The Contradiction of Negative and Positive Rights

Ethical theory holds that a negative right means that no person shall be subjected to the harmful actions of another person or group of people while a positive right requires that a person be subjected to the beneficial actions of another person or group of people.

Only the first instance, the so-called and inadequately named, “negative right” involves wrongs of any sort. The second instance requires provision of goods or services from one person to another.

If there are such things as “rights” then the foremost is the right to be remain inviolate in person and effects. All other rights are variations on that basic theme.

The provision of goods and services to another person against the will of the person providing the good or service requires expropriation which violates that primary right. This renders the very concept of positive rights invalid.

A reasonable way to avoid the confusion caused by the collision of negative and positive rights is to abandon use of the term “rights” altogether and instead discuss remedy for the violation of a person or a person’s effects. So, to strike at the root of social injustice stop talking about rights and focus on remediation of wrongs.

There is a good video at the Liberty Classroom discussing the idea of Negative and Positive Rights


Independence Day Approaches. Are You Independent?

Sprit_of_'76.2I celebrate Independence Day rather than the 4th of July. I celebrate the Spirit of ’76 rather than the political consolidation of ’87. I celebrate the decentralized states in America which were united in confederation in 1776 rather than the centralized United States of America created more than ten years later. The Spirit of ’76 springs from natural law and the natural rights of man while the consolidation of ’87 springs from the base motive for consolidation of power.

So many people seem to forget there were independent states united in the purpose of maintaining self-determination for more than ten years before a centralized power structure was created by the ratification of the US Constitution. Most history books speak of those times as if they were plagued with problems and emergencies necessitating consolidation and centralization of political power. Those history books also make it seem as if everyone agreed that a state of emergency existed which called for consolidation of power into a national form of government.

I am skeptical of those claims that the centralization of power was necessary. I’d like to take a closer look at those lost years of American history from 1776-1787 from the perspective of a revolutionary of the time. Patrick Henry opposed that power consolidation. As he stated before a convention called in Virginia to debate ratification of the proposed US Constitution:

  • patrick-henryConsider our situation, sir; go to the poor man and ask him what he does. He will inform you that he enjoys the fruits of his labor, under his own fig tree, with his wife and children around him, in peace and security. Go to every other member of society; you will find the same tranquil ease and content; you will find no alarms or disturbances. Why, then, tell us of danger, to terrify us into an adoption of this new form of government? And yet who knows the dangers that this new system may produce? They are out of sight of the common people; they can not foresee latent consequences. I dread the operation of it on the middling and lower classes of people; it is for them I fear the adoption of this system.

The founding American Spirit, what I call the Spirit of ’76, was about natural rights, natural law, independence, self-determination, autonomy, and individualism. There is an undercurrent of that spirit still alive in America today, but the vast majority of the American people virtually worship the centralized, consolidated power of the United States of America.

I close with the opening words of Patrick Henry’s less famous speech in opposition to consolidated power and defense of the Spirit of ’76:

  • THIS, sir, is the language of democracy–that a majority of the community have a right to alter government when found to be oppressive. But how different is the genius of your new Constitution from this! How different from the sentiments of freemen that a contemptible minority can prevent the good of the majority! If, then, gentlemen standing on this ground are come to that point, that they are willing to bind themselves and their posterity to be oppressed, I am amazed and inexpressibly astonished. If this be the opinion of the majority, I must submit; but to me, sir, it appears perilous and destructive. I can not help thinking so. Perhaps it may be the result of my age. These may be feelings natural to a man of my years, when the American spirit has left him, and his mental powers, like the members of the body, are decayed. If, sir, amendments are left to the twentieth, or tenth part of the people of America, your liberty is gone for ever.




Dreaming Lucidly – Asleep or Awake

The idea of a lucid dream has intrigued me since I read Stephen LaBerge’s book “Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming” in 1994.

LaBerge-Lucid-DreamingA lucid dream should not be confused with vivid dreams. A lucid dream is not necessarily a realistic or vivid dream. It is, rather, one in which the dreamer is aware of being in a dream state while in the dream state. These lucid dream states were first proven by Alan Worsley in sleep studies.

Awareness during a dream has the interesting implication of possible dream control. The dreamer may consciously direct what happens in the dream — operating like a dream artist. Of primary importance to potential dream artists is being able to remember dreams, so a good practice is keeping a dream journal. Once I had awakened from a dream and thought I had written it in my dream journal. Only later, after really waking, did I discover that I had unknowingly entered a second dream in which I made the journal entry. This phenomenon is known as a false awakening.

Along with dream recall, it is important to constantly question my waking state. Am I dreaming even now? How do I know whether what I am experiencing right now is real or a dream? If I regularly question my state of awareness while awake then I stand a better chance of questioning it while sleeping.

The root of lucidity in the dream state is awareness; consciousness. Realizing this I began to study awareness and consciousness and this led to discovering the work of don Miguel Ruiz via Gary van Warmerdam‘s Awareness and Consciousness podcast. The interesting point that these men make is that I am actually constantly dreaming… even while awake — perhaps most especially while awake. This point resonated with me.

Don Miguel Ruiz points out that all human beings are “Dream Artists” and have the ability to control their conscious dream state. What a twist on the idea of lucid dreaming! This makes a great deal of sense considering there is an objective, “real” world on one hand and there is a subjective world I create entirely within my mind, based upon my perceptions of the real world, on the other. The only difference between the unconscious dream state and the conscious dream state is that there is no interaction with the objective world in the unconscious dream state. Both states are completely perceptual.

the-fifth-agreement-101I am almost finished with don Miguel Ruiz’s book “The 5th Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery.”

Don Miguel’s previous best seller was “The Four Agreements” and this newer book adds a final “agreement.” An agreement, according to the author, is an idea accepted as true by agreement; either an agreement between people or an agreement made entirely within the mind. Agreements are not objective truth, they are only ideas accepted as true. As he points out, objective truth does not depend on belief… it just exists. Only subjective truth requires agreement, or faith. The task of all dream artists wishing to experience happiness is to discard the many false agreements accumulated over a lifetime and accept only those agreements which provide a foundation for happiness.

The proposed Five Agreements are simple, but not necessarily easy to achieve:
1) Be impeccable with your word
2) Don’t take anything personally
3) Don’t make assumptions
4) Always do your best
5) Be skeptical, but learn to listen

Words have power over awareness and consciousness because words are actually interpretations of objective reality. They are true only by agreement between (or within) the minds of people. Words are essentially symbols reflecting some objective thing or action. They are distorted reflections of objective reality. They are abstractions; merely phantasms. Being impeccable with my word means reflecting objective reality as accurately as possible…striving to faithfully reflect essential truth.

He points out that it makes no sense to take anything personally considering that the image other people have about me is not objective truth. It is merely their own reflection of my being. They are not telling me about my true nature; they are, instead, telling me their interpretation of me within their own waking dream. Even my idea of myself is the result of interpretation within my own waking dream. So, why take anything personally when it is all artificial; it is all a dream?

Assumptions are agreements I make within my mind. Since they are often not accurate reflections of objective reality, I should avoid them… or at least be very suspicious of them.

The 4th agreement is an acknowledgment that I will make mistakes in trying to keep these agreements. Just do my best.

The 5th agreement is a way to reclaim personal power. Personal power is lost by investing faith in a multitude of false assumptions about life.

All of these agreements come down to becoming more self-aware. That is, always questioning my internal dialog. Is this thought an accurate reflection of objective truth? Am I taking something personally? What assumptions am I making?

self-awarenessI am on the path to greater self-awareness. The realization that I am constantly dreaming, even while awake, was a great leap along that path.


Reading and Subvocalization

There is an interesting book I am reading, now, titled, “How to Read a Book.” It had never dawned on me that there are actually different approaches and different levels of reading until I started reading this book. According to the book there are four levels of reading and each level builds upon the previous level. The first level of reading is “elementary reading” or “rudimental” reading; basically simply trying to understand the words on the page. The second level of reading is “inspectional reading” and this level seems to me to be more of a technique than a level. It involves reading through the table of conents and the indices to get a feel for the book’s structure then skimming the entire book; “systematic skimming” is the term the authors use to describe it. It’s a quick method to get the basic gist of a book. The third level of reading is “analytical reading” – characterized by a thorough and complete reading of the book while seeking to anwer many questions while reading. Some of the basic questions are:

1) What is this book about as a whole?

2) What is being said in detail, and how?

3) Is the book true, in whole or in part?

4) What of it? Basically asking myself, “So what?” What does it mean to me?

The fourth, and, the authors say, the highest level of reading is what they call “syntopical reading” and may be described as comparative reading. At this level the reader compares and contrasts what is being read with what has been read in other books dealing with similar subjects.

I have yet to finish that book. So many books, so little time! That brings me to the most important topic of this post…

Since I am interested in so many things I read a lot. The problem is one of time management. I need to read more efficiently to be able to read everything I want to read. To read as efficiently as possible I need to learn how to stop subvocalizing as I read, that is speaking the words in my head as I read them. So, right now I am searching the web for tips on how to stop subvocalizing as I read.

Well, after reading several interesting articles online about subvocalizing, I have decided it may be in my best interest to not try to stop subvocalizing since it is an aid to comprehension. Still I need to work on my reading speed.


More on Authenticity

One of my favorite authors explores what it means to be an authentic human being in many of his stories and he sums it up in a 1978 essay:

“The authentic human being is one of us who instinctively knows what he should not do, and, in addition, he will balk at doing it. He will refuse to do it, even if this brings down dread consequences to him and to those whom he loves. This, to me, is the ultimately heroic trait of ordinary people; they say no to the tyrant and they calmly take the consequences of this resistance. Their deeds may be small, and almost always unnoticed, unmarked by history. Their names are not remembered, nor did these authentic humans expect their names to be remembered. I see their authenticity in an odd way: not in their willingness to perform great heroic deeds but in their quiet refusals. In essence, they cannot be compelled to be what they are not.” – Philip K. Dick

One way to understand authenticity is to understand what is is NOT. It is NOT like most interactions in human society — there is no deception involved in authenticity, yet deception is everywhere in the world. Lies and deceit in politics, advertising and personal relationships. The abundance of deception is why authenticity is valued so highly. Authenticity is such a rare thing. It is simple to have it, but simple is not always EASY.

I am making a personal pledge to become an authentic human being. I am not there, yet, but I am working on it. To be authentic means to be a member of what Albert Jay Nock called “The Remnant.” As Nock defines it, “The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them. The masses are those who are unable to do either.”


Body, Mind, and Spirit – The Trivium Method and True Meaning of Spirit

Maximizing human potential rests on three successive foundations; Body, Mind, and Spirit.

The first two are fairly well understood. The body requires proper care; good nutrition, exercise, rest and cleanliness. The mind requires exercise, too, and it helps to have a systematic approach to learning. The best method I have heard to date is the modern re-working of an old system into a method for learning any subject. Its modern proponents call it the “trivium method” and it relates to the classic subjects of the trivium; grammar, logic, and rhetoric. The grammar phase involves collecting the data; basically gathering the nouns, verbs and adjectives of the subject at hand. The logic phase involves elimination of contradictions to arrive at some level certainty. The final rhetoric phase involves being able to effectively communicate the idea to another mind.

The mind rests on the foundation of the body. There is no mind without a functioning body. Spirit also rests on the previous two foundations. A functioning body and a functional mind is required for the third part of the actualized human being… the spirit.

The spirit level is the least understood and most nebulous foundation of human potential because it is shrouded in mysticism and wishful thinking. Some consider spirit to be part of (or the same thing as) the soul. The idea of an immortal human soul is a mystical idea that really depends on wishful thinking. This wishful thinking is virtually universal in human culture. When I write about spirit, though, I am not talking about anything mystical. I am simply talking about intrinsic motivation.

Intrinsic motivation is an animating force that drives people, spurs them into action and gives them joy. It comes from within. When a human being is working toward a goal consistent with intrinsic motivation they tend to forget about fatigue and hunger… they get into “the zone” — concentrating intently on their goal. They also have a lot of fun and feel refreshed in the process. Working in “the zone” is not drudgery … it’s a calling.

I feel that I am operating only on the first two levels because I can’t remember the last time I was “in the zone” and I want to rediscover that … to be inSPIRed is to be SPIRited.



One of the first steps in my journey of finding my intrinsic motivation was to take the Strength Finder 2.0 assessment. Some self-actualization coaches recommend focusing on correcting weaknesses above all else. Actually, I think it is better to find strengths and take advantage of them!

My top strengths according to the assessment:

1) Input – A craving to know more.

2) Intellection – Intellectual appreciation.

3) Strategic – Able to quickly spot relevant patterns and issues.

4) Connectedness – Having faith in the links between all things, believing there are no coincidences. Everything happens for a reason. This one was a bit of a surprise to me until I thought about it for awhile.

My long running interest in astrology actually comes from my sense of how everything is connected. I’ve come to the conclusion that astrology does not provide reliable answers to the meaning of life, but I have improved my sense of connectiveness by learning about it. After studying it for years I have concluded that most of astrology is bunk. It does not give reliable insight on personality nor does it help to find life’s purpose. I know many practicing astrologers yet I do not know a single astrologer who can make reliable predictions with it. I still appreciate the beauty and harmony of the system, its long and interesting history, and the universal impact it has had on the human psyche… world wide.

Some day I may post some of the most interesting things about the prevalence of astrology in the human psyche… things like the fact that each day of the week is named for a planet. Even the order of the names of the days of the week has a special significance. The technique of traditional astrology is really quite interesting and contemplating the underlying cosmology heightens my sense of connection to the universe.

I have concluded that the only reliable method of gaining information is by collecting stimulus from the five senses and using reason and logic to eliminate contradictions to eventually find certainty. Astrology does not lead to any kind of certainty. Still, I love the sense of wonder I feel when gazing at the stars and especially the “wandering stars” or “asteres planetai” as named by the ancient Greek cosmologists. Logic and reason does not provide that sense of magic and wonder.

5) Learner – Having a great desire to learn and want to continuously improve, which is what this blog is all about!