Friday, September 26, 2008

"PC" Polling

I don’t usually pay too much attention to political opinion polls, given their vaunted ability to skew the results to favor the pollsters’ viewpoints. But this AP-Yahoo News poll is an eye-opener. It exposes serious and dangerous assumptions that are accepted by many people in our culture. According to an article in the San Francisco Chronical:

Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy,""violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about 2.5 percentage points.

Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.

This is absolutely repulsive. That the AP writers, Ron Fournier and Trevor Tompson, can actually report on this without any serious analysis makes one wonder whatever happened to skeptical, investigative journalism. There is not even a thin pretense of any kind of objectivity in this poll. It is utterly dishonest and fraudulent.

First of all, the methodology is straight collectivism, which automatically excludes any thinking person. The poll asks:

Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word "violent" strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with "boastful," 29 percent "complaining," 13 percent "lazy" and 11 percent "irresponsible."

Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."

How in the world does any rational person answer a question that requires the choice of an adjective such as "intelligent,” "smart," “lazy,” “irresponsible,” or “boastful” to describe a group? Those are attributes that belong to individuals, and only individuals. Any thinking person would be immediately repulsed by the question, and walk away. That leaves only people who already are pre-disposed to a collectivist, or group identity, mindset...the very type of people most likely to be racist. So the poll’s format, the “unique methodology of Knowledge Networks,” has a built-in bias in favor of racist attitudes, no pun intended.

Secondly, the poll is aimed only at white respondents. But come on now. This is a public opinion poll allegedly intended to show the extent to which racism might affect Obama’s electoral chances. According to the opening sentence of this AP press release:

This AP-Yahoo News poll was designed to dig into one of the most sensitive subjects in American politics: racial attitudes and their effect on how people will vote in an election in which Democrat Barack Obama could become the first black president.

Well, what about the people who are voting for Obama because he is black? No inquiry. What about black bigots? No inquiry. What about guilt-ridden collectivist white liberals who think that “they” (blacks) deserve a chance to have one of “their’s” in the White House, a very racist attitude? No inquiry. How much support does Obama gain from such voters? No inquiry.

What might happen to his 6 percentage point deficit if the poll actually considered all “racial attitudes and their effect on how people will vote,” as the above statement asserts? The fact is that he may actually be politically stronger because of racism. It’s entirely possible that more people will vote for, rather than against, him because of his skin color. More likely, the two groups cancel each other out. We’ll never know, of course. There will never be such a poll honest and objective enough to explore these questions. And that’s fine, except that there is something more sinister going on here.

What I see is the groundwork being set to blame white racism for an Obama defeat, which seems much more likely now than just a few weeks ago. In such an outcome, we will then have to be subjected to four years of the tarring of a McCain administration as being an illegitimate product of racism. It’s going to be ugly.

What’s even more outrageous is the implicit assumption evident in this poll. Go back and re-read that opening statement. It says only “racial attitudes and their effect on how people will vote.” It says not “white racial attitudes” but only “racial attitudes.”

Racism is the ascription of certain specific character traits to an individual based on genetic lineage, over which he has no control. It can take many forms, and be practiced by anyone of any background, against anyone of any background. It can occur even within one specific group; such as in the case of someone who claims an unearned credit or prestige based on the achievements of his ancestors of the same race, family, or ethnicity.

But racism has been progressively re-defined in America as being the sole province of whites. There are certainly voices out there that speak out against this Orwellian destruction of language and definitions. The once-venerable Associated Press apparently believes, though, that the PC police have succeeded and that the belief that racism only applies to whites is now accepted wisdom.

I do have one final observation. A bizarre aspect of this poll is that it was directed primarily at Democrats. Given the Associated Press’ role as mouthpiece for the Dems, what does one make of this? Are they deliberately trying to alienate a significant slice of their Democratic constituency? Or do they think that they can perhaps shame them into returning to the fold this November, lest they be branded as “racist”?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Post Reference 37

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Dangerous John McCain

"In America, our rights come before our duties, as well they should. We are a free people, and among our freedoms is the liberty to care or not care for our birthright. But those who claim their liberty but not their duty to the civilization that ensures it live a half-life, indulging their self-interest at the cost of their self-respect. The richest men and women possess nothing of real value if their lives have no greater object than themselves.

Success, wealth, celebrity gained and kept for private interest---these are small things. They make us comfortable, ease the way for our children, and purchase a fleeting regard for our lives, but not the self-respect that, in the end, matters most. Sacrifice for a cause greater than self-interest, however, and you invest your life with the eminence of that cause."

The above quote was uttered by Republican presidential nominee Senator John McCain.

What he is saying here is that our “birthright”…our individual liberty, which is unalienable…is somehow separate from and above our private self-interest. This is a corruptive view of our Founding ideals, and in fact subverts them. What, exactly, is the meaning of the words “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” if not the pursuit of one’s own “Success, wealth, celebrity [?]”, in order to “make us comfortable, [and] ease the way for our children”…free from the need to “pay” for those rights through the imposition of some “duty”? These “private interests” are “small things,” he claims. One does not gain “self-respect,” according to the Senator, by the achievement of our goals by our own productive efforts, but by sacrificing our values to some “greater cause.”

That greater cause, he says, is a “duty to the civilization that ensures it.” What is that “civilization” that ensures it? Everyone, apparently, but oneself. Is it possible to utter a more collectivist phrase than that? The “civilization” doesn’t ensure your freedom. Your nature as a human being does. What protects your liberty? It is the government, which is your agent, or servant. “That to secure these rights,” says our Declaration of Independence, “governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” It is not you who owe a duty to the “civilization”…i.e., the government. It is the government that owes a duty to you…the sole duty to protect your unalienable rights.

Indeed, the very concept of “duty” attached to the concept “liberty” obliterates the concept “unalienable.” A duty implies a positive…i.e., a requirement to take some action in order to justify and “earn” one’s rights. But if rights are natural and unalienable…i.e., inseparable from one’s own being…then there is no duty to perform. Socially, the only “duty” one owes, which in fact is not a duty at all, is to respect the rights of one’s fellow men. Which means simply, a negative…to refrain from violating the rights of…i.e., from initiating force against…one’s fellow human beings. To a rational person living in a free society, one’s own liberty is at the top of his hierarchy of values, because that makes the achievement and protection of all of his other values, including the freedom to think and act according to one’s own best judgement, possible. To fight in whatever capacity for the country, America, that embodies the ideals of individual rights is not a cause “greater than one’s own self-interest.” It is one’s self-interest…profoundly so.

John McCain betrays a dangerous nationalism that is as alien to the American concept of individual rights and limited government as any brand of collectivism. Nationalism is the doctrine that holds that one’s country has interests that supercede the interests of its people, as individuals, and that the individual citizen’s own self-interest must be subordinate to it. This attitude is most evident in his belief in the quest for “national greatness” built on the sacrifices of Americans “being constant to something greater than yourself.” In an in-depth examination of McCain’s affinity for government power, Matt Welsh writes:

McCain’s singular goal in public life is to restore citizens’ faith in their government, to give us the same object of belief—national greatness—that helped save his life after he gave up hope as a POW in Vietnam…[advocating] such National Greatness projects as the “forward strategy of freedom” in the Middle East, trying to drive money out of politics…[and] deploying a virtuous federal bureaucracy to purify unclean private transactions from the boardroom to the bedroom. And it would prosecute the nation’s post-9/11 wars with a militaristic zeal this country hasn’t seen in generations.

If you’re beginning to detect a rigid sense of citizenship and a skeptical attitude toward individual choice, you are beginning to understand what kind of president John McCain actually would make…For years McCain has warned that a draft will be necessary if we don’t boost military pay, and he has long agitated for mandatory national service.

McCain’s attitude toward individuals who choose paths he deems inappropriate is somewhere between inflexible and hostile. Nowhere is that more evident than when he writes about his hero Teddy Roosevelt…“In the Roosevelt code, the authentic meaning of freedom gave equal respect to self-interest and common purpose, to rights and duties,” McCain writes. “And it absolutely required that every loyal citizen take risks for the country’s sake.…His insistence that every citizen owed primary allegiance to American ideals, and to the symbols, habits, and consciousness of American citizenship, was as right then as it is now.”

(Be Afraid of President McCain:
The frightening mind of an authoritarian maverick
, Reason, April, 2007)

Do not confuse nationalism with rational patriotism. Patriotism, properly understood, is the proud adherence to one’s country based on its ideals. In other words, a patriotic American upholds individualism, capitalism, the rule of objective law, freedom of production and trade, and inalienable individual rights protected by a government limited to that purpose. It’s beside the point here that America never fully attained those ideals in practice, and is now in fact drifting farther than ever away from them. The point is that that is what America stands for. Furthermore, loyalty to those ideals (true patriotism) is seen as in one’s own self-interest. Subordinating one’s own self-interest to the “higher cause” of the national interest, as John McCain demands, is a full and thorough repudiation of American ideals.

The moral and philosophical underpinnings of nationalism are no different than that of socialism--altruism and collectivism. The theme of the McCain campaign and of his lifelong political career is service and sacrifice “to a cause greater than one’s own self-interest.”

The genesis of Senator McCain’s nationalism, as he has said many times, was his experience as a POW in North Vietnam. In his 2008 nominating acceptance speech, he said:

On an October morning, in the Gulf of Tonkin, I prepared for my 23rd mission over North Vietnam. I hadn't any worry I wouldn't come back safe and sound. I thought I was tougher than anyone. I was pretty independent then, too. I liked to bend a few rules, and pick a few fights for the fun of it. But I did it for my own pleasure; my own pride. I didn't think there was a cause more important than me….

I was in solitary confinement when my captors offered to release me. I knew why. If I went home, they would use it as propaganda to demoralize my fellow prisoners. Our Code said we could only go home in the order of our capture, and there were men who had been shot down before me. I thought about it, though. I wasn't in great shape, and I missed everything about America. But I turned it down.

It is because of men like John McCain that America is free today. And we…all of us…owe him and all veterans a debt of gratitude that can best be repaid by upholding the unique American values that he was defending. Unfortunately, Senator McCain misread the true meaning of his own heroism. He saw his refusal to return home, and the decision to endure additional suffering, as an act of selfless sacrifice to “a cause more important than me.” But in fact, that was one of the most profoundly selfish acts you will ever hear of. He placed his integrity and his honor above his own physical well-being, yes. But what would have been the result had he betrayed his highest values…his fellow American POWs and thus the country he loved? The result would have been a broken man who could not live with himself. Instead, he chose the rationally selfish, and incredibly courageous, course of action. Just as a parent who would give up his life for his child is acting selfishly…in the noble sense of the word…by defending his highest value, so it was with John McCain. Loyalty to one’s highest values, integrity, is a deeply egoistic virtue.

McCain’s misreading of his life-altering experience has set him on a political course that is dangerous for America and Americans. Despite a thin free-market veneer layering some of his policy proposals, he is fundamentally no different from Barack Obama. Both candidates believe service to others…not the pursuit of one’s own dreams, goals, well-being, and happiness…is the highest moral virtue. Both accept the creed of selflessness, altruism, and collectivism…and mean to enforce it through governmental coercion. Both explicitly renounce America’s founding ideals.

Just read the following quotes, and then try to distinguish between the two.

“Glory belongs to the act of being constant to something greater than yourself” [We] “must devote ourselves to causes greater than our self-interests.” “Every place there’s a hungry child, there’s a cause. Every place there’s a senior without life-saving prescription drugs, there’s a cause. Everywhere there’s a child without education, there’s a cause. Everywhere in the world where there’s ethnic, tribal or age-old hatreds, there’s a cause.”

[We have] “obligations towards one another.” [The] “problems of poverty, racism, the uninsured, and the unemployed are not simply technical problems”; [they are] “moral problems”; [they are] “rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness. . ..” [We must heed the] “call to sacrifice”; [We] “need to think in terms of ‘thou’ and not just ‘I.’ ’’ We must “reaffirm that fundamental belief—I am my brother’s keeper, I am my sister’s keeper—that makes us one people, and one nation.”

(As quoted in this op-ed by Craig Biddle. Specific references can be found here.)

Which candidate said what? Does it matter? The subordination of, and violation of the rights of, those whose achievements enabled them to achieve self-sufficiency for the sake of those whom, for whatever reason, did not is openly advocated by both candidates. It makes no difference whether one imposes the “solution” to the above-stated problems by openly statist measures (Obama), or by camouflaging his plans under a veneer of the “market-based” label (McCain). Once one accepts the premise that it is the government’s job to ensure the material well-being of anyone lacking medicine, food, shelter, education, etc…and that one’s life must be subordinate to these “causes greater than our self-interests” or supercede “societal indifference and individual callousness,” the die is cast. What one has embraced is the path to impoverishment….and, as history clearly demonstrates, to eventual enslavement. Both candidates embrace that fundamental premise. And note that McCain includes in his list of "causes" the sacrifice of American blood and money for the cleansing of all of the world’s people of ethnic, tribal or age-old hatreds! Such is the nature of his dangerous and scary quest for National Greatness.

John McCain is no champion of individual rights or of American ideals. His stand on issues ranging from the First Amendment, energy, the environment, national service (including a possible military draft!), the conditional nature of rights…to his railing against CEO pay, wall street “greed”, and “special interests”, to name a few…McCain reveals his strong affinity for government power. In other areas such as education, healthcare, and taxes, he appears to lean in the right direction. But his proposals are watered-down statist proposals at best.

The sad fact is, the nomination of John McCain is a demonstration of the Republican Party’s intellectual bankruptcy. The choice between Obama and McCain is no choice at all. Obama is clearly anti-American in his philosophy and his proposals, and must be defeated. But if McCain is elected president, the Democratic congress will have someone that they will have no problem working with, given his authoritarian leanings. This fact makes McCain perhaps a more dangerous choice than Obama. Obama’s extreme Left agenda would unite Republicans and Right-leaning independents into a solid block of opposition with a reasonable chance of thwarting his designs. But a McCain presidency would split and demoralize the disparate elements of the Right. The Left’s agenda could very well fare better under McCain than with Obama, just as happened under Bush 2 relative to Bill Clinton. It looks like a win-win situation for the Democrats.

It is often necessary to vote against, rather than for, a presidential candidate. It is necessary this year to vote against both major party candidates. Such is the “choice” we face this year.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Animal "Rights" Threat to Human 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. 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, 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.

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. In a social context, he is legally…and morally… restricted, basically, only 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. 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 philosophy of anti-reason, altruism and duty, and the doctrine of eugenics.

The animal rights movement, a sub-sect of environmentalist theology, is not primarily concerned with the well-being of animals. 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. Mistakes of this size, to paraphrase Ayn Rand, are never made innocently. 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 Nazism. The idea that animals possess rights is implicit in such legislation as America’s Endangered Species Act, which has been the club used to attack man’s rights, especially his all-important property rights, for decades. But now 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 major threat to individual rights and a free society. A misunderstanding and/or outright ignorance of the concept of rights by most people, both in Spain and elsewhere…including in America…is enabling the destruction of individual rights to proceed in a veritable vacuum. But the knowledge of the nature of man’s rights…the ammunition required for the battle against all forms of tyranny…is readily available to anyone willing to pick it up. Defending man’s rights is as simple as defining them properly, as Mr. La Valle has done. And a proper defense…which means a moral defense…is the only way to fight for man’s rights.

Post Reference 38

Saturday, September 6, 2008

"God Help You When the Gate Slams Shut!"

I came across the following from Dr. Evan Madianos, MD, that was published on his blog on August 27, 2008.

Sometimes a fable can teach a moral lesson better than anything. How many Americans will heed this warning? Dr. Madianos’ blog post is reproduced below in its entirety.

How to Catch Wild Pigs- and Doctors

By EvanMadianosMD - Posted on August 27th, 2008

The below story was forwarded to me by a dear friend.

She's a teacher- not a doctor- and she understands clearly the lessons that we, as doctors must learn ourselves.

"There was a Chemistry professor in a large college that had some exchange students in the class. One day while the class was in the lab, the Professor noticed one young man (an exchange student) who kept rubbing his back and
stretching as if his back hurt.
The professor asked the young man what was the matter. The student told him, he had a bullet lodged in his back. He had been shot while fighting communists in his native country, who were trying to overthrow his country's government and
install a new communist government.
In the midst of his story he looked at the professor and asked a strange
question. He asked, 'Do you know how to catch wild pigs?'
The professor thought it was a joke and asked for the punch line.
The young man said this was no joke.
'You catch wild pigs by finding a suitable place in the woods and put corn on the ground. The pigs find it and begin to come everyday to eat the free corn.
When they are used to coming every day, you put a fence down one side of the place where they are used to coming.
When they get used to the fence, they begin to eat the corn again and you put up another side of the fence. They get used to that and start to eat again.
You continue until you have all four sides of the fence up, with a gate on the last side.
The pigs, which are used to the free corn, start to come through the gate to eat; you slam the gate on them and catch the whole herd.

Suddenly, the wild pigs have lost their freedom.

They run around and around inside the fence, but they are caught. Soon they go back to eating the free corn.
They are so used to it, that they have forgotten how to forage in the woods for themselves, so they accept their captivity.

The young man then told the professor, that is exactly what he sees happening
to America (and medicine in the US).

The government keeps pushing us toward socialism and keeps spreading the free corn out, in the form of programs suc h as supplemental income, tax credit for unearned income, tobacco subsidies, dairy subsidies, payments not to plant crops, welfare, free medical care and drugs, etc. while we continually lose our freedoms - just a little at a time.

One should always remember: There is no such thing as a free lunch!

A politician will never provide a service for you cheaper, than you can for

If you see all of this wonderful government 'help', as a problem confronting
the future of democracy in America, you might want to send this on to your

If you think the free ride is essential to your way of life, then you
will probably ignore this warning, about creeping socialized medicine in the US in the form of expanding Medicare, Medicaid, goverment programs and quasi-governmental managed care bureaucracies -but God help you when the gate slams shut!

In this 'very important' election year, listen closely to what the candidates
are promising you and just maybe, you will be able to tell who is about to slam
the gate on America.

'A government big enough to give you everything you want, is big enough to
take away everything you have.'

- Thomas Jefferson

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Real, and Only, Wealth Creators

In an article published in the Washington Post on August 29, 2008, John E. Schwarz has used a series of fallacies in a thinly disguised call for expanded statism in America. Entitled Tax. Spend. Create Great Jobs, Mr. Schwarz inverts cause and effect by making the claim that not just free markets but governments, too, can create wealth through tax and spend policies. The fallacies are many.

Neither governments, nor free markets, create wealth. Only individual human beings create wealth, by a process of reason applied to productive work. Certain social conditions are required by men to produce wealth…to be able to think, act on his own judgement, and collect the rewards of his efforts, free from physical coercion of others. Only the free markets provided for under capitalism, the system of individual rights, are conducive to such conditions. Legitimate governments are confined to a single, vital function…to protect individual rights, including property rights, from force and fraud. Free markets enable wealth production. Governments ensure free markets.

Research is likewise done by private individuals. In a free society, the funding that the researchers depend on is provided voluntarily out of wealth already produced but not yet consumed…i.e., out of the savings of private individuals. Government-funded research is simply wealth expropriated…taken immorally by force of taxation…out of the savings of private, productive individuals. Either way, it is private wealth funding private research. Regardless of what results from that research, government’s only role was expropriative and redistributive.

Mr. Schwarz’s implication that “jet aviation, semiconductors, computers, the Internet, global positioning systems, laser technology, MRI technologies, high-strength steel alloys, fiber-reinforced plastics, [and] nanotechnologies” would not have come into existence without government’s expropriative funding is absurd on its face. The private researchers and private investment wealth would still have been there, had not government coercively appropriated the related investment fields with expropriated private wealth. Coercive taxpayer-supported government funding must necessarily discourage and suffocate private research, which must depend on voluntary funding, in much the same way that public education stifles the private education market. Indeed, Mr. Schwarz completely ignores the potential technological breakthroughs and related growth industries left stillborn by the government’s expropriations and redistributions.

Similarly, governments cannot create demand. Demand presupposes production. “Demand” is actually wealth produced but not yet consumed. A purchase…the demand…is in actuality a trade in which the purchaser exchanges previously produced but unconsumed wealth represented by his money for the product he receives in return. Government-created “demand” is no such thing…it is merely the confiscation and redistribution of existing demand…i.e., of unconsumed wealth.

Had the wealth confiscated to pay for the “government-funded” research and “government-created” demand been left in the hands of its rightful private owners, it would have gone into either consumption (demand), or savings (investment). The foregone demand and investment means that some producer lost a sale and some investment went unfunded. At the very least, on paper, you have a wash…no net gain in wealth. In reality, of course, the use of money expropriated for “public” investment and demand is determined by political pull, not potential return-on-investment (profit) for private gain, and is thus a source of extensive corruption and waste. The coercive transfer of wealth from the private producers to politicians and government bureaucracies is a net wealth destroyer.

When Mr. Schwarz advocates rights-violating government “tax and spend” policies to offset alleged “serious lapses [that] beset the private market,” he is merely rationalizing the practice of taking by force what cannot be obtained by voluntary persuasion. No matter how “worthy,” no one has the moral right to compel another human being to fund research or “demand” that one finds desirable. The “lapses” that he sees are merely decisions made by others with their own wealth, which he doesn’t like.

His claim that “not many rational investors will step up when there is no clear prospect of ready consumers for a new technology and the costs of research, development and initial production of that technology” is high is belied by the history of the 19th century, the greatest era of economic progress, inventiveness, and human advancement in history. The birth of huge industries in steel, transportation, electricity, energy, agriculture, banking and medicine, among others, occurred with minimal government “tax and spend” interference and laid the foundation without which the prosperity of the 20th century would never have occurred. And if “few private investors, even venture capitalists, are interested” in a particular field of research, by what right does Mr. Schwarz have to demand compulsory government funding?

Governments have existed throughout history. Free markets, on the other hand, have been fleeting and limited, historically speaking. Yet, the facts speak for themselves, to any objective person. Always, and throughout the world, human progress and prosperity has resulted from private productive work and investment in direct correlation to the extent that free markets existed, and in inverse relation to the size and scope, and tax and spend powers, of government. The fallacious, out of context and misleading arguments advanced in this piece are a rationalization for statism.

Rush Limbaugh is right on this one. Government, by its very nature, cannot create wealth. Government-created wealth is a logical impossibility. When government becomes not a protector of individual rights but a violator, in the words of Mr. Limbaugh, “it can only destroy [wealth] or confiscate and redistribute it.” Government is coercion, and nothing else. That’s why the Founders, however incompletely and imperfectly, sought to protect the individual by subordinating the role of government to “protect these rights” to “Life, Liberty, Property, and the pursuit of happiness.” When government steps outside these bounds...any short-term “benefits to society” takes on the role of destroyer.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Education Tax Credits- Bridge to the Future

A correspondent to my recent post on the California homeschool court ruling submitted the following question:

I love the idea of homeschooling and very much admire those who do it. I would love to see these families get a pro rata share of public school funds that each family would be responsible for.

My question to you is how this could be implemented to ensure the funds were treated responsibly? Who would be determining proper use of the funds vs. irresponsible use?

First, I want to establish that I am not a proponent of home-schooling per se, but of a free market in education...i.e., of individual rights.

The short and only logical and just answer to the question above is…whoever earned the “funds” to begin with. The wording of the question, though, contains a philosophical booby trap for “school choice” advocates, which the author clearly is. There are three fundamental premises assumed as a given not to be questioned. Those implied premises, if accepted without question, signal a unilateral philosophical surrender to the public school establishment. The broader issues inherent in the question’s intellectual package deal must be exposed and refuted before I move on to the concrete subject of tax credits. The three basic premises are:

1. Your children and your earnings are “society’s (i.e., the state’s) property, from whose bureaucrat, committee, or board you must seek permission for one of the most basic and vital parental functions…the education of your children. (collectivism-or the group, rather than the individual, as the social standard of value)

2. You must make the education of other peoples’ children a higher priority than the education of your own (altruism, or putting others above self).

3. No child may receive a quality education unless all children can as well (egalitarianism, or the dumbing down of the entire student population to the level of the least intelligent student or most incompetent teacher).

Failure to confront and renounce these three assumptions repeatedly defeats “school choice” advocates with barely an intellectual shot fired. What starts out as a call for “choice,” ends up as an apologetic defense of government-run schooling.

Exposing the altruist-collectivist-egalitarian stealth premise in the above question is key to defeating any rights-violating government social program (and to not defeating oneself). As is made clear in my three education posts as well as this blog in general, every individual’s life is his own and an end in itself. His only proper moral purpose is to advance his own well-being and happiness, not to be “his brothers’ keeper.” Morally, his only social obligation is to respect the rights of others to do the same. In regards to education, this means that your right and responsibility to educate your own children with your own money according to your own rational judgement is absolute. Some other parents’ “irresponsibility” in regards to their children’s education is of no concern of yours, and vice-versa. They’re using their own money, as are you. They’re using their own knowledge and judgement, as are you. They have no right to impose their educational ideas or financial obligations on you, nor do you on them.

Of course, none of this precludes voluntary associations and assistance among parents who want to learn from and/or assist others in the education of their children. Indeed, a great deal can be gained by “networking” with others to gain and/or spread knowledge in regards to teaching methods, curriculum, text books, philosophy, cost, etc. In fact, the best thing you can do to advance the cause of education for others…for “society”…is to get your own children the best education possible, then make others aware of your approach. But to make this benevolent way possible, all parents must be free to act according to their own judgement…by right, not by permission. No one is under any moral or compulsory obligation to educate the children of others. The only valid and moral method for people to deal with each other is by voluntary consent to mutual advantage. This is true in all human endeavors, including education. For you, your own children come first, and that’s that. There is no conflict between your own self-interest and the self-interest of others, when the compulsion inherent in government-run schools is eliminated.

The proper question is, then-does the government (or society, or your neighbor) own your income? If you do not have the right to determine how your education dollars are spent, then who does? And why? Who determines what "responsible" or "irresponsible" or "proper use" means? If not you, then who? And why? Identifying and rejecting the altruist-collectivist-egalitarian premises underlying the correspondent’s question above (and of all similar questions concerning all issues) demolishes any possible answer to the why. The moral road is cleared for a proper defense of individual rights…in this case, your right as a parent to educate your own children as you see fit.

This, in turn, clears the way for a proper, practical illustration and defense of tax credits and, ultimately, an education free market. It is not enough, of course, to simply say “shut down the public schools.” A practical, workable plan to transition to free education is vital here. One must be for, not merely against, something. (By “free” I mean free in the political sense of having a constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of action, not in the current Orwellian sense of “free” public education based upon compulsory taxation and compulsory attendance laws.)

Tax credits for education is an idea that has been around for decades. Milton Friedman is perhaps its most prominent voice. Shortly before his death, Mr. Friedman called for the outright abolition of the government-run public school system. Acknowledging the near-term unlikeliness of that happening, he simply called for a plan whereby the amount per student that government at all levels spends per year in a given state be simply turned over to the parents in the form of a voucher. In New Jersey, that figure averages $14,630, about 50% above the national average. And those figures don’t include taxpayer funding for public and private higher education. (I strongly oppose that plan, since it would preserve the government’s taxing power, and leave the government…through the vouchers it funds…in control of determining what is “responsible” and a “proper use” of those “public” funds.) Despite how long the idea has been around…and despite prominent voices like that of a Nobel laureate and the popularity (according to opinion polls) of the abstraction “school choice” enjoys…the idea has never gotten the traction it deserves. Without challenging the altruist-collectivist-egalitarian premise that every parent’s child has a “right” to an education paid for by someone else, the only proper basis for educational freedom…the moral concept of individual rights…can not be advanced.

How tax credits would work is (or should be) rather simple. The government would be required to give every taxpayer an accounting of the proportion of his taxes that goes for education at all levels. If you choose not to send your child to public school, you simply receive a credit against whatever amount of your tax…federal, state, and local…that equals your educational expenses up to the limit of your tax liability. In this way, there would be no re-distribution of income. Each would simply be spending his own money, before it gets sent to the government. There would be no restrictions on how you spend your own money…after all, it is your money…as long as it is education related. Credits would be allowed to pay down student loans for as long as it takes to repay them, even extending through years following the child's high school graduation. (Basic ground rules, such as not being able to spend money on a massage parlor, and then claim it as an educational expense, would have to be implemented. But there would be no government guidelines imposed as to textbooks, methods, standardized testing, etc.) I would extend this credit to all taxpayers, who would be able to apply it to the education of their grandchildren, their neighbor’s children, even to scholarship funds for children of low-income parents whose tax credits fall short of their needs, etc. The key here is that the same amount of money that now goes to fund public schools would still go towards education. No taxpayer would be obligated to use his credits, in which case for him nothing changes…his taxes still go to the public schools.

Capitalism’s history of enabling the production of more and more products at better and better quality at lower and lower real prices in all fields of economic endeavor is well documented, and needs no lengthy discussion here. It would be no different in regards to education. In a free education market, the best and most economical schools, curriculums, text books, educational theories and methods, and teachers would be determined by the market…i.e., by the rational judgements of the millions of parents seeking the best education for their children. The final arbiter, as in all areas of life, is the objective facts of reality. The results of each educational institution, from homeschooling to large campuses, will be readily observable. Since parents are free to “vote with their wallets,” schools that fail or do an inferior job of educating students will simply have to improve or lose customers. There is no education czar to arbitrarily impose his judgement on others. There is no impediment to dynamic new ideas constantly challenging the status quo. Entrepreneurial schools such as the VanDamme Academy in California would flourish in a free market.

I want to stress that I do not advocate tax credits as an alternative to or as a way of improving through competition the public schools. I do not fall into that trap. I advocate tax credits only as a transition to a completely privatized school system…a free market. The transition should last long enough to allow enough time for a vibrant and diverse private school system to develop. Some level of public education would need to be maintained as an interim measure to ensure a smooth transition. But the transition must be finite…say three years or five years hence…when a fixed date is set that all public schools would have to be either sold off, given to private groups, or shut down. Potential education investors and entrepreneurs would need the certainty of a definite end to taxpayer-supported public schools in order for a free market to flourish, for obvious reasons. This will give all parents ample time to plan for the eventual day when the responsibility for their children’s schooling falls on their shoulders, where it properly belongs. At that time, all taxation at all levels relating to public education would cease…there must be no windfall for the government.

The free market plan described above is a basic outline…and only an outline…to demonstrate the feasibility of attacking the very sacred cow of government-run public schools. Many legal questions, at all levels of government, would undoubtedly need to be untangled. Building support at the grassroots level is the first step toward reform. The growing frustration with the exploding costs and reigning mediocrity in so much of public education today makes the time ripe for a bold, radical new approach. Most people I have personally discussed the tax credit idea with have been surprisingly receptive, having never been exposed to the idea of an education free market. The greatest obstacle, of course, will be the entrenched establishment. Nevertheless, they can be disarmed and placed on the defensive from the opening shot. Paraphrasing Isabel Paterson:

The most vindictive resentment may be expected from the pedagogical profession for any suggestion that they be dislodged from their dictatorial position… Nevertheless, the question to put to any teacher [or apologist for the entrenched establishment] moved to such indignation is: Do you think nobody would willingly entrust his children to you or pay you for teaching them? Why do you have to extort your fees and collect your pupils by compulsion? (The God of the Machine, Caxton Printers, 1964 edition, p. 274, author’s emphasis)

I regard the rights of parents and their children to be extricated from compulsory government schooling to be on a par with the abolitionist movements of the 19th century and the civil rights movements of the mid-20th. The fight for free education is both a moral and a practical one. Moral, because parents possess unalienable rights to be free from coercion…and practical, because free markets work. There is no dichotomy between the moral and the practical. Government-run compulsory public education is immoral, impractical, and incompatible with a free society, and should be phased out and abolished.