Saturday, December 8, 2012

Post-Genetics and Marriage

This blog post is now a part of my book The Apple of Knowledge. Take a look below, then check out my book for other juicy ideas.

Post-Genetics and Marriage
by Russell Hasan

There is a theory which I call “post-genetics.” I don’t know whether I fully believe in it, but it is an interesting theory, and it explains a lot about human behavior. The theory states that most human behavior can be understood as an expression of the urge of living organisms to cause their genetic material to continue to exist. In my Liberty Magazine essay “Playing the Race Card” ( I presented how this theory explains racism. The members of each race tend to share more genetic material with each other than with members of other races (from interbreeding due to the isolation of the various races from each other in ancient times), and therefore the members of a race are urged by their genetics to promote that race over rival races. That is the genetics theory. The post-genetics theory represents my idea that human beings have evolved minds which now demand different behavior from mindless DNA, and the evolution of minds shifts the dynamics of human civilization away from a pure drive to perpetuate genetic material and towards a paradigm of individual ethical achievements. For example, racism is wrong because what matters is people’s individual identities and personal choices and not what race they are a member of, so defining people by their racial DNA ignores what really matters: individual minds and choices.

In this essay I want to elaborate my theory of post-genetics and show how it can be used to interpret various phenomena of human civilization, including marriage and the abortion debate. First I will present a general overview of genetics theory. The genetics theory holds that each individual exists only to procreate and ensure the survival of the species, each human exists only to compete with others in order to spread their genetic material so that the best genes disseminate and the species is made stronger. Human beings realize their purpose only through the survival of the species.

Genetics is a cynical but scientific explanation for several human behaviors. Why do parents love their children? So that the young of the species will be protected until they reach sexual maturity and can reproduce. Why are children cute? So that they will be protected. Why do people watch sports? Because it encourages physical fitness, which increases the health of the species. Why have women historically been politically and socially dominated by men? Because the female of the species is designed to produce and nurture the offspring, in the womb and through the production of breast milk, which requires that the male protect the female during the gestation in the womb and during the rearing of the young children, and this puts the male in a position to patronize the female. Why do men and women marry? Because it is the most efficient way to create and nurture offspring. Why are people obsessed with having sex? Because more sex produces more offspring, increasing our chances of survival. Why is sex pleasurable? To motivate people to procreate. Why do the most attractive and successful people find lovers more easily? Because mating with the members of the species with the most desirable traits encourages those traits to be more widely expressed among future generations. Why do men like women with large breasts, and why do women like athletic men? Because they want those qualities for their offspring, and breasts produce breast milk, and men use their strength to provide the food while the woman bears the child and lactates.

One of the main principles of genetics theory is that the purpose of sex is procreation for the survival of the species to produce as many young as possible, and young with the best DNA possible, and love and dating and marriage are merely social institutions designed to promote this genetic purpose. First, the behavior of teenagers, listening to “cool” music and dressing in “cool” clothes etc., is behavior designed to attract a mate, like a bird preening its feathers and chirping a love song.

Now let’s consider homosexuality. Why are gays hated and persecuted? It must be because gay sex does not produce children, which results in fewer human young, which decreases the species’ chances of survival from an evolutionary perspective. Therefore genetics urges the species to destroy homosexuality. This can be confirmed by looking at the social institutions of marriage and contraception. The Christian church, which denies the truth of biological evolution, is, ironically, the main enforcer of genetics and its mandates. If the purpose of sex is merely procreation and the production of children, then condoms violate this purpose and should be outlawed. Then there is marriage, which the church dictates must be between a man and a woman. Why? Obviously so that marriage will produce children. Marriage evolved so that a woman could only have sex with one man so that the man could know for certain that the woman’s babies came from the husband’s DNA, so that protecting his children would promote his DNA. In ancient times, say from 20,000 BC to 5000 BC, the woman needed a man to protect her while she was burdened by a fetus in the womb, so the males evolved to be stronger than the females, and this is the origin of the social custom of male domination of women. Later, somewhere around 5000 BC (the precise years are inexact, and best left to historians to debate), marriage became a way to tie families together, when family and clan were the central organization of society. Why was the joining together of two family clans by marriage such a big deal? Because the marriage of a son of one family and a daughter of another family united their DNA in the children of the marriage, so their DNA was tied together and therefore the purpose of the two families was united in their purpose of promoting their DNA.

If this is genetics, then what is post-genetics? Post-genetics says that, while the purpose of sex from an evolutionary perspective was the creation of babies for the survival of the species, the purpose of sex for minds is not the same thing as the purpose of sex for genetics. Therefore the evolution of the mind, which is probably the frontal lobe of the human brain and which has evolved relatively recently, has drastically transformed human behavior. The purpose of sex for minds is firstly for pleasure and enjoyment, and secondly as an expression of love and affection. This represents a huge change in human evolutionary purpose, and a lot of the “culture war” between social liberals and social conservatives is explained by the war between humans as minds fighting for sex as pleasure on the one side, and humans as DNA fighting for sex as procreation on the other side. If the purpose of sex is pleasure, then condoms to prevent fertilization make perfect sense, and homosexuality also makes sense, and premarital sex makes sense, and a lot that is socially liberal makes sense. And if those things are okay, and the perpetuation of DNA is no longer paramount, then gay marriage also makes a lot more sense, since the married couple would not have an imperative to procreate their DNA.

Marriage for love is a modern invention. History had marriage for family connections, not for love. We are still coping with this evolution. Generally, religion is almost always the genetics view because religion is the embodiment of tradition, and tradition dates back to the era when only genetics existed and post-genetics did not exist because the conscious mind had not yet evolved. So genetics vs. post-genetics is tradition vs. evolution, entirely as a result of the structure of the history of human evolution.

Let me then briefly apply this interpretation to the pro-choice vs. pro-life debate. Obviously the people who are pro-life are not advocates of their position for any of the reasons that they say. If killing all life were evil then Christians would not eat meat which comes from killed animals. Also, there is the classic Rothbard argument that even though a parasite depends on the host for life nobody says it is evil to kill parasitic animals, and a baby which is forced upon a mother against her will has no right to exploit the mother’s body even if the fetus really is a human life. In other words, if a fetus has all the rights of adult human beings, but no more, then abortion would be okay, because an adult human cannot enslave the body of another human being. So we must look to genetics to understand the motives of pro-lifers. And the motive is obvious. Genetics views the role of women as to produce children, so anything that frees the female womb from the production of children is an enemy. Abortion enables women to shrug off their purpose of birthing children, which then frees their minds up for mental pursuits, like pursuing a career. So genetics wants women to be merely wombs for childbirth, and post-genetics views the female purpose as individual personal achievement, such as by pursuing a career. This explains the pro-choice vs. pro-life fight, and the participants in the battle are where the theory expects them to be, with social liberals fighting for post-genetics, and social conservatives fighting for genetics.

The post-genetics theory explains a lot about human existence. But the theory has flaws, and I am not sure whether I completely believe in my own theory. Post-genetics has great explanative power, but it feels a bit cynical as an explanation for people’s choices. Does the theory of post-genetics make you feel like you understand things better? Please leave a comment with your thoughts!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why We Don’t Have Flying Cars or a Cure for the Common Cold

The blog post is now a chapter in my book Golden Rule Libertarianism
In the early 20th Century, some 70 or 80 years ago, people believed that in "the future" we would have flying cars, a cure for all diseases, and other technological marvels like robot butlers and maids. So why don't we?

Not surprisingly, the libertarian answer to this question is: government regulation.

Regulation kills innovation because the businesses must invest so much in regulatory compliance for what they already have that they can’t afford to innovate and then spend the money which would be required for the newly developed innovation to comply with all the regulations. Regulatory compliance in today's world costs millions of dollars. This is why the carmakers don’t try to create flying cars, because of EPA car emissions regulations.Can you imagine what a regulatory nightmare it would be for a car manufacturer to invent a flying car and then try to clear the EPA's emissions review, to say nothing of the liability nightmare of tort lawsuits they could face for any minor defect, or the host of other safety regulations from myriad other bureaucratic regulatory agencies who could put an end to the flying car design if they feel it is unsafe? No carmaker will spend a billion dollars to design a flying car that really could work, only to have regulators kill it off in the name of safety and then take a total lost on their research and development investment.

And the same thing is true of medications, perhaps even more so. The FDA requires a complicated clinical trial to prove both safety and effectiveness before any new medicine can be put on the market. The clinical trial required by the FDA is both time consuming and extremely expensive. This makes regulatory approval of new drugs so expensive that the drug makers can only afford medical research for drugs which are certain to clear the clinical trials and be big sellers so that they can be sure to recover their high up front cost of regulatory compliance. They don’t find it economical to experiment freely with possible medicines such as might lead to a cure for the common cold. A cure for the common cold might sell well, but the culture of free experimentation in medical research has been gutted by the fact that significant sums of money can only be invested in research that is sure to clear the FDA's clinical trial requirements. Otherwise, the FDA would force the drug makers to take a total loss on the research which fails the FDA's clinical trials, so drug makers cannot fund innovative creative experiments which think outside the box for fear of not passing the FDA's clinical trials. So in the name of safety the FDA has destroyed the sort of scientific innovation and experimentation which might actually achieve progress in medical science and cure a lot of sicknesses, including the common cold.

Regulation destroys innovation and kills the ability to be experimental and creative. The regulators say they are protecting us and creating safety. They probably have the best of intentions. But as a result of the structure and nature of government regulation, the EPA and FDA only do harm. And it is the people of the USA and the rest of the world, who would enjoy the use of flying cars and an end to the common cold, who suffer because of our lack of political wisdom.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Minarchy vs. Anarchy: The False Dichotomy

Libertarianism is a movement that is filled with schisms and wars between competing factions. The natural rights advocates hate the utilitarians, and vice versa. The Randian Objectivists hate the Rothbardian Anarcho-Capitalists, and vice versa. But few fights are as fierce, or as famous, as the duel of the minarchists vs. the anarchists. The minarchists believe that there should be one central unified state, but it should do the bare minimum of activities necessary to govern. The anarchists believe in anarcho-capitalism and competing governments instead of one centralized state.

Which form of government should you believe in? Minarchy or anarchy? There are good arguments for and against both:

The minarchists accuse the anarchists of being hopelessly naive and unrealistic and impractical. As a practical matter, competition between governments and police forces, if each competing state was armed and authorized to use force, would lead inevitably to wars between governments. This is proved because when one considers the Earth as a whole, there is competition between the different national governments, and nation-states tend to resolve their conflicts by means of war, and not by the citizens giving more tax dollars and support to one government instead of the others. At the height of the Cold War Rothbard stated that the Russian USSR would not attack and conquer the USA if we eliminated our armed forces and switched immediately to total anarcho-capitalism and pacifism. This is probably not true, and the end of a unified American armed forces would leave the USA vulnerable to attack, a prospect which seems far fetched only because the American people have become so used to the defense and peace of the U.S. military that we take it for granted.

The anarchists say that the minarchists are one small step away from becoming statists. As soon as you accept the premises of minarchy, you begin to roll down a slippery slope which can only end in statism, by being corrupted with power. A minarchist government would inevitably seek to grab more power for itself and collapse into statism. The Ronald Reagan government of the 1980's, the so-called Decade of Greed, was an unprecedented implementation of minarchy-style libertarianism. It produced prosperity for a little while, but in a matter of time the statist establishment corrupted the government, and the USA soon returned to Big Government and statism. The anarchists say that the minarchists are sell-outs who betray the true libertarian principles.

I used to consider myself a minarchist, and to believe that competing police departments were a hopelessly impractical idea because of the likelihood of wars between competing governments. I believed that what made the state dangerous was its right to use force, not a lack of competition, so competing governments would not remove the problem of the statist state. I no longer feel that way. I now see the minarchy vs. anarchy debate as a distraction, a mere tool to split the libertarian movement using a "divide and conquer" strategy.

Let's examine minarchy vs. anarchy. Assume that the government does not have the power to tax, and must be funded entirely through voluntary payments. Now let us hypothesize an anarchy with competing governments. If there was a conflict between two governments, or if the citizens defended by one police force had a big fight with another group of people who paid a competing police department, then the threat of war would be inevitable. But most people would see this, and they would not stand for it. As a practical matter, conflicts between states would definitely arise, so the choice the people would face would be constant wars, or else one unitary central government. If enough people came to see this then everyone would choose the one state that did the state's job the best, and everyone would voluntarily choose to give their business to that one state. The dynamics of the market would almost certainly lead a diverse marketplace of competing police to condense into one centralized government, as a result of market forces. Anarchy would evolve into minarchy.

So I am a minarchist, you think? Don't jump to conclusions. The logic works in reverse, as well. If there was one central unified government, but it was clumsy and inefficient and bureaucratic, but it did not have the power to tax by force and was required to subsist on voluntary payments, then it would also be inevitable that market forces would motivate some entrepreneurial people to begin new, different states to compete with the central government. Then the people would have choices and would give their business to the best, more efficient state, and this competition would destroy any inefficiencies arising from a failure of the state to face market competition. So minarchy would dissolve into anarchy.

I don't think that either minarchy or anarchy are "correct," they are merely two theories to posit for what a libertarian future would look like. Why then is the fight so savage between the anarchists and minarchists? First, because the little sect bosses within the libertarian movement, the Rothbardian leaders on the one side or the Randians with their Objectivist groups or the leaders of the movements of followers of Milton Friedman or Hayek or Mises, etc., enjoy having their little slice of political power within the libertarian movement, and having an enemy to fight against in the name of ideological purity unites their followers around the leaders. Second, the statist status quo establishment likes to keep libertarianism as an extremist fringe movement, which is accomplished when the libertarian movement has vicious duels over such a ridiculous debate. In conclusion, there is no need to answer the question of "minarchy or anarchy"? First let us create a libertarian world with libertarian voters. Then the market will produce an answer to this question, an answer which we cannot impose upon the market for state-provided services as a result of our deductive political logic prior to the experience of a libertarian existence.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The 300 Batting Average Analogy to Economics

There are libertarians who have said that people inherit their wealth and also inherit their ability to earn wealth as a result of the genes they are born with and the socio-economic class into which they are born. Here I am thinking of Nozick's Anarchy State and Utopia, and Milton Friedman's Free to Choose. Their argument is basically that life is not fair, but using redistribution to equalize what everyone inherits would be no more fair than leaving alone the unfairness of some people inheriting good luck and others inheriting bad luck.

I reject this argument that life is not fair and you inherit good luck or bad luck. My analogy is to baseball as a model of life. On any given at-bat, whether the batter gets a pitch is a matter of luck combined with skill--skill to hit the baseball, and luck as to whether the pitcher made a perfect pitch or not, and whether there were fielders who happened to be positioned in the place where the ball landed or not. But over the course of the entire baseball season, when most batters get 600 at-bats, the good luck and bad luck evens out. Thus, a 300 batting average is considered the result of skill, not luck, even though each individual at-bat has results coming from a mixture of skill and luck.

By analogy, some people are born with good health, good genes, and into wealthy families. Some people are born into poverty, and are born with health issues or brains that don't function exceptionally well. But I believe that over a 30 year period, from age 1 to age 30 or from age 10 to age 40, a person's choices are going to combine with their luck to produce their overall situation. A poor person who makes good choices and chooses to work hard and be a good employee will take advantage of the few opportunities that luck hands to him. And over a 30 year period, even those people with bad luck will be given a handful of good opportunities, in all likelihood. Similarly, over 30 or 40 years a person born into good luck could waste and squander his wealth if he consistently makes bad choices. Business is a fierce competition and technology and business methods are always changing, so the person born into wealth will be forced to make good choices or else sustain long-term losses.

In order for us to say that free market capitalism is ethical, I think that as a philosophical matter we must be able to say that the rich earned their wealth and ethically deserve to be rich, and the poor who rely upon the welfare state have made mistakes and should make better decisions which would enable them to become economically self-sufficient. If a person's wealth is the result of mere good luck or bad luck then we cannot say this. If wealth is the result of luck then there is no economic argument from fairness against socialist redistribution. But, along the lines of the 300 batting average, I argue that as a matter of statistical mathematics the good luck and bad luck in a person's life will even out over 30 years or 40 years, and a person's wealth will tend to be what they earned, what they deserve, the fruit of their labor and result of their choices, which is a fair and just way to assign wealth and poverty in a society.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Office of Heavenly Restitution

The Office of Heavenly Restitution
by Russell Hasan

People are gathered from the valley where they herd sheep, and are led along a rough, rocky path into the Crystal Mountain. There, in tunnels lined with glowing crystals, they are spoken to by the Whisperers. They are told to pick up the crystal knives and to cut their arms and legs, and to slice off their fingers, their toes, their feet, and their hands, and to cut their faces. At the end, they are told to cut off their genitals, and then to open a black door at the center of the mountain and to enter.
If they resist, they are told: “Do it! Don’t worry, it will be okay. Trust us. We know what we’re talking about. This is the only way to get what you want. Eternal life waits for you. Your dreams will be realized. You will live in a palace surrounded by feasts of meat on plates of gold, and beautiful women will attend to you. Only you must do as we say. We insist.” “But I don’t want to! It hurts!” “The body is evil and the mind must be freed from the foul, rotting prison of the flesh. Look around you. Everyone else is doing it. Won’t you be embarrassed if you don’t?” “Well, but….” “You have no time in which to decide! This is urgent. You must choose now!” “Well… okay…. Ouch!”
“This doesn’t feel right, are you sure that this is necessary?” “Yes, very sure. This is what will save you. Don’t you want to get what you want? If you really want your dreams then you must do as we tell you. You will be given everything and you won’t need to do any work at all to get it, but you must be willing to make sacrifices to get what you want. Don’t worry, we are experts, we know what’s best for you.” “I guess if it’s really necessary then I have no choice. Okay.”
“No, this is making me nervous, this doesn’t feel, right, no! No! No! Let me out of here! Help, let me out of here!” “There is no going back once you enter the Crystal Mountain. The only tunnel back leads down, into the bowels of Hell. There you will be cold, so very, very cold. Go forward and you will be warm, and it will be safe, and you will always have the comforting sound of our voices to make you feel better. Do it. Do it. Do it.” “I don’t know, I can’t make up my mind! Help!” “Here is all the help that you need: do it.” “Yes, okay. I’ll do it, but I… I don’t… well, I’ll do it.”
“This really hurts. This cannot be good for me.” “You sliced off your little finger and you were fine. You cut your cheek. Nothing bad happened. Trust us, it will be okay. Cutting off your foot will feel good, it will be strangely satisfying. You’ll see.” “I don’t understand what’s going on or why I have to do this.” “You don’t need to understand. Just pick up the knife. We could explain it all to you, but that would be a waste of time. Just do as we say.” “If you say so.”
“Cut yourself. Slice the skin on your leg.” “No.” “You must. Make the cut! Pick up the knife! It is the only way.” “I’m sorry, I don’t believe that you were listening to me. I wasn’t asking you a question. I was giving you my answer. No.” “Oh, stop it!” someone else says. The resisting man has a curiously smooth face; this bothers those around him. “You’ll make them mad, you’ll get us all in trouble! They’ll hurt us if they get angry. Don’t you see that giving in is the only way to please them?” “But I don’t want to please them.” “You’ll bring ruin down upon all of us!” “I’m not afraid of them. The opposite is true. They fear us. This whole place is built around their fear of us, it is their oozing wound, their flagrant vulnerability. Their insecurity is the foundation of this mountain. They can’t touch me. I’m sure of it.” The Whisperers crowd around the man. He can smell the rot in their breath, feel the burning in their shiny red eyes. “Yes we can! You don’t want to make us mad! We’re warning you, we tried to be nice but we won’t put up with an attitude from a little nothing like you! Make the cut! Do it now! RIGHT NOW!!!” “No.” A light appears, illuminating the path back in the direction from which he had come. “Then you mean nothing to us, and you cannot remain here. Go back from whence you came.” He leaves.
            He walks alone in silence winding his way back down through the crystal tunnels. At the end of the light is not the green fields, but a white door. He enters. “Where am I?” “Don’t you know? This is Heaven.” “But wasn’t this supposed to be Hell?” “What is Heaven for one man is Hell for another.” “Don’t I get to return to my sheep?” “We hope you won’t. We have a job for you.” “A job? What kind of job?” “To handle complaints and to staff the complaints desk in the Office of Heavenly Restitution. When the ghosts feel that the demons have broken the rules, they are allowed to file a complaint. We help them if we can, if the contract between us and the Whisperers allows it. We do all we’re allowed to do, which is far too little, sadly.” “It sounds like an interesting job.”
            He sits at the desk and a ghost floats in. “Your complaint?” “They tricked me. They tricked me into going through the black door. My death was on the other side. I fell onto the sharp crystal rocks below. My body was crushed.” “Did they push you?” “No. I stepped through.” “Did they force you to go?” “No.” “Did they threaten you?” “Not exactly, but they made me feel really pressured, they made me feel very uncomfortable.” “But they never actually touched you?” “No, no, but they were very insistent. I could not resist. I had no choice.” “They didn’t force you. Then why did you do it?” “I… I don’t know. I honestly don’t know. I was not strong enough to fight back.” “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing we can do for you. You were given the gift of life, the gift of free will. You had the power of the magic word, which is ‘no.’ You were given the freedom to choose on the condition that you be bound by your choices. You chose to kill yourself. If they had forced you to do it, if they had laid a finger on you, we could help you. But you did this to yourself, according to the rules. You cannot blame the demons for your giving in so easily.” “You don’t understand. You don’t know what I’m subjected to down there, the agony! Help! No! No! NO!!!” “I’m sorry, I can’t help you,” the man who is alive says. “Next!” The ghost disappears and another ghost floats through the door.
            “What is your complaint?” “They lied to me. They promised me that I would get everything that I wanted if I did what they told me to do. I trusted them.” “But they didn’t force you to do anything?” “No. But they lied to me! I never would have done it if I had known what was going to happen. I only stepped through the black door because of their promises, because of their lies. They took advantage of me. It isn’t fair that I should have to suffer because I was misled. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and you should help me.” “The Whisperers told you lies. What did your heart tell you?” “Well… my heart told me to take what was offered while it was still available.” “It’s all in your file, which I have right here. Your heart told you that it was too good to be true. Your heart told you that pain is bad and there is no reason for you to suffer. Your heart told you to fear the crystal knives. You listened to the Whisperers instead of your own heart. You didn’t need to be warned. You knew the warning.” “But they lied to me! They lied!” “Nobody forced you to believe them. If you don’t trust yourself, someone else telling you the truth isn’t going to do anything.” “That’s not true! It’s their fault, not mine! You should do something to help me!” “Please leave. I can do nothing for you. Next!”
            A new ghost wafts into the room. “What is your complaint?” “I have no excuses to make. The demons painted a pretty picture and I wanted it, and I wanted it so badly that I thought it made sense to get it the easy way, the fast way, instead of taking my time and working hard to get it. I am to blame for slicing myself up with a crystal knife. I chose to go through the black door.” “You have no complaint? Then why are you here?” “I am not happy with death. I do not want to be a ghost. I miss being alive. I am furiously angry about what has happened. I demand that you help me restore myself to a living body. I insist that you undo the work of the demons and pull me out of the pit of the volcano! And if you can’t help me then I demand to see your supervisor! And I assure you that I will complain about you to him and let him know that I am very upset with your service!”
The man laughs at the ghost. “Trust me, if the demons scare you now, you would be far more terrified if you had to meet my supervisor. But even though there is nothing in the rules that would allow me to help you, you have something that I admire. I probably shouldn’t like you, but I do. So I am going to tell you a secret. A loophole.” “What secret? What loophole?” “You are a ghost, yes? You can float through walls?” “Yes.” “Do the demons keep you chained to the fire, or do you merely sit there and burn?” “I stay and burn. I can see no way out. I am surrounded by fire.” “The demons cannot keep you there. They trick you to get you there and they trick you to keep you there. Ghosts do not have life, but they can move about. You can float through the crystal walls and leave that place whenever you wish. You are tied only because we are not allowed to illuminate the path that leads out, so you would have to go blind in the dark to go that way. If you try to leave and you lose your way you will end up back where you started, but if you listen very carefully you may hear the sounds of wind crashing along the ocean or the echoes of distant wolf howls to guide you. I cannot give you back your body, but there are vast worlds out there, and you may find something interesting on your journey. It is rumored that there is a hermit sage in the Cragged Reaches who can resurrect the flesh and give life back to the dead. Leave the Crystal Mountain, if you wish, and seek him. Be warned that your journey may not be easy, but at least it will be different from what you have. If fear holds you then you would do best to remain where you are. If you have courage then brave the world outside.” “Thank you. This is far more than I expected from you. I will leave, I am not afraid. And hopefully I will not make the same mistake twice.” “Good day to you. Next!”