Friday, June 26, 2009

Universal Healthcare and the "Nanny State on Steroids"

In a January Op-Ed in the Christian Science Monitor, Dr. Paul Hsieh, co-founder of FIRM, warned that government control of medicine would inevitably lead to further and further loss of freedom. He wrote:

Imagine a country where the government regularly checks the waistlines of citizens over age 40. Anyone deemed too fat would be required to undergo diet counseling. Those who fail to lose sufficient weight could face further "reeducation" and their communities subject to stiff fines.

Is this some nightmarish dystopia?

No, this is contemporary Japan.

The Japanese government argues that it must regulate citizens' lifestyles because it is paying their health costs. This highlights one of the greatly underappreciated dangers of "universal healthcare." Any government that attempts to guarantee healthcare must also control its costs. The inevitable next step will be to seek to control citizens' health and their behavior. Hence, Americans should beware that if we adopt universal healthcare, we also risk creating a "nanny state on steroids" antithetical to core American principles. (Emphasis added.)

The key point here is that whoever pays sets the terms. Ask the companies that received the government’s TARP bailout money and now find President Obama firing CEOs and dictating salaries, among other types of meddling. Ask any teenager living under his parents’ roof. When you hand over your money to government, in exchange for the “security” of “knowing” that you will get your “free” appendectomy or cholesterol pill, you hand over your rights to life and liberty.

It didn’t take long for Dr. Hsieh to be proved right. In a Politico article entitled Barack Obama Says Shape Up Now, Carrie Budoff Brown writes:

Obama and Congress are moving across several fronts to give government a central role in making America healthier — raising expectations among public health experts of a new era of activism unlike any before.

Any health care reform plan that Obama signs is almost certain to call for nutrition counseling, obesity screenings and wellness programs at workplaces and community centers. He wants more time in the school day for physical fitness, more nutritious school lunches and more bike paths, walking paths and grocery stores in underserved areas.

The president is filling top posts at Health and Human Services with officials who, in their previous jobs, outlawed trans fats, banned public smoking or required restaurants to provide a calorie count with that slice of banana cream pie.

Even Congress is getting into the act, giving serious consideration to taxing sugary drinks and alcohol to help pay for the overhaul.

Bike and walking paths? As you can see, the government’s controls will extend well beyond any narrow interpretation of what effects one’s health. The list of things that can be construed as negative to your health, and thus represent a cost to the government, is limited only by the imagination. On the flip side, what if you don’t use the brand new bike and walking paths that the government paid for to keep you healthy? If you don’t walk, you can get flabby, and the obesity screener will report this as a potential cost to “the system”. Will you be forced to use the paths, under threat of losing your “universal” coverage, which you paid for through your taxes?

In a free market…i.e., a free country…you are responsible for your own cost of healthcare. If you don’t take care of yourself and end up with preventable health problems, it is not a threat to anyone else’s pocket book. But in a socialized system, where everyone is forced to pay for everyone else’s healthcare, everyone becomes everyone else’s business. And the government, as representative of “the public”, can and will protect “the taxpayers” by regulating lifestyles. Ms. Brown:

The public health community has worked intensively in recent years to build a body of evidence in support of the very initiatives Obama and lawmakers are now embracing. They frame the issue as one of money: Chronic diseases account for 75 percent of the nation’s $2 trillion in medical costs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Emphasis added.)

Money is noble and good, when in the hands of the people who earned it. It represents your productive efforts, which can be used to purchase the things that enrich your life but that are produced by others…i.e., money is a tool of exchange among producers. But when money is increasingly controlled by those who didn’t earn it, control of the lives of those whose work did produce it is also shifted to those who didn’t earn it. Money then becomes not an instrument of freedom and independence, but a tool of dependence, slavery and tyranny.

Dr. Hsieh concludes:

Nanny state regulations and universal healthcare…feed a vicious cycle of increasing government control over individuals. Both undermine individual responsibility and habituate citizens to ever-worsening erosions of their individual rights. Both promote dependence on government. Both undermine the virtues of independence and rationality. Both jeopardize the very foundations of a free society.

The American Founding Fathers who fought and died for our freedoms would be appalled to know their descendants were allowing the government to dictate what they could eat and drink. The Founders correctly understood that the proper role of government is to protect individual rights and otherwise leave men free to live – not tell us how many eggs we should eat.

If we still value our freedoms, we must reject both the nanny state and universal healthcare.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

"Patch and Fill Health Care Reform" and Postmodern Denial

Why Patch and Fill Health Care Reform Won't Work, by Marie Cocco

Marie Cocco, an advocate of single payer medicine, indicates in this piece that the Obamacare healthcare agenda is beginning to crumble. There are other instances of anecdotal evidence as well. (click here and here, and here.) She writes:

Lawmakers of every political leaning are putting forward their own ideas, none of them as tough-minded or comprehensive as a single administration-initiated proposal might have been.

The result is a raft of proposals that are patch-and-fill jobs on the current system - a system that pretty much everyone believes is crumbling to the point of collapse.

Advocates of a single, national insurance system that would involve explicit cost controls and guidelines for care - that might put an end to such wasteful practices as over-testing - have been shunted aside. This is in part because Democrats quiver when Republicans call them "socialists."

But Republicans cry "socialist" even when Democrats promote weak reforms that barely nick the vested interests. That's what's happening now.

No one has seriously proposed an overhaul that would achieve what a single-payer system has been shown to accomplish in most other countries:

universal coverage with lower costs that delivers better results than we now get in the United States.

Instead, Democrats have all but abandoned the idea that everyone be covered without exception. They've so far avoided endorsing clear cost-containment measures that would pass the budget-scorers' test of legitimacy. The wished-for savings that Obama says he wants the private insurance industry to achieve are exactly that - wishes.

The winners so far are health-industry lobbyists. They sense that their chances of protecting the interests of big insurers, drug companies, medical specialties, technology companies and the like are improving every day. They're probably right.

I'm not so optimistic, though. While the drive toward total government control may be slowing, any reform that adds even a smidgen of government interference keeps the trend in place. In my commentary, I show where Ms. Cocco is wrong to lament "patch and fill".

More interestingly, and more importantly, the mindset behind the pro single-payer crowd is on desplay here, both in Ms. Cocco's piece and in the comments of hsteach, who writes:

I don't think the free market works for health care because there is a moral component that market-based systems aren't equipped to handle. I can't be trusted to be a responsible consumer of health care where my son is concerned. I am not going to shop around for the best price for a procedure he needs, and therefore there is no competition that should control prices. The doctor that treats my son is, in a sense, working with a captive audience. The other reason I can't be trusted is my lack of knowledge. I can't do the research and understand the studies about the best treatment for a medical issue the way I can consult conumer reports when I am buying a T.V.

His medical care is not something I am willing to shop. I want the best for my son, even if I can't afford it.

We would also be well served by banning the use of the world Socialist. Labelling an idea socialist is convenient shorthand for a "bad" idea. An idea is good or bad inddpendent from labels.

The rule of unreality and unreason is what makes our battle against the collective mentality so daunting. This guy (or gal) hsteach not only wants to ban words, but he wants his son's health in the hands of unknown central planners because, in so many of his own words, he's too dumb to make his own healthcare decisions!

Here is My Commentary

by Mike Zemack on June 20th, 6:03 pm

No discussion of "reform" is honest without a thorough examination of history. The problems in American healthcare have grown in lock step with the growth of government intervention, and represent a failure, not of freedom, but of statism. The problems began in the 1930s and 40s with the insertion of tax distortions into the fledgling health insurance industry, and the creation of the third-party-payer system. The interventions grew over the decades until we arrived at the current semi-socialized, semi-free concoction. The "patch and fill" method has worked quite well at advancing us toward total government control. More patch and fill will continue that trend. So I don"t really understand Ms. Cocco"s angst. Patch and fill has served the purpose of camouflaging the long-term goal of the Left, by keeping the steps toward tyranny small and the process imperceptible to a Progressive-educated population. This fraud has served them well.

This was necessary, of course, because to advocate socialism openly and honestly is and always has been a loser in America. After the tyranny, wars, and unprecedented mass murder wrought by the socialist regimes of Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Red China, and the many smaller variants of the 20th century, socialism is dead as an intellectual force. That is why Obama and the American Left run from the socialist label as from the plague, despite the obvious socialist (albeit through the fascist back door) underpinnings of their agenda. How, then, to pursue a socialist agenda in America?

Enter Postmodernism, the denial of reality and reason. Just don't call socialized medicine "socialism", and it won't be socialism. Better yet, let's just repeal the First Amendment, and ban the word "socialism" as one correspondent incredibly suggests. While we're at it, we might as well ban the words "unalienable individual rights" and "liberty" as well. But words have meanings that describe reality. Words don't create reality. Reality isn"t altered or cease to exist by banning words. In any war between human whims and reality, reality will always win.

So playing the game of Postmodern Pretend doesn't change these facts. When government pays, government sets the terms. When we hand over our money to a central planning government bureaucracy, we forfeit our freedom, as individuals, to make our own decisions on healthcare and anything the state deems to effect our health. It"s a lose-lose proposition, except for the political powerlusters and (for a time) their parasitic constituents who seek an eternal something-for-nothing or an escape from judgement and personal responsibility. State bureaucrats backed by government's unique monopoly on physical force will determine who gets what treatment and when, as well as our diets and exercise regimen. Doctors will be forced into enslavement to one monopolistic employer (communism, essentially, or is that word banned too?), forbidden to act upon their own judgement. "Cost containment" and "comparative effectiveness" edicts will replace the needs of the patient. Control of medical progress shifts from the market (the voluntary choices of free individuals) to the central planners, effectively ending innovation. The long-term investments in time and money won't be made by entrepreneurs whose work and investment can be cancelled on the whim of whatever "cost-containment" fantasy happens to pop into the brain of the bureaucrat of the moment.

Government bureaucrats deemed incompetent and forbidden to make their own healthcare decisions will control every aspect of the nearly 20 % of the US economy that is the healthcare industry. The best minds will slowly leave the field, or refuse to enter it to begin with. The most talented people don't submit to the edicts of mental midgets. Medicare's $38 trillion "unfunded liability" will be dwarfed under "universal healthcare" despite "cost containment", bankrupting the country. Totalitarian socialism in medicine will have arrived, whether one calls it that or not.

Ms. Cocco would have us believe that this nightmare scenario of medical tyranny is preferable to a free market, the system of individual rights that leaves providers, consumers, insurers, and patients free to contract and trade voluntarily with each other, each to his own advantage. She would have us believe that the people we depend upon to provide us with the healthcare products we need are the villains because they are defending their rights and their livelihoods, and the politicians who produce nothing are the heroes because they would loot and enslave them. She would have us believe that "slavery is freedom".

Give me a free market capitalist economy full of "insurers, drug companies, medical specialties, technology companies and the like" competing to sell me their life-giving products, and the freedom to make my own choices based upon my own self-interest. Give me the freedom to exercise my unalienable individual rights to my life and liberty. Give me a government that protects those rights. Give me a moral social system that protects me and the doctors I depend on from predators who think their need and ignorance is a license to loot and enslave. Give me America - if that word hasn't yet been banned - not Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, or England's NHS.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Positive Sign for the GOP

In the face of the statist Obama onslaught, there is a seemingly unending drumbeat of disheartening Republican me-too-ism. Senator Judd Gregg, for example, proposed a healthcare overhaul plan that amounts to socialism light.

“To be effective, health care reform must include insurance coverage for everyone…

“CPR—Coverage, Prevention, Reform—is a plan I have proposed that sets up a system where every American will be required to purchase meaningful health insurance to ensure each family will be protected against bankruptcy if a family member becomes seriously ill or injured. No family should lose their home or life-savings because of illness or injury. For those who may not be able to afford this plan, you will have assistance getting coverage.”

Gregg and most of the current Republican leadership shares with the democrats the basic premise that it is government’s job to guarantee healthcare to every American. Once that collectivist/statist premise is accepted, government-run healthcare--with all of the devastating consequences that that implies—is only a matter of time. Gregg’s plan, and others like it such as Mitt Romney's, amounts to an admission (in voters’ minds) that the democrats are right and the GOP is irrelevant or hippocritical.

As the momentous debate that will determine the future of 20% of the U.S. economy and a healthy piece of our freedom heats up, the opposition Republicans quibble that “we are moving too fast” or that “we haven’t figured out how to pay for it”, etc. Newt Gingrich tells Sean Hannity that a more “centrist” approach is needed.

In other words, there is no principled opposition; which means, no opposition at all.

Against this backdrop comes a refreshing dose of good news…and fresh air.

With the GOP floundering and searching for new ideas, some republicans may be waking up to the fact that fundamental change – real fundamental change -- is needed.

Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, delivered the keynote address to the 2009 Virginia Republican convention. Mr. Brook gave a rousing presentation advocating a radical new direction for the Republican Party; a direction based upon an uncompromising stand for individual rights. Mr. Brook pulled no punches, declaring that the primary guilt for the statist trend of the past century lies not with the openly socialist democrats, but with the allegedly pro-capitalist republicans. He gave the reasons why, and laid out the path the GOP must take; a vision for the future based upon America’s founding principles.

What is so encouraging about this event is the fact that his speech was the keynote of the convention. This is an indication that at least some in the GOP understand what is at stake for America and that America desperately needs a voice for true Americanism. But beyond that, the speech was enthusiastically received. Mr. Brook was repeatedly interrupted by applause, and his address ended with a standing ovation.

Yes, this is just one small GOP gathering in just one state. But the emergence of an effective republican counter-force to Obama statism has to build from the ground up. The party’s top tier is worse than useless, offering no essential alternative and thus paving the way for the more consistent democrats.

As I have been arguing, the Republican Party must become “the party of the individual". This address to a Republican state convention by the head of the premier Washington, D.C. voice for the ideas of Ayn Rand is potentially a very good long-term sign. Virginia’s off-year gubernatorial race between Democrat Creigh Deeds and Republican Bob McConnell bears watching.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Liberty and Tyranny - Part 2

Stalwarts of American conservatism such as Rush Limbaugh assert that “conservatism wins whenever it is tried”. But wins what? Elections? Perhaps. But does it win in the field of ideas where it actually counts? Does it actually score practical results, if defeating statism is the goal?

A look at the history of the rise of statism in America over the past 100 years or so tells a story of the utter failure of American Conservatism. This period of rising statism is marked by a steady, stair-step advance punctuated by conservative -- or “swing to the Right” -- interludes. These conservative interludes have primarily been periods of consolidation for the statists in preparation for the expansion of government under the next electoral “swing to the Left”. Conservatism is utterly devoid of any record of actually stopping the advance of statism, let alone rolling it back. Indeed, statism has often been advanced under conservative rule, such as in the case of the antitrust laws. The strongest of the conservative interludes, the Reagan era, ultimately failed to stem the statist tide. As irrefutable proof, I offer up the current Obama Administration and his Democratic congress.

What accounts for this failure? Steeped in faith and altruism, and closed to new ideas by a dogmatic adherence to tradition, the conservative movement was ill equipped to mount an effective counter-intellectual assault against statism. Yet Mark Levin seeks to re-ignite the movement by clinging to the fatal flaws of American Conservatism. Ayn Rand, in whose ideas interest is now surging, doesn’t get a single mention or reference in his book. This is, I believe, no accident.

Yet Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism offers the only viable counter-force to the statism that Mr. Levin seeks to defeat. It is for these very reasons … that Ayn Rand can fill the fatal holes in Conservatism’s intellectual armor … that Mr. Levin chooses to ignore her. Where Mr. Levin asks “why” there is reason and science, ascribing the source of those attributes to a supernatural realm, Rand recognizes the absolutism of existence. Her philosophy, Objectivism, then establishes the fact of the validity of man’s reason, rather than kicking that responsibility off into a mystic realm ruled by an omnipotent God. She then goes on to do what Mr. Levin declares to be the impossible; she offers a secular, scientific, objective validation of individual rights and of the moral code that those rights rest upon.

In the matter of rights, including property rights, Rand lays out the fundamental, scientific case in her essay, Man’s Rights. Here are a few excerpts:

“Rights” are a moral concept -- the concept that provides a logical transition from the principles guiding an individual’s actions to the principles guiding his relationship with others-the concept that preserves and protects individual morality in a social context -- the link between the moral code of a man and the legal code of a society, between ethics and politics. Individual rights are the means of subordinating society to moral law.

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self- sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action -- which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)

The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.

Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive—of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights.

The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible. Since man has to sustain his life by his own effort, the man who has no right to the product of his effort has no means to sustain his life. The man who produces while others dispose of his product, is a slave.

Bear in mind that the right to property is a right to action, like all the others: it is not the right to an object, but to the action and the consequences of producing or earning that object. It is not a guarantee that a man will earn any property, but only a guarantee that he will own it if he earns it. It is the right to gain, to keep, to use and to dispose of material values.

It is hard to imagine that many pro-capitalist Christians would disagree with Rand’s line of reasoning on rights. However one believes man originated, the factual nature of his existence is what it is. Yet Mr. Levin, a very learned man who I’m certain is familiar with her works, steadfastly refuses to entertain any rational description of this most vital concept.

On morality, Ayn Rand offers a direct challenge to Mark Levin’s assertion that a proper ethical code cannot be known to man by “his own reasoning, unaided by the supernatural or God.” This is a challenge that Mr. Levin pointedly refuses to take up. Yet just such a moral code is precisely what Ayn Rand discovered and proceeded to explain and demonstrate; in both fiction and non-fiction form.

In answer to an interviewer’s question, “Without God, who or what determines morality?”, Rand answered:

“This is really an epistemological question. What you are asking in effect is: ‘Without some mystical authority, where does man get his knowledge?’ Morality, along with the rest of the sciences we call the humanities, is not different in this respect from the physical sciences. You do not count on revelation in the physical sciences. One of the most important points in Atlas Shrugged is that the trouble with the world is that men employ a completely different approach for moral issues than for scientific issues. Morality, which is a code of values and actions, has to be as rational as any other scientific discipline. But mankind has always treated morality as if it were a mystical or religious discipline. I claim that morality has to be a rational science.” Objectively Speaking, page 139.

That rational science led her to establish the moral code proper to man – a code that is absolutely essential in the battle against statism/collectivism.

Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute explains;

“If Ayn Rand’s philosophy of rational self-interest is irrelevant today, then so is the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration gave sanction to selfishness: to the moral right to live your own life, to exercise your liberty, to pursue your happiness. No more taking orders from king or society. Each was free to live for himself.

“In works such as The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and The Virtue of Selfishness, Rand provided a philosophic foundation for the Declaration’s radical ideas. She originated a moral code that broke with tradition. She believed morality’s purpose isn’t to command you to sacrifice your interests for the sake of others but rather to teach you the rational values and virtues happiness in fact requires.”

(Ethics is a complex subject. For a full study of the Objectivist concept of morality, I refer you to Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and The Virtue of Selfishness, all by Ayn Rand. Also, see Objectivism, the Philosophy of Ayn Rand [Leonard Peikoff], Ayn Rand’s Normative Ethics, the virtuous egoist [Tara Smith], and The Morality of Self-Interest and the Facts that Support It [Craig Biddle]).

Rand identifies the reason for the mounting failures of conservatism discussed above, and points the way to a turnaround.

“[E]very political system is based on and derived from a theory of ethics. The Objectivist ethics is the moral base needed by that politico-economic system which, today, is being destroyed all over the world, destroyed precisely for lack of a moral, philosophical defense and validation: the original American system, Capitalism. –From Rand’s essay The Objectivist Ethics, in The Virtue of Selfishness, page 37.

It is true that, as Mark Levin states, the Devine origin of moral law was “the view adopted by the Founders”. Just as the Founders didn’t challenge that view, neither does Mr. Levin. That is the view that he declares must be accepted as the “tried and tested over time and passed from one generation to the next". It is this view that Rand challenges, thus enabling a proper justification for capitalism by breaking through the ethical logjam of the millennia. It is Rand who, in challenging the accepted dogma regarding morality, is consistent with the spirit of the Founding Fathers.

In a 1962 essay entitled “Conservatism, an Obituary”, Ayn Rand wrote;

The argument that we must respect “tradition” as such, respect it merely because it is “tradition”, means that we must accept the values other men have chosen, merely because other men have chosen them—with the necessary implication of: who are we to change them?

They declare that we must defend the American political system not because it is right, but because our ancestors chose it, not because it is good, but because it is old.

America was created by men who broke with all political traditions and who originated a system unprecedented in history, relying on nothing but the “unaided” power of their own intellect.
(Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal, page 214)

Aristotle, declared Ayn Rand, is America’s “first Founding Father” (Philosophy, page 211). If so, then Ayn Rand can rightfully be considered America’s last Founding Father. Just as the Founders broke with tradition to achieve a political revolution, Ayn Rand broke with tradition to complete the momentous work of the Founders when she produced a moral revolution. With the Founders’ achievement now complete, the intellectual road to the defeat of the collectivist/statist trend is open to anyone willing to take it.

The rise of Obama statism has galvanized all of the disparate pro-capitalist elements in American society. All but one of those sectors is doomed to fail, as they have been doing for the past century. The rebellion against the statist tide that Mark Levin is attempting to ignite will be stillborn without the reason-based philosophical foundation that he steadfastly declares to be impossible. This time, however, failure is not an option; there may not be another chance.

Capitalism’s gathering counter-forces must recognize that the only movement with the intellectual, philosophical, and moral firepower to succeed is the Objectivist movement…the radicals for capitalism. Craig Biddle, editor of the Objective Standard, wrote:

As the politics of self-interest, capitalism cannot be defended with the ethics of self-sacrifice—nor can it be defended apart from a moral foundation (e.g., via libertarianism or mere economics).

We who wish to advocate capitalism must take the moral high ground—which is ours by logical right…

Indeed it is, and conservatives would do well to heed Biddle’s call to moral action. The final obituary of the failed conservatism of faith and altruism was written in the 2008 elections.

At the close of her 1959 appearance on ABC-TV’s “The Mike Wallace Interview”, Mr. Wallace concluded with;

“…[T]o those who would reject her philosophy [of Objectivism], Miss Rand hurls this challenge: ‘For the past two thousand years, the world has been dominated by other philosophies. Look around you. Consider the results.’

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Books -- Mark Levin's Liberty and Tyranny

Conservative talk radio host Mark R. Levin has fired a shot across the bow of the ascendant liberal statists in the form of “a clarion call to conservative America”. Liberty and Tyranny is billed as “a new manifesto for the conservative movement for the 21st century”.

On a concrete level, there is much that an Objectivist can agree with. In the chapter “On Federalism”, Mr. Levin documents the many ways that the constitution has been circumvented to enable the rise of statism.

…through a succession of laws and rulings, all three branches…now routinely exercise power well beyond their specific, enumerated authority under the constitution.

In the chapter “On the Free Market”, he recognizes the importance of private property as well as the way in which government controls feed on one another.

…when the statist’s central planners create economic perversions,…he blames the free market and insists on seizing additional authority to correct the market failures created at its own direction.

In the chapter “On the Welfare State”, he attacks the sacred cows of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, correctly identifying the incremental nature by which socialism is coming to America.

Perhaps his best chapter is “On Enviro-statism”. In this chapter, Mr. Levin nails the evil essence at the heart of environmentalism…the intrinsic value doctrine;

If nature has “intrinsic value” then nature exists for its own sake. Consequently, man is not to be preferred over any aspect of his natural surroundings. He is no better than any other organism and much worse than most because of his destructive existence.

Is not man, therefor, expendable? And if he is, is not the suppression of his liberty, the confiscation of his property, and the blunting of his progress at all times warranted where the purpose is to save the planet…from man himself? After all, it would seem that there can be no end to man’s offenses against nature if he is not checked at every turn.

There are also areas of disagreement which I have with Mr. Levin, but all and all -- on concrete issues -- he is mostly on the correct side.

Having said all of that, this “conservative manifesto” is fatally flawed as a blueprint for a pro-capitalism revolt against statism. It is a resurrection of the William F. Buckley brand of conservatism that has not only failed miserably to stem the statist tide over the past half century, but also helped pave the way for its advance. The reasons are twofold—the failure to make the case for individual rights, and the failure to defend the morality of capitalism. The two issues are, in essence, the same. Mr. Levin writes;

The statist wants Americans to see themselves as backward, foolishly holding to their quaint notions of individual liberty, private property, family, and faith…(page 18)

Is it possible that there is no Natural Law and man can know moral order and unalienable rights from his own reasoning, unaided by the supernatural or God? There are, of course, those who argue this case—including the Atheist and others who attempt to distinguish Natural Law from Divine Providence. It is not the view abopted by the Founders. This position would, it seems, lead man to arbitrary morality and rights—right and wrong, just and unjust, good and bad, would be relative concepts susceptible to circumstantial applications. Moreover, by what justification would “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” be “unalienable Rights” if there is no Natural Law, since reason alone cannot make them inviolable? (Page 26)

In the civil society, the individual is recognized and accepted as more than an abstract statistic or faceless member of some group; rather, he is a unique being with a soul and a conscience. He is free to discover his own potential and pursue his own legitimate interests, tempered, however, by a moral order that has its foundation in faith and guides his life and all human life through the prudent exercise of judgement. (Page 3)

In the civil society, the individual has a duty to respect the unalienable rights of others and the values, customs, and traditions, tried and tested over time and passed from one generation to the next… He is responsible for attending to his own well-being and that of his family. And he has a duty as a citizen to contribute voluntarily to the welfare of his community through good works. (Page 3, all emphasis added.)

Thus, Mr. Levin declares that capitalism cannot be defended rationally—i.e., by means of reason. He reaches this conclusion by means of the back door…he invalidates reason.

Reason cannot, by itself, explain why there is reason. Science cannot, by itself, explain why there is science. Man’s discovery and application of science are products of reason. Nor can religion explain why there is God or a supernatural realm. But no matter. Mr. Levin argues, in essence, that reason is limited, and thus the unalienable rights of man must be taken on faith.

On morality, Mr. Levin simply declares that capitalism has no moral basis whatsoever. The essential nature of capitalism is that it leaves men free to pursue their own self-interest and happiness. Mr. Levin does not condemn this fact as necessarily immoral, but declares that it must be “tempered…by a moral order”…the moral order of altruism. “He has a duty to contribute voluntarily to the welfare of his community through good works.” Note the collectivist strain creeping into his reasoning. What is “the community” as apart from the individual and those that he values? The “good works” are, obviously, not meant to refer to the actions he takes in pursuit of his “legitimate interests”, but to service to the collective.

The twin pillars upon which capitalism stands are individual rights and ethical egoism. Yet reason, he asserts, cannot explain either. Having rejected reason, Mr. Levin can thus evade the vital necessity of building a philosophical foundation for the rest of his book. Rights are a gift of God, and morality is the province of faith, which holds altruism and self-sacrifice to others (“the community”) as unchallengable axioms.

Having established faith as the basis of his Conservative Manifesto, Mr. Levin then slams the mind’s intellectual door shut to any challenge whatsoever.

“In the civil society, the individual has a duty to respect the unalienable rights of others [true] and the values, customs, and traditions, tried and tested over time and passed from one generation to the next, that establish society’s cultural identity.” (Page 3, bold emphasis added.)

The monumentally great achievement of the Founding Fathers in overturning thousands of years of tyrannical subjugation of the individual cannot be overstated. The founding of America is perhaps history’s greatest example of an overturning of “tried and tested” tradition. Yet that greatest of all political achievements had its flaws and contradictions that must be corrected. But the upholding of tradition as an absolute prevents the examination of the flaws and omissions in our Founding documents and in the thinking of the Founders that acted as poison pills that ultimately undermined America. Primary among those flawed “traditions” is the altruist morality, which the Founders inherited by default, even as they signed the document containing the famous words that have as their implicit premise the moral code of rational egoism … the individual’s unalienable right to his own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

These are the fatal flaws of conservatism. When the statist whom Mr. Levin decries claims that rights are an arbitrary construct bestowed on the individual by society as determined by its elected officials, Mr. Levin counters that rights are an arbitrary construct bestowed on the individual by God as determined by whomever claims to speak for Him. When the statist declares that morality is the subjective creation of society, Mr. Levin counters that morality is the subjective creation of a supernatural God. When the statist declares that an ever-expanding welfare state is required to protect society from capitalism’s “excesses”, Mark Levin essentially agrees, countering that capitalistic freedom must be “tempered… by a moral order that has its foundation in faith” and that requires him to contribute voluntarily to the welfare of his community through good works”.

I have no doubt about Mark Levin’s sincere belief in capitalism, individual liberty, and America’s founding principles. But no matter how powerful his rhetoric, an effective and successful campaign for liberty over tyranny must fail as long as he upholds the enemy camp’s altruist premises. The failure to defend individual rights and the moral superiority of capitalism on rational, scientific grounds are and have long been conservatism’s fatal flaws. Those failures have allowed the mantel of reason to fall by default onto the shoulders of the statist.

But those failures needn’t be, because a rational, scientific defense of the morality and validity of individual rights and capitalism has been made. Of this fact, I am certain that Mr. Levin is aware. Omnipresent by omission is the very person that capitalism desperately needs. But nowhere in the book does that person warrant so much as a passing reference. The closest Mr. Levin comes is in a passage on page 26;

Is it possible that there is no Natural [meaning God’s] Law and man can know moral order and unalienable rights from his own reasoning, unaided by the supernatural or God? There are, of course, those who argue the case—including the Atheist and others who attempt to distinguish Natural Law from Devine Providence. (Emphasis added.)

Mr. Levin doesn’t bother to tell us, let alone analyze, “those who argue the case” or of the nature of the case that they argue. He outright refuses to entertain the idea that his passionate call for liberty can be validated by reason. This is rather surprising, since his Christian “tradition” has embedded within it one of history’s strongest advocates of reason, the Aristotelian disciple St. Thomas Aquinas. Yet, blinded by his Christian Faith, and intellectually hamstrung by a ridged refusal to challenge accepted wisdom (tradition); he simply reneges on the two most crucial building blocks without which capitalism and thus liberty must fall; individual rights and morality.

To be continued…

Monday, June 1, 2009

Obama's $2 Trillion Extortion Scheme

When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.
—Thomas Jefferson

A much-ballyhooed commitment to lower the cost of health care was recently offered by groups representing the health care industry. According to the Associated Press:

President Barack Obama's plan to provide medical insurance for all Americans took a big step toward becoming reality Sunday after leaders of the health care industry offered $2 trillion in spending reductions over 10 years to help pay for the program.

Hospitals, insurance companies, drug makers and doctors planned to tell Obama on Monday they'll voluntarily slow their rate increases in coming years in a move that government economists say would create breathing room to help provide health insurance to an estimated 50 million Americans who now go without it.

It requires a monumental act of evasion to believe that there is anything “voluntary” about this agreement. According to the article;

The industry groups are trying to get on the administration bandwagon for expanded coverage now in the hope they can steer Congress away from legislation that would restrict their profitability in future years.

Insurers, for example, want to avoid the creation of a government health plan that would directly compete with them to enroll middle-class workers and their families. Drug makers worry that in the future, new medications might have to pass a cost-benefit test before they can win approval. And hospitals and doctors are concerned the government could dictate what they get paid to care for any patient, not only the elderly and the poor.

Scott Hensley of The Association of Health Care Journalists puts it more to the point:

Nothing like the fear of a government-backed health plan and a determined president to focus the minds of the private health sector on curbing costs.

For a president who made a cottage industry of hope during his campaign, writes Rich Lowry in the New York Post, Obama is benefiting from rank fear in his dealings with potentially recalcitrant business interests, from Chrysler's secured creditors to the health-care industry -- get on board or get run over.

There is a word for this. It is called extortion. It is extortion by our government officials who are sworn to uphold a constitution designed to protect their citizen’s unalienable individual rights to liberty and property. It is extortion against a particular group of citizens whose common attribute is that they provide vital medical services and products. This “big step” is driven by fear…the fear of private citizens of their own government. Now, as our great Founding Father Thomas Jefferson would put it, “there is tyranny”.

So much for the myth of the “power” of big business Goliaths! Once again, we see the naked essence of the sacrificial code of altruism played out on a grand scale in the political arena.

But the danger goes beyond the obvious government extortion. The question arises; how did these groups come to be designated spokespersons for an entire industry? How will individual members of each of the four industry segments be made to comply with the commitment of “a target of a 1.5-percentage-point reduction” per annum? A reduction from what? Who is the omniscient forecaster able to predict the annual price ranges going forward ten years, especially considering the potentially explosive inflationary impact of the Bush-Obama spending spree? What about new industry entrants? Will they be required to meet conditions imposed by this new agreement, for the privilege of opening a business in America?

These and many more questions have not yet been answered. The AP states only; “There's no detail on how the savings pledge would be enforced.”

The unavoidable fact is, there is only one way this can be enforced…by government dictate. It will have to mean explicit price targets…i.e., price controls. To ensure compliance by all members of the health care industry, it will have to mean reorganizing the four segments into government-enforced cartels. This is central planning through the back door. It is privatized socialism. In other words, it is fascism.

Of course, in reality, this plan cannot possibly work. Only total government control…the very eventuality the industry seeks to avoid…can enforce it. Down the road, when the alleged “savings” don’t materialize…and the costs to the government predictably explode out of control, as they always do under any kind of “universal” scheme…it will be declared that “free” enterprise was given one last chance and it had failed. The “solution”, of course, will also be predictable.

There is another disturbing aspect to this whole putrid deal. Is there an element of a sell-out by the industry leaders of their own members and/or of the American people? The Associated Press reports:

A national health care overhaul, including more efforts to control chronic diseases, should benefit health care giant Johnson & Johnson, the head of its comprehensive care business said Tuesday.

The company's broad line of products, many targeting an increasingly old population, put J&J in a unique position, Donald M. Casey Jr. told analysts at the Bank of America and Merrill Lynch 2009 Health Care Conference in New York.

"Because we're so broad-based, we think health care reform and a focus on chronic disease plays right into our strengths," he said.

The Russian Marxist Vladimir Lenin famously quipped, “A capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with”. Rope sales in this recession are booming today. Do the industries that “offered” Obama $2 trillion in “savings” have something in addition to fear as a motive? Perhaps. But more likely, they are taking the destructive pragmatic, short-range path of least resistance.

One thing is certain. When the most prominent victims of an advancing tyranny fail to speak out, for whatever reason, the chances of stopping the onslaught are almost nil. And I do believe that fear is the prime driving force. After all, these same industry groups fought ferociously and successfully to crush Hillarycare in 1993. The awesome power now being wielded by an American president comes at us on multiple fronts; all of it inherited from the build-up of decades of accumulated extra-constitutional laws.

For example, Obama has promised to greatly expand antitrust enforcement against large firms. That unjust, un-American body of laws is specifically designed to hamper and punish economic success, a favorite pastime of the president. Duke University’s director of the Program on Values and Ethics in the Marketplace (VEM), Gary Hull, calls antitrust “immoral because by its nature it punishes businessmen for the alleged crime of being ‘too’ successful”. Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney acknowledges as much, arrogantly declaring; "Look, when you become successful and you have market power, however you define it, you need to pay attention to the rules." Those “rules”, as she calls them, are so vague and arbitrary that virtually every business in the country can be found guilty of something any time a Justice Department lawyer decides to prosecute. New York City lawyer Robert S. Getman calls antitrust a body of “undefined laws” that impose unconstitutional “ex post facto (retroactive) punishments”
that amounts to “ ‘deuces-wild’ legal terrorism”.

Once again, we see Jefferson’s definition of tyranny.

With this kind of Sword of Damocles hanging over America’s health care industry, coupled with the brazenly open threats by our so-called political leaders, industry leaders are effectively silenced. A certain amount of moral guilt must accrue to business leaders for not speaking out in opposition to Obama. After all, free speech is still legal in this country. But the pressure of their own government’s threats to “get on board or get run over” was just too much for a philosophically blind, pragmatic group of businessmen to overcome.

So, in answer to the title question above, the answer is clear. What President Barack Obama hailed as "a watershed event" was coerced out of private industry by brute governmental threats. I doubt that most Americans understand the gravity and enormity of the shift away from the rule of law that has taken place over the past year under two administrations, which is now accelerating. It remains to be seen whether the American people, if and when they discover it, will tolerate this power grab…or whether it will be too late.

Obama’s $2 trillion extortion scheme is yet another event straight out of Atlas Shrugged. To paraphrase Dagny Taggart in Atlas Shrugged:

“I came here to tell you about the social program, the political system and the moral philosophy under which you are now living.

“I have come here to tell you the truth about it.

“It was the blackmail threat of a government takeover of their livelihoods that forced the health care industry to sign over the $2 trillion Gift Certificate. It was blackmail—blackmail by your government officials, by your rulers, by your—”

The parallels to Atlas Shrugged just keep multiplying.