Written by Christophe Cieters.

Hitherto we have discussed the general reasoning behind the basic principles of libertarian morality (self-ownership, homesteading – i.e. negative liberty).

It now seems prudent that before we examine their translation of theory into practice, we first take a moment to explore the fundamental justification of those very concepts in my own specific interpretation as well. As far as the philosophical side of this book is concerned, this is where we leave the well-travelled path and will try to go a bit further: upon reaching the sea, we are enticed to wonder what lies beneath it. I am of the opinion that economics, politics, philosophy, history and psychology ultimately are different manifestations of the same thing, and that anybody wishing to make sense of either of them must also have a basic understanding of the others or risk missing the added depth of the whole.

To do so, I decided to predominantly make use of the work of Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.[1] In part because I find his writings to be as interesting as they are enjoyable, and more importantly because I found a lot of truth to be hidden within their invigorated style and metaphors. While generally being labelled as a philosopher, Nietzsche also leaves behind something of interest for any student of other social sciences. This is evident not only through the texts themselves, but also by both Carl Jung’s fascination with his theories (Jarrett, 1997) and the claim by Sigmund Freud that Friedrich Nietzsche possessed “a more penetrating knowledge of himself than any man who ever lived or was likely to live” (Jones, 1981). I have no doubt that this Chapter will not go down well with every person reading it, but that – as I hope my readers too will understand by the end of it – is exactly the point that is being made!

All different systems of morality – be they religious, economic or political (and which more often than not intermingle) – have at their core the antonymous concepts of “good” and “evil”. Yet rarely does one seem to stop and wonder where these concepts come from: who or what decides what is good, who or what decides what is evil, and by what knowledge or what right? How does humanity establish the neutral point from which all deviation is a movement in the continuum between those two outcomes?

All too often these questions are resigned to the background, but anybody wishing to explain his or her own version of a philosophical right and wrong (as compared to good and evil) needs to have the courage and integrity to not only sketch the foundation of a theory, but also the very soil these fundamentals themselves have been grounded in. I will however avoid building this Tower of Babel[2] on sand and mud: instead of separately handling each and every reason and interpretation of morality that humanity has ever dreamed up – a Herculean task, for sure – it will for the purpose of this book suffice to clean out these Augean stables[3] by directly presenting the view which I deem to be correct.

In thinking about morality, on its own terms – in the form of honesty – it compels us to deny morality itself as it is generally understood (Nietzsche, 1968). In the absence of a deity who personally comes to make his verifiable claim on the determination of good and evil, “there are no moral facts” (Nietzsche, 1888, emphasis added). And even if some deity did appear some today or tomorrow: then what of it?

To speak of facts in any regard means to speak of an absence of openness to interpretation and of a definite and identifiable – factual – demarcation of right and wrong. If one is multiplied by two, the mathematical result is two. Two is right, any other answer is wrong: this is a verifiable fact. But the only fact that one can posit about morality is that there is little else that humanity disagrees on as much as its definition of good and evil.

Do we cut off the thief’s hand[4] or is he a victim to be helped? Is it a necessary honour killing or an unjustifiable homicide of an innocent woman? Terrorist or freedom fighter? Taxation or theft? War or mass murder? Whether it was Holocaust or Endlösing depended on who you asked, and what is abhorred as genital mutilation by one person is believed to be the most elementary ritual of entry into womanhood by another (World Health Organization, 2008).

All differing views claim their preferred judgments as constituting what is good with equal vim and vigour. But mere belief “does not turn an idée fixe into a true idea, faith moves no mountains but places mountains where there are none: a fleeting visit to a madhouse will provide ample enlightenment on these things” (Nietzsche, 1888). Of what use or relevance is Kant’s categorical imperative[5] and its supposed universal validity – good and evil as fact for all – in either one of these cases?

Of course, this does not imply that merely because opinions on a subject differ that the subject is therefore non-existent or factually unsound in regard to any and all claims of the involved parties. Claiming that multiplying one by two equals fifteen does not change anything about the verifiability of this claim, its being wrong and the being right of the answer “two”. The problem in other words in the case of morality does not lie with the fact that there are millions of diverging claims being made as to where the tipping point between good and evil is situated. It would not change anything about the answer of the mathematical question asked earlier, no matter how much opinion on it differed. Instead, the problem lies with the reasons commonly given for this positioning of the tipping point between good and evil in one particular place or another, along with the very definition and degrees of the scales themselves.

Throughout most – perhaps all – of human history, religion and thereby God or gods of various forms and denominations were what gave and give humanity its soil to place its various foundations of good and evil in. To the majority of humanity,[6] God’s word is law: whether it is the Ten Commandments[7] or the twelve rules of the Moral Code of The Builder of Communism[8] which everybody is required to follow is essentially superfluous.[9] As such, morality “is merely an interpretation of certain phenomena […]. Moral judgments, like religious ones, belong to a stage of ignorance in which the very concept of the real, and the distinction between what is real and imaginary, are still lacking. […] Moral judgments are therefore never to be taken literally: so understood, they are always merely absurd. [Symbolically], however, they remain invaluable: they reveal, at least for those who can interpret them, the most valuable realities of cultures and psychologies that did not know how to ‘understand’ themselves. Morality is merely sign-language” (Nietzsche, 1888, emphasis added). But whether it is the Divine or legal law which is to decide upon good and evil in effect makes no difference as far as its justification is concerned: both are inherently arbitrary and cannot justify their universal aspirations. This does not mean that they are thereby de facto dismissible, but it does mean that ceteris paribus neither moral code in such discussions can claim moral or factual superiority in a universal or absolute sense over the other. Indeed, “hypocrisy, double standards, and ‘but nots’ are the price of universalist pretensions” (Huntington, 1996).

At this point I wish to be clear: I have no qualms about admitting that when I posit my own values I appear to be doing the same as others do in positing theirs. One might wonder then how and why I propose to promote my own sense of right and wrong in light of this. Why do I promote individualism over collectivism and why would my opinion be more right than that of my antagonists? The fact that these very words are here to be read must mean that I have reasons to believe in the moral superiority of my own right and wrong – perhaps, we may say, my own good and evil – as opposed to that which is commonly held by so many others who vehemently disagree. Where does one then acquire the confidence to proclaim that “all is not theirs it seems: one fatal tree there stands of knowledge called, forbidden them to taste: knowledge forbidden? Suspicious, reasonless. Can it be sin to know, can it be death? And do they only stand by ignorance, is that their happy state, the proof of their obedience and their faith? O fair foundation laid whereon to build their ruin! Hence I will excite their minds with more desire to know, and to reject envious commands, invented with design to keep them low whom knowledge might exalt equal with gods; aspiring to be such, they taste and die: what likelier can ensue?” (Milton, 1667).

If there is no deity or other person which can without invocation of blind faith in paradoxes due to absence of both reason and consistency set a universal good or evil – “spiritual” wishful thinking at best – we then have only one place to look for right and wrong. The only place a rational mind can look for universal rules or values: the amoral reality of nature itself.

There is no good or evil in physics, chemistry or biology any more than there is in the mathematics of the multiplication of two times one. But likewise there is a right and a wrong, and it is nature – only nature – which unilaterally, unconsciously, amorally – naturally – and through the economics of its variables, establishes it.

Indeed, “nature is always rational. Every answer you pry from [it] is severely logical. When the wind turns into a tornado it does so not by irrational madness but by a mathematically precise process. It seems paradoxical that that which has no mind should be unfailingly rational,” but denying this is to deny reality itself: “irrationality has its source in the mind; […] it is a reaction against intellect” (Hoffer, 1973).

According to Nietzsche, “every specific body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (its will to power) and to thrust back all that resists its extension.[10] But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement (‘union’)[11] with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power, and the process goes on” (Nietzsche, 1968). In this regard he viewed nature and life itself as “a mere instinct for growth, for survival, for the accumulation of forces, for power: whenever the will to power fails, there is disaster. My contention is that all the highest values of humanity have been emptied of this will – that the values of decadence, of nihilism, now prevail under the holiest names” (Nietzsche, 1888).

The amorality of nature – which differs from immorality (Nietzsche, 1968) – at its core necessarily signifies the absence of purpose, meaning and morality as it is commonly understood.[12] This absence of universal value due to the absence of an answer by an external supernatural authority to the question “for what purpose?” is what Nietzsche defined as nihilism (Nietzsche, 1968). Nihilism in other words fundamentally predates and now coincides with what is perhaps his most well-known expression: “Gott ist tot” (God is dead) (Nietzsche, 1882) (Nietzsche, 1885). The death of God – by which Nietzsche did not mean to imply that there ever actually was one in the first place – is the metaphor of human rationality dismantling the concept of deity and thereby also religious morality and its version of good and evil.

Nihilism can be dealt with in two different ways with two opposite results: active nihilism (the creation of own values through the will to power resulting in what Nietzsche called master morality) and passive nihilism (the loss of dignity resulting in slave morality: a frustrated will to power turned on itself and its perceived causes for frustration) (Nietzsche, 1968).

Passive nihilism (slave morality) is the reaction to the loss of meaning upon the realization of the absence of a supernatural authority through an ascetic attitude – a so-called “will to nothingness” – whereby this lack of “higher meaning” is unable to be replaced by a meaning of one’s own creation (Nietzsche, 1968). It is this need for higher meaning and a general helplessness from an inability to create an individual one that according to Nietzsche gave rise to religion[13] and its denunciation of nature in the first place, which now also breeds more slave morality in its absence but in different forms like socialism and democracy which essentially replace one slave morality for another.[14] In the passive nihilism of slave morality, Nietzsche saw the negation of nature due to a failed and frustrated will to power of those that try to establish it.

Conversely, active nihilism (master morality) is a “wilful destruction of the old [religious] values to wipe the slate clean and lay down one’s own beliefs and interpretations, contrary to the passive nihilism that resigns itself with the decomposition of the old values” (Leiter, 2007, emphasis added).

It is from the concept of nihilism in its active and passive form that master morality and slave morality respectively were distilled. Instead of defining morality as a universal and unified concept like many before him, Nietzsche instead divided it into these two basic types.

The master morality type of man, starting from active nihilism, “feels himself to be the determiner of values, he does not need to be approved of, he judges ‘what harms me is harmful in itself’, he knows himself to be that which in general first accords honour to things, he creates values. Everything he knows to be part of himself, he honours: such a morality is self-glorification. In the foreground stands the feeling of plenitude, […] belief in oneself, pride in oneself, a fundamental hostility and irony for ‘selflessness’ belong just as definitely to noble morality as does a mild contempt for and caution against sympathy and the ‘warm heart’. […] It is otherwise with the second type of morality, slave morality.[15] Suppose the abused, oppressed, suffering, unfree, those uncertain of themselves and weary should moralize: what would their moral evaluations have in common? […] The slave is suspicious of the virtues of the powerful: he is sceptical and mistrustful, keenly mistrustful, of everything ‘good’ that is honoured among them – he would like to convince himself that happiness itself is not genuine among them. On the other hand, those qualities which serve to make easier the existence of the suffering will be brought into prominence and flooded with light: here it is that pity, the kind and helping hand, the warm heart, patience and humility come into honour – for here these are the most useful qualities and virtually the only means of enduring the burden of existence. Slave morality is essentially the morality of utility. Here is the source of the famous antithesis ‘good’ and ‘evil’ [in its religious or slave morality sense] – power and danger were felt to exist in evil, a certain dreadfulness, subtlety and strength which could not admit of contempt. Thus, according to slave morality the ‘evil’ inspire fear; according to master morality it is precisely the ‘good’ who inspire fear and want to inspire it, while the ‘bad’ man is judged contemptible. The antithesis reaches its height when, consistent with slave morality, a breath of disdain finally also comes to be attached to the ‘good’ of this morality – it may be a slight and benevolent disdain – because within the slaves’ way of thinking the good man in any event has to be a harmless man: he is good-natured, easy to deceive, perhaps a bit stupid, un bonhomme” (Nietzsche, 1886).

One can think of many modern expressions related to this. Chances are that at some point in our lives we have heard people say things like “money does not make happy” when the only available information they had about the person they were referring to was that he or she is rich. Is it not said that an expensive car must mean that its driver is not so well-endowed and is compensating for something else? But – although in this day and in age it often is – it is not always about monetary wealth: when seeing a happy couple it seems that some cannot help themselves from uttering suspicions about it. Likewise, good-looking or intelligent people can be confronted with the same kind of belligerence by those who feel inferior or threatened by them (Dalrymple, 2005). In similar vein one can point at the aggrandizing of “gangster” and “ghetto” life in popular culture. All of this behaviour is what Nietzsche defines as slave morality: values here are not created but converted – the sentiment of the master is turned into the re-sentiment (resentment) of the slave (Nietzsche, 1888): it is a reaction against master morality and an attempt at the replacement of the natural criteria of “good” by their inverse.

In short, master morality is what Nietzsche felt to be on par with the principles of nature,[16] while slave morality goes against it and thereby negates nature and life itself. The concept of “God” is thereby revealed to be a direct result of slave morality: driven by their own will to power which sought to overcome their natural inferiority, passive nihilists in their inability to do so – through their frustrated will to power – gave rise to religion through the concept of a supernatural authority which was to substitute the natural master morality version of good and evil by its opposite – slave morality.

Through this God, paradise was promised to the current inferiors, not in this life of natural reality but in a next one of a supernatural, spiritual kind where the natural master morality and its active nihilists were to be judged along and punished by the God of anti-natural slave morality standards. The slaves subjugated themselves at no cost – this was an inferior position which they already held anyway – to a supernatural authority in their own image (Genesis 1:26) and of their own conception. In doing so they effectively “turned water into wine” (John 2:1-11): through this supernatural authority they fed their humiliated will to power and proclaimed authority not only over themselves but over the merely natural masters as well. And so the Bible, like all other bases of religions in one form or another, comes to exclaim: “Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Luke 6:23), “did not God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?” (James 2:5).

As such, “faith means not wanting to know what is true. The pietist […] is false because he is sick: his instinct demands that truth shall not come into its own at any point. ‘What makes sick is good; what proceeds from abundance, from superfluity, from power, is evil’: that is what the believer feels” (Nietzsche, 1888). But herein the twisted ingenuity of slave morality lies exposed: by glorifying slave morality, the slaves are actually attempting to glorify themselves. The virtues which slave morality demands are precisely those of which the slave is capable – crucially, they are the only things of which he is capable. The weakness of sickness is turned into the virtue of sacrifice and suffering, ugliness becomes not an inability to acquire a mate but virtuous chastity, and the weakness of poverty is turned into the virtue of the holy ascetic who boasts not to be concerned with earthly wealth. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” (Matthew 5:1-13): the beggar takes a vow of poverty and thereby becomes a saint as he acquires his halo ex nihilo: ex absurdum.

Through smoke and mirrors the involuntary and frustrating weakness has been turned into a supposedly controlled and continual voluntary sacrifice through which the absence of power is deceptively – yet only superficially – transmuted into its opposite: “they make a duty of it: their life of humility appears to be a duty, as humility it is one more proof of piety” (Nietzsche, 1878). The key to slave morality is that the exact source of the frustration of their will to power – their weakness – negates any choice involved in the performance of these “duties” to which they so vigorously appear to apply themselves. Their weakness allows only one “option”: they do not choose their slave virtues – as they wish to make others and even more importantly themselves believe – any more than a stone “chooses” to fall: they are condemned to them. Slave morality as it attempts to judge the masters along its standards of good and evil is nothing more than “a condemnation pronounced by the condemned” (Nietzsche, 1888). “If we got to see them, to be sure, even if only in passing, all these singular bigots and artificial saints, it would be the end of them. […] One must not let oneself be misled: they say ‘Judge not!’ but they send to Hell everything that stands in their way. […] ‘We live, we die, we sacrifice ourselves for the good’ (- ‘truth’, ‘the light’, the ‘kingdom of God’): [but] in reality they do what they cannot help doing” and vainly call this a choice, thereby worthy of eternal honour: “that has been the most fateful kind of megalomania that has ever existed on earth” (Nietzsche, 1878, emphasis added).

And so it is that through religion the slave tries to become master. Not by heightening his own potency but by bringing down his superiors under the guise of “improving” them according to his slave morality: “this above all is what morality has meant. But one word can conceal the most divergent tendencies. Both the taming of the beast man and the breeding of a certain species of man has been called ‘improvement’: only these zoological termini express realities – realities, to be sure, of which the typical ‘improver’, the priest, knows nothing – wants to know nothing. To call the taming of an animal its ‘improvement’ is in our ears almost a joke. […] They are weakened, they are made less harmful, they become sickly beasts through the depressive emotion of fear, through pain, through injuries, through hunger” and through the threat of Eternal Damnation; “but what did such [an individual] afterwards look like when he had been ‘improved’ and led into a monastery? Like a caricature of a human being, like an abortion: he had become a ‘sinner’, he was in a cage, one had imprisoned him behind nothing but sheer terrifying concepts. There he lay now, sick, miserable, filled with ill-will towards himself; full of hatred for the impulses towards life, full of suspicion of all that was still strong and happy. In short, a ‘Christian’. In physiological terms: in the struggle with the beast, making it sick can be the only means of making it weak. This the Church understood: it corrupted the human being, it weakened him – but it claimed to have ‘improved’ him” (Nietzsche, 1888).

Those who were deemed naturally superior were threatened into supernatural submission: “when the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on His left. Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me’. Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and gave You drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite you in, or naked, and clothe You? And when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You’? And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’. Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me’. Then they themselves will also answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46). God as the slave and the slave as God: master morality replaced by slave morality – nature replaced by anti-nature. The aim of life lies hereby not in life itself but in what comes after, and it is here that we stumble upon the will to nothingness as a result of a frustrated will to power which turned on itself! But “every naturalism in morality – that is, every healthy morality – is dominated by an instinct of life […]. Anti-natural morality – that is, almost every morality which has so far been taught, revered, and preached – turns, conversely, against the instincts of life: it is condemnation of these instincts, now secret, now outspoken and impudent. […] The saint in whom God” – the deification of both slave morality and the slaves themselves – “delights, is the ideal eunuch. Life has come to an end where the kingdom of ‘God’ begins” (Nietzsche, 1888).

Looking at these principles from the view of politics with the “death of God” in the age of science, slave morality evolved a strikingly similar new religion to replace the old one: “[Religion][17] is nothing more than the typical socialist doctrine. Property, gain, rank and status […]: all are so many hindrances to happiness, errors, snares, works of the devil, upon which the gospel passes judgment” (Nietzsche, 1968). One supernatural deity became replaced by another – the State. Slave morality now found its expression no longer in the gospel but in democracy[18] and socialist doctrine[19] which “disparages the individual and with its glorification of social welfare […] emphasizes the power-instinct of the herd” (Nietzsche, 1968).[20]

A lot of blood has been shed for either god, but “that martyrs prove anything about the truth of a cause is so little true I would be disposed to deny that a martyr has ever had anything whatever to do with truth. In the tone with which a martyr throws his opinion at the world’s head there is already expressed so low a degree of intellectual integrity, such obtuseness to the question of ‘truth’, that one never needs to refute a martyr. […] ‘Truth’ as every prophet, […] every Socialist understands the word, is conclusive proof that not so much as a start has been made on that disciplining of the intellect and self-overcoming necessary for the discovery of any truth, even the very smallest. Martyrdoms, by the way, have been a great misfortune in history: they have seduced the inference of all idiots, […] nations included, that a cause for which someone is willing to die […] must have something in it” (Nietzsche, 1888). The altruism of the martyr who calls for the same in others is deceptive: “the best is lacking when self-interest begins to be lacking. Instinctively to choose what is harmful for oneself, to feel attracted by ‘disinterested’ motives, […] ‘not to seek one’s own advantage’ – that is merely the moral fig leaf for quite a different, namely, a physiological state of affairs: ‘I no longer know how to find my own advantage’. Disintegration of the instincts! Man is finished when he becomes altruistic. Instead of saying ‘I am no longer worth anything,’ the moral lie in the mouth of the [slave] says, ‘nothing is worth anything, life is not worth anything’” (Nietzsche, 1888, emphasis added).

As Hoffer remarked while investigating mass movements, self-sacrifice is easier than self-realization (Hoffer, 1951): “the burning conviction that we have a holy duty toward others is often a way of attaching our drowning selves to a passing raft. What looks like giving a hand is often a holding on for dear life. Take away our holy duties and you leave our lives puny and meaningless. There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless” (Hoffer, 1951). The fanatic is always more interested in you than he is in himself. It is not too hard and in hindsight not too surprising to discover the intriguing similarities when we put this next to Nietzsche’s explanation of altruism: “among helpful and charitable people one almost always finds that clumsy deceitfulness which first adjusts and adapts him who is to be helped: as if, for example, he ‘deserved’ help, desired precisely their help, and would prove profoundly grateful, faithful and submissive to them in return for all the help he had received – with these imaginings they dispose of those in need as if they were possessions, and are charitable and helpful at all only from a desire for possessions. They are jealous if one frustrates or anticipates them when they want to help. A man who says: ‘I like this, I […] own and mean to protect it and defend it against everyone’, a man who can do something, carry out a decision, remain true to an idea, punish and put down insolence, a man who has his anger and his sword and to whom the weak, suffering, oppressed, and the animals too are glad to submit and belong by nature, in short a man who is by nature a master – when such a man has pity, well! That pity has value! But of what account is the pity of those who suffer, or worse, of those who preach pity” (Nietzsche, 1886, emphasis added). The underprivileged man seeks the reason for his plight not in himself and his personal weakness, but instead externalizes it towards society. The socialist – the nihilist – finds his weakness and consequent frustrated will to power “something of which someone must be guilty, [and] can better endure his sense of sickness and ill-constitutedness by finding one whom he can make responsible for it. The instinct of revenge and re-sentiment appears here in both cases as a means of enduring, as the instinct of self-preservation: just as is the reverence for altruistic theory and practice. Hatred of egoism is thus revealed as a value judgment under the predominating influence of revenge; on the other hand, as an act of prudence for the self-preservation of the suffering by an enhancement of their feelings of cooperation and solidarity. […] The cult of altruism is a specific form of egoism that regularly appears under certain physiological conditions. When the socialist with a fine indignation demands ‘justice’ and ‘equality’, he is merely acting under the impress of his inadequate culture that cannot explain why he is suffering” (Nietzsche, 1968, emphasis added). Instead, a casual instinct asserts itself: “the ‘fine indignation’ soothes him; it is a pleasure for all wretched devils to scold: it gives a slight but intoxicating sense of power. Even plaintiveness and complaining can give life a charm for the sake of which one endures it: there is a fine dose of revenge in every complaint; one charges one’s own bad situation, and under certain circumstances even one’s own badness, to those who are different, as if that were an injustice, a forbidden privilege. ‘If I am canaille, you ought to be too’ – on such logic are revolutions made” (Nietzsche, 1888), and it is thus that we see “the resentment which lies behind all socialist ideas” (von Mises, 1951).

This brings us to the concept of “equality”, which Nietzsche in his “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” introduced with the following parable: “See, this is the tarantula’s cave! Do you want to see the tarantula itself? Here hangs its web: touch it and make it tremble. Here it comes docilely: Welcome, tarantula! Your triangle and symbol sit black upon your back; and I know too what sits within your soul. Revenge sits within your soul: a black scab grows wherever you bite; with revenge your poison makes the soul giddy! Thus do I speak to you in parables, you who make the soul giddy, you preachers of equality! You are tarantulas and dealers in hidden revengefulness. But I will soon bring your hiding places to light: therefore I laugh my laughter of the heights in your faces. I pull at your web that your rage may lure you from your cave of lies and your revenge may bound forward from behind your word ‘justice’. For that man may be freed from the bonds of revenge: that is the bridge to my highest hope and a rainbow after protracted storms. But, naturally, the tarantulas would have it differently. […] ‘We shall practice revenge and outrage against all who are not as we are’ – thus the tarantula-hearts promise themselves. ‘And will to equality – that itself shall henceforth be the name of virtue; and we shall raise outcry against everything that has power’! You preachers of equality, thus from you the tyrant-madness of impotence cries for ‘equality’: thus your most secret tyrant-appetite disguises itself in words of virtue. Soured self-conceit, repressed envy […]: they burst from you as a flame and madness of revenge” (Nietzsche, 1885, emphasis his).

One look at the world reveals that “nothing is as ill-founded as the assertion of the alleged equality of all members of the human race” (von Mises, 1985). Nietzsche was opposed to socialism and democracy because they both stem from slave morality and “preach equality between unequals” (Nietzsche, 1888). As in religion, he similarly saw in democracy the same “means by which the herd becomes the master,” (Nietzsche, 1968) and felt that it essentially “represents the disbelief in great human beings”. It says that “everyone is equal to everyone else; at the bottom we are one and all cattle and mob” (Nietzsche, 1968). It is the belief that people are at once too stupid – powerless – to be able to successfully govern their own affairs, but are nonetheless capable and morally justified through slave morality to vote ultimate power into the hands of their enforcers, who then go on to subdue not only the slaves themselves but also try to usurp the masters – religion reincarnate. Democracy and socialism are in short to Nietzsche the political manifestations of the herd instinct, slave morality “that has now become sovereign. […] But the value of the units determines the significance of the sum. Our entire sociology simply does not know any other instinct than that of the herd, i.e., that of the sum of zeroes – where every zero [is equal], where it is virtuous to be zero” (Nietzsche, 1968). As Nietzsche did with religion, Ludwig von Mises observed that “what pushes the masses into the camp of socialism is, even more than the illusion that socialism will make them richer, the expectation that it will curb all those who are better than they themselves are” (von Mises, 1962).

The herd believes itself to be incompetent. Consequently it puts legislation into effect which is expected to justify them in taking from and limiting the competent through the State in the same way that religion did before. Through its mindset which originates from its reactionary weakness, the herd has no incentives to want more competition which would leave most of its members worse off due to their comparative (real or imagined) inferiority. The herd instinct becomes the breeding of tyrants by tyrants: God became State and State became God. Indeed, the whole of both democratic and socialist doctrine is slave morality, based upon what is useful to the herd (Nietzsche, 1968). At its very origin, socialism is “the fanciful younger brother of the almost expired despotism whose heir it wants to be – its endeavours are thus in the profoundest sense reactionary; for it desires an abundance of State power such as only the despotism [of slave religion] has ever had. Indeed, it outbids all the despotisms of the past inasmuch as it expressly aspires to the annihilation of the individual, who appears to it like an unauthorized luxury of nature destined to be ‘improved’ into a useful organ of the community” (Nietzsche, 1878).

But it is crucially important to recognize that “in talking about equality and asking vehemently for its realization, nobody actually advocates a curtailment of his own present income” (von Mises, 1952); income is sign-language: what they really have in mind “is always an increase in their own power” (von Mises, 1949, emphasis added). It is in this desperate, envious and vengeful cry for equality, exemplified in the creed of the slave which from a position of weakness has the insolence to demand “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” (Marx, 1875) that we come full circle and reach the ultimate conclusion and often celebrated justification of slave morality itself: the death of Christ on the cross as demanded and sanctioned by the masses (Mark 15:14). “When they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots” (Matthew, 27:35). Here we find the sacrifice for sin “in its most obnoxious and barbarous form: the sacrifice of the innocent man for the sins of the guilty!” (Nietzsche, 1888). Human sacrifice of the individual upon the altar of the herd: cannibalism sanctified under the auspices of mediocrity and the lowest common denominator. A holy taxation of the innocent for engorgement of the guilty.

But Nietzsche meant to expose the practices of these sacrificial beasts: “by making a sacrifice of yourselves you enjoy the ecstatic thought of henceforth being at one with the powerful being, whether a god or a man, to whom you dedicate yourselves: you revel in the feeling of his power, to which your very sacrifice is an additional witness. The truth of the matter is that you only seem to sacrifice yourselves: in reality you transform yourselves in thought into gods […]. From the point of view of this enjoyment – how poor and weak seems to you that ‘egoistic’ morality of […] rationality: it is disagreeable to you because in this case real sacrifice and devotion are demanded [for self-realization] without the sacrificer supposing himself transformed into a god. In short, it is you who want intoxication and excess, and that master morality you despise raises its finger against intoxication and excess – I can well believe you find it disagreeable!” (Nietzsche, 1881, emphasis his). It is at this point clear that Nietzsche does not mean to imply that people practice too much altruism: he means that they practice none – all is self-interest[21] – but preach the opposite for their own gain and this under the halo of morality. Neither does he condemn egoism: egoistic actions “have hitherto been by far the most frequent actions” and are inherent to the will to power and nature itself (Nietzsche, 1881). But even though there is neither much altruism nor equality in the world, it is passionately preached. “There is almost universal [superficial] endorsement of the value of altruism and equality – [especially] by those who are its worst enemies in practice” (Leiter, 2007).

Rather then, the gravest danger posed by slave morality according to Nietzsche is not the slaves themselves but the possible contamination and consequent degeneration of the masters if they were to fail at recognizing the true faces behind the masks donned by the slaves. He intended to warn the masters into vigilance and make them aware of the fact that according to him, the “chief means by which the weak and mediocre weaken and pull down the stronger” is the unchallenged legitimization of the moral judgment of their slave morality by the masters (Nietzsche, 1968, emphasis added). In short, complacency as the number one threat (Buelens et al., 2006).

Supposing that we take this warning to heart, what is then important to learn and remember from the above? Several things.

Basing himself on the mechanics of nature, Nietzsche concerns himself with the opposite of Rawls’ de facto artificially pursued “maximin” principle[22] which stems from slave morality, which necessarily calls for the sacrifice of the individual and has been stripped of any of its universal legitimacy whatsoever. Instead, Nietzsche argues that the only thing that can be pursued by nature and therein be legitimized is a natural “maximax” (Hurka, 1993). This implies that only the individual himself – the master who is “strong enough for such freedom” (Nietzsche, 1888) – is the creator of his own values and should consequently pursue these goals without concern for the envious and irrelevant anti-nature objections of slave morality, which – due to its being based in weakness – has no legitimacy in nature. All attempted hindrances to this are what Nietzsche described as the re-sentiment of the slave who fears and despises his own inferiority and tries to lash out because of it. As such, the forces behind maximax are essentially the same as those behind evolution and natural selection.

In regards to equality, nature in its rationality must agree with Aristotle who said that it is irrational, anti-natural and therefore unjust when “either equals have and are awarded unequal shares, or unequals equal shares. […] This is plain from the fact that awards should be ‘according to merit’; for all men agree that what is just in distribution must be according to merit in some sense, though they do not all specify the same sort of merit […]. The just, then, is a species of proportion […]. For proportion is equality of ratios, […] the unjust is what violates the proportion […] (Mathematicians call this kind of proportion geometrical; for it is in geometrical proportion that it follows, that the whole is to the whole as either part is to the corresponding part.) […] The ratio between one pair is the same as that between the other pair; for there is a similar distinction between the persons and between the things. As the term A, then, is to B, so will C be to D, and therefore, as A is to C, B will be to D. Therefore also the whole is in the same ratio to the whole; and this coupling the distribution effects, and, if the terms are so combined, effects justly.[23] […] This, then, is what the just is – the proportional; the unjust is what violates the proportion” (Aristotle, 350 BC).

Von Mises summarized this by explaining that “equality is a term that properly relates to mathematics but not to social science. Human beings are unequal in their endowments, opportunities, and will to achieve. Unequal does not mean inferior or superior; it merely means different. Differences are the very source of the division of labour,” and as in nature, so too amorally “within a market setting, lead not to conflict but cooperation. While differences should be celebrated, property owners have every right to treat people unequally because it is owners that bear responsibility. Legislators, however, should not have any concern for bringing about equality of result or opportunity, either between individuals or groups of individuals classified according to any criterion” (von Mises, 1951, emphasis added). In other words, justice lies within equal shares for equals and unequal shares for unequals. It is not equality among inherently unequal human beings which concerns us but proportionality along the ratios set beyond good and evil through the amoral processes of nature and the market.

From this tabula rasa of morality emerges the inherent freedom of our natural self-ownership and its consequences as explained in the previous Chapters. The only question an individual is advised to take into account – in being de facto a part of reality himself – is whether his values are with or against nature.[24] In the first case the will to power flourishes, while in the latter it can only end up destroying itself by smashing head-first into the inescapable laws of reality, which – as billions of people throughout humanity’s history have come to experience – do not bow to wishful thinking or depth of conviction.

This is where the free market gains its legitimacy over socialism: no matter what irrational anti-nature slave morality tries to wish into existence, rational reality is ultimately the final court of appeal (Rand, 1957). It is the reason why “socialism itself can hope to exist only for brief periods here and there, and then only through the exercise of the extremest terrorism. For this reason, it is secretly preparing itself for rule through fear and is driving the word ‘justice’ into the heads of the half-educated masses like a nail so as to rob them of their reason – after this said reason has already greatly suffered from exposure to their half-education – and to create in them a good conscience for the evil game they are to play. Socialism can serve to teach – in a truly brutal and impressive fashion – what danger there lies in all accumulations of State power, and to that extent to implant mistrust of the State itself” (Nietzsche, 1878). As we will see in the following Chapters, reality is on the side of the market.

Through his exposure of slave morality for what it is, Nietzsche has frequently been misunderstood as being amoral himself (Hussain, 2007). But as I hope my readers have come to understand, the absence of a universal purpose as imposed by a supernatural authority does not mean the absence of value. Quite to the contrary, through master morality and its re-evaluation of values to their natural pre-religious fundaments, nihilism is actively overcome (Scruton, 2006) in the sense that the absence or existence of a supernatural authority or purpose and meaning is rendered irrelevant through the individual will to power.

The individual and morality itself here present themselves as the pivotal point of Austrian School economic value theory: nothing possesses intrinsic value as such – only a human mind attributes value (von Mises, 1949).[25] Something is valuable only because there is at least one human being who believes that this thing can help satisfy his or her subjective desires. The value of a thing is determined by the interdependence of supply and demand, what Nietzsche would call the interaction of wills of different strength and intensity, and which we as economists recognize as the interactions of perceived cost and utility.

In short, the basics of economics and the natural amorality of the market as the foundation of anarchist, capitalist and libertarian philosophy.


[1] As mentioned in the introduction, like with other authors I do not intend to claim or arouse the impression that my interpretation and use of Nietzsche’s philosophy is one he himself would necessarily agree with in full. In using concepts and metaphors of him or other authors during the course of this book I only mean to get my own ideas across. In case one wishes to learn more about the author’s own interpretation I urge my readers to take a look at the numerous references and judge for themselves.

[2] “Then they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves’” (Genesis 11:4). But because it was being built for the glory of the builders instead of the glory of God, God effectively destroyed their endeavour and punished them in the process by making them unable to communicate with each other any longer. So the story goes.

[3] As the fifth of his twelve labours, Hercules had to clean the stables of King Augeas in a single day. These stables held thousands of animals and had not been cleaned in 30 years, filling even the surrounding land with manure. The task of cleaning them was said to be impossible. But using both strength and intelligence, Hercules diverted two nearby rivers, thereby washing the stables clean. (Leadbetter, 1999)

[4] As prescribed by Islamic law, see (Surah Al-Ma’idah, 38) of the Qur’an.

[5]First formulation: “Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law” (Kant, 1785). Second formulation: “Act in such a way that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in the person of any other, always at the same time as an end and never merely as a means to an end” (Kant, 1785). Third and final formulation: “Every rational being must so act as if he were through his maxim always a legislating member in the universal kingdom of ends” (Kant, 1785).

[6] Approximately 70% of the world population is affiliated with either Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism. Total numbers of all religious adherents are of course higher (Hunter, 2007).

[7] These can be found in the Torah, Bible and Qur’an. Some of these commandments: “You shall have no other gods before me. […] You shall not bow down to them [idols] or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and fourth generation of those who reject me. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name […]. The seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you” (Deuteronomy 5:6-21), etcetera.

[8] Some of these commandments: “Devotion to the cause of Communism, love of the socialist Motherland and of the socialist countries. […] Concern on the part of everyone for the preservation and growth of public property. High sense of public duty; intolerance of actions harmful to the public interest. Collectivism and comradely mutual assistance: one for all and all for one. […] Intolerance towards the enemies of communism” (translated from the original) (Rockwell, 2006). It is clear where they got their inspiration.

[9] For an interesting look at the apparent need which humanity seems to have for commandments to live by, which is out of the scope and relevance of this book, I do heartily recommend (Freud, 1913) and (Freud, 1927) for further reading.

[10] It is useful to remember that power in the sense of the concept “will to power” does not necessarily mean power as domination: it can imply a variety of things, as in the will to power something like an engine powers a car. It is, as the citation implies, an instinct for growth which Nietzsche supposed to be inherent to all of nature, including humanity. This also does not necessarily mean in a spiritual or even conscious sense: the formation of planets through the attraction of gravity – the “accumulation of forces” whereby more massive objects attract less massive ones – is simply a fact of nature, and it is as such that one has to interpret the concept to understand its use within this context.

[11] An equilibrium, as an economist would call it.

[12] For example in their religious sense.

[13] Since I am personally only familiar with Christianity, I will use it as an example. Nietzsche for the most part referred to Judaism and Christianity himself, but any religion can be used analogously.

[14] A further investigation hereof follows later in this Chapter as this is obviously to a large extent what makes it so relevant within this context, but the concepts involved need to be explained first for a good understanding.

[15] Slave morality according to Nietzsche has three forces hidden behind it: “(1) the in­stinct of the herd against the strong and independent; (2) the instinct of the suffering and underprivileged against the fortunate; (3) the instinct of the mediocre against the exceptional” (Nietzsche, 1968).

[16] Master morality in reflecting nature and life according to Nietzsche says: “What is good? All that heightens the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man. What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases – that a resistance is overcome” (Nietzsche, 1888).

[17] Originally: “Christianity”

[18] “The democratic movement is the heir to Christianity” (Nietzsche, 1886).

[19] Which Nietzsche summarized as “the collective degeneration of man” (Nietzsche, 1886).

[20] “It has been often said that power corrupts. But it is perhaps equally important to realize that weakness, too, corrupts. Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many. Hatred, malice, rudeness, intolerance, and suspicion are the fruits of weakness. The resentment of the weak does not spring from any injustice done to them but from the sense of their inadequacy and impotence. They hate not wickedness but weakness. When it is in their power to do so, the weak destroy weakness wherever they see it. Woe to the weak when they are preyed upon by the weak. The self-hatred of the weak is likewise an instance of their hatred of weakness” (Hoffer, 1955).

[21] For example, people strive for the happiness of those they love because they are happy when their loved ones are happy, etc. Egoism does not in any way exclude the possibility of going against superficial personal best interests at the benefit of somebody else, but on a net basis (taking into account both the seen and unseen parameters underlying an action), the valuation is always necessarily egoistical. According to Nietzsche, and I agree in this regard, egoism is the driving force behind compassion, camaraderie and all other human emotions. Indeed, love is the most egoistical emotion of all, and who would have it any other way? Is there such a thing as literal unconditional love, which would thereby de facto be blind and random – and if so, of what value would it be? It would be irrational, absurd and of no value at all!

[22] The idea that social and economic inequalities should be arranged through State intervention so that “they are to be of the greatest benefit to the least-advantaged members of society” (Rawls, 1971), supposedly because Rawls says so.

[23] Distributive justice in this sense is the natural division of the distributable honour or reward into parts which are to one another as are the merits of the persons who are to participate. If A (first person) : B (second person) = C (first portion) : D (second portion), then A : C = B : D, and therefore (A+C) : (B+D) = A : B.

[24] Also see the last Chapter of this book.

[25] See the following Chapter.


Christophe is a guns and gold loving anarchist from the geographical area known as Belgium. He spends his days slaying dragons and rescuing damsels in distress, invigorated by bathing in statist tears on a daily basis. He was put on this world to kick socialist ass and chew bubblegum – and he is all out of bubblegum.

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