Saturday, December 27, 2008

Preschool, Crime, and Public Education

The intellectual package-deal is a means of sneaking in the acceptance of an agenda or idea that would not be accepted if offered openly, under cover of some legitimate issue that few would have any reason to argue with. For example, a liberal would say that if you oppose SCHIP you don’t care about childrens’ health, or if you oppose environmentalism you favor “polluters” over clean air and rivers. Or a conservative would say that if you oppose government restrictions on media content you favor pornography over “family values”, or you are pro-abortion if you oppose a legal ban on that procedure. Smuggled in via these examples are the undermining of property rights, the first amendment, and government’s proper role of protecting man’s individual rights. The “cover” is adequate healthcare for children, cleaner methods of industrialization (which is not the goal of environmentalism), shielding minors from age-inappropriate information, or the protection of human life (which is not the goal of the “pro-life” movement). The result of the efforts of the practitioners’ “cover issue” advocacy is expanded government control and consequent erosion of individual rights.

In other words, the means are inextricably linked to the ends. The desired results, which are presented in a generalized, out-of-context way that few people would disagree about, leave people to accept a stealth premise without debate. Unless, of course, one were to break apart the package deal to expose its fundamental essences.

It is through such a package-dealing process, which the Left is particularly adept at, that statism is advancing, and freedom is eroding, in America. The art of the package-deal is what Fran Wood is counting on to pave the way for the continuing intrusion of the public school monopoly into the private preschool market. I wrote about this “hostile preschool takeover” in a 2007 post. Here, Wood cites a very dubious study, to put it mildly. In her recent N.J. Star-Ledger article entitled Funding Pre-K and Fighting Crime, she writes;

“Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a national nonprofit anti-crime organization, unveiled a report touting the results of several studies contrasting violence and crime among children who were enrolled in early childhood education programs vs. those who were not.

“Data released in 2004, according to Fight Crime; Invest in Kids vice president Jeff Kirsch, showed that 23 years later, those who had no preschool program were five times more likely to be criminal offenders.

“By age 40, according to the report, those not enrolled in the program were "more than twice as likely to become career offenders (with more than 10 arrests) and twice as likely to be arrested for violent crimes.

“They also were more likely to abuse illegal drugs, four times more likely to be arrested for drug felonies and seven times more likely to be arrested for possession of dangerous drugs.”

Does the old saying about “lies, damned lies, and statistics” come to mind? “Right! It’s like preschool is the only variable”, to paraphrase my daughter Christine’s remark to me. This litany of statistics “that will get your attention” goes on. When you read the article, though, it becomes obvious what issues Ms. Wood doesn’t consider important enough to mention. The basic premise here is that if you reject the means…government-run preschool…you are against the desirable ends…early childhood education and “fighting crime”. After all, who doesn’t want properly educated children and a low crime rate? The fog of the package-deal smothers real issues involved here.

I left the following rebuttal to her article:

Posted by Zemack on 12/12/08 at 4:32PM

The implication here is if you don't submit to a hostile government takeover of pre-schooling, you are pro-crime. This is a classic statist intellectual package-deal. Pre-school is not the issue here. Expanded government power over education, and the consequent violation of individual rights, is the issue.

Whose educational philosophy will be imposed on the parents and children? Will children be trained to subordinate their own judgement to the arbitrary will of some authority, whether the teacher or the class as a group? Or will they be encouraged to think independently? Will they be coerced into "sharing" their learning experiences with any other child who wants to nose in on their current activity? Or will they be allowed the freedom to concentrate their attention on the task at hand without interruption, thus discovering the principle of respect for the rights of others?

Will the government-run pre-schools be used as an indoctrination tool for the purpose of bringing about "social change", as the father of modern "progressive" education advocated...the self-described socialist John Dewey? Or will the pre-schools be an environment where children can develop their individual cognitive mental skills consistent with each child's unique developmental timetable, with the ultimate goal being intellectual independence, as advocated my Maria Montessori? Will children "learn" through rote memorization (i.e., Give them a fish.), or will they learn to use their conceptual, abstract faculty in order to hierarchize and integrate their acquired knowledge according to essential principles (Teach them to fish.)?

What is meant by "public dollars"? There is no such thing. The "Public" dollars of which Ms. Wood refers are the earnings of private citizens taken by force of taxation, to be used by politically powerful groups for purposes that the earners may oppose such as the ongoing hostile pre-school takeover by the coercive government education monopoly. To push public pre-school funded by money confiscated by force from unwilling taxpayers...including those parents taking responsibility for their own children's pre-school...under the pretense of preventing crime is a monumental conceptual evasion. At least street thugs are honest enough not to claim that they are robbing their victims for their own good, or for the good of "society".

Why is it "investment" when politicians spend other peoples' money, but not when spent by those who earned it? Why is it just to force parents to pay for the education of other peoples' children in accordance with someone else's agenda?

Rather than expand the government school monopoly, the pre-school market should be left free. Rather than having their earnings confiscated through taxation, parents should be able to claim a direct credit against their existing school taxes so that they can use their own money for their own child's pre-school education. That some parents would renege on their responsibilities is no reason to violate the rights of all other parents. To sacrifice the responsible parents to the irresponsible is a moral crime. Aiding responsible, but poor, parents is certainly a worthy undertaking, and I commend anyone who chooses to step up in that regard. But charity is a private, voluntary matter, engaged in by people of good will. Good will ends where physical coercion begins. Show me someone who strives to practice charity with other peoples' tax money, and I'll show you a phony.

This much Ms. Wood and I agree on. I believe that the first few years of any child's life is a critical time for mental development. Consequently, pre-school should be a cornerstone of that period. Because learning how to think, the essence of early childhood education, is exclusively a private undertaking, it is a time when the privacy needs of the child must be stringently respected. So the right pre-school, governed by the right philosophy, is critical here. I favor the "concentrated attention" method of Maria Montessori, which focuses on the development of the child's proper method of mental functioning, the conceptual faculty. Homeschooling, which at this age level is well within the means and capabilities of any motivated parent, is far preferable to an inferior pre-school, which can do more harm than good. The responsibility for these decisions rests with the parents.

The public schools should stay out of the pre-school area of education. But if it is going to offer pre-school, it must be offered strictly on a voluntary full tuition basis only. Their should be no taxpayer "public dollars"...whatsoever. Forcing already over-taxed parents (or anyone else) to foot the pre-school expenses of other parents is immoral. Forcing anyone to support educational ideas with which one disagrees is contrary to the principles of a free society. The educational needs of the child are fundamentally the responsibility of the parents who brought that child into the world. A free pre-school market protects the rights of all parents to fulfill their obligations according to their own rational judgement. Pre-school is too important to be placed under state control

Ms. Wood concludes that “Here in New Jersey, there has been an abundance of public resentment at spending tax dollars on such programs. But without public programs, pre-K education simply won't happen for most low-income children.” There are no low-income parents, it seems, who care enough about their children to homeschool, or pool resources with other parents to form neighborhood preschools or to hire private tutors, or to try to earn a few extra bucks for their children’s preschool. Maybe some simply don’t believe in preschool, or simply don’t care.

No matter. The very same over-funded urban public schools that are currently failing will miraculously excel at pre-K, somehow.

There are, of course, alternatives to a state takeover of preschool. Florida has a donation tax credit, and New Jersey has a similar law pending, which Ms. Wood wrote negatively about. My own proposal for transitioning to a free education market includes the same thing on a larger scale. If Ms. Wood wants to really help poor children obtain preschool education, a laudable goal, she should stop doing the bidding for the government school monopoly and, instead, get it out of the way before it completely crushes the private market (which is already happening). Education tax credits…the wave of the future…is the moral and practical way to advance the pre-school cause.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mandatory Health Insurance...A Violation of Religious Freedom

Dr. Paul Hsieh, co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM), reports on his post of 12/19/08 about the innovative approach to health care pursued by the Alliance of Health Care Sharing Ministries

Writes Dr. Hsieh:

I fully support the right of organizations such as AHCSM to engage in such charitable mutual aid, free from the onerous restrictions that the government places on insurance companies. And although the AHCSM bases its policies on Christian Biblical principles, in a free society any group of people (religious or non-religious) could band together to create a similar system of voluntary mutual aid.

I therefore commend the AHCSM for showing that it is possible to create a real-life positive alternative to traditional insurance that many Americans would gladly support and benefit from.

The AHCSM has also correctly taken a strong position against government-mandated health insurance.

That strong position is based, properly, on individual rights. Although the term "individuals rights" is not specifically mentioned in these excerpts, it is implicit in this AHCSM policy briefing reported by Dr. Hsieh:

Mandatory Insurance Infringes on Religious Liberty. Members of HSCMs are presently in charge of the decisions regarding their own health care and able to refrain from supporting practices contrary to their moral convictions. Mandatory insurance, on the other hand, would legally require the purchase of insurance policies that force citizens to give financial support to treatments that violate their convictions.

Encouragingly, several states have passed laws "exempting health care sharing ministries from the insurance code, making it [Florida] the eleventh state to do so", according to AHCSM's website. This may be a significant crack in the seeming inevitability of socialized medicine. If these organizations can be exempted, why not all similar ones...and all individuals.

That is exactly what AHCSM demands. The aforementioned policy statement demands:

THE SOLUTION: Do not mandate the purchase of health insurance. Instead, give increased liberty to all consumers and allow them to control their health care dollars. In HCSMs this approach has resulted in greater individual control of health care spending and improved quality of care... (Emphasis added.)

The AHCSM seems to understand the deeper significance of its fight for its own members' rights. No one's rights are safe unless everyone's rights are secured. By fighting for its own rights, it is fighting for everyone's rights...and vice versa.

The only way to stop the "Universal Health Care" juggernaut is to fight on the moral ground of individual rights.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Learning Experience", or Anti-Americanism?

Western culture has been under attack for about 200 years, or from shortly after America’s founding. That attack is in large part rooted in collectivism, the antipode of the principle of individualism that forms the foundation of the Enlightenment ideas that gave rise to our nation. Collectivism holds that the group…any group, whether society, the race, the nation, the family…is the standard of value, to which its individual members are merely subordinate. Individualism holds that each person is an autonomous entity, possessing the power of reason and volition, as well as the power to determine the course of his own life and, thus, is the ultimate standard of value.

Peter Schwartz, in his essay Multicultural Nihilism, describes one such threat:

“The characteristics by which they (multiculturalists) group people-e.g., race, language, ancestry-are ones that can be important only to the crudest, most primitive, tribal mentality. To any rational individual, these characteristics are insignificant-which, again, is exactly why they are selected.

The multiculturalist designates the unchosen as the core of your identity. Concomitantly, he belittles that which actually shapes your character and values: the volitional-which means, fundamentally: your faculty of thinking. Individual thought is a myth… Your ideas are simply part of your unchosen ethnic makeup.” Return of the Primitive(, page 256-257)

Keep the above in mind, when you read this article by Ana M. Alaya of the Star-Ledger. Commenting on a supposedly uplifting fact, she writes;

“With no racial group claiming a majority, Rutgers-Newark once again has been dubbed by U.S. News & World Report as the most diverse campus in the country.”

An institution of higher learning is supposed to be preparing young men and women for a productive career, which means to become self-sufficient and independent. Why, then, is it important at all whether or not the particular characteristics which one shares with a certain number of others, but which one has no control over, places him in a group that cannot “claim a majority”? No answer is given.

Now don’t get me wrong. Diversity, in regards to such things as foods, recreation and even dress, can be a rewarding thing. My wife and I enjoy a variety of ethnic foods. But what is one to make of the following?

“When an Indian student brought her new husband to Sherri-Ann Butterfield's sociology class at Rutgers-Newark, their arranged marriage became the lesson of the day.

‘It was a powerful moment,’ Butterfield said -- the kind of ‘unscripted’ moment she hopes other faculty members will embrace on a campus where the students come from 81 countries and those born in the United States are largely from minority and immigrant households.”

We are not to question the practice of parents imposing on children their choice with regards to so fundamentally important a decision as the choice of a spouse…a decision that has life-long significance. We are not to proudly uphold Western culture for casting off this hideous, primitive custom. According to multiculturalism, that would be “intolerant”. The values of one culture are just as good as the next. What multiculturalism attacks is value and moral judgements, as such. Yet, making judgements as to right and wrong is a fundamental requirement of man’s life. Without judgements as to the value of specific cultural practices, no advancement in the human condition would ever have been possible.

Yet multiculturalism itself is a judgement…on Western Culture. What is the great achievement represented by Western Culture…and, specifically, the United States of America? The primacy of the individual. By elevating group identity into primary significance, multiculturalism denies that principle and, thus, Western Culture and, consequently, America. It establishes primitive tribalism (collectivism)…specifically, racism…as the supreme standard of value. Far from being all-inclusive, multiculturalism…or “diversity”…is a declaration that all cultures are to be tolerated…except American culture. That is because America, and Western Civilization, represents the fundamental negation of precisely that which the multiculturalists are seeking to establish…the primacy of the tribe. The multicultural attack on America is just another manifestation of the age-old battle between individualism and collectivism.

America represents individualism. Multiculturalism represents collectivism. The two are mutually exclusive. Multiculturalism is the repudiation of America.

Undoubtedly, many Rutgers personnel, and students, miss the sinister purpose behind multiculturalism. This may be both good and bad. Many of the students may enjoy the camaraderie of meeting people with interesting new customs and heritages, and see it as an educational experience. But the insidious message is there, just under the surface. Don’t judge people as individuals, but by insignificant similarities attributed to the group…the culture…to which he “belongs”. Don’t make value or moral distinctions between different cultural groups. Forcing a marriage on one’s children is just as valid as preparing one’s child to make his own informed choice in marriage based upon his own values.

Rutgers itself seems to be confused. Chancellor Steven Diner said, "This is an extraordinary learning tool if faculty know how to use it”. How a teacher seeking to educate his students…a uniquely individual undertaking for the student, since no one can do the thinking for him…within the context of a tribal premise makes it understandable that the teachers wouldn’t “know how to use it”.

Sociology teacher Sherri-Ann Butterfield also wonders where to go from here. "But we haven't figured out, once we get diverse, what to do. How do you go from a representational diversity to a transformational diversity?" That a question like that could even be asked by a professor on an American college campus demonstrates the corruptive nature of multicultural ideology. The proper question to ask is: Why is racial “diversity” desirable to begin with?

The results of Rutger’s diversity goals seem to be having the logical effect on campus.

“Jonathan Blandino, a junior who heads a student Hispanic organization, still sees a problem on campus: black students hanging out with black students, Latinos with Latinos, Asians with Asians, and so on.

‘To be honest, as diverse as it is, it is segregated,’ Blandino said. ‘Everyone sticks to their groups.’ ”

What would one expect, after extolling the virtues of group identity? The implied premise of multicultural diversity is that reason, volition, value judgements, ideas, intellectual independence…all attributes of the individual mind…are irrelevant. What’s left are all of the traits that one has no control over or that are essentially irrelevant to individual character…skin color, national origin, language, the cultural practices of past generations. Once you’ve convinced people that their own minds are second to the collective, is it any wonder that they will gravitate toward the safety of the group?

Only Western culture offers the antidote to the “problem” Mr. Blandino cites. Western culture’s focus on the individual as the unit of value casts off all of the historical baggage of tribalism and racism. The belief in each person as a unique entity possessing volition, the capacity for reason, and a self-made soul runs completely contrary to the goals of the multiculturalists.

Opposition to multiculturalism should not be confused with xenophobia, the fear of “foreigners” or “strange others” that feeds the anti-immigrant fervor that penetrates part of American culture. Both xenophobia and multiculturalism are based upon the same collectivist premise. The multiculturalists see themselves as anti-xenophobes, but, in actuality, the only answer to both is Western Culture’s core Enlightenment values of individualism. Multiculturalism and xenophobia are two sides of the same collectivist coin.

It’s a shame that young people have to put up with such intellectual garbage as multiculturalism in order to attain the higher educational skills necessary to their future. The best advice to give is to just “grin and bear it”, get the most out of college while discarding this anti-American nonsense, and always remember that each person one meets is an individual first and always. And, above all, never never never fail to pass moral judgement on ideas that one encounters. All cultures are not equal, and neither are all people, morally speaking. People possess volition and the capacity for reason, and should be held accountable for the ideas they accept, good or bad. Better ideas and, thus, a better world, cannot triumph in a climate of moral agnosticism.

And neither can America.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Problem of the "Unemployed and Uninsured"

What is the answer to the problem of people who lose their jobs simultaneously losing their health insurance? According to Marie Cocco;

“Only a single, government-financed system can eliminate the administrative waste, unfairness and economic burden of our current health insurance scheme.”

I posted the following sharp rebuttle to her article.

I must have sent shudders down Ms. Cocco’s spine, who apparently can’t imagine people actually taking personal responsibility for their own lives.

There is no word about people losing their homeowners insurance due to loss of a job. Or life insurance. Or car insurance. I wonder why.

The answer to the problem Ms. Cocco frets about is hidden in plain sight. Our absurd and unjust government-imposed third-party-payer system of health insurance should be abolished. There are multiple causes for the current healthcare crisis...all of them due to massive government interference in our semi-socialized hodgepodge. (Advances in medical treatment and living longer are only a "problem" in the mind of a bean-counting bureaucrat in a government-controlled system.)

But in regards to this one piece of the crisis, the solution begins with shifting all tax preferences to the individual through some version of HSAs. (These preferences include payroll, not just income, taxes). The money spent by third-party-payers (business, labor unions, etc.) would simply be deposited into the worker's HSA every year. The employee could then buy the policy best suited to his and his family's own needs, values, and budget, and keep the balance for out-of-pocket expenses, savings, or other health-related purposes. Or he could still participate in a group plan...but that would be his choice. Those currently without employer-paid insurance could, of course, still direct a portion of their earnings into an HSA. The insurance being his, rather than some third party spending his earnings (employer-paid insurance is purchased with the employee's money, since that is part of his compensation package), there would be no automatic loss of benefits due to job change or loss. Just this one simple reform would be a tremendous relief to all employees and their families, who would have enough to deal with due to loss of a job. It gives them the ability to plan long range in regards to their health needs, and likely would encourage more employers to contribute to HSAs.

I'm always amazed at how breezily and flippantly people such as Ms. Cocco can suggest totalitarian control of so vital an industry as medicine. No need to be concerned with the individual rights...of doctors and other healthcare professionals...or the producers of life-enhancing drugs and other medical products...or of any citizen who may not want to be forced into a government-run system. Simply impose a healthcare dictatorship at gunpoint...i.e., by legislative force. No muss, no fuss, and no "administrative costs".

The choice we face in healthcare is either rewarding the cause of the crisis, the government, with total control...or turning to a free market, which is based on the rights of the individual. Ending the current third-party-payer system is just one part of the solution. A massive rollback of government controls is vital here. Protection of individual rights to life, liberty, and property, which includes strong anti-fraud laws and enforcement of contracts, is the only proper role for government.

The choice we face is either a free market or a slave "market".

Friday, December 12, 2008

Others' Commentary 2- Ammunition for Fighting Socialzed Medicine

Following are a pair of op-eds by two well-informed activists for healthcare freedom in America.

Asking for trouble in health care

November 24, 2008 - 5:38 PM

In the 1990s, politicians wanted to make home ownership as universal as possible. They used laws such as the Community Reinvestment Act to force banks to make unsustainable loans to millions of people. They also expanded quasi-government agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to guarantee these loans.

This scheme could last only a few years. In 2008, the housing bubble finally burst and economic reality caught up with the politicians. American taxpayers were stuck with the tab for these "toxic" mortgages. The result was the Wall Street Bailout of 2008 and the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

In 2008, politicians want to guarantee "universal health care" with new laws and new government programs. President-elect Barack Obama wants to require health insurers to sell policies whether or not those policies are economically sustainable (for instance by requiring them to issue policies regardless of pre-existing conditions). He has also proposed creating a massive new "National Health Insurance Exchange" to help ensure "universal coverage."

But no politician can evade the laws of economic reality. Massachusetts' program of "universal coverage" requires hundreds of millions of dollars of federal money a year to stay afloat, paid for by the taxpayers of the other 49 states. If the U.S .attempted this at a national level, there would be no one to bail us out.

When Obama's proposed national system inevitably collapses under the weight of market inefficiency and bureaucratic overhead, this will merely pave the way to fully socialized single-payer health care. Health care spending now comprises one-sixth of the U.S. economy. Forcing taxpayers to pay for everyone's medical expenses would make the $700 billion Wall Street bailout look like pocket change in comparison.

Even worse, under nationalized health care the government will eventually have to ration medical services to control costs. This is already commonplace in other countries. A Canadian woman who feels a lump in her breast oftens wait months before she receives the surgery and chemotherapy she needs. In contrast, an American woman can get the treatment she needs within days.

According to The Telegraph, Great Britain's National Health Service paid bonuses to primary care physicians who reduced the numbers of referrals to hospital specialists - thus forcing those doctors to choose between their oaths to their patients or the government which pays their salaries. Whenever government attempts to guarantee a "right" to health care, it must also control it. Bureaucrats then decide who gets what health care and when, not doctors and patients.

The fundamental problem with "universal health care" is the mistaken premise that health care is a "right." Rights are freedoms of actions (such as the right to free speech), not automatic claims on goods and services that must be produced by others.

Individuals are legitimately entitled to health care that they purchase with their own money, are promised by prior contractual agreements, or are given to them via voluntary charity.

Attempting to guarantee an alleged "right" to health care must necessarily violate someone's actual rights - the rights of those compelled to pay for it. The ultimate victims will again be the taxpayers, just as they were the ultimate victims of the Wall Street bailout.

Instead of universal health care, we need free market reforms that reduce costs, reward individual responsiblity, and respect individual rights. Some examples include eliminating mandatory insurance benefits, repealing laws that forbid purchasing health insurance across state lines, and allowing individuals to use Health Savings Accounts for routine expenses and to purchase low cost, catastrophic-only insurance for major expenses. Such reforms could lower costs up to 50 percent, making health insurance available to millions who cannot currently afford it.

We can't go back in time and avoid the Wall Street Bailout of 2008. But we can still make the right decision with respect to health care. We must reject calls for "universal health care" or else we'll be faced with a massive "Health Care Bailout of 2018." The events of the past few months have taught us some important lessons about economic reality. The only question is whether we're willing to learn from them.


Hsieh, of Sedalia, is the co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine.

Freedom from the FDA

By Richard E. Ralston
November 28, 2008

It took the Food and Drug Administration more than a century to grow into a massive, expensive, wasteful, inflexible, ineffective, distant and indifferent bureaucracy. It now violates a founding principle of the practice of medicine: "First, do no harm."

The FDA does a lot of harm, every day. Why do we allow that?

The FDA has kept some unsafe or ineffective drugs off the market (although a consortium of independent research organizations could have done the same thing). But at what cost? We can summarize in ten ways how the FDA threatens or does real harm to our health:

1. The FDA adds billions to the development cost and price of new drugs.
2. The FDA delays the availability of new drugs for years.
3. The FDA prohibits the use of new drugs that treat conditions for which other drugs are available, regardless of how much better they might work for some patients.
4. The FDA withholds new drugs—even those that passed initial safety tests—from terminally ill patients, in the name of preserving safety. When one of these patients wins access to the drugs by going to court, the FDA, apparently in a relentless effort to protect the health of the dead, appeals the ruling until the patient dies, at which time the appeal is of course dismissed.
5. The FDA and Congress allow the drug approval process to be politicized to protect the interests of firms with political pull or to serve the anti-corporate political agenda of those who would rather see Americans die than allow any investors or businesses to make money developing new medications.
6. The FDA suppresses off-label use of drugs with proven ability to treat other conditions and restricts the circulation of information about such successful off-label use of drugs that have already been approved as safe.
7. The FDA actively seeks to extend the authority it so ineptly applies to drugs—and for which it asserts to have insufficient staff—to controlling all vitamins and food supplements. Whenever the reach of the FDA exceeds its grasp, it always tries to extend its reach.
8. The FDA constitutes a roadblock to new developments in anti-aging drugs by refusing to consider any science that would extend healthy lifespans—because "aging is not a disease."
9. The FDA states that it lacks the resources to ensure human drug safety but requests more resources to review veterinary medicine.
10. The FDA now publishes lists of drugs it approved but the safety of which it questions—leaving physicians in the lurch and creating a potential jackpot for litigation.

The FDA adds billions of dollars to the cost of developing new drugs and delays their use for years. Yet it is so obsessed with predicting exactly how each drug will perform for any patient—with any condition, in any dosage, for any length of time and in any combination with any other drug or combination of drugs in any dosage—that it often loses sight of safety. So a few years ago the FDA proposed the creation of a new "Drug Safety Board" to provide for drug safety. One would have thought that was the purpose of the whole agency.

That hypocrisy is consistent with the history of the agency. Every failure to fulfill its purpose is met with a review or a study by another government-related organization hired by the FDA to make recommendations. The recommendations are always the same: more staff, more budget, more authority, more buildings, more office furniture and more regulations.

If we want the tremendous progress in the development of medications in recent years to continue, we must act to eliminate the awesome ability of the FDA to destroy that progress. The first steps in reform should be to direct the FDA to focus entirely on safety and allow physicians and their patients to determine efficacy. Research must be encouraged, not restricted, and information on that research must be open to all.

Richard E. Ralston is Executive Director of Americans for Free Choice in Medicine.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

D.C. Schools-continued

Part 2

In his article, Leonard Pitts describes the educational establishment as an “alternate universe”. Although he stops well short of making the obvious conclusion, one can nonetheless sense his deep frustration and incredulity with the status quo. Given Mr. Pitts’ liberal leanings, it’s doubtful he would ever endorse a radical restructuring of American education, preferring instead to work within the existing system to bring about incremental change. But radical ideas are exactly what is needed.

So I want to expound on the points raised by clarapurdy (discussed in my last post), as the choice between a government-run school system and a free market requires a firm understanding of just what a free market is…and isn’t. This discussion is by no means exhaustive, but rather is a part of my continuing efforts on behalf of freedom in education.

Clarapurdy’s slap at competitive advertising misses the point (11/18/2008 01:07:12 AM). The point is that educators…from for-profits to non-profits to private tutors or homeschool teachers…can appeal to parents in any fashion they choose, and parents can make their choices based upon their own values and judgements. If no school offers exactly what they want, they can either settle on the best available, or seek alternatives…including starting their own school or homeschooling.

There is no “we” or “they” in the market. That collectivist fallacy fails to take into account the fact that every individual mind represents potential ideas and thus competition, if he is free to act upon his thoughts and chooses to do so. There are no inhibiting factors such as the current entrenched monopolistic political education establishment. The solution to any and all educational needs can freely emerge from any mind free and willing to act…especially including the minds of the parents.

Take, for example, the question that I addressed in one of my comments regarding special needs children. To supplement my answer for clarification, I would use an analogy based upon personal experience. My daughter, Susan, had problems that prevented her from conceiving. Her problems were so severe that she and my son-in-law had trouble finding a fertility clinic that would accept her for IVF (invetro fertilization), because of the high probability of failure. Susan faced the prospect of not finding the help she needed. But guess what? She did find a clinic…one that specializes in low probability in-vitros. She now has two little girls. Of course, if no one chose to address this particular segment of the market, would it be just and moral to force someone else to provide the service that no one chose to offer voluntarily, under the fallacious guise of “market failure”? Not in a free and just society. But Susan had a “special need”, in regards to procreation, and someone was there to meet that market demand. The same would undoubtedly be true in regards to the “special needs” segment of a free education market.

This leads to my next point. Clarapurdy expresses the concern that only “smart rich kids” will get an education because no school will take anyone else. But this line of thinking is self-contradictory and is refuted by the whole history of capitalism. Can only the rich get access to a car, computer, house, television, electricity, food, air conditioning, or any number of the thousands of products and services available in the market? The free market doesn’t guarantee that everyone will be able to afford every available product or service. What it does guarantee is that everyone is free to think, produce and trade, which has always resulted in products and services spreading wider and farther down the income scale. That is how the middle class was created. But cause and effect cannot be reversed. The “free” in free market is the fundamental requirement for widespread prosperity. It is absurd to think that the needs of tens of millions of children who are not at the upper end of the scale in terms of intelligence or wealth…a vast market…would go unmet, in a free market. One would have to think that the parents of those children would simply give up on them.

She also worries the schools will only be concerned with keeping test scores up, in order to attract more business, which leads them to seek only the “highest IQs”. Again, she misses the point entirely. And here is where one must break outside of the mental box created by the accepted wisdom that public schools are the prism through which any discussion of reform must be viewed. One cannot look at the miniscule private school segment operating today around the periphery of the public school behemoth and extrapolate from that the way a free market would work. Those schools do not represent a free market…even a limited one. A limited free market is, in fact, a contradiction in terms. The only kind of private schools that can, in fact, exist under the cloud of the government monopoly are facilities specializing in some isolated sector, such as religion or high-end schools catering to the rich. That is because the government has monopolized all of the rest.

Success in any business depends upon what you are trying to achieve. Some schools may specialize in the gifted, some in the athletically or musically inclined, some in special needs or the autistic, some in multiple categories. In each market segment, the rules of competition remain the same. Those who provide the best education at the best price are most likely to thrive. She wants to call this “segregation”. But segregation is only possible through governmental coercion. Her alleged “segregation” is actually the result of free people living and acting according to their own rational judgement, in seeking to perform a market service or in seeking the best for one’s children. Segregation, in fact, cannot exist in a free market…if by segregation one means forced separation. It must be remembered that the purpose of education is to prepare the child for a self-sustaining, independent adulthood, by developing his mental capabilities to the fullest possible. It is not the proper purpose of education to establish a “diverse” student body as a primary goal, apart from that which would occur naturally (non-coercively) through the voluntary choices of parents acting on their own judgement about what is best for their child. The fact that some will act irrationally is no excuse for violating the rights of all.

And here we come to the altruist-egalitarian essence of clarapurdy’s whole argument. Notice that the parents with normal (non-special needs), or gifted children…or who are financially successful…are to be denied their rights to choose the best educational paths for their children because some children have special needs, or are poor. The number of children fitting the categories that clarapurdy agonizes over are a very small percentage. Education need not be a major expense, at least not as compared to the bloated expense of the public schools. Freed from the taxes that support today’s government-run school monopoly, almost all parents would be able to afford to give their children a good education. To say otherwise is absurd, since taxpaying parents are already supporting the existing school systems. The lower cost and higher quality made possible in a free education market would leave most parents and their children better off.

But clarapurdy and the public school apologists, in true egalitarian fashion, would sacrifice most parents and their children on the alter of the “neediest”. This is what’s so immoral about public education. Someone must always be sacrificed to someone else’s agenda…and it’s usually the best and brightest who are sacrificed. Just look at No Child Left Behind. In a free market, no one’s interests are sacrificed, because no one has the state’s coercive power at their disposal. Those concerned about the problems of the small minority that have special needs or are too poor to afford a proper education for their children are free to address that market segment. What is forbidden in a free society is for them to impose the costs of their efforts on others against their voluntary judgement. Ultimately, it must be remembered that all children are the responsibility of the parents who brought them into the world.

A free market won’t “give every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socioeconomic statis etc.”? Well, they all go to school now…and look at the results. Public school apologists want to herd the children into government-run schools, where people like Ms. Rhee need to fight an uphill battle just to make some small common sense reforms to improve the disastrous conditions in those D.C. schools. Imagine the entrepreneurial Ms. Rhee as the owner or administrator of a string of private, for-profit schools. She could simply implement the reforms necessary to improve the quality of her schools, and then the parents can vote with their wallets...and their rational judgements.

It can’t be stated enough. The bogus “opportunity for every child” argument is a thin cover for the massive violation of individual rights engendered by a coercive political monopoly that has no place in a free society. Only a free market gives “every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socio-economic status etc.” …and enables him the opportunity to get the best education most suited to his needs. That’s because his parents are free to choose what’s best for him, which is ultimately their solemn responsibility, and only theirs. Freedom offers opportunity...the right to take action based upon one's own rational judgement...and that’s all. The rest is up to the free individuals that constitute society. A government that attempts to guarantee to all a man-made service such as education is a dictatorship…which precisely describes, despite its superficial appearance and widespread popular support, today’s government-run public education monopoly.

What the debate between government-run public education and a free market comes down to is this. Should force be the determining factor steering the course of education for the young, or should it be rational, voluntary persuasion and free judgement? I’ll conclude with a challenge to those ferociously defending their coercive political stranglehold on American education. Quoting Isabel Paterson from The God of the Machine (Caxton Printers, LTD, 1964, page 274);

“The most vindictive resentment may be expected from the pedagogical profession for any suggestion that they be dislodged from their dictatorial position… Nevertheless, the question to put to any teacher [or apologist for the entrenched establishment] moved to such indignation is: Do you think nobody would willingly entrust his children to you or pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion?”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Problem With D.C. Schools...and the Solution


In an article entitled, Improving D.C. Schools is a Test for All of Us, Leonard Pitts describes the efforts by Michelle Rhee, who is trying…maybe I should say struggling…to bring some reforms to the public schools of the nation’s capitol;

“You might not know the name yet, but I'm betting you soon will. She is the Washington, D.C., schools chief who has drawn national attention for an audacious attempt to remake some of the nation's worst schools.

“Among the changes she has instituted, or is attempting to institute, is a cash reward for students who meet certain benchmarks of performance and attendance. She also wants to make it easier to fire teachers who do not perform; under her plan, educators would give up tenure protections for a merit plan that would allow the best of them -- i.e., those whose students actually learn something -- to earn upwards of $100,000 a year.

“Many educators told me that high on their wish list would be the ability to reward good teachers and fire bad ones.”

Mr. Pitts reels off the awful statistics documenting the utter failure of the D.C. schools to educate the children, stating that those results are “hardly unique” to the nation’s capitol.

Mr. Pitts goes on to describe how the teachers’ union “has fought Rhee with bitter tenacity, seeking to block her at every step.” He wonders if that union “exists in some alternate universe where everyone is rewarded equally regardless of the quality of their work.”

The teachers’ union, of course, is no ordinary union. It is indeed at the core of an “alternate universe”… a dictatorial political monopoly…the government-run public school system. It is a union maintained by the physical power of the state. Below are some comments I left in response to that article plus another correspondent who took me to task for advocating the abolition of the public schools, and the institution of a free education market. Following that in my next post will be some additional comments.


I am 60 years old, and the same old laments about the poor quality of public education keep surfacing decade after decade, followed by another official with another plan. Not to take anything away from the laudable efforts of Ms. Rhee, but it’s the suffocating educational establishment itself that is the problem here.

The brutally honest fact is that the “experiment” that has failed is government-run schooling itself. Phasing out and ending public education, and allowing a fully privatized, competitive free market to emerge is the solution. The so-called “competitive cut throat environment” of business is exactly what is needed in education, to weed out the inferior teachers, schools, educational methods and philosophies.

A free market would restore the rights of all parents, not just “parents of means”, to seek out the best education for their children, and liberate educators to compete for their business based on quality and price, just as in the “cut-throat” business world.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/17/2008 06:15:08 PM:
ZEMACK...Competition does not promote the teamwork that is needed in public service forums such as law enforcement, firefighting, education, and the military. Can you imagine competitive law enforcement? Jones:"Any leads on that murder case?"Smith:"Yep, but I'm not telling you anything, I need to solve this case to get that big raise." Some jobs are not meant for competition.


Clarapurdy, you are comparing apples to oranges here. The proper role of government is to protect individual rights, which is what the police force and military are for. They represent the retaliatory use of force, to protect us against domestic criminals and foreign enemies.

Public education inverts this role of government. Here, the government violates the rights of people by forcing them to pay for schools that they may not want for their children, to pay for other peoples’ children, or to send their children to a school chosen by a government bureaucrat based not on the child’s needs or parents’ choice, but on where the parents live. And it imposes on educators the text books, curriculum, and so forth.

“Teamwork” is fine, as far as it goes. But we don’t need a government school monopoly for that. What we really need, though, are the new ideas of entrepreneurial, independent thinking individuals. That is what flourishes in a free market.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/17/2008 06:30:25 PM:
If you "privatize education" who is going to want the poverty and "special needs" children? Remember, this is a competition. The school with the highest test scores gets the most students. The more students you have, the more money you make. Where do the children who have learning disabilities go? Shall we put them in their own schools? Segragate kids according to their IQ's? Where do you think the best teachers are going to be, if they get paid according to how well their students do? Are they going to be with the students who need them most, where the test scores are the lowest? Where would you want to teach? You'd want to teach the kids with the highest IQs.


“If you ‘privatize education’ who is going to want the poverty and ‘special needs’ children?”

The answer is, anyone who wants them. A free market means parents and educators are free to act on their own best judgement, and that means “special needs” parents and teachers as well. They are free to seek solutions that are best for their own children and students…just like everyone else.

But the point is, people need to be liberated from the school monopoly shackles to pursue what’s best for all of the children…at all income and intelligence levels…and be free to solve any problems that may arise.

It must be remembered that schooling can take many forms, and the assembly line method of public education will likely come to an end. As many methods of education as there are childrens’ needs would flourish, as people act freely on new ideas.

There is no “we”. There are only individuals thinking and exercising their rights to pursue their educational goals, whatever they may be.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/17/2008 07:34:35 PM:
Zemack...Individual rights are why the public schools were started. To give every child the opportunity to go to school regardless of race, religion, sex, socioeconomic statis etc. The government forces you to pay for schools...If school is not paid for by the government, who is going to pay for it? If students can't afford school then what? Put them out on the street, where they end up in jail and we pay for them anyway? Ofcourse private schools have good results. They aren't under any obligation to take children who are poor, they kick out the kids who don't "make the grade",they send special needs kids to the public schools, they can expell discipline problems, in other words their full of smart rich kids. Take your voucher and your kid with autism to a private school. They'll tell you "Sorry, we don't have the necessary specialists or educational tools to help your child. Your son would be better served in the public school system where they are set up for a child with his needs."


“If school is not paid for by the government, who is going to pay for it?”

Who do you think pays for schools now? We do, as you say, by force. Force is the negation of individual rights. Rights are a sanction of freedom of action, such as freedom of speech, religious practice, association, etc., coupled with the single obligation to refrain from violating the rights of others. In other words, when government forces you to pay for its schools, and forces you to send your children there via compulsory attendance laws, it is violating your (and your children’s) rights…not protecting them, as it should.

Freed from paying coercive school taxes, each of us can then meet our education expenses as we see fit, with our own money. We can even contribute to charitable scholarship funds to help out poorer parents.

The crucial purpose of education is to prepare the child for independent, self-reliant adulthood. Public schools have long failed most children at that.

clarapurdy wrote on 11/18/2008 01:07:12 AM:
Zemack-A "free market" school system just like the business world...what do you get? Agents for the "good" teachers to negotiate terms and conditions of contracts/salaries? "My client Mr. Jenson is demanding 75,000 per year, choice of top students, and room 13 it's closest to the lounge." How about Brokers for the smart kids? " Little Johnny wants a full scholarship, why should he pay you, his test scores help your school keep it's fine reputation." Marketing " Our school was built entirely from green materials. Students are served the very best in organic vegan cuisine." Advertising " Wesley Academy is the best. We only accept children of the highest quality." Smear campaigning." Wesley Academy says it only accepts high quality children, but it is also full of low quality cockroaches. Come to Eastridge preperatory we are free of low acheivers and vermin."

To be continued…

Saturday, November 29, 2008

My Challenge To the GOP: A Philosophical Contract With America

In two previous essays (11/13/08 and 11/16/08), I established the reasons for how we got to where we are, and the philosophical ground upon which I believe the Republican Party must begin to rebuild. Now it is time to begin to get specific.

The pattern since FDR and his crusading band of New Deal thugs has been for the GOP “defenders” of free markets and property rights to initially oppose some welfare state program being advanced by the Left. After passage, the initial, usually tepid and apologetic, opposition fades…to be replaced by a grudging acceptance and ultimate embrace of the now “popular” legislation. Each new rights-violating program…each new step toward total government control…follows the same pattern. A good example of this is the 1980 GOP platform, which promised to abolish the brand new Carter-era Federal Department of Education. That promise quickly fell away and…during an era of GOP domination…morphed into a $70 billion behemoth that became a tool to implement President Bush’s massive expansion of federal intrusion into local public education, called “No Child Left Behind”.

Now, our time is running out. The road ahead demands an end to me-too-ism. The compromising pragmatism of the old Republican Party has reached its inevitable dead-end. The GOP must now embark on a politically risky path that may not lead to immediate electoral success, but is vital to the cause of individual rights and free markets, long term. Thanks to decades of Republican compromises, the job is now much harder. It is no longer enough to simply slow the further expansion of government and consequent shrinkage of individual rights that is sure to come next year. It is time for the GOP to fully and proudly assert its commitment to free market capitalism by laying out an agenda for rolling back the welfare state.

This courageous path will undoubtedly require taking some lumps at the polls in the near term, but it must be done. We are rapidly approaching the point where individual freedom’s time will run out. Bold, new policy ideas based upon the principles of rational self-interest, individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism, and limited government will require an extended educational campaign. But it must be remembered that only 53% of the electorate voted for Obama, and much of that support is “soft”. And while much of the 47% of the electorate that voted for McCain cannot be called pro-capitalist, much of Obama’s 53% likely is open to swinging toward the philosophical platform outlined above, provided it is consistently applied to all of the concrete issues. There is a substantial base of support from which to build, I believe. (click here and here).

The GOP has become known as the party of business, and the party of the Christian Right. It must reject those two labels, and become the party of the individual. This means to embrace the twin pillars of a truly free society;

The separation of religion and state…which means religious freedom, or the right to hold and to act on the belief system of one’s own choice, free from the coercive interference of others.

The separation of economics and state…which means economic freedom, or laissez-faire capitalism.

Freedom in the field of ideas and freedom in the field of production and trade are inseparable corollaries. Yet, each of the major political parties has split down the middle on these fundamental issues. The Republicans tend to advocate freedom of production and trade…capitalism…while simultaneously sanctioning government control in the field of ideas…seeking to impose the religious agenda of political Christianity. And the Democrats tend to advocate freedom in the field of ideas, while simultaneously seeking to shackle production and trade under mountains of taxes, regulations, and controls.

Neither party is a firm and consistent advocate of individual rights. The result is that individual freedom is under withering assault in both the spheres of ideas and of economics. In economics, the Republicans are in retreat in multiple areas…the bailout bill, Sarbanes-Oxley, to name two. In ideas, the Democrats are retreating…witness Obama’s embrace of Bush’s Faith-Based Initiatives. And…from campaign finance “reform”, to the fairness doctrine, to the issue of “indecent language” in media…the first amendment is under attack as never before, by both parties.

The sad fact is, both parties have abandoned America…the first nation in the history of the world founded on the principle of inalienable individual rights and of a government constitutionally charged with the task of protecting those rights…of a government as servant, not ruler, of its people. Both parties, in other words, are bankrupt…intellectually and morally.

Herein lies the opportunity for whichever party wants to seize it. I hope it will be the Republican Party.

It is worth repeating the words of Craig Westover:

Analyzing Obama's comment in the context of Rand's philosophy provides further evidence that the conservative-liberal paradigm, the traditional political divide in this country, is shifting to a more overt expression of the age-old battle between individualism and the collective society. (Emphasis added.)

It is time to cast aside the contradictory, unprincipled, and self-defeating doctrines of liberalism and conservatism, and instead forge a new coalition based upon the primacy of the individual and his unalienable rights.

It is time for the individual American to find his political voice, defender, and champion.

From retirement planning, to healthcare and health insurance, to education, to abortion, to gay marriage, to eminent domain and property rights, to the first amendment, to immigration…all across the board…the GOP should forge an agenda in which each of us, as individuals, will have our freedoms restored. The “unalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness” means the right to think and act on one’s own judgement, to set one’s own goals, to pursue one’s own happiness by one’s own efforts, to decide whether, when, and how to help one’s fellow men, and to keep the product of one’s own productive work. And it means to restore the vision of the Founding Fathers-that government’s proper role is to protect the rights of its citizens.

This will not be easy. Nor will it mean an immediate end to all of our government’s intrusive practices. An agenda based on individual rights will face ferocious opposition and hostility from entrenched interests all across the cultural landscape, from powerful politicians, to business and labor, to the beneficiaries of government largess.

But simply discerning the political wind direction in order to determine which positions to take on the issues for the purpose of winning elections is a path the GOP must abandon. America must learn the meaning and nature of man’s rights and the legitimate nature of government, if current trends are to be reversed. The establishment of a firm, uncompromising philosophical platform…one might call it a Philosophical Contract With America…from which Republicans can launch a broad assault against the collectivist tide on one issue after another can draw freedom lovers from all across the political spectrum. It must also mean a complete rejection of the social tyranny of the Religious Right, and the economic tyranny of the Socialist Left.

In the clash between statism and individual liberty, the Democrats have come down clearly and openly on the side of the state. The GOP can, and should, meet the challenge with a bold alternative, presenting not merely a loyal opposition but explicit, positive alternatives to the liberal agenda based on this new Contract. The challenge is to demonstrate what the party is for. The Republican Party must finally realize the promise of Barry Goldwater. In answer to the rise of Obama collectivism, the GOP must finally offer “A choice, not an echo”.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A Thanksgiving Message

Reprinted below is a thanksgiving message that I think captures the true essence of Thanksgiving, a holiday practiced only in America. Regardless of how one believes he came into existence (God or nature), the reality is that man is a being of self-generated wealth based on reason who requires certain social conditions for his survival. America was the first country founded explicitly on those conditions; i.e., a country where every individual owns his own life and possesses inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and to the pursuit of his own happiness, coupled inextricably with the obligation to accept the reality that all people are equally endowed and to treat them accordingly.

It is thus that America, born of the enlightenment ideas of individualism, capitalism, and republican government, achieved in the span of a mere two hundred-plus years (following centuries of stagnation) its spectacular standard of living. The ensuing essay correctly recognizes where the credit for America belongs: to any man or woman, on whatever level of ability or accomplishment, who contributed to American greatness by doing an honest and productive day's work in pursuit of his or her own well-being.

Thanksgiving: A Most Selfish Holiday

By Debi Ghate

Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We're taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.

What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?

Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as "a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production." She was right. This country was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land and build spectacular cities, shaping what is now the wealthiest nation in the world. It's the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great achievements, and enjoy prosperity. We uniquely recognize that production leads to wealth and that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. It's no accident that Americans have a holiday called Thanksgiving--a yearly tradition when we pause to appreciate the "bountiful harvest" we've reaped.

What is today's version of the "bountiful harvest"? It's the affluence and success we've gained. It's the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy. It's the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It's the good life.

How did we get this "bountiful harvest"? Ask any hard-working American; it sure wasn't by the "grace of God." It didn't grow on a fabled "money tree." We created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting excellence for ourselves and our loved ones. What we don't create ourselves, we trade value for value with those who have the goods and services we need, such as our stockbrokers, hairdressers and doctors. We alone are responsible for our wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday.

So, on Thanksgiving, why don't we thank ourselves and those producers who make the good life possible?

From a young age, we are bombarded with messages designed to undermine our confident pursuit of values: "Be humble," "You can't know what's good for yourself," "It's better to give than receive," and above all "Don't be selfish!" We are scolded not to take more than "our share"--whether it is of corporate profits, electricity or pie. We are taught that altruism--selfless concern for others--is the moral ideal. We are taught to sacrifice for strangers, who have no claim to our hard-earned wealth. We are taught to kneel rather than reach for the sky.

But, morally, one should reach for the sky. One should recognize that the corporate profits, electricity or pie was earned through one's production--and savor its consumption. Every decision one makes, from what career to pursue to whom to call a friend, should be guided by what will best advance one's rational goals, interests and, ultimately, one's life. One should take pride in being rationally selfish--one's life and happiness depend on it.

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize what we are truly grateful for, to appreciate and celebrate the fruits of our labor: our wealth, health, relationships and material things--all the values we most selfishly cherish. We should thank researchers who have made certain cancers beatable, gourmet chefs at our favorite restaurants, authors whose books made us rethink our lives, financiers who developed revolutionary investment strategies and entrepreneurs who created fabulous online stores. We should thank ourselves and those individuals who make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable--those who help us live the much-coveted American dream.

As you sit down to your sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner served on your best china, think of all the talented individuals whose innovation and inventiveness made possible the products you are enjoying. As you look around at who you've chosen to spend your day with--those you've chosen to love--thank yourself for everything you have done to make this moment possible. It's a time to selfishly and proudly say: "I earned this."

Debi Ghate is associated with the Ayn Rand Institute.

Have a joyous, and well earned, Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My Activism-The Health Care Debate

I have signed up to participate as a commenter at Opposing Views, a website dedicated to reasoned debate on the issues of the day. The comments below are related to the debate question, "Should the U.S. Have Universal Healthcare?”

The verified expert answering no is FIRM (Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine). I have chosen to take to task two supporters of universal health care…one a verified expert and the second a commenter.

The National Physicians’ Alliance, an Opposing Views verified expert declares that "It is the moral thing to do”.

Here is my response:

Moral, On What Basis?

"Morality ends where a gun begins"- Ayn Rand

On what basis does one call government-run "universal health care" "the moral thing to do"?

It is only the morality of altruism...the creed that holds individual human sacrifice for a "higher" purpose as the standard of the good...that can sanction any proposal to force others to act against his own will, judgement, and self-interest. But altruism is really an anti-morality, which offers a person no moral guidance on how to achieve the values required for his survival and happiness, but rather simply declares that he is moral only to the extent that he gives up his values for the sake of others...any others.

That is why altruism is always the justification for all forms of tyranny, including government-imposed "universal health care", which is merely a health care dictatorship in disguise. A consumer's right to decide for himself whether and what type of health insurance to purchase; An insurance company's right to determine what insurance products it will offer, based upon its own market judgement; A doctor's right to choose his patients, the treatments to pursue, and the price he will charge; The rights of consumers, insurance companies, and doctors to negotiate and contract voluntarily with each other to mutual advantage; The rights of all people to decide whether, when, what type, and what level of voluntary charitable giving to offer others...these are all merely selfish concerns, according to altruist principles, of no consequence next to a government takeover of a major industry.

It's quite all right for the government to trample and sacrifice the rights of people acting in their own self-interest. It's quite all right to sacrifice the earnings, the healthcare decision-making, the careers, the goals, the personal judgements, and the business decisions of private citizens. It's quite all right to hand enormous coercive dictatorial power over other peoples' lives to "altruistic" central planning bureaucrats. It is quite all right to bestow unearned benefits obtained forcibly from the sacrificial victims of an altruistic state on those who did not earn them, but for whom it is apparently o.k. to selfishly accept their stolen property.

Well, the game is nearing an end. Tyrants, "social justice" totalitarians, humanitarians with a "good cause" in one hand and the lever of a guillotine in the other, and all manner of politically-connected do-gooders have been riding the altruistic gravy train long enough.

All of the "should be" goals listed by the National Physicians' Alliance are desirable when taken out of context. But a government that attempts to achieve those ends can only do so through the power to loot and enslave, which ultimately leads to the opposite results. It is an immoral government. So now let it be said. No one who would use initiative physical force, including "democratic" or "legislative" force, against his fellow citizens to achieve his ends…no matter how worthwhile…can wave the banner of morality. That banner belongs only to people who renounce the initiation of physical force, and turn instead to respecting and protecting individual rights...everyone's rights equally and at all times.

And that means, in the field of medicine, pursuing the moral goal of phasing out the current crumbling government-hampered system, and establishing a completely free market.

Now that would be the moral thing to do.

- Mike Zemack November 16, 2008 4:59PM

This commenter, alisaterry, starts off quoting statistics concerning infant mortality rates in countries with socialized medicine, then goes on to touch upon other thoughts.

Here is my response:

Setting the Record Straight

There are some facts about those infant mortality statistics that perhaps you should consider...namely, the criteria used to compile them. For example, Dr. Linda Halderman shed some important light on this. /

In this article, Dr. Halderman documents the myriad differences from country to country in the methodology.

Adjusted for these differences, infant mortality rates in the U.S. are no worse than other countries, despite the large number of illegal immigrants living here, as well as a less healthy lifestyle. Of course, mere statistics never justify the violation of anyone’s rights. As for the level of neo-natal care in America, I can attest to its high quality. My granddaughter was born at 25 weeks and 1.4 pounds, and is now a healthy, thriving 5 year old.

Cuba? Cuba is a dictatorship. That means the flow of all information is strictly controlled by the government, and there is no free, investigative press or freedom-of-information laws. But just the fact that you use a dictatorship to support your call for socialized medicine is quite telling.

When did " a society" decide on government-run schooling? It evolved from a flaw at our founding…the failure of the Founders to protect freedom of education from political intrusion, in the way that religious freedom was protected behind the “wall of separation” between church and state. I fully and passionately believe that a proper education for every child is one of a parent’s most solemn responsibilities. But I oppose government-run schools, for the same reason as I oppose government-run healthcare. It is immoral, impractical, and a violation of individual rights. But I guess, as an independent thinking human being, I don’t qualify as a part of this “society” that you claim makes these decisions. What’s interesting here is that you would actually use the example of public education to justify socialized medicine. Public education is beset by exploding costs, and deteriorating quality...just what one would expect from a coercive political monopoly. American medicine is heading down the same path, due to massive government interference and controls. A complete healthcare dictatorship, rather than a return to freedom in medicine, is the wrong solution for anyone who values quality, readily available health care.

An "American caste system" is exactly what would result from putting the state in charge of all economic decision-making…which is apparently what you want to do. In a free market...which we now have only in bits and pieces…everyone is free to act on his own judgement, and to advance as far as his ability and ambition will carry him. If one wishes to increase his pay, he is free to increase his skills, work longer hours, seek another job, or create his own job by starting a business. What he is not allowed to do, in a free, rights-respecting society, is force job-creating businesses to pay him more than they are willing to pay through government-imposed minimum wage laws. If you don't like the fact that a particular company hires people you don’t approve of (moving jobs across seas), you are free to protest by refusing to buy their products. If you don’t like a company's "benefit" policy, then again, you are free to move on. You see, when you are free, you control your life...which means you are not at anyone’s mercy. That is what the "free" in free market means. When government regiments the economic life of a nation…when we are at the mercy of government officials...then actual individuals are locked into a cast, having become dependant on government favor.

But I agree with you that " 'Entitlements' aren't just lazy people trying to rip you off." They are also big businesses seeking government subsidies, bailouts, and other favors. They are middle and upper middle class earners seeking "affordable" this or that, and then demanding that government force someone else to provide it. They are workers seeking "living wages" that they are not qualified for or that no one is willing to voluntarily pay them. They are residents of wealthy towns seeking to keep out lower-income "undesirables" in order to preserve the "quality" of "their" communities through restrictive zoning and planning practices. And, yes, they are also "just lazy people trying to rip you off." They come in all shades, classes, and regions.

And the entitlement mentality engulfing this country is made possible by one single common denominator…the government’s power to hand out economic favors to some at the expense of others. A universal healthcare entitlement is a lose-lose proposition. You hand over your money to a central planning bureaucracy, and in return you give up the right to make your own health care decisions.

- Mike Zemack November 16, 2008 4:09PM

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ayn Rand Foresaw Conservatism’s Second Obituary

In 1960, Ayn Rand gave a lecture at Princeton University called “Conservatism: An Obituary”. This lecture came on the heals of Democrat John F. Kennedy’s victory over Richard Nixon in the presidential election. It was the eve of a great wave of welfare state advancement in America. In explaining the collapse of that era’s brand of conservatism, she said:

“If the ‘conservatives’ do not stand for capitalism, they stand for nothing; they have no goal, no direction, no political principles, no social ideals, no intellectual values, no leadership to offer anyone.

"No man, and no movement, can succeed without moral certainty-without a full, rational conviction of the rightness of one’s cause.”

A few years later, a conservative rebirth occurred with the nomination of Barry Goldwater for Republican candidate for president. Unrecognized at the time and despite his landslide defeat in 1964, Goldwater’s ascendance signaled the start of the movement that would bring Ronald Reagan to power in 1980. In a 1967 lecture entitled “The Wreckage of the Consensus”…this time at Boston’s Ford Hall Forum…Rand addressed what was then dubbed a “swing to the right”. This followed the GOP’s 1966 congressional landslide in a year that saw Ronald Reagan elected governor of California. She said:

“There was no swing to the Right (except, perhaps, in California)-there was a swing against the Left. Without a firm, consistent ideological program and leadership, the people’s desperate protest will be dissipated in the blind alleys of the same statism that they are opposing. It is futile to fight against, if one does not know what one is fighting for.”

In that lecture, Rand viewed Reagan as a potential leader of a principled movement, calling him a “promising public figure”. Reagan did go on to rise to president based upon a vision…however incomplete and inconsistent…of individual rights and limited government, that had positive moral overtones. But that tantalizing hint of a right-wing movement based upon an “ideological program” was only a fleeting glimpse that was subsequently abandoned. Today, we see that Ayn Rand has been vindicated. That 1966 budding “swing to the right” has ended “in the blind alleys of...statism”. (It was that realization, a few years ago, that led me to go from a sympathizer of Objectivism to a firm, uncompromising Objectivist.)

If there is to be a worthwhile Republican revival…a true swing to the Right…it must be built upon a firm understanding of the nature of the crossroads at which America now stands. In an essay entitled Is it really wrong to be 'selfish'? , Craig Westover clears away the dead underbrush and exposes the essence of the choice we must make:

Like his "spread the wealth around" comment, Obama's intended denigration of "selfishness" reveals much about the ultimate nature of his policies. Analyzing Obama's comment in the context of Rand's philosophy provides further evidence that the conservative-liberal paradigm, the traditional political divide in this country, is shifting to a more overt expression of the age-old battle between individualism and the collective society. (Emphasis added.)

Barack Obama has presented a clear and un-watered down vision on where he wants to lead America, symbolized by the “Joe the Plumber” episode. This presents the GOP with a chance of a political lifetime. Obama’s and the Left’s explicit attack on Ayn Rand, culminating in Obama’s “virtue out of selfishness” gambit near the end of the campaign, is a recognition of where they think the real threat to their power is gathering. The GOP must not only re-embrace its commitment to individual rights, limited government, and free-market capitalism, but it is imperative that, this time, it also embraces the moral case for this vision. It must adopt, as a core set of principles, that it is right to think for oneself. It is right to act upon one’s own judgement. It is right to act to further one’s own life and happiness. It is right to achieve productive success, for one’s own sake. It is right to achieve and to protect one’s own values and property. It is right to demand that government be the protector of one’s right to one’s own life, rather than a predator seeking to redistribute what one has earned. And it is right to strive for independence and self-sufficiency for oneself and one’s family, rather than to become dependent on the “altruistic benevolence” of government, taken out of the hides of other Americans.

It is right, in other words, to be selfish…not in the way implied by the usual package-deal intended by Obama…but rationally selfish. It is vital for the new GOP to embrace Ayn Rand’s new concept of a non-sacrificial, non-predatory, rights-respecting egoism, as a counter force against Obama’s embrace of altruism. Altruism…living for others…is the morality of socialism. Rational egoism…the pursuit of one’s own welfare and happiness…is the moral code of capitalism, and the true meaning of America’s founding ideals of the “unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”—which our next president calls a “flaw”.

Obama has revealed that he understands that the battle between his socialist visions and capitalism is fundamentally a moral one. The GOP must now discover this, as well. Once again quoting Mr. Westover, this time from his article, Camouflage and Kumbaya vs. Individual Freedom:

The fundamental political difference is between those who believe that government is instituted among people to protect the unalienable individual rights of life, liberty and property, and those who believe that government is an instrument for creating a better world including a right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to enjoy good health; the right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.

Individual freedom and planned equality are irreconcilable positions.

That conflict cannot be compromised out of existence. It cannot be dismissed with the cliche "the truth lies somewhere in the middle.”

Ultimately there comes a time for every individual to choose between principle and pragmatism, between the uncertainty of freedom and the security of control, between striving for equality and striving for excellence, between just doing something and doing what is right.

I would add that the only way for a government to ensure the “better world” of “adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment” is to assume totalitarian powers to loot and enslave its citizens. This ultimately leads not to security and a better world, but to the terror and economic destitution of a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

There is no “somewhere in the middle” here, no middle ground. The choice is either-or. The middle is a tug of war between the two ultimate options…individualism (capitalism) and collectivism (socialism)…in which the country is moving one way or the other. For the last 100+ years the movement in America has been toward dictatorship. During that time, the Left has stood on collectivistic principle, however camouflaged, while the Right has retreated into pragmatic compromise.

The consequences have taken us now to the point where it is “time for every [pro-capitalist] individual to choose between principle and pragmatism”. The Left is counting on continued pragmatism from the Right. Objectivism offers principle. The GOP must choose principle…the principles of unalienable rights and rational self-interest…if America is to emerge from “the blind alleys of…statism” in which the wreckage of “compassionate conservatism” has left us.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Dionne's "Solution" to the Abortion Controversy

In an article entitled Obama's Promise to Pro-Lifers, liberal columnist E.J. Dionne urges President-elect Obama to follow through on his promise to end four decades of political and cultural strife over abortion by proposing an intellectual package deal. Using the abortion issue as a cover, he calls for program after program aimed at making abortion “safe, legal and rare”, to quote President Clinton.

Here Mr. Dionne is conflating two different issues, while completely side-stepping the essential moral consideration of the abortion issue.

No where in this piece does Mr. Dionne tell us why abortion should be legal. Instead, he dances around this all-important question by calling for a myriad of new initiatives to make it “rare”…and then calls this a solution to “cultural and religious wars that have disfigured American politics for four decades.”

And here-in lies the key to his approach. Mr. Dionne calls for “appropriate education [for] our youth”, “helping single mothers if they want to choose to keep the baby”, and “expanded health coverage for women and children, more child care, adoption help and income support for the working poor.” These are all worthwhile goals. But education, child care, health insurance, offering or accepting charity…these are all properly the province of individuals making uncoerced, personal judgements based on their own values and life circumstances.

But, in the classic collectivist tradition, Mr. Dionne simply assumes that our lives belong to the state…and proposes to confiscate other peoples’ earnings to pay for his pet causes…which means, expanded government control of our lives, especially children’s lives. By what right does anyone claim to usurp the responsibility of parents’ to educate and care for their children? By what right does anyone claim to force others to pay for his “solutions” or charitable causes? But the issue of rights…specifically, individual rights (the only kind that exist)…is the missing ingredient in Mr. Dionne’s entire argument.

The answer to the question Mr. Dionne evades…the why…can only be addressed by reference to individual rights. Specifically, a woman’s unalienable right to life…which means, the unfettered right to chart the course of her own life, to act upon her own judgement, in the pursuit of her own happiness. The profoundly personal, solemn decision on whether or not to terminate a pregnancy does not belong to “society”, the state, or any religious sect claiming to act on the “word of God”. Nor should it be subject to coercive pressure from a government (or politician) seeking to make abortion “rare”. It belongs solely to the woman whose body carries the unborn child. If it is not her decision…then whose decision is it?

But those same unalienable rights, possessed equally by all people, also forbids the kinds of wealth confiscation and extensive government interference into peoples’ lives implied by all of those programs he proposes to fulfill President Obama’s campaign promises. A government’s proper role is to protect individual rights, not to manipulate peoples’ lives by violating their rights. In a free society, anyone who opposes abortion and wishes to make it rare is free to engage in non-coercive social activism, based upon rational persuasion and public educational campaigns. Whatever assistance pregnant women seeking to avoid an abortion may need and desire, should be supplied only through the voluntary, uncoerced charity of people of genuine good will and generosity, and not through government coercion.

Mr. Dionne is being quite disingenuous here. He offers social conservatives a “deal”…or more specifically, an intellectual package deal. Give up your quest to legally ban abortion, and help us expand the welfare state. He proposes to defend his pro-choice position, by trampling the only moral justification for legal abortion…individual rights. This position is untenable. But Mr. Dionne simply employs that ever-present tool of all statists…evasion.

If Mr. Dionne really believed in keeping abortion legal, he should simply take the principled stand and state the obvious…it is a woman’s unalienable right.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Election 2008- What it Does, and Doesn’t, Mean.

My first observation is that this election was not a landslide…not even close. Previous landslides…Johnson in 1964, Nixon in 1972, and Reagan in 1980 and 1984…saw the victors win some 60% plus of the popular vote. Reagan captured 49 states in 1984 against Mondale. In this election, the popular vote margin in favor of Obama was 53% to 47%. The Electoral vote count was strongly, but not overwhelming in Obama’s favor. To be sure, Obama’s win was impressively broad…but again, no landslide.

I do not believe that this election portends a conscious swing to the Left. It is an acceleration of the swing towards big government, yes. Since 2000, we have seen the resumption of the statist trend that began with the creation of the anti-trust laws over a century ago. That trend has been marked by an aggressive socialist Left and a timid, compromising Right. (By “Left” I mean pro-socialist, and by “Right” I mean pro-capitalist.) With each new expansion of government control and diminution of individual freedom, the remnants of capitalism get the blame for the problems caused by government, which then justifies the next set of controls. The current crisis offers a stark demonstration of that pattern, with our next president calling the government-created financial collapse of a government-regulated banking and housing industry a failure of free market capitalism. And, in typical pattern, the alleged representative of free markets…the Republican Party…is not only failing to rise to its defense, but is actively hastening the destruction of the remnants of economic freedom in America.

In other words, the resurgence of the big government trend is advancing in an intellectual vacuum. I believe that the basic American belief in individualism, though battered and receding, is still dominant…not yet having been overtaken by the entitlement mentality slowly engulfing the culture. But this individualist spirit desperately needs a voice. To be sure, it does have a voice…the Objectivist movement. But in a two-party political system, the philosophical foundation for Americanism and capitalism established by Ayn Rand must eventually be embraced by one of the major parties. This is the challenge facing the Republican Party, now disintegrated and intellectually leaderless. The chance for stopping a new, major lurch toward socialism in the short term is virtually nil. The Democrats will almost certainly use their firm control of Washington and the GOP disarray to push for rapid enactment of their programs this spring. So the focus must be turned to building the intellectual case for rolling back the growing fascist welfare state. And that begins with building the case for an alternative.

This election has been called the end of the Reagan era. This is blatantly false. The Reagan era ended with the election of George W. Bush. The “big government conservatism” of the Bush years…more accurately called right wing liberalism…is being used to discredit tax cuts and reduced government economic regulation, two hallmarks of Reaganism. The Bush tax cuts did mimic the Reagan cuts, albeit on a much smaller scale. But the parallels end there. Even the way in which Bush “sold” his tax cuts clashes with Reagan. Reagan portrayed his tax cuts…which brought the top income tax rate down from 70% to 28%…as a means of liberating the productive members of society. Bush saw his as a means of “growing the economy”, a collectivist premise.

Even more absurd, some on the Left have called this election the end of the era of Ayn Rand. Rand advocated reason, individual rights, laissez-faire capitalism, and a moral code of rational self-interest. Despite the mildly anti-statist Reagan interlude, the last half-century has seen the exact opposite of those principles…a major expansion of government and, simultaneously, a resurgence of religion in America. Neither trend would be possible in a Randian culture. Ideas are never defeated, until they have been confronted openly and refuted. While indisputably a growing intellectual force over the last 50 years, the “era of Ayn Rand”, if there is to be one, is clearly in the future. A declaration of the end of a philosophical movement whose essential characteristics have been evaded, distorted, and ignored by its critics says something else entirely. The true, benevolent nature of capitalism must not just be obscured, but must never be discovered. For this reason, the newly invigorated Left fears the Objectivist movement.

Much of Obama’s support is “soft”. Just listen to the reasons given by his supporters for their votes. They are rich in empty cliches, vague generalities, shallow euphemisms, and an arrogant ignorance. Obama centered his campaign around the intellectually shallow, even as he laid the philosophical foundation for a socialist agenda. Listen to the Hoover Institution’s Shelby Steele

His talent was to project an idealized vision of a post-racial America -- and then to have that vision define political decency. Thus, a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency.

Obama's special charisma -- since his famous 2004 convention speech -- always came much more from the racial idealism he embodied than from his political ideas. In fact, this was his only true political originality. On the level of public policy, he was quite unremarkable. His economics were the redistributive axioms of old-fashioned Keynesianism; his social thought was recycled Great Society. But all this policy boilerplate was freshened up -- given an air of "change" -- by the dreamy post-racial and post-ideological kitsch he dressed it in.

This worked politically for Obama because it tapped into a deep longing in American life -- the longing on the part of whites to escape the stigma of racism. In running for the presidency -- and presenting himself to a majority white nation -- Obama knew intuitively that he was dealing with a stigmatized people. He knew whites were stigmatized as being prejudiced, and that they hated this situation and literally longed for ways to disprove the stigma.

Obama is what I have called a "bargainer" -- a black who says to whites, "I will never presume that you are racist if you will not hold my race against me." Whites become enthralled with bargainers out of gratitude for the presumption of innocence they offer. Bargainers relieve their anxiety about being white and, for this gift of trust, bargainers are often rewarded with a kind of halo.

But there is an inherent contradiction in all this. When whites -- especially today's younger generation -- proudly support Obama for his post-racialism, they unwittingly embrace race as their primary motivation. They think and act racially, not post-racially. The point is that a post-racial society is a bargainer's ploy: It seduces whites with a vision of their racial innocence precisely to coerce them into acting out of a racial motivation. A real post-racialist could not be bargained with and would not care about displaying or documenting his racial innocence. Such a person would evaluate Obama politically rather than culturally. (Emphasis added.)

There is nothing new or original or unique about Obama’s rhetoric or policy proposals. He represents the tired, worn-out, bankrupt ideology of collectivism…cloaked in the usual, sinister altruistic call for service to the state and sacrifice for one’s neighbor…a blatant appeal to envy, guilt, and the entitlement mentality. His is a rise propelled not by ideas, but by the upward pull of an ideological vacuum. Note that Obama and his forces ran for their political lives, as from a plague, from the “socialist” label. It is crucially important to understand the significance of this. Socialism…i.e., collectivism…is dead as a cultural and intellectual ideal. Thus, Obama is reduced to a mental shyster who must sneak across his socialist agenda while denying its essence, counting on not enough people seeing through the fog of “hope” and “change”. He won against an opposition that had nothing to offer, no fundamental alternative to inspire…which offered only “an echo, not a choice”. He won against an imploding GOP. With all of that, he still couldn’t convince 47% of the country.

The question now is, will a true, principled, pro-capitalist, pro-individualist opposition arise in time to thwart the statist tide to come. The signs are not good, if one looks to the GOP. More hopeful is the prospect of a popular backlash against the Democrats once their socialistic designs come into clearer focus. Here, there is some cause for cautious optimism. The widespread, spontaneous revulsion that erupted over the bailout tsunami is one positive sign. Also, polling indicates that the Dem’s congressional gains were driven mainly by disgust with the incumbents, rather than support for higher taxes and more regulations. When confronted explicitly with socialism, Americans still reject it.

There is no way to put a positive spin on this year’s election results…not if one values his freedom and his life. I am merely saying that the situation is bleak, not hopeless. The problem is, socialism in America is coming bit by bit, always disguised behind some “good cause". Blinded by pragmatism and altruism, most people can’t or won’t see through the disguise. That is why we have built an enormous welfare state, when no welfare state was ever explicitly chosen by Americans. This blindness is going to have to change…and quickly.

I believe America is ready for…indeed, desperately needs… a principled, ideological, morally confident intellectual leadership to arise in defense of capitalism, with all that that implies. It can not come too soon.