Tuesday, May 27, 2008

How Government Undermines Capitalism

The remnants of capitalism are slowly withering in America, and a key reason for it is that the free market gets rapped with the blame for economic problems and dislocations caused by government policies and actions. The way this process works is as follows. The government, usually at the behest of some private interest looking to circumvent the voluntary, non-coercive principles of the free market, takes some action to interfere with and/or override the judgements of private individuals in some sphere of economic activity. This sets in motion a chain of events that leads to ever greater and more numerous controls, regulations, tax preferences, subsidies, and other actions. The initial government action, intended to “correct” some “problem” in the private sector, or to advance someone’s idea of a “good cause”, ends up creating more problems. The law of unintended consequences kicks in, in other words. This leads to the necessity for more government intrusions.

At the same time, the people who benefit from these government actions come to represent a lobby or pressure group with a vested interest in preserving, at the expense of the rest of the country, their government-created privileges. With each new government action, the beneficiary group grows in number and influence. In addition, the private judgements and decisions of individuals made with government’s distorting influence expand exponentially, steadily compounding the problem.

In other words, government interference begets more government interference, which begets more government interference…ultimately strangling the free, private sector to the point that it ultimately “fails”. The deteriorating state of health insurance, with the (non-existent) free market getting blamed, is one prime example of this. The sub-prime mess in the banking and mortgage sectors is another. And the energy situation is still another major example.

Along these lines, Ayn Rand Institute legal analyst Thomas A. Bowden has written an excellent op-ed on the 150-year chain of events leading to today’s massive, exploding government expenditures for natural disaster relief. Here are some excerpts from Mr. Bowden’s piece, entitled How Government Makes Disasters More Disastrous:

“Disasters can sometimes shock a nation into questioning entrenched practices. But Hurricane Katrina, perhaps the worst natural disaster ever to befall America, has failed to spark serious challenge to long-standing government policies that actively promote building and living in disaster-prone areas.

“The Katrina tragedy should have called into question the so-called safety net composed of government policies that actually encourage people to embrace risks they would otherwise shun—to build in defiance of historically obvious dangers, secure in the knowledge that innocent others will be forced to share the costs when the worst happens.

“Without blaming the victims for having followed their own government's lead, it is time to question whether those policies should continue.

“The first strands of today's safety net were spun in the nineteenth century, as the Army Corps of Engineers shouldered the burden of constructing and maintaining levees and other flood controls along the Mississippi River.

“Throughout the twentieth century, new strands were woven into the safety net, first in the form of loans to disaster victims, then by direct grants, infrastructure repairs, loan guarantees, job training, subsidized investments, health care, debris removal, and a host of similar rehabilitative measures.

“By gradual steps, this disaster safety net became part of the legal landscape, taken for granted by private investors and owners deciding to undertake new projects or rebuild storm-damaged areas.

“This entitlement mentality ensured that each new tragedy would generate fresh demands to expand the safety net. In Katrina's aftermath, those demands centered on State Farm, which dared to deny certain claims under homeowners policies that covered wind damage but expressly excluded floods.

“Last year, a jury inflamed by adverse public opinion awarded $1 million in punitive damages against State Farm for having stood on its contract rights in a dispute involving a single house.

“Disgusted, State Farm announced last year that it would cease writing new homeowners policies in Mississippi.

“As more private insurers withdraw from high-hazard areas—or raise their rates to reflect the staggering legal and public relations costs of offering disaster insurance—a predictable lament arises: the free market has failed, and government must fill the vacuum so that the statist safety net remains strong.”

The almost imperceptible process by which government grows and squeezes and strangles private enterprise in field after field poses a real long-term danger. Understanding how this process works is a first step toward reversing it. The difficulty in bringing about reforms lies in the fact that the maze of government regulations and controls, subsidies and tax preferences, has made so many people come to depend on the government’s policies, creating new political constituencies in the process. Every law, regulation, control, preference, etc., that government enacts quickly becomes the unchallengable given, the not to be questioned, the “progressive reform” forever closed to further scrutiny…as if they are metaphysical facts of nature rather than man-made.

Whereas the problem grew in piecemeal fashion, the solution requires a comprehensive plan. This, of course, is not very conducive to our political realities.

Never-the-less, it can be done. And it starts with identifying the problem. Mr. Bowden shows how. The growing crises in healthcare, energy, and other areas were a long time in the making. Every aspect…every government policy, tax, regulation, program, etc…must be exposed to critical analysis. What we are likely to find is that all of the seemingly isolated government acts in a whole host of areas add up to the chickens now coming home to roost.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Unaffordable Health Care Invades the Middle Class

New Jersey has recently expanded an existing state program that subsidizes middle income earners for the purchase of health insurance for their children. According to this news release from the website of the Governor’s office:

“Under the new ‘buy-in’ provision of the NJ FamilyCare program, children in families whose annual family income exceeds current eligibility limits - $72, 275 annual income for a family of four (350 percent of the federal poverty guidelines) can enroll in the program.” (emphasis added)

While the new, higher income applicants will theoretically not be directly subsidized by the state (at least for now), they will become dependent on government in a more covert way, through the cozy arrangement between NJ and Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey. “Thanks to the state's purchasing power with insurers,” says the report, “the costs are significantly lower than private health insurance premiums.” But the insurance industry is a heavily regulated business, especially health insurance. Thus, the leverage of the state is not remotely the same as that of private employers. Who knows what “backroom” regulatory deals, implied or otherwise, were extended to Horizon, which already enjoys tax-exempt status. The coercive, regulatory power of the state nullifies any suggestion that this deal represents fair and open market competition. “[T]he the costs [that] are significantly lower than private health insurance premiums” “negotiated” between the state and Horizon are in fact a further assault on the free market and private insurers, bringing closer the day when the only insurer will be the government.

This new program, as stated above, is an expansion of an existing program, and will serve as a springboard for further expansion down the road. According to one of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Joseph F. Vitale (D-Woodbridge):

“ ‘When I wrote the law creating this new program, I believed then, as I do now, that affordable universal healthcare access for all children is a fundamental right, and an example of how as a state we can move toward a similar program for our 700,000 uninsured adults.’ ”

Leaving aside Vitale’s preposterous assertion that health care is a “right” (see Leonard Peikoff’s Health Care is not a Right) this is a classic example of the creeping statism that, like a coiling snake slowly tightening around its victim, is delivering us slowly but steadily into the hands of a health care dictatorship. Each new intrusion into medicine engineered by “humanitarian” politicians using other people’s money and the coercive power of the state leads inevitably to the next, and then the next, and so on. And with each new tightening by the snake, the freedoms of all of us…patients, doctors, providers of medical products and services, etc…. are steadily eroded as the health care decisions and judgements are shifted from private citizens to government bureaucrats.

There is much else wrong with this picture. For example:

“The program is budget neutral for the state…” In other words, it’s a free lunch. Why? According to New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Tom Moran, “The cost would be small, he [Vitale] says, because the state's bill for covering the uninsured in hospitals, now more than $700 million a year, will drop.” In other words, the taxpayers will continue to be on the hook for $700 million (and rising), except now they will be paying for the insured!

And this is the time bomb that blows the “budget neutral”, “cost will be small” free lunch fantasy to smithereens:

“…families must demonstrate that their children did not have health care coverage for the previous six months. This is to prevent individuals who currently have insurance from dropping their coverage to enroll in the program.” Remember that Familycare is now eligible to all income levels, and the politicians seem to be aware of the perverse incentives they have created. Their “fix” is the six-month provision. Right. Do they think people are stupid? What do they think will happen when the person struggling to cover his family at $1000 or more bucks a month discovers that his wealthier neighbor is getting coverage for a fraction of the cost, courtesy of schmucks like him? What do they think will happen when a business owner who dutifully covers his employees notices that his competitor, who doesn’t offer coverage, gets his employees entered into the state program?

With thousands of dollars in savings at stake for each family each year, don’t be surprised when droves of people and businesses begin dropping their existing health coverage, gambling the six month wait in order to get in on the state program. Hello exploding costs. Goodbye free lunch. And as for those too responsible and too honest to gamble their children’s health for six months, there will arise demands for inclusion into the state plan to correct the “unfairness” of a scheme that forces some people who are paying full price to also foot the bill for others who may make the same, or more, in earnings.

And keep in mind that this will be “an example of how as a state we can move toward a similar program for our 700,000 uninsured adults.” The escalating costs for the growing army of state-subsidized insured will have to be financed by rising taxes, in one form or another, on individuals and businesses. This increasing burden will inevitably make it harder for people and employers outside of the state plan to continue affording health insurance, driving ever more people into the outstretched arms of the state.

It is likely that most of the politicians voting to enact this legislation, as well as similar welfare-state schemes, believe they are making a “common sense” decision. Their narrow, concrete-bound focus on the immediate problem of the uninsured ignores the broader question…why is health insurance, and health care itself, becoming ever more unaffordable to a growing slice of the middle class?

It would be one thing if the NJ Familycare subsidies were aimed only at the Liberals’ favorite prop, the “poor”. Aside from a small slice of that group that is actually unable to care for themselves, a case can be made that people who are poor are so because of their own bad choices, laziness, incompetence, or lack of personal responsibility. It can also be logically argued that, being free and of sound mind and body, a responsible “poor” person can take the necessary steps to lift himself out of poverty (as, in fact, most do) and so is not “entitled” to government “assistance” taken from those who have done just that. Either that, or he would have to rely on private, voluntary charity.

But we are not dealing with the poor here, but with people making $60, 70 thousand and up. That’s certainly not wealthy, but clearly, what we are talking about here are not slouches, but solidly productive middle class people. Who is the middle class? The best description of this group that I have seen comes from Ayn Rand:

“A nation's productive—and moral, and intellectual—top is the middle class. It is a broad reservoir of energy, it is a country's motor and lifeblood, which feeds the rest. [I]t is the product of upward mobility…
The common denominator of its members, on their various levels of ability, is: independence. The upper classes are merely a nation's past; the middle class is its future.”

How could it be that something as basic as healthcare can be so far out of reach for the middle class in the richest country the world has ever seen? The truth is, the middle income earner that this state subsidy is aimed at can in fact afford health insurance. He is, in fact, already paying for it! The problem is, thanks to massive government intervention in American medicine, the earnings that should be able to buy coverage, are drained away to pay for the healthcare expenses of others.

Depending upon what estimate you use, America spends between 15% and 17% of gross domestic product on health care…or about $7500 for every man, women, and child. That’s $30,000 per family of four. Of that amount, roughly half (47%) represents government spending. That comes to more than $14,000 per family of four. Where does that money come from? It comes from taxes, of course. And who pays those taxes? The productive members of society, including the vast middle class. This would, of course, include the individual making $72,000 and up who is now eligible for the NJ FamilyCare program!

While unable to afford a policy of his own, the $72G-and-up earner is paying, through his taxes, the healthcare expenditures of: the elderly (Medicare), the poor (Medicaid), other peoples’ children (SCHIP), other uninsured people (“charitable” aid to hospitals to cover “free” emergency room care, including for illegal aliens, under the federal law EMTALA), etc., etc., etc. In addition, there are research grants to universities and colleges. And don’t forget foreign aid healthcare spending, including President Bush’s $50 billion Aids relief package to Africa. Undoubtedly, there is more.

At the same time that the middle class earner is having his money drained away by taxes, the Trenton politicians are busily driving the cost of health insurance farther and farther out of reach of that same hapless uninsured taxpayer. Mandate after mandate is enacted into law that forces insurance companies to add to their policies coverages that their customers may not want, cannot afford, and may in any event be unwilling to pay for. These mandates violate the rights of both the insurer and its customer to enter into voluntary contractual insurance agreements to mutual advantage. They are therefore immoral and, in fact, are nothing more than wealth redistribution schemes masquerading as insurance that force some people to subsidize the health needs of others.

The whole idea that health insurance has become unaffordable to the middle class is absurd on its face. As mentioned above, at least $7500 (and rising) per capita is spent on health care in America. That money doesn’t come out of thin air. It has to come from somewhere. That money comes from Americans...the very same Americans who allegedly can’t afford it, and who are now to be put on the state dole! Of course it is affordable. The problem is government intrusions and our ridiculous tax code imposed third-party-payer system, which stands as a “Berlin Wall” between insurers and insured. As a result of the current system, 87% of this nation’s health care dollars represent people spending other people money…governments, businesses, labor unions, etc. People, both the insured and uninsured, are paying through the nose. But thanks to massive government intervention, the people actually paying have little control over their own expenditures.

While New Jersey rushes headlong into the quagmire of state-run medicine, the causes of the current crises are either little understood or ignored. People are being convinced that free market medicine is failing, where no free market even exists (see Moral Health Care vs. "Universal Health Care" in The Objective Standard). This must change soon, because our freedom to control our own health care issues, what freedom we have left, is at grave risk. And our time is running out.

Post Reference 28

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Obama's Collectivist Manifesto, Part 3..."Unite and Rule"

In parts one and two of my analysis of Senator Obama’s major speech of March 18, 2008, I laid out the most egregious tactical ideas that he will be counting on to give America a huge push toward a socialist state. This speech was billed as a discussion of race in response to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy. But as I previously made clear, what Mr. Obama actually accomplished was an intellectual coup d’ etat against America’s founding principles.

Senator Obama is a thoughtful, philosophical, and talented orator. He apparently knows that to sell a political package requires a belief by people that it is right. Having wrung the life out of the “very core” of America, he uses this speech to skillfully construct the philosophical/moral foundation for his administration’s agenda. Laced throughout the speech, and also his campaign, Senator Obama implores us to “come together”, to “work together”, to “find that common stake we all have in one another”. He condemns Reverend Wright’s comments as “not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity”. He speaks of “the white community” and “the African-American community”. He tells us that “The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids”.

This is the language of collectivism. It is a renunciation of the individualism of the Enlightenment and of America. Collectivism holds that the standard of human value lies in the group, be it the race, the proletariat, the public, society, the family, the democratic majority, the “people.” The individual has no value, apart from the value he brings to the group. Statism is built on collectivism. Since no such entity as the group (ex., the “people”) actually exists, apart from and above its individual members, the entity that ultimately speaks and acts for the “people” is…the state. When a Senator Obama or any aspiring statist implores the people to “come together” to solve the problems of “healthcare”, “education”, the “environment”…he means to impose his, or a particular constituents’, “solution” on everyone else.

Obama sees groups, not individuals. But groups don’t think, only individuals think. The mind is an attribute of the individual, and only the individual. Every man must, through the conscious application of his own reasoning mind, discover knowledge, truth, morality. The subordination of the individual to the collective means the destruction of man’s means of survival, his mind. When Obama calls on us to “come together”, it is not to voluntary cooperation and association among individuals with common interests that he is referring. It is the independent thinker that he is aiming to subdue. Consider his response to the Reverend Wright controversy. “Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity.” If “divisiveness” is a criterion for condemning what any person says, then any “controversial” idea…i.e., one that threatens the “unity” of the accepted group (i.e., state) wisdom…can be disqualified. The outrageous comments of a Reverend Wright, and the passionate defense of individual rights against the collective offered by the Founding Fathers can both be called “divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity.” His “unity” message is simply a means of discrediting and silencing principled intellectual opposition to his designs.

The “idea” “seared into [his] genetic makeup…that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one” is the same old collectivist siren song blaring the same old lyrics against the independent individual…submit, obey, give up, conform. A man who gives up his sovereign capacity to think and to act on the judgement of his own mind, in order to conform to the thoughts of others, is doomed. A society full of such people…people who have “come together as one”…is a society of the unthinking leading the unthinking. Such a society is ripe for the rise of a charismatic demagogue, ready to provide the thought of that mystical entity “others”, or “the people”. Who among the “people” will challenge the rise of despotism? The people who have given up their intellectual sovereignty for the sake of “unity”? Out of the many, we will have become truly one…one neck ready for one socialist noose!

Object to some government scheme to seize your property in order to deal with “the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect”, and you will be abrogating your responsibility to atone for your part in this country’s “original sin of slavery.” Declare that people should be left free to make their own healthcare or education decisions, according to their own judgement, in their own best interest, with their own money…and you will be advocating that “we walk away now, [to] simply retreat into our respective corners”. Defend your inalienable rights as an individual?…your rights are a privilege, which are dependent on you fulfilling your “obligations”, both of which are “provided” to you, as determined by the state in our democracy. Take a principled stand against Obama statism? Don’t be divisive! We are one.

Senator Obama, in this particular speech, makes no concrete policy proposals. What he is doing is laying the groundwork for Statism. Statism holds that the will and power of the collective is embodied in and carried out by the state. The individual, being subordinate to the collective, is thus in practice subordinate to the state. In Obama’s universe, “We the People” in “America's improbable experiment in democracy” is the collective in whose name an Obama administration will carry out its welfare statist agenda.

Statism rests on a collectivist base. But collectivism depends on a certain moral foundation without which it cannot be sustained. That moral foundation is altruism. Altruism holds self-sacrificial service to others as one’s highest moral purpose. It holds that any action taken to benefit “others” is good because it benefits others. Any action taken to benefit oneself…the egoistic pursuit of self fulfillment and happiness… is at best amoral (essentially the Christian version) and at worst downright evil (the more virulent Kantian version). Both versions maintain that the standard of the good is selfless service to others…putting others above self.

Consider what this means in actual practice. Since morality consists of service to others, then others’ service to oneself is moral. In other words, altruism actually inverts morality, holding that it is moral to live off of the efforts of others, but immoral to benefit off of one’s own efforts. It is a morality that fosters an entitlement mentality and resentment of the achievements of others, since altruism demands that those others, which it is one’s duty to serve, must also serve oneself. Altruism demands that everyone be both a slave and a moocher, the very essence of collectivism. Worse, the degree of one’s self-sacrificial “service” is directly proportional to one’s virtue…his ability to produce the values necessary for life. The degree of one’s inability to produce those life-sustaining values…one’s need…is the degree to which one may morally collect on the sacrifices of one’s “brothers’ keepers.” Altruism turns need into a license to steal, at the expense of justice.

In their personal lives, very few people even attempt to lives their lives by the altruist creed. Who can live by it? It is a morality that is uncritically accepted and then routinely broken and sidestepped in order to get down to the practical business of living. But the acceptance of altruism, which should not be confused with benevolence or generosity toward those who one values, as a moral ideal bursts forth in the public arena of social and political policy. People who would not steal a dime from his neighbor have no qualms about voting away the rights, property, or earnings of fellow citizens whom they do not know, in the form of whatever tax or social welfare program is deemed to be “good” for the country (or for oneself).

The effects of altruism are all around us, in the form of the entitlement mentality steadily consuming us. You can see it in the form of the venom hurled at the opponents of the latest social welfare program, who are accused of greed and heartless disregard for children (SCHIP), for educating the young (“universal” pre-school), or for “working” people with a new-born child or sick relative (Paid Family Leave “insurance”)… to name a few. The opponents’ heartless and greedy motive? Defending their rights to live their lives, free from the coercive interference of others. The justification for trampling their rights? To bestow an unearned benefit on people based on need. You can hear it in the self-righteous “compassion” claimed by those “progressives” who would impose those programs through governmental coercion…their compassion paid for with other people’s tax money. You can hear it in the demonizing of the industries that produce the vital products, such as pharmaceutical, energy, financial, and of late food companies…the demonizing coming from power-lusting politicians who produce nothing, yet seek to shackle and control those that do…because they do! The charge is that they work for a profit, rather than to serve the vital needs of “the people”, who would be lost without their vital products. “Putting profits over people”, it is called. Their duty (or “obligation”) is to provide the “people” with the vital products and services, in exchange for being allowed to exist. What permits them to get away with it? The widespread acceptance of altruism as a moral ideal.

The “more perfect union” he seeks is not a union of sovereign, independent thinking individuals living peaceably and non-coercively in voluntary association with each other, according to the principle of each person’s equal, inalienable right to his own life. Rather, he sees a collection of guilt-ridden, sacrificial, obedient automatons subservient to that mystic entity “the people”, whose will is to be enforced by a state ruled by a special elite endowed with the wisdom of knowing what is best for the “common good”.

This utopian view of the ideal society is nothing new. It has been tried over and over again throughout the ages, with devastatingly repetitious results. The altruist-collectivist ideas that Senator Obama seeks to cash in on to advance his coming statist agenda date back to the original communist, Plato. Far from being an unknown quantity who speaks in vague meaningless generalities, Obama lays bare for all to see exactly who he is. For all, that is, who understand the power of fundamental ideas. It is obvious that he would greatly expand the federal government’s control of America’s health care, education, and jobs (i.e., of business). His statist agenda is unlikely to end there. Having summarily cast aside, by omission and distortion, our rights as embodied in our founding documents, Senator Obama has hit on all the historically statist philosophical cylinders. Unearned guilt (“America’s original sin of slavery”), altruistic self-sacrifice (“Let us be our brother’s keeper”), unity over individualism (“out of many, we are truly one”), intellectual conformity over independent thinking (don’t be “divisive” or “retreat into our respective corners”)…these words are the mantra of the ruler, not the respecter of the sovereignty of the individual.

Cashing in on the dominant ideas accepted either explicitly or implicitly in most of American culture, this articulate, smooth-talking “uniter” will lead us down a well-worn path… a path leading to ever-diminishing individual freedom and self-determination.

Unite and rule,” said Ellsworth M. Toohey in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, exposing the soul of the power-seeker.

“Come together,” says Barack Obama, “[to] solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.”

It stands to reason,” said Toohey, “that where there’s sacrifice, there’s someone collecting sacrificial offerings. Where there’s service, there’s someone being served. The man who speaks of sacrifice, speaks of slaves and masters. And intends to be the master.”

Let us be our brother's keeper,” says Obama. “Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.”

We don’t need any thinking men,” said Toohey.

Don’t be divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity,” says Obama.

“Make man feel small,” said Toohey.

“[T]his nation is more than the sum of its parts- that out of many, we are truly one,” says Obama.

“Make him feel guilty,” said Toohey.

“[Our Constitition] was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery,” says Obama.

“And isn’t that the god of our century? To act together. To think-together. To feel-together. To unite, to agree, to obey,” said Toohey. (Toohey quotes from the novel The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand, pages 665-669)

“[W]e cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together…we hold common hopes…we all want to move in the same direction…we are truly one;” don’t be “divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity…we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems…And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges…[people] don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but [we] can take them on if we do it together;”

Unite and rule.

Barack Obama’s America…The “more perfect union” he seeks…is not that of the Founding Fathers. It is, fundamentally, just the opposite. Where the Founders saw individuals capable of managing their own lives, Obama sees helpless dependents. Where the Founders saw republican government limited to protecting the inalienable rights of the individual, Obama sees an imperial government determining what “rights and obligations” should be ascribed to the people. Where the Founders sought to free men from the shackles imposed by other men, Obama seeks to chain men to the “unity” of majoritarian tyranny.

For what has come to be called his “more perfect union” speech, Senator Obama has received almost universal praise, even from many on the Right. From what I have heard and read, the main focus has been on his discussion of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, and the initiation of a “national dialogue” on race that, he says, is long overdue. But what really counts, in my view, is the abstract principles…the essence…hidden in plain sight throughout this speech.

This charismatic orator will, as president, “inspire” us to march down the altruist-collectivist road that leads to the ever-increasing transfer of control from the individual to the state. It is a road paved with the promise of “freedom” from the personal responsibilities that real freedom demands.

Is Senator Obama another Stalin, Hitler, or Mao? Certainly not. Is he an opportunistic politician, albeit perhaps a decent man, seeking to “do good”? Perhaps. And there in lies the danger. Convincing the people of a nation to give up their individual sovereignty and self-determination for some collective good, while simultaneously expanding the government’s legal tools for controlling them, is a deadly combination for a free society. It is the Barack Obamas of the world that pave the altruist-collectivist-statist way for the rise of the Stalins, the Hitlers, and the Maos.

To repeat what I stated above, Obama apparently knows that to sell a political package requires a belief by people that it is right. Hence, his altruistic appeal to be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and his collectivist appeals to abandon divisiveness and come together. It is on this moral-philosophical level that the battle must be fought. One can not effectively oppose a socialist agenda while holding as right the basic expedients of Socialism…altruism and collectivism. The only moral-philosophical opposite to altruism-collectivism is rational self-interest and individualism, the expedients of Capitalism. It is only on that basis that any real intellectual opposition against an Obama administration can begin.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Obama's Collectivist Manifesto- Part 2...Assault on the Constitution.

During the opening paragraphs of his speech of March 18, 2008, Senator Barack Obama cashes in on the many distortions and misrepresentations increasingly accepted in American culture about the facts and meaning of the founding of the United States of America.

His opening words,” I wrote in my previous post, “set the stage for a complete perversion of the enlightenment principles upon which our nation was founded.”

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Almost immediately, that opening statement is followed by a profound falsehood…that “a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy.” (emphasis added). Mr. Obama is an articulate, intelligent, learned man, who knows exactly what he is saying. He goes on;

“Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.” In that year, these men established “a Constitution that had at its very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice…”

There is no misstatement here, no oversight, and no innocent misinterpretation. These words of the man who at present appears likely to be the next President of the United States are specifically calculated to obliterate the “very core” of America’s founding. It is not for some vague concept of “equal citizenship under the law” that “Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution” fought a bloody revolution for. It was “unalienable individual rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness” for which they fought. Without those rights, the terms “liberty” and “justice” are meaningless. It was not for the right to vote, which can be available even in a dictatorship, but to be free from the tyranny of their fellow men, whether of a king or the voting power of his fellow citizens that they fought. Oppression, the founders recognized, can come in many forms.

In the Revolutionary War movie, The Patriot, Benjamin Martin (played by Mel Gibson) captures the spirit of what our founders were, and were not, fighting for when he tells a town gathering;

“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.”

John Adams said; “It is … as necessary to defend an individual against the majority in a democracy as against the king in a monarchy.”

Liberty and democracy,” writes Isabel Paterson in The God of the Machine, “are incompatible.” Just as “the claim of the few to command the many” is despotism, so too is “the converse claim of the many to command the individual.” Far from being compatible with unalienable individual rights, democracy is in fact its antitheses. Brilliantly describing the “logical contradiction” that democracy’s advocates evade, she writes: “[I]f one man has no right to command all other men- the expedient of despotism- neither has he any right to command even one other man; nor yet have ten men, or a million, the right to command even one other man, for ten times nothing is nothing, and a million times nothing is nothing.” (emphasis added) The Founders sought to create a republic, and prevent a democracy.

For decades, the blurring of the distinction between a republic and a democracy has been advanced by both left and right, Democrat and Republican, liberal and conservative. The terms “freedom” and “democracy” are used interchangeably, with virtually no thought given to the exact meanings of those words.

A republic, as understood at the founding of this country, starts with the premise of the supreme sovereignty of man the individual. The public domain…the domain of government…exists and acts only within a certain sphere of influence sharply delimited by this basic premise, by means of a constitution (hence the term constitutional republic). The public and private sectors are separate and distinct, with the public sector being subordinate to the private. It is within such limits that the elected representatives are chosen by vote of the sovereign individuals comprising “We the People.”

A democracy inverts the distinction between the public and private sectors. In a democracy, the individual loses his sovereignty and becomes subordinate to the power of whatever voting bloc happens to gain the upper hand at any given time. The agent of the voting bloc (which is usually a majority but can in fact be a minority, or coalition of minorities)…the agent that enforces the will of the governing bloc, is the state.

In a republic, the individual acts by right, while the state acts by permission. In a democracy, the state acts by right, while the individual acts by permission. Today, America is neither a republic nor a democracy, but a republic in transition to a democracy.

One thing is certain. The concept of unalienable individual rights as embodied in America’s founding documents stands as an impregnable bulwark against statism in all of its forms, including democracy. The concept of unalienable individual rights is what had to be destroyed to pave the way for the destruction of American capitalism and the rise of welfare state fascism in this country. Without the concept of unalienable individual rights as a foundation, “justice” can mean whatever whoever says it means. To the left, both secular and religious, it means “social justice”, which is a euphemism for the legalized theft of government-imposed income and wealth redistribution. Without the concept of unalienable individual rights as a foundation, “liberty” can mean the “freedom” of any majority (or even politically influential minority) to simply vote away the property rights and lives of anyone it pleases.

That Mr. Obama can mention the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in a major speech while completely ignoring (or, more accurately, deliberately distorting) what they actually stand for indicates that he believes that the “very core” principles of America are dead, and that he can get away with declaring it. This should tell you all you need to know about Senator Barack Obama. But it is not all.

The sidestepping of the principle of unalienable rights, as I have said, is no accident. But it is not just that Obama seeks to render that principle obsolete or meaningless by omission. That principle, as I have stated, is an insurmountable obstacle to any aspiring statist and, thus, must be destroyed. True to form, Senator Obama does exactly that, with this seemingly innocent, yet astounding statement, previously quoted above:

“And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States.” (emphasis added)

Provide? The concept of unalienable individual rights means that those rights can neither be provided (i.e., granted) nor withdrawn by government. If rights are a privilege “provided” by the state, then they are neither unalienable nor are they rights. Here, Senator Obama is merely firming up what has already been widely accepted in America…that “rights” are a creation of the state. Witness the explosion of “rights” in recent decades, such as the “rights” to healthcare, food, housing, education, etc., as well as “gay” rights, “women’s” rights, “minority” rights, “patients” rights, etc., etc., etc.

And how are those specialized “full rights” to be guaranteed? Through the “obligations” provided (imposed) by…the US Constitution! Upon whom do those obligations fall, in order to guarantee whose rights? Since Obama clearly believes the collectivist premise that “we” must “come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American”, it can only mean that these entitlements (among others) are among the “full rights” “provided” by the Constitution. Since these man-made entitlements are “rights” regardless of whether one has earned them by one's own effort, it means that others must fulfill their constitutional “obligations” to provide them. Does the term “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” ring a bell? “Let us be our brother’s keeper,” implores the Senator, “let us be our sister’s keeper.” Does Marxism come to mind? “Let us find that common stake we all have in one another,” continues Obama, “and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.” Is it any wonder that the Senator must necessarily replace the constitutional guarantee of “the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” with one to “provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States”?

This is so contrary to America’s founding principles that to call it a distortion would be a profound understatement. The true meaning of unalienable individual rights is clearly described by Ayn Rand:

Since Man has inalienable individual rights, this means that the same rights are held, individually, by every man, by all men, at all times. Therefore, the rights of one man cannot and must not violate the rights of another.

For instance: a man has the right to live, but he has no right to take the life of another. He has the right to be free, but no right to enslave another. He has the right to choose his own happiness, but no right to decide that his happiness lies in the misery (or murder or robbery or enslavement) of another. The very right upon which he acts defines the same right of another man, and serves as a guide to tell him what he may or may not do.

There is no such thing as "a right to a job"—there is only the right of free trade, that is: a man's right to take a job if another man chooses to hire him. There is no "right to a home," only the right of free trade: the right to build a home or to buy it. There are no “rights to a 'fair' wage or a 'fair' price” if no one chooses to pay it, to hire a man or to buy his product. There are no "rights of consumers" to milk, shoes, movies or champagne if no producers choose to manufacture such items (there is only the right to manufacture them oneself). There are no "rights" of special groups, there are no “rights of farmers, of workers, of businessmen, of employees, of employers, of the old, of the young, of the unborn.” There are only the Rights of Man—rights possessed by every individual man and by all men as individuals.

If some men are entitled by right to the products of the work of others, it means that those others are deprived of rights and condemned to slave labor.
Any alleged "right" of one man, which necessitates the violation of the rights of another, is not and cannot be a right.
No man can have a right to impose an unchosen obligation, an unrewarded duty or an involuntary servitude on another man. There can be no such thing as "the right to enslave."
(emphasis added)

This description sums up the intent and the meaning of the “self-evident Truths”…the “words on a parchment” laid down by the Founders… “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these rights are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness- That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among men.” When Mr. Obama says that these “words on a parchment” merely “provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations”, he is subverting and inverting the “Constitution… at its very core”.

America’s founding principles have been under attack for at least the past 100 years. The attack has been subtle, covert, imperceptibly (except to the philosophically astute) gradual. Those principles have been eroded by legislation, by the courts, by the educational establishment, by the distortion and blurring of key political terms (including by many that should know better). They have been eroded by the Left, by the Right, by businessmen, by labor. Senator Obama is breaking no new ground ideologically. He is merely cashing in on a long-term trend. He is bringing the Left’s attack submarine to the surface, with a direct, overt assault on the Declaration and the Constitution. He is cashing in on the belief (or the hope) that we have now reached the point where the number of Americans who still believe in, or even understand, what America stands for is now a distinct minority. He is attempting to deliver the coup de grace to American ideals.

To what purpose does Senator Obama so thoroughly distort, mangle, and obliterate what has been called “The Greatest Political Document Ever Written,” the United States Constitution? To what purpose does the potential next president of the United States of America talk about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution in a major speech without reference to the most crucial principle underlying it? It is because the principles laid out in the Greatest Document, the principles he evades, are incompatible with a democratic socialist agenda.