About Me

Name:
Mike LaFerrara

Location:
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. I have two daughters and two sons-in-law. The goal and purpose of my blog is the discussion of current or historical human events based from 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
-ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
-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
-MARIA MONTESSORI: HER LIFE AND WORK-E.M. Standing
- MORAL MINORITY Brooke Allen
-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 CAPITALIST MANIFESTO Andrew Bernstein
-THE FINANCIAL CRISIS AND THE FREE MARKET CURE John A. Allison
-THE FOUNTAINHEAD Ayn Rand
-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
Friday, August 1, 2014
Don Watkins on Paul Ryan’s Welfare State Reforms

In a blog post exploring House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s welfare state reform plan, the Ayn Rand Institute’s Don Watkins takes aim at a common fallacy; that being against the welfare state automatically means being against any organized means of assisting people who need help in life. Watkins writes:  

It is misleading at best to suggest that opponents of the welfare state oppose a “safety net,” if that means they oppose mechanisms and institutions for helping “those who can’t help themselves and for those who just need a helping hand.”

. . . The real question is not whether we should have a “safety net” or not. The question is whether we should have a coercive welfare state. What I find offensive about Ryan’s (and by extension [James] Pethokoukis’s) whole approach is that it doesn’t regard the rights and well-being of those forced to pay for the welfare state as worthy of much, if any, consideration. Instead, it starts by observing that some people are in need and jumps immediately to the question of what welfare state programs would most help them.

But that’s immoral. Just because there are people out there suffering and Ryan wants to help them doesn’t give him the right to concoct schemes that treat you and me and everyone who pays his own way as a means to Ryan’s supposedly noble ends. What about my goals and priorities? What about my right to pursue happiness? What about yours?

Watkins is the author of the just-published book, Rooseveltcare: How Social Security is Sabotaging the Land of Self-Reliance.


Related Reading:

A "Liberal" Newspaper Acknowledges the Welfare State Dilemma

What is Objectivism?—Craig Biddle


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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, July 31, 2014
Loren Clark-Moe Should Demand that Government Stop Restricting Women’s Reproductive Financing Choices
Loren Clark-Moe, a former analyst at the Department of Homeland Security, complained recently in a Washington Post op-ed that her former employer’s health insurance didn’t cover a $480.00 abortion she had while employed there, because the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is legally barred by Congress from covering abortions except in the case of rape or incest.


Citing “increasing attempts across the United States to limit women’s access to reproductive health care,” including the U.S. Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling, Clark-Moe railed against “special laws that restricted my reproductive choices.”


But exactly how are women’s reproductive choices restricted if their employers, whether government or private, don’t cover abortions? Their choices—i.e., their reproductive rights—are not restricted, of course. There is no right to “choose” to make others pay for one’s reproductive choices. An employee is free to pay out-of-pocket for uncovered procedures, as Clark-Moe did with her abortion.


Having said that, Clark-Moe is right that laws restrict her choices, but not in the sense she means. The question to ask is: How in the world did employers come to have so much control over employees’ health insurance to begin with? The answer is simple; government interference into the health insurance market, without which the whole issue surrounding the Hobby Lobby case would be moot.


The government interferes in health insurance in numerous ways. Employer-based, or third-party-payer, health insurance is one consequence of this interference that directly impacts the issue Clark-Moe raises. Decades ago, the government tied health insurance to employment through discriminatory tax policies that favor employer-provided over individually owned insurance, in effect giving employers inordinate control over employees’ health insurance—and restricting women’s reproductive financing choices.


So ingrained is third-party-payer that most Americans take it as axiomatic that someone else must provide health insurance. We then ressent and complain when something we expect not to have to pay for isn’t covered. So, like Clark-Moe, we target our resentment at the employer. But, rather than direct her ire at employers, her beef should be with the government.


Actually, the government restricts our health insurance choices in two major ways; employer-based health insurance, also known as third-party-payer, and benefit mandates.


Eliminating the tax discrimination favoring employer-based insurance by extending equal tax treatment to individuals would incentivize employers to establish tax-free individual employee health savings accounts (HSAs), funded by money the employer now spends on company health coverage—an incentive most employers would probably welcome. (Remember that employer health insurance is part of the employee’s compensation, which makes the money the employer spends the employee’s. HSAs simply gives employees control over their own money.)


Through HSAs, our ability to own and control our own health insurance could be restored. A similar phenomenon occurred when Congress expanded individuals’ pre-tax retirement options like Individual Retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401ks. Employers began phasing out defined-benefit pensions controlled by employers, and began contributions to the individual accounts owned and controlled (to the extent the law allows) by employees.


Absent discriminatory tax policies, Clark-Moe and Hobby Lobby’s employees would own their health insurance, as they do their life, homeowners, and auto insurance, and be free to purchase abortifacient coverage without worrying about Supreme Court rulings or Congressional political maneuverings. (Of course, an employer may still choose to offer company group plans. But such plans would likely go the way of the defined-benefit pension. What employer really wants to have the responsibility of managing employees’ health insurance.) HSAs would also solve a serious, related third-party-payer problem—pre-existing conditions.


Third-party-payer is not the only problem with health insurance; e.g., benefit mandates force us to buy coverage we may not need, want, or can afford, and drive up insurance premiums. This, too, restricts our health insurance choices. (For an in-depth examination of the problems caused by government interference in the health insurance market, and some moral, rights-respecting, free-market solutions, see Paul Hsieh’s call to Legalize Real Health Insurance in Forbes.)


Employers that provide health insurance have a right to decide what health expenses to cover. But, rather than violate employers’ rights, we should demand that government stop restricting our individual health insurance choices. We should demand that legislators enact whatever tax law and other legal changes are required to eliminate government-instigated third-party-payer insurance, eliminate all insurance mandates, and put healthcare consumers in charge of their own insurance. These simple reforms would protect employer and employee rights alike, start America on the road to free market health insurance, and make Hobby Lobby-like conflicts between employers and employees wholly unnecessary.


Related:


SCOTUS Hobby Lobby Decision Skirts the Fundamental Issue


The Healthcare Alternative: Government Planning vs. Individual Planning


Government Intervention, not the Health Insurance Industry," "Ruined the System"

Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care”—Paul Hsieh

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, July 29, 2014
Call for "Carbon Fee" is a Call for a Tax on Human Well-Being
A recent NJ Star-Ledger letter, Carbon fee should be enacted to fight climate change by Tony Giordano, opens with this paragraph:


    Recent extreme weather events represent a telling example of how the use of carbon-based fuels (e.g. oil, natural gas, coal) that release greenhouse gases create adverse impacts for millions of people. Climate change, rising seas and increasing illness are examples of social costs because they are paid by society overall, not by producers of carbon fuels.


The writer goes on to say that the energy companies are getting "a free ride" because of the alleged "costs" that they impose on society. This is an "unfair" state of affairs, because, in "a free market," "all costs should be paid by the businesses generating them." The solution, then, is for "Policymakers [to] enact . . . a carbon fee [tax] . . . now, with a dividend returning the revenue to consumers."

I left these comments:

"Recent extreme weather events represent a telling example of how the use of carbon-based fuels (e.g. oil, natural gas, coal) that release greenhouse gases create adverse impacts for millions of people."

This is an arbitrary assertion with no connection to reality.


When has there ever NOT been extreme weather? The only difference is that today, human beings can cope with, rather than be at the mercy of, extremes because of the clean, affordable, reliable, and abundant industrial scale energy provided primarily by fossil fuels, and to a lesser extent nuclear and hydroelectric. If you're going to talk about "unpaid" costs—negative externalities—then you'll have to include unrequited benefits—positive externalities—which far exceed the "adverse impacts" of minor increases in co2 levels—if you can call co2, without which life as we know could not exist, "adverse."

Since the adoption of fossil fuel use, our environment has gotten cleaner, safer, and much more livable than it ever was. And as a consequence, the length and quality of our lives has soared to unprecedented heights. At the same time, climate-related deaths in industrialized countries have fallen 98%. A carbon tax is a tax on human well-being, a handout to greedy consumers, and another corporate welfare scheme for so-called "clean energy" producers, who will never be competitive and never, by the nature of wind and solar, be able to provide reliable, cheap, plentiful industrial-scale energy. If the "clean energy" industry is capable of being competitive on price and reliability, then let them prove it [in] a truly free market—that is, free of subsidies and unfair tax burdens on fossil fuel companies and their customers.

Typically, statists cherry-pick "externalities"—secondary effects of economic activity—to suit their own purposes, and ignore the rest. In fact, it is impossible to accurately measure "externality" effects as they relate to individual human beings. For example, I heat with oil. Considering the misery of getting through the brutally cold 2013-14 Northeast U.S. winter without central heat, I would say my wife and I were far better off with than without the oil. In a winter that often featured temperatures well below zero F., the value of that oil far exceeded the cost of a few dollars a gallon price—an excess value for which the fossil fuel companies weren't paid. The value to us of having a warm home far exceeded the cost, in terms of extra oil, of living through a possibly climate change-induced extreme cold (just to accept Giordano's premise for the sake of an argument). So in the context of the externalities argument, social benefit for us far exceeded the social cost of fossil fuels. (For a rational and balanced investigation into the issue of "externalities," I recommend Chapter 4 of Brian P. Simpson's book Markets Don't Fail.)

Giordano falls back on the old collectivist substitute for actual reality, "society," as if we are all one organic entity—apart from fossil fuel energy producers, who apparently don't rate as part of society—with no individuality. But, clearly, as a part of "society," we enjoy a large net gain, rather a loss, thanks to fossil fuels. So how do we rate a subsidy from the fossil fuel companies? Furthermore, how do you even put a dollar value on the value we gained, vs. the cost of not having, the oil? Would we have been better off having frozen to death in exchange for the oceans not rising an extra inch or two over the past century?

But, in fact, even accepting Giordano's "cost to society" argument, the consumers who buy fossil fuel energy—whether to power their cars, clean water, heat, electricity, lighting, or whatever—are not victims of that cost; they are contributors. "It takes two to tango," as the idiom goes. Consumers voluntarily purchase and benefit from fossil fuel energy. Therefor, consumers should be considered part of the "problem," not victims who should be compensated for alleged costs imposed on them (which, in any event, would be funded by them through higher prices).

Giordano's whole premise is bogus. In a free market, division of labor, money exchange economy, there is no way of calculating the dollar value of "externalities." Any attempt to impose financial "solutions" to externalities only creates victims  and freeloaders, and empowers government to violate individual rights. In fact, externalities are irrelevant. The only just and rational way to balance costs and benefits is through the pricing mechanism of the free market; the "free" signifying the cumulative voluntary choices of free individuals trading for mutual benefit and self-interest. Anyone who demands government action to override the market is merely trying to impose his choices over the choices of others.

Related Reading:

"Market Failure" to Blame for Invasion of the Polar Vortex?

Markets Don't Fail—Brian P. Simpson

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Monday, July 28, 2014
TOS's Daniel Wahl on "Misrepresenting Ayn Rand's Views"

Jason Brennan Joins the Brigade of People Misrepresenting Ayn Rand’s Views

by Daniel Wahl

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, July 27, 2014
Now, as Then, Immigrants are Individuals With Inalienable Rights
In a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter published July 25, 2014, Diane B. Barry argued that US immigration today cannot be compared to the past. Responding to a Star-Ledger column by Tom Moran, Barry wrote:


In 1886, America needed immigrants. In 2014, the situation has changed.


. . . Absorbing 55,000 children, adults, pregnant women and teens today presents a financial burden and potential health crisis. Who will pay for the education, food, clothing, medical care and judicial hearings Moran says these people are “entitled” to?


I left these comments:


“In 1886, America needed immigrants. In 2014, the situation has changed.”


Translation: America is a tribal collective that decides which individuals are “needed” and which are not.


Nothing could be further from the truth. America is just the opposite; a country of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government in which the value and sovereignty of the individual is the ruling principle. Immigrants came to America in the 19th Century because they had a right to come and make a life for themselves in freedom, not to be fodder for other people’s purposes. The same is true today.


However, today as then, Americans should not be taxed to support immigrants, violating American taxpayers’ rights to use their own money as they judge best. Any immigrant who is not self-supporting, or who does not have a U.S sponsor willing to voluntarily take them in at his or her own expense, should be deported [or not allowed in]. Otherwise, in the absence of a threat to Americans’ rights and safety—such as a violent criminal history, infectious disease or similar health risk, or national security risk—the Land of Liberty has a moral obligation to let immigrants stay and make a life for themselves and their families.


As to today’s child immigrant crisis, some 90% of the children have relatives or family friends already living in the U.S. who were willing to and have taken them in. It is also important to keep in mind that most of these children are trying to escape drug-related gang violence, which America is indirectly responsible for. The emergence and growth of these Latin American gangs is fueled by drug prohibition in the U.S., just as America’s alcohol prohibition in the 1920s fueled domestic organized crime.


Slamming the door on legitimate immigration—i.e., rights-respecting, self-supporting individuals, whatever their numbers—is immoral and un-American.


Related Reading:


Immigration is Both Moral and Practical


Mass Illegal Immigration of Central American Children: A U.S.-Created Crisis—Ari Armstrong

Immigration and Individual Rights—Craig Biddle

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Saturday, July 26, 2014
Craig Biddle on Israel vs. Hamas

Why You and I and Everyone Should Support Israel Against the Barbarians

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Friday, July 25, 2014
A Constitutional Amendment to "Limit" Campaign Spending Would Neuter the First Amendment
One of the most dangerous ideas to come along relating to the campaign finance issue is the call for a constitutional amendment limiting and regulating political expenditures.

In a New Jersey Star-Ledger letter (Disclose donors), Meg Kimberland asserts that "outside money" (private campaign spending) is "distort[ing] our democracy" and asks, “Who is driving democracy?” She concludes:

We need stronger disclosure laws at the state level and a federal constitutional amendment stating that governments have the right and the responsibility to regulate campaign finance. Otherwise, the answer to the question is, “Only those with the big bucks get to drive.”

Kimberland's is not an isolated voice. President Obama himself has called for such an amendment. In the heat of the 2012 presidential race, Obama said the unrestricted flow of money into campaigns "fundamentally threaten[s] to overwhelm the political process over the long run," to which I responded in The Objective Standard, "Translation, 'We politicians don’t like answering to our constituents, so we would love to insulate ourselves from the voices of the citizens we represent.'"

I left these comments to Kimberland's letter:

Meg Kimberland's "federal constitutional amendment stating that governments have the right and the responsibility to regulate campaign finance" is a proposal to invert America's concept of government of, for, and by the people. Such an amendment would essentially give the politicians the power to insulate themselves from the people, and stifle or silence dissent.

People who want to stop "big bucks" from "driving democracy" will not get to be the driver. They will simply put the politicians in the drivers seat. The idea that "outside money"—meaning, private expenditures outside the control of the politicians—should be banned is an egregious and dangerous offense to the concept of a constitutional republic based on individual rights, especially free speech rights. "Moneyed interests" are not a threat, since they are merely individuals voluntarily spending their own money advocating for their own ideas and candidates. We should fear the political class controlling what private citizens can spend on their own advocacy.

It's bad enough that campaign finance laws even exist. But a constitutional amendment institutionalizing the power to regulate private campaign spending would nullify the whole purpose of a constitution, which is to define and delimit the power of the government to interfere in private lives. The purpose of the constitution is to protect the people from the politicians, not the other way around. Such a constitutional amendment would hamper challengers to incumbents, and instill fear of reprisals based on trumped-up campaign finance "violations." It is a proposal for state supremacy.

It is not just how much can be spent, but how it is spend that politicians will get the power to control. As Steve Simpson points out in his article on Dave Brat's victory over Eric Cantor:

    [C]ampaign finance laws will destroy freedom of speech if we let them. There are many ways to see this point. One is to pay attention to what supporters of the laws actually say [addressed earlier in the article]. Another is to look at how the laws operate in practice. I give examples of both in my Breitbart op-ed, but here’s another. According to news reports, while Brat didn’t raise much money, he did get a lot of help from key conservatives like Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, and from many groups who supported him on talk radio, Facebook, and Twitter. All of this support could be limited under campaign finance laws, because it is all valuable to candidates. And the proposed constitutional amendment the Judiciary Committee considered last week makes clear that it would cover such “in-kind” contributions and expenditures as well as cash outlays.
    That’s standard for campaign finance laws. They have to apply to anything of value that a person might give to a candidate or spend on his behalf, because if they were limited to cash, people could evade them by contributing goods or services instead. And such laws have to apply to all forms of speech, because any form can be used to benefit a candidate or get him elected. That’s why the law in Citizens United applied to a film and why the government’s lawyer admitted during oral argument it would apply to books as well. Applied logically, the laws would have to extend to the media as well.


Simpson also points out that politicians in power will always seek to limit "excessive" campaign spending of their ideological opponents, and give a pass to supporters. 

The power to limit equals the power to decide how much, how, and whom to limit. The First Amendment would be neutered.


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