Wisdom and Law
“Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”
It can be presupposed that the default state of man is poverty. He enters the world in a position of absolute vulnerability. Naked, cold, afraid, unknowing and at the mercy of his caregivers.
“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.”
-Job 1:21 NKJV
As a child ages, a remarkable process of sentience occurs. It is not for the purposes of this work to elaborate on the order or procedures in which this sentience emerges, rather it is enough to know that man goes from knowing nothing (not even his own nakedness) to a recognition that he exists and can take action.
The great economist Ludwig Von Mises defines Human Action (in his treatise aptly named) as “purposeful behavior”. The whole of economic activity can be explained as such. Man has desires and man acts as a means to those ends.
This action can take many different forms, dependent upon the accumulated capital (products of labor) and knowledge accessible across society.
Capital accumulation occurs through the process of the deferment of one’s immediate consumption. It can be as simple as picking a berry and saving it for later in the day, and it can assume a longer form stretching across generations.
Information accumulates through the process of solving problems (overcoming resistances in the means to an end) and deliberate attempts to preserve that information into the future. This information manifests itself in the form of oral tradition, literature, art, technology, and even the mentor-ship offered by a parent. And thus, information allows for the more efficient use of time (action) to arrive at a premeditated end.
“In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread. Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return.”
-Genesis 3:19 NKJV
The only resource a man is born with is time. It is his (assuming he is not wholly oppressed) to do with whatever he so chooses. When a man takes his independence and makes a way for himself in the world, that time can be traded in a Faustian bargain to buy more time.
He may choose to trade that time for food, by hunting or growing crops. He may choose to trade that time for new information, by crafting a new tool that makes this process more efficient in the future. He may choose to trade his time for moments of nothingness and rest.
However he chooses to allocate this resource is ultimately his responsibility, and the fruits which his exchange bears (labor) are entirely his own.
“All things are full of labor; Man cannot express it. The eye is not satisfied with seeing, Nor the ear filled with hearing.”
-Ecclesiastes 1:8 NKJV
And so, in this process of a man trading his time for capital and information, he must decide whether to consume his fruits now or defer that consumption for later. And it is in this process, across countless generations that the emergence of human flourishing can be observed. Markets develop to facilitate the satisfaction of desires for free and acting men.
One man exchanges his time to produce apples, and chooses to trade those apples with another who exchanged his time for fish. Because the fruits of his labor are his own, this exchange can only take place should the man with an excess of apples desire fish and vice versa.
“It is not from the benevolence of the Butcher, the Brewer or the Baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”
And so this process evolves, as goods and services and information proliferate across society man flourishes. Each successive generation is better off than the one before if this natural order is allowed to run its course.
Nothing is better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that his soul should enjoy good in his labor. This also, I saw, was from the hand of God.
-Ecclesiastes 2:24 NKJV
Unfortunately for us and the annals of history, a process of entropy and reorganization within society often disrupts the natural order. For there is another way by which man can acquire what he desires, and that is, not by the sweat of his own brow but by the sweat of another. As Charles Holt Carroll said:
“Inflation is the surest way to fertilize the rich man’s field with the sweat of the poor man’s brow.”
Consider a man who happens upon a fruit tree. “Look” he says to himself, “there’s plenty of fruit here and it’s ripe to be picked! I will pick as much as I want and be satisfied!”
Bastiat called this “Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas”, or “that which is seen and that which is not seen.”
The man does not see how his greediness steals time from his neighbor. He does not see the many hours spent learning, cultivating, and growing the fruit. He does not see the savings, investment, and deferred consumption required to produce the fruit. His God is his stomach. He has no wisdom. He does not see his folly.
Had he instead exchanged his time to produce something which his neighbor desired, he could trade his time for his neighbor’s fruit. They would both be more satisfied ex post facto.
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
If we can reason from first principles that the product of a man’s labor — the freely selected sacrifice of his life toward personally valued ends — is wholly his own, then we should want to make for ourselves a legal framework which protects the individual from this deprivation of his life, his property, and his liberty.
“My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent. If they say, “Come with us, Let us lie in wait to shed blood; Let us lurk secretly for the innocent without cause; Let us swallow them alive like Sheol, And whole, like those who go down to the Pit; We shall find all kinds of precious possessions, We shall fill our houses with spoil; Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse” — My son, do not walk in the way with them, Keep your foot from their path; For their feet run to evil, And they make haste to shed blood. Surely, in vain the net is spread In the sight of any bird; But they lie in wait for their own blood, They lurk secretly for their own lives. So are the ways of everyone who is greedy for gain; It takes away the life of its owners.”
-Proverbs 1:10–19 NKJV
It is here we find that the wisdom of Solomon precedes Voltaire, Jefferson, Mises, Bastiat, Smith, Rothbard, and Paine. We might even assume that his words contributed a great deal of influence in their principal. However, it matters little if Rothbard ever considered the words of King Solomon, because he knew it implicitly. The laws of the natural order (God’s law) can be reasoned from first principles as we have done.
Whether knowingly or not, here Solomon describes every framework for moralized and legalized plunder within a society. As simple as a petty highwayman or as complex as a re-distributive monetary policy.
Today it has taken the form of a great many political meanderings. -Isms of a countless variety that seek an arcane mechanism for which to justify the legal and the moral framework under which theft of another man’s time can occur.
“Cast in your lot among us, Let us all have one purse”
Whether it be the gang of highwaymen, the revolutionary proletariat, the democratic socialist, or the communist dictator…each man, to some degree or another, finds the satisfaction of his desires, not in the fruits of his own labor but in the fruits of another.
Bastiat wrote a magnificent analysis of law based on these first principles. It was precisely because he observed, within his own countrymen and in the depths of historical account, the folly of the man who uses law to legalize plunder.
“The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense.”
He observed that there can exist within a society only three systems of law, and a respective morality according to its methods. They are: no plunder, limited plunder, and universal plunder.
No plunder, with respect to the natural order, seeks to not maximize justice but rather minimize injustice. A condition of negative political action (see negative and positive rights) at the behest of legislators, with the purpose of making the pain (or cost) of plunder exceed that of its benefit, equally across society.
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men in a society, over the course of time they create for themselves a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”
Limited plunder seeks to allow a limited few to plunder the many, such a system can only be maintainable under limited suffrage. Institutions of justification are rigorously established to protect this status quo, and moral conditions which exonerate re-distributive policies are lauded as a necessity.
This muddy moralization of theft, by the institution and at the hand of the state is any manner of socialism so called. The moral framework for this absolves a man of the guilt for despoiling his neighbor’s time. After all, it is not him who does it, but the state and the state is justified by its institutions. However, as the majority is inevitably given increasing representation in the legislative process an inescapable descent into total plunder emerges. As each man or group within society will unavoidably vote for himself in his own best interest, claiming a share from his neighbor.
Universal suffrage, beneath this moral framework of injustice, leads to a legal system of total plunder. One, under which, the absolute destruction of productive faculties occurs with alarming acceleration. As the moralization of such theft gives each man a pharisaic duty to claim as much of another’s time as he can for himself.
“Wisdom calls aloud outside; She raises her voice in the open squares. She cries out in the chief concourses, At the openings of the gates in the city She speaks her words: “How long, you simple ones, will you love simplicity? For scorners delight in their scorning, And fools hate knowledge. Turn at my rebuke; Surely I will pour out my spirit on you; I will make my words known to you. Because I have called and you refused, I have stretched out my hand and no one regarded, Because you disdained all my counsel, And would have none of my rebuke, I also will laugh at your calamity;
I will mock when your terror comes, When your terror comes like a storm, And your destruction comes like a whirlwind, When distress and anguish come upon you. Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord,
They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them, And the complacency of fools will destroy them; But whoever listens to me will dwell safely, And will be secure, without fear of evil.”
The personification of wisdom incarnate, crying out loud for any and all to come and listen, so they may dwell safely with her and find prosperity is one you should not take lightly.
It is precisely the rejection of wisdom that brings chaos to order. Without reason, without principal, man descends into a destructive madness, consumed by his greed and lusts. The metaphysical manifestation of foolishness is observable in the rise and fall of nations across the continuum of recorded time.
Truth is objective. Truth is definable. Truth is measurable and observable. There cannot exist both truth and untruth in the same place and at the same moment.
“Truth is learned from understanding basic, natural, and logical constrictions.”
“How the faithful city has become a harlot! It was full of justice; Righteousness lodged in it, But now murderers. Your silver has become dross. Your wine mixed with water. Your princes are rebellious, And companions of thieves; Everyone loves bribes, And follows after rewards. They do not defend the fatherless, Nor does the cause of the widow come before them.”
-Isaiah 1:21–23 NKJV
Debasement is systematized theft legalized by the legislature and moralized by the institution.
Plunder (in whatever form it takes) is an ouroboros. Man’s fight from the nakedness of birth to the flourishing of society requires mutually beneficial cooperation to overcome the harshness of existence.
If the natural order can be reasoned from first principles then it is inherently logical. The universe is a series of “if, then” statements. Inputs derive appropriate outputs according to the respective function.
This discoverable logic is rooted in first principles and has been described by a litany of great thinkers throughout history. A distributed system weaves its way between our heartbeats and DNA. Physicists, chemists, biologists, economists, and mathematicians, all observe the various functions and outputs of the code in a process of painstaking reverse engineering.
This is irrefutable evidence of an intelligent designer, as the moulding of order out of chaos requires work and intellect.
Logic is order extracted from the infinite entropic variables of the ether. Values are measured, identified and labeled; algorithms are laid out according to an expected operation.
Just as the proof of work system in Bitcoin takes randomness and applies it within a function to produce order, so too does the natural law produce order in the randomness of matter. This extends across all manners of existence, from biology to economics.
In both cases, sacrifice is necessary to preserve the integrity of the system. The flourishing of life, liberty, and property require cooperation. One must honor this code or suffer the consequences of its output.
“Every lie, every selfish act, every act of evil… a small fork in the chain of civilizational advancement, which is charted by closing the gap between our perceptions and truth through work and accumulation of knowledge.”
Fear is respect of consequence. The beginning of wisdom is understanding that the designer built consequence into the functions which comprise human action. The beginning of wisdom is the fear (trembling respect) for the manifestations of that observable natural order.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. For by me your days will be multiplied, And years of life will be added to you. If you are wise, you are wise for yourself, And if you scoff, you will bear it alone.”
Morality typifies a system of behavior patterns anchored to an implicit understanding of the “ce qu’on ne voit pas” (unseen) outputs of action. Immorality contends with the current of productive outputs. Likewise, original sin, as depicted in the bible, is akin to a fork away from the consensus of God’s morality. This divinity represents a fruitful mastery of the code, which can only be observed in a designer intimately acquainted with all of its innate variables and functions.
“The flowering of human society depends on two factors: the intellectual power of outstanding men to conceive sound social and economic theories, and the ability of these or other men to make these ideologies palatable to the majority.“
The prosperity of nations can be traced back to roots of respect for this emerging order. Likewise, the madness of folly is a product of the rejection of wisdom and her safety. This emergence carries with it predictable patterns of behavior in men.
“The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them a strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”
-2 Thessalonians 2:9–12
The book of Revelation (an apocalyptic or circular Jewish poetic narrative) in the bible is not so much a depiction of a single, great calamitous event, but rather the rise and fall of nations who turn their back on the laws of the natural order.
When viewed through this lens, the warnings of Paul to Timothy make a great deal of sense. Institutions within a society turn inwards upon themselves, multitudes flock to fiat academics and false teachers, clinging to proclamations outside of reality, in a desperate search for a justification of their share of the plunder.
“Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.”
-2 Timothy 4:2–5 NKJV
Men are driven into a frenzy by the truth when they reach this point. The examples in history, and even modern day are too numerous to list. Bitcoin derangement syndrome, fiat academics and their pseudo scientific methods, Romans drinking the blood of gladiators and washing their clothes in urine, Caligula attempting to make his horse a politician, or Americans electing animals as mayors of cities.
“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”
I am certain you can come up with a never ending list of absurdities which find a relentless furor within today’s society.
“The end of an era is usually a period of intense corruption. As the bonds of the old system dissolve, the social ethos dissolves with it, creating an environment in which people in high places may combine public purposes with private criminal activity.
Unfortunately, you will not be able to depend upon normal information channels to give you an accurate and timely understanding of the decay of the nation state.’Persistent make-believe’ of the kind that disguised the fall of the Roman Empire is probably a typical feature of the decomposition of large political entities. It now disguises and masks the collapse of the nation state. For a variety of reasons, the news media cannot always be depended upon to tell you the truth. Many are conservative in the sense that they represent the party of the past. Some are blinded by anachronistic ideological commitments to socialism and the nation state. Some will be afraid for more tangible reasons to reveal the corruption that is likely to loom ever larger in a decaying system. Some will lack physical courage that might be required for such a task. Others will fear for their jobs or be shy of other retribution for speaking up. And, of course, there is no reason to suspect that reporters and editors are any less prone to corrupt consideration than building inspectors or Italian paving contractors. To a larger extent than you might expect, important organs of information that appear to be keen to report anything and everything may prove to be less dependable information sources than is commonly supposed. Many will have other motivations, including shoring up support for a faltering system, that they will place ahead of honestly informing you. They will see little and explain less.”
-Sovereign Individual (Davidson & Mogg 1997)
And so what do we do with this information? How do we cope with knowledge of what must be done to promote prosperity and safety. At least, fortunately for now, a disruption powerful enough to deliver us from imminent destruction seems apparent. Technology (Bitcoin) which re-establishes the natural order and prevents a systematic plundering of time can stave or lessen impending catastrophe.
For in much wisdom is much grief. And he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
As Mises said “our only tool against error is logic”. Search for wisdom like it is “choice gold, fine silver, and precious jewels,” (Proverbs) and you will dwell in her safety.
Get wisdom! Get understanding! Do not forget, nor turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will preserve you; Love her, and she will keep you. Wisdom is the principal thing; Therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding. Exalt her, and she will promote you; She will bring you honor, when you embrace her. She will place on your head an ornament of grace; A crown of glory she will deliver to you.
While the expressions and conclusions in this post are my own, this post was inspired by the works of Robert Breedlove, Gigi, and Jordan Peterson. My thoughts are not necessarily indicative of their views. A massive thanks to Robert Breedlove and Ben Prentice for helping me proof read and sort out thoughts and ideas.