Monday, March 19, 2018

Intending to Help the Poor Vs. Intending to Go Through the Motions of Helping

or, Why Conservatives Are Wrong to Say Proponents of Disastrous Poverty-Sustaining “Antipoverty” Programs “Care About Intentions and Not Results”

Stuart K. Hayashi

This is a revised version of a previously published post, “Symbolater Syndrome, Pt. 2 of 4.”

California governor Jerry Brown insisting his minimum-wage raise makes sense “morally”
after he just admitted that his economics legislation does not make sense “economically.”

Suppose there is no legally mandated minimum wage, and I am jobless. Then someone named Lysander offers to hire me for $5 per hour. I accept. That is a pay raise right there — I went from making zero to making five dollars per hour. Then the government decrees that there is a minimum wage of $15 per hour. If Lysander is caught paying me $5 per hour, he could be fined or imprisoned. On a cost-benefit analysis, Lysander decides that while he could profit from paying me $5 per hour for the value I add to his business, I don’t add enough value to his business where he would still profit from paying me $15 per hour for that same work. He decides he should not have me working for him. As for the people already in Lysander’s employ, either he fires some of them or keeps them all on while cutting their hours. Far from helping the poor, this measure hurts them. Absent of the minimum wage, I would be making five dollars per hour. With this minimum wage, I am stuck at zero.

For decades, supporters of raising the minimum wage have denied that such a measure has any adverse effect on employment. There is nothing surprising about that. Yet in more recent years, I have noticed a more worrying trend: there are people who support raising the minimum wage who do not deny it.

Yes, They Know It Will Reduce the Income of Some Poor People to Nothing; They Still Do It For the Poor?
I first noticed this in my correspondence with a particular woman online. She and I had become acquainted when discussing GMOs (genetically modified organisms). She properly wanted the government to stop interfering with GMOs — and, later, I learned that she improperly wanted the government to continue interfering with pretty much every other industry. Part of her desire for such interference to continue and expand was her tirades demanding an increase in the minimum wage to what she called a “living wage.”

One of our mutual online acquaintances then showed this woman a study that evinced that, everything else being equal, raises in the minimum wage contribute to reductions in employed work hours for the poor and unskilled.

The woman then replied something to the effect of, Yes, I know the economic argument. I support raising the minimum wage because I care about the well-being of low-income families.

I was floored by her reply. I expected that she would deny that the minimum wage contributes to unemployment among the poor and unskilled. She did not deny it. She refrained from denying it and then she still asserted that raising the minimum wage is “for the poor” and unskilled.

That turned out not to be a fluke, as a higher-profile instance of this phenomenon followed. In early April of 2016, California governor Jerry Brown gave this rationale for demanding an increase in the state’s mandated minimum wage [in the link, I cued it to the precise spot where he begins what I quote him saying]:

Economically, minimum wages may not make sense. But morally and socially and politically they make every sense, because it binds the community together and makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way [emphases Governor Brown’s].

He says it at the 1 minute, 24 second mark.

Let’s translate this. What does it mean for a raise in the minimum wage to “make sense” “economically” or not? An increase or decrease in the poor’s average income, as affected by legislation, is an economic effect. For most of the past five decades, hardly any supporter of a raise in the minimum wage would dispute that the very purpose of a law adjusting the minimum wage is to have an economic effect. Legislation on the minimum wage is, by definition, economic legislation. That is just as the purpose of a comedian telling jokes is to make the audience laugh. To say that you don’t care what is the economic effect of your own legislation — legislation that is, by your own design, touted as economic legislation — is akin to a comedian announcing that he doesn’t care if his jokes are funny.

A government-mandated increase in the minimum wage making sense economically means that raising the minimum wage does exactly what its supporters of the past 50 years have claimed it would do: improve the living standards of the poor and unskilled. Governor Brown contradicts himself in proclaiming that a minimum-wage hike “makes sure that parents can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way,” because that will only happen if the minimum-wage hike has the economic effect on low-income people that the minimum-wage hike’s proponents have long insisted that the minimum-wage hike would have. That is, the minimum-wage hike will only ensure that low-income people “can take care of their kids in a much more satisfactory way” if minimum-wage hikes do “make sense” “economically.”

To admit “economically, minimum wages may not make sense” is to admit that legally mandated minimum wages do not in fact help the poor and unskilled as was previously claimed, but that they in fact hurt the poor and unskilled. What is the source of Governor Brown’s apparent contradiction? Governor Brown explains that it makes “every sense” to him “morally.”

To wit, Governor Brown first inadvertently admitted that raising the minimum wage harms rather than helps the poor (the poor being his ostensive value), but he will go through it anyway as a gesture to indicate his moral concern for the well-being of the poor.

It Does Symbolize Concern for the Poor...
This is beyond “idolatry”; it is symbolatry in practice. I define symbolatry as someone sacrificing her own purported value in favor of something that merely symbolizes that very same value. If Governor Brown genuinely valued the well-being of the poor, he would do what “makes sense” for them “economically” — refrain from raising the minimum wage and, more than that, work to abolish it altogether. In lieu of that, he performs a ritual that “makes sense” for him “morally,” which is offering a symbolic gesture of concern for the poor that, by his own inadvertent admission, does actual harm to the poor. The same goes for that aforementioned woman who didn’t even deny the minimum wage raise’s actual effect on the poor. What is purported to be the real value (the well-being of the poor) is being sacrificed and destroyed for the sake of performing a symbolic ritual that is intended to be interpreted as a show of solidarity for those same poor.

Some people might respond that, in this context, my introduction of the term “symbolatry” is unnecessary. They might say there is already a term for this, and it is a term much beloved on Twitter by right-wing people who have cartoon characters for their avatars: “virtue-signaling.” But I am not accusing Governor Brown and that aforementioned woman of mere “virtue-signaling”; there are important differences. To accuse a man of “virtue-signaling” is to put emphasis on his desire to convince other people of his own exalted moral status. Rather, my suspicion is that Governor Brown and that woman are performing the ritual of pushing for this legislation in order to convince themselves that they are caring and morally upright. Furthermore, when a man is accused of “virtue-signaling,” the implication is usually that this symbolic gesture is empty and of no effect. My accusation against Governor Brown and that woman is much harsher: they are trying to convince themselves that their performance of the ritual indicates compassion for the poor and yet, on some level, they are at least vaguely aware that the ritual’s completion — meaning successful passage of the minimum wage increase — will actually harm poor people in real life. This symbolatry has graver consequences than “virtue-signaling” does.

Conservatives Who Say Minimum-Wage Apologists Care About Intentions and Not Results, Need to Learn the Definition of “Intention”
When gestures which symbolize help for the poor — and are actually known to harm the poor — are prioritized above the poor themselves, I do not consider that a good intention. As I said before, it is for that reason that I object to the common right-wing accusation that left-wing supporters of antipoverty measures are all about good intentions while not caring the results. As one Wall Street Journal op-ed put it, “Too many policy makers evaluate new interventions — labor rules, wage laws, environmental regulations — only by what they hope to accomplish. They do not consider the consequences, the unintended effects, and the trouble that their policies will cause for employers and workers…” (emphases added). The subheading that Journal’s editors (not the op-ed’s author) chose was, “Free enterprise is under assault from politicians who only care about good intentions, not results.” A conservative who says this reveals a flaw in his thinking far larger than the flaw he imputes to the left-wingers, as that conservative overlooks the very meaning of a sincere intention.

Just as the concept of “50 percent” derives from “a single unit,” the concept of “sincere intention” derives from the concept of “producing the results desired.” Should I have a sincere intention to erect a stable house or not, then I definitely care if, as results of my efforts, the house gets built and remains standing and stable in the ensuing years. But suppose I announce my strong motivation to build a house and, five years later, you notice no house is built and, when you ask me about it, I shrug it off. Moreover, ever since the day subsequent to my announcement, I made no effort to have the house built. Insofar as I am indifferent to the results, it is proper for you to conclude that I held no sincere intention to build that house after all. And a sincere intention is the only kind of intention there is — to be insincere in professing to intend to build a house is to lack the intention of building a house.

 You can observe the degree to which a person intends to do something by observing the degree to which that person cares about obtaining the results he claims to desire. Even if a person enters a competition she knows she probably will not win, if you observe that she made every effort to do her best within the rules, you know her intention was still to win.

Suppose my home has an insect infestation. I decide to do something about it — I obtain Brand A of an insecticide and spray it. I say that my intention in this is to kill the insects. After the first try, the insect infestation remains. I try four more times; the insects remain. I therefore decide that to attain the desired goal — eliminate the insects — I must try some other measure. I therefore hire an exterminator who uses Brand B on the insects. Finally the insects are gone and I am satisfied.

In that scenario, you can tell that when I claimed my intention was to kill the insects, that was indeed my intention. You can tell as much by how I handled my methodology. I said that I intended to bring about a particular result, and that I was using a particular method — Brand A insecticide — to try to bring about that result. After repeated attempts with this one method, I did not obtain the desired results. Because I was not lying to anyone — not even myself — about intending to kill the insects, I was therefore willing to try another method. In short, if the person saying that he intends to reach that desired goal has tried one method to reach it repeatedly and has always failed with that method, you can tell whether he intends to reach that desired goal by observing his willingness to try some alternative method to reach the desired goal.

 It is therefore illogical to assert that someone has a particular intention when not caring about the result. Someone intends a specific outcome insofar as this person concerns him- or herself with bringing about the result that is this same outcome. The allegation that a politician “cares about intentions and not results” implies that the politician does not care if X happens but does care to take an action solely or mainly in pursuit of making X happen. An intention without concern for results is a contradiction in terms.  For a conservative to accuse anyone of caring about intentions and not results is for that conservative to reveal that he does not understand the meaning of “intention.”

Now suppose I say that I intend to kill all the insects in my home and I try Brand A insecticide. I try four more times and it hasn’t worked. I am introduced to other options. I reject them in favor of trying Brand A insecticide 95 more times, contaminating my house and filling it with fumes. Is it really my intention to eliminate the insects? You would be proper in judging the answer to be no. More likely, my intention was not to eliminate the insects but to go through the motions of “taking action” with respect to fighting off the insects. If my intention was to kill the insects, then the result of killing the insects would take priority over trying Brand A insecticide over and over again after a consistent record of failure.  Indeed, “going through the motions” might have been the original expression for someone merely making gestures that put on the pretense of taking constructive action exactly as one refrains from taking constructive action.

Likewise, if a man says that the intention of his legislation is to reduce poverty, you can observe how much this really was his intention by whether he pays attention to the extent that this legislation actually reduced poverty. Should it be the case that this man and his colleagues successfully pass such legislation across the country and, after four decades of failure, they are still pushing for more legislation of this type, there will come a point where you are rational for doubting that their intention is to reduce poverty. The likelier explanation is that their intention is to go through the motions of “doing something” about it, just as a man who uses the same obviously ineffective insecticide a hundred times intends not to kill the insects but instead to go through the motions of “doing something” about the insects.

This is comparable to how I come across millennials who say that the academic Marxists still existing today genuinely intend to have communism implemented to help the poor.  No, that is not the case.  Perhaps someone who lived in 1848 might be given the benefit of the doubt — maybe a nineteenth-century man might have been naïve enough to believe honestly that communism could cure poverty. But after a century of communism wreaking only destruction — killing Venezuela even as I type these words — its apologists have no such excuse. Marxism’s apologists do not bear an honest intention to help the poor; they, at best, intend merely to go through the motions of caring about the poor. And, incidentally, Karl Marx himself stated explicitly and approvingly that he anticipated that at least hundreds of peaceful people would be killed in the name of communism — he was not naïve about that.

A Man Who Intends to Help the Poor Will Rethink His Prior Support for Particular “Antipoverty” Measures  
By contrast, let’s now take a look at someone whose actions suggest an authentic intention to address poverty. When he first started his campaigns to ameliorate Third World destitution, the musician Bono put all his emphasis on the most conventional measures, such as calling for increased foreign aid and trying to pressure the World Bank to forgive debt to developing countries so that they could obtain even more loans. Back in 2002, Bono told People magazine with some ambivalence, “We are taught not to court success here” in his native Ireland. “There’s an old story about an American and an Irishman looking up at a mansion. The American looks at it and says, ‘One day I’m going to live in that place.’ The Irishman looks at it and says, ‘One day I’m going to get the bastard who lives in that place.’”

But after years of his campaigning, Bono observed that to place most of his emphasis on taxpayer-funded aid was not a winning strategy. Because he did intend to fight poverty, he was therefore willing to adjust his methodology. He eventually observed that political-economic liberalization — what he explicitly called “capitalism” — is the most effective antipoverty measure. By 2012 he explained to Georgetown University students, “Commerce — entrepreneurial capitalism — takes more people out of poverty than aid. Of course we know that.” The dramatic nature of that change in opinion was not lost on Bono; he chuckled and said, “ ‘Rock star preaches capitalism.’ Wow! Sometimes I hear myself and I just can’t believe it!”

Three years later Bono admitted to Rolling Stone that he had decided to make it a priority “to understand commerce — I think that’s very important. If you told me 20 years ago that commerce took more people out of poverty than aid and development, I’d have scoffed.” He is not scoffing anymore. True, he has not given up entirely on recommending taxpayer-funded foreign aid or debt forgiveness, but his willingness to shift emphasis and recommend more liberalization is what evinces that his stated intention to try to fight poverty was indeed his real intention.

Bono talks about capitalism at the 38 minute, 4 second mark.

Conversely, consider some elderly political Progressives, such as Ralph Nader. Purporting to intend to reduce poverty, Ralph Nader has continued for a half-century to urge the very same policy of raising the minimum wage, and, after proclaiming that poverty has not been reduced, he urges this some more. If reducing poverty was Nader’s consistent intention, there would have been some reconsideration on his part, self-reflection in the manner of Bono’s. It is not that Ralph Nader cares about his own intentions and not about the results. Rather, Nader does care about the results, and he is getting the results he intends — to go through the motions and make gestures that symbolize concern for the poor. And as Nader and his disciples obtain success in their having their measures ratified, the poor are hurt.

My final analysis can be phrased in the manner that Robert W. Tracinski phrased it when writing about another governmental intrusion in 2008: “…I’m getting impatient with all of this talk about the Law of Unintended Consequences. It lets the...advocates of government interference in the the hook. . . . How could they help it if there were ‘unintended consequences’...?”

For someone to agitate for legislation that symbolizes helping the poor, all the while knowing on some level that the legislation’s passage will hurt some poor individuals, is not to have good intentions for the poor.

On Wednesday, March 21, 2018, I added the 2012 quotation of Bono about capitalism doing more for the poor than foreign aid does, and I added the 2008 quotation from Robert W. Tracinski.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Acting in One's Self-Interest: Not Something That Can Be Done on Autopilot

Stuart K. Hayashi

Some Objectivists really dislike the Nolan Chart, but that was the inspiration for the chart I made here.

Asked about Ayn Rand's book The Virtue of Selfishness, the late Christopher Hitchens cracked, "I don't think there's any need to have essays advocating selfishness among human beings. I don't know what your impression has been, but some things require no further reinforcement," to the guffaws of his audience. Indeed, a common line of thought goes as follows: The default is for people to do what they want.  And isn't taking an action to get what you "want" the very definition of acting in your self-interest? It is superfluous, then, for a writer such as Ayn Rand to encourage people to act in their self-interest. That was what they were going to do anyway, right?

The answer is no.  To do what one "wants" is too vague; to act in one's self-interest is more specific and complex than doing what one "wants."  For example, I can tell you that I have always loved the taste of butterscotch and, this moment, I want to eat this butterscotch candy.  But I also know that, as an adult, I have become allergic to butterscotch.  If I eat this butterscotch candy, I will experience a terribly uncomfortable rash, and I do not want that.  What, then, is it for me to do what I "want":  (a) to eat the butterscotch candy now, which will give me immediate gratification but also give me an uncomfortable rash minutes later, or (b) to forgo the the butterscotch candy, which will deprive me of such deliciousness but also spare me of a definitely unwanted allergic reaction?

Each of those options will, in some context, give me an outcome I "want."  But I evaluate that one of those options is more in line with my self-interest than the other is.  This is because to act in one's own self-interest is more precise than "doing what one wants"; it is about performing actions that provide lasting happiness, considering future consequences while also taking some time to enjoy the present as much as possible.

On this understanding of "self-interest," to behave self-interestedly is not merely to do what one "wants," what one feels like doing at the immediate moment.  It is also to examine the most viable options available and to consider the long-rang ramifications of each of those options. Hence, to behave self-interested requires putting careful thought into one's chosen courses of action.  In that respect, acting in one's self-interest -- by definition -- cannot be automatic, as careful deliberation is not automatic.  Insofar as having good consequences is in your self-interest, behaving self-interestedly is not something that can be done on autopilot.

The conversation that Yaron Brook had with philosopher Greg Salmieri on the March 18, 2018 episode of the Living Objectivism podcast go me thinking about this.  I have another way to phrase it: if someone does something clearly self-destructive, and tries to justify that action as self-interested (because the self-destructive action seems to bring immediate but fleeting gratification), then that is not acting in one's self-interest. Instead, it is going through the motions of acting in one's self-interest.

Imagine there are pests in my garden. I announce it is my intention to get rid of them. I spray a particular chemical pesticide in my yard, and yet it doesn't kill them. You could say it appears that I honestly intended to kill the pests but that I failed. But suppose that, for five years, every day I apply that same chemical in that same small dosage when, at this point, it is obvious that this method will not destroy the pests. You would be correct in saying, "Intention is necessarily tied to results; to intend X is to perform an action that you expect will cause X to become more likely an outcome. You say you do Y to bring about X, and yet, at this juncture, repeated observation indicates that Y doesn't cause X. If you genuinely intended to cause X, you would try another potential solution, Z. That you haven't reconsidered your method gives the impression that you're not sincere about intending X (to kill the pests in the garden); you do not intend X, but intend to go through the motions of trying to bring about X."

I have previously made this point with respect to whether communists truly intend to alleviate poverty. Perhaps someone who advocated communism in 1848 truly believed that implementing communism would eradicate poverty. But communism has been tried for over one hundred years and, far from mitigating penury, communism's implementation only exacerbates it. After witnessing the dismal results for decades, we are justified in saying, "If you truly intended to alleviate poverty, you admit that communism is a failure and you would opt for something else in the effort to fight poverty, such as the same political-economic liberalization that lifted Hong Kong and Taiwan out of destitution. That you keep implementing communism, when it is now clear that communism does not alleviate poverty, evinces that you do not honestly intend to alleviate poverty. Communism is not a means to the end of alleviating poverty; communism is the end, and the 'intention' to alleviate poverty is the rationalization. Communism does not intend to alleviate poverty; communism intends to go through the motions of attempting to alleviate poverty."

Upon listening to the March 18 Yaron Brook Show podcast, I think that this distinction between (a) intending X versus (b) going through the motions of intending X, also applies to someone who calls himself self-interested on account of his following every impulse.

Someone who repeatedly engages in a self-destructive action, causing pain to those who care about him, is commonly accused of being too self-interested. He is allegedly self-interested because he does what he feels like doing. But to care about one's self-interest is not to indulge every whim; it is to take actions that yield long-term happy results for oneself. What, then, can be said of someone who says he is looking out for his self-interest, and uses that as his rationale for engaging in a self-destructive action repeatedly? If a man refrains from taking care of his own well-being, instead focusing only on what seems to be his  immediate contentment, then that man is not acting in his self-interest; he is going through the motions of acting in his self-interest.

If I want to act according to my self-interest, not just going through the motions of doing so, then I have to ruminate on my alternatives and their likely results. Exercising one's judgment wisely is not automatic, and yet that is what it takes to conduct oneself self-interestedly. Because behaving wisely, for the sake of one's lasting well-being, is not automatic and and does not happen by default, neither is acting in one's self interest something that is automatic or by default.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Valentine's Day Gift From Stefan Molyneux

Stuart K. Hayashi

To show his appreciation for me, my darling Stefan Molyneux just blocked me on Twitter.

I know this was a recent development, as I could still see his tweets just a few hours ago. 😋

Monday, January 29, 2018

An Open Letter to Dr. Jordan B. Peterson Regarding Appearances on the Stefan Molyneux Podcast

Stuart K. Hayashi

Note:  There are some specific statements of Stefan Molyneux's of which I have some memory and would like to find again and link to, but which, at the time of this posting, I cannot find. Those familiar with Stefan Molyneux's output -- loyal fans and detractors alike -- can attest that he is not known for brevity of speech.  For that reason, even after publishing this post, I might come back later and add those links if I find them. The reason I go ahead with publishing this post before finding everything is that this post is time-sensitive. As I publish this post for the first time, I have concluded that I have included enough evidence to prove my case concerning what Mr. Molyneux is promoting.
This interview happened before I sent the e-mail.

This interview was uploaded onto YouTube after I sent the e-mail (explained below).


Dear. Dr. Peterson,

Aloha from Hawaii!  My name is Stuart Hayashi. Like yourself, I think of myself as someone who is on a journey in search of philosophic truth.  I have e-mailed you twice before on the same matter that is the focus of this blog post.  The second e-mail to you, I enclose on the bottom of this blog post. I thought that perhaps you might not have seen either of those e-mails, and therefore it might be advisable for me to contact you in a more public fashion. Hence, the existence of this blog post.  It is my open letter to you.

Please forgive me if I am mistaken on this:  it is my understanding that you are a professor of psychology at the University of Toronto who has studied the aggression-related effects of drug and/or alcohol abuse, but that, among those who keep track of sociopolitical controversies and "the culture wars," you are most famous for being a vocal critic of political correctness, postmodernism, the politics of "the regressive Left," and what have come to be called "Social Justice Warriors."  If I remember correctly, you  catapulted to international fame in late 2016 after speaking out against proposals that the Canadian government issue penalties against persons who refuse to use allegedly considerate gender-neutral pronouns. A video of you trying to reason with politically-correct student activists went viral in October of that year.  Is all of that correct?

In this very charged and polarized political climate, I can appreciate anyone taking a stand against the excesses of political correctness, especially when some parties intend to enforce political correctness through legislation and government fiat.  I applaud you for arguing against hate-speech legislation.  Sadly, this open letter has to do with your repeated appearances on the Freedomain Radio podcast of Stefan Molyneux.

I understand that there have been too many instances where some activists have attempted to malign someone as a malicious racist based on some relatively minor statements or benign actions.  I understand that some activists have done this so often, that it is easy to become inured to the preponderance of these accusations. Such accusations have often turned out to be so baseless that it is almost tempting to ignore all allegations about racism altogether -- that when so-and-so accuses Mr. X of being a racist, it's plausible that this accusation will "go into one ear and come out the other."  However, there are still some individual cases where, when some left-wing activists finger a particular party as maliciously racist, there are facts available that indicate that such an accusation is indeed true:  that the party really does express racial prejudice and -- worse -- acts on that racial prejudice in a manner that yields harmful consequences for everyone.

That applies in the case of Stefan Molyneux.  You can find, in Molyneux's own recorded podcast -- in the same series on which you have appeared -- Molyneux has proclaimed the inherent inequalities among separate races (a proclamation terribly contradictory toward the data that anthropologists and psychologists have found on the matter), and that Molyneux has cited such arguments to urge that people  shape their own behavior and even legislation according to their belief in these inherent racial inequalities.  The Chronicle of Higher Education quotes you expressing concern that the alt-right suffers "the pathology of racial pride."  And yet the very same Molyneux who has interviewed you four times now is a man who happens to be at the forefront of pushing that very same mentality you have astutely identified as a pathology.

I am cognizant that, in contrast to the approach that too many activists have taken over the past decade, accusations of racism are not to be taken lightly, and should not be thrown around flippantly.  I want to assure you that I am aware of the difference and, for this reason, later in this open letter I will describe my own experience from the previous year in speaking out against activists' frivolous accusations about racism.

Stefan Molyneux's advocacy of public policies that explicitly treat the races differently run contrary to the principles of freedom of thought and freedom of expression, as Molyneux has argued that race-related genetics itself has rendered too many blacks and Latinos and North Africans in general of being congenitally unsympathetic toward the principles of a society as free and open as the West.  Molyneux then says that he has deduced that the law itself should therefore bar these people from participation in Western society, in part because too many of them are programmed to be of an inferior ideology.

As for the allegedly scientific justifications that Molyneux has provided for this political discrimination, Molyneux has contrived them in a manner that is incongruous with the very principles of scientific honesty. For such reasons, I think that it would be best if you avoided future appearances on the Freedomain Radio podcast.  I am imploring that you, in effect, boycott it.

I am aware that some readers will say that for me to ask that you and other well-known commentators boycott the Molyneux podcast -- that you refrain from going onto the podcast as a guest -- is an attempt to violate Molyneux's right to the freedom of speech.  For this reason, I think that in the spirit of acting on good faith, I should tell you what I think constitutes free speech versus what constitutes an unjustifiable attack on free speech.

What I Think Constitutes Free Speech Versus Dangerous Assaults Against Free Speech
I think that there is only one true method of wrongfully stopping free speech:  to threaten physical force.  If an imam threatens that Mr. X shall be met with physical violence if Mr. X says something that the imam dislikes, then that is a heinous assault on free speech.

And governmental restrictions on speech are likewise heinous assaults on free speech, as governmental actions are ultimately enforced at the point of a gun.  If the government threatens to fine someone for using gender-specific pronouns, or the wrong pronoun, then that fine will be enforced at gunpoint.  If the offender refrains from paying the fine, she will be called In Contempt of Court, and the State is authorized to send armed police officers after her to apprehend her and haul her to court.  If the offender struggles against these armed government agents too vigorously, the agents are authorized to escalate the level of violence they can apply against her.  Hence, governmental penalties for the voicing of any unpopular opinion are indeed a threat to free speech.

I think that anyone who is being nonviolent must have the absolute freedom of speech. This means that no matter what this nonviolent person says -- no matter how bigoted, hateful, or stigmatizing -- neither private parties nor the government have any rightful business to threaten force against this person as a recrimination for that person's undesired speech.  I think this principle even applies if someone cites a hateful written manifesto as his inspiration in committing an act of violence -- it is correct for the State to exercise its force as retaliation against the man who committed actual violence, but improper for the State to punish the author upon whose ideas the violent man acted.

With that clear, I do not think it is an assault on free speech for private parties to ostracize someone peaceably based upon his or her speech.  My free-speech rights are not being assaulted if all the world's periodicals refuse to publish my letters to the editor.  I am still free to use my own private property to create my own media to get out my message.  I am also free to attempt to persuade other private parties to allow me to use their property and capital in the effort of airing my message.

If all the world's commentators refused to go the Molyneux podcast as a guest, that would not preclude Molyneux from being able to air his opinions. When private parties refuse to deal with a specific man, they are exercising no coercive power to thwart that man's freedom to act and express himself.  On the contrary, in simply refusing to deal with that man, those other private parties are exercising their own freedom of expression.  In their choices in whom they will or will not deal with, those parties are peaceably conveying to others what their own priorities happen to be.

(In case you were wondering, as I very much disapprove of any bakery that would refuse service to someone for being LGBT, I think a fully free society would have no legislation to compel that bakery to do business with LGBT couples or anyone else that bakery's owners do not like.  By that same token, I am free to boycott that very same bakery on account of my desire to avoid any business that discriminates against LGBT people.)

Hence, in my understanding of the matter, imploring you not to go on the Molyneux podcast in the future is not an attack on Molyneux's freedom of expression.  If you do not go on the Molyneux podcast, Molyneux can still say whatever he wants. Rather, if I ask Mr. Y to refrain from future appearances on the Molyneux podcast, and Mr. Y agrees, then Mr. Y and I are both exercising our own freedom of expression and freedom of association.

Again, lest it may seem that I cannot distinguish malicious racism from innocent good-faith gestures, I will tell you about my own recent experience with activists who have been too flippant in their choice in whom and what they castigate as racist.

An Example of What I Judge to Be a Frivolous Attempt at Crying "Racism!"
You might recall that in February of 2017, the American supermodel Karlie Kloss generated controversy when, in a spread for Vogue magazine, she donned a kimono and was even made up to look like a Japanese national. As I imagine you have probably heard, many politically-correct activists scream that it is racist for a white person to wear traditionally Japanese clothing. In this case, the activists denigrated the Vogue spread as "yellowface" and "cultural appropriation," and they demanded a apology from Ms. Kloss, which she ultimately relented.

On 15 February 2017, I tweeted a link to an article from E! Entertainment titled "Karlie Kloss Apologizes for Appropriating Japanese Culture in Vogue Photo Shoot," accompanied with my own comment, "As someone of Japanese ancestry, what most offends me is that she apologized to those sillies." By "those sillies," I am referring to the politically-correct activists who accused the Vogue spread of racism, regardless of what "race" or ethnicity those politically-correct activists might be.

 As of this writing, that tweet of mine is my second-most retweeted and "liked" tweet. As of my typing this, the tweet has received over 270 "likes" and has been retweeted over 90 times. I know that those numbers are small in comparison to the popularity of tweets from either you or Stefan Molyneux, but these numbers are big for someone like me.

I bring up my public comments on the Kloss Kerfuffle out of the hope that this will alert readers that my objections to Molyneux are not to be dismissed as some gesture in solidarity with Cathy Newman or politically-correct activists.  My speaking out about Molyneux is not some "respectful nod" to political correctness.  I ask for a stand against Molyneux because he really does promote racism.  And I think that someone who does have legitimate gripes about the excesses of political correctness and "Social Justice Warriors" especially ought to be concerned about those legitimate gripes being discredited, in the eyes of the public, on account of his or her appearances on that podcast having the effect of contributing to the "normalization" of a podcast that has done everything to earn its reputation for fostering the worst racist sentiments.

The Warrant for My Accusing Molyneux of Advocating Harmful Actions That Are Based on Racism
Since May of 2015, the second-most-significant recurring theme of the Freedomain Radio podcast has been Molyneux making the claims (a) that discrepancies in average IQ among separate races (East Asians versus whites versus Arabs versus Latinos versus blacks) are most plausibly explained by in-built genetic differences and (b) that, on average, blacks and Latinos are thus largely biologically programmed to be more prone to violent crime, and less economically productive, than whites.

"Screaming 'racism' at people because blacks are collectively less intelligent," he proclaims, "[ . . . ] is insane." Mocking the sort of criticism that he anticipates he will receive, Molyneux says, "You know, people: 'Oh, Stef's identified empirical facts about racial differences. He's a racist!' "  Then Molyneux offers his serious reply:  "No. Mother Nature's a racist; I'm just shining the light [on what Molyneux expects his viewers to interpret as the facts proving racial inequality]."

I expect that, here, there are readers who will ask, "If someone is in pursuit of scientific truth, doesn't that commit him or her to follow the data wherever they may lead, even if this leads to conclusions that contradict political correctness and make everyone uncomfortable?"  The answer to that question is a resounding yes, and that affirmation does not exonerate Molyneux's actions in these matters.

First, Molyneux's repeated claim that race-related genetics is the most plausible primary explanation for such discrepancies brazenly contradicts the data as ascertained by Richard E. Nisbett and other psychologists who specialize in the discrete disciplines that are directly pertinent to Molyneux's claims.

Secondly, if Molyneux's presentations of these claims were about a disinterested pursuit of scientific truth, then Molyneux would simply present the claims and, for the time being, leave the policy implications up to others, as any public policy crafted according to these claims would be normative and not a matter of descriptive hard science.  Yet, in many such videos on this topic, Molyneux's presentations of these allegedly value-free descriptive findings are followed immediately by Molyneux's issuances of policy prescriptions.

He urges -- based on the premise that such claims about biologically programmed behavioral differences among races are now beyond dispute, compounded by different races receiving dissimilar cultural influences -- that the races be kept separated and that the State treat people differently according to race.

 "Races don't tend to mix very well, historically," he states. "[ . . . ] We're a tribal species, and race differences are not insignificant, not just culturally but in terms of biology." Then, in an especially bizarre turn, he exclaims, "So it's because we have this totalitarianism of pseudoscience called 'radical racial egalitarianism.' We have this totalitarianism where people's lives can be destroyed if they do so much as even question the perfect egalitarianism of the races in important cognitive matters. So we already have a kind of totalitarianism in place. [ . . . ] My problem is that the atheists have given up religion, but they have embraced the leftist doctrine -- which is completely anti-scientific -- of radical racial egalitarianism. [ . . . ] Science clearly says the races are not equal."

After months of branding Latinos and blacks "low-IQ" people, and North Africans "low-IQ, rapey people," and repeatedly citing a blatantly pseudoscientific, non-peer-reviewed book on anthropology by an author who stigmatizes Africans as "mental retards" (my blog post on that is here), Molyneux proclaims, "Intelligent people can handle free speech; idiots can't. [ . . . ] Idiots can't handle free speech."

The conclusion logically deduced from this syllogism is that Molyneux means that blacks and Latinos in general cannot handle free speech. He says of North Africans and Arabs that "they don't have the functional capacity to operate in a free-market, postindustrial, democratic society. They're not smart enough to do it."

 In the video "An Honest Conversation With a Middle Eastern Immigrant," Molyneux propounds,

IQ-84 societies -- and, for comparison, the average IQ of blacks in America, who aren't exactly doing in a stellar fashion these days; the average IQ for blacks in America is 85 [ . . . ] -- that's tragic, but, you see, IQ-84 societies are stupid and primitive and brutal and violent and misogynistic and superstitious and all of that, because what other society would they want? And they don't have usually the capacity to defer gratification. Like, what does freedom of speech mean to someone with an IQ of 84? Why would they even want it? It's not like, "Well, if there's freedom of speech, I'm going to publish a wonderful novel." They can barely finish a shopping list. [ . . . ] And you are smart enough to recognize that when you are dealing with a population with an average IQ of 84, you aren't going to set up a new free society, because those people will viciously and virulently fight against a free society. [ . . . ] As you say, the group with the IQ of 84 -- which means that half of them are dumber than that; I mean we are starting to approach not a human population but a geological collection, bags of hammers -- saying how smart they are...  It's like, "No, no, you are not archaeologists; you are stuff that archaeologists dig out and dust off."   [italics are Molyneux's; boldface is mine].

It makes perfect sense to defend Molyneux's freedom of expression -- and yet Molyneux has made explicit that he sees no need in extending this same courtesy on behalf of nonwhites from poor countries who ascertain that they, too, need the freedom to express themselves peaceably. Molyneux has stated that it is pointless for such people to have the freedom of speech, as he figures their IQs are too low anyway. "Why would they even want it?"

Later in that same video, Molyneux says of people who conflate the free-market movement's ideal society with the anarchy(?) of Somalia, "And people say, 'If you love a free society, why don't you move to Somalia?"  Molyneux then gives his sarcastic reply, " 'Yes, because a population with an average IQ of 68 has really worked through all of the theoretical implications of a voluntary society; they didn't just happen to be in a building when it fell down. "Look, they're demolition experts!" "No, they leaned against an old building." ' "

Molyneux is being sarcastic when saying he would agree to move to Somalia; what he does expect listeners to take literally are his notions (1) that Somalis having a low IQ renders them congenitally hostile toward the institutions of a classical liberal republic and (2) this low IQ, and, with it, an anti-freedom ideology, is programmed into Somalis mostly on account of race-related genes.

 Thus he continues that part of his desire to have the State block destitute nonwhites from immigrating to the West is motivated by his fears of miscegenation: "So when you get people from low-IQ populations coming to high-IQ places, then what happens is that people are worried about having kids with those people in case the regression to the mean produces a less intelligent child."

In yet another video he finds it necessary to warn people against having mixed-race babies: "Adolescents who self-identify as more than one race are at higher health and behavior risks. The findings are compatible with interpreting the elevated risk of 'mixed race' as associated with stress. [ . . . ] We're tribal, and if we grow up without a particular tribe around us, for a lot of people -- not for everyone, but a lot of people -- that causes problems. It causes mental health problems, some addiction problems, and so on. So it's [having mixed race children] an elevated situation of risk, right?"

 On interracial couples, he asserts,

Now, of course, the media is promoting interracial-- . . . you can't turn on a show that comes out of Hollywood without interracial couples being promoted left, right, and center, but they don't generally work. In America, when you have interracial couples like black/white couples in particular -- which is the most studied -- they tend not to last as long, they tend to be more subjected to things like domestic violence charges, they tend to get divorced more, they tend to be more dysfunctional. And these are racial groups that have grown up side-by-side for hundreds and hundreds of years, and all speak the same language, and blacks are Christians, and the whites are Christians. They have a huge amount more in common [than do couples in which one person is native-born and the other is an immigrant from a poor country], and the relationships are still hugely problematic relative to other [homogeneous] kinds of relationships. I don't see how it fits.

He adds that it is understandable, and to the credit, of women of East Asian descent to have "in-group preferences" when it comes to dating, "whereas the Caucasian girls have been told for many decades to have no in-group preferences, which is one of the reasons why there are . . . lots of problems." After snickering at that, Molyneux goes on, "The odds are that you would have a more intelligent child if you had an East Asian woman to be the mother of your children than if you had, say -- I don't know -- a Somali woman or . . . I think the lowest IQs are like the pygmies or the natives in Australia or so on."

While Molyneux will concede that some blacks and Latinos and North Africans are very intelligent and nonviolent, he dismisses such individuals as statistically unimportant, affirming that public policy and criminal justice must be shaped by what he (mis)characterizes as statistical norms, and that his sweeping conclusions about blacks and Latinos and North Africans justify sweeping governmental measures discriminating against each of these groups as if all the members of these groups are the same.  (Molyneux fails to acknowledge this explicitly, but the implication is that if the State discriminates against Latinos, in general, based on their statistically average IQ being low, that sacrifices the high-IQ Latinos whom Molyneux claims not to have quibbles against.)

As Molyneux says it, "I can't judge any individuals [in a particular racial grouping]. I'm a philosopher: I don't care about [justice for] individuals. [ . . . ] No, it's patterns [among demographic racial groups]. I don't care about individuals; I do care about ideologies," with Molyneux presuming that a type of ideology is inherent to a specific racial group in general, individual volition be damned.

When it comes to iterating the alleged normative implications of these allegedly baked-in inherent behavioral differences among racial groupings, Molyneux has even gone as far as this: citing David Duke sidekick Kevin MacDonald as if he were a credible source of information about Jews.  Like his podcast co-host David Duke, MacDonald is well-known for spreading conspiracy theories about Jews in general.

Molyneux has even conveyed that Ashkenazi Jews are probably biologically superior to the Jews remaining in Israel (presumably Sephardi Jews and Mizrahi Jews) on account of "diaspora" Ashkenazi Jews leaving the Middle East for Europe and being what Molyneux considers generally whiter (here and here). This is because, he says, "the smartest people in [sic; from] the Middle East left the Middle East a long time ago. All the good sips of coffee from the Middle Eastern cup were taken long ago. We are down now to the dregs. [ . . . ] The vast majority of the smart, able Middle-Easterners left decades ago and are already in the West."

Molyneux's commentaries on race have even included a YouTube upload providing a revisionist history to defend the practice of apartheid in South Africa, offering this whopper of a claim: "The institution of apartheid was not racism but was designed to preserve the white population against the increasing communist militancy of the blacks" (boldface added).

 That assertion is glaringly inconsistent with the memories of those who lived in South Africa at the time, not to mention the historical record at large. As noted by an author who resided in South Africa when apartheid was still in effect, "Apartheid began long before there was any 'increasing' militancy among blacks, communist or otherwise."

In the comments section for this video on YouTube, one viewer posts, "I sincerely hope that all Europeans watch this video. If they allow the hordes of African immigrants to enter their countries, they will soon look like once[-]beautiful South Africa." To that, Molyneux's official YouTube account replies, "Thank you."

That Molyneux immediately follows up on his claims about science with policy prescriptions allegedly justified by these very same claims, casts doubt on the idea that Molyneux's presentation of these claims about racial inequalities is merely the exercise of Molyneux acting in the interest of open scientific inquiry.   Whereas the second-main focus of the Molyneux podcast since May of 2015 has been the presentation of these claims as if they reflect the scientific consensus among psychologists who study IQ, the number-one focus of the podcast has been the urging of discriminatory policy prescriptions that Molyneux insists are properly justified by such claims being irrefutable hard science.

In myriad videos Molyneux has provided on this topic, priority is given not to the claims about science, but to the governmental policy prescriptions that Molyneux advocates as following logically from the claims about science.  That Molyneux has given most prominence to his policy recommendations, and has frequently presented them in terms that are crude and openly sneering toward blacks and Latinos and North Africans, makes it look as if his claims about the science of racial differences are not at all a scientific inquiry made in good faith but, rather, a naked attempt to rationalize the public policy recommendations that he says are logically derived from those claims about science.

The podcast, then, is not about scientific integrity or a straightforward presentation of scientific data, but is about advancing particular highly ideological policy prescriptions which are then supported only by claims about science that are presented and treated in a methodologically dubious manner.

What's the Harm in Going on the Freedomain Radio Podcast and Treating It As If It Is a Legitimate Political Commentary Venue
Yes, people who harbor strong disagreements on politics can remain cordial with one another.  It is concerning, however, when someone has given multiple interviews to an apartheid apologist who has prominently cited a co-host on David Duke's white separatist podcast, and has not had -- at least not publicly -- a long and enlightening word with this interviewer about the spirit and tenor of such racially-charged rhetoric, especially with respect to what would be the likely outcome when this interviewer's most loyal listeners decide to act upon this same rhetoric.

If someone goes on Stefan Molyneux's podcast to confront him about this nakedly racist propaganda, I can understand the rationale behind that, even as I judge it to be a rather ineffective gesture in the effort to combat the propaganda's influence.  But it is something else entirely when a respected commentator goes on Molyneux's podcast and behaves as if he is under the impression that Molyneux is a controversial-but-respectable interviewer.

To be on Molyneux's consistently pro-racism podcast and yet behave on this podcast as if its usual ideological theme is normal is to lend it a mask of legitimacy -- to assist Molyneux in maintaining the pretense that what he is doing is healthy and fine.   It gives the impression that one is tacitly approving of -- or, at best, unconcerned about -- the overall thrust of what the Molyneux podcast has made it a point to promote consistently for the past two years.  It is to reinforce -- to enable -- the pathological nature of what Freedomain Radio is advancing.

A prominent commentator might say that he disagrees with both (a) Molyneux's claims about the science of race and (b) the discriminatory public policy agenda that Molyneux has consistently made it a point to have accompanying these claims, while still finding it worthwhile to continue appearing as a guest on Molyneux's podcast.  In such a case, it still comes across as if this public commentator is tacitly approving and accepting both the claims about science and the accompanying public policy agenda -- or is, at best, unconcerned about them and their ramifications.

It is in the interest of standing up for scientific integrity and intellectual honesty that I ask that prominent and mainstream political commentators, such as yourself, henceforth refrain from appearing on the Freedomain Radio (FDR) podcast of Stefan Molyneux, unless it is to confront him directly and publicly about his dissemination of this overtly racist propaganda.

About My E-mails to You on This Matter
This is how my interest in your appearances on the podcast started: At the end of July 2017, I noticed you had twice appeared on the Molyneux podcast.  The first of these appearances was uploaded onto YouTube on 12 February 2017 in a video entitled "The Architecture of Belief."  The second appearance was put on YouTube on 30 July 2017, in a video called "Sorting Yourself Out."

On 31 July 2017, I wrote you an e-mail to impart the dangers of appearing on the Molyneux podcast.  As I do now, I then wrote that your appearances on Freedomain Radio help give it the appearance of a legitimate political commentary show.  I wrote to you by going to your website and filling out an online form provided, one over here.  However, after I first sent the e-mail, I read on Twitter that you had mentioned that you had been locked out of your Gmail account.

I thought, "Maybe Dr. Peterson didn't see the e-mail I wrote him because of this." Hence, after I learned that you were once again able to log into Gmail, I sent you another e-mail.  The second one was mostly the same as the first, except that I made some grammatical changes.  Enclosed below is the text from the second e-mail.  The screen shots on the bottom, too, are from the second e-mail, which I sent on 2 August 2017.

I do not know if you have read either e-mail.  I know that subsequent to the second e-mail, you have appeared on the Molyneux podcast twice more.  I think that the third appearance was uploaded to YouTube on 14 August 2017, titled "Google Memo: Aftermath," wherein there was discussion about how you were the first person to interview James Damore publicly about Google firing him over his controversial memo regarding psychological differences between men and women, and that Stefan Molyneux was the second person to nab an interview with him.  And I think that your fourth appearance was uploaded to YouTube on 19 December 2017 in a video called "An Antidote to Chaos."

Embedded Video Evidence of Molyneux Urging Racist Public Policy Based on Pseudoscientific Claims
I ascertain that perhaps you might want more evidence that Molyneux has not only made claims that science proves racial inequality, but that he has urged governmental policies, based on such claims, that are openly racially discriminatory.   For that reason, I am embedding several videos of Stefan Molyneux airing this propaganda, with the shortest videos first. If you look at these videos on their YouTube pages, you will find, in the "Description" box, links to the original videos on Molyneux's own YouTube channel, so that you can see for yourself that all of the clips from Molyneux are in context; it sounds as if Molyneux is disgracefully advocating racism because, in the larger and longer video, he is disgracefully advocating racism.

Molyneux says he's not the racist; Mother Nature is the racist for making "races" unequal. This one is only 9 seconds.

Molyneux denies that South African apartheid was racist. 46 seconds.

Molyneux says Israel is not any different from the whites-only nation-state that neo-Nazi Richard Spencer advocates. 1 minute, 36 seconds.

Molyneux endorses neo-Nazi Richard Spencer's rhetoric. 2 minutes and 2 seconds.

Molyneux saying that if you disagree with his politics and an assailant attacks you, you do not deserve to be saved from being murdered by the assailant. 9 minutes and 14 seconds.

Molyneux whitewashing Richard Spencer's neo-Nazi rhetoric for 13 minutes and 33 seconds.

Clips of Molyneux promoting white supremacism and government-enforced racial segregation. 24 minutes and 27 seconds.

Clips of Molyneux asking the State to enact race discrimination. 36 minutes and 21 seconds.

Molyneux citing the anti-Semite propaganda of David Duke sidekick Kevin MacDonald, and repeating MacDonald's talking points. 46 minutes and 14 seconds.

In Conclusion
Composing this blog post and Open Letter, I continue to hold the same concerns I aired when e-mailing you in August.  Based on Molyneux's record since May of 2015, which has not changed even this week, I ask that you reconsider any future appearances on Stefan Molyneux's podcast.  I am concerned about the consequences of someone of your stature seeming to condone, even tacitly, the idea that there is something okay with what has been the main message of the Freedomain Radio podcast for over two years now.

Below is the e-mail I sent you in August and, below that are my nine screen shots of the process of writing out that e-mail and sending it to you through the form on your website.

Once again, I thank you for your time.

Mahalo nui loa,
Stuart Hayashi



Subject:  "Yes, the Left is too quick to cry Racism; Stefan Molyneux does advocate white supremacism (the evidence)"

Dear Dr. Peterson,

Aloha from Hawaii. My name is Stuart Hayashi. I appreciate your stand against the political Left that is trying to intimidate everyone into silence, and I appreciate your having recommended the Stephen Hicks book *Explaining Postmodernism*.

I understand that too many people on the political Left are too quick to label other people as racist, such as in many of them saying that any white person who wears a kimono is racist against the Japanese; I recall an uproar accusing the white supermodel Karlie Kloss as racist for wearing Japanese clothing. I am of Japanese ancestry and I recognize such accusations as ridiculous. I am no Social Justice Warrior.

Since that is clear, I think I should caution you that Stefan Molyneux really does advocate racism. He advocates racial inequality, based on the idea that whites are programmed by their genes to be more economically productive and less violent than blacks and Hispanics. You can see a video compilation of him advocating racism at . That video has links to the original Stefan Molyneux videos from which they are sourced, so that you can see that the clips are in context.

I understand the importance of challenging political correctness and not buckling under pressure when people on the Left make arbitrary accusations of Racism. However, in the case of Stefan Molyneux, there is actual evidence of him advocating racial inequality; he has called it (in his own words) the Clear Science of Racial Inequality. Since May of 2015, he has placed himself in the same category as David Irving and David Duke. In fact, Molyneux has done a video heavily citing a David Duke acolyte:

I have written of my concerns about this at .

I believe that Stefan Molyneux is using you. You have a reputation for being an upstanding and thoughtful critic of the Left. When you go onto the Molyneux podcast, your prestige is transferred to Molyneux, as if he, too, is a respectable critic of the Left. However, that helps normalize what has been the regular theme of the Molyneux podcast for over a year: advocating racism. I strongly think it is best for someone as respectable as yourself to avoid going onto the Molyneux podcast and lending it an image of respectability that it does not deserve.

I thank you very much for your time.

Stuart Hayashi



Part 1 of 9: Beginning of the 2 August 2017 e-mail.

Part 2 of 9.

Part 3 of 9.

Part 4 of 9.

Part 5 of 9.

Part 6 of 9: The end of the 2 August 2017 e-mail.

Part 7 of 9: Confirming to Jordan B. Peterson's website that I'm not a robot sending a form letter.

Part 8 of 9: Pressing "SEND."

Part 9 of 9: Jordan B. Peterson's website on 2 August 2017 says the message "HAS BEEN SENT."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Informal Reciprocity Among Adult Family Members ≠ Healthy Family Dynamics Being a Form of Democratic Socialism

Stuart K. Hayashi

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Among many people who call themselves free-market advocates, I frequently hear an assertion that goes along these lines: the family unit IS a democratic socialist institution that has a great track record. Everyone is expected to work unselfishly on behalf of the collective good of the family; it’s bad if it’s viewed as a transactional relationship where one says, "I will only do what my family members want if they first agree to do what I want them to do." Cited as proof of this is that it is not customary for family members to keep ledgers where they document what helpful deeds one family member has done for another, and then quantify in units how much help someone else still owes whom. Then these self-proclaimed free-marketers say that capitalist trade only becomes applicable outside the family unit. The libertarian-turned-Religious-Right activist Jennifer Roback Morse has written an entire book to advance this case.

As I have mentioned before, in the Stone Age there were seldom more than 250 people in a nomadic hunter-gatherer clan, and most members of the clan were genetically related to one another, rendering the entire clan a single family unit. The community was small enough that if someone was thought to be shirking his obligations, or thought to be cheating other clan members of their share, it would be easy to catch this malefactor and apply social pressure to change him. All interaction in the community was on a highly personal, face-to-face basis. Everyone knew everyone else, and "village" was hardly distinguished from "family."  This mode of living was overall collectivist.  These hunter-gatherers believed in gods and spirits that influenced the weather and the environment, but they did not judge these supernatural entities to be arbiters of morality. In these clans, there were shamans who recited specific chants to rebuke the gods for failing to provide good fortune to the clan.

But this dynamic changed when human beings became sedentary, formed cities, and switched to horticulture as their main source of food. As people developed these large cities, the family unit finally became distinct from the larger community. It was only then that you could think of someone as being a neighbor in your community while not being a member of your family or your household. In such larger communities, it concomitantly became easier for someone to break social rules and commitments in secret, not being caught until it was too late.

Hence, relationships became so impersonal that the citizens had to develop new social customs. Chieftains of large hunter-horticulturalist villages and kings of large Bronze-Age city-states could not possibly catch every single person who engaged in rape or theft in secret. Hence, these chieftains and kings told their subjects that gods and spirits are the arbiters that apply retribution for breaches of their rules about physical harm to others. The message was that if you break the king's rules and the king remains unaware, then it is the gods or spirits that will catch and punish you accordingly, and therefore you ought to behave even if you anticipate that the government will never learn of your transgressions.    That is how societies first came to see gods as the enforcers of ethical rules.

 Meanwhile, a household also had to develop new norms for interacting with people in this new category -- "those who are not from my household or family unit, and yet are from my community."  A single household had so many neighbors that it could not keep track of them all.   This is how, to maintain trust in this more impersonal setting, people developed written contracts.

As the socially conservative First Principles website puts it,

Socialism treats the national economy as an extended family and approaches economic organization from the perspective of household management. The sentiment “from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs,” does surely characterize well-working family relationships. The members of a family generally do contribute to the family economy according to their abilities, both in dealing with the outside world and in handling household tasks. Allocations of family resources are generally made on the basis of needs and not according to the market value of the work performed by individual family members. Socialism takes the ethical and organizational principles of a family and seeks to apply them to a national economy.

First Principles continues that this dynamic is healthy in a nuclear family, as that sort of "society" is small and simple enough to manage, whereas the dynamic fails on the national economic scale, as the national economy is too large and complex.

Steven Horwitz of Bleeding Heart Libertarians explains, "Families are frequently organized in broadly socialist ways... Families...are able to organize themselves this way because all of the participants agree on an overarching goal. Intimate orders can and do have 'unified ends' where all the members are pursuing a particular purpose." He goes as far as asserting that all intra-organizational cooperation is socialistic and collectivist in this manner, and therefore each of these institutions can be thought of being an internally socialist society: "sports teams, the military,...many firms..."

This claim from reputed free-marketers -- that a healthy family unit is a form of collectivist "socialism that works," and that capitalist reciprocity only becomes necessary when a society becomes the size of a city -- is misleading.

First, it is true that it was the development of large cities, and the concomitant increase in the frequency of impersonal social interactions, that motivated our ancestors to formalize such institutions as legally codified private ownership in land, financial records, and written contracts. It is true that as societies grew larger and more impersonal, they developed the formal institutions that we usually associate with capitalism. It is also true that, in many respects, nomadic hunter-gatherer clans were more conventionally collectivistic than were the sedentary agricultural and urban societies that supplanted them.

But insofar as the expectation that other people reciprocate the values you bestow them is a mindset  that we are correct to associate with capitalism instead of socialism, it is erroneous to assume that some unselfish commitment to the group is the default, and that the expectation of reciprocity was some aberration that developed only later as communities grew large and impersonal. That expectation of reciprocity -- which serves as a fundamental basis for the market-related institutions that formalized later -- was present even in the nomadic hunter-gatherer societies.

As Larry Arnhart of Darwinian Conservatism phrases the issue,

...even in small foraging groups, there was some individual autonomy, and individuals were inclined to resist domination by the arbitrary wills of others. ... Our evolutionary ancestors were adapted for engaging in social exchange and detecting cheaters who violated the norms of fair exchange. Those evolved mental capacities for social engagement provided the psychological conditions in which the cultural evolution of a modern exchange society could succeed. contrast to [Friedrich August von] Hayek, [Paul] Zak sees this cultural tradition of impersonal exchange as actualizing a potentiality of evolved human nature.

If you’re a new parent, it would be silly for you to expect your two-year-old to understand the magnitude of what you do for him or her. If your two-year-old seems to exhibit some ingratitude, then some latitude is in order, as you know that the  two-year-old cannot realistically be expected to have the experience and consequent knowledge that have informed you of the importance of gratitude.  It's not even realistic to expect adolescents to comprehend the full magnitude of what you, as a parent, have done for them.

But among family members who are adults, it is just to expect an informal reciprocity. People seldom think of the matter in these terms. As Mike Wallace framed it to Ayn Rand in his television interview with her,

Should husbands and wives, Ayn, tally up at the end of the day, and say, "Well, now wait a minute: I love her if she has done enough for me today," or "She loves me if I have properly performed my functions"?

No, you don’t document and quantify who does what for whom, not in such a clinical fashion. But if someone is consistently abusive, your goodwill has gone unreciprocated, and you have grounds to distance yourself from that family member. I do not think that such distancing is something to be taken lightly -- it is not something you should do based primarily on a bald demagogue telling you, after just a single telephone conversation, that you ought to disown your parents and siblings. But if, upon years of sober deliberation upon your part, you ascertain that there is little hope for this relationship unless your adult family member changes his or her abusive ways, distancing yourself from that adult family member deserves to be recognized as an option. This means value-for-value exchanges do apply among adult family members.

Likewise, it is misleading to conclude that because everyone within an organization works toward a common goal, and because the organization's members do not document the intra-organizational debt each member owes to another, that it follows that socialism is practiced within the organization. That is fallacious.

 When you go to work for a firm, there is an implicit agreement that not only will the firm pay you what it contractually promises to pay you for your work, but that this arrangement will be one of mutual respect, and that both sides will continue to find the arrangement emotionally fulfilling enough for the work relationship to continue. (Job satisfaction is part of the utility you gain from your job, on top of the financial remuneration.)

 If your employers pay the sums they promised but call your nasty epithets and dismiss your concerns, then the fulfillment of the promise to pay you financially does not erase the fact that the value you have brought to the organization is not being reciprocated adequately. Likewise, if your co-workers are abusive toward you and your employers fail to rectify this, then, again, even if you are paid as promised, the value you bring is not being reciprocated adequately. In both cases, if you leave the organization as a result, it is on account of your expectation of reciprocity going unmet -- the expectation of reciprocity that is essential to market transactions.

That is hardly altruistic or collectivist.  Auguste Comte, who coined the word altruism, clarified that true social collectivism demands that loyalty and service to one's collective be prioritized above any expectation of reciprocity.

We are born under a load of obligations of every kind, to our predecessors, to our successors, to our contemporaries. After our birth these obligations increase or accumulate, for it is some time before we can return any service. ... However great our efforts, the longest life, well employed, will never enable us to pay back more than a scarcely perceptible part of what we received. And yet only to our condition of complete payment could we be authorized to require reciprocity of services [boldface is mine].

Recall from this post that the word that Comte used in the original French was réciprocité, the direct French equivalent to reciprocity.

It's not the case that a completely socialist, collectivist, or self-sacrificial orientation -- where reciprocity is not desired or expected -- is, or ought to be, the default for someone in interacting with others. It is healthy when, even as the default, an adult expects a reciprocal exchange of value in interactions with other adults.

 It is more accurate to say that when an adult interacts with adult family members and other adults with whom he or she is familiar, the reciprocal exchange of values is informal and need not be clinically documented or measured in quantifiable units.  That does not alter the fact that a healthy, quasi-capitalist trade in values is involved.  And when this adult interacts with strangers in a more impersonal setting, the impersonal nature of the context serves as the impetus for a formalization of the exchange of values, which is why property deeds, bookkeeping, accounting, contracts, and quantification of values are introduced into the exchange. Mutual trust is a form of reciprocity.  The reciprocity should always be there, even if it is only informal.