2003-03-12: Antilefty: Bio of a Vulcan

Hello to the anti-lefty community. I am an author, newspaper editor, attorney, philosopher and general lazy lay-about. They say a conservative is a liberal whose been mugged. In my case, a conservative is a libertarian who became a father.

In my youth, I had no interest in politics, which concerns the temporary, since I was fascinated with philosophy, which concerns the eternal. I was convinced of the philosophical basics of the noble Roman school called Stoicism, which I learned from Epictetus and Marcus Aurelius. Anything an Emperor and a slave both agree on, must be something independent of partisan bias.

Upon reading HUMAN ACTION by Ludwig von Mises, I was convinced that there were at least some inflexible and eternal rules operating behind the restless and unending chaos of human affairs. From Ludwig van Mises I learned there was a connection between metaphysics and economics.

I read Ayn Rand’s ATLAS SHRUGGED too late in life to be one of her followers, but I was pleased that she had independently arrived at many of my conclusions. The foundation of her moral code, which might be called ‘the virtue of selfishness’ or what Locke might call self-interest rightly understood, I accepted, without seeing any potential conflict between this and the doctrines of the Stoics, which held duty, not pleasure, to the root of moral action. Nonetheless, from Ayn Rand I learned that there was a connection between morality and economics.

Dismissing the arguments of the Socialists was (for me) merely a matter of logic: no matter how great their emotional appeal, no matter how many tears we shed for the poor, if, as a matter of fact, the poor suffer less poverty under an economic system of private property and specialization of labor, but suffer more poverty under a centralized system of rationing and quota-production, well, then charity to the poor requires that the economic system allow for free trade, respect private property, and uphold private contracts.

Naturally, once you dismiss Socialism in its pure and rigorous form, you must dismiss it in the diluted and self-contradictory form of the modern left. As far as I can tell, the Lefties would like socialism in some areas and not in others, or in some degree and not others. The logic is still the same, though. Once you have seen the logical flaw in the idea of controlling any wages, prices and working conditions, the arguments in favor of controlling the price-supports just for butter by itself, or the working conditions just of roofers, or tariff barriers just for soft wood lumber, cannot persuade.

Again, naturally, once you consent to the free-market, you automatically consent to those other institutions that are logical preconditions for the free-market to exist, such as limited government, separation of powers, gold standard, intellectual property rights, the whole nine yards.

At first, I was equally as unemotional in my politics, holding it to be immoral to use force against another save in self-defense, and holding the state to be no more than a general contract or covenant of everyone in a nation to defend each other. The purpose of law, I concluded, was to enforce voluntary covenants and keep the peace, no more. This premise led me to favor the abolition of all victimless crime laws, to support free trade and free immigration, and so on.

Then I became a Daddy, and suddenly I had to question certain of my premises. To me, fatherhood was an epiphany. Other men, perhaps, are unchanged by fatherhood: it turned me from a rude and selfish brute to a kind and unselfish brute.

A child has no contract or covenant with his parents, but he has the right to demand everything and anything. Children below the age of reason cannot be reasoned with: only discipline will serve. Discipline presupposes certain underlying values must exist: punishment and reward can never be value-neutral, never be perfectly logical, never be purely voluntary.

While this may not seem like big news to anyone else, these obvious facts were brand-spanking new to me. I moved from the planet Vulcan to the planet Earth. I had to decide what values to teach my children, what principles and traditions were fit and wholesome for them. I had to make value judgments based, not on pure logic, but on some sort of recognition of what was wholesome and fit for my child, and what was not.

Well, first and foremost, I saw that the institution of marriage was worthy of respect and protection, since it is the primary institution used to raise and protect children, and, I dare say, it is the primary institution of call civilization. I discovered that marriage was sacred.

Well, this puts me at odds, not merely with my liberal friends, but also with my libertarian and even conservative but easygoing swinger friends. Because logic had led me to a surprising and inescapable conclusion: if marriage is sacred, then whatever undermines marriage is profane. There is no neutral place to stand, no third way.

And, again, naturally, once you assent to marriage, you automatically assent to those institutions and values that are logical preconditions of marriage.

Marriage exists only within a certain context: it is the vow of a man and woman to love and honor each other, for better or worse, richer or poorer, forsaking all others.

Please note what the vow to forsake all others actually implies. It implies chastity.

It implies that you have to be the sort of person with enough self-control to take a vow like that, and mean it, and live up to it.

If self-control is a virtue, then, by definition, self-indulgence is a vice. Hence, surprisingly enough, if you actually think marriage is sacred, then you are forced to conclude that fornication, adultery, polygamy, bigamy, free love, wife-swapping, incest, and anything else that is unchaste, is profane.

In other words, you suddenly find yourself against everything everyone else in our society is for.

If the marriage vow is a good thing, then honoring one’s word must be a virtue also. If honor is sacred, questions of honor, which only concern Romans and Christians and mafia crime bosses, now become pertinent.

Marriage also implies a certain natural view of sex, by which I mean the opposite of what you might think. I mean that sex has an inner nature, an essential definition, not subject to change or amendment by fashionable opinion or human institutions. Sex is a certain process, which aims at a certain result, which can only be done in a certain way and not in any other way: and this is the case whether we want it to be that way or not.

The reproductive act is done between husband and wife, and naturally results in reproduction. Any couple not in a position to reproduce should not perform the reproductive act.

When viewed by the cold eye of an economist, one notes that the value of the sexual companionship of a young maiden decreases if it can be achieved without a requiring the lusty lad to vow a vow of eternal fidelity. Naturally, we sober married men must look askance at young bucks who enjoy the benefits of marital pleasure without paying the price of entering the marital estate. It makes marriage less desirable, and, in effect, raises the price of getting married.

Another conclusion to which my rebellious libertarian heart was reluctantly forced by my remorseless Vulcan brain was this: emotions should be attached to the proper objects of their emotions. In this specific case of marriage, my conclusion was that the emotions that naturally accompany the reproductive act, i.e. erotic love, should be kept within that context, and not attached to persons or things (such as your dog, your mother, your daughter, or your neighbor’s wife) where the emotion is inappropriate, shameful, indecorous, immoral, intemperate.

You would be amazed to hear how much grief I get even from dear friends, over this observation that is so obvious it almost cannot be put into words. Certainly this common sense is something you are only likely to hear from the parents of your grandparents, these days.

Marriage also mandates certain proper family relationships: it is right and proper for children to respect and obey their parents and for parents to love their children unselfishly. Since the virtue of selfishness is the core premise of the Epicurean philosophy of Ayn Rand, logic requires me to repudiate it. Since obedience and respect are the two things my generation cannot imagine paying to their elders, logic requires me to upbraid them.

Holding any traditional institution as sacred also requires an attitude of piety, namely, that one show respect to our forefathers and their ways.

If you conclude (as I have) that there are an innate and objective rules to govern what emotions that are proper and fit for what objects, relationships, people, and ideals, then you conclude that morality is not a matter of private subjective taste.

One also must conclude that proper upbringing consists of fixing the proper emotional responses to the proper objects: it is the poet’s task, so to speak, to remind us that grass is green and that fire burns.

After 41 years, my remorseless and careful examination, step by step, of every aspect of life and the universe, guided by purely logical processes, had led me to the most astonishing destination of all. It was as if I had walked and sailed all the way around the world to arrive at my home town again.

I, who questioned everything, and doubted everything, was convinced now of the most traditional of values of home, family, patriotism, loyalty, courtesy, charity, politeness and yes, even a small amount of piety. Whether I wanted to be or not, all my most radical revolutions of daring freethinking had revolved me back to being the staunchest of traditionalists. Had I trusted the conclusions of my elders in my youth, perhaps I would have saved myself a long and wearisome trip all the way around the world.

It was as if I put out the bumper sticker QUESTION AUTHORITY, and finally realized that I needed a second bumper sticker, one that reads: BECAUSE AUTHORITY HAS ALL THE ANSWERS.