26 September 2006

Basic principles

Here are some of the essentials of what I believe in.

1. Freedom – individual self-determination, the state in which each individual can act as much as possible in accordance with his or her own will – is the highest value.

2. Personal freedom – control over one’s own body and immediate possessions, and the right of self-defense – is more important than freedom in more abstract senses.

3. The second highest value is order and security – the Rule of Law. Neither freedom nor any other good can long survive in a state of chaos or arbitrary despotism.

4. Technology, not ideology, is the main force working for the improvement of human life.

5. The only way to know and understand the world is to look dispassionately at the evidence. A factual claim about the world can be judged to be true or false only on the basis of the available evidence. Religious objections, political correctness, fears of offending people, fears of bad consequences if the idea were to be accepted, etc. are irrelevant to truth.

6. No one ideology can give correct or even sane answers to every question. Pragmatism and moderation must always temper our adherence to our belief systems.

7. The United States is a unique nation with a unique and vital role in the world.

8. The environment is not a subset of the economy. The economy is a subset of the environment.

9. Bigotry rooted in religious beliefs or in political correctness is not somehow better or more acceptable than bigotry rooted in anything else.

10. Man is fundamentally an animal – specifically, a species of great ape – and only secondarily a "rational being", a "spiritual being", an "economic actor", or anything else. Any attempt to understand human psychology or behavior which does not take our animal nature as its starting point is a waste of time.

11. Aesthetics is extremely important. Beauty is a major positive good and we should never feel ashamed to acknowledge and celebrate its power. Ugliness is depressing and painful to normal humans and should usually be avoided.

12. "Racial" differences are of no importance, but cultural differences are very important. Not all cultures can be considered equally developed or equally worthy of admiration.

13. There is no obligation to be bound by considerations of justice or legality in cases where doing so would be suicidal. An individual or nation under mortal threat is entitled to take action to guarantee survival even if such action cannot be judged "morally right" or legal.

14. A moral judgment is not a statement about the thing being judged, even if its grammatical structure makes it seem that way. It is a statement about the person making the statement. "X is wicked and morally wrong" simply means "I really hate X." This does not, of course, change the fact that such feelings can be well-founded.

15. The fact that our ethical systems are human-created, rather than dictated by God or deduced from some universal absolute principle, does not diminish their value or legitimacy. They are man-made tools, to be used, improved, or replaced as appropriate, just as other tools are.

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