Monday, July 31, 2017

A Right to Pursue versus a ‘Right’ to Provision: The Declaration and its Reactionaries

A New Jersey Star-Ledger Independence Day guest column by adjunct professor Robert Ingoglia opens with this paragraph:

The Founding Fathers used John Locke's brilliant explication of natural rights (Second Treatise of Government) as the philosophical basis for their revolt against British rule. Since then,  we,  as a nation,  have witnessed the ongoing discovery and extension of natural rights. "Discovery" is the correct word because,  as the Declaration of Independence makes clear,  this enumeration is only a partial listing (" ... among these Rights ... "). Both Locke and the Founding Fathers,  as Enlightenment thinkers,  were confident that rational men and women could -- and would -- discover additions to that list and then use government to concretize and protect these newly-discovered rights.

He then pulls a classic Leftist bait-and-switch, introduced by President FDR seven decades ago. Then, FDR introduced his so-called “Second Bill of Rights,” which consists of economic outcome ensured coercively by government. Proclaiming that “the protection of certain inalienable political rights—among them the right of free speech, free press, free worship, trial by jury, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures—proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness,” FDR introduced his eight-point declaration of economic “rights”:

Thus began the steady slide from a free capitalist society to a socialist dictatorship, a slide that continues apace today. This broad mandate for government power over our economic lives has framed the Democrats’ domestic agenda ever since. Ingoglia doesn’t mention FDR or his Second Bill of Rights. But that’s what he obviously has in mind. I left these comments, edited and expanded for clarity:

True. You can add to the list of unalienable rights. This is codified in the U.S. Constitution by the Ninth Amendment, which reads “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”

But you cannot alter the fundamental unifying principle tieing all human rights together. Rights are guarantees to freedom of action, not automatic claims on material values that others must be forced to provide. Rights belong to individuals, and only individuals. They are unalienable, meaning possessed by all, equally, and at all times. Implicit in the concept of “unalienable” is that there are no “rights” that necessitate the violation of the rights of others. Rights that can be violated, whether by a neighbor, society, or the government, are not unalienable rights of citizens but permissions granted to subjects.

In calling for a “readjustment,” Ingoglia is advocating nothing less than the repudiation of the fundamental unifying principle tieing all human rights together, and thus the destruction of the United States of America. How? By switching the concept of rights from pursuit to guaranteed provision, thus obliterating the fundamental principle of unalienable rights. It’s the difference between peaceful coexistence and predation. No one has an automatic claim on the lives, property, or labor of others. There is a right to pursue healthcare, not a right to force others to provide it; a right to pursue productive work, not a right to a decent-paying occupation. No one has a right to force others to provide what cannot be gained by self-effort and voluntarily through the mutually advantageous medium of trade. When your life, personal freedom, achievement, and flourishing is at the unpredictable mercy of any individual’s or group’s claim to some unalienable right to what they didn’t earn, neither you nor anyone else is safe, and the government has failed in its duty to “secure these rights.” Ingoglia isn’t proposing adding to our list of rights, but obliterating our American concept of rights.

The pursuit of happiness and “an unalienable right to one job that nourishes the soul” are mutually exclusive. It is the difference between a society of peaceful coexistence (trade) and a predatory society in which everyone has a moral and legal claim on others’ lives and property, but not to his own. There is no way peaceful coexistence and predation can coexist. Our society is well on its way to a “readjustment”—read transition—from the first to the second, thanks to the ideas peddled in this article. So don’t ask why political differences are increasingly contentious, polarizing, and even violent. The only true path that allows people to peacefully “belong, to feel a part of something larger than themselves, to contribute to society” is a society of voluntary trade, not a government chain gang of mutual dependence. To earn your keep is to actually “contribute to society.” To be provided by government is to take from society. When your life, personal freedom, achievement, and flourishing is at the unpredictable mercy of any individual’s or group’s claim to some unalienable right to what they didn’t earn, neither you nor anyone else is safe.

The author calls for a “readjustment” to our Founding principles.

Our "pursuit of happiness" must now include an unalienable right to one job that nourishes the soul,  valorizes human dignity,  fosters community participation and allows the achievement and maintenance of a decent standard of living for everyone.

At least he recognizes that the U.S was not Founded on the predator’s concept of “unalienable rights.” What he doesn’t acknowledge is that “an unalienable right to one job,” or to healthcare, or to “a decent standard of living for everyone” is not compatible with the unalienable rights to Life, Liberty, Property, and the Pursuit of Happiness. There can be no such thing as a right to anything that must be produced by the human efforts of others. Such is not “community participation” but slavery, and there is no “human dignity” in slavery. There is logically no such thing as an unalienable right to alienate others from their rights, which is the only way government can ever guarantee an unalienable right to anything others are not freely and voluntarily willing to give. To adopt those “rights” is to annihilate the only true “greater good”—the universal, equal, individual right to the pursuit of one’s own happiness through self-governance and voluntary trade, so long as the same rights of all others is recognized and respected. The fundamental alternative cannot be stressed too strongly. It’s either/or:

It is either FDR’s economic “second” bill of rights, or the original political bill of rights embodied in the U.S. Constitution.

Either your life is the property of the state, to be disposed of for the sake of whatever “unalienable right” to unearned stuff anyone claims to possess. Or your life is yours to live.

Either we have a government that secures your rights, or a government that eviscerates them.

It is either socialism or capitalism.

In my July 4 tribute, I observed that “The Fourth of July reminds us that the fight for freedom is a philosophical fight—fought not on foreign military battlefields but right here at home, on the intellectual battleground of ideas.” This article is a prime example of why the fight for freedom is philosophical.

You can’t have your Declaration of Independence, and eat it, too. You can have the unalienable rights to your own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Or you can have the “unalienable right” to exploit and enslave other lives. But you cannot have both. No matter how many new rights we “discover,” the most fundamental right from which all the others derive is your right to your own life—which means, the right to act on your own judgement, and choose accordingly. You either have it, or you don’t. If you can be forced to provide healthcare, a “decent-paying occupation,” or any other material value to others, your right to your own life—your judgement and your choice—has been violated. The choice has always been, and is now, the fundamental choice; Americanism, or not.


Interestingly, Ingoglia lists “social workers, sales associates, stay-at-home parents, maintenance workers or adjunct instructors” as occupations deserving of guaranteed monetary remuneration. No one is entitled to more than consumers of their efforts are willing to pay them. To say otherwise—to say that others must be forced by government to pay more than they voluntarily would—is to violate those others’ rights to act on their own judgement.

But notice the one occupation that doesn’t belong on that list: The inclusion of stay-at-home parents in this list is particularly egregious. A paying job implies the provision of an economic value to others, for which payment is received (earned). Doing a job in which he or she is the beneficiary of the service of his own work is not a paying job, precisely because others are not beneficiaries. If stay-at-home parents deserve a monetary payment coerced from others, then why shouldn’t I be similarly paid for cutting my grass, painting my living room, or replacing a faucet in my own bathroom (I am a plumber by trade)? Ingoglia advocates double-dipping. At least those other occupations involve services provide to others. Ingoglia goes a step further—the right to be paid for providing no benefit to others. (It’s also an invitation to government to dictate how we raise our children, which is probably why Ingoglia includes parenting, but not grass-cutting, painting, or plumbing in that list. He who pays the piper, calls the tune.)

Economic “rights” are a means to expanded government power, and nothing else. Political rights restrict government power. We must remember the difference.

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Saturday, July 29, 2017

NJ Gov. Candidate Wants to Bring 'Medicare-for-all' into Healthcare Debate. Good. Let's Bury It

With ObamaCare repeal and replace on the front burner in Washington, an obscure candidate for the 2017 New Jersey gubernatorial election is trying to lift a complete government takeover of American healthcare into the thick of the debate. This fits with the Democrats’ far-Left agenda.

In Gov. candidate: Lacking in health-care debate: Medicare-for-all for the New Jersey Star-Ledger, Green Party candidate Seth Kaper-Dale wrote:

The Republicans had seven years to come up with a viable replacement to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), but today [July 17, 2017] Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky admitted to defeat when he couldn't find 50 senators to vote on a bill that would have left millions without healthcare. Absent an Obamacare substitute, the president wants a vote to repeal it, which would reverse more than 50 years of improvements in coverage for Americans.

I've listened closely to defenders of Obamacare and proponents of the Republican plans, but until recently few congressional representatives argued primarily about care; most talk about insurance. Both plans assumed Americans are obliged to throw money into a poorly-regulated private industry.  It's unnecessary.

Yes, it is. Money shouldn’t be thrown into the health insurance industry. Nor should regulations. Government money and regulation, built up over decades, have caused the steadily increasing disfunction of healthcare.

But his solution is worse than the disease. Medicare-for-all is just what it sounds like—single, meaning monopsony, financing of healthcare coercively commandeered by the federal government. Rather than admit the obvious—that government has had its chance are running healthcare, and it has failed—Kaper-Dale would reward government with total control. Notice also that Kaper-Dale, a cleric, ignores the immorality of using government force not to protect individuals’ rights to govern their own monetary and healthcare decisions, but to repudiate and alienated those rights from the people. This, of course, is what altruism demands.

I left this rebuttal commentary, edited for clarity:

After decades of government intervention in American healthcare, starting with the “original sin” of intervention—the tax exclusion for employer-sponsored healthcare—we’ve reached the ultimate absurdity; “unaffordable” healthcare at nearly 20% of GDP—financed by us, the very people who allegedly can’t afford healthcare without government “help.” Now, we’re to reward the cause of all of our problems in healthcare and health insurance with totalitarian control? Kaper-Dale proposes, as a solution to the problems caused by government, to disregard the rights of consumers, businessmen, and doctors, and force everyone into government control.  This is irrationality that borders on insane. It is cruel, dishonest, impractical, immoral, and wrong. You don’t reward the culprit by stripping away from the victims of government intervention their last meager elements of private control and freedom.

Our current healthcare is a quasi-socialized mixture of communism and fascism, built piece by piece, with only 10% of healthcare spending controlled by consumers. Don’t be suckered by simple-minded assurances like “universal healthcare puts healthcare financing into the hands of the state while delivery of care remains largely in the hands of the same healthcare professionals.” He who pays the piper calls the tune. State funding is tyranny, plain and simple. Freedom is individuals spending their own money as they judge best. Under single state payer, your doctor will be beholden to government cost-cutting bureaucrats, not you. The patient, in fact, will be cut out from the equation. As Kaper-Dale readily admits, your healthcare will be between the state and healthcare professionals—professionals who themselves will be regulated by government!

Don’t be suckered by the “efficiency” argument. Our current system is loaded with government-enforced bureaucratic inefficiency, but it is shifted to the hamstrung private sector. The only proven, moral “system” to efficiently deliver products/services and control costs is the natural incentives of a free market; consumers seeking the best value for their dollars from providers, governed by the profit motive, freely competing for consumers’ business—resulting in ever-widening affordable access to healthcare across the great mass of people. The opposite, “free” healthcare for all, results in exploding costs which government struggles to contain, resulting in “death panels” dictating who can get what healthcare and when. The discipline of the profit motive is the real cost reducer, provided we have a free market. Without that discipline, where’s the restraint? There is none, as Medicare’s unfunded liability proves. What’s left? The government’s rationing guns.

Don’t be suckered by demonization of insurance companies. The insurance industry has been crippled by government regulation and cronyism, and is not indicative of insurance in a free market. Private insurers in a free, unregulated market can’t dictate terms, because consumers can say “no” and bring their business elsewhere. Try saying no to government, which has the power of the gun—of law.

“Medicare-for-All” has been waiting in the wings ever since ObamaCare’s passage. It is the final assault to consolidate complete government control. We must repel it. We have now reached the end game we have been heading for for 80 years, and we must make the choice that has been implicit in every political battle over healthcare policy—freedom or slavery; immoral healthcare or moral healthcare; total government control or a fully free market based on individual rights in medicine; socialism or capitalism.

The government has had its chance at controlling healthcare, and it has failed. The solution is to respect the rights of individuals to make their own healthcare decisions and be responsible for their own healthcare needs, including how they spend their money, contract with insurers and doctors, and who, when, and in what capacity to assist others in need. Eliminate all health insurance mandates and legal barriers to competition; phase out the tax-created, employer based health insurance favoritism; phase out and eliminate Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and other forced wealth redistribution schemes; end remaining government regulations, mandates, and subsidies relating to and interfering in healthcare decision-making for providers and consumers; strengthen and step up enforcement of laws for policing markets against fraud.  

The government’s proper job is not to guarantee everyone healthcare—there is no “right” to healthcare that others must be forced to provide—but to secure the rights of each citizen to pursue healthcare according to her own judgement and in voluntary association and agreement between providers and consumers. Kaper-Dale clarifies the fundamental crossroad we are at. There is no escaping it. The time for half measures and compromise is over. The choice is clear: our freedom and individual rights, or all corralled under legal rule by a healthcare aristocracy forcibly financed with our own money.


Medicare-for-all is currently taking a back seat in the healthcare debate between ObamaCare and its alleged Republican replacement. At this writing, the Republicans are flubbing the chance to move majorly toward a free market: Indeed, they rarely talk about free market healthcare and what it would mean, especially morally.

But make no mistake: total government control of healthcare, via single payer, is waiting in the wings. This may be the last chance to reverse the 50+ year tide of increasing problems of healthcare cost and paralysis associated with growing government interference, euphemistically called “improvements in coverage for Americans.” We are approaching the day when a majority of Americans, tiring of the never-ending political fight over healthcare, will throw in the towel and give up complete control to government, without ever knowing that it is precisely the politicization of medicine that is the problem—and that a complete separation of medicine and state leading to free market, individual rights-based healthcare is the only alternative to today’s mess. A Republican collapse on the issue, or a bad replacement, will pave the way for that eventuality.

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Thursday, July 27, 2017

Fighting Anti-Private Discrimination Laws: The Role of Principles in the Fight for Freedom

Thanks to Anoop Verma’s Facebook group “For the New Intellectuals,” I came across a 2010 article concerning a subject I’ve written substantially about—the ongoing controversy surrounding anti-discrimination laws targeted at the private sector.

Then-U.S. Senate candidate Rand Paul’s remarks relating to Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act six years ago was the subject of a column by Cathy Young titled Racism, Civil Rights, and Libertarianism. Paul “opined that privately owned establishments should be able to decide whom to serve without government interference,” but after a firestorm of criticism “Paul quickly clarified that he would neither advocate nor support a repeal of the Civil Rights Act clause banning discrimination by private businesses.”

But “libertarian TV journalist John Stossel fanned the flames on Fox News by not only defending Paul's initial remarks but explicitly suggesting that that portion of the law should be repealed,” Young reported.

Young defended Stossel against Leftist attacks. Stossel's viewpoint “is neither inherently racist (he has stressed that he would never patronize a restaurant that excluded blacks) nor "repugnant," Young writes. “It is an intellectually consistent and legitimate, if moot, argument.”

It is on this last point, that Stossel’s argument is “moot,” that Young goes wrong, in my view. Young continues:

But while the libertarian argument against anti-discrimination laws is certainly not racist, it sometimes seems uncomfortably naive (in 1964 or today) about the social realities of Jim Crow. As some strong champions of free markets, such as legal scholar Richard Epstein, have pointed out, racial segregation and discrimination by private businesses in the South was not simply the result of owners' personal choices but of powerful societal pressure as well as coercion by state governments. Businesses that refused to discriminate were targeted for officially sanctioned or condoned harassment and intimidation.

Would "whites only" business practices have crumbled fast, as some libertarians believe, if the federal government had limited itself to dismantling the public foundations of segregation? Or was bigotry too pervasive, too deeply entrenched in minds and morals? The latter seems more likely. Moreover, for generations this private bigotry had been not only enabled but fostered by public policy, from slavery onward. Writing in The New Republic, John McWhorter, an insightful, iconoclastic black commentator, defends Paul's and Stossel's right to express their unorthodox views but also asserts that "the social rejection of racism was driven in large part by the head start, authority, finality, and even the drama of the legal banning of segregation."

Most likely, over the long haul, overt discrimination against blacks in the private sector would have become socially unacceptable and mostly extinct. But could American society have afforded to wait?

Young answers “no”:

To answer "yes" is to underestimate the urgency of the issue, the evil of Jim Crow. Segregation was not merely an inconvenience or a violation of abstract principle but the systematic degradation of American citizens who were black.

It's fine to discuss the intellectual merits of free-market and free-association arguments against the ban on private discrimination. But the reminder that 50 years ago, such obscene practices were not only condoned but socially approved in large parts of this country should shock our conscience as Americans. A dispassionate or glib attitude on the subject is not a good way to win people over.

There are two crucial points I want to challenge Young on.


It’s entirely possible that the targeting of private discrimination in the 1964 Civil Rights Act sped up the crumbling of private discrimination against blacks. But there is also evidence that the dismantling of the public (legal) foundations of segregation is all that was needed.

One example is the breakdown of Major League Baseball’s “color line,” which was accomplished by just four men; Jackie Robinson and Brooklyn Dodgers GM Branch Rickey, and Larry Doby and Cleveland Indians Owner Bill Veeck. Baseball was free of legally mandated Jim Crow segregation laws, and this freedom was all these four courageous individuals needed. From 1947 on, baseball progressively integrated despite major cultural bigotry. No forced integration laws were needed.

Rosa Parks offers another angle on the racial progress without violating freedom of association—the legal front. Her defiance challenged a segregation law, and she won. Her Supreme Court victory helped ignite the mid-Twentieth Century Civil Rights Movement, which gained steady public support leading up to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Her case sought to demolish a forced segregation law, not erect forced integration laws. And that was on the heels of Brown vs. Board of Education, which overturned segregation in the government schools without forcing integration on private schools.

I would argue that the social trend toward racial justice was well under way before 1964. Furthermore, this social progress made possible the Civil Rights Act of 1964, not the other way around. Politics never leads. Politics follows because it is a reflection of social trends. The 1964 Civil Rights Act could not have even been proposed, let alone passed, without major social support. And pass it did, by huge margins: 61% of Democrats and 80% of Republicans voted for the legislation—and some who opposed it, such as Barry Goldwater, voted against it on the same liberty principle upheld by Stossel, not pro segregation grounds. Can anyone seriously claim that that level of congressional support for desegregation and racial justice could have been achieved without popular support?

There is a reason why the Civil Rights Act passed in 1964 rather than earlier: It could never have passed until the culture was ready for it. Desegregation and black voting rights in the South were just as big an issue 20 years earlier. But FDR wouldn't enforce either because that would have threatened his 1944 reelection [Easterly, p.94]. It took two more decades of social activism before politicians deemed it safe to legislate an end to legally imposed segregation and, a year later, pass the Voting Rights Act.

To me, the history of the fight for black political equality proves that rights-violating mandates against private discrimination were not needed. We wouldn’t have even needed the 1964 Civil Rights Act if not for the corrupt 1896 Supreme Court Ruling Plessy v. Ferguson, which set back racial integration for 60 years. Once legal coercion supporting segregation was removed—including the covert kind like police neglect that allowed lynchings and other criminal attacks on blacks to run rampant, “officially sanctioned or condoned harassment and intimidation” of private businesses that “refused to discriminate,” and artificial legal barriers to voting—a now-freer American society in general would have rapidly broken down racial barriers, and any remaining pockets of bigotry and discrimination would have succumbed to enormous social and economic pressure to dissolve, or been marginalized into irrelevance. That the 1964 Civil Rights Act passed at all is proof that the rights of association-violating Title II of that Act—the Injunctive Relief Against Discrimination in Places of Public Accommodation—wasn’t needed.

Progress on both the social and legal fronts was on the move. Full restoration of freedom, including government protection of rights to public protest and boycott, are all that were needed to ignite rapid progress. This is not to deny the “social realities of Jim Crow” or the extent to which  bigotry was “pervasive [and] deeply entrenched in minds and morals” of the culture. But neither should we underestimate the winning power of the convergence of reason, courage, freedom, and principled action.

Which leads to my second, even more important, point:

If Young is going to accuse opponents of anti-private discrimination laws of “a dispassionate or glib attitude,” then the same could be said of her dismissal of the power of principles. She writes:

Yes, post-1964 civil rights law has generated real problems. Legally mandated colorblindness has evolved into legally mandated race preferences to remedy discrimination. Anti-discrimination law has expanded to more and more protected categories, to the point where a gym can be held liable for dismissing a fat fitness trainer.

Curbing these excesses is a worthy goal. But calling for a repeal of the ban on discrimination in the private sector is both utopian and reckless. . .

The expansion of anti-private discrimination law “to more and more protected categories” is a concrete demonstration of the power of principles in action. There is simply no way anyone can argue that government must legally “protect” us from discrimination—i.e., force others to associate with us against their will—based on race but not based on gender, religion, physical or mental capacities, sexual orientation, economic status, or any other category some activist group chooses to come up with. And since discrimination is almost impossible to prove without the ability to read minds—overt discrimination like “No Blacks Allowed” signs is virtually extinct—the only way to “prove” discrimination is through circumstantial evidence like statistics, which leads directly to “legally mandated race preferences” and other types of quotas, like the Title IX gender quotas that are killing men's college sports programs..

Young seems glib about the ease of “curbing these abuses.” But on what grounds can one fight these abuses? There is no way to fight the “abuses” without taking the moral high ground. On what basis does Young claim that blacks are a “protected” group but fat people are not? There is no way to take the moral high ground without zeroing in on the moral principle the “abuses” violate—the right to freedom of association. There is no way to uphold freedom of association while making exceptions based on your own personal preferences. Rights are moral principles, and moral principles, by definition, are inviolable. Once you accept that government may violate freedom of association in one category, however noble the cause, the principle is rendered moot and the rights violations inevitably multiply like malignant cancer cells, even infecting an employer's’ ability to hire. There’s no logical way that you can assert that a black man has the right to force a white merchant to serve him while denying the right of a same-sex couple to force a Christian-owned banquet hall to cater a gay wedding. Either political rights are inalienable, or they are not. Sooner or later, those seeking to “curb” the “excesses” of anti-discrimination laws will have to confront that fact, or the cause is hopeless.

It’s understandable that the black oppressed minority (and many of their supporters) would jump at the chance to take the shortcut of law to end private racial segregation. They waited a long time for justice. But even if we concede that Title II was instrumental in speeding up the progress toward racial equality before the law—indeed, even if we concede that it was a worthwhile temporary measure—we’re still left with the very serious erosion of our inalienable right to freedom of association that is the legacy of Title II. The erosion of our associational liberties cannot be addressed and corrected without overturning all anti-private discrimination laws, especially including Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And that cannot be accomplished without fighting for the essential principles of individual rights that underpin liberty.

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Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Does Inherited Money Ruin Lives?

Quora is a social media website founded by two former Facebook employees. According to Wikipedia:

Quora is a question-and-answer website where questions are created, answered, edited and organized by its community of users. The company was founded in June 2009, and the website was made available to the public on June 21, 2010.[3] Quora aggregates questions and answers to topics. Users can collaborate by editing questions and suggesting edits to other users' answers.[4]

You can also reply to other users’ answers.

Recently from Quora: “What are the advantages of growing up wealthy (in the top 1%)?: Also what are the cons of growing up rich?”

A good answer came from Jenny Hawkins, speaking of her two cousins, each of whom inherited $1 million at age 21. I left this comment on her answer:

I like this essay, and I agree with much of it. But I must challenge this one statement—“I have seen that money ruin their lives.”

Did the money really ruin their lives? Or did these two kids squander the opportunity the money gave them? I think the latter.

I have a friend who inherited a well-established, thriving engineering business from his father. He had all the “advantages” of wealth. He went to an elite private school, then on to Princeton University. Far from squandering the opportunity, or even resting on his laurels, my friend worked hard and built the business into a size many times what he inherited. My friend eventually sold the business and retired a wealthy man. But to this day is an unspoiled, “down-to-Earth” guy with good values.

Or consider David and Charles Koch. They inherited a business worth $23 million. Did they squander the opportunity? No. Over a period of half a century, they built Koch Industries into a $100 billion dynamo. Did they lose their middle class values? No.

Most people I know started with little or nothing and achieved some level of economic success.

Here’s the key: “Middle class” is not defined in dollars. It’s defined in values. As Jenny observes, American freedom provides maximum opportunity for self-direction and self-fulfillment. But it is up to each of us to seize the opportunity that freedom provides. The same goes for money. Self-reliance is the hallmark of the American middle class. Did those two cousins make a mess of their lives? Apparently. Do a lot of rich kids squander the opportunity they’re handed? Probably. Blame the parenting. Blame the kids. But you shouldn’t blame the money any more than you should blame the freedom. As a character in Atlas Shrugged observed about inherited wealth, “

[M]oney is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires. . . .Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he wants: money will not give him a code of values . . . and it will not provide him with a purpose. . . . Money will not buy intelligence for the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent.

Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth–the man who would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money?

I believe that if we continue to enjoy substantial political and economic freedom—and that’s a big if—it is up to each one of us, whether we are born into wealth, poverty, the “1%,” or whatever we conceptualize as “the middle class,” to make the most of whatever “hand we are dealt.”

Related Reading:

Francisco’s Money Speech—originally published in Atlas Shrugged, © Copyright, 1957, by Ayn Rand, reprinted in Capitalism Magazine.