As I think about the havoc that has reigned throughout the world century after century, I am reminded of one of those ancient-astronaut books I read many years ago that set forth a fascinating theory.
The author believed that munificent aliens from another galaxy visited the earth eons ago and created man. After a long period of tinkering with their creation, the aliens finally concluded that man was a failed experiment, packed up their gear, and moved on to another galactic destination.
The validity of the author’s theory is subject to debate, of course, but the fact that man is flawed is not. There are two closely linked flaws, in particular, that I believe are at the heart of most of mankind’s problems. The flaws I am referring to are the average person’s (1) desire for instant gratification and (2) predilection to be ruled by those whom he believes can best satisfy his instant-gratification needs.
Since time immemorial, the coming together of those who yearn to be ruled and those who seek to rule others has resulted in thousands of sociological marriages made in hell. In every country where you see chaos, the naïve protestors in the streets clamor for their tribal savior to be handed the reins of power.
Because their brains are not cluttered by knowledge, facts, or logic, this phenomenon is able to repeat itself year after year, decade after decade, century after century. It’s always about “power to the people,” “democratic reform,” and other buzz phrases that are destined to fade into oblivion shortly after a new power structure becomes entrenched and the masses are forced to sit down, shut up, and once again do as they’re told.
In this regard, Harry Browne’s classic, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, made a huge impact on me back in the seventies. The sum and substance of Browne’s message was that the world will never be free, thus it’s up to each individual to discover ways to live as freely as possible in the world as it is rather than the world as he would like it to be.
So what does all this have to do with man’s being an experiment that failed? Simply that if you’re serious about leading a prosperous and purposeful life, it’s important to understand that a majority of your flawed fellow citizens will never figure out that no leader, no matter how noble his intentions, has the power to improve their lives.
Conventional wisdom says that the way to bring about change in a “democracy” is through the electoral process. It’s a lovely theory, to be sure, but the reality is that elections, at best, only slow the government’s drive down the road to serfdom. At worst, they actually accelerate it, as we saw with the election and reelection of Barack Obama.
It’s true that power holders can dole out freebies to this or that group of “deserving” citizens (and even non-citizens), but they cannot give them happiness, self-esteem, virtuosity, solid moral standards, or any other invaluable abstracts that are essential to leading a meaningful life.
If it’s important to you to find freedom in an unfree world, you don’t have the luxury of waiting for the world to change — because it won’t. Now, I can just hear some readers saying:
“But, Robert, I hear that the U.S. power grid might be destroyed by a solar flare or terrorist attack.” That’s true, but you can’t do anything about it.
“But, Robert, the government continues to ignore the Constitution, which could lead to a dictatorship.” That’s true, but you can’t do anything about it.
“But, Robert, North Korea, Iran, and other countries who hate America are intent on bringing us down.” That’s true, but you can’t do anything about it.
As my longtime readers know, there’s not much that’s happening today that I didn’t predict back in the late seventies and early eighties — when Ronald Reagan was in power, no less. Where I erred, however, was on the timing of events. Harry Browne cautioned that even though the outcomes of many events are totally predictable, it’s generally impossible to predict with any degree of certainty when they will occur.
The reason it’s so difficult to predict the timing of events is because of the infinite number of unforeseeable factors that continually come into play. Thus, Browne concluded that even if you know that certain catastrophic events are inevitable, the best thing you, as an individual, can do is press forward with your life, because most of those events may not occur during your lifetime.
My late friend William Simon, who served as Secretary of the Treasury under both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, put it in dollars-and-cents terms. He once confided in me that even though he believed that the government, in a last-gasp effort to hold onto the reins of power, would ultimately confiscate most of the assets of the wealthiest people, he felt it was prudent to continue trying to earn as much money as possible.
When I inquired as to the logic behind his statement, he explained, “Even if the government ultimately confiscates 80 percent of your wealth, I’d rather have $100 million than $1 million. There’s a big difference between being left with $20 million and being left with $200,000.” In a world that is far more uncertain than when Simon spoke those words, his seemingly simplistic viewpoint still sounds logical to me.
Free advice: Don’t debate this subject with your brother-in-law Joe or cousin Bill. The likelihood is that they don’t get it and probably never will. They’re too busy talking about the NBA playoffs and watching fake reality TV shows.
The fact is that it’s not your duty to help people see the light. Better to keep your own counsel, keep your head down, and keep moving forward. God’s plan will be what it will be.
The reality is that the only thing over which you have control is your own thinking and your own actions. You may be part of the experiment that failed, but that doesn’t mean you can’t strive to be one of the lesser-flawed humanoids who have managed to survive to this point in time. And the first step toward accomplishing that is to think.