• XXXIX – A Cost/Benefit Analysis of the Human Spirit: The Luddites Revisited

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    I
    arrived at this conference by air. There is nothing remarkable in
    this by itself. Over the years, I have flown to many locations throughout
    the world without feeling any more of a need to mention the fact
    than I would to inform you that I filled my car with gasoline last
    week. But this is my first airline flight in almost eighteen months,
    and it is my sincere desire that it shall be my last for a long
    while. It is not that I had no place else to go during this past
    year and a half. I have taken trips from Los Angeles to such places
    as San Francisco, Aspen, Phoenix, and Tucson. But in each instance
    I have driven. I refuse to fly unless, as in the case of this conference,
    time constraints permit me no other option.

    It
    is not that I have a fear of flying: I have always enjoyed the sensation
    of flight. Nor do I have any fears, after 9/11, that someone will
    hijack a plane I am on and plow it into a building someplace: the
    best security airlines now have against hijackers is the presence
    of two hundred or more passengers who, because of 9/11, would likely
    pounce on and kill anyone attempting a hijacking.

    My
    refusal to fly is, instead, grounded in that most basic of economic
    explanations: it simply costs too much! I am referring not
    to the air fares themselves: thanks to various Internet services,
    one can usually find decent rates. The costs to which I refer are
    those that most of us, in our thoroughly institutionalized, regulated,
    catalogued, and policed world, too often fail to incorporate into
    our cost/benefit analyses: the psychic, emotional, and spiritual
    costs to our very sense of being by having one's body, clothing,
    luggage, handbag, or other belongings subject to searches, gropings,
    and inquisitions by functionaries of the state. One of my credit
    card companies periodically reminds me that, because of my longtime
    usage of their card, I am entitled to "free" airline tickets
    to virtually any place on earth. My wife and I love to travel, but
    even with free tickets, having to endure such dehumanizing intrusions
    upon myself involves a cost that is beyond my means to pay!

    I
    offer this as an example of how I choose to deal with what I regard
    as the most pressing problem now confronting mankind: the expansion
    of institutional power over the lives of men and women, and its
    corollary, the ever-continuing demeaning of the human spirit.

    One
    of the many unintended consequences of our commercial and industrialized
    civilization has been an ever-widening division between the physical
    and the spiritual nature of what it means to be human. This
    division began at least as early as Descartes, whose "mind/body"
    dualism helped us accept such a division of our basic nature. Had
    we been a bit more attentive, we would have become aware that it
    was such spiritually driven periods as the Renaissance, the Enlightenment,
    and the scientific revolution, that fostered the discoveries and
    inventions that blossomed during the Industrial Revolution. Most
    of us have forgotten how our imagination, intuition, passions, sentiments,
    dreams, emotions, speculations, and unconscious forces have been
    principal contributors not only to finding a sense of meaning in
    our lives, but to improving our material well being.

    It
    should be evident that our modern world is in a state of destructive
    turbulence. A major cause of this turbulence, I believe, is to be
    found in conflicts that arise within us, and with others, as a consequence
    of our accepting this division between our physical and spiritual
    natures. We are tearing our world apart, because we are inwardly
    torn apart by our refusal to live integrated lives. To express the
    proposition in the language of economics: our actions are producing
    inefficient and dysfunctional consequences because we are systematically
    ignoring some of the primary costs associated with our behavior.

    As
    the study of chaos or complexity informs us, it is the nature of
    complex systems to occasionally shift into periods of turbulence.
    This seems to result from the failure of a system to remain resilient
    to the forces at work upon it, and the efforts to stabilize that
    system through structured mechanisms and practices that seek to
    resist change. The marketplace — operating through the pricing system
    — provides for continuing responses to such pressures and, in so
    doing, sustains an "order through fluctuation," in which
    no market participant can ever be assured of the stability of its
    position. But as those of us interested in revisionist approaches
    to economic history have discovered, not everyone is content to
    live in an "ever-fluctuating" world. As a consequence,
    many marketplace participants, particularly in the 20th
    century, call upon the nation-state to use its coercive powers on
    behalf of the structuring of their interests. Government regulation
    of trade, production, labor, product standards, pricing, and sales
    practices; licensing and other entry restrictions; tariff and taxation
    policies; and wars are among the more familiar examples.

    But
    such political structuring has its costs, as everyone here is doubtless
    aware. Indeed, Murray Rothbard was one of the pioneers of modern
    efforts to identify the motivations and analyze the consequences
    of corporate-state regulatory schemes.

    As
    a result of research efforts engaged in by economists, historians,
    lawyers, and students of government, it is now difficult for anyone
    to avoid the fact that the political structuring of modern society
    has generated both economic and social costs of great proportion.
    I trust that an elaboration of these costs need not be made here.
    But there is another cost that has not received as much attention;
    a cost which, I believe, is now being called up for payment by increasing
    numbers of people. It is the cost to the human spirit occasioned
    by the demeaning nature of the political structuring of our lives.
    What does it mean to the inner sense of being in each of us to have
    our lives subjected to restraints, mandates, prohibitions, and other
    controls premised upon each of us being little more than "resources"
    for the achievement of institutional ends?

    It
    is these costs to the human spirit that most threaten the well being
    of all mankind, and to which the attention of intelligent men and
    women must now be directed. As Viktor Frankl observed in his Nazi
    concentration camp experiences, what hurt so much was not the physical
    pain inflicted by brutish guards, but the indignity, the lack of
    respect shown to one as a human being, the loss of a sense of individuality
    in being shorn of everything — personal possessions, even one's
    body hair — that made one unique.

    I
    believe that each of us has a fundamental need for spiritual or
    transcendent experiences; a need to connect up with the rest of
    the universe in a way that is meaningful to our innermost sense
    of who we are. These needs — which often find expression as emotional
    experiences — have sometimes been referred to as "peak experiences,"
    or what others call a sense of "cosmic consciousness,"
    or "an order of truths which transcends the sphere of the external
    sense." I will go further and suggest that this need for a
    sense of integrated wholeness underlies — sometimes through a highly
    energized consciousness, and sometimes at an unconscious level of
    awareness — most of what we do in life. While, as an agnostic, I
    am not referring to "spirituality" in its more familiar
    setting of organized religion, it might include that expression
    as well. Religious systems have prevailed, in one form or another,
    since the earliest known records of mankind, reflecting this powerful
    inner need to feel connected to the universe. But this drive manifests
    itself elsewhere: the sciences, poetry and other forms of literature,
    invention, art, the desire for learning, music, architecture, dance,
    procreation and the raising of children, philosophy, the enjoyment
    of nature, and the desire to make the world a better place, all
    derive from this spiritual need. So too, I believe, does that beautiful
    prehistoric handprint found in an underground cave in France, in
    which one of our ancestors appears to have reached out to us over
    many thousands of years as if to say: "I was here." The
    true believer, the agnostic, and the atheist, all desire to know
    the answers to the kinds of questions that are asked by students
    of both religion and science: where did it all come from, where
    is it all going, and what rules are in place while we are here?

    Even
    men and women who define their daily pursuits as being more "practical"
    than "spiritual" might ask themselves why it is that they
    pursue wealth, fame, power, or status in their undertakings. They
    might discover that the satisfaction of such ends would allow them
    to transcend their more limited sense of self, perhaps even to extend
    their name and accomplishments far beyond their own lifetimes.

    For
    a long time, institutions have persuaded us to seek our sense of
    transcendence through them, by being of service to an institutional
    hierarchy and, perhaps, enjoying power and status within such an
    apparatus. I recall, as a teenager, my father trying to interest
    me in joining the young man's version of a fraternal organization
    to which he was a devoted member. Apart from the fact that my unwillingness
    to join almost any organization can probably be traced back to some
    genetic marker in my DNA, I inquired as to the purpose in joining
    this organization. "It's so you can move up into ever-higher
    positions in the organization," he responded. "Why?"
    I asked. "So that you can have more authority and prestige,"
    he said. "In order to accomplish what?" "To help
    bring more people into the organization," he responded. Sad
    to say, this reflects the kind of vicious circle in which most people
    find their needs for transcendence ensnared by organizations that
    have become their own reasons for existence. Organized religions
    too often leave men and women with rigid dogmas rather than spiritual
    awakenings; corporate enterprises often foster the kinds of identities
    I once heard at a business conference, wherein a man introduced
    himself as "I am Xerox." In his play, The
    Adding Machine
    , Elmer Rice introduces us to the dispirited
    employee whose greatest ambition would be that he "might sit
    in the gallery of a coal mine and operate the super-hyper-adding
    machine with the great toe of [his] right foot." And of course,
    there is that most dehumanizing and degrading corruption of these
    needs for transcendence: the state. Over the years, I have read
    hundreds of "personal statements" by students seeking
    admission to the law school where I teach. There is an almost universal
    theme running through these statements: "with a law degree,
    I will be better able to use the powers of government to make life
    better for people." Schools and universities have helped train
    students to think that transcendence can be found in politics. But
    politics, being grounded in coercive power over others, doesn't
    allow us to connect up with others. Instead, it divides us into
    opposing groups and creates conflict. What lies we tell our children
    about political systems, lies promising young men and women the
    status of "heroes," while turning their minds and bodies
    into so much fungible cannon-fodder to be consumed in "perpetual
    wars for perpetual peace"; and downgrading other victims as
    "collateral damage." What greater indictment of the state's
    contempt for the spiritual quality of all human beings than the
    neutron bomb, a device that only destroys people, not the physical
    structures, natural resources, and technologies, that are of value
    and importance to institutional interests! The neutron bomb is the
    state's message that it tells us in every war, namely, that the
    institutional hierarchy has taken inventory of all its assets, and
    the bottom has fallen out of the market for human beings!

    Far
    too many of us, unfortunately, have come to regard the material
    costs of governmental undertakings as the only ones worthy — or
    capable — of sound analysis. For too many economists, only those
    costs and benefits capable of being quantified are deserving of
    critical evaluation. The human costs, in terms of suffering, death,
    humiliation, or the diminution of the spirit, can be talked about,
    or acknowledged, but are rarely brought into the inquiry as a decisive
    factor. I recall attending a conference at which one well-known
    (non-Austrian) economist — and a man for whom I hold a great deal
    of respect — did a cost/benefit analysis of governmental behavior
    in general. He did not mention any of the spiritual factors that
    were of interest to me. I asked him how he would do a cost/benefit
    analysis of Auschwitz, or a Soviet gulag. He admitted that there
    were important costs associated with such systems, but confessed
    that, since they could not be quantified, they could not be talked
    about in any more meaningful way.

    The
    legal profession suffers from this same preoccupation with mechanistic
    and material assessments of the propriety of institutional behavior.
    In place of quantitative analysis, lawyers dwell on such notions
    as procedural due process, to insist that acceptable procedures
    be employed before depriving individuals of their life, liberty,
    or property. If the "road to hell is paved with good intentions,"
    the "road to tyranny is paved with procedural due process."
    There was a time when substantive due process was given more respect,
    but such inquiries have become decreasingly relevant in our Panglossian
    world.

    I
    recall a conference, at Claremont College in 1972, at which Murray
    Rothbard ended up in a polite but energized debate with Harold Demsetz.
    Murray was insisting that moral and other philosophical values had
    to be given greater consideration in economic analysis than was
    the habit of most economists. Demsetz, as I recall, was making much
    the same response as the aforementioned economist when confronting
    my cost/benefit question. Murray was concerned with how to help
    young people understand that the study of economics was about something
    far more vivid than could be explained in terms of cost accounting.
    In a sentence I shall never forget, Murray said: "Harold, the
    young kids out there are not going to be willing to go to the barricades
    in defense of lowered transaction costs!"

    PRECISELY!!
    And neither is anyone else, nor should they be!!

    Some
    may respond that the study of economics, law, history, and other
    fields of human behavior ought not to incorporate emotional, spiritual,
    and other subjective values; that the analytical process ought to
    proceed from a more detached, value-free perspective. But the failure
    to incorporate such subjective factors does not reflect a "value-free"
    approach. It only smuggles into the analysis an alternative set
    of values that presume spiritual considerations to be unworthy of
    the attention of intelligent persons. Such an approach is premised
    on the illusion, long since demolished by Heisenberg's "uncertainty
    principle," that one can observe the world in some allegedly
    "objective" manner. This approach further fragments us,
    giving us an incomplete assessment of the impact of various policies
    and practices on human beings. It ignores the inherently subjective
    nature of all values.

    It
    is to the spirit — quite literally — of Murray's comment
    that my remarks are addressed. The lives of increasing numbers of
    men and women have become dispirited, without a sense of meaning
    to be found in the well-organized madness that has produced our
    "normally neurotic" culture. Murray understood — as do
    most of us here — that life is self-directed activity, mobilized
    by individualized, self-seeking purposes, and that efforts to usurp
    such control — such as through the coercive actions of the state
    — are inherently at war with life itself. "Life," in other
    words, is inseparable from liberty, and any evaluation of institutional
    behavior must proceed from an awareness of this fundamental fact.
    ALL costs of human action must be accounted for, particularly
    those that cannot be measured! I will state the proposition as bluntly
    and as radically as I know how: I value the free market ONLY
    because I value individual liberty, and I value individual liberty
    because that condition, alone, permits the greatest opportunities
    for the full expression of the inner sense of what it means to be
    human! If one could make the case that an alternative economic
    system would better serve these humanizing ends, I would embrace
    it. But I am convinced that such is not the case; that the alternative
    systems others propose always seem to end up grounded in some form
    of political coercion. While I am willing to use philosophical reasoning
    and economic analysis to support my case for the free market, make
    no mistake about it: it is the intuitive, emotional, spiritual
    side of my being that impels me to embrace marketplace economics
    in general, and the Austrians — who are more attuned to the importance
    of these "invisible means of support" — in particular.
    I will even go so far as to declare that, because of my insistence
    upon liberty, I would support free market systems even if it were
    shown that the marketplace was a materially inefficient means of
    providing for goods and services, for such an analysis could only
    be proffered by one who was failing to include the inner costs to
    which I refer.

    There
    is nothing remarkable in this approach I take to ideas. The writings
    of other men and women often provide useful sounding boards for
    the development of my own thinking about my place in the world.
    But, whether consciously or unconsciously, I have always judged
    such works by the standard of their consistency with my own inner
    sense of being. It was never logic nor other forms of reasoning
    that attracted me to one thinker or another, but whether my own
    spirit was reflected in their writings. At no time in my life have
    I found any philosopher who adequately responded to the question
    I remember asking myself while I was in law school. One Sunday afternoon,
    my wife and I were walking near the Museum of Science and Industry
    in Chicago, when my inquiry focused on this question: "why
    should I have to justify my desire for liberty on any grounds
    other than the fact that I do not choose to be coerced?" Why,
    in other words, did I need to rationalize my claim to immunity from
    trespasses by appealing to anything beyond my own will? This question
    was being forced up into my consciousness by my own spiritual voices
    that I knew were never going to be content with being repressed.

    The
    spiritual depletion of our lives can be identified in numerous ways.
    The anger, violence, and depression that have become commonplace
    in society; school children who have had their sense of spontaneity
    and adventure numbed by drugs to make them more amenable to the
    control of parents and school officials; adults who drug themselves
    with legally prescribed tranquilizers, anti-depressants, or amphetamines,
    or alcohol, or who resort to illegal drugs in order to seek, through
    chemistry, what they cannot find within themselves or their social
    systems. Why do we not grasp the message hidden in popular names
    for such substances: a synonym for "alcohol" is "spirits,"
    while various drugs are referred to as "angel dust," "ecstasy,"
    "paradise," "blue heaven," "joy powder,"
    or "God's medicine"? Instead of condemning and criminalizing
    drug use — which only adds to the loss of control people have over
    their lives — intelligent people might ask why so many men and women
    are unable to find spiritual expression in their institutionally
    centered lives and look for it in ersatz forms.

    Nearly
    thirty years ago, I wrote a law review article titled "Violence
    as a Product of Imposed Order." It developed the proposition
    that when the state forcibly mandates or prohibits behavior contrary
    to what individuals would otherwise choose for themselves, violence
    is often a consequence. I greatly expanded on this theme in my book,
    Calculated
    Chaos.
    Consistent with the study of complexity, efforts to impose order
    often generate disorder, while what appears to us as disorder reveals,
    upon closer examination, patterns of orderliness. The disorder resulting
    from state-imposed "order" can be found in increased social
    violence, wars, or — as is familiar to people in this audience —
    various economic dislocations. The disorder may also become internalized
    within each of us, as we become increasingly beaten down by a sense
    of powerlessness over our own lives, and may eventually surrender
    to an inner despair that finds expression as "what's the use?"
    In the language of students of chaos, unless we reverse our entropic
    decline, unless we can rekindle the inner fire that has gone out
    through our neglect, we may collapse into spiritual bankruptcy.
    An experience I had a number of years ago provides a helpful metaphor.
    I attended a photographic exhibit in which a scientist was reporting
    his experiences in observing the eye of a mosquito under a microscope.
    Initially, the eye was afire with brilliant, dancing colors of orange
    and green. But suddenly, the eye turned black; the mosquito was
    dead, the fire had gone out of the system.

    For
    any who doubt the power that the human spirit exerts over our sense
    of life, recall the impact of some of the visual news images from
    recent years: the naked Vietnamese girl running and screaming down
    a road following an American napalm attack; pictures of the Berlin
    Wall being torn down by individuals; or the photo of one of the
    many millions of victims of American terrorism, Elian Gonzalez,
    with a machine-gun shoved in his face by one of Janet Reno's storm-troopers.
    Or consider that most powerful of photo images — one that hangs
    on my office wall — of that young man, Wang Wei-Lin, confronting
    that row of impenetrable tanks in Tiananmen Square. Western journalists,
    trained to feed off leftovers thrown into the trough by their political
    masters, tended to see only political symbolism in this event.
    But it was not the American flag or the dollar sign around which
    these young people rallied, but the Statue of Liberty. This
    man did not seem intent on overpowering the state — or even the
    tanks — but to make a declaration on behalf of reclaiming the
    human spirit. It was the spirit of mankind, represented in the
    form of a solitary human being, standing up to the faceless, dispirited
    machinery of state power, that sent a common chill up the spines
    of most of us. THIS was Murray's young man at the barricades, who
    had more than "lowered transaction costs" on his mind
    that day!

    This
    war upon the human spirit is at the core of the crisis now being
    faced by all of Western civilization. Modern society is in a state
    of turbulence brought about, in large part, by politically generated
    efforts to maintain static, equilibrium conditions; practices that
    interfere with the ceaseless processes of change that provide the
    fluctuating order upon which any creative system depends. Institutions
    have trained us to insist upon the certain and the concrete and
    to dismiss the uncertain and the fanciful. But creativity has always
    depended upon a fascination with the mysterious, and an appreciation
    for the kinds of questions that reveal more than answers can ever
    provide. When creative processes become subordinated to preserving
    institutional interests; when the glorification of systems takes
    priority over the sanctity of individual lives, societies begin
    to lose their life-sustaining vibrancy, and may collapse. In the
    words of historian Jacob Burckhardt, "the essence of history
    is change," and "the way of annihilation is invariably
    prepared by inward degeneration, by decrease of life." Will
    and Ariel Durant expressed the point more poetically, perhaps: "civilizations
    begin, flourish, decline, and disappear — or linger on as stagnant
    pools left by once life-giving streams." Institutions, being
    ends in themselves, resist change, and favor the status quo. Life,
    on the other hand is change, is adaptation, creativity,
    and novelty.

    The
    study of complexity — which has a great deal to inform us about
    turbulence — tells us that there is no determinism at work dictating
    how we shall respond to such turbulence. We do, however, seem to
    have two choices: one is to continue structuring practices that
    allow entropy to accumulate within the system — rather than fostering
    processes that enable entropy to work itself out of the system —
    a strategy that will finally result in entropic collapse; or as
    a second choice, adopt more effective organizational systems premised
    upon an awareness of the fluctuating nature of order. In the words
    of Erich Jantsch, this would involve "the dismantling of social
    control hierarchies and strengthened autonomy of the subsystems."
    In words of particular interest to this audience, Jantsch adds the
    premise of those interested in applying chaos concepts to social
    arrangements: "the more freedom in self-organization, the more
    order!" Terry Pratchett expressed the thought more succinctly:
    "Chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being
    sought. Chaos always defeats order because it is better organized."

    If
    we wish to reinvigorate our devitalized and dehumanized civilization,
    why do we continue insisting upon the preservation of those structured
    systems that are bringing about the collapse of our once-vibrant
    societies? The answer, I believe, lies in the fact that we have
    become attached to the institutional forms which, at one point in
    time, we regarded as little more than tools for the accomplishment
    of our purposes. The "business system" with its varied
    corporate forms, was one such tool. We discovered that we could
    cooperate with one another by organizing ourselves into economic
    units by which goods and services could be produced and exchanged.
    This proved quite profitable to us, not simply in the conventional
    sense in which we measure success by a dollar surplusage of income
    over expenses, but by a sense that the overall quality of our lives
    was improving.

    Over
    time, the organizational systems we had founded came to take on
    purposes of their own — hence, became institutions — and, because
    we were deriving so much benefit from their operations, we allowed
    our thinking to imagine that our well being was dependent upon the
    supremacy of their interests over our own! It should be apparent
    to any thoughtful person that it was our thinking and imagination
    that created the organizational tools; and that our well being is
    to be found in our continuing energized awareness and not
    in the perpetuation of any organizational forms we might have created
    along the way. In such ways do we overlook the danger that lies
    hidden in creative undertakings: the temptation to repeat our past
    successes!

    Our
    attachment to institutional systems is manifest in other areas of
    our social practices: schools, whose curricula have taken priority
    over the learning experiences of children; churches, whose insistence
    upon dogmas and rituals have long drowned out the inner voices seeking
    spiritual fulfillment; and, what should be most obvious to everyone
    here, political systems which, while originally rationalized as
    systems for the protection of individual liberty and property interests,
    have become their own raison d'tre, and routinely pillage, coerce,
    and kill their alleged "masters." The extent of attachment
    and dependency upon the state can be seen in the willingness of
    most of our neighbors to think of themselves more as "Americans"
    than as "free individuals."

    But
    if spiritual needs are central to our lives, and if institutions
    dominate our lives, would not these entities find it in their interests
    to seek to satisfy these needs? Is this, in fact, not the role that
    churches play in our lives? At first glance, the answer might appear
    to be "yes," but upon closer examination we discover that
    such is rarely the case. Churches institutionalized God and, in
    so doing, have discouraged us from seeking our own godliness. The
    inadequacy of institutions to satisfy our needs for transcendence
    is found in the fundamental distinction between individual and collective
    behavior. Spiritual expression — like other forms of emotional experiences
    — is peculiarly individualized in nature. For the same reason that
    only each separate person can satisfy hunger or thirst, or feel
    fear, love, or any form of excitement; only individuals can experience
    their inner being as connected with the rest of the universe. Passion
    is confined to individuals. Institutions are but abstractions, the
    creatures of human thought. But the currency of thought is other
    abstractions — words – and spirituality is wrapped up in experiences
    that transcend thought. Institutions function only through
    individuals, and individuals can supply such organizations with
    abstract, secondary expressions of inner experiences, but they can
    never move beyond words. But words, as Alfred Korzybski reminds
    us, are never the "thing" to which they refer. "The
    map is not the territory."

    Relating
    all of this to political systems, a given state may, with the best
    of intentions, associate itself with the abstraction of "liberty."
    Indeed, the current Bush administration defends its repressive,
    statist policies as "operation enduring freedom." But
    the word "liberty," being an abstraction, is always less
    than the experience of not having one's will violated with regard
    to one's person or property. Because "liberty," as a word,
    is less than the experience of liberty, it must — within a legal/political
    context — always be subject to interpretation. The inner experiences
    that we associate with our spiritual needs, do not translate into
    anything of value — or even comprehension — to institutions. This
    is why, in an institutionalized world, whatever is nonmaterial
    tends to be regarded as immaterial.

    How
    are we to reclaim the spiritual dimension of our nature? The answer
    to that question, I believe, lies in returning to the point at which
    we lost contact with this part of our lives, namely, when we accepted
    the mind/body division of our nature and, as a consequence, became
    attached to — and made ourselves dependent upon — those institutional
    forms that promised us physical security in exchange for our subservience
    to their interests.

    What
    does it mean to restore our material and spiritual integrity by
    giving up our attachments to institutional systems? Are these just
    more abstract ideas with which to entertain ourselves?

    To
    get some insight into an answer to this question, I want to revisit
    those hobgoblins of the Industrial Revolution, the Luddites.
    Because I have long defended the Industrial Revolution as, perhaps,
    the most humanizing period in history, you may ask what possible
    message I could derive from the Luddites. The word, itself, conjures
    up images of collective ignorance, mob destructiveness, and the
    dangers of mass-mindedness. For the most part, the Luddite movement
    emerged from craftsmen whose economic interests were challenged
    by the emerging factory system, and whose "machine-breaking"
    responses derived from the same kind of anti-competitive sentiments
    that were to later fire the "progressive" and New Deal
    eras. So as to relieve any sense of anxiety you may be feeling at
    even the suggestion that we revisit the Luddites, let me assure
    you that I am herewith making no defense of machine-breaking riots,
    nor am I embracing the neo-Luddite sentiments favoring the technological
    dismantling of modern society.

    I
    do believe, however, that the Luddites may have been about something
    more than the reactive destruction of machines. I suspect there
    was an awareness — exhibited, today, by members of the Amish subculture
    — that becoming dependent upon technological systems portended an
    eventual loss of our sense of humanity; a fear that society would
    quickly become dominated by a technical imperative, in which everything,
    including human beings, would become little more than standardized,
    fungible institutional servomechanisms. The "libertarian"
    and "anarchist" traditions have, at their very core, an
    insistence upon supporting the individuality, autonomy, and spontaneous
    nature of each human being, and to distrust any form of organization
    that threatens such values. Those who question the validity of these
    concerns might ask how and why a nation, so long steeped in the
    rhetoric of individual liberty, has so easily been turned into a
    mass-minded collective.

    The
    temptation of many who observe the dehumanizing nature of our modern
    world is to lash out at the technology that they perceive as the
    explanation. But to do so makes no more sense than attacking gun
    manufacturers or gun owners for the violence committed by those
    few who use guns as tools of destruction. I recall — as a child
    at the end of World War II — hearing otherwise intelligent people
    arguing that dumping military weapons into the seas would end wars.
    Such thinking completes the vicious circle of mechanistic thinking:
    humans become machinelike, while machines take on the human attributes
    of will, directing our behavior. It is not technology that has turned
    human beings into dispirited mechanisms, but our willingness to
    think of our lives as dependent upon such technologies, and attaching
    our sense of identity to the systems that produce and control such
    technologies.

    Those
    who reject technology outright make as big a mistake as those who
    allow themselves to become attached to technologies. Each dismisses
    an important aspect of our humanity. We are tool-makers. The machines
    that we create are expressions of our nature; extensions of the
    human life process. To think otherwise is to fragment ourselves.
    The Industrial Revolution, inventiveness, discoveries, the building
    of skyscrapers, bridges, and other cathedrals, have all been expressions
    of the human spirit. We should ask ourselves: what were the inner
    forces that drove Edison to continue inventing? Might it have been
    the same spiritual need that kept Van Gogh painting and Beethoven
    composing? But to attach ourselves to the created forms is to institutionalize
    and petrify the very spirit that created them. It is to worship
    the structure by dissipating the process.

    Furthermore,
    because we have created machines, they provide us an opportunity
    to discover a great deal about our sense of being. Have we projected
    onto their forms and systems a sense of how we think of ourselves?
    Are machines our cloned images, in which we see our own reflections?
    How else do we explain the machine-like ways in which we think of
    ourselves? We speak of getting "warmed up" for work, or
    "running out of gas," or being "turned-on" or
    "turned-off" by others; we imagine ourselves to be "big
    wheels" in life, or "cogs in the machine" who may,
    on occasion, get our "wires crossed." We suffer from "burn
    out," and "let off steam" so as not to "blow
    a gasket" or a "fuse" or become "unhinged."
    We speak of having a "screw loose," or "going to
    pieces," and resort to drugs or alcohol in order to "get
    fixed" and get "in gear." We speak of ourselves as
    "assets" or "resources" to our workplace or
    community, and are more likely to regard our brain as computer-like,
    than to think of computers as brain-like.

    Those
    who do not understand the Amish often imagine that their resistance
    to new technologies arises from a sense of "evil" in such
    tools. But this is not the case. The Amish do employ tools, but
    if someone wants to consider bringing a new technology into the
    community, the Amish study it with this thought in mind: will acceptance
    of this technology make us dependent upon the external world, such
    that we will be tempted to change our ways?

    What
    if you and I began thinking this way? Can our work become what farming
    or carpentry are to the Amish, or what architecture was to Frank
    Lloyd Wright, namely, expressions of our inner spirit in the material
    world? Rather than seeking employment primarily by the standard
    of how well the job pays, can we discover a kind of work that is
    so inwardly rewarding that we would pay someone to let us do it,
    and then figure out how to get well-paid doing such work?

    I
    assume that most of us in this room have developed a strong dependency
    on computers — a tool that has managed to insinuate itself into
    our lives in recent years. How many intrusions and restrictions
    on our lives have we begun to accept [for example, government surveillance
    of our e-mail and Internet website visits] rather than give up the
    convenience of our computers? What if state or federal governments
    were to announce significantly greater inroads on our liberties
    — proposals I hesitate to offer even as hypotheticals, given the
    present propensity to elaborate upon any form of restriction
    — as the price to pay for our being entitled to continue enjoying
    this technology? How many of us, even in this room, would be prepared
    to walk away from these machines and return to pen and ink and Xerox
    machines?

    Perhaps
    the Luddites — whose fears were machine-centered — have less to
    offer us in our search for the reclamation of our souls than do
    another group long revered by my Irish ancestors and, perhaps for
    such genetic reasons, by myself: the leprechauns. For those
    of you whose upbringing has been so destitute that you cannot even
    imagine the existence of these wondrous beings, and for those of
    you who long ago gave up your childlike assurances of the enchanted
    nature of the world in which you live, let me introduce you to the
    leprechauns. According to Irish folklore — which is the only publication
    of record acknowledged by these beings — the leprechauns were very
    industrious souls who placed great value on two factors in their
    lives: [1] their accumulated gold, and [2] their individual liberty.
    No sack-clothed ascetics they: the leprechauns loved their material
    wealth, and would do just about anything to keep it. If you managed
    to steal any of their gold, there would be hell to pay in their
    efforts to get it back. Many a tale has been told of these mysterious
    folk hiding in bushes and watching, with both sadness and anger
    as thieves stole their hidden treasure. They nevertheless would
    not reveal themselves, for the one thing they would never risk in
    trying to protect their gold was their liberty.

    If
    we are to end the material and spiritual divisions in our thinking,
    and learn to live with a sense of wholeness that most of our lives
    lack, can we learn from the Amish — or, better yet, the leprechauns
    — how to value our material tools and other possessions without
    becoming attached to them? Can we understand that the greatest threat
    to our individual liberty has always been found in our willingness
    to value anything beyond ourselves more highly than we do our own
    sense of being? Can we end the practice of progressively lowering
    the price of our liberty as we negotiate for the preservation of
    our attachments?

    Our
    well-organized world has become less and less relevant to the inner
    lives of most men and women. Those of us who have a passion for
    individual liberty have a wonderful opportunity to address these
    unfulfilled needs in ways that no others, of whom I am aware, have
    managed to do. When millions of human beings, throughout the world,
    come together in demonstrations to protest a war even before it
    has begun, you can be assured that the human spirit remains alive
    beneath the surface of events in our lives; that the inner voices
    that define the essence of humanity have not been fully ground down
    by the dehumanizing machinery of state power.

    But
    to communicate with others as to these concerns requires a totally
    new perspective. How we view economic systems, or law, or the study
    of history, is a subset of the question of how we view individual
    liberty; and whether we value individual liberty or not is a subset
    of our attitudes about the sanctity of life itself. As a consequence,
    if we are to understand economics, law, history — or any other area
    of human behavior — with wholeness and integrity,
    we must learn to incorporate a spiritual awareness into our analyses.
    We must, in other words, abandon our fragmentary and divisive approaches
    to understanding the human condition. We must learn a new
    language, one that can translate our inner voices into our
    conversations with the outer world.

    We
    have figured out how best to provide for the satisfaction of our
    material needs. Those at this conference understand the importance
    of reclaiming control over our lives, property, and transactions
    with others. We now need to focus on the question: why is
    it important to do so? Do we understand the significance of reclaiming
    the spiritual dimensions of our humanness? Can we learn to calculate
    all these factors into our thoughts and actions? Once we
    ask such questions with regularity, we may look to the day when
    the human spirit walks away from its self-imposed bondage. In that
    day, men and women may discover that death in service to the state
    is not heroic; that obedience to power does not confer meaning upon
    one's life; and that a lengthened leg-chain is not to be confused
    with liberty.

    We
    must begin with the awareness that abstractions — such as institutions
    — are spiritless, sterile entities, able to pursue
    their ends only through the actions of individuals who identify
    themselves with institutional purposes, and that the interests of
    humanity transcend such artificial forms. Only individuals suffer
    pain, dream, experience love and joy, and eventually die. Only individuals
    make value judgments and act in furtherance of such values. Only
    individuals transport, through DNA, the future of mankind from one
    generation to the next. Each of us is biologically and experientially
    unique, and liberty is the only condition in which we can express
    our uniqueness. If we are to discover our connectedness with the
    world, we must understand that what we have in common with one another
    is the need to protect the conditions in which the liberty of each
    of us can be exercised. Only as we learn to respect the inviolability
    of each individual can mankind hope to survive. You and I are
    mankind, . . . its present and its future.

    We
    must then declare to ourselves, as well as to our neighbors, that
    mankind, integrated in both body and spirit, will not only survive,
    but prosper in this world; that life belongs to the living, not
    to abstract collectives, regardless of their exalted trappings or
    the duration of their tenure over the minds of men and women. We
    must further declare that the spirit of mankind is going
    to survive on this planet, in the only place in which it can ever
    be found, namely, in the autonomous and spontaneous expressions
    of individuals. It is time for those who believe otherwise to stand
    aside, as we support one another in the effort to reclaim our souls!

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