Recently by Robert Eschauzier: How Is an Austrian Anarcho-Capitalist to Vote ThisNovember?
Wednesday during my annual medical check-up I had an interesting conversation with my physician. This took place in Canada, where I am spending the summer months. Dr. John is one of those ever more rare country doctors who still take time to chat with their patients. The examination over, he started the conversation.
Dr. John: "You're in great shape. Check in with me again in a year, will you?"
Me: "That's what I like to hear."
Dr. John: "By the way, how are you getting used to receiving Canada Pension?"
Me: "I don't get any Canada pension."
Dr. John: "Aren't you receiving any checks?"
Dr. John: "Don't they have your address?"
Me: "No. They don't know where I live and I like it that way."
Dr. John: "But then you won't get any pension checks."
Me: "Yep! I don't accept money that has been extorted from others."
Dr. John: "But you had to pay into it all these years. You're entitled to it."
Me: "Entitled? I may be legally, but ethically? No way. Having been robbed by some goons operating as the "Government" in the past does not now give me moral license to rob others, especially if it involves using as my proxy another set of goons who use the same statist fiction."
Dr. John: "Boy! You appear to live by a set of exceptionally well defined and rigorously applied principles."
Me: "Well yes, John. I try. I don't always succeed, but with decades of practice I'm getting better at it every day."
Dr. John: "Hmmm, that helps explain at least in part why you are in such good shape."
Me: "Oh? How is that?"
Dr. John: Some medical studies have shown how people who appear to live "highly principled" lives are noticeably healthier emotionally and physically than the general population. [Who merely follow a set of external rules.]
Now that set me to thinking; about the huge difference between principles and rules.
Principles are developed internally through logic and objective reasoning. Principles motivate me to voluntarily do the things that I know are good and right. Well defined principles (e.g. non-aggression) are absolute, not subject to negotiation or debate. Principles tend to be quite simple, often requiring no more than one or two words to be expressed without ambiguity. Principles are to philosophy what natural laws like gravity are to physical nature.
People who live by principles have in doing so acquired an internal (moral) compass to guide them in all decisions about right vs. wrong. Having full confidence in this compass, they tend to easily develop the discipline to use it constantly in daily life. Rarely will they need more than half a dozen principles to make up the entire compass.
Rules (aka "laws") are externally and arbitrarily developed by others. Rules coercively compel me, through force or threat of punishment, to involuntarily do the things that someone else deems good or right. Rules are arbitrary, frequently subject to negotiation and endlessly debatable. Rules tend to be extremely complicated, usually requiring many lengthy paragraphs and highly convoluted language for their definition, resulting in massive ambiguities. Man made rules and laws are to philosophy what weather is to a solo sailor in the South Pacific.
People who live only by rules are essentially rudderless. They have little or no internal ability to distinguish right from wrong. They mostly distinguish only legal from illegal. Problem is, there are literally hundreds of thousands of laws and regulations. Having no or limited confidence in their knowledge of all these rules, they rarely develop a consistent discipline and instead follow or break on an ad-hoc basis the rules they are aware of, living in constant fear of error.
As a matter of fact, all important principles appear to be implanted in our DNA already. Watching young children at play one can readily see how they know them instinctively or, failing that, learn them very quickly on their own in play. The horror of the "public" education system and of (most?) organized religions is that the people running these organizations successfully brainwash most people into believing that they are unable to develop on their own a set of meaningful principles to live by; that instead they must allow the academic, clerical and political elites who operate under the color of these institutions to impose on them endless rules to live by, regardless whether these conflict with any objectively good principles.
While the elites may succeed in conditioning people on the conscious level, this is not so when it comes to the subconscious. Subconsciously the vast majority of people know the truth contained in key principles, no matter how much brainwashing they have been subjected to. I defy anyone to show me a man or woman who does not on some level agree that a principle such as "non-aggression" is good. To a man, every soldier I have ever asked has said that "You Shall Not Kill" is a good and valid "Christian commandment" to live by, only to follow that admission up with an immediate claim that he is exempt from this commandment under government law and/or by ecclesiastical dispensation.
Of course, since "we" have God exclusively on "our" side the commandment still continues to apply to the enemy. How convenient for "we" that the bible has reduced the non-aggression principle to a mere 10 commandments or external rules; ones which can be conveniently modified to suit the circumstances of the day. Just like the US Constitution. There is only one problem and it is huge. Our intrepid soldier's subconscious knows different. His subconscious knows with absolute certainty that it is WRONG to kill another who has not threatened him. The subconscious knows no rules. It relies exclusively on principles. There is no fooling it!
These internal conflicts, which evolve as described above between a principled subconscious and a less principled conscious mind which knows only rules, will at a minimum result in elevated levels of stress. That this stress will in many cases contribute to the development of physiological health problems (obesity? heart disease?) in some, psychological health issues (marital breakdown? schizophrenia?) in others or combinations of both should come as no surprise. It makes perfect if horrible sense that suicide has recently been reported to be the second most common cause of death among U.S. military personnel.
WARNING: Ingesting Statist Rules Can Be Hazardous To Your Health.
The above may seem like hyperbole, but recent discoveries in the field of neuroscience prove that for the physical brain change is not only possible, but change is actually the rule rather than the exception. Our brain is wittingly or unwittingly being continuously shaped by our conscious and sub conscious minds. And it’s really just a question of which influences we’re going to choose for our brain, principles or rules.
Non Aggression is the core principle which supersedes all others. Austrian Economics is the behavioral science which proves that Anarcho-Capitalism is Non Aggression's only viable model for a social organization. Refer to them as the three legs of liberty if you like. To live a long healthy life, make these three yours in every possible way, thereby bringing your subconscious and conscious minds into perfect alignment. And yes, please by all means proselytize, especially to those you hold dear. However, the best way to teach non-aggression is to embody it. Not to teach it explicitly, but simply to be it, and it’s through the being that the individuals in the vicinity of that person who’s exuding non-aggression will implicitly understand and be affected by it and will learn from it.
For those who are interested in hard science research being done in the area of healthy thinking, here are some fascinating interviews by Krista Tippet with neuroscientist David Richardson, Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard and founding director of the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School Jon Kabat-Zinn.