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Excerpt of Conscious Choice published by The Federalist

The Federalist today published a short excerpt from the last chapter of my new book, Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space.

You can read it here. They titled the excerpt most appropriately: “When Settling Space, Future Colonists Should Emulate The Pilgrims”. The key quote from this particular excerpt:

Building a new human society means the settlers must go with the intent of raising healthy and well-adjusted children. Future space colonists must remember that they are not really exploring the unknown. What they are really doing is building new societies for their children and children’s children. Such an effort carries great responsibility, and if we shirk that responsibility, our descendants will curse our memory.

While the lessons taught by the mistakes of Virginia’s colonists are long and complex (and carefully outlined in Conscious Choice), it is this lesson that is the most important to remember for future colonists in space. We will go to explore, but what we will really be doing is creating those new worlds for future generations. If we do not put our kids first and foremost, those colonies will certainly fail, as Virginia did.

And as it appears America is failing now, after several generations where children were more often considered a nuisance and something that others could take of for us.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News


  • Col Beausabre

    Oh No! not those evil right wing crypto-Fascist Trumpers at the FEDERALIST!! Why, they believe in the Constitution as it is written!!

  • David M. Cook

    Robert, that last paragraph looks truncated. Is that the way it should read?

  • David M. Cook: Thank you. I had left off part of a tag. Now fixed.

  • GaryMike

    “While the lessons taught by the mistakes of Virginia’s colonists are long and complex…”

    My maternal grandmother’s family dates back to AD1635 Virginia.

    Now I’m going to have to buy your book.

  • GaryMike: There is not an unreasonable chance that your family’s name appears in Conscious Choice.

  • Edward

    From the excerpt:

    Instead of profit, future colonists must focus on the idea of building a new human community. This is what both the Pilgrims and Puritans did. Profit was the last thing on their mind. In fact, these religious colonists generally became poorer because of their immigration. But they came wanting to build a new world and to build it in such a way that it would become a society that future humans would want to emulate.

    Most people don’t understand profit, free markets, capitalism, or the purpose of business. (Even most economists don’t understand why Keynesian Economics never works and cannot work. One could look at the Virginia Colony as an early attempt at Keynesian Economics.)

    The purpose of business is to provide an income to the founders and owners so that they can live their lives. This income has to be large enough to be worth the effort put into the business. This income comes only through providing goods or services to customers, and these must be beneficial to the customers, which is where profits come in. Profits are the reward for improving the product or for finding more efficient use of resources. Profits are an incentive to improve.

    Socialists tend to think that businesses exist to provide incomes for the workers so that they can live their lives. (A decade or so ago, one Seattle businessman tried paying all his employees the exact same amount, only to discover that his business failed. He apparently did not understand what went wrong.) However, without the owners and investors receiving a sufficient living and without the customers receiving a sufficient benefit from the product, the workers will lose their incomes when the business fails.

    Free markets are the way that products are improved or efficiencies created and rewarded. Customers are rewarded by buying the improved products, and producers are rewarded for providing them. Free markets require some amount of regulation (few people understand this, either), because the market isn’t free if one company eliminates the competition.

    Capitalism is the pooling of resources (often money) so that better products can be made than could be made by any one person. This also spreads out the ability for people to be able to live their lives. Someone providing resources is rewarded without having to put in a lot of labor. Capitalism provides a method to improve.

    Well rounded, thriving human communities are created by allowing specialization through free market capitalism. The farmer does not have to make all his own everything, as he can go to the blacksmith, the miller, and the carpenter. The more successful well rounded communities have other benefits, such as entertainment specialists (e.g. bards and athletes). Eventually, even mere information becomes a valuable commodity, and people can make a living by writing internet blogs or by building and operating space probes.

    As shown in Virginia, broken homes do not encourage the proper raising of children but instead cause their education and training in ethics and moral behavior to suffer.

    We have seen this same problem expand throughout the United States as the country became more and more of a welfare state, discouraging women with children from marrying, and encouraging them to have additional children in order to collect additional unearned income from the government.

    Keeping things small, to begin with, also recognizes the crucial fact that profit must not be the only goal of future space colonies.

    It isn’t only just to begin with. It must continue to be possible for small businesses and family farms to continue to exist and to be founded. If everything eventually becomes big business, then there is no room for new businesses, businesses that bring new ideas to market, and there is less incentive to improve. The United States shows that it is not just possible to start small and grow big, but that it is necessary in order to provide incentives to improve.

    Before the welfare state in the U.S., the reason that the poor did not remain poor and the rich (still) do not remain rich, is because as people gained experience, they earned greater amounts of money, allowing them to live their lives better — an incentive to improve the efficiency of personal resources, such as time and effort. (That Seattle businessman failed because his better workers left for better pay in order to live better lives, leaving him with only the worser workers, who had no internal path for promotion to better lives.) Before the twenty-first century, the young in America started out poor and eventually grew wealthy, living in apartments before buying their own homes, starting with broken-down used cars before affording the new car off the lot, and earning enough to start a family before starting a family. In this century, the young expect to leave school living the good life of their childhood, which is what the government tries to provide through minimum-wage laws, removing the incentive to improve. Government is turning our children into spoiled adults who expect handouts rather than hand-ups (hands-up?) and don’t expect to work hard or to work smart for their success. Through these and other socialist laws and policies, the U.S. government diminishes the lives of We the People. The incentive to make life better is removed.

    These types of policies were tried early in the American colonies, but the colonists quickly learned that they don’t work. The New England colonies reverted to free market capitalism, in which there is incentive to improve, but Virginia didn’t quite get away from the idea of central control.

    The U.S. is slowly reverting to the ways of the old-world, where virtually everyone stayed in the class into which they had been born. Profit, free markets, capitalism, and personal businesses allow the freedom to raise oneself out of the poorer classes and into the wealthy classes.

    Both colonies at first pooled the ownership of all land and property into a single corporation for which everyone worked, and with all profits equally shared. In both Virginia and New England, this collectivist arrangement ended in unmitigated failure, leading to bankruptcy and starvation.

    Only when each colony’s leaders allowed the settlers to own their own private plots where they could earn money for themselves did both colonies begin to prosper. …

    In comparing the British colonies, the need for small holdings becomes obvious. In Virginia, the initial goal was to maximize profit, so the initial private holdings were large. The result was a distorted social structure with power concentrated in the hands of only a few, while everyone else was poor or enslaved. In New England, the initial goal was to build small self-sufficient farms, not to export a crop for profit. The result was small, tight-knit communities of small farms owned by families raising children. …

    Therefore, decentralize ownership as much as possible from the start.

    With the Americas turning into the old-world — and forgetting to teach the previous generation the value of freedom — we need a new new-world to continue the freedoms that mankind deserves. The Statue of Liberty was intended, by the French makers, to be a beacon to the world, encouraging the spreading of freedom, not a beacon beckoning the world to come to America. If only the poem at the base of the Statue of Liberty had been chosen correctly, people of the old-world would have been encouraged to free themselves rather than migrate to America in order to be free.

  • Col Beausabre

    Bob, You characterize the Virginia Colony as being a failure and Massachusetts Colony as a success. I guess it depends on how you characterize those terms, but Virginia was the richest colony in 1776. This from the National Bureau of Economic Research – “New England was the poorest region, and the South was the richest. ” People were attracted by better economic opportunity. The US Census Bureau estimates ” Virginia had the largest population of the 13 colonies in 1776 at 747,610. It was followed by Pennsylvania at 434,373, and Massachusetts at 378,787″. So richest and most populated – hardly a failure.

  • Therefore, decentralize ownership as much as possible from the start.

    That works because it respects individual liberty, while also expecting personal responsibility.

    Together – and only together – do they enable the individual to profitably better their lot, but not at the expense of the rights of other individuals.

    IMO, the profits uber alles approach Virginia took, led to the (irresponsible) exploitation of others via servitude (and the irresponsibility of broken homes). And the colony (at least in their minds) became dependent upon servitude, to the point that it took the Civil War to end that dependence.

    OTOH the collectivism of New England initially suppressed the insights, incentives to responsibly profit, and freedom of action of the individual – which when applied are more likely to actually solve problems than the diktats of the leaders, or the committee recommendations, of the collectivist “group project” approach. Only when they restored respect for individual liberty, and the expectation of individual responsibility, did they start to thrive.

    The common factor in all these dysfunctional situations – and our dysfunctions today – is the lack of respect for individual liberty and the suppression/inhibition of individual responsibility, on the part of the overall culture, in favor of a “better way” that is anything but.

  • Col Beausabre: This essay is an excerpt from my book’s last chapter. You might want to read the previous 14 chapters, where I document clearly why Virginia was a failure, and how that failure influenced the long time failure of all the southern colonies.

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