A Timeless Dream, A Promise Broken:
Democracy’s Travail


"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, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

       The first sentence, second paragraph, of America's Declaration of Independence proclaims three principles upon which American democracy is founded: that all persons are created equal; that every person is entitled to certain unalienable rights; that government is instituted to secure those rights. These are the indispensable principles of legitimate government, and the core of democracy's promise: the declaration of human equality and the freedom of every person to pursue their happiness, restrained only by justice, the rights of others, and the common good. It is a promise unfulfilled--the historical longing for human equality betrayed yet again by the unyielding demand of the selfish brain for power and privilege over others. The self-evident truths, "created equal" and "right to life" imply an unalienable right to a life of fundamental equality.

"Let us re-adopt the Declaration of Independence, and with it, the practices, and policy, which harmonize with it." (Abraham Lincoln, Oct. 16, 1854).

      American democracy has not secured the unalienable rights of life; it has added civil laws to Hobbes’ jungle--"a condition of war of everyone against everyone"--seeking to protect the unequal results of economic and political competition for social dominance against violent redress--laws that lessen the violence, but not the desperate struggle for livelihood; giving avarice the legitimacy and "freedom" to achieve private economic wealth, and thereby the political power to control democratic government, preventing fulfillment of democracy's promiseand inculcating an acceptance in the public mind that social inequality is good because it results from free competition--ignoring the emotional and psychological violence of unrewarded struggle, unrecognized dignity, and unequal freedom. Capitalist democracy achieves outcomes that violate the declared principles of popular democracy--"of, by, and for, the people."--by permitting private power achieved through financial wealth to eclipse the democratic power of the sovereign people. America is not a people's democracy because America is not a people's economy: a people's economy would minimize wealth inequality, preventing economic power from becoming political power. In a democracy, the benefits of economic growth must spread outward, not upward.

     The democratic requirement of civil law is that it respect the inalienable rights of life and not be a system of rules that merely legitimate and protect the traditions of inequality that have historically been a usurpation by force (Conservatism's conserving the past by exempting it from moral reflections and democratic principles).

"That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." (Declaration of Independence; 1776).

"Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary." (Reinhold Niebuhr; The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness, 1944).

"Oligarchy is when men of property have the government in their hands." (Aristotle; Ethics, Book 3, Part 8).

      There is no inalienable right to a private power to obstruct the will of the sovereign people. When a representative body fails to enact the laws that a clear majority of the people want, and that do not violate minority rights--as distinct from minority desires--democracy has been subverted.


     The term "liberal" is immensely misleading: in economics, it refers to Classical Liberalism—the unregulated free-market economy of Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations, published in 1776. The word "liberal" derives from the Latin word “liber,” meaning “free.” The philosophy and moral aspirations of liberalism arose from the Enlightenment, the 18th century's escape from a millennium of theocratic darkness. As understood politically and morally liberal means equality and freedom--release from systems of imposed inequality. Thus liberal freedom contains an implicit limitation--it cannot be a path to new inequalities, implying the regulation of classical liberal economic freedom to prevent unjust inequalities in political and social outcomes; securing a democracy of justice and equality for all. The freedom of liberal economics (neoliberalism, unregulated capitalism) is therefore, antithetical to the freedom and equal rights of liberal democracy. The former utilizes freedom to achieve private wealth and class inequality; the latter promises democratic equality.
     A competitive social system does not sufficiently tame the Hobbesian struggle for survival to provide neurological security to the developing brain, resulting in harmful emotional and cognitive impacts upon brain structure and function; often expressed in anti-other attitudes--political and cultural beliefs and behaviors that produce division and discord. Competition for achieving a basic level of well-being and security of life is confining mankind to its primal fears--we hesitate to cooperate because we are too afraid to trust and share, so we remain mired in competition and conflict.

        The first imperative for all living things is survival. The second imperative is truth about the environment in which life is struggling to survive--successful adaptation requires knowledge of what is true of the physical and social habitat. The third imperative is brain plasticity, being able to learn and thus knowingly and willingly adapt--the neural flexibility to modify formerly conditioned belief and behavior based on new information. A flexible brain allows facts to alter beliefs; a rigid brain denies facts to preserve beliefs. In the fear-based brain emotion supersedes reason: reassuring beliefs appease emotional fears--and they need not be based on truth or reason.


       The following hypothesis offers a cause for the failed promise: the fearful brain--a brain whose early development is dominated by the emotions of primal fear tends not to acquire an evolved sensibility for moral and democratic principles. It will be a brain of intensified self-interest and undeveloped empathy and compassion for others, employing expedient strategies for social advantage in opposition to "all men are created equal." We will explore the neuropsychology of the fearful brain, and the implications of "Life" and "Liberty," the pillars of the promise. THE QUESTION: If all persons are "created equal," by what right or necessity, and for whose benefit, are they made unequal in society... by what right is Nature's provision to all, ceded preferentially to a few?


     Neuropsychology is the study of the relationship of belief and behavior to brain structure and function. The brain is a biological machine analogous to any machine, its optimal performance and behavioral product depend on all parts--brain regions--working properly in relation to each other. It is proposed here that a hyper-reactive amygdala's response to perceived threat impacts the early brain with excessive fear emotions that suppress or derange the development of moral sentiments and cognitive independence; resulting in a brain whose cognitive faculty serves primal emotions (Freud's id) by rationalizing justifications and expedient strategies for self-advancing behavior--persistent patterns of deceit, hypocrisy, selfishness, and authoritarian lust for power--rather than providing reasoned restraint and guidance based on truth and ethical principles (superego). Selfish ambitions then triumph over moral character; sociopolitical tribes become enemies; and the shadow of autocracy looms over democracy. (See also Amygdala Hijack).

      Opposition to human equality results from this failure of the brain's cognitive faculty to develop morally informed moderation of a hyperactive amygdala's fear generated behavior--xenophobia, greed, aggression, and the conservative's social/political dominance seeking to defend advantage and obstruct the advancement of others.. It is a brain that remains oriented to primal defense responses whose exaggerated assessment of threat in the environment results in a wariness and mistrust that incites what it forebodes--interminable human conflict. In the absence of pro-social, empathetic cognitive functionality to moderate fear-based emotions, both threat avoidance and pleasure seeking become highly egocentric, pursuing dominant and exploitative rather than respectful and egalitarian relationship to others. The fear-based brain eagerly abandons Truth and moral principle to the expediencies of self-interest in pursuit of economic and political control. Not democracy, but autocracy is the aim of the fear inspired mind; absolute control to eliminate the threat of democratic change. Fear seeks the power to be fearless, vulnerability the power to be invulnerable, and selfish desires the power to assure gratification. 
       It is important to recognize that amygdala hyper-sensitivity to threat is not the only developmental pathway to anti-other political and economic selfishness. Other genetic traits, personal early life experiences and cultural/tribal indoctrination, are also informing of who we become. 

      Evolution has selected both selfish and benevolent traits; both have aided human survival. Primal fear is initially selfish; it is the brain's instinctual reflex to the perception of imminent danger in the environment; the individual is instantly prepared to run or fight to defend his survival. As individuals learned there was greater safety in groups, sociable and cooperative traits were selected. And that has, ironically, resulted in a continuing threat to survival--the more primitive, lingering emotions of the fearful brain are in political conflict with the evolved emotions of sympathy with others: the conservative reactive opposition to liberal ideas of justice and equality. The selfish pursuit of social superiority as an escape from primal fear disregards the rights of others... the desire for advantage and superiority denies The Declaration's assertion of natural equality, and minimizes the mutual benefits and obligations of cooperative community. The individual interest versus the common interest is man's ongoing predicament; he is trapped on a selfish-selfless spectrum, and mired in the politics of antagonism between the humanitarian principles of democracy, and the selfish brain's authoritarian pursuit of dominance. A government of the people cannot be for the people when the people are not for each other.

"Selfish and contentious people will not cohere, and without coherence nothing can be effected." (Charles Darwin, The Descent Of Man, 1871).

      Genetic inheritance, quality of parenting, personal experiences, education, intensity of sectarian indoctrination (belief and ideology); and critically, the emotional security and affection of the parental environment, determine the experiential conditions that will form the developing brain. Whether our infant brain experiences the birth environment as comforting or discomforting will set the stage for our performance in life.


"The human genome containing around 20,000...genes can provide the basic blueprint for brain development, but training and experiences in the early years from infancy through childhood are crucially important in sculpting brain development and function...prosocial behavior is displayed by most infants and preschool children...societies that tend to focus on individual achievement and "success" result in children that are less prosocial and that exhibit fewer altruistic tendencies... Culture has more than one order of magnitude greater influence than genes on altruism and prosocial behavior."
(Front. Psychology, 2018; 9: 575.)

       It is difficult to gain the moral sensibilities we leave childhood without. Genetic inheritance and early experience impose a brain structure and function that will determine what we believe and how we behave, and it is not easily reversed--for the survival imperative requires the brain to learn about and adapt to the environment, to become what we must to survive. And then to imprint through repetition the beliefs and behaviors that have appeared to relieve our fears and aided our survival. The brain that does not develop critical cognitive independence and flexibility will be anchored to its initial orientations.

       Childhood is a process of learning, of finding one's way to live successfully in the social environment in which one has been placed. Once success is comfortably achieved--and for many it is never--the brain becomes dependent, to a greater or lesser degree, on the maintenance of that environment... hence, one's personal politics--liberal openness and desire for change and improvements suggests less dependency on existing conditions, and a moral sensibility for their inadequacy. The conservative reaction to the liberal's pursuit of improvements implies a deep primal sense of threat to his familiar and protective environment. Political and violent conflicts are between the defense of what was and what is, and the demand for what should be.

      Even 2000 years of Christianity, which professes to teach love, forgiveness, mercy, and kindness to strangers, and gives warnings to sinners of eternal damnation, has not moderated sufficiently the fear emotions that breed conflict and mayhem to achieve "peace on earth, and goodwill toward men"--despite the promise of eternal salvation.           
       Perhaps that is because of two words: "Faith alone," words that eviscerated the teaching of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "Works" must be done; "faith" only avowed, opening the chapel door to pretenders, filling the pews and Offering Plate for the Good of the preacher, who no longer insists on good works from the "faithful"... and sometimes not even good works of his own (ecclesiastical pedophilia); bad works and salvation anyway! The amygdala brain's golden rule is: "do unto others before they do unto you"... Conservative "dirty tricks."


        Neoliberalism's free-market ideology makes the security of life a private rather than common enterprise; and its reward in wealth and power for competitive success systematically reinforces the aggressively selfish brain and disadvantages the less aggressive, prosocial brain. Left unregulated, neoliberalism produces social and political inequality, thereby undermining the principles and promises of democracy. Neoliberalism does not secure equal rights for all ("government is instituted to secure these rights"), it gives freedom for the individual's disregard of equal rights: “equal opportunity” is not a sufficient recognition of equal rights. A culture that induces selfish behavior through economic competition for wealth and power--or mere survival--is a progenitor of sociopathy; it does not select virtue, it selects the compromises of virtue that achieve advantage... the various expedient modes of "success." The neoliberal embrace of unregulated economic activity gives leeway to the corruptibility of fear-based self-interest--the neurological absence of an ethical conscience.
     There is a great irony in Classical Liberalism’s journey: it emerged in opposition to the inherited power and privilege of traditional aristocracy. It believed that equal rights and free-market competition among free individuals would arrive at a just and secure society for all. Thus, it began as a force against inequality and has produced its own inequality that now. threatens democracy. The fascistic insistence on dominance destroys political democracy to prevent the people from using it to achieve economic democracy. Neoliberalism means neo-inequality.

       Friedrich Hayek's famed "spontaneous order" rationalization of neoliberal free-market economics is a scramble of greed and deception where all the cardinal vices are given freedom alongside the virtues of modesty and good faith, resulting in a social hierarchy replete at the top with diminished human character. Neoliberalism is the practice that repeals democracy's promise.

      Evolution's defect is the hyper-reactive amygdala--a descendant of prey animals living in trees to avoid predators--driving a selfish, xenophobic and competitive individualism that seeks the power to dominate its fears, obstructing the realization of a benevolent community. There is perhaps a no more vicious creature than a former prey animal that gains the power to become the apex predator; an evolutionary victim of predation with the power--and pleasure--to lay vengeance upon its fears.


      Evolution may have given the primal brain too much intelligence too rapidly: the ability to discover and conceive, and accumulate knowledge of the environment, provides an opportunity for improvement and change that the primal brain's fear cannot abide. But if fear could enlist the complicity of that evolving intelligence, it could not only fight or flee more successfully, it would be able to plot and strategize for political control of the community and forestall progress toward the greater good (Conservative think tanks). Reason can serve to oppress or liberate.
   Thus humanity's fate lies in whether intelligence embraces morality and moderates the amygdala's fear to find human kinship, or conspires with fear to insist on the continuance of selfishness, sin, corruptibility, and partisan warfare (reactionary conservatism).

“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)

       The basic point of this hypothesis is that the "evolved" regions of the human brain remain largely subservient to the primitive regions for a great part of humanity. We are in an evolutionary moment of struggle between the persisting sins of fear (id) and the aspiring virtues of reason (superego), displayed in the ideology and politics of Right and Left--the brain in servitude to primal fears opposing the brain evolving toward principle and reason. There is in this moment of human evolution a great need for an accelerated natural selection of reason.


      We experience the world emotionally before we understand it rationally; excessive fear emotions, reinforced through prejudiced cultural indoctrination, shape childhood brain development toward fear-driven responses to sensory experiences perceived as threatening, precluding the development of a moral and altruistic and reasoned response to experience. The beliefs and behaviors that appease the emotions of fear are overly compelling, and thus too often preclude the understandings that derive from principles and reason; objective facts give way to beliefs and opinions that mollify alarmed emotions--when truth threatens, or is unknown, the untruth and the imagined truth become salvation. People accept the lie because it offers the reality they want.


       The words of The Declaration make it clear that America was founded on political principles, not an economic design rewarding behavior that subverts those principles; subordinating the democratic principle of equality to an economic system based on an opportunity to achieve inequality; making "freedom" the enemy of "created equal." To embrace a principle and ignore or evade or impede its evident 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, 1791).

"...the true system...of political philosophy...was to supply, not a set of model institutions, but principles from which the institutions suitable to any given circumstances might be deduced." ( J.S. Mill; Autobiography, 1873).


       The American government is bound by a founding covenant to institute the social forms that "secure these rights." From the laws of Nature--the biological and environmental facts of life's emergence--derive the "unalienable Rights" of Life (yet to be fully deduced); and then also the civil laws and social institutions that serve and secure those rights; from Natural Law follows Natural Community. And, therefore, any civil laws and institutions that abridge the common rights of life are a betrayal of the laws of nature and the democratic covenant.
    The first purpose of democratic government is to establish institutions that protect the equal security of its citizens, and not institutions that allow an eventual subversion of that equal security in the name of "freedom of opportunity." Democracy is not a promise to replace hereditary aristocracy with a financial aristocracy.

       All democratic governments derive authority from the sovereign people for the purpose of securing their lives and liberties against unjust encroachments. The authority of democratic government is a conditional and amendable convention, established among equal individuals by mutual consent for their mutual protection and benefit. The government satisfies its trust only as its laws and policies realize the principles upon which the government is founded. Prevailing inequality is not an acceptable outcome of mutual consent and benefit--a "certain indication" that the principles of democracy's promise have been betrayed.

      "Liberty" is herein defined as the protection of individual rights, natural and civil, against the actions of government, the will of a political majority, and the actions of private individuals and organizations. Liberty is not about what the individual is free to do, it is about the protection of the individual's rights from the actions of others; government secures the equal rights of each person by prohibiting the infringing actions of others... the liberty of each limits the freedom of all. The ideal of freedom as the latitude for individuals to enjoy and direct their lives as they desire--the "pursuit of happiness"--does not extend to a right to disregard or subordinate the rights of other individuals, or to acquire the private wealth and power to control a democratic government, or a right of freedom from regulation for democratic purposes by that government. What each person is due by natural right and equal creation has precedence over what any other person may achieve in the name of personal freedom to pursue happiness. 
      There is no higher human aspiration than the freedom to do good; and none lower than the freedom to do evil.


      Happiness is a subjective state of mind--and sometimes a psychologically deranged state of mind--that cannot be guaranteed satisfaction; self-satisfaction can never be rightly pursued in a manner, or toward ends that impose inequality or harm on the life and liberty of others. In a democracy, there is no right to an individual pursuit of happiness that is injurious to the common good; the outcome of private actions must not violate the principle of equal rights.
       "Neoliberalism" is a denial of this principle--it rejects economic security for all, embracing the rightness of human inequality and social hierarchy; achieved through a competitive system that allows, and presumes to justify, the "freedom" to gain economic advantage; and thereby, the wealth and power to avert democratic equality. The primary assertion underlying unregulated private enterprise is: all unequal outcomes are acceptable because they result from individual freedom. It is notable in American politics that neoliberals rage against proposals for government regulation of the private economy for the common good, but not against lobbying for government policies that protect and further the powers and advantages of private interests. Hypocrisy is the unavoidable recourse for the expedient brain.
       Neoliberalism is a 20th century reassertion of Adam Smith's 18th century laissez faire Classical Liberalism. It is a reaction of the conservative brain to democratic government's attempt "to secure these rights" for all by limiting inequality through regulatory interventions into the private economy. Neoliberalism frees the selfish personality from obligation to democratic equality. The sin of selfishness is the presumption of superiority; the sin of those who abide the presumption is failure to defend the principles of democracy, and the equal rights of themselves and their children. The elites provide the spectacle of "success;" the multitude provide the admiration and worship of celebrity... to their own disadvantage.

"...and the wondering cheated multitude worshipped the invention." (Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, March 16, 1791).


        In a democracy there are no social outcomes that are beyond the jurisdiction of the common good; individual freedom is not an immunity from obligation to the founding covenant; the principle of equality does not mean "equal opportunity" to become unequal.

     Freedom--"the pursuit of happiness"--is a natural, but not an unalienable right. A degree of personal freedom is one among the several rights that constitute liberty: first is the equal right to life, then the equal protection (liberty) of the natural rights of life, then the right to a freedom of individual action that conforms to the equal rights of others. Freedom can harm; liberty protects against the freedoms that harm (violent actions, misinforming speech, subversive wielding of wealth and power to procure advantage). 

    The claim of freedom must always be questioned: whose freedom; freedom to do what; and what is the likely outcome of that freedom on the rights of others? Neoliberalism is loaded with systemic permissions--legal pathways and practices, and corporate structures--that facilitate and obscure the corruption of democratic principles... the laws and institutions that encourage and advance human inequality; and protect against accountability and remediation.

        Equality is the first declared self-evident truth, it must therefore be presumed to permeate the Constitution as a founding imperative, even where not explicit. Thus any legislative enactment or judicial interpretation that permits the unequal representation or unequal protection of any individual or group of individuals is a violation of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence... the founding proclamation of national purpose for securing the natural and equal rights of every citizen. There can be no right, ostensibly justified by a first principle that is exercised in a manner that contradicts the principle; there is no democratic right or freedom to undermine democracy. Any judicial ruling that upholds a state of unequal representation or unequal protection is on its face unconstitutional, un-American, and anti-democracy.


       "The pursuit of happiness" is not a license to establish individual or class inequality; individual ambitions do not supersede democratic principles. The highest human good is the well-being of every individual, not the unequal privilege of a few. A child confined to poverty has more natural right to a better life--and the early life conditions that optimize her brain development to fulfill her possibilities--than the already privileged have to perpetuated or increased overabundance. A society that is willing to abide the hardship of many for the luxury of a few is neither a good nor a democratic society.
       To publicly uphold the ideal of equality, and privately practice the pursuit of inequality, is to hide a malevolent purpose with a false pretense... a common posture among those who only pretend to democratic values. The selfish brain, devoid of guiding values and principles, is ever striving to circumvent democracy; it is the fear-formed brain needing dominance for emotional security and ego-satisfaction.

     The necessary conditions of a consensual society are mutual security, mutual benefit, and equality in the essential elements of life's preservation and development. When mutuality and equity are breached consent and legitimacy are forfeited. The highest law in a democracy is not the authority of government; it is the authority of the collection of sovereign individuals acting under, and subservient to, the procedures and principles of democracy, restrained by the rights of minorities.

"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
(Declaration of Independence, 1776).


       The critical distinction between freedom and liberty is a primary premise to this argument: the synonymous use of the terms has allowed an exaggerated focus on individual freedom over the security of equal rights for all, serving an ideological purpose to obscure the rightful limitations on individual freedom.

"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...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...Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name, liberty..." (Abraham Lincoln; Baltimore, April 18, 1864).

       Nobel laureate F.A. Hayek, in his book, The Constitution of Liberty, 1960, 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 also been used to describe many other good things in life. It would therefore not be very profitable to start by asking what they really mean." (Part 1, Chap, 1).

         Then in a note to this passage Hayek writes:

"There does not seem to exist any accepted distinction in meaning between the words 'freedom' and 'liberty,' and we shall use them interchangeably." (ibid.)


      So Hayek will write a book employing two of the most important concepts in political philosophy without "asking what they really mean." And since there is no accepted distinction in their meaning, he will continue the confusion. Would not a Nobel Prize winner in economics have sought to define his most cherished terms, and propose a meaningful distinction, at least for the sake of better clarity to his own argument? Hayek quoted Lincoln's passage, so he was cognizant of the distinction. Was there purpose to the synonymous use of the terms? Why would it not be "profitable" to make the distinction? Was there profit in the non-distinction?

"...the fact that the promises which a free society has to offer can always be only chances and not certainties, only opportunities and not definite gifts..." (F. A. Hayek; The Constitution of Liberty, 1960, Chap. 4).

       Hayek makes the above statement in the context of asserting that freedom is the "supreme principle;" that social "promises" can only be conditional, otherwise freedom will be compromised and slowly eroded. So, liberty, the unalienable rights of life and the self-evident truths of The Declaration, and the Constitution's enumeration of civil rights are only "chances." Whose freedom, and freedom to do what is Hayek advocating? The freedom of private interests to subvert the democratic will of the sovereign people? Liberty is not a gift; it is the legitimizing principle and purpose of democratic government. Liberty is supreme; freedom is a right until it is improperly used.

        Without ascribing motive to Hayek, confusion is sowed through an emphasis on freedom while obscuring the priority of liberty; that liberty is constituted of those rights, civil and natural, which are guaranteed to all members of a community, and which cannot be rightfully abridged by anyone's freedom to do as they want, whether it be a government or other individuals. Clearly, the consequence of obscuring liberty is to conceal the role of government in securing equal rights; government can then be attacked as the enemy of freedom ("Government is the problem"). Without government regulation, the freedom of the wolf prevails--the cherished desire of the selfish brain. The perpetrators of injustice want freedom; the innocent want liberty... the wolf is not interested in protecting the sheep's liberty. A distinction is not profitable when it removes the opportunity to dissemble that is provided by confusion.

      Mr. Lincoln was right, freedom and liberty "are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name." But Hayek will "use them interchangeably."

(I cannot refrain from noting that Hayek, in the postscript to "Why I am not a conservative," was concerned to distinguish his views on "liberty" from American conservatism. He writes: "There is danger in the confused condition...It is therefore important to distinguish clearly the position taken here from that which has long been conservatism." Sometimes, I guess, distinctions are profitable--as when the intent is to reveal rather than conceal).


      From the beginning of the classical liberal argument for economic freedom (Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations), there was a conflict between freedom and liberty--if freedom to achieve economic and social inequality was to be justified, it would require the obfuscation of liberty as the protection of an equal right to the fruits of nature... thus the assumption: if freedom is good and inequality is a consequence, then inequality is good... the means justifies the end. The right to fundamental equality in the circumstances of life is removed by making liberty just another word for freedom... a thing without a name disappears.
       The emerging commercial class of Adam Smith's time was not concerned with protections for the natural rights of serfs. And so equality of rights was obscured by equality of "opportunity"... a chance to compete for equal rights, which meant exposure to the loss of equal rights... opportunity removes the right to equality. Had liberty as the protection of equal rights been a distinct notion its violation would have been evident... and an unacceptable consequence invalidates the cause--opportunity that created inequality would be delegitimized. So Adam Smith introduced a conjecture disguised as an assurance: that an "invisible hand" and "unintended consequences" would minimize the violations of equality that the advocates of economic freedom intended. The declaration of "created equal" is not about opportunity, but equity in economic condition and civil status.
      Any system or operation or function that relies on unintended consequences for an acceptable outcome is inherently deceitful; and persists only through behavioral inertia and general moral vacuity, and the special interests of its agents.


      The threat to everyone's liberty and equality is the selfish assumption of individuals to an unregulated freedom to gain wealth and power over others. Liberty, as here understood, is the right not to be subjected to the predatory desire of the selfish brain for social dominance. Justice is the prevention of undemocratic dominance, not an equal opportunity to achieve it. The hope for democratic equality has fallen to a wealth aristocracy because avarice was "free" to achieve it. The whole of human political history is a story of aspirations for liberty fighting against the freedom of selfish ambitions to achieve anti-democratic ends. In the absence of liberty, freedom means little more than an unhindered struggle to survive... the freedom of gladiators.


      Government does not create natural rights; government is created by people with natural rights who wish to have their rights secured.

      Natural rights derive from the facts of biological creation--life's emergence, and nature's provision of the material conditions for survival... allowing for the evolution of life's innate possibilities. All beings created in nature are naturally free and rightfully entitled to access the natural materials and conditions which support their continuing to exist... none being created with a greater natural right to sustenance than another. Natural entitlement is the basis of natural rights. What is due by natural right is "unalienable" and not subject to loss by the actions of others; the tree that nature grows makes fruit for all, and not for anyone to gain power over others by exclusive possession and denial. The purpose of government is "to secure these rights" by instituting the social forms and laws that preserve natural entitlement in society. Any system of competition or notion of private property that disregards, denies, impedes, or fails to protect natural entitlement is a violation of natural law and democracy's covenant.


"I now looked upon the choice of political institutions as a moral question more than one of material interests, thinking that it ought to be decided mainly by the consideration, what great improvement in the life and culture stands next in order for the people concerned, as the condition of their further progress, and what institutions are most likely to promote that...
I thought the predominance of the aristocratic classes, the noble and the evil worth any struggle to get rid of...because it made the conduct of the government an example of gross public immorality, through the predominance of private over public interests in the state, and the abuse of the powers of legislation for the advantage of classes...while the higher and richer classes held the power of government, the instruction and improvement of the mass of the people were contrary to the self-interest of those classes, because tending to render the people more powerful for throwing off the yoke." (J.S. Mill; Autobiography, 1873).

"This disposition to admire...the rich and powerful, neglect persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is...the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments." (Adam Smith; Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759, Chap. 3).

       Convince a man that the appearance of superiority to which he defers is not by nature, or some divine will, but only by human invention, established on no legitimacy other than the fact of possession, and whose origin was no more than by presumption and appropriation backed by force, and he may reconsider his deference.


       Few things are more self-evident than the natural entitlement of Nature's creatures to the materials that Nature has provided for their survival and development; no right exists for any person or social system to decide that some get more and some get less. Yet human culture has forever been dominated by the fearful brain's greed for more than its share... its desire to deprive others to secure and enrich itself. The Declaration asserts that government is to secure the unalienable rights of life for all, not to facilitate a winner-take-most competition that rewards and reinforces the selfish brain... a competition that drives the individual into psychological alienation from a common humanity. (Indeed, competition for security is an oxymoron.)

      Private property is justified as a natural right to the exclusive possession of the material conditions that sustain the individual life, not as an unlimited accumulation of those materials that denies the natural entitlement of others. That private property is a natural right serving a common interest in preserving an independent life and in preventing social conflict over resources, also means that the regulation and limitation of property is necessary to prevent the establishment of social inequalities that also inevitably foment resentments and conflict. Equality of rights and social harmony, and the appeal of moral sentiments among those who have them, both justify and limit private property. The natural law limit on the extent of private ownership is: that none have a right to more unless all have a right to enough.

"Men, being once born, have a right to their Preservation, and consequently to Meat and Drink, and such other things, as Nature affords for their Subsistence." (John Locke; Two Treatises of Government, 1689, Book 2, Ch 5).

" Man could ever have a just Power over the life of another by Right of property in Land or Possessions." (ibid. Book1, Ch 4).

"Self-love will make Men partial to themselves and their Friends... Government to restrain the partiality and violence of Men...Civil Government is the proper Remedy for the Inconveniences of the Sate of Nature." (ibid. Book 2, Ch 2).


     Property rights fixed in law in a manner that allows the separation of citizens into classes of unequal privilege and unequal power is an approval of social inequality by civil law; and is a direct contravention of the "created equal" principle, circumventing the declared equalities of natural law and liberal democracy through the achieved inequalities of liberal economics: Classical and neoliberal economics undermines liberal democracy by giving freedom to anti-democratic ambitions, allowing achieved wealth to control government for its own interest, not the common good. And therein lies the core contradiction within liberalism: the two primary principles of "liberalism" are equality and freedom (also called "liberty," guaranteeing confusion). Thus, in practice, liberal political and social equality are sabotaged by neoliberal economic freedom. Which leads to the political divide: the humanitarian brain assigns priority to human equality (progressives, left liberals); the selfish, resistance-to-equality brain upholds the freedom to achieve inequality (neoliberals, conservatives, libertarians, centrist liberals). For the conservative brain, the advantaged side of inequality is sanctuary from its amygdalan fears. If human equality is to be realized there can be no freedom to deny it.

     Successful economic activity does not require a class divided society. There is a distinction between the economics of production and the private wealth that is extracted from it... and the former does not necessitate the latter. A conscientious desire to create and build and self-express and enhance one's well-being while contributing to the common good, is as capable of producing economic growth as the "animal spirits" of unregulated greed and selfish ambitions. The incentives offered by neoliberal ideology, in the absence of moral conscience, are a freeway to political and financial *corruption. Freedom is judged by the passions it sets free... and the consequences they covet.

*(See the Panama and Paradise and Pandora Papers, FinCEN Files, and all the shell corporations and tax laws and financial havens that facilitate evasion... providing equal opportunity for corruption).


"...commercial interest tends to 'suffocate' spiritual life in principle, moral imperatives are not adhered to in politics...The notion of freedom has been diverted to unbridled passion, in other words, in the direction of the forces of evil (so that nobody's "freedom" would be limited!)." (Alexander Solzhenitsyn; Harvard, 8 June 1978) (Parenthesis in original).

      To be clear, it is not the economic freedom of the individual to secure his livelihood by his own talent and effort through business enterprise, nor is it the efficiency and allocation principles of the free market that necessarily subvert democracy, but the logically inescapable end-achievements of unequal power and privilege that result from a failure to regulate self-interested economic behavior for democratic outcomes. Deregulation and tax cuts and small government ("Government is the problem") are the cries of the fear-based brain, greedily wishing to escape the implications of "created equal."

("Fear-based brain" does not refer to the feeling of fear. The emotion of fear in discussing brain neurology refers to the unconscious reflex of the amygdala to sensory information from the environment perceived as threat; whereupon the amygdala sends alarms to other brain regions which initiate various physiological and neurological responses. When all this is occurring in the very early years of life brain structure and function are profoundly effected. And when the fear emotion is excessive the structure of conservative anti-other, xenophobic selfishness is being formed. The feeling of fear occurs when the neocortex consciously receives the alarm message and decides there is reason to be afraid).


       A society that professes the principle of equality, yet embraces a systemic pathway to inequality is guilty of moral and political apostasy. Progressive taxation of inordinate wealth and income is consistent with "free-market" arrangements, and can easily remedy the inequality that the "invisible hand" and "spontaneous order" were, and are, too willing to allow--and too determined to maintain. The argument over capitalism and socialism is worse than useless; it is a name-calling distraction from critical thought. The resolution of social injustice lies in the balance between private enterprise rewards and the social investments that would realize the natural entitlements of all individuals; a balance that would also provide a favorable base for a rightfully regulated market--an educated, psychologically and materially secured population, a protected environment, research and development. Private enterprise and its market efficiencies, and opportunities for independence and self-expression, are rightfully made free, and rightfully restricted to outcomes consistent with democratic principles and the common good. Free market principles do not require greatly unequal outcomes. If cupidity feels disincentivized so much the better, for that is the point.
       It is not good, nor is it freedom, that the government should own the private economy; nor is it good or freedom that the private economy should own the government. In a democracy the rights of the sovereign people overrule both.

      The business interest lies in maximizing profit; which involves minimizing the compensation to labor, and maximizing the price consumption will bear. The interests are not common: the laborer would like a higher wage, and the consumer would like a lower price. Both would increase the general well-being. But the business owner wants to increase his wealth; price setting and cost cutting will always adjust to maintain or expand inequality. Competition is not a trustworthy savior against economic power. It falls to wise and just regulation to balance the natural rights and freedoms of individuals.


      The dynamic of private economic enterprise is thus based on a conflict of interests: the desire for increased general well-being, the common interest, versus the pursuit of private wealth, the individual interest. A democratic government's purpose is to guard the common welfare by preventing an accumulation of private wealth and power that violates democratic principles. The democratic solution: private enterprise is good, but it cannot have bad consequences upon human equality and the common good. Most egregiously, vast wealth draws limited resources away from more essential social goods into the production of objects of vanity for the gratification of avarice.

       Neoliberalism claimed there would be no bad consequences, that the profits of private enterprise flowing to the upper class would "trickle down" to the lower classes, minimizing wealth inequality... let the rich get richer and maybe the poor will get less poor. But the neoliberal plan was to weaken collective bargaining and dismantle government regulation, so there would be no countervailing forces to assure a fair distribution of wealth; trickle down would be at the discretion of those accumulating the wealth. What followed were decades of tax cuts, deregulation and wealth consolidation (the accelerated Republican agenda since Reagan). Tax cutting, in particular, was the mechanism for the accumulation of wealth; along with the U.S. Supreme Court giving corporations personhood, providing free speech protection to the political use of money in purchasing policy and politicians. Neoliberalism is not the friend of democracy and the Rights of Man.

     The selfish brain treats veracity--truth, honesty and principle--as an option; and expediency as its first principle. The barrier to a truly created equal democracy lies in a failure to understand and confront the true intentions of the selfish brain:

"[The] children of light recognized the existence of a moral law beyond themselves...But all were naive about the power of self-interest in society...naivete made the children of light inept at defending democracy against the children of darkness... The children of darkness, being cunning and immoral in their pursuit of power, better understood the centrality of will-to-power in politics and history." (Reinhold Niebuhr; The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness, 1944).

     The defeat of evil will ultimately require a democratic choice between the children compelled to darkness and the children open to the light.

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." (Yeats; The Second Coming, 1921).


      Individuals gather into groups and societies for a security of their lives not achievable individually. And by doing so, each must consent to the renunciation of their individual actions (freedom) that would infringe upon the equal rights and security of others. The essence of the democratic covenant is community respect for the rights of the individual, and the individual's reciprocal obligation to the good of the community:

" these presents, [we do] solemnly and mutually... covenant and combine ourselves together into a civil politic; for our better ordering, and preservation... and by virtue hereof to enact, constitute, and frame, such just and equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, and shall be thought most meet and convenient for the general good of the colony; unto which we promise all due submission and obedience." (Mayflower Compact; November 11, 1620) (Emphasis added).

"But every man, when he enters into society, gives up a part of his natural liberty, as the price of so valuable a purchase; and, in consideration of receiving the advantages of mutual commerce, obliges himself to conform to those laws, which the community has thought proper to establish. And this species of legal obedience and conformity is infinitely more desirable than that wild and savage liberty which is sacrificed to obtain it. For no man that considers a moment would wish to retain the absolute and uncontrolled power of doing whatever he pleases: the consequence of which is, that every other man would also have the same power, and then there would be no security to individuals in any of the enjoyments of life. Political, therefore, or civil liberty, which is that of a member of society, is no other than natural liberty so far restrained by human laws (and no farther) as is necessary and expedient for the general advantage of the public. Hence we may collect that the law, which restrains a man from doing mischief to his fellow-citizens, though it diminishes the natural, increases the civil liberty of mankind." (Blackstone; Commentaries; Book 1, Chap 1.) (Parenthesis in original; Emphasis added).


"We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America).

    The phrases of the Preamble--We the people, perfect union, establish justice, domestic tranquility, common defense, general welfare, secure the blessings of liberty--speak to the common goods of all, not the freedoms of individuals.

    The central imperative of a social covenant is to establish a binding union of one people under one nation, to which all give allegiance for their common security and benefit. Patriotism to one's country means loyalty and deference to its founding covenant--for the gift of both freedom and liberty gained.

       There are two indispensable principles to democracy’s promise: one, that sovereignty lies at the bottom, a possession of all the people; and two, that individual freedom is subordinate to the social contract, the covenantal agreement for mutual protection and benefit. Unregulated capitalist economics violates mutual protection and benefit by fostering social inequality; and also, through the influence of financial wealth, transfers political power to the beneficiaries of that inequality; allowing the irony of democracy's procedures being used to erode democracy's promise--a plutocratic overthrow of democracy.

       Politics, then, is a battle between the superego’s pursuit of a “more perfect union,” and id’s scheming for advantage and control of governmental policy. Progressivism wishes to legislate policies that achieve the promised end; conservatism wishes to preserve or impose policies that deliver the end it wants—social and financial inequality.

      I will not harm you if you will not harm me is the foundational pledge of human society; it is the basis of morality and trust and obligation, and of mutual expectations of fairness, with the primary purpose of eliminating violent conflict and resource insecurity. Although the individual is not obliged to do good to others--that is for the quality of his conscience to decide--he is strictly called not to do harm; not to engage means or achieve ends that obstruct the full and just implications of "created equal." Democratic government is not for the purpose of securing freedom for individual transgressions against common security and equality. Government is to secure rights--protect liberty--not enable or accept transgressions as a side effect of freedom. The equal right to life, and the equal liberty of the rights and entitlements of life, require a prohibition against any substantial inequality in the conditions of life.


        The security of life and the rights of life require the rule of laws. Whether it be a law against murder or a law requiring one to drive on the right-hand side of the road, all laws are restrictions on individual freedom for the common good. The selfish ambition for privileged position is a violation of social trust--a failure to respect the equal worth of others. The bonds of consensual society are not fashioned for the achievement and protection of privilege, but upon a promise of mutual security, by sharing the fruit of the tree.

     Societies would not exist if social traits did not enhance the survival of the individual; the individual has adapted to social organization because he has better survived through cooperation and sympathy with others, a truth thus affirmed by natural selection--but unacknowledged by the selfish brain. The individualist and libertarian uphold the selfish trait, minimizing mutual obligation and social interdependence, resenting regulation of the individual's freedom. But respect for the freedom and moral worth of the individual does not require a disregard for the good of others and the community as a whole; nor does it justify opposition to a government that pursues the good of all citizens. It is selfishness absent humanitarian values and sentiments that disdains compassion and regard for the equality of others. Indeed, it is the very moral worth of each individual, as expressed in "created equal," that demands equality for all... that no person be consigned to social inferiority as a result of the choices of others. Freedom of individual choice is not the issue around which Individualism is criticized: it is the attitude that commonly lies behind the demand for unregulated freedom--dismissal of mutual obligation, and indifference to unjust circumstances and harmful consequences. What diminishes the moral quality of the individual is his disregard for others. Society does not begin as an agreement to protect the freedom of the selfish individual, but to restrain it:


Alexis de Tocqueville made these truly insightful observations about selfishness and individualism:

"Selfishness originates in blind instinct (the amygdala's fear); individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment (frontal cortex complicit with the amygdala) 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 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).


Jefferson also:

"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 (humanitarian), or the few (selfish), 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 (brain function and structure) of different individuals." (Thomas Jefferson; Letter to John Adams, June 27, 1813) (Emphasis and parenthesis added).

John Stuart Mill:

“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." (ideological/cultural conditioning) (J. S. Mill; Autobiography, 1873) (Emphasis and parenthesis added).

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

"...the egoistic corruption of universal ideals is a much more persistent fact in human conduct than any moralistic creed is inclined to admit." (Reinhold Niebuhr; The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness, 1944, Ch 1).

        Neoliberalism is not endorsed by the principles expressed in The Declaration of Independence; neoliberal democracy is not The Declaration's democracy.


         Selfishness is not a new thing: it is the original, primal thing; an instinctual reaction to threat, or opportunity for gain. In the selfish brain it remains an emotion--an emotion supported, rather than moderated, by a complicit prefrontal cortex devising cognitive strategies to combat its fears and achieve its desires. Even if social affinity was not a factor in 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 amygdala master and his moral dysfunction that propels him into selfish competitions for survival.

      In past times the right to rule was presumed to rest on divine prescription, or right of conquest. Classical liberalism introduced the regime of competition... material wealth, political power, and ruling class membership would be achieved--and "merited"--by victory in free competition; to which everyone, it was asserted, had an "equal opportunity." Competition is a euphemism for conflict, implying outcomes are fair and not coercive or arbitrary. If democratic equality is a first principle, then inequality, however achieved, is not justifiable, and thus cannot be merited. Unlimited private property and economic competition permit the denial of natural entitlement; competition for economic wellness means many will be confined to less than wellness... the punishment for "losing" being hardship for families and impaired mental development for children (here and here).

    When competition is the only means of gaining livelihood everyone will be required to play the game... adaptation for survival. The game makes the players play; and when it is the only game ("There-Is-No-Alternative"), and it denies natural entitlement, it is coercive and arbitrary.


       Democracy's principle of equality precludes all rationalizations of social inequality--the attempts of the selfish brain to justify economic and political hegemony. Accumulation of property and power through competition is no more democratically acceptable as a path to social dominance, than conquest or birthright or divine decree. Class superiority is aristocracy, not democracy. It is class division itself that is evil... upon whatever pretext it is established.
     The only legitimate power to rule is democratic--a limited and temporary and revocable delegation, not a possession by any prior right... "Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

        The selfish brain is eager for benefits, less eager for obligation; it finds self-preservation by exploiting the advantages of community while minimizing its own contribution. Individualism proclaims self-reliance and non-dependence, but it has never been the power to stand alone in the wild. Few if any creatures are more naturally insufficient than Homo sapiens; nor more dependent on the contributions of their kind. Humans have survived and prospered by shared invention and recognition of a common interest in the security of their lives. The selfish brain rejects mutual obligation... it believes it ought to do what it wants for itself, discounting the enormous structure of support provided by the community. The ethical brain wants to do what it ought, obedient to principles and values that transcend personal interest (which includes many principled conservatives). It is the divide that turns politics over policies for achieving common goals and mutual well-being into the politics of partisan advantage... in denial and opposition to common goals. The progressive's commitment to equality and social justice is not a denial of individuality, it is a demand for the equality of all individuals... even the selfish ones.

     Selfishness is the primal instinct; cooperation is the evolved understanding that socioeconomic competition for well-being is a pre-violence conflict, until unjust outcomes call forth violent remedies. The effort required to remedy wrongs is justified by the effort exerted in the defense of wrongs. That injustice be rectified is the prevailing imperative. Injustice is not defended by accusations that the remedy is wrong.

"...evil is always the assertion of some self-interest without regard to the whole...the good is...always the harmony of the whole." (Reinhold Niebuhr; The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness, 1944).


     It can fairly be said there are two precepts, or assertions, of Individualism: that the individual has a natural right to pursue his desires; and also a right not to be subordinated to the demands of others. These precepts express an inconsistency, and also exemplify the distinction between freedom and liberty. The right not to be subordinated to the demands of others imposes a restriction on the freedom of others to pursue desires that would subordinate another. The inconsistency is: you cannot have both equally--you cannot have a right to do whatever you want, and also a right of protection from what others want... which reveals the inherent hypocrisy of the selfish brain; and also displays the distinction: "liberty" is the right not to be unjustly subordinated that limits the "freedom" that would subordinate. The neoliberal subordination of liberty in favor of the predominance of freedom--by the synonymous use of the terms--is how social inequality is orchestrated, and ostensibly justified.
    Libertarian Individualism is likely a behavioral selfishness resulting from emotional/psychological separation due to the amygdala's genetic fear of others--a lack of empathetic connection to others and community; or perhaps an absence of emotional warmth in early childhood; a psychological isolation seeking rationalization as a freedom philosophy.

       Injustice is the social denial of the rights that derive from natural entitlement; which are construed in relation to the stage of cultural and technological development of a given society. The social entitlements ("safety nets") of neoliberal society are but minimal attempts at recompense for the systemic cultivation of social inequality--the denial of natural entitlement--by providing a nickel where a dollar is due; lessening starvation in the streets without restricting the opportunity for extravagance.


      The unequal possession of wealth and power originates in history by arbitrary and coercive appropriation, not by any right to superior status or possession. No person ever conceded knowingly to, or preferred, a deprived and inferior status... an unequal right to a good life. Nor does silent submission imply tacit consent. Only the machinations of mercenary philosophers aiming to justify a preferred circumstance could ever conceive a tacit common consent to social inferiority. And although a long history of enforcement has made inequality a tradition for some and a confinement for others, it has never made it a right... and what is unjustly done is never unjustly undone. 
    Also, it is not enough that the privileged man appears sympathetic, or even generous to the unprivileged, if he also defends his right to be privileged. The issue is privilege itself, the presumption of a right to be superior and advantaged, and to maintain the unprivileged in a place of subordination. The most insidious dissemble is the public expression of sympathy that privately--and politically--opposes a remedy of the wrong.
        It is commonplace for the defenders of privilege and advantage to oppose remedies by calling them unjust, as if removing privileges and advantages is a more grievous act than imposing them. To declare it unjust to lessen inequality (as in taxing wealth) is to assert the justice of inequality; it is turning justice on its head... the authors of injustice defining themselves as victims. Justice is not found in the opinions of transgressors. And injustice is not made right because it has long existed.

       And so, freedom of the individual is not the first purpose of civil society, but the security of the common rights of all people. Thus, natural rights do not imply limited government, they imply government sufficient to secure natural rights. Natural rights do not free individual selfishness from regulation, they protect individuals from subjection to undemocratic powers, public and private--liberty is protection from power, not a right to possess power. The purview of government is, therefore, determined by the prevalence and persistence of the injustice it must oppose. (As in the assault by economic inequality upon democratic equality).

"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).


     The first concern of life is survival, so behavior toward self-preservation is a natural right. The social covenant requires that self-preservation not be achieved through behaviors that harm others. Thus the democratic purpose of a national economy is to employ the efforts of all its citizens and to distribute a fair and equitable well-being to all, and not to establish class divisions between its people. 
       It is argued here that classical liberal (and neoliberal) economic ideology denies government's role in securing the rights that follow from natural entitlement, making the materials and conditions of life's sustenance not a right, but an "opportunity," achievable through "success" in a competitive struggle in which only a minority will "succeed;" with government securing not the rights of all, but the results of the struggle for the few; subordinating the rights of life to the rights of property... The natural rights of life are not the rewards of victory in competition. The outcomes of economic competition must be regulated so that winning is not luxury and domination, and losing is not deprivation and subordination .
    The call for less government is a call for less justice, less protection of natural rights, less restraint upon the ambitions of the selfish brain. It is a call for "...government of the people, by the people, for the people..." to be too weak to achieve its purpose. The freedom of the individual is a high moral imperative, but it is not the highest. The highest law is the protection (liberty) of the innocent life; that the natural entitlements of life are assured, and the security of life well-guarded. The natural right of a child to realize her life's potential must never be limited by the depriving conditions of her birth environment; whether that deprivation is imposed by societal systems or parental inadequacy. A child’s life belongs to the child, not to the parents of the child. Parental rights, therefore, are subordinate to the child’s inalienable right to a life of self-realization; implying the right not to be developmentally limited by parental or cultural indoctrination. The parental role is more a matter of responsibility and obligation to the child than rights over her.


      The political principles of "created equal" and "right to life" have priority over the arrangements and consequences of economic freedom--socioeconomic institutions must pursue, not obstruct, the political end. It is moral nonsense to suppose the freedom of one to gain wealth justifies the economic hardship of many. The three great obstacles to overcoming human inequality are the freedom to achieve it, the power to enforce it, and the acquiescence that endures it.

"Wherever there is great property there is great inequality. For one very rich man there must be at least five hundred poor, and the affluence of the few supposes the indigence of the many...It is only under the shelter of the civil magistrate that the owner of that valuable property...can sleep a single night in security...The acquisition of valuable and extensive property, therefore, necessarily requires the establishment of civil government...

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; The Wealth of Nations; bk. 5, ch.1).

“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." (ibid. bk.1, ch.8).

“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 (the selfish brain) 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.” (ibid. bk.1, ch.11) (Parenthesis and emphasis added).

"Wealth, as Mr. Hobbes says, is power." (ibid. bk.1, ch.5)


     The prophet of a free enterprise economy openly stated that wealth requires poverty; and perfectly described the control of government by the money interest... thus the antithetical relationship between capitalism's purpose and democracy's promise. Unregulated capitalism creates a pyramid of wealth, wide hardship at the bottom, a narrow pinnacle of opulence at the top... the base cannot be raised without lowering the pinnacle... democracy's promise redeemed by containing the lust for privilege. So where is the principle and reasoning that justifies the privileged affluence of the few and the struggling subsistence of the many?

        In the The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith argued for releasing the productive power of natural self-interest for achieving economic growth. But hidden behind the evolved instinct for self-preservation of the unselfish mind was the unevolved reptilian brain, whose lack of ethical conscience no "invisible hand" would restrain. Beside the virtuous man who calls for freedom stands the rapacious man who sees freedom as an opportunity, and who aims to exploit it. Rapacity's advantage is found in virtue's tolerance, or naive underestimation:

"...the social idealism which informs our democratic civilization had a touching faith in the possibility of achieving a simple harmony between self-interest and the general welfare...they proved to be mistaken . They did not make the mistake, however, of giving simple moral sanction to self-interest. They depended rather upon controls and restraints which proved to be inadequate." (Reinhold Niebuhr; ibid. ch 1) (Emphasis added--a reference to the inadequate regulation of neoliberalism.)

" the disposition to imposture so prevalent in men of experience, that their private views of ambition and avarice can be accomplished only by artifice?... There is nothing in which mankind have been more unanimous; yet nothing can be inferred from it more than this, that the multitude have always been credulous, and the few artful." (John Adams; A Defense of the Constitutions... 1787, Preface).


        Neoliberalism supposes government's purpose to be the defense of a freedom to achieve inequality; The Declaration of Independence declares government to be the guardian of equal rights. Hence, the failed promise: the moral ethos of democratic equality betrayed by the selfish ethos of aristocratic inequality; the inherent schizophrenia of capitalist democracy--the neurological and political dichotomies between the humanitarian brain and the fear-inspired selfish brain. The issue is in the adjective: Are we a capitalistic democracy or a democratic capitalism?

       Natural law is the biological force--"the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God"--that gives life to all creatures, and provides the means of their sustenance. Natural entitlement is the inherent natural and unalienable right to nature's provisions. Natural community is the social arrangement of laws and institutions that fulfill each person's natural rights. "Created equal" is the indispensable recognition of mutual birthright that makes social inequality a transgression against creation.


     The Declaration's phrase "created equal" does not assert that persons are born equal in all their characteristics and capacities: some will be taller, smarter, prettier, and run faster. Biological creation is not equal. Created equal is a declaration by covenant that all persons are to be vested with moral and social equality as a first principle ("We hold these truths to be self-evident"); that they are equal in personhood by virtue of natural creation, regardless of biological variation (no less would be consensual). The declaration of "created equal" as a self-evident truth entails a promise of remaining commensurate in society. There is no point in proclaiming equal creation unless it is a moral and political commitment to remain substantially equal in fact. If not, it was a frivolous declaration, or literary exuberance to fit the occasion... or would you believe the declaration of equality to be a mere dissemblance intending to enlist popular support for the independence only of the colonial elite? Politicians are known for their insincere assurances. But given the gravity of the time, and the enormity of the task, it is stretching cynicism to ascribe insincerity to the dedication of their "lives, fortunes, and sacred honor." Of course, that all men were created equal was a more tolerable declaration to 1776 social reality; but the Founders were too intelligent not to be aware they were committing to principles with transcendent implications.


    Whatever erodes democracy is "destructive of these ends." Further, even where a degree of privileged condition is granted by public acceptance in recognition of an individual's contribution to the common good, personal merit is not transferable to associates or heirs, neither then would be the privileges and possessions it gained. "Created equal" implies a limitation on inequality, and certainly a prohibition against bequeathing it. When practice creates conditions that deviate from a founding principle, it is a wrong practice.
      On reflection, what behaviors are meritorious? Is compulsive greed deserving of great reward? Are rapacious ambitions? And remorseless selfishness? Are the achievements of corruption and deceit worthy of being retained? All these unethical traits of character are set free and rewarded by the neoliberal maxim of unregulated freedom. And the "spontaneous order" they create is not democracy's promise.
     It is axiomatic that selfishness will favor itself when given a choice. That choice, when it furthers inequality, is an anti-democratic freedom. A system that elevates selfishness to positions of authority has no "invisible hand" favoring justice. The good of a community must be achieved by the intentions of goodwill, not by unintended happenstances.

       Aggressive ambitions driven by excessive emotional reactions to primordial fears, or insatiable desires to possess the objects of pleasure, are not the expressions of a superior brain, but a disordered brain; a brain with a regrettable genetic plan, or harmfully conditioned by early environmental effects. It is a brain that does not deserve greater reward and satisfaction than a brain of more moderate ambitions. "Animal spirits" are not an excuse for escaping the requirements of justice; they are the reason for just requirements.


       No human physiological or neurological characteristic "merits" unequal power and privilege, no more than the tallest man deserves more fruit from the tree because he has the longest reach. Inequality is a presumption by those who think themselves superior, historically imposed by force or by the guile of malevolent persuasions. The problem with human character is not insufficient self-esteem, it is the inflated esteem of the narcissist who thinks himself deserving of superiority.
      A society that further benefits those born to natural or family advantages with social superiority, and further punishes those less advantaged with sustained inferiority, is a mean society. Those with advantages proclaim "equal opportunity" to justify their advantage. When advantage is unequal opportunity is unequal. "Opportunity" implicitly concedes that all will not succeed; and disadvantage assures it.

"...the phrase equality of the impertinent courtesy of an invitation offered to unwelcome guests, in the certainty that circumstances will prevent them from accepting it." (R.H. Tawney; Equality, 1931, chap. 3).

        Perhaps the greatest human illusion is the conceit of selfish ego--pride in the achievement of advantage, as if the need of advantage is a strength. A modest opinion of oneself, along with gratitude and generosity are the virtues of a mind that has gained true self-awareness of its ultimate dependence on Nature's provisions and a cooperative community. What we think we have individually achieved is largely the work of capacities given to us by genetic generosity and the experiences of care and guidance provided to us by a supportive and educating early-life environment, applied to the accumulated accomplishments of countless generations before us. Personality and intelligence emerge from a blend of genetic and environmental determinants, and when fortunate they are gifts, not personal achievements. It is the nature of happenstance that coincidental and chance occurrences of time and place, invitations and open doors--or rejections and closed doors--and who one knows or happens to meet, conspire to greatly benefit some and greatly deprive others. The obtrusive personality of a sociopath, in the game of social politics, is often advanced and rewarded over quiet and unpretentious good-will and competence.


      Genetic and environmental circumstances produce capability; greater equality in circumstances would produce greater equality in capability. We are each the product of a developmental process composed of events and circumstances we did not choose. People do not choose to be autistic or depressive; neither do they choose to be exceptionally talented; some people are born with genetic handicaps; many are born into destructive environments; some are born into both. And some are born with great advantages that they think are achievements. No one is self-made... fate decides.

"There but for the grace of God go I." (The humility proverb).

        Especially egregious are the efforts of the advantaged to arrange systemic circumstances that favor the chosen and obstruct the progress and participation of others... the very nature of class society... the very intention of neoliberal society. To conceive and conspire for such a purpose, and not have the moral sensibility to care about the lives of others, is the heart of evil. Neoliberalism--unregulated free-market economy--both rewards and punishes much more than is ever deserved.
      As advantages are rarely equal, neither are the good fortunes of happenstance. The destiny of each of us is subject to "the power of fortune" (David Hume).


      Natural evolution is a biological process whereby the physical and behavioral characteristics of living organisms change over time through a process of genetic mutation. Mutation is a random event that alters the structure and expression of genes, creating a variation in physical and behavioral traits; it is biological happenstance.
     Natural selection is the mechanism by which the mutations--genetic variations--that enhance the organism's survival within a given environment are transferred to succeeding generations through reproduction. The process whereby the organism is successfully adjusting to the environment, either through physical or behavioral changes, is called adaptation; the environment is, in effect, dictating the structure and function and content of the evolving brain. The brain is thus a product of its surroundings, both natural and social. (The implications for notions of freewill and self-determination are endless).
       Survival security, then, depends on achieving and maintaining a beneficial harmony with the immediate environment. And the more dependent the individual brain is on a particular environment, due to its level of primal fear and the degree of physical security and emotional reassurance gained from that environment, the more sensitive and resistant it will be to changes in that environment; not only in defense of physical survival, but also in defense of political and social advantages.

       So what if the organism must adapt to a changing environment without the aid of a beneficial mutation? What if the organism must "choose" to change, adapt through advisability rather than by passive natural selection? Does an organism highly dependent on an existing environment for survival security have the neural flexibility, and moral discernment, to adapt to the challenge of a changing environment? This question is at the base of society's politics--accepting change toward greater justice and common security versus opposition to change because of the brain's dependency on existing conditions; even resisting highly advisable changes in the face of global warming.

"A conservative is someone who stands athwart history, yelling 'stop!'" (William F. Buckley, Jr.).


        Natural selection is not a value judgment, it does not say which physical and behavioral traits ought to survive, only which traits have survived an existing environment; physical survival does not imply moral or qualitative superiority of the organism:

"The law is not the survival of the 'better' or the 'stronger'...It is the survival of those which are constitutionally fittest to thrive under the conditions in which they are placed; and very often that which, humanly speaking, is inferiority, causes the survival." (Herbert Spencer; Principles of Biology, 1864) (Emphasis added).

      Neoliberal culture selects selfishness, greed, and expediency over equality; that is, traits that are "humanly speaking," inferior.

     Natural selection is not random. It is environment dependent, subject to environmental conditions. A different environment would support the survival of different traits. Fish have a survival advantage in water, not so much on mountain tops (above water mountain tops!). Selfish ambitions are advantaged in competitive and morally lax environments, but not so much among friends; that is, friends who are not hopelessly deferential, thus encouraging the egocentric personality (A common moral weakness of the human brain is the deferential, even reverential creation of celebrities; conceding the center of attention to those who presume it).

       It is a major purpose of this hypothesis to emphasize that social evolution offers an opportunity for improvement, progress to a more life enhancing experience for all people; purposeful changes in the social environment that select and reinforce more humanitarian brain sensibilities--assuming the mental flexibility to overcome prior cultural conditioning. Indeed, beneficial change is the purpose of democratic government: to "promote the general welfare."


       When humans forsook hunter-gathering and became agricultural they assumed a measure of control over nature--they altered the environment to improve their circumstance; to enhance their survival by providing a more reliable supply of food; and less wandering allowed them to build more permanent and secure and larger settlements. In changing their relationship to the environment additional human traits were offered for selection, and some existing traits exposed to extinction.

“The stability of cultural transmission can be enhanced through conformity (i.e., a disproportionate tendency to adopt the most common behaviour)…This stability allows cultural traits to be maintained…generating a ‘cultural inertia’ that can hinder adaptation to changing environmental conditions…

Through eliciting change in behaviour, often across an entire population, culture can transform the social environment…Culture provides a highly flexible means to adjust to novel conditions and modify selection…[a] confusing feature of culture is that it can both speed up and slow down genetic evolution… (Emphasis added)

Culture provides a form of inheritance that is additional to genes and our review indicates it is far from trivial in its consequences for genetic evolution; moreover the two inheritance streams can interact to influence each other's evolution."(

     A propitious cultural evolution is what the conservative brain obstructs... the conservative amygdala's perception of change as fearful.


       Through eons of time natural selection has formed its inhabitants to fit the environment. The earliest Homo sapiens had also been formed through adaptation to their natural surroundings, but their descendants would learn to alter the environment; or they would migrate in search of a more favorable environment. And they would develop social relationships that would in turn select and reinforce the social traits that would determine who they would become.
      But who would they be? More importantly, who would we be now? For the environment we make will make us. Will we choose social arrangements that relieve our fears and release our innate possibilities, and thereby find our true freedom... and a more sanguine humanity? Or will we remain in selfish, competitive, personal and national conflicts driven by primal emotions... and continue to call that "freedom"... retaining institutions and ideological precedents that deny the realization of our supposed principles and human rights? And will we alter our relationship to the environment in ways that invite a promising and plentiful evolution, or hasten our extinction? Or, will the fear of change forever preclude our ability to change... the reactionary brain destined to eternally fall short of possibility... even the possibility of survival?

(Evolution offers an intriguing speculation about the anti-social/pro-social brain divide: There was a time about 6 million years ago when the evolutionary lineage that would become Homo sapiens genetically separated from the chimpanzees and bonobos. A few million years later the chimpanzees and bonobos separated from each other. The chimpanzees are noted for competitiveness, aggression, violence and male domination; bonobos are peaceful, cooperative, and female friendly. The anti-social/pro-social conflict was thus present in the common ancestor of all three species prior to genetic separation; and, unfortunately, continued into the Homo sapiens' branch. The chimpanzee and bonobo branches appear to represent a later separation of anti-social and pro-social temperaments, two sets of traits exhibiting an internal conflict within a common ancestor dividing into separate species. Will humans resolve their conflict between selfishness (id) and benevolence (superego) by dividing into anti-social and pro-social species: chimpanzee humans and bonobo humans living in separated worlds?).  

      So, think about this: neuroscience research has shown that female tears contain a chemical that diminishes male aggression by lowering testosterone levels; evolution selected a mutation that aided female survival in the face of aggressive male dominance--tearful submission for survival tells much about the history and present of Homo sapiens gender relations. The primitive natural environments forced (selected) an aggressive, moral insensibility on the male brain that the social environments of succeeding "civilizations" have only somewhat alleviated. It is not difficult to understand why: the male hunter/warrior mentality (violent proclivity, suppressed emotive sympathies, dominance seeking, competitive fervor, neoliberal greed) has been reinforced by 300,000 years of natural selection. Humanity would have seen much less violence in its stumbling history if women had been the principal determiners of governance.


       After a long evolution of mutation and selection humankind has a brain presumably capable of rational choice. If we want to be a peaceful and benevolent life-form venturing toward the possibilities of cognitive/emotive evolution, then we must make a social environment that allows us to get there. Encouraging and rewarding the gravitational greed of selfishness--the neoliberal relentless pulling of benefit to itself--is the path of continuing social dissolution, of individual and tribal conflicts, not a benevolent and progressing harmony. We must see what character and behavior human culture is currently rewarding. It is not virtue that is selected by the neoliberal environment--it is selfishness, greed and corruptibility. We appeal to the "better angels" of our nature--is our social environment selecting angels?

       Evolutionary adaptation was a concession to natural reality, it was not approval of reality. So why not make a social reality to which we can approvingly adapt? It will be a hard journey for the human brain is far more capable of madness than sublimity; far more eager for self-indulgence in the moment, than self-transcendence for the future. Will the evolutionary end of human history be a culmination of enlightenments and transcendent achievements? Or will it be a slow, bewildering, determined self-termination by unresolvable conflict... the selfish and humanitarian brains battling on until evolution decides?

       And thus began politics... the fight over preferred social habitat: different levels of primal fear and greed each desiring its preferred conditions and opportunities, the social arrangements and tribal identities that most secure and satisfy itself.


       This hypothesis has attempted to describe what humankind has largely become: a brain formed and ruled by the emotions of primal fear; a brain exhibiting a defensive and often violent selfishness in response to environmental events that were signs of threat to primitive humans--predators, different others, unfamiliar situations, strangers in the forest--resulting in a reactionary politics seeking and defending personal and tribal advantage, and opposing the common advancement of human liberty, equality and security. It is the politics of the sociopath, of a brain absent empathic sensibilities and humanitarian principles, striving for power and control through membership in the class and factions that insist on a "freedom" for selfish ambitions to achieve economic and political dominance; and the repression of others to maintain that dominance. It is a fearful brain, descended from prey-animal primates, opposing change as a threat to its comforting environment... its social advantages, and reassuring and self-justifying beliefs. The political divide is a neurological divide between more fearful and less fearful brains--brain structural and functional differences that are initially determined by genetic levels of fear--amygdala reactivity--expressed through emotional and behavioral responses; which are then reinforced or moderated by the cultural environment. In American politics, the ungenerous, defensively entrenched brain, is called Republican... or reactionary conservative, as distinct from principled conservative.

      There is a neuroscientific basis for the political divide underlying all human cultures: the conservative brain reveals an enlarged amygdala in functional MRI imaging; the liberal brain shows more gray matter in the prefrontal cognitive region. The supposition of this hypothesis is that increased amygdala volume translates into increased sensitivity to environmental sensory information perceived as threat, resulting in increased self-protective beliefs and behaviors--beliefs that invent reassuring, substitute realities; behaviors and think-tank strategies that pursue social advantage and control of social institutions as defense against fear--political power and economic wealth... the visible ambitions of insatiable greed, and the arrogant indifference to the plight of others.
      On the other side, the enlarged neural volume of the prefrontal cortex implies greater sensibility for principle and reason, respect for factual reality, and control of fear emotions; allowing for an expanded understanding and appreciation for truth and justice, and desire for the alleviation of human conflict and suffering... the looming "do-gooder" so threatening to the conservative's morally bereft sensibility. The conservative brain does not merely resist justice and equality because they require changes and uncertainties that arouse the amygdala's fear, it pursues unjust and unequal advantages as refuge against the threat of equality.


       When a brain is faced with a changing environment it has three options: two proactive, one passive. It can consciously adapt by altering its beliefs and behavior to harmoniously perform in the new reality. Or, it can attempt to forestall the change through obstructive resistance. Or, thirdly, it can flounder between transforming itself or preventing change; and unhappily submit to the stresses of undesirable circumstances.

      The brain that successfully adapts--or manages to create a preferred environment--will defend that environment against change that threatens the conditions to which it is successfully adapted; it is defending its habitat, the social arrangements that provide its physical and emotional security. The defense of self requires defense of the habitat in which the self's identity and sense of security has been achieved. Hence, the conservative's reaction against the forces of change--his defense of tradition and status quo is fundamentally an emotional/psychological fear of change; it is dependency on a protective habitat. The vaunted values and principles of conservatism are easily seen as but rationalizations that serve selfish interests, prompted by a need to justify the political and economic institutions that protect against primal fears. The absence of moral principle is quickly exposed by the inevitable Machiavellian acts of expedience in defense of selfish interests; and the inveterate and ungenerous opposition to helping and equalizing others; the denial of justice for all; the preference for bootstraps over safety nets.

        Here is what Hayek had to say about conservatives:

“I doubt whether there can be such a thing as a conservative political philosophy…it does not give us any guiding principles which can influence long-range developments.”

“…one of the fundamental traits of the conservative attitude is a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such..."

“…the conservatives are inclined to use the powers of government to prevent change or to limit its rate to whatever appeals to the more timid mind.”

“…the conservative does not object to coercion or arbitrary power so long as it is used for what he regards as the right purposes.” (i.e., authoritarian, not democratic).

"…the conservative inclines to defend a particular established hierarchy and wishes authority to protect the status of those whom he values…" (i.e., authoritarian, not democratic).

“…Conservatives fear new ideas because it has no distinctive principles of its own to oppose to them…conservatism is bound by the stock of ideas inherited…” (F.A. Hayek; Why I Am Not a Conservative, 1960) (parentheses added).


       The conservative is on the side of human inequality because he lacks the courage for equality, not because any true principle calls for it. He calls inequality "meritocracy" to assure himself he deserves the privilege and advantage he enjoys. An insightful exposure of conservative "principles" would be a listing of the unprincipled wrongs they are conserving... and refusing to rectify. The allegiance to tradition as "the wisdom of the past" conserves the wrongs of the past; and betrays a lack of vision and moral impulse for improvements. Opposing change is not so much an embrace of "tradition" as an embrace of familiarity against the threat of change and uncertainty... and the demands of justice. Fear is the strongest and oldest emotion, a brain formed by it is not amenable to sympathetic and generous sentiments; the psychological opposition to change cannot afford concessions to the demand for justice, for that would mean a return to fear. The conservative is not so fond of the past as he is fearful of changing the present. Conservative obstructions are aided by the humanitarian's good faith brain that is so often naive to the existence of bad faith.

     How men have lived--and do live--is a product of previous natural selections and prior cultural conditioning. Human possibility is not confined to the pathways of history; only fear of the light keeps men huddled in the darkness of conflict--the essence of the reactionary brain's cling to the "wisdom" of the past... and the injustice of the past. It is a defense of superiority to fortify security that only results in continuing enmity.

(Resistance to change relates directly to brain function. "Plasticity" refers to the ability of the brain to adapt to changing information. When the information pathway from higher order brain areas is impaired behavioral flexibility is lost. Conservative opposition to change may be a functional inability of the brain to process new information to overcome prior learning and early life conditioning. Without neural plasticity the human brain is a captive of its first tribal lessons; conflicting facts and truth must be denied).


      Persons less favored and secured by existing social arrangements will seek change, either in themselves if circumstances permit, or change in the environment in which they are struggling to survive. And that gets to whether the existing social arrangements are designed to aid or inhibit self-adaptation--education, opportunity, access to capital--by the disadvantaged and lesser privileged. Social inequality inhibits the opportunity for self-adaptation, confining the disadvantaged to inescapable conditions. The conservative brain aggressively pursues control and domination to prevent equality and conserve its own advantage; the humanitarian brain pursues change for greater equality. In the 18th century the classical liberals began the overthrow of aristocracy by replacing the hereditary aristocrats with commercial aristocrats. Then those economic "liberals" became political conservatives... once having established they would then conserve the wealth aristocracy. Turns out The Age of Revolution that waved the banner of "freedom" did not have human equality in mind, only new occupants in the privileged places. Democracy and equality were useful predicates, but not desired ends.


      The conservative's primal fear of difference and unfamiliarity makes him opposed to the equality of others: why allow your threats to be equal? On first thought, the logic may seem sound; though the psychology paranoid and the politics anti-democratic. On second thought, making the other an enemy intensifies the threat; verifying and deepening the paranoia and reinforcing the fear. The brain of a fearful prey animal has become a fearful predator--defensive fear has become offensive fear--imagining, thus creating its enemies, constructing fortresses, and manufacturing tools of destruction... the fearful brain is too afraid to alter the conditions that perpetuate its fears.
     And on further thought, how could the conservative brain, resistant to change, survive the ages when adaptability is requisite for long-term survival (Perhaps the ultimate irony!), unless dragged along by those more courageously adaptable? The conservative seeks to prevent change in the habitat that would require his adaptation; the progressive seeks changes in habitat that would support the selection of humanitarian traits. Progress is made by not being overly dependent on the familiar... and being open to possibility.


     The politics of fear easily recruits and manipulates through demagoguery and fear mongering and scapegoating and repetitive lies and deceiving assertions ("government is the problem"), the emotionally driven, cognitively impaired credulity of others to believe false realities; and to support social policies contrary to their material interests--the lower class paradox of supporting the privilege and advantage of "superiors." Being mired in absence of thoughtful examination leaves the bewildered mind vulnerable to the simplest appearance of certainty--the ranting demagogue blaming others and promising deliverance. The more fearful the brain the more responsive it is to promises of salvation.
     Thus the uninformed brain, even when disadvantaged, will defend the cultural habitat to which it is conformed, the fear of change and the "safety" of familiarity overriding any consciousness of inferior status. The demagogue promises to save the familiar and defeat the unfamiliar. It is also why the aged tend to conservatism--feelings of vulnerability bring fear to the surface when life-long, reassuring familiarities are threatened.

     In a neoliberal world of selfish deceits and competitions for advantage it can be a mistake to accept advertisements and appearances as an assurance of reality. A world in which verification needs to be the protector of trust speaks for itself. It is the dissolving world we live in; appeals to fear will always have a more attentive audience than appeals for justice.

      It could be otherwise: changing the social environment would provide an opportunity to construct institutional conditions that reinforce the emotional and behavioral traits that would make a better world; conditions that lessen the effects of fear and insecurity upon a child's developing brain; conditions that enhance the development of all people for the betterment of the whole community. The choice for humanity is clear: shall humans cooperate for the security and fulfillment of all their lives, or continue to fight over preeminence for a few? Human society needs nothing more than social conditions that favor the angel and impede the reptile.

"Egoistic impulses are so much more powerful than altruistic ones...The justice which even good men design is partial to those who design it." (Reinhold Niebuhr; Moral Man and Immoral Society, 1932).


     And therein lies the evolutionary struggle: the more recently evolved cortex, informed by self-evident Truths, is having great difficulty in overcoming the unevolved primitive brain, still conditioned and confined by primal emotions, defending institutions of social competition and hierarchy that do not relieve, but continue to excite and reinforce its fears. It is not obvious that it ever will... the unrestrained ferocity of reptiles is not easily subdued by the moral self-restraints of angels. History tells us that much.
      A mutation came along and galvanized the early human brain into a rapid and vast expansion of complexity and rational capacity, leaving the primal brain lagging behind. But that cortex is yet to escape the jaws of the reptile, leaving human character stranded in a merciless dichotomy between Good and Evil, Right and Wrong, Vice and Virtue--the dueling, siren calls of id and superego.

       Politics, then, is a primal conflict over defending or transforming the social habitat. Transformation is the difficult task... as every reformer knows. Culture indoctrinates the human brain to its present reality; social change requires breaking through the mental structures of previous conditioning... and compliant brains greatly outnumber brains capable of critical reflections and visions of more "perfect unions." The conservative only needs to arouse the innate fear of change and uncertainty, and the threat of strangers pounding on the castle door; the progressive must calm the fear and reveal the possibility of an improved life--the achievability of our hopes and dreams.
    But the greatest opportunity for change comes with the devastation of existing conditions through calamity; when the failure of familiarity itself induces a loss of faith in what has been familiar. Then a new habitat can be conceived, and a new inhabitant emerge, the shape of the new often implicit in the failure of the old--the phoenix from the ash.


      However, the ultimate question remains: how does the human brain, conditioned to its surrounding environment, gather the neural wisdom and courage to alter the social conditions to which it is conformed and psychologically dependent? The suggestion here is less provocation of primal fear through expanded economic security, thus less inducement to competition for social advantage; and less dependency on fear relieving beliefs, by being less indoctrinated to narrow cultural attitudes during the most formative years of a child's brain development, when the opportunity for a true freedom to discover the world and oneself is either gained or lost to the preconceptions of our "caregivers". That means a basic economic security, and a system of education independent of political and religious and cultural preconditioning, accountable only to truth and reason... there lies the chance of true freedom.
      A better world has not been found by selfishness in pursuit of happiness; there is a chance it may be found by compassion in the pursuit of equality and justice... and a desire to learn prevailing over a passion for amusement.

    Species become stressed when their traits are no longer advantaged and they are incapable or unwilling to adapt to a changing environment--inadaptability is a certain evolutionary path to extinction. "Created equal" was and is an existential threat to the selfish brain; hence, the bottomless bad faith deceits of the conservative reaction... and the bitter divide between the forces of change and resistance. So, yes, politics is a primal struggle... and it will decide the human character that sways the interim; ultimately, it is evolution's decision--the ultimate power of Nature to determine beginnings and endings.

      Only a virtuous soul can lead to a virtuous world. Otherwise politics is a conflict won by the strongest... stronger in coercive force or voting numbers. The social habitat must at least allow, if not encourage the rise of virtue. Neoliberal culture (unregulated economic competition for individual survival) gives harbor and favor to the ambitions of the unvirtuous soul--the absence of moral conscience; the absence of remorse in the emotional workings of the selfish brain.


       From the beginning America was not a democratic republic--to be represented in government was the privilege of propertied white men. America remains a republic dominated by private wealth. The enduring honor of America's Founders, however, is that whatever their personal motives, they wrote words that stood in judgment even of themselves. Their words stand in judgment of every generation--words have implications that are not restricted by intentions. A people's democracy was the Revolution's promise; its achievement still waits before us... America is not yet America.

"...the manufacturing aristocracy which is growing up under our eyes is one of the harshest which ever existed...the friends of democracy should keep their eyes anxiously fixed in this direction, for if ever a permanent inequality of conditions and aristocracy again penetrate into the world, it may be predicted that this is the gate by which they will enter." (Tocqueville; Democracy in America, 1835-40; book 2, Ch.34, last paragraph) (Emphasis added).

     Tocqueville's concluding thought, in the last paragraph of his multi-year study of democracy in America, was that the commercial pursuit of private wealth would destroy American democracy; unless democracy had vigilant friends.

"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... Americans must forswear that conception of the acquisition of wealth which, through excessive profits, creates undue private power over...public affairs...A decent living throughout life is an ambition to be preferred to the appetite for great wealth and great power." (Franklin Roosevelt; State of The Union, 1935).

       As we now know, Tocqueville and FDR were prescient; private wealth and its unregulated freedom, have become the new hereditary aristocracy; a burgeoning transnational, corrupt and tax evading "permanent inequality." A government by the people and for the people is a government for those who can afford to buy it.


       The Declaration of Independence is an American document only in the sense of its first application. In word and spirit it is a human document, a universal declaration of the unalienable rights and equality of all women and men and children everywhere.

"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind." (Thomas Paine; Common Sense, Philadelphia, January 10, 1776).


     The virtuous men have mostly acceded to the men of selfish interest--want has defeated ought; fear and greed are more intense and determined than good-will and generosity; the ambitions of avarice readily trample the self-restraints of virtue.
      Virtue is an inescapable feeling of obligation; the obedience of conscience to principles of Right and Good that are greater than the reptilian impulses that lurk within ourselves. True freedom--and true individualism--requires overcoming the primal ghost and standing up the virtuous self; the final triumph of the evolved cortex over the emotions of primal fear. Freedom is not unrestraint of the animal spirit; it is the power of mind to impose what is Right and Good upon itself; the power of an evolved conscience over the primal compulsions of fear.
       Are we, then, but self-preserving reptiles bellowing our egoistic wants, or are we patriot angels with Enlightenment virtues... striving to do what we ought... ever knowing that the good we intend never excuses the harms we accomplish?

Has virtue really died?
Or did it never truly live?
Perhaps it was only briefly tried...
Then forsaken for a bribe.


"These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: "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.'' This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows. They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children's children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages. Wise statesmen as they were, they knew the tendency of prosperity to breed tyrants, and so they established these great self-evident truths, that when in the distant future some man, some faction, some interest, should set up the doctrine that none but rich men, or none but white men, were entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, their posterity might look up again to the Declaration of Independence and take courage to renew the battle which their fathers began---so that truth, and justice, and mercy, and all the humane and Christian virtues might not be extinguished from the land; so that no man would hereafter dare to limit and circumscribe the great principles on which the temple of liberty was being built...

Now, my countrymen, if you have been taught doctrines conflicting with the great landmarks of the Declaration of Independence; if you have listened to suggestions which would take away from its grandeur, and mutilate the fair symmetry of its proportions; if you have been inclined to believe that all men are not created equal in those inalienable rights enumerated by our chart of liberty, let me entreat you to come back. Return to the fountain whose waters spring close by the blood of the Revolution...come back to the truths that are in the Declaration of Independence." (Abraham Lincoln; Lewistown, Illinois; August 17, 1858)


        The fact that the historical push for justice is always opposed by hatred and violence and distrust does not invalidate the rightness of justice; nor lessen the moral duty to pursue it. The fierce opposition to justice reveals the depth of the fear that opposes it. Abidance of injustice because its advocates are so determined, because they are so psychologically dependent on superiority is to sacrifice the possibility of a better world.

       Democracy's ideals are not impossibilities; it is the reality of now that declines to achieve the possible... so far. We are early in Homo sapiens evolution; we may reasonably expect the neocortex to eventually overrule the amygdala’s primal fears; though expectation does not mean patiently waiting for evolution to mutate us into an enlightened state of mind, it means pushing the process of selection by changing the modes of survival--like making benevolence more profitable than selfishness. Hence, politics.

        Only we must believe that the current condition of human belief and behavior does not define the fullness of our nature; that our dreams of possibility are not restricted by our current circumstance. We have to live in reality as we find it in the moment; we do not have to accept it as our future. Reality was made by those who preceded us; it is our right to judge it, and change it. The reality that surrounds us is not a prescription to be obeyed; it is a presentation to be accepted, or not.


    The search for Truth requires a reach that sometimes finds mistake, but the reach is imperative, for we must know the truth or live by lies and fallacies. And to accept the lie is to sacrifice the dream.

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

        Community salvation will require the heart and mind of a 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--common in his beginnings, foremost in his destiny.

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." (Thomas Paine; Common Sense, January 1776). 

Indeed, they did; indeed, we do.

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



       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 has learned to make his own micro environment, his social habitat. We have told ourselves we must be selfish and competitive to survive. And so we insist on a social habitat that demands selfish competition. We constrain ourselves from possibility because of our spiritual and emotional timidity; we embrace beliefs that console our fears rather than knowledge that expands our understanding... and our possibilities.

       Maybe a creature so subject to environmental determination can turn around and make an environment to remake himself, to evolve himself beyond the reptilian brain. Maybe there will be time to do that if we don't tinker too much with the natural environment: We can't destroy Nature, but we can change her to the point where she can destroy us. Despite all our hubris and godly self-image, environment made us, and environment can end us. It seems likely that eternal survival is not in the cards for any form of life on earth. Somewhere in the deck an exterminating microbe or monster asteroid is inevitable. But it would be nice if our demise is the tragic end of a grand creature, and not a whimpering erasure of an ignoble egoist who soiled the cradle of life.

      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 abide, for the behavior they reward is the behavior they will get.

       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).

       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!




      A hypothesis is not a proclamation. It is a proposition composed of stated principles, apparent facts and logical inferences, subject to confirmation and refutation. Among creatures so capable of fallacy only Truth can have the final word... however delayed its arrival.

       The pervading purpose of this hypothesis has been to understand the reactionary conservative brain: what it is and why it is... why its resistance to human equality, why its moral indifference to unfairness, its inattention to the impaired mental development of disadvantaged children, why its greed for social privilege, why its preference for mystical beliefs over scientific facts? And why its hate for a government whose purpose is to secure the inalienable rights of life? The argument here is the conservative brain is more extreme in its intents because it is compelled by the emotions of threat to its survival. Liberality, seeking change in the name of progress and justice looks to the conservative amygdala like an attack of the body snatchers; hence the demonizing of "liberals" and "do-gooders" and "bleeding hearts" and the "wokeness" of educated brains with moral sensibility... Superego is the consummate threat to the primitive id.

    The human brain remains a largely unknown universe. The implications of democracy's promise are not. And the cause could not be higher: humanity needs a future that does not mirror its past. Which means, overcoming the reptilian brain.

     This author is forever humbled before the giants of human thought by whom he is gratefully informed. High among them is Thomas Paine, author of Common Sense and other writings that empowered American Independence, and proclaimed the rights of common humanity. Paine was an Englishman newcomer to America, arriving in 1774. Common Sense was first published anonymously in January 1776, six months before The Declaration. The pamphlet was purchased by 20% of the colonial population. In contemporary America's population that is equivalent to 66 million copies. When it was inquired who the author was, he wrote this:

"Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Man. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and Principle." (Philadelphia, February 14, 1776) (Emphasis in original).

(Thomas Paine donated the royalties from Common Sense to Washington's Continental Army).

      The focus on messengers aids in the avoidance of messages. No idea was ever true, or false, because of who said it. For Man is not the measure of Truth; it is He who is measured... and we ought to be striving for a more honorable measure!

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

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


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