Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, July 23, 2014
The Interlocking Web of Rights-violating Laws that Gave Rise to the Hobby Lobby Controversy
The Hobby Lobby SCOTUS ruling has the Left fearing a “slippery slope” that can upset a lot of statist laws forbidding individuals and businesses from acting on their convictions, as I noted here and here. In More Hobby Lobby Fallout, the New Jersey Star-Ledger observed:
When five male justices on the U.S. Supreme Court decided that any business owner with a religious qualm about birth control can refuse to cover it in the health plans of all his female employees, they assured us that this was a very limited ruling. It would apply to lady pills and unchaste women, only.
But in Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissent, she argued that in fact, this slippery slope is steep. And she was immediately proved right. On the very first day after the Hobby Lobby decision was handed down, religious leaders sent a letter to President Obama, doubling down on their right to discriminate not just against women, but against gay people, too.
The letter demanded that “religious groups . . . be excluded from [Obama’s] long-promised executive order that would bar discrimination against gay men and lesbians by companies that do government work.” The Star-Ledger went on to discuss:
Yes, “any business owner with a religious qualm about birth control [definitely has a right to] refuse to cover it in the health plans of all his female employees.” But the issue is much wider than religious rights. It encompasses a whole tangled constellation of rights-violating government policies, which lead to these conflicts. Here are the core rights-violating issues covered or implied in the Star-Ledger editorial:
ObamaCare: Yes, many Christians, especially Catholics, are hypocritical. They enthusiastically supported ObamaCare, with no consideration for those whose rights are violated by ObamaCare’s mandates and subsidies, which those others would be forced to obey and pay for through taxes. Now that these Christians’ face the religious rights-violating contraception mandate, they object. What about the rights of non-Christian people, or non-religious people, who object to or don’t need the myriad other ObamaCare mandates?—e.g., why should women be forced to pay for men’s prostate screening and cancer treatment? Don’t they have a right to be freed from them, and live by their own “deeply held convictions”?
“Public Funding”: And yes, these Christians love “public funding”—redistributionist government subsidies. But that funding is itself rights-violating, because funded by taxes coercively seized from taxpayers—many of whom are themselves Christians—who may disagree with the purpose of the taxes. What about their right to spend their own money as they judge best? But the taxes aren’t the only way in which government funding violates rights. The grants come with strings that may conflict with the recipient’s convictions or goals. To access the funding means to follow government dictates, despite the fact that the recipients are themselves taxpayers. The rights-violating source of government funding is followed by right-violating conditions set on the funds.
Insurance Mandates violate the rights of healthcare consumers to buy, and insurers to offer, policies tailored to the personal needs and values of individuals. Every individual, including business owners—not just people with “religious qualms”—should be free to opt out of these mandates.
The third-party-payer system was created through government intervention into the health insurance market by, primarily, discriminatory tax advantages for employer health coverage. Without that tax discrimination, we wouldn’t be talking about Hobby Lobby. Individuals would pay directly for, and own, their own health insurance policies, as they do with life, auto, and homeowners policies. That can be accomplished by equalizing tax policy for individuals by creating tax-free health savings accounts for every employee covered by an employer health plan, and giving the employee the option of depositing the money now spent by the employer for employee health coverage into the HRAs. Employees then can opt out of employer plans that don’t work for them, and buy mandate-free policies that meet their own personal needs from insurers competing for their individual business on the resulting robust individual market. Freed from employer control of their health insurance, women wouldn’t be threatened by a Hobby Lobby’s “religious qualms” over birth control.
Anti-discrimination laws levied against private individuals and their property. The right to live by one's own beliefs, even if those beliefs are irrational and immoral, is fundamental to liberty. So long as one’s actions do not violate the rights of others, as when Muslims stone women to death or force non-Muslims to convert to Islam, private individuals have a right to discriminate regarding who they associate and contract with. There is no “civil right” to force others to contract or associate with you. Without the right to disagree—which means the right to act on that disagreement—there is no liberty. That’s the meaning of the wisdom, attributed to Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it.” The Star-Ledger once defended, correctly, a Nazi’s right to free speech, without which there would be no right to free speech. The same principle applies to the right to freedom of contract and association—including a bigot’s right to freedom of contract and association, without which there are no such rights. Hobby Lobby's "discrimination" against women's reproductive rights may not be moral or rational, but such discrimination is the corporate owners' right.
When rights are properly understood and properly protected by government, there are no conflicts of rights. People can live by their own beliefs, whether faith-based or rational, so long as they don’t violate others rights. People who disagree can simply go their separate ways, but may not force their way of life on others.
But when conflicts like the Hobby Lobby case arises—which pits religious rights against a “right” to birth control—you will always find prior rights-violating laws below the surface. Eliminate the rights-violating laws, and the conflict evaporates.
Ginsburg is right that we’re on a “slippery slope,” but not in the way she means. And it didn’t start with Hobby Lobby. It started decades ago. It’s a slope littered with one rights violation piled onto another; a slope that leads to the end of all liberty and to rule by all-powerful government officials. What is exposed in the Hobby Lobby case is the inherent contradictions of the regulatory welfare state; that you can’t have basic inalienable rights to speech, conscience (religious or secular), contract, association, or property without protecting those rights for everyone, equally, at all times. These chickens are increasingly coming home to roost. When you start violating rights, which usually starts with well-meaning laws targeting irrationalists like religious bigots and Nazis, the rights violations spread ever-wider. Statism feeds on statism.
We face a basic choice going forward; continue on the path to ever-greater loss of individual rights, or reverse course toward a fully free society. By all means, let’s make the Hobby Lobby decision the beginning of a “slippery slope”—a counter-statist trend. Rather than exempt only religious objectors from the contraception mandate—which probably violates the Establishment Clause, anyway—let’s end all government insurance mandates, for everyone; end the third-party-payer health insurance system; repeal anti-discrimination laws aimed at the private sector; end government subsidies and the redistributionist taxes that support it. Protect rather than violate rights across the board, consistently and fairly, and SCOTUS cases like Hobby Lobby and other conflicts would not arise, and editorials like More Hobby Lobby Fallout would not get written.
More on the Left's Fear of a Hobby Lobby "Slippery Slope" to More Liberty
Labels: Constitution and Law, Discrimination, Health Insurance, Individual Rights, ObamaCare
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, July 22, 2014
Armstrong on Myths and Facts about a Rights-Respecting Immigration Policy
Armstrong answers these myths:
“A rights-respecting immigration policy permits criminals and terrorists to enter the country.”
“A rights-respecting immigration policy entails government provision of welfare to immigrants and permits them to squat on public or private lands.”
“A rights-respecting immigration policy requires government to grant citizenship to immigrants.”
“Support for a rights-respecting immigration policy entails support for any and all proposals claiming to offer immigrants ‘amnesty.’”
“A rights-respecting immigration policy requires open immigration during wartime emergencies, regardless of the context.”
Immigration and Individual Rights—Craig Biddle
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Monday, July 21, 2014
If Removing Cop Killer’s Memorial Violates Free Speech, What About Dem’s Amendment?
After Jersey City, NJ police officer Melvin Santiago was brutally shot and killed in the line of duty, his killer was himself shot and killed by fellow police officers. Shockingly, amidst a sea of grief and anger in the city, a memorial to the killer, Lawrence Campbell, was erected on a Jersey City sidewalk.
Public outrage followed, and an irate Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop ordered the memorial taken down, citing “public safety” concerns. The New Jersey Star-Ledger, while sympathizing with Fulop, called the Mayor’s action an infringement on First Amendment free speech rights:
No doubt most people in Jersey City will side with Fulop on removing the memorial. The line between a good guy and a bad guy is rarely so bright as the one separating Santiago from Campbell.
But removing the memorial is not the right response. The government has no business making itself the referee of the public dialogue, no matter how hideous the content.
Ask yourself this: Once the government starts regulating speech, where does it stop? Should memorials to any violent criminal be taken down? How about corrupt politicians? Or maybe even Muslims who worship at the wrong mosque?
You can begin to understand why the Founders drafted the First Amendment. And why we should honor it, even when it hurts.
In light of the Star-Ledger’s long-standing support for campaign spending limits, I left these here and here:
“The government has no business making itself the referee of the public dialogue, no matter how hideous the content.”
This is so true. A much bigger threat to the “public dialogue”—free speech—comes from Senate Democrats’ proposal, supported by Obama, to alter the First Amendment to allow Congress to control political speech by controlling political spending.
Money is property, and property is one’s means of implementing one’s values. Without property rights, no other rights are practicable. Try exercising your speech in the public square without spending money. The Federalist Papers would not have been possible without spending money. This editorial and related comments would not be possible without spending money.
If politicians ever got the constitutional power to control private citizens’ ability to spend their own money on their own speech, we will have tipped over into full tyranny. Politicians will be in the position to criminalize and silence their own critics, the very hallmark of statist systems like communism, theocracy, and fascism. And it will be the most effective voices—those groups and individuals in the best financial position to spread ideas, “be heard,” and foster public dialogue and debate—who will be the ones silenced. And to the extent these individuals and groups are prevented from advocating ideas other citizens agree with, to that extent will all of our free speech rights be abridged.
Politicians work for “the people,” not the other way around. Politicians should never be given the power to insulate themselves from their own constituents. “The government has no business making itself the referee of the public dialogue, no matter how hideous, [in their minds], the content.” Nor should they be allowed to restrict it.
"Amending our Constitution is not something any of us should take lightly, but the flood of special interest money in our American democracy is one of the glaring threats our system of government has ever faced," Reid said on the Senate floor. "Let's keep our elections from becoming speculative ventures for the wealthy."
Remember, Reid is talking about private American citizens spending their own money on their own speech, but who otherwise have no power to force their values on anyone. Compare them to politicians, who literally have the power of the gun; i.e., law-making power to force us to do, or refrain from doing, that which is proscribed or prescribed by the laws they pass. Considering the extent to which our government today tramples our rights under the regulatory welfare state, Reid’s ridiculous smearing of “the wealthy” as “one of the glaring threats our system of government has ever faced” is outrageous.
HuffPost reporter Paul Blumenthal wrote in April:
The amendment would roll back the 2010 Citizens United and 2014 McCutcheon rulings by re-instituting the power of Congress to pass legislation limiting campaign contributions and expenditures.
But Congress never had the power to limit expenditures, regardless of recent court decisions. The First Amendment states that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech. . .” No where does the constitution authorize such power. And remember, our government is one of enumerated powers. The fact that the constitution doesn’t authorize Congress to abridge free speech is our only chance to fight back against Congressional abridgement. It’s one thing to fight a law. It’s quite another to fight the constitution, which is why we’ve had a string of SCOTUS victories restoring free speech. If the constitution is amended granting Congress an enumerated power to abridge free speech at the politicians’ whims, free speech is over.
Are Media Corporations Next?
Labels: Campaign Finance Laws, First Amendment
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Saturday, July 19, 2014
"Net Neutrality" Really Means Government Control of the Internet
Recently, a federal court struck down an FCC attempt to impose so-called "net neutrality" rules on internet service providers (ISPs). Net neutrality is government-enforced law that forbids ISPs from "discriminating" in regard to internet content providers who use their networks, whether in regard to price of services, distribution of bandwidth (capacity) content providers can use, etc.
In response to the court ruling, the FCC last Spring proposed allowing ISPs to charge higher rates for faster service. This raised the ire of a host of companies, venture capitalists, "consumer advocates", and other net neutrality proponents. The FCC is expected to make a final decision after a period of public comment, which ends in September.
The New Jersey Star-Ledger presented the case for government-enforced "net neutrality". They wrote:
Unless somebody has an ethical transfusion, net neutrality could be demolished during another D.C. power grab tomorrow morning, when the Federal Communications Commission will hold an open meeting.
At issue is whether FCC chairman Tom Wheeler goes through with his plan to create a "fast lane" for the high-capacity content that you get from the likes of Netflix or YouTube, while everything else gets funneled into the sclerotic pathway filled with smaller websites that cannot afford the extortion demanded by Comcast, Road Runner or Verizon.
The Star-Ledger went so far as to call for full regulatory control of ISPs by turning them into the equivalent of phone companies. I left these comments:
"[Wheeler] seems reluctant to take the easy way out: The FCC can simply reclassify ISPs as common carriers and bring them under its regulatory control through Title II of the Communications Act."—Star-Ledger
This indicates what's really at stake in the net neutrality fight; increasing government control of the internet, via government bureaucrats' power to dictate how ISPs run their businesses—who they must contract with, how much they may charge, and ultimately what content they may provide.
ISPs invested $billions to build out their infrastructures. It is their business and their property that provides the service, and they have a right to manage their services according to their own judgement, including charging different rates for different qualities of service. The big companies that can afford the higher rates for faster service got big by building a large base of satisfied customers. It is, after all, consumers who ultimately decide who grows and who doesn't, who is profitable and who isn't. If a new company cannot afford the higher rates, then they must build their business through the "sclerotic pathway" until they achieve the kind of consumer base that will give them the revenue and profits to afford the higher rates. (Keep in mind that internet quality and speed is always improving thanks to investments in new technology, including by ISPs.)
I think the editors are the ones who need an ethical transfusion. Individual rights, including property and contract rights, should be the standard for law and government policy. "Net neutrality" rules violate rights and represent a government power-grab over the internet. A truly "free and open internet" requires that ISPs, internet content providers, and their consumers be left free to contract voluntarily with each other to mutual advantage, with government as enforcer, not dictator, of contracts. The government's job is to protect rights—equally and non-discriminatorily. It's government neutrality that we need.
For a more in-depth argument against government-enforced net neutrality, I recommend Net Neutrality: Toward a Stupid Internet.
Labels: Capitalism and Free Markets, Property Rights
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, July 17, 2014
What About Drivers Licensing?
In a fully free, laissez-faire capitalist society, should the government establish rules of the road, including licensing requirements for drivers?
In the current mixed economy, the government owns the roads, so it certainly must regulate their use. But I believe the government also must have a role in a fully free society where all roads are privately owned.
The government has a role, in my view, since a car is an instrument of deadly force that can victimize innocents. It is the responsibility of legal scholars and the philosophy of law to determine the best way to codify government's role in law, as it relates to its rights-protecting function.
Traffic laws, licensing, and vehicle registration and identification tags handled by government have been around for a long time. The question to ask is: Do these rules in and of themselves interfere in an individual's rights to life, liberty, property, or pursuit of happiness? Do they interfere in the individual's right to pursue his goals and values? I don't see how they have or can, so long as they are objective and easily attainable, as they generally have been.
Of course, licensing and vehicle registration could probably be handled by private organizations. But I think it is appropriate for government to have some legal mechanism for requiring drivers using publicly accessible roadways to be properly trained. Any nut case should not he legally allowed to use public roads—government or private—just as the mentally ill or people with a violent criminal history should not be allowed to own guns.
The same goes for driving. People certainly should have proper training before going out on the road where they endanger others' lives whom they share the road with. If government doesn't issue licenses, private insurers and road owners have a strong self-interest in ensuring safe driving. They could require some kind of accreditation, or provide it themselves. But here's the thing: The government has an interest in providing order on the roads. This means keeping unqualified individuals or people with a really bad driving record off of the roads.
Operational licensure should not be confused with occupational licensure. They are distinctly different. My conclusion is that, in a fully free society—given the government as the instrument of rights protection, the forcible nature of the transportation devices, and the public nature of the roads—the government should have the authority to use its law-making powers to maintain order on the roads and protect responsible people from reckless drivers.
Labels: Government Licensure
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, July 15, 2014
An Open Letter to Al Villani Concerning Solberg Airport in Readington, NJ
The eminent domain action against Solberg Airport continues to boil in Readington Township, New Jersey. A letter by Readington resident Al Villani supporting the action was published in the Hunterdon County News on July 7, 2014, and in the Hunterdon County Democrat on July 10, 2014.
Below is my reply to Villani’s letter, written as responses to selected quotes.
“Thor Solberg is on record, yet again, about his plans to expand the airport in a way that will change Readington forever. . . . I call this reverse eminent domain.”
Eminent domain is an aggressive state power. It is not a process available to private citizens. A private citizen who attempts to seize another person’s property by aggressive force is a criminal. In what way can an expansion by the Solbergs of their airport be called “reverse eminent domain?” Where is the aggression? The term “reverse eminent domain” is a perversion of language designed to make an indefensible position sound plausible, like the term “freedom is slavery” is used by the totalitarian state in Orwell’s 1984 to justify their tyranny. The victims of aggression are not the “thousands of Readington residents” Villani presumes to speak on behalf of. The victims are the Solbergs and the other thousands of Readington residents opposed to the eminent domain action but nonetheless forced to pay it through their taxes.
“This build-out is not remotely in keeping with the character of our lovely town. Every homeowner within several miles of the airport will experience a significant loss in value of their home. . . . [I]t’s imperative that we protect the interests of thousands of Readington residents from the interests of one family.”
The issue is not essentially about interests, but rights; specifically, the rights of individuals to pursue their interests—their values—so long as the individual’s actions don’t violate the same rights of others. America is about individual rights, not the rights of mob. Rights are held equally at all times by all people, and being one of a group of thousands does not make one more equal than anyone else, entitling one to have government favor his interests over others. Thor Solberg has a right to the peaceable—i.e., rights-respecting—use of his land and business, just like every other resident.
Individual rights are guarantees to freedom of action, not an automatic entitlement to guaranteed values. There is no right to a particular town character one considers “lovely.” There is no right to avoid “change,” “forever.” There is no right to a particular market value for one’s property. There is no right to stagnation. There is only the right to pursue values without coercive interference from others, in voluntary interaction with others. In a free society governed by the principles in the Declaration of Independence, the government is never a tool of special interests. Government’s purpose is “to secure these rights” of all to pursue their interests in a non-aggressive, non-physically coercive, right-respecting manner, and to objectively mediate disputes among citizens.
Personally, I don’t see how a larger Solberg Airport infringes anyone's rights, given the maturity of the aviation industry and its advanced standards of safety. That said, should Solberg pursue expansion, if anyone believes their actual rights are infringed by airport expansion—such as that their lives or property would face inordinate physical danger or disruption—the proper procedure is to voice their concerns in the airport approval process, or take their dispute to court where their differences can be settled under objective rules. That is how disputes are settled civilly: A mob taking up legalized arms against their neighbors to seize their land is the opposite of civil.
That aside, the fundamental issue is not airport expansion. It is eminent domain, the essential nature of which is to enable private citizens to engage in legalized criminality. Eminent domain is one of the cracks in the foundation of liberty our Founders erected. This is unfortunate, because eminent domain is fundamentally at odds with the theory of government implicit in the Declaration of Independence, the philosophic blueprint for the Revolution and the conscience of our constitution. That municipal governments have eminent domain power does not change it’s un-American and immoral nature. But having that power does not mean we can’t renounce its use. That would be the right thing to do.
Villani opens with a question: “Tired of hearing about the airport? Me, too! I wish the whole thing would just go away.” This letter might more accurately have opened with, “I’m tired of living among people with different goals, different values, and different interests. I wish they would just go away.” As a 36-year Readington resident, let me say unequivocally to Mr. Villani: If Readington residents want to get control of the Solberg’s land, let them raise money privately, and make an offer to buy the land in a voluntary contract with the Solberg owners. But, count me out of your eminent domain gang. You do not speak for me, and you shouldn't presume the right to do so.
Solberg Airport: Who Shapes "Community Character"?
Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle
Labels: Eminent Domain, Government, Individual Rights, Individualism vs. Collectivism
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, July 13, 2014
Rather Than Reverse Hobby Lobby Ruling, Protect Everyone’s Right to Freedom of Conscience
The Hobby Lobby case continues to generate controversy. With some in Congress hoping to reverse the Hobby Lobby ruling legislatively, a letter titled It’s Health Care appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger supporting such action. It said, in part:
I believe birth control is basic health care for women. . . . The Supreme Court’s ruling places this right in jeopardy, and creates a slippery slope whereby companies may deny other coverage or services to employees based on employers’ religious convictions.
I urge lawmakers to fix the damage done by the decision and restore birth control access and workers’ religious liberty.
I left these comments:
First of all, health care is not a right. A right is a guarantee to an individual’s freedom of action, not an entitlement to goods or services that others must be forced to provide. If you believe otherwise, you are effectively promoting a form of slavery. There is a right to pursue healthcare, such as abortifacients. There is no right to “access” someone else’s wallet to pay for birth control.
Second, Hobby Lobby and like companies that refuse to cover certain types of birth control are in no way imposing infringing workers’ religious liberty. These employers’ are only acting within the confines of their own lives—in this instance, their own businesses—without violating the same rights of others. That’s the essential nature of liberty. Employees are free to pursue birth control by other means. If religious employers were to advocate laws banning the birth control methods they disagree with, that would be denying employees (and all Americans) their religious freedom (which is more appropriately called freedom of conscience).
The “slippery slope whereby companies may deny other coverage or services to employees based on employers’ religious convictions” is exactly backwards. In fact, the government’s increasing control of healthcare is the slippery slope we should all be concerned with: It’s a slope that leads to full tyranny.
Rather than “urge lawmakers to fix the damage” by killing religious employers’ right to act according to their religious convictions, we should recognize all employers’ and employees’ rights to act on their convictions, whether religious or non-religious. A good place to start is by eliminating all insurance mandates and extending employer tax benefits to individuals through Health Savings Accounts so they can buy affordable policies tailored to their own needs by contracting directly with willing insurers.
Conflicts like Hobby Lobby vs. its employees could be eliminated by eliminating the third-party-payer system, which artificially puts employers in a commanding position. Switching ownership of health insurance to individual employees, which is the case for other types of insurance like life, homeowners, and auto insurance, would put employees in a position to act on their own convictions in regard to their coverage. This is the moral course, which would protect everyone’s rights, and violate no one’s. Who but those who think the world owes them a living would object to that?
The Only Obamacare Fix Is For Obama To Legalize Real Health Insurance—Paul Hsieh
Labels: Health Insurance, Healthcare, Individual Rights