Saturday, August 31, 2013

We Should Stay the Hell Out of Syria

President Obama is considering another unwise foreign military incursion, this time in Syria. The New Jersey Star-Ledger editorialized that we should be certain about Syria. They write:

We are faced with mounting evidence that the Syrian regime is gassing its own people. And if that is the case, we must send a strong signal to President Bashar Assad that his attacks on civilians are not without limits.
But while it’s increasingly clear that we need to strike, we don’t have to do so right away, as U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and others are urging. Given our memories of Iraq, where we launched a war based on false claims of weapons of mass destruction, we should be careful about justifying our involvement now. And why the sudden rush?

Before attacking Syria, the editors say, we must be sure that we can prove that Assad is using chemical weapons. And if it comes to military action, the editors say, "We must carefully weigh our tactics here: Many of these sites are in civilian areas, and we must do everything we can to minimize those casualties."

I left these comments:

I commend the editors for urging caution, as far as it goes. Unfortunately, they completely ignore the bigger question.

Why the hell would we get involved in the Syrian civil war at all? There is no threat to America, and no compelling national interest. 

Since 9/11, we have placed bringing "democracy" to a region that hates what America stands for—individual rights and the rule of objective law—above American self-interest. We got Islamist enemies gaining influence and getting elected all over the Middle East, and the threat of Islamic totalitarianism is greater than ever. (Remember, the Islamists' openly stated goal is world domination under Islamic theocracy.)

Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya; enough with the altruistic welfare wars. We need a president who will proudly announce to the world that America will use its military only for national defense and only against those who threaten or attack us; i.e., only when American's lives, liberties, and properties are threatened or attacked—and then only with swift, overwhelming force. And if military action is required, rather than "do everything we can to minimize those [civilian] casualties," we should do everything we can to win with minimal cost to American military lives and American wealth. The safety of civilians is the moral responsibility of the aggressor nation that threatens or attacks us.  

Related Reading:

Ralph Peters: "Mesmerized by Elections, We Forgot Freedom"

Assad's "Moral Obscenity" Does Not Justify Obscenity of Sacrificial Military Intervention—by Ari Armstrong 

Winning the Unwinnable War: America's Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism—Edited by Elan Journo

Bush's Collapsing "War on Terror"

Iraqi Democracy vs. Freedom

Friday, August 30, 2013

Diane Coleman's Opposition to Assisted Suicide Ignores Rights - PART 2

Continuing my participation in the comments debate triggered by Diane Coleman's article The Dangerous "Help" of Assisted Suicide, I challenged opponents of the legalization of assisted suicide with this comment:

In 2005, 25-year-old Christina broke her neck in a diving accident, paralyzing her from the neck down. Christina didn’t give up on life, but after years of struggle her life became "intolerable." She decided to end her own suffering by ending her own life, but was legally forbidden to seek professional assistance  So, she took the only course legally open to her: She starved herself to death over several agonizing months. Her story was covered by Bob Braun.

On 4/19/11, Christina penned a blog post, to be published after her death (12/1/11), in which she explained in her own words and in detail how and why she came to her decision: 

Her conclusion, in part: "I feel justified in saying I've suffered enough. I feel it's horribly unfair, that I'm forced to live, the way paralysis has forced on ME. I'm not talking about 'quadriplegics,' I'm talking about Christina Symanski. So then I'm left with the question, 'is it really worth living?' Not for everyone else's reasons, or for anyone else, but ME. If not, then I only have but one choice, and that's to stop accepting the treatments that are prolonging my unnatural lifestyle. My only hope, and biggest obstacle, is that my loved one's understand and accept my wishes, and know that my wish is to prevent suffering, because I don't view THIS as a quality life."

Everyone who opposes legalized assisted suicide should read her final post [Quality vs. Quantity], and rationally explain why this woman should have been forbidden to secure professional help in carrying out her final, reasoned life choice to end her state of living death. Whatever the opponents' reasons, compassion and reverence for life they can not claim.

John from Middletown met my challenge:

"I am also from New Jersey (now in Boston), and my spinal cord injury is actually one level higher than Christina's was. Here is what I and a few other disabled people wrote about her death last year. Please take the time to read it. The Death of Christina Symanski [from the blog of Not Dead Yet

I did read his piece, and replied:


Thanks for the link.

You wrote, "No one needs to have the 'right' to kill themselves." Actually, it is a right, and we do need to legally recognize that right in order for people to be liberated from laws legally forbidding them from securing proactive professional help—i.e., contracting voluntarily with willing qualified medical personnel—to carry out, in dignified fashion, one's wish to die (as opposed to refusing treatment and letting nature take its own agonizing course). 

The stereotyping of people who support legal assisted suicide is grossly unfair. One example from your link: "Most of the reactions to the Mail article are the predictable drek applauding her coming from able-bodied people."  Another: "American society loves people with a disability that want to die." 

My point is not to judge what's best for every individual whose life has reached the point of extreme hardship. I do not applaud Symanski for her choice to die. I applaud her for making a reasoned choice that she considered right for herself. I do not love disabled people who want to die. I do, however, love freedom. My point is that each individual should be left free to decide—the individual to choose the best means to end his/her life if that is their choice, and the doctor to decide whether and how to assist, consistent with his conscience. You implicitly acknowledge as much when you said, "people are different and as Christina says, view different matters differently." Precisely, which is why the state should be limited to protecting the rights of all involved. 

The matter of rights is a profoundly moral matter. It goes to freedom of conscience. Rights, in the legal context, is all that matters.

Related Reading:

Religious Objections Irrelevant to Assisted Suicide Law

"I've Suffered Enough"—A Young Woman's Quest for a Peaceful End to an "Intolerable" Life

Does The Right To Life And Liberty Include The Right To Terminate One's Life? by Amesh Adalja

Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society by Craig Biddle

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Contra Leonard Pitts Jr., MLK's "Dream" is Akin to the Right, Not the Left

Among the many commentaries on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech is Living in a Time of Moral Cowardice by the Miami Herald's Leonard Pitts Jr. 

Pitts cites the obvious progress toward racial equality that has occurred but also laments those "white people — not all — [who] smugly but incorrectly pronounce all racial problems solved."

Pitts cites Rand Paul, who, after coming "under fire for questioning the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, . . . wanted it known that he’d have marched with King had he been of age. And he probably believes that."

Pitts derides Paul for his "fake courage," and goes on to say:

More galling, it is an era of such cognitive incoherence that conservatives — acolytes of the ideology against which King struggled all his life — now routinely claim ownership of his movement and kinship with his cause.

Exactly what "ideology against which King struggled all his life" is Pitts talking about? Pitt doesn't say, but he undoubtedly is referring to capitalism. But it is socialism, not capitalism, that is implicitly inconsistent with the essence of what King told America on August 28, 1963. 

King explicitly stated that his dream "is . . . deeply rooted in the American dream." Is there any doubt that the American dream is deeply rooted in the Declaration of Independence, a document in which King grounds his speech and from which he quotes the essence of? And what is the essence of free market capitalism, if not the principles stated in the Declaration of Independence?

True, King later turned to "democratic socialism," in direct opposition to his own stated reverence for the Declaration. But no such antipathy toward capitalism, implied or explicit, is evidenced in his Dream speech. I'm not a King scholar, but it's not at all obvious, judging from his speech, that King was a life-long anti-capitalist.

Pitts apparently forgets or evades the fact that King and most African-Americans 50 years ago were Republicans—a legacy of the GOP's abolitionist origins—and that racism resided mostly on the Democrat side. If any side has a right to "claim ownership of his movement and kinship with his cause," it is conservatives and/or the Right, at least in the movement's earlier incarnation as a fighter for equality before the law.

I left these comments, via Facebook:

Parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ARE unconstitutional—the parts in which the government overstepped its constitutional bounds and banned private discrimination. This violated the broader unalienable right to freedom of association.

Individual rights don't guarantee that every individual will act rationally. Rights do guarantee the freedom to fight back civilly and non-violently—to "organize, agitate, educate and work with fresh determination." Remove the laws that sanction and promote segregation and racial discrimination—as the 1964 Act also did—and racists and irrationalists can be defeated and marginalized through First Amendment activism, free economic competition, reason, and courage. Jackie Robinson and Branch Rickie proved that. They didn't need government's help, because government wasn't in the way to begin with.

King prominently and properly drew on the moral principles of the Declaration of Independence and the Founders because he knew that those ideals were not, any more than his dream, some "vague, airy vision." In fact, his dream embodied those ideals. Those ideals are relevant for all people at all times—they're always relevant in the here and now. We should protect those unalienable rights, even if—indeed especially if—it means protecting the rights of scoundrels. That's what "unalienable" means. When you fight for your rights by violating the rights of others, you negate your own fight and all rights. As King said, the rights of others are "inextricably bound to our freedom."

I refuse to believe King's reference to America's Founding principles was mere window dressing. 

Once you go down the path of violating rights to correct some wrong, the negative unintended consequences could be devastating. Regarding anti-discrimination laws targeted against the private sector,Title IX and Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act are examples of this.  Among the consequences;—the lowering of "discriminatory" residential lending standards, which contributed mightily to the sub-prime mortgage crisis and Great Recession; the unjust devastation of men's college sports under Title IX; and now the violation of religious freedom of wedding venue providers who are forced to hold gay weddings against their religious convictions.

It's easy to say your for rights in the abstract, since one probably has in mind virtuous people. But the real test of your commitment to rights is when you have to defend the worst practitioners of rights. Voltaire is said to have uttered: "I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." This sentiment is relevant to all rights. We forget what "unalienable" means at our peril.

Despite King's turn away from individual rights in his later activism, Liberty lovers owe him a debt of gratitude for so strongly reaffirming the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Like the Declaration, King's words can never be erased, no matter how hard the Left tries to distort them. 

On some level, King recognized that the Declaration of Independence is the essence of America. Some day, King might be primarily remembered for revering America's promise  "that all men -- yes, black men as well as white men -- would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," rather than a promise of an eternal something for nothing.

Related Reading:

The Declaration of Independence

Rand Paul, Title 2, and the Importance of Principles

Property Rights and Title 2

Beneath the Title IX Contraversy

Obamanomics and the Ghost of Title 2

Title 2: Government vs. Private Action

Why Obama Administration Shouldn't Use Title IX to Balance Math Classes, by Kyle Smith

Title IX at 40: Looking for Another "National Crisis", by Vicki E. Alger

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr.'s Dream: The Ideals of the Founding Fathers

My latest post at The Objective Standard blog is a tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. It's titled "I Have a Dream": Martin Luther King Urges Consistency to Founding Principles.

Related: A New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial commemorating the 50th Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, the editors correctly pointed out that King originally sought an end to legalized segregation, demanding equality before the law. It was only later, when King turned to politics, that he embraced socialism.

The Star-Ledger, not surprisingly, lauded his politics, failing to recognize that "democratic socialism" clashes with equality before the law. The title of the editorial is The Radical Teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. I left these comments:

When MLK proclaimed his Dream, he reaffirmed the "magnificent words" in the Declaration of Independence—"a promise that all men—yes, black men as well as white men—would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." With these words, MLK was affirming the basic essence of capitalism—egoism. The right to freely pursue one's own life and happiness is what King was upholding.

Under capitalism, each person's inalienable rights are protected by government, so he is free to rise as far as he can, but only through his own productive work and in voluntary trade with others. Since every individual is unique and physically and intellectually autonomous, differing in ability, ambition, interests, upbringing, values, moral character, lifetime goals, and countless other variables, it is both inevitable and just that under conditions of freedom, economic outcomes will vary in line with this human diversity. 

But King's professed beliefs in American ideals clashed with his ethics of egalitarian altruism. 

Altruism preaches self-sacrifice for the sake of others. It fosters envy and resentment toward the successful, because they have not self-sacrificed or self-sacrificed enough (hence the angst over the "wealth gap"). Altruism fosters the entitlement mentality, because it holds the proper way to satisfy needs is not to earn and keep wealth for oneself—that's selfish—but to prey on others. Altruism is a predatory moral code that enshrines the unearned as the only moral absolute.

Since altruism is the basic essence of socialism, King had to choose one or the other. When he turned to politics, he chose socialism over capitalism, in line with his ethics. (Capitalism, incidentally, didn't exist in America in the 1960s. Like today, we had a mixed economy.)

King's conflict between America's egoistic ideals and altruism is not his alone. The conflict permeates America. What King saw as "wrong with capitalism" is precisely what's great about capitalism. 

The choice between socialism and capitalism is really a choice between altruism and egoism—more precisely, rational egoism. One of the few truths Marx ever uttered is that "capitalism legalizes selfishness." Marx meant it as a criticism, and he proceeded to take much of the world away from capitalism, and tens of millions were altruistically sacrificed to his political ideals. But Marx was right; capitalism does embody selfishness. Until selfishness is redeemed and recognized for what it really is—rational, honest, benevolent pursuit of personal happiness—our rights to life and liberty will continue to erode, and capitalism will give way the the tyranny of democratic socialism. 

Will we reverse course before it's too late? We will if we reject MLK's politics and instead heed his Dream speech, which revered the radical ideals of the Founding Fathers. We'll know we are heading in the right direction when a Steve Jobs, rather than a Mother Teresa, is at the top of the list of most admired.

Related Reading:

"I Have a Dream": Martin Luther King Urges Consistency to Founding Principles

Ayn Rand: Tea Party Voice of the Founding Fathers

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Diane Coleman's Opposition to Assisted Suicide Ignores Rights - PART 1

In The Dangerous "Help" of Assisted SuicideDiane Coleman, president and CEO of Not Dead Yet, a disabled advocacy group, listed four reasons for opposing laws legalizing assisted suicide:

• Predictions that someone will die in six months are often wrong;
• People who want to die usually have treatable depression and/or need better palliative care;
• Pressures to cut health care costs in the current political climate make this the wrong time to add doctor-prescribed suicide to the "treatment" options;
• Abuse of elders and people with disabilities is a growing but often undetected problem, making coercion virtually impossible to identify or prevent.

I left these comments:

Ms. Coleman's four bullet-pointed reasons for opposing the legalization of assisted suicide ignores the one person that counts—the individual. Every reason Coleman cites against legal assisted suicide is irrelevant outside the context of the fundamental issue: The individual's inalienable right to life, which implies and sanctions the irrevocable right to choose to end one's own life.

The first two reasons Coleman cites are considerations for the individual, not the state. 

Reason three is a good argument against our socialized healthcare system, which forces everyone to finance other peoples' healthcare. We should stop violating peoples' rights by forcing them to finance other peoples' healthcare though taxes or government-controlled "private" health insurance. The cost of assisted suicide, like all healthcare costs, should be borne by the patient or anyone who voluntarily agrees to foot the bill, not "the health care system." The fact that we lack a free market in healthcare is not a reason to violate the right to assisted suicide.

The fourth reason Coleman gives for keeping assisted suicide illegal—that some elderly or disabled may be "coerced" into it—is fundamentally unjust. No one's rights should ever be held hostage to the potential criminal activity of others. The fact that some people may engage in abuse of the elderly or disabled is no reason to ban assisted suicide. Punishing the innocent for the wrongdoing of the few is grotesquely immoral.

Freedom is not, as Coleman states, "simplistic." Freedom is a profound moral principle with complex roots. In a nutshell, freedom means the right of the individual to live and act by his own judgment without coercive interference by other people or the government, so long as his actions don't violate the same rights of others. The basic right—the right to life—means the right to live on one's own terms, not the terms of othersNot only should assisted suicide be legal for the terminally ill, but for any adult whose life, by their own reasoned, uncoerced judgment, has become intolerable and no longer worth living.

Those who seek to impose their views on others by governmental force must necessarily ridicule or trivialize freedom. But in so doing, they are undermining the only moral basis for a civil society.

John from Middletown left a thoughtful reply. He said, in part:

Proponents often accuse assisted suicide opponents of trying to impose our views, but it is the proponents who want the state of New Jersey to take a position on when is it okay to kill yourself. We want to keep the state out of the suicide business. Proponents want the state of New Jersey to say yes, if you feel like a burden, or if you are ashamed of your incontinence, let us help make sure your suicide is successful. . . . New Jersey should instead make sure that everyone, whether disabled or diagnosed as terminal, has all the support they need, not to start offering prescriptions for 100 Seconal capsules. 

I answered:

Yes, we should "keep the state out of the suicide business." The state should not "take a position on when is it okay to kill yourself." The state should neither promote—"say yes" to— suicide, nor "help make sure your suicide is successful." It should neither encourage suicide for people whose "lives are intolerable at certain points," nor forbid "suicide prevention." It should not fund anyone's suicide, nor forbid anyone from privately funding it. It should neither sanction reasons for committing suicide, nor forbid assisted suicide for any reason (in regard only to consenting adults of sound mind, of course). It should not "start offering suicide to people," nor violate people's right to go through with it by the manner of their choice. It should neither "make sure that everyone, whether disabled or diagnosed as terminal, has all the support they need," nor "start offering prescriptions for 100 Seconal capsules." It should not be seizing money from taxpayers at gunpoint to either prevent nor pay for suicide.

As you say, "keep the state out of the suicide business." The government's only proper purpose is to protect, not violate, individual rights—which means, in this context, to leave people free to contract voluntarily with their health care providers for the services they need, without state interference. Both proponents and opponents should agree not to use the legal machinery of the state to impose their views on each other. 

Related Reading:

Religious Objections Irrelevant to Assisted Suicide Law

"I've Suffered Enough"—A Young Woman's Quest for a Peaceful End to an "Intolerable" Life

Does The Right To Life And Liberty Include The Right To Terminate One's Life? by Amesh Adalja

Sunday, August 25, 2013

What Does Freedom From Religion Actually Mean in Practice?

Regarding my TOS blog post Freedom Of Religion Demands Freedom From Religion, a correspondent posted the following query

Please define an environment that is free of religion.
Be careful, this is not a frivolous request. Is an environment that is rife with global warming claims "free of religion"? How about a course on cosmology? Biology? Physics? How about a seminar on Objectivism as Ayn Rand might have run it?

Here is my answer:

Not free of religion, but free of government-imposed or promoted religion. The government does not interfere in the private practice, exercise, or advocacy of religion (or any other belief system), so long as the practitioner doesn’t violate rights (initiate physical force against others). The private practitioner is forbidden to use the legal machinery of government to impose, advance, or promote his beliefs. The “wall” keeps government force out of the private sector respecting religion.

The same principles should apply to science, education, etc. In other words, the government does not promote “global warming,” as it does now through tax funding of science. It does not promote the theory of evolution, as it does now through government schools. Nor does it disparage such ideas. The government is neutral on ideas—all ideas. It merely protects rights to hold and act upon one’s ideas.

The “wall of separation between church and state” is really about separation of ideas and state; all ideas, whether the field is religion, science, education, production and trade, etc. The core issue is intellectual freedom. Obviously, such an environment is possible only in a fully free society, where the separation of religion (more accurately conscience) and state is joined by separation of state from education, science, economics, etc.

Objectivist intellectual Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute has an excellent presentation on the subject. I am indebted to Onkar Ghate for enabling me to get a better understanding of the link between religious and intellectual freedom.  Here is the preamble to his lecture:

"Onkar Ghate delivered this lecture on July 5, 2009, in Boston. With religion on the rise in America, maintaining the separation of church and state is now a pressing issue. This talk examines some of the history behind, as well as the arguments for and against, the principle of separating religion from government. It considers contemporary ways in which the principle is being attacked and why even well-meaning Americans are increasingly unable to mount a defense. Finally, it defines what a proper, philosophical argument for the need to separate church from state looks like."

Related Reading:

Why We Need Freedom From Religion

To Keep Government Out of Religion, Keep Religion Out of Government

Related Viewing:

The Separation of Church and State by Onkar Ghate of The Ayn Rand Institute

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Alex Epstein: Fossil Fuels Power Electric Cars

Alex Epstein of the Center for Industrial Progress has a great piece at titled With the Tesla Model S, Elon Musk Has Created a Great Fossil Fuel Car. Here is an excerpt:

"It is commonplace to contrast gas-powered cars with 'electric cars,” but the electricity in an 'electric car”'must come from somewhere–and that somewhere is usually fossil fuels: coal, oil, and natural gas, which produce a combined 67% of electricity around the globe, because they are so cheap, plentiful, and reliable. And the role of fossil fuels is increasing, not decreasing; in the developing world, 80% of new power plants use low-cost coal. . . .

"If Teslas take over the world, they will do so as mostly coal cars–or natural gas cars. And not just because of the energy it takes to run them, but because of the massive amount of energy it takes to manufacture them. The Tesla’s state-of-the-art materials, particularly that $30,000 battery, take a massive amount of energy to build–and that energy comes from fossil fuels, particularly coal. In fact, some studies argue that the Tesla battery takes so much fossil fuel energy to make that the car over its lifetime emits more CO2 than a gasoline-powered car.
"Does that mean the Tesla is no good? Absolutely not. The fact that the Tesla uses a lot of fossil fuel electricity should not be used to damn the Tesla–it should be used to celebrate fossil fuel electricity."
Related Reading:

We Are Doomed Without, Not Because of, Fossil Fuel Use

The Tesla Debate @ the Center for Industrial Progress

Friday, August 23, 2013

America's Leftward Drift and the Hidden Role of Extremism

Back in March, I responded to a New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial titled Christie Snubbed by CPAC,a Badge of Honor. Back then, the Conservative Political Action Committee conspicuously failed to invite NJ Republican Governor Chris Christie to its annual event. You can read about it here.

Occasionally, the comments section goes off-topic but is worth responding to. This was one of those instances. Below are my responses to some replies to my initial comments.

Correspondent Charles is responding to my observation that America has moved dramatically Left over the past half century:

Just over 50 years ago the top tax rate was 91% and Social Security was established way back in the 1930’s  Somebody needs to take a history lesson. 

Charles, I think you need to read what I wrote. I'm referring to political economy, not social issues. In many respects, we've made great strides since the Beaver; in racial equality before the law, reproductive rights, interracial and, to some extent, gay marriage. On the other hand, the almost unfettered economic freedom that existed a century ago has been steadily eroding. 

As to welfare statism: Yes, it got its foothold in the 1930s. But, as of 1960, it was not the dominant political "center," as it is today. Remember Kennedy began the trend toward lower marginal rates at that time. (Besides, that 91% was fictional. No one actually paid it, given all of the loopholes.) All of the trends were not Leftward, but the dominant one has been. Can anyone deny the monumental expansion of the regulatory welfare state since then?

Charles responded by citing the Reagan Era:

[F]or a quarter century since the election of Reagan in 1980 conservatives dominated our nation’s politics, especially on economic issues. That’s why even a Democratic President, Bill Clinton in 1996, felt compelled to declare that the era of so-called Big Government was over.
My answer:

Charles, my take is quite different. Yes, there was a rightward counter-trend from the late 70s into the 90s. But it was mild, and ultimately only slowed the statist march. After all, Reagan couldn't even abolish the fledgling Ed Dept., and gave us SS reform and EMTALA. And in 1997 the Repub congress gave us SCHIP. Then the Leftward lurch resumed in earnest under Bush's "compassionate conservatism," and accelerated under Obama. As further proof that the overarching trend has been Leftward, look no further than what thatfootisme notes below; ObamaCare is a warmed-over Repub scheme [RomneyCare]. No Republican would have ever proposed it in the mid-20th Century, yet Romney was their nominee in 2012. 

Another correspondent, thatfootisme, addressed the issue of extremism vs. moderation:

@Zemack - is cleaving unwaveringly to ideology or sneering at any hint of opposition something you find to be unique to Democrats or liberals? Because if it is, you should talk to some primaried Republican moderates like Mike Castle, Richard Lugar or Charlie Criss.

My reply:

Regardless, the Democrats have been unwavering in their commitment to their core philosophy for a century, while the GOP has been mostly dominated by me-too so-called "moderates". This is why the country has moved progressively toward statism. 50 years ago, welfare statism was far Left. Today, it is the political center. The whole spectrum has been and is moving Left. The reason is that the Dems are ideologically driven and the Republicans have not been. Consistency of purpose always trumps "moderation," for better or for worse. 
By the way, I don't consider "extremism" to be a vice (see my comments below beezerker). I also do not want to imply that I support the GOP's social authoritarian agenda, which is ideologically driven--by the religious and social conservatives. I don't. My comments refer to the Dem's economic authoritarianism, which I also oppose. My point is that the GOP really doesn't stand for economic freedom on principle, only rhetorically.

thatfootisme's return:
@zemack - As to whether consistency of purpose trumps moderation, I think that depends on how you define moderation. If you see moderation as simply being wishy-washy, sure, I don't want that, I want politicians to have core beliefs that don't change based on opinion poll results. But I think what most people mean when they use the term moderation in this context is the acknowledgement that we have a two party system and a diverse country. Moderation in that you need to be able to sit down with someone whose views differ and hammer out a solution, not just dig your heels in and refuse to budge...and that's what we've seen the Republicans doing since 1/20/09.

And while we might disagree on a few things, your last sentence is one of the truest things anyone has said on this site for a while.

And my reply:

thatfootisme, you're absolutely right to ask me to define my terms. By "moderation" I mean unprincipled compromise at any cost. I think the term "moderation" is a package deal, meaning two different things; principled compromise vs. compromise as the only absolute. The first is valid, the second isn't. When the first meets the second, the first will always win. 

As to the Republicans' refusal to "budge," the shoe has actually been at least as much on the Democrats' foot. The GOP did offer some alternatives to ObamaCare, for example. But the Dems were hell-bent on taking another huge step toward single-payer, their ultimate goal. Consequently, the GOP voted uniformly against ObamaCare, and the Dems uniformly for it. But, the GOP never presented an integrated free market healthcare alternative that clearly reduced government involvement in healthcare and expanded individual rights--i.e., "a choice, not an echo." No wonder; the GOP helped create the government dominated healthcare status quo. They really don't believe in free markets. 

Related Reading:

Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It

The Virtue of Extremism

Political "Left" and "Right" Properly Defined by Craig Biddle

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Corporatists" Are Individuals, Too

This letter titled Real Meaning of Citizens United attacking free speech appeared in the NJ Star-Ledger on May 14, 2013:

    [T]he U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision . . . quashes participatory democracy by allowing corporate interests to use front groups to pour tens of millions of dollars into the electoral process. How many small contributors would it take to equal what Exxon Mobil alone could contribute? How can we prevent foreign interests from using Citizens United to influence the outcome of elections?
    Corporatists already manipulate the legislative process through their massive lobbying efforts in Washington. Citizens United is just another nail in the coffin of democracy.

I left these comments:

Citizens United struck down a law that violated the freedom of any advocacy group organized as a corporation from exercising free speech and press rights. In the CU case, the campaign finance law at issue forbade a nonprofit group from distributing a film critical of a candidate in 2008. Chillingly, the law also allowed vast government censorship over all forms of expression including books, newspaper ads, radio, the internet, etc. Fortunately, the Supreme Court struct down this un-American law.

America is a constitutionally limited representative republic based on the recognition of inalienable individual rights. In a representative republic, individuals, acting alone or in voluntary groups such as corporations, labor unions, or nonprofits, have a right to attempt to "manipulate" or influence--to participate in--the legislative process. That's the whole point of a government of, for, and by the people. The "rights" of any group derive directly from the rights of the individuals that make it up. "Corporate interests" are individuals like everyone else. A corporation is a voluntary association of individuals with the right to spend their money however they please to advocate their ideas, as recognized by the free speech and press clause of the First Amendment. So are labor unions (to the extent they are voluntary). Citizens United struck a strong blow for those individual rights. Kudos to the US Supreme Court!

As to lobbying, the First Amendment  also guarantees free assemblies of individuals to petition the government. Lobbies are just that. Why do "corporatists" lobby Washington? Because Washington has massive control over the economy, and business is the primary target of this government assault. But lobbyists come in all stripes--labor unions, environmentalists, consumer "protection" groups, and a whole host of other special interests.  

Lobbyists perform one of two basic functions; seek political favors at other economic groups expense, or seek to protect their clients against becoming a victim group. Many lobbyists perform both functions. It's a smelly process, but Gary Tanucci attacks the symptom rather than the disease, reversing cause and effect. The cause is not the lobbyists. The cause is government's control over the economy, and its power to dish out economic favors. Lobbying grows in response to growing government power, not the other way around. The solution is to roll back the power of the government, not the First Amendment.

By attacking the symptom, Tanucci assaults an indespensible bulwark against tyranny. His solution to all of this is effectively to trample the First Amendment, insulate the politicians from the people, and create a democratic dictatorship. We need to nail the democracy coffin shut, and bury it. Democracy is a manifestation of totalitarianism; a system of rotating elected dictators but no individual liberty.

Related Reading:

In Defense of Special Interests--and the Constitution

Citizens United and the Battle for Free Speech in America by Steve Simpson

Obama Urges Amendment to Overturn the First Amendment

Monday, August 19, 2013

Star Parker’s Condemnation of Pride Highlights the Connection Between Pride and Liberty

Conservative political activist Star Parker says that “same-sex marriage is really pride’s assault on religion.” Why?

The Book of Proverbs, in biblical canon, once a vital part of American culture, tells us: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” It’s this haughty spirit, this pride that precedes destruction, that lies behind the Supreme Court’s decision . . . to bury the Defense of Marriage Act.

This decision . . . is but the latest in a long process of the unraveling of American culture driven by pride—the sense that we answer to no higher authority.

Parker’s attack on pride suggests something about the life-serving importance of pride. For one thing, pride is the antithesis of blindly accepting the moral dictates of some "higher authority." If one does submit one's moral judgment to authority, one does not have pride. If one does submit, one places the quality of one's life and potential for happiness in jeopardy by placing one's moral guidance in the hands of some authority other than one's own reason. To think for oneself is to have pride—and vice-versa.

So, what precisely is pride? Two great philosophers weighed in on the issue.

Aristotle identified pride as “the crown of the virtues,” reflective of the personal commitment to “greatness in every virtue”: The proud man “thinks himself worthy of great things,” never “thinking himself worthy of less than he is really worthy.” Pride, observed Ayn Rand, is “moral ambitiousness”—“the recognition of the fact that you are your own highest value”; a recognition that must and can be earned by a personal commitment to the achievement of moral perfection in character and deed, while never self-sacrificially subordinating one’s judgment to the authority of others.

But “Pride,” counters the Christian theologian Augustine, “is self-glorifying attempts to rely on oneself to any degree . . . The flawed will [that] turns [one] away from God.”

Religionists like Parker seek to legally force their marital terms on everyone else. On whose authority? By the dictates of “biblical canon”; the writings of people who claim to speak for God, a “higher authority” that they claim exists.

Is it any wonder why religionists consider pride to be man’s “primal vice” and his “Original Sin,” as Augustine put it? What proud person would submit to religionists’ unchallengeable commandments?

Pride stands in the way of religious authoritarianism, because standing up for one’s rights and intellectual autonomy against religious authoritarians like Parker is an act of pride.

Related Reading:

Why We Need Freedom From Religion

The Broader Threat of Theocracy