October 01st, 2012
“If men were angels, no government would be necessary” –James Madison
Human beings respond to incentives. It doesn’t matter how many good people there are, if there is an opportunity for taking advantage of people, the good people will generally shun such an opportunity and the bad people will trample each other trying to get it.
Government is a way to take advantage of others. Some individuals get to spend other people’s money to impose their ideas on everyone with force. This will attract the worst elements of society, who will crowd out and make these positions unavailable to the good folks. They will make the process so disgusting . . . that good people will not be able to endure the odious path required to reach the seats of power.” — Tom de Lorenzo New World Rising
In this episode we explore another of Kevin’s very reasonable idea with an eye-catching cover (how many of these does he have?): Everyone is Evil.
Coming soon (need to find it again :p )
Jad: Hello, and welcome to another episode of this yet unnamed enterprise. We do have a named website now – JKPod.com – where you can find all the episodes we’ve released thus far, as well as show notes and references. We’re still in our initial and developmental phase of the show. While we find our bearings, we’ll probably bounce around freely and haphazardly among our mutual interests with a reasonably consistent focus on the grand ideas of liberty, human unity, and equality.
Every time we sit down to record, I’m struck by the many topics we have to leave behind. I assume as time goes to infinity, we’ll get around to covering everything. In the meantime, it hurts to watch the really juicy but only tangentially related topics zip by. For example, a couple weeks ago, Kevin mentioned that:
Kevin: “I think all people are inherently evil myself – I’ve made the point many times.”
I knew immediately that it was a conversation that we needed to have.
Jad: “Well that’s a conversation we need to have at some point for sure.”
Kevin: “Absolutely, I’d love to. Yeah, I’ve got a whole super-theory on that one.”
Jad: In today’s episode, we examine that super theory – which struck me as an odd position to hold for a libertarian. Usually, the people are evil [?] has trotted out by proponents of the state managed society. The idea being that without the careful surveillance and consistent armed intervention of the government, the citizenry would descend into a Hobbesian war of all against all. So we sat down to explore Kevin’s “Everyone is Evil” theory.
Kevin: Everyone is evil. Well, it’s not a particularly complicated philosophy, and I think at the heart of it you would probably agree with the tenants[?] of it. But it’s also something that I think very few people probably can get on board with. Very few people can probably agree with it. It’s not an indictment on any one person, it’s just that given the opportunity to do something, I believe that we’re just programmed to – evil is a very subjective word – but to do whatever is the less moral route is generally speaking the way that human beings are going to go – again, presented with the case.
Jad: What’s the end of the evil spectrum for you? Do you think someone would you know, only not do because they’re under some sort of social scrutiny?
Kevin: Let’s just use things like evil is greedy, or selfish, or arrogance, or egotistical, or in any normal societal construct, if somebody were excessively greedy we would probably see that as a negative thing. Mitt Romney right now for example – with this whole tax situation – people look at him and they say, “He’s greedy”. It’s a negative indictment against who he is. Evil in all these sorts of senses I kind of encompass under the same branch, but it’s just a – it’s a negative – I guess more appropriately – it’s a negative moral outlook from other people looking in –
Kevin: – is perhaps a better way to say it. The level – I think – also fluctuates, and so you said – I think you asked a second ago – what is the level at which somebody would be willing to – rephrase your question for me.
Jad: Actually, I think you kind of answered the question, but I’ll rephrase it and then we can go from there. But I was wondering – you were talking about people being greedy, or you were talking about you know, someone killing someone in cold blood evil, you know? So there’s like a spectrum of evil you can imagine that you know, stealing toothpaste or something from a pharmacy is on one end, and you know, and genocide is on the other end.
Jad: So what I was wondering is when you were saying everyone was evil, were you saying everyone was capable, or in their heart was ready to commit you know, murder if they go the chance, or everyone was willing to you know, take a little bit more than perhaps their fair share if given the chance.
Kevin: Not necessarily if they got the chance, but if they were – if their back was against the wall. With the right provocation, I think anybody is capable ofthe most heinous form of evil, but we don’t want to admit that and that’s kind of my all encompassing evil philosophy – is that given the right set of circumstances, I don’t believe that there’s anything on this planet – I mean, as all heinous as you could imagine – that you couldn’t possibly do. It’s just that it’s just that it’s difficult to philosophize about them because in all reality, those set of circumstances are never going to come about in your life – or certainly hopefully not.
Jad: I would guess I would question if it really comes down to that set of circumstances and I’ll ask you about that in a second here, but is it still considered evil? I mean, is the action evil if it’s required by mere reality. Give me an example of a situation that you would put me in that I would be willing to commit evil.
Kevin: Say that your wife was in desperate need of some sort of organ transplant, and you had an opportunity – now I don't know how this opportunity arose – but you had an opportunity to directly intervene in accelerating the death of somebody else, or harvesting the organ somehow or another from somebody else who otherwise very well may have lived. You would be in this situation where you would intervene in your own favor. You would act in a selfish and greedy manner – or you certainly would think about it – for the sake of saving your wife’s life at the cost of somebody else’s own fate who didn’t need to meet that fate otherwise.
Jad: This idea began to remind me of something…
Right, right. Well, have you ever seen the – there’s a movie – I’d never seen it – but the premise is like someone shows up with a button.
Movie Quote: If you push the button, 2 things will happen. First, someone somewhere in the world whom you don’t know will die. Second, you will receive a payment of $1million dollars.”
And like, you can press the button and get one wish or get whatever you want. You know, say to save your dying spouse who needs a kidney transplant. But somewhere someone’s going to die – an innocent person is going to die you know? So that –
Kevin: I’ve seen the trailer.
Jad: So you can abstract it out to that, right? What’s the point at which someone’s going to press that button, you know?
Jad: Your point is – I guess – that everyone has something – or are you saying everyone, like, even Mother Teresa would press the button?
Kevin: Poor Mother Teresa. Yeah, I think so. I think that – I think that every single person has some level where they would press the button and now that level varies drastically from person to person.
Interlude: If you push this button, 2 things will happen. One, someone somewhere in the world who you don’t know will die.
And two – you just – you just pushed the button. You just – you didn’t let me finish.
– Yeah, [?].
Someone somewhere in the world will die –
– Got it.
Don’t hit it again, that’s the second – no, just let me finish. But you’ll get a million dollars.
Great. That’s great. Yeah, you just hit it 3 times. You killed 3 people.
Kevin: You know, if you look at a murderer versus if you look at say a – a Mother Teresa.
Kevin: Presumably that line is very far apart, but somewhere I do believe that it exists, yes.
Jad: Given the groundwork now, we kind of have a baseline of what you’re talking about here. We have a test where everyone’s going to press that button at some point. Does it grow out from there? The quote you had last time was that this was a good thing, and by this definition that everyone was evil was fine, it just – things had to be structured appropriately to leverage that fact or is it along those lines?
Meta narrator here.
I neglected to include this part of the quote. Here’s what Kevin actually said:
Kevin: But I don’t see it as a bad thing necessarily, I think it just needs to be harnessed in such a way.
Kevin: I think that the reason I came up with the – or I started thinking about the “Everyone is Evil” philosophy is not because we need to structure things in a certain way, but rather because things are already structured in a certain way, and I believe that it’s the inherence – it sounds a little silly like this – but it’s the inherent evilness that has kind of driven us to structure things in that manner.
What I mean is I guess the secondary point of it to the question you just asked is that people don’t want to admit, or they don’t want to acknowledge or even consider the fact that other people are evil, or other people are greedy, or other people are acting in their own self interest. And that I believe is kind of the super philosophy that ties it together and creates pretty much all of the problems that we have in a free society.
Jad: I see. So you’re saying we can trust the generals, and the heads of security, and the presidents, and congressional people to do the best thing for us because there are good people who have our best interest at heart sort of thing, or –
Kevin: Technically just the opposite. The people want to believe that. The people want to believe that President Obama, President Bush, President Romney – whomever – they want to believe that they are acting in the best interest of them – of the population – of the general good. But again going back to that philosophy, I believe that there’s too many interests acting on the behalf of those people for them to actually be able to act good – if that makes any sense.
Jad: Sure. Absolutely.
Kevin: There’s too many things presented to them that allow them to do something that us as normal people would never be able to conceptualize doing. So we sit here in these chairs and we say, “well, if I were in the President’s shoes, I would do A, B, and C”, and these things are – they’re good for people. You would help people, you would you know, try to foster the world to a better direction. However, put in the position of essentially absolute power – which is really what the president of our country has – put into that position of absolute power and you know, all sorts of monetary gifts, and all sorts of connections for your life, for your children, for your family – I mean they live the same lives that we do, and they’re considering their children’s lives, and their wives, and their parents’ lives just as much as anybody else is.
And I think that there’s just too many things acting against them for them to actually be able to act in a selfless type of interest, and because people are unwilling to admit that to themselves, it’s to all of our detriment.
Jad: Hmm. I totally agree with you. And you could go on for days about the incentive structure placed on those people that are in office. I always think about the fact that you know, the next day after you’re sworn in, you wake up and you basically owe a half a billion dollars to bankers, finance, and mineralites[?] – people in –
Kevin: That’s a good way to say that.
Jad: Yeah, and you’ve gotta get – to get working, you’ve got 4 years essentially to clear half a billion dollars of owing stuff and you don’t owe shit to anybody else.
Kevin: Yeah. My $25 donation is not really what took him over the top.
Jad: Exactly. So but there is an interesting – I think there is a flip side to this which is you have to have the belief in evil people, but they’re almost as cartoonish as the good people, right? I mean you have to have you know, inner city, urban youth that are just laying in wait to terrorize you and steal your hubcaps or whatever. Or Al Qaeda just waiting for you to go to sleep so they can you know, fly a plane into your house or something. Like, you have to have the same sort of cartoonish evil that the cartoonish good people are protecting your from, right?
Kevin: We have this need to put people in kind of the good versus evil category. You’re absolutely right, and I think that again it comes back to a very subjective interpretation of what evil is, and I think that’s really where perhaps more fringed ideals that maybe you and I share happen to develop because perhaps people like you and I and many people like us, we look at evil as being a slightly different thing. We look at our country as putting, say trade restrictions on – or putting restrictions on a country like Cuba. That to me strikes me as evil for a number of reasons, but you’re right, the majority of the United States sees that as we’re the good force in that, and they’re the evil force in that and I think that’s necessary just for humanity to exist – but I strongly disagree with its existence.
Jad: That’s very interesting. So you disagree hardily with the thing that we need to exist?
Kevin: Yes. I mean, I think it’s not that we need it to exist, it’s that given our current levels of education and adaptation to one another, and just our ability to function as a collective society, that’s I think an atypical and an expected byproduct of our particular system. So it’s not necessarily that we need it to exist, but so long as we are the way we are, it’s always going to exist and as much as I hate that, I just accept that that’s how it is because it would drive me crazy to have to worry about it every day.
Jad: Well we’ve gotten to the root of the engage in vote, versus just engage and go for the utopian society, I think.
Jad: So the thing I think is interesting – and this is not an original point by the – none of them really are – but let’s lay out your spectrum of evil. You know, you’ve got your button pushers that’ll push the button just to kill someone for fun, all the way to somebody who if it’s the end of the world versus killing someone, they’re still hesitant, you know?
Jad: Moral dilemma. And you look at the position – well you look at the responsibilities that a political leader has. The responsibility is to occasionally kill strangers who have done nothing in order to fulfill the agendas of the people that you owe $500 million dollars to starting the first day of your presidency or whatever it may be – term in office. Who’s going to even fill the prerequisites for that job? Who’s going to be able to work their way up to having that position on a national scale?
It’s going to be somebody who is more likely to press the button to get what they need at the expense of random strangers. It’s less likely to be someone who is careful and considerate, and you know, and is – let’s say good by your metric -they are considerate of the needs of others and not so willing to run in and just cause mayhem in order to establish something that they personally need or want.
Kevin: Absolutely, which to some degree takes me full circle – people are not capable of seeing everyone else as evil because I think that’s one of the big problems that we have. Let’s say the United States is acting against Iran, or Syria, or whatever the country may be – I don’t believe that the President is necessarily acting in the interest of good and humanity. I think there’s all sorts of alternative influences that are acting on him, and yet the majority of the people in the United States – I would gather anyways – are – I don’t even know if they’re blind to it, I think they’re forcibly blind to it. I think they don’t want to see the truth in that.
They don’t want to see that, “well, maybe the United States and the leaders therein are not necessarily acting in a good and wholehearted manner. Maybe they are acting with “evil” type intentions, that’s really why I use the philosophy I guess because I have such a hard time looking at how the you know, how the country – how power structures work otherwise in our country or really any country, it doesn’t really matter.
Actually I’ll give you a real practical example of the “Everyone is Evil” argument – several months ago we were talking about the healthcare law – or the health insurance laws that like to make the distinction of – and one of the things that I’ve written extensively about is with respect to what a business is, and you know my thoughts on this, but I’m adamantly opposed to the health – well the healthcare bill – namely because it’s just a health insurance bill. All it does is legally empower the insurance companies of the United States to collect from individuals at penalty of law and I have a huge problem with that. And the thing that bothers me is that people are not able to look at businesses for what they are, and this takes it to a very utilitarian type of purpose.
But the purpose of a business at all costs is to make money. That’s the sole thing that a business as a system is tasked with doing. So no matter what you do, no matter what law you pass, if you involve the business at the end of it, you have to understand that the one thing that that business is still trying to do is to collect money from you – is to make more money than it’s costing them to provide that service – that’s their only goal. And so in this case, that’s what I try to point out to people is to say I’m not saying that companies can’t act altruistically – they certainly can – but at the end of the day, that’s not their goal.
And so that’s where I kind of get into the whole consumerism thing and kind of the evil effect where I say that their goal is to take as much money from you as you can, your goal as the consumer is to try to protect as much of that money as you possibly can. And somewhere in the middle exists the balance of a market and the problem that I have is that the powers that be in the government are destroying that market because they are singlehandedly decreeing basically where that line in the sand is. And it’s moving closer, and closer, and closer to the benefit of the businesses.
Jad: When you are putting forth your “people are evil”, it’s almost like a caveat emptor to everybody that it’s not a bunch of super-nice people out there, the insurance industry working together with the super-nice people and the government to make sure that everyone purchases something that they really, really need – it’s businesses paying the state to make laws to force people to buy stuff in the business.
Kevin: Absolutely. And so then tying it full circle, if you – Jad Davis – all of a sudden inherited the CEO’S position of a major insurance company in this country and you were told, “Look, you, your children, your wife – everybody that you’ll know for generations – you’re going to have the best life. You’ll be able to do whatever you want, provided that you kind of fall in line”, I think that under those set of circumstances, you probably would be much more likely to fall in line and that’s kind of where I get the whole – it’s not an indictment, it’s not a negative thing about people. It’s not a negative thing in this case – fictitious example about you.
It’s nothing bad about you, I think everybody would inherently do that. It’s just that very, very, very few people are ever going to find themselves in a real position to have to make that decision and that’s why it’s so easy for us to say, “Well, I would never do that.” But I think the second somebody says, “look, here’s a bag of $100 million dollars, this is all you’ve gotta do”, and they pour it on the ground and say, “I’m going to leave, you better do this”, I have a feeling that you might do it.
Jad: That’s sort of the anarchist position I think, is you have to accept that people are going to do those things and any one of us – in a position where we can you know, rationalize the costs and we can reap massive rewards on ourselves – are likely to do it or at least almost everyone is likely to do it. So you just can’t have that job – that job can’t exist. If there’s a job that where you can press a button and kill 10,000 Iraqi’s and you get you know – you get to be elected to the next notarial[?] campaign or whatever – that position can’t exist because there is somebody out there who will do that job.
Kevin: Well – and this is actually why I think – going back to your earlier question – why the larger world of good versus evil still exists. If we don’t have that good versus evil divide then we become – we have to become more introspective and we have to start looking at these problems that I’m talking about and the actual good versus evil. We need to start saying, “Well wait a second, why is this company acting on behalf of this company”, you know? “That’s not for the benefit of anybody else”, but instead our attention is diverted to say, “Well, yeah, we need companies like Haliburton to do what they do because there’s people coming to kill us.”
So yeah, at the end of the day maybe they take a little bit off the top, but the downside is that if they don’t do that well, look at this problem, and I think that’s the way that the modern political sense has really diverted the attention of the American people and I think that’s exactly the conversation point that you and I have all the time is to say don’t look at the United States for having bombed the Middle East for 30 years, look at the fact that we were attached once in that period. I think that’s an unfortunate result of exactly what I’m talking about. And just as a conclusion to the whole thing I would say that the underlying basis of the theory is not to – it’s not to make any type of indictment against any one person.
It’s not to – it’s not even to look at people in a bad light, or to take a pessimistic view of humanity – it really isn’t. At some point in history I think there probably was a better understanding of this. There was a better grasp that people needed to be watchful of the government at all times, but that’s completely gone away. But I think that we’re starting to see somewhat of a resurgence of that, and I think if we’re going to be successful in that resurgence, then we need to be aware of the fact that you know, to use law and absolute power corrupts – absolutely – and that’s really what my philosophy of “Everyone is Evil” is about.
Jad: Very nice. I think it’s a shocking line that is at the front of an entirely reasonable educational theory, so thanks for sharing.
Kevin: Well thanks man, I appreciate you asking the questions.
Jad: As I mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, Kevin’s statement intrigued me because the “people are evil” line is usually used as a pro-police[?], pro-regulation, pro-government position. It turns out that Kevin’s theory is an anticipation of the argument that a government and a well heeled[?] state corporate structure is necessary to reign in the apparent evil lying in the hearts of each and every one of us. The anti-freedom argument of course, ignores the fact that governments and corporations are abstract ideas. In reality, they’re just groups comprised entirely of people, thus if people are evil, then evil would have controlled the mechanisms supposedly intended to protect us from evil – which is kind of what it seems like when one surveys the world around us.
Thanks so much for listening in. Kevin and I are enjoying the hell out of this. We’d also like it if others found the material enlightening, intriguing, entertaining, infuriating, or otherwise engaging. To this end, please send suggestions, questions, comments, or other correspondence to JKPod@JKPod.com. You can also swing by our websites, Jad-Davis.com, or KevinLudlow.com, to see what else we’re working on and secretly communicate to one of us without the other one knowing. Thanks again for listening and until next time. Take care.