Friday, January 24, 2014

Carney's Wrong: Washington, Not the Private Market, is the Real "Wild West"

On October 29, 2013,'s Katie Pavlich reported:

When pressed on the issue of millions losing individual insurance plans they wanted to keep, [Obama Administration Press Secretary Jay] Carney said it is five percent of the population being affected by insurance loss. That five percent adds up to 14 million people. 
"We're talking about 5% of the country," Carney said after justifying losses and referring to the individual marketplace as a "wild west" that needed more regulation.

Clearly, Carney's reference to a "wild west" is meant to disparage the free, unregulated market. The individual health insurance market, of course, was not unregulated before ObamaCare. It was just less regulated than under ObamaCare. But leaving that aside for now, is Carney's analogy an accurate description of a free market?

The "wild west" analogy is often how statists refer to private individuals voluntarily engaging in trade, association, and contract—i.e., liberty. So, let's examine the validity of Carney's use of that analogy by comparing liberty to the regulatory welfare state he was defending.

Miriam-Webster defines "wild west" as "the western United States in its frontier period characterized by roughness and lawlessness." The wild west conjures up images of a nearly lawless frontier town, where women and children scurry for cover while routine disputes get settled amid raging gun battles. Force is the name of the game in the wild west. Law is the ingredient that is missing from the equation, replaced by "law" as whatever the gunslingers say it is at any given moment.

Now, remember that government is solely an institution of force—i.e., guns. As George Washington is believed to have famously said, "government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force." Government must have a monopoly on the legal use of force if it is to fulfill its only proper mission to protect individual rights, lest we have anarchy degenerating into dictatorship. But, with Carney's "wild west" analogy in mind, consider the government America has today.

Under ObamaCare alone, over 10,000 pages of regulations have been written (not counting the 2000-page law itself)— regulations that carry the force of law, but which could be altered, rescinded, or added to at any time.

Or consider the continuing antitrust assault on America's most successful companies, based on whatever antitrust enforcers say is against the law at any given time.

Or consider that the Social Security benefits your lifetime of FICA taxes where supposed to provide for can be altered, including cut or eliminated, at any time government officials feel like it.

Or, consider that politicians can vote away your wealth and redistribute it to any group it deems "needy," based only on any newly discovered fact of that group's "need," based only on the "law" "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

The list can go on and on.

Now consider a free market society. Citizens are free to pursue their values by inalienable right, provided their actions don't violate the rights of others to pursue their values. The laws are designed to protect the citizens' individual rights, and to punish those who violate rights.

To violate rights means to initiate force, directly—e.g., theft, murder—or indirectly—e.g., fraud, breech-of-contract, extortion—against others. Laws objectively identify, define, and proscribe acts of initiatory force, and prescribe appropriate punishments for the perpetrators and retribution for the victims. In a free society, government may not violate the laws it administers; i.e., government, like private citizens, is not permitted to initiate force and violate rights by regulating or redistributing wealth or property. "Individual rights are the means of subordinating society [government] to moral law." All laws are objectively written, so that everyone knows, in advance, exactly what he is forbidden to do, and why.

So think about this for a minute. In the original wild west, we’re talking about the use of force by private citizens against other private citizens. In the above description of government as it exists today, we’re talking about government assuming the role of the gunslinger in the wild west, and initiating force against private citizens with virtual impunity. Sure, there are no open gun battles. The gun is hidden. But in an essential way, today's situation is worse: Rather than operate outside of any law, the force initiators operate under cover of law, while legally disarming their victims by law. Try resisting the armed law enforcement personnel with your own gun when they come to seize your wealth as "fines" or arrest you for disobeying one of their arbitrary edicts!

Which state of affairs is reminiscent of the "Wild West"—a "frontier . . . characterized by roughness and lawlessness—a free society or today's mixed economy government?

This is not to say that a fully free healthcare market existed before ObamaCare. It didn't. But it was freer before ObamaCare. And it is not to say that the wild west analogy describes today's government across the board. It doesn't (though we are heading there). It is to say we who advocate liberty should be ever-vigilant to be on the lookout for the statists' use of what Ayn Rand identified as concept-stealing; "the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends."

Next time some statist apologist levies the "wild west" charge against freedom, remember where the facts prove the real wild west is located—in Washington.

Related Reading:

Does Freedom Equal "The Wild West"?

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