“Truth is a pathless land”, wrote Jiddu Krishnamurti. In this brilliantly concise sentence, Krishnamurti defined the proper context for an honest search for truth and meaning in a world swept along by the suffocating momentum of religions, governments, and cultures. Truth stands apart from these rigid, dogmatic, and limiting intellectual constructions of mankind. Most ideologies can lay claim to useful insights, but none can lay claim to an infallible doctrine about right and wrong, good and bad, truth and falsehood. The only way to fully appreciate the truth of our existence is to step outside of these close-minded, structured paths and experience the pathless land of unattached, open-minded observation and discovery.
From this, a paradox emerges. If truth can only be objectively vetted in a pathless land, absent the constricting influence of history’s religions and governments, how then does society organize itself? Are we cursed with subservience to gods and governments, because there is no other recluse from the barbarism of anarchy? Do we have to sacrifice our intellectual integrity, our freedom to think and believe without limitations, in exchange for a stultifying social compact that at least enables a modicum of practical civilization? Must there inherently be a rigid path, if only as an anecdote to chaos?
Let’s begin at the beginning. We live in an inimical environment, where entropy erodes everything mercilessly and unceasingly. Extraordinary effort is required by every living being to combat entropy. Food must be gathered and eaten, protection from the elements must be manufactured and maintained, defenses against antagonists must be constructed. Before the contemplation of truth and meaning can move to the forefront of our activity, we need to address some very basic biological, physical, and psychological challenges. These will not get resolved by gazing at our navels in a meditative quest for the meaning of life. Manna does not fall from heaven, except in certain myths.
We have learned that cooperation is an exceptionally effective strategy for humans to fulfill their needs. The cooperation that has emerged from our evolving civilization has yielded widespread sharing and archiving of knowledge, highly efficient trade and specialization of skills, and common investment in infrastructure and defenses. We have also learned that cooperation requires some basic agreement on the rules of the game and some assurance that life and possessions will be protected from rapacious rogues. Without this minimum organizing force in society, any cooperative efforts will be dwarfed by the greater forces of anarchy, violence, and oppression. Without a simple framework for organizing society, the only truth to be observed will be “To the biggest gangs go the spoils and the slaves”.
Thus, a path is needed to the pathless land of truth, because pursuit of deep wisdom is not possible if you are starving, enslaved, or under attack. But it has to be a minimalist path, a path that intrudes the least on our freedom to choose. It has to be a path that establishes a framework for civilization, but does not morph into prisons for our mind and shackles on our ankles. It has to be a path that leads to the pathless land, but does not overwhelm and subsume the pathless land with dictates, prohibitions, and fear-mongering. Whereas totalitarianism may provide a rigid structure for pigeonholed human activity that might pass for cooperation if you suspend your humanity and moral judgment, it is the antithesis of the pathless land and a mortal enemy of truth. Fascists hordes marching in lockstep are a parody of cooperation, a mockery of intellectual integrity, and a cruel jest masquerading as a social system.
There is one model of social organization that is an ideal path to the pathless land. For brevity, Capitalism will be the term used to represent this model, with the understanding that the model is not just an economic one. It also features a political environment consisting of a constitutional republic with limited government, individual sovereignty, and separation of church and state. Capitalism offers humanity its best hope for the proper balance of minimalist organizing structure, widespread cooperation, prolific provision of life’s necessities, and the political and intellectual freedom to explore the creative expanse of the pathless land.
The individual sovereignty inherent in Capitalism is the most important attribute qualifying it as the ideal path to the pathless land. If you aren’t a sovereign individual, it means that you are subjugated to governments or theocracies. Your activities will serve only your god or your king, your thoughts will conform only to the sacred texts or the pall of political correctness, your desires and curiosities will be subsumed in the great collective will. Without individual sovereignty, there will never be access to such as thing as a pathless land in which to discover truth. Truth will be what you are told, nothing more and nothing less, and what you are told will be what satisfies and serves the gods and kings. Capitalism elevates individuals to the status of nobility, freeing everyone to pursue truth to the depth and breadth that they choose.
Freedom is a necessary component of Capitalism. One of its fundamental premises is that you have a right to your own life and the actions required to fulfill it. The purpose of the state is primarily to guarantee and protect this right. With this freedom, you can think any thought, challenge any belief, choose any direction to follow, and truly appreciate life through your own eyes and ears. In this context, the “path” of capitalism does not overlay a constricting intellectual rigidity on the pathless land. To the contrary, it is the only system that assures you can exercise your right to wander in the pathless land in search of any truth you want to pursue. When freedom ends, truth ends. In its place come propaganda, dogma, and the Big Lie of the fascist state.
Coincidentally, Capitalism has also proven to be the most productive economic system, generating abundant social and personal capital. This means that wandering in the pathless land is not just a rare privilege for the anointed elites, but a very real possibility for everyone. Capitalism is an engine for wealth creation and prosperity, which in turn enables pursuit of intellectual and spiritual growth. It also gives the sovereign individual the choice of how much material comfort to pursue, and how much intellectual exploration to embark on. With Capitalism, the power is completely in your hands as a sovereign individual to make these choices, and the state is limited to protecting the free pursuit of truth, rather than dictating action, thought, and devotion.
Another fundamental premise of Capitalism is the separation of church and state. This is a vital development in the evolution of human civilization, and it is perhaps the greatest moral achievement of the western world. There is no such thing as a pathless land if the government can impose opinions, especially those that are religious myths. The separation of church and state prevents the most powerful form of propaganda—religion—from becoming “truth” mandated by armies, bureaucrats, and police, thereby excluding all other perspectives.
The freedom implicit in Capitalism gives each of us an opportunity to choose any career, any religion, any philosophy, and any perspective. There is an extraordinary moral elegance to this. The only limitation is the constraint that we each have to respect the life and liberty of everyone else. We are free to embrace any opinion or philosophy, but we can’t force others to embrace our views. It is through this unfettered examination of reality by free-thinking individuals that truth will emerge.
Capitalism supported by limited government is the path to the pathless land of truth.