Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lessons from the Recent Elections

The dominant philosophy of our culture, pragmatism, has resulted in a short term-oriented focus on concrete issues, at the expense of broad abstract principles. The casualty has been a subject that is desperately needed today – political philosophy, or the application of principles to politics. Without political philosophy, there would be no United States of America. The Founding Fathers were intellectuals who took ideas very seriously, and so were able to study history and the Enlightenment thinkers like John Locke and apply its lessons to their work in creating this nation. It is only through philosophy that one can bridge the gap between history’s civilizations that are vastly different in concrete terms, and learn from them. It is by virtue of the abandonment of a belief in principles as a practical guide that America is sliding along a path toward statism, despite the ominous parallels to the lessons of past society’s slide into dictatorship and destruction that history screams out to us.

One of the fundamental concerns of political philosophy, and of the Founders, is the proper role and nature of government.

A Washington Post column by liberal Obama media field general E.J. Dionne, entitled On Election Day, a win for Government, is very interesting both for what it omits, what it assumes as the given, and the lessons it teaches. I addressed one of the key issues that Mr. Dionne deliberately omits (or evades) in my posted comments to the article. Mr. Dionne begins his article with:

"Here's a story you may have missed because it flies in the face of the dreary conventional wisdom: When advocates of public programs take on the right-wing anti-government crowd directly, the government-haters lose."

And here is my published response:

One of the gimmicks statists use to promote their authoritarian agenda is to frame the important issue of the role of government as ... for or against. Thus we get catch phrases such as “the right-wing anti-government crowd”.

Of course, what today passes for the “Right” is a diverse array of frequently antagonistic elements such as Conservatives, Libertarians, and Religious Rightists. But that aside, the purpose of painting anyone who advocates any rollbacks or even restrictions on the further expansion of government power as “anti-government” is to obliterate any acknowledgement of the proper purpose and limits of government. So let’s get some clarification here.

A government is a unique institution. It and it alone possesses a monopoly on the legal use of physical force. This is as it should and must be. The apprehension and prosecution of domestic criminals and the protection of the nation from foreign military aggressors is the job of government (among certain other functions relating to human association), and that requires the organized use of force. No civilized society can exist without a government. Without government, society would quickly degenerate into mob rule and chaos. Government is a necessary good.

At the same time, government’s status as a vehicle of physical coercion also makes it the gravest threat to its citizens. To alleviate that potential threat, a government must be strictly contained, or limited. What standard defines the nature of those limits? The principle of inalienable individual rights. What is the method for implementing those limits? A constitution. This is the original American system. Rights, it should be remembered, are a guarantee and a sanction for freedom of action within the context of social organization (such as the right to freedom of speech, religious practice, and the earning and use of property). Rights are not an automatic entitlement to “home nurse visits” or any other product or service that must be provided by others.

So the choice is not, as Mr. Dionne suggests, between pro- and anti-government positions; or between a government of unlimited powers and anarchy. The choice is between a government limited to the protection of the rights of its citizens and a predatory government that is a tool of any political party, special interest pressure group, or voting block to be used to extract economic privileges at the expense of the rights and property of others.

The “win for government” is a loss for the revolutionary American system. Our nation - which was founded upon the principles of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government – has degenerated into a chaotic political free-for-all of power-seekers competing for temporary control of the reigns of government’s unique powers of legalized coercion. The winner is any one or group laying temporary claim to the title of representative of that mystical historical siren song of all those who seek forcible domination over the lives, property, and productive work of others … the common good.

Today, the role of our government is being progressively inverted. Instead of protecting our lives, freedom, and property, it has become a major violator of our rights. Instead of protecting us from criminals, it is increasingly using its unique powers for what amounts to legalized criminal activities. I submit into evidence the former Bush Administration and the current runaway statism of the Obama Administration – especially the 2000 page House blueprint for totalitarian control of American medicine.

Growing government power and the consequent loss of individual liberty is a trend that has been going on for more than a century in America. Today, our government is breaking free of all constraints of the constitution and the rule of objective law. If not reversed, the consequences will be dire. Americans desperately need to rediscover the principles of individual rights and the proper role of government.

What Mr. Dionne and the “left-wing pro-government crowd” (to adopt his catchphrase) want us to accept as the unchallengeable given is all of the functions that government has heretofore improperly arrogated to itself, at the expense of the private sector. Mr. Dionne explains:

[The anti-government crowd] lost in part because opponents of the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights measures (known as TABOR) did something that happens too rarely in the national debate: They made a case for what government does, why it's important and why cutbacks in public services can be harmful to citizens and the common good.

In Maine, one ad featured several taxpayers warning about what less government would mean in practice: "Our school budgets have already been cut. This would mean even less money for our classrooms. . . . Community health centers could be cut. People rely on them, especially now." A sympathetic-looking man then appeared on the screen to add: "My wife relies on our home nurse visits. What will we do?"

Nor was the anti-TABOR campaign confined to what individuals get out of government. Another ad highlighted the larger social and economic impact of public education. "Without strong public schools, our kids won't be prepared for good jobs," the announcer said. "Maine's future could be in doubt."

Notice that what Mr. Dionne and the anti-TABOR forces are counting on is for the voters to protect that which they have already become dependent upon government for. Based upon the vote margins, that strategy worked beautifully, at least in the liberal states of Washington and Maine. And that is precisely the danger. The more dependent private citizens become on the rights-violating government programs, the less will people have to fight for their own freedom by voting for rollbacks of government power. Embodied in Mr. Dionne’s article is a dramatic concretization of the abstract fable relayed by Dr. Evan Madianos on 8/27/09.

And this is and has been the implicit strategy of the statists/collectivists to bring socialism to America, without openly advocating that thoroughly discredited ideology. It is a continuing trend; its momentum carried forward not only by the Left but, sadly, by conservatives and alleged “Rightists” as well. Mr. Dionne notes that:

"Opposition to these measures went well beyond the ranks of ideological liberals. Recall that on the same day that Maine rejected TABOR, it also rejected gay marriage. In Lewiston, a socially conservative working-class city, 59 percent voted against gay marriage -- but 58 percent also opposed TABOR.."

Mr. Dionne apparently sees a contradiction there. But, in fact, Lewiston voted against individual rights on both counts. So much for the idea that conservatism necessarily stands for individual rights. Conservative or liberal, too many people are willing to reject any attempt to cut their socialism. This fact is readily exploited to advance the next government program. Just in the past decade, and using existing government programs as a precedent, we have seen the bipartisan expansion of Medicare, SCHIP, educational control (via funding increases) of pre-school and college, government control of home mortgage and finance, etc.

There is no mystery behind the seemingly inexorable statist trend that just keeps going, like the Energizer Bunny, through both liberal and conservative political seasons.

The crucial lesson for pro-freedom forces to learn here is the incredible importance of explicitly naming one’s principles and then applying them consistently. It’s not enough to fight for some vague notion of “smaller government”. One must be courageously willing to challenge the moral validity of compulsory public education (government-run schools), government-funded Community health centers and home nurse visits, etc., etc., etc.

(This does not mean that one must necessarily forego the use of the government services one opposes. When one is unjustly forced to pay for something one concienciously objects to, one is nonetheless entitled to its use, even while fighting to abolish it. This is not hypocritical, and one must not be cowed by those who hurl that accusation. This is a rather complex issue, and refusing to partake of some government program on principle, despite taxes paid and if one can afford it, is always commendable. I anticipate having to defend myself when I sign up for Social Security and Medicare, despite having consistently opposed both programs on principle since the mid sixties, and I will do so vigorously)

These and a myriad of other similar government functions are all based on the premise that there is a “common good” that exists apart from the good or interests of “individual citizens”. There is never any definition of what is actually meant by the common good, or why some government program must be forced upon everyone based upon that vague catchphrase.

Strictly speaking, only if some function is voluntarily accepted as good by every single citizen can it be said to be in the common good. That being the case, if everyone agrees, there ceases to be any need or reason for government to violate the rights of its citizens by imposing that particular function. If a single citizen (or more) believes that some alleged common good imposed by governmental force is harmful to himself, then the good ceases to be “common” and instead becomes a special privilege bestowed on some at the expense of one or more others.

The “common good” argument, as I pointed out in my posted comments cited above, has become nothing more than the rationalization to protect existing illegitimate government powers and to justify further expansions of coercive government interference into our lives. There is, in fact, just one fundamental common good – the abolition of physical force from human relationships … i.e., the recognition and protection of individual rights. All else that concerns societal organization flows from, and must be subordinated to, that principle. As Ayn Rand explains in her important essay The Nature of Government:

Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment. [Note: Fraud, breech of contract, and the like would fit under the principle of the initiation of physical force because they separate a party from their property or interests against their will.]

The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships—thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement.

The necessary consequence of man’s right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative.

If physical force is to be barred from social relationships, men need an institution charged with the task of protecting their rights under an objective code of rules.

This is the task of a government—of a proper government—its basic task, its only moral justification and the reason why men do need a government.

A government is the means of placing the retaliatory use of physical force under objective control—i.e., under objectively defined laws. (Emphasis is Rand’s.)

Though Mr. Dionne trumpets the twin defeats of the TABOR referendums as a “win for government”, the truth is not quite that simple. It may be, but until and unless the voters are offered a real alternative – i.e., a principled moral, philosophical, and practical defense of freedom – we’ll never really know for sure.

One thing that is for sure: The principles of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting republican government have no major political party sponsorship. That is the province of political philosophy, and that is what is desperately needed today. The E.J. Dionnes of the world need to be made to face the issues squarely and honestly, rather than being allowed to dance around the issues at will. Their free philosophical pass must end.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Heller Book Review - or Rand Hatchet Job? - @ Barnes and Noble

Barnes & Noble has chosen a professor of philosophy at London University to review one of the new biographies on Ayn Rand. Entitled The Thinking Read, by A.C. Grayling, I have to wonder just what B & N was thinking in choosing this reviewer. Grayling's essay, as I state below, "seems less ... a review than a polemical springboard for attacks on Ayn Rand and capitalism."

The subject of this review is Ayn Rand and the World She Made By Anne C. Heller. Interestingly, Ms. Heller appeared at a symposium on Ayn Rand sponsored by the Libertarian CATO Institute. In answer to a questioner, she said: "It's the rare book reviewer who understands Rand".

Grayling's "review" is so biased and dishonest and full of holes that it can only be described as a propaganda piece by a Rand hater. The reader will gain no incite into the book itself. Whatever the book's merits or demerits, Grayling has done an injustice to Ann C. Heller by using her work to produce a rant against Rand and capitalism.

Ms. Heller was being generous in her use of the term "understands". In many cases, I have found, reviewers who should, and probably do, know better simply distort Rand's ideas or substitute outright fabrications for her thought. Mr. Grayling certainly fits this discription. After all, he himself is a philosopher. It's hard to imagine that he can be so utterly clueless on the philosophy of a woman who is the subject of one of his essays.

Ignorance can not possibly explain Grayling's unjust diatribe.

Here is my review of A. C. Grayling's review:, posted at

by MikeZemack on 10-30-2009 05:51 PM.

I must begin by pointing out that Professor A. C. Grayling seemingly establishes his Marxist credentials early on, with this apparent criticism of Ayn Rand:

“She attacked those who located the basis of rights in need rather than achievement; for her this was to stand both reason and morality on their heads.”

“From each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, said Karl Marx. Indeed, she did attack that insidious principle, dramatized in the saga of a large industrial concern portrayed in Atlas Shrugged. (I must point out, though, that achievement – i.e., productive work - is recognized by Rand as the source of property rights. The fundamental source of individual rights is to be found in man’s nature as a reasoning being and the consequent social requirements for his mode of survival. This is but one of a myriad of examples of intellectual sloppiness in this piece.) Though he doesn’t specifically endorse Marx’s view, the flow of the entire essay validates the assumption that he agrees with “those” that “she attacked”. The above quote is the tip-off, I believe. This points to a possible hidden agenda. More on that later.

As a long time admirer and student of Ayn Rand - and as an Objectivist husband, father, and grandfather who lives by that philosophy – I can most emphatically say that I do not recognize the portrayal of Ayn Rand’s ideas or of her philosophy of Objectivism presented here. But then, an accurate exploration of her philosophy is apparently not A. C. Grayling’s intention. He makes this plain early on with this escape clause:

“The close identification of these ideas with Ayn Rand's name shows how intimately her life and thought were one thing. A biography of Rand therefore has to consist largely in an exposition of her philosophy and an exploration of its effects on her personal life and those around her.”

In other words, he openly employs the fallacy of ad hominem. But no matter how one cuts it, a critique of a philosopher’s personal life is not a critique of his philosophy, regardless of how strictly he adheres to it (or not) in his own life. An examination of Rand's personal life is a valid undertaking, of course. But it does not and can not pinch-hit for a critique of Objectivism, which seems to be his primary motive. I am not in a position to discuss Rand’s personal life, which are outside the scope of my current knowledge. Objectivism, however, is not. Though it is Rand’s monumental intellectual achievement, Objectivism is not “about” Ayn Rand. Mr. Grayling apparently cherry-picks from Ms. Heller’s biographical study a host of Rand’s personal failings, real or imagined, and constructs from that an ethical straw man that is alien to the true Objectivist ethics.

Mr. Grayling’s assertion of an “intimate” linkage between “her life and thought” as a justification for his ad hominem tactics is nothing more than a clever rationalization for evasion. The inaccuracies and even irrelevancies evident here are too numerous to rebut in a single commentary. But there are a few that stand out.

Mr. Grayling’s portrayal of Rand’s ethical views closely resembles Nietzsche’s predatory individualism, not her concept of rational egoism. Rand defines individualism as follows:

“Individualism regards man—every man—as an independent, sovereign entity who possesses an inalienable right to his own life, a right derived from his nature as a rational being.

“Do not make the mistake of the ignorant who think that an individualist is a man who says: ‘I’ll do as I please at everybody else’s expense.’ An individualist is a man who recognizes the inalienable individual rights of man—his own and those of others.

“An individualist is a man who says: ‘I will not run anyone’s life—nor let anyone run mine. I will not rule nor be ruled. I will not be a master nor a slave. I will not sacrifice myself to anyone—nor sacrifice anyone to myself.’ ”
(From the Ayn Rand Lexicon. Though not a substitute for in-depth study, the Lexicon is a good shortcut to Ayn Rand’s thought on many subjects.)

The heroes in her novels, both male and female, are just such individuals. I question whether he ever actually read We the Living, The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged.

What is so repulsive about respecting and defending the moral right of each individual human being to his own life and the freedom to pursue his own goals, values, and happiness? How does that transmute into callous disregard for one’s fellow man? What long-term value does any rational person gain from that? What happens to the “small guy” in a rightless society? Just look at the results of the first nation, the United States of America, created on the premise that “the individual must stand alone or starve to death” … i.e., the premise of the unalienable and equal rights of the individual. The result was an unprecedented and unimaginable explosion of progress and prosperity and a stark demonstration of the fact that there are no “small guys” in a free society where rights are protected equally and at all times. Would the alternative be good? What are the results when the individual is forbidden to “stand alone”? Look to humanity’s bloody tribal history, and especially the collectivist hellholes of the 20th century, for the answer to that question. The “callousness of the jungle” is exactly what you get when need is a moral justification and license for human predation and exploitation, rather than a spur to productive achievement, trade, and self-improvement.

Mr. Grayling’s desperate and unjust attempt to frame the issue is clearly exposed with his quote that equates Ayn Rand’s concept of the rational egoist with someone who would “rush out of a burning building and leave a helpless child behind”, as if stepping up in a disaster is incompatible with one’s pursuit of happiness! This is a slap not only at Rand but also at the Founding Fathers of this great nation who, like Rand, saw their fellow men as individuals capable of self-determination under a rights-protecting government, rather than as helpless “small guys” in need of the “protection” and guidance of a benevolent authoritarian state. Mr. Grayling fears that the individual can’t “stand alone” without starving. (Or perhaps he fears that when the individual stands alone, he won’t starve. Then what will the philosopher-kings do with themselves?)

Of course, “standing alone” is a straw man. Egoism does not mean isolationism. Human interaction is enormously beneficial. Romantic relationships, friendships, and trade in a free market are all life-enhancing values and fully consistent with rational selfishness, as is charitable compassion and voluntary assistance to people and causes one values. Objectivism is a philosophy for the individual which is geared to normative living – a moral guide to the achievement of a fulfilling life and to proper (i.e., mutually respectful and beneficial) relationships with others.

Throughout this essay, Mr. Grayling systematically constructs a picture that bears no resemblance to Rand’s strong and benevolent ethical theories. In fact, Ms. Heller’s book seems less the subject of a review than a polemical springboard for attacks on Ayn Rand and capitalism. Perhaps the connection of the two is a clue to Mr. Grayling’s motives.

He ignores the central theme of Rand’s principle work Atlas Shrugged - the role of reason in man’s existence and the freedom that the individual rational mind requires. Instead, he tries to define the novel by reference to a few non-essentials … and he doesn’t even get those right … so here’s some clarification. He refers to John Galt as “a businessman”, when in fact he is an innovative young engineer – and not even the head engineer – employed by a large industrial concern. Despite modest means, Galt quits to lead a principled fight against collectivist injustice. The independent “men of the mind”, as Galt calls them, are “taken along” from all walks of life, not just “the business community”. The heroes of the novel who join Galt in the “hidden valley” do represent the top talent in their respective fields. But more broadly, they symbolize the thinking human being of action and purpose on any level of ability. The rebellion is not merely against “regulations that impede getting rich” but against force that impedes the individual’s exercise of his means of survival, his rational faculty. The story dramatizes what happens to a society in which people are no longer free to think and act according to their own judgement in pursuit of self-betterment.

Similarly, Mr. Grayling rails against capitalism, employing the usual false smear tactics. For example, he ascribes to capitalism the creation of child labor, despite the historical fact that child labor was a left-over remnant of Feudalism which, over time, was eliminated thanks to the rising productivity enabled by capitalistic freedom. He also throws in the modern straw man of the anti-free market crowd, blaming the recent financial meltdown on capitalism rather than the real culprit, massive government economic intervention. These are “just two of a million examples” (to paraphrase Mr. Grayling) of capitalism being blamed for problems it didn’t create.

Mr. Grayling’s motives become clearer under cover of his praise for “her opposition to the use of force in world affairs” which “merits applause”. This is both misleading and incomplete and, perhaps, is intended to steer the reader away from the implications of a key principle of Rand’s thought. Rand was not a pacifist. She strongly upheld the right of any legitimate (predominantly free) nation to militarily defend itself against international aggressors. But more precisely, she opposed the initiation of force - not only by one nation against another - but also domestically, by government against its own citizens. She understood the connection between a nation that militarily violates the territorial integrity of other nations, and an authoritarian government that violates the rights of its own people - through, for example, systematic violations of property rights, non-objective law, political prosecutions, confiscatory taxation and economic controls, and censorship. Mr. Grayling doesn’t bother to address Rand’s true views regarding physical force in human relations, nor tell us why the use of force is bad in the international arena but apparently OK in the domestic one.

But this may be a clue to where Mr. Grayling is coming from.

Capitalism is the social system that abolishes force from human relationships by means of the recognition of individual rights and a government constitutionally limited to their protection – and made possible by America’s founding ideals and the consequent War for Independence. Ayn Rand gave us, through Atlas Shrugged and Objectivism, the philosophical foundation and validation that completes the political revolution of the Founding Fathers. Rand’s formidable moral defense of Capitalism, Americanism, and the rights of the individual entitles her, in my view, to the designation of America’s last Founding Father.

Many of those of the statist/socialist/collectivist persuasion, I think, understand this all to well, and so seek to discredit Ayn Rand in any way they can, but rarely by confronting her actual ideas. We’re seeing plenty of that these days, and the philosopher A. C. Grayling’s twin assaults on Ayn Rand and capitalism is perhaps an indication of his recognition of a key connection between the two - the long-term importance of Ayn Rand and Objectivism to the preservation of free market capitalism. With economics, logic, and history going against them, the Postmodern collectivists must be getting nervous that their last remaining socialist pillar of strength, the altruist trump card, is beginning to crumble. This is the fundamental meaning I draw from this piece (and others like it).

Mr. Grayling’s review essay is so biased, distortive, non-objective and philosophically agenda-driven that it behooves to run a rebuttal review of Ayn Rand and the World She Made as a matter of balance and fairness, perhaps by an Objectivist intellectual from the Ayn Rand Institute. I don’t know what Mr. Grayling’s analysis says about Ms. Heller’s book that he is reviewing here, since I have not read it myself. But I’d suggest that anyone interested in learning about Ayn Rand’s ideas should read and study her novels and non-fiction works and judge for himself (which requires independent thinking, a cardinal virtue in the Objectivist ethical system).

Monday, November 16, 2009

"Pre-Existing Conditions", and the Solution

One of the problems that is bandied about as a justification for a massive expansion of government involvement in American medicine is the inability of people to get health insurance coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. I addressed this issue in a response to a letter published in the Readers Forum of the NJ Star-Ledger on 11/13/09. Here is the letter and my full comments.

Due to the importance the Democrats place on pre-existing conditions as a reason for their horrendous plans for healthcare, it is very important to understand the causes and the solution. So, I expand on this topic below and offer links to articles that give an excellent overview of this and other problems in the health insurance market.

From Health care reform needed

The argument that a public option in the health care bill will put the private insurance industry at a disadvantage is pure nonsense and runs counter to many American success stories. Neither Fidelity Investments nor Charles Schwab complains that Social Security unfairly competes for 401K business. Nor have FedEx or UPS complained that the U.S. Postal Service presents unfair competition for parcel delivery. Rather, they represent rapidly growing companies that have identified extremely profitable markets that are not being addressed by federal government. Like any successful, privately-held American company, insurance companies can, and will, identify new opportunities once they have addressed their inefficiencies.

The fact remains that catastrophic illness and injury are leading causes of personal bankruptcies in this country. Many hard-working, middle-class families avoid seeking life-saving screening for genetic illnesses out of fear of losing their coverage due to a pre-existing condition. American families are already paying dearly for medical bankruptcies and for delays in diagnosis and treatment.

Health care reform without an affordable public option is no reform at all, and reform without the elimination of pre-existing conditions is just plain criminal.

Enough with the rhetoric. Pass comprehensive health care reform now. America can’t afford the status quo.

Frank J. Rodino, South Orange

Here are my posted comments:

Posted by zemack
November 13, 2009, 7:42PM

Frank J. Rodino of South Orange demands an end to “the rhetoric”. He demands that we “Pass comprehensive health care reform now. America can’t afford the status quo.” But the “rhetoric” boils down to a monumentally important debate – freedom vs. tyranny. He comes down on the side of tyranny. Here’s why. He says:

“Health care reform without an affordable public option is no reform at all, and reform without the elimination of pre-existing conditions is just plain criminal.”

The public option: This is a vehicle for totalitarian control of American medicine, and nothing else. Mr. Rodino’s U.S. Postal Service analogy proves the point. FedEx and UPS are forbidden to compete with the Post Office on most mail delivery. They can only enter the business segment that they are allowed to enter, and that is the aim and the intended end result of a government-run health insurance “option”. With the state plan as a wedge, the government will eventually control all aspects of healthcare, and private insurers will be allowed to operate only around the fringes – just like with Medicare. This can be the only result. No “competition” can possibly exist when one of the “competitors” is literally armed. The public “option” plan can subsidize its premiums by collecting whatever revenues it needs at the point of a gun (taxes) and can impose price controls on providers, all the while regulating its private “competition” to death. To believe that there can be competition between a government plan and private business is to see no difference between an armed mugger and his victims. To support a public option is to support the end of a big chunk of our freedom.

Pre-Existing Conditions: What’s criminal is for the government of a supposedly free country to force insurance companies to sell policies to people with pre-existing conditions. The purpose of insurance is to protect the insured against unforeseen financial hazards. To say that a person should be able to simply walk into an insurance company office and demand that they pay his medical expenses after having failed to protect himself with a prior insurance contract is legalized looting. Freedom of association is a basic unalienable human right and is integral to American principles, and freedom of contract is a part of that. A contractual agreement such as health insurance must be mutually voluntary, or no contract takes place. No one should lose their rights and equal protection under the law by having contractual terms imposed on him, simply because he is in the insurance business. A health insurance company has a moral right to exclude pre-existing conditions in its policies, or charge higher rates for that coverage. Legally forcing insurers to cover pre-existing conditions is to use private companies as a conduit for government welfare-state policies, which is socialism through the back door of fascism.

Having said that, we must acknowledge that there are many people who, through no fault of their own, are left without health insurance and unable to purchase new policies because of pre-existing conditions, despite having had prior insurance. They are victims, but not of insurance companies. They are victims of a government that, through regulatory and tax policies, imposed a system that tied our health insurance to our jobs (the third-party-payer system). This should end, and people should be free to use their healthcare dollars to buy insurance directly. In short, we need a free health insurance market with no government-imposed mandates. There is a reason why you don’t lose your auto, home, life, umbrella liability, or other types of insurance when you lose or change jobs: You own your policy.

In a free market, to use Mr. Rodino’s own phrase: “Like any successful, privately-held American company, insurance companies can, and will, identify new opportunities once they have addressed their inefficiencies.” The problem of pre-existing conditions, like all of the others problems in healthcare, is mostly a government-created problem that can be ended through free market, rights upholding reforms. Freed of oppressive government tax distortions, mandates, and barriers to interstate competition, the health insurance industry can and will develop solutions to the problems we now have as they compete directly for the healthcare consumers’ dollar in the rough and tumble individual market. For example, health insurance policies would be sold with guaranteed renewable riders, just like term life insurance. You could see other innovations, such as right-to-future-insurance coverage, which would guarantee future coverage for pre-existing conditions should you require a change in policies (UnitedHealth already does this. (See John H. Cochrane, professor of finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.)
Where there are problems, and entrepreneurial businessmen and individuals are free to act upon their own judgement in their own self-interest, solutions can (and do) come from unforeseen ideas and sources.

Don’t buy the political statists’ scare talk about being “at the mercy of insurance companies”. Every advancing dictatorship needs scapegoats and villains, and the insurance industry currently fills that role for those who seek totalitarian powers over our healthcare. Instead, be very scared about sacrificing our basic American individual rights and personal responsibility to government control.

And don’t buy the claptrap about the current congressional bills being “reform”. They are no such thing. They are nothing more than an attempt to “fix” the problems caused by government, with more government. The current “reform” efforts are just another step on the road to totalitarian socialism that began with Social Security. We need the freedom of contract between providers, healthcare consumers, patients, and insurers that only a free market can provide. We need a return to individual rights and a government that protects, rather than violates, our rights.

Another reason why some people can't buy health insurance if they have pre-existing conditions is because some states, like New Jersey, forbid insurers from selling policies that exclude them. So, instead of being able to buy a policy that excludes the pre-existing condition (or places a grace period after which the condition becomes coverable) but that covers everything else, a person ends up unable to buy any insurance!

But as I mentioned in my Forum response to Mr. Rodino, a free market frees up people to seek solutions. All unfilled needs and desires represent market opportunities, but people need the freedom of capitalism to act upon them. Central planning government bureaucracies in effect represent a moratorium on private brains, forbiding the free market's intellectual division of labor from functioning. Profit-seeking private companies seek customers, from which profits come. But they need the freedom to act upon their own judgement, as do the customers they compete for. This is not an iron-clad guarantee that everyone will be able to get insured. People must take personal responsibility, and buy insurance protection before they need it. But even here, the option to buy coverage, at a price high enough to make it worthwhile for the insurer, would likely make even that person insurable.

But as I said above, the problem of pre-existing conditions is a government-created problem. We needn't sacrifice our freedom to solve it. Here are two more articles, in addition to Mr. Cochrane's, that address this issue:

Restore Free Market to Address Pre-existing Conditions, by Linn and Ari Armstrong

In a wide-ranging article in The Objective Standard entitled How the Freedom to Contract Protects Insurability, Dr. Paul Hsieh shows how freedom can produce the most unlikely and original solutions:

"In a free market, profit-seeking businessmen would likely sell insurance coverage to individuals with preexisting conditions for an appropriate price, just as they would seek to meet substantial demand for any service if profitable. However, in the unlikely event that some individuals sought to purchase a policy that covered preexisting conditions, and no insurer would sell them such a policy, they would still have a viable alternative. They would be free to form their own risk pool with other like-minded individuals willing to share those risks. They would be free to create their own insurance company.

"In fact, many Americans have already formed private pools in which members voluntarily share each other’s health-care costs. For instance, more than 100,000 American Christians are members of “health-care sharing ministries”—arrangements whereby members pay a monthly fee to the ministries, which in turn distribute that money to other members facing expensive medical bills. Such groups typically accept members who meet certain religious and lifestyle requirements regardless of preexisting medical conditions.4

"Unfortunately, these health-care sharing ministries currently cannot guarantee payments to their members, because the government would then treat them as insurance companies5 and subject them to myriad onerous state and federal regulations that specify what prices they may charge, what benefits they must offer, and which customers they must accept.6 The only thing preventing individuals from creating their own contractually binding risk pools today is the government."
(Emphasis added.)

Once again, the government. Everywhere one looks, one sees government interference causing problems, yet the politicians will not be honest enough to question their own policies. They simply will not relinquish the power they have already accumulated. Instead, they seek to build on that power as a solution to the problems they already caused.

But as Ronald Reagan famously said:

In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.

And freedom is the solution.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The First Amendment vs Antitrust

The statism of the Obama democrats is in full swing, and nowhere is this more evident than in their multi-pronged attack on America’s crucial First Amendment rights. Many of the attacks are coming in stealth form, under cover of seemingly unrelated issues, and always through illegitimate powers already appropriated by government - for example, its economic regulatory powers.

On October 12, 2009, the health insurance trade group America's Health Insurance Plans released “a report warning that the typical family premium in 2019 could cost $4,000 more than projected”, according to the Washington Post. The Post stated:

"The report makes clear that several major provisions in the current legislative proposal will cause health care costs to increase far faster and higher than they would under the current system," Karen Ignagni, AHIP's president and chief executive, wrote to board members Sunday. "Between 2010 and 2019 the cumulative increases in the cost of a typical family policy under this reform proposal will be approximately $20,700 more than it would be under the current system."

Industry officials said they intend to circulate the report prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers on Capitol Hill and promote it in new advertisements. That could complicate Democratic hopes for action on the legislation this week.

Angry reaction from the democrats was swift.

Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy convened a hearing on a bill to remove the industry’s anti-trust exemption.

“The health insurance’s antitrust exemption is one of the worst accidents of American history. It is time to end this special status and bring true competition to the health insurance industry”, said Sen. Chuck Schumer with a straight face. He apparently forgot that it is the government’s own policies that forbid competition.

“It’s something that should have been done a long time ago,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.

"It is clear where the problem has been. It is absolutely clear that it is an unsustainable situation as we go forward, and it is well known to the public that the health insurance companies are the problem,” chimed in Nancy Palosi.

“[T]he push by Reid and Schumer signals that Democrats are planning to intensify their efforts to paint insurance companies as the villains in the health reform fight…,” reports Politico. “[T]he push [to end the antitrust exemption] is likely to gather momentum as Democrats try to find a way to lash back at the insurance industry — whose report was viewed as a last-minute attempt to scuttle health care reform…”

President Barack Obama noted that insurers are "earning these profits and bonuses while enjoying a privileged exception from our antitrust laws, a matter that Congress is rightfully reviewing."

It’s obvious why the insurers are being punished. They exercised their First Amendment rights. To be sure, the AHIP is trying to straddle both sides of the political fence … first making a deal to collect customers by government decree (mandatory health insurance), then attacking the Finance Committee bill because it does not do “enough to draw young, healthy people into the insurance risk pool by postponing and reducing penalties on people who do not sign up for health insurance”. But the broader issue is a very ominous one.

Antitrust is a body of non-objective, contradictory, and arbitrary laws that embody a legal category that has no place in a free society … economic crime where no one’s rights have been violated. They are unevenly applied (as the insurance industry exemption shows) and based upon vague, unprovable, undefinable, contradictory, and thus impossible-to-defend-against terms like “intent to monopolize”, “restraint of trade”, “anti-competitive practices”, etc. In essence, a business and its corporate officers can and are prosecuted, fined, and even jailed for engaging in the very economic activities that lead to a successful, profitable company … i.e., they can be legally punished for their virtues.

Under antitrust, every business in America is at any given time in violation of some antitrust statute. If a company charges prices that are deemed too high, it can be prosecuted for “price gouging”; too low, for engaging in “predatory pricing”; the same as competitors, for “collusion” or “price fixing”. If a company pursues a long term strategy that enables it to cash in on market opportunities as they arise, such as maintaining a cutting edge research department, diversification in its field, or ample manufacturing capacity to meet projected future demand, it can be charged with “intent to monopolize”. If a company gains too big a market share, it can be charged with “monopolization” (as Microsoft was under the Clinton administration). But if it forms market-sharing agreements with competitors, so as not to run afoul of “anti-monopoly” statutes, it is “carving up markets”, as House Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers complains.

(For an in-depth look at the nature of Antitrust and non-objective law in general, see The Abolition of Antitrust
by Gary Hull and "Humanity's Darkest Evil": The Lethal Destructiveness of Non-Objective Law by Tara Smith in Essays on Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, Chapter 18. Also see Steve Forbes, Who Needs Antitrust? We Don't.)

The determination of who is in violation of antitrust statutes, and when, is left up to the sole discretion of bureaucrats, prosecutors, and ultimately judges. Thus, no business can know for sure in advance when it is in violation or compliance, which is contrary to the objective legal principles which are so vital to maintaining “a country of laws and not of men” … i.e., a free society.

“We’re after power and we mean it. … There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kinds of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted, - and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt.”

Harry Reid? Nancy Pelosi? Chuck Schumer? Nope. That was Dr. Floyd Ferris of the State Science Institute, employing implied threats for the purpose of trying to coerce a leading American industrialist (Atlas Shrugged, page 436). But it could have been Reid, Pelosi, or any politician in Washington. Is Ferris’ statement an exaggeration? Think of the nature of the laws that are now being used as a club against a group of American citizens whose only “crime” is to speak out on an issue that directly affects their business. Think of the fact that the fate of nearly 1/6th of the US economy, not to mention our very medical freedom, is at stake in the current debate over the democrats’ plans for “healthcare reform.”

Make no mistake, they’re after power and they mean it.

Because the antitrust laws are so arbitrary, they represent a source of constant fear for businessmen and thus political leverage for politicians who can (and do) use the threat of enforcement as a means of control. The democrats’ threat to the insurance industry of the removal of the “privilege” of being free from unjust laws in retaliation for the exercise of its First Amendment free speech rights is a dramatic concrete example of the fundamental truth that “political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom”.

Friday, November 6, 2009

"Tear Down This Wall"

Shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 brought communism to power in Russia, a 13 year old girl named Alisa Zinov'yevna Rosenbaum watched in horror and anger as soldiers broke into her father’s prosperous small St. Petersburg business, hung a red seal on the door, and stole his business - nationalized in the name of “the people”.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States of America.

On November 9, 1989, a little more than two years after President Reagan issued his famous demand in a speech at the Brandenburg Gate – “Mr. Gorbachev … Tear down this Wall” - the Berlin Wall fell.

What binds these three events together? As we mark the 20th anniversary of this momentous event, the symbol of the collapse of totalitarian communism, it is worth remembering not only because it marked the end of the world’s most savage regime, but also for the cause of the Soviet Empire’s collapse.

For decades, the Soviet Union was seen as a powerful adversary for the West, economically, ideologically, and militarily. Consequently the West, lead by the United States, followed a policy of cooperation and “trade”, or “building bridges”, with the Soviets. At the same time, the United States pursued a military policy called “Mutually Assured Destruction” (MAD), which consisted of building and maintaining a nuclear arsenal sufficiently strong to enable a retaliatory attack that would demolish the Soviet Union should they attack first.

Very few people of either major American political party, or among America’s allies in Europe, Asia, or the Western Hemisphere (who benefited from its protective nuclear “umbrella”), doubted the inherent strengths of the Soviet Union. The Cold War was here to stay, the consensus held, so we just have to get along as best we could. One of those few who bucked the consensus view was Ronald Reagan.

In his book Reagan’s War, Peter Schweizer documents Reagan’s long-held conviction, dating back to the 1950s, that the Cold War was winnable based upon communism’s inherent weaknesses. Those weaknesses stemmed from the lack of individual freedom, which made it impossible for the Soviets to compete with the United States either militarily or economically, if only the West would stop propping them up with its policies. Former Nixon national security adviser Richard Allen recalls a 1978 discussion in which Reagan told him, “My idea of American policy toward the Soviet Union is simple … We win and they lose.” (page 106)

Ronald Reagan got at least one big thing right. He recognized that the Soviet Communist Empire was an economic house of cards propped up only by the West. But he not only understood their economic weakness, but their ideological weakness as well. “Reagan knew that ideas reinforced the bricks and mortar that held up the Iron Curtain. And he already knew that when he attacked the legitimacy of communism, it set off aftershocks inside the Soviet empire” (page 190).

And against almost universal skepticism, opposition, and even hostility, victory is what the president set out to achieve upon taking office in 1981. Reagan understood the power of ideas. Shortly after taking office, he attacked the very moral legitimacy of communism in his famous Evil Empire Speech, in which he declared the Soviet Union to be “the focus of evil in the modern world” … “an evil empire” whose system of communism “is another sad, bizarre chapter in human history whose last pages are even now being written”.

“But his views were … ridiculed by scholars who believed he was fooling himself about the weakness of communism…” Schweizer writes, recounting on page 143 a sampling of opinions that summed up the prevailing conventional wisdom, even of Reagan’s own party:

Seweryn Bialer of Columbia University – “The Soviet Union is not now nor will it be during the next decade in the throes of a true system crisis, for it boasts enormous unused reserves of political and social stability that suffice to endure the deepest difficulties.”

Lester Thurow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology described the Soviet Union as “a country whose economic achievements bear comparison with those of the United States [and that] it is a vulgar mistake to think that most people in Eastern Europe are miserable.”

“John Kenneth Galbraith of Harvard concluded as late as 1984 that ‘the Russian system succeeds because, in contrast to the Western industrial economies, it makes full use of its manpower.’ ”

Historian Arthur Schlesinger returned from a trip to Moscow in 1982 with the declaration “that Reagan’s vision of pushing the Kremlin over the brink was nonsense”, denying that 'the Soviet Union is on the verge of economic and social collapse, ready with one small push to go over the brink…' ”

But viewed in full historical context, “one small push” was all it really took to push the mighty Soviet Empire “over the brink”.

The Evil Empire speech electrified dissidents behind the iron curtain and ignited a resistance that would pressure the Soviet system from within, even as Reagan systematically carried out what KGB Deputy Chairman Georgy Tsinov called “an economic war against us” (page 215) from without. The United States’ policies of moral equivalence – “détente” and “peaceful coexistence” – were officially over. As former British Prime Minister and Reagan ally Margaret Thatcher recounted in her eulogy at his funeral:

“Yes, he warned that the Soviet Union had an insatiable drive for military power and territorial expansion, but he also sensed that it was being eaten away by systemic failures impossible to reform.

“So the president resisted Soviet expansion and pressed down on Soviet weakness at every point until the day came when communism began to collapse beneath the combined weight of those pressures and its own failures.”

Eight years after the seizure of her family’s business, Alisa Rosenbaum left Russia for America, never to return. Keeping her original initials, she adopted the name Ayn Rand, and became a novelist and a philosopher. Continuing a line of thought that stretched from Aristotle to Aquinas to Locke to the Founding Fathers, her philosophy upheld the supreme values of reason and individualism. The role of ideas in the progression of human history is a central theme in her work.

Her first novel, We the Living, is a story of three people set in Soviet Russia. It is a moral denunciation not merely of communist totalitarianism, but of the individual life-crushing nature of all tyrannies. In her novelette Anthem, she depicts an extreme world without individualism, in which the word “I” has been banished from society. It was published before George Orwell’s more famous 1984. Like 1984, Anthem has an anti-collectivist, anti-totalitarian theme, but with one crucial difference. Orwell portrayed a technologically advanced totalitarian society in which the state harnesses the power of science to control and enslave its people. Rand considered that a logical impossibility, since she considered reason to be the source of human progress. Since man’s mind, and thus reason, is solely the possession of the individual, freedom is the basic social requirement necessary for man, and a nation, to flourish. In Anthem’s dystopian version of the nightmare totalitarian world in which the individual mind is essentially banned, society has retreated into a primitive world of candles and hand plows.

The role of the mind in man’s existence, and the indispensability of individual freedom to the reasoning mind, is a theme that is fully developed in The Fountainhead and especially Atlas Shrugged. Needless to say, Ayn Rand was one of the lonely voices who believed that Soviet Russia was an ideological and economic house of cards that would collapse of its own weight if Western support were withdrawn. What’s interesting is that Ronald Reagan claimed to be an admirer of Rand (Reagan - A Life in Letters, page 281-282) and is believed to have been influenced to some degree by her. In Letters, Reagan (who was considering a run for president in 1968) acknowledged receipt from a friend (Ampower Corporation president William Vandersteel) of a pamphlet by Ayn Rand entitled Conservatism: An Obituary, in which Vandersteel told Reagan that “Rand argues that many conservatives are opposed to statism but don’t seem to realize the only good alternative is capitalism.”

In this essay, Rand says that the only way to counter Khrushchev’s declaration that communism will “bury you” is with a strong moral and intellectual defense of America and capitalism. Reagan responded to Vandersteel in a letter: “Thanks very much for the pamphlet. Am an admirer of Ayn Rand but hadn’t seen this study.”

This raises an intriguing question. Did Ayn Rand play an indirect part in bringing about the collapse of the Soviet Union?

There is anecdotal evidence to support the possibility that Rand’s long-held and outspoken advocacy of the approach ultimately adopted by Reagan, which is also implicit throughout her written works both fiction and non-fiction, may have had a direct role in the formulation of the president’s convictions.

We know that she and Reagan were on the same intellectual page in regard to Russia. Though an outspoken critique of Reagan (she did not vote for either he or President Carter in 1980), she nonetheless had strong words of support for his policy towards the Soviet Union. In 1981 at Boston’s Ford Hall Forum, where she made frequent appearances, she had this to say about the fledgling administration’s policy in an address entitled The Age of Mediocrity:

“In the field of foreign policy, I like the tone and style of Mr. Reagan’s and Mr. Haig’s statements about Soviet Russia. It was a shocking and wonderful surprise to hear an American president speak of the Soviets as they really are – as a gang of thugs – after hearing the disgraceful appeasement of Russia that has been going on for some 50 years. And observe that the Russians responded by starting to appease America, by asking for a summit meeting to talk things over – which has always been the response of bullies, thugs, and communists at the first sound of a firm statement. But these were merely statements. We have not seen, as yet, any significant actions by the Reagan Administration in foreign affairs. So it is too early to judge.” [Alexander Haig was Reagan’s Secretary of State in 1981.]

Though she did not live long enough to see them, she undoubtedly would have looked favorably upon the general thrust of the actions Reagan was to take. Notice she was already attuned to the nature of the struggle between the two superpowers, noting Russia’s quickness “to appease”.

In addition to his explicit recognition of her, another of the few people who saw things as Rand and Reagan did was Richard Pipes, a Baird Professor of History at Harvard whom Schweizer reports “had arrived at the same conclusions [as Reagan] about the Soviet Union”. Pipes was charged by President Reagan with the task of developing “a detailed plan and strategy” to “weaken the Soviet alliance system by forcing the USSR to bear the brunt of its economic shortcomings”. The result was “a stunning forty-three-page secret paper that largely confirmed what Reagan had been saying for twenty years”. (quotes from pages 155-157) As it turns out, Pipes was familiar with Ayn Rand, citing her work on property rights from Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal in his important book Property and Freedom (page 288).

Both Reagan and Rand battled against communist influence in Hollywood, and both were members of the 1940s Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals, so they undoubtedly knew each other personally. Reagan was a co-founder, and Rand wrote a pamphlet for the Alliance, entitled Screen Guide for Americans.

As members, both testified before the United States House of Representatives' Committee on Un-American Activities (also known as HUAC) – Rand on October 20, 1947, and Reagan three days later. In her testimony, Rand gave a brief but impassioned account of what life is like under a communist regime where individual freedom is non-existent:

Rep. John R. McDowell: You paint a very dismal picture of Russia. You made a great point about the number of children who were unhappy. Doesn't anybody smile in Russia any more?
Rand: Well, if you ask me literally, pretty much no.
McDowell: They don't smile?
Rand: Not quite that way; no. If they do, it is privately and accidentally. Certainly, it is not social. They don't smile in approval of their system.
McDowell: Well, all they do is talk about food.
Rand: That is right.
McDowell: That is a great change from the Russians I have always known, and I have known a lot of them. Don't they do things at all like Americans? Don't they walk across town to visit their mother-in-law or somebody?
Rand: Look, it is very hard to explain. It is almost impossible to convey to a free people what it is like to live in a totalitarian dictatorship. I can tell you a lot of details. I can never completely convince you, because you are free. It is in a way good that you can't even conceive of what it is like. Certainly they have friends and mothers-in-law. They try to live a human life, but you understand it is totally inhuman. Try to imagine what it is like if you are in constant terror from morning till night and at night you are waiting for the doorbell to ring, where you are afraid of anything and everybody, living in a country where human life is nothing, less than nothing, and you know it. You don't know who or when is going to do what to you because you may have friends who spy on you, where there is no law and any rights of any kind.

The central element in Reagan’s view of the inherent weakness of communism, and a recurring theme in his speeches, is the fundamental importance of individual freedom to the economic vitality of a nation – the same view held by Rand. Of course, many people hold to that view. But the state of chronic fear brought to life in Rand’s description is obviously anathema to an economically vibrant society, and it is entirely likely that Reagan heard, in personal conversations, much more from Rand about the stark dismal nature of life inside the Soviet Union. This could only strengthen Reagan’s convictions.

Perhaps the strongest link between Rand and Reagan was a man who was personally close to both, Alan Greenspan. Greenspan was integrally involved in the Reagan administration, and in 1987 was nominated by Reagan to be Federal Reserve Board Chairman. Greenspan was also a part of Ayn Rand’s intellectual inner circle and a close friend. In his memoirs, despite revealing some basic philosophical disagreements with her, he wrote:

“Ayn Rand became a stabilizing force in my life… Ayn Rand and I remained close until she died in 1982, and I’m grateful for the influence she had on my life. I was intellectually limited until I met her.” (pages 51-52)

Of the issue of the Soviet Union, he wrote:

“At the height of Soviet Power, she held that the system was so inherently corrupt that eventually it would collapse from within (page 40).

‘End of the Soviet Union; Gorbachev, Last Soviet Leader, Resigns; U.S. Recognizes Republics’ Independence’ read the headline of the New York Times on December 26 [1991] – I looked at it and felt regret that Ayn Rand hadn’t lived to see it. She and Ronald Reagan had been among the few who had predicted decades before that the USSR would ultimately collapse from within.”
(page 138)

Indeed she did. From at least World War II (and probably sooner), Rand steadfastly opposed “peaceful co-existence”, “détente”, economic trade and other American policies that she believed propped up and gave moral legitimacy to the Soviet Union. On The Tonight Show in 1967, she told Johnny Carson:

“We have nothing to gain by that war and it is draining the country. Therefore, I am enormously opposed to the whole Vietnam mess… I am against the war because … it does not serve any national interest.

“[If] we wanted to save the world from Communism, it’s not necessary to go to war. All we would have to do is stop helping the Communists economically. Stop building bridges to them, which have supported them for fifty years now. Soviet Russia would collapse of its own evil if the semi-free world did not constantly help it.”
(Objectively Speaking, pages 195-196)

To say that Ronald Reagan defeated the “Evil Empire” is not accurate. It is now generally recognized that Soviet Russia was inherently flawed and would have collapsed of its own weight anyway. But when? From the 1920s until the 1980s, thanks to a steady stream of economic support - from loans that were never repaid, to credits, to subsidies, to aid, to trade, to technologies borrowed, copied, and stolen by the Soviets – communism’s failures were papered over. The cost of Western support in terms of human destitution, oppression, mass deaths totaling in the tens of millions, and war causes one’s mind to break down when considering the enormity of the evil that could have been prevented.

Yet only Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, and a few others recognized it. If they had been listened to, how much suffering could have been avoided? How much more suffering would still be going on if not for them? The Soviet Empire could have dragged on for one, two, or more generations with Western support.

It’s now clear that Ronald Reagan hastened the inevitable demise of Soviet communism. Did he act alone, ideologically? Did Ayn Rand – the philosopher who said that “evil is impotent and has no power but that which we let it extort from us” - play a role, possibly a pivotal role, in inspiring Reagan’s policies and actions? The connection between the two is clear, and Reagan’s speeches contain a recognizable element to those of us who are familiar with Rand’s ideas.

But I could not find any evidence of a direct, causal link between Ayn Rand and Ronald Reagan’s adoption of his views and policies. Still, the circumstantial evidence suggests that Ayn Rand’s influence may have been consequential.

Did the young girl who watched her family lose its livelihood and get driven into poverty by the communists ultimately inspire the chain of events that would destroy it? It’s a tantalizing hypothesis and, if true, must be history’s greatest demonstration of the truth of the words of Edward Bulwer-Lytton: The pen is mightier than the sword.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Defeat for Obama

Well, I was a little disappointed in Christie’s margin of victory over Corzine in New Jersey… just four points (49-45%). I hoped for a more decisive thumping. On the other hand, Christie beat an incumbent Democratic governor in what has become a very Democratic state, despite being outspent five to one. More importantly, he beat an opponent who had heavy campaign backing from his party’s biggest guns, with Clinton, Biden, and Obama making regular appearances in the state.

Of course, from a purely ideological perspective, the Christie win is meaningless, at best. Paul Mulshine observes that Christie “managed to get through the entire campaign without taking a single principled stand on a single issue.” As a result, he can claim no mandate “because you can’t win a mandate to do nothing — which is what he promised to do.” I agree. At a crucial time for NJ and the nation, Christie blew a golden opportunity to begin to draw a clear distinction between the GOP and the statist Democrats, which is so urgently needed.

Christie stands for nothing except not being Corzine, so I expect nothing from him save possibly stemming Trenton’s statist tide until the next Dem governor moves in. This is no surprise. It’s classic Republican.

On the broad national level, though, his win may have major positive consequences. Coupled with the huge Republican gubernatorial win in Virginia … McDonnell over Deeds by 20%! … we may have witnessed a significant turning of the tide against the Democrats’ Washington agenda. The twin GOP victories are, I believe, a manifestation of the Tea Party Rebellion. As such, they tie into the bigger picture of steadily rising grassroots resistence to ObamaCare and Obama himself. On this score, this was a very consequential off-year election. Make no mistake, the nervousness of the “moderate” or so-called “Blue Dog” Democrats has ratcheted up several notches. These folks, not the allegedly “obstructionist” Republicans, have been the biggest headache for the Dems’ healthcare agenda.

ObamaCare’s prospects have been eroding for months. Just the latest example is reported, coincidentally, on election day by AP’s David Espo:

“In a blow to the White House, the Senate’s top Democrat signaled Tuesday that Congress may not meet a year-end deadline for passing healthcare legislation, leaving the measure’s fate to the uncertainties of the 2010 election season.

“Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., spoke as Democratic officials said it could be December before Senate debate begins in earnest on the issue atop President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda, months after senior lawmakers and the White House had hoped.

“The drive to pass legislation has been plagued for months by divisions within the party’s rank and file.”

Those divisions are likely to intensify as a result of the election, especially in light of fresh evidence of the continuing deterioration in public support. In the wake of the elections, at least one source is flatly declaring A Deathblow to ObamaCare as Rasmussen reports that Obama’s job approval is down to 46% and Americans now reject ObamaCare by 55-42%.

And no wonder. The sheer insanity of the Democrats is becoming so obvious that a village idiot can now see it. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s latest plan, H.R. 3962, is a 1990 page blueprint for totalitarianism in medicine. David Harsanyi reports over at RealClearPolitics that if this bill were ever to become law, “Washington 'Shall' Control Your Healthcare”. “Shall” is mentioned 3,424 times in the new House Bill. In addition:

“Tax” appears 87 times
“Taxable” 62 times
“Excise tax” 10 times
“Taxes” 15 times
“Fee” 59 times
“Penalty” 113 times
“Require” 118 times
“Must” 58 times

This is called “health care reform”!!!

People are getting wise. With the president having so much political capital invested in the New Jersey and Virginia elections, the GOP victories must be viewed as a major defeat for Obama. Thus, what seemed like a pipe dream last spring is now becoming a realistic possibility – defeating the Dems’ push for socialized medicine despite their total electoral domination of the federal government.

As I said on 11/1/09, this was my reason for my endorsement of Chris Christie.

We shall see.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

In New Jersey, Chris Christie for Governor

On Tuesday, November 3, 2009, I will cast my first ever vote as a newly minted, officially registered political Independent … or, in official jargon, as Unaffiliated with any political party. I will be voting in New Jersey, where Republican Chris Christie is opposing incumbent Democrat governor Jon Corzine. NJ will host one of two gubernatorial elections nationwide. The other is in Virginia.

I hereby endorse, and will be voting for, Chris Christie for New Jersey Governor.

My choice of Christie is not based upon any sort of enthusiasm for the candidate. The reason is simple, and is endemic among modern Republicans – he stands for essentially nothing. NJ Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine gives us a good example of this in a recent piece, N. J.’s Republican legacy leaves Chris Christie on the defensive:

"'We’re gonna have preschool for every child in this state,' Corzine shouted to the party faithful gathered at the headquarters of the United Food and Commercial Workers in Little Falls.

"I’ve already made it clear that I believe Christie has run a dreadful campaign. But let me say something in his defense: Anyone running on the record of the New Jersey Republican Party leadership would have been stuck running a dreadful campaign.

"Take that preschool program. It was initiated not by the Democrats in the Corzine era, but the Republicans in the Whitman era. Right after stating that she ‘got the message’ on property taxes after a close call in the 1997 election, then-Gov. Christie Whitman implemented the first preschool program in a deal with her handpicked Supreme Court chief justice, Deborah Poritz.

"It was the Democrats who got the message, though. Once Whitman was out of power, they knew they could keep expanding the preschool program beyond the 31 ‘special needs’ school districts covered in the court decision. They added more than 100 districts in that new school-funding formula. Yet when Christie states the obvious, that we can’t afford to go through with the preschool expansion, the Corzine crowd issues a press release like the one they put out yesterday. 'Christie would turn his back on more than 8,500 kids across New Jersey,' it stated."

If Christie had established his campaign on a principled base of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting republican government, he could have had the intellectual ammunition to blast the Corzine democrats out of the water. He could have countered that the state had turned its back on the rights of every taxpayer who is forced to pay for the preschool of someone else’s children… including the rights of parents and families who pay the bills for their own children’s preschool. This could have been consistent with the preschool tax credit program for all parents he could have made a part of his campaign platform. Why must he have been “running on the record of the New Jersey Republican Party leadership”?

So, Christie is cut from the same, tired old failed liberal-lite Republican mold – no principles, no firm convictions, no political courage, and no consistent platform that sharply distinguishes him from his openly statist, liberal Democrat opposition. On the issues, his vague incoherent agenda leaves no reason for a pro-freedom American to vote for him.

But there is a very strong reason to vote against Governor Corzine. Actually, there are two. One is his obviously statist, liberal, tax-raising, socialized medicine-advancing record. So, choosing the lessor of two evils, a commonplace tradition in American politics, is a valid reason to vote for Christie. Why vote for Christie, when I refused to vote for McCain last year under similar circumstances? Because, the circumstances are not similar. McCain is a virulent national service proponent, an enemy of the First Amendment and of individual rights, and a national socialist whose basic explicit premises are philosophically no different from Obama’s. Based on what I know of him, Christie appears to hold no firm convictions at all, and so is at least open to be nudged toward the right policy direction. In any event, he may at least be able to stall the statist trend in Trenton, and buy some time for the pro-freedom forces to assert themselves.

But local NJ politics is not the main consideration. Nationally, this year marks a so-called “off-year” election. Occasionally, an off-year election carries significance well beyond the local importance of the contests being waged. This is such a year, on steroids.

The two gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia are shaping up to be an unofficial referendum on the wild orgy of statism that the Washington majority Democrats are engaged in. Thus, the second reason to vote against Corzine, and the main reason to vote for Christie, is – to coin a phrase – “to send a message to Washington”.

If both Republicans win by double-digit margins, it could … repeat could … spell the death knell for ObamaCare, Cap & Trade, and other legislative initiatives of the Democrats extreme statist agenda. The already wobbly “moderate” democrats would sit up and take notice as they eye the 2010 congressional elections, and the bipartisan-minded Republican leadership might get the backbone to actually stand up for what they are supposed to be standing up for – free markets. It would signal that the expanding Tea Party Movement has climbed to the next level – the electoral level.

As the campaign season winds down, the electoral outlook is positive. In Virginia, the Republican Robert F. McDonnell has opened up a 13-point lead over Democrat R. Creigh Deeds, according to Rasmussen Reports. The New Jersey election is muddied by what is widely seen as a Democrat strategy to re-elect the wildly unpopular Corzine by the placing of liberal Corzine political ally Chris Daggett on the ballot as a third party candidate with the purpose of draining the “protest” vote away from Christie.

Corzine’s support is stuck in the lowly 40-45% range, which should spell landslide for Christie. But thanks to Daggett, the polls overall indicate a dead heat. The astute Paul Mulshine reports, however, that at least one pollster has detected a late surge for Christie and simultaneous fall-off for Daggett. This is a common pattern with regards to third party candidacies – voters registering their distaste by pledging support for the “maverick”, only to gravitate to one of the major candidates when it’s actually time to “pull the lever”. Pollster Rick Shafton flatly predicts that “Christie will win by at least 10.”

But the polls don’t always tell the whole story, and this year there is a huge wild card that is linked to the Tea Party Movement. What today passes for the “Right” is the highly motivated side in 2009, in exact contrast to 2008. Just as the TP rebellion is marked by hordes of people who have never engaged in any kind of political street protest before (including yours truly, my wife and daughter, others that I have met, and those who wish they “were there”), so this election could draw out a lot of people who have never voted before. The polls, at least the most respected ones, are based upon likely voters – i.e., those who have a history of actually voting. There may, just may, be an undetected anti-Obama, anti-Washington voter surge that the polls just aren’t picking up.

If so, this off-year election could send a huge message to Washington. We’ll see, but one thing is for sure - a vote for the Republican in either state in this off-year election is a vote against rampaging socialism.

Vote for Chris Christie for New Jersey Governor.