Archive for December, 2009
Reprinted from the Journal of Social and Biological Structures, Volume 13, Issue 2, 1990, Pages 93-117
This article was originally my half of a November, 1983
debate, at a supper club meeting of Los Angeles-area
libertarians, on the question “Is Copyright A Natural Right?” I
revised my debate presentation for publication as a booklet
published on December 2, 1983 under the title TOWARD A NATURAL
RIGHTS THEORY OF LOGORIGHT and, on March 16, 1989, for on-line
publication through the Connected Education(r) Library, but it is
still helpful to understand that these arguments are largely
directed to libertarians who already agree with the fundamental
concepts of natural rights, or at the very least presume a
sympathy with libertarian and natural rights philosophy and
It is generally thought that discussion of rights is a
political or ethical issue. In fact, the argument must begin at
the level of basic epistemological and metaphysical premises and
proceed from there.
Antebellum debates on slavery hinged on the question of
whether Blacks were People, thereby having rights, or whether
Blacks were only animals, and therefore could be the property of
People. Political analyses were being made by Southerners in
which they attempted to demonstrate that, economically, slavery
was good because it benefited the Southern economy. And even
moral debates hinged on the metaphysical question: if slaves
weren’t people, but were animals, then what could be morally
wrong in owning them?
It did no good to discuss the morality or economics of
slavery until one had arrived at the simple metaphysical fact
that skin color does not definitively answer the question: What
is a Human Being?
Moral and political questions often hinge on such differing
perceptions of reality. This is one reason such discussions are
often so heated: differing premises at these levels will make one
question the sanity and logical faculties of someone who
disagrees with one’s own obvious conclusions. The feeling for
someone who has a divergent vision of reality is: “He must be
blind or crazy if he can’t see something as clear as daylight!”
So it is that on an issue involving “rights,” one feels an
opponent is not merely wrong, but unbelievably wrong. Even among
professed advocates (and practitioners, one hopes) of reason, it
makes it hard to understand how one who disagrees can be so
obstinate on so easy a question.
That there are disagreements about natural rights even among
strict advocates of them proves that the question is harder
than we might have originally thought.
Therefore, let advocates of human rights not trade insults,
but get down to the business at hand, which is establishing the
premises from which we’re arguing. Then one can either see
whether our views are fundamentally incommunicable to another, or
find basic agreements and proceed from there.
I’d like to start off with an image to have in your minds
during the course of this article–and this image is a mnemonic–
a memory aid–for a point I want you to remember.
You’re in the Land of Oz, and you come across Dorothy, Tin
Man, and Scarecrow at a fork in the Yellow Brick Road leading to
the Emerald City.
Dorothy is arguing to go down one fork of the road, and
Scarecrow is arguing that they go the other way.
After the debate between Dorothy and Scarecrow has gone on
pointlessly for what seems an eternity, Tin Man turns to Dorothy
and says, “We’re never going to settle anything this way,
Dorothy. Don’t you realize that you’re arguing against a Straw
Now, I didn’t say that just to make an atrocious pun–I want
you to keep that image firmly in mind, and I think this will
The reason I started out with this mnemonic–this memory
aid–is that I don’t want to have to answer or defend all the
theories of “intellectual property,” “copyright,” and “patent
law” that I will not be advocating herein.
So let me start out by stating what I am not talking about,
when I advocate what I will eventually be defining as
I am not talking about a grant of privilege from the State.
If it can be demonstrated to me (but I don’t think it can be)
that the only way the concept I am advocating can exist is
through the State granting it as a privilege, then I will concede
outright that it has no place in natural rights theory or
practice, and the concept should be abandoned.
I am also not going to be talking about a defense of ideas
as property, or defending what historically has been called
intellectual property. Whatever the merits of these concepts,
they are not part of the concept I am going to be putting forward
here. Therefore, any attack on “logorights” which involves
disproving the validity of ideas as property or intellectual
property will be arguing against a Straw Man.
What I am going to be doing is to put forward what I believe
to be a new and original concept of copyright–a word which I’ll
be replacing in a few hundred words as inadequately defined for
the concept I’m really advocating.
“Defining A New Concept”
There are two kinds of definitions that can be given.
The first way to define a concept is with a lexical
definition–that is, with a definition by other words, such as
you’d find in a dictionary.
The second way to define a concept is with an ostensive
definition–that is, with a definition abstracted by pointing out
with several examples just what it is you’re trying to define,
and demonstrating what is common to each example and can
therefore be induced from the examples as an isolated concept.
With a new concept, it’s always better to give the ostensive
definition before the lexical, so you can get an idea of some of
the contexts in which the new concept appears.
So before I give you a dictionary definition of this new
concept, I’m going to define it by example several times. I
think the best first example is to be found in the following
Is computer hardware the only thing that can be property, or
can computer software be property also?
And I’d better define those terms for those of you who
aren’t familiar with computer jargon.
In computer terminology, hardware is the computer itself and
all the machinery used with it–the microprocessors, the disk
drives, the monitor, the printer–and software is all the
recorded orderings of bits–recorded information signals–that
you feed into the machinery to make it operate.
And let me be exact in my meaning: because a computer
diskette–a round piece of plastic with a magnetic coating–is
what software is usually stored on, it is common use to refer to
computer diskettes as “software”–but really, the diskette is
hardware, too–and the information on it is actually the
If you don’t believe me on this last point, then listen to
the language that comes out the mouth of a computer user who
plunks down several hundred bucks for a package of diskettes
labelled “Wordstar” that the salesman said contains information
telling the computer to do word processing, if, when the user
gets it home, she discovers that she’s just purchased two
diskettes with random, meaningless characters.
Is it the diskettes themselves that the user has just paid
three hundred bucks for? If so, she just got overcharged by
several hundred dollars–she can buy a package of blank diskettes
for around ten bucks.
Okay, here’s my second example: the same concept in a
You go into a Waldenbooks and plunk down cash for a book
that says on the cover “ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand.” You get it
home … and the first sentence is, “It was the best of times, it
was the worst of times.”
Now, what you bought is a book and this book has got
everything that makes a book a book: a binding, hundreds of
sheets of paper with printed ink impressions on it, and a cover.
Let’s even pretend that the book you took home has the same
number of pages, the same dimensions and weight, the same binding
and style of printing as the book with the composition called
ATLAS SHRUGGED. Do you have any just cause of complaint if the
composition of words inside the book turns out to be something
other than what the cover says? If you answer no, then you got
everything you paid for. But if you answer yes, then you are
saying that the composition of words makes this book a different
commodity from the book you thought you were buying, and
therefore you are rightfully entitled to a copy of the
composition of words labelled ATLAS SHRUGGED.
Next definition by example:
A college student figures out a way to put together a few
commonly available hardware items into a cheap device that
moistens stamps without having to lick them. Nobody ever has put
together these commonly available items in this configuration
before. Has she invented anything? Is there anything new that
didn’t exist before? Has she, in effect, performed an act of
An artist does a design logo for a company’s product–let’s
call the product a stamp moistener called Stamplix. Stamplix
stamp moisteners are put on the market with that design logo on
it … and two weeks later the company’s competitor puts that
same Stamplix logo on a different type of stamp moistener they’re
marketing in competition.
Is that second company violating anybody’s property rights?
Now you might have already abstracted the concept from the
examples–but I have to assume you haven’t for the sake of
completeness. In the first case–software–what I was discussing
was orderings of bits; in the second case, the composition of
words in a book; in the third case, a new configuration of
materials; in the fourth case, an identifying mark.
And, what is common to each of these is “logos.”
“Logos” was a word used by the ancient Greeks. In fact,
logos was the word the Greeks themselves used for “word.” But
they meant a good deal more than that: logos meant not only
“word” but also “thought,” “speech,” “science,” “study,” “reason”
and “rational principle.” Logos meant the pattern of creation
manifest in the universe–what we libertarians might refer to as
the principle behind natural laws and natural rights.
Later on, the Christians adopted Logos to mean the Second
Person of the Christian Holy Trinity–identified by them as
Christ when according to them he visited Earth–and the Gospel of
St. John accordingly starts out, “In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Logos meant “knowledge.” It’s the root behind the suffix
“-ology” found at the end of biology, psychology, technology,
ornithology, herpetology, and radiology.
Logos is the root word behind “logic.”
Logos is also preserved in the modern words “logistics,”
“logarithm”, and “logo”–short for a commercial logogram.
In using the word “logos,” I’ll be going back to what is
meant by all those usages, all of which refer to an observable
order, array, pattern, form, or identity to be found in the
By logos I mean exactly: an order, array, pattern, or form
of information which can be imposed upon or observed in a
material substance: specifically, a thing’s material identity.
It is the logos of bits imposed onto a blank computer disk
that makes it software. It is the logos of words in a book that
makes it a novel. It is the logos of an object to make it
perform a particular task that makes it an invention. It is
the logos of a mark that gives it the ability to identify a
And it is property rights in logos that I’ll be advocating
in this article.
Earlier I mentioned that the word copyright is inadequate to
define the new concept being advocated: property rights in logos.
The new word I’m going to use for property rights in logos
is, as promised before, “logoright.”
Now, for me to defend a particular kind of property right as
being a “natural” right relating to the concept of identity, we
need to understand, first, what do we mean by “identity”; second,
what natural rights and property rights are in general; third,
what property is in general and how it comes to exist; and
fourth, how property rights are established and what they mean in
Only after that ground is cleared is it possible for me to
get to the case for logorights in particular; but by that point,
the logoright case will be seen as only one instance of a general
theory arguing that ALL property rights derive from Identity.
“Things and Their Observers”
Metaphysics as a study questions as one of its subjects what
constitutes an entity and what constitutes its identity, or to
phrase it more colloquially, what a thing is and what is its
“thingness.” Epistemology asks how we can know whether and what
a thing is. Where one begins and the other leaves off is the
main event in the history of philosophical debate.
Let’s start with several divergent views.
In the Platonist view, identity is not an attribute of a
material entity but, merely or not, an attribute of a Soul, or
Ego, or Mind viewing and manipulating this universe in which we
exist but not itself being a part of it. Existence does exist
but it is only the faculty of Reason that breaks existence down
into “identifiable” parts. If a soul/ego/mind perceives a
pattern on a thing, the perceived identity fundamentally remains
an attribute of the soul/ego/mind, rather than the thing itself
which is merely a poor copy of the Original. Identity in this
view resides not primarily in those Things that Exist, but to the
Consciousness which is apart from Existence.
The Nominalist view would be the same view of Identity as
the Platonists, except that the Consciousness in question is part
of Existence. But in any case, “identity” still refers to the
observation rather than that which is observed: existents still
have no identity of their own, apart from identifications made by
souls, or egos, or minds.
The view to which I subscribe, which I would classify in
this respect as Randian, neo-Aristotelian, or “Objectivist,” is
that Identity is a fundamental attribute not of Consciousness as
such, but of an Existing Entity, whether or not a soul/ego/mind
chooses to perform an act of identification of that Entity. This
is my understanding of what Identity means: that the thingness of
a thing is not only that it exists independent of our senses, but
that each entity has a specific nature, with specific attributes
and features, that makes it what it is independent of our senses.
Whether or not a soul/ego/mind is part of existence itself is
moot: in either case, a soul/ego/mind may impose an attribute on
a thing, and thereafter that attribute is an attribute of the
thing itself: something which can be observed, by that or any
other soul/ego/mind, as an objective attribute of that imposed-
Continuing: if an entity has within its nature specific
attributes that are its identity, then either:
(I) One or more of those attributes can be observed in or
duplicated onto another entity, making them in that respect
(II) An attribute cannot exist twice or more, or be
duplicated: no two things could share any attribute, and
therefore each existent would be in all respects a different
entity from every other existent.
Since, obviously, (II) reduces to epistemological absurdity
instantly (if no attributes may be duplicated or shared, we would
have no way of inducing universal concepts from reality at all),
then logically an attribute, or attributes, can be duplicated.
And if all attributes are duplicated, we now have two existents
which are, for all intents and purposes, the same thing: two
separate existents are in the respect under consideration, the
same entity. They are identical.
Some corollary premises follow:
Corollary One: There are fundamentally two things a
consciousness can do with an entity: observe it, inducing
universals which construct percepts and build into concepts; or,
it can impose new attributes in that entity.
Corollary Two: If a new attribute is imposed on a thing,
that thing, in that respect, is different from the way it was
Corollary Three: If a new attribute imposed on an entity
changes the fundamental nature of an entity, it becomes a new
Corollary Four: In the case that a particular attribute, or
set of particular attributes, defines what a thing is, that
attribute or attributes define what is the thing itself: they are
that entity’s identity.
Corollary Five: Impose this identity on a thing, it becomes
an entity of that identity: a thing of that type. Remove that
identity, it is no longer that thing.
Now the metaphysical question on which answer my logoright
position will later rest: Are two separately existing Entities,
sharing the exact same Identity, (A) identical in themselves (that
is, metaphysically the same Entity, though observably not the
same Existent, since each exists apart from the other), or (B) not
identical in themselves but identical only to the consciousness
that perceives them.
I see the answer is necessarily (A), for the same reason
that I rejected the view that an attribute can’t exist twice or
be duplicated: if no two existents can share any attribute, and
therefore each existent is in all respects a different entity
from every other existent, then we would have no way of inducing
universal concepts from reality at all: epistemology itself, by
failing to answer the problem of universals, would reduce to
I also believe that answering (B) at this point, even
starting with Objectivist premises, makes one, for all practical
intents and purposes that follow on this question, either a
Platonist or a Nominalist. That may be all well and good when
discussing realities beyond our experience, but it is to the
“neo-Aristotelians” or “Objectivists” that I will be directing
the remainder of my argumentation, for I believe that regarding
the universe we find ourselves within as anything less than real
leads one quickly to a philosophical discussion suited only to
the Afterlife … which is where denying everyday reality
delivers one rather quickly.
“Natural Rights and Property Rights”
Natural rights and property rights theory has a long history
of development, but it is my purpose here to define natural and
property rights then move on, not trace their history.
And, the best short definition of natural rights and
property rights I can give you is to be found in five paragraphs
from Ayn Rand’s essay, “Man’s Rights,” in the book THE VIRTUE OF
SELFISHNESS–Copyright 1963 by The Objectivist Newsletter, Inc.,
and reproduced here under the Doctrine of Fair Usage:
“A right is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action–which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)
“The concept of a ‘right’ pertains only to action– specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.
“Thus, for every individual, a right is a moral sanction of a positive–of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations of them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.
“The right to life is the source of all rights–and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.
“Bear in mind that the right to a property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.”
Now, Rand uses two phrases in the section I just quoted
which give us the beginnings of what property is and how it comes
about. So I’ll focus on these then expand on them in detail.
The first phrase, when interpolated slightly, is: the
product of a man’s effort.
The second phrase is: material values which are gained,
kept, used, and disposed of.
And these two phrases lead us right into the discussion of
what property is and how it comes into existence.
“The Creation of Property”
What does it mean to say that property is the product of a
man’s–or using a word I prefer, a Person’s–effort?
Do we mean property is that which a Person “creates”?
If so, we need a concept of “creation.”
We are told, by physicists and chemists, that we live in a
universe where matter and energy can be neither created nor
destroyed, but only changed. This change may include the
transformation of matter into energy–or theoretically energy
into matter–but existence does not allow us the possibility of
creation ex nihilo–out of nothingness.
If we start with this premise then it becomes curious–at
the very least–how human beings have talked casually for quite
some time about how anybody “creates” anything.
Why do we speak of engineers “building,” musicians
“composing,” architects “designing?” Each of these speaks of
people, by their actions, bringing into existence something that
wasn’t there before.
Here’s where the concept of logos comes into play again.
Creation is a Person’s action which imposes that Person’s
logos on something which exists to give that thing a unique
identity it did not previously have.
The fundamental act of creation is the act of patterning a
logos on something: patterning notes into a musical composition,
patterning words into a novel, patterning bits into computer
software, patterning ink into a blueprint, patterning steel into
an automobile, patterning images and sound into a movie,
patterning furrows into a farm, patterning flour, water, and
yeast into bread.
There are, of course, questions about greater and lesser
orders of logos that can be brought up now. But I am not arguing
that every act of creation is on an existent that previously had
no identity at all. I am merely saying that the act of creation
is the act of imposing an aspect of a Person’s identity–a
logos–on something to give that object an identity it did not
“The Thermodynamic Paradigm”
As a paradigm, but one which I think is useful only in
proper context, let’s consider creation in thermodynamic terms as
a localized and continuing lowering of entropy.
Entropy is that universal process which takes things from a
state of greater improbabilities to a state of lesser
improbabilities–commonly thought of as the decay of order into
Creation–the act of imposing on natural objects a logos not
naturally found–is the act of moving things from a state of
lesser improbabilities to a state of greater improbabilities.
Some specific examples: iron and carbon are both elements
found in nature–in fact, iron ore can contain carbon in large
amounts. But steel–which requires the combining of a specific
ratio of iron to carbon at specific temperatures for specific
spans of time–is rarely if ever produced by the automatic
processes of nature.
If you make iron and carbon into steel, the resulting
substance is much less probable–therefore it is tempting to use
the language of thermodynamics and say that an act of taking iron
and carbon and creating steel is lowering the entropy of that
iron and carbon. If you take that steel, and press it into
rectangular sheets of even thickness, length, and width, the
result is even less probable–therefore it is tempting to say
that the act of finding steel and creating sheet metal out of it
is lowering the entropy of that steel.
And, if you take that sheet metal, form it into the body of
an automobile, and paint it so the steel doesn’t rust, the result
is less probable still, and it is tempting to say that the act of
taking sheet metal and creating painted auto bodies is lowering
the entropy of that sheet metal.
One should resist the temptation. Taking the “lowering
entropy” argument too far into the area of physical
thermodynamics runs one quickly into problems of both fact and
theory; the comparative “entropy levels” of a car, a piece of
junk, and a chunk of ore are incalculable. Nevertheless, I
believe the “entropic” paradigm of regarding creation as a
“calculable increase in improbability” is sound within the
context of information theory, where one discusses the “entropy”
of a signal; and, in fact, I’m told there are existing formulas,
used by the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI), to
calculate the “improbabilities” of a signal being a “natural”
occurence as opposed to being artifically generated
Unless one accepts a “Watchmaker” argument about the
creation of Earth–that in fact what we believe to be nature is
in fact the artifice of an earlier Creator–bridges are less
probable than rivers, symphonies are less probable than bird-
songs, and houses are less probable than caves. But regardless
of whether the Watchmaker under discussion is mortal or deity,
engineers, composers, and architects each make their surroundings
more improbable of existing than it would be without their
For example, scientists know that Mars has water, so a
Martian river isn’t all that improbable; but photographic
evidence of an artifically constructed bridge across such a
Martian river would double the number of planets in the universe
which we would know to have hosted intelligent life … likely to
be, even without cynicism, one of the most improbable things
Specifically, then, creation is the act of patterning less
improbable substances and objects to produce things more
improbable of having resulted from the automatic processes of
Now, the only sort of creation we’re concerned with in this
discussion is the creation of property–and we find that “things
rarely if ever produced by the automatic processes of nature” is
a good jumping off point for defining property.
What we may, in one sense then, define property as is: that
which a Person makes improbable enough to be generally recognized
as an “artifact.”
If you then compare this definition with the two phrases
drawn from Rand–the product of a man’s effort and material
values which are gained, kept, used, and disposed of–you find no
contradictions and a good deal of implied overlap.
Now I want to focus on Rand’s phrase “material value” long
enough to point out the following: Rand’s definition of “value”
is “that which one acts to gain or keep” and a material value
would by her definition be “something material which one acts to
gain or keep.”
Since the question of materiality is one which will come up
again later, I wish to point out that Rand’s use of the word
material in this context did not prevent her from referring to as
property things not comprised of matter such as radio
frequencies, in her essay “The Property Status of Airwaves” in
CAPITALISM: THE UNKNOWN IDEAL or patents and copyrights in
“Patents and Copyrights,” her very next essay in that book.
Before I leave the area of defining property, I wish to
bring out what libertarian property theoretician Robert LeFevre
used for his tests in his book, THE PHILOSOPHY OF OWNERSHIP.
LeFevre asked three questions:
First, is that which is said to be property claimed by
Second, does that which is said to be property have boundary
And third, is that which is said to be property under an
And these lead us to the next discussion necessary before we
get to logorights:
“Establishing and Using Property Rights”
Let me quote once more Rand’s statement on property rights:
“Bear in mind that the right to a property is a right to
action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object,
but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning
that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any
property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns
Therefore, a property right by its very nature refers to an
action with respect to a property.
The question arising in the establishment of property rights
is: what actions are required to gain rights with respect to that
And, the definitions of property we’ve already discussed
provide (in no particular order) the following answers to the
establishment of property rights:
That which is to be your property must be valued–that is,
you must act to gain or keep it.
That which is valued as your property must be claimed as
property–that is, it must be publicly available knowledge that
you are declaring it your property.
That which is being claimed as property must in some sense
be a product of human effort. It must be created–that is, a
Person must take it from a state of lesser improbability to a
state of greater improbability.
The claim to the property must be defined within observable
And, the property must be subject to the control of the
person claiming it.
The question arising once property rights have been
established are: what actions is the owner permitted respecting
And, the question of what actions the owner is permitted
respecting that property are dependent on the question: what
rights specifically does the owner have in this property?
The best way to show the import of this is to give some
Do I have the right to build a house on this lot and live in
Do I have the right to raze the building on the next lot
over and build a three-car garage?
Do I have the exclusive right to use this driveway, or is
there a public right-of-way?
Do I have the right to eat this sandwich?
Do I have the right to divert this stream so the water
doesn’t flow to the next parcel of land?
Do I have the right to broadcast radio signals on a certain
frequency, at a certain power output, from a certain location,
during certain times of the day?
Do I have the right to take this book home from the
bookstore–and what may I do with it when I get it home?
Note than none of these actions requires the property itself
to be anything: the property right–being a statement referring
to the definitions of moral action–adheres not to the property,
but to the owner and actions that owner may or may not take with
respect to that property.
One last set of property rights concepts, and then we’ll be
ready to discuss logorights.
“Exclusive Use, Consumption, Bundles of Rights, and Properties”
From the instant a property is created and claimed by a
Person, all rights to that property are held by that Person–who
I’ll refer to as the property’s First Owner.
Since property results from an act of creation, it should
come as no surprise that the answer to the question of what an
owner of may do to a property includes its consumption.
Ultimately, an owner may exercise property rights to the complete
destruction of that property, without the consent of anyone who
does not share rights in that property.
Again using a thermodynamic paradigm, it would be tempting
to say that the entire process of owning property begins with a
lowering of its entropy, continues with maintaining its entropy
at a level relatively lower than that of the natural substances
from which it is made, and ends with consuming that property
until its entropy is as high as the condition in which its First
Owner found it–at which point it is consumed entirely and ceases
to be property as such.
What ownership of a property means is that all rights to
exploit, consume, keep unconsumed, control, destroy, trade, or
otherwise decide the ultimate disposition of a property may be
made by its owner without sharing the decisions regarding the
property–or its benefits–with anyone else.
That property–by its very nature–is owned to the exclusion
of all non-owners: any use of that property by anyone other than
the owner requires the owner’s permission.
When an owner creates a property, that property is totally
and exclusively its owner’s.
Here we have the necessity of property rights to begin with:
the origin of property rights stems from the need of adjudicating
conflicting claims about the exclusive use of something.
Since a property can only be owned exclusively, property
rights are the means of determining who holds the exclusive claim
on that property.
Utilitarians argue that these claims should be adjudicated
for the benefit of society as a whole: “the greatest good for the
greatest number.” The utilitarian premise is at the base of all
non-theistic political systems: democracy, republicanism,
communism, fascism, socialism, national socialism, and
militarism. Even the worst dictator claims to act in the best
interests of “the people” or “the will of the blood” or “the
proletariat” or “the folk.”
Libertarians, on the other hand, say that property rights
adhere not to society but to the individual Person, arising out
of the specific nature of humans having to control their material
environment in order to survive as rational beings. To survive,
a human being must be able to control the environment–that human
being’s domain. To control that domain, the human being must
identify the nature of each existent in the environment, and
arrange them all in such patterns that they contribute to the
purposes of survival and well-being.
Since the right to pursue survival and well-being is
distributed universally, no good or utility to one person or
group can be greater than the good or utility of any other person
or group. There is no possible “calculus” of good that can say
that one person’s or group’s rights outweigh another’s; a right
is a moral absolute allowing no exceptions or head-counting.
The necessity of property being, by nature, exclusive stems
from the necessity of dedicating an object to a specific
function–giving it a form to perform that function–and having
some security that the form to perform that function will not be
interfered with by someone else.
And, this is precisely what the act of creating a property
is: the act of imposing a new form on something found in a more
probable condition to dedicate it to a function that is highly
improbable of being performed without that imposition.
The creation of property, therefore, is an act necessary to
human survival–and as such the requirements of our survival as
human beings sanction our taking those actions, and those
sanctions are called rights.
Now, because the first ownership of any given property is
total and exclusive ownership, the owner can dispose of the
property in any fashion that owner sees fit.
The owner can choose to abandon the property–in which case
it reverts to a state of not being owned anymore.
The owner can choose to sell the property.
The owner can choose to break up the property into smaller
parts, and sell those parts.
The owner can turn it into junk–then call the junk art.
Switching context to the first definition of “property”
found in WEBSTER’S COLLEGIATE DICTIONARY–”a quality or trait
belonging to and especially peculiar to an individual or thing”–
it is correct to say that this property consists also of its
And we can see from this first definition how use of the
word “property” as something belonging to an owner came about:
that which was owned was thought of as a quality or trait–a
“property” in the first definition–of the owner itself.
Therefore, it is etymologically correct to refer to each
property–each quality or trait adhering to that which is owned
as a whole–as a property as well.
This leads us to the additional possibility that an owner
may choose to break the property down into its constituent
properties–that is, each of the various qualities or traits
adhering to the property as a whole–and sell, as a separate
property, the right to exploit that quality or trait.
When this is done, a property is said to be made up of a
bundle of rights which are then broken into distinct and
separable rights–each separate right referring to a separate
action that can be taken with respect to the property in
Two cases showing how “bundles of rights” are dealt with in
respect to land use will illustrate this.
If I own a parcel of land outright, then I own all the
rights–the entire “bundle”–in that parcel of land, and I may
exercise any and all of those rights as I see fit.
As I’ve said, this is the situation enjoyed by a property’s
First Owner or creator.
However–and this is a big however: a previous owner may
have broken up the bundle of rights on her parcel of land–the
bundle of rightful actions that may be taken with respect to that
land–and sold me only the single right to build a house on that
land. The right to dig a coal mine there can be owned by someone
In this case, then, the rights to the various actions that
can be taken with respect to it have been divided up by quality
or trait among more than one owner–and the owner of each
particular property right must exercise that right in such a way
that it does not interfere with rights held by other rights-
The various discrete properties taken from the original
property are still owned exclusively–but the original property
itself is no longer under the exclusive domain of a single owner.
We are now ready to ask whether there are, in fact, property
rights in logos–whether logorights can be property.
“Does Logoright Exist?”
Earlier in this discussion, I referred to the necessity of
imposing a logos on material objects as a precondition to
creating them as property.
That is not the question under discussion.
Having established that an object receiving an imprint from
a Person’s logos becomes that Person’s property–has it been
established as well that the logos which the Person is imposing
also can be owned as a separate property?
The answer is yes.
Here’s how it happens.
When a logos is imposed on matter, creating a new property,
the logos becomes a material quality of the property it is
imposed upon. Simultaneous with the creation of a new property,
the logos becomes the trait of that property to display the logos
itself, which includes the possibility that the logos can be
copied onto other matter and make that property as well.
Starting from the creation of a new property, the First
Owner has total and exclusive ownership of that property and all
its different parts, qualities, and traits: all its different
One of the properties included in this total ownership of
the created property is therefore the logos itself.
Consequently, if the First Owner–or any subsequent owner of
the total property–decides to break the property into bundles of
rights–and maintain ownership of some of those rights while
selling others–this is perfectly within that owner’s
Now, this next point is crucial:
Placing any restrictions on how the owner may dispose of the
property–or its constituent properties–would deprive that owner
of the exclusive and total ownership which belongs to a first
You cannot attack the rights of a total owner to divide up
rights to that property without destroying the concept of
property being exclusively that owner’s.
And, a property right not exclusively owned is not a
property right at all.
Once the property is broken up into separate properties–
each property requiring a separate right to exploit that quality
or aspect–each property right from the original bundle of rights
can be traded separately.
Remember: rights–being moral sanctions of what action a
Person may take with respect to a property–adhere not to the
property itself, but to the owner.
If you declare that property rights are inherent in the
property rather than in the owner, then you are reduced to the
absurdity of saying that property–apart from the actions of its
owner–is capable of committing moral or immoral acts.
Thus, is is perfectly within the prerogatives of that owner
to maintain ownership to the rights in the logos–the
logorights–in that property, by valuing it, claiming it,
defending its boundaries, and continuing to control it.
“Four Tests of Property”
Let’s take those four points one at a time.
First. Is the logoright of value?
Yes. Remember Rand’s definition of value: that which one
acts to gain or keep.
The owner has either created the logos–thus demonstrating
that it is something worth gaining–or the owner maintains
ownership in it–thus demonstrating that the logoright is
something worth keeping.
If you say the logos doesn’t have value, then why does
imposing a logos on two dollars worth of computer diskettes make
them several-dollars worth of software?
A blank diskette and a diskette with a logos of information
on it are two separate goods with two separate qualities: two
different properties which can easily be told apart.
Perhaps you can’t tell those diskettes apart by looking at
them, but my computer surely can: if I stick in one diskette with
a certain logos of information on it, the computer’s display
gives me an OPENING MENU. When I stick in a blank diskette–
otherwise identical–it says: NOT A VALID SYSTEM DISK.
And if a logos has no value as a separate property from that
object which it is imposed upon, why would you be upset it you
brought home the book you thought was ATLAS SHRUGGED and found
that the first sentence was not, “Who is John Galt?”
To state the principle explicitly:
If a logos has no value in itself, then removing it from the
objects on which it is found should make no difference in the
values found in those objects.
As a corollary: the value of the logos is demonstrated by
removing it from an object and seeing whether that object is
valued as a separate good or commodity.
Second. Does the owner claim the logoright?
Yes: and here’s where the term copyright may be used exactly
Copyright is a claim of a logoright–and the claim is made
by embedding what is called a “Copyright Notice” onto the logos
being claimed–putting anyone finding that logos on notice that
the property rights in logos are owned and not open for a new
The nearest equivalent in common law requires the posting of
No Trespassing signs on land if you wish to preserve the
exclusivity of your property rights to prevent the land from
lapsing into being a public thoroughfare.
I might also add at this point that registration of the
copyright is the exact equivalent to the registration of the deed
on a piece of land: a formal recorded proof that the property
rights are claimed as of a certain date by a certain owner.
Such registration, of course, need not be with a State, but
merely with a person, company, or organization generally trusted
to maintain such records.
As an example of private copyright registration: the Writers
Guild of America maintains an office for depositing copies of
screenplays and screen treatments as proof that a certain person
had possession of it on a certain date. Such proof is commonly
used in private arbitrations, performed by the Writer’s Guild,
regarding disputes over rights and credits.
Third. Can the owner of the logoright ascertain the
boundaries of her property rights–that is, are there limits to
that which is being claimed?
The answer to boundaries–limits–on a logos is again “yes.”
But–and this is a crucial point to be understood–limits always
are dependent on the nature of the property right being claimed.
When one speaks of boundaries of property rights in land,
one speaks of dimensions of area.
When one speaks of property right boundaries in the radio
spectrum, complaining that there are no boundaries of an
electromagnetic wave’s area would be meaningless: in defining the
limits of that kind of property, one rightly speaks of limits in
an electromagnetic wave’s amplitude and frequency.
And, when one speaks of the property boundaries on a logos,
one speaks of the limits of identity, the signal of which is
defined and limited by the principles of information theory, and
the content of such signal which must be defined by each use to
which the information can be put.
In discussing the identity of a logos as a signal, one
discusses its limits and boundaries in terms of the minimum
number of informational bits necessary to identify that logos as
a distinct creation, the resolution of a logos, the threshold of
predictability of that logos as against background noise, and
other criteria commonly used in dealing with information storage
In discussing the identity of the logos as content, one must
make a metaphysical argument. Since by definition, each logos
has a specific informational identity that differentiates, binds,
and delimits its nature–the qualities and traits through which
it is capable of being exploited–the boundary limits here are
set by its identity itself.
Now, I can anticipate the following question at this point:
Since a logos can be copied infinitely without depriving the
owner of the original, how can you say that a logos is a scarce
resource and therefore an economic good?
The first answer here is: The scarcity of a logos is a
function of its being, like all other kinds of property, a
product of human effort. Someone had to put work–the scarce
resource of human labor–into the production of the logos in the
first place–and storing that labor in a recorded form–
patterning the logos into a material object as a material value–
constitutes the creation of a scarce good–a property.
But the answer here that I prefer to give is: if this logos
is so damned unlimited as not to be an economic object–then why
do you want to reproduce mine?
The limits on this kind of good are not drawn by its
infinite ability to replicate itself, which is a way in which the
logos is not limited. However, just as property rights in the
radio spectrum are not limited by area but by amplitude and
frequency, the limits on logoright are not to be found in its
ability to be infinitely reproduced, but in the finite identity
to be exploited for its qualities and traits that distinguish any
given logos from any other logos.
In terms used by economists, when defining the scarcity of a
logos we must look to limits of horizontal competition between
different kinds of goods, rather than to the limits of vertical
competition within a kind of good.
The fourth and last test: does the logoright’s owner control
Most definitely, in three ways:
The owner of a logos controls property rights in that logos
by maintaining ownership of the logoright and “licensing”–that
is, leasing–the various rights.
The owner of a logos, through limiting the license to
reproduce the logos, is preserving the integrity of that logos.
And, the owner of a logos is using that logos as a
producer’s good to create consumer’s goods.
You hear libertarians speak a lot about human rights and
property rights–but what I’m most used to hearing about–as a
working writer–are primary rights and subsidiary rights:
hardcover rights, trade paperback rights, mass-market paperback
rights, electronic rights, first serial rights, transcription
rights, character rights, story rights, merchandising rights,
dramatic rights, movie rights, episodic TV rights, live TV
rights, radio rights, English rights, and foreign language
Each of these is a separate right in the bundle of rights
created with the original property–a separate action to be
performed by using the logos–and each one can be sold or
licensed separately as the logoright owner wishes.
“If A Thing Can Be Copied, Then It’s a Thing”
Traditional arguments against copyright have begun by asking
how one is depriving a person of her property by copying it and
using the copy, since presumably the owner still has the
I submit that the first question is not whether someone’s
rights are being violated by copying but whether, in fact,
anything exists which can be copied.
If a human being isn’t performing an act of creation by
imposing an identity on an existent making it a new entity, then
there is literally no thing which can be copied in the first
place. If there is something distinct and observable which can
be copied, the case for it having been newly created by someone
is already made, and–to the propertarian who already believes
that that which is newly created is the property of its creator–
the case for exclusive property rights in that new thing follow
directly upon the self-evident axiom of property identity.
Conversely, if there is no identity to speak of, then there
is nothing there to be copied that is distinguishable from
anything else, and there is no question to debate at all. The
pro-unlimited-copying case bites its own tail in saying that that
which may be copied without limit does not exist at all, and
therefore the argument reduces itself to absurdity.
The rule by which one recognizes an axiom is that if denying
something logically requires that itself which is being denied,
then that which is being denied is self-evident. Therefore, the
pro-unlimited-copying case just reaffirms the axiomatic nature of
the material identity of that which is being copied as a distinct
entity–material identity being the definition of a logos which I
presented earlier in this article. Denying the very existence of
material identity as a distinguishable property of a thing leaves
no Distinguishing Property to debate further.
Since That which one Creates, Owns, Consumes, Buys, and
Sells is an Entity, not merely an Existent, then it is irrelevant
that the Identity (thingness, if you will) can be observed in or
duplicated onto more than one Material Existent. What a Creator
Creates, what an Owner Owns, is an Entity (including that
Entity’s Identity) and it is a reductionist argument to a thing’s
materiality as an existent, rather than its being an entity
having identity, to deny ownership because more than one existent
The “lack of scarcity” argument fails in not recognizing
that the scarcity, on which the concepts of property
and economics rest, refer to the scarcity of an entity qua its
identity: it is scarce by being limited to its identity. It can
be no other. That an entity can be in or on more than one
existent is irrelevent to the questions of ownership.
When it comes to questions of identity, the copy IS the
original; an entity is an entity: A is A.
One may wish, at this point, to expand the discussion to
entities which are similar but not exactly identical, and put
forward the position that each copy is a different entity as well
as a different existent.
The discussion would then have to continue to take in
boundary effects and threshhold limits of which attributes define
an entity and which do not, but the principle would remain
intact. Such boundary problems and threshhold effects relate to
all questions of ownership and property–otherwise shining a
flashlight onto someone’s lawn could be considered, on the face
of it, photon invasion of that property. Obviously whether
damage is or is not done to the lawn has to be asked at some
point: this is what I mean by boundary limits and threshhold
It strikes me that the clearest illustration I can give that
property rights are dependent on a thing’s identity, not merely
on its material existence, is the following question: have I
violated your property rights if I pulverize your car, but leave
you in possession of every microgram of dust?
Answering no defeats one’s argument by reducing to
But if one answers yes, then what one is claiming ownership
of was a thing–an entity–and one must claim that by removing
the identity of that thing I have violated one’s property rights.
This concedes that property rights are bound to the identity, as
well as the mere existence, of a property, and if this is so,
then does it not follow that the ownership of that property’s
identity is as exclusive to its owner as everything else about
Thus, to a propertarian, my logoright case is proved by the
Law of Identity alone, regardless of whether my further
theorizing regarding a thermodynamic model of property-creation
furthers my case or does not.
“Refinements and Objections”
This next section will treat some of the objections to
logoright that were brought out both during and after the debate
for which this article was originally written, and refine the
concept to demonstrate how these objections do not invalidate it.
Objection One: A logos is nothing tangible; it is an idea
and therefore not capable of being owned.
Answer: I am answering an objection usually brought against
copyrights and patents because these have been defined as the
products of ideas, and defended with the concept of “intellectual
But the theory of logorights as presented herein does not
treat logos as being a product of an idea: it is treated simply
in terms of information which is observable in material form.
“Information”–as a term used in information theory–does
not require that which is being dealt with as information to have
meaning or purpose; it need only perform a function. Information
is a mathematical, rather than a teleological, concept.
As such–speaking colloquially–we’re in a whole new
ballgame when discussing a concept of property rights in logos,
which is a discussion not of “intellectual property” but of
Objection Two: By saying that only the owner of a logoright
is entitled to the profits from making a copy, aren’t you denying
the profits accruing to the labor of those who copy it?
Answer: Not at all. Copying a logos is a separate act from
creating a logos, and must be compensated separately. If I write
a logos on a manuscript, I must pay someone if I am to be
entitled to their labor in copying it–and if they copy it onto
their own materials, I must pay for that, too. This happens
every time a manuscript is taken to a quick printing store to
However, the question really being asked is: doesn’t the
labor of copying something entitle someone to the rights accruing
to the ownership of the logos?
And the answer to that question is a clear no. That labor
is involved in copying something makes no statement and produces
no claim over someone else’s property.
If it did, the labor used in stealing a car could be used as
a case for transfer of property rights in that car.
Property rights must be determined first, then and only then
do questions about the profits accruing to labor done on or with
that property arise.
The most exact analogy here to the taking of a property,
applying labor, and producing additional properties is that of a
factory–let’s say for simplicity that it’s an automobile
The factory as a property is a “producer’s” good, and it is
owned by whoever created that factory or the owner’s market
descendants. Workers come into the factory and–applying their
labor on new materials using that factory–produce the consumer’s
good of the automobile.
Would one therefore conclude that the workers own the
automobiles they are producing?
If you say that, then you are back to “labor theory of
value” and discount the necessity of capital in the production of
Even if the workers were bringing their own raw materials
into the factory and producing automobiles, this would not be
sufficient to establish their titles over the produced
automobiles: it would first have to be established that they had
the right to use the factory as a producer’s good.
Likewise, the logos is a producer’s good for which the
rights must be obtained before it may be used to create
additional goods–whether those goods are additional producer’s
goods or consumer’s goods.
Objection Three: How can you say that a logos is a separate
property since it can be imposed on someone else’s property?
Answer: the same way that a house can be a separate property
from the land it is on.
Objection Four: What about two or more people who come up
with the same invention or story independently? Who owns the
Answer: As I’ve discussed earlier, creation means the taking
of something from a state of greater probability to a state of
To the extent which a given logos of invention or story can
be produced independently more than once, to that extent the
probability is still great enough to question whether an act of
creation has been performed at all.
One of the objections brought against copyrights and patents
can be dealt with this way: that a person being sued for
infringing on a previous copyright or patent has had the burden
of proof in demonstrating that their story or invention is a
separate and distinct creation from that which they’re accused of
Here is precisely a case where information theory provides
answers to definitional problems that previous theories were
unable to deal with.
By using a process of correlation of the information in each
logos, one can find out precisely how much overlap exists between
Only if the correlation is proven by the petitioner to be
significant enough to warrant a charge of copy infringement would
independent creation have to be established as a defense by a
respondent. If the respondent succeeds in demonstrating
independent creation, then the petitioner’s original “creation”
wasn’t inherently improbable, therefore questionable as a unique
creation–and therefore possibly not property at all–for either
In a practical sense, however, I think twin logoses of
sufficient complexity and resolution to be considered created
property at all are about as likely as a million monkeys typing
for a million years and producing the play Hamlet.
Objection Five. What about a case where a randomly
generated logos is found and claimed as property? Has an act of
creation taken place? Can there be property rights in something
randomly or accidentally produced?
Answer: Any given logos–to be considered a logos at
all–must be, in some sense, unique. The shape of a blade of
grass is neither complex enough nor uncommon enough to qualify as
a logos. Where a unique array has been produced by random or
natural processes–and a person decides, for whatever reasons–
that it is worth preserving, it is the act of preserving that
array that is the essential act of “increasing improbabilities”
which is the definition used herein for the creation of a logos.
Objection Six. What about a person who copies a logos
accidentally? Isn’t that person potentially a victim of the
owner of the logoright?
Answer: this case is exactly equivalent of an accidental
trespasser on someone’s land.
In common law decisions, it has been determined that land
must be clearly posted with No Trespassing signs to remove the
liabilities involved in a trespasser coming to harm on your land.
The “Copyright Notice” is prominently placed on a logos for
the same reason: to warn trespassers that they are responsible
for their own liabilities if they violate the owner’s property
Objection Seven. Isn’t the “Doctrine of Fair Usage” you
relied on before an admission that the exact point at which using
a logos becomes a property violation can’t be determined
The “Doctrine of Fair Usage” is a legal definition in use
under current–and admittedly statist–copyright laws.
It is a utilitarian decision that says that so long as the
use of part of a copyrighted work is educational or isn’t a
significant enough part to adversely affect the market value of
that work, it will be considered that the property owner is going
to allow this as a courtesy to the public–whether that owner
likes it or not.
Nevertheless, the utilitarian basis of this decision does
overlap similar common law decisions regarding courtesies and
rights of access in private lands–which is also a utilitarian
As a strict propertarian, I would have to say that the use
of the smallest identifiable part of a logos–that is,
identifiable by an objective process such as correlation–
requires its owner’s consent.
However, as the owner of a number of logoses, myself, I am
willing to allow “fair usage” as a general courtesy to the
public, which includes many logos owners some of whom have
logorights not protected by the State, and I am presuming–until
otherwise challenged by a particular logos owner–that such
courtesy is also being granted to me.
I do, of course, risk having to pay restitution if my
assumption of reciprocal courtesy turns out to be mistaken.
Objection Eight. Doesn’t a logoright restrict the contents
of a person’s mind? Are you going to say a logos can’t be
memorized–that is, the logos imposed on a human brain? Are you
going to then say that a person can’t use the memorized contents
of her own mind in any way she sees fit–including the imposition
of it on matter?
Answer: Assuming that the logos can be taken intact into a
human brain, then that copy of the logos has been swallowed by
that person–in the same way that if I take a diamond and swallow
it, that diamond ceases to exist as recoverable property while it
is in my stomach.
In neither case would someone have a right to violate the
boundaries of that person’s sphere of self-ownership to retrieve
either the swallowed diamond or the swallowed logos.
However, swallowing someone else’s property does not
constitute a transfer of property rights, which–being a
statement of morally permissible action relating to a property–
attach not to that property but to the owner.
Swallowing someone else’s property does not constitute in
itself a transfer of property rights to that property, even
though the owner of the swallowed property may not invade you to
Moreover, if while that logos resides within you it
stimulates better digestion–that it, aids you in creative
efforts of your own–then that good digestion is yours to keep,
regardless of whatever rights the logos’s owner may have in the
But if the person who swallowed the logos reimposes that
logos on outside matter–if the person redraws the blueprint from
memory or retypes the novel from memory or reproduces an
invention from memory–then the logos to be found in matter must
still be regarded as the property of the logoright’s owner: in
essence, the person reproducing the logos without obtaining the
rights has just regurgitated or passed the diamond again, and the
true owner has the right to demand that her property be returned.
Objection Nine. What about the reenactment or performance
of a logos–such as singing in my shower? Since I am not copying
or reimposing on matter that logos, how can I be said to be
violating the logos owner’s rights?
Answer: Logoright is not, per se, copyright–restricting
only the right to copy onto matter. Logoright refers to any use
of a logos, each use of which is a separate right in the bundle
of rights created with the logos.
Again: “right” refers to an action which a person may or my
not take with respect to a property.
The right to reenact or perform a logos is a use of that
logos, and often–such as with live performances of musical
compositions or plays–the rightful use must be licensed from the
However, in all the cases of copyright I have ever heard
about, I have never heard of someone being successfully sued for
singing someone else’s song in the shower. Presumably this is
not a public performance?
I suspect the absence of such case law would survive the
demise of the State and its copyright laws, to a society which
recognizes and enforces the concept of logoright.
Objection Ten. Isn’t it a historical fact that as soon as
printing presses were invented kings began handing out copyright
protection? Isn’t this proof that copyright has always been
nothing more than another grant of monopoly by the State, and a
privilege that is dependent on the State for its existence? Even
today, isn’t it the existence of copyright laws itself that has
led to the domination of publishing by a few oligopolies?
Doesn’t a value-free analysis of the publishing market
demonstrate that eliminating copyrights wouldn’t affect authors
much since (a) most books published are for the first time and
(b) an author’s royalties are only a small percentage of the
price of a book? Since most of the income an author receives
comes up front as an “advance,” isn’t it true that an outright
sale from an author to a publisher wouldn’t make much difference
to the author anyway?
Answer: These arguments were raised by Samuel E. Konkin III
in an article titled “Copywrongs,” published in a magazine titled
THE VOLUNTARYIST in the year following the debate that sparked
this article. Since the editor of THE VOLUNTARYIST at the time
was Wendy McElroy, who was the other half of this debate, I took
her commissioning of Konkin to write on this subject as a
reaction to my presentation. Since Konkin is a long-time
libertarian ally, and one with whom I have usually sided on most
issues, I found it worthwhile to write a response to his article.
THE VOLUNTARYIST did not, however, see fit to print my response.
Some of the more general arguments contained in my unpublished
reply to Konkin have been incorporated into this version above;
the segment that I include here deals directly with Konkin’s
arguments, and I’ve eliminated duplication of text used elsewhere
in this article. I’ve also updated my reply as necessary. Those
wishing a copy of the original “Copywrongs” article can obtain it
from Samuel Edward Konkin III, P.O. Box 1748, Long Beach, CA
Herewith my reply to Konkin’s “Copywrongs”:
“To start off with, I am dubious regarding the usefulness of
concentrating on a value-free or even value-laden analysis of
copyright until a factual metaphysical question is settled: is
that which copyright protects with the status of property rights
something which actually exists, or is it, at best, a delusion
and, at worst, a vicious fraud? …
“Of course Sam did say that ‘The point of all this vulgar
praxeology is not just to clear the way for the moral question.
The market (praise be) is telling us something. After all, both
market human action and morality arise from the same Natural
“And so I agree with Sam in principle, if not with his
application. The question is: what is the natural law here? The
answer is: the Law of Identity. …
“But even leaving this aside–if one can leave metaphysical
facts aside–Sam’s value-free economic case is standing on
quicksand, since he is arguing from empirical observation of
current market conditions–a dangerous thing for a libertarian to
do, since it can so easily be turned back against us.
“For example, we argue in libertarian theory that monopolies
can’t arise in a free market. A liberal then points to existing
monopolies. And we retort, ‘We don’t have a free market today to
point at–what you’re seeing is monopolies in a state-controlled
economy.’ And, Sam would have to agree that the market his
empirical case examines is state-controlled, since he’s arguing
that the current market is structured by, among other factors,
the current copyright laws.
“But, copyright is only one of the many ways the state has
intervened into the publishing industry. (I assert that the
effect is largely neutral as compared to a purely propertarian
marketplace since the state intervention roughly parallels the
actual property rights.) In the publishing industry, as in all
other industries, there has been endless non-copyright state
intervention: limited liability laws, anti-trust suits preventing
publishers from owning bookstores, labor laws creating union
shops, wartime paper rationing, interstate commerce regulations,
obscenity laws, tax laws, postal and shipping regulations, FCC
“I would therefore caution anti-copyright debaters of a
libertarian persuasion to be very hesitant at looking at any
current market condition and categorically asserting that any
particular factor, such as copyright, is the final cause of any
particular market end state, even though–in Sam’s observation
that most of that which is published today is for the first
time–I believe Sam has, in fact, shown a final cause which
destroys his own praxeological case.
“I would also caution anti-copyright libertarians against
assuming their conclusion in using anti-monopoly and ‘privilege’
rhetoric against copyright. Arguments against ‘monopoly
privilege’ in the exclusive ownership of a logos ignore the
fundamental difference between all property rights, which are
monopolistic in the sense of being held exclusively, and monopoly
practices, which are invasive.
“Moreover, that printing presses and state grants of
copyright protection arose at the same time in history is not
conclusive evidence that the state was not protecting that which
would be considered property in a stateless society anyway. It
is only circumstantial evidence of two events coinciding–a
‘coincidence.’ The same ‘argument from coincidence’ could be
used against any property right–proper or not–arising from new
technology under current state law. Since the state claims the
airwaves as ‘public property’ which as a ‘scarce resource’ is
licensed ‘in the public interest,’ are we likewise–by the
argument from coincidence–supposed to conclude that broadcast
frequencies are not potential property?
“But let me focus on Sam’s contention, at the foundation of
his economic case, that for Big Publishers, ‘royalties are a
fraction of one percent of multi-million press runs.’
“It just ain’t so. Let’s take, as an example, the 1986
Avon edition of my novel, THE RAINBOW CADENZA. The raw
manufacturing cost of each book–typesetting, printing, and
binding–was roughly $0.60. My royalty was 8% off a cover price
of $3.50. This is a royalty of $0.28 per book, or about 47%
added to publisher’s cost over manufacturing. Hardly negligible,
“This is a base cost figure before they start figuring in
editorial salaries, commissioning cover art, office overhead,
advertising–all of which are start-up costs for an original
edition of a book in addition to buying ‘rights’ from the
author–before then calculating in markups to wholesalers,
shipping costs, percentage of returns, etc.
“Now, consider that without copyright protection–statist or
otherwise–four days after a book starts selling well (that’s all
it takes to manufacture and distribute an ‘instant book’) any
reprint publisher could come out with its own competing edition
of a book–at a huge discount since this publisher wouldn’t have
to pay any of the start-up costs: royalties, editorial salaries,
typesetting costs, commissioning cover art–anything other than
pure manufacturing and distributing costs. I expect that the
competitor’s copy edition could be put on the market for about
half the price of the original edition. The first publisher
would be stuck with all the risk and startup costs, then be
undersold by half by a competitor’s edition.
“In purely economic terms, what publisher would risk
investing in publishing a book knowing that if he or she hits it
lucky with a book anyone actually wants, everyone else will get a
much-lower-risk return on investment?
“The publishing industry would quickly become a game with
One Rule: Let George Do It. If you think a book might make
money, reject it. With luck, someone else (somebody real stupid)
will take the risk of publishing it first, and you can clean up
by knocking off a cheap reprint after it’s been developed and
market-tested at your competitor’s expense.
“Thus, all economic incentives would shift from being first
on the market with a product, to being second. Original
publishing would cease to be a profitable market at all. If, in
a market with copyrights, Sam sees the great majority of
publishing being first-time, and a much smaller amount being
reprint, then this statistical distribution is an effect of the
existence of copyright in the marketplace to begin with. Remove
this causative factor, making reprint publishing more profitable
than start-up publishing, and value-free deductive logic leads
directly to the conclusion that the reverse would be true:
reprint would be the rule, and original printing would be the
“This structure of publishing in a copyright-free market
would be that of a regressive industry, at first largely
parasitic on works created before the abolition of copyright
(unless we assume copyright never to have existed at all, in
which instance there is a case to be made that publishing never
would have become an industry at all) and later dependent for its
product on those persons not at all motivated by the desire to
make a livelihood out of authoring. What would be left to be
published would be the works of hobbyists, dilettantes,
psychological ‘flashers,’ and preachers. Perhaps this might
leave something worthwhile to be published–a work occasionally
by a J.R.R. Tolkien–but it would certainly never have produced a
Robert A. Heinlein, who started writing to pay off a mortgage.
Even the Tolkien case is questionable, considering how offended
he was that Ace Books took advantage of the accidental omission
of copyright on THE HOBBIT and THE LORD OF THE RINGS to reprint
his works without his permission.
“Thus, beginning by denying the Law of Identity and the
specific nature of that which is being written and published, Sam
ends by eliminating both authorhood qua work and publishing qua
industry. Just as C.S. Lewis demonstrated how denying the
existence of objective referents for standards of subjective-
valuation would logically result in the Abolition of Man, the
logic of praxeology demonstrates how denying the objective
identity of a Created Work would logically result in the
Abolition of Creative Industry.
“And if, as Sam states, that ‘both market human action and
morality arise from the same Natural Law,’ then my praxeological
analysis should give one a pretty clear indication that my case
that copyright is protection of natural rights in logo-property
(primarily a metaphysical, rather than moral, case, since I’m
arguing that logoright derives from the Law of Identity) follows
“An Ill-Tempered Conclusion”
Now. If after all this you still think a logos can’t be
property because it isn’t a “scarce economic good,” or if you
think creation isn’t essential to the origin of property–then
compose your own damn symphonies, write your own damn novels,
invent your own damn computer–much less figure out how to
program it–design your own damn houses, film your own damn
movies, and come up with the damned recipe for bread on your own,
–because a person who makes his or her living by creating a
logos for license isn’t going to work for free.
If logorights aren’t recognized as property, a Creator of a
logos is left with two choices: limit the circulation of the
logos only to those who sign contracts agreeing not to copy it–
and pray that someone doesn’t accidentally leave a copy
unprotected for an hour in the vicinity of a Xerox machine or
camera–or produce only the least-labor-intensive sort of logos
that can be quickly exploited in the time before someone can
undersell the licensed product by reproducing its logos without
having to pay royalties.
If you don’t think a logos is a scarce good, you’ll find out
how scarce it is damned quickly if you declare open season on
ripping them off.
And, yes. I did say “rip off.” Logorights are property
rights–and they are entitled to the same respect and protection
as property rights in land, butter, guns, cars, radio
frequencies, and gold that I have heard property rights advocates
Just as the communist anarchist argues that it is only the
monopolistic grants of privilege from the State that makes
property itself possible, so the anarchist opponent of copyright
has been arguing that it has been only the monopolistic grant of
protection from the State that makes copyright possible. Both
are making the same error.
If anything, the State is constantly violating logorights by
imposing through fiat the State’s own copyright laws on logoright
And that is why, as a propertarian anarchist, I proudly
declare that this essay is my property–herein claimed by giving
you notice that this article is
Logoright (L) 1983, 1989 by J. Neil Schulman
and anyone who attempts to violate my property rights in this
logos should expect to hear from the legal firm of Smith &
Logoright (L) 1983, 1989 by J. Neil Schulman
The logos in this Work is its material identity, an “information
object,” separate from the materials upon which it may be imposed
or observed, which has been created as a unique structured
artifact by its author’s labors. Since each artifact resulting
from the labor of a person is, by natural right, by decency, and
by common law, beyond all limitations imposed by sovereign force,
the morally claimable property of that being, each use of that
property must be authorized by its owner, and all unauthorized
uses of it are tresspasses of a person’s natural rights and a
violation of that person’s spirit.
The Logoright notice is an explicit marking of that object to
declare to all that it is owned.
This Work is licensed for reading purposes only. All other
rights and uses, including the right to make copies, are reserved
to its Owner.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
This is a book about love. What, then, of money?
In the previous chapter, “Sex for Money,” I looked at the most direct case possible of an act which romantics such as myself desire to be performed out of love but instead is performed for money.
But let’s not forget that in my second chapter, Romeo and Juliet,” I also examined the case of sexual acts performed for something other than love — power, social standing, and again, money.
What is the moral difference, if any, between a prostitute picking up the cash left on her bedside table in the morning, and the Germanic custom of a husband paying a dower or “morning gift” to his wife on the morning after their wedding? What’s the moral difference, if any, between a pimp collecting the proceeds from the woman he sends out to hook on a street corner, and the parents of a woman collecting a “bride price” from her new husband or his family? And I can’t even fathom how low the social standing of a woman had to be that not only was she not worthy of being sold for her sexual value, but her parents had to pay a dowry to some guy to take her off their hands. It looks to me that prostitution is a huge step up from that.
But in almost every other human endeavor there is the possibility of doing something merely because you enjoy it, or feel it’s your mission or vocation or duty, or in the alternative because doing it brings rewards.
In his sermon, The Weight of Glory, preached on June 8, 1942 at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Oxford, C.S. Lewis said,
Indeed, if we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. …
We must not be troubled by unbelievers when they say that this promise of reward makes the Christian life a mercenary affair. There are different kinds of reward. There is the reward which has no natural connexion with the things you do to earn it, and is quite foreign to the desires that ought to accompany those things. Money is not the natural reward of love; that is why we call a man mercenary if he marries a woman for the sake of her money. But marriage is the proper reward for a real lover, and he is not mercenary for desiring it. A general who fights well in order to get a peerage is mercenary; a general who fights for victory is not, victory being the proper reward of battle as marriage is the proper reward of love. The proper rewards are not simply tacked on to the activity for which they are given, but are the activity itself in consummation.
Like me, C.S. Lewis was a romantic — an idealist who then becomes a cynic when faced with people who do things not for their natural rewards but for extraneous ones — such as money.
Yet this same C.S. Lewis — whom we just saw extolling virtue bringing its natural rewards — spent his life as a scholar paid by Oxford and Cambridge. The author who wrote Christian apologetics and fantasies received royalty checks from their publication.
Lewis is reported to have been a man generous with his charities; yet I have read no biography of him asserting that he never used money he was paid to teach and write to pay his rent or a mortgage, or lay a roasted goose on his Christmas table, or buy the pipe tobacco he smoked, or pay for the pints of Ruddles Ale he drank with J.R.R. Tolkien at the Eagle and Child pub.
This does not make C.S. Lewis a liar or a hypocrite.
This makes C.S. Lewis human.
If you had asked C.S. Lewis about the seeming contradiction between what he preached and what he practiced, I know what his answer would have been. He would have said that human beings were fallen, and it was only prior to our race’s fall in Eden — or after our redemption — that we could act entirely out of love with its natural rewards and with no consideration for the necessity to live by the sweat of our brow.
Does not Christian charity require us, then, to consider that the prostitute who in exchange for money makes love to men who otherwise would go loveless might be performing a sacred duty — as much as a nurse — and that the money given her is merely the means that supports her in her blessed vocation?
To deny that possibility appears to me pharisaical.
I am in no position to throw the first stone because I am not without sin.
I love to write. But I write for money.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol — which told of the miser Ebenezer Scrooge and the lessons ghosts taught him about being more charitable — was first published on December 19, 1843 and made lots of money for its author. It has made even more money for book publishers, movie producers, and other entrepreneurs who didn’t write it.
The Christmas carol “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was, according to its Wikipedia article, “written by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie, and was first sung on Eddie Cantor’s radio show in November 1934. It became an instant hit with orders for 100,000 copies of sheet music the next day and over 400,000 copies sold by Christmas.”
My father was a violinist. He began playing violin when he was five years old, and played the violin until he was literally too weak to hold it up. He spent hours each day isolated in a room with his violin, a music stand, a metronome, and poker chips on the floor to keep track of the number of times he practiced a passage. Playing violin was the first passion of his life, even more than for his wife or his children. But from age 16 to age 80 my father did not live a year in which he was not paid to play the violin.
“Chick” Gandil, first baseman for the Chicago White Sox, was ring-leader of the plan to throw the 1919 World Series in exchange for money from gamblers, and was banned from Major League Baseball. Gandil nonetheless spent as much of the rest of his life as he was physically able playing baseball on any field he was allowed.
The surgical team who save a life by transplanting a kidney are all paid to perform the operation. But it’s illegal for the kidney donor to be paid.
The Pope has an all-expenses life paid for by Church donations, and so does every cardinal, bishop, priest, nun, and monk — and that includes Mother Teresa who won the Nobel Peace Prize, was beatified by Pope John Paul II and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta … and who expressed a belief in the spiritual goodness of poverty. If she had been forced to live in a palace she would have been miserable; nonetheless, like the rest of the human race she needed to eat … and some human being had to pay for the food that was put on her plate.
Deepak Chopra, M.D., makes money from lectures, books, videos, and CD’s.
Jesus may have turned water into wine for the Wedding at Cana, but I’m still pretty sure the wedding band got paid.
And God paid Moses a stipend of manna for leading the Hebrews out of Egypt.
For many years the International Olympic Committee — a corporation based in Lausanne, Switzerland — forbade athletes who had been paid to play sports from participating in Olympic games, which were supposed to be restricted to “amateurs.” During those years athletes completely supported by their governments were nonetheless allowed to compete.
If someone is paid by taxpayer money they’re not mercenary. If they’re paid by a private person they are.
What a crock of hypocrisy.
If you love doing something and can get rich by doing it — instead of having to support yourself by doing something you do only because of the money — there’s a word for what you are.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XVI: Moonshiners, Medicine Men, and Merchants of Death
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
When I was a young lad I lived in Manhattan, where in the Fall of 1971 I met my first libertarians, at a meeting of the New York Libertarian Association, in the apartment of Gary Greenberg, who at the time was a deputy prosecutor for the City of New York. So if I’m ever called to testify before a future House Committee on UnAmerican Activities and asked to name names, my career as a subversive starts right here.
One of the libertarians I met at that first meeting was a graduate student going for a doctorate in theoretical chemistry from New York University. His name was Samuel Edward Konkin III. Inspired by a British libertarian named Chris Tame, Sam had started a Libertarian Alliance on the NYU campus, and Sam found me worth talking to at that first meeting because — prior to actually meeting any other libertarians — I had started a libertarian group at my college, part of the City University of New York.
I was the only other college student Sam met that night who on his own initiative had started a campus libertarian group. I also was starting out as a writer and Sam published a mimeographed newsletter called New (NYU) Libertarian Notes. So we became friends, and that was how I ended up taking the subway to Brooklyn with Sam to audit a college course on economics being given by Murray Rothbard.
Also attending those classes was an economics student named Walter Block, now Harold E. Wirth Eminent Scholar Chair in Economics and Professor of Economics at Loyola University New Orleans and Senior Fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Walter made an immediate impression on me after the first Rothbard class I audited, when Sam, myself, Walter, and half a dozen other students accompanied Murray to a nearby pub and over pitchers of beer we continued the discussion. I should note for historical purposes that at the time the drinking age in New York was 18. I was probably the youngest guy at the table and I had a million questions for Rothbard. I was asking so many questions that Walter — using fundamental principles of the economics Rothbard was teaching — pulled me aside and informed me that Rothbard’s time was a “scarce resource” and by dominating the questioning I was misallocating it!
In 1975, just a few years later, Walter’s book Defending the Undefendable was first published. The subtitle was “The Pimp, Prostitute, Scab, Slumlord, Libeler, Moneylender, and Other Scapegoats in the Rogue’s Gallery of American Society.”
There was no chapter in Walter’s book, however, defending those who by asking too many questions misallocated the professor’s scarce time. But Walter did use the value-free approach of the Austrian School of Economics to argue that if there was no force in an economic transaction, it not only should not be a crime but was a positive good.
The pimp was merely a prostitute’s agent or manager — no different than a sports agent or singer’s manager. If you didn’t like the slum apartment the landlord was renting you, you were free to look elsewhere. You didn’t have a right to keep your cheating on your wife a secret, so if you paid someone blackmail to keep your secret, that was a 100% voluntary transaction. And since everyone is entitled to their opinion, as far as Walter was concerned, writing bad things about someone shouldn’t be something you could get sued for.
Walter, in his book, had a different purpose than I have in this one. I’m not out to explicate a theory of economics. I’m here to defend the passions — the loves — which freedom is necessary to enable. So you’re not going to find me making arguments that people become blackmailers or loan sharks because it’s their lifelong dream — nor will you find me arguing here that being a slumlord or litterer works to enhance other people’s dreams.
What I am going to argue in future chapters is that just because the performance of a job or profession is illegal — or just because the possession of certain skills is regarded as dangerous or anti-social — that doesn’t mean these jobs or skills can’t be constructive, life-affirming, and even noble pursuits.
Let’s start in this chapter with a hard case: prostitution.
I doubt very much that any little girl dreams of growing up to be a prostitute. I doubt any father is thrilled to discover that his daughter has grown up to become one.
Let me also be very clear that in referring to prostitution I am not referring to a situation where any sort of force, threat, duress, intimidation, or dependency is used to make someone perform sexual acts for money. I’m not talking about kidnapping women or children and forcing them into sexual slavery. I’m not talking of a pimp supplying one of his women drugs in exchange for the money she gets from standing on a corner and offering herself to passing motorists.
And I’ll leave out gay prostitution and male escorts from this discussion because that’s a whole other cultural milieu.
For the duration of this discussion I’m going to restrict myself to that subset of female prostitution where a woman, of her own free will, and with no penalty for saying no at any time, offers herself in exchange for money to perform what in Chapter 6 of this book I referred to as “Circle A” and “Circle B” sexual activity.
To begin with, let’s understand what prostitution is for both the prostitute and the client. It is a professional personal service, like a physician, nurse, psychotherapist, physical therapist, speech therapist, masseur or masseuse, personal trainer, hair stylist, manicurist, piano teacher, math tutor, midwife, or tennis instructor. Many of these other professions involve personal touching and can become highly emotionally charged.
At first glance, prostitution doesn’t actually seem all that different from being a doctor or nurse. Nurses wash their patients genitals and change the diapers of incontinent patients. A urologist might find it necessary that a penis be massaged to erection or even milked to ejaculation. A psychotherapist — like a spouse or a friend — becomes far more intimately involved with the personal problems of a patient than a prostitute ever does.
What distinguishes the prostitute from all other one-on-one professions is not that a prostitute is uniquely involved with the most intimate parts of her client’s body but that the prostitute is willing to use the most intimate areas of her own body in a session with her client. Additionally, a prostitute often needs to be an actor to create a fantasy for the client. Mostly — but not always — the object is to cause the client to come to orgasm.
Earlier in this book, while discussing drugs, I wrote,
If — at no time in your life — it has never crossed your mind that you need to go to a doctor to get a permission slip in order to buy a product that you will use on your own body, then it’s my sad duty to report to you that reading this sentence, right now, is the very first time you have ever encountered the concept of freedom.
This sentence is a specific case of the general argument made by this book that each of us is a volitional being with the moral right to control our own bodies. Only if we violate someone else’s rights are there moral limits of what we may do with our bodies. The counter-argument against the woman who argues that ownership of her body gives her the right to abort a fetus is that the fetus also has rights; but when there is no possible injured party involved — as there is in the case of consuming a drug or having sex for money — the morality of self-ownership is only answered by a tyrant’s megalomania to rule.
A lot of the stigma attached to prostitution arises from the hostility Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scripture has for prostitutes.
But a lot of this hostility also comes from the cultural expectations both women and men have.
It’s my opinion that a lot of the hostility to female prostitution is from traditional-values women who object to a woman having sex for money rather than for love, children, and the security of marriage — and maybe they don’t like the competition; and a lot of the hostility to female prostitution is from feminist women who object to a woman giving orgasms to men for money rather than demanding an orgasm of her own in exchange — and maybe they don’t like the competition.
That doesn’t leave a lot of women to be a lobby for legal prostitution.
The other stigma attached to prostitution is because men are naturally possessive of women. If a man enjoys a woman physically he’s halfway to falling in love with her. That she gets to collect payment and kick him out of her bedroom is diminishing to the male ego.
Modern men have also been trained by our egalitarian culture to be concerned with pleasing a woman sexually. A situation where the woman doesn’t care about whether she comes or not is, at the least, disconcerting. And a woman faking an orgasm feels like a cheat.
Then there are men who are romantics, and ultimately find sex without love to be unsatisfactory. A prostitute needs to be a very good actress, indeed, for a man like this not to feel like a chump when he’s out the door and she’s using her calculator to add up the night’s box office.
But where the pride and even nobility of prostitution as a profession comes in is when a man who is unattractive — flabby or painfully thin, bad teeth, bad skin, male pattern baldness, even physically handicapped, or who has peculiar fetishes — can by the simple expedient of providing cash take to bed a woman who under ordinary circumstances wouldn’t be caught dead on a date, much less in bed, with him.
Women willing to make a man like that feel good about himself even for an hour — no less than Florence Nightingale — are a gift from God.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XV: For Love or Money
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
Let’s start by getting one thing straight.
No real scientist would ever, ever, ever — under any circumstances — declare that a question has been answered finally and that a scientific debate is over, once and for all. Ever.
That’s just not how real scientists think, or talk.
Science is a process — a set of tools to test knowledge for validity — and whenever you hear someone declare that scientific debate is over and a particular conclusion is unquestionable, not only has he given strong evidence that he never grasped the scientific method, there’s a good chance he has identified himself not as a scientist but as a political operative, an ad man, a religious fanatic, a con man, and possibly a gangster in a lab coat.
The scientific method always gives its conclusions as provisional and always subject to correction by additional facts, better observations, later experiments, newer theories, more relevant paradigms, and — every once in a while — a genius turning everything we thought we knew upside down by asking a question nobody until then had thought to ask.
In his very first published short story, “Lifeline,” in 1939, Robert A. Heinlein — always considered one of the most scientifically literate of science-fiction writers — put these words in the mouth of a scientist: “One can judge from experiment, or one can blindly accept authority. To the scientific mind, experimental proof is all important and theory is merely a convenience in description, to be junked when it no longer fits. To the academic mind, authority is everything and facts are junked when they do not fit theory laid down by authority.”
–J. Neil Schulman, “Exposing The Warm Mongers”
J. Neil Schulman @ Rational Review, November 27, 2009
I wrote the above as my introduction to a discussion on global warming, a week after whistle blowers released onto the Internet thousands of emails from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia. These emails revealed not only massive fraud being committed by scientists claiming proof of global warming but the deliberate silencing and marginalization of scientists who declined to agree that human-caused increases in carbon dioxide and methane threaten catastrophic global warming.
But the established United Nations’ political consensus on global warming is only one of many subjects where my above words are applicable.
Today, no less than in the time of Galileo, there are those megalomaniacs who attempt to speak with Divine Omniscience to tell us what we are allowed to believe.
In a December 18, 2009 address to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, U.S. President Barack Obama declared that “This is not fiction, this is science. Unchecked, climate change will pose unacceptable risks to our security, our economies, and our planet. That much we know.” The President was speaking not out of a Science that — even as he spoke — was being called into question because of reliance upon fraudulent data, but using his political office to speak ex cathedra, like the Pope, out of a grandiose entitlement to Omniscience.
No scientist claims to be a Know-It-All.
Anyone claiming to be a Know-It-All on any subject is no scientist.
Omniscience today is as much the enemy of free thinking as it was when the Inquisition convicted Galileo Galilei for heresy because he dared champion the Copernican view that the earth orbited the sun and therefore the earth was not the center of the universe. At the time the idea that the earth was the center of creation was established Church doctrine. Galileo was forced to recant, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest. It took three-and-a half centuries before Pope John Paul II admitted the Church might have been too rough on him. Excuse me for thinking that’s a day late and a dollar short.
The persecution of independent scientists continues today. Today, however, as many persecutors are driven by secular ideology as religious faith.
The passionate mind longs for knowledge about what we are — as a species and as individuals — in what we know to be a tiny oasis of life in an inconceivably large but possibly dead universe. If we truly are alone on this planet — the only observers in a vast desert — we want to know it, because it tells us how special we are. If we are one of a community of intelligent species in the universe, we want to know that, too … because it means the human race does not have to be celestially lonely.
If we came into existence by an unlikely series of meaningless accidents then we who think are the gods of the universe.
If we were created by an uncreated and eternal Designer then we have traded our notion of godhood for the comfort of not being orphans.
Omniscience: Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has been proven to account for the beginnings of life and the natural selection of genetic traits for simpler life forms to evolve into more-complex life forms — including the human species.
Science: No scientist has yet performed an experiment that can demonstrate how a living cell can come into existence out of non-living matter. Nor is the fossil record conclusive in showing more complex life forms arising out of less complex life forms. Evolution remains what it was when Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species first proposed it on November 24, 1859 as the explanation for the origins of species — an unproved theory.
The debate on the origins of species is locked in a fight-to-the-death struggle between theists and atheists on whether Intelligent Design is required to cross the chasm between a universe of non-living matter and energy and the one planet we know to contain life — our own. The debate is confused by militant atheists like Richard Dawkins who are willing to admit the possibility that terrestrial life might have been the design of earlier extraterrestrial creators. This only relocates the first appearance of life to another address.
But the search for clues on our origins is annihilated when either side uses force and intimidation to silence their opponents.
It was an evil attack on the free human mind when in 1925 the State of Tennessee put high-school science teacher John Scopes on trial for violating its Butler Act, which made it unlawful “to teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals” in any Tennessee state-funded school and university.
It is as much an evil attack on the free human mind today when teaching Intelligent Design is prohibited by law and even less savory threats are made by academies of higher learning against the academic freedom of researchers and teachers who decline to agree that Darwin’s Theory of Evolution has been demonstrated to account for the existence of life and of the human species.
If you think the extermination of free thought begins and ends with global warming and Darwin, it may well be that your own prejudices are getting in the way of your seeing how universal and dogmatic Omniscience still is today.
Omniscience: All human consciousness can be accounted for as a byproduct of neural activity in the human brain, and ceases when the brain dies. Any supposition that there is a soul or spirit that exists independent of the cerebral organ — and can exist outside it and endure beyond it — isn’t science but superstition. No respectable institution of scientific research or learning should be given a dime to experiment on it. No science degrees should be awarded in these fields of study. Send them to the Schools of Divinity or just call them cranks and let them be published in the Weekly World News.
Science: Conduct experiments in extra-sensory perception, precognition, communication with the dead, and out-of-body travel. Invent double-blind experiments, keep careful records, report what you find.
Omniscience: No artifacts exist from any alien spacecraft and those who claim the Army collected and hid such artifacts are just nut jobs. People who claim they’ve experienced alien colonoscopies are psychotics. The United States Air Force looked into it and found nothing that can’t be explained away by ordinary atmospheric phenomena and previously classified technology.
Science: Interview the thousands of humans who report observations of, and contact with, UFO’s and extraterrestrials, and consider that eyewitness accounts are as much raw data as anything discovered in a laboratory. Men have been sent to the electric chair on less eyewitness testimony than in many UFO cases.
Do you believe in Bigfoot, the Abominable Snowman, or the Loch Ness Monster?
Omniscience: Even though new species are being documented by scientists every day, anyone who believes they’ve observed heretofore uncatalogued anthropoid species or prehistoric sea creatures no older than many species of sharks are just deluding themselves.
Now you’re not going to tell me you believe in prehistoric technological civilizations on this planet like Atlantis or Mu, are you, Neil?
Omniscience: Our current civilization — for which artifacts and documents of any sort can only account for several thousand of the millions of years the human species is supposed to have been in existence on this planet — is the one and only time civilization has reached an industrial technology. The repeated ice ages which have swept clean the surface of the earth every ten thousand or so years — that would be a hundred clean sweeps if the civilization we’re looking for was a million years back — can’t possibly account for archeologists failing to discover a prehistoric microwave oven. There’s no chance we might only find the evidence we’re seeking in the deepest of ocean trenches, locked below the earth’s crust possibly even as far down as the earth’s mantle. And it’s absurd to think we’ll find evidence of a previous human civilization when we finally get a chance to do some digging on Mars.
I write as a lover of science. It was my first passion. It still is.
Don’t tell me what to believe in. Tell me what the facts are. Tell me what you think they mean. I’ll make up my own mind.
When anyone claims the authority to say what is science and what isn’t — when anyone declares a debate is over and tag themselves the winner — it makes me want to put my fist down their mind-killing pie holes.
But if any of them can get over their megalomaniacal sense of Omniscience, I’d much rather just have a lively discussion with them over a beer.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XIV: Sex for Money
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
Govindini Murty … The Girl
Nick Nyon … The Terrorist
John Barrett … The Bounty Hunter
and The Voice of Isfahan Jones
Produced, written and directed by Jason Apuzzo
Executive Produced by
Sound Design by
Tak Fujimora & Jason Apuzzo
Art Direction & Costume Design by
I received the DVD I ordered of Kalifornistan Tuesday and watched it Tuesday night.
I’ve met Jason Apuzzo and Govindini Murty at the Liberty Film festival, as an indie filmmaker, myself. I’ve had conversations about the esthetics of film with Jason.
I’m also fairly familiar with Jason and Govindini’s writings and interviews, and saw Govindini when she was doing guest appearances on Fox News.
I’ve also watched Jason’s previous feature — Terminal Island — and a short student film he made, San Pedro.
Here’s the thing about Kalifornistan. Regardless of Jason’s political intents, he is too much of an artist first and an ideologue second for Kalifornistan to have much utility as a propaganda piece.
It is, first and foremost, an art house film.
It is, secondly, a live-action comic monologue narrated in the voice of a manic cartoon character.
It is, thirdly — as was Jason Apuzzo’s first feature, Terminal Island – an homage to noir films.
And it is, fourthly, as much of a love letter to Jason’s favorite shooting location — the harbor area around San Pedro, California, where he also shot Terminal Island and San Pedro — as Manhattan has been for Woody Allen.
The film’s story, such as it is, follows a largely-offscreen deranged Islamic terrorist as he plots the nuking of Los Angeles, is sent to then escapes from Gitmo, and overall is stalked by a bounty hunter while he stalks and unsuccessfully tries to rape an exotic dancer. Hijinks and violence ensue.
Oddly, this was close to being the story, such as it was, for Jason Apuzzo’s first feature, Terminal Island. Kalifornistan comes close to being a remake.
I don’t think I can emphasize enough how incredibly weird this movie is. It’s Taxi Driver meets Bugs Bunny. It’s Fellini meets Kubrick.
Kalifornistan is so bizarre you really should be required to drop acid before seeing it — or at least blow some chronic while watching it.
You take the classic gonzo movies — Freaks, Reefer Madness, Plan 9 From Outer Space — and it’s right up there on the “Oh my God I can’t believe this” meter. It overloads the senses, got me to laugh, and despite her lack of nudity Govindini is still smoking hot.
If not for Jason’s neocon politics blacklisting him, I can’t imagine this film not becoming a film-festival favorite. But of course he’s shot himself in the foot for that. Believe me, I know all about doing that from my own experience. The ideologues who program the major film festivals won’t notice that by choosing an insane Jihadi as its viewpoint character, Kalifornistan is vastly more a biting satire on American culture than it is a dramatization of a Michelle Malkin rant. Using the terrorist in this film as a representative of Islamic Jihad makes about as much sense as using Heath Ledger’s Joker or Jack Nicholson’s R.P. McMurphy as representatives of American imperialism.
It is so self-consciously art house that it astounds me formerly conservative and now neocon publications like Human Events and National Review are even noticing it. I assume it’s because of Jason and Govindini’s past credentials. But I almost can’t believe they watched the movie before writing about it. It is thoroughly useless in making any sort of coherent political point.
Film is a presentational, rather than a literary, medium. What a filmmaker’s personal beliefs are, and what a film presents, are often a disconnect. Of course Deconstructionism of what a fictional story — filmed or written — presents would require me, as a reviewer, to eliminate whatever Jason Apuzzo’s intent might be from my viewing of his film.
But as a storyteller, myself, who struggles hard to make what I write and what my audience perceives as consonant as possible, I’ve always been hostile to the Deconstructionism philosophy. This, then, creates the danger C.S. Lewis warns about in An Experiment in Criticism, that instead of doing my job as a reviewer of a film or book I may instead attempt to psychoanalyze its author.
I’ll take that chance.
Kalifornistan identifies so thoroughly with the viewpoint of its anti-American comic narrator that I wonder if this is Jason Apuzzo’s passive-aggressive way of telling the neocons to piss off without them even realizing it.
And maybe he doesn’t even realize it, himself.
For one thing, the movie doesn’t have any sort of traditional narrative structure. It’s non-linear. It has a series of false climaxes before ending on an anti-climax. I can’t find an ounce of suspense in it.
For another thing, it doesn’t have a lead actor. The viewpoint character — the from-Toontown narrator — is off-screen for the first part of the movie then when we finally see him, it’s beside the point.
Kalifornistan is not a studio-budget movie. It’s more than likely that some of its narrative faults and limitations were a result of lack of money.
Jason Apuzzo is, first and foremost, an excellent cinematographer. For all its budget challenges the movie is beautifully shot.
But I’m not about to suggest Jason for an Oscar as either a screenwriter or director. Jason has expressed admiration for many classic films with traditional narrative structures. That in abandoning narrative structure he also abandons suspense is, for me, an enigma.
Is this film worth the nineteen bucks including shipping I paid for it and the 90 minutes I spent watching it?
It was for me, or I wouldn’t be telling you about it.
You can buy the DVD at http://www.kalifornistan.com/.
Go to book’s beginning.
I Met God
— God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 1: Kid Atheist
Neil, you’ve gone through many different philosophical stages in your life, and your career reflects many different areas of thinking and experiences that you have had. What I would like to begin with in this discussion about your experience with God, the first question I want to ask you is: Do you remember your age, when you first decided as a kid that you were an atheist?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN:
Yes. I remember it very explicitly. It was a very dramatic moment in my young life.
I was five years old. I was living in Forest Hills, New York — with my parents, obviously — and I was out walking on our street in front of our house with my mother. And for some reason — I don’t remember what caused this but I do remember the incident — I looked up into the sky and I saw the sun coming from behind a cloud.
Now let me just stop for just a moment. The sun coming from behind a cloud seems to be some sort of universal image — almost in a Jungian sense — for God. How I, at five years old, identified or associated that image with God, I don’t know. Maybe I’d seen it on television; but in any case, at five years old, I had that association in mind.
I saw the sun burst out from behind the cloud and I turned to my mother and I said, “Where is God?” and my mother said something the equivalent of “I don’t know” or “Nobody knows.” I don’t exactly recall her response; except what it came down to was she was not going to give me any sort of definite answer that this was something that people knew. When she said “I don’t know,” or “Nobody knows,” or some such answer, my answer to her was, “Well, then I don’t believe that God exists.”
That show-me attitude was characteristic of the way I’d view the problem pretty much for the next 20 to 25 years of my life.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Were you ever taken to temple or given religious instruction when you were growing up?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Again yes. I specifically recall my maternal grandfather, Samuel Lindenbaum, taking me to shul with him. I do not recall it being a particularly interesting or warm experience. I mean I enjoyed being with my grandfather; I liked being out with him. Again I was very young, maybe six years old, and my mother’s father and mother lived not far from us, also in Forest Hills.
Actually one of my earliest memories of synagogue is a scary one. There was this elevator in the shul and I remember we got on the elevator and the elevator went down to the basement for some reason — maybe it was going the wrong way — the doors opened up and it was a cellar — you know like a storage area — and I was very, very frightened — then the doors closed and we went up again. So I guess we’d just ended up on the wrong floor, but interestingly, one of the first associational memories I have with shul is a negative one, of being scared of the basement.
Now I had no formal education in Judaism when we lived in New York but again, we left it when I was around age seven. We moved to Massachusetts at that point. However, my impression at that age was that the neighborhood where we lived in Forest Hills was almost completely Jewish. I knew of only one Catholic family who lived across the street and I thought that that was the ratio of the world, that everybody was Jewish except there was this one Catholic family. Everyone else was Jewish. I was living entirely in a Jewish world at the beginning of my life. Then at age seven we left this neighborhood in New York City and we moved to Massachusetts where it was exactly the opposite. Suddenly everybody we knew was Christian and we were the only Jewish family.
My formal education in Judaism started with Bar Mitzvah training. That probably started somewhere around age 11 and that happened because my grandparents wanted me to be Bar Mitzvahed and it was explained to me that if I agreed to be Bar Mitzvahed I would have to have Hebrew lessons and then at age 13 I would be Bar Mitzvahed.
I did it largely because my grandparents — on both sides— wanted me to do it. My maternal grandfather, the one I just talked about, died in 1961 — when I was eight years old — so he wasn’t there anymore. But my maternal grandmother wanted me to be Bar Mitzvahed. My paternal grandmother died in 1963, when I was ten years old, so she wasn’t part of it. So it was my maternal grandmother and my paternal grandfather who wanted me to be Bar Mitzvahed. Judaism was very important to them.
Around eleven I started Hebrew lessons with Louisa Munzer, who was a survivor of Auschwitz and she told me stories of the concentration camp. I found out how she had been selected for medical experiments, which left her sterile and unable to have children — this was an amazing thing for an adult to be telling a child about, by the way, stories like this.
She taught me Hebrew, a language which I did not warm to. I disliked it. It was not that easy a language to learn, it had a different alphabet — its own character set — and everything was different about it. You wrote from right to left instead of left to right. It was alien to me. I don’t know what my language skills were but I did not find it easy and I did not find it pleasant. However, I did have a good accent — I was able to speak it with perfect accent — but my comprehension was very bad, my ability to read for comprehension was very bad. I could just read whatever was on the page without understanding what it was. I could sound out the words and speak it well. But it was rote, it was phonic, it was not reading for the most part with meaning.
So, I did go through a Bar Mitzvah. The last year I went to Hebrew school at the temple where I was Bar Mitzvahed, in Framingham, Massachusetts. But then as soon as I was Bar Mitzvahed, I wanted no further part of it. I had the big party, had the Bar Mitzvah, made my grandparents very, very happy and then that was pretty much it, as far as my religious education. I had almost no interest in religion for a long time after that. I’d had my fill of it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: From the age of five to when you were Bar Mitzvahed as a young teenager and you were going through all of this training and education, did you ever express to anybody at the Hebrew school the doubts you had expressed to your mother at five about your not believing in God? Did the subject of your belief in God ever come up in your entire training on your way to the Bar Mitzvah?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It never came up. It was totally irrelevant.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Can you please expand on that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was a ceremony. I could have been training for an opera in a foreign language. It was something that I was doing to please my grandparents. But what I believed was of no consequence to anybody and the subject never even came up for discussion.
Now interestingly, I do remember the sermon that the Rabbi gave the day of my Bar Mitzvah. It was a point that I found interesting. The Rabbi’s sermon, that day, was interesting because he was speaking about an Eye for an Eye and a Tooth for a Tooth and I do remember that he said that the commandment was not a demand for justice or vengeance but a limitation. It was interesting to me because I’d never heard it in that context. The idea that you only get one eye and you only get one tooth. You don’t get the entire mouthful of teeth and everybody else’s eyes. So there were at least some moral principles there, which I guess I absorbed at some level.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Would you say the beginning of your libertarian moral positions may have begun on that day?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. First of all I lived in a household where morality was pretty much taken for granted. I was not a child who was ever interested in stealing. I mean you have kids who will steal candy or steal some trinket or something like that. It never crossed my mind. It was never even something I ever even thought of doing. Actually taking something that we didn’t pay for? I would have considered it a horrible mistake. It just wasn’t part of me.
Even going to school, until I was greeted with hostility and irrationality — unexpected hostility and irrationality — coming from New York, I expected adults to be, for the most part, rational in their treatment of children. That was what I had experienced in this community in New York — in Forest Hills — where I started kindergarten and first grade. When I started school in Massachusetts I started getting reactions from teachers, which seemed to me wildly out of proportion —some that I worked into The Rainbow Cadenza.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: How about one example?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The clearest example is that on my first day of second grade with my teacher, Miss Lafford — I still remember her — she gave me a piece of paper on which I was to write the numbers one to 100 in boxes all the way up — “1” on the upper-left-hand corner and “100” on the lower-right-hand corner — and I needed to fill in all those numbers. She gave it to me and said, “All right, you need to do this.” I said, “Okay that’s easy,” and she glared at me and said, “Just do it!” Exactly like that. I was shocked. Why was she irrationally angry with me? I found that this sort of behavior was repeated to me in school, but nonetheless my expectation coming into it was rationality and evenhandedness and benevolence.
I never understood adults who treated me this way and it basically took me from really having an innocent expectation that you went to school to learn to what eventually made me very, very hostile to school and eventually to learning itself — something I had to overcome in myself by the time I was 15, 16 years old. I was a kid who loved reading and it got to the point where I couldn’t pick up a book anymore.
The point that I was leading into is that morality for me at that age was simply not even a question. In other words, I wanted to please adults. My first impulse was to be good and to please adults. It wasn’t until adults refused to be pleased and were hostile, and kept on throwing me all these curves, that any other impulse even arose in me. My natural state was happy and innocent and wanting to please the adults around me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You shifted out of that desire to please and became more cautious and suspicious and even finally had to teach yourself to want to learn again. About what age would you have been when you realized the education you were going to have in your future life would primarily be through self-education?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, it happened naturally. It happened when I discovered libraries. First in Natick, and then for eight weeks during the summer we went up to the Berkshires. My father was a violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Every summer he played at Tanglewood with the BSO and we rented a summer home near Tanglewood, right outside Lenox, Massachusetts. So the two libraries most influential on me were the Morse Institute library in Natick, the town in Massachusetts where we lived during the school year, from age seven thru around 17, and in the summers the Lenox Library, in Lenox, Massachusetts.
The significance of each of them is that the Morse Institute Library was where I discovered Heinlein, where they had most of the Heinlein juveniles. The Lenox Library was where a librarian named Judith Conklin introduced me to The Chronicles of Narnia. I asked her for something to read and she pointed me over to the shelves with The Chronicles of Narnia.
Incidentally, simply as an anecdote, this last time I was in Massachusetts I found out she’s still working for the Lenox Library and she’s married — she’s now Judith Conklin-Peters — and I autographed a copy of Escape from Heaven and left it for her. I didn’t see her there but she did still work there and I autographed a copy of the book and thanked her for introducing me to The Chronicles of Narnia in that inscription. So that story has a circle to it.
But again, as I say, it happened very naturally. I was a comic-book reader even back in Forest Hills, New York. I was reading Superman comic books. When I say I read Superman comics, I read Superman, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Justice League, Batman, Flash and Green Lantern, all of them. I read all of them, all of the DCs. But particularly, Superman and Superboy were my favorites, and when they had Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen comics I read those. Action comics, Adventure comics, all of them, if it had DC on it I read it. So, a lot of my reading initially was comic books and that lead naturally into science fiction and fantasy.
So by the time I got to these libraries, which had Heinlein and C.S. Lewis, that was just natural to me. My main school experience was that I was a reader and was never really challenged by anything that they threw at me in those areas. Math I wasn’t as good at. History I was pretty good at. Music, of course, coming from a musical family, anything they threw at me there was easy. So really the only challenge I had was math and that came to a crisis in eighth grade.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, during all of this period did you find yourself thinking about God at all, and I include when you were reading The Narnia Books, did the thought of God ever cross your mind?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No, never crossed my mind. I have attended, as an adult, meetings of the C.S. Lewis Society in both New York and Southern California —and as a matter of fact, served on the Council of the Southern California C.S. Lewis Society for several terms at different times.
I have heard it said during those meetings that it is obvious that the Narnia Chronicles were Christian parables. Well let me say that for me wasn’t obvious. I came from a family that knew almost nothing about Christianity … and what it did know was wrong. So it never crossed my mind that Aslan was supposed to be Jesus Christ, it never crossed my mind that this had anything to do with Christianity. What’s more, if I had known that — if Judith Conklin had told me that these were Christian stories — they never would have gotten into my hand off the bookshelf. Because Christianity was something totally alien to me and not something attractive.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Did you think that Christianity might be some of the same boring experience you’d had in Hebrew school, only maybe worse?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. It never even rose to that level. It was not even something I considered at that age. It just was not part of my life — even living in Massachusetts, where almost everybody I went to school with wasn’t Jewish.
The only real close friend I had — who is still a friend today — was my Jewish friend, Bob Schneider. So even then, that’s the friend whose family my parents socialized with. My parents didn’t socialize with any of the non-Jewish parents of the school children with whom I went to school in Natick, so there was a divide even there.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You parents did not go to temple?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. My parents were entirely secular in the way they raised me. My going to Hebrew lessons and then Hebrew school and being Bar Mitzvahhed was simply for that one purpose. They never asked nor expected anything further of me once I was Bar Mitzvahhed.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you remember what age it was when you next thought about God at all, since your decision at age five, when the sun appeared from behind the cloud and you asked your mom “where’s God?” Do you remember the next time you thought about God?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: In between that — and starting to consider God — I would say that I was into odd phenomena, the supernatural, psychic phenomena — E.S.P. as we called it back then — or telepathy.
My father had told me a number of psychic-related experiences, he’d had, precognitive dreams — we were very telepathic with each other. So in other words, these sorts of things were fairly common in our family, what we would call psychic phenomena or the supernatural.
My father in his younger days had been very interested in these sorts of things, even attending séances. He told the story of going into a house he’d never been to before and standing in the entrance way and telling everybody where everything was, because he’d had a precognitive dream about being there. He told about having a dream which saved his life, where he had this dream in which his car went out of control on a certain highway in New York because the headlights went out and the car crashed, in this dream. Then the next time he was there at night he remembered the dream just before he got to that curve and slowed down, his lights did go out but because he had slowed down he was able to control the car on the exit and didn’t die.
My father told a very dramatic story about when he was playing a gig at a hotel in the Catskills. He was with a woman singer — I can’t remember her first name but I remember her last name, it was La Brea, like the tar pits. A stage name, I think. She was a medium as well as being a singer and my father was rehearsing with her in the rooms where the help were — the musicians being part of the staff, away from the main house.
Very dramatic things happened there. My father was telling the story: the lights went out where they were and he got scared and tried to leave and the door wouldn’t open. And he tried to light matches and they wouldn’t light. Then she said “You’re making my spirit Indian guide angry!” and then an entire chest of drawers went across the room by itself – was thrown across the room. At that point she said “Sit down!” and my father sat down. Then things calmed down and the lights went on. My father then got out of there as fast as he could and the door opened and he got out.
So stories like that were part of my background, but I never associated any of it with God or religion or anything like that. But the possibility of the supernatural was real to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Did your father talk to you about these experiences?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, they were anecdotes. My father was always a raconteur and this was part of the repertoire of the stories he told, just like he told jokes. But he also was very interested in hypnosis and Houdini and stage magic and all these sorts of things.
My father’s personality was that he was a science-fiction fan who read Amazing back when Hugo Gernsback was editing it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right, the original days.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: So in other words there were science-fiction books around the house — not Heinlein or anything like that — but I remember that 1984 and Brave New World were around. There was a book of Native American Nature Myths, which I read and found very interesting, as well as other things like that.
My father was a voracious reader. He loved reading eclectically and so there were a lot of books around our house when I was growing up and I sampled them and probably got a very rich and varied education from these books — far more then I was getting from school.
So to leap forward to where your question gets to: “When did I start thinking about God again?”
It probably wasn’t until I got to New York again, in 1970 at around aged 17 and then met up with people in New York who had read Ayn Rand. That’s when these questions started up again. This was really the first group of intellectuals I’d ever really met –— the crowd in New York of libertarians.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: There was a heavy Ayn Rand/Objectivist element?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And that really confirmed me in my atheism because I was given very strong arguments from the Objectivist viewpoint, from the Ayn Rand viewpoint. Which basically confirmed those tendencies in me. However, I was a fan of C.S. Lewis and so I was brought to the C.S. Lewis Society meetings — by Samuel Edward Konkin III, whom I met in New York — and I found out that Lewis wrote books for grownups also, not just the Narnia Chronicles. I started sampling those books, I don’t know if I read heavily into his nonfiction before I got to California after 1975.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: At this time did you read the Perelandra books?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That probably also didn’t happen until I got to California, but at least I became aware that there was more than Narnia.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And TheScrewtape Letters?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s possible that I read Screwtape in New York. I don’t remember exactly in what order I came across them. I do remember that Mere Christianity, Miracles and The Problem of Pain — those books weren’t until I got to California after 1975.
So, I would say that I didn’t start thinking about God again until, really, I started attending the C. S. Lewis Society meetings in New York then later in California. More in California, because the New York C.S. Lewis Society was much more of a literary group than a Christian group, whereas in California the emphasis was more on the theology. I would say that I didn’t start thinking about God again until I got to the Lewis Society meetings in Southern California where most of the attendees were more interested in Lewis as a theologian than as a fiction author.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Do you remember if during this period you read The Great Divorce?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Sometime in that period in California I would have read The Great Divorce, yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Let me ask this then, regarding Lewis. At some point, then, you realized that the Narnia books you had enjoyed so much as a child did have this extra Christian dimension.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You must have noticed it at this period?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, it would have been talked about endlessly at the Lewis Society meetings.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Did that, in any way, put you off your pleasant childhood memories of the books?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Or did it merely enrich them … or was it just something interesting to know?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It was informative. I didn’t resent it at all. I mean, by that time I had pretty much been living in a secular Christian world for most of my childhood and adulthood.
For the ten years in Massachusetts, I wasn’t really living in a Jewish community, so there was very minimal contact with that. I mean my relatives were Jewish, Bob Schneider and his family were very, very Jewish, so much so that Bob went off to live in Israel to live in a kibbutz for a while, and came back and told me the shaggy-dog stories they told around the campfire, and about shoveling manure.
I will say that there was a point at which I considered going to Israel myself — at around age 14 or so. But that wasn’t because I had any desire to go to Israel, but simply because I hated the school I was in so much I would have considered any alternative. I mean if you had told me that going to school in Nazi Germany was possibility, it would have been somewhere on the list. It might not have been at the top of it, but I really got to the point at which I just hated the school I was at in Massachusetts.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You were ready to try something else.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I was ready to try anything else. So by the time I got to California and the C.S. Lewis Society meetings I’d been living in a Christian, secular society for so long that Christianity was no longer a shock. To tell you the truth, it probably had a little flavor of forbidden fruit to me — a little sexiness because of that.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: What about the Rand arguments that reinforced your original atheism? Because it sounds to me like reaction you had at age five, to your mother, is a reaction that was worthy of Ayn Rand herself. Rand, of course was somebody who had come from a Jewish background but walked away from the Russian background, the Jewish background, the family background. She talked about the accident of birth and tried to create this highly individualist American cult, fundamentally. So she was an odd transmission belt for a Jewish libertarian, because who could be more American than Ayn Rand? Yet, what is America? It’s a Christian country, and here was Ayn Rand, the ultimate atheist.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Look, let me try to describe myself at that age. If I thought of myself as a follower of anybody, I mean there was a period when I considered myself sort of philosophically Objectivist. But at the point when I talked to Ayn Rand, when I was doing what was supposed to be an interview with her for The New York Daily News, which never happened, but nonetheless we talked for hours, at that point in August of 1973 I considered myself philosophically an Objectivist.
But, there was this other strain of philosophy in me, which I considered just as important and that was Robert Heinlein. I considered myself a rationalist. I was interested in science. I was interested in space — all these sorts of pro-high-tech, Jetson-type worlds. This was what I wanted. The past had no interest for me whatsoever. Tradition was abhorrent to me. Do something just because it was tradition? That’s ridiculous — where’s the sense in that? None of that had any appeal to me. Nothing drew me to the past, everything drew me to the future. I was a total and utter futurist.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Didn’t you once say, on Jack’s radio show; “The trouble with Religion is it’s just about the past”?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That’s exactly right, and that was how I felt about religion. I mean, I didn’t know enough about Christianity to feel that way about it then, but I certainly felt that way about Judaism. It all seemed to be about ritual and tradition and things that were not part of my thinking, not part of my world.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, Rand had given you this reinforcement for the atheist perspective.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, she had taken my instant childhood concept —“If nobody knows where God is, I don’t think there is one”— and, in essence, given me layers of philosophical reasoning, which supported it and gave me a grown-up version of that, which was: God is incompatible with natural law. Since I was a believer in natural law, and I couldn’t see how a supernatural God made any sense, her arguments were pretty well convincing to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: At this same period you were also getting involved with the C.S. Lewis group.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Particularly in books like Miracles, where Lewis got into questions of metaphysics like this, where he was discussing the supernatural in things like his book The Abolition of Man and in Mere Christianity and in his book Miracles. All these sorts of things, where he was addressing these fundamentals — the same issues that Rand was discussing — of not only epistemological issues, but also the issues of how would you conceive what the supernatural is?
If there was anything that fundamentally described my philosophy, in some fundamental sense, in those days, is the line from Hamlet, “There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” I knew that there was more than just materialism because I had experienced it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Which is your psychic experience?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But now talk about Neil Schulman, the author again for a moment. In your novel TheRainbow Cadenza, the encounters between a character who follows Rand — I guess you could say — and a character who is inspired by Lewis, those exchanges that must have been very personally important to your intellectual development. Was that what was going on in you at that time — both sides of the debate? The argument from the C.S. Lewis side that there might be something beyond the immediate material realm of the senses versus the Randian argument that this is all we’ve got, this thing we have here in front of us basically? Was that your own mind working in the debate — in that exchange — between those characters in The Rainbow Cadenza?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That is exactly what was going on. Now Rainbow Cadenza was published in 1983 but I finished it Christmas Day, 1981. And the conception of it had started five years before. Almost as soon as I finished Alongside Night, I started working on what originally had been outlined as The Carnal Commandment and later became The Rainbow Cadenza.
By the time I actually got to the writing of the book, the bulk of which was written in 1981 — the latter third of the year was probably when all but the first few chapters were written. By that time, I’d read a lot of Lewis, a lot of his nonfiction. So the arguments were swirling back and forth, almost like one of those movies where you have a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other shoulder. Well in this case it wasn’t a devil and an angel — it was two opposing philosophies.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I was going to ask you who’s who, who’s the devil and who’s the angel?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, obviously we have to allow Lewis to be the angel, simply for traditional purposes. So I have a Randian devil and a Lewisian angel debating with each other over my soul. But nonetheless, I was thinking of it not in terms of anything other than: who’s right? In other words it was an epistemological question, which Lewis raised in me. That is: are there ways of knowing other than the five senses which Rand talked about as the primary source — the only source — of human knowledge?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: “Can emotions be tools of cognition?”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well “feelings,” because I do see an important semantic distinction between “feelings” and “emotions.” The word “emotion” implies that it is a reaction to something that’s going on around you. The word “feeling” is not so defined that it doesn’t allow for feelings being a source of other information in the psychic sense — almost more like intuition, or something like that.
I was, of course, conflicted because I’d had these experiences and believed that they were real. I was convinced that they were real, as a matter of fact. But, nonetheless, I was an atheist and if there was going to be a supernatural then it had to be one that was as scientifically possible as the natural world that I knew about.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter II: First Doubts
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
“Who are the people most opposed to escapism? Jailers!”
I’ve written eleven books and this is my twelfth. Counting this one, seven of them are nonfiction.
I’ve also been a newspaper photographer, a songwriter, a boiler-room phone salesman, a campus activist, a meeting and conference organizer, a journalist, a magazine editor, a screenwriter, a pizza man, a literary agent, a book publisher, a film director, a poet, a philosopher, and an actor.
But more likely than not when I’m introduced to an audience — after the audience is assured that I need no introduction — I’ll be introduced as a science-fiction writer.
Gee whiz, that’s leaving an awful lot out of the introduction.
But it’s still the highest compliment I can be given.
The charge of escapism is made against movies, books, magazines, comics, TV shows, games, comedy, and any other entertainment medium that engages the imagination. I’ve spent a good deal of my professional career — and my personal life — doing nothing else.
The term “escape artist” is usually applied to stage magicians — like the immortal Harry Houdini — who bind and chain themselves in handcuffs, shackles, locks, and chains, sometimes with time pressures like drowning or suffocation to limit the amount of time they have to escape. I suppose to be fair we’ll now have to add stage magic, itself, to the list of escapist entertainment since the audience knows the magician is somehow tricking them and are caught up in the suspense regardless.
The key to any sort of escapism is the audience member’s “willing suspension of disbelief.”
All consumption of narrative entertainment — and that does include games, jokes, and tricks — involves a conscious act of faith.
Guess what? I now get to add religion onto the list of escapist activities. Without imagination, there can be no religion.
That should not be either a surprise or an offense to anyone whose religion begins with the Book of Genesis. Are we not told by that story that we are made in God’s image? The verb of image is “imagine.” If we were indeed created by God, we were created by an act of Divine Imagination.
C.S. Lewis — both a Christian apologist in nonfiction and a writer of Christian mythopoeic fantasy in fiction — understood that without what he called a “baptized imagination” there can be no genuine faith. That’s why Lewis defended even the science-fiction and fantasy written by atheists and agnostics against the charges of “escapism.” All Lewis asked for was a level playing field with other purveyors of imagination to weave his narrative spells. Lewis believed that once the imagination was turned on, God would do the rest.
Which, of course, leads us to a seeming paradox: if there’s a serious point behind the fantasy, just what is it that one is escaping from?
I think the escape is from the idea that life must be dull and routine. I assure you. The life of the dullest person you know — if you give a writer like me the chance to get to know them — is the stuff of legend.
Fans of fantasy and science fiction refer to those who don’t share their passion for escape as “mundanes.” But no one is mundane. There are only people who are afraid that if they dream, they will awaken into a nightmare.
I sometimes wonder whether the most successful fantasy writer of our time, Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, was inspired by the fan’s epithet for the non-fan to invent the term “muggle” for human beings without magical talents.
The term “fan” itself is telling. Quite the opposite of William Shatner’s classic Saturday Night Live skit — which centered around the Captain Kirk actor telling Trekkies to “Get a life!” — the word “fan” is short for “fanatic.”
This is a book about liberating human beings from the chains on their passion.
I assure you, the word “fan” is a good description of someone engaged in pursuing a passion. They already have a life. It may be an inner life invisible to the materialist, but playboys and mountain climbers probably wouldn’t think a Buddhist or Catholic monk — or scholars, philosophers, poets, or mathematicians — have much of a life either, huh?
I have news for fans of science-fiction and fantasy. If they think Holden Caulfield’s lost weekend in New York City, or John Steinbeck’s Joad family trekking from Oklahoma to California, or even Arthur Miller’s Willy Loman dreaming of success while succumbing to despair, are any less works of imagination than stories of time-travel or visitors from outer space, then I suggest their imagination needs some work. None of these characters are real. What happens to them in their stories is a reflection of what their authors understand about life. If the author gives their characters a hard time — if what they see is nearsighted, if their choices are limited — it’s because their authors want to prove something to you.
But I also have news for those snobs who consider science fiction and fantasy trivial escapism: these genres fearlessly explore those universal questions most important to human life and human happiness.
Science fiction and fantasy are the literature of “if.” The “if” in these stories play precisely the same role in a narrative as the X and Y do in higher math. These “ifs” are the variables in the equations of human existence.
If the next war were not a civil war among human beings but against invaders from another planet — H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds, 1898
If a small orphan girl living in the hardship of a Kansas farm could run away to a magical world — L. Frank Baum, illustrated by W.W. Denslow, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, 1900
If families could be replaced by the State — Aldous Huxley, Brave New World, 1932
If Stalinism ruled the entire world — George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four , 1949
I could fill up this chapter just by listing more classic works of science-fiction and fantasy, or my favorites, or the authors who created them. While I haven’t hesitated to express my personal tastes elsewhere in this book, starting to reel off my favorites in my own profession would be both endless and personally dangerous. Once I start I dare not stop — what if I missed one written by a friend?
Imagination is the Sixth Sense. It’s the way we interpret the mere facts of the world we live in. It sees larger landscapes than the other five senses.
Imagination is the cure to the claustrophobia that causes a gang member to think that his ‘hood is the whole world, or the walls-closing-in despair that cripples the courage needed to keep going.
If by exploring forgotten worlds, or unreal worlds, or merely heretofore undeveloped worlds, we learn something useful about living in this one, that would be enough of a reason for our imaginations to make the journey. But often enough the worlds we see through imagination are unseen worlds we can discover … or build.
It’s good to imagine utopias and tell stories of the people who live in them. Those are the thought experiments — the dry runs, the proving grounds — that might help us discover the unintended consequences that turn one dreamer’s perfect world into another dreamer’s hell.
It’s worthwhile to read stories about what aliens might be like when we meet them — even though every alien you meet in a story is just a human psyche wearing a rubber suit. But even the attempt to imagine what an alien is like might turn out to be the key to communication if we meet them … and there is always the possibility that there are universal laws of consciousness that might mean no intelligent being we meet can be entirely alien.
Traveling through time, or into an alternate dimension, is a way of removing ourselves from our own assumptions and prejudices — if even for a few hours. When a single Einstein can revolutionize the human race’s understanding of physical law by imagining what time means for an object approaching the speed of light, what can an army of Einsteins do when their imagination is set free from the prison of learned authority?
Stories are lessons in how to see the unseen, to feel what someone else feels. Without imagination there can be no empathy. Without imagination and empathy, we are all trapped in our own head, alone and afraid. We “escape artists” are the explorers taking point in clearing the brush so you can see what’s outside.
The difference between what’s considered a realistic narrative and what’s considered a work of imagination is what the writer chooses to take for granted and what the author decides to make exceptional. In “realistic” fictions, the landscape is ordinary and the characters are exceptional. In imaginative fiction the viewpoint characters need to be everymen — as close to ordinary as possible — so we don’t get lost exploring strange lands and the unusual people who live there.
It wouldn’t do to have the Wizard of Oz take us on a tour of Never Never Land.
Or maybe it would.
Did I just come up with an escapist story idea?
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XIII: Science versus Omniscience
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
Anybody old enough remembers 1968 as the year the Second Amendment went into a coma. Five years earlier, November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by rifle fire in Dallas. Then, April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by rifle fire in Memphis. Two months after King’s murder, June 5th, 1968, after celebrating victory in the California Democratic Presidential Primary, President Kennedy’s younger brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated with a handgun at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A. Twenty weeks after the second Kennedy murder, the Gun Control Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson October 22nd, 1968, imposed federal gun controls on the sale or transfer of common firearms. Now any firearm crossing state lines had to be transferred or sold only through a federally licensed firearms dealer and records kept on buyers. Why this history lesson? Ever since June 26th, 2008, when the Supreme Court in its Heller decision recognized the Second Amendment as constitutionally enshrining an individual right to keep and bear arms, there’s been guarded optimism among Second Amendment proponents that a slow-and-steady march toward extinction of our rights had finally been reversed. The Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, which in its 1996 decision HICKMAN v. BLOCK wrote “[i]t is clear that the Second Amendment guarantees a collective rather than an individual right,” reversed itself on the basis of Heller and on April 20th in NORDYKE v. KING not only recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right but incorporated it through the 14th Amendment as one that must be recognized by state and local governments. On June 2nd the Seventh Circuit reached an opposite conclusion in NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA v. CITY OF CHICAGO, increasing likelihood the Supreme Court will have to decide between them. But the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling was 5-4, and if the Court shifts to an anti-Second Amendment make-up, Heller could be short-lived. Second Amendment politics is therefore still critical and politically motivated murders using firearms – particularly those identified with conservative causes – could once again swing the balance of public opinion against the Second Amendment. We’ve had two political murders identified with conservative causes – both using firearms – within as many weeks. On May 31st anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, using a handgun, fatally shot George R. Tiller, MD, while Dr. Tiller was handing out prayer books during services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder is reported to have been a member of the “anti-government Freemen Militia” in Topeka, and a 2005 court ruling in a custody case identified him as schizophrenic. Dr. Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita was one of only three clinics nationwide performing late-term abortions. It wasn’t the first time Dr. Tiller had been a shooting victim. On August 19th, 1993, using a handgun, anti-abortion activist Shelley Shannon had shot Dr. Tiller in both arms. Ten days after the church shooting, June 10th, James von Brunn carried a .22 rifle into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and shot to death African-American security guard, Stephen T. Johns. Motive? FBI Agent Richard Farnsworth filed a sworn affidavit that he found a handwritten note in von Brunn’s car that reads, “You want my weapons – this is how you’ll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews.” Clearly both Roeder and von Brunn identified with conservative causes. The Right to Life movement is right wing, as are “anti-government militias.” Not only did von Brunn worry about losing his firearms but in 1981 he’d pulled a sawed-off shotgun at Federal Reserve headquarters, threatening to take the Board hostage. As author, myself, of a novel in which the Federal Reserve causes a U.S. economic meltdown – a point of agreement between this particular right-wing Jew and this particular right-wing neo-Nazi — there’s no question for me that right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are engaging in a disgustingly dishonest game of spin when they try to convince their listeners that James von Brunn’s Nazi affections are left-wing, and his anti-Semitism no worse than President Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright’s. As my fellow libertarian novelist, Brad Linaweaver, pointed out to me, the Nazi Party in 1930’s Germany came to power by fusing left-wing economics with right-wing nationalism. And as far as I know, the only thing the Reverend Wright has ever shot off is his mouth. The issue is not whether Roeder or von Brunn were hateful and mentally unbalanced. Of course they were. Neither one could have passed a firearms background check, particularly the convicted felon, James von Brunn. Nor is it reasonably deniable that there are as many hateful and mentally unbalanced individuals on the hard left. Mega-deaths achieved not only by Nazis but Communists – plus endless ethnically and religiously motivated killings in Ulster, Rwanda, and Sarajevo – leave few political movements free of bloody hands. Unlike much of the rest of the world violence is still the exception rather than the norm in the struggle for American political change. But no “American exceptionalism” can shield us from political violence if we’re not as vigilant in purging the haters who join our causes as we are in pursuing our love of those values which make our lives fruitful, free, and just. Silent tolerance of bigots and haters is an intolerable danger to our just causes – particularly when one of those causes is the deterrence to despotism the Framers intended widespread private firearms to be. Our movement has a good track record in rooting out and shunning extremists, but that’s not good enough. We also need to admit openly that evil men do walk among us, and to tell the pundits who claim to educate us that that lying in defense of our rights is no virtue. Most importantly, we need to remain civil in disputes with our opponents, even while we fortify our backbones with steel. The Second Amendment movement just can’t tolerate a Bill O’Reilly who – knowing that Dr. Tiller had previously been shot at and his clinic bombed — repeatedly and editorially called George Tiller a “baby killer.” O’Reilly boasts The O’Reilly Factor has the highest ratings in cable/satellite television news. O’Reilly knew there are always psychotics waiting for a justification to commit mad violence and it was as foreseeable endlessly repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” was inviting murder as it was for King Henry II’s infamous remark that led to the assassination of Thomas à Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” It’s a lesson I learned in 1994. While promoting my book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns on the Chuck Baker radio show in Colorado Springs in August, 1994, I implored listeners to burn up Congress’s phone lines to stop passage of the unconstitutional Federal Assault Weapon Bill. One listener was Francisco Martin Duran, who was so worked up by our feverish rhetoric that he travelled to Washington D.C. and on October 29th, 1994 opened fire with his SKS semi-auto rifle on the White House lawn. Duran was convicted of trying to assassinate President Clinton and sentenced to 40 years. Like Roeder, Duran was mentally unbalanced. Like von Brunn he had a criminal record. Knowing that, I still now temper my rhetoric whenever I’m at a microphone. I have as many policy differences with President Obama as anyone else in the conservative or libertarian movements, particularly with economic policies. Nonetheless I voted for Obama over the slightly-more centrist John McCain. I saw Obama’s election as an opportunity to show the world once-and-for-all that America had moved beyond its sad history of race slavery and Jim Crow. It hurts me when I receive email from a conservative friend with an animated cartoon of a shucking-and-jiving dancing Obama that easily could come from the KKK. It frightens me when Sean Hannity churns listeners by endless harping on the President’s guilt-by-association with a 1960’s anti-Vietnam-War terrorist and oppression-legacy black minister, or calling the President’s quest for an end to violence between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs “selling out Israel.” How can Hannity claim to be fair-and-balanced when he refuses to inform his listeners that President Barack Hussein Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Israel Emanuel, is an observant Jew whose father fought with the Irgun underground in the founding of Israel and, himself, served as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf war of 1991? I have no problem with anyone opposing any Obama policies that we consider compromise our founding principles or weaken our rights. But neither can we Second Amendment supporters tolerate extreme rhetoric directed at a President certified as achieving electoral victory who’s taken the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The remedy provided by the Constitution, should he fail to live up to that oath, is impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate – not a knife on the floor of the Senate or rifle fire aimed at a presidential motorcade. God help us if another demented clown — even remotely associated with any of our causes — shoots at the first black President of the United States. I do not believe the Second Amendment could survive it. It’s not like change can’t be inspired by civilized rhetoric. Read Thomas Jefferson’s harshest summation about King George III in the Declaration of Independence: “A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Jefferson didn’t even need to drop the F-bomb. –J. Neil Schulman Pahrump, NV
Reprinted from the July 15, 2009 issue of The New Gun Week
Anybody old enough remembers 1968 as the year the Second Amendment went into a coma.
Five years earlier, November 22nd, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by rifle fire in Dallas.
Then, April 4th, 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated by rifle fire in Memphis.
Two months after King’s murder, June 5th, 1968, after celebrating victory in the California Democratic Presidential Primary, President Kennedy’s younger brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, was assassinated with a handgun at the Ambassador Hotel in L.A.
Twenty weeks after the second Kennedy murder, the Gun Control Act signed by President Lyndon Johnson October 22nd, 1968, imposed federal gun controls on the sale or transfer of common firearms. Now any firearm crossing state lines had to be transferred or sold only through a federally licensed firearms dealer and records kept on buyers.
Why this history lesson?
Ever since June 26th, 2008, when the Supreme Court in its Heller decision recognized the Second Amendment as constitutionally enshrining an individual right to keep and bear arms, there’s been guarded optimism among Second Amendment proponents that a slow-and-steady march toward extinction of our rights had finally been reversed. The Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, which in its 1996 decision HICKMAN v. BLOCK wrote “[i]t is clear that the Second Amendment guarantees a collective rather than an individual right,” reversed itself on the basis of Heller and on April 20th in NORDYKE v. KING not only recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right but incorporated it through the 14th Amendment as one that must be recognized by state and local governments. On June 2nd the Seventh Circuit reached an opposite conclusion in NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION OF AMERICA v. CITY OF CHICAGO, increasing likelihood the Supreme Court will have to decide between them.
But the Supreme Court’s Heller ruling was 5-4, and if the Court shifts to an anti-Second Amendment make-up, Heller could be short-lived.
Second Amendment politics is therefore still critical and politically motivated murders using firearms – particularly those identified with conservative causes – could once again swing the balance of public opinion against the Second Amendment.
We’ve had two political murders identified with conservative causes – both using firearms – within as many weeks.
On May 31st anti-abortion activist Scott Roeder, using a handgun, fatally shot George R. Tiller, MD, while Dr. Tiller was handing out prayer books during services at the Reformation Lutheran Church in Wichita, Kansas. Roeder is reported to have been a member of the “anti-government Freemen Militia” in Topeka, and a 2005 court ruling in a custody case identified him as schizophrenic. Dr. Tiller’s Women’s Health Care Services in Wichita was one of only three clinics nationwide performing late-term abortions. It wasn’t the first time Dr. Tiller had been a shooting victim. On August 19th, 1993, using a handgun, anti-abortion activist Shelley Shannon had shot Dr. Tiller in both arms.
Ten days after the church shooting, June 10th, James von Brunn carried a .22 rifle into the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and shot to death African-American security guard, Stephen T. Johns. Motive? FBI Agent Richard Farnsworth filed a sworn affidavit that he found a handwritten note in von Brunn’s car that reads, “You want my weapons – this is how you’ll get them. The Holocaust is a lie. Obama was created by Jews.”
Clearly both Roeder and von Brunn identified with conservative causes. The Right to Life movement is right wing, as are “anti-government militias.” Not only did von Brunn worry about losing his firearms but in 1981 he’d pulled a sawed-off shotgun at Federal Reserve headquarters, threatening to take the Board hostage. As author, myself, of a novel in which the Federal Reserve causes a U.S. economic meltdown – a point of agreement between this particular right-wing Jew and this particular right-wing neo-Nazi — there’s no question for me that right-wing pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck are engaging in a disgustingly dishonest game of spin when they try to convince their listeners that James von Brunn’s Nazi affections are left-wing, and his anti-Semitism no worse than President Obama’s former pastor, Jeremiah Wright’s.
As my fellow libertarian novelist, Brad Linaweaver, pointed out to me, the Nazi Party in 1930’s Germany came to power by fusing left-wing economics with right-wing nationalism.
And as far as I know, the only thing the Reverend Wright has ever shot off is his mouth.
The issue is not whether Roeder or von Brunn were hateful and mentally unbalanced. Of course they were. Neither one could have passed a firearms background check, particularly the convicted felon, James von Brunn.
Nor is it reasonably deniable that there are as many hateful and mentally unbalanced individuals on the hard left. Mega-deaths achieved not only by Nazis but Communists – plus endless ethnically and religiously motivated killings in Ulster, Rwanda, and Sarajevo – leave few political movements free of bloody hands.
Unlike much of the rest of the world violence is still the exception rather than the norm in the struggle for American political change. But no “American exceptionalism” can shield us from political violence if we’re not as vigilant in purging the haters who join our causes as we are in pursuing our love of those values which make our lives fruitful, free, and just.
Silent tolerance of bigots and haters is an intolerable danger to our just causes – particularly when one of those causes is the deterrence to despotism the Framers intended widespread private firearms to be. Our movement has a good track record in rooting out and shunning extremists, but that’s not good enough. We also need to admit openly that evil men do walk among us, and to tell the pundits who claim to educate us that that lying in defense of our rights is no virtue.
Most importantly, we need to remain civil in disputes with our opponents, even while we fortify our backbones with steel.
The Second Amendment movement just can’t tolerate a Bill O’Reilly who – knowing that Dr. Tiller had previously been shot at and his clinic bombed — repeatedly and editorially called George Tiller a “baby killer.” O’Reilly boasts The O’Reilly Factor has the highest ratings in cable/satellite television news. O’Reilly knew there are always psychotics waiting for a justification to commit mad violence and it was as foreseeable endlessly repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” was inviting murder as it was for King Henry II’s infamous remark that led to the assassination of Thomas à Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”
It’s a lesson I learned in 1994.
While promoting my book Stopping Power: Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns on the Chuck Baker radio show in Colorado Springs in August, 1994, I implored listeners to burn up Congress’s phone lines to stop passage of the unconstitutional Federal Assault Weapon Bill.
One listener was Francisco Martin Duran, who was so worked up by our feverish rhetoric that he travelled to Washington D.C. and on October 29th, 1994 opened fire with his SKS semi-auto rifle on the White House lawn. Duran was convicted of trying to assassinate President Clinton and sentenced to 40 years. Like Roeder, Duran was mentally unbalanced. Like von Brunn he had a criminal record.
Knowing that, I still now temper my rhetoric whenever I’m at a microphone.
I have as many policy differences with President Obama as anyone else in the conservative or libertarian movements, particularly with economic policies. Nonetheless I voted for Obama over the slightly-more centrist John McCain. I saw Obama’s election as an opportunity to show the world once-and-for-all that America had moved beyond its sad history of race slavery and Jim Crow. It hurts me when I receive email from a conservative friend with an animated cartoon of a shucking-and-jiving dancing Obama that easily could come from the KKK.
It frightens me when Sean Hannity churns listeners by endless harping on the President’s guilt-by-association with a 1960’s anti-Vietnam-War terrorist and oppression-legacy black minister, or calling the President’s quest for an end to violence between Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs “selling out Israel.”
How can Hannity claim to be fair-and-balanced when he refuses to inform his listeners that President Barack Hussein Obama’s White House Chief of Staff, Rahm Israel Emanuel, is an observant Jew whose father fought with the Irgun underground in the founding of Israel and, himself, served as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf war of 1991?
I have no problem with anyone opposing any Obama policies that we consider compromise our founding principles or weaken our rights.
But neither can we Second Amendment supporters tolerate extreme rhetoric directed at a President certified as achieving electoral victory who’s taken the oath to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The remedy provided by the Constitution, should he fail to live up to that oath, is impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate – not a knife on the floor of the Senate or rifle fire aimed at a presidential motorcade.
God help us if another demented clown — even remotely associated with any of our causes — shoots at the first black President of the United States.
I do not believe the Second Amendment could survive it.
It’s not like change can’t be inspired by civilized rhetoric.
Read Thomas Jefferson’s harshest summation about King George III in the Declaration of Independence:
“A prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”
Jefferson didn’t even need to drop the F-bomb.
–J. Neil Schulman
There’s a popular bumper sticker you might have seen: “If You Can Read This, Thank A Teacher.”
Here’s another one for you: “If You’re Reading Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto, Thank Superman.”
I was born in 1953, in New York City. I don’t remember a time we didn’t have a TV set in our living room. I watched cartoons. I watched Rocky Jones, Space Ranger. But my favorite TV show was by far the 1952-1958 TV series, Adventures of Superman, starring George Reeves.
What made Superman super was his super powers. He had super strength. Bullets bounced off him. He had X-Ray vision. But the super power I cared about most was that Superman could fly. He didn’t need an airplane or a helicopter. He didn’t need wings. He could just jump up and keep on going — as high as he wanted to, as far as he wanted to — defying gravity, and propelling himself to whatever destination he chose, faster than a speeding bullet — which for a speeding rifle bullet gets Superman to supersonic speeds.
Adventures of Superman stopped producing new episodes when I was five years old, and the possibility of a new season died with George Reeves in 1959. But the end of the TV show didn’t cut me off from my Superman habit, since a walk to the corner candy store had already revealed to me that there were Superman comic books, and other comic books in which Superman appeared as a character: Superboy, Lois Lane, Jimmy Olsen, Action Comics, Justice League of America, and others.
By the time I got to kindergarten I was already a proficient reader, although my vocabulary tended to be populated by words you didn’t find in Fun With Dick and Jane, like “invulnerable,” “stratospheric,” and “telepathic.”
I didn’t know it at the time, but before I was a year old a German-born psychiatrist named Fredric Wertham had written a book called Seduction of the Innocent, which argued that comic books corrupted youth and promoted juvenile delinquency. Beginning a few weeks after my first birthday, a subcommittee of the United States Senate Judiciary Committee — led by Republican New York Senator Robert Hendrickson and Democratic Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver — held hearings to investigate claims that “crime” and “horror” comic books caused good kids to go bad. One of the witnesses was William Gaines, publisher of E.C. Comics, which published comic books in the genres of science fiction, military, satire, crime, and horror. The committee were really only interested in the last two genres, which they considered the most graphic and lurid.
The result of Wertham’s campaign and the Senate hearings was a stirred up mob demanding censorship of comic books. The comic-book publishing industry did what any businessmen do when faced with the threat of government restrictions — they chained themselves first. The Comics Code was born which turned comic books, for the time I was reading them, largely into infantile pap — books like Casper the Friendly Ghost, Richie Rich, and Archie. That was fine when I was a baby just learning how to read. But by the time I was a teenager and discovered real science-fiction and fantasy in the library, I had outgrown these dumbed down comic-book stories and stopped buying them.
What I didn’t know until it was much too late for me was that if I had switched from DC comics — which published Superman — to Marvel Comics — which published Spider-Man and X-Men — I would have encountered the subversive Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, who were finding ways to get around the Comics Code with plot-lines and character development competitive with the science-fiction and fantasy books I was reading by Robert A. Heinlein and C.S. Lewis.
Meanwhile, I became a fan of William Gaines anyway, since he had moved on to publish the most iconic humor magazine of my youth, Mad Magazine.
But why was Superman so important to me?
Psychiatrist Carl Jung wrote of the collective unconscious and archetypes which are universal to the thoughts of all human beings. Building on this, Joseph Campbell wrote of universal myths and of a spiritual “force” that bound all of us together. This “force” eventually found its way into the mythology created by a young filmmaker, George Lucas, who used it as the centerpiece of Star Wars.
But the idea behind Superman is firmly embedded in our culture, going back to the Genesis story which begins Judaism, Christianity, and Islam: a story that tells us our race was created to be immortals who fell to a mortal life on earth as we know it today. The primary Western religions don’t just tell us what we lost; they promise us a New Eden, or Paradise, or Heaven, in which we get back what we lost.
Superman is the Jungian archetype embedded in our unconscious of what we were and are supposed to be again.
For many years I flew, like Superman, in my dreams, thinking they were only dreams. But even as dreams these were experiences as important to me as anything that happened to me when I was “awake.”
Then, I learned that some of these flying dreams could arise to a level of self-consciousness called “lucidity.”
I began to realize that, since I couldn’t fly while I was awake, if I was flying it meant I had to be dreaming. But if I knew I was dreaming then I wasn’t dreaming anymore — and if I didn’t wake up right away, it gave me a measure of conscious control of where I was flying.
Eventually this conscious control allowed me to fly to places and see things that I could remember when I woke up. And, by checking details on Yahoo and Google of what I had seen while “dreaming,” I found I could sometimes verify that what I saw while “asleep” was real.
Dreams had turned into astral travel or Out-of-Body projections.
At least while I was asleep — and no longer chained by my material body and the earth’s pull on it — I had become Superman.
And how great a liberation is that?
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XII: Escape Artists
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
gan·grene (gāng’grēn’, gāng-grēn’)
n. Death and decay of body tissue, often occurring in a limb, caused by insufficient blood supply and usually following injury or disease.
tr. & intr.v. gan·grened, gan·gren·ing, gan·grenes
To affect or become affected with gangrene.
[Medieval Latin cancrēna, from Latin gangraena, gangrēna, from Greek gangraina.]
gan’gre·nous (gāng’grə-nəs) adj.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
gan·grene (gāng’grēn’, gāng-grēn’)
n. Death and decay of human life, often occurring in a political economy, caused by insufficient energy supply and usually following injury to fossil fuel producers or Al Gore’s Disease.
tr. & intr.v. gan·grened, gan·gren·ing, gan·grenes
To affect or become affected with gangrene.
[Medieval Latin cancrēna, from Latin gangraena, gangrēna, from Greek gangraina.]
gan’gre·nous (gāng’grə-nəs) adj.
The J. Neil Schulman® Dictionary of the English Language, First Edition
Look, it’s easy to view the above as a bit of political satire, but it’s actually the way new usages enter a language.
“Gangrene” as a political tag is a perfect extension of the concept of a diseased limb rotting from lack of oxygen to an economy rotting from lack of energy.
“Gangrene” also starts with the word “gang,” which accurately identifies the leadership of the Gangrene movement as gangsters.
I first tried to move away from the concept of “green” entirely, when a half year ago I started a Facebook Group called The Golden Economy.
But trying to change the language of a debate is an uphill battle so instead of trying to challenge everything associated with the green political movement I’ve decided to take on the slightly more modest task of distinguishing between life-affirming “green” pursuits and life-strangling “gangrene” policies.
So let’s start contrasting Green versus Gangrene.
Scientists researching climate changes.
Scientists lying about climate changes.
Minimizing air pollution by charging back the costs to those who release harmful chemicals and particulate matter into the atmosphere, particularly when doing so causes breathing hazards.
Capping the release of so-called greenhouse gasses including carbon dioxide and methane — natural products of both animal and plant life — on the scientifically dubious grounds that doing so will cause global warming and an environmental crisis. Carbon dioxide and methane together comprise only a small percent of “greenhouse” gas, with simple water vapor accounting for ninety-five percent.
Opposing the dumping of non-biodegradable trash and waste into the ocean, where ocean currents form a Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Attacking petroleum companies for accidental tanker spills of crude oil, on the grounds that it destroys fish and wildlife. No evidence exists that such spills permanently decrease populations of fish or wildlife and crude oil, being a fertilizer, decays and feeds many species of plant life, eventually producing extra food supplies for many species of sea creatures and ocean-habitat birds as well.
Researching, inventing, and marketing additional sources of renewable energy: solar power, wind power, geothermal power, agricultural fuels.
Restricting, regulating, taxing, and burdening with bureaucratic barriers to market entry fossil-fuel energy that can lower energy costs and reduce the necessity of purchasing oil from cocksuckers who hate our guts. Gangrene organizations such as the Sierra Club file numerous lawsuits any time someone tries to start up a new domestic plant to refine oil or coal so it can be brought to market, and the federal government — which controls vast swaths of shale and coal rich land — refuses to allow exploitation of the natural resources which could make the United States entirely energy independent. Instead, pipe-dreams of solar, wind, and geothermal energy — that have not yet matured enough to be offered to consumers like me — are offered as solutions to energy poverty while crippling production of already available fossil-fuel energy.
Driving an electric or hybrid car when it’s convenient for local commuting, shopping, and visiting.
Penalizing, taxing, and raising the costs of the production and operation of gasoline-powered automobiles and light trucks which are actually more efficient for long-distance driving — and don’t have the hugely energy-intensive recycling costs of electric and hybrid auto batteries — than electric and hybrids. Also, all-electric vehicles are impractical for family vacations, because of limited driving range per charge with no commercial infrastructure for quick replacement of batteries and hours-long battery recharging times.
Installing LED units when low-light levels are all that’s needed to see.
Forcing people to switch from proven safe incandescent light bulbs to toxic-chemical-containing fluorescent bulbs for a slightly more efficient light output.
Coming up with an affordable, off-the-shelf, plug-and-play Home Energy Plant — wind, solar, or a combo unit — that I can buy at Walmart, and have a technician set up in my yard and plug into my electric meter. Right now all wind and solar solutions cost more than I’d pay in electricity — even at the current inflated prices — for ten years, and I can’t afford to switch over.
I’m paying what Dennis Miller has called “hotel minibar prices” to buy electric power for my all-electric house in the high desert — about $3600 a year in electric bills for a three-bedroom house. The United States has supplies of shale, natural gas, and coal which can be converted into oil, which could reduce my home electric bill and the costs of running my car to a fraction of its current costs. The government’s burdens on fossil-fuel energy production being added to the grid is keeping the price high and a $300 a month electric bill is a major burden.
Reading my free books on the web:
Reading Al Gore’s new book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis in paperback.
Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!