Wednesday, January 1, 2014


Introduction and Outline to the Argument

"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 the "self-evident" truths upon which American democracy is founded: that all persons are equal by the laws of creation, and entitled to live their lives free from domination. It is the core of the American promise... 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 freedom and 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).

      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 exaggerated self-interest and undeveloped empathy and compassion for others, employing survival strategies for social advantage in opposition to "all men are created equal." We will explore the *neuropsychology--and the politics--of this 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: the relationship of belief and behavior to brain structure and function. Opposition to human equality results from the failure of the brain's cognitive faculty to develop morally informed regulation of a hyperactive amygdala's fear emotions--xenophobia, greed, aggressiveness and resistance to change. 
It is a brain that remains oriented to automatic primal 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 neural functionality to moderate fear-based emotions, both threat-avoidance and satisfaction seeking behaviors become highly egocentric, pursuing dominant and exploitative rather than egalitarian relationship to others. Fear seeks the power to be fearless, vulnerability the power to be invulnerable, and selfish desires the power to assure gratification.)

      Evolution has selected both selfish and benevolent traits; both have aided human survival. Primal fear is initially selfish; it is an instinctual reflex to the brain's perception of danger in the environment; the individual is instantly prepared to run or fight to defend himself. As individuals learned there was greater safety in groups, sociable and cooperative traits were selected. And that has, ironically, created a primary threat to survival--the more primitive, lingering emotions of the selfish brain are in conflict with the evolved emotions of sympathy with others; the individual's selfish pursuit of social superiority as an escape from primal fear, disregards the mutual benefits and obligations of cooperative community. The individual good versus the common good is man's ongoing predicament; he is trapped on a selfish-selfless spectrum, and mired in the politics of antagonism.
      Genetic inheritance, quality of parenting, personal experience, education, and intensity of sectarian indoctrination (belief and ideology) determine which traits prevail upon the emotional brain:

"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." 

      It is difficult to gain the moral sensibilities we leave childhood without. Even religion, which teaches love, forgiveness, mercy, and kindness to strangers... and gives warnings to sinners of eternal punishment, has not moderated sufficiently the fear emotions that breed conflict and mayhem, to create "peace on earth, and goodwill toward men." 

        Neoliberalism's ideology of selfishness makes the security of life a private rather than common enterprise; and its reward in wealth and power for competitive success systematically favors the aggressively selfish brain and disadvantages the less aggressive prosocial brain. Left unregulated, neoliberalism produces social and material inequality, thereby undermining the principles and promises of democracy. Neoliberalism does not secure equal rights, it gives freedom for the disregard of equal rights.
     Evolution's defect is the hyper-reactive amygdala--a descendant of hominid 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 primal prey animal that gains the power to become the apex predator; a victim that gains the power to avenge. 

    We experience the world emotionally before we understand it rationally; excessive fear emotions, reinforced by self-centered cultural indoctrination, shape childhood brain development toward fear-driven responses to sensory experience, precluding the development of a moral and altruistic and reasoned appreciation of experience. The beliefs and behaviors that appease the emotions of fear are compelling, and thus preclude the understandings that derive from reason. We are what we do, and with continuing practice become even more so. 


     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 opportunity to achieve inequality. 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)

      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 civic laws and institutions that abridge the common rights of life are a betrayal of the laws of nature and the democratic  covenant.
      All democratic governments derive authority from the sovereign people for the purpose of securing their lives and liberties against violation. The authority of democratic government is a convention established among equal individuals by mutual consent for their mutual benefit. The government satisfies its trust only as its laws and policies realize the principles upon which the government is founded. Inequality is not an acceptable condition to mutual consent and benefit.

      "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 individual 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 is prior to 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 each person may achieve in the name of personal happiness. 
      Happiness is a subjective state of mind, and can never be rightly pursued in a manner that abridges, or imposes inequality 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, expressing the rightness of human inequality and social hierarchy, achieved through a competitive system that allows the "freedom" to gain economic advantage; and thereby, the wealth and power to avert democratic equality. The principle assertion underlying unregulated private enterprise is: all economic outcomes are acceptable because they result from individual freedom. It is notable in American politics that neoliberals rail against governmental regulation of the private economy for the common good, but not against government policies that protect and further the powers of private interests.  
     Neoliberalism is a 20th century reassertion of 18th century laissez faire classical liberalism. It is a reaction of the selfish 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 concession. The elites provide the spectacle of "success;" the multitude provide the admiration.

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

       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 right to the extent its consequences are consistent with the fulfillment of the promise of democratic equality. As such, 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 with the equal rights of others. Freedom can harm; liberty protects against the freedoms that harm. 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 allowances that facilitate the corruption of democratic principles... the laws and institutions that facilitate and advance human inequality.
    Equality is the first self-evident truth, it permeates the Declaration and Constitution, even where not explicit; thus any legislative action 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.

      "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 than the already privileged have to increased abundance; 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 pursue the practice 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 subvert democracy; it is the fear-formed brain needing dominance for safety.

      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 (see F.A. Hayek, p.49 below) has allowed an exaggerated focus on individual freedom over the security of equal rights for all, serving an ideological intent to obscure the rightful limitations on individual freedom.

"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).

      From the beginning of the classical liberal argument for economic freedom (Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, 1776... more beginning pg. 37), there was a conflict between freedom and liberty--if freedom to achieve economic 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 argument: if freedom is good and inequality is a consequence, then inequality is good. The right to equality is removed by making liberty just another word for freedom... a thing without a name disappears.
    The emerging commercial class was not concerned with protections for the natural rights of serfs. And so equality of rights was replaced by equality of "opportunity"... a chance to compete for equal rights, which meant exposure to the loss of equal rights... opportunity removes the guarantee of equal rights. 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. So Adam Smith introduced a chance disguised as an assurance, that an "invisible hand" and "unintended consequences" might minimize the violations of equality that the advocates of economic freedom intended. The prescription of "created equal" is not about opportunity, but equity in economic and civil status. 

     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 compete for it. The hope for democratic equality fell to a wealth aristocracy because avarice was "free" to achieve it. The whole of human political history is a story of 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. 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; and no creature is created with a greater natural right to sustenance than another. Equal natural entitlement is the basis of equal natural rights. What is due by natural right is "unalienable" and not subject to loss by the actions of others, or by exclusionary social institutions: 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 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. 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. 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,  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. book 1, 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, Chap 2).

       Property rights fixed in law in a manner that allows the separation of citizens into classes of unequal privilege and unequal power is a sanction 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 intentions, 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," encouraging confusion). However, in practice, liberal political and social equality are sabotaged by neoliberal "freedom" to achieve economic inequality. Which leads to the political divide: the humanitarian brain assigns priority to human equality--justice (progressives, left liberals); the selfish, resistance-to-equality brain upholds the freedom to achieve inequality--injustice (neoliberals, conservatives, libertarians, center-right 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 contribute to the common good, is as capable of producing economic growth as the "animal spirits" of unregulated greed and selfish ambitions. The values and 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 Papers, FinCEN Files, corporate fines, and all the shell corporations and tax laws and havens that facilitate evasion... 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 self-employment and small and mid-size business enterprise, nor 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 fearful brain, greedily wishing to escape the implications of "created equal."
     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 eager to pursue. The argument over capitalism and socialism is worse than useless; it is a distraction from relevance. The relevant issue is the balance between private enterprise and the social investments that would realize natural entitlement... a balance that would also provide a favorable base for a free market--an educated and healthy population with spendable resources, a protected natural 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. If cupidity feels disincentivized so much the better. 
     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 control will always adjust to maintain or expand inequality.
       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 public welfare by preventing an accumulation of private wealth and power that violates democratic principles, through regulation of economic activity. The appropriate democratic compromise: private enterprise is good, but it cannot have bad consequences upon human equality and the common good.
        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 necessary for the control of government; along with the Supreme Court giving corporations personhood... free speech protection to the political use of money in purchasing policy and politicians. 

      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'" (Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness, 1944).


      Individuals gather into groups and societies for a security of their lives not achievable individually (escaping from the Hobbesian jungle). 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).

       It is not rights that are surrendered upon entering society, but the freedom of selfish actions that would violate the security and equal rights (liberty) of others. Uncontrolled economic freedom (by whatever label: neoliberalism, capitalism, free enterprise) is the means by which equal rights and common security are denied. Capitalism's primary purpose is private wealth, any benefit to the general good being an unintended consequence. It is a system of competition for security that achieves inequality and insecurity for the majority, the opposite of the democracy covenant's intentions.
       It is also true that whatever the economic system, it is the administrators of governmental power that supervise the wealth and privileges of the society. Democracy's struggle is against all sources of unjust power, private or public.

     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 violence and resource insecurity... Liberty is gained by the regulation of freedom. And it is why the common interest must prevail over expressions of individual interest that preempt the common interest; the implicit rule being that the individual's desires may not interfere with the common goal of mutual security and shared benefit--individual preeminence is not an unalienable right. 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 violate "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. Freedom is a contingent right, not a permission to attain whatever is attainable.

       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 equality 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 is better off through cooperation and sympathy with others, a truth thus affirmed by natural selection. Yet the individualist and libertarian perpetuate the selfish trait, dismissing mutual obligation and social interdependence, resenting the 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 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 individual be consigned to social inferiority as a result of the choices of other individuals. Freedom of individual choice is not the issue around which Individualism is criticized: it is the motive that commonly lies behind free choice (escape from obligation), and the consequences of the choice (inequality). 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 deny it:

"Selfishness originates in blind instinct: individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment more than from depraved feelings; it originates as much in deficiencies of mind as in perversity of heart...Selfishness blights the germ of all virtue: individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life; but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness." (Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1835; book 2, chapter 2).

"Men qualify for civil liberty (freedom!) in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity...It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." (Edmond Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly of France, 1791) (parenthesis added).

       Neoliberalism is not endorsed by the principles expressed in The Declaration of Independence; neoliberal democracy is not The Declaration's democracy. Neoliberalism is about economic freedom, expressed as "free enterprise." Democracy is about political and social equality; which is compromised, and ultimately denied, by economic inequality. 
       In past times the right to rule was presumed on the basis of divine prescription, or right by inheritance or 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 thus deserved--and not coercive or arbitrary. If democratic equality is a first principle, then inequality 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 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 fragile 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. 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.

"...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).

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

      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 which exposes the distinction: "liberty" is the right not to be unjustly subordinated that limits the "freedom" that would subordinate. i.e., liberty is prior to freedom. The neoliberal subordination of liberty in favor of freedom is how social inequality is orchestrated, and ostensibly justified.
     Libertarian Individualism is most likely a selfishness resulting from emotional separation; a lack of empathetic connection to others and community; 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 net") of neoliberal society are but inadequate attempts at recompense for the systemic cultivation of social inequality... the denial of natural entitlement... providing a nickel where a dollar is due.
      The unequal possession of wealth and power originates in history by arbitrary and coercive and presumptive appropriation, not by any right to superior 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 appear humble and 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 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.

      Freedom of the individual is not the first purpose of social organization, but the common rights and security--liberty--of all individuals, which imposes on each individual a limit on his freedom. 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. Again, government's responsibility is to acknowledge and secure the preservation of each individual by regulating the actions of all individuals. Specifically, as equality is the first principle ("created equal") of the Democracy Covenant, any social institution that creates and supports human inequality is a violation of the Covenant: "to secure these rights, Governments are instituted" does not mean to facilitate or secure inequality. The rightful 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 will be argued below (ch.3, p.34) 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 subordination and deprivation.
      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 right of a child to a realization of her genetic potential must never be limited by the conditions of her birth environment.
       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; Wealth of Nations; bk. 5, ch.1)

"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 outcome and democracy's purpose.

      Neoliberalism supposes government's purpose to be the defense of achieved inequality; The Declaration of Independence declares government to be the guardian of equality. 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/political dichotomy 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? The Declaration promised the latter.
       Natural law is the creative 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 persons 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, 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 match 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 consistent with 1776 social reality; but the Founders were too intelligent not to be aware they were committing to principles with longer term implications.

      Whatever erodes democracy is "destructive of these ends." Further, even where a moderate 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 the freedom to achieve 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 traits of character are set free and rewarded by the neoliberal maxim of unregulated freedom.
     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 conditioned by childhood environmental effects. It is a brain that does not deserve greater reward and satisfaction than a brain of less selfish 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 low or moderate self-esteem, it is the ultra-high esteem assumed by those who think themselves 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 inferiority, is a mean society. Those with advantages proclaim "equal opportunity" to obscure 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, chap. 3).

      Perhaps the greatest human delusion is the conceit of selfish ego. 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 out of an amalgam of genetic and environmental determinants, and when fortunate they are gifts, not personal achievements that merit privilege. 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. Obtrusive personality in the game of social politics is often rewarded over quiet competence.
       Genetic and environmental circumstances produce capability; greater equality in circumstances would produce greater comparability in capacity. We are each the product of a developmental process composed of circumstances we did not choose; no one is self-made.
      Especially egregious are the intentional 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 intent 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--rewards and punishes more than is 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 variety of physical and behavioral traits; it is biological happenstance.
      Natural selection is the mechanism by which the mutations that enhance the organism's survival are transferred to succeeding generations through reproduction. The process whereby the organism is successfully adjusting to the environment, either through physical or behavioral traits, is called adaptation; the environment is dictating the structure and function and content of the developing brain. The brain is thus a product of its surroundings, both natural and social. (The implications for freewill and psychological dependency 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 reassuring environment--due to its level of primal fear--the more sensitive it will be to the appearance of danger, and the more resistant it will be to changes in that environment. 
        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 out of necessity rather than by natural selection? Does an organism highly dependent on an existing environment for survival security have the neural flexibility--called "plasticity"--to adapt to the threat of a changing environment? This question is at the base of society's politics--accepting change toward greater justice versus reactionary resistance to change and defense of injustice.
       Natural selection is not a value judgment, it does not say which physical and behavioral traits ought 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).

      Natural selection, however, is not random, it is environment dependent--a different environment would support the survival of different traits. Fish have a survival advantage in water, not so much on mountain tops. Selfishness is advantaged in competitive and morally lax environments, but not so much among friends; that is, friends that are not hopelessly deferential, thus encouraging the selfishness.
       It is a major purpose of this hypothesis to emphasize that social evolution does offer an opportunity for qualitative improvement--progress to a more life enhancing experience for all people; purposeful changes in the environment that select and reinforce more humanitarian brain sensibilities... assuming the mental facility for conscious adaptation, and to overcome cultural conditioning.
       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. (A benevolent people would make an environment that selects benevolence; human inequality is the invention of malevolence).

“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…

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.” (

      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 wander the landscape in search of a more favorable habitat. And they would form 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... our true individuality? Or will we remain in selfish, competitive conflicts and continue to call that "freedom?" And will we alter our relationship to the environment in ways that invite a promising evolution, or hasten our extinction? Or, tragically, will the fear of change preclude our ability to change?... the reactionary brain destined to eternally fall short of possibility... even the possibility of survival? 

(The anti-social/pro-social conundrum is rooted in evolution: Homo sapiens branched off from the Pan genus several million years before the chimpanzees and bonobos separated. Chimpanzees are noted for competitiveness, aggression, violence and male dominance; bonobos are peaceful, cooperative, empathetic and female friendly (research here). These conflicting behaviors were thus present in the common ancestor of all three species prior to genetic separation; and thus continued into the homo sapiens branch. The chimpanzee and bonobo branches represent a later separation of anti-social and pro-social temperaments. Interestingly, the chimps and bonobos live geographically isolated from each other; two sets of traits exhibiting internal conflict within a single specie split into separate species, behaviorally and geographically separated. Will mankind resolve its selfish/cooperative conflict by dividing into anti-social and pro-social species: chimpanzee humans and bonobo humans living in separated worlds?).

      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 to the limits of human capacity, then we must make a social environment that will allow us to get there. Encouraging and rewarding the gravitational greed of selfishness (neolibealism) is the path of social dissolution, of individual and collective conflict, 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 habitat, it is selfishness, greed and corruptibility. We talk of "better angels"--is our social environment selecting angels?
     Evolutionary adaptation was a necessary 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 end of history f
or the human specie be a culmination of ethical enlightenment and transcendent achievements, or will it be the arrival of extinction.
      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 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 occurrences that trigger innate or learned fears, resulting in a reactionary politics seeking and defending personal 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 and threat to its comforting environment... its social advantages and reassuring 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 unconscious emotional and physiological responses; and which are subsequently reinforced or moderated by the cultural environmental.

          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 successfully perform in the new reality. Or, it can attempt to forestall the change through obstructive resistance. Or, thirdly, it can flounder between transforming itself and preventing the change, unhappily submitting to undesirable circumstances and bearing emotional and ideological stress.

       The brain that successfully adapts to a social environment--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 has been formed. Hence, the conservative's reaction against the forces of change--his defense of tradition and status quo is fundamentally an emotional/psychological opposition to change; it is dependency on a protective habitat. The vaunted values and principles of conservatism ("freedom" and small government) are--except for a principled few--but rationalizations that serve selfish interests, not moral sensibilities; prompted by a need to justify the political and economic institutions that protect from primal fears. The absence of true principle is quickly exposed by the inevitable Machiavellian acts of expedience in defense of selfish interests; the inveterate and unrelenting opposition to helping and equalizing others; the denial of justice for all.
     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 change. 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 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 deceptions are aided by the good faith brain that is so often naive to the existence of bad faith.

(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 transmit 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, even the educational process, 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 down 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. The social conditions of inequality inhibit the opportunity for self-adaptation. 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 overthrew aristocracy... they replaced the hereditary aristocrats with commercial aristocrats. Then those "liberals" became conservatives... having established they would then conserve the wealth aristocracy. Turns out The Age of Revolution that waved the banner of "freedom" did not achieve human equality, only new occupants in the privileged places. Democracy and equality were useful predicates, but not desired ends.


    The conservative's primal fear of otherness, 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, 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, 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.

" of the fundamental traits of the conservative attitude is a fear of change, a timid distrust of the new as such..." (F.A. Hayek, Why I Am Not a Conservative).

       The politics of fear easily recruits and manipulates through demagoguery and fear mongering and scapegoating and repetitive lies and deceiving philosophies ("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 most simple appearances of certainty--the ranting demagogue blaming others and promising deliverance. The more fearful the brain the more responsive it is to promises of salvation. Ignorance is the best friend of fear!
      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 familiarities are threatened.
       Human inequality is a historical usurpation played upon the acquiescent brain by a selfish brain seeking social superiority as a refuge from its own fears. Cloaking motive with contrary assurances is the essence of the game. 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, enlightened by self-evident Truths, is having great difficulty in overcoming the unevolved primitive brain, still informed 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 cortex 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.

     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 reality; social change requires breaking through the mental structures of previous conditioning... and compliant brains greatly outnumber critical brains. The conservative only needs to arouse the innate fear of change and uncertainty, and the threat of strangers pounding on the door of the castle; the progressive must calm the fear and reveal the possibility of an improved life. But the greatest chance for change comes with the devastation of existing conditions through calamity; when the failure of familiarity itself induces a fear of 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 in most cases psychologically dependent? The answer here is less provocation of primal fear, thus less 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 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". 

       Social inequality favors and perpetuates the selfish trait--indeed, inequality is a consequence of the selfish trait, creating a social habitat that disadvantages cooperative and generous sentiments. Species go extinct when their traits are no longer advantaged and they are incapable or unwilling to adapt to a changing environment. "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 determine the human character that ultimately evolves.
     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 assist, the rise of virtue. Neoliberal culture (economic competition for survival) harbors the ambitions of the unvirtuous soul--the absence of moral conscience; the absence of guilt 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. 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; book 2, Ch. 34, last paragraph).


       The Declaration of Independence is a national document only in the sense of its first application. In word and spirit it is a human document, a universal declaration of the inalienable rights and equality of all women and men and children everywhere. "American" is not a nationality; it is subservience to the idea that I am equal to all others, and they to me. America is everywhere human equality is enshrined.
"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind." (Thomas PaineCommon 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.
      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?

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, August 17, 1858; Lewistown, Illinois).

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, January 10, 1776).


(This hypothesis is not, per se, a criticism of what is considered conservative philosophy--values and principles--except as those values and principles presume to justify and preserve the accomplishments of unjust ambitions.)
(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.)



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


Amygdala's Memory:
A Heritage of Fear


    The three great facts of life are its occurrence, its persistence, and its evolvement. The force that enters into life--from the single-celled organism to the wise hominid--seeks to thrive and become, and for this determined journey it must survive. To survive in life requires avoiding the dangers that would end it. To be avoided, these dangers must be sensed by an innate awareness. In the case of vertebral life forms, this innate awareness is the amygdala's memory--the evolutionary recording of what has threatened survival in the past. Among these recorded threats are unfamiliar, novel and sudden occurrences in the surrounding environment.
       The amygdala (ah-mig'-dah-la) is an organ of the primitive, or reptilian, brain (It is actually two similarly shaped organs--a left amygdala and a right amygdala--that function as a binary system). The primitive brain is called reptilian because it dates from the time of the great reptiles. It is this primitive part of the brain--the brain stem--that controls the survival functions and reflexes of vertebral life forms. Hundreds of millions of years old, the amygdala remains the center of the human brain's survival system. It signals other regions of the brain when it detects sensory inputs from the environment that represent threats to survival.

   In addition to avoidance of danger the amygdala is also central to pleasure seeking behavior. Evolutionary survival is not only about avoiding existential threat, but also obtaining nourishment and satisfying needs. Survival is about learning the behavior responses that most reliably achieve the goal--how to escape or conquer threat, how to hunt for food and find shelter from exposure, how to obtain a mate. This hypothesis, however, is concerned with the fear-based brain and will not address pleasure seeking or hunting/stalking behavior, except to note that an overly reactive amygdala in the pursuit of pleasure may be as destructive to self and others [addictions, sexual predation, greed] as the excessive fear response. As well, it seems obvious that a behavior that escapes danger is likely to be very gratifying; and that it will be reinforced not only by its success in relieving fear, but also by the self-satisfaction of accomplishment--as in escaping the social threat of equal competitors through economic and political domination. Whatever makes the emotional brain happy--whether good or evil--will be remembered and repeated; repeated into conditioned habits and prejudices. Nature accomplishes its survival purpose by making dangerous things fearful and advantageous things pleasurable. The amygdala is involved in both. And we will see, whether behavior is evil or good depends on other brain functions successfully regulating the behavioral responses to the amygdala's alarm--by deciding what is evil or good.
        As the infant brain enters the birth environment it begins an experiencing process, sensing comfort or discomfort with its surroundings, in preparation for adaptation to the conditions in which it must survive. The brain is assessing where it is and what it must do. The five senses will primarily be tuned to detect dangers--like a motion detector senses movement--and secondarily, to detect benefit--opportunity for satisfaction or enjoyment or enhancement. The brain is a hazard/benefit sensing device. It is busily training itself to discover and associate successful responses to significant stimuli, and then remembering the association to establish reliable approach or avoidance behaviors... habits and prejudices--conditioned responses to avoid the delay of having to analyze every call to action. But here's the curiosity part: the conscious "self" is not doing this, the brain machine is doing it. Consciousness seems to emerge from brain activity the way a rainbow appears through the interaction of sunlight and water droplets... as a consequence of preceding neurological events, not a cause of the events. "I" am not telling my neurons what to do. This non-participation of consciousness raises questions about who or what is in charge; questions about freewill and self-determination, about freedom and individualism, about achievement and personal merit.


      Fully functioning by age three, the amygdala easily dominates the still developing prefrontal cortex, which does not near full development until around age 25. The frontal cortex is the forward part of the cerebral cortex which is intended to eventually exercise rational control over the amygdala's emotional impulses. We are, however evolved we imagine ourselves to be, slaves to our reptilian survival impulses. That is, until, and if, the frontal cortex learns to moderate our primal reflexes with more considered responses.

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

      The problem is we have no considered responses at birth. The prefrontal cortex, by which we hope to live a reasoned life, is incipient, unprepared to evaluate the amygdala's alarms. And alarms there are, for birth clearly presents sudden and startling sensations to the infant brain, which begin when the encapsulating security of the amniotic sac breaks, and the emergent organism is alerted to imminent change, which quickly becomes expulsion into unfamiliar surroundings. Sudden change and separation into an unfamiliar environment, and a cascade of novel sensations provide the initial alarming sensations to the amygdala--and they will remain signs of possible threat for the life of the organism. And critically, it is the degree of the amygdala's genetic reactivity to environmental stimuli that will greatly influence the developing brain, and the individual's psychological health and social behavior. 
      Birth is a stressful disruption of the calm and ordered process of creation, from the comfort and security of oneness into the discomfort and insecurity of separation. Gradually, over the early months and years of life, awareness builds that well-being is not automatic--that there is no umbilical cord streaming with life's satisfactions; that our needs and satisfactions depend on something outside of, and apart from, our self; that we must cry and scream our fears and displeasure. Only immediate accommodation, physical and emotional bonding to an affective primary caregiver that moderates the transformation from fetal environment to birth, from oneness to separation, can hope to calm the amygdala. That we are born to a world not always eager to satisfy our needs is the primal conclusion of the amygdala dominated incipient brain.
       As this newly arrived infant brain is being formed by genetic instruction--neurons marching to their prescribed destinations--it will also be influenced by its experience of the new environment, adapting its neural formations and connections in response to external signals... experience is dictating the brain's architecture and installing cultural and tribal beliefs. Environmental experiences (and here) (also here) are credible and determining because the prefrontal cortex is in the process of forming and lacks the functional independence, even the conscious awareness, to mediate them. The infant brain cannot reject or alter its environment. And so, before the brain/mind ever gains some selective control of its experiences it is formed by them. The survival imperative compels adaptation to the environment... or alteration of the environment. (i.e., submission and conformance, or eventually, contention or rebellion).
       The birth environment thus begins its cultural branding, indoctrinating the brain to the surrounding beliefs and behaviors. We are made to fit the clan, to share its customs and myths. Nonconformity and dissent are destabilizing, a threat to unifying, self-justifying, and fear-relieving beliefs; especially unevidenced beliefs that depend on unquestioned adherence... and a threat also to tribal authorities dependent on unquestioned loyalty. The incentive to conform is the safety and comfort of acceptance and belonging, and the fear of banishment. (Few individuals survive indoctrination to develop independent minds and see the clan's truth as arbitrary; true freedom requires an unindoctrinated beginning.) The brain that emerges is a mixture of genetic inheritance, environmental adaptation and cultural indoctrination-- a nature/nurture/culture amalgam. A truly free brain may be a somewhat rare and solitary thing.


      The brain's first imperative, then, is survival in the environment in which it finds itself. And so the infant brain is highly attuned to experience. It is experience that tells the developing brain which neurons to keep and which to shed--the neural connections stimulated by the environment are strengthened, while those not stimulated are weakened and gradually discarded (This is a key fact underlying the ego-complex hypothesis, and why early conditioning and indoctrination impose cultural content that can be so indelible, as experience structures the brain and thus its function). The birth environment is a cultural potter's wheel, shaping the infant brain--chromosomes provide the clay, experience shapes the bowl. Thus the first experiences of life are critical. The earlier and longer that a hyper-reactive amygdala's danger messages are imposed upon the incipient cortex the stronger will be the neural formation of fear-based belief and behavior patterns... and weaker will be the supervision of rational and moral restraints.
       Creation occurs with a genetic intent, but experience can alter it. Experience can serve to realize neurological inheritance, or repress and limit it (This fact is of great importance for infant parenting and early pre-school education. How many of us as young parents understand the developmental requirements of the infant brain... especially how our attending moods and attitudes convey, or not, the assurance of safety and loving and supportive attachment?) Forty six chromosomes are molded by the birth environment into an inner self that will one day emerge into a larger reality, whence we come to further know ourselves as others experience and relate to us, telling us who we are--an unchosen self that we must make the best of, or not.
       In all the important things, then, the human brain is far more determined than we want to believe; "free-will" seems a minor, if not absent, participant. Beyond the initial genetic dictates, at birth we enter a forming process. The brain is "learning" about its environment long before "we" are aware of it. There is no "will" or "choice", no self-determination. There is no point in the brain's early development when saint or sociopath, angel or reptile, is a conscious choice. We are immersed in stimuli, subject to the amygdala's emotional surges, compelled by unconscious responses. To believe that everyone has chosen consciously and knowingly, and with freedom of will the lives they are living, is a thoroughly mistaken belief.
     We begin, then, as possibility and immediately succumb to vulnerability, waiting for the effects--or assaults--of cascading sensations, and the commissions and omissions of our "caregivers." (Emotional neglect of children, the absence of affectionate attention and time-sharing interaction that builds emotional security and a sense of self-worth, is commonplace in a competitive society of stressed and striving parents). Our fate is largely found in our beginning moments, whether our introduction to life occurs in a realm of love and security and positive stimulation or a chamber of physical and emotional harms and privations. Even a mother's prenatal stress level has negative effects on the fetal brain. We have not chosen ourselves any more than the oceans have chosen the tides.
       And therein lies life's fundamental unfairness: We do not make ourselves and thus we are not to be blamed for who we are, but we must be responsible nonetheless. For who else carries the inheritance of genes and environmental effects but ourselves? Would it not be a greater unfairness that others bear responsibility for the consequences of our agency? Or if parents went to prison for the crimes of their children? Human agency is more an effect of biological and environmental happenstance than conscious choices. Wrongdoing can only be stopped by restricting the freedom of the agents who do it... and of those who suborn it. Society's first duty is the protection of innocence. The social question is what behaviors are to be considered a violation of innocence. Non-abuse of others is the undeniable limiting principle upon the individual's freedom.

        The true meaning of freedom and individuality may only be measured by the extent we are able to overcome the thoughts and behaviors that have been placed within us. Conditioned thoughts and compulsive behaviors are not expressions of moral freedom--they represent the experiences and prejudices that have informed us. There is no freedom in having been determined.
       Because of less than optimal environments almost all of us are less than what we could have been; and many have been severely robbed of their genetic possibilities. And then those less hindered by their beginning circumstances think themselves superior, and more deserving of the possibilities of life. Having been given the gift of being less robbed they think it achievement.
       Perhaps homo sapiens is the apex of creation, though our view into the cosmos is too brief and short in time and distance to ever know. Whatever, to be a life-form so favored by the elements with self-consciousness and the appearance of intelligence, is it too much to suppose that we can improve ourselves?  And be less fearful of the changes required?


      Implied in all this is another possibility. An amygdala less biochemically reactive (individual variation in amygdala reactivity linked to genetic factors) to environmental signs of threat or pleasure, and/or more emotionally secured by first experiences, would send fewer and more moderate alarms, thus allowing neural activity to develop toward a more balanced state of mind. This balanced mind would likely learn to perceive the world with more trust and confidence and consideration for others, less fear and suspicion, less selfishness, and less defensive aggression--it would reflect and return the goodness it has received. And it would be less dependent on controlled surroundings, thus more open to arguments for change; and less threatened, thus less resistant to the equality of others. It would, in fact, be a more empathetic and cooperative brain... and more amenable to the internal voice of conscience. And if culture would step back and offer a less imposing indoctrination to provincial beliefs and prejudices, a true individuality might find the neurological freedom to emerge into a unique and self-discovered human being--a childhood of little indoctrination gives the blessing of much to discover and little to overcome. But there is a downside to having little to overcome when it means growing up naive and uninformed, and having to learn from blind efforts that, however honest and trusting, often lead to painful and costly experiences. Being educated is learning about the inevitabilities and uncertainties and possibilities of life. Being indoctrinated is being told what to believe and how to behave. The former contributes to practical and cautious wisdom on a path to personal discovery, the latter precludes the discovery by imposing the destination. 
      It should be noted before going further that the reaction for which the amygdala is responsible is known as the "fight or flight" reflex. This hypothesis is concerned with the fight reflex-- aggressive self-preservation in the form of socioeconomic selfishness; an ambitious mind, pursuing political and economic dominance, unrestrained by compunction--the brain that has been the primary author of human conflict. Initially, the fight reflex is defensive, the animal fighting for its life against a natural predator. Among humans, however, the fight reflex becomes aggressive advantage-seeking, pursuing socioeconomic advantage as a fortress against competitive threats within society. Indeed, it becomes socially reinforced as those who achieve dominance and privilege are emulated.
      This hypothesis is arguing that human brains are bifurcated between the amygdala dominated aggressive brain and the rationally mediated conciliatory brain; the former being selfish and politically reactionary, pursuing and defending social inequality; the latter cooperative, empathetic and not threatened by social equals. The latter also had support from natural selection as altruistic behavior within social groups facilitated survival through mutual protection and cooperative achievements. So, two brains, two neurological/psychological states of mind, both reinforced by contradictory realities--competition or cooperation. (More on this below).

       The flight response is revealed in distraction and avoidance and oblivion behaviors--the various ways of running away from attention to external and/or internal circumstances.
      There is, however, a third response which is called "anxiety". Anxiety describes the large number of persons who find themselves submerged in a world of persistent insecurity which they cannot fight and from which they find no where to flee. And so they suffer. They are the multitude of people with stress related mental and physical disorders, and all those who otherwise struggle to find meaning and happiness because of an unrealized inner self, a self unrealized because the surrounding environment in which they find themselves is unfavorable to the expression of their personal sensibilities... a likely cause of many adolescent suicides. (Bullying is an example of a harsh external environment literally torturing internal sensibility. Especially upon a child, it is a psychological assault that can damage or end a life.) These anxiety laden people represent the debilitated consequences of a troubled beginning to life; people for whom a competitive culture adds the unrelenting stress of socioeconomic insecurity that increases the damage to mind and body--a damage caused by the excessive hormonal releases resulting from chronic stress. Therefore, the aggressive selfish ego--the fight reflex--is not the only reaction to the amygdala's alarm, but it is the reaction that invents evil--aggrandizing and securing oneself through actions that cause harm and disadvantage to others. There is no evil other than man's evil, created by a fearful brain escaping it's fears--real, imagined or contrived. Stopping the evil requires exposing and altering the conditions and incentives that give impetus and opportunity to the evil doer--and that is the purpose of the following pages.


        The fight reflex is an emotional response to threat that becomes excessive when a hyper-reactive amygdala is insufficiently regulated by the prefrontal cortex--expressed as social aggression, ranging from a competitive selfishness to emotional and physical violence. On a collective, societal level it rises ultimately to warfare--the defeat and domination of threatening others. Within society, the fight reflex is expressed as socioeconomic advantage seeking, and opposition to social change for greater equality. The imposition of social and material inequality on others to secure and aggrandize oneself is political and economic and moral violence. The more hyper the amygdala's reaction the more intense the emotional urgency, and the more aggressive the behavioral response.

       It is proposed here that the formation of the selfish ego is a derangement of the incipient brain; a corruption of the survival instinct and its expression of natural self-interest due to an excessive stimulation of the immature cortex with danger signals, caused by an overly fearful amygdala's apprehension of a harsh and dangerous external environment. And further, as environmental messages of insecurity continue through the early years of brain development, the role of the fight reflex in protecting survival becomes increasingly tilted toward a compulsive selfishness as the primary strategy for survival in a competitive social context--a social context that man, not nature, has made. An overly reactive amygdala turns a natural self-interest in defense against harm and disadvantage into a sociopathic aggression that seeks to impose harm and disadvantage on others. Socioeconomic selfishness, aimed at achieving safety through political and economic power and privilege then becomes the defining quality of one's personality, one's humanity-- and one's politics. And, in the process, the brain's empathetic potential will be all but permanently erased, a casualty of atrophy--neural and synaptic "pruning"--from lack of neural stimulation (Pruning eliminates the neural connections that are not used in the brain's experience of its environment, while the connections the brain is having to use in responding to its environment are strengthened. Amygdala hyper reactivity drives fear--and desire--emotions that inhibit the development of moral regulation in the prefrontal cortex.) Selfishness is what's left when moral sensibility is lost. (Think of the personal and social implications of a brain shedding the neural possibility for love and compassion and embracing fear, suspicion, and aggression.) Hence, we have the most fundamental dichotomy in human mentality: the unempathic, selfish brain seeking socioeconomic superiority as a refuge against a fearful world vs. the empathic, benevolent brain that seeks a less fearful world through "liberty and justice for all."


        So humans have two brains: the brain whose early development is dominated by excessive amygdala reaction to primal threats; and the brain that develops without the excessive impositions of fear, to achieve cognitive independence and moral regulation of emotional impulses. The cognitive brain seeks to understand objective reality. The emotional brain, under the urgency of emotional alarm, cannot wait for understanding or discovery or considered responses, so it adopts invented realities--beliefs that assuage its emotions... and defensive strategies to counteract perceived threats. The cognitive brain explores for knowledge and seeks to remedy wrongs. The emotional brain reacts against change as a threat to the comforts of familiarity; and against the remedy of wrongs as a threat to advantage; and against Truth as a threat to belief.
      Both brains are evolutionary selections; each have contributed to survival success--the amygdala brain to primitive survival, escaping or avoiding danger; the neocortex to evolutionary advance--from prey animal to ultimate predator, from wandering the savanna to building civilizations. Whether the ultimate predator is an individualist seeking social domination or a humanitarian refraining from domination depends on brain content--memories, beliefs, prejudices--and the function and connectivity between brain regions.
         But there is a question deep within the brain, a fork in the neural road: would reason assist emotion's more selfish inclinations, or guide emotion toward less selfish behaviors? The ego-complex hypothesis being described here is about the neural strength of the amygdala's emotions commanding prefrontal cortex complicity in support of emotion, rationalizing aggressive beliefs and behaviors in defense against perceived threats to self-interest. Politics is the battleground between reason as pro-self complicity, and reason as pro-social restraint--abetting or regulating the freedom of socioeconomic selfishness. The choice of classical liberalism was the freedom of selfishness.

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

       So if social affinity is man's nature, or at least his inclination, is he being driven out of it by an ideology conceived by a fearful brain to give itself a path to social advantage? Are the "laws" of classical liberal economics not laws, but rationalizations that suppose to justify and ascribe inevitability to the selfish brain--the neoliberal claim that there is no alternative?

        The classical liberal ideology of laissez-faire competition is an organization of society that accommodates, rewards and reinforces the aggressively selfish brain, systemically disadvantaging the cooperative brain. Competitive economic ideology supposes to represent human nature, and to duly reward talent. More accurately, it incites and gives freedom to aggressive ambitions, fear-driven emotions enlisting the frontal cortex's strategic intelligence. Social evolution is being driven by the incitement and reward of selfishness through "success" at economic competition, selecting selfish traits and discouraging unselfishness.


     It is believed that early humans survived through group cooperation, which inspired the development of language and intelligence. Selfish behavior is disruptive to cooperative sentiments--and social cohesion generally--creating a climate of one against all. Competition is a result of the selfish brain's insistence on an opportunity--"freedom"--to achieve an advantage in possessions and power. The purpose of specifying inalienable rights is to limit the freedom of public and private power. Liberty protects against the freedoms that abuse. Due to its importance, and the widespread synonymous use of the terms, this point about the distinction between freedom and liberty, already emphasized above, will be repeated below. Emphasis on critical points in an argument warrants the annoyance of repeating them.

      The human brain is predominately emotional. Emotion is understood as a pre-conscious neural reaction of the brain to sensory information received and assessed by the amygdala as significant to survival or opportunity. The intensity of the emotion is determined by the level of the amygdala's genetic reactivity and the proximity and imminence of the stimulus. The amygdala creates an emotion for the purpose of driving a response (behavior) to the stimulus, with primary regard to fears and pleasures--avoiding or confronting stimuli that appear threatening; pursuing and possessing stimuli that promise pleasure and satisfaction--food, rest, shelter, safety, sexual fulfillment. Over time evolution selected the traits that led to a neo-cortex for supervising the emotions and improving the chances of survival through intelligent decision-making, by moderating the hyper-reactive emotion and regulating against irrational and self-defeating, and morally unacceptable, responses (internal restraint). If reason over emotion did not enhance survival why did it evolve so rapidly? Behavior, then, is a question of how much rationality the prefrontal cortex is able to attain, and whether that rationality is directed by selfish emotions or moral sensibility... whether it is prejudiciously indoctrinated, or educated to think critically and ethically. That is, whether the prefrontal cortex aids the sociopath or the humanitarian.

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


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

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


       The thesis herein is that the conservative brain is biased by an overly active fear response--reflected in brain structure--toward the negative emotions when confronted with signs of difference and change...signposts of threat. The less fear-minded brain is biased toward the positive emotions, generalizing the harmony of the primal group to humanity as a whole--humanitarianism. The difference being that change and unfamiliarity do not provoke a fear response in the less fear-formed brain--in fact, the opposite, a curiosity for novelty and new experience, and acceptance of positive change--a willingness to remedy wrongs when they appear. Being less fearful of the external world, the liberal mind is less driven to control it, only wishing to make it more just and equal...thus more secure for everyone. The conservative mind is obsessed with control, wishing to make society more advantageous to itself. Hence, opposition to measures that advance equality, and efforts to devise anti-democratic restrictions upon voting.

"…the conservative inclines to defend a particular established hierarchy and wishes authority to protect the status of those whom he values…" (F.A. Hayek, “Why I Am Not a Conservative”)

      When science warns of climate change the conservative is being twice assaulted; he is being told that his environment is changing and therefore his emotionally reassuring beliefs and conditioned behaviors must change. The open mind seeks evidence and solutions, the fearful mind denies the problem... the ostrich strategy. Adaptability is not the forte of the conservative brain. The conservative brain exists because there has been survival expedience to maintenance of a familiar status quo, and to aggression and violence in its defense. But defending against change is blocking improvement and possibility, prolonging wrongs because they are familiar... and traditional. Thus there is a dilemma: the brain has evolved to be adaptive to change, whereas the conservative brain is emotionally and politically resistant to emotional opposition to adaptation--emotion resisting reason--which clearly reveals the bifurcated brain, a primitive emotional brain in contention with an evolved cognitive brain. Which brain dominates distinguishes the xenophobe from the humanitarian. A distant future homo sapiens, if open-minded and empathic sentiments can overcome conservative resistance, may find their amygdalae unselected, or at least somewhat atrophied from disuse. We can hope.


       It was stated in the beginning and it deserves repeating: the conservatism of principles and values is not the subject of this hypothesis. The subject is sociopathic selfishness that seeks political and economic domination over the community, and thus opposes human equality. That same selfishness, however, finds a home among less personally selfish conservatives whose "principled" hostility toward government regulation (limiting the freedom of selfishness), and adherence to prescriptive traditions despite the wrongs they transmit (dependence on familiarity), also aids and abets an unjust status quo.

(The liberal and conservative political labels are used throughout this thesis to express what is basically a psychological/neurological distinction. The real issue is the empathic mind vs. the selfish mind, which are not exclusive to either label, but which generally express themselves in politics as pro-social, pro-government, pro-reform liberals; and pro-self, anti-government, anti-reform conservatives; each group involving a range from moderate to extreme.)

     The trick that economic liberalism tried to insert--and Hayek reasserted ("spontaneous order") in his neoliberal resurrection of classical liberalism--was Adam Smith's "invisible hand," which attempted to provide assurance that giving freedom to selfishness would unintentionally benefit everyone. In other words, accept, even encourage and reward selfish behavior because some good may come of it. That some good would not come of it Adam Smith also notably cautioned. (We'll see more below.) And it is on this point that the political liberalism that began with The Enlightenment has failed. It liberated the human brain from Dark Age superstition and subservience to the claims of kings, but it was too accepting of the selfish ambitions of economic liberalism. Laissez-faire does not arrive at democracy, it arrives at plutocracy. Democratic principles, and the rights of man, were subordinated to economic selfishness.

"...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, Ch 1).

       It was The Enlightenment's freedom of human reason that led to the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions, and thus to economic development--discoveries in science, advancements in transportation and communication and technology. The human urge to learn and prosper does not require giving to the selfish brain the incentives and rewards of social advantage. In fact, social inequality imposes on the disadvantaged, but otherwise capable, educational limitations and financial obstacles that limit their opportunity and contribution to social and economic development.


     If the prefrontal cortex is neurologically independent and empathetically informed, and somewhat cognizant of evidence based reality, the amygdala is subdued and behavior becomes controlled, guided by a consideration of what ought to be done rather than a reflexive, selfish response to what is desired. Emotion is a subjective experience, thus it requires subjective gratification--fears mollified, desires satisfied... and beliefs that give internal assurance regardless of external, objective truth. For the negative emotions, feeling better is evidence of "truth." And thus the amorality of expedience--what is true or good is what works for me. Reason and logic can serve any purpose the prefrontal cortex is inclined, or neurologically compelled to embrace. And if reason is absent, irrationality becomes master. A brain with much fear and little knowledge is soon filled with superstitions and reassuring beliefs... and enemies.

      The emotional brain does not stop to consult the prefrontal cortex, the prefrontral has to be there watching and thinking, with the cognitive power to intervene; and informed with principles and values that overrule the selfish response.

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

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

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


(The pervading purpose of this hypothesis is to understand the reactionary conservative brain, what it is and why it is... why it's resistance to human equality, why it's moral indifference to unfairness, its inattention to the mental disruption of disadvantaged children, why it's greed for social 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, out there seeking change in the name of progress and justice looks to the conservative amygdala like an attack of the body snatchers-- hence the demonizing of "liberals"... and "do-gooders.")

        For the amygdala dominated brain the ego-complex now rules: The prefrontal cortex, by which we reason, instead of being nurtured into a regulator of the amygdala's emotional responses, has become a servant to the amygdala's reality. The empathic faculty has been neurologically ignored, and thus is, to varying degrees, diminished, its moral assessment and self-regulating compunctions and sensibilities remaining undeveloped. The brain becomes *left hemisphere dominant, calculating for advantage, turning a natural self-concern for one's fair place within a community of equals into a selfish desire for superiority.

*(Throughout the text the ego/heart dichotomy is represented by reference to the left and right hemispheres of the neo-cortex. The brain's complexity certainly does not allow such a simplified depiction. And so, the language of left and right hemisphere is more a convenience than a anatomical description of the physical brain. I emphasize, therefore, that the presence or absence of empathic function is the point, not its location. The same point applies throughout the text. Relating behavior to the complexities of brain function unavoidably involves simplification that is in some respects likely to be inaccurate.)

      There is some contention with views of the amygdala's centrality to the fear response, specifically with the "feeling" of fear. But conscious fear is not the point. The beginning point of the fear response is the amygdala's unconscious detection of external threat... when the pebble hits the pond, spreading waves throughout the brain triggering myriad neurological events that culminate in various physiological, psychological and behavioral responses. The feeling of fear occurs when the prefrontal cortex confirms there is reason to be afraid. The amygdala is the lantern in the steeple warning of danger: "One, if by land, and Two, if by sea." Or, for the conservative brain: One, if it's liberal, and Two, if progressive!
         It seems much of the exception to the focus on the amygdala's central role in the fear response is simply saying, "It is more complicated than that." For sure, the brain is a complicated biological machine. But the cardinal question for society is what is a hyper amygdala's affect on social behavior? And is the affect of excessive amygdala fear on the developing brain what differentiates the anti-government, freedom-of-selfishness conservative brain, from the pro-social justice-for-all humanitarian brain? And is the world's dominate economic ideology systemically reinforcing human conflict by rewarding individual selfishness and dissolving social cohesion and common interest?


       It is important to note that the description about the prefrontal cortex mediating the amygdala's response seems to presuppose "free-will". Science is undecided if there is such a thing. It is possible that what we experience as conscious choice is simply an observer's awareness of what has already happened in the brain. Has the brain reached a neurological conclusion micro-seconds before conscious awareness thinks it has decided? The brain decides and we take credit for better; or responsibility, for worse? That "I" am aware of my brain's decision does not mean that I made the decision, no more than my nighttime dream was written and directed by "me." Awareness does not imply cause or control, only witness. In the case of fear, survival required a faster response than considered thought could provide. The brain reacts to a stimulus with an emotional reflex, which initiates a systemic response, a chain of electrical and chemical transmissions. The brain has not waited for "me" to decide. Does it not also, then, decide on all "appropriate" behaviors based on stored memories and beliefs, and previously conditioned responses? Am "I" only a belatedly informed witness giving sometimes flawed testimony to myself about what I think I am doing? Does my brain tell my legs to run, and then I merely come to realize why I am running? Am I deciding to be selfish? Or am I being compelled by my amygdala's hyperactivity and previously conditioned responses, and inadequate moral supervision?
        And what of humanity collectively, or at least a controlling majority? If we had a collective free-will would we not choose against violence and destruction? Against warfare? Does the fact that we don't, mean that we can't?

       There is another point that regards free-will. It has to do with the bootstrap theory. The conservative is inclined to blame inequality on the "losers"-- they don't try hard enough; they have an "equal opportunity" but they're too lazy or stupid to use it; they fail because of lack of character, absence of work ethic. The problem is these judgments are too simplistic, and the judges too ignorant or too dismissive of the genetic and environmental factors that benefit or impair mental ability; and also, that competitive games necessarily have many more losers than winners. So maybe the stupid part is being unaware of the complex causation that underlies the development of human capacity-- and expecting competition to have no losers.
         The opposite error would be to say there is no personal responsibility. And of course there is. But the truth is there is no equal beginning or equal opportunity, and certainly no "self-made" human beings. How we start out and how we are aided by genetic talents and human mentors, or hindered by obstructions and discouragements is not our doing. If we all had a "free-will" most of us would choose to be other than we are. After considering the brain's susceptibility to environmental affects there really is more in our stars than ourselves. So is blaming the loser just being simplistic, or is it another way of saying, "I do not care?
      Consider the conservative prejudices: adherence to prescriptive traditions because familiarity is comforting; resistance to equality because advantage is, well, an advantage; hostility to science because knowledge threatens preferred and reassuring beliefs--and may require change. Change, threats to advantage, difference--a strange face living next door--all provoke the emotions of fear and selfish strategies of defense... the reptilian brain maintaining its evolutionary dominance over the empathic brain attempting to emerge.

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

     Birth has been a "choice" between three fundamental human beings: the fear induced ego-complex, which is life negating; the less fear-based, more sanguine and confident and trusting personality, which is life affirming; and the brain of debilitating anxiety struggling to find confidence and identity and a place to be free. The ego-complex brain will spend a lifetime building forts, the empathic brain a lifetime despairing of a fortified world, and the anxious brain simply trying to find tranquility.

     Here are three general personality categories proposed by the ego-complex hypothesis, resulting from the genetic and environmental factors surrounding birth... and that have so determined the passage from who we could have been to who we became:

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

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

3. Amygdala fear-based (aggressive, "fight" response):
      Absent top-down moral regulation
      Prefrontal complicit with the amygdala.
      Dominance seeking.
      Negative Emotion with prefrontal complicity
      Paranoia prone 
      Defends self through preemptive aggression.
      Expedience-based morality.
      Adhering to self-assuring and justifying belief systems.
      Unfamiliarity provokes wariness.
     (This is generally descriptive of the sociopathic personality spectrum, of which the selfish pursuit of advantage within the community, without empathic concern for the rest of the community, is the first stage).


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

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

        We can do this by seeing our conscious self as distinct from our brain... that our brain has thought and behavior patterns incurred through years of indoctrination that we did not choose, but that we--the conscious self--can choose to alter through new thoughts and behaviors, repeated until the brain reconditions--neuroplasticity--to our chosen self. We can do this through self-determination, supported by knowing it can be done.


      The making of a human life involves many alternative characteristics--eye color, hand preference, gender--but the most profound distinction is the presence or absence of the capacity for empathy, whether one emerges at the threshold of life as a humanitarian or a sociopath. The distinction between caring and not caring for others of one's specie is a measure of brain difference that would be easy to consider a distinction in kind--an evolutionary split of homo sapiens into homo empathicus and homo egoisticus.
       Indeed, homo egoisticus is lagging in his biological adaptation, lingering in the neurology of amygdala fear, kept in his primal past by a competitive economic ideology... and his resistance to an economics of common security, where incentive does not reward selfish individualism, but rather a humanitarian self-interest in the well-being of the whole community. In contrast, the homo empathicus brain is progressive, eager to adapt in anticipation of the technological possibility for a security-based economics that relieves the human brain from fear and competitive conflict, whence evolution can proceed beyond survival to an exploration of possibility, facing the unfamiliar and the uncertain with curiosity and intelligence.
       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 cowardice. Maybe a creature so subject to environmental determination can turnaround and make an environment to remake himself, to condition himself into a better angel. Maybe there will be time to do that if we don't tinker too much with the macro environment. We can't destroy Nature, but we can change her to the point where she will destroy us. Despite all our hubris and godly self-image, environment made us, and it will end us. It seems likely that eternal survival is not in the cards for any form of life. Somewhere in the deck a fatal microbe or monster asteroid is inevitable. But it would be nice if our demise is the tragic end of a grand creature, and not the mere erasure of an ignoble egoist who soiled the cradle of life.


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

(Think conservative dirty tricks and liberal naivete', which is explained by the presence or absence of right brain moral sensibility. That is, only a frontal cortex without a moral conscience is eager to become proficient at deviousness. The selfish brain plots for advantage because it is driven by fear-reaction strategies; the non-selfish brain is restrained by its sense of fairness because it is less driven by fear. One thing is certain, selfishness is not naive! It knows the tricks of winning and relishes using them. The ego-complex knows that deceit is an ally--that undiscovered lies are expedient, that misrepresentation often makes the sale. Also, we tend to understand others by what we know of ourselves. Thus, if we do not harbor duplicitous thoughts we are often naive before those who do. The reverse is also true: the selfish brain is filled with cynicism about the good intentions of others--recall the conservative ridicule of "do-gooders". Selfishness is completely dismayed at altruism, and in that absence of mind lies the birthplace of evil. A democratic people must be mindful of the incentives they allow, for the behavior they reward is the behavior they will get).

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

       It is a selfish ego that instigates social competition--the "freedom" and "opportunity" to achieve superiority over others--and that breeds the unavoidable enmity that follows, shattering the possibility for a community of cooperation and sharing and friendliness. When the stranger in the forest is treated as an enemy he becomes an enemy--self-fulfillment is fear's fate.
     Capitalist political economy, unregulated and untaxed, is the quintessential institutional expression of the ego-complex brain. It is the path whereby fear-obsessed selfishness gains social superiority--safety behind the gates of excessive and exclusive ownership. It is not those who would defend themselves against the disadvantages of inequality that wage "class warfare," but those who presume to impose it. The classical liberal revolution for economic freedom did not free man for the sake of greater security and social equality, it consigned him to a new form of inequality--a game of competition for survival where life's security was only an "opportunity" requiring his adoption of a morally debilitating selfishness. The divine right of kings and nobles was replaced by the divine right to unlimited property--both the vehicles of domination by class.


      The optimum condition for survival--life's first imperative--would be a social organization that meets basic security and most obviates conflict, which would mean production for mutual benefit and greater equality... it would be a form of society that reinforced a less selfish behavior. This does not require the abandonment of market economics. Central planning is not the implication. Supply and demand and price signaling and profit incentive can still direct production and encourage efficiency. Entrepreneurial freedom and corporate organization would still power economic growth and innovation. But the economic health of the nation requires a broad distribution of wealth, only achievable through policies that minimize taxes and regulation on the self-employed, and small and mid-sized business; and that direct corporate profits to lower prices, higher wages and social investment, and away from private wealth. What is required are regulations against harm to public safety and the environment, and the adjustment of outcomes to provide a basic stress relieving security of life for all citizens. The test of economic organization is resource efficiency and fairness of outcome. Political ideology resting on fear conditioned emotions should not determine economic forms. Social injustice is not the result of moderate self-interested economic activity, it results from the allowance of extremely unequal outcomes that are depriving others, and confining human character to its lowest nature through the continuing reward of greed, and the perversion of political democracy into plutocracy. A competition for relative success and a merited degree of inequality need not be a competition that harms. An easy fix awaits democratic awareness: a minimum and maximum wealth per citizen. When corporate profit distributes to executive compensation and share holder dividends it is not a market decision. It is a management decision that could have lowered prices and/or increased wages instead. 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 decision has no "invisible hand" favoring justice. The good of a community must be achieved by intent, not unintended happenstance.

"We have, however, a clear mandate from the people, that Americans must forswear that conception of the acquisition of wealth which, through excessive profits, creates undue private power over...public affairs. In building toward this end we do not destroy ambition... We continue to recognize the greater ability of some to earn more than others. But we do assert that the ambition of the individual to obtain for him and his a proper security, a reasonable leisure, and a decent living throughout life is an ambition to be preferred to the appetite for great wealth and great power...I place the security of the men, women, and children of the Nation first." (Franklin Roosevelt, State of Union, 1935)(emphasis added).

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


      It is this unrestrained socioeconomic selfishness of the ego-complex (in the name of "freedom") that is the effective first principle of American culture...and which contravenes the Democracy Covenant--"created equal" and "unalienable rights" (Liberty). The reality of America is not primarily a democracy founded on the principle of human equality. It is a nominal democracy, a republican form declared a democracy, but where representation is dominated by economic power; where the first principle is the opportunity to escape equality by achieving superiority--a license to hoard the materials of well-being called "freedom." It is a freedom in which selfishness is rewarded and the modest desire to simply live well is pressured to "compete," to adopt selfish behaviors and abandon more modest ambitions to keep from being further disadvantaged--as if inalienable rights are the spoils of economic success. This contradiction--the reality of great wealth inequality amidst the ideal of democratic social equality--reflects a conflict within the history of liberalism, between economic liberalism (Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations) and political/social liberalism (the democratic revolution against hereditary rule--the Rights of Man). For the political liberal freedom meant equality, for the economic liberal it meant a path to the upper class. The virtual compromise that sought, but failed, to resolve the conflict was economic liberalism's acceptance of increased social and political freedoms--democracy--in exchange for social liberalism's acceptance of unlimited property rights, i.e., unregulated capitalism. Economic behavior, whose logic would inevitably incline to inequality was cloaked as an expression of democratic freedom. But the ruse would achieve more, for the full implications of democracy were evaded by restricting the franchise to propertied white men; republican government would represent the few, not the many. To this day conservatism seeks to undermine democracy through gerrymandering and voting restrictions and money in politics.
     Perhaps a new democratic awareness will now see the forces of economic liberalism expanding their dominance over the aspirations of social liberalism. (Indeed, the orgy of private wealth accumulation is culminating in a supranational oligarchy of shell corporations, money laundering and tax havens that threaten to escape the purview of national sovereignty). The issue is whether democracy is a mere adjunct of capitalism, or capitalism is an organization of productive resources in service to the principles of democracy. That is, whether capitalist "freedom" and its inevitable inequality is to be accepted as more important than democratic equality, and the basic security of each citizen's right to life; whether the wealth of nations truly requires social and political dominance as the reward of selfishness. What is certain in the present is that a system of economic competition based on material and emotional insecurity is a cause of human brain pathology--reinforcing selfishness and committing the brain to chronic anxiety. The American republic is representing money, not people.

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

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


"Men qualify for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity...It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." (Edmond Burke, ibid.) 

         Edmund Burke is perhaps the most celebrated conservative writer in Anglo-American history. He was a believer in virtue who recommended the regulation of unvirtue. In the quote above, Burke is clearly stating that rapacious ambitions do not deserve unregulated freedom; that such rapacity must be constrained, either internally by an empathic frontal cortex, or externally by just law. Thus true conservatism--values and virtues conservatism--would stand for the regulation of socioeconomic selfishness, and the remediation of great social inequality. It must be said that Burke himself stood in contradiction to this inference, in that he was a supporter of hereditary wealth and political rule, and was not sympathetic to arguments against inequality. He supposed, I guess, that virtue would restrain the most egregious exploitation by hereditary power, and that would be sufficient justice-- gentlemanly virtue (noblesse oblige) would be another "invisible hand." When a smart man overlooks reality it is not naivete, it is a blind eye to hypocrisy and contradiction for the sake of deeper motives. It is not uncommon for idealized virtues to give way to more immediate interests. Waiting for virtue to remedy injustice is the recommendation of those who want justice to be voluntary, as if inalienable rights depend on the acceptance of those who wish to violate them. "You can't legislate morality," they say. Moral virtue does not have to be imposed by law; motives can be free as long as their unjust outcomes are denied (taxed). The lack of achievement will quell the fervor of unjust ambitions. What does not succeed in the environment has a way of being unselected!
      Justice is not satisfied by hopes and promises; nor is it content to wait for virtue or faith to be rewarded. Not incidentally, Burke also scorned the idea of Natural Rights as expressed by Thomas Paine... and The Declaration of Independence!

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

Burke is not alone:

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

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

"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." (John Locke, The Second Treatise, Chap 2, Par 13).

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


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

"Selfishness originates in blind instinct (the amygdala's fear): individualism proceeds from erroneous judgment (frontal cortex complicit with the amygdala...the ego-complex) more than from depraved feelings; it originates as much in deficiencies of mind (undeveloped empathic faculty) as in perversity of heart...Selfishness blights the germ of all virtue: individualism, at first, only saps the virtues of public life (bitter partisanship); but, in the long run, it attacks and destroys all others, and is at length absorbed in downright selfishness." (Democracy in America, 1835; book 2, chapter 2) (parentheses added).

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

"It must therefore be expected that personal interest will become more than ever the principal if not the sole spring of men's actions; but it remains to be seen how each man will understand his personal one can foretell into what disgrace and wretchedness they would plunge themselves lest they should have to sacrifice something of their own well-being to the prosperity of their fellow creatures." (ibid. chapter 8).

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

       In the "Wealth of Nations", Adam Smith thought he was releasing the productive power of natural self-interest to achieve economic growth. He was. But hidden behind the evolved instinct for self-preservation of the unselfish mind was the unevolved reptilian brain, whose lack of compunction no "invisible hand" or Burkean virtue would restrain. Along side the virtuous man who calls for freedom stands the rapacious man who sees freedom as an opportunity, and who aims to exploit it. 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).

        As we just saw, Burke was more direct:

" of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." 

      The great feebleness of the common man is his worship of those who presume to be his superiors. Authoritarian presumption thrives on the deference of the common man, so easily duped by the promise of safety--and the sacrifice of scapegoats.

" 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).


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

     To summarize: the infant brain can be captured by a fearful amygdala into the ego-complex, turned from wonderment before the world, to fear of the world; from seeing the world as the cradle and promise of life, to seeing the world and one's fellow inhabitants as a threat to life. Reacting to birth separation, and impacted by awareness of a frightening dependency, the fear-captured brain then learns aggression, selfishness, and deceit as modes of survival. Selfish gratification becomes its overriding purpose, expediency its morality, the impunity of power and the dark corners of secrecy, its havens.

"The 'children of light' [are] those who seek to bring self-interest under the discipline of a more universal law and in harmony with a more universal good...The children of darkness are evil because they know no law beyond the self. They are wise, though evil, because they understand the power of self-interest...
[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 'children of darkness.'" (Reinhold Niebuhr, The Children of Light and The Children of Darkness, 1944).

        Early nurture must spread light upon the infant brain so that the darkness of the hyper-reactive amygdala does not lead the prefrontal cortex into a world of malevolence; does not neurologically preclude the right brain's development of empathic sensibility, aborting the birth of the "better angel."


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

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

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

       Another more recent fMRI study shows further brain difference:

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

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

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


      There is a mental condition known as "Amusia". It is an inability to process musical sounds into a joyful experience... to feel an inner synchronicity with rhythm and melody. It is a functional "deafness" of the brain, equivalent to the blindness of an undeveloped visual cortex. Amusia serves as an analogy for the ego-complex's lack of empathic sensibility, the inability to process pathos for others into a sympathetic--and rewarding--response. Similarly, we all have known people without a sense of humor, or who lack an ability for inspirational responses to art, or the wonders of nature. Of course, we would not want an amusiac conducting an orchestra. Do we want the functionally unempathic brain conducting our democratic community?! Do we want those absent an empathic faculty representing others in government when they do not care about others? In fact, recent research has associated high empathy and musical appreciation with human social interaction.
        Empathy is the last thing the conservative mind wants in government. Such a mind does not want government making equal those over whom it wishes to be superior. Hence, the conservative opposition to a government that would "secure these rights" through social programs. The opposition to taxation is not only the complaint of greed, it is also a strategy for financially incapacitating government from its democratic purpose of promoting the general welfare.
       The lack of empathic feeling is an inability to hear the music, the orchestra, of the common good; ears that do not hear the music, hearts that cannot join the dance.

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

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


      The independent and competent prefrontal mediates fear with moral and practical reason, doing prudently what ought to be done rather than always doing expediently what advantages oneself. This differentiation of mind occurs prior to political expression. And so, the selfish ego may come to roam the ground of all cultural/political territories--Left, Right and Center. The focus of this text is upon selfish ego qua political conservatism because the resistance to social change for greater justice, and the pursuit of political and economic policies that further human inequality, is largely an agenda expressed by those who are proudly self-identified as "conservative." It is not argued here that all conservatives are socioeconomic sociopaths. Neither is it argued that all social liberals are especially unselfish ("liberal" is an amorphous term. As an example, almost all conservatives are free market liberals and defenders of liberal democracy. Generally, liberal is best understood as supportive of individual freedom. The liberalism of helping others is where conservatives demur). Specifically, this treatise is not a critique from "The Left." It is a critique from within the tradition of the Rights of Man--and the Enlightenment (Reason) and Reformation (freedom of conscience) traditions, combined with the Judeo-Christian ethical and prophetic traditions, that inspired the Declaration of Independence and the institutions of liberal democracy. Thus the politics of The Amygdala Hypothesis can be fairly regarded as democratic fundamentalism--the literal belief in the core principles of democracy and natural rights, as expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, and the social and economic policy implications that follow from those principles. It is a politics that is rightly construed as conservative in its strict holding to the tradition of America's Founding Principles; and progressive in its insistence upon the full realization of those principles in the lives of all Americans--and all people everywhere. It seems to this author that a true American conservative would be a defender of The Declaration's Founding Principles, and would be cognizant of the ways in which capitalist political economy infringes upon those principles. But in America, principled conservatism has been surpassed by a selfish conservatism, expedient rather than principled, obedient to the interests of wealth, and resistant to social equality--for the fearful brain, principles are of no use in achieving advantage. Indeed, to the extent they impose internal restraint moral principles are a hindrance. How much it is unable to abide the implications of "created equal" is a window into the ego-complex soul. To hold high a national ethos in public and betray its dictates in private is more than hypocrisy, it is something spiritually deep that has failed, or is missing,
      There is no just individual freedom to subvert the declared common equality and inalienable rights of Life and Liberty. The natural rights declared inalienable are dedicated to the security of life (liberty), not the opportunities of life (freedom). The rights that protect us (liberty) must come first if freedom is to be more than a unhindered, conflict-ridden competition to survive. Government is instituted to secure rights, not to secure a freedom for unjust accomplishments. Freedom requires no government, no law; liberty necessitates it. Freedom begins when life is secure.
      The democratic principles and values of Life and Liberty are our inheritance, defended and passed to us by prior sacrifices. Nothing outside of ourselves compels obedience and loyalty to the past, only when our sense of honor demands it from within, whereupon we embrace obligation and duty not because it profits us personally, but because it is right. Every generation chooses its place in history by what it stands for...and what it stands against.


(Socioeconomic selfishness hides within conservatism, but it is not conservatism. It is sociopathy. Conservatism is a loyalty to values and principles and traditions that transcend and guide the individual to a higher goodness than is found in his reptilian inclinations. It is the conservatism of honor--adherence to discipline and prudence and thrift and efficiency and responsibility and truthfulness and self-reliance... and especially, an inescapable sense of duty and obligation to prior sacrifices. True conservatism is an allegiance to moral reason, it seeks to conserve the values and principles that serve the good of community, but not "traditions" that presume to make wrong into right by the mere fact of prior existence. And true conservatism does not require the advantaged side of human inequality. It is not a principled conservative who seeks to diminish a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people."; it is those who deny liberty and justice for all, and want government out of their way. The "conservative" who resists progress toward improving the lives of disadvantaged people in the name of respect for the traditions and freedom of advantaged people, is not respecting tradition or freedom, but fearing change and abiding wrongs... resisting equality because inequality is the consequence of "freedom"... and very likely defending against the personal loss of privileged position.)

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

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


The Neuroscience


(The following description represents a layman's understanding based on what seemed an endless review of research abstracts on the neuroscience of fear, available to everyone on the Internet. Far too many sources were consulted for a complete list of attributions. However, for an introduction to the amygdala's function and network see here... and many other publications in the neurosciences. Or, see the links in the sidebar at the top, and throughout this text.)

(Also: It is of interest for social harmony, and it will certainly be of remedial utility in the future, that we should understand fully the neural structure and function of the selfish brain, and why so much enmity and violence have marred the human experience; why the primal instinct for self-preservation has so often meant the annihilation of others. But it is not necessary to know the science to oppose the thing itself on moral grounds alone, and to consider, therefore, as believers in human liberty and equality, just how much "freedom" the selfish ego ought to enjoy in its quest to please and secure itself by the economic and political domination of the community of others.)

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

     The brain achieves awareness of its environment through its sensory organs--sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste. These sensory inputs converge in the thalamus, where they are then transmitted along two primary pathways--one to the amygdala and one to the prefrontal cortex. The amygdala unconsciously evaluates its sensory information for signs of danger, and other emotionally significant information from the environment, based upon its genetic disposition... its reactive intensity and innate memory of what has been dangerous--or pleasurable--in the evolutionary past. In addition, there are learned memories and patterns of behavior from cultural conditioning and personal life experiences stored in the hippocampus that are connected to the amygdala and frontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex assembles its sensory information and the hippocampus' memories into a conscious awareness and assessment of the surrounding environment--its perception of reality. But this dual process does not happen simultaneously, and that is of great significance.
     The neural pathway from the thalamus to the amygdala is faster than the pathway from the thalamus to the prefrontal cortex. Which means the amygdala's detection of threat occurs before the prefrontal's assessment--an emotional and physiological fear response is initiated before the cognitive mind has time to rationally evaluate the overall circumstance, before the cortex is even conscious of the fact that a threat has been detected. Survival in the primal forest required this "jumping to conclusions" about sense data recognized as threatening--our chances of survival were best if we ran first and thought about why later. Hold that fact in mind: the amygdala decides first
      Also of great significance is the fact that the amygdala is connected to the prefrontal cortex through a reciprocal neural circuit, by which the two brain systems communicate with each other. But the circuit going from the amygdala to the prefrontal develops sooner and is synaptically stronger, "louder" you might say, than the return circuit from the prefrontal to the amygdala. Thus a hyperactive amygdala's emotional intensity easily dominates an incipient prefrontal cortex that is not yet able to reason and evaluate. This initial neural command by the amygdala is "persuading" the not yet very able cortex to defer to the amygdala's emotional reality, which the cortex must later develop the capacity to overcome, to reevaluate, or not.
      It is likely that this dominance of emotion over reason is contributing heavily to neural pruning, the selection of neurons and synapses that structure the prefrontal cortex into a persistent state of neural submission to the amygdala. In fact, the cortex is not fully developed until around age 25. So emotion has an enormous head start in affecting the brain's neural development. This is why early indoctrination can become so indelible despite later cognitive development--as the cortex belatedly matures cognition comes only to defend the indoctrination, not to dispute and overcome it. Education can enlighten an open mind, it only sharpens a structurally predisposed mind to better rationalize its predispositions; defending its underlying beliefs by screening out and obfuscating contradictory facts. This is also why the emotionally dominated, relatively uneducated brain is so defensive, as well as resentful and defiant toward knowledge and education. Knowledge is a threat to emotional fears that have been alleviated by not-very-well-thought-out beliefs.
       Thus, prior to age 25, behavior is more likely to be impulsive and oblivious to consequence--reason has not achieved its potential control over emotion. And if it hasn't at age 25 it may never. Prejudiced indoctrination puts a young brain on a train it may never get off. What then is the meaning of freedom and individuality? Childhood should be the first step on a life of exploration, not the fixing of an immutable mentality. The role of education should be to challenge cultural prescriptions, not to further indoctrinate them.


     All these early years in which environment and emotion dominate brain development would seem to make it difficult for the prefrontal cortex to ever gain regulatory control. (Of course, the brain that lacks internal regulation is all the more resentful of external regulation--the small government, non-regulation greed-is-good cohort.) Evolution layered a cortex on top of the primitive brain, but the primitive brain still rules over homo egoisticus..

(An excellent research article appearing at The Dana Foundation, The Brain's Emotional Development, by Dr. Nim Tottenham describes the amygdala and mPFC (medial prefrontal cortex) relationship:

"...increases in mPFC activity are associated with a decrease in the amygdala's activity--these two regions are anti-correlated with each other in response to emotional stimuli (such as fear faces). This interpreted to reflect mPFC regulation of the amygdala in healthy adulthood--i.e., top-down information flow from mPFC to amygdala. Unsurprisingly, adults who typically exhibit this pattern of anti-correlated amygdala and mPFC communication in response to emotional cues are those with better emotion regulation."
"...studies have shown that amygdala-to-mPFC connections develop earlier than regulatory connections in the opposite direction")(emphasis added).

(Another article on ventromedial regulation of the amygdala is here):

      The bottom-up connection developing first suggests the amygdala is haranguing the prefrontal cortex to do something about the threat it is experiencing before the cortex has the functional ability and/or a connecting channel to respond. Does this imply the prefrontal cortex is being conditioned into an acceptance of the hyper-reactive amygdala's reality, while simultaneously being insensitized to right brain moral function, thus becoming biased toward aggressive selfishness--anti-community individualism--during its early development? And also, is anxiety then a result of this early amygdala alarm flooding a prefrontal cortex that lacks the ability to cope?

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

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

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

(Additional research on the ventromedial in relation to gratitude and altruism is here; and on the dorsolateral function in controlling selfishness here; and in controlling revenge here. And both regions in relation to economic self-interest here.)

     And so, in "normal" brain development, evolution provided a morality function in the ventromedial region of the prefrontal cortex for the expression of empathy, and the feeling of reward--dopamine release--from benevolent and cooperative social behaviors. But in brains lacking this moral sensibility (amygdala hyper activity, genetic absence, neural pruning, lack of positive environmental reinforcement during critical periods of brain development, stress hormone toxicity, prejudiced indoctrination?), another region of the prefrontal cortex, the dorsolateral, can also initiate a considered moral response (enlightened, rational self-interest) to the distress of others--if the dorsolateral is not already complicit with the amygdala, having been neurologically commandeered into rationalizing beliefs and conflict strategies and tactics that affirm and support the amygdala's fear (reactionary brain), instead of countermanding it with non-conflict, humanitarian responses. 
        Incessantly selfish behavior is more than a lack of moderating intelligence, it is a deliberately complicit intelligence, unencumbered by internal moral restraint, serving cupidity and mendacity rather than moral instinct and principled judgment between right and wrong--it is the intelligence of the reptile. Social behavior is reducible to brain mechanics--the effects of genetics and early environment on the assembly and function of the brain machine; a biological machine with sensors telling it when dangers and desirable things and opportunities are near.
    The neo-liberal world of competitive and individualistic socioeconomic institutions discourages the ventromedial and dorsolateral pro-social functionality, reinforcing the selfish brain with "success." Socioeconomic selfishness is the brain's default when the ventromedial and dorsolateral are dysfunctional--the hyper-reactive amygdala thus wins the battle with the evolving neocortex.

"Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."  (Edmund Burke, ibid.) (Emphasis added).


     Thomas Aquinas, as long ago as the 13th century referred to reason's submission to emotion and the sociopathic domination of heart: 

"The natural blotted out...insofar as reason is hindered...on account of concupiscence or some other passion...blotted out from the human heart, either by evil persuasions...or by vicious customs and corrupt habits..." (Summa Theologica, 1-11 Q 94).

      In our present terms, Aquinas is saying that when the prefrontal cortex is dominated by hyper amygdalan emotions, rapacity and avarice prevail. In the absence of moral reason (Burke's internal restraint) the selfish brain dominates. This is the essence of Christian sin.

        Additional articles on the ventromedial/amygdala relationship: here and here.  The conclusion is that the ventromedial and dorsolateral functions of the prefrontal cortex are critical to the moral and rational control of the amygdala's emotions--being able to sympathize and reason beyond one's myopic self-interest to an empathic consideration of, and cooperative interaction with others. The likely result of ventromedial absence and dorsolateral dysfunction is anti-social selfishness--a reactionary politics seeking social advantage with a proclivity for hate and violence when faced with opposition.
     This hypothesis is arguing that the long history of human conflict and dominance-seeking is a consequence of the prefrontal cortex's inability to control the amygdala's emotions, often resulting in individual and group aggression and violence, whether in combating its fears (aggression) or possessing its pleasures (greed). The prevalence and persistence of injustice through history demonstrates more failure than success for the ventromedial. Homo sapiens (wise) seems a misnomer: perhaps more appropriate would be homo timidis (fearful), or homo vehementi (violent). Conservative advantage and control seeking behavior reveals the amygdala dominant brain; the ventromedial brain is the humanitarian.

    The selfish brain neither feels empathy nor thinks about it. This is the sociopathic brain, primarily expressed through conservative anti-equality politics, and aggressive wealth and power acquisition--dominating or destroying its fears, and possessing and controlling the objects of its desire--the historical struggle over wealth, power, and women. As long as the amygdala dominated personality is allowed a freedom for its selfish aggression, and material rewards that reinforce it, a happy and peaceful and democratic world is illusory... with poverty, inequality and human conflict inevitable. The aggressively ambitious brain easily engages unscrupulous tactics for success. While the brain possessed of internal restraints is at a disadvantage to the brain that isn't. The sociopaths who once were aristocrats are now plutocrats hiding behind pretensions to freedom and democracy. All forms of social organization are secondary to the personalities who ascend to power. A democratic society needs a public ventromedial prefrontal cortex with the awareness and power to regulate its selfish amygdalae.

        As for the anxiety burdened brain, it would seem to have the moral sensibility, but lack the dorsolateral prefrontal power to overcome a biochemically hyperactive amygdala; so it is driven by fears which it lacks the cognitive ability to control, while retaining a moral sensibility that prevents it from engaging in selfish and aggressive behaviors. Anxiety is the result of elevated activity in the amygdala and repressed activity in the prefrontal cortex. The anxious brain is dominated by an amygdala it cannot escape and cannot control, yet it is morally sensible enough not to succumb to sociopathic behavior. Thus it is trapped in a world of stress. The chronically anxious mind knows little equanimity--peace and happiness in the moment can begin only if the inexplicable apprehension ends.

        Child-raising in a competitive individualist culture is a moral wasteland for the developing brain. Every child needs a caregiver who surrounds her with engaging conversation, joyfulness and love, emotional attachment, exposure to curiosity provoking experiences that open the mind to wonderment... and lots of good books. We are all a consequence of exposure to infusing experiences during our periods of critical development, whether positive or negative. The brain is a consequence of impositions and limitations--preconceptions and behavior responses imposed, innate potential and possibility inhibited or encouraged. We are able to choose none of it. And then think of a beautifully nurtured child emerging into a cultural environment of selfishness, deceit and bullying, to realize the goodness she learned in a loving home has made her ill-prepared for an amygdala world.

        Our choices then have been minimal. We are products of genetic inheritance and cultural, ideological indoctrination; especially, the classical and neoliberal promotion of selfishness. We are who we are, not by self-discovery, but mostly by what has been instilled in us. The exception is the brain that develops with minimal imposition, by what may appear as a paucity of external experiences, yet through the course of development, with the aid of introspection and an unbiased education, finds a self-discovered individuality. But the quest of the unindoctrinated brain to discover its philosophy of life can be long--the journey of a solitary explorer... the passage of a lone alien in a world of strangers.
     Humanity's ongoing struggle for moral goodness will depend on a social environment that rewards the pro-social brain over the selfish brain. If the ideology of selfishness continues to prevail, the individualists will win--and then turn on each other.   


       Summarizing: The amygdala is functionally selfish. It attends solely to the survival of its host organism. Thus it requires a cognitively independent frontal cortex to appreciate the value of a harmonious community to individual survival. Even in the absence of empathy it is easy to see that reasoned self-interest would find greater security if common interest is secured, and resentments and retributions less likely.
    The priority toward threat detection and rapid response is how hominids survived as prey animals. If the prefrontal cortex was not heard they may have done something stupid; if the amygdala was not heard they may not have survived the night. But now, after 300,000 years of homo sapiens evolution, the easily alarmed amygdala is still seeing threats everywhere; a habit of wariness that creates what it fears. Homo Sapiens survived nature's jungle only to create a social jungle that continues to excite the amygdala. Reason has the ability to adapt, but it must first overcome the amygdala's memories.

      When inputs from the right brain's empathic and moral sensibilities, by which we experience concern for others and a commitment to community, have been neurologically subordinated--and in some cases functionally erased--by their lack of neural stimulation, the right brain's moral counsel is not only not heard, but perhaps no longer even speaking. Thus we have the ego-complex mind: a high level of fear has restricted the development of the brain's empathic function. In the absence of conscience, emotion will decide on the behaviors and beliefs that please itself. Truth, then, is not about the cognitive brain's possession of factual information and guiding principles, it is about the emotional brain feeling better--compelled to believe in reassuring falsehoods and avoidance of disturbing truths.


     All political beliefs flow out of a neurological state: conservative obstructionism is an expression of the brain's fear of change, either change to an uncertain circumstance, or change from an advantageous status quo. The liberal penchant for reform and regulation of the freedoms of selfishness is moved by the neurology of empathy--concern for the circumstances of others. This gives insight into the conservative vehemence against the liberal "bleeding heart"--the liberal attempt to regulate certain freedoms for the sake of greater equality is seen by the conservative as denying him his primary means of escape from fear... achieving social and economic dominance over others. Justice seeking strikes at the core of the conservative brain's defenses. 
        Fear of change leaves the brain committed to an emotional and cognitive dependence on past beliefs and social arrangements--a psychological dependence on familiarity is sublimated into a philosophical respect for tradition. Defending the past blocks the openness and creativity necessary for current remedies, and impedes a curiosity for future possibilities.
        And this resistance to change is the basis of the political intransigence between conservative and progressive: the divide over social policy is not about what change, but change versus no change... there is little room for compromise between yes, let's do it, and no, let's not.


        The reason for this neurological domination by the amygdala is that the brain's fear system evolved hundreds of millions of years before the prefrontal cortex. And it has been very successful in distinguishing and processing fearful stimuli into fight or avoidance/escape behaviors that have resulted in survival. Hence, the amygdala is not designed to wait for, or be open to, the prefrontal's advice. The prefrontal is a late addition to the fear response system, and it imposes non-selfish responses only if it can--if it is not overly informed by anti-other indoctrination.
       It is important to note that evolutionary selection favored those existing physical and behavioral traits which survived best in a particular time and place. That other traits not present might have enhanced, not merely immediate survival but a more amiable future survival, selection did not have the opportunity to consider. The reptilian brain could have used a rational and moral cortex long before it got one-- and it could use a better one now!
     Additionally, survival depends on adaptive response to a change in the environment. Thus where environment goes physical and behavioral traits must go. Natural self-interest was exacerbated by a fearful past into a reflex selfishness that foments conflict. Competitive social systems unnecessarily prolong an insecure environment, confining human brain development to fear's dominance. Social organization should relieve fear, not exploit it... "government is instituted to secure these rights."


           It is not merely a coincidence that liberality is strongly associated with a more educated cortex. An ignorant mind is more readily cajoled by warnings of danger into conservative beliefs and prejudices. Fear is a powerful persuader to a frontal cortex without the rational power to control emotional impulses; without an educated competence to comprehend, criticize, and dissent from alarmist warnings; and without the presence of unselfish functionality. But what about the ego-complex intellectual? It is simply that knowledge has not informed empathic sensibility because absence cannot be informed; the frontal cortex has already been captured into service to the amygdala's version of reality; that is, all education does for an ego-complex brain is make it better able to rationalize its preconceived behaviors and beliefs. Intelligence is not moral wisdom or enlightenment, it only serves the brain function that exists. Throughout history conservative "intelligence" has defended systems of oppression, persecution and human inequality.  Liberal-mindedness means tolerance of difference and openness to novelty, and the acceptance of others as equal, the opposite of conservative xenophobia and suspicion toward the unfamiliar. It must be acknowledged, however, there are fair-minded people with conservative philosophical beliefs who fully accept principles of equality, and a liberty from imposed inferiority... and recognize with Burke, that some freedoms are merely a license for rapacity.

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


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

      The amygdala is driving behaviors that forestall humanity's progress toward a more secure and just social environment that would in evolutionary time obviate the amygdala. The conflict being described herein is about a determining choice: whether the frontal cortex is to be a guide toward a peacefully evolving world governed by benevolence, or whether it will continue to conspire with the amygdala's fear and thus perpetuate a world of unending conflicts. The judgment here is that those who choose to disregard "...with justice for all," have no moral claim to an unregulated "freedom" to achieve social superiority. The security and development of all individuals is a greater moral and democratic imperative than the freedom of any one individual to achieve great advantages over others. Freedom, as a natural right, applies to the freedom of all persons. "Freedom" as a license for the achievement of superiority by a few over many is an impostor. A "right" cannot be construed or exercised in a manner that denies or limits that right to others. It is not a democratic freedom that subjugates others-- it is pathological selfishness claiming a right to be free.
      In our first homo sapiens moments the amygdala was our best friend, for by it we survived. It instructed us to run from threats, to learn how to be safe, to work together. Then we made weapons (opposing thumbs allowed us to grasp stones and sticks) and we overcame the predators, and gloried in our newfound power--the frightened hominid was now master of all he surveyed, including others of his kind. Still fearful, and desperate for supremacy and armed with weapons, we continue to destroy each other, and therefore, our selves. We have survived not to be free, but to be enemies, contestants over who is to live well and who poorly, if at all. The amygdala was our savior. It is now our jailer--and perchance, our executioner!

     It was not Charles Darwin who originated the term "survival of the fittest" to describe natural selection. It was Herbert Spencer, an English social philosopher in the classical liberal and Utilitarian tradition whose writings on evolution were interpreted and used to justify cutthroat economic competition. Here is what Spencer actually said on Darwin's theory:

"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).

    Darwin later clarified "natural selection" to mean "better designed for an immediate, local environment." (Origin of Species, fifth edition, 1869).

      And so, the humanly "better" homo sapiens may not be the ones who survived. Did the reptile survive, not by being more successful in the natural environment, but by defeating the angel? Were aggression and violence selected not through greater success in nature, but by domination and destruction and robbery of the less aggressive? Did moral "inferiority" survive? It could be that those who resorted to aggression against others were less successful in nature and needed to rob from others to survive--like Viking raiders sailing south in search of plunder. Maybe that is why Neanderthal disappeared after Homo Sapiens showed up in Europe? And why colonizers go looking for places to make colonies? Maybe that is why social success often goes to the most ambitious and greedy and deceitful--Burke's rapacious. And why classical liberal ideology is founded on the freedom of the selfish personality.


        Evolutionary survival is about a specie possessing the physical and behavioral traits that thrive in the environment in which it lives, and being able to adapt (a facility for embracing change!) as environmental conditions change (such as climate change and worsening inequality). As small group hunter/gatherers moved from the forests and savannas into larger and more secure communities more cooperative traits would have been needed, requiring adaptation. Aggression, selfishness and violence are mal-adaptive and destructive of social cohesion. Inter-specie competition only adds another, unnecessary source of threat that further validates and reinforces the amygdala's fear. Reactionary conservatism is a resistance to social change, that when politically successful forestalls the need for adaptation--deny facts and suppress aspirations that foretell the need for change and thereby remove the need to adapt. Amygdalan fear is what failed, and fails, to adapt

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


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

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

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

       The fact that the neocortex evolved means it was selected because it enhanced survival through regulation of the amygdala's stimulus-response impulsiveness. The direct implication is that the amygdala dominant brain is evolutionarily regressive. The amygdala's purpose was to make us less incautious; the prefrontal cortex is intended to make us less irrational.


     The primary need after the trauma of birth separation, apart from physical nourishment, is emotional security; reattachment, first to an affectionate primary caregiver, then gradually through maturation to ever larger networks of belonging--family, friends, peers, community, humanity, creation, and finally, a spiritual and intellectual attachment to transcendence. Reattachment is our first step in finding the security upon which a healthy and exploring brain can develop. It is proposed here that the state of isolation, the absence of this primal reattachment, results in ideological "Individualism"--a psychological detachment from the need to belong--the separated ego, selfish and defensive and defiant, and devoid of empathic sensibility (The first stage of empathic function is recognizing that others exist and are like me; the individualist minimizes this society of others--the psychopath eliminates it). This proposition is based on a review of neuroscience and "attachment theory" studies, which indicate that attachment occurs--or fails to occur--during the first few years of life. It seems plausible that during these first years the neural circuitry of empathy is being developed, or not developed, based on the quality of reattachment achieved by the infant brain; and that the amygdala's level of activity and the birth environment's lack of affection during this period greatly affects the brain's receptivity and responses, and ability to attach and empathize; that we cannot express what we do not possess, because we never received it. 
       It is interesting to speculate further that the postnatal brain's attachment means that the empathic faculty is "meant" to develop first in preparation for the left brain's assumption of cognitive responsibilities, that empathy and social comfort are intended to be present to inform and guide the emerging frontal cortex's decision making. This would be expected in a creature supposed to be social by nature. The Amygdala Hypothesis is arguing that an overly alarmed amygdala disrupts this empathic preparation; which will eventually lead to the formation of an overly materialistic, selfish and psychologically unattached mind seeking personal advantage, and displaying resistance to government's effort to promote the common good--because helping others and promoting equality lessens the opportunity to achieve advantage.

        Aggressive competition--"survival of the fittest"--was mistakenly thought to be the reason for our successful evolution, but the more likely reality is that hominids were prey animals (because we lack the natural weapons of a predator) who owe their survival to an evolving intelligence and social cooperation. If so, then competition within the group must have occurred only after a level of mutual security was achieved through cooperation. The knee-jerk response of the amygdala, absent the restraining considerations of a competent prefrontal cortex, is for individual survival--reflex selfishness. Emerging rationality saw the advantages for survival of cooperation. Competitive behavior is then a hubris that forgot the more fundamental efficacy of cooperation--and simplistic as well, to suppose that competition can achieve security while sowing conflict. And so, the impulse to compete must have existed among those members of the group who were most fearful, and less evolved not only in their appreciation of, but their capacity for, empathic cooperation; selfish competition being the immediate fear reflex, thus the more primitive response. What is clear is that fear is a great motivator and the mainspring of aggression. It can be surmised that it was those who remained most neurologically fearful, and who had not attained prefrontal independence from the amygdala's reality, that re-introduced competition within the cooperative community.
      The very notion of competition undermines common interest, fostered by an actual or would-be elite as their opportunity and justification for superior possessions; and who do not want the multitude to discover a common interest in democratic rights that imply restrictions on the freedom to establish inequalities.

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


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

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

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

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


Freedom or Liberty?


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

      The selfish ego supposes a right to achieve unlimited wealth through unregulated economic competition, with government protection of "property rights" securing the result. And since the unequal outcome of competition is the result of "freedom" the outcome is therefore just. A government instituted to secure the inalienable rights of citizens "created equal," becomes a government securing  inequality.
        We must, then, ask: "what is justice?" And what does it require? Is unlimited wealth justified? Is poverty justifiable? Is democratic government's primary purpose the protection of private property? We must also, then, consider private property, its origin and its limits. 
       The common understanding of "justice" in American culture is the punishment of wrong-doing. But that is to narrow the definition. The full definition of justice is to receive one's due. Obviously, in the case of criminal offense this means punishment to fit the crime. But what is one's due as a law abiding citizen? What does justice require when it is not punishment? That is, what is due an innocent human life? And what did America's Founding Covenant declare to be the purpose of government? 
      A system of economic competition is more concerned with an opportunity to get what one can, than with what is due. "Opportunity" is a word that pointedly excludes what is due by right. As well, we will see below that classical liberalism supposed economic productivity to require labor exerted by material insecurity, which meant that very little, or nothing, was due by right. Maximizing the opportunity for gain means minimizing what is due by right. Justice, however, demands what is due by right; and it also demands what must be undone by right.

        For our time and place--and in principle for all times and places--the answer to what is due, is given by the second of the founding principles of the American Declaration of Independence: "the right to life." (the first was "created equal"). The Declaration holds the right to life to be a self-evident truth and an unalienable right. In the political context, "unalienable" means that which cannot rightfully, or legally, be denied or taken away. It is an expression of Natural Law, which is prior to the politically enacted laws of governments (The Declaration expressly acknowledges the ultimate right of a people to abolish government and its laws by appeal to Natural Law, thereby declaring the primacy of Natural Law over man-made law). Natural law declares that all persons are placed in nature through biological creation and that they exist therefore by natural right-- "created equal" meaning no one morally superior to another. The Declaration's assertion of self-evident truths and unalienable rights was deemed by the Founders to be an expression of the "Law of Nature and of Nature's God." (The emphasis on Nature's God pointedly removes all the possible ramifications and contradictions of man's God. The Founders knew that man's varied notions of Godly prescription had been a primary cause of man's warfare). Natural Law, then, is the core principle of America's founding. Natural Law prescribes the purpose of government and limits its powers: "To secure these rights, Governments are instituted..." (i.e., to secure these equal rights. Which means no inequalities can rightly emerge in the course of social activities that significantly abridge the fundamental equality of natural rights). Therefore, any government or administration of government that declines or fails to secure the inalienable and equal rights of life and liberty is illegitimate under Natural Law. Specifically, government's facilitation and protection of social inequality would be an abandonment of its primary purpose.

        Natural Law argument is based on the fundamental and indisputable facts of life: that living things evolve from a natural environment that supports their existence; that life and life's sustenance are, therefore, ordained by natural creation; that one man cannot rightly deprive another of what nature has provided. Thus, from the nature of life is derived the natural rights of life (liberty being the legal protection of those natural and civil rights which secure life's well-being). Among those rights is the freedom to pursue one's potential: the seed becoming the flower--expressed in The Declaration as "the pursuit of happiness." But the right to pursue happiness is not inalienable in the same sense as the rights of life and liberty; for there is no right to a "happiness" that infringes upon the life and liberty of others. Happiness is a subjective experience, not an objective state. The freedom to pursue happiness must be limited by the stricture to do no harm to others. Freedom is the absence of restraint (what one cannot do), and the absence of imposed requirements (what one must do).

     If, then, life is an inalienable right what are the implications of its inalienability? The primary implication is that to deny the right to life's sustenance, its entitlement to the natural materials upon which its preservation depends, is to effectively deny the right to life itself. As natural creation has placed persons in life, and placed also the materials of their sustenance, any social convention excluding anyone from access to life's sustenance (a primary method of subjugation) violates Natural Law, and a major premise, and promise, of America's founding covenant... from which the Constitution of 1787 must derive (For as the Declaration itself proclaims, any law or constitution of laws precluding the self-evident and inalienable rights of life and liberty are illegitimate under Natural Law. The Constitutional Convention was not morally free to abrogate the principles of The Declaration).

    In short, the inalienable right to life goes straight to economics... the right to livelihood (No one can be supposed to consent to a social arrangement wherein she is denied a right to the natural provisions of life). And as government's primary purpose is to "secure these rights," government's responsibility is to ensure that economic organization provides access to livelihood for all citizens. This does not mean without contribution, for where there are rights there are also obligations. But it does mean that a government's failure to assure that a citizen has a place to work for his or her livelihood, while it also enforces a notion of unlimited property rights that allows the private hoarding of economic resources, is a glaring injustice and violation of the first purpose of government. The security of the right to life is prior to the rights of property .


     The second imperative of the right to life is the right to develop from conception to maturity, the self-realization of the individual life; including health and education, and especially, in the context of this hypothesis, the infant/child's right to a stress-free, and indoctrination free, neurological development--a social/cultural environment that provides physical and psychological security to the developing brain. (A child has a greater right to discover her life's Truth than her progenitors have a right to impose it.) Whatever life requires for survival and self-development in nature, access to it becomes a natural right in society. If not, then society is an arbitrary structure of power relationships, to which the powerless have no obligation under Natural Law to abide or obey.
      Such is the inalienability of life and liberty. And from these inalienable rights derives the notion of Natural Community--a democratic economy comprised of political and economic institutions that realize the promise of the Democracy Covenant.


     The origin and justification of private property in classical liberal thought is best expressed in John Locke's Two Treatises on Government (published anonymously in 1689). Locke argued that whatever a man removed from the common provisions of nature through personal labor, in gathering those things necessary for his preservation, became his private property--as long as there was "...enough, and as good left in common for others." (John Locke, Book 2; chap. 5). The amount of property was limited by the notion of spoilage: if what was taken from the common spoiled before being used then too much was appropriated. Locke later circumvented his notion of limitation by reference to money, a commodity that could be accumulated without spoilage. But this was philosophic fabrication (like Adam Smith's "invisible hand" and Hayek's "spontaneous order"... the transcendent wisdom of the free-market. That a spontaneous force governs a social dynamic, producing a good rather than a bad outcome is not an obvious supposition-- more below).
         It was inferred from Locke's text that the advent of money, which allowed for storage of excess property without spoilage, implied consent to accumulation and inequality. This is merely assertion, not reasoning from principle--the common acceptance of money as a convenient device for exchanging goods and services does not justify unlimited accumulation; and certainly does not imply a universal consent to it. In fact, Locke's own assertion denies the inference:

" Man could ever have a just Power over the Life of another by Right of property in Land or Possessions." (Two Treatises, Book 1, chap 4). 

        Unlimited accumulation of property--wealth inequality--is what gives "Power over the Life of another". Inequality is not justified because money is not subject to spoilage.

       The Natural Law limit on property is not spoilage, but exclusion of others from their necessity, their entitlement to the material support of their lives and development; which Locke explicitly recognized by the qualifier "...enough, and as good left in common for others." Money is simply a claim on goods: whoever possesses all the money has the power to possess all the goods. Locke sought a philosophic argument for the justification of private property to undermine the divine right of kings and land holding aristocrats. It was a laudable and democratic purpose. But arguments from natural law imply equality, not inequality. The class societies of Locke's time were not ready for equality. (Is that why Two Treatises was published anonymously?) But by allowing money to justify inequality of property, Locke abandoned his labor justification of property. For if the justifying conditions of spoilage and enough left for others no longer applied then neither did the justification of ownership by labor. Serfs had labored for centuries. Those who most labored had always been furthest from ownership. So on its surface ownership through labor was a fallacy. And further, private possession through labor presupposes access to common land upon which to labor. As the commons was increasingly enclosed into private property--as in 18th century England-- access to common land upon which to labor was increasingly limited. Removing the means to an end precludes the end.
       Unequal property possession remained a fact without a legitimate origin (still does). While a basic property in the materials that fulfill and secure the right to life is clearly a Natural Right, an excess of those materials is not. Government is instituted to secure natural rights, not to secure a "freedom" to possess an extent of property that deprives others from their basic rights; or subordinates them to an inferior social position in exchange for granting them a minimum subsistence; an affront that would be avenged were there no government protecting the affront.

"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, book 2, chap 5).

       Here Locke states the true natural justification of a right to property: the right to sustenance. And as was just quoted, Locke also acknowledged the injustice of unequal property:

" Man could ever have a just Power over the Life of another by Right of property in Land or Possessions." (ibid. Book 1, chap 4).

      We might call these The Lockean Axioms. With these two statements Locke is expressing the Natural limit on unequal possession of property--first, that no one can be denied their right to life's sustenance, and second, preventing unequal property from establishing political and economic domination. Inequality of property--wealth--gives opportunity for a "Power over the Life of another." There is no natural law argument for an extension of private property beyond the security of each person's life. The "freedom" to achieve great economic inequality makes a lie of democracy's equality principle. And that is what classical liberalism did: it gave the selfish brain an opportunity to relieve its amygdalan fears through economic advantage over others. The Wealth of Nations assumed Locke's labor justification of private property (how often do we hear the wealthy have "worked hard"?), but ignored his acknowledgement of limitations that implied a maximum and minimum amount of property.

       The Lockean axioms also distinguish the essence of liberty as the protection of equal rights, and thus as a separate notion from freedom. Liberty from social subordination is prior to the freedom to subordinate. Thus the distinction between liberty and freedom is critical to understanding the tension between the freedoms espoused by liberal economics and the liberties of liberal democracy--economic inequality imposes political inequality.


       By taking from man his natural right to the materials 
of nature, he is forced to sell his labor. And if his labor is not wanted his life has no means of support. Economic usefulness to others then determines the individual's value and right to life. There is little that conflicts more with democratic principles or humanitarian sensibilities than the market valuation of human beings. This is all contrived so that the selfish brain can have a path to private wealth and power, and the purchase of unlimited satisfaction, without obligation to the welfare and rights of others.

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

      Twenty four centuries ago Plato had argued that private property encouraged greed and social conflict: a case of a social institution selecting human character and behavior. Classical liberalism welcomed the greed--and honored it with "freedom."

        Applying John Locke's two axioms of Natural Right to the self-evident truths of The Declaration of Independence--"created equal" and "Right of Life"--we arrive at the political program of The Democracy Covenant:

1. "Created Equal," and "No Power over the Life of another by Right of Property," imply a minimum wealth to assure independence and a maximum wealth to prevent political and economic domination.

2. The "Right to Life" and the "Right to Preservation" imply a minimum property in the conditions that sustain life.

3. Hence, the possible outcomes of economic freedom are justifiably circumscribed by the natural rights of life and liberty.

      A democratic people must recognize that there is no means so pure that it justifies any outcome; that there is no right to a freedom, and no right of property, that justifies the superiority of a few and the inferiority of many. All the classical liberals and neoliberals and libertarians tell us the freedom of the individual to achieve his personal desires is the highest good, and thus wherever his freedom takes us must also be good--"spontaneous order"... the means justifies the end. This has been the successful sophistry of economic liberalism since Adam Smith only because it favors the existing elites and establishments who largely control the propagation of ideas. A means is judged by the outcome it produces. When a different outcome is demanded it requires an altered means to produce it. By the way, "personal desire" does not justify unregulated freedom. If it did what would we do about serial killers?

       That there is a natural right to an exclusive ownership of some amount of private property is self-evident. All persons have a right to the materials of their survival; and a right to a place of shelter and personal privacy is not debatable. The question becomes the parameters of private property: how much inequality is acceptable in a democracy founded on the principle of human equality?

     The Declaration of Independence pointedly left property off the list of inalienable rights. The reason is clear: ownership of property beyond that sufficient for the security of life is a permitted freedom, not an inalienable right. Were unlimited property a natural right then those without such an extent of property would be denied of their right. The corollary is that property is then alienable: its use and amount of private accumulation subject to the good of the community (So Adam Smith introduced the "invisible hand" and "unintended consequences", to give assurance--but not a guarantee--of good to the community). 
       There is no natural right to unlimited and unregulated property. The freedom to do or possess anything is always subordinate to the equal and inalienable rights of others. 


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

      No social institution other than the customary relationships within the primal family group is natural; primal Man did not drop out of the trees with a constitution of government or a deed to private property. The Christian church for many centuries justified private property--and secular government to protect it--as necessary because of Man's sinfulness--his greed and selfishness would rob others of their share of nature's provisions. Thus a minimum property in the materials that sustain life was seen as a natural right of all individuals. (If a minimum property is a natural right, then a maximum property is implied) There is little discussion in the history of property about maximum property other than the general caveat that what is beyond the use of one person's well-being belongs to the community of others. We have just seen that Locke's invocation of money did not open the philosophic door wide enough to justify unlimited property. Yet as the Classical Liberal ideology has unfolded over the last 240 years the presumption of a right to unlimited wealth (property) has encountered only ineffective opposition--however egregious the totalitarian attempts. The only cure to social inequality is democratic equality. (The earliest Christian church held property in common).

     Classical Liberalism (unregulated Capitalism) could not accept a definition of property as based on an original common ownership, or common non-ownership; that is, everyone's right to everything, or no one's right to anything. Either way that would imply equality. And property possession had historically been unequal. So the property interest needed an argument for the origin of property that justified unequal possession. But it did not want a justification that implied a limitation on the extent of ownership, nor a right of the deprived to appropriation based on need; nor could it accept the origin of property as a Christian design against the sin of avarice, and thus subject to regulation by government. If there was to be a justification of unlimited private property it would have to explain property's origin and its unequal possession in terms of rights rather than mere historical fact.

      Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations would not provide that justification; his argument simply begins with property already having been appropriated, the original "right" of ownership presumably determined by the power to possess and defend, with no obligation upon the appropriator and no provision to the dispossessed. It was the perfect scheme for the freedom of selfishness from fairness to others. Where in nature the excesses of selfishness are exposed to retribution, in classical liberal society the excessive achievements of selfishness would be protected by law--government instituted to secure equal rights becomes government facilitating the establishment of inequality. However, Smith also seemed to demur by acknowledging that:

"...civil government, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all.” (Adam Smith; Wealth of Nations; bk. 5, ch.1)


     The Declaration of Independence did not mention property as an unalienable right:

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

     Adam Smith had stated the first premise of Classical Liberalism in one sentence:

"Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way..." (Wealth of Nations, bk.4, ch.9).

       This remains the basic principle of all forms of liberalism. And the conditional phrase about violation of the laws of justice continues to be the unavoidable caveat; that is, freedom is subject to the requirements of justice. The political argument is about what the laws of justice require; that is, where the balance between every man's freedom to achieve his interest and every one's protection (liberty) from the consequences of those interests should lie. The questions are: how much regulation of individual freedom, and what social outcomes are acceptable in a democratic community founded on the principle of equality. The duty of democratic government is to protect and secure the natural rights of individuals against the interest of others to subordinate them.

      The term "liberal" has undergone a transformation in its roughly 240 year journey. Generally, liberal refers to the political freedom of the individual from arbitrary authority. Political liberalism had turned absolute monarchy into constitutional monarchy through the introduction of a parliament. Classical liberalism and neoliberalism are about the economic freedom of the individual from government control--free from regulation and redistribution of any unequal outcome. The result of economic freedom was a new path to political inequality based on wealth inequality. So liberalism broke into factions which continue today: the free-market, small government liberals, are the anti-regulation, anti-tax,  Libertarians and conservative Republicans. Those who believe in modest regulation of economic activity and adjustment of outcomes for a more fair and equal society are liberal Democrats. The emergence of neoliberalism in the era of Thatcher and Reagan was a reaction against New Deal type government intervention in the economy for greater social justice. The political success of neoliberalism under Reagan, in winning over the working class, was based on cultural issues--race and abortion--not economic policy. The Democrats were intimidated, and unnecessarily conceded on economic policy; baited by the Republicans into fighting cultural issues, they turned into economic neoliberals. The Democrats forsook the working class--and democracy--for rule by money. (An excellent article on neoliberalism is here).
      But all of this being said, American democracy remains in the hands of the common people. If the majority is consigned to economic and social inequality it is done by their own neglect. Contributing to the neglect is the fact that people come to identify with political labels instead of thoroughly understanding their interests and the issues that impact them.


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

       Smith begins with a description of the productive powers of labor and "the order, according to which its produce is naturally distributed among the different ranks" of society. Smith goes on: "This original state of things, in which the labourer (sic) enjoyed the whole produce of his own labour, could not last beyond the first introduction of the appropriation of would be to no purpose to trace further what might have been..." (intro and book 1, ch 8--My emphasis). This was an extraordinary concession to existing conditions, and some would think a reprehensible avoidance of judgment. Adam Smith was not inquiring about a system of economic organization based on a fair and just distribution of resources among naturally equal human beings. He begins with an acceptance of land already privately appropriated, and a society divided into "ranks." His "natural" distribution of wealth assumed existing inequality. As for the justice of land appropriation and the proper distribution of wealth among social ranks, or even the rightness of ranks, Smith evades: "I shall not take upon me to determine." (ibid. book 1, ch 8--My emphases). 
     Classical Liberalism thus begins with an acceptance of the existing social divisions and the unequal possession of property. Mankind's historical campaign for freedom and liberty was against existing inequalities, not a search for an alternative method of imposing and maintaining them. And so, the capitalist ideology is not very concerned for the rights of life... and the implications for equality and material security. We will see that the ideology of selfishness uses insecurity as incentive, and is more desirous of the opportunity for selfish ambitions to achieve inequality than providing for the general welfare.   

     The Wealth of Nations was published in 1776, an interesting historical coincidence with the American Declaration of Independence... the founding of the nation destined to realize the potential of Adam Smith's argument for unbridled economic self-interest more than any other. Smith's book was the seminal work of a new order of society which was beginning to emerge from the long centuries of serfdom and land-owning elites.
        Individual artisans were separating themselves from the landed estates and collecting in the growing towns and cities to sell the products of their labor. They were early practitioners of the "entrepreneurial spirit" in the expanding age of commerce. The Wealth of Nations rationalized this struggle for economic independence--the desire of common individuals to raise themselves out of the poverty and servitude of serfdom and the rigid divisions of class society. The artisans and traders who did well began to accumulate an excess of revenue beyond the needs of their own subsistence. 

(It would later be argued by Laissez-faire—"let things alone"—economists that it is the economic independence of private wealth and property that guarantees political freedom; hence the supposed necessary link between capitalism and democracy. Of course, it would not guarantee the political freedom of those who lost in the competition for wealth and property, and all those who were not propertied white men. It is argued here that the link is specious, that capitalism is opposed to democratic equality, that unregulated capitalism inevitably results in inequalities that violate democratic principle. More below.)

      Adam Smith's argument was that the greatest aggregate material wealth would be produced if individuals were left free to pursue their own economic interest. And, he further argued that although private interest would undoubtedly be motivated by selfish intentions, the unseen logic of the process—the “invisible hand” and the principle of “unintended consequences”—would result in a beneficial outcome to the community as a whole; that selfishness, despite its intentions, would be guided to a socially desirable outcome. The implicit--and noticeably not explicit--assurance was that the increase of wealth would be equitably distributed. And, in addition, as each person knew best their own desires, freedom from regulation was necessary to maximize happiness. Of course, there is no basis for assuming that unintended consequences will be good more often than bad, especially when it is selfishness that is encouraged and rewarded. And as for the freedom of desires to maximize happiness, that is what necessitates laws that regulate social behavior. There is no right to a pursuit of happiness that does harm to the life and rights of others.


    Similar to the invisible hand, F.A. Hayek (The Constitution of Liberty) argued that when individuals are free from government regulation they will produce a natural, or "spontaneous order" that is more economically efficient and productive than would be a system designed by government; that "central planners" cannot know all that is necessary to know. The objection picks on a non-issue: a democratic government's regulation is not about planning and designing what and how much to produce, but rectifying democratically unacceptable outcomes... which are easy to see. 
       Spontaneous order is an argument for efficiency and productivity that is value neutral. There is no judgment of outcomes, and only a materialistic vision of a good society. Efficiency can be productive of evil as well as good. Without rules, spontaneity might even produce chaos and ruinous conflict rather than a good and beneficial order. And it certainly will produce an "order" that represents the preferences of the most influential, the desires of the prevailing powers. Efficiency and productivity do not require the freedom of every participant. The spontaneous order of the grain and the chaff is bad bread. Remove the chaff and you get better bread.
        The classical liberal and neoliberal passion for the freedom of selfishness was, however, a value judgment--it valued private economic freedom over the purpose of democratic government to secure the equal rights of life for all... it promoted an individual right to achieve superiority over democracy's promise of equality. It is selfishness making a anti-democracy argument for its freedom. A spontaneous order that results from unregulated selfish ambitions is very likely to be much less fair and equal than an order that would result from rules and regulations that prevent undemocratic consequences. An efficient production of social inequality is not a democratic outcome. And that is what we are arguing: the selfish brain is not democratic, it is aristocratic. Selfishness abhors governments that regulate. Regulating the sociopath and empowering the humanitarian would make a much better spontaneous order. In fact, Hayek had no idea where spontaneous order would arrive, he is making an argument for freedom that excludes considerations of morality and justice:

"...the liberal (Hayek means Classical Liberal) position is based on...a preparedness to let change run its course even if we cannot predict where it will lead." F.A. Hayek, Why I Am Not a Conservative. (parenthesis and emphasis added).

         The economic question is not capitalism or socialism--whether a minority of private citizens, or a minority of party members control economic resources and extract upper-class privileges. The important question is what economic forms of production and distribution fulfill the promise of democracy: that "all men are created equal." Free markets go a long way to fulfilling democracy's promise, until the unequal transference of economic wealth to private ownership begins to corrupt democracy--becomes private interest and power eclipsing the public good. As with any expression of freedom, laws and regulations are required to make it beneficial and not harmful to democratic principles. Lassiz-faire capitalism gives permission to all intentions and approval to all outcomes... and is more compatible with authoritarian political forms than with a popular sovereignty that might awaken to its rights. 


     Classical liberalism relied on an aggressive human behavior, what Smith called the “selfish propensity” of individuals to acquire greater and greater amounts of wealth. And it required a large number of hungry laborers—serfs forced from land based subsistence by changes in land laws:

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

       Smith's phrase, "suffered to exert itself" is the key to understanding a system of competition for survival. It means imposed insecurity (conservative opposition to "safety nets"). That is, it would not be government's role to secure the right to life, but to give freedom to an insecurity driven instinct for self-preservation, and political protection (property rights) to the consequences--"with freedom and security." Every man's insecurity would give the most aggressively ambitious an opportunity to gain advantage, and to then extort further advantage. Peasants forced off land subsistence would be cheap labor for the factories. A democratic government, "instituted to secure these rights," would form institutions that protect the human brain from the stresses and derangement of fear and perpetual anxiety, and protect human rights (liberty) from the predatory freedoms of greed. The selfish mind wants democratic political authority ceded to market interests, economic power controlling political power in order to forestall the slow advance of democratic equality. Greed wants advantage, not equality. It is the sociopath who ascends because there is no morally inspired hesitancy to his ambitions--no Burkean internal restraint. Classical liberalism sought to confine the lower orders of humanity to the unending anxieties of an economic system founded on the usefulness of human insecurity to the ambitions of sociopaths. Systemically denying social security in order to exert and control insecure people is not a system of freedom. It is systemic coercion. Classical liberalism's love of "opportunity" means an opportunity to gain the assets that give control of society.
        Classical liberal "freedom" is that of a prisoner allowed to run for his life, who is never caught and never escapes, but must never stop running. That is not freedom, it is a cruel promise manipulating the dream of freedom. 

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

        In one sentence Adam Smith acknowledges the true "invisible hand" of Classical Liberalism--the coercion behind the free and voluntary veneer. What begins in theory as voluntary associations and exchanges matures in practice to involuntary submission to socioeconomic hierarchy. The democratic promise of freedom and equality submits to the exigencies and consequences of economic competition... the "free market" creates a financial aristocracy.


“The most specious thing to be said, is, that he that is Proprietor of the whole world, may deny all the rest of Mankind Food, and so at his pleasure starve them, if they will not acknowledge his Sovereignty, and obey his will… And therefore no Man could ever have a just Power over the Life of another by Right of property in Land or Possessions… a Man can no more justly make use of another’s necessity… than he that has more strength can seize upon a weaker, master him to his Obedience, and with a Dagger at his throat offer him Death or Slavery.” (John Locke, Two Treatises of Government; Book one, chap 41)(emphasis added).

     The quote from Locke is the classic statement for the precedence of human rights over property rights. Which also means the good of a democratic community over the freedom of avarice to achieve unjust advantages. Adam Smith's invisible hand assurances had obscured the risk of social injustice, and other yet to be perceived evils in the systematic encouragement of selfishness. And his faith in “unintended consequences” simply assumed that conscious self-seeking would result in some derivative good to others—that some good “trickles down” from a selfish dynamic. That it also results in trickle down wrongs to others he only cautioned:

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

       Why not, then, put up guards against this order of men? Why play a game of chance between justice and injustice... between good and evil? Why not systematically prefer justice instead of conceding opportunity to injustice? Adam Smith knew he was freeing the reptile, and that he was relying on the reptile's intentions being thwarted by an unintended fate. It was a philosophic gamble that selfish ambitions would not achieve their intended consequences. As it turned out the gamble was a loss--the invisible hand was a sleight of hand, an illusory assurance that failed to prevent the inevitable outcome--the reality of wealth inequality. But as a deception it worked. The reptile got his freedom; the common man believed the illusion ("...the wondering cheated multitude worshiped the invention."). Was Adam Smith a philosopher whose mystical logic failed, or a propagandist who succeeded? Whichever, by invoking the invisible hand as an assurance of good to the community Smith was acknowledging the risk of selfish interest to the common good. For if the freedom of selfishness was a good thing why must its promised beneficence be unintended? Why not reward those who intend beneficence?... and skip the moral gamble and mystical postulates?
      Smith was claiming that the unregulated economic actions of individuals will result in an outcome that is wise and good, efficient and productive. But what logic guarantees that a multitude of "free" individual actions will be wise and good, or even arrive at a best outcome, or that a better outcome would not result from a restriction on bad actions. The visible logic of unregulated free markets is inevitable inequality, as initial advantages are leveraged into greater advantages; and less advantage accelerates downwards into less and less opportunity and poorer life prospects. As for efficient and productive, for what product? As inequality increases wealth attracts resources to less necessary luxury productions and away from more basic social goods like education and healthcare and public works. Pandering to "elite" self-indulgence has little social value. Efficiently produced mega yachts matter less than properly paid teachers and affordable healthcare. 

     What satisfies the requirements of justice in a democratic community is distributed wealth, not aggregate wealth. "Unintended consequences" was a ruse in the guise of an assurance that the distribution would be fair. With the hindsight of nearly two and a half centuries it is clear that the actual consequence of exerted selfishness is great social inequality and insecurity (not to mention the reinforcement of amygdalan fear)--and it is very much intended. Sometimes consequences are insidious, monstrously effective, but slow to be apprehended. Such has been the legacy of the freedom of selfishness: competition between id laced egos has alienated individuals from human sociability; "suffered to exert themselves" against others in a struggle to survive that has led to isolation and loneliness.

     Distributed wealth is also the key to economic growth. The supply-sider demands more "freedom"--less taxes and regulation of selfishness--to give incentive to producers, under the myth that supply creates demand. This assumes demand possesses the ability to purchase the supply, which is only true to the extent that wealth is broadly distributed... unless you are only producing luxuries for the wealthy. And if supply precedes demand where does supply get its signal of what to produce? Producers are deciding what consumers should want, and spending fortunes on advertising to assure they want it--behavior conditioning, associating products with smiling faces.
       The success of commercial advertising reveals the brain's susceptibility to conditioning. Behavior is induced by arousing primal emotions--opportunity for pleasure, relief from pain, safety from danger--getting the amygdala's attention and associating a product with relief or satisfaction--like associating the ringing of a bell with food to elicit salivation. Politicians also know about arousing primal emotions [dog whistles, red meat] and promising satisfactions. Elections are won and sales obtained by making the amygdala happy.
       Supply side theory is simply another scheme for funneling more wealth to the wealthy through tax reductions and less regulation of rapacity. It is an extortion gambit--if you don't allow us greater reward we won't make more things and create more jobs. Funneling more reward to the already rewarded doubles down on the social selection of the selfish brain.
       There are other insidious deceptions: like "a rising tide lifts all boats"--not sunken boats laying on the bottom. And "a growing pie means bigger slices for everyone." These metaphors seek to refute zero-sum arguments... growth will benefit everyone. Yet in any place and period of time there is a per capita income and a per capita wealth, and as much as one exceeds it another must fall short. And even when the percentage increases are the same at the bottom and the top, the absolute difference is greater, inequality increases.

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


(An important distinction needs to be made regarding "selfish propensity." All life forms share a natural self-interest in survival. But natural self-interest only justifies one's equality, the desire not to be disadvantaged, not to be deprived of life, and one's share of the materials and conditions of survival. It does not justify the desire to extract from others, or to hoard the provisions of nature, nor the presumption of personal superiority. Rational self-interest does not require unlimited reward. "Selfish propensity" as applied to unregulated capitalism is the psychological disposition to escape one's insecurity by appropriating more than one's share; in effect, taking from others. In the context of this essay it is a fear dominated brain uninformed by the moral concepts of common interest and cooperative achievement, and emotionally uninspired by compassion for others. Unempathic selfishness (sociopathy) has been throughout the whole course of human history the root and core of crime and social conflict. It is those who fear so much for themselves and care so little for others who have sought to become the possessors of power and privilege and extreme abundance--whatever the butchery required. Classical liberalism gave what had historically been overt conquest and oppression by force an economic path... justified as freedom of the individual. Natural self-interest entails the right of self-defense and an expectation of social equality. Classical Liberalism exaggerated that self-interest into a compulsive selfishness, driven by insecurity, fracturing community and making the rights of life a reward of competitive success.)


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

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

        Smith here gives a useful observation for the evaluation of tradition. Long lasting customs and institutions are not always so by their continuing virtue or justice, but by unexamined habit and their advantage to those who have the power to maintain them. And, as well, by the amygdala brain, fearful of change and novelty, and comforted by familiarity.

(Regarding conservatism of the time: every step of human progress away from an undesirable situation, beginning with some ancient ritual sacrifice of virgins (when did they ever sacrifice the elites?!) to appease some capricious god or entertain some psychopathic ruler, has been opposed by the conservative brain; defending a status quo, however horrendous, because of selfish interest and/or an emotional fear of change and uncertainty, or the illusory safety and comfort of acquiescence to power. If we were still in Rome, would conservatives be throwing Christians to the lions?)
     The failure to distinguish between condition and nature results in the failure to see social arrangements as a consequence of the thoughts and actions of  previous generations, and thus subject to alteration in response to changing values and knowledge and aspirations. To guide improvements in man's condition by arguing what ought to be gives greater possibility to the evolution of human nature than simply describing his present circumstance and supposing it to reveal his nature... and then defending the systemic arrangements that keep him in it. Condition does not define nature, nor exclude possibility.

       Seeing economics as a science rather than as political economy gives a sense of necessity to man's behavior and circumstance, as if the path of his orbit is determined and predictable, and his nature prescribed. And it allows the social scientist to exclude moral judgments, and, like Adam Smith, to take it not upon themselves. Avoiding value judgments because of presumed free-market inevitability--and proclaiming there is no alternative--serves well the desired outcomes of the selfish mind.

     “…science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be, and outside of its domain value judgments of all kinds remain necessary." (Albert Einstein, from his essay, “The Faith of a Scientist”).


       If human nature is seen as having evolved by a long and painful crawl out of the depths of primordial fear, then to accept man's condition at any historical stopping place as his nature, and design societal arrangements which exert and reinforce that nature, is to confine him to that historical moment, precluding the possibilities of his further evolution. Whatever one chooses to call that, it is not respecting freedom.
      The exertion of man's insecurity in order to compel his efforts has been productive of material prosperity for much of mankind--when masters prosper slaves have a chance to eat better. But the persistence of insecurity has moored human character to its primitive past. What manner of human character would emerge were fear no longer the primary motivator of behavior may one day be known. But for us, still immersed in selfish pursuits, unregulated capitalism is a restraint, not a step in the direction of a promising human evolution. 
       Adaptability is supposed essential to survival, the inhabitant must change if the habitat requires it. It would seem an ideology that concedes to the emotions of fear rather than relieving the conditions of fear, is not the best strategy for advancement. And acknowledging capitalism's productivity does not mean there was, or is no alternative. It is not individual selfishness that is productive, but intelligence and imagination and aspiration, and a simple work ethic. The Enlightenment's release of human reason from religious superstition and persecution released the human mind to thoughts of science and technology. Homo Empathicus has no less desire for material progress than Homo Egoisticus. It is a matter of what human character is encouraged by rewarding incentives, and what intentions control the capital that supports enterprise.

(A note about political labels: The movement for economic freedom--Classical Liberalism--inspired by the Wealth of Nations occurred in the context of 18th century political liberalism: the Rights of Man rising against the presumptions of monarchs and aristocrats. Defending the existing authority of Church and King was 18th century conservatism. In later times the regulation of economic freedom became liberalism, and its resistance, conservatism. The meaning of political labels is relative to the issues that are paramount in a particular time and place. It comes down to what stance political movements take in relation to an issue--advocacy or resistance. Generally, "conservatism" is any political reaction that defends traditional and/or existing arrangements experienced as psychologically familiar, thus comforting, or socially advantageous [also comforting], against the liberal forces of change toward perceived improvements. [Remember, change is a sign of threat to the amygdala; and social advantage is the ego-complex' strategy for survival]. If one sees the march of history as a slow progress toward a greater realization of human rights, then the conservative brain is at every stage an opposition to that advance. Social liberalism (better label is "Humanitarianism") has been the empathic mind in pursuit of that change for greater human liberty and equality and self-realization against existing conditions that are perceived as violating human rights. Conservatism is an emotional resistance to such change. Conservatism is not so much a set of principles and ideas as it is a psychology that embraces policies that oppose change (conservative prudence loses its virtue when it becomes obstruction of justice). The label depends on the side of the issue. In a world of perfect justice liberalism would be a political anachronism and conservatism a preserving virtue. Until then, conservatism is resistance to humankind's moral and social progress. To take it further, the progressive [another label] is eager to take bold steps into the future, while the liberal is content with tentative steps. As no one likes to be labelled, I am sure none of this will be agreed upon).

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

      The term "free-market democracy" is widely used to imply a union between classical liberalism and democracy. But it is nearly an oxymoron. As argued, free markets result in anti-democratic inequalities. Wealth inequality establishes political inequality, which then operates to defend and expand advantage through control of political and economic policy. And, of course, as wealth inequality is then made inheritable so is political inequality, which is aristocracy. It must be emphasized that it is not the "free-market" in principle, that is inconsistent with democracy, but the inevitable outcome of inequality. All the benefits of a free-market can be retained while the outcomes are being made democratic.

       This hypothesis describes "conservatism" (and libertarianism) as the belief that the accumulation and free use of private property has precedence over the democratic principle of inalienable rights, that democratic principle should not regulate capitalist economy. The political progressive views democratic liberty and equality as prior to capitalist freedom. Political liberalism is the wavering reed between the rights of property and the extent of its freedom, and the liberties of the right to life--attached to both donor money and empathic sentiments (To be fair, the liberal mind would likely follow much more its empathy were it not for money's control of politics). The political struggle over regulation, taxation, social programs and size of government reflects this historical conflict: whether liberty and the inalienable rights of life are to regulate the freedom of property, or the interests of capital are to limit the advancement of democratic social policy. In fewer words, the conflict is between freedom and liberty, the freedom of selfish individualism to pursue its upper-class happiness vs. the security and liberty of everyone's right to life. Liberal political philosophy shattered hereditary aristocracy not to free the common man from bottom class confinement, but to open a path for selfish aspirations to reach upper class power and luxury. The enemy of democracy is the selfish brain that disdains equality.


       Two questions for people everywhere: Should economic activity be free to arrive at any social outcome, or should it be regulated to serve democratic principles? And of emerging importance, is it acceptable that the freedom of avarice to achieve wealth and power, is evolving into a global neoliberalism, a supranational oligarchy independent of national sovereignty, aided by shell corporations, money laundering, tax shelters, secrecy havens, and complicit political agents? 

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

1. Inalienable rights:
   a. Life: there is no justification for denying a law-abiding individual of life and life's necessities.
   b. Liberty: individual rights protected by law from violation.
  c. Freedom ("pursuit of happiness"): thoughts and behaviors for which law imposes no restrictions or compulsions.

2. Governments are instituted "to secure these rights."
   a. Economic forms are obliged to serve common equality and sufficiency over opportunities for individual superiority.

      Classical Liberal economy has rested on the assertion that people are naturally selfish, and therefore society should not restrict selfish behavior. Freedom is supposed inviolable. However, government's first responsibility is to secure equal rights, which must be pursued proactively and not awaited as a possible outcome. Freedom is not a permission for corruption; privacy laws are not tools for the concealment of crime. When the smoke billows the presumption is fire, not false alarm.
     The core principle of the rule of law is that common liberty from harm has precedence over individual freedom of action; that there can be no "freedom" that harms others. Why would this not apply to economic behavior as any other behavior? Why should individuals be allowed private achievements that are inconsistent with the common good--like economic wealth that controls politics to benefit itself?
        Libertarians say the common good could not be achieved without coercion... neither would there be general obedience to the rule of law without coercion. A society without the means of coercion would be a society where everyone would be free to do anything. Every law, whether it commands what we cannot do or what we must do, is a restriction of individual freedom for the benefit of common liberty from harm. Liberty is the secured wall of rights around each individual that cannot be legitimately breached by others freely pursuing their desires. Society makes laws to serve the common good. Why should there be a freedom of economic property and wealth to be unaccountable to the common good? Why should wrong not be coerced from doing wrong, or freedom from not respecting liberty? If the exercise of a right abuses the equality of the right, the exercise is subject to limitation. Whatever rights are implicit to the right to life, they must not be denied because private interests wish to deny them.
     Libertarians also ask what right a government has to regulate freedom, especially the economic freedom of private citizens for the benefit of the whole community? One answer is sufficient: "...government instituted to secure these rights." Freedom to do what one wants is not the purpose of democracy. Democracy's covenant is to protect the natural rights of every individual from violation by government and other organizations and individuals. The size of government and the extent of its power to regulate must be sufficient to achieve its purpose--to secure and enforce the natural and civil rights of all individuals, and to limit the freedoms of selfishness as necessary. And that is determined by the rapacity of the selfish brain. Freedom must kneel before Liberty. Less government would result from less avarice. Democracy is the promise of equality; capitalism is the engine of inequality. Each is the polar expression of humanity's most fundamental disunion: the empathetic brain vs. the selfish brain.

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

"Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."  (Edmund Burke, ibid.).

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


        The philosophers and academics of previous times were in need of patrons. Academic freedom and tenured professorships are modern quasi-protections for the freedom of thought that did not exist in those earlier times. All works in the history of ideas must be read with an eye on the historical context: what the author dare not say, on the one side; and what he must say, on the other. Philosophy had to please its patronage. And often when it did not the thinker suffered the consequence. (Socrates and the hemlock)... self-preservation recommended not antagonizing those to whom one was vulnerable--still does. The political and religious persecution—and crucifixion—of truth seekers and justice seekers is the modus operandi of the ego-complex. Even today there is political reticence among scientists and academics--Peer standing and academic reputation and research grants are effective inhibitors of intellectual risk-taking. Calling things what they are and standing for what one believes to be true and right, over what is personally safe or politically expedient or job securing, is the essence of intellectual independence and honor, but not always easy to display--an example of how economic dependency compromises the freedom of character and conscience. 

      Extreme inequality in material wealth leads to political inequality and the obstruction of pathways for self-realization that are a violation of Natural Law--"created equal" and "right to life." And, of course, the insufficiency of others is how the ownership of economic wealth subordinates and controls those others. What could be more expedient to the security of one's advantage and preeminence than the deprivation, thus dependency, of others. Clearly, such is not democracy. Social and political inequality is a result of the cultural acceptance of economic inequality. Think how many children, born to deprived conditions, their young minds brutalized by fear and hunger and abuse and stress hormones, will never even know what their sweet hearts and precious lives could have become. Such a crushing reality imposed for the sake of an opportunity for hard and selfish minds to achieve luxury and dominance is a moral abomination upon the soul of humankind. Private wealth that greatly exceeds a maximally conceivable level of comfort and security becomes private political power, circumventing the implications of democratic equality. Money in politics is not speech, it is purchasing power.
       Economic liberalism proclaims an individual freedom to do what one wants within the rules of society, rules kept to a minimum. The unavoidable and overriding caveat is "so long as they do not interfere with the equal rights of others." (Even the most libertarian individualist will not overtly deny this caveat). The caveat is an implicit acknowledgement of the priority of liberty: that freedom, especially economic freedom, is limited by the equal rights of others. But the caveat is obscured by the specious identification of liberty as freedom, resulting in an insufficient discussion of the true nature of liberty as a restriction of freedom.
       Prevention of harm to others is the decisive principle upon which the limitation of freedom is justified. Along with The Declaration's inalienable rights and Locke's enough and as good left in common for others, non-interference with the rights of others defines the limits of freedom. Therefore, there is no just economic freedom to impose socioeconomic and political inferiority. Dominance over others is harm to others.
         But the liberal ideologies of freedom--classical liberalism, neoliberalism. libertarianism--when they acknowledge the equal right of others do not intend liberty. By "equal right" they mean "equal opportunity" to exercise one's freedom to do as one wants. Neoliberal freedom is a competition for the goods of life with no guarantees, no security; a freedom that allows the achievement of advantages which serve to nullify equal opportunity. Liberty is defined by a set of specific rights implied in the right to life, declared inalienable and secured by law from violation by those freely pursuing their wants. That government is to secure these rights means that government is not to be neutral. Government must favor liberty by assuring that socioeconomic institutions achieve the realization of these rights; outcome adjudicates means; liberty regulates freedom. To advocate freedom without distinguishing the notion of liberty as the security of rights, is to allow and desire unequal outcomes. Socioeconomic selfishness is simply saying, "I don't want your liberty limiting my freedom to achieve advantage and to satisfy my desires." So they insist that liberty is just another word for freedom!

      A right is diminished when the power to exercise it is made unequal. Unequal wealth means unequal power means unequal realization of rights. Wealth inequality is the hammer that shatters political equality. Who would consent to a social dynamic in which a minority of 1%, or less, would become a ruling elite by virtue of private ownership of economic resources? No inequality can be supposed to rest on an imagined original or prior or implied or tacit consent. No one consents to social inferiority, or being consigned to a tenuous survival. And no one would have consented to a competitive game of survival wherein that survival was a chance resting on unintended consequences, and wherein the winners would logically be few and the losers many. The hominid who first became human would never have accepted that all he surveyed belonged to someone else. All class division rests on a primal beginning of appropriation by assumption, maintained by force if challenged, and the powerless submission of those expropriated.


       Much argument in support of traditional arrangements relies on the notion of "tacit consent," i.e., silent approval. In reality, unjust circumstances begin with imposition, followed by resignation, to then fossilize into traditions transmitted through indoctrination. That a circumstance has not been opposed by a predecessor does not establish its rightness. Justice is a current voice, whether or not spoken or heard in the past. And even where a prior consent existed, it is not prescriptive in the present. The natural rights of the individual life are paramount, and how a democratic people evolve into a new understanding of their rights supersedes prior understandings. What our predecessors decided or accepted for themselves has less weight than what we desire and decide for ourselves. That a tradition is long-standing does not imply rightness in the present, nor even rightness in its beginning, only that the people it favored had the power to impose it.
      The silence of the disadvantaged never connotes acceptance, only a submission that is the fate of the powerless.

       Adam Smith could argue that government was not for:

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

    Yet he could also assert:

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

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

"Men qualify for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites; in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity... Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon the will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters." (ibid.) (My emphasis).

     It must be stated that one cannot know Adam Smith, and the “Wealth of Nations,” without also knowing his “Theory of Moral Sentiments", which Smith considered his major work. The latter contains many observations difficult to reconcile with an advocacy for a culture of competitive selfishness. A greater exposition of this point would be too much for this already lengthy argument. I will offer a few quotations, and leave it at that.

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

     " disagreeable does he appear to be, whose hard and obdurate heart feels for himself only, but is altogether insensible to the happiness or misery of others!" (ibid; 1:1:5).

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

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

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


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

         It is tempting to wonder if the true Adam Smith was revealed in The theory of Moral Sentiments (1759), while the Smith of selfish propensity (1776), some 17 years later, was the result of personal evolution or enlistment as an intellectual mercenary in the pay of Classical Liberalism--a harbinger of the modern think tanker? Maybe the younger Smith was the idealist, less advanced in the world, and the older Smith more associated with, and accommodated to, status quo interests? It would be fascinating to hear if he would think today that his invisible hand has served his moral sentiments. It would have been so easy to have advocated a certain freedom and reasonable incentive to the innovative and productive energies of a fair-minded self-interest, while at the same time proposing just restraints upon the ambitions of avarice, rather than risk the likelihood of its much intended consequences. Adam Smith preached moral sentiments, but he rewarded selfish propensity; he promised materialistic benefits, but jeopardized human character. He knew that men were not angels, but he concealed the moral reality with a mystical belief that avarice would aim at selfish ends and hit the common good. Within himself, Adam Smith represents the drama of human moral dichotomy ( or hypocrisy?): the pursuit of personal Wealth and it's attendant power, accompanied by flirtations with Moral Sentiments; praising the angel above while feeding the reptile within. The amygdala brain easily disregards the sentiments--though not the pretension--and so easily avoids the violations of conscience, and the embarrassments of hypocrisy.
       Adam Smith preceded Charles Darwin. Perhaps if they could have had a conversation, Smith would have understood he was engaging in social selection, and bestowing a continuation of the reptilian brain upon the future.

        Smith's assumption of inequality about which he found no purpose "in tracing further," and no desire to himself "determine the rightness of," resulted in the justification and reinforcement of human selfishness, and acceptance of the unjust origins of property-based inequality. Can a democratic people have a purpose and a determination to make new assumptions, and find new laws that reward a better view of human nature? If one begins by removing Smith's assumption of land already privately appropriated, and his acceptance of social ranks, and instead begins with The Declaration's assertion of created equal and inalienable rights, a whole new economic regime would emerge. Natural self-interest would be honored, self-sufficiency and innovation would be rewarded, reasonable inequalities would accrue to merit, while sociopathic selfishness would no longer be encouraged or respected. The great fear of privileged elites is that the commoners will rediscover their natural rights and reclaim their liberty.

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

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


       Natural Law, and The Declaration's adherence to it, is clear: there is an equal right for all persons to live and develop and evolve; and social organization must facilitate these rights equally or be held illegitimate. Natural Law does not require absolute equality without regard to personal effort and social contribution. What it minimally requires, however, is sufficiency for all citizens, the security of life and its development, both economically and neurologically. Natural Law requires realities, not theoretical "equal opportunities." "Instituted to secure these rights" means that government is required to do more than observe a race to see who wins and who loses, and then accommodate the victors. Government is responsible for the security of life, to establish the social forms that give freedom a proper meaning-- and to deconstruct the forms that do not.

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

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

Among systemic reforms:
   a. A progressive tax code to methodically
       dismantle extreme wealth inequality.
   b. Reward cooperation over selfishness--
       Incentivize social over selfish evolutionary traits.
   c. International cooperation to prosecute global financial corruption--
       Shell corporations, money laundering, tax evasion, financial corruption.
   d. Educational/cultural/parental attention to healthy infant/child
       Neurological development.
    e. Establishment of a minimum wealth to secure the Right to Life.
    f. Establishment of a maximum wealth to forestall the control of public policy
        and prevent the loss of democracy to hereditary wealth.
    g. Economic policy that favors the production of goods and services
        over financial manipulation, and supports the enterprise of self-employment,
        and small and mid-size business.

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

     The Natural Law description of justice is confirmed by moral intuition, the conception of those principles and behaviors perceived to produce a maximum of harmony and happiness and goodness in a community of persons. It is the empathic recognition of the equal worth and equal consideration due to all individuals. And as we have argued, it is an intuition that is absent in the brain of the ego-complex, for whom "justice" is the punishment of violations against the achievements of the selfish ego.
       The high trickery of financial wealth to launder, evade, conceal and escape from social regulation and accountability is a moral crime against humanity. There is loose in the world a supranational gang of plutocrats trending toward a sovereignty of private wealth. Indeed, the final stage of capitalism is the private ownership of all economic resources and the dependency of all people. Capitalism has come to constrain and use democracy. Democracy must come to constrain and use capitalism.


     The purpose of democracy is common equality and liberty, human rights that are equal and protected from encroachment or denial. The priority of capitalism is freedom of the individual to achieve unequal wealth and power--to escape democratic equality. Conservative philosophers and political economists have tried hard to identify capitalism with democracy, and freedom with liberty. But capitalism is inherently contrary to democracy, and freedom and liberty are not the same thing. Democracy is based on human equality and the protection of equal rights; capitalism is the economic pursuit of human inequality--the freedom to pursue economic self-interest without regulation is the mechanism of that inequality. In fewer words, capitalism's freedom violates democracy's liberty. Politics is the battleground for control of government policy for the furtherance of either equality or inequality, more security of basic rights or less regulation of economic freedom. For the conservative brain, economic advantage is what gives access to political control of the community. The human rights that constitute liberty and establish equality are roadblocks to the freedoms sought and cherished by the selfish mind.

      When speaking of "freedom" four questions should be asked: "Whose freedom?", "Freedom to do what?", "What is the likely outcome of this freedom?", and "Does this outcome violate democratic equality?" Freedom means to be unhindered in the pursuit of one's desires... absence of prohibition or requirement. Freedom is what "the pursuit of happiness" refers to (A better understanding of this phrase would require an understanding of what the founding generation understood by "happiness"). It would have been more clear, though less eloquent, if the Declaration had written, "life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness." For what other thing than freedom can the right to pursue happiness refer to? It would have been obvious, then, that freedom and liberty are not interchangeable terms, as they are commonly thought to be. And the order of the wording expresses the priority of the rights--the right to life, the liberty that protects life, and the freedom to pursue a happiness that does not injure the life and liberty of others.
        The right to pursue happiness can only refer to "freedom."  If the Founders understood freedom and liberty to be synonymous terms, then The Declaration would be stating "life, freedom and freedom"--a nonsensical redundancy. Clearly, "liberty" refers to security of life and its inalienable rights, and "freedom" to the right to pursue one's desires that do not harm the rights of others.

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

"The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty, but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing. With some the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself, and the product of his labor; while with others the same word may mean for some men to do as they please with other men, and the product of other men's labor. Here are two, not only different, but incompatible things, called by the same name, liberty...
The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep's throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as a liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act, as the destroyer of liberty...Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of the word liberty." (Abraham Lincoln, Baltimore, April 18, 1864).

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

        Adam Smith knew about liberty too, he just didn't call it liberty. Like the liberal tradition, he conflated liberty with freedom. Smith wrote that "...the sovereign has only three duties to attend to; three duties of great importance..." Two of those duties were national defense and establishing a public infrastructure. The third duty Smith describes as "...the duty of protecting, as far as possible, every member of the society from the injustice or oppression of every other member of it..." (Wealth of Nations, bk 4, ch 9). That is, it is of "great importance" that government secure each person's life and rights against every other person. Smith is describing liberty without giving it a name. And in that protection what is being restricted is the freedom of others: Freedom is where the law does not prohibit or command, liberty is where the law protects. Where the wolf is free the sheep have no liberty. In a just society, liberty limits freedom. And that is why the wolf does not want sheep to understand their liberty.
     Stalking and bullying exemplify the distinction between freedom and liberty. The stalker and bully are exercising their "freedom" to go and do what they please. But when they invade the privacy, and threaten the physical safety and emotional security of their targets they are violating the other's liberty, and they are justly restrained.


       F.A. Hayek, in his book, The Constitution of Liberty, quotes the above passage from President Lincoln. Then he writes:

"We are concerned in this book with that condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as possible in society. This state we shall describe throughout as a state of liberty or freedom. These two words have been also used to describe many other good things in life. It would therefore not be very profitable to start by asking what they really mean."(ch 1).

Then in a note to this passage he writes:

"There does not seem to exist any accepted distinction in meaning between the words 'freedom' and 'liberty,' and we shall use them interchangeably." (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 meanings he will continue the confusion. Would not a Nobel Prize winner in economics have sought to define his most cherished terms, "asking what they really mean," at least for the sake of better clarity to his own argument? Hayek quoted Lincoln's passage, so he was cognizant of the distinction. Was there purpose to the synonymous use? Without ascribing motive to Hayek, the confusion allows for 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 legally abridged by any one's freedom to do as they want, whether it be government or other individuals.

         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."

         In another context Hayek had observed: "There is danger in the confused condition… It is therefore important to distinguish clearly…" (F.A. Hayek, Why I am not a conservative...").

        So why did the classical and neoliberals assume the good consequences of economic freedom and care so little about bad consequences? The selfish mind is concerned more for its own freedom to pursue its own desires; greed is focused on the consequences it covets, not concern for the consequences upon the liberty of others. When one is ideologically arguing for a maximization of economic freedom it is understandable that they would obscure its likely bad effects, and thus its required regulation. Yet not defining critical terms is in all cases sloppy philosophy. If it is done with intent to obscure essential distinctions, such as liberty's restriction upon freedom, it is malicious philosophy. Indeed, the very phrase, we shall not ask "what they really mean" both concedes and accepts the dissemble; that is, we don't want to know what they really mean--"It would therefore not be very profitable to start by asking what they really mean." Why is it not profitable to define terms? Because the lack of definition is profitable? It might be asked, is the goal of neoliberal argument truth or profit? That is, truth or obfuscation of an agenda profitably hidden? A confusion is useful when a distinction is unhelpful--or unprofitable.
     In the end, Hayek produced an appeal for economic freedom that obscured the priority of democratic liberty, subordinating the inalienable rights of all individuals to the ambitious desires of those unburdened by internal restraints. Hayek's book served the wolves at the expense of the sheep. He said he was concerned "with that condition of men in which coercion of some by others is reduced as much as possible in society." Coercion of the wolf by the sheep, or coercion of the sheep by the wolf? We know the answer: Coercion lies in the actions of the aggressor. Restraining the aggressor is coercion in the pursuit of justice. Hayek thought unregulated economic freedom reduced coercion. What it does is open a competition to see who gets to coerce. In the end, the purpose of classical/neo liberalism, despite the metaphysical "invisible hand" and "spontaneous order," was to incentivize selfishness under the guise of freedom. The purpose was achieved. Also achieved was a continuation of the evolutionary selection of the selfish trait--and its amygdala progenitor--over the inclination to generosity.

     The wolf calls liberty freedom, and freedom liberty, to beguile Little Red Riding Hood into forgetting her liberty. Rights are ignored because selfishness wants to play an opportunity game, where ends are justified because they are the results of "freedom". For how can one achieve social  and political advantages if others have rights against being disadvantaged? Natural and inalienable rights mean sheep deserve liberty more than wolves deserve freedom. The classical liberal ideology was not an application of moral and democratic truth, it was a search for justification--to justify the freedom of the reptile.

(The major apostles of neoliberalism were Austrian exiles fleeing the rise of an authoritarian environment after WW1. It is understandable that they were frantic about freedom--facing authoritarian catastrophe would drive anyone to an appreciation of its opposite; but the Austrians were in flight to save their lives and liberties, not to find greater opportunity. Freedom viewed as an escape from the coming Holocaust's threat to life is not analogous to freedom from government regulation of the economy, or freedom from taxation. Political freedom does not require an economic license to gain wealth and impose inequality on others. It requires liberty from subordination to private economic wealth as much as from authoritarian politics. Exchanging one extreme for its opposite also requires examination.)


        There is a long history that helps to explain the synonymous use of liberty and freedom. Indeed, the French word Liberté translates to freedom. But a distinction between the terms is critical, because what cannot be done to a citizen is more important than what she can do. The liberal emphasis on economic freedom permits extreme benefits for a few by obscuring the natural right of all to basic sustenance--a liberty from being deprived and subordinated. To suppose that freedom (absence of restraint) and liberty (protection) are one concept with two names is nonsense--or dissemble with an intent to confuse so as to oppress.

       Where there is no government or law, as in a state of nature, there is maximum freedom, limited only by one's physical power to exercise it. In that same state there is no liberty, no law protecting against assault or robbery or murder. So people want security against harm--specified inalienable rights enforced by a common authority; a government instituted "to secure these rights"; to make laws that limit natural freedom; to mark the boundaries where the metaphorical wolf's freedom cannot cross over into the sheep's liberty. Freedom requires no government, the crimes of freedom are what require government:

"If men were angels, no government would be necessary." James Madison

       And so, the call for limited government is demand that increases the selfish brain's freedom to seize any opportunity for the encroachment of liberty; especially the freedom of economic wealth to place a stranglehold on government's purpose to secure inalienable rights. It is not angels who call for limited government. It is those who are most not angels. Capitalism works fine up to the point where private wealth accumulation empowers interests with intentions that are contrary to the common good.


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

      Most people generally would approve, at least on first reading, of the following statements: Government exists to protect individual rights, not to police individual behavior. And, Policing individual behavior threatens the liberty government is supposed to secure.
     The sentences are nonsensical, and depend on the confusion of liberty and freedom: First, rights--liberty--cannot be protected without policing behavior--freedom. Second, policing individual behavior--freedom--is how the government secures liberty. Confusion--and intentional obfuscation--occurs because liberty is not made distinct from freedom. Failure to distinguish liberty from freedom obscures the manner in which freedom potentially offends liberty.
      Thus government is not endangering liberty, it is guarding liberty by restricting certain freedoms. Government in turn is limited by the Constitution from violating the natural and civil rights which define individual liberty. The Declaration and Bill of Rights make liberty from abuse a supreme priority over the freedom to pursue happiness, which is too often a selfish aggression that harms others... in the name of freedom!
       There is usefulness to the obfuscation: If liberty and freedom are made the same thing then it is nonsense to speak of protecting liberty--the natural rights of life--by restricting liberty. The advantage seeker then sneaks away, his freedom unhindered because we can't restrict his liberty. But confusions are unraveled by distinctions. Liberty relieves fear and insecurity and threat by protecting natural and civil rights, which in turn allows for a democratic expression of freedom--a freedom based on security rather than a "freedom" to compete for security. We have liberty where private and public actors have no freedom to violate inalienable rights, especially the freedom to hoard economic wealth and control government.


      The ideologues of free enterprise want freedom to be seen as man's primary natural right. By obscuring liberty as protection of the natural rights of life they can attack government--taxation and regulation--as the enemy of freedom. Whereas, in fact, taxation and regulation is how economic activity is made to serve democratic liberties... the Democracy Covenant. If freedom is the only right what is there to limit it? Without an understanding of liberty, the freedom of reasonable human aspiration appears to justify the freedom of avarice.

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

    Remove the conditional clause and the statement advocates anarchy. Liberty is what denies trespass. It is the enumeration of natural rights that defines liberty... and, in consequence, freedom. Again, the caveat is inescapable: there is no rightful freedom to achieve an advantage that violates the equal rights of others. Freedom is always restricted by what is due to others, and that is called justice. Indifference to the rights of others is an absence of social conscience, and that is called sociopathy. Great social inequality has been a long historical injustice, whether imposed by the divine right of kings and priests, the right of conquest, or the economic achievements of a rapacious freedom.

     This is not to disparage freedom as nothing but a license to abuse. Freedom is the natural possession of Man in nature (insecurity is also his natural possession!). Only conventions within family groups--when obeyed by the strongest--would have ruled and guided behavior. It cannot be reasonably assumed that these original homo sapiens would have voluntarily installed over themselves an idea of government with totalitarian authority over their natural freedom. Any original consent to being governed would have been to lessen their insecurities, for which they would have reasonably conceded those freedoms of action that were the cause of their insecurities--such as the selfishness that demands more for itself than others, and the presumption of the strongest to rule and dominate. Government is our protector, not our lord. There is a proper balance beyond which railing against government is an attack on liberty, an attempt to weaken the protector; a demand to increase insecurity and give greater opportunity--freedom--for selfish ambitions. That the attack is made in the name of freedom should not keep us from asking, "whose freedom to do what?" The human struggle is between the brain of equality and attachment to others, and the unattached sociopathic brain seeking superiority and domination... the relentless ambition of the selfish brain to expand its prospects, driven to constantly feed itself with pleasures and gains (the dopamine rush of "success"). Government intervention, then, is indeed a violation of natural freedom, but for the beneficent purpose of securing the rights of life for all. Thus freedom is not an inalienable right in the sense of life and liberty. Freedom is adjustable to circumstance, what is tolerable in one place and time may not be in another. The only just restraint of freedom is for the end of guarding life and liberty. But it is the one restraint that is essential for inhibiting the reptilian brain, and furthering the evolutionary selection of homo empathicus.
        Freedom is a moral good, but all its possible outcomes are not. Any particular freedom of action must be judged by its particular consequences upon others. The great crime against human freedom is not the rule of law or the liberty of others--it is indoctrination, imposing external beliefs upon the developing brain that takes away the freedom for curiosity to discover from within, to explore for oneself the path to finding the unknown... without fear.

     Democracy involves three primary principles; the natural freedom of individuals, the rightful powers of a democratic majority, and the liberty of individuals from both. The latter is paramount.

      The freedom that is seen as an unrestrained opportunity to compete for a tenuous security is not freedom but a coercive struggle whose alternative is to lay down and starve. True freedom waits on the other side of liberty, wherein a democratic people decide on their liberties and thereby adjust their freedoms in order to secure those liberties. It is a liberated freedom to realize one's individuality and pursue unburdened dreams, possibilities that rest on a secured life.
      The rising tide of democracy exemplified by The American Revolution may well be facing its ebb because of Classical Liberalism... the liberated selfishness that rode The Enlightenment wave of human equality and freedom and turned freedom as a release from historical inequalities into a new opportunity and method for maintaining inequality.

       When the Founders spoke of "unalienable rights" they said that "among these" were Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. They clearly acknowledged the existence of yet to be declared natural rights that government would be required to secure. I have argued here that the right to life implies not just a law against murder, but economic and neurological security... whereupon we find the freedom to become our true selves.

      Government is everywhere misused by selfish elites expressing their desire to achieve and enforce their own superiority by preventing government from securing the full expression of human rights. A government "of, by, and for the people" is disparaged with a purpose to weaken the protector of rights.

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

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

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

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

       The special talent of selfishness is to make enemies where there might otherwise be friends.

Beyond The Reptilian Brain


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

    This treatise has been about fundamental dichotomies in human belief and behavior: selfishness/empathy, conservative/liberal, and pro-self/pro-social. These distinctions point to a duality in human brain functionality... revealed most clearly in the Left and Right of politics. It is the primal conflict between the brain of amygdalan fear and the brain of calm and confident and reasoned self-interest. Whether the external world is viewed with trepidation or trust is at the core of these oppositions.

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

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

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

      In the wake of the multi-decade conservative attack upon social liberal sensibilities it is time for the security of men, women, and children to finally be placed first. I have no doubt that a poll of the American people would show overwhelming support for President Roosevelt's statement: that the security of ordinary people is more important to the nation than the ambition of the selfish ego for private wealth and power. The problem is, private wealth and power control the political and economic instruments of influence. Until aggressive selfishness is checked by an aggressive and unselfish democratic majority with a view of their common liberties the promise of democracy will remain words on a little regarded parchment. But can a revolution of awareness ever happen when "the wondering cheated multitude" select their rulers by the size of their celebrity rather than the truth of their ideas?

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


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

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


      I have attempted to describe the primary elements of the ego-complex hypothesis--the idea that a genetically hyperactive amygdala drives brain development toward an aggressive/defensive selfishness that seeks economic and political domination as a defense against its fears. And I have argued the anti-democratic economic and political consequences of the brain’s formation to fear; the most significant being that the ego-complex formation suppresses right-brain empathic sensibility, while enlisting left-brain cognitive and regulatory potential into complicity with its selfish designs. When fear predominates over the incipient brain the potential for empathic and moral sensibility recedes, perhaps never to be reclaimed. What then emerges is the ego-complex personality, or the myriad forms of escape and avoidance—these latter conditions the result of a mind that managed not to succumb to the evil of socioeconomic selfishness, yet could not emerge to stand fully against it.
      And so, the dynamic of exerted insecurity, the fearful soul suffered to exert itself, unrestrained by moral conscience, underlies all aggressive and insistent pursuits of domination and superior possession, culturally acceptable and unacceptable, legal and illegal. The sociopath performs his compulsions according to his talents-- and opportunities.

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

      The purpose of this treatise has been to define the source of human conflict, to describe its neurological, behavioral and systemic pathways--amygdala dominated neural development, aggressive/selfish behavior, and economic forms that reinforce selfishness and perpetuate inequality--and to point toward a more hope-filled future. Getting there involves pragmatic modification of incentives, experimentation with alternative economic forms, and a revolution in education, teaching not what to think but how to think; predicated on the principle that present understanding is always contingent on future discovery.

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

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


      Arguments for truth are not in themselves political. They are not opposed to any person or community, they are opposed to falsehoods wherever they lie. Those who are defensive against the probings of truth have found safety and benefit in falsehood. Truth is found through the archaeology of curiosity, guided by intuition; by a wondering mind not bound or limited by preconception. We find truth in humility and in gratitude that we are privileged with the ability to wonder, the curiosity to explore, the vision to inspire effort... and the sensibility and courage to dissent from the prescriptions of others. Yet we may never grasp the ultimate truth directly, with our eye clearly upon it. We may only find intermediate truths by eliminating one at a time the errors and falsehoods by which we have lived our lives; we may only find truth through the failure and exhaustion of our certainties. But that is all that progress requires, that we always step beyond our failed certainties, that the journey to become never ends. Yet in giving our best we must know that the consequences that fate imposes give no consideration to our efforts or the intentions of goodwill. Success is never a promise; the effort made is our legacy.
     We have come from the past into the present. And the present is not long--only a moment rushing in from the future, falling instantly into the past. But it is only in this ever-moving, immeasurable moment that we have the freedom to choose. Our choice is between faith in the heart’s compassion or the fears of the amygdala. Our choice will be our future; and it will be our children's future, until they rise and choose for themselves

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

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

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

“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” (Attributed to Dietrich Bonhoeffer). 

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

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

      As author, I recognize that an argument filled with so many repetitions will have been an annoyance to some readers. To them I apologize. But the purpose of repetition is to emphasize critical points, hopefully making them indelible. It takes new repetitions to extinguish old repetitions--that, after all, is what cognitive modification theory is about. My concern, as it must be for anyone presuming to address the public mind, was to try to keep the pieces of the argument, and the connections between the pieces clear for all readers. Thus my judgment was that the hypothesis and its intertwining elements required recurring summaries and reminders and parenthetic observations, necessary to the goal of understanding--always a prerequisite to the goal of persuasion. If these thoughts are true, then I simply say that truth cannot be too often repeated. If they are not true, then I have only succeeded in imagining falsehoods, in which case I hope the reader has somehow gained in discovering them so. Searching for Truth requires a reach that sometimes finds mistake, but the reach is imperative, for we must know the truth or live by lies and falsehoods. 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 on Intimations...)

      Community salvation will require the heart of the whole people to find a common voice, and speak their own prophesy for the renewal of democracy, and the resurrection of the better angel. It should begin in America, where the cry for common liberty was raised by a common man: "We have it in our power to begin the world over again." (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776).

"Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." (John Adams). Grudging praise is perhaps the greatest praise... for it means Reason's acknowledgement has overcome Emotion's reluctance.

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

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


Postscript: In the past it has been asked of this author who he is and what are his credentials. My response was I think straightforward and appropriate: nothing about an author determines whether an idea is true or false; a credential does not discover truth. An idea stands on its own, only experience and demonstration can verify or dismiss. Once a message is delivered the messenger is irrelevant. Truth is not boosted by the credits, nor tarnished by the frailty of its messenger.
     Finally, the human brain remains a largely unknown universe. The implications of the Democracy Covenant are not. And the stakes could not be higher: humanity needs a future that does not mirror its past. Which means, overcoming the reptilian brain.

     This effort is dedicated to all those who have hearts mightier than their egos, and who have personally experienced that giving is a gain; and offered with patience to all those who are discomforted by implications.

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

per civis

Copyright: 2003-2021,
Ronald Joseph Fields

Twitter: citizen@DemocryCovenant

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