Thursday, May 28, 2009

Sotomayor, Mr. Spock, and A Government of Men

President Obama has chosen his nominee for the Supreme Court. As promised, his pick reflects his aim to invert a key American founding principle. He had previously laid out his judicial philosophy to the nation:

... [J]ustice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes.
President Obama, May 1, 2009

In introducing Judge Sonia Sotomayer, the president said:

While there are many qualities that I admire in judges across the spectrum of judicial philosophy, and that I seek in my own nominee, there are few that stand out that I just want to mention.

First and foremost is a rigorous intellect -- a mastery of the law, an ability to hone in on the key issues and provide clear answers to complex legal questions. Second is a recognition of the limits of the judicial role, an understanding that a judge's job is to interpret, not make, law; to approach decisions without any particular ideology or agenda, but rather a commitment to impartial justice; a respect for precedent and a determination to faithfully apply the law to the facts at hand.

These two qualities are essential, I believe, for anyone who would sit on our nation's highest court. And yet, these qualities alone are insufficient. We need something more. For as Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, "The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience." Experience being tested by obstacles and barriers, by hardship and misfortune; experience insisting, persisting, and ultimately overcoming those barriers. It is experience that can give a person a common touch and a sense of compassion; an understanding of how the world works and how ordinary people live. And that is why it is a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need on the Supreme Court.
President Obama, May 26, 2009

Thus does President Obama declare that a court of law will now become an emotional crap shoot. Said Rich Lowry in the New York Post:

It was a historic day when President Obama announced his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

Impartiality has been supplanted by empathy. The old-fashioned virtue of objectivity -- redolent of dusty law books and the unromantic task of parsing the law and facts -- is giving way to an inherently politicized notion of judging based on feelings. Lady Justice is to slip her blindfold and let her decisions be influenced by her life experiences and personal predilections.

Tom Bowden, legal analyst for the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, has this to say:

In a 2001 speech titled “A Latina Judge’s Voice,” [Sonia Sotomayer] declared that “the aspiration to impartiality is just that–it’s an aspiration because it denies the fact” that “our experiences as women and people of color affect our decisions.” “[G]ender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” “There is no objective stance but only a series of perspectives,”

This is a blatant endorsement of subjective emotional decision-making, which has no place on the Court and will swiftly corrupt what’s left of its integrity. The Supreme Court has a solemn duty to interpret and apply the Constitution. That is an intellectual task requiring ruthless objectivity—which, contrary to Judge Sotomayor, is not an illusory “aspiration” but a requirement of justice. A conscientious judge strives to banish all emotional influences from the decision-making process. But here is Judge Sotomayor declaring herself helpless to resist—indeed, even welcoming—the influence of personal intuitions that cannot be grasped or shared by persons of another gender or ethnicity.
Voices for Reason, May 27, 2009

The revolt against reason and objectivity is not a mere political phenomenon. In the just-released movie “Star Trek”, an elderly Mr. Spock, the champion of logic, meets up with his younger self in some kind of time warp. This scene is, I believe, a crucial point – perhaps the crucial point – of the movie.

In the original series, Spock represents the manifestation of the fallacy of the reason-emotion dichotomy. (For an excellent, in depth discussion on this fallacy, see Mr. Jekyll and Dr. House: The Reason-Emotion Split as Manifested in House, M.D., by Gena Gorlin in The Objective Standard.) That aside, Spock represents the virtuous trait of never letting his emotions get in the way of rational analysis of the facts.

In the above mentioned scene, which occurs near the climax of the movie, the elder Spock (played by Leonard Nimoy) says; “Sometimes you have to put logic aside, and do what feels right.” So the Mr. Spock character is destroyed as a pitch is made to destroy reason in favor of emotionalism. Once you have made a conscious decision to act upon emotion, you admit a subversive influence into your rational faculty. How do you draw the line between when to think and when something just “feels right”?

How do you know where that line is as you seek justice in a court of law governed by judges who can act at any time – not on the objective facts and law – but on what happens to just “feel right”? How long can a civil society last when the guardians of our constitution act on “a necessary ingredient in the kind of justice we need” that varies from one judge’s whims to the next?

When justice is transformed from an objective absolute into a ball of putty, there is no justice at all. The counter-revolution against America’s founding ideals continues to gather momentum.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Obama, “the Lord’s Work”, and the Real Goliath

Commenting on President Obama’s pledge to go after offshore tax shelters, the New Jersey Star-Ledger hailed this move as David taking on Goliath. In a May 6, 2009, lead editorial entitled “Fighting Goliath: Cracking down on wealthy Americans who go offshore to avoid taxes”, they wrote:

In proposing a crackdown on multinational corporations and wealthy Americans who've beaten the tax man by sheltering income offshore, President Obama is surely doing the Lord's work.

The Obama plan is a shot across the bow of a U.S. tax regime 30 years in the making that helped American multinational corporations create, expand and dominate the largely unregulated phenomenon called globalization. In the process, the U.S. tax base has been steadily eroded as rates on corporations and the wealthy have dropped and tax loopholes have expanded.

At first blush, Obama would seem to have the political numbers in his favor. Democrats enjoy healthy majorities in both the Senate and House. But with this kind of wealth on the block, party allegiance is often easily shredded.

Big money is a fearsome force in both parties in Washington. It usually gets its way. Maybe this time will be different. There's a populist fever in the country against the corporate Goliaths who have brought the economy low. It's Obama's best bet in what shapes up as the biggest congressional brawl of the year.

I posted the following rebuttal to the editorial:

Posted by Zemack on 05/07/09 at 8:39PM

What institution has the power to legally confiscate the wealth of private, productive citizens by force? (Taxes)

What institution has the legal power to issue edicts that force its citizens to act against or contrary to their own judgement, on the premise of the presumption of guilt, where no wrongdoing (violations of other people's rights) has occurred? (Regulations)

What institution has the legal power to compel private citizens to act or not act in certain ways it deems desirable? (Laws)

In short, what institution has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force?

There is a Goliath loose in America, but it is not the "corporate Goliaths who have [allegedly] brought the economy low". No private individual or private company (which is only a number of individuals) can legally compel anyone. While private corporations can, just like any other private entity, form lobbies to attempt to influence lawmakers (a First Amendment right), only government can legally carry out, by force, the wishes of any particular special interest group. The "Goliaths" of industry can only grow by virtue of the voluntary consent of the millions of people who purchase their products and services, or who choose to fill the jobs they create.

So we have a government armed with the power of legalized force, and we have private corporations possessing no such coercive power. Yet we have the perverse spectacle of the leader of the institution of physical compulsion, President Obama, expressing moral outrage at America's greatest industrial enterprises and most successful individuals "who've beaten the tax man"...cheered on by his ideological foot soldiers like the Star-Ledger Editorial Board. The armed adversary...the posing as David! The "corporate Goliaths", who are subject to rules imposed upon them by government, are presented as the thugs. What was their sin? They used fully legal means to reduce their tax liability!

The dangerous territory America is penetrating ever deeper into was identified by its leading defender of individual rights, some decades ago;

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."

Philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand's warning is coming ever closer to becoming reality. The corporate income tax is an abomination which distorts economic decision-making, and should be abolished. But this is about much more than mere tax policy. The actions taken by the targets of Obama's angst were and are completely legal. Yet, the president and the editorial board treat these American corporations and individuals as if they are betraying the country, rather than exercising their unalienable (though dwindling) rights to pursue their own happiness and self-interest, by seeking to avoid some of the onerous American taxes and regulations. Indeed, the management of a public corporation has a fiduciary responsibility to its shareholders to maximize company profits and wealth by whatever legal means are open to it.

Those "multinational corporations and wealthy Americans" which Obama demands a "crackdown" against are taking actions that are both legal and moral. They are acting in their own best interests and are violating no one's rights in protecting from a predatory state their property and that which they have earned.

But notice the implicit premise in the tone and nature of the Star-Ledger's and the president's rhetoric. That premise is the collectivist idea that the nation's wealth, which is produced by private individuals, belongs to "society", in whose name the state speaks. That premise is the altruist notion that those who did not earn it have first claim on it. By legally avoiding taxes, they are depriving the state of whatever it deems to be its rightful "tax base". Mh44 states that "For Obama it's not about economic growth or US jobs, but a money grab to pay for his BIG and GROWING Gov't." Yes, but above all, it's about power.

The hallmark of a free country is a government limited by constitutional law, governing a people who are free to do whatever is not legally forbidden. Yet here we have legal activities being termed loopholes. Loopholes in what? In government's controlling power. The real Goliath we must fear is our government, which is systematically breaking free of its constitutional constraints. When freedom becomes not an unalienable right but a mere "loophole" in the government's power, it is a sign that we are closing in upon Rand's "ultimate inversion".

One particular aspect of this editorial that should not be brushed off as mere rhetoric is the Editors’ reference to Obama’s “surely doing the Lord’s work”. This is a clear reference to the Christian doctrine that the moral purpose of wealth must be to give it to others.

"Time and time again Jesus reminds us of our obligations toward the poor and that it is no excuse to say we didn't notice them. We are not deliberately cruel. We don't kick them in the teeth. We don't do anything. And that was the sin condemned by Christ.

In more modern times the Church has continued Christ's warnings. In the encyclical Development of Peoples, 1967, quoting St. Ambrose, she reminds us that when we give to the poor "we are not making a gift of our possessions. We are only handing over to him what is his. The world is given to all, and not only to the rich." The Fourth Beatitude

The St. Ambrose doctrine is what I had in mind in my post of 4/2/09, and is what is behind the Obama plan for remaking America. The Star-Ledger is an ideological foot soldier for the Obama administration. As is becoming ever more clear and for which I have been arguing, President Obama has made a conscious choice to reach out to the Christian Right, a traditionally Republican electoral sector, based upon common moral grounds. The “Lord’s work” comment is consistent with that approach.

Many politically conservative Christians would point out that Jesus’ admonition to give away possessions was meant as a voluntary, not forced, act. This is probably true, and that phrase drew the ire of one correspondent. But the key premise is the morality of altruism…to selflessly put others above self. There is no doubt that redistributive taxation and the general collectivist tenet that wealth is ultimately the property of society that must be put to work for the “common good” is morally consistent with Christian doctrine. Indeed, there are plenty of influential Christians who would support the Star-Ledger’s editorial statement, and an attempt is underway to isolate pro-capitalist Christians as “the extreme right”.. The line between altruism and force blurs toward invisibility under the Orwellian doctrine of “Social Justice”…the statist calling card of both the collectivist Left and the growing Christian Left...including the long-time enemy of capitalism, the Catholic Church.

Moral consistency is not on the side of the pro-capitalist Christian faction. The philosophically astute Obama understands the common moral bond between Christianity and socialism, and seeks to capitalize politically on that bond. The honorary degree conferred on him by Notre Dame, as well as the invitation by that premier U.S. Catholic university to deliver the commencement address in which he sought to neutralize the abortion issue, is another sign that he is making significant progress in that direction. Hitching his collectivist agenda to the rising influence of the Christian religion is a philosophical masterstroke. To the extent that Obama is successful in his efforts to forge this new political alliance is the extent to which the already serious danger to freedom in America only escalates.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Autism Mandates Vs. a Free Market

Treatment expenses for Autism was the subject for my post of March 23, 2009, in which the subject of a Virginia government mandate law forcing insurance companies to pay for it was discussed.

A similar Colorado law was recently the subject of a letter-to-the-editor at the Denver Post. In support of the Colorado law, Jill Tappert of Boulder inadvertantly exposes the nature of the problem of mandates;

"A neighbor thinks he shouldn’t pay part of his insurance premium for autism treatment. That’s curious — I wonder just how much I pay for his heart disease or cancer."

Expanding on the points I made in March, I published comments in response to the letter as well as what other correspondents had to say.

Paul Hsieh, MD, co-founder of Freedom and Individual Rights in Medicine (FIRM) writes;

The state legislature should indeed do the right thing, but right thing is to OPPOSE, not support SB244. It is precisely the proliferation of mandated benefits (such as alcoholism treatment, autism therapy, etc.) that drives up insurance costs.

Mandated benefits force insurance companies to sell (and patients to buy) services they neither want nor need. These laws violates the rights of individuals and insurers to contract for desired services free market without government interference. Plus they raise costs for everyone in order to suit special interest groups with political clout.

Dr. Hsieh is right, I wrote. But the same arguments used against autism insurance mandates points to a genuine injustice suffered by parents of autistic children. While they struggle to pay the cost of their own children’s treatment, they themselves are victims of a myriad of other government mandates, programs, and policies.

For example, they are forced to pay the cost of similar insurance mandates such as New Jersey’s soon to be (or already) enacted Senate bill S1940, which requires insurance companies to cover mental healthcare expenses relating to eating disorders. In addition, that same unfortunate couple that is unable to afford treatment for their own autistic child is paying, through their taxes, the healthcare expenditures of: the elderly (Medicare), the poor (Medicaid), other peoples’ children (SCHIP), etc.

The answer is obvious; end the immoral government-imposed policy of forcing everyone to pay for the healthcare of everyone else.

Steve Tappert argues in favor of the mandate, but from a curious perspective. He writes, in part;

I am an advocate of capitalism including health care, having lived in a country with socialized medicine and understanding what government bureacracy brings to the party. However, the structure of healthcare is in no way an efficient market, and power is extremely consolidated. The incentive structure is not aligned in a way that allows the invisibe hand of the marketplace to reward providers with the best product, and there is virtually no open market from which to choose amongst competing product offerings. In such a structure, it is absolutely the role of government to mandate minimum levels of service. This is the least expensive and least intrusive way of ensuring that decent healthcare is available to as many people as possible.

Steve Tappert, I wrote, does a good job describing our current system of health insurance, correctly observing that it is not a free market. Unfortunately, this “advocate of capitalism” doesn’t come to the obvious conclusion…get rid of it in favor of a free market. He simply takes what we have as a given. Well, from that perspective, the autism mandate makes sense as a matter of basic fairness. So do mandates requiring coverage for allergies or tattoo removal. So does complete socialized medicine, which he claims to oppose based upon personal experience but which we are inevitably heading for.

But what we now call “insurance” is not insurance at all. It is semi-socialized medicine imposed by government, with a quasi-private, government manipulated insurance cartel as the conduit. The “power” of the insurance companies is derived not from market forces (i.e., the free, uncoerced choices of private individuals), but from government controls and interference. Political power, in other words. Steve’s first paragraph describes the third-party-payer system imposed through tax code distortions. The mandates are nothing more than wealth redistribution masquerading as insurance.

Today the insurer, perversely, works not for the consumer but for the employer or union that hires it…even though the consumer is actually paying the premiums indirectly. The “power” of insurers would disappear in a free market where “insurers would need to sell their wares directly to the patients.” It’s important to note that the purpose of insurance is to protect against unforeseen, catastrophic financial expenses. Today’s system is pre-paid healthcare, which creates an artificial middleman resulting in the destruction of normal market incentives, a massive layer of unnecessary administrative expenses, the subordination of medical decisions to the dictates of government or insurance company bean-counters, and the undermining of the doctor-patient relationship.

When a consumer buys insurance on a free market, he is buying protection against financial calamity. The insurer uses the money it earns from the sale of that protection to build the pool of assets from which to draw on to pay claims. Coverage options and the price offered by competing insurers would be determined by the market. If enough people demand a particular type of coverage to allow an insurer to offer it profitably at an affordable price, it would likely become available. If not, not. There is no inherent right to any particular type of coverage, and in a free market no one may impose his or her medical expenses on others through government force.

But remember what I said in my previous comment above. Government interference works both ways. Freed from the burden of supporting others’ medical expenses, plenty of money would be available for us to pay most of our medical expenses directly. This would mean that healthcare providers, like insurers, would have to compete directly for the consumers business rather than bill some disconnected third party. Market incentives and discipline would result in falling prices and rising quality, as always happens when markets are free. In a free market, it is highly likely that the current model of all-encompassing, pre-paid health “insurance” would disappear in favor of high deductible, low cost catastrophic policies. Government’s role in a free market is limited but crucial…the protection of individual rights through laws against fraud and breech of contract, mediation of disputes, and protecting the sanctity of contracts.

The only just and moral course to take on healthcare reform is to rid the industry of government interference. America currently spends some $7500 per capita per year ($30,000 per family of four and rising) on healthcare. Almost that entire amount represents third parties spending other people’s money. This is a fundamental part of the problem. That money comes from all of us in a myriad of ways, yet leaves us with little control over how it is spent. Leave that money in the hands of the people that earned it through some vehicle like HSAs, end government insurance mandates and the third-party-payer system, phase out existing “public” plans like Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP, and let people take personal responsibility for their own healthcare.

Today’s healthcare “crisis”, if you want to call it that, is a political creation. Adding more layers of socialist yoke, such as Colorado Senate Bill 244 or New Jersey Senate Bill s1940, won’t do. The entire mountain of government intrusions built up over the past 75 years or so should be opened up to scrutiny, rather than allow another lurch toward total government control to take place under the cover of “reform”. If Steve Tappert is truly an “advocate of capitalism”, he would…well…advocate capitalism.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Missing Ingredient In New Jersey's GOP Gubernatorial Debate

The May 12, 2009, debate between Steve Lonegan and Chris Christie, the main gubernatorial candidates for the GOP nomination to oppose Governor Jon Corzine in November, highlighted the fundamental challenge confronting the Republican Party.

In a column in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Paul Mulshine declared that Lonegan is "winning the ideological debate". I would ask; what debate, exactly, is he winning?

The fundamental ideological devide in America today is--the individual against the collective.

Throughout the entire debate, I did not hear the two words that would signal firmly the end of me-too republicanism--individual rights. Individual rights, as conceived by the Founding Fathers, are guarantees to freedom of action coupled with the sole obligation to respect the same rights of others. They are not an automatic claim on the earnings, wealth, or property produced by others. (A full philosophical defense of rights has been provided by 20th century philosopher/novelist Ayn Rand.)

So I was very disappointed in the two candidates, particularly Mr. Lonegan, who is running on returning to republican principles. Despite calling Mr. Christie "democrat light", he specifically endorsed a basic government-imposed social safety net. His flat tax is great, but he still endorsed its purpose--state-distributed school aid. The candidates' support for state-funded vouchers not only leaves government in charge of the schools, but expands that control to private schools. When government money pays, government sets the terms. Real school choice means people paying for schools using their own money (such as through tax credits).

Mr. Lonegan stated repeatedly his opposition to redistributionism. But welfare statism (no matter how limited), the income tax (even in flat form), and government-funded vouchers are all forms of redistribution. All are a violation of individual rights.

The principle of individual rights is what defines America. It is the limiting factor in limited government. Without individual rights, the concept of limited government is meaningless. (A full philosophical statement defining the proper role of government has also been provided by Ayn Rand.)

The democrats have come down squarely on the side of the collective society, socialism, and omnipotent government...though they dare not admit that openly. The only ideological alternative is individual rights, capitalism, and a limited government in its original American meaning of protector of those rights. The end of me-too republicanism will have arrived when those principles are explicitly and proudly declared as the GOP's guiding principles on all issues.

Today, there is no one in the political arena defending individual rights. That is the challenge...and, I believe, the opportunity for its before the GOP. If the Republican Party doesn't stand for individual rights, capitalism, and limited government, it stands for nothing.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Responsibility Depends on Individual Rights

At his March 24, 2009, news conference, President Obama once again reminded us that “we all have responsibilities”, as he reiterated the need to “invest” in major healthcare reform.

The President is right to call on us to take responsibility. He is right to call for fundamental healthcare reform. But what, exactly, do they entail? And how are they related?

To be responsible means to think independently, to act upon one’s own rational judgement, and to take responsibility for one’s actions. To be responsible means to recognize, as any honest person does, that each of us must earn his own keep and cannot consume more than he has produced. To be responsible, one must be free to do so. A responsible government protects every individual’s right to his freedom.

The responsible approach to healthcare reform begins with an examination of the existing structural impediments to the ability of individuals to the exercise and act upon their own judgement. If the President really means responsible, his reforms would begin dismantling the decades-long buildup of government interventions into the healthcare field that is responsible for its soaring costs.

He would end the government-imposed third-party-payer system, all government insurance mandates, and all legal barriers to interstate competition in health insurance. This will allow people to be responsible for the direct purchase of their own health care and health insurance. It will also liberate the insurance market, freeing insurers to compete directly for the business of the actual consumers of healthcare. Responsibility means recognizing the rights of consumers, patients, healthcare providers, and insurance companies to contract voluntarily with each other to mutual advantage. This will free employers from an irrational and increasingly untenable burden, and remove the loss of health insurance as a consequence of job loss or change.

Responsibility also means ending the unjust practice of forcing people to pay for other people’s healthcare. Lamenting the uninsured rings hollow when one considers the fact that the same person unable to afford his own health insurance nonetheless sees his earnings drained to support the elderly (Medicare), the poor (Medicaid), other peoples’ children (SCHIP), foreign aid healthcare spending such as former President Bush’s $50 billion AIDS relief package to Africa, etc, etc, etc. It is the responsibility of each of us, as individuals, to determine how we spend the money we earn…including when, who and in what capacity to help others.

Total healthcare spending in America today amounts to about $7500 per person. That’s $30,000 for a family of four. More than 80% of that total represents people spending other people’s money, a major contributor to large and unnecessary administrative costs. Rather than cycle our money through third parties, we (and our employers) should be free to direct our earnings into our own individual tax-free account, such as Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). Each of us can then take responsibility for managing our own healthcare dollars…including retirement planning…rather than a middle man or third party such as government, employers, or insurance companies and HMOs.

These steps would be consistent with the President’s call for both responsibility and major healthcare reform.

President Obama often speaks of responsibilities (or "obligations") accompanying our rights. That responsibility means respecting the rights of others. Each of us has the right to be responsible for our own healthcare. In short, that means free market capitalism…the only political/economic system based upon individual rights. It is only through the exercise of our unalienable rights that we can become truly responsible citizens. The government’s proper role is to protect individual rights, which includes protecting the sanctity of contracts, mediation of contractual disputes, and vigorous enforcement of the laws against fraud and breech of contract.

Of course, when President Obama speaks of “responsibility”, it is not the personal, take-charge-of-your-own-life variety that he speaks of. He means it in the altruistic, communitarian sense of being “our brothers’ keeper”. Said the President:

"But one of the most important lessons to learn from this crisis is that our economy only works if we recognize that we’re all in this together, that we all have responsibilities to each other and to our country."

He means that we are all responsible for the well-being of others, not of respecting each other’s right to the pursuit of his own well-being and happiness. He means for us to seek our own welfare not through our own efforts, but through the efforts of others.

His statement, “we’re all in this together, that we all have responsibilities to each other and to our country”, is a statist concept alien to a nation founded on the moral principle of individual rights. Statism holds that the individual’s life belongs to the collective, as represented by the state. His idea of “responsibility” is for each of us to set aside any selfish concern for our own individual lives, liberty, and property. We must submit to control by a government medical elite who we don’t know and who doesn’t know us, but who acts in the name of some mystical higher entity called “the common good”. His is a call for dependency and for the reign of the unearned.

There is, indeed, a connection between healthcare reform and personal responsibility. Unfortunately, Obama’s policies would sever personal responsibility from healthcare decision-making, leading to the opposite result of the goal of a more responsible citizenry. The principle that we are all responsible for each other actually rewards the irresponsible and penalizes the responsible.

The only true path towards the goal of “responsibility” and fundamental healthcare reform is the one that leads to the recognition of our unalienable individual rights, and consequently to free markets.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

GOP "Irrelevance", and the Way Back

The New Jersey Star-Ledger has posted an editorial following the defection of GOP Senator Arlen Specter to the democrats, leaving them with a filabuster-proof majority in the senate. Here are a few excerpts, followed by my analysis.

Republican Party is slipping into irrelevance as Sen. Arlen Specter and voters bail

Back in the Reagan era, the Republican Party advertised itself as a "big tent," a collection of conservatives, independents, recovering liberals, even Reagan Democrats. Today, by comparison, it's little more than a pup tent.

Much is made of the Grand Old Party's latest evidence of shrinkage -- Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter's defection to the Democrats. Too little is made of the fact that in Obama's Washington the GOP is increasingly irrelevant at a time of great crisis when a vibrant opposition voice is vital.

It's not good for the country. One-party dominance has too often been a recipe for recklessness.

The party lacks the two things normally deemed essential to political success: nimble, attractive leaders and a message right for the times.

But it's on the vital subject of message that the GOP is most clearly bankrupt. Its all-purpose cure for everything that ails the country is tax cuts and/or reduced government spending. That won't do; it might if times were good, but not now, with the economy on dead stop and needing a jolt.

A CBS News-NY Times poll reports that 70 percent of those surveyed believe the opposition is motivated primarily by politics, not principle.
(Emphasis added.)

My Commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 04/30/09 at 9:21PM

I agree with the editors that in America today "a vibrant opposition voice is vital". But opposition to what?

We just completed eight years of big government, statist republican rule. That trend is accelerating under Obama. Both parties are on the same highway to tyranny. The difference is only a matter of speed, and the fact that the GOP's brand of statism masquerades under the banner of "free markets". The democrats, however, are not so hypocritical. They are openly proclaiming that freedom has failed. Beneath the rhetoric, though, both parties are pointed in the same direction.

But the across-the-board statist push by the Obama-led democrats has exposed clearly the fundamental battle lines. It's no longer liberal vs. conservative. It's the age-old battle between the individual and the state. Using the government-created financial crisis as a cover, the democrats are in open rebellion against the American Revolution and the U.S. Constitution. They have launched a breathtaking, multi-front socialist agenda...bringing it in through the fascist back door. To advance their purposes, they have exhumed from the graveyard of history the skeletal remains of the ideology that ravaged the 20th century with tyranny, war, and genocide...collectivism.

What is not needed today is an opposition political party that simply holds its finger in the air to determine which way the popular wind is blowing...or, as the Star-Ledger puts it, to seek "a message right for the times". The battle is firmly ideological. The basic moral question is; does the individual have an unalienable right to his own life, or is he a subject of the state? Does he have a right to pursue his own happiness, or is he a state-owned slave to the needs of others?

Clearly, the Democrats have come down squarely on the side of the collective society and the authoritarian state. The GOP must shed the labels of the party of business and the party of the Religious Right and become, first and foremost, the party of the individual. America desperately needs a principled opposition with the courage to present America with a true "choice, not an echo". This means to embrace the following twin pillars of a truly free society:

The separation of religion and state...which means to reject the Christian Right's anti-rights agenda on the marriage amendment, stem cell research, abortion, public school prayer, faith-based initiatives, anti-First Amendment "obscenity" restrictions, etc. (By "Christian Right" I mean political Christianity, not Christians as such. Thoughtful Christians understand that when any religious sect demands its agenda be put into law, the rights of everyone...themselves included...are threatened.)

The separation of economics and state...which means to embrace economic freedom, or laissez-faire capitalism, as a guiding principle on all issues. This would mean a platform which would include phasing out and dismantling the welfare state including sacred cows like social security, Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP; breaking up the public school monopoly and extending school choice to all parents through tax credits (but not government-funded vouchers); a full commitment to global free trade and an open immigration policy with all friendly, non-hostile nations; a return to a gold standard and abolition of the Federal Reserve central bank monopoly, which will break the back of the Federal government's now unlimited ability to confiscate our wealth; and massive tax reduction and regulatory name a few planks.

To become relevant once again, the GOP needs to declare a philosophical "Contract with America". The rights of the individual to live his life for his own sake, so long as he doesn't violate the same rights of others, must be the unifying principle for the platform agenda. By rights I mean as they were meant by the Founders...guarantees to the freedom to take the actions necessary to promote one's own life, not as an automatic claim to the earnings, products and services, and property produced by others. Only a full GOP commitment to our founding principles, which the Democrats have now openly abandoned, can restore their standing. It will take a lot of political courage and a steadfast focus on the long-term rather than just the next election. It won't be easy. But standing on principle means, well, standing on principle.

The GOP must reject both the economic tyranny of the Socialist Left, and the social tyranny of the Religious Right. It must create a truly big tent...welcoming people from all across the American culture...united by the values of unalienable individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. The Republican Party, I firmly believe, needs to move beyond the conservative-liberal paradigm; and forge a radical new individual rights coalition to counter the Democrats' full embrace of collectivism.

People will say that this is radical. It's not practical. It won't win elections. Of course, it is radical, in the honorable sense of the term. So was the American Revolution! (So, for that matter, is the Obama-Dems attempt to repeal it). But freedom is practical. People are capable of managing their own lives. As for elections, real electoral strength begins with ideas.

Do individual rights still "sell" in the only country ever founded on that principle? I believe the answer is yes. Will a political strategy encapsulated by the unifying philosophical/moral principle of individual rights work? I believe it can, and given time, will work. One thing is sure...if we value our freedom; it must work, because our time is running out. Reagan once said, "Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction". Observing the ominous trends in Washington, we may be that last generation.

Let America see what a real "vibrant opposition voice" truly looks like!

Other's Commentary

Posted by myunderstand on 05/01/09 at 12:12AM


I took the time to read all that you said. I understand your point of view. With minor exception I agree. Freedom is not FREE. It is a tangible feeling of self-worth that enhances each day of living a good life. You are not waisting your time in the quest, Semper Fi.

My Commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 05/01/09 at 7:48PM


Thanks for taking the time and interest. I've been making this case since the election, and will continue to do so. Intellectually, the GOP needs to rebuild from the ground up. Until they do, I will remain an ex-republican independent, which I have been for several years now. A McCain-Palin-Romney led GOP won't do.

If the republicans don't stand for capitalism and individual rights on principle, they stand for nothing.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"A Government of Men..."

On Friday, May 1, 2009, President Obama made a surprise appearance at a routine White House press briefing to announce the retirement of Supreme Court Justice David Souter. He used the occasion to make a statement about the philosophy that will guide his choice for Souter’s replacement, and presumably for all of his judicial nominations.

Here are Obama's full remarks, as released by the White House:

Throughout his two decades on the Supreme Court, Justice Souter has shown what it means to be a fair-minded and independent judge. He came to the bench with no particular ideology. He never sought to promote a political agenda. And he consistently defied labels and rejected absolutes, focusing instead on just one task -- reaching a just result in the case that was before him.

He approached judging as he approaches life, with a feverish work ethic and a good sense of humor, with integrity, equanimity and compassion -- the hallmark of not just being a good judge, but of being a good person.
I am incredibly grateful for his dedicated service. I told him as much when we spoke. I spoke on behalf of the American people thanking him for his service. And I wish him safe travels on his journey home to his beloved New Hampshire and on the road ahead.

Now, the process of selecting someone to replace Justice Souter is among my most serious responsibilities as President. So I will seek somebody with a sharp and independent mind and a record of excellence and integrity. I will seek someone who understands that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives -- whether they can make a living and care for their families; whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes.
I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded, and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.

As I make this decision, I intend to consult with members of both parties across the political spectrum. And it is my hope that we can swear in our new Supreme Court Justice in time for him or her to be seated by the first Monday in October when the Court's new term begins. (Emphasis added.)

“They define a republic to be a government of laws, and not of men.” John Adams, 1775

“We will re-define America as a government of men, and not of laws.” Barack Obama, 2009

In so many words, that is what the president actually said. No absolutes? No “abstract legal theory”? What will “the daily realities of people's lives” be like in a country in which laws passed by elected representatives can be subordinated to the emotional whims…the empathy…of a judiciary not even bound by the restraints of “footnotes in a case book”…i.e., prior legal precedent?

What will become of the sanctity of contracts if a judge is to consider “people's hopes and struggles as an essential ingredient for arriving as just decisions and outcomes”? What if justice clashes with “whether [people] can make a living and care for their families…”? What will become of the “constitutional values on which this nation was founded” after our courtrooms become a fog of non-absolutes?

President Obama’s judicial nominating guidelines are consistent with his belief in the “fundamental flaw” of America’s founding documents…the lack of any “redistributive” authority (See my post of 11/2/08 for more on this). His call for “empathy” by our judiciary is nothing more than an attempt to circumvent that “flaw”, as well as justice, through the courts. Of course, there is nothing new about using the courts to redistribute wealth. That has been the trend for decades under the legal theory that has been corrupting American tort law for the past century…Instumentalism. (For an in depth discussion on Instrumentalism, which seeks to define “law as a means to…social goals” rather than civil justice, read David Little’s essay in The Objective Standard.) President Obama has now elevated the Instrumentalist view of law into an “absolute” standard for his nominees. No absolutes, indeed!

I find the words uttered Friday by an American president…and one that is a constitutional scholar to boot…truly frightening. Unfortunately, though, it is not surprising. This goes way beyond politics. When objective, clearly defined laws based upon absolute universal principles give way to the arbitrary whims of government officials, you have arrived at tyranny.

The counter-revolt to overturn the rule of objective law and the American Revolution has been going on for about a century. This president is giving that trend a mighty push. On the distant horizon, the terrible consequences for America are beginning to come into view.

"Whatever government is not a government of laws, is a despotism, let it be called what it may." Daniel Webster