Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Freedom of Contract is an Inalienable Right

Is freedom of contract selective, applying to some but denied to others? Here is the opening paragraph of my 10/29/12 post at The Objective Standard blog:

New York has properly legalized gay marriage. Melisa Erwin and Jennie McCarthy have improperly filed an anti-discrimination complaint under New York law to force a private business to host gay weddings.

To learn more, read Gay Marriage: The Right to Voluntary Contract, not Coercive "Contract"

Related Reading:

Gay Marriage and Individual Rights

Title 2: Government vs. Private Action

Monday, October 29, 2012

Another Cruel Rape Comment from a GOP Candidate

My latest blog post at The Objective Standard focuses on a particularly nasty debate comment about rape-induced pregnancy made by a Republican senate candidate. Here are the opening lines:

"Once again, a Republican congressional candidate has thrown the party back on its heels with a cruel comment concerning rape.
"In answer to a debate question on when abortion should be legal, Indiana GOP senate candidate Richard Mourdock said:
I struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God. And, I think, even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen."

Read the rest of The GOP's Religious Albatross.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

For President; Not Barack Obama

Unlike four years ago, when I abstained from voting for president due to Obama's overt collectivism and McCain's equally collectivist nationalism and disdain for free speech, this time I will be casting a presidential vote--for Mitt Romney. Politically, the best I can say about Romney is that he's not Obama. But at least he has some respect for business and, more importantly, the dignity of the individual.

Not so Obama.

Obama appeals to the very worst in people; to envy, greed (a sense of entitlement), resentment, fear of self-responsibility, bigotry (against success), outright hatred of the good for being the good, dependence, suspicion of others. His political agenda reflects overt collectivism, egalitarianism, and state supremacy. His unabashed faith in the state as the source of economic well-being leads straight to a hybrid socialist/fascist system and consequent widening impoverishment. His foreign policy fosters a growing imperialist Islamist threat.

All of these negatives have been around in varying degrees for decades, acting to slowly rot out America's culture of individualism and capitalism. But Obama represents the most overt manifestation of those cultural trends ever. He is the logical consequence of the "progressive" philosophical assault on Americanism. It is a sad commentary that we have reached a stage where a president believes he can succeed by openly appealing to those corrosive character traits--and garner enough popular support to keep an election that should be a slam-dunk for any Republican close.

But that's where we are. This election will not reverse the century-long tide toward a socialist America. If Romney wins, he may stem the tide temperarily, giving us a breather which we can use to continue our work of moving the culture away from altruism and toward egoism, the fundamental moral victory that must precede any hope of changing the political course we are on.

If Obama wins, the trend continues more forcefully than before. He knows that--with only eight years to accomplish his goal of fundamentally transforming America, half of which has (productively, from his perspective) past--he must cram as much additional "transformation" into his second term as he can.

That's why Obama must be defeated--to buy time. There are risks, however. Just as the 2008 financial collapse has been blamed on the statist Bush's alleged "free market" policies--tarnishing the reputation of a capitalism that doesn't exist in America--so a second collapse under a Romney administration wrought by Obama's policies will be blamed on some alleged Romney "free market" policies, compounding the damage.

But that's a risk worth taking. Few people today even know what capitalism is or how it actually works, so our educational work is already cut out for us.

Romney for president.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Racism or Political Statement

Is this poster depicting President Obama as an African witch doctor racist or a political protest? The NJ Star-Ledger and many others think it is racist.

However, if you look closely, the message can be taken in a way that has nothing to do with race. I left the following comments:

If Hillary Clinton was president, and her face was on Skuby’s display with the caption "HillaryCare”—or if, 45 years ago, we saw Lyndon Johnson's face in a storefront with the caption "Medicare”—would either have been deemed racist?

I read the Spring Lake display not as racist, but as a rather effective political statement against collectivized, state-run medicine. Notice the hammer-and-sickle, the symbol of the white-run Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, in place of the "C". Collectivism is the neo-tribal doctrine that holds that the individual's only moral purpose is sacrifice and service to "society," as represented by the state, and that the state can therefor override any individual's rights to liberty and property for what it deems to be the "public" or "common good." Collectivism is the doctrine that gives rise to all forms of neo-tribalism, including communism, Nazism, fascism, welfare statism, and all manifestations of socialized medicine. Collectivism knows no racial boundaries, and the tribal witch doctor is an appropriate symbol for anyone who would place control of everyone's healthcare in the hands of a central planner.

Disagree or not, calling Bill Skuby a racist is an unjust smear. If Skuby got anything wrong, it is that he underestimated the extent to which his American-as-apple-pie protest sign would be misunderstood or misrepresented.

One correspondent disagreed that ObamaCare represents central planning.  amazed@humanity wrote:

BUT your central planner statement is incorrect in having national healthcare because we all will have the ability to make decisions on whether to have insurance or not(and a fool if choosing not to protect yourself and loved ones) and what kind of insurance you will have provided towards you.

It's true that America's hybrid public-private healthcare system is not central planning in the Soviet, communist sense of state ownership of the means of healthcare production and deliverance. But central planning comes in many guises, including the fascist variety. Government spending through programs like Medicare and Medicaid already accounts for half of healthcare spending in the US, and that very fact puts government bureaucrats in the position, through the power of the purse, to dictate medical deliverance.

ObamaCare greatly expands the governments already large regulatory control over private insurance companies, effectively making insurers proxies for those same bureaucratic dictates. While rationing (central planning) will not be as overt as in the Soviet model, it will still be there via the government's financial and regulatory efforts to control the accelerating price spiral caused by the decades-long accumulated government interventions. National healthcare gives broad powers to the government, and those powers won't remain dormant. The government is already flexing its central planning muscle: Look no further than the birth control mandate. Those exercise of those powers will be relentlessly expanded. National healthcare in any guise is central planning, regardless of how many "choices" it allows individuals to make. Freedom to choose only among government approved choices is not freedom. It is central planning. That is a fact.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Profiting From Healthcare is Moral

Health over profit? That's what NJ Star-Ledger letter-writer Marvin Schwalb, responding to a call for modest free market reforms, demanded:

   Ian Linker’s opinion piece (“A Republican plan for real reform to health care,” op-ed, Sept. 8) manages to make absolutely clear what is wrong with health care in America and the Republican plan to fix it.
   He uses such terms as “competition,” “industries,” “consumers” and “pricing.” Linker demonstrates that health care in America is first about profit. Sorry, but the primary purpose of health care should be health, not money.
   There is a very simple fix. Try any one of the many successful health care systems around the world that focus on quality care for all, rather than making a few people rich.

What does it mean that "the primary purpose of health care should be health, not money?" Just what does Marvin Schwalb think money stands for? 

Money stands for man-made goods and services, including healthcare, created by productive individuals. It is a means of trading one's own productive efforts in payment for what others produce. If healthcare is not about money, it is about something-for-nothing. It is about enslaving providers to the whims of those who do not think that they should have to pay their own way.

A profit is the reward for successfully providing a product or service to willing "consumers"--in actuality, other producers--at a cost below that which consumers are willing and able to pay (the market price) in a voluntary trade. Trade is a win-win transaction in which both parties benefit. Can anyone think of anything more noble than making a profit curing or alleviating people's health problems, or reducing their suffering? Those who get rich in this fashion are moral heroes, because the money they are paid is the measure of the value others place on their work.  And given the voluntary nature of trade, the profit motive leads to better quality and lower prices. Government-run healthcare, based as it is on forced confiscation of private money (i.e., theft) eliminates the profit discipline, leading to the out-of-control costs and rationing that beset those immoral "successful health care systems around the world."

Of course, that's how it works in a free market where trade is voluntary, rather than coerced as it is in today's government-controlled medicine. One must readily acknowledge that a lot--but certainly not all--of the profits earned in today's mixed economy come as a result of government favors--as in the insurance mandates which are subsidies to insurance companies--and it's not always easy to separate the too.

That aside, the idea that there is some inherent conflict between healthcare and profits is utterly false. The two are inextricably linked and mutually supportive. Profits don't come at the expense of providing healthcare, as Schwalb implies. They are the result of providing healthcare. No profits, no healthcare. Healthcare, like any other productive field, should be about win-win, mutually profitable trade, not one-sided gain for patients at the expense of providers. It is just as moral for providers to monetarily profit from their services as it is for patients to profit through better health from those very services. It is just as immoral to deny providers' legitimate profits as it is to deny healthcare to patients by government dictate.

Further, despite Schwalb's ridicule of the terms “competition,” “industries,” “consumers” and “pricing,” wishing away the laws of economics can no more negate them than wishing away the laws of gravity can negate them. The higher objective value of healthcare relative to many other products is irrelevant. Healthcare is a man-made product, and providers are traders, just like producers in every other line of work.

In a free market, the "health care system"--i.e., the government--doesn't "focus on quality care for all," "making a few people rich," or anything of the kind. Rather, it focuses only on protecting the rights of providers and patients to voluntarily contract with each other to mutual advantage. Money is the tool of freedom and peaceful coexistence among people.

Parasites and power-lusters always seek to ideologically disconnect wealth from money in order to loot and enslave the productive for the parasites own unearned benefit and as justification for expanding government controls.

Related Reading:

"The Forgotten Man of Socialized Medicine"--and us

Time to Minimize "Macroeconomics"

Francisco's Money Speech

OBushonomics vs. Gilliganomics

Sunday, October 21, 2012

End, Don't Reduce, Federal Student Higher Education Funding

As the editors of the NJ Star-Ledger note in Best Student Loan Debt Policies Reduce Hurdles, neither presidential candidate suggests eliminating government involvement in higher education funding. But the legitimacy of government financing of higher education is just what we should be debating.

I left the following comments:

The capacity for evasion in apparently infinite for many. We're still struggling to recover from the government-created easy-money-and-credit housing bubble meltdown, and here we have statists dogmatically defending this latest easy-money-and-credit bubble.

Government subsidization of higher education has had predictable results--exploding college costs; the creation of a fraudulent college-or-bust mentality that leaves intelligent, motivated non-college grads unfairly out in the cold; a mountain of college debt disconnected from appropriate marketable skills; a huge diversion of capital resources from profitable private investment to useless public "investments in the country's future"; and so on.

The so-called student loan crisis is a direct result of government subsidization of higher education in the form of grants, tax advantages, and loan guarantees--the predictable consequences of which decades of economic theory and practice foretold. And as usual, this subsidy program is rooted in immoral and improper government actions. The government has no right to forcibly seize private earnings and wealth to fund anyone's college education. It is legalized theft, and nothing more. Education loans are properly a voluntary contractual matter between private individuals and private lenders. Government has no valid role other than enforcing contracts and prosecuting fraud.

Government subsidization of college education is immoral and impractical. It must be ended across the board.

Friday, October 19, 2012

"Government Help" Leads to Totalitarian Socialism

A recent NJ Star-Ledger letter-to-the-editor pointed out that we all depend on government for one service or another. It was in response to Mitt Romney's comments about the 47% of voters that he said have an entitlement mentality because they depend on government for their needs. His letter is titled, Mitt Romney, we all get government help.

I left the following comments:

That "government help" is no such thing. 

The highway system was funded by private money seized by force from private individuals who earned it, and paid out to other productive private individuals to build it.  

The same holds true for schools, basic research, the space program, Pell grants, guaranteed student and small business loans, old-age retirement and healthcare funding (Social Security, Medicare), charity (Medicaid), and a myriad of other government spending programs. These functions are all funded by private individuals, and properly should never have been co-opted by government force.

The government's only role in any of this is as a political money laundering operation, with politicians taking unearned credit for them. It's all based on theft. Such is the nature of that so-called "government help."

The exception is veterans benefits. Maintaining a military is a proper function of government, which is to protect its citizens' individual rights. The military protects us from foreign enemies. Those who serve in the military rightfully deserve compensation. Veterans medical care, the GI Bill, and the like are a form of payment for services rendered and therefor legitimate. The same holds true for domestic police forces.

As to: "Every time you spend your Social Security check, federal pension or military or federal employee paycheck, you contribute to the growth of American business and industry."

This is Keynesian nonsense, and demonstrably false. We "contribute to the growth of American business and industry" only when we earn the money through productive work. As any honorable person knows, you can't spend what hasn't been earned. You can't consume before you have produced. Try eating a loaf of bread today, that you don't bake until tomorrow. Those government checks are money previously earned.

Yes, we all depend on government to protect out rights, lives and property. Any other kind of dependence is immoral and illegitimate.

It is critically important to understand the difference between the proper and improper functions of government. If we don't, then there is no area of human activity that the government can be stopped from co-opting, eventually leaving all of us dependent on "government help" for every aspect of our lives. That is, we will slide into a totalitarian socialist state devoid of freedom and prosperity.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

How You Build That

If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help.  There was a great teacher somewhere in your life.  Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive.  Somebody invested in roads and bridges.  If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that.  Somebody else made that happen.  The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.

So said President Obama.

It’s true that in a division of labor capitalist exchange economy, no one does it all. Society is not made up of lone wolves. But let’s carry Obama’s logic back one step: “Somebody invested in concrete and asphalt and steel. If you build roads--you didn’t build that.” We can carry this line back ad infinitum, around the economy and back through time to the emergence of man from the cave.

The narrative behind Obama’s “You didn’t build that” speech is just this: Since untold numbers of people past and present contribute to an industrial economy, no one in fact contributes anything, because no one can claim to have built anything. So our incredible modern industrial economy was built by no one--and thus everyone!

Obviously somebody had to have built something. Since the individual is the only human entity that exists metaphysically, it stands to reason that only individuals build anything. But given the myriad contributions of myriad individuals over time, how do we determine who built what?

To delve a little deeper into the question of how one’s achievements tie into the achievements of others, let’s revisit James C. Roumell’s article, What I Built with Government Help, from the personal angle:

Today, I own a small business, an asset management firm with $300 million in assets. Last year we launched the Roumell Opportunistic Value Fund (RAMSX) and hired three more people. We’re growing and creating jobs. I suppose I could pound my chest and take credit for my journey from Detroit to Chevy Chase, from working class to professional. I could say I built it myself. But this wouldn’t be true.

But how, exactly, did those other factors result in Roumell’s success? They, in fact, didn’t. They provided a starting point. The rest was up to him.

All of the opportunities laid before you by others--”government help” or otherwise--will do you no good unless you choose to seize them. The productive individual seizes them. The unproductive do not. From the day you are born, the impetus for self-improvement comes from within the self. Think of how much a child learns in the first three years of his life, before he has set foot in a school, based solely on the unaided, spontaneous, self-generated work of the child’s own intellect and energy. (In this regard, see the work of Maria Montessori.)

The best teacher, best educational environment, best education philosophy and curriculum is an open door of opportunity. But it is still the student who must seize the opportunity; to choose to focus and apply himself; to provide his own motivation and discipline and self-generated action; to think and work to acquire the knowledge and cognitive skills from which to build his future life and career. All of the accumulated knowledge of mankind is of no use without individuals who choose to do the mental work of acquiring it. The impetus for success must come from within the student himself. Good educators can foster (or hinder) the child’s progress by providing a good educational environment. But the student’s own ambition is his only path to a good education.

The same holds true throughout life. No one can think for you. Nothing but your own choice can animate you to intellectual and physical action. Nothing but your own passions and desires can drive and motivate you. No one can give you the qualities of character required for a productive career: rationality, integrity, pride, honesty, discipline, dedication, ambition, and so on are self-generated. No one is born with these qualities, as no one is born with the opposite, negative qualities. It is you who has to focus your mind, exercise your cognitive faculties, make the mental connections that lead to understanding. It is you who must work to acquire your chosen skills. Knowledge doesn’t just jump into your mind, no matter how good the teacher. It is you who must absorb it by a constant process of focus and thought.

It is you who must make the never-ending myriad of choices required to advance your life and your career. It is you who has to choose the ideas you will act upon, and set the goals and values to pursue. It is you who must make the effort to learn from your mistakes.

All of this mental and physical energy must be initiated by your own choice. The basic choices--to think or not, to act or not--and all of the derivative choices are yours and yours alone. All of the achievements that are yours to build upon, if you choose to build upon them, are there. But the building will not commence without the attribute that you and you alone possess--yourself.

Think of the achievements that came before us as a platform; a starting point. In some respects, the platform varies in elevation from individual to individual, depending upon where one lives, his family background, natural intellectual and physical attributes, etc. In other respects, such as mankind’s reservoir of previously discovered knowledge--which is available equally to everyone--we inherit a level platform. But each individual must build on his platform what he will. To the extent that an individual builds on the platform he inherits, the achievement is his. It is not for the schools, infrastructure, the work of others for which you are paid. It is your own achievements--great or modest--that your earnings represent; what you built upon that platform; the material value you added, after paying for what you received from others, including employees’ salaries, to the achievements you inherited from others.

Consider again Obama’s now famous--or, more precisely, infamous--statement:

Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own.

But neither did the people who built the internet, roads, and bridges build your business. This unbelievable American system--the system of freedom and law--also allowed them to thrive, just as it did you, each to the extent of their ability and ambition. Does luck play a part? Sure. But luck is relevant only to the extent that one builds upon the good luck--and overcomes the bad luck--one encounters.

Yes, there are many factors contributing to the nature of his success. 250 years ago, before the advent of individual rights and its political implementation, capitalism, Roumell wouldn’t have built the “asset management firm with $300 million in assets.” But his personal character and work ethic would have made him a success in any era, within the context of the economies and the extent of individual liberty of the time.

The advantages of living in today’s advanced industrial society  provide opportunity for a much higher level of success, to be sure. But regardless of the economic, political, and personal circumstances one finds himself in, the money one earns by productive work and voluntary trade with others is not payment for those “other factors.” The money one earns by his own work in any era represents value added by one’s own efforts; added, that is, to the value created by others.

Let me use my own occupation--plumbing--to demonstrate the point. A team effort such as erecting a building is not a ‘collective” effort, but a series of individual efforts bound together by voluntary cooperation and a common goal. As a construction tradesman, I can tell you that it is the individually acquired knowledge, skills and work of each member of the team…from the architect to the tradesmen to the construction supervisors to the suppliers to the inventors and producers of the tools and materials, etc., that makes that building possible. Each person involved is working to further his own self-interest by his own efforts. While the successful completion of the building depends upon everyone doing his job, each person is being paid according to his own contribution to that end. My work depends in many ways upon the work of others. I can’t do my work until the building has been designed, the foundation laid, the steel erected, etc. But I am not being paid for the erection of the steel skeleton, or the work of any other person contributing to that building. The work that I do by my own mind and hand is my accomplishment, and no one else’s, and the money I am paid is mine just the same. My money--and my success--represents value added to the value created by others.

The same process holds true for Roumell’s business. He built it. Others--like his employees--contributed, for which Roumell paid them. But the business exists because Roumell chose to take the actions necessary to bring it into existence, from the initial idea through all of the decisions that only an owner can make. He built that. To the extent that his employees earn their paychecks, they built that.

The incredible wealth of our industrial society is not a collective achievement. It is the sum of the achievements of productive individuals, to the extent that each [correctly] applied his own initiative, intelligence, and labor—from the industrialist to the construction tradesman. To the extent that you earn an honest dollar—or billion dollars—is the extent to which you built on the talent of your associations and all of the infrastructure and knowledge and incredible achievements that came before you. Your money represents your own self-made success; the value added to the inherited achievements of others. We are all fortunate to have these achievements--this platform--to build upon. It enables each of us to start from a higher rung on the economic ladder than has historically been possible. But what each of us builds upon that platform--whatever its level--is ours.

Acknowledging one’s accomplishments does not mean beating one’s chest and denigrating the accomplishments of others. Likewise, acknowledging the accomplishments of others does not diminish one’s own. They complement each other. That’s the greatness of a free market, division-of-labor, trade economy. People get better together through trade, with each contributing to others’ success in payment for what they receive from others. Roumell pays his employees for what they contribute to his business, and his employees get paid according to their contributions. To the extent that each individual builds his economic success through productive work, that individual did build that--and should be proud to take credit for it.

Monday, October 15, 2012

About That “Government Help,” Mr. Roumell

One of the core issues facing America is the question: What is the Proper Function of Government

This question is almost completely ignored in today's culture, let alone seriously considered. Turning to government for provision of goods and services is, to most people, just another way of getting things done. Need a road or school? The government should provide it. Need money for college? Get a government student loan. Finding a cure for cancer of particular interest to you? Lobby politicians for government research grants. Who gets the credit?

Therein lies the subject of this post.

James C. Roumell, a self-described successful businessman, recently took the time to tell us “What I Built With Government Help.” He counts “government loans and Pell Grants” and other  “public investments” among the “many factors” contributing to “my success.” “I met Claiborne Pell,” gushes Roumell, “and was able to thank the former Democratic senator from Rhode Island for introducing the Higher Education Act of 1965, which allowed me to go to college.”

If Roumell is successful, good for him. But let’s be honest: Pell did not pay for Roumell’s college. Other Americans were forced to, against their will, through their taxes.
There is nothing more phony than the politician practicing “charity” with other people’s tax money, then beating his chest and putting his name to it. Ayn Rand called them seekers of “unearned greatness.” It is such parasites to whom Roumell gives thanks. 

The government itself, by its nature, produces nothing. Whatever it is—infrastructure, schools, space exploration, basic scientific research, college or small business loans, even charity—the money government “invests” is private money taken by force of taxation from those who earned it, and then paid out to other individuals who do the work of building or teaching or creating.
Without that money and the teachers and road builders and other productive individuals, government wouldn’t be able to “provide” anything.

The same productive people, and their money, that bring those things into existence exist outside of government.
In many, if not most, instances, people might spend and invest their money in ways different from what government officials would like. But that is the whole point of freedom and limited government; to forbid government officials from seizing private wealth for the purpose of imposing their values on the citizens whose rights their job it is to protect. 

Such is the nature of all “government help,” “public investments,” and the like.

What Roumell lauds is essentially a political money laundering operation, with politicians converting illegitimately seized private funds into seemingly legitimate government provisions.

To be clear, my intention is not to degrade the people engaged in all of these government programs. As Roumell notes, it is “the decent thing to do” to give a nod of thanks to all that is available to us through the efforts of others. But let’s give the credit to whom it belongs, which is not the government.

One question that arises is: If the provision of roads, schools, and tuition grants represent money laundering, isn't the same true of, say, the National Guard, which was cited by Roumell in his litany of government "help"? The definition of "money laundering" is; "The process of taking the proceeds of criminal activity and making them appear legal." This is essentially no different than what I described above as "political money laundering"; politicians converting illegitimately seized private funds into seemingly legitimate government provisions.

The National Guard is a legitimate government provision, as are the police, military, law courts, patent office, and any function that serves the purpose of protecting the individual rights of a nation's citizens. The money taken from private citizens to fund these operations are not illegitimately seized, because these taxes pay for legitimate government services. Therefor, they can not be considered money laundering. (In a fully free society, such taxes would be voluntary. But even though they are not, they are legitimate payment for legitimate government services. I recommend How Would Government be Funded in a Free Society in The Objective Standard for more details.)

“Let us have a real debate about the costs and benefits of government spending programs,” implores Roumell. “The attitude that smugly denigrates the public sphere while applauding the private one is misguided,” he lectures, smugly disregarding the actual nature of “government help” and the politicians who take unearned credit for it.

Let us, instead, have a debate about the proper function of government. Let us have a debate about the moral propriety of violating the rights of people to spend and invest their own money as they see fit, in order to fund undertakings that government has no business engaging in. Whenever you hear “government spending programs,” “public investment,” “government help,” or any other catch phrase designed to obfuscate the truth, think of money laundering.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Archbishop's Misplaced Charge: Gay Marriage is a Threat to Freedom of Religion

My October 5 blog post for The Objective Standard concerns a New Jersey Archbishop's seemingly senseless assertion that "the legalization of gay marriage would threaten religious freedom." This was easy to debunk, and that's what my post does. Please read Archbishop's Claim that Gay Marriage Threatens Religious Freedom is a Threat to Religious Freedom.

There is an interesting sidebar to this story, however. This is an educated man, Archbishop John J. Myers, that made this claim. What was his thinking? The article I cited for the TOS blog post didn't give Myers' reasons for his claim, so I decided to do some digging. I looked for the text of Myers' official statement, which I couldn't find. Fortunately, fellow TOS blogger Ari Armstrong did, and in the text, Myers gives his reasons.

On page 15 of his Pastoral Statement, Myers states:

If our society enshrines a “civil” right to “marry” someone of one’s own sex, then any persons or groups that believe otherwise will be seriously disadvantaged in law and in fact.

What is the nature of these “serious disadvantages” Myers offers as proof of his contention that gay marriage threatens religious freedom? Let us examine them, point by point.

“Already we hear public officials and news organizations refer to those of us who hold the conjugal view of marriage as ‘bigots.’”

Do I detect a bit of defensiveness here? Or does Myers view the Church as above the free speech rights of others? Those who hold this “conjugal view of marriage” have the same free speech rights as their critics, and can use those rights to counter the charges and defend their viewpoint. What’s wrong with a little healthy public debate? Perhaps Myers senses--on some level--that the critics are, “in fact,” right. In any event, the right to freedom of speech and expression in no way conflicts with freedom of religion. In regard to gay marriage, this is a non-issue.

“States like Illinois and Massachusetts have made it impossible for Catholic Charities to provide adoption services.”

On this subject, the New York Times reports:

Roman Catholic bishops in Illinois have shuttered most of the Catholic Charities affiliates in the state rather than comply with a new requirement that says they must consider same-sex couples as potential foster-care and adoptive parents if they want to receive state money.

The bishops have followed colleagues in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts who had jettisoned their adoption services rather than comply with nondiscrimination laws.

The government’s proper role here is to provide the legal framework that protects the rights of all parties, including the children, not to provide the funding. The culprit is government funding, which gives it direct control of the process by setting conditions for that funding. But, the impropriety of state funding aside, as long as the Church takes government money, it must abide by its conditions--conditions it presumably could have escaped by providing its own funding. (One can also argue that opponents of same-sex marriage are taxpayers too, which means their rights are being violated by being forced to support gay parenthood in contradiction to their beliefs. But these conflicts are inherent in the nature of taxpayer funding of anything.)

“Hotel managers, photographers, owners of reception halls, etc who hold to the view of marriage as a conjugal partnership have had legal or civil actions taken against them.”

The problem here are laws such as Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which ban “discrimination” in the private sector. Anti-discrimination laws related to proper governmental functions is appropriate, but the government must be neutral in regard to private associations. Owners of private establishments and businesses have a right to contract--or not--with whom they please, whatever the reason, just as people have a right to patronize--or not--whichever businesses they please. The right to freedom of association, like freedom of speech or religion, is absolute, so long as no one's rights are violated. The government has no right to dictate who you must associate with, just that you can freely choose your associations.

“How long would the state permit churches, schools or parents to teach their children that homosexual activity is contrary to the natural law if homosexual marriage were a civil right?  Already in Canada and other democratic nations “hate speech” laws have been used to harass or even arrest clerics who preach the Biblical message of marriage.”

It’s a bizarre stretch to believe that the American government would attack churches in this manner, given this country’s separation of church and state doctrine that forbids taxpayer funding of religion. Private schools that receive some form of government funding--ex., government vouchers--would undoubtedly have to comply with the strings attached. Public schools are, well, government schools. When we allowed tax-funded, government run public schools--or taxpayer subsidization of education in any form--we allowed government to determine what is taught. Will that intrusion into children’s education eventually extend right into the home? With government’s near monopoly on education, homosexual issues are the least of our worries.

All of Myers’ alleged religious freedom infringements are no such thing. The Church is a victim of government funding and private sector anti-”discrimination” and “hate speech” laws, which violate the rights to property, freedom of association, and freedom of speech, respectively. There is no fundamental conflict between the right to religious freedom and the right to gay marriage. These conflicts of rights only arise when government improperly intrudes in private affairs, and it is those rights-violating government policies, not gay marriage, against which the Church should be fighting.

These government intrusions do not excuse Myers’ assault on gay marriage, as two wrongs—or three or four—don’t make a right.

My conclusion, as I stated in my TOS blog post:

Freedom of religion means freedom not only to practice religion but also to be free from the imposition of others’ religious beliefs. The Catholic Church’s fight to keep gay marriage illegal violates this principle and the First Amendment’s Establishment and Free Exercise Clauses by attempting to impose its religious dogma on everyone else.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Religion and Education Should Both Be Separate From the State

The first paragraph of my recent post at The Objective Standard blog, Separation of State from Religion--and Education--are Corollary Principles of the Right, reads:

Slate’s Amanda Marcotte complained that a new Florida law attempts “to get around the spirit” of the 1962 Supreme Court decision Engel v. Vitale that banned government-sponsored prayer in public schools as an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment’s Establishment Clause.

In her article, Marcotte alternately blames the enactment of this law on “the long-standing conservative temper tantrum over the 1962 decision” and “the now 50-year-long fit the right has thrown over this.”

But, constitutional questions regarding voluntary student group activities on public property aside,  Marcotte is wrong to equate conservatives with the political right (emphasis added).

As Craig Biddle explains, “The political right properly belongs to those who uphold the principle of [individual] rights [and] a government that protects and does not violate rights.” Conservatives, however, are not committed defenders of individual rights. As Biddle observes, conservatives support rights violations in many areas, including government-enforced religious values and government-run schools.

But Marcotte’s complaint rings hollow if she also supports government-run schools, which she undoubtedly does, being--as Time Magazine notes--“an outspoken voice of the left.”
Religion is about one’s personal beliefs and ideas. But so is education. People have differing views on educational philosophy, curriculum, teaching methods, the cognitive needs of the child, the role of religion in education, and so on. If Christians have no right to “push their religious views”  on others, why doesn't the same principle hold true regarding educational views?   Why should Christians (or adherents of any religion) be forced to pay for schools that forbid the organized prayer sessions that they believe should form an integral part of their children’s education?  Likewise, just as no one should have to pay for the religious education of other people’s children (e.g., Sunday school), neither should anyone have to pay for the secular education of other people’s children. It works both ways.

Tax-funded schools are just as wrong as tax-funded churches, synagogues, or mosques.

Like a whole raft of political controversies including teacher accountability, tenure, and coercive teachers union practices, the smoldering school prayer conflict is tied to our failure to recognize the essential similarities regarding the relationship of government to religion and education.

Freedom of religion and freedom of education go hand in hand, and the First Amendment should be amended to read; “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or of education, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Related Reading:

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Yaron Brook on Self-Esteem

In this interview, Ayn Rand Institute Executive Director Yaron Brook gives one of the most inspiring descriptions and defense of self-esteem I have heard. He cuts through the modern gibberish to tell us what it isn't, and tells us why real self-esteem is necessary for human happiness and flourishing. Brook appears at about 5 minutes into the interview, and goes for about a half-hour. It is well worth listening to.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Abusive Teachers Union Power Results from Government School Monopoly

The institution of government-financed public education leads to unnecessary political controversies that wouldn’t exist in an education free market.

As I’ve noted in previous posts, a free market is inherently equipped to seamlessly deal with issues like teacher accountability and tenure. The same is true with regard to the power of teachers unions. As CATO Institute’s Neal McCluskey explains:

[Teachers unions] are a natural symptom of a government monopoly that, because it is a monopoly, strongly favors the monopolization of labor. One employer, one employee representative.

[T]eacher union officials and members are no different than anyone else: they are simply trying to get the best deals for themselves.  What separates them from non-unionized workers—and unionized workers in the private sector—is not their desires, but that their employment comes from a system into which ”customers” must pay, and which is controlled completely by politics.

Citing a Wall Street Journal piece on the unions’ “huge” political expenditures, McCluskey writes:

There would be no major freedom issue if all of this were spending by unions with completely voluntary membership, and which operated in truly free markets. There would, then, be no compelled support of politicking. But this is absolutely not the case when it comes to teachers unions and other public sector unions.

For one thing, teachers often are, for all intents and purposes, forced to join unions as a condition of employment, even when they are required to ”just” pay big “agency fees” to cover collective bargaining. Moreover, the ultimately taxpayer-supplied dues money is used to get more dough out of taxpayers who have no choice but to be schools’ “customers.”

In a genuine free market, workers and businesses would be free to create union shops by voluntary agreement. But both would be subject to voluntary market forces, because a private company cannot gather its customers by physical force. The power of the unions would be limited and strictly economic—not political—in nature. Unions’ power would be tied to the viability of the business, which would be dependent upon customer satisfaction. And in a free market, there would be little incentive for either union or company to engage in political spending, because the government wouldn’t have the power to dispense economic favors.

As to the abusive power of the teachers unions, McCluskey correctly notes that the fundamental problem is the “government schooling monopoly,” not the unions themselves. Although modern teachers unions both feed off of and perpetuate this monopoly, the underlying problem can only be solved by the complete separation of education and state.


Scrap New Teacher Tenure Policy; Erect Wall Between Government and Education

Teacher Accountability Follows From Genuine Market Activity

The Educational Bonanza in Privatizing Government Schools

Film Review: Waiting for “Superman”

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Achievement of Christopher Columbus

Excerpts from an op-ed in the Bucks County Courier Times, October 11, 2007.

Columbus Day Celebrates Western Civilization

By Thomas Bowden

On October 12, 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the New World.

We need not evade or excuse Columbus’s flaws--his religious zealotry, his enslavement and oppression of natives--to recognize that he made history by finding new territory for a civilization that would soon show mankind how to overcome the age-old scourges of slavery, war, and forced religious conversion.

On Columbus Day, we celebrate the civilization whose philosophers and mathematicians, men such as Aristotle, Archimedes, and Euclid, displaced otherworldly mysticism by discovering the laws of logic and mathematical relationships, demonstrating to mankind that reality is a single realm accessible to human understanding.

On Columbus Day, we celebrate the civilization whose scientists, men such as Galileo, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, banished primitive superstitions by discovering natural laws through the scientific method, demonstrating to mankind that the universe is both knowable and predictable.

On Columbus Day, we celebrate the civilization whose political geniuses, men such as John Locke and the Founding Fathers, defined the principles by which bloody tribal warfare, religious strife, and, ultimately, slavery could be eradicated by constitutional republics devoted to protecting life, liberty, property, and the selfish pursuit of individual happiness.

On Columbus Day, we celebrate the civilization whose entrepreneurs, men such as Rockefeller, Ford, and Gates, transformed an inhospitable wilderness populated by frightened savages into a wealthy nation of self-confident producers served by highways, power plants, computers, and thousands of other life-enhancing products.

On Columbus Day, in sum, we celebrate Western civilization as history’s greatest cultural achievement. What better reason could there be for a holiday?

Excerpts from an op-ed in Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, October 10, 2008

Columbus was a hero

By Dimitri Vassilaros

Christopher Columbus could not have discovered a better spokesman than Thomas A. Bowden.

The accomplishments of Columbus should speak for themselves. But thanks to political correctness, the moronic multicultural mob keeps talking them down. Mr. Bowden has been speaking passionately and forcefully about Columbus for years.

Bowden is an analyst at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to advance individual rights as the moral basis for a free society.

"My ancestors were savages," says Bowden matter-of-factly. Everyone can say the same, depending on how far back one is willing to look at lineage. "It's nothing racial or ethnic; it's historical fact."

"Columbus critics have a disguised criticism of Western civilization because Europeans replaced Stone Age Indians. They believe that this continent would have been better off without Europeans, that industrial civilization is an evil that is to be lamented and regretted.

"That is the real criticism of Columbus. I reject it completely."

Indians typically were widely scattered Stone Age tribes, he says. "They had little agriculture and lived in poverty, fear, ignorance and superstition. They had no concept of government, ownership or private property rights.

"Slavery was perfectly common.

Well, didn't Indians at least live in harmony with nature?

"No," says Bowden. "Man should not live in harmony with nature in the sense of simply keeping it pristine. We live by impacting the environment. The environment has no intrinsic value. Our civilization is more in harmony with nature by making it serve our ends."

Well, what about all the land supposedly stolen from the Indians by European settlers?

Indians did not own the vast reaches of land that they traveled on, Bowden says. Ownership of land is deserved, he says. By that, he means a settler can acquire property rights by making the land more valuable by, say, digging it up for farming. Or to build his homestead or business.

Columbus essentially was an explorer and discoverer bringing Western civilization's cures, science and technology, he says. The philosophical legal process was another gift the Europeans gave to the Indians, he says. "Indians got all that for free."

Columbus' critics should fall down on their knees and thank the Founding Fathers for creating a nation based on the moral principle of the individual's right to life, liberty and, Bowden stresses, the selfish pursuit of happiness.

"It's the only nation that came about in such a way. Anyone who has humanity's interest at heart should love America," he says.

Happy Columbus Day