Gene Balfour Blogs

Introduction

Every human being shares one common motivation – the need to survive.

“Survival” means different things to different people at different times in their lives, and human motivations shift accordingly.  I will show how “survival” perception affects political opinion.

In 1943, Abraham Maslow published  "A Theory of Human Motivation". In this paper [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow's_hierarchy_of_needs] he outlines his ideas concerning human motivations at 5 different levels of human need (see diagram below). Notice that Marlow’s hierarchy encompasses physical (“physiological”) needs as well as those of a social and psychological nature, and that the physiological needs serve as a prerequisite for fulfillment before a person will pursue the 4 higher order needs for Security, Love/belonging, Esteem and Self-actualization.  Dr. Maslow’s paper underpins my ideas presented in this article.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

At any point in a person’s life, ability to “survive” is influenced by many factors – both inherited as well as unforeseen circumstances. Lessons learned up to any point in life can also influence survivability perceptions, and they can apply at any level of Maslow’s hierarchy.

It is this aspect of individuals’ perceived survival prospects that attracts my interest. In particular, I am interested in understanding how one’s Life Lens (to be explained later) affects his or her political choices, and also how politicians are able to win votes with appropriately prepared campaign platforms and strategies.

 

Premise regarding Political Opinion and the Life Lens

Hypothesis: each person’s perception of their need for survival assistance will fall somewhere along a Dependency Continuum (DC). At one end of the DC are persons who perceive themselves as strong, self-sufficient, confident and independent. At the other end are individuals who perceive themselves as weak, vulnerable, needy and dependent on others.  Over time, and with changing circumstances, one’s place along this Dependency Continuum will change. The more “dependent” the person, the greater the likelihood that he or she will favour politicians and political parties that present themselves as the best champions of the needy.  Conversely, self-reliant individuals will be less likely to choose politicians, or their parties, that promise more external intervention and support for which these individuals perceive no need. Instead, they may view such promises as unnecessary burdens in their lives, and vote accordingly.

It seems reasonable to expect that, if people perceive themselves to be in need of help, then they will vote for a politician who promises to come to their aid if elected. Moreover, after the politician is elected, it is also reasonable to expect that the supporting voters will expect the elected politician to fulfill the promises. If true, many may rely less on their personal resourcefulness to handle their own matters. In effect, voting for more external dependency will encourage more dependency behaviours and expectations, and less self-reliance.

Human envy is another factor that may favour the “saviour” politician described above. To the poor and needy, Government aid is either ‘free” or costs them very little in taxation when compared to persons whose higher taxable incomes are subject to income taxes based upon “progressive” tax rate schedules.  Politicians have constantly played the “Politics of Envy” card to portray ‘the rich’ as being greedy, corrupt and heartless while neglecting to point out that the so-called “rich” pay the lion’s share of all taxes collected.

Later, I will describe the use of “collectives” by many ambitious politicians to label groups as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ depending on their political goals, and who generally think nothing of making expensive election promises using OPM (other people's money, aka taxes) to buy votes.

Survival Strategies and Political Choice

Choosing to be dependent upon the state

is just as much a survival strategy

as choosing to be free from state interference and

its coercive dependence on wealth confiscation

(i.e. taxation and raising public debt).

The most widely practiced political campaign strategy for winning elections is best described as a  “divide and conquer” strategy. Its use is the greatest irony of modern politics: politicians champion the idea of ‘unity and national pride under one flag’ while they pit groups of people against one another in order to win votes and gain political power. Then, once power is achieved, they claim to work on behalf of all citizens equally, yet they also spend much of the next 4 years to “secure their political base”.  Such is the true nature of “democracy” today.

The relative success in executing these strategies is heavily dependent on fund-raising because successful campaigns cost money – big money!  Consider their use of technology, for example.  Advanced Internet and Information Technologies are expensive. Every major political party is able to build a large campaign “war chest”. With this, they apply powerful data analytics tools to identify the Special Interest Groups (SIGs) that are their best targets for winning votes with well-crafted political messaging. Costs are especially high when campaigns make use of all of the traditional communications media (radio, television, newsprint, road signs) as well as modern social media and internet tools. In Ontario, for example, these messaging efforts must reach voters at the province-wide level as well as at targeted SIGs in each of the 122 ridings.

Obviously, the long-established “full slate” parties are generally much better funded than the lesser-known parties; as such, they are able to run high profile campaigns. The Big Government political parties (i.e. the BORG) always position themselves as the only answer to all social and economic problems. With the expectation of winning the election and controlling government spending, they target those dependent citizen communities that perceive that their best “survival” prospects can best be met with Government help. These communities of dependency are known to be the most “vote rich” groups of people – those who can be readily influenced by ubiquitous BORG “I will be your saviour” political messaging.

A former Director within the Ontario government once explained the following to me:

“The currency of politics is votes.

Propaganda and money are simply

the most convenient and effective tools

for politicians to attain votes.”

The use of  “collectives” in Political Rhetoric

“Collective” terminology, when used by politicians and senior government bureaucrats in relation to proposed policy prescriptions, or existing regulations, are merely intellectual constructs that serve as useful tools to convince voters of the legitimacy of their cleverly worded ideas and program proposals. Their use of terms and phrases such as “society”, “the public”, “the greater good”, “the people”, “the electorate”, “public investments”, and others, will easily lure many voters into accepting the rhetoric. After all, how can any idea, that is described in such noble-sounding phrases and affect so many people, be anything but good, correct? 

This use of these common “collectives” is particularly entrenched amongst many of our current political leaders and government bureaucrats, of course, but are also widely used by our news media personnel, entertainment professionals, public intellectuals, government employed educators, and others. This is not surprising when you consider that they are also generally the same people who stand to gain the most from the “collective” rhetoric because it encourages the public to depend on the Government that keeps them employed or compensated in other ways.

Over time, our modern Western cultures have become so familiar with these “collectives” that they are now considered to be ‘real’; but how can this be when only individuals are real? The inconvenient truth, however, is that all of these collectives are almost always used in ways that infer the inclusion of many individuals who would never subscribe to the claims contained in the rhetoric spoken.

The need for Political Propaganda

Government enterprises are monopolies. Their Service Delivery models are based on expensive, bureaucratic “one size fits all” programs. With rising public debt and the perennial failure to balance budgets in spite of high levels of taxation, it is clear that Government monopolies can never afford to service the diverse needs and interests of a heterogeneous voter population in the same way that the free market economy can.

This explains why Governments and politicians must continue to self-promote. The rich variety of goods and services provided by for-profit business models put government services to shame time and time again. Government leaders, however, have no recourse but to continue efforts to convince a skeptical public that “the government way is the best way”. In fact, they must also actively discourage voters from seriously considering whether non-governmental services should be considered viable alternatives. After all, what impact would it have on their job security if voters had more cost-effective service choices, rather than continuing to rely upon government monopolies that often do not meet their needs or expectations?

Life Lens Explained

The following describes how and why every human being is entirely unique – none of us are the same. Once understood, it will be difficult for anyone to hear these “collective” references and believe anything that the speaker or writer has to say. If you are like me, these phrases will actually become irritating to hear because they are so embedded in our culture that I actually feel anger and a sense of hopelessness when I experience them.

Consider the following ideas.

Every human being - all 7.2 billion persons who are currently alive, or anyone who has existed before us - has their own unique, moment-to-moments life experiences from birth to death. To each person, these life experiences only exist at the level of their own individual consciousness. In fact, every single conscious thought, every feeling and likely much subconscious content that is experienced via somatic sensations – all of these become known within our individual consciousness, and become “known” at both the conscious and subconscious levels.

Some life experiences are consistently present and, therefore, readily “known” within our state of consciousness. These include our name, identity, race, religion, sex, address, date of birth, personal talents, names of best friends, pets, parents and family members, etcetera.

Other life experiences, which are less readily “known”, often result from less significant and/or more rare events or circumstances experienced in life. Examples might include the last time that you arrived late at the office, or the type of coffee you drank last week with a friend.

Consider that every life experience, (or moment of consciousness) contains a new learning opportunity to which I refer to as a "learning instance" in the past.

As each learning opportunity is experienced, it is simultaneously filtered by all  "lessons learned" from prior learning instances.

These lessons learned reside in your consciousness as a huge reservoir of memories, feelings and triggered sensations. All of these lessons learned collectively comprise the “material” that make up the Life Lens.

The Life Lens in action

The following analogue should help you to visualize the Life Lens in action.

Picture all learning instances within your mind as billions of grains of sand each representing a past lesson learned.  Imagine that they all reside as artifacts of your mind held within a limitless, undefined and unseen "vessel of consciousness".

As you may know, glass is made from sand. A glass lens is ground and polished to enable an observer to study an item of interest more closely. Using this sand to glass lens analogue as your imagery, see yourself as an observer experiencing a learning instance.  In this scenario, you use your will to direct your mind to focus attention on it. As learning occurs, a new artifact of mind takes shape. When the attention ends, a learned lesson results, and it is added like a new grain of sand to the vessel of consciousness.

The vessel of consciousness plays an active role in learning. It transforms into the Life Lens through which every learning instance is viewed, studied, assessed and ultimately catalogued within the vessel. Here is how.

With each new learning instance, the vessel of consciousness is transformed, by your will, from a limitless, amorphous “container” of billions of lessons learned (the ‘sand’) into the lens through which every learning instance is observed. The clarity and sharpness of the lens depends upon the importance of the learning opportunity. In other words, the Life Lens is ground and polished to become clearer and clearer until it can bring into focus, and resolve, the lesson learned that is sought.

The vessel of consciousness, to which I will also refer to as "mind", continually evolves throughout every human life. Each mind is necessarily unique because all lessons learned are unique to the mind that receives them.

Every Life Lens, therefore, is totally unique.

No one will view every life experience through exactly the same mind and, therefore, personal "truth" will always be relative to one’s Life Lens.

A belief is an enduring truth.  It is a learned lesson that has been hardened into an unshakable conviction over time. It has either never been tested or, if tested, the results served to reinforce it as truth.

Like “brainwashing” whereby person(s) are coerced into adopting new beliefs through the use of systematic methods and often-forcible pressure, an enduring truth also results when someone hears the same message long enough and often enough. By repeated exposure to the identical or similar learning opportunity, the Life Lens becomes so familiar with the lesson learned that will is not called into action to study it again and it returns to the vessel unchanged.

Bias and the Life Lens

Based on the above, it is clear that ‘objectivity’ is relative when beliefs are challenged between two of more people, each with their own mind that has evolved through innumerable learning instances. It takes an exceptional self-awareness and personal act of will to overcome the inherent bias that everyone brings to any new idea or topic.

Throughout our lifetimes, we have absorbed numerous news and entertainment learning instances through both traditional and modern modalities. Each exposure has contributed to our one-of-a-kind Life Lens. No two minds will contain exactly the same lessons learned. Consequently, we each filter information (learning opportunities) with our unique Life Lens. This explains why our opinions vary so greatly.

Consider the media further. To the extent that our preferred media sources contain bias, the bias contained in our learning opportunities will also affect the conclusions, or “truths” that we discover and retain. A person who receives many repeated and positive messages about capitalism, for example, will likely have a Life Lens that filters all new information with this bias.

Another good example of this bias in action is the extent to which many citizens are influenced by broad and self-serving political messaging from Government itself. Consider, for example, the message that ‘the Government is the only legitimate alternative to address social or economic issues’. This message has been broadcast innumerable times in many forms over many decades. As such, it has become a widely held belief. Any suggestion that non—Government options in health care, for example, is frequently met with passionate resistance and characterized as ‘radical’ and/or impossible to implement.

The unintended (or intended?) effect that this “Government only” bias has been to short-circuit good ideas for a better democracy. How? For smaller, lesser-known, and less well-funded political parties such as Libertarian party, their ideas for Less Government are frequently met with skepticism and resistance; the years of “Government only” messaging have done their job well. Most citizens become uncomfortable with any significant change. They are afraid to move away from the status quo, especially when Libertarians advocate for ‘more citizen self-reliance’.  When the BORG (blue, orange, red and Green) parties champion more government rules and spending, this always leads to ‘more dependency’, which the majority of citizens readily accept.

Could Libertarians counter the Big Government bias among most of our citizens? Yes, but it is a near impossible task when one considers the funding disparity between the major parties and Libertarians, and the extent of the existing “Government only” bias.  In addition, Libertarians want to decrease government spending while the BORG parties have a lustful eye on accessing the huge budgets of the state and a massive workforce of self-serving supporters.

Why is the Life Lens concept useful for political analysis?

I have encountered many people who are vaguely familiar with Libertarianism. Many have heard that Libertarians are selfish and uncaring, and only concerned about individuals and not “the greater good”. They have accepted this myth that has been propagated by others with an opposing agenda. This is surely a myth because only individuals exist and, in order to survive, each individual must protect and defend their abilities and earned assets, as well other persons such as members of their families and personal communities for whom they care the most.

To my way of thinking, the persons who actually deserve the above criticisms are those who favour the use of force to achieve their ends. Why? Because "statism" cannot exist without the use of force. It employs a top down, central planning and enforcement model that must impose hundreds of thousands of rules (regulations) upon millions of citizens to achieve what its adherents claim to be ‘the greater good’.  The aim of all forms of statism is to control the masses in order to achieve their ends even though they personally know very few of the millions of individuals who comprise the so-called “greater good” for whom they claim to act.

I am sure that there are some public leaders who are truly well meaning. However, like every individual citizen, these leaders also act according to their own individual Life Lens. Since every Life Lens is unique, each politician’s “truth” concerning what constitutes “the greater good” can never be met with universal approval (i.e. the approval of all individuals in society).

To make this point, let’s consider the common, contrasting views between the “rich” and the “poor”. Recently, I heard a podcast speaker say: “There is a bit of larceny in everyone, and this explains why so many lower and middle class voters want to ‘stick it to the rich’ through higher taxes so that they can get the freebies they want from their government”.

Politicians know that the “poor” greatly outnumber the “rich”. This is why they promise new rules and expensive programs to targeted, relatively poorer communities of voters. The end result, of course, is the continuous expansion of Socialism and the “regulatory state”.

Margaret Thatcher once said: “The problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money.” History has recorded the rise and fall of many forms of Socialism including Communism, Fascism, and Democratic Republics. The record high Ontario government debt, and the doubling of Provincial regulations to 380,000 over the past 20 years, both provide a clear picture of Ontario’s future.  “Rich” or “poor”, we will all be in the same boat when Ontario’s brand of Socialism runs out of money.

Sadly, too many of our citizens are sleepwalking into economic and social catastrophe. Its as if their Life Lens has been infiltrated so successfully by the repetitive “Government only” propaganda that has been dispensed by the majority of their teachers, the mainstream media, public intellectuals and politician leaders that their only conceivable and/or acceptable form of civil society for Ontario is one in which the state plays a commanding role.

Fortunately, the Internet and social media are playing an increasingly competitive role in spreading news and ideas that are not always considered orthodox.  As a result of these changes, an increasing number of our citizens - especially the young - have come to view our Big Government leaders and their statist ideas with well-deserved suspicion.

I hope that, some day, the majority of citizens will finally come to realize that, as voters, only they can change the course of creeping statism by making a conscious choice to protest our Big Government hegemony and to deliberatively mark on their ballot the choice of Less Government in their lives.

About me

I have been Libertarian since 2007. Previously, I identified politically as a ‘compromise Conservative’  - none of the major parties were acceptable to me, but the Conservatives were the least worrisome so I cast my Conservative vote solely as a defensive measure against the much worse Liberals and NDP. I would have preferred to vote ‘in favour of’ a party and platform in which I had respect and trust, but I was compelled ‘to vote against’ the parties that I knew to have more ambitious state expansion plans.

Today, my Life Lens reflects 10 years of learning as a member of the Ontario Libertarian Party, and 4 election campaigns as a provincial and federal Libertarian candidate. I also love the ideas of great thinkers. I have read over 30 books, and listened to hundreds of podcasts, in the domains of economics (primarily writers from the Austrian ‘school’) and political philosophy.  These efforts have served to deepen my understanding of the excessive and inappropriate influence of governments in my life and in the lives of the people for whom I care most deeply.

I also enjoy reading differing opinions and contrarian views in these domains. I always respect other views until such time as the person who holds them chooses actions that result in the imposition of their will on the individual property rights of others for their own personal gain.

This essay is my "truth" and reflects my own Life Lens, as it currently exists.

This “truth” is important to me and is the reason that I am a politically involved Libertarian. 

I believe that true "democracy" can only exist when each person is free to make their own life choices according to their own Life Lens as long as the do no harm to others. 

Gene Balfour

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