from The Psychology of Liberty
by Wes Bertrand © 2000, copylefted 2007

Psychology of Ownership

In a capitalistic society everything that can be validly claimed as property (i.e., able to be logically acquired and demarcated) would be owned by human beings. Consequently, what should or should not be done with (and on) “public” land would no longer be debated. For all practical purposes public land is owned by the government. Since, legally, everyone and no one own the property, the use and/or disposal of it is controlled by politicians, with the aid of pressure or interest groups.

Capitalism would turn the concept of property rights into what it should be—an absolute reality. All “government property”—including roads, streets, bridges, waterways (oceans, rivers, streams), airways and airspace (including all the highly regulated frequencies along the electromagnetic spectrum), and anything else humans discover in the future that can be objectively defined as property—would finally be recognized for what it is: someone’s property.

Existents, or entities in existence, should be owned—or rather must be owned—for them to best benefit human beings. Ownership is a method by which an individual can create value in an existent. By claiming something as property, one now has marketable capital which can be utilized in the marketplace with other human beings. If others deem it relatively unsuitable to their needs or desires, it will have little economic value (although it may have much personal value to oneself). If they deem it useful and desirable, it will have more value on the market. Whether one uses this property for one’s own interests or shares it with others, or decides to transfer it to another person, it nonetheless has definite value—it can be used and traded. As soon as an existent is able to be traded, it can be used for the furtherance of human productivity; it can be improved, utilized, reshaped, and so on, so that it will provide benefits to people.

Presently all the things and places beyond our planet are unclaimed by anyone (not counting satellites in orbit around Earth). And none will be claimed until someone can make use of them to further serve human life (i.e., until they can have value on the marketplace of goods and services). In order to logically acquire and demarcate such distant regions, we must first venture into them. Naturally, our moon is the next realm on the list of places where property acquisition and demarcation are achievable.

Property must be the preeminent legal concept in a capitalistic society. Ownership, rather than being harmful or somehow bad (as one may get the impression from current political/environmental debates), is indispensable for conceptual beings. Ownership allows us to live. Ownership creates economic values. By everyone owning land and resources, human life prospers.

An advanced civilization, one that sees rights for what they are, would understand that without absolute property rights, absolute human rights are impossible.76 Again, rights are an individual affair, no matter how many contracted parties are involved. Since there can be no such thing as collective rights, there can be no such thing as public property. Today, we just witness the effects of mistaken ideas about how humans should deal with each other. Government is used as a crutch in place of proper integration of concepts.

The idea that government should “own” all thoroughfares and waterways, as well as enormous land areas set aside for wilderness preservation or “multiple use,” seems to stem from a fear or mistrust of human nature. But government and interest groups are people too, subject to human nature. Mistrusting people, while not mistrusting a contradictory government run by people, indeed creates additional problems.

The idea that others cannot be trusted to make appropriate decisions is not a minor issue. It is one of the most dominant ideas in our culture. People may feel that if “others” owned all the property, they would desire to destroy the very property they had purchased (“to make a fast buck”) and restrict access to their property. The general fear is this: On a wide enough scale, people would destroy the planet and/or make transportation impossible.

Yet, people make profits in a free market by generating values to trade with others. Obviously, prohibiting travel and commerce is not in line with profiting. Nor is it in line with enjoying social interaction. In a free market system people would invest in property in order to make money and gain other values. What someone does with his or her property is largely determined by his or her personal values and by the forces of supply and demand—that is, what will reap the greatest rewards for him or her.

To desire to take action that will benefit us in some way is completely normal. In fact, it is our nature. If it were not, the human species would not exist. Any use and/or disposal of property ultimately ought to have the effect of creating resources that we value and need to sustain us. For it to do otherwise is to truly miss the point of human life and productivity. Human life and productivity, by the way, logically do not run counter to maintaining the beauty and well-being of this planet.

Nurturing Earth and its ecosystems invariably means nurturing ourselves. There is no contradiction between the survival and progress of humankind and the survival of our planet’s natural resources, both living and nonliving. We will always have a definite need for expanses of terrain dedicated to scenic and recreational pleasures. Ultimately the enlightened values of property owners and the market of buyers would determine the final proportion of economic development.

Concerns about the ills of economic progress seem to originate mostly from observations within our presently corrupt moral and political state of affairs (which will be addressed in greater detail shortly). Stories about the way it was, back when property was a spurious concept and people “lived off the land,” typically have an appeal because this former way of life did not jeopardize the scenic wonder of the planet and various crucial ecosystems. However, it is on account of human progress that we are able to voice our concerns in the first place. Progress has given life to billions of individuals who otherwise would never have taken a breath of air.

It would be ironic for us to disparage the very factors that give us life. Once again, no incongruity should exist between economic progress and living in accordance with the demands of our biosphere. The words of free market economist George Reisman raise some interesting points:

All economic activity has as its sole purpose the improvement of the environment: it aims exclusively at the improvement of the external, material conditions of human life.

In trying to restrict man’s freedom to improve his living conditions, the misnamed ‘environmental movement’ seeks to force man to live in a less favorable environment.

Now because the world is composed entirely of natural resources and possesses a virtually irreducible and practically infinite supply of energy, the problem of natural resources is simply one of being able to obtain access to them, of being able to obtain command over the resources, that is, of being in a position to direct them to the service of human well-being. This is strictly a problem of science, technology, and the productivity of labor. Its solution depends merely on learning how to break down and then put together various chemical compounds in ways that are useful to man, and having the equipment available to do it without requiring an inordinate amount of labor. Human intelligence certainly has the potential for discovering all the knowledge that is required, and in a free, rational society, the incentive of profit virtually guarantees that this knowledge will both be discovered and provided with the necessary equipment to be put to use.(p.16)

To men who reason and are free to act, nature gives more and more. To those who turn away from reason or are not free, it gives less and less. Nothing more is involved.84(p.19)

The common concern is really not so much about one’s own property, as it is about the property of others. It involves the effects of someone else’s actions, for example with their property, on other people’s values. More philosophically, the attitude may be this: What is in someone else’s best interests may not be in one’s own best interests, or in the interests of others or the country. In other words, one person’s self-interest and values might conflict with another person’s self-interest and values.

Let us take, for example, an expanse of land that one person (or company) desires to be used for scenic and recreational enjoyment, but another wants to mine. Supposedly this is a conflict of interest. However, what this line of thinking fails to realize is that, either way the property is utilized, both uses are of value on the free market. Otherwise, the potential owners obviously would not invest the money to buy them. There is no reason why the two buyers cannot purchase the kind of property they so desire. The spectacle of two people hassling over one piece of land is somewhat like that of two petulant children fighting over one piece of candy. Respectful people look for alternative solutions.

At this point in human existence, material resources such as minerals are very useful; nearly all people benefit from their extraction from the earth and refinement into products. But this does not mean that scenic areas are less valuable—quite the contrary. Nature is as valuable as people consider it to be. Actually, appreciation of the ecological and esthetic aspects of our surroundings is central to the development of a heightened awareness of reality (and thus of our actions).

Our planet is not so small, and the human population is not so large, that everything has to be subsumed under industrial development. While some advocates for the environment envision this, they tend to overlook the fundamental flaws in the political system (though they astutely note destructive political policies and boondoggles). Only when government distorts and cripples an economy and negates any real semblance of justice, does an economy’s well-being suffer.

Most of the pollution, irresponsible destruction, and misuse of property for negligible short-term gains has occurred on public property—where there is essentially free access, but no ownership (and thus no accountability).57 Open access to production on governmental land occurs for those groups versed in the tactics of lobbying. Governmental subsidies and special favors for enterprises to operate—usually in areas where free market enterprises either could not operate or would operate differently (due to potential violations of others’ property rights)—further contribute to the unnecessary and short-sighted destruction and pollution of land and water and air. This often entails endangerment or extermination of species and devastation of vital ecosystems.

The following cites only a few of the profusion of these instances: in agriculture, government hand-outs create incentives to misuse resources (such as water) and to destroy habitat; in the oceans governmental control and discouragement of property rights has led to “the tragedy of the commons,” where fish stocks are continually depleted and politicians scramble to pass more laws limiting catches in order to correct problems with earlier laws; other such “common pool” problems take place in areas of groundwater and oil reserves (common pool problems stem from lack of objective property rights, which lead to miscalculations in utilization and distortions in supply); with one-third of the continental United States directly controlled by the politics of federal government, citizens use land and waters for “free” and some unfortunately disregard the damage or pollution they do; on federal land and waterways, the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers uphold various twisted policies and continue many destructive projects.1

On a more global scale, the nonstop destruction of rainforests is instigated by the governments of third-world countries and by organizations such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (whose operations also run on stolen money). These institutions, in the name of countries’ welfare, encourage—through political and financial means—people to utilize “public” property in ways that have devastating impacts. Commonly, areas are left impoverished when the quick money runs out; most still live in poverty, squalor, and illiteracy.

Political systems that have not the faintest idea of objective law and absolute property rights perpetuate such conditions. In all these cases, be they of global or national concern, little money is set aside for conserving the property or rejuvenating it after use. Few market incentives exist to do so—stemming from lack of ownership. As expected, productive companies usually get blamed for raping the lands of the public.

Objective laws and opportunities to make money in a free society would strongly discourage these practices. To seek irrational values would be seen as equivalent to throwing money away. People who value their freedom also value the property they own and the planet they inhabit, as well as those who inhabit it with them. All are united in the concept of justice.

An advanced, technological civilization would efficiently utilize natural resources. Necessarily the best and least harmful methods of obtaining materials from the earth would be in everyone’s interest. All the devices of pollution that exist today would eventually be replaced by safe and sensible alternatives.

Most importantly, since everything would be privately owned, anyone proven to have polluted someone else’s property (which includes one’s air, water, and natural resources, both living and nonliving) would be legally liable. He or she would be subject to restitution, repairing the damages, eradicating the health hazard, as well as the effects of public ostracism. Such consequences are also not exactly conducive to high profits.

Currently, we hear certain businesses complain about the high costs of changing to cleaner industrial methods. However, they should never have indulged in government leniencies allowing them to pollute others’ property (be it private or “public”) in the first place. In fact, the changes may be more costly the longer they wait. More damage will have to be repaired when justice is finally exacted; although, advanced technological methods will certainly help mitigate some of the costs.

In a society that regards life as the absolute standard of value, individuals would never conceive any benefits, either physical or mental, for irresponsibly polluting and degrading their own planet. In the long term, nearly pollution-free industry will prove to be the most efficient method of production, as well as the most beneficial for ensuring human health and prosperity.

In a society that values logic, justice, and long-term investments with rising profits and productivity, no sane person would find quick gains at the expense of destroying his or her investments (and public relations) appealing. All the accusations made about the “evil” of the profit motive and the inexorable destructiveness of unregulated markets stem partly from deliberately unnoticed governmental meddling in these so-called free markets to begin with, and partly from people’s practice of subjective, or non-objective, values that endanger the physical and mental well-being of individuals. In a society that does not value liberty as an absolute, one can expect the moral and political aftermath.

In a free society, the nature of technological innovation and the inherent conservation characteristics of supply and demand, as well as the proper values of people, would take care of all concerns in these areas. A free market economy is one in which prices (which regulate demand) are a direct reflection of the scarcity or desirability of a good, thus maintaining adequate supply.

Since capitalism would be a society of objective laws, it would also be a society that encourages objective values (i.e., values in accordance with individual well-being)—and, as a result, mental health. An objective value, like property, is a reflection of reality and correct ideas. Accordingly, what is in one’s self-interest (i.e., rational self-interest) is determined by objective values. And, since objective values can never conflict, neither can people’s objective self-interest. Although disagreements over particulars (such as preferences) may arise, none would over principles—such as the principle that ownership of everything is needed and desirable. Again, no contradictions exist in objective reality.

Trying to get something for nothing, destroying things of obvious value, deceiving and manipulating others in business, treating employees as expendable commodities (which often requires the “sanction of the victim”), and using political pull to achieve ends at others’ expense, are the result of non-objective values. Such practices are not normal “human nature.” They are consequences of conscious and subconscious contradictions. To project them as being unavoidable aspects of a capitalistic society, and to use them as an argument against capitalism, is to confess a lack of examination of the concepts of objective values, objective laws, enlightened self-interest, and human nature. To hold values that are opposed to the facts of reality is certainly not in anyone’s self-interest, if one chooses life and psychological health as standards of value.

In our present society, a lack of examination of these various concepts is made clear by the hundreds (if not thousands) of governmental agencies established to regulate, control, and “police” virtually every area and aspect of human ownership and business. In addition to the plethora of state, county, and city agencies, boards, and commissions, the numerous divisions of the federal Executive Departments are especially intrusive.

There are departments of: Interior, State, Treasury, Justice, Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Labor. There are also Independent Government Establishments (agencies) as well as Government Corporations.

Whether it be the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Federal Aviation Administration, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Drug Enforcement Agency, Public Health Service, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Securities and Exchange Commission, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Employment Standards Administration, Consumer Product Safety Commission, Economic Development Administration, Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Federal Highway Administration, Federal Railroad Administration, Federal Maritime Commission, or any other of the plentiful governmental organizations, each has either replaced the rights and jurisdiction of property owners outright or significantly throttled their autonomy.

These regulatory agencies seek to diminish the idea of property rights—diminish the idea that people are capable of ownership and decision-making. Under these agencies people are, for the most part, allowed to own property and trade goods. But they are not allowed to make final decisions for themselves concerning these things. So mixed-up are the rules, requirements, and duties of these agencies that distinguishing their root function is nearly impossible. Many provide services. Others control and regulate business activities and individuals. Though a few perform legitimate activities of justice, they are wrapped in a vastly non-objective legal package. In addition, they are all funded by tax dollars.

Many of these agencies reinforce the belief that people are innately cruel, dishonest, or inept; so, coercive groups must control them. Many perpetuate the notion that more liberty leads to more, instead of fewer, deviant practices in business or personal affairs. Tied to this is the notion that profit-driven companies should not be trusted. In other words, companies or individuals that have an interest in seeing an investment fructify, or in making money on some new product or service, should be deemed suspect or in some way dishonest. Many of these agencies promote the belief that honesty is an exceptional trait in business and guilt should be the norm.

Being simply masters of self-fulfilling prophecies, regulatory agencies require the creation of “guilty” people (as well as moral cowardice) in order to justify and maintain positions of power. They enforce laws that are simply arbitrary. Antitrust laws are one example. For instance, bureaucrats sometimes declare the prices of particular products or services to be too high, too low, or even too similar. “Remedies” are enforced according to subjective bureaucratic standards (usually derived from market competitors’ standards). Naturally, businesspersons find it difficult to steer clear of arbitrary governmental pressures and punishments.

 

Hypothetically, if human beings cannot make decisions for themselves, what sense does it make to have other ineffective people oversee and control their affairs? If people cannot govern their own affairs, why have other people govern them? Such non sequiturs are never noticed by governmental officials and bureaucrats.

Individuals and companies definitely need to search out and punish fraud in society. But these activities are only part of the practices of governmental administrations. Regulatory agencies fail to realize that nothing on Earth is so important to the alleged common good (or security of the nation) as respect for human rights. This inextricably includes the right to operate one’s business and manage one’s property as one sees fit.

The nebulous term “common good” or any of its synonyms has been used throughout history as an excuse to perform iniquitous actions—mostly to achieve ends that would not be achieved otherwise. Regulatory agencies are designed to make sure that everyone is “playing fair” or being “moral.” From a developmental standpoint this is similar to the doctrines found in most elementary schools. Regulatory agencies want to make sure that no one, like “naughty” children, commits acts that are assumed would be committed in their absence. So, these agencies, or teachers, must be present to make everyone obey their orders.

Free market restrictions rely on the idea that people cannot be trusted and cannot run their own lives fully. The collective entity of government has to be constantly at their side. In a way, government seems to function as a surrogate parent who, in exchange for providing strict “guidance,” requires payment in the form of compliance and mind stultification.

Children are taught that they cannot grow up to function independently. They are taught that, as adults, they must be constantly guided, observed, and inspected by others. Not surprisingly, this fosters a society of dependency. The ways adults show children that dependence is a necessary part of maturity are many. In addition to regulatory agencies, examples are to be found in the media, in school systems, in family relationships, and in various other institutions, associations, and organizations. Instead of intellectual independence, they encourage passive acceptance of commonly mistaken beliefs, as well as irrational collectivistic ideologies.

Certain habits are common. For instance, rather than explain the basic injustice and immorality of the tax system, many report how time-consuming and irritating the whole process is; some declare that a “national sales tax” or a “flat-tax” would be simpler. Rather than note that the educational system is a failure because it is a coercively funded and operated institution, many declare that what schools need is more “discipline.” Rather than assert that property rights are irrevocable, many concede to officials who have seized their land (for whatever reason) by demanding that they be “justly” compensated (as stated in the Constitution concerning “Eminent domain”). Rather than criticize the configuration of government itself, many proclaim that a “line item veto,” “campaign finance reform,” or “term limits” will help solve our political problems. Rather than explain how incorrect ideas affect a culture and outline the causes of psychological problems, many despairingly assert, “It’s a jungle out there.”

Most people are so involved in their daily activities that these issues tend to seem less and less relevant, while the actions of government and its regulatory agencies seem to be more and more needed. Thus, the enforcement of non-objective laws is gradually taken for granted. That the majority of news broadcasting remains fixated on mainstream politics certainly does not help matters.

If people lose trust in themselves and others, dependency may seem to feel like a proper human virtue. But in truth, it is one of humanity’s greatest weaknesses. It serves to cut the mind at its root—never allowing it to grow. Additionally, dependency assists individuals to forget that to think, judge, feel, and act are all virtues of the self, not of “others.”78

Rules and regulations in violation of property rights are merely attempts to substitute government’s judgment for the rightful owners. They promote the belief that many people are simply not responsible, cannot think properly, and do not know what to do. Non-objective laws therefore are needed to guide these debilitated people. Of course, to view people as individuals having real value, judgment, and worth has to start with seeing oneself in this manner.

Most illogical laws are outright confessions that people do not believe in themselves, in their capacity to think, judge, choose, and act appropriately. These laws basically imply that if people were allowed to act on their own judgment (without governmental impositions and threats), they would cause harm to the “welfare of society,” or the “public good.” Yet one cannot substitute another’s judgment for one’s own. People still have to enact and use their own judgment in order to follow and obey rules and regulations that violate rights. Additionally, many people will tend not to understand and implement what is in their rational self-interest when their judgment and actions are throttled by non-objective laws and rules of others; such is the price of the destruction of liberty.

 

If all governmental agencies are to be dissolved with capitalism, then who is in control? And who is responsible for people’s well-being and safety? Who makes sure, for example, that people do not resort to chronic use of mind-altering substances to evade the thought that happiness is a possibility for them? Who makes sure that drug companies offer safe products? Who decides what is the best medical care for whom and who pays for it? Who makes sure that businesses are honest with their employees and shareholders? Who makes sure that fraud is not committed and rights are not violated? Who makes sure that...? —ad infinitum.

The answer is, and always will be, individuals—not the force of a collective, legalized monopoly which negates absolute rights. Individuals who act in the marketplace of goods and ideas as wide as their minds are responsible for their own actions and relationships with others. Individuals are responsible for what examples they are to children; they communicate what living a life proper to a human being means.

In a capitalistic society, good reputation and productiveness would be considered the best means of creating wealth. And the quest to discover fraudulent activity would never override the principle of rights. In a free market some would likely do business—as they do now (e.g., Consumer Reports)—by studying and testing products and services to determine their quality. As in any enterprise, their profits would come only from people who decide their job is being done right (i.e., consumers). Certainly, no conscientious consumer would rely on information if it appeared unscientific or slanted.

The market would continually discourage businesses from offering shoddy or harmful products and services. No longer would anyone be able to use minimum standards and regulations (and inspections) imposed by government to produce or provide things that are not as good as they could be or should be. Meeting governmental standards and guidelines would no longer be an aim, because companies would realize that they have nothing to gain by underachieving and conforming, and everything to gain by exercising their sovereign judgment. Moreover, the government’s stamp of approval would no longer be available to companies and industries for uses of bribery and manipulation. Too often, governmental stamps of approval enable companies and individuals to profit from people’s ignorance. Ignorance is encouraged when people mistakenly believe that government is properly taking care of them and watching out for their interests. Many, many cases have shown that government and corrupt organizations that seek their favor have their own agendas.

The realm of medical care is one example. Medicine is presently one of the most regulated fields. As a result, professionals’ rights are violated in the most egregious fashion, and enormous unaccountability to the consumer exists. Non-objective federal and state laws all work to destroy the free enterprise of medicine. They set guidelines, create monopolistic enterprises (e.g., the AMA, one of the largest lobbies in the United States), promote the medical licensing system, and put into effect countless insurance mandates and regulations.

State meddling and impositions make it very difficult for hospitals in general and doctors in particular to practice the most important factors in business: honesty (as opposed to lack of disclosure and dissemination of information to customers); integrity (as opposed to negligence and denial of responsibility); and, reputation (as opposed to stagnation or entrenched, self-righteous incompetence). This is what government brings to the free market, all in the name of making the situation better and right. However, nothing will ever be remedied by making laws. Only by upholding justice can problems be prevented or solved.

Like in any industry, professionals in health care need to be able to rely on their own judgment. This would not only make their jobs easier, but also far more enjoyable; no longer would they be buried in insurance paperwork or hassled by HMOs. A free market for medicine would also allow consumers to make more informed, intelligent, and independent decisions concerning their own and their loved ones’ well-being.

In the end, alleged need for present agencies and non-objective laws fails in the light of logic. With true capitalism, logical minds would be responsible for behavior. They would understand that only persuasion and example can properly promote the well-being of any individual or group of individuals. In today’s culture the key difference is that government serves as a replacement for being intellectually responsible. Whatever urgent issues arise, one can be sure that government is looked to and depended on to find and implement solutions. Since government is supposedly taking care of these perplexing problems, no one needs to recognize the real disaster taking place. Little thought is given to the reality that government tries to solve these problems by coercion and always with stolen money.

 

Once property rights are acknowledged as absolutes, though, the right to one’s body would be recognized as absolute too. Just as we have the right to use and dispose of our property so long as we do not infringe on the rights of others, we have the right to do what we want with our own bodies (for better or worse), so long as we do not infringe on the rights of others. Among other things, this would actively encourage each person to take full responsibility for his or her personal actions and take his or her own welfare seriously.

Even though many of the terrible abuses people subject themselves to physically (and mentally) are currently illegal, laws cannot prevent such abuses. When government claims power to dictate the personal welfare of individuals, attempts to legislate morality proliferate. Trust and confidence in one’s ability to make good choices, however, cannot be cultivated through legislation.

The message that people are fundamentally incapable of self-regulation is conveyed by the laws that restrict freedom of choice for actions that do not violate other’s rights. Drug prohibition is a prime example. For certain arbitrary reasons, some drugs are declared illegal to possess, use, and distribute. (Just as arbitrarily, “prescription drugs” may only be administered by doctors and obtained from pharmacists.)

Specific drugs are declared illicit mainly because those in power perceive their use as bad or immoral—drugs destroy lives and cause societal problems. Supposedly, laws against drug use not only protect individuals from themselves but also “send a message” to the public that government and others disapprove of their use.

Logically, morality pertains to actions of the individual, actions that may be beneficial or harmful in terms of survival and well-being. From a rational standpoint, routine consumption of any mind/body altering substance to the point that it distorts awareness of objective reality is definitely not beneficial (excluding of course necessary medical cases). Such consumption may impair functioning as well as possibly mask psychological troubles. Hence, it is principally immoral from the standpoint of harming oneself, not others (although others may indeed be harmed as a consequence).

Current legislated versions of social morality, however, appear to be concerned more with the welfare of others rather than with the individual’s welfare. According to social morality, doing drugs is bad primarily because one may end up committing crimes, enticing others to participate, and injuring others’ well-being in general. But this view is the reversal of cause and effect. People desire to use drugs for all kinds of psychological reasons, reasons deeper than statements about “addictive properties” or “cultural environment.” And so, many people will begin to use drugs and continue to use them regardless of their effects on society or governmental threats of punishment.

Since morality is primarily an individual matter, only the individual can choose his or her course of action——not others. Legislating morality is futile because it attempts to negate that which enables a person to be moral: a decision. Given the inescapable truth that we are all volitional creatures, there is no rational alternative to the recognition that a human being has rights, a prerequisite of which is the ability to choose a given course of action. To be a self-generating and self-sustaining decision-maker, one has to internalize the practice of determining right from wrong, good from bad; and, one has to discover what is in one’s rational self-interest.

Law, in a free society, is necessary only to enforce each person’s inalienable right to be a self-determiner of action, in spite of the potential unknown harm to self or others that may result. (Any known harm to others, however (i.e., that which is immediately foreseeable), must be categorized as a kind of clear and present danger or threat of force, and it must be dealt with according to what is reasonable to extinguish it.) Law, as the tool of justice, reflects the consequences of infringing on others’ rights. In this way individuals realize that they are responsible for what they do. Again, actions have consequences.

Since persons are easily capable (in nearly all cases) of recognizing what does or does not overtly infringe on another’s rights, they need not be warned about and even prevented from exercising their judgment. As frequently stated, by making drugs (and countless other things) illegal, one is not protecting the rights of others; one is destroying the rights of the individual.

Though it is a common assumption, drugs are not the cause of crime. People are the cause of crime, which necessarily includes those who legislate against the rights of the individual. Drugs are no more the cause of crime than a car is in a hit-and-run, or a gun is in a shooting. Rather, destructive volitional creatures are the cause of crime. They may have numerous motivations for their acts, which are usually more complex than remarks about gangs, poverty, poor housing, fatherless kids, lack of opportunities, unemployment, lack of government funding for city and school projects, lack of police officers, and so on.

Any action that intentionally infringes on the rights of others is necessarily a crime. Government and those who favor its schemes do a tremendous disservice to human dignity when they obfuscate the meaning of the term crime. Abusing drugs may be damaging to the self, but this problem should be remedied psychologically, never by force and threats. If people would focus on this real remedy (and everything it entails politically), there would be less demand for drugs and, hence, fewer sellers or dealers of drugs.

But where demand is high, there will almost certainly be a supply. This is why the “war on drugs” will never accomplish its goals. The illegality of drugs just drives them from the free market to the black market, where the supply is distorted, astronomically increasing prices. A lucrative business is thereby generated for newly declared criminals to fight for their market share. Soon, waves of violence turn sectors of cities into veritable war-zones and police into combat soldiers focused solely on holding their ground. In the process, both police and DEA agents become skilled at invading people’s privacy and confiscating their possessions.

All this stems from bad ideas about how to treat people—and from evasion of the idea that human beings are volitional creatures. Bad ideas will always yield bad results.

Concerns about the legalization of drugs usually involve more than the rejoinder that it “sends the wrong message.” Many worry about sinister people who would take advantage of children and others who are especially susceptible to drugs’ addictive effects—as if this were not an epidemic today. Logically, we should inspect why sinister people exist, and why they are labeled as such. This involves searching for the political and psychological reasons. Obviously, grade-school children are fully capable of saying “No” when they are offered drugs. Children who have been instilled with objective values and properly nurtured would shun such overtures as ridiculous. Those who do not fully believe in children’s self-regulating ability and capacity for sound judgment usually call for more laws, rather than better values. Additionally, people who may be more chemically susceptible to drugs (however this is scientifically interpreted) can—if they make it a top priority—refrain from injecting foreign substances into their veins, snorting lines of white powder, inhaling various types of smoke, and swallowing an assortment of pills. These are all volitional acts.

When people fail to recognize their volitional capacity they tend to believe such things as, “I couldn’t help it,” or “The drugs were controlling my life.” These beliefs naturally foster a demand for laws that try to remove drugs from society and stop these harmful activities. Thus, a pathetic cultural situation is made even more so. Of course, the main thing this accomplishes is further degradation of human autonomy as well as an increase in rebelliousness and resentment of authority.

 

In concert with the dramatic changes linked to true personal freedom, the absolutism of property rights would quickly assist in remedying the various problems that plague our cities and suburbs. As was indicated in our discussion of private police agencies, the high crime rates associated with inner cities and other areas could now be dealt with effectively. All streets (and housing projects) would be under private ownership. Such troubles as drive-by shootings certainly do not raise the level of customer satisfaction, let alone the value of one’s business and property. Owners would contract with security forces to maintain the safety of streets and walkways.

Additionally, roadways as well as public utilities would no longer be owned by everyone (and thus no one) and maintained by government. Since they would be designed and operated privately, unnecessary problems would be notably minimized: fewer logistical problems; fewer funding problems; fewer structural or sanitary problems; fewer intolerable man-made health hazards (e.g., city air or drinking water); and, fewer congestion problems (less traffic jams to sit in idly for hours each day).

The enormity of governmental meddling in the market is furthered through myriad arbitrary property rules, codes, and regulations. Legalized monopolies of utilities are responsible for the infrastructure of any town or city. The extent to which these contradictions affect our economic environment ought not be overlooked. No matter how easy it may be to accept them, such contradictions should never be taken lightly.

All the astonishing changes from public to private that would occur in services and infrastructures need to be continually envisioned. Only a capitalistic market can determine the ideal methods of service and transportation in terms of expediency and cost. When this is actualized, the outcomes will be wondrously and proudly seen.

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