Monday, 29 September 2014

How to Earn an Honest Living

In this paper, I want to explore ways in which an individual can make his or her contribution to others in civilization. My concern here is not, as the title might suggest, to give practical advice on honest ways to make a buck or two. Rather, it is to try to answer the question: What is it that constitutes earning an honest living?

What do they mean, the words “earn an honest living”? Starting with the noun Living, we visualize a flow of resources or wealth (in the broad sense) coming in towards us, which supports us both physically and mentally. When we add the adjective Honest, we sense that we must obtain this wealth without lies, cheating or deception. When we add the verb Earn, we see that as well as this inward flow there must also be an outward flow. Each of us human beings must give, as well as take. And when we put together the whole phrase, we understand that to earn an honest living, the giving and the taking must be in a relation to each other. Over the long term, we must give out at least as much as we take in. Those, who earn an honest living, are those who are long-term nett creators of wealth, or well-being.

Each human individual who earns an honest living, then, provides a flow of wealth to others. What is the value of this flow of wealth? In the absence of coercion, it is simply what others are prepared to provide in return. Without coercion, the broad-sense wealth, which we receive from others, should eventually rise to a level close to that of the wealth we create. And that will provide us both with satisfaction of our needs, and with incentive to develop our talents further and so to create more well-being. The result is continuing, and increasing, prosperity and happiness for all involved.

What are the ways in which we can create this broad-sense wealth? The productive careers, which we can follow, are of many different kinds. But we can classify the processes, by which we make our contribution to our fellow human beings, under a relatively small number of headings. I identify five such headings, to which I give the names: Genius, Science, Improvement, Business, Support. I will look briefly at each in turn.

Genius is the first, and the rarest, of the ways to create wealth. Among full-blown geniuses of the ancient past, we might name Socrates or Archimedes. In more recent history, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare or Mozart. In modern times, perhaps, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison or Henry Ford. Full-blown geniuses come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have three things in common. They are creative. They are all ahead of their times. And they change some aspect of the world, just by being who they are and doing what they do.

Most of us possess at least sparks of genius. Some of us manage to uncover our creative powers in our work, or in our hobbies. But few of us can achieve full-blown Genius. So the great majority of us have to find some other way of creating wealth.

The next category we might try, and the second of my headings, is Science. Science, in the broad sense, is adding to the store of objective human knowledge. So Science includes not only the physical sciences, but also other disciplines that aim at an objective understanding of the Universe. Those who create wealth through Science include not only those who are conventionally called scientists, but also such people as archaeologists, objective historians and economists and – when they get it right – even philosophers.

The third category is Improvement. Improvement is the process of developing and advancing human capabilities. One form of Improvement is education, leading out and elevating the talents of the individual. Another form of Improvement is technology, which in the broad sense can be described as making things possible which were not possible before. Those who create wealth through Improvement include not just educators and technologists, but anyone who has a yen to make others more capable, or to look for new, better things to do or new, better ways to do them.

The fourth category, and the one most significant in economic terms, is Business. Business is the provision of goods or services, for which other people are voluntarily willing to pay. Those who deliver wanted services, or manufacture wanted goods, are creators of wealth through the process of Business. As are the honest among those who direct the organizations that provide those services or those goods.

The last of my five categories is Support. Support is an indirect means of creating wealth. A good example of Support is what a housewife does in a traditional marriage. By providing a comfortable, loving and supportive environment for her husband, she enables him to be more effective in his own wealth creation. But Support is common in the economy as well. An internal company accountant, for example, does not directly create wealth. Yet he contributes to the success of the productive, wealth-creating company he works for, by providing information which is valuable to the Business people in that company.

It is my view that all forms of wealth creation fall ultimately under one or more of these five headings. Sometimes, it is true, individuals can create more than one form of wealth at the same time. For example, a musician can create wealth both through a touch of Genius in his performance, and through the Business of people willingly paying to come to his concerts. And sometimes it may at first sight be hard in see in which category a particular form of wealth creation falls. Those who run charities, for example, would probably not expect to be classified as Business people – until they reflect that a charity is, in essence, a Business in which the pay-back to the customer is psychological rather than tangible.

Among the five categories, one, Improvement, is central. For Improving ourselves, educating ourselves and developing our own talents, is the way in which each of us can make ourselves better and better at earning an honest living. And an important factor in driving this self-Improvement is what is commonly called Competition.

Received wisdom would have us believe that competition is about beating off rivals, and is something rather nasty and negative. But true Competition is about seeing what others can do, and then seeking to make ourselves better than they are. Competition is doing things better, doing things quicker, doing things cheaper, doing things others can’t. Competition, indeed, is the process whose result is competence.

Next, I will try to relate each of the five categories to the economic rewards reaped by those who are productive of wealth in those ways. For few lovers of freedom would disagree that those, who create wealth, deserve full opportunity to enjoy the economic fruits of that wealth.

Support, in its economic form at least, tends to be an easier and less risky activity than Business, and so the rewards are generally lower. Business, on the other hand, is where the big bucks are today. Those who take a good idea, and put in the efforts to make it happen, can become rich. And deservedly so. On the other hand, many Business people merely scrape along, and some screw up and ruin themselves. (Or, more often, are ruined by the taxman).

Improvement can often be good Business, and then again it sometimes isn’t, as shown by the recent boom and bust among dot-coms. Those who do Improvement well, however, can command a deserved premium. Scientists, on the other hand, tend to be less well rewarded economically than their contribution merits. This may be partly because the pay-off from their work tends to be long-term. Also, many scientists are driven by love of the job itself, rather than by the rewards it generates. Lastly, Geniuses are laws unto themselves; some make megabucks, others survive on a shoestring.

There is another factor, which greatly distorts the relationship between the wealth an individual creates and the economic rewards following from it. There is a big difference between creating wealth and acquiring wealth. Put in money terms, there is a big difference between making money and getting money.

An example will make this plain. Recently, a form of spread-betting has become popular. Say there is a sporting event with only a small number of possible outcomes, like a football match or a tennis match. Different bookmakers will adjust their odds according to how much is bet with them on each possible outcome. The result is that you can often get better odds on one outcome from one bookmaker, and better odds on another outcome from another bookmaker. If the odds are far enough apart, you can bet yourself into a position where you cannot lose. You will win, whatever the result.

I have no doubt that, done cleverly and without distorting the markets too much, such spread-betting schemes can bring in substantial quantities of money for their practitioners. But no wealth is created by this activity at all. All the scheme does is re-distribute money from the pockets of the poor punters, via the burses of the bemused bookmakers, into the satchels of the savvy schemers. It is essentially a parasitic activity. It is no more than a way of reaping without sowing, of getting money without making money.

The stock market, too – while indispensable in its role of matching investors to those deserving of investment – suffers similar problems. Often it seems to be little more than a glorified gambling game.

All this goes some way towards explaining why, even in a free market without coercion, the economic rewards individuals receive will not necessarily mirror the wealth they create. And when coercion is added to the picture, things get worse. Far, far worse.

How can we lovers of freedom do our bit to make up for this mismatch? What can we do to make the relationship between wealth created and wealth received by each individual more direct? The problem is not soluble within the narrow confines of economics. We must take a wider view, and consider wealth in its broad sense.

Earning an honest living is natural to civilized human beings. The creation of wealth – be it through Genius, Science, Improvement, Business or Support - is a virtue in itself. Indeed, it is the noblest of all human activities. We should applaud and cherish those around us, who earn an honest living. And we should applaud and cherish them in proportion to the wealth they create.

Now there are some who, for one valid reason or another, are unable for a time to create wealth. And therefore they cannot, for a time at least, earn an honest living. Illness, accident, unemployment or disability can hit anyone, not to mention old age. Nor should we condemn those, who are unable to create much wealth because they live in economically poor societies. With such people, we must take the long-term view. Are they nett wealth creators over the long run? If so, they are OK. And if we can remove from their path any obstacles stopping them doing what is natural to them, creating wealth, more wealth and lots more wealth, we should try to do just that.

If not, the next test must be, does the individual strive to earn an honest living? Is he trying to find another job, in which he can start earning honestly? When she recovers from her illness, will she start creating wealth? Does the poor peasant do what he can to be self-sufficient, to avoid being a drain on others? In this way, we civilized human beings can identify those who are on our side, those who when given the opportunities will start honestly creating wealth.

But there are those that do not put in any effort to become competent, those that do not even try to earn an honest living. They contribute nothing of Genius. They contribute nothing to Science. Many of them, indeed, promote the kind of junk anti-science that would have us believe in global warming and ozone holes. They contribute nothing to Improvement – in fact, many of them actively oppose technology, and don’t want people to be well educated. They contribute nothing to Business; they hate honest Business so much that they want to constrict it and to regulate it, and to take away the rewards of Business from those who have fairly earned them. And often, they do not even make any effort to create wealth indirectly, through Support. The only way these noxious creatures can survive is by, fraudulently, parasitically or coercively, taking wealth created and earned by others.

Those that are so lazy that they do not even attempt to earn an honest living, are not our friends. They are failing to behave as civilized human beings. They are failing to behave as our fellows. Why should we waste one penny of our wealth or one milligram of our compassion on them? Why should we care about them in the slightest?

(Neil's Note: October 20th, 2002 is the date on this one. Quite a bit of the early part of this essay also appears, somewhat edited, in the book around pages 84-85.)

Chapter 47. An Awakening - Part 1

(Neil's note: Because this is the longest chapter in the book, I've divided into two parts. Here is the first).

The next problem we faced was that, because of unrest in some countries on Earth, we could not safely drop off the trainees for those countries. There were about a dozen of them left, besides Paul and Melinda, who had – gladly – agreed to be last out.

Not that these trainees as individuals were complaining. They spent their days riding round Earth in Ramael’s ’mobile, and their nights in five-star hotels. They were enjoying the best worldwide Grand Tour anyone had ever had.

Ramael concentrated on three things. First, dropping off the members of the third wave, and all the trainees he safely could. Second, regularly checking the well-being and progress of those he had previously dropped off. And third, touring the globe making sure people knew he was there.

Only once during this time did Ramael need to take violent action. A few days after the completion of the third wave, an Asian country – whose dictator we had Pulled to the Pit, but which had then been taken over by family members – threatened to attack one of its neighbours. Ramael went in and, in less than a minute, reduced three large government buildings in the capital to piles of sand. He did it without damaging their neighbours, even slightly. “Now you know more about what we can do if we need to,” Hazael broadcast. “Anyone that starts or threatens a war will be treated the same way, or more harshly.”

A week after the last trainees had left Perinent, Cristina and Helen elected to be Pushed back to Earth. “There is no-one here who needs our services any more,” said Helen, “but there are still several trainees in the ’mobile who could enjoy us.” That left in the hotel at Camp Two just Michael, Gabriel, the Team and Kenny.

To try to defuse the problems of unrest, those of us remaining on Perinent began to Pull leaders from each conflict. We usually Pulled them in pairs, one from each side. We let Harv’I, using knowledge John and Galina had collected and his ability to read minds, decide which side we should support. The loser then went in the Pit – along, shortly, with his lieutenants. The winner (usually the resistance leader) was fully briefed by Michael, Gabriel and myself, then Pushed back to the ’mobile. And soon dropped off – openly, and with a public promise of support if it should prove necessary – by Ramael and Hazael, who sometimes left a trainee with them as well.

And where tyrannies were still in place, even after we had Pulled the worst of the tyrants to the Pit, we went on a spree. We Pulled more and more of those in power in such countries to the Pit. And we again sent to Earth film of what was happening to them, although this time more geographically targeted.

* * *

You, dear reader, may be too young to remember the decades, which historians later called the Nasty Noughties and Terrible Teens. If so, lucky you; for it was a bad time.

The politicals – which description fitted not only politicians, but also politicized officials, media and educators, and those that promoted, supported or enforced their agendas – behaved as if they were a superior species to us humans. They set out to control us, to rule over us against our wills. They lobbied for, made and enforced bad laws. They made regulations to hem us in, and set traps to catch us out. And they treated us like herd animals, as if we were unable to make our own decisions or to act on our own initiative.

They spied on us with cameras everywhere. They recorded our phone calls, our e-mails and our use of the Internet. They demanded vast amounts of information about us, and stored it in insecure databases, which they regarded as a “single source of truth.” They routinely treated us as guilty until proven innocent. They took joy in ordering us around. They used every crisis as an excuse to expand their powers to harass us. They claimed privileges and immunities they denied to us, and evaded responsibility for the damage they caused us.

They polluted our mental atmosphere with lies and propaganda. They indoctrinated the young with their claptrap, calling it education. They promoted altruism, trying to fool us into subordinating our own interests to the interests of others, or of something they called “the community.” And they bombarded us with fear and guilt. Fear of terrorism, fear of overpopulation, fear of runaway global warming (or was it cooling?) because of our emissions of carbon dioxide, which they falsely claimed was a pollutant. And guilt for lots of things we did in our daily lives – like using energy and driving cars.

They accused us of damaging our environment. They told us that we had to make drastic changes to our lifestyles. They tried to make out that our civilization based on economic productivity and trade was not sustainable. They hated human industry and prosperity, individuality and independence. They hated deserved success, and those who earned it. They tried to imprison us in a mental atmosphere of ever shrinking horizons, of no way forward and no way out.

All this they fuelled with money which they took from us through taxation, that is to say, by fraud and threat of force. They made a big smokescreen about helping the poor and needy. But in fact, what they did was loot resources from the honest, productive and deserving, cream off a large portion for themselves and their politically connected cronies, and redistribute the rest, most of it to the dishonest, the lazy and the undeserving. This, of course, also bought them popularity with the recipients. So, societies became more and more corrupt, as the incentives grew and grew for individuals to behave dishonestly.

In some places, political governments simply ruled by force and fear. In others, a past history of relative freedom meant that they needed to be more subtle, and to try to enlist the support of sufficiently many of the people using propaganda, vague promises or shares in the loot. These politicals claimed that their system was democracy, and that it gave power to us the people. We had the vote, didn’t we?

But most of the candidates for office, that had any serious chance of winning, were politicals. And of the few decent people who did try to go into democratic politics, most were either corrupted or silenced by the political party system. They were intimidated into being loyal to whatever policies were dreamed up by the panjandrums currently in power in their party. So, even if an individual’s vote could have made a difference – which it never had, of course – there was no-one worth voting for.

And even if we could have voted someone decent into power at the national level, that wouldn’t have even started to solve the problem of bad policies imposed by the EU (European Union) or UN (United Nations). King Atrox would have smirked at the cleverness of it all.

* * *

But then, the Personal Transition began to kick in among human beings. Many people, at much the same time, woke up from the zombie state in which they had been held by the battering of lies and propaganda from the politicals and their media and “educators.” People started to think, Why should I put up with this claptrap any more? And they started to feel better about themselves.

It was as if, after decades of ever increasing madness and badness, some threshold had been reached, beyond which the political system could not hold together. It was as if, after a long, dark night, there had come a sudden, bright dawn. And people began to see clearly where they were, and what was around them.

Good people, who all their lives had been bombarded with false guilt by politicians, educators and media, snapped out of it. They no longer felt guilt for using energy, or failing to recycle, or because they were – falsely – accused of wasting natural resources, causing dangerous global warming or endangering species. They no longer felt guilt for being successful through their own efforts, or being prosperous, or looking after their own interests. They no longer felt guilt for spending their fairly earned wealth on the goods and services they wanted, and on the people who provided those goods and services.

They no longer felt guilt for driving cars, or flying in aeroplanes, or eating meat, or not eating enough fruit or veg, or drinking alcohol, or smoking. And they no longer accepted any guilt at all for anything they as individuals had no control over.

People came to understand that as long as they behaved up to basic human standards – such as honesty, peacefulness, responsibility and respect for others’ rights – they were not guilty of anything. And it didn’t matter what “laws” anyone made.

Instead, good people started to feel pride in their own achievements. They felt a renewed love of individuality, independence, economic productivity, progress and justice. They felt change for the better in the mental climate. They felt a new atmosphere of optimism, of expanding horizons, of confidence in themselves and in the future.

Very suddenly by historical standards, people stopped believing, or even being interested in, what they were told by the politicals and their media. They began to understand the frauds that had been committed against them. People fell out of love with politics, and with the political state. And they began strongly to react against its worst abuses. Against aggressive wars. Against violations of rights and liberties. Against lies, dishonesty and double standards by politicians, officials, celebrities and media. Against redistributory or confiscatory taxation.

Perhaps the strongest reaction was against the environmentalist or green agenda. At the end of the Nasty Noughties, the greens had almost succeeded in taking over the world with their humanity-hating agenda of destroying prosperity, stopping progress and ending individual freedom. Of course, they didn’t put it like that. They bleated about the environment, or polar bears, or “saving the planet” from climate change. But they put no value at all on us human beings, our nature and our rights and freedoms.

But, with the Personal Transition, people saw this agenda for what it was. They came to understand that the environment which we must preserve and cherish is the environment for human beings. That peace, prosperity and justice for human beings are far more important than polar bears or saving a few watts of energy. They saw that there was a way to a sustainable future, and it wasn’t the greens’ pipe-dream of using less and less resources. Instead, the way forward was to create more and more wealth.

And people felt a new kind of fellowship. They cared about the good people they dealt with in their daily lives. They cared about their customers and their suppliers. And they cared about those good people worldwide, who shared their basic human values like honesty and peacefulness. But, on the other side, people also came to understand that those that failed to make the effort to behave up to human standards were not their fellows.

There were other changes in people’s perceptions too. The idea, that people owed allegiance to some country or state, began to seem strange. The idea that governments had rights to stop people from passing across arbitrary lines, or to take a toll of goods passing across such lines, was seen as ridiculous. The idea that governments had a right to tell you who your friends and enemies were, was seen as crazy. For it was now obvious to everyone, that your friends are those who treat you well, and your enemies those that treat you badly.

And the idea that those who happened to live in a geographical area were owed compassion and support from others in that area, no matter how badly they behaved, began to seem even odder. Honest people started to think, why should I care about the dishonest? Peaceful people started to think, why should I care about the warlike? Dynamic people started to think, why should I care about the lazy? Those, who had been victims of bad political policies, started to think, why should I care about those that assaulted me?

Not that anyone was any less inclined to be charitable than before – as long as the recipients deserved it. But those that didn’t deserve charity – the lazy, the dishonest, the aggressive, the violent, the political – were shunned. And that was entirely their own fault.

At a higher level of thinking, people began to see politics for what it was – an outdated way of dealing with others, based on nothing better than violence, dishonesty and intimidation. They came to compare and contrast it with the way of dealing with others, which is natural to human beings – economics. A way based on being a value to others, and trading with them in an environment of peace, honesty and justice.

All along, so good people now understood, it had been the political way of doing things – their system – that had been unsustainable. There was nothing wrong with our way of doing things, the economic system, that couldn’t easily be solved given the will and a bit of effort.

People came to see political policies, designed to harm innocent people, as assaults against those innocent people. And to see those that promoted, supported or enforced such policies as criminals and worse, deserving nothing but contempt and loathing.

So, those that robbed good people through redistributory or confiscatory taxation, were seen as the thieves they were. Corrupt corporate bosses, that ran to government to get subsidies, or to bring harm to their competitors, were seen as the crooks they were. Those that ordered aggressive wars, were seen as the mass murderers they were. Police, soldiers and others, that behaved with brutality, were seen as the brutes they were.

Those that spied on innocent people were seen as the stalkers they were. Those that lobbied for bad laws were seen as the perverters of justice they were. Governments that oppressed, impoverished or aggressed against innocent people were seen as the criminal gangs they were. And those that promoted the “human activities cause catastrophic global warming” fraud – wanting, as they did, to destroy industrial civilization for the sake of nothing more than a pack of lies – were seen as the traitors to humanity that they were.

There grew also, in the minds of good people, a divide, a separation, from the politicals. Good people began to see the politicals as something different from themselves, as less than members of the human species. Neanderthals, some called them.

And there grew in the minds of good people a demand to bring the politicals to justice. All those that had taken an active part in politics deserved to be thoroughly investigated, scrutinized and judged as individuals. And those – whether politicians, lobbyists, bullying bureaucrats or officials, media, corrupt corporate bosses or other vested interests – that were found to have used political ruses to harm good people, or to profit at the expense of good people, deserved to be made to compensate their victims, and to be treated as the criminals they were. It was now their turn to feel fear and guilt.

But the most significant change of all was that people came to think of themselves, and those around them, as individuals. What mattered was not where people came from, or what colour their skin was, or even what religion they had been brought up in. What mattered was how each individual behaved. That, and only that.

One by one, the zombies awoke, and found that they were human.

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chapter 46. Of the Third Wave

I, too, was in the air. On the Friday evening ride, the same day Ramael had invaded Earth. Under Gavantchin’s piloting, the big old bus was dancing. Round and round it went, like a car on an Earthly waltzer. The acceleration back into my seat was luxuriously crushing, but there was plenty of movement in other directions, too. And, occasionally, the dance partners separated, doing turns or loops. Then, the force moved to mainly down into my seat, and became, if anything, more crushing.

This was all Lily’s fault. Michael and Gabriel had asked Gavantchin to pilot the ride, on what would be her last Friday on Perinent. She had accepted, and Lily – overhearing the conversation, as I had – had asked, “Will you take us for the dance?”

“One ’mobile cannot make a good dance,” replied Gavantchin. “It takes, as you say, two to tango.”

“But cannot Michael or Gabriel pilot your ’mobile in the dance?” asked Lily.

Michael said, with a smile, “I will take the fly up to dance with the bumblebee.” Gavantchin laughed.

And so, we got to experience the dance of the bumblebee.

* * *

Next day, Saturday, we began to Pull the third wave. Using three Pullers, Cees, Elise and Hoong, we aimed to bring about nine or ten individuals each day, six days a week. We would not work on Sundays.

We aimed to have all the day’s intake Pulled before 12 of the 22, so the latest arrivals would wake up before the 14. Once an individual had been Pulled, we took them on a hospital style trolley to the common room to recover, so allowing the Puller to start looking for the next. Ben was in charge in the common room, and a mix of people did the transport.

Once two or three were awake, we started a briefing to tell them what was going on. Michael, Gabriel and I together did the briefings, aiming to make them no longer than about half an hour. Next, we let each write a message to tell colleagues, friends or family to expect them back in a day or two. And Gabriel or I Pushed that message where they asked.

Then we allocated a Team member to each individual or pair, to take them to see the Punishment Pit and for a brief talk with Harv’I. Dede, Lily and Marie did most of the guiding, but in a few cases I chose to be tour guide myself. Following the visit, which lasted about two hours, we would return them to the common room.

Meanwhile, I decided who if anyone from among our trainees (whether from the first or second wave) we should pair with each member of the third wave. I tried to make sure that those from the second wave, who were scheduled to be Pushed back, had as much notice as possible of what was going to happen.

During the afternoon, I finalized my decisions on where we would Push each individual back to. Usually, this was Ramael’s ’mobile, but occasionally I would send someone directly back to their home.

Before the 17 of the 22 Perinent time, Michael, Gabriel and I gave those to be Pushed to Earth a final pep-talk. Then, at or just after the 17, Hazael sent me a mescap indicating that he was ready to receive. Sometimes he might do this from a safe place on the ground, other times from geostationary orbit. Paul and Melinda were always in the ’mobile at such a time, to take care of those we Pushed when they arrived. Sometimes there were other trainees in the ’mobile as well, other times not. It depended on the relation between Perinent time and Earth time.

I replied with the list of those we would Push to the ’mobile, the list of who should be dropped off with whom and where, and the time at which we would be ready to start. If all had gone well during the day, then we should be able to start within a few minutes. If not, it might be an hour or more before we were ready.

We generally used only one Pusher, either Cees or Elise, to send the members of the second and third waves to the ’mobile. Ramael would aim to take them to their destinations on, usually, the following Earth day. If someone was to be sent directly back home, I usually asked Hoong to do it.

Paul, Melinda and Hazael ensured that an area of seats near the back of the ’mobile was kept clear and with backs lowered, to be the target area to Push people into. They would move new arrivals into other seats as soon as they arrived. This avoided Cees or Elise having to spend time recalibrating the remote eye between Pushes.

After the final Push of the day, we exchanged mescaps with Hazael to confirm the tally was complete, and when we would next do the same exercise.

That was the plan. And to begin with, at least, it worked well. On the Saturday, the first day of the third wave, we Pulled and briefed nine. We sent them back to Earth together with three trainees from the second wave, and I nominated four trainees from the first wave to be dropped off with their sponsors too.

We had all had a very tiring week, so there was no demand to go on a journey on the Sunday. But that evening, we had a celebration to mark the imminent departure of the Brjemych, and to thank them for all they had done to help us. Many toasts were drunk, including much Hooch Juice.

* * *

The next day, Monday, I chose to act as tour guide for a member of the third wave. This individual had been prominent in the so-called opposition in his country for some years. He had just recently been elected into power, but he had not yet had power long enough to do much damage.

“You are a very lucky young man,” I said to him as we walked towards the Pit. “If you had come into power much earlier, you could easily have been one of those sentenced to the Pit you are about to see.”

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You are a politician,” I replied. “But, in the Galaxy, there is no politics as it is practiced on Earth today. For today’s Earthly politics is the art of perverting law and justice, either to benefit vested interests, or to persecute those the rulers don’t like.

“If you had been in power for an extended period, you would surely before long have made bad laws to harm innocent people, and so gone seriously against Galactic law. That would have made you fit for the Pit.”

He considered this. “So, there is law in the Galaxy?” he asked.

“Yes,” I replied, “there is law. But that law comes from the nature of civilized species. And it is discovered, not invented.

“In the Galaxy, the individual is central. A key part of the Galactic way is common-sense justice; the idea that, over the long run, each individual deserves to be treated as he or she treats others. And every Galactic individual, regardless of species or achievements, is equal before the law. Meaning, that what is right for one to do, is right for another to do in similar circumstances, and vice versa.

“So, Galactic law is quite a simple matter. It consists of prohibiting violent aggression, theft and fraud against Galactics or candidate species, a requirement to respect others as individuals, a requirement that individuals take responsibility for the effects of their actions, and a few provisions necessary to support those.”

He nodded slowly, but said nothing.

We came to the lift down, and he stepped in without a word. At the bottom, a Cherub met us. My companion seemed to have so little telepathic ability, that he didn’t even receive the Cherub’s thoughts – let alone mine.

We reached the punishment building, and were let inside. The shortage of food was starting to bite. There were fights all around. “These are some of your political soulmates,” I said. “Be thankful you are not among them.”

He was sick on the sandy floor, then I had to support him as the Cherub opened the door and he staggered back through the airlock.

My companion perked up a bit as we walked on towards Harv’I’s house. “You seem to think I am a bad person,” he said. “But what, exactly, have I done wrong?”

“You have been prominent in the ‘opposition’ to a criminal gang that masqueraded as a government,” I replied. “Yet you failed to oppose most of the bad things they did to people.

“You failed to oppose their policies of steadily increasing control over every aspect of people’s lives. You failed to berate them for treating human beings without respect or dignity. You failed to challenge them for treating people like objects to be exploited and taxed out of existence.

“You failed to do enough to defend freedom of speech and other civil liberties. You failed to oppose routine surveillance of everyone. You failed to oppose arbitrary police powers. You failed to oppose aggressive, immoral and unnecessary wars.

“You failed to oppose redistribution of wealth away from the people who fairly earned it. You failed to oppose a tax system that takes from the politically poor, and gives to the politically rich like bureaucrats and failed bankers.

“You failed to oppose the fraudulent accusation that, through emissions of carbon dioxide, we humans are causing catastrophic change in the global climate. You failed to oppose those whose agenda is to ration our use of energy, and to take away our right to travel by car or by air. Worse, you actively supported this fraud.

“Now that you have power – I will be fair to you – you are trying to stop, or even to reverse, a few of these bad things. But you are not doing nearly enough to end the harms that have been done to good people, and to bring compensation to the victims of those harms.”

“I am doing the best I can, within the limits of politics,” he said.

“Ah, politics,” I retorted. “Perhaps you should spend more time looking at how people see you and your damned politics. A lot of good people have become angry and disgusted with the entire corrupt system. Individuals like you, playing politics-as-usual, do nothing to help our alienation.”

“But I am only trying to make sure the government does its proper jobs,” he said. “Like defending people against terrorists.”

“Taking reasonable steps against terrorist criminals,” I said, “is one thing. Treating all of us as if we are potential terrorists, is quite another. As is allowing police or soldiers to act like terrorists. Do you understand the differences?” His reply made it plain that he did understand, but still wasn’t prepared to commit himself wholeheartedly to defending our freedoms.

“As to climate change,” he said a little later, “I know there are those – like you – who don’t believe that the crisis is real and caused by human activities. But surely you would agree that the potential damage from doing nothing is so big, that we ought to take action even if we aren’t absolutely sure? It’s called the precautionary principle.”

I snorted. “I know about the precautionary principle,” I said. “It’s philosophical junk. And I’ll tell you why. First, do you think I am responsible for the effects of my actions on others? Am I to be held responsible for any harmful effects of the carbon dioxide I cause to be emitted?” He nodded. “Yes, of course,” he said.

“So, if the problem is real, you think that I should pay towards solving it and compensating the victims, in proportion to the amount of my emissions?” He nodded again.

“Next, would you agree that the best scientific knowledge we have is not sufficient to make a clear-cut, objective decision? Which is why you want to use the precautionary principle, to force action now?” He seemed a bit confused, but eventually nodded again.

“So, even leaving aside the possibility that the climate change accusations are frauds and not genuine science, it could still be that the problem might turn out, in the end, not to have been real?”

“I suppose so.” Grudgingly.

“Right. Now, let’s consider this possibility; that the problem isn’t real, and never was real. In this case, you impose on me – against my will, and against everything that I know of the science – serious costs, financial, in lifestyle and in freedom, for which I get no benefit at all. Is that so?” Eventually, another nod. A reluctant one, it seemed.

“Do you think that, if the problem turns out not to have been real, you and others that pressured for these costs to be imposed on me should be made to compensate me?”

“Of course not,” he replied. “That’s one of the things government is for. Making difficult collective decisions.”

“There’s the problem,” I said. “In one breath, you hold me responsible for the alleged bad consequences of what I do. In the next breath, you deny your own responsibility for objective and serious damage that you cause me. I call that a foul. And if the accusations against me are fraudulent, it is a double foul.

“If you were held responsible for the effects of your decision, and made to compensate anyone you harmed if you got it wrong, you would be far less eager to use the precautionary principle. In fact, no-one in their right minds would use it. No costly action would ever be taken on any matter until the facts are settled beyond reasonable doubt.

“You may not realize it, but as a politician you are trying to use for your own benefit bad old doctrines called sovereign immunity and irresponsibility. ‘The king can do no wrong,’ and all that. You are trying to make out that politicians and other government agents may evade responsibility for their actions, while ordinary people may not. But those ideas are hundreds of years out of date. They have no place in democracy, let alone in a Galactic species. Wouldn’t the world be a far better place, if individuals in government were held responsible for their share of the bad effects of the policies they make and implement?”

My companion was spluttering, for I had challenged many of his core beliefs in only a few minutes. Fortunately, we were now approaching Harv’I’s house. “Change of subject,” I said. “You are about to meet Harv’I, our local project manager. If you are into religion, he will be of great interest to you. For his father, Jahw’I, crash-landed on Earth three thousand and some years ago, and was the first cause of what later became Judaism, Christianity and Islam.”

We sat on the swinging sofa, and Harv’I came out from his house. Greetings were exchanged. Harv’I asked my companion to outline, in view of what he had learned today, the things he would do when he was returned to Earth. As he spoke, Harv’I and I carried on a telepathic conversation.

“How sound is his mind?” I sent. “Can he be trusted, or not?”

“Most of his mind is basically sound,” sent Harv’I. “But there are areas with knots in. For example, he is very worried about what you have just spoken to him about. He knows he ought to repudiate those bad policies. But he feels he cannot reverse his past support for them, and remain politically credible.”

“He has a lot of learning to do if he is to become Galactic, then,” I sent. “Can you do anything to untie some or all of the knots in his mind?”

“If you mean, am I capable of it,” sent Harv’I, “then the answer is Yes. There is enough good in his mind to give me something I can work with. But if you mean, is it right for me to do it, then it is not Galactically illegal or taboo, but it is unusual. We Elo’I do not normally let ourselves interfere so intimately in others’ minds, particularly because the consequences of a mistake would be terrible.”

“In this case, though,” I sent, “are you not repairing his mind? Are you not like a doctor operating on him? If the operation is successful, he will become a great value to our project, and history may well record him as a great man. If not, I don’t see how he will be any worse off than he is now.”

Harv’I took quite a long time to reply. That was very unusual. “I have noticed,” he sent in the end, “that all the individuals you have brought to me so far in your third wave have had knots in their minds. Whereas, only a few of your trainees have suffered from knots, and all of the Team have clear and sound minds.”

“Knots in the mind may be an effect of taking an active part in politics,” I sent. “Politics is very corrupting of the character, and maybe that effect would be directly visible to you.”

This time, Harv’I took even longer to reply. Eventually, “Very good,” he sent. “I see that there is a case for me, where I can, to act to smooth out a mental knot or two here, a kink or two there. I will begin with this man.”

There was a mental “zing!” that went past me, and the man next to me on the swinging sofa seemed to lose his place in what he was saying. Then, he said to Harv’I, “Oh! Thank you for that. My mind feels much clearer now.” Then, turning to me, “I now understand what you, and Michael, and Gabriel have been telling me since I arrived here. I will abandon my old, wrong, political views. And I’m with you and your project. I will do all in my power to bring the human race into the Galaxy.”

“Success?” I sent to Harv’I. “Bulls-eye,” he replied. “A St. Paul moment.”

* * *

As we walked back to the hotel round the north side of the Pit, I told my companion that I planned to allocate to him one of the trainees from the first wave, who was already on Earth. This individual – none other than my European parliamentary friend – had been trained in the Galactic way of doing things, and would keep him on the path towards it.

And I reminded him that, if he didn’t do properly the job he had taken on, I could always order him Pulled back here, either for further instructions, or in the worst case for punishment. But I hoped, in view of what had happened at Harv’I’s, that I would not need to use that sanction.

* * *

To Pull the third wave, and send back all the trainees to Earth, took twice as long as I had planned – four weeks. This was partly due to difficulty in finding some of them, and partly due to some additions I decided to make to the third-wave list.

On the Monday after the last trainees left, Michael took Tuglayino and Tuglayono back to the newly refurbished Camp Four. The following day, he took Tuglaydum and Tuglaydee, their job at Camp Two now done, to the docking station for their return to their home planet. They promised that they would join us on Earth for the celebrations when the project was finished.

Why the Environmentalists are Wrong

(Neil's Note: The date on this one is September 16th, 2002. Looking back, I think I was pretty near right. And what has happened since - for example, temperatures have not risen significantly in more than 15 years - makes my case even stronger. And yet, we still aren't free of these bedamned warmists and their evil, criminal policies. Go figure.)

Recently, I was browsing through the web-site of some of my freedom-loving friends. I came across an article called "The Environmentalists are Wrong", by Bjorn Lomborg. It was originally written for the New York Times, and published on August 26th, 2002, first day of the Johannesburg “Earth Summit”.

There is much to admire in this article. Lomborg summarizes most of the enviro arguments in about 60 words. And he follows this with plenty of good reasons, both scientific and economic, why the enviros are wrong. Yet, as I read his article again, I keep feeling that he has not gone far enough. More needs to be said on this subject. So, I will do my best to say some of it.

Lomborg shows a healthy scepticism for most of the enviros' arguments. Yet there is one issue, on which he seems to accept the received wisdom. And that surprises me. That issue is “global warming”.

Now, I am an informed layman, not a professional scientist. And it is not my intention here to bemuse you with facts and figures, citations and references. I will simply state some of the scientific questions, which must be answered to assess the global warming issue. And I will put beside them the answers that, according to the sources I have read, represent the experts’ best understanding so far.

  1. Q: Is the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increasing? A: Yes, it has been increasing in the past, particularly over the last 50 years or so.

  2. Q: Is the carbon dioxide increase caused by human activities? A: Very probably, some or even much of it is. But even this is not proven beyond doubt.

  3. Q: Have global atmospheric temperatures been increasing? A: It depends on how long a time frame you look at. Since the last ice age, yes. Over the last 1,000 years, no; if anything, the opposite. Over the 20th century, yes, but only slightly.

  4. Q: Does more carbon dioxide cause higher atmospheric temperatures? A: There are plausible theories, in which this can happen. Computer models based on these theories predict that it would happen. But the link is not proven.

  5. Q: Do past records show that more carbon dioxide causes higher temperatures? A: No. In the 20th century, the biggest temperature rise was between 1900 and 1940, which was before the big increase in carbon dioxide. And those computer models, which predict big warming in the future, do not agree with the past records.

  6. Q: Are human emissions of carbon dioxide the cause of global warming? A: This is a loaded question. Even to phrase the question, you have to assume that temperatures actually are going up – which is not proven. And to be able to answer Yes to this question, you need to show, first, that all or most of the carbon dioxide increase is due to human activities – likely, but not proven. Second, that more carbon dioxide causes higher atmospheric temperatures – again, not proven. And third, that even if there is global warming, the cause of it is carbon dioxide and not other factors which have nothing to do with human activities, such as the sun becoming warmer.
Which all leads to a deeper question: why should we care anyway? Isn’t more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere likely to have good effects rather than bad – for example, by encouraging the growth of plants and forests? Mightn’t higher temperatures actually be good for us, by lengthening crop growing seasons, and allowing cultivation at higher altitudes in many parts of the world? And if a warmer planet did lead to bad side-effects, aren’t there ways in which we could cool it down? (For example, increasing cloud cover by having airliners spray out small particles to provide nuclei for clouds).

And yet, virtually every politician in the Western world has jumped on the warming bandwagon. Human activities that cause global warming, they say, should be taxed, curtailed, and ultimately stopped. Even though there is no proof that there is any such thing as global warming. And, even if there really is global warming, there is no proof that human activities are its cause.

Notice, too, how cleverly enviros and their political friends have changed their linguistic terms. Notice how they have turned the phrase “global warming” into “climate change”. If a scientist came out with irrefutable proof that the global warming scare was a complete fraud, and the planet is actually cooling, they would merely do a pirouette. “There”, they would say, “we told you so. It is human activities that are the cause of this climate change, this cooling. So we must tax, curtail and ultimately stop these activities”.

In his article, Bjorn Lomborg bemoans the high cost of the Kyoto protocol agreements. He identifies ways in which far more good could be done for far less. But I believe that he has missed an important point. Kyoto is expensive because the politicians want it to be expensive. They want to implement the Kyoto protocols to punish us for what they see as our sins.

Among enviros and their political friends, there is a general hatred of Western industrial civilization. They do not often say so in plain words, but the hatred is there. They don’t like us being active and productive. They don’t like us being prosperous. They don’t like us re-arranging our planet to suit ourselves.

Consider, for example, how the enviros demonize our use of energy resources. Coal? It’s dirty and polluting, they say. Oil and natural gas? They cause global warming – and they’re running out. Nuclear power? It’s unsafe. Hydro-electric power? It harms fish. Some of them, it is true, make exceptions for solar and wind power. But wind power and ground-level solar power are too unreliable, and take up too much space, to be practical ways to power a world-wide civilization.

Enviros constantly harp on about how we should cut our use of resources such as oil. They say that we must make our economy sustainable for the long-term future. But they miss an important point. A finite resource cannot last for an infinite time. If a resource will run out in 50 years at current consumption rates, then even if we were to cut our use of it to only one-tenth, it would still run out in 500 years. In reality, what we must do with such finite resources is to use them wisely to get us to the point where we don’t need them any more. Researching and prototyping long-term, large-scale energy sources, such as nuclear fusion or solar power collected in space, are far more constructive activities for the human future than imposing taxes or trying to ration energy use.

Enviros also try to make us feel guilty for producing waste. As I write, I have in front of me a propaganda booklet from a local council, telling me to “Reduce, Re-use, Recycle”. It is, of course, printed on recycled paper, which has an unpleasant feel because of the chemicals used in its production. And I can’t help thinking that, somewhere in the world, trees should have been planted to make that paper, but weren’t. But the main thrust of the enviro message on waste and recycling seems to be that we should spend large amounts of time sorting our garbage and taking it to all kinds of different places. What a waste of the most valuable resource of all, the time and energy of productive human beings.

Some enviros believe that the world is overpopulated. With human beings, that is. This view, though, is rather easy to counter. If they genuinely believe that the world is overpopulated, they can do something about it. They can go kill themselves.

And then there are “endangered species”. Now, none of us goes about our daily business with any intention of extinguishing species. Although, perhaps, when dealing with species hostile to human beings – such as wasps and tsetse flies – it might be better if we did. Yet enviros try to make us feel guilty because, they say, we put species of owls or salmon in danger of extinction. (But I’ve never extinguished an owl! Not even one. Honest).

The enviros seem to forget, too, that new species are evolving all the time, and that a niche, which has been vacated by an outdated species, may be just what a new one needs. What they seem to want is to freeze the pattern of species on the planet for ever, according to how it happens to be at one particular time.

There is a common thread, which runs through all the enviro arguments. That common thread is fear of change. They want to freeze evolution. They don’t want the planet to become warmer – or colder. They don’t want abundant, cheap energy. They don’t want technology to power us rapidly forward towards a better world. And they, in cahoots with their political friends, are prepared to go to great lengths to stop us.

Environmentalism is a closed-system way of thinking. The enviro view is a static view. They see nature as a balance, and the ultimate purpose of life as stability. But that isn’t the way the Universe works. In reality, nature is not a balance, but a dynamic, evolving, forward-moving process. And we human beings are part of that forward-moving process. That, in a nutshell, is why the environmentalists are wrong.

“Save the planet” sounds a noble slogan. And saving the planet for a good cause is a noble end. But we don’t need to save the planet from human beings. We need to save it for human beings. We need to save our planet, our economy and human society world-wide from the enviros and the politicians, and from the consequences of their static-universe thinking. It’s time to get moving.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Why Today's "Justice" Is Not Justice

(From the archives - April 21st, 2002. There's a lot in this one - N.)

It is often said that, “there’s no justice”. Though this is, perhaps, an exaggeration. For everyone, on occasions, encounters what they can readily identify as a kind of justice. When someone that has been treating others badly suffers a pratfall, for example, many people are inclined to laugh, or to say “it serves them right”, rather than to sympathize.

And yet, this little saying, “there’s no justice”, is a symptom of a deeper problem. There is today a deep sense that there is not enough justice in the world. Very many people share this sense, but few have any idea what to do about it, and those who do all disagree with each other.

The politically-correct media spout lots of claptrap about “social justice”, “environmental justice”, “global economic justice” or even “public justice”. Politicians tinker endlessly with “the justice system”. But almost no-one says anything at all about justice itself. And no-one seems able to supply a clear answer to the question, what is justice?

This question – what is justice? – sounds simple. Yet an attempt to apply to it that bluntest of philosophical instruments, the dictionary, rapidly ends up going in circles. Justice, says the dictionary, is just conduct or fairness. Fairness is being fair, or otherwise said, just or equitable. Equitable means – yes, you’ve guessed it, fair or just.

The dictionary has failed us. Nor does that slightly less blunt instrument, the encyclopaedia, give much help either. In Encyclopaedia Britannica (1929 edition), the article on Justice consists of just 13 lines, and says no more about the concept of justice than does the dictionary. In a modern CD edition, there is no article on Justice at all.

If we try to answer the question by looking back at what pundits of the past have said, we find that few seem to have dared to take a deep breath and begin a sentence with, “Justice is…”. The Roman jurist Ulpian, in the 3rd century AD, made a good attempt: “Justice is the constant and perpetual will to allot to everyone his due.” The difficulty, of course, is in determining what is “due” to be rendered, and who decides it. In the 19th century, Disraeli said that justice is “truth in action”. An admirable sentiment, but not of much practical use. And no other definitions of justice seem to have survived the test of time to find their places in the quotation book.

With such questions, when all else fails, we lovers of freedom have to turn to our last resort – common sense. So, what does common sense tell us about justice? Recall the offender, that suffered a pratfall. Think, for example, of a lying or embezzling (or both) politician caught and exposed by the press. Why do many people feel satisfied or even amused by such cases? Because justice, or at least a measure of justice, has been done. Because the biter has been bit. Because people can see those that have treated others badly getting a bit of their own medicine, for once.

Our satisfaction at seeing the guilty punished comes from our sense of the oldest form of justice of all, namely, revenge. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. Serves the bastards right.

Yet justice is more than mere revenge, as history shows us. For, in early Roman times, there came a shift in what constituted justice. The negative ideal, of vengeance against the perpetrator of a bad act, gave way to a more positive ideal, of compensation by the perpetrator to the victim. Both parties benefited from having available, as a more civilized alternative to the old “law of retribution”, a newer law, the law of restitution. One benefited through receiving compensation, the other through not being violently attacked.

This ideal of redress for wrongs is still present in systems of justice today, for example in the English law of tort. And few people would object to its validity as a principle of justice.

But these principles, of punishment for bad acts and of compensation to the victims of wrongs, do not fully answer the question “what is justice?” For these two precepts of justice seem to be telling us something deeper. They are telling us something about the relationship between how an individual behaves towards others, and how that individual deserves to be treated in return. The principle of punishment, rooted in the law of retribution, is saying that those that behave badly towards others deserve to be treated badly in return. And its partner, the law of restitution, is telling us that those who do not harm others do not deserve, over the long run at least, to suffer harm.

Here is part of the idea of justice, which our common sense seems to be taking us towards. Those that behave badly, deserve to be treated badly. And those who behave well, deserve not to be treated badly. For example, those who do not rob others, deserve not to be robbed. Those who do not attack others violently, deserve not to be violently attacked. Those who do not defraud others, deserve not to be defrauded. Those who do not obstruct others’ progress, deserve not to have their progress obstructed.

This aspect of justice, the negative aspect, can be seen as the flip side of Confucius’ Golden Rule. That rule, in its original form, tells us not to do to others what we would not like to have done to us. This negative kind of justice, then, is the condition which results when everyone obeys the Golden Rule. Or, at least, if on occasion someone fails to obey it, they provide in due course compensation to the victim.

But we have still not captured the full essence of justice. It is all very well for those, who do not treat others badly, themselves not to be treated badly. But what of those who actively treat others well? What of those thinkers and scientists, who use their talents to add to the store of objective human knowledge? Those engineers and technologists, who help to move human society forward, to make things possible which were not possible before? Those entrepreneurs, who create new products and services to make everyone’s lives better? Those honest working people, who help turn those products and services from dream into reality? Those benevolent people, who give their time and energy to counsel and to help those in trouble? Those educators, who strive to lead out the creativity of those they teach, to help them develop their talents to the full? Don’t these people deserve something more than just “not to be treated badly”? Don’t they deserve to be treated well – in the same measure as they treat others well? Don’t they deserve all the prosperity, all the pleasures, all the thanks and appreciation, which they have honestly earned?

Justice, we can see, has a positive side too. And that is, that each individual, who treats others well, deserves to be treated equally well in return. Putting the positive side together with the negative, we arrive at what seems a decent common-sense definition of justice: Justice is that condition in which each individual is treated, over the long run, as he or she treats others. And, looking back, we can see that Ulpian, all those centuries ago, was not so far from the mark.

If a society existed based on justice – on common-sense justice – then everyone in it would have a positive incentive to behave well towards others. For the way to get more of what you want, the way to get treated better by others, is to treat others better! Imagine what a peaceful, prosperous, happy society that would be.

But that is not the kind of society in which we are living today. I will not repeat here the litany of ever-increasing abuses, which politicians and their cronies are carrying out against us innocent human beings. But it is plain to almost everyone that justice – individual, objective justice – is not being done. Those who treat others well, far from being cherished, are being suffocated and stamped upon.

When individuals feel that they are not being treated justly, they begin to lose their natural benevolence. When injustice continues over a period, there is a kind of snowball effect. People withdraw their goodwill, and start to become touchy or even aggressive. If you wonder why there is so much violent crime and so much strife in the world today, consider lack of justice as a prime candidate to be one of the reasons.

Here is something, with which we lovers of freedom can win good people over. We can promote justice. Not “social justice”. Not “environmental justice”. Not “global economic justice”. Not “public justice”. But justice. Common-sense justice. Individual justice. That condition in which each individual is treated, over the long run, as he or she treats others.

Let us look forward to the next and due step in the development of human society. Let us look forward to the world-wide rule of common-sense justice. Let us look forward to a time – soon – when everyone will have the justice they deserve. When we lovers of freedom will have all the freedom, all the peace, all the prosperity, all the happiness, which we have earned and will continue to earn. And when our rivals, the lovers of tyranny, will have got their come-uppance. It will serve the bastards right.

Chapter 45. A Friendly Invasion

I did not personally experience what happened on Earth in the aftermath of P-Day. Instead, I later gathered accounts from Ramael and Hazael, and from the trainees. And I used the detailed journal which Melinda kept.

The first-wave trainees woke in Ramael and Hazael’s ’mobile. They could see Earth far below them. They were all a little bit stiff, having been asleep in the ’mobile for several days.

Ramael switched off the quiet-mode field, which had made the ’mobile invisible. He chose to approach from south to north over the South Atlantic, as this seemed the least obviously threatening area to come from. That done, he turned north-west, towards the nearest Earth had to a capital city – Washington, where it was a bright, cool Wednesday morning in March.

Ramael’s piloting on the way in was energetic. The passengers weren’t sure whether he was trying to evade missiles, to show off his piloting skills to the people of Earth, or to give them a good ride. Or, perhaps, all three.

Ramael had no trouble at all in evading the missiles sent to blow him out of the sky. They did, indeed, explode. But by the time they did, they were at least a million kilometres from Earth. The pilots that scrambled to intercept him suddenly found themselves a thousand kilometres or more away from where they had been a moment before.

Hazael turned a switch, and broadcast on a lot of radio frequencies at once. “That was not very kind of you. If anyone attacks us again, we will be forced to defend ourselves actively,” he said.

No-one took up the offer. And so, Ramael flew the ’mobile ostentatiously over Washington, and brought it in to land on the White House lawn.

The incumbent was away, having been Pulled to the Punishment Pit. It was easy to imagine the hordes of scurrying officials trying to work out what to do. But Hazael chose to make life simple for them.

“I’m from the Company for Galactic Advancement, and I’m here to help you,” he broadcast. “Will someone who has authority to speak for the people of this country please come out of that palace, and parley with us?”

After a short delay, two bureaucrats that had drawn the shortest straws came out. Hazael, in his pink robe, and two white-robed Americans from among the trainees, got out of the ’mobile.

“I,” said Hazael to the bureaucrats, “am Hazael of the Seraphim. And this gentleman and lady are two of your own. They have been trained in the Galactic way of doing things. We have brought them here so they can help the best of your leaders, and all good people on your planet, move Earth societies into the Galactic way of peace, prosperity and justice.

“I must warn you, do not do them any harm, or allow anyone else to harm them. Neither I nor my pilot would be at all pleased if anything bad happened to them. I am sure you already have some idea of what we can do if we need to. And my project managers also can punish wrongdoers most harshly, if they wish. Think about what happened recently to your president and his predecessor.

“Is that clear? Do you agree to protect this gentleman and lady, and to let them access your leaders and advise them?”

The bureaucrats hesitated. Did they believe Hazael and his friends really could do what they threatened? Eventually, “Yes, he can,” one of them murmured. The other nodded to Hazael.

“Good,” said Hazael. “Let us drink a toast to seal our agreement.”

Another white-robed trainee came out of the ’mobile, bearing a tray with five glasses of Seraphim red wine. He offered them to the two bureaucrats, then to Hazael and the two trainees. He went back inside.

Hazael raised his glass. “To humans as members of the Galaxy!” he said, and drained the glass. The two trainees repeated the toast and the action.

After a pause, “Who could say no?” said one of the bureaucrats. And they both drained their glasses.

Hazael bowed to the others, and re-entered the Seraphimobile. Ramael gave the warning cry of “Sit back,” and took it off. Straight up for fifty metres or so, then the nose lifted and the ’mobile powered upwards and to the east, turning, weaving and occasionally looping as it went.

“Show-off,” said Hazael to Ramael, who beamed.

* * *

In the first day’s work, 12 hours or so, they dropped off about a dozen of the fifty-nine first wave trainees in their own countries. Without subjecting its passengers to uncomfortable accelerations, the ’mobile could get from anywhere on Earth to anywhere else in a little over an hour. So they had time to visit Europe as well as the Americas.

On that first day, they used, as their targets, presidential palaces and similar haunts of ruling élites and their hangers-on. So, the ceremony was similar each time, although sometimes the trainees had to interpret. The only effect the repeated doses of wine seemed to have on Hazael, was that he became a little more verbose each time.

Ramael had told the trainees about the third wave. He explained that those being dropped off first were considered the most likely to remain safe, even without a third-wave member in their country. He told them that the later drop-offs – and those in the second wave – would often be accompanied by a sponsor from the third wave, who was likely to be close to, or even possibly in, power.

After a good day’s work, they returned to Washington for the night. A tycoon had radioed Hazael and offered rooms for the party in his five-star hotel. The trainees were glad, because they felt a strong need to stretch out in bed for a while.

The ’mobile simply landed on the roof of the hotel. The owner greeted the trainees cordially, and in return was offered a ride in the ’mobile the next day. Ramael and Hazael told him that they did not need to sleep, and so preferred to remain in the ’mobile. No-one from the government dared to bother them.

* * *

As the days unfolded, the trainees of the first wave were gradually unloaded. As time went on, the drop-offs became far less public. Though, whenever the ’mobile came flying low near a neighbourhood, there was no shortage of people coming out to see if it landed, and if it did, to mark where it landed and who came out.

Ramael had a list from me, of who he should look to drop off where and when. But he had full authority to make changes as needed. And trainees sometimes wanted to be dropped off somewhere I had not expected. This meant a fairly substantial admin task for someone in the ’mobile itself. Knowing that she was to be among the very last to be dropped off, Melinda had volunteered to be the one to keep track of what they had achieved, and what they still had to do.

The third wave of sponsors, and the second wave of trainees, were Pushed from Perinent into the ’mobile while it was at rest relative to the Earth, then taken to their drop-off points. Each night, those remaining took advantage of the Washington tycoon’s offer, or of one of a number of similar offers from hotel owners in other countries.

At least, that was the theory. But, as had happened with the Brjemych, there were some troubles. There was unrest in a number of countries, particularly in tropical South America, the Middle East and parts of Africa. And there were places, where even Pulling the main culprits to the Pit had not loosened the grip of tyrannical governments.

We had agreed that Ramael would not, initially, interfere unless the ’mobile was threatened or a full-scale war was about to be started. We would try first to deal with these problems from the Perinent end, by Pulling more bad individuals to the Pit, or potential leaders to be briefed and sent back. Only if that failed would we send Ramael in to assist one side or the other.

But otherwise, things went well. No-one made any attempt to attack the ’mobile, or anyone from it. And a swathe of the media, at last, started to tell the truth. John and Galina’s bombshell had had its effect. People knew instinctively that what was happening was so big, that it couldn’t be ignored, or hand-waved or politicked away.

Change for the better was in the air.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

How to Visualize the Future

(From the archives - April 12th, 2002)

Those, who have read my previous papers, will know that I have set myself a program(me). To stop complaining so much about how bad things are, and to start asking two kinds of questions: WHY are things how they are, and HOW TO make them better.

Thus paper is the first in my HOW TO series. There will be more!

Before we lovers of freedom can create constructive change, we must understand our goals. What do we really want – both as individuals, and for those around us?

We are all different. So what each of us wants is different. But we have desires in common. For peace. For prosperity. For individual freedom and human rights for all. For justice. For an environment of honesty. For everyone to have the maximum opportunity to develop themselves to the full, to trade with others, and to enjoy their earned rewards.

A few years ago, I wrote some words about the kind of world I want to live in. Today, I would like to share these words with you.

* * *

Imagine, I thought, if our economy were really flying! Imagine if the jobs pages were always full of exciting, new and lucrative opportunities for you. Imagine knowing that, when you have finished the job you are currently working on, there will always be another good opportunity just round the corner. When, that is, you have had a long and luxurious holiday first.

Imagine if your job was full of interest, excitement and achievement. Imagine if you were greeted by your work-mates with happy, smiling faces. Imagine if your job was well paid, and gave you a real feeling of being able to make a difference. Imagine if you could afford to take several months each year of time out for travel, study, creative art, spending time in the countryside, or whatever else you wish.

Imagine the transport, which would take you anywhere you wish to go. Imagine if that transport was door-to-door, extremely fast, affordable, private, very convenient, luxuriously comfortable, fun to ride in, safe and totally hassle-free. Imagine if you could use your computer or talk by video with your friends as you travel.

Imagine the places you could go in that transport. Imagine yourself visiting the most beautiful countryside world-wide. Imagine yourself visiting imposing cities, elegant towns and fun resorts, all over the world.

Imagine if you could go anywhere in the world, knowing that you will encounter only peace, love and honesty. Imagine if you could live and work anywhere in the world you choose, without formalities.

Imagine if you could choose to share the wealth you earn with just those whom you care about. Imagine if you could spend your income on what you want to spend it on. Imagine the beautiful home, in which you would live. Imagine if you had machines to do all the boring chores for you. Imagine the goods and services, which you would buy. Think of all those people who provide those goods and services, whose jobs you would be helping to support. Imagine knowing that you are helping to make those good people wealthy and happy.

Imagine if you could live in permanent, robust good health. Imagine that, if you do fall ill, you know that doctors whom you can trust will treat you quickly, efficiently and painlessly. Imagine knowing that your old age will be physically and financially comfortable. Imagine that you might be able to live, healthily and happily, significantly longer than the norm of 70 years and some.

If you have children, imagine that you could buy courses for them which are cheap, yet educate them to higher standards than ever before. Imagine the joy of finding that your children are able to do, easily, things which you could not even have dreamed of doing at the same age.

Imagine being able to feel that you can trust the people around you. Imagine knowing that everyone respects your right to privacy. Imagine feeling physically secure, and well protected from the very few criminals in existence. Imagine knowing that you are safe from attack by falsehoods or by fraud. Imagine being able to feel that the law is just, honest and on your side.

Imagine knowing that everyone will treat you at least as well as you treat them. Imagine knowing that you have a positive incentive to behave well towards others, and they to behave well towards you. Imagine knowing that, if you want something good for yourself, all you have to do is an equivalent amount of good for someone else. Isn’t civilization wonderful?

Imagine if you felt fully appreciated by those around you, and by human beings as a whole. Imagine being able to feel the joy of achievement, the happiness of fulfilling yourself, the harmony of knowing that what you are doing is good. Imagine experiencing, every day, the happiness which you have earned and deserve.

Imagine if the news were filled with new discoveries and new possibilities, with things to make all our lives better. Imagine if the headlines were always about positive human progress. Imagine new sources of cheap, abundant energy. Imagine new, more powerful and even cheaper computers for everyone. Imagine that cure for cancer at last. Imagine new strong, light materials, and the things people can make with them. Imagine if life for all human beings were getting better all the time, and imagine if you knew that progress was going to continue into the foreseeable future.

Imagine if you had all the love and companionship which you need. Imagine if the world around you was beautiful, and getting more beautiful all the time. Imagine if you had unlimited opportunities for personal growth. Imagine, imagine, imagine…

Most people have some of these good things in their lives. But no-one has all of them. I am not a betting man, but if I were, I would wager that no-one could honestly say that they have even half of these good things in their lives. Why not? Shouldn’t all of our lives be like that picture, which you have just put together in your imagination? Why should anyone settle for any less?

* * *

As I said earlier, each of us is different. Your vision of what you want for the future may not tally in detail with mine. But that does not matter. What matters, is that you do have a vision. And you can express it to others. You can get it out there into the market-place of ideas, where first dozens, then hundreds, then perhaps millions of individuals may see it and begin to think about it.

Here is a little piece of HOW TO. When something is negative, when you see something badly wrong, turn it into a positive. For example, all of us lovers of freedom want to reduce or eliminate taxation. We can turn this into a positive by asking, if those taxes did not exist, what would we spend our earned wealth on, beyond our own needs and the needs of our dependants? Would we invest in development of energy supplies for the long-term future? In entrepreneurs, and their ideas for products and services to make life better for everyone? In setting up self-financing insurance schemes to help those who are economically poor through no fault of their own? In a “University of the Internet”? Or in all of the above, and more?

What kind of future do our rivals, the lovers of tyranny, have to offer? Endlessly increasing taxation and regulation. Progress and technology grinding to a halt. An economy that regularly falls into stagnation and recession. A climate of hatred, directed against productive people. A "quality of life" that is low, and forever going downwards. Escalating violence everywhere. World-wide war and terrorism. Ever-mounting crime and insecurity. Armies of bureaucrats spying on us, ready to pounce on us and bully us every time we look as though we might break some totally arbitrary “law”. More and more political claptrap and spin. Socialism, environmentalism, Toryism and any other kind of evil “ism” they can think of. Fear, rage, hatred and pain. And they expect us willingly to pay for that stuff?

In contrast, we lovers of freedom look towards the kind of future that every peaceful, honest, productive human being wants deep-down. Freedom. Justice. Honesty. Peace. Prosperity. Progress. Excitement. Achievement. Happiness. Respect for individual rights. Quality of life, in its true sense. In short, an environment fit for civilized human beings.

In common with other lovers of freedom, I know that we still have much work to do on HOW TO achieve the kind of world we need and deserve. But first, we need people to understand that radical, positive change is necessary. We need to get good people around us – and, eventually, very many good people – to buy into our vision, rather than our rivals’. And there is only one way to do that. It is to make their visions part of our vision.

So, I address my final question not just to those who are already lovers of freedom, but to every human being who reads this: What’s your vision of how the future should be?

Chapter 44. Of Trouble Down t’ Pit

I ordered, for those who had worked through the night – Seraphim excepted, of course, “Eight hours of sleep-gas for all of us. Let’s have a meeting of everyone, at the 16. Ray and Jenna, please prepare dinner for the normal time.” I asked Michael and Gabriel to tell everyone about the meeting who didn’t already know.

I got up around the 15, and spent some time in the Pedia room telling Harv’I what we had done. While I was there, John and Galina came in. “I have checked the Earthly news media,” said Galina, “and I find surprisingly little. There were a couple of unconfirmed stories about politicians disappearing, but since then – nothing.”

Typical, I thought, of the mainstream media. Ignoring the facts right in front of them, while keeping to the party line – not rocking the political boat.

“Then,” I said with a smile, “we are going to have to give the media a scoop or two. Now it is time for you to take your recorders down to the Pit, and to get filming. If you like, you can start right away – this is more important than coming to the meeting at the 16.”

“We’re on the case,” said John, and the two departed to get their equipment.

At the meeting, I told everyone that Ramael would be landing the ’mobile openly on Earth at 9 of the 22, our time, the next morning, Friday. And that we would start Pulling the third wave on the following day, Saturday. We planned to have the third wave Pulled, briefed and sent back in approximately two weeks.

The second wave of trainees, too, would be sent back during this period. They would be Pushed into the ’mobile on Earth, then delivered in it to their own countries.

The other announcement to be made was that the first of the Brjemych would leave Perinent on the Monday. Gavantchin would pilot them to the Naudar’I docking station. As the ’mobile could take only two Brjemych at once, four trips would be necessary. These would take almost three Perinent days. And Gavantchin and Zer’ael themselves would go back to Seraph, leaving on the Thursday.

* * *

After the meeting, I went to the Pit. It was going dark. I took with me a laser gun. Not only for fear of predators; but also, to have something nasty-looking to point at the politicals I hated and despised so much.

There was no Cherub to guide me from the lift. But I could walk easily enough, for Hoong’s lights were still – mostly – on.

As I reached the outer door, a Cherub came out of the airlock behind it. “Greetings, Neil,” he sent. “You come opportunely. There is much to see. Compose yourself.” He led me inside, through the lock and then the inner door into the punishment building. Though the light was brighter than outside, it took me a while to adjust to what I saw.

To my right, Galina was filming, and behind her John keeping up a commentary. A second Cherub was near them. The remaining two Cherubs were on guard, to prevent any inmate of the bunks interfering with the action Galina was filming.

Two well known ex-politicians lay in their suits, sweat-soaked, on the sandy floor. One trying to break the windpipe of the other, the other trying to scratch out the eyes of the one. It was a very ugly, slow-motion dance.

Further to the left, a fat slob of an ex-politician had fallen off its top-tier bunk – or, perhaps, been pushed. It lay grunting and wheezing, body broken. No-one moved to help.

These were the most obvious, but there were other scenes of distress too. And only about half the inmates had woken up yet! It would be worse later.

“Nice work,” I sent to the Cherub. He genuflected, and led me back through the airlock.

* * *

John and Galina came back to the hotel, looking satisfied, about the 18. “We have plenty of material,” John said. “Including some shots which will enable viewers to recognize the individuals concerned.”

“How quickly can you edit it and get it out?” I asked.

“Tonight,” he replied. “We will skip dinner, if Ray and Jenna will provide us room service. Then we will work as long as it takes. Before the morning, what we have recorded will have been sent to hundreds of news outlets on Earth.” “Good,” I said. “Go to it.”

After dinner, I stood up and said, “I’ve been working on a few things not all of you may have been aware of.

“Firstly, I asked Gabriel and Tuglaydum to teach Galina how to Push mescaps quickly to several destinations on the same planet. And I asked Gabriel to procure several hundred low-quality mescaps to be sent to Earth. There’s no danger – we won’t be trying to Pull these back. We’re doing a mailshot, folks.

“Secondly, John and Galina have recorded some brilliant material from the Pit. I witnessed a little of it myself. They are working through the night – again! – to edit it, then they will make many copies and send them to Earth. Newspaper and TV editors, beware.”

Cees smiled, for he now understood why I had, weeks earlier, asked him to Pull two laptop computers and several hundred memory sticks from Earth. And Marie understood why, earlier still, I had asked her to design a cartoon to attract the attention of media editors.

“Thirdly,” I continued, “I have set up a mechanism for Pulling food from Seraph for the inmates of the Punishment Pit. Gabriel is doing the Pulling work. But there will also need to be a transport team, like the one we had yesterday, to wheel the supplies down. Volunteers gratefully accepted.

“And please don’t think I am being kind to our enemies. I have set the level of supplies at three-quarters of what they need to survive. I want them to keep fighting each other.”