This article appeared in Consent #35 (December 2006)


- Paul McKeever, B.Sc.(Hons), M.A., LL.B.

Paul McKeever practises employment law in Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. Prior to leaving Ph.D studies to attend law school, he was a graduate student in the University of Western Ontario’s department of psychology. His research concerned the link between human visual perception and human cognition. Paul McKeever is the leader of Freedom Party of Ontario, and a founder of both the Freedom Party of Canada and Freedom Party International.

Copyright © Paul McKeever, 2006.


What follows is not a fully planned treatise but, rather, the beginning of a small number of articles each published only shortly after it is written. The facts - that I have limited time, that tomorrow belongs to no man, and that changing ones mind is not intrinsically evil - have led me to conclude that it is better to write what might prove to contain errors or to have been less than perfectly structured, than never to have written at all. It is my hope that, given the importance of the subject and the nature of my position on it, you - the reader - will agree with my decision, even if you would have preferred from me a more fully matured and finely honed version.

Part I: Introduction

The man who is stranded alone on an uncharted island can there do an injustice as easily as the man who lives in a city of millions.

Though countless injustices have occurred in the history of humanity, and though great harm has been done by some against many, no individual has ever done an injustice to another.

What I wish to demonstrate is that among the greatest harms ever done is the propagation of a definition of the term justice that makes both of the preceding sentences seem false to most of the world.

Throughout history, the terms “just” and “unjust” have been defined in terms of the impact that ones conduct has had upon another person. Arguably without exception, such definitions hold that the justice or injustice of what you give or do to another person (or what you fail to give or do to him) depends entirely upon what the other person deserves to receive from you. Under these definitions, ones decision or action is said to be just if it resulted in others getting what they somehow deserved; in others “getting their just desserts”; in others “getting what’s coming to them”. Ones omission, under these definitions, is said to be unjust if it result in others not getting what they somehow deserved; in others not “getting their just desserts”; in others not “getting what’s coming to them.”

Under such definitions, a man stranded alone on an uncharted island lacks a standard for determining whether his decisions and actions are just because his standard is other peoples’ deservedness and no other people are around. He is incapable of acting justly or unjustly because he cannot give (or refrain from giving) anything to any other person, whether that person deserves it or not. And, because others likewise can give nothing to him, he does not receive from others that which he deserves to receive from them.

When challenged by situations in which a person’s actions have involved multiple recipients, and when those actions have caused some to receive what they deserve, and others not, the integrity of such definitions requires the deservedness of others to be considered in the aggregate. In other words, the logical implication of making the justness of one person’s conduct dependent upon the deservedness of others is that the justness of every individual’s actions is measured in terms of the deservedness of a single, collective entity. For such a definition of justice to have any logical integrity, it must judge deservedness in terms of the “greater good” of a body corporate; of a disembodied leviathan; of a corporation whose shareholders are human individuals. As a result, such definitions of justice compel the logical (though irrational) mind to view humanity not as billions of individuals, but as a single collective entity.

Such definitions of justice often require some individuals not to get what they deserve, and some to get what they do not deserve. So, if justice is to have the effect that everyone actually gets what he deserves, the deservedness of others logically cannot be considered the standard by which the justness or unjustness of each individual’s decisions and actions are determined. The less intuitive truth overlooked or masked by the pro-collectivist definitions of justice is that when a man’s own life – rather than the deservedness of others – is considered the standard for determining whether his own conduct is just or unjust, the effect of justice is that every individual gets from others what (and only what) the facts of reality dictate he will receive as the result of the decisions and actions he has made for himself; every man gets what he, by nature’s standard, deserves.

Ultimately, pro-collectivist definitions of justice have pitted “justice” against the facts of reality, against reason, and against the survival and happiness of all individual human beings. In politics, those definitions have ensured that we choose to be ruled not by righteous governments, but by vile gangs, that we get from those gangs what we do not deserve to get from government, and that we do not get from government what we do deserve to get from government. If justice is to represent a concept consistent with righteous government, it must have its origin and nature grounded in the facts of reality.

Part II: Origin and Nature of Justice

Philosophy is comprised of five main branches: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, politics, and esthetics. Justice, properly understood, is an ethical concept, not a political or legal one (which is not to say that justice is of no relevance to politics or law). The beliefs of which an ethical philosophy is comprised are the logical implication of the epistemology underlying them. Similarly, the beliefs of which an epistemology is comprised are the logical implication of the metaphysics underlying them. Accordingly, to properly understand what I am asserting is the true nature of justice, it is necessary first that I at least identify the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical beliefs that lead logically to that definition. (A proof or in-depth discussion of metaphysics and epistemology is beyond the scope of this paper.)

Metaphysics: Every change has a cause. Every change implies the existence of that which is changing. Existence was not caused and logically could not have been caused. Existence exists, it always did, and it always will.

All that exists – including thought itself - is natural and physical. Nothing is above, or otherwise outside of, nature: nothing is “super”-natural. There are no contradictions in nature, and everything that is true is logically consistent with nature.

Epistemology: You are born with the tools you need both to perceive yourself and the world around you and to discover truths about yourself and the world in which you live. You might draw false conclusions about the world around you, and you might wish that things were different than they are, but the nature of the world around you is entirely unaffected by your mere beliefs or wishes about it.

Ethics: Ethics is the branch of philosophical study that aims to discover the rules that the facts of reality – including the laws of nature and your own nature as a human being – require you to obey if you are to survive in this physical life (the only life you will ever have), in this physical universe (the only reality that exists). It follows that rules that must be followed if you are to pursue your own death are not rules of “ethics.”

A set of truly ethical rules implicitly and necessarily assumes that your own life is the thing that is of greatest value to you. A dead mass of human tissue can value nothing.

Your own happiness is an emotion that results from obtaining or having that which is rationally of value to you. Because your own life is that which is of greatest value to you, the pursuit of your own happiness is your highest purpose.

Rationality and the Other Virtues It Implies: To pursue your own happiness, you must obtain knowledge of the facts of reality and of which decisions and actions will lead to your own happiness. This requires you to choose both to collect information about the world around you, and to process that information in a way that will lead you to discover a true, hence useful, understanding of it.

You cannot obtain knowledge of the facts of reality if you ignore the only evidence of those facts: physical evidence. That evidence can be received only by your sensory organs: your ears, nose, tongue, eyes, and tactile receptors. Your sensory organs and brain automatically create descriptions (i.e., percepts) of the physical evidence received by your sensory organs.

Neither can you obtain knowledge of the world if you do not choose to think rationally. Rational thought is a strictly logical process of thought that considers only percepts and concepts for which there is ultimately physical evidence. The term given to the virtue of trying always to think rationally is: rationality.

A failure to think logically about that for which there is ultimately physical evidence will often lead to beliefs that are not consistent with reality: to the erroneous categorization of falsehoods as knowledge. The erroneous categorization of falsehoods as knowledge can also be the result of a logical or illogical process of thought about that for which there is ultimately no physical evidence. Each of these is an example of a failure to think rationally; each is an instance of the vice known as irrationality.

Because your own life is the thing you value most, because the pursuit of your own happiness is your highest purpose, and because surviving and pursuing your own happiness requires you to obtain and to act solely upon knowledge, the means for obtaining knowledge is your highest virtue. Because your only effective means for surviving and pursuing happiness is rationality, rationality is your highest virtue.

Rationality is a virtue that implies several other virtues.

If you are a rational person, you have pride. Pride is not boastfulness. Rather, pride is dedication to the perfection of your own morality. As a rational person, you identify the values and virtues upon which your life and happiness depend. The irrational person does not do so and, as a result, puts his life and happiness in jeopardy.

If you are a rational person, you are an independent thinker. You do not accept something to be true merely because someone (or some thing: for example, a book) asserts it to be true. You use your rational faculty to discover knowledge for yourself, or to verify that another person’s claim is logical and ultimately supported by physical evidence (including every claim made in this article). The irrational person fails to do so and, consequently, adopts beliefs that are illogical or beliefs for which there is ultimately no physical evidence; he adopts falsehoods as beliefs; in making decisions – some of which are a matter of life or death - he mistakes falsehoods for knowledge. Reliance upon falsehoods leads him to the suffering of loss, to misery and possibly to his own premature death.

If you are a rational person, you are honest both with yourself and with others (with the exception that you do not communicate a truth that is being sought by a person who wants that truth so as to facilitate vicious conduct). The irrational person may lie to himself, replacing knowledge with falsehoods, which are of no assistance to the pursuit of his own happiness and may well lead to his demise. The irrational person may lie to others and may even prosper from his lies, but only until he is discovered to have been lying. Usually, such a discovery will eventually occur and, at that point, the irrational person’s fate is in the hands of those to whom he lied: lying gives another person control over his survival and happiness.

If you are a rational person, you have integrity. You hold and consistently act in accordance with the principles that must be followed if you are to survive and to pursue your own happiness. The irrational person may violate those principles and, if so, he places his own survival and happiness in jeopardy.

If you are a rational person, you are productive: you produce things of value because your own happiness depends upon it. The irrational person might not engage in the thought and action that is required to produce the material wealth upon which his life and happiness depend. He thereby imperils his own survival and happiness.

Like pride, independent thought, honesty, integrity, and productiveness, justice is a virtue implied by rationality. If you are a rational person, you are just.

Justice: That which is a net value to ones own life is the good. That which deprives one of value and thereby threatens ones own survival and happiness (i.e., that which is a disvalue), is evil.

“Value”, in this context, does not mean merely “that which one wants”. It means: “that which the facts of reality dictate will assist one to obtain that upon which ones own life and happiness depend.” Thus, whereas someone who is not suicidal might “feel” that he would like the thrill of jumping out of a plane without a parachute, the facts of reality dictate that jumping out of a plane without a parachute will almost definitely cause his death. Jumping to a certain death is not a value to ones life, no matter how thrilling the fall might be, and no matter how much you feel that you want to do it: value cannot be determined in the absence of a consideration of the facts of reality (in this case, without a consideration of the fact that one will die as a result of jumping).

Justice, being a virtue, describes a quality of ones own decisions and conduct. In particular, justice is the choosing of a greater value over a lesser one, and – when presented with no alternative but to choose between evils – the choosing of a lesser disvalue over a greater one. Injustice is the opposite of justice: the choosing of a lesser value over a greater one; the choosing a greater disvalue over a lesser one. Justice serves the purpose of life and happiness. Injustice does not do so, and will often result in ones own suffering or even in a premature end to ones own life.

Ultimately, justice is an aspect of being committed to reality. Justice is a rule that the facts of reality require a human being to obey if he is to pursue his own happiness.

When trading any material or spiritual values with another person, each person has sole power to decide what he will give, and at what price: that power – the power to choose - is a metaphysical given. That fact cannot be changed with coercion: no amount of beating or drugging can change the fact that each individual holds a sovereign power to make decisions. It is a fact that everyone must accept because it is a metaphysically given fact of reality.

When an offer has been made, one need not accept the terms of the offer, but one must accept that such terms exist. The fact that the demanded price must be paid to the offeror if one is to obtain the thing offered is as true as the fact that a price must be paid if one is to get from the base of a mountain to its peak. Thus, although the terms of an offer are not metaphysically given facts, but man-made ones, the terms of trade set by a man are, nonetheless, facts of reality outside of the control of everyone except the offeror.

Justice requires that one respond to such offers only in a way that allows one to obtain the material and spiritual values upon which ones own happiness depend. It is just for you to trade for that which is offered something that you value less, because the net gain that results leads to your own happiness and survival. It is unjust for you to trade for that which is offered something you value more, because the net loss that results can lead only to suffering and premature death.

Things of value are not all that one might pay to another person. In particular, one might pay another person a disvalue (which is another way of saying that one might impose a cost on another person). For example, one might deprive another person of their property, of their liberty, or even of their life: each such deprivation is the payment of a disvalue. However, justice demands that you pay a disvalue to another person only to prevent that person from paying a disvalue to you, or to repay a disvalue that the other person has paid to you.

To pay a disvalue at any other time is an attempt to make others pay the price that the facts of reality require be paid in exchange for the things of value upon which your happiness and survival depend. This is unjust for one reason: the facts of reality cause such attempts to fail, with the result that, because one has not paid nature’s price, one does not obtain or retain the things of value upon which ones own life and happiness depend. This is particularly true when disvalues are paid unjustly to rational people. For example, if you attempt to steal a rational person’s car instead of earning one, the rational person (being just) will pay to you a disvalue of equal magnitude: you will be forced to return the car, and to pay for the additional disvalues received by the person from whom you stole the car (for example, following a successful civil case against you would not only have to return the car but would have to pay some or all of the legal costs of the person from whom you stole the car). Similarly, if you attempt to obtain something of value by means of fraud, you will find that you must lie if you are to cover up the fraud for some amount of time, and you will find that the cover-up of each such lie requires more lies to be issued. In the long run, the task of preventing all of the lies from being uncovered will become unmanageable, and your fraud will be discovered. At that point, you will be paid a disvalue of greater in magnitude than the value of that which you obtained by fraud. In short, one cannot long delay repayment of that which has been obtained by the unjust payment of disvalues: the unjust payment of disvalues, in the long run, fails to be a successful method of obtaining and retaining the things of value that each person must obtain and retain if he is to survive and be happy.

With respect to the just payment of disvalues, the principle to be followed is “an eye for an eye”: for every disvalue that is paid to you, justice requires that you pay to that person a disvalue of the same magnitude. To do otherwise is to make an unjust payment of a disvalue, which is a decision that conflicts with your pursuit of your own happiness (as discussed in the preceding paragraph).

It cannot be stressed enough that justice is not a reference to someone receiving something that they are allegedly entitled to receive, or of which they are somehow deserving. Because justice is a virtue, it is a quality of ones decisions and conduct, of ones own decisions and conduct, not of others.

However, when two rational individuals trade things of value, the effect is nonetheless that each receives something from the other that, to himself, is more valuable than the thing he gave to the other person. This is possible because the value of any given thing differs from person to person (were that not so, trade would not occur except under coercion: if two people agree that a dollar is worth more than a pencil, neither will trade a dollar for a pencil). For example, a rational shoe maker may lack water but have a room full of shoes while the rational owner of a freshwater lake lacks shoes. To the shoe maker, a jug of fresh water may be more valuable than a pair of shoes while, to the owner of the lake, a pair of shoes is of greater value than a jug of water. By trading the shoes for the jug of fresh water, both the shoe maker and the owner of the lake end up with greater values than they had prior to the trade: both have achieved some happiness. A trade of things of value between two rational people is always a win-win situation.

{Part II continues next issue.}

©Paul McKeever, 2006. Printed with permission of the author.

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