May 20, 2009
Universal Truth Depends on What Universe You Live In
Seeing the new Star Trek movie last week got me to thinking about parallel universes.
I was once a liberal. Now I am a libertarian-leaning conservative. Having transitioned from one orientation to the other, it occurs to me that liberals and conservatives perceive the world in completely different ways, and subsequently live their lives in different universes, each of which follows a different set of laws.
The laws of my perceptual universe are, to me, as obvious and irrepressible as the laws of physics. I have come to embrace them and in so doing have enjoyed some modicum of personal success. The laws of the liberal universe are no doubt as obvious to liberals, but I would argue that they are not irrepressible because they have failed every time in history that they have been applied. But then, perhaps I am biased.
Here, then, are the laws of my universe and the parallel (liberal) universe as best as I can enumerate them.
The Law of Human Behavior
MY UNIVERSE: People behave in rational, predictable ways. They seek pleasure and avoid pain. If someone perceives a stimulus, engages in a behavior and is rewarded, the next time the person is confronted with said stimulus, he will repeat the behavior. Conversely, if the person is punished, the behavior will not be repeated. In order to have an orderly and productive society, it is necessary that the system reward success and punish failure.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: People do not behave rationally. They act on their emotional intuition, which is shaped by their attitudes. These attitudes, especially attitudes about the nature of the society in which they live, can be influenced via mass communication. In order to have an orderly and productive society, a central authority is therefore necessary to control attitude formation and maintenance.
The Law of Taxation
MY UNIVERSE: Tax breaks incentivize business to invest in long-term capital and employ more people.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Big tax breaks for business serve to instill in the public the negative attitude that their government is not fair. This lowers morale and causes people to drop out of society, increasing unemployment. Conversely, increasing taxes on business will increase employment.
The Law of Government Spending
MY UNIVERSE: Business is the host and government is a parasite. The act of the government increasing social spending or extending unemployment benefits will reward people for doing nothing and discourage them from becoming productive citizens.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Government is the host and business is the parasite. Government increasing social services will improve people's attitudes about their society and encourage people to become more productive for the common good.
The Law of Groups
MY UNIVERSE: A collective is nothing more than a group of self-interested individuals. While it is possible for a collective to perform at a level that is superior to the sum total potential of the individuals who make up the group, the norm is for the collective to regress to the mean; and, because 20 percent of the people in any group tend to produce 80 percent of the results, the mean performance level will usually be lower than the sum total potential.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Groups represent human fellowship and are therefore nearly always morally superior to individuals. Groups that exist for purposes that advance the common good are morally justified in using the power of the group to circumvent the power of mere individuals. This includes confiscating the assets of wealthy individuals in order to support and propagate the group.
The Law of War
MY UNIVERSE: Wars have been a necessary instrument for the preservation of civilizations throughout the history of mankind. When a civilization is threatened it will resort to war. In war, the stakes are so high and the consequences so perilous, that the rules of civilization must be temporarily suspended in order to successfully prosecute the war. The best way to avoid war is to make sure that one's country is militarily superior to any and all enemies, and that said enemies understand that carrying out violence against said country will result in swift and certain punishment. Nothing has fundamentally changed in mankind's history to change this essential truth.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: The weapons of war have become so potentially catastrophic that unless we find an alternative to it, mankind itself will become extinct. Since people act primarily out of intuition driven by attitude formation, a civilization that is open and honest, even in war, will have fewer enemies. Those who would carry out a war against such a civilization will have few allies in the world; whereas, suspending the rules of civilization will only help the enemy enlist more allies. The best way to avoid war is to listen to all potential enemies, understand their concerns, and compromise where possible.
The Law of Individuals
MY UNIVERSE: In most cases, the best thing that a person can do for himself, for his family, for his church, and for his society is to maximize his productivity and prosper. People who succeed are positive role models to others, and therefore encourage others to maximize their productivity and succeed themselves.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: Successful people are usually successful because they exploit other people. Successful people are often wasteful in their spending habits and use up resources for excess personal consumption. It would be preferable to take resources from successful people and distribute them to greater numbers of people.
The Law of Man And History
MY UNIVERSE: I am lucky to be alive at a time when humans have evolved to their maximum potential in history. Given the long periods of dark ages, and the various tyrannies that have occurred in the past, the likelihood of one lifetime landing on man at the pinnacle of achievement at any point in the space/time continuum up to now is not so great. So I am truly blessed. The things that man has accomplished, most of which were created by people in my country based on its notions of freedom, are truly astonishing. If we want this trend to continue then it is imperative that we preserve the foundations of freedom that enabled this progress.
PARALLEL UNIVERSE: The planet is on a perilous course, capitalism and individual initiative are largely to blame, and unless we reverse course very soon we will destroy this planet's habitability. The only hope for the planet is for us to organize as a global collective in order to allocate the planet's resources fairly. People need to understand how critical this problem is because they will have to put aside their archaic loyalties to self, family and country in order to fix the planet and what is wrong with it.
I think I have articulated the laws of the two universes as objectively as an admitted partisan can. In my opinion, the United States of America is now firmly and irreversibly invested in the parallel universe. This did not happen because of the election of Barack Obama as President. But his election has accelerated the process to warp speed.
For those of us who exist in my universe (which I consider the "true" universe) this is a disconcerting truth. The question is: what to do? For me, I will continue to invest in the laws of my universe. I will act in my self-interest and I will use the persuasive talents God has given me to convince the collective of the errors of its ways. I will try to preserve the wealth I have spent a lifetime to acquire, and I intend to defend myself and my family from all who would seek to take it from me.
But at some point I fear I will be a man without a country, living in a parallel universe, and no Scotty to beam me up.
Victor J. Massad, Ph.D. is a semi-retired college professor and owner of auktiononline.com