Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Constitutional Distortions- the "General Welfare" Clause

The United States Constitution has been under attack for decades, with the original intent of the Founders either forgotten or distorted beyond recognition. In response to my post relating to the Mulshine article, a correspondent made the following comments in advocating government intrusion into the healthcare market, beginning with these excerpts from the Constitution:

The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;


To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

(His bold added)

"We the people -- as free people," he said, "-- have the power to provide through our representatives in Congress for the general welfare of our nation aka ourselves. What is more basic to the general welfare than adequate health care? And who denies that millions of our citizens do not have adequate health care, affordable or not? Isn't then our responsibility through our elected representatives to at least address realistic solutions? Isn't that reasonable?"

In short, he is using the "general welfare" clause to justify socialism. This is a major long-term threat to our freedom, as lawsuits have been filed by George Soros, among others, to advance just this proposition. The following is my response to this insidious idea:

The fundamental founding principle of America is embodied in the Declaration's words:

"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 the Rights to 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...laying its Foundation on such Principles..."

The entire set of founding documents must be interpreted within the context of the principle of individual rights, possessed equally and at all times by all people, by virtue of the fact of birth. Yes, there are some contradictions in these documents. But these rights, including the right to one's property, are rights to freedom of action in a social context, but that pose no risk nor impose any unchosen obligation on one's fellow citizens. Every individual has the right to earn his own living, produce his own property, engage in trade with his fellow human beings, and pursue his own happiness by his own effort...but only on a voluntary basis. The only obligation he has to others, in this context, is to respect their rights to do the same. This means he has no right to force others to support him, to take their property, to impose coercive agreements and association on them. If he does, he has violated their rights, and is a criminal. He has only the right to voluntary associations with people who possess the same rights as he does. That is what equal means.

Physical force is the only means of violating individual rights. Government holds a monopoly on force. Therefore, the government's powers are limited, essentially, to protection of the Rights of Individuals. It has the purpose to protect the people against physical force by other men, which means to prosecute and punish people for murder, theft, infringement upon property rights such as fraud or trespass, etc. But it has no right or authority to engage in these activities against the citizens whose individual rights it was created to protect. The overriding principle of our founding is unalienable rights.

"We the People" means we as individuals, not as a disembodied collective with unlimited majoritarian powers. This principle is unequivocal. The key word here is unalienable. Self-government means the right of free individuals to elect the representatives who will discharge the enumerated responsibilities of government, within the context of the principles stated above. It does not mean the right to assemble a majority, voting bloc, or special interest lobby for the purpose of gaining, through the coercive power of the state, some economic advantage at the expense of others that it could not get by voluntary persuasion and association...i.e., by violating the rights of others, which are unalienable.

The "General Welfare" clause, likewise, does not mean the granting of special economic privileges, or advancing the welfare of particular groups, at the expense of others. It does not mean welfare statism. The term is General Welfare. Within the context of our founding principles, this means the use of the tax and spend powers of government for the limited purpose of establishing and promoting the conditions required for every individual to exercise his equal rights to Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of his own Welfare and Happiness...i.e., the protection of individual rights.

"We the people -- as free people -- have the power to provide through our representatives in Congress for the general welfare of our nation aka ourselves. What is more basic to the general welfare than adequate health care? And who denies that millions of our citizens do not have adequate health care, affordable or not? Isn't then our responsibility through our elected representatives to at least address realistic solutions? Isn't that reasonable?"

No! Not if it entails a forcible transfer of wealth., or the enslavement of the doctors and hospitals (EMTALA). This is "We the People" acting as a mob. The principle of rights protects the individual from the state, collective, or democratic majority. It places the individual outside of the electoral power of "We the People".

The power given to Congress to regulate interstate commerce is one of the loopholes in the constitution that, like a few malignant cancer cells, has metastasized into an explosion of statist controls over all aspects of our lives. But viewed within the crucial context of our founding Enlightenment principles, the Founders could not have envisioned any such thing. The main purpose of the commerce clause was to foster freedom of economic activity by barring trade barriers, such as tariffs, between the states. This is based on the right of individuals to exercise their rights to economic freedom of production and trade, which is derived from their Unalienable Rights.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Mulshine Scores Against NJ's Power-Lusters

In a column in the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Paul Mulshine takes to task New Jersey's latest socialist scheme...a plan to force people to buy health insurance by requiring everyone "to provide proof of health insurance at tax time. If you don't have insurance, the state will sign you up and start charging you for it."

Brazen power-lust is on the march in Trenton, complete with the employment of the “big lie” tactic. This mandatory health insurance scheme is being put over on us based on a false, I would call it fraudulent, premise.

David Knowlton callously declares that the individual rights of the young are to be trampled “so we can get those young, healthy lives…” And getting them is exactly what these dictators intend!

"But then they're being forced to subsidize people who have greater demand than they have," Mr. Mulshine replies. I can almost feel his incredulity!

"That's right," Knowlton replied. "That's how insurance works."

No, Mr. Knowlton, that is not how it works. Buying insurance is like buying any other product or service. I am talking here about the voluntary purchase of private insurance, not the government-run fiascoes masquerading as “insurance”. You pay money in exchange for a particular value that you deem to serve your best interests. When you buy a television set, you aren’t subsidizing the manufacture of someone else’s TV. You exchanged…traded…the money you earned for a TV. End of transaction. The money the TV manufacturer received from you is now the money it earned, to be used in a manner consistent with the nature of its business.

Likewise, when you buy insurance, you pay money in exchange for a particular value you deem to be in your best interest. In this case, you are purchasing protection, for a specified period of time, from some unforeseen catastrophic loss. You are not subsidizing someone else’s loss. When I pay the yearly premium on my $2 million umbrella policy, I am paying for just that…$2 million of liability protection. I exchanged…traded…the money I earned for a product--- catastrophic loss protection. End of transaction. The money received by the insurance company, like that of the TV manufacturer, is not mine. It is their earnings from the sale of the insurance product I purchased, to be used in a manner consistent with the nature of its business.

What Trenton is peddling is legalized theft (income redistribution) masquerading as “insurance”. It’s a widespread practice across the country, with over 1900 legal mandates requiring coverage for this or that ailment. What all of these mandates have in common with NJ’s compulsory insurance proposal is that they all force people to subsidize the health expenses of others, by forcing them to buy coverage they would not have purchased otherwise. This is income redistribution, not insurance, with superficially private insurance companies used as the conduit for government coercion (there is a name for this practice. It is called Fascism). Not only should the current scheme be opposed, as Mr. Mulshine says, but all of these government-imposed coverage mandates should be abolished. They are immoral because they violate individual rights. As Mr. Mulshine unequivocally states, “[M]andatory insurance should be unthinkable in a free country.”

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The "Relative" Poverty Gimmick

How is it that despite the steadily expanding array of products and services in most areas of our advanced industrial society at ever lower prices (relative to earnings) does “poverty” seem such an intractable and even growing problem? Its been over 40 years and many trillions of dollars spent since President Lyndon Johnson launched his “War On Poverty”, and yet the calls for a greater and greater transfer of wealth and income (I call it institutionalized armed robbery) from the producers great and modest to the “poor” continue unabated. In the 2008 presidential campaign, a major presidential candidate, Democrat John Edwards (no longer a candidate), based his entire campaign on a “Two Americas” strategy. This is the theory that there is a large “underclass” of the “poor” (37 million, he says) locked into economic destitution. He vows “the elimination of poverty in America in 30 years”, through massive government intervention, of course. We’ve heard it all before.

Leaving aside the small number of people who are physically and/or mentally incapable of fending for themselves, shouldn’t we be at the point where the poverty problem is no longer a major national concern? You would think so. But the welfare statists have a gimmick for keeping the game going. That gimmick is called relative poverty. Relative poverty is based on the doctrine of egalitarianism, which in economic terms means every individual has a right to the same material benefits regardless of productive efforts.

So what constitutes poverty today? In a report on the state of poverty in America, the Heritage Foundation says the following:

“ For most Americans, the word ‘poverty’ suggests destitution: an inability to provide a family with nutritious food, clothing, and reasonable shelter. But only a small number of the 37 million persons classified as ‘poor’ by the Census Bureau fit that description. While real material hardship certainly does occur, it is limited in scope and severity. Most of America's ‘poor’ live in material conditions that would be judged as comfortable or well-off just a few generations ago. Today, the expenditures per person of the lowest-income one-fifth (or quintile) of house­holds equal those of the median American household in the early 1970s, after adjusting for inflation.

The following are facts about persons defined as ‘poor’ by the Census Bureau, taken from various government reports:

 Forty-three percent of all poor households actually own their own homes. The average home owned by persons classified as poor by the Census Bureau is a three-bedroom house with one-and-a-half baths, a garage, and a porch or patio.

 Eighty percent of poor households have air conditioning. By contrast, in 1970, only 36 percent of the entire U.S. population enjoyed air conditioning.

 Only 6 percent of poor households are overcrowded. More than two-thirds have more than two rooms per person.

 The average poor American has more living space than the average individual living in Paris, London, Vienna, Athens, and other cities throughout Europe. (These comparisons are to the average citizens in foreign countries, not to those classified as poor.)

 Nearly three-quarters of poor households own a car; 31 percent own two or more cars.

 Ninety-seven percent of poor households have a color television; over half own two or more color televisions.

 Seventy-eight percent have a VCR or DVD player; 62 percent have cable or satellite TV reception.

 Eighty-nine percent own microwave ovens, more than half have a stereo, and more than a third have an automatic dishwasher.”

In other words, today’s poor live a life of unimaginable luxury compared to the industrial tycoons of the 19th century or the royalty class of the 18th, who didn’t have electrification, indoor plumbing, automobiles, etc. Judged in absolute (i.e., objective) terms, poverty is virtually non-existent in America today. But according to the egalitarian doctrine of “relative poverty”, the “poor” will always be with us because, no matter how wealthy, there will always be a class of people who have less material wealth than others and will thus fall below some arbitrarily devised “poverty level” of income.

What does real poverty look like? Andrew Bernstein writes:

“ It is difficult for men in the industrial West today to conceive of the kind of poverty that was widespread in pre-capitalist Europe. By a test employed in Lyons, France, in the 17th century, poverty was reached when daily income was less than the daily cost of minimum bread requirement- in other words, when a person could not make enough money to buy a crust of bread. A quarter to half the population of 17th century England subsisted near or below this line of destitution.

If the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics were to today employ a similar standard of poverty, Americans below the poverty line would be those making $18 a month, or $216 a year.”
(The Capitalist Manifesto, page 58-59)

Poverty, then, is not a problem that is intended to be “solved”. What the “poor” represent today is not actual poverty, in the historical context, but a means to electoral advancement for phony, power-seeking politicians like John Edwards. They are merely window dressing for the advancement of statism. This is why the definition of poverty keeps changing. Some day, poverty will mean having the smallest yacht. Just as President Johnson’s “War on Poverty” didn’t “work”, So John Edwards’s “Two Americas” anti-poverty scheme won’t “work”. It is not intended to “work”.

So remember where your tax dollars are going. Most likely, they are not going to a starving child. Even if they were, it would be immoral. Tax-funded “charity”, like tax–funded religion, is a violation of individual rights.

No, your tax dollars are very likely going to someone with a car, air conditioning, a color TV, and quite possibly a house. In other words, to someone just like you, except that you worked for his car, air conditioning, color TV, and quite possibly his house.

Statists use many gimmicks to advance their agenda. Relative poverty is one of them.

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