John Lennon knew that most people who heard his song “Imagine” thought he was a dreamer. But he was quick to point out that he was “not the only one.” Maybe Thomas Jefferson was another dreamer, for he wrote…
All men are created equal
I have sworn upon the altar of God, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man
Feel free to disagree with the specifics, but both men speak to a human yearning – a time and place where you aren’t required to live your life under the oppression of your neighbor’s fears, greed, or religion, nor for the nation-state in which you reside. And no one is required to submit their lives to you.
Imagine Human Happiness
Imagine being free to pursue happiness, and getting to live your life by your values, not as your neighbors or their politicians dictate. You could choose to invest, spend, or give away your time, talents, and money as you see fit, not as voters and bureaucrats determine.
So-called “realists” would suggest that it’s unhealthy for us to dream of a world where you and I would have the freedom to flourish.
Limiting Our Own Imagination
We can be too quick to dismiss so-called “Utopian thinking.” Historically speaking, it wasn’t all that long ago that the Divine Right of Kings, chattel slavery, and state-established churches were normal. If you had lived at that time, imagining away those things would’ve been Utopian thinking.
People imagined a better world. Next, they worked for it. Then, they changed things.
This shows us that the world we live in is actually governed by our models of reality. It matters what we imagine about our future!
In fact, Lennon was definitely right about one thing…
It's Easy If You Try
The talking heads tell us that, if we didn’t have authority structures, taxes, and a war machine, we’d all be in terrible danger.
The People believe them. They imagine social chaos, the end of welfare, and the constant threat of invasion. “Be realistic,” they say. But this “wall of realism” is built with our fears. And fear is also a state of imagination, right?
Might our fears be faulty and errant? Can questioning our fears help us overcome them?
Let’s try a thought experiment:
Is it possible that Utopia is a place where you and I can have freedom from our fears?
If so, then what if something like Utopia already exists in most of your current, daily interactions?
That’s not so far out. Consider…
Do you ever get in cabs or buses with strangers? Why didn’t you conduct a background check on everyone before you boarded?
Do you take a food tester with you to a restaurant, in case the waiter or the chef poisons you? Did you insist upon meeting the person who made your food?
In fact, most human beings walk around in what self-defense experts call “Condition White.” Condition White means you are oblivious to your surroundings. Obliviousness is not the state of a person who thinks they’re unsafe. In other words…
You Imagine You Are Secure
Therefore, you’re already living in a space of no fear. You’re in Utopia!
The Foundation for Harmony and Prosperity has been asking people for nearly a decade a question that 98% of respondents get wrong…
What’s the source of your personal security?
The answers include laws and courts, police officers, knowing how to fight, and owning a gun.
Please notice: These are tools for victims! They are responses to something gone wrong. Security is already lost. For example, you call the police. When seconds count, they might be minutes away. For most crimes, the cops protect no one; they take a report.
Here’s where you get personal security…
The people around you don’t want to harm you. They have no plan to vandalize your property and no desire to steal from you. They have no motivation to attack or kill you.
A Flash of Insight for Your Moral Imagination
It is a fact that hardly anyone wants to harm you. But look inside yourself, as well. Do you threaten people with violence to get what you want? Do you steal when it’s convenient?
Is it really hard to imagine that most people are just like you?
The concept – that you don’t want to hurt others and most others don’t want to hurt you – has been hiding in plain sight:
It is normal that you respect those around you.
It is routine that others respect you.
The thought of harming others seems inhumane.
This lesson in daily interactions reveals the Moral Principle of Human Respect…
To promote happiness, harmony, and prosperity, I will neither initiate violence against others, nor will I diminish the wealth of others through theft, fraud, or destruction of their property.
Now you have a personal rule that explains how to create a world of well-being.
But is it too Utopian to think that nearly every person in our country could agree with that?
Pick up an object on a table nearby. I recommend that it be something unbreakable. Next, stand up, take the object you’re holding and extend your arm out over the floor. Now, let it go.
I can tell you what happened even though I’m not there with you: The object dropped and only stopped when it hit the floor.
I’m not a magician. I know the Principle of Gravity.
A moment ago, I shared the Moral Principle of Human Respect. There, I was using the word “principle” in the way it’s commonly used – a primary rule of conduct derived from your sense of right and wrong. You choose your moral principles: “I don’t hit people, and I don’t take their stuff.”
But you don’t choose natural principles because they just are, and…
Gravity doesn’t care what you think.
You could’ve clicked your heels together three times and told the object directly, “Don’t fall.” But once you let go, its future was certain. That object was going to fall down until the ground stopped it. That’s how a natural principle works.
It turns out, there’s a Natural Principle of Human Respect…
Whenever a person is the victim of violence, theft, or fraud, their happiness, harmony, and prosperity will always decrease.
Going Beyond Imagination: If this, then that
Let’s look closer to see if this statement on Human Respect is actually a natural principle.
The keyword in that sentence is “always.” Natural principles are predictive – if this happens, then that happens.
The “if this” portion of the principle is the part that tells us what necessary condition or cause precedes the decrease. These are aggressive acts of violence, theft, or fraud.
Then what happens? The word “decrease” gives us something to measure. When anyone uses aggression, happiness, harmony, and prosperity will decline, the same way gravity predicts an object’s fall.
Notice: No part of the Natural Principle of Human Respect described a belief.
Indeed, the principle doesn’t even take into account what your motivation was for using violence, theft, or fraud against others.
You can put your imagination to work and invent rationalizations for these negative behaviors. You could declare that you meant well or the ends justified the means. You can even say, “If you want to make an omelet, you have to break a few eggs.” But as the late Harry Browne noted, the person who says that is never talking about their eggs.
Imagine a Brotherhood of Man
Please forgive John Lennon’s early ’70s hippie phrase for its lack of 2020’s gender equity. Besides, it’s poetry, man!
Since it’s poetry, I’ll take poetic license and suggest that the concept of a “brotherhood of man” translates to the universality of Human Respect.
We all want to be treated with Human Respect. That’s a universal statement.
The Principle of Human Respect is a scientific statement. It accurately predicts what happens every single time one person engages in aggression against another.
This means it should be the basis for us to imagine a new vision of human relationships. After all…
Who could disagree with a concept that’s grounded in reality? Like, if I declared, “I disagree with gravity; I’m going to organize a protest against it!” what would that mean? Would you wonder if I was out of touch with reality?
If the Principle of Human Respect is like gravity, and…
If we all want to be treated with Human Respect,
Then the Moral Principle of Human Respect should be the fundamental rule of social interaction.
You’ve learned that in our daily interactions, we imagine we’re safe. We fundamentally trust strangers around us. So the brotherhood (and sisterhood) is already at work. But…
Why am I taking so many words to state what is essentially common sense?
Imagine the Troublemakers
A moral principle with exceptions isn’t much of a principle. If we don’t want to see our Condition White status shattered by theft and violence, then we really don’t want the people around us to make any exceptions!
More foundationally, a natural principle with gaping exceptions is no longer a natural principle. If violence and theft don’t predictably reduce happiness, harmony, and prosperity, we have no principle.
However, a group that we’ll call Troublemakers, tells us that we can suspend reality. They claim we can improve happiness, harmony, and prosperity by outright violating both types of Human Respect principle. Well…
They don’t actually say that!
Frankly, the Troublemakers screw with your imagination. They seek to terrorize you. Turn on cable news, if you don’t believe me. They hope your anxieties and fears will cloud your judgment – that, in your state of negative imagination, you’ll abandon these principles and give them power. They can solve the problem!
The Troublemakers are the political class. But a closer look at these people reveals that they have no special powers to fix things. They are mere mortals, like you and me.
Troublemakers Have Imaginations Too
Whenever a Troublemaker is inviting you away from Human Respect, it’s always for a seemingly good and necessary cause. Troublemakers cannot simply announce their intentions and expect to succeed. They must, instead, be capable opportunists who, in the words of a former White House chief of staff, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.”
The Troublemakers are like monsters who gain electric power through your fears. They will profess to care about you, even as they scare you.
The politicians have just one unique power, and that is to coerce.
The politicians will…
- Place obstacles on the path where people pursue happiness. They call these regulations.
- Install prohibitions that prevent people from living their lives by their own, personal values.
- Fund schemes that reward their few friends, at the expense of the many.
- Support activities that you or I might find abhorrent. And Jefferson had something to say about that…
To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
To pay for those activities (and more), politicians impose taxes. You will pay because you understand coercion when you see it. The politicians have authorized enFORCEment agents to seize your accounts or confiscate your property. These agents are armed, so if you resist them – even if you believe you’re acting in self-defense – you’ll put not only your property, but also your life at risk.
Of course, thanks to your new awareness of the Natural Principle of Human Respect, you can see that aggressive acts will, in cause-and-effect fashion, diminish happiness, harmony, and prosperity. You might like the rule and the politician who introduced it. Perhaps you can come up with justifications for coercive force. Maybe you believe cops are heroes. But facts don’t care about your feelings.
Which gets us to the nub of the problem…
Revealing the real Agents of Coercion
The members of law enforcement are your neighbors. Your elected representatives spend most of their time with other “important people” now. But they used to be your neighbors.
Just like you, your family, and friends, they don’t use theft or violence in their day-to-day lives. They’re all mortals.
Yet they’re invited to ignore the Natural Principle of Human Respect. They’re incentivized and even tasked with violating the Moral Principle of Human Respect. Somehow, they’ve become something special – as if they’re anointed, so that the rules don’t apply to them.
Cops and politicians don’t have any special power. They get it all from your neighbors and you. Yes, YOU. They are merely representatives.
In the legal and business realms, we’d call them agents – persons empowered to act on your behalf.
If you’ve supported “common sense” legislation, voted for a “necessary” tax levy, or cast your ballot for a politician promising to “fix things,” you’ve empowered agents to coerce on your behalf.
When enforcement agents use political power to coerce peaceful adults through taxes, regulations, prohibitions, or bombs, they’re diminishing happiness, harmony, and prosperity, and…
Voters and supporters are ultimately responsible for these immoral, unprincipled aggressions, even if those voters didn’t physically do those deeds.
It is the voting public that has clamored for politicians and law enforcement to use their aggressive powers to fix problems and protect us from our fears. Fundamentally, the blame rests with the people who supported these schemes.
Do You Have a Healthy Imagination?
Now that you…
- Have learned where your security comes from
- Understand the Natural Principle of Human Respect
- Can spot agents of coercion
…how can you consistently and completely practice the Moral Principle of Human Respect?
First, Lennon imagined “nothing to kill or die for.”
Please recognize that there are only two ways to tackle social problems – through voluntary means or coercion. Voluntary can mean we just take action, alone. Voluntary also means we use persuasion to invite others to assist us in our good deeds.
Rest assured, for every social problem you want to fix, there is at least one voluntary solution – usually more. And you don’t even need to “imagine” them because scores of books, hundreds of videos, and thousands of articles have been written with plausible solutions. Think of a topic, and there’s a solution available that doesn’t involve agents of coercion.
Second, stop empowering politicians. Participate in groups that fight aggressive laws and new regulations. Oppose expanding coercion in conversation with friends. Stop buying government bonds. And please, please stop voting for politicians who promise to use force for good!
The first, big step to Human Respect is to simply stop using coercion to get things done, so…
As John Lennon said, “I hope someday you’ll join us.” And the world will live in harmony.
Jim Babka is editor-at-large for The Advocates for Self-Government. He is best known as the President of Downsize DC and is now the featured host of the new podcast, Gracearchy with Jim Babka.