Sunday, June 29, 2014

De Paul University Professor Jason Hill on Racism and Anti-Discrimination Laws

Jason D. Hill, professor of philosophy at De Paul University in Chicago, has a rare op-ed at Salon that not only praises Ayn Rand but seriously and accurately presents her ideas. In Jamaican, gay and Ayn Rand made it OK: My amazing “Atlas Shrugged” love story, Hill does a wonderful job of explaining how Ayn Rand's philosophy gave this gay atheist the moral fortitude and "intellectual armor" to escape Jamaica's  "homophobic," "mystical" culture to forge a successful and happy life in America.

I want to focus on the what hill has to say about racism and the role of government regarding racism:

    A longtime friend, an African-American man, asked me if after having lived for almost 30 years in America if I had not grown weary of fighting racism. I was both surprised by the question and also compassionately understanding. He had grown up in the Deep South and had, indisputably, experienced both state-sanctioned and private racism. I placed my hand over his and said gently:
    “I have never ever in my life sought to actively fight racism. I have simply adduced myself as evidence of its absolute stupidity and irrationality.”
    He asked me what I meant and I immediately gave him the answer I thought Ayn Rand would have given him. Racism, I explained, is a form of psychosis — a break with reality. To judge and appraise someone solely on the basis of arbitrary and nonmoral attributes such as skin pigmentation and so-called racial identity is not only irrational and nonsensical it is evil. You never grant metaphysical importance to evil or the irrational because they are impotent. Period. Rand, I explained to him, had discounted the metaphysical value of that which could only destroy but never create.
    He was not impressed. “Don’t you want the state to make it so that you would never have to even deal with racists?”
    “No! Most certainly not,” I retorted, and felt deep anguish at the look of pain on his face.
    “Short of a bloated totalitarian state in which I would rather die than live — this is impossible. The state cannot police tastes and attitudes. I want the state to protect my bodily integrity which is an absolute individual right I hold as does every other human being. I do not want any racist to inflict physical harm on me and the state’s job is to ensure that. But what the racist thinks privately of me is none of my business, and since his thoughts are so vile and irrational, to give them any deep significance would be to admit that he and what he thinks really matter to me in a way that, deep down inside, I can’t admit to. I cannot, and no person of self-esteem could. The state can and should simply keep out of my way because so much damage has been done to racial minorities by the state in the history of the United States on such a massive scale that it makes private racism seem like kindergarten play.”

I have written about the wrongness of laws against private discrimination, because such laws violate individual rights. 

But Hill makes a deeper point: Laws banning private racial discrimination grant racism an undeserved seriousness and "metaphysical importance." Advocating such laws is tantamount to admitting that racism is powerful and reason is impotent in its face; that one has no rational argument against racism.

But racism deserves no such exalted status. No form of ignorance does. It is racism that is impotent in the face of reason. The only social condition needed to marginalize racism into irrelevance is liberty.

Related Reading:

Private Sector Anti-Discrimination Laws are Rights-Violating and Destructive

How to Overcome Bigotry in a Free Society

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Attend 6 OCON Events by Livestream


If you can’t attend the 2014 Objectivist Summer Conference in Las Vegas, six events will be available online as they happen. By registering for a Livestream Week Pass, you can enjoy these talks:
  • The Sacred Self: Ayn Rand on Abortion, Foreign Policy and Environmentalism by Keith Lockitch (June 28)
  • Self-Interest Rightly Understood by C. Bradley Thompson (June 29)
  • The Inequality Debate by Yaron Brook (June 30)
  • Thinking Objectively by Gregory Salmieri (July 1)
  • Ayn Rand’s Sacred Atheism by Robert Mayhew (July 2)
  • Cronyism, Corruption and Government Power by Steve Simpson (July 3)

For more details on the individual talks, select the program for that date here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Is America Based on a "Land Grab From the Native American People?"

In American hypocrisy, Donald E. Ehrenbeck writes:

Vice President Joe Biden’s comment that Russia’s actions in Crimea are "nothing more than a land grab" reveals the depth of the hypocrisy of American foreign policy. What moral standing does the United States have to make such criticism when our own history includes a much larger land grab (and associated genocide) from the Native American people, as well as the outright theft of the kingdom of Hawaii from her citizens?

I left these comments:

"What moral standing does the United States have to" criticize Russia?  

The answer: PLENTY!

The idea that America stole the Native Americans' land is utterly false and purely racist. It implies that the Indians owned the entire continent based on the color of their skin, and had a right to keep white European settlers out. And, since America was not formed until centuries after Europeans first arrived, the notion is also preposterous on its face.

The accusations of "genocide" is completely one-sided. While injustices that were perpetrated against American Indians by some Europeans or white Americans must never be excused, blaming current day America for hypocracy is again pure racism; in effect blaming living innocents for injustices committed centuries ago by people who happened to share a similar genetic lineage or skin color. Ehrenbeck's conspicuous onesidedness also fails to take into account the atrocities of American Indians against the Europeans and white Americans, including women and children, for merely settling on the North American continent.

The Founding of America swept aside primitive tribal societies that treated individual human beings as fodder for collectivist purposes, and replaced it with a nation based on individual rights and limited, rights protecting government; a government as servant, rather than ruler, of the people. This glorious achievement create a society in which all people of all genetic lineages, religions, and backgrounds—including Native Americans and Hawaiians—could live together and flourish independently in a culture of peaceful coexistence. While we must acknowledge that American ideals were not, regrettably, achieved overnight or practiced consistently [e.g., the horror of slavery], America's Founding ideals of individual equality under rights-protecting objective law made it achievable over time.

The only moral basis for a nation is a recognition of the right of the individual to his own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness. Any system of political organization that subordinates the individual to the chief, the King, the state, or the collective is morally illegitimate, and can and should rightly be swept aside. European immigrants brought the knowledge, culture and ideas to North America that paved the way for material, spiritual, cultural, and political progress. How many of today's Native Americans do you think would trade the lives and opportunities they have now for the savagely primitive, stagnant tribal misery of 1491?

American history certainly has its blemishes. But so does the whole history of mankind, with its bloody progression of conquest, plunder, and enslavement. Not a single race, culture, nation, or region can claim innocence on this score. If an imperfect cultural history disqualifies contemporaries from speaking out against injustice, then no one has a right to speak out, and the future for man is indeed bleak.

The rise of Americanism pointed the world to a better future, and its ideals are mankind's only hope for a peaceful and free world. America's leaders most certainly do have the moral standing to protest Russia's annexation of Crimea, as well as any imperialist aggression anywhere. Shame on Ehrenbeck for denigrating the nation that, at its Founding, was the first moral nation that ever existed because it was the first nation Founded on the principle of individual sovereignty.

Related Reading:

The Declaration of Independence

The Achievement of Christopher Columbus

The Enemies of Christopher Columbus: Answers to Critical Questions About the Spread of Western Civilization—Thomas A. Bowden

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Billionaires' Likening of Today's Campaign Against the Rich to Nazi Germany is Frighteningly Close to the Mark

Two members of the much-maligned "top 1%" have recently made statements comparing the currently populist crusade against "income inequality" to events in Nazi Germany.

In a letter-to-the-editor to The Wall Street journal, Tom Perkins, a founder of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers,
 wrote, in part:

    Writing from the epicenter of progressive thought, San Francisco, I would call attention to the parallels of fascist Nazi Germany to its war on its "one percent," namely its Jews, to the progressive war on the American one percent, namely the "rich."
    This is a very dangerous drift in our American thinking. Kristallnacht was unthinkable in 1930; is its descendant "progressive" radicalism unthinkable now?
    From the Occupy movement to the demonization of the rich embedded in virtually every word of our local newspaper, the San Francisco Chronicle, I perceive a rising tide of hatred of the successful one percent.

("Kristallnacht" refers to the murderous "Night of Broken Glass" in 1938 Germany and Austria, which featured coordinated attacks against Jews and their businesses and marked the beginning of the Holocaust.)

Home Depot founder Ken Langone said of the "populist" attacks on "the rich":

“I hope it’s not working, because if you go back to 1933, with different words, this is what Hitler was saying in Germany. You don’t survive as a society if you encourage and thrive on envy or jealousy.”

The likening of the swelling political and cultural assault on the rich to Hitler's campaign against the Jews and the "plutocrats" may be a bit hyperbolic, and these two guys took public heat for it. But, if one understands that ideas drive human history, then their critics have it wrong. Frighteningly, Perkins' and Langone's remarks may not be as far off the mark as we would like. There are parallels not only to Nazism but also to communism. 

The current campaign against income inequality—i.e., the rich—is part and parcel of a long-time hostility toward American business—particularly, large, successful businesses, the primary source of the fortunes of the American super-rich. Ayn Rand identified the dangerous trajectory on which the anti-business trend had set this nation half a century ago:

Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.

America is not even close to a Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia—not yet—and I don't believe that's what Perkins and Langone are saying. What they are saying is that we should learn from history, before it is too late. Their critics think it absurd to equate America's top 1% with the plight of the Jews in Nazi Germany. After all, the 1%ers are rich and "privileged," aren't they? 

But that didn't stop the Bolsheviks from destroying what was then the rich in Soviet Russia, the bourgeoisie. A dollar is no match for a gun. As Ayn Rand presciently warned—

“The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other - until one day when they are suddenly declared to be the country's official ideology.”

How close is egalitarianism to being America's "official ideology?" Frighteningly too close for comfort, it seems.

Related Reading:

Obama's Corrupt "Equality" Campaign and the 99/1 Premise

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

In N.J., a Flat Tax, Not a “Millionaires Tax,” is the Fairer Solution

New Jersey is in the throes of a major “budget crises,” and, led by State Senate President Stephen Sweeney and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, the Democrats have proposed a “solution”—levy a so-called “millionaires tax” to balance the budget; a tax increase on annual incomes above $500,000. In a dueling pair of New Jersey Star-Ledger Sunday op-eds, two correspondents took opposite sides in the debate. The topic question: If a “millionaires tax” is implemented, “Will the wealthy flee N.J.?”

State Senator Joe Kyrillos argues a millionaires tax would inspire the wealthy to move out of the state, not only depriving the state of the expected revenues but also the jobs these economically successful individuals and their capital create and maintain. Gordon MacInnes, president of New Jersey Policy Perspective, argues that “The wealthy exodus is a myth.”

But both writers miss the fundamental moral point: It is simply wrong and unfair to target a small group of state residents for discriminatory tax increases simply because they are the most economically successful. There are several reasons for this.

For one thing, the budget crisis was created by politicians elected by a majority of state voters. It's simply wrong to dump the budget "fix" on a tiny minority of state residents.

For another thing, NJ’s income tax is already among the most confiscatory in the nation for high earners, with the rates starting at 1.4% and topping out at 8.97% for incomes over $500,000.

Furthermore, the wealthy have already been hit with two millionaire’s taxes in the last decade. As MacInnes points out:

In 2004, New Jersey increased the top income tax rate on households reporting more than $500,000 in income from 6.37 percent to 8.97 percent. This initial “millionaires tax” is still on the books, and was supplemented by a temporary one-year tax increase on incomes greater than $400,000 in 2009.

The most egregious aspect of the millionaires tax is the spectacle of a government targeting a small minority.

But we get the government we elect. A millionaires tax is popular in NJ, according to polls. In March, 63% favored such a tax. In other words, for most New Jerseyans, “Raise taxes, but only on the other guy,” is fine and dandy. But I consider such a sentiment morally corrupt.

But I wonder what that poll would look like if we had a flat tax.

I consider an income tax to be immoral and un-American. But if we’re to have one, the least unfair kind is a single rate on all incomes—a flat tax. I have taken this stand on a national level for both personal and corporate income taxes, and I support it on the state level.

So imagine if NJ had a flat tax—of, say, 5%—on all taxable income. The only way to raise taxes would be to raise the rate; which means, raise taxes on all taxpayers. What would then be the poll results? The same poll cited above asked respondents if they favored a hike in the gasoline tax. 72% opposed. Likewise, 71% oppose a tax hike on water consumption. Yet, 63% support a millionaires tax. Why the discrepancy? Could it have something to do with the fact that taxes on gas and water would hit almost everyone, but a millionaires tax will hit only a fraction of 1% of the people? If NJ had a flat income tax, does anyone doubt that the poll would show similarly overwhelming negative results on a question concerning a hike in the income tax, rather than register 63% support?

But the hypocrisy of voters is not the worst of it. A government should never have the power to levy coercive taxes. But, since it does, those taxes should be as fair (or least as unfair) and non-discriminatory as possible. A government of, for, and by the people means all of the people—every single individual. All individuals should be treated equally before the law. That is a feature of capitalism. It could never be fully achieved in our mixed economy—our mixture of free market capitalism and government controls. But, a flat tax would be a big moral improvement.

Related Reading:

Education in a Free Society—C. Bradley Thompson

Monday, June 23, 2014

"Pragmatic" NJ Politicians Institute, Partially Roll Back, Residency Law

Pragmatism, in popular usage, is usually taken to mean being practical.

But, philosophically, pragmatism means something entirely different. Pragmatism holds that certainty is impossible. There are no absolutes. Truth is malleable and ever-changing. Principles? They're useless as a guide, for the aforementioned reasons. Therefor, it is pointless to attempt to draw lessons from history, because "what was true yesterday may not be true today." Furthermore, since facts, principles, and truth are essentially useless, one can not project future consequences of considered actions with any degree of assurance in the accuracy of one's foresight. Therefore, pragmatism holds, the best way to approach life is to act, and see what happens; what "works." If something goes wrong, repeat the process; act again, and hope for the best.

Pragmatism is rampant in our politics. If you don't believe me, consider a three-year-old law currently causing problems in New Jersey. The New Jersey First Act (NJFA) became law on September 1, 2011. As of that date, essentially all new government employees must reside in NJ. But now, NJ lawmakers are considering changing the law:

   When Gov. Chris Christie signed a law three years ago that required new public employees to reside in the state, the logic was simple: If you are paid by New Jersey taxpayers, you should call New Jersey your home.  
    But there was a consequence Christie and the law’s sponsors didn’t see coming, according to lawmakers. It became a barrier for New Jersey school districts to attract young prospective teachers, administrators and even potential superintendents who live in nearby states.

And the consequences go beyond hurting NJ employers and out-of-state workers. As the NJ Star-Ledger points out, border state could retaliate with similar laws against NJ residents. Already, a bill "inspired by [NJ's] rule" just passed the New York Assembly would bar residents from states with discriminatory residency laws from public jobs in NY. One would think the consequences of the law would have been obvious from the beginning (which it was to many people). 

But not to our pragmatic lawmakers, who loved the idea that "If you are paid by New Jersey taxpayers, you should call New Jersey your home." Well, NJ taxpayers are now on the short end of the stick: Their tax dollars are not getting them the best qualified applicants in many instances, because the law legally bars a whole pool of potential applicants who live just over the state border in New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

As I noted above, lawmakers are now considering changing the law; not repealing, only changing, the law. So, now we are at the stage of act again, and hope for the best. The bill currently advancing in the state senate would "partially undo" the NJFA:

The bill would create a pilot program to exempt school district employees in 10 counties that are near the New York or Pennsyvania (sic) borders: Bergen, Hudson, Passaic, Essex, Sussex, Warren, Hunterdon, Mercer, Burlington, and Camden.School districts would be required to report each year to the Department of Education on its impact. After three years, the Department of Education would recommend whether to keep or scrap the exemptions.

A pilot program! To see if a partial residency law will work any better! This means another round of state reports for local school districts to submit. At least one state senator sees the asininity of the whole charade: "I think you’re coming to the question of should we have residency rules,” [Sen. Sam] Thompson said. “If you have them, you have them. If you don’t, you don’t. Why should one person be treated differently than another?”

But actual human beings are seldom thought of by politicians working to further some grand vision that fits neatly into a campaign slogan.

According to the philosophy of pragmatism, University of Texas Philosophy Professor Tara Smith explains:

The world we live in is “malleable, waiting to receive its final touches at our hands.” [F]or the pragmatists, we find no ready-made reality. Instead, we create reality. Correlatively, there are no absolutes—no facts, no fixed laws of logic, no certainty. The meaning and the truth of any claim depend entirely on its practical effects.

In New Jersey, behold Pragmatism in action. We wait for the politicians to give reality their final touches.

Better yet, NJ should repeal the residency law in its entirety, and we should all abandon pragmatism as a way of thinking.

Related Reading:

When Pragmatism Meets Ideology

Saturday, June 21, 2014

SCOTUS "Affirmative Action" Decision is a Small Victory for Justice and Individual Rights

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Michigan's constitutional amendment banning race as a consideration in college admissions, a NJ Star-Ledger letter writer called the Supreme Court affirmative action ruling a setback because the elimination of race-based affirmative action programs "reverts society to a paradigm of affirmative action for those already on the inside":

People with access to education make more money, help their children do better in school and thus gain access to schools that are affordable for the family.

This letter writer apparently believes that the success of some comes at the expense of others, that educational advancement is a zero-sum game, and that the only way to "even the score" for the losers is to screw the winners; i.e., deny "access to education" for people who earn that access through merit in favor of those with the correct skin color:

Affirmative action programs may be imperfect, but their absence reverts society to a paradigm of affirmative action for those already on the inside.
Only those deeply entrenched in, and benefiting from, the status quo could fail to see otherwise.

This is rubbish, of course. Affirmative action is government coercion. Removing affirmative action removes coercion. It does not shift the coercion in others’ favor. But his statement about "affirmative action for those already on the inside" rings true in a different context.

I left these comments:

Racial preferences, and the collectivist premise behind them, are racist, pure and simple. It's incredible to me that, in the 21st Century, there are still people who defend this primitive practice. The Michigan law that the Court upheld was a victory against racism. One would think the Court's decision would be universally applauded.

If you really want to fight back against "a paradigm of affirmative action for those already on the inside," the place to start is with government policies that do just that.

Minimum wage laws benefit older, experienced workers at the expense of younger, less skilled, and less experienced individuals, for whom the lower rungs of the "economic ladder" are kicked out by killing the lower-paying jobs that would otherwise be available to them.

Occupational licensure laws create state-sanctioned cartels that deny otherwise qualified individuals from entering the licensed field. Currently, more than 1100 occupations across the nation require government licensure (permission) before a person can earn a living in one of those fields.

Compulsory unionization laws freeze out non-union individuals in numerous fields.

In each of these examples, an economic clique is "deeply entrenched" on the "inside", [legally shielded, at least partially] from competition by those legally frozen out.

The only truly affirmative action we can take is to increase the liberty of people to work, trade, and contract with others by removing these and other legal and regulatory roadblocks to economic advancement. Denying otherwise qualified individuals entrance to a college because of the color of his skin was always a step backwards, morally as well as legally. The SCOTUS decision, as narrow as it was, is a welcome victory for justice and individual rights.

The Michigan constitutional amendment applies only to "public"—government owned and funded—universities. Such universities should not exist, because they violate the rights of taxpayers not to fund these schools if they choose not to. Fully private universities would, of course be free to establish whatever criteria for entry they deem appropriate, even as outrageous as basing admission on skin color. 

But since taxpayers do fund these schools, they have a right to determine admission standards. The problem is, "the public" can only determine those standards by majority vote. This means that the rights of the voting minority who support race-based admissions policies, whose taxes also support these government universities, are being violated. Such conflicts of rights are inherent in government schools. In a fully free education market, where government and education are separate, no such conflicts could arise. 

Related Reading:

Education in a Free Society—C. Bradley Thompson

Friday, June 20, 2014

ARI Director Yaron Brook on Dave Brat and Ayn Rand's Cultural Influence

Ayn Rand is "American to the core . . . the heir to the Enlightenment and to the Founding Fathers. For [the Left] to destroy the American spirit [of individualism], they have to destroy Ayn Rand."—Yaron Brook

Yaron Brook on Dave Brat and Ayn Rand's Cultural Influence

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Political "Access": A Product of the Mixed Economy

The New Jersey Star-Ledger recently editorialized over a seeming paradox: Many big political donors tend not to be "ideologically driven – like George Soros or the Koch brothers." Rather,

millions of dollars are donated to congressional campaigns each cycle by corporations and special-interest groups that simply want to buy access to the seats of power.

Citing a new study, the editors found that it is common for politicians of opposing ideologies to share the same donors. Leading this group of politicians are Democrat Senator Corey Booker and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, "an ideological odd couple who share 74 donors."

   Big donors aren’t necessarily writing checks to Booker and McConnell because they share their political views. Rather, they use campaign contributions to reserve a seat at the table – guaranteed access to all the senators they need.    [I]n the eyes of Big Money, it’s the position that matters, not the politics.

I left these comments:

". . . millions of dollars are donated to congressional campaigns each cycle by corporations and special-interest groups that simply want to buy access to the seats of power."

So? What does one expect in a mixed economy?

A mixed economy is a mixture of government controls and freedom. In America today, government controls are very heavily weaved throughout the economy. Today's politicians have enormous power to dispense economic favoritism on behalf of some at the expense of others, depending on which political factions hold "the seats of power" at any given time. Add to that the overwhelming power to tax and regulate, and you get today's "strange bedfellows."

This setup inevitably gives rise to special interests of two types; those seeking favors at others' expense, and the victims seeking to protect themselves—which often is one and the same special interest. With so much power over private affairs held in the hands of politicians, is it any wonder that those most affected, and that have the resources, want "a seat at the table?" How can anyone blame them?

It's true that the biggest victims are often those without the resources to gain access, or those who do have the resources but don't play the access game. But the answer is not to reign in "big money" in politics. That's treating the symptom by trashing the First Amendment. The last thing we need is to shield the politicians from the very people whose lives and business they hold so much power over.

The cause is "big government," and the more intrusive the government, the more special interest money is drawn into politics. It's almost comical to see the S-L editors constantly ring their hands over "Big Money," considering that their very own statist, interventionist ideology is behind the rise of the mixed economy. If you want Big Government, then you should accept its corollary, Big Money. If you don't like Big Money, then advocate for pro-individual rights, free market policies that reduce Big Government, thus reducing the incentive to "gain access." But keep your hands off of our First Amendment, without which a government "of the people, for the people, and by the people" is a joke. A Government without the right of citizens—ALL citizens—to gain access to politicians is not America: It is a dictatorship.

Related Reading:

A Few Thoughts on the SCOTUS Campaign Finance Ruling

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

GOP Should Not Concede the Democrats’ Anti-Income Inequality Premise

President Obama has pushed income inequality to the political forefront, saying inequality is a problem that needs to be “fixed” by government. Some Republicans have responded by conceding his premise. Fox News reports on education reforms proposed by Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Tim Scott, which the senators peddle as a way to help “close the income inequality gap.” “A good education,” Alexander claims, offers “the most opportunity in helping you move from the back of the line to the front.”

Republicans are right to seek education reform. Education is critical to economic success, and the current government-run school system has failed to provide a good education for millions of children, particularly poor and inner-city children. Alexander and Scott offered proposals to increase parental school choice. This is a good start, though their method—government vouchers—is wrong in the longer term, as I have strenuously argued. Rather than advance toward free market education, vouchers would lead to the opposite result, effectively bringing private schools down into the government orbit.

The senators' education reform is not the only problem: Their rationale is flawed. Republicans shouldn't be competing with Obama on ways to close the income gap, as more and more of them are doing. They should be challenging the very idea that income inequality is a problem.

In a market-based, capitalist economy, money is earned by producing a value, whether a good or a service, and voluntarily trading it for money that was in turn earned by the buyer in the same way. Any disparity in incomes is the result of differences in the respective market value of the work product, or in the number of people who willingly buy it, or some combination of both. For example, the “gap” between a fortune made by an entrepreneur who creates a business that serves thousands or millions of consumers and a modest income earned by a janitor who serves one “customer” (his employer) may be huge, but it is perfectly just. Each is paid according to the number of buyers and how much those buyer(s) value his product or service. From a low wage to a fortune, income earned in this way is not made at the expense of others, but by adding value to the lives of others. A person’s “place in line” in income terms is irrelevant.

Granted, our semi-capitalist mixture of free markets and cronyism creates opportunities for some people to “make” money by, as Ari Armstrong puts it, “wield[ing] political power to seize subsidies and hamstring their competitors.” 

And granted also that many roadblocks to economic upward mobility and success exist, thanks to government policies like minimum wage laws and other labor laws that increase the cost of employment, occupational licensure laws, and other government interventions into the economy. To the extent that these statist government policies exist, they contribute to income inequality—by keeping people down, economically. Income inequality, to the extent it is driven by government policy, is not the problem. It is a symptom. The problem is government policy, and the solution is to remove the governmental cause. Empowering parents and ultimately replacing a failing public education system with a free education market should be at the top of the target list.

But to the extent that a voluntary, money exchange economy operates, income inequality should be celebrated. It is a sign of a just society that leaves people free to advance their own economic lives as far as their ability, ambition, productiveness, and personal circumstances will carry them.

The Republican Party should reject Obama’s immoral egalitarian crusade against achievement in the name of “fixing” income inequality. Instead, they should defend each person’s right to his own earned income and achievements.

Related Reading:

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

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Piketty's "Capital" and Obama's "You Didn't Build That": Perfect Together

I have a couple of final observations on Thomas Piketty's book Capital in the Twenty-First Century based on Harold Meyerson's review of the book.

Piketty frames income inequality in the context of "distribution of income" and "share of Americans’ income," as if wealth is a fixed quantity that the collective—society—mysteriously creates. This view holds that each person's wealth is taken from the collective pot. On this view, the person with more wealth gained not by working productively and trading but at the expense of someone else's smaller gain or outright loss. This view leaves out the whole process discussed in my first post on Piketty's book (6/14/14); the process of production and trade, in which both traders win at no one else's expense, because both traders are producers.

Piketty's premise dovetails nicely with Obama's Rawlsian "you didn't build that" campaign. Obama tries to tell us, essentially, that what one earns is merely a matter of the foundation laid by others who came before us; the great teacher, the great parents who gave us a good education, the infrastructure we use, etc., etc., etc.

But on Obama's premise, the same must be true for that teacher, those parents, and the builders of those roads and airports: They "didn't build that" either, because they too inherited the intellectual, technological, and economic endowment that their life circumstances were built on. You can carry Obama's premise all the way back to the harnessing of fire, which was probably man's first step out of the cave. If no one could be said to have "built that," then how did modern industrial civilization get built?

Clearly, someone built something. Collectivists say "society" built that. But society is only an abstraction denoting a number of individuals. Society, as such, cannot build anything, because society doesn't exist as an entity in reality. Only individuals exist, and therefor only individuals can build anything. Modern industrial civilization is the sum of the productive efforts of uncounted industrious individuals; each of whom contributed to the extent that he applied his mind and work to build upon the personal circumstances he found himself in—his natural endowments, personal and cultural surroundings, and the inheritance of all of the productive individuals who came before him.
Piketty's whole collectivist wealth premise—an economic pie created by society, ready to be divvied up—is a floating abstraction that evaporates when one attempts to relate it to reality. But how many people will look beyond the abstraction to find the truth? The Left is counting on a lot.

As I noted two days ago, the Left is attempting to portray the most glorious achievements attained under capitalism as dark, corrupt examples of capitalist exploitation. They have succeeded in portraying The Inventive Period as the Gilded Age. Now, they are taking aim at the computer/communication revolution of the post-1980 era in the same light (See Krugman, "Why We're in a New Gilded Age").

The campaign has already begun. Tom Bowden reports at Voices for Reason on a New York Times article that portrays Steve Jobs as a criminal based on antitrust violations (which are in fact concoctions of criminality where no rights-violations took place, in effect turning innocent people into law-breakers).

In a broader article, Bowden warns us to "Get Ready for High-Tech Innovators to be Demonized".

Anti-Capitalists can not honestly critique capitalism, so they must make an end run around the true nature of capitalism. Why? Because capitalism is the only system that keeps at bay the twin enemies of human progress and well-being; parasites and power-lusters and the greed, envy and hatred that animates them. Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-First Century is the latest arrow in the anti-capitalist's quiver.  

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