Means versus ends

This year is a good year to re-assess your political viewpoint. Across the globe power structures appear to be readying for a change.

One amazing fact of politics is that very few people systematically analyze the question of politics and form their own political inclination to match what they know to be true. Instead, an alarmingly large number of them adopt political viewpoints based on vague emotional associations, social groups, or perceived social status gained from having the “right” opinions (this varies with where and you who are).

As a result, across the spectrum of writers on the right, there has been a re-assessment of what it is to be right-wing. On Amerika, we have presented the simplest possible formulation of rightism: consequentialism, or a concern for ends (results, goals and reality) over means (methods, socialization and how we treat others). The reason for this tendency in rightism is that we believe there is an order to life itself, whether inherent or chosen for its optimal results, that is larger than the individual and the feelings, desires and social impulses of that individual.

In other words, we believe in objective reality. Out there between all of us is a world where dropped rocks always fall, and our actions always have consequences. In fact, these consequences are consistent between similar actions, so we can often predict the results of an action before we even do it. Some even believe that the study of action (means) and consequences (ends) can reveal the nature of our world and universe, much like scientific study or reading history.

On the other side is the left, which is a spectrum of beliefs from anarchism to socialism to communism. They believe that interpersonal relationships, and how we treat others, are most important. That means that it’s better to fail while behaving well than to succeed while behaving badly. What emerges from that statement is that the question of “goal” is removed entirely. To a conservative, the goal of your actions is what determines whether your behavior is good or bad. To a liberal, how you go about achieving your goal is what determines whether your actions are good or bad. The liberal formulation removes an assessment of the goal itself, as if wanting to remove intention entirely from the picture. Conveniently, this enables all goals to be equal, since they are unconsidered. This avoids troublesome separations that mark some people as having far-reaching vision and a responsible outlook, and others as simply passing time with whatever distractions they can muster.

The left will use any adornment to dress up their basic approach. They may say boldly and self-abashedly that it’s better to fail while acting in the “right” way, than to succeed while acting in another way. They may talk about morality, fairness, justice, equality and other pleasant-sounding terms. But at the end of the day, what they are masking is a hostility to goals. If you spend all of your energy of thinking in trying to ensure that your goal is a fair one, and will result in a better situation than another course of action, your methods are for the most part irrelevant. This can be taken too far and result in utter barbarism, but that’s rare, and even so, consider the two cases:

  • Achieving what is necessary through utter barbarism.
  • Not achieving what is necessary.

If those are your two choices, which is logical to choose? Assuming the goal is necessary, the second option is suicidal. Even if it requires barbarism to accomplish a necessary goal, its necessity makes it immoral to consider any option but accomplishing the goal. We frequently encounter this moral question through hypothetical scenarios: if a nuclear bomb is about to go off in a major city, and a bad guy knows where it is, do you torture him to find out where the bomb is so that you can save the people in the city? You either torture him (bad means) or you allow a fusion holocaust (bad ends). Or the question of the zombie outbreak in a small city. If you quarantine the area, you condemn the un-infected people in the city to a horrible death. But if you don’t quarantine, you could lose the entire continent or more. Another option is the runaway train scenario: you are steering a runaway train that is approaching a fork in the road. If you take the left branch, you’ll run over a family of three. If you take the right branch, you’ll run into a tanker car filled with nerve gas that could rupture and wipe out the ten million people. Collateral damage is bad, but creating a situation where the stability of society itself is threatened is much worse.

The means-over-ends calculus will always be more popular. First, it allows people to posture and claim moral superiority. “I would never treat someone that way, no matter what the cost,” they say. Second, it removes the question of goals, and thus makes behavior equally accessible. It takes someone with leadership intelligence to figure out a decent goal, but it takes very little intelligence to apply a series of basic behavioral codes. Third, means-over-ends is paralytic. It means that if any person is injured by a potential act, it cannot be done, since by the means calculus, that act is then immoral. We cannot torture people, create collateral damage or in any way treat people unequally. That eliminates most decisions, which puts society on auto-pilot as we avoid making choices and then accept whatever inertia renders unto us over time.

People don’t like to think this way, because it’s somewhat cold-blooded, but the ends-over-means calculus is the only thought process that works in any situation. You first determine what is the correct goal, which is a type of morality based on results and not methods, and then you apply whatever methods you need to do to get to that goal. This way looks toward the future and considers the whole, lessening the value of the individual but instead avoiding a collapse of social order which affects all individuals.

Smarter people tend to be more emotional and to have a hard-wired need to do the right thing. They are as a result easily subverted by changing “do the right thing” from achieving the right results, to acting in a way that looks as if it’s a result in itself. Which is more moral, achieving a morally necessary goal, or failing to achieve that goal while acting morally on inconsequential methods? If you nobly and honorably avoid torturing a terrorist, and his nuclear bomb vaporizes the whole city, was that a more moral outcome? The West has been subverted by a sleight of hand that holds that a dishonorable result achieved with honor is better than an honorable result achieved through trickery.

We are not the first generation in history to confront this issue. The Odyssey, written thousands of years ago, confronts this question as its underlying theme. Odysseus is forced by necessity to lie, cheat, steal, deceive, murder and even abandon those who are close to him. He must keep his eye on the goal, which is to return home, and ultimately he achieves it. If he used a means-over-ends analysis, he would be lost still. Further, his wife who is beset by suitors also uses an ends-over-means analysis, deceiving these suitors so that she can hold out hope that her husband will return. The Odyssey was passed on through the centuries with this important message. Homer and the wise bards who re-told that epic poem knew that Greeks, like the Europeans to follow, were smarter than average and thus disproportionately susceptible to the sleight-of-hand that replaces honorable ends with dishonorable ends and “honorable” means. As a result, they wove consequentialism throughout the story.

As the people in the West who still have functional minds awaken from the two-thousand year jaunt into a Utopian dream, they are re-discovering this old lesson. If you use a means-over-ends analysis, you will be unable to make long-term decisions or in fact make any decisions until the crisis is upon you. As a result your society will die a “death of a thousand cuts,” with each successive slash draining more of its lifeblood until eventually it collapses. On the other hand, if your civilization re-discovers an ends-over-means analysis, the central question of that civilization becomes the study of what goals are moral, and thus the civilization becomes forward-looking and aims toward optimal choices instead of simply expedient ones.

35 Comments

  1. Sun says:

    Cute kitty cat. I like it.

  2. Sun says:

    Things aren’t so simple.

    Not to be a defender, but the person will say anything just to stop being tortured yielding false or partly true information.

    In the past often people were accused of a being a heretic or witch and finally admitting to his or hers “sin” after long hours of torture.

    1. crow says:

      You assume the one being tortured is innocent.
      The very word ‘torture’ makes people assume that.

      1. Sun says:

        Oh? Is that so, Sir Crow?

        I knew this was going to happen.

        I never assumed anything, rather simply talking about the actual effectiveness of torture in getting accurate information.

        What evidence do you have that torture actually gets reliable information?

        http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/80beats/2009/09/22/neuroscientist-says-torture-produces-false-memories-and-bad-intel/

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18472034?ordinalpos=7&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum

        So if I sleep deprive you Crow, will you remember last week very clearly?

        1. Gentlemen, my hypothetical question involved an abstraction.

          Imagine having 45 minutes to find the nuclear weapon in a city before it goes off, and one suspect that knows exactly where it is. What do you do? Most of us would start with the testicles. It’s just how it is. At least, I’d rather explain to St. Peter that I tortured some bastard horribly instead of having to explain how by being lazy I allowed a city of ten million to vanish in fire.

          Crow also makes a good point here, which is that many words carry with them different implications. Torture makes us think the person being tortured is a victim, not an aggressor. We could argue that authority words are also biased, like “freedom fighter” or “peacemaker.” There are even more mundane examples: “teacher” makes us inclined to believe that person is a responsible adult.

          As far as the effectiveness of torture, I think the newer generation of scopolamine cocktails will quickly make it obsolete.

          1. Sun says:

            Brett enlighten me.

            You talk ends over means. The end, in this case, is getting information. The means does not matter, according to you, and yet you have singled out a solution (means) as the only tool you got. If someone doesn’t agree with that said tool, then he or she is emotionally driven liberal out to destroy the world.

            If the ends is what is important, then you should be questioning the effectiveness of the means. Weighing the pros and cons of each tool at your disposal (then again the effectiveness would make the means important), grant you greater chance of accomplishing that goal (along with resource management, etc). Limiting yourself to one tool, we may both agree, is not wise.

            Someone without emotional care (with the end only important), looks at the context of what is said, not at who said it, or why it is said. Lets assume that yes I’m emotional and think you are a big evil “poo poo head,” does that devalue any argument I make in defense against torture? People who care only about results, only look at the effectiveness of a something, and don’t give a flying hoot whatever motivation is “behind” the argument.

            In your example, the end should be “getting the bomb diffused.” The means only matters in terms of how effective at getting the job done (each tool does matter in terms of ability thus valuing the means to some degree). Your example (along with your idea of consequence) assume that if we just do A then B will occur (torture = will we stop the bomb going off). Life isn’t that simple. This is what I was talking about with stagnation and problems that conservatives have.

            What I find interesting that despite the belief of the end being most important, Amerika.org tends to care a lot if the person is emotionally driven or not. In fact, entire articles are written along the subject, along with the suspecting others of being emotional or not.

            Someone who is not emotionally driven doesn’t care if others are emotionally driven or not. They look at whether the argument presented have substance. They care only if what the other person says will or will not get the job done.

            Granted people can build a case based upon their emotions (i.e. torture) but the only thing that matters is seeing if that is argument has substance or not and gets the job done.

            Is all about content and not context.

            1. crow says:

              Someone who is not emotionally driven, can care a great deal about those who are, since those who are, create an emotional chaos storm around events, that unfortunately often engulf the non-emotionally driven, as well.
              What makes you entertain the notion that an emotionally-driven person has any understanding, whatsoever, of the way a non-emotionally driven person operates?
              That seems, to me, a bit like claiming that fish obviously prefer televised documentaries over reality shows.

              1. Sun says:

                Even now you admitted that you “care (caring is an emotional act http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ care)” at the damage that someone who “emotional driven” can do. Someone who doesn’t care is indifferent. But, I digress.

                You either believe that some exist without emotions or that we have emotions but some are not driven by them.

                Granted, emotions can color our lens and can alter our decisions, many times for the “worse.” And yes, there are some who are less emotionally driven and can look at things more objectively. Being more objective can allow us to make better decisions.

                But I’m sorry to break it to you, emotion is a deep part of our brain’s hard wiring–going to our primitive brain (Limbic System http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limbic_ system). You are not special. And yes, you are emotionally driven like the rest of us.

                For someone who believe in naturalism and being one with nature, you seem to have this quint idea that either emotions or being being driven by them is not natural or one not align with nature because it causes “problems (and no other animal ever causes any problems according to you).” You are one with nature whether you are emotional or not (really “less” emotional). Some realize it, some don’t.

                Do you believe crows have no emotions or not driven by them? Well, I already know the answer to that.

                Just thank your “fight or flight response” because that is the only reason why you’re alive, due to your primal emotions.

                1. crow says:

                  You write a reasonable facsimile of English, but you don’t seem to understand it.
                  And as for experience, well it seems you simply don’t have any. Are you 14? That would explain it.

                  Anyway: we have a mission, here, and all you have ever done since first appearing, is consistently undermine it, in an attempt to look like something you clearly are not, at the expense of others. I begin to seriously tire of this.

                  Be advised: nobody needs you.
                  Contribute something of some slight use, show some respect, or be quietly vanished.
                  Disagreement is allowed, even encouraged, but not your user-unfriendly approach, which serves no purpose other than to wreck.

                  1. Esotericist says:

                    That hits the nail on the head. Anybody posting here should know how to politely disagree, and state good reasons, instead of like some drive-by liberal citing one study and then claiming everyone else is wrong.

                    1. Sun says:

                      That is b.s. Reread the post and oh don’t call me a drive by liberal.

                  2. Sun says:

                    Is that emotion showing? You begin to “tire” of this?

                    My post wasn’t even for you, but rather to Brett. But as usual Crow feels everything is about him and then takes everything directly, and daresay, personally.

                    You deserve no respect. Start acting like you deserve it and you’ll get it, maybe–out of my good graces. I owe you nothing.

                    Have you not noticed I have left you alone? I’ve tried to cease any conflict. Yet it seems you can’t do the same. Even when I said “lets not talk to each other,” you still continue on. Everyone else noticed that except you. I don’t even comment to your misguiding posts when you “contribute” the same rehashed unoriginal posts about subjects that you often know nothing about.

                    Like bashing others about “having no original ideas, using dead old guys (remember that) in the void.” You’re a jerk. Plain and simple.

                    I don’t want you Crow and I have never considered talking to you. The comment’s order, among other clues, should have showed a hint to that by now. Use that “awareness” you brag about so much and take the hint.

                    Because I learned that any form of disagreement is “undermining” to you, despite rhetoric that you “encourage” disagreement. You cower from disagreemnt rather then using it as an opportune moement to challenge yourself. You and a few others then go about calling them liberals or whatever name you want.

                    But guess what? I refuse to be press ganged into your personal beliefs (many I find laughable and childish). Nor do I care if someone like you thinks if I’m an actor trying to fool others. Who cares what you think. You bully those who don’t fit into your mold of thinking. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has ran into this from you (as you made hint of this before).

                    Any person can age Crow, it is not a feat.

                    A feat is getting off your butt from the computer and doing something with your life, instead of being an obese, stupid, ignorant, slothful, decadent old fool like most other American or human scum. Doing exercise, meditation, learning, is what virtue is, you inferior clueless fool; only a hand few seek.

                    Probably things, I bet, you don’t even do. Don’t ever talk down to me.

                    1. crow says:

                      Ha. The uber-leftist finally staggers out of the closet. This is good: it needs to confront what it is before it can start modifying itself.
                      Emotion? No. Endocrine function. It gets the job done far beter than emotion.
                      I deserve no respect? Says what? Our site is for adult humans. Only. Adult subject matter. Viewer discretion advised.
                      Be gone, imitation human.
                      By your own words are you known.

                    2. Sun says:

                      Oh my, you got me. I knew you were going to say this because lets face it that is all you ever say (and to others I’m sure) when you disagree with someone.

                      I can already imagine what type of person you are. You bash yet part of the NHS when you have done nothing to deserve it. They should get rid of socialism so they can get rid of you.

                      But you are probably right. You have no emotion. What clearly isn’t shown here. And you your lack of knowledge about the brain is more amusing.

                      You idiot. The Endocrine system helps with emotion by stimulating Adrenocorticotropic hormone, with androgen is base for testosterone. Also induces arousal via Prolactin.

                      You’re a fool. What do you do for a living? Sweep the yard?

                      Get more obese and finally fall over old man, Crow. You know nothing and are nothing. You rot in front of your computer screen. You wrinkles are not wisdom but rather death approaching.

                      I’m going to the gym.

                    3. crow says:

                      To go to the gym:
                      To be an urban poseur.
                      To consume yet another product.
                      To indebt oneself to those who provide such a service.
                      To cultivate, in the mirror, the appearance of manliness without the actual manliness itself.
                      To take, while presenting the appearance of giving (sweat), to a thoroughly worthless cause.
                      Then again, maybe if one has a really, really bad keyboard, one might possibly benefit from the extra strength required to stab at those unyielding keys.
                      Such is what passes for reality, to some.

            2. Esotericist says:

              It’s a hypothetical question. That means it’s there as a thought experiment.

              That article is not definitive. One guy in Ireland says torture is bad, forgive me if I don’t take it as absolute proof. Stress to the brain may cause people to agree with torturers, if those torturers are dumb enough to feed him leading questions.

              Obviously this guy has no idea how the CIA works, because they’re much more advanced than that…

              1. Sun says:

                1) What evidence do you have?

                2) How does the CIA work?

              2. Sun says:

                “One guy in Ireland says torture is bad..”

                Are you serious? That is a Neuroscientist. Do you even know what it takes to be one?

                This person is an expert, but of course you know more. I don’t care if you take it as absolute proof (which I never claimed it was).

                Please offer something useful, then bashing this person, who as more credentials.

        2. crow says:

          Now you assume I support torture.
          Keep reading Amerika.
          Finally, we hope, it will put you in touch with reality.
          Then there will be no further mileage in assumptions.

          1. crow says:

            To be clear, my response was aimed at the Mighty Sun.

            1. Sun says:

              The Mighty Sun?

              I like the sound of that. :P

        3. Esotericist says:

          Liberals always make debate personal.

          We can do better.

          Or more specifically, you can do better than this.

      2. Ryan says:

        crow the priest rules through the invention of sin, everything is innocent until someone or something places judgement

        1. crow says:

          Priests don’t invent sin.
          They only invent a word for it.

        2. Esotericist says:

          Is this Schroedinger’s morality? It’s all innocent until someone makes a judgment, and that changes what the action was? Sin is just a way of describing certain acts and their likely consequences. It’s no different from saying that if you stuff a live porcupine into your shirt, soon you will be in pain.

  3. Ted Swanson says:

    That cat’s just chillin’

  4. Mr. Sardonicus says:

    I’ve been thinking more and more lately that the Right of today, as an independent philosophical/ideological entity simply does not exist. That what the majority of people think of as “Rightist” is, in my opinion, nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction against Leftism, and not, as I just mentioned, an actual and authentic expression of some true form of ethical opposition.

    The Left, as I’m sure we all know, stands for many things, none of them good, but they stand for them nonetheless. Yet when the “Right” is called upon to give an accounting of its own agenda, it invariably finds its tongue tied, and is, at best, only able to mouth vague and ill-defined platitudes in response. The reason for this is, I believe, that the “Right” has never been a political party in the commonly accepted sense. Historically speaking, the Right has always been more of a loose amalgamation of certain streams of racial/cultural thought. More the province of starry-eyed traditionalists than subhuman proletarians. As such, the traditional (as opposed to its supposed current incarnation) Right has always been at a decided disadvantage, politically speaking, when dealing with Jew materialism, because it’s essentially a first function ideology. The Left, by contrast, is a strictly a third function movement. This means that the vast majority of bi-pedal bovines are instinctively drawn to the Left. It’s practically a genetic imperative for them. Yet the Right of today seems totally oblivious to this all too obvious political reality, as evidence by the increasingly inept attempts it makes to win over the hearts and minds of herdlings whose worldviews are diametrically at odds with its own.

    Still I do not want to give the impression that I believe the traditional Right suffers from the aforementioned shortcomings, because I don’t believe it does. In fact, I believe that the traditional, pre-Xtian, Right will act as a rallying point and counter weight for Whites wishing to escape the Ragnarok of multiculturalism.

    1. crow says:

      Great comment :)
      The right has always had trouble articulating its stance because, to a rightist, it’s so obvious that it’s below the conscious threshold.
      It’s just what people do.
      Leftists, by contrast, don’t care what people do, because they care more about what they individually want. So they endlessly question what people do, as if it’s a purely arbitrary set of things, set in place to foil their own desires.
      But certainly, the right needs to spend some hard time distilling down exactly what it is they do, and why they do it, for until they do, nobody is ever going to be sold that package, except the ones who already buy it.

      1. Esotericist says:

        “Leftists, by contrast, don’t care what people do, because they care more about what they individually want.”

        That’s the truth. Leftists want a neutered society, so that individual leftists can indulge their own dysfunctions.

    2. 1349 says:

      The reason for this is, I believe, that the “Right” has never been a political party in the commonly accepted sense.

      Maybe it’s because the mentally healthy never needed to form a party, until the last couple of centuries? =)

      1. Esotericist says:

        It’s almost a ludicrous dilemma. The people who believe in reality need to form a political party to defend against the people who believe in good intentions.

    3. Esotericist says:

      All very true. The left has a simpler job. Their ideal is to stand against anything that is real. The right has a more complex job, which is to stand for that which will withstand the ravages of time. We don’t have a traditional right in our right-wing parties, but we can change that. If all of us go volunteer for these parties, we will end up replacing the people who are there and changing the outlook of those parties.

  5. Cagefighter says:

    @Mr. Sardonicus

    Spot on! I would add to your excellent analysis that environments (physical and psychical) dictate receptivity to what is euphemistically referred to as Right and Left in Western parlance. Parts of the world that have not submitted or have been lured-in by Western liberalism (shades of Islamism, Mormonism, Buddhism, the Amish, etc.; and perhaps strains of cultic narco-terrorist and cultic violent male prison gangs, etc. all come to mind) show default authentic “Right-wing” expressions through their actions and thought processes. The modern world has yet to produce any authentic Right-wing governing state (some Arab states might qualify, but that’s their expression which is in a decadent phase and alien to this White man) just social and cultural forms…

  6. [...] 3, 2012by Ferdinand Bardamu on June 3, 2012in Linkage From here (NSFW).Brett Stevens – “Means Versus Ends“, “Revolting“, “Cursed to Solitude“, “Square Pegs“, [...]

  7. I put it this way. Mine and many other’s existence today (comfortable existence, I should say) is the cumulative result of ends-before-means attitudes held by our forebears.

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