About Me

Mike LaFerrara

New Jersey

Greetings and welcome to my blog. My name is Michael A. (Mike) LaFerrara. I sometimes use the pen or "screen" name "Mike Zemack" or "Zemack" in online activism such as posted comments on articles. Zemack stands for the first letters of the names of my six grandchildren. I was born in 1949 in New Jersey, U.S.A., where I still reside with my wife of 42 years. The goal and purpose of my blog is the discussion of current or historical human events based on an Objectivist perspective. For a full discription of the purpose of this blog, see my Introduction. One final introductory note: I strongly recommend Philosophy, Who Needs it, which highlights the inescapable importance of philosophy in every individual's life. I can be reached at mal.atlas@comcast.net. Thanks, Mike LaFerrara.

My Complete Profile

    Of Special Interest
FIRM Healthcare Publications
ARC On Healthcare
Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis
ARC's Response to the Financial Crisis
The Financial Crisis: Causes and Possible Cures

    Influential Books
-AYN RAND'S NORMATIVE ETHICS...The Virtuous Egoist Tara Smith
-FREE MARKET REVOLUTION: How Ayn Rand's Ideas can End Big Government Yaron Brook and Don Watkins
LIBERAL FASCISM...The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning Jonah Goldberg
-REAGAN'S WAR Peter Schweizer
-SOMETHING FOR NOTHING: The All-Consuming Desire that turns the American Dream into a Nightmare Brian Tracy
-STATE OF FEAR Michael Crichton
-THE OMINOUS PARALLELS...The Chaos of Pre-Hitler Germany...and The End of Freedom in America Leonard Peikoff
EXPLAINING POSTMODERNISM...Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

    Recommended Reading
-Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care” by Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh

-Health Care is not a Right by Leonard Peikoff

FAQ on Free Market Health Insurance

Mandatory Health Insurance: Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America

Principles of a Free Society

The Comprachicos

Why Individual Rights?

    Meaningful Quotes
-"I love getting older...I get to grow up and learn things." Madalyn, then 5 years old, Montessori student, and my grand-daughter

-"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." Francis Bacon

-"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." Ronald Reagan

-"Thinking is hard work. If it weren't, more people would do it." Henry Ford

-"Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries." Ayn Rand

Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Lima Climate Convention Disappoints FOE—and That’s Great News for Rich and Poor People Alike
The United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), a preliminary to a “New Universal Climate Agreement,” took place December 1-14, 2014, in Lima, Peru. The purpose of the conference was to “elaborat[e] the elements of the new agreement, scheduled to be agreed [to] in Paris in late 2015,” and take effect “post 2020,” according to the UNFCCC website.

Special interests were out in force at the conference. One was the Friends of the Earth, self-described as “a global network representing more than two million activists in 75 different countries.”

As Reason.com’s Ronald Bailey reported recently from Peru:

"We are people who want to tell the truth about the climate crisis, and the truth is that we are on track to a climate disaster," asserted Alex Rafalowicz at a Friends of the Earth (FOE) press conference . . . . So how does FOE think the world gets off the track? By demanding that rich countries fork over their "climate fair shares." What's fair? It's only fair that by 2030 the rich countries cut their carbon dioxide emissions around 80 percent and pay poor countries more than $1 trillion annually to cut theirs.

Under FOE’s scheme, Bailey reports, “By 2030, the U.S. would be required to cut its emissions by 82 percent below the 2013 levels and supply $810 billion annually in climate debt payments.”

This is the plan of Friends of the Earth. As its name indicates, FOE’s standard of value is not man, but environmental non-impact; preserving Earth in its natural state. It aims to achieve “a more healthy and just world . . . by focusing on the economic drivers that are encouraging environmental degradation.” Healthy and just—for whom? “We fight for what’s needed over the longer term for all creatures on our planet, not for what is easy or popular in the short term.” This means that people are no more important than mosquitoes, and must sacrifice their electricity and gasoline, their jobs and comfort, their “environmental degradation”—for every other two-bit species on Earth.

Since man survives and thrives by altering and improving the natural environment  to human benefit, it’s safe to say that the good of man is not FOE’s concern. To the likes of FOE, the alteration of nature, as such, is a catastrophe.

But from a value standard of what’s good for man, there is no fossil fuel “climate catastrophe.” There is an environmental boon. As Alex Epstein shows in his book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, by every measure of human well-being, from cleaner water to more and better food to longer and healthier lives to protection from weather extremes to greater overall prosperity, fossil fuel energy has improved the human condition—including the human environment—and continues to do so.

The correlation between prosperity and carbon dioxide emissions is clear. Yet, FOE wants to cap worldwide carbon emissions through a massive global regulatory/tax scheme by forcing massive cuts on developed nations, and restricting the progress toward a better life for less developed nations.

But here’s the question: Once “rich” countries, including the U.S.A., have been reduced to third world poverty—by cutting carbon emissions by 80%—where will the $1 trillion annual handout to the thieving poor countries come from? No matter. Justice is not FOE’s ultimate goal. Poverty is.

Americans should outright reject the anti-industrial agenda of Friends of the Earth and its primitive ilk. Rather than pay “climate debt” penance in the form of trillion dollar handouts to third world countries, we should encourage them to ramp up their own burning of fossil fuels, liberate their economies, and generate their own prosperity.

Actually, this is already happening. As AP reports, “Currently, most CO2 emissions are coming from developing countries as they grow their economies and lift millions of people out of poverty.” And, as AP reports, these developing countries aren’t about let UNFCCC or anyone else stop their progress.

As for FOE, it condemned the UNFCCC conference outcome, which “desperately lack[ed] in ambition, leadership, justice and solidarity for the people worst hit by the climate crisis.” FOE’s disappointment is great news for the people of poorer countries, whose only crisis was the lack of energy and industrial development that left them vulnerable to climate dangers; a crisis their growing fossil fuel-powered prosperity is helping to end.

Truth is, prosperity and protection from climate dangers goes hand-in-hand with large scale, reliable energy production, and today—and for the foreseeable future—fossil fuels are far and away the best source of that energy. In some distant future, something better may replace fossil fuels. But for now, fossil fuels are the only game in town, from the standpoint of human well-being as the value standard. It would be insane and cruel beyond words to “stop fossil fuels,” as FOE demands.

So, be proud of your carbon emission prosperity, America, and protect it. You earned it, and your lives depend on it.

Related Reading:

Now, the World's Looters Target America for "Climate Injustice"

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels—Alex Epstein (Chapter 1, The Secret History of Fossil Fuels, available free.)

Friends of the Earth Anti-American Response to Secretary of State John Kerry’s Lima Speech

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, December 18, 2014
Choice vs. Liberty in Education
If you've ever doubted that the fight for liberty requires a major educational campaign, consider the following.

In the discussion generated by my comments to the article NJ Catholic schools fight to keep doors open as future dims, there were several replies implying that government schools aren’t rights-violating or coercive because everyone has a “choice” not to send their child to government schools, or can choose their public schools through their choice of where to live.

For example, bayshore lady wrote, “Anyone who doesn't like the public schools is allowed to send their kids to any other schools they choose, if that school will accept them, and pay for it themselves.” I replied:

First, a parent has a right to choose private education, including homeschooling. It is not up to government to give permission (to "allow" it).

Second, that same parent has a fundamental right to use his own money as she sees fit. The two rights are linked. To say a parent has a right to school choice but not to spending choice is no choice at all for most parents.

kmop wrote “You already have a choice.  You get to choose where you live.”

This issue requires further elaboration.

These correspondents equate liberty with choice. But the essence of liberty is to be free to act and choose according to your own judgement without coercive interference from others, including government officials. The essence of freedom and individual rights is the absence of the initiation of physical force in human relationships. Government-granted “choice” is not freedom. “Choice” only in areas where government chooses not to initiate coercion and violate your rights is not freedom.

Freedom of choice is an aspect of liberty. Choice, as such, is not the essence of liberty. People living under dictatorships can have choice. Permission to choose can be rescinded at any time for whatever reason. Rights are inalienable, and cannot be violated by your neighbors, “society,” or the government. If a government forces you to orient your choices around its coercion—such as school taxes and truancy laws—you do not have real choice or real liberty. You are simply a subject of the state.

If you have to send your child to a government approved school based on your address, and are forced to pay taxes to support them no matter what, the “freedom” to “to send their kids to any other schools they choose . . . and pay for it themselves” is a cruel joke. Government schools are not laws of nature, impossible to alter. They are a man-made injustice that can and should be abolished. Short of abolition, my tax credit plan would move us nicely toward more liberty in education.

The premise that liberty is only what is allowed by government is a hallmark of statism; the system that subordinates individuals’ lives and wealth to government. The government’s proper job is to identify rights-violating behavior (robbery, rape, murder, fraud, extortion, etc.) and proscribe those actions through objective laws that prescribe appropriate penalties and restitution to the victims. Government proscribes only actions that violate the rights of others, and is forbidden by constitutional law to become a rights-violator. It is not up to government to determine what you are allowed to do. It is up to government to determine what you can’t do, based on the principle of individual rights. Apart from objectively defined rights-violating actions, individuals are free to act. These correspondents highlight the importance of philosophy. Only when people are educated on the true nature of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government will we be able to reverse the statist trend and advance toward a fully free society.

Related Reading:

Rights are Inalienable, not an Electoral Privilege

Dueling Letters Over Rights

Ayn Rand on Man’s Rights and the Nature of Government

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Objections and Questions on My Catholic School Closing Comments Answered
My comments regarding the New Jersey Star-Ledger article NJ Catholic schools fight to keep doors open as future dims generated a lengthy discussion. Below are my replies to selected remarks and questions.

kmop wrote: “And how much would those tax credits amount to?  A poor person won't be able to afford a private school just on credits alone.”

I replied:

True. But no person's freedom should be restricted by another person's inability to meet their needs.

Nonetheless, my proposal addresses your concern. Please re-read my original post. If you can, you should read my article linked to above in its entirety.

bayshore lady wrote: “Most of the pro-voucher crowd,IMO,really don't care that the low income parents won't be able to afford private schools.What they want is tuition assitance for the schools they already send their kids to.”

I replied:

Perhaps. But I don't support "assistance" for private school parents. In fact, I'm totally against such government assistance. I support private school parents being free to spend their own money on their own children. Why should parents who don't use the public schools be forced to assist, through taxes, the tuition of parents who do?

kmop wrote: “If government is subsidizing the cost [of private education], [private schools] will need to follow government regulation.”

I replied:

True enough—if the government is actually subsidizing the cost of education.

If an individual is spending his own money, there is no justification for government regulation. Vouchers are subsidies. Tax credits are not.

bayshore lady wrote: “And those of us who have adult children would love a tax credit for not having kids in school,too,but it ain't gonna happen.My husband and I paid property taxes long before we had school age children.snd continue to do so after our kids have been out of school.”

I replied:

Under my tax credit proposal, the aggregate amount currently spent on public education would not decrease. Tax credits would be tied to the sponsorship of a child’s education, whether one’s own or someone else's. Every full tax credit = one less child for the government to educate. Otherwise, the taxpayer continues to pay into the public schools.

That said, I believe it’s morally wrong to force anyone to pay for the education of another person’s child. It’s wrong for government to dictate what is taught, how it is taught, and who can teach it. Parents have a moral right and responsibility to educate their child according to their own judgement with their own money, or money voluntarily contributed by others. The fact that public education has been around for a long time does not justify maintaining the status quo, morally or practically. Jim Crow laws lasted almost a century; “Separate but equal” for 6 decades. Should they not have been changed?

Abolition of the government schools is politically unpalatable today. My proposal is a middle ground: It maintains some elements of the statist status quo, while increasing individual rights, liberty, and competition in education. A good step in the right direction, I believe.

Kevin Foley asked: “Zemack, can you reconcile why it is acceptable to pay private/religious school tuition at the college level through the GI bill (which is tax dollars) but not at the primary/secondary level?”

I replied:

I consider GI education vouchers fundamentally different from the typical primary/secondary voucher scheme.

The GI Bill is compensation for services rendered to the country—in effect, part of the serviceman’s salary, like a fringe benefit. How he spends his benefit is his business. It is not really taxpayer money, any more than the money Ford receives in exchange for its cars is still the consumers’ money.

Kevin Foley wrote: “Sort of a contractual arrangement where your service is the consideration.  I don't disagree.

I see paying property taxes as a similar contractual obligation, only in that arrangement, the government dictates how tuition dollars can be spent, whereas the GI Bill they can't.”

I replied:

A contract implies a mutually beneficial voluntary agreement. Property taxes are not a contract. To the extent that taxes fund legitimate government functions—functions that protect individual rights, like the police or the military—they are valid. But it is still not a contract, in my view.

As to the school “tuition”—the education portion of the property tax—it is pure redistribution of wealth. That’s bad enough, but taxpayer funding of religious schools (through vouchers) violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. That seems pretty clear to me.

Kevin Foley wrote: “The Supreme Court found in Zelman v Simon-Harris that vouchers used for religious education did no violate the establishment clause as long as 5 conditions were met.”

I replied:

This is the other problem with vouchers; the conditions attached to them. Vouchers threaten private schools’ autonomy; effectively taking the “private” out of the private schools. E.G.: Consider Louisiana's voucher scheme. That’s why I like tax credits (properly structured). They remove the incentive and justification for government to dictate how the money is spent.

Related Reading:

Catholic Schools Are Struggling to Stay Open: (Partial) Solution, Tax Credits

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits

    My replies to TOS letters regarding my article Toward a Free Market in Education:

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, December 14, 2014
Catholic Schools Are Struggling to Stay Open: (Partial) Solution, Tax Credits
NJ Catholic schools fight to keep doors open as future dims, screams a headline in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

I left these comments:

While there may be many reasons for Catholic Schools’ struggles, the biggest is likely the dominance of the quasi-monopolistic, coercive “public”—i.e., government—school system.

The basic injustice that parents who choose private education options for their children face is that they are forced to continue having their money seized to fund the government schools. This is morally grotesque, and probably keeps a lot of parents who would otherwise choose private education stuck in public schools.

This injustice should be corrected. A properly structured tax credit program for parental school choice would move us in that direction. My tax credit proposal, Toward a Free Market in Education published in The Objective Standard, would open the door to private alternatives to the public schools for all parents in all income brackets. Tax credits would be available to all taxpayers to fund the education of any child, limited to the per-pupil cost in the child’s local school district. This feature would open vast opportunities not just for parents but for older taxpayers to fund their grandchildren, for example, and for philanthropic funding of poor children’s education, should the poor parents choose private education. And, since tax credits leave individuals free to spend only their own money as they choose—as is their fundamental right—the separation of church and state would not be violated as it is with government vouchers.

This may or may not help the Catholic schools. But it would go a long way to correct the moral injustice of coercive government schools. It would enable private education alternatives of all kinds to compete for education dollars on a more even playing field, while leaving the public schools adequately funded for those who remain with them.

Related Reading:

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits

     My replies to TOS letters regarding Toward a Free Market in Education:

The New Abolitionism: Why Education Emancipation is the Moral Imperative of Our Time—C. Bradley Thompson

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Friday, December 12, 2014
Debunking Myths of American History—4
This is Part 4 of a 4-part series, in which I replied to comments made under the op-ed by Frayda Levin, an Americans for Prosperity board member, titled I'm A Proud Koch Brothers Insider. For a deep, integrated history of capitalism, I recommend The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein.

“Fact is, while individual humans are decent, as a group they're aggressive, exploitative, oppressive, violent, selfish, and dangerous.  The evidence is in our history.”—Get Real

My Reply:

This makes no sense. A group is made up of individuals. Some individuals are “aggressive, exploitative, oppressive, violent, selfish [in the conventional sense], and dangerous.” But most are industrious, respectful, benevolent, cooperative, and no threat to others; i.e., rationally selfish [at least to some extent]. Man is not predisposed either way. The evidence is that the freer a country is, the more people achieve and coexist peacefully. Only with the arrival of “big government” did America begin its descent into predatory balkinization, as “progressives” transformed our government from one limited to protecting individual rights to a rights-violating tool of pressure group factions. When government (the power of the gun) is given the power of aggressive force, the bad type of people organize to use that aggressive power. Then others follow, either in self-preservation or for their own predatory purposes. Special interest politics proliferates. When people are forced into tribal conflict, what does one expect? Blame belongs to the collectivist/statist system the progressives built, not human nature, which is only suited to individualism and limited government.

Related Reading:

For the New Intellectual—Ayn Rand

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, December 11, 2014
Debunking Myths of American History—3
This is Part 3 of a 4-part series, in which I replied to comments made under the op-ed by Frayda Levin, an Americans for Prosperity board member, titled I'm A Proud Koch Brothers Insider. For a deep, integrated history of capitalism, I recommend The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein.

“[A] complex global economy cannot function in a 18th century Jeffersonian utopia.”Get Real

My Reply:

So a free society in which every individual can think and act on his own judgement, pursue his own values, keep his earned rewards and must take responsibility for his own failings, under a government limited to protecting his right and an economy based on voluntary trade to mutual advantage, is utopian? What is the anti-utopia—a handful of central planning, all-powerful government masterminds imbued with superior wisdom, omniscience, and infallibility running hundreds of millions of lives in perfect harmony? You have it exactly backward: Freedom is the realistic ideal. Statism is utopian.

Related Reading:

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal—Ayn Rand

Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America—Mark R. Levin

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
Debunking Myths of American History—2
This is Part 2 of a 4-part series, in which I replied to comments made under the op-ed by Frayda Levin, an Americans for Prosperity board member, titled I'm A Proud Koch Brothers Insider. For a deep, integrated history of capitalism, I recommend The Capitalist Manifesto by Andrew Bernstein.

“The Post Civil War order, which lasted in many places until WWII,  was dominated by robber barons, children working in factories and mines. segregation and lynching, and horrific conditions.”—Get Real

My Reply:

Wrong. This period was the freest era in human history, and the result was astounding progress across society. Jobs, rising real wages, and new occupations abounded. Mostly poor but ambitious immigrants flooded in. Why? To come to the hellhole you describe? Hardly. To live free, and prosper. The middle class was born. It was not a time of robber barons. It was a time of industrial genius and inventiveness. The period started with the horse and buggy and whale oil lighting and ended with electrification, indoor plumbing, automobiles, aviation, skyscrapers, and on and on. Your hellhole is a fiction manufactured by capitalist-hating, socialist-embracing intellectuals, who had to bury the truth about capitalism to pave the way for the “Progressives.”

The whole of the evidence of the past 250 years is that prosperity and societal harmony exist only to the extent that individuals can live and associate freely and government exists to protect their rights to do so.

As to “children working in factories and mines [and] segregation and lynching”:

Child labor existed throughout history, as a necessity of survival. Capitalism inherited child labor, as it did all of the “horrific conditions” it gets blamed for but didn’t create. Capitalist prosperity eliminated the need for child labor, over time, as economies and prosperity grew because of capitalistic freedom.

Segregation is not a product of capitalism (freedom). It is statist. Segregation is legally imposed “separate but equal” doctrine entrenched by the reactionary 1896 Supreme Court Plessy ruling. Separate but Equal is a work-around against the 14th Amendment’s “equal protection” clause. Lynchings are crimes, for which the government is created to protect against. The widespread use of segregation and lynchings was a failure of government, not freedom.

Related Reading:

The Inventive Period—Andrew Bernstein

Notes, and Myths, on American History - 1

Notes, and Myths, on American History - 2

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Philosophy, Who Needs It?

The Objectivist Ethics

Atlas Shrugged: America's Second Declaration of Independence

    Blogs of Interest
George Reisman's Blog
Junk Science
Leonard Peikoff
Rule of Reason
The Objectivist
The Rational Capitalist
The Undercurrent
TOS Blog
We Stand Firm

    Sites of Interest
Alex Epstein at Forbes
Ayn Rand Campus
Ayn Rand Institute
Ayn Rand Lexicon
Capitalism Magazine
Climate Depot
Center for Industrial Progress
Harry Binswanger @ Forbes
Job Creators Alliance
My Objective Standard Archives
The Capitalism Site
The Objective Standard
Thomas Sowell

    Recent Posts
Lima Climate Convention Disappoints FOE—and That’s...
Choice vs. Liberty in Education
Objections and Questions on My Catholic School Clo...
Catholic Schools Are Struggling to Stay Open: (Par...
Debunking Myths of American History—4
Debunking Myths of American History—3
Debunking Myths of American History—2
Debunking Myths of American History—1
The Koch Brothers and the Nature of Government Reg...
The Wall Street Journal Reviews Epstein's 'The Mor...

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