Question 1: A neighbor plans to build on his property in such a way as will, you think, hurt the market value of yours. What will you do?
Invite him over, to explore a possible resolution
Contact the Zoning Board to prohibit his plans
Serve him notice of a lawsuit if he proceeds
Question 2: The police catch a local teenager red-handed while vandalizing your car. How will you ask them to proceed?
go ahead and prosecute, you’ll gladly act as witness
enquire whether Social Services can provide counseling for the troubled youth
let you contact the boy’s parents about paying for repairs
Question 3: You’re a subsistence farmer, in a poor county of Appalachia; and you have two cows, a field and a strong ambition. What is your business plan?
contact the Department of Agriculture about getting subsidies to expand
sell the cows and grow marijuana on the field
sell one cow and buy a bull
Question 4: Your daughter is bright, but is doing poorly in the local High School, whose reputation is ho-hum. How will you get her a better education?
cut back hard on expenses, so I can afford to move to the next town with much better schools
my wife and I will home-school her
become an activist in the local PTA, and lobby the School Board for better performance
Question 5: What is the purpose of your life?
to serve my country
to build as big a fortune as I can
to enrich my children with good principles for living
to enjoy all that it can offer me and achieve as much as my talents allow
to leave the world more free and prosperous than I found it
to obey and glorify God
Question 6: What do you think about taxes?
an essential ingredient of a socially-just, compassionate society
unpleasant and too high, but they are the price we pay for civilization
simple theft, neither more nor less
worse than simple theft; the way the stolen money is spent does even more damage than the stealing itself
Question 7: Should the Feds be free to tap your phone?
no how, no way, not ever
never without a judge’s permission in advance, as Amendment 4 requires
of course; if I talk with terrorists, they have the right to find out why – without delay or formality
Question 8: A big war looms, and you’re 19 and about to be drafted. You agree that the world would be better without the enemy, but not that America is in any danger of unprovoked attack. What will you do?
before drafts can be mailed, call up the recruiting office to volunteer
report for duty as the draft card directs, so risking your life and that of those you’re told to kill
burn it, risking imprisonment and the scorn of neighbors and potential employers
Question 9: You’re about to marry the love of your life, but learn that your State requires you both to take various tests and to pay for a “license,” ie to get the government’s permission. What will you do?
fly to Vegas or another place where no such requirements exist, and marry there
bow to the inevitable and do what the State demands
welcome these laws as wise contributions to public health and marital stability
call off the wedding
make vows to each other and ignore the government, as in Common Law tradition
Question 10: Your firstborn has just been delivered, and the hospital staff ask you to sign a bunch of forms. You notice that one of them requests a Social Security Number to be assigned to your baby. Will you sign that one?
yes, for it will avoid all manner of government hassle later on in her life
yes, for I’m far too exhausted to argue or resist
no, for it’s really a kind of ID#, to make her more vulnerable to a highly intrusive government
no, for that application is one she should make, when she is old enough to decide
yes, for that’s the way the system works
Question 11: You encounter an unfamiliar viewpoint about a subject that interests you. By what process of thought will you evaluate it?
I’ll check what the authorities say, and reject the new viewpoint if it fails to conform
I’ll see how the new ideas compare with others, think about them some more, and decide for myself by my own reason which of them makes the most sense
I’ll recognize that the latest opinions are always the best, and so will discard the old ideas and adopt the new ones at once as my own
Question 12: Properly and by right, who is your owner? – meaning, who can properly take decisions governing your life?
The government is
All my brother human beings are
Question 13: What do you owe to your fellow human beings?
Whatever the government, by Law, says I owe them.
Everything they want.
Everything I can give.
Such things and services as I have freely agreed to give them.
Question 14: Quick, say what is your present idea about what human beings are, essentially:
Humans are just animals with big brains. The ideas of right and wrong, and of rights and purposes, is so much fantasy. We are mere protoplasm, seeking to amuse itself.
Humans are very special creations, made in the image of God – who created everything in the whole Universe. We gain fulfillment only when we find out what He desires for our lives, and then follow that divine plan.
The human species has developed an unique ability to reason, as well as refining attributes like love, purpose, conscience. Our defining characteristic is that we are rational, to a degree that no other animal comes close.
Question 15: But in that case, what part is to be played by authority and custom or tradition?
Such things are part of what humans have discovered and thought, and so take their place alongside all other factors to be evaluated by reason. But they have no special status; one’s own reasoning must be paramount.
Customs and traditions and myths, even, are part of the fabric of human understanding of the subject being considered and should be held in the utmost respect and given precedence over one’s own reasoning power.
Authority represents the accumulation of human wisdom and all one’s reasoning should be performed only within the boundaries set by the experts in the subject being considered.
Question 16: See if you can tell which of the following statements are true:
My lawn is green. Therefore, all lawns are green.
It is axiomatic that all men called Jack have red hair.
The desk is too heavy for one person to lift. Therefore, at least two people will be needed to raise it.
Question 17: What distinguishes humans from all other animals?
We walk on two feet
We communicate with each other
We reason things out
We have big brains
We have very little hair
Question 18: What is a premise, and what is an axiom?
A premise is the conclusion reached after a process of reasoning has been followed, and an axiom is the resulting action chosen
A premise is a mistaken idea, while an axiom is the right one
A premise is something assumed, whether true or not, while an axiom is a premise whose truth cannot be denied.
An axiom is anything on which reasoning can be based, true or not, while a premise is undeniably true
A premise is the process of logical reasoning that is based upon an axiom
Question 19: Why is it possible that each human being might be his own self-owner?
Because as a human, he has the ability to make logical choices for action
Because crowds usually mill around with no clear direction or purpose, unlike ants and bees
Because God gave man that power
Each us feels that we are, when alone in the wilderness or gazing at the stars
Question 20: Why is it certain that each human being must be his or her own self-owner?
No other possibility makes sense
If anyone else were to be my owner, how did he acquire me?
If we were each owned by the company or the state, we’d have no motive to work hard
Because if I were to deny I own myself, I’d be expressing an opinion as if it were mine, yet which says it is not mine. This is a contradiction and so must be false
Because if I did not have the power to make my own decisions, I’d be incapable of making any contract – including one to marry, or to pay for goods or services upon which life depends.
Question 21: Suppose your absolute right to make all your own decisions is denied by someone in practice. How can that interference be properly described?
An attack upon me
A theft of my property
An irrational act
All of the above
A breach of contract
Question 22: So, you have the right to do anything you like with your own life. Are there any limits at all on that power?
Nope. I can rule the world!
Only that I’m forbidden to harm someone else
Just those limits the Law sets
None. However my power extends only to the control of my own life, not of anyone else’s.
Question 23: What is government, in its essential nature?
Government consists of representatives of the People who arrange for those necessary functions to be carried out which could not be done by the operation of a Market – eg providing for the common welfare and defense
Government is an organization that governs those within its power
Government is whatever has a monopoly on the use of unaccountable force in its domain
Government is what limits vice, punishes wickedness and so prevents society going to the Devil
Government is the absence of a market
Government is a set of armed thugs with no moral validity at all, bent solely on domination for its own sake
Question 24: Some in a population generally accept or even support government. Why?
They suppose it does good and necessary work, protecting them from foreign enemies and ensuring justice and the rule of law
They do well out of it. Some get jobs that pay more than they might earn in a free-market society, some get money benefits, some have their prejudices enforced against others who do not share them
They think that without it, the law of the jungle would prevail and so that many would suffer
They believe that God has ordained it
Question 25: Now consider the purpose of government as perceived by those who lead it and work for it. Why do they support it?
They truly think they are serving their country, their fellow-men, and humanity at large: “Public Service” is to them a high and honorable calling
Nobody else was hiring
They enjoy the intoxication of power over their fellow human beings
The leaders love the adulation of being treated like royalty, and of supposing their decisions carry historical signficance
Question 26: Thomas Paine rightly (and in his day, most remarkably) recognized government as evil but still supposed it was necessary – a tragic failure. Why can an evil thing not possibly be necessary?
Paine was in the service of Satan
It’s necessary to prevent or counter something more evil yet
Because it would imply that all humans are evil, and if that were true, the human race would be doomed anyway.
Question 27: What exactly is the definition of “evil”?
Action that forces a human being to act in a way contrary to his wishes
Actions that violate the laws of God
Events or actions that bring suffering
Things governments do
Question 28: Compare government with another form of organized crime – the Mafia. Above all others, what is the key difference between the two?
The Mafia robs you or hurts you, but makes no pretense that it’s doing it for your own good. It also very seldom returns to harm you again, whereas government never stops
Government is far, far bigger than the Mafia
Nonparticipants – the general public – rightly despise the Mafia but with respect to government there are no nonparticipants; everyone is its victim. Even so, there is so far no general revulsion against it.
If Mafia people get caught, they can be prevented from doing further harm. Government, in contrast, writes its own rules and runs its own courts.
Question 29: What’s the key distinguishing feature of a market transaction?
It’s one in which the price is unregulated
It’s one in which nobody is obliged to honor his contract
It’s one in which every party takes part on a strictly voluntary basis
It’s one in which government plays no part whatever
Question 30: In a free, market-based society one would be free to live in solitude. What are some advantages of not choosing to do so?
To enjoy the company and stimulation of other people
To foster a good sense of community values
To divide labor, and so – through exchange – raise the living standards of all
To provide a common defense against marauders
Question 31: In free-market exchanges, everybody wins. How so?
There’s no government bureaucrat to skim off his take and distort the agreed terms
Each party is free to choose exactly the terms that will satisfy his wants
The participants each have different preferences and values
Question 32: There is no rational alternative to a free market. Why?
All others involve forcing one or more participant to act against his own wishes, contrary to his nature as a rational human being
No central directory of Prices and Fairness could possibly know what’s best for millions of products and hundreds of millions of people; it would make at least some irrational rulings and produce a sub-optimal result
The market allows (encourages!) each participant to seek his rational self-interest, selfishly; just as his nature demands
Experience proves it: the freer, the richer
Question 33: “Everybody prospers” in a free market. Why?
Because the results of exchanging goods and services are the ones each person chooses. “Prosperity” is about fulfilling wishes, getting choices satisfied.
Because each participant gets to keep all the products of his own labor or payment, he has the motive to make himself more and more productive
Competition adds an extra incentive to improvement, and so provides buyers with more for their money; ie, more prosperity
Question 34: Competition is said to be sometimes “destructive”. Is it? Why, or why not?
Yes, indeed it can be. Trucker A competes with rivals B by shooting out B’s tires. War is always destructive, and government is needed to stop that kind of crime
Not so. Buyers choose a new vendor only if they perceive him to be better than the one now used; he must show a benefit, in terms of better service or lower cost, just as automobile inventors offered convenience and speed over the horse & buggy. Nobody loses; even the displaced rival has a new incentive to do better next time
Obviously it is: four people apply for a job, only one is appointed. A destructive waste, for the three losers
Question 35: Why be Good?
(a) To Live with Oneself
Rationally, we acknowledge that humans each own themselves; we know “I” own “myself”. Therefore, we acknowledge that everyone else owns himself. Therefore, to live consistently and at peace with oneself, one must conduct one’s affairs so as not to violate his or her right.
(b) To Protect One’s Reputation
Here is a crucial reason: self-interest. In a free society, especially now that information is about as freely accessible worldwide as it used to be in a village, our livelihood is closely bound up with our reputation; and a reputation is very much easier to lose than to rebuild.
(c) to NOT to Sacrifice Oneself
[(a) and (b) above are about it: those are the two reasons, and notably the second, for avoiding evil and embracing good behavior. Self-interest is the key principle! Whatever preserves or enhances the self is good – including living healthy and eating & drinking wisely – and whatever damages it is bad.]
Notice how dramatically different that is from traditional ethics based on Judeo-Christian religious teaching – which tells us, in essence, to sacrifice ourselves for the good of others. “Greater love hath no man,” said Jesus, “than to lay down his life for his friends.” Surprise: self-sacrifice has nothing at all to do with rational ethics, with why we should be good.
This brings a couple of important implications.
Question 36: First, what are we to say of the case in which someone we love dearly is in dire need of help? – about to drown, perhaps, in a flooded stream? Are we to jump in at heavy risk to our own lives, or stand on the bank and wave sadly good-bye?
The answer will come to us in the moment of crisis: we shall make an instant judgment on which is preferable for our self-interest – to live without our loved one, or to run the risk of losing life itself. Self-interest will be the guide. Some will choose one way, some the other. Harsh and uncaring? – on the contrary, that is the only rational way to choose.
Second implication, not unrelated to the first: self-sacrifice is a truly benighted idea.
There are a couple of reasons. First, if all “good” people sacrifice their lives for others, either in the full and literal sense as above or in the sense of dedicating a life to the needy, like Mother Teresa, then the proportion of good people remaining in society is going to shrink – presumably leaving it to the mercies of bad people. This is rationally nonsensical and self-destructive.
Then secondly, if the way to be “good” is to pour out one’s life in the service of others, it follows that in order to be good, we’d be dependent on an endless supply of people who (by that definition) are “bad.” That in turn means that those in need of help (with physical disability for example) are branded as “bad” and that there can never be more than about 50% of the human race who can ever make it to an adequate level of “goodness”! That is the logical outcome of supposing that goodness is achieved by self-sacrifice and that absurd and heartless result suffices to de-bunk it completely.
(d) To Enhance Self-Esteem
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Although these are only a few short introductory questions, they may also be the most radical. Ask anyone here for help. Or ask them what they think the answer is. And why they choose that answer. You may find they have answers not even offered as one of the choices listed here.
These questions take centuries of seldom-questioned premises and turn them on their heads. Understandably, it may not be easy to embrace them and accept the answers all at once. But when know the correct answers, and understand the flaws of the incorrect answers, you will feel immensely liberated.
Having these answers will mean no longer demeaning yourself by existing solely for the benefit of another. From now on, you are your own – and nobody else’s!