Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Collectivist Package-Dealing - and the need for philosophy

In my post of 6/21/09, I commented in part on a post by hsteach (also known as Josh W.). However, there is more to his comments than those to which I referred. He begins with a question. It is the kind of question that causes pro-free marketeers to stumble. It is the kind of question that demonstrates the need for and importance of philosophy.

hsteach. asks (11:12 PM on Friday Jun 19):

“I guess I should state my bias before I begin to explain it. I think the first question that needs to be answered here is this: should a person die because he/she can't afford necessary treatment?”

This is a classic type of question posed by collectivists. The question can be restated many times over, substituting the word “treatment” with “food”, “clothing”, “shelter”, “transportation”, etc. The question is designed to ignore all context, and demand a one-word answer. If one says “yes”, he is automatically branded as immoral and evil. If “no”, he is a paragon of virtue. The question is intended as a weapon of unilateral moral disarmament. The purpose is to shut down debate on today’s most crucial domestic issue…the future of American healthcare. That and similar questions are an altruistic trap, packaging compassion with collectivism/socialism and cruelty with individualism/free market capitalism.

The question attempts to pass off an intellectual package deal. Implied is the collectivist notion that there exists some entity (i.e., society, the state, the community, etc.) that supercedes the sovereignty of the individuals who make up a nation, and that possesses the authority to answer the above question independent of the desires and rights of those individuals. In other words, what lies behind the question is the idea that an individual does not own his own life…i.e., the tribal premise.

The questions that first must be addressed are: Where does the “necessary treatment” come from?; and how does one acquire it?

Nature does not provide man with even the most basic of life’s necessities, let alone anything even resembling advanced medical treatment. Everything human beings need must be discovered and produced by a process of thought applied to productive work. Since the mind is an attribute only of the individual, not any group or collective, man’s survival depends upon the efforts of individual human beings; whether working alone or in cooperation with others. Put another way, each adult individual must earn his own keep. He must produce through his own mind and labor that which he needs and desires, or acquire it from others. There are only two ways, essentially, to acquire that which one does not produce; by voluntary trade to mutual advantage in which one’s own work is exchanged for that of others, or by force. In a moral society…i.e., laissez-faire capitalism…all force is banned from human relationships except in self-defense. This means that if an agreement for an exchange (a trade) between two or more individuals can not be reached voluntarily, it does not and can not take place. Put another way: If you cannot afford something, no matter how valuable or needed, you can’t have it unless someone agrees to provide it to you as an act of charity and good will.

But, no one can claim the right to dispose of the earnings, property, and lives of others. To be more precise, no one can claim the right to loot and enslave another human being or beings. Rights are a government-protected sanction for each individual to take the actions necessary for the support and furtherance of his own life, contingent upon his respecting the same rights of all others. Freedom of speech, association, religion, and the acquisition and possession of property one earns are rights. Rights are not an automatic claim upon the earnings, property, or skills produced by others…such as the “right” to healthcare, food, or shelter.

Therefor, hsteach’s question is properly and morally left up to the independent judgement and choice of each of us as individuals. No one may answer “no”, as hsteach does, only to demand that others be forced to pay for any healthcare expense of his (or anyone’s) that he deems “unaffordable”. Need is not a license to steal. No one can claim a right to the products and services produced by others, apart from what one can pay for either out-of-pocket or by prior voluntary contractual agreement (such as insurance), or through voluntary charity.

Neither “society” nor any group by any name exists as an independent entity, apart from the individual members of that group. In a moral society, therefor, no person or group of persons…no matter how large in number…may violate the rights of even a single member, whether disguised behind “democracy”, the “public good”, “compassion”, or what have you. Since lives and property belong only to independent, sovereign human beings, it is beyond the power of any individual, such as hsteach, to answer that question for anyone else. That question above is applicable and answerable only by free individuals based upon each person’s own self-interest; on one’s judgement as to the worthiness of the recipient, one’s values, and one’s ability to afford to assist another. Anyone who claims the right to force his “no” to the above question on others, at the expense of their property and rights, is a predator and a phony.

As stated above, the question can be applied to all manner of manmade goods, as a justification for socialism. But as has been shown in theory and in practice, the degree of a nation's prosperity…and, I might add, the degree of a nation's generosity toward the helpless…is directly related to the degree to which a nation’s people enjoy the individual freedom of production and trade. But cause and effect can not be reversed. Through most of human history - and in non-free socialist /collectivist countries up to the present - grinding poverty, disease, premature suffering and death were and are the norm. Right up to the dawn of capitalism and the industrial revolution that it spawned, even the most “advanced” cultures, such as 18th century England, suffered mortality rates of up to 75% for children under the age of five. It was and is capitalistic economic and political freedom that made possible the medical advances (the “necessary treatments”) that spread through the general population, dramatically reducing the child mortality rates and raising the short life expectancies of pre-capitalist eras. Just as with cars, printers and copiers, computers, food, clothing, and the myriad of goods available to us in the relatively free segments of the economy, the natural incentives inherent in a free market can and will drive down the price and raise the quality of healthcare. The desire of people spending their own money to get as much value for their dollars, coupled with the desire of producers to expand markets, sales and, thus, profits, have been unequivocally proven to work in practice and theory. Most importantly, freedom is moral because it is a metaphysical requirement of human life.

The tremendous productive energy that is unleashed under the political principles of the individual’s unalienable rights to his own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness will be extinguished to the extent that those principles are abandoned in favor of a predatory, collective society. So, too, will the benevolence and good will among people that is a natural consequence of a rights-respecting and -protecting society.

Ending what’s left of the social conditions of freedom that brought us widely available advanced medicine is insane, and will lead to the very thing that hsteach answers “no” to. People routinely suffer and die in medically socialized nations, including in “progressive” Europe, because the state cannot “afford the necessary treatments”. What does anyone think “cost containment” and “comparative effectiveness” means in practice? As the last bastion of semi-free medicine – America – gets swallowed by the socialist central planners, the prop…the safety valve…supporting socialized systems of Europe and elsewhere will be kicked out. Then we will see the widening spread of people who die because of being denied the “necessary treatment” by fiscally collapsing governments, coupled with the spreading drought of competent doctors and other healthcare professionals…the kind who don’t submit to slavery.

So, when confronted with any variant of that loaded question, one must answer the questioner with an emphatic: “It depends! It depends upon the person, his character and moral standing, his relationship to me, my ability to afford to help, and any other criteria I deem relevant to my values…as determined by my judgement. I am not my brothers’ keeper, and it is not within my power to determine the fate of every person who may ‘die because he/she can't afford necessary treatment’, and neither is it yours.” The only way to defuse that question is to expose and reject the false premises behind it. One must reject the idea that human beings are sacrificial lambs whose lives are anchored to every personal tragedy of every needy person in the nation or on the globe. One must proudly assert that no one has an automatic claim on the lives and property of others. One must unequivocally defend one’s own selfish right to one’s own life.

On a broad contextual level, by advocating socialism in American medicine, hsteach is in effect answering “yes” to his own question. Those of us who advocate a return to free markets and individual freedom and personal responsibility in healthcare are the true moral and compassionate ones, answering with the emphatic “NO” that only capitalism can make possible.

Friday, July 24, 2009

A is A, and Socialism by any Other Name...

In the July 24, 2009, Star-Ledger Reader Forum, the following letter-to-the-editor was published.

Health plan isn't socialism

The claim by Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele that President Obama's health care plan is socialism demonstrates that Republicans have never heard of a dictionary. A quick read shows that his definition does not fit the word.

Socialized medicine requires all physicians, nurses and anyone else in health care to be government employees, which is the case in Canada and Great Britain, but is not part of the president's proposal.

Most interesting is the fact Republicans never mention that the United States has a true socialized medicine program. It is well-respected, efficient and effective. Its called the Veterans Administration.

Marvin Schwalb, Livingston

The claim by Marvin Schwalb that Obamacare isn’t socialism ignores socialism's essential nature. Technical definitions aside, socialism is a form of collectivism, the doctrine that holds that the standard of value is the group, to which the individual is subordinate and can be sacrificed on any group whim, as represented by the state. Communism, Nazism, welfare statism, fascism, democracy, and socialism are all manifestations of collectivism. The sacrifice of individual rights under a statist regime is the political essence of collectivism, and that is exactly the nature of Obama’s health care plan.

But to advocate socialism openly and honestly is and always has been a loser in America. After the tyranny, wars, and unprecedented mass murder wrought by the socialist regimes of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Red China, and the many smaller variants of the 20th century, socialism is dead as an intellectual force. That is why the champions of socialized medicine run from the socialist label as from the plague.

As the great Aristotle taught us; A is A. And socialism is socialism. We are headed toward totalitarian socialism in America, and have been for the past century. Under Obama, the trend is accelerating. But he is an empty suit, simply cashing in on the trend…the collectivists preferred method of American socialization…the back door of fascism. Step by step, through programs such as the Veterans Administration, Medicare, a myriad of government controls and taxes, etc., total government control of medicine (and, in fact, the entire economy) is and has been advancing in America…long before Bush-Obama socialism appeared on the American scene.

The fascist method was explained by a former leader of a major Western nation some time ago:

“The party is all-embracing…” said Adolf Hitler upon taking power, “Each activity and each need of the individual will thereby be regulated by the party as the representative of the general good…This is Socialism- not such trifles as the private possession of the means of production. Of what importance is that if I range men firmly within a discipline they cannot escape. Let them own land or factories as much as they please. The decisive factor is that the State, through the party, is supreme over all, regardless of whether they are owners or workers…Our Socialism goes far deeper…[the people] have entered a new relation…What are ownership and income to that? Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings.” (From Herman Rauschning’s The Voice of Destruction, as quoted in The Ominous Parallels, by Leonard Peikoff, page 231-232. Emphasis added.)

We will maintain our illusion of privacy, while the state, through the medical bureaucracy, exercises total control over the medical and business decisions of patients, insurers, and providers alike. Doctors won’t be technical employees of the state (the communist brand of collectivism), at least not initially. But, fascism is socialism…and so is Obamacare…whether Mr. Schwalb, President Obama, or Bill O’Reilly want to call it that or not. Obamacare will "range men firmly within a [health care] discipline they cannot escape.” The medical bureaucracy will be “all-embracing”, and the people will be socialized…sooner (if the democrats have their way) or later (if the current GOP has its way).

The only antipode to collectivism/socialism is individualism/free market capitalism…the system based upon America’s founding principles of unalienable individual rights and constitution republican government…long absent from American health care.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

"Vacation" Replay -- 1

A Note to My Valued Visitors

During the month of July, I will be on “vacation”, sort of. Family will be visiting from out of state…namely, my 4 grandchildren with their mother (my daughter), while their father pursues his doctorate elsewhere.

So, together with my wife and my other 2 NJ grandchildren and their parents, I will be quite busy. So, my posting here may be light. I’ll be back in earnest come August.

In the meantime, I’ll fill the gaps by re-publishing some of my favorite posts that are still relevant today.

The following essay was originally published on 10/1/08

Have a great summer!

Mike Zemack


“Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And…moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”—Barry Goldwater

In my post of 9/3/08, I responded to University of Arizona professor John E. Schwarz’s Washington Post essay in which he advanced the claim that governments as well as free markets create wealth. By examining the essences of this preposterous assertion, it becomes quite clear that governments, by their very nature, cannot create wealth of any kind. By identifying the source of wealth (individual human minds), the nature of government (coercion), and following the circuit of wealth from its productive source through the hands of state and back to the private sector, one can see that the apparent…but not actual…ability of government to produce wealth is an illusion.

It is obvious that Mr. Schwarz is counting on the reader confining his mental observations to the specific concrete facts that he espouses without looking any deeper or “seeing the forest in addition to the trees.” Ignoring the forest, one will only see that government funds research, that that research sometimes yields commercially useful technologies, and that government then becomes a buyer of the products produced by private firms employing that technology. On the face of it, one who focuses only on those particular trees…i.e., confines his thinking to the isolated concretes without connecting them to the related facts a broader perspective would give him…will logically conclude that government can produce wealth. In other words, it is the anti-conceptual “thinker” (one who focuses only on concretes), rather than the abstract thinker (one who identifies the essential elements of an issue and integrates them with related facts, by reference to broader principles, which is true thinking in human terms) that he is counting on.

This is important because Mr. Schwarz is urging democrats to adopt the government-creates-wealth fallacy as a counter argument to what he calls the “mantra of the free market [that] has gained such a hold on Americans.” It is easy to see why. If governments can indeed produce wealth, and given that government represents, theoretically, all of the people equally, then all of the people have a right to share in the wealth that their government “creates”. Free market capitalism, it must be recognized, is only a handmaiden of government. After all, the highest paying jobs in the highest growth industries exist only by grace of the wealth-creating power of the state, according to Mr. Schwarz.

Once that inverted logic is accepted, there is no way to draw a line between where the power of state ends and the freedom of the individual begins. Any alleged market “failure” can serve as a justification for expanded government control over the economy. Mr. Schwarz has laid out a blueprint for the realization of the dream of the Left since FDR…the extermination of the remnants of free market capitalism in America.

Free market Capitalism is the social system based on individual rights, and a government limited to protecting those rights. Under Capitalism, every individual is free to work and produce to the best of his ability and ambition, and to trade his work product for the work product of others in voluntary, uncoerced agreement to mutual advantage. The only alternative to voluntary engagement between human beings is force. Under the explicit proposition laid out by Mr. Schwarz, force is a valid substitution for rational persuasion in economic matters. Anyone with an investment idea need not concern himself with convincing potential investors of the validity of his concept and seeking their voluntary funding. He need only cobble together a political constituency in order to lobby the Democrats for the necessary funds, who will then seize (i.e., loot) the capital via coercive taxation from people who would not voluntarily do so. There is no contest between private, disarmed private citizens operating in a free market, and legally armed (i.e., politically connected) groups operating through governmental force. Once a government reneges on its obligation to protect individual rights and instead turns predatory, it becomes the tool of an ever-growing army of economic groups seeking to advance its interests by force. And in the process, the private, free market elements wither under its onslaught. Freedom ends where predatory governmental force begins.

This is the process that has been going on in America since FDR’s New Dealers unleashed special interest politics. Mr. Schwarz has validated this process by declaring, in effect, that a free market is unnecessary for prosperity. His is a back-door call for central economic planning. Without refuting the basic point that governments can create wealth, there is no way to fight back if the Democrats pick up this mantra. And fighting back requires bucking a powerful headwind. That headwind is entrenched in American culture. It is the cover that has enabled the growth of an out-of-control governmental monstrosity that Americans never explicitly chose. That headwind, and cover, is the philosophy of Pragmatism.

Pragmatism holds that thinking is useless. Concepts such as the idea that governments can create wealth are treated by the pragmatist as perceptual primaries, like observing a rock lying on the ground. Understanding, in the human sense, is impractical. There are no fundamental truths, no moral absolutes, no unifying principles, no common denominators that one can rely on to integrate one’s knowledge, to project logical future consequences or draw lessons from the past. It is futile to identify the essence of any issue. One can never be sure, Pragmatism holds. What worked (or didn’t work) yesterday, may not work (or work wonderfully) today. What was true in the past is not necessarily true today. One must judge every issue, whether on the personal level or in the political realm, as an isolated “fact” cut off from all other isolated “facts.”

According to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, Pragmatism is “a [philosophic] system which tests the validity of all concepts by their practical results” (Simon and Schuster, second addition, c1979). Thus, Pragmatism freezes man’s awareness at the level of the immediate moment. The only way to understand the freedom-destroying nature of ideas like the one presented by John E. Schwarz is to first renounce the concrete-bound mental processes created by an adherence to the philosophy of Pragmatism. If one viewed Mr. Schwarz’s assertion through the lens of Pragmatism, one would see that it does indeed “work.” No need to be concerned with the objective facts, which demonstrate its falsehood. No need to be concerned with the nature of individual rights or of government…or of the fact that acceptance by the America people of his assertion would be a huge step toward totalitarianism. After all, just look at the immediate “practical results” as outlined by Mr. Schwarz.

It is no coincidence, in my view, that just two days following the publication of Mr. Schwarz’s piece comes one by Dick Meyer, in which Mr. Meyer elevates Pragmatism into the highest intellectual virtue of the American people. I do not mean this in the sense that there is a coordinated effort between the two men, but in the sense of like-minded souls with a common purpose.

In this piece, Mr. Meyer cashes in on the largely successful efforts of the Progressives in the American educational establishment of fostering an anti-conceptual mentality among the population. John Dewey, it must be remembered, is the father of progressive education. Dewey was a leading advocate of the philosophy of Pragmatism who likewise disdained abstract thought.

Mr. Meyer extols disintegrated “thinking” and condemns as evil…as “extremist”…any adherence to rational analysis based on a coherent set of fixed principles of morality, of logic, of objectivity. He writes:

Poll after poll, focus group after focus group show that the vast majority of Americans -- the Silent Majority, perhaps? -- are pragmatic, independent and un-partisan in their basic views. They are eclectic: "liberal" on some matters, "conservative" on others. They are not slaves to that hobgoblin of small minds, consistency.

Extremists, however rare, are becoming more common and, importantly, more rabid…[They} have grown more intolerant and prone to "personal demonization."

Mr. Meyer never defines the term “extremist”. He merely refers darkly to "extreme liberals" and "extreme conservatives". Nor does he tell you why either extreme is bad. Notice that he places “personal demonization” and intellectual “consistency” under the same heading “extremist.” The smear merchants of either political wing and the rational, consistent…i.e., principled… advocacy of one’s position are both “extreme” and therefore condemned. We must just go with “a much more pragmatic, moderate and independent crowd.” “Independence” here does not mean the refusal to subordinate one’s own judgement and mind to others. The sense that Mr. Meyer means is the willingness to betray any conviction, value, principle, and fact in pursuit of “eclectic” compromise. Compromise on what? The extremes on either side. What is a compromise between two evils? But that requires a principled analysis of the ideas of both “extremes”. And that is what Mr. Meyer does not want the “pragmatic, moderate, and independent” American to discover.

The purpose of the use of the term “extremist” in this context is a smear tactic aimed at any person who holds a firm set of convictions (of principles) and has the integrity and willingness to defend them by applying them consistently to every issue. Whether one’s ideas are ultimately right or wrong, one’s consistency in upholding his convictions is a sign of moral and intellectual strength, not weakness. The foisting of the conflict between "extreme liberals" and "extreme conservatives" is a straw man. By today’s accepted definitions, both, in fact, represent a threat to America. That particular straw man is a means of discrediting “extremism”…i.e., any coherent set of beliefs advocated consistently…as such, with no further discussion.

What Mr. Meyer is struggling to obscure is that the real battle today is between two extremes, not of evil against evil, but between good and evil…between capitalism and socialism…between individual freedom and the totalitarian state. Mr. Schwarz, Mr. Meyer, the Progressive educators and their ilk depend specifically on the American people never becoming “slaves to that hobgoblin of small minds, consistency.” That is because the consistent application of America’s founding principles of unalienable individual rights protected by government stops their statist designs dead in their tracks. Ask yourself who won and who lost when the Left demanded total socialized medicine and then settled for the “compromise” of socialized medicine only for the elderly (Medicare), then the poor (Medicaid), then the children (SCHIP), then the uninsured (EMTALA)… And each step on this path towards total socialized medicine, we are told that it “works” because the “practical results” show that the elderly, and the poor, and the children, and the uninsured are receiving healthcare. And each step along the way, “that hobgoblin of small minds, consistency,” is not there to tell us that our freedom is slipping away, thanks to “pragmatic, independent and un-partisan” non-extremism. In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit. In that transfusion of blood which drains the good to feed the evil, the compromiser is the transmitting rubber tube . . .(Ayn Rand, ATLAS SHRUGGED, page 1054).

It is the philosophy of Pragmatism that helps explain why, despite its utter brutality and abject economic failure wherever and to the extent it is adopted, socialism keeps rearing its ugly head. Americans never overtly voted for welfare statism or socialism. Yet America is drifting inexorably toward totalitarian socialism...specifically, the fascist “brand”. It is being smuggled in bit by imperceptible bit…in healthcare, energy, finance, housing…virtually across the board. It is being put over on a people that has accepted the idea…the absolute…that compromise is always good, on any issue, because the extremes…standing on principle…is always evil. So America has been giving up one extreme…capitalistic freedom…in exchange for the other…totalitarian socialism…one pragmatic piece after one pragmatic piece.

If America is ever to reverse the trend toward its own demise, it must check its fundamental premises that have become accepted wisdom. One of those premises is the anti-intellectual philosophy of Pragmatism. It freezes the human mind into a range-of-the-immediate-moment functioning that obliterates hindsight, foresight, logic, and abstract understanding. It keeps one blind to the progression towards the day when "the gate slams shut.”

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Choice is Profits or Guns, Freedom or Tyranny

Two recent letters published in the NJ Star-Ledger on June 25, 2009 highlight an issue crucial to a free society.

Michael G. Busche writes (Insurance companies scared):

Here's the proposition that health insurance agencies are trying to sell to the Congress and us voters: You don't want a government bureaucrat deciding what medical procedures are appropriate and what they should cost. It's much better to have a profit-driven health insurance company executive do it instead.

They're out to convince us that a corporate bureaucrat whose future depends on how much money he makes for his company will treat us better that a government bureaucrat who doesn't have that pressure

And Rita Reisman writes (Health reform needed):

I participate in an annual marathon walk to help people who are un- or under-insured get the care and treatment they need for that disease. Why is this massive fundraiser and all the other massive fundraisers necessary in a country we are so proud to proclaim is the greatest on the face of the earth?

We need [a strong public health option] that is available nationwide to everyone who wants decent health insurance. We need to make all these disease-oriented fundraiser marathons a thing of the past.

A dangerous fallacy underlies the reasoning of both letter-writers, and that of most Americans and political leaders.

Michael G. Busche and Rita Reisman miss a crucial distinction between government and the private sector…between political and economic power. The government and the government alone has a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. This is its nature, as distinct from private individuals and organizations. This is necessary to its proper role as protector of individual rights from domestic criminals and foreign enemies, as explicitly defined in the Declaration of Independence. But this unique attribute is what necessitates a constitution, the sole purpose of which is to limit the government’s legal power of physical force from being turned against the very citizens whose rights it is its solemn duty to protect.

In an essay entitled The Dollar and the Gun, Harry Binswanger writes:

The fallacy is equivocation—the equivocation between economic power and political power.

“Political power” refers to the power of government. Only a government can make laws—i.e., rules of social conduct backed up by physical force.

A non-governmental organization can make rules, pass resolutions, etc., but these are not laws precisely because they cannot be enforced on those who choose not to deal with that organization. The penalty for breaking the rules of e.g., a fraternal organization is expulsion from the association. The penalty for breaking the law is fines, imprisonment, and ultimately, death. The symbol of political power is a gun.

A proper government points that gun only at those who violate individual rights, to answer the physical force they have initiated, but it is a gun nonetheless.

Economic power, on the other hand, is the ability to produce material values and offer them for sale. E.g., the power of Big Oil is the power to discover, drill and bring to market a large amount of oil. Economic power lies in assets—i.e., the factors of production, the inventory and the cash possessed by businesses. The symbol of economic power is the dollar.

Put another way, a “government bureaucrat” has a gun, a “profit-driven health insurance company executive” does not. “A corporate bureaucrat whose future depends on how much money he makes for his company” will indeed treat us better than “a government bureaucrat who doesn't have that pressure”. A private company’s revenues (and thus profits) depend on the voluntary consent of its contractual customers. A government bureaucrat gets his revenues by taxation…i.e., by force. A profit-driven private company depends on the satisfaction of its customers, who can move to a competing company at any time. A government bureaucrat collects, and holds, its “customers” by force. A private company cannot grow and prosper long-term by doing bad things to its customers. A government bean-counting bureaucrat can do what he pleases regardless of the needs or desires of the individual lives his decisions hold in his hands, because he “doesn’t have that pressure”. A government bureaucrat doesn’t work for a “profit-driven health insurance company”, so has no need to worry about “how much money he makes”. A dictator never does. He has a gun. (Never mind “insurance companies…lobbying Congress”, or any other special interest lobbyists. It is only Congress…i.e., government power…that can legally impose that which they are lobbying for. Political pressure groups don’t exist under Capitalism, only under a mixed economy.)

What of the seeming “power” of private insurance company bureaucrats over our healthcare? That is a result of our government-imposed, tax-distortion created third-party-payer system of health insurance. Perversely, the insurance company works not for the consumer of healthcare, but for a third party (employer, union, etc.). When it seeks to deny coverage for some expense, it is trying to promote the interests of the third party (its contractual customer), not the consumer who didn’t purchase the policy. The insurer’s profits depend upon a satisfied customer. But unlike the freer sectors of the economy, that is not the consumer. It is the third party that is paying the premiums. It is the third party that can bolt. It is the third party that needs to be satisfied. In a free market, the consumer and the customer are one and the same, as it should be. Without government interference…i.e., in a free market…the consumer of healthcare would buy his insurance directly from a dynamic, competitive, entrepreneurial industry free to tailor policy choices to market realities. The “power” of the insurer would be only that which is granted by the consumer/customer, by way of a voluntary contract entered into by both parties by mutual agreement to mutual advantage.

A further crucial point relates to the government’s nature as an impartial, objective arbiter of contractual disputes. All parties to a contractual agreement are subject to laws against fraud and breach of contract. The civil courts mediate honest disputes, and the criminal courts prosecute offenders. There is no such contractual protection for consumers under government-run programs. The rules can be changed at any time, by bureaucratic or political fiat. Take, for example, Social Security. No one has any actual rights under SS, only privileges granted by government. Taxes could be raised and benefits can be cut or eliminated at any time.

The “public option” advocated by Mr. Busche and Ms. Reisman is exactly the wrong solution to a problem created by government itself. It would further undermine the rule of law of a government already breaking free of the constitutional constraints that a free society depends on. The “public option” is a socialist Trojan Horse, and everyone from the village idiot on up knows it.

Special interest-driven politicians will use the government’s unique powers of physical force to promote its “public option” into a single-payer dictatorship, administered by armed bureaucrats unencumbered by the pressure to earn a profit. As Robert E. Moffit of the Heritage Foundation puts it: “Let's be honest: The idea that Congress is going to create a genuine ‘level playing field’ for competition between the newly created government health plan and private health plans is nonsense. Congress will be the rule-maker, financier, umpire and owner of a team in the ‘competition.’ ” The politicians will do whatever it takes to prop up their “public option” creation. They will use their taxing powers to keep premiums “affordable”; regulatory powers to hamper private insurers; licensing and other means to force below-market prices on providers; explicit or implied “back-room” threats of regulatory, IRS, or antitrust reprisals to “distract” private executives, etc.

Are private insurers scared? Just as scared as are any victims of an advancing dictatorship. Any American worthy of that title should be scared, too. Mr. Busche doesn’t understand that. Thomas Jefferson did. When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty, he warned.

To claim that there can be competition between a government plan and a private company is to see no difference between an armed thug and his victims. A “public option” is legalized criminality. It is organized crime on a scale that an Al Capone could never conceive of.

The “public option” is designed to destroy private insurers, regardless of what any lying politician says to the contrary. To say otherwise is naive, to be extraordinarily polite. “How dumb do they think we are?” A “public option” not backed by government power is a contradiction, and in any event would be pointless as a means to “keep private insurers honest”. There are already 1300 private insurers. What would be the point of 1301? Once their monopoly is in place, the “non-profit” government bureaucrats will then dictate every aspect of our healthcare and lifestyles, through such euphemisms as “cost containment”, “efficiency”, “comparative effectiveness”, “preventive care”, etc. Their “customers” won’t have any other place to run.

We will have learned the difference between profits and a gun; between freedom and tyranny. The Ms. Reismans of the country will no longer “need to make all these disease-oriented fundraiser marathons”. No need to seek voluntary contributions from people of good will. We will have forfeited the very principles that had made America “a country we are so proud to proclaim is the greatest on the face of the earth.” We will have our Federal crime family able to simply take those “contributions” at gunpoint.

As I have been documenting, the “crisis” in American healthcare, if you want to call it that, is a government creation. A free market is the only moral solution. But if Michael G. Busche, Rita Reisman, and their ilk have their way, we will have only fading memories of that glorious and historically radical American phenomenon that was “a government that fears its people”, and become just another “people that fears its government”.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Obama's Christian Strategy

Two recent events have, I believe, solidified my hypothesis that President Obama is and has been making a concerted effort to break the Republican electoral hold on the Christian vote. The first event was his Commencement Address to the graduating class of Notre Dame University, a leading Catholic institution. The second was his nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court.

The Notre Dame speech set off a firestorm of protest against the university’s president, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, for inviting him. Many of Obama’s supporters wondered why he would venture into the lion’s den, given his “pro-choice” abortion views. But both Jenkins and Obama understand the stakes as being much higher than the abortion debate.

In that speech, Obama sought to soften the abortion divide, vowing “to honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion”. The key to understanding his real motive, though, is in seeing how deeply he plumbed the depths of the Christian faith. Said the president:

"In short, we must find a way to live together as one human family.

Unfortunately, finding that common ground – recognising that our fates are tied up, as Dr. King said, in a 'single garment of destiny' – is not easy. Part of the problem, of course, lies in the imperfections of man – our selfishness, our pride, our stubbornness, our acquisitiveness, our insecurities, our egos; all the cruelties large and small that those of us in the Christian tradition understand to be rooted in original sin."

These comments make it obvious how tying capitalism to the Christian faith presents a profound and fatal contradiction for Religious Rightists, such as Mark Levin and Paul Johnson. Our selfishness (the pursuit of one’s own individual happiness), our pride (confidence in one’s own moral worth and ability to achieve one’s goals), our stubbornness (consistent adherence to one’s own judgement and principles), our acquisitiveness (one’s quest for knowledge), our egos (one’s self-esteem, or the confidence in one’s own mind and its ability to cope with existence), are all of the “cruelties” that flourish when people are left free under capitalism.

Those “cruelties”, which are actually among man’s highest virtues and are the antidote to “our insecurities”, are incompatible with finding “a way to live together as one human family”…i.e., world collectivism. In an obvious, implied reference to the Christian antipathy to wealth and to the Sermon on the Mount, Obama attacks “immediate self-interest and crass materialism”. “The strong too often dominate the weak”, he said, “and too many of those with wealth and with power find all manner of justification for their own privilege in the face of poverty and injustice.”

It is not capitalism, the only system that protects the individual rights of all people, that the “weak” have to fear. “Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law”, eliminating the forcible domination of anyone over anyone. Indeed, it is the so-called “rich and powerful” who are vulnerable under capitalism…to the allegedly “weak” members of the economic “underclass” who are simultaneously protected and freed to rise as far as their ambition, talent, ingenuity, and intelligence will carry them. The regulations, controls, and taxes of an overbearing “mixed (or worse) economy” government tends to entrench the established “rich and powerful” moneyed and corporate interests. The upward mobility of a truly free, capitalist society that enables entrepreneurial upstarts to constantly challenge the economic leaders is stifled…in a regulated economy…by the smothering blanket of politically-connected industry leaders. But it is not capitalism, the great liberator of the “weak”, that is Obama’s driving passion.

Notice his equation of wealth with “power”, without defining the nature of that power. It is not political power – the power of physical force – that he is condemning. It is the “power” of production...i.e., earning one’s own wealth by providing to others values they are voluntarily willing to purchase through trade.
(Never mind the “power” that comes with buying political influence. Under laissez-faire capitalism, this method of converting economic power to political power vanishes. Laissez-faire means the separation of economics and state. No private economic power can legally force anyone, without the political connections possible only under a mixed economy.) What “manner of justification” does one need for one’s “privilege” (one’s earned wealth)? Under capitalism, property rights are sacrosanct. Without the right to earn, keep, and dispose of one’s own property, there is no right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Without the means to sustain one’s life, no freedom is possible. The Rights of Man are the justification for one’s “privilege”…i.e., one’s earned wealth and “power”. But what are rights – this “manner of justification” – “in the face of poverty and injustice”? It is for the sake of those who did not earn it…those lacking in all of those sinful “cruelties"...that your rights, wealth, and “power” are to be sacrificed. Obama upholds the reign of the unearned, and connects it to fundamental, deep-rooted Christian dogma. “[W]e 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." – St. Ambrose said. President Obama fully concurs, in defiance of actual justice.

E.J. Dionne, a very astute observer who understands better than most on the Left where Obama is going, said the following about the Notre Dame speech:

"Acknowledging the Roman Catholic Church's role in supporting his early community organizing work, the president drew on the resources of Catholic social thought. It combines opposition to abortion with a sharp critique of economic injustice and thus doesn't squeeze into the round holes of contemporary ideology.

Yet his argument drew on very old ideas, notably original sin and the common good."

Original Sin is a fundamental justification for the sacrifice of the individual to “the common good”. It is a view held by pro-capitalist Christians. "In the civil society,[man] is free to discover his own potential and pursue his own legitimate interests, tempered, however, by a moral order that has its foundation in faith and guides his life and all human life through the prudent exercise of judgement." (Mark Levin, Liberty and Tyranny, Page 3) “I'm not saying that a businessman should primarily pursue moral aims. That would be asking too much, and I suspect it wouldn't work. [I]t is desirable, to my mind, that all business activities be rooted in Judeo-Christian teaching…” (Paul Johnson, Pursuing Success is Not Enough)

Those two concepts, Original Sin and “the common good”, fit quite nicely into Obama’s socialist agenda, and leave capitalism in the moral wilderness, at best. With which social system, then, does “Judeo-Christian teaching” morally align? Who can claim the moral high ground...Mark Levin and Paul Johnson, or Barack Obama? Can you envision Obama declaring that each American has a right to his own life, his own liberty, the pursuit of his own goals, welfare, and happiness – free from coercive interference by government – in order to justify imposing socialized medicine on us all? Absurd? No more absurd than upholding the moral doctrine that “we are all our brothers’ keepers” while advocating the system of the selfish pursuit of personal happiness.

The Sotomayor nomination is even more interesting. Rush Limbaugh recently shocked his listeners by seriously declaring that “I can see a possibility of supporting this nomination…” At the same time, the Left became angry and disillusioned by the fact that Obama nominated someone without the unequivocal record of support for Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized unrestricted first term abortions. Indeed, in an article in the NJ Star-Ledger, Paul Mulshine wrote:

There's an old saying that goes, "Be careful what you wish for. You may get it."

After all the hosannas to the first Latin-American female nominee to the high court died down last week, someone noticed that there is no evidence that Sotomayor supports abortion rights. There are even a few hints her empathy might be on the other side of that issue.

[A]s a federal appeals court judge, she wrote an opinion dismissing an attempt by a group that supports abortion rights to throw out the so-called "Mexico City Rule." This was a Bush administration initiative that banned funding for groups in foreign countries that permit abortion.

Obama may have overlooked the fact that Latin-Americans are not generally known for favoring abortion rights. (Emphasis added.)

But did he? I don’t think so. As in the case of his choice of Pastor Rick Warren for his inaugural invocation, and his extension of Bush’s Faith-Based Initiative, Obama’s vision for America renders the angst of his constituents irrelevant. While the Left grumbles about “broken promises”, Obama understands the value of key Christian tenets to his attempt to correct what he sees as the “fundamental flaw” in our founding documents. Whether Sotomayor is ultimately “pro-choice” or not is beside the point. What is the risk of overturning Roe v. Wade next to Obama’s grand strategy to overturn the American Revolution?

President Obama’s political strategy is clear, a philosophical masterstroke, and potentially devastating for capitalism and freedom. His grand strategy for remaking America into a nation ruled by the collective should be obvious to anyone who understands the power of ideas and of morality.

But to advocate socialism openly and honestly is and always has been a loser in America. After the tyranny, wars, and unprecedented mass murder wrought by the socialist regimes of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Red China, and the many smaller variants of the 20th century, socialism is dead as an intellectual force. Notice how Obama and the American Left run from the socialist label as from the plague, despite the obvious socialist (albeit through the fascist back door) underpinnings of their agenda. How, then, to pursue a socialist agenda in America?

Enter what one might call Obama’s “Christian Strategy”. The President, a philosophically astute man (unlike most of his GOP rivals), is and has been attempting to forge an alliance with American Christianity based upon a common moral foundation…altruism. Unlike socialism, religion is a live and growing force in America, and Christianity is the dominant religion. Since socialism and Christianity share the same ethical premise…that the good consists of living for others or putting others above self…Obama’s brilliant strategy is to hitch his socialist agenda to Judeo-Christian ethics.

America was founded on the opposite ethical principle, though those principles were never explicitly defined until the 20th century. The Founding Fathers created a nation based upon the supreme value of the individual possessing the unalienable rights to his own life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. They rejected the tribal view that man must live for others (i.e., the collective). But it was philosopher-novelist Ayn Rand who comprehensively defined the philosophical underpinnings for the American Revolution. Through her classic novels The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged…and through her philosophy of Objectivism…she presents the moral case for the American Revolution and capitalism.

It is only Ayn Rand who provides the vital intellectual ammunition to counter the accelerating collectivist trend in America, and thus save our individual freedom, because she can defend the individual’s right to exist for his own sake…and prove it. She offers the anti-dote to the doctrine that “we are all our brother’s keepers”, the moral root of Obama’s policies and the root of all variants of socialism. If Obama is to be stopped, Capitalism must be discovered. For Capitalism to be discovered, our Founding principles must be rediscovered and fully understood. For our Founding principles to be fully understood, Ayn Rand and Objectivism must be discovered and embraced.

The President is right that we are at “a rare inflection point in history”. He intends to steer America away from its Founding ideals by hitching his socialist car to the engine of Christianity. With the Christian Left already in his pocket, he has taken aim at the Christian Right, as well as the politically neutral or inactive “middle”. With this strategy, he and his minions mean to isolate the Mark Levins and Sean Hannitys as the “extreme Right”. .

It remains to be seen how successful he will be. But Obama understands fully that morality is the key to the direction America will take. It’s time that Capitalism’s defenders understood that, too.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Independence Day - Bittersweet, But Hope for the Future

The Fourth of July is a national holiday that, to me, stands far above all of the others. It represents the greatest political achievement in world history. More than that, the birth of the United States of America represents a towering and unprecedented philosophical achievement: although a full, explicit, systematic declaration of that achievement was not made until the 20th century. America, born of the Enlightenment, is the first nation founded on the principle that man the individual has a fundamental, natural right to his own life, and that government’s responsibility is to protect that right…that the people act by right, while the government acts by permission.

I quote from Michael S. Berliner’s June 26, 2008 post at Principles in Practice

“ ‘Independence Day’ is a critically important title. It signifies the fundamental meaning of this nation, not just of the holiday. The American Revolution remains unique in human history: a revolution--and a nation--founded on a moral principle, the principle of individual rights…

“The Declaration of Independence was a declaration against servitude, not just servitude to the Crown but servitude to anyone…

“Political independence is not a primary. It rests on a more fundamental type of independence: the independence of the human mind. It is the ability of a human being to think for himself and guide his own life that makes political independence possible and necessary…

“To the Founding Fathers, there was no authority higher than the individual mind, not King George, not God, not society. Reason, wrote Ethan Allen, is ‘the only oracle of man,’ and Thomas Jefferson advised us to ‘fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God.’ That is the meaning of independence: trust in your own judgment, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation, or your neighbors.

“Independence is the foundation of America. Independence is what should be celebrated on Independence Day. That is the legacy our Founding Fathers left us.”

Americans are more and more ignoring and moving away from the glorious principle of which Mr. Berliner speaks, “the independence of the human mind.” This is what gives Independence Day a bittersweet quality for me. Our freedom erodes steadily as its only real guardian, intellectual independence, gradually gives way to a growing entitlement mindset. Just surrender one more bit of our individual self-determination and personal responsibility in exchange for the free lunch of the illusion of government-guaranteed security, and our “national” problems can be solved…in healthcare, in education, in finance, in housing, in energy.

As a result, America is moving towards a time when the government acts by right, but the people act by permission. Or, as America’s Philosopher, Ayn Rand, puts it:

“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.”

But our drift toward statism is not inevitable. There is no such thing as historical determinism. Ideas move human history. The ideas that created America still exist, waiting to be rediscovered. That rediscovery is beginning to emerge. This time, however, those ideas come armed with a full philosophical and moral defense and justification. That armament is Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

So the bittersweet feeling that, for me, accompanies Independence Day should not be mistaken for pessimism or cynicism. If I thought that the fight to save America long term was futile, I would not have started this blog, or speak up at every opportunity for my beliefs in conversation, online forums, or any other medium open to me. And I am not alone, as the two linked articles in this piece show.

So I will continue to do my part as a patriotic American citizen by exercising “the independence of the human mind”…my own. This has and will continue to include the radical, but quintessentially American, Jeffersonian urging to “Question with boldness… every fact, every opinion.” I will continue at the task of "Changing the Wind.”

Have a great and happy Independence Day.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

On the Upcoming July 4 "Tea Parties"

A Note to My Valued Visitors

During the month of July, I will be on “vacation”, sort of. Family will be visiting from out of state…namely, my 4 grandchildren with their mother (my daughter), while their father pursues his doctorate elsewhere.

So, together with my wife and my other 2 NJ grandchildren and their parents, I will be quite busy. So, my posting here may be light. I’ll be back in earnest come August.

In the meantime, I’ll fill the gaps by re-publishing some of my favorite posts that are still relevant today.

Have a great summer!

Mike Zemack

Don Watkins of the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights has published a flier intended for the upcoming Independence Day round of Tea Parties. Mr. Watkins writes over at Voices for Reason:

"Here is a flyer I wrote for the upcoming Independence Day Tea Parties. Many of those attending today’s Tea Parties are fed up with the assault on freedom they read about in each morning’s paper–but they have no positive alternative to offer. If the Tea Parties are to have a lasting impact it will be because they go from being a grassroots outpouring of frustration to a movement that stands for limited government, individualism, and individual rights. This, I argue, is the value of Atlas Shrugged to Tea Party attendees: it provides a powerful and revolutionary defense of those ideals."

Here is the flier written by Mr. Watkins. A downloadable version is available from the Tea Party page of ARC:

* * *

“I refuse to apologize for my ability–I refuse to apologize for my success–I refuse to apologize for my money.”

The U.S. economy is in shambles, with every nightly newscast bringing word of new government interventions. Americans are alarmed and desperate for answers: How did we get here? How will we recover? That might sound like a description of today’s world, but in fact it’s also a sketch of the world Ayn Rand created in her classic novel Atlas Shrugged.

The Tea Parties testify to the outrage that many Americans feel toward Washington’s explosive growth in the past few decades–especially under Presidents Bush and Obama. Atlas Shrugged not only gives voice to this outrage, it provides both a profound explanation of the cause of today’s crisis–and a positive, radical solution to it.

Why is it that every problem seems to call for increased government intervention at the expense of freedom? Why is it that businessmen inevitably take the blame for any crisis? Why are the most competent, most successful Americans smeared as greedy and selfish? To these questions and many others, Atlas Shrugged gives answers unlike anything you’ve ever heard.

“Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns–or dollars. Take your choice–there is no other–and your time is running out.”

* * *

“If we who were the movers, the providers, the benefactors of mankind, were willing to let the brand of evil be stamped upon us, and silently to bear punishment for our virtues–what sort of ‘good’ did we expect to triumph in the world?”

* * *

“Yes, this is an age of moral crisis. Yes, you are bearing punishment for your evil. But it is not man who is now on trial and it is not human nature that will take the blame. It is your moral code that’s through, this time. Your moral code has reached its climax, the blind alley at the end of its course. And if you wish to go on living, what you now need is not to return to morality . . . but to discover it.”

Learn the meaning of these quotes—and the revolutionary ideas behind them—by picking up Atlas Shrugged. Discover why Ayn Rand held that nothing less than a total separation between state and economics can save this country. Discover Ayn Rand’s defense of the individual’s moral right to pursue his own happiness–the indispensable precondition of his political right to pursue his own happiness. Discover a gripping novel that challenges today’s intellectual mainstream and provides an alternative to the anti-freedom ideas that are undermining American liberty.

Discover Atlas Shrugged.

I should add that the "Tea Party" phenomenon is beginning to fray. I have evidence that the never-clearly-focused movement is being infiltrated by people and groups who are either ignorant of, or hostile to, the principle of individual rights. This is why it is not a good idea to unequivacally endorse any "tea party" without knowing the motives of the organizers, because you may end up promoting bad ideas.

Therefor, I urge you to read the opening statement on the web page ARC and the Tea Parties