The Golden Rule

The Golden Rule is articulated and exalted as an ideal in some form in nearly every society and religion on the planet.  The Bible famously articulates the Golden Rule in the following way:

“Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Deuteronomy 6:5)

It is important to note that the Golden Rule is a positive declaration.  It is a call to action.  In many societies and religions the Golden Rule is stated in a negative declaration, a command to abstain from action.  An example of this can be found in Hinduism:

“One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one’s own self.”  (Anusasana Parva, Section CXIII, Verse 8)

The negative declaration is sometimes called the Silver Rule.  It is important to understand that only the Golden Rule, the positive call to action, is Natural Law.  Observance of the Silver Rule, while highly advisable, does not rise to the level of Natural law.  However, it is a logical corollary to the Golden Rule.

Compliance with the Golden Rule, as with all natural law, is indispensible.  It is ignored at one’s peril, for it operates regardless of one’s acceptance of its validity or not.  The Truly Capitalistic society greatly facilitates and encourages compliance with the Golden Rule.  Conversely, compliance is hindered in a society that has embraced Might Makes Right as its ideological response to Anarchy.

“Wait a minute,” some of you are saying, “I’ll give you that the Golden Rule is a great ideal but Natural Law?  No one requires it of me, right?”

Remember, the essence of Natural law is that it is universally true and applicable to all.  The law of Supply and Demand, for example, can be ignored for a time, but every moment of ignorance causes the consequences of that ignorance to accumulate further until a final breaking point is reached.  The result of the failure to comply with the law of supply and demand is material scarcity and ultimately death.

The same is true of the Golden Rule.  Every moment of ignorance causes the consequences of that ignorance to accumulate further until a final breaking point is reached.  In the case of the Golden Rule, the result of the failure to comply is by definition a failure to properly comply with the law of supply and demand as well, with the end result, as mentioned above, being material scarcity and ultimately death.

Compliance with the Golden Rule is a necessary prerequisite to compliance with the law of supply and demand, for the Golden Rule governs relationships in the purest sense.  This is evident to most who have taken the time to ponder it.  So broad are the implications of the Golden Rule that the origins of both the rule of law and more recently the concept of human rights can be traced to it.

What thrusts the Golden Rule out of the realm of being simply a good idea and into the realm of Natural Law is this:  All attempts to comply with the Golden Rule serve to coordinate the actions of men in such a way that the greatest number of human needs are met in the most efficient way.  Any deviance from the Golden Rule, by definition, is a failure to meet human needs in the most efficient way.  Again, by definition, failure to meet human needs in the most efficient way means that a greater number of human needs are simply not being met.

Far from being simply a moral standard, the Golden Rule is elemental in the determination of supply and demand.  As the equilibrium price serves as the beacon of production for the law of supply and demand, the actions taken by men, governed by the Golden Rule, initially determine the supply and demand factors which, when combined, produce the equilibrium price.  In this sense, the Golden Rule serves as the beacon for both supply and demand which enable the creation of an initial equilibrium price.

How can the Golden Rule run ahead of the Law of Supply and Demand?  This is one of the beauties of Natural Law.  Natural Law always compliments and never contradicts itself.

An Example of the operation of the Golden Rule

Each human being has needs and wants which are sources of uneasiness.  Human Action, to paraphrase Von Mises, consists of men acting to dispel their most intensely felt uneasiness.  If a man is hungry, he will direct his actions towards getting something to eat.  Other tasks will be put on hold until this intensely felt uneasiness is relieved.

The operation of the Golden Rule, in the example of mans the need to alleviate hunger, operates in the following way.  A man feels hunger.  He has two options before him with which to fulfill this need.  First, he can forage, hunt, fish, or perform any series of actions with the end of fulfilling this need.  Second, he can voluntarily cede some of his production (or production for others via his contribution of labor) or appeal to the charity of someone else in return for something to eat.

As the second way is the most expedient, it is likely that a majority of people will elect this option.  Now reflect upon the Golden Rule:  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  The person who chooses to comply with the Golden Rule will quickly understand that if he has the need to be fed, it is likely that his neighbor (in this sense, neighbor would mean anyone in the geographical realm in which he is equipped to serve, up to every person on the planet if it is possible for him to serve them) is likely to have the same need to some degree.  With this revelation, he unwittingly is on his way to discovering demand.

As he seeks to voluntarily fulfill this demand, he will need to either produce the supply of food himself or he can voluntarily cede some of his production (or production for others via his contribution of labor) or appeal to the charity of someone else in return for a supply of food with which to provide his neighbor with something to eat.  The information that his adherence to the Golden Rule provides him with regarding the needs of his fellow man will serve to guide his speculation as to where to best employ his limited time and capital.

It is a simple example, yet its simplicity serves to highlight the operation of the Golden Rule and can apply to any situation regardless of the complexity.  The Golden Rule, in modern business school lingo, is the origin of market research; it is the impulse for entrepreneurial activity and is the basis for subsequent human actions.

The Question of Charity

What about charity?  Wouldn’t adhering to the Golden Rule quickly lead to widespread scarcity and bankruptcy as catering to everyone’s preference to receive something for free would quickly deplete all available supplies and production?

The answer lies in the Golden Rule itself:  “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  Would you like to provide something for someone and not receive compensation?  Our guess is only if you are in a position to give something away and are willing to do it.  If all members of society are complying with the Golden Rule, the norms of charity will fall under the governance of the law of supply and demand.

The beauty, the perfection, of the Golden Rule is that above all it demands balance in human relationships and by extension, balance in the supply and demand of material goods.

True Capitalism Enable Compliance with the Golden Rule

True Capitalist ideology completely subjects itself completely to the Golden Rule and, in return, most accurately directs human actions towards fulfilling the most urgently felt needs of the greatest number of people. 

Inefficiency is naturally wrung from the system at its source as errors are quickly corrected and information is quickly disseminated via equilibrium prices.  The proper identification of demand by default leads to the most efficient allocation of scarce resources possible.  The liberty of life and property which is ensured in the Truly Capitalistic system allows men to supply this demand by employing their limited time and resources without unnecessary hindrance.

The Golden Rule may not provide everyone with what they expect or what they think they desire, but complete submission to it not only creates the most efficient allocation of resources, it gives humans the best information to base their attempts to mutually cooperate to fulfill the myriad of human desires.  It has the added social benefit of creating the greatest amount of harmony and goodwill possible in human relations.

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