Friday, May 27, 2011


by Paine's Torch (1993)

I am a grateful slave.
My master is a good man.
He gives me food, shelter, work and other things.
All he requires in return is that I obey him.
I am told he has the power to control my life.
I look up to him,
and wish that I were so powerful.

My master must understand the world better than I,
because he was chosen by many others
for his respected position.
I sometimes complain,
but fear I cannot live without his help.
He is a good man.

My master protects my money from theft,
before and after he takes half of it.
Before taking his half,
he says only he can protect my money.
After taking it, he says it is still mine.
When he spends my money,
he says I own the things he has bought.
I don't understand this, but I believe him.
He is a good man.

I need my master for protection,
because others would hurt me.
Or they would take my money
and use it for themselves.
My master is better than them:
When he takes my money, I still own it.
The things he buys are mine.
I cannot sell them,
or decide how they are used,
but they are mine.
My master tells me so,
and I believe him.
He is a good man.

My master provides free education for my children.
He teaches them to respect and obey him
and all future masters they will have.
He says they are being taught well;
learning things they will need to know in the future.
I believe him.
He is a good man.

My master cares about other masters,
who don't have good slaves.
He makes me contribute to their support.
I don't understand why slaves must work
for more than one master,
but my master says it is necessary.
I believe him.
He is a good man.

Other slaves ask my master for some of my money.
Since he is good to them as he is to me, he agrees.
This means he must take more of my money;
but he says this is good for me.
I ask my master why it would not be better
to let each of us keep our own money.
He says it is because he knows
what is best for each of us.
We believe him.
He is a good man.

My master tells me:
Evil masters in other places are not as good as he;
they threaten our comfortable lifestyle and peace.
So, he sends my children
to fight the slaves of evil masters.
I mourn their deaths,
but my master says it is necessary.
He gives me medals for their sacrifice,
and I believe him.
He is a good man.

Good masters sometimes have to kill evil masters,
and their slaves.
This is necessary to preserve our way of life;
to show others that our version of slavery is best.
I asked my master:
"Why do the evil masters' slaves have to be killed;
along with their evil master?"
He said: "Because they carry out his evil deeds."
"Besides, they could never learn our system;
they have been indoctrinated to believe
that only their master is good."
My master knows what is best.
He protects me and my children.
He is a good man.

My master lets me vote for a new master,
every few years.
I cannot vote to have no master,
but he generously lets me choose
between two candidates he has selected.
I eagerly wait until election day --
since voting allows me to forget that I am a slave.
Until then, my current master tells me what to do.
I accept this.
It has always been so,
and I would not change tradition.
My master is a good man.

At the last election,
about half the slaves were allowed to vote.
The other half either broke rules set by the master,
or were not thought by him to be fit.
Those who break the rules
should know better than to disobey!
Those not considered fit should gratefully accept
the master chosen for them by others.
It is right, because we have always done it this way.
My master is a good man.

There were two candidates.
One received a majority of the vote -
about one-fourth of the slave population.
I asked why the new master
can rule over all the slaves,
if he only received votes from one-fourth of them?
My master said:
"Because some wise masters long ago
did it that way."
"Besides, you are the slaves;
and we are the masters."
I did not understand his answer, but I believed him.
My master knows what is best for me.
He is a good man.

Some slaves have evil masters.
They take more than half of their slaves' money
and are chosen by only one-tenth,
rather than one-fourth, of their slaves.
My master says they are different from him.
I believe him.
He is a good man.

I asked if I could ever become a master,
instead of a slave.
My master said, "Yes, anything is possible."
"But first you must pledge allegiance
to your present master,
and promise not to abandon the system
that made you a slave."
I am encouraged by this possibility.
My master is a good man.

He tells me slaves are the real masters,
because they can vote for their masters.
I do not understand this, but I believe him.
He is a good man;
who lives for no other purpose
than to make his slaves happy.

I asked if I could be neither a master nor a slave.
My master said, "No, you must be one or the other."
"There are no other choices."
I believe him.
He knows best.
He is a good man.

I asked my master how our system is different,
from those with evil masters.
He said:
"In our system, masters work for the slaves."
No longer confused, I am beginning to accept his logic.

Now I see it!

Slaves are in control of their masters,
because they can choose new masters every few years.
When the masters appear to control the slaves
in between elections,
it is all a grand delusion!
In reality, they are carrying out the slaves' desires.
For if this were not so,
they would not have been chosen in the last election.
How clear it is to me now!
I shall never doubt the system again.
My master is a good man.

Paine's Torch is an admirer of Thomas Paine and the principles of the Declaration of Independence.

Thursday, May 26, 2011


By James Craig Green

There once was a boy whose parents loved him very much. Since his parents were raised with many difficulties and disappointments, they wanted him to have an easier life.

When the boy was 6, his mother found him eating a candy bar that he had stolen. She remembered being disciplined for stealing when she was a little girl - and never stole again. But, she didn’t have the heart to confront and embarrass her son.

When the boy was 12, the school principal called his father and said his son beat up another boy and took his lunch money. The father said it wouldn’t happen again, but did nothing. He remembered how embarrassing it was when his father made him go to another boy’s house to apologize for something similar. The boy’s father never fought again.

When the boy was 18, he was arrested for stealing wheels from a car. His parents went to the police station, paid a fine and took him home. The boy’s father remembered how his father made him get a job and work to pay back something he stole as a teenager. The father never stole anything again.

When the boy left home, his parents bought him a new car. When he wrecked it, they paid to have it fixed. When he wrecked it again, this time driving drunk, he hit and killed a little boy. He went to jail, but the jury felt sorry for him, so he was given probation and a $5000 fine. His father paid the fine.

When the young man, now 24, got into a fight at a bar and stabbed another man to death, he went to jail – but this time, he was charged with first degree murder, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

…all because his parents wanted to protect him from life's difficulties.


Character cannot be given, but must be earned.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


My first premise is that people are inherently selfish.

This was a necessary characteristic of each and every one of your ancestors, as proven by your existence. It is a good thing if not taken to the extremes of narcissism or aggressive pursuits that harm others. But, respect for others does not include allowing yourself to be manipulated, sacrificing yourself for others, or accepting other demands on your life without your consent. The Dutch philosopher Spinoza and others called this selfish struggle of life CONATUS.

Ayn Rand, in The Virtue of Selfishness, wrote:

Since nature does not provide man with an automatic form of survival, since he has to support his life by his own effort, the doctrine that concern with one's own self interest is evil means that man's desire to live is evil - that man's life, as such, is evil. No doctrine could be more evil than that.
I don't claim that all people act selfishly all the time, but it is a prudent, default assumption until proven wrong in individual cases. To clarify, I include mutual, non-monetary benefits that both parties to a friendship or association gain to be evidence of a healthy, selfish relationship, without contradiction. I do not distinguish between "selfish" and "self-interest," as some people do.

My second premise, as discussed in my mid-nineties LifePower articles SEEK JOY, CREATE VALUE  and LIFE IS EGOCENTRIC, is that honestly self-aware and self-motivated people make the most productive, supportive and happiest friends, neighbors, associates and yes, even citizens - when left alone to pursue their selfish interests - as long as they do not deny or restrict the equal right of others to pursue theirs.

My third premise is that people own themselves, which means they have a right to their lives, liberty and property, which deserve to be protected against aggressive force, theft or fraud. These rights are not granted by any human authority, but are inherent in human nature, as most powerfully described by the English philosopher John Locke in a section called OF PROPERTY in Chapter II of his TWO TREATISES OF GOVERNMENT. Locke's concept of human rights was one of the primary inspirations for the American Declaration of Independence. I draw a sharp distinction between aggressive and defensive force.

My fourth premise is that government as we know it (a legal but coercive monopoly of force against innocents) works against most of its citizens when it exceeds its proper authority to protect individual rights - the only legitimate justification for its collective force. Please read the section, WHAT IS LAW? in Frederic Bastiat's 1850 masterpiece, THE LAW. Government cannot protect your property by giving it to others.

My fifth premise is while coercive, monopolistic government exists, its purpose should be strictly limited to the protection of people and their property, including police and/or defensive military and impartial courts. For the federal government, other duties authorized by the U.S. Constitution would be included as part of necessary goals and limitations for much less oppressive government toward which the current government should gravitate. See my article SUBORDINATE ACTS.

My sixth premise is that coercive, monopolistic government should not be involved in the economy at all, except for adjudicating disputes in civil cases, since it almost always makes the economy worse, not better. See CHAPTER 1 of Henry Hazlitt's ECONOMICS IN ONE LESSON. Coercive government's complete ignorance of 1) market economics and 2) the productive nature of the unsubsidized private sector is both striking and unconscionable for an organization that claims to represent the people. See CHAPTER 3 of FOR A NEW LIBERTY by Murray Rothbard to understand the nature of coercive, monopolistic government.

My seventh premise is that about 90 percent of knowledge is dogma. This idea began as a joke several years ago, due to my frustration to make sense of large inconsistencies I found in so many fields, like philosophy, science, religion, law, politics, economics, dog training and both contemporary and alternative medicine. In every field of knowledge I have studied, there are far more unknowns than knowns. An honest search for more and better knowledge must include the attitude that what we know today is only our best current approximation, to be improved by further knowledge gained later. Please spend some time at the SIMANEK PAGES, for which you will be richly rewarded. The four points below are a sample of Donald Simanek's summary and conclusions page:

  • Logic (and mathematics) alone tell us nothing about the natural world.
  • Through our senses we form a mental picture of what we call the "real world". It's just a name, and inquiry into the "reality" of this world or our perceptions is futile philosophizing.
  • This "real world" shows regular patterns and behavior, so we can express these as "things" and "laws", often with mathematical precision.
  • The reliable regularity of natural laws allows us to do science. We can't even imagine a universe that had no regularity at all, or one whose behavior unexpectedly changed in unpredictable ways without warning of any kind.

I CALL THESE PREMISES BECAUSE human knowledge is so often dominated by arrogance, vanity, chauvinism, uncritical repetition and dishonesty. Premises sometimes called self-evident "truths" are just assumptions with which to begin investigations. Most philosophies, professions, religions, sciences and other bodies of knowledge are often dominated by dogma and blind conformity to authority or custom, which people adopt to avoid changing existing beliefs. Changing beliefs is often a sign of maturity, unless done in a haphazard, unthinking manner. As I understand the current science of sub-atomic particles, that big rock you and others see is mostly empty space.

Uncertainty is the beginning of knowledge.
Certainty is the end. - James Craig Green

Simplify - Eliminate the Non-Essential - Bruce Lee

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic - Arthur C. Clarke

As always, I welcome disagreements, criticism and alternative viewpoints. I frequently learn more from those with whom I disagree than those who pat me on the back. All I ask is that you are polite and show me the same respect you would like to receive.

Monday, May 23, 2011


By James Craig Green

Adam Smith called it mercantilism.

Libertarians call it corporate socialism.

Others call those who practice it political entrepreneurs.

The idea that government should protect, subsidize or otherwise protect businesses from economic loss is now frequently called Crony Capitalism. This has an appropriate ring, because it combines the worst of government cronyism (special favors for one's friends) with cozy deals between business and government that soften or eliminate losses to politicians' favorite businesses. Although good for a particular business, it always forces resources away from more efficient and profitable businesses, into the hands of less efficient, losing businesses. Because these wealth transfers are made by force, allocated by politics, they always result in a net loss to the economy.

Some of the worst cases of Crony Capitalism were revealed during the economic meltdown of the investment banking and insurance industries between 2007 and 2009. While Congress was debating how much "stimulus" money to give the biggest welfare queens in America, President Bush's treasury department and the Fed chairman both stepped up to the plate to provide backup promises to businesses "too big to fail." Even obvious, outright criminals like Bernie Madoff became poster children for the stupidity of government cronyism. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) repeatedly failed to act on complaints about Madoff's Ponzi schemes, until it could no longer ignore the problem. Is this the much-ballyhooed government regulation that is supposed to protect innocent consumers from the dishonest schemes of evil capitalists?

What Free Market?

During the last century, government has escalated its aggressive interference into almost every market you can think of. From antitrust legislation in the 1890's, to the Federal Reserve, to the New Deal, Great Society and two world wars, American markets are more regulated today than they have ever been. Pork barrel spending by the federal government dominates deliberations of Congress, where only the next election and bringing home the bacon to one's State or congressional district are valued.

Many businesses find it less risky and more profitable to solicit governments as customers because:

• Invoices are rarely scrutinized
• More spending (not production) supports higher budgets next year
• Reduced accountability of contractors, encouraging shoddy work
• Subsidies favoring some businesses over others

When businesses have government for a customer, they are insulated from market forces, becoming wards (and supporters) of the state. Avoiding market risks is one reason why so many companies choose government contracts and political action, including promoting legislation that restricts their competitors.

The main purposes of government today are to force wealth away from those who earn it, deduct a sizeable chunk for the government and give what's left to those who didn't earn it. This damages those whose assets were confiscated, and creates long-term dependencies for those who receive them. This net loss resulting from government's forceful transfer of wealth always makes the economy worse, not better. For example, after ten years of "green" jobs creation in Spain, as referenced earlier in my SOLAR JOBS article, it was found that more than two other jobs were eliminated for every new one claimed by government. Most of the new jobs were temporary construction jobs; not unusual for government job programs. But, many companies profited from these government expenditures.

Today, Spain is one of those European countries you've been hearing about in the middle of financial default, with people rioting in the streets. But, they're not rioting demanding that the government get its financial act together. It's that they don't want the welfare state gravy train to stop. They don't seem to realize that the welfare state that gave them such generous benefits was fueled by empty promises made by politcians; not actual production of real wealth.

Today's American governments, contrary to the U.S. Constitution and Founders' intentions, promise “free lunches” to everyone. Like any narcotic, "free" government money is an easier choice for most people than risk, hard work and responsibility. To government, profit is something to restrict and tax due to its “selfish,” (non-public) nature. By doing this, governments jeopardize economic stability while claiming to do the opposite. It is the height of irony and stupidity to include government spending (consumption) with GDP (gross domestic product), alongside the productive private sector which creates all wealth.

This is like adding working parents' income to their non-working children's spending to estimate the family's total income. This is the highest form of logical fallacy - counting the same income (the parents') twice. Getting back to the wider mixed (half socialist, half capitalist) economy of the U.S., government gets to count its consumption as a credit for production in published economic data (i.e., GDP). This double-counting is just like the parents and children analogy, since the production of those not employed by, or otherwise subsidized or dependent upon, government is combined, and therefore confused with, their dependents' (government) spending.

If governments were not governments (forceful monopolies tyrannizing innocents), it might be possible to figure out how much of government spending actually produces valuable goods and services (books, maps, courts, etc). But, with typical bureaucratic ineptitude, there is today no real limit on government spending, because more dollars can be created at whim, for any purpose whatsoever. But, without a market price mechanism to regulate supply and demand, the real market value of government services is lost in a confused jungle of mandates, policies, regulations and other busywork, most with contradictory goals against the others.

If you haven't already seen it, you should also see my previous post, MARKETS WORK - GOVERNMENTS DON'T .

Blaming free markets for today's economic woes makes about as much sense as saying wet streets cause rain.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


By James Craig Green

Markets work because they punish failure.

Governments don't work because they reward it.

Governments are more popular than markets, because they make it easier for people to avoid the short term consequences of their mistakes. But, reality eventually catches up, sometimes taking decades or lifetimes.

The ruthless, adverse consequences for mistakes that make markets work (economic losses) are what most people try to avoid at all costs. Like all collectives, governments tend to reduce or eliminate personal responsibility by melding individual actions into the group. As political organizations, this means they focus on short term election cycles, popular opinion, instant news and other political considerations, at the expense of long term prosperity and stability. This unfortunate characteristic is built into government genes, so-to-speak.

Markets encourage production - the source of all wealth - but this is not easy. It requires savings, hard work and risk, driven by the profit motive - the engine of production. Most new businesses don't last a year. The dedication and stress of starting and running a successful business for years or decades is completely lost on economists, politicians, planners, government employees and other beneficiaries of un-subsidized businesses' productive efforts. Few financial analysts have any idea what this takes, or how much of your life it can consume, successful or not. 

As Adam Smith pointed out in WEALTH OF NATIONS, you don't get your supper from the butcher or baker's public spirit, but from his own self interest. This, in a nutshell, is what produces virtually everything useful you have purchased in your lifetime.

Though government can create jobs and produce useful goods and services, it does so at the expense of the productive private sector upon which it depends. On balance, government is a net consumer, not a producer. If it were a business, it would have long since gone bankrupt. This adverse economic impact can only be justified as a cost worth paying for things such as national defense, protection of people and property and an impartial court system. As the American Republic's founders intended, the size and influence of government should be limited to these and a few other things. Even these can only be justified if they are truly for the general welfare of all, and not for the specific welfare of some at the expense of others.

Markets are based on choice. This means both parties to a transaction must agree, each perceiving a benefit, before a deal is made (win-win). This produces a net gain to both, because each traded for something s/he wanted more than what s/he had before the transaction.

Government is based on force. This means one party gains at the expense of another's loss (win-lose). Although this is sometimes considered a wash (or even a benefit) by some, the process of forceful taking almost always produces a net loss. If you want a cheap car, go to a government auction. You win, but taxpayers and the economy lose more, because money taken from them was not as wisely spent as money they spend on themselves. During the Great Depression, the government poured milk into gutters and slaughtered baby pigs to "keep agricultural prices high." This is the chronic insanity of government when it goes beyond its protective role and enters the economic sphere. It destroys wealth while pursuing fools' errands from its extreme economic ignorance.

Please read Lawrence Reed's pamphlet, GREAT MYTHS OF THE GREAT DEPRESSION. If you are a serious advocate of human liberty and believe in the Founders' promise of a Constitutional Republic limited to a few, really important, protective powers, why not purchase a hundred of Reed's pamphlets about the Great Depression and give them to your friends or others receptive to the ideas contained there?

Government can't plausibly bail out bankers and Wall Street investment firms, then claim the free market is to blame, but it can do so politically, which defines the art of providing something-for-nothing at someone else's expense.

The American Republic is in trouble because of too many promises, made to too many people, which the government has no way of keeping due to its unprecedented levels of public debt. Only when it gets back to its primary purpose, to protect individual rights and adjudicate disputes, will it become sustainable, and maybe even worth the money it sucks out of the economy every year.

You can't fool all the people all the time, but you can do it long enough to run a large country. - Anonymous

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


by James Craig Green

On Sunday, May 15, 2011, the Independence Institute held a Constitutional seminar in Lakewood, Colorado with presentations from its two expert legal scholars, David Kopel and Rob Natelson. A hundred people embarked on a breathtaking journey of the Constitution's origins and original meanings, as well as a history of important Supreme Court cases since its first ten Amendments (Bill of Rights) were ratifed in 1791. Before I report on the event in more detail however, let me introduce you to these two outstanding legal scholars:

ROB NATELSON served 23 years as a professor of law at the University of Montana, after 11 years of private practice in Colorado. He has spent much of his career researching the history and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. He is a Senior Fellow at the Independence Institute and Director of its Constitution Project. Unlike too many law professors, Rob considers the Constitution itself to be the primary authority on constitutional law, as opposed to Supreme Court cases that have ignored, reviled or re-interpreted it to fit philosophical or political agendas. His new book, The Original Constitution - What it Actually Said and Meant, is a brilliant presentation of the Constitution and its founding documents, as well as other writings from its founders, framers and ratifiers, including both Federalists and their critics, often referred to as anti-federalists.

DAVID KOPEL, Research Director for the Independence Institute, is also Director of its Second Amendment Project. He was the lead attorney on the team that successfully argued its pro-second amendment position in the Heller case before the U.S. Supreme Court. David has been a tireless advocate of human liberty for decades, as the author of ten books, hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles, and over three dozen scholarly journal articles. His recent book, Aiming for Liberty: The Past, Present and Future of Freedom and Self Defense, discusses the Washington, D.C. gun ban, modern American gun control, the agendas behind anti-gun legislation and the Heller decision. The book also covers the right to self defense from Judeo Christian principles, United Nations attempts on gun control and law enforcement abuses and solutions. You can see David's website HERE.


Rob Natelson kicked off the afternoon with a 45-minute blast on the history and background of the Constitution, pointing out that most Americans at the time were very well versed in legal principles. They debated, rejected and then embraced the document, after holding out for the addition of a Bill of Rights. They had just fought an extended war with the most powerful army on the planet after declaring the dissolution of "political bands" that connected them to Great Britain. Naturally, their recent history was one of loyal British subjects, who expected all the legal rights of English citizens, going back to King Henry I, even before the Magna Carta in 1215. They met in taverns, town squares, public buildings and each others' homes to give this new, unprecedented document the greatest of scrutiny and consideration. Active criticisms of the new document were presented by many influential Americans, who thought the Constitution was a grave threat to liberty. The Constitution was adopted by the Constitutional Convention on September 17, 1787, which began the debate on its adoption. With encouragement from the persuasive Federalist Papers and other documents, the Constitution's first ten amendments (Bill of Rights) were ratified by the states on December 15, 1791. Rob says the original meaning of the Constitution can only be derived from this date backwards, not forward.

I later learned from Rob it is somewhat more complicated than this, depending on whether the subject is the unamended Constitution, or some early Supreme Court cases up to about 1796 that were uncontroversial. But, the idea seems to be not to confuse what people said after the fact with the document itself.

David Kopel picked up where Rob left off, taking us on a whirlwind tour of constitutional history since the 1791 ratification, including many important court cases that set legal precedents. Then, he proceeded to describe the modern progressive movement, beginning in about 1890. David explained four progressive constitutional amendments, including the 16th (income tax), 17th (direct election of senators), 18th (prohibition) and 19th (women's suffrage). Although the income tax was sold to the American people as a small tax on only the most wealthy, it has since escalated to its present level, which almost certainly would not have been approved in 1913. The 17th Amendment, which took 14 years of struggle between states and Congress, provided for the direct election of Senators to deal with the sluggishness of state legislatures, which even included delaying the election of Senators. The 18th Amendment, prohibition, was later repealeld by the 21st Amendment, but represented a cornerstone of the progressive platform of ever-larger government. Of course, the 19th Amendment, women's suffrage, corrected a long injustice by eliminating formal discrimination against half the population. Another byproduct of the progressive movement though, was its destructive re-interpretation of the 14th Amendment's provision of equal protection under the law. Later, the New Deal would become the crown jewell for progressives, including massive re-interpretation of the Constitution to allow unprecedented expansion of government power. David also discussed several New Deal decisions.

After their opening salvos, both Rob and David explained several other interesting pieces of history, including the Englishman Edmund Burke's observation that more Americans had read England's Blackstone Law Dictionary than Englishmen, for whom it was written. Overwhelming impressions I got from this presentation were 1) how incredibly knowledgeable and involved most Americans were in the mid to late 1700's, and 2) how destructive to the Constitution the Supreme Court and Congress were after it was ratified. As Rob pointed out in response to a question from an attorney, today's American law schools focus primarily on Supreme Court decisions, rather than the document itself. Rob also explained (here and in his book) why it was important for the President to be a natural born citizen - so he would be loyal to the traditions and principles of America.

Multiple discussions from a lengthy question and answer session followed, including topics such as whether the U.S. is a "Christian Nation" (Rob says no, but it was created as a theisitic nation, since the actual meaning of oaths of office was an oath to god). After the seminar, I asked Rob about the language in Article VI, which says no religious test is required to hold public office. Rob said this was clarified in the ratification debates to mean no test OTHER than the oath.

From my perspective as a layman student of the U.S. Constitution, I could not have been more impressed with David, Rob and the audience. Some people I met in the parking lot walking toward the building were from rural areas of Colorado, and there were many attorneys in attendance as well. When Mike Krause, Operations Director of the Independence Institute closed the event, he asked how many people would come to another such event, and bring two or three friends. Almost every hand went up, including mine.

Monday, May 16, 2011


My libertarian roots run deep. On both sides of my family, rebels from Ireland or England were sent to America to get rid of them. Below are two of my favorite stories about my ancestors who fought against prevailing governments, one of which was fighting the British in North Carolina before the Revolutionary War:


My great grandfather, John Robert Green (1844-1926), was born near Atlanta, Georgia in 1844. He was the only one of three brothers to survive the civil war, as a corporal in the 14th Alabama Infantry (His father had moved the family to Talledega County, Alabama before the Civil War).

Here's a portrait of John Robert Green:

John Robert married Nancy Ann Elizabeth McLeroy after the war, and had a dozen children. When Nancy was killed in a buggy accident, John Robert married her younger sister, Susanna Dexanna (Dixie Ann) McLeroy, and had another half dozen children, including my grandfather, Frank Green. Apparently my father's full given name, J R Green, was inspired by John Robert Green, who fought for the Confederate States of America.

Here's a picture of Dixie Ann McLeroy, my great grandmother, at age 16:


My mother, Oma Austin Green, was born in Spencer, North Carolina in 1909. Her father, Caesar Austin, worked for the railroad during the Great Depression and therefore her family was better off than many others. Childhood rumors that we were related to Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas, turned out not to be true, although I was born in Texas.

Accounts of my great-great-great-great grandfather Bryant Austin (1755-1832) were written by several people, including the following paragraphs by Gayle Austin:


Bryant Austin and Miss Osborn settled on Rocky River, in what is now Stanly County, NC., just above the Coble Mill. He lived there during the Revolutionary War and was among the Regulators who Governor Tryon refused to pardon. Bryant fled from Hillsboro and settled in the wilds of Stanly (then Anson) County. Tryon's officers went to his home to arrest him, but he offered them a barrel of brandy if they would go on and say nothing about him. They backed their cart up to his cellar door and he rolled the barrel of brandy into their cart and they went on their way rejoicing, and left him to be the ancestor of a large and influential family. ("The Austin Family of Stanly and Union Counties of North Carolina" by D. Nance, published in "Austins of America" August 1987, page 232.)


Gayle B. Austin, 3838 Margaret Wallace Road, Matthews, North Carolina, 28105 has written a history of Bryant and it is in the Historical Society, Wadesboro, NC.


Governor Tryon was the appointed Governor of North Carolina, and in 1771 was advised by the governor's council to call out the militia and march against the rebel farmers called "Regulators". Tryon ordered General Hugh Wadell to approach Hillsborough (northwest of Raleigh in today's Orange County) by way of Salisbury (north of Charlotte, in Rowan County) but Wadell's force of 284 men was repulsed by a large body of Regulators (I'm sure that Bryant was in this group). Intending to go to Wadell's aid, Tryon and his force of 1000 men left Hillsborough on May 11, 1771, and on the way rested at Alamance Creek (Alamance County is just east of Greensboro, NC). Just five miles away was the army of the Regulators, 2000 strong. The battle of Alamance began on May 16, after the Regulators rejected Tryon's demand that they disperse peacefully. The Regulators, ill equipped, were no match for Tryon's militia, and were defeated. Tryon took 15 prisoners, seven of whom were executed later. Many regulators escaped and moved on to other frontier areas of North Carolina and beyond; those who stayed were offered pardons in exchange for pledging an oath of allegiance to the royal government. ( Website of the Encyclopedia Britannica)


Bryant was a Regulator prior to the Revolution and had some part in the Battle of Alamance in 1771. A warrant was issued for his arrest under the authority of the royal governor, and he fled to the wilds of Stanly County. When the officers finally found him, Bryant bribed them with a barrel of brandy, and he was left in peace. Other Austins were active in the Revolution, including Bryant's brother, John, and Charles' and Mary's son, John.

He migrated via Wake & Johnson counties of North Carolina and settled in what is now Stanly Co, North Carolina where he is buried.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


by James Craig Green

In this post, I pay homage to the most influential book, by a wide margin, in my life - For a New Liberty by Murray Rothbard. It was the first book I read on the subject of libertarianism after I joined the Colorado Libertarian Party in 1980.

Courtesy of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Auburn, Alabama, the entire book is available for free in various formats at

I will present some quotes from the book, which I hope will inspire you to read it. It was the first book I had ever read that expanded my consciousness at least ten-fold - a decade before I read Atlas Shrugged. Since beginning this journey three decades ago, I have become more convinced than ever that liberty - the opposite of statism - has been the most important, productive and successful idea conceived by the mind of man.

The cult of the omnipotent state has now been exposed for all to see - even those most dependent on its profligate but fraudulent promises of everlasting prosperity without offering goods and services, for profit or loss, in the marketplace.

Chapter 1 - The Libertarian Heritage

(H)istorians now realize that the American... Revolution itself was not only ideological but also the result of devotion to the creed and the institutions of libertarianism. The American revolutionaries were steeped in the creed of libertarianism, an ideology which led them to resist with their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor the invasions of their rights and liberties committed by the imperial British government. Historians have long debated the precise causes of the American Revolution: Were they constitutional, economic, political, or ideological? We now realize that, being libertarians, the revolutionaries saw no conflict between moral and political rights on the one hand and economic freedom on the other. On the contrary, they perceived civil and moral liberty, political independence, and the freedom to trade and produce as all part of one unblemished system, what Adam Smith was to call, in the same year that the Declaration of Independence was written, the "obvious and simple system of natural liberty."

The libertarian creed emerged from the "classical liberal" movements of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in the Western world, specifically, from the English Revolution of the seventeenth century...

The object of the classical liberals was to bring about individual liberty in all of its interrelated aspects. In the economy, taxes were to be drastically reduced, controls and regulations eliminated, and human energy, enterprise, and markets set free to create and produce in exchanges [p. 3] that would benefit everyone and the mass of consumers. Entrepreneurs were to be free at last to compete, to develop, to create. The shackles of control were to be lifted from land, labor, and capital alike. Personal freedom and civil liberty were to be guaranteed against the depredations and tyranny of the king or his minions. Religion, the source of bloody wars for centuries when sects were battling for control of the State, was to be set free from State imposition or interference, so that all religions — or nonreligions — could coexist in peace. Peace, too, was the foreign policy credo of the new classical liberals; the age-old regime of imperial and State aggrandizement for power and pelf was to be replaced by a foreign policy of peace and free trade with all nations. And since war was seen as engendered by standing armies and navies, by military power always seeking expansion, these military establishments were to be replaced by voluntary local militia, by citizen-civilians who would only wish to fight in defense of their own particular homes and neighborhoods...

Chapter 2 - Property and Exchange

The libertarian creed rests upon one central axiom: that no man or group of men may aggress against the person or property of anyone else. This may be called the "nonaggression axiom." "Aggression" is defined as the initiation of the use or threat of physical violence against the person or property of anyone else. Aggression is therefore synonymous with invasion...

While opposing any and all private or group aggression against the rights of person and property, the libertarian sees that throughout history and into the present day, there has been one central, dominant, and overriding aggressor upon all of these rights: the State. In contrast to all other thinkers, left, right, or in-between, the libertarian refuses to give the State the moral sanction to commit actions that almost everyone agrees would be immoral, illegal, and criminal if committed by any person or group in society. The libertarian, in short, insists on applying the general moral law to everyone, and makes no special exemptions for any person or group...

Individualists have always been accused by their enemies of being "atomistic" — of postulating that each individual lives in a kind of vacuum, thinking and choosing without relation to anyone else in society. This, however, is an authoritarian straw man; few, if any, individualists have ever been "atomists." On the contrary, it is evident that individuals always learn from each other, cooperate and interact with each other; and that this, too, is required for man's survival. But the point is that each individual makes the final choice of which influences to adopt and which to reject, or of which to adopt first and which afterwards. The libertarian welcomes the process of voluntary exchange and cooperation between freely acting individuals; what he abhors is the use of violence to cripple such voluntary cooperation and force someone to choose and act in ways different from what his own mind dictates...

The central core of the libertarian creed, then, is to establish the absolute right to private property of every man: first, in his own body, and second, in the previously unused natural resources which he first transforms by his labor. These two axioms, the right of self-ownership and the right to "homestead," establish the complete set of principles of the libertarian system. The entire libertarian doctrine then becomes the spinning out and the application of all the implications of this central doctrine...

Chapter 3 - The State

The central thrust of libertarian thought, then, is to oppose any and all aggression against the property rights of individuals in their own persons and in the material objects they have voluntarily acquired. While individual and gangs of criminals are of course opposed, there is nothing unique here to the libertarian creed, since almost all persons and schools of thought oppose the exercise of random violence against persons and property...

Chapter 8 - The Welfare State

The libertarian writer Isabel Paterson put the case eloquently:

As between the private philanthropist and the private capitalist acting as such, take the case of the truly needy man, who is not incapacitated, and suppose that the philanthropist gives him food and clothes and shelter — when he has used them, he is just where he was before, except that he may have acquired the habit of dependence. But suppose someone with no benevolent motive whatever, [p. 164] simply wanting work done for his own reasons, should hire the needy man for a wage. The employer has not done a good deed. Yet the condition of the employed man has actually been changed. What is the vital difference between the two actions?

It is that the unphilanthropic employer has brought the man he employed back into the production line, on the great circuit of energy; whereas the philanthropist can only divert energy in such manner that there can be no return into production, and therefore less likelihood of the object of his benefaction finding employment . . . .

Chapter 12 - Police, Law and the Courts

The market and private enterprise do exist, and so most people can readily envision a free market in most goods and services. Probably the most difficult single area to grasp, however, is the abolition of government operations in the service of protection: police, the courts, etc. — the area encompassing defense of person and property against attack or invasion. How could private enterprise and the free market possibly provide such service? How could police, legal systems, judicial services, law enforcement, prisons — how could these be provided in a free market? We have already seen how a great deal of police protection, at the least, could be supplied by the various owners of streets and land areas. But we now need to examine this entire area systematically.

All that we have said about landowners' police applies to private police in general. Free-market police would not only be efficient, they would have a strong incentive to be courteous and to refrain from brutality against either their clients or their clients' friends or customers. A private Central Park would be guarded efficiently in order to maximize park revenue, rather than have a prohibitive curfew imposed on innocent — and paying — customers. A free market in police would reward efficient and courteous police protection to customers and penalize any falling off from this standard. No longer would there be the current disjunction between service and payment inherent in all government operations, a disjunction which means that police, like all other government agencies, acquire their revenue, not voluntarily and competitively from consumers, but from the taxpayers coercively.

In fact, as government police have become increasingly inefficient, consumers have been turning more and more to private forms of protection. We have already mentioned block or neighborhood protection. There are also private guards, insurance companies, private detectives, and such increasingly sophisticated equipment as safes, locks, and closed-circuit TV and burglar alarms. The President's Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice estimated in 1969 that government police cost the American public $2.8 billion a year, while it spends $1.35 billion on private protection service and another $200 million on equipment, so that private protection expenses amounted to over half the outlay on government police. These figures should give pause to those credulous folk who believe that police protection is somehow, by some mystic right or power, necessarily and forevermore an attribute of State sovereignty.1

Chapter 13 - Conservation, Ecology and Growth

What the soothsayers have overlooked is the vital role that the free-market economic mechanism plays in conserving, and adding to, natural resources. Let us consider, for example, a typical copper mine. Why has copper ore not been exhausted long before now by the inexorable demands of our industrial civilization? Why is it that copper miners, once they have found and opened a vein of ore, do not mine all the copper immediately; why, instead, do they conserve the copper mine, add to it, and extract the copper gradually, from year to year? Because the mine owners realize that, for example, if they triple this year's production of copper they may indeed triple this year's income, but they will also be depleting the mine, and therefore the future income they will be able to derive from it. On the market, this loss of future income is immediately reflected in the monetary value — the price — of the mine [p. 248] as a whole. This monetary value, reflected in the selling price of the mine, and then of individual shares of mining stock, is based on the expected future income to be earned from the production of the copper; any depletion of the mine, then, will lower the value of the mine and hence the price of the mining stock. Every mine owner, then, has to weigh the advantages of immediate income from copper production against the loss in the "capital value" of the mine as a whole, and hence against the loss in the value of his shares.

Chapter 14 - War and Foreign Policy

Libertarians favor the abolition of all States everywhere, and the provision of legitimate functions now supplied poorly by governments (police, courts, etc.) by means of the free market. Libertarians favor liberty as a natural human right, and advocate it not only for Americans but for all peoples. In a purely libertarian world, therefore, there would be no "foreign policy" because there would be no States, no governments with a monopoly of coercion over particular territorial areas. But since we live in a world of nation-states, and since this system is hardly likely to disappear in the near future, what is the attitude of libertarians toward foreign policy in the current State-ridden world? [p. 265]

Pending the dissolution of States, libertarians desire to limit, to whittle down, the area of government power in all directions and as much as possible. We have already demonstrated how this principle of "de-statizing" might work in various important "domestic" problems, where the goal is to push back the role of government and to allow the voluntary and spontaneous energies of free persons full scope through peaceful interaction, notably in the free-market economy. In foreign affairs, the goal is the same: to keep government from interfering in the affairs of other governments or other countries. Political "isolationism" and peaceful coexistence — refraining from acting upon other countries — is, then, the libertarian counterpart to agitating for laissez-faire policies at home. The idea is to shackle government from acting abroad just as we try to shackle government at home. Isolationism or peaceful coexistence is the foreign policy counterpart of severely limiting government at home.
Chapter 15 - A Strategy for Liberty

While it is vital for the libertarian to hold his ultimate and "extreme" ideal aloft, this does not, contrary to Hayek, make him a "utopian." The true Utopian is one who advocates a system that is contrary to the natural law of human beings and of the real world. A Utopian system is one that could not work even if everyone were persuaded to try to put it into practice. The Utopian system could not work, i.e., could not sustain itself in operation. The Utopian goal of the left: communism — the abolition of specialization and the adoption of uniformity — could not work even if everyone were willing to adopt it immediately. It could not work because it violates the very nature of man and the world, especially the uniqueness and individuality of every person, of his abilities and interests, and because it would mean a drastic decline in the production of wealth, so much so as to doom the great bulk of the human race to rapid starvation and extinction.

There is another grave flaw in the very idea of a comprehensive planned program toward liberty. For the very care and studied pace, the very all-embracing nature of the program, implies that the State is not really the common enemy of mankind, that it is possible and desirable to use the State for engineering a planned and measured pace toward liberty. The insight that the State is the major enemy of mankind, on the other hand, leads to a very different strategic outlook: namely, that libertarians should push for and accept with alacrity any reduction of State power or activity on any front. Any such reduction at any time should be a welcome decrease of crime and aggression. Therefore, the libertarian's concern should not be to use the State to embark on a measured course of destatization, but rather to hack away at any and all manifestations of statism whenever and wherever he or she can.

The libertarian creed, finally, offers the fulfillment of the best of the American past along with the promise of a far better future. Even more than conservatives, who are often attached to the monarchical traditions of a happily obsolete European past, libertarians are squarely in the great classical liberal tradition that built the United States and bestowed on us the American heritage of individual liberty, a peaceful foreign policy, minimal government, and a free-market economy. Libertarians are the only genuine current heirs of Jefferson, Paine, Jackson, and the abolitionists.

And yet, while we are more truly traditional and more rootedly American than the conservatives, we are in some ways more radical than the radicals. Not in the sense that we have either the desire or the hope of remoulding human nature by the path of politics; but in the sense that only we provide the really sharp and genuine break with the encroaching statism of the twentieth century. The Old Left wants only more of what we are suffering from now; the New Left, in the last analysis, proposes only still more aggravated statism or compulsory egalitarianism and uniformity. [p. 321] Libertarianism is the logical culmination of the now forgotten "Old Right" (of the 1930s and '40s) opposition to the New Deal, war, centralization, and State intervention. Only we wish to break with all aspects of the liberal State: with its welfare and its warfare, its monopoly privileges and its egalitarianism, its repression of victimless crimes whether personal or economic. Only we offer technology without technocracy, growth without pollution, liberty without chaos, law without tyranny, the defense of property rights in one's person and in one's material possessions. Strands and remnants of libertarian doctrines are, indeed, all around us, in large parts of our glorious past and in values and ideas in the confused present. But only libertarianism takes these strands and remnants and integrates them into a mighty, logical, and consistent system. The enormous success of Karl Marx and Marxism has been due not to the validity of his ideas — all of which, indeed, are fallacious — but to the fact that he dared to weave socialist theory into a mighty system. Liberty cannot succeed without an equivalent and contrasting systematic theory; and until the last few years, despite our great heritage of economic and political thought and practice, we have not had a fully integrated and consistent theory of liberty. We now have that systematic t heory; we come, fully armed with our knowledge, prepared to bring our message and to capture the imagination of all groups and strands in the population. All other theories and systems have clearly failed: socialism is in retreat everywhere, and notably in Eastern Europe; liberalism has bogged us down in a host of insoluble problems; conservatism has nothing to offer but sterile defense of the status quo. Liberty has never been fully tried in the modern world; libertarians now propose to fulfill the American dream and the world dream of liberty and prosperity for all mankind.


I had the pleasure of having dinner with my hero Murray Rothbard, in May of 1983 in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. The occasion was the Colorado Libertarian Party's annual convention, and Murray enthralled a small group of us for a couple of hours. I had just completed my first Congressional campaign in November 1982. My campaign manager and her daughter were there, and two other good friends of mine from the Colorado group of libertarians at the time. I'll never forget the man who opened my eyes to a brand new world I never knew existed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011


By James Craig Green

I suffered a tax, that deserved forty whacks
but instead grew fast like a cancer
I stumbled around, looking all over town
finding only the means to enhance her

Though the practice is olden, I need not embolden
this claim on my own honest labor
With coveters galore still trying to score
and hiding my stuff from my neighbor

I asked at the shop what need is this slop
that resembles a hog’s evening dinner?
You see, said the fray, each one must pay
for the worst of us to be winners

I counted the neighbors who covet my labors
but I had to give up in disgust
For they were so many and sought every penny
that now I have no one to trust

How can I win the game that I’m in
when half of my money is taken?
For worse things and bad, mediocre and sad
though my arms and my legs are a breakin’

Why, oh why, is pie in the sky
so compelling and thought to be noble?
Seems simple to me, as plain as can be
the tax just an un-busted bubble

My life is obsessed with doing my best
for those things I judge beneficial
But taxman beware, you're losing your hair
and someday your job will be wishful

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


by James Craig Green
Edited 12/10/2012 and 8/21/2014

Science is not fact.

Science is not truth.

Science is not absolute.

Science can never be "settled."

SCIENCE is the creation of theories attempting to explain observations. According to philosopher of science KARL POPPER, any theory that cannot be falsified (proven wrong) by experimentation is not science. This important perspective illustrates why scientific theories and laws may have to be changed from time to time.

Science depends on INDUCTION  to create theories, and DEDUCTION to apply them. Each is dependent on the other, since deductions from applying existing theories may produce contradictions from future observations, dictating the revision of those theories. A scientific LAW is nothing more than a theory which has withstood many experiments that have corroborated it (failed to disprove it) over a period of time. This does NOT mean the theory has been "proven" for all time.

INDUCTION is extrapolation from the specific (observations, measurements and experiments) to the general (hypotheses, theories and laws). For example, Newton's Universal Law of Gravitation ("law of gravity") says that every mass in the universe exerts a force on every other mass in the universe proportional to the product of their mass and inversely proportional to the square of the distance between them. Measurement inaccuracies applied over large distances can be significant. This is why the Apollo missions to the moon required course corrections based on radar measurements of their actual, rather than predicted, location at times. This was demonstrated in the movie Apollo 13 when Jim Lovell (played by Tom Hanks) said after shutting down the spacecraft's guidance system, "We just put Sir Isaac Newton in the driver's seat." What he meant by that was, without the guidance system to constantly measure the error of Newton's laws (of motion and gravity), they would not know how to correct these errors until the system was turned back on.

The important thing to know about Newton's "law of gravity" is that no human has ever tested or measured this phenomenon except on earth, the moon, or by remote observations of distant celestial bodies. Since man has NEVER tested this "universal" law anywhere else, no one can be certain that it applies throughout the universe, under all possible conditions.

Once a HYPOTHESIS (educated guess) is tested by experiment without being falsified, it may be called a theory. A scientific "law" is nothing more than a theory with many successful experiments supporting it. It is important to realize that no experiment can PROVE a scientific theory, but can support or refute it.

One lesson to be learned from this is that every scientific theory (and law) is based on FAITH that it applies to conditions and places for which it has not been tested. This uncertainty - the possibility of future revision or rejection - is why scientific theories are not, and cannot be, absolute.

DEDUCTION in science is the application of a general theory to a specific case. For example, starting with Newton's law of gravity, one can calculate the gravitational force between the earth and moon, if one knows the mass of each and the distance between them. Once these input parameters are known, there is only one answer, within a chosen level of accuracy (number of decimal places). All experiments are limited by the accuracy of measurement.

Now, the bottom line, and the source of disagreement between some scientists and/or philosophers:

INDUCTION (the source of all scientific theories) is creative (non-rational) because it depends on creating something new that never before existed (a made-up hypothesis, theory or law). Several competing theories/hypotheses/laws might explain the same observations. (The Earth was once visualized as resting on the back of a giant turtle). An example of INDUCTION is Newton's law of gravity.

In his early 20th century work in physics, Albert Einstein concluded that Newton's law did not take into account how gravity bends light. Although it took many years (waiting for technology and observational conditions to catch up), Einstein's claim that Newton's law was not universally valid was finally confirmed by experiment in 1919, facilitated by the observation of a total solar eclipse of the sun by the moon. No one knows what future data, experiment or new theory will partially or wholly replace today's theories, none of which are absolute or proven for all time.

This is one reason why Dr. Richard Hammling, former Los Alamos and Bell Labs scientist, summarized the following in a 1986 Presentation at a Bell Communications Seminar:

Great scientists tolerate ambiguity very well. They believe the theory enough to go ahead; they doubt it enough to notice the errors and faults so they can step forward and create the new replacement theory. If you believe too much you'll never know the flaws. If you doubt too much you won't get started.

DEDUCTION is rational, because it rigidly applies the rules of logic without deviation. Logic is a human word/mind game that begins with arbitrary assumptions and rules, which dictate how the game is played. Like mathematics, it has nothing to do with REALITY, though it may be used to better understand reality.

When theories or laws change from INDUCTION based on new experiments - as with Einstein's modification of Newton's Law of Gravity - the very same rigid logic of DEDUCTION now has a changed result, due to the underlying change in the Scientific theory or law. The modified version now produces a different result for the changed theory or law, which was not so absolute after all.



Monday, May 9, 2011


Updated 1/19/2013

by James Craig Green

You've probably heard Republicans say a very small percentage of the highest income taxpayers pay the most taxes. And, you may have heard Democrats respond that may be true for the income tax, but what about payroll, sales and other taxes, more equally distributed? Like most public debates, this one provides convenient sound bites for both sides to parrot, while ignoring the bigger picture. But the other day, I came across a report from the Tax Foundation that compares all government spending with all taxes in the U.S.

In 2007, the Tax Foundation published a detailed study of government spending and taxes for the years 1991-2004, allocated to each of five income groups. It contains several tables and graphs, from which I developed the following presentation.

For each of five income groups, my graph below shows the ratio of government spending received to taxes paid, including federal, state and local spending; and taxes of every kind. As you can see from my summary of tax and spending categories taken from the report in the boxes to the right of the graph, the scope of the tax foundation study is much wider than anything you've seen before. I can only hope the tax foundation will do this for more years after 2004.

Below the graph is my table based on data from the report's Figure 1, which I used to calculate the ratio of spending received to taxes paid by each income group. Click on the graphic to enlarge it.

The lowest income group receives about 15 times the amount of taxes paid, and the highest group about one third. A ratio greater than one means that group receives more in government spending than it pays in taxes. A ratio less than one means the opposite.

Since the first three categories are all greater than one, 60% of the people (3 x 20%) get more from government than they pay in. This leaves the remaining 40% who pay more than they get back. This must be what Karl Marx meant by "winning the battle of democracy."

The 2010 congressional elections, after energetic campaigns by tea party and other so-called "limited government" conservatives, were as complete an electoral success as they were a complete failure to reduce government spending. As Congressman Ron Paul recently noted, Instead of the left agreeing to cut social spending and the right agreeing to cut military spending, the right agrees to more welfare and the left agrees to more warfare. Such is the nature of an out-of-control Empire past its zenith.

I assume you knew, but maybe not, that the primary purpose of government is to perpetuate itself. No government in the history of the world has been as successful at this as the current American Empire of Debt described in Bonner and Wiggin's 2006 book by that name.


1. Although 2004 was more than six years ago, the levels of government spending received and taxes paid by each income group are fairly representative of today, at least compared to decades ago. If anything, it's gotten worse.

2. When 60% of the voting population receives more from the government than they pay, there is no reason for this majority to accept LESS government spending or taxes. The more government spends, the better off they appear to be. Besides visiting Afghanistan, empires have in common the self-destruction of their currencies, from promising wealth they don't have (i.e., unsustainable public debt).

3. There is no rational reason to think the democratic process can ever produce less government spending. Consumers outvote producers, which is cheaper than buying their products. They don't seem to realize, or care, that taking more from producers by force reduces wealth for everyone, by reducing production incentives and replacing win-win trades with win-lose plunder. Thomas Paine said, "What we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly."

4. Economic reality (i.e., collapse) is the most likely way for government spending to decline. It is already happening with municipal bond defaults, which have caused many towns and cities to lay off police and other emergency services. The same thing is happening to many states who are cutting both lean and fat. Despite having Congress' permission to create unlimited dollars (but not wealth), the Fed and Congress seem to be on the same downhill path as the states and cities.

5. Observe the rule of holes: when you're in one, stop digging.

6. Read my "Unchain the Builders" series on this blog to understand the principles which made the U.S.A. the most prosperous country in the world, and "Subordinate Acts" to understand how the Supreme Court has poisoned American minds against the Constitution, which may be the best republic-restoring tool we have. It needs to be protected, not changed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


A Starting Point For Knowledge
by James Craig Green

This essay on knowledge, written by Craig in the mid-nineties, was published by Pearson Prentice Hall in a 2007 book of selected essays compiled by editor Margit Misangyi Watts of the University of Hawaii. Ms. Watts graciously asked my permission to publish it in her book, a college textbook called, College - We Make the World by Walking. I was pleased and honored to find my essay in the company of an eclectic list of other authors such as Maya Angelou, John Taylor Gatto, Malcolm X, Bart Giamatti and Kurt Vonnegut.


I know this better than I know anything.

I don't have to prove this, or convince anyone else. This is not a general, far-reaching conclusion about the universe, but my unique, individual conclusion about me. It's my anchor - the starting point for all my knowledge.

I don't care if anyone else agrees with me, because no one else can know me as well as I know myself. I start with what I know best. Everything else is secondary.

I'm not sure you or the universe exists, but I know I do - at least for the moment. I can assume, believe or guess that things outside myself exist, and even that they may transcend my life. In fact, this assumption seems eminently plausible, based on my experience. But I cannot know those things with the certainty that I know I exist.


Why worry about something as apparently obvious or trivial as this? Because most human knowledge seems to start somewhere else and ends up in confusion. From the philosophy of Plato to the science of Newton, from the geometry of Euclid to the angry words of Marx and Hitler - philosophy, science, language, logic, mathematics, art and beauty all contain confusion and unnecessary complexity. Everybody has an ax to grind. Everybody has a bias, depending on his or her unique knowledge built up from a lifetime's experience. And yet, both smart and dumb fools still search for the Holy Grail, the absolute truth, the one true version of reality outside themselves, which is "superior" to that formulated by others. For every theory, careers are launched defending it. In some cases, whole industries, nations and religions are developed to protect such theories. All because people refuse to see that each of us is unique, perceiving our environment from a different viewpoint than anyone else. They pretend we can know god, nature, reality, and other so-called "objective" things better than we can know ourselves.

I grow tired of philosophies endlessly debated with meaningless results, little practical value and no consideration for the simple observation that none of us know very much. I grow tired of the semantic masturbation that passes for "higher" forms of thought. I grow tired of so-called "scientists" who produce the results their employers desire in the name of truth and other such imaginary, yet somehow real, deities. I grow tired of reading the ancient, medieval and contemporary philosophers that sound good until I realize they all had a biased agenda, and then became slaves to it (even the great ones). One point of view, one vantage point, one agenda is all it takes to turn a brilliant thinker into a heap of eloquent confusion. I resent the fact that I have to wade through so much crap to find something worthwhile.

I don't deny others. I don't deny the universe, or existence outside myself. Nor am I arrogant enough to assert that the world outside is just a figment of my tiny imagination. I don't deny the usefulness of philosophy and science. But I cannot know any of this better than I know myself.

How do I know? I wish more people would ask this question more often. I know I exist because it is the thing upon which I can most often rely. Call it intuition. Call it innate knowledge. Call it an assumption. I don't care what you call it. But - I just KNOW, even though I can't adequately explain this confidence to others. I will let them choose and rank their own knowledge. Almost all the philosophy I've read is dedicated to starting from somewhere other than the unique biased self. And yet, this is where I live. It is, literally, who I am.

Everything I've learned, sensed and thought about tells me that reality appears to consist of wide, continuous ranges of things; not a neat package of discrete break points selected so that humans can better justify their prejudices. Some people gain popularity by dividing their biased perception of reality into convenient, bite-sized packages, and inserting their own labels, in the hope that others will shower them with gifts and praise (I've done this myself). And as with most other living things - reality, truth and a complete understanding is not nearly as important as the instant gratification that comes from inflaming the instant passions of other humans.

Flaming passions is very profitable. No wonder so many do it. Perhaps I'm doing it right now. Like any narcotic, it's tempting. It feels good right now, and I don't have to worry about later. I just do it.

It is so easy to sell quick, easy, "absolute" answers to others. It seems that most people will buy, sell, or compromise anything to avoid thinking for themselves. Arguably, guru worship may be the most successful growth industry of all time.


Outside myself, there appears to be other stuff. I detect lots of other things, living and not, with my senses. I imagine other things with my mind, and I learn to interact with my environment, which I depend on to keep living. I have to breathe, eat, drink and have social relationships to get what I want and need. I am shaped by my environment (since I am part of it), but I usually don't understand it as well as I understand myself. I learned from my parents, teachers and others a variety of conflicting ideas, many of which were the "truth." But as I grew up, I noticed inconsistencies, doubts, fears and other reasons not to believe everything I was taught. Fortunately, I was encouraged to follow my own conscience, instead of adopting one readily made by others. My parents and others (especially TV commercials) may have programmed me in many ways I don't yet understand. I sometimes confuse appreciation for useful knowledge with the false idea that its source must surely be infallible, and the messenger must be competent. It is easy to assign credibility to questionable sources, as a wounded soldier assigns affection to a nurse - mistaking appreciation for love or understanding.

Habits, both good and bad, often seem to guide my daily life more than ongoing reflection and clear thinking. I strive to think more and react less. I often fail.

I know people close to me very well, and other living things like pets, plants and wildlife. I know my immediate environment better than I know faraway places. I don't know strangers very well, even after we've met. But I often assume they are like me, or choose to stereotype them into convenient cubbyholes to make up for my lack of knowledge about them. I often make the mistake of expanding my limited experience into vast generalizations about people I don't know. I have no idea what human nature is, since humans are so varied and different. As soon as I choose some arbitrary words, definitions, or categories with which to describe other humans, it seems like I have to revise those words, definitions, or categories sooner rather than later. So, I return to myself, whom I know best. I am my own anchor, though I recognize my humble dependence on my environment.


I have knowledge of things I cannot see directly or up close - like atoms, molecules, unicorns, Captain Picard and galaxies. Perhaps I can know unicorns and Captain Picard better than I can know atoms or galaxies, since these two things are approximately my size, and I can relate to them more directly. I think, "Yes, even a fantasy about someone or thing like or near me may be more knowable than things farther away." To know things far away from myself (in size, scope or distance), I must depend on the words of others, none of which can be defined without circular logic. So, as I cautiously ventured outward from myself, I learned to trust external knowledge less and less. This isn't always absolutely true, but then few things are. I learned that to survive, I need to allocate my time and choices between competing alternatives. I also learned that most knowledge I have is associated with some confidence level, usually much higher than zero, but much lower than 100%. This is what got me this far - knowing that every piece of knowledge has an uncertainty with it, which with some luck and hard work, might be improved. This improvement in knowledge, from imperfect to less imperfect, is what science is supposed to be about, I think. Science doesn't establish "facts;" it improves confidence so that humans can act with a higher reliability in successfully pursuing their selfish goals. Finding "truth" too often destroys progress. There's no need to think anymore once you've discovered the "truth."

I am in awe of the breadth, extent and complexity of the world in which I find myself, taking most of this on faith in the opinions of others. I am constantly challenging my beliefs to see if they deserve to be continued. I believe that a small piece of the universe such as myself can probably never understand very much of the whole thing, though it's tempting to try. I guess that's why I liked building fast cars as a teenager and became an engineer. But I have no more reason to assume I can know the whole universe than an amoeba can expect to learn calculus. My place in the universe appears to be much less significant than an amoeba's place in human society - if, of course, I believe what I read of the opinions of others. My life is a constant interaction between my environment and me. Each changes the other, in an elegant, dynamic, continuous feedback loop. I am probably nothing more than a small piece of my environment, temporarily organized in some way I don't yet understand.

To me, a belief is a piece of information that I rely on. Some beliefs are based on what I would consider to be facts. Others are based on fantasies or the opinions of others. Reading books (even scholarly scientific journals) involves a lot of faith in the beliefs and opinions of others. I consider all knowledge tentative, until better knowledge comes along. All so-called "facts" are subject to change, rejection or greater certainty, depending on what I learn next. If I have a personal experience (what some define as a fact), that experience is limited to my senses, thinking and accuracy of measurement at the time. Someone else that experienced the same event might have better recollection, less bias and a more accurate account of the same event. But, to trust their account better than mine, I must be convinced that I was in error. If I don't have too much invested in my original belief, I might be willing to listen to other, perhaps more accurate, accounts. This is not a denial of my trust in myself, but only recognition that I am not perfect. Humans make mistakes - constantly.


Having tossed this confusing, contradictory, crazy word around a couple of times let me now define it. I like a friend of mine's definition the best: KNOWLEDGE IS ANYTHING A MIND CAN CONCEIVE. Some people want you to think that their particular brand of truth or knowledge is special, and deserves your adopting their thinking for your own. You may have gained tremendously from their insight, and now may be blind to their foibles or prejudices. They say things like, "knowledge is the part of that objective reality outside yourself that you have discovered with your senses." Well, this sounded awfully good the first time I heard it, but after a decade or two, I realized that this was just another preacher (blinded by arrogance) pushing a self-serving religion. I know myself better than anything. Whatever else exists is secondary, not only in importance to me, but ranked lower than the confidence I have in my own knowledge about myself. So, I guess this leads me to what some people would call subjectivism, though you'd better watch out for "isms." Just when you've found one you like, it turns around and bites you in the ass. "Isms" are fancy words people make up to get you go along with them. When some people lack answers, they resort to intimidation. Most of us would probably like others to be more like us, so we often disrespect their differing viewpoints and uniqueness. Projecting my view, opinion and bias onto others is a mistake I've made repeatedly. When others do this to me, I resent it, and may shut the door to things they have to say.

I have knowledge of things I believe to be true (i.e., that they exist) and I have knowledge of things that were made up. But I can never prove that something doesn't exist. That's for much better philosophers than I am who have time and tenure enough to delve into such important matters. I'm too busy trying to live a better life.


The "ism" of subjectivity is both worshipped and reviled. To some, it is the most evil, dangerous thing infecting the human psyche. To others, it is a glorious journey into fantasy, mysticism, or understanding. To me, it's nothing more than the recognition that I know me best. In an attempt to avoid spreading bigger, mostly useless, confusing words (like epistemology), I will call my particular version of this "Craigness."

Craigness isn't for you - It's for me. If your name were John, then perhaps you would like to create "Johnness." But don't simply adopt Craigness because it sounds good. Do your own homework. Find your own truth, or philosophy, or whatever. But leave mine alone. I built it, and you can't have it - It's mine. Besides, like my skin or brain, it's designed to fit me only, and it's probably not good for you. The last thing you need is another guru, or someone who claims they know you better than you know yourself.

This short essay barely scratches the surface of what I find to be the starting point of knowledge - myself. Everything else is less important (to me), less knowable and less relevant to my life. I can speculate about galaxies until the cows come home. I can guess whether someone else is lying, crazy, stupid or right. I can make guesses, whether I call them assumptions, axioms, postulates or hypotheses. But to me, the only thing really self-evident is that I exist. The very best of my experience, belief and knowledge all comes back to this. It's the only worthy starting place I've ever found.

It's my window to the world.

This essay was one of many published under Craig's LIFEPOWER philosophy: