Sunday, November 30, 2014

Assisted Suicide, "Liberals", and Conservatives

The New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Tom Moran recently defended the legalization of assisted suicide. Moran highlighted an op-ed for by 29-year-old Brittany Maynard. Maynard suffers from terminal brain cancer, and faces a weeks- or months-long agonizing death. To save herself and her family from that agony, Maynard decided to end her life on her own terms, rather than allow death to take its “natural” course. But Maynard’s home state of California forbids Maynard from seeking professional help in ending her life quietly and “with dignity.” So she had to move to Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal. Maynard wrote at

I would not tell anyone else that he or she should choose death with dignity. My question is: Who has the right to tell me that I don't deserve this choice? That I deserve to suffer for weeks or months in tremendous amounts of physical and emotional pain? Why should anyone have the right to make that choice for me?

Moran agrees. So do I. I’ve written numerous posts on this issue. Here, I want to focus on this interesting statement of Moran’s. Referring to opponents of laws against assisted suicide, he wrote:

If you’ve ever witnessed a desperate fight like this up close, the government’s intrusion can seem downright offensive. The irony is that it’s the small-government crowd, including Gov. Chris Christie, that is most eager to step in. . . .

To put it another way, if a family is discussing this, why should the governor even be in the room?

But it’s not the small-government crowd in general that opposes assisted suicide. It’s a particular subset of that crowd—conservatives. Viewed from the perspective of conservatives, there’s no irony at all. Yes, conservatives tend to be “small government”—actually, smaller government—on economic matters. But on personal morals, they have always been for “big government.” Why? Because conservatives are obsessed with personal morals; hence, the desire for government controls in the personal moral sphere (abortion, marriage, embryonic stem-cell research, etc.)—the social sphere.

“Liberals” have their own “irony,” however. They’re small government when it comes to matters of personal morality, yet big government on economic matters. And, like conservatives, there is no irony at all when viewed from their perspective. Liberals are obsessed with money; hence, their unrelenting desire for government controls in matters of money—the economic sphere.

In fact, liberals and conservatives are mirror images of each other; each are big government (leaning anti-individual rights) in regard to their particular obsessions, and small government (leaning pro-individual rights) in the area less important to them. Neither are committed, principled advocates of individual rights. Rather, they choose freedom only in areas of life less important to them. To the extent they support liberty, they choose it only by default.

True small government factions, like Objectivists, reject the economic authoritarianism of the “liberals”, and the social authoritarianism of the conservatives. Rather, we are consistently pro-individual rights in both social and economic matters. We believe government should protect, and not violate, rights across the board.

Related Reading:

Right to Death—and to Life

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Some Closing Thanksgiving Weekend Thank Yous

A couple of Thanksgiving Day editorials prompted me to offer my thanks.

The New Jersey Star-Ledger posted For progress on climate, we give thanks. The editors cited what it considered progress on climate change policy, such as the U.S.-China carbon emission-limiting agreement. The editors also trotted out their old stand-by—a call for carbon taxes or cap & trade. But this comment really caught my eye:

The recent agreement with China, which leads the world in carbon emissions, is a milestone as well, the first time that China has agreed to limit its emissions. This fight can’t be won without China and other developing countries, like India. So China’s agreement to at least stop its growth in emissions by 2030 is a turning point.

It is not enough, granted. But most of the carbon in the atmosphere today came from wealthier countries, which now have a special responsibility to clean up the mess. And China, while growing fast, remains a poor country where more than 350 million people live on less than $2 a day. It’s up the West to take the lead.

I left these comments:

“[M]ost of the carbon in the atmosphere today came from wealthier countries.”

Yes. And consider the lives of people in those countries compared to non-carbon emitting countries. People live much longer, healthier, and more rewarding lives. This is so because they emit carbon dioxide, which results from burning the fossil fuels that provide most of the energy that powers our industrialization. Today, third world countries emit more carbon than Western countries. The result? Rising prosperity and more protection from climate dangers there.

The connection between carbon emissions and prosperity is obvious.

So, this Thanksgiving, when my turn comes at the family dinner table to announce what I’m thankful for, I’ll give thanks to the men and women of the fossil fuel industry for their vital, life-enhancing work and investments. They truly represent one of the most noble industries in the history of the world.

The Hunterdon County Democrat chimed in with Even in difficult times, there is reason to give thanks. Here, the editors whined about all of the things that should allegedly get us depressed, and then urged us to focus on and give thanks to all of the good things we still have. This caught my eye:

Thanksgiving . . . is a time to give thanks. Americans are finding that increasingly harder to do. . . .

Among other things:

Americans don't believe politicians are capable of narrowing a great divide and working for the good of the country rather than special interests. Climate change weighs heavy, as do the daily repercussions of a global economy.

But failing to feel gratitude for what we do have can add another woe to the list: decreased health.

So, among other things:

We are thankful for ancestors who figured out for us delectable dishes such as apple pie, cheesecake, stuffed mushrooms, lasagna and cranberry-and-orange relish.

I left these comments:

This Thanksgiving, as always, we have a lot to be thankful for.

Take the most basic necessity of survival—food.

The food we’ll feast on today is brought to us by the farmers, seed companies, fertilizer companies, farm equipment companies, and trucking companies that deliver crops from the farmer to the processing companies, and then to the supermarkets. All of these people’s work feeds America, and we should be thankful for them. But their work all runs on energy, most of which is provided by fossil fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas. Fossil fuels make the food producers possible, as well as the electronic media gadgets we need and enjoy; the clean running water from our faucets; electrification; the heating systems and other technologies that keep us safe from the cold and other climate dangers; the cars that get us to supermarkets and churches and bowling alleys, and that bring our families and friends together on holidays—and, of course, keeps our military strong.

So yes; this Thanksgiving, as always, we have a lot to be thankful for. But this Thanksgiving, when my turn comes at the family dinner table to announce what I’m thankful for, I’ll highlight the men and women of the fossil fuel industry for special thanks. These economic and moral heroes make most of the other things we’re thankful for possible—including our very lives. Thank you, fossil fuel industry.

Related Reading:

A Thanksgiving Message

Thursday, November 27, 2014

A Thanksgiving Message

[This year, I'll express my thankfulness for the First Amendment freedoms that we Americans enjoy; to the Founding Fathers, who made constitutionally explicit and absolute the inalienable rights to freedom from and of religion, to freedom of speech and press, to freedom of assembly (association), and to the freedom to petition (lobby) our government. To the many activists who today fight to defend the intellectual freedom that the enumuerated First Amendment rights protect from those that would erode it: Thank you!]

Reprinted below is a thanksgiving message that I think captures the true essence of Thanksgiving, a holiday practiced only in America. Regardless of how one believes he came into existence (God or nature), the reality is that man is a being of self-generated wealth based on reason who requires certain social conditions for his survival. America was the first country founded explicitly on those conditions; i.e., a country where every individual owns his own life and possesses inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and to the pursuit of his own happiness, coupled inextricably with the obligation to accept the reality that all people are equally endowed and to treat them accordingly.

It is thus that America, born of the enlightenment ideas of individualism, reason, and republican government, achieved in the span of a mere two hundred-plus years (following centuries of stagnation) its spectacular standard of living. The ensuing essay correctly recognizes where the credit for America belongs: to any man or woman, on whatever level of ability or accomplishment, who contributed to American greatness by doing an honest and productive day's work in pursuit of his or her own well-being.

Thanksgiving: A Most Selfish Holiday by Debi Ghate

Ah, Thanksgiving. To most of us, the word conjures up images of turkey dinner, pumpkin pie and watching football with family and friends. It kicks off the holiday season and is the biggest shopping weekend of the year. We're taught that Thanksgiving came about when pilgrims gave thanks to God for a bountiful harvest. We vaguely mumble thanks for the food on our table, the roof over our head and the loved ones around us. We casually think about how lucky we are and how much better our lives are than, say, those in Bangladesh. But surely there is something more to celebrate, something more sacred about this holiday.

What should we really be celebrating on Thanksgiving?

Ayn Rand described Thanksgiving as "a typically American holiday . . . its essential, secular meaning is a celebration of successful production. It is a producers' holiday. The lavish meal is a symbol of the fact that abundant consumption is the result and reward of production." She was right.

What is today's version of the "bountiful harvest"? It's the affluence and success we've gained. It's the cars, houses and vacations we enjoy. It's the life-saving medicines we rely on, the stock portfolios we build, the beautiful clothes we buy and the safe, clean streets we live on. It's the good life.

How did we get this "bountiful harvest"? Ask any hard-working American; it sure wasn't by the "grace of God." It didn't grow on a fabled "money tree." We created it by working hard, by desiring the best money can buy and by wanting excellence for ourselves and our loved ones. What we don't create ourselves, we trade value for value with those who have the goods and services we need, such as our stockbrokers, hairdressers and doctors. We alone are responsible for our wealth. We are the producers and Thanksgiving is our holiday.

So, on Thanksgiving, why don't we thank ourselves and those producers who make the good life possible?

Thanksgiving is the perfect time to recognize what we are truly grateful for, to appreciate and celebrate the fruits of our labor: our wealth, health, relationships and material things--all the values we most selfishly cherish. We should thank researchers who have made certain cancers beatable, gourmet chefs at our favorite restaurants, authors whose books made us rethink our lives, financiers who developed revolutionary investment strategies and entrepreneurs who created fabulous online stores. We should thank ourselves and those individuals who make our lives more comfortable and enjoyable--those who help us live the much-coveted American dream.

As you sit down to your sumptuous Thanksgiving dinner served on your best china, think of all the talented individuals whose innovation and inventiveness made possible the products you are enjoying. As you look around at who you've chosen to spend your day with--those you've chosen to love--thank yourself for everything you have done to make this moment possible. It's a time to selfishly and proudly say: "I earned this."

Debi Ghate is associated with the Ayn Rand Institute.

This Thanksgiving, Don't Say Grace, Say Justice by Craig Biddle

The religious tradition of saying grace before meals becomes especially popular around the holidays, when we all are reminded of how fortunate we are to have an abundance of life-sustaining goods and services at our disposal. But there is a grave injustice involved in this tradition.

Where do the ideas, principles, constitutions, governments, and laws that protect our rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness come from? What is the source of the meals, medicines, homes, automobiles, and fighter jets that keep us alive and enable us to flourish? Who is responsible for our freedom, prosperity, and well-being?

Since God is responsible for none of the goods on which human life and happiness depend, why thank him for any such goods? More to the point: Why not thank those who actually are responsible for them? What would a just man do?

Justice is the virtue of judging people rationally--according to what they say, do, and produce--and treating them accordingly, granting to each man that which he deserves.

To say grace is to give credit where none is due--and, worse, it is to withhold credit where it is due. To say grace is to commit an act of injustice.

Rational, productive people--whether philosophers, scientists, inventors, artists, businessmen, military strategists, friends, family, or yourself--are who deserve to be thanked for the goods on which your life, liberty, and happiness depend. ... Thank or acknowledge the people who actually provide the goods. Some of them may be sitting right there at the table with you. And if you find yourself at a table where people insist on saying grace, politely insist on saying justice when they're through. It's the right thing to do.

Craig Biddle is the Editor of The Objective Standard.

These truths are obvious. A simple rudimentary knowledge of history, coupled with basic observation and logic, are all that's required to realize it.

Have a joyous, and well earned, Thanksgiving.

-Mike "Zemack" LaFerrara

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Answer to Regina Barna re Corporate Rights and the Role of Government

In August, the Hunterdon County Democrat published my letter The rights of fossil fuel producers. The letter rebutted opposition to a proposed natural gas pipeline carrying “fracked” gas through Hunterdon County. In a September 30, 2014 letter, “Corporate Rights,” defending environmentalism,  Regina Barna quoted from my letter:

It is somewhat ridiculous to equate the rights of a large corporation with the rights of the common man, while depicting environmentalists as the antagonists in the fight against the "good life" provided by the fossil fuel industry. The balance of power is always tipped in the favor of the powerful corporations. In a recent letter to the editor published in the Hunterdon County Democrat, Michael Laferrara [sic] wrote that, "The government's proper job is to equally protect everyone's fundamental moral right to freely produce, contract and trade." I am not sure what government he is looking at, but it certainly is not what this country is founded on.

I am thinking more in the line of: "All men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness," which is in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence. The government's proper role is to ensure equality, to balance the playing field, to see that the rich and powerful do not take advantage of the average citizen, or what Theodore Roosevelt called the "common man."

I left these comments:

There is nothing “ridiculous” about corporate rights. Corporations are voluntary associations of individuals, each of whom possess rights. Protecting the rights of corporations is protecting the rights of the individuals who comprise it. Corporate rights are indispensable to our fundamental individual liberties. If corporations don’t have rights, then neither do the individuals comprising any group, including the group stopthepipe2014. Both are voluntary associations of individuals. If individuals lose their rights when joining a group, then what becomes of freedom of association, a fundamental First Amendment right? (I addressed corporate rights thoroughly in my HCD letter of 8/7/14. Since it’s not available online, I’ve reprinted it below [Please see my “Corporate Personhood” Clarified.])

The Declaration of Independence is precisely what I had in mind in my letter The rights of fossil fuel producers. The “fundamental moral right to freely produce, contract and trade” is integral to the “unalienable Rights [of] Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” Liberty means freedom of action. Work and trade are actions vital to the support, maintenance, and furtherance (happiness) of one’s life. If the furtherance of one’s life by one’s own hand is not what those unalienable rights protect, then what exactly does the Declaration mean?

“The government's proper role is to ensure equality?” Wrong! The very next sentence in the Declaration states, “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.”  Equality before the law is a means of securing the rights. Equality is not the purpose. The government’s only proper purpose is to protect the rights of all individuals. Under these principles, government favors no one—rich, poor, or “common”. Equality of rights before the law, the only kind of equality consistent with the Declaration and with just government, is the only valid context for “leveling the playing field.”

“Leveling the playing field” doesn’t mean violating the rights of the next guy. It simply means protecting everyone’s rights. For example, in a current HCD article, Rick Epstein reports:

“It was made clear that if the federal government OKs the pipeline, anyone who does not make a deal to sell an easement to PennEast would be compelled to yield at a price to be determined by the authorities.”

Clearly, this is an example of improper governmental power (eminent domain). If rights were protected equally at all times (a level playing field), no landowner, “common” or otherwise, would be “compelled to yield” to government on behalf of PennEast. I stand with anyone who fights eminent domain, wherever it rears its head. On a level playing field, no corporation or individual, no matter how rich, would have the power to compel anyone. If PennEast can not get the voluntary consent of every landowner its pipeline crosses, it must either alter the course or abandon the project. Likewise, if a corporation pollutes another’s property, the government, as rights protector, must step in and force the polluter to pay restitution, and criminally prosecute the polluter, if applicable. Individual rights are the best protection the “common man” has in any society.

But neither does the “common man” have the right to gang up on “the rich,” if equality means anything. No one has the right to initiate government power (the power of the gun) against others. No one can claim ownership of “the environment” by arbitrarily declaring herself the representative of “all of us” for the purpose of trampling the rights of others to work and trade. Nor does any individual have a right to speak for all about what’s “necessary to enjoy a quality of life.” You may not need the nat-gas, but someone else may. Each of us has a right to decide for ourselves what products we need, and contract voluntarily with the producer. That’s a level playing field. We are not a nation of warring community tribes, each xenophobically fighting to protect its “little piece of this earth.” The collectivist flag is the leitmotif of the individual rights violator.

Of course, pollution is not good, and it should be cleaned up as and when technological advances make feasable. Objective, balanced laws against pollution are part of a proper rights-protecting government. But considering the misery of pre-industrial life, pollution pales almost into insignificance compared to the life-giving value of industrialization. By the explicit acknowledgement of its own ideological leaders, environmentalism is not about cleaner industrialization; it is anti-industrialization. So, yes, true environmentalists—regardless of what rank-and-file “environmentalists” believe—are antagonists against the good life. As evidence, I give you the expressed reasons behind the anti-pipeline movement in NJ. For more, I refer you to my comments on another letter by this writer, Shale Gas is Bad Idea, which I posted under my screen name “Zemack”.

Barna’s statement “The balance of power is always tipped in the favor of the powerful corporations” is also another example of the equivocation between economic and political power. A corporation, no matter how wealthy, cannot use its financial clout to violate rights (initiate force). It’s true that economic power—dollar power—varies widely across society. But Money is a benign, benevolent, and productive power; a fundamental good.

What is not benign is the power of the gun. It’s true that corporations often employ government force to violate rights. But that is not the power of money. That’s political power. “The rich and powerful [can] not take advantage of the average citizen” in a fully free, capitalist society. To the extent they are powerful, it’s the power to create life-benefitting values. Only in a mixed—i.e. politically corrupted—economy can money buy the force necessary to do harm.

Government can not and should not “level the playing field” in economics. It should, however, “level the playing field” in politics, and the only way to do that is through the protection of individual rights, equally, and at all times.

Related Reading:

The Dollar and the Gun—Harry Binswanger

Election 2014: Eminent Domain and the "Limits of Rights"

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The “Divest-Invest Philanthropy” Movement and its Statist Roots

Recently the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s Dave D'Alessandro interviewed Dr. Ellen Dorsey, the executive director of the Wallace Global Fund:

[Dorsey] is an expert on impact investing, notably in the area of environmental sustainability, and she has helped galvanize nearly 200 foundations, universities, pension funds, cities, and faith groups, who have chosen to put their money in a place where it might do the planet some good.

Where “it might do the planet some good” is into anything but fossil fuels, particularly “alternative energy” investments. Dorsey is a leader in the fossil fuel divestment movement. “Divest-Invest Philanthropy,” as it is called, “is a tough sell, because multi-billion-dollar endowments are used to big payoffs from their oil stocks.”

Those big payoffs reflect the value billions of human beings derive from fossil fuels. It is shocking, therefor, to read Dorsey’s answer to D’Alessandro’s very first question, “When most of us think about divestment, we think of the [South African] anti-apartheid movement in the 80s. Does this have a similar ethical foundation to you?”:

There is a similar ethical component. When the environmental advocacy community was in the doldrums in the summer of 2009 and 2010, a student movement emerged, taking a cue from the anti-apartheid playbook. At that time, the U.S. government was unwilling to impose sanctions against South Africa because of the power of industry that was blocking it, so the anti-apartheid activists took it into their own hands to target the industries themselves with the tool of divestment.

And though it’s gone well beyond students now, they targeted their universities because they know fossil fuel companies are driving this problem, funding denial of the science and effectively shutting down policy reform. That makes it an ethical issue: Our universities should not profit from companies that drive this global problem that this generation has to respond to. But it’s also a financial call to action, because you can invest in the solution. There’s money to be made there as well.

Yet, the anti-apartheid movement succeeded, despite the alleged “power of industry,” for very valid and powerful moral reasons—the undiluted evil of apartheid. That environmentalists have to resort to such unconscionable equivocation between fossil fuels and apartheid indicates the moral weakness of their case against fossil fuels. If environmentalists’ case is sound, why stoop to such smears? And why attempt to silence the industry, as Dorsey apparently wants to do in tying her cause to “campaign finance reform”—a euphemism for censorship?

I left these comments:

Environmental activists have the right to advocate for voluntary divestment. I support their right to do so, even though I completely disagree with their fundamental premises. Fossil fuel investment and development is not analogous to apartheid. Whereas apartheid is anti-life and unjust, fossil fuels are on balance vastly beneficial to human life and the environment.

Clearly, though, the Wallace Global Fund and its ilk are not just about persuading fund managers to divest voluntarily. They are about forcing—with governmental force, the power of the gun—investment away from fossil fuels and into the environmentalists’ pet “alternative energy” schemes; hence, their support for statist “climate policy” taxes, cap and trade, and so on.

This, despite the fact that $billions in wind and solar taxpayer “investments” —subsidies—over decades has failed to provide any evidence that solar and wind can ever be a primary energy source. Alternative energy’s biggest test—the aftermath of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan, which should have provided a showcase for the reliability of solar and wind—instead proved the indispensable value of fossil fuels. If fossil fuel companies are villains, then so is every fossil fuel consumer who prefers to do themselves “some good” by using energy from fossil fuels. Policies that hamper fossil fuel energy production will starve the market of reliable, affordable energy, drive up the cost, and make life harder for billions of people.

Yet, the anti-fossil fuel camp keeps trying, but they have a problem; those pesky voters. The kinds of policies anti-reliable energy types advocate—environmentalists don’t even support nuclear, which emits no co2—haven’t gained much political traction lately, and have even lost ground. Despite powerful positions in governments around the world, climate change crusaders are losing on the battleground of ideas and in the electoral arena, hence the folding of “campaign finance reform” into the climate change movement. One thing statists can’t tolerate is opposing viewpoints. The enemy of all statists is free speech. The failure of alternatives to win in the economic marketplace, coupled with a failure of their decades-long hysteria-mongering to convince average people to take always-imminent global climate catastrophe seriously, fossil fuel’s enemies demand campaign finance “reform” to silence effective voices of opposition.

The connection between environmentalism and statism is no accident. The modern environmentalist movement, which began as the New Left “ecology” movement on college campuses in the 1960s, is a movement initiated and led by neo-Marxist, New Left anti-capitalist ivory tower intellectuals. They've been crying wolf ever since. Yet, no catastrophe—just a better life for billions of formerly third world people built on the strength fossil fuel energy. No compassionate person would want to stop that progress.

Human beings survive and thrive by turning Earth’s raw materials into valuable resources, and those resources into life-enhancing products. Fossil fuels are one of those resources, helping to make life longer, healthier, and safer for billions of people. By all means, let’s leave people free to invest and divest as they please. But keep the political weapon out of the market, and let all energy producers compete for consumers’ energy dollars without government favoritism [. . . or hindrance].

Related Reading:

Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet—Alex Epstein

Friday, November 21, 2014

What Accounts for Americans’ Widespread Jekyll/Hyde Morality?

In a July 2014 editorial, the New Jersey Star-Ledger essentially calls opponents of a minimum wage increase who make more than minimum wage hypocrites, with special emphasis on Republicans.

Few Americans believe they could live on a minimum-wage paycheck.

. . . That small act of honesty – conceding that the minimum wage is too meager to support their own family – doesn’t stop many Americans (mostly Republicans) from trying to stop the lowest-paid workers from getting a sorely needed boost.

According to a new poll, nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they couldn't live on a $7.25 minimum wage – yet only 37 percent support raising it to $10.10, as President Obama has proposed. You read that correctly: A large majority of the GOP supports a wage structure that deliberately pays people too little to live on.

Notice the Star-Ledger’s own dishonesty. Opponents of legally mandated minimum wages are not “trying to stop the lowest-paid workers from getting a sorely needed boost.” In fact we cheer such raises, so long as it is earned and paid voluntarily by the employer. And people get raises all the time without benefit of government coercion, which is why 96% of hourly American workers earn more than the legal minimum wage.

The S-L then offers up a classic Keynesian rationalization for raising the minimum wage:

The rich save a greater percentage of their earnings than other groups and can’t spend enough to make up for the tens of millions of Americans who are poorly paid or unemployed.

Low-income workers are more likely to spend their new earnings to increase their standard of living.

Republicans who agree that the low-income lifestyle isn’t for them – yet insist on policies that reinforce poverty, even for those who have jobs – should rethink whether they want to stimulate the economy, or continue to stifle it.

Yes, forcibly redistributing wealth—essentially, legalized looting—is good for “the economy”!

Of course, the issue is not “living wages”: Who would be against that? The issue comes down to a moral question: Do the ends justify the means? More specifically, is it right to initiate force against others if the ends are desirable? If you think you deserve a raise, would you think it ok to approach the boss, gun in hand, and demand he raise you're wages or you will seize his wealth or lock him in a cell? What if the object of concern was not your wages, but your neighbor's? Most people, in their private lives, would answer "no, of course not." But when these same people turn their attention to politics and government, they have no problem brandishing that gun, as long as it is a government official is acting on his behalf. On ends justifying means; What causes people to answer “yes” politically but “no” privately?

In these comments, I went a bit into deeper philosophy:

"Few Americans believe they could live on a minimum-wage paycheck."

And few Americans, even minimum wage supporters, believe they privately have the right to force, at gunpoint, someone else to give them a “livable wage”, recognizing such means as criminal and immoral.

Yet, politically, force—legalized criminality, rather than private initiative, increased skills, productiveness, and experience—is exactly what proponents of minimum wage laws advocate, with government as the hired gun. What accounts for this schizophrenic [Jekyll/Hyde] dichotomy between private morality and the predatory, dog-eat-dog immorality of the political arena? Three things:

Collectivism; the idea that the group—"society"—is the focus of moral concern, and can sacrifice any individual[s] it chooses to whatever it deems to be in “the public interest.” Any action is moral as long as the society decides to do it. “Stimulate the economy”—and to hell with the interests of the individual businessmen and workers whose rights to voluntarily negotiate terms of employment are trampled. Collectivism forms the core of all totalitarian socialistic systems, like communism, Nazism, and fascism, and the watered-down precursor to those, the welfare state mixed economy.

Altruism, the moral root of collectivism, holds that the individual’s only moral justification for existing is to serve the needs of others (We are our brothers’ keepers). Need, according to altruism, is the standard. All one has to do is need something, and “society” must sacrifice the rights, interests, and wealth of whomever it must to satisfy that need. Altruism is currently on display in Chicago, in the form of a Service Employees International Union gang that thinks the world owes them a living (just read the attendees’ comments). Failing to get what they want through private voluntary agreement in the free market, they are demanding a legally mandated $15.00-per-hour wage and forced unionization, based on “I need a raise”, and—in a fashion that would make any mob boss proud—are threatening to “shut these businesses down until they listen to us.” Altruism is a predatory, inverted morality that fosters taking over earning.

Statism, or state supremacy: The government as enforcer of the “public good” as determined by the most politically powerful faction of the moment. As long as legislators enact a law, anything goes, and justice and individual rights be damned. The predatory, dog-eat-dog political world of statism is the logical consequence of collectivism-altruism.

Combine collectivism-altruism-statism with fraudulent economics—the idiotic notion that consumer spending, rather than investment, drives economic progress (try eating a loaf of bread before you’ve invested in the knowledge, ingredients, and time necessary to produce it)—and you have the perfect rationalization for the economically destructive minimum wage laws.

Here’s a question: If private individuals have no moral right to a “livable wage” through private criminal aggression against their fellow citizens, on what basis do they have a right to a “livable wage” through legalized criminal aggression via political action? None. Only the rationalizations provided by collectivism-altruism-statism-fraudulent economics makes the moral schizophrenia possible. What’s the opposite? Individualism; rational egoism; individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government (capitalism); and any good economics textbook. Only when the latter replaces the former will we have a fully moral system, where society and politics are brought under the same moral standards as private individuals.

Related Reading:

Do Ends Justify Medicaid Means?

Economics in One Lesson—Henry Hazlitt

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand