The Nature of Humans


If you’re reading this, chances are you’re human.  (Unless you’re a minotaur, of course. This blog doesn’t discriminate on your percentage of human DNA. Like the owner could throw stones and all.)

Yesterday a friend asked a question, which has apparently been rocking right wing blogs and talk shows: “Is considering humans as inherently good a right or left thing?” I’d managed to miss it completely until a friend brought it up.

At which point, I rolled my eyes so hard they went under the sofa. And let me tell you that with Havey having now claimed me as his person (in his half -daft way.  I don’t know what instructions Greebo left him, but running over me, screaming starting at six am is NOT the way to get me up and writing.) those eyes were COVERED in fuzz.

Because the answer is “Yes, but it’s complicated.”

Sure, the left believes in the essential “innocence” of humans.  What it actually means is that, back there, at the beginning, they believe humans were born perfect and corrupted by society.  (Who has the time machine to go strangle J-J. Rousseau with his swaddling clothes, again?)

And the modern left believes a more elaborate lie, in which we are all born PERFECT and things like madness and crime only come in because of capitalism.  They have this entire Christian-heretical story according to which we lived once in a hunter gatherer paradise, where there was no private property and everyone had equal rights.

Then, the evil of greed and private property entered the world, and corrupted humans, so that men started exploiting women, people wanted to have “things” and everything went bad evil.

They base this, MOSTLY on their misinterpretation of primitive cultures and the remains of our most distant ancestors.  As in “Listen,paperskull, just because people didn’t have a ton of stuff, it doesn’t mean they didn’t cherish what they had.”  In fact, in some of the more primitive-living tribes, private property in the sense of un-needed and chance-come-by property, like charms or statues or whatever are very privately held and dearly loved.

This is why we find trade goods hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away, in the graves of some of our ancestors.  IF you think that was some communally held property, you have more rocks in your head than the average progressive idiot.

In fact, some of the other great apes will fight over things they consider theirs. And if you’re going to say that’s because they were corrupted, you might want to consider that the only life for that won’t defend what is theirs is probably an ameba. And maybe not even then.  We just don’t know much about them.

Again poverty doesn’t mean “everything held in common.”  Yes,more primitive tribes have systems for sharing property and things you make. They are, arguably, responsible for some of the difficulty these tribes have crawling out of poverty, as they enable a system of crab bucket, where those who can’t or won’t do cannibalize the work and ingenuity of those that do.  In that sense, it is indeed primitive communism. But I wouldn’t brag about it.

At the same time, the left has this vision of humans as they are now as “no one is good and no one is clean.”  No, I don’t know how they reconcile it in their heads. I have a strong suspicion that they don’t reconcile anything in their heads, just receive it all, like open-mouthed guppies and don’t even chew as they swallow.  But let’s be charitable, maybe they think that capitalism — that all powerful idea you can own things and trade them… Wow, mind blown — has corrupted humans so far, that now all humans are tainted and evil.

This has some echo in their idea they can “fix”humans with “progressive” “education” (aka indoctrination) and various jiggerings of the way people live, trade and communicate.

So, they believe that humans are all evil, and everyone commits “crimes” and “evil” particularly those who get ahead/create anything/ are successful.  I.e. “no one gets ahead without breaking the law.”  I don’t know if they ever say that explicitly, but it’s obvious and implicit in all their art, writing and story telling.

But they also believe humans are INFINITELY perfectible by “education” — by which they mean making humans think and behave in a certain way.

This is solidly within the Marxist dream, where, after the dictatorship of the proletariat perfects us, the state will “wither away.”

Do I need to tell you they’re wrong?

The left believes they can write scripts for humans and humans will follow them blindly.  This can lead to a suspicion that leftists not only aren’t humans but have never met a single human.  I think it is more likely though that they are incredibly privileged humans of an intellectual bend. They grew up in stories, more than in the real world, and therefore believe the just-so story of Marxism.

And no amount of failure of their Procrustes bed of socialism/communism will convince them they were wrong.

So, do they believe humans are naturally good?  No, they believe humans were once naturally good, before evil-bad capitalism (think of it as a serpent) taught them to be bad, and now the only thing to do is “teach” (bully, arrest, cancel, beat) humans into perfection.  And hey, if most of them have to die along the way, is that too much to pay to bring paradise to Earth once again?

So, what about conservatives, (and for the purposes of this we’ll include Libertarians. What do they believe?) Do we believe that humans are naturally good?

Define good. Define human for that matter. And while we’re at it, let’s define everything else.  Okay, you don’t have time for that, so …. let’s table it for now, but remember it.

Most conservative/libertarians believe that most humans are as decent as they’re allowed to be.  Note “decent” not “good” which gets us into “whose idea of good.”

I.e. most humans can be trusted to look after their self interest best.

Wait, doesn’t that mean most humans will break the law and be criminals if you let them?

Well, no. The point is that in most cases the route to what humans want — which is some individual combination of status, family and stability — is easier if you don’t break the law.  In a sane society — say the one the founders intended (yeah, I know, now shut up) — breaking the law is the more expensive way to achieve that point.

And most humans, btw, do not want or aspire to unlimited power.  Yes, there are some. But most of us don’t.

Most of us, hell, don’t aspire to unlimited money or fame or whatever, either.

We (and by we I mean me and my friends. I don’t know about you tovarish) believe that humans are fundamentally self-interested, and have limits on all their impulses, from greed for money for greed for power.

This is obvious if you look around.  Go and look up your friends from childhood, for instance, and you’ll find yeah, some of them had a lot more potential, but weren’t willing to do the work. Some could have great families, but couldn’t be arsed, etc etc etc. But in the end, most people reach the level they are willing to pay for with sweat and tears (and occasionally blood.)

If they wanted more, they would work for it.

It is only when a system becomes fundamentally broken, like totalitarian societies, and progressives try to force a way of living — down to the least minute detail — on everyone, that humans become “naturally criminal.”

In fact, I think this idea that everyone is naturally evil-bad is the left’s long sustained scream at the fact that humans refuse to follow their scripts, and the tighter their script gets, the more we deviate.

The right? We believe if you leave people alone and impose only the minimal rules to make sure people with a raging thirst for power aren’t stomping on everyone else, and enforce them consistently, people are more or less decent. They mind their own business, and work and accumulate wealth to the level they wish, and then stop where they’re not willing to work any harder.

Now, we also believe all humans are fundamentally broken in some way, because, well, we’re in many ways jumped up social apes (I’m leaving out what I believe about the soul’s aspirations, because that’s based on stuff that is by nature unprovable) which means we have the impulses of social apes.  And those guys aren’t some kind of primitive and natural saint. All the sins of humanity are pre-figured in the physical form we inhabit, from murder to rape, from cannibalism to violence.  And so, those of us who aren’t extreme Libertarians know that most people are decent, but not everyone is some kind of noble savage or saint.  So, police is a necessary evil, to make the price of going off the rails expensive enough that just killing the neighbor and taking their stuff isn’t the lazy man’s way to riches.

In the same way, because nations are no more saintly than individuals, and because individual cultures tend to have their own agendas (whether the cultures are national or multi-national or tribal)we need a government, not just to regulate the administration of law, and prevent the police from going insane, but also to negotiate with other cultures/tribes/national and supra national entities.

Because government is essentially force, it’s very important to keep it out of the hands of those who believe humans are infinitely perfectible if ONLY government takes over every aspect of life, including how many squares of toilet paper you’re allowed to use for what purpose.

Because there is no faster way to turn everyone essentially evil than to make it impossible for them to subsist without taking things and hurting people.

So, the left believes we’re all meant to be noble savages. And is willing to commit all sorts of evil and violence to make us that again.

The right believes all of us have impulses and desires that are uh…. not noble at all savagery.  But the way to live in a functional society and prosper as a whole is to keep those under control.  Making it too socially expensive to hurt people and take their stuff can help make society on the whole, happy healthy and wise.

Yes, some individuals will fall through the cracks. That can’t be helped. You can’t make everyone happy and wealthy and contented.  Not without giving the savages in government so much power that all nobility, kindness and essential goodness is driven off and we’re all screaming apes, locked in a social hell.

So, yeah, depending on how you define it, (I told you we’d go back to definitions)  you can say either the left or the right believe in the essential goodness of humans.

But as usual, the devil — and the saving grace — are in the details.



210 thoughts on “The Nature of Humans

  1. “Is considering humans as inherently good a right or left thing?”

    Neither. And both.

    The dividing line between Right and Left is drawn elsewhere, and any resemblance to the inherent nature of humans as good is purely coincidental. The real question is, “What policies/social organization best brings out the better nature of humans?

    1. Interesting.

      I’d phrase it less “brings out the better nature” and more “redirects the worse nature of human beings to less damaging or, in the best case, positive activities.”

      1. I agree to that revision. I might employ “encourages” in lieu of “redirects” but the distinction is piddling.

      2. It can be both. I’ve known both normal folks that sometimes just need a nudge in the right direction, and when inapired are capable of honor, charity, and grace. I’ve also known a few truly vile individuals that nonetheless keep their word *and* refrain from declaring blood feuds (and acting upon them to completion).

        The wrong men can still do the right thing if properly rewarded at the right time.

    2. Hence my observation that an economic system based on greed (Capitalism) is preferable to one based on fear (anything in the ‘command and control’ spectrum). Under Capitalism most individuals not driven by greed will do un-harmful things, and the rest will be guided by the system. Under Command and Control, those who don’t fear the State will screw the system up.

      1. Kenneth Boulding, a somewhat leftish economist, wrote that there are three forces that make human organizations work: fear, greed, and love. And the failure mode of socialism, he said, was that it attempted to replace greed with love but succeeded only in replacing it with fear.

        1. Socialism doesn’t succeed at replacing greed with anything, but they sure do add in a lot of fear. It’s all they’ve got to offer.
          Some folks can be taught. Others can learn by example. The rest have to piss on the electric fence for themselves.

          1. I would say that socialism replaces honest greed with seething envy, in part because being willing to work to fulfill that greed is no longer rewarding, but there’s still always someone with more rewards than you.

        2. Socialism/Communism fails in SO many ways.

          It purports to motivate people through altruism, which is unreliable.

          It actually motivates through fear, which in the medium to long term makes people erratic.

          It assumes that the economy of a Nation can be understood and controlled enough to be made rational. There is always too much data, the ‘control through fear’ aspect mentioned above means that the data is corrupted, and the sinews of the State cannot move fast enough to manage it in any case.

          Then there’s the issue of why would a rational economy be a good thing? People have irrational wants, and if they do no substantial harm, satisfying them helps keep society civil.

          It assumes that the intelligence to control a Society, the will to do so, the ruthlessness to succeed, and the benevolence to make such a rule tolerable will coincide. This is a MUCH bigger fantasy than the Easter Bunny.

          1. It actually motivates through fear, which in the medium to long term makes people erratic.

            Worse, it makes people risk-averse, cautious, so they are unlikely to attempt the breakthroughs that are required for long-term growth.

            Further, people in such cultures tend to engage in blame shifting (and butt-covering, which is related but not the same thing.) The rewards for under-mining one another are often greater than the rewards for success, especially when success often makes you a target.

      2. Aye. Greed exists. The choice is to try (and fail) to stamp it out, or harness it and channel it into something productive rather than destructive.

  2. Guppies are smarter than leftists. Give them live prey like mosquito larvae, they can be downright cunning!

    I have a hard time believing in the innate goodness of anybody. I know there are decent people out there, but… the same way it’s usually easier to not break the law to get ahead, it’s unfortunately easier for most people to “not rock the boat” when someone with social status is cruel without technically breaking the law.

    That said, I do agree that most people can be decent if they think they’re allowed to be. Which is a reason I favor people getting trained in self-defense if at all possible. Reduces the amount of cringing to bullies!

  3. Then you have the Lefties that think Whites are inherently Evil (Racist) and can’t change that fact. 😡

    1. Yes, and they seem unaware of what the social consequences of getting the majority to believe a faith without redemption, especially in the actions of those deemed unredemable.

  4. say the one the founders intended (yeah, I know, now shut up)

    But I…

    I feel personally attacked.

    They have this entire Christian-heretical story […………] At the same time, the left has this vision of humans as they are now as “no one is good and no one is clean.”

    How to create Hell On Earth in three easy steps:

    1. Have Christianity.

    2. Remove one or more of its internal safeguards.

    3. Watch the blood flow.

      1. They’ve also removed man from it.

        I have a coworker who keeps arguing Marx’s theoretical end point, where the state withers away, isn’t that different from the supposed goals of Christianity. Without going too deep into the reasons this doesn’t work, his top level idea that it is all about charity works.

        What he fails to understand is that Christianity’s transformation is personal and must be achieved person by person. While, depending on sect, you may believe all humanity will be redeemed in the end, you still believe that each person born must be redeemed.

        Marxists, however, believe there is a transformation of society such that after the dictatorship of the proletariat every child born after will be what the Soviets called “the new Soviet man”. They reject the idea that transformation is a trait of individuals persons and something that happens to a people.

        That is something God himself in his form made flesh did not claim was within his power.

        Think about that. Marxists claim that it is within the power of man, in theory some random group of people, but in the mind of each Marxist themselves (something Jordan Peterson nailed hard when criticism “real socialism hasn’t been tried yet”), is beyond what the religion they are rebelling against and possibly are a heresy of claim is within the power of God.

        Satan himself blushes at their Pride some days.

        1. Side note: the sentence, “Real socialism hasn’t been tried yet” has an unstated final clause “because I wasn’t in charge.”

          In thinking that Marxists reveal they do not believe Marxism and are adherents of a Great Man theory of history starring themselves.

          1. I doubt Satan giggles.

            Sniggers, sure.

            (Slightly) Off Topic: do you know that some people believe that to be a racial slur? Such people are among Satan’s flock.

        2. What he fails to understand is that Christianity’s transformation is personal and must be achieved person by person.

          It is amazing, the number of people who cannot grasp what Lewis is conveying in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader when Eustace’s efforts to remove his dragon shell prove futile. Tolkein reportedly chastised Lewis for being obvious but truly, even so there were many who read but did not see.

  5. As I put it in a story I’m writing:

    The basis of law enforcement is force. That is always the government’s final argument, the last unwritten clause in every law: ‘Obey this, or the government will kill you’.

    That is why our Founders tried to set up a limited government, with strictly defined powers, and put in safeguards to prevent any one person or group from gaining too much of that power. But, over the last hundred years, the Democrats have been progressively breaking down those safeguards. We are already subjected to most of the abuses that led our ancestors to declare independence from foreign tyranny, and very little remains between us and domestic tyranny.
    But the end result, the true genius of the plan, was the fear. Fear became the ultimate tool of this government, and through it our politician was appointed to the newly created office of High Chancellor.

  6. When people argue that locks are useless because a determined criminal can always crack one, I note that the locks aren’t really there to keep out the safe crackers. The locks are there to keep out the random guy passing by who randomly decides to try the door.

    In my experience, most people are like that guy who might try the door. They won’t go out of their way to cause trouble. But if an easy target of opportunity presents itself and the risk is minimal, they’ll take it.

      1. The closed door by itself should signal that line. The lock is a method if enforcing what the closed door means.

        1. Disagree. Doors can be closed to keep out wind, rain and flies as well. A locked door is there to keep out people even if the lock is ridiculously easy to get around.

        2. It’s very much cultural.

          I’ve seen some nasty blow-ups that boil down to “but the door was closed” vs “so OPEN IT!”

          Bugs, safety and a/c are involved. 😀

      2. Also known as the “Good fences make good neighbors” principle.

        Lead your neighbor not unto temptation.

        1. By the same token, the police are not there only for the protection and well being of the law abiding.

          Without police you don’t have vigilantism and brigandry so much as you have primitive gangs supplanting law and order. It’s an older, more brutal, more primitive system of human governance. When there are no police to stop the bandits from looting and burning your home and pillaging at will… There is also no police to stop you from responding in ways it wouldn’t be wise to say in public.

          The police are there to protect the guilty as well. Seems the rioters have forgotten this.

          1. Police and courts are also there to place a (mostly) impartial barrier between the crime and the punishment, reducing the potential for feuds.

            As when Eleanora O’Casey tells Prince Roger to rely on the Empire’s courts instead of taking personal revenge on the traitors.

            Otherwise, it tends to end up like the chapter in, I think, ‘The Third Book Of Lost Swords’ when two feuding families take turns unleashing Farslayer on each other until almost all of them are dead, on both sides.
            If you call 9-1-1 and tell them that somebody with a gun is breaking into your house, they will send two cops in 10 or 15 minutes. If you tell them that somebody is breaking into your house and YOU have a gun, they will send 10 or 15 cops in two minutes.

            1. Police and courts are also there to ensure some semblance of Due Process — which is not something the Progressives applaud (except when one of theirs is accused.)

              Due Process is antithetical to the Cancel Culture of the modern lynch mob. Due process means the accused gets to face their accusers, to present evidence of their innocence or of extenuating circumstances. The Left wishes to determine, without benefit of evidence, who gets to accuse and who gets to be eliminated.

              1. BTW – I so want to see this re-done with the face of Trump super-imposed over Ferris’

                …and Joe Biden’s face on Dean Rooney.

    1. Just as retail alarm gates don’t really deal with determined shoplifters; they just impose certain conditions on success, and then you watch for the people who have met those conditions (removing tags, foil lined Bags, etc.)

    2. I’ve noticed that people who make that claim about locks not keeping out lock pickers have them, not for nothin.

      1. Locks are physical security. Physical security only slows down determined opposition. The rest is on the person who wants things secured, to make sure that the slow down matters.

        If there were a lot of criminals courageous enough to want to always make their business activities a force on force matter, American society would be a very different place.

        1. You’d get Portland, Oregon for the past two months! Such a paradise, that everyone wants to live in!

      2. Also, not all locks are the same.

        Kwikset locks have seven depths in five positions, rendering some 50,000 different potential keys (That number includes key patterns you wouldn’t use like 11111 or 33333). That means in a descent sized city, there’s a not out side of possibility chance that your lock can be opened by some random person’s key. Schlage locks have ten depths over seven positions, making more combinations of pins that making random duplicates less likely.

        In this I’m not accounting for master key systems which provide multiple depths for each position, increasing the posibility that a random key can open a lock, also decreasing the difficulty in picking the lock since each position has two, or more, depths which can be selected.

        On the other end of the spectrum are Medeco locks. They not only have positions and depths for pins like the Kwikset and Schlage locks, the positions also have a cant of Right (\), Center (–) , or Left (/) making it much harder to pick, but not impossible. Theoretically it should take at least 15 minutes, if not longer, to pick a Medeco, but some security experts have shown that even Medecos have an issue which can get you into them in less than a minute. Yes, Medecos are used by the U.S. Government, and others, to protect high security areas.

        1. We bought mom new locks for (most of, one is painted shut) her outside doors. Had the door handles & deadbolts, all keyed to the same key. One pin, ONE, was a fraction off on the correct size in one lock, the key would not work … drove us nuts. Finally got someone new to look at the situation and got it fixed.

        2. An additional aspect of locks is that a lock which will take three hours to pick, but ten seconds to knock a hole in the door either to remove the locking mechanism or just the door, isn’t giving an additional benefit.

          Refuge in audacity type burglaries work if they’re rare enough to be audacious. With decent police work, they are; without it, you bust down the door and get either a shotgun or baseball bat to the face.

          One of the big advantages of the 15 minute lock thing is that nobody is going to be able to fake that their key isn’t working, darn it, stupid mechanism for 15 minutes. Five minutes is pushing it.
          Counter-measures are complicated. 😀

          1. “An additional aspect of locks is that a lock which will take three hours to pick, but ten seconds to knock a hole in the door either to remove the locking mechanism or just the door, isn’t giving an additional benefit.”

            That depends on how useful surreptitious entry is to the person attempting to enter the protected area. For instance, the noise required to breach the protected area, and/or the sight of someone carrying tools needed to effect said breach, may draw unwanted attention, while the obvious damage from said breaching will alert whomever wanted the area protected that the intrusion occurred.

            1. There is a super ultra mega security lock the US government uses in some locations. It is made of plastic.

              Good luck trying to duplicate the random ink spray on the inside of the casing if you had the bright idea of ripping it off and replacing it in secret.

          2. wander through LPL’s videos and it is scary how fast some of the locks are bypassed with a bit of “gee the key is sticky” or worse. fast as the proper key opening like this one:

        3. some car companies have been known to employ a very, very, limited number of key combinations. To the point that people have been known to walk up to a vehicle the same make, model and color as their own and drive off in it, only to realize that a couple of blocks later that the stuff in the back seat ain’t quite right.

          1. Some years ago my Dad came out of the mall, walked to his VW, unlocked the door, and after starting it up, realized it was *a* VW, but not *his* VW.

            Freaked him out a bit…

          2. I have a Honda Motorcycle key (found my lump of old and spare keys last week) that would bypass most Dodge/Mitsubishi ignition locks if they were old/worn enough. I had a 76 Colt I could walk up to unlock and drive off as fast as having the proper key using the bike key and a Wald fender brace (or wire coat hanger, car antennae etc). It took me a few seconds longer to get into a neighbor’s 71 Colt, as it had a frame over the window, so I had to carefully wedge open the door frame to unlock it, but once the door was open, vroom. Taking care to not scratch his new paint was the biggest slowdown. My old late 80’s Dodge D50 took some jiggling to get the Honda key to turn, and it was harder to get the door lock to open.

          3. Similarly I had an uncle that had a white Edsel soft top in the little Connecticut town I grew up in (pop ~4200 per 1960 census). He stopped at a local First National grocery store to pick something up for his wife on a fine summer day. Came out climbed into the Edsel and started it up. As he was getting ready to back up his head swiveled left. There was a ladies hat that was NOT his wife’s. He had gotten into and started the wrong white soft top Edsel. Was a favorite story of his, given the uncle I’m not sure how much trust to place in the story :-).

            1. No keys were involved, but my mom laughs about the time that she did the grocery shopping and had to wait for something she’d ordered, so the bagger kid was sent out to load her stuff in the pickup by himself.

              “It’s the big, red, four-door extended bed pickup in the middle row.”

              There are roughly 80 spots, with the middle row being functionally 60 because anybody with a big vehicle pulls halfway through to make stuff easier for everybody. So not a lot of places, right?

              When she came out, he was standing there confused as heck, because THERE WERE FOUR BIG, RED, EXTENDED-BED, FOUR DOOR PICKUPS IN THE MIDDLE ROW.

              1. Well…. as you know the blue expedition, aka Big Blue, died in February. BUT it was our car for 22 years.
                Do you know how many times I come out and walk DETERMINEDLY towards a big blue expedition. And if Dan isn’t with me, I’m pressing the key button and wondering why the dang thing won’t open.
                If Dan is with me, he says “hon.” and I get it earlier.

                1. I’ve only ever noticed them in red, wineberry, and dark gun metal grey, that’s about it. I don’t think I’ve seen a blue Expi. Saw the Lincoln version in black
                  Explorers on the other hand, blue was mostly all I saw in Texas. Red was big in New Orleans, blue in the swamps, and up here it is split between Green and Blue. Oh, and Black in the new minivan resembling Explorers as A: The local Fuzz uses those, and those who want to fool the fuzz or others I guess. The Marinette ones mostly look unmarked until one gets right up on them or it is at night. Metallic Black with reflective black lettering.

                  1. Blue is the default color for those in Arkansas. On rare occasions there might be a white one. Anything else probably has out-of-state tags.

                    It’s an artefact of how Ford (or most manufacturers) “allocate” vehicles to dealerships. Sort of like tradpub; they determine what’s going to sell, then make it so by shipping only that.

  7. Yep, we all have our own standards of what is good and evil. To the extent that someone conforms to our standard of goodness, we call them good, or decent, or mostly ok. To the extent that they don’t we call them ignorant, stupid, messed up, crazy, or evil.

    The question is whether there is a God, who has communicated his standard to us, so that in the end discussions of good and evil are anything more than random molecules randomly making random noises near each other.

    1. It’s not random! Sets of molecules that adopt some definitions of good survive and produce more sets of molecules. Sets of molecules that adopt other definitions don’t survive, or survive but don’t copy themselves. Random mutation is no more the whole process than the random hiss of air striking the mouthpiece of a flute is the whole process of making musical notes.

      1. 🙂 The flute analogy is a non-starter, for it to work you must assume various miraculous random processes to produce the flute, random wind blowing across it, random raindrops hitting the paddles, or leaves covering the holes. All randomly producing Yankee Doodle.

        As far as definitions of good: by what standard? Without God, there is no good, at best only preferences: one man helps old ladies cross the street, another runs them over. In the big scheme of things there is no difference.
        More to the point, in the context of right vs. left, suppose the left decides that extermination of the right is good and succeeds in doing it. The left gets to produce more sets of left molecules, the right molecules cease to exist. Using survival and reproduction as the standard of good falls rather flat in that and many other scenarios.

        1. As far as definitions of good: by what standard?

          The Left approve of Jesus’ feeding the multitudes but raising the dead? Without providing Lazarus housing, food, medical insurance? They think he’s better off dead.

          Teaching people to fish denies them the opportunity to pursue their bliss, to create works of lasting art of the sort we see now adorning our cities.

  8. If humans are fundamentally good:

    Why do we need government?

    Why do we need limits on government?


    1. You are using logic, a historically recognized tool of the patriarchy. Shut up!

      Next thing you will be claiming it is intellectually and fundamentally inconsistent to demonstrate for elimination of police then complain about a failure of police to protect you.

  9. Like Jor-El, I believe that every individual can be a force for good. This requires freedom of choice. And, sadly, some will choose to not be a force for good. That’s the price we pay for having freedom.

    1. Sans freedom, the concept of good tends to lose some force. Good is defined as what is good for the state, not the individual.

      Evil, on the other hand, gets on just fine with the state. It has lots of friends.

      Put another way, if you can’t choose to be good or not, are you really being good? Or are you just being obedient?

  10. I think the left’s believe that everything is stolen stems from their general inability to create. While it is not absolute that all genuinely creative people are not leftist, it seems leftist demonstrate less creativity while claiming it is a feature of the left.

    That last might create this impression even if it isn’t true. With the cultural assumption that “left=creative” a lot of non-creative, but open leftists may go into creative fields because “of course I’m creative”. Meanwhile, non-leftists who are not creative avoid those fields and quite possibility so do some creative non-leftists because they doubt their creativity based on the cultural assumptions.

    1. Speaking of “their general inability to create” I see Plagiarizing Joe is back at it again, not only lifting lines from a Canadian’s speeches but also quoting Mao without attribution.

      I know; it’s just him redistributing good lines.

      1. I think in this case it is his campaign staff doing the plagiarizing as I doubt Joe is capable of writing anything at this point on his own.

    2. Or they find the idea of having to live and work and create surrounded by innumerate, historically illiterate Marxists, and find another way to make a living.

  11. I’ve read—don’t remember the source, sorry!—that in hunting band societies, everyone is expected to share their kills with everyone else. But if you don’t go out and hunt, or never manage to kill anything, you become unpopular, people stop sharing with you, and eventually you’re driven out to wander alone till you die. Because this is “communism” with intolerance for freeloaders.

    What it really sounds like to me is a form of insurance. You kill a big animal, more meat than you can eat before it spoils. So you hand out cuts of meet to the rest of your band. And then on the day when you don’t kill anything, you get some of another hunter’s kill. The cost to you is comparatively low, and the diminished risk of starvation—priceless. Which is part of why being driven out is so much to be avoided.

    People like Engels thought this was communism because they did no fieldwork and didn’t think about incentives. In fact it often seems that inability to think about incentives is a diagnostic trait of the left.

    1. Unless you are able to make it up some other way (crafts, helping with the kids, etc.) or people just respect you a lot (you’re an old person who used to help everybody a lot, and they happen to actually remember and care instead of forgetting).

      1. Yes, those things can make it worth keeping someone around when they can’t hunt or forage.

    2. Eh. There’s a bit more to it.

      Yes, there are freeloaders. Children and old people don’t contribute as much as they consume in hunter/gatherer societies. You have to have ’em anyway, because without kids your future ain’t happenin’ and without the old folks you don’t have much to live for, either.

      What hunter/gatherer societies *don’t* have much of is surplus. Surplus anything. They live darn close to the bone in the best of times, and bad sh*t happens often. A human that doesn’t pull his weight isn’t just being a crap human being- he’s killing his neighbors. Starvation is an ugly thing, man. So the able *have* to make do. Not sharing is possible- but there’s often a lot of internal bartering going on, and if you skip out on that, well, lone wolves don’t last long.

      Similar with primitive farming societies. Close to the bone.

    3. Even when the successful hunter was expected to share the kill, he got the liver and other organs.

      1. What is frequently forgotten is that the hunters frequently take first “dibs” from the kill before they even bring it back to the village or camp. Video back in cultural anthopology in college showing the !Kung hunting. The hunters kill a giraffe. They then gorge themselves on the meat before dragging what they could carry of the carcass back to camp.

        1. And it is still done today. Deer hunting with my Dad on Green Ridge in Maryland in the 60’s, when we field dressed the kills, we always took the liver and roasted it over the campfire, and ate with just a little salt. Some of the best eating I have ever had.

        1. The remains of the Antelope Creek people from what is now the Texas Panhandle (prehistoric, farmed and hunted) show a size difference between male and female. Probably because the men got more animal protein than the women did, for all of their lives. They hunted, ate the good parts, and the women oversaw the gardens and got the left overs (and probably set snares, because of rabbits and things, but a rabbit is not a bison in terms of meat and especially fat.)

          1. Rabbit may have more fat than bison. Bison runs MUCH leaner than cattle, and a bit leaner than chicken. And there is a size difference between male and female in modern Americans.

      2. Depends on the culture. There are places where the hunter gets nothing (although usually someone with a right to the meat gives some to him).

  12. I have a strong suspicion that they don’t reconcile anything in their heads

    They’ve taken their Carroll to heart:

    Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying,” she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”

    “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

    Or, perhaps, too literally.

    Ah, the benefits of maodern* education.

    *It was a typo but sometimes Freud’s slips prove revelatory.

    1. >> “I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

      “Once I even did six impossible things and somehow ended up having breakfast at a place called Milliways. Their selection of meat is to die for.”

  13. In fact, in some of the more primitive-living tribes, private property in the sense of un-needed and chance-come-by property, like charms or statues or whatever are very privately held and dearly loved.i>

    Actually there’s lots of evidence of cherished personal possessions as far back as “look at this cool shell!” level artifacts from pre-Neander hominid cave digs in Africa – including the earliest added decoration found, which IIRC was recently published and really, really, really very old.

    now the only thing to do is “teach” (bully, arrest, cancel, beat) humans into perfection.

    You omitted “kill”. They always do lots of that.

    We believe if you leave people alone and impose only the minimal rules to make sure people with a raging thirst for power aren’t stomping on everyone else, and enforce them consistently, people are more or less decent.

    So basically, we want to incentive the behavior we desire by increasing the cost of doing otherwise, so enlightened self-interest and societal interests align.

    Or to say it another way, things are set up so being decent yields doing well.

    When the nose-up elite start ‘adjusting’ incentives to push their pet projects, like “feed all the poor benighted Africans because they are so oppressed by their great great great ancestors’ colonial overlords pushing out their neighboring tribal overlords, and besides they tan really well, and you know what that means [wink wink]” they end up incentivizing kleptocracies, more starvation, and so on along the chain of unintended consequences like enabling the continuation of the slave trade.

    But that just means we aren’t sending enough free stuff.

    1. Killing humans is the only way to perfect* them.

      Although even then there seem to be problems. As noted, inclusion of objects with the buried indicates a recognition of private property, although I suppose we ought entertain the alternative hypothesis that those objects are interred because the dead have stolen them from the community.

      *Definition: “Brought to a consummation; fully finished; carried through to completion in every detail” Only a dead human can be truly considered “complete”.

      1. Also people being buried with their tools and in some cases, with ongoing projects. Such as women being buried with a half-finished band of card weaving, the cards kept in order and ready to set up.
        Thanks to word press, I note this is probably going under the wrong comment.

      2. Also a dead person is no longer able to make any sort of mistake or fail in anything.

        Admittedly they can’t succeed either, but that is a small price to pay for perfection.

    2. We believe if you leave people alone and impose only the minimal rules to make sure people with a raging thirst for power aren’t stomping on everyone else, and enforce them consistently, people are more or less decent.

      So basically, we want to incentive the behavior we desire by increasing the cost of doing otherwise, so enlightened self-interest and societal interests align.

      Or to say it another way, things are set up so being decent yields doing well.

      *points up*
      This is a discussion on social justice, the original definition.

      Designing laws and social incentives so that they don’t get in the way of being good.

      Small wonder they hijacked the term, eh?

      1. One of the points that Peterson made (actually I think he was relaying Nietzsche?) is that if you want to really mess someone up you punish them for their virtues.

        A lot of the laws of the past century are best summarized as “How can we most cruelly punish people for doing the right thing, without it being too immediately obvious?”.

            1. A lot of the laws of the past century are best summarized as “How can we most cruelly punish people for doing the right thing, without it being too immediately obvious?”

              Some examples, and the cause-effect relation. Or perhaps the proclaimed desired effect(s) vs. the actual observed (and possibly predicted) effect(s). And how the “not immediately obvious” was managed?

              Seems there should be enough material for more than a mere comment in that.

                      Foul Ole Ron is a beggar in Ankh-Morpork and a member of the Canting Crew, a group of beggars which other beggars refuse to have anything to do with (even beggars need somebody to look down on). Given that Ron was described as a member of the Beggars’ Guild in Men at Arms, before his first appearance in the Crew, he was either expelled or the subject of one of Discworld’s various alternate pasts. Ron is known for his Smell, so strong the capital letter is fully justified. In fact, Ron’s Smell has evolved a personality of its own, and can be found without Ron, attending opera performance or visiting art galleries.

                      Ron is also known for the phrases “Bugrit!” and “Millennium Hand and Shrimp”, whatever that means. He is often accompanied by his thinking-brain dog, Gaspode. Interestingly enough, when under the extra pressure of Elves on top of his usual burdens, the Bursar once started to talk exactly like Ron; Ponder Stibbons suspected that they’d overdone the Dried Frog Pills…. (Lords and Ladies)

      1. Speaking of avoid woke-scolds in television, does anyone have any k-drama recommendations?

  14. They grew up in stories, more than in the real world

    Interested persons can find an abundant supply of those stories in the MSM daily feed.

  15. It’s not just a political question, is it? Writers need to understand how human beings work. Science fiction writers especially need to think about it, because we keep inventing oddball societies… and I am so tired of (a) the society that has achieved total material affluence, everything you want comes out of magic machines, but for some unexplained reason everybody still works at their boring jobs; and (b) the society where nobody engages in trade because they don’t believe in it, or they’re too pure for nasty capitalistic ideas, or all property is held in common and there are never any disagreements.

    Hmm. Maybe the connection between leftist publishing houses, leftist message fiction, and stupid leftist ideas about the economy is darker and more manipulative than I realized. Because the kinds of societies being invented in today’s traditional sf publishing are, to a great extent, pushing the exact myths that you need people to believe in so they’ll swallow your political and economic policies.

    Hmm. I should probably stop running my mouth and go away and think about this.

    1. everything you want comes out of magic machines

      But where’s the status there, eh?

        1. “You brought me out of cryosleep and cured whatever was trying to kill me. Thank you. I do wonder, though, why you chose me out of all the possibilities. Experimental treatments? Was I considered a low-risk of failure? Or a ‘who cares’ in case of failure? Or.. something else.”

          “Something else.”

          “Dare I ask what?”

          “Your peculiar education and skill set.”

          “Peculiar? I only barely managed an Associate’s Degree-”

          “You have a soldering gun and know how to use it. Everything is automated, even the repairing… save for one thing.”

          “Nobody thought about the power switches, did they?”

          “Got it.”

          “Things never change.”

    2. I keep wanting to yell at my anti-capitalistic friends (and yes, I do have some) that we don’t live in a post-scarcity society. But I don’t, because there’s so many missing steps in their education* that it would be worthless.

      *In this case, “education” is “learn what it takes to make bread. From the planting step.” Locusts might be involved.

      1. More like from the “first you get some seed” step…

        Stalin’s food distribution apparatchiks found that out the hard way. Stupid kulaks thought they could hold back all that wheat and rye for their own use, who did they think they were trying to fool? So the goons loaded it all up and hauled it to the cities.

        Obviously, the farmers’s inability to meet the next year’s Plan was due to insufficient revolutionary zeal, but after marching them off to concentration camps, their replacements did no better…

  16. [I]n most cases the route to what humans want — which is some individual combination of status, family and stability — is easier if you don’t break the law.

    Note that these things are NOT material in nature. Thus they cannot be obtained by theft. Beyond a certain fundamental level, the desire for material things is the desire for the status those things (are believed) to confer. Nikes, for example, carry the $ premium they do not because of superior quality materials or manufacture but because of superior status. They impress your peers (should you be so unfortunate as to have such shallowly impressed peers.)

    Of course, if you stole/looted/took as reparations those Nikes then you know your status is suspect, is falsely held because you did not earn those shoes through legitimate efforts. This self-knowledge undermines your satisfaction in your “achievement” thus denying you the substance of your effort. It is a form of that Marxist paradox, “”I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.”

    Of course, the primary benefits of our modern social media is the supposed status conferred upon “influencers.”

    1. > falsely held because you did not earn those shoes through legitimate efforts.

      They didn’t have to earn them. They were *owed* them. If you can’t follow the Narrative any better than that, we’re going to have to give you more Special High Intensity Training.

      1. I’ve had enough of it from the Left to be convinced that the only path forward to a bright future for humanity is to extirpate Leftism.

      2. Hence the attempt to re-frame looting as reparations. But no amount of semantic shenanigans can provide the satisfaction of earning a thing, nor alleviate the niggling suspicion that those observing you know you haven’t earned a thing (beyond a good spanking.)

        Thanks, but I’ve had all the S.H.I.T. they could throw at me and completely understand their tactical evasions of reality.

  17. Stopping only 4 paragraphs in to express my opinion from a cat fur free keyboard; First define good.

    OK now, however you defined it, humans are potentially good.

    Alright, now I’ll read the rest.

  18. Human behavior is partly learned, or the influence of others, and partly a variation that is within every population. The variation can be described as free will.

    Culture and religion are both more fundamental than government.

    Where you have ‘good’ cultures and religions, you can have good government.

    Where you have ‘bad’ cultures or religions, you will see a great deal more evil.

    The cultures and religions of populations are not controllable by any engineering practice.

    Religious practices that can be considered ‘good’ can be found among flavors of Christianity.

    Practice of the sounder Christian religions is likely to have a positive effect. But a few small communities swimming in a cultural that isn’t influenced by Christianity are perhaps not going to have immediate, widespread benefits.

    Stressed westerners who notice that ‘maybe Christianity is actually good, and causes good things’, but attempt to practice it for those reasons, instead of as a religion, are probably going to fail to create a viable/useful strain.

    The variation/diversity angle is where governments or vigilante cultures come into play. Every population is going of have a certain number of people who are violently willing to violate whatever customs exist concerning the rights of others. Relatively few societies have the resources to stop them, and keep them alive an unmaimed.

    What does a society do?

    Some societies have made the choice to punish those people, killing them if need be.

    Some societies have made the choice to license these people, holding their behavior up for emulation, so long as it is mostly pointed outside of whatever tiny dysfunctional group.

    Governments and armies are downstream of religion, culture, and politics. Okay, politics is a swamp, but police and military force have to take as given situations that we cannot one hundred percent measure. You cannot war to rid yourself of the depredations of a horrible culture if the population you can recruit fighters from is as dysfunctionally evil. You cannot by policing eliminate a practice if you do not have a population that already mostly does not carry out the practice.

    Leftist moderns have leftism for their religion, and little Christian influence in the culture they have internalized. Their values lead them in the direction of a society without the capacity for peace. Some of them may be persuadable, due to internalized traces of the older ways. Some of them can only be coerced.

    They are barbarians. They do not speak Greek, think their customs are the whole of mankind’s, and can be civilized with a Krag.

    If the leftist cultural, religious, intellectual or legal influence within a population is not evenly distributed, then the killings necessary to create, maintain, or preserve a level of peace and rule of law will not be evenly distributed.

  19. The left leaders have the problem that they’re true believers on some level, while being generally horrible people. Since they have faith that they’re better than the ‘deplorables’, society must set up the filthy unenlightened masses to be extremely rotten indeed. At least in their paradigm. (And I’m really grateful that my faith has explicit ‘non-members can be in error and still be right about a lot of things’ and ‘non-members can be good people who merit the full rewards of heaven’; sadly, I grok how easy is it to assume that those who disagree with me are evil.)

    Or in other words, Marxism really _does_ produce societies full of hate, envy, and backstabbing, so they project that on societies that have enough liberty to facilitate free trade and assume that such a culture has to be even _worse_.

    And of course, never mind that tribes live on the ragged edge of survival as soon as they’ve reproduced enough that there’s competition for resources, meaning that pre-agricultural tribes that survive tend to be Zulu-tier brutal to outsiders.


    1. I’m pretty sure it is a disinformation strategy on some level. Convince us that everything we have now is worthless, and we will not fight to protect it.

      Marxism-Leninism, the state cult of the Soviet Union, was created precisely to give license to the people who head the cults, who are criminal, whether by personal choice or innate criminality. One does not come to power in those systems without a strong drive towards evil, willfully acted on to the degree that becomes skill and ability. Ability to lie, to cheat, to murder, all of these are required.

      I’m not entirely sure about the hierarchy of that sort in free countries. Are some of them innocent and simply not very bright? Are the more able sort intelligent enough to see that it is in the service of evil? Is it a deliberate choice to cultivate the evil as cadre for some inner party? If this last, is QAnon wrong?

  20. For Marxism to work human beings must be perfectible.
    A big reason why it never does is because that just ain’t true.

  21. Yesterday a friend asked a question, which has apparently been rocking right wing blogs and talk shows: “Is considering humans as inherently good a right or left thing?” I’d managed to miss it completely until a friend brought it up.

    …Define what is being meant by “human,” and “good,” and probably “inherent” as well.

    Humans as the inter-fertile beings most commonly identified as Homo sapiens, and inherent as meaning without any confounding factors, then I’d say it’s good because it’s not an inherent wrong to be a human.

    Defining human as “person,” and inherent as until someone else ruins it, and good as in their behavior is moral, and obviously that’s nonsense on stilts even if it is very popular in the tribal minded sorts. (That lets you say that your people, who are THE people, are obviously good even when they do bad things because that means someone else is to blame.)

    1. The thing that struck me was the big-question phrasing jumps past the actual big question – “Is [implicit ‘correct’ answer to Big Question, with built-in assumed definitions – no arguing, move along, move along] a right or left thing?”

      And that’s a language-stealing framing cheat.

      1. *wonders if anybody has done the “Sorry, that was a strange thing to ask” with the other translation of “sorry, loaded question”*

    2. Also, we should start a movement to call us Hetero Sapiens. Given all the Neander and Denisovan content, we are hardly as homogenous as previously supposed.

    3. Humans as the inter-fertile beings most commonly identified as Homo sapiens, and inherent as meaning without any confounding factors, then I’d say it’s good because it’s not an inherent wrong to be a human.

      I agree that there isn’t anything wrong with being human. But human beings with nothing added- no culture, nurturing, nothing, those are pretty selfish. Toddlers have to be taught good behavior by their parents and everyone else in their lives. I’m not arguing infants are blank slates, just that at the absolute rock bottom (that no human ever stays at), we aren’t good *yet.*

      This is why family structure and good mommies and daddies are seriously *important.* Good parents make good kids, are good examples, and nurture the values, attitudes, and morals that make up good adults. We *need* that stuff to be better people as we grow up.

      That said.

      By and large, humans *are* good. It can be proven by math. If every child of abuse grew up and abused their own families, wives, husbands, kids, then there would be no good people born ever again within not too many generations (shamelessly swiped from Jordan Peterson). The fact that this does not happen and never has become even common does more to give me faith in my fellow man than anything a politician has ever said.

      So, to put it another way, is there *an* inherent goodness in human beings?

      I would say that there is the potential for goodness inherent in each and every human being. Full stop. There is also the potential for great evil, as our host has mentioned above. Different cultures will affect this- c.f. amoral familists vs. traditional western Christians. As above, even a child born into the worst of circumstances can rise above it, and even those born to wealth and plenty can grow to be cruel and selfish. With free will, all potentialities are on the table.

      But a good way to bet would be to look at family structure. Good role models and good teachers matter a lot.

      1. Agreed. One of the berserk buttons for people who’ve managed to get out of abusive families is being told, “Well, your parents couldn’t help it – they did the best they could – they were abused too!”

        Statements 2 and 3 might be true. Statement 1 is not.

        1. Statements 2 and 3 might be true. Statement 1 is not.

          Sometimes someone from an abusive household marries someone not from an abusive household. The one from the abusive household says “it stops here”. With a spouse to show them the right way & back them up, stepping in if needed.

          According to my late SIL that is what happened with her parents. Her dad from the abusive family, her mom wasn’t. He was firm but not unfair. She made sure.

          In some ways I see the same with my own grandparents. Difference is paternal grandfather mitigated the emotional abuse from paternal grandmother’s upbringing, not necessarily her folks, but her grandfather’s rein on her parents even after they were married. As my mom stated, from everything she’d heard “he was a controlling SOB”. Dad didn’t escape it 100%. OTOH no one, no one, told his daughters what choice of study or career we were to choose. As he *stated repeatably. One tech degree, four engineering/science bachelors science degrees, & two masters, between the three of us.

          * As in, we’d meet total strangers to (us), and the statement was “Which one are you? J talks about his girls all the time.” At which point someone else would point out “no one tells his girls what they can do.” His memorial was interesting (with about 300 people attending). Guaranty his sister’s didn’t get the same encouragement from their dad, nor did mom from her parents, or dad (until he got sick & couldn’t work; didn’t say he was a saint …). (Part of it was the times.)

      2. Amen.

        We’re wonderful things that are broken, but mendable; it takes a lot of work, and to perfect, it’d take a miracle.
        Which is why kintsugi is such a popular metaphor. 😀

  22. I can think of all sorts of differences between the Left and the Right…and there’s a lot. I could see the differences between the British and French (and later German) nobility and cultures as one of them. Or how the cultures handle relations between the classes (and, we will never have a classless society in any sense. Some of us will be better than the others in some way or form.)

    Hell, just the difference between Christian and Islamic cultures in both peace and war.

    But, I my thoughts of a simple difference-hubris.

    The Right believes in the the prevention and penance for hubris.

    The Left believes in the propagation of faith and punishment for hubris.

    And, at the end of the day, it also has to do with agency-the Right believes that humans ultimately have agency, the Left believes that humans don’t have agency as humans.

  23. Is this Richard Spencer guy the ‘former left wing agitator’ who I was hearing about in relation to Charlottesville?

    Because the Biden endorsement would seem to confirm my prior suspicions of that guy.

  24. Something that maybe has gone unnoticed: When some cultures learn to be more productive, they turn the benefits toward prosperity. But other cultures turn the increased productivity toward acting out old hatreds, usually on their neighbors. And often those neighbors are doing the same thing.

    I can see some possible causes of the difference, but it seems little explored in popular fiction.

  25. My theory is that there’s a substantial minority—say 15%—of humanity who will do the “right” thing (from inherent morality or obedience to the rules which seem to be moral) and a similar percentage who will do the “wrong” thing (the completely selfish thing, the ones who will steal the Halloween candy from the bowl on the porch and decide to take the bowl too.) The vast middle will do what is easiest and what has incentives.

    So the whole purpose of government is to make the “right” thing the easiest to do, so that the vast majority of people get along well together. The U.S. has done pretty well with that in the past—it’s why we have a high trust society. But we’re not doing so well with the incentives, recently. You put the wrong kind in place and the middle group will follow them.

    1. ?So the whole purpose of government is to make the “right” thing the easiest to do, so that the vast majority of people get along well together.

      Society, too.

      Gov’t is just an intermediary level. Social pressures can get a lot of similar results. For the Halloween candy thing, the guys who are inclined to take the entire bowl will just take a big handful, or two, and complain about the crud they get for it, because people are willing and able to punish them for it.

      1. When society breaks it destroys far more than just the high level functionality. What in a healthy culture functions as one of the checks on a person going loopy becomes a source of advice that has to be inverted before it can be used.

        An then there is the “off the books” stuff. There appear to be many things that are wrong, or severe violations of this or that rule, and yet are necessary. Everything from one person taking another aside and giving a word of advice they had no business giving, to the occasional need for someone to get the crap beaten out of them to convey a lesson, all the way up to — in the most extreme cases — lampposts.

        1. Frequently, the problem is that the rule has been over-simplified, usually because the assumptions/definitions are built in.

          Like that discussion of “white after labor day” from a month or three back, or how the Founders would probably be banging their heads over wishes they’d written the 2nd different because it literally says “arms,” which was the term for what a soldier would carry, so asking them to counter the noise about how it wasn’t for weapons of war is…a bit much.

          1. I think the founders always knew that the Constitution was only as strong as the men willing to keep it. I’ve seen a lot of discussion of “go back in time and tell them, ‘DON’T INCLUDE THAT INTERSTATE COMMERCE CLAUSE,’ but I think that if they had skipped that, FDR would have found a way to justify his powers via the post office or something. It’s impossible to make a set of rules that can’t be abused.

            1. In theory he wasn’t allowed what he did.

              But threatening the court and being able to back up that threat helps lubricate the mechanism of government.

              1. Exactly — the Commerce Clauseas written is a necessary role for the Federal government. But as re-written it is a license to rule. The problem is in an administration willing to stretch the meanings of words so grotesquely, and a judiciary so compliant as to permit it.

                ANY phrase in the Constitution is subject to such shameless reinterpretation, even the right to “peaceably” assemble. Okay, to mostly peaceably assemble.

          2. Or well regulated. Some way to differentiate that pops should be prepared for war with the ‘i jumped thru political hoops’

            1. But “we regulated” didn’t mean regulations, at the time– it meant they could be trusted not to blow eachother’s head off on accident.

      2. Back when I was in college, our exams were unproctored; the professor would pass out the exams, then go work in his office, sometimes returning halfway through to see if anyone had any questions. We could have cheated with impunity…but we didn’t. In fact, it wasn’t until someone from another school pointed it out to me that I even realized that it was possible. The culture of DO NOT CHEAT was so strong that it was inconceivable that you would talk to someone else or pull out a book to look something up, even without an authority figure to enforce the rules.

        That level of honor had a lot of advantages. Unfortunately, my college has changed a lot in the past twenty years, and I’m not sure if they still have it.

        1. Second degree the classes had open book tests. Didn’t have time to look much up if you really didn’t know the material, but it was open book. Made it nice for those “dang I know this” but can’t quite bring it to mind.

          First class in first degree. Every other person had a different test. Same questions, but different order. Yea, you could copy your neighbor’s answer for question 3 for your question 3, but it was obvious what happened. Do that in enough lower level classes, & they didn’t bother with upper division classes.

  26. “no one gets ahead without breaking the law.” I don’t know if they ever say that explicitly, but it’s obvious and implicit in all their art, writing and story telling.”

    Not sure if individuals say that explicitly, but I do believe I’ve seen several movies/TV shows that have said that exact thing.

    1. And in a society which has far too many laws, like ours, and laws that contradict each other, also like ours…..


      1. “Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

        1. Sure. EVERY Democrat and many Republican policies won’t work without selective enforcement.

        2. the problem being that if that mentality continues you eventually end up with a society that disregards the government completely, and will willingly kill government representatives given a chance just for being government. It’s essentially a gang war. You can only have scofflaws for minor things because it can quickly devolve into warring factions.

    2. Well of course. How do many of them get ahead. Even a lot of tech motu, wasn’t as much a great idea as much as being there at right time

    1. WTF?

      I believe this is called “Winning!”

      No wonder Congress can’t negotiate any amelioration of the COVID shut-down.

      1. Oh! Having had the chance to sleep on this it is clear to me what Pelosi’s rant is about: Trump and his supporters are enemies of the state: the Deep State, the one the Constitution was written to limit.

      2. Does this mean it’s time to start shooting? Because if I am already to be considered an enemy of the state, what do I have to lose?

      3. Like Neal Armstrong and his missing “a” after “a small step”, Nancy left out the word “deep”.

  27. Second thought: I hope I made sense in what I put here… It was a free association in response to the pose… if not, sorry…

    I caught hell for teaching my boys that their toys were THEIRS…

    But at the same time I was teaching them that if they expected to play with other kid’s toys the would have to share…

    They also learned that the property of others was to be respected if they wanted the same consideration toward their stuff…

    Unlike their peers, they grew up understanding that cooperation and sharing were important METHODS of dealing with others… not something to expect as a given.

    They hated the concept of “participation trophies” rewarding the talented equally as the inept or useless members of the group. It was blatantly unfair to the kids putting in the work and an insult to the kids who didn’t or couldn’t help.

    Trust me… kids realize when they are being rewarded falsely, and it takes years of indoctrination to overcome that and instill a sense of entitlement to replace their natural understanding of fairness.

    I’m pretty sure the concepts of Good and Bad my boys developed with those lessons are a stronger part of their core than the namby pamby lessons of “sharing” and artifical “self-esteem” I’ve seen in the hundreds of kids I’ve had in my classrooms over the years..

    Actually I think teaching kids that they MUST share is evil, setting them up to be taken advantage of and diluting any true “Good” in their personality with a false premise of “sharing” as a necessity. Especially when they perceive (rightfully) that others take advantage of them as they “share” things.

    Kids know they are being taken advantage of when THEY share and others don’t. I believe that causes considerable uncertainty about what constitutes real Good and Bad.

    1. No no no no no! That isn’t how it works at all!

      You see; kids have an innate understanding of Fairness. And this proves that Capitalism is evil Bad Wrong.

    2. kids realize when they are being rewarded falsely

      Every participation trophy has been gone since the kid hit HS. Kept the plaque which was put with whatever picture taken for the specific sport in a picture book. Every trophy or metal kid earned is intact. By his choice.

      I know one metal that, one kid, I hope treasures. There were trophies for 1 – 3 place, and best of *build* 3 other trophies. Then also 1 – 10th metals for the double elimination. Cubs, pinewood derby. The only limitation put on everything to spread trophies out was “one trophy”. No problem there. Generally top 3 didn’t touch the “most unique” etc categories. But the metals. Turns out if double elimination is done correctly 10th place is like 4 kids. So brought them over, explained what happened. Two of them pointed out that a fellow cub was there, to cheer & congratulate everyone’s run, even though he hadn’t *submitted a car; they knew why. They voted to give him the metal.

      * Since the derby kits were given out to everyone in December, it isn’t that he didn’t have the kit. Any cub whose parent didn’t know how to help their cub had a **resource to help build the car (also announced multiple times, you know for single parent, or households without the tools). BUT it took a parent who cared to get the car built (even if it meant utilizing above resource).

      ** said resource helped multiple other cubs build cars including ones that beat his own son’s car … just FYI.

    3. So much *stuff* out there…
      We have moved to a new project, so yesterday we went to the local Methodist church. The last church we found had an excellent pastor who actually talked about good and evil in his sermons. This one was more typical, sadly. The minister couldn’t bring himself to say, “Hell,” for example, but spoke of, ” the Underworld.” But the real issue was the animated video. It had the wise Hispanic minister presiding over a properly ethnically diverse congregation, and a young black girl asked for prayers for the local librarian and was praised by the pastor. Who then proceeded to tell his congregation how important it is to pray for people, even people different from you. All done in saccharine tones that suggested the target audience was six-year-olds. There were no children there.
      Utterly patronizing, even toward six-year-olds. People seem to think you need to pound your Edifying Moral Lesson in with a sledgehammer.

    4. How dare you be sane and responsible and pass it along to the next generation!

      If you wish to adopt the handle/mantle of “monster”, I will vouch for you. ♉

    5. The “you MUST share” thing makes it harder for teachers/authorities.

      Which I didn’t figure out until I had to put my foot down on my mom trying to make the Duchess share her candies– which she will hoard for weeks, given a choice– with the Princess, who inhaled hers and wanted more.

      I was very proud that as soon as she wasn’t being told she HAD to “give” stuff, the younger daughter picked out a candy and gave it to her sister– it was good for both of them– but oy, what a headache.

      We had about a month of TV induced “but I said to share, so you HAVE to” problems a year or so earlier.

      1. I was very proud that as soon as she wasn’t being told she HAD to “give” stuff, the younger daughter picked out a candy and gave it to her sister– it was good for both of them– but oy, what a headache.

        A surprisingly large amount of bad behavior — or at least “not the behavior we want” — comes down to the fact that economic laws still operate even at the level of an individual child.

        In cases like this, “Regime Uncertainty” is the operative failure.

  28. My take. Most people are reasonably “good”, as it’s defined in the culture with which they have been “imprinted” (generally the one they grew up with, but there are exceptions–I, frankly, was more imprinted by fiction than in the world in which I grew up. And I thank my lucky stars that the biggest influence there was The Lieutenant, and later Dr. Pournelle, oh, and comic books). Indeed, this is at the root of my nearly absolutist position on things like gun control and free speech/press. Most people are good and decent, at least reasonably so (I neither expect, nor require perfection) and so will overwhelm the “bad” elements by sheer weight of numbers.

    This, also, is why the Left is so big on capturing things like education, entertainment, and politics–they hope to redefine the “culture” in such a way that the “reasonably good” will be in their favor. They have, I think, come entirely too close to succeeding for my comfort.

    And, again, this is why I am so big on the need to fight the war on a cultural level, the “culture war”. If we can win the culture war, then most people will be “good” as defined by that culture. Fail, and we’re left with trying to impose our particular “cultural good” by force–and I’ll leave the inherent contradiction of imposing freedom by force for the student to contemplate.

  29. Wait, doesn’t that mean most humans will break the law and be criminals if you let them?

    An argument that I face from time to time is “if you don’t believe in X, then why not do (some bad thing) if you can do it and be certain of not getting caught?”

    My response is generally:
    1) How certain can you really be of not getting caught? Jails are full of people who were sure they’d never get caught. What might I have missed?
    2) Humans are creatures of habit to a certain extent. If I do (some bad thing) “just this once” then I’m likely to try it again some other time.
    3) That means that “just this once” is likely to be a first step into more and with each additional time the odds that I missed something leading me to get caught increases. Most crimes go unsolved but most criminals are caught because criminals almost never stop with one crime.
    4) Thus, it is in my interest to not take that first step.

    Analogously, when I was younger I absolutely did not drink alcohol. Period. Frequently, people would get me to try a drink. “One won’t hurt you.”
    “Why, then, should I take that one drink?”
    “Well, you might like it.”
    “In which case, I’ll drink more, right?”
    “So we’re not talking about one drink. We’re talking about a possible lifetime of drinking that starts with that one drink.”

    Eventually, I changed my mind on my drinking policy. But it was my decision, made on my own without being pressured by other folk urging me to “try just one.”

  30. “Making it too socially expensive to hurt people and take their stuff can help make society on the whole, happy healthy and wise.”

    The trick is making it too expensive for the government to use their force to take our stuff.

  31. “If Men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and the next place, oblige it to control itself.” – James Madison, Federalist 10

    The Democratic Party loves the first sentence of that quote, and forgets about the second. They have no interest in obliging a government made up of their party members to control itself. Because, they believe that since they only want good things, then they cannot possibly be wrong. My dad used to put it as “How can we be wrong when we’re so sincere?”

    Whatever the order of their belief system, Ds believe they are good. Rs believe everybody would rather be left alone. Humans are not angels, and humans in crowds are even worse.

    1. In the end “Good Government”* is an exercise in balancing multiple contradictions, and figuring how to not have them blow up in your face too quickly. Democracy (and Republics with democratic elements) is no less susceptible to this than any other form (strictly speaking it adds another layer to the pile).

      * governments that are purely about which thug gets to have the wine women and song don’t have this problem. But they have some other issues.

      1. I take your point, but the Founders weren’t aiming for “good government” however defined, they were aiming for limited government and a culture of civic nationalism (pride in the structures, not the individuals holding positions). Their belief and guiding principle was that it was necessary to limit government because there would be bad, awful, and even evil leaders. But if the structure was sound, the bad that could be accomplished by bad leaders would be mitigated.

        1. John Adams: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

          It works both ways: you cannot have “a moral and religious people” if government does not give them liberty to be so. A government which circumscribes all activity precludes a people being good* and moral.

          *To be precise, under such government “good” is redefined as obedient, servile to the governing caste.

  32. Philosophically, all humans are fundamentally good because all things are fundamentally good, and it’s Manichaeism to say otherwise. 0:)

    HOWEVER, humans are like ladders. One flawed rung can make a ladder perilous to use, and likewise, any significant flaw in a human can be a menace.

  33. “Because government is essentially force…”

    “But the way to live in a functional society and prosper as a whole is to keep those [savage impulses] under control.“

    Therefore, it is more precise to state, “Government is the CONTROL of savage impulses.”

    These savage impulses are ideally self-regulated (theologically “mortified”), which leads to self-government and political liberty or alternatively they are given free reign and bring about external regulation, which in its final form is political repression and tyranny.

    This dynamic is represented by the Calvinistic concept of Total Depravity: No man is as good as he should be neither is he as bad as he could be.

    Restraint of evil (savage impulses) is effected by civil society and the Spirit of God alike. Therefore, government exists even in the absence of soldiers and police. It is the very ground of man’s being, every man being subject to it. Cf w/ Romans 13, Let every man be subject to the higher powers for their is no power but of God.

    Anarchists are at war with reality and they will ultimately fail.

    1. Blink.
      Look you can believe your religion, bully for you. But when you’re talking to people of other religions, about civil matters, you persuade no one by saying you must believe as I do.
      Second — NO.
      Government is FORCE. And therefore must only be employed for the minimum possible.
      Third, self control is lovely. NO human society EVER got EVERYONE to self control. EVER. Not even what are/were effectively theocracies.

    2. This dynamic is represented by the Calvinistic concept of Total Depravity: No man is as good as he should be neither is he as bad as he could be.

      “neither is he as bad as he could be”

      Where the bloody hell did you get *that* out of “Total Depravity” or its definition?

      And now I’d better shut up, and we are well inside the ergosphere of a banned topic…

  34. If you’re reading this, chances are you’re human. (Unless you’re a minotaur, of course. This blog doesn’t discriminate on your percentage of human DNA. Like the owner could throw stones and all.)

    The dragon portion of my heritage appreciates that.
    (I’ve called the oddities in my aortic valve — bicuspid instead of the design-spec tricuspid, and larger than the largest TAVI device they manufacture — to my dragon anatomy.)

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