“What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.”—Leviticus
To construct a science in the domain of volitional action, we must deal with the fact that we cannot predict the behavior of individual human beings with accuracy required of predictions in the physical sciences.
The postulates of volitional science deal with the relative unpredictability of human conduct from the outset. Scientific theories begin with postulates. The theory of volition has two: (1) All men live to pursue happiness; and (2) All concepts of happiness pursued through moral means are equally valid. Morality is defined as the absence of coercion.
The way to build a social structure that is peaceful, progressive, prosperous, just, humane and durable is to demonstrate to intelligent and educable people that coercion is at the root of all our social ills; and that innovators must be nurtured, protected, and properly rewarded because they are the principal source of human progress.
Today, the prevailing concept of government is called a “state.” Its fundamental rôle is to protect its inhabitants from domestic criminals and foreign aggression. However, states operate coercively and injure their own citizens. They force their citizens to risk life and limb in aggressive wars of conquest and destruction. States finance their operations through coercive taxation and, as these lectures will argue, taxation is theft. State coercion may be limited at first, but always tends to evolve from a lesser to a greater amount of coercion.
Volitional science envisions government as a higher, non-coercive form of organized property protection that will eventually replace the state. In the theory of volition, a state is neither moral nor immoral. Morality is a standard that applies to the action of individuals. People use a state for coercive purposes, but it is their individual action and not the state organization itself that is immoral. The concept of the state is merely a flawed concept of true government.
* * *
Choice and unpredictability in human action
Human beings choose what they want to do, and having chosen a course of action, they can change their minds. That is why the criterion for rightness in the physical sciences has not been applied successfully in the volitional domain.
The physical sciences are characterized by the search for cause and effect predictability in the operation of non-living phenomena such as stars and planets, heat and light, the land and the sea, etc. Using the scientific method, scientists formulate hypotheses to explain and predict physical phenomena, such as the rise and fall of ocean tides, the re-appearance of a comet, the effect of heat on various forms of matter, etc. If the predictions always come true 100% of the time without exception, eventually the hypothesis is promoted to the status of a “theory” or law of nature. However, one wrong prediction is all it takes to invalidate the theory and demote it to a discredited hypothesis.
The phenomena studied in the physical sciences do not possess volition. Planets and atoms cannot consider different pathways of action and choose one. However, human beings can choose among various alternatives what they want to do. They can alter their choices at any time and make choices that seem irrational to others. Therefore, a science of volition must account for the fact that we cannot predict the behavior of individual human beings to the degree of accuracy required in the physical sciences.
In the nineteenth century Karl Marx developed what he claimed was “scientific socialism.” However, Marxism makes no use of the scientific method. It is simply a discredited hypothesis that has been totally falsified by experience. Every country that has tried Marxism soon abandoned it in all but name.
The way to build a peaceful, progressive, prosperous, just, humane and durable social structure is to demonstrate to intelligent, educable people that coercion is the root cause of all our social ills; and that since innovators are the principal source of human progress, they must be nurtured, protected, and properly rewarded.
Intellectual property, herein referred to as primary property, is the highest form of property because it is the source of all other property except life itself. Yet, intellectual property always has heretofore been poorly protected or entirely unprotected. The social system known as liberal capitalism has failed adequately to protect and reward innovators for the creation of their intellectual property. As a result, for the past two hundred years or so, most innovators have been in favor of socialism. They thought it would provide the creators of intellectual property with higher status, better protection, and more appropriate rewards.
The theory of volition sets forth a new concept of capitalism that will bring full protection to innovators and their intellectual property.
Science starts with precise definitions. Precise definitions are essential to a science: they are used to formulate postulates; and scientific theories are built up from postulates. The theory of volition employs the following defined terms.
“Good” is the subjective evaluation of a preferred action, or a preferred transition from one state to another.
“Bad” is equivalent to non-good or negative good. It is anything one would prefer to avoid.
“Happiness” is the subjective evaluation of all the “goods” that a person has experienced throughout his life up to that point less all the “bads” that he has experienced.
Happiness is the integrated subjective evaluation of all good and bad experiences in one’s memory plus all expected goods and bads.
In simple terms, happiness is the scale of subjective preferences of each individual. As such it is the ultimate governor of individual action. When we act, we seek goods and seek to avoid bads.
“Absolute good” is a subjective good to at least one person that is not imposed on any other volitional being.
“Morality” is the absence of coercion
“Absolute rightness” in volition is that which is both rational and moral.
“Profit” is any increase in happiness acquired by moral means.
A corollary to the definition of profits: that which is profitable is necessarily moral.
Note that the definition of “profit,” like the definition of “property” (in lecture #1) is not framed in economic terms. Rather, property and profit are defined in terms of life and its derivatives. Profit—an increase in happiness achieved non coercively—is a universal concept. It is as valid for those with little or no interest in acquiring material wealth as those who are obsessed with financial or material gains.
Someone may decide that the most profitable use of his time is to pursue an activity that earns little or no monetary reward, such as learning to play a musical instrument. Other than the financial reward that accompanied his Nobel Prize, Albert Einstein never received much money for his work. Rather than money, he was motivated by an all-consuming curiosity that led him to search for new knowledge in physics. So, per the foregoing definition of profit, according to his subjective determination Einstein’s work was profitable to him.
“Plunder” is defined as any increase in happiness acquired by immoral means.
Profit and plunder are both means of pursuing happiness. But they define two fundamentally different ways of doing so: by moral (non-coercive) means in the case of profit and by immoral (coercive) means in the case of plunder. That distinction is important , first of all, because in science we do not use the same word to mean two different things. But, more importantly, making this distinction will have a large, positive impact on our social structure and our way of understanding society.
“Absolute importance” is the measure of the total amount of property that is affected. Thus, the highest achievements in sports or business are far less important than virtually any scientific discovery or technical innovation. Newton’s law of gravitation and Einstein’s theory of relativity have produced a lasting affect on human culture has led, and will continue to lead, to massive increases in the quality and quantity of property across our entire civilization. Can you say that of even the most stupendous achievements in sports or business?
“Property” is an individual’s life and all non-procreative derivatives of his or her life, including thoughts and ideas. The word “non-procreative” in the definition signifies that children are not the property of their parents, even though children are derivatives of the lives of the parents. Galambos identified three types of property. (1) primordial property is life itself; thus an individual’s life is his or her primordial property. (2) Primary property is thoughts and ideas. Thus, a discovery and invention are primary property; for example James Clerk Maxwell’s discovery embodied in his theory of electromagnetic wave propagation is an idea that is primary property; inventions based on Maxwell’s theory, such as radio, telephone, and television, are inventions that are primary property of the inventor. An artistic creation is primary property, for example the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven, or the plays and sonnets of William Shakespeare. (3) Secondary property includes tangible assets ranging from something as rare and highly prized as a fine violin made by Antonio Stradivarius, to the mundane such as tables, chairs, and other household furniture and furnishings.
It is worth nothing that Galambos’ definition of property is similar in concept and scope to the description of property by James Madison, fourth President of the United States of America. Madison’s definition is set forth in the accompanying note. 1
“Capitalism” is that societal structure whose mechanism is capable of protecting all forms of property completely. It is, therefore, the only form of social structure that can produce freedom. This definition of capitalism includes but is not limited to private ownership of the tangible means of production. It encompasses the protection of all forms of property, including individual liberty and, most importantly, the full protection of intellectual property.
The term capitalism is repugnant to many creative people because they see that allegedly capitalist societies do not properly value higher cultural achievements and thus provide disproportionately scant rewards for scientific and artistic innovators. In contrast, volitional science envisions a different kind of capitalism, in which the work of innovators and other creative people is rewarded in a manner commensurate with the value it produces for others.
The postulates of volitional science
Scientific theories start with postulates—unproven statements that we assume to be true and that serve as the basis upon which we build the logical framework of the theory. Although a postulate, by definition, is an assumption, successful postulates must be observationally true without exception and of universal application. The theory of volition has two postulates:
- All men live to pursue happiness.
- All concepts of happiness pursued exclusively through moral (non-coercive) means are equally valid.
The first postulate is inspired by the following statement from the American Declaration of Independence:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”
This poetic, inspirational statement offers no proof that all men are created equal and are endowed with certain rights. Rather, it simply asserts those beliefs as “self-evident” truths to justify the principal purpose of the Declaration of Independence, which is to argue that America does not need a king and that the American colonists ought to separate themselves from Great Britain. While that part of the statement points to certain valuable principles, from the standpoint of scientific rigor, it is imprecise and frequently misinterpreted. However, the “pursuit of happiness” concept is logically irrefutable. Men do pursue states they value more and seek to avoid states they value less than their current state. All human action is the striving for happiness and it is a striving that will never be completely satisfied. If this were not so, men would lose the incentive to act at all and thus lose the motivation to achieve more happiness and progress.
The first postulate has a corollary: “Morally acting man seeks to profit and immorally acting man seeks to plunder.”
The second postulate of volition was suggested by the second postulate of Einstein’s theory of relativity, which states, in effect, that all frames of reference are equally valid for the purpose of formulating the laws of nature.
The first postulate is the “happiness” postulate. It describes the fundamental nature of volitional beings in the simplest possible terms. The second postulate is the “democracy” postulate, for reasons to be set forth in the sixth lecture in which a new and higher concept of democracy is defined.
The concept of “good” is entirely subjective and relative to each individual’s frame of reference. What is considered good differs from person to person, and differs within each individual depending on time, place, and circumstances. Volitional science establishes the absolute standard of good defined above, that is: “Absolute good” is a subjective good to at least one person that is not imposed on any other volitional being. Absolute good is closely connected with the 2nd postulate because it applies to any subjective preference of any individual, no matter how trivial, as long as a preference involves no coercion.
The definition of “absolute good” is a scientific concept. Just because absolute good describes an utterly subjective phenomenon does not meant that it is not rigorously scientific. In fact, all knowledge in science is acquired subjectively. Science is based on observation, first and last. The first step of the scientific method is observation for data gathering. The last step of the scientific method is observation to corroborate or falsify a hypothesis based on the original observations. Who else but individual human observers make such observations.
Natural law compared to political law
Science distinguishes between absolute subjectivism and relative subjectivism. A hallucination is relatively subjective. It may seem totally real to the person having the hallucination. However, it is relatively subjective because other people cannot confirm another person’s hallucination by independent observation. Galileo’s law of falling bodies is an example of absolute subjectivism. Galileo conducted an experiment to observe and compare the rate of fall of heavy and light objects. He consistently found that heavy objects fall at the same rate as light objects. Furthermore, he found that under the constant acceleration of the earth’s gravitational field, the distance of the fall is directly proportional to the square of the elapsed time. That observation can be duplicated and the theory he derived from it tested by anyone else, any place, at any time. Since we’ve never found an exception, Galileo’s observation is a case of absolute subjectivism.
What are called laws of nature are subjective opinions. They are man-made. Newton’s law of gravitation, Faraday’s law of electromagnetic induction and Einstein’s law of relativity were theories conceived in the minds of those individuals. The critical characteristic that makes such opinions laws of nature is that they are found to be universally true and they are discoveries rather than inventions. Newton, Faraday and Einstein did not invent the above theories. They discovered them. Their theories have achieved the status of laws of nature because every independent subjective observation by other people confirmed their absolute rightness.
Political laws are also man-made. However, that is the only thing they have in common with the laws of nature. A political law is invented; a natural law is discovered. A political law is enforced coercively; but coercion is entirely alien to the process by which one discovers laws of nature. No one is forced to believe in the natural laws discovered by Galileo, Newton, Maxwell and Einstein or anyone else. Other scientists accept such laws, and inventors & entrepreneurs use them to develop technological innovations such as electric power and lighting because continual observation confirms they are a true description of the way things work in the universe.
Volitional science is based on natural law. People accept natural laws, whether or not they understand them, because they work. We simply find that natural laws describe and are compatible with the universe in which we live. These lectures deal with political law because it is a current fact of life. Volitional theory will demonstrate that due to their coercive nature political laws have never and can never protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that politics has brought us war not peace; institutionalized theft rather than property protection; enslavement rather than freedom.
Morality in volitional science compared to religious morality; the rightness of the original biblical “Golden Rule”
Absolute rightness in volition is that which is both rational and moral, with moral meaning the absence of coercion. Religion and volitional science both deal with morality. However, in volitional science, while morality is not the morality of religion, its foundation is roughly equivalent to the following original statement of the biblical Golden Rule: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor.” The Golden Rule appears in all religions and cultures of the world that have survived for any appreciable length of time.
In Christianity, the Golden Rule is stated in the positive—as an altruistic command—that people should do to others as they would have others do to them. This version of the Golden Rule can be interpreted as permitting, even encouraging, one to meddle in the affairs of others, for example by religious proselytizing.
The original Golden Rule is superior because it states a basic principle of property protection: leave other people alone. This is compatible with the 18th century liberal philosophy of “laissez-faire” that the state should not interfere in individual affairs and that individual enterprise should be free of state controls.
Except for recognizing the truth and validity of the original Golden Rule, volitional science does not deal with religion, which is humanity’s attempt to explain our place in the universe and set forth supposedly god-given rules of human conduct. Humanity’s organized religions have been a source of conflict and coercion, as shown by the attempts of various organized religions to impose their beliefs and rules upon others.
Volitional science is not atheistic. Atheism is a form of religious belief, and a point of view that is not rationally tenable, because it teaches the non-existence of God, whose existence can neither be proved nor disproved by the methods of science.
Rationality and morality may be in conflict in the short term, but not in the long term
In the short run there are conflicts between morality and rationality. It may be rational to steal—in the short run. In the long run it is irrational to steal, because persistent, successful theft causes productive people to stop producing what the thief wants to steal. In a crime-ridden neighborhood there will be less and less for a criminal to steal. In a crime-ridden country production of even the necessities of life, such as food, will diminish. When stealing reaches its maximum in a society, production drops to the primitive level of a tribal culture where people produce only what they can consume themselves.
Comparison of the coercive, political state and a higher, non-coercive form of government
The present common conception of government is called a “state.” Its supposed fundamental rôle is to protect the people within its borders from domestic criminals and foreign aggression. However, states operate coercively and, thus consistently injure their own citizens. They force their citizens to risk life and limb in aggressive wars of conquest and destruction. States finance their operations through the coercive means of taxation. As these lectures will argue, taxation is theft, which evolves from theft on a limited scale to theft on a grand scale, from a lesser amount of coercion to a greater amount of coercion.
Volitional science envisions a higher, non-coercive form of government to protect all forms of property, as defined herein, namely life itself and all of its non-procreative derivatives including most importantly intellectual property. Only such organized property-protecting activity is deserving of the title “government.”
In the theory of volition, a state cannot be moral nor immoral. Morality is a volitional concept and applies only at the level of individual behavior. People can use a state for coercive purposes, but the state is an abstract concept describing a certain type of organization and, as such, cannot be deemed immoral. It is the people using the state organization coercively who are immoral. The concept of the state is merely a flawed precursor of true government.
Majority rule is not a solution to the problems of mankind
In a political democracy the majority may authorize the state to tax, i.e., to steal property, because in political democracy right is what the majority makes it to be.
The reader may think that the alternative to majority rule is rule by a minority, such as an aristocracy, or rule by monarch. It is a false alternative to consider minority rule or monarchy the only alternatives to majority rule. Volitional science presents a new positive alternative, a higher form of democracy called the natural republic in which no one, not even by authorization of the majority, is empowered to seize the property of others. In the natural republic, property is fully (100%) protected on a non-coercive basis.
In political democracy the majority does not actually rule. A minority rules, and a rather small minority at that, with the sanction of the majority. The majority may even approve rule of a dictator. Adolph Hitler (1889-1945) was the absolute dictator of Germany from 1933 to 1945. At the height of his powers he had the approval of a large majority of the German people.
COMMENTARY ON LECTURE # 3
In Galambos’ lexicon, property and profit are not defined solely in terms of money and wealth; rather, they include ideas and actions. This is an important distinction because of the widespread idea among thoughtful and creative people that the higher things in life—the arts and sciences—are not property. However, they are the creation of artists and scientists and therefore, in these definitions, are their intellectual property.
In the words of Jacob Bronowski: “Man is unique not because he does science, and he is unique not because he does art, but because science and art equally are expressions of his marvelous [creativity] and plasticity of mind.” 2
In lecture number 3 Galambos identifies a key innovation–the concept that morality must be independent of arbitrary standards of determination–just as in physics, testing the truth of an observation or the validity of a hypothesis must be independent of arbitrary standards of measurement.
An early colleague of Galambos argued that the concept of morality is outside the subject of volition, because volition is the study of voluntary human interaction, and therefore coercion, which is immoral in Galambos’ teaching, is excluded by definition since coercive interaction is involuntary on the part of those subjected to coercion. In this point of view Galambos’ use of the concept of morality is circular in its definition, is unnecessary, and a violation of Occam’s razor.
However, much of the V-50 lectures was devoted to showing how coercive social structures are destined to fail and have always failed. Elimination of all forms of coercion is central to Galambos’ philosophy of freedom. Accordingly, it appears appropriate and essential to construct his new science of volition on the foundational postulate of morality being the absence of coercion.
Another criticism of Galambos’ ideas by some who are familiar with them is that he is arbitrary, rather than scientific, in his concepts of “moral” and “immoral,” and of right and wrong conduct. This criticism finds fault with the way Galambos arrived at his conclusions. The author of this internet book chooses to leave such judgments to the reader, and to the operation of the intellectual market place of ideas.
Galambos tried to simplify the concepts of morality and rightness by adopting the absence of coercion as a test for morality and right human conduct. Galambos’ teaching did not and could not solve all the problems of human action and interaction. How could any one person or any one idea accomplish an eternal solution to all the problems of human existence? However, Galambos did offer an approach to achieving peace, freedom and prosperity that is based soundly on observation of human society and the history of ideas about human conduct. That is, what ideas lead to peace, freedom and prosperity and what ideas lead rather to war, slavery and poverty.
Galambos’ approach is reminiscent of the attitude of Warren Buffett, the renowned entrepreneur and investor who once observed about his specialized field of knowledge that he would rather be approximately right than precisely wrong.
The quotation of the “Golden Rule” herein is in its original form, found in that portion of the Torah known as “The Holiness Code” (Leviticus, Chapter 19). It is a basic principle underlying the traditional Jewish commitment to fairness, human responsibility, and social justice.
Legend has it that the great Jewish scholar, Hillel (fl. 30 B.C. to 10 C.E.) was asked by a Roman soldier to summarize Judaism “while standing on one foot”–in other words, to put all of Jewish theology in a nutshell. Hillel’s response was “That which is hateful to yourself, do not do unto others. That is the heart of the Torah; all the rest is commentary.”
Jay Snelson, in his book entitled Taming the Violence of Faith (2011), 3 reports that historians of religion observe that for over 2,500 years a form of the biblical Golden Rule has been a central tenet not only of Judaism and Christianity, but also of other prominent religious belief systems, including Zoroastrian (ancient Babylon and Persia), Hindu (India), Buddhist (a number of countries in east Asia), Confucian and Taoist (China) and Muslim. For example, the following statement is attributed to the Chinese teacher and philosopher Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.):
“What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” 4
In the biblical story of Cain and Abel from Genesis, after Cain kills his brother, Abel, the biblical text continues as follows: “Then the Lord said to Cain, Where is your brother Abel? I don’t know, he replied. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). God punished Cain not only for his act of murder, but also for his callous and evasive response, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” According to the teaching of both Judaism and Christianity the lesson of this dialogue between God and Cain is an ethical requirement as important as the Golden Rule: that is each person is a member of an extended family consisting of all humanity, and each person is under an obligation to care for not only his or her immediate family, but also every other member of the entire human family.
People who believe sincerely and deeply in this idea may have strong philosophical sympathy with the idea of the welfare state—that through the operation of the state we can and must care for those in need by taking from others via taxation. People of that persuasion may be antagonistic to the idea that taxation by the state is stealing—itself a violation of a commandment not to steal that the bible says emanates from God. Such people see no conflict between the injunction to be thy brother’s keeper and the commandment not to steal.
A resolution of the seeming conflict between these two ethical principles becomes apparent when one takes a long-term view of human civilization. The decline and fall of every civilization is caused by the state attacking property and producers, via taxation and other means. In contrast, a society on the whole prospers in direct proportion to the freedom of individuals to keep and enjoy the fruit of their labor. Then individuals are able to accumulate enough property to take care of not only their own basic needs but to help others—that is to be “their brother’s keeper” on a voluntary basis.
One can see voluntary generosity to strangers in operation at its utmost in America, which has more charitable giving than any other contemporary society, including the well-known American voluntary generosity to people in other countries afflicted by natural or man-made disasters.
Famed economist F. A. Hayek (1899-1992) observed that the idea of being thy brother’s keeper is sensible within a small circle of family and close friends, but is counter-productive when applied on a society-wide basis. Hayek posits that beyond the immediate family the greatest social good consists in individual initiative that motivates people to achieve high levels of productivity by serving their own interests rather than engaging in altruistic behavior. 5 This is a reiteration of the “invisible hand” idea expressed as follows by Adam Smith in his great treatise An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776):
“Every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By . . . directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.” 6
The decline of a civilization starts when attacks on producers cause a fall in production. When production falls below the subsistence level the civilization fails. That happened in ancient Rome which evolved in its last era into a prototypical welfare state that self-destructed. It happened also in the former Soviet Union, of which Russia was the central component.
The Soviet Union was established in 1917 on the communist idea “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need,” a concept in which everybody is the keeper of everybody else, except that the state makes virtually all the decisions of economic life. The Soviet Union perished in 1991, when after just 74 years in existence it became evident to almost everybody in that society, including some of its political elite, that the state’s imposition of communist ideas was the cause of the constant shortages of basic human necessities and wants, ranging from food and shelter to health care, the latter as indicated by the short life expectancy in the Soviet Union.
Furthermore, from the outset of its seizure of political power in 1917 the Soviet Communists deliberately instituted rule by terror to force everybody else to submit to their communist ideal. In order to eliminate private property in agriculture, the Soviet state committed mass murder on a scale unprecedented in recent human history. Between 1929 and 1933 the Soviet state deliberately caused the dispossession, deportation and starvation of fifteen million members of peasant farmer families out of a population of forty million in the Ukraine and neighboring areas because of their unwillingness to give up their farms and become employees of state-run “collective farms.” 7
Galambos defined “absolute rightness” in volition as that which is both rational and moral. Some of Galambos’ colleagues and students have challenged the use of the word “absolute” as a qualifier of “rightness.” Their thesis is that the idea of an “absolute rightness” or even an absolute rationality is incompatible with science and the scientific method.
In human action the concept of absolute rightness appears to be fraught with error and deadly consequences. Giordano Bruno was burned alive in 1600 C.E. by people who believed they were absolutely right and Bruno was absolutely wrong about whether the sun revolved around the earth.
Galambos used his concept of absolute rightness as a criterion for resolving disputes without violence. Rationality and morality together are Galambos’ criteria for resolving disputes without violence, as “moral” means without coercion in Galambos’ definition. The people who ordered Bruno burned alive employed the ultimate coercion because they disagreed with Bruno.
In the name of the absolute rightness of a “one true faith” or a “one true God,” religious warfare has ravaged mankind over past centuries. In the 20th century political rulers believing in absolutely right secular ideologies caused most of the century’s 165 wars and 180 million total deaths from war and another 100 million deaths by political and civil repression and genocide.
The concept of “absolute” is important in science, where it means that there is a presumption that the universe has an underlying structure that is understandable and immutable at its deepest level. The term “absolute zero” temperature is used in the physics of thermodynamics.
With absolute rightness Galambos was seeking a universal decision criterion that would allow volitional beings to resolve disputes without violence, as is clear from the discussion at the beginning of V-50 lecture number 2—entitled How Do You Know You Are Right?
Non-coercion is the criterion Galambos chose as an absolute constraint on all volitional interactions including dispute resolution.
Even if everyone agrees with the “rightness” of a conclusion, the conclusion will always and forever be subject to revision as we learn more. Through conjecture and criticism we are working toward some sort of non-arbitrary underlying structure that is truly independent of arbitrary means of determination, and is thus absolute.
It does not appear that Galambos was necessarily wrong in his concept of an absolute rightness. He was seeking a universal or absolute criterion for determining what we accept as right and not right. The semantic and pragmatic problem with the term “absolute right” has been in its use to justify coercive actions. If one incorporates the concept of non-coercion into the definition of absolute right that removes the ability to pervert the term absolute right in service of tyrannical and coercive actions.
Physicist David Deutsch discusses the fallibility of human knowledge in his book The Beginning of Infinity. He says, in effect, that rejection of the idea of absolute rightness was the key cause of the huge acceleration in acquisition of new knowledge beginning with Galileo and Newton. Deutsch calls this new attitude toward knowledge acquisition a process of conjecture and criticism.
By a leap of the imagination Newton and Einstein propounded hypotheses which went beyond prior observations. Their hypotheses were conjectures that were subject to criticism, by means of continuing observation and evaluation. In the process of criticism new knowledge can arise through further conjecture–that is through further formulation of hypotheses based upon a leap of the imagination.
The idea of conjecture and criticism means that there is never a final truth in science. However, human-conceived laws of nature become conditional truths after sufficient verification and corroboration by observation. That is what happened to Newton’s universal law of gravitation. Einstein criticized Newton, not by denying the value of Newton’s achievement, far from it. He criticized it in the sense expressed by Deutsch. Einstein came up with different conclusions about the nature of gravity. Newton took it to be a force acting at a distance, whereas Einstein described gravity not as a force at all but as an effect of the curvature of space.
Thus, Einstein’s relativistic explanation and Newton’s description of gravity as an attractive force acting between bodies of mass are both conditional absolutes. By the process of continual examination and re-examination (called criticism by Deutsch) these absolutes were or could be modified.
Newton’s ideas work correctly in building bridges, automobiles and rockets. This has been proven, for example, by our ability to launch man-made satellites for communication with rocket technology based on Newton’s laws of motion and to keep the satellites in orbit around planet earth based on Newton’s law of gravitation.
“Absolute” in volition as used by Galambos appears to be a most useful definition—independent of arbitrary standards of determination.
“Right” or “rightness” as used by Galambos also appears to be a most useful definition—that which is both rational and moral.
The rationality component of “rightness” also is useful. It is based on the ideas of truth and validity. Something is rational that is observationally true and is the basis for conclusions developed by logically valid thought processes.
Most importantly for the subject of human interaction, Galambos’ definition of “moral” appears to be indispensable, and as close to an absolute as there can be in human conduct. I.e., there must be zero coercion in a human act for it to be moral. Individuals can use that standard of morality to guide their behavior. Humans cannot expect to attain perfection, but the more closely the behavior of individuals in a society approaches zero coercion, the more successful will be that society. That is a value judgment, but history appears to validate that judgment.
If Galambos’ concept of morality does not gain widespread acceptance as the most fundamental rule governing human action or behavior, it appears that our species will be in danger either of becoming extinct or falling back into a protracted dark ages.
The way human society has been governed in every political system that has ever existed, including political democracy, stripped of all disguise, is the idea that might makes right. This idea has brought humanity perpetual conflict and violence.
Albert Einstein commenting on the danger to humanity from war and from the misuse of science and technology said that “we shall require a substantially new method of thinking if mankind is to survive.”
David Deutsch has as the sub-title of his book The Beginning of Infinity: “Explanations that Transform the World.” Deutsch says that the search for better explanations of nature is what accelerated the acquisition of new knowledge starting with the Age of Enlightenment and the Scientific Revolution.
Deutsch posits that better explanations are “hard to vary.” As an example he compares the explanation of seasons on Earth in the mythological thinking of the past which all boil down to “The Gods did it.” That explanation is easy to vary by changing the way the gods did it or which Gods did it.
In comparison, the astronomical explanation of the seasons is based on the movement of Earth in its orbit around the sun; that is its tilt in its orbit around the sun creates what we call winter and summer by varying the amount and duration of sunlight on the various portions of earth. When it is winter in the northern hemisphere it is summer in the southern hemisphere and vice versa. Thus earth’s tilt is a better explanation than mythological explanations because the earth’s tilt is an explanation that is “hard to vary.”
Galambos’ explanation of non-coercion as the best way for humans to maximize peace, freedom, and prosperity is a “hard to vary” explanation. As a corollary, less coercion and greater freedom improves the quality of human life. In recent history we see ample corroboration of the positive effect of reduced coercion. Compare life in North and South Korea since 1953, life in East and West Germany from 1945 to 1989, and life in mainland China since 1949 under the rule of the Chinese communist party before and after 1976.
In the realm of intellectual property (IP) creation, compare the creation of IP under Russian soviet communism from 1918 to 1989 to the creation of IP in America and the rest of what is called “the west” over the same time.
Galambos offered us a better explanation of the way to maximize human happiness—by moving beyond the “state” and making a transition to proprietary property protection to avoid war, servitude, and poverty. He discovered principles on which we can build a civilization that will maximize peace, freedom, and prosperity.
Galambos’ thesis is that humanity would benefit enormously from discarding the might-makes-right form of rule; and that non-coercive, proprietary, non-monopolistic governmental services can actually realize the goal of best protecting life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. That thesis appears to be a “better explanation” in the sense that Galambos’ explanation is “hard to vary.” I.e., Galambos posits the criterion of zero coercion as an absolute, invariant principle. Once you vary the standard to accept even a little coercion, you have opened the floodgates to the destruction of any society, something to which history bears witness over and over again.
Regarding morality in human action, there appears to be a large gray area at the boundary between moral and immoral actions. For example, is it moral or immoral to take preemptive action to stop commission of a threatened crime, or to apprehend a criminal after he has committed a crime but while he is not in the process of committing another crime?
Another example of current uncertainty between moral and immoral actions is in how we define with precision and accuracy the boundaries around each individual’s property, particularly when it comes to intellectual property. Once the principle of property sanctity is accepted, such things will be worked out and resolved in negotiations between property owners. As in the history of English common law from the eighth through the eighteenth centuries, effective resolutions of such boundary disputes (a form of better explanation) will be circulated and used by others with proper credit paid those who originally produce such resolutions and dispute resolution methodologies.
Perhaps the free market will gradually reduce and eliminate that gray area at the boundary of morality and immorality. It seems realistic to foresee the free market doing this through negative consequences for immoral actions—as already occurs when credit is denied to someone who does not pay his or her debts.
Galambos’ concept of morality appears to come close to a principle that may be an absolute. However, in terms of science it has to be accepted as conditional or the best we can do at the present. It seems highly unlikely that Galambos’ concept of morality would ever be replaced. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be some day.
- “Property is every thing to which a many may attach a value . . . and which leaves to everyone else a like advantage. . . A man has property in his opinions and the free communication of them . . . He has property very dear to him in the safety and liberty of his person.” Stated in The Writings of James Madison, ed. Gaillard Hunt, VI (New York and London, 1906), quoted in Pipes, Richard, Property and Freedom (1999), page xii ↩
- Quoted from The Ascent of Man (1973), page 412, the book version of Bronowski’s BBC television series of the same name first transmitted in 1973 and still published as a video early in the 21st century. ↩
- Reviewed in a blog post herein dated August 2, 2012 ↩
- Quoted from The Analects of Confucius according to Wikipedia, Confucius, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius#Ethics ↩
- Hayek thought deeply about the distinction between what kind of conduct serves best for the survival of a small group such as a troop or band of people in a primitive society, or a family, in comparison to what serves best to advance widespread economic welfare in what he calls “the extender order,” i.e., human society as a whole. That is one of the themes of his last book The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism (University of Chicago Press 1988) ↩
- Quoted from “Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand,” by Helen Joyce, http://plus.maths.org/content/os/issue14/features/smith/index ↩
- See The Harvest of Sorrow: Soviet Collectivization and the Terror-Famine (1986) by Robert Conquest. ↩