Friday, March 30, 2012

Mandatory DNA Testing: "Guilty Until Proven Innocent" in NJ?

My latest piece has been posted at The Objective Standard Blog. Here is the opening paragraph to Mandatory DNA Testing for Newborns and Parents would Violate their Rights:

At the behest of “fathers’ rights advocates,” New Jersey Assemblyman Gilbert Wilson (D) has “proposed a measure . . . that would require all newborns—and their parents—to undergo genetic testing to create a record should questions arise about whom the father or mother is.”

Paternity fraud can be legitimately labeled a crime. But preemptive law is no way for a free society to deal with crime. No legislature has any business forcing parents to purchase DNA tests for themselves and their newborns in hopes of avoiding potential disputes that might arise.

Read the rest of my post here.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ultrasound Mandate Violates Individual Rights

In a 3/14/12 editorial, Facts behind Doonesbury abortion comic no laughing matter, the NJ Star-Ledger criticized a Texas law that "requires a woman who chooses abortion to undergo a sonogram." The editors defended Garry Trudeau for his contraversial Doonesbury cartoon on the subject, saying:

The important thing to keep in mind is that Trudeau is working from the facts. And that — not the comic strip format itself — is the most disturbing thing of all.

This is the most extreme of abortion restrictions involving ultrasounds in 20 states. Trudeau brings his considerable wit — and rage — to bear on the topic. He takes comedic liberties, embellishing for effect but staying true to the spirit of the law.

And by depicting a lawmaker in the doctor’s office, Trudeau is only making literal the essence of this outrageously intrusive law: government officials injecting themselves into the private lives of women.

A week later, Kyle Beiter, M.D. responded to the editorial in a letter-to-the-editor dubbed No laughing matter: Reduce abortions. He writes, in part:

If the editorial’s authors classify a transvaginal ultrasound as “abuse,” how would they classify abortion? Abortions are much more “invasive” than diagnostic ultrasounds. ... Many times, I’ve heard pro-abortion activists claim, “We need to decrease the number of abortions; let’s throw more contraception at the situation.”

Yet they change their tune when the government proposes another method to decrease abortions. The ultrasounds are an effort at reminding our society that we are killing the unborn within us.

It has been said a state can be measured by how it protects its weakest members. Who are the weakest members of our society if not unborn children who cannot speak for themselves?

I posted this response:

March 21, 2012 at 5:07PM

Since Dr. Beiter seems to favor the government’s birth control mandate, I wonder on what basis he defends the unborn. The mandate violates the rights of insurers by forcing them to include coverage in their policies and of their customers who are forced to purchase the coverage whether they want to or not.

The “weakest” member of society is the individual … any individual. America was founded on the principle of unalienable individual rights, thus for the first time in history establishing a nation offering the individual explicit constitutional protection from tyrannical government. What are insurance mandates if not invasive and abusive; i.e. tyranny?

Both the birth control mandate and the ultrasound mandate violate individual rights, and this is no laughing matter. The principle of unalienable rights, which is the very foundation of this country, means only one thing: the rights of one can not negate the rights of another. Anyone who would violate the individual rights of anyone - by, for example, advocating mandates - negates all rights, including any alleged “rights” of the unborn, and can not claim to be the defender of “the weakest members of our society.”

Despite its emotional nature, the abortion issue is fundamentally about individual rights. I am in the process of articulating my position on the issue in a three-part Abortion Statement titled "Abortion and Individual Rights." You can read Part I here.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bernanke's Hollow Attack on Gold

Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has consistently called for a return to the gold standard and eventual elimination of the Federal Reserve System, and his ideas are apparently gaining enough traction to prompt current Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to publicly attack the idea.

According to The, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke listed four reasons for rejecting a gold standard, starting with the first: “a gold standard prevents adjusting policy in response to shifting economic conditions.” In other words, it restricts the government’s ability to manipulate the economy; i.e. the economic decision-making of tens of millions of individuals.

For example, one Bernanke backer states that “at the core, you'd still want what the Fed has, which is humans, policymakers, deciding how to set interest rates." What exactly, one must ask, are lenders and borrowers in the market? A borrower sitting across the table from a lending officer is a human, as is the officer. Every time a loan agreement is signed, an interest rate is set between borrower and lender. Multiply that agreement by tens of millions, and you have a market, and consequently a market interest rate. A market interest rate encompasses millions of humans “deciding how to set interest rates.” When the fed sets rates, it is overriding the decisions of millions of people, pretending to know better than they (the market) the proper interest rate level. This is impossible, which is why we have all of the economic problems – boom-bust cycles, recessions, high unemployment, price spirals – which central bankers claim to be there to alleviate.

Restricting government economic manipulation is precisely why we need a gold standard. For proof, look no further than the recent housing boom and bust, which was fueled by the Greenspan Fed’s easy money policies of the early 2000s, followed by the Bernanke Fed’s tight-money policies of the mid 2000s. Both were instances of policy adjustments “in response to shifting economic conditions.” (There were many contributing causes to the financial crisis, all of them rooted in government intervention into the economy. But the Fed’s policies were number one among them.)

Bernanke’s second and third reasons are that “countries would be more vulnerable to developments in other countries” and the threat of “speculative attacks” against countries that don’t “sacrifice all domestic goals for the sake of maintaining the gold standard.” Translation: Market participants would move money out of a country that pursued unsound economic policies and toward more rationally stable countries, thus stymieing statist interventionists wherever they arise. To some extent that happens now, but the objective monetary value provided by an international gold standard greatly facilitates this process. "Speculators" are always blamed when economic reality intrudes on statists' schemes.

These are two more reasons for a gold standard. Under an international gold standard, markets would act as a check on irrational governments, as foreign investors (and even other governments) demanded gold in exchange for the irrational country’s currency. That country would then have to return to sound policies or watch its gold reserves plummet along with the value of its currency. (Though central bankers hate the gold standard, their government's love to stockpile gold. I wonder why.) The run on US gold reserves in the early 1970s is a case in point. As mentioned in The Street article, France, Britain, and probably others – spooked by the US government’s profligate spending - “insisted on exchanging their Treasuries for gold,” prompting President Nixon to close the gold window, shutting down the exchanges. The result was the rampant inflation of the 1970s, as any residual gold discipline was ripped from US monetary and fiscal policy. Had “strict adherence to a gold standard” been in place, America would have had to “sacrifice all domestic goals” – meaning, runaway government spending – thus saving the country, especially savers and retirees, from a lot of related economic pain and turmoil. It is this free reign over the wealth of the citizens that statists would lose under a gold standard, which is the real reason they hate gold-backed money. Gold standards, properly implemented, protect the productive private sector from government, and are indispensable to economic freedom.

The fourth reason is bizarre. “Bernanke acknowledged…

that a gold standard did promote price stability over the very long run. However, he noted that over the medium run, it sometimes caused periods of inflation and deflation. He cited the second half of the 19th century when a shortage of gold reduced U.S. money supply and fueled deflation.

The gold shortage argument is a myth that has been thoroughly debunked, and Bernanke’s example of the late 19th century proves it! The period from roughly the Civil War until the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1914 was a period of explosive economic growth, rising living standards, and extraordinary technological advance. Andrew Bernstein, author of The Capitalist Manifesto, called the era The Inventive Period for these very reasons. During this glorious near-laissez-faire capitalist period, there was no central bank, and all money was backed by gold reserves held in private banks under a system known as free banking. During this time, there were periods of greater or lesser economic growth, but no recessions or depressions; periods of actual economic contraction (Salsman, p. 47-48). Rising productivity raised the value of money, as prices gently fell, raising the general standard of living. (Falling prices do not constitute deflation. Deflation is the artificial contraction of the money supply.) Any periods of general price instability that may arise are brief and quickly abate because of gold’s relatively stable supply and rate of supply growth.

Bernanke also “warned that the gold standard often produced pro-cyclical impulses. During periods of strong growth, money supply would increase and interest rates would fall, which is exactly the opposite of modern central banking and the withdrawal of the proverbial punchbowl just as the party gets going.” “Exactly the opposite” is exactly what is needed. Bernanke’s perspective is based upon a false assumption; that strong economic growth is bad. Here is a reason why we have runaway boom-bust cycles. The fed “encourages” growth by expanding the money supply, then “combats inflation” by reducing it. But a growing money supply is a natural consequence of economic growth, because as production and trade expand, more money is needed to facilitate this activity. Under a free banking gold standard, the money supply can increase or decrease relative to the gold supply, thanks to fractional reserve banking, based on economic demand. Thus, the market, rather than a gaggle of central planning bureaucrats, determines money supply.

All of Bernanke’s objections are a smoke screen, however. There is a more covert – and morally sinister - reason for governments to abandon and/or resist a gold standard. Without a gold anchor, governments are free to engage in unrestrained inflation, which is a back-door form of taxation. Inflation is the artificial expansion of the money supply; that is, money unsupported by productive work and trade. Inflation is a tax, not on your dollars, but on your dollars’ purchasing power – i.e. its value. It is a sinister form of theft that manifests itself through rising prices somewhere in, and ultimately throughout, the economy. Again, the housing bubble is a recent example of this phenomenon. (For an in-depth discussion of the relationship between money and wealth, see my Obushonomics vs. Gilliganomics.)

By far the primary reason for governments to establish central banks and abandon gold is to create access to revenues it finds politically impossible to raise through the more honest means of direct taxation. The main purpose of a fiat currency central bank is to give inflationary powers of artificial money creation to the political class. It is a means by which politicians loot the private sector’s wealth without most people even knowing it, to finance the government’s budget. As we watch consumer prices rise in today’s economic environment, what we are actually experiencing is the draining of our wealth to pay for profligate government spending and the deficits.

A return to a gold standard would be a major step in the right direction, but only a step. For a gold standard to operate effectively as a protector of the value of money and thus of our wealth, it must be accompanied by free, laissez-faire banking; i.e., no central bank or government bank regulations other than enforcement of contracts and anti-fraud laws. Still, imposing the discipline of a new international gold standard could act as a check on government spending and manipulation of the economy in the short to intermediate term. (For an excellent education on the gold standard and free vs. central banking, see Richard M. Salsman, Gold and Liberty, reviewed here.)

The maintenance of a fiat currency regime – currency unbacked by hard assets – is a critical enabler of statist government. Bernanke admits as much, as the article notes, because “under the strict adherence to a gold standard, monetary policy tools could not be used.” This is precisely why we must advocate for a new gold standard (and an end to central banking). Bernanke’s tirade against the gold standard is the imperial political class’s counter-attack against the rising forces of gold-standard liberty, as it circles the wagons in an attempt to protect a critical tool for maintaining its power.

For more, see Bernanke Defends Fed Policy that Turned Dollar Into Four Cents

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Business vs. Workers' Jobs: Who Makes Who Possible?

A contract dispute between Verizon and one of its unions spurred a letter-to-the-editor by New Jersey state AFL_CIO president Charles Wowkanech titled Verizon not listening to union workers' concerns. He wrote, in part:

Corporate greed has reached astronomical dimensions, especially when compared to the stagnating salaries of the middle class. A case in point is Verizon, which racked up billions in annual profits, paid executives $283 million over four years, paid $10 billion to shareholders in 2011 and paid no federal corporate income taxes from 2008 to 2010.

Verizon is a perfectly healthy company, thanks to hard-working union members.

A business like Verizon will continue to take from workers until workers stand up for what is right.

I left the following comments in response:

zemack March 20, 2012 at 7:18PM

As a member (ret.) of a (private sector) union affiliated with the AFL-CIO, let me state that Charles Wowkanech does not speak for me regarding his smear tactics against Verizon (and by implication against all businesses).

I strongly condemn his attack on the alleged “corporate greed” of Verizon. One can just as easily level charges of “union greed” against its workers who, to paraphrase Wowkanech’s ridiculous bromide, “take from Verizon.” It must be remembered that, if not for Verizon’s profits, which derive from the valuable products and services its customers voluntarily buy, its executives’ expertise, and its investors (the shareholders), there would be no union jobs, or jobs of any kind.

Despite Wowkanech’s vacuous claim that “Verizon is a perfectly healthy company, thanks to hard-working union members,” the truth is that, however hard-working the union members are, every aspect of their jobs is given to them by their company. Who is it that creates and provides the products and services that workers build and install? Who provides the tools and equipment the workers need to do their jobs productively? Who provides the knowledge and job training? Who organizes the work force and directs and coordinates their “hard work” so as to contribute to a healthy productive enterprise? Who in fact provides the job openings the workers fill?

I have no opinion regarding the contract dispute, except to say that Verizon has as much moral right to fight for their interests as the union does for theirs. When we forget that a job is a two-way street, jobs disappear. By all means the union can negotiate for the best contract terms they can get. But union leaders who forget (or ignore) the fact that it is business that makes workers’ jobs possible – not the other way around - are doing their members a grave disservice.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Diane Ravitch's Mistaken Understanding of Markets

Teacher "accountability" is the latest craze around which education "reformers" aim to improve the public schools; but, accountability to whom? Teachers should certainly be accountable for the quality of the education they provide. But accountability to government is entirely different from the accountability a true free market demands.

I addressed this point in my latest TOS Blog post, Teacher Accountability Follows from Genuine Market Activity. Here is the opening paragraph:

In her paper “The Teacher Accountability Debate,” Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University, took critical aim at a new Chetty-Friedman-Rockoff public school study. The study, she says, purports to prove a direct correlation between teacher quality and the likelihood of student personal and financial success in life, such as avoiding teenage pregnancy, going to college, and earning money in adulthood. The study, writes Ravitch, “reinforced the message [that] Teachers are to blame for the ills of American society.”

Read the rest here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Abortion and Individual Rights - Part 1

This is the first of a 3-part series in which I will lay out my position on the abortion issue. Part one will deal with the politics of abortion; specifically, as it relates to the Republican Party, the supposed party of liberty, and the constitution. Part 2 will deal with the relationship between abortion and a proper understanding of rights. Part 3 will feature an in-depth discussion of so-called “partial-birth,” or late-term, abortion, followed by a brief summary and conclusion. For the record, this series refers only to adults age 18 years or older. Abortion as it relates to minors is a subject for another day.

Let no one presume that I am here articulating a particular concrete personal position on the procedure called abortion. That is not my intention, nor is it relevant. Rather, my position is uncompromisingly pro-individual rights. My intention is to concretize the logical implications for the practice of abortion from the perspective of unalienable individual rights. From that perspective, I support a woman's right to terminate (or abort) her pregnancy. But, supporting the right to abortion no more means approval of abortion than supporting a communist’s or a Nazi’s right to advocate his ideas implies support for communism or Nazism. The principle to keep in mind is, therefor, that which underpins
a statement attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Though I may personally disapprove of abortion in many instances, that is beside the point, because anyone’s moral evaluation of abortion is irrelevant to the issue of abortion’s legality.

In a recent column, “Don’t Blame Cain for Republicans’ Confusion on Abortion,” NJ Star-Ledger columnist Paul Mulshine – a conservative - tackled the issue of abortion. Citing a “widely perceived … gaffe on Cain’s part,” Mulshine writes:

After CNN’s Piers Morgan asked for his position [on abortion], Cain recited the standard answer about how he would push for a federal law or constitutional amendment banning all abortions.

Under further prodding, though, Cain began to employ the antigovernment rhetoric that has become popular in the tea party era.

“The government shouldn’t be trying to tell people everything to do, especially when it comes to social decisions they need to make,” he said.

Mulshine didn’t see Cain’s comments so much as a gaffe as indicative of a much wider problem; the Republicans’ contradictory stance on the issue:

But in his own way he was clearly trying to apply to the abortion issue the same logic Republicans apply to issues such as gun control, education and economics. There, they pledge to get the federal government out of the way. On abortion, however, they’re expected to endorse a plan to give the feds unprecedented powers.

This is a liberal position, not a conservative one. Any federal law banning abortion would be rooted in the same section of the Constitution now being challenged by conservatives in the suits against Obamacare: the Interstate Commerce Clause. Conservatives argue the original meaning of that clause permits Congress only to facilitate interstate commerce, not restrict it. If that’s true of Obamacare, then it’s true of abortion.

Mulshine goes on to explain how, traditionally, the “pro-life” stance had been a bipartisan issue embraced by both major parties “back [when] both parties were committed to big government.” Up until the 1970s a federal ban on abortion was very much a liberal democratic position, citing “Tom Eagleton, the Missouri senator who almost made it onto the 1972 Democratic presidential ticket as George McGovern’s running mate.” Mulshine continues:

But just how the movement fits into a party otherwise dedicated to limited government and individual liberty can be tough to discern, as Cain proved. What he seemed to be trying to get at was something Ronald Reagan said when he was governor of California: “Government should do only those things people cannot do for themselves.”

Well, people are perfectly capable of preventing themselves from getting abortions. It’s hard to see where the federal government can be of any assistance.

So far so good. Mulshine gets the contradiction, but his solution doesn’t resolve it:

Where the movement went off track is with the decision to try to combat an abuse of power by one branch of the federal government by granting more power to the other branches. That might be a nice idea, but it’s not a conservative idea. And those who endorse it are not particularly conservative.

Mulshine seems to be saying that the Supreme Court’s Roe vs. Wade decision was “an abuse of power,” but that a federal law or amendment overturning that decision and outlawing abortion nationally would still be “an abuse of power.” In other words, any legal involvement by the federal government in the abortion issue is itself the “abuse of power.” Instead, Mulshine contends that:

There is a conservative approach to the issue, though, and at the moment it seems to be quietly gaining ground. Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have proposed getting the federal government out of the abortion business once and for all. This would involve passing a law restricting the authority of the appellate courts to review state abortion laws.

What’s becoming clear here is that Mulshine is not staking out an unequivocal position in support of “individual liberty.” In fact, his position on abortion legality is not made clear here. What is clear is that he contradicts his seeming antipathy to “big government,” in the area of abortion. Whereas he opposes a federal ban on abortion, he apparently has no qualms about state bans. Regarding abortion, like many conservatives, he merely splits big government into 50 pieces, and apportions "the abuse of power" among the states. Furthermore, he doesn’t recognize the authority of the Supreme Court to affirm the right to abortion. But, I would ask, what if a state passed a law abolishing freedom of speech? If the federal courts stepped in to declare that state law unconstitutional, would he consider that decision “an abuse of power?” Probably not, because he along with Gingrich and Paul would quite likely claim that there is a specifically enumerated right to free speech in the US constitution which all states must abide by, but there is no “freedom of abortion” clause. I’m taking some liberty here in ascribing to Mulshine a position that he seems to be advocating, but in fact may not hold. But conservatives have long disdained the Supreme Court’s “discovering” of rights that allegedly do not exist in the constitution.

But the issue of enumerated rights (specifically, the Bill of Rights) is one that disturbed some of the Founding Fathers because of the danger that any right not enumerated could be construed as not existing by virtue of the implication that government has the power to usurp it. As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist 84:

I go further, and affirm that bills of rights, in the sense and to the extent in which they are contended for, are not only unnecessary in the proposed Constitution, but would even be dangerous. They would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted. For why declare that things shall not be done which there is no power to do? Why, for instance, should it be said that the liberty of the press shall not be restrained, when no power is given by which restrictions may be imposed? I will not contend that such a provision would confer a regulating power; but it is evident that it would furnish, to men disposed to usurp, a plausible pretense for claiming that power. They might urge with a semblance of reason, that the Constitution ought not to be charged with the absurdity of providing against the abuse of an authority which was not given, and that the provision against restraining the liberty of the press afforded a clear implication, that a power to prescribe proper regulations concerning it was intended to be vested in the national government. This may serve as a specimen of the numerous handles which would be given to the doctrine of constructive powers, by the indulgence of an injudicious zeal for bills of rights.

Emphasis added. Those concerns were probably what led to inclusion of the Ninth Amendment, which states:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Clearly, the Supreme Court is empowered by the Ninth Amendment to affirm unemunerated rights, including the right to abortion. Where in the constitution is it given to government the power to forbid it? No such authority exists. If abortion is a legitimate right, then Roe vs. Wade is not “an abuse of power,” as Mulshine claims. It is the recognition of a right "retained by the people" that government has no power "to deny or disparage." The court "construed" correctly. If abortion is a legitimate right guaranteed by the constitution, even if implicitly, then, as in the case of speech or any in the Bill of Rights, no state may pass any law abridging that right. A proper understanding of individual rights will settle the abortion issue. Passing the ball to the states may be “a conservative approach to the issue,” as Mulshine says, but it does not resolve the issue. It is, in fact, an evasion of it. The balance of power doctrine does not empower any government at any level to violate individual rights.

The question then is: On what basis can it be claimed that abortion is one of the “other [rights] retained by the people?” The answer can be found by examining the philosophical basis of rights.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

To Defeat Collectivism, Deny Collectivist Premises

Dr. Paul Hsieh of FIRM has another great editorial in PJ Media, where he is a regular. In this latest piece, Free Market Lessons from Contraception Fight, Hsieh argues that those opposing ObamaCare's controversial contraception mandate should oppose all mandates. Because many critics of the mandate support other aspects of government intervention in healthcare, including other mandates, they lose credibility.

To be effective, Hsieh argues, opponents of the contraception mandate become consistent proponents of free market healthcare. In particular, Hsieh singles out the Catholic Church:

If the Catholic bishops had previously opposed ObamaCare and supported free market health care reforms on principle, they would now have the moral high ground to argue for religious freedom. But having made their earlier deal with the devil to support ObamaCare, they’re now paying the price.

As I also pointed out at The Objective Standard Blog, the Catholic Church actually paved the way for the contraceptive mandate with its long history as a proponent of "social justice." "We must," as Hsieh says, "fight for freedom as a principle."

That leads me to my reply to a correspondent. "Brutus" inquires:

I would be interested however in how the market will achieve the goals of (most) every healthcare system: high patient outcomes, universal coverage, and value for money. Where – in what country – have we seen such a free market healthcare system where these goals are being achieved? What do we do with people who do not purchase insurance? And how do we deal with high risk people or those with pre-existing conditions?

I don’t disagree that the market is generally the solution, but until we are able to answer some of the deficiencies of the market in dealing with the more difficult aspects of healthcare, the Left will continue the drumbeat for the alternative, single payer.

Here is my response:

Brutus: Questions such as “how do we deal with high risk people or those with pre-existing conditions?” is an invalid question because it implies that “we” – i.e. “society,” or the government – have an inherent claim on the lives and wealth of the private citizenry. No such claim exists; morally, logically, or in America, constitutionally. Accepting the collectivist premise that every healthcare problem that anyone may encounter is a national problem, and that “we” may subordinate property rights and freedom to “solving” them, will inexorably defeat freedom fighters, sooner or later.

The “market” does not “achieve goals.” A free market leaves every individual free to pursue his/her own goals in regard to healthcare or any other value. Theory and practice have shown that the natural incentives inherent in a free market – individuals seeking the best quality at the best price from producers competing for their business in a given field – leads to ever-widening availability and affordability of goods and services, healthcare included. In a free market, solutions to problems encountered by some tend to emerge because people are free to solve such problems. If “high patient outcomes … and value for money” is the goal, then leaving people free to pursue them is the only answer.

But there is no guarantee, in markets as in nature, that every individual will solve every problem he encounters. Until we realize that it is not the government’s proper function to enforce “universal coverage” or otherwise alleviate the alleged “deficiencies of the market,” the Left will continue to advance us toward single payer, “with all of its obvious faults.”

Chris Zeh responds:

I’m trying to understand your position on this. Are you essentially saying that looking out for your fellow (disadvantaged) Americans is “not my problem”?

That we shouldn’t try to regulate things like enforcing coverage for pre-existing conditions? Do we refuse medical care to people who can’t pay and just look away while they die in the streets?

Maybe I misunderstand your stance, please help clarify.

My rather direct answer


I’m saying that “looking out for your fellow (disadvantaged) Americans” is a decision that rests only with the voluntary choices of each individual. I’m saying that any individual or group of individual’s who claims the power to make one man’s problem the responsibility of another by government force is a thug and a hypocrite. I’m saying that any individual who claims the right to practice charity at the expense of other peoples tax money and freedom of choice has no right to claim the motive of “looking out for [his] fellow Americans.” I’m saying such behavior is immoral at its core.

From Chris Zeh:

(This is the exact same reason we need something like Social Security, some form of forcing people to save for retirement, because some people left to their own devices will save nothing, then expect society to give them free hand out when they are old. Social Security, while not perfect, helps manage this risk


To elaborate on ChrisS’s point concerning Social Security:

Chris Zeh’s logic behind Social Security – that “some form of forcing people to save for retirement [is needed] because some people left to their own devices will save nothing…” - is the evil that is eating America alive. When you sacrifice the responsible to the irresponsible; the successful to the failure; the wealthy to the poor; the moral to the immoral; the good to the evil; exactly what result do you expect? It is the prescription for poverty and tyranny that ultimately befalls every collectivist society; the placing of the tribe and government outside of the moral law.

Ike nails it: “Governments get their legitimate powers from people and people do not have the right to take money or anything else from other people…” Neither you nor any number of individuals can grant to government that which you yourself do not possess; the right to steal and enslave. America is the first nation to explicitly subordinate society – which means, government – to the same moral law that we as individuals must live by, through the principle of unalienable individual rights. That is the only basis for a civil, humane, and compassionate coexistence among people.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Dharun Ravi Case and "Hate Crime" Laws

The Objective Standard Blog has published my latest post, “Hate Crime” Laws are Gateways for Censorship and Statism. Here are the opening sentences:

A criminal trial stemming from a 2010 incident that drew national attention began in New Brunswick, NJ on February 24, 2012. The defendant, Dharun Ravi, allegedly spied on his Rutgers college roommate Tyler Clementi with another man via webcam, and subsequently distributed the recordings via Twitter.

The prosecution claims that Ravi “targeted Clementi for being gay,” and Ravi was indicted on “bias” (aka “hate crime”) charges in addition to invasion of privacy and other charges. But the case is controversial, and the jury must ultimately “decide whether Ravi committed a hate crime or merely pulled a teenage prank…”

Read the rest.

Friday, March 2, 2012

NJ's Budget Crisis Deeper than an "Activist" Court

Steven Malanga has a very good article in City Journal about New Jersey's budget woes and its link to state Supreme Court rulings. In The Court That Broke Jersey, Malanga cites the New Jersey Supreme Court as an "institution that bears much of the responsibility for the state’s fiscal woes." Malanga writes:

For half a century now, New Jersey has been home to the most activist state appellate court in America. Lauded by proponents of “living” constitutions who urge courts to make policy instead of interpret the law as written, the New Jersey Supreme Court has profoundly transformed the Garden State by seizing control of school funding, hijacking zoning powers from towns and cities to increase subsidized housing, and nullifying taxpayer protections in the state constitution. Its undemocratic actions have blown apart the state’s finances and led to ill-conceived and ineffective policies. If you want to understand what rule by liberal judges looks like on the state level, you need only look at New Jersey, which is teetering on bankruptcy though it remains one of America’s wealthiest states.

Malanga goes on to discuss these three areas of court intrusion that he argues it doesn't belong. But as I have argued before, one must drill down deeper to understand reasons for the court's actions. I've left the following comments:

Mike LaFerrara February 15, 2012 at 10:45 PM

The “living constitution” doctrine has long been a tool of statists for making an end run around the Founding principles that center on individual rights. But there is more to it than that.

Mr. Malanga states that “In short, the Supreme Court seized power in education policy.”

No, it didn’t. I argue that the NJ State constitution’s “thorough and efficient” clause, enacted through the “democratic” process, empowered the court. All it took was a savvy former governor to recognize and exercise it.

That clause dates back to 1873. Hughes understood its meaning and discovered how to use it. Article VIII, section 4 empowers the courts, which must uphold the constitution. As I understand it, that clause gives the court the reigns over the legislature in one way or another.

In fact, in its educational rulings, the court actually did “interpret the law as written.” The state constitution reads: “The legislature shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of free public schools…” What if it doesn’t, according to the justices’ interpretation of that vague clause? The state is then in violation of constitutional law. The court is now faced with an impossible dilemma. It must either neglect its duty to uphold the constitution, or usurp the proper function of another branch of government.

The elephant in the room that few seem to want to confront is that the only solution to the court’s “massive redistribution of wealth” is to get rid of the constitutional mandate for state provision of the schools. It’s a daunting task, to be sure. But to find the philosophical unpinning for repeal, look no further than America’s Founding principles. The proper purpose of government is not to provide an education (or any material product or service, which by definition requires the redistribution of wealth). It is to protect individual rights, which includes the rights of parents to educate their children with their own resources as they see fit. Government-run schools violate everyone’s rights in two ways: They force people to pay for the education of other people’s children, and they put government in charge of what is taught, how it is taught, and who should pay for it.

The courts affordable housing mandates are also rooted in the violation of individual rights; the extraordinary powers of local zoning boards over private land use. For decades, town zoning boards routinely practiced “exclusionary” zoning, violating the rights of property owners, developers, and housing consumers to contract freely and voluntarily.

In 1970, Mount Laurel zoning ordinances forbade the African Methodist Episcopalian church from building a 36 unit apartment complex in the town. The state Supreme Court saw exclusionary zoning (which it was), and issued the decision that led to COAH. In doing so, it correctly identified the problem – local zoning regulations – but then proceeded to compound rather than solve the problem. The question that should have been asked and answered was: Why should any central planning authority have the power to stop the African Methodist Episcopalian congregation, or any property owner, from building what they please on their own land? The issue is not who should impose housing quotas, but the legitimacy of zoning powers as such.

If the court had used individual rights rather than the vague “general welfare of the Jersey population” as the standard, it could have arrived at the correct decision; to reign in the zoning boards, and restrict them to protecting everyone’s individual rights, including mediating legitimate disputes between developers and local residents, rather than dictate private property usage. Instead, the court granted override powers to the state to correct what it considered local zoning abuses. This simply shifted central planning abuses to the state level. Instead, it should have overturned those powers at the local level, thus liberating the housing market.

There are few problems that can’t be solved by returning to America’s Founding principles of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government.

For more on this topic, see my previous posts:

Christie's "War on the Court"

New Jersey's Constitutional Roadblock to Reform

COAH, Mt. Laurel, and Fines For Disaster Victims in New Jersey

NJ's "Affordable Housing Crisis" - It's the Zoning, Stupid!