Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Does Inherited Money Ruin Lives?

Quora is a social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3] Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

You can also reply to other users’ answers.

Recently from Quora: “What are the advantages of growing up wealthy (in the top 1%)?: Also what are the cons of growing up rich?”

A good answer came from Jenny Hawkins, speaking of her two cousins, each of whom inherited $1 million at age 21. I left this comment on her answer:

I like this essay, and I agree with much of it. But I must challenge this one statement—“I have seen that money ruin their lives.”

Did the money really ruin their lives? Or did these two kids squander the opportunity the money gave them? I think the latter.

I have a friend who inherited a well-established, thriving engineering business from his father. He had all the “advantages” of wealth. He went to an elite private school, then on to Princeton University. Far from squandering the opportunity, or even resting on his laurels, my friend worked hard and built the business into a size many times what he inherited. My friend eventually sold the business and retired a wealthy man. But to this day is an unspoiled, “down-to-Earth” guy with good values.

Or consider David and Charles Koch. They inherited a business worth $23 million. Did they squander the opportunity? No. Over a period of half a century, they built Koch Industries into a $100 billion dynamo. Did they lose their middle class values? No.

Most people I know started with little or nothing and achieved some level of economic success.

Here’s the key: “Middle class” is not defined in dollars. It’s defined in values. As Jenny observes, American freedom provides maximum opportunity for self-direction and self-fulfillment. But it is up to each of us to seize the opportunity that freedom provides. The same goes for money. Self-reliance is the hallmark of the American middle class. Did those two cousins make a mess of their lives? Apparently. Do a lot of rich kids squander the opportunity they’re handed? Probably. Blame the parenting. Blame the kids. But you shouldn’t blame the money any more than you should blame the freedom. As a character in Atlas Shrugged observed about inherited wealth, “

[M]oney is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. . . .Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values . . . and it will not provide him with a purpose. . . . Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent.

Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth–the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money?

I believe that if we continue to enjoy substantial political and economic freedom—and that’s a big if—it is up to each one of us, whether we are born into wealth, poverty, the “1%,” or whatever we conceptualize as “the middle class,” to make the most of whatever “hand we are dealt.”

Related Reading:

Francisco’s Money Speech—originally published in Atlas Shrugged, © Copyright, 1957, by Ayn Rand, reprinted in Capitalism Magazine.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Are We Now a Nation of Moochers and Thieves?

In reply to my comments posted under Linda Stamato’s op-ed Under Trump, ask not what you can do for your country. He doesn't care (see yesterday's post), a correspondent replied regarding my position:

There will be few takers.The wealthy are the only ones who can afford to,and you can bet that most of them are not willing to live under Spartan  conditions to help people in 3rd world countries.As I mentioned earlier.1 of our former neighbors sons went to Africa with the Peace Corp after college.If he had to fund it himself he couldn't have afforded it.The airfare along would have made it a no-go. [sic]

The assumption underlying this rebuttal is both disturbing and corrupt. Have we now reached the point in America where not being able to afford something automatically entitles you to other people’s wallets? Are we now a pick-pocket nation? It seems so, at least in many people’s minds.

If the neighbor of bayshore lady, the correspondent, couldn’t afford to go, why not get a job, save up, and pay for the trip himself? Is self-responsibility now dead? Presumably, his college education qualified him for a remunerative job.

Some would probably respond, “But he’s not doing this for himself. He’s selflessly serving others.” First of all, if he’s doing it selflessly, shame on him. The measure of a person’s moral character is determined by his level of self-support and responsibility. It’s easy to give up self-responsibility—to selflessly serve others. Selflessness is self-denial—a betrayal of one’s own life requirements, values, and convictions, as if they don’t count. Lack of integrity is not an admirable character trait.  

If a Peace Corp stint means so much to him—if, for example, he wants to score “altruistic” points he thinks will pump up his job résumé—then if he had integrity he’d do it on his own, or with voluntary contributions from like-minded people like bayshore lady. Not being able to afford the cost of his altruistic venture does not justify using the government as his hired gun to secure funding any more than not being able to afford a meal at Ruth’s Chris Steak House justifies it. But then, that is the predatory nature of altruism. An young American who thinks needy Africans have a moral claim on his life and time will necessarily believe his need is a moral claim on the wallets of his fellow Americans.

Stamato condemns Trump’s Peace Corp funding cutbacks as “promoting self-regard.” But if we had more self-regard, we would have more regard for others and less incentive to prey on them.

Related Reading:

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Peace Corps is Not Voluntarism Because Taxation is Not Voluntary

President Donald Trump’s budget calls for cuts in the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the agency that administers the Peace Corps  and other “voluntary” national service schemes. Leftists who worship at the altar of government force are apoplectic over these cuts. To Leftists like New Jersey Star-Ledger guest columnist Linda Stamato, a Rutgers University Faculty Fellow and frequent Star-Ledger contributor, an America without “a critical role for government” in philanthropic service equates to “a dystopian view of an America that does not care about people, and should not.”  

Stamato opens with President John Kennedy’s famous—or, more precisely, infamous—admonition to “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” She then quotes Robert Kennedy, “who said that ‘the purpose of life is to contribute in some way to making things better.’" What follows is a litany of work done by “citizen volunteers,” both in America under VISTA, and abroad under the Peace Corps. Stamato writes

Trump's budget is anything but a "New Foundation for Greatness" as it is dubbed. Its recipe turns us away from common purpose, promotes self-regard, and, indeed, cruelly disregards the needs of those who are not the privileged wealthy. Trump poisons the nation against its own and tries to turn us inward. His government slashes, dismantles and diminishes its role, seeking to erase its presence on the civic landscape.

I left these comments, expanded and edited for clarity:

The Peace Corps and its ilk are not about volunteering, because they are not voluntary. No government program is. They are tax-funded monuments to politicians’ vanity and craving for unearned credit. That is the opposite of volunteerism. It is coercion. And it is the worst kind of coercion; not the coercion of a street robber, which the law protects you from, but legalized coercion, which leaves you defenseless. Add to this injustice the increasingly common practices like high schools including “community service” requirements attached to graduation, and you have to wonder how much of the participatory voluntarism really exists in these programs, and how much is just backdoor coercion.

If you want to follow RFK’s admonition to make the world a better place, then start by ending government funding of the Peace Corps et al, completely privatize them, and leave people free to decide for themselves whether they want to voluntarily pay for or join them. That’s true Americanism—voluntary for the person joining the program, and voluntary for the people paying for it.

Government is by its very nature an instrument of force. Any program in which government is involved is not truly voluntary and thus not moral. Anyone who advocates denying Americans the voluntary choice of whether or not to support these vanity monuments has no moral standing to champion good will volunteering.

Don’t be fooled into thinking this is a matter of “should or should not someone help another.” That is strictly an individual choice, and no one has ever proposed to outlaw charity or philanthropic service, whether carried out individually or in voluntary association among a number of individuals.
But neither should it be coerced.

And don’t be suckered by Stamato’s argument that these programs are about people acting for “common purpose.” Stamato observes:

Trump's budget is anything but a "New Foundation for Greatness" as it is dubbed. Its recipe turns us away from common purpose, promotes self-regard, and, indeed, cruelly disregards the needs of those who are not the privileged wealthy.

The only kind of purpose that is truly held in common are those that are private, voluntary associations among people who willingly join and who likewise leave those who don’t agree with the purpose or who would rather put their efforts toward what they personally regard as more important concerns free to pursue their own lives. There is nothing “common” about a purpose imposed by government force, since those who disagree are forced into it. It is, in fact, a chain gang, the chain being the only common link holding everyone together in the government program.

Trump proposes to cut, but not eliminate the funding Stamato whines about, as he should. Stamato clearly sees the vast majority—“those who are not the privileged wealthy”—as incompetent, helpless bums. This brazen lie is vital to the socialist agenda. The opposite, capitalism, does indeed “promote self-regard,” which is precisely what makes capitalism moral, and is precisely what must be exterminated to pave the way to a socialist utopia. Stamato would probably object that she doesn’t want complete socialism, just enough to satisfy what she regards as worthy enough proposes to impose on America. But once you accept the principle that a government-imposed “common purpose” is the ideal, and self-regard must be subordinated to that purpose, you’ve accepted totalitarian socialism as the ideal, and that’s the only end that can logically be expected, sooner or later.

There is no “proper role for government to support and sustain” charity. It’s not what your country—i.e., your government—can do for you. Nor is it what you can do for your government. It’s whether you as an individual, possessing as you do your own mind, are free to act upon your own judgement based on your own personal values, goals, and aspirations, and whether your government protects or violates that sacred sovereignty.


Never mind that Trump’s cuts will “not . . . save a whole lot of money.” Citing the Detroit Free Press, Stamato claims the whole program only costs “just .000275% of the entire federal budget”; “only” $1.1 billion. Ant it’s true: even getting rid of CNCS won’t make a practical dent in the government’s claim on our wallets.

But in terms of freedom, it will, if properly framed. The principle behind the CNCS infects most of the federal budget and claims $trillions in current tax dollars and tens of $trillions in future liabilities. The government chains spread far and wide, and continue to spread. Unfortunately, Trump won’t name the anti-liberty, anti-individual rights, anti-American principles of collectivism and statism to justify the Corporation for National and Community Service cuts, because the same argument would apply to all government chain-gang “common purpose” programs, including Social Security and Medicare, which Trump explicitly says he won’t touch.

Related Reading:

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Is it Time to Consider Restricting the Power of the Supreme Court?

Recently, a friend of mine posted a message on Facebook that he had sent to his Virginia Democrat senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, bemoaning the partisanship surrounding the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court, saying: “Reflecting the opinion of the majority of those with whom I have spoken about this, I ask that you put partisan politics aside, do what is best for the country and demonstrate that you put country, and not party, first by voting in favor of the . . . imminently qualified . . . [Supreme Court] nominee [Neil Gorsuch].” [sic]

Likewise, a New Jersey Star-Ledger op-ed by Tom Moran lamented the decline of the 60-vote filibuster rule, which the Republicans eliminated for SCOTUS nominees in order to get Neil Gorsuch confirmed. The Democrats had previously eliminated the filibuster rule to get President Obama’s cabinet nominees confirmed. This so-called “nuclear option” is indicative, in Moran's view, of the general decline of civility in politics in Washington.

I see a number of reasons why SCOTUS nominations have become so politically bloody, the main one being ideology.

The importance of Supreme Court nominees grows in lockstep with the growth of the power of government to control our lives, businesses, and wealth. This has brought to the fore a fundamental and irreconcilable ideological conflict between two concepts of government; democracy fundamentalism based on the primacy of the ballot box versus the original American concept of constitutional republicanism based on the primacy of inalienable individual liberty and rights. The first leads to omnipotent and essentially unlimited government, the second to a government of limited powers. The result has been to politically polarize almost everything and make all politics personal. Hence, the political bloodbath that accompanies every Supreme Court nomination, each of whom is assessed based on which side of these diametrically opposed political philosophies the nominee seems to reside in regard to his interpretation of the constitution. (It’s often called a liberal/conservative divide, but it’s not that simple.)

The nomination process will only get worse until something fundamental changes, and Americans decisively choose either the statism of democracy fundamentalism or the liberty of constitutional republicanism.

That ideological battle aside, the stonewalling of Obama’s SCOTUS nominee Merrick Garland last year by the GOP and Neil Gorsuch by the Democrats is a reflection of just how much power Supreme Court justices have over the legal direction of the country and on the future of individual liberty and rights in America. The Garland and Gorsuch stonewall episodes raises an important fundamental question: Is it time to consider restricting the power of the Supreme Court?  In chapter 4 of his book “The Liberty Amendments,” constitutional scholar Mark Levin has proposed a Constitutional Amendment to do just that.

Consider that Justices Sonia Sotomayor (sworn in in 2009, at age 55) and Elena Kagan (2010, @ 50), and now Neil Gorsuch (2017, @ 49), can realistically be expected to serve for as long as 30 or more years. Add to that the fact that the Supreme Court has final authority over the constitutionality of legislative actions—and considering the ideological context in America today, the fundamental and irreconcilable ideological conflict between democracy fundamentalism based on the primacy of the ballot box versus the original American concept of constitutional republicanism based on the primacy of inalienable individual liberty and rights—and you can understand why Supreme Court nominations have become so politically contentious. With such absolute and long-lasting power in the hands of 9 individuals, and with the need to have to wait a generation or two to replace a justice, is it any wonder the nomination process is so contentious (to put it mildly) over otherwise eminently qualified judges?

Levin explains that the Founding Fathers rightly created an independent judiciary, but were also rightly worried about judicial tyranny overpowering the other two branches of the federal government. He argues that the Founders’ fear is now reality. So he proposes a Constitutional Amendment to . . .

  • term limit SCOTUS justices to 12 years.

  • give Congress 3/5 supermajority override power over all SCOTUS decisions, with no possibility of presidential veto, so long as Congress acts within 24 months of the SCOTUS decision (afterwhich the decision becomes final).

  • allow 3/5 of state legislatures override power over all SCOTUS decisions, also within the 24 month window.

  • stagger the SCOTUS terms into thirds in the same way as senate terms are staggered. Senators serve six year terms, with 1/3 of senators up for reelection every two years. Likewise, 1/3 of justices’ terms would expire every 4 years. In other words, every presidential term would give the sitting president the chance to nominate three new justices. Think about it. Currently, the chance for any president to fill a SCOTUS seat is a crapshoot. Under Levin’s amendment, every president would have an equal shot at filling the same number of seats. The only exception is if a sitting justice resigns, is impeached, or dies before filling out his term, in which case the sitting president would nominate a replacement for the remainder of the term.

Of course, the divisions surrounding SCOTUS are rooted in deeper divisions, as noted above.

The more fundamental problem in American politics is the advance of democracy fundamentalism based on the primacy of the ballot box, and the consequent retreat of constitutional republicanism based on the primacy of individual liberty. This has resulted in the increasing power of government over the individual. This, in turn, has steadily increased the importance of politics in our individual lives because of the negative effects of political power on our personal freedoms and rights to act on our own independent judgement—which in turn has increased the importance of SCOTUS reviews of the laws.

Underlying the democracy/republican division is an even more fundamental conflict: the clash between collectivism and individualism (and the related clash between collective “rights” and inalienable individual rights). These are philosophically irreconcilable positions, and the future of America as a free and progressive country depends on which of these diametrically opposed philosophical fundamentals wins over the majority of Americans.

The classic liberal/statist SCOTUS divide is a reflection of these deeper philosophical divisions. So Supreme Court nominations have become a leading consideration in electing a president. To be honest, being a radical individualist, my #1 consideration in the 2016 election was which candidate was least likely to appoint SCOTUS justices whose decisions would be harmful to individual rights.

Levin’s constitutional amendment would at least reduce the stakes involved in SCOTUS confirmations. With options, albeit difficult ones, available to overturn SCOTUS decisions without having to wait a generation or more for justices to die—and with each president having an equal shot at molding the Supreme Court to his liking—ideologically distasteful justices would be less hard to swallow. Our politics regarding SCOTUS nominations would have a chance to return to some semblance of civility, while at the same time reigning in the “tyranny of the judiciary.”

I don’t necessarily endorse Levin’s amendment. I'll have to give it more thought, and weigh what other constitutional scholars have to say about it. But Levin’s amendment provides much food for thought.

Related Reading:

Do Tax Credits Equate to a Government Subsidy?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

End NJ's Public Pension Corruption Once and For All–Replies and Responses

In response to my comments on the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s column by Paul Mulshine, Steve Sweeney wins one as the unions try to put the arm on the taxpayers, here are a couple of replies to my comments and my responses:

Paul Mulshine, the article’s author, replied to me that “Sweeney has mentioned that as a solution. The problem is that as long as the funds are out of balance, that can't be done. Obviously it should have been done by some prior governor when the funds were flush.”

I answered: I understand. I suggest packaging the under-funding solution with a process for turning the funds over to the unions. At least taxpayers would see the light at the end of the tunnel.

For What It's Worth replied: “Sure, all public sector new hires should be part of a 401k with matching taxpayer funds like in the private sector, but since those new employees will not be paying into the pension system to support others before them, then that money must come from taxpayers. This means that taxpayers will have to endure years of increased taxes until equilibrium is reached. Certainly, that's not what you want is it?

“For those of you that have children, I resent having to pay for your kids education. Makes me sick to see how much of my property taxes are for education. And please don't feed me  that nonsense that I derive a social benefit from educating your kids. All I know is it's money out of my pocket, just like your complaining about taxpayer funded pensions. They are your kids, not mine. You did not ask me for approval prior to your getting married or have to have kids. They are solely your responsibility, yet I have to help pay not only for their education but for the tax breaks you get that I don't but still must pay for. So, you see, it works both ways, doesn't it?”

I answered:

My sentiments also, except for one thing: prior tax-funded promises should be honored. This goes for the public sector employee pensions, social security, etc. People build their lives around these government commitments. But tax-funded promises are immoral and should be phased out, longer term. People should fund their own retirements, their own children’s education, etc. out of their own earnings.

True, “taxpayers will have to endure years of increased taxes until equilibrium is reached.” It’s not what I want. It’s the trap we’re in. This is the legacy of welfare statism—the dead end of politicians’ “compassion” funded by other people’s money. The sooner we recognize its immorality and stop electing politicians who support it, the sooner we can start to phase it out.

By the way, a pension is theoretically built on worker contributions (or contributions made on behalf of workers as part of their compensation) invested to grow and fund future pension payments. Pensions are not wealth transfer schemes like Social Security. Pension funds are supposed to have real money in them, not IOUs. Theoretically, new pensioners are not needed to “to support others before them,” because the pension is supposed to be fully funded according to actuarial standards. So theoretically, there should be no problem converting from a pension system to a defined contribution plan. The problem is that the politicians the majority of voters elected didn’t keep the state pension fully funded. They just dished out promises while hiding the cost to taxpayers.

[Full disclosure: My wife is a retired public school secretary of 27 years, now on promised state pension payments (though not a union member), and we are both collecting Social Security, which we see as restitution for a lifetime of FICA taxes.]

Related Reading:

Monday, July 17, 2017

End NJ's Public Pension Corruption Once and For All

New Jersey’s public pension system is in deep, deep trouble. The problem is classic: It’s woefully underfunded, meaning the promised benefits to public retirees far exceed what the balance of the funds can provide. And it is the taxpayers who are ultimately on the hook. The source of the problem is what I would call a blatantly corrupt connection between public employee unions and vote-seeking legislators, who can promise benefits while sticking future taxpayers with the bill.

This has been going on for a long, long time. But the chickens are now flocking home, and will begin roosting in the very near future unless drastic action is taken to fix the problem. Of course, expecting politicians to fix problems that politicians themselves have caused is like Linus camping out all night in the pumpkin patch waiting for the rise of the Great Pumpkin.

Some politicians, in cahoots with their public union allies, have thrown their support behind a ridiculous quick-fix; an amendment to the state constitution requiring the state to fully fund the pension. It’s been some three decades since any governor managed to find the money to do that. So these simpletons have concocted a solution less plausible than the Great Pumpkin: Just pass a law, and the $billions upon $billions of dollars that no governor in 30 years has been able to find will suddenly materialize!

Paul Mulshine shined a light on this corruption in an article titled Steve Sweeney wins one as the unions try to put the arm on the taxpayers. Sweeney is the state senate president, and one of the most powerful Democrats in the state. The thing is, Sweeney leads a private sector trade union, the ironworkers, and so is very sensitive to the stark difference between the public employee unions, which have these “sweetheart” deals with legislators to jack up pension benefits, and the private sector unions, which fund and run their own funds and thus are responsible for balancing the intake and benefits of the funds. As Mulshine observes, Sweeney understands that the public unions’ benefits now far exceed anything the private sector can get, and that the private sector is on the hook for the public sector’s over-generous benefits—a double whammy for the private sector, including his ironworkers union. His members know it, too.

Incredibly, the public union officials, oblivious to the differences, still believe in unity among all unions, public and private. As Mulshine observes,

"Stay united because people will try to divide you," [Assemblyman Daniel] Benson, [an NJEA puppet] said [at a public union rally demanding that the legislature “post the bill now” to put the Amendment on the ballot], "Whether you're teachers, public employees, private laborers, public trades, building trades, we need to stay together as laborers as citizens of this state."

Whoever was trying to divide the public-sector from the private-sector unions was doing a good job of it.

Highlighting the corrupt relationship between the public unions and the politicians, Mulshine cracks, “Forget arm's length. There's not a finger's length between many legislators and unions such as the New Jersey Education Association.”

I left these comments:

I would call this corrupt to its core. So why not end it? There’s already a working model to emulate—the private trade unions. The unions control and operate their own pensions and benefits, both deciding what level of benefits to provide their members and how much of their pay packages—negotiated periodically in “arms-length” negotiations with employers—to allocate toward the funds (which are pre-tax).  

I’m a retired plumber from a local union which I joined in 1967. That’s the way it’s always been. It’s up to we the membership to keep benefits and contributions in line. We pay the price for our mistakes, if any. We reap the rewards of good management. I know of no local trade union that doesn’t have a self-managed system. You’d be amazed how responsible people can be when they are actually responsible for paying their own way.

We have two problems: the unfunded current liability, and the corrupt “finger's length” system that caused it. Any “fix” that doesn’t end the current state-managed/taxpayer funded system is worthless, in my view. I’m surprised Sweeney isn’t pushing this long-term solution rather than trap the taxpayers into a constitutional mandate, given that he’s an official of a private trade union.


Tomorrow I’ll post my response to others’ replies to my comments.

Related Reading:

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Trump’s Leadership on Paris Withdrawal versus Obama’s Delusions of Unearned Greatness

After President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Accord, the New Jersey Star-Ledger whined that the withdrawal is a “sign” that Trump “is ill-equipped to lead the free world” (Sick of Winning (Cont.): Presidential petulance dooms the planet).

As I’ve observed before, “leadership” seems to be the leading theme animating the Left’s  apocalyptic response to Trump’s action. But what kind of leadership should an American president practice? That’s the question.

I left these comments, slightly edited and expanded:

There may be “signs that Trump is ill-equipped to lead the free world.” But at least he abandoned the Paris Accord—Obama’s idea of “leading” the free world away from freedom.

I’d have preferred that Trump suspend America’s participation in the agreement rather than outright withdraw, and then submit the Paris Accord to the Senate for ratification. Americans deserve a robust political debate on the merits and principles behind the Paris Climate Accord. That way, the Paris proponents would have to stop hiding behind simple-minded sloganeering, smear mongering, wild doomsday speculation, and actually explain themselves against the rational and (I believe) stronger arguments of the Paris opponents, who would get the full and fair hearing they have long be denied by the climate catastrophists. A ratification debate would have given the American people that.

Nonetheless, Trump made a step in the right direction. The impetus behind the Paris Accord is thoroughly regressive. Paris is a call for world political control of energy, the industry that makes all other industry possible—and thus central government control of the economy. It also calls for a world socialist regime of massive wealth redistribution from “developed” countries to “developing” countries, with the U.S. citizens bearing the brunt of the cost—which potentially could amount to 10s or 100s of $billions, and ultimately $trillions; out of as much as $2 trillion per year, overall, all of it paid by developed countries led by the U.S. Essentially, it is a demand that the United States of America bow its head, apologize, and pay atonement for its very virtues—its intellectual, political, and economic freedom and freedom’s consequence, prosperity.

The Paris Accord is not about facts or established science, which point to mild and manageable warming, not catastrophe. It doesn’t recognize the vital necessity of reliable economical energy, and vastly greater benefits versus drawbacks of fossil fuels. The Paris Accord is more about waging war against the reliable energy humans need to support their lives. Supporters say the agreement marked “the end of the era of fossil fuel” and a call for world governments “transform” and “shape” the world economy—a massive attack on freedom and prosperity, all to avoid a projected mere fraction of a degree of warming by 2100. But if the Paris Accord were really about global warming, nuclear energy would have topped the list of replacements for fossil fuels, rather than the highly unreliable, super-expensive, subsidy-sucking, growth and job killing “green” solar and wind. Yet, nuclear is not even mentioned. It is also about promoting socialism and destroying capitalism, not about solving some unsubstantiated “climate crisis,” which exists only in perpetually failed computer models. The Bolivian government put it more honestly: Echoing Pope Francis, it called for “a world without capitalism”—i.e., without liberty—rationalized as preventing “the destruction of Mother Earth and humanity.” Naomi Klein explicitly ties climate change catastrophism to the Left’s anti-capitalist crusade, calling climate science “the most powerful argument against unfettered capitalism.” Any wonder why so many dictatorships signed on?

The exact opposite of Paris is needed. As Ronald Bailey argues over at Scientific American—and, more extensively, in his book “The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the 21st Century,”—“To truly address climate change, responsible policy makers should select courses of action that move humanity from slow- to high-growth trajectories, especially for the poorest developing countries. This includes honest bureaucracies, the rule of law, free markets, strong property rights and democratic governance. Whatever slows down economic growth will also slow down environmental cleanup and renewal.” [https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fast-growth-can-solve-climate-change/] The facts, evidence, and experience are demonstrably clear: the more advanced an economy, the better its environment becomes. In other words, more capitalism, not central planning, is the answer to any problems caused by climate change (natural or anthropogenic), because the kind of innovation that can combine rising prosperity with cleaner development and industrialization can only happen when people are free, rather than subservient.

Pulling out of the accord does not abdicate America’s “leadership” role in the world. It enhances it. America has never been a leader in selling out its own citizens’ rights and property—and shackling its own progress—at the behest of the greedy, the power hungry, the envious, and the resentful of the world. America’s leadership consists of being a beacon for the inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness—the right of individuals to live, work, and trade through voluntary consent in mutual pursuit of individual personal self-interest, which in turn made America a leader in scientific, industrial, technological, and [real] environmental progress uninhibited and undirected by central planning statists.

The Paris agreement itself is an abdication of American leadership, committing the U.S. to a course of increasing statism both internally and globally, all in the name of containing carbon dioxide emissions. Control of carbon emissions means control of human beings. It’s that simple. Such grandiose central planning schemes directly contradict the Declaration of Independence, America’s Founding philosophical document. What kind of leader repudiates his nation’s own values? Is national self-immolation an example of leadership, or subjugation?

There is nothing inherently wrong about international agreements to address problems that transcend borders, so long as American involvement doesn’t come at the expense of American’s wealth, or America as a sovereign, progressive, free country. Belying the Left’s hysterical reaction, recall that Trump asked for a renegotiation of the Paris Accord, or the negotiation of a new treaty, more in America’s and its people’s interests.

But a threat to America is exactly what the Paris Climate Accord threatens to do. Trump was absolutely right, “The Paris framework is a starting point — as bad as it is — not an end point”—a start down a very dangerous road paved by Environmentalism, the religious ideology that holds Mother Nature above human well-being. For America, the Paris Accord is Obama’s Pyramid—a uselessly grandiose monument to his “legacy”; i.e., his vanity and his craving to be canonized as “a great leader,” a leadership built on the backs of productive American citizens. Paris is not about American leadership. It is about the repudiation of America. America is based on the ideal that governments are created to secure individual rights and liberty, not serve as a platform for any politician’s delusions of unearned greatness. On this issue, Kudos to Trump.

Related Reading:

Related Listening:

Bjorn Lomborg: The U.S. Was Right to Withdraw From the Paris Climate Accord [Reason Podcast]

Ayn Rand: The Monument Builders, from The Virtue of Selfishness, Parts One and Two