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U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Answers Common Interview Questions

U.S. Transhumanist Party Chairman Gennady Stolyarov II Answers Common Interview Questions

Gennady Stolyarov II

Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party and Chief Executive of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, answers questions posed by Francesco Sacco, which are representative of common points of inquiry regarding transhumanism and the Transhumanist Party:

1. What is Transhumanism and what inspired you to follow it?
2. What are the long-term goals of the Transhumanist party?
3. What are your thoughts on death and eternal life through technological enhancements?
4. Do you feel there are any disadvantages to having access to the cure for death? What advantages are there?

Become a member of the U.S. Transhumanist Party for free, no matter where you reside. Fill out our Membership Application Form here.

See Mr. Stolyarov’s presentation, “The U.S. Transhumanist Party: Pursuing a Peaceful Political Revolution for Longevity“.

The World’s Poorest People Are Getting Richer Faster Than Anyone Else – Article by Alexander Hammond

The World’s Poorest People Are Getting Richer Faster Than Anyone Else – Article by Alexander Hammond

The New Renaissance Hat
Alexander Hammond
October 29, 2017

Last Tuesday marked the 25th anniversary of the United Nations’ International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. The date intentionally coincides with the 30th anniversary of the Call to Action, which saw the French anti-poverty campaigner Father Joseph Wresinski ask the international community, in front of 100,000 Parisians, to “strive to eradicate extreme poverty”.

To mark the occasion, Antonio Guterres, the United Nations Secretary-General, was featured in a short video assessing the current state of world poverty. Despite noting such issues as unemployment, inequality, and conflict continuing in some regions, Guterres correctly observed that since 1990 the world has made “remarkable progress in eradicating poverty.”

While it is valuable to acknowledge that problems remain, it is important to reflect on just how far we’ve come.

Alleviating Poverty Fast

The speed of poverty alleviation in the last 25 years has been historically unprecedented. Not only is the proportion of people in poverty at a record low, but, in spite of adding 2 billion to the planet’s population, the overall number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen, too.

As Johan Norberg writes in his book Progress, “If you had to choose a society to live in but did not know what your social or economic position would be, you would probably choose the society with the lowest proportion (not the lowest numbers) of poor, because this is the best judgement of the life of an average citizen.” Well, in 1820, 94 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per day adjusted for purchasing power). In 1990 this figure was 34.8 percent, and in 2015, just 9.6 percent.

In the last quarter century, more than 1.25 billion people escaped extreme poverty – that equates to over 138,000 people (i.e., 38,000 more than the Parisian crowd that greeted Father Wresinski in 1987) being lifted out of poverty every day. If it takes you five minutes to read this article, another 480 people will have escaped the shackles of extreme of poverty by the time you finish. Progress is awesome. In 1820, only 60 million people didn’t live in extreme poverty. In 2015, 6.6 billion did not.

Now let’s consider those people who are still trapped in extreme poverty. The Oxford University scholar Max Roser’s website, Our World in Data, used World Bank databases to estimate that in 2013, there were 746 million people living in extreme poverty. Of these people, slightly more than 380 million resided in Africa, with Nigeria being home to largest number (86 million). Meanwhile, 327 million of those in extreme poverty lived in Asia, with India having the largest proportion by far (218 million). China had 25 million. The remaining 35 million lived in South America (19 million), North America (13 million), Oceania (2.5 million) and Europe (0.7 million.)

Put differently, of those who live in extreme poverty, over 40 percent resided in just two nations: India and Nigeria.

The Poorest of the Poor

Since its economic liberalization reforms in 1991, India’s average income has increased by 7.5 percent per year. That means that average income has more than tripled over the last quarter century. As wealth increased, the poverty rate in India declined by almost 24 percent. But most significantly, for the Dalits – the poorest and lowest caste in Indian society – the poverty rate during this period declined even faster, by 31 percent. That means that in the nation that has by far the largest number of people in extreme poverty, it is the people at the very bottom of the social strata who are getting richer faster.

A similar trend can be seen in Nigeria. Since the new millennium, gross domestic income per capita has increased by over 800 percent, from $270 to over $2,450. There is much work to be done, but this level of progress shows that even in the poorest countries, the speed of economic growth is encouraging.

In order to help the poorest, consider the impact free-market capitalism has had in the last 200 years in alleviating extreme poverty. The Industrial Revolution turned the once-impoverished western countries into abundant societies. The new age of globalization, which started around 1980, saw the developing world enter the global economy and resulted in the largest escape from poverty ever recorded. That is something that the late Father Wresinski would have been eager to celebrate.

Alexander C. R. Hammond is the Research Assistant for, a project of the Cato Institute’s Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity. He writes about economic freedom, globalization, and human well-being.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

The Rational Argumentator’s Fourteenth Anniversary Manifesto: Who Is the Western Man?

The Rational Argumentator’s Fourteenth Anniversary Manifesto: Who Is the Western Man?

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2016

Who Is the Western Man?

On the fourteenth anniversary of The Rational Argumentator, it is fitting to consider the tagline that has been featured on TRA since its founding: “A Journal for Western Man”. But who is this Western Man for whom The Rational Argumentator is intended? In 2002, the answer to that question seemed rather apparent for at least a substantial segment of then-prevalent libertarian, conservative, and Objectivist thinkers who, each in their own way, understood the Western Man to stand for the general cultural ideals and noblest aspirations of Western civilization.

Unfortunately, the decade of the 2010s and the past two years especially have seen the rise of a noxious and fundamentally anti-Western, anti-modern, and anti-civilization movement known as the “alt-right”, which has attempted to appropriate the rhetoric of Western culture and even of the Renaissance for itself. The Rational Argumentator will not allow this appropriation to remain unchallenged. TRA stands resolutely in opposition to all forms of bigotry, racism, nativism, misogyny, and any other circumstantially rooted intolerance – all of which are contrary to the ideals of high Western civilization. But at the same time, The Rational Argumentator also cannot cave to the “social justice” campus activism of the far Left, which would have even the very identification of Western culture and civilization banished, lest it offend the ever-more-delicate sensibilities of firebrand youths who resolutely refuse to let knowledge of the external world get in the way of their “feelings” and subjective experiences. TRA will not abandon the Western Man, but will continue to explain what it is that the Western Man represents and why these principles are more important and enduring than any tumultuous, ephemeral, and most likely futile and self-defeating activist movements of our era.

So who is the Western Man? It is a not a particular man from the West. It is not a descriptor limited to a particular subset of individuals based on their birth, skin color, national origin, or even gender. Indeed, my original intent behind the “Western Man” descriptor was specifically to salvage the generic term “man” – meaning an archetypical representative of humankind – from any suggestions that it must necessarily be gender-specific. This subtitle was meant transparently to imply, “Of course, ‘Western Man’ includes women, too!”  Some of the greatest and most courageous Western Men – from Hypatia of Alexandria to Mary Wollstonecraft to Ayn Rand to Ayaan Hirsi Ali – have been women.

A Western Man can have been born anywhere, have any physical features, any age, any gender (or lack of gender identity), any sexual preferences (or lack thereof), any religion (or lack thereof) – as long as he/she/it is a thinking being who accepts the valuable contributions of Western culture and civilization and seeks to build upon them. If self-aware, rational artificial intelligences are developed in the future, or if an intelligent alien species comes into contact with us, these beings could potentially be Western Men as well.

A Western Man will respect and seek to learn from the great philosophy, literature, art, music, natural and social sciences, mathematics, and political theory that flourished in Western societies throughout the past three millennia – although by no means is a Western man required to focus exclusively on ideas that originated in the West. Indeed, Western culture itself has unceasingly interacted with and absorbed the intellectual contributions of Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Arabic, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Korean, and Japanese thinkers and creators – to provide just a few examples. Likewise, a great deal of hope for the future of Western civilization can be found among entrepreneurs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America who have endeavored, with notable success, to spread the technologies of the digital age, construct great buildings, and lift billions of people out of abject poverty and into humane and respectable living standards accompanied by ever-increasing longevity.

A Western Man is someone who embraces the ideal of cosmopolitan universalism – a rejection of circumstantially defined tribalism, of the casting of people as “one of us” or “the other” based on attributes that they did not choose. This cosmopolitan universalism is the product of both a long-evolving philosophical framework and the material abundance that enabled the broadening of what Adam Smith termed our circles of sympathy to encompass ever more people.

The edifice of Western philosophical thought has been built upon by thinkers since the times of Thales, Socrates, and Aristotle – but its greatest intellectual breakthroughs were made during the 18th-century Age of Enlightenment. The Western Men who embraced these ideals were often personally flawed; they were men of their time and constrained by the practical realities and social mores that surrounded them. Some Western Men throughout history have, unfortunately, owned slaves, respected individual liberty only in some instances, or been improperly prejudiced against broad groups of people due to ignorance or gaps in the consistent application of their principles. Nonetheless, the legacy of their work – the notions of universal, inalienable individual rights and the preciousness of each person’s liberty and humanity – has been indispensable for later accomplishments, such as the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage and liberation, civil and privacy rights, cultural and legal acceptance of homosexuality, and recognition of individual rights for members of religious minorities, atheists, and children. If we are able to see farther and know better than to repeat some of the moral errors of the past, it is because, to paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, we stand on the shoulders of intellectual giants who paved the way for our embrace of the aforementioned great cultural achievements.

The ideals of peaceful commerce and cultural exchange – indeed, cultural appropriation (in an educated, informed, and deliberate manner) of the best elements of every time, place, and way of life – have resulted in a dramatic reduction in warfare, a general decline in nationalistic and tribal hatreds, and a widespread understanding of the essential humanity of our fellows in all parts of the world. Were it not for the intellectual achievements of Western civilization and the global commercial and industrial networks to which it gave rise, humankind would still be embroiled in a bitter, Hobbesian war of all against all. A Western Man is anyone who gives the essential achievements of modernity their well-deserved recognition and admiration, and who studies and offers justified respect to the forebears and authors of these achievements. A Western Man is also anyone who seeks to build upon these accomplishments and add his, her, or its distinctive bricks to the edifice of human progress.

A Western Man is not a fanatic or a bully, and sees fanatics and bullies as the threats to civilization that they are. A Western Man does not use ideology to stifle peaceful expression or compel others to dutifully “know their place” within some would-be totalitarian static social order. A Western Man knows that some people will disagree with him, her, or it, and they have the right to disagree peacefully. However, they do not have the right to be protected from attempts at persuasion or the presentation of diverse and possibly contrary views.

A Western Man embraces reason as the way to discover more about the external world and about human beings. Reason is not the exclusive province of any subset of people; anyone is capable of it, but it takes training and effort – and great respect for the intellect – to utilize consistently and properly. From reason stem the empirical scientific method, the deductive processes of formal logic and mathematics, and the application of empirical and logical truths to the development of technology which improves the human condition. A Western Man does not vilify technology, but rather sees it as a key driver of human progress and an enabler of moral growth by giving people the time and space which prosperity affords, making possible contemplation of better ways of living and relating to others – a prerogative only available to those liberated from hand-to-mouth subsistence.

The ideal of the Western Man is to maintain the great things which have already been brought into this world, and to create new achievements that further improve human life. There is thus both a conservative and a progressive motive within the Western Man, and they must combine to sustain a rich and vital civilization. A Western Man can go by labels such as “liberal”, “conservative”, “libertarian”, “progressive”, or “apolitical” – as long as they are accompanied by careful thought, study, discernment, work ethic, and an earnest desire to build what is good instead of, out of rage or spite, tearing down whatever exists. Conservation of great achievements and progress in creating new achievements are not antagonists, but rather part of the same essential mode of functioning of the Western Man – transcending petty and often false political antagonisms which needlessly create acrimony among people who should all be working to take civilization to the next level.

The next level of civilization – the unceasing expansion of human potential – is the preoccupation of the Western Man. This – not descending into contrived identitarian antagonisms – is the great project of our era. Building on the philosophical groundwork laid by Enlightenment humanism and its derivatives, a Western Man can explore the next stage of intellectual evolution – that of transhumanism, which promises to liberate humankind from its age-old shackles of death, disease, severe scarcity, Earth-boundedness, and internecine conflict.

Who is the Western Man? If you accept the challenge and the honor of supporting and building upon the great civilization which offers us unparalleled opportunities to create a glorious future for all – then the Western Man can be you.

TRA Statistics and Achievements During Its Fourteenth Year

TRA published 211 regular features during its fourteenth year, a rate of publication comparable to that of the eleventh and thirteenth years, while remaining below the extremely active tenth and twelfth years, as shown in the table below:

TRA Year Regular Features Published Page Views in Year
10th 306 1,302,774
11th 208 1,077,192
12th 314 1,430,226
13th 228 892,082
14th 211 823,968

With slightly less content published during the fourteenth year, and a similar average number of page views per published feature (3,905.06 in the fourteenth year versus 3,912.64 in the thirteenth year), it could be expected that total page views would decline slightly. While TRA did not reach the milestone of 10,000,000 cumulative page views during its fourteenth year, it did come the overwhelming majority of the way toward it. Total lifetime TRA visitation currently stands at 9,892,636 page views. However, I am confident that the 10-million page-view threshold will be exceeded within the next two months.

I have reason to expect that publication activity will again accelerate during TRA’s fifteenth year, although this may not occur immediately. Over the past year, I have been occupied with satisfying some of the last remaining requirements of my actuarial studies, and their successful completion is in sight. In the meantime, I collaborated with ACTEX Publications to produce a major 400-page commercial study guide, Practice Problems in Advanced Topics in General Insurance, for SOA Exam GIADV.

Several large-scale endeavors within the transhumanist and life-extensionist movements were pursued over the past year. TRA’s anniversary (August 31) coincides with the date of formation of the Nevada Transhumanist Party, a non-election-oriented, non-donation-accepting, policy-oriented party that advocates for the widespread adoption of emerging technologies, individual liberty, and the pursuit of indefinite life extension. The Nevada Transhumanist Party has grown to 107 members during its first year and has been a forum for numerous thought-provoking discussions. Nevada Transhumanist Party activities have occurred online via its Facebook page and its hosted video panels, such as the Panel Discussion on Hereditary Religion, a conversation among Transhumanist Libertarians and Socialists, and the panel for International Longevity Day, in collaboration with MILE – the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension – entitled “How Can Life Extension Become as Popular as the War on Cancer?” In-person activities of the Nevada Transhumanist Party included attendance at a university political lecture, a local Libertarian candidate’s campaign event, and RAAD Fest, the largest in-person gathering of life-extension supporters to date, where I personally met and spoke with such luminaries of the life-extension movement as Aubrey de Grey, Bill Andrews, and Zoltan Istvan.

Gradual but fundamental shifts are occurring that will contribute to more frequent and impactful activity on The Rational Argumentator’s pages during its fifteenth year. As the overview of the Western Man in this manifesto indicates, the importance of TRA’s work and ideals remains paramount. TRA will remain a bulwark of thoughtful consistency in an era where it seems entire societies have become unmoored from core principles that are integral to a successful civilization. We will steadfastly champion the virtues of reason and deliberation, discussion and civil debate, individualism and classical liberal tolerance, creation and maintenance. Even when the tumult of current events calls into question the foundations of civilized life, TRA will be here to reaffirm and uphold them.

This essay may be freely reproduced using the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike International 4.0 License, which requires that credit be given to the author, G. Stolyarov II. Find out about Mr. Stolyarov here.

The Rational Argumentator’s Thirteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Thirteenth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2015

On August 31, 2015, The Rational Argumentator celebrates a successful end to its thirteenth year of existence. While TRA’s visitation is still recovering from the Yahoo-initiated closure of Yahoo! Voices in 2014, publication activity continues to be abundant. With the addition of Wendy Stolyarov as an Assistant Editor, more rapid and efficient publication of articles is now possible and has been ongoing for several months. As always, TRA continues to emphasize quality of content to set itself apart as a bastion of high intellectualism and thoughtful discourse that resists both information overload and the dumbing-down effects of the “bite-sized” media culture.

Total thirteenth-year visitation for all TRA features was 892,082 page views – compared to 1,430,226 page views during the twelfth year. The 37.6% decline in visitation is explained by the unfortunate closure of Yahoo! Voices (formerly Associated Content) in July 2014, which eliminated a popular channel through which TRA content was previously accessed and read. However, the milestone of 9 million cumulative views was still exceeded during TRA’s thirteenth year. TRA’s lifetime visitation stands at 9,068,668 page views. I am hopeful that, during TRA’s fourteenth year of operation, the 10-million-view threshold will be exceeded due to an increase to visits directly to The Rational Argumentator’s domain. TRA’s thirteenth year was marked by the publication of 228 regular features, compared to 314 regular features published during the twelfth year, 208 regular features published during the eleventh year, and 306 features published during the tenth year.

Growth in special features has also occurred during the thirteenth year, including special pages dedicated to new Minecraft skyscrapers, The Actuary’s Free, Open-Source Study Guide for SOA Exam GIADV: Advanced Topics in General Insurance (the only study guide for this exam known to me to exist at this time), and six of my new musical compositions. Furthermore, all of my past musical compositions have been remastered and are now available on YouTube in a playlist where they can be listed to in chronological order of their composition, accompanied by my works of fractal art or other inspiring imagery. Listeners can now conveniently hear all 82 of my compositions to date from one convenient location, with automatic transitions between individual works.

A significant innovation in TRA’s outreach activities occurred in 2015 in the form of new video panel discussions held via Google Hangouts on Air, where I recorded conversations with a variety of philosophers, technologists, and futurists – including Demian Zivkovic, Peter Rothman, Kyrel Zantonavitch, Franco Cortese (here and here), Adam Alonzi (here and here) and also facilitated discussions among multiple guests regarding how to accelerate technological progress and how to encourage more people to become techno-optimists. A major public-relations success, facilitated by the same means, was the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension (MILE) Demonstration of March 21, 2015, of which I and Wendy Stolyarov hosted the first three-hour segment.

The spread of my most famous work, Death is Wrong, has continued. This children’s book on indefinite life extension, illustrated by Wendy Stolyarov, is now available in four languages: English, Russian, Spanish, and French. The French Edition of Death is Wrong La mort, c’est mal!was published in May 2015 and was made possible due to the generous translation efforts of Philippe Castonguay. We continue to welcome and greatly appreciate any volunteer efforts to translate this vitally important book into as many languages as possible. Since Death is Wrong was made available as a free PDF download, a total of 3,440 copies have been downloaded from TRA directly – and likely, many more have been downloaded from external file-sharing sites to whose data I do not have access. As a result, the electronic versions of the book have now reached over three times more people than the 1,029 paperback copies that were shipped for distribution to children in 14 countries in 2014. I am pleased by this impact, but wish to see it continue and expand by orders of magnitude. The more awareness there is of the feasibility and desirability of reversing senescence and greatly reducing the probability of involuntary death, the more likely the majority of people will recognize the imperative of greatly accelerating technological progress in our lifetimes.

As TRA enters into its fourteenth year, it will continue to be characterized by the quest for permanence and the expansion of its voluminous content base through the publication of additional thoughtful and thought-provoking features. The promotion of individual liberty, rational philosophy, indefinite life extension, and uplifting esthetics will remain hallmarks of TRA’s mission and output. We will continue to exert a positive, enlightening influence on cultural and political discourse, while always adhering to the high standards and unyielding moral principles that have enabled TRA to endure while short-term-oriented publications have faltered. The Rational Argumentator is now among the oldest extant Internet-only publications, and it shall long outlive many of its more ephemeral counterparts.

How Can Virtual Worlds Help to Improve the Physical World? – G. Stolyarov II Interviews Peter Rothman

How Can Virtual Worlds Help to Improve the Physical World? – G. Stolyarov II Interviews Peter Rothman

Mr. Stolyarov invites Peter Rothman to discuss the question, “How can virtual worlds help to improve the physical world?”

Peter Rothman, M.S. is Editor of H+ Magazine where he is looking for great articles about the future of technology, humanity, the mind, society, and human culture.

Peter is an engineering and management professional with deep experience in the design, development, and launch, of commercial software products, internet services, and other mission critical systems. He is currently doing research into analysis and visualization of text for a consumer facing application.

He was previously chief scientist of a biometrics-based fraud prevention company. He led the development of, one of the largest providers of streaming audio on the Internet. He operated a product development and engineering team for the global multi-million dollar public software company MetaTools/MetaCreations. He founded and operated a startup software company, raised capital, and negotiated eventual sale of company. He has designed and implemented cutting-edge software, algorithms, and technologies.

Peter’s specialties include biometrics, mathematics, streaming media, virtual reality, simulation, text analysis, data visualization, and artificial intelligence.

Peter was an early developer of VR technologies, including developing applications of VR to financial visualization and a concept for unencumbered infantry training using VR for the US Army.

– “Welcome To Mixed Reality” – Article by Peter Rothman
– “Retro VR — a brief review of some 1990s HMDs” – Article by Peter Rothman
Microsoft HoloLens – Official Site
– “VRML” – Wikipedia
– “WebGL” – Wikipedia
SBIRSource – Avatar Partners
“Back in the Day” – Pictures of early VR and software products – Posted by Peter Rothman
H+ Magazine – Articles on Mixed Reality

Adam Alonzi Interviews G. Stolyarov II on Indefinite Life Extension and “Death is Wrong”

Adam Alonzi Interviews G. Stolyarov II on Indefinite Life Extension and “Death is Wrong”

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II and Adam Alonzi
February 22, 2015

Today I had a pleasant and erudite discussion with Adam Alonzi regarding the feasibility and desirability of attaining indefinite longevity in our lifetimes, as well as Death is Wrong and its impact.


Adam Alonzi’s YouTube Channel
Adam Alonzi Reads Death is Wrong

Contrasting the Roles of World-Transforming Business Enterprises in the Novels of Hazlitt, Heinlein, and Istvan – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Contrasting the Roles of World-Transforming Business Enterprises in the Novels of Hazlitt, Heinlein, and Istvan – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
December 17, 2014

Henry Hazlitt’s Time Will Run Back, Robert Heinlein’s Methuselah’s Children, and Zoltan Istvan’s The Transhumanist Wager each portray a different path by which business enterprises can dramatically improve the human condition, catalyzing paradigm shifts in the societies around them. (Follow the hyperlinks above to read my detailed analyses of each novel.) Far from being concerned solely with immediate profits or meeting quarterly earnings goals, the entrepreneurs depicted in these novels endeavor to thrive despite political persecution and manage to escape and overcome outright dystopias.

Among these three novels, Methuselah’s Children shows the tamest business-based route to reform. For centuries the Howard Foundation aims not to transform the broader society, but rather to protect its own beneficiaries and encourage incrementally greater longevity with each subsequent selectively bred generation. The Howard Families adapt to existing legal and cultural climates and prefer keeping a low profile to instigating a revolution. But even their mild outreach to the general public – motivated by the hope for acceptance and the desire to share their knowledge with the world – brings upon them the full force of the supposedly enlightened and rights-respecting society of The Covenant. Rather than fight, the Howard Families choose to escape and pursue their vision of the good life apart from the rest of humanity. Yet the very existence of this remarkable group and its members’ extraordinary lifespans fuels major changes for humanity during the 75 years of the Howard Families’ voyage. By remaining steadfast to its purpose of protecting its members, the Howard Foundation shows humankind that radical life extension is possible, and Ira Howard’s goal is attained for the remainder of humanity, whose pursuit of extended longevity cannot be stopped once society is confronted with its reality.

The path of incremental and experimental – but principled – reform through the use of business is illustrated in Time Will Run Back. Even though Peter Uldanov does not intend to embark on a capitalist world revolution, he nonetheless achieves this outcome over the course of eight years due to his intellectual honesty, lack of indoctrination, and willingness to consistently follow valid insights to their logical conclusions. Peter discovers the universality of the human drive to start small and, later, large enterprises and produce goods and services that sustain and enhance human well-being. Once Peter begins to undo Wonworld’s climate of perpetual terror and micro-regimentation, his citizens use every iota of freedom to engage in mutually beneficial commerce that allows scarce resources to be devoted to their most highly valued uses. Peter, too, must escape political persecution at the hands of Bolshekov, but, unlike the Howard Families, he does not have the luxury of completely distancing himself from his nemesis. Instead, he must form a competing bulwark against Wonworld’s tyranny and, through the superiority in production that free enterprise makes possible, overthrow the socialist dystopia completely. Where Wonworld experienced a century of technological stagnation, Peter’s Freeworld is able to quickly regain lost ground and experience an acceleration of advancement similar to the one that occurred in the Post-World War II period during which Hazlitt wrote Time Will Run Back. Because human creativity and initiative were liberated through free-market reforms, the novel ends with a promise of open-ended progress and a future of ever-expanding human flourishing.

The most explicitly revolutionary use of business as a transformative tool is found in The Transhumanist Wager. Jethro Knights conceives Transhumania specifically as a haven for technological innovation that would lead to the attainment of indefinite lifespans and rapid, unprecedented progress in every field of science and technology. Transhumania is an incubator for Jethro’s vision of a united transhumanist Earth, ruled by a meritocratic elite and completely guided by the philosophy of Teleological Egocentric Functionalism. Like Lazarus Long and the Howard Families, Jethro finds it necessary to escape wider human society because of political persecution, and, like them, he plans an eventual return. He returns, however, without the intent to re-integrate into human society and pursue what Lazarus Long considers to be a universal human striving for ceaseless improvement. Rather, Jethro considers unaltered humanity to be essentially lost to the reactionary influences of Neo-Luddism, religious fundamentalism, and entrenched political and cronyist special interests. Jethro’s goal in returning to the broader world is a swift occupation and transformation of both the Earth and humankind in Jethro’s image.

Jethro’s path is, in many respects, the opposite of Peter Uldanov’s. Peter begins as an inadvertent world dictator and sequentially relinquishes political power in a well-intentioned, pragmatic desire to foster his subjects’ prosperity. Along the way, Peter discovers the moral principles of the free market and becomes a consistent, rights-respecting minarchist libertarian – a transformation that impels him to relinquish absolute power and seek validation through a free and fair election. Jethro, on the other hand, begins as a private citizen and brilliant entrepreneurial businessman who deliberately implements many free-market incentives but, all along, strives to become the omnipotender – and ends up in the role of world dictator where Peter began. The two men are at polar opposites when it comes to militancy. Peter hesitates even to wage defensive war against Bolshekov and questions the propriety of bringing about the deaths of even those who carry out repeated, failed assassination attempts against him and Adams. Jethro does not hesitate to sweep aside his opposition using massive force – as he does when he obliterates the world’s religious and political monuments in an effort to erase the lingering influence of traditional mindsets and compel all humankind to enter the transhumanist age. Jethro’s war against the world is intended to “shock and awe” governments and populations into unconditional and largely bloodless surrender – but this approach cannot avoid some innocent casualties. Jethro will probably not create Wonworld, because he still understands the role of economic incentives and individual initiative in enabling radical technological progress to come about. However, the benefits of the progress Jethro seeks to cultivate will still be disseminated in a controlled fashion – only to those whom Jethro considers useful to his overall goal of becoming as powerful and advanced as possible. Therefore, Jethro’s global Transhumania will not be Freeworld, either.

All three novels raise important questions for us, as human society in the early 21st century stands on the cusp of major advances in biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, artificial intelligence, space travel, and hopefully radical life extension. However, reactionary political and cultural forces continue to inflict massive suffering worldwide through brutal warfare, sweeping surveillance and humiliation of innocent people, policies that instill terror in the name of fighting terror, and labyrinthine obstacles to progress established by protectionist lobbying on behalf of politically connected special interests. Indeed, our status quo resembles the long, tense stagnation against which Jethro revolts to a greater extent than either the largely rights-respecting society of The Covenant or the totalitarian regimentation of Wonworld. But can the way toward a brighter future – paved by the next generation of life-improving technologies – be devised through an approach that does not exhibit Jethro’s militancy or precipitate massive conflict? Time will tell whether humankind will successfully pursue such a peaceful, principled path of radical but universally benevolent advancement. But whatever this path might entail, it is doubtless that the trailblazers on it will be the innovative businessmen and entrepreneurs of the future, without whom the development, preservation, and dissemination of new technologies would not be possible.


Hazlitt, Henry. [1966.] 2007. Time Will Run Back. New York: Arlington House. Ludwig von Mises Institute. Available at Accessed December 13, 2014.

Heinlein, Robert A. [1958] 2005. Revolt in 2100 & Methuselah’s Children. New York: Baen.

Istvan, Zoltan. 2013. The Transhumanist Wager. San Bernardino: Futurity Imagine Media LLC.

Henry Hazlitt’s “Time Will Run Back”: Unleashing Business to Improve the Human Condition – Article by G. Stolyarov II

Henry Hazlitt’s “Time Will Run Back”: Unleashing Business to Improve the Human Condition – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
December 13, 2014

The free-market economist, journalist, and editor Henry Hazlitt wrote his novel The Great Idea in 1951; the book was re-released under the title Time Will Run Back in 1966 in order to emphasize the rediscovery of the lost ideas of free-market capitalism by the novel’s protagonists. In addition to being the most rigorous work of fiction available for the teaching of economic ideas, Time Will Run Back highlights the role of business in taking a society from a condition of destitution, misery, and brutality to one of widespread prosperity, progress, and personal fulfillment.

The novel’s hero, Peter Uldanov, is the son of Stalenin, the dictator of Wonworld – a socialist dystopia that, in the year 2100 (282 A.M. – After Marx) spans the entire globe. Peter, raised away from politics by his mother, has not been indoctrinated into Wonworld’s ideology of totalitarian central planning of all aspects of its citizens’ lives. While completely new to politics, Peter is highly intelligent and an accomplished pianist and mathematician. Stalenin is dying and, out of paternal affection, seeks to engineer Peter’s succession. Peter is intellectually honest and is perplexed at the widespread poverty, famines, and shortages of Wonworld, as well as the constant climate of terror in which its subjects live – even though the regime claims to have “liberated” them from oppression by the capitalists of old. Peter attempts to introduce a series of reforms to allow criticism of the government and free elections, but his goal of achieving human liberation fails to take hold so long as the economy remains completely centrally planned. Peter’s nemesis is Stalenin’s second-in-command Bolshekov, who zealously defends the system of command and control while he is the main agent of torture, execution, and mismanagement within it. Peter enlists the assistance of Thomas Jefferson Adams – the third-highest official in Wonworld. Adams is disillusioned with the socialist system and gropes for alternatives but, like Peter, does not have the benefit of the lessons of history – since any works of literature, economics, philosophy, and political theory that disagreed with Marxism-Leninism were purged after Wonworld’s establishment a century earlier. Adams has become cynical by observing decades of attempted “reforms” within Wonworld, which tinkered with specific policies and plans but never challenged the overarching fact of total central planning. Peter, as an outsider with a fresh perspective, is more willing to overhaul the system’s most fundamental features. In the genuine search for greater prosperity and more humane treatment for Wonworld’s population, he begins to dismantle the socialist system piece by piece, at first without even recognizing that this is the effect of his actions.

Much of the novel depicts Peter and Adams groping toward a system of incrementally freer markets and greater individual liberty as they discuss possible reforms and attempt to understand both their direct and secondary, unintended consequences. As a result of their stepwise sequence of liberalizations, Peter and Adams inadvertently rediscover the old system of capitalism that Wonworld sought to stamp out. Adams often acts as a foil to Peter, proposing modified central plans or mixed-economy systems and attempting to posit the arguments made by inflationists and protectionists that emerge as milder obstacles to liberalization once private property, money, and decentralized economic planning by individuals are restored. Peter, however, is sufficiently wise to be able to perceive the secondary consequences of these proposals and to consistently espouse and act in favor of unhampered individual economic liberty.

Peter’s first successful reform is to permit people to exchange ration coupons which they were allocated for various specific commodities. Previously, each citizen of Wonworld received ration coupons that were limited to his personal use, and there was no way to realize any value from coupons for goods that the individual did not wish to personally consume. Initially, the citizens of Wonworld – terrorized for generations – are reluctant to exchange coupons for fear of being tricked into showing disloyalty, but after a few months of encouragement by Peter’s government, exchanges begin to occur:

At first individuals or families merely exchanged ration tickets with other persons or families living in the same room with them. Then in the same house. Then in the same neighborhood or factory. The rates at which the ration tickets exchanged was a matter of special bargaining in each case. They at first revealed no describable pattern whatever. In one tenement or barracks someone would be exchanging, say, one shirt coupon for five bread coupons; next door one shirt coupon might exchange for fifteen bread coupons.

But gradually a distinct pattern began to take form. The man who had exchanged his shirt coupon for five bread coupons would learn that he could have got fifteen bread coupons from someone else; the man who had given up fifteen bread coupons for one shirt coupon would learn that he might have got a shirt coupon for only five bread coupons. So people began to “shop around,” as they called it, each trying to get the highest bid for what he had to offer, each trying to get the greatest number of the coupons he desired for the coupons with which he was willing to part. The result, after a surprisingly short time, was that a uniform rate of exchange prevailed at any given moment between one type of coupon and another. (Hazlitt 1966, 103)

This reform inaugurates a price system, which facilitates rational planning by individuals and the effective allocation of goods to their most highly valued uses. It also leads to the emergence of markets where large volumes of exchanges can take place:

Then another striking thing happened. People had at first shopped around from house to house and street to street, trying to get the best rate in the kind of coupons they valued most for the kind of coupons they valued least. But soon people anxious to trade their coupons took to meeting regularly at certain places where they had previously discovered that they found the most other traders and bidders and could get the best rates in the quickest time. These meeting points, which people took to calling coupon “markets,” tended to become fewer and larger.

Two principal “markets” gradually established themselves in Moscow, one in Engels Square and the other at the foot of Death-to-Trotsky Street. Here large crowds, composed in turn of smaller groups, gathered on the sidewalk and spread into the street. They were made up of shouting and gesticulating persons, each holding up a coupon or sheet of coupons, each asking how much he was bid, say, in beer coupons for his shirt coupon, or offering his shirt coupon for, say, twelve beer coupons, and asking whether he had any takers. (Hazlitt 1966, 103-104)

As markets take hold, professional brokers emerge to handle large numbers of transactions for ordinary people in exchange for a percentage of ration coupons. The brokers quickly become adept at spotting and eliminating discrepancies among exchange rates between any two types of coupons:

Their competitive bids and offers continued until the relationships were ironed out, so that no further profit was possible for anybody as a result of a discrepancy. For the same reason, Peter found, the ratios of exchange in the market at Engels Square were never far out of line for more than a very short period with the ratios of exchange on Death-to-Trotsky Street; for a set of brokers were always running back and forth between the two markets, or sending messengers, and trying to profit from the least discrepancy that arose between the markets in the exchanges or quotations.

A special name—”arbitrage business”—sprang up for this sort of transaction. Its effect was to unify, or to universalize, price relationships among markets between which this freedom of arbitrage existed. (Hazlitt 1966, 105)

By allowing free exchange and permitting private entrepreneurs to take advantage of arbitrage opportunities, Peter enables a solution to emerge for Wonworld’s previously intractable problem of how to make the best use of scarce resources to fulfill as many human needs as possible. Peter recognizes that, even though the adjustments to prices that guide this process of rational resource allocation may appear automatic, they are in fact the effect of the actions of businesspeople seeking to earn a profit:

They took place solely because there was an alert group of people ready to seize upon the slightest discrepancy to make a transaction profitable to themselves. It was precisely the constant alertness and the constant initiative of these specialists that prevented any but the most minute and short-lived discrepancies from occurring. (Hazlitt 1966, 105)

Allowing free exchange of ration tickets leads to the spontaneous emergence of a monetary system as exchange rates begin to be quoted in terms of only a few leading types of coupons and eventually only in terms of cigarette coupons. These are superseded by packages of cigarettes themselves, which are in turn eventually replaced by gold.

The power struggle between Peter and Bolshekov escalates until Bolshekov engineers Stalenin’s assassination and seizes power in Wonworld. Peter and Adams flee to North America, assisted by their loyal Air Force, and establish their own country – Freeworld – where Peter’s economic reforms continue. Private ownership of land and capital goods is introduced, and large factories are privatized through the issuance of transferable shares to their workers, entitling them to receive a percentage of the profits from the enterprise. This greatly raises the incentives for production, responsibility, and prudent management of resources, as the newly empowered citizens inform Peter:

When he asked one of these new peasant-proprietors about his changed attitude, his explanation was simple: “The more work I and my family put into the farm, the better off we are. Our work is no longer offset by the laziness and carelessness of others. On the other hand, we can no longer sit back and hope that others will make up for what we fail to do. Everything depends on ourselves.”

Another farmer-owner put it this way: “The greater the crop we raise this year, the better off my family will be. But we also have to think of next year and the year after that, so we can’t take any risk of exhausting the soil. Every improvement I put into the farm, whether into the soil or into the buildings, is mine; I reap the fruits of it. But there is something that to me is more important still. I am building this for my family; I am increasing the security of my family; I will have something fine to turn over to my children after I am gone. I don’t know how I can explain it to you, Your Highness, but since my family has owned this land for itself, and feels secure in its right and title to stay here undisturbed, we feel not only that the farm belongs to us but that we belong to the farm. It is a part of us, and we are a part of it. It works for us, and we work for it. It produces for us, and we produce for it. You may think it is just a thing, but it seems as alive as any of us, and we love it and care for it as if it were a part of ourselves.” (Hazlitt 1966, 131)

The ability of individuals to own and run their business and earn a profit turns Freeworld into an economic powerhouse. Whereas Wonworld had, for a century, remained at the level of technological advancement approximately resembling that of 1918-1938, Freeworld becomes a haven for invention, the benefits of which disseminate rapidly to the population. Freeworld’s development appears to rapidly catch up to the condition of Hazlitt’s 1950s and 1960s America:

Constant and bewildering improvements were being made in household conveniences, in fluorescent lighting, in radiant heating, in air-conditioning, in vacuum cleaners, in clothes-washing machines, in dishwashing machines, in a thousand new structural and decorative materials. Great forward leaps were now taken in radio. There was talk of the development, in the laboratories, of the wireless transmission, not merely of music and voices, but of the living and moving image of objects and people.

Hundreds of new improvements, individually sometimes slight but cumulatively enormous, were being made in all sorts of transportation—in automobiles and railroads, in ships and airplanes. Inventors even talked of a new device to be called “jet-propulsion,” which would not only eliminate propellers but bring speeds rivaling that of sound itself.

In medicine, marvelous new anesthetics and new lifesaving drugs were constantly being discovered …

“In our new economic system, Adams,” said Peter, “we seem to have developed hundreds of thousands of individual centers of initiative which spontaneously co-operate with each other. We have made more material progress in the last four years, more industrial and scientific progress, than Wonworld made in a century.” (Hazlitt 1966, 153)

Instead of dreading work and needing to be terrorized into toil, the people begin to welcome and yearn for productive innovation:

Peter was struck by the startling change that had come over the whole spirit of the people. They worked with an energy and zeal infinitely greater than anything they had shown before. Peter now found people everywhere who regarded their work as a pleasure, a hobby, an exciting adventure. They were constantly thinking of improvements, devising new gadgets, dreaming of new processes that would cut costs of production, or new inventions and new products that consumers might want. (Hazlitt 1966, 139)

Peter explains to Adams that this “is precisely what economic liberty does. It releases human energy” (Hazlitt 1966, 139). Whereas, previously, only the Central Planning Board could decide how to direct resources,

Now everybody can plan. Now everybody is a center of planning. The worker can plan to shift to another employer or another line of production where the rewards are higher. He can plan to train himself in a new skill that pays better. And anybody who can save or borrow capital, or who can get the co-operation of other workers or offer them more attractive terms of employment than before, can start a new enterprise, make a new product, fill a new need. And this puts a quality of adventure and excitement into most people’s lives that was never there before. In Wonworld, in effect, only the Dictator himself could originate or initiate: everybody else simply carried out his orders. But in Freeworld anybody can originate or initiate. And because he can, he does. (Hazlitt 1966, 139)

Hazlitt frequently emphasizes the connection between the economic empowerment that freedom in business offers and the resulting surge in the quality of life and daily experience – a sense of responsibility, opportunity, self-direction, and the ability to chart one’s own future that permeates an economy where individuals are their own economic masters. While under central planning, no progress occurs unless initiated by the exceptionally rare enlightened rulers at the top, in a free market every businessman and worker can be an agent of human progress. Peter observes that a free-market system is meritocratic and tends to reward contributions to human well-being: “Everyone tends to be rewarded by the consumers to the extent that he has contributed to the needs of the consumers. In other words, free competition tends to give to labor what labor creates, to the owners of money and capital goods what their capital creates, and to enterprisers what their co-ordinating function creates” (Hazlitt 1966, 139). Adams responds that, to the extent a free-market system is able to achieve this, “no group would have the right to complain. You would have achieved an economic paradise” (Hazlitt 1966, 139). In a later discussion, Peter notes that the profits realized by businesspeople in a free-market system cannot be maintained on the whole except in a growing economy where consumers are increasingly better off; a free-market system cannot be called a profit system “in a declining or even in a stationary economy. It is, of course, a profit-seeking system” (Hazlitt 1966, 150), but the search for profit in a free economy will only succeed if human needs are fulfilled by the entrepreneur in the process.

Cultural and esthetic progress, too, are facilitated by the actions of Freeworld’s entrepreneurs. Hazlitt points out that “it was not merely in material progress that Freeworld achieved such amazing triumphs. No less striking were the new dignity and breadth that individual freedom brought about in the whole cultural and spiritual life of the Western Hemisphere” (Hazlitt 1966, 155). By contrast with Wonworld’s regime-monopolized “art” designed to praise the ruling ideology, the outpouring of creativity and variety in Freeworld “showed itself in novels and plays, in criticism and poetry, in painting, sculpture and architecture, in political and economic thinking, in most sciences, in philosophy and religion” (Hazlitt 1966, 155). Even though freedom in artistic production results in catering “to the presumed tastes of a mass public; and the bulk of what was produced was vulgar and cheap” (Hazlitt 1966, 155), there also emerges the opportunity for some artists to pursue lasting greatness:

What counted, as Peter quickly saw, was that each writer and each artist was now liberated from abject subservience to the state, to the political ruling clique. He was now free to select his own public. He did not need to cater to a nebulous “mass demand.” He could, if he wished, write, build, think, compose or paint for a definite cultivated group, or for his fellow specialists, or for a few kindred spirits wherever they could be found. And plays did have a way of finding their own special audience, and periodicals and books of finding their own special readers.

In contrast with the drabness, monotony and dreariness of Wonworld, the cultural and spiritual life of Freeworld was full of infinite variety, flavor, and adventure. (Hazlitt 1966, 155)

The intellectual honesty of Peter Uldanov enables him to transform the role of inadvertent world dictator to that of guardian of individual freedom. Freeworld overcomes Bolshekov’s Wonworld in a largely bloodless military campaign, due to Freeworld’s overwhelming superiority in production and the eagerness of Wonworld’s citizens to throw off Bolshekov’s totalitarian rule. At the novel’s end, Peter decides to hold free elections and subject his own position to the people’s approval. Running against the mixed-economy “Third Way” advocate Wang Ching-li, Peter narrowly wins the election and becomes the first President of Freeworld, even though his preference would be to devote his time to playing Mozart. Peter has the wisdom to unleash the productive forces of free enterprise and then to step aside, except in maintaining a system that punishes aggression, protects private property, and provides a reliable rule of law. The ending of Time Will Run Back is a happy one, but it is made possible by one key tremendously fortunate and unlikely circumstance – the ability of a fundamentally decent person to find himself in a position of vast political power, whose use he deliberately restrains and channels toward liberalization instead of perpetuating the abuses of the old system. Peter is, in effect, a “philosopher-king” who reasons his way toward free-market capitalism, unleashing private business to bring about massive human progress. Without such an individual, Wonworld could have lingered in misery, stagnation, and even decline for centuries. In our world, however, where the vestiges of free enterprise and the history of economic thought are much stronger, we do not need to rediscover sound economic principles from whole cloth, so perhaps existing societies could eventually muddle through toward freer economies, even though no philosopher-kings are to be found. Hazlitt gave us Peter Uldanov’s story to enable us to understand which reforms and institutions can improve the human condition, and which can only degrade it.


Hazlitt, Henry. [1966.] 2007. Time Will Run Back. New York: Arlington House. Ludwig von Mises Institute. Available at Accessed December 13, 2014.

The Rational Argumentator’s Twelfth Anniversary Manifesto

The Rational Argumentator’s Twelfth Anniversary Manifesto

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
August 31, 2014

The Rational Argumentator marks its 12-year anniversary on August 31, 2014. This publication has now reached a venerable age by Internet standards, and its impact only continues to grow. I am pleased to announce that TRA’s trajectory has followed closely the aspirations expressed in the Eleventh Anniversary Manifesto, with many milestones reached and many vital projects completed. There is no doubt in my mind that TRA’s twelfth year was its best so far. Despite the turmoil in the world, The Rational Argumentator has stood firm in its efforts to champion a better way – a path of rationality, individual freedom, and technological progress – in a resolute rejection of the barbaric methods and short-sighted goals of certain “world leaders” today. To memorialize TRA’s unwavering commitment to the improvement of the human condition over the past dozen years, I have added to its header the words “Championing Reason, Rights, and Progress Since 2002”.

Total twelfth-year visitation for all TRA features was 1,430,226 page views – a record high and a significant 32.77% increase over the eleventh-year visitation of 1,077,192 page views. The previous record year for visitation was the ninth year, which brought 1,398,438 page views, and the twelfth year exceeded this amount by 2.27%. TRA’s lifetime visitation stands at 8,176,586 page views. 314 new regular TRA features were published in 2014, in addition to many special features, some of which amount to hundreds of pages of reading. This has been a major increase from the 208 features published during TRA’s eleventh year and even the 306 features published during TRA’s tenth year. In addition to increasing my own content production, I have restored to typical historical levels TRA’s practice of republishing thoughtful works by other authors.

Unprecedented public exposure and reach has been achieved by means of my children’s book Death is Wrong, illustrated by the wonderful Wendy Stolyarov. With tremendous support from the life-extensionist/transhumanist movement, The Rational Argumentator served as the hub for a massive fundraising and book-distribution effort to spread 1,029 free paperback copies of Death is Wrong to children in 14 countries. 92 generous donors and 50 activists throughout the world made this effort possible. Our Indiegogo fundraiser was successfully completed on April 23, 2014, and all 1,029 books were sent out as of August 7, 2014. Communities such as MILE – the Movement for Indefinite Life Extension, LongeCity, and the Life Extension Foundation were crucial in spreading the word about this effort and facilitating widespread awareness of our goal and its importance. For a great example of the outpouring of pro bono support motivated by Death is Wrong, watch this Book Trailer video, masterfully created by Peter Caramico of LongeCity. Death is Wrong has been featured by Fast Company, Mashable, Psychology Today, the BBC, TheBlaze, VICE Motherboard, Slashdot, and other prominent publications. This has enabled many more people to become aware of the feasibility and desirability of pursuing indefinite life extension in our lifetimes. As a side benefit, it has also brought more visitation to The Rational Argumentator.

In an effort to maximize the spread of Death is Wrong, after the conclusion of the distribution of paperback books, I took the next step of making the electronic editions of the book – available in English, Russian, and Spanish – freely downloadable in PDF format. Thus far, over 1,216 copies have been downloaded directly from The Rational Argumentator, and the files have spread to many external sites as well. This has essentially more than doubled the spread of the book’s message since the completion of the paperback-distribution campaign. In the meantime, another freely available work of mine, Eden against the Colossus ­­– which I republished in January 2013, has already been downloaded over 3,300 times. My strategy of making my works as easy to obtain as possible has certainly gone a long way toward ensuring that their message continues to influence the world to the maximal realistic extent.

Overall, my efforts to make my past writings available for free download directly from The Rational Argumentator’s domain have been successfully completed. In addition to the most up-to-date and thorough Third Edition of A Rational Cosmology, released in September 2013, nearly all of my older musical compositions have been remastered, and free MP3 files of the remastered versions have been made available on this page. I hope to continue to gradually release music videos of each of my compositions, accompanied by my works of fractal art. 47 videos are available already, out of 76 total videos that could be made for each of my extant compositions.

An added impetus to the project to host all of my works on The Rational Argumentator was given in July 2014, with the announcement by Yahoo! of the abrupt forthcoming closure of Yahoo! Voices (formerly Associated Content), where I had published 1,321 features since 2007 and where my works had garnered 3,190,261 page views. Yahoo’s mismanagement of Associated Content since its 2010 acquisition had made the site distinctly less appealing for original, intellectual contributors. Most of my spare time in July 2014 was spent on rescuing my previously published articles – including many sections of educational study guides – to ensure their continued availability directly on The Rational Argumentator. While I will no longer receive revenue from the page views on these works, I am happy that they have not been lost to the world due to Yahoo’s disastrous decision. Many articles were republished as new features on The Rational Argumentator. Some articles were also placed in my archive page of selected writings from Associated Content/Yahoo! Voices. Every single study guide in my Free Tools for Rational Education section – including my widely utilized actuarial study guides – is now available either in a conveniently downloadable PDF format or (for smaller study guides) in the form of multiple interconnected HTML pages.

Through repeated content-rescue efforts since 2009, I have learned my lesson: always host my own material myself, if I wish to see it preserved indefinitely. Almost every single large, commercial content site on which I published in the past, or which I attempted to use to earn modest revenue streams from my content, is now defunct. Geocities,,, Adbrite, Associated Content, and Yahoo! Voices are all gone; The Rational Argumentator has outlasted them all. The Rational Argumentator will continue to outlast any sites that are driven by a short-termist mentality of sacrificing quality of content to the quarterly bottom line. This is because The Rational Argumentator is motivated by my quest for permanence – in knowledge, in achievement, in existence itself. As long as I live (which I hope will be indefinitely), so shall The Rational Argumentator persist.

“Human Nature” is Tautological (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

“Human Nature” is Tautological (2009) – Article by G. Stolyarov II

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
Originally Published March 10, 2009
as Part of Issue CLXXXIX of The Rational Argumentator
Republished July 23, 2014
Note from the Author: This essay was originally published as part of Issue CLXXXIX of The Rational Argumentator on March 10, 2009, using the Yahoo! Voices publishing platform. Because of the imminent closure of Yahoo! Voices, the essay is now being made directly available on The Rational Argumentator.
~ G. Stolyarov II, July 23, 2014

What is meant by the term “human nature”? In one sense, it is supremely uninformative. The “nature” of any existent can be defined simply as “that which that existent is.” To say that “X is human nature,” is simply to say “X is what humans are and/or do.” This is fine by itself, provided that it is not used as an explanation for any particular human characteristic or activity. X may be human nature, but X does not occur because of human nature. To say that human nature is the cause of any phenomenon is to say that such a phenomenon causes itself. To say that “some people steal because of human nature” is to say that “some people steal because they steal” or that “some people steal because that is the way humans are.” This is not particularly enlightening as to why some people actually steal.

The striking fact about uses of “human nature” in discourse is that the term is virtually never invoked to account for all the wonderful things people do. Few, if any, people say that humans build great buildings, create art, invent machines, and save lives because “that’s just human nature.” But when it comes to some humans killing, stealing, lying, raping, and committing a host of other abuses, “human nature” virtually never leaves the discussion. This leads me to suspect that a lot of presuppositions are smuggled in under the umbrella label of “human nature” which are not implicit in the term. Namely, most people whose discussions are peppered by the term frequently presuppose that all human beings somehow have even the worst vices “in their nature.”

If “human nature” is “the way human beings are,” then it is clearly contrary to empirical evidence to suppose that killing, stealing, lying, and other vices are inherent in human nature. We can find numerous examples of good, upstanding people who have never killed or stolen – and even a few whom we cannot imagine lying. Surely, “the way they are” is such that they do not kill, steal, or lie. This is as much a part of their human nature as killing, stealing, and lying are a part of the natures of genocidal dictators in North Korea, Iran, Zimbabwe, and Sudan. There is no reason to suppose that anyone is capable of any vice just because some people have been observed engaging in some vices.

The facts that some people do commit vices that others do not commit and that no vice is universal to human beings indicates to us that no vice is inherent to human nature – the way humans are. Rather, every vice is incidental to human nature. That is, the natures of some humans happen to be vicious, just as the natures of some cats happen to be white (not that there is anything wrong with white cats). But vice is no more an inseparable part of humanity than whiteness is an inseparable part of cathood. It may well be that some people will always be irreparably vicious, no matter what external stimuli short of death are applied to them. This is why it may be reasonable to advocate killing genocidal sadists and other comparable entities. But this is no commentary on all the other humans of this world.

Moreover, it is essential to recognize that prevailing trends with regard to behavior change over time. 300 years ago, if two Western, upper-class males had a dispute, it would often culminate in a duel to the death. Today, the disputants would be more likely to sit down and quasi-civilly discuss their differences. The statistical prevalence of each kind of behavior has changed dramatically. Moreover, the change has been an unambiguous improvement. “What humans are” does not need to be static and set in stone. Rather, as incentives, institutions, and motivations change, so does behavior – and the sum of our behaviors constitutes our “natures.”

The view of “human nature” that I have presented thus far is fully in accord with the principle of individualism. This principle asserts that each human being is fundamentally different and should be judged on his or her own qualities, and not on the qualities of other human beings who happen to share some direct or indirect association. Moreover, individualism holds that each human being can control his or her own behaviors to a substantial extent. Each person is free to choose virtue but is just as free to choose vice, and each person must be prepared to be judged by the rest of us on the basis of his or her choices. The question remains, of course, what would motivate people to choose virtue as opposed to vice?

Granting that people always have free will to act virtuously or viciously, what would lead people to want to pursue either course of action? Earlier, I described some incentives for moral behavior that motivate people to pursue virtuous and beneficial courses of action with regard to themselves and others. On the other hand, what motivates vice? The kinds of vice that do damage to others – killing, stealing, infliction of injury, and deception – all seem to stem from some sense of personal inadequacy. Either one does not have enough things and wishes to take away the things owned by others, or one feels slighted, deprived, or persecuted in some manner by others and wishes to correct this perceived victimization by destroying its perceived source. Harm that people do to themselves seems to stem either from a conviction that their lives are not quite worth living or from a simple failure to consider all of the long-term harmful consequences of their decisions.

Exploring the common human motivations for committing immoral acts might lead us to an understanding of how to alter these motivations and direct the “natural” desires of more people toward virtue. For instance, if a person is motivated to steal by a lack of food, then if this person had food, he might not resort to stealing (provided, of course, that he recognizes the change in conditions and does not continue to resort to stealing due to the inertia of habit). On the other hand, the new-found presence of food might get the person to focus on some other attribute he believes to be lacking in his life – say, a car – and steal that. How might it be possible to get such a person to refrain from stealing? Clearly, all people perceive some kinds of inadequacies in their lives. The ways that people’s incentives are structured will lead them to consider whether moral or immoral means are the best ways to compensate for such inadequacies.

The proper incentive structure to give to each person is such that the costs of any vicious act will be greater than its perceived benefits. I note that these costs can be both external – such as any kind of punishment – or internal – such as a feeling of self-loathing and disappointment for having committed an immoral act. Well-developed internal aversions to vicious conduct reduce the need for external incentives to encourage virtue. A wide variety of institutions, technologies, and patterns of interaction shape both people’s external and internal incentives. Yet what is most important to remember is that we are not fated to be locked into any particular configuration of incentives, motivations, and outcomes. These continually fluctuate and sometimes experience radical directional shifts. In shaping these incentives, we ought to lose the defeatism of those who claim that “human nature” will forever sentence us to suffer evil instead of correcting it. Rather, we must act such that our individual, incremental effects are for the better rather than for the worse.

Read other articles in The Rational Argumentator’s Issue CLXXXIX.