Thursday, February 28, 2013

Sequestration: A "Teachable Moment"

The sequestration soap opera is much ado about relatively little. The blog Laissez-Faire points out the smallness of the budget cuts, relative to the size of the federal budget, that would result if sequestration goes forward. In fact, they're not "cuts" at all, just a slower rise in spending.

That said, consider the kinds of "cuts" in government spending that would take place come March 1: "Nutrition" for women, children, and seniors; housing vouchers; meat and poultry inspections; air traffic control; HIV tests; weather satellites; pre-school services--and these are just some of the worst of the worst areas to be affected by the budget cuts, according to "Business Insider." 

The question that should be posed is: How did so many of us become so dependent on government for our material needs in the first place? These are all things that can and should be funded by private individuals, businesses, or charities. So many people wouldn't be in the position of having their needs so dependent on politicians if the government were restricted to its proper role of protecting individuals' rights, rather than seizing and forcibly redistributing their wealth.

This is the lesson to be drawn from the current sequestration controversy. This is truly a "teachable moment" for opponents of "Big Government." As of now, I have no knowledge of any Republican raising these points. They seem content to just let themselves be branded the uncompassionate bad guys--again.

Related Reading:

"Government Help" Lead to Totalitarian Socialism

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How Government Regulation Hinders Product Oversight and Harms Consumers

The tragic case of the tainted medication produced by New England Compounding Center, which resulted in at least twenty-five deaths and hundreds sickened, highlights a little-recognized danger inherent in government regulation.

What is that danger? Find out by reading the rest of my Objective Standard blog post Government Regulations Hinder Quality Control and Harm Consumers

I would add this:

In a free market, there would be no assumption of a government seal of approval. Every patient and doctor, rather than a handful of government bureaucrats, would effectively be his own industry watchdog to whom private ratings companies would be all too ready and willing to provide a wealth of information on products and companies. That's a lot of oversight.

In the NECC case, the company’s deteriorating manufacturing quality went undetected in the market until hundreds were sickened and dozens died. The false sense of security that infects the market, as evidenced by that Maryland doctor, is a prime factor in this tragedy. In an unregulated market, where the principle “buyer beware” rules and buyers know it, incompetent companies like NECC would be quickly exposed, rather than allowed to slip “under the radar.”

This catastrophe is seen as stemming from lack of regulation, rather than from the very nature of the government regulatory apparatus itself. But as the NECC case shows, government regulation hinders rather than enhances product oversight, potentially harming the very patients the FDA is supposed to protect.

Related Reading:

"Regulating Business"--the Good and the Bad

Don’t Regulate the Innocent, Punish the Guilty

Where Does Valid Law End and Regulation Begin?

What is Objective Law?, by Harry Binswanger

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Right to Abortion, Not Others' Wallets

Like so many other Roe v. Wade supporters, Ann Ormsby, the former senior vice president at the United Way of New York City, marked the 1/22/13 40th anniversary of the US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in the first trimester by conflating two separate concepts of rights; a right to abortion and an alleged "right" to "access" to abortion.  In a key passage, Ormsby writes:

A just and free society gives women the tools they need to plan how many children they have and when to have them. Legislatures and governors should be spending their time helping women with the children they have instead of insisting they give birth to unwanted children that they cannot support emotionally or financially or both. Only the woman knows her private circumstances.

The "help" Ormsby undoubtedly implies is some kind of financial subsidy; she specifically mentions state subsidies for birth control, categorized under the umbrella term "family planning." We can only guess at which other types of family planning services would be included, but the list would likely include things like "free" day care and pre-school.

A common theme of Roe v. Wade supporters is that not only should women have the right to choose abortion, but a "right" to family planning, including abortion services, paid for and provided by others, through government funding. 

This is a fundamentally contradictory position. Government subsidies certainly don't jive with Ormsby's statement that "a woman has the right to plan her family on her own terms and in her own time and it is solely her business." What about, with her own money? If other people must be forced to subsidize her, then it is not "solely her business," is it? If her bills are also other people's business, then why not her body also?

A recent Star-Ledger letter writer, Catherine Broer (A Question of Power, 1/24/13), rightly noted that "each woman [must have] sovereignty over her own body." But, so should she have sovereignty over her own life and wallet. And, so should everyone else.

All rights are linked by certain common principles; namely, to think and act according to one's own rational judgement, in pursuit of one's own goals, values, and happiness, so long as they don't alienate--i.e., violate--the same rights of others. Rights, properly understood, are sanctions to freedom of action, not a claim on products or services that must be provided by others.

The "wisdom of Roe," to use Ormsby's term, does not guarantee "access." It removes certain legal roadblocks. "A just and free society" does not force some people to fund unearned benefits for others. In "a just and free society," legislatures and governors neither "spend their time helping women with the children" with money forcibly confiscated from other citizens nor "insisting women give birth to unwanted children." In "a just and free society," government officials simply protect all people's rights to act upon their own judgments in regard to their own bodies and money, and to voluntarily associate and trade with each other. It respects the "private circumstances" of each and every woman, man, and child?

As long as Roe supporters insist on violating the rights of others to spend their own money as they judge best, and to act in accordance with their own conscience and values, they have no business demanding that women do with their own bodies as they judge best. To defend reproductive rights, one must respect and uphold all rights of everyone.

Related Reading:

Karen Cherins’s Confused Understanding of Reproductive Rights Threatens Reproductive Freedom

The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties, by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong

Abortion Rights are Pro-Life, by Leonard Piekoff

Monday, February 25, 2013

Abortion: It's When Rights, not Life, Begin

In a letter-to-the-editor of the NJ Star-Ledger--Roe vs. Wade: The Start of Life--Marie Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, wrote, quoting from Justice Harry Blackmun's Roe v. Wade majority opinion:

“We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.... [But], If this suggestion of personhood is [scientifically] established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’s right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (14th) Amendment.” That decision was written on Jan. 22, 1973.

Not surprisingly, Tasy cites "great strides in Medicine and science" to prove that "Roe vs. Wade is outdated and must be overturned." 

I left the following comments:

"These facts provide compelling evidence that Roe vs. Wade is outdated and must be overturned."

Not so fast, Marie Tasy. The 14th Amendment refers to "all persons the United States."  Clearly, the rights of the mother are protected, while no rights of the unborn are recognized. Despite Blackmun's flawed interpretation, the issue clearly is: When do rights, not life, begin?

Life, in fact, does not begin at conception. Life precedes conception. Both the sperm and egg are alive. Rights, properly understood, begin at birth, not in the womb. Rights are moral principles derived from observation and logic pertaining to the objective requirements of man's life and survival; specifically, the sanction to freedom of action in a social context. The unborn do not exist in a social context.

The right to life implies the right to determine the functions of one's own body. Since rights are inalienable, they logically cannot conflict. Only the woman has that right. A fetus cannot have it. A "right" that disappears at birth is a logical contradiction. A right (the fetus's alleged "right to life") that negates the rights of another (the woman's right to choose) is not a right. There is no "right" to alienate--to violate--the rights of another.

One may argue about certain restrictions on late-term abortion, such as outlawing the execution of a viable infant during the course of terminating such a pregnancy. But, a woman's right to her own life, and the equal protection thereof, means she has a right to terminate her pregnancy at any time.

Section 1. of the 14th Amendment reads, in full:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

As I read it, a declaration of fetal personhood, in and of itself, violates the 14th Amendment. Despite its muddled language ("privileges and immunities"), the Amendment clearly refers to rights in its reference to "life, liberty, and property." As I've said before, the constitution cannot be understood outside of the context of the Declaration of Independence, the philosophical blueprint for the constitution, which establishes unalienable individual rights as the foundational principle of the United States of America. 

Furthermore, Blackmun noted that the word person appears numerous times in the constitution. "But in nearly all these instances, the use of the word is such that it has application only post-natally. None indicates, with any assurance, that it has any possible pre-natal application." This contradicts what he said earlier, and quoted by Tasy: "If this suggestion of personhood is [scientifically] established, the appellant’s case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’s right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the (14th) Amendment.” For reasons best known to him, Blackmun needlessly muddled the constitutional issue.

Related Reading:

Karen Cherins’s Confused Understanding of Reproductive Rights Threatens Reproductive Freedom

Abortion and Individual Rights, Parts 12, and 3

The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties, by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong

Abortion Rights are Pro-Life, by Leonard Piekoff

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Replacing One Bad Government Policy With Another

"Too Big to Fail" is a government policy that has evolved over the years, and ultimately culminated in the massive bank bailouts in the wake of the financial crisis. The premise behind the policy is that some financial institutions are so large that their failure would be catastrophic for the economy as a whole, and thus can not be allowed to collapse into bankruptcy. In a classic case of a dog chasing its own tail, "Too Big to Fail" is itself a prime motivator that fostered oversize banks to begin with--oversize, that is, in relation to what a free market would allow.

So, it is good news that a move is afoot in Washington to end this policy. But, in their infinite "wisdom," the politicians are simultaneously seeking the power to limit banks' size, thus replacing one bad policy with a worse one. My latest post at The Objective Standard blog, End "Too Big to Fail," not "Too Big" Banks,  covers this issue.

Related Reading:

Capitalists in a Statists's Land of Oz

Friday, February 22, 2013

Karen Cherins’s Confused Understanding of Reproductive Rights Threatens Reproductive Freedom

Karen Cherins, president of the National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County, New Jersey, Section, marked the occasion of the January 22, 2013 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a letter to the NJ Star-Ledger warning that “complacency is the enemy of this epic reproductive rights victory.”

“State legislatures,” Cherins notes, “continue to threaten and chip away at the core rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade.” What are these “core rights,” in Cherins’s view?

Our organization has long been committed to protecting every woman’s right to access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion care.

In 2010, New Jersey completely eliminated the state budget line that allocated $7.5 million for basic reproductive health care services, leaving our state ranked a shameful 42nd of 50 states in family planning funding. Nearly one-quarter of New Jersey counties have no abortion provider at all. The bottom line is restrictions on access to abortion are unjust and dangerous. They endanger women’s health, restrict women’s rights and diminish religious freedom.

A “right” to “access,” to government funding, to an abortion doctor in every county? Roe v. Wade recognized no such “rights.” Rather, Roe affirmed the "constitutional right to . . . a woman’s right to choose abortion," in Planned Parenthood's own words. It did not recognize a right to have an abortion provided to her at others' expense. If there is a right to access to abortion services, then someone must be forced to provide and/or pay for it, essentially making doctors and taxpayers the slaves of any pregnant woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy. But as Ayn Rand so succinctly put it, “There can be no such thing as ‘the right to enslave.’”

Cherins also cites “increased regulations and restrictions on insurance carriers” as cause for worry. There certainly are forces gathering against reproductive rights, most notably the “personhood” movement, which seeks to define a fertilized egg as a “person” possessing rights. As Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong argue,

This increasing assault poses a major threat not only to women’s right to abortion, but, more broadly, to individual rights as such. Rights form a logical unity, and to the extent that any are threatened, all are threatened. The antiabortionists’ war on a woman’s right to her body is ultimately a war on all our rights, including our rights to property, free trade, and freedom of speech.

Rearrange the rights listed in that phrase in any order, and the same principle applies: the violation of any right is a threat to all rights. Forcing others—many of whom may, for religious or other reasons of conscience, oppose abortion—to provide or pay for abortions is as much a violation of their rights to property, free trade, and religion as is the personhood movement’s agenda a violation of a woman’s right to her own body.

Cherins’s confused, or non-existent, understanding of rights undermines her whole case and, thanks to her disregard of other people’s rights, is itself a threat to true reproductive freedom.


The Assault on Abortion Rights Undermines All Our Liberties, by Diana Hsieh and Ari Armstrong

Abortion Rights are Pro-Life, by Leonard Piekoff

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Shared Prosperity" Another Name for Failed Policies

Michael P. Riccards, executive director of the Hall Institute of Public Policy-New Jersey, last August opened an op-ed with:

   Herbert Hoover promised to end poverty in 1928 with a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage. In the 1960s, Lyndon Johnson promised to wage a successful war on poverty, but today, an estimated 15 million people remain desperately poor in America.
   That’s just the “desperately poor.” A 2011 Census study reported a total of 146.4 million Americans (nearly 1 in 2) are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income, perched perilously on the slippery rung just above desperately poor.

If you think that Riccards' intent is to question the government's policies over the past 80 years, and propose a new direction, you would be mistaken. His op-ed is titled "Sharing Prosperity can fend off poverty."

Riccards offers no specific policy proposals, only "an urgent need to elect politicians who see the poor not as a problem, but as an opportunity to build a stable 21st-century economy." Instead, he takes a cheap shot at "the aggressive New Right,"  and in particular Paul Ryan and his budget and his "unswerving fixation on breaking apart the federal government" (an overstatement if there ever was one). Ryan's budget, of course, would do no such thing: It wouldn't even cut spending, but merely slow its growth. 

I left these brief comments:

"The history lesson presented here is a clear indictment of the American welfare state. For nearly 100 years, we have had an unrelenting growth of government programs, culminating in the rampant Bush-Obama statism of the past decade. Today, the government is bigger than ever. Spending, regulating, and crony 'capitalism' are at unprecedented levels. It is no coincidence that this nation’s economic problems are multiplying just as the welfare state is at its historic peak. The regulatory welfare state, which is based on a watered down version of the principle that ability and productiveness must be sacrificed to need, is reaching its logical conclusion as the economy grinds down and threatens to roll over towards catastrophe. 
"Are we now to double down on failure? The intellectual bankruptcy of the Left is on display in this article. The future belongs to the champions of free market capitalism, the real progressives. Shared prosperity? It’s called voluntary trade, not legalized criminality called redistribution of wealth or government 'investment.'"

Riccards is not content to merely blast Ryan's policies. Sinking even lower, Riccards basically accuses Ryan of being a hypocrite, stating "Ironically, the government services and protections Ryan works so strenuously to weaken for others have been his springboard." He notes:

   Ryan attended a publicly funded university for his schooling and has drawn nearly every cent of his adult wages from government coffers.
   His father died when Ryan was a teen; the Ryan family received Social Security survivors benefit payments and a federal Pell grant, allowing his mother to attend college and learn new job skills to keep the family out of poverty.

In other words, if you receive government "benefits" of any kind, you have no moral right to speak out against welfare state policies--never mind that you funded those benefits through coercive taxes to support programs you were forced into with the promise of some benefit. 

Today, given the size and intrusive scope of government, it is virtually impossible to not be a beneficiary of some government program, be it Social Security, Roads, public parks, schools, or libraries--the list goes on and on. So by Riccards' logic, we may as well repeal the First Amendment, except that it's not necessary, because statists can use the taxpayers' own money as a weapon of moral censorship by means of the "benefits" those tax dollars pay for. The nature of the insidious game going on, and the evil genius of the welfare state, is obvious, as Riccards demonstrates here. One might call it, "The Welfare State Trap." 

If you want to know the true motives of anyone who advocates government "assistance," it's on display here. Get a man hooked on some form of government handout, and he is yours to control--and silence--for life. Get more than half the population hooked, and you've got a built-in support structure for welfare statism. Add in the means of guilt-tripping resistors into silence--altruism-- and you have a clear path to ever-bigger government.

Ending poverty is not the goal of welfare statists. Poverty itself is the goal. If ending poverty were the goal, it's obvious that welfare statism has failed miserably, as any socialist scheme must, by its nature. In fact, real poverty was virtually wiped out during capitalism's heyday from the late 18th Century to the dawn of the Welfare State in the early 20th, a time which saw the emergence of the American middle class. 

Of course, what we call "poverty" today is a relative term, but that's part of the game. As I wrote a few years ago, "according to the egalitarian doctrine of 'relative poverty', the 'poor' will always be with us because, no matter how wealthy [a society], there will always be a class of people who have less material wealth than others and will thus fall below some arbitrarily devised 'poverty level' of income."

The nation has an urgent need, writes Riccards, for "an economy anchored to a steadily rising growth curve that benefits the 1 percent by integrating the 99 percent as true partners in shared prosperity." On this I agree with Riccards, but not in the way he means it. We once had such an economy in almost pure form. We still have remnants of it managing to keep our economy afloat. It's the system of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. It is the system of personal productiveness and the greatest and only moral prosperity-sharing human interaction--voluntary, mutually beneficial, mutually self-interested trade.

It is the system of earned prosperity. It is called free market capitalism.

Related Reading:

The "Relative" Poverty Gimmick

Sunday, February 17, 2013

No Debating Obama's Pre-School Agenda: It's wrong

"There should be no debate about President Obama’s call to provide high-quality preschool to all children."

So began the NJ Star-Ledger about Obama's proposed $98 billion scheme. The editors ask: "The only question now should be: How will we pay for it?" I left the following comments:

I agree. In a country dedicated to the individual's inalienable right to his own life and property, there should be no debate: Obama's initiative is wrong. It is wrong to force some people to pay for the education of other people's children.

But how "we" pay for it is not "the only question." The corollary question is: Whose educational agenda will be forced on the children and parents? Good early education presupposes the right educational philosophy, methods, and curriculum. Who's to make those choices? Champions of government schools always sidestep this question, despite its incalculable importance. When the state funds schooling, it controls what is taught and how it is taught. What can be more dangerous to a civil society?

The two greatest tragedies of the American Founding were to allow slavery and tax-funded education to slip through the rights-protecting safety net provided by our founding documents. Education should have been separated form the state in the same way and for the same reasons as the Founders wisely separated church and state.

Instead of expanding government's grip on the schools through universal pre-school, we should be moving towards the abolition of government schools. We must begin moving in that direction now. First, extricate the federal government from education, which has always been a state matter. Next, fight on the state level for universal school choice. My liberty-advancing proposal is laid out here:

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

Yes, early education is vital to a child's development. But the idea that the ends justify the means is one of the great moral evils of the human experience. Immoral means invalidate any alleged good that lies at the proposed ends

When the state funds schooling, it controls what is taught and how it is taught. The schools become less about education, and more about indoctrination. Schools become less about fostering independent thinking, and more about conformity to the group. What kind of kids would the state be more likely to want to turn out, adults who will challenge state authority or kids who will passively submit to state authority?

Yes, anyone can fight in the political arena to adopt his mode of education. But all that means is a collage of special interests fighting to impose their educational agenda on everyone else and at everyone else's expense. But, just as religious conservatives don't want the Left's progressive education agenda, so the Left shouldn't have a religious agenda forced on them, and rightists shouldn't have either forced on them. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Blaming the Victims: Corporate Executives Fighting Back Against Government Power are Courageous

The NJ Star-Ledger keeps piling on the criticism in Whole Foods and Other CEOs Keep Piling on ObamaCare. Executives of Whole Foods, Denny's, Applebee's, Darden Restaurants (Olive Garden and Red Lobster), and Papa John’s have publicly criticized ObamaCare, some stating that they may reduce the hours of some employees, or reduce staff and hiring, to avoid ObamaCare mandates. In particular, the editors ridiculed these CEO’s use of the terms “government control of the means of production,” “fascism,” and “socialism” to describe ObamaCare.

Here are my comments:

It is indeed heartening to see some CEOs risk regulatory reprisals and customer backlash by speaking out against ObamaCare's massive expansion of government control of healthcare, including its intrusion into their businesses. They are courageous dissenters to whom anyone who values their freedom should be grateful.

And, despite Mackey’s unfortunate backpedaling, they speak the truth. (Mackey didn’t actually deny the essence of what he said: He merely regretted his “poor word choice.”) The editors apparently believe that definitions are not objective, but based upon subjective whim. Socialism is not socialism, and fascism is not fascism, as long as we don’t call it that.

But, political concepts have meanings, and consequences. The essential economic nature of fascism is indeed government control of the means of production, while leaving ownership superficially in private hands. It is socialism through the back door--using private business as the conduit for socialist government policies. We deny the progressive rise of fascism in this country at our peril.

Kudos to the businessmen who speak out against ObamaCare, and accurately name its true nature. They are likely just the tip of the iceberg. As more and more employers drop employee health insurance as rates skyrocket under ObamaCare, look for the S-L and its Leftist ilk to ramp up the blame game against the victims--”greedy” businessmen.

The editors also note that these companies experienced a drop in “consumer perception,” according to surveys. This may or may not be true, and may or may not have led to a drop in sales. But if it’s true, it’s a bad sign for the future of this country. A healthy cultural respect for freedom would have generated public support for these embattled CEOs.

Related Reading:

The Whole Foods Alternative to ObamaCare, by Craig Biddle

Friday, February 15, 2013

As ObamaCare Failures Pile Up, Get Ready for the Mother-of-All Healthcare Battles

Back in 1961, Ronald Reagan warned that socialized medicine would arrive in America in incremental fashion, beginning with the proposed King-Anderson Bill (the precursor to Medicare), and despite the overwhelming opposition by Americans. Half a century later, after decades of relentless expansion of government control over healthcare through programs like Medicaid, EMTALA, SCHIP, Bush's Medicare prescription drug benefit, and now ObamaCare, Reagan's warning is drawing ever closer to actuality.

Reagan was not fully consistent in heeding his own warning. He supported a smaller bill to provide federal healthcare to indigent seniors and, as president, signed EMTALA, the law that forces hospitals to provide free healthcare to the poor. But that is beside the point. The point is that,  he was right on the dynamics of the process.

Betsy McCaughey is warning that the Wheels [are] Coming Off of ObamaCare, even though full implementation is still a year and a half away. Many fewer people than promised will be covered, and costs will soar. In particular, millions of children will be left without insurance.

But the failures of ObamaCare will not be the end of the story.

By now a blind monkey can see that the road to socialized medicine that Reagan foresaw has been playing out. ObamaCare is just a way station on the way to full socialized medicine, which may now be only a step away.

As I've noted before, the Left is ready to respond to the inevitable failures and shortcomings of ObamaCare--which they never liked--with Medicare-for-All. The mother of all healthcare battles is brewing, as the end game draws ever closer.

Related Reading:

Get ready for the Coming Post-ObamaCare Battle

The Left's False Alternative on Health Care

Thursday, February 14, 2013

College Health Insurance Mandate Killed by ObamaCare

It looks like business is not the only entity being pinched by ObamaCare. When even government health insurance mandates start falling victim to ObamaCare, you know it's bad.

In New Jersey, the state senate, at the behest of colleges, passed a bill to repeal a law mandating all college students in the state have health insurance. Why?

College officials are pushing lawmakers to kill the law because the implementation of Obamacare is driving up the cost of the basic health insurance plans offered to uninsured students by their schools. The jump in premiums — from a few hundred dollars this school year to more than $1,700 next year in some cases — could force some students to drop out.

The senate vote was 32-3 for repeal, with the state assembly set to take up the bill next.

This rollback of statism would be a bit of encouraging news, but for the reason. Perhaps free marketeers can take some solace from the spectacle of the government being hoist by its own petard. But, I doubt it. Real progress would mean repealing both ObamaCare and the NJ mandat

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Obama Statism (cont.)

The theme of Obama's 2013 State of the Union address was the economy. But, what does Obama mean by "the economy?" He means an entity detached from, and superior to, individual producers and traders. He means it in a collectivist sense. He means, the state.

But, "the economy" is an abstract term that denotes individual human beings thinking and acting. Lose sight of the individual, and you get statism. And statism--state supremacy over the individual--is what we got from Obama. Obama's agenda presupposes that the state owns the nation's wealth, and the only issue is how to redistribute it. His agenda presupposes that the individual is subordinate to the economy, and the only issue is how to control and regulate them.

But, the individual is the economy. Every dime of federal spending comes from the individuals who earned it. A true progressive agenda would focus on protecting the rights of individuals to produce and trade, spend and invest their own money, in pursuit of their own goals, well-being, and happiness. It means, for starters, reduced, flatter, fairer tax rates; drastic cuts in regulations and controls; massive reductions in spending, especially corporate welfare; privatizing entitlements into individual accounts; getting the federal government out of education; and breaking the government school monopoly through universal school choice. This, as I said, is for starters. Do that, and a great economy will follow.

Obama's old, tired, failed, worn-out economics was no surprise. Statism is not progressive. It is an age-old scourge that keeps returning, like a vampire. Obama's agenda is regressive. It is the evil that American principles of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government once almost completely swept away, and hopefully, will again--and for good.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Antitrust Attack on Beer

My latest post at The Objective Standard blog is up. Here are the opening lines:

The U.S. Justice Department has filed a lawsuit to block Anheuser-Busch InBev’s $20 billion buyout of Mexican beer-maker Grupo Modelo, the maker of the Corona beer brand. The Wall Street Journal calls the Busch-Modelo agreement “the latest deal to fall prey to global antitrust regulators.”

Why is this bad? Read the rest of  Antitrust Suit against Anheuser-Busch and Grupo Modelo Violates Rights and find out why.

Related Reading:

Antitrust Prosecution of Apple is Rotten

Barbara Straniero's Mistaken Understanding of "Free Market"

The Abolition of Antitrustby Gary Hull

Monday, February 11, 2013

Defending Reproductive Rights Depends Upon Upholding All Rights

This letter-to-the-editor appeared in the 1/16/13 NJ Star-Ledger:

Roe v. Wade   As we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade on Jan. 22, we must remember that complacency is the enemy of this epic reproductive rights victory. The truth is our hard-fought reproductive rights are at risk.    
State legislatures continue to threaten and chip away at the core rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade. Barriers — including fewer providers, increased regulations and restrictions on insurance carriers — have been enacted to steadily erode the integrity of the law. Our organization has long been committed to protecting every woman’s right to access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion care.    
In 2010, New Jersey completely eliminated the state budget line that allocated $7.5 million for basic reproductive health care services, leaving our state ranked a shameful 42nd of 50 states in family planning funding. Nearly one-quarter of New Jersey counties have no abortion provider at all. The bottom line is restrictions on access to abortion are unjust and dangerous. They endanger women’s health, restrict women’s rights and diminish religious freedom.    
I implore fellow New Jersey residents to resist falling into a false sense of security when it comes to Roe v. Wade. Now is the time for action, not complacency, to ensure our loved ones will have the benefits of Roe v. Wade for years to come. 
Karen Cherins, president, National Council of Jewish Women, Essex County Section

Notice that Karen Cherins describes her organization's mission as "protecting every woman’s right to access to comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal abortion care," thus turning Roe v. Wade on its head. Roe affirmed the constitutional existence of no such "rights."

The third paragraph highlights Cherins's moral inversion. Ending that $7.5 million funding does nothing to "endanger women’s health [or] restrict women’s rights," since the only people who have a right to that money in the first place are the people who earned it, not the women who need it. It's a blow for, not against, religious freedom because--in a significant though small way--people who morally oppose abortion are no longer forced to fund it against their religious (or non-religious) convictions.

The right to abortion does not mean a right to access to abortion services. If it does, then it means that doctors and taxpayers are any pregnant woman's slave, should she decide to have an abortion. It means that doctors are to be forced to provide her with an abortion, and/or taxpayers forced to pay for it.

By disregarding other people's rights to their earnings and freedom of choice and conscience, Cherins demolishes her own case. On what grounds does she condemn legislatures' that "continue to threaten and chip away at the core rights affirmed by Roe v. Wade," if she  simultaneously demands that the NJ Legislature threaten and chip away other rights? Roe affirmed a woman's "the constitutional right to privacy and a woman’s right to choose abortion," in Planned Parenthood's own words, not a right to have an abortion provided to her at others' expense. 

Rights are guarantees to freedom of action, such as freedom of speech, assembly, earning and disposing of property, acting upon one's own judgement, and pursuing abortion services by voluntary contractual agreement with a doctor. Rights are not an automatic claim on products or services that must be provided by others. 

I laud the National Council of Jewish Women's goal of defending reproductive rights. But there is a grave danger in narrowly defending a particular right, while disregarding other rights. Cherins's utter ignorance on individual rights is paving the way for anti-abortion forces, who are cashing in on the erroneous idea that embryos have rights. Only those of us who defend the moral principle of individual rights completely and consistently have the intellectual firepower to uphold a woman's right to reproductive freedom, and hold off the forces seeking to undermine Roe v. Wade. One cannot defend any right, without understanding and vigorously defending all rights.

Related Reading:

Individual Rights -- by The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights

Abortion and Individual Rights, Parts 12, and 3

Ayn Rand's Theory of Rights: The Moral Foundation of a Free Society, by Craig Biddle

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Duty vs. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I this PJTV appearance with Allan Barton, the Ayn Rand Institutes Doug Altner and Investors Business Daily's Terry Jones discuss President Obama's 11/6/12 victory speech, in which Obama declares that the individual's dedication to self-sacrificially serving the collective--through "love, duty, charity, and patriotism"--rather than selfishly pursuing his own happiness, is what made America great.

This is quintessential Obama. When he said he would "fundamentally transform the United States of America," he meant it. "Duty" is the operative word in Obama's lexicon of. It is a declaration of an authority higher than your own mind, to whom your will must be subordinated. In Obama's America, your life is a minuscule part of a larger whole, and defined not by what you make of your own life, but by how well you perform your obligations as laid down by the collective authority. It's the age-old evil that's been destroying individuals and nations for centuries. It's the moral view that is crucial to every advancing dictatorship...and to Obama's agenda. 

Related Reading:

Obama's Way vs. the American Way

Obama's Collectivist Manifesto, Parts 12, and 3

Saturday, February 9, 2013

With Defenders Like Arnold Kling, Free Enterprise Doesn't Need Enemies

In an early 2012 article for The American, Arnold Kling proposed a broad change in the way that government regulates business. He wrote:

When we think of regulation, we think of specific rules that spell out the boundaries between what is approved and what is forbidden. For example, requiring credit card issuers to give 45 days notice prior to a rate increase. I call this bright-line regulation (BLR).
What I want to propose is an alternative approach, called principles-based regulation (PBR). With PBR, legislation would lay out broad but well-defined principles that businesses are expected to follow. Administrative agencies would audit businesses to identify strengths and weaknesses in their systems for applying those principles, and they would punish weaknesses by imposing fines. Finally, the Department of Justice would prosecute corporate leaders who flagrantly violate principles or who are negligent in ensuring compliance with those principles.
The problem, Kling claims, is that “compliance with BLR is far too easy. The bankers are always able to outmaneuver the regulators, staying within the letter of the rules while mocking their spirit.” In other words, when bankers obey the law, and only take actions that are not legally forbidden, they are "mocking the spirit" of the regulators' noble intentions, which are grounded in unlimited power but hamstrung by bright-line regulation! Kling's solution is to unleash that unlimited power by turning government bureaucrats loose to rifle through ("audit") every business's operation from top to bottom, on any whim, looking for violations of the principles it has laid down, and backed up by the government's awesome criminal prosecutorial powers.

First, let’s be clear about what we mean by “regulation.” I would define a “regulation” broadly as any government rule, law, or dictate that "entails the legal imposition or prohibition of courses of private action in which no actual (or intended) rights-violations are evident," and which hinder the individual's inalienable right to act on his own judgement in pursuit of his own goals, values, welfare, and happiness. The antithesis of government regulation is objective law; clearly defined statutes strictly and explicitly delimited to forbidding rights-violating actions like murder, rape, robbery, or fraud.

Kling’s PBR is far worse that his BLR. As an example of BLR, Kling singles out requiring credit card issuers to give 45 days notice prior to a rate increase.” It’s true that it is wrong for government to issue rules of this kind. Such issues are the province of the credit card issuer and the customers’ willingness or unwillingness to accept them (by deciding whether or not to use that particular card).  But at least the issuer has a clearly defined rule.

Now consider Kling’s first PBR: "No business should sell a consumer a product knowing that the consumer has no chance of benefiting from that product.” This may be a good standard for a business to adopt. But, in the hands of government officials, it is tyranny; and, in fact, terroristic. This principle replaces a firm, objectively understandable BLR rule—however bad--with the infinitely more destructive arbitrary edicts of government officials, who will have the power to dictate what will benefit “consumers” and what won’t. Not only does this principle place the business in the position of not knowing what product or service he may offer until some bureaucrat determines, after the fact, what benefit it will bring to consumers. It also violates the rights of consumers to make their own judgments as to what will or will not benefit them, and the rights of businessmen to shape their own governing standards.

There is an inherent fallacy involved here, as well. The “consumer” is treated as a separate entity, helpless in the face of those slick merchants. But, that banker--or plumber, department store owner, computer manufacturer, or other producer--is also a consumer. Are we to assume that, as a banker, he is smart enough to know what is in the best interests of his customers, but—as a consumer—is somehow incapable of deciding what is in his own best interests as a buyer of cars, food, computers, haircuts, or even as a borrower himself?

Kling’s cure is worse than the proverbial disease. He would replace regulation-by-micromanagement—which, bad and arbitrary as they are, at least generally produces rules that are clear enough to understand—with the vastly more destructive ex-post-facto regulation, in which the businessman won’t know he has violated any law until some bureaucrat decides that he has. Furthermore, Kling’s PBR would pretty much demolish freedom of contract, which is based on each participant’s freedom to decide what is in his own best interest.

This is not to say that laws should not be based on principles. It is to say that laws should be based on the right principles, which means the principle that government should protect individual rights. On that premise, “principles-based regulation” is a contradiction in terms, since on principle government has no right to regulate economic activity.

Kling’s theory of regulation would expand the power, scope, and arbitrariness of government regulatory power--a power it shouldn't have in the first place. That Kling offers his theory under the auspices of the allegedly  pro-free market American Enterprise Institute is all the more egregious because he concedes the statist premise that capitalism is unworkable without government regulation. Worse--and more fundamentally--Kling obliterates the very meaning of capitalism, as if it doesn’t exist. A statist think-tank could not have done a more thorough job of undermining capitalism. If capitalism's proponents acknowledge not only the necessity of government regulation, but the need to expand that regulation, then the battle for liberty is over. What is left for defenders of free market capitalism--i.e., liberty--to defend?

The opposite course is the correct one. Capitalism is, by philosophic definition, the complete separation of economics from state. Rather than offer plans to "better" regulate business, authentic advocates of free markets work to reduce and ultimately end government regulation, toward the ultimate goal of establishing laissez-faire capitalism.

Related Reading:

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tonight: Bernstein-D'Souza Debate

Tonight's the night for the debate between Objectivist Andrew Bernstein and Christian Dinesh D'Souza on the subject Christianity: Good or Bad for Mankind. Purchase Livestream tickets here for $5.00. It's scheduled between 7:00 and 9:00 pm CST.

Time to Rethink Immigration

The immigration debate is heating up in Washington. The NJ Star-Ledger chimed in with Why Reagan's Immigration Reform Failed, the editors note that the current momentum is toward a "reform" bill that mirrors the Reagan reform; "granting a broad amnesty and twinning that with tougher enforcement of the law."

But, note the editors, the "the Reagan reform didn't work." Why? Not because beefed up border security didn't work, claim the editors. It did. It didn't work because American business skirted the law forbidding the hiring of illegal aliens, either by lobbying to water down the penalties to "modest fines that become a cost of doing business," or other trickery. Since jobs are the main lure drawing in immigrants--half of whom come in legally, then overstay their visas--we must drastically  increase the penalties on business's that skirt the law this time around.

If jobs are the "powerful lure" drawing in illegal immigrants, then these immigrants are an industrious lot seeking employment from willing employers. Is it right to stand between these individuals and the companies that hire them, thus violating their rights to voluntary contract? Is it right to force an employer to fire an immigrant who was hired at a time when he had a valid visa? 

I left the following comments:

We need to fundamentally rethink immigration. The question we must ask is not: "What can be done to stop illegal immigration?" It is: "What right does anyone have to legally stop any person from entering this country to live and work in the first place?" There is only one answer to this question: Apart from those who pose a physical threat to American citizens, such as people with criminal records or infectious diseases or who pose a national security threat--none.

Freedom of migration is the flip side of the free trade coin. Just as the free flow of goods and services across national borders is an inalienable right, so the free flow of human beings is also. Before we criminalize businesses for hiring illegal immigrants, we should legalize open immigration--period. A routine screening process is all we need. The billions we spend on "sealing the border" can then be re-targeted to the small number of people who pose an actual risk and try to circumvent the screening process. Then and only then should we prosecute businesses that knowingly hire illegals, because "illegal" will mean what it actually implies--dangerous individuals. (Citizenship is another matter. The path to citizenship should be grueling and selectively granted only to those who have proven their unwavering loyalty to Americanism.)

We are a country whose beacon of freedom is the universal principle that every individual has the equal and inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, which includes the right to earn money and acquire property and voluntarily trade with others. We should live up to those principles.


Sunday, February 03, 2013 2:59 PM 
wigglwagon wrote: 
America either has to enforce it's immigration laws or abolish it's labor laws. That is the problem now. The open borders activists like to claim that Americans are either too lazy or too dumb to do lots of jobs. That is not true. People are people. The only problem with American workers is that they cannot be exploited like the illegals because of the labor laws.  
It is time to put all workers in America on equal footing. Under those circumstances, Americans would have as good chance of being hired as the illegals. Either let the exploitive employers exploit ALL workers, or NO workers.

My answer to wigglwagon's response to my comments, which included a diatribe against the "exploitation" of workers as well as this quote:

"The open borders activists like to claim that Americans are either too lazy or too dumb to do lots of jobs."

I said no such thing.

There is only one social system that puts all people--"workers" or not--"on equal footing": capitalism, because it is based on inalienable individual rights and thus banishes force from human relationships. As long as individuals are free to contract voluntarily to mutual advantage, or go their separate ways in peace, "exploitation" is banished. To put it another way, if a "worker" agrees to accept a job, and is otherwise free to leave and seek employment elsewhere or create his own job by starting a business, there is no exploitation. Exploitation in this context means forced labor, which capitalism banishes.  Any other definition of "exploitation" renders the term meaningless and useless, otherwise the worker can be seen to "exploit" the employer, or the shopper the store owner; in other words, every contract must be seen as mutual exploitation--an absurd conception of voluntary contract. 

Related Reading:

My LTE on Immigration

Immigration and Individual Rights, by Craig Biddle

Immigrants on the Dole? That's a Myth, by Shikha Dalmia (Bloomberg)