What are some of the selective evils in our modern world, and how have these evils perverted our interaction with society?

If you’re like me, you hold a very pessimistic view of the world, and believe that most human beings are motivated by self-interest and self-preservation; it is only a select few who pursue a higher path of introspection and wisdom, where the seeds of love, compassion and self-sacrifice are firmly rooted. Depressing as that may sound, I believe that our current American society is suffering as a result of the lack of wisdom, insight, morality, and perspective. Many have submitted to the ideas prescribed by secular Western society and have accepted the status quo as sound and valid.

But I must ask the question: If humans are predisposed towards such vile tendencies, how can we accept the commonly accepted standards and practices these individuals have established? Furthermore, we live in a culture that has abandoned common sense in its application towards simple and everyday tenets of our existences—we have demonized particular selective evils while leaving equally malevolent forces alone simply because that’s the way things have been done for years.

Allow me to highlight a few illustrations:

Example #1: Fiscal Responsibility. The US Government is over 16 trillion dollars in debt and the figure is rapidly expanding. Furthermore, according to The Bureau of Economic Analysis, the government has been spending more than it brings in, with rare exceptions, for decades. Take for example, the last three quarters of 2012—the government had a net negative cash flow of just over four trillion dollars. That figure encompasses all government receipts and expenditures, and in the simplest terms means that every second of every day, the government spends more money than it brings in.

 There are many people who say in order to fix the deficit, we must spend less (an excellent idea) but also tax more (a deplorable idea). What most people fail to realize, and what the powers that be have conveniently neglected to acknowledge, is the fact that taxation is the fuel that drives the machine of big government; the two are mutually inclusive—one cannot exist without the other. There was a time (pre-1913) when the US government survived without income taxes—that was a time of genuine small government without the burden of innumerable entitlement programs and other agendas to redistribute wealth.

What if the USA was a person, who made $10 a day but spent $20 a day? What would you say to this person if they said, “I’m in dire straits and I need a way to fix my cash flow. It’s your duty as a responsible person to provide for me—and by the way, the more money you have, the more I’ll need. After all that’s what’s fair.” Does this sound ridiculous? Of course it does. If any person in this world has a financial dilemma, the general solution is always to establish a budget, and become more productive while consuming less. It’s very simple. But, the public has been deluded into thinking that we should reward the financial irresponsibility of the State by giving them more of our money, and “bailout” those who have acted without restraint. It’s one example of a selective evil where the normal rules are altered in order to accommodate an undeserving, wicked element. If I was financially irresponsible, I could end up evicted, thrown in jail for failure to pay income taxes, and have my vehicle repossessed. This is a real and palpable penalty for not keeping your financial house in order, and is a valid rule that applies to all people. However, the State need not follow these regulations. In a jam? Print more money. Didn’t make payroll this month? Print more money. Addicted to drugs? Here, take some more drugs. Are you 200 pounds overweight? Here, have some junk food. As the reader can see, the simple application of common sense to principles that are made erroneously complex reveals the logic to be specious and casuistry.

To add weight to the argument, people often tend to look at the GDP as the benchmark for growth, so if the GDP goes up, we’re in good shape and vice versa. But, did you know the GDP is actually a better measure of consumption and not productivity? Take for example, John Doe and Jane Smith. John makes $100 a week and saves $90. He takes the other $10 and buys groceries. Jane, on the other hand, makes $100, spends $90 on clothing and luxuries, and saves only $10. In the former example, GDP goes up by $10 and in the latter, $90. Productivity is the same but John’s wealth increases, whilst Jane’s decreases. Is that an accurate measurement of growth? Of course not, because consumption does not increase wealth, productivity does.

You also don’t need to be an economist to realize that individuals are the driving force behind producing real wealth in any society. The State does not create anything of value; it penalizes (taxation) those who are productive and then decides who are the worthy recipients of the confiscated money. Think about that for a good minute: what does any government in the world actually produce or make? Aluminum? Nope. Gold? Nope. Steel? Nope. Computers? No. Printing Presses? Wrong! Bill Gates invents Windows and forms Microsoft. Steve Jobs and Apple. George Washington Carver and the peanut. Otis Boykin and electronic control devices. Would penalizing these individuals drive society forward or backward? Make us better or worse?

Given the alarming figures detailed above, drastic reduction (>90%) in expenditures is the decisive step towards economic solvency. Nevertheless, one may ask “Won’t this slow down growth?” The answer is, of course it will. You have to understand whose growth you’re inhibiting—in this case, it is the cancerous growth of the State. In any normal business, to have up and down years is normal, but in terms of GDP and national economic expansion, we have been deluded into thinking persistent, steady growth is the rule and with any downturn there needs to be an intervention to amend the irregularities. Even more so, in the midst of slowdowns, many call on the Federal Reserve to “stimulate growth” or to “rescue” us from downturns. Any economic system that needs to be propped up in such a manner reveals its own inadequacies and inherent failures.  In reality, all these things are a perversion of the facts, and the slowing down of governmental growth while individuals are allowed to prosper in a free market is the preferred ideal.

All this may sound like a good idea on paper, but that would also mean political suicide for anyone brave enough to attempt to execute said measures. Let’s face the facts: we now live in a society where many people have become wholly or partially dependent on the government. To barely scratch the surface—severe spending cuts would eliminate thousands of jobs for teachers, put tens of thousands at risk for homelessness (rental assistance), leave the poor and elderly without medical care (Medicaid and Medicare), eliminate the means of nutrition for hundreds of thousands of women and children (WIC Program), terminate thousands of research grants (National Science Foundation), force furloughs for hundreds of thousands of people employed by the armed forces, and force the relinquishment of maintenance on hundreds of military weapons. Social unrest and civil disorder is the inevitable outcome. The reader shouldn’t worry—these things won’t happen, because they can’t without enacting martial law. Perhaps this was the plan all along, to distribute enough of the pie to everyone that questioning the idea of the baker would be heresy. It is in every person’s best interests to follow responsible, sound financial principles, and these principles are equally valid when applied to the State.

Example #2: Rights and “Innocent Guilt” The concept of rights is a complex one, because inherently, it not only involves a discussion about ourselves, but everyone else as well. If I proclaim a “right” to do something, that edict will or will not result in demonstrable harm to someone else (not may cause harm but demonstrable harm). In the former instance (will harm), a conflict exists and the latter (will not) is a wise blueprint for a free society. For instance, let’s say I declare it a “right” that the government pay for all of my doctor visits. Ok fine—but how will such a program be paid for? Will your “right” now coerce principalities to extract money from others in order to finance the operation? What happens when there are more people seeing doctors than there are citizens to finance it? Since I have a “right” to healthcare, who’s not to say I have other unalienable “rights”? And what about the next guy, what is stopping him from demanding even more to be done for himself in the name of “rights”?

I was previously careful to mention demonstrable harm because people tend to think that just because something may happen, that is enough of an impetus to strip others of their rights. This is where “innocent guilt” comes into play, persuading the innocent to assume guilt for what may happen if action is not taken now. It is the classic formula for more regulation and restriction of individual liberty since the dawn of civilization: “We have to save the children” or “Freedom is not free.” For example, let’s say a disturbed individual decides to bring a knife to an office and take the lives of many innocent adults—a horrific event indeed. Now, this deranged person turned an instrument, which could be used for non-violent purposes by responsible people, into an instrument of death. Hence, the instrument is not the problem but the individual is. After all, a knife sitting in a drawer will not harm anyone; it’s the person using the knife that introduces the element of danger and lethality. Now, in response to the horrific event, it is not logical to ban all knives in the event that someone else may do the same thing in the future—after all, if action is not taken now, “We can’t save the children.” The real issue at hand is what caused that particular individual to commit the heinous crime and evaluate what measures can be taken to prevent it in the future. The alternative is to leave honest, law-abiding citizens knifeless when their only intent was to slice tomatoes for Sunday dinner.

To take the point even further, let us examine drunk driving. If John Q. Public decides to get behind the wheel intoxicated and he subsequently murders someone with his car, the answer would not be to ban alcohol and driving. These are both the methods someone has chosen, but the error lies with the person, the consumer of alcohol and operator of the vehicle. Some people will always end up doing dreadful things despite there being rules and laws to prevent such actions; this does not give society the authority to strip the rights of innocent, law-abiding citizens, using guilt as a pretext that something may or if something happens.

Example #3: Voluntary Contracts and Association. The beauty of a voluntary contract is two persons make the deliberate decision to associate with one another. There is no coercion, just free will and the satisfaction of mutual interests. If a man walks into a store and intends to purchase products from a woman, the two agree upon a price and both parties are satisfied. There is no crime, no victim, and no violation of rights. If the products were nails, tomatoes or a laptop, no one would find fault in the transaction. But, what if the “product” was sex? Why does the same principle applied to a different scenario persuade some people towards a different conclusion as to the validity or morality of the transaction?

Cigarette smoking is another example. Unless you have been living under a rock for the past several decades, everyone is aware of the dangers of cigarettes. According to the Surgeon’s General Report (2010): there is no safe level of exposure to tobacco smoke; damage from smoke is immediate; cigarettes are designed for addiction; cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemicals, hundreds are toxic and 69 are known to be carcinogenic; smoking not only harms the smoker but individuals involuntarily exposed to second-hand smoke; smoking adversely effects a developing baby in a pregnant woman; smoking longer means more damage to your body; smoking is linked to a myriad of health problems including cancer, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, heart attacks, and stroke. The law even requires the dangers of smoking to be placed on the packaging cigarettes are wrapped in. To top it all off, more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined[1][2] (The CDC reports that smoking causes 443,000 deaths annually and 49,400 are from secondhand smoke exposure alone; only heart disease and cancer beat smoking for the title of most lethal). So, if a person voluntarily buys cigarettes, is aware of all the adverse health and mortality risks, and knows that he or she is more likely to die from smoking cigarettes than all other forms of illegal drug use combined, is it heretical for one to consider the legalization of a less lethal drug? Using tobacco as the standard of allowable toxicity and legitimacy, why is it immoral to consider legalization of marijuana? Cocaine? Heroin? LSD? PCP? I ask these questions not to champion a society without drug regulations, but rather, to advocate the immediate banning of smoking in all public places and in any environment where the smoke has even a minute chance of being inhaled by another person. This avowal is based on the fact that the involuntary exposure to secondhand smoke is a coercive violation of the recipient’s property, and exposes them to unsolicited health risks.

I invite the reader to entertain this question in all these illustrations: What logic or morals has society used to choose its selective evils and why?


Dr. C.H.E. Sadaphal

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking-Attributable Mortality, Years of Potential Life Lost, and Productivity Losses—United States, 2000–2004. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report 2008;57(45):1226–8 [accessed 2011 Mar 11].

[2] McGinnis J, Foege WH. Actual Causes of Death in the United States. Journal of American Medical Association 1993;270:2207–12 [cited 2011 Mar 11].

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4 comments on “THE SELECTIVE EVILS
  1. Garig says:

    Hooray for anarchy!

  2. Neil J. says:

    Whoa I never realized the stats on smoking were so alarming. Makes me think more carefully next time I pass by a group of tobacco addicts …

  3. Oscar Marcilla says:

    Although I do lean strong left, I do have independent and libertarian tendencies. But sometimes there is a “take no prisoners” attitude that only complete freedom is good, any interference with free will is bad, government is bad, all taxes should be abolished. It’s really not realistic because it’s not a level playing field, and it’s only getting more lopsided. As a matter of fact the “more fortunate” get more “assistance” than the “less fortunate” get “welfare”, “charity”, “entitlements”. I find it interesting (and this does not necessarily refer to you) the ones that cry the loudest about “entitlements” and “taxes” are the ones the get the most government handouts and pay the least amount of taxes.

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