Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Strong vs. the 'Weak' in the Assisted Suicide Debate

The article I wrote about in my last post, Assisted suicide laws are more dangerous than people acknowledge by John B. Kelly, drew some strong commentary in support of Kelly. One such comment came from correspondent Leslie Wolfgang, who wrote: “Brittany Maynard is a strong woman, but assisted suicide laws are to protect the weak.”

The first question to ask is; “strong” in what way? The second question; what is the purpose of law?

“Strong” comes in two manifestations; the strength of a strongman, or the strength of good moral character. The first is the power of the club or the gun or muscles—physical coercion. The second is the power of virtues like courage, independence of mind, self-motivation, perseverance in pursuit of goals,and self-discipline. The first leads to destruction and death, the second leads to a successful, self-sufficient, flourishing life.

It is the second type of strong that carries the world, including the so-called “weak,” on its shoulders—the strength exhibited by people like Brittany Maynard. Moral strength is the foundation of life; weakness the weight of death. Yet, it is the strong who are exploited and need protecting. As evidence, consider the statement above. Wolfgang would callously uphold coercive anti-assisted suicide laws that violate the rights of the strong of character to act on their own judgement regarding their own lives, in the name of protecting the “weak.” To sacrifice the strong for the alleged benefit of the weak is the ultimate moral inversion; the sacrifice of life to death. Such is the nature of the weakest of the weak; the wielder of the club against the strong of character; the Wolfgangs of the world—the strongman.

Considering the growth of the regulatory welfare state—which is justified as a necessity to “protect the weak”—it is the strong in character who need protecting, since they are the victims of the welfare statist protectors of the weak. But, in truth, proper law doesn’t protect the weak at the expense of the strong; or the strong at the expense of the weak. It protects everyone—the weak, the strong, and the mediocre—equally and at all times. Protect the rights of consenting adults of sound mind to live and leave this world with dignity, while building in legal safeguards against exploitation of the “weak” of unsound mind by the unscrupulous. Laws legalizing doctor-assisted suicide, which really means eliminating rights-violating government interference in private decision-making until and unless evidence of rights-violating actions is uncovered, is the moral thing to do. Anything else is cruel, mean-spirited, morally corrupt—and truly weak. A Brittany Maynard’s rights should not be violated simply because she is a “strong woman.”

Friday, February 27, 2015

'Disability Rights Activist' Kelly Is Anti-Individual Rights

“John B. Kelly is a disability rights activist [and] director of Second Thoughts Massachusetts and New England regional director for Not Dead Yet, grassroots disability groups opposed to the legalization of assisted suicide,” the New Jersey Star-Ledger writes about the author of a guest column titled Assisted suicide laws are more dangerous than people acknowledge. Keep that bio in mind as you read this post.

Kelly’s article is written in opposition to a bill, currently working its way through the NJ legislature, to legalize doctor-assisted suicide in the state. The bill received added impetus from the widely publicized suicide of Brittany Maynard. Kelly wrote:

When the focus is on an individual, assisted suicide can sound good – who’s against compassion or relieving suffering? But a closer look reveals that assisted suicide puts vulnerable people in mortal danger. The more people learn about the real-world implications of these bills, the more they oppose them.

The simple truth is that not all families are loving.

Here is a good demonstration of the evil of collectivism, and why—despite Kelly’s fancying himself a “disability rights activist”—collectivism makes actual rights impossible. Who but the individual is there to focus on? Kelly apparently can find no counter-argument to Brittany Maynard’s statement defending her right to end her own life. So he simply trivializes Maynard into irrelevance in favor of a collective labeled “vulnerable people.”

I left these comments:

I had to read this twice, because I couldn’t believe what was being said. But there’s no evading the message: Actual human beings don’t matter, if they are rational people of sound mind who are surrounded by loving families.

People who want to control other people’s lives always start by trivializing the individual. But we are all, after all, individuals. Let’s focus on the real world. Brittany Maynard is real. So was Christina Symanski, who chose, by her own rational judgment, to end her own “intolerable” life. I am a real person. An individual. Though 65 and currently healthy, the possibility of a horrendous end-of-life scenario is very real. I am going to die. We all are. We can’t always control how and when we die. But to the extent that I can, who has the right to stop me? Whether I have only months left due to a terminal illness, or years of living death, who has the right to take away what control I have? It’s my life, and my death.

The basic argument against assisted suicide presented here amounts to: Everyone’s right to make end-of-life decisions for themselves must be quashed if there exists a potential for abuse. But on that premise, there are no rights—including freedom of religion, speech, association, property, trade—that shouldn’t be quashed because every right entails the possibility that someone, somewhere will “abuse” it; i.e., violate another’s rights. And no freedom.

The government’s proper job is to protect individual rights, and only step in when evidence of rights-violating “abuse” arises, and only against the rights-violator. Punish the guilty, and protect the innocent. Those who preach otherwise, can not claim compassion for the “vulnerable” as a motive, because the most vulnerable is the individual; which is why the individual needs iron-clad constitutional protection from state encroachment on his rights.

It is that protection that Kelly wants to deny to the Brittany Maynards of the world. In conclusion, Kelly writes, “The Assembly must resist the pressure to make public policy based on one person. Assisted suicide laws are just too dangerous.” But the individual—the “one person”—is all that exists. The whole purpose of “public policy”—of law and of government—is to protect individual rights, not group “rights.” Groups have no rights, because a group is not an entity. A group is only a number of individuals. There are no rights of the disabled or the vulnerable, apart from the rights possessed equally and at all times by every single human being. A right is a moral sanction of the individual’s freedom to act on his own judgement. Anyone who violates individual rights has no business claiming to be a defender of anyone’s rights, disabled or otherwise.

Nowhere does Kelly explain how Maynard exercising her right to die with dignity infringed on the rights of the disabled, or anyone else. Hence, the rights-violators fall-back—collectivism. But as Maynard said:

I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?

. . . I hope for the sake of my fellow American citizens that I'll never meet that this option is available to you. If you ever find yourself walking a mile in my shoes, I hope that you would at least be given the same choice and that no one tries to take it from you.

Kelly would not and could not answer Maynard’s question. He’s too concerned with trying to take that same choice from his fellow American citizens.

Related Reading:

The Pope’s Sin and Brittany Maynard’s Choice to Die—Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard

Conservatives’ Collectivist Case Against Assisted Suicide—Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard

The ‘Liberal’ Collectivist Case Against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

‘Benefit’ to State or Local Towns Irrelevant to Pipeline Approval

Proposed pipelines typically generate loud opposition from some local activists. The proposed Pilgrim pipeline, which would carry liquid petroleum across northern New Jersey, is one such pipeline. The activists’ arguments are many—and often make no sense other than to serve as rationalizations for opponents’ goal to stop the project. For example, in a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter (Don't gamble with our water), one opponent of the Pilgrim pipeline, Anne C. Powley of Mahwah—one of the towns in the path of the pipeline—wrote:

The refined material [the pipeline will transport] will not be used in N.J. and our towns will get no financial or other benefits, just the risk of a leak polluting our water.

Consider the logic that the above quote implies. Powley is essentially saying: Commerce (goods and services) cannot pass through “our” state (or town or community) unless the producer pays protection money or buys the locals off with some other “benefits.” (Actually, local communities do benefit. In NJ, pipeline companies pay property taxes to local governments. But we’ll leave that issue aside.)

All goods and services that humans produce requires energy, and the primary source of that energy is fossil fuels. The delivery of this energy largely depends on the more than two and a half million miles of liquid petroleum or natural gas pipelines currently criss-crossing the nation. In fact, nearly every activity that fills our needs and desires depends in some way on our pipeline network.

Every “community” in the nation—including the towns through which the Pilgrim Pipeline would pass—depends in some way on pipelines passing through other communities. Imagine if every community had the power to stop pipelines through its “backyard” because some of its residents don’t perceive any immediate or direct benefits. What would become of people’s lives. Economic vitality would grind to a halt, or close to it. Every community would then be reduced to pre-industrial misery and poverty.

Why? Because indirect benefits abound. A pipeline carrying fuel not used in the local community may provide fuel for farming equipment used by farmers hundreds or thousands of miles away. That farmer may then ship its crops to processing plants that turn them into packaged foods that fill the shelves of local supermarkets in far away communities—including the very same community where Powley resides. Look around, Ms. Powley. How much of what constitutes MahWah’s wealth—from construction materials to consumer goods to fuel to medical supplies to electronic equipment to communications to transportation, etc.—is locally produced?

It is monumentally hypocritical for local residents—who themselves depend on pipelines—to oppose the pipeline because they don’t perceive any direct benefit from this particular pipeline. They themselves benefit from the goods and services—from electricity to hospitals to food to transportation fuel, etc.—that rely on energy transported across the country through the pipelines that pass through other communities and states.

On Powley’s logic, no commerce can ever take place without some form of gangster-style payoff to local tribes. Since every “community” in the nation—including the towns through which the Pipeline would pass—depends in some way on commerce passing through other communities, imagine what would become of people’s lives. Economic vitality would grind to a halt, or close to it.

This is precisely the kind of economic tribal balkinization the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent (before it was metastasized beyond recognition).

The fact is, every individual has a right to produce and trade with whom they please. People along the trade routes have no claim on “benefits” as a price of “allowing” the trade to proceed. If Pilgrim Pipeline sends crude oil from Albany, NY to Linden, NJ for refinement into gasoline or diesel fuel, that is between the producers in Albany and the refiners in Linden. And although Powley might not need the benefits of the Pilgrim Pipeline—or have a direct opportunity to buy the product passing through the pipeline—what about the people who will buy the fuel passing through the pipeline? Who is Powley to deny them the opportunity to purchase it? Powley is not the only one who needs energy. To be against this pipeline, while continuing to rely on other pipelines that pass through other towns, is—quite frankly—hypocritical.

Of course, local residents do have valid concerns. The owners of the pipeline should be liable for damages resulting from any pollution or harm its pipeline may cause. Property rights should be respected, but may be threatened by eminent domain, which often accompanies the approval of pipeline projects. But to demand “benefit” payoffs as a condition of allowing the pipeline is not a valid reason to override the rights of pipeline companies to produce and trade.

Related Reading:

New Jersey's Pilgrim Pipeline vs. Atlantic City Offshore Wind Farm: It Shouldn’t Be Either/Or

Monday, February 23, 2015

Moral Equivocation: CIA "Torture" vs. Cuban Repression

A political cartoon by Pat Bagley represents one of the worst displays of moral equivocation I have ever seen.

The cartoon portrays the GOP as hypocritical for defending CIA “torture” while simultaneously condemning Cuba’s human rights violations. But the “torture” was directed at Islamic terrorists, the leading edge of a movement that is waging full-scale war on civilization in order to impose a worldwide totalitarian Islamic theocracy. The Islamic totalitarian movement has explicitly renounced human rights, the rule of law, and civilization. In so doing—and as long as they continue their war of imperialist Islamic aggression—they forfeit any claim to recognition of their human rights or to normal due process of law.

The Cuban government is itself a totalitarian state run by terrorists, in this case communist terrorists. Likewise, Cuba’s rulers, who have been waging war on the Cuban people for half a century, forfeit all claim to recognition of their human rights. Islamic and communist tactics and ideological goals may be different. But, morally, there is no difference between Islamic terrorists and Cuban Communist rulers. Both are systematic, ideologically driven violators of human—i.e., individual—rights.

The GOP is morally consistent—and right—in both defending CIA tactics and condemning Cuba’s dictatorship. In both cases, the GOP is condemning human rights violators. The GOP’s moral clarity stands in sharp contrast to Pat Bagley and the Star-Ledger, who apparently draw no moral distinction between human rights violators and their victims.

Related Reading:

“Just War Theory” vs. American Self-Defense - The Objective Standard

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The ‘Liberal’ Collectivist Case Against Doctor-Assisted Suicide

“Late Thursday night [11/13/14], and driven largely by new energy from the national story of Brittany Maynard, the New Jersey Assembly passed a bill in favor of assisted suicide.”

So began a New Jersey Star-Ledger op-ed against doctor-assisted suicide by Charles Camosy, associate professor of Theological and Social Ethics at Fordham University.

Camosy’s argument is particularly interesting because it goes against the stereotypical assumption that “liberals” support assisted suicide and conservatives oppose it:

Support of assisted suicide is thought to be a liberal idea, but arguments in support sound remarkably conservative. Personal autonomy. Government staying out of my life. Individual rights trumping the common good.

Camosy is a self-described “liberal.” I have observed other “liberals” or “progressives” opposing assisted suicide, as well. So there seems to be a split in the “liberal” camp. The Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran, a “liberal,” has been strong in favor of assisted suicide precisely on the grounds that the decision to live or die is all about personal autonomy. “The government’s intrusion can seem downright offensive.,” he wrote recently. Citing conservative opposition, he went on, “The irony is that it’s the small-government crowd . . . that is most eager to step in.”

But as Camosy says—and I agree—it is “liberals” like Moran who are being inconsistent. [I addressed the issue of “liberals’” and conservatives’ inconsistency on this issue in Assisted Suicide, “Liberals,” and Conservatives.] Camosy goes on to ally with conservative collectivists assisted suicide debate.

I left these comments, with additional quotes from Camosy:

It’s true that modern liberals who support assisted suicide are inconsistent to liberal principles. Liberalism’s basic philosophy is collectivism, the doctrine that holds the individual as subordinate to the group, which is sovereign. The legalization of doctor-assisted suicide belongs to the philosophy of individualism, which holds the individual as sovereign. (Conservatives are not individualists, either, so it is not true that legalization of assisted suicide is conservative.)

People who believe they should have the power to run everyone else’s lives always fall back on vague collectivist catchphrases like the “common good.” But that term—the “common good”—is rarely defined. The reason; to define it is to expose it as the empty fraud that it is, and destroy the power-lusters’ only rationalization, as Camosy proves later on.

Individual human beings are not cells in some larger organic entity. “Humanity” is not an organic entity. The only organic entity that exists is the individual. Only the individual can digest food, feel, think, value, or judge. There is no other organic entity—and no common good.

The only thing all humans have in common is that we are all autonomous individuals possessing our own minds, bodies, values, goals, moral standards—and, in a moral society, freedom. There is no “common” to which some supreme concept of the “good” uniformly applies. There is not and never has been any such conflict as “individual rights vs. the common good,” because no one has the right to declare any “good” to be common to everyone, to be imposed by force on everyone. There is no common good apart from the individual’s right to judge for ourselves what is good for ourselves. Their is only the inalienable right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness—or not.

Run from anyone who proclaims “the common good trumps individual rights,” for that is the person who seeks to violate your humanity, subordinate your concept of the good to his, and rule you by force. The truth of this is exposed later in the article:

Against this individualist approach, liberals focus on the common good and how policies impact vulnerable people.

Precisely. Liberals love the vulnerable, because they hate the invulnerable, whom they excommunicate from the “common.” To a liberal, the “common good” applies to anybody but the courageous, the competent, the rational, the independent, the strong of character. Liberals’ “focus” is to shackle and sacrifice such uncommon people. One does not have to, and morally should not, sacrifice the strong to protect the “vulnerable.” Those who do, cannot claim life as their motive.

Both Brittany Maynard, who was terminally ill, and Christina Symanski, who was not terminally ill, made brave, thoughtful, rational choices to end their lives [Symanski’s, sadly, without proper medical assistance, which cruelly was legally forbidden to her]. Their actions didn’t hurt anyone, “vulnerable” or not. They made decisions about their own lives and bodies. Their choices were based on introspective recognitions of the fact that their lives in any meaningful sense were essentially over. Their respective choices not to endure in a state of living death sprang from their love of life. Those who would legally deny them and the rest of us that choice are the ones who are “diabolical”; i.e., anti-life, and ignorant of “the goodness of existence.” Who has a right to deny anyone their rights based on a “common good” that they judged not to be good for them? There is no good in an existence stripped of the right to life, which means the right to live one’s own life by one’s own rational judgement—right up to the end. It is against brave, life-loving people like Maynard and Symanski that laws “protecting” the “vulnerable” are aimed.
A noble social system liberates the individual from the tyranny of the “common good” authoritarians. Camosy asserts that “In a youth-worshiping and capitalist culture, older people are pushed to the margins, understood as a drain or burden on their families and society.” But not everybody pushes older people to the margins. Capitalism, the system of individual rights, protects such people. Not everyone considers the elderly as a burden or drain. Capitalism protects such people. But if you yourself decide you are a burden on others, and don’t want to live as a helpless parasite, draining the time and resources of the friends and family you love and value, capitalism protects your right not to go on living that way. A government under capitalism protects the rights of the “vulnerable” and strong—the “common” and the uncommon—alike, sacrificing neither to the other, or to some fantasy labeled the “common good.”

Related Reading:

Denying Assisted Suicide Rights Based on Potential “Abuse” is Immoral

Thursday, February 19, 2015

New Jersey's Pilgrim Pipeline vs. Atlantic City Offshore Wind Farm: It Shouldn’t Be Either/Or

A December 27, 2014 letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger called for stopping a petroleum pipeline in favor of a wind project. Linda DeLap wrote:

Explosive and corrosive tar sands oil would be forced through a pipeline over land that provides drinking water for millions of people and then through densely populated communities. . . . Will rich investors profit? Instead of subsidizing extraction, transport, and refining of dirty tar sands oil, New Jersey should be investing in clean energy.

Fishermen’s Energy’s proposed off-shore wind farm, as reported Dec. 24 in The Star-Ledger, could revitalize Atlantic City and generate millions of dollars for New Jersey’s economy. Let’s support that project, not the Pilgrim Pipeline.

I left these comments:

First, let’s dispel the myth of “clean” wind energy. Wind energy requires massive mining, transportation, manufacturing, infrastructure construction, and maintenance operations—all of it dependent on fossil fuel equipment—and has horrific pollution consequences.

Second, notice the dishonest double-talk. The Pilgrim Pipeline will get no subsidies. In fact, it will be profitable, as Linda Delap readily acknowledges. The “investment” in the wind farm is really public subsidies financed by taxpayers and electric ratepayers. Real investment is what Pilgrim will do.

Finally, wind energy could never sustain us. We wouldn’t even have regular clean water. Very little clean water exists in nature. Most of it comes to us via massive water purification and delivery systems that depend on reliable energy sources—my private well included. Wind has intractable, major drawbacks; diluteness, intermittency, and lack of scalability; which means, it can not provide continuous base-load, variable, reliable on-demand energy. All so-called “clean, renewable” energy, even if it can be built profitably without subsidies, needs reliable “backup” from either fossil or nuclear. With or without wind farms, oil pipelines are still needed. Approve both the Pilgrim Pipeline and the Wind Farm with authentic private investments only, no subsidies.

Delap’s letter proves once again that “renewable energy” advocates are motivated by dogmatic opposition to fossil fuels, not any concern for the energy needs of human beings. We shouldn’t be suppressing any energy technology.

Related Reading:

In China, the true cost of Britain's clean, green wind power experiment: Pollution on a disastrous scale—SIMON PARRY in China and ED DOUGLAS in Scotland

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Toward a Less-Free Internet: The FCC’s New ‘Net Neutrality’ Regulations

The Federal Communications Commission recently announced new “net neutrality” rules, ostensibly to guarantee a “free and open internet.” But as the New York times reported, the new rules are “a strong hand to regulate the internet.” In reading FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s defense of his plan, one can uncover hidden threats to internet freedom.

For example, Wheeler claims his rules are “bright-line rules.” But that doesn’t jive with his claim that the plan gives the FCC regulatory powers that are “strong enough and flexible enough not only to deal with the realities of today, but also to establish ground rules for the as yet unimagined.” That sounds like arbitrary power to me. With that kind of ‘flexibility,” Wheeler’s assurances that there will be “no rate regulation” ring hollow. Under arbitrary, “flexible” government regulatory power—i.e., the power of legalized aggressive force—backroom armtwisting can easily be used to impose de facto price controls. And what does it mean to “ban paid prioritization’ (so-called “fast lanes”), if not price controls?

Similarly, the new rules would forbid Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from “blocking and throttling . . . lawful content and services.” But if the FCC has the power to force companies to carry content it may not want to carry, on what basis can anyone say that the FCC cannot itself order ISPs not to carry content the government disapproves of?

Recently, the New Jersey Star-Ledger defended the new FCC net neutrality rules, which would regulate the internet as a public utility “just like your gas, water and electric service.” The S-L called Wheeler’s decision “smart and righteous.”

“Under current law,” the S-L claims, “the internet was an unregulated ‘information service,’ subject to the whims of internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast. . .” Yet, private companies must ultimately heed, thoughtfully and with long-term planning, the demands of the market, not their own whims. If anyone is subject to whims, it is government regulators—to political whims.

I left these comments:

“Net neutrality” is more complex than catch phrases make it sound. I acknowledge I’m not an expert. But from what I’ve read and heard from both sides, this is what I’ve concluded:

Net neutrality is a government power grab to “fix” a problem that doesn’t exist. It’s a joke to say today’s internet styfles innovation. Every few months or so another internet billionaire bursts on the scene. Just look at the economic revolution the internet spawned in just two decades. The internet is a thriving coldren of websites freely competing for customers. New internet companies are constantly arising, seemingly out of nowhere, capturing vast markets, and challenging big incumbents. While some companies may be able to buy faster speeds, there are no “limp along” slow speeds, just less-fast speeds.

I remember when telephone service was tightly controlled by government. It was a time when you needed a second job to pay for long distance phone calls, and innovation was essentially absent for decades. It wasn’t until government stepped back, broke up the government-enforced AT&T monopoly, and largely deregulated the telephone market that innovation really took off. Do we want to regress the internet to the likes of the unholy government/AT&T monopoly alliance?

“Net neutrality” is really about putting government in charge of setting contract terms between ISPs and content providers. Government bureaucrats will have the back-door power to set content, and ultimately prices, and—like with any state regulatory apparatus—open the lobbying floodgates. This will favor big established companies who can afford big lobbyists, provide welfare for big businesses to get cheaper rates than they can by voluntary agreement, reduce the market power of consumers, violate the rights of ISPs to manage their networks—which they spent $billions building—according to market conditions, and threaten the First Amendment.

If you're really against monopoly, you should oppose Net Neutrality regulations. Private ISP “monopolies” are not a threat. They are market-driven. The government, with its law-making powers, has a monopoly on the legal use of physical force and compulsion. That’s the monopoly we should be concerned with. “Net neutrality” is anything but neutral. It would put government bureaucratic whim in charge. Do we really want a handful of government bureaucrats overriding the market, dictating content, setting prices, catering to the most powerful lobbyists and special interests, and picking winners and losers, rather than consumers? That’s what regulating the internet will mean. And giving this coercive monopoly power to government is advocated in the name of “internet freedom”! Somewhere, George Orwell is saying, “I told you so!”

For a counter-argument to net neutrality advocates, I recommend Net Neutrality vs. Internet Freedom and Net Neutrality: Toward a Stupid Internet.


The Star-Ledger likes to trumpet polls when they support its case, and pooh-pooh them when it doesn’t. In this case, the S-L noted the “4.5 million emails flooding Wheeler's inbox the last 12 months - proof that consumers can get their hackles up and lead a righteous fight” in support of its case. But in another recent editorial, the Star-Ledger lamented the fact that most people oppose a hike in the NJ gasoline tax because of its “refusal to face fiscal reality.” But the S-L called on legislators to hike the tax anyway, noting that public support is not needed for legislatures to exercise its taxing powers. “[L]et’s first give a nod to the Founding Fathers for keeping this kind of decision out of the hands of the public,” cheered the S-L.

Well, the public is certainly wrong on net neutrality. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers kept the power to dictate how private individuals and companies manage their property and contract with each other out of the hands of both the public and the government. Let’s hope that in the coming legal challenges to these net neutrality rules, the courts understand this.

Related Reading:

Related Viewing:

NET NEUTRALITY NEUTERS THE INTERNET—Interview with Steve Simpson, the Ayn Rand Institute’s director of legal studies.