Friday, December 28, 2007

Pakistan Convulsion

Pakastani dictator General Pervez Musharraf's leading political opponent, Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated yesterday. The potential consequences of this event are chilling as Pakastan possesses as many as 100 nuclear warheads that, if the turmoil there leads to civil war and the toppling of the Musharraf regime, could fall into the hands of Islamic Fundamentalists.

Bhutto was being praised by most of the press as of this writing, while Musharraf was being criticized for not providing enough security for her. Some go so far as to suggest that he may have had a hand in the assassination, as Bhutto and her opposition party looked to do quite well in the elections that are scheduled for January 8 (I doubt that this is true). Meanwhile, Bhutto is being hailed as a potential leader who could have lead Pakastan away from extreme Islam and toward "democracy." Maybe.

But who is Benazir Bhutto? As it turns out, not everyone is singing her praises today. Writing in the New York Post today, Ralph Peters, an intelligent reporter and an expert on the Middle East, writes...

"Her country's better off without her... We need have no sympathy with her Islamist assassin and the extremists behind him to recognize that Bhutto was corrupt, divisive, dishonest and utterly devoid of genuine concern for her country.

She was a splendid con, persuading otherwise cynical Western politicians and "hardheaded" journalists that she was not only a brave woman crusading in the Islamic wilderness, but also a thoroughbred democrat.

In fact, Bhutto was a frivolously wealthy feudal landlord amid bleak poverty. The scion of a thieving political dynasty, she was always more concerned with power than with the wellbeing of the average Pakistani. Her program remained one of old-school patronage, not increased productivity or social decency.

Educated in expensive Western schools, she permitted Pakistan's feeble education system to rot - opening the door to Islamists and their religious schools."

Context and perspective are crucial when viewing a part of the world where concepts such as individual rights or religion-state separation are not rooted in the culture. It was President Carter's undermining of the Shah of Iran, a dictator friendly to U.S. interests, that lead to his downfall and the rise of an infinitely
more oppressive Islamic theocracy in 1979.

In any event, the situation in Pakastan and the region in general is ominous. Stay tuned.

Post Reference 19

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Excerpts 6- On Democracy

"The central error in the neocon...fallacy is a naive belief that democracy necessarily leads to good government." (Blame Canada - for David Frum by Paul Mulshine)

This is a keen observation by Paul Mulshine. I would add ..."nor does it lead to individual liberty." The error many people make is to equate "democracy " with freedom. They are not the same thing. "Democracy" that "works" pre-supposes strict limits on the power of government. Which means, to limit the ability of the majority (no matter how large) to impose its will on the minority (no matter how small, including the world's smallest minority, the individual) through governmental coercion.

In the Revolutionary War movie The Patriot, Benjamin Martin (played by Mel Gibson) captures the spirit of what our founders were, and were not, fighting for when he tells a town gathering;

"Why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away? An elected legislature can trample a man's rights as easily as a king can."

John Adams said; "It is ... as necessary to defend an individual against the majority in a democracy as against the king in a monarchy."

The right to vote is not a basic or primary right. The rights of the individual, every individual, to his life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of his own welfare and happiness are the primary ones. The right to vote is derived from these fundamental rights. Representative self-government starts not with "the democratic process" but with a constitution strictly defining the limits of the power of government, which starts with an understanding and acceptance of the principle of individual liberty.

What has gone terribly wrong in our mis-named "War on Terror" is that our leadership had reversed cause and effect. Our attempt to graft "democracy" onto a middle-eastern culture that either doesn't understand or is openly hostile to the principles of individual freedom has reached the opposite result of our aims.

By equating the "right to vote" with freedom, we have unleashed voters across the region (who have no belief in the doctrine of the separation of religion and state) to gleefully install into power or strengthen
Islamic forces hostile to true freedom. In Iraq, a constitution based on Islamic Law was enacted by vote. Subsequently, a Shiite-dominated government with strong ties to the Iranians was elected leading to the possibility that we may have created a second Iran.

In other elections, the terrorist group Hezbollah made strong gains in Lebanon, and the Palestinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza) saw the rise to power of Hamas. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (an early precurser to the modern Islamic Totalitarian movement) is winning elections and gaining influence there.

In Pakistan, the dictator Musharaf is resisting democratic elections in part because Islamic Fundamentalist forces are likely to win substantial power there. Nowhere in the region has the "democracy" crusade given rise to a meaningful movement for freedom, as true secular liberalization forces, such as they exist, are demoralized and in retreat around the region. On the contrary, Islamic Totalitarian forces have made gains under democracy that they couldn't have dreamed of prior to 9/11, all with the blessing of our democratization strategy.

The clear lesson to be learned here is that democracy unconstrained by the moral concept of individual rights enshrined in law is just another form of tyranny.

Post Reference 18

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Devaluation of Life in New Jersey

New Jersey today outlawed the death penalty, thus declaring that the life of a cold-blooded murderer has value. Declared Governor Jon Corzine, "Society must determine if its endorsement of violence begets violence and undermines the sanctity of life..." Sister Helen Prejean, death penalty opponent and author of Dead Man Walking, said "There's no place on Earth I would rather be. The word will travel around the globe that there is a state in the United States of America that was the first to show that life is stronger than death, love is greater than hatred and that compassion is stronger than the need for revenge." (New Jersey Star Ledger 12/18/07)

But one must question the fundamental premises of the death penalty's opponents.

The death penalty issue is primarily a moral one, and it boils down to one question... does human life have value, or doesn't it? If it does, then that which destroys it is evil and thus has no value. The act of committing cold-blooded murder (the taking of another's life in the absence of extenuating circumstances) is the ultimate violation of one's most fundamental right...the right to life. By taking the life of another human being, the cold-blooded killer thus forfeits the right to his own life.

Remember that we are speaking here of the most heinous type of crime...the rape-murder of a child, the gunning down of a store clerk during a robbery, the assassination of a police officer. To speak of "the sanctity of life", or of "love" or "compassion" for life's destroyers is to make a mockery of those terms and to devalue the lives of all of us.

One can not value man's life and the destroyer of man's life at the same time. To the extent that one assigns value to the destroyer of man's life, then to the same extent he is devaluing it. There is no way out of this lethal contradiction. Not if one's standard of value is man's life.

The death penalty is justified, morally justified, not because of hatred or revenge. Nor is it justified on the grounds of deterence. The ruling principle in favor of the death penalty is justice. The ultimate crime must be met by the ultimate punishment. Death to cold-blooded murderers, the destroyers of life, is the ultimate affirmation of "the sanctity (and value) of life."

Sadly, by abolishing the death penalty, our great state of New Jersey has chosen to devalue life.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Way to REALLY Compound a Problem

The Bush Administration's subprime mortgage bailout plan, bad as it is, is looking rather benign compared to a truly dangerous bill that is making its way through the Democratic-controlled congress. Whereas the Bush plan uses the money of the taxpayers to "send a message" that borrowers and lenders can engage in bad credit practices without having to accept the full consequences of their risky behavior, the Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act of 2007, which has already passed the House of Representatives, will put crippling and costly new conditions on mortgage lenders while virtually alleviating borrowers of the responsibility of exercizing due diligence when taking out loans.

Worse still, this bill would accrue to the government and the courts more of the kind of arbitrary powers vested in regulatory authorities like the FDA, FCC, and the Anti-trust laws. This is accomplished through the use of vague and undefinable terms that make it impossible for lenders to know whether they are breaking the law until some government bureaucrat or jury makes a (subjective) interpretation after the fact.

In an excellent commentary on titled Predatory Legislating, Yaron Brook explains what mortgage lenders would be up against if this bill becomes law:

"The bill tells lenders they may not engage in the undefined practice of 'predatory lending'--examples of which include vague offenses such as offering loans that are not 'solely in the best interest of the consumer' or offering loans that a borrower does not have a 'reasonable ability to repay.'

"Since the bill offers no clear standard of a 'reasonable ability to repay' or the 'best interest of the consumer,' if it is passed, lenders could be held liable for any loan a borrower fails to pay off. All an irresponsible borrower or unscrupulous lawyer needs to do is convince a jury in hindsight that the lender should have known better--and he can cash in at the lender's expense. To compound the injustice, the new law would apply, not only to those who initiate loans that fail, but to any financial institution that buys and pools loans made by others (a practice that makes possible better risk management and lower mortgage rates).

"If you were a mortgage lender facing this sword of Damocles for any loan that goes bad, what would you do? Exactly what mortgage lenders will do if this legislation passes: jack up rates to account for the high risk of lawsuits--and likely avoid lending to higher-risk candidates altogether."

What must be understood is that this bill will do nothing about the current "crisis". Indeed, the market is already doing a splendid job of punishing the irresponsible participants, with large lenders and investors losing billions of dollars and borrowers who cannot meet the higher mortgage payments they should have foreseen coming (assuming no fraud by the lender, which should result in prosecution) facing foreclosure. No, this bill is about shackling lenders. The result will be a much more restrictive mortgage market squeezing out many borrowers, which will serve as a rationalization for further government intrusions into the housing market.

The road to statism in America is being paved bit by bit by a process that is virtually imperceptable. Problems real or imagined are used as a cover for the steady expansion of the government's power over all aspects of our economic and personal affairs. The sympathy one can feel for those losing their homes or saddled with soaring mortgage payments should not blind us to the dangers of government "doing something" about this or that "problem" or protecting us from the consequences of our own freely taken actions.

Ronald Reagan once said "The ten most dangerous words in the English language are 'I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you'". We should really think about that, and consider where ignoring that advice is leading us.

Post Reference 17

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Way to Compound a Problem

President Bush and Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson announced recently a plan to “freeze” interest rates on so-called “sub-prime” mortgages, at taxpayer expense (of course), so that rates won’t reset higher on these debt instruments as provided for in the respective mortgage agreements. In other words, contracts freely entered into by mortgage borrowers and their lenders are now to be broken by government fiat so as to prevent them from facing the consequences of their own bad judgements. This is not only bad economics (it amounts to throwing good money after bad), it is also immoral, forcing responsible borrowers and lenders to foot the bill, i.e., rewarding bad behavior and punishing the good. Said Peter Cohan of A. Peter Cohan & Associates, “This has the perverse effect of punishing those with good credit who follow the rules, and rewarding those who don’t.”

The push for a bailout is being led by big mortgage lenders looking to the government to save them from their own mistakes. Henry Killinger (CEO of Washington Mutual) and Angelo Mozilo (CEO of Countrywide Financial) both called for greater government intervention into the housing market through increased taxpayer funding of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-backed mortgage finance companies, which purchases mortgages from private lenders. Mozilo, reports the New York Post on 12/04/07, “wants the government-backed agencies to increase the number of troubled loans they hold”… loans originated by irresponsible private lending practices, thus foisting the risks and costs onto the taxpayers. And you thought big business is pro-capitalism! (To be fair, many mortgage lenders were pressured into unsound lending practices by liberal politicians who wanted to increase homeownership among low-income [i.e., high risk] borrowers. Nevertheless, it is wrong to force others to pay for any bailout.)

Yet as bad as this sounds, the negative long-term consequences of this preposterous Bush administration scheme could border on the disastrous as government intrusion into the private financial markets advances. In a hard-hitting piece by Nicole Gelinas published in the New York Post, there is a proposal buried in this bailout plan that can lead to “problems [that] are almost too painful to describe”. She writes, “Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson will propose to Congress to let cities and states issue tax-exempt debt to bail out even more borrowers.” Thus, in addition to federal tax dollars, “do-gooders” all the way down to the local level will be able to grab tax money at multiple levels of government to bail out their constituents, ultimately enabling these “homeowners” to “use the [taxpayer] money to pay off the mortgages they can't afford - and take out new, more affordable mortgages with their city or state government.” Taxpayers- the ones who “play by the rules”- will be left holding the bag for a risk burden “no private investor will touch.”

The market, left alone, will sort out the sub-prime mortgage mess, through the free, uncoerced decisions of the lenders, investors, and homeowners. Homes will be re-possessed and resold, money will be lost by banks and investors, home prices will decline to attract new, responsible buyers. Lenders and borrowers, as well as the investors who bought the mortgage securities backed by the bad loans, will face the consequences of their actions. Credit market conditions may temporarily tighten up. There is nothing in the current housing downturn that hasn’t happened before.

But interference by government with the free market will have negative and unforeseen consequences, as it always does. Indeed, the severity of the current downturn as well as the pain of the borrowers and lenders was exascerbated by government policies that artificially encourage homeownership among people who really can’t afford it. President Bush’s plan will only prolong the correction by allowing the irresponsible to evade the consequences of their actions, while saddling the rest of the taxpayers with the bill.

Alex Epstein of the Ayn Rand Institute, in a post on the blog Principles in Practice titled The Injustice of 'Doing Something' about Subprime (11/12/07), offers the only real “solution"… the government should essentially do nothing. “The proper response of the government to subprime problems,” he writes, “is simple; commit to no new interventions in the housing market, and cease all existing intervention designed to influence home ownership—from programs like Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae to artificially low interest rates. Such a move would send a message befitting a free people: a message of responsibility. Individuals would be responsible for the loans they make and for choosing the housing option that is best for them. The government would protect everyone's rights by enforcing laws against theft and fraud, and by protecting the individual's right to make his own decisions and keep his own money—even when others make bad use of theirs.”

Prin-Spec Reference 15

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Clinton's Hostile Healthcare Takeover

"Canadian doctors, once quiet on the issue of private health care, elected Brian Day as president of their national association. Dr. Day is a leading critic of Canadian medicare; he opened a private surgery hospital and then challenged the government to shut it down. 'This is a country,' Dr. Day said by way of explanation, 'in which dogs can get a hip replacement in under a week and in which humans can wait two to three years.' " (David Gratzer, M.D., Manhattan Institute, from forbes of 10/01/07. Dr. Gratzer is the author of THE CURE.)

Despite widespread evidence of socialized medicine's practical failures, this country is slithering toward some sort of state-run medical system. The Democrats across the board, as well as some key Republicans, have jumped on the bandwagon for a state takeover of American medicine.

Senator Hillary Clinton, the all-but-certain Dem presidential nominee, has announced her “universal health care” plan that, she claims, “is not government-run”. Don’t believe it. She claims to have learned from her failed 1993 attempt at socialized medicine. But what did she learn? Of her 1993 plan, writes E.J. Dionne, she says “You can have a great plan…and still fail”. According to an adviser, Clinton vowed to “learn from [her] mistakes and…do it right the next time”. In other words, she will sneak her takeover plan in under the guise of freedom of choice.

So what will her non-government-run plan, called “Healthy Choices” look like? It would:

1. mandate everyone to purchase health insurance

2. mandate business to insure its employees or pay into a pool for worker
coverage (i.e., a fine).

3. mandate premiums do not exceed a certain percentage of income (i.e., price controls on insurance companies).

4. require insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions for new policies.

5. mandate insurance companies to cover every applicant for a policy.

6. forbid insurance companies from adjusting rates based on age or health status (i.e., more price controls).

7. impose a slew of new insurance policy mandates for “preventive care”, thus compounding the very policies that are driving up the cost of health insurance.

8. set up a subsidized, state-run plan to “compete” with the private insurers, virtually ensuring their demise. This would require a new or expanded federal bureacracy to administer, Clinton's protestations to the contrary notwithstanding.

In short, Clinton’s “non-government-run” scheme is a coercive death nell for the private health insurance market.

In addition, the expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) as well as the expansion of Medicare to cover people aged 55 and up (down from 65), both of which Clinton supports, would be a kind of “pincer movement” against the private market from both ends of the age spectrum.

Make no mistake, Clinton’s “non-government-run” health care scheme is socialized medicine. While attempting to camouflage her plan as one that “allows” individuals to keep their private coverage “if they like it”, her true intentions were exposed in a piece by Paul Howard of the Manhattan Institute;

"In April, Hillary spoke at a small gathering in New York. The Politico reports that she was asked why ‘she continues to see the solution . . . as private insurance, rather than a single-payer national system?’
‘Well, I didn't say that,’ she told the audience. If Democrats pick up several more Senate seats in the next elections, she said, ‘Medicare for All . . . would be something to be considered.’"

There is a weakness in her plan, though. Her use of the term “healthy choice” indicates that she believes that most Americans are still not ready to swallow a government takeover of medicine. This is also why she takes pains to point out, at every opportunity, that her plan does not involve creation of a big, new government bureaucracy (a blatantly false claim; see #8 above). Senator Clinton has apparently concluded that her (and the Democrats’) true statist intentions must be “packaged” as something that they are not.

The Orwellian double-speak that the Clinton campaign believes it must hide behind offers a huge opening to a strong opponent. It remains to be seen whether the GOP will exploit this opening. Early indications are not promising, to say the least. Most of the Republican leadership has accepted the socialist premise that every citizen has a “right” to health insurance and that it is the government’s duty to provide it. The only difference between the two parties at this point is a matter of degree and detail, not principle. Under this scenario, it is the most consistent adversary that will win, which is why America is careening by default toward the Dem’s dream of state control of medicine.

Americans deserve better. It is still early and my hope is that a Republican candidate will pick up the banner of justice and individual rights in medicine and present a true alternative to the Clinton plan. American voters deserve to be offered a clear choice in 2008 and with the Democrats lining up solidly behind the state and against the individual, it is up to the GOP to offer a plan based not on “universal coverage” but on the non-coercive, moral principles of free market capitalism.

Post Reference 14- Clintoncare

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Recommended Reading 1- An Excerpt

"Most people who oppose socialized medicine do so on the grounds that it is moral and well-intentioned, but impractical; i.e., it is a noble idea--which just somehow does not work. I do not agree that socialized medicine is moral and well-intentioned, but impractical. Of course, it is impractical--it does not work--but I hold that it is impractical because it is immoral. This is not a case of noble in theory but a failure in practice; it is a case of vicious in theory and therefore a disaster in practice. I want to focus on the moral issue at stake. So long as people believe that socialized medicine is a noble plan, there is no way to fight it. You cannot stop a noble plan--not if it really is noble. The only way you can defeat it is to unmask it--to show that it is the very opposite of noble. Then at least you have a fighting chance.

"What is morality in this context? The American concept of it is officially stated in the Declaration of Independence. It upholds man's unalienable, individual rights. The term "rights," note, is a moral (not just a political) term; it tells us that a certain course of behavior is right, sanctioned, proper, a prerogative to be respected by others, not interfered with--and that anyone who violates a man's rights is: wrong, morally wrong, unsanctioned, evil."

"Today, however, we are seeing the rise of principled immorality in this country. We are seeing a total abandonment by the intellectuals and the politicians of the moral principles on which the U.S. was founded. We are seeing the complete destruction of the concept of rights. The original American idea has been virtually wiped out, ignored as if it had never existed. The rule now is for politicians to ignore and violate men's actual rights, while arguing about a whole list of rights never dreamed of in this country's founding documents--rights which require no earning, no effort, no action at all on the part of the recipient."

From the essay Health Care is not a Right by Leonard Peikoff

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Bush's Tax Cutting "Success"

To those of us on the right who believe in limited government and a strong foreign policy based strictly on America's national self-interest, President Bush has been a great disappointment, to say the least. But their is one achievement we can be pleased with...his income tax rate cuts. An article in the Nov./Dec. 2007 issue of The American (published by the American Enterprise Institute) written by Stephen Moore examining the modest Bush tax cuts puts the lie to the Left's never-ending claim that the "rich" don't pay their "fair share" of the tax burden.

As the chart in the article shows, the top 1% of income earners paid 37% of the federal government's total income tax revenues, while the top 25% paid 85%. The bottom 50% paid 3% of total taxes. The percentage of taxes paid by the highest earners has risen despite the fall in their tax rates.

In addition, federal income tax revenues have risen substantially. According to Moore, "The Congressional Budget Office reports that, since the 2003 tax cuts, federal revenues have grown by $745 billion—the largest real increase in history over such a short time period. Individual and corporate income tax receipts have jumped by 30 percent in the two years since the tax cuts."

Thus, the tax cuts worked just as the "Supply-siders" advertised- they increased the share of taxes paid by the highest earners (i.e., the most productive citizens) while also increasing substantially the tax take of the government.

But is this a successful tax cutting program? That depends on how you look at it. To some on the Right, these figures represent success because they led to the growth in tax revenues, "proving" that tax cuts "work". (The Left should be ecstatic about the government's tax take, but they are too blinded by their hatred of the successful and the productive.)

Now, don't get me wrong. I love tax cuts...any tax cut. I've never met a tax cut I didn't love. The more of our earnings we get to keep, the better. And, as Moore points out, "It’s also one of the simplest concepts in economics: lowering the tax rate on production, work, investment, and risk-taking will spur more of these activities and will often produce more tax revenue rather than less."

What bothers me is the constant drumbeat of the tax cutters in claiming increased government tax revenues as one justification for the cuts. This is playing right into the Left's world-view that the people work not for themselves but for the government. Our side should take heed of Milton Friedman's advice that "if you cut taxes and the government's revenues rose, you haven't cut taxes enough".

Post Reference 16

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A Thanksgiving Message

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 action 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, capitalism, and republican government, achieved in the span of a mere two hundred-plus years (following centuries of stagnation) it's 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. This country was mostly uninhabited and wild when our forefathers began to develop the land and build spectacular cities, shaping what is now the wealthiest nation in the world. It's the American spirit to overcome challenges, create great achievements, and enjoy prosperity. We uniquely recognize that production leads to wealth and that we must dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. It's no accident that Americans have a holiday called Thanksgiving--a yearly tradition when we pause to appreciate the "bountiful harvest" we've reaped.

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?

From a young age, we are bombarded with messages designed to undermine our confident pursuit of values: "Be humble," "You can't know what's good for yourself," "It's better to give than receive," and above all "Don't be selfish!" We are scolded not to take more than "our share"--whether it is of corporate profits, electricity or pie. We are taught that altruism--selfless concern for others--is the moral ideal. We are taught to sacrifice for strangers, who have no claim to our hard-earned wealth. We are taught to kneel rather than reach for the sky.

But, morally, one should reach for the sky. One should recognize that the corporate profits, electricity or pie was earned through one's production--and savor its consumption. Every decision one makes, from what career to pursue to whom to call a friend, should be guided by what will best advance one's rational goals, interests and, ultimately, one's life. One should take pride in being rationally selfish--one's life and happiness depend on it.

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.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


*Take this with a pinch of salt.

It looks like winter in the Eastern US will come, and go, before it even officially begins. According to AccuWeather's long range forcaster Joe Bastardi, this winter will be very mild; as much as 4 degrees above average. But we will first go through a cold snap between mid November and mid December. "But Thanksgiving could be frigid, ushering in a sudden plunge in the mercury and possibly snow", said Bastardi (New York Post, 11/14/07). "[T]emperatures will dip quickly to be colder than normal," he said. "But then they'll flip back up to remain above normal for the rest of the winter." Christmas could be balmy.

These long range forecasts have only a 70% accuracy rate, so don't make too many golfing plans. In fact, I just checked the 7-day forecast for central New Jersey, and it's calling for 54 degrees on Thanksgiving eve, not exactly blizzard temperatures. So it already looks like the early cold snap will be delayed, at the very least.

Global Warming Fundamentalists shouldn't get too excited, though. The predicted mild winter is caused by a naturally recurring cycle called La Nina; an abnormal cooling of the Pacific Ocean water temperatures.

*The meteor may have met its challenge.

A new theory on the great dinosaur extinction may be emerging, according to the Geological Society of America, which states in a press release;

"Boulder, CO, USA - A series of monumental volcanic eruptions in India may have killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago, not a meteor impact in the Gulf of Mexico. The eruptions, which created the gigantic Deccan Traps lava beds of India, are now the prime suspect in the most famous and persistent paleontological murder mystery, say scientists who have conducted a slew of new investigations honing down eruption timing.

'It's the first time we can directly link the main phase of the Deccan Traps to the mass extinction,' said Princeton University paleontologist Gerta Keller. The main phase of the Deccan eruptions spewed 80 percent of the lava which spread out for hundreds of miles. It is calculated to have released ten times more climate altering gases into the atmosphere than the nearly concurrent Chicxulub meteor impact, according to volcanologist Vincent Courtillot from the Physique du Globe de Paris."

The gathering of scientific knowledge is a long, painstaking process that generates theories that hold up until they are either proved conclusively or superceded by new knowledge leading to a revised and/or a new theory. Another example is the steady state theory of the universe, which held that the universe is a stable, virtually unchanging world; until it was discovered that it is actually expanding, with all stars and galaxies moving away from each other at an accelerating rate. This gave birth to the "big bang" theory, which holds that the entire universe started when a marble (or smaller) sized speck exploded. I suspect that this rather incredible idea will pass as well.

*Meanwhile, the histeria continues...

It's a good thing the meteor theory isn't related somehow to "global warming", or these geologists might find themselves thrown into the clink for being "meteor extinction deniers". According to the AP, Yvo de Boer, the UN's top climate official stated that "Failing to recognize the urgency of the message [on global warming] and act on it would be nothing less than criminally irresponsible" (emphasis added). This kind of silly, and scary, blather is common throughout the "green socialist" (as Steve Forbes calls it) movement and is strong evidence in my mind of the thinness of the global warming case. True scientists are natural skeptics who welcome any and all study and opinions, because getting to the truth means vetting of all of the facts. And they certainly don't go around threatening others.

Such is the nature, and danger, of the convergence of state and science.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Bush's Collapsing "War On Terror"

"In war, there is no substitute for victory"- General Douglas MacArthur

Recent events in Pakistan, with President Pervez Musharraf declaring marshal law featuring the dissolution of the supreme court, suspension of the constitution, mass arrests of political opponents among other things, has underscored the abject failure of the Bush Administration's entire strategy in our mis-named "War on Terror". Called a "Forward Strategy for Freedom", the plan was to spread "Democracy" throughout the Middle East, thus neutralizing the main breeding ground for terrorism.

But "Democracy" does not mean freedom. In the absence of a firm and unequivical philosophy of individual rights and the proper role of government embodied in a constitution, democracy means unlimited majority rule. This failure to distinguish between a democracy and a constitutional republic (which is a growing problem even in the United States) is backfiring across the mid-east and has greatly increased the strength and long term threat to the West of Islamic totalitarianism.

By equating the "right to vote" (which is a derivative, not a primary right) with freedom, voters across the region (who have no belief in the doctrine of the separation of religion and state) have gleefully installed into power or strengthened
Islamic forces hostile to true freedom. In Iraq, a constitution based on Islamic Law was allowed by America to be enacted. Subsequently, a Shiite-dominated government with strong ties to the Iranians was elected leading to the possibility that we may have created a second Iran.

In other elections, the terrorist group Hezbollah made strong gains in Lebanon, and the Palistinian Territories (West Bank and Gaza) saw the rise to power of Hamas. In Egypt, the Muslim Brotherhood (an early precurser to the modern Islamic Totalitarian movement) is winning elections and gaining influence there.

In Pakistan, the superficial democracy under the dictator Musharraf (who seized power in a military coup in 1999, then got himself elected in a disputed election) has given way to outright authoritarianism. The move was triggered, at least in part, by the threat posed by a resurgence of Islamic Fundamentalism there. Thus we are now in the position of having to support a dictator who has been an "ally" in the "War on Terror" and to whom we have given over $10 billion in aid over the last six years, thus contradicting the entire "Foward Strategy of Freedom". Or we call for Musharraf to submit to "democracy" and run the real risk of yet another electoral victory for Islamic Totalitarian forces, this time creating a nuclear armed Islamic state. Conditions there look eerily similar to 1979 Iran just prior to the fall of the Shah, the American embassy hostage crisis, and the rise to power of the Ayatollahs.

Nowhere in the region has the "democracy" crusade given rise to a movement for freedom. On the contrary, Islamic Totalitarian forces have made gains under democracy that they couldn't have dreamed of prior to 9/11, all with the blessing of our democratization strategy. At the same time, true secular liberalization forces, such as they exist, are demoralized and in retreat around the region.

The President Bush that I (and most Americans) once supported no longer exists. Where is the Bush that declared "You're either with us, or you're with the terrorists". Where is the President Bush that equated, correctly, states that sponsor terrorism with the terror organizations themselves, vowing to remove them from power. Where is the Bush that vowed to act in America's self defense regardless of "world opinion". Perhaps that President Bush never really existed.

Today Afghanistan and Iraq have turned into "welfare wars", with money and blood being spent with no end in sight. Syria and especially Iran aid and abet with impunity the killing of American Soldiers. And both Hezbollah and Hamas receive material and logistical support from those two regimes, especially Iran. Meanwhile, a rejuvenated Taliban gathers its strength unimpeded (apparently) in the mountains of northwest Pakistan. The perception in the Muslim world seems to be that America will be defeated and retreat. This has emboldened the primitive enemy that we face.

This is not to say that President Bush hasn't had some significant successes. For example, we haven't been attacked on our own soil since 9/11, despite repeated attempts by our enemies. But at this juncture, the big picture is deteriorating badly. The growing power of totalitarian Islam across the Middle East portends a much bigger and bloodier war down the road. I hope I am wrong. There is always the possibility that developments behind the scenes paint a more optimistic picture. For example, although details are sketchy, Israel apparently destroyed in an aerial attack a Syrian nuclear facility (possibly provided by North Korea) in September. But I doubt it. Bush is a lame duck. The appeasement-minded Democrats are ascendant, and Americans are confused and demoralized.

What is needed at this point is fresh thinking on the nature of the enemy we face and the proper strategy to combat it. Time is growing short. It took Hitler just 5 years to build a military powerhouse out of an economic basket case and launch World War II.

I was an early supporter of the President's war strategy, believing that the removal from power of the Taliban and the Saddam regime (which I still believe were the correct moves) were part of a plan for the destruction of the Iranian theocracy and the neutralization of other terror-supporting regimes such as Syria. I supported the cover we gave the Iraqis while they set up their "democracy". It's time, now, that our leaders recognize that democracy grafted onto a mystic culture that neither believes in nor understands freedom is a formula for mob rule, and the mob that is now taking over is our enemy.

Despite a temporary (I believe) lull in the terror in Iraq, the "War on Terror" has crumbled into an incoherent mess, as events in Pakistan indicate. President Bush should use his remaining time in office to reformulate America's war strategy around the goal of destroying the Iranian and Syrian regimes, and releasing the Iraqi's to their own fate.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Comments on the Recent New Jersey Election

New Jersey's $450 million bond issue to fund stem cell research was the highlight of the recent otherwise ho-hum election. This referendum was defeated by a solid 53-47% margin which was a surprise to nearly everyone. The defeat has reverberated around the nation because New Jersey is considered to be a "liberal" state which should have made passage easy.

Various reasons have been given to explain the defeat. The most prevalent explanation is that N.J. voters, fed up with high taxes, budget deficits, and fiscal mismanagement, simply registered a protest against Trenton politicians. Considering that the state has been a bi-partisan fiscal mess for a long time, this explanation may be just a little too pat.

Considering the controversial nature of stem cell research, it seems more likely that most voters' motivation on this issue had little to do with state finances and a lot to do with individual conviction. On this, it is generally assumed that a yes vote means support for stem cell research, while a no vote indicates opposition.

But the issue here is not stem cell research as such, but the morality of "public" financing of it. My "no" vote on this bond issue was based primarily on the belief that opponents of stem cell research should not be forced to pay for something that contradicts their beliefs (religious or not). In addition, proponents of stem cell research should be willing to fund such research as private individuals through donations, direct investments in private companies, or some other means. They have no right to impose the costs of their beliefs on others through the taxing powers of the state.

I make these comments as a strong supporter of this very promising area of medical research. All aspects of stem cell inquiry, including embryonic, should proceed unfeddered. I do not believe that an embryo is a human being. An actual, living , breathing person is. An embryo is, in fact, a potential human being, and to the extent that embryonic study yields treatments to alleviate the suffering and/or prevent the deaths of actual human beings makes this area of research highly moral; moral, that is, if man's life is the standard of value.

Never-the-less, to support stem cell research on the basis of man's value while trampling on the rights of those who may disagree is a contradiction in terms and negates the moral argument in its favor. Public (i.e., coercive) funding of stem cell research is a violation if an individual's right to act on his own judgement and is therefore immoral.

I don't know how many people view this issue as I do, but my vote against the $450 million stem cell research bond issue (public question #2) for the above-stated reasons just may be one explanation for its defeat.

Post Reference 13

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Money, Politics, and the First Amendment

“The sad truth is that weary and wary candidates all over America are on the phone every day to their affluent supporters, pleading for more money. However reluctantly, it's a game that all save the wealthiest candidates must play, if only to protect themselves from the big money their opponents might raise.

"Ever since 1976, when the Supreme Court ruled in Buckley vs. Valeo that mandatory limits on personal spending violate a candidate's First Amendment rights, the cost of campaigns has skyrocketed. Any candidate who is not wealthy must spend huge blocks of time raising money, much of it from people who live outside his district or state. Some argue, in fact, that fundraising makes it impossible for officeholders to meet their constitutional obligations to represent the needs of the vast majority of their constituents.”

A Corrosive effect on Democracy by Richard C. Leone, the New Jersey Star Ledger, 10/24/07.

Richard C. Leone of the Century Foundation laments the plight of American politicians whom he obviously sees as victims of big money in politics. But he has it exactly backwards, reversing cause and effect.

Having accrued to itself massive power to regulate and control the economic and personal affairs of the American people, the political class is now reaping what it has sown. The relentless growth of lobbying and campaign money has paralleled the growth of government power (at all levels). But make no mistake, the increasing need of private citizens to pour money into politics is the effect. State power is the cause.

Leone and many others don’t see it this way, of course. They simply believe that a way must be found to get the special interest money out of politics without ever addressing the cause. They apparently believe that the politicians should be able to go merrily on their way using the coercive power of the state to regulate peoples lives without being “corrupted” and “brutalized”; i.e., without having to answer to the very people, as represented by campaign contributors and lobbyists, whose lives they are effecting.

But the attempt to roll back the peoples’ ability to be involved in the workings of our government is a threat to the crucial first amendment of our constitution, which guarantees in part “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” A lobby is a peaceable assembly. To gain “access” to a politician (through campaign contributions) in order to “influence” legislation that effects one’s interests is to “petition the Government”.

Admittedly, this is a less-than-desirable process that opens the door to outright bribery and corruption. But the money-in-politics problem is a direct result of our mixed economy (a mixture of freedom and government controls). To now take steps to protect politicians from the people they govern is perverse and makes a mockery of the uniquely American principle embodied in the phrase “a government of the people, for the people, and by the people”.

What’s to be done? For starters, repeal all campaign finance laws that restrict political contributions and replace them with strict “sunshine” laws that require the publication of all such contributions large and small. They should be published in such a way that all voters have easy and “user-friendly” ways of checking on who is supporting what politician. This “full and immediate disclosure” policy can then enable voters to factor political contribution patterns into their voting decisions. While certain rules concerning lobbyists may be appropriate and consistent with the first amendment, generally I oppose any restrictions on the right of lobbyists (who represent the interests of private citizens) to gain access to politicians to make their case on issues that effect them.

In the end, though, there is only one way to get money out of politics. Get politics out of money; i.e., roll back the regulatory and taxing power the state holds over industry and commerce as well as other areas of government control, such as education.

Leone ends his piece with another sneak attack on the first amendment, with the following statements:

“Does democracy work best when everyone is entitled to all the speech he can afford to buy? Or are the interests of democracy served best with a level playing field on which we all agree to "limits" on speech as a trade-off for reducing the influence that money has in the process of campaigning and governing?

"Finally, how can we call speech "free" and then place a price on it -- and an ever more expensive price at that?”

Equating free speech with the right to impose financial (or other) costs on others , which is what Leone is saying, is a complete perversion of the meaning of the term “free speech”. The first amendment states “Congress shall make no law…abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” Ayn Rand, in her usual succinct manner, explains it best:

Freedom of speech means freedom from interference, suppression or punitive action by the government- and nothing else. It does not mean the right to demand the financial support or the material means to express your views at the expense of other men who may not wish to support you. Freedom of speech includes the freedom not to agree, not to listen and not to support one’s own antagonists. A “right” does not include the material implementation of that right by other men; it includes only the freedom to earn that implementation by one’s own effort.

Private citizens have any number of ways to express their opinions, including letters to the editor, conversations with other people, financially supporting organizations that publish material advocating one’s viewpoints and, of course, the internet. Indeed, this blog post is an expression of my freedom of speech, and it’s not costing me a cent.

Yet dangerous ideas like the above get serious consideration. It is hard for me to write Leone’s position on free speech off as an innocent misunderstanding of the first amendment. The idea of imposing an obligation on some people to support the “free” speech rights of others is at the heart of an incidious bill currently making its way through Congress called, in typical Orwellian fashion, the Fairness Doctrine (which I will address in some detail in a future post).

The alleged “problem” of money in politics is here to stay as long as we accept the principle that governmental force is an appropriate method for people (or groups of people) to deal with one another. Rolling back our precious first amendment rights is no “solution”.

Post Reference 13

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Anti-Tax Dems?

The House voted 405-2 to extend the tax ban on internet access for another four years. The ban was originally passed in 1998 and renewed in 2004. "The moratorium bans taxes on internet access, double taxation- by two or more states or other entities- of a product or service bought over the internet, and discriminatory taxes that treat Internet purchaces differently from other types of sales"(New Jersey Star-Ledger, 10/17/07).

"By voting to continue the tax moratorium, the House will help promote innovation, affordable Internet access, and broadband services for American consumers and businesses," said:

Rudy Giuliani?

Steve Forbes?


The Ghost of Ronald Reagan?

Nope. That was Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi! The same Nancy Pelosi who, along with her party, is itching to raise income, dividend, and capital gains taxes, thus stifling innovation and raising the cost of goods and services "for American consumers and businesses".

Added Rep. Mel Watt, another Democrat, "This bill is pro-consumer, pro-innovation and pro-technology."

What's going on here? Democrats talking about zero taxes on something? Embracing "supply-side economics"? Recognizing the harmful affects of taxes on economic incentives?

Well, maybe not quite. They did shoot down a Republican bill to permanently block internet taxes. And silicon valley is in California and is a major contributor to the Dems. And next year is the election.

But, hey, we'll take it.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Golden Anniversary of an Inspiration

Upon completion, after some 12 years, of her novel ATLAS SHRUGGED, Ayn Rand remarked to some friends; “I know that I am challenging the cultural tradition of two and a half thousand years”.

Later, in searching for a publisher, a primary consideration for Rand was to find someone who understood fully the intellectual and philosophical implications of her book and who would be willing to face the storm of hostility she expected it to touch off. In a meeting with Random House, vice-president Donald Klopfer stated; “If you propose to offer a moral defense of capitalism, wouldn’t you have to clash with the entire tradition of Judeo-Christian ethics?” Rand chose Random House.

Atlas Shrugged was published on October 10, 1957, 50 years ago today. As Rand predicted, and following the pattern of her previous novel THE FOUNTAINHEAD but on a much wider and more intense scale, ATLAS SHRUGGED touched off a firestorm of criticism and almost universally negative reviews. And again as in the case of her previous novel, ATLAS became an instant and huge commercial success, powered mainly through the grassroots by word-of-mouth. On the success of AS, Random House’s Bennett Cerf told Ayn Rand: “It’s remarkable! In all my years of publishing, I’ve never seen anything like it. To break through against such enormous opposition!”

Today ATLAS SHRUGGED (as well as all of Ayn Rand’s books, both fiction and non-fiction), continues to sell briskly and in fact its sales are accelerating. AS and its philosophy Objectivism, laid out by Rand in a series of non-fiction books, lectures, and essays have generated world-wide interest and influence that has steadily grown stronger as the years pass. The movie version of the novel, with Angelina Joli contracted to play the heroine Dagney Taggart (which she says has been a life-long ambition of hers) is tentatively slated for release in 2008.

The moral revolution in AS, demonstrated in the form of a breathtaking action story that makes the book hard to put down, is that rational, enlightened self-interest rather than altruistic self-sacrificial service to others is the proper moral code for man to live by. Thus, Ayn Rand has broken the monopoly on morality held by altruism (both religious and secular). Based on neither the commands of a supernatural being (religion) nor on the commands of “society” (secular), the Objectivist ethics is based on man’s life on earth and the objectively provable requirements for his survival as an individual human being.

Under Rand's code of ethics, both altruism and the conventional view of selfishness are rejected as two sides of the same coin, both requiring human sacrifice. Thus, rational selfishness means living one's life by one's own effort and for one's own long term happiness, neither sacrificing oneself to others (altruism), nor sacrificing others to oneself (conventional selfishness). Needless to say, this non-sacrificial code of morality is the most widely misunderstood aspect of Ayn Rand's Objectivism and a full understanding of it requires much thought and study. Fortunately, Rand has presented a great (and entertaining) place to start; with her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

While the widespread and growing influence of the ideas presented in AS both in America and around the world and among both ordinary people and prominent persons are beyond question, how deeply rooted that influence is in the culture is not easily gauged. Undoubtedly, the number of people who call themselves Objectivists is still very small. What is certain is that parts of Rand’s philosophy are scattered widely among many millions of people who might not agree with it in its entirety. I also believe that there are many “closet” Rand admirers, even in the religious community, who find much to agree with her on but who, nonetheless, may not want to identify with an atheist, or who perhaps do not feel comfortable having to defend a philosophy they do not fully understand (which was me until very recently). Still others may be inspired by the heroic view of man presented through the novel’s characters while finding very little agreement with the political/social ideals they represent. Hillary Clinton, for example, claims to have been influenced by Ayn Rand but one would hardly call her a believer in limited government.

On peoples' personal lives is likely where ATLAS's strongest influence has occurred thus far. In an essay (see link below), Dr. Yaron Brook describes this phenomena: "As executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, I see the impact of Atlas Shrugged on a daily basis. I'm continually amazed by how many people, from every walk of life and every part of the planet, from high school students to political activists in countries from Hong Kong to Belarus to Ghana, eagerly tell me: ' Atlas Shrugged changed my life.'Scores of business leaders, from CEOs of Fortune 500 companies to young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, say they have derived great spiritual fuel from Atlas Shrugged. Many tell me that the novel has motivated them to make the most of their lives, inspiring them to be more ambitious, more productive, and more successful in their work. And many of America's politicians and intellectuals who claim to fight for economic freedom name Atlas Shrugged as the book that has most inspired them."

ATLAS SHRUGGED (as well as THE FOUNTAINHEAD) has definitely been a source of inspiration to me over the years. Since discovering ATLAS some 40 years ago, I have read both novels twice in their entirety and have turned to them enumerable times to re-read particular scenes. "Re-living" the way the novel's heros dealt with, struggled and won against impossible odds without sacrificing their principles has given me fuel and optimism, especially during times when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed in my life.

One good barometer of Rand’s and her novel’s influence can be measured by the level of criticism and outright hostility toward her ideas. By this measure, her influence is certainly growing. This is not surprising, considering the growing number of trained Objectivist intellectuals who regularly appear on the major news outlets such as CNBC, Fox News, CNN, etc., as well as by the number of their letters and op-eds published in major newspapers around the country. In addition, the academic barriers to serious study of Objectivism are steadily breaking down with more than 30 major universities now offering courses by Objectivist professors, and Objectivist study clubs operating on campuses around the country.

Criticism of AS and of Rand has usually been of the ad hominem variety. In fact, every attack I have ever seen has involved use of snide, unsubstantiated, anti-intellectual insults, or else was based on honest misunderstanding, willful misrepresentations, or outright lies. I have yet to see a solid refutation based on an accurate representation of any of her fundamental ideas or viewpoints. But, with the still limited but growing number of Objectivist scholars, thanks in large part to the educational programs of the Ayn Rand Institute, it will become increasingly difficult for critics to avoid confronting Objectivism head-on on the intellectual level.

So, 50 years after publication, ATLAS SHRUGGED and its radical new philosophy of reason/rational egoism/ individual rights/capitalism has become a force to be reckoned with. In the future, Ayn Rand’s ideas promise to add a whole new, and badly needed, dimension to the cultural/political battles.

Happy Anniversary, ATLAS SHRUGGED

P.S.- See also the essays "The influence of Atlas Shrugged", "Ayn Rands Legacy of Reason and Freedom" and "Good press for Objectivism and Atlas Shrugged" at Principles in Practice, the blog of The Objective Standard. Also on Forbes there is an interesting piece describing the surging interest in Ayn Rand.

See Post Reference 12

Sunday, October 7, 2007

A Hollow Victory

President Bush's veto of SCHIP is far from the tough stand against the incremental advance toward socialized medicine that Bush himself warned about. In fact, he and the GOP leadership are doing more to advance the Democrats' agenda than the Dems could hope to do on their own.

In vetoing this bill, Bush simultaneously declared his support for the original SCHIP program, while throwing up the white flag of surrender by signaling his intention to compromise with congress on an SCHIP expansion bill which would cost less. Bush has proposed a $30 billion dollar 5-year SCHIP bill. The vetoed bill was for $60 billion.

Thus, the war is over, declared Bush. The Left has won. The only fight left will be over where between $30 and $60 billion the final cost will be.

The Dems' response was swift and brutal. "Heartless veto", cried Harry Reid, Senate majority leader, "Bush is denying health care to millions of low-income kids in America." This is said about a man whose disagreement over the program is only a matter of degree, not on principled opposition.

"We're not going to compromise",declared Reid.

Thus the Democrats appear confidant, consistent, and morally certain; while the Republicans look cowardly and unprincipled (which most of them are, today). Worse still, the GOP will now have to endure the vicious attacks of the left-wing smear merchants for opposing SCHIP, without even having opposed it!

Had the GOP put up a united and principled fight to not only kill SCHIP, but to offer instead a plan of their own to correct the major flaws in government policies that are driving up the cost of health care and health care insurance, they at least would have accomplished something in return for having to withstand the assault from the Left. They would have at least offered America a strong alternative while laying the foundation for a principled election strategy on health care for 2008.

Instead, they are withering and handing the Dems a gift by not forcing them to acknowledge and defend their blatantly socialist agenda.

What is sickenly frustrating to me is that the Republicans do have the makings of a comprehensive health care reform plan. Ideas such as restoring competition to the insurance market by ending the ban on inter-state sales of insurance products; rolling back and ending government mandates on what must be included in insurance policies, thus allowing individuals to tailor their policies to their own interests (age, income, marital status, chosing deductables, etc.); and attacking the ridiculous government-imposed third-party-payer system of health care financing, through HSAs and individual tax write-offs as generous as those offered to employers, have all been floating around Congress in GOP-sponsored bills.

Our health care financing system is in deep trouble, becoming steadily less affordable even to middle class families. The cause is massive government intrusion into almost every facet of health care. Most segments of our economy, being comparatively free from state regulation, are marked by falling prices relative to income, thus bringing the benefits of industrial production of goods and services to lower and lower income levels. Look around and you will see that nearly everything we take for granted, from cars to telephones to appliances to indoor plumbing to television to jet travel to cable to all manner of electronics etc., etc., etc. started out as luxury items for the rich but steadily became affordable to even those classified as "poor" as producers sought to expand their markets through relentless cost-cutting. The same degree of freedom, with Americans paying directly for the medical products amd services they need and desire, would do the same for health care.

The above-described ideas are a start toward what could be a comprehensive plan for radical reform along free market lines that would offer Americans "A choice, not an echo" (to borrow a phrase from the 1964 Goldwater campaign). Such a plan, centered around the concept of individual rights, would require a degree of political courage that is not now evident among the GOP leadership, with the possible exception of Rudy Guiliani (stay tuned).

First, the Republican party must unite behind a single comprehensive proposal, rejecting the Mitt Romney approach (which served as a model for the Hillary Clinton scheme).

Second, the party must break with President Bush and his neo-conservative backers, who suckered the Reagan/Goldwater conservatives (including me) and thus destroyed that coalition. Bush on 9/25 told the U.N. that "everyone 'has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food and clothing and housing and medical care' and that the American government has a duty to privide for those needs" (David Holcberg letter in the New York Sun 10/1/07). As N.J. Star-Ledger conservative columnist Paul Mulshine recently pointed out, the neo-cons' roots stem from the liberal-left and their stripes have never changed.

Third, the GOP must declare explicitly that it is not the government's job to guarantee health insurance to everyone. It is, however, the government's job to establish the conditions necessary for health insurance that is affordable to all income levels (i.e., a fully functioning free market where individuals, doctors, and providers are free to make their own health care decisions).

As of this writing, the GOP is in big trouble for the 2008 election. What better time to boldly go where the current leadership fears to tread?

See Post Reference 11

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


News Flash: Bush vetoes SCHIP legislation.

Socialists have apparently penetrated much deeper into America’s health care establishment than I would have thought possible. In my post of 9/8/07 I reported that the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics where supporting a huge expansion of the State Childrens’ Health Insurance Program, which would greatly advance the cause of socialized medicine in this country. Now comes this report by the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner that “[t]he American Cancer Society announced recently that it will spend its entire advertising budget next year… campaigning for a government takeover of the U.S. health-care system.”

This development is particularly shocking because the Cancer Society’s primary function is to foster cutting edge scientific research on cancer. Nothing could do more to cripple that research than to shackle the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, university research departments, and other private scientific cancer research efforts than to put them under the thumb of a government-run health care dictatorship, where state health bureaucrats would have sole decision-making authority over the medications, surgical techniques, and procedures for treating cancer.

Scientific advances are driven by one, and only one, process…the thinking of individual minds. And there is but one requirement for the thinking mind…freedom.

Yet freedom is precisely what the American Cancer Society proposes to banish from American Health Care. Thus the life’s work of cancer (and other medical) researchers and their investors will be subject, not to their own judgements and market risk assessments, but to the arbitrary whims of government bureaucrats. This would have a crippling effect on medical innovation. Ayn Rand explains:

“The progress of theoretical science and technology…is moved by such a complex and interconnected sum of the work of individual minds that no computer or committee [or bureaucrat] could predict and prescribe its course. The discoveries in one branch of knowledge lead to unexpected discoveries in another: the achievements in one field open countless roads in all the others…Who can predict when, where or how a given bit of information will strike an active mind and what it will produce?
[But] the mind is an attribute of the individual and it does not work under orders, controls and compulsion, as centuries of stagnation [prior to the industrial revolution] have demonstrated. Progress cannot be planned by government, and it cannot be restricted or retarded: it can only be stopped, as every statist government [and system of socialized medicine] has demonstrated.” (Return of the Primitive, pages 285-86, 281)

In the mid 1980s, Dr Napoleone Ferrara began research on finding a way to stop a process which he believed existed and needed to be discovered. The process, called angeogenesis, is the ability of cancer cells to grow their own blood vessels and thus feed their own growth. Financed by his far-sighted employer, Genentech Corporation, Dr. Ferrara worked through years marked by hints of success followed by devastating failures and dead ends. Driven by his vision, neither he nor Genentech gave up. Once having discovered and proved his original hypothesis, Dr. Ferrara and his team commenced work on a bio-engineered drug to stop angeogenesis and thus kill the cancer cells. The result was Avastin.

Avastin was approved first for treating colon cancer (2004), then lung cancer (2006). Today Avastin is in clinical trials for treatment of at least 20 other types of cancer. All of this progress was made possible by the vision and determination of Dr. Ferrara, his team of researchers, and a patient, far-sighted company willing to risk huge amounts of capital.

Indeed, today over 80% of all new drugs originate in the United States. And America remains a magnet for people the world over seeking cutting edge medical treatment. It is products like Avastin, which require a commitment of decades and untold millions of dollars, that would be impossible under the sufficating bureaucracy and tyranny of socialized medicine. Researchers and investors must be free to follow their visions, take their risks, offer their products for sale on the free market, and make their fortunes if we are to expect future Avastins to emerge.

My Son-in-law is a cancer survivor, and I can't help but wonder how many future sons and daughters-in-law won't beat their cancers once the entrepreneurial endeavers such as the one sighted above are replaced by research-by-political-pull/favoritism/connections which is a necessary result of state-run medicine. I wonder how many of today's children will one day suffer and die prematurely because of visionary research not pursued, risky investments not made, and fortunes not earned.

The support of the AMA and the AAP for the SCHIP legislation can, perhaps, be rationalized (though not justified) as an attempt by those two organizations to head off more draconian legislation by making a deal with the devil. But one can give no such leeway to the Cancer Society. As an organization geared specifically to advancing scientific knowledge in the cancer arena, the American Cancer Society cannot possibly fail to understand the social, economic, and political conditions necessary to the success of its cause. Therefore, one can only conclude that the leadership of this venerable American institution has been hijacked by people with a socialist political agenda. But whether by design or by some misplaced belief that they are somehow advancing the cause of fighting cancer, this is, I submit, a betrayal of the scientists, the charitable donors, the future cancer victims, and of any American who values his freedom.

Health care promises to be the domestic issue of the 2008 election campaign. The advocates of socialized medicine are energized, organized and ready for battle, with their representatives planted among some of America’s premier and influential institutions and corporations. They are announcing openly and boldly their plans. Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, for example, announced his scheme for national health care which forces everyone to abide by the state’s “healthy living” mandates or be denied care, despite being forced into the government’s plan. (see Be Healthy or Else).

The opponents of government-run health care are by-and-large disorganized, demoralized, and missing the real issue here. People such as Tanner and Dr. David Gratzer (and many others) have done an invaluable job of demonstrating the failures and impracticality of socialized medicine. While this is an important starting point, it is not and never has been enough. Some new socialist gang will always come along and say “Yes, but my gang can make it work, this time.” And that is exactly what is happening today.

The defenders of health care freedom must recognize, and soon, that the socialists can only be stopped by a principled campaign based on the supremacy of individual rights. What all Objectivists know, and others must learn, is that this is a moral battle that can only be fought on the philosophical battlefield. Compromises and me-too-ism won’t do. They never have.

In the age-old battle of the individual against the state, the Democrats have come down squarely on the side of the state. If the Republicans are going to have any chance to prevail next year, they will have to put forth a bold and comprehensive health care proposal that would include massive deregulation that puts the individual American firmly in control of his own health care, free from governmental coercion. The Democrats have left no doubt about their collectivist intentions and thus have opened the door wide to a radically different counter proposal. Sadly, however, most of the Republican leadership is moving in the opposite direction, competing with the Democrats on how, not whether, to expand government’s control of health care. In the end, a grassroots movement may be our only chance to stop the socialist juggernaut.

And our time is running out!

See Post Reference 10

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

SCHIP Update

According to an AP article in the N.J. Star-Ledger (9/26/07), the house has passed the latest State Children's Health Insurance Program expansion bill (see my post of 9/08/07) The vote was 265-159. The opponents, all Republicans, have been taking a pounding by Democrats for being "anti-children", etc., with the Dems even using sick children as props to aid in their drive toward socialized medicine.

The tactics have worked as at least 40 Republicans switched their votes to favor this bill (the original vote was 225-204), including, to my dismay, my rep Michael Ferguson. These "moderate" (read "unprincipled") Republicans are in tight races for re-election next year.

The jubilant Democrats, meanwhile, are getting more open about their agenda. Said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles Rangel, the House's most powerful member, "It hardly matters that the expansion would be expensive or a step toward socialized health care...the question is, Were you with the kids or were you not?" (emphasis added) Thus Rangel has brazenly declared that the rights of parents, patients, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and health clinics, etc. "hardly matter". He and the Dems now assume that the American people have lost the knowledge of what individual rights actually are (mostly true)...that appeals to emotion over logic is a winning political strategy (judging by the cowardly actions of many Republicans, this is also true)...and that a truly principled, intellectual opposition is nowhere to be found.

And with at least 40 Republicans willing to snatch an extra term rather than stand on principle, Rangel is probably right. On what grounds can these GOP congressmen now stand when they face the coming Clinton/Democrat assault on medical freedom? I have seen this before, and it doesn't work. Winning at any cost just paves the way for the opposition while demoralizing your supporters.

The Democrats may be starting to overplay their hand but only a Republican Party willing to risk losing a few seats in the short term by standing up for the free-market principles I thought they stood for can expose it. SCHIP is supposed to be "for the benefit of the children", according to its advocates. But no one who would sacrifice the future freedom and quality of health care of today's children can claim to be their champions. Only those who oppose SCHIP and support free-market reforms and individual rights in medicine are the true champions of children.

President Bush has vowed to veto this bill and when he does, Republicans will be under unrelenting public pressure to over-ride it. Most Americans, not having been given a true alternative, are currently on the side of the Democrats. The Republicans face a defining moment and should seize it by not only opposing the expansion but working to, as Michael F. Cannon of the Cato Institute advocates, call for the end of SCHIP altogether. This will allow them to begin to present a true alternative to the Dem's statist health care agenda.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Pavarotti and Rand

Recent essays about Luciano Pavarotti and Ayn Rand have pointed to some intriguing similarities of these two great and influencial figures.

An Investor's Business Daily editorial, describes how Pavarotti brought opera from the stuffy world of the European elite to the average man around the world.

Similarly, a post on Ergosum brilliantly describes how Ayn Rand brought philosophy down from the ivory tower to the average man around the world.

Where Pavarotti was derided by the operatic elites, Rand was derided by the intellectual elites.

Both Pavarotti and Rand produced prodigious volumes of work that sell in large quantities to millions around the world year after year.

Pavarotti has inspired and influenced millions to explore opera.

Rand has inspired and influenced millions through her philosophy Objectivism and her classic novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.

Both achieved huge commercial success never before seen in their respective fields of opera and philosophy.

Luciano Pavarotti's recent death has left a legacy that I believe will only grow in stature and influence.

Ayn Rand, who died in 1982, has already achieved a stature as one of the most important and provocative thinkers of modern times. Interest in and serious study of Objectivism, which she called "a philosophy for living on earth" and which I have adopted as my own, has in recent years been growing in academia despite lingering hostility. Her classic novel, Atlas Shrugged (which will reach its 50th anniverary in October 2007) is ranked by Library of Congress and Book-of-the-Month Club surveys as the second most influencial book in America, after the Bible. Her philosophical legacy and influence will, I believe continue to grow strongly over time.

The parallels in the careers of Rand and Pavarotti illustrated in these two essays just struck me as quite interesting.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Excerpts 4- On "Hate" Crimes

"When the McCain-Feingold law empowered government to regulate the quantity, content and timing of political campaign speech about government, it was predictable that the right of free speech would increasingly be sacrificed to various social objectives that free speech supposedly impedes. And it was predictable that speech suppression would become an instrument of cultural combat, used to settle ideological scores and advance political agendas by silencing adversaries."

"Congress is currently trying to enact yet another "hate crime" law that would authorize enhanced punishments for crimes motivated by, among other things, sexual orientation."

From an op-ed by George F. Will

This piece by Will needs little commentary. However, I would like to elaborate on a point that he touches on, the issue of "hate crime" legislation.

By accepting "hate crime" legislation, America has accepted the principle that the government can prosecute someone based on his beliefs, above and separate from the actual, objective facts of a criminal case. It is this precedent, possibly more so even than the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that infringes on free speech rights up to 60 days before an election, that is in play here. Using the understandable abhorence of any decent person toward an act of violence by one human being against another based on race, religion, gender, etc., as a springboard, the statists have managed to establish into law a crucial building block of totalitarianism- the criminalization of ideas.

With "hate crime" legislation, coupled with the prohibitions against public criticisms of incumbent politicians by private individuals or groups during an election season (McCain-Feingold, or the "incumbent protection act" as free speech advocates call it), we can see, in the Oakland case, the power of legal precedents (and of philosophical ideas) which, once established take on a life of their own. If "the terms 'natural family,' 'marriage' and 'family values' are considered intolerably inflammatory" (i.e., "hate speech"), then it is only a matter of time before terms
like "limited government", "free enterprise", or "color-blind society" will be "intolerably inflammatory" toward recipients of welfare-state largess, environmentalist "protectors" of raw nature, or advocates of racial quotas and preferences, respectively.

McCain-Feingold and "hate crime" legislation have established the principle that free speech and thought are privileges rather than inalienable rights. This has paved the way for a full-fledged assault on the First Ammendment which is just beginning. The dire long-term consequences of these and any similar laws for our republic cannot be overstated and cannot be contained. The only antidote to this ominous trend is to attack it at its root; i.e., to repeal the McCain-Feingold and hate crime laws.

Post References 8

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Of SCHIP and Poison Pills

If you have ever wondered how socialism can advance in a country founded on the principle of inalienable individual rights, take a look at the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). Created in 1997 by a Republican congress and signed into law by President Clinton, ostensibly to extend government health insurance coverage to uninsured children of the “poor”, this federal program is now up for renewal in Washington.

The reauthorization bill, which as of this writing has passed both houses of congress, greatly expands the program beyond its original intent. The Associated Press reported on the intent of the program’s advocates earlier this year: “[Senator Hillary] Clinton said she would introduce legislation to expand the Children’s Health Insurance Program to all families, regardless of income.” ( N.J. Star Ledger, 1/22/07, emphasis added). On the face of it, this would seem to make no sense. Why, it’s opponents ask, would one want to set up an incentive for parents to drop their private insurance and shift their children’s coverage to the government-run program? Indeed, President Bush has vowed to veto this legislation on these very grounds.

Viewed within the context of the motives of the bill’s sponsors, however, this is precisely the point. It is intended to drive out private insurers. As syndicated columnist Robert Novak reported in a June 28 op-ed in the New York Post, “this proposal is the thin edge of the wedge to achieve the longtime goal of government-supplied universal health insurance and the suffocation of the private system”. As noted by Novak, SCHIPs already has been expanded to cover some adults, and this provision will be extended and presumably expanded in the reauthorization bill. Likewise, Investor’s Business Daily (8/01/07) reports that coverage would be extended “to include those who can afford private insurance for their children”, as well as “children of illegal aliens…which would extend coverage to 70 percent of America’s children “ (emphasis added).

What one must understand is that socialism is being introduced into this country by the almost imperceptable process of incrementalism. The small, original CHIP “poison pill” is following the same growth path as other Federal social programs, with the same incidious results of increasing the cost to families outside of the program via higher taxes and the increased cost of private insurance due to the inevitable price spiral that results from any “free” government service. (Never mind that SCHIPs will be “paid for” by increased cigarette taxes, so that only evil smokers will pay. Smoking has been declining for decades in America, and it is dishonest and fraudulent to base an expanding federal program on a declining revenue base. The “cost” of the program will eventually have to be borne by all other taxpayers and parents. Besides, smokers are using a legal product and shouldn’t be singled out for special punishment to camouflage the politicians true intentions”.) The increasing burden on the private sector whose taxes pay for the Federal welfare-state programs pushes more and more people out of the private market and eventually into the government-run system. Like the circular wave pattern of a stone dropped in a pond, and helped along by employers all-too-eager to pass along to the government the ever-rising cost of their employee coverage, SCHIPs is set up precisely to take advantage of this process, steadily expanding as the private market shrinks.

There are a number of reasons why the advance of socialist despotism can procede despite the fact that there is no appetite for it among most people in this country. For one thing, the tactics used by the socialists represent a kind of package deal that makes it very hard for modern politicians and most Americans to oppose. In the case of SCHIPs, the program’s proponents equate the desireable goal of getting all children covered by health insurance with the creation of coercive government actions that violate individual rights. Should one protest by questioning why some parents should be able to impose the cost of their obligations to their children on other people; or to rebel against the state’s intrusion into and usurpation of the parent’s right to make the health care decisions for their children; or to oppose the unfairness of forcing parents who have provided their own children with coverage (or people with no children) to pay higher taxes for other’s children, he is immediately smeared as being “anti-children”.

In a culture where a selfless concern for others is considered a virtue and selfishness is automatically evil, this blatant appeal to emotion over reason is enough to silence most of the opposition. After all, what is concern for justice, individual rights, and the dangers of an expanding predatory state in the face of the charge that “you don’t care about the children!”? To stand up against such a charge requires a vigorous, principled commitment to defend one’s own right to decide if, when, and how one will offer help to others, and to reject the socialists’ claim that, in essence, compassion and charity grow out of the barrel of a gun. The issue, Ayn Rand writes, is not “whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar….The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime…. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. (Philosophy, Who Needs It, page 61)”.

And this is the crux of the matter. This “popular” bill is supported by a majority of Americans because of their inability to see the forest for the trees. It is Americans’ sense of compassion and generosity that is being turned against them and is being used by the socialists to sacrifice their freedom (and, for that matter, the future freedom of the children they claim to care about). The failure of Americans to understand the broad principles and long-term consequences involved here (the “forest”) is making the advance of socialism possible. It’s not whether children should or should not have health insurance. This battle is rather a small part of a much bigger war- between whether an individual’s life belongs to himself or to the state; i.e., between individualism and collectivism.

The consequences of ignoring the “forest” can be seen in the disgraceful performance of the alleged enemies of socialism, with at least 17 Republicans, including top GOP senators Charles Grassley and Orin Hatch (who said, incredibly, “It’s difficult for me to understand how anyone wouldn’t want to do this.” N.J.S.L. 8/02/07) joining the Democrats in passing this bill by a veto-proof margin of 68-32. (To be fair, the House GOP took a stronger stand against this legislation, with the final vote being a much closer 225-204 in favor, making it likely that a Bush veto can be sustained.)

The most deplorable, and dismaying, aspect was the action taken by the organizations representing the people who would be socialized medicine's greatest victims, the doctors. Both the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics are supporting SCHIP. Undoubtedly, there are doctors within these groups who oppose this legislation, but they are apparently in the minority. In any event, if the doctors, who should be at the forefront of the battle against socialized medicine, are actually siding with the statists, then our health care freedom may be all but doomed. Whatever short term gain the AMA and the AAP think they will achieve by making this deal with the devil, they have in essence sold out the rest of America, and their own professional futures, by failing to vigorously defend their own independence and rights.

In addition to advancing their drive toward socialized medicine, there is an ominous parallel between the SCHIP issue and Hillary Clinton’s pre-school bill. In my post of 7/29/07, I said “ She has brazenly declared that the primary responsibility for the education of American children rests with the state, not the parents”. If you want to see an example of the power of ideas in action, and how the identification of basic principles can provide you with a bridge of understanding between seemingly unrelated issues, this is one. Whereby Clinton’s pre-school bill would drive a further wedge between parents and their children on education, SCHIPs drives a wedge between parents and their children on health care. The state will have Soviet-style control over the content and method of your childrens’ health care, as it has control over the content, method and curriculum of your childrens’ education, if their agenda is allowed to be carried out to its logical conclusion.

An example of how the left’s health care agenda is being advanced through the state’s hammerlock on this country’s schools, I offer this bit of information from a report by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons;

"As Task Force documents showed, 'Kids First is really a precursor to the new system.' It could be implemented through Medicaid or another plan. The Task Force advocated school-based health services, built upon 'the highly successful models sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.' The school- based clinics are a 'point of access to comprehensive systems.' About 60% of children who receive services from a school-based clinic located near a health center eventually become health- center users.
The latest pilot program is now underway in Pennsylvania- without so much as a by-your-leave from the legislature. Involved officials have been less than cooperative when legislators try to find out what is going on.
'The more questions we ask, the harder it is to get information,' stated Rep. Sam Rohrer.
HillaryCare is coming in as an educational program. The Department of Education is receiving 'free money' by billing Medicaid directly for 'mental health' services provided in a school setting. Eligibility for Medicaid has been extended to any child who is 'learning disabled,' including anyone who does not meet the goals of 'Outcome-Based Education.' " (emphasis added)

This is why the left is so violently opposed to any attempt to undermine the government’s monopoly on education. This, not some well-intentioned desire to “save” the public schools or to guarantee a quality education for the children. The public school system is a political institution that is being used to advance, on many fronts, the political agenda of the Left (and in some cases, the Right as well).

The steady drift toward statism in this country is and has for decades been carried on one small step at a time. Terrified of being exposed as the authoritarians that they are, the socialists hide behind compassionate-sounding slogans to appeal to peoples’ emotions, while loudly proclaiming their support for free enterprise “There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets”, blustered Hillary Clinton, as reported by Bruce Bartlet. (N.J.S.L. 8/14/07)

They know that socialism would never be accepted by the American people if presented openly and boldly, at least not yet. Their brazen attempt to impose socialized medicine in 1993 (“Hillarycare”) collapsed because most people saw it for what it was. So they fell back on their long-time strategy of creating “poison-pill” programs that expand incrementally over time.

One may suggest that I am being overly dramatic in my assessment of the dangers posed by the SCHIP legislation. For years I have believed that a little statism or socialism couldn’t do much harm. After all, this is America where freedom and Capitalism reign. But events of recent years have demonstrated to me that Ayn Rand was right. Principles matter. “There can be no compromise”, she writes, “ between freedom and government controls; to accept ‘just a few controls’ is to surrender the principle of inalienable individual rights and to substitute for it the principle of the government’s unlimited, arbitrary power, thus delivering oneself into gradual enslavement… There can be no compromise on moral principles” (The Virtue of Selfishness, pages 79&81). If you look around at the slow but persistent erosion of control over our lives, not just in health care and education but on free speech (campaign finance reform), property rights (eminent domain), and a whole host of areas right down to what kinds of ingredients can be used in restaurant foods and wondered at the seemingly unstoppable trend toward even more loss of personal freedom, then perhaps you should give serious consideration to the above quotation

I have come to believe firmly that to stop and reverse the trend toward statism, it is vitally important to recognize that the battle cannot be fought on the enemy’s ground. To oppose this SCHIP expansion while upholding the validity of the original program (as do President Bush, the “free market” Galen institute, among others), is to concede defeat. The GOP, which created SCHIP, has all but collapsed as a meaningful force against the socialist advance, and is now reduced to quibbling merely over the size of the glass of poison America must swallow.

Health care has become, to borrow a phrase, the central front in the war between freedom and statism. Socialism’s advance, after having stalled following the rise of Reagan, is now experiencing renewed vigor in America. But, fueled only by appeals to emotion and resting on a foundation of widespread evasion, it is advancing in an intellectual vacuum left by the implosion of the Bush-led Republican Party that has abandoned it’s Goldwater-Reagan principles of defending the individual against the state, and thus has become a lapdog for the resurgent Left.

Beneath the cultural surface, however, are the rumblings of a new intellectual movement that recognizes that the struggle against Socialism can only be fought, and won, on the philosophical battlefield: that it is a moral fight based on the principle of the supremacy of the individual’s, and every individual’s, right to his own life and liberty; which means, in this context, to be free from the imposition by force of any requirement or obligation to satisfy the needs of others. To paraphrase the above-stated quotation- The issue is not whether you should or should not assist others in getting their children insured. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving that assistance. The issue is whether the health insurance needs of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence.

It is impossible to determine or predict if and when our country (and consequently, the world) will collapse into despotism: whether it will be this generation or the next, or not at all. The intellectual/philosophical underpinnings for a second enlightenment are gathering. But the current trends are ominous. And, as Ronald Reagan has said, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction”. It is only through a principled rejection of the altruist-collectivist premise of the individual’s subordination to the group (i.e., the state), and the embrace of the principle of individualism, i.e., of each person’s right to self-determination and the pursuit of his own happiness free from the forceable interference by others, that our freedom can be saved.

And the counterattack must begin, here and now and in the name of individual rights, with the demand that the SCHIP expansion bill be defeated, and the original program be killed through non-renewal. (As of this writing, different versions have passed Congress and are currently being reconciled in a House-Senate conference committee). The intellectual vacuum can and must be filled by the rise of a principled opposition resting on a foundation of moral certainty, because only a movement armed with the right philosophical ammunition can reverse the disastrous trends currently under way in America.

I will close out this essay with yet another observation from Ayn Rand, a philosopher whose perspective is that of the broad intallectual trends of history spanning centuries. These words were written 46 years ago, and they remain as a warning to anyone who still clings to the illusion that socialist despotism can be averted without a full rejection of its collectivist premise and simultaneous embrace of its ideological opposite, individualism. In these 46 years, we have seen the collapse of American Liberalism, the Conservative Movement which led to the Reagan Revolution, and the rise of the Republican Party to virtual national majority status from 1994-2006. Yet in this period we have seen the size, scope, and intrusiveness of government at all levels expand exponentially, conclusively demonstrating the power of ideas left fundamentally unchallenged by better

I quote from For The New Intellectual, page 46;

"If America perishes, it will perish by intellectual default. There is no diabolical conspiracy to destroy it: no conspiracy could be big enough or strong enough...There is no national movement for socialism or dictatorship in America, no 'man on horseback' or popular demagogue, nothing but fumbling compromisers and frightened opportunists. Yet we are moving toward full, totalitarian socialism...moved by nothing but the sluggish inertia of unfocussed minds."

Post Reference 7