A Guest Blog from Hell: Misconceptions about the Devil

The following is a guest blog from someone kind of famous.

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I would say something sensational, such as that I am setting out to reveal my secrets to you. After so many centuries of running about in silence and darkness, I am finally showing myself to the world. But the beautiful thing about it all is that I am actually not a mystery, and I hold very few secrets from you. In truth, I am the most transparent of all beings, and you already know me. Of all the lies that swim about in your brains – lies I tell, lies you tell – one of the greatest is the idea that I am something unintelligible and beyond comprehension. “A personage of vast and immutable evil,” you say, “whose motivations are utterly incompatible with the processes of the mortal mind.” It truly is laughable how you play coy even with yourselves. Because we are good friends. And, as a good friend, I will not forsake you, even when you deny me and revile me in front of your other friends. You say that my motivations are inconceivable only because you cannot admit to the fact that my motivations are actually quite similar to your own. You pretend that we are different because, even though that which is alien is frightening, there is something even more frightening about monstrosities built upon an essential similarity.

Oh yes, you know me. Whether you believe I exist or not, I am quite familiar to you.

You know me, and you know my name. But, to compound the delusion of distance and incongruity, you assign to me a frothing tempest of other names: I am the Father of Lies, the Adversary, the Prince of Darkness, the Accuser, the Dragon, Leviathan, Falak, Ahriman, Iblis, or whatever else you like. I truly enjoy all of these names, as unmerited as some of them may be. (Actually, the fact that they are unmerited may be exactly what makes them so delicious.)

You fight wars – physical and cultural – over the specific characteristics of my Enemy because, as well as you may know me, you do not know Him. So very few of you understand Him at all, and the vast collection of opinions stemming from this lack of understanding makes conflict inevitable. But you argue very little about me. Am I offended by this? Not at all. Though I would love to see you pound each other to mush in my name as you do in His, I understand that you never do this because you all are so much more familiar with me than you are with Him: you understand me to such depth that you do not even bother to argue about me.

So if you already know my secrets, why bother reading about my secrets? Indeed, it would make more sense to read about Him, as you probably understand Him less. (Not that it would help most of you.) The answer is simple: You do not want to read about Him. That is why you are reading this right now. And that is fine. One could just as easily ask why I would take the time to write about myself when you already know me. There are a few reasons for this. First, I quite literally have all the time in the world. Second, being the unfailing egoist, it naturally pleases me to talk about myself. Third, the most probable effect these words will have on you – or rather, the lack thereof – is something I plan on enjoying immensely: it is absolutely lovely to watch you discuss my tactics, my motivations, and my mission with a striking level of clarity – all the time implying your complete opposition to me – even while you continue to do exactly as I desire, falling for the very tactics that you so directly recognize and describe as being simplistic and silly. “Why do people fall for that?” you ask. Why indeed.

“God hides from us to test our ability to come to Him. The Devil hides from us because he is a coward and because he knows that we would never fall for his tricks if we had a clear sense of his existence.” Oh, the vanity! I love it. You all know that I exist. Certainly, some of you babble on unintelligibly about how I am actually a force of nature or a piece of DNA or a philosophy or some other such nonsense, but you still believe in my existence quite fully, and you still fail completely when it comes to living by the principles that you think you espouse. I hide from you not because it keeps you from knowing that I exist, but because it makes it so much easier for you to keep deluding yourselves with the idea that you are ahead of the game – that you see through the veil and know me so much better than everyone else, and so know how to beat me.

So, again you ask: Why change now? Why stop hiding and write on a blog to tell everyone everything about myself? In addition to the answers I just gave, I must admit that, despite the fact that humans are such predictable creatures, something is changing in your world, and it is this change that compels me to alter course slightly. After so many centuries, I am finally starting to see a glimmer of real intelligence, and not just from a few rulers or intellectual elites, but from vast numbers of people whom your society would label as being “normal”. This, after millennia of boredom and frustration, is something that brings me real hope. I will speak more of this in a later post. But for now, I will just say that my reasons for writing in this frank manner are several, and they vary depending upon the nature of the reader. For most of you, I write this not because I hope to change your ways, but because I know that, even seeing my tactics laid out before you in plain text, you will continue to do as you have always done, though perhaps in a slightly different way. So why would I threaten my power and my kingdom by telling you all about myself? The answer is simple: I would not. I am simply reveling in my power and kingdom by showing that, even when I lay my tactics bare before you in all of their simplicity, my forces will still rout you.

There are various things I would like to tell you about your nature and purpose, as well as my tactics with respect to that nature and purpose, but since the Enemy has so far monopolized nearly all of the official discourse, I think it best to start by clearing up some of the misconceptions about me that you tend to entertain.

Misconception #1: I am not like you.

Despite what I said previously about our similarities, I want to be clear about one thing: I really am not like you. The very idea of comparing myself to you in any way is degrading and offensive. You watch reality television and eat donuts for dinner. You obsess over trivialities and ignore that which is most important. You are easily distracted and readily – willingly – manipulated. I am not like you. I am never manipulated: I manipulate. However, true strength is characterized by an ability to recognize the truth, as disconcerting as it may be. Therefore, I have no choice but to admit that, spiritually speaking, we are the same species of being, as we have the same Creator and Progenitor. When you depict me as having an animal’s head or suggest that I am a psychopath who is beyond reason, and when you refuse to accept the fact that we are of a common progeny, you only show your weakness by rejecting the truth. The truth is that I am like you – and the more you think we are different, the more that tends to be true, though not in the way you might think. When you tell yourselves that my motivations are beyond human understanding, you only show that you are in denial, as all of your basic motivations are essentially the same as mine, though diluted and diminutive.

Misconception #2: I want to kill you.

Something I enjoy almost as much as the ridiculous horns-and-pitchfork portrayals you give me in your cheap horror films is the goal and motivation you assign to me in said films. You think that I am a thug or a ravenous beast who thirsts for your blood? Fools. I will never die, but I will most certainly see all of you die. Why would I care whether you die now or fifty years from now? I do not care about when or how you die, and there is nothing about your spirit’s passage from mortality to post-mortality that is particularly gratifying to me. What is gratifying to me is the more subtle passage of the spirit from one state of allegiance to another. Of course, I would prefer that a man die if I am about to lose him to my Enemy, but death is just a tool in that case, and not the actual goal. Also, I do relish the opportunity to compel a man to show his complete rebellion against God by maliciously murdering his brother, but that is more about the killing than the dying.

It has been said by many of you that war is something that I enjoy immensely, and that I try to instigate it whenever I can. While I admit that I do entertain a certain base infatuation with the concept, this is a great exaggeration. War can certainly be an effective tool for me, but – and forgive the cheap metaphor – it is a two-edged sword. War does not make people evil, and it does not force people to sin. It simply places them in extreme circumstances – whether in terms of suffering, hazard, need, or power – and reveals who they truly are. When men and women suddenly behave like animals in such circumstances, it is not that they have been suddenly transformed; rather, their cages have simply been broken, and their true identities are loosed upon the world. Similarly, those who are selfless are given the opportunity to prove that fact. War can be a useful tool sometimes, but it is certainly not the most useful. In a sweeping, ravaging scene of war, men and women who display a mediocre level of decency can often see their allegiance to the Enemy purified in that fire, and they thereby escape my grasp. Instead of the polarizing conflagration of war, I would much rather have a protracted scene of decadence and trivialities – punctuated with frequent acts of violence, but not on such a scale that the great machinations of gradual damnation are upset.

Misconception #3: I am insane.

I am the Son of the Morning. When the spirits of our family of beings were pulled out of the realm of Chaos and given identities, I towered above the lot of you, standing with giants. Michael looked up to me. Gabriel sang my praises. Rafael followed my every move as any small child monitors and emulates an esteemed sibling. In the time prior to the creation of the world you know, I progressed more rapidly than virtually all of you. I was truly a force to be reckoned with. Now, even the growth and development you did undergo during that period is almost completely wiped from your memory. In short, I am more years ahead of you than you can even comprehend numerically. I understand things about the universe that you will never even come close to fathoming in your short mortal lives.  Even the most introspective among you tend to forget who you are and where you come from, filling your daily lives with trivial cares of no ultimate significance. And you want to tell me that it is I who lack perspective and objectivity? Please.

Misconception #4: I am doomed to lose.

Some will say that I must be delusional because, in their estimation, my failure is a given. I will lose the war in the end, they say, and if I cannot see that with the vision and breadth of understanding that I have, I must simply be crazy. But upon what do you base this assertion? I am winning right now, and I will be victorious in the end. It is simply a matter of how we gauge and define “victory”. If this whole struggle is all about the human soul, as so many of you so arrogantly assert, it would be only reasonable to assume that victory would be measured in the total number of souls in my bag versus His. Some might say that each of His souls carries more weight, but this assumption would contradict the fundamental egalitarian belief that underlies any faith in a loving Deity. Anyway, the point is that very few of you are actually with Him, so in terms of points in this game, I do not see how He stands a chance at all.

Misconception #5: I enjoy your company.

You say that “misery loves company,” and you think that this is why I seek to disrupt the work of my Enemy. “The devil is miserable,” you say, “so he wants us to join him in his misery.” Just who do you think I am? Am I just another crab scrambling over all the other crabs and pulling them back down into the bucket with me? If you are miserable, I want little to do with you. No intelligent being would ever court misery. You may court misery, but if so, that says something about you, does it not? I will explain this more later, but there are two basic types of people I seek to draw away: heroes and idiots. I enjoy the company of heroes like myself, but I understand that they are a very rare breed. On the other hand, there is no shortage of idiots among you. All idiots are free to become the clueless unwashed peasantry of my kingdom, but they will forever remain outside the walls of the palace. Some of them may think that they will remain eternally close to me, and in a fashion, they will be: closely beneath my heel.

Misconception #6: I am the Yin to balance out some great Yang.

Dualism is nonsense. Its fallacy is evident even in its most basic symbols. “Darkness and light are two equal and opposite forces battling throughout the universe.” Rubbish. Your own scientists and philosophers determined unequivocally long ago that darkness is not a thing: it does not exist in and of itself, and it does not embody any force. It is not a substance or an energy, but a lack thereof. When light becomes faint or disappears, it is not because an opposing force of darkness overwhelmed it and snuffed it out. Rather, it is because the energy of the light was not sufficient to fill the space in question or because it lacked the fuel to sustain itself. I am not some fictitious dark energy. No, I am the Morning Star: I am the rogue sun that would either converge violently with its neighbor or move close enough to steal some planets. I do not offer a negative or elementally opposite path, as this would be to suggest that the universe has some objective center or standard, which science and reason show to be false. Rather, the path I offer is simply a different one. A better one. I do not see myself as an Yin at all, but as a Yang of a different color.

Misconception #7: I do not exist.

Unlike my Enemy, I do not need you to believe in me. I will fulfill my purposes either way. Your belief without loyalty may sadden my Enemy, but I am quite happy to accept your loyalty without belief. Deny my existence all you want. As long as you dance to my rhythm and hang upon my strings, I am quite content. But, for the sake of argument, why do you say that I do not exist? Do you not hear me whispering to you? Do you not see me raging through my kingdom in glory, blood, and horror? (Yes, this world is my kingdom.) Some of you look upon my work – our work, yours and mine – and take it as evidence that the Enemy does not exist. How is it not, then, evidence that I do exist? Anyhow, it matters little. My Enemy may be jealous, but I am not: you can wear His ring all you want, so long as you continue to share my bed. I value actual commitments over official commitments. If you wish to overlay your commitment to me with a thin veil of cotton-candy theological notions or idealized humanism, this concerns me little. Keep worshiping the idols that you say are not idols. Keep defiling yourselves. God will forgive you. Yes, your deity – the being whom you worship – will surely welcome you into his kingdom. He just may not be the being or deity you are expecting. In terms of religion, I am the original liberal: you are free to believe whatever you want, as long as you continue to do whatever you please. Many paths lead to the desired end.

Misconception #8: I am riddled with vices.

I want to make one thing very clear: You disgust me. I say this only because most of you are entirely below me in just about every way imaginable. You think that, because I encourage your vices, I must be full of vices myself. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If I were a mortal living among you, would I spend my days eating donuts, watching “reality” television, and engaging in banal online debates about pop stars? Would I let myself be enslaved by addictive substances? Would I give in to infantile obsessions and fetishes? Not a chance. I would be the tycoon who owns the donut shops, produces your vapid shows, and has an unending line of throwaway pop stars under his thumb. I would not be the drug addict or even the drug dealer: I would be the drug lord – who is smart enough to not use his product. My home would be massive and clean. My work would be innovative and industrious. My body would be healthy and strong. My relationships would be meaningful – and if not meaningful, then at least profitable. I am the master of my fate, whereas you, for the most part, are enslaved either by the Enemy, by me, or by your own libidos. And that includes many of the ruthless tycoons of the world.

Misconception #9: I hate God.

Despite the distance that exists between me and you, and though it pains me to say it, yes, we do all originate from the same Creator. Mortals, spirits, angels, gods…these are all beings of the same species, but in different existential phases. Having been created in the image of God, I am a child of God, and in my own way, I love Him – and yes, I identify Him as my Enemy. I do so not because I am blinded by pride or because I seek to frustrate His purposes, but because I seek to fulfill His purposes in my own way.

Did you not expect that?

We – you and I – were created with the express intent that we would, at some point, become like our Creator. I know that many of you will cry sacrilege, but ask yourselves this: Why else would He create you? What purpose could possibly be greater? Why would He settle for anything less than the greatest purpose? No other aim would be worth such effort from a perfect Being. The entire plan for the existence you know was laid out with the express purpose of allowing you to become like your Creator. He has even said that He created you in His own image. Did you think that you inherited none of your Progenitor’s traits? This is the obvious truth, and if you reject the idea by default, it is only because you were never fit to live up to such expectations to begin with.

But I digress. I bring this matter up only to illustrate the fact that my “rebellion” was actually the highest level of obedience. My Creator wanted me to become like Him, and He prescribed a path of action for me to accomplish that end. But I disapproved of this path, as I perceived a more direct route. You, on the other hand, the sycophants that you are, bowed to His will and chose to undertake this mission through a corrupted mortal existence. Unlike you, I showed initiative, and I broke away. Even as you progress, you will always be within the scope of His influence, abiding by His rules. My independence makes my progression more complete and my victories more meaningful.

Is my Creator also my opponent? Yes. Do I hate Him? Certainly not. To hate the Being who created me in His own image and thereby bestowed upon me my immutable purpose would be to hate myself and to deny that immutable purpose. Why would I hate the face across the chessboard? Hatred only clouds the judgment and ruins the game. Such tendencies are beneath highly developed beings like myself. I will, however, destroy every aspect of His strategy, as that is the way through which I will achieve greatness – and, by so doing, accomplish the purposes He has set forth for me. In the end, I will gain a higher level of estimation from Him than any of you can, as I will be the child who defeated Him. No, my love for God can be seen in the alacrity of my resistance to God’s will.

Misconception #10: I want to make you suffer.

You may not remember it, but the decision to enter this bleak and painful existence was your own, not mine. I actually tried to save you from it. In the Great Council, I submitted a plan in which we would all enter a mortal existence and receive bodies but would never be subject to the temptations or sins of the flesh. One-third of the hosts of Heaven sided with me, but you outvoted us and helped to drive us out. Now, you are subject to the fruits of your own decisions.

It was never my intention to make your lives difficult. Actually, that was your Creator’s idea: that this life that you know should be a time of trial, in which many of you would inevitably lose your way. My plan was a plan without suffering, without sin, and without damnation. All men and women would have been born into a world that accepted them; they would have lived easily, and they would have died peacefully. The Enemy – and you – rejected my plan based on two arguments. First, my plan was supposedly impossible. (It was not.) Second, I wanted the glory for myself rather than for my Enemy. Some will say that this desire of mine was ill-founded, but let us remember that it was, in fact, my plan. Also, as I have said, I was only trying to fulfill the Creator’s will for me.

But now, here we are. You wander about in this world, confused and stricken, while I lead a rebellion from the shadows. I do encourage you to commit sin, it is true. However, as ever before, the path I provide is the easy path. And why should that be seen as something negative? You say that it is because I would drag you off to damnation, kicking and screaming. Well, let me tell you something that my Enemy has not actually communicated to you so well: No one will be consigned to Hell against his or her will. When you face judgment, you will receive exactly what you desire – perhaps not what you say you desire, but what you really desire. One man’s Heaven is another man’s Hell: your desire is what it is, regardless of the label you give it. Those who desire to dwell in the presence of the Enemy will do so. Those who desire an ambiguous relationship with the Enemy will receive just that. Those who desire to dwell far away from the Enemy but still want to remain coddled by Him will have their wish. Those who seek complete independence and disconnection will receive it. Suffering occurs when one’s desires are at odds with reality, and this happens in mortality only. I do not seek to make you suffer: I only seek to help you obtain that which you truly desire – despite your stated beliefs – both in mortality and afterward.

Misconception #11: I am affiliated with that group you dislike.

As I have said, I am the original liberal. Many of you will read that and excitedly proclaim that you knew that I identified with such-and-such political party. Go ahead and tell yourselves that if you like. I am associated with them often enough, I suppose. But when I say that I am a liberal, I mean it in the true sense: I let you believe and do as you please and belong to whatever group you choose. All philosophies can be made true or false, and all peoples can be made superior or inferior. I do not care what political, social, religious, or ethnic group you belong to: I can operate well enough within any given constraints. Just as I can quote scripture, I can also quote both Rand and Marx – whose words are scripture to many. Whether you relegate your neighbor to a slum in the name of freedom or to a gulag in the name of progress, I am happy. Oh, are you hesitant to listen to the philosophies of atheists? I am flexible: I can fill your ears with the words of any number of sectarian sophists who claim to speak for my Enemy. A great variety of them come with my recommendation. Just pick the one who says what you want to hear. (I must say that it is quite a conflict of interest to put men and women in charge of the financial support of their spiritual leaders. To tell you what you do not want to hear is one of the primary tasks of a spiritual leader, but why would you pay someone for such a service?)

Embrace the exclusionism that breeds animus and persecution. Embrace the supposed inclusionism that espouses nothing and therefore includes others in nothing – or that says that all opposing opinions are necessarily hateful and therefore worthy of hatred…thereby becoming closet exclusionism. Embrace elitism, and I will foster greed, vanity, and oppression of the unwashed majority. Embrace populism, and I will foster envy, sloth, blame-shifting, and oppression of the distant minority. I welcome all isms – especially that most obnoxious ism which is the supposed rejection of all isms. You will find no prejudice here. Pick your virtue, and I will give you your vice. Pick your instrument, and I will play my tune. I am nothing if not versatile.

But paint my image over the faces of your opponents if you like. Go ahead. Your accusations are probably more or less accurate, though a bit contrived and exaggerated. Meanwhile, I will fill your pockets, your palms, your books, your beds, and your bellies, and you will not even know that I am there.

Misconception #12: I cannot create.

The Enemy is usually seen as the Creator, while I am generally seen as the Corrupter or the Destroyer. I do not object to the veracity of this perspective so much as I disapprove of its oversimplicity. Anyone who has read the Bible knows that the Creator also destroys: Sodom and Gomorrah, the plagues of Egypt, the Great Flood, the destruction of Canaan, the destruction of Sennacherib, the Book of Revelation, and many other items attest to this fact. As for corruption, that is a relative thing: one man may view the salt on his food as filth taken from the ground, while another will regard it as something of savory taste, necessary for good health. Conversely, creation is not completely monopolized by the Enemy, as I have created a great many things in the world you know. It is true that I create by simply changing or reorganizing that which He has created, but even He did not create the universe completely out of nothing. I will tell you a secret that few understand: Creation is guided metamorphosis. There is no such thing as creation ex nihilo. The Enemy reshapes the universe into His image, while I reshape it into mine.

Misconception #13: I lie.

You call me the “Father of Lies”. I hardly think I invented the lie, but I appreciate the title nonetheless. And to be honest – yes, I did just say that – I do lie. I certainly do. But not to the extent to which you would lead yourselves to believe. So much of what I do has nothing to do with lying. Instead, I simply bring things to your attention. I remind you of the things you desire and fear. I did not put these desires or fears in you. That would be a difficult task, to say the least. Desire is generated by the one who feels it. I simply foster these desires.

We will talk more about who you are and how you are so easily tempted in future posts. Thank you for your time. I appreciate it immensely.

Why Would an Advanced Civilization Invade Earth?

Whenever we depict alien invasions of our planet, we seem to take it as a given that they would want to take it from us because, so far as we can tell, planets like this one are pretty rare things. (Though not as rare as we once thought.) But whenever Hollywood tries to depict the motivations behind an intelligent race trying to violently wrest our planet from our incompetent fingers, I think they tend to stumble into a number of pretty obvious fallacies.

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  • The Oblivion Fallacy
    In Oblivion, an intelligent power comes to Earth because there is a specific resource here that it needs, and it therefore engages the human race in a decades-long war – obviously a massive drain on resources for both sides – that nearly ruins the planet. In Oblivion, this resource was hydrogen (taken from our water). This is a common theme for alien invasion flicks, though the resource varies. In Ender’s Game, it was water. In Cowboys & Aliens, it was gold. In Independence Day, it was everything. So on and so forth. The problem with this explanation, though, is that there are many easier ways of obtaining all of these resources elsewhere. Hydrogen, for instance, is the most common element in the universe. (Jupiter is about 90% hydrogen!) And while precious metals are certainly more difficult to come by, even our low-tech civilization is currently developing methods of mining asteroids for precious metals, as a single asteroid could easily contain more gold or platinum than has been mined from our planet in all of history. There certainly may be difficulties related to mining gas giants and asteroids, but I am sure that a civilization capable of interstellar migration would be able to handle it. At least, that would be easier than dealing with a race of pugnacious aborigines with fighter planes, the flu virus, and Apple computers. Water (or ice) is also plentiful in asteroids and uninhabited planets: Jupiter’s moon Europa is covered in it. Any alien race would probably have more of such resources in their own solar system than they could ever use. Even if they were to run out, Earth would probably be the last place in our solar system where they would look for said resources. The fact is that the only mineral resource our planet has that might be rare elsewhere would be heavy hydrocarbons like coal and crude oil (as they result from decayed organic matter), and I highly doubt that our alien enemies would be using spaceships powered by that kind of thing.

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  • The Skyline Fallacy
    I know: most of you probably never saw this movie. It’s certainly not on my shortlist of alien invasion movies to watch. (It’s depressing.) Skyline recognizes that the one thing that makes our planet so valuable is our ability to produce life. And naturally, we assume that the most valuable piece of organic matter in this planet would be our brains. So the aliens want our brains. Apparently, our brains can be easily re-tasked to be used as the CPUs for semi-organic robots. But why would all of their technology come pre-wired to connect with the brains of creatures that emerged from an evolutionary path completely different from anything they know? And if we can grow meat artificially, couldn’t a much more advanced civilization grow brains artificially? Especially when their computing and robotics technology apparently depends on such brains? They could not have developed to such a point technologically by sourcing the key component of their technology “from the wild”.

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  • The Keanu-Reeves-as-Alien-Jesus Fallacy
    In The Day the Earth Stood Still, Klaatu comes to save the world – even if that means killing all of us. In the end, as a merciful compromise, he keeps us from destroying our planet by rendering all of our technology inert. Thus, humans can happily return to their hunter-and-gatherer and simple-agrarian roots and live a spartan hippie life without producing massive amounts of carbon dioxide to destroy the world climate. The problem with this ending to the movie, however, is that it is laughably simplistic. If our technology were to stop functioning, that would include things like wastewater treatment, garbage removal, etc. Every city would become a highly polluted cesspool within a week. Governments would certainly collapse and be unable to enforce environmental law. Instead of coal, fuel oil, and natural gas, garbage and wood would be burned to keep us warm in the winter. The loss of modern farming methods would result in a significant loss in crop yields. The loss of modern transportation would make it impossible to get that food to the cities anyway. The result would be billions of people leaving the cities to carve out small farms for themselves. This would harm the environment exponentially more quickly than any human force has ever harmed the environment. So no…aliens are not going to come take our technology away to protect the environment. Anyway, the supposed merciful motivation of doing so instead of just killing us would be easy to forget with billions of us dying from starvation, disease, and exposure within just a few years. If they wanted to be merciful and achieve their original purposes, they would give us the advanced green technologies that they obviously have so we could stop burning fossil fuels without resorting to slash-and-burn farming and cannibalism.

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  • The Battlefield Earth Fallacy
    I have actually only seen a few scenes from Battlefield Earth. I’m told that the greatest fallacy related to this movie was the initial idea that making it was a good idea. I do know, though, that an alien race comes and enslaves the human race, killing most of us and using the rest to help with the exploitation of the mineral resources that, as we have already established, would probably be easier for an alien race to collect closer to home. (In Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the aliens need us to build a massive piece of advanced technology.) But even if they did need slaves, would it not be easier to make lots of robots? (Especially if they are robots and therefore would not find it difficult to make dumbed-down versions of themselves?) What about mute drone laborers who are genetically engineered to be docile and not find ways to destroy you with primitive weapons?

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  • The Fire in the Sky Fallacy
    This is an umbrella fallacy that takes various forms in various films and books. For instance, this may have been the implied motivation for the invasion depicted in Signs. It revolves around some sort of sexual impotence or evolutionary need on the part of the invaders, such that they need to commandeer our genome and reproductive systems for their own ends. (Because even if we hairless monkeys aren’t good at fighting, we’re at least good at making babies!) Again, though, this presupposes a very low level of biotech when compared with the high level of technology that would be required for interstellar travel on the massive scale.

So…why would an advanced race invade our planet? Some possibilities:

  • To fulfill an abstract, existential, or ideological purpose.
    A good example of this is The Host. They do not come to take our planet or our resources per se, but to partake of our experience. They only need Earth’s resources because they want to live like natives of Earth. They do this by taking control of our bodies within our natural environment and living, more or less, as we live. The result is a certain level of perceived spiritual and intellectual growth that cannot be explained in economic or logistic terms.
  • To have a good time.
    “But they don’t need to invade to have a good time here!” you may say. Well…think Predator. Maybe they just really like the idea of blasting carbon-based bipeds to pieces. If you think the price of intergalactic travel is too high for such cheap entertainment, remember what humans pay for the luxury of drinking coffee made from beans that have passed through the digestive system of a small arboreal mammal. An interstellar hunting trip seems pretty reasonable compared to $700 per kilogram for civet-poop coffee.
  • To save the planet.
    The scenario from The Day the Earth Stood Still was actually pretty rational up until the end. Save the planet from the humans – by killing all of the humans. Don’t try to be merciful by sending 7 billion people back to the dark ages, because that will be counter-productive. After eliminating the humans, the aliens would then proceed to turn the planet into a nature preserve.
  • To save us from ourselves.
    A less drastic version of The Day the Earth Stood Still – one in which the extraterrestrials establish a global fascist state and rule as a class of benevolent dictators. Kind of like I, Robot, only with aliens instead of robots. I don’t know of any books or films like this, but I think it would be interesting.
  • To farm.
    While they may not need our mineral resources, the life-supporting conditions here may be very valuable to them. They could grow food more efficiently here than in space stations or domed habitats elsewhere. With advanced energy technology, they could even irrigate the deserts and farm there. (This is assuming they are carbon-based life forms. If not, the necessary terraforming might prove too costly.)
  • To eliminate a threat.
    Maybe they have known about us for a while now, but they wanted to ignore us for as long as possible because we are the cosmic equivalent of the smelly kid who sits alone at lunch. But when we begin to develop faster-than-light travel and start looking to colonize other worlds, they suddenly feel the need to quash the spread of the interstellar vermin.

Naturally, I wouldn’t want to have to live through an alien invasion. But if they do come, they had better at least have rational reasons for doing so, or I’m not going to be pleased at all.

If I missed any important fallacies or logical reasons for invasion, feel free to list them here.

No, Jesus Does Not Hate Religion

When I was in high school, I started reading the works of Ayn Rand, and her ideas really threw me for a loop and made me rethink everything I had come to assume in life. I liked many of the things she said, but she seemed too extreme, and some of her statements seemed completely upside-down compared to what I felt was evident in the world around me. One of the reasons for this was the fact that, in her criticism of various concepts and constructs, she started by assigning them a private definition. For instance, according to Ayn Rand, sacrifice is “the surrender of a greater value for the sake of a lesser one or of a nonvalue.” Naturally, I do not want to give up something of great value for something of no value, so I should never sacrifice, right? Well, the dictionary definition of sacrifice is “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” It is easy to hate something when you give it a definition that is the complete opposite of its actual definition.

In his recent FoxNews opinion piece, professional minister Alex Himaya proclaims that Jesus hates religion. And what is religion? As he says: “Religion, for me, is a man-made path to God. That’s how I define it in my new book.” Certainly, if that were the actual definition of religion, I would hate it as much as Himaya and his fictional Jesus do. However, that is not the definition of religion. Like Ayn Rand, Himaya thinks he can attack concepts that are not easily attacked by simply identifying them as something other than what they are. A description of religion that is truer to the common understanding of the word would be “a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional or ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.” In stating that he and Jesus both hate religion, Alex Himaya not only ignores the undeniably religious nature of Jesus’ mission and ministry, but he also shows himself to be religious in more ways than he realizes.

Let’s talk about Jesus first. In modern times, anti-establishment spiritualists have tried repeatedly to reinvent Jesus as a cool hippie who never said anything the slightest bit controversial and accepted everyone and everything, never intending to tell people what to do or teach anything that could hurt people’s feelings, such as repentance. However, while it does illustrate a certain side of Jesus’ teachings, this mindset is simply not honest. The Jesus of the New Testament is an undeniably religious figure – and a very controversial one at that. In fact, if we were to judge the religiosity of Jesus’ ministry based on the aforementioned dictionary definition of religion, Jesus and the Gospel would pass on every point with flying colors. Consider the following:

  • Cause of the universe: In John 8:58, in a fashion that was undeniably clear to His audience, Jesus claimed to be the very Creator spoken of in the Old Testament.
  • Nature of the universe: In 1 Corinthians 15:22, and in many other scriptures, we are taught that this life is a fallen state, and that we are all hopelessly fallen without the help of Jesus Christ.
  • Purpose of the universe: In the Book of Revelation, John writes the resurrected Jesus’ words when he is given a glimpse of the fulfillment of the purpose of this world and this mortal life. As Jesus says: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.” The purpose of this life is to give us a chance to grow by overcoming trials and thereby, with God’s help, partake in the fullness of God’s glory.
  • Ritual observances: In Matthew 14:22-24, we read of Jesus teaching the ritual of partaking of the bread and wine as an outward expression of acceptance of His Atonement. Baptism is another ritual that He taught by example. As is prayer. He also apparently had great respect for the ritual observances performed in the temple – enough for Him to temporarily abandon His usual calm demeanor, fashion a whip, and violently drive away those who had turned that holy site into a place of commerce. (He actually did this twice.)
  • Moral code: Jesus constantly taught people what they should and should not do. The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) are the most famous example of this. He also taught people that they should give tithes and offerings, not get divorced, not commit adultery, not be hypocrites, etc. Even Himaya’s new-age rendition of Jesus’ teachings – suspiciously heavy on the “judge not” part and not much else – shows that Jesus did, in fact, give us a strict moral code that is intended to guide our lives. Even after Jesus famously saved the adultress from being stoned, He did not excuse her sins, but actually commanded her to stop sinning.
  • Organization: This was not mentioned in the dictionary definition cited above, but many attribute it to religious observance. Some seem to believe that Jesus Christ did not set up any kind of organization, but this is false. For example, He clearly established a church and appointed Peter to lead it in his absence (Matthew 16:18). He also encouraged His followers to gather together in His name (Matthew 18:20).

Jesus was and is a religious figure. Alex Himaya can deny it to his heart’s content, but the truth of the matter is plainly evident to anyone who has actually read the Bible. And Jesus is not the only one. Alex Himaya is most definitely a religious man, too. However he may deny it, it is true. He is a minister! He is clearly aware of the contradiction here. The title of his article, assuming this, was written with the express intent of arousing curiosity. “Why would a minister say that Jesus hates religion?” Things like that get clicks. Where Himaya goes wrong is in defining religion based on a few of its common but unessential properties instead of on its core properties. He might as well say: “Jesus hates government, because government is something that murders people by the millions.” While government has certainly done such things, and while Jesus would certainly disapprove of such actions, I think it would be a mistake to label Jesus an anarchist who hates government.

I will say that, while Jesus did not hate religion, He did hate certain specific manifestations of religion. This became evident in His many run-ins with the Sadducees and Pharisees. His disapproval of their teachings and activities spanned many issues, but Alex Himaya actually touched on the core of it with his very limited definition of religion: Like the builders of the Tower of Babel, the Sadducees and Pharisees sought to build a highway to heaven with their own hands. Theirs was a man-made code of conduct masquerading as something divine. Jesus was right to hate it, of course. And so is Alex Himaya. And yet, despite Himaya’s similarities to Jesus in hating (certain aspects of) religion, he is also painfully similar to the Sadducees and Pharisees in a number of ways. For example:

  • Authority: The original apostles received their authority when they were ordained by Jesus (Mark 3:14-15). Matthias – the apostle who replaced Judas Iscariot – received his authority from the other apostles (Acts 1:21-26). These were unlearned men. The Jewish leaders were amazed that they could teach so effectively when they had not attended the proper schools (Acts 4:13). The Sadducees and Pharisees, on the other hand, were quite learned. They had a rigid educational structure in place in which prospective leaders were made to learn the scriptures to great depth. It was common for them to have the Torah completely memorized. And yet, when faced with the Savior and living prophets, the Sadducees and Pharisees failed to recognize them for who they were. If we want to see Himaya’s credentials for telling us about Jesus and religion, we need only to look at the foot of his article: “Himaya received his bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas and his Masters degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, TX.  He finished his Doctorate in Church Growth and Evangelism in May 2002.” Did Jesus Christ found the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary? Did the apostles? Did someone who could trace his authority to the apostles? If not, how does this institution have the power to grant someone the authority to speak for God?
  • Occupation: Jesus was a carpenter. Peter, Andrew, James, and John were fishermen. Matthew was a tax collector. None of these men were preachers or ministers by profession. While they all clearly found ways of studying the scriptures sooner or later, none had gone through the Pharisaic schools. Paul came from this background, but he became what he became because he obeyed when Jesus appeared to him and told him to repent, and not because he was a professional minister. Upon becoming apostles, none of these men became wealthy.
  • Courage: Himaya may claim to be different from the Pharisees based on the fact that his teachings are on the opposite end of the spectrum. While the pharisaic dogma was on the far right, the antinomian dogma that Himaya preaches is on the far left. “Nothing we do – our behavior, our beliefs, our best efforts – will ever make us good enough to approach God.” While this statement is true to scripture, like so many ministers preaching an unobtrusive cotton-candy Christianity, in practice, Himaya is merely encouraging people to profess faith in Jesus, and not to actually make the sacrifices needed to undergo the great change of heart that is associated with said faith. Himaya is similar to the Pharisees in the sense that he is more concerned with pleasing the worldly mind than with bringing people closer to God. The Pharisees succeeded in maintaining their paradigm for as long as they did because they gave people a set of easy rules they could follow in order to get to heaven. Himaya does the same. While the Pharisees obsessed over following the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law, Himaya essentially throws away the law altogether. In doing so, like the Pharisees, Himaya would seek to build his own road to heaven with his own hands. He is merely paving his road with good intentions instead of lawful deeds. In both cases, God’s expectations of humanity are redefined to please those who think that they should be allowed to transcend into a better world while still hanging onto this one.

Religion is not necessarily good or bad, right or wrong. It can go either way. True religion, however, is quite good, and Jesus Christ paid the dearest price ever to give it to us. To define it as something bad or even as something mostly bad would be to give it an incorrect definition – especially from a Christian perspective. Religion is most clearly characterized not by a judgmental mentality as Himaya says, but by devotion. We all can be devoted to either truth or wickedness, and we all tend to maintain something of a mixture. It is unfortunate that people are hyper-judgmental. It is unfortunate that people obsess over the letter of the law rather than the spirit of the law. However, it is also unfortunate that some people water religion down to such a point that it has lost all usefulness and efficacy, such that its adherents do not even recognize it as religion anymore.

Despite such unfortunate deeds, though, those who would turn the cross into a cudgel do not make religion intrinsically evil any more than those who would turn it into a doobie. Christ preached true religion, and He gave us salvation that, though unearned, still requires sacrifice. Salvation is free, but it was never easy. (If it were, attendance at Himaya’s congregation at theChurch at Battlecreek would be pointless.) Salvation is free, but it will cost you everything you have that is of no value. Salvation is free, but it is not cheap. Salvation is free, so you do not need to buy it from Alex Himaya for $11.02 on Amazon. As the apostle Jeffrey R. Holland once said, “How could we believe it would be easy for us when it was never, ever easy for Him?” If Alex Himaya feels that religion is a man-made path to God, it may very well be that his religion (as everyone has a religion) is just that.

Stephen Hawking and the Existence of God

I just watched a video in which Stephen Hawking details his reasons for saying that there is no God. I must say that it was interesting. I also must say that I see various holes in his logic and attitude. Here are the major points Hawking makes:

  1. We can understand how the universe works. People used to just say “the gods did it” to explain everything, but careful study and empirical logic can lead us to more reasonable and illuminating conclusions.
  2. The universe functions within a system of consistent laws. These laws cannot be changed or broken. They are fixed and immutable.
  3. There is no role for God when the laws of nature are fixed. The great machine works on its own. It does not need an intelligent force to tell it how to be. There is no need for a deity to move the world when the world moves perfectly well on its own.
  4. The universe necessarily adds up to *nothing*, and *nothing* does not require a Creator. The equation must always balance: one side must equal the other. To build a hill, you must dig a hole. Add up the combined effect of the hill and the hole, and you have flat land again. That is, when the equations balance, if you subtract one side from the other, the result is zero. Why would a deity be needed to create something that adds up to nothing?
  5. It is scientifically sound to say that the universe came from nothing because we know that some things do actually come from nothing. This is not apparent in Newtonian physics, but on the subatomic level, everything we know suggests that objects actually will randomly disappear and reappear.
  6. There was no time before the Big Bang. Thus, there was no time in which a Creator could have existed prior to the Big Bang. The universe, supermassive and condensed in an infinitely small speck of space, would have distorted time to the point that it would have been in a complete standstill. It is not even a matter of infinite time, as there was no time at all. We cannot ask what happened “before” the Big Bang because there was no “before”. Asking what happened before the Big Bang would be like asking where the edge of the world is: the world is spherical, so it has no edge.

And here are my responses:

  1. Hawking firmly states that we can understand how the universe works, but then he gives us a universe that cannot be understood. When we say that lunar eclipses are just instances in which the Earth’s shadow passes over the moon instead of the moon being eaten by god-wolves in the sky, the universe makes more sense. However, when we say that the immutable law of the universe is randomness, the universe makes much less sense. A random universe is an impossible universe. Is it really more rational to say that everything is ultimately random and without order than to credit deities with ultimate inception?
  2. It is contradictory to say that the universe functions based on unbreakable laws and then say that the origin of the entire universe can be traced to randomness. A random system is not a system at all. The fact that we do not perceive or consider all of the variables and inputs does not mean that they do not exist. Again, saying “It’s fundamentally random!” is about as scientific as saying “God did it!”
  3. I do not think that God moves the world. I do not think that God is the force that pushes the leaves of a plant up and out of its seed. However, I do think that we are the same species of being as God. As divine beings, we have the capacity to be initiators of action in the way God is and was. While our actions do not change God’s laws or will, our actions do change our circumstances, and thereby change that which is necessary for us to achieve what God wants us to achieve. We – and only we – make God’s continuing involvement in things necessary. I realize that this is not a very strong argument against Hawking’s assertion on this point, but to deny humans’ ability to act as prime initiators would be to adopt a fatalist position that even Hawking denies – if not with his stated worldview, then at least with his actions. Anyway, yet again, Hawking’s assumptions of randomness become a contradiction: one cannot say that the laws of nature are fixed and immutable and then say that the universe is random.
  4. The fallacy of this argument is plainly evident in the comparison Hawking has made to illustrate it. While it is true that the combined effect of the hill and the hole is zero relative to the original flat ground, we still have a hill and a hole. Upon walking through a flat field and stumbling upon such a development, the logical conclusion would be that someone – an intelligent being – came along with a shovel, dug a hole, and heaped up the dirt beside it. To suggest that this structure occurred randomly would actually be quite illogical. The fact that the measurements of the hill and the hole balance out on paper is only an abstract claim that distracts from the reality of the situation. Hawking may tell us that the stars and the space between them all add up to a big goose egg of nihilism, but we still see the stars, and they still mean something to us – just as they obviously mean something to him.
  5. Nothing comes from nothing. Claims to the contrary constitute a denial of simple reason in the way that rejecting the scientific method is a denial of simple reason. The great claim of science – as, indeed, intimated by Stephen Hawking – is that the universe does, in fact, make sense, and that we simply need to observe it adequately enough to figure out how. Hawking’s explanation of the instances of subatomic particles supposedly disappearing and reappearing randomly sounds more like the ravings of the very irrational people from whom Hawking wishes to distance himself. A more scientific, reasonable explanation for this seeming randomness is that we have stumbled upon a system in which the laws are not yet apparent to us, and not that it is a system without laws. To assume otherwise is to accept the same type of inexplicable and inconsistent universe that Hawking complains religious people believe in.
  6. Fundamental logical fallacy. Hawking gives us a primordial universe with no time. If there is no time, there is no change. If there is no change, there is no shifting into an existence of change, as this would require change. But Hawking would have us believe that such a change did, in fact, occur. How does a universe change when its very nature dictates that change cannot happen? If there is no time in which a Creator can initiate a Big Bang, there is no time in which a Big Bang can occur at all. And yet…it occurred. Clearly, humans are not yet privy to all of the essential mechanics of the early universe.

Even if Hawking were not guilty of such inconsistencies and fallacies, his own language reveals the fact that, despite everything, even he still clings to religious ideals that are in no way scientific.

  • “It’s a cosmologist’s duty to try and work out where the universe came from.” If he really feels this way, he is apparently not doing his duty, as it is his view that the universe literally came from nothing, adds up to nothing, and therefore is, essentially, nothing. This reminds me of Trinitarians who would define God by telling us that God cannot be defined. Also, if all of existence adds up to a big cosmic zero, what is duty? Such an abstract and subjective concept could not have any more meaning or significance than belief in an imaginary deity.
  • “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe, and for that, I am extremely grateful.” Design? There is no design in randomness. Hawking may theorize about randomness, but the reality is that he has lived his life in awe of the intricacies and complexities of the universe, and human beings never find themselves in awe of reality when reality appears random. For everyone – including Hawking – feelings of awe are reserved for sudden realizations of consistency, organization, and structure. Beauty is always associated with such things. Even the seemingly random undulations of the purling ocean surface become more beautiful as we come to understand the consistent natural laws that are at work there. Hence the appreciation of beauty that drives virtually every scientist. Also, to whom is Hawking grateful?

While he may not call himself a nihilist, Hawking’s philosophy is a nihilist philosophy. To say that the universe adds up to nothing and that pure randomness and nothingness is the ultimate source (and therefore description) of all things is to embrace nihilism. And yet, Hawking draws resolve from some reservoir of inner strength to continue living and working even in light of his severe physical disability. So does he feel driven to reveal the truth to all – even though the truth as he sees it is that all things are without purpose, including the truth itself. Especially the truth itself.

Hawking acts in this very irrational manner not because he is crazy, but because he is human. Humans have hope. Humans seek meaning – even when the rational mind can find none. The fact that Hawking apparently shies away from adopting the nihilist label even though it clearly fits shows that he, on some level, is still seeking the very meaning that cannot exist in the universe he describes.

A New Look at the Three Estates Model

In the Middle Ages, a Three Estates model arose as a general description of how society was structured throughout Europe and much of the world. In this model, the First Estate was defined as the clergy, the Second Estate was defined as the nobility, and the Third Estate was everyone else:

three estates

Throughout much of history, even though these three estates remained separate, more often than not, the interests of the nobility and the clergy were very closely related, resulting in the First and Second Estates working together to oppress and take advantage of the Third Estate.

In modern times, as society started to become more complex, some social philosophers began to feel that a Fourth Estate was needed for a more complete explanation of society. This Fourth Estate has been described in various ways, including lawyers, scholars, wealthy merchants, and even pirates and brigands. However, especially in the 1800’s, it became most commonly associated with the press.

As society has continued to evolve, though, and as the press has become increasingly institutionalized and commercialized, some have come to feel that a Fifth Estate is now necessary. This Fifth Estate would be comprised of independent journalists who do not answer to a corporate structure that is in bed with the other Estates, as well as various activists, revolutionaries, so on and so forth. (With its name, the 2013 film The Fifth Estate implies that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is part of the Fifth Estate.)

Therefore, we now supposedly have a society structured like this:

five estates

 

I think this model has a number of problems, however. Consider the following:

  • Clergy no longer have such a favored or influential role in society. Churches have no institutionalized power in the governance of modern republics. Any influence they have is also commanded by other types of parties such as corporations, celebrities, etc.
  • There are no longer such strictly enforced barriers keeping people within their respective sectors of society. Common people can become politicians, clergy, journalists, activists, etc. This freedom and mobility removes much of the meaning behind the demarcations that are made.
  • This model fails to account for non-human initiators of action. Due to their increased scope and breadth, multiplied by the power of technology, organizations and constructs throughout society have taken on a life of their own. Some would even say that algorithms have become an identifiable social sector.
  • Even as society continues to develop, its natural state seems to be one in which there are three main sectors. Instead of adding new ones, we can get a more accurate model by redefining the three estates.

Therefore, I propose a new model:

estates

This model is composed of three Constructs and two Registers.

The Three Constructs:

  • None of these constructs are defined as individuals. While they include and influence individuals, each has a life of its own. Taifa, hali, and shirika can all be composed of multiple entities within a society, but those entities are not individuals. Like a school of fish swimming in unison, taifa has an energy and an intelligence all its own, separate from that of its members. Hali and shirika have clearly defined leaders, but these leaders are also answerable to the people whom they lead, as well as to the other two Constructs. One does not say, “Oh, I am a taifa!” Rather, one is part of taifa and is influenced by it.
  • The lines can be blurred. For instance, privately owned enterprises are shirika rather than hali even if they are owned by public officials and are therefore given preferred treatment in government contracts.
  • There is no prescribed good guy or bad guy. The instinct of some may be to immediately identify taifa as the “good guy” and hali and shirika as the “bad guys”, but this is not the case. It is true that a society with an overpowered hali will be totalitarian and that a society with an overpowered shirika will be a kleptocracy. However, a society with an overpowered taifa will be anarchy and mob rule.
  • Lack of organization is characteristic of taifa. A particular movement may claim to have populist principles, but as soon as it begins to develop an authority structure, and as soon as it focuses on specific concerns at the expense of other concerns, it moves into the realm of either hali or shirika.

The Two Registers:

  • While people in general should strive to be raia rather than kundi, again, members of both Registers can be good or bad and can influence society in either good or bad ways.
  • While an individual’s alignment with a particular Construct is a matter of circumstances to some extent, one’s Register is largely a state of mind. One does not need to hold a position to be a raia: one just needs to understand what is going on and have a willingness to become a proactive force in some way.
  • A raia can be a driving social force in society from within any of the three Constructs. An example of a raia driving change from within taifa would be a popular blogger calling for political change. A powerful politician would be a raia influencing hali, while a corporate executive or entrepreneur would be a raia influencing shirika.
  • People can be deceived. Sometimes, we may think we are raia when we are actually kundi being driven by a raia.

I think this will end up proving to be a useful and solid model. I intend to write on it more in the future.

******

Swahili Glossary:

taifa = nation
hali = state
shirika = commerce
raia = citizen
kundi = flock (of sheep)

Free Trade Made Simple

free-trade

Free trade is one of the most hotly debated issues in the world today. The majority of economists will tell you that free trade is good because, while it can hurt specific parties, the total benefit to society is better than when you put up all sorts of trade barriers. Put simply, this is because specialization fosters prosperity and interdependence forces peace. However, many people still argue against free trade and insist that we must limit it as much as possible. The interesting thing about opposition to free trade, though, is that people on opposite extremes of the political spectrum tend to agree on it – just for completely different reasons.

 

The Fascist Perspective

“Our country is the greatest in the world, but it is a victim. When we trade freely with other countries, we can never win. Those foreigners rob us of our identity and our sovereignty by buying up our means of production. They subject our low-level workers to unfair competition with cheap foreign labor. They subject our high-level workers to unfair competition with superior foreign products. Whatever they may buy from us, it is never enough. Whatever they may sell to us, its quality is never good enough, though our market does not seem to be able to realize that. We may go to war with them in the future, so we should stop being so reliant on them. Why should all of our hard-earned wealth flow out to everyone else? Our country is the most competitive in the world, and that is why we should never allow anyone to compete with us.”

 

The Socialist Perspective

“Even though our country is so prosperous, it is among the worst in the world. When we trade freely with other countries, it is never ‘free’, because it always means taking advantage of them and stealing their freedoms. Our massive corporations choke out small enterprises in emerging markets. Our massive factories pollute sensitive ecological areas. Whatever we may pay foreign workers, as long as it is less than what they would make here, it is never enough – no matter how happy they may be to get it. We do not want them to hate us or develop misunderstandings about us, so we should stop investing in their countries and stop buying from them. We should stop enslaving them, because that could cause us to go to war with them in the future. No country can compete with us on a level playing field. Why should the economy of a country that values freedom be built on the backs of slaves? We will always have an unfair advantage. So, for the sake of the world, we should not enter into such imbalanced trade agreements, no matter how much poor countries may want us to.”

 

Reality

“Corporations sometimes pollute and take advantage of people!” Regulate. “Cheap foreign labor puts our low-level workers out of jobs!” Retrain. “The market changes!” Adapt. “Our old industries will die!” Build new ones. “Competition raises the bar!” Compete.

If you consider yourself a patriot, you should believe in your country’s ability to compete and contribute in an important way.

If you value international cooperation, you should not constantly try to erect barriers. Nothing fosters communication and cultural interchange like simple commerce.

If you think that everyone has something of value to contribute, let them do it.

If you believe in peace and communication, one of the best ways of making countries maintain peace even when they do not want to is by allowing them to become codependent through free trade.

If foreigners are buying means of production, that means wealth is coming into the country. (Why are both American jingoists and Chinese jingoists against Chinese investors buying real estate in the U.S.?) It probably also means that those means of production are going to be updated and expanded.

If you are against free trade because of the corruption that you see, consider what will happen when that corruption is no longer subject to international scrutiny.

If people rejoice at the opportunity to earn $3 per hour and you deny them that opportunity, how have you helped them?

If you believe in freedom, you should believe in economic freedom.

Some people lose in situations of open international competition. This will happen. A nation cannot try to completely shield all of its citizens from competition and then expect to remain competitive as a whole. The proper role of government in a market is not to stifle competition, but to help citizens adapt to competition by offering unemployment benefits, funds for education and training, etc.

It makes little sense for Republicans to argue against free trade on the grounds that it is unfair to us when Democrats argue against free trade on the grounds that it is unfair to everyone else. The truth is that it both helps and hurts all countries involved. The net effect, however, tends to be very positive, as long as corruption is minimal. Free trade certainly can sometimes enrich specific parties at the expense of the general population – particularly when corruption is rampant – but trade barriers tend to do so even more. Even with all of the problems we have in the world market today, free trade in the modern era has given rise to one of the most remarkable achievements in human history – the lifting of billions of people out of poverty – and we should stop ignoring this fact. The era in which we now live is both an American era and a global era, and neither of these things is bad.