Where does morality come from?

A colleague brought this blog post to my attention.  I’d like to give the author kudos for a robust understanding of evolution and how some beliefs resulted in higher rates of survival during our distant past.

Here’s my reply to Kyle, which I would have posted as a comment, but his website would not allow:


Dear Kyle,

It’s a very nice post. Well done, and love the interjecting images. Lol.

I think you answered well the question of where morality comes from (given a godless Universe). However, that’s not the most difficult question I wrestled with as an atheist. Let’s follow my atheistic arc to understand why morality is very troublesome for us*:

Here’s how I “killed God”:

  • Does God exist? I don’t know.
  • Can you measure him with any scientific devices? No.
  • Is there any evidence that he exists? No. For example, you can have a very deep understanding of cosmology and evolution without ever “finding God”. Tracing things backward, they never end in “God”. Like Solar System Creation <- Galaxy Creation <- God!
  • “But people believe in God and he works in their lives!” That fine, but people believing in something does not prove its independent existence.  A summation of anecdotes cannot outweigh the lack of observable, verifiable scientific evidence.
  • Ergo, I don’t believe God exists.

So, as an atheist, you have these skeptical tools. This standard that you apply to beliefs. Morality (“the Good”) doesn’t collapse because it depends on God, but because it depends on belief. An intellectually honest atheist will apply the same standard to “the Good:”

Here’s how I killed the Good:

  •  Does the Good exist? I don’t know.
  • Can you measure it with any scientific devices? No.
  • Is there any evidence that it exists? No. For example, you can have a very deep understanding of anthropology and genetics without ever catching an image of the Good in a microscope or cultivating it in a petri dish. Tracing things backward, they never end in “the Good”. Like Proteins <- mRNA <- DNA <- The Good.
  • “But people believe in the Good and it works in their lives!” I don’t disagree with that, or the fact that the belief in ethics and morality have advanced us as a species and had a role in our survival. But you could argue the same thing about the belief in God. Again, people believing in something — even benefiting from that belief — does not prove its independent existence.  The Good is either directly observable and scientifically verifiable, or it is not.
  • Since there is no evidence in support of the existence of the Good, I do not believe it exists.

You’ve done a good job showing where the belief in morality comes from, but can you substantiate morality’s actual existence?  The truth is that it’s kind of an unbearable existence to live without a belief in any independent morality, which is why most atheists are loath to apply the same buzzsaw to it that they lustfully used on God.

* Remember that the rational part of my brain is atheist, the superstitious part is devout Mormon.


Chinese Social Media

qz.com/246063/china-has-neutralized-the-social-media-threat/For the past four years, China’s government and its far-reaching bureaucracy have embarked on a campaign to take back China’s weibo microblog scene from the masses, who have been using social media services to expose corrupt officials, circulate news, and air their opinions.And it’s working. According to a new study by media researchers based in China and the US, the government’s 176,000 microblogs are trying to control much of the discussion online, by offering official interpretations of public events, while contrary views are ruthlessly deleted by Great Firewall censors.

Wait, I’m confused. I thought the Chinese government was in the process of a massive anti-corruption drive? You would think that they would appreciate the extra intelligence on corruption among officials. Oh, ok, so by “anti-corruption” you mean “an excuse to control more value and purge the party of political rivals?” Ok. got it.

And then there’s this very hurtful conflation:

We in the U.S. are fortunate that our most popular social media site has a completely transparent and open system for what people see in their news feeds. Wait, what.


The opaque practices of social media companies in the U.S. are the same as controlling Chinese government censorship, right?  Well sure, that’s partly right.  But let’s put this another way:

In the U.S. do you have a right to speak your mind in social media and frequent whichever social media apps/sites you like?  Absolutely.  In America, that control is reserved for the individual.

In China do you have control over what you say and what apps and sites you frequent?  No.  That control is held by the government.  They will silence you and censor websites at their discretion.

It’s shameful to conflate the control businesses have over their products, which you choose to use, with governments that control your speech to the point that they will imprison and kill you (and do!) Let’s see if you notice a difference between the two:

America: 2AM, “Why isn’t anyone commenting on my FB post?  Is it showing up in anyone’s feed?”

China: 2AM, *Knock knock*  “Ms. Jiang, you’re coming with us.”

It is shameful to trivialize the threat of violence that the Chinese people constantly live under.  And it confuses people on how to best protect individual value.

Oh, and is there any wonder that the U.S. Senate would like to break down the protections of our speech and gain the same control over speech value that the Chinese government enjoys?

Drones and Controlling Sky High Value


Think of it as a sort of “global arbitrage” around permissionless innovation—the freedom to create new technologies without having to ask the powers that be for their blessing. Entrepreneurs can take advantage of the difference between opportunities in different regions, where innovation in a particular domain of interest may be restricted in one region, allowed and encouraged in another, or completely legal in still another. For example, the laws and guidelines for using drones or taxing bitcoin already vary widely across the globe, just as they do for ride-sharing services across different cities in the United States.

This was supposed to be how federalism worked. You should be able to use Bitcoin in Tennessee if Alabama won’t let you. But the Federal Government has transferred so much control over value from the States to itself, that States are left with quite little that they can offer to entrepreneurs.

Well, there’s a real possibility that advanced regions will essentially outsource or “regulate away” their own risk at the expense of less advanced ones. To get ahead, poorer countries may become more tempted to take on the very things wealthier countries are fencing out of their borders…a model like this one provides a much faster and more feasible way for developing regions to catch up.

As much as I wish this were true, I’m afraid it is quite naive. Yes, control of, say, what craft you launch in the air is valuable and developing countries could offer this value to budding entrepreneurs in exchange for locating their brain power in their countries. But, this value is so low down the value chain that it can’t compete with stable countries. Control of other value is so much more valuable: your life, your travel, your physical protection, your speech, legal certainty — all things that developing countries lack.

The FAA <3 Value

From the WSJ:

A Texas group that searches for missing people is fighting a Federal Aviation Administration order to stop using drones for its searches

The FAA said it must authorize anyone who wants to operate a drone in the U.S.—unless it is for recreation…

Mr. Geraghty deemed commercial drones to be the same legally as model aircraft, which he wrote aren’t considered aircraft under federal law—in part because the FAA itself historically hasn’t required model aircraft to comply with its rules for manned aircraft. If the FAA’s argument that all types of flying devices are aircraft, the judge wrote, then the agency should also regulate “paper aircraft, or a toy balsa wood glider.”

How do you justify the actions of a Federal agency blocking a search and rescue outfit from using drones?  Drones that save lives?  These drones must presumably operate over remote areas where the safety of the craft would be of minimal concern.

I don’t know how non-Valerians would square such a conundrum, but for Valerians it’s simple.  The FAA is made up of people, people like to control value, controlling the air is extremely valuable.  Why are they blocking Texas EquuSearch?  Is it because they’re evil? Hateful?  Want people to die in the desert?  Fear that a random cactus will be hit by a drone?  None of the above.  They just like controlling value and want as much as they can get.

The strongest protection is equal protection, and kudos to Judge Geraghty for saying that commercial drone flyers are entitled to the same protection as recreational flyers.  If the FAA wants to make a just rule If Congress wants to pass laws regulating flight, its rules should apply indiscriminately.  If they’re unfair for recreational flying, then they should not be applied to commercial flying.


Letter from Me to Jim DeMint

Writing in response to this letter from the Heritage Foundation. 

Dear Mr. DeMint,

There’s probably not another person whose motives I find more unquestionable in Washington (with the exception perhaps of Ron Paul) than yourself.  I have a great respect for your intentions, principles and desire to strengthen America, her institutions, and her people.

Yours is a good letter.  It’s not just a sorry piece of political machination like I’m used to receiving from the Republican party.  Respectfully, as a former Conservative, could I help you craft your message differently to reach moderates like myself?

1) “Tax Day is April 15. It’s a reminder of a grim fact: you’re surrendering a portion of what you have rightfully earned to Washington lawmakers, who squander it on wasteful government programs.

Washington doesn’t just control my money, it controls many aspects of my life.  It tells me how to pack my luggage and how much time I will wait in line to get on an airplane.  It tells me I can get married and pass social security benefits to my wife, but a gay friend cannot transfer benefits to his partner.  It prohibits 23andMe from giving me information on my genetic medical risks.  It tells my employer to cut my medical benefits.  Taxes are just one piece of a big pie.

2) “Like you, we believe that the government should be limited and accountable.”

Let’s step back and ask, “What is the purpose of government? ” Maybe it would be better to define that first and then ensure the government is capable of carrying out its purposes.  I believe a government should protect the citizenry and the things we hold dear.  It should be big enough to do that, but obviously not so unnecessarily big that the government itself becomes a threat to us and our value.

3) “We also believe that taxes should be simpler, fairer, and lower…”

Again, all of this focus on taxes.  What I want to hear is, “We want you to be more strongly protected, more equally protected, and have more control over the things that are important in your life: your liberty, your speech, your travel, your time, your labor, your money.

4) “…– and that government should get out of the way to allow free enterprise to flourish.”

Here, we part ways I’m afraid.  Can’t you see that everyone wants to control more and more value?  Did you notice how Steve Jobs controlled a multi-billion dollar corporation but still wanted more — wanted to ensure that former Apple employees didn’t work for Google?  We don’t need the government to “get out of the way”, we need it to strongly and equally protect us and our value.  That is when we can get on with the flourishing part.

I assure you Mr. DeMint, you and I want the same things.  With a more robust message, you’d have a lot more success reaching young people.



Letter from Jim DeMint to Me

The Heritage Foundation
Dear Brett,Tax Day is April 15. It’s a reminder of a grim fact: you’re surrendering a portion of what you have rightfully earned to Washington lawmakers, who squander it on wasteful government programs.At The Heritage Foundation we have taken a stand against Big Government for more than 40 years. You can add your voice to this fight today by signing the Taxpayer Declaration.

Like you, we believe that the government should be limited and accountable. We also believe that taxes should be simpler, fairer, and lower — and that government should get out of the way to allow free enterprise to flourish.

Will you join us in this mission?

Sign the Taxpayer Declaration and join the growing number of patriots who say “no” to wasteful government spending and excessive taxation.


Thank you for your support for limited government and low taxes.

Jim DeMint

Steve Jobs <3 Value

A million dollars isn’t cool, you know what’s cool?  A billion dollars.  ~ Sean Parker in the Social Network

You know what else is cool?  Being able to tell Google who not to hire:


Okay, sure, doesn’t sound so cool now, but Jobs was predictably trying to control as much value (other people’s labor and mind share in this case) as possible.  As least Jobs thought it was cool:

Alan [at Google],

We’d strongly prefer that you not hire these guys [former Apple employees in Paris].



Welcome Ryan Parker!

Ryan and I have been the best of friends for well over a decade and have corresponded about every week over the phone or by email for most of that time.  We were oddly matched roommates in college.  Ryan was more interested in reading the university newspaper cover to cover every day than doing his school work, and I was intent on getting a 4.0 so I could earn a scholarship.

I would come home exhausted from studying all day and then, after the lights went out, Parker would pepper me with questions.  I was tired, and I frankly thought this midnight speculation was pointless, but each question was just interesting enought, and Parker such an engaging conversationalist, that we’d often find ourselves talking until 2 or 3AM each night.

Both Parker and I grew up as poor farm boys, he on a real ranch in Montana, and myself on a hobby farm in Nevada.  Having little exposure, we were experiencing the world for the first time and didn’t know how it worked.  I guess neither of us ever lost that childlike curiosity.

Our roles have been the same every since.  Parker informs himself of everything going on in the world, and I consider everything he educates me on and try to recognize patterns and see deeper meaning.  Even though Ryan contributed most to my discovery of Valerianism, it took me a while to get him to realize that it was fundamentally different from the Conservative views bequeathed to both of us.  Parker knew so much that only a robust and universal world view could bring everything together and make sense.  Once he was converted, It was very liberating to be freed of conventional thinking.

Since that time Parker has made vast contributions to Valerianism.  Early on he changed the focus from fixing broken Conservative arguments to describing how we can best help the poor and disadvantaged in society — something that carries a lot more meaning.  I’m very happy to have him as a co-author of this blog.


Uncomplicating Vladimir Putin

Modeling Vladimir Putin on Marginal Revolution

1. Putin is a crazy hothead
2. Putin is rational…He simply wills evil ends
3. Putin…pursues his evil ends effectively.
4. Putin lives in a world where power is so much the calculus…It is hard for we peons to grasp the emotional resonance that power has for Putin and for some of his Russian cronies.

It’s amazing how difficult the analysis of intention is when we don’t understand value. When we think that money is the only thing that has value, we are constantly befuddled when we see people try to control any other type of value. When you understand that control of any value has value, it all becomes very simple.

Can you imagine this analysis if, instead of controlling Crimea, Putin seized billions of dollars?

Why has Putin seized this money? Is it because:

1) Putin was bored and it seemed like fun.

2) Putin likes the color green. Perhaps the long winters in Russia depress him and the green reminds him of Spring.

3) Putin likes the portraits of presidents on the bills. They remind him of power and Putin craves and relentlessly pursues power.

It seems absurd in this context, doesn’t it?  Humans appreciate value.  Like to keep the value they have and try to grow the amount under their control.  Putin is human.  Crimea is valuable (millions of people, a port on the Black Sea, oil, commerce, etc.) Putin is trying to increase the amount of value he controls. Simple.

Our collective lack of ability to see anything but money as having value causes to vastly underprotect the other value we control. Control of things like: who we buy products from, who can give us a ride in their car, who we let stay at our house. We protect our money and vigorously resist tax increases but our money is only a small part of the value we control and we should vigorously protect the rest of the value we control as well. Ukraine failed to protect it’s value and now we are left trying to infer what “the emotional resonance that power has for Putin.”

College Athletes Strike Back

Northwestern Wildcats Footballers Win Bid to Unionize


While improvements need to be made, we do not need to completely throw away a system that has helped literally millions of students over the past decade alone attend college. We want student athletes — 99 percent of whom will never make it to the professional leagues — focused on what matters most — finding success in the classroom, on the field and in life.

Oh yeah, the NCAA <3 value, too.

Athletes (coerced into being Student Athletes):

For me this was just an opportunity to make things right and stick up for future generations and make up for the wrongs of past generations.


CAPA [College Athletes Players Association] attorneys argued that college football is, for all practical purposes, a commercial enterprise that relies on players’ labor to generate billions of dollars in revenues. That, they contend, makes the relationship of schools to players one of employers to employees.

Notice how college athletes are using equality — equating themselves with employees — in order to gain more protections under the law.   That’s the way things work in Valerian society.  No minority should be stripped of the right to sue for equal protection.

Definitely a step in the right direction.  Still wishing for a world where college-aged athletes completely controlled their labor and could contract it out with any party they wanted, at whatever pay they agreed to.  #AthletesShouldOwnOwnValue