Friday, December 31, 2010

2011 - A Defining Year for the Tea Party Movement

2010 was the year that the Tea Party Movement flexed its political muscles.

It has been almost forgotten, but the Tea Party erupted as a rebellion against Republican policies in late 2008. Later adopting its name from the “Santelli Rant”, it gathered steam in 2009, turning its sights onto the Democrats. Within a year of Obama’s inauguration, a series of public Tea Party demonstrations culminated in 9/12/09, NJ and Virginia had replaced Democratic governors with Republicans, and Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts Senate seat was also captured by a Republican.

The rebellion continued with the 2010 mid-term elections, as the Tea Party propelled Republicans into control of the House of Representatives and a larger minority in the Senate. The vote was primarily anti-Democrat, not pro-Republican. The Republican wave was largely the voice of the Tea Party expressing itself. As I’ve said before, the movement is driven by and for independent-minded people. Going into 2011, the Republicans would do well to remember this.

The big political lesson to be learned from 2010 is that the Tea Party is a force to be reckoned with. How big and effective a force depends, of course, on what set of philosophical principles it coalesces around. Groups ranging from religious conservatives to libertarians to economic conservatives to pro-individual rights Ayn Randers are vying to define those principles. Which of those competing ideological factions takes hold will determine the movement’s fate, longer term.

The big story of 2010 has a corollary – an end to aggressive Obama statism. His forward momentum has likely been stopped, and he and the Democrats will now have to spend their time protecting and consolidating their horrifying big government gains. Far from being a setback, however, this strategy of enact and hold has served their statist agenda quite well, thank you. As I previously wrote, the 2009-10 time period parallels 1965-66, politically. The massive welfare state gains made then were held and even built upon in the ensuing decades, despite 1967’s GOP wave, as they awaited the next chance at one-party legislative control. That chance emerged these past two years.

So, stopping Obama is not the primary goal and will not signal victory, any more than stopping President Johnson in 1967 signaled victory over statism. It is only a start.

Looking forward, 2011 could turn out to be a defining year for the Tea Party. Will it begin to forge specific principles regarding man’s rights, the Constitution, and the proper role of government and its relationship to the people? Will it be co-opted by “Right” wing statism, the authoritarian Religious Conservatives? Will it remain too ideologically diverse to present a meaningfully anti-statist force? Will it be able to initiate a process of repeal and roll-back of statism? The Right remains in ideological flux. As long as that’s the case, statism will be the ultimate winner.

The Tea Party has earned its stripes as a political force. Now, the really hard part begins. It needs to hold the Republican Party’s feet to the fire, after leading it to victory in the recent elections. More importantly, it must cast off the moderate, bi-partisan, compromising fog permeating what today passes for the Right, and take a bold stand on the principles implicit in the movement’s rallying cry, Don’t Tread on Me!

That’s the big challenge. We can not afford a repeat of 1967, when the GOP merely stalled the statist advance. It did not have the philosophical firepower to do anything else. And make no mistake, the battle is philosophical. Politics is secondary, and is merely a reflection of the dominant cultural ideas. The dominant philosophical ideas – in particular, the moral ideas – continues to favor statism and omnipotent government, even though their cultural hold is beginning to weaken. There’s a lot of intellectual work to be done.

Without the proper foundational ideas on the Right, the statists will consolidate their gains under the noses of the Republicans. The last two years of aggressive Obama statism was no surprise, except perhaps for it virulence. The statists have been winning for more than 100 years. Will the forces of freedom be able to finally mount an effective counter-force? 2011 will begin to provide an answer.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Obama's "North Star"

On October 6, 2010, I wrote:

the Dems have been far more consistent - read, extreme - in cleaving to their collectivist “ideological purity”. Socialism has had a loud voice in the Democratic Party, but capitalism has yet to find its political voice. The two ideological extremes are the primary combatants. The Left knows it. The Right doesn’t. The result: The political "middle" keeps moving Left.

Socialism, not surprisingly, is winning.

This was demonstrated once again in the recent tax deal
between the resurgent Republicans and President Obama.

President Obama’s recent tax compromise with the Republicans – extending all of the Bush tax cuts for two years coupled with a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits, among other things – infuriated his Left/liberal base like Move

More thoughtful Leftist supporters like Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne did recognize that the deal gained more for Obama than many others believed. But he, too, was disturbed by Obama’s slap at his liberal base (Casting liberal allies aside will hurt Obama in the long run
. Citing the president’s description of liberal critics as “sanctimonious”, Dionne writes:

Obama's comments make you wonder: Whom does he think he can count on when conservatives try to repeal the health-care law, force cuts in programs he supports, investigate his administration down to the last pencil and continue to denounce him as an un-American socialist?

Dionne believes that “In the short term, Obama did get more than most liberals expected.” He goes on to describe those liberal gains in the tax deal and how it “achieves many progressive goals. “But”, he asks:

…in the long run, is Obama capable of winning the battles with the Republicans that this temporary agreement sets up?

Mr. Dionne is skeptical, but he appears to have missed something important. This is surprising to me, since I consider him one of the political scene's most astute observers – albeit from the Leftist side of the ideological divide. The GOP leadership may or may not have won tactically, but Obama presented a philosophical challenge that went unanswered. Simply listen to his “North Star” speech in response to a reporter’s question relating to his “core values”.

In his answer, Obama laid out clearly the nature of the political battle as he sees it. He made clear his belief in abstract ideals as a guiding “North Star” in determining the political direction of a country. He presented several analogies to make the point. This country’s Founding, he said, included a political compromise that would not have permitted him to “go through the front door” – clearly referring to the acceptance of slavery in defiance of the Declaration’s stated ideals – ideals that eventually would eradicate slavery. He also pointed to Social Security and Medicare, which “started out small, and grew”.

Obama’s referral to “the public option debate all over again” seemed like a confusing throw-in to many. But, seen from its proper perspective, which Obama articulated quite clearly, this analogy is not puzzling at all. He makes the pertinent point: The ObamaCare bill, even without the public option, advances the goal toward universal … i.e., socialized … healthcare – a “dream of Democrats for 100 years”. Obama “tacked this way or that”, but never lost his focus on that North Star.

Despite his rhetoric for the need to avoid “purist” abstract arguments in order to “get things done”, Obama clearly understands the value of abstract ideals to making concrete progress toward that North Star. Only one other president in my lifetime matches Obama’s philosophical acumen – Ronald Reagan. Reagan’s North Star was individualism. It served him well, for a time. Obama’s is collectivism. It continues to serve the Left well, even if they can’t see it. Since only the Democrats have cleaved consistently to their North Star in the abstract, the past hundred years has seen a steady drift toward collectivism’s political manifestation, socialism – despite numerous compromises and backing and filling. Obama’s first two years has seen a continuation – indeed an acceleration – of that trend. (For an in depth discussion, see my post of 10/6/10, “Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It”.)

Contrast the Republican take on the tax cut deal. They presented no North Star. They made some valid utilitarian arguments, but avoided any reference to core principles like free markets, the moral right to one’s earnings, individual rights. Much to my dismay, though not surprisingly, Obama seized the philosophical high ground for the Left, even though his Left base is too clueless to see it. He seized it, in typical fashion, by default. What this country needs is a knock down, no-holds-barred, polarizing ideological fight between the two extremes – collectivism and individualism. Collectivism has its voice in the White House. Individualism has no political voice (although culturally, it’s manifested implicitly in the Tea Party Movement).

Details of the tax compromise aside, Obama reaffirmed an unwavering commitment to his long-term goals. Sanctimony and purism was clearly on display, if one knows where to look. Obama won round one where it counts the most – on the philosophical battleground. This does not bode well for freedom lovers. But with the Tea Party roiling the waters, there is still hope.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Education: It’s the Philosophy, Stupid!

For decades we’ve been hearing about the need for improving our mediocre public schools. We’ve gotten reform after reform imposed by central planners at the behest of vote-seeking politicians, and still we have failing schools. (See my 9/24/10 post, “Toward Real School Reform”.) And still, we get staunch defenders of the status quo.

The author of a recent NJ Star-Ledger article, Bob Braun, has a new rationalization to add to the grab bag of the status quo’s defenders – he claims that the reforms weren’t given enough time to work:

We have lost patience. … We ricochet from policy to policy, never waiting to see what works. Impose a set of standards, a set of tests, a set of curriculum guides, then change it all in a few years.

Braun goes on to quote Joseph DePierro, dean of the Seton Hall College of Education, who laments that “Every decade or so, a new crisis and we change things around”. Keep in mind we’re talking about children going through the crucial primary and secondary school years, for whom every year of lost learning time is a devastating, permanent loss of individual human potential. Yet, a few years, or a decade or so, is not enough time to decide if the latest reform “works”. In fact less patience – a lot less patience – is desperately needed. And that impatience should be directed at the very institution that reactionary apologists like Bob Braun keep trying to defend – the government-run public schools.

What Braun and other public school apologists don’t get is that it is not a matter of “lost patience”. Even if a workable, coherent educational model can be found, it can only last until the next man with a plan comes along. That is because there is an inherent contradiction in any kind of public ownership. The public schools are owned, in theory, by everyone and no one – at the same time. Unlike private owners - who are free to implement an education model, and then answer only to the parents of the children in their schools - public school reformers must be accountable to whatever pressures emanate from whichever groups of owners emerge from that vast reservoir of ownership, the public. He must first seize political power, then impose his reform plan. But, once in place, it is only good until the next reformer comes along, seizes political power, and enforces his ideas. Worse, it is in the nature of “democracy” that ideas get watered down by compromises needed to satisfy all of the disparate special interests that are always milling around any public enterprise. This is a roiling, never-ending process.

Modern school “reformers”, however, all have one thing in common: They are essentially central planners. By the nature of the beast, they have to be. They consist of politicians, education departments, special interest groups, college professors – the “experts”. They all have a plan - to be, as Braun correctly puts it, imposed across the board - on all students, teachers, parents, principals, superintendents - in all schools in some district, state, or even the entire country. They bring about their “reforms”, and then sit back and wait for bean counters to scour the latest statistical data to determine if it is “working”. They see children, but not the actual child.

And that’s the problem. The whole collectivist model has to be called into question. Children are literally seen as a student body, moving through a system in lock step, as if each child is interchangeable. They are not, and there is some recognition of that. So, the solution: break the body down into smaller groups - special needs, gifted and talented, “average”, etc. The student is still identified, not as an individual, but according to his particular grouping. But each child, in a very basic sense, is special needs. Each has his own required pace of development, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, and interests. Each, as Maria Montessori discovered long ago, needs a high degree of autonomy and privacy as he develops his mind. Tailoring the education model to the group, rather than to the needs of each child as an individual – which is, metaphysically, what he is – may be convenient for the adults operating within the present establishment. But, it does not meet the needs of the child - each as his own nature requires - except by random accident.

I submit that a properly structured educational mission should strive to produce graduates who have learned how to think independently, to employ the full power of their reasoning capacity, so as to enter adulthood with the unclouded confidence, self-esteem, and motivation to build a life by their own effort. But, preparing the child for the task of living his life as an individual is not the goal of today’s government educators – preparing them for obedience to the authority of others, is. As Braun explains it:

Public schooling is a value as well as an institution. Fostering a democratic, egalitarian America. Reject that value and you change the country in unknowable, maybe dangerous, ways.

Everything that is wrong with American education is embodied in those few words.

Democracy is the subordination of the individual to the majority, which – through the state - has unlimited power to do as it pleases. Egalitarianism holds that human beings are interchangeable components of a human ant colony, which reigns supreme. Both are fundamentally collectivist, and opposed to the American view of people as sovereign individuals possessing unalienable rights to manage their own lives. Progressive education has a hammerlock on education, and it has one overriding goal – to foster conformity to the group, or “social adjustment”, which is exactly what democracy and egalitarianism require.

To call that a value is to subvert the very concept of “value”. The purpose of education, fundamentally, is to train the child’s mind to deal with reality – to think, to analyze, to understand, to acquire and integrate knowledge. A value, as philosopher Ayn Rand has observed, “is that which one acts to gain and/or keep”. Living is fundamentally about achieving the values that make for a flourishing life, and preparing the child for value achievement is an educator’s proper goal. Democracy requires that one give up one’s highest value – the source of all of one’s values, one’s independent judgement – to the will of the majority. Egalitarianism, as it is understood today, requires that values be held equally by all, regardless of individual personal character, effort, or ability. Human beings are metaphysically autonomous beings, but egalitarianism rebels against nature, striving to make them homogenous. That is why the independent mind is what democracy and egalitarianism abhor: The person who does his own thinking doesn’t readily submit to the will of any collective pack, or renounce his other values on the alter of pack “equality” – or to the pack’s rulers.

The missing ingredient in the whole school reform discussion is consideration of education philosophy. While, as stated above, reform plans will constantly come and go, the overriding philosophy governing education is determined by the dominant cultural ideas, which is determined by the dominant ideas held by the intellectuals, which is overwhelmingly collectivist. That is what needs to be addressed. Failing schools are not caused by poverty, or lack of money – not @ $26Gs per year per student. They do not fail because black kids are not surrounded by enough white kids (what Braun absurdly labels “segregation”). Blaming the students is unjust and perverse. The problem is bad educational philosophy. Autonomous individual students, each with his own unique needs, strengths, and interests, can not be pushed robot-like through a school assembly line. Don’t think for yourself, conform to the mob is a prescription for boredom and failure, envy and resentment, fear and power-lust – and the killing of personal motivation.

The opposite of Progressive Education can be summed up nicely in the words of education researcher and entrepreneur Maria Montessori, who sought to give every child a chance to “become as powerful in their concentration, as independent of spirit, as strong of will and as clear of thought as the world’s greatest geniuses” (as quoted by Beatrice Hessen, page 847). Can you see a school establishment dedicated to “Fostering a democratic, egalitarian America” churning out such graduates? But, that philosophy and similar alternatives have almost no chance to break the progressive stranglehold – not as long as progressive intellectuals, through the government, have a stranglehold on education.

The whole education model needs to be re-examined, otherwise Mark Zuckerberg’s millions will disappear down an establishment rat hole. (As reported by Braun, Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, agreed to donate $100 million to the Newark, NJ, public schools.) Government-run schooling has had its day, and has failed. The Progressive stranglehold must be broken. The public school quasi-monopoly must be phased out and dismantled, and a free market established in education. Start by converting the $100 million gift into student scholarship grants to be used on the school of the parents’ choice. Then, follow that with universal parental school choice through tax credits, where the parents’ tax money follows the student to the school of choice. These reforms will establish the groundwork for an eventual free market that will liberate the children from the clutches of progressive central planners, and empower the parents - who know their own children’s educational strengths, weaknesses, and needs - to set their children’s educational course. A free market will open the school doors to a badly needed philosophical revolution in education, and the one kind of “diversity” that the progressives have always feared – a diversity of ideas. Not all ideas would be good, but all ideas would get a chance, and the free market will allow the best philosophies to prove themselves and win.

The “change” will be “unknowable” and “dangerous” only to the utopians that have never given up the dream of presiding over a compliant, orderly human ant colony. It’s time for real school reform.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

A "Teachable Moment" from Tennessee

"Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." – George Washington

The battle of “big” vs. “small” government … i.e., between socialism and capitalism … has taken a rather interesting turn. The turn revolves around a recent tragic incident in Tennessee. The New Jersey Star-Ledger editorialized for the big government side. Here is its account of what happened:

Gene Cranick’s home caught fire in rural Tennesee [sic] last week, so the family frantically called 911. But the fire department refused to respond because the Cranicks had forgotten to pay an annual $75 fire protection fee. As Cranick screamed “I’ll pay whatever you want!” into the phone, the fire department was ordered by heartless local officials to ignore him.

Oh, fire engines eventually showed up — when the blaze spread to the home of a neighbor, who had paid the fee. Firefighters extinguished that fire, then watched the rest of Cranick’s house burn to the ground. It’s a wonder they didn’t pop open a bag of marshmallows. The Cranicks lost all of their possessions, three dogs and a cat.

The fire department, of course, is run by the government. Whether the government should run it is another matter. Without getting into that specific debate, let’s assume for the sake of argument that fire departments were private, for-profit businesses. In that event, Cranick's house would probably still be standing. After all, what profit-seeking businessman would turn down a customer who is willing to “pay whatever you want!”

That perspective aside, there are a number of critical issues swirling around this tragedy. The situation here involves somewhat of a twist. The house was in a town not situated within the same jurisdiction as the fire department, which was from a neighboring town. The department offered its services voluntarily and as a courtesy to out-of-town homeowners, for a fee. The Cranicks’ were not tax paying citizens of the fire department’s town. They didn’t pay the out-of-town fee.

Those are the facts. We’ll get into the ethics of the firefighters’ refusal to respond in a bit, as we dissect this editorial. The Editors write:

But hey, this happened in the backwoods of some podunk town. It couldn’t happen here, right?

Not yet, anyway. But if you shrink government enough, this is what you get in the end. And we are inching in that direction, with leaf collection fees, garbage fees and high school sports fees.

Notice how a bizarre situation that none of us will ever have to face gets blurred into a hodgepodge of mundane, everyday concerns that most of us rarely think twice about. Well, why shouldn’t each of us pay for our own “leaf collection fees, garbage fees and high school sports fees”, as we do our utility, auto repair, and a myriad of other “fees”? Are they in the same category as a house on fire? The message is clear: If we suggest shrinking government by taking personal responsibility for these services, rather than cycle our money through government bureaucrats who do them for us, we are in essence asking for the day when the fire department will let our houses burn.

The S-L holds the Tennessee tragedy up as an example of the perils of small government. Here, we must stop to define our terms. What is big government? What is small government? The issue is not merely one of size, nor of semantics. Let’s examine the fundamentals.

A government is a unique institution. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that, in any society, it and it alone holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. It is a law-making body whose laws may compel its citizens to act only within its scope. This is as it should be and can only be. A “society” without laws, and a government without the teeth to enforce them, is anarchy. But those laws must have an objective basis in reality, and conform to proper politico-philosophic principles. When a government is limited to using its legalized power of physical force only as a means of protecting the rights of its citizens, as it was originally intended by the Founding Fathers, it is a vital and indispensable necessity of a free society. This is what is referred to as “small” or limited government - the essential premise regularly evaded or blurred by statists. Protection of individual rights is the only legitimate function of government (“To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men”), and the only legitimate basis for taxation. (How that principle relates to the question of whether or not fire departments should be run by government is an issue that is beyond the scope of this article.)

But, when a government steps outside of those limits, it becomes a "big" government and a threat to a free society, to the extent that it strays from its legitimate function. To the extent that a government uses its taxing powers to redistribute wealth or its law-making powers to regulate private behavior … i.e., to violate the rights of its citizens … is the extent to which it losses its legitimacy.

With that in mind, and considering the Star-Ledger’s highlighting of the Cranick tragedy as an example of the scary consequences of small government, let’s go along with its line of reasoning and play “devil’s advocate”. Let’s take a look at some historically recent examples of the abuses of big government: Soviet Gulags, Soviet Ukrainian famine, killing fields of Cambodia, Mao’s “cultural revolution”, China’s Tiananmen Square massacre, Cuba’s political prisons, North Korea’s abused and starving citizenry, Nazi death camps … the list goes on. How about all of the impoverished third world countries, whose destitution results from big dictatorial governments who fail to uphold small government bedrock institutions like property rights and reliable contract law and enforcement. But, these are extremes, you say? OK, how about the current financial crises, which was caused by the federal Reserve central bank, the politicians’ “affordable housing crusades”, and a whole network of interlocking government regulatory agencies and policies.

The Editors ridicule those who “preach the ‘you’re-on-your-own governmental gospel of less’ ”, and implore us to focus on a single example of the alleged treachery of what “less” brings. OK, then, how about the treachery of “more”? How about the devastating consequences of America’s original “death panel”, the federal Food and Drug Administration, under which countless Americans suffer and die needlessly every year while waiting as that agency routinely denies access to promising experimental drugs that it has not yet approved? Being “on your own” means being free to live by the judgement of your own mind. It is the essence of freedom. It means the freedom to associate with others on a voluntary, mutually advantageous basis, including trade and contractual freedom. But, that’s not the way it is meant by the Editors, who see hordes of incompetent loners in need of an imperial bureaucracy to run their lives. The opposite of being “on your own” means being forbidden to do so. It means someone else – someone empowered by the government’s legal monopoly on physical force; someone who, as a private citizen, is not capable of being on his own – making both mundane and critical personal decisions for you. This is the big government that the S-L exploits the Cranick’s tragedy to uphold as the good. Tell that to the victims of the FDA - the countless Cranicks thereof that the S-L ignores – whose health burns to the ground while big government bureaucrats roast marshmallows on their regulatory power.

The S-L states:

“Officials say they couldn’t accept the Cranicks’ money after the fire had started, because that would encourage homeowners to pay only when they needed the service. It’s sound — if morally bankrupt — logic.”

Why is it sound logic? If no one paid for this emergency service until they needed it, then there would be no fire department when they need it. Everyone would then have to “save everything he owns with a trickle from a garden hose” if his house caught fire. That’s what a morally “enlightened” code would mean. (That statement is really a backdoor slap at the critics of ObamaCare’s provision that requires insurance companies to cover new policyholders with “pre-existing conditions”, who use the same “morally bankrupt logic”. The end result of that policy will be the same: no health insurance companies.)

The S-L’s “logic” here is really an attack on the sanctity of contracts. So, let me pose this question: If I fell off of my ladder doing household chores on a weekend, would it be OK for me to file for workmen’s compensation, claiming to have been injured at work on Monday? Why not? I’m injured, and need money to cover my food and medicine while recuperating. That would be fraud, all right. But what the heck, that doesn’t mean those heartless government bureaucrats should deny my claim. After all, I may need the money to buy medicine for my sick child. But, you ask, wouldn’t that encourage a lot more fraud? That’s only “sound — if morally bankrupt — logic”.

Contracts are an indispensable foundation of a free and civil society. They are either a valid, legally enforceable means by which men deal with one another, or they are not. If anyone’s need, at any time, can justify the breaking of contracts or the imposition of involuntary servitude or the seizing of the property or money of others not contractually bound to provide it, then there is no law at all, except for the “law of the jungle”. It is either/or. It’s either the rule of objective law, or the existence of a primitive savage, who can see no reason why he shouldn’t loot and enslave other savages to satisfy his own need. This is the moral ideal upheld by the Editors, who believe that honoring contractual obligations – which demands honesty, integrity, and rationality – amounts to “sound — if morally bankrupt — logic”. And it is precisely the social arrangement of jungle savages that you get when you divorce logic – i.e., reason – from morality.

Does all of this mean that those firefighters shouldn’t have extinguished Cranick’s house fire?

For proper context, we must pause to distinguish between normative ethics – morality as it pertains to the normal course of human events – and an emergency. “Emergency”, by proper definition, pertains to a situation that involves imminent danger, of very short duration, demanding immediate action. This differs fundamentally from every other kind of human endeavor. For example, an insurance company considering an application for a new policy that excludes coverage to the new client for a “pre-existing condition” – a medical condition for which the new client had made no prior contractual arrangement to pay for it – is well within its rights and moral bounds to do so. Likewise, if that company refuses to pay for treatment not covered by its existing insurance contract with the patient, it is acting properly.

These last examples are brought up because some have tried to equate them with the firefighters watching the Cranicks’ house burn. Nothing can be further from the truth or the facts. These are not emergencies. They are the normal course of events, and normative ethics applies: which means, contractual obligations and rational self-interest governs actions. As philosopher Ayn Rand explains:

“The principle that one should help men in an emergency cannot be extended to regard all human suffering as an emergency and to turn the misfortune of some into a first mortgage on the lives of others.” (I am indebted to Ayn Rand, author of The Virtue of Selfishness, for identifying the essential practical and moral fundamentals involved here. See chapter three of that book.)

According to the facts as we know them, township local officials had no legal obligation to service Cranick. But, there is nothing implicit in the moral principle of the sanctity of contracts that would have forbidden those firemen, or their municipal bosses, from acting out of compassion in an emergency. After all, the Cranicks had simply forgotten to pay their fee. “Or what if”, as the S-L hypothesizes, “Cranick didn’t forget? What if he simply couldn’t afford the fee? What if he spent that $75 on medicine for a sick child?” Or even what if he could easily afford it, but didn’t because he irresponsibly decided that “ it could never happen to me”?

There could be any number of reasons why the fee wasn’t paid. Do any of them mean that the firefighters were obligated to respond to Cranick’s 911 call? No. Could they have? Certainly. Should they have? A case can be made that they should have - being available, ready, and able. Cranick could have been billed after the fact. He did, after all, verbally authorize the service with a promise to pay for it (Verbal authorizations, and legally binding verbal contracts, are commonplace in the business world). The experience could have been used as a “teachable moment”, with municipal officials showing the public why paying firefighter fees in a timely manner is the right thing to do and best for avoiding confusion in an emergency.

The “heartless local officials” should have authorized the fire department to extinguish the blaze, in my view, given the circumstances. But, that is not the real issue here. The real issue is: What is the proper role of government?

The Cranick case does nothing to advance the case for “big government”, or diminish the case for “limited” government. That the S-L and others on the Left would use this tragedy to advance their big government agenda, in the face of the bloody historical record of statism, is unconscionable.

The Editors end with this lame comment, getting to the essence of the issue:

So every time you hear a candidate say, “I’m going to run government like a business,” think of George Cranick. And then envision a day when police stand by and watch a rape, because, “Gee, sorry, lady, but you didn’t pay the police fee.”

One of the gimmicks used by statists to justify the latest expansion of government is to smuggle in a false choice: totalitarianism or anarchy. It’s either a government that runs fire departments or leaf collection or high school sports or garbage collection or health care or banks or auto companies or whatever whoever decides to call a “vital” service; or it’s rapists running wild. The above statement from the editorial is a manifestation of that premise. Missing from that choice is the original American vision of a limited government that protects, but does not violate, individual rights.

Never mind protests that total control is not really the goal. Once you’ve abandoned political principles, there is no way to draw a line between where government control ends and freedom begins. The Founding Fathers defined those principles. Statists have been undermining them ever since, trivializing them as quaint notions that are no longer relevant, in order to pave the road for their latest statist initiatives. The Star-Ledger and most modern Leftists do not want a totalitarian state, but as Ayn Rand has observed: “Principles, like laws of nature, continue to operate, whether men choose to recognized them or not…”. Once the principle that a government may run any aspect of our lives is accepted, then you’ve accepted the premise that the government can run all aspects of our lives. Once the principle of unalienable individual rights is abandoned, the logic of events leads inexorably to the totalitarian state – to Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy, Red China, Soviet Russia, Imperial Japan, or to any mutation of such… The Star-Ledger doesn’t want that. No one wants that. But the trend toward that end in America is clearly evident to anyone with the courage to think objectively.

A government is not, and can never be, “run … like a business”. A business can not legally use force, a government can. A business can not force anyone to buy its products, nor can anyone who has not purchased its products or otherwise met its terms of sale demand its products be taken by force. A “small” government is one that is constitutionally bound to use its monopoly on the use of physical force only to protect the rights of its citizens – which means, to stop and apprehend a rapist. It is this protective function, in fact, that allows you to be “on your own” – from both private criminals and the legal big government kind.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Ayn Rand: Tea Party Voice of the Founding Fathers


In a piece in the Christian Science Monitor – an article that many correspondents believe was beneath the intellectual integrity of that publication – Vladimir Shlapentokh has declared that Ayn Rand is an unbefitting hero of the Tea Party. He writes:

Tea party leaders themselves talk about restoring America to the vision of the founding founders [sic]. That’s hardly a revealing insight; almost every political movement claims to carry on the founders’ legacy. We can learn much more about the tea party’s identity by looking to its heroes.

At tea party rallies, posters and praise single out the usual suspects: Thomas Jefferson, Sarah Palin, and Glenn Beck. But there’s another person who figures prominently at these rallies, one who serves as the intellectual fountainhead ... Ayn Rand. And that should concern all Americans. (Emphasis added.)

Ignoring Rand's real philosophy

Tea partiers portray themselves as ordinary Americans fed up with an out-of-control, deeply indebted welfare state. Many no doubt see Ms. Rand – the 20th-century writer and philosopher who railed against state power and collectivist thinking in such novels as “The Fountainhead” and “Atlas Shrugged” – as a posthumous compatriot.

But by clinging to the superficial commonality of hostility to welfare, tea partiers fail to see (or willfully ignore) something critical: Rand espoused an elitist, oligarchic philosophy that is both fundamentally antiAmerican (sic) and deeply at odds with the tea party's own “we the people” cause.

The growing cultural penetration of novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand has unleashed a continuing barrage of criticism based upon misrepresentations and distortions of her ideas. This smear piece is no different. In typical fashion, the author writes as if he never even bothered to read Rand’s works. What’s interesting about this piece is the connection he makes between the Tea Party, Ayn Rand, and the Founding Fathers – or, more precisely, the wedge he attempts to drive between them based upon an “anti-concept” and a fraudulent view of the Founders’ concept of “We the People”. Why? To smother her ideas. A Tea Party Movement without its "intellectual fountainhead" Ayn Rand would be just what the reactionary enemies of the Founding Fathers desperately want – a hollow “intellectual arsenal” on the Right.

The anti-concept is the term “elitist” that Shlapentokh pins on Ayn Rand, and is the hammer he attempts to use to drive the wedge. “Anti-concept” is a term coined by Rand herself, which she defines as follows:

An anti-concept is … designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concept. The use of anti-concepts gives the listeners a sense of approximate understanding.

It consists of creating an artificial, unnecessary, and (rationally) unusable term, designed to replace and obliterate some legitimate concepts—a term which sounds like a concept, but stands for a “package-deal” of disparate, incongruous, contradictory elements taken out of any logical conceptual order or context, a “package-deal” whose (approximately) defining characteristic is always a non-essential.

Article correspondent and Objectivist Sylvia Bokor explains this principle as it relates to Shlapentokh’s use of the term “elitist”:

"Elitism" is an anti-concept. It is an attempt to substitute the opposite of what the word "elite" emotionally generates, in an effort to destroy the abstract meaning of the term.

The emotion the concept "elite" arouses is admiration, pleasure, assurance. Its abstract meaning is those of high moral character. The elite in every category of endeavor refers to the achiever, the producer, the doer, the creative, the man of ability. We look up to men of ability and consider them the best man can be. We give them an elite status because they deserve distinction for their achievement.

Most men prefer the company of men they can respect and admire. Few men favor the company of criminals, cheats, the dishonest and the malingerer.

The anti-concept "elitist" is always meant derogatorily. It suggests that those who do not seek the company of morally depraved are somehow "not nice."

Ayn Rand the “elitist” is in fact the greatest champion of the “average working man” precisely because she is a defender of the individual’s right to his own life. The heroes in her novels – the productive elite - portray the virtuous character traits that lead to a self-made successful state of life and are readily attainable by anyone, on any level of ability. Reardon, d’Anconia, and Roark serve as inspirations particularly for the young just starting out in life. It is precisely those who the statists love to denigrate as hopelessly inept “little people” requiring a paternalistic state that have the most to gain by Rand’s philosophy, called Objectivism. It is “We the People”, not some mythical oligarchic elite, that statists fear. Once “the people” catch on and stand up and demand their rights, the collectivist game is over. Ayn Rand Tea Partyers are doing just that.

But Shlapentokh is right about one thing: Rand was an enemy of democracy. On this she stood with the Founding Fathers, who strove to create a constitutionally limited republic that authorizes the people to elect its leaders, but whose powers are limited to protecting their rights. The concepts of individualism based upon unalienable rights, and democracy based upon the supremacy of “the will of the people”, are antipodes. The statist advance in this country depends upon obliterating this country’s core Founding principle, the rights of man. Since one of the ideological means used by statists to achieve this is to smuggle in the idea of democracy as the American system, it is quite obvious why Rand must never be allowed to get an honest hearing: A principled, consistent defender of individual rights is a threat to power-lusters everywhere and at all times.

And diffusing this threat is the core meaning of Shlapentokh’s intentions. The Tea Party Movement, for all of its often-contradictory ideological diversity, is fundamentally about “restoring America to the vision of the founding founders”. Shlapentokh finds it “ironic” that “At tea party meetings in September, Rand’s name competed in popularity with Jefferson”. Competition?!? The book that he attempts to discredit as championing “the elites”, Rand’s magnum opus Atlas Shrugged, is in fact the greatest of tributes to the Founding Fathers. A proper understanding of that book makes it clear why Shlapentokh desperately needs to drive a wedge between Rand and Jefferson: Ayn Rand stands on the shoulders of the Founders, especially Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence.

That Declaration is a very abstract document which espouses a particular set of ideals that holds the individual human being as the supreme, sovereign societal value, each capable of using his power of reason to build his own life by his own effort, in voluntary and benevolent association and trade with others. The Founders' vision upheld government as the people's servant, bound by the single limited duty to protect his unalienable rights to life and property, and to the liberty to pursue of his own goals and happiness. The very same description applies to Atlas Shrugged, and the parallels between Atlas’ heroes and the Founders are manifest – they both sought only for every man to be left free, and were willing to risk all to fight for the principles espoused by Jefferson.

The Declaration of Independence ends with these words, which all of the signatories pledged to uphold:

“And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.”

In its essentials, that statement perfectly describes Atlas’s heroes. Both they and the Founders cleaved uncompromisingly to the ideals that created this country, based solely upon their confidence in the judgements of their own minds. Let’s examine the three leaders of the revolt against the tyrannical collectivist society portrayed in the world of Atlas Shrugged – John Galt, Francisco D’Anconia, and Ragnar Danneskjold:

John Galt, who started out in life poor but full of ambitious intellectual fire, gave up the fame and fortune that his revolutionary invention would have brought him, as well as the pursuit of the woman he loved. Why? To spend his life rescuing the victims of the tyranny he hated, before that tyranny destroyed them. He is the leader – the “commander-in-chief” – of the rebellion.

Francisco D’Anconia, one of Galt’s two field generals, was born into wealth, inheriting the world’s largest industrial enterprise. His brilliant productive energy promised to expand that enterprise to unimaginable proportions. Yet, he gave it all up to join Galt in the rescue mission and rebellion. He, too, gave up the woman he loved for this cause.

Ragnar Danneskjold, the other Galt field general, gave up a promising academic career that could have made him a world-famous philosopher. He chose instead to risk his life, literally, to defend the property of those who earned it – yes, all of them, including “everyday Americans” – against a looting government.

They gave it all up, and in varying degrees risked their very lives, for the ideal of individualist freedom. They had no idea how long the fight would be, or when they would be able to return to the lives they had chosen, if ever. They single-mindedly followed a vision – the vision of the Founding Fathers – to whatever end awaited them. Against an uncertain and risky future, armed with nothing but the judgement of their own minds, they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor – to each other and to their cause.

Atlas Shrugged is a monument to the American Founding, a salute and tribute to its Founders, and its author the logical intellectual and philosophic voice of the movement whose symbol is the Revolutionary War era slogan, “Don’t Tread on Me” – today’s Tea Party. Far from being “appalled to see how the ‘everyday Americans’ at tea party rallies have demanded that they (not the American nobility nor the Ivy League graduates) should have the decisive voice in American politics”, Rand’s heroes are the voice of the Founders rising in their defense. It is no wonder that the enemies of the Tea Party want to divorce it of Ayn Rand.

Ayn Rand built upon the work of John Locke, the Enlightenment thinkers, and the Founding Fathers, purging the poisonous contradictions and omissions in their work, to forge the missing link of America’s Founding – a comprehensive ideological foundation and defense. The lack of a proper foundation is what opened the door to statism and the erosion and eventual destruction of the Founders achievement. If Rand’s philosophical validation of the American Revolution ever took hold in our culture, it would mark the beginning of the end of the predatory welfare state, and usher in a second, final … and peaceful … American Revolution. For this achievement, Ayn Rand deserves the title, America’s Last Founding Father.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The GOP Grabs a Tiger by the Tail

There were no surprises. The Republicans took the House of Representatives with room to spare. The Senate remained Democratic, but with a much larger GOP minority. The reign of unfettered Obama statism is over. So far, it’s 1966.

Considering today’s political realities, this is the ideal setup. In 1994, the Republicans rampaged to full control of both Senate and House, and President Bill Clinton used the next two years using the GOP congress as a punching bag, and won re-election in 1996. With a divided congress, President Obama will have a hard time employing that kind of strategy, although he will try. A repeat of 1994 would probably have greatly enhanced Obama’s re-election prospects, given the GOP’s philosophical agnosticism.

Speaking of that, the signs are not good. Already, we’re hearing about the Republican’s coming “moderate” approach. Political incrementalism is a workable strategy only when backed up by firm principles. As I’ve noted, the Statists (mostly Democrats) have done just dandy expanding government power in bits and pieces, while cleaving solidly to their collectivist/socialist ideals. America needs desperately for the Republicans to be just as strong in upholding individualism/capitalism ideals. The political battles can be fought with the usual give-and-take, but the philosophical battle is necessarily between the two extremes. This is where the GOP must stand tall.

Will they? Without an explicit statement upholding the individual’s right to live for his own sake, there is no way for the Republicans to effectively advance a free market political agenda. One must know what one stands for. The Democrats do. For the next two years, Obama will talk “compromise” and “cooperation” with the House Republicans while framing the debate in his collectivist terms. The GOP must call him on it, and present the clear philosophical alternative, or he will steamroll them.

The new element in this year’s GOP triumph is, of course, the Tea Party Movement. The Tea Party began, ironically, as a rebellion against the Republicans and their 2008 Tarp bailouts (although the name had not yet been coined). It then swarmed the Democrats in 2009. In late 2009 into 2010, the Tea Party flexed its muscles in elections in the Virginia and New Jersey gubernatorial, and Massachusetts senatorial, races, with Republicans being the prime beneficiaries. The Tea Party continued its emergence into the political arena with the midterms, riding the minority Republican Party as the vehicle for expressing its growing cultural power.

The Republican leadership would like to have us believe that they harnessed the power of the Tea Party by heeding their message. But, the Republicans have harnessed nothing. They have grabbed a tiger by the tail. The unofficial motto of the Tea Party is, “Don’t Tread on Me!”. The Tea Party, that leaderless conglomeration of disparate, often contradictory elements, will not stand patiently by. It is a movement by and for independents. It wants government out of the business of running our lives. If this GOP crop doesn’t battle hard to roll back statism, the Tea Party will turn on them as fast as it turned on the 2008 Republicans and the 2009 Democrats.

The result, if the GOP fails this time, could very well be the emergence of a third major political party in 2012 – a literal Tea Party, this time.

Get ready.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Election 2010: Is it 1966, or a Real Turning of the Statist Tide?

In 1964, Lyndon Johnson scored a landslide victory over Barry Goldwater to become President of the United States. He had long “coattails”, bringing with him huge congressional Democrat majorities. The Old Left rose to power, for a short while. But, it was long enough. Over the next two years, a massive statist lurch to the Left shook the foundations of Americanism. In the brief 1965-66 time span, we got Medicare, Medicaid, the Federal Student Loan program, the War on Poverty, and other Great Society programs.

By 1966, the country had had enough, and Johnson’s socialist momentum broke up in the wreckage of that year’s Republican midterm electoral landslide. But, the damage had been done to individual rights and capitalism.

I reflect back to that period because of the striking similarities between then and the past couple of years. In 2008, Barack Obama won a modest victory over John McCain, but nonetheless carried with him to Washington huge Democrat congressional majorities. This time, it was the New Left – the 1960s “student rebellion” gang – that swept into power. Unlike the Old Left, which (at least superficially) hung on to some respect for what America stood for, the New Left has no such loyalty. It is virulently anti-American in the most fundamental sense – it utterly rejects the concepts of unalienable individual rights protected by a government limited to that responsibility. Led by this nation’s first unabashed, undiluted counter revolutionary president – that is to say, counter American Revolution – the Democrats built upon the statism of the prior Bush Administration to forge a massive bureaucratic buildup of regulatory powers that is about to unleash a perpetual tidal wave of increasing controls over every aspect of our lives.

To call Obama/Democrat policies a major regression towards a totalitarian state would not be an exaggeration.

In 2008, I abstained from a presidential vote, and stated my reasons. (I did, however, vote Republican in the congressional races in hopes of blunting the Democratic gains and thus Obama’s agenda.) Subsequent events have vindicated that decision. A McCain presidency would have continued the stealth statism of the previous Bush Administration, preventing the rise of the rebellion we now call The Tea Party Movement. At the same time, a McCain Administration would not have prevented the emergence of an Obama. It would only have delayed it. This would have meant an Obama inheriting an even more statist government than the one handed to him by George W. Bush.

The 2009/10 statist assault on America parallels 1965-66, although it is even more virulent and aggressive now than then. And, like then, the country has, once again, had enough after only two years. Also like then, the damage has been done. In 1966, the “swing to the Right” set in motion the momentum that would lead to a conservative revival that would sweep Ronald Reagan into the White House in 1980, and Republicans into full or partial control of Congress for most of the next quarter of a century after that.

Today, the fundamental issues confronting America have been brought into the sharpest focus of my lifetime. They are: A rights-protecting government vs. one that rules over a mass of subjects and serfs, capitalism vs. socialism, individual rights vs. group “rights”, individualism vs. collectivism.

The last swing to the Right that launched in 1966 ultimately failed. I explained how and why two years ago. By 2000, despite two decades of conservative political dominance, the Old Left statism of 1965-66 had been preserved – and even gently expanded. The 20th Century’s strongest “swing to the Right” ended by having been nothing more than a Republican caretaker government – of the welfare state. This set the stage for a strong renewal of the assault on our rights under Bush II, followed by the Obama eruption.

Today we face a much more critical choice, because we are so much further down the path to totalitarian socialism now than we were 44 years ago. It’s no longer a matter of stopping the welfare statists. The Old Left gave us more or less specific, delimited programs. The New Left has given us an imperial bureaucracy wielding unlimited, arbitrary powers that can not be contained. Though this situation did not come out of the blue, but is the logical culmination of the trend that began more than a century ago, the fact is that our government has finally broken free of virtually all remaining constitutional and moral constraints on its monopoly power of legalized physical force. A totalitarian Frankenstein is on the loose.

Therefor, it’s long past time to sweep aside conservatism in favor of a radical pro-individual rights, pro-capitalist agenda that logically means rolling back and eventually eliminating the regulatory welfare state. There is no other way to cure an aggressive, malignant cancer except to completely – and I mean totally – cut it out before it kills the patient.

That will require time to build the proper philosophical foundation, a project that has barely, though effectively, begun. To buy that time, Obama, like Lyndon Johnson, must first be stopped. That can be accomplished by electing enough Republicans to congress to shrivel the Democrats’ majorities to the margins or even giving one branch to the GOP. Divided government means little major legislative “progress”, which is about all we can hope for from today’s mushy GOP. Time, again, is what we must buy.

Therefor, this is the time to vote Republican without a second thought.

I am under no illusions that the Republicans are anything but the intellectual weaklings they have almost always been, or that the current crop can reverse the tide. Just check out their lame “Pledge to America”. And, the GOP carries within it a danger of equal magnitude to Left collectivism – the Religious Right. On the other hand, there are hopeful signs that the party can be molded into an effective force for Americanism, over time. For one thing, we have the Tea Party Movement that, despite its own statist baggage, nonetheless has a significant “sense of life” that leans toward individualism. For another, Ayn Rand Objectivism, though still relatively unknown, continues to penetrate the culture (which includes a strong piece of the Tea Party). We desperately need it, and ideas can spread without people being aware of from whom they originated. Good ideas ultimately can, and must, win the day.

The battle for America will be long and hard. Obama charged into power vowing to “fundamentally change America”. By that he meant unwinding its Founding principles, which he believes are “flawed”. We Objectivists will not settle for the same old failed conservative strategy, which amounts to preserving and protecting the statist “gains” of the previous “swing to the Left”. Contrary to conventional wisdom, President Obama knew full well that the aggressive socialist push of his first two years would likely cost him his Democrat congress. He didn’t and doesn’t really care. His fundamental change has been achieved, and now he can sit back and watch the “moderate” Republicans preserve and consolidate those gains, as they percolate through America.

It’s 1966, again. Or, maybe not. Perhaps things will turn out different, this time.

The Democrat collapse follows closely on the heels of the Republican collapse of the past two-four years. Both major parties are bankrupt intellectually and politically. Both are at rock bottom in public esteem. Both liberalism and conservatism are discredited. The country is swinging wildly between the lesser of two evils, with the GOP being the current winner-by-default. As a consequence, the country is ready for new ideas and a truly new direction. Therein lies the opportunity.

Ayn Rand’s influence has grown substantially since 1980. The 1960s New Left is at peak political power under Obama/Pelosi/Reid. Objectivism is growing towards becoming the leading secular philosophy in America. Collectivism/socialism is the echo from a dead past. Individualism/capitalism is the future. Objectivists aim to fundamentally change America in the opposite direction, reclaiming America’s Founding principles and going further: fully and consistently implementing them for the first time, on the solid philosophical foundation provided by America’s Last Founding Father – Ayn Rand.

To advance toward that ambitious goal, the first step is to vote Republican on November 2, 2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Deny the Consequences of ObamaCare, Deny the Principles

The rebellion against ObamaCare has taken the form of ballot initiatives in three states
that, if passed, would approve state constitutional amendments against the mandatory health insurance provision of the Federal health care law. One such initiative is the “Right to Health Care Choice
”, or Amendment 63, in Colorado. It would free all state residents from any legal requirement to purchase any private or public health plan, and protect their right to contract directly with healthcare providers for the purchase of their services.

One would think that, in America, this individual freedom would be self-evident. One would be wrong, of course. Those freedoms we take for granted have been eroding for a long time, including under ObamaCare, making Amendment 63 necessary. The argument against the Amendment, and thus in favor of mandatory insurance, is presented in a Denver Post guest op-ed entitled What's wrong with Amendment 63?
by Steven R. Lowenstein and Mark Earnest. This article presents a good illumination of why the Right can not win against the advance of socialized medicine, and statism generally, without a radical philosophical recasting of the terms of the debate. The authors attempt to frame the healthcare issue around certain principles – the only ones that can justify their position - altruism and collectivism.

Lowenstein and Earnest begin with a broadside against Amendment 63 proponent Paul Hsieh:

In one position paper, Paul Hsieh calls the insurance mandate a "thinly veiled system of welfare;" Hsieh then asks if the federal government will now mandate insurance coverage for shoes. Another posting, predictably, warns against the "slippery slope to national health care." A third position paper likens the insurance requirement to "mandating that everyone who buys an iPhone also buy the extended warranty."

Rather than attempting to refute Hsieh’s analysis, they brush it off as “political sloganeering”. It’s clear why: To refute Hsieh’s argument, one would have to challenge the abstract premises behind it. To attempt it would prove the “slippery slope” point because, as Ayn Rand has observed, “principles, like laws of nature, continue to operate, whether men choose to recognize them or not” ("The National Interest, c'est moi", June, 1962). The authors refuse to recognize the principles behind Hsieh’s contentions or, more precisely, do not want the reader to recognize them. This is the Leftist game plan I wrote about on 10/6/10.

The authors’ utter disingenuousness aside, no objective and honest person can now deny the “slippery slope to national health care.” The history of the past 75 years of increasing government control of medicine is proof of that. ObamaCare is the clincher, and is being grafted onto a system that’s already semi-socialist. Compulsory health insurance, and ObamaCare in general, is another logical extension of government control.

Principles and precedents drive human events, and we ignore them at our peril. The broad principle driving the slippery slope of ever-expanding government control of healthcare is contained in FDR’s "second", or "economic bill of rights"
, reaffirmed in the Democratic Party platform of 1960
, which established the idea of a “right” to material benefits that must be compulsively provided by others. One of those was “a right to healthcare”. Understanding the underlying premises, Hsieh is correct to point out that ObamaCare has much wider implications for and beyond healthcare. A government that can force you to buy something can on principle force you to buy anything. He is in good company.

The Founders who created this country understood the power of principles and precedents. James Madison fought against compulsory government funding of religion, based on an abstract argument much wider than the specific issue. In his 1785 “Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments”, Madison succeeded in turning America away from another slippery slope, one that would have ended religious liberty. He reminded his countrymen of why they had so recently fought for independence, with this basic argument:

The free men of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle.

Identifying the long-term consequences of specific government policies demands a level of abstract analysis. Holding the focus locked only onto the immediate concrete issue of the moment is a self-blinding method of mental functioning, rendering one unable to notice where the path one is on is leading. But, a string of concrete steps linked by unifying principles is exactly what slippery slopes are made of. We have now reached the point on the slope that, by sidestepping the principles, Lowenstein and Earnest can make this outlandish claim:

The mandate that every American obtain adequate health insurance is no slippery slope toward government-run health care. In fact, the insurance mandate is only included in the Affordable Care Act because the private health insurance market cannot function without it.

How did we get to the point where “the private health insurance market cannot function without” government compulsion? The markets for life, personal umbrella liability, automobile collision, and homeowners insurance operate just fine without compulsory government mandates, and so would health insurance. My life insurance policy affords financial security for my wife in the event of my untimely death. That protection is not diminished by the fact that my neighbor doesn’t carry life insurance. What doesn’t work without government compulsion is socialization through private companies, which is what the superficially “private health insurance market” had largely become and which ObamaCare is designed to fully implement. The insurance mandate, like all mandates already on the books, is backdoor wealth redistribution, not any attempt to “preserve” what does not now exist – “the health care free market”. The use of private companies as conduits for socialization does not constitute any semblance of capitalism. It is the economic premise of fascism.

The next sentence should serve as a warning to the Right:

When Congress began debating health care reform in the spring of 2009, liberals and conservatives agreed that insurance companies should no longer be able to deny coverage because of pre-existing health conditions nor drop this coverage when illness strikes.

Without challenging the root cause of this government-created scourge, the third-party-payer system that severs the consumer of healthcare from ownership of his policy, the mandate becomes the logical next step. The GOP’s Pledge to America apparently supports this mandate on insurers, vowing to “ensure access for those with pre-existing conditions”, once again concurring with the basic statist premises of the Left. Once you’ve granted to government the power to impose a single insurance provision, you’ve granted it the power to impose any number of provisions on insurers and their customers alike. There is no slippery slope? Read on:

That mandate — to offer insurance coverage to the healthy and the sick alike — is included in the health care reform act. But no one believes that private health insurance companies can survive unless there is a second mandate — one that says that healthy people have to buy in too.

This is very true. If people can save wads of money on premiums by simply waiting to buy a policy after they become sick, who would carry insurance? The insurance companies would be plundered into bankruptcy in no time. The Republicans attempt to straddle the fence between the two mandates is logically indefensible, and only serves to strengthen the statists’ credibility. This is what philosophical agnosticism engenders. The GOP conservative defenders of the free market, by supporting the first mandate, have paved the way for the second. As to the authors’ denial of the slippery slope: Well, they’ve just refuted their own argument. There it is, in action: the third-party-payer system, leading to the plague of pre-existing conditions, leading to those two mandates.

“The insurance mandate is not a radical assault on capitalism or the free market. The mandate is necessary to preserve the health care free market”, write the authors. This sounds a lot like Bush, who justified TARP with the statement, “I had to abandon free market principles, in order to save the free market”. “Slavery is Freedom” is the unstated rallying cry of the collectivists– novelist George Orwell did not exaggerate. The assault on freedom has long been waged under the guise of preserving it, in this case by equating “private ownership” or “the private market” with capitalism. But, those also exist under the system of backdoor socialism, known as fascism. Capitalism means one thing and one thing only – the separation of economics and state embodied within the recognition of individual rights. The Left is winning, often helped along by the Right, because the proponents of freedom do not clearly articulate (or even understand) those principles. Slavery is not freedom, and neither is the individual mandate that Amendment 63 seeks to overturn.

Next comes the altruistic argument: “Admittedly, none of this matters if you do not believe that every Coloradan and every American should have access to health care. But Coloradans do get sick.” A litany of needs follows, which takes precedence over your property, your freedom, and your life, which must be sacrificed. Altruism holds that the needs of some is an automatic moral claim on the unearned, and is the basic rationalization for government programs like ObamaCare. It assaults our freedom in the name of the uninsured.

On a free market, everyone has access to not only healthcare but also to all of the goods and services of all producers, based upon the trader principle. Everyone is free to pursue healthcare, but not to rob his neighbor or enslave the providers to attain it, nor to elect politicians to do it for them. Justice reigns on a free market. It is just this - freedom from the human predator seeking to fulfill his needs by plunder - that enables widespread prosperity. As history has shown, the natural incentives and workings of a free market leads to ever increasing quality and affordability. To cite just one of thousands of examples, multi-million dollar mainframe computer power once available only to large corporations and governments is now dwarfed by the power of laptops affordable to virtually every income class. Every unmet human need or desire represents a market opportunity for any industrious mind willing to rise to fill it. Only a free market can liberate the mind to innovate.

But, a free market is not listed as one of the “few alternatives to the health care insurance mandate”. We get only single payer or the status quo. “But”, declare the authors with a straight face, “the status-quo means relentlessly rising insurance premiums and health care costs; and it means you may not be able to find insurance coverage if you are poor, unemployed or sick.” The status quo is the product of decades of rising government interference into American medicine. If greater affordability and access to healthcare and health insurance is truly the goal, the first place to look to begin the reform effort is government. But, previous government policies are ignored because fixing the problem is not the Left’s goal. The Left’s goal is precisely what Lowenstein and Earnest begin the article by brushing aside: the "slippery slope to national health care."

Guilt, the corollary of altruism, finds its way in.

Then there is the matter of fairness. The uninsured pay taxes too. The uninsured have invested in physicians' and nurses' training. They have helped pay for hospital construction. They have supported research and the discovery of the drugs, medical devices and surgical techniques that all of us need. "Health care for all" is no welfare handout to the uninsured; they have a right to health care because they paid for it.

Here, they are right, but not in the way they mean. It is unfair for anyone to be forced to pay, through their taxes, for any of those things. But, it is particularly grotesque that those who can’t afford the government-induced sky-high cost of insurance must be forced to pay for the government-funded healthcare of others. This is a good example of how the violations of rights in one area leads to rights violations in others. Principles are inexorable – they continue to work. The uninsured do indeed pay. But, that doesn’t give them a right to healthcare. They do, however, have a right to their monetary property. At the very least, they should be given tax credits to purchase insurance, to offset what they pay toward government funding. This is a good short-term reform to advocate, and of course it is not what the authors want. They want to pile one injustice on top of another. They love that slippery slope.

There is only one political principle that can justify Lowenstein’s and Earnest’s argument – collectivism, or the subordination of the individual to the group. And there is only one ethical standard that can justify collectivism – altruism, or the doctrine that holds service and sacrifice for others as the standard of the good. To defeat the advance of statism, it is collectivism/altruism that must be challenged. As long as they are not, the statists will always occupy the moral high ground that rightfully belongs to the advocates of freedom and capitalism. There will always be someone with a need to justify a moral, and ultimately a political, claim on the lives of all. The Left’s whole ideological edifice is laced through with the essential premises relied upon by the authors of this piece. You hear it every time the proponents of government-run healthcare speak up, from Obama on down.

In their concluding paragraph, Lowenstein and Earnest drop the pretense of compassion and openly call for the initiation of US government force against its own private citizens, in the form of “subsidization and [legal] compulsion”. This is the naked essence of socialism: the convergence of altruism and force. Force is the antipode of freedom – i.e., of individual rights. Those who resort to it, forfeit all claim to compassion. Force is the antipode of Capitalism, of free markets, and of a truly “private market in health care”. Legalized force is the only means of implementing “universal coverage” based upon the principle of a “right” to healthcare.

The precedents have long been established for the end of freedom, and usurped power is everywhere entangled in American healthcare, as is amply demonstrated throughout this piece. The Left fully understands the principles and precedents driving healthcare down the “slippery slope toward government-run health care”: They initiated them. To reverse the trend, it’s time to see the consequences of their principles, and deny those principles: There is no right to healthcare, and government has no business imposing universal coverage and usurping the peoples’ right to make their own healthcare choices.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The GOP "Pledge": Business as Usual

Indications continue to multiply that this could be a big electoral year for the Republicans. The Democrats are in disarray. The rise of the Tea Party has added a strong tail wind behind the Republicans. A large segment of the country is confused, cynical, and frightened of a government that has seemingly broken completely free of all constitutional and moral constraints. I believe the time is right for a strong defense of individual rights and Capitalism to counter the Left’s collectivist/socialist juggernaut. An unprecedented opportunity has arisen for the GOP to offer an historic “choice, not an echo”. The question I posed in my post of 10/6/10 was: “Is the GOP up to the ideological task”? We now have an answer. It is not a promising one. It’s business as usual. It’s called the GOP’s “Pledge to America”.

In the introduction, the Pledge recites the words of the Declaration of Independence, without explicitly defining the principle of individual rights that it upholds. Defending individualism, the foundation of America and of Capitalism, begins with a complete understanding of individual rights. The Pledge offers no beginning, middle, or end.

The Pledge is vague and inconsistent, and sprinkled with what in today’s usage are collectivist terms. The “common good” and the “will of the people” are common refrains used to justify statism. They meant something different to the Founding Fathers, who understood that the individual’s sovereign right to freedom of action in pursuit of his own life’s goals and happiness was outside of the scope of power of any electoral majority. The ballot box can not trump the individual’s rights, and promoting the common good meant protecting those rights.

As proof of my claim that the Republicans desperately need a clear and principled statement – a Philosophical Contract with America - I cite this:

“An arrogant and out-of-touch government of self-appointed elites makes decisions, issues mandates, and enacts laws without accepting or requesting the input of the many.”

Does this mean that the government can make any decisions, issue any mandates, and enact any law it pleases as long as it gets the input, and approval, of “the many”? It sounds a lot like unlimited majority rule, or democracy. Does that statement mean socialism is OK, as long as a majority – “the will of the people” – approves? How does that square with “the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”? We’ll never know, because a view of the proper relationship between the individual and the state is never defined. How does democracy square with the idea of America as a constitutionally limited republic? Are rights unalienable, or are they gifts dependent upon “the input of the many” … i.e., “the will of the people”? Which is it? We are promised that “American values” will be restored. But what are they: a hodgepodge that mixes vague undefined references to “liberty” with explicitly collectivist catchphrases?

The Pledge is laced with this kind of philosophical contradiction and confusion. How does one build “a new governing agenda for America” out of that? History provides the answer: It doesn’t. What it does do is to paralyze the opponents of statism, and embolden the statists.

Citing just one concrete proposal listed in this document highlights its dangerous vagueness. Under healthcare, the GOP promises to "repeal and replace the government takeover of health care". In the same breath, it promises to “ensure that those with pre-existing conditions gain access to the coverage they need”. How? It doesn’t say. The implication is that government will mandate that coverage, in one way or another. It sounds like ObamaCare light. A government that respects and protects individual rights would never be granted the power to issue mandates to insurers. The “pre-existing conditions” plague is a government-created problem, and can be eliminated by ending the government-imposed employer-based, or third-party-payer, system of health insurance. But, among the free market solutions offered up, this big kahuna is avoided. Pre-existing conditions is one of the main justifications for ObamaCare, is prime fodder for free market champions as a failure of statism, and should be front and center of the ongoing healthcare debate. Yet, the Republicans punt, and simply adopt the Democrats’ premises, instead of removing the cause.

Worse, the Pledge embraces some of the Religious Right’s statist agenda:

“We pledge to honor families, traditional marriage, life, and the private and faith-based organizations that form the core of our American values.”

Where does the individual fit into this litany? The holding of the family as the foundation of society hearkens back to Middle Age Feudalism, or to modern Islamic culture, where the individual is subordinate to the Clan. The family institution obviously has a vital and valuable function, but only within the context of a rights-based, secular legal structure. Bans on gay marriage and abortion are blatant violations of individual rights, properly understood. The separation of church and state is the bulwark against religious tyranny: It leaves everyone free to hold and practice his or her private religious or non-religious beliefs without interference from the state. But the Pledge seems to challenge that bulwark. President George W. Bush’s “Faith-Based Initiatives”, continued and supported by President Barrack Obama, violates that separation doctrine through government support of private religious organizations – in direct defiance of the First Amendment’s “establishment” clause, and of individual rights.

In what could be the most disastrous clause in a generally disastrous manifesto, the Pledge contains this plank:

“We will adhere to the Constitution and require every bill to cite its specific Constitutional Authority.”

Why disastrous? It’s a double-edged sword, with the sharpest edge aimed not at statism, but at freedom. As originally formulated, the Constitution was designed to protect the individual rights of the nation’s citizens, and to establish a government whose sole purpose is to protect those rights. On the face of it, one might think that tying legislation to the Constitution would stop the statist trend in its tracks. That would be true, if there existed a real champion of those principles in the political arena. A full ideological battle over the Constitution is desperately needed if America is ever to reestablish its Founding ideals.

But, the Constitution has been thoroughly shredded, both legally and especially philosophically. Its meaning has been destroyed by the “living constitution” doctrine, which holds that its tenets must be adaptable and ever changing. It must be “relevant” to the times. It is, as a living document, empty … empty of any principles or absolute, universal truths. Thus, to cite just a couple of examples, the “general welfare clause” has morphed from a mandate for government to establish the social conditions necessary for all people to exercise their liberty to live their lives, to a justification for the destruction of property rights (wealth redistribution). Similarly, the “commerce clause” has morphed from a ban on trade restrictions between states (protecting the right of free commerce nationally), to a license for the federal government to regulate and control nearly every economic aspect of our lives.

In his must-read Objective Standard article, Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution, Thomas A. Bowden tells us how and why our Founding principles have been abandoned even by our judiciary. Importantly, that abandonment has been embraced not only by liberal, but by conservative intellectuals as well. As Bowden writes:

"[T]he emasculated Supreme Court now spurns virtually every opportunity to search the Constitution for underlying principles that place limits on state power."

Under the “empty” and “living” Constitutional premises accepted today, there is no piece of legislation that can not conceivably find “specific Constitutional Authority” to justify it. The Constitution, after all, contains no absolute or universal truths. The words of a document whose essential principles have been abandoned or evaded even by its alleged defenders can not be anything but a ball of putty moldable into any shape-of-the-political-moment.

As the Pledge to America clearly reveals, the Republican Party is ill-prepared to do theoretical Constitutional battle with the Left. It has no understanding, lacks the courage to uphold, or outright opposes the ideas that made the Constitution possible. Furthermore, the Constitutional pledge would require the Republicans’ to break with the conservatives’ strict adherence to “tradition”, and acknowledge that the original document, as great as it was, had flaws that served as poison pills that led to its undoing. It is obviously not prepared to do that. Lacking any explicit, uncompromising, and coherent defense of individual rights, the GOP is opening the door to an insidious inversion: Rather than stymie the statists, they could be handing them a gift. The Left, assuming they’re smart enough to grasp it, are being granted the opportunity of a lifetime to cloak their collectivist legislation in a Constitutional sanction, based upon the emptiness of the living document premise.

In my previous post, I wrote:

“It’s not that the Republican Party embraces bad ideas, in the sense of consistent principles. The truth is much worse. It stands for nothing: except moderation, bi-partisanship, and compromise as the only absolutes. Not only do they evade any principled stand on any issue, they often openly embrace the Left’s basic premises.”

The Pledge to America is a monumental blown political opportunity. The criticisms presented here do not exhaust the flaws in the Republican Pledge. There is no coherent message to rival the Democrats’ unabashed collectivism. There is no coherent message at all, except for a pledge to bear “true faith and allegiance to the people we represent”. What’s needed is true faith and allegiance to principles, not public opinion polls. Give the Democrats their due. They stayed true to their principles, despite “the will of the people”. That may cost them quite a few seats in the short term, but look what they’ve accomplished. If only the defenders of capitalism had such guts.

Should the Republicans sweep congress, the Pledge to America will stand as a self-imposed set of shackles that will hinder them. Worse, because of its vagueness, the Republicans will have ridden to power on an anti-Democrat, anti-incumbent wave only. This does not necessarily preclude them from developing into an effective force for pro-individual rights political governance. Once in power, if they gain power, they can still be steered in the right direction. But this will be hard - in fact nearly impossible - because they have once again shown that they stand for nothing.

This is true of the current Republican leadership. But, a lot of freshman blood will be swept into congress, and therein lies reason for guarded optimism. As an example of why there is hope, I refer you to this interview with Stephen Bailey, a young and promising House candidate challenging an incumbent in a strong liberal enclave. Mr. Bailey won the Republican nomination with 70% of the vote, by offering a good concrete model for what a generally consistent pro-individual rights political agenda looks like. Notice, as you listen to the interview, how his positions on a wide range of specific issues are anchored to a common principle. If he wins – and it appears to be a long shot, although this year one can never tell - he can be a force for philosophical “extremism in defense of liberty” within the GOP.

I don’t know how many other GOP upstarts share his views, but if Stephen Bailey represents the vanguard of a new Republican Party, then the future is considerably brighter than it now appears. The Pledge could be a last gasp for the me-too Republican old guard. The Tea Party has its intellectual firepower, and it will continue to roil the waters. It will not sit still for any kind of business-as-usual GOP majority, as we have seen in the primary season. We may yet see “extremism” on the Right.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It

There is no question that the Tea Party Movement has been and is a non-partisan phenomenon. And as I’ve said before – and this still holds true – it is leaderless ideologically. It is wracked with mixed premises, but with perhaps a common denominator embodied in the Revolutionary War-era Gadsden Flag demand: “Don’t Tread on Me” – a blow against authoritarian government. The Movement is almost as vehement in its opposition to the Republican Party as it is against the Democrats’ rampaging statism, especially the policies of the previous Bush Administration.

Despite its non-partisan nature, the Republican Party is becoming the political outlet of the Tea Party. This is not a paradox. A cultural movement must eventually find its political voice. In a two-party system, that means one of the major parties. The GOP is becoming it. But it is not in harmony with, but in spite of the established Republican leadership that the Tea Party is expressing its political voice. The GOP leaders and their neoconservative mouthpieces have been rebuffed time and again by primary defeats of their favorite candidates by Tea Party upstarts.

The tension between the Tea Party and the leadership has prompted an emerging Left/Democrat electoral strategy: paint the GOP as Tea Party “extremists”. Then, hold the Dems up as the “moderate” political middle. Here are a few examples:

In a recent article, Mike Castle's defeat -- and the end of moderate Republicanism, EJ Dionne laments the past “two decades in which moderates fled a [Republican] party increasingly dominated by its right wing.”

“[Rep. Mike] Castle's [Delaware GOP primary] defeat at the hands of Christine O'Donnell … does indeed mark the collapse of the Republican Party not only of Nelson Rockefeller and Tom Dewey but also of Bob Dole and Howard Baker.

“But the larger question is whether the country is ready to deliver a majority to a Republican Party that now holds problem-solvers like Castle in contempt.”

In a snippy little piece, Republicans Under a Spell, Richard Cohen ties the Tea Party to “witchcraft”, and declares the GOP under its “spell”. After a sprinkling of context-dropping insults against Christine O’Donnell and Newt Gingrich, he adds this:

"Similarly, only a spell can explain why much of the Republican Party insists on calling Obama a socialist. To apply this label to the very man who saved Big Finance, who rescued Goldman Sachs and the rest of the boys, who gave a Heimlich to the barely breathing banks, can only be explained by witchcraft or voodoo or something like that. It has caused the GOP to lose its mind. Obama did something similar to the American auto industry, saving it from itself. He did not let it fail or nationalize it, as a socialist would have done, but pumped cash into it so that -- this is me speaking -- it can fail later on."

Cohen goes on to attack the constitution and the Founding Fathers, and that deserves serious scrutiny. But, that is a subject for another day.

The Left-leaning NJ Star-Ledger says:

The tea party-anointed winner in Alaska wants to do away with Social Security and Medicare and the one in Nevada talks of the possible need for an armed revolt against the federal government. Much of the same ideological excess is evident, in varying degrees, among tea party winners in other GOP races.

The tea party [supplies] much of the energy in the GOP revival. Trouble is, they risk driving away moderate Republicans in November and bringing independents back to the Democrats. (Editorial, 9/16/10)

And when boiled down to sound bites, tea party ideas make sense to many Americans: limited government, reduced spending (and, in turn, lower taxes), balanced budgets, self-reliance and free-market capitalism.

But beyond those phrases are policy positions that, in normal times, would scare most voters: privatizing Social Security, dismantling big parts of the federal government, trashing the health care and Wall Street reforms, reconsidering civil rights laws and outlawing abortion even in the case of rape.

That may be emerging as the Democratic strategy for this fall’s congressional elections: Label tea party candidates as loonies, then link, by association, the rest of the Republicans… (Editorial, 9/21/10)

The Star-Ledger doesn’t say how “outlawing abortion even in the case of rape” – which means government violating a woman’s individual rights - jives with “limited government, self-reliance and free-market capitalism”, the system based upon the recognition and protection of individual rights. Though that is somewhat beside the point of this essay, it does highlight the Tea Party’s mixed premises I alluded to early on.

The common thread running through these examples – Dionne’s “extremism”, Cohen’s “spell”, the Star-Ledger’s “craziness” – is the fear that what may win in November is the emergence of an “extreme” set of ideas – a consistent ideological agenda that at this time is still lacking in the GOP.

The Left loves moderate, bi-partisan Republicans, and it is important to understand why. They provide an ideological vacuum through which to advance its agenda.

Though both parties talk about the political “middle” as the great electoral prize, the fundamental battle in America is between two extremes – collectivism vs. individualism, and their respective political manifestations, socialist statism vs. free market capitalism. The first holds that the individual, his life, and his property belong to the state, while the second holds that the individual owns his life, and the state is limited to protecting his unalienable right to live it.

The Left has always been fully consistent – i.e., extreme – in pursuing its agenda. For the past century, it has relentlessly upheld its collectivist ideology, as is evident in all of its rhetoric. Notice how the Left frames the issues. The “public interest”, the “common good”, the “good of society”, etc., are standard rationalizations for all manner of statist policies. They are collectivist terms, implying the superiority of the group or collective over its individual components. Tax issues are framed on the premise of whether or not “we” – meaning the state - can “afford” cuts or not. Earnings are implicitly presumed to be the property of the state, which determines how much of it private citizens who worked for it are allowed to keep. Their calls for personal self-sacrifice are manifest. To what end?: for the sake of some “public good” like a stronger economy, as if the economy is a separate entity apart from the economic activities of individuals, and which can thrive on private sacrifice rather than achievement. “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country”, implored JFK in one of the most famous collectivist political statements in American history. The “country” is held to be an entity onto itself - you must sacrifice for the group, not the other way around, obliterating completely the individualist concept of doing for yourself. Collectivist fundamentals are everywhere and at all times embedded in the Left’s rhetoric. And they mean it.

The Left will certainly compromise legislatively, such as Obama giving up on the “public option”, so long as the ball is moved toward its ultimate totalitarian socialist goal, as with ObamaCare. The Left will gladly forego the political first down on the first play, knowing that the GOP’s “problem-solvers like Castle” will compromise on a three or four-yard gain. But the first downs will keep coming on four-yard gain after four-yard gain, as the drive toward the collectivist goal line continues. The Democratic Left represents one extreme, collectivism, and proudly and openly stands on those principles. It has never been “moderate” in regard to its ideological essentials.

The GOP, with rare exceptions, has abandoned the other extreme, individualism (if it ever really embraced it). It has no principles, no ideals, no understanding of the capitalism it is supposed to stand for. It’s not that the Republican Party embraces bad ideas. The truth is much worse. It stands for nothing: except moderation, bi-partisanship, and compromise as the only absolute. Not only do they evade any principled stand on any issue, they often openly accept the Left’s basic premises - or embrace them by default.

The Left knows, or at least seems to sense, that the only thing that can reverse its century-long statist march down field is the emergence of a principled defender of individual rights, government’s proper role as a protector of rights, and a moral defense of both – which means, capitalism. This is why, as we approach Election Day, the Left strives desperately to protect its best secret weapon – those ever-dependable moderate Republicans.

Never mind that “the center of the political spectrum” is where most Americans “live”. The center, or middle, is only a mixture of the two main contradictory premises – some collectivist, some individualist. But the American people, by and large, have always leaned to the Right, toward individualism – the fundamental premise of capitalism. Yet, the past 75-100 years has been a steady drift toward totalitarian socialism. So far toward collectivism has America traveled that challenging the socialist sacred cows - “privatizing Social Security, dismantling big parts of the federal government, trashing the health care and Wall Street reforms” - is considered “crazy”: and “limited government, reduced spending, balanced budgets, self-reliance and free-market capitalism” are mere “sound bites”.

How could this be? The reason: the Dems have been far more consistent - read, extreme - in cleaving to their collectivist “ideological purity”. Socialism has had a loud voice in the Democratic Party, but capitalism has yet to find its political voice. The two ideological extremes are the primary combatants. The Left knows it. The Right doesn’t. The result: The political "middle" keeps moving Left.

Socialism, not surprisingly, is winning. I’ve included that bite by Cohen above, partly as evidence for the Democrats’ reigning socialist underpinnings. Cohen’s denials notwithstanding, what exactly does it mean for a government to have “saved Big Finance…Goldman Sachs and…the barely breathing banks [and doing] something similar to the American auto industry”? “He did not let it fail or nationalize it,” Cohen continues, “as a socialist would have done”. Really? Those actions are precisely the kinds that a socialist would have taken. “Why need we trouble to socialize banks and factories? We socialize human beings,” declared Adolf Hitler, the leader of the National Socialist Workers (Nazi) Party, in 1933 (Page 231-232). Socialism comes in many guises, ranging from communism to fascism to Nazism to welfare state mixed economies, but its essential nature is always the same. Obama is no Hitler, but he is a socialist. Socializing human beings is Obama’s vision, and only a clear understanding of the collectivism/individualism divide can dramatize that fact. A moderate, middle-of-the-road opposition will always keep that truth safely obscured for the Left.

The Tea Party Movement - though still a fractious, ideologically leaderless phenomenon which contains its own statist baggage such as the social authoritarianism of the Religious Right – has the potential to evolve into the kind of powerful movement that the Left fears: a principled defender of the opposing extreme. I should note at this point that I don’t regard "extremism" to be a vice, as it is popularly regarded today. In the philosophical sense – that is to say, in the field of abstract ideas – extremism means a consistent, uncompromising adherence to a coherent set of principles. Barry Goldwater’s famous line in his 1964 GOP presidential nominating speech, in which he defiantly stood up against the same Democrat smears, makes the point:

And let our Republicanism so focused and so dedicated not be made fuzzy and futile by unthinking and stupid labels.

I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!

Today’s Democratic tactics are once again designed to keep the Republicans’ firmly in the “fuzzy and futile” mode. The Dems have been successful, over time, in implementing their statist agenda because that strategy has almost always worked. Right or wrong, good or bad, the philosophical extremist is a thinker – and a driver of human events.

But, America is ripe for a turning point, and the Left seems to sense it. The Tea Party phenomenon, despite some bad ideas such as outlawing abortion, carries a strong underlying cultural theme – a realization that we are losing control of our lives to a central planning elite, and a readiness to roll that power back. But it has yet to find its explicit ideological voice. It has not yet coalesced around a consistent philosophical framework, like the collectivist Left. Without it, the movement will ultimately fail. But, the massive lurch toward authoritarianism over the past decade, capped by Obama statism, has been a wakeup call for most Americans, I believe. The individualist element of “the center of the political spectrum” is the ascendant force in American politics today, and I believe that the time is right for a principled, pro-individual rights, pro-capitalist challenge to the Left’s collectivist ideological monopoly. I also believe that the Left knows it, and fears it. Smear tactics are an admission of desperation to avoid an intellectual challenge.

In today’s Tea Party environment, the Dems emerging strategy could backfire big time – if the expected Republican rout is backed up with some ideological backbone. The consequences of welfare statism are now too obvious to ignore: It is hampering the productive economy, bankrupting the country, and destroying our freedom. The reactionary Democrats are on the ropes, and their welfare statism is vulnerable as never before. The question is: Is the GOP up to the ideological task? Or, will the coming Republican dominance be just another meaningless interlude to be followed by another Democrat first down.

The Republican Party needs to become what the Left is claiming it is, what it fears, but which it still isn’t – the Party of the capitalist “extreme” Right. It must do some serious soul searching, to discover why it has been retreating steadily in the face of the collectivist onslaught. It must stand up for individualism, with all that that implies. The strategy will be risky, and could cost them many seats. But one election cycle is not the big prize. Turning the country around is, and a principled electoral stand today is a philosophical investment in future elections. A delayed win on principle trumps the big immediate sweep based upon the fog of moderation. A moderate GOP majority will only serve to consolidate the big recent Democrat legislative gains, and pave the way for their next big statist assault. This has been the recurring pattern of the past century or more.

Now, more than ever, is the time for a meaningful political fight over fundamental ideas. The Democratic/collectivist Left has moved the ball past midfield, and the socialist goal line looms not far downfield. Our time continues to run out.

-Mike LaFerrara