Patrick Byrne: What forces have shaped humanity most?

Patrick Byrne: I sound awfully cynical. I think that humankind has been a history of boots – of powerful people stamping on people’s faces. I think that’s history. And there’s different sized boots, and different brands, and colors and such. But that’s basically history. Then the enlightenment comes along, and the enlightenment says . . . And you know it’s interesting if you read something like Machiavelli, whose . . . ...thoughts about Machiavelli. But you even have to understand that when they use the word “freedom”, they use it differently than we do. For them, a state was free in the sense of it was not a ...state. The prince was not a ... to some greater empire. It was just taken for granted though that, of course, the people existed as instruments of the leader’s end. And then this great watershed moment in humanity is the enlightenment – especially the Scottish enlightenment where people started realizing, wait, we have our own ends. We exist as ends in ourselves. And the state is just this compact we formed so we can pursue our own ends. Now of course the control freaks among us hated that and fought the enlightenment. Then when they couldn’t defeat it, they subverted it, and that’s the French enlightenment. That’s Rousseau. And they couldn’t actually stop the progress of the enlightenment, so they . . . what they did was they cheapened it. They said, “Yes, you’re right. This individual freedom is important; but we have to understand that individual freedom – it isn’t this silly, Scottish, English sense of a man deciding his own ends. It’s really this deeper sense of subjugating yourself to the right historical mission.” So you get Rousseau with his “...General” – the will of the . . . the general will, which maybe isn’t . . . It doesn’t mean the majority will. It’s maybe something that only one person knows. And when this Robespierre forces you to submit to him, he’s “forcing you to be free”, in Rousseau’s phrase. And that goes on through Hagel and Marks where the . . . you know it’s the .... And it’s Lennon where it’s the vanguard ... party; Hitler, where it’s the .... It’s the prerogative of . . . It’s the people . . . Real freedom is frowned, and subordinating yourself to the work of the people ..., as they said over in the concentration camp gates. And somewhere along the way, the intellectuals from the continent, I think, lost this sense of no freedom as this basic idea of people choosing their own ends in life. And it’s not . . . it’s . . . it’s a . . . it’s a . . . When I listen to people talk in politics, I go right back to this route. And it’s pretty easy to see that for most of them, they’ve just taken the wrong fork. They are, in one way or another, defining liberty and freedom as subordinating yourself to the ends that they . . . that someone else has chosen for you. And that . . . that’s valueless. So those . . . That is, to me, the main contention in the world of ideas and political thought. Does somebody get that freedom has to be a self-defined process in pursuit? Or is it . . . Are they all debating freedom as, well, we take it for granted that we get to subordinate individuals to our ends, and now we’re just going to debate the ends. That’s where most people are. That’s where most of the world is. And I think that’s a really pernicious concept. In fact Voltaire read a book by Rousseau where he . . . where when he read this stuff, he wrote Rousseau a letter where he said, “Dear Monsieur Rousseau, I’ve had the pleasure of reading your book against the human race.” Well he had it exactly right. This philosophy . . . this continental philosophy from Rousseau, Kant, Hagel, Meecha, you know, Marks, Lennon, of course – it’s anti-freedom. It’s . . . it’s philosophy against the human race.

Recorded on: 10/29/07

 

The course of history has followed the wills of the powerful.

This is the training any graphic designer should have. It’s on sale now for under $40.

Come to grips with the fundamentals of graphic design and master the field's top tools.

Gear
  • The School of Graphic Design Mastery Bundle covers basic industry philosophies and tools.
  • Special courses dig into branding techniques as well as using the Adobe Creative Cloud apps.
  • The $1,400 training course is available now for only $39.
Keep reading

What the world will look like 4°C warmer

Will your grandchildren live in cities on Antarctica?

Surprising Science

Micronesia is gone – sunk beneath the waves. Pakistan and South India have been abandoned. And Europe is slowly turning into a desert. This is the world, 4°C warmer than it is now. 

Keep reading

Why vaccines are absolutely necessary

Vaccines have done their job so well that anti-vax parents have forgotten the horror of contagious disease.

Videos
  • "Autism is caused by a lot of factors that we don't fully understand," says epidemiologist Dr Larry Brilliant, "but vaccines are not one of those factors."
  • Vaccines have saved hundreds of millions of children's lives—they have eradicated smallpox, nearly eradicated polio, and they have reduced the population explosion. How? Thanks to vaccinations, parents no longer expect 50% of their children to die from disease, so they have less children.
  • Vaccines have protected the lives of children so effectively that anti-vax parents—who only have their children's best interests at heart—have lost sight of how critical vaccines are. When polio was rampant in the U.S., parents waited in line for hours and hours to have their children vaccinated. Safety changes our mental calculus, but vaccinations must continue to ensure that safety lasts.
Keep reading