International Man: Over the last few years, the global hysteria has shined a light on the morality of most people and their personal ethics. It has been eye-opening, to say the least.
Let’s discuss the meaning of ethics and what it means to live by them.
Webster’s Dictionary defines ethics as:
- the discipline dealing with what is good and bad and with moral duty and obligation
- a set of moral principles: a theory or system of moral values
- a set of moral issues or aspects (such as rightness)
What do you think about the average person’s ethics? And which ethics do you live by?
Doug Casey: These are all workable definitions, depending on the context. Now, there are clearly some people who have no ethics at all, which is to say no principles. They act on the spur of the moment, just doing whatever seems like a good idea at the time. Then there are other people who have flawed principles that will consistently send them in the wrong direction.
My own set of principles can be summed up in two statements:
1: Do all that you say you’re going to do.
2: Don’t aggress against other people or their property.
There are endless corollaries you can derive from these two principles.
It’s also important to distinguish between ethics, an individual’s own guiding principles, and morality, which is a set of community standards.
Since morals are politically derived artifacts, they really only have a coincidental, or even accidental, connection to ethics. Morality is something that’s dictated by a group or even imposed on a group by some kind of higher power. Ethics deals with the essence of right and wrong. Morality is just a construct of rules. It winds up being a bunch of precepts. Some have a basis in ethics. Others are just the consequence of people’s fears, quirks, and aberrations.
The difference between ethics and morals is analogous to that between using a gyroscope or a radar to navigate. A gyroscope is an internal device that keeps you level and steady without reference to what’s outside. Radar uses external cues bounced off other people to tell you which way to go. Morality tells you what to do; ethics acts as a guide to help you determine, yourself, what you should do.
That’s why ethics is a branch of philosophy, not religion. Morality, however, is closely associated with most religions, certainly including the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The ancient Greeks placed a great deal of importance on ethics, the guiding principles of good action, completely apart from whatever their frisky gods were up to. For them, religion had little to do with ethics, except for providing edifying stories to act as a cultural glue.
International Man: What is the basis for your principles, and how does that compare to those offered by Abrahamic religions—like the Ten Commandments?
Doug Casey: Some of the Bible’s commandments are basic common sense, of course. But even then, it can depend on the translation. “Thou shall not murder” means one thing, but “Thou shall not kill” can mean something very different.
But the first three commandments are admonitions regarding a supernatural being whose existence is, let us say, debatable. As ethical guidance goes, the decalogue is rather confusing, with the parts governing the way people treat each other looking like afterthoughts, after the instructions on how to worship.
The Ten Commandments are moral precepts and commands. They’re helpful as a foundation in a world where life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short. But they can lead you to think that you’ll be all right if you just do as you’re told, instead of figuring things out for yourself. The danger with dictates written in stone, as it were, is that they can get people into the mindset of following orders. Even if the orders are goofy or irrelevant or arbitrary as so many orders have been through the millennia. But the Ten Commandments are foundational to Western civilization, and that alone makes them worthy of respect and study.
Most people in the US worship Jesus, although that appears to be changing along with the country’s demographics, economics, and politics. Personally, I like the wisdom Jesus presents in gospel parables. My friend Paul Rosenberg is a letter writer who uses the parables as a reasonable guide. Gods like Baal or Quetzalcoatl don’t have anything to offer by comparison. However, if you must debase yourself before some construct, it might make more sense to have a household god, as did the Romans—that is, a god that represents and personifies the virtues that are important to you as an individual. My personal preference in gods are those that show nobility, as do many of the Greek gods, but especially, the Norse gods. But most gods have little to do with ethics or at least any more than Batman, Wonder Woman, or other superheroes do.
I certainly don’t want to offend anyone’s religious beliefs. They serve a purpose, and every society has to share moral grounding if it’s going to survive. But I submit that my two ethical principles work demonstrably well for dealing with the world. My fellow newsletter writer Rick Maybury consistently emphasizes their value in understanding economics, among other things. They allow you to live with other people in any society and at any time, whether those people are enlightened philosophers or bloodthirsty pirates. Understanding those two laws is all one needs to interact peacefully and productively with others. Even more important, they’re what you need to live with yourself—and you are the final judge of what you do; the values and morality of others are just opinions.
You could say the two laws are right because they obviously benefit others, but they actually benefit you the most—and it would be stupid to adopt principles that benefit you less. You could say, as an economist might, that they maximize efficiency and hence well-being among members of a society. They’re quite practical, and it doesn’t take a legal scholar to understand them. In fact, a six-year-old can understand them intuitively.
International Man: In your perspective, what is the most ethical system?
Doug Casey: My view is that free-market capitalism is the only ethical economic system. It maximizes everyone’s advantage and does so without coercion. That’s no accident; that’s the proof of the soundness of the principles.
And it’s no coincidence that the two ethical principles are also the only laws you need. You certainly don’t need some council or Congress or Parliament cranking out new ones by the score every week. In fact, the two great laws could be boiled down to one single law. Just as physicists are trying to boil down the laws of the universe to one great law, here’s my attempt for ethics: Do as thou wilt…but be prepared to accept the consequences. That requires that you think ahead constantly and take personal responsibility for everything you do.
International Man: In the context of the COVID hysteria, how has the action of governments impacted the average person’s ethics and their judgment?
Doug Casey: I continue to be amazed by the COVID hysteria, which is mutating into a mass psychosis. As I’ve pointed out in the past, this virus is a relatively trivial disease, not even remotely in the class of things like cholera, malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, and a hundred other communicable maladies. Even though it almost entirely affects just the old and the sick, it’s being promoted as the new Black Death. As such, it’s based on a lie. Worse, the cure being promoted may well be much worse than the disease itself. There’s an increasing amount of evidence that the experimental vaccines being promoted can be very dangerous—though it may take years to be sure. Why? Because discussion of both the safety and the efficacy of the vaccine has been quashed in a dozen different ways, which is another serious violation of ethics.
There’s not much point in me discussing medical matters here. However, it’s the area of specialists. But it’s important to employ critical thinking in this area, like all others. One disastrous consequence of COVID-19 is likely to be widespread distrust of science on the part of the public because bureaucrats like Fauci—who may go down as America’s answer to Germany’s Dr. Mengele—have propagandized themselves into being seen as “The Science.” It’s criminal that people like Fauci, Biden, and thousands of other government hacks have taken on the cloak of morality in promoting their opinions.
COVID-19 is being used as a medical and moral excuse to crank out tons of new laws and regulations. Which are basically dramatizations of the psychological aberrations of politicians and the people they pander to.
In brief, a thinking person should have no automatic (keyword) respect for either law nor morality—which I know sounds shocking. But that’s only because they subvert people’s independent thought and judgment. If you were in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany, should you have automatically respected their laws and morals, at least more than necessary, to avoid a firing squad? Of course not. It’s unwise to try to make personal codes of ethics unnecessary by telling people all they have to do is obey the law and current morality. There are elements in society that want to transform people into unthinking automatons who don’t feel responsible for their own actions.
The current COVID-19 hysteria, which seems to be evolving into a mass psychosis, is dangerous for many reasons besides medical ones.
Editor’s Note: It’s clear there are some ominous social, political, cultural, and economic trends playing out right now. Many of which seem to point to an unfortunate decline of the West.