Wednesday, January 1, 2014




THE DEMOCRACY COVENANT




"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 ..."


      This one sentence from The Declaration of Independence, ordained by "the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God", states the principles upon which American democracy is founded. It is 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 primal 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 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 those rights... from Natural Law follows Natural Community. And, therefore, those existing laws and institutions that abridge those 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 democratic governments serve at the convenience of the sovereign people, and can never rightfully defend themselves against the sovereign's will. But even the sovereign's will is limited by the inalienable rights of each individual. "Liberty" is the security of these individual rights, which is the first purpose of government.
      Government does not create Natural Rights. Natural, and thus inalienable rights, derive from the fact of biological creation--life's emergence, and the conditions necessary and sufficient for its survival and realization of its innate possibilities. Government's purpose is to acknowledge and protect those rights by regulating the actions--freedom--of organizations and individuals that would violate them, and preventing the formation of socioeconomic institutions that deny them. Specifically, as equality is the first principle ("created equal") of The Democracy Covenant, whatever promotes human inequality is a violation of the covenant... to secure these rights does not mean to facilitate or secure inequality.
      This hypothesis is not a criticism of conservative philosophy--values and principles. It is believed herein that evolution implies improvement, social progress toward a life enhancing environment for all people, achieved through progressive visions pursued conservatively. The hypothesis is an attempt to describe a brain that is formed and ruled by the emotions of primal fear, a brain exhibiting an aggressive selfishness that is a neurological response to environmental signs of survival threat--difference, unfamiliarity, novelty--that trigger evolutionary or learned fears, resulting in a reactionary politics that opposes the advancement of human liberty, equality and security. It is the politics of a brain absent humanitarian sensibilities that insists on a freedom for selfish ambitions to achieve social dominance. And it is a mentality that easily manipulates through demagoguery and fear mongering and scapegoating and repetitive lies, the humble credulity of others to support social policies contrary to their interests.
       The Declaration of Independence is a national document only in the sense of its first application. In word and spirit it is a universal declaration of the inalienable rights and equality of men and women everywhere.


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PART ONE


THE AMYGDALA HYPOTHESIS


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.
For all the fear so long endured,
The world will now and ever pay.



CHAPTER ONE

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 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. In addition to recorded threats the amygdala is sensitive to the unfamiliar, novel and unusual stimuli that may represent danger.
    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 functions and 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.

(In addition to avoidance of danger and pain the amygdala is also central to pleasure seeking behavior... the satisfaction of animal needs. Evolutionary survival is not only about avoiding existential threat, but also obtaining food and sexual gratification. Survival is about learning the behavior responses that most reliably achieve the goal--how to escape or conquer threat, how to hunt for food, how to seduce a mate. This hypothesis, however, is concerned with the fear-based brain and will not address pleasure seeking or hunting behavior, except to note here that an overly active amygdala in the pursuit of pleasure may be as destructive to self and others [addictions and sexual predation] as the fear response of socioeconomic selfishness. As well, it seems obvious that a behavior that escapes danger is likely to be very satisfying; and that it will be reinforced not only by its success in relieving fear, but also by the pleasure of achieving safety and the self-satisfaction of accomplishment--as in escaping the social threat of equal competitors through economic and political domination. Competitive economics is a social game giving opportunity for the selfish brain to escape equality. The behaviors that succeed become conditioned responses).

      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 rational 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 more recently evolved components of the nervous system depend on the function of more ancient systems. Neocortical structures are in general subservient to systems necessary for survival. More primitive systems and behaviors, including those associated with fear and anxiety, may inhibit positive social behaviors and cognitive strategies.” (NIMH: Social Neuroscience and Behavior: From Basic to Clinical Science, 4/14/2006). (Emphases added).


     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, an unfamiliar environment, 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. That we are born to a world not always eager to satisfy our needs is the primal conclusion of the amygdala dominated incipient brain.
     As this newly arrived infant brain is being formed by genetic instruction it will also be influenced by its experience of the new environment, adapting its neural connections to external signals. Environmental experiences (and here) are credible and determining because the prefrontal cortex is in the process of forming and lacks the functional independence, even the conscious awareness, to mediate them. The infant brain cannot reject or alter its environment. And so, before the brain/mind ever gains some selective control of its experiences it is formed by them. The birth environment begins its cultural branding, indoctrinating the brain to the surrounding beliefs and behaviors, and conditioning the brain to what initially seem to be effective responses. The brain that emerges is a mixture of evolutionary inheritance and environmental/cultural conditioning... a nature/nurture amalgam.

      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... and why early conditioning and indoctrination can be so indelible). The birth environment is literally a cultural potter's wheel, shaping the infant brain. Thus the first experiences of life are critical. The earlier and longer that 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 neurological possibility, or repress and limit 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 how our attending moods and attitudes convey, or not, 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... whence 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. The brain is learning long before "we" are aware of it. There is no "will" or "choice", no self-determination. We are immersed in stimuli, restricted to unconscious responses. We begin as possibility and immediately succumb to vulnerability, waiting to become the effects--or assaults--of cascading sensations, and the commissions and omissions of our "caregivers." Our fate is largely found in our beginning moments, whether our introduction to life occurs in a realm of love and security or a chamber of physical and emotional assaults and privations.

     Implied in all this is another possibility. An amygdala less biochemically active, and/or more 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... it would reflect and return what it has received. 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 empathetic and cooperative brain. And if culture would step back and offer a less imposing indoctrination to provincial beliefs and prejudices, a true individuality might find the neurological freedom to emerge into a unique and self-discovered human being. A childhood of little indoctrination gives the blessing of much to discover and little to overcome.
   
     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, a corruptible mind not restrained by inner compunctions. 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. Especially upon a child it is a psychological assault that can damage or end a life. It is nothing less than a denial of the right to life, and the brain that does it is itself emotionally damaged--fortifying itself by attacking others). These anxiety laden 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--aggrandizing and securing oneself through actions that cause harm and disadvantage to others. There is no evil other than man's evil--created by a fearful brain escaping it's fears... real, imagined or contrived. Stopping the evil requires exposing and altering the conditions and incentives that give impetus and opportunity to the evil doer... and that is the purpose of the following pages.

       It is proposed here that the formation of selfish ego is a 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 and synaptic "pruning"--from lack of neural stimulation. Pruning eliminates the neural connections that are not used in the brain's experience of its environment, while selection strengthens the connections the brain is having to use in responding to its environment. Selfishness is what's left when empathic sensibility is pruned. (Think of the personal and social implications of a brain shedding the neurons of love and compassion... and embracing those of fear, suspicion, and defensive aggression). 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 seeks a less fearful world through "liberty and justice for all."

(Note: brain development can also be effected through somatic mutation).

"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..."(nih.gov) 

      So if social affinity is man's nature, or at least his inclination, is he being driven out of it by an ideology conceived by a fearful brain to give itself a path to social advantage? Are the "laws" of liberal economics not laws, but relationships incidental to the assumption and reinforcement of selfishness?


      The Classical liberal economic ideology of laissez-faire competition is an organization of society that accommodates, rewards and reinforces the aggressively selfish brain, systemically disadvantaging the cooperative brain. Competitive economics does not so much unveil human nature and reward talent, rather it promotes aggressive ambition, fear-driven emotions enlisting the frontal cortex's strategic intelligence.
     Social evolution is being driven by the reward of selfishness through economic competition... selecting selfish traits and discouraging unselfishness. 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, and social cohesion generally, creating a climate of one against all. Competition is a result of the selfish brain's insistence on an opportunity--"freedom"--to achieve an advantage in possessions and power. The selfish mind also persistently neglects the notion of liberty, the rights of others' that place a limit on freedom (We will see below that selfishness emphasizes its freedom by obfuscating liberty--the rights of others). The purpose of specifying inalienable rights is to restrain the freedom of government and other individual's power to abuse. Liberty protects and never abuses; freedom easily abuses. Like when men were free to treat women as property... a woman's protection--liberty--from abuse limits the male freedom to abuse. Due to its importance, and the widespread synonymous use of the terms, this point about the distinction between freedom and liberty will be repeated. Warning: emphasis on critical points will require other repetitions as well.

      Every person's brain is predominately emotional. The emotional brain is a sensing devise for the purpose of determining a response (behavior) to the environment, avoiding stimuli that cause fear, anxiety, physical pain; and pursuing behavior that achieves pleasure, amusement, food, rest, shelter, safety, sexual satisfaction. The question is how much rationality the prefrontal cortex is able to attain, and whether that rationality is directed by left brain calculative selfishness or right brain moral sensibility; and whether it is prejudiciously indoctrinated, or educated to think independently. That is, whether the prefrontal cortex abets the humanitarian or the sociopath.

      It may be that the sapiens specie within the homo genus was the physically weakest and required an evolved intelligence to compete and survive, yet it remained burdened with a fear centered brain... the evolution of intelligence did not obviate the fear instinct. Friendliness and cooperation would have aided survival within the primary group. But the prey animal fear system also biased the brain toward wariness and competition/conflict against other primary groups, hence tribalism and the fearful brain's intense reaction to difference--xenophobia. Thus, survival required the selection of both the positive emotions--affection, empathy, generosity--within the group, and the negative emotions--wariness, competitive, aggressive--outside the group. Hence, the amygdala's signposts for survival: in-group familiarity means safety, while outside group difference and unfamiliarity means possible threat. (And so, the emotional tension between goodness and meanness, empathy and antipathy... the divided soul bequeathed by evolution, and displayed in brain difference). Yet eventually, the selfish brain will express its wariness of the other even within its own community, as its amygdalan fear sinks into a highly defensive and competitive individualism, seeking advantage and superiority over its neighbors, with a minimal sense of obligation and attachment... and even less empathic compunction. Classical liberal competitive ideology is the board game of selfishness... a game favoring the reptile and defeating the angel.

(This is a good time to make the point that The Declaration's right to pursue happiness does not logically endorse a "freedom" for the selfish brain to impose socioeconomic inferiority on its neighbors, however happy it would make it. The inalienable rights [liberty] of others are not dependent on acceptance by any one's happiness or freedom. The Declaration asserts that government's purpose is to secure the inalienable rights of all individuals, not to promote and protect the freedom of any one individual to encroach upon those rights--Rights (liberty) are prior to freedom. Laissez-faire capitalism is the invention of an ambition for private wealth and power that emphasizes individual freedom over collective rights, and thus it is inconsistent with democratic principles, i.e., the unregulated economic freedom that favors the aggrandizement of a few, easily comes to violate the natural and equal rights of many).

"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it." (John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776).


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       The thesis here is that the conservative brain is biased by an overly active fear response toward the negative emotions when confronted with signs of difference and change... signposts of threat. The less fear-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 less fear-formed brain--in fact, the opposite, a curiosity for novelty and new experience. 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 emotionally reassuring beliefs and conditioned behaviors must change. The open mind seeks evidence and solutions, the fearful mind denies the problem... the ostrich strategy. Adaptability is not the forte of the conservative brain. The conservative brain exists because there has been survival expedience to maintenance of a familiar status quo, and to aggression and violence in its defense. But there is a dilemma: the brain has evolved to be adaptive to change based on the prefrontal's evaluative capabilities, whereas the ego-complex brain is emotionally and politically resistant to change... an emotional opposition to adaptation. A distant future homo sapiens, if open-minded sentiments can overcome conservative obstinance, may find their amygdalae unselected, or at least somewhat atrophied from disuse. We can hope.

        A study on the response to novelty shows neural and physiological and behavioral differences between fear and non-fear brains.

(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, but which generally express themselves in politics as social liberals and conservatives (being open or closed to change)... each group involving a range from moderate to extreme. The labels need more definition, more description in terms of principles and policy implications, which we'll attempt to do below).


     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... and especially, not self-destructive. The neural network between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex is like a teeter totter. Emotion weights more heavily when the prefrontal lacks the neural weight to exercise control over the emotional response to the amygdala's message (detection and warning of threat... or, an opportunity for profit or pleasure). And further, if the emotional impulses are overwhelming (testosterone level is a factor in male emotional intensity) a less energetic 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 and shared well-being. The fear-driven selfish brain seeks sanctuary in social dominance. When the democratic ideas of the Enlightenment began to dissolve rule by hereditary aristocracy the path to social dominance was vacated. The vacancy was filled by private economic wealth. Commercial aristocrats simply replaced the hereditary aristocrat. Class society was preserved. (The trick that economic 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]. And it is on this point that the social liberalism that began with The Enlightenment has failed. It liberated the human brain from Dark Age superstition, but it has been too accepting of the selfishness and rapacious ambitions of economic liberalism. Laissez-faire does arrive at democracy, it arrives at plutocracy. Democratic principles--and dreams--were subordinated to economic ideology).

      If the prefrontal cortex is neurologically independent and empathetically informed and somewhat cognizant of evidence based reality, the amygdala is subdued and behavior becomes 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. For the negative emotions, feeling better is evidence of "truth." And thus the amorality of expedience--what is true or good is what works for me. 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. And if reason and logic are absent, bar the door!

       Emotion, then, is a subjective neurological state accompanied by a physiological reaction which leads to a behavioral response intended to relieve the stress of fear or satisfy the desire for pleasure. 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; conflicting or harmonizing (Actually, the selfish brain does not "choose" to not express empathy--it is simply a missing part). But the emotional brain does not stop to consult the prefrontal cortex, the prefrontral has to be there watching with the cognitive power to intervene... and informed with principles and values that overrule the selfish response. The morally uninformed frontal cortex simply obliges the emotion, performing behaviors that satisfy the desire or evade the threat. Basically, this is sociopathy... self-concern without other concern.

(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 religious beliefs or pursuing political advantages 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 protective prejudices and social advantages).


      One 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 remove 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 in the social environment necessary for healthy neural development. Behavior is the result of an interface between fear and reason... hopefully moral reason. 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 whose destiny is to destroy itself? 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!"

"I place the security of the men, women, and children of the Nation first." (Franklin Roosevelt, State of Union, 1935)(emphasis added).



(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 reinforcement of empathic and cooperative traits. 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, its inattention to the mental disruption of disadvantaged children, why it's greed for social control and dominance, why its preference for mystical beliefs over scientific facts?... And why its hate for a government whose purpose is to secure the inalienable right to life? 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 an attack of the body snatchers... hence the demonization of "liberals").


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     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 a 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 be fair to say, the amygdala is the lantern in the steeple warning of danger... one if its liberal, two if progressive!

(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 has already happened 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... no more than my nighttime dream was written and directed by "me." Awareness does not imply control, only witness. In the case of fear, survival required a faster response than considered thought could provide. The brain initiates a reflex, then a systemic response, which does not necessarily mean a conscious decision. It doesn't mean the brain has waited for "me" to decide. Does it not also, then, decide on all "appropriate" beliefs and behaviors based on stored memories and previously conditioned responses? Am "I" only a slightly informed witness giving flawed testimony to myself about what I am doing? Does my brain tell my legs to run like hell, and then I merely make up reasons to explain to myself why I decided to run? Am I deciding to be selfish? Or am I compelled by genetics, environmental affects and random mutations?).


      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, a hippocampus storing indoctrinated and learned memories, 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 or procedures. All unrestrained due to the absence of right brain moral sensibility.

(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 strange face in the forest--all provoke the emotion of fear and selfish strategies of defense... the emotional reptilian brain maintaining its evolutionary dominance over the empathic brain attempting to emerge.
      Again, there is a conservatism of principles and values that is not the subject of this critique. The conservatism that is, is the conservatism of social inequality and prejudice and antipathy to otherness, i.e., sociopathy.).

  
     Birth has been a "choice" between three fundamental human beings: the fear induced ego-complex, which is life negating; the less fear-based, more sanguine and confident and trusting personality, which is life affirming; and the brain of debilitating anxiety struggling to find confidence and identity and a place to be free. The ego-complex brain will spend a lifetime building forts, the empathic brain a lifetime despairing of a fortified world, and the anxious brain simply trying to find a world that does not offend.

     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.
      Empathic
      Fair minded.
      Generous.
      Compassionate.                                                 Emotion with empathic prefrontal control
      Tolerant.
      Non-defensive.
      Unpretentious.
      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.
      Shy/Timid.
      Low self-confidence.                                       Emotion with insufficient prefrontal control
      Deferential.
      Self-deprecating.
      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.
      Selfish.
      Unempathic.
      Dominance seeking.
      Presumptuous.
      Intolerant.
      Narcissistic                                                     Negative Emotion with prefrontal complicity
      Bigoted
      Authoritarian.
      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 rest of the community 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.

"...every psychoanalyst has seen patients who have been able to reverse the trends which seemed to determine their lives, once they become aware of them and make a concentrated effort to regain their freedom." (Erich Fromm, The Heart of Man, pg 123).

      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... an evolutionary split of sapiens into homo empathicus vs. homo egoisticus!
       Indeed, homo egoisticus is lagging in its biological adaptation, lingering in the neurology of amygdala fear... kept in its primal past by a competitive economic ideology, and its resistance to change toward an economics of common security, where incentive does not reward selfish individualism but a humanitarian self-interest in the well-being of the whole community . In contrast, the homo empathicus brain is progressive, eager to pre-adapt in anticipation of the technological possibility for a security-based economics that relieves the human brain from fear and competitive conflict, whence evolution can proceed beyond survival to an exploration of possibility... with intelligence rather than fear.
       From the beginning the natural world has told us who we cannot be, by telling us who we must be... what traits we must hold onto, and which we must forsake in order to survive. We are creatures made by environment. But gradually man learned to make his own micro environment, his social habitat. We have told ourselves we must be selfish and competitive to survive. Maybe a creature so subject to environmental determination can turnaround and make an environment to remake himself, to condition himself into a better angel. Maybe there will be time to do that if we don't tinker too much with the macro environment. We can't destroy Nature, but we can change her to the point where she will destroy us. Despite all our hubris and godly self-image environment made us, and it will end us.


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      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 prize for himself.
      From the point of view of his clan the selfish hunter's act was productive. He was hard working; 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 dominion. Indeed, it is the trust of the unselfish that enhances the opportunities of the selfish... and the absence of regulation that invites the proclivity for corruption.

(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. The selfish brain plots for advantage because it is driven by fear avoidance strategies; the non-selfish brain is restrained by its sense of fairness because it is less driven by fear avoidance. 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. A democratic people must be mindful of the incentives they allow, for the behavior they reward is the behavior they will get).

"So intimate is the connection between form and practice, that to adopt the one is to invite the other." (Thomas Paine, letter to George Washington,  July 30, 1796) (Italics in original).

     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, 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 classical liberal revolution for economic freedom did not free man for the sake of greater security and social equality, it consigned him to a new form of inequality--a game of competition for survival where life's security was only an "opportunity" requiring his adoption of a community debilitating selfishness. The divine right of kings and nobles was replaced by the divine rights of unlimited property--both the vehicles of dominance by class.


      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 production for mutual benefit and greater equality. It would also mean a form of society that encouraged a less selfish behavior. This does not require the abandonment of market economics. Central planning is not the implication. Supply and demand and price signaling and profit incentive can still direct production and encourage efficiency. Entrepreneurial freedom and corporate organization would still power economic growth and innovation. The economic health of the Nation requires a broad distribution of wealth, achievable through policies that minimize taxes and regulation on self-employed contractors, and small and mid-sized business. What is required are regulations against harm to public safety and the environment, and the adjustment of outcomes to provide a basic stress relieving security of life for all citizens. The test of economic organization is resource efficiency and fairness of outcome. Political ideology resting on fear conditioned emotions should not determine economic forms. Social injustice is not the result of self-interested economic activity, it results from the allowance of extremely unequal outcomes that are depriving others, and confining human character to its lowest nature through the continuing reward of greed, and the perversion of political democracy into plutocracy. A competition for relative success and a merited degree of inequality need not be a competition that harms. An easy fix awaits democratic awareness... a minimum and maximum wealth per citizen.


"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." (Franklin Roosevelt, State of Union, 1935)(emphasis added).


       Cooperation requires some intelligent deliberation to find agreement and coordinate activity. Fear is an emotional reflex that precludes deliberation, compelling immediate reaction to quell or escape the threat. Competition and conflict happen because too much fear precludes empathic deliberation and the discovery of common interest. As long as common people defer to the fraudulent freedoms of selfishness and refrain from asserting the implications of their democratic rights they will be subservient to the "appetite for great wealth and great power."

      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--a republican form wherein representation is dominated by economic power--where 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," to adopt selfish behaviors and abandon more modest 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). For the political liberal freedom meant equality, for the economic liberal it meant a path to the upper class. The compromise that sought, but failed, to resolve 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. An economic behavior whose logic would inevitably incline to inequality was cloaked as an expression of democratic freedom. But the ruse would achieve more, for the full implications of democracy were evaded by restricting the franchise to propertied white men only. To this day conservatism seeks to undermine democracy through gerrymandering and vote restriction and money in politics.
     Perhaps a new democratic awareness will now see the forces of economic liberalism expanding their dominance over the aspirations of social liberalism. (Indeed, the orgy of private wealth accumulation is culminating in a supranational oligarchy of shell corporations, money laundering and tax evasion that threatens to escape the purview of national sovereignty). The issue is whether democracy is a mere adjunct of capitalism, or capitalism is 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, and the basic security of each citizen's right to life... 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 pathology--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! Whatever a society rewards it will get more of.

"...we see that avarice, anger, pride and stupidity commonly profit far beyond charity, modesty, justice and thought." Thomas More, 1478-1535.


                                      ...............................................................................


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... It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." Edmund Burke, letter to a Member of the National Assembly of France (1791)(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 emotionally 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 virtue or 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 a sensibility for internal restraint the satisfied ego is never grateful for the contribution or generosity of others, it is only self-congratulatory for its "success"... and thankful for the availability of  the less ambitious. 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 (bitter partisanship); but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness." (Democracy in America, 1835; 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, unremitting greed). No vice of the human heart is so acceptable to it as selfishness..." (ibid. book 2, chapter 3) (parentheses added).


"It must therefore be expected that personal interest will become more than ever the principal if not the sole spring of men's actions; but it remains to be seen how each man will understand his personal interest...no one can foretell into what disgrace and wretchedness they would plunge themselves lest they should have to sacrifice something of their own well-being to the prosperity of their fellow creatures." (ibid. chapter 8).

        Selfishness is an idea only when the prefrontal cortex is capable of thinking about it. Initially, it is an emotional defense, the amygdala's fear reflex. And in the ego-complex brain it remains an emotion, supported by cognitive strategies. Even if social affinity were not man's nature, reason would quickly realize that killing each other is not a sustainable exercise of self-interest. A rational self-interest would favor less a freedom to kill and more a liberty from being killed. Survival seems better achieved by agreeing not to kill each other than hurrying to kill first. The nature of man can be whatever the environment allows it to be. The environment, natural or social, does not require competitive conflict. It is man's moral cowardice that forces him to be selfishly brave.


       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... how a man's toughness fades when his fear and ignorance join hands. Authoritarian presumption thrives on the deference of the common man, so easily duped by the promise of safety... and the sacrifice of scapegoats.

......................................



     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 radiant glow of neural activity based upon the accumulated experiences of the external and internal environment, both consciously and unconsciously recorded, of the organic brain.  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 the domination 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 natural and inalienable rights 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... and more capacity to absorb education--knowledge of the larger world to draw on. Likewise, greater amygdala volume in the conservative brain suggests greater amygdala dominance and greater reaction to emotionally significant sensory inputs... fear in the case of threat, greed and predation 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 a 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 opposition to taxation is not only the complaint of greed, it is also a strategy for incapacitating government.
       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 finds a place.
       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 millisecond 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 favorable genetic mutations, and survival compelled adaptations to environmental change? Is evolution still undecided on whom to select... the reptile or the angel?


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     The ego-complex, then, is a submissive response of the cognitive faculty to the emotion of fear--the subservient prefrontal cortex conceives and recommends 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 socioeconomic sociopaths. 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. Generally, liberal is best understood as supportive of individual freedom. The liberalism of helping others is where conservatives demur). 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 and natural rights, as expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, and the social and economic 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 selfish conservatism, expedient rather than principled, seeking to impose a regime of unregulated freedom to achieve dominance... for the fearful brain, principles have less urgency than achieving advantage. How much it is unable to abide the implications of "created equal" is a window into the ego-complex soul. To hold high a national ethos in public and betray its dictates in private is more than hypocrisy, it is something spiritually deep that has failed, or is missing,
      There is no just individual freedom to subvert the declared common equality and inalienable rights of Life and Liberty. The natural rights declared inalienable are dedicated to the security of life (liberty), not the opportunities of life (freedom). The rights that protect us (liberty) must come first if freedom is to be more than a unhindered, conflict-ridden competition to survive. Government is instituted to secure rights, not to secure a freedom for unjust accomplishments. Freedom requires no government, no law; liberty necessitates it. Freedom begins when life is secure.
      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 compels obedience and loyalty to the past, only when our sense of honor demands it from within. The Constitution is a codification of The Declaration. There can be nothing in the Constitution, or in an interpretation of the Constitution, that abridges the principles of The Declaration.

(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 his reptilian inclinations. It is an adherence to discipline and prudence and thrift and efficiency and responsibility and self-reliance (Self-reliance is a virtue when achieved by an individual, it is meanness when demanded of everyone). True conservatism is cultural, it seeks to conserve the values and principles that have served community, and it 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 the traditions and freedom of advantaged people, is not respecting tradition or freedom, but fearing change, and denying the equal rights and human dignity of others... and defending against 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.




CHAPTER TWO

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. Personally, studying the literature, has made this layman believe that a human being is not a body with an onboard calculator... we are a brain with a body transporter. By that I mean, the brain is the dog, the conscious "me" is the tail).

(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. In addition, there are learned memories from cultural conditioning and personal life experiences stored in the hippocampus that are connected to the amygdala and frontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex assembles its sensory information and memories from past experience, and knowledge level of the world, 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 develops sooner and 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. This initial neural dominance is teaching the cognitive cortex to defer to the emotional amygdala, which the cortex must later learn to overcome, or not.
      It is likely that this neural dominance of emotion over cognition is contributing heavily to neural pruning, the selection of neurons and synapses that structure the prefrontal cortex into a persistent state of neural submission to the amygdala. In fact, the cortex is not fully developed until around age 25. So emotion has an enormous head start in affecting the brain's early predisposition. This is why early indoctrination can become so indelible despite later cognitive development--as the cortex belatedly matures cognition comes only to defend the indoctrination, not to dispute and overcome it. Education can enlighten an open mind, it only sharpens a structurally 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... reason has not achieved its potential control over emotion. And if it hasn't at age 25 it may never. Prejudiced indoctrination puts a young brain on a train it may never get off. What then is the meaning of freedom and individuality? Childhood should be the first step on a life of exploration, not the fixing of an immutable identity.
        All these early years in which environment and emotion dominate brain development would seem to make it difficult for the prefrontal cortex to ever gain control. Evolution layered a cortex on top of the primal brain, but the primal brain still rules.

(An excellent research article appearing at The Dana Foundation, The Brain's Emotional Development, by Dr. Nim Tottenham describes the amygdala and mPFC (medial prefrontal cortex) relationship:
"...increases in mPFC activity are associated with a decrease in the amygdala's activity--these two regions are anti-correlated with each other in response to emotional stimuli (such as fear faces). This anti-correlation...is interpreted to reflect mPFC regulation of the amygdala in healthy adulthood--i.e., top-down information flow from mPFC to amygdala. Unsurprisingly, adults who typically exhibit this pattern of anti-correlated amygdala and mPFC communication in response to emotional cues are those with better emotion regulation."
"...studies have shown that amygdala-to-mPFC connections develop earlier than regulatory connections in the opposite direction")(emphasis added).

        The bottom-up connection developing first suggests the amygdala is haranguing the prefrontal cortex to do something about the threat it is experiencing before the cortex has a channel to respond. Does this imply the prefrontal is being conditioned to the amygdala's reality, while simultaneously being insensitized to right brain compunction, thus becoming biased toward aggressive selfishness during its early development? Is anxiety a result of this early amygdala alarm flooding a prefrontal cortex that lacks the ability to cope?

      The Dana article also importantly describes the critical role of early environment and parental attitudes on amygdala activity... And equally important, the existence of sensitive periods in brain development when neural systems depend on positive stimuli from the environment to achieve proper function (podcast with Dr. Tottenham here).

         Another article in the National Institute of Health describes the amygdala and prefrontal cortex network, and the existence of an innate moral faculty:

"...neurobiological evidence points to an automatic...moral network that is centered in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex...particularly in the right hemisphere."
"Evolution has promoted social cooperation through emotions against harming others, a need for fairness...empathy...and other behaviors that feed into the concept of morality."
"...the amygdalae...mediate the response to threat and aversive social and moral learning. The [dorsolateral prefrontal cortex] can override this neuromoral network through the application of reasoned analysis to moral situations."
"...dorsolateral prefrontal cortex activation...suggesting a later, dispassionate, reasoned assessment for moral judgments in the absence of sufficient ventromedial prefrontal cortex moral reaction."
(Emphases added).

       And so, in "normal" brain development, evolution provided a moral network in the ventromedial area of the prefrontal cortex for the expression of empathy. But in brains lacking this moral reflex (neural pruning, lack of environmental stimulation, stress hormone toxicity, prejudiced indoctrination?), another part of the prefrontal, the dorsolateral, can still impose a moral response on the amygdala's reaction to threat... if it has the cognitive independence and competence to conceive a rational and moral self-interest, and if it is not already complicit with the amygdala, rationalizing beliefs and conflict strategies that affirm and support the amygdala's fear instead of countermanding it with non-conflict responses.


     It appears, then, that aggressive selfishness results from a suppressed ventromedial moral sensibility, and a dorsolateral cognitive power that lacks humanitarian principles and moral compunction, favoring exaggerated self-interest strategies over consideration for others. The consequence is failed top-down empathic regulation. The selfish brain neither feels empathy nor thinks about it. The unchecked amygdala then drives aggressive dominance seeking behaviors to fortify against its perceived threats, behaviors that are the primary cause of social injustice and human conflict. This is the sociopathic brain, primarily expressed through conservative politics and aggressive wealth and power acquisition. As long as the amygdala dominated personality is allowed a freedom for its selfish aggression a happy and peaceful world is illusory. The forms of social organization are secondary to the personalities who ascend to power. The sociopaths who once were aristocrats are now plutocrats. A democratic society needs a public ventromedial prefrontal cortex with the power to regulate its private rogue amygdalas.

"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." (Edmond Burke, ibid.).  

       As for the anxiety burdened brain, it would seem to have the moral sensibility, but lack the dorsolateral prefrontal power to overcome a biochemically overactive amygdala... so it is driven by fears which it lacks the cognitive ability to control, while retaining a moral sensibility that prevents it from engaging in selfish and aggressive behaviors. Anxiety is the result of elevated activity in the amygdala and repressed activity in the prefrontal cortex. The anxious brain is dominated by an amygdala it cannot escape and cannot control--it is trapped in a world of stress.

         Is the amygdala's seduction of prefrontal cortex cognition into complicity with aggressive and competitive individualist behaviors, a matter of lost opportunity for positive moral learning--or worse, exposure to negative impositions--during critically sensitive periods of prefrontal development? Is child-raising in a competitive individualist culture a moral wasteland for the developing brain? Is amygdala inspired indoctrination predisposing the brain away from fairness to others? Every child needs a caregiver who surrounds her with engaging conversation, joyfulness and love, emotional attachment, exposure to curiosity provoking experiences that open the mind to wonderment... and lots of good books. We are all a consequence of exposure to infusing experiences during our periods of critical development. Our brain is the effect of impositions and limitations--preconceptions and responses imposed, innate potential and possibility limited. We are able to choose very little or none of it. And then think of this beautifully nurtured child emerging into a cultural environment of selfishness, deceit and bullying, to realize the goodness she learned has made her ill-prepared for the reality she didn't.


                                              ................................................................

                                         

      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 young brain which neurons it needs for survival and which it does not. Thus an overly active amygdala is conditioning the brain for excessive self-concern. The amygdala is functionally selfish. It attends solely to the survival of its host organism. Thus it requires a cognitively independent frontal cortex to appreciate the value of common interest to self-interest. Even in the absence of empathy it is easy to see that self-interest finds greater security when common interest is secured, and resentments and retributions less likely.
      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 300,000 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 intuitive 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 behavior/belief responses successfully relieve the amygdala's fear, it becomes ingrained (conditioned behavior and belief), 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 the absence of conscience, emotion will decide on the behaviors and beliefs that please itself. Truth, then, is not about the cognitive brain's possession of factual information and guiding principles, 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 receives the alarm and 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. This gives insight into the conservative vehemence against the liberal "bleeding heart"--the liberal attempt to regulate certain freedoms for the sake of greater equality is seen by the conservative as denying him his primary means of escape from fear... achieving social and economic dominance over others. Justice seeking strikes at the core of the conservative brain's defenses. 
        Fear of change leaves the brain committed to an emotional and cognitive dependence on past beliefs and social arrangements. Defending the past blocks the openness and creativity for current remedies and impedes a curiosity for future possibilities. 
    
     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 fight 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 favored those existing physical and behavioral traits which survived best in a particular time and place. That other traits not present might have enhanced, not merely immediate survival but a more amiable further survival, selection did not have the opportunity to consider. The reptilian brain could have used a rational and moral cortex long before it got one.
     Additionally, survival depends on adaptability to a change in the environment. Thus where environment goes physical and behavioral traits must go. Natural self-interest was exacerbated by a fearful past into a reflex selfishness that foments conflict. Competitive social systems unnecessarily prolong an insecure environment, confining human brain development to fear's dominance. Social organization should relieve fear, not exploit it... "government is instituted to secure these rights."


                                                ...................................................................


(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 an educated 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. Liberal-mindedness means tolerance of difference and openness to novelty, the opposite of conservative xenophobia and suspicion toward the unfamiliar. It must be acknowledged, however, there are fair-minded people with conservative philosophical 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 more successfully 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 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 governed by benevolence, 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" to achieve social superiority. 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 a democratic freedom that subjugates others... it is pathological selfishness claiming a right to be free. (It will be argued below that "freedom" and "liberty" are not the same; and that the former is subordinate to the latter).

      In our first homo sapiens moments the amygdala was our best friend, for by it we survived. But it is now 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, contestants over who is to live well and who poorly, if at all. 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. 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 a specie possessing the physical and behavioral traits that thrive in the environment in which it lives, and being able to adapt (a facility for embracing change!) as environmental conditions change (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. Reactionary conservatism is a resistance to social change, that when politically successful forestalls ideological and psychological adaptation... deny facts that foretell the need for change and thereby remove the need to adapt. Good luck!

      Evolution is about physical survival. While the natural world remains our overriding environment, our daily lives exist in a social environment which we must also survive. We did not make the natural world, and we largely became what it required us to be. If there is choice in our brains, then we can be said to have made the social world... and thus we are responsible for what it requires us to be. Many say we are the image of gods. Others say we are rugged individualists, the offspring of the fittest. Others wonder about possibility and destiny, and would embrace our adaptability, nourishing ourselves toward a promising eventuality. What is sure is that an environment conditions its inhabitants. If we have dreams for ourselves we must make an environment that gives possibility to dreams.


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      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. It prefers, like the crocodile, to remain in the murky waters, waiting just below the surface for opportunity to cross the river.

      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 specie--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 intelligently enhance survival... the emotional fear impedes the rational possibility. 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 debilitated by stress hormones--the relentless anxiety of low wages, inescapable debt, violent and hopeless communities, depressing prospects, 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 primal jungle is now fomenting a social jungle! It is the ultimate irony: the amygdala's fear instigates 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 not smart enough to survive its fear. And the Democracy Covenant devolves into a deceiving pretense, mere promising words 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.).


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     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 few years of life. It seems plausible that during these first years the neural circuitry of empathy is being developed, or not developed, based on the quality of reattachment achieved by the infant brain; and that the amygdala's level of activity and the birth environment's lack of affection during this period greatly effects the brain's receptivity and responses, and ability to attach and empathize... that we cannot express what we do not possess, because we never received it. 
     It is interesting to speculate further that the postnatal brain's attachment means that the empathic faculty is "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 not mollified by a secure environment disrupts, and even precludes, this empathic preparation... which will eventually lead to the formation of an overly materialistic, selfish and psychologically unattached mind seeking personal advantage, and displaying resistance to government's effort to promote the common good... because helping others and promoting equality is a threat to the opportunity to achieve advantage.

      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 suppressed it. It appears there is a natural empathic impulse. 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 an interdependent community to achieve independent advantages, while endlessly carping about limits that impede the achievement of greater advantages.

      Aggressive competition--"survival of the fittest"--was mistakenly thought to be the reason for our successful evolution, but the more likely reality is that hominids 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 independence from the amygdala's reality, that re-introduced competition within the cooperative community.
      The very notion of competition undermines common interest, 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 that imply restrictions on the freedom to establish inequalities.

(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.).



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     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 specie 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... imposing ignorance on others 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. (Currently, women are receiving more university degrees). Certainly, it is everywhere apparent that women are more compassionate creatures than men. Men are the specialists, designed by evolution 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 socialization... as well, of course, by legal sanctions (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. Sadly, it takes only one selfish sociopath to make all the other members of a community 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 opportunities--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, unindoctrinated, 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.

       Neuroscience is opening the door to further brain medications. Perhaps one day there will be an empathy pill to relieve selfishness... perhaps even a relaxant for the amygdala. But they will probably have to be snuck into the bottled water!


 "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)





CHAPTER THREE


Freedom or Liberty?


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

      The selfish ego supposes to justify its achieved superiority through success at competition and the right to unlimited wealth... unregulated 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? Is unlimited wealth justified? Is poverty justifiable? Is democratic government's primary purpose the protection of private wealth? We must also, then, 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? Finally, justice does not only demand what is due, it demands what must be undone.
      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 politically enacted laws of governments (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 through biological creation and that they exist therefore by natural right... "created equal" meaning no one morally superior to 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..." (i.e., to secure these equal rights. Which means no inequalities can rightly emerge in the course of social activities that significantly abridge the fundamental equality of natural rights). Therefore, any government or administration of government that declines or fails to secure the inalienable and equal rights of life and liberty is illegitimate under Natural Law. Specifically, government's facilitation and protection of social inequality would be an abandonment of its primary purpose.

     Natural Law argument is based on the fundamental facts of life: that living things evolve from a natural environment that supports their existence; that 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 secure life's well-being), and the freedom to pursue one's potential... the seed becoming the flower.  And as the natural laws of life 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. The Constitutional Convention was not free to abrogate the principles of The Declaration).
    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 rights that denies access to the natural provisions of nature, is a glaring injustice and violation of the first purpose of government.
      The second imperative of the right to life is the right to develop from conception to maturity, the right to adapt and evolve, 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 provides physical and psychological security to the developing brain. 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.


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     The origin of property in classical liberal thought is perhaps best expressed in John Locke's Second Treatise on Government (published anonymously in 1689). Locke argued that whatever one removed from the common provisions 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" and Hayek's transcendent wisdom of the free-market). The Natural Law limit on property is not spoilage, but exclusion of others from their necessity, their share of material support for 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. But by allowing money to justify inequality of property Locke abandoned his natural law justification of property. For if the justifying conditions of spoilage and enough left for others no longer applied then neither did the justification of possession by labor. Serfs had been laboring for centuries. Property possession remained a fact without a legitimate origin, i.e., arbitrary.
      Enclosure of land meant possession for sustenance was no longer a right if you didn't have the price. The truth, of course, is that possession of land was never in history gained by philosophic argument, but by the forces of appropriation and occupation and defense.

"...no Man could ever have a just Power over the Life of another by Right of property in Land or Possessions." (John Locke, Two Treatises of Government).

       Fundamentally, the right to private property is based on the natural right to possess the materials necessary and sufficient for the support of life. If picking the apple makes the apple private property there must be enough apples left to satisfy the right of all others to pick an apple. Rights are equal, therefore possession must not be so unequal as to obstruct the ability to exercise the right to possess. There is no natural law argument for an extension of private property beyond the security of each person's life. The freedom to achieve great economic inequality makes a lie of democracy's equality.
       By taking from man his natural right to the materials of nature, he is forced to sell his labor. And if his labor is not wanted his right to life has no means of support. Economic usefulness  determines the individual's dignity. This is all contrived so that selfishness can have a path to private wealth and power without any obligation to the welfare of all.
      A democratic people must recognize that there is no means so pure that it justifies any outcome. All the classical liberals and neoliberals and libertarians tell us the freedom of the individual to achieve his personal desires is the highest good... and thus wherever his freedom takes us must also be good--the means justifies the end. This has been the successful sophistry of economic liberalism since Adam Smith only because it favors elites and establishments and sociopaths. But a means is judged by the outcome it produces. When a different outcome is demanded it falls upon the means to produce it. By the way, "personal desire" does not justify freedom. If it did what would we do about serial killers?

       That there is a natural right to an exclusive ownership of some amount of private property is self-evident. All persons have a right to the materials of their survival; and a right to a place of shelter and personal privacy is not debatable. The question becomes the parameters of private property: must property be equal? If not, how unequal? Is ownership absolute, or are there limitations to the use of property?

     The Declaration of Independence pointedly left property off the list of inalienable rights. The reason is clear: ownership of property beyond that sufficient for the security of life is a permissible freedom, not a natural right. Were unlimited property a right--that which is due to a person by law or nature--then those without such an extent of property would be denied of their right. The corollary is that property is then alienable... its use and amount of private accumulation subject to the good of the community (that is why Adam Smith introduced the invisible hand... to give assurance of good to the community) So there is no natural right to unlimited and unregulated property. The freedom to do or possess anything is always subordinate to the equal and inalienable rights of others. The Founders thought it was enough for the protection of property, I suppose, that those without property would be denied the vote!

(An excellent series of essays on 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...
Hence,
Capitalism rejects Christianity? Disdains democracy?
And conspires a dictatorship by wealth?
In the name of freedom?

...........................................................................................................................................



      No social institution other than the customary relationships within the primeval family group is natural... primal 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 protect 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 a natural right, then a maximum property is implied) There is little discussion in the history of property about maximum property other than the general caveat that what is beyond the use of one person's well-being belongs 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 the presumption of a right to unlimited wealth (property) has encountered little restraint.

     Classical Liberalism (unregulated Capitalism) did not recognize a universal natural right to property based on an original common ownership... or common non-ownership; that is, every one's right to everything, or no one's right to anything. That would imply equality, or anarchy. And property possession was already unequal. So the property interest needed an argument for the origin of property that justified unequal possession. And it could not accept a limit to the maximum ownership of property, nor a right of the deprived to appropriation based on need, nor would it accept the origin of property as a design against greed, subject to regulation by government. If there was to be a justification of unlimited private property it would have to explain its origin and its unequal possession... and show that it was consensual.
     Adam Smith's argument simply begins with property already having been appropriated, the original "right" of ownership presumably determined by the power to possess and defend, with no regulation upon the appropriator and no provision to the dispossessed. 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.

"...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)

Abraham Lincoln: "...the Jefferson party (Democrat Party) formed upon the supposed superior devotion to the personal rights of men, holding the rights of property to be secondary only and greatly inferior." (letter, April 6, 1859)(parenthesis added).


      Modern Liberalism became distinguished from original or Classical Liberalism by the gradual recognition that justice--and the preservation of private property, i.e., if injustice is too great the commoners will revolt--required some provision for the unsuccessful... a case of modest empathic sensibility easing its conscience and protecting its advantage by alleviating, though not reforming, systemic injustice.

        Adam Smith stated the first premise of Classical Liberalism in one sentence: "Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way..." (Wealth of Nations, bk.4, ch.9). This remains the basic principle of all forms of liberalism. And the condition about violation of the laws of justice continues to be recognized. The argument in political economy is about what the laws of justice require... that is, where the balance between every man's freedom and every one's liberty should lie... how much regulation of freedom... and what social outcomes are acceptable in a democratic community founded on the principle of equality?

      The term "liberal" has undergone a transformation in its roughly 250 year journey. Basically, liberal refers to freedom of the individual from political authority, whether Kings or democratic government. Classical liberalism--and neoliberalism, libertarianism--is about the economic freedom of the individual. And specifically, economic freedom is not subject to government control, not to be regulated nor the outcome redistributed. The result of this application of freedom was a new inequality, the basis of a new ruling class... the democratic revolution against aristocracy did not achieve the equal rights of man. So liberalism broke into factions which continue today: economic, or small government liberals, are the anti-regulation, anti-tax, equality disdaining conservative Republicans; those who believe in regulation of practice and adjustment of outcomes for a more equal society are liberal Democrats. The emergence of neoliberalism in the era of Thatcher/Reagan was a reaction against government intervention in the economy for social justice, that soon penetrated both of America's dominate political parties. An excellent article on neoliberalism is here.


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     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--the selfish brain--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 land...it would be to no purpose to trace further what might have been..." (intro and book 1, ch 8--My emphasis). 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 land already privately appropriated, and a society divided into "ranks." His "natural" distribution of wealth assumed existing inequality. As for the justice of land appropriation and the proper distribution of wealth among social ranks, or even the rightness of ranks, Smith evades: "I shall not take upon me to determine." (ibid. book 1, ch 8--My emphases). Capitalism begins with an acceptance of existing social inequality and the unequal possession of property. Mankind's historical campaign for freedom and liberty was against existing inequalities, not a search for an alternative method of imposing and maintaining them. 

     The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, an interesting historical coincidence with the American Declaration of 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... and all those who were not propertied white men. It is argued here that the link is specious... that capitalism is opposed to democratic equality, that unregulated capitalism inevitably results in inequalities that violate 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. Of course, there is no basis for assuming that unintended consequences will be good more often than bad, especially when it is selfishness that is rewarded. And as for the freedom of desires to maximize happiness, that is what necessitates laws that regulate freedom. There is no right to a happiness that does harm to the rights of others.
     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 key to understanding the dynamic of competition for survival in a social context. It means systemically imposed insecurity (conservative opposition to "safety nets"). That is, it would not be government's role to secure the right to life, but to give opportunity to insecurity driven selfishness and political protection to the consequences--"with freedom and security". Every man's insecurity would be any man's opportunity to gain advantage, and to then extort further advantage. Peasants forced off land subsistence would be cheap labor for the factories. A democratic government, "instituted to secure these rights," would form institutions that protect the human brain from the stresses and derangement of fear and perpetual anxiety... and protect human rights (liberty) from the predatory freedoms of greed. The selfish mind wants democratic political authority ceded to market interests, economic power controlling political power in order to forestall the slow advance of democratic equality. Greed wants advantage, not equality. Classical liberalism sought to confine the lower orders of humanity to the unending anxieties of an economic system founded on the usefulness of insecurity.
        Classical liberal freedom is that of a prisoner allowed to run for his life, who is never caught and never escapes... but must never stop running. That is not freedom, it is a cruel manipulation of the dream of freedom.

“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 consequence of exerted selfishness is great social inequality (not to mention the reinforcement of amygdalan fear)... and it is very much intended.

     Distributed wealth is also the key to economic growth. The supply sider demands more "freedom"--less taxes and regulation of 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. And if supply precedes demand where does supply get its signal of what to produce? Producers are deciding what consumers should want--and spending fortunes on advertising to assure they want it... behavior conditioning, associating products with smiling faces--rather than human need and individual desires directing what is produced (The success of commercial advertising reveals the brain's susceptibility to conditioning. Behavior is induced by arousing primal emotions: opportunity for pleasure, relief from pain, safety from fear... getting the amygdala's attention and associating a product with satisfaction-- combining the sound of a bell with food. Politicians also know about arousing primal emotions and promising satisfactions).
       Supply side theory is simply another scheme for funneling more wealth to the wealthy through tax reductions and less regulation of rapacity. It is an extortion gambit--if you don't allow us greater reward we won't make more things and create more jobs. The answer to any extortion is to apply disincentives.
       There are other insidious deceptions: like "a rising tide lifts all boats"... not boats with crushed hulls laying on the bottom. And there is the "growing pie means bigger slices for everyone." These metaphors seek to refute zero-sum arguments... yet in any place and period of time there is a per capita income and a per capita wealth, and as much as one exceeds it another must fall short. And even when the percentage increases are the same at the bottom and the top, the absolute difference is greater... inequality increases.

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


(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 personal superiority. It simply does not require unlimited reward to incentivize rational self-interest. "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 who have sought to become the possessors of power and privilege and extreme abundance... whatever the butchery required).


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      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... conservatism is typically the defense of something that needs to be changed). 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 systematically confined to a condition of competitive selfishness, precluding the evolution of his better 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).


(Regarding conservatism of the time: every step of human progress away from an undesirable situation, beginning with some ancient ritual sacrifice of virgins (when did they ever sacrifice the good old boys?!) to appease some capricious god or entertain some psychopathic ruler, has been opposed by the conservative brain... defending a status quo, however horrendous, because of selfish interest and/or an emotional fear of change and uncertainty).

      
     The failure to distinguish between condition and nature results in the failure to see social arrangements as a consequence of the thoughts and actions of  previous generations, and thus subject to alteration in response to changing values and knowledge and aspiration. To guide improvements in man's condition by arguing what ought to be gives greater possibility to human evolution than simply describing his circumstance... and supposing it to reveal his nature. Seeing economics as a science rather than as political economy gives a sense of necessity to man's condition, as if the path of his orbit is determined and predictable... and his nature prescribed. And it allows the social scientists to exclude moral judgments, and, like Adam Smith, to take it not upon themselves. Avoiding value judgments because of presumed free-market inevitability serves well the desired outcomes of the selfish mind.

     “…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”).

       If human nature is seen as having evolved by a long and painful crawl out of primordial fear, then to accept man's condition at any historical stopping place as his nature, and design societal arrangements which exert and reinforce that nature, is to confine him to that historical moment, and preclude his further evolution.
      The exertion of man's insecurity in order to compel his efforts has been very productive of material prosperity for much of mankind. But doing so has moored human character to its primitive past. What manner of human character would emerge were fear no longer the determinant of behavior may one day be known. But for us, still immersed in selfish pursuits, capitalism is a restraint, not a step in that direction. Adaptability is supposed essential to survival, the inhabitant must change with the habitat. It would seem an ideology conceived to satisfy the emotions of fear is not the best strategy for survival. And acknowledging capitalism's productivity does not mean there was or is no alternative. It is not individual selfishness that is productive, but intelligence and imagination and aspiration. Homo Empathicus has no less of these qualities than Homo Egoisticus. It is a matter of who is conditioned by rewarding incentives.


(A note about political labels: The movement for economic freedom--Classical Liberalism--inspired by the Wealth of Nations occurred in the context of 18th century political liberalism... the Rights of Man rising against the rights of aristocrats. 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. It comes down to what stance political movements take in relation to an issue--advocacy or resistance. Generally, "conservatism" is any political reaction that defends traditional and/or existing arrangements experienced as psychologically familiar, thus comforting, or socially advantageous [also comforting], 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]. If one sees the march of history as a slow progress toward a greater realization of human rights, then conservatism is at every stage an opposition to that advance. Social "Liberalism" (better label is "Humanitarianism") has been the empathic mind in pursuit of that change for greater human liberty and equality and self-realization against existing conditions that are experienced as oppressive. Conservatism is an emotional resistance to such change. It is not so much a set of principles and ideas as it is a psychology that embraces policies that oppose change or further self-interest. 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. To take it further, the progressive [another label] is eager to take bold steps into the future, while the liberal is content with tentative steps. As no one likes to be labelled, I am sure none of this will be agreed upon).

(As a further note on labels, the regulation of capitalist economy for just outcomes, the full realization of "unalienable rights" for all, would be "democratic economy" or "democratic capitalism"... wherein the outcome of capitalist economics would be regulated to serve democratic principles (like minimum and maximum wealth and income). The exertion and reinforcement of selfishness through the incitement of the amygdala's fear does not arrive at democratic outcomes--indeed, it is a system of economic totalitarianism, where man serves the economy instead of the economy serving man--nor does it serve the moral well-being of those incited by manipulating their fear and suppressing their empathic sensitivity. If the American Revolution was for the establishment of a political form to secure life and liberty and equality, then the economy must not be allowed to forestall the political end).

       This hypothesis describes "conservatism" as the belief that the freedom of private property has precedence over the democratic principle of inalienable rights, that democratic principle should not regulate capitalist economy (Freedom is hailed as the first right by ignoring "created equal" and obscuring "liberty"). The political progressive views democratic liberty and equality as prior to capitalist freedom. Liberalism is the wavering reed between the rights of property and the extent of its freedom, and the liberties of the right to life--psychologically attached to both donor money and empathic sentiments (To be fair, the liberal mind would likely follow much more its empathy were it not for money's control of politics). The political struggle over regulation, taxation, social programs and size of government reflects this historical conflict: whether liberty and the inalienable rights of life are to regulate the freedom of property, or the interests of capital are to limit the advancement of democratic social policy. In fewer words, the conflict is between freedom and liberty, the freedom of selfish individualism to pursue its upper-class happiness vs. the security and liberty of every one's right to life. Classical liberal political philosophy shattered hereditary aristocracy not to free the common man from bottom class confinement, but to open a path for middle class aspirations to reach upper class power and luxury. The enemy of democracy is the selfish brain that disdains equality.
       Two questions for people everywhere: Should economic activity be free to arrive at any social outcome, or should it be regulated to serve democratic principles? And of emerging importance, is it acceptable that the freedom of avarice to achieve wealth and power, is evolving into a global neoliberalism, a supranational oligarchy independent of national sovereignty, aided by shell corporations, money laundering, tax shelters, secrecy havens, and complicitous political agents? 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident."

1. Inalienable rights:
   a. Life: there is no justification for denying an individual of life and life's necessities.
   b. Liberty: individual rights protected by law from violation.
   c. Freedom ("pursuit of happiness"): thoughts and behaviors for which law imposes no restriction.
2. Governments are instituted "to secure these rights."
  a. Economic forms are obliged to serve common equality and sufficiency over opportunities for individual superiority.

       The Declaration provides the principles for a political economy that makes clear the conflict between economic liberalism and the promise of democratic equality. Liberal economy has rested on the assertion that people are selfish, and therefore social institutions should not only allow their selfishness but reward it, and thus reinforce it... creating a social environment hindering non-selfish traits. Good cannot be supposed to result from rewarding selfishness. Right must be pursued and not awaited as an unintended outcome of wrong.
       Churchill said "history is written by the victors." I suppose society is designed by the ambitious to favor their ambitions. Desperation easily becomes selfish--it is, after all, a matter of survival. But a people secured against desperation will no longer be exerted by it; and no longer conditioned to survival selfishness. What then of human nature? Can we nurture ourselves into angels and allow evolution to leave behind the reptile (And maybe even give up bullying children into suicide?)? I think we should listen to the benevolent hearts, not the "rugged individualists"... who see themselves in the mirror and think they see everyone.
     


     The core principle of the rule of law is that common liberty from harm has precedence over individual freedom of action... that there can be no freedom that harms others (like scheming or conspiring to own all the apples!). Why would this not apply to economic behavior as any other behavior? Why should individuals not give up private interests that are inconsistent with the common good? Economic wealth that controls politics to benefit itself is not democracy. That is plutocracy.
        Libertarians say the common good could not be achieved without coercion... neither would there be obedience to the rule of law without coercion. A society without the means of coercion would be a society where everyone would be free to do anything. Every law, whether it commands what we cannot do or what we must do, is a restriction of individual freedom for the benefit of common liberty from harm. Society makes laws to serve the common good. Why should there be a freedom of economic property and wealth to be unaccountable to the common good? Why should wrong not be coerced from doing wrong, or freedom from not respecting liberty? If the exercise of a right abuses the equality of the right, the exercise is subject to limitation. Whatever rights are implicit to the right to life, they must not be denied because private interests wish to deny them.
       Libertarians also ask what right a government has to regulate freedom, especially the economic freedom of private citizens for the benefit of the whole community? One answer is sufficient: "...government instituted to secure these rights." Freedom to do what one wants is not the purpose of democracy. Democracy's covenant is to protect the natural rights of every individual from violation by the powers of government and private interest. The size of government and the extent of its power to regulate must be sufficient to achieve its purpose--to secure and enforce the natural rights of all individuals. And that is determined by the rapacity of the selfish brain. Freedom must kneel before Liberty.

"Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men..." (John Adams, Thoughts on Government, 1776).

"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...men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."  (Edmund Burke, ibid.) (My emphasis).

"Give me control of a nation's money and I care not who makes it's laws." (attributed to Amschel Rothschild, 1744-1812).


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           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 eye on 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. Calling things what they are and standing for what one believes to be true and right over what is personally safe or politically advantageous are among the highest aspects of honor, but not the most popular... an example of how economic dependency compromises the freedom of character. That standing for what one believes can jeopardize one's economic security tells just how much the freedoms of capitalism violates the liberties of democracy.


       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 a result of 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 luxury and dominance is a moral abomination upon the soul of humankind. Private wealth that greatly exceeds a maximally conceivable level of comfort and security becomes private political power, circumventing the principle of democratic equality. Money in politics is not speech, it is purchasing power. Economic liberalism values the freedom of plutocrats above the nurturing 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 is "so long as they do not interfere with the equal rights of others." (Even the most libertarian individualist will not overtly deny this caveat). The caveat is an implicit acknowledgement of the priority of liberty... that freedom, especially economic freedom, is limited by the equal 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. Therefore, there is no just economic freedom to impose socioeconomic and political inferiority. Dominance over others is harm to others.
         But the liberal ideologies of freedom--classical liberalism, neoliberalism. libertarianism--when they acknowledge the equal right of others do not intend liberty. By "equal right" they mean "equal opportunity" to exercise one's freedom to do as one wants. Liberal freedom is a zero sum competition for the goods of life with no guarantees. Liberty is defined by a set of specific rights implied in the right to life, declared inalienable and secured by law from violation by those freely pursuing their wants. That government is to secure these rights means that government is not to be neutral. Government must assure that systemic design achieves the realization of these rights... outcome adjudicates means... liberty regulates freedom. To advocate freedom without distinguishing the notion of liberty as the security of rights is to allow and desire the excesses of freedom. Socioeconomic selfishness is simply saying, "I don't want your liberty limiting my freedom." So they insist that liberty is just another word for freedom!

      A right is diminished when the power to exercise it is made unequal. Unequal wealth means unequal power means unequal realization of 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 by virtue of private ownership of economic resources? No inequality can be supposed to rest on an imagined original or prior or implied or tacit 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 those expropriated.
       Much argument in support of traditional arrangements relies on the notion of "tacit consent," i.e., silent approval. In reality, an unjust circumstance begins with imposition, followed by resignation, to then fossilize into tradition... transmitted through indoctrination. That a circumstance has not been opposed by a predecessor does not establish its rightness. Justice is a current voice, whether or not spoken or heard in the past. And even where a prior consent existed, it is not prescriptive in the present. The natural rights of the individual life are paramount, and how a democratic people come to understand their rights supersedes prior understandings. What our predecessors decided or accepted for themselves has less weight than what we decide for ourselves.


                
      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.” (Wealth of Nations).

    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.” (ibid).


       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 contradiction—only a faith that selfish propensity will be beneficial to the whole of society. 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 not so 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."  ibid. (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... the human history of the many ruled by the few. Liberty is to be free of abusive freedoms. Justice is the achievement of that liberty.
     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).

     "...how disagreeable does he appear to be, whose hard and obdurate heart feels for himself only, but is altogether insensible to the happiness or misery of others!" (ibid; 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. As fear is our maker, a modicum of selfishness is understandable, and indeed inevitable, and acceptable 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 if he would think today that 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 a fair-minded 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 it's attendant power, accompanied by flirtations with Moral Sentiments. The amygdala brain easily disregards the sentiments, and so avoids the hypocrisy).

        Smith's assumption of inequality about 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, and acceptance of the unjust origins of property-based inequality. Can a democratic people have a purpose and a determination to make new assumptions, and find new laws that reward a better view of human nature? If one begins by removing Smith's assumption of land already privately appropriated, and his acceptance of social ranks, and instead begins with The Declaration's assertion of created equal and inalienable rights, a whole new economic regime would emerge. Natural self-interest would be honored, self-sufficiency and innovation would be rewarded, reasonable inequalities would accrue to merit, while sociopathic selfishness would no longer be rewarded. The great fear of privileged elites is that the commoners will define their rights and claim their liberties.


     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 assumed to justify 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 social conflict, whereupon a true individualism will find a true freedom in the security given by a common and equal liberty and justice for all.


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       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 equally or be held illegitimate. Natural Law does not require absolute equality without regard to personal effort and social contribution. What it minimally requires, however, is sufficiency for all citizens... the security of life and its development, both economically and neurologically. Natural Law requires realities, not theoretical "equal opportunities." "Instituted to secure these rights" means that government is required to do more than observe a race to see who wins and who loses... and then accommodate the victors. Government is responsible for the security of life, to establish the social forms that give freedom a proper meaning... and to deconstruct the forms that don't.


Among crimes against the right to life:
   a. Physical assault.
   b. Neurological: emotional insecurity, developmental privation.
   c. Economic privation.
   d. Educational privation.
   e. Inaccessible health care.
   f. Persecution of personal identity

Among unacceptable outcomes:
   a. Mal-distribution of economic wealth.
   b. Private power control of public policy.
   c. Avarice and corruption are rewarded, neurologically selected.
   d. Gerrymandered representation; vote suppression.

Among systemic reforms:
   a. A progressive tax code to methodically
       dismantle extreme wealth inequality.
   b. Reward and esteem of cooperation over selfishness--
       Incentivize social over selfish evolutionary traits.
   c. International cooperation to prosecute global financial corruption--
       Shell corporations, money laundering, tax evasion, secrecy havens.
   d. Educational/cultural attention to healthy infant/child
       Neurological development.

       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, 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 economic 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. 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. Government accessible by democratic election is very much preferable to government by private wealth.

     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.
      Freedom that gives opportunity and reward to evil is evil freedom. The high trickery of financial wealth to launder, evade, conceal and escape from social regulation and accountability is a moral crime against humanity. There is loose in the world a supranational gang of plutocrats trending toward a sovereignty of private wealth. Capitalism has come to constrain and use democracy. Democracy must come to constrain and use capitalism.

    
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     The purpose of democracy is common equality and liberty... human rights that are equal and protected from encroachment or denial. The priority of capitalism is freedom of the individual to achieve unequal wealth and power... to escape democratic equality. Conservative philosophers and political economists have tried hard to identify capitalism with democracy, and freedom with liberty. But capitalism is inherently contrary to democracy, and freedom and liberty are not the same thing. 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. The human rights that constitute liberty and establish equality are roadblocks to the freedoms sought and cherished by the selfish mind.

      When speaking of "freedom" four questions should be asked: "Whose freedom?", "Freedom to do what?", "What is the likely outcome of this freedom?", and "Does this outcome violate democratic equality?" Freedom means to be unhindered in the pursuit 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 perhaps less eloquent, if the Declaration had written, "life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness." It would have been obvious that freedom and liberty are not interchangeable terms, as they are commonly thought to be. And the order of the wording expresses the priority of the rights--the right to life, the liberty that protects the natural rights of life, and the freedom to pursue a happiness that does not injure the liberty of others.
        The right to pursue happiness can only refer to "freedom."  Thus if the Founders understood freedom and liberty to be synonymous terms, then The Declaration would be stating "life, freedom and freedom"... a foolish repetition. Clearly, "liberty" refers to security of inalienable rights, and freedom to the right to pursue one's desires that do not harm the rights of others.

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

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. 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." (Abraham Lincoln, Baltimore, April 18, 1864).

       The sheep's liberty (more easily understood as "freedom from") is being gained at the cost of the wolf's freedom ("freedom to").

        Adam Smith knew about liberty too... he just didn't call it liberty. Like the liberal tradition, he conflated liberty with freedom. Smith wrote that "...the sovereign has only three duties to attend to; three duties of great importance..." Two of those duties are national defense and establishing a public infrastructure. The third duty he describes as "...the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it..." (Wealth of Nations, bk4, ch9). That is, it is of "great importance" that government secure each person's life and rights against every other person. That is liberty without a name. And in that protection what is being
restricted is the freedom of all others. Liberty trumps freedom.

       F.A. Hayek, in his book, The Constitution of Liberty, quotes the above passage from President Lincoln. Then he writes: "We are concerned in this book with that condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as possible in society. This state we shall describe throughout as a state of liberty or freedom. These two words have been also used to describe many other good things in life. It would therefore not be very profitable to start by asking what they really mean." Then in a note to this passage he writes: "There does not seem to exist any accepted distinction in meaning between the words 'freedom' and 'liberty,' and we shall use them interchangeably," (pg 57, ch 1).

       So Hayek will write a book employing two of the most important principles in human history without asking what they really mean. And since there is no accepted distinction in their meanings he will continue the confusion. Would not a Nobel Prize winner in economics have sought to define his most cherished terms, asking "what they really mean," at least for the sake of better clarity to his own argument? Hayek quoted the passage, so he was cognizant of the distinction. Was there purpose to the synonymity? The point was made above that this confusion serves to obscure the subordination of freedom to liberty; that liberty is constituted of those rights, civil and natural, which are guaranteed to all members of a community, and which cannot be legally abridged by any one's freedom to do as they want, whether it be government or other individuals. Why did the classical and neo liberals assume good consequences and seem to care so little about bad consequences? The selfish mind is concerned more for the freedom of its own desires... greed is focused on the consequence it covets, not concern for the liberty of others it may violate. When one is ideologically arguing for a maximization of economic freedom it is understandable that they would obscure its likely bad effects, and thus its required limitations. In the end, Hayek produced an appeal for economic freedom that obscured the priority of democracy's liberty, subordinating the inalienable rights of all individuals to the desires of those relative few unburdened by internal restraints. Hayek's book served the wolves at the expense of the sheep.
     The wolf calls liberty freedom, and freedom liberty, to beguile Little Red Riding Hood into forgetting her liberty. Rights are ignored because selfishness wants to play an opportunity game, where ends are justified because they are the results of freedom. For how can one achieve social advantage if others have rights against being disadvantaged? Natural and inalienable rights mean sheep deserve liberty more than wolves deserve freedom. Ideology is not a search for truth, it is a search for justification.

     There is a long history that helps to explain the synonymous use of liberty and freedom. Indeed, the French word Liberté translates to freedom. But a distinction between the terms is critical, because what cannot be done to a citizen is more important than what she can do. Speech is a freedom until some power stops us from speaking; speech is a liberty when no power is allowed to stop us from speaking. The liberal emphasis on economic freedom permits extreme results by obscuring the natural right to basic sustenance--a liberty from being deprived. The liberty of all to participate means
there is no freedom for any to hoard.

       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 against harm, specified inalienable rights enforced by a common authority; 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 the selfish brain's freedom to seize any opportunity for the encroachment of liberty... especially the freedom of economic strength to exploit the vulnerability of economic weakness... and the freedom of economic wealth to place a stranglehold on government's purpose to secure inalienable rights. It is not angels who call for limited government. It is those who are most not angels.
       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, especially economic freedom, is subject to the implied limitations... the regulation of economic outcomes to establish the liberty of all from being deprived of their natural right to life and its sustenance.

                                                ......................................................................


        Freedom and liberty are political terms that refer to the operation of external 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 of denial 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, and depend on the confusion of liberty and freedom: 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. Failure to distinguish liberty from freedom obscures the manner in which freedom offends liberty.
      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 protecting liberty--the natural rights of life--by restricting liberty. The advantage seeker then sneaks away, his freedom unhindered because we can't restrict his liberty. But confusions are unraveled by distinctions. Liberty relieves fear and insecurity and threat by protecting natural and civil rights, which in turn allows for a democratic 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 violate inalienable rights, especially the freedom to hoard economic wealth and control government.


      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. By obscuring liberty as protection of the natural rights of life they can attack government--taxation and regulation--as the enemy of freedom. Whereas, in fact, taxation and regulation is how economic activity is made to serve the democracy covenant. If freedom is the only right what is there to limit it? Without an understanding of liberty, the freedom of reasonable human aspiration appears to justify the freedom of avarice.

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

    Remove the conditional clause and the statement advocates anarchy. 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 rightful freedom to achieve an advantage that violates the equal rights of others. Freedom is always restricted by what is due to others... and that is called justice. Indifference to the rights of others is an absence of social conscience... and that is called sociopathy. Great social inequality has been a long historical injustice, whether imposed by the divine right of kings and priests, the right of conquest, or the economic achievements of a rapacious freedom.


       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 reasonably assumed 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 unattached sociopathic brain seeking superiority and domination... the relentless ambition of the selfish brain to expand its prospects, driven to constantly feed itself with pleasures and gains. Government intervention, then, is indeed a violation of natural freedom, but for the beneficent purpose of securing the rights of life for all. Thus freedom is not an inalienable right in the sense of life and liberty. Freedom is adjustable to circumstance, what is tolerable in one place may not be in another. The only just restraint of freedom is for the end of guarding life and liberty. But it is the one restraint that is essential for inhibiting the reptilian brain... and beginning the selection of homo empathicus.
        Freedom is a moral good, but all its possible outcomes are not. Any particular freedom of action must be judged by its particular consequences upon others.


     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 coercive 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 in order 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 function.
       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, again, it is not inalienable. In addition, "happiness" is a subjective psychological state associated with the satisfaction of 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 may not have 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. Nonetheless, 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 the economic behaviors and unequal achievements of the pursuit of "happiness" that are claimed in the name of "freedom," and which impose privations 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. Liberty is not only a barrier against government, but also the intentions of human selfishness.
     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.

     Freedom appears wholly a virtue until it is wielded by the selfish brain; then the role of government becomes apparent--to establish a liberty from the violations of freedom. 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 devious enough 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 by selfish elites expressing their desire to achieve and enforce their own superiority by preventing government from "securing these rights." A government of, by, and for the people is disparaged with a purpose to weaken the protector of 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!

       The special talent of selfishness is to make enemies where there would otherwise be none.





CHAPTER FOUR


Beyond The Reptilian Brain

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



      By now anyone reading this text may--or may not--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 a modest 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? Or if their money manipulating skills were suddenly worthless and they found themselves competing for unskilled work? Progressive taxes and government's attempt to safety net the losers are threats to achieved superiority. Leveling the field is harmful to advantage. 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 social 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 instruments. 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 little regarded 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 habits of compliance to the way things are. There is no inevitability of injustice. It must be desired and demanded. 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... stimulation of the brain's pleasure center. Is it a desperate need for the emotions of pleasure to eclipse 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 selfish ideology 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 across the land in California Native Americans were enslaved and exterminated for 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 destroying 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 who wrote words that exceeded even themselves, only to be forsaken by men who had not paid the price of Independence, and who thus, perhaps, bore less loyalty to the principles made in sacrifice. 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.


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      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 deficiency—the failure of the prefrontal cortex to supervise the amygdala, 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 possibility of 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 sociopathic 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 human conflict, to describe its neurological, behavioral and systemic pathways--amygdala dominated neural development, aggressive/selfish behavior, and economic forms that reinforce selfishness and perpetuate inequality--and to point toward a more hope-filled future. Getting there involves pragmatic modification of incentives, experimentation with alternative economic forms, and a revolution in education, teaching not what to think but how to think... 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 would 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, not to be devoured by fear. 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 curiosity, guided by intuition… by a wondering mind not bound or limited by preconception, nor 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, the sensibility and courage to dissent from the prescriptions of others. 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. Yet in giving our best we must know that the consequences that fate imposes give no consideration to our intentions.
     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 a true freedom resting on a secured liberty of life, 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 compel 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 be our guide. 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… the capacity to conceive what we ought and hold to it, regardless of threat or temptation. 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's freedom... He who knows there are things to which his freedom stands in servitude.

      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 stoke and prolong the reptilian nightmare within ourselves. 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.


                                                Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
                                               (William Wordsworth, Ode on Intimations...)


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      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 here 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 an argument filled with so many repetitions will have been an annoyance to some readers. To them I apologize. But it takes new repetitions to extinguish old repetitions... that, after all, is what cognitive modification theory is about. My concern, 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. Thus my judgment was that the hypothesis and its intertwining elements required recurring summaries and reminders and parenthetic observations... 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. Searching for Truth requires a reach that sometimes finds mistake, but the reach is imperative for we must know the truth or live by 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.


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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 correct: nothing about an author determines whether a hypothesis is true or false... a credential does not discover truth. An idea stands on its own, only experience and demonstration can verify or dismiss. Once a message is delivered the messenger is irrelevant. Truth is not boosted by the credits, nor 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. One thing defeats fear... courage.

   This effort is dedicated to all those who have hearts mightier than their egos, and who have personally experienced that giving is a gain... 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: AttentiveCitizen@DemocryCovenant
Email: attentivecitizen42@gmail.com






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