicates, some inner-city neighborhoods, and the Afghan military and police forces. How do these infestations of immorality take root and how can we "cure" them? Based on the GNH, there is a "mismatch" between slow-paced biological evolution (genes) and fast-paced cultural evolution (ideas). If we want to "restore" natural communal cooperation, we need to cure those cultural viruses (bad ideas) so our good nature can shine through again.

On the other hand, the "Bad-Natured Hypothesis," argues that biological evolution has endowed us with a set of mental mechanisms that promote self-interest, predation, and "dog-eat-dog" competition. Cooperation, they argue requires a degree of altruism, which is naturally limited to within families and kin groups. These "selfish genes" tend to impede the formation of cooperative groups, so if we want to improve communal cooperation, we must overcome our bad nature via cultural evolution (good ideas). Our "bad nature" is most clearly evident in the universal persistence of human warfare, murder, theft, lying etc. Despite our best cultural efforts, major parts of the world remain locked in intractable warfare (think: Israelis v. Palestinians, drug lords v. drug lords, democrats v. republicans). Based on the BNH, morality is unnatural, in the sense that it is the product of cultural evolution, or ideas. In other words, at some point in human history, human beings "discovered" that we can overcome these selfish genes via teaching and learning. Imagine the revelation: "Hey you all, listen up...if we really work at it, we can resist our natural impulse to kill, steal, lie, and break promises. Then we can reap the benefits of living in large cooperative communities. Just think: We can free ourselves from incessant hunting and gathering and buy our food at Kroger. No more warfare either! In short, despite our bad nature, we really can 'get along!' "According to the BNH, when we revert back to our "bad nature" all we have to do is develop cultural institutions that can keep them in check, things like: educational institutions, criminal justice systems, political parties etc.

So the "Good-Natured Hypothesis" says that morality is primarily the product of biological evolution, and the "Bad-Natured Hypothesis says that morality is fundamentally the product of cultural evolution. The third hypothesis, which I call the "Good and Bad Natured Hypothesis," GBNH is a hybrid of both, with many variations. Here are two variations.

GBNH Variation #1 argues that human beings have two sets of genetically programmed brain mechanisms. One set constitutes our good nature (genes for: intelligence, reciprocity, feelings of sympathy, etc.); the other our bad nature (genes for: stupidity, predation, lying, cheating, stealing, etc.). Although the good nature mechanisms for cooperation within families tend to be more powerful than the mechanisms cooperation between strangers, both are at least possible. But there's really not much we can do about it, other than discover how those brain mechanisms work and perhaps re-program them via genetic therapy, drug therapy, or maybe brain surgery. Hence, "You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours" can only be enhanced by increasing serotonin and reducing testosterone levels within specific populations either via eugenic programs, drug therapy, or by brain surgery (most likely targeting the limbic system).

GBNH Variation#2 argues that although we have both "good" and "bad" brain mechanisms, we can increase the manifestation of good mechanisms by deliberately altering the environment in which we live. For example, we could move out of those large cities into smaller kin groups of about 150, make sure there enough healthy food to go around (but not too much!), and keep cooperative human males engaged in good groups (such as: schools, churches, sports teams, police and fire departments) and away from bad groups (such as: gangs, organized crime, the military, and the banking industry).

Now here's that initial question again! Are human beings "good natured" or "bad-natured?" Are those "natures" the product of biological evolution, cultural evolution, or both? What, if anything, can we do individually or collectively to maximize our "good nature" (if there is one) and minimize our "bad nature" (if there is one)? As soon as I figure it all out, I'll post in on this blog. It could take a while...

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merit v. Need: The Libertarian Response

Well what do libertarians say about distributive justice and the conflict between the material principles of fairness, especially merit and need. First, let me reinterate my usual disclaimer. There are many different forms of libertarianism that range from the far-right to the middle-left on the political spectrum. I can't cover that whole spectrum in a blog. But I can sketch in one basic line of argument.

In general most libertarians view "Fairness" in the context of the rules that govern competition; call it procedural justice. Competition is fair if and only if everyone plays by the same rules. For example, the game of baseball is "fair" to the extent that the rules apply equally to everyone that plays the game: "Three strikes, you're out!." Now, suppose the number of strikes afforded each player varied based on need. "Ron White is coming up to bat for the Cincinnati Reds. He's 60 years old, near-sighted, cross-eyed, has a stigmatism, and poor hand-eye coordination. So out of fairness, the umpire decided that Ron "needs" 11 strikes." Now would that be fair? Well, Joey Votto might argue that it's unfair to him because he was only afforded 3 strikes. On the other hand, Ron might argue that Joey comes to bat armed with a set of "natural advantages" that he doesn't deserve; natural attributes like: youth, uncanny vision, extraordinary hand-eye coordination, and the ability to concentrate on hitting the ball with runners on base. He also comes to the plate with years of practice and experience. Call it merit. While Joey was practicing hitting, Ron was reading and teaching philosophy. So if Ron and Joey were afforded three strikes each, regardless of their natural and acquired abilities, Joey would win the batting title and Ron would win the strikeout title. However, if Ron were given 11 strikes and Joey 3, Ron would argue that it's only fair based on need.

Now here's the problem. Why would Ron choose to compete in a game where the existing rules are stacked against him? If he chose to give up his teaching job to tryout for the Cincinnati Reds, and didn't make the team whose fault is it? Ron might argue that the rules of baseball discriminate against the elderly and/or the visually impaired. Joey might argue that giving Ron 11 strikes discriminates against Joey. After all, it's not Joey's fault that he's younger than Ron, has better eyesight, and better hand-eye coordination. So how do we go about resolving this apparent conflict over fairness between merit (allowing Joey to benefit from unearned attributes) and need (allowing Ron to benefit from the lack of those attributes)?

There are many different ways to look at this. I would argue that the Cincinnati Reds are the property of the owners of the team. If they want to bench Joey and let Ron play first base and hit third, it's their team. But who would choose to watch a baseball game where incompetent hitters are given 11 strikes? (The game is already slow enough!) Even though Ron agreed to a salary of a mere $100,000 a year, the nature of the game would shift from exhibiting merit to exhibiting need. No one would come to the games and MLB would go bankrupt. So barring any court ordered affirmative action, Ron's dream of becoming a Cincinnati Red has been thwarted by the rules of the game, and Joey Votto is likely to earn millions of dollars. But now we have Ron, who gave up his teaching job to pursue a career in Major League Baseball, and is now unemployed. Should he be able to draw unemployment? He bought new glasses and still spends all day in the batting cages practicing his swing and contacting other teams for an opportunity to tryout. But they refuse to even let him tryout! Should Ron get himself a lawyer and sue MLB for discrimination based on merit? What do you think? Is baseball a micrcosm of life or is it something else? Are natural attributes distributed more or less equally, even though they are highly variable? Is it up to us to choose occuptions that match our natural attributes? If Ron gets his teaching job back, would it be fair to pay Ron less than Joey? After all, the only basis for his merit is his ability to hit a ball, but he can only do it 33% of the time?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Struggle for Fairness: Merit v. Need

The question of how to effectively employ the powers of the state to bring about a Fair Society is the "bread and butter" issue of all social and political philosophers. There are two underlying distinctions that cloud our understanding of the distribution of benefits and costs among humans: natural distribution and social distribution.

First of all, Nature provides all of us with a set of natural advantages and natural disadvantages that affect how we we fare in a Darwinian world. As John Rawls noted, these advantages and disadvantages are distributed based on a "natural lottery," which is partly genetic (lucky draw of genes) and partly social (lucky draw of parents and society). Given that nature "distributes" these advantages and disadvantages randomly, it's hard to argue that any of us "deserve" our current economic status. In other words, Mother Nature is not fair, because she blindly stacks the cards either in our favor, against us, or both. Therefore, social and political philosophers on the left, like Karl Marx and John Rawls, argue that the purpose of government is to use the coercive power of government to redistribute benefits and costs. Since merit (adaptive attributes such as high IQ and good looks) and need (maladaptive attributes such as low IQ and ugliness) are distributed unfairly, leftists argue that the purpose of government is to redistribute the fruits of the natural lottery. Call it: economic security.

So how do we go about this social redistribution process? Well, Aristotle identified four material principles of fairness: merit (the best get the most), need (the neediest get the most), equality (everyone gets the same), and utility (the distribution that affords the "greatest happiness for the greatest number"). Aristotle, a natural law theorist defended meritocracy, where all social structures are designed to make sure that the advantaged get the most and the least advantaged get the least: "the best get the most and the worst get the least." Any society that varies from this standard is unfair. He argued that the needs of the least advantaged are to be met by the virtuous acts (beneficence) of the meritocrats. But if neither merit nor need is deserved, neither is virtue." Not only did my parents pass on bad genes, they also failed to teach me virtue!" Therefore, how can I be held morally responsible for robbing that Quicky Mart last week? After all, I needed the money and the owner of the that store that I robbed inherited that successful business, along with a high IQ and good looks. So he didn't "deserve" that money, either.

Rawlians and Marxists solve this merit v. need struggle by using the coercive power of government to take a certain percentage of the store owners income and giving it to me, so I won't have to steal it in order to meet my needs. Marx (and B.F. Skinner) dismissed private property all together and argued that all goods are social goods, and therefore ought to be redistributed equally by a panel of government experts. Rawls argued that the most advantaged ought to be forced to contribute to a "basic safety net" or provide a social minimum to protect the least advantaged. Rawls, therefore, allows the most advantaged to prosper, but only as long as the social distance between the rich and the poor either diminishes or does not increase. The rich cannot get richer, if the poor get poorer as a result of a natural distribution.

So the common strategy employed by left-wing Marxists and Rawlsians is to use the power of government to eliminate or lessen the consequences of natural inequality. Now what do right-wing libertarians say about all this? Well, they present a long list of counter-arguments. Next time, I'll sketch in a few of them. Stay tuned.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Complexity and Central Planning

Another bone of contention between socialists, conservatives,  and libertarians centers of the political implications of natural complexity. Here's heart of the issue: If Nature is a vast network of complex adaptive systems conditioned by unpredictable emergent properties, then what are the implications for public policy? In general, there are two political options: the political LEFT and RIGHT embrace "central planning," based on their stated political agendas; while LIBERTARIANS defends "de-centralized planning."

Beginning in the twentieth century, a variety of philosophers and scientists began to develop a systems ontology, which identified "systems" as the basic units of ontic reality. Typically, systems theorists differentiate between macrosystems (the Amazon Rain Forrest) and microsystems (species and organisms that live in the Amazon Rain Forrest), non-living systems and living systems, relatively simple, closed systems, and more complex open systems. Complexity spawns emergent properties that are explicable (in terms of systems theory), but are inherently unpredictable and uncontrollable. To make a long discussion short, most biologists agree that even the simplest living organisms exhibit enormously complexity and that ecological systems like the Amazon Rain Forest are exhibit infinite complexity via interacting open living and non-living sub-systems. Enter the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers... To what degree should we "trust" the ACE to redesign our natural ecosystems, especially wetlands?

If human communities are comprised of a number of at least two infinately complex human brains networked together in an infinate number of interacting networks (communities); and, if the behavior of those macrosystems (neighborhoods, cities, states, nations etc.) is influenced by what happens in the microsystems (neurons, brains, human organisms, and families), and if what happens in the microsystems is shaped by what happens in the macrosystems, and what happens in BOTH are influenced by what happens in other systems in the environment, then what are the political ramifications?

Central planning implies a Newtonian interpretation of Nature that assumes that Nature is ultimately a complex"clocklike" mechanism that can be fixed and/or redesigned by "engineers." They argue that since the world is a mechanism (closed system) that can be fully described in terms of deterministic laws of nature, once we discover these laws we'll be able explain, predict, and control all aspects of human nature.

Most behaviorists are Newtonians, but argue that we really don't have to know exactly what goes on within the human brain to predict and control human behavior. All they need to know are systemic inputs and outputs. But the underlying premiss is the same for all Newtonians: human behavior is ultimately explicable, predictable, and controllable, once we discover the deterministic laws that govern human behavior.

De-Centralized planning is based on a Darwinian interpretation of Nature, where unpredicatable emergent properties at the micro-cosmic levels (genes, organisms, species) condition organization at the macrocosmic levels (ecosystems). Beginning in the late 19th century, philosophers like Charles Sanders Peirce, began to seriously question whether complexity is merely a reflection of our ignorance of the true laws of nature, or whether there's an irreducible element of chance in the universe. Today we know that the human brain is an enormously complex system comprised of many identifiable, interacting subsystems. We also know that when these brains get together and form complex networks we create communities and cultures that exhibit mind-bogglingly complexity. If brains and networks of brains generate mind-boggling complexity, what can we say about economics?

Classical, Neo-Classical, and Keynsian economists are Newtonians. Darwinians (that accept the metaphysical assumption that Nature is conditioned by a degree of chance) reject the Newtonian assumption that Nature is ultimately a deterministic closed machine describable in precise mathematical calculus, and by implication they also question the human capacity to re-engineer or re-design Nature from the "Top Down." This is the underlying theme of Austrian macro-economic theory as described by Mises and Hayek.

So here are the basic ontological issues. Are the laws of nature that describe human genetics and economics ultimately like the laws that govern the movement of the planets in our solar system, or are those laws qualitatively different? If we knew the precise laws of Nature that underlie human brain activity, would we be able explain, predict, and control individual human behavior, community behavior, and cultural behavior with the same same degree of accuracy as we can explain, predict, and control the boiling of water? And, if we "could" someday redesign Nature, does that mean that we can do it now, and does that imply that we "ought" to do it? If so, what "ends" ought those re-design efforts pursue? Now there's a homework assignment for you! Have fun.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Living Wage

Another bone of contention between libertarians and welfare liberals is the idea that all workers "ought to" be paid a "living wage." What might that entail?

Beginning with Plato but mostly with Aristotle, philosophers have acknowledged two different kinds of principles: formal principles and material principles. Untangling confusion between these two different kinds of principles accounts for about 2500 years of the history of philosophy. Aristotle distinguished between the formal principle of justice ("Treat equals equally and unequals unequally") and the various material principles of justice (merit, need, equality, social utility). Everyone agrees that the formal principle captures the essence of what we mean when we say "X is fair" or "X is unfair." The formal principle captures the "idea" of justice. The material principles of justice are basically the principles that human beings living in the "material world" employ to decide how the formal principle applies to the distribution of social goods. Thus, when we say "X is fair" we "really" mean that it's fair based on one (or more) of the material principles. So, if you own a corporation and want to pay your workers "fairly," you will have to specify a material principle.

Suppose you decide that you decide that you want to pay your workers a "fair wage," how would you proceed? Well, the formal principle says that morality requires adhering to the formal principle and at least one specific material principle. Aristotle thought social goods "ought to be" distributed based on "merit." In a fair society, "the best get the most," regardless of need, equality, or utility. Egalitarians would pay everyone the same salary, regardless of merit, need, or utility. Welfare liberals would base salaries on need, and would ignore merit, equality, and utility. So suppose we decided that every corporation in the United States must pay their employees based on "need," or what welfare liberals might call a "living wage," what might that entail?

Well generally, a living wage entails paying your workers enough to meet their basic needs, which requires a material distinction between needs and wants. Needs are often associated with "a positive right to life," which implies a duty to provide a wages sufficient to cover things like: food, clothing, and shelter. In the United States today we'd probably include a right to health care, retirement, disability insurance, and unemployment insurance. But let's forget all that for now, and just focus on food, clothing, shelter, and maybe transportation. Let's tackle a hypothetical case study.

White Widget Inc. employs 10 workers. Ron want's to provide all of them at least a "living wage." He just now hired George, who has sole custody of five children. How would Ron set that initial pay scale. Well, he'd be morally required to provide enough wages to feed his family. How would Ron calculate how much George needs to feed his family? Should he go to Kroger and figure out how much it would cost to provide meals a week? Let's assume, that Ron wants George's family to be healthy so he decides to pay him enough for him to buy a daily portion of chicken or fish, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Let's say it costs $3 per meal x 3, or $9 per day per family member, or $54 a week per family member, x 6 family members or $324 a week.
For the sake of argument, let's assume that George's family already has enough clothes. What about shelter? If Ron want's to pay enough for shelter, how much would that entail? Should Ron pay enough to rent a house or buy a house? Should every member have their own room? Let's say Ron is generous and pays enough for George to rent a six bedroom house for $250 a week. Now, unfortunately that house is 10 miles from the widget factory, so George will need transportation. Let's say that the house is on the bus route and the ride costs $2 a day x 5 or $10 a week. So right now that living wage stands at $584 a week or about $14 an hour. But wait...three of George's kids are under 5 years old and need day-care. But George lucked out and found a neighbor that would watch his this kids for $40 a week, a real bargain. So Ron decides to pay George $13 an hour to sweep the floors at White Widget Inc.

Now George goes to Kroger and spends $500 on frozen pizza, ice cream, Coca Cola, chips, Hostess Twinkies. Then he goes out and buys a new Toyota Camry for $25,000 so he doesn't have to ride the bus, and decides to send his two older children to a private school for $10, 000 a year each. And of course, George also starts buying $100 worth of lottery tickets a week. Now George can't pay his rent.

So if Ron wants to pay George a "living wage," how much a week should Ron pay George? Mary, a much more productive worker, also gets paid a "living wage" but lives within her means. Should Ron pay George more, less, or the same wages as Mary?

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


One of the fundamental points of contention between libertarian and socialist philosophers is their views on "The Market." As a philosopher, let me try to clear away some of the noise that impedes rational discussion.

First of all, the term "market" is ubiquitous. Everyone likes to talk about it but they are rarely talking about the same thing. I'm one of the few philosophers that "hangs out" with economists, so I've obviously been influenced by them. However, even economists often fall prey to ubiquity. So here's my philosophical analysis based on what I've stolen from philosophers and economists.

More than anything else "markets" are the natural consequence of scarcity. Our lives are finite. Although there are 24 hours in a day, I usually sleep 8 hours out of that which means I have 16 hours a day to "do things." The average lifespan of the average American is about 78 years old. My genes suggest a shorter lifespan for me. Thus, every day I have to deal with this "time market," which means I have to decide how to spend the rest of my life. Right now I'm writing a blog entry. There are costs associated with that decision. I could spend this time preparing for a meeting one hour from now, grading exams, or playing guitar. In other words there are "opportunity costs" associated with me writing this blog. You are reading this blog. There are other things you could be doing with your time. That's why I appreciate the fact that you're reading it! After all, there are thousands of other bloggers on the Internet. You could have spent this time reading their blogs, watching television, or taking a walk. Taken together, there is a "blog market" where us bloggers compete for readers with finite time, energy, and resources. I sell Freedom's Philosopher on that market, you bought it. No money was exchanged, but you bought it with "time and effort." No one forced you to read it, and no one forced me to write it so here we are participating on that free market. I also read several blogs on a regular basis and spend time and energy commenting on those blogs. Writing and reading blogs is a form of cooperation.

My blog also participates in another market. The market of "ideas." Since the nineteenth century, philosophers have been participating in an "extended" market across several generations comprised of competing "ideas." My blog ideas usually relate to the nature of government and it's role in human affairs, however, I also expend time and energy thinking about and writing about health care policy. In fact, my mind is a marketplace of competing ideas. Right now I'm thinking about markets. My blog competes with, not only with other libertarian blogs, but also with Marxist and anarchist blogs. The beauty of the Internet (as it currently exists in the United States) is that the "idea market" can thrive. No one forces us bloggers to blog and no one forces you to read them. Consequently, there is a lot of variety on the Internet, which is a huge marketplace of ideas. (It's also a great place to buy books and guitars!) Unfortunately, you can't read every blog on the Internet market because of the natural scarcity of time, energy, and resources. If I spend too much time writing and reading blogs, my wife will get mad at me and my students will complain that I'm unprepared for class. In fact I have to end this blog right now and go to that meeting. I wonder if anyone will notice that I didn't prepare for it?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Evolutionary Epistemology

Let's talk metaphysics. There are two longstanding strands of metaphysical inquiry: ontology (inquiry into the basic elements and forces that constitute the universe); and epistemology (inquiry into what we can know about the universe and how we can know it.) Materialism attempts to reduce epistemology to "material things" such as brains, neurons, molecules, or atoms. Idealism atempts to reduce epistemology to "mental things" such as feelings, thoughts, memes, beliefs, theories or in more recent parlance "information." Hence, contemporary ontologists that embrace complex adaptive systems theory as a monistic theory, and thereby avoid Cartesian dualism (and the mind body problem) reduce reality to either matter (and/or energy) or information. Now the most fundamental question of metaphysical inquiry is whether scientists can develop a freestanding ontology that explains the nature of information; or whether ontology presupposes epistemology. Evolutionary epistemologists like Peirce and Popper argue that knowledge of Truth and Value (the primary targets of epistemology inquiry) evolve based on variation and selection. What is the evidence? The history of individual and collective belief systems.

Individual minds and collective minds accumulate beliefs over time whereby old beliefs compete with new beliefs. Hence, the metaphysical beliefs that currently occupy my individual mind have survived 60 years of variation and selection. Many of those beliefs are collective beliefs that I've replicated from previous cultures, I've also replicated other cultural beliefs that have emerged more recently, such as systems theory. I hope that some of my individual metaphysical beliefs get replicated by the larger community of scholars that study evolution. Of course, Darwins' beliefs have been replicated across many different scholarly disciplines: evolutionary biology, evolutionary psychology, evolutionary ethics, and evolutionary politics. Before Darwin, Aristotle ruled the roost! All of those scholarly disciplines are comprised of individual minds that share new beliefs and old beliefs (information) within networked groups. Beliefs that survive competition between old and new beliefs are deemed True.

Peirce argued that the basic elements of "The Fixation of Belief" are the feelings of belief and doubt. Of course, today social psychologists and neuropsychologists generate theories that identify the various mechanisms that underlie those processes. They write scholarly papers and books hoping to "sell" those beliefs (literally and figuratively) to scholarly communities and/or the community at large. But all human communities are generally hostile to new ideas, just like Nature is hostile to most genetic mutations. Peirce argued that humans (individually and collectively) literally "love" their beliefs and want to share them with others. But fast-paced, full-blown, sustained intellectual revolutions within large communities of networked minds are pretty rare. Most intellectual revolutions (individual and collective) are slow, incremental, and temporary. After all, we all prefer to bask in the truth of our beliefs and seek to avoid the unpleasant feelings of doubt. In fact, most full-blown scientific (intellectual) revolutions take place only after the minds (and bodies) of the defenders of the previous theories die off. Inexplicably, there are still a few members of the Flat Earth Society, Klu Klux Klan, and Nazi Party. As long as they don't force the rest of us to join their groups, or harbor their beliefs they will eventually suffer extinction.

I "love" the theory of libertarianism. I belong to to several groups that share those beliefs, including: the Independent Institute, Institute for Humane Studies, and the Reason Foundation. We don't all agree on everything. Some libertarians are anarcho-capitalists (reject all government) and some are minarchists (reject big governmment). Because we all tend to hang out together, especially on the Internet, we do not always subject ourselves to other new beliefs that might raise doubts about our old beliefs. A real libertarian deliberately embraces variation of belief and is even willing to defend the rights of welfare liberals and Marxists in an "Open Society." Evolutionary epistemology requires a free market of beliefs, and therefore defends free inquiry more than any one set of beliefs. The ultimate Truth emerges out of what Peirce called the evolutionary process of "Human Inquiry," what Popper called "Conjecture and Refutation," and what Hayek called the "Extended Order."

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Scientific and Moralistic Positivism

How can we know what's True and/or what's Good? Philosophers call this area of inquiry epistemology. There are two untenable theories: positivism and constructivism. Positivists argue that human beings can know timelessly universal scientific and/or moral facts, which correspond to reality. A statement is true if it corresponds to the facts. Correspondence is detemined based on a verification process. Hence, positivists argue that "if X is true, than it's true in all times and all places." And/or, "If X is good, it's good in all times and all places." And of course, we all seek these timelessly universal "True Beliefs," and when we think we've got one, we arduously embrace those "facts." A world of timelessly universal facts is highly coveted, but profoundly naive. The other untenable epistemological theory is called constructivism, which argues that Truth and/or Goodness are manufactured by sociopolitical forces. Hence, our beliefs are are relative to time (historical relativism), or place (cultural relativism). Most constructivists are either historians or sociologists. So are there epistemological theories that avoid both positivism and constructivism?

Most libertarians embrace evolutionary epistemology as proposed by Charles Sanders Peirce and Karl Popper. The basic idea is that our individual and collective beliefs evolve over time based on variation and selection. Hence, they reject the verification process in favor of a falsification process, or "creative destruction." Why? Because we can never know when the verification process is over (the problem of induction). How many experiments must we conduct before our theory is finally verified. Peirce and Popper, therefore argued that, although we cannot know the Truth, we can know what's False. Therefore, when we say "X is true," what we're really saying is that "X hasn't yet been falsified." The goal of human inquiry is to dethrone false theories. Over time, our individual and collective beliefs get closer to the Truth, but never achieve finality. So what are the social implications of evolutionary epistemology?

Scientific and moralistic positivists typically claim unqualified authoritative dominion over others based on what they "know," that is "The Truth" and/or "The Good." Finality: it's over! "I know the Truth or the Good, and you don't. I'm the ultimate authority, therefore, you must submit to that authority and bestow up me, the social privilages that I deserve." Libertarians, resist the temptation to coronate timelessly universal "experts." Expertise is inexorably fallible, but not necessarily socially constructed. Libertarians, therefore, question both scientific and moral authorities. Why? Because they forge monopolies.

Theories and experts become authoritative when they dominate any given market. The sellers of theories profit most when their theories gain monopolistic status, which can be achieved via either persuasion or coercion. Theories become natural monopolies when they explain, predict, or control phenomena better than other competing theory and therefore attract a critical mass of buyers based on emotive and/or rational persuasion. Artificial monopolies attract and maintain buyers not by persuasion (emotion or reason) but by coercion, which usually prevents exposure to falsification. Thus there is a difference between "selling" theories of Truth and Goodness within a competitive market of ideas and "forcing" others to buy those theories. The most efficient way to establish an artificial knowledge monopoly is to deploy the coercive power of government via the criminal justice system, which often protects artificial monopolies. That's how theories become ideologies and scientists and moralists become ideologues: by using their enhanced sociopolitical status as justification for exercising coercive force over non-believers. Both Science and Religion can easily fall into the hands of ideologues.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The "Is" and the "Ought"

As I wind up my research on Leadership Ethics I have become more convinced of the centrality of the distinction between facts (is) and values (ought), and how they are related. As social psychologists continue to uncover the mental mechanisms that comprise our "moral psychology," it becomes increasingly evident that we still do not really know what to make of these scientific truths. Here are the basic questions: How does empirical knowledge about mental mechanisms elucidate everyday moral problems? If we knew all of the "facts" that underlie our moral feelings, thoughts, and behaviors, would we also know all of the "values" that ought to guide us? Before we get started, let's clear the air of two fallacies. The naturalistic fallacy says that "facts" determine "values" and that empirical knowledge alone elucidates knowledge of moral goodness. The moralistic fallacy says that knowledge of "values" (moral facts) trumps knowledge of "facts" and/or that "facts" are merely values in "disguise. Most moral psychologists deny that either the naturalist fallacy or the moralistic fallacy is a fallacy. So how does libertarianism approach the is/ought distinction?

First of all, thoughtful libertarians like Karl Popper, F.A. Hayek and myself (;D) deny that there are (in fact) either scientific facts or moral facts. The word "fact" carries with it an aura of finality: "We know the Truth, therefore, we must act on it. If it's True, it's True forever." Libertarians argue that knowledge of facts and values is highly fallible and therefore must be subjected to constant revision. Why? Well, because scientists, like everyone else, are prone to make mistakes and/or succumb to the influence of power structures. Science and ethics, therefore, are about establishing a self-correcting system that uncovers both factual errors and value-errors wrought by ideological corruption. The early libertarians were the first to attack the scientific positivists and the moral positivists by insisting on continued inquiry, even when scientists and moralists insist that they've got it right. That means that thoughtful libertarians are reluctant to bestow unquestioned authority on either scientists or moralists. We are not skeptics or cynics. Our allegiance is not to particular scientific or moral truths but to self-correcting epistemic processes that weed out error and ideological contamination of what's presented as unassailable scientific and moral facts. How does all of this work? I'll have to cover that later. I have a class in 10 minutes and a stack of essays to grade before I can do much else.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Nationalism v. Globalism

Check out my friend Peter Corning's most recent blog entry on "Fair Trade" on his FAIR SOCIETY blog and my comment.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What is Happiness?

Aristotle's philosophy is based on two naturalistic principles: centrality and hierarchy. Both play a key role in his theory of happiness. Both are empirically dubious and tend to undermine personal liberty.

For Aristotle, everything in nature has a goal or purpose. Excellence of anything, therefore, refers to the fulfillment of function or purpose. What end or purpose do all humans pursue? Aristotle argues that happiness is the supreme "end" of all human action. Humans have three kinds of souls: vegetative (appetitive), animal (spirited), and human (rational). We are qualitatively superior to other species because of the presence of that "higher" rational soul. Thus we have the basis for over two thousand years of anthropocentrism. And unfortunately, Aristotle never empirically verified the existence of these three souls. They are really explanatory constructs. Today we know that these functions (along with many other functions) are performed by our brains and spinal cords. But anyway... Aristotle attributed our human nature to this "higher" rational soul. Like Plato, Aristotle argued that in the sphere of human action, the function of that "higher soul" is to control the other two "lower souls."

Aristotle was also intellectually infatuated with the "middle" or "centrality." Everything good, naturally, resides in the middle. Hence, the earth must be the center of the universe. Moral virtue, therefore lies midway between the vices of excess and deficiency. Thus the "Good Life" is one of moderation in all spheres of deliberate human action. When faced with fear, the virtue of courage is bordered by both foolhardiness and cowardice. Then, Aristotle goes on to identify many other spheres where virtue might be exercised. Virtue is also contextual. Again, doing the right thing requires you to "do it" at the right time (not too early, not too late), at the right place, and right degree (not too much, not too little.

So everything that we deliberately pursue aims at the goal of happiness. Unfortunately, not everything we pursue actually leads to happiness. We all make mistakes by going after the wrong things, at the wrong place, and/or wrong degree. (But that doesn't necessarily disprove his general hypothesis.) He argues that there are three main ways that humans pursue happiness, or the "Good Life:" a life in pursuit of pleasure (experience), a life in pursuit of honor (military), a life in pursuit of wisdom (contemplation). For now, let's focus on the pursuit of pleasure. Aristotle, distinguishes between the experience of higher and lower pleasures. Unfortunately, he wrongly believed that only humans are capable of experiencing the higher intellectual pleasures. Higher intellectual pleasures are qualitatively and quantitatively superior to lower pleasures, which are the products of our "lower" nature. Thus, if we never experience higher pleasures we are not fulfilling our higher purpose, and therefore are not really happy. Even if we believe we're happy! I suspect that Aristotle would say that the vast majority of humans do not live happy lives, even though they believe they are happy. After all, most humas are not capable of living happy lives because they lack either the natural intelligence or the moral training to be virtuous. Three final caveats: First, it is natural (and good) for "virtuous people" to rule. Second, you cannot be the judge of your own happiness. It requires third-party verification. And Third, happiness can only be predicated over a lifetime, therefore, a happy life can only be identified by third parties after you're dead. Thus young people have only the potential to be happy. But if you are 21 years old and still lack moral virtue, that potential is rather low. And, of course, it's natural (and good) for old people to rule over young people. (Right now I won't go into his idea than men ought to rule over women and animals.)

Aristotle is challenging for any libertarian. Why? There's a lot of good, old-fashioned common sense! He's obviously right in affirming that we're rational animals that live in cities. It's also probably true that a life of moderation is more likely to contribute to at least a long life. But then, most of us acknowledge that many "good lives" are posthumously valued because they have been cut short. However, libertarians are obviously concerned with his propensity to defend natural social hierarchies, which tend to concentrate power in the "upper classes." Overall, there is no necessary reason for a libertarian to reject virtue-based ethics. After all, it's your life. However, we are concerned with your political views, especially if seek to set yourself up (and/or your cronies) in that "higher" social status, and rule over the rest of us.

My next blog entry will delve deeper into the question of whether happiness requires third-party attribution by outside experts, and whether that determination must be post-mortem.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Happiness: Introductory Remarks

I use the Freedom's Philosopher blog to develop libertarian theories that address important issues in social and political philosophy. I recently tried my hand at leadership. I thought it would be worthwhile to explore the question of "happiness." I'm in the process of re-reading Aristotle's NICOMACHEAN ETHICS for my course on Human Nature, and I'm reading Sissela Bok's new book, EXPLORING HAPPINESS. In a few days I should be ready to embark on that endeavor. I'll probably address three main issues raised by Aristotle, which are also covered by Bok. What are the basic theories of happiness that have been offered by philosophers? Can we know whether we are happy or not without input from others? And, what is the relationship between morality and happiness? The next three blog entries will tackle these basic questions.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Legality and Morality

Prescriptive human inquiry explores the basis for normative human behavior guided by "norms." Philosophers often distinguish between two spheres of normative activity: "legalty" and "morality." Political philosophy focuses on how organized societies employ these two alternative means of social control. Liberal societies tend to rely more on on morality, communitarian societies tend to rely more on legality. Let's sort out these two basic concepts a little bit.

Individual human beings are planners by nature; that is, we are goal-directed animals that have the ability to deliberately alter our present behavior in order to bring about a preferable future state of affairs. Social psychologists argue that although we are capable of altering our own goal-directed behavior for the sake of the future, we're not very good at it, and therefore we tend to live more in the present or near future. (There are evolutionary reasons for this that we explore later.) Living in social groups requires placing limits on at least some forms of individual behavior. All groups employ the use of painful disincentives (or sticks) and pleasurable incentives (or carrots). Legality and morality represent two different ways that societies and social groups to use those sticks.

Legality enforces rules, primarily, by punishing rule violations with painful dinincentives. Historically, societies have used physical pain (whipping), killing (hanging), deprivation of resources (fines), and incarceration (jail time). The degree of punishment has always been set in proportion to seriousness of the rule violation (or crime): "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." The rules that are monitored and enforced by any given group, reflect the values of the central planners. The Taliban's recent execution (by stoning) of a young couple for elopement, reflects the "value" that it places on the rules that govern marriage. The United States government still imposes longer sentences for drug offenders that use "crack cocaine" than for "powdered cocaine." (Don't ask me why!) Legality is obviously enormously complicated. Justice requires that rule violations must be deliberate, and therefore enforcers must decide the degree of voluntariness involved in the rule violation. Individuals that are declared "incompetent" are given lighter sentences, or placed under the control of psychiatrists rather than prison guards or executioners. The laws themselves are written by "lawmakers," in an obscure language that only lawyers can understand (sometimes they can't even understant it!), which means that questions of guilt or innocence are shaped by credentialized lawyers and judges, who control the processes of criminal justice. Some laws are so vaguely written that it's difficult if not impossible to decipher the lawmakers' original intent. Old laws are especially problematic. The courts generally rely on tradition to resolve these vague cases by referring to previous "legal precedents." In the end, judges and juries decide matters of guilt or innocence and the degree of punishment. Of course, the more laws that are being enforced, the more difficult it is for individuals to know what's illegal. And finally, most societies have processes by which convicted rule-breakers can appeal to another judge or jury. We can go on-and-on...but the point here is that legality is one way that human beings enforce rules that shape social behavior.

Morality is different. First of all, morality (by definition) is not enforced by any one single centralized entity: otherwise it becomes legality. Morality naturally arises from personal and group relationships. In it's purest form the rules of morality spontaneously emerge out of specific social contexts. We praise good behavior and blame bad moral behavior. Blameworthy behavior is discouraged by public sentiment, and not by physical threats to person or property. Public sentiment can be applied in various ways such as "labeling" the person that violate the rules, labels with negative connotations such as: whore, cad, tight-wad, drunk, or addict. Sentiment also includes punishing violations by individually and collectively treating that person as less valuable than others, including the practice of "shunning." The specific rules of morality tend to be rather stable because they get locked into bodies of tradition via teaching and learning. In fact, many individuals justify moral rules based on tradition alone: "We've always done it that way." But over the long run, moral rules evolve based on variation and selection. In the United States we do not regard having children out of wedlock as immoral or ilegal, although we do not think its very prudent. We certainly don't stone them. The advantage of relying on morality to insure social cohesion is that it does not require the formentioned expensive legal institutions: policemen, lawyers, judges, prison guards, and executioners. A moral society is "self-organized."

The nature of any society is based how much morality is monitored and enforced via legality. Minarchist libertarians, like myself, seek to limit the sphere of legality to harm to persons or property. Hence, limit legality to controlling murder, theft, and fraud. Communitarian societies tend to monitor and enforce much of their moral codes via the coercive power of legality, including . In countries like this, the legal codes become enormous, and the costs of monitoring and enforcement rise proportionately. One sign of a society that relies primarily on legality is the size of their police force,judiciary, and the number of lawyers. We can also look at the number or prisons and/or executions (for non-violent crimes). Now when groups are organized based on legality, members obey the law based on "fear of getting caught." Therefore, in groups that have many laws, but don't have enough policemen, those laws are routinely violated. My personal view is that a "Good Society" or "Good Social Group" is one that limits legality to monitoring and enforcing laws against harm to others. Why? Because legality interferes with the natural evolution of morality. I'm glad we don't stone young couples that want elope any more, but I am concerned that the Drug War marches on, even though most of us are concerned with the exponential growth of police forces and the inordinate amount of time spent on drug crimes. One consequence of using the police to enforce legal moralism is that the police rarely catch murderers, rapists, thieves, and frauds; and jails and prisons are all full of junkies. No room left for real criminals. Go figure.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Experts and Imperfect Information

In my previous blog, I suggested that the Gulf Oil Spill is has been polluted by a surge of experts. Since I already discussed a libertarian stance on leadership, I thought it might be worthwhile to take a closer look at those "experts."

First of all, leaders and experts have a lot in common. Both enjoy the social privileges associated with authority and both gain those privileges via a maze of socio-political construction. So what is an "expert?" Well, today the process of gaining expertise is a lot different than it was in the past. On the other hand, let me suggest that all societies in all times and all places produce experts and that the processes employed are very similar. At the cultural level, the first experts were probably religious experts that claimed to possess knowledge of the will of God. More recent experts claim to know the will of Nature. While we'd all like to say that there's a major difference between experts on religion and experts on nature, I'd argue that there's more commonality than difference. The most obvious commonality is that expertise has always been conferred by a public institution of some kind. Religious experts are coronated by religious institutions and scientific experts are coronated by scientific institutions. Today, scientific expertise is contingent upon the completion of a series of tasks and the acquistion of a technical language that signify membership in the community of scientific experts. FThis entails attending a college or university that confers documents that confer expertise. Once you complete this series of tasks (usually four years) you must undergo a ceremony of initiation. These ceremonies exhibit highly ritualized speech and behavior that involve costumes, music, documents and a gallery of witnesses comprised of family and friends of the conferees. These pompous ceremonies are conducted by old experts that have already completed these rituals. Near the end of the ceremonies, conferees are awarded their official documents, which signal the acquistion of expertise. These documents are usually prominently displayed on a wall where the expert sells his/her expertise. Once this document is secured, the new expert joins an association, which has its own rituals and mode of communication.

It is important to note that throughout human history the vast majority of conferers and conferees of expertise have been men. Although, in recent years, many females have entered the brotherhood of experts, they tend to be experts in areas involving the "care" of other humans; especially in primary education, health care, and social science. But there are still very few female experts in physics, mathematics, engineering, or religion. In recent years there has been an overall surge in the number of female experts, as the number of males that complete the ritual declines. How that plays out over the long run remains to be seen.

Now there are two different kinds of experts. First, there are experts that acquire "perfect information" over the course of their ritual. The hallmark of the acquisition of perfect information is that it leads to the ability to effectively predict or control something of value. An expert in mathematics can accurately add, subtract, and multipy numbers; and expert in engineering can build a bridge. This kind of expertise is easily demonstrated so if your mathematical calculations are wrong or if your bridge falls into the river, your expertise may be questioned, despite the possession of the document displayed on a wall. Occasionally, the conferers of expertise withdraw their expert designation and remove the document from the wall of the conferee. But not very often. In fact, the higher the level of expertise attained, the less likely it is that you'll lose that document.

The second kind of expert, claims possession of "imperfect information." These experts are usually held to a much lower standard, given that the phenomena that they predict and control are more complex and therefore there is less consensus among the conferers of expertise as to what the expert will be able to predict or control after the document is conferred. The most noteworthy experts on imperfect information are in religion, philosophy, social science, medicine, theoretical physics, macro-economics, and ecological science. The hallmark of experts on imperfect information is that it is more difficult for them to publically demonstrate their expertise and even more difficult to disprove their expertise. Therefore, experts in imperfect information primarily demonstrate their expertise by producing documents that other experts in their association occasionally read and criticise. Fortunately, publication of these documents is sufficient to maintain expert designation, even if no one understands or even reads those documents.

Finally, it is important to note that experts on imperfect information, rarely if ever, admit that their information is imperfect. But instead, they claim to possess perfect information. Since their bridges never fall in the river, and their oil wells rarely pollute the waterways, these kinds of experts tend to enjoy a high degree of job security. Therefore, in the near future we can expect an increase in the number of experts on imperfect information. We can also expect more falling bridges and oil spills.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Speculation and the B.P. Oil Spill

I've been thinking about the B.P. "Oil Spill" lately. As is the case with most complex human events, we can anticipate a rash of speculation on its short-term and long-term consequences. Of course, the global media has been rife with speculation, as experts line up to give their official assessments. What will happen to the ecology of the gulf? What will happen to the fishing industry? What will happen to the tourist industry? What will happen to BP? In light of this speculative frenzy, I thought it would be worthwhile to add a few speculations on the nature of "speculation."

First, a few observations. The art of speculation is a direct consequence of the evolutionarily-based human need for us humans to predict and control our natural and social environment. In fact, we only use the word "speculate" when we are dealing with the uncertainty wrought by complex events. Generally, long-term speculations are more prone to error than short-term speculations. We speculate as individuals and in groups. Speculation within groups is often, but not always, marked by the absence of consensus. And finally, in our culture we tend to "believe" and "trust" the speculations of experts; that is we are more likely to "act upon" the speculations of credentialed authorities. That's why news media outlets seek out speculators that hold advanced degrees in biology, engineering, economics, and law. The hallmark of group-based speculation in the twenty-first century is the ability of experts to market their speculations via the mass media and attract large numbers of believers and non-believers. In modern times, the most authoritative speculators are scientists.

Our desire to predict the unpredictable has spawned a vast speculative industry, where individuals and corporations earn hefty paychecks by marketing their speculations. Now rational humans want to act on the basis of reliable information, therefore, we must try to distinguish between variable degrees of reliability of expert speculators and the information they convey. Individual and corporate experts have track records; that is, the accuracy of previous speculations can be an important in deciding who to trust. Unfortunately, experts usually do not often disclose their track records, and therefore, you may not be able to determine their reliability. Some experts are more prone to speculate than others. Because speculation only takes place under conditions of complexity, some sciences generate more speculators. Economists are probably the most speculative.

Now back to BP. Many rational persons living on the Gulf coast have to act based on imperfect information offered by speculative experts. Will the oil slick affect their livlihood? Should fishermen move operations to another area? Should they stay put and draw unemployment and/or draw from the BP relief fund until future becomes less clouded? Should fishermen change occupations, go to college and become credentialed speculators and earn a living predicting unpredictable events and/or teaching the science of speculation? As a credentialed speculator (with a rather dismal track record), I would offer the following speculation. Given our innate human desire to know the unknowable and the ability of credentialed speculators to market their speculations via and ever-evolving media technology, I would speculate the speculating industry and the industries that support that industry (colleges, universities, media, etc)have a very rosy future.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Leadership Theory and Biology

I posted a blog entry on the APLS Blog on "Leadership Theory and Biology," where I argue that Leadership Studies has a long history of ignoring biological research. Check it out. click here

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Leadership and Self-Organization

In my previous blogs, I've been arguing that our society relies too much on social organization based on leadership and followership. I also suggested that: we have too many leaders, we unjustly praise and blame them for the successes and failures of others, we over-pay them, and bestow way too much media exposure upon them. So what's the alternative? My answer "self-organized social systems."I'll be the first to admit that this sounds fishy. Let me try to clean out the fish tank a bit.

First of all, I am not advocating anarchy. We humans are social animals, and therefore, we will always "organize" ourselves in order to achieve various ends by via various means. Hence, human organizations are irrevocably teleological (goal-directed). Libertarians argue that long-term survival of any organization is contingent upon functionality: the ability to achieve its goal. Moreover, I also fully acknowledge that our natural instincts propel us to play "following the leader." My argument is simply that this leader-follower organizational structure doesn't work anymore. What's the alternative? Self-organization. So what would this alternative system look like?

Let's start off with a few empirical observations concerning the nature of ALL human organizations. 1.) All organizations emerge out of complex human social interactions. 2.) Historically, they are organized on the basis of leadership and followership. 3.) All organizations emerge and adapt to changing environments, and eventually suffer extinction. 4.)Over the course of an organization's finite lifetime, leaders influence followers and followers influence leaders. 5.) Over an organization's lifetime, sub-organizations emerge that seek change either organizational ends, means, or both. 6.) Organizations are also influenced by other external organizations within their environment. Some are cooperative some are competitive in the quest for members and/or resources. In other words, ALL ORGANIZATIONS ARE COMPLEX ADAPTIVE SYSTEMS. Human organizations differ from other natural systems insofar as they can be either self-organized (from the bottom up) or leader-organized (from the top down).

Now what are self-organized systems? Self-organized organizations lack a master-control mechanism. The best example of a self-organized system is an ecological system. Because no one controls what's going on at the lower levels, ecosystems can easily adapt to environmental change via variation and selection. For human organizations, adaptation is contingent upon the ability of members to freely enter or exit that organization; that is join, maintain membership, or quit. All organizations cooperate with and/or compete with one other for members and resources based on information provided to members and non-members relating to ends and means. Rational human beings do not join an organization, if they don't know (Trust) what it does or how it does it.

Organizations that cannot maintain membership and/or resources must either revise their organizational ends or means in order to survive. Mother Nature "creatively destroys" organizational dysfunctionality, if-and-only-if, members are rational and are free to enter or exit. So why are there so many dysfunctional organizations? Dysfunctional organizations can extend their lives by short-circuiting the process of "creative destruction." There are three manifulative strategies: threats, enticements, and disinformation.

Many, if not most human organizations are leader-organized from the top down where followers are simply manipulated by leaders. How? Human beings are naturally attracted to pleasure and repulsed by pain. We prefer pleasure and fear pain. Thus, the most common strategy for propping up dysfunctional organizations is to either threaten (pain) members with coercive force or offer an enticement (pleasure). Organizational survival based on threats is obviously contingent upon the ability of organizational leaders to carry out those threats. Another, related strategy is to use physical barriers such as walls or fences that control entry or exit, which must deal with tunnels, aircraft, and ships.

Dysfunctional organizations can also survive by offering enticements, which attract and retain membership transactionally; that is, by giving (or taking away) something members value. The Robin Hood Strategy involves taking away the property of some members and giving it to other members. The problem here is how to take from the "haves" without them exiting the organization, and how to decide how much to give to the "have nots." One effective strategy is to disquise both the identity of the beneficiaries and the contributers.

But the most common strategy for maintaining dysfunctional organizations is to control the flow of "information" within the system and outside the system. Informational control involves manipulation of the beliefs of members (and or non-members) by deliberately obscuring or disguising organizational means or ends: propaganda or ideology. Organizations also tend to disguise information relating to actual benefactors and beneficiaries; usually by disguising costs and/or benefits of being a member. For example, you might be a member of group that you believe is committed to achieving praiseworthy goals (save the whales) via praiseworthy means (exposing the impending extinction of the species), but later discover that this organization uses its resources to support terrorist activity in Afghanistan. Of course, (in the absence of coercive force) if and when this information is exposed, most whale lovers head for the exits and other potential whale lovers look for alternatives. Unfortunately, whale lovers that support terrorism might choose to remain and new terrorists might also join.

Now, here is the crux of my argument. There are two different kinds of organizations: private organizations and public organizations. Public organizations survive or suffer extinction via the use of legalized threats, enticements, and disinformation. Private organizations survive or suffer extinction without the benefit use of LEGALITY. This is not to say that dysfunctional private organizations are by definition non-transactional or less ideological than public organizations. Many are coercive (think gangs). But their use of coercion and manipulation is limited by competition with other organizations. In other words, it is much more difficult for private, voluntary organizations to survive because we naturally prefer voluntary over-non-voluntary organizations. Two caveats: 1.) We don't always exit organizations that threaten or seize the property of others, therefore, organizations are often threatened by external organizations. 2.)Sometimes more powerful organizations intervene on behalf of members of other organizations.

Nevertheless, over the long run, private, non-coercive, voluntary organizations tend to be more adaptive. Mother Nature punishes organizations that employ coercive force or tell lies. So again, why hasn't this behavior been weeded out by creative destruction? Non-voluntary organizations survive by controlling the flow of energy and information within and between organizations. The cultural evolution of weaponry and information technology tend to undermine creative destruction of dysfunctionality. Survival, therefore, becomes contingent upon weaponry and media access. Thus competition is shifted from the ability to attract and keep voluntary members to the ability to effectively employ coercive force and tell lies. This accounts for the rise and durability of nation states as the dominating political entity in the world today. Generally speaking, there are very few "failed nation states." All nation states are more or less coercive, anthough their methods vary significantly. All employ propaganda. Coercive organizations that can raise and maintain an army and/or control information can survive.

So what does all this say about leadership and followership? Modern organizations that rely primarily on the ability of leaders to attract and maintain followers via threats, lies,or transactions, are doomed to fail; especially in environments where members can avoid threats, detect lies, or resist payoffs. Libertarians argue that we must guard ourselves against coercive and deceptive organizations. Anarcho-capitalist libertarians argue that this requires the dismantling of the nation state. Once this is done, they argue, creative destruction will purge the world of aggression and theft. I'm not quite that idealistic. Minarchists, like myself, argue that we need a degree of monopolized coercive force (government) to protect voluntary organizations from coercive force and deception. Although anarcho-capitalists and minarchists disagree over the MEANS of protecting self-organization, we at least agree that the process must be protected. We also agree that "good organizations" embrace moral rules against aggression, theft, and lies; and that, over the long-run, modern organizations that are not open to the forces of "creative destruction" find themselves on "The Road to Serfdom."

Throughout most of human history, human organizations have been held together by fear and lies. Although that worked well enough for most of human history, it will not work any more, unless we want to revert back to Pleistocene life styles.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Libertarian Leadership Theory and the Flow of Information, Misinformation, and Disinformation

So far, I've been arguing that we have a biological and cultural bias that over-values "leaders," and therefore, we tend to grant them too much authority over our lives and over-pay them relative to what they actually contribute to human organizations. If I'm right, the obvious question is: "How did this tradition become entrenched in Western culture?" My answer is that it has a lot to do with the nature of information and how it flows (or does not flow) within and between organizations.

All evolutionary systems exchange energy and/or information. The precise nature of the relationship between energy (or matter) and information is puzzling. DNA is matter that conveys information. And all information is processed by our brains. Does that mean that all information is "really" matter? Does materialism win out. Let's not talk about that right now. Let's just assume that it makes sense to talk about information apart from its material substrate. One thing we do know is that the concept of information is front-loaded; that is, we use the word "information" only in contexts where we believe that a statement is true. Hence, we have other words that we employ in different contexts. For example, misinformation is information we once believed to be true, but subsequently turned out to be false under evolutionary pressure. Call it the process of "creative destruction." Evolutionary epistemologists argue that this process of falsification is endless and that we get closer to the "Truth" over the long run, but never really arrive at absolute truth. Species never reach their final evolutionary state either. Why? Because physical and cultural systems constantly change under pressure from internal sub-systems and external systems. So far, we've looked at the concepts of information and misinformation. Although there are a few epistemic puzzles, they seem pretty straightforward. The real problem for cultural evolution is "disinformation" (sometimes called propaganda or ideology). Disinformation emerges out of the exercise of power within hierarchical social structures. Plato called it the "Noble Lie," where the Philosopher King deliberately tell lies to followers (populace) in order to provide a "greater good." Plato was no dummy, he also recognized that leaders often lie out of self interest.

So here's the rub. When followers allow leaders to control the the flow of information, what is to prevent those leaders from telling "ignoble lies, to benefit themselves at the expense of everyone else? Plato argued that leaders must be virtuous (good, wise, temperate, and courageous etc.) and that the capacity for virtue is mostly inherited, and can be undermined by dysfunctional social structure. Hence, for Plato "good leaders" are more likely to arise in "republics," and less likely to emerge in military governments, oligarchies, democracies, or under tyranny. Today, we believe that we can teach our future leaders these virtues (at least to a greater extent). My thesis is that when leaders have the power to control the flow of information in order to advance the public good, three problems arise: they wrongfully mistake information for misinformation. No problem there, we all make mistakes. Even President Obama! A second problem is that they make a mistake in identifying the public good, or mistake private good for public good. That's more serious. The most serious problem arises when leaders take either information or misinformation and transform it into disinformation in pursuit of either self-interest or the interests of their friends and relatives. In the private sector we call it "crony capitalism." It's a serious disease that infects all complex modern societies.

My hypothesis is that most human organizations are knee deep in disinformation promulgated by self-interested leaders. Let's call it the "Enron Effect," where leaders skillfully manipulate the flow of information within their organizations and between organizations. As a result, leaders can attract and maintain a critical mass of followers by skillfully controlling the flow of information. The more complex an organizations internal institutions and the more complex the legal structure, the easier it is for leaders to manufacture Truth. Even when we catch them in the act of lying, we rarely hold them responsible. Why? Because of our biologically and culturally based reverence for leaders. In the modern world we really have to be more critical followers and abandon bad leaders; or better yet, let's just refuse to engage in most followership.

My libertarian theory of leadership suggests that leaders that operate within hierarchical social structures take advantage of the increasing complexity of human organizational life by generating disinformation that protects themselves from competition, increases their power, and ultimately the size of their wallets. In other words, the complexity of modern life has undermined the liklihood of virtuous leadership and that before we can advance as a modern society, we have to abandon our unbridled faith in heroic leaders and move more toward self-organized social structures that allow for the free flow of information within and between organizations. Of course, that means I'll have to explain what I mean by a leaderless, self-organized social system. I'll try to do that in my next blog.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Libertarian Theory of Followership

Because of our biological and cultural programming, researchers continue to focus on male-dominated "heroic leadership" with little regard for the facts and values associated with followership. So first of all, let's clear the air. There are no leaders without followers and there are no followers with out leaders. Therefore, our obsession with freestanding leaders and our relative disregard for followership is itself is worthy of explanation and commentary! Second, let's also admit that if there are better and worse leaders (in terms of both effectiveness and morality), there are also better and worse followers. And third, let's admit that (for better or worse), over time, leaders influence followers and followers influence leaders; that is, leaders and followers adapt to their organizational environments. Fourth, organizations, leaders, and followers are all influenced (for better or worse) by other organizations in their environment. And fifth, sometimes organizations, leaders, and followers cooperate in pursuit of their respective goals and sometimes they compete. If this sounds complicated, you're right!

Now a libertarian theory of followership is a prescriptive or moral theory based on aforementioned facts. So what are the necessary conditions for ethical followership? Obviously, libertarianism requires that followership be voluntary. I like John Rawls' term "voluntary association." Hence all organizations must include freedom of exit. Why? Because sometimes powerful leaders threaten to use lethal force to prevent followers from exiting non-voluntary organizations. And of course, sometimes followers employ lethal force to remove leaders. (Assassination of leaders by followers is embarassingly common and probably unique to humans and chimpanzees.) This also suggests that sometimes followers care more about organizations than they care about their leaders, and sometimes (perhaps more often) they care more about their leaders than their organizations. In so far as libertarians take the non-aggression axiom seriously, the use of lethal aggression to remove leaders can be employed only in self-defense. Otherwise, we are morally required to exit dysfunctional and/or immoral organizations. Although the "heroic theory" of leadership and followership would label this strategy as cowardly, or effeminate, it works; economists call it "creative destruction." Remember, there are no leaders without followers. There are, however, self-organized, leaderless organizations. More on that in a subsequent blog.

Sometimes followers follow leaders based on false or misleading information. My next blog entry will attempt to sketch in how the flow of information within and between organzations influences the survival and extinction of organizations and why libertarian followers must be wary of misinformation and/or disinformation diseminated by leaders.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Leadership, Culture, and the Market

A few of my libertarian friends have been "beating me up" on Facebook for some of what I said about leadership in my last blog entry. I'm just beginng to formulate what I'd call a "Libertarian Theory of Leadership." Let me see what I can salvage. First of all, I've been teaching a graduate course on Ethical Issues in Organizations for many years and I'm working on a bibliographical essay on Ethical Leadership this summer. It's interesting stuff! Most of the recent research penned by social scientists either seeks to identify the individual traits that constitute leaders; or understand the social dynamics between leaders, followers, and other stakeholders. Philosophers, tend to look at the conceptual dynamic: What exactly do we mean when we label someone as "leader," "follower," a "good leader" or "good follower?" For most of us leadership resembles pornography: "We know it when we see it." For philosophers that not enough.

We do know that we humans have a universal propensity to socially organize ourselves based on leadership and followership. We first experience it on the playground in grade school, where certain kids "take the lead." As I stated in my last essay, that's natural. We still exhibit that behavior because it facilitated the passage of human genes across generations. My take on it? Social organization based on hierarchical structures with powerful leaders perched at the top, "worked" during the Pleistocene era, but not in complex modern society. It "worked" in in small hunter-gather societies because one "leader" could know enough to facilitate group survival. Hence, the genes for leadership and deferential followership facilitated human survival. Unfortunately, we still have those genes. The genes for hierarchical leadership tend to follow the Y chromosome, that is some males have the natural impulse to "take charge" and most everyone else has the natural impulse to follow that leader. Followers also tend to willingly bestow authority upon leaders; that is we allow them to make individual and collective decisions for us. Followers also tend to "value" leaders more than followers, and therefore we willingly shower them with social privileges that most followers do not enjoy: more sex, more food, more resources etc. Again, I think this is all natural. But it's no longer good. My basic argument is that libertarians must be wary of our natural inclination to coronate leaders and shower them with special privileges. That's how we succumb to totalitarian leadership.

Now back to my contention that today we have too many leaders and that our culture tends to over-pay leaders. Let's see if I can salvage this idea. Let's say that like everything else, leaders are subject to market forces and therefore they are subject to market fluctuations. Call it the leadership market. Philosophers are experiencing the lower end of that business cycle right now! I think that leaders are now about to face that same downturn. Because of the widespead availability of information, we now are coming to the realization that our leaders are not Godlike (omniscient and omnipotent), that they are fallible, and that we pay them more than they are worth. In short, a market correction is now underway. (Ask President Obama!) As a libertarian, I think this is a good thing. Throughout most of human history leaders have been generally given a free pass. They've been able to control information, competition, and even control entry and exit from leadership positions. They've often used government to protect their lofty positions. Interestingly, when we discover leadership chicanery, we say: "Oh, he's not a real leader!" What's going on there?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Libertarian Theory of Organizational Leadership

I've been thinking about what a libertarian theory of organizational leadership might look like. Libertarians often rant and rave about leadership, but rarely present anything that resembles a general theory rooted in libertarian principles. Here's my modest start.

First of all, humans, like many of species of living things, live in organized groups. Human beings and chimpanzees seem to be especially prone to the formation of "organizations" controlled by dominance hierarchies with coalitions of males perched at the top, with one "alpha male" serving as leader. Organizations, therefore are comprised of complex relationships between "leaders" and "followers." Hence there are no leaders without followers, and no followers without leaders. All human organizations are created to serve some purpose. Thus all leaders lead toward the realization of some future end or goal. Although human beings create and dissolve organizations all the time, most scholars seem to focus on certain kinds of organizations: political organizations, military organizations, and business organizations. The central question of leadership studies is whether there are general laws of nature that apply to all organizations, regardless of their purpose; or whether the laws of nature are relative to specific kinds of organizations that pursue specific goals. In short, are there laws of leadership and followership that apply equally to all organizations? Are the leaders of corporations, terrorist networks, baseball teams, and rock bands (in fact) all subject to the same a set of universal laws? My current view is that there are very general laws of nature that explain, predict and control the behavior of all human organizations. But that will require an argument.

My observation is that all organizations involve relationships between leaders and followers. Over time, as human relationships became more complex under pressure from rapid cultural evolution, most notably in Western nations. Again my understanding of social anthropological findings is that early human social organizations were dominance hierarchies led by an alpha males. But leadership was based on demonstrated competence. No one Alpha made all the decisions. As long as humans lived in small groups this "worked" very well. However, as the sizes of human organizations increased, the efficacy of these dominance hierarchies diminished. Although many large human organizations are still organized based on rigid dominance hierarchies, these organizations often survive but rarely flourish. There are still many nations led by military dictatorships headed by leaders that are viewed in otherworldly terms; that is, omnipotent and omniscient. Many corporations are also still led by iron-fisted CEOs. However, my theory of organizational leadership is that large scale organizations require a different kind of leadership. Actually, Machiavelli noted the difference between a principality (single leader) and a republic (multiple leaders). Large scale republics are more likely to floursh than large scale principalities. Admittedly, many large scale principalities do "survive" for a long time, but they cannot flourish. Why because large scale social organization require the free flow of information and resources. Now, several hundred thousand years ago, leaders could know everything the group needed to survive.Today, it is impossible for the President of the U.S. to know everything about health care, banking, or oil drilling. The President of Toyota can't know how to engineer an automoble from scratch, and college presidents can know how to teach every course on the curriculum. Successful modern leaders cannot be omnipotent and omniscient, therefore, its naive to expect them to be. Obama can't know how to fix the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. I's nonsense to expect him to "take responsibility for it." All that does is support our misguided that our leaders must be God-like, which explain why we no longer "trust" our leaders. Effective leaders of modern large scale organizations facilitate the flow of information and resources within their organizations; and forge useful coalitions with other external organizations. That does not require omnipotence or omniscience and it certainly does not warrant multi-million dollar executive pay. Any libertarian theory of leadership will argue that we need less powerful leaders and a lot fewer of them. Finally, if leaders are responsible for maintaining the flow of information and resources, then they are responsible removing forces that interrupt that flow. Therefore, although I do not hold Obama responsible for the oil leak, I will hold him responsible for maintaining inflexible governmental bureaucracies that do not fulfill their official purpose. Good leaders fire irresponsible subordinates and dissolve dysfunctional governmental agencies. Let's start with FEMA,EPA,and he U.S. Coast Guard.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Public and Private Unions

My friend David inspired me to write about public unions. My views are rooted in my longstanding adherence to voluntary association moderated by competition.

Human beings are social animals that have the natural capacity to organize themselves into groups of other like-minded, self-interested humans. We certainly associate ourselves with a wide variety of groups. Like all groups labor unions are the manefestation of this natural capacity to form cooperative groups to advance individual self interest. The libertarian stance on labor unions requires adherence to the principles of voluntariness, non-aggression, and competition. Therefore, unions, like any other voluntary associations must be subject to "creative destruction," which is nature's way of weeding out group dysfunctionality and inefficiency. When a union ceases to advance the self-interest of it's members, or if another union does a better job of advancing those interests at a lower cost, that dysfunctional and/or inefficient union loses members to its competitors and becomes extinct. If a union does an extraordinary job of serving the interests of its members, it may temporarily achieve monopolistic status; at least until its competitors figure out how to compete for members more effectively by offering superior functionality more efficiently. However, unions, like other voluntary associations, often develop survival strategies that have nothing to do with serving members more efficiently. The most common strategy is to employ coercion or the threat of coercion to force new members to join the union and/or prevent old members from abandoning the union; thus undermining voluntariness, non-aggression, and competition. And of course, the most sure-fire way to maintain dysfunctional unions is to employ the coercive power of government to control entry and exit.

Originally, unionization arose as a natural counter-balance to the growth of private corporations, which at least in theory, are also subject to creative destruction. However, since the 1960s, there has been a growing movement toward public unions; that is unions that are formed in order to meet the wants and needs of those who are employed by government. As agencies of government gradually displaced private corporations, unionization was gradually introduced into the public sector; most notably, in the areas of public education and postal service. So what's the libertarian stance on public sector unionization? Well, most of us libertarians oppose governmental encroachment into the private sector, therefore public sector unions border on absurdity. Other than relying on that reductio ad absurdum argument, what else can be said about public unions?

First of all, public sector monopolies are by their very nature immune from competition, which explains why public education and postal service have remained low quality and inefficient for so long. Public unions contribute to low quality and inefficiency by protecting workers from competitors via controlling union entry and exit, and by preventing the formation of competing public unions. Note that the salaries of public workers are paid for via coercive taxation, and that public officials are less than frugal when they spend tax other people's money. Therefore, we end up with a growing public sector workforce, protected by non-competitive unions that reward incompetency with non-competitive salaries and benefits. And of course, this devolutionary process ultimately leads to public spending deficits, increased taxation, and inferior public services.

Some misguided libertarians argue that public unions ought to be illegal. But I would argue that what we really need to do is to get back to limited government, or at least regulate both the public and private realms by enhancing competition rather than stifling it. My prediction would be that if left to the impersonal working of creative destruction, both public and private unions would eventually become extinct. And, where unionization is justified, competing private unions would drive public unions out of business. In short, libertarians must eschew all artificial monopolies, including both corporations (corporate welfare) and unions (union welfare). But we can't simply deploy the coercive power of government to prevent the formation of unions or any other voluntary associations. That's just another indirect expedition on that road to serfdom.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Road to Serfdom: Part 4

Hayek's wide-ranging critique of collectivism is difficult to summarize. Much of his argument is based on his observations on human nature, especially our individual and collective capacity to both compete and cooperate. The basic problem with collectivism is our infinite capacity to identify ourselves (as individuals) with groups. As Hayek and most social psychologists note, group indentification leads to "in-group out-group bias," or the tendency to cooperate with other members of our group, and compete with outsiders. When we compete with outsiders we tend to dehumanize them and therefore justify coercive force based on their non-human status. Of course, not all forms of out-group behavior ends up violent. As a rule, the losers of Kentucky v. Tennessee basketball games rarely dehumanize the victors and violence is rare. However, other forms of competition are typically less civil. Worldwide, intra-group competition often leads to coercive violence. Think competition between competing: nations, religious groups, ethnic groups, tribal groups, racial groups, and gender groups. Hence, the rise of group-based partiality: nationalism, religious fanaticism, ethno-centrism, tribalism, racism, and sexism. The difference between being a Kentucky Basketball fan and a white male, is that I cannot exit from the brotherhood of white males, unless I change my genetic code. Thus, barring skin grafts and a sex change operation, whether I like it or not, I'm a white male. Although, I'm an American, I am not a "flag waving" patriot! At the moment, those "flag wavers" tolerate me, but I can imagine a time when that toleration may wear thin. The most likely scenario would be during wartime. Fortunately, recent wars in Irag and Afghanistan have not produced a plurality of flag wavers so I'm still safe. However, another catastrophic 911 event might change all that.

Hayek observes that fear tends to increase the number of flag wavers, and that Philosopher Kings (controllers) have a vested interest in perpetuating that fear via the use of propaganda. As nation states cultivate nationalism via public education, or at least undermine the development of the critical skills of students, we invariably find ourselves in a perpetual state of emergency. Unfortunately, its not just Americans that are bombarded with emergency propaganda (war on terror, war on drugs, war on disease etc.). Every other in-group on earth (nations, religions, ethnic groups, etc.) are all equally suject to in-group/out-group bias.

So what are the prospects for world peace? There are two possibilities: we can all rally behind one Philosopher King and form one single group, called humanity. But what are the prospects for uniting the world without an out-group to rally against? Or we can return to the Enlightenment vision of individualism that makes group identity voluntary. It will be tough! We'll have to overcome our natural inclination to identify with non-voluntary groups and we'll have to be intelligent enough to stop demonizing everyone that looks, thinks, or acts in ways that contradict what our own Philosopher Kings tell us. Hayek defends that second option. World peace is unlikely no matter what, but individualism and commercial society offers a more likely strategy than in-group/out-group bias. What do you think?

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Road to Serfdom: Part 3

Socialism relies heavily on central planners; that is "Philosopher-Kings" that allegedly know what's "Good" for the whole community. The longstanding assumption that underlies all communitarian philosophy is that empowered "experts" are better suited to decide what's good for us as individuals. In short, socialism is inexorably paternalistic. One of Hayek's main arguments against socialism is that, in the real world, Philosopher-Kings are not impartial, but tend to distribute social goods based are group favoritism and cronyism. Let's sort this out.

Socialism is based on the notion that political organization must be based on groups: Plato (leaders, military, populace), Marx (Bourgeosie, Proletariats) etc. Philosopher-Kings are empowered to eliminate competition by serving as the master-distributer. Why does this lead us down "the Road to Serfdom?" Well, the basic problem is that human beings have an infinite capacity for group membership. I am a member of many different groups: white males, college professors, faculty member at MSJ, band member, AARP member, etc. Now what happens when there is a central planner? Well, suppose that central planner decides to build a new football stadium for UC. How would other colleges in the region respond? Hayek says "envy!" We'd probably want a new dorm. So how does this allegedly "unbiased" central planner proceed? Well, he'd (it would be a guy, right?) probably aim at equality. Thus if UC get's $12 million, so does every other college. Suppose the zoo asks for more money, what does the Freedom Center ask for? Union Terminal? Get the idea...?

Now let's get down to it. What kind of person would want to be a Philosopher-King? Well, Plato got it right! Anyone with a high-degree of intelligence would NOT want to be a Philosopher-King. If you're not willing to force intelligent persons to serve as Philosopher-Kings, what kinds of persons will volunteer for the job? Will they be intelligent? Would they be unbiased? Let's look at what's going on today. Congress has already "bailed out" several large Wall Street banks, an enormous insurance company, and two "American" automobile companies. How about "cash for clunkers?" Tax breaks for "Green Corporations." Tax breaks for first-time home owners? Note the cascading effect that Hayek predicted. And of course, when Philosopher-Kings pay for these favors, where does the money come from? You would think that it comes from taxpayers, but taxpayers also are a group that lobby the Philosopher-Kings. One recent group that lobby against increased taxation are called "Tea-Partiers." So right now, the money for these schemes comes from loans from China, which someone must pay back someday? Who will that be? The rich? The poor? The middle-class? The elderly? Corporations? Small businesses? White people? Black people? Native Americans? How about future generations? That's my guess! Why because future generations do not yet exist and therefore do not have well-funded lobbyists.

What does all of this say about the prospects for group-based equality? My fourth and final blog on Hayek will explore Hayek's defense of individualism as an alternative to collectivism and speculate on the prospects for world peace.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Road to Serfdom: Part 2

Social and political philosophy is often couched in the language of "isms;" that is, highly idealised conceptual frameworks. These polarized idealizations never exist in the "real world," but they usually represent broad sociopolitical tendencies. In short, societies tend to "lean" one way or another. F.A. Hayek's, The Road to Serfdom identifies two of these "isms:" individualism and collectivism. His basic argument is that eighteenth-century individualism (John Locke, Adam Smith) led to dramatic increases in the quality of life in the Western world; and that nineteenth-century collectivism has led to equally dramatic decreases in that quality of life. Hence, the book's title: The Road to Serfdom. Hayek argues that social and political philosophy is a matter of choice, we are not predestined toward one or the other: philosophical ideas matter! In the United States today, the Democratic Party leans toward collectivism and the Republican Party leans toward individualism, however neither party seem to be very cognizant of the philosophical bases that Hayek identifies. So let's sketch in the broad drift of these two polar "isms."

Individualism argues that personal liberty, individual planning, free market competition, and democratic political institutions are essential for the realization of the "Good Life." Moreover, individualism argues that the relatively unfettered pursuit of self interest by individuals contributes leads to the social good. In other words, society as a whole benefits when individuals are allowed to plan their own lives (pursue their own self-interest) by forging voluntary contracts with others. We all pursue what we believe is "good" for us as individuals. We can best realize these personal individual ends (get a good job) by means of voluntary cooperation with others (paying tuition at the College of Mount St. Joseph). No one forced you come to MSJ. If the college fails to meet your expectations you can choose to take your tuition money and go to another college. If over time, enough students decide to go to another college, MSJ will go bankrupt. However, if we meet student expectations, we'll not only survive but also drive our competitors out of business. (Look out UC, Xavier, Miami, Thomas More, and NKU!) When we earn that monopoly, we cannot sit back and enjoy that enviable position, because our current or future competitors will copy what we did to earn that monopoly. Thus, over the long run competition leads to higher quality education at a lower cost. Not that government had little to do with it. The only thing the free market really needs is to enforce contracts, and monitor and enforce laws against theft and fraud.

Collectivism argues that the free market generates inequalities that cannot be overcome. That's because all markets are subject to business cycles that, by their very nature, wax and wane. Of course, those who own the means of production survive by cutting back on labor costs: buying machines to replace works, making workers work longer hours for less money etc. At the bottom of the business cycle, competition does not work because there are more workers than jobs and therefore dissatified workers are easily replaced. Thus, when workers find themselves at the bottom of one of these cycles, they become alienated from themselves, their family, and their work. They lack economic security. Collectivism, therefore seeks to spread out this risk by using the coercive power of government to plan national and global economies. Collective planners are experts that replace the free market mechanism with a collective system that insures the well being of everyone. Typical collectivist mechanisms include social welfare, unemployment insurance, socialized medicine, centalized banking, and public education. When government control is complete we call it totalitarianism. Under totalitarian collectivist regimes private property, private institutions, and individual planning are replaced by public property, public institutions, and collective planning. Therefore, under a totalitarian regime the College of Mount St. Joseph would be taken over by government's central planners. At that point, all colleges would be controlled by government and you would have no choice of which college you want to attend. My guess is that if MSJ were to continue as a public institution, planners would keep its health care programs and scrap all the other programs. There would be no competition between programs because they'll all be the same. Central planners would decide what is taught, who teaches, how much they get paid, and which students get admitted. Of course, UC would be converted to a football college that trains men to play football. But it would be very boring to watch because the teams wouldn't be allowed to keep score.

My next blog will discuss what Hayek says about the nature of leadership and followership under individualism and collectivism.