In the book Most Ancient Verse, one Egyptian poet, in a work titled in English as “... Or Not to Be,” cries out:
“With whom can I speak today?
The evil which roams the earth,
It is without end.”
Evil has roamed the earth since ancient times, as empires conquer and extinguish more peaceful and less powerful tribes. The book Cloud Atlas describes how the peaceful Moriori natives of the Chatham Islands east of New Zealand were nearly exterminated by invading Maori, after the islanders suffered damage from Europeans who brought diseases and pests.
A statement summarizing human history is made by the book’s character Dr. Henry Goose, “The weak are meat, and the strong do eat.” This becomes literally true in one of the book’s stories of a dystopian future in which “fabricants” are human beings artificially grown and genetically programmed to be obedient servants who, when their usefulness is finished, are slaughtered like cattle to provide food, so as to not waste the flesh.
One theme of that book is the eternal battle for freedom. Another theme is that humanity has the ability to discover, invent, and create, but, due to its moral deficiency, ultimately civilization will turn this power on itself and end up in self-destruction.
How were the evil forces of the Nazis and the Soviet Union stopped from conquering the world? What ultimately defeated them was their illusion of supremacism. The German Nazis thought they could conquer the world due to their inherent racial superiority, and they were defeated by their overconfidence. The Soviet socialists believed that they had the superior economic system, which was of course an tragic illusion.
Now the world is confronted by extremist religious supremacists who believe they alone have Truth and Divinity on their side. That supremacist illusion will ultimately defeat them militarily, but for the extremist violent movements to be vanquished, they need to be confronted not just militarily or politically, but in their philosophical cores.
Socrates believed that no person does evil intentionally. I think that goes too far, but there is truth in proposition that much evil is done by those who believe they are doing what is right. Colonization, slavery, and forced conversions have been justified as bringing civilization and salvation, falsely justifying the coercion.
What is needed is a global project to teach natural moral law. The people of the world need to believe and understand the “universal ethic,” a morality that transcends cultures, derived using reason, from premises of what we have in common, our human nature.
The basic rules of natural moral law, as expressed by the logos of the universal ethic are:
There should be a global movement among natural-law adherents to create a document that derives natural law and explains its application to social, economic, and political life. This document would then be taught in schools world-wide. Children should not just learn the universal ethic, but apply it so throughly that “live and let live” becomes their core belief.
After World War II, the concept of human rights became popular. It is what the classical liberals called “natural rights.” But few people understand natural law, as many think there is some kind of human right to housing or medical care, which implies the right to the income and wealth of others. Coercively taking the earnings of others is theft, a coercive harm. What people do have a right to is the wage and wealth of their own labor, and an equal share of natural benefits, as measured by what people pay for natural opportunities, namely land rent.
There is opposition to natural law from supremacists who believe that only their Religion is True and should therefore should be imposed Law. Some may be persuaded by the logic of human equality to agree that however True be their Belief, its imposition violates the fundamental rule of human equality. But other supremacists will refuse to be convinced, and they will insist on punishing those who do not bow to them. These supremacists must simply be defeated, but a permanent victory of the peaceful must include a global education in natural moral law.
Many governments will resist teaching natural law, because their coercive and unjust policies will be called into question. In that case, the education has to be done privately. In my judgment, the only way to stop evil from roaming the earth, the only way to stop the strong from eating the weak, is universal instruction in natural moral law.
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FRED E. FOLDVARY, Ph.D., is an economist and has been writing weekly editorials for Progress.org since 1997. Foldvary's commentaries are well respected for their currency, sound logic, wit, and consistent devotion to human freedom. He received his B.A. in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and his M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University. He has taught economics at Virginia Tech, John F. Kennedy University, Santa Clara University, and currently teaches at San Jose State University.
Foldvary is the author of The Soul of Liberty, Public Goods and Private Communities, and Dictionary of Free Market Economics. He edited and contributed to Beyond Neoclassical Economics and, with Dan Klein, The Half-Life of Policy Rationales. Foldvary's areas of research include public finance, governance, ethical philosophy, and land economics.
Foldvary is notably known for going on record in the American Journal of Economics and Sociology in 1997 to predict the exact timing of the 2008 economic depression—eleven years before the event occurred. He was able to do so due to his extensive knowledge of the real-estate cycle.