Thursday, July 31, 2008

Obama’s “Argument from Intimidation”

“There is a certain type of argument which, in fact, is not an argument, but a means of forestalling debate and extorting an opponent’s agreement with one’s undiscussed notions. It is a method of bypassing logic by means of psychological pressure . . . [It] consists of threatening to impeach an opponent’s character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate… It should be classified as a logical fallacy and may be designated as ‘The Argument from Intimidation.’ ”-Ayn Rand

In my critique of Senator Barack Obama’s March 18, 2008, “more perfect union” speech, I said that his handling of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright controversy was about more than Wright’s comments. He was throwing down a gauntlet…essentially declaring that any principled, intellectual ideas that don’t conform to his collectivist-statist agenda would not be tolerated. On May 10, 2008, I wrote:

“When Obama calls on us to “come together”, it is not to voluntary cooperation and association among individuals with common interests that he is referring. It is the independent thinker that he is aiming to subdue. Consider his response to the Reverend Wright controversy. “Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity.” If “divisiveness” is a criterion for condemning what any person says, then any “controversial” idea…i.e., one that threatens the “unity” of the accepted group (i.e., state) wisdom…can be disqualified. The outrageous comments of a Reverend Wright, and the passionate defense of individual rights against the collective offered by the Founding Fathers can both be called “divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity.” His “unity” message is simply a means of discrediting and silencing principled intellectual opposition to his designs.” (emphasis added)

Terry Eastland, on the Weekly Standard blog, reports the following:

“McCain's decision to support the Arizona civil rights initiative, on the ballot on Election Day this fall, means that a critical campaign issue is now in play. The initiative, patterned after ones in California, Washington, and Michigan, requires that the state of Arizona neither advantage nor disadvantage its citizens on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex in allocating limited educational, employment, and contracting opportunities. In those three areas, where state governments have most commonly used race, ethnicity, and sex to favor certain citizens over others--under the name of affirmative action--the initiative proposes nothing less than colorblind law.”

Colorblind law…the principle that all people, as individuals, are equal before the law…is rooted in the principle of inalienable individual rights. This goes straight to the heart of what America stands for. So what was the Obama response? Writes Mr. Eastland:

“Having come out for the Arizona initiative, McCain can't allow himself to be so intimidated by Democratic attacks (note Obama has already accused McCain of taking a position that’s “divisive”) that he fails to argue in its behalf--that he quits on it. Which is, of course, exactly what Obama and his aides would like to see McCain do.” (emphasis added)

As I wrote on May 10, the true significance of Obama’s speech was missed by most of the GOP and conservative opposition:

“But what really counts, in my view, are the abstract principles…the essence…hidden in plain sight throughout this speech.”

The essence of what Obama stands for, as I argued in my three-part critique, is profound hostility toward individual rights. He is the most anti-American major presidential candidate, philosophically speaking, in my lifetime and perhaps in this country’s history. The central principle in the Arizona civil rights initiative is inalienable individual rights. The central principle that Obama must not just oppose but refuse to allow to even enter into the 2008 campaign debate is inalienable individual rights. That is because the central principle that can blow up Obama’s entire collectivist agenda is inalienable individual rights.

Clearly, Mr. Eastland is worried that McCain is not up to the task of overcoming Obama’s Argument from Intimidation…the accusation of divisiveness. But it is crucially important that he does. With this election shaping up as a watershed for America’s future, Obama can not be allowed to frame the entire campaign on his collectivist premise. His strategy for smothering principled debate, openly announced by him on March 18, must be exposed and shut down. What this country desperately needs is exactly the kind of knock-down, ideological-philosophical, divisive campaign battle that Obama fears…one that challenges his socialist-statist agenda with a powerful moral platform of capitalism and individual rights. The Arizona civil rights initiative is tailor-made for the firing of the opening shots.

McCain has said that this campaign will be about big ideas. Now is his chance to make good on that promise. Is he up to the task? We’ll see, but I’m not holding my breath. Alas, his record and stance on other key issues (McCain-Feingold, national service, his support for the $300+ billion mortgage bailout bill, which President Bush recently signed) do not bode well for the current campaign, for the GOP, or for individual rights.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Commentary 40- The "Animal Rights" Threat to Man's Rights

Do not ask for whom the environmentalist bell tolls…it tolls for you (and your family).

The question of animal rights is so obviously absurd that one is tempted to dismiss it with a snicker. One envisions the idea of establishing a police force to patrol the forests and to arrest animals that attack other animals, or to appoint lawyers to represent animals suing other animals. This is the stuff of comic books.

Except that we are not dealing with a comic book story here. Spain is apparently close to adopting a law declaring that apes and other non-human primates have “rights.” In response, Russell Paul La Valle has written a powerful rejoinder to the ideas, and the person, behind both the proposed law and the animal rights movement. It is powerful, because he defends human rights on not only factual but also moral grounds. Here are the relevant excerpts:

Should animals have rights? The quick and only logical answer is no. A "right" is a moral principle that governs one's freedom of action in society. This concept is uniquely, and exclusively, human — man is the only being capable of grasping such an abstraction, understanding his actions within a principled framework and adjusting his behavior so as not to violate the rights of others. The source of rights is man himself, his nature and his capacity for rational thought. To give rights to creatures that are irrational, amoral and incapable of living in a rights-based environment makes a mockery of the very concept of rights and, ultimately, threatens man. (Russell Paul La Valle: Why they're human rights)

I have posted the following comments to the essay:

There is a crucial difference between man and all other living species. As Mr. La Valle points out, man is the only species whose means of survival (reason) requires that he adapt his background to his needs.

The same dangerous logic that leads to “rights” for apes will be the precedent that leads to “rights” for all species. He is correct that this is a threat to man. If animals have “rights” equivalent to man, then man’s very means of survival is negated. It reduces man to existence on the same level as animals, depriving him of exploiting nature through reason and productive work, for that would violate the “rights” of other species.

That’s the real purpose of the animal rights movement, which recognizes the legitimacy of the means of survival of every living species but man. It’s not love of animals, but hatred of man, that motivates this movement. There’s no conflict between protecting animals from malicious cruelty and recognition of rights as the exclusive domain of man.

Without a moral foundation, the concept of individual human rights can not be defended properly. That is because man is the only rational, moral being on earth. So I will expand a bit on the issue because the ultimate consequences are so serious.

In a free society, each individual is free to pursue his own well-being and happiness through his own productive efforts, and in voluntary association and trade with others. He is legally restricted, basically, by the need to respect the rights of others. He can build a home, but not by cutting down his neighbor’s trees. He can acquire the food produced by others, but only by paying a mutually agreed-upon price, not by theft. But imagine human beings being legally prohibited from cutting down trees to manufacture the lumber for the construction of homes…or being forbidden from cultivating fields for crops…because that would violate the “rights” of an owl that lives in that tree, or the mice that live in that field. Burdened by the need to respect the rights not only of other men, but of other species, man is thus cut off from the ability to exploit the bounty provided by nature for the production of the values required to survive and thrive. So Look around. Virtually everything our lives depend on...from the most vital to the least consequencial...can be seen as violating some creature's "rights." He is cut off, in other words, from the use of his primary means of survival…his rational faculty.

Denied of his means of survival, man is reduced to living on the level of animals…but without the automatic, instinctual survival mechanism possessed by all other living creatures. He is condemned, to put it bluntly, to death. Such is the nature of and ultimate logical consequence of the ascription of rights to animals.

Again, it would be easy for a rational person to dismiss so obviously outrageous an idea as “animal rights.” But make no mistake, ideas have consequences. Legal precedents take on a powerful life of their own. The "anti-concept" of animal rights is a dagger aimed right at the very survival of the human race. The logical consequences that lie at the end of the animals rights road is human devastation. The animal rights ideology being codified into law in Spain is a future tool for some totalitarian regime to enslave the human population in the name of the rights of all species. If you think I am exaggerating about the power of ideas, take a look at history. Just look at the thousand years of darkness and misery spawned by the mind-hating ideas of Ambrose and Augustine, which ended only when the great St. Thomas Aquinas’s revival of reason and Aristotelianism blazed the path to the Renaissance. Just look at what America’s Founding Fathers did with the Enlightenment ideas of reason, individualism, and limited republican government (made possible by Aristotle and Aquinas). Just look what the Communists did with the ideas of Marx in Soviet Russia. Just look what the Nazis did in Germany based on Kant’s anti-reason ideas of altruism and duty.

The animal rights movement, a sub-sect of environmentalist theology, is not primarily concerned with animal well-being. The leaders and financiers of this movement know exactly what they are doing. The consequences of their movement, if allowed to proceed to their logical conclusion, are too devastatingly obvious. It is not to police the woods or to lawyer up animals, but to shackle man…not the “freedom” of animals, but the enslavement of man…not the “rights” of animals, but the destruction of the rights of man…that this movement is about.

Spain is not some primitive backwater, but a major Western industrial power that has embarked on a path to human rights destruction. That is what makes this issue so important. Germany, too, was a major Western industrial power before degenerating into the barbarism of National Socialism. The Animal rights movement is about to emerge from the intellectual fringe into the mainstream of Western legal thought, via Spain’s pending law. It is a poison pill that will spread like a virus if not stopped. Stopping it begins by gaining a proper understanding of the nature of Man,s Rights…which are embodied in our Declaration of Independence…and of the movement’s true motives, which is not compassion for animals (although that is undoubtedly the motive of many well-meaning followers).

To be sure, the animal rights movement is not the only, but just the latest, major threat to individual rights and a free society. A misunderstanding and/or outright ignorance of the concept of rights, both in Spain and elsewhere…including in America…is enabling the destruction of individual rights to proceed in a veritable intellectual vacuum. But the knowledge of the nature of rights…the ammunition required for the battle against all forms of tyranny…is readily available to anyone willing to pick it up. Mr. La Valle has given an example of the proper way to advocate for and spread that knowledge.

(Note: Russell Paul La Valle is not associated with the Ayn Rand Institute.)

Post Reference 34

Monday, July 28, 2008

Notes on the Sub-Prime Credit Crisis

The recent news that Fannie Mae (Federal National Mortgage Association) and Freddie Mac (Federal Home Mortgage Corporation), the two giant quasi-private, government-created companies, are in need of a Federal bailout is the latest in a series of financial catastrophes that has led to widespread calls for new government regulatory powers over the banking industry. At the same time, a general consensus across the political spectrum (there are exceptions) has developed that holds that the crisis was caused by certain “deregulatory” actions in recent years. As a consequence, free-market capitalism is once again being blamed for a crisis clearly caused and exacerbated by government intervention into the economy.

Clearly, that is, if one takes a broad, historical perspective, which is sorely lacking today. Instead, the crisis is being looked at in snapshot fashion, seeing only the current banking and government set-up with all of its laws, institutions, programs, and regulations as a given. If one were to look at a mighty river, one would know that it did not just begin as what you are observing. Its beginnings trace back to thousands of trickles, which merge into hundreds of creeks, then streams and still larger streams, then tributary rivers, which finally merge into the mighty river you are observing.

But what is being observed in the banking and credit crisis today is only the mighty river at midstream. As a result, all that is seen is some relatively miniscule deregulation, while the whole labyrinth of ever-increasing government interventions dating back decades…the trickles, creeks, streams, and tributaries…are ignored. What is also being observed is that on the surface most of the players in this fiasco are private bankers, mortgage brokers, investment houses, and so on. This gives plausibility to the claim that the free market is to blame. The fallacy being employed, though, is to conflate capitalists with capitalism. Capitalists certainly do exist. But Capitalism, the system of laissez-faire (non-government intervention in private individual economic affairs) is nowhere to be seen.

Yet, it is Capitalism that is being tried, convicted, and sentenced without a hearing. For example, in an article repleat with evasion, Al Meyerhoff writes that "Without regulation, the invisible hand of the market is robbing us blind." (Read my response to Mr. Meyerhoff.) But the fact is that, in a classic scenario that has been repeated across many industries, the private financial industry has been progressively shackled and smothered under governmental controls and statist policies over the past 100 years, resulting in the almost total elimination of anything even remotely resembling a free market. The result has been predictable…one financial crisis after another. From the runaway inflation and soaring interest rates of the 1970s, to the savings & loan collapse of the 1980s, to the current sub-prime debacle that is still unfolding. Each time, the free market is blamed amid calls for more laws and controls.

But the “free market” that allegedly needs fixing is a mirage, having long ago disappeared. Consider:

*The Federal Reserve Board, America’s central bank, controls the value and quantity of money, the raw material of banking. It holds a coercive monopoly on the issuance of currency, which is fiat paper backed not by gold but only by the force of legal tender laws. Private banking institutions are forbidden from holding gold reserves and issuing notes (private money) backed by those reserves, as they were able to do prior to the creation of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, when the era of (almost) truly free banking ended. Private citizens are also forbidden from using privately minted gold and silver currency.

*The “Fed” controls short-term interest rates, expands and contracts credit through its discount window, establishes reserve requirements and capital to assets ratios, and regulates mergers and acquistions, bank ownership rules, and a whole host of other items. The Fed’s inflationary interest rate and credit (i.e., monetary) policies of the last eight to ten years are a big part of the equation in the current crisis.

* Banks are immune to the bankruptcy laws. Instead, when a bank begins to fail, the Fed steps in and “arranges” for a buyer to take over the failing bank’s assets. In other words, rather than face the objective oversight of a bankruptcy judge, as any business would in a free market, the failed bank is embraced by a paternalistic Fed. Depositors and customers are bailed out without even knowing it, helping to feed the illusion in the minds of people that the quality of the banking institution into which they place their savings is irrelevant, short-circuiting a key disciplinary feature of the market. The bankers know this too, which encourages excessive risk-taking and quick-buck artists.

(The Federal Reserve System was created allegedly in response to the “failures” of free, private banking and the gold standard, such as the supposed “confusion” caused by the issuance of multiple bank notes and occasional bank panics. But this phony argument ignores the fact that the US constitution defines American currency in specific weights of gold and silver [Article 1, Section 8], meaning a deviation by any private bank from those standards constitutes illegal fraud. Thus, the Federal Reserve System, having abandoned the gold standard, is itself an unconstitutional fraud. For more on this, consider what Ron Paul has to say. Also, for a detailed history of America’s free banking era, see Richard M. Salsman’s book Gold and Liberty

*Sound, prudent banking is penalized while risky, reckless lending is rewarded by Federal deposit insurance. Prior to deposit insurance (enacted in 1933 and expanded repeatedly since), an imprudent bank quickly saw its deposit base dry up, with the money gravitating toward sounder institutions. Deposit insurance subverts this natural market process, enabling banks with lax credit policies to proliferate at the expense of more cautious ones. Depositors run to banks offering the highest yields without regard to the soundness of the institution or its credit policies, knowing that the government (i.e., the taxpayers), will bail them out. Good banks lose, bad ones win, leading to more bad banks and fewer good ones. The increase in deposit insurance limits from $20,000 to $100,000 in 1980 is the prime reason for the 1980s savings and loan collapse. (For a detailed presentation on the history, practice, and failures of Federal deposit insurance, see Richard M. Salsman’s pamphlet, The Collapse of Deposit Insurance. Also note that money market mutual funds are not insured, yet are highly trusted and popular.)

*Unsound banking is encouraged in other ways as well. The Fed acts as “lender of last resort”, meaning banks know that big daddy will always be there to create money out of thin air…literally. A bank with an over-extended loan portfolio can turn to the Fed’s discount window for below-market, dirt-cheap credit. On top of that, the government’s "too big to fail” policy of bailing out financial institutions has rolled into an enormous snowball. Both of these activities lead to less disciplined and excessively risky credit practices. (Keep in mind that these government operations are financed by artificial money and/or credit creation [inflation], which robs the purchasing power of money held by the country’s productive citizens.)

*An enabling factor in the sub-prime crisis is the fact that the major bond-rating agencies completely missed the impending disaster. Being private companies, they are pointed at as another example of failed capitalism. But even here, the government’s intrusive hand can be found as the culprit. Steve Forbes explains in Cart This Cartel to the Dumpster (Forbes, 5/19/08)

For more than 30 years the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission] has taken upon itself the task of deciding who should rate debt instruments and who shouldn't. Thus, the industry has been dominated primarily by three firms: Standard & Poor's, Moody’s and, at a distant third, Fitch. Competitors are hobbled in the credit-rating field without the SEC's regulatory blessing.

This cartel is further aided by government laws and regulations that require, in various instances, insurance companies, money funds, banks and other institutions to hold only those debt securities rated by these agencies. In this way the feds not only keep out the competition but also require customers to buy the services of these select few. Investors are ill-served by this federally mandated oligarchy. (emphasis added)

The banking industry is so heavily controlled and regulated that it would be more accurate to call it a quasi-arm of the government. Super-impose on this government appendage the massive state intervention into the housing markets, and you have the still-expanding sub-prime credit crisis. For example, the Federal Home Loan Bank system (FHLBank) was set up to artificially supply banks with funds for home loans. There is the wildly popular home mortgage and property tax deduction. There are the aforementioned Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac behemoths that create an artificially inflated mortgage resale market for mortgage originators to sell into. The government’s attempts to “encourage” homeownership has led to a massive over-“investment” in housing…a bubble that is now deflating.

Super-impose on that the actions of the Federal Housing Administration (or FHA, which insures mortgages for people with poor credit histories and/or minimal home equity) and the politically-imposed Community Reinvestment Act, which forces on lenders low mortgage underwriting standards to help the “poor” afford homes. Writes Jerry Bowyer, in the NY Sun:

The government compels banks to make loans in poor neighborhoods even if the applicants are not considered prime borrowers. You may not know about that because the Community Reinvestment Act is not exactly a household (excuse the pun) name.

But the commercial banks do know about it. They have a CRA department. They get a CRA rating. They know that the way to get a high CRA rating is to make loans to poor applicants or in poor urban neighborhoods regardless of the financial prudence of the loans.

They know that if they don't do this, they will be punished severely by the regulators when they try to make any major change which is dependent on regulatory approval. And they know that pretty much every major change a traditional bank makes is, in fact, subject to regulatory approval. So, they grit their teeth and stamp a big inky "yes" on an application which they know, according to traditional financial standards, deserves a "no."

Add it all up, and you have the witches brew now bubbling over and spreading everywhere, including overseas.

In classic form, rather than look upstream to the tributaries that contributed to this mighty river of financial turmoil, the government will now trample further the underpinnings of the remnants of the free market by abrogating contracts on a massive scale…the very contracts that it is the government’s proper role to enforce and honor. A massive bailout of homeowners and lenders is now underway, paid for with massive money creation (inflation) that is now beginning to manifest itself as it always does…in a general and accelerating spiral of prices.

Bad loans and lending practices can always occur in the free market. But in a free market, where there is no central bank or coercive governmental money monopoly, bank failures are localized and contained. Only government, which today controls the banking industry, can cause such a system-wide failure. The sub-prime crisis has a made-by-government label written all over it. Government, to which the entire banking industry is tied, is the common denominator. Rather than blame the non-existent free market or the pseudo-deregulation of recent years, what’s needed is a thorough examination of the government’s policies, regulations, and programs…including all “sacred cows.” Today’s crisis is only the latest in a series of financial calamities that may only be symptoms of an approaching apocalypse. There will be more. Ultimately, only a return to some form of gold-convertible money will restore financial sanity. As Edmund Contoski writes in Liberty magazine, “…there has never been a paper money unredeemable in a material asset that did not eventually become worthless.” ( Housing Bubble and Bust, Liberty Magazine, July, 2008, page 24)

These brief notes are just that…brief notes…and should not be construed as an exhaustive analysis. They are intended to focus attention on the banking system as it actually is. Everywhere one looks, one finds the distorting hand of government intrusion. As in the case of healthcare, the root of the problem is in the fact that free market capitalism in the financial industry is conspicuous by its absence. The road to recovery begins not in blaming capitalism, but in discovering it.

Post Reference 33

Cart This Cartel to the Dumpster

Ron Paul

Gold and Liberty

The Collapse of Deposit Insurance-and the Case for Abolition

money market mutual funds are not insured

Research & Commentary: Privatization of Fannie and Freddie

Central Planning-Housing Bubble and Bust

Legal Tender Laws and fractional-Reserve Banking

Too Big to Bail

The Government Did It


Don't Blame the Markets

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Commentary 39- The "Diversity" Fraud

Diane Schwartz has recently published two articles over at NJVoices. In the first, she extols the virtues of so-called "diversity." In the second, Ms. Schwartz laments "hate and discrimination." These essays cry out for rebuttal, especially considering how many Americans have swallowed the collectivist line implicit in the acceptance of diversity as a value.

The diversity movement and its correlary, multiculturalism, represent direct assaults on America's unique, though battered and bruised, culture of reason, individualism and capitalism. As such, they deserve a much more thorough examination than provided here (which I hope to tackle in the future). In my commentary, I touch upon the actual meaning of diversity, and show why the basic premise underlying the diversity ideology leads to the opposite of the advocates' alleged goal of “tolerance.” Here are some excerpts:

…the basic premise underlying diversity theory is the same premise as that which fosters discrimination, prejudice and stereotyping. That premise is racism…

The diversity movement…wants to fight "discrimination, prejudice and stereotypical behaviors" based on race, ethnicity, and cultural categorizing everyone according to race, ethnicity, and cultural heritage.

There is only one true diversity...intellectual diversity. And the intellect is the property of the individual, and only the individual. By equating beliefs and ability...i.e., an individual's character...with uncontrollable traits like race undermines and destroys people as individuals…

To read the articles and my full commentary, click here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Commentary 38- Guilty Without a Trial

I have previously stated that Capitalism is repeatedly blamed for the failures of government policy. E.J. Dionne, a widely read left wing columnist, has declared in a recent piece that “capitalism is ailing.” In a brazen act of context-dropping, Mr. Dionne looks around, sees economic problems, and declares that free markets are at fault without any reference to the role that our massively intrusive government might have played. I have responded strongly to this classic statist ploy. Here are a few excerpts:

Mr. Dionne is attacking a straw man. Capitalism and free markets don’t exist today, except in bits and pieces here and there. Massive government intervention and control in our lives now approaches or exceeds the elements of freedom that still exist.

Today, it is not the distorted and shackled free market remnants, but ever-growing government interventions in private economic decision-making that has failed. Yet, Mr. Dionne and other statists blame free market capitalism, then call for even wider government powers to close whatever “loopholes” of freedom still exist.

To read the article and my full commentary, click here

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oil Execs and Polar Bears

Real-life events can sometimes coincide in such a way as to dramatize the fundamentals of an issue better than any theoretical discussion can. In this case, one cause and effect relating to the current energy crisis is demonstrated by two concrete government actions occurring within about a week of each other.

The first event was another in a long line of congressional kangaroo court lambastings of American oil company executives for the purpose of determining “how their companies can in good conscience make so much money, while American drivers pay so much at the pump.” (, May 21, 2008)

The executives responded timidly, but factually.

“ ‘We cannot change the world market,’ said Robert Malone, chairman and president of BP America Inc. ‘Today's high prices are linked to the failure both here and abroad to increase supplies’…In addition, [John] Hofmeister [president of Shell] said access to resources in the United States has been limited for the past 30 years. ‘I agree, it's not a free market,’ he said.

“The executives pushed the idea that large parts of the U.S. that are currently closed to drilling - like sections of Alaska, the Rocky Mountains and the continental shelf - should be opened.
‘The place to start the free market is in our own country,’ said one executive.”

The second event came in the form of a ruling by the Bush administration declaring the polar bear an endangered species. While there are many “endangered species” listed under the Endangered Species Act, what makes this ruling unique is that the polar bear is not actually endangered. If you want to find a major cause of “American drivers pay[ing] so much at the pump” and for which the oil execs are being subjected “to yet another barrage of rhetorical questions, interruptions, accusations, and sermons” (Capitalism Magazine, May 28, 2008) , look no farther than this news item.

This polar bear designation has likely gone over the heads of most Americans, who are busily trying to, among other things, keep up with soaring energy costs. But we should all really be paying close attention to this, because the disastrous long-term consequences for our standard of living…indeed, our way of life…that this ruling can have cannot be overstated. That is because this decision is unique.

What the Interior Department has declared is that, for the first time, a species has been given protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), not because it is actually endangered, but because it can become endangered…by man-made global warming. Now, environmentalism is one of the main culprits in the energy price spiral. The polar bear ruling represents an exponential increase in the scope of the ESA, placing a powerful new weapon in the hands of what can more accurately be called the anti-industrial revolutionaries. .

The threat to American energy production that this precedent-setting ruling represents is significant. Already, the prospects for a proposed major natural gas pipeline across Alaska have diminished in it’s wake.

But the threat goes well beyond any particular energy project. For the environmentalist movement, armed with nothing more than hypothetical computer models and a dogmatic zealotry, this dangerous precedent means there is no limit to the number of species that can be deemed to be “threatened” in some distant future. Therefore, there is no limit to the restrictions that may be imposed on our freedom and our very lives, or on the growth of the power of government. Writes George Will:

“Now that polar bears are wards of the government, and now that it is a legal doctrine that humans are responsible for global warming, the Endangered Species Act has acquired unlimited application. Anything that can be said to increase global warming can -- must -- be said to threaten bears already designated as threatened.

"Want to build a power plant in Arizona? A building in Florida? Do you want to drive an SUV? Or leave your cell phone charger plugged in overnight? Some judge might construe federal policy as proscribing these activities. Kempthorne says such uses of the act, unintended by those who wrote it in 1973, would be ‘wholly inappropriate.’ But in 1973, climate Cassandras were saying that ‘the world's climatologists are agreed’ that we must "prepare for the next ice age" (Science Digest, February 1973)…

“No one can anticipate or control the implications that judges might discover in the polar bear designation. Give litigious environmentalists a compliant judge and the Endangered Species Act might become what New Dealers wanted the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 to be -- authority to regulate almost everything.”
(Emphasis added.FDR’s National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. We may not be so lucky, this time.)

While not the only cause, if you want to see a real-life demonstration of one of the primary causes of the energy price explosion, don’t bother to blame the oil producers and their executives who are unjustly being made scapegoats. Look no further than the Bush Interior Department’s polar bear ruling, the Endangered Species Act itself, and the anti-science, anti-industrial religion of environmentalism.

Post Reference 32

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Commentary 37-On State/Church Separation

...the Founders were deeply suspicious of organized religion, including Christianity and its multiple sects. They understood fully the inherent dangers to liberty of placing into the hands of people whose beliefs rest on faith rather than reason the coercive power of government...

In America, the practice of religion by one is no threat to any other. We owe the unfettered right to our own beliefs free from fear of persecution to that "wall of separation." As an athiest, I cannot understand how any religionist would want to begin chipping away at that safeguard with such nonsense as "faith-based initiatives."

The battle today is not between Islam and Christianity. It is between theocratic tyranny and political freedom. Our soldiers are fighting not for an atheistic government or a Christian government, but for the freedom to hold his, and our, own personal beliefs and for a government that protects that freedom.

A nations legal framework, to be just and fair, must be based upon some set of ideas...of universal principles...that all people can relate to and that can be the basis for resolving disputes peacefully. The Declaration of Independence is America's set of universal principles.

That New York Court's decision to force Catholic hospitals to pay for abortion coverage for their employees is, indeed, an abomination. It is a violation of the rights of the owners of the Catholic hospitals (or their representatives) to be true to their religious principles (a blatant violation of the establishment clause, as I interpret it). It is also a violation of a whole host of other rights, such as their right to set the terms and conditions of employment at their institutions, including what to include in the health care coverage they offer.

Excerpts from my latest activism. Read the rest.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Independence Day- Bittersweet, But Hope for the Future

The Fourth of July is a national holiday that, to me, stands far above all of the others. It represents the greatest political achievement in world history. More than that, the birth of the United States of America represents a towering and unprecedented philosophical achievement. America, born of the Enlightenment, is the first nation founded on the principle that man the individual has a fundamental, natural right to his own life, and that government’s responsibility is to protect that right…that the people act by right, while the government acts by permission.

I quote from Michael S. Berliner’s June 26, 2008 post at Principles in Practice

“ ‘Independence Day’ is a critically important title. It signifies the fundamental meaning of this nation, not just of the holiday. The American Revolution remains unique in human history: a revolution--and a nation--founded on a moral principle, the principle of individual rights…

“The Declaration of Independence was a declaration against servitude, not just servitude to the Crown but servitude to anyone…

“Political independence is not a primary. It rests on a more fundamental type of independence: the independence of the human mind. It is the ability of a human being to think for himself and guide his own life that makes political independence possible and necessary…

“To the Founding Fathers, there was no authority higher than the individual mind, not King George, not God, not society. Reason, wrote Ethan Allen, is ‘the only oracle of man,’ and Thomas Jefferson advised us to ‘fix reason firmly in her seat and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God.’ That is the meaning of independence: trust in your own judgment, in reason; do not sacrifice your mind to the state, the church, the race, the nation, or your neighbors.

“Independence is the foundation of America. Independence is what should be celebrated on Independence Day. That is the legacy our Founding Fathers left us.”

Americans are more and more ignoring and moving away from the glorious principle of which Mr. Berliner speaks, “the independence of the human mind.” This is what gives Independence Day a bittersweet quality for me. Our freedom erodes steadily as its only real guardian, intellectual independence, gradually gives way to a growing entitlement mindset. Just surrender one more bit of our individual self-determination and personal responsibility in exchange for the free lunch of the illusion of government-guaranteed security, and our “national” problems can be solved…in healthcare, in education, in finance, in housing, in energy.

As a result, America is moving towards a time when the government acts by right, but the people act by permission. Or, as America’s Philosopher, Ayn Rand, puts it:

“We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.”

But our drift toward statism is not inevitable. There is no such thing as historical determinism. Ideas move human history. The ideas that created America still exist, waiting to be rediscovered. That rediscovery is beginning to emerge. This time, however, those ideas come armed with a full philosophical and moral defense and justification. That armament is Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand.

So the bittersweet feeling that, for me, accompanies Independence Day should not be mistaken for pessimism or cynicism. If I thought that the fight to save America long term was futile, I would not have started this blog, or speak up at every opportunity for my beliefs in conversation, online forums, or any other medium open to me. And I am not alone, as the two linked articles in this piece show.

So I will continue to do my part as a patriotic American citizen by exercising “the independence of the human mind”…my own. This has and will continue to include the radical, but quintessentially American, Jeffersonian urging to “Question with boldness… every fact, every opinion.” I will continue at the task of "Changing the Wind.”

Have a great and happy Independence Day.

Commentary 36 and 36a

The only way freedom can be preserved is for every citizen to be willing to stand up and defend not only his own rights, but all peoples' rights. This issue is about more than gun owners, and the anti-2nd Amendment crowd should think again here. Those who would vote away the rights of others, should know that they are voting away their own, as well.

Excerpt from my latest activism. Read the rest.