Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Right to Death—and to Life

The New Jersey Star-Ledger recently highlighted a bill working its way through the NJ legislature that would legalize assisted suicide in certain circumstances, such as when a patient is diagnosed with a terminal illness and given 6 months or less to live.

The editorial is interestingly titled The Right to Choose Death. I say interesting because the Star-Ledger is a Left-leaning newspaper that more often than not favors statist policies that restrict the individual's right to choose in myriad areas. The editors write:

For those who are chronically ill and suffering unbearable pain, choosing one’s own end should be a fundamental human right. Certainly, anyone who believes in limited government can get behind this idea.
I left these comments:

Not only SHOULD it be a fundamental right, it IS a fundamental right. Government doesn't create "human"—meaning individual—rights. Rights precede government. It's up to government to recognize and protect them.

In regard to Burzichelli’s bill, I would go further, and say that "the right to choose death" belongs equally to non-terminally ill people, as well. The Star-Ledger's own Bob Braun wrote about the heart-wrenching case of Christina Symanski in February 2012. After years of enduring a state of living death with no end in sight, Symanski had to resort to starving herself to death to end it, because proper professional assistance was legally forbidden.

But I have to wonder: Since the editors call for "limited government" in choices regarding death, how about limited government regarding choices about life? The regulatory state tells us what must be in our health insurance policies; what schools our children must attend and what must be taught there; what minimum pay level businesses and workers must adhere to; who, how much, and in what capacity to "help" others. In more and more areas of our lives, the government increasingly overrides our choices in healthcare, jobs, education, or charity, right down to what medicines and foods we may consume. If the government shouldn't tell us when and how to die, neither should it tell us how we live.

Yes, everyone has "the right to choose death." The right to life—the most fundamental of all rights—means the right to act on the judgment of one's own mind, so long as one's actions don't violate the same rights of others. But a properly limited government not only leaves people free to manage how they die, but more importantly how they live. All of our rights should be recognized and protected, and—to borrow the Star-Ledger's own words—"anyone who believes in limited government can get behind this idea."

Related Reading:

The Role of Rights in the Assisted Suicide Debate

Religious Objections Irrelevant to Assisted Suicide Law

"I’ve suffered enough"- A Young Woman’s Quest for a Peaceful End to an “Intolerable” Life

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

How NOT to Fight a Minimum Wage Hike

Marilou Halvorsen is the president of the New Jersey Restaurant Association. In a NJ Star-Ledger guest op-ed, she argues that Raising base wage for restaurant workers would kill jobs.

Her argument concerns the narrow issue of the so-called "tipping wage." As I understand it, the tipping wage is a legally mandated minimum wage for employees who receive tips, such as restaurant servers, which is set lower than the regular minimum wage. The theory is that tips will bring the worker's pay up to or above the regular minimum. For example, Halvorsen notes that the federal tipping wage is $2.13, which means that tips must come in at $5.12 per hour to bring the total up to the federal minimum of $7.25.

Halvorsen notes that, legally, NJ restaurants must make up the difference if tips fall short, so there is no "need" for raising the federal minimum. Besides, she notes, NJ "tipping-waged employees made an average of at least $15 an hour, including tips."

Besides not being needed, raising the minimum tipping wage would increase costs for businesses, resulting in fewer jobs:

Because of the added costs — more complicated bookkeeping and accounting processes — and the specter of higher payroll taxes due to changing how employees’ wages are calculated, it could discourage restaurants — especially the mom and pop places in nearly every community — from adding more employees.

This is the classic argument against the minimum wage—any minimum wage. She concludes:

    All we’re asking is: Let’s think before we slap more increases on this industry. New Jersey restaurants pride themselves on being fair and just.
    The facts are clear. Our restaurants are already providing employees with a minimum wage, and most employees make more than the minimum. The so-called advocacy groups simply have it wrong. Their solution would kill jobs, not save them.

While Halvorsen's concern is with the tipping wage, the broader issue is minimum wage laws as such. I left these comments:

The practical economic argument against raising the minimum wage may make sense, but it's not enough. When a business "advocate" states that "Every worker who receives tips deserves a [legally mandated] decent base minimum wage," she is raising the white flag. Once the NJRA concedes that the state has a right to dictate how much there businesses must pay their employees, it's all over but the quibbling over details. How do you fight those who blindly assert "restaurant workers deserve a raise?" For every business argument like "my bookkeeping costs will go up," the busybody "worker advocates" will claim that the employee faces this or that increased personal expense. And under our corrupt "brothers' keepers" ethics, forget justice; the "needs" of workers will always trump the concerns of America's favorite villain and scapegoat, "greedy" business. 

Economic logic has never been enough to head off government interference in business. Business owners must assert their moral right to operate their businesses as they judge best, just as job seekers, employees, and consumers act on their self-interest. Voluntary contractual associations, choices, and interactions between business, employee, and consumer—otherwise known as the free market—is the only legitimate (meaning moral) means of determining wage and price levels. Any method that involves force, legalized or otherwise, is gangland-style economics.

The minimum wage laws are immoral, and should be repealed. Government has no right forcing a mandated pay scale on business owners, or telling job seekers that they can't accept a job below a pay scale that politicians dictate. Employment terms negotiated and voluntarily agreed to by employer and employee is nobody else's business. If the restaurant owners don't take the moral high road—which is rightfully and logically theirs—and assert their moral rights to freedom of judgment and contract with their workers, they have no chance for their rights to be legally recognized, no matter how much "asking"—i.e., pleading—they do. 

Related Reading:

Minimum Wage Issue is Not "about what it’s like to live on $7.25 an hour"

NJ Voters Should Vote NO on the New Jersey Minimum Wage Increase Amendment

Some Fallacies Behind the Drive for the NJ Minimum Wage Increase Amendment

Monday, April 28, 2014

My TOS Post on Mandatory Sick Time

After two months in which The Objective Standard blog was closed, the newly upgraded blog is back.

My latest post, Mandatory Paid Sick Time: Economically Destructive because Morally Wrong, has been published, and opens with:

As if private businesses didn’t have enough government regulations to overcome, various politicians and activists are calling for new laws mandating paid sick time for employees.

Related Reading:

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

Saturday, April 26, 2014

"Wage Theft": A Marxist Weapon for Robbing Businessmen

In an article titled Wage Theft. What Is It? How can we stop it. A book Review, John D. Atlas said:

"Recently, new worker advocacy groups have been popping up nationwide, protesting sub-minimum wage pay, unpaid work, false payroll records, overtime without time-and-a-half pay, work expenses that are not fully reimbursed and paychecks that bounce."

I left these comments

The author is conflating two types of theft; one type against the worker, and one type against the employer.

Unpaid work, work expenses that are not fully reimbursed, or paychecks that bounce may represent breach of contract by the employer. The worker is the victim of theft, and the state rightfully should compel the employer to pay his worker restitution.

Laws that mandate a minimum level of pay and benefits that exceed what the employer would voluntarily pay his employees and what his employees would voluntarily agree to are a different type of "wage theft". Here, the employer is the victim of legalized theft—theft facilitated by his own government.

There's a lot of talk of "rights" here. But there is no right to take another's property against his will, and the state has no legitimate function in creating a "right" to do it. There is only the right to act in voluntary association and contract with others, including the rights of employers and workers to voluntarily contract to mutual benefit. If the law were just, it would protect equally the rights of all individuals to act on their own judgment in pursuit of their respective values. This means no state interference in voluntary worker/employer agreements unless someone's rights are violated, as in the case of breach of contract or fraud.

(There is actually a third, more sinister, backdoor type of theft—against the person who loses and or can't get a job because he doesn't qualify for the legal minimum compensation, and the marginal businessman who goes out of or can't start a business because he can't afford the mandated rates. The people robbed of economic opportunity are perhaps the greatest, albeit invisible, victims of these morally obscene laws.)

In the end, there is no such thing as "wage theft," except in the literal sense, as when a thug takes someone's paycheck at gunpoint, forges his signature, and cashes the check. There is only plain, old-fashioned theft. The laws should punish thieves, not facilitate theft.

"Wage theft" is a relic from Marxism, which holds that the capitalist (businessman) is an exploiter whose profits are taken from the workers. This "exploitation" theory is rooted in the materialistic idea that production is simply a matter of muscles, not brains, and that spiritual virtues (intelligence, ideas, organizational skills, etc.) have nothing to do with production. 

This theory is, of course, nonsense. Intellectual labor (reason) is the source of human production, and the businessman is the highest type of laborer who is the spark that makes jobs and wages possible.

Related Reading:

How Minimum Wage Laws Facilitate "Wage Theft"—Against Employers

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Right to Discriminate is About Contract, Not Religion

In a NJ Star-Ledger column, Liberal position on same-sex marriage takes the cake, Conservative/Libertarian Paul Mulshine wrote:

    Every time [the issue of same-sex marriage] arises, we conservatives are asked the same question: You claim to believe in individual liberty, so why do you oppose the right of homosexuals to marry?
    It is a fair question. A marriage is simply a contract between two people. The state certainly has no business telling two adults of whatever sex that they can’t draw up a pact involving the sharing of their property.
    So far, so good. But the advocates of same-sex marriage take it further. They say they don’t want the government pushing them around. But once they achieve their goal, what is the very first thing they do? They demand that the government start pushing other people around.
    We saw that last week when an administrative law judge in Colorado ordered a baker to bake a cake for the wedding of two gay men. [See Ari Armstrong's TOS post Court Violates Cake Baker’s Right Not to Serve Gay Weddings

Subsequently, a NJ Star-Ledger letter written by Michael Holton (Freedom or Privilege) took Mulshine to task:

    In his Dec. 15 column, Paul Mulshine has . . . confused religious freedom with religious privilege. Common sense and common decency require that religious dogma not be used as a basis for our laws or the rights we grant the citizens of our free, secular society. Nor can we allow one to circumnavigate those rights and justify discrimination by simply evoking one’s interpretation of “holy” text.
    Historically, when societies have allowed the word of the god de jour to officiate justice, it has not been very just.

I left this reply to the letter:

Michael Holton is correct that "religious dogma [should] not be used as a basis for our laws." But he is wrong that rights are "grants" that "we (society or government) grant to citizens." Rights are moral principles sanctioning the individual's freedom of action in a social context, and they are inalienable—i.e., not to be given or taken according to the whims of "society," government, or "we."

That brings us to the issue Holton raises. Mulshine is half right. He states "A marriage is simply a contract between two people," and the state has no business forbidding it. Mulshine is also correct that the baker has a right NOT to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

But he is wrong that the baker's refusal to bake a cake for a gay wedding because "doing so would violate his religious views" is a matter of religious freedom. Religion has nothing to do with it. The baker's right not to bake the cake is, like gay marriage, a contractual matter. Freedom of contract is derived from the inalienable right to freedom of association, a right held equally and at all times by every individual. As I stated in my Objective Standard blog post, "Freedom of contract means not only the right to voluntarily contract with others, but also to REFRAIN from doing so for whatever reason or even no reason." Put another way, no one has a right to forbid two consenting adults of the same sex from marrying, nor force any businessman to do business with that couple. 

Freedom of contract is a secular principle, not religious dogma, and it is the job of government to protect that right. The fact that some people may make contractual decisions based on religious dogma does not mean religious dogma is the basis for laws protecting contractual rights.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

"Citizens Climate Lobby" Turns to Force to Protect Nature at Human Expense

A recent letter responded to a NJ Star-Ledger editorial titled The march of climate change. The editorial promoted the government funded National Research Council's report on the climate. My post regarding this editorial was posted in December.

The letter was submitted by David Korfhage, the Montclair group leader of an outfit affiliated with something called the Citizens Climate Lobby. The letter was titled Climate needs our optimism and energy.

The Citizens Climate Lobby, writes Korfhage, is dedicated to pressuring "our leaders . . . to step up to their responsibility" to do something about climate change. He concludes, "We have the technology. We have the policies. We know our responsibility. Now we just need to make sure we have the political will."

If we don't exercise our "political will," he warns, "nature will make itself heard."

I left these comments:

Yes, "nature will make itself heard"—as it always has. And until very recently, historically speaking, humans were at nature's mercy.

Fossil fuels, and to a lesser extent nuclear and hydro-electric, have provided the cheap, plentiful, reliable energy needed to drive the industrialization that has transformed the hostile natural environment into a clean, healthy, comfortable, life-extending human environment. Today, humans have the means to protect themselves against nature's hostility. But we need the energy to do it.

You claim that "We have the technology. We have the policies. We know our responsibility. Now we just need to make sure we have the political will."

If Citizens Climate Lobby and other climate worshipers have the technology to replace the reliability of fossil fuel energy, then take responsibility and prove it. Forget "political will," which means guns. How about your free will? Develop and market your technology on the free market, where you need to demonstrate its practicality and convince people to voluntarily embrace it. Who will stop you? Then, we'll see if your wind and solar and whatever allegedly "renewables" you can conjure up works and can replace the reliability and affordability of fossil fuels. If you really do have the technology, you won't need to take the cowardly route and demand that legislators impose it by law (as if it is even possible that the whims of politicians can miraculously make it happen).

It can't, of course, which is why after decades of government subsidies solar and wind only accounts for 2% of the world's energy—with all of that 2% needing fossil fuel backup. You climate worshipers can keep fantasizing, but keep your "political will"—your guns—off of our life-giving fossil, nuclear, and hydro.

The extent to which human industrial activity is affecting climate, and whether or not the affect is good, bad, or neutral, is open to debate. But, whatever the case, the war against fossil fuels is demonstrably bad for man. 

Yet, the mantra of the Citizens Climate Lobby and its ilk boils down to: "To protect man from slightly more intense droughts, floods, cold waves, heat waves, and storms produced by climate change, we need to damage man's ability to cope with the slightly less intense droughts, floods, cold waves, heat waves, and storms of the pre-climate change past. 

Even on the climate worshipers' own premises—that climate change is bad, owes to human activity, and man has the power to reverse climate change and return to the climate of old—their call to roll back energy production and thus industrial progress makes no sense, except to people whose goal is to harm man's well-being.

Related Reading:

Japan's Earthquake Recovery: "Green Energy's" Failed Test
Ho-Hum: Another "Expert" Panel Pedaling Climate Change Scientology

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Earth Day: The "Anti-Industrial Revolution"

“The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow”. - Ayn Rand

One such uncontested (except by Rand) absurdity was inaugurated on April 22, 1970…the first Earth Day. The inability or unwillingness of Americans to understand and appreciate the actual meaning behind that concept has allowed Earth Day to evolve into a powerful symbol of an ideology that is anti-human life.

Ayn Rand coined the term “anti-industrial revolution” to describe the “ecology” movement of the 1960s and 1970s. That movement was the precursor to the modern environmentalist movement.

The basic premise of Environmentalism is that “nature” in its raw state—which means unaltered by human intervention—has intrinsic value. But the concept "value" cannot be divorced from the concept valuer. Nothing can have intrinsic value ... i.e., value in and of itself. But that is exactly how environmentism sees nature. The consequences to human freedom and well-being by the acceptance of that doctrine are horrendous. Mark Levine puts it thus:

If nature has "intrinsic value" then nature exists for its own sake. Consequently, man is not to be preferred over any aspect of his natural surroundings. He is no better than any other organism and much worse because of his destructive existence.

Is not man, therefore, expendable? And if he is, is not the suppression of his liberty, the confiscation of his property, and the blunting of his progress at all times warranted where the purpose is to save the planet - or any part of it - from man himself? After all, it would seem that there can be no end to man's offenses against nature if he is not checked at every turn. (Liberty and Tyranny, pages 121-122)

Think of what it means if nature has intrinsic value. It means that whatever nature "does"—raw nature—is valuable and not to be altered. A volcano erupting and destroying Mount St. Helens, taking with it millions of trees and wild animals, is raw nature, and thus good. Man clearing a forest and “destroying” an ecosystem to build a housing development is not. Animals devouring one another to survive is raw nature. Man using animals for the purpose of testing (human) life-saving medicines is not. Crop-destroying insects or plant diseases is raw nature. Insecticides and bio-engineered pest- and disease-resistant crops is not. A black primordial goo lying underground is raw nature. Gasoline and heating oil is not.

The common denominator of that which is not “raw” nature is that it represents the application of human intelligence to the advance of man’s well-being and survival. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action. Every living species, from the lowest bacteria to the most advanced mammals, must act according to its nature to sustain its life. In other words, every living species is provided by nature with some means of survival, which it must rely on and exercise.

There is one crucial fact of nature that sets man apart from every other living species. Every other species must essentially adapt itself to its natural environmental background. It has no choice in the matter, since it basically has no way of altering that environment. It is thus equipped with the basic means of survival determined by its nature to survive in that manner. Any species that lacks or loses the means to adapt perishes. Man, however, is not equipped to adapt to raw nature. He must, if he is to survive and thrive, adapt his environmental background to his own needs ... by building homes, inventing medical treatments, developing advanced agriculture, producing fuel for transportation and heating ... all produced from exploiting the materials found in raw nature.

Environmentalism’s elevating of nature to the absurd and logically indefensible status of having intrinsic value is a direct assault on, and denial of, man’s method of survival; his need to transform raw nature as dictated by his very nature. That man is himself a product of nature does not daunt the environmentalist mindset. They champion nature, except the one creation of nature that sets man apart. Since man’s primary, basic means of achieving this is his rational mind, the anti-science of environmentalism is thus anti-mind, which means anti-man.

Environmentalism should not be confused with the idea of developing cleaner methods of producing and consuming that which we need to survive and thrive. That is not what the leaders of the environmental movement have in mind. It is human production and technology that is the enemy. Following are some quotes from some of those leaders:

The collective needs of non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans.

—Dr. Reed F. Noss, The Wildlands Project

Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, is not as important as a wild and healthy planet ... Some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along.

—David Graber, biologist, National Park Service

The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing....This is not to say that the rise of human civilization is insignificant, but there is no way of showing that it will be much help to the world in the long run.

—Economist editorial

I suspect that eradicating smallpox was wrong. It played an important part in balancing ecosystems.

—John Davis, editor of Earth First! Journal

We, in the green movement, aspire to a cultural model in which killing a forest will be considered more contemptible and more criminal than the sale of 6-year-old children to Asian brothels.

—Carl Amery

We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into Stone Age, where we might live like Indians in our valley, with our localism, our appropriate technology, our gardens, our homemade religion—guilt-free at last!

—Stewart Brand (writing in the Whole Earth Catalogue).

This last is the ideal that drives environmentalism…the return of mankind to a pre-industrial age when man lived “in harmony” with nature. A time when nature was worshipped, rather than exploited for human gain. Rather than a warm winter home, they long for an existence of savages cowering in fear of natural forces. The name itself, “Environmentalism”, captures the very essence of its meaning, just as Communism or Nazism captures the essence of those systems. In fact, statists of every stripe have latched on to the environmental movement to further their anti-capitalist agendas.

But make no mistake. The agenda of the environmentalists is to thwart, roll back, and destroy the life-giving technology and industrialization of the modern age. This is not to say that I believe that they will succeed. Most people don’t equate environmentalism with an anti-man’s-life agenda. There is a real danger, though, that they will succeed at advancing a statist agenda under cover of environmentalism, leading to a deteriorating economy, rising impoverishment, and possible dictatorship. I submit in evidence the two news items cited in my 2010 Earth Day post.

By celebrating “Earth Day”, we should be aware of the enemies of man that we are helping to bring to power in America and around the world.

Rather than celebrate raw nature, as embodied in “Earth Day”, we should instead look around at all of the life-giving benefits we enjoy as a result of industrialization.

Earth Day is the “holiday” of the anti-industrial revolution. Instead, we should celebrate the holiday of the Industrial Revolution, Exploit The Earth Day!

Related Reading:

What “Going Green” Really Means—Collection by Voices for Reason 

On April 22, Celebrate Exploit-the-Earth Day—Craig Biddle

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Economic Equality vs. Political Equality: Which is Your America?

The concern over  "inequality of wealth and income" is a manifestation of the socialists' agenda. It is an intellectual package deal that attempts to smuggle in the injustice of forced wealth redistribution under cover of the justice of equality. 

For example, a NJ Star-Ledger letter writer (‘Madiba’s’ legacy, R.F. Downey) approvingly cited the minimum wage demonstrations and then wrote:

    We can do the right thing by making sure people who work a 40-hour week can survive and their children can thrive.
    I was at a Jets game where a young man was selling hot chocolate for $10 each. I realized this was nearly his hourly pay. I was in New York City, where a young lady working at a burger joint dropped her drug store mascara. When I returned it, you would have thought I gave her $100. It probably represented two hours’ work.

He concluded with: "This is not my America. We can honor Mandela’s legacy by making economic equality a human right."

It never occurred to Downey to ask: How many hours would it take for "a young lady working at a burger joint" to produce that mascara from scratch?—i.e., to conceive of the knowledge, engineer, discover the raw materials that go into it, find them, dig them out of the earth, refine them, create the manufacturing processes and tools required to put these and myriad other steps together to create the final product called mascara. Weeks; months; years; assuming the virtual impossibility that she could do it at all? What about the tremendous productive knowledge and steps that go into creating the "low paying job" that enables the young woman to get that complex end product called mascara—in a mere two hours work?

The same kind of analyses can be applied to everything a low wage worker's, or anyone's, money can buy. When a low wage worker can afford mascara on a mere two hours work, that is called a high standard of living. What would her two hours of labor have bought her prior to the industrial revolution, when the average person worked sunup to sundown just to keep himself and his family one step ahead of starvation and death by exposure?

On the issue of equality, I left essentially these comments:

D.F. Downey's letter (‘Madiba’s’ legacy) raises an important question: What is equality? To the Founding Fathers, equality meant before the law, not equality of economic outcome. They understood rights as sanctions to freedom of action. They did not mean a claim to the same level of economic well-being as your neighbors regardless of your actions, . . . inaction, [or choices].

Every individual is unique in his intelligence, ability, productiveness, values, self-motivation, self-discipline, goals, physical attributes, ambition, and personal circumstances. Since the only proper way for people to deal with others in a civil society is by voluntary consent to mutual advantage–trade–it follows that each individual will earn according to his own unique personal attributes, life circumstances, and the extent to which others value what he produces by his own work. By definition, this means economic inequality as a natural consequence of human nature and civility. In a free society, economic inequality is a product of human diversity, and is both just and moral.

What is economic equality as a "right"? It can mean only one thing; that each of us is entitled to take by force what we have not earned from anyone who earns more. Since each of us who works earns both more than some and less than others, it means each of us is both the prey of those earning less and predator to those earning more. What kind of society does "economic equality as a human right" lead to? One in which every person is reduced to the level of the lowest, laziest, most shiftless dregs of society, because no one who earns anything is safe from the predators below him. 

What will then become of the "young lady working at a burger joint" when all of the highly productive people that she expects a financial piece of have been crushed out of existence? How far will her two hours work go in the world of economic equality envisioned by the egalitarians?

We've seen this evil before. It is the kind of evil that is led by the ignorant, the greedy, and the envious, and exploited by the power-hungry; the government officials charged with seizing and redistributing the nation's wealth.

The only kind of equality that is just and consistent with a civil society is political equality—the equal rights of all to freely act on one's own judgment; to pursue one's own values; to keep what property one earns by his own work and in voluntary association and trade with others.

Economic equality by right leads to a society marked by a steady downward pull into universal poverty and enslavement. The economic equality (or social "justice") movement is a crusade of the parasites and the power-lusters. Political equality by right leads to an upwardly mobile society of broad-based prosperity and opportunity for any self-responsible person willing to work. The political equality movement is a crusade of the productive and peaceful coexistence. You can have either economic equality or political equality, but you can't have both. Downey envisions one America. Which is your America? That is the fundamental question we face.

Related Reading:

The Left’s Egalitarian Trap (and Why Republicans Must Not Step In)

How Egalitarianism Rewards Failure and Penalizes Success

President Obama, Stop Damning the Achievers for their Virtues—Harry Binswanger

Friday, April 18, 2014

"Equality of Opportunity": What it Really Means

“Equality of Opportunity” is on the lips of “liberals” and conservatives alike. What does the term mean?

To the Founding Fathers, “equality” meant before the law; meaning, the government protects every individual’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness equally and at all times. “Opportunity” meant political freedom; nothing else.

But today, “equality of opportunity” carries a completely different meaning. For example, let’s turn to a Gawker article written last year by Jim Cook, There’s a Simple Solution to the Public Schools Crisis: Let’s Ban Private Schools. Few people openly support legally banning private schools—yet—but Cook’s “solution” is instructive for what it says about “equality of opportunity.”

Public—i.e., government—schools, Cook notes, are beset with “stagnant or declining graduation rates, substandard educations, dilapidated schools, angry teachers, underserved students.”

These problems could be fixed by legally banning private schools, Cook rationalizes, because “Wealthy people tend to lobby effectively for their interests, and if their interests were to include adequate public funding for the schools their children attend,” we’d get better public schools.

But this is just superficial wishful thinking. More fundamentally, Cook believes “there’s also a moral argument for banning private education. . . .

Put simply: Equality of opportunity demands that children should not be penalized—or advantaged—by the accident of their birth. Educational benefits, which are the most crucial resource when it comes to determining the life-outcomes for children of all backgrounds, shouldn't be distributed based on how rich your parents are. They should be distributed equally.

Cook is not primarily motivated by the prospect of people lifting themselves up, but of tearing the best achievers down. In the name of equalizing “life-outcome” “opportunities” for all children, Cook callously demands the sacrifice of superior private schools for the sake of what he readily acknowledges are failing government schools. He demands the government violate the rights (and opportunity) of educators to establish private schools; the rights (and opportunity) of parents to pursue for their children the best schools that, in the parents’ judgment, educators have to offer; and the rights (and opportunity) of both educators and parents to contract voluntarily to mutual advantage.

This is what “equality of opportunity,” in today’s usage, looks like in action. Since life opportunities vary from person to person—e.g., the family a child is born into—the only way to equalize opportunity is to violate the rights and obliterate the opportunities of those who are “advantaged”—i.e., those who excel.

“Equality of opportunity” has morphed into an economic term; the flip side of the socialist coin labeled “equality of outcome.” To secure our liberty and rights—and prevent Cook-like education schemes from gaining political traction in the future—Americans must reject any government attempt to equalize economic opportunity, and demand that it return to its sole legitimate function of protecting the only kind of equality that is just and moral—equality before the law.

Related Reading:

Egalitarian Call to Abolish Schools is Morally Obscene and Economically Absurd

The Problem for Government School Apologists; American Ideals

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Arctic vs. Antarctic: A Tale of Two Polar Ice Caps

In response to an editorial that implied that the polar ice caps are melting due to global warming, I posted a link to a National Geographic article that reported that the Antarctic ice sheet has grown to the largest ever recorded. In reply, a [perhaps] disappointed correspondent said to me: "You conveniently forgot to mention that the report also stated that the increase was in contrast to the Arctic cap which has been shrinking."

Here was my reply:

Nate: I didn't "conveniently forget." My purpose was to provide balance. Arctic late-summer sea ice is contracting because, well, it's a sea. Water temperatures are higher than land, so it doesn't take much atmospheric warming to melt sea ice, since sea ice is close to the freezing mark. (The atmosphere has warmed less than 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1880, right after the end of the Little Ice Age. Half of that warming occurred before major CO2 increases.)

The antarctic is a land mass, and thus much colder. A warming Earth feeds the growth of land ice sheets, because warmer air holds more moisture, which means more ice-sheet building snows in colder regions. There could be other reasons for Antarctic ice growth, as the article suggests. But the point is, this development was totally unexpected by the so-called "scientific consensus." We'd been told that the ice caps (plural) would melt. Not true, so why should we believe the other hysterical "consensus" catastrophes?

This is really beside the point, though. The real catastrophe is the unprecedented assault on the reliable, economical industrial-scale energy mainly provided now (and for the foreseeable future) by fossil fuels that our human lives depend on.

Related Reading:

Growing Antarctic Ice Sheet Belies "Melting Polar Caps" Hysteria

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Stamato vs. the Koch Brothers: Campaign Finance and the First Amendment

In the comments section of the article Koch brothers and their money make America more dangerous by Rutgers faculty member Linda Stamato, I had several engagements with other correspondents. The main point of contention was the issue of campaign finance, or money in politics. 

The comments of other correspondents are block-quoted below, followed by my posted replies (in blue), and follow-up comments (in standard black):

ulyintewksbury wrote:

Dark money rules. It is the new paradigm in politics.

"Dark money?" Private money is only "dark" to state supremacists that oppose dissent.

A classic inversion perpetrated by statists is to characterize any unregulated or little regulated (i.e., free) element of the private sector as "dark," "shadowy," "below the radar"; something sinister that escapes the light of government control; a "loophole" in the fabric of society.

Spudwrench offered his own version of campaign finance reform:

Limiting donations to "persons" with a Social Security Number would be a good start.

So you would forbid associations of 2 or more persons from cooperatively engaging in free speech? The First Amendment also covers freedom of association (assembly). Your suggestion would mean that individuals forfeit their free speech rights as soon as they join with others—right along with their right to petition their government. This would greatly diminish the individual citizen's voice, and— in a country of 320 million people—probably spell the end of representative government. It would eviscerate the First Amendment, which you should re-read. And just to stop people from voicing their opinions in the public square. Very dangerous.

The First Amendment reads, Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances. 

HAL9 replied to me:

I do believe that you have supported Citizens United and the more recent campaign finance US Supreme Court decisions/

I'm not sure whether HAL9 though he had a "gotcha," or just sought clarification of my views. But I welcomed the chance to clarify:

HAL9: I fully support Citizens United. That was a major victory for free speech, as it involved the rights of private citizens to spend their own money on independent advocacy.

I'm undecided on the issue of direct contributions to political campaigns. However, I do believe the reaction to the recent SCOTUS [McCutcheon] decision was overblown. It left intact limits to individual candidates and disclosure requirements. The decision merely ended the limit on how many candidates a person can contribute to.

As Chief Justice Roberts reasonably wrote, “The government may no more restrict how many candidates or causes a donor may support than it may tell a newspaper how many candidates it may endorse.”

Smugwump also chimed in on campaign finance reform:

We need a constitutional amendment that gives congress the power to regulate campaign spending.

Translation: "We need a constitutional amendment that gives politicians the power to silence their own critics."

Immediately preceding that statement, Smugwump said, "McCain-feingold got overturned because it violated the first amendment. And rightfully so. Of course unions and corporations have their rights protected by the bill of rights." I chose to ignore the blatant contradiction.


They [the rich] are buying legislation that favors their business interests, often at the expense of the majority of citizens. How is this even defensible in a representative democracy?

"How is this even defensible in a representative democracy?"

Precisely because America has become a "representative democracy." If America were a constitutional republic limited to protecting individual rights equally and at all times, as it was originally intended, no one would be able to buy legislation that favors their interests, because the government wouldn't have the power to favor some interests over others.

James Madison understood that the secret to checking the power of special interests lie in checking the power of government. He wrote: 

"In every political society, parties are unavoidable. A difference of interests, real or supposed, is the most natural and fruitful source of them. The great object should be to combat the evil: 1. By establishing a political equality among all. 2. By withholding unnecessary opportunities from a few, to increase the inequality of property, by an immoderate, and especially an unmerited, accumulation of riches. 3. By the silent operation of laws, which, without violating the rights of property, reduce extreme wealth towards a state of mediocrity, and raise extreme indigence towards a state of comfort. 4. By abstaining from measures which operate differently on different interests, and particularly such as favor one interest at the expence of another. 5. By making one party a check on the other, so far as the existence of parties cannot be prevented, nor their views accommodated. If this is not the language of reason, it is that of republicanism."

Madison believed that wealth should be acquired and maintained by one's private productiveness, rather than rely on government favoritism ("an unmerited, accumulation of riches"). That's how I interpret "the silent operation of laws, which, without violating the rights of property. . ." 

Finally, 63 and out:

Money is not speech. Koch speaks no louder than me. If that is what you think our forefathers had in mind you're sadly mistaken.

63 and out: Money is the means to exercising free speech. Without spending money, there would be no newspapers, TV, Radio, books, or any other media forum—and no, which enables you to state that "money is not speech." Any restrictions on the spending of money is a restriction on freedom of speech. First Amendment rights are inextricably linked to property rights.

63 and out's comeback:

So, You really ARE saying free speech is purchased?

No, but the means is.

Folks like 63 and out apparently believe that free speech begins and ends with the actual physical voice, as if the First Amendment merely sanctions a shouting match—with the loudest voice winning—and no means of reaching a wider audience allowed. They might respond; but some money can be allowed, but only with strict limits, which would mean that Congress would have the power to control the public debate—and to silence its critics.

Related Reading:

Ideas, Not Money, Matters in Political Campaigns

Monday, April 14, 2014

Why Are Anti-Capitalists so Obsessed with Mandatory Campaign Finance "Disclosure"?

In the comments section of the article Koch brothers and their money make America more dangerous by Rutgers faculty member Linda Stamato, the issue of disclosure requirements for those who finance political or issue advocacy was a central theme. 

In regards to that, correspondent TMoor commented:

The Koch brothers have been publicly linked to the Committee for Our Children's Future, a secretive Super PAC that spent nearly $8,000,000.00 on "issue advocacy" during the last election cycle in New Jersey. The value of free speech is greatly diminished if it is difficult to identify the speaker, particularly when those behind the curtain are spending huge amounts of money to get their message out.

I replied:

"The value of free speech is greatly diminished if it is difficult to identify the speaker. . ."

How so? The identity of the speaker is only relevant to ad hominem types. To any thinking person with something to say, the substance of the message is all that matters. Private citizens have a fundamental right to their anonymity, if they so choose.

Stamato responded here:

Of course private citizens have every right to be anonymous but it is also the case that what some, let's say in advocacy pieces that are obscured as objective information, knowing who wrote, who sponsored, etc., let's us in on why these things are appearing... Can't hurt to know that, can it? And, if information is so critically important to share, why not say from whence the information comes?

It seems that some people's anonymity rights are more equal than others. What kind of "right" is consistent with granting Congress the power to selectively violate that right? There are no "buts" about rights, so long as the rights of others are not violated. 

To make sense of Stamato's comment, let's consider her own column. From the get-go, Stamato's main concern is on who said it, not what is said. Early in the article, Stamato states that "They [the Kochs] do their best to keep their cover [but] the extent of the Koch reach is at least partially revealed in tax filings." Her search of these tax filings reveals that "In 2012, some 200 or so donors managed to cough up $250 million" for the Koch's "Freedom Partners," a "clearinghouse" that funds "their organizations of choice." We find out later the identities of some of these organizations:

They underwrite a huge network of foundations, think tanks and political front groups, including their own political action committee, Americans for Prosperity, and their brothers-in-arms at the Club for Growth, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute.

The common denominator uniting these groups is that they advocate, more or less, free markets, individual liberty, and limited, rights-protecting government. Considering Stamato's hate-drenched smear piece and its ilk, can anyone blame the donors for desiring anonymity? Imagine if Stamato had the identities of those 200 anonymous donors. What would she do with that "critical information?" I think this column answers that question. The smear against the Koch brothers would not be possible if she couldn't uncover their identities from tax filings. Her column, as written, could not happen. Instead, she might actually have to deal with the free market intellectuals and the actual substance of their arguments. 

The Koch brothers, of course, do not choose anonymity—and they pay the Left's price. But Charles Koch understands what he's up against. In a Wall Street Journal piece, he wrote:

Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists strive to discredit and intimidate opponents. They engage in character assassination. (I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.) This is the approach that Arthur Schopenhauer described in the 19th century, that Saul Alinsky famously advocated in the 20th, and that so many despots have infamously practiced. Such tactics are the antithesis of what is required for a free society—and a telltale sign that the collectivists do not have good answers.

What it boils down to is: Those who demand disclosure, which they euphemistically call "transparency," are more interested in ad hominem—to personally attack the speaker rather than answer what the speaker says—than intellectual combat on the battleground of ideas. Why? The answer is quite transparent: If you don't have a counter-argument to your opponents' ideas, all that's left is ad hominem.

Related Reading:

I'm Fighting to Restore a Free Society—Charles Koch

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Linda Stamato Smears (and Fears?) the Koch Brothers

Linda Stamato, a Rutgers University faculty member, penned an op-ed in the New Jersey Star-Ledger titled Koch brothers and their money make America more dangerous

Keep in mind, as you read her article, that the author's target is two private citizens engaging in public advocacy with their own money. The Koch brothers are two industrial billionaires who fight for right wing causes, though perhaps not always causes of the Right, properly defined. They are a favorite target of the political Left in the same way as George Soros is of conservatives. They are the quintessential product of a society that protects free speech and dissent.

But you would think they were "enemies of the state" as understood by totalitarian regimes.

Part 1 of Stamato's article is a listing of what she terms "The extent of the Koch reach." This includes their business enterprises and funding of conservative/libertarian activist groups and think tanks. The Koch brothers breathtaking crime; their "focus on remaking America into a land of unfettered, unregulated capitalism." I suppose Stamato expects to elicit a breathless GASP from her readers, but all I could summon up was a "so what?"

"The extent of the Koch reach" turns out to be their ability to effectively advocate their views to a wide audience—the power of the pen. That so many Americans subscribe to Koch ideas has Stamato in a tizzy. "The Koch brothers," she writes, "are . . . affecting elections and thwarting governance. . ." GASP! I left these comments:

So? Isn't "affecting elections" what representative self-government is all about? And when have the Koch brothers ever advocated "thwarting governance?" Thwarting those who would use government power to thwart liberty, for sure. Would you also accuse activists who SUPPORT the regulatory welfare state of "affecting elections and thwarting governance?" Or, do statists not want to have to answer only to citizen[s] that don't acquiesce to their governance ambitions? 

The extent of the regulatory state's reach, which by its very nature is unconstrained by any principles of individual rights, is its ability to initiate force against private citizens—the power of the gun. What is that next to the pen? Who is the real threat? To the citizens, it is the state. To the state and their apologists, it is apparently the Koch brothers. After all, the Koch brothers. . .

are hurting human beings by seeking to deprive them of unemployment benefits, a fair wage, collective bargaining rights, food stamps and insurance coverage — not to mention by compromising the safety and health of their environment.

I don't know enough about the Koch brothers to know if they are genuine advocates of laissez-faire capitalism. I doubt it, given that such advocates outside of Objectivists are virtually non-existent. More than likely, they favor some kind of "safety net." In any event, Stamato doesn't provide any evidence of her claim. In regard to those programs, the only people being deprived are employers of their rights to decide how much to pay their employees, to choose whether or not to collectively bargain with a union, or not to provide health insurance; workers forced into unions against their will; and taxpayers forced to fund food stamps and insurance subsidies.

Moving on to the next section, DISASTERS WAITING TO HAPPEN, Stamato describes 3 industrial accidents, which she blames on the Koch brothers alleged success at "limiting regulation"—this, in an era of rampaging regulations. OSHA, you see, failed to "adequately regulate" a Texas fertilizer plant that blew up, killing several workers, because it wasn't adequately funded—this, in a era of rampaging budget deficits. 

You get the picture. We're dealing with a smear piece. You can read the rest of Koch brothers and their money make America more dangerous, if you like.

I left these comments

The big lie perpetrated here is that these industrial accidents happened because of "unfettered, unregulated capitalism." Where does one see anything close to "unfettered, unregulated capitalism?" In fact, these disasters happened in a heavily fettered, highly regulated mixed economy. Where is the blame on the regulators that already permeate the economy? All Stamato can do is insinuate that these accidents "may" have been prevented if only there were yet more regulations.

"Special interests, money and politicians for sale?" They are products of a mixed economy. The more power government gains over the lives and business of its citizens, the more the citizens are incentivized to influence the policies of the government that regulates and taxes them. Under unregulated capitalism, because government has no power to regulate commerce and dispense economic favors, there is no incentive to influence government policy-making, and thus no special interests. Yet, Stamato's solution to the mixed economy, special interest free-for-all is to shred the First Amendment by "regulating" (i.e., stifling) the citizens' ability to participate in and influence their own government.

Human beings, including regulators, are not infallible or omniscient. Sometimes they are even criminally negligent. Accidents and disasters will happen. There is no magic regulatory bullet. Today, the regulatory state is bigger than ever. Where's the nirvana? Government's job is to punish wrongdoing and force the responsible company to pay restitution and other appropriate penalties. Isolated accidents should not be an excuse to punish the innocent with more regulations.

Stamato condemns "a misplaced faith in unfettered free enterprise." Then what about the blind faith in state supremacist ideology; the omnipotent state? If the freedom of capitalism is so bad, how about the un-freedom of statist regimes? If the author insists on blaming isolated industrial disasters on "unfettered" capitalism, then she must also recognize the horrors of unfettered government—the tens of millions slaughtered, hundreds of millions enslaved and impoverished, the concentration camps, the censorship, and all-pervasive fear perpetrated by Nazi, communist, fascist, Islamist, and sundry other authoritarian regimes. In the end, the choice will come down to the liberty of unfettered capitalism or the horrors of unfettered government.

We need a government strong enough to protect our individual rights, but not so strong as to violate them with impunity, as we have now. Thanks, Koch brothers, for exercising your First Amendment rights, with your own money, to help get the case for liberty out there. We need it, as the statists' drive for ever-wider government powers is insatiable. Here's hoping you'll never be targeted and shackled by government censors.

The author responded:

It's not the size of "the state" as much as the scope and effectiveness. And, my point is not to limit free speech, not by a long shot, but to make that speech--and its efforts to influence, in this case, regulation to ensure health and safety--transparent.

Scope and effectiveness, at what, to what end, with what limits? Apparently, none.  "Regulation to ensure health and safety" is so broad as to encompass any area of our lives that regulators desire. In your article, you mention, as proper functions of the state, "environmental regulation, . . . the threat of climate change; . . . taxes, trade unions and President Obama’s health care reforms. . . unemployment benefits, a fair wage, collective bargaining rights, food stamps and insurance coverage, . . . the safety and health of their environment. . . . public education, social programs, worker salaries"—all of which involve, in one way or another, rights-violating government action. There's a lot more there than objective anti-pollution or industrial liability laws. The scope of government's coercive reach over our lives and wealth is indeed broad, and getting broader.

Stamato concludes with a classic Leftist straw man—that the Koch brothers are anti-government—and a call for more government controls. 

I am sympathetic to the Koch brothers' cause, although I'm sure there are areas of disagreement. But that is beside the point.

What I detected in this article is a whiff of panic in Stamato's over-heated rhetoric. Why must statists smear the Koch brothers? In the end, the Koch brothers are simply exercising their First Amendment rights with their own money. They are merely advocating their pro-freedom, anti-statist (not anti-government) ideals. Their "crime" is that they are effective in their ability to convince people of the rightness of their ideas. Perhaps this—an effective counter-force to Leftist statism—is what Stamato fears.

Related Reading:

Obama's Pre-Emptive Strike

The Virtue of Extremism

I'm Fighting to Restore a Free Society—Charles Koch