On Personal Liberty; You Always Have a Choice


Every once in a while my view on how society should be organized seeps into my entries on philosophy. This view stems from my objectivist leanings, as well as my libertarian outlook. I say “should be” because society is actually a compendium of different personal philosophies bastardized by the collective brutality of government, societal norms, and those who abuse natural law. Simply put, how things should be as a society are not how they are…at least not exactly. However, that does not mean that I shouldn’t strive for the “ought.” The Stoic maintains his virtue despite its absence all around him.

A cornerstone of our behavior is personal liberty. Continue reading

Are You Free?


“He knew no weapons but to pay for what he wanted, to give value, to ask nothing of nature without trading his effort in return, to ask nothing of men without trading the product of his effort.” On Hank Rearden, Hero in Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand.

Assuming you cannot return a favor to the fullest with your own service or product, the greatest form of gratitude you can provide someone for their service is to pay them.  By paying a person who has provided you with something you need (or even just “want” for that matter), you transfer a portion of your own time, of your own labor to them as a “Thank You.”

The beauty of commerce is that it is freely given.  Continue reading

On Being Heroic (Objectivism)


Don’t ever get angry at a man for stating the truth.”  -Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged, Part 1, Ch. 10

I have a Stoic philosophy no doubt.  This philosophy has had a tremendous influence on my view of life, and how I cope and prosper with the existence that I have.  So much is out of my control, and it is certain that I will have sadness and tragedy in my life.  In the end, I will be dust.

If all will be lost, if all will be forgotten, then why not just give up?  The short answer is that to give up is contrary to nature.  How do I know this?  Well, keep in mind that I am not a Stoic zealot, nor am I a one-trick pony, oh no.  I could find plenty of explanation of why it is my duty to compete in this wrestling match called life within Stoic philosophy, but a more direct, incisive path to an answer is through objectivism.  Through my own reason, using the template of objectivism, I see that to produce and to do so with excellence, is virtuous.

Objectivism is the philosophy espoused by Ayn Rand.  While her novels and essays are extensive, she is best known for her novel, Atlas Shrugged, and this novel is an allegory for how to live according to this philosophy.  The more you read about Rand’s views and her philosophy, you can see how she became so controversial, and so reviled by many.  The uncritical ear, make that the average mind numbed by all the mainstream smoke and mirrors found in our society, did not like to hear what Rand had to say.  To this day, her philosophy remains outside the mainstream…mostly something to be examined, but not adopted among the elite intellectuals.  Accepting the details of what Rand has to say is difficult for the uneducated, or even unopened mind, for the philosopher who has not taken the time to think things through.  In many ways, this is similar to how the Stoic philosophy is viewed…a philosophy to be considered, not a way to live.  As for me, I’ll take the “road less traveled” (thanks to Frost).

Photo by Dez Pain

Photo by Dez Pain


Rand’s philosophy basically has four parts, which can be found here in her own words.  I will extract the four parts as I understand them:

  1. Nature is what it is.  Your perception of it is irrelevant. Facts are facts and you cannot wish something to be true.  (Sounds a lot like “control” and “fate” in Stoicism, eh?)
  2. We use our reason to decipher through these facts.  It is what makes us human, it is our survival tool.
  3. To pursue your own self-interest is natural; thus, it is good
  4. Humans should be free to cooperate without interference or force.  When we cooperate we are choosing to do so because it is in our own self-interest.

So what does this mean in deciding “how to live?”  Well, all of my actions should be for my own self-interest if I am living according to what is natural; in essence, they are for my own survival.  This is the state of nature, it is what keeps you alive, it is what makes you prosper.  Facts are facts, wishing it were some other way will not make it true.  We use our faculty of reason every day to decide what is good for us and what is bad.  We decide every day whether to help someone, whether to ask for help, and what that help is worth.  We do this as a survival mechanism.  Each of us has special talents, and each of us can nurture those talents to leverage them for our own survival.  We can trade these talents for ones we are not so good at.

Imagine the value of garbage collection...it is a virtuous endeavor ("Photo: JohnNyberg, rgbstock.com")

Imagine the value of garbage collection…it is a virtuous endeavor (“Photo: JohnNyberg, rgbstock.com”)

When I perform a task that I have mastered, presumably it helps others.  For this service, others provide tasks at which they excel, in kind.  In modern society, this “service” (or product) is generally transferred through some kind of monetary payment.  Currency is an easier way for people to trade goods and services.  My duty then, is to perform a task to the utmost of excellence for its own sake…for my own sake…this is essential for my survival.  This is how I survive…because others value the task that I perform.  If my task is not valued, then I will receive little payment.  If my task is highly valued, then I should EXPECT payment.  I will not perform my service for free, because this is unnatural, and is contrary to my survival (acting contrary to survival is essentially, the definition of altruism).  In the long run, I must provide value to my fellow man, so they will provide value to me.  Also in the long run, for me to expect a return from those who receive my product is perfectly natural, and thus moral.  Unless I plan to survive on my own in the wilderness, that’s the bargain.  If I wish to have wine, then I either make it myself (which I cannot) or provide the winemaker with something he needs (albeit indirectly in today’s modern society…through exchange of money), so that he will give me his wine in trade.

In a natural state, all of this should and would be voluntary.  The part that so many don’t like to hear in Rand’s philosophy is that this is all driven by self-interest.  What they miss is that self-interest does not mean selfish.  In fact, what they miss is that cooperation is built into self-interest.  I’ve written about the false philosophy of altruism before, but the heart of the matter is that our motivations, our relations, our morality…all of it, is driven by each of our own self-interest.  In a moral society, everybody has a role, and everybody contributes…for their own survival.  I must emphasize that this participation must be voluntary for it to be moral; otherwise, somebody is a slave to somebody else…somebody is a slave, and somebody is a freeloader/slavemaster…somebody is expecting something for nothing.  In essence, freeloaders (called “looters” by Rand) are performing the worst kind of immorality.  The ones who enable the freeloaders, the so-called altruistic and the collectivists, are the slavemasters and they might even be worse.  In an unnatural state, the slaves are those who pull their weight, but have their products forcibly removed from them by the looters and slavemasters.

To survive, yes even to flourish I must provide the highest value product to my neighbor.  I must do this because I need what my neighbor has to offer.  To be virtuous is to live according to nature, and nature demands that I do my part before I take.  That is why I don’t just give up, even in a state that is currently unnatural.  My job is to enlighten about what IS natural and to act that way regardless of externals.  That is why I wrestle!

I “am” as I “do?”


Who am I?   I have had many roles, and continue to have more…too many in fact.  Here are the ones I can think of:

  • Blogger
  • Father
  • Husband
  • Pilot
  • Personal Trainer
  • College Instructor
  • Teacher (to my young children)
  • Investor
  • Brother
  • Son
  • Philosopher
  • Retired Officer
  • Veteran
  • Liberty Activist

But these are just roles I play.  There were times in my past when I wanted some of these to define who I was.  Occasionally, I still latch on to one of them and think, “that’s my calling, that’s who I am?”  However, none of these roles are who I am in entirety.  I am all of these and none of them all at the same time.  When someone asks me, “what do you do?”, it’s a tough question.  I do a lot.  If someone asks me “who are you?” (which they never do), then what is the answer?  It’s an even tougher question; or is it?

What role will I play today?

What role will I play today?

I am at a point in my life where I am defined by no one thing.  This is a good thing, I think.  I have been headed in that direction for some time now.  In the past year, since I retired from military servitude, I have had much more time to explore and dive into things that I like and do things that are more productive.  I don’t have goals, so much as I have themes (I stole the “themes” theme from James Altucher: see more).  My themes are simple, yet my means seem to be surprisingly complicated.  Every time I write down the themes I wish to pursue, they come down to these three:

  1. Have Fun (through interesting and meaningful pursuits)
  2. Help People (family, job, and community)
  3. Pursue Liberty (for me and others)

I will readily admit that these three themes necessitate a grasping of this world.  However, I always try to remember that my participation in this world doesn’t necessitate my belief that this participation in it is permanent, or that I will make a lasting impact in much of what I do.  I just am, while I try.  As a philosopher, I should pursue my themes with some rational detachment.  In the end, I will be gone and so will you.  The goal then is to just “be,” while pulling your weight along the way.  At the end as I utter my last breaths, I could ask myself:

  1. “Did you enjoy it along the way?”
  2. “Did you do your best to be a positive influence on those around you?”

However I can answer these 2 questions, then that is who I am.  I hope to answer YES, to both.

PS:  I just realized 2 things:  1) This post is like an open journal entry and 2) It comprises bits and pieces of the three influencing philosophies from my life raft.

Philosophical Raft