Friday, February 28, 2014

A "Liberal" Newspaper Acknowledges the Welfare State Dilemma

The NJ Star-Ledger had an interesting editorial on February 7, 2014; interesting, that is, because it was penned by a "liberal" newspaper. It is titled ObamaCare's collateral damage.

Citing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) study that says ObamaCare will result in a reduction in work hours equivalent to 2.5 million jobs, the editors say the study "points to a fundamental problem in America’s approach to its welfare state; . . . that low-wage workers will lose subsidies as their earnings increase, giving them less incentive to work hard and climb the income ladder. Much of what they gain in earnings, in other words, they will lose in subsidies."

"This," say the editors, "is a problem liberals need to face squarely . . ."

The Star-Ledger is a Left-of-center newspaper. So it's refreshing to hear self-described "liberals" acknowledge the obvious. The welfare state—aka mixed economy—the editors (surprisingly) concede, discourages self-supporting, productive work.

The editors' conclusion is also surprising. They acknowledge that this state of affairs is unsustainable. So, where do we go from here? "There are," say the editors with surprising candor,

. . . two possible solutions to this, neither perfect. One is to simply cut these programs, allowing low-income families to fend for themselves.

The other approach is to provide universal benefits, as Canada and Western Europeans nations favor. The catch is that it is enormously expensive and requires higher taxes.

Once again, the Star-Ledger is spot-on. It's either/or. It is here that they go off the rails, and expose their true intentions:

We can find a middle ground by tweaking means-tested programs so that benefits phase out more gradually and extend to higher incomes. But eventually, as efforts to help low-wage families increase, any means-tested approach will hit the same wall.
The real solution is to help people earn more money in the first place.

After essentially saying there is no middle ground, they propose a middle ground—or did they? 

The welfare state is an unstable mess that must ultimately progress toward a fully free society or collapse into "universal benefits"; i.e., undiluted socialism. This is true whether you're talking about healthcare in particular or the economy as a whole. All welfare states are in this boat. (Canada and Western Europe are not socialist states. They are also mixed economies. Despite the editors' implications, these states face the same either/or alternatives as the United States.) The welfare state is the "liberals'" middle ground between socialism and capitalism—or full tyranny and full liberty. But there is no such thing, in the long run, as a middle between the two. Ultimately, you have to choose one or the other, and the long run has arrived or soon will. 

The reason is simple: The nature of government intervention into the economy is that each intervention creates perverse incentives that lead to more problems, which then have to be rectified with more interventions, in a never-ending cycle of government intervention, culminating—if not reversed—in total government control. As liberty exhibit #1, I give you ObamaCare.

I'm convinced that most "liberals" sincerely do not want totalitarian socialism. But the logic of their welfare state premises leads directly to that end. To repeat what the editors acknowledge in the beginning of this editorial, the welfare state is inherently unstable and faces two basic alternatives; reduce it or expand it.

"[T]his . . . report," conclude the editors, ". . . should serve as a warning on the limitation of the welfare state." But, limited by what. "Limit" implies principles. The principles that the welfare state is built upon is that need is the moral standard of government policy and that we are all our brothers' keepers. They are not limiting principles. They are an open-ended invitation for any group asserting a need to demand a government-enforced claim on others' wealth. Since human needs are endless, there's no stopping this juggernaut. On what basis can anyone object to any group asserting a need, once they've accepted the role of their brothers' keepers? 

As proof, I give you the editors' "solution" to the disincentive problem created by the welfare state; a "middle ground" proposal that would "tweak" the programs "so that benefits phase out more gradually and extend to higher incomes"—in other words, expand the welfare state. It is just another step toward totalitarian socialism. Notice that "liberals" are always talking about "moderation" and "compromise." But in reality, they will only accept a middle ground that advances the ball toward a bigger welfare state. (The editors "real solution . . . to help people earn more money in the first place" is laughable. How do you do that without reducing the disincentive to work—which means, reducing the welfare state, which the editors already reject?)

In reality, there is only one principle that can limit the welfare state; the recognition of each individual's right to his own life—the base of all rights, which sanction the individual's right to take whatever actions one's own judgement deems necessary to the maintenance and furtherance of one's own life. The only "limits" to those actions is the responsibility to respect and not violate the same rights of others. In fact, the moral principle of individual rights is not a limit on welfare statism. It forbids any degree of welfare statism, or statism in any form. 

So, the ultimate choice is either/or; either laissez-faire capitalism or totalitarian socialism. The  principles underpinning both systems have their own inexorable logic that leads in opposite directions, ultimately to their own inescapable end.


In my comments, I left this challenge:

So the editors solution to the welfare state dilemma is to expand the welfare state. Well, in the spirit of compromise, how about a middle ground that expands liberty? We could start with healthcare. Milton Wolf, GOP senate candidate from Kansas, has proposed replacing ObamaCare with PatientCare. PatientCare preserves Medicare and Medicaid, but removes many interventionist government policies that led to the problems ObamaCare was meant to "fix." The "liberals" are always calling for Republicans to offer an alternative. Well, here's oneLet's see if they give it the respect it deserves. 

I posted a link to PatientCare in the comments section of the Star-Ledger website. I did not receive a reply.

Related Reading:

ObamaCare's Promise of "Freedom" From Work Paid for by Others is Parasitism
American Economy is Not "Left to its own devices"

Milton Wolf’s PatientCare: A Sensible Alternative to ObamaCare

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

ObamaCare's Promise of "Freedom" From Work Paid for by Others is Parasitism

In early February, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reported that, because of ObamaCare incentives, many American will work less. As the Washington Post reports:

More than 2 million Americans who would otherwise rely on a job for health insurance will quit working, reduce their hours or stop looking for employment because of new health benefits available under the Affordable Care Act, congressional budget analysts said Tuesday.

Since then, the Left has been scrambling to minimize—or even justify as good—these effects. For example, TPM DC's Dylan Scott writes in What The Obamacare Debate Reveals About How Americans View Work:

For the last week, the political class has spent a lot of time debating whether Americans should work less, a response to the Congressional Budget Office report that concluded some people would because of Obamacare. Is it a bad thing if a federal program encourages people to work less? What if it gives them freedom to do more of what they want?

Two questions come to mind: At whose expense is that new-found "freedom" bought? And why, before ObamaCare, did people "otherwise rely on a job for health insurance?"

The answer to the first question is, other people. ObamaCare forcibly seizes wealth from others via direct taxation or insurance mandates that forces up premiums by forcing people to buy health coverage they may not want, need, or can afford. Insurance companies, in other words, become appendages of the welfare state (they've long been that, but now much more so).

Now, the freedom to work less, or in a job or activity one finds more enjoyable, is not necessarily bad, if one earns that freedom through his own industriousness and saving. But such "freedom" paid for by forcibly seizing wealth from others is parasitism, and immoral to its core.

That welfare state programs discourage work is no secret. Even some "liberals" acknowledge this fact, as the New Jersey Star-Ledger recently did. They were surprisingly forthcoming on the CBO report, which they said highlights "Obamacare's collateral damage." This, the Star-Ledger states, points to "a fundamental problem in America’s approach to its welfare state" which "is a problem liberals need to face squarely." (I'll have more to say on this editorial in my next post.)

The other sense in which ObamaCare offers people "freedom to do more of what they want" is in creating a kind of insurance portability, primarily by banning pre-existing conditions restrictions on health insurers and creating government-controlled individual "market" exchanges.

But it was the government itself that created the problem of people being tied to a job strictly for the health benefits. That situation, which ObamaCare was intended to "fix", was created decades ago when the government started discriminating against individuals through the tax code by making insurance tax deductible for employer group plans but not individual plans. Add to that restrictions on the sale of policies across state lines, and the individual's health insurance gets tied to employment and/or geography, severely restricting the individual's freedom to change jobs or retire early. Opponents of ObamaCare have long called for an end to the employer-based health insurance system, which can be easily done with a few simple free market reforms. But statists have and continue to ignore this fix, being wedded as they are to their grand scheme of more and more government control.

With this in mind, it is positively galling to read this from Scott:
Obamacare could open up the possibilities by giving Americans the freedom to start their own business or take a job that they'll find more fulfilling or retire early, as Sharone said, and that could lead to a [sic] America that still possesses a work ethic that is the envy of the world, but in a way that's fundamentally different from what exists now.
"The key is having control of our work. That's what will determine the future," Kochan said. "If we gave people control, I think we would see a very strong work ethic, but not the extreme hours."
In other words, slavery is freedom. What about the people paying for the ObamaCare subsidies? Where is their control over their own money? What about the people forced to buy government-mandated health coverage from insurers hog-tied by regulations, rather than policies tailored to their own needs and budgets? Where is their freedom over their own health care dollars?

And as to "having control of our work," think about homeowners, life, or auto insurance. Can we change jobs without worrying about losing those policies? Of course. If we owned our health insurance policies in the same way as other types of insurance, we would have "control over our work." The "control of our work" justification for the hugely rights-violating, government empowering ObamaCare is just a phoney rationalization.

A huge new government program isn't needed to "give people control." The government simply needs to stop violating and start protecting individual rights, so people can regain control over their own affairs.

Related Reading:

Is ObamaCare's Individual Mandate Necessary to Prevent "Freeloading?"

Milton Wolf’s PatientCare: A Sensible Alternative to ObamaCare

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Important Debate: Is The Welfare State Just?

On April 1, the Ayn Rand Institute's Don Watkins will be debating University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of political science Howard Schweber. The topic will be, "Is the Welfare State Just?

In the interview posted on the Laissez-Faire blog, Watkins notes that the debate will concern "First Principles": Should the welfare state be saved or eliminated over time?

Instructions on how to livestream the debate are available @ Laissez-Faire.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Education Funding: Let Taxpayers Direct Their Own Education Dollars

Responding to a letter advocating universal government-run preschool, Raymond E. Williams (Preschool is only a start) wrote:

    [Retired U.S. Navy] Admiral John C. Harvey Jr. is absolutely correct about the need for preschool (“Defense strategy: Preschool,” Reader Forum, Nov. 7).
    But preschool is not the final answer if schooling after that is deficient. . .
    There’s more to the education than the first step. We have let down our kids. We have not properly funded public schools. We have diverted funds to charter schools.

I left these comments in Reply to Williams:

RE: Preschool is only a start

I agree that quality preschool is important. I also agree that preschool is not enough. It is widely acknowledged that, after more than a century of broad-based, universal K-12 government schooling, U.S. children on average still don't receive an adequate education and many receive a dismal education or even none at all. This, despite enormous sums of taxpayer money showered on the public education establishment.

But your solution to defund charter schools is exactly backwards. What about the parents (taxpayers) who voluntarily choose charters in search of a better education for their kids? Must their children be penalized and those who failed their children be rewarded with more taxpayer money? 

We need not just new but revolutionary thinking on this subject. How about a free market in education, where the moral rights of parents to control their children's education is reasserted, and educators vie for their business through robust competition on price, quality, and a long-neglected but crucial ingredient—educational philosophy? 

Rather than expand government education to preschool, or throwing more money at public schools at the expense of alternative choices for parents, we should be 
expanding individual liberty in education. The moral, rightful, and logical solution is to expand the opportunities for parents to get their children out of government schools. I laid out a plan toward free market education that would greatly expand the opportunities for parents in all income brackets to choose private education in this article for The Objective Standard: Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

Click here to read my reply to Admiral Harvey. I use every opportunity I can to plug the idea that those whose taxes fund the government schools should have the option of spending their own education dollars. I advocate tax credits as a means of opting a child—any child of one's choice—out of the government schools as a means of moving towards a fully free education market.

Related Reading:

Education Activist Michelle Rhee is Courageous, but No "Radical"

The Best Teacher Evaluation "Plan" is a Free Market in Education

Parent Trigger Laws Indicate Growing Strength of the Parental School Choice Movement.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's Time to Bury the "Trickle-Down" Myth

A letter titled The trickle-down myth appeared in the NJ Star-Ledger in December 2013. The letter asserts that "more jobs won’t be created until more buyers gain their fair share of American wealth and can afford to buy more," as if all wealth belongs to "America" rather than those who earn it.

He goes on to say—correctly—that businesses seek to "keep labor costs low." He also says—again correctly—that "Creating jobs is not business leaders’ top priority today; market share, stock value and net income are"—i.e., maximum productiveness. He also states, with some validity, that "corporations prefer part-timers and temps instead of full-timers, and they look to technology to do a job whenever possible."

This last is not surprising, given the steep costs associated with jobs imposed by labor laws and other government interventions, like ObamaCare's insurance mandate. To the extent that technology is market driven, it is a good thing because increased productivity helps the business grow profits while simultaneously raising the value of the  workers' labor, which leads to higher real wages and general standard of living. But to the extent that technology is employed to avoid the artificial costs of government regulations, it is not so good.

He concludes that "The idea that wealth at the top will automatically trickle down in the form of plentiful jobs is a myth, and Americans shouldn't fall for it." 

I left these comments:

"Trickle-down" certainly is a myth. Look around, and ask yourself from where the myriad products and services consumers buy come from. Where do the jobs that consumers' income depends on come from? Where does the tax money that supports the public sector come from? All of it is generated by business activity. The rise to prominence of the businessman under capitalistic freedom over the past two centuries or so has been a boon to the average person, ending the pattern of grinding, hand-to-mouth poverty of centuries past. The "trickle" is more like an avalanche of prosperity emanating from business.

A businessman organizes the factors of production toward a single goal; to create products that consumers value and are willing and able to buy. Trading value for value is the businessman's path to riches. He virtuously figures out ways to lower the cost of production, simultaneously raising the productivity (and thus wages) of his workers, lowering the cost to consumers (leaving them more money to spend elsewhere), and thus growing his business and raising his own profits and personal wealth. By making his business more efficient, the businessman paves the way for the rise of new industries and new inventions, and thus new business, investment, and job opportunities. The more successful the businessman is, the more money he makes—and the better off workers/consumers are.

It's true that "Creating jobs is not business leaders’ top priority today." It never was. Nor should it be. A business owner's own profit is properly his top priority, just as a paycheck is properly the top priority of the worker and the best deal for the money is properly the consumers' top priority. Job creation is a consequence of business success, and if we want more job creation we should want to encourage more business success through reduced regulation, rolling back burdensome labor laws that discourage full-time job creation, and lowering taxes on all income levels.

In point of fact, wealth doesn't come down from the top, either as a trickle or an avalanche, and this view of economics is insulting to every industrious, self-supporting individual. Wealth is earned by the productive activities of individuals. What those at the "top"—the most productive, the creator, the innovator, the entrepreneur, the so-called "1 percent"—provide is the opportunity for those below them to prosper, earn, and create wealth by their own effort. Ayn Rand identified this process and dubbed it The Pyramid of Ability. She explains:

    When you live in a rational society, where men are free to trade, you receive an incalculable bonus: the material value of your work is determined not only by your effort, but by the effort of the best productive minds who exist in the world around you.
    When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible: for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into the making of that product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think. . .

For a full dramatization and concretization of the Pyramid of Ability in action, and what happens when the top of the pyramid is sheered off, read Atlas Shrugged.

Related Reading:

Three Cheers for "Trickle-Down!"

Gladwell & Co.’s Monstrous Injustice Against Businessmen—Ari Armstrong

"Greed" is a Two-Way Street

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Should "The opportunities for an abuse" Stand in the Way of Legal Compensatory Organ Transplantation?

In response to my comments under the article N.J. mother and daughter donate kidneys to perfect strangers, ask 'why not?' advocating the legalization of compensatory organ donation (see yesterday's post), a correspondent replied:

"The opportunities for an abuse of any system that contains a cash profit motivator are huge."

When I responded . . .

I have no idea what you mean by "abuse" or "huge." But to deny all individuals their inalienable rights because of the "potential" wrong-doing of the few is morally inverted.

, . . . he elaborated:

    "Imagine thinking you are donating your kidney only to find a "placement firm" got the cash commission. Imagine not wishing to donate a kidney, but yours is "recovered" as an asset to repay your creditors during your bankruptcy. Imagine your kid is abducted for parts. Imagine YOU sell your kids kidneys to pay for their college education (or your drug habit). Imagine prisoners in American prisons are "incentivized" to sell their kidney, now imagine those are political prisoners (China is rumored to do this today). Selling kidneys becomes a "charity" for the rich and a "necessity" for the poor. Why spend more for a Kidney when you can buy one soo cheaply from a Mexican street orphan... who was abducted for his kidney, because it has a price now.
    Got any idea about "abuse" or "huge" yet?
    Putting a price on a kidney is one small step from putting a price on life. And anyone who feels your parts are worth more than you may be incentivized to... shall we say... make a profit."

I left these comments:

This is precisely why you need government and law; to identify, define, forbid, and prosecute rights-violating actions—e.g.; the exploitation of minors, the mentally incompetent, or political prisoners, as well as fraud, extortion, and other crimes. It is also why insurers, government programs like Medicare, doctors, and hospitals are incentivized to institute their own screening processes and moral standards before they pay for or perform the procedures. The potential for abuse is very small, in my view, considering the myriad safeguards that could potentially be employed.

So what if a "placement firm" or some other third party like the "New Jersey Sharing Network" steps in to facilitate the transaction. If they do, they're entitled to profit for their efforts (or do so on a non-profit basis).
And when you say "Putting a price on a kidney is one small step from putting a price on life," I have no idea what the hell you're talking about. Thousands of people are suffering and dieing for want of donors that never come forward. To say these people are forbidden to pay 1 cent or more to incentivize and compensate a potential donor is to say their lives aren't worth 1 cent.

And how does a "rich" guy paying his donor for his trouble, or his donor profiting for his generosity, hurt the "poor" guy who can't afford it? People have a right to spend their earned wealth as they please. And what if the donor is poor and can use the money? What right does anyone have to forbid him from giving a kidney in exchange for compensation?

The profit motive is noble. It is the motive to provide a value to others in exchange for a value in return. Money as a medium of exchange is noble. I repeat: To deny all individuals their inalienable rights because of the "potential" wrong-doing of the few is morally inverted.

Related Reading:

On Capitalism's "Conflict of Interest"
The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty—Craig Biddle

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Legalizing Compensatory Organ Donation is "The Right Thing to Do"

Over the past couple of years, two NJ women donated kidneys to people they didn't know. As the NJ Star-Ledger's Kathleen O'Brien reported on what she termed "non-direct, or “altruistic,” organ donors,":

    To Reenie Harris and her daughter, Natasha Kruse, the question posed by others seems backward:
    “Why would you give your kidney to a perfect stranger?”
    To this mother-daughter pair, the question, they say, should be, “Why wouldn't you give your kidney to a perfect stranger?”

O'Brien continues:

    In the past, kidneys were donated one to one, usually on behalf of a relative or close friend, but they had to match blood and tissue type. The only other option was to languish for months or years on a waiting list for a kidney from a deceased donor.
    With living donors a better option, kidney chains began a few years ago. Friends and relatives who are not matches for their loved ones can donate a kidney to someone for whom they are a match, in exchange for someone else donating a kidney directly to their loved one. But virtually all chains begin with an altruistic donor — a stranger willing to donate a kidney just because it’s the right thing to do.

Without meaning to denigrate what these two women did, I couldn't disagree more with the moral reasoning here. "The right thing to do" is to act self-interestedly, not altruistically. The fact that altruistic self-sacrifice for the needs of others forms the basis for what is generally considered to be "right" stands in the way of another option—one that would encourage many more life-saving anonymous donors to step forward, but is cruelly forbidden by law—monetary compensation for organ donation. It is altruism that stands behind such legal roadblocks to life-saving organ transplants.

As I noted in the comments, there is another option—one that would encourage many more life-saving anonymous donors to step forward, but is cruelly forbidden by law: monetary compensation for organ transplantation. 

It is altruism that stands behind such legal roadblocks to life-saving organ transplants.

Why must organ donation be a lose-win relationship, with the donor getting nothing while the recipient gains at the expense of the self-sacrifice of the donor, his benefactor? Why must only the beneficiary profit? Why not donor and beneficiary alike? There is no rationally valid reason why this last shouldn't be so.

To be sure, compensation can and does take the spiritual form. Organ donation to a valued friend or relative is a gain or “profit” for the donor because the donor is helping to keep a personally valued relationship alive, well, and in his life. But why is monetary or material compensation not equally morally valid? In fact donor compensation in both spiritual or material form is morally valid, because the best kind of human relationship is a win-win relationship, where no self-sacrifice—no loser—is involved on either side.

The morally valid question is the first one: “Why would you give your kidney to a perfect stranger?” Legalizing material compensation would assure plentiful moral incentive for strangers to step up, because they could answer, "for money"—whether as a self-interested means of bettering their own lives or of bestowing something to valued beneficiaries after death.

How many people have to continue to languish and die waiting for organs because of the fallacious and vicious notion that "the right thing to do" is self-sacrifice rather than profit from doing others good? If the goal is to expand the number of people willing to give organs to strangers and thus save lives—an eminently worthy one—we should demand the repeal of the vicious 1984 "National Organ Transplantation Act" and all other laws that ban or restrict compensatory organ transplantation between consenting adults of sound mind. The government has no valid business infringing the inalienable rights of donors and recipients to voluntarily contract to mutual benefit.

Monday, February 17, 2014

How ObamaCare Redistributes Wealth

Here is my answer to a correspondent who asked how ObamaCare redistributes wealth:

ObamaCare redistributes wealth in 2 ways; direct taxpayer subsidies on the “market” exchanges, and indirectly through forcing higher insurance premiums by mandating (forcing) some individuals to buy coverage they don’t want or need so that others can get “free” healthcare (e.g., the contraceptive mandate). The indirect method is socialism through the back door, whereby privately owned businesses are forced into being a conduit for wealth redistribution government policies—in [other] words, fascist wizardry.

Related Reading:

ObamaCare: "What the hell kind of reform is this?"—Ari Armstrong

Sunday, February 16, 2014

On Neo-George Wallaces Standing in the Schoolhouse Door, Keeping Children IN, rather than OUT

Addressing Newark's charter issue, a NJ Star-Ledger letter writer, Marie Corfield, said:

Newark Superintendent Cami Anderson has dug herself into a hole and now she’s looking for a creative way out. The explosion of charter schools, and the socioeconomic and developmental segregation they bring at the expense of traditional public schools, has finally caught up with her ("Newark’s big play on charter schools," Tom Moran column, Dec. 1).

As Moran explains, Newark, New Jersey's popular and burgeoning charter school sector has created a "problem"—allegedly unequal educational opportunities. Newark's schools superintendent is apparently under pressure to "do something" about it. This has brought the egalitarian nihilists out in force. 

In support of Corfield, a correspondent calling himself Busrider commented:

Marie Corfield is exactly right when she points out that charter schools bring socioeconomic and developmental segregation to Newark and any other place where they exist. But public school systems and public tax dollars should serve all of our children equally. While many people do support charter schools what has to be seen is that to do so is to reject equal opportunity for all children to get the education they need. What is happening in Newark is an educational tragedy for the great majority of Newark's children who attend public schools. It is beyond appalling that the coercive force of the law is being used to deny so many of Newark's children equal education.

Charter school openings in Newark (and elsewhere) have typically been met with demand from parents seeking to extract their children from the traditional public schools that massively outstrips the available student openings. You would think people would demand more charter over traditionals. Yet, here are the Marie Corfields and the Busriders standing, like a latter-day George Wallaces, in the schoolhouse door. Only instead of keeping children out, they seek to keep children trapped in failing schools. Shame on them!

I replied:

The whole government school system is based on coercion. If it's so good, why does it need taxation and compulsory education laws to maintain? Don't you think parents would voluntarily send their kids there, and voluntarily pay for it?

Parents choose charters because they're looking for a better education for their kids. Kudos to these parents. They're taxpayers, too. Instead of condemning charters, how about giving all parents the chance to opt out of traditional government schools. Forget government-coerced "equality of opportunity." How about recognizing the equal rights of parents to the legal opportunity to direct the course of their own children's education?

Related Reading:

Charter Schools – Good, but Not the Long-Term Answer

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Newark's Successful Charter Schools Under Attack—for Being Successful

Tom Moran's column Newark's big play on charter schools highlights the corrupting influence of bad ideas.

Moran notes the widening popularity of charter schools in New Jersey's largest city:

In 2008, traditional district schools educated 95 percent of Newark children. That’s down to 78 percent now, and Anderson expects it to drop to 60 percent within three years. It seems inevitable that charters will eventually educate the majority of Newark kids.

Moran, a supporter of charters, and school superintendent Cami Anderson, also an ardent charter supporter, are worried that charters are too successful. Moran notes:

    [Anderson] is worried, because some of the charter schools are not taking their fair share of students facing special hurdles, including extreme poverty or learning disabilities.
    That rigs the game against the district. It means the toughest cases are concentrated in district schools, a segregation that makes it even tougher to get good results. And because the charters are growing so fast, the problem can no longer be ignored.
    “The doomsday scenario is that the students in greatest need are stuck in the most struggling schools,” she says. “If you only have students who are struggling, it makes it harder. Diversity is critical.
    Her answer? The district itself is taking over the assignment of students to charter schools and will put its thumb on the scale to make sure they take on more tough cases.

Anderson is "in a rush," says Moran, because. . .

She fears that if admissions to charter schools remain a free-for-all, with each charter recruiting its own students, her doomsday scenario will become reality. The toughest kids will be concentrated in district schools, creating a new hurdle for the students.

Moran neglects to mention that the parents seek out the charters.

"The game is rigged," according to Moran:

“The easiest way to get high outcomes is to get students who can generate those numbers for you,” says Bruce Baker, a professor at Rutgers University’s Graduate School of Education. “That’s true for charters, and it’s true for district magnet schools.”

The perversity of egalitarianism is laid bare: Successful charter schools are under attack—for being successful! Where are the plaudits for the job the charters are doing in educating students and satisfying the parents? None from the egalitarians, who see children as pawns in a collectivist game designed to achieved some central planner's fraudulent  "diversity" fantasies. Anderson is obviously under pressure to satisfy the state requirements for "equity," or "equal opportunity," for all students—even at the price of destroying the charters' improved educational quality.

It's time for an education revolution.

I left these comments:

Baker's statement that "The easiest way to get high outcomes is to get students who can generate those numbers" is telling. What acceptance policies does one expect under a school ranking system? Of course "the game is rigged" in favor of high achieving students. With such perverse incentives, who would want the difficult students?

But their is no reason to doubt that their are plenty of educators who would willingly tackle the tougher cases, given the proper incentives such as those inherent in an education free market. What we need is to expand the "free-for-all"—another disdainful statist term for individual liberty—through true free market reforms that sweep aside centralized bureaucracies and protects the rights of parents and educators to contract voluntarily to mutual advantage.

In a free market, the focus is on the individual student, based on the fact of each individual's uniqueness. There are no arbitrary groupings like "advantaged," "troubled," "poor," etc. Freed from the straight jacket of central planners' arbitrary ranking system, educators can concentrate on educating individual students according to their best judgment. Market demand—parents seeking the education that best suits their own child's needs—would incentivize educators to offer services to cover the educational needs of all students through a rich variety of educational missions, freely chosen, without being distracted by artificial school rankings. 

The popularity of charter schools proves the power of even very limited freedom. Given the opportunity, parents are abandoning traditional public schools in droves. The goal should be to build on that success, not destroy it to conform to some egalitarian "diversity" inequity. We should move away from central planning schemes and toward empowering educators and parents. Rather than obsess over "good" performing vs. "poor" performing schools, how about focusing on the performance of students as individuals? There are lots and lots of them, which is why central planners can't do it. Only the educators and parents closest to the students can do it. I laid out a proposal for empowering educators and parents of all income levels based on universal tax credits:

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

Related Reading:

HUD's "Equality of Opportunity" in Housing Rule Destroys Actual Equality
President Obama, Stop Damning the Achievers for their Virtues—Harry Binswanger

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Wild West Gunslingers Push for Mandatory Sick Days

The push is on for mandatory paid sick leave for all of New Jersey's workers is on, and the New Jersey Star-Ledger is leading the chargeThe editors write:

The timing is ripe for paid sick leave to become a statewide right in New Jersey, where more than 1.2 million workers don’t get to stay home when they’re under the weather. Catching a cold shouldn't force the state’s most vulnerable workers to choose between staying healthy and staying employed.

The Left likes to characterize freedom—where government protects but does not violate rights through regulations and controls—as analogous to the lawless "Wild West." I've taken that charge and thrown it back at them with these comments:

Another good cause. Another law.

But what is law? It is force; i.e., a gun. Disobey the law, and you will be arrested, fined, imprisoned. This is legitimate when government sticks to its proper function of apprehending and punishing criminals; i.e, those who aggressively initiate force against others.

But what happens when government inverts that purpose, and becomes the aggressor? It becomes, in effect, the criminal. That is essentially all that laws such as mandated sick days are. When you say, "I believe people should do this or that, so 'there ought to be a law,'" you are saying "I have a right to impose my values on others at the point of a gun."

This is what the editors are advocating here. This practice of using government as a tool for forcibly imposing one's values on others is rampant. It's the Wild West  manifested in politics, where do-gooder gunslingers fight politely to impose their values under cover of law. If you want a microcosm of what's wrong with this country, read this editorial carefully. You will see the gun behind the editors' back. Ever wonder why American politics is so "polarized?" This is why. America has become a nation of gunslingers.

Employers and employees have a right to negotiate employment terms by voluntary agreement to mutual benefit. Legally forcing employers to grant sick days is the gunslinger at work. What right does anyone have to force those who create and maintain jobs to act against their own values and judgment, after a worker has already agreed to terms that don't include sick days? Because some voters want it? Because some politicians voted for it? What's essentially different than a mob boss "making an offer a businessman can't refuse," lest his business be shot up or his knees blown out? Either way, a person who has harmed no one is being forced at gun point.

These kinds of mandates are rampant. We'll never have a decent society until we rid our politics of Wild West tactics: We should all agree that no one has the right to impose his values on others, and that the government's proper function is to protect us from criminals, not become the tool of criminality. We need gun control, alright—for the government.

Related Reading:

Does Freedom Equal "The Wild West"?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Who are the Real Job Creators? Hint: It's Not the 99%

Under the heading You're a job creator, a letter appeared in the NJ Star-Ledger echoing a Leftist rationalization for its war on real job creators. The writer, William Bowblis, says, in part:

   What creates jobs is a market for the products and services the jobs create. Without that market, there are no jobs.
    The economy is like a pipeline with two ends: supply and demand. Supply comes from the workers who create the goods and services; demand from huge numbers of average people having enough money to buy those goods and services. That same 99 percent is the people getting paid to produce the products.
    American workers are more productive than ever before, yet their share of the wealth that productivity creates has been shrinking for decades. A vibrant economy requires that everyone get a fair share. That hasn't been happening in this country for a long time.
    The growing wealth gap results in those potential customers having too little money to allow businesses to thrive and create those good-paying jobs. You want to know who the job creators are? Look in a mirror ...

I left these comments:

What's missing from Bowblis's "pipeline" of supply and demand?

The 99% has been around for centuries, living short, hand-to-mouth, back-breaking existences in the kind of abject, grinding poverty that today's "poor" can not even imagine. What changed in the last 200+ years? 

The creator of remunerative, productive jobs is not the person hired to fill the jobs. That makes no sense (except to a Marxist self-dilusionist). The reasoning human mind is the ultimate source of human prosperity. Every material advance starts as an idea in the mind of some individual. This means that the action-oriented thinker, not the physical laborer, is the basic creator of human material progress. It is the person whose intellectual energy exceeds his physical ability to realize his productive ideas and goals. Jobs are created when this person steps out from the 99% and takes action to organize all of the factors of production required to make real his idea of a valuable product that others are willing and able to trade for; from investment capital to the hiring of labor to market analysis to the tools of production to the knowledge behind the production to pricing and myriad other factors. Who made the American worker "more productive than ever before?" Not primarily the worker, who works less hard than ever before. It's the action-oriented thinker, who provides the worker with the productivity-enhancing knowledge, processes, and tools. All of this within the context of the inherent risks involved in productive ventures.

This individual—this action-oriented thinker—is, of course, the businessman motivated by pursuit of his own profit, values, and happiness. What changed in the last 200+ years? What was previously missing through all of the prior centuries of stagnant poverty and misery? Thanks to liberty and rights-protecting government (capitalism), the modern businessman emerged, creating the jobs and products and services.

Philosopher Ayn Rand gave businessmen their proper due:

"The professional businessman is the field agent of the army whose lieutenant-commander-in-chief is the scientist. The businessman carries scientific discoveries from the laboratory of the inventor to industrial plants, and transforms them into material products that fill men’s physical needs and expand the comfort of men’s existence. By creating a mass market, he makes these products available to every income level of society. By using machines, he increases the productivity of human labor, thus raising labor’s economic rewards. By organizing human effort into productive enterprises, he creates employment for men of countless professions. He is the great liberator who, in the short span of a century and a half, has released men from bondage to their physical needs, has released them from the terrible drudgery of an eighteen-hour workday of manual labor for their barest subsistence, has released them from famines, from pestilences, from the stagnant hopelessness and terror in which most of mankind had lived in all the pre-capitalist centuries—and in which most of it still lives, in non-capitalist countries."

She wrote that 50 years ago. Since then, her perspective has only been validated further, as pre-capitalist countries struggle to liberalize (i.e. liberate) their economies. Look around, 99%ers. How much of the technological revolution and related jobs could you have even conceived of, let alone brought into reality? How much of the material advance that came before? You think simply being willing and able to work will miraculously bring into existence the jobs, the tools of production, and the products those jobs help create?  If not for the 1% (or less) of action-oriented thinkers, none of the industries and related jobs that produce the goods and services we buy would even exist.

Yes, every individual who does productive work, on any economic or ability level, contributes his share to prosperity—and, in a free economy (which we don't now have) governed by the laws of economics, earns the money he is paid in accordance with his contribution. But you can't reverse cause and effect. We 99%ers ignore the indespensible link between the theoretical knowledge of the scientist and the worker/consumer at our peril. It is the 1% that makes it all possible. And that 1% is not some elite privileged aristocracy. It is any one of us who volunteers to step out from the 99%. All these action-oriented thinkers need is the liberty to act on their own judgment in pursuit of their own interests. Why today's anemic job creation? Because capitalism is withering before the onslaught of the regulatory, redistributionist welfare state. 

Forget your mirror, Mr. Bowblis. Look at the 1%. It is capitalism that enabled the 1% to flourish and in turn—thanks to the system of trade on a free market—enabled the 99% to rise and flourish.

The writer's focus on supply and demand raises the question: Where does "demand" come from? It doesn't come out of thin air. Supply and demand are one and the same. Supply (what you produce) creates demand (the ability to trade what you produce, represented by the money you earn, for what others produce). No supply, no demand. 

Related Reading:

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

To Whom Does the American Worker Owe His Prowess?

Productivity, Not Labor unions, Created the Middle Class

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Government Should Stay Out of the Business Compensation Decisions

In response to a letter (Minimum wage fallout) opposing minimum wage hikes on economic grounds, another letter (Budget those higher wages) responded:

If the corporate managers are unable to grow the company to accommodate at least the increased wages, perhaps they are the ones who should be let go. Don’t forget: That’s why they claim those outsized compensations.

I left these brief comments:

The November 14th letter [Minimum wage falloutis correct that minimum wage laws kill jobs.

But such laws are not only bad economics. They are morally bad. Business owners have a right to pay themselves, their executives and managers, and every other of their employees as they determine by mutual agreement. If an employee is not happy with his pay, he has every right to seek employment elsewhere, or start his own business.

Employers and job-seekers have a moral right to voluntarily contract on terms of employment, including terms of compensation, without coercive interference. Their contract rights should be legally recognized and protected by government. The government has no right to interfere, and no one has the right to demand that it does.

Minimum wage laws are economically and morally wrong, and should be repealed and abolished. 

I also find the letter writer's sentiment that "If the corporate managers are unable to grow the company to accommodate at least the increased wages, perhaps they are the ones who should be let go" very interesting. It reflects the view of all statists; that businessmen will somehow continue to crank out wealth, jobs, and profitability no matter what impediments legislators throw at them.

The "somehow" is the consequence of concrete-bound mentalities, or what Ayn Rand called the "anti-conceptual mentality". This is the second biggest source, behind morality, of the growth of the regulatory welfare state. This writer cannot conceive of economic reality or principles, and won't even think to consider the context within which business must operate or the distorted incentives that minimum wage and myriad other interfering laws create. Their mentality consists of: "So what if the runner's ankles are bound together with rope. If he can't run the race, perhaps he shouldn't have undertaken to join the race."  

This is the way they view economics; that, despite the mainstay of economic vitality, businessmen, being bound and hogtied by ever-increasing regulations, the economy will somehow continue to crank out higher wages and more jobs. And then they wonder why the economic recovery is so sluggish.

Related Reading:

Minimum Wage Issue is Not "about what it’s like to live on $7.25 an hour"

NJ's Minimum Wage Approval Highlights the Moral Disease that Afflicts America

NJ's Minimum Wage Approval Highlights the Moral Disease that Afflicts America

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Toward a Free Market in Health Care: Milton Wolf’s ObamaCare Alternative, “PatientCare”

"Liberals" are always accusing Republicans of opposing ObamaCare without offering an alternative.

Well, if it was ever true, it isn't anymore. Kansas senate candidate Dr. Milton Wolf has introduced a good alternative. That is the subject of my recent post at The Objective Standard blog. Read my review of Wolf's plan in Milton Wolf’s PatientCare: A Sensible Alternative to ObamaCare. Then, read his free market-oriented plan in its entirety.

Related Reading:

No Free Market Health Reform Will "Work"—by Socialist Standards

Private Health Insurance Markets Work Well When Government Doesn't Interfere

The "Purple Health Plan": Better Than Single-Payer, but It's Not a Real Market Solution

Friday, February 7, 2014

The "Right to Be Left Alone" Applies to More than Religion

Recently, the New Jersey Star-Ledger's Left-leaning editorial board ran parallel op-eds based in opposite fundamental premises. 

One concerned freedom of—and from—religion, saying that we all have a right to our beliefs, but not at others' expense, as when a bus driver touched and prayed over, uninvited, a total stranger who was a passenger on his bus. The driver lost his job over the incident.

The second op-ed promoted ObamaCare. 

I left these comments:

On the same page that the editors tout Religion and the right to be left alone, they promote ObamaCare, under which the state dictates what kind of policies insurers can offer and individuals can buy; mandates that all individuals buy insurance; and forcibly redistributes wealth in order to subsidize healthcare for select individuals.

The right to be left alone is a fundamental principle of liberty, not just the First Amendment. People have as much right to control their own healthcare and wealth as they do to control their own beliefs in matters of conscience. No one should have healthcare, charity, or spending decisions forced on them any more than they should have religious or other beliefs forced on them.

The right to be left alone? I agree. If the editors really believed in this principle, their companion 11/17/13 editorial would have been titled, "Healthcare and the right to be left alone."

The Bill of Rights and the Right to be Left Alone

Correspondent NJ1776 replied to my comment:

    There is nothing in the Constitution or Bill of Rights about any right "to be left alone." Some very strange perversions of these documents have been proffered by people who would like to tailor these to accord with their own beliefs.
    One of the more absurd is the First Amendment provides people a guarantee of "freedom from religion." The only thing the Constitution states concerning religion is the Congress has no right to establish religion or any right to restrict it: essentially canceling itself out.
    Madison was the architect of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He believed the government has no right to interfere with personal conscience. He wanted no references to religion in these documents because to do so implied the government had authority in the matter.

My answer:

Nothing in the Bill of Rights "about any right 'to be left alone'?" The Bill of Rights was never intended to be exhaustive. That's why the Ninth Amendment reads "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

The very concept of "unalienable individual rights" is to protect the individual, in the social context, from human predation.

The "right to be left alone" in this context means the right to be free from coercive interference from others, whether by private individuals or individuals in their capacity as government officials. Freedom means the government can not become a tool of anyone or any group for imposing its values on others by legal force. Freedom means the government's purpose is to protect individuals from private criminals who would initiate force against you. Freedom means each individual is free to pursue his own values, but not to coercively impose his values on others by any method. Freedom OF necessarily means freedom FROM. No other concept of freedom makes sense.

ObamaCare and the General Welfare Clause

NJ1776 followed up with a reference to the General Welfare Clause, implying that ObamaCare is justified under that clause:

My answer:

Viewed objectively, "general welfare" does not mean the welfare of some at the expense of the violation of the rights of others. ObamaCare forces some people to subsidize others. There's nothing "general" about that. What would "promote the general welfare?" A free market in healthcare, under which each person's right to pursue healthcare by his own effort and in voluntary contract and trade with others is recognized and protected. The general welfare clause does not promote collectivism.

The Founding of this country contains some contradictions. But, clearly, the fundamental purpose of the Founders and the Constitution, as laid out in the Constitution's philosophic blueprint—the Declaration of Independence—is to create a society based on equality of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. Promoting the general welfare clearly means to promote the Declaration's promise that "all men are created equal"; meaning, politically, equal protection of liberty and rights under the law. Protecting the rights of all equally and at all times is objectively the only meaning of "to lay and collect taxes . . . to provide . . . for the general welfare." On this, if the Declaration is the philosophic reference (as I believe it is), Madison was right and Hamilton was wrong.

Related Reading:

Constitutional Distortions- the "General Welfare" Clause