|Expectations and Fulfillment
The quality of life is determined in attitudes associated with two words -- optimism and cynicism.
If, in your early life, you find it possible to achieve things that make you proud of yourself, you
will become an enthusiastic leader of beneficial endeavors. If, on the other hand, your early
experiences are discouraging, it is likely that you will come to see your world as hostile and
One of the most brilliant intellectual talents of my acquaintance is also a damned fool. His
cynical motto for life is: "You’ve got to get them before they get
you." Of course, he has built a private world of dangerous enemies. His cynicism is now realistic. He cannot trust anyone. He is
under constant stress. His power to accomplish anything is severely limited.
It takes optimistic hope to make anyone want to do useful things. Optimists are the almost only
achievers in life.
There is an organization that has cultivated more optimists then any other institution in the world.
It is the Jr. Chamber of Commerce -- the Jaycees. The Jaycee organization is an instrument for
youthful experimentation in project planning, organization, financing and management. It is much
easier to accomplish good things if you have an existing group of potential co-workers. Success
builds your self confidence. And success encourages you to undertake more and more interesting and
Tens of thousands of ex-Jaycees will tell you that their lives were transformed by experiencing
early success in leadership. The Jaycee experience taught them the central principle of life. Joy
in beneficial accomplishment is the central feature of a good life. Thomas Jefferson said,
"Life is either a great adventure or nothing at all."
Mount Vernon, Virginia
August 13, 2002
Dear Christina and Mariana,
You have most of your lives
before you. So I write to explain that
the main game of life is to find more helpers and escape most predators. Unfortunately the most successful predators
come disguised as friends. These people
behave in kindly fashion only to escape detection and possible punishment. They are not kindly souls.
There is an advantage to age
and experience. One learns to
discriminate with increasing accuracy.
And there are disadvantages
in young adulthood. One has gained
freedom of action with little experience for guidance.
Years ago I sold a new Cessna
172 to a businessman with an effective formula for acquiring additional
businesses. He made a point of learning
about deaths of business owners.
Knowing that widows usually knew little about the businesses, he
approached them with an attractive proposal.
Nearly all widows preferred to maintain their prosperous lifestyles
without the worries of business management.
Kent offered to buy the
businesses. Actually he arranged to have the businesses buy themselves. He would pay the widows with income from the
businesses. If the incomes were poor he
did the usual thing that crooks do. He
drained as much as he could out of the resources of a dying enterprise. It was a small-scale version of the looting
of corporate assets by corporate executives that makes front page news these days.. I know a couple of guys who have made
millions by liquidating assets of sick companies.
Parents worry more about
children your age than they do about any other children. Please understand that your mother and I are
not pretending that we were wiser than you.
Our anxieties are the result of suffering from mistakes we made. Probably we are unrealistic to expect you to
gain wisdom from precepts. Harsh
reality, not theory, is the supreme teacher.
We hope that you are not going to be hurt too deeply. And don’t become handicapped by depression
when painful experiences occur. Use your intelligence to gain the support of
many friends and escape injury from dangerous exploiters.
The original idea was to have
citizens control that instrument of force called government. It was assumed
that, while there are eccentrics in any population, their peculiarities would
be balanced by other patterns of belief and action. It is possible to demonstrate the accuracy of this theory by
asking a group of people to estimate the length of a piece of string. The too-long guesses are likely to be offset
by too-short guesses. In a democracy
various ideologies can compete and round off each other’s errors.
The brilliant founders of the
United States did not anticipate a nation of unlimited government
In America’s enormous flood of immigrants, legal and illegal
there are two drastically different reasons to come here.
One is that the United States
is rich, and there are opportunities to take some. As Willie Sutton, the famed thief said when he was asked why he
robbed banks, “That’s where the money is.”
Others know the reason the
United States is rich. In their native
lands most talent and effort is devoted to beating other people out of whatever
scarce goods there are. The immigrants
who understand America’s success formula know that primitive, non-productive
strife in a society is like friction in an engine. It limits net output.
This second group understands
that the United States is defined by a civilized culture and not by real estate
and physical resources. They come to
embrace an advanced civilization and help make it work.
The United States needs more
of the second kind of immigrants and fewer of the first group. A sound immigration policy relies on ways to
discriminate between the predators and the constructive contributors. That is a difficult
The Immigration and
Naturalization Service should have schools for immigrants - schools that assess
grades for understanding. INS should
become reasonably selective.
Americans regard professional
sports to be more important than the character of our nation. So selectivity is favored for sports teams
but often opposed for citizenship.
Fair tests of understanding
Most Americans resent
congestion from the population explosion and the increased crime brought by
those foreigners who come mainly to exploit with deception and violence. It is politically feasible, therefore, for
elected officials to champion reasonably selective immigration.
The Core Science of Civilization - Economics
Human behavior is not all
that different from the behavior of plants and the animals we designate as
inferior. Life at all levels involves
choices of what to do next. A tree
orients its leaves to collect maximum solar energy. It sends its roots where water and minerals are sufficient. Animals, with a wider perimeter for action,
have more options for action.
Human beings, being able to
be aware of possible later consequences, have more complicated choices to
make. Nevertheless, most human action
is selected in the light of immediate consequences.
People with superior ability
to think choose their action paths with
intelligent speculations about consequences affecting more people. They also try to anticipate consequences in
Ability to look beyond one’s
own instant needs and desires and beyond the next minutes or hours or days
results in the superior performance of some families, ethnic groups organizations and nations. At the same time individuals and groups
with the intellectual power to be motivated by broader concerns can be
victimized by primitives who concentrate on what can be gained right now.
.It is a fact that stealing
can result in gains with less effort
than producing. It is a fact that
deception and force give power to the primitives of the world.. And primitives have controlled and made
miserable the lives of nearly all of the persons who have lived on this Earth.
Civilization is escape from
control by primitives. It is
fulfillment of the human potential for life above the savagery of the lower
Steering Human Behavior
Behavior of all living
things, from plants to every kind of animal, is determined largely by
requirements demanded by the environment.
Particular kinds of plants thrive in some climates and soil conditions
and die out in others. Animals from
protozoa to human beings can seldom escape demands of conditions around
them. The advantage they have over
plants is that they are more mobile and can seek more favorable conditions.
Human beings living in near
isolation as pioneers are forced to learn about nature’s demands. They must gain some degree of knowledge of
botany, zoology, meteorology and mechanics.
As populations swell and people are packed closer together, the
capability needed for success is ability to relate to the prevailing human
pattern of behavior. Those patterns are
Different personalities thrive
or suffer in different cultures and some cultures allow better advantages then
others for fulfillment of the human potential
The central purpose of this
essay is to describe characteristics of beneficent and malignant cultures
Some cultures reward
malignant behavior. For example, the
last five heads of state in Liberia gained their positions by murdering their
predecessors. One tortured his
predecessor to death. In Liberia being
sympathetic, kind and intelligent makes you a murder target for dictators who
have reason to fear possible reform efforts by you.
Nearly all of the people who
have lived on Earth have been trapped in savage cultures. Thoughtful people who work to make their
nations or other organizations more humane are usually exterminated.
Somehow, the few reformers
who survived, at least for a while, have brought civilization to portions of
the human race.
The civilizing process is
based on the following principles.
There are two basic ways to
encourage beneficial human behavior and discourage malignant behavior. One uses affirmative inducements. The other uses punishment for unapproved
behavior - enforcement.
One encourages individual
responsibility and positive accomplishments.
The other causes people to focus on victimizing others while escaping
punishment. One allows minimum
government and maximum freedom. The
other requires a supreme instrument of force - government.
If you are a farmer,
carpenter manufacturer or other produces of goods (and goods means not only
things but also services and other ephemeral benefits) you devote your talents
and attention to serving human needs and desires. You succeed to the degree that other people desire and buy what
The alternative lifestyle
stems from belief that the important function of intelligence is ability to
outsmart and defeat rivals. When
cunning is considered the most valuable talent, people engage in what is called
“zero sum gains.” They strive to get
disproportionate shares of already existing goods. This explains why nations
with the greatest natural resources are usually the poorest and most miserable,
while nations with the harshest climates and limited resources are the richest
and most civilized. If production is
crucial to survival, populations concentrate on production. When items of wealth lie all around, seizing
as much as possible gets most attention.
The Congo is one the richest nations in the world in natural resources
yet nearly all citizens suffer on the ragged edge of survival. Approximately two million Congo residents
have been slaughtered in recent years in non-productive rivalry.
For contrast: Finland is a
land of near arctic wilderness yet its people live in relative wealth and
personal safety. Inlanders concentrate
on constructive accomplishments.
The crucial role of
Culture is a pattern of
behavior, and, contrary to humbug about multiculturalism, there are cultures
that are beneficial and cultures that are damaging Executives whose main skill is deception destroy companies and
damage the lives of employees and the stockholder owners of the
corporations. There are corporate
cultures of high moral character and others that are forms of organized crime.
Learning from Experience
There are three kinds of
intelligence - speculative, empirical and experimental.
In trying to understand
connections between life situations and health, we speculate. We observe coincidences and believe that one
situation caused the other. For
example: If we are exposed to cold and
come down with the flu, we tend to believe that the cold caused the flu. Actually influenza is an infectious disease,
and being exposed to the germs caused the flu.
By his kind of imagining we could conclude that nuclear power prevents
heart disease. Heart disease did
decline in the United States by more than 25 percent after the first nuclear
power plants were built. Coincidence is
not causation, but it is a common error to blame or credit events that had no
real connection with a condition. This
is speculative knowledge, and it is usually incorrect.
Most prevailing beliefs are
imaginings. This is especially true for
political, moral and religious beliefs.
It is possible to build an elaborate belief system that is internally
harmonious; yet it has little relationship to reality. Scholarship down through the ages has served
mainly to elaborate unrealistic belief systems. No wonder most institutions of higher education were founded by
churches. Of course governments use
schools to program the minds of citizens for passive acceptance of political
The first steps toward better
understanding of reality came with the birth of science. Science is methodology for testing
notions. Scientific methodology has
taken hundreds of years to develop, and even today false conclusions can
occur. Refinement of methods to prevent
Empirical evidence is
basically like the events and situations that lead to speculative
intelligence. The difference is that
scientists worry about being misled, so they concentrate on finding mistakes in
their early conclusions. The principle that coincidence is not necessarily
causation is the cornerstone of empirical science.
Empirical knowledge can be
tested with experiments. One challenge
is to design experiments that are exactly relevant to the phenomena to be
understood. The other is to use
“controls.” A control duplicates the
situation to be tested except for an important component. Example: a new medicine is tested for
results compared to either an inactive substance or the pre-existing drug of
How I Became a Cynic Regarding Inventions
My closest childhood friend
died before age 10. However I had
become acquainted with his family. A
brother in his early twenties had patented an invention. At the time I was too ignorant to understand
it. What I did come to know was the
disillusioning drama of Glen Rowell’s efforts to defend his patent.
RCA corporation had begun
using Glen Rowell’s technology for tuning radio, television and wireless data
signals. RCA’s chief executive officer, David Sarnoff, built the company by
stealing intellectual property from inventors.
The method was simple. RCA could
exhaust inventors over years of court proceedings. RCA could pay lawyers for much longer periods than independent
inventors could. In a speech to the
American Bar Association, Warren Burger, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,
pointed out that legal proceeding can continue as long as there is money to pay
the lawyers. He cited a twenty-year IBM
The Rowell method for
capturing wireless electro-magnetic transmissions worked as follows. An oscillator circuit in a receiver produces
simple sine-wave oscillations. These
are smooth, curved, up-and-down wave patterns.
The oscillator frequency is variable. Then, when the oscillator circuit
is adjusted to match the frequency of a radio signal, there is resonance. The electro-magnetic radiation from the
radio transmitter has a signal mixed into it.
The receiver picks out the imposed message, which is of much, much lower
frequency than the so-called carrier wave.
The carrier wave frequency is far above the range of human hearing and
the capacity of speakers, video scanners and data recorders.
Glen Rowell’s invention is so
crucial to all wireless communication that no other system exists.
The distressing drama of Glen
Rowell and RCA continued while I grew up through secondary school and high
school. Glen Rowell finally had spent all the money he had and could borrow,
and he gave up. Glen Rowell came to be
the head of the Underwriters’ Laboratories and chairman of the Minnesota state
Board of Electricity. He could not be
By the time I reached the
threshold of adulthood I had concluded that independent inventors have very
little chance of benefiting from their inventions. I became acquainted with the stories of many other inventors who
lost rather than gained from their creations.
Philo Farnsworth, the
inventor of television, had his resources and his mental health destroyed by
RCA’s legal gamesmanship that lasted until Farnsworth’s patents were about to
Back in the days of
piston-engine powered transport airplanes, I began to patent an invention. When I made the patent search I discovered
that my idea had been patented about 15 years earlier. I could not understand why the invention was
not used. Then when the patent did
expire, aircraft manufacturers rushed to use it. The invention was a way to make the flow of engine-cooling air
approximate the need for cooling. That
is, cooling air flow would be greater when the engine was working hard and
putting out more heat, and cooling air flow would be less when reduced power
reduced need for cooling. It takes
large amounts of energy to accelerate ambient air to nearly the speed of the
airplane. That loss was reduced by
using jets of engine exhaust gas to pump air though the engine compartment in
rough proportion to need The result,
for the Convair airliner, was approximately 250 free horsepower per
Strangely, corporate executives
chose to waste many thousands of dollars in extra fuel cost rather than have
the inventor receive any reward for his invention. Friends have offered theories about this strange phenomenon People whose talent is for deceiving and
taking are envious of persons who can be proud of their abilities. Their way to feel superior is to win at
cunning money games.
I am now ashamed of the
pessimism that kept me from trying hard to benefit from my creations. Life is not automatically fair. We all need to struggle continuously to make
things work as we believe they should.
Pessimism is a formula for failure.
It is declaring defeat before the game is over.
All of our lives are steered,
in some degree, by the psychological scars we receive from painful
experiences. My definition of neurosis
is behavior distorted by psychological wounds.
The Underside of Idealism
Most of the killing in the
world is done by “good” people.
Can you think of a form of
murder more horrible than burning alive at the stake apostate Christians by
church leaders? Perhaps the stoning to
death of deviant Muslims is as cruel.
All of the large-scale
killers in history have been champions of some sort of “righteousness.” Communism promised almost heaven on Earth
with government strong enough to force correct behavior. Communism is, after all, total government;
and government is an apparatus for compelling conformity. In the Soviet Union at least 24,000,000 were
killed to enforce orthodoxy. In
Communist China somewhere between 30 and 60 million were slaughtered.
The National Socialist (Nazi)
regime in Germany exterminated about 6,000,000 Jews, Gypsies and gentile
political opponents. The purpose was to
revive a nation reduced to the poverty of a third world country by adversaries.
Eliminating opposing groups was deemed necessary for rebuilding a successful
nation. Adolph Hitler appeared to many
Germans to be an inspiring champion of pride, teamwork and accomplishment.
have brought about the deaths of more than 12 million - - mostly children - -
in Africa. Banning production and use
of the insecticide DDT has allowed Malaria and other insect-carried disease
organisms, such as the West Nile Virus, to flourish. DDT is harmless to higher animals when used correctly.
find other ways to hurt people. Some put metal spikes in trees so that loggers are likely to be
killed or injured when their chain saws fling the spikes out of the wood. Environmental extremists promote deadly
forest fires by preventing removal of overgrowth. They also block construction of access roads so that firefighters
cannot function efficiently.
Genetically improved food
crops are demonized by health faddists posing as guardians of health. They doom millions to malnutrition and many
Much of the world’s food
supply is eaten by insects and germs.
Less destructive for sterilization than chemicals, boiling or baking is
ionizing radiation. Fanatics have prevented
widespread use of this most advanced food preservation technology.
Fewer murders, rapes and
other violent crimes occur when there is widespread ownership of guns by
law-abiding citizens and when there is firm enforcement of the more than 20,000
existing gun laws against criminals.
Criminals prefer helpless
victims. Anti-gun crusaders work to
give criminals the upper hand. This is
why the highest serious crime rates are in the cities that disarm law abiding citizens. New York City and Washington, D.C. are
The psychology of large-scale
Nearly all human beings want
to be proud of themselves This desire
inhibits ugly behavior except in behalf of “a worthy cause.” When
eloquent demagogues demonize another group, basically decent people become
Nearly all wars are promoted
as holy crusades. Young men and women are forced by political circumstances to
go forth and kill or be killed. And the
people they kill are, most of them, trapped by a reciprocal ideology in their
countries. Deadly defense sometimes is
necessary, but investigation shows that war is frequently and falsely
represented to be defensive. Even
preemptive war is sold as defensive.
Now, on the
threshold of the 21st century, the deadly idealisms of Communism and
belief systems have lost most of their
power to provoke viciousness The giant danger
of the future is Muslim fundamentalism.
There are a billion and a half Muslims around
the world. They have the highest birth
rate and will become much
more numerous. Muslims are a
formidable army motivated by the belief that that
non-Muslims are at odds with Allah.
Many and perhaps most Muslims feel
commanded by Allah to either convert or
Religion is a body of belief immune to evidence and
logic. Dogmatic belief is
diametrically opposed to the foundation of modern
foundation is science, and science is open-minded
searching for increasingly accurate perceptions of reality. Humble recognition of
our incomplete knowledge is essential for intellectual and cultural progress.
The events of September 11,
2001 were no more than a prelude to a greater-than-ever world-wide war. It is a war that cannot be won simply with
military force. Adolph Hitler’s “final
solution” for the Jews will not work for Muslims either. Somehow we must stretch the divide between
stupid and dangerous Muslim fundamentalists and open-minded and consequently
intelligent Muslims. Our struggle
against the deadly idealistic dogmatism of Islam presents an extremely
difficult psychological challenge that we must meet. The preservation and advance of civilization are at stake.
The way you solve the
practical problems of life depend upon the environment in which you are
In primitive societies,
talent for deception and coercion are necessary for survival. Other talents can actually be handicaps
because they distract you from the main game.
Mexico is not one of the
world’s primitive nations, but the Mexican culture prevents full realization of
the benefits available with that country’s great natural resources. Many Mexicans do not understand the reason
the United States is so much safer, stronger and richer. It is common for Mexicans to believe that
Americans bask in unearned wealth. They
know the ease with which American tourists can be cheated. They believe that the American realm of
plenty is simply a place.
America really is, in
essence, a moral culture. The culture
is based on understanding of the practical value of mutual trust. Productive collaboration depends on accurate
communication, dependable commitments, and optimism rather than cynicism.