Reflecting on a busy year and expressing gratitude

[0:01] Good morning, everybody. Hope you're doing well. Stefan Molyneux from You Know Where, Christmas Eve.
And I wanted to get out, have a little bit of a walk before the live stream.
And, yeah, I just kind of realized this year is pretty wild.
I did almost 250 regular old podcasts.
I did 12 hours on the French Revolution. I wrote the Peaceful Parenting book, wrote my novel The Present, or at least published it with audiobook.
Yes, it has been a busy year, and thank you for your support. All right, great question from a listener.
Thank you guys for really helping bring out the best in the conversation. Fantastic question.
And the question goes a little something like this. the question is what kind of tracks do we have here?
Hopefully it's not a pack of deadly coyotes that like their meat balled so the question is.

[1:07] Steph you say you say you want diamonds and a ring of gold, Steph you say that we should take 100% responsibility for our actions and yet at the same time you say we should not blame people for the effects of a bad system, it's a great question it's a great question, is it a contradiction, well it's a tricky one so let's see if we can't puzzle it out together looking forward to your feedback these are not answers, this is all part of a conversation because lord knows I can get things wrong, hopefully not catastrophically wrong, but certainly wrong I think it's dear, anyway, maybe we'll get some venison You'll get a scene from my novel, The Present.

Examining the example of hard work in different systems

[1:52] Anyway, so the example is someone who is hardworking in a free market system.
We would consider that a practical virtue, but someone who is in a communist system is not hardworking because hard work is not only not rewarded, but often punished. Right?
Do we call the person in the communist system or under, do we call the slave lazy because he shirks his work, right?

Balancing compassion and personal accountability in a flawed system

[2:29] So, how do we reconcile not judging people for the effects of a bad system and also taking 100% responsibility?

Ethical Dilemma: Focusing on the Perpetrators or Victims?

[2:47] It's a fine question. Now, one of the greatest problems in the study of ethics, and we all fall prey to this, at least I know I do, and I see it happen all the time, but one of the things that's a great problem in the field of ethics is.

[3:06] Ah, beautiful.
Let me just take a moment to enjoy the beauty of everything around. Is it not lovely?
It is. But let's get to the real beauty. Anyway, so what we do is we jump over the perpetrators of violence and we focus on how the victims are handling it.
How are the victims handling having a gun to their head?
Now, if someone has a gun to his head, I judge the person holding the gun to the head, obviously more than I ever would the victim, right?
If asking what a woman does when she's being raped and judging that is pretty, pretty appalling when you think about it, right? Right?
Because it's the rapist who's the evil one, right?
And it's the same thing with somebody in a totalitarian regime.
We'll call him a serf. I mean, it covers a wide variety of situations.
So a serf is living his life at gunpoint.

[4:28] And because the serf is living his life at gunpoint, and we say, well, his free will is limited by the gun.
And therefore we're going to judge him. Well, I'm not going to judge someone with a gun to his head. I'm not going to do it.
Hopefully this doesn't end up one of those videos where there's a bear in the background. So, yeah, I'm not going to judge someone with a gun to his head.
So, the victim, this is why, of course, I don't judge children.
I don't judge children for the actions they take while under a brutal occupation if they have abusive parents, right?
I'm just not going to judge them. They didn't choose the situation.

Balancing Judgement in Totalitarian Regimes and Self-Ownership

[5:16] So, how do we reconcile judging people less harshly under totalitarian regimes, but also saying somebody has 100% self-ownership?
Well, you do have 100% self-ownership.
If a man is being robbed, and he chooses to submit, oh, look at that, different tracks.
That looks more like raccoon.
Maybe a family. If I come across any T-Rex tracks, I may in fact take a couple of selfies and head back. I don't think they can do that well in the winter.
T-Rexicle is not a thing. So.

The Choice to Submit or Fight Back

[6:01] So if you are being robbed and you choose to hand over your wallet, that is a choice.
Now, you are responsible for your choice.
If you choose to fight back, you are responsible for that choice.
Because nothing can erase self-ownership.
Even if you're being tortured, you have the choice to give up the information or pretend to or whatever.
Or not.
If you are being violently aggressed against, you have the choice to submit or to fight back.
If you are a worker in a communist system, you have the choice to work hard or not.
Now the reality of self-ownership and the fact that it cannot be removed is not a philosophical fact, but a biological one.
It's not a philosophical question, a question. It is not something to be reasoned out.
It is something to be observed, right? It is something to be observed.

The Uncontrollable Nature of Self-Ownership

[7:19] Nobody else can directly control. I mean, you could come up with situations where they wire you up and run electricity through your body and so on, right?
But, you know, in life as a whole, nobody else can possess your brain. it.
Nobody else can possess. Your consciousness, nobody else can control your body.

[7:44] Now, in general, I think that if you're being robbed, it probably is fairly wise to give up your wallet rather than risk your life.
Wallets can be replaced, but when you dared, you dared.
So, but it's still a choice, right? It's still a choice.
So, you cannot erase self-ownership.

The Choice to Comply or Resist

[8:16] Choosing to comply is a choice choosing to resist or fight is a choice, i mean if somebody i don't know let's say somebody's a father i got a bunch of kids stay at home wife and he's getting robbed for five dollars right and he chooses to fight and and gets killed over $5, we would say that's not particularly responsible vis-a-vis the fact that he is a father with a wife who depends on him and children who depend on him, and he chose to throw his life away for $5.
But, of course, the other thing we could say is that if everyone fights back, robbery would stop pretty quickly, unless you get prosecuted for fighting back, which is kind of a common motif of totalitarian systems.
That the guy who stabs you is let go, and you, for fighting back, are imprisoned.

[9:22] So, you can't erase the choice. Now, of course, we say, and this is perfectly sensible and logical, and I want to follow this argument through and give it its due credit, because it is a very important argument, crossing a giant stream, Which is to say, well, how is it the case then that most people choose to submit to violence?
Why is it that most people choose to submit to violence? And it is a common feature of human society.

The Power of Force in Human Societies

[9:54] It is really the most defining characteristics of all human societies that force works.
Threats work. Violence works. it does compel obedience.

The Choices in Different Dictatorships

[10:11] So, how do we reconcile the fact that everyone is choosing, but in a situation of force, just about everyone chooses the same thing?
Very few people are hardworking, entrepreneurial, box-of-the-horse-from-the-animal-farm-type workers in a communist dictatorship, or a fascist dictatorship, or a socialist dictatorship, or any kind of dictatorship.
Well, there were, even back in the American South, in the hellish days of slavery, there There were entrepreneurial and energetic slaves who invented things and did actually end up, doing quite well out of it.
So there are exceptions, of course, but they are very much the exceptions that prove the rule.
There were hardworking people in the Soviet Union, but they are rare.
But the rarity means that there's a possibility.
And where there's a possibility, there's free will, right? Nobody has the free will to defy gravity.

Free Will vs. Incentives: The Power of Choice

[11:13] But people do have the free will to work hard, even encounter incentives, right?
I mean, most people avoid necessary but contentious topics in order to maintain their platform.
We can obviously think of a few people who have not made that choice, where force and threats exist.
Have not worked in the suppression of controversial, but essential topics. So now there's a choice.
So, how do we reconcile people have free will, but people generally respond the same way to threats of force?

Force as Legitimate or Illegitimate

[12:01] Well, the choice you have when threatened with force is whether you view it as legitimate or not.
Force generally cannot be long sustained in a population that views it as illegitimate.
That goes along without much enthusiasm, shuffles along at the point of the whip or the point of the gun, force cannot be long sustained in a system where the use of that force is considered illegitimate.
I mean, of course, if you think of a guy robbing you in an alley, you don't think of that guy as having a legitimate use of force.
He's not moral. He's not someone you should obey for reasons of virtue and chastity and morality, right? You just know he's got a gun.
I'll give him my wallet, right? If that's your choice.
But we don't view that as legitimate or moral.

[13:03] So you still do have the choice. So 100% self-ownership, you choose to comply.
But the fact that you choose to comply does not erase your self-ownership because you're still choosing to comply.

Self-Ownership and Choosing to Comply

[13:18] And of course, we may say, and it may be perfectly rational and just and reasonable to say, yes, just about every sane person would choose to comply.
Okay, yeah, that's fair. I can live with that. I can accept that. I can understand that.
Most people in totalitarian systems don't work hard. Most slaves don't work hard.
Slaves, just another kind of totalitarian system, of course, but...

[13:43] But people are still choosing to comply. And there's things that you can do in your mind to reject the virtue of the force that's used against you and to reject the virtue of compliance. compliance.
Complying with force is a practical solution.
It's hard to say that it's moral or immoral to comply to force because when force is in the equation, morality goes out the window, right?
There is no moral choice in the face of force.
If you want to have moral judgments in the face of force, you judge those applying the force rather than and those who are on the receiving end, right?
The guy holding the gun is the one you judge, not the guy staring down the barrel, especially when he's been legally disarmed, right?

Predictable behavior and functioning economy

[14:47] So people do behave in generally predictable ways.
You understand that if people did not behave in generally predictable ways, there would be absolutely no chance to have a functioning economy.
There would be no chance to have a functioning economy. The free market operates on the principle that people behave in generally predictable ways.
So if you cut, you know, if you are, you know, I had this conversation with my daughter the other day because we went to the grocery store and as we do, we picked through for all the bargains we could find.
And, you know, we'd find things that two for one, right? Two for one.
And I said to her, I said, geez, you know, when I was a kid, I used to get really annoyed at those two for one signs because I'd say, well, wait a minute.
If they can still make money selling this thing at half price aren't they making a pretty obscene profit if they are selling it at full price right if you can say, that a two for one is good.

[15:56] Then a one for one is a 50% overcharge right, so I mean if you can still make money selling something for one pound it's out of British currency terms if you can do that then selling 2 for 1 sorry, if you can sell something at £1, and still make money but you sell it at £2.

[16:24] Oh, that's a crazy profit, right? It's 100% profit, more than 100%, really.
If you make five pence selling it at a pound, which is your 5% profit, then selling it at two pounds is, what, 105% profit? It's not quite, but something like that, right?
And so we went through this whole process of trying to sort of understand this.
And I said, I'm certainly no expert in this, but I would guess that what's happening is they're trying to get sales to get people to come into the store so that they sell other things, which they're making money at.

[16:58] But also, what they do, some even bigger tracks here. There's quite the companions going on.
So they're trying to get people to come in to buy other things, but also I assume what's happening is they have an oversupply of whatever they're selling two for one.
They need to get rid of the oversupply so that they can make room in the warehouse and on the shelf for more profitable items.
So it may just be dumping things out that they want to get rid of, that they're paying more in storage and the opportunity cost of shelf space, than they're losing in selling it two for one. So something like that.

Sales and incentives based on predictable behavior

[17:33] So it's a big, big old complicated thing, right? That goes on.
But the reason that people who run stores sell things at two for one or have big markups or sales is because people behave in generally predictable fashion.
And if you cut the price of a good in half, more people will buy it.
Does that mean those people don't have free will?
Well, we do have free will and we respond to incentives, right?
It's one of the basic principles of economics is we respond to incentives.
But incentives are not force.
If somebody cuts the price of some medicine in half.

[18:20] Off, but I don't want that medicine, then the fact that the price is cut in half, you know, it's kind of an old joke. Well, I don't need it, but it's on sale, right?
I don't need it, but it's on sale. So I take it, right?
That doesn't really make any sense, right? So people do respond to incentives.
It's the basis of economics. You can't, I mean, I have to run marketing campaigns and you have to have some sense of what people want in order to run an effective marketing campaign.

[18:51] People, when I was in the business world, saying my product is great and look at all these features doesn't matter that much because they have to be solving a need.
They have to be reducing costs or returning costs or saving money or it has to be an investment that pays off so in i actually once wrote an entire program that ran on the web that hooked into databases that contained corporate information and then every time one of our salesmen was approaching a corporation he could log into that look up the corporation and it generated in a word format my program generated an entire entire business case, how much the software would cost, and how long it would take to get a return on investment for that cost, right?

Providing value and return on investment for customers

[19:42] And of course, the goal was six to eight months, right?

[19:48] So if the software costs $100,000, but it saves you $20,000 a year, I'm sorry, a month, if it saves you $20,000 a month, then it pays for itself in five months. And then everything after that is gravy.
It's one of the things I remember earlier in my business career, somebody saying, I don't want you to save me $10,000.
I want you to save me $5,000 a month, or $1,000 a month, or $500 a month.
I don't want a one-time thing. I want savings in perpetuity.

[20:23] So people who used our software cut the price of their environmental site assessments by 40%, Because there was less paperwork, less, and they also, so not only did we save the money, but we also delivered the information not in some PDF or Word document, which couldn't be summarized, but we gave it to them in data format, database format, so they could do searches and summaries and cost analyses and all that kind of stuff, right?
So it saved money, and it provided searchable and summarizable data.
That's a good case right now. Does that mean everyone bought? Nope.
Some people didn't believe the case. Some people were old school.
There was lots of reasons why people didn't buy.
But a lot of people did. Enough for the company to grow pretty well.
So, you have to provide value and.

Philosophy and the Challenges of Rationality and Morality

[21:21] That is how you get people to change their minds. There's also reverse cases, like I've always talked about how philosophy provides negative value, right?
It's hard. It's hard to be philosophical in an anti-rational world.
It's hard to have this level of rationality and clear thinking and objectivity and morality. It's really tough, man.
And sometimes it doesn't even pay off in your lifetime. time.
I mean, it does in your personal relationships, usually, but as far as that payoff goes, it's a long time. Philosophers have to wait for a long time, to see, and usually they don't see, the effects of what they do.
But some people respond to Iron Man marathons, and some people respond to polar bear swimming, and some people respond to things that are hard.
I'm kind of one of those, but you are too. There's nothing wrong with it. It's not masochism.
It's just that we are willing to do things that are hard because we can see a lot further down the tunnel of time and the sacrifice for the sake of the unborn is more than worth it, right?
You think of those, is it monarch butterflies that take a couple of generations to fly down to Mexico?
Well, they don't even, the butterflies that start on the journey don't even live to see the end of the journey.
But it's worth it.

People Responding to Incentives and the Importance of Free Will

[22:50] So yes, the fact that people respond to incentives is a fact, but the fact that people respond to incentives doesn't mean that they have no free will.
It doesn't mean that they have no free will.
I mean, the fact that a woman dresses in a sexualized manner doesn't forgive anybody who...
Response to her coercively, inappropriately, or something like that, right?
I guess we're going to have to, should we go around or dip low? Let's go around.

[23:31] Now, a woman who dresses in a hyper-sexualized manner, you know, tits out, butt out, and that kind of stuff, she's looking for a particular response.
She's looking for a sexualized response, right?
I think we all understand that. Oh, so pretty, look at that. Just lovely.
I'm sorry that I'm interfering with the beauty of nature with my 57-year-old mugshot, but there it is.
Everywhere I go, I see yellow snow, but the animals peed.
It's jaundiced, jaundiced purity. So, yeah, you don't get to grab a woman just because she's dressing sexually, but she's dressing in a sexualized manner because she wants a sexualized response.
She wants a man to view her in a sexualized manner and she wants to arouse his lust and his desire so that she can, I don't know, get turned on or get drinks bought for her or get a boyfriend.
You know, I can't exactly say. I've never been much for dressing in a hyper-sexualized manner.
But this is the lowest top I have, I think.

[24:45] So yes men will respond to incentives and a woman particularly with a nice figure who's dressed in a sexualized manner and out of the bar will have guys approach her and bring her drinks not all men and every man who sees her and wants to buy her drinks, is 100% responsible for what he does.

[25:05] I mean there needs to be some stability and predictability in human affairs otherwise we We can't have any kind of civilization.
People need to respond to incentives.
Otherwise, we have no idea how to allocate resources as a society, right?
We have no idea how to allocate resources as a society if people don't respond to incentives in some collectivized way. You could never have marketing.
You could never have sales pitches.
You could never know what to build or what to buy because people would act completely randomly.
But if you have a great product that saves people a lot of money, then people will buy it.
And not everyone, and everyone's responsible for buying it, but yeah, people respond to incentives. Now, one of those incentives, or rather a disincentive, is force, of course, right?
But the force exists because it is legitimized to a large degree by...
Not perfectly, but the force exists and is used because people legitimize that force within their own mind, and that's a choice.
People like the drug of legitimacy for the operations of force because it makes them feel less ground down.
They're then good people rather than serfs, right? Rather than enslaved, right?
So in their own mind, right? So you have a choice about how you process the use of force in your environment, in your mind, right?

[26:27] And maybe you don't join in the cheering. And maybe you don't talk about how wonderful it is that force is being deployed against disarmed and innocent civilians.
Maybe you don't cheer that on.
Or if you're kind of forced to, maybe you cheer it on, but you recognize in your own mind you're only doing it because you're forced to.
Right? I mean, I remember in my high school, there was a high school song.
Nobody knew any of the words except the chorus. and there'd be da-da-da-da-da-da-da, high school.
Nobody knew the words. Everyone just sang along.
So you go along, right?
But do you retain within your own mind the fact that you disagree with what's happening?
The fact that you don't praise the moral legitimacy of the initiation of the use of force? That's up to you. That's your choice.
You can certainly choose that.

[27:21] And so when people are forced First, I don't judge the victims, I judge the perpetrators.
Now, of course, you can say, ah, yes, but the perpetrators, the enforcers of the regime are propagandized, and this, that, and the other.
It's like, well, yes, that's true, and unfortunately, there's never been any shortage of people willing to be enforcers for unjust systems in the world, but they're responsible for it as well.
Everyone has the potential for thought. Everyone has free will.
Everyone has self-ownership.
But i am not going to stand in judgment for the victims of force now i can encourage them to remember that they still have choices.

[28:02] And i can certainly encourage them to not reframe violence as a virtue in their mind's eye, i can certainly have them try to refrain from taking the endless drug of cheerleading the violent to pretend that the violence is virtue and you're a good person for complying rather than violence is immoral and compliance may be necessary but it's not the force does not make the force moral so yeah you have 100 self-ownership and the truth the choice to comply is yours and for what it's worth i agree with the practical consequences of complying i I agree with that, but it's still a choice.
And whether you justify it in your mind, is the real question, right? So a woman who's getting beaten, and she says, well, he only beats me because I'm mean to him, or I don't do what he wants, or he's stressed, or it's his love language, or whatever it is.
If she justifies it, that's bad, right? Because that's a false statement.
But of course, when she stops justifying it, she's probably going to get out.
So I hope that this makes some kind of sense just to sort of summarize.
Yes, people respond to incentives, and one of the biggest incentives they respond to is force.

[29:25] And it does not erase self-ownership. It does not erase free will.
And the most important thing you can do, even when complying, is to not lie to yourself about the reasons why you do things.
If you hand your wallet over to a mugger, you do so knowing that he's wrong, but he has a gun.
Or you don't want to risk fighting back.
I got no problem with that. That's totally fine with me. practical, and probably very sensible choice.
But you don't legitimize it in your mind, right? You don't say, well, I'm better off than this person, and he's stealing because he's desperate, and I really should have given more to charity, and it's kind of right and fair and just, but he takes from me because I'm doing...
But, like, if you come up with all that kind of nonsense, that's your choice.
Now, you don't have a choice when you have a gun to your face.
Sorry, you do have a choice when you have a gun to your face, but your choice is binary comply or resist.
But you have an infinite choice about how you process being the victim of violence.
You have an infinite choice about that.
The gunman can, quote, force you to hand over your wallet, but the gunman cannot force you to view his violence as virtuous.
The same thing is true for the system you have as a whole. And the fewer people who believe in the virtue of a violent system, the less sustainable that violent system is, and the quicker it will crumble, even without force or resistance.
So, I hope that helps. of course let me know what you think oh got to go do my live stream i'll see you guys in a bit bye.

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May 2024

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