Thursday, October 31, 2013

“If the government doesn’t build the roads, who will?”

Don Watkins has a post over at Laissez-Faire on Private Roads. He notes that "Supporters of laissez-faire capitalism are often asked, 'If the government doesn’t build the roads, who will?'" 

The wholesale privatization of the road network is not at the top of the immediate agendas of most free marketeers. Like eliminating taxes, it's something that must await the education of the public on the virtues of capitalism. In the short to intermediate term, we've got our hands full just slowing and halting the advance of statism. It's more important at this time to expend our energies on getting people back in control of their healthcare and education, or protecting free speech.

But effectively fighting for those freedoms now is inextricably linked to the long-term vision of laissez-faire capitalism, so we must be ready with some answers to questions such as that posed by Watkins.

Which brings me back to his piece. It's worth reading, along with the Wall Street Journal article Obama's False History of Public Investment he cites and Yaron Brook's answer to the question of traffic laws.

One of the concerns expressed to me is the practicality of paying for the use and maintenance of roads. Would we be stopping to pay a toll every time we turn onto another road? That would hardly be practical, which is why tolls would be restricted to limited-access highways, as they are today. 

So how would roads be financed? Well, how are private roads financed today? In developments, property owners pay through association fees. How are so many internet services paid for? This Blogger blog is free. Yet, Blogger is owned by a hugely profitable private company you may have heard of—Google. Anyone can start a Facebook page for no charge, yet Facebook has made Mark Zuckerberg a billionaire. How does Google and Facebook make money, if no one pays for the service?

The point is, the opportunities for road owners to make money without chaotic inconveniences to everyday drivers is limited only by the imagination. There is roadside advertising, charges on businesses operating on the road, rent from utility companies utilizing the roadway rights-of ways. 

Leitmotif has a post on Private Ownership of Roads. John Stossel had a segment on private roads.

There are myriad hypothetical conflicts that one can conjure up relating to private road networks. But it must be remembered that the purpose of law is to iron out these conflicts which, when individual rights are applied to given situations, turn out not to be conflicts at all. There is a whole body of law that would evolve as roads are privatized to deal with issues that may arise—a body of law that never came into being because government usurped the private sector. But when people are free, people can find solutions that don't involve force.

Free Marketeers need not shy away from the subject of private roads under laissez -faire capitalism. Nor need one have to know all of the answers in order to indicate that private roads could be practical, better planned and run, and moral as compared to the immorality of government roads with its coercive taxation and cronyism.

Related Reading:

Some incite into the issue of private roads can be gained by reading The Practicality of Private Waterways by J. Brian Phillips and Alan Germani in The Objective Standard.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Obama: "what's true for individuals is also true for nations." He's Right

My recent post at The Objective Standard blog features President Obama telling us how to properly judge government economic policy through the "test" of thinking about how it would play out in one's private life. 

Read my whole post Obama, Goose, and Gander, and then see if you can come up with more ways to apply Obama's "test."

What's interesting is that, when you start applying the test, you will find that in areas where government improperly intervenes in our private lives—such as, in the field of economics and charity—virtually everything the government does would be contrary to proper private behavior. But in areas involving government's proper role of protecting individual rights, almost the opposite is true. In a fully free and civil society, we delegate to government certain functions related to objectively protecting individual rights, but not functions that violate others' rights.

So, for example: Is it ok to rob your neighbor at gunpoint and redistribute his money to yourself or others? No? Then why is it ok for the politicians you elect to do it for you? On the other hand, it would be wrong for us as private individuals to get a gun and seize property in retribution from someone we believe robbed us by force, fraud, or breach of contract, thus violating our rights, but it would be right to leave that task to government as the law enforcement entity.

Or: Do you presume to dictate, at the point of a gun, how your neighbor, who has harmed no one, is to run his life or business? No? Then why is it ok for the politicians you elect to establish regulatory agencies to do just that? On the other hand, it would be wrong for you as a private individual to grab some individual who has harmed you in some way and force him into involuntary servitude as punishment, even though he violated your rights. But it would be right for government to act as arresting agent, prosecutor, judge, and jury, and lock up criminals in jails and prescribe his daily routine.

In its rights-protecting mode, the government properly holds a monopoly on the retaliatory use of force against those who initiate force. So, in the area of retaliatory force, what's true for government is not true for individuals. But in the area of initiatory force, "what's true for individuals is also true for nations." 

Obama's has unwittingly given us a great litmus test for separating proper from improper government policies. Let's call this "Obama' Litmus Test". What would happen to his precious regulatory welfare state if American's consistently applied "Obama' Litmus Test"?

Related Reading:

Man's Rights—Ayn Rand

The Nature of Government—Ayn Rand

My TOS Blog Archive

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Natural Gas Producers Are Not "Our" Slaves

In the comments section of the article Natural gas port a potential disaster for Jersey Shore by Liz Roberts, a correspondent made a couple of comments that I replied to. Here are the comments by ru4knights, and my replies:


"We have given the oil companies too many corporate giveaways."


Exactly what "giveaways" do "we" give these companies? They are heavily taxed and hog-tied by regulations as it is. Is it that "we" allow them to produce and market their work product? Well, guess what. Liberty is not a "giveaway." It is an inalienable right. Unless their productive activities harm another person or property, no one has a right to interfere in their work. You only have a right to buy or not buy their product. 


"This is an American resource. Let keep it here to improve the lives of everyone in this country instead of just the corporations and their paid shills."


Apparently, the people who produce this life-promoting "resource" are not part of "everyone". "Everyone" is whoever is not competent to produce it. So, natural gas producers are slaves, and non-producers are the masters.

No, the issue is not "about American consumers and American jobs." That is a derivative issue. The fundamental issue is the rights of producers to voluntarily trade their work product with whom they can most advantageously benefit. If it is more profitable to export to foreign buyers, then it is natural gas producers' moral right to do so. Natural gas is not an "American resource". It is a raw material that belongs to whoever makes the investment and does the work of extracting it and turning it into a life-enhancing final product. 

America is not a primitive slave society where the tribe reigns supreme over individuals. America is an enlightened country—at least in principle—that respects the sovereignty, liberty, and dignity of all individuals. Producers of natural gas are not "our" property, and their work is not "ours" to dispose of, because there is no "we", apart from the individuals that live and work here. 

Of course, American consumers, business, and job creation benefits from free trade, as do consumers and job creation in other countries. But that is a consequence, not a primary concern. Without production and trade, there are no consumers. And without protection of liberty and property rights, there is no production and trade.

Finally, a correspondent challenged my comment about oil company "giveaways" by referring to an article History of U.S. Oil Subsidies Go Back Nearly a Century. But the article actually refers to tax structures—write-offs and deductions—that leave oil companies to keep more of what they earn. These tax structures are not subsidies at all. Aside from some ethanol subsidies, the industry receives no subsidies for oil and gas production. For an accurate portrayal of this issue, see my post "Clean" Energy Subsidies vs. Oil Industry "Subsidies".

Related Reading:

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

"Clean" Energy Subsidies vs. Oil Industry "Subsidies"

Monday, October 28, 2013

NJ's "St. Ambrose" LNG Port and Liz Roberts's One-Sided Disaster Mongering

A propose liquefied natural gas port off the coast of New Jersey has drawn an opposition op-ed by a Fairleigh Dickinson University Adjunct Environmental Studies professor.  Liz Roberts column, Natural gas port a potential disaster for Jersey Shore, provides a litany of horrors that would result from the construction of this port, named St Ambrose. 

The article is full of vague references to potentialities from an "impact on shipping lanes and the proposed offshore windmills" to the emission of "greenhouse gases that will contribute to turn normal hurricanes into monsters more threatening than Hurricane Sandy was" to the "interference in mating, thus resulting in smaller and smaller generations of various fish species." That's just a sampler, and this ridiculous article is really not worth reading.

My comments, however, are:

Natural gas is a boon to the environment. It powers our heating systems, stoves for cooking, electricity that cools and illuminates our homes and buildings. In the future, natural gas will someday power our cars for transportation.

Natural gas, as well as other fossil fuels, powers our technological industrial civilization that has enabled humans to protect themselves against the hostile natural elements, including the inevitable natural disasters like hurricanes, droughts, blizzards, cold and heat waves, and flooding rains that have always plagued humans, and always will. Development of reliable, cheap, concentrated energy sources like natural gas, coal, oil, nuclear and hydroelectric have transformed  the hostile natural environment into a liveable human environment. They have enabled man to greatly improve the earth.

St. Ambrose may pose risks that need to be addressed, and some of the risks mentioned by Ms. Roberts may actually be valid. All human endeavors pose risks, and those risks must be minimized as much as is feasible with production. But any discussion of the risks of facilities like St. Ambrose must take into account the risks to human life of not developing natural gas fields. Human life comes first in any rational, compassionate person's hierarchy of values. Roberts's one-sided scare-mongering is dangerous to human life because it doesn't recognize the life-serving value of natural gas and the heroic men and women of the natural gas industry and the technological marvels that they created and operate.

Related Reading:

The Anti-Industrial Revolution

Epstein to Coal Industry: Claim the "Environmental High Road"

Attack on "Carbon Pollution" an Attack on Human Life

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Nothing "Earned," but Something Immoral, About Mandatory "Earned Sick Days"

Jon Whiten, the deputy director of New Jersey Policy Perspective, a nonprofit, allegedly nonpartisan research organization, penned an op-ed urging passage of laws that would legally mandate paid sick days both in Jersey City and statewide. 

Mandatory paid sick days is the latest assault on the rights of businessmen to run their businesses as they judge best. Whiten gives the assault a twist, declaring the mandatory sick pay "earned." 

I left these comments:

Statists must always rely on double-speak to advance their agenda.

There is nothing "earned" about sick days imposed by law. Only job benefits agreed to voluntarily by employer and employee are earned. Anything else is theft.

Opponents of this dishonestly misnamed "earned sick days" proposal are right that it is economically destructive, regardless of the alleged evidence to the contrary presented by Whiten. Basic economic theory and a modicum of critical thought will tell you that arbitrarily raising the cost of labor by law will reduce the job market relative to where it would otherwise be.

But this bill is also immoral. Employers have the right to set the terms of employment for the jobs they create and maintain, and job-seekers have the right to agree to the terms, or not. This is called voluntary contract, a basic right derived from the inalienable right to freedom of association. If an employer finds it in his best interest not to offer paid sick days, and his employee finds it in his best interest to accept a job that doesn't include them, no one has a right to impose different terms on them. Such laws as mandatory sick days violate the rights of employer and employee to voluntarily negotiate the terms of their contractual relationship. The government's job is to protect these rights equally for both, and to enforce the terms of voluntary contracts.

Sick days may indeed be good for business, and the fact that most businesses provide them without legal coercion indicates that. But that is for each businessman to decide for itself. If it chooses wrong, it will suffer the consequence of less loyal workers, high employee turnover, etc. Business owners should not concede the moral high ground to the do-gooder thugs who want to impose their terms on them, with the government with its law-making powers as their hired gun. They should stand up for their right to govern their own businesses as they judge best: And, in so doing, they will be standing up for the rights of job-seekers as well—the silent sufferers who have no champions among the welfare statists.

Related Reading:

Fed Up With the Political Status Quo? Discover "The Unknown Ideal."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Legally Mandated Paid Sick Days Violates Rights and Proper Purpose of Government

In the Star-Ledger's editorial promoting mandated paid sick days, the editors concluded by stating that "Sick time should be a universal right."

I left these comments:

Sick time is not a right, no matter how much anyone wishes it to be so. Rights are not arbitrary constructs created on political whim.  

Rights are objective moral concepts derived from the observable factual requirements of human nature. Since man must rationally act to survive and thrive, it follows that he must be free to act on his own rational judgment. A right is a guarantee to freedom of action in a social context. Rights are not an automatic guarantee to material benefits that others must provide. A proper government provides only a guarantee that each individual will be free from the initiation of physical force by other individuals—i.e., protection from criminals, fraudsters, extortionists, etc.—including other individuals in their capacity as government officials

Mandatory sick pay subverts legitimate government. If citizen A is forced to provide benefits such as employee sick pay to citizen B, citizen A's right to act on his judgment is violated. Jersey City's proposed law is therefore legalized criminality. Legalized criminality turns the government into an armed aggressor against legally disarmed private victims—the very citizens whose liberties the government is designed to protect. But the government should not be the enemy of the people. It should be their servant. The purpose of rights is to free people from force, and the purpose of government is to protect peoples' rights—every man and woman's rights, including businessmen.

Terms of employment are rightfully and only a matter of voluntary, mutually beneficial contract between employer and employee. The government's only job is to protect contract rights, not impose contract terms.

Related Reading:

Mandated Paid Parental Leave, Too?

Mandated Paid Sick Days, too?

Man's Rights—by Ayn Rand

The Nature of Government—by Ayn Rand

Friday, October 25, 2013

Debate Over Legally Mandated Paid Sick Days Highlights Nature's Mandate

Jersey City, New Jersey Mayor Steve Fulop is calling for a law mandating paid sick days. The NJ Star-Ledger editorialized in support of Fulop. In opening, The Ledger asked rhetorically: "When a stomach bug flattens your family, should it cost a day’s pay? Does flu season put you in fear of losing your job?"

I left these comments:

Welfare statists always pose questions of this kind, without context, as if the answers are self-evident. They are not. The discussion should begin with: What material guarantees does nature provide? The answer is, none. That leaves every human being with a single basic choice; provide for oneself, or force—i.e., enslave—others to provide for you. Those who seek to escape nature's requirement to take care of themselves must choose slavery. 

Politicians who propose mandatory sick pay laws and the like—and citizens who support them—are not promoting "economic justice." Justice means getting what you deserve, and what you deserve is what you earn through your own work and voluntary contract with others.These politicians and citizens are imposing slavery, and there's nothing just, economically or otherwise, about slavery.

The fact is, only employers have the right to answer questions like the first one, and only in regard to the jobs they created. If an employer wants to answer "no" to the first question, he will offer paid sick days as part of his employees' compensation. If not, the employee must set aside a contingency fund to cover his own lost pay (as I did all of my working life), or seek another job with benefits more to your liking. 

As to fear of losing a job, there is no escaping nature. An employee has no more right to expect an employer to guarantee him a job than the employer has to a guaranteed lifetime hold on his employees and customers.

The choice is self-sufficiency or slavery. As we allow the government to move more and more toward shielding individuals from the realities and responsibilities of life and of his nature, we are moving incrementally toward a totalitarian slave state. 

Related Reading:

Mandated Paid Parental Leave, Too?

Mandated Paid Sick Days, too?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

GMO Foods Are, Fundamentally, as Natural as a Bird's Nest

Three letters appeared in the 7/30/13 NJ Star-Ledger in response to John Rigolizzo Jr.'s article opposing forced labeling of Genetically Modified (GM) foods. "Genetic changes are good" argues against GM labeling, and sums up some of the many benefits of the similar but slower age-old process of "hybridization"—DNA alteration through selective breeding. "Labels for consumers" argues for mandatory labeling, based on the consumer's alleged "right to know." Finally, a letter writer representing an activist group promoting "organic" food argues that "GM food should be illegal."

I left these comments, focusing on the false dichotomy between man and his needs and nature:

RE: GM food labeling

I agree with Arthur L. Yeager ("Genetic changes are good"). 

GM foods are good or bad on their own individual merits, and that's how they should be judged. Blanket condemnation of an entire technology is childish and irresponsible. But blanket condemnation is exactly what a GM label would imply. GM labeling is Luddite propaganda, masquerading as relevant information. 

Yes, there are always risks. But the potential for the occasional bad product is not a reason to condemn GMO technology, any more that the occasional safety problem is a reason to condemn automobile technology. To add to Yeager's list of GM benefits, I would add Amanda Maxham's excellent Voices for Reason series GMO Monday, which zeros in on the benefits of GM technology as applied technology. 

To build on Yeager's conclusion that "
Scientific progress allows us to more efficiently implement this process of hybridization for the benefit of all [and] should not be unnecessarily impeded," it should be remembered that technology is man's practical means of altering naturally occurring matter for human benefit. Many species like bees that build hives, birds that build nests, ants that tunnel, ground hogs that dig, and beavers that build dams, alter nature on a very basic level. But, they are limited to instinctual programming, which means they and all living species other than man must adapt to their background environment in order to survive. That's what they are equipped to do. 

Man is not so equipped. Raw nature is misery and death to human beings. It is full of hazards, including things that are toxic to eat, like poison mushrooms. But nature does offer the basic raw ingredients from which man can survive and thrive, provided he acts according to his nature. 

Man's primary means of survival is his reasoning mind, which enables him to do what animals can't; alter nature to suit his needs, which he can do and, when free, does do on a vast scale. But, fundamentally, man's use of reason to alter the environment to advance his survival and quality of life is as much a part of nature as the instinctual ways that other species use to advance their lives. Man and his means of survival are part of nature. Therefor, the foods produced from GM technology, being a product of man's means of survival, is a natural phenomenon. Like all that man creates from Earth's raw materials, GM technology takes natural matter, and rearranges and improves it for human benefit.

As to Frederick Chichester, his call to outlaw GM foods is plain thuggery. Producers have a right to develop and market GM products, and consumers have a right to voluntarily buy them. Production and trade are fundamental individual rights, and no one has the right to interfere at the point of a gun. People should, however, be free not to produce or buy products they don't like.

Related Reading:

On Genetically Modified Crops and Food Labeling

GMO Monday by Amanda Maxham at Voices for Reason

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Work Is a Means of Rising From Poverty, Not an Entitlement to Rise Above Poverty

New Jersey has an election coming up in November, and one of the initiatives that voters will decide is whether to amend the state constitution to raise the state's minimum wage and lock in future increases tied to the cost of living. A NJ Star-Ledger letter urged passage of this amendment. In No worker should be in povertyMichael Elchoness wrote:

Not everyone who works deserves to be a millionaire, but no one who works deserves to be stuck in poverty.Time to right a wrong and increase the minimum wage.

I left these comments:

Poverty is the natural state of man. Nothing man needs comes ready-made in nature. That individuals must work to live and thrive is natures ultimatum. But what any person produces is determined by his individual productiveness. The more productive a person is, the more he rises above poverty—the more he earns. The less productive, the less he rises. No one is entitled to more than he produces. Minimum wage laws force some people (employers) to pay others (his workers) more than they are worth to the employer, and so are fundamentally unjust. 

If a worker thinks he is worth more, he can seek other employment. If he wants to earn more, he can take steps to improve his productiveness. But no one has a right to escape poverty by the simple act of working. 

It is not true that "no one who works deserves to be stuck in poverty." People deserve to live in accordance with their productiveness, whether that means being a millionaire or living in poverty. Any means of lifting someone out of his natural state of poverty that involves physical coercion against more productive people is anti-life and thus immoral.

(Of course, minimum wage laws don't really raise the wages of less productive people. Nature—i.e., the laws of economics—won't allow it. Such laws simply throw the less productive out of work, preventing them from gaining the self-discipline, self-esteem, experience, knowledge, and skills that lead to better paying jobs.  Minimum wage laws in fact keep people "stuck in poverty," as attested to by the high rates of unemployment among the young, especially in the inner-cities.)

Related Reading:

Morality and the Minimum Wage

Minimum Wage Doesn't Belong in the Consitution

Excerpt from On Regulation and Power @ Prin-Spec References, in which I was addressing another correspondent:

"Every man faces a basic choice…to work or to starve. This is not the “coercion” of a “money economy”. This is a metaphysical fact of man’s nature as a being of self-made wealth. That today’s social systems, from our own semi-free mixed economy to outright socialism, allows some to live off of the work of others does not change the fundamental choice… to work or to starve.

"Food, shelter, health care, potable water…everything man needs to survive and thrive, from space ships to nails…where do you think they come from? Are they free in nature, to drop out of thin air on the whim of anyone’s need? (These question are rhetorical, so don't take offense.)

"They must be produced by the individual process of reason, thought, and logic… which is the precondition of productive labor. Who produces material wealth? It’s not the men who choose to starve, but the men who choose to live

"But wealth production is not automatic. Certain social conditions are required to make it possible. These conditions include individual rights, the rule of objective law, and a government that protects those rights. It is only under these conditions that the men who choose to live, at all levels of ability, are free to produce and trade their work product for the products they need but that are produced by others. In short, only a free market makes production and trade possible. The commodity that facilitates production and trade is money. Anyone who condemns the free, money economy can not claim the mantle of labor champion."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How Egalitarianism Rewards Failure and Penalizes Success

My latest post at The Objective Standard Blog is up. Here is an excerpt:

To the Founding Fathers, “equality” meant all citizens have equal rights and thus should have equal standing before the law. To today’s so-called liberals, “equality” means everyone should have equal opportunities in life. 

Find out what abandoning the Founders' ideal would do to American education. Read Egalitarian Call to Abolish Private Schools is Morally Obscene and Economically Absurd in its entirety.

Related Reading:

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

The Problem for Government School Apologists; American Ideals

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Gay Marriage Referendum in New Jersey

There is an attempt to get a "Gay Marriage Amendment" onto the November 2013 election ballot, which includes a gubernatorial election. The legalization of gay marriage has been gaining legislative support, aided by out-of-state activists. Gay marriage opponents have been attempting a constitutional end run around the political gridlock by putting the question to the voters on whether to amend the state constitution to legalize it. The opponents' effort has been aided by Governor Christie, who "vowed to veto a bill recently introduced in the state legislature legalizing gay marriage because he believed the issue should be decided by popular vote through a public referendum."

Logic and morality are on the side of gay marriage rights proponents, as evidenced by a NJ Star-Ledger letter titled Let citizens decide. The letter writer, Bernard, objected to the "out-of-state anarchists [and] rabble-rousers" who he claims want "to deny Garden State citizens the right to vote on a referendum upholding the sanctity of marriage as a union between one man and one woman" by pressing for legislative recognition of homosexual marriage rights.

Bernard concludes:
Marriage has been, since the beginning of time, clearly defined. New Jersey has some of the best civil union rights in the nation. It is times such as these that the phrase, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” comes to mind.

Here are my comments:

"Marriage has been, since the beginning of time, clearly defined."

Just because something is old, doesn't make it right. The "right" of some human beings to enslave other human beings had been accepted "since the beginning of time," too. Fortunately, the Western Enlightenment put an end to that. Slavery was abolished when the rights of individuals were recognized as inalienable. It's time for the Enlightenment to catch up in the field of marriage equality. Same-sex couples violate no one's rights by marrying. It's time for social authoritarians to get out of the way.

Individual rights, properly understood, sanctions the individual's freedom of action in a social context, so long as his actions violate no one else's rights. Forging a marriage contract is a form of action that infringes on no one else's rights, so no one else has the "right" to vote on whether any two consenting adults may contract for marriage. While some (or most) people may define marriage as "a union between one man and one woman," they have no right to impose their marriage terms on same-sex couples—no matter their numbers—any more than same-sex couples may impose their terms on heterosexual couples should they ever garner a majority to define marriage as a union of two individuals of the same sex. 

The fight for individual rights does not stop at the state line. Rights are universal. Good for those out-of-state activists who spend the time and money to fight for the contractual rights of New Jersey's same sex couples. They are "rabble-rousers" in the nature of the Founding Fathers and the American Revolutionaries—at least on this one issue.

As of now, it doesn't look like the marriage referendum will make it on to the New Jersey ballot.

Related Reading:

Should a "Homosexual contract" be Called Something Other Than Marriage?

Gay Marriage and Individual Rights

Rights and Democracy

Gay Marriage and Rights vs. Democracy—Alan Germani

Friday, October 18, 2013

Tea Party Resistance to "Big Government" Raises Fear on the Left

Although the government shutdown was a political disaster for the Republican Party, the reaction on the Left gives one pause. 

Typical of responses to the government shutdown and debt ceiling coinfrontation is the New Jersey Star-Ledger's editorializing about The Tea Party's Tantrum. The paper used terms like "extortionist tactic" and "bomb-throwers like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)" and "hostage-taking." The editors lamented that "the Republican Party is in a state of dysfunction that will haunt the nation again soon," thanks to the "stridency" of the Tea Party "extremists." This "political crises . . . won’t change until the Cruz faction of the Republican Party is put to rest for good."

One wonders if the editors realize that their editorial is itself a tantrum over the Tea Party.

I left these comments:

While I think the Republican political strategy in this budget battle was ill-conceived, the shutdown did highlight the broader issues involved. 

The question any concerned citizen should be asking is: How is it that a partial government shutdown and a freeze on federal borrowing can have such a devastating impact on so many American individuals and businesses? The answer to that question contains an important warning: The government has accrued enormous rights-violating powers over our economic lives, and it is the Left-wing statists that is primarily responsible. 

Another message is that the Tea Party resistance is a major threat to the Left's fascist-socialist designs on America. This explains the hysterical vitriol leveled against the Tea Party—coming from power-crazed people who have no respect for individual rights. The Left loves a "moderate" me-too Republican Party that will pave the Leftward road with compromise. The Tea Party—admittedly a fractious, often contradictory movement—is the only political/cultural force, spawned at the grass roots level, that is at least taking a stand against rampaging statism. The Tea Party is a long-term threat to the Left, and the Left fears it. 

This Fall's budget battle highlights just how much control the state has gained and just how dependent Americans have become on government spending—spending financed by Americans themselves. It should motivate any liberty-loving, compassionate American to sit up and take notice—and listen. As long as one political faction believes it can wage economic aggression against their fellow Americans, with the government as its hired gun, we can only hope that the Tea Party will regroup and continue the fight.

Related Reading:

Ayn Rand: Tea Party Voice of the Founding Fathers

9.12.09 - Here We Go

Some Post - DC Observations

Government Shut Down and All I Got was This Blog Post—Ari Armstrong

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Republican Debacle and its Consequences for the Tea Party

If you want an abject lesson in what happens when you try to fight a political battle without philosophical ammunition, the government shutdown battle provides it.

To start with, the Republicans attempt to use the government shutdown as a means of stopping ObamaCare's implementation was a politically senseless strategy to begin with because it was doomed by a failure to offer a sharply defined free market alternative healthcare reform plan. Oh, sure, they did offer up a wishy-washy plan in September that contained a few good ideas. But, that plan was not offered as a pro-individual rights path to a fully free market to counter the Dem's vision of single-payer. It was merely a set of "common-sense reforms" intended to achieve the Dem's goal " without adding to the crushing debt Washington has placed on our children and grandchildren." The stated goal? Not more freedom. Just lower costs of healthcare.

It went down hill from there. The Democrats ended up looking like the responsible party; the Republicans like a bunch of irresponsible, clueless idiots, swinging from one "compromise" proposal to another, with each one representing another letter in the word SURRENDER. Worse, the Democrats—the unabashed collectivists—came across as morally confident. And the Republicans? What do you expect from a me-too party?

The worst part is, they discredited the Tea Party Movement, at least for now, handing the Left the opportunity to paint the movement as a callous band of renegades that "threatened to sabotage the economy to gain political leverage. They put a knife to the nation’s throat." The Tea Party can recover, but only if it adopts an unequivocal stand in defense of individual rights.

But that's the problem. The Tea Party never did congeal around a consistent philosophy. Many of us tried to seed the movement with the right ideas. But we were just one small faction of a fractious conglomeration that ran the gamut from the Religious Right and social conservatives to economic conservatives to pragmatic libertarians to single-issue groups like the pro-Second Amendment activists to defenders of Medicare shouting "Down with ObamaCare." What was needed was a movement anchored to a philosophy of individualism and capitalism. What we got was a blown opportunity to stem the statist tide.

Am I being too pessimistic? Perhaps. But the spectacle was nauseating. The one silver lining may be that the Republicans can at least claim that they took a politically risky stand against runaway government—and build on that. They can use the shutdown to highlight how vast a hold the government has gained on Americans' lives, jobs, and businesses; i.e., how much government now violates their rights.  But they're not going to get very far if all they can do is to muster philosophically empty alternatives to ObamaCare like their "Common-Sense Reforms to Lower Health Care Costs."

In a TOS blog post, I said:

As Ayn Rand observed: “A political battle is merely a skirmish fought with muskets; a philosophical battle is a nuclear war.” The Democrats are waging nuclear war on behalf of collectivism. If Republicans want to win, they must respond in kind and embrace the true, the moral, and thus the invincible principle of individual rights.

While the Republicans quibble over utilitarian details, the Democrats fill the moral vacuum and seize the moral high road by default. When will the Republicans—and the Tea Party—wake up and realize what kind of war they are in?

Related Reading:

Will the Republicans Wield Muskets in a Nuclear War?

My Challenge to the GOP: A Philosophical Contract with America

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Would a Failure to Raise the Debt Limit Mean National Default and Economic Calamity?

A NJ Star-Ledger editorial excoriating the "GOP crazies" said this of a failure to raise the debt limit:

If we don’t make sure the United States has enough money to pay its bills, it could cause big problems for our economy and the global financial markets. All the major countries and banks own Treasury bills, and if they don’t think we’re good for the money and can pay them back on time, “there’s going to be a huge global crisis of confidence,” said CNBC’s lead economist, Andrew Ross Sorkin.

I responded this way:

Big government apologists have always peddled the myth that government taxing and spending is good for the economy, but the same money spent by the people who earned it is not. This Keynesian snake-oil is logically absurd on its face, and proven time and again in practice to be utterly false—e.g., the aftermath of WW II and today's weak economy. 

And why must freezing the debt ceiling lead to default, unless the Obama Administration would allow it for political reasons? Existing debt could be rolled over, and existing tax receipts used to pay the interest on the existing debt. Spending could be cut elsewhere. There would be no "huge global crisis of confidence" if the Obama Administration announced immediately that America would not default on its debt under any circumstances.

The Star-Ledger also said: 
Goldman Sachs estimates spending cuts would come to about 4.2 percent of GDP — a more severe drop than the sequestration budget cuts or furloughs caused by the government shutdown.

I left these comments:

"Goldman Sachs estimates spending cuts would come to about 4.2 percent of GDP": Yes, and that's 4.2% left in private hands! 

The government is not some giant tooth fairy that brings wealth miraculously into existence by spending money. Every dollar of spending cuts is one more dollar left in the hands of productive individuals who earned it to spend and invest as THEY choose. 

Yes, let's "Think about what that could do to our fragile economy." A sudden end to government borrowing may cause a short-term economic contraction but would be a boon to the economy longer term—PROVIDED the government cuts spending wisely. There need be no default. The government can continue paying interest on the existing national debt and funding rights-protecting functions like the military and the court system. 

Where to cut? Tax receipts currently equal 70% of current spending. Immediately cut corporate and personal welfare across the board. Shut down cabinet-level departments like Education, Energy, Agriculture, and all of the unproductive jobs and subsidies that go with them. There is so much redistributionist spending ripe for rolling back that bringing spending into line with tax receipts would be easy if we recognize that forced redistribution is immoral. 

Related Reading:

Whose Money is it, Anyway?

The American Right, the Purpose of Government, and the Future of Liberty—Craig Biddle

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Washington Budget Debacle Highlights Extent of Our Dependence on Government

The Washington budget debacle has a silver lining: It could be a wake-up call for every American who considers himself responsible. The litany of "catastrophes" we're told will descend on Americans (and the world) without a budget agreement highlights the extent to which we have become dependent on government.

For example, a Washington Post article by Zachary A. Goldfarb and Jim Tankersley
screams Debt-ceiling breach would push economy into free fall, without a government safety net. That's debatable. But, if true, how and why did it come to this? How and why did the once powerful, dynamic American economy become hooked on the drug of government spending; spending, we must remember, that is fed by money that Americans themselves earned? How and why did so many Americans become dependent on government confiscating his fellow Americans' earnings and property to get through temporary hard times?

For answers those questions, I direct the reader to Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged and her other works. For a quick short-hand answer, Yaron Brooks and Don Watkins's Free Market Revolution would be immensely helpful.

As to some concrete consequences resulting from the partial government shutdown, a related failure to raise the borrowing capacity of the U.S. government, and what to do about them, here are a few alleged problems that could result from the partial shutdown and possible short and long-term solutions: 

The shuttering of National Parks (not mentioned in the WP article). Why does the government own and operate the parks to begin with? And since it does, why are the parks not free-standing financial entities, funded entirely by admission and other fees paid by visitors, or by voluntary private donations? End taxpayer support for the parks in the short term, and sell off the parks to private owners in the long term.

The delaying of Social Security checks. What ever happened to the "Social Security Trust Fund"? After all of the years productive Americans work to "pay into the system" through payroll deductions, we are dependent on current taxpayers and government borrowing for the promised benefits. If the system were converted to a personal account system invested in the taxpayer's own name—effectively walled off from congress's greedy hands—the money would be there for retirees regardless of Washington shenanigans. Longer term, because it violates our rights to spend and invest our money according to our own judgment, Social Security should be phased out and abolished.

Goldfarb and Tankersley note that, if the budget impasse isn't resolved, "daily tax receipts will make up only about 70 cents of every dollar of necessary [federal] spending [including interest on the national debt]." The federal government, they say, will have to prioritize its spending to stay within its means. What's so bad about that? The question is, what principles should guide the decision-makers' prioritization? That's easy. Focus cuts on areas that are contrary to the government's proper purpose of protecting individual rights.

For example, Goldfarb and Tankersley claim that "delayed safety-net payments [like food stamps and unemployment benefits] are one of the biggest worries because of their outsize economic impacts." But these are rights-violating programs, so why not simply cut those payouts by 30% to bring them into line with tax receipts? Longer term, these programs should be phased out. As to their "outsize economic impact," Goldfarb and Tankersley cite studies that claim that "every $1 spent on food stamps or unemployment benefits tends to drive about $1.70 in economic growth." But this ignores the economic growth that would result if the money feeding those expenditures remained in the hands of those who earned it to spend (or invest) as they choose. 

Goldfarb and Tankersley note that, in order to save the "safety net" payouts, the feds "might have to suspend all federal salaries and benefits and veterans benefits, as well as operations of the Justice Department, the Energy Department, the FAA, the Environmental Protection Agency and other agencies." But with rights-violating safety net payouts cut by 30% across the board, funding for rights-protecting functions associated with the military and the Justice Department could be preserved. Instead, the Departments of Energy and Environmental Protection could be suspended, along with other departments like Education and Agriculture. 

As to the FAA, the funding for much of what it does, like air traffic control, can be permanently picked up by the airline industry and its customers. Whey should the non-flying public be subsidizing the flying public like vacationers and business travelers?

One area ripe for spending cuts has to be corporate subsidies like those handed out for so-called "clean energy." The fed prioritizers should find choice pickings in corporate welfare.

This is just a sampling of what can be done to adjust to smaller, but nowhere near laissez-faire, government. There is so much government spending that violates the principle of rights protection that the cuts listed above represents only a down payment on what adhering to proper principles of government would require. 

Of course, this is all hypothetical. In today's political environment, the Republicans will cave in, lacking as they do the required philosophical firepower. (They are actually welfare statists, which is why their budget strategy is, I believe, a bad one and doomed to fail.) The cuts will be restored, and the government will resume its growth. But let's imagine, just as an exercise in "what if?", that the government must suddenly stop borrowing because no debt ceiling increase can be agreed upon.

Sure, there may be a sharp, short-term economic correction resulting from the sudden curtailment of government spending. But the contraction, if it happens at all, will be followed inexorably by a monumental economic boom, just like after World War II. Why? Because, contrary to Keynesian statists, the government can't create wealth out of thin air, like some sort of giant tooth fairy. It gets it money from productive private individuals. Every dollar the government doesn't spend will be one more dollar the private sector has to dispose of; which means another dollar used by the people who earn it to better their own lives by their own efforts, rather than to finance cronyism and subsidize un-productiveness and sloth. 

And sure, there will be a substantial reallocation of resources, resulting in many businesses and individuals dependent on government spending facing declining sales and loss of jobs. Their pain will be real, but new businesses and new jobs will emerge to take up the slack. The businessmen and workers will find new opportunities. 

Modern welfare states are in deep trouble, and Americans suddenly have an opportunity to head off the inevitable before it's too late. Call it "tough love." Call it the "meat ax"  approach. Call it what you want. But if the budget impasse continues and the government runs into a borrowing wall, we will find that the country can survive and adjust to smaller government, and be better off in terms of prosperity as private enterprise flourishes due to less private-sector wealth being seized by government.

Longer term, of course, setting America on a permanent course toward more prosperity and liberty is fundamentally a philosophical task of educating people on individual rights and capitalism. But the current budget drama, once it passes, could, and should, be a chance for Americans to start to reexamine the direction our country has been moving—toward more and more dependence on bigger and bigger government—and do something to start taking back control of our lives, property, and long-term financial security. Americans should look at the areas of "economic pain" and ask: Why and how did so many Americans' well-being get chained to the political class for its funding? 

Related Reading:

How About: Hands Off Our Money and Our Choice?

From Middle Class to Welfare Class

Sequestration"—A "Teachable Moment"