Human Respect: Beneath the obvious is a profound principle

You might think you know this principle, but are you fully applying it?

At The Exit Network, we consistently point the way towards Human Respect. This article explains a philosophy that's based on a natural law, meaning you can test it.

Do you believe Americans are achieving maximum human happiness? Are we enjoying a time of heightened harmony? Is everyone able to access the paths to prosperity?

These three items are important to a healthy society. Happiness, Harmony, and Prosperity are the big three flourishing factors.

If you just answered “No” to those questions, then it’s hard to say that political action has worked. After all, every election includes campaign promises to improve our flourishing. So let’s put aside politics for a moment and ponder this question…

You might think “the other side” is “twisted.” But do you recognize that those people want to increase flourishing? Their methods may be wrong, but can you see that both you and they want to ensure happiness and make the world a better place?

If your answer is “Yes,” then…

How do we elevate those flourishing factors?

Where do we begin?


If you could identify some factor that was repeatedly reducing happiness, social peace, and abundance, would you want to stop it?

Like, if you swing a hammer at a nail but instead hit your thumb, do you fix the problem by swinging harder, or should you stop swinging?

The thing reducing our flourishing is harm. On a social basis, you and I are particularly concerned about basic injuries, as in…

  1. Does any individual feel increased happiness when someone launches a violent attack against them?

  2. Does any person’s happiness increase when they are subjected to theft, fraud, or vandalism?

The answer is, “Of course not.” Those two examples might seem obvious, yet they’re often dangerously overlooked.

These two injuries are our primary concern. Our ability to thrive may meet other impediments. But we cannot even begin to achieve our full potential without the basic ability to be secure in our person and property. In other words…

It’s impossible for you to increase your happiness while someone else is busy destroying it.

Read that sentence again, it’ll become important. As obvious as it is, most people believe they can make exceptions to it.

What is happiness?

Happiness is the personal satisfaction that comes with the ability to pursue your goals and live by your values.

Imagine if you bought a car to get to work. One morning, you discover I’ve punched a hole in the sidewall of your tire, thereby flattening it. I’ve reduced your happiness, right? I’ve probably also impaired your prosperity because now you’ll need to pay the costs of repair. As for harmony, did my actions improve or injure our relationship?

Malicious acts, like flattening someone’s tire, have a “cause and effect” result. If we could observe this identical event one million times, the results would always be the same. Violence against you or your property always reduces your flourishing.

Therefore, you can see that avoiding violence (security) is our primary social concern as human beings.

Just as importantly, we can recognize behaviors like coercion, theft, and violence cannot, magically, be declared actions that increase the flourishing factors of society.

A Social Principle

In fact, we can go one step further. We can observe the Principle of Human Respect

Human happiness, harmony, and prosperity decrease as persons experience violence or theft initiated against them.

We call it a Principle because, like the law of gravity, you can consistently see its effects. Scientific laws are observations that are so consistent they enable us to make predictions. Neither of us can guarantee the sun will rise. Some unknown principle could cause it to explode someday. Nevertheless, we can safely plan to meet for breakfast tomorrow.

Likewise, we can make predictions based on the Principle of Human Respect.

We call it Human Respect because it’s impossible to create a society that elevates the flourishing factors without respecting the person and property of others around us. And it’s a Principle in two ways…

  1. It is a consistent, cause-and-effect observation from nature.

  2. We can make it a declarative statement about how we’ll interact with others in the world around us.

We can adopt a personal value system based on this natural principle that says we will never use fraud, vandalism, theft, threat, or assault just to get the things we want. We also won’t be a party to those activities.

This philosophy sounds a lot like “Do no harm” or other Golden Rule concepts we teach our children.

Not Merely Private Morality

But there’s something unique about this approach. It’s not merely a moral preference! Since we know that every time we initiate force or steal from someone, flourishing diminishes — every time! 

We also cannot say we’re pro-flourishing, then act against it. Indeed…

You cannot claim to be a crime fighter, while at the same time you’re also a crime creator.

This leads us to an interesting point.

No Exceptions for Politics

At this juncture, we should reconsider politics — and not just politicians we don’t like, but also our own political behavior. For it is in the realm of politics and government that otherwise good people strenuously avoid the gravitational truth found in the Principle of Human Respect.

Broadly speaking, there are two ways to get the things we want or need: We can use voluntary means, or we can use coercive means.

Our government is an example of the coercive approach. Force is the root of the term enforcement. The State [modern government, defined here, here, and here] is an enforcement enterprise.

First, government employees collect taxes to fund State activities, and you know full well what will happen if you don’t pay up. Hard as this may be to hear, taxes are no less threatening than a protection racket, which promises not to hurt you, provided you comply.

Second, these rulers can issue edicts, even cause you to incur expenses while complying with their regulatory pronouncements. They gain your agreement not by appealing to your happiness, but with threats to punish you if you don’t comply.

Most importantly, the permission State employees have to use force is this institution’s unique advantage. Force is why so many people love government programs! Sure, the governor can issue a persuasive public service announcement, but such a thing could easily be done by a well-funded charity. The government specializes in deploying force, and the charity can’t do that.

With an open mind, please consider that State employees routinely engage in behaviors which, if done by you, would be called a crime. Government is an agency of coercion, and therefore, a crime creator.

The government is consistently used to suppress human flourishing factors. Americans don’t want this coercive power directed at them. So they fight over the keys to power. They hope to win so that they can get a turn at directing government force at those with whom they disagree.

Voluntary Cooperation, Instead of Coercion

On the other hand, think of all the ways you can get things done voluntarily.

  • Commercial exchange — buy what you want.

  • Charity — you can obtain assistance or share with others.

  • Mutual aid or insurance — help with life’s unexpected disasters.

  • Voluntary association — where you team up with others to get a big project done.

  • Persuasion — appeal to the heart, the mind, or the wallet by making a compelling case.

As you can see, these are normal human interactions.

In fact, you don’t go around bullying everyone, insisting that you always get your way. You might say that’s because of your ethics or empathy. Either way, you recognize that if you routinely used threats and violence, you would damage your relationships and reduce the flourishing factors of those you care about. You would even risk your own safety. After all, how long before someone strikes back?

Despite this knowledge, we pretend as if the natural law doesn’t apply to our political lives.

It’s impossible to increase happiness while destroying it. You cannot claim to be a crime fighter while at the same time you’re a crime creator. In other words, you cannot use force to solve your social problems without creating others. But if you’re voting for politicians promising to fix things with new or bigger programs, that’s exactly what you’re doing.

Recognizing the gravitational truth of the Principle of Human Respect (that happiness, harmony, and prosperity are always reduced by coercion, violence, theft, and fraud), should change you. That would mean adopting a philosophy to never initiate force against other persons.

This also means you would stop voting for coercive schemes to make the world a better place. The politicians making these promises are trying to increase happiness by crushing it. They’re engaged in crime creation in the name of crime fighting. They’re not practicing Human Respect. They’re failing to recognize that social problems will be solved through persuasion and voluntary cooperation.

Jim Babka is the host of The Exit Network. This is our temporary website. Please subscribe.