Wednesday, January 1, 2014


"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men ..."

      These three lines from The Declaration of Independence, ordained by "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God", state the principles upon which the American republic is founded. They are the core of the American promise... a promise unfulfilled. The following essay offers a reason for the failed promise: the unempathic brain--a brain whose motives and beliefs are formed in response to evolutionary fear is not persuaded by arguments from moral and democratic principle. We will explore the neurology--and the politics--of this brain, and the necessary implications of "Life" and "Liberty", the pillars of the promise. THE QUESTION: if all men are created equal, by what right or necessity are they made unequal in society?... To embrace a principle and ignore or evade its necessary implications is to betray that principle.

"Forms grow out of principles, and operate to continue the principles they grow from...wherever the forms in any government are bad, it is a certain indication that the principles are bad also." (Thomas Paine, Rights of Man)

     The American government, then, is bound by a Founding Covenant to institute the forms that secure these rights. From the Laws of Nature derive the unalienable Rights of Man, and then also the laws and forms of community that establish and secure these rights... from Natural Law follows Natural Community. And, by implication, those existing laws and institutions that abridge these rights are a betrayal of the Covenant... "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it...". All governments serve at the convenience of the sovereign people, and can never rightfully defend themselves against the sovereign's will.
      Government does not create Natural Rights. Its purpose is to acknowledge and protect those rights by regulating the freedom of individual behaviors, and preventing the formation of socioeconomic institutions, that violate them. Specifically, as equality is the first premise of the democracy covenant, whatever allows and encourages inequality is a violation of the covenant. 




We have come from fear,
From dark forests with dangers ever near.
We ventured upon the open plain,
Each step a trembling suspicious stride.
Was it courage that brought us from the foliage,
Or had the plain become a lesser fear?
Now timorous steps have found their way,
The fearful mind has taken sway,
And now the world will ever pay.


The Amygdala's Memory:
A Heritage of Fear

     The three great facts of life are its occurrence, its persistence, and its evolvement. The force that enters into life--from the single-celled organism to the wise hominid--seeks to thrive and become, and for this determined journey it must survive. To survive in life requires avoiding--or conquering--the dangers that would end it. To be avoided, these dangers must be sensed by an innate awareness. In the case of vertebral life forms, this innate awareness is the amygdala's primal memory--the evolutionary recording of what has threatened survival in the past.
     The amygdala (ah-mig'-dah-la) is an organ of the primitive, or reptilian, brain (It is actually two similarly shaped organs--a left amygdala and a right amygdala--that function as a binary system). The primitive brain is called reptilian because it dates from the time of the great reptiles. It is this primitive part of the brain--the brain stem--that controls the survival reflexes of vertebral life forms. Hundreds of millions of years old, the amygdala remains the center of the human brain's survival system. It signals other areas of the brain when it detects sensory inputs from the environment that represent threats to survival. Fully functioning by age three, the amygdala easily dominates the still developing prefrontal cortex, which does not near full development until around age 25. The prefrontal cortex is the forward part of the cerebral cortex which is intended to eventually exercise control over the amygdala's emotional impulses. We are, however evolved we imagine ourselves to be, a slave to our reptilian survival impulses. That is, until, and if, the frontal cortex learns to moderate our primal reflexes with more considered responses.

     The problem is we have no considered responses at birth. The frontal cortex, by which we hope to live a reasoned life, is incipient, unprepared to evaluate the amygdala's alarms. And alarms there are! For birth clearly presents sudden and startling sensations to the infant brain, which begin when the encapsulating oneness of the amniotic sac breaks, and the emergent organism is alerted to imminent change, which quickly becomes expulsion into unfamiliar surroundings. Thus sudden change and a cascade of novel sensations provide the initial danger signals to the amygdala--and they will remain signs of possible threat for the life of the organism.
     Birth is a stressful disruption of the calm and ordered process of creation, from the comfort and security of oneness into the discomfort and insecurity of separation. Gradually, over the early months of life, awareness builds that well-being is not automatic--that there is no umbilical cord streaming with life's satisfactions, that our needs and satisfactions depend on something outside of, and apart from, our self... that we must cry and scream our fears and displeasure. Only immediate accommodation (physical and affectionate bonding to a primary caregiver) to moderate the transformation from creation to life, from oneness to separation, can hope to calm the amygdala.
     As this newly arrived infant brain, then, is being formed by genetic instruction it will also be influenced by its experience of the new environment. Environmental experiences are credible and determining because the frontal cortex yet lacks the competence to mediate them. And so, before the brain/mind ever gains some selective control of its experiences it is formed by them. That we are born to a world not always eager to satisfy our needs is the primal conclusion of the amygdala dominated incipient brain.

      The brain's first imperative is survival in the environment in which it finds itself. And so the infant brain is highly attuned to experience; it is experience, under the imperative of survival, that tells the developing brain which neurons to keep and which to shed--the neural connections stimulated by the environment are strengthened, while those not stimulated are gradually discarded (This is a key fact underlying the ego-complex hypothesis). The birth environment is literally a cultural pottery, shaping the infant mind. Thus the first experiences of life are critical. The earlier the amygdala's danger messages are imposed upon the incipient cortex the stronger will be the neural formation of fear-based belief and behavior patterns. Creation occurs with a genetic intent, but experience can alter it. Experience can serve to realize possibility, or repress it (This fact is of great import for infant parenting and early pre-school education. How many of us as parents understand the developmental requirements of the infant brain... especially the assurance of safety and loving attachment?!). Forty six chromosomes are molded by the birth environment into an inner self that will one day emerge into a larger reality... and we come to further know ourselves as others experience and relate to us, telling us who we are... an unchosen self that we must make the best of, or not.
      In all the important things, then, the human brain is far more determined than we want to believe... "free will" seems a minor, if not absent, participant. Beyond the initial genetic dictates, at birth we enter a conditioning process. There is no "will" or "choice". We are immersed in stimuli, our natural drives restricted to unconscious responses. We begin as possibility and immediately succumb to vulnerability, waiting for the effects--or assaults--of cascading impressions and sensations, and the commissions and omissions of our "caregivers." Our fate is largely found in our beginning moments.

     Implied in all this is another possibility. An amygdala less biochemically active, and/or more accommodated--emotionally secured--by first experiences, would send fewer and more moderate alarms, thus allowing neural activity to develop toward a more balanced state of mind. This balanced mind would learn to perceive the world with more trust and confidence and consideration for others, less fear and suspicion, less selfish and aggressive defensiveness. And it would be less dependent on controlled surroundings, thus more open to arguments for change; and less threatened, thus less resistant to the equality of others. It would, in fact, be a more empathic and cooperative brain.
     It should be noted before going further that the reaction for which the amygdala is responsible is known as the "fight or flight" reflex (It will be apparent that this hypothesis is concerned with the fight reflex--aggressive self-preservation in the form of socioeconomic selfishness. The flight response is revealed in distraction and avoidance and oblivion behaviors... the various ways of running away from attention to external and/or internal circumstances). There is, however, a third response which is called "anxiety". Anxiety describes the large number of persons who find themselves submerged in a world of persistent insecurity which they cannot fight and from which they find no where to flee. And so they suffer. They are the multitude of people with stress related mental and physical disorders, and all those who otherwise struggle to find meaning and happiness because of an unrealized inner self, a self unrealized because the surrounding environment in which they find themselves is unconducive to the expression of their personal sensibilities (A likely source of many adolescent suicides--bullying is an example of a harsh external environment literally torturing internal sensibility). These people represent the debilitated consequences of a fearful beginning to life; people for whom a competitive culture adds the unrelenting stress of socioeconomic insecurity that increases the damage to mind and body--a damage caused by the excessive adrenaline and cortisol releases resulting from chronic stress. Therefore, the aggressive selfish ego--the fight reflex--is not the only reaction to the amygdala's alarm and the trauma of birth separation, but it is the reaction that invents evil. Stopping the evil requires exposing and altering the conditions that give rise to the evil doer... and that is the purpose of the following pages.

     It is the thesis herein that the formation of selfish ego is a neurological derangement of the incipient brain; a corruption of the survival instinct and its expression of natural self-interest due to excessive stimulation of the immature cortex with danger signals, caused by an overly fearful amygdala's apprehension of a harsh and dangerous external environment. And further, that as environmental messages of insecurity continue through the early years of development, the role of the fight reflex in protecting survival becomes increasingly tilted toward a compulsive selfishness as the primary strategy for survival in a competitive social context. Socioeconomic selfishness, aimed at achieving safety through political and economic power and privilege over others then becomes the defining quality of one's personality, one's humanity... and one's politics. And, in the process, the right hemisphere's empathic potential will be all but permanently erased, a casualty of atrophy--neural "pruning"--from lack of neural stimulation. Hence, we have the most fundamental dichotomy in human mentality: the unempathic selfish brain seeking socioeconomic superiority as a refuge against a fearful world vs. the empathic unselfish brain that sees a less fearful world through "liberty and justice for all."

"Our findings are in line with the idea that a primary impulsive response in humans may be to help and cooperate, whereas the execution of calculative-instrumental—that is, selfish—behaviors are learned from interactions with the social environment..."( 

(The Liberal/Neoliberal economic ideology of "free" competition is an organization of society that accommodates, rewards and reinforces the selfish brain, systemically disadvantaging the cooperative brain. Social evolution is being driven by the selection of selfishness through economic competition. It is believed that early humans survived through group cooperation, which inspired the development of language and intelligence. Inequality and competition are highly corrosive to cooperative sentiments. Competition is a result of the selfish brain's insistence on an opportunity--"freedom"--to achieve an advantage in possessions and power).

      It may be that the sapiens specie within the homo genus was the physically weakest and needed intelligence to compete and survive, yet it remained burdened with the most fear oriented brain. Friendliness and cooperation with each other would have aided survival within the primary group. But the prey animal brain's fear system also biased the brain toward wariness and competition/conflict against other primary groups, hence tribalism. Thus survival required the selection of both the positive emotions--affection, empathy, generosity--within the group, and the negative emotions--wariness, competition, aggression--outside the group. Hence, the amygdala's signposts for survival: in-group familiarity means safety, while outside group difference means possible threat.
       And so, the thesis here is that the conservative brain is biased by an overly active fear response network toward the negative emotions, when confronted with signs of difference and change in the immediate environment... signposts of threat. The liberal-minded brain is biased toward the positive emotions, generalizing the harmony of the primal group to humanity as a whole. The difference being that change and unfamiliarity do not provoke a fear response in the liberal brain--in fact, the opposite, an opportunity for new knowledge and advancement.  So when science warns of climate change the conservative brain is being twice assaulted; he is being told that his environment is becoming different and therefore his reassuring beliefs and conditioned behaviors must change. Adaptability is not the forte of the conservative brain. The conservative brain exists because there has been survival expedience to aggression and violent reaction to threat. A distant future homo sapiens, if humanitarian sentiments can overcome sociopathic selfishness, may find their amygdalas atrophied from disuse. We can hope.

(The liberal and conservative political labels are used throughout this thesis to express what is basically a psychological/neurological distinction... political ideologies are rationalizations of emotional states. The real issue is the empathic mind vs. the selfish mind, which are not exclusive to either label. The political labels, in themselves are too unspecific, encompassing both mind types, though to much different proportions, which express themselves in politics as liberals and conservatives... each case involving a range from moderate to extreme).

     This all comes about because behavior is primarily driven by emotional impulses--fear, anger, greed... as well as the positive emotions of love and joy and pleasure. The prefrontal cortex is meant to control and regulate these impulses, making behavior reasonable and responsible and moral. The neural network between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex is like a teeter totter. Emotion weights more heavily when the prefrontal fails to exercise neural control over the amygdala's message (detection and warning of threat... or, an opportunity for profit or pleasure). And further, if the emotional impulses are overwhelming the prefrontal can be enlisted to embrace beliefs and behaviors that support and validate, rather than regulate the emotional impulses (definition of the fear-based brain, i.e., "ego-complex"). The prefrontal cortex then becomes complicit with the amygdala by devising ideologies and socioeconomic institutions that justify and give opportunity for aggressive and selfish achievements, gaining individual security and satisfaction through competitive success rather than community security through cooperation. (The trick that liberalism tried to insert--and Hayek reasserted in his neoliberal resurrection of classical liberalism--was Adam Smith's "invisible hand," which attempted to provide assurance that giving freedom to selfishness would unintentionally benefit everyone. In other words, accept, even encourage and reward selfish behavior because some good may come of it. That some good would not come of it Adam Smith also notably cautioned. [We'll see more below]).
      If the prefrontal cortex is neurologically independent and empathetically informed and somewhat cognizant of evidence based reality, the amygdala is subdued and behavior becomes morally controlled, guided by a consideration of what ought to be done rather than a reflexive, selfish response to emotional impulse. Emotion is a subjective experience, thus its resolution requires subjective satisfactions... beliefs that give internal assurance regardless of external, objective truth. Truth may only intensify the emotion. For the negative emotions, feeling better is evidence of "truth." And so, if the emotions of fear dominate, behavior is aggressive and selfish... and potentially violent. Reason and logic can serve any purpose the prefrontal cortex is inclined, or neurologically compelled to embrace.

       Emotion is a subjective neurological state accompanied by a physiological reaction which leads to a behavioral response intended to relieve (fear) or satisfy (pleasure) the emotion. Cognitive control, when present, seeks to impose a behavioral response that is appropriate to the threat or the opportunity for pleasure. Deciding what is "appropriate" is the moment of "choice." Selfish or unselfish.

(A recent brain study (also here) found that challenges to political and religious belief activate the same brain region [amygdala] as fear. This is consistent with the Amygdala Hypothesis: the prefrontal cortex is rationalizing salvation strategies, positing [religion] or pursuing [politics] realities that alleviate fear. A challenge to our comforting beliefs and social advantages is tantamount to a threat to survival... hence the conservative brain's inclination for denying facts and resisting appeals for social equality. Truth and justice are very threatening to social advantages).

      The purpose of reason is that emotion not be destructive to ourselves and others. Reason is an advanced survival mechanism struggling to overcome the evolutionary dominance of the amygdala. It is especially with the negative emotions of fear and hate and greed that reason must do its work in controlling the appetites and behaviors of emotion. Reason is thus evolutionary progressive when serving to support survival by recommending amiable and cooperative behaviors that alleviate competitive conflicts. The negative emotions of fear and hate are evolutionary regressive, instigating threatening behaviors that reinforce hate and fear, thus working against the security necessary for healthy neural development. Empathy cannot emerge, and human evolution will not reach to a promising future until the fears of the reptilian brain are alleviated by a culture that values human security over competitive opportunities for selfish ambitions... a community wherein persons "created equal" are not allowed to be made unequal. Humanity is trapped in a vortex, where fear engenders behaviors that engender more fear--a black hole in the brain where enlightenment disappears. Has evolution reached a paradox? Has it stumbled upon a brain whose internal dynamic is turning progress into regression? A brain whose strategy for survival exacerbates the threats to survival? Has Nature created a creature that is destroying Nature? Has too much intelligence been given to a brain haunted by primal fears, such that ultimate weapons can be invented and deployed preemptively against any appearance, or illusion, of threat? Talk about being "too smart for one's good!"

(Evolution involves instances where an evolved capacity is lost when it falls into disuse because of a changed environment--what was previously selected becomes unselected... like penguins losing the ability of flight. Human fear and the selfish/competitive response continues to predominate the social environment, tending to discourage and limit the opportunities for empathic and cooperative behavior. Might this lead to an eventual loss of the positive emotions that facilitated inter group survival... making Man increasingly an individualistic--and sociopathic--super predator?).

(The pervading purpose of this hypothesis is to understand the reactionary conservative brain, what it is and why it is... why it's resistance to human equality, why it's moral indifference to unfairness, why it's greed for social control and dominance, why its preference for mystical beliefs over scientific facts? The argument here is the conservative brain is more extreme in its intents because it is compelled by the emotions of threat to survival. Liberality, out there seeking change in the name of progress and justice looks to the conservative amygdala like the Sword of Damocles. Rather than renounce the throne the ego-complex conspires to destroy the sword. ).


     For the amygdala dominated brain the ego-complex now rules: The left cortex, by which we reason, instead of being nurtured into a regulator of the amygdala's emotional responses, has become a servant to the amygdala's reality. The right cortex has been neurologically ignored, and thus is, to varying degrees, diminished, its moral assessment and self-regulating compunctions and sensibilities remaining undeveloped. The brain becomes left hemisphere dominant... calculating for advantage, turning a natural self-concern for one's fair place within the community of equals into a selfish desire for superiority.
(Throughout the text the ego/heart dichotomy is represented by reference to the left and right hemispheres of the neo-cortex. The brain's complexity certainly does not allow such simplification. And so, the language of left and right brain is more a convenience than a anatomical description of the physical brain. I emphasize, therefore, that the presence or absence of empathic function is the point, not its location).

      There is increasing contention with views of the amygdala's centrality to the fear response. So to be fair, and perhaps less vulnerable to objection, the amygdala is not the sole antagonist. But it is where the pebble hits the pond, spreading waves throughout the brain triggering myriad neurological events that culminate in various physiological, psychological and behavioral responses. It would also fair to say, the amygdala is the lantern in the steeple... or the fastest horse in the posse... to really mix metaphors! 

(It is important to note that the description about the prefrontal cortex mediating the amygdala's response seems to presuppose free will. Science is undecided if there is such a thing. It is possible that what we experience as conscious choice is simply an observer's awareness of what is happening in the brain. Has the brain made a neurological decision before conscious awareness thinks it has decided? The brain decides and we take credit, for better... or responsibility, for worse? That "I" am aware of my brain's decision does not mean that I made the decision. Maybe "we" are just the scapegoat... when one is needed. In the case of fear, survival required a faster response than considered thought could provide. The brain initiates a reflex, it doesn't wait for "me" to decide. Am "I" only an awareness along for the ride? Does my brain tell my legs to run like hell, and then I construe reasons for why  I decided to run?).

      Selfish ego becomes the fearful amygdala's protagonist, its defender against a world of perceived threats. In Freud's perfectly apt words, ego is the "face turned toward reality," i.e. the amygdala's reality. And so, the selfish ego, the ego-complex, is a neural network of collaboration between a biochemically fearful amygdala and a subservient frontal cortex strategizing for socioeconomic superiority within a community perceived not with the feelings of kinship, but with an apprehension for threatening competitors... pursuing not common interest, but private interest... loyal not to democratic equality, but personal superiority--upper-class advantages not amenable to democratic principles.

(Consider the conservative prejudices: adherence to prescriptive traditions because familiarity is comforting; resistance to equality because advantage is, well, an advantage; hostility to science because knowledge threatens preferred and reassuring beliefs... and may require change. Change, difference, threats to advantage--a stranger in the forest--all provoke the emotion of fear and selfish strategies of defense... the emotional brain maintaining its evolutionary dominance over the empathic brain attempting to emerge.).

     Birth has been a "choice" between two fundamental human beings: the fear induced ego-complex, which is life negating, and the less fear-based, more sanguine and confident and trusting personality, which is life affirming. The ego-complex brain will spend a lifetime building forts; the empathic brain a lifetime despairing of a fortified world.

     Here are three general personality outcomes of neural development based on the ego-complex hypothesis and the genetic and environmental factors surrounding birth:

1. Enlightened self-interest:
      Viable right brain development.
      Achieved prefrontal independence from the amygdala.
      Fair minded.
      Principles-based morality
      Fact-based intellectual orientation.
      Unfamiliarity provokes curiosity. 

2. Amygdala fear-based (non-aggressive, "flight" response):
      Right brain development... but,
      Prefrontal dominated by the amygdala.
      General anxiety disorder.
      Social phobia.
      Low self-confidence.
      Defends self through avoidance/withdrawal.
      Subject to self-medicating addictions.
      Prone to reassuring belief systems.
      Unfamiliarity provokes anxiety.

3. Amygdala fear-based (aggressive, "fight" response):
      Mal-developed right brain.
      Prefrontal complicit with the amygdala.
      Dominance seeking.
      Paranoia prone 
      Defends self through preemptive aggression.
      Expedience-based morality.
      Adhering to self-assuring and justifying belief systems.
      Unfamiliarity provokes wariness.
      (This is generally descriptive of sociopathic personality, of which the selfish pursuit of advantage        within the community, without empathic concern for the disadvantaged is the first stage).

      Genetics and emotional response to experience form the early brain through the reinforcement and pruning of neurons and synapses... they build the fences that define and limit who we can be. That is, the neurons that remain, and the circuits they form, will determine the mind we have. If we are ever to be truly free and self-determined the prefrontal cortex must jump that fence... to criticize our past formations and choose the experiences (cognitive and behavior modification practices) that will serve to expand our present selves into an exploration for what we might have been... and still can be. Full self-realization means forever looking in the mirror... and seeing the self not yet reflected.

      The making of a human life involves many alternative characteristics--eye color, hand preference, gender--but the most profound distinction is the presence or absence of the capacity for empathy... whether one emerges at the threshold of life as a humanitarian or a sociopath. The distinction between caring and not caring for others of one's specie is a measure of brain difference that would be easy to consider a distinction in kind... humana empathicus  vs. humana egoisticus !


      Imagine a primeval encounter between two hunters, each of a different clan, discovering they stalk the same prey. They fall upon it simultaneously and achieve its death. One, with a less fearful amygdala proceeds to share, but when his back is turned the other, a fully functioning ego-complex, suspicious and fearful of the other's intent, and greedy for his own abundance, preempts the threat by clubbing the other to death, taking the gain for himself.
      From the point of view of his clan the selfish hunter's act was productive. He was a successful provider... predatory selfishness paid off. Of course the clan of the deceased, when they find him, recognize the dent in his head as not coming from the jaws of a beast, go tracking the other club wielder--which would not be difficult because he is dragging home a carcass--whereupon they apply retribution.
      This little parable reveals the self-defeating short-sightedness of selfish ego--immediate gain often entails longer term penalties that far outweigh the initial reward. And it clearly reveals fear-based selfishness as the source of evil. It also portrays the prophetic warning that injustice does not go unpunished. And it displays the initial disadvantage of trust and goodness: evil strikes first. Whenever fairness and generosity have turned their backs selfish greed has sought triumph and domination.  Indeed, it is the trust of the unselfish that enhances the opportunities of the selfish.

(Think conservative dirty tricks and liberal naivete'... which is explained by the presence or absence of right brain sensibility. That is, only a frontal cortex without a moral conscience is willing to become proficient at deviousness. One thing is certain, selfishness is not naive! It knows the tricks of winning and relishes using them. The ego-complex knows that deceit is an ally--that undiscovered lies are expedient... that misrepresentation often makes the sale. Also, we tend to understand others by what we know of ourselves. Thus, if we do not harbor duplicitous thoughts we are often naive before those who do. The reverse is also true: the unempathic brain is filled with cynicism about the good intentions of others--recall the conservative ridicule of "do-gooders". Selfishness is completely dismayed at altruism... and in that absence of mind lies the birthplace of evil).

     It is a selfish ego that instigates social competition--the "freedom" and "opportunity" to achieve superiority over others--and that breeds the unavoidable enmity that follows (resource insufficiency is a primary cause of individual affliction and social conflict), shattering the possibility for a community of cooperation and sharing and friendliness. Capitalist political economy, unregulated and untaxed, is the quintessential institutional expression of the ego-complex brain. It is the path whereby fear-obsessed selfishness gains social superiority--safety behind the gates of excessive and exclusive ownership. It is not those who would defend themselves against the disadvantages of inequality that wage "class warfare", but those who presume to impose it!
      The optimum condition for survival--life's first imperative--would be a social organization that meets basic security and most obviates conflict, which would mean cooperation and consent, and greater equality. Cooperation requires some intelligent deliberation to find agreement and coordinate activity. Fear is an emotional reflex that compels immediate reaction to quell or escape threat... beginning with a reactionary politics of inflexible opposition to change--basically a freeze before fight response. Competition and conflict happen because too much fear precludes empathic deliberation and the discovery of common interest.    

      It is this unrestrained socioeconomic selfishness of the ego-complex (in the name of "freedom") that is the effective first principle of American culture... and which contravenes the Democracy Covenant--"created equal" and "unalienable rights" (Liberty). The reality of America is not primarily a democracy founded on the principle of human equality, it is a nominal democracy wherein the first principle is the opportunity to escape equality, to achieve superiority... a license to hoard the materials of well-being called "freedom"... as in "free enterprise." It is a "freedom" in which selfishness is rewarded and the modest desire to simply live well is pressured to "compete"--i.e. adopt selfish behaviors and abandon more egalitarian ambitions--to keep from being further disadvantaged... as if inalienable rights are the spoils of economic success. This contradiction--the reality of great wealth inequality amidst the ideal of democratic social equality--reflects a conflict within the history of liberalism... between economic liberalism (Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations) and political/social liberalism (the democratic revolution against hereditary rule--The Rights of Man). The compromise that "resolved" the conflict was economic liberalism's acceptance of increased social and political freedoms--democracy--in exchange for social liberalism's acceptance of unlimited property rights, i.e., unregulated capitalism. Yet the full implications of democracy were evaded by restricting the franchise to propertied white men only. But now a new awareness has seen the forces of economic liberalism expand its dominance over the aspirations of social liberalism. The issue is whether democracy is a mere adjunct of capitalism, or capitalism is to become an organization of productive resources in service to the principles of democracy... That is, whether capitalist "freedom" and its inevitable inequality is to be accepted as more important than democratic equality... Whether the wealth of nations truly requires social and political dominance as the reward of selfishness. What is certain in the present is that a system of economic competition based on material and emotional insecurity is a cause of human brain derangement... reinforcing selfishness and committing the brain to chronic anxiety.

      As the empathic brain strives for the advancement of human equality and self-realization, the culture of competition is telling the brain to select for selfishness--a sad abridgment of evolutionary possibility!


Edmund Burke: "Men qualify for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity... Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without."  (My emphasis).   

     Edmund Burke is perhaps the most celebrated conservative writer in Anglo-American history. He was a believer in virtue who recommended the regulation of unvirtue. In the quote above, Burke is clearly stating that the rapacious, the economically grasping, do not deserve unregulated freedom; that such rapacity must be constrained, either internally by an empathic frontal cortex, or externally by just law. Thus true conservatism--values and virtues conservatism--would stand for the regulation of socioeconomic selfishness, and the remediation of great social inequality (It must be said that Burke himself stood in contradiction to this inference, in that he was a supporter of hereditary wealth and political rule, and was not sympathetic to arguments against inequality. He supposed, I guess, that virtue would restrain the most egregious exploitation by hereditary power... and that would be sufficient justice... virtue would be another "invisible hand!". When a smart man overlooks reality it is not naivete, it is a blind eye to hypocrisy and contradiction for the sake of deeper motives. Justice is not satisfied by promises... nor is it content to wait for faith to be rewarded. Not incidentally, Burke also scorned the idea of Natural Rights as expressed by Thomas Paine and The Declaration of Independence).

      Without the morality of internal restraint the satisfied ego is never grateful for the contribution or generosity of others, it is only self-congratulatory for its "success". And when ego remains unsatisfied it is angry, and poised to use the many tools of aggression.

Burke is not alone:

“Interest in the common good is at present so weak a motive in the generality, not because it can never be otherwise, but because the mind is not accustomed to dwell on it as it dwells from morning till night on things which tend only to personal advantage… The deep-rooted selfishness which forms the general character of the existing state of society, is so deeply rooted, only because the whole course of existing institutions tends to foster it.”  (John Stuart Mill; Autobiography, 1873).

“The rich, in particular, are necessarily interested to support that order of things, which can alone secure them in the possession of their own advantages… civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.”
(Adam Smith; Wealth of Nations; bk. 5, ch.1)

“…the Athenians were taught, to keep them from desire of changing their government, that they were freemen.” (Hobbes, Leviathan).

     And Alexis de Tocqueville, without the insights of modern neuroscience, made these truly profound observations for his time about selfishness and individualism:

"Selfishness originates in blind instinct (the amygdala's fear): individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment (frontal cortex dominated by the amygdala... the ego-complex) more than from depraved feelings; it originates as much in deficiencies of mind (undeveloped empathic faculty) as in perversity of heart... Selfishness blights the germ of all virtue: individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness." (Democracy in America, book 2, chapter 2) (parentheses added).

"Despotism, which is of a very timorous nature (an overly fearful amygdala), is never more secure of continuance than when it can keep men asunder (by imposing economic and political inequality); and all its influence is commonly exerted for that purpose (compulsive advantage seeking). No vice of the human heart is so acceptable to it as selfishness..." (ibid. book 2, chap 3) (parentheses added).

     In the "Wealth of Nations", Adam Smith thought he was releasing the productive power of natural self-interest to achieve economic growth. He was. But hidden behind the evolved instinct for self-preservation of the unselfish mind was the unevolved reptilian brain, whose lack of compunction no "invisible hand" or Burkean virtue would restrain. Along side the virtuous man who calls for freedom stands the rapacious man who sees freedom as an opportunity... and who aims to exploit it.
      The great feebleness of the common man is his worship of those who presume to be his superiors. Authoritarian presumption thrives on the deference of the fearful brain so easily duped by the promise of safety.


     A secure amygdala allows for the prospect of a balanced human being; that is, equal mental space for the emergence of the right hemisphere's intuitional and imaginative and empathic and wondering faculties--the constituent sensibilities of what herein is called heart. 

     For the sake of definition, "mind" is the accumulated neural experience of the external and internal environment, both consciously and unconsciously recorded, of the organic brain. Mind is the radiant glow of neural activity. Mind as an expression of the left hemisphere is a tool, a computer, a performer of the task of cognition. It thinks in response to a question, a desire or purpose... a task master (selfish ego or moral/empathic sensibility) must give direction for thinking, instruction in what to believe, what to value and pursue... what behaviors to perform. Thus mind follows and works for selfish ego, the satanic vent through which evil ascends into the world, or it follows heart, the inner council of the right hemisphere's moral and aesthetic sensibilities. As an expression of the right hemisphere mind is a seeker after those principles and values that transcend the materialistic preoccupations of the ego-complex. The outcome of this struggle between the amygdala and the empathic sensibility for influence over the prefrontal cortex, is the mind we end up with. Ego is the face of this mind, it is the character and behavior that the world sees... or does not see when its deceptions and hidden ambitions are undiscovered. Selfishness is most effective when it successfully pretends it is not itself!

     To summarize: the infant brain can be captured by a fearful amygdala network into the ego-complex; turned from wonderment before the world, to fear of the world; from seeing the world as the cradle and promise of life, to seeing the world and one's fellow inhabitants as a threat to life. Reacting to birth separation, and impacted by awareness of a frightening dependency, the captured brain then learns aggression, selfishness, and deceit as modes of survival. Selfish gratification becomes its overriding purpose, expediency its morality, the impunity of power and the dark corners of secrecy, its havens.
     Early nurture, therefore, must convey security to the infant amygdala so that it does not alarm the prefrontal cortex into a presumption of a hostile world... and does not neurologically preclude the right brain's development of empathic sensibility... and the birth of the "better angel."


     The ego-complex hypothesis assumes primal fear to be the core motivation in the drama of human history. It views history as a description of the struggle between the fear-inspired, violence prone selfish ego, and the human heart that escaped the neurological derangement wrought by unrelieved fear; of selfish ego's attempt to secure itself through unjust dominations of others, and heart's rebellion on behalf of human liberty and equality. Of course, the primary struggle observed through the course of history is more often ego against ego--privilege under siege by those who would be privileged in their place. Heart rarely has an army, and can only scold with the prophets, and hope for the enlightenment of the masses to the rightful implications and possibilities of democratic principle--the axioms of the Democracy Covenant.

"To me then it appears that there have been differences of opinion, and party differences, from the first establishment of governments, to the present day... that every one takes his side in favor of the many, or the few, according to his constitution, and the circumstances in which he is placed (genetic level of fear and environmental conditioning)... the terms of whig [sic] and tory [sic] belong to natural, as well as civil history. They denote the temper and constitution of mind of different individuals." (Thomas Jefferson, letter to John Adams, June 27, 1813)(emphasis and parenthesis added).

     Science has recently taken a limited step in demonstrating what Jefferson and many others have known for a very long time--that brain difference ("constitution of mind") underlies political difference--by linking eye blink amplitude and higher skin conductivity to conservative attitudes (Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits), Science magazine, 19 September 2008; Vol.321, no.5896, pp. 1667-1670).

     Another more recent fMRI study shows further brain difference:

"In MRI studies, greater liberalism was found to be associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala (Kanai, Feiden, Firth & Rees, 2011)." 

      This is consistent with the ego-complex hypothesis: More gray matter in the cortex suggests more power of consideration and/or more capacity to receive inputs from the right brain's empathic sensibility. Likewise, greater amygdala volume in the conservative brain suggests greater amygdala reaction to emotionally significant sensory inputs... fear in the case of threat, greed in the case of opportunity for gain or pleasure, and heightened aggressiveness in the case of both... if, that is, greater volume correlates with greater activity and/or greater neural "loudness."

     What if the thesis of this text is proved to be true... that a functional MRI study of the conservative brain showed an impairment or absence of empathic activity? Or overwhelming fear activation? What then? Should such a brain be a leader of society? Is human destiny to be fated by neural impairment? Has evolution given humanity two brains, each genetically wired to foreordain its own world, one of fear-based conflict the other of humanitarian benevolence? Is this a trick, a test of whether homo sapiens choose the reptilian brain or the better angel? Who decides? Who is watching?
      It was once believed that women and men without property were not competent to vote. Maybe fear constructed brains are not competent to vote. Maybe voter qualification should depend on brain scans. Maybe if you do not care about others because you neurologically cannot care about others you should not be legislating and executing socioeconomic policy. It is said the beginning of wisdom lies in knowing thyself. That seems more true than ever... along with knowing who the other is! 

     There is a mental condition known as "Amusia". It is an inability to process musical sounds into an aesthetic or joyful experience... to feel an inner synchronicity with rhythm and melody. It is a functional "deafness" of the brain. Amusia serves as an analogy for the ego-complex's lack of empathic sensibility... the inability to process pathos for others into a sympathetic response. Similarly, we all have known people without a sense of humor, or who lack an ability for inspirational responses to art, or the wonders of nature. Of course, we would not want an amusiac conducting an orchestra. Do we want the functionally unempathic brain conducting our democratic community?! Do we want those absent an empathic faculty representing others in government when they do not care about others? Empathy is the last thing the conservative mind wants in government. Such a mind does not want government making equal those over whom it wishes to be superior. Hence, the conservative opposition to a government that would "secure these rights" through social programs.
       The lack of empathic feeling is an inability to hear the music, the orchestra, of the common good... ears that do not hear the music... hearts that cannot join the dance.

"Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand...For this people's heart has become calloused." (Matthew 13:13-16).

     Amusia appears to result from a genetic absence. Vision is an example of learning from environmental experience... the brain must receive sensory stimulation of the visual cortex during a critical period in the brain's development or the brain will never learn to see... function requires learning from experience. Is the absence of empathic sensibility a genetic absence... a lack of environmental learning... a developmental blockage due to the amygdala's dominance... a brain lesion due to cortisol toxicity? Maybe all these. What is certain... where empathy is absent evil enters.
       Regarding genetic absence, there is emerging research into the role of genes in determining brain structure and function in the areas of memory and cognition, and thus behavior. Genetic hard-wiring would be determination, not free-will. Will neuroscience and genetic science one day discover that our politics is a genetic inheritance... a predisposition and not a considered response? Given that the amygdala's reaction to sensory input occurs before the prefrontal cortex is aware, and given the microsecond speed of neural circuitry, when is the opportunity in time for a considered response? Is all behavior stimulus-response and no consideration? Is our evolutionary progress dependent solely on genetic mutation, and a survival compelled adaptation to environmental change? Is evolution still undecided on whom to select... the reptile or the angel?


     The ego-complex, then, is a submissive response of the cognitive faculty to the emotion of fear--the subservient prefrontal cortex comes to embrace and recommend conduct and beliefs that fortify against fear. (Fear can be innate, the amygdala's memory, or it can be learned through indoctrination or personal experience, the hippocampal memory). In contrast, the independent and competent prefrontal mediates fear with moral and practical reason, doing prudently what ought to be done rather than always doing expediently what advantages oneself. This differentiation of mind occurs prior to political expression. And so, the selfish ego may come to roam the ground of all cultural/political territories--Left, Right and Center. The focus of this text is upon selfish ego qua political conservatism because the resistance to social change for greater justice, and the pursuit of political and economic policies that further human inequality, is largely an agenda expressed by those who are proudly self-identified as "conservative." It is not argued here that all conservatives are socioeconomically selfish. Neither is it argued that all liberals are especially unselfish ("liberal" is an amorphous term. As an example, almost all conservatives are free market liberals and defenders of liberal democracy). Specifically, this treatise is not a critique from "The Left." It is a critique from within the tradition of the Rights of Man--and the Enlightenment (Reason) and Reformation (freedom of conscience) traditions, combined with the Judeo-Christian ethical and prophetic traditions, that inspired the Declaration of Independence and the institutions of liberal democracy. Thus the politics of The Amygdala Hypothesis can be fairly regarded as democratic fundamentalism--the literal belief in the core principles of democracy as expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, and the social policy implications that follow from those principles. It is a politics that is rightly construed as conservative in its strict holding to the tradition of America's Founding Principles; and progressive in its insistence upon the full realization of those principles in the lives of all Americans. It seems to this author that a true American conservative would be a defender of The Declaration's founding principles, and be cognizant of the ways in which capitalist political economy infringes upon those principles. But in America, principled conservatism has been co-opted by a conservatism seeking to impose on all citizens its regime of equality defying dominance... for the fearful brain, principles have less urgency than achieving advantaged circumstances.  How much it is unable to abide the implications of "created equal" is a window into the ego-complex soul. There is no just individual freedom to subvert the declared common equality and natural rights of Life and Liberty. It is held here that The Declaration of Independence is not merely inspired words on paper, it is a vow made upon the risk of "our lives and sacred honor" and the blood of those who gave us a country. Nothing outside of ourselves obliges obedience to the past, except when our honor demands it.

(Socioeconomic selfishness hides within conservatism... but it is not conservatism. It is sociopathy. Conservatism is a loyalty to values and principles and traditions that transcend and guide the individual to a higher goodness than is found in our base inclinations. It is an adherence to discipline and prudence and thrift and efficiency and responsibility. True conservatism does not require the advantaged side of human inequality. It is not a principled conservative who seeks to diminish a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people"... it is those who deny liberty and justice for all... and want government out of their way. The "conservative" who resists progress toward improving the lives of disadvantaged people in the name of respect for tradition and freedom, is not respecting tradition or freedom, but fearing change... and the personal loss of privileged position.).

"A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation." Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France.

     Fear, then, and the ego-complex reaction, explains best who we have been, who we are, and what has made human history. One's political beliefs do not result from intellectual considerations, but one's emotionally formed state of mind. In the next chapter we take a look at how the brain systems involved in perception and assessment come to form the ego-complex personality.


The Neuroscience

(This author is not a neuroscientist. The following description represents a layman's understanding based on a review of research abstracts on the neuroscience of fear, available to everyone on the Internet. Far too many sources were consulted for a complete list of attributions. However, for an introduction to the amygdala's function and network see here and here... and many other publications in the neurosciences. Or, see the links in the sidebar at the top of this text.).
(Also, I wish to make this further point: It is of great interest, and it will certainly be of remedial utility in the future, that we should understand fully the neural origins and mechanisms of the selfish brain... but it is not necessary to know the science to oppose the thing itself on moral grounds alone, and to consider, therefore, as believers in human liberty and equality, just how much "freedom" the selfish ego ought to enjoy in its quest to secure itself by the economic and political domination of the community of others).

     It is time to ask if the way the brain actually works supports what has just been claimed about the formation of selfishness from primal fear.

     The brain achieves awareness of its environment through its sensory organs--sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. These sensory inputs converge in the thalamus, where they are then transmitted along two primary pathways--one to the amygdala and one to the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala unconsciously evaluates its sensory information for signs of danger--and all emotionally significant information from the environment--based upon its genetic make up... its innate memory of what has been dangerous in the evolutionary past, and learned memory from life experiences in the present. The prefrontal cortex assembles its sensory information into a conscious awareness of the surrounding environment--its perception of reality. But this dual process does not happen simultaneously... and that is of great significance.
     The neural pathway from the thalamus to the amygdala is faster than the pathway from the thalamus to the prefrontal cortex. Which means the amygdala's detection of threat occurs before the prefrontal's assessment--a fear response is initiated before the cognitive mind has time to evaluate the overall circumstance, before the cortex is even conscious of the fact that a threat has been detected. Survival in the primal forest required this "jumping to conclusions" about sense data recognized as threatening--our chances of survival were best if we ran first and thought about why later. Hold that fact in mind: the amygdala decides first
      Also of great significance is the fact that the amygdala is connected to the prefrontal cortex through a reciprocal neural circuit, by which the two brain systems communicate with each other. But the circuit going from the amygdala to the prefrontal is synaptically stronger, "louder" you might say, than the return circuit from the prefrontal to the amygdala. Thus an excited amygdala easily dominates an incipient prefrontal cortex that is not yet able to reason and evaluate.
      It is plausible that this early neural dominance of fear over thoughtfulness conditions the prefrontal cortex to a persistent state of neural submission to the amygdala... and all alarm criers thereafter (the ever present fear monger!). In fact, the cortex is not fully developed until around age 25. This is why early indoctrination can become so indelible despite later cognitive development--as the cortex matures cognition comes only to defend the indoctrination, not to dispute and overcome it... Education can enlighten an open mind, it only sharpens a prejudiced mind! There are many very bright people with incomprehensible beliefs. It is also why, prior to age 25, behavior is more likely to be impulsive and oblivious to consequence... the frontal cortex has not achieved its potential control over emotion. And if it hasn't by age 25 it may never.

      Nature's purpose is for danger signals to be recognized and communicated throughout the brain more rapidly and more loudly, and with greater urgency, than non-threatening signals. The amygdala is "telling" the brain which neurons it needs for survival and which it does not. An overly active amygdala is conditioning the brain for excessive self-concern. The priority toward threat detection and rapid response is how hominids survived as prey animals. If the prefrontal cortex was not heard they may have done something stupid; if the amygdala was not heard they may not have survived the night. But now, after 200,000 years of homo sapiens evolution, the easily alarmed amygdala is still seeing threats everywhere... a habit of presuming that creates what it presumes.

      So while it is the mature prefrontal cortex's function to evaluate the amygdala's alarm signals in context with all the sensory inputs from the thalamus--and the inputs of other brain systems, such as intuition, imagination, non-fear memory, moral/empathic sensibility--in order to determine a rational response to sensation, the signals the prefrontal receives from the amygdala are stronger and louder than the signals it is receiving from the empathic and imaginative right brain. As the prefrontal cortex is unable to stand up to the amygdala's alarms behavior decisions become fear-based. And as this relationship is repeated, and the responses successfully relieve the amygdala's fear, it becomes ingrained (conditioned behavior and beliefs), and the external world is thereafter neurologically apprehended as hostile, something to be feared and avoided, or appeased, or controlled and dominated. The amygdala's neural dominance gives opportunity for a powerful default toward defensive/selfish--and sometimes violent--aggression. That is, the more the brain is attuned to fear the more subject it is to conditioned responses as opposed to rational and moral choices. The countervailing inputs from the right brain's empathic and moral sensibilities, by which we experience concern for others and a commitment to community, and a love for justice, have been neurologically subordinated--and in some cases functionally erased--by their lack of neural stimulation... the right brain's moral counsel is not only not heard, but perhaps no longer even speaking. Thus we have the ego-complex mind... a high level of fear conditioning has restricted the development of the brain's empathic response. In reason's absence, emotion will decide on the behaviors and beliefs that please itself. Truth, then, is not about the cognitive brain's possession of factual information, it is about the emotional brain feeling better.

(With all this talk of fear it is important to point out that we do not "feel" fear until the prefrontal cortex has confirmed the amygdala's alarm. The amygdala's reaction is unconscious until the prefrontal cortex decides to be afraid).


     All political beliefs flow out of a neurological state: conservative obstructionism is an expression of the brain's fear of change, either change to an uncertain circumstance, or change from an advantageous status quo. The liberal penchant for reform and regulation of the freedoms of selfishness is moved by the neurology of empathy... concern for the circumstances of self and others--democratic values flow directly from neural empathy. This gives insight into the conservative vehemence against the liberal "bleeding heart"--the liberal attempt to regulate selfish freedom is seen by the libertarian conservative as denying him his primary means in his escape from fear... achieving social and economic dominance over others. Justice seeking strikes at the core of the conservative's defenses. 
     The reason for this neurological domination by the amygdala is that the brain's fear system evolved hundreds of millions of years before the prefrontal cortex. And it has been very successful in distinguishing and processing fearful stimuli into aggressive or avoidance/escape behaviors that have resulted in survival. Hence, the amygdala is not designed to wait for, or be open to, the prefrontal's advice. The functioning amygdala was unburdened by the prefrontal cortex's reflections for hundreds of millions of years. The prefrontal is a late addition to the fear response system, and it imposes non-selfish responses only if it can--that is, if the amygdala is not biochemically over-active, thus overwhelming, and/or, the prefrontal cortex is cognitively and morally competent and unimpaired by early stress hormones... and not overly informed by early indoctrination.
       It is important to note that evolutionary selection favors what works in time and place. That another practice not thought of might have enhanced not merely immediate survival but a more amiable further survival, selection did not have the opportunity to consider.

(It is not merely a coincidence that liberality is strongly associated with a more educated cortex. An ignorant mind is more readily cajoled by warnings of danger into conservative beliefs and prejudices. Fear is a powerful persuader to a frontal cortex without the rational power to overcome emotional impulses... without the competence to comprehend, criticize, and dissent from alarmist warnings... and without the presence of unselfish functionality. But what about the ego-complex intellectual? It is simply that knowledge has not informed empathic sensibility because absence cannot be informed... the frontal cortex has already been captured into service to the amygdala's version of reality... that is, all education does for an ego-complex brain is make it better able to rationalize its conditioned behaviors and beliefs... attempting to make salivation to bells seem reasonable. It must be acknowledged, however, there are many fair-minded people with conservative beliefs who fully accept principles of equality, and a liberty from imposed inferiority... and recognize with Burke, that some freedoms are merely a license for rapacity.).

     Human evolution is a story of neocortex intelligence having great difficulty escaping the gravity of primal fear without enormous struggle... and bloodshed. The homo sapiens brain is a super evolved cortex imposed on a primitive brain stem that is little, or not at all, evolved-- a prey animal's brain evolved the intelligence to become top predator, but remains hinged to the survival fears of a distant past. And so the conflicts of history continue: wars are waged against perceived threats, change resisted, difference oppressed, perilous beliefs persecuted, and opportunities selfishly exploited to the disadvantage of others.

     Nature has found no reason to subordinate the fear system to the cognitive system... at least until now. It is a major supposition of this treatise that a cordial evolution of the human species will require the prefrontal cortex to moderate the amygdala's fearfulness through a more reasoned and enlightened view of self-interest--as in empathic cooperation rather than selfish competition. Homo sapiens have been given a prefrontal cortex to accomplish such a task, but the social environment created by amygdalan fear remains too insecure and competitive, such that the prefrontal continues to be overwhelmed by a continuously alarmed amygdala. Where humans once were a weak and vulnerable specie living in an insecure natural environment, they now live in an insecure social environment that is keeping the amygdala reinforced, thus dominant. A brain system designed to promote survival in the distant past is driving behaviors and chronic stresses that are self-limiting and brain-destructive in a modern environment with the technological ability to greatly reduce human insecurity... given the political will. And that is what the conservative brain resists.

    The evolutionary survival value of aggressive and competitive behaviors is pre-rational. Aggression and competition and preemptive violence were survival behaviors before there was a prefrontal cortex to think about it. And these selfish behaviors continue to work against the cultural realization of cooperative institutions and the socioeconomic implications of democratic principle. The amygdala that evolved to enhance survival in a harsh natural environment is now the enemy within driving behaviors that forestall humanity's progress toward a more secure and just social environment that would in evolutionary time obviate the amygdala. The conflict being described herein is about a determining choice: whether the frontal cortex is to be a guide toward a peacefully evolving world guided by aspiration and imagination, or whether it will continue to conspire with the amygdala's fear and thus perpetuate a world of unending conflicts. The judgment here being argued is that those who choose to disregard "...with justice for all" have no moral claim to an unregulated economic "freedom." The security and development of all individuals is a greater moral and democratic imperative than the freedom of any one individual to achieve great advantages over others. Freedom, as a self-evident moral imperative, applies to the freedom of all persons. "Freedom" as a license for the achievement of superiority by a few over many is an impostor. It is not freedom that subjugates others... it is tyranny. It will be argued below that "freedom" and "liberty" are not the same; and that the former is subordinate to the latter.

      The amygdala has been our best friend, for by it we have survived. But it is also our worst enemy, for by it we seek to destroy each other, and therefore, our selves. We have survived not to be free, but to be enemies. The amygdala was our savior. It is now our jailer... and perchance, our executioner!

     It was not Charles Darwin who coined the term "survival of the fittest" to describe natural selection (thus competitive social selection by analogy). It was Herbert Spencer, an English social philosopher in the classical liberal and Utilitarian tradition whose writings on evolution were interpreted and used to justify cutthroat economic competition. Evolutionary survival is about adapting (a facility for embracing change) in such a way as to harmonize more efficiently with environmental conditions (such as climate change and worsening inequality). It is not about destroying one's kind! Inter-specie competition only adds another, unnecessary source of threat that further validates and reinforces the amygdala's fear. Conservatism is a resistance to change, that when politically successful makes ideological/psychological adaptation appear, in its mind, unnecessary.


      Humanity's future may depend on the prefrontal cortex figuring out a way to subdue the amygdala. In fact, there is such a way: There is an area within the region of the frontal cortex called the rostral cingulate. Magnetic imaging shows that when the cingulate activates the amygdala's activity decreases. When the brain is experiencing an emotional conflict--when magnetic imaging shows the frontal cortex and the amygdala both activated--the rostral cingulate then activates and the amygdala subsides. An example of emotional conflict would seem to occur when the frontal cortex is confronting the amygdala's fear with right brain inspired thoughts, especially empathic and moral imperatives. This would be a case of the frontal cortex experiencing compunction and standing up to the amygdala's alarm. In the context of the current hypothesis the frontal cortex is being urged toward an unselfish response while the amygdala is demanding a fear-based selfish response. It seems the rostral cingulate is the on/off switch that the frontal cortex uses to neurologically override the amygdala, when it musters the independence and competence, aided by right brain viability, to do so. The central issue to the ego-complex hypothesis involves this relationship between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex--whether the amygdala achieves early domination or the prefrontal cortex manages to mature into an independent control of the amygdala (This is the essence of the liberal/conservative dichotomy). The human brain has the capacity to go beyond the reptilian past. The conservative brain refuses to make the journey. 

      But there is also a regressive evolutionary force at work. An overactive amygdala produces a high level of chronic stress that results in excessive releases of the hormone cortisol. This excessive cortisol is harmful to memory and cognitive brain systems. So we have a prefrontal cortex that would create a rational world of greater security for the survival of the race--and the flourishing of individuals--being impaired by a reptilian fear system preoccupied with insecurity. The amygdala ends up defeating its primordial purpose of defending survival by capturing or impairing the frontal cortex that would enhance survival. And we have a social environment predicated on the principle of competition--dictated by the amygdala's foment of selfishness--that reinforces the amygdala's fear and insecurity... a perfect circle of entrapment! And we also have the perfect conditions for keeping the middle and lower classes limited by stress hormones--low wages, inescapable debt, violent and hopeless communities, and a higher education system that is too expensive... as well as being increasingly designed to train rather than educate (Free education is not wanted by the already advantaged because restricting education favors the already advantaged... just like restricting the opportunity to vote!). Add in the money control of politics and the competitive game is kept safe and simple for those on top. Humanity is mired in a dilemma--the amygdala that survived the jungle is now fomenting the jungle! It is the ultimate irony: the amygdala uses fear to instigate survival behavior... an aggressive and competitive selfishness that perpetuates insecurity. The amygdala that worries about survival is the primary threat to survival! Evolution's mistake: a pray animal made smart enough to survive the predators, but maybe not smart enough to survive itself. And the Democracy Covenant devolves into a deceiving pretense amid a world of violence and inequality.

(What is especially pernicious about the violent and hopeless communities imposed by inequality is the destruction of a child's brain. And if perniciousness can be exceeded it is done so by those who do not care.).


     The primary need after the trauma of birth separation, apart from physical nourishment, is emotional security... reattachment, first to an affectionate primary care-giver, then gradually through maturation to ever larger networks of belonging--family, friends, peers, community, humanity, creation, and finally, a spiritual and intellectual attachment to transcendence. Reattachment is our first step in finding the security upon which a healthy brain can develop. It is proposed here that the state of isolation, the absence of this primal reattachment, results in ideological "individualism"--a psychological detachment from the need to belong--the separated ego, selfish and defensive and defiant, and devoid of empathic sensibility (The first stage of empathic function is recognizing that others exist and are like me; the individualist minimizes this society of others--the psychopath eliminates it). This proposition is based on a review of neuroscience and "attachment theory" studies, which indicate that attachment occurs--or fails to occur--during the first three years of life, when the right hemisphere of the infant brain is dominant and developing more rapidly than the left hemisphere, and thus more open to the effects of experience. It seems plausible that during these first three years the neural circuitry of empathy is being developed, or not developed, based on the degree of reattachment achieved by the infant brain, and that the amygdala's level of activity and the birth environment's hostility during this period greatly effects the right brain's receptivity and responses, and ability to attach. 
     It is interesting to speculate further that the postnatal brain's priority toward right brain development before left brain development means that the empathic and intuitive powers are "meant" to develop first in preparation for the left brain's assumption of cognitive responsibilities... that empathy and social comfort are intended to be present to inform and guide the emerging frontal cortex's decision making. This would be expected in a creature supposed to be social by nature. The Amygdala Hypothesis has argued that an overly alarmed amygdala disrupts, and even precludes, this right brain preparation... which will eventually lead to the formation of an overly materialistic, selfish and conservative mind seeking domination, and resistant to government's effort to promote the common good.

      Brain imaging has shown there are regions in the brain that are especially active during altruistic and empathic experiences. It is clear that the brain is designed to experience reward when helping or working cooperatively with others--unless the ego-complex has over-ruled it. It appears there is a natural empathic impulse, perhaps stimulated and developed upon the brain's successful reattachment following birth separation. And that only when this impulse finds no early avenues of stimulation and expression does separation anxiety form into selfishness and socioeconomic individualism. Empathy is the defining quality of a mind that resonates with human interdependence. For it is clear that empathy is deficient in the psychological individualism that underlies the politics of inequality... that makes use of the benefits of interdependent community to achieve independent advantages.

      Aggressive competition--"survival of the fittest"--was typically thought to be the reason for our successful evolution, but the more likely reality is that hominidae were prey animals (because we lack the natural weapons of a predator) who owe their survival to an evolving intelligence and social cooperation--cooperation requiring communication, which required language, thus an evolved intelligence. If so, then competition within the group must have occurred only after a level of mutual security was achieved through cooperation. The knee-jerk response of the amygdala, absent the restraining considerations of a competent prefrontal cortex, is for individual survival--reflex selfishness. Emerging rationality saw the advantages for survival of cooperation. Competitive behavior is then a hubris that forgot the more fundamental efficacy of cooperation--and simplistic as well, to suppose that competition can achieve security while sowing enmity. And so, the impulse to compete must have existed among those members of the group who were most fearful, and less evolved not only in their appreciation of, but their capacity for, empathic cooperation... selfish competition being the immediate fear reflex, thus the more primitive response. What is clear is that fear is a great motivator and the mainspring of aggression. It can be surmised that it was those who remained most neurologically fearful, and who had not attained prefrontal self-control, that re-introduced competition within the cooperative community.
      The very notion of competition involves taking from another. It is an oppositional concept that undermines common interest and community, fostered by a would-be elite as their opportunity and justification for superior possessions... and who do not want the multitude to discover a common interest in democratic rights. The soldier who sacrifices his life for a competitive society is giving his life for part of it... and he is usually not a member of the elite part!

(Suppose humanity was reduced to ten individuals, and the abundance of Nature to one apple tree. Would the ten agree to share equally in the apples, or would they accept a social arrangement that allowed one or two of them to "own" the apple tree and thus rule over the others? There is never a free consent to inequality. There is only its imposition by force or fraud, conditioned over time into tradition.).


     The corpus callosum is a network of nerve fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the cerebral cortex, permitting inter-hemispheric communication. Recent neuroscience studies show this brain area is more developed in women than men, suggesting that women are more mentally integrated--the right brain's intuition and empathy being more accessible to the left brain's cognition. (This is a controversial issue... probably contended mostly by male neuroscientists!) Did evolution design women to be more mentally complete human beings... necessary because survival required women to both cognitively provide for, and empathetically care for, their offspring?  Or have men simply forfeited mental integration because they have been overly exposed as hunters and warriors to amygdalan fear of the external environment, requiring aggressive physical responses, thereby developing left brain calculation and shutting down right brain sensibility, and thus suffering an atrophied corpus callosum--the road to the right brain diminished because it has been less traveled?
     It is evident that women have been less conformed by fear and custom into the ego-complex personality. They were not the club wielders in the forest. Rather they were safer in the caves and  encampments, defended by numbers and campfires (safer from threats external to the immediate community, but not from male domination within the community!). In consequence, women have been "allowed" right  brain development, although ridiculed for their indulgence of it--emotional and irrational, etc. At the same time they were, until their movement for gender equality, culturally discouraged from left brain development, thereby also becoming skewed from left and right hemispheric integration (denial of education is a primary mode of suppression... imposed ignorance gives advantage to those with a few facts... often very few!). Men have been culturally discouraged from right brain compassion, women from left brain rationality. But as just noted, women may possess a more developed capacity for inter-hemispheric communication which gives them greater hope for further advancement toward a more highly integrated brain. Certainly, it is everywhere apparent that women are more compassionate creatures than men. Men are the specialists, designed for hard labor and warfare. Nature seems to have provided women with a greater opportunity for wisdom... perhaps to oversee the specialists!

     It is readily observable that the male ego-complex has historically striven to keep women subordinated and restricted, most notably among religiously fundamental and socially conservative societies. A women's equality, and her resistance to submissiveness, is clearly a threat to the male ego's dependence on being dominant--the domestic abuser is defending his primal dominance over the female, imposing subordination through violence... as in all forms of slavery. The ego-complex defends and satisfies itself through power over something... or somebody! As a result, whatever fearfulness resides in the female amygdala it is likely due to their evolutionary experiences with men. Stripped of his civilized dress, amygdala man is a killer and rapist (the evolutionary command to survive and propagate... domination of the female is a matter of controlling the object of the male's biologically compulsive need for sexual satisfaction.). All honest men know of their leashed desires, restrained by their "better angels"... as well, of course, by legal sanctions and cultural taboos (If you don't believe this imagine a world where rape and murder are legal!). The reptilian brain has yet to appreciate the survival value of kindness. If all were kind the glory of the human race would light the shrine of creation. But sadly, it takes only one selfish sociopath to make all the others defend themselves... and to forsake, to some degree, their "better angels." The primordial amygdala is a snake's tongue sensing the air for potential threats and profits and pleasures.

     The "loudness" of the amygdala and the incipience of the infant brain's cognitive faculty combine to imply a greater difficulty in developing a secure and empathic and cooperative male human being than one who is selfish and wary and aggressive. A reassuring early environment, a less competitive socioeconomic security that gives relief from the self-compromising efforts of the endless struggle for livelihood, and a hemispherically integrating education are the gates to the full realization of each person's authentic individuality... the only true individualism... the only true freedom. Man's primitive survival compulsions may feel like an expression of freedom... until he is free of his compulsions.

 "When from our better selves we have too long
                                         Been parted by the hurrying world, and droop,
                                         Sick of its business, of its pleasures tired,
                                         How gracious, how benign, is Solitude..."
                                         (William Wordsworth: The Prelude, bk. iv, l. 354)


Freedom or Liberty?

      We now come to the politics and economics of the ego-complex--The Ideology of Selfishness.

      Selfish ego supposes to justify its achieved superiority through competitive success and the right to unlimited ownership of private property... free competition being the means to achieve inequality, with government protection of "property rights" securing the result. We must, then, ask: "what is justice?" And what does it require? In doing so, we must also consider private property, its origin... and its limits
      The common understanding of "justice" in American culture is the punishment of wrong-doing. But that is to skew the definition. The true definition of justice is to receive one's due. Obviously, in the case of criminal offense this means punishment to fit the crime. But what is one's due as a law abiding citizen? What does justice require when it is not punishment? That is, what is due an innocent human life?
      For our time and place--and in principle for all times and places--the answer is given by the second of the founding principles of the American Declaration of Independence: "the right to life" (the first was "created equal"). The Declaration holds the right to life to be a self-evident truth and an unalienable right. "Unalienable" means that which cannot rightfully be given or taken away. It is an expression of Natural Law, which is prior to the positive, politically enacted laws of man (The Declaration expressly acknowledges the ultimate right of a people to abolish government and its laws by appeal to Natural Law, thereby declaring the primacy of Natural Law over man-made law). Natural law declares that all persons are placed in nature by creation and that they exist therefore by natural right... "created equal" meaning no one above another. The Declaration's assertion of self-evident truths and unalienable rights was deemed by the Founders to be an expression of the "Law of Nature and of Nature's God." (The emphasis on Nature's God pointedly removes all the possible ramifications and contradictions of the various understandings of man's God. The Founders knew that man's varied notions of "God" had been a primary cause of man's warfare.). Natural Law, then, is the core principle of America's founding. Natural Law prescribes the purpose of government and limits its powers... "To secure these rights, Governments are instituted..." Therefore, any government or administration of government that declines or fails to secure the inalienable rights of life and liberty is illegitimate under Natural Law.

     Natural Law argument is based on the fundamental facts of life: that living things evolve from a natural environment that supports their existence; that the right to life and life's sustenance are, therefore, ordained by natural creation. Thus from the nature of life is derived the natural rights of life and liberty (liberty being protection of those natural and civil rights which ensure life's well-being) and the freedom to pursue one's potential... the seed becoming the flower within.  And as the laws of Nature are prior to man they are not alienable by man. "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Self-evident means true without proof or demonstration.

     If, then, life is an inalienable right what are the implications of its inalienability? The primary implication is that to deny the right to life's sustenance, the natural materials upon which its preservation depends, is to effectively deny the right to life itself. As natural creation has placed persons in life, and placed also the materials of their sustenance, any social convention excluding anyone from access to life's sustenance (a primary method of subjugation) violates Natural Law, and, not least, a major premise, and promise, of America's founding covenant... from which the Constitution of 1787 must derive (For as the Declaration itself proclaims, any law or constitution of laws precluding the self-evident and inalienable rights of life and liberty are illegitimate under Natural Law).
    In short, the inalienable right to life goes straight to economics... the right to livelihood (No one can be supposed to consent to a societal arrangement wherein she is restricted from access to the natural provisions of life). And as government's primary purpose is to "secure these rights," government's responsibility is to ensure that economic organization provides access to livelihood for all citizens. This does not mean without contribution, for where there are rights there are also obligations. But it does mean that a government's failure to provide a citizen with the opportunity to work for his or her livelihood, while also enforcing a notion of unlimited private property that denies access to the natural provisions of nature, is a glaring injustice and violation of the first purpose of government. Extortion in nature is remedied by retribution. When extortion in society is protected by government injustice is compounded.
      The second imperative of the right to life is the right to develop from conception to maturity, the self realization of the individual life... including health and education, and especially, in the context of this hypothesis, the infant/child's right to a stress-free neurological development-- a social/cultural environment that presents physical and psychological security to the amygdala. Whatever life requires for survival and development in nature, access to it becomes a natural right in society. If not, then society is an arbitrary structure of power relationships, to which the powerless have no obligation under Natural Law to abide or obey.
      Such is the inalienability of life and liberty. And from these inalienable rights derives the notion of Natural Community--the political and economic institutions that realize the promise of the Democracy Covenant.


     The origin of property in classical liberal thought appears in John Locke's Second Treatise on Government (published anonymously in 1689). Locke argued that whatever one removed from the common provision of nature through one's labor became one's private property... as long as there was "...enough, and as good left in common for others" (John Locke, Second Treatise; chap. 5). The amount of property was limited by the notion of spoilage: if what was taken from the common spoiled before being used then too much was appropriated. Locke later obscured his notion of limitation by reference to money, a commodity that could be accumulated without spoilage. But this was philosophic subterfuge (like Adam Smith's "invisible hand"). The Natural Law limit on property is not spoilage, but exclusion of others from their necessity, their share of material support of their lives and development... which Locke explicitly recognized by the qualifier "...enough, and as good left in common for others." Money is simply a claim on goods... whoever possesses all the money has the power to possess all the goods. Locke sought a philosophic argument for the justification of private property to undermine the divine right of kings and land holding aristocracies. It was a laudable and democratic purpose. But arguments from nature tend to imply equality, not inequality. The class societies of Locke's time were not ready for equality.

     The Declaration of Independence pointedly left property off the list of inalienable rights. The reason is clear: it would have acknowledged that those without property were being denied their inalienable right. The corollary, of course, is that property is then alienable by democratic process... its use and amount of private accumulation subject to the good of the community. So there is no natural right to unlimited property. It was thought enough, I suppose, that the unpropertied would be denied the vote!

(An excellent summary of the historical justification of private property--both religious and secular-- describes the origins of private property's rights and limits).


And so,
Amygdalan fear inclines the human brain to avarice;
Christianity calls it sin and ordains secular government to restrain the sin of Man;
Classical Liberalism gives it freedom and laments government interference...
Capitalism rejects Christianity? Disdains democracy?
And conspires a dictatorship by wealth?
In the name of freedom?


      No social institution other than the customs within primal family groups is natural... Man did not drop out of the trees with a constitution of government or a deed to private property. Hence the priority of natural law over civil law. The early Christian church for many centuries justified private property--and secular government to enforce it--as necessary because of Man's sinfulness... his greed and selfishness would rob others of their share of nature's provisions. Thus a minimum property in the materials that sustain life was seen as a natural right of all individuals. (If a minimum property is an inalienable right, then a maximum property is implied) There is little discussion in the history of property about maximum property other than a general view that what was beyond the use of one person's well-being belonged to the community of others. We just saw that Locke's reference to money did not open the philosophic door far enough to justify unlimited property. Yet as the Classical Liberal ideology has unfolded over the last 240 years unlimited wealth (property) has encountered little restraint.

     Classical Liberalism (unregulated Capitalism) would recognize no universal right to property based on an original common ownership... or common non-ownership. Nor would it recognize a limit to the maximum ownership of property, nor a right to appropriation based on need, nor would it accept the origin of property as a design against greed, to be regulated by government. Ownership of property would be determined by a free competition with no regulation upon the successful and no provision to the unsuccessful. It was the perfect scheme for the freedom of selfishness from the obligation of fairness to others. Where in nature the excesses of selfishness are exposed to retribution, in classical liberal society the excessive achievements of selfishness would be protected by law... government instituted to secure equal rights becomes government facilitating the establishment of inequality. Modern Liberalism became distinguished from original or Classical Liberalism by the gradual recognition that justice--and the preservation of private property--required some provision for the unsuccessful... a case of modest empathic sensibility easing its conscience by alleviating, but not removing systemic injustice.

      The most prominent proposal for the economic freedom of selfishness was Adam Smith’s 18th century inquiry into The Wealth of Nations. Smith argued that the greatest economic wealth would result if individuals were free to pursue their natural self-interest without regulation by the state. The argument gave impetus to the freedom of individuals from centuries of social and economic domination by kings and priests and hereditary aristocracies. The Wealth of Nations was a great advance in the process of liberalization. But in the new freedom an old impulse would find a new path to domination:

       Smith begins with a description of the productive powers of labor and "the order, according to which its produce is naturally distributed among the different ranks" of society. Smith goes on: "This original state of things, in which the labourer (sic) enjoyed the whole produce of his own labour, could not last beyond the first introduction of the appropriation of would be to no purpose to trace further what might have been..." (intro and book 1, ch 8). And so, Adam Smith is not inquiring about a system of economic organization based on a fair distribution of resources among naturally equal human beings... He begins with an acceptance of privately appropriated land and a society divided into "ranks." The "natural" distribution of wealth assumed natural inequality. As for the justice of land appropriation and the proper distribution of wealth among social ranks, Smith evades: "I shall not take upon me to determine." (ibid. book 1, ch 8. My emphases).

     The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, an interesting historical coincidence with the declaration of American independence--the founding of the nation destined to realize the potential of Adam Smith's argument for unbridled economic self-interest more than any other. Smith's book was the seminal work of a new order of society which was beginning to emerge from the long centuries of serfdom and land-owning elites.
     Individual artisans were separating themselves from the landed estates and collecting in the growing towns and cities to sell the products of their labor. They were the beginning of the "entrepreneurial spirit", the early practitioners in the expanding age of commerce. The Wealth of Nations rationalized this struggle for economic independence--the desire of common individuals to raise themselves out of the poverty and slavery of serfdom and the subordination of class society, without interference from governing authority. The artisans and traders who did well began to accumulate an excess of revenue beyond the needs of their own subsistence. It was the acceleration of “Capitalism.” 
(It would later be argued by Laissez-faire—"let things alone"—economists that it is the economic independence of private wealth and property that guarantees political freedom... hence the supposed necessary link between Capitalism and democracy. Of course, it would not guarantee the political freedom of those who lost in the competition for wealth and property. It is argued here that the link is specious... that Capitalism is opposed to democratic equality, that unregulated Capitalism inevitably results in inequalities that are violations of democratic principle.).

      Adam Smith's argument was that the greatest aggregate material wealth would be produced if individuals were left free to pursue their own economic interest. And, he further argued that although private interest would undoubtedly be motivated by selfish intentions, the overall logic of the process—the guiding “invisible hand” and the principle of “unintended consequences”—would result in a beneficial outcome to the community as a whole; that is, "the greatest happiness of the greatest number". The implicit--and noticeably not explicit--assurance was that the increase of wealth would be equitably distributed.  And, in addition, as each person knew best their own desires, freedom from regulation was necessary to maximize happiness.
     The dynamic required an exerted human behavior, what Smith called the “selfish propensity” of individuals to acquire greater and greater amounts of wealth. And it required a large number of hungry laborers—serfs forced from land based subsistence by changes in land laws:

     “…the natural effort of every individual to better his own condition, when suffered to exert itself with freedom and security.” (Wealth of Nations; bk.4, ch.5)

       Smith's phrase, "suffered to exert itself" is the insidious key. It means systemically imposed insecurity. That is, it would not be government's role to secure the rights of life or to protect the common welfare, but to give opportunity to insecurity driven selfishness and political protection to the consequences--"with freedom and security". One man's insecurity would be another's opportunity to extort advantage--peasants forced off land subsistence would be cheap labor for the factories! An enlightened democratic government would form institutions that protect the human brain from the stresses and derangements of fear and perpetual anxiety... and protect human rights (liberty) from the predatory maneuvers of greed.

“It is not… difficult to foresee which of the two parties must… have the advantage… and force the other into a compliance with their terms.” (Wealth of Nations, bk.1, ch.8)

“The most specious thing to be said, is, that he that is Proprietor of the whole world, may deny all the rest of Mankind Food, and so at his pleasure starve them, if they will not acknowledge his Sovereignty, and obey his will… And therefore no Man could ever have a just Power over the Life of another by Right of property in Land or Possessions… a Man can no more justly make use of another’s necessity… than he that has more strength can seize upon a weaker, master him to his Obedience, and with a Dagger at his throat offer him Death or Slavery.” (John Locke, Two Treatises of Government)(emphasis added).

     The quote from Locke is the classic statement of the precedence of human rights over property rights.

      The logical workings of the decision-making of exerted individuals to achieve personal gain and advantage Smith called the “invisible hand.” That there were risks of new social dominations and injustices, and other yet to be perceived evils in the systematic encouragement of selfishness, he obscured by his faith in “unintended consequences;” which is simply to assume that conscious self-seeking results in some derivative good to others, even though unintended—that some good “trickles down” from a selfish dynamic. That it also results in trickle down wrongs to others he only cautioned:

     “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce which comes from this order (the business interest) ought always to be listened to with great precaution… It comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even to oppress the public, and who accordingly, have upon many occasions, both deceived and oppressed it.” (Wealth of Nations, bk.1, ch.11) (parenthesis and emphasis added).

     What satisfies the requirements of justice in a democratic community is distributed wealth, not aggregate wealth. "Unintended consequences" was a ruse in the guise of an assurance that the distribution would be fair. With the hindsight of nearly two and a half centuries it is clear that the actual consequences of exerted selfishness are great social inequalities... and they are very much intended.

(Distributed wealth is also the key to economic growth. The supply sider demands more "freedom"--less taxes and regulation for selfishness--to give incentive to producers, under the myth that supply creates demand. This assumes demand possesses the ability to purchase the supply, which is only true to the extent that wealth is broadly distributed. Unless you are only producing luxuries for the wealthy).

(An important distinction needs to be made regarding "selfish propensity." All life forms share a natural self-interest in survival. But natural self-interest only implies equality, the desire not to be disadvantaged... not to be deprived of one's share of the materials and conditions of survival. It does not justify the desire to achieve advantage or to hoard the materials of nature, nor the presumption of superiority. "Selfish propensity" as applied to unregulated capitalism is the psychological disposition to escape one's insecurity by appropriating more than one's share... in effect, taking from others. In the context of this essay it is a fear dominated brain uninformed by the moral concepts of common interest and cooperative achievement... and emotionally uninspired by compassion for others. Unempathic selfishness (sociopathy) has been throughout the whole course of human history the root and core of crime and social conflict. It is those who fear so much for themselves and care so little for others that have sought to become the possessors of power and privilege and extreme abundance... whatever the butchery required).

      The distinction between “condition” and “nature” is very important. A condition of wide spread want and poverty, low levels of capital and technology, and oppressive social structures and customs, will require certain freedoms and incentives to initiate a process of remedy that may not only be inappropriate, but harmful, when conditions become altered. The freedom of individual selfishness was a useful freedom in the 18th century—useful as a “democratic” force against the traditional authority of Church and King. Indeed, it was the "liberalism" of the time (the conservatism of the time was the defense of church and king). But it has become in our time the source of new social and economic inequalities that preclude the full realization of the democratic principles of the Declaration of Independence. Mankind's brain is being systemically confined to a condition of competitive selfishness, precluding the evolution of his better nature.

     The failure to distinguish between condition and nature results in the failure to see social arrangements as contingent, and thus subject to alteration in response to the advance of human knowledge and aspiration… and the emergence of more just alternatives. It is a fundamental error of the “scientific” study of man that condition is addressed as a “given" reality, rather than as a “contingent” reality--and perhaps very undesirable reality--subject to scientifically inaccessible factors. To guide improvements in man's condition by arguing what ought to be gives greater service to human evolution than simply describing his circumstance. The problem with social science is it gives a sense of necessity to man's condition, as if the path of his orbit is inevitable... and his nature prescribed. And it allows the social scientist to take no stand, and, like Adam Smith, to take it not upon themselves.

     “…science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary." (Albert Einstein, from his essay, “The Faith of a Scientist”) A mind such as Einstein's does not use the word "necessary" casually.

(A note about political labels: It was just mentioned that the movement for economic freedom inspired by the Wealth of Nations was 18th century political liberalism ("Classical Liberalism"). Defending the existing authority of Church and King was 18th century conservatism (Edmund Burke). In later times the regulation of economic freedom became liberalism, and its resistance, conservatism. The meaning of political labels is relative to the issues that are paramount in a particular time and place. Generally, "conservatism" is any political reaction that defends traditional and/or existing arrangements experienced as psychologically familiar, thus comforting, or socially advantageous, against the liberal forces of change toward perceived improvements. [Remember, change is a sign of threat to the amygdala; and social advantage is the ego-complex' strategy for survival]. "Liberalism" is the pursuit of change for greater human liberty and equality and self-realization (democratic liberalism) against existing conditions that are experienced as oppressive. Conservatism is a psychological resistance to such change, a drag on progress through history. The label depends on the side of the issue. In a world of perfect justice liberalism would be a political anachronism and conservatism a preserving virtue. Until then, conservatism is resistance to humankind's moral and social evolution).

(As a further note on labels, the regulation of capitalist economy for just outcomes, the full realization of "unalienable rights" for all, would be "economic democracy" or "democratic capitalism"...wherein the outcome of capitalist economics would be regulated to serve democratic principles. The exertion of selfishness through the incitement of the amygdala's fear does not arrive at democratic outcomes... nor does it serve the moral well-being of those incited. If the American Revolution was for the establishment of a political form for the sake of freedom and equality, then the economy must not be allowed to forestall the political end.).

      The philosophers and academics of previous times were in need of patrons. Academic freedom and tenured professorships are modern quasi-protections for the freedom of thought that did not exist in those earlier times. All works in the history of ideas must be read with an ear to the historical context... what the author dare not say, on the one side, and what he must say, on the other. Philosophy had to please its patronage in order to eat. And often when it did not the thinker suffered the consequence. (remember Socrates and the hemlock). The political and religious persecution—and crucifixion—of truth seekers and justice seekers is the modus operandi of the ego-complex. Even today there is political reticence among scientists and academics-- "Peer standing" and "academic reputation" and "research grants" are effective inhibitors of intellectual risk-taking... much like "political correctness" among the politically and morally frail. Calling things what they are and standing for what is right over what is personally safe or politically advantageous are among the highest aspects of honor, but not the most popular. 

      Extreme inequality in material wealth leads to political inequality and the obstruction of pathways for self-realization that are a violation of Natural Law-- "created equal" and "right to life". And, of course, the insufficiency of others is how the ownership of economic wealth subordinates and controls those others. What could be more expedient to the security of one's advantage and preeminence than the deprivation, thus dependency, of others. Clearly, such is not democracy. Social and political inequality is an imposition resulting from the cultural acceptance of economic inequality. Think how many children--born to deprived conditions, their young minds brutalized by fear and hunger and abuse and stress hormones--will never even know what their sweet hearts and precious lives could have become. Such a crushing reality imposed for the sake of an opportunity for hard and selfish minds to achieve privilege is a moral abomination upon the soul of humankind. Private wealth that greatly exceeds a maximally conceivable level of comfort and security becomes political power, circumventing the principle of democratic equality. Money in politics is not speech, it is purchasing power. Economic liberalism values the opportunity for plutocracy above the nurturance of infant brains.

       Economic liberalism proclaims an individual freedom to do what one wants within the rules of society... rules kept to a minimum. The unavoidable and overriding caveat not openly denied is "so long as they do not interfere with the equal rights of others." (Even the most libertarian oligarch cannot escape this caveat). The caveat is an implicit acknowledgement of the priority liberty--that freedom, especially economic freedom, is limited by the rights of others. Prevention of harm to others is the decisive principle upon which the limitation of freedom is justified. Along with The Declaration's inalienable rights and Locke's enough and as good left in common for others, non-interference with the rights of others defines the limits of freedom. There is no just freedom to impose socioeconomic inferiority. Dominance over others is harm to others.

      A right is diminished when the power to exercise it is made unequal. Unequal wealth means unequal power means unequal rights. Wealth inequality is the hammer that shatters political equality. Who would consent to a social dynamic in which a minority of 2%, or less, would become a ruling elite? No inequality can be supposed to rest on an imagined original or prior or implied consent. No one consents to social inferiority. And no one would have consented to a competitive game of survival wherein that survival was a chance resting on unintended consequences... and wherein the winners would logically be few and the losers many. That hominid who first became human would never have accepted that all he surveyed belonged to someone else. All class division rests on a primal beginning of appropriation by force and the bewildered submission of the defeated.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." Edmund Burke.

      Adam Smith could argue that government was not for:

“…superintending the industry of private people, and of directing it towards the employments most suitable to the interests of the society.”

    Yet he could also assert:

“…those exertions of the natural liberty of a few individuals, which might endanger the security of the whole society, are, and ought to be, restrained by the laws of all governments.”

     In reading Adam Smith it seems that every recommendation is qualified by a following caution! Thus selfishness both serves and disserves the public good; government should both restrain and not restrain the selfish propensity. There is no evaluation to reconcile the obvious contradiction—only a faith that the selfish propensity of a few will be beneficial to the whole. Smith's argument is that selfishness is a bad thing but its aggressiveness will produce economic wealth, and despite its selfish intention it will result in beneficial good to the community, however unintended ("trickle down"). The risk to the community, however, is that the intention to private power over the community would be achieved. Of course, the free-market ideologues run full speed with Smith’s freedom of selfishness and ignore his reservations... because his reservations reveal their secret dreams. It is up to an enlightened democratic sensibility to impose the regulations of selfish Individualism that would honor Adam Smith’s reservations. Recall once more Edmond Burke:          

"Men qualify for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity... Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without."  (My emphasis).

     True freedom does not deny justice. What denies justice is unrestrained selfishness... seeking to achieve the disadvantage of others... the case of one's freedom violating another's liberty. True freedom is only achieved through the inalienable right of liberty from the "freedom" of selfishness to pursue and establish unjust circumstances.
     It must be stated that one cannot know Adam Smith, and the “Wealth of Nations,” without also knowing his “Theory of Moral Sentiments”… which Smith considered his major work. The latter contains many observations difficult to reconcile with an advocacy for a culture of competitive selfishness. A greater exposition of this point would be too much for these pages. I will offer a few quotations… and leave it at that.

     “…that to feel much for others and little for ourselves, that to restrain our selfish, and to indulge our benevolent affections, constitutes the perfection of human nature.”(Adam Smith; Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1:1:5).

     “…that composure and tranquility of mind which is so necessary to happiness, and which is best promoted by the… passions of gratitude and love.”(Ibid; 1:2:3).

     “Society may subsist, though not in the most comfortable state, without beneficence; but the prevalence of injustice must utterly destroy it."(Ibid; 2:2:3).

     “To the intention or affection of the heart… all approbation or disapprobation… must ultimately belong.”(Ibid; 2:3: intro).

     And so, the Wealth of Nations, published at the time of the great Declaration of democratic equality, did not anticipate or recommend that equality. Social competition for individual and class advantage in a context of scarcity of the basic materials of well-being will someday, if mankind survives the amygdala's fear, become an anachronism. Yet, for Smith's time, competition for wealth was consistent with the historical reality of class inequality and the acceptance of unrepentant selfishness as the nature of man. Economics will continue to determine politics until the social injustice of unregulated selfishness is no longer tolerated. It will then become time for the politics of justice to determine the economics of democratic equality; time for everyone to realize that great inequality of economic wealth is a violation of the American declaration for equal and inalienable rights. A modicum of selfishness is inevitable, and indeed tolerable, so long as its reward is not great.

 (...It is tempting to wonder if the true Adam Smith was revealed in The theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), while the Smith of selfish propensity (1776), some 17 years later, was the result of personal evolvement or enlistment as an intellectual mercenary in the pay of Classical Liberalism... a harbinger of the modern think tanker? Maybe the younger Smith was the idealist, less advanced in the world, and the older Smith more associated with status quo interests? It would be fascinating to hear today if he thinks his invisible hand has served his moral sentiments. It would have been so easy to have advocated a certain freedom and reasonable incentive to the innovative and productive energies of self-interest, while at the same time demanding just restraints upon the ambitions of avarice... rather than risk the likelihood of its much intended consequences. Smith preached moral sentiments, but he rewarded selfishness. Within himself, Adam Smith represents the drama of human hypocrisy... the pursuit of Wealth and its attendant power, unrestrained by flirtation with Moral Sentiments.).

        Smith's assumption of inequality which he found no purpose in tracing further, and no desire to himself determine the rightness of, resulted in the justification and reinforcement of human selfishness. Does a democratic people have a purpose and a determination to make new assumptions, and find new laws that justify and reinforce a better view of human nature?      

“Laws frequently continue in force long after the circumstances which first gave occasion to them, and which could alone render them reasonable, are no more.”  (Wealth of Nations, bk.3, ch.11).

     The essential notions that underlie our forms of inequality are: that selfish ego is natural and therefore its freedom justified; that private property is not subject to limitation by natural law; that economic productivity requires human selfishness. All three propositions are false in fact, and are but ideological premises, precepts to The Ideology of Selfishness. The real end of history will take place when laissez-faire capitalism is fully regulated by democratic rather than individualist purposes; that is, democratic capitalism rather than capitalist democracy. Then will be the beginning of a new history when the human brain will escape the formations of fear, no longer constrained and conditioned to economic conflict, whereupon a true individualism will find a true freedom in the security given by a common and equal liberty and justice for all.


      Natural Law, and The Declaration's adherence to it, is clear: there is an equal right for all persons to live and develop and evolve; and social organization must facilitate these rights or be held illegitimate. Natural Law does not require absolute equality without regard to personal merit and social contribution. What it minimally requires, however, is sufficiency for all citizens... the security of life and its development, both physically and neurologically. Natural Law requires realities, not theoretical "equal opportunities." "Instituted to secure these rights" means that government is required to do more than referee a race to see who wins and who loses.

     Justice, then, requires the support and security of life. And wherever and whenever an individual life is forced to fight for survival in a context of competition and exclusion, with deprivation a possible consequence, justice is absent; and undemocratic social hierarchy is the result. Specifically, justice requires the full implementation of the self-evident truths--equal creation and the inalienable rights of life and liberty. And further, as the right of sustenance is inseparable from the right to life, sustenance cannot be made alienable--as contingent on the results of socioeconomic competition. Thus government is bound to intervene in the economy to secure the rights of every life, and to prevent the formation of undemocratic powers within the community that serve to deny the equality of rights and liberties. The conflict could not be more clear: an unregulated market economy allows the achievement of inequalities that directly defy the founding principles of American democracy. Capitalism and democracy are neither sufficient nor necessary to each other. And where the former obstructs the latter, they are enemies. Those who demand for themselves the superior side of inequality are not the friends of democracy or humanity.

     The Natural Law description of justice is confirmed by moral intuition, the conception of those principles and behaviors perceived to produce a maximum of harmony and happiness and goodness in a community of persons. It is the empathic recognition of the equal worth, thus the desert of equal consideration, of all individuals. And as we have argued, it is an intuition that is absent in the brain of the ego-complex, for whom "justice" is the punishment of violations against the achievements of the selfish ego.
     Especially egregious is the legal definition of the corporation as an individual possessed with inalienable rights, rather than as an economic organization chartered for specific and limited and alienable purposes. The legal personification of the corporation has given it the freedom to pursue selfish ends without regard to the public interest--a non-human entity is given inalienable rights that human beings cannot abridge or infringe. Thus corporate organization serves to magnify the power of selfishness to create unjust circumstances. And the officers who wield the corporation's power are "veiled" from personal liability. Capitalism has come to constrain and use democracy. Democracy must come to constrain and use capitalism.


     The priority of democracy over capitalism is indispensable to liberty. Conservative philosophers and political economists have tried hard to identify capitalism with democracy, and freedom with liberty. But capitalism is inherently contrary to democracy. Democracy is based on human equality and the protection of equal rights; capitalism is the economic pursuit of human inequality--the freedom to pursue economic self-interest without regulation is the mechanism of that inequality. In fewer words, capitalism's freedom violates democracy's liberty. And politics is a battle for control of government policy for the furtherance of either equality or inequality...  more security of basic rights or less regulation of economic freedom. For the conservative brain economic advantage is what gives access to political control of the community.

      When speaking of "freedom" three questions must always be asked: "Whose freedom?", "Freedom to do what?", and "What is the likely outcome of this freedom?" Freedom means to be unhindered in the pursuit and accomplishment of one's desires. Freedom is what "the pursuit of happiness" refers to (A better understanding of this phrase would require an understanding of what the founding generation understood by "happiness"). It would have been more clear, though less eloquent, if the Declaration had said "life, liberty, and freedom." It would have been obvious then that freedom and liberty are not interchangeable terms, as they are commonly thought to be.

        Almost universally, authors have conflated liberty and freedom into a single meaning. There was one notable author who didn't--Abraham Lincoln:

"We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name--liberty....The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty....Plainly the sheep  and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty." (quoted from The Conscience of the Constitution, Timothy Sandefur).

      The metaphor is limited because the wolf is exercising neither freedom nor liberty. He is fulfilling his genetic compulsion and biological metabolism to eat sheep in order to survive... the wolf would not make it on wild berries. Blame mutation, variation, selection and heredity. But the point is clear--the sheep's liberty is being gained at the cost of the wolf's freedom. Where there is no government or law, as in a state of nature, there is maximum freedom, limited only by one's physical power to exercise it. In that same state there is no liberty, no law protecting against assault or robbery or murder. So people want security, rights against harm--liberty--and governments are instituted "to secure these rights"... that is, to make laws that limit natural freedom, to mark the boundaries where the metaphorical wolf's freedom cannot cross over into the sheep's liberty. Freedom requires no government, the crimes of freedom are what require government: ("If men were angels, no governments would be necessary." James Madison). And so, the call for limited government is an unwitting--in some cases and not in others--demand for increasing freedom's opportunity for the encroachment of liberty... especially the freedom of economic interest to exploit the vulnerability of economic need... and the freedom of economic wealth to place a stranglehold on government's purpose to secure inalienable rights. But The Declaration has been made, in principle, if not adequately in practice: government is for securing the natural rights of life and liberty (yet to be clearly defined and expanded), and freedom is subject to the implications.

        Freedom and liberty are political terms that refer to the effects of external, objective forces on our lives. Whether we are free to pursue our desires, or we are at liberty because our rights are assured has nothing to do with our personal capacities and abilities to take advantage of either. I am free to climb Mt. Everest even though I lack the physical ability to do so. Freedom is the absence of external restraint, not the presence of internal capacity. If no external force is telling me I can't, then I am free whether I can or cannot. With liberty, if my right to life and its requirements are secured against external forces I am at liberty, regardless of my talents and abilities.

      Most people generally would approve, at least on first reading, of the following statements: Government exists to protect individual rights, not to police individual behavior. Policing individual behavior threatens the liberty government is supposed to secure.
       The sentences are nonsensical: First, rights--liberty--cannot be protected without policing behavior--freedom. Second, policing individual behavior--freedom--is how the government secures liberty. Confusion--and intentional obfuscation--occurs because liberty is not made distinct from freedom. Government exists to protect liberty (human rights against unjust violation), but it does this by making laws--civil and criminal--that police--limit--individual freedom. Thus government is not endangering liberty, it is guarding liberty by restricting certain freedoms. Government in turn is limited by the Constitution from violating the natural and civil rights which define individual liberty. The Declaration and Bill of Rights make liberty from abuse a supreme priority over the freedom to pursue happiness, which is too often a selfish aggression that harms others... in the name of freedom!
       There is usefulness to the obfuscation: If liberty and freedom are made the same thing then it is nonsense to speak of expanding liberty--the natural rights of life--by restricting liberty. The advantage seeker then sneaks away, his freedom unhampered because we can't restrict liberty. But confusions are unraveled by careful distinctions. Liberty relieves fear and insecurity and threat by protecting natural and civil rights, which in turn allows for a greater expression of freedom... a freedom based on security rather than a "freedom" to compete for security. We have liberty where private and public actors have no freedom to act.

      The ideologues of free enterprise want freedom to be seen as man's only natural right, obscuring the fact that the freedom of one easily comes to violate the natural rights of another--which, when secured constitutes liberty. By obscuring liberty as protection of the natural rights of life they can attack government--taxation and regulation--as the enemy of freedom. If freedom is the only right what is there to limit it?

"Whatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself." Edmond Burke, Reflections..

        Liberty is what denies trespass. It is the enumeration of natural rights that defines liberty... and, in consequence, freedom. Again, the caveat is inescapable: there is no freedom to achieve an advantage that violates the equality of others.

     This is not to disparage freedom as nothing but a license to abuse. Freedom is the natural possession of Man in nature (insecurity is also his natural possession!). Homo sapiens preceded government in nature, only conventions within family groups--when obeyed by the strongest--would have ruled and guided behavior. It cannot be assumed by reason that these original homo sapiens would have voluntarily installed over themselves an idea of government with totalitarian authority over their natural freedom. Any original consent to being governed would have been to lessen their insecurities, for which they would have reasonably conceded those freedoms of action that were the cause of their insecurities... such as the selfishness that demands more for itself than others, and the presumption of the strongest to rule and dominate. Government is our protector, not our lord. There is a proper balance beyond which railing against government is an attack on liberty... an attempt to weaken the protector... a demand to increase insecurity and give greater opportunity--freedom--for selfish ambitions. That the attack is made in the name of freedom should not keep us from asking whose freedom to do what. The human struggle is between the brain of equality and attachment to others, and the sociopathic brain seeking superiority and domination.

       Government intervention, then, is indeed a violation of natural freedom, but for the beneficent purpose of securing the rights of life, which are protections against the abuses of freedom. All restrictions of freedom are justifiable only as an expansion of liberty... secured natural and civil rights.
     Democracy involves three primary principles; the natural freedom of individuals... the rightful powers of a democratic majority... and the liberty of individuals from both. The latter is paramount.

      The freedom that is seen as an unrestrained opportunity to compete for a tenuous security is not freedom but a struggle whose alternative is to lay down and starve. True freedom waits on the other side of liberty, wherein a democratic people decide on their liberties and thereby adjust their freedoms to secure those liberties. It is a liberated freedom to realize one's individuality and pursue unburdened dreams... possibilities that rest on a secured life.

      Socioeconomic selfishness assumes the freedom to achieve the social subordination of others (the whole history of rule by elites). Natural and inalienable rights define a liberty that denies that freedom. When a democratic people fully understand and demand their rights freedom will find its proper roll.
       When the Founders spoke of "unalienable rights" they said that "among these" were Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They clearly acknowledged the existence of yet to be declared natural rights that government would be required to secure. I have argued here that the right to life implies not just a law against murder, but economic and neurological security.

(The "pursuit of happiness" is not co-equal with life and liberty. The pursuit of happiness is a freedom that is limited by the rights implicit to life and liberty... and thus it is not inalienable. In addition, "happiness" is a subjective psychological state triggered by an infinite variety of good and bad desires that could never be granted unquestioned freedom. One man's happiness is often another man's demise!)

     And so, when the Founders endorsed the inalienable rights of Liberty and the pursuit of happiness they were not being redundant. I believe they meant the inalienable right of liberty from unjust coercion (so they added a Bill of Rights), and freedom for the pursuit of just desires. They understood liberty and freedom as different notions... that liberty was defined by inalienable rights protected by law from violation, and freedom as unrestrained thoughts and actions... behaviors for which law cast no prohibitions. The salient point that emerges from the distinction between liberty and freedom is that liberty restricts and regulates freedom--though we each have a right to pursue our happiness it is subordinate to the liberties of others. Most especially, liberty is about the protection of the common man against the freedom of the elite presumption to rule. Which means... that the economic behaviors and achievements in the pursuit of "happiness" that are claimed in the name of "freedom," and which have such unequal and pernicious consequences on the lives of common people, are a colossal violation of the inalienable rights of life and liberty--the right of life requiring access to the material conditions that sustain life... liberty being protection from coercion resulting from the control of those materials by others... the two rights that address directly the two historical sins of selfishness... the exclusion of others from sustenance and exploitation of the resulting need.
     Where no external power, public or private, can legally deny my rights I am at liberty. The distinction is critical: We are "free" where no law prohibits. We have "liberty" where law protects. Freedom unleashes behavior; liberty protects against the encroachments of unleashed behavior. Freedom allows me to walk down any street I choose; liberty gives me right to do so without being assaulted. For a benevolent mind it is liberty from imposed inequalities that bestows true freedom... a freedom with no need to defeat and exploit others in a competition to survive.

     When conservatives talk about "freedom" they are talking about the great escape of selfish ego from the social regulations of justice. They are clever enough to invoke the political ideal of "freedom" to conceal an economic motive to social dominance... and clever enough to confuse liberty with freedom to obscure liberty's limitation upon freedom. Inequality is the true intention of the ego-complex. Dissemble about "freedom" is how the conservative cloaks his intentions. What he is really saying is, "I want the freedom to achieve a private power that separates me from the democratic covenant" (Individualism). The ultimate sanctuary for the selfish ego in this world ("eternal salvation" in the other one!) is a private wealth that is democratically inaccessible... hence the war against regulation and taxation! What finally underlies the cooperative/competitive dichotomy is the presence or absence of empathic neural sensibility. Make no mistake, the absence of empathic sensibility opens the door to the whole range of sociopathic behaviors... from everyday little acts of selfishness to full blown psychopathy. Both are unconcerned for the consequences to others, and they separate only by degree, not difference. The conservative's hatred of government is his resentment of any power that would protect the human rights of others against his ambitions.

      True individual freedom ultimately lies in liberty from the insecure and stressful pursuit of basic material needs, for which it is the purpose of government to secure through the regulation of economic activity. We know about the freedom to struggle--compete--for security. Imagine a freedom resting on a life liberated from the fear and anxiety of basic insecurity. Government is everywhere misused and weakened by selfish elites expressing their sociopathic desire to achieve and enforce their own superiority... by preventing government from "securing these rights."

"Nothing turns out to be so oppressive and unjust as a feeble government." (Edmund Burke)

     The failure to distinguish liberty from freedom reveals the conservative intention: By making liberty the same as freedom you make liberty and the rights it protects disappear. Where there is no distinction there is no opposition... nothing to limit the freedom of selfishness. And arguments for justice are then portrayed as arguments against freedom. The dissemble is complete! And as for those unrealized natural rights... well, you had an "equal opportunity."

“…and the wondering cheated multitude worshiped the invention." (Thomas Paine, Rights of Man)

      Freedom is the right to pursue just desires; Liberty is protection against the unjust actions of private and public power. We only deserve freedom when we honor the liberty and equality of others!


Beyond The Reptilian Brain

"The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, But in ourselves..." Julius Caesar (l, ii, 140-141)

      By now those still reading this text may have wondered to themselves where they fall on the scale between ego and heart: Am I an ego-complex conservative conformed to fear-driven beliefs and prejudices and selfish preoccupations, pursuing economic and political superiority... and not caring of the consequences to others? Or am I heart, upholding transcendent principles and struggling to live a compassionate and conscientious life, my inner self compromised by the selfish and materialistic values that success in the surrounding culture so often demands? Or am I mired somewhere in between, short of both ego-complex achievements and heart fulfillment?
      Most of us, I suspect, find ourselves in the middle, struggling for security and hoping for abundance, yet knowing our hearts are longing for a liberty that would give us the freedom to express our better selves... a liberty from material insecurity and the compassion-killing competition for "success." I believe it is extremely important for our human future that the great democratic majority choose heart—that they stand up for the liberty of their inner selves from the insecurity based striving demanded by the Ideology of Selfishness; a liberty promised by the historical advance of democratic principle, and offered by the innovative and productive technologies of modern science. This will require that the public mind end its deference to the upper-class presumptions of selfish ego, and recognize that the optimum condition for a peaceful human evolution is mutual security, not freedom for fear-driven individualist ambitions.
      Of course, the super successful would laugh at the charge that their ambition is fear-driven... greed doesn't feel like fear. They have achieved that distance between want and abundance that comforts the amygdala, making the memories of fear lie dormant behind the walls of wealth. As well, once a behavior has successfully relieved the amygdala's fear it becomes a conditioned response and the frontal cortex knows what to do without the amygdala's alarm. "Success" removes the feeling of fear. But what would they feel if their financial balance was suddenly zero? Progressive taxes and government's attempt to safety net the losers are threats to achieved superiority. Remove the fortress wall and the amygdala returns!
      For the empathic mind security is more rationally achieved by equality, cooperation and justice... the social conditions which lessen grievance and enmity. Liberty and justice for all is, indeed, rational.

      During the last awakening of democratic populism, spurred by the desperation of the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt offered these words in his State of the Union of 1935:

     "We find our population suffering from old inequalities, little changed by past sporadic remedies. In spite of our efforts and in spite of our talk we have not weeded out the over privileged and we have not effectively lifted up the under privileged. Both of these manifestations of injustice have retarded happiness. No wise man has any intention of destroying what is known as the 'profit motive,' because by the profit motive we mean the right by work to earn a decent livelihood for ourselves and our families.
      We have, however, a clear mandate from the people, that Americans must forswear that conception of the acquisition of wealth which, through excessive profits, creates undue private power over...public affairs. In building toward this end we do not destroy ambition... We continue to recognize the greater ability of some to earn more than others. But we do assert that the ambition of the individual to obtain for him and his a proper security, a reasonable leisure, and a decent living throughout life is an ambition to be preferred to the appetite for great wealth and great power... I place the security of the men, women, and children of the Nation first." (emphasis added).

      In the wake of the multi-decade conservative attack upon liberal sensibilities it is time for the security of men, women, and children to finally be made first. I have no doubt that a poll of the American people would show overwhelming support for President Roosevelt's statement: that the security of ordinary people is more important to the nation than the ambition of the selfish ego for private wealth and power. The problem is, private wealth and power control the political and economic and propaganda culture. They represent the aggressive ego-complex; they are the ambitious who have exerted themselves to grasp the golden ring of dominance. Until aggressive selfishness is checked by an aggressive and unselfish democratic majority with a view of their common liberties the Democracy Covenant will remain words on a disregarded parchment. But can this ever happen when "the wondering cheated multitude" select their rulers by name recognition rather than ideas?

      The sea anchor that holds our course to the compulsions of the ego-complex is the ignorance and timidity that cannot see through the storms of fear and the habit of compliance to the way things are. There is no inevitability of injustice. But we are a materialistic culture, a people conditioned to a preference for immediate pleasures, forgetful of the past, and insufficiently thoughtful of the future. The nations material success is also our illness—a satiated mind is no longer an inquiring mind, no longer fit for the discipline of learning, nor open to the wonderment that leads to discovery... of the outer world and one's inner self. Such a mind only seeks continuing amusements and ever more titillating entertainments. It does not thrill to the motto: "duty, honor, country." It thrills only to the prospect of gain, more amusements and greater excitements, and the unfathomable worship of "celebrities". Is it a desperate need for the emotions of pleasure to escape the emotions of fear?
       How, then, do a whole people, burdened with systemic insecurity, seeking relief through "fun" and distraction, turn to considerations of Truth and human possibility to find the systemic remedies for their fears? History gives no answer… only the example of murdered prophets and unheeded prophesies.

      To criticize the selfishness that rules America is not to criticize America. America began as a declaration that common people could rule themselves through a common allegiance to democratic rights and liberties, free of aristocratic elites, and free of totalitarian dictates by Right or Left. America is the sea to which all the dreams of freedom flow, including all the forsaken dreams that fell on the field of past oppressions—the dreams of freedom not for selfish ego to gain domination, but for the liberty of heart from unjust domination. Yet the culture of America succumbed to a selfish ideology that defies human equality. We had come from the old world with fears that were too deep; we saw opportunities that were too great; and felt compunctions that were too faint. And so we enslaved Africans, exiled the Native Americans we did not murder from the lands we coveted, and conspired foreign wars to gain additional territory. We then killed each other in horrendous numbers over whether those black people would remain slaves... and when they were freed we watched as they were bonded again into a segregated and brutal inferiority... for another one hundred years! And out west, in sunny California gold country, Native Americans were exterminated under a legal bounty. Our destiny was manifest: we would rob and murder our way to becoming a great Nation... in the names of Freedom and Opportunity and Jesus Christ!
     We had come also as a people seeking religious and social freedom... liberty from religious persecution and social classification. But the formerly oppressed are easily intoxicated by new freedoms—being released from bondage without the inner restraints of practiced virtue they more readily mimic their former masters than renounce mastery. And so we imagined and believed the myths of "manifest destiny" and "exceptionalism"—mythologizing a simple lust for appropriation, a presumption of entitlement to the possessions of others, celebrating our freedom by attacking the liberty of others—hiding the truth only from ourselves... that our "exceptionalism" was only the self-congratulations of a selfish soul—the sin of pride. One might wonder why the need to see ourselves as exceptional, what purpose in ascribing a privileged destiny to our actions other than the appearance of justification and the evasion of moral responsibility, assuring ourselves of our rightness? Consciousness of guilt precludes self-satisfaction and so it must be denied. What kind of mind needs pretense to obscure reality? Such rationalization works only for those without a true conscience. A true conscience is independent of one's will; it is a right brain not silenced by the prefrontal's submission to amygdalan fear. A raging conscience is the scream of the "better angel."

      But it is not “America” that has failed, only generations of Americans. And so we must affirm the promise of America, a promise first made by a few inspired men only to be forsaken by lesser and more selfish men who had not paid the price of Independence, and who thus, perhaps, bore less loyalty to the founding principles. We must then forswear and overcome the selfish individualism that has forestalled the great promise of common liberty, knowing that our fight is not against America… that we must stand for the principles that gave birth to America, lest we also fail her. For America was never only a people, or a land. America is an idea that history has ordained through countless struggles, and the blood of so many known and unknown patriots for the inalienable Rights of Man. The present generations of Americans have yet to carry that idea forward... because we are stuck in fear-driven competitions for individual security. And so a whole people can fail their country. Yet there are those—"libertarian" conservatives—who say there is no "country", that there are only living individuals with private desires... no transcendent purposes that oblige a concession of selfish concerns... no preceding sacrifices that command us to honor and give obedience to something other than ourselves. It is the ideology of selfishness we suffer, by which we have taken the greatest of human endowments—the capacity for self-improvement—and made it lesser... made it an obsession for self-indulgence.
      Yet fairness demands that living Americans not be condemned by the failures of past Americans. Only we must know that we do not descend from gods... and that there never was a manifest destiny, no exceptionalism, then, or now. Justice gives exemption to no time and no people... we are what we do, no matter what we say or claim about ourselves. There will be no escaping historical judgment for what we ourselves stand for in the present. The selfishness of our predecessors does not condemn us, but ours will.


      I have attempted to describe the primary elements of the ego-complex hypothesis. And I have argued the psychological and economic and political consequences of the brain’s formation to fear; the most significant being that the ego-complex suppresses right brain empathic sensibility. When fear predominates over the incipient brain the potential for empathic and moral sensibility recedes, perhaps never to be reclaimed. What then emerges is the ego-complex personality... or the myriad forms of escape and avoidance—these latter conditions the result of a mind that managed not to succumb to the evil of socioeconomic selfishness, yet could not emerge to stand fully against it.
      And so, the dynamic of exerted insecurity, the fearful soul suffered to exert itself, unrestrained by moral conscience, underlies all aggressive and insistent pursuits of domination and superior possession, culturally acceptable and unacceptable, legal and illegal. The sociopath performs his compulsions according to his talents... and opportunities.

      The tragic and summary conclusion is that this brain pathology—the failed integration of the neo-cortex, and the atrophy of the right hemisphere’s moral sensibility—is an evolutionarily regressive formation that is reinforced by the social arrangements of the ego-complex--the material reward of selfishness. We are not only stuck in our evolutionary development, we are pulling ourselves backward, withdrawing from the invitation to further evolvement… the ultimate sin against creation. The whole history of the human struggle for freedom has been a drama pitting the right brain’s dream of liberty from ego-complex regimes of control and domination. Humanity has allowed its left brain to be captured away from integration with right brain sensibility into a pathological obsession with superiority as the means to survival, leaving the undeveloped right brain born yet unborn, hatched yet not released fully into life—wings unspread it wanders a world without sky.

      The purpose of this treatise has been to define the source of evil, to describe its neurological, behavioral and systemic pathways (amygdala dominated neural development, resulting in aggressive/selfish behavior, and economic forms that give opportunity for inequality), and to point toward the moral and evolutionary future. Getting there involves pragmatic modification of present arrangements and incentives, experimentation with alternative economic institutions, and a revolution in education, teaching not what to think but how to think... and predicated on the principle that present understanding is always contingent on future discovery.

     The ideas that make up the needed vision need not be derived from old or new doctrines. We need no external theories, no foreign beliefs. We have had for over two hundred years in our own founding documents the best thoughts ever written. Though forestalled, America’s founding principles of equal creation and inalienable rights are our guides. As we learned from Thomas Paine, “forms grow out of principles.” Our proclaimed principles of created equal and inalienable rights have not dictated our economic forms... we do not do as we say. We are, rather, a society formed by the reward of selfishness with great economic wealth.
      So we must know our principles and proclaim their implications: that the right to life requires the support of life; that the health of the natural environment is necessary to our survival, and its care a duty before creation; that a nation’s natural resources belong to all of its citizens; that corporate production should serve common wealth not private wealth—the charter of corporations as well as government should be for common purposes, not individual; that technology be viewed as a means for increasing the goods of general well-being and not as a means for reducing costs so as to increase private profits; public financing of all political campaigns; ending party identifications for political candidates so that all candidates, not just the representatives of political monopolies, can present their ideas to the electorate; increased transparency and oversight of governmental and corporate operations; national reaffirmation that the first purpose of government is the physical and economic security of all individuals; a major shifting of economic incentives and an application of wealth toward social infrastructure through changes in tax law... from the fortresses of unjust privilege to socially indispensable programs—such as national debt reduction, universal higher education, scientific research, and a program of early childhood education that accords with what neuroscience knows about the developmental requirements of the infant brain; the rehabilitation of the population's mental and physical health through less stress and anxiety; and perhaps most urgently, a world-wide treaty for the phased elimination of military establishments… so we can build machines of peace instead of war (The very existence of an army is a testament to human failure). But the key to it all is security: protecting the human brain from the debilitations of fear. This can be done through the emergence of Fundamental Democracy, where the economy is made for people, not people for the economy (To value human beings by market demand is to pay baseball players $20 million a year while leaving millions of kids imprisoned in poverty, unvalued by the larger community, uneducated and uninspired by rightful prospects, trapped in environments that immediately dwarf their neurological possibilities. Such is a horrendous failure to uphold the natural rights of life).

       It is not assumed here that such a transformation will be easy, only that it is essential. And I can imagine no greater adventure than the transformation of the destructive patterns of human history—formed out of fear and alterable by the remediation of fear. Yet, as we have seen throughout this text, change is among the amygdala’s great fears. Nature gave us fear only that we might survive. But from the opening paragraph we see that survival is only the first step of evolution—that life exists to thrive and become. Thus to evolve for the better we must live in an environment that supports what is better. So the question is: can we agree to evolve beyond the reptilian brain? Will we embrace universal security as an implicit requirement of the inalienable right to life, or will we insist on the freedom of individual opportunity to continue the game of domination, one over the other?

      Arguments for truth are not in themselves political. They are not opposed to any person or community, they are opposed to falsehood. Those who are defensive against the probings of truth have found safety and benefit in falsehood. Truth is found through the archaeology of intuition… by a wondering mind not bound or limited by preconception, not obedient to past indoctrination. We find truth in humility and in gratitude that we are privileged with the ability to wonder, the curiosity to explore and the sensibility to dissent. Yet we may never grasp the ultimate truth directly, with our eye clearly upon it. We may only find intermediate truths by eliminating one at a time the errors and falsehoods by which we have lived our lives… we may only find truth through the failure and exhaustion of our certainties. But that is all that progress requires... that we always step beyond our failed certainties... that the journey to become never ends.
     We have come from the past into the present. And the present is not long… only a moment rushing in from the future, falling instantly into the past. But it is only in this ever-moving, immeasurable moment that we have the freedom to choose. Our choice is between faith in the heart’s compassion or the fears of the amygdala. Our choice will be our future... and it will be our children's future, until they rise and choose for themselves.

      There is great talent in America, great scientific knowledge and technological capability. What is needed is an ideology of justice and true freedom to replace the ideology of selfishness—a vision that offers the assurance of right brain fulfillment as well as left brain security. We have a duty to the past to advance what was given us. And we have a duty to the future to correct the course of the present. If we can change ourselves, if we can repent of our submission to the amygdala’s fear and free ourselves from selfishness, we can pass unlimited promises to the future. But to express this freedom we must know that history and tradition are advisory, not prescriptive. The past must never be allowed to chain the present. The social forms made in the past were made for the past and do not bind us, except as we renew our allegiance. It is the self-evident truths and principles of our founding as a nation that must last. And the human heart that first inspired those principles must be free to alter the forms and institutions that no longer serve them... or never served them! 
     Selfishness is the opponent within each of us that our hearts must fight for a lifetime. And so we must be strong yet humble in our hearts, and know that the inner desire of heart to serve goodness is the highest experience of sentient life… it is the expression of true strength—the inner power to give without the fearful feelings of loss. The pinnacle of human character is the warrior heart—the abyss, the warrior ego.

      Freedom is a valuable thing, subordinate in value only to life and the liberty of life—what we cannot do is less important than what cannot be done to us! But freedom would, if it had a voice to express itself, repudiate those false patriots who wave the banner of freedom while plotting the opportunities for private wealth and power. Freedom is their cry, dominion their aim. Freedom blesses only the just and honest. It does not suffer the rapacious. Freedom would say, “Do not seek injustice in my name.” Unrestrained selfishness is not "freedom." It is a compulsion rooted in fear. The final freedom is from our own compulsions... in finding the moral and psychological courage to choose what is right over what favors ourselves. Such is the true conservative freedom.

      Life is an exercise, like the repetitious lifting of a weight to build muscle. Thus all thought and action are good or evil, useful or harmful, according to the life they build. It is not the sensation in the moment—the fun or pleasure or profit—that is the ultimate value of the thought or act, but the state of life and mind for which it is a practice toward becoming. To always seek the easy amusement or satisfaction or profit of the egocentric moment is often to forgo the efforts that build possibilities. When we practice selfishness we prolong the reptilian nightmare. If we would try friendship and compassion and mutual security we would free the human brain from fear… and then we could build a place where dreams do come true. It would be a great people that did that for their children!


      It is important to state that this hypothesis intends to condemn no person or persons. We all begin life with a neural universe we have not chosen... we do not choose ourselves. Nor do we choose the initial environments and experiences that so impact who we become. To be sure, as we mature we come to "choose" the experiences which will further mold us. But at the beginning and throughout the early years of life we are made by everything but ourselves--our unique genetic compositions and our indoctrinating birth environments. "We" are not even there yet. The eventual sentient self-conscious "I" is waiting to be determined. But having not been self-made does not remove our responsibility to respect the lives of others, and to ever search for our better selves... waiting somewhere in our dreams of possibility.

(A personal anecdote: Back in my college days I worked a night job. There was a fellow there a few years older that I became friends with who was very conservative in his views. He had just started college. I remarked one evening that his views were likely to change. I wasn't being especially serious, just joking. But his response was serious, and I'll never forget it. He said,  "If I start to change what I believe I'll quit school." It may be that my wonderment about the human brain began at that moment. What could make someone so dependent on fixed beliefs, and so afraid of new knowledge that might challenge those beliefs? Is there a state of mind for which truth is an enemy? Yes, a brain filled with fear relieving preconceptions, for which truth is danger pounding on the door.).

      As author, I recognize that the repetitiveness of the argument will have been an annoyance to some readers. To them I apologize. My concern, however, as it must be for anyone presuming to address the public mind, was to try to keep the pieces of the argument, and the connections between the pieces, clear for all readers... to pull all the strings back to the same knot. Thus my judgment was that the hypothesis and its intertwining elements required recurring summaries and reminders and parenthetic insertions... necessary to the goal of understanding… always a prerequisite to the goal of persuasion. If these thoughts are true, then I simply say that truth cannot be too often repeated. If they are not true, then I have only succeeded in imagining falsehoods, in which case I hope the reader has somehow gained in discovering them so. Truth requires a reach that sometimes finds mistake, but the reach is imperative for we must know the truth or perish to the lie.
      Community salvation will require the heart of the whole people to find a common voice, and speak their own prophesy for the renewal of democracy... and the resurrection of the better angel. It should begin in America, where the cry for common liberty was raised by a common man... "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776).

"Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." (John Adams)

The errors we speak belong only to ourselves,
The Truth to all.

Truth and Justice
Are the chrysalis,
Love and Liberty
The butterfly.


Postscript: In the past it has been asked of this author who he is and what are his credentials. My response was I think straightforward and accurate: nothing about an author determines whether a hypothesis is true or false. An idea stands on its own, only experience can verify or dismiss. Once a message is delivered the messenger is irrelevant. Truth is not tarnished by the frailty of its messenger.
     Finally, the human brain remains a largely unknown universe. The implications of the Democracy Covenant are not. And the stakes could not be higher... humanity needs a future that does not mirror its past. Which means, overcoming the reptilian brain.

This effort is dedicated to all those who have hearts mightier than their egos... and offered with patience to all those who are discomforted by implications.

As is the case with all explorations for truth, to be continued...

Twitter: Attentive Citizen @DemocryCovenant