Is it okay to do questionable or even bad things if it helps you reach an end goal? One famous political philosopher Machiavelli thought so.
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi, Connor.
Connor: I want to start right off in this episode by asking this question, do the ends justify the means? Now, before we answer, let’s maybe talk about what this even means. Get it means anyway. Okay. So, let’s say there’s a bill, a piece of legislation that people are voting on, or a candidate running for office, and the policy or a candidate is morally right, morally good. I mean, I think of who we call Dr. Ron Paul, who would just vote down all these unconstitutional things and always try to do the right thing as an elected official. And you know that this will be right for the country, the end of the goal, the outcome. So, we call these the ends, like the conclusion the ends would be in. My example would be to get Ron elected because that’s what’s best for the country. That’s why you and I, Brittany work to get him elected as president. And so that’s really important. That would save the constitution, that would save our country, that would protect our freedom. That is a good end. We decide to find a way to cheat and steal the election because we believe those means or methods strategies. We call these the means we believe these means are a way or maybe a necessary way to reach our goal. So, is it worth sacrificing or ignoring the principle of playing fair? Maybe another example, let’s say I’m working on a business deal and I’m trying to negotiate a business deal with someone else. And I know that if my customer says yes and agrees to buy what I’m selling, that they’ll enjoy it. Let’s maybe even just be silly for a moment and use the Tuttle Twins books. So, let’s say I know that people who buy the telephones books love them and they love reading them as a family and having awesome discussions, and the kids become smarter than most adults. I know that there are good ends when people read the Tuttle Twins books. So, what if I decided that my marketing strategy would be to lie about what’s in the books? Maybe instead of saying that they teach the ideas of liberty because that’s alienating to a lot of people. They may be like, eh, I believe in socialism, or I believe in, I’m a member of the Democratic Party, or I like big government, or things like this. So, those types of people aren’t going to buy the Tuttle Twins books. And so what if I think, well, the ends are good? Their kids need to read the Tuttle Twins books. So, maybe I should just be a little deceptive in how I present the books. The means, right? The means that I would use to achieve my goal might be to lie, cheat, or be deceptive. Oh, no, these books just teach about how to develop good character. Or even worse, I could say, these books are great for teaching your kids to be little socialists. I could just be totally crazy and lie like that. So, the question, Brittany, that I want you to respond to as we start here, do you think it’s okay to cheat if you know that cheating will help you get the right person elected or Tuttle Twins books into that family’s home to help educate their kids or create an amazing business that sells this awesome product that changes the world or passes this law that will help all these amazing people or lowers this tax, whatever the good thing is, do you think that there’s any wiggle room, any opportunity to cheat or deceive or have some bad way strategy or thing that we do if that bad thing we do helps us get the good thing that we want?
Brittany: I think it’s easy to say, no, I don’t believe in that. That’s terrible. But I think almost all of us have had a moment of thinking that like, oh, I could just do this. I’m not going to get caught, or the odds of me getting caught or getting in trouble or slim, so maybe it’s not so bad if it’ll benefit me, but this is a slippery slope. You make one step and then you start justifying in your mind why more and more things are worth it if you do this. So, I don’t think it is okay to do that. I think it’s easy to see how our best interests might be better achieved if we do that. But I think overall, we need to stand on first principles, which means no, we should never cheat or lie or do anything that’s bad to another person just to get what we want.
Connor: Fair enough. But there are a lot of people who disagree with you. That’s unfortunate. And many politicians in particular believe, or at least they behave in a way that they think the ends justify the means. If you sat these people down, oftentimes maybe they would agree that, well, yeah, the ends don’t justify the means, but in this one case it’s really important, or this is the most important election of our lifetime, or we have to not let Donald Trump get elected. Some people say, so we got to do whatever’s possible, or We have to get Donald Trump elected, so we got to do whatever it takes. And people on both sides are kind of using these arguments, and they would probably, if they go to church or they’re talking to their mom or being interviewed, they would never probably admit to saying, yeah, I can use whatever means I want as long as it’s a good outcome. But people behave in a way that indicates they actually do believe that. And one reason this became a popular belief is because of a man named Machiavelli and a book he wrote called The Prince. We’ll link to this on the show notes page if you head to Tuttletwins.com/podcast. But the prince lays out the rules for getting power and creating a state. I don’t mean a state like Texas or New Hampshire like a government, basically a gang. I mean, ultimately a state, whether it’s a city or a country or a state, it’s really a monopoly of violence. It’s like we have these borders just like a gang has their territory, and you have to do what we say in here, and if you don’t, then we can lock you up or shoot you. And so it’s kind of crude maybe to say that it’s like a gang, but when you kind of look at it, there’s a lot of commonality. And so Machiavelli is saying in the Prince, he’s like, here are the rules to get power to create a state and to keep that power to protect it. The prince is basically, in a way, it’s like a playbook for politicians. He used lessons from history and his own experience. In his case, Machiavelli was an Italian foreign secretary, so he was a politician in Italy. So, he spent a lot of time learning how to acquire power and how to keep it. And I think readers at the time were, and certainly still are shocked by how cunning he was. His approach to power even became known as Machiavellian. This willingness to kind of do what it takes and to utilize whatever means necessary to achieve the ends that you want. Now, Brittany, I know you studied political science before you dropped out of college. Did you happen to learn at all about the Prince?
Brittany: Yeah, that was one of the required readings. Luckily, you read it with some other stuff that isn’t add as bad, as John Locke. Actually, you know what? No, John Locke wasn’t assigned. That wasn’t until I took my constitutional law class. So, that is very telling. But yeah, so I was assigned to read it. I’m going to be honest with you, I don’t think I read it until after I dreamt down a college. I didn’t like reading the books I was assigned. But it’s scary to me that there’s such an emphasis placed on this because even though I think we can look at this and say, oh, ends justify the means that could be horribly abused, I think people also look at it as, oh, well, if we’re trying to reach political ends that are good in our mind, then oh yeah, anything. If we want free healthcare, then of course it’s okay if we steal money from the people. So, it does worry me that we teach this in schools because I think instead of thinking that it’s a little bit scary, people instead be like, oh, this is a great idea. This is how we get what we want from people. And I think it’s shown by the people who do it all the time. And it’s funny to me, a lot of these politicians are the ones that come from these Ivy League, these really important schools. So, they’re getting this knowledge, but I don’t know if it’s the best knowledge. Another way that this plays out that I think about is in war, I think war is a perfect example because in war, governments want to win and they’ll do anything to win. And what that usually means, unfortunately, is sacrificing individual members of the military because those are just numbers to them. This one guy called it the Fog of War. His name was Robert McNamara, and he was, I can’t remember him, was he Secretary of Defense? I can’t remember what his.
Connor: I believe he was.
Brittany: During the Vietnam War, which was one of those wars that no one’s really sure why we were ever there. And a lot of people died. It was terrible tragedy for us, but they were willing to sacrifice young boys. I mean, these were 18-year-old boys going over there and just dying in massive numbers and was even worse. And we saw this in Iraq and Afghanistan. They’re also willing to just take out civilians, people that have nothing to do with this war if it moves them towards their ends, the goal that they want. And so, it’s just horrible. And again, it does scare me that it’s something that’s just so commonly taught in schools. I’m like, oh, yeah, that’s what you do in politics.
Connor: Another example that comes to my mind, Brittany, as you bring up war, is the concept of false flag events. So, speaking of the Vietnam War, maybe a little homework assignment for the kids and families is to go look up the Gulf of Tonkin incident, TONKIN. We’ll link to the Wikipedia page on the show notes page. So, if it’s easier, just go to Tuttletwins.com/podcast and you can learn about the Gulf of Tonkin incident. I’m going to set that aside for now. You guys can go do some fun homework on that, but I will share another example. I think we’ve talked about this before on the podcast, so I’ll just share it again briefly. And that is a military operation called Operation Northwoods. Yeah, that’s a scary one. And this was what’s called the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And what this means is they were the top military leaders in the entire country. They’re the ones who directly report to the president. They’re the ones in charge of all the military. And they got together and they came up with a plan, and this was during the Cuban crisis, so Cuba’s south of Florida, and Fidel Castro was working with the communists. And so the Soviets were setting up missiles and things right at the doorstep of the United States. And so Americans were kind of really nervous about that. And so it was a big controversy. So, the joint Chiefs of staff, these military bosses went to the president of the United States, who at the time was John F. Kennedy, and they came up with a plan, and they proposed killing Americans and blaming it on Cuba. Why? Because they wanted to get Americans to support war in Cuba. At the time. The polls meaning when people are asked, and they can use science and math and figure out what the entire public thinks based on just asking a few people. So, that’s how you do opinion polls. And so they saw the polls, and Americans did not really support the war in Cuba. They just were like, no, let’s not do that. Let’s stay out of it. But these military bosses did want to go to war. They wanted to defeat Fidel Castro. They had an end to use the language of today’s podcast. They had a certain end they wanted, and so they were willing to employ means that included killing American citizens because they felt that doing that and blaming it on Cuba would shift American opinion that they would then be able to go pursue that end of attacking Fidel Castro and the Communists. And so, therefore, it was okay to kill all these people and pretend it was the Cubans. And this is not an isolated incident. We call this a false flag event. Think of, I think this is how it originated, Brittany, maybe, and I may be wrong in thinking this up, but I believe the term comes from old naval warfare when countries would fight on the open seas with their ships, with cannons firing at one another, and they would have flags. So, from a distance with a telescope, you could see, oh, there’s some ships out there. Who are they? Are they Spanish? Are they Portuguese? Are they English? Are they pirates? And so what pirates could do, or what people from other countries could do is they could be deceptive and hoist a flag of a different country to pretend that, oh, hey, Spaniards, we’re also from Spain, right? Because we have the Spanish flag. And so then the Spaniards would be like, oh, good, our friends are bringing reinforcements. So, then that boat gets closer and closer, but oh, hey, it’s not the Spaniards. It’s let’s say it’s the English. And suddenly they start firing on you, and now they’re in firing range, and you let them get that close because you were deceived into thinking that they were one of you. So, I think that’s why we call that false.
Brittany: I just double-checked. And you are exactly right. It came from the 16 hundreds or 16 hundreds. Yep.
Connor: Wow. Okay. All right. Well, that was somewhere in the deep dark recesses of my brain that I guess I read at some point. So, we call this a false flag event, and it just means that using lies and deceit to achieve these goals, these ends, and our government does it too, the so-called land of the free, again, go read Gulf of Tonkin, there’s Operation Northwoods. There’s many more Go research false flag events if you want. The challenge that presents, Brittany, for our topic today, I feel like I’ll give you the last word here in a moment, is that there are many people in our government who maybe believe in freedom or believe in America’s strength or protecting America’s interests or spreading democracy or whatever it is, and they are willing to do all kinds of nasty things to get it. I think that’s a problem. Your final thoughts?
Brittany: Yeah, I think yes, we know the government is the obvious perpetrator of these kinds of things, but I think, and here’s kind of a challenge to listeners, is notice if maybe you’re doing this in your own life with small things. Hopefully, you’re not starting a war. I don’t think you can. But little things like maybe you really want to win a board game with your siblings, and you think, okay, maybe if I just lie a little bit or cheat a little bit. So, look at four examples of maybe when you do this in your own life and make an effort not to do it, or just kind of recognize that that is a natural inclination of people when they want to win. And it’s crazy, but it starts with you not doing that. So that would be my final thought.
Connor: Love it. Great topic. Check out Tuttletwins.com/podcast, you guys, for those resources, Brittany. Until next time, we’ll talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later.