The Cactus Club (11/97-11/98)

Evolutionary Psychology and Social Development November, February, May, August
Real Economics and Social Order December, March, June, September
Natural Law and Social HarmonyJanuary, April, July, October
Open DialogueNovember

Cycle IV:Part 3

2 October 1998...............the right to do wrong

Quoting from MORAL RIGHTS AND POLITICAL FREEDOM by Tara Smith-------------"Many disputes between people revolve around just this issue. Differences over how territory is to be used---a given plot of land, a body of water, an abandoned building---are often questions about who shall control the territory. One question obviously concerns how a given resource shoud be used. Yet a separate, often fiercely contested question must be resolved first: who is entitled to decide how the territory will be used?

Control of external objects is not the only subject that provokes disputes about people's freedom. Decisions directing the course of an individual's life also require the recognition of someone as legitimate "boss". People frequently clash over who should decide how a life should be lived. Should parents select the type of education their child receives? Should the fereral government, or a local church committee? Should the child herself decide whether and whom to marry, or is that for someone else to decree? Though disputes in certain areas tend to arise more often than in others, all of the decisions that plot our lives---choice of profession, friends, residence, play---require that someone be respected as the sovereign over a life. This is precisely rights' province: that area in which conflicts arise over who is entitled to rule a person's actions. What I am suggesting, is a division of moral labor. Where significantly different kinds of questions arise, different kinds of guidance are called for. Our moral principles should respect the all-important difference between what a person should do and what a person should be free to do. The concept of rights distills judgments of what is right from judgments of what a person has a right to do. The realization that rights exclusively govern freedom separates the question of how a person should act from the question of who should decide how she will act. If someone must be the legitimate authority choosing a person's actions, rights address the question of who that authority should be. The concept of rights thus governs just one subset of moral questions. Rights adjudicate disputes about individuals' authority to rule actions. A determination of what rights a person holds does not assess how a person should rule or what actions she should take, however." Questions: Does a person have a right to do wrong? How should we decide who has which rights? Is the current system up to the task? (PD)

4 October 1998..............monarchy, democracy, and anarchy

Quoting from the Introduction to THE ETHICS OF LIBERTY by Hans-Hermann Hoppe (book by Murray Rothbard)-----------"The classical-liberal answer, from the American Declaration of Independence to Mises, was to assign the indispensable task of protecting life, liberty, and property to government as its sole function. Rothbard rejected this conclusion as a non sequitur (if government was defined by its power to tax and ultimate decision-making {territorial monopoly of jurisdiction}). Private-property ownership, as the result of acts of original appropriation, production, or exchange from prior to later owner, implies the owner's right to exclusive jurisdiction regarding his property. In fact, it is the very purpose of private property to establish physically separate domains of exclusive jurisdiction (so as to avoid posssible conflicts concerning the use of scarce resources). No private-property owner can possibly surrender his right to ultimate jurisdiction over and physical defense of his property to someone else--unless he sold or otherwise transferred his property (in which case someone else would have exclusive jurisdiction over it). That is, so long as something has not been abandoned, its owner must be presumed to retain these rights. As far as his relations to others are concerned, every property owner may further partake of the advantages of the division of labor and seek better and improved protection of his unalterable rights through cooperation with other owners and their property. Every property owner may buy from, sell to, or otherwise contract with anyone else concerning supplemental property protection and security products and services. Yet every property owner may also at any time unilaterally discontinue any such cooperation with others or change his respective affiliations. Hence, in order to satisfy the demand for protection and security among private property owners, it is permissible and possible that there willl be specialized firms or agencies providing protection, insurance, and arbitration services for a fee to voluntarily buying or not buying clients. It is impermissible, however, for any such firm or agency to compel anyone to come exclusively to it for protection or to bar any other agency from likewise offering protection services; that is, no protection agency may be funded by taxes or exempted from competition ("free entry")." Questions: Is democracy simply an evolutionary stage between monarchy and anarchy(one leader, many leaders, no leader)? Does anarchy represent the highest or the lowest level of social organization? (PD)

9 October and violence

One of our new Sonoran Society members, Roy Halliday, makes a case for the moral use of violence and he writes that our opinion on this issue will determine our view about which laws are legitimate. Please read JOS Article 4. Questions: Is jurisprudence a science or an art? Do you agree with the author? If not, why not? (PD)

12 October 1998...................who needs politicians

Quoting from THE LAW by Frederic Bastiat---------------"It is impossible to introduce into society a greater change and a greater evil than this: the conversion of the law into an instrument of plunder. What are the consequences of such a perversion? It would require volumes to describe them all. Thus we must content ourselves with pointing out the most striking. In the first place, it erases from everyone's conscience the distinction between justice and injustice. No society can exist unless the laws are respected to a certain degree. The safest way to make laws respected is to make them respectable. When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law. These two evils are of equal consequence, and it would be difficult for a person to choose between them. The nature of law is to maintain justice. This is so much the case that, in the minds of the people, law and justice are one and the same thing. There is in all of us a strong disposition to believe that anything lawful is also legitimate. This belief is so widespread that many persons have erroneously held that things are "just" because law makes them so. Thus, in order to make plunder appear just and sacred to many consciences, it is only necessary for the law to decree and sanction it. Slavery, restrictions, and monopoly find defenders not only among those who profit from them but also among those who suffer from them. If you suggest a doubt as to the morality of these institutions, it is boldly said that "You are a dangerous innovator, a utopian, a theorist, a subversive; you would shatter the foundation upon which society rests." If you lecture upon morality or upon political science, there will be found official organizations petitioning the government in this vein of thought: "That science no longer be taught exclusively from the point of view of free trade (of liberty, of property, and of justice) as has been the case until now, but also, in the future, science is to be especially taught from the viewpoint of the facts and laws that regulate French industry (facts and laws which are contrary to liberty, to property, and to justice). That, in government-endowed teaching positions, the professor rigorously refrain from endangering in the slightest degree the respect due to the laws now in force." *--from the General Council of Manufacturers, Agriculture, and Commerce, May 6, 1850--. Thus, if there exists a law which sanctions slavery or monopoly, oppression or robbery, in any form whatever, it must not even be mentioned. For how can it be mentioned without damaging the respect which it inspires? Still further, morality and political economy must be taught from the point of view of this law; from the supposition that it must be a just law merely because it is a law. Another effect of this tragic perversion of the law is that it gives an exaggerated importance to political passions and conflicts, and to politics in general." Questions: As one pundit defined politics: Poli = many and tics = bloodsucking creatures. Isn't politics just a sohisticated protection racket where A takes from B and gives to C after subtracting a service charge (salary, etc.). B and C are thus reduced to fighting over who A will be (voting) in order to try and protect themselves as best they can. On the other hand, don't we need politicians to make society a better and safer place for everyone? (PD)

14 October 1998.............legitimate authority

PD's exerpt from Tara Smith's work makes it clear that humanity faces a huge dilemma over the question of legitimate authority. Smith illustrates the complications that arise in attempting to use moral arguments to resolve the issue. Rights are like the weather--everybody has them but nobody seems to know how to do anything about them.

I suggest an alternative approach to the question of authority in a treatise I have written. I have tentatively titled this work simply "Scientific Method" with the subtitle "In Search of Legitimate Authority in Society." (This 120 page monograph is available in hard copy from Spencer H. MacCallum, Heather Foundation, Box 180 , Tonopah, NV 89049.) This paper is not so much an intellectual challenge as it is a heuristic exercise. It might make a useful outline for an interactive course of study. At the university undergraduate level, it would raise more questions than it would answer but it would suggest exercises and methods of finding answers. At the graduate level, it would suggest research topics and technical approaches for extending the frontiers of knowledge.

In this paper, I suggest that humanity is evolving toward "autonomy," not "anarchy." This usage is my choice of words, of course, and one should consult the etymological dictionary to check it out for himself. My preferences are based on the observation that self-rule is possible while no-rule is not. In fact, self rule is the corollary of community which I assume is a fundamental sanctuary of humanity. The discipline of self rule is the price of admission to community living and all the benefits attendant thereto. I observe that most people gladly pay this price.

Etymologically, "autocracy" is also an appropriate usage from my point of view. The practice of scientific method is the essence of self-rule which, in turn, is the essence of democracy. As I see it, self rule is the transcendent paradigm for humanity. This is my interpretation of social evolution.

I think either "autonomy" or "autocracy" would have suited Rothbard in his later years. The exerpt PD selected from "Ethics of Liberty" makes this abundantly clear--individual enterprise based on "private property," no taxation whatsoever, no exemption from competition even for "protection services."

Curiously, autonomy facilitates political democracy while, at the same time, it powers economic democracy. This is the source of the tension that characterizes the modern social world. I am convinced that economic democracy is growing at an accelerating rate while political democracy is static if not actually in decline despite media coverage to the contrary. At least, popular political participation is declining and if the trend continues, the presumptuous arrogance of political ambition must eventually yield to timidity.

Political humility is an oxymoron. It cannot be otherwise because politics is contrary to scientific method, the natural source of humility. Although I can't see an end to politics as long as there is human gullibility, cunning, hypocrisy and fantasy, I do believe the social organism is sufficiently robust to overcome the affliction. Thus, politics will remain a burden on social evolution at least to the extent the emotions of the gullible can be exploited by clever manipulators.

PD asks "does a person have a right to do wrong?" If he is autonomous, the answer is obviously "yes" inasmuch as he will not only make mistakes but he might well try to escape reality altogether. (The Darwin Awards address this phenomenon to a delightful end.)

Under political regimentation, one could well ask if a person has a right to do "right." Indeed, what is the criterion of right and wrong and does it make any sense to attribute such a concept to a "collective consciousness?" Over three hundred years ago, the Reverend Jonathan Swift quipped "some people have no better idea of determining right and wrong than by counting noses." This faith is still widely held and I believe it accounts for much of the mischief in the world. Nowhere is such mischief more evident than inside the Washington Beltway, and popular enchantment with that spectacle can not help but weaken people's determination to perfect their own lives. As people succumb to the idea of synthetic rulership (as if that was possible), they abandon their endowed authority to govern themselves and dispense with the rigors of personal responsibility. It is not hard to understand the fantasy of returning to the comfort of the womb from whence one came.

The current political system depends on the existence of a substantial degree of self rule (see T. J. Lowi, "Incomplete Conquest--Governing America"). Then, it capitalizes on the fear of impotence to deal with the unknown and legislates against the "mistakes" that individuals are bound to make. Thereby unreality is institutionalized. Prohibition (laws against booze, drugs, guns, pornography, abortion, etc.) makes a good case in point.

Among the most unrealistic aspects of the modern political system is majority rule. Majority rule guarantees that political rulers will be incompetent because, as pointed out by George Bernard Shaw, "no matter how stupid are those who were elected to rule, the majority was always the stupider for having done so." Even the socialists understand this simple fact of nature, that nose-counting reduces all the participants to the lowest common denominator.

What the Socialists have failed to grasp is that the autonomous individual develops sufficient competence to rule himself provided he is not confused or deceived on the matter of legitimate rulership. This outcome is no miracle. It only requires that the ordinary person become wary of humbug and retain some skepticism of pomposity. It also presumes that "Joe Blow" has a modicum of understanding of the nature of his own authority and some devotion to the exercise of it. Classically, this phenomenon is known as ownership and it leads to the grand alternative to politics and bureaucratic administration--proprietorship, proprietary administration or entrepreneurism.

Authority, like muscle, must be exercised else it atrophies. The question is how does authority become legitimate? Muscle tone "authorizes" the athlete to compete on the track but what about the cop on the beat? What about the legislators whose laws (and salaries) ultimately rely on enforcement by muscular cops employed by them? I suggest that authority is legitimate (i.e., not spurious) when means and ends are in harmony with nature. While it is self-evident that usurpation of authorities belonging to all alike by some few monopolists seems inharmonious, it remains for scientific method (a democratic court of last resort) to resolve such issues. Scientific method is precisely suited to this task.

"Mystic intuition unchecked by scientific method may lead to absolute subjective certainty, but it can give no proof that contrary intuitions are erroneous. The essence of scientific method is to limit its own pretension" (Cohen and Nagel, "An Introduction to Logic and Scientific Method"). Curiously, scientific method does not pretend to determine right and wrong in any absolute sense. It is limited to resolving questions of harmony and disharmony with observable nature leaving room for doubt as to any final or ultimate outcome. This is how the philosophy of science differs from moral philosophy. It also explains how people actually get along with others as they all try to survive and prosper in the environment they share.

For some years now, I have been trying to come to grips with the application of scientific method to social phenomena. Looking around and about the history of the race, it seemed to me that this was the only avenue of approach that could possibly accredit social knowledge as anything more than a collection of assorted superstitions, articles of faith and arbitrary opinion. I trust a reading of my paper will reveal how well I have progressed. Admittedly, the discipline and research required in this enterprise may well have gotten the better of me and I despair I will live to see the work to maturity--it will never be finished. Even if all the universities turned to such research in earnest today, it would be years before many of the controversies we face would be displaced by confident know-how.

Realizing that few would read my tedious epistemological arguments and proscriptions for practicing the scientific method, I extracted that part of my paper that deals with application to the social world (about a third of it) and expanded it into another paper of about 70 pages. This new one is entitled "Society, a Perspective." In it, I elaborate and extend some of the ideas developed in the earlier paper. I am aware that the subsequent paper overlaps the earlier one to some degree and takes some liberties with scientific discipline. Hopefully, the repetition is not functionally redundant and the liberties taken are not so much discrediting as they are heuristic. Libertarians and classical liberals may find few surprises in my conclusions, but my rationale and language of discourse may seem a bit novel. This is because I try to avoid ideological and moralistic arguments. However, I confess to a degree of sarcasm as I try to use the method of "reductio ad absurdum" wherever it fits.(AL)

16 October and other communities

Quoting from THE ART OF COMMUNITY by Spencer MacCallum------------"By now the question has become more than a play on the meanings of a word. It demands a considered answer, and the answer turns precisely on the definition of community. The notion of community has long haunted the thoughts of social scientists as a possible key to a unit of social analysis that could be employed cross-culturally. Yet the concept has been elusive. Seldom is more rigor attempted than to say that a community consists of persons in social interaction within a geographical area and having one or more additional common ties. This was the synthetic definition offered in 1955 by sociologist George Hillery, who collected ninety-four definitions of the word and made a statistical analysis of their content(1). The word is also used figuratively, as when one speaks of a "community of interest" or of a group of people who share a common origin or likeness, as the Italian community in America.

Critical study of the hotel as a community, however, presented many fresh aspects of the subject and suggested a definition that is cross-culturally valid and has at the same time enough rigor to be a fruitful analytic tool. In this book, therefore, COMMUNITY will be defined as 'an occupation by two or more persons of a place divided into private and common areas according to a system of relations which defines and allocates responsiblility for the performance of all activities that might be required for its continuity'.* Upkeep of the common area and its facilities, selection of members, and leadership are prominent examples of these required activities or tasks." Questions: Will the process of human association, motivated by an evolved psychology and organized spontaneously, inevitably result in the formation of communities? Do you think the common areas of these communities should be subject to individual or collective control? Is the hotel a community? How about an office building, a trailer park, a restaurant? (PD)

21 October 1998...................The Innovator and the Tao

Quoting from THE ABOLITION OF MAN by C. S. Lewis-----------"The Innovator, for example, rates high the claims of posterity. He cannot get any valid claim for posterity out of instinct or (in the modern sense) reason. He is really deriving our duty to posterity from the Tao; our duty to do good to all men is an axiom of Practical Reason, and our duty to do good to our descendants is a clear deduction from it. But then, in every form of the Tao which has come down to us, side by side with the duty to children and descendants lies the duty to parents and ancestors. By what right do we reject one and accept the other? Again, the Innovator may place economic value first. To get people fed and clothed is the great end, and in pursuit of it scruples about justice and good faith may be set aside. The Tao of course agrees with him about the importance of getting people fed and clothed. Unless the Innovator were himself using the Tao he could never have learned of such a duty. But side by side with it in the Tao lie those duties of justice and good faith which he is ready to debunk. What is his warrant? He may be a Jingoist, a Racialist, an extreme nationalist, who maintains that the advancement of his own people is the object to which all else ought to yield. But no kind of factual observation and no appeal to instinct will give him a ground for this opinion. Once more, he is in fact deriving it from the Tao: a duty to our own kin, because they are our own kin, is a part of traditional morality. But side by side with it in the Tao, and limiting it, lie the inflexible demands of justice, and the rule that, in the long run, all men are our brothers. Whence comes the Innovator's authority to pick and choose? Since I can see no answer to these questions, I draw the following conclusions. This thing which I have called for convenience the Tao, and which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgements. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There never has been, and never will be, a radically new judgement of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or (as they now call them) "ideologies," all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they possess. If my duty to my parents is a superstition, then so is my duty to posterity. If justice is a superstition, then so is my duty to my country or my race. If the pursuit of scientific knowledge is a real value, then so is conjugal fidelity. The rebellion of new ideologies against the Tao is a rebellion of the branches against the tree: if the rebels could succeed they would find that they had destroyed themselves. The human mind has no more power of inventing a new value than of imagining a new primary colour, or, indeed, of creating a new sun and a new sky for it to move in." Comment: This is an appropriate place to end our first year at The Cactus Club. Our values are us. Society progresses as our individual value systems evolve toward the Tao. Although society is capable of being spontaneously organized, our evolved psychology predisposes us to value order imposed by the state. The educational system reinforces this value. Values are tested by confrontation with other values. Spiritual growth is not the most important personal value for many nor is freedom the most important social value. We will not obtain what we do not value. As society evolves in opposition to the Tao, it must change. The same is true for individuals. We will grow and develop if we choose to value this goal. Otherwise we will experience continuous conflict and discord which signal life outside the Tao. Question: Which books did you read on our Recommended Reading List during the past year and what did you learn from them and from our TCC Dialogue? (PD)

25 October 1998...............response to 16 October 1998

Some thoughts that might be of interest to you or others regarding the passage you posted from THE ART OF COMMUNITY:


Because of its conflicting connotations from common usage, I've felt compelled since writing THE ART OF COMMUNITY to discard "community" as a technically precise term for use in any scientific discussion. It does not lend itself to any operational definition whereby different persons using the term can be certain that they are observing the same phenomena.

However, the definition contained in the passage just quoted from my book IS operational and describes something that is culturally universal. I just find no point in arguing whether or not that something should be called a "community." Accordingly I have coined a term specific to this concept, reluctant though I am to add to the world's supply of jargon. The word I came up with is "ruim," pronounced like "room," of which it is an old Danish cognate meaning a space or place. I like its kinship to "room," which already conveys the meaning of a bounded space. We now have a specific word for a new, operational concept. Its essential meaning is an orderly kind of spatial association of people; its strict definition is that given in the passage posted from THE ART OF COMMUNITY.

Yes, the process of human association inevitably results in the formation of "ruims," since we physically occupy space and doubtless will always have occasion to live, work or play in physical proximity. In village communities of old, we were very much constrained in our associations and lifestyle because of the primitive state of our communications and transport technology. With the disappearance of these restraints, we'll have vastly greater range of choice as to how and with whom we will relate spatially. I'm not sure of the meaning of "evolved psychology," but whatever it is must be wholly compatible with our increasing bandwidth of options as to how we utilize space in coordinated ways with others.


Collective control of common areas is not to be ruled out of the picture altogether, although its utility is limited to situations where the need to coordinate or otherwise manage the use of common space is minimal and quite simple--technologically uncomplicated--and subject to little change. The institution of property constantly changes, adapts and conforms to specific human needs and circumstances, reflecting the ever changing, ever evolving human condition. Collective property will probably always have limited, but not zero, applicability as compared to other forms of land tenure. Regardless of forms of land tenure, however, I do expect that ALL spatial areas, common as well as private, in a free society (which is the clear direction of societal evolution as I argue elsewhere) will be under PROPRIETARY, or contractual, administration as opposed to coercive, which is to say that it will be voluntary, or consensual. Elsewhere I describe the institution of property as being one of many examples, like language, of spontaneous order in society. While it is true that property requires definition, adjudication and protection, these are functions that are clearly not dependent upon a state. We find sophisticated systems of property operating in traditionally stateless societies, and there is ample evidence that advanced societies are fully capable (and becoming more so every day) of fulfilling through the free market all of the functional requisites of a system of property and contract. To allow for the possibility of collective ownership and control of any scarce and valued thing, whether artificial or natural, tangible or intangible, is not, therefore, to condone, predict for the future or advocate in any sense coercive control of the use of these resources. That is of the past, anachronistic. It is not the way of the future as I see the future unfolding for us.


Or a cruise ship at sea . . . In common parlance, I like to think yes, of course these are--or can be--communities in whatever sense we wish to use the term. I'm just finishing a paper (and looking for a place to publish it, in case anyone has suggestions) on this subject. In this paper I compare and contrast these forms of spatial association, which are wholly proprietary and contractual, with residential subdivisions, which are characteristically controlled by homeowners' associations patterned after traditional political government. In the former, which I used to call "proprietary communities" and now am calling "entrepreneurial communities," the potential for "community" in the sense of warmth, neighborliness, responsibility, is demonstrably greater than in subdivisions.(SM)