Saturday, May 19, 2018

A Leftist Acknowledges the Un-American Premise Behind the Welfare State

It’s no secret that the Democrats hate the Republicans’ drive to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare. But rarely does anybody on the Left exhibit such blatant nerve as former Democratic U.S. Congressman Steven R. Rothman of New Jersey. Last March (2017) Rothman authored a NJ Star-Ledger guest column asserting that Paul Ryan wants to destroy America's social safety net, not just Obamacare. The hyperbole of that patently false statement—modern Republicans are welfare statists—is nothing new. What is unusual (though not unheard of) is this statement from Rothman:

[A]ll Americans of good will and conscience must stop our Congressional representatives from taking the un-American and immoral step of hurting the programs that 99 percent of Americans rely on to live a decent life. 
After all, the provision of the U.S. Constitution that sets the righteous goal for our government to "promote the general welfare," has come to be interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to uphold Congress' broad authority to tax and spend for the general welfare of all Americans, not just the rich.

Where does the money for these programs come from? You got it, the very Americans—the productive Americans themselves—whose earnings are confiscated to fund the programs. Most Americans don’t need these programs so long as they could keep their own money. (For those who do need them, there is always private charity.) Rothman twists things around: It is the government that relies on Americans to support its programs, not the other way around.

I left these comments, slightly edited for clarity:

A more morally inverted and un-American—in fact, anti-American—statement can not possibly be uttered, revisionist decisions of the Supreme Court notwithstanding.

America is the first country to be founded on the principle that each individual possesses inalienable individual rights to live by his own judgement in pursuit of his own goals, values, and happiness, free from coercive interference from others, including others in their capacity as government officials. That’s what limited government means—a government limited to protecting individual rights, not mob “rights.” This—the principles that leave Americans free to deal with each other on a voluntary basis, or not at all—is what makes America the moral country; a country of rationally selfish individualists, not sacrificial altruists each forced into unwanted dependence on and subservience to each other with no hope of escaping the mob’s iron grip.

Yet Rothman completely inverts the American system. He falsely claims that the “general welfare” clause stands, not for the protection of individual rights equally and at all times for all people, but for mob “rights,” in which the group, not the individual, is the standard of moral value. On this blatantly un-American collectivist premise, society can, through the all-powerful state as its representative, chain everybody into government programs in violation of the rights of any individuals who might otherwise choose not to join.

A socialist government program is not about the general welfare. It is about the welfare of some at the expense of others, and the power of the few over the lives of the many. The only thing “general” about socialist welfare state programs is the chains that bind all together and leave none with their rights. After all, rights can be boiled down to this: the freedom to say no, and go one’s separate way if one chooses. This freedom doesn’t protect the rich and powerful. It primarily protects the weakest among us—each of us as individuals. Under the American system, the rich have no power to coerce even the poorest individual, until and unless the government hands them that power by failing to protect the individual’s inalienable rights. In Rothman’s reactionary conception, no one has the right to say “no” to his neighbor or his government.

The American system embodied in the principles of the Declaration of Independence, which has come to be known as laissez-faire, or “let us alone”, capitalism, is designed to protect the life and liberty of the common person from mob and government alike. Rothman responds “Wrong! The American System is not about individualism. It is about collectivism, in which all are chained and enslaved to all, and dependent on all, via omnipotent government.” The fact that most of us are already partially chained via one government program or another shows how far the social statists—who disingenuously label themselves “Progressives”—have repudiated everything America stands for.

To wrap the rise of socialist tyranny in the American Flag: What can be more disingenuous than that! Rothman apparently believes that Americans have become so ignorant of the political, intellectual, and moral exceptionalism of American history and its Founding principles that he can get away with uttering such anti-American trash. But, he’d be wrong. Many of us see his rhetoric for what it is—a counter Revolution against America. Support the welfare state if you want to. But don’t pretend there is anything American about it. The Founders and Framers of the Constitution established a system for people from the world over to escape chains—to seek genuine freedom, not the chance to submit to a new form of tyranny. Rothman’s statement should be a wake-up call to all who have any remaining reverence for America.


The “General Welfare” clause refers to the maintenance of the social conditions of liberty that enables people to flourish by their own efforts and voluntary interactions with others, within the scope of the enumerated powers granted to the government by the Constitution. As CATO’s Roger Pilon explains, “Article I, section 8, grants the Congress only 18 powers. Nothing for education, or retirement security, or health care: Those responsibilities were left to the states or to the people, as the Tenth Amendment makes clear.” It is a sanction for the state to promote the freedom of each individual to pursue and provide, by his own effort, his own welfare. The General Welfare Clause is not a sanction for the government to provide specific welfare benefits.

Related Reading:

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

Constitutional Distortions- the "General Welfare" Clause

Minimum Wage Doesn't Belong in the Constitution--or Law

Obama's "Bridge": 21st Century Tyranny Cloaked in America's Founding Ideals

Thursday, May 17, 2018

S-L Letter’s Anti-Industry Bigotry is Wrong Across the Board

The following letter appeared in the 4/19/17 edition of the New Jersey Star-Ledger. I think it deserves a strong rebuttal. Since the Star-Ledger no longer publishes letters online, I copied it here for the sake of my commentary:

Regulations protect Americans

A Star-Ledger article (April 17) relates how industry is complaining about EPA’s restrictions. Time has proven that industry will not work for the good of its employees, neighbors or country without oversight by good government. Great examples by the Washington Post: BP oil wants less restriction on drilling in Gulf of Mexico. Isn’t this the company responsible for that huge leak? Also, a trade association opposes USGS efforts to study coal tar emissions from parking lot paving. Coal tar is known (and accepted by real science) as loaded with carcinogens. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants the government to eliminate publication of industrial injuries and illnesses now reported to the Labor Department. I guess the public really shouldn’t want to know about accidents, emissions, diseases related to money-making industries in the U.S. And so it goes under President Donald Trump. Stand up and fight. [emphasis added]

Herb Skovronek of Morris Plains
The “Star-Ledger article” in question is EPA emerges as major target after Trump solicits policy advice from industry, republished from the Washington Post of 4/16/17.

I want to focus on the underlying message of this letter.

The first premise is that, unlike employees, neighbors, and people who comprise “the country,” industrialists have no moral right to work for their own good. This is of course altruism, and Skovronek apparently believes that the world owes him whatever he happens to want. The second premise is that whatever the government does in terms of regulating industry is good because it chooses to do it, and that industry will run roughshod over everyone and the environment if it is not regulated by government bureaucrats.

Skovronek has it exactly backwards.

Unregulated industry—that is, industry to the extent it is free to operate—has made the world an immensely better place since the dawn of capitalism as an organized social system some two hundred plus years ago. It is the role of business—especially the entrepreneurial “cream-of-the-crop” of business—to bring the knowledge of the scientist and the ideas of the inventor to the general public at all economic levels, in the form of mass-market products and services that allow even the poorest inhabitants of industrial countries to live better than kings and even early industrial “one-percenters” in the relatively recent past. And industry has done that splendidly. Our lives are saturated with the life-enhancing benefits of industry, to which we owe our flourishing lives

Historically, government unconstrained by proper constitutional limits has been by far the greatest bane to mankind, being responsible for endless wars of aggression, conquest and plunder, slavery, genocide, and redistribution of wealth on a scale private criminals couldn’t even fathom—all under cover of law.

Time has indeed proven that industry will not work for the good of its employees, neighbors or country. That is the moral beauty of capitalism—and we should be thankful for that. Business—the voluntary organization of human, financial, and material capital under a focused productive goal—does and should work for its own good in pursuit of its creative goal. The greatness of capitalism—the basic essentials of which are outlined in the Declaration of Independence—is that personal profit and gain is achieved, and can only be achieved, by providing willing customers with economic values that, in the consumer's’ own judgement, betters their lives. The means is voluntary trade, the win-win basis of any civil, enlightened society. The greatest of unregulated capitalism, to the extent it is unregulated, is that as industry grows, so grows the general standard of living. (Note: “unregulated” does not mean no rule of law. See my Objective Standard article Where Does Valid Law End and Regulation Begin?.)

Skovronek’s knee jerk condemnation of “industry” as some kind of exploiter who must be kept under the thumb of government regulators as beasts of burden—a mindset that springs from the same collectivist generalization that gives birth to racism—is morally abhorrent. We should be joining industry representatives in questioning the regulations coming out of the EPA, especially given that environmentalism is rooted in a standard of moral value that puts non-impact on nature above human flourishing. Business is by far humanity’s greatest benefactor of all time, and yet is the most persecuted minority around today. It’s time we recognized the former and corrected the injustice of the latter.

I often wonder about anti-business bigots: Why do they buy products made by business? Why don’t they try living without business products, even for just a little while?

Related Reading:

Elizabeth Warren's Flawed Understanding of the Source of Worker Productivity

Businessmen—Ayn Rand

The Left’s Insatiable Lust to Soak American Business

On Bigotry: America’s Undefended Minority—Businessmen

Gladwell & Co.’s Monstrous Injustice Against Businessmen—Ari Armstrong for The Objective Standard
Why Businessmen Need Philosophy: The Capitalist's Guide to the Ideas Behind Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged – Edited by Debi Ghate and Richard E. Ralston

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Iran Deal Pullout or Not, American Interests Come Before Internationalism

In Trump and Iran: Has he traded peace for bloodshed?, New Jersey Star-Ledger editorialist Tom Moran argues against President Trump’s pullout of Barack Obama’s Iran deal:

It's not clear what will happen next, except that the United States will be more isolated than ever on the world stage. It follows Trump's withdrawal from the Paris climate accord, his abandonment of the Pacific Trade Partnership, and the new steel tariffs imposed on some of our close allies.

My emphasis. Moran repeated the isolation charge in the last paragraph:

We have a dangerously ignorant and impulsive president who is listening to poisonous advice from extremists. We are increasingly isolated, in a day when nearly every challenge, from climate to terrorism, requires international cooperation.

I left these comments:

There may be valid reasons to criticize Trump’s move. Treaties are complex. The U.S. probably should not have signed the agreement in the first place. However, once in it, one must be concerned with America’s future credibility and reliability that it will honor previous commitments across different Administrations when considering whether to pull out.

That said, whatever the arguments for or against pulling out of prior American commitments like the Iran deal--I believe Trump’s pullout from Paris was right, but from the Pacific Partnership was wrong--fear of being “isolated” should not be one of the concerns. The American government’s job is to protect Americans’ rights and security, regardless of how unpopular the policies may be in the world. Cooperation is valuable: Americans have a lot to gain from freedom of trade and migration or from multi-nation security agreements. But this cooperation is only valuable up to a point. It is not an intrinsic good. Agreements are not good simply because they are agreements. Don’t confuse mutually beneficial cooperation with national self-sacrifice. Sometimes the right thing to do is to go it alone. American interests should never be sacrificed on the altar of Internationalism.


It should also be remembered that Obama refused to submit the treaty to Congress for formal ratification. This may be strictly legal, constitutionally (although I have my doubts). But when Obama made an end run around Congress, he made it as easy for future Administrations to arbitrarily alter or scuttle the deal as he had committing the U.S. to the deal. The same thing happened with Obama’s Paris Climate deal--no Congressional ratification, Trump pulls out without Congressional approval. When you rob the American people of a full and open debate through the ratification process--in effect, ruling more like a King than serving as president--you get what you asked for.
Related Reading:

"Tear Down This Wall": Reagan’s “Isolated” but Successful Drive to “Win” the Cold War

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

Buchanan’s Anti-Free Trade Tirade Under Cover of TPP ‘Fast Track’ Debate

NAFTA, Whatever its Flaws, Was a Good Thing

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Energy Subsidies: Cronyism Breeds Cronyism

Nuclear plant owners expand search for rescue to more states, the Associated Press reports;

The natural gas boom that has hammered coal mines and driven down utility bills is hitting nuclear power plants, sending multi-billion-dollar energy companies in search of a financial rescue in states where competitive electricity markets have compounded the effect.

The plant owners' strategy is similar to that in Illinois and New York: give nuclear power megawatts the kind of preferential treatment and premium payments that are given to renewable energies, such as wind and solar.

New Jersey is in on the act. Public Service Electric and Gas (PSEG) succeeded in getting a nuclear  “bailout” bill through the legislature and sent to Governor Murphy. The same bill required a compromise, via a companion bill, creating massive new subsidies--labeled “incentives,” not bailouts) for unreliables solar and wind.

As usual, cronyism breeds cronyism. “That guy’s getting a subsidy, so why not me.” How about eliminating the "preferential treatment and premium payments" throughout the energy industry, and letting market forces—the cumulative individual voluntary choices of producers and consumers—determine energy sources?

Related Reading:

Free the Market to Sort Out the Future Course of the Energy Industry

If ‘Renewable Energy’ Technology Has Truly ‘Proven Itself,’ Why Does the Renewable Industry Need NJ’s 80% 'Renewable' Mandate?

Climate Change Catastrophists Who Oppose Nuclear have Anti-Humanist Premises

Friday, May 11, 2018

Drug Advertising: New Zealand and the USA are Right, and the Rest of the World is Wrong

A New Jersey Star-Ledger letter, Drug advertising dangerous, argues against prescription drug advertising, concluding

There are only two countries in the world that allow direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising: New Zealand and the USA. I wonder why?

The implication—the author doesn’t answer his own question—is that Pharmaceutical companies engage in deceptive advertising because they “put profits over people.” But who is really putting dollars over patient health?

I left these comments:

“There are only two countries in the world that allow direct to consumer pharmaceutical advertising: New Zealand and the USA. I wonder why?”

Because New Zealand and the USA are the only two countries that respect pharma companies’ freedom of speech and consumers’ right to take the responsibility to rationally judge for themselves what medical options there are. Other countries—all of whom have some form of socialized, government-funded healthcare—would rather put cost above healthcare needs. They’d rather let people suffer and die needlessly rather than spend the money, as their systems go broke. It’s easier to get away with their blood savings when people are less likely to be informed of all of the options available.

False advertising can be dealt with through criminal fraud laws. Otherwise, government should protect the rights of the pharmaceutical companies to advertise the life-enhancing, life-saving prescription drugs they produce and of consumers who want to be informed. Anyone is free to ignore the advertisements, or to refuse to buy the drugs. But, for Levin and his ilk to demand to use the government’s guns to outlaw the advertisements is just plain thuggery. We should prefer live-and-let-live. It is immoral, not to mention unconstitutional, to legally ban drug advertising. It inhibits free trade and free speech, two inalienable individual rights.


When governments pay, they have a vested incentive to control the treatment narrative. Another important question to ask is, “All but two countries in the world, New Zealand and the USA, legally ban prescription drug advertising. Why is that?” Maybe it’s because state bureaucrats don't want to be bothered by more informed consumers asking about other treatment options or learning about new advanced drug options that are more costly than the state wants to spend. Can there be any other reason?

Related Reading:

Pharmaphobia—Thomas P. Stossel

On Mylan’s EpiPen Pricing Controversy

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Challenge the ‘100% Renewables” Fanatics on their Underlying anti-Humanism

In a New Jersey Star-Ledger column, After outages, Phil Murphy needs to take a look at where electricity comes from, Paul Mulshine once again takes on the anti-pipeliners. He points out the energy disaster now unfolding in another state where Environmentalists have been getting their way, Mulshine believes that “[NJ Governor Phil] Murphy could learn a lot more if he focused his attention on what's been going on this winter in his native state of Massachusetts”:

There, environmental extremists prevailed upon state legislators to prevent the construction of pipeline capacity that could give the state access to the cheap and plentiful natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in Pennsylvania.

A win for the environment? Not exactly. A recent editorial in the Boston Globe [Our Russian ‘pipeline,’ and its ugly toll] noted that instead of using fracked gas from Pennsylvania, some of the utilities switched to liquefied natural gas from Russia that came in on a tanker.

The editorial noted that the production of imported LNG is both more expensive and more carbon-intensive than domestic gas.

"As a result, to a greater extent than anywhere else in the United States, the Commonwealth now expects people in places like Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, and Yemen to shoulder the environmental burdens of providing natural gas that state policy makers have showily rejected here," it said.

Then there were the utilities that replaced the clean-burning gas with oil and coal, both of which are much dirtier. But so what? The anti-pipeline crowd was appeased.

Unfortunately, the anti-pipeline people are Luddites. You can determine that by going to the website of, the leading anti-pipeline group.

"Stop Fossil Fuels: Build 100% Renewables," it reads.

In labeling the anti-pipeliners “luddites”, Mulshine undoubtedly refers to their opposition to superior energy technologies, like fracking and pipelines. Nonetheless, I left this comment:

“Unfortunately, the anti-pipeline people are Luddites.”

I think “Luddite” gives them too much credit. The Luddites opposed labor saving machines because they displaced some jobs, which they saw as bad for human well-being. They were wrong. But at least their motive was pro-human.

The anti-pipeline movement is not pro-human. The movement is rooted in Environmentalist ideology that values undisturbed nature over human industrial progress. Why do Environmentalists oppose every reliable economical energy technology? Reliable energy drives industrial progress, so opposing reliables while increasing reliance on unreliable so-called “renewable” energy—they couldn’t get away with opposing all energy—will inhibit further human-caused “environmental destruction”. Since altering nature to human benefit is what industry is all about, the Environmentalists are anti-human well-being, the opposite of the Luddites.

As to [another point Mulshine makes], tree-clearing around power line rights-of-way, I doubt Environmentalists would allow the destruction of trees if they could stop it.


Even bigger problems could be in store for Massachusetts. As Michael Bastasch reports for The Daily Caller, Rolling Blackouts Could Become A Fact Of Life In New England as new natural gas pipelines are kept from being built and existing coal and nuclear plants—two more reliable energy sources hated by Environmentalists—are slated to be shut down. Unlike the bratty “100% renewables now!” whim-worshipers, energy industrialists look years down the road. We ignore them at our peril. A “100% renewable energy” future is a bleak place for human life.

Related Reading:

Mulshine on the ‘National Anti-Pipeline Movement’

The ‘Jihad on Pipelines,’ New Jersey Front

The Risks of the Pilgrim Pipeline—and the Risks of Not Having Pipelines

Are Pipelines a Threat to Water?

Our Russian ‘pipeline,’ and its ugly toll--the Boston Globe Editorial Board

The End of Doom: Environmental Renewal in the Twenty-first Century—Ronald Bailey
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels Hardcover—Alex Epstein

Monday, May 7, 2018

The American Dream

At the height of the immigration debate early in 2017, an op-ed published in the Hunterdon County Democrat opined that The promise of the American Dream is in jeopardy. Kira T. Lawrence opens with;

President Donald Trump administration's xenophobic attacks on refugees and immigrants are antithetical to the bedrock values of our nation. They erode our moral standing. They encourage and embolden our enemies and thereby threaten our national security. This is not who we are as a people.

Though a little vague, I agree with the basic sentiment. Trump’s hostility toward immigration is fundamentally opposed to America’s bedrock values. Lawrence goes on;

I grew up learning about an America history defined by the principles of hope, freedom, respect, and opportunity.

This needs clarification. Yes. A hope for a better life based on freedom and respect for the unalienable rights of the individual to his life, liberty, and pursuit of personal happiness is the essence of the American Dream. I have a problem with the last part . . . the “and opportunity.” There is no and opportunity: The freedom is the opportunity. Critically—and though it is implicit in the right to life—one must explicitly add the right to property. Earned property—the material product of one’s own mental and physical labor.

Adam Mossoff puts it succinctly in a Townhall piece, Patents Are Property Rights, Not A “Bizarre Regulatory Lobby”;

On the basis of this classic moral justification for all property rights — that people should have the fruits of their productive labors secured to them as their property — early American legislators and judges secured stable and effective property rights to innovators and creators.

This was part-and-parcel of American exceptionalism.

Mossoff’s piece was focussed on intellectual property rights. But as he understood, the basic principle of rights extends to all earned property.

Back to lawrence, she cites specific personal experiences of people coming to America to escape political and religious oppression or crippling economic destitution—all for the opportunity that freedom and a protective government offered in the way of hope. But;

All of us Americans, save our fellow citizens who are Native Americans, have similar stories. The dates, names, and countries of origin may differ, but the reasons for seeking our shores -- to escape the nightmares of war, violence, famine, and religious persecution and to chase the American Dream -- have not changed.

Why exclude Native Americans, aka American Indians? True, they didn’t literally “come to our shores.” They were already here. And true, the treatment of the Indians by European immigrants was often brutally inhumane. But the Indians didn’t enjoy individual freedom, either. They lived in a tribal “society” that also included “the nightmares of war, violence, famine, and religious persecution.” Yes, it took until the 1920s before American Indians received their full rightful American citizenship. History is messy. But can anyone truly say that life for everyone, including American Indians, is not superior in individual rights-guaranteed America than in any oppressive tribal existence, wherever and however it is manifested?

Lawrence concludes;

If we fail to honor our history, we betray the legacy of our ancestors. If we fail to defend and uphold our core values of freedom, respect, and opportunity, which have made our country a beacon of hope and prosperity around the world, we fundamentally jeopardize the enduring promise of the American Dream.

And we must remember that the American Dream is not some guarantee of prosperity or happiness. It is not the promise of the proverbial house with the white picket fence in the suburbs. It is simply the freedom of all individuals, working and trading, freely expressing themselves, living by their own conscientious beliefs, to pursue prosperity and happiness guaranteed by the unalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of one’s own chosen values and goals--the unimpeded pursuit of happiness. It is the guarantee of political equality--that is, equality for all, rich and poor, young and old, of whatever race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, etc.--that is only possible through equality before the law. It is intellectual, economic, and political freedom all wrapped up into one social system.

That, and only that--the hope and opportunity afforded by freedom based on individual rights--is the American Dream.

Related Reading:

The Declaration of Independence

Saturday, May 5, 2018

QUORA: 'Can certain forms of capitalism be made to work for the people instead of just the elite?'

QUORA: Can certain forms of capitalism be made to work for the people instead of just the elite?: The questioner provided the following link as a subtitle--

I left this answer:

Capitalism liberates the “common man” to work and trade for his own benefit; to earn and keep property; to worship a God--or not--according to his own conscience; to speak his mind. In other words, capitalism frees the individual from control by elites by recognizing and protecting the unalienable individual rights of all people to live by their own judgement, values, and goals, equally and at all times. Prior to capitalism, aristocratic elites got rich by looting the peasants. Under capitalism, people get rich by trade that enriches others and only with the consent of those they trade with. Capitalism, properly understood, doesn’t “work for” anyone. It comes in only one “form”: It frees people to work for themselves. That is the only “form” capitalism can have.

As to the Daily Kos article Enjoying a better quality of life with Democratic Socialism linked to above, “Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public roads, bridges, schools, parks, water treatment facilities, and more”; yes, they are “all socialism”. And all dependent on exploiting capitalism—that is, on exploiting productive, self-responsible individuals.

Every dime that funds those (and like) government programs is taken by force of taxation from private individuals who earned it. Just look at your paycheck. You can see it. And more is taken stealthily, through corporate and business taxation, or by inflationary central bank money expansion. That money collected by government from private producers is then paid out to private individuals and companies to build and maintain the roads and parks, etc.; or paid out in the form of “government benefits” for retirement, old age healthcare, or “charity” healthcare for the poor.

All of this can be provided privately, if the rights of individuals are respected and as people choose—a choice that, to the extent government steps in, is denied to the “common man” by the socialist elites. It makes no difference whether the elites are elected, appointed by elected officials, or seize power by force: They are still elites who claim the authority to supercede the rights of the “common man”.

It is only capitalism, to the extent it is allowed to flourish, that makes these socialist programs possible. If you doubt that, then consider that every society that has ever existed has had some form of government; a king, a feudal lord, a tribal chief, a church, a dictator, or what have you. Yet through all the centuries, grinding poverty was the norm for “the masses”. Where was the “better quality of life?” Why do we have poverty-ridden so-called “third world countries” today? They have governments, too. Why is it that only countries that have a substantial degree of capitalist freedom can have generous socialist/welfare state programs?

This does not mean that government is, as the Daily Kos charges the political right with claiming, “a bad word.” Properly understood as the liberty rights-protecting, security and order providing institution it should be, government is a necessary good—until and unless it crosses the line into statism. The fact is, so-called democratic socialism—really just the socialist part of a mixed economy—cannot create “a better quality of life” in any general sense. It can, at best, benefit some at the unwilling expense of others. It can make people’s quality of life dependent on government (socialist elites). Governments under democratic socialism are redistributive entities—in effect, money laundering operations, that start with seizing private wealth, cycling it through bureaucratic government mechanisms, and returning it under legitimate-sounding labels like “Medicare” or “public schools”. Democratic socialism only appears to “work” as long as enough capitalism exists to produce the necessary material, financial, and human resources for government officials to seize and exploit. One may argue for any socialist program to be mixed in to the economy by government force. But one cannot argue that, at root, democratic socialism is a parasite on capitalism.

Related Reading:

Mazzucato’s Fantasy: The “Courageous, Entrepreneurial State”

Democratic Socialism: If the Pigs Take Over

Capitalism .org

What is Capitalism—Ayn Rand

* [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.]

Thursday, May 3, 2018

A Gerrymandering Cure Worse than the Disease

From the Washington Post: Gerrymandering is the biggest obstacle to genuine democracy in the United States. So why is no one protesting?

The United States Constitution assigns state representation in the House of Representatives according to population. This is called “proportional representation.” The greater the population of the state, the more representatives that state has (every state gets at least one.) In states with more than one representative, the state must be carved up into voting districts equal to the total number of representatives, with each representative assigned to each district.

The states’ legislatures then carve up the state into voting districts equal to the number of that state’s representatives. Typically, the state legislators try to carve up the state to better the prospects for whichever party or political faction holds the most power. This is called “gerrymandering.”

Everyone agrees its a corrupt process, or at least less than ideal. Here is what the Washington Post says about gerrymandering, followed by its proposed solution:

There is an enormous paradox at the heart of American democracy. Congress is deeply and stubbornly unpopular. On average, between 10 and 15 percent of Americans approve of Congress – on a par with public support for traffic jams and cockroaches. And yet, in the 2016 election, only eight incumbents – eight out of a body of 435 representatives – were defeated at the polls.

If there is one silver bullet that could fix American democracy, it’s getting rid of gerrymandering – the now commonplace practice of drawing electoral districts in a distorted way for partisan gain. It’s also one of a dwindling number of issues that principled citizens – Democrat and Republican – should be able to agree on.

I am old enough to remember when Democrats held Congress by huge majorities. I don’t remember any Leftist complaining about gerrymandering then. Now that Republicans are competitive, they want to get rid of it. Ok, so what's their plan? Here is how the Left-leaning Washington Post would fix it:

As a result, districts from the Illinois 4th to the North Carolina 12th often look like spilled inkblots rather than coherent voting blocs. They are anything but accidental. The Illinois 4th, for example, is nicknamed “the Latin Earmuffs,” because it connects two predominantly Latino areas by a thin line that is effectively just one road. In so doing, it packs Democrats into a contorted district, ensuring that those voters cast ballots in a safely Democratic preserve. The net result is a weakening of the power of Latino votes and more Republican districts than the electoral math should reasonably yield. Because Democrats are packed together as tightly as possible in one district, Republicans have a chance to win surrounding districts even though they are vastly outnumbered geographically.

Second, fixing gerrymandering is getting easier. Given the right parameters, computer models can fairly apportion citizens into districts that are diverse, competitive and geographically sensible – ensuring that minorities are not used as pawns in a national political game. These efforts can be bolstered by stripping district drawing powers from partisan legislators and putting them into the hands of citizen-led commissions that are comprised by an equal number of Democrat- and Republican-leaning voters. Partisan politics is to be exercised within the districts, not during their formation. But gerrymandering intensifies every decade regardless, because it’s not a politically “sexy” issue. When’s the last time you saw a march against skewed districting?

The highlights are mine.

First, note how the Post assumes Latinos are automatic Democrat voters. This is racist and insulting in itself.

Now consider the solution; computer apportioning by “diversity” (i.e., race), competitiveness (ideology), and geography. This means that a racial and ideological test will have to be applied to each voter before district lines are drawn. The idea that voting preference is predetermined by genetic makeup is blatantly racist. Yet race and ideology are to be a defining characteristic of the Post’s new system. Does it make any difference whether the process is determined by “partisan legislators” or [non-partisan?] “citizen-led commissions” if the process itself is corrupt?

I have no problem with computer modeling. I do have a problem with collectivism. The power of the vote is individual, not collective. There is no such thing as “the power of Latino votes,” or of white votes or blacks votes or and other group assignment. All votes are equally individual (one-person-one-vote) and equally meaningful (or meaningless, to be realistic). There is only the power of the individual votes of individuals, each of whom possess his or her own independent rational mind possessing the capacity to judge for herself.

Gerrymandering is like the weather: everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. Proposals to get rid of it always go nowhere. Maybe it’s in part because the solutions are worse than the problem. The Washington Post’s cure is certainly worse than the disease. You think it’s bad now, when lines are drawn by incumbent politicians? Wait until private citizens start divvying up Congressional delegations according to race and ideology!

The U.S. Constitution mandates that proportional representation shall be determined by population based on a census. Nothing more. (see Article I, section 2, clause 3 and Amendment XIV, section 2) The only fair way to divide up the districts is to follow the Constitution; count people regardless of race, ideology, or any other group characteristic. A computer program can easily do it. All you need is a programmer with a copy of the latest census.

Related Reading:

Voting Rights are Not the ‘Most Fundamental Right’—or Even a Fundamental Right

Memo to John D. Atlas: How About Let's Not Suppress Anybody's Vote, or Voice

Racism is Alive and Thriving on the Left

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Democracy Fundamentalism vs. Americanism

Is the right to vote a fundamental inalienable right or a derivative civil right? The answer to that question will largely determine the future of Americanism.

The right to vote is important. But there is a stark difference between the Progressives’ concept of the vote and the vote in a free society. In a free society—that is, in the original American concept of republican government—the voting majority's will as expressed by the government officials it elects (and their appointees) is limited by iron-clad constitutional protection of individual rights.

For Progressives (or “liberals” or Leftists), the voting majority’s will is not limited in such a way. In a free society, individual rights trump the vote: that is, the losing minority in an election have nothing to fear from the politicians elected by the other side, because the politicians have no power to legislate or regulate away the losing side’s (or anyone’s) individual rights, thanks to “iron-clad constitutional protection of individual rights.”

To a Progressive, the vote supersedes individual rights. The only right that is unalienable is the right to vote. All other rights, such as rights to property and trade, and speech, are subordinated to approval of the vote.

In a constitutional republic, the ballot box is an instrument of liberation, reinforcing and extending individuals’ rights to control their own destiny. Since the government’s job is to protect individual rights, it stands to reason that the people have the right to decide, through popular elections, the individuals and methods—the “just powers”—for protecting their rights. The people’s right to choose their political leaders is derived from—but can never supersede—the individual’s right to his life, liberty, property earned through production and trade, and pursuit of happiness.

In a Democracy, the ballot box is an instrument of government-granted powers of control and oppression by the majority over the minority (or influential minority over everyone else). Since the smallest minority in any society is the individual, democracy is an instrument of aggression for the purpose of subjugation of the individual to the state. So-called “liberals” or progressives are democracy fundamentalists who worship at the altar of unfettered majority rule—majority rule unconstrained by constitutional protections for individual rights. In their radical democracist vision, the right to vote is not just a fundamental right, which it is not, but is the only fundamental right. All other rights, to the Democracy Fundamentalists, are permissions granted at the pleasure of the state on behalf of the voting majority.

To Democracy Fundamentalists, the ballot box is an instrument of aggression, control, and subjugation of the individual to the state.

It is important to note that majority democratic elections succeeded the advent of individual rights. The goal of a constitutional republic is to establish individual rights as the foundational purpose of government, then figure out the best democratic process for choosing political representation. Note the preciseness of the order in the Declaration of Independence: “[A]ll men . . . are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men. . .”

Individual rights precede government, and are thus protected absolutely from the political representatives and thus from infringement by the democratic process. The goal is not to allow the ballot box to become the club by which the most powerful political factions beat the less powerful into submission to its self-serving agenda. Democracy fundamentalists’ goal is precisely to turn the ballot box into that club.

Related Reading:

July 4, 1776: Words that Will Never Be Erased

America the Undemocratic

Atlas Shrugged: America’s Second Declaration of Independence—Onkar Ghate

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence

The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty – Timothy Sandefur

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Does Jefferson’s ‘Wall’ ‘allow religion in government?’

In apparent response to observations made by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito (Justice Alito says country increasingly 'hostile' to 'traditional moral beliefs'), Ron Prykanowski of Ewing, NJ wrote in a 3/20/17 ‘Feedback’ letter published in the NJ Star-Ledger (not available online):

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito recently said the U.S. is entering a period when its commitment to religious liberty is being tested. People vilify those of faith and cite Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation” as the basis for their anger. I have come to conclude that this is the most overused and least understood of his many quotations.

Contrary to the modern interpretation of his “wall of separation”, Jefferson did not want federal interference in our religious freedom. That “wall” was directed to keep government out of religion, not the other way around. The theory that if we allow religion in government we will become a theocracy is irrational.

On the face of it, this makes no sense. Who today does not interpret the “wall of separation” to mean precisely “to keep government out of religion?”

But if we allow our laws to be informed by religion—to “allow religion in government”—then America is no longer a secular nation. What exactly does it mean to keep government out of religion if not to keep religion out of our laws? A secular government is one that is neutral regarding conscientious beliefs, neither imposing anyone’s religious, agnostic, atheistic, or any other personal belief systems by law.

The proper approach to the issue of church-state separation has been provided by presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Ted Cruz. In 1960, JFK said in a speech:

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

My emphasis. Kennedy concluded not by pledging to “preserve, protect, and defend” the Catholic Church, the Bible, or some other religious text or authority, but the Constitution of the United States.

Likewise, a Milwaukee townhall question asked of then candidate Cruz for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination by an audience member identified as Thomas went as follows:

QUESTION: Hi, Senator Cruz.

My question for you is, how and why does your religion play a part in your political decision-making? Don't you think it should be more of a moral belief and not something that can interfere with your decision-making when you're making decisions for all religions in the United States?

CRUZ: Well, Thomas, thank you for that question.

Listen, with Me, as with many people in America, my faith is an integral part of who I am. I'm a Christian, and I'm not embarrassed to say that. I'm not going to hide that and treat it like it's something you can't admit publicly and acknowledge. It's an important part of who you are.

But I also think those in politics have an obligation not to wear their faith on their sleeve. There have been far too many politicians that run around behaving like they're holier than thou.

And I'll tell you, my attitude as a voter when some politician stands up and says, I'm running because God told me to vote - to run, my reaction as a voter is, great, when God tells me to vote for you, we'll be on the same page.


CRUZ: And so, listen, I'm not asking you to vote for me because of my personal faith with Jesus Christ. I'm asking you to vote for me because I've spent a lifetime fighting to defend the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, fighting to defend the American free enterprise system, and we need a leader who will stand up every day and protect the rights of everyone, whether they're Christians or Jews or Muslims or anyone else. The bill of rights protects all Americans. It protects atheists. That's the beauty of the bill of rights, is that we have the freedom to seek out god, to worship and to live according to our faith and our conscience, and I think the Constitution and Bill of Rights is a unifying principle that can bring us together across faiths, across races, across ethnicity. And we need to come together behind the unifying principles that built America.
The emphasis in those statements are mine. Both affirmed unequivocally their views that religion is strictly a private matter. Both pledged unequivocally not to allow their religion into government. Both recognized that there is nothing unifying about allowing anyone to bring religion into government and imposing his believes on everyone else. Contrary to Prykanowski, to bring religion into government is the precise definition of theocracy.

Many conservatives peddle the notion that America guarantees “freedom of religion, not freedom from religion”—or, in Prykanowski’s words, “to keep government out of religion, not the other way around.” A few minutes of thought will tell you how utterly absurd—and dangerous—that statement is. In fact, you can’t separate “of” and “from”. Indeed, the very first lines of the First Amendment makes this absolutely clear. “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion”—freedom from religion—“or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . .”—freedom of religion. Not only does the First Amendment tie “from” and “of” together in the same phrase, it establishes the logical hierarchy. It essentially states that without freedom from religion, you can’t have freedom of religion. The first is a vital precondition of the second.

As I argued in an article for The Objective Standard, Freedom Of Religion Demands Freedom From Religion:

Properly understood, the right to freedom of religion means not only the right to embrace your own religious (or non-religious) principles, but also the right not to have others’ beliefs forcibly imposed on you and the right not to be forced to support or disseminate religious ideas—as when government seizes your wealth to finance the propagation of such ideas. Without freedom from religion, you can’t have freedom of conscience. 
In a political context, freedom means the absence of initiatory physical force or coercion. Those who promote the idea that there is no freedom from religion undermine the First Amendment, reject the separation of church and state, and seek to impose their religious beliefs through government force.

If by “allow religion in government” Prykanowski means allowing religious persons to serve in government positions so long as they respect and protect everyone else’s right to their beliefs, no matter how different they are, then he is right that this does not mean America “will become a theocracy.” But the right of religious people to serve in government has never been questioned by anybody. In fact, the only reference to religion in the U.S. Constitution is the clause in Article VI, which forbids a religious test as a condition for any individual to hold public office. So Prykanowski can only mean one thing; to reject the stands of Kennedy and Cruz and Jefferson and the rest of the Founding Fathers and allow public officials to govern and serve and make law according to their religious beliefs rather than the constitution. And that, my dear Ron Prykanowski, most definitely does bring us to theocracy.

Related Reading:

On Religion, The First Amendment Works Both Ways

My Commentary on Church-State Separation

America Was Not Founded as a Christian Nation

What Does Freedom From Religion Actually Mean in Practice?

Why We Need Freedom From Religion

To Keep Government Out of Religion, Keep Religion Out of Government [This 2012 post is in response to a similar letter from Ron Prykanowski]

Related Viewing:

The Separation of Church and State By Onkar Ghate

Friday, April 27, 2018

QUORA: ‘Given that I live in a capitalist society, how can I avoid having my labor exploited?’

QUORA: ‘Given that I live in a capitalist society, how can I avoid having my labor exploited?

I left this answer:

The answer is simple: Avoid exploiting employers for a paycheck.

The great thing about living in a capitalist society—to the extend we have a capitalist society (see Crawford below)—is that you are free to choose your associations based on your own self-interest. This includes your economic associations. Since nature imposes upon man the requirement to work to survive, capitalism is good (morally and economically) because it gives you the freedom to choose the best deal for your labor among many options. If you don’t want to be “exploited”—i.e. work for someone—you can create your own job by starting your own business.

Of course, then you run into the problem of having the labor you expend in building and running your business exploited by your employees for a paycheck and your customers for a product. But at least you can then exploit them back, by expecting labor from your employees and payment from your customers!

By now the absurdity of the question is obvious. A capitalist society is by definition the opposite of exploitation; that is, it is a system of universal voluntary cooperation. Unlike socialism—the forced exploitation of all by all—capitalism is based on voluntary trade, not slave labor and profiteers on slave labor. Under capitalism, you can just say no to “exploitation”—to any trade, association, or cooperation that you deem disadvantageous or “exploitative”. Try saying no to a socialist program—say, to Social Security, in which case you’ll end up in prison; or to collectivization (government takeover) of your farm, in which case you’ll end up dead.

Capitalism won’t relieve you of the necessity to work, any more than capitalism can relieve you of the effects of gravity. The law of gravity and the law of work or die are both irrevocable laws of nature. What capitalism will give you is freedom from physical coercion from any source, and the right to keep the product of your labor. Capitalism is voluntarism. Socialism in all of its manifestations grows out of the barrel of a gun.

Related Reading:

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

QUORA: How do investment bankers justify earning 7 figures?

The sub-text to the question included the following:
I guess my point would be, is there any sense of guilt from receiving a disproportionately large monetary compensation from society or do investment bankers truly believe that market forces determine fair compensation. Or do investment bankers not think about why they should get compensated and it is just a money grab. I'm trying to wrap my head around why we reward financial engineers more than actual engineers and if this is a good thing or not.

I left this answer, edited for clarity:

The answer is in the question: They earned it.

To earn money is to net a gain through one’s own productive efforts and in voluntary trade with others. “Society” doesn’t compensate. “Society” is not an entity that thinks and analyzes and then “decides.” Society is an abstraction. Only the individuals that make up society decide, each through his own choices on his trading decisions. How much one earns is a reflection of the cumulative value his work creates for others, as determined by the individual[s] who voluntarily trade with him. This principle applies equally to all productive individuals at all economic levels, from landscapers to investment bankers.

Who “decides” how much to compensate investment bankers? Anyone who trades with them. How should investment bankers justify their compensations? By saying simply, “I earned it.” No one should ever feel guilty for what they earn, in any field, no matter how much that is—so long as he actually earned it, rather than merely appropriated it by fraud or deception or force.

Why do financial engineers make so much more than so-called “actual” engineers? Perhaps it’s because the job of investment bankers—the raising and successful allocation of capital—is so much more valuable, or perhaps because good investment bankers are much rarer than engineers. Whatever the reason, the only way that fair compensation can be arrived at longer term is through the cumulative choices of individual traders operating within a free market (which is why we should strive for a fully free market rather than the mixed economy—part free market and part unfree (government controlled) market—that we have now).

Related Reading:

In Pursuit of Wealth: The Moral Case for Finance—Yaron Brook and Don Watkins

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Monday, April 23, 2018

Education Apples and Tax Oranges

Teacher strikes was the subject of a 4/14/18 New Jersey Star-Ledger editorial. Education funding and trickle-down economics: a cautionary tale writes:

Among the six states that made the largest cuts in per-student funding between 2008 and 2018 are the four states where teachers have walked out this year.

Oklahoma's obscene 28-percent cut topped that list. Kentucky was third (15.8), Arizona was fifth (13.6), and West Virginia was sixth (11.4). Every state in the top 10 has a GOP-dominated government. Oklahoma and Arizona cut income and corporate taxes during that period.

The Star-Ledger continues, “Others will follow - experts predict the wildfire [the strikes] will soon spread to Mississippi, Idaho, and Georgia.”

So the fuse has been lit. The remaining question is whether some governments will concede how their tax cuts and trickle-down fallacy caused a brain drain that could doom their states for decades.

I left these comments:

Oranges and apples.

The “trickle-down fallacy” is a fallacy. There is actually no such economic theory as “trickle-down economics.” The premise makes no economic sense. “Trickle-down” is a political smear used to disparage tax cuts and to distract from the real issue; the protection of politically powerful factions dependent on government’s taxing powers, including the monopolistic government education establishment, from private individual choice and accountability. Tax cuts are about people keeping more of what they earn, and spending it as they, rather than government officials, see fit.

The schools should be private. Then the market--the cumulative voluntary choices of millions of individual consumers, competition among educators, and the laws of supply and demand--will determine the appropriate pay levels of teachers based on qualifications according to the school’s standards and/or the students’ needs and parents’ judgements. Then we wouldn’t have this conflict between taxes, much of which is unjustly levied against people with no children in the government schools, and the teachers’ paychecks and other school needs. Then education funding wouldn’t be dependent on politics. Then educators will be accountable in a real way--to their customers, just like any private enterprise, rather than government bureaucrats. Now, that would be a much “keener” way for “society” to treat “its children.”

If teachers’ pay is a political football, don’t blame tax cuts. It’s only because schools are coercively tax funded to begin with.

Related Reading:

"Trickle-Down Economics": Anti-Capitalists' Insulting Portrayal of the "Common Man"

An Open Letter to Katie B. On Education Funding

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

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Letter: ‘Vouchers Will Hurt Public Schools.’ So?

Here is an excerpt from a letter that appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger on 3/17/17 opposing a federal school voucher bill:

Vouchers will hurt public schools

The proposed federal school voucher bill (HR610) in Congress will divert funds away from public education and will ultimately have a catastrophic effect on public schools.

A true democracy requires an educated public and the public school system is the most effective way to achieve that goal.

Jeanne Perry Califon
A typical argument advanced by defenders of the government (public) school establishment against school choice is that it will “divert funds away from public education and will ultimately have a catastrophic effect on public schools,” as this recent letter put it.

To which my answer is—So?

The entrenched public school establishment—the teachers unions, public school administrators, school boards—do not own the public purse. Those dollars belong first to the taxpayers, each as individuals. To take by force a taxpayer’s money, allegedly for education, and then deny that person the right to direct it as she chooses is a cruel fraud.

The dictatorial monopoly we call the “public schools” exists as it is only by force of taxation and compulsory school attendance laws. Why should that be? Why should an entrenched and powerful political faction have sole power to impose their educational philosophy, teacher training, and school administration methods on the rest of us? The question every public school apologist should be asked is; Don’t you believe that, given the choice, taxpayers and parents would voluntarily send their children to your schools, and voluntarily pay for them? The answer is obvious.

The public school establishment does not and should not have first claim on Americans’ education tax dollars or their children. If we must have tax-supported education—and at this point Americans overwhelmingly believe that every child should be guaranteed the financial means to a K-12 education—it does not automatically follow that tax-funded education must be provided by a government-backed coercive monopoly free from parental choice, taxpayer oversight, and entrepreneurial innovation and competition. The taxpayer and the parent should have first claim on how her education tax dollars are spent and on the course of her own child’s education, respectively. It is incredibly arrogant and laughingly absurd to claim that “the public school system is the most effective way to achieve . . . an educated public.” A public school that parents willingly choose not to send their child to should lose its public funds, and if that school must close or merge with another public school to survive, so be it. No public school has an inherent right to exist if liberated parents “vote with their feet”—their tax dollars.

More tellingly, the reference to “a true democracy” as the fundamental reason for government schools spills the beans as to the true purpose of the government schools—political indoctrination. But the schools should not be about directing the future voting choices of its students. The basic purpose of education is to prepare the child to be an independent, thinking, rationally critical adult capable of understanding and dealing with reality so as to give him the intellectual power and self-esteem to make his own life the best it could be. The capacity for properly analyzing political issues is of course a derivative of being an independent thinking adult. But Ms. Perry’s focus on “true democracy”—what I call Democracy Fundamentalism, the opposite of constitutional republican democracy—all but acknowledges that political indoctrination, not education, is what largely motivates the public school monopoly defenders and lies behind the opposition to school choice. How else to explain why the young come out of America's schools with a bias toward collectivism/authoritarianism/socialism? A properly educated young adult—the independent thinker—will implicitly gravitate toward the politics of individualism, liberty, and capitalism. The statists will not have that. They recognize that the independent, self-responsible adult will demand that his freedom to direct the course of his own life is the enemy of statist power of the individual. Thus, the virulent, fanatical opposition to school choice.

Greed also is a significant motivator of the anti-choice reactionaries, as it does for defenders of any coercive monopoly. The reactionary defenders of the public schools want to maintain the dictatorial monopoly not just for financial reasons but also in order to protect their lock on Leftist political indoctrination, and thus the statists’ political power. This makes it all the more urgent to break the public school monopoly through school choice. A free market is the only genuine mechanism for holding educators accountable, by virtue of the ability of parents to leave one school for another and the freedom of education entrepreneurs to offer a diverse array of competing alternatives. A broad and robust school choice option is a major step toward a genuine free market. Universal school choice through tax credits and/or education savings accounts* would legally recognize the moral right of every taxpayer to sponsor the education of any child—be it her own, a grandchild, a child of a low income household, a special needs child, gifted child, etc.—based on the voluntary choice of the recipient child’s parent or guardian. The choice could be a charter school, a private school (for-profit or non-profit), the homeschool option, or even another public school.

The ability to provide a better education alternative to their local public school should not be exclusive for wealthy parents. Nor should middle or lower income parents who do try an alternative have to endure the crushing hardship of having to pay double—once for the public schools they do not use, and again for the educational alternative they try to give their children. The universal school choice movement is the answer.


[* NOTE: I personally do not approve of vouchers because of the potentially deleterious effect they would have on private schools accepting the vouchers. See my article Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?]

Related Reading:

Real School Choice Depends on Free Exercise of Individual Rights

Modern-Day George Wallaces in Reverse

School Choice Doesn’t ‘Discriminate’; It Expands Opportunity Through Liberation

Contra Congressman Donald M. Payne, a ‘For-Profit Model’ is Just What Education Needs

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government SchoolsAndrew Bernstein for The Objective Standard

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Producers and Morality: Fake News About ‘Ayn Randism’ from The Weekly Standard

Via Anoop Verma’s For the New Intellectuals Facebook site I found this article from The Weekly Standard, How Hillary Clinton Is Like Ayn Rand. Ethan Epstein notes remarks made by Hillary Clinton in India, in which she claimed “that the areas she won represent ‘two thirds of America’s gross domestic product’,” inferring that people outside those areas are morally inferior. He then jumps too “What I find particularly interesting is the bizarre strand of Ayn Rand-ism in Clinton’s sentiments.” This paragraph sums up the article:

In other words, Clinton’s remarks represent nothing so much as a bizarre strand of Ayn Randism. Clinton, like Rand, seems to be suggesting that “high GDP” people—a.k.a. America’s “producers”—people don’t just have more money than the rest of us. She’s saying they’re better people, too. And as for the Trumpian masses out in low GDP America? What a bunch of “takers!”

I left this comment @ For the New Intellectuals:

Where are the fact checkers at The Weekly Standard? Rand’s view on moral virtue as it relates to economics is that productiveness relies on moral virtue, but that the absolute quantity of any individual’s wealth or level of economic achievement is not the measure of that person’s moral virtue. This view permeates her writing, both fiction and nonfiction. Clinton’s inference is idiotic. But it is not Rand’s view.


When Rand spoke of “producers,” she spoke of people who “go as far on the road of achievement as his ability and ambition will carry him” (P. 25). In any of Rand’s writings, I know of no instance that says or implies that the extent of a person’s achievement is the measure of his morality. Certainly, there is nothing about Objectivism that’s measures morality in terms of dollars. Dollars earned are a measure of value created, for sure. But not morality. Moral virtue as it relates to economics consists of doing the best one can, honorably, in the productive field of one’s choice, within the context of all of one’s life goals and values. Rand understood “productive work” to mean

the consciously chosen pursuit of a productive career, in any line of rational endeavor, great or modest, on any level of ability. It is not the degree of a man’s ability nor the scale of his work that is ethically relevant here, but the fullest and most purposeful use of his mind.
Emphasis added. This comes from Rand’s definitive statement on morality, The Objectivist Ethics. Her novel Atlas Shrugged is full of wealthy villains (Orren Boyle, James Taggart) and virtuous producers of modest means and ability (Eddie Willers, Jeff Allen). At best, Ethan Epstein doesn’t know what he’s talking about. At worst, he’s deliberately misrepresenting Rand’s moral philosophy—or, in today’s lingo, peddling “fake news” about Rand and her moral philosophy.

Related Reading:

Eugene Robinson’s Disdain for the Working Class, and Distortion of Ayn Rand

"Money-Makers" vs. "Money-Appropriators"

On Ayn Rand's Dishonest Critics

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Pruitt’s Real Value

The New Jersey Star-Ledger devoted an entire editorial to blasting Environmental Protection Agency head Scott Pruitt. After tarring Pruitt with corruption charges the Star-Ledger turns to Pruitt’s “real damage”--a list of regulation rollbacks starting with withdrawal from the Paris Accord and scuttling of Obama’s Clean Power Plan. “Pruitt's greatest sins of all: his sadistic treatment of the planet and contravention of the EPA's core mission.”

I left the following comments to Don't overlook Scott Pruitt's real damage, slightly edited:

Pulling America out of the Paris Climate Accord and phasing out the Clean Power Plan makes Pruitt a great EPA administrator. Both are aimed at strangling productive Americans’ economic well-being. The Paris Accord forcibly redistributes Americans’ wealth to the rest of the world to “atone” for Americans’ great economic success, while simultaneously strangling the driver of that success, America’s fossil fuel industry. The Power Plan forces Americans away from reliable energy, mainly fossil fuels, in favor of unreliable “clean” energy. Since energy is the industry that drives every other industry as well as our lives, it is really an economic poverty plan.

As to the rest of that list, I don’t know enough about the technical/scientific issues to make a judgement (“scientists say” appeals to authority don’t work with me).

The real problem is “the EPA's core mission” as conceived by Environmentalism--to “save the planet” from human living. Humans survive by reshaping the planet to human benefit through industrial/technological development. Pruitt brings a balanced perspective that values human life over unaltered nature. I trust his humanist perspective over Environmentalism’s naturalist concept of the EPA’s “core mission”. Pruitt is not pro pollution. He is pro-human life, crafting policies that balance the economic harm from pollution controls and the negatives of fossil fuels against the benefits of industrial progress and the reliable energy so vital to it.

You can have economic progress while reducing pollution and focussing on true threats to human health. Pruitt has reigned in the EPA’s dictatorial, life-hating, constitution-shirking, rights-violating “green” activists within the EPA. Pruitt is great for human health, flourishing, and freedom.

The Environmental Protection Agency should be concerned with preserving and improving the human environment, not “saving the planet.” Scott Pruitt's real value is that he understands this. As
Mollie Hemingway reports for The Federalist:

[Pruitt] is demanding scientific rigor for agency work.

Pruitt is not some anti-environmentalist * but someone who wants the EPA to do what Congress charges it with doing to improve the nation’s environment. So he awarded $100 million to upgrade drinking water in Flint, Michigan, and began an effort to eradicate lead poisoning from drinking water. He committed additional funds to deal with the EPA’s botching of the Gold King Mine release that polluted Colorado and Utah. 
There are poor ways, average ways, and shrewd ways to tackle the constitutional problems that arise from the administrative state. Many Republicans either don’t realize the problems of an unelected bureaucracy’s power, or fail to combat those problems effectively. Pruitt is in the final category, demonstrating competency and a devotion to rule of law. And he has the courage that so many of his GOP peers lack, not being intimidated by the normal media frenzy that intimidates other Republican appointees.

* [I distinguish between ideological Environmentalism (upper-case "E") from casual environmentalism, which people may conceptualize as simply recycling or planting a tree, not anti-humanism.]

Related Reading: