Thursday, September 17, 2020

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence

 233 years ago, on September 17, 1787, the Constitutional Convention ended and the Constitution of the United States of America was signed. This day is officially known as Constitution Day.


It was also an occasion for one columnist to declare that the US Constitution is "broken." The New Jersey Star-Ledger's Tom Moran wrote five years ago:


Kids in America are taught to venerate the Constitution, almost as if it were the word of God.

And that’s exactly what Thomas Jefferson feared. He believed it was flawed, that experience would teach each generation new lessons and that it should be redone every 19 years.

But Jefferson lost the argument. And so the Founders signed a Constitution  225 [230] years ago tomorrow that is an impregnable fortress, firmly set against the forces of change that Jefferson welcomed and almost impossible to amend.

Does that make sense? Haven’t we learned valuable lessons over the past few centuries about how democracies thrive, and how they stagnate? In a day when our federal government is so dysfunctional, shouldn't we at least consider fundamental changes?

University of Texas Professor Sanford Levinson is advocating a series of such fundamental changes to the US Constitution, which Moran discusses in his column. Levinson's proposals include instituting a direct popular vote for president and measures to greatly weaken the checks and balances that limit the power of any one branch of government. In essence, Levinson's purpose, according to Moran, is to expand the power of majority rule and break Washington's political "gridlock," which has made our federal government "dysfunctional."

Moran approvingly cites Thomas Jefferson who, as Moran strongly implies, would welcome these constitutional changes, or any changes suited to any generation.

Before we discuss ways to expand the power of electoral majority rule so as to enable the government to get more "done", we need to have a conversation about what the government's proper job it is to do.

The American constitution's basic function is to limit the government's power to the protection of individual rights. This is spelled out in the Declaration of Independence, the philosophical blueprint for the constitution. Any discussion about the constitution has to begin with the Declaration--which, incidentally, was written by Thomas Jefferson:


We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they 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, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .


In its essentials, this 55 word statement of proper government says:


  • Rights are held equally and at all times by all people.

  • Rights belong inextricably to the individual by virtue of his nature as a human being.

  • Rights are guarantees to freedom of action; to the pursuit of happiness, not to happiness guaranteed by the labor or wealth of others.

  • Rights precede government.

  • Government is created exclusively to “secure”—i.e., protect—rights, not to grant them by legislative decree.

  • Government’s “just powers” being authorized by the people, through a popular vote.

  • “Just powers” being those powers, and only those powers, required for the government to fulfill the purpose for which it was created to begin with—to legally protect the people’s unalienable individual rights to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

Of course, this is not the "Word of God," to be accepted uncritically. Each of these points requires extensive philosophical backup. None of these "truths" are in fact "self-evident." They must be learned and validated scientifically; i.e., morally and philosophically, as determined by the observable facts of reality concerning man and his requirements for survival and flourishing. But these are the essentials, as I see it.

The Founders did not intend to create a democracy, despite Moran's devious attempt to smuggle in that premise. They created a constitutionally limited republic protective of the liberty and rights of the individual, under which the constitution "carefully limits the power of the majority by drawing a legal boundary around it" (P. 113)—a boundary that stops majority and elected officials' power where individual rights begin. The Founders understood that the government presupposes individual rights. So the constitutional discussion must begin with the questions: What are rights, and what is the proper function of government?

As the Declaration states, every individual is "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Since productive work is the only means of sustaining one's life and achieving happiness, it's obvious that the Founders understood--including in Jefferson's own words--that property rights are among those rights. The Declaration then states "That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men." Rights—which in fact are not endowments by either nature or God but moral principles derived from observations and facts about human nature—are sanctions to freedom of action in a social context, not a claim on the lives and property of others or a government guarantee of material well-being and happiness. Notice that the constitution does not authorize the government to redistribute private wealth.

Moran is wrong. America hasn't stagnated. It has "progressed" from what was a largely free country a century ago to a burgeoning regulatory welfare state—a dangerous regressionary trend unsupported by constitutional authority. Why? Because the fundamental principles upon which the constitution rests have been largely abandoned, opening the door to the piecemeal progression toward unlimited majoritarian rule, a manifestation of totalitarianism. Consequently, our best short-term protection against further encroachments on individual rights--and it's a weak protection--is political gridlock. I can't think of anything more dangerous to America's future than to begin tampering with the basics of the constitution in today's cultural environment. Before we consider unshackling majority rule, we must rediscover our Founding principles, roll back the regulatory welfare state, and provide ironclad guarantees that no one's rights be alienated by majority vote; i.e., respect the original intent of the constitution.

The Founders did not intend to replace absolute monarchy with absolute majority rule unconstrained by the principle of individual rights. As Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) asked during a debate over the propriety of the Revolutionary War in the movie "The Patriot", "Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as easily as a king can."

The answer: We shouldn't. As Jefferson said, "the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society." The Founders were not primarily concerned with giving the people the right to vote. They intended to liberate the people from predatory government, whether monarchistic, theocratic, socialist, or democratic.

There are those who would invert the original concept of Americanism—that the individual is sovereign and his life belongs to him—and replace it with the idea that the collective—i.e., the state—is sovereign over the individual. It is an attempted transition from republican constitutionalism to democracy; from individualism to collectivism. We cannot let the counter-revolutionary reactionaries succeed. The fight to defeat the reactionaries and restore and renew Americanism can start with this: As we celebrate Constitution Day, remember what I call the Constitution’s philosophic blueprint, or what has also been called the Conscience of the Constitution—the Declaration of Independence.

Related Reading:

America the Undemocratic

On a Revisionist's Proposal to Upend the Declaration of Independence

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


The Declaration of Independence

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

Constitutional Ignorance Led to a Tyranny of the Majority—Gary M. Galles

Monday, September 14, 2020

Biden Cancels America

It’s no surprise. Joe Biden has incorporated the “1619” Big Lie into his campaign. The Associated Press reports:

Joe Biden told residents of Kenosha, Wisconsin, that recent turmoil following the police shooting of Jacob Blake, a Black man, could help Americans confront centuries of systemic racism, drawing a vivid contrast with President Trump amid a reckoning that has galvanized millions across America.

We’re finally now getting to the point where we’re going to be addressing the original sin of this country, 400 years old … slavery and all the vestiges of it,” Biden said at Grace Lutheran Church, where he met with community leaders after a private session with Blake and his family. Bill Barrow, Will Weissert and Scott Bauer report.

[emphasis added]

The so-called “1619 Project'' is a New York Times initiative that holds that America’s true founding was when the first African slaves were brought to Jamestown in 1619. It holds that slavery, not individual freedom, defines America. Obliterated—“canceled” in today’s fashionable terminology—is America’s actual Founding, 1776, when the Declaration of Independence from Britain was signed and adopted as the first Law of the new American nation. Gone, then, is the philosophical bulwark that stands against all forms of tyranny of man over man; the moral sovereignty and of every individual, and his liberation from any master. America, according to 1619, is no longer the nation that embodied the promise of the Enlightenment, a promise that stands opposed to slavery, and led it its end in the west. The American Revolution was to protect slavery, claims the 1619 project, not to liberate the individual.

Ignored are the Enlightenment ideals of individualism, political and legal equality, and inalienable individual rights that spawned America, brought to us by philosophers and intellectuals most of whom weren’t even born until after the arrival of slaves to the shores of North America in 1619. John Locke, the most influential of these thinkers, was born in 1632. Ignored is the fact that Jamestown was a British colony. America wasn’t even a gleam in anyone’s eye in 1619. Ignored is the fact that the 18th Century gave rise to the first ever meaningful opposition to slavery, which had infected humanity for thousands of years, leading to the Abolitionist Movement. Abolitionism was not just about the Confederacy. It was integral to and an established force at the American Founding in 1776. Ignored is the fact of the success of the movement to abolish slavery. Abolitionism was an established force in 1776, which is why slavery began to be extinguished in the new American nation shortly after the signing of the Declaration. Every state in 1776 was a slave state. With the Declaration of Independence at their backs, state after state began to abolish slavery; first in Vermont in 1777, followed by Pennsylvania in 1780. Across all of the Northern States, slavery was abolished by 1804. Further victories for the anti-slave movement included the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which ensured “that the modern day states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Indiana entered the Union as free states.” (Page 43) Thanks to the Declaration of Independence, slavery was on its way out during the Founding period.

Until Abolition stalled in its tracks as the Southern States reacted. They defended their slavocracy by repudiating America’s Founding principles. How is it that the states that honored the Founding ideals outlawed slavery, and those that didn’t repudiated those ideals? Unlike the New York Times, the Southern slavocracy understood that slavery is incompatable with America’s true Founding in 1776, and to save slavery it had to do exactly what the 1619 Project intends, repudiate 1776—that is, cancel America. 

1619 doesn’t just acknowledge that slavery is evil. It doesn’t just acknowledge that America’s Founding was incomplete, allowing slavery to linger in parts of America through the early decades of the new nation. Borrowing from religion one of the most vicious frauds ever foisted on humanity, 1619 declares slavery to be America’s Original Sin, thus tainting America and Americans with unrearned guilt in perpetuity (Thank you Christianity.) 

The words of the Declaration of Independence, that All Men are Created Equal in their inalienable Rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—words that gay rights movement hero Harvey Milk believed “can never be erased”— get erased as if trivial and historically unimportant; tainted, like everything else American, by the “Original Sin of Slavery”. Just as all humanity is irredeemably tainted according the Christianity, so ““In this worldview,” observes Columbia University Professor John McWhorter of the 1619 Project, “redemption for the [American] founding seems impossible.”

Even on its own terms, there was nothing “original” about slavery in 1619. Slavery had existed throughout the world, including in Africa, for thousands of years. Even the Transatlantic African slave trade wasn’t original to 1619 Jamestown. It began in the 16th, not the 17th, Century. 

1619 is, of course, sheer folly. But as Ayn Rand put it

There’s always a purpose in nonsense. Don’t bother to examine a folly--ask yourself only what it accomplishes.

What does the 1619 Project nonsense accomplish? Just as the Confederacy understood that the Founding Principles of America are an insurmoutable barrier to slavery, so the political Left in America understands that the Founding Principles of America are an insurmoutable barrier to socialism. Overlain with the Original gambit, assuming enough Americans are dumb enough to be duped in unearned guilt, the cancellation of 1776 paves the road for a criminal socialist agenda. After all, what socialist program can not be rationalized as penance for America’s Original Sin? Just as Christians must atone for their Original Sin by submitting to obedience to God (or Jesus), as determined by His representatives on Earth, the Christian clergy, so Americans must atone for their Original Sin by submitting to the American Collective’s representative, the socialist state, under the guise of “racial justice”, “social justice”, “environmental justice”, “anti-racism”, or whatever collectivist rationalization the Cancel Left can come up with. (Once again, thank you Christianity.)

The Left is attempting to revive slavery as a current issue for political purposes. But slavery is history. There are no “vestiges” of slavery in America today. We are not “finally now getting to the point where we’re going to be addressing the . . . sin” of slavery.” “Getting to the point” now? Slavery was addressed in 1776 and the ensuing Revolutionary War, the decades that followed, the Abolitionist Movement, the Civil War and its 620,000 casualties, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th “Civil War” Amendments. Slavery polarized America like nothing before or since, ultimately leading to the nation’s breakup as the Southern states seceded and formed the Confederacy. A nation that went through a wrenching decades-long soul-seaching, secession, and bloody Civil war has certainly addressed its sin of slavery. To say America hasn’t addressed slavery is a flat out lie.

So why revive slavery now, ignoring history? For crass political opportunism. Original Sin is a monstrous injustice in all of its forms—and un-American. Americanism holds that no person can be guilty of or judged by wrongs he did not commit, including crimes committed before he is born. By attaching Original Sin to slavery, Biden is declaring that no attonement imposed on innocent current and future Americans, especially white Americans, will ever be enough to “cancel” the unearned guilt. The “original sin of slavery” is a political ploy that, if accepted, will keep on giving to the collectivist, socialist, egalitarian, statist, racist American Left, since any resistance to the Leftist agenda will be met with a play on the unearned guilt of America’s “Original Sin of Slavery”.

As 1776 Unites agrees, America was born in 1776, not 1619. America was born amidst two overlapping historical trends—slavery, which was in its dying stage, and universal freedom based on individual rights, the revolutionary new concept born of The Enlightenment. America was created to establish a free country, not to protect slavery. It is the New York times and the Democratic Party that is determined to protect slavery and undermine freedom. Any lingering injustices against blacks in America can only be dealt with by consulting 1776 and the true Founders of America, not rewriting American history. 

And in rewriting American history, the Times is not original. They are following in the footsteps of the defenders of slavery. Yes, the Confederacy! As historian Timothy Sandefur explains:

The myth that America was premised on slavery took off in the 1830s, not the 1770s. That was when John C. Calhoun, Alexander Stephens, George Fitzhugh, and others offered a new vision of America—one that either disregarded the facts of history to portray the founders as white supremacists, or denounced them for not being so. Relatively moderate figures such as Illinois Sen. Stephen Douglas twisted the language of the Declaration to say that the phrase “all men are created equal” actually meant only white men. Abraham Lincoln effectively refuted that in his debates with Douglas. Calhoun was, in a sense, more honest about his abhorrent views; he scorned the Declaration precisely because it made no color distinctions. “There is not a word of truth in it,” wrote Calhoun. People are “in no sense…either free or equal.” Indiana Sen. John Pettit was even more succinct. The Declaration, he said, was “a self‐​evident lie.”

It was these men—the generation after the founding—who manufactured the myth of American white supremacy.

[My Emphasis]

The Left is living in the tribal past. It is aligned with the reactionary defenders of slavery. The future belongs to Americanism. By repudiating the philosophical underpinnings of 1776, Biden is cancelling America. It’s just one more reason to despise Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, and the entire Leftist philosophy. It is philosophic treason. The 1619 Project is premised on a Hitlerian style Big Lie, and Biden has bought into it. Biden, the 1619 Project, and the Democratic Party should be morally condemned and defeated in the 2020 presidential election, even at the price of a second Trump term.


1776 Unites: A counterpoint to the 1619 Project

The ‘1619 Project’ Fraud Begins its Poisonous Infiltration into American Politics

Obama's Collectivist Manifesto-Part 1...the "Original Sin" gambit

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

A New Textbook of Americanism — edited by Jonathan Hoenig

The Collectivist Left Appropriates an Inhumane Christian Doctrine to Obliterate Americanism

The 'New American Socialists' Dilemma: The Declaration is as much anti-Socialist as anti-Slavery

Thomas Sowell on slavery -- quotes from The Thomas Sowell Reader by Mark J. Perry for the American Enterprise Institute

Frederick Douglass, The Columbian Orator, and the 1619 Project by Joseph R. Fornieri

Friday, September 11, 2020

‘Equity’ in Education is Inequitable and Anti-Education Excellence

If you think the war on achievement applies only to inequality in economics, think again.  


In By the Numbers: If Public Schools Shared, The Poor Could Pod, Neal McCluskey urges “letting education tax dollars follow children rather than staying in public schools.” That’s a great goal. Unfortunately, McCluskey advocates the idea as a fix for a nihilistic goal:


You’ve probably heard about “pods” – small, self​contained groups of kids that parents assemble for COVID​safe, in​person education. They have spurred some public schooling groups to speak out, warning that they may exacerbate inequality. What such groups have not tackled is what could make pods broadly affordable: letting education tax dollars follow children rather than staying in public schools.


In Fairfax County, Virginia, the school district posted a message telling families that “pandemic pods” are legal – quite a concession! – but:


While FCPS doesn’t and can’t control these private tutoring groups, we do have concerns that they may widen the gap in educational access and equity for all students. Many parents cannot afford private instruction. Many working families can’t provide transportation to and from a tutoring pod, even if they could afford to pay for the service.


In Oakland, California – where a battle between the teachers union and district threatens to start the new school year without instruction – a group of elementary school principals recently warned that while “podding is a creative solution to an impossible situation…the formation of these groups holds the risk of exacerbating educational inequities throughout our country.” [Emphasis added.]


Egalitarianism in regard to productive outcomes is antithetical to a free society. It is antithetical to morality. It is antithetical to human nature. And it is antithetical to common sense. All human beings are created equal only in regard to our basic individual attributes of reason and free will. Beyond that, inequality reigns. Like snowflakes, no two humans are alike. From natural physical and mental endowments to moral character and interests, no two humans are alike. It stands to reason, then, that individual outcomes will vary as people pursue their own flourishing according to their own values and choices. 


In a free society, equality begins and ends with equal protection of the law for each person’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. By man’s very nature, there is nor can ever be any guarantee of outcome of the results of human effort. The war on inequality, Egalitarianism, stands in direct opposition to morality, individual rights, and, as the Declaration of Independence explicitly states, to “the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle” every individual.


Egalitarianism—or, to be precise, Utopian Egalitarianism—stands in direct opposition to the laws of nature and a just and equitable society. Utopian Egalitarianism seeks to impose equality where nature does not allow. And as the highlighted portions in the above excerpts make clear, the only way to reach “equity” in education is to deny to parents who can afford it and have the initiative the pursuit of better educational outcomes to their children through pod learning. Note that the Fairfax County, Virginia, school district and the group of elementary school principals place equal outcomes above better learning for these kids.


The main issue I have with this article is that it advocates "letting education tax dollars follow children" as a “solution” to inequality. While the idea of education tax dollars carries moral and rights-violating baggage—I prefer the complete separation of education and state—I still believe letting education tax dollars follow the student is an advance for freedom in education and a huge improvement to the traditional monopolistic public school system. 


The real issue is the moral rights of parents to direct the course of their own child's education for their own children’s sake. However, nowhere in the article does McCluskey make the crucial moral argument. Nowhere does McCluskey attack the campaign against inequality at its root --as immoral, nihilistic, and a war on excellence on any level in any field of human endeavor. Any success at self-improvement, from the entrepreneur who builds a multi-billion dollar company to the kid who opens a lemonade stand, to the parent who improves her child’s education to the child who excels in school, will necessarily lift the achiever above those who, for whatever reason, did not self-improve, creating inequality. To deny anyone the right to self-improvement until all can have equality of outcome is cruel and inhumane. McCluskey simply concludes:


Were public schooling dollars to follow kids, it appears that pods would be within financial reach of almost everyone, often with funds left over. So instead of decrying inequality, public schooling groups should be saying, “Here, have the money.”


By the Numbers: If Public Schools Shared, The Poor Could Pod was published by The CATO Institute, “a public policy research organization — a think tank — dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.” But without the moral high ground, those principles won’t get far, and never have, especially when the supposed pro-liberty side gives the Utopian Egalitarians a legitimacy they do not deserve. 


And even if we get “letting education tax dollars follow children”, the Utopian Egalitarian won’t stop there. The logic of their premise will lead them to claim “inequitable” based on some parents being more savvy or more competent than others in assessing educational opportunities, leading to inequality anyway. The logic of equality as the standard demands uniform, central control of some kind, getting us right back to where we started. Utopian Egalitarianism in education must be torn out by the root, and genuine individual liberty, limited government, and free markets established based on the morality, not just practicality, of liberty.


Related Reading:


Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?, my article for The Objective Standard


Add Freedom of Education, not Prayer, to the First Amendment


Why We Need the Separation of Education and State


The Insidious ‘Left Behind’ Argument Against Charters


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

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools
Andrew Bernstein for The Objective Standard

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

QUORA: ‘Would the concept of "minimum wage" exist in a pure free-market economy or could the business owners pay the workers as little as they wanted?’


QUORA: ‘Would the concept of "minimum wage" exist in a pure free-market economy or could the business owners pay the workers as little as they wanted?’


Yes. Of course, there wouldn’t be any government-mandated minimum wage, enforced under penalty of laws. 


Government, as an employer, could set minimum wage policies for it’s own employees. But it leaves private employers free to set their own compensation standards, and many can and do set minimums as a matter of policy. But business owners could not just “pay the workers as little as they wanted.” A job is a mutual agreement between employer and employee. Businesses have to compete like everyone else, and this includes competing for employees. 


There is a myth perpetrated by minimum wage law supporters that without these laws, there would be a “race to the bottom” that would force down general wage levels. But this is demonstrably false. If it were true that “in a pure free-market economy business owners pay the workers as little as they wanted,” then the same principle would apply even under minimum wage laws: Most workers’ pay would gravitate down to today’s legal minimum wage. 


But this is not the case. In fact, the U.S. BUREAU OF LABOR STATISTICS reports that as of 2017, only 2.7% of the 80.4 million hourly workers in America earned the Federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. That percentage is probably higher in states with higher minimum wage rates. For example, in New Jersey, as NJ Spotlight reported in July 2019, about 6% of the state’s hourly workforce--242,000 of about 4 million--earned the then legal minimum $8.85 wage. It’s now higher, but I could find no more recent statistics on what percentage earn the legal minimum. 


The fact is, if businesses could simply pay the lowest wage they wanted, then why wouldn’t they simply pay every worker the legal minimum wage? It’s simple. Because they can’t. The fact that almost all workers earn more than the minimum wage proves that the market won’t allow it. Workers have economic power, in the form of their productive abilities, experience, work ethic, etc., so they can and do demand and get higher wages. Businesses need that economic power, and must pay up to attract and keep the kinds of work forces they need to thrive and grow.


Related Reading:


Gravity Payments' Voluntary 'Minimum Wage' vs. Minimum Wage Laws


The Economic and the Moral Case Against Minimum Wage Laws: Perfect Together


Without Minimum Wage Laws, Would General Wages Plummet?


How Minimum Wage Laws Facilitate "Wage Theft"—Against Employers


Government Should Stay Out of the Business Compensation Decisions