The debate mirrors a ton of other arguments I’ve seen between anarchists and statists in that it keeps revolving around a central issue, yet this issue is never really articulated clearly enough.
The key question is this:
The reason this central issue is so endlessly vexing is that it’s easy to point to instances where it is both. And, to confuse matters even more, over time, the nature of even any particular government can change. So there can be periods where it is more evil and others where it is more protective.
What I think needs to happen is that the debate needs to focus on the issue of evil itself. Where does evil come from and how should we best live in a world that is virtually guaranteed to always contain evil so as to maximize health and sustainability?
After a long and winding path, I finally zeroed in on this topic in the last couple of years. Things really took off when I learned about psychopathy and other conscience-reducing disorders and their influence, the book Political Ponerology by Andrew M. Lobaczewski, the field of ponerology and the concept of pathocracy. I ended up putting together some very comprehensive pages on these topics in my series regarding Biological Evil, which I spent over a year writing.
The series, and each page in it, is very long, so while I hope people will read as much of it as possible, I understand if they don’t make it through all of it.
However, there is one section from my page on psychopathy that I think so clearly focuses the Kokesh/The Amazing Atheist debate that I wanted to reiterate it here. It comes from a part of the write-up where I’m discussing protective measures that we must consider once we become conscious regarding the prevalence and influence of psychopaths and others with disorders that reduce conscience.
Limiting Access to Influential Positions
Time and again, modern power structures have proven highly vulnerable to infiltration – due to force and/or voter manipulation - by psychopathic characters. As long as we maintain such structures, it is crucial that we more effectively guard them against this occurrence. Doing so may involve a combination of education about the “mask of sanity,” fostering greater skepticism about charming figures who aim to manipulate important systems, and stricter screening and oversight of both visible and behind-the-scenes players that vie for impact on powerful institutions.
At the more radical end of the spectrum are those, including many anti-corporatists and anti-statists, who believe that the very existence of inordinately influential positions will inevitably lead, in a world harboring a significant contingent of Machiavellians, to the evolution of a pathocracy and, thus, represents an inherently untenable risk. They favor greater decentralization of power, if not outright abolition of governments and/or certain types of corporate and other institutional structures.
(NOTE: It is extremely interesting to consider how we can categorize people based on which of society’s power structures they most fear being hijacked for sinister purposes and how they believe we should respond to that potentiality.
Many “small government conservatives” are most fearful of the violations made possible when sinister forces seep into authoritarian centralized governments. Therefore, they want to reduce the size and power of those “abusive parent-like” governments. Yet, many of these same people do not seem as concerned by the transgressions made possible when those same forces seep into powerful corporate or other leadership structures.
On the other hand, many “big government liberals” seem to minimize the dangers posed by malicious infiltration of centralized governments. Instead, they are most fearful of potential violations by unethical people and entities in other sectors of society, such as regionally-institutionalized civil rights abuses and the predations of unchecked Machiavellian corporate power. These people feel that eliminating or highly decentralizing the government would represent a dangerous overreaction that would render us vulnerable because they see a strong, centralized government as the only “protective parent” powerful enough to safeguard us. If they even acknowledge the risk of government hijacking, they claim that we must simply act as constant watchdogs to ensure that its leadership is as clean and accountable as possible.
Then there are those who make less distinction between the various types of power structures and simply see large power structures of any kind as dangerously susceptible to Machiavellian hijacking. These people advocate for limiting the size and power of all such structures, whether political, corporate, religious or otherwise.)
I think this section puts the entire Kokesh/The Amazing Atheist debate into context with Kokesh, in general, playing the role of the “small government conservative” described above and The Amazing Atheist playing the “big government liberal” role, at least when we categorize them on the basis of which power structures they most fear being wielded harmfully.
I would sum up by saying that part of the problem with the debate is that it fails to clearly account for the fact that, when it comes to their ethical capacities, people are not created equally. In fact, some are created very, very differently - to the point where some credible scholars even think of them as almost a separate subspecies due to their substantial brain and genetic differences which are increasingly being discovered.
At one point, Adam does mention sociopaths. And TJ certainly alludes, without actually mentioning psychopaths or sociopaths directly, to the dangers some of these people might pose. But the topics of psychopathy and sociopathy were not consciously made a central focus. I think they need to be. When we do this, we reinforce our awareness that, when speaking about what is healthy and sustainable for human beings, we must distinguish between normal people and truly ethically pathological types of people.
I hope this information provides a broader context to these discussions of what is healthy and sustainable and of the optimal role of government. And I hope people interested will take the time to read the series or at least some of the pages in it.
In particular, the page on ponerology is perhaps the most important I’ve ever written. And on the page on pathocracy is a section on Logocracy, which is the name of one author’s attempt to describe his vision of an ideal system, built around recognition of the sources of evil, that would balance protecting us from those bent on doing harm with a humane approach. It is an interesting starting point for a discussion of what might be a pragmatic social structure that can best ensure both liberty and security.
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