In any serious project of thinking, one must first determine what one is trying to achieve, and
how success will be known. Not everything that is valuable can be measured-grace, for
example-but one must have a general idea as to what direction to move, and how to know one is
For many of us, it has become difficult to dream a positive future. We have vague notions of
survival, of averting supposed catastrophe, but those are strictly negative constructions. Whatever
direction the world eventually drifts or blows, it appears that it will have very little to do with us.
We see the ascendancy of massive transnational corporations, and see very little to prefer in them
over equally burgening massive transnational governments. Towering above us, we see monolithic
buildings of glass and stone and steel, and know, vaguely, that decisions are being made.
No one, however, is asking us our opinion. Pessimism in the face of this is certainly an
understandable, and-perhaps-a natural reaction. Yet, outrage and confrontation are also natural
reactions. To fight for what you love and believe in is also natural.
We need to begin, collectively, to envision what we want the future to look like, then work
backwards and figure out how to get there. You can't hit a target you don't have.
For myself, I like to begin the future with architecture, with homes and roads and communities
that are beautiful as they are functional.
For me, the future looks green. Let us place ourselves imaginatively in the year 2100. I imagine
many comfortable houses in the country, surrounded by vibrant flowers, and pets. They produce
their own energy, through solar and wind. This is supplemented as needed with very safe nuclear
Everything is local. Their food is grown locally-indeed many tend large gardens. Their businesses
are local. A regulation was passed in 2012 in which corporations were granted exemption from
Federal taxation if they only did business in one State. For a period of five years, the Federal
taxation on the income of individual employees of such companies was also cut by 25%. This
created a business incentive to restructure.
More importantly, business leaders became increasingly convinced that this was a means of
creating a better world. What many forget is that corporate executives have to live in the worlds
they create, and most of them truly care about other people. Capitalism is the sum total of
individual decisions made in an economic system, and those decisions are based on moral
reasoning which can be altered based upon new understandings. "It" is not a monolith or a
We still have cities, of course. Many people love the vibrant energy of cities. What has changed is
that for every four blocks of steel and concrete, there are four blocks of parks. Even within the
skyscrapers, one can find entire floors dedicated to horticulture, and the plant variety is
tremendous. In general, one rarely sees cars. Most people live and work within a few blocks, and
cycle most places. There does exist public transporation underground, and most people store
their cars on the outskirts of the cities.
Our population has shrunk, not due to any aggressive or oppressive government regulation, but
simply as a result of the collective decisions of most individuals to reduce population size. You
have more room to stretch your arms that way.
And the Developing World is developed. Through free trade and economic activity--coupled with
steady increases in technology, and widespread, but not universal, deployment of democratic
governance-the large gaps between rich and poor have been bridged, so that all members of all
nations lead very comfortable lives.
This economic development had the effect of reducing population growth everywhere. The
pattern is repeated there the same as it has been everywhere else. First, when you decrease infant
mortality and increase longevity through modern technology, you get rapid population growth.
Then, once people are convinced their names will endure with only a few kids, it stabilizes. In a
mature society, it can even shrink again, which causes no one any fear.
War is a thing of the past. When everyone is comfortable, there is no need for the violent
exertions of the past. At the same time, it is generally understood that a happy life requires
difficulty. One must have challenges. You can't just sit around enjoying everything.
Work is a sort of ritual. People have come to realize that you have to do something, and that if
you bring the right mindset to it, then anything can be a source of pleasure. They have jobs and
businesses just like we do today. Yet, they don't work very many hours. With technology (which
does NOT include robots with artificial intelligence) very little needs to be done.
More importantly, a global change has emerged in the social lives of all societies. They have come
to realize that the most important quest for all humans is the conquest of resentment and self
pity, and the cultivation of gratitude and contentment. Given this, the relentless energy of
rampant consumerism has faded away, and most people do not ask very much, materially, from
Rather, they dedicate much time to various forms of personal and spiritual development. Not all
people believe in God, and not all disbelieve in God. Yet, all live together in peace, understanding
that we all have the choice of being alone together, or to love one another, and live in a larger
Psychologists have developed serious and effective systems for raising virtuous children. What this
means precisely depends on the social order in question, but broadly speaking is based on the
You can trust your neighbors, and you can trust strangers.
The artists of our world have dedicated themselves to helping people achieve beautiful visions
and further their self development. They have abandoned the narcissistic destructiveness of the
20th century. They utilize their creativity to help foster happiness. Large scale artworks act as
virtual temples, for the contemplation of and cultivation of joy and well-being.
Governments are not absent, but are largely invisible. Most decisions are made locally, by the
people affected. There is no UN, and no need for it. From time to time people organize
conferences to discuss something, but it is an organic process, and there is no permanent
bureaucracy in place.
These are just a few broadstroke ideas. Hopefully all of this is relatively attractive. The only
argument to be made for large government is that it enables things through force-like income
equality or peace-that cannot be generated any other way in the short term.
Quite obviously, the problem of how to get to such a world is at a minimum a question of
politics and economics. More deeply, though, it is a problem of human meaning and of the
nature of truth, as I will show. This makes the starting point culture. In this book, I will be
introducing what I believe to be the four possible cultural systems. Those are the Sacrificial
Order, Cultural Sybarism, Cultural Sadeism, and Liberalism. I will cover each in turn.
For now, let me offer a few provocations, in the sense of offering outwardly radical solutions to
problems, which show the interface between Culture and political and economic order.
We could abolish substantially the entire Federal Government. This would include the military
and the bureaucratic structure we call the Welfare State. This would free up a tremendous
amount of money for investment, including overseas. It would certainly free up enough money to
fund start-up businesses by the millions in impoverished sections of America.
But how could we do this? Let's start with the military. We could make military service (or some
equivalent for Conscientious Objectors, perhaps Search and Rescue, which would be useful, or
Paramedic training) mandatory as they do in many other nations. All citizens, on reaching 18,
have to do one year of full time service. In the course of that, they are trained in the use of
weapons, which they bring home. As in Switzerland, Israel and other nations, large caliber
machineguns are to be found in many basements. Communities have tanks and jets, which their
own citizens are trained to service and use. People have ready access to rocket launchers, plastic
explosives and other tools.
We develop and deploy an effective missile shield, and keep up cutting edge developments in
electronic warfare, and defense from same. We tell all nations that if they attack us, or support
an attack on us, of any size, we will blow up one of their cities. We elect a President and continue
electing Presidents who can be trusted to fulfill this pledge.
This is a gamble, but it works. We stand down substantially our entire military, and each State
keeps up their own section of the country in terms of defense. Over time, as mentioned, economic
and social development overseas reduces and eventually functionally eliminates the need for
military capacity. The one year of service is turned into one year of character development. It is a
ritual indoctrination in self reliance and personal responsibility. The need for self reliance for
personal happiness is understood generally.
This is a cultural notion. This presumes what academics call a "normative" disposition; a sense
that there is a right way and a wrong way, and that certain values are ineluctably necessary for
Let us turn, then, to the question of poverty and the need for a Welfare State.
The adage goes "Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him
for a lifetime."
At root, the Welfare State is doling out fish. That is why poverty persists: we are not teaching
people to fish. And what would that look like? Placing value on self reliance, thrift, competence
and honesty. Teaching and insisting on traditional values.
What is the alternative to this? Pretending that the character traits of individuals have no effect
on their outcomes in life; that people, in general, who are lazy should have the same results as
people who work hard. That people who make poor decisions should be freed from the
consequences of those decisions, thus reinforcing irresponsibility.
We should not allow corporate executives to be free of consequence, nor should we allow people
who take money from the rest of us to be free from negatives caused by cognitive or character
This, too, is a normative judgement. It is a statement of a positive moral code which I believe will
have positive effects the more widely it is deployed. How such moral codes can be constructed
and defended will of course be the topic of this book.
Concretely, though, what sorts of policies might we put in place? For example, could we not
force unwed mothers to live in State (and I mean STATE, not the Federal Government) run
homes where they are compelled to live a very disciplined and structured life, if they want money
from the rest of us?
For people convicted of crimes, could we not teach them task motivation by demanding of them
that they accomplish some goal prior to being released? For example, could we not demand they
learn to play a musical instrument well, or bench press twice their bodyweight, or memorize
sections of Shakespeare? The goal would be difficult but possible for them. We could let them
choose their own goals, and make it so it takes roughly as long as their sentence to accomplish
them. If they finish early, they can be released early.
Obviously, some people are just bad eggs-sociopaths, to be clear, who will never develop
consciences--and we could develop a process for sorting them out, and put them in jail for the
duration of their lives. We could build comfortable jails that offer amenities to make this more
palatable. It need not be viewed as punishment, merely as removing from our social order people
who destroy sensitive things like trust. Being able to trust others is a valuable freedom too,
perhaps the most valuable for lasting happiness.
Kids growing up would be given the option of enlisting in something like a boot camp, which did
not however teach military skills. Rather, it would teach finance, self discipline, how to interact
well with others, how to start and run a business, how to reason and debate, and other useful
Graduates of such programs could get preferential treatment for loans. This need not be
enshrined in law. It would be sufficient for the organizers of such programs to build relationships
with local bankers.
For the working poor, there seem to be two basic issues: either they are working three jobs, and
can never get enough peace and quiet to figure out what they want, or they are lazy, in terms of
getting themselves educated, then getting themselves promoted. For the latter, we can offer up the
"boot camp", which would open prospects for them, as mentioned. Once they graduate, they can
be placed in better jobs, or funded to start their own business.. They can be "taught to fish", and
taught a useful skill. If they still fail, it is on them.
For the former, whose problem is not that they are lazy or irresponsible, we could create
relaxation centers in very scenic areas, and-through charity, or community (not national)
funding-allow them to spend a month doing nothing but whatever they want.
I think much good could come of this. Many lives are shortened or made less productive for the
simple reason that for year after year after year, you never get a chance to catch your breath,
and figure out how you can be most productive. We figure out how to cover mothers for
maternity leaves. We could figure this out too.
This would be a compassionate policy. Compassion is not an empty emotion: it has much value,
and much of our shared happiness depends on it. Ultimately, though, there is no genuine
happiness without self respect, and self respect cannot be given by even the most compassionate
person. It can be taken, though, by encouraging people to act on feelings of self pity, as a result
of MISGUIDED compassion.
Education can be managed by the States, in this country. That was, in fact, the explicit intent of
our Founders in their conception of this nation. So can agriculture and most other things. The
Food and Drug Administration could be privatized, so that products come with approvals similar
to the CSA or UL listings now on most electronic objects. The money for testing could be paid by
the companies looking to be listed. Multiple companies could do this, so if one messed up, they
lose market share.
The bottom line is that people seem to think that the Federal Government has money not
available to the States, or that both have money we haven't given to them. The reality is that ALL
of the money the Federal Government has originates with taxes collected in the States, plus
whatever is LOANED them by who knows who. Lately, it has largely been foreign governments.
All of these are suggestions which are open to rational debate and consideration, which are
specific, and are oriented around solving actual problems. As I noted in the beginning, you must
begin by determining what you want to accomplish.
In the broadest possible sense, the bridge from where we are today to a positive future will be
built of a renewed dedication to and understanding of morality. We are currently much vexed
with moral relativism, against which stands, by and large, only organized religion. An intermediate
position is possible.
That position is Goodness.