Thursday, May 11, 2006

Robert LeFevre - Sacrifice and Molestation

Index: Robert LeFevre Commentary Abstracts

The moral principle behind Professor Ralph Raico's Totally Voluntary Society is realised and established in Robert LeFevre's fifth monologue in the series:

Sacrifice and Molestation - MP3 Audio File

LeFevre begins by questioning the basic nature of man. People engage in action to better their own lives, he says; so far, no argument. Unfortunately however, sometimes they better their own lives by demanding sacrifices from others. As human beings we all create value mechanisms. But some of us are tempted, for whatever reason, to force these personal value mechanisms onto others, to satisfy our own situations. In other words, we sacrifice the wills of other people to satisfy our own wills.

But what about self-sacrifice? LeFevre believes in no such thing. Those engaged in what they call self-sacrifice, such as martyrs, he states, are merely massaging their own egos and achieving self-fulfillment rather than self-sacrifice. They want others to recognize how good they are and they want to wallow in their own self-actualized goodness.

For example, a man who can't swim may walk over a bridge spanning a stream. He may see a child drowning. If he throws himself in, is this self-sacrifice? No, says LeFevre, emphatically. The man is simply fulfilling his highest goal at that moment; he is trying to prevent the loss of a child. Although the man can't swim, he may be salving his own guilty conscience. If he is lucky, he thinks, he may even save the drowning child. Whatever happens, whether the man lives or drowns, he thinks he will gain approval and a substantial round of applause from the gathering multitude.

Thus, in the act of throwing himself into the water, the non-swimming man gains self-approval. In LeFevre's colorful language, the man wants to wallow in self-esteem and take a psychic profit in trying to save the child.

Let's imagine a different man in the same situation. He refuses to throw himself in. He simply says, "Sorry kid, I can't swim", and walks on by. So what is this man doing? In this case he is maximizing his own psychic profit by preventing a psychic loss; in this case, the needless loss of his own life through irrational token action. He has rationally identified that, because he can't swim, there is nothing to gain for anyone involved. He will almost certainly lose his own life and could even interfere with the escape chances of the child by dragging the child under. It is better for everyone, including the child, if this more uninvolved man simply walks on by.

Although this second man is not expecting immediate applause from the gathering multitude for walking on by, there may also be unseen people he considered in his decision. There may be those who understand his rationality and whose opinions count, in his reckoning of things. These unseen others may regard him as courageous for not jumping in and for not giving in to the senseless pressure of the multitude to do so. Again, the man may be trying to gain approval from those whom he thinks count. He could also be wallowing in self-approval.

So according to LeFevre, the nature of man precludes self-sacrifice. Sacrifice is possible, but self-sacrifice is impossible. So what does LeFevre imagine by the term sacrifice? Those who inflict their will on others are sacrificing those others. Indeed, if the second man above had jumped in knowing he would achieve nothing more than impede the escape of the child, in order to gain applause from the multitude, he would have been sacrificing the child upon the altar of his own glory; he would have been molesting the child.

Taking this principle further, if someone wants to commit suicide, preventing them doing so is an act of molestation, in the same way that killing them, if they didn't want to die, would also be an act of molestation.

Any action that may be considered beneficial by the multitude, but that is imposed upon an unwilling individual, is molestation. For example, insisting at the point of a gun that another man takes $100 dollars from you, who doesn't want your $100 dollars, is an act of molestation, in the same way that taking five cents from this man, at the point of the same gun, would also be an act of molestation.

It is all about the exercise of will. The question is: Who is running you? Is it you? Or is it me?

LeFevre also fails to believe in the usual distinction between good or evil. Man is egocentric, he states. He is always and at all times seeking the good for himself. He is never seeking evil.

(And here's where the Hobbesian scholars will have some fun.)

If men were basically good, then we would require no control from some appointed authority. If men were basically evil, then we cannot let any power to make them be good get placed in the hands of other men, because the men wielding this power would also, by definition, be evil.

Man is a profit seeker who seeks to maintain his own well-being by whatever he does. And this well-being, for all of us as individuals, can only be ultimately achieved in a truly free society, which is a society where nobody imposes force, molestation, and sacrifice, upon anyone else.

Every human being wants to exercise his own will, LeFevre states, and as long as he limits this will to himself, and to his own property, it has nothing to do with anyone else. We need to create a way of achieving this situation for everyone, in society, which is meaningful and successful; we need to create a society in which sacrifice disappears and where nobody sacrifices anyone else, for any reason whatsoever.

There arises a further problem with molestation and sacrifice, which makes the whole situation even worse. No man approves of his own molestation; LeFevre states this as a universal principle of natural law. All those who are thus molested are therefore victims of aggression. This causes a rise in levels of frustration; LeFevre also states this as a universal principle.

What is the problem with this? Frustration itself causes further aggression, where the molested may aggress upon a third party to relieve frustration, kicking the dog, thus causing an endless cycle of molestation, aggression, and sacrifice, spiraling out of control. Indeed, says LeFevre, it could possibly create mental problems if this frustration were to remain unrelieved. So if we reduce molestation, we can reduce aggression, thereby reducing frustration, and so break the cycle of sacrifice, which will ultimately increase humanity's general well-being.

We can also reduce fatal conflicts through the reduction of sacrifice. Molestation is the violation of someone's will by the will of another. This can happen between individuals, groups, or nations, and is therefore the initial cause of all wars and conflicts. Reducing molestation and the sacrifice of one group's values for the values of another group can also reduce the chances of life-threatening war between different groups of people.

Before he goes further, LeFevre spends some time splitting apart the related concepts of morals and ethics. These are separate, he states. Morality is that area of thought dealing as much as it can with objective reality. Morality is at the level of principle and at the level of nature. Morality tries to describe things as they are in nature and tries to avoid being a product of any human value system, unlike ethics, which is always a product of some human value system.

Morality covers those things that exist because of the nature of man as it relates to the nature of other men. For instance, a single man surviving on a desert island must follow natural law in order to survive. He needs food, water, shelter, and rest, and he must act sensibly to avoid risk and keep from falling off cliffs or drowning in the sea, if he wants to continue living.

If two men exist on the same desert island, as long as they both practice a moral system of non-molestation and non-sacrifice, they will both get along just fine. In LeFevre's idealistic moral situation, one should do nothing to the other to prevent them following the rules of nature to stay alive and to better their lives, as they see fit. There would be no obligation to intervene on the other's behalf and no prevention of the other's will, so long as they reciprocate this principle of non-intervention in the other's life and property.

To summarize, every human being rejects molestation and sacrifice at the hands of another. This is a natural principle, which can be used as a lever to create a moral human relationship system between all human beings. We should try to create a situation as if we were all alone. This would become a moral legal system based upon non-molestation.

To summarize the summary, it is the absolute natural right of people to mind their own affairs without interference from anyone else.


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Next: Obligation and Responsibility


FreeThinker said...

Sounds good to me!

Jack Maturin said...

I must say myself, the more I listen and re-listen to Uncle Bob LeFevre's tapes, the more cogent and rational he sounds. And so wise too. If you were to mix in the antics of Blair, Prescott, et al, into the abstract above, the selfish wallowing in self-approval of these self-obsessed morons, in LeFevre's terms, would make as much sense now as it did back in 1970 when he made these recordings. It is very tempting to mix in the antics of such buffoons and cretins, into his words, but as I work through these recordings I'll try my best not to molest his timeless thoughts with my own current ones! :-)

Only sixty or so, to go now...