Friday, January 31, 2014

Was America "Built on the Backs of Slaves?"

Following my comments regarding President Obama's State of the Union address, a correspondent left this snarky reply:

This country was built on the backs of slaves and indentured servants with a good helping of wage theft and outright theft of land, money, and mineral resources. You really do have a Pollyana-ish view of the natural order of things.

This is a common refrain of the anti-capitalist, anti-American historical revisionists.

My response:


Slaves produce little because they are forbidden to act on their own judgement, pursue their own goals and values, and keep what they earn. If slavery were the source of prosperity, human history would have been one long economic boom up until the liberty of capitalism and the industrial revolution. Slavery held this country back. The innovative chemist and agricultural giant George Washington Carver—a former slave—contributed more to American prosperity as a single free man than all of the plantation slaves combined. How many Carvers—and ambitious black men and women generally—failed to flourish because they were locked up in the slave system? How much better off would America be today had this country’s Founding ideals been spread to everyone at its beginning? The loss to this country in terms of today’s prosperity because of the existence of slavery is incalculable.

To say that this country was "built on the backs of slaves" is a grave insult to the memory of the slaves. This country was built on liberty, property rights, and individualism, which benefits everyone, including the decedents of American Indians. It was only to the extent that people were free, not enslaved, that this country prospered.

America replaced a mostly open, uninhabited continent—punctuated by pockets of primitive tribes—with a thriving, life-advancing industrial civilization. Despite injustices against the Indians, which did occur and we shouldn't minimize, the land wasn't stolen. European settlers had as much right to settle in North America as the American Indians had before them and as new immigrants have today. There were also injustices by Indians against the settlers. What the more intellectually and philosophically advanced Europeans brought to North America was a vastly improved continent for everyone, legally, economical, politically, morally, and culturally. They replaced the existing order of tribal tyranny, destitution, and slavery with the benevolence of individualism.

As to so-called "wage theft," there is no such thing. Wages are based on voluntary agreements between employer and employee. There is no theft. Then again, maybe there is such a thing as "wage theft"—minimum wage laws, which is theft perpetrated against the employer; as well as would-be entry-level workers, who are robbed of the chance to get on the lower rungs of the economic ladder of experience and advancement.

Related Reading:

Today's State of the Union—The Fulfillment of Obama's Promise to "Fundamentally Transform America": The Legitimization of Freeloading
Notes, and Myths, on American History - 1

The Capitalist Manifesto—Andrew Bernstein

Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Citizens United" Liberates Unions, Too.

Criticism based on faulty understanding of the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision that struck down limits on corporate and union spending on political campaigns surfaces time and again. For example, a NJ Star-Ledger letter (The Democrats' blame) bemoaned "'Citizens United,' the ruling that equates corporations with people."

Does the writer believe that corporations can exist where there are no people—for example, on Mars? Your guess is as good as mine.

I left this reply:

[Susan J.] Waldman obviously doesn't understand that Citizens United holds that individuals don't lose their free speech rights when they organize under corporations—a form of freedom of association—or that the same decision also liberated unions to spend without restrictions on their political causes. Apparently she has bought into the dangerous nonsense that the free flow of political dialogue in election campaigns is somehow a threat. The restrictions on corporate and union election and issue advocacy spending [that Citizens United] overturned insulated incumbent politicians from criticism from the people they allegedly serve. It was the right decision for making politicians more accountable to the people and a critical victory for the First Amendment.

Related Reading:

"Corporatists" Are Individuals, Too

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Legitimization of Freeloading: Today's State of the Union and Obama's Promise to "Fundamentally Transform America"

President Obama's State of the Union speech tonight is said to be focused on "income inequality," although I heard that he may not actually use that term. Instead, he may use the term "ladders of opportunity" or some such catch-phrase.

Either way, his lead focus will be on the alleged problem of the gap between the rich and the poor and middle class. The NJ Star-Ledger discussed income inequality in today's editorial. Obama, with State of the Union speech, faces long political odds but controls debate:

    As President Obama takes the stage for his State of the Union speech tonight, the two words everyone’s waiting for are “income inequality” — what he’s called “the defining issue of our time.”
    This idea now resonates with most Americans. We haven’t seen such a broad income gap between our nation’s wealthiest and everybody else since right before the Great Depression.

What's to do about this "defining issue?"

    Large majorities agree the income gap is growing and want government to do something about it, polls show. And government action is what Obama will argue for tonight.
    The president is expected to push once again for investing in our middle class, in order to trigger the demand that creates and grows jobs. This means raising taxes on the rich and applying more funding to areas such as education and infrastructure. . . .
    By focusing on the issue of growing inequality, he will continue to keep Republicans on the policy defensive — and the American public solidly with him.

I left these comments:

If it is true that "the American public [is] solidly with him" in his quest to attack income inequality, then Obama has largely succeeded in his 2008 campaign promise to "fundamentally transform America." It means that Obama has managed to legitimize freeloading and degrade productive achievement in the minds of most Americans.

Leaving aside the few who grow rich by criminality and government favor, most money is earned  by producing values that others are willing and able to buy. The great fortunes are earned because the fortune builders are so good at it. They produce affordable values that better the lives not of a few but of tens and hundreds of millions of people around the country and around the world who willingly buy the products and services that they are selling—and in the process foster trillions of dollars in economic activity. People don't make money and grow rich by plundering, as the neo-Marxist fools would have us believe, but by lifting others along with them.

Income inequality is a natural result of people rising economically as far as his ability and ambition will carry him, within the context of his own personal attributes and personal circumstances. This is the beauty and justice of economic freedom. To the extend that we are free, each of us gets to keep what he has earned, which is our moral right regardless of the level of our earnings. Contrary to the Obama view, making more than the next guy is not a threat to him, nor is the next guy making more a threat to you. The threat is politicians looking to "fix" the problem of income inequality through government force; redistribution, regulation, fiat money ("quantitative easing"), and government spending (which actually exacerbates the problem Obama claims to want to do something about—e.g., look at the stock market bubble). Ask yourself why the struggling economy and middle class coincides with the welfare state reaching its biggest ever.

"Income inequality" plays well to material parasites by giving them a shot at unearned wealth. It plays well to spiritual parasites by giving them a shot at the moral illusion of caring about the "little guy." And it plays well to power-hungry politicians by giving them a shot at further interference into private economic affairs in order to "fix" the alleged problem, like forcibly redistributing wealth ("investing in our middle class") on the absurd myth that "demand . . . creates and grows jobs" (as if you can consume before you produce).

But for those Americans who still value and admire achievement—right up to the fortune-builders who bring us the great companies, products, and jobs—"income inequality" is just another catch phrase that stands for the putrid stench of envy. Regardless of the polls, I'm not so sure that achievement-respecting Americans are yet in the minority. We'll see.

Related Reading:

America's Economic Troubles a Result of Lack of Free Markets, Not the "Widening Wealth Gap"

Another Climate Change Alarmist Set Straight

Demand Carbon Cuts, demands Meara Nigro in a letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Here is my reply to her letter:

Our advanced industrial civilization, driven mainly by carbon fuels, has enabled us to protect ourselves from the ever-present threat of "extreme weather events, such as superstorms, floods, droughts, wildfires and heat waves" and other natural environment hazards inherent in non-human-altered nature. This is why climate-related deaths have decreased in industrialized countries by 98% over the past century and a half, even as life expectancies nearly doubled.

Our food supply is healthier and more plentiful, thanks to carbon fueled industrial agriculture. Famines from droughts are a thing of the past, thanks to carbon fueled transportation systems that can bring massive food shipments into drought-stricken regions from unaffected areas. Our climate-controlled homes are healthier thanks to carbon fueled electrification (we no longer cook and heat with open burning of wood or coal). We have clean, safe, fresh water at our fingertips, thanks to water purification plants and the pumps and other infrastructure driven by carbon fueled electrification. Ditto for clean illumination.

By all means, let's have rational pollution laws for cleaner industrialization, so long as those laws don't hamper fossil fuel energy production. But we should remember the huge, life-enhancing, human environment-improving benefits of fossil fuels. If the IPCC and their political allies had been around before the industrial revolution to meet the "challenge" of climate change "for the next generation," we'd still be living in grinding poverty, be at the mercy of nature's elements, beset with child mortality rates of 50%, and be dead at 40.

Rather than demonize "carbon pollution," we should lionize the fossil fuel industry as the heroes that they are, because Fossil Fuels Improve the Planet.

By the way, Meara, what "reductions in snow and ice" are you talking about? Global warming increases snow and ice-pack because warmer air holds more moisture, which leads to more precipitation, including more snow in colder regions. And as the Washington Post recently reported, Antarctic sea ice is at record levels since satellites started collecting data.

Related Reading:

Ho-Hum: Another "Expert" Panel Pedaling Climate Change Scientology

Fossil Fuels and Climate Change: Remember Life Before Them

Now, the World's Looters Target America for "Climate Injustice"

It is time to recognize environmentalism as a philosophy of guilt and sacrifice and to reject it in favor of a philosophy that proudly upholds the value of human life.—Kieth Lockitch

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Real School Choice Depends on Free Exercise of Individual Rights

When school choice is lauded by public school administrators, you know that school choice has gone "mainstream." In a letter to the Hunterdon County Democrat, D. Carol A. Fredericks, superintendent of the Franklin Twp., Hunterdon County school district, trumpeted her districts implementation of New Jersey's School Choice program. Under this program, parents can apply to move their child to a public school of their choice within a 20 mile radius of their child's home district school. 

I left these comments:

New Jersey's school choice program is a laudable start toward empowering parents to determine the course of their own children's education. I commend Dr. Fredericks for seizing the opportunity the program offers to expand parental choices. Such empowerment is morally and logically the inalienable right of the parents, who brought the child into the world and know the child best.

But it is only a start. Real school choice means recognizing the rights of parents to opt out of the government school system altogether, and pursue private options unfettered by the ball and chain of education taxes and heavy-handed bureaucratic standards.

I laid out such a plan in my article for The Objective Standard. My plan would not only liberate parents to spend their own money as they judge best, but also open wide the gates of private educational opportunities for children of poor families and other worthy but under-served children. Here, in my view, is what real school choice looks like: Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits.

I might add that Governor Christie is on record as favoring universal school choice, as he told the American Federation for Children 3 years ago.

Related Reading:

Modern-Day George Wallaces in Reverse

Parent Trigger Laws Indicate Growing Strength of the Parental School Choice Movement

School Choice is About Freedom, Not "Union-Busting"

Friday, January 24, 2014

Carney's Wrong: Washington, Not the Private Market, is the Real "Wild West"

On October 29, 2013,'s Katie Pavlich reported:

When pressed on the issue of millions losing individual insurance plans they wanted to keep, [Obama Administration Press Secretary Jay] Carney said it is five percent of the population being affected by insurance loss. That five percent adds up to 14 million people. 
"We're talking about 5% of the country," Carney said after justifying losses and referring to the individual marketplace as a "wild west" that needed more regulation.

Clearly, Carney's reference to a "wild west" is meant to disparage the free, unregulated market. The individual health insurance market, of course, was not unregulated before ObamaCare. It was just less regulated than under ObamaCare. But leaving that aside for now, is Carney's analogy an accurate description of a free market?

The "wild west" analogy is often how statists refer to private individuals voluntarily engaging in trade, association, and contract—i.e., liberty. So, let's examine the validity of Carney's use of that analogy by comparing liberty to the regulatory welfare state he was defending.

Miriam-Webster defines "wild west" as "the western United States in its frontier period characterized by roughness and lawlessness." The wild west conjures up images of a nearly lawless frontier town, where women and children scurry for cover while routine disputes get settled amid raging gun battles. Force is the name of the game in the wild west. Law is the ingredient that is missing from the equation, replaced by "law" as whatever the gunslingers say it is at any given moment.

Now, remember that government is solely an institution of force—i.e., guns. As George Washington is believed to have famously said, "government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force." Government must have a monopoly on the legal use of force if it is to fulfill its only proper mission to protect individual rights, lest we have anarchy degenerating into dictatorship. But, with Carney's "wild west" analogy in mind, consider the government America has today.

Under ObamaCare alone, over 10,000 pages of regulations have been written (not counting the 2000-page law itself)— regulations that carry the force of law, but which could be altered, rescinded, or added to at any time.

Or consider the continuing antitrust assault on America's most successful companies, based on whatever antitrust enforcers say is against the law at any given time.

Or consider that the Social Security benefits your lifetime of FICA taxes where supposed to provide for can be altered, including cut or eliminated, at any time government officials feel like it.

Or, consider that politicians can vote away your wealth and redistribute it to any group it deems "needy," based only on any newly discovered fact of that group's "need," based only on the "law" "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."

The list can go on and on.

Now consider a free market society. Citizens are free to pursue their values by inalienable right, provided their actions don't violate the rights of others to pursue their values. The laws are designed to protect the citizens' individual rights, and to punish those who violate rights.

To violate rights means to initiate force, directly—e.g., theft, murder—or indirectly—e.g., fraud, breech-of-contract, extortion—against others. Laws objectively identify, define, and proscribe acts of initiatory force, and prescribe appropriate punishments for the perpetrators and retribution for the victims. In a free society, government may not violate the laws it administers; i.e., government, like private citizens, is not permitted to initiate force and violate rights by regulating or redistributing wealth or property. "Individual rights are the means of subordinating society [government] to moral law." All laws are objectively written, so that everyone knows, in advance, exactly what he is forbidden to do, and why.

So think about this for a minute. In the original wild west, we’re talking about the use of force by private citizens against other private citizens. In the above description of government as it exists today, we’re talking about government assuming the role of the gunslinger in the wild west, and initiating force against private citizens with virtual impunity. Sure, there are no open gun battles. The gun is hidden. But in an essential way, today's situation is worse: Rather than operate outside of any law, the force initiators operate under cover of law, while legally disarming their victims by law. Try resisting the armed law enforcement personnel with your own gun when they come to seize your wealth as "fines" or arrest you for disobeying one of their arbitrary edicts!

Which state of affairs is reminiscent of the "Wild West"—a "frontier . . . characterized by roughness and lawlessness—a free society or today's mixed economy government?

This is not to say that a fully free healthcare market existed before ObamaCare. It didn't. But it was freer before ObamaCare. And it is not to say that the wild west analogy describes today's government across the board. It doesn't (though we are heading there). It is to say we who advocate liberty should be ever-vigilant to be on the lookout for the statists' use of what Ayn Rand identified as concept-stealing; "the fallacy of using a concept while denying the validity of its genetic roots, i.e., of an earlier concept(s) on which it logically depends."

Next time some statist apologist levies the "wild west" charge against freedom, remember where the facts prove the real wild west is located—in Washington.

Related Reading:

Does Freedom Equal "The Wild West"?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Cost of Healthcare: ObamaCare Supporters Drop the Context to Support Their Case

A correspondent, pem59, recently responded to Jonathan Grotz (letter: No conservative plan) with:

    Jonathan Grotz,
    "What is his alternative?"
    I have the same question for those who criticize the Affordable Care Act. We spend twice as much per capita [sic] on Healthcare as the rest of the developed world and our costs have been increasing faster than the rest of the world. This is unsustainable - sooner or later it wil [sic] catch up with us.

This is a classic case of what Ayn Rand called context-dropping. As Leonard Peikoff explains: "Whenever you tear an idea from its context and treat it as though it were a self-sufficient, independent item, you invalidate the thought process involved. If you omit the context, or even a crucial aspect of it, then no matter what you say it will not be valid . . . . A context-dropper forgets or evades any wider context. He stares at only one element, and he thinks, 'I can change just this one point, and everything else will remain the same.'" pem59 views the rising cost of healthcare in snapshot fashion, ignoring the context of history and cause and effect.

I left this reply:

Unsustainable?: Yes, which is exactly why the ACA is not an alternative. It is the government that caused the runaway costs in the first place. The solution is not to reward the culprit with wider powers.

As any good basic economics textbook, history, and personal experience will tell you, when you separate the consumer from the responsibility to pay, you get runaway costs.

Today Americans spend nearly 20% of GDP on healthcare, about $9,000 for every man, woman, and child. When you consider that nearly 90% of that spending is by 3rd parties—socialist programs like Medicare and Medicaid and the government-instigated, semi-socialist, quasi-private "insurance" system—is it any wonder that healthcare costs are "out of control?" It's because payment is out of the consumer's control.

Health care cost is a "national issue" only because the government has assumed control, either directly or indirectly, of spending Americans' healthcare dollars. But logically, rightfully, and morally, paying for healthcare is an individual, not "societal", responsibility, which each individual and family must deal with and plan for in his own way.

The alternative to the pre- and post-ObamaCare system?—End the 3rd party payer system and leave that 90% in the hands of the productive Americans who earned it, and remove government controls on the healthcare industry so consumers are free to engage in voluntary, mutually beneficial contractual relationships with providers and/or insurers. The incentives inherent in a free market—producers striving to expand sales in order to maximize profits, and consumers striving to get the most for their money—will take over, leading inexorably to rising quality and falling costs over time, as the history and theory of free markets prove.

As to the rest of the world: Setting aside the questionable statistical measures, socialized countries "hold down costs" by rationing care; i.e., by death panel. The choice Americans face is self-responsibility for healthcare or submit to death panel care. When you give up responsibility to pay, you give up control over that aspect of your life.

Related Reading:
Before ObamaCare Fiasco: Problems Caused by Government

The Answer to "Our Uncontrolled Healthcare Expenditures" is Free Market, Not Single Payer, Health Care

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

King's "Economic Equality" Legacy: Not Forgotten, but Tried—and Failed

New Jersey Star-Ledger columnist Barry Carter is another pundit who believes that Martin Luther King's message of economic equality is often missing from the King Day celebrations. Carter writes:

Rev. M. William Howard Jr., pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Newark, said King’s legacy, much to his regret, has been reduced to a black nationalist holiday rather than a call to action that should address rampant poverty, crime and the widespread problems in education.

King advocated for a massive interventionist state, notes Carter:

Remember, King went to Memphis to support the bargaining rights of garbage workers, which was linked to a larger effort — the Poor People’s Campaign that he was planning for the national mall in Washington, D.C.

King's Poor Peoples Campaign called for such things as "a right to Quality Healthcare, Affordable Housing, Living Wage Jobs, and access to Quality primary, Secondary, and Higher Education. . ."

But King also believed in other things, according to some:

    "Until we (blacks) develop a passion for economic strategy and entrepreneurship, we’re going to be the only group left in America waiting for a bail out," said Rev. DeForest Soaries, senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset. "Every immigrant group that has come here has majored in business development. We ought to zoom in on what King was trying to say and that is let’s not forsake the building of our own.
    John Harmon, president of the African-American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, said King sacrificed his life so that legislation would bring access to employment and business opportunities to move low-income people into the middle class on an ongoing basis.                     Adrian Council, publisher of the Positive Community, a faith-based lifestyle magazine targeting the black community, said we must remember that King was about self-reliance, self-acceptance and self-respect, values that helped blacks historically and culturally.

King obviously believed that massive state intervention into the economy would foster self-improvement and independence. Of course, he was wrong.

I left these comments:

Martin Luther King Jr. is an American paradox. His idealism centered on the promise of the Declaration of Independence. His 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech reaffirmed the Declaration's principles of inalienable individual rights and political equality—meaning, equality before the law—and called on Americans to live up to that promise (which by 1963 had not fully done so).

But his politics went in the opposite direction, toward economic equality, which relies on massive government intervention into the economy and thus is incompatible with political equality. He called this "democratic socialism"—a hybrid system that in his mind constituted a middle ground between communism and capitalism. 

Well, his economic equality message has not been lost. It has been tried on a massive scale, and has failed. It is called the regulatory welfare state, and has, after 50 years, brought not prosperity for all but rising poverty, a struggling middle class, a crippled economy, and a financial crisis and Great Recession. 

The financial crisis is a perfect example of King's economic equality message in action. The genesis of the crisis was the politicians' bipartisan "affordable housing" crusade. Under this crusade—ostensibly designed to help poor people—time-tested, decades-old mortgage lending standards came to be seen as harmful to low-income people. So the government, through its massive regulatory control apparatus, pressured the banks to lower, and eventually destroy, those lending standards, opening the floodgates of sub-prime lending. The rest is history. 

Of course, there were other primary causes, like the easy-money policies of the Fed and a politically corrupted Fannie and Freddie. But the point is, the affordable housing crusade is exactly what King would have supported in the name of economic equality. And, like so many "War on Poverty" initiatives, it led to economic disaster.

King's Dream was the right vision, and that's what we should remember him for. "Self-reliance, self-acceptance and self-respect" are incompatible with the collectivistic, quasi-socialist welfare state. Those individualist principles are only compatible with his Dream. The Declaration upholds inalienable individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and by implication the right to keep and dispose of whatever property one earns—under a government that does not regulate and redistribute but instead protects everyone's rights equally and at all times. Those are the basic principles that give rise to capitalism, and by re-affirming those principles, King affirmed capitalism (though inadvertently, because he didn't understand capitalism). Capitalism doesn't guarantee economic equality, because people are unequal in myriad respects including intelligence, ability, ambition, values, goals, personal life circumstances, and moral virtue. What capitalism does guarantee is that whatever material prosperity and happiness one does earn is his by right.

I believe King is an American hero because of his professed allegiance to the Founders' vision. But King should be honored for those deep-seated beliefs in American ideals, not his objectionable welfare state politics, which contradict those ideals. We should embrace King's Dream of political equality, and abandon his mistaken and unjust mission of economic equality.

Related Reading:

“I Have a Dream”: Martin Luther King Urges Consistency to Founding Principles

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

The Creed of Sacrifice vs. The Land of Liberty—Craig Biddle

Monday, January 20, 2014

Martin Luther King Should be Remembered for his Ideals, Not His Politics

In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Peniel E. Joseph, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, said in an article:

King emerges as a talented individual whose rhetorical genius at the March on Washington helped elevate an entire nation through his moral power and sheer force of will.

The March on Washington was when King delivered his famous 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. Joseph goes on:

Yet missing from many of the annual King celebrations is the portrait of a political revolutionary who, over time, evolved into a radical warrior for peace, justice and the eradication of poverty. During his last three years, King the “Dreamer” turned into one of the most eloquent, powerful and scathing critics of American society. King lent his moral force and power to anti-poverty crusades that questioned the economic system of capitalism and called for an end to the Vietnam War. . . . King’s powerful rage against economic exploitation and war is often overlooked when we think of him as only a race-healer.

Read more here:

Read more here:

The "moral power" of King's famous "Dream" speech in Washington was actually the moral power of the Founding Fathers resurrected. In that speech, King reminded Americans of the ideals laid down in the Declaration of Independence—the philosophic blueprint for the new nation—and called on Americans to fully live up to those ideals.

Yet later, King questioned the legitimacy of capitalism and turned to what he termed "democratic socialism," a hybrid of two evil systems (democracy and socialism) that repudiates the very ideals he espoused in his speech. Therein lies one of the great American paradoxes.

When the Founders drafted the Declaration of Independence, they laid down the basic principles that allowed capitalism to happen. When King reaffirmed those ideals—that all men are created equal, possessing inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness protected equally and at all times under a government of objective law rather than men—he was really, though unwittingly, affirming the foundation of capitalism.

Capitalism is the system based on individual rights, rights-protecting government and the only kind of equality that is just—equality before the law. Because of these principles, Capitalism is the only social system that banishes exploitation and war, because individual rights banishes initiatory force from human relationships—particularly force by government against the people. Under capitalism, exploitation is replaced with voluntary trade to mutual benefit among individuals, a win-win in which individuals trade value-for-value and get better together, liberating any individual willing to think and act on his own judgement and work to lift himself from poverty. And under capitalism, war is replaced with peaceful coexistence among nations based on that principle of trade.

So why would King uphold the principles of capitalism in his most famous speech while repudiating it in his politics? It'd obvious that King didn't understand capitalism or the moral implications of the Declaration of Independence. 

He undoubtedly viewed the America of the 1960s as capitalist, when in fact what America had was a mixed economy; a mixture of economic freedom and government controls—that is to say, an economy corrupted by heavy political interference. His democratic socialism would have only further strengthened and entrenched the mixed economy which he mistakenly perceived as capitalism—and, in fact, the policies he advocated have largely been enacted and the result has been exactly that.

To his credit, King explicitly opposed full-blown socialism, which he believed leads to communism, a system that he correctly understood "forgets that life is individual." But he wrongly believed that "Capitalism forgets that life is social," leading him to his hybrid democratic socialism. He failed to see that capitalism, by leaving individuals free to pursue their own values in the absence of physical coercion, provides the only proper moral foundation for flourishing and benevolent social interaction—the moral foundation implicit in the Declaration of Independence, rational egoism.

Thus is the paradox of Martin Luther King. 

Commentators like Joseph urge us to elevate his politics to at least the level of his ideals. But ideas are where the real power lies. Since ideas are the driving force of human events, Martin Luther King, despite his politics, remains one of my heroes. King reaffirmed America's Founding ideals at a crucial point in American history. That, to me, is his real legacy contribution to America. For that, I am grateful to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Related Reading:

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Fundamental Principle of America

“I Have a Dream”: Martin Luther King Urges Consistency to Founding Principles

Read more here:

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Yes, Marie, We Are Losing Our Humanity; to Legalized Theft

In a letter titled Losing Our Humanity about the budget fight over the federal food stamp program (SNAP), published in the NJ Star-Ledger, Marie Harvey slammed Republicans:

Congressional Republicans cry that there are too many people on food stamps, so they have seen to it that 47.6 million Americans had their benefits cut to pre-recession levels, averaging $36 per month. Not satisfied with that, they are looking to cut drastically further.

Marie apparently doesn't realize (or doesn't want to acknowledge) that the "cut to pre-recession levels" was agreed to by both parties when the increase was enacted, and that the temporary increase was allowed to expire by both parties, as neither Democrats nor Republicans proposed extending it.

She then goes on the tell us about the hardships the cutbacks will allegedly cause, and concludes with "We are losing our humanity. It’s time to stop slamming the door in the faces of our own people."

I left this rebuttal:

We started losing our humanity when we decided that theft for a "good cause" is ok. The proper way to deal with hunger in a free, moral society is to recognize the rights of the individuals that comprise society to decide for themselves who to help, when, and in what capacity, based upon their own individual values and life circumstances.

The food stamp program (SNAP) starts with legalized theft. Anyone who advocates forcibly taking the wealth of people who earned it, for any reason, can not claim compassion for the elderly, the poor, or anyone else. People who practice charity with other people's tax money are phonies because they are purveyors of force, and have no claim to any moral motive. The moral high ground belongs to the champions of the victims of legalized theft, whose rights to their own lives, liberties, properties, values, and conscience are massively violated by welfare state programs like SNAP.

Private voluntary food banks should replace the food stamp program after a transition period. Those who profess concern for the hungry should put their own money and time where their mouths are, and leave the rest of us in peace. That's called live-and-let-live. The principle that need is a license to steal is not a civil principle. It is the law of the jungle. 

And where did you get the idea that the GOP wants to "drastically" cut food stamps? The cuts are minuscule, and tied to modestly tighter eligibility standards. Currently, according to USA Today, the federal government spends about $75 billion per year on food stamps, which are doled out to about 48 million recipients. This is up dramatically from the $15 billion and 17 million recipients in 2001. The bill passed by the House would cut $39 billion and three million recipients from SNAP over the next ten years, or an annual reduction of roughly 5 percent in expenditures and 6 percent in recipients. There is no "drastic" there. The GOP is a welfare state party that supports SNAP.

Related Reading:

Republicans Make Trivial Cuts to Food Stamp Program, Refuse to Identify Its Immorality

Senator Menendez Dishonestly Equates Private Food Bank with SNAP

Friday, January 17, 2014

No One is "Supposed" to Shoulder Unchosen Obligations

A key purpose of ObamaCare is to impose government-approved health insurance designed to redistribute wealth through mandated coverage for all, regardless of whether any particular individual wants or needs the coverage. Obama's contraception mandate is a good example. Under that mandate, all policies must cover women's contraception, including policies bought by old men, men who have had vasectomies, or men who are impotent. 

Supporting this scheme, the NJ Star-Ledger twisted itself into a logical pretzel trying to defend these measures. Under the editorial headline Why shouldn't men pay for maternity care, the editors slammed conservatives who spoke out against the maternity mandate imposed on health insurance policies. Here is the editors' audacious response:

    Here’s how it’s supposed to work: The group subsidizes the costlier, needier individual. That means younger people help pay for older people. Healthy people help shoulder the costs of sicker people. And young men help pay for young women who go to the doctor more frequently, at an earlier age, because of reproductive issues.
    Let’s not ignore the inevitable role that men play in those reproductive issues. And this is not just about gender, either: A young woman who’s never taken drugs, and doesn’t intend to, will be subsidizing the addiction treatment of some man who’d otherwise wind up cycling through our prison system.
    Why? Because it's good for society. And in return, men help pay for her prenatal care, without which we’d all be stuck with higher health costs later.
    The idea that women are the sole users of maternity services also ignores the fact that every man was once a baby, too. Think of it this way: As adults, these young men are now helping to repay society for the costs of their own prenatal care. [emphasis added.]

Whenever a socialist tries to justify redistribution, the inevitable appeal to collectivist group supremacy will not be far behind. The logic here is simple: You, the individual, are not the focus of moral concern. You belong to the tribe—in this case, "society." Whatever society wants to do with you is fine, as long as it deems that something to be to its own benefit, as determined by—whom? Since society does not exist apart from the individual human beings that make it up, some individual(s) must determine what is to society's benefit. The individual human being, after all, is the only human existent. All it takes is for an individual(s) to claim "Society, cest moi!" to qualify himself as a spokesperson for society. That's what the editors are doing.

Why rely on collectivist rationalizations? Because what's good for individuals varies from individual to individual. What's good for the individual depends on each individual's personal circumstances. Focus on the individual, and no identification of what's "good for society" is possible, apart from what's good for every single member of society. How often does that happen? Since every individual is an equal part of society, what's good for society ceases to be so if a single individual deems it not to be good for him. The logical end result can only be: There is only one thing that's literally good for society—laissez-faire. Leave each individual free to determine for himself what's good, and to act accordingly. That doesn't fit well with statism. Hence, collectivism is the statists' default argument.

I left these comments:

"This is how it's supposed to work."

Supposed, by whom? By government officials wielding the legalized power of the gun? By do-gooder busybodies who claim to speak for society? By phonies who claim a desire to "help" their fellow man—by forcing others to pay for that help?

Here's how it's supposed to work in a free, moral society. Each individual is responsible for his own life and the consequences of his own actions. If a man impregnates a woman, he has a clear obligation, based on his own actions, to help shoulder the financial burden of that pregnancy and the child's upbringing. He has no obligation to pay for maternity care for every pregnant woman. 

The same goes for every aspect of healthcare. Each individual has a moral right and obligation to take care of himself and those whom he has voluntarily chosen to take responsibility for—and no more. The purpose of insurance is to buy personal protection from unforeseen catastrophic healthcare expenses, not to pay for someone else's healthcare. Each individual has the right to determine what protection to buy based on his own needs, circumstances, and ability to pay. And insurers competing for business should, in justice, be free to structure and price their policies according to the demand of its customers and the relevant individual risk factors. Whatever an individual is not insured for is his responsibility to pay for out of pocket, or by seeking voluntary help from people of good will. No one has any right to expect others to be forced to cover his bills. Forced "help" is legalized armed robbery.

ObamaCare is a scheme that forcibly redistributes wealth, with quasi-private insurance companies as the tools of redistribution. It is a scheme to make everyone responsible for everyone else's healthcare, but not his own; in other words, to turn everyone into both a slave and a mooching predator. The big winners? The seekers of the unearned and, most importantly and as we have seen—the government, in the form of unlimited, arbitrary power to control our wealth and to determine who gets what healthcare, if and when, and at what price. 

Socialized medicine under any guise is morally wrong and un-American. Every individual has an inalienable right to be free from forcible interference from his fellow man, including from statist masterminds with collectivist, group supremacist ideas who think they have the right to tell us what we're "supposed" to do and back his edicts up at the point of a gun. It is simply unjust and immoral to force any person to pay for more insurance than he needs or wants in order to subsidize someone else's healthcare needs. The most dangerous kind of human being is the person with good intentions in one hand and a gun in the other.

Related Reading:

Obama's Collectivist "Togetherness" vs. Individualist Togetherness

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

To Defeat Collectivism, Deny Collectivist Premises

Thursday, January 16, 2014

"Market Failure" to Blame for Invasion of the Polar Vortex?

I've responded to a lot of letters pumping catastrophic human-caused climate change and calling for massive government intervention into the economy—and in particular against fossil fuels—as the solution. But the New Jersey Star-Ledger letter Cold Weather Reflects Unstable Climate has got to be read to be believed. Submitted by Joseph Robertson, a volunteer for some outfit called the Citizens Climate Lobby, the letter claims that

Science has clearly shown that excess thermal energy "loads the dice" for added release of climate energy through unusual weather events: We are operating in a climate system unlike any seen throughout the entire history of the human species . . .

I left these comments:

I won't even comment on the nonsense spewed in the first two paragraphs, which rediculously imply that these types of cold waves are something unusual and new. That's covered pretty well below. The last paragraph is my concern:

"We need solutions that will reduce negative human impact on the global climate-energy balance, and stave off devastating climate destabilization. We can do this by correcting the market’s failure to price carbon emitting fuels honestly and transitioning to the more robust, more democratic clean energy economy."

To translate: When someone claims "market failure" in support of some government economic intervention, what they're really saying is, "I don't like the choices others make, so I'm going to impose my choices on them at the point of a gun"—i.e., by law.

The bogus idea that carbon emitting fuels are not priced "honestly" is based on the fallacy that all of the external effects of fossil fuel use are negative. But, what about the vastly greater positives? What about the water purification and delivery systems, waste disposal systems, central heating and air conditioning, illumination, transportation, advanced healthcare and high tech, just to name a few of the modern marvels that support our living standards and life expectancies, the highest and longest in the history of mankind? None of that is possible without reliable, plentiful, economical energy provided primarily by fossil fuels. And if weather extremes really are getting worse—a dubious assumption—how is mankind to protect itself against these extremes without that steady, reliable energy? How will once again placing people at the mercy of nature's hostile forces, as they were before the industrial revolution, an improvement? With the return of such misery, who the hell would care about imperceptibly less "extreme" weather?

"Market Failure" is statists' rationalization for more tyrannical government. The market—the sum of the voluntary contractual choices between countless consumers and producers—is the only honest pricing mechanism for fossil fuels (or any product). Anything involving force is tyranny and immoral.

Climate ideologues fantasize about a "clean energy" bonanza SOMEHOW coming into existence if we only tax and regulate the fossil fuel industry enough, crippling it as environmentalists have the non-carbon emitting nuclear industry. Well, if "clean energy" like wind and solar can carry the load of industrial civilization, and be economically competitive with fossil fuels, let them prove it. Let Robertson and his ilk produce it themselves and offer it up for sale on the free market, without government intervention—and leave the rest of us who love life free to make our own choices. That is not "market failure." That is liberty and respect.

Don't be fooled. The climate ideologues are not concerned with a livable HUMAN environment, which requires reshaping and improving the planet to human benefit through technology. In the name of "science"—the climate authoritarians' tool of statism—the climate ideologues would impose much higher costs on consumers for the reliable, plentiful energy provided by fossil fuels. And that's the best case scenario. At worst, climate ideologues would force a total transition to an alleged "clean energy economy," and thus collapse our healthy, clean, life-serving industrial economy at great cost to human life. Science was once used to justify eugenics, which led to the Nazi horror—and socialism, which led to the communist slaughterhouse. We should not allow another such gang—the climate ideologues—to commandeer science to justify crippling fossil fuel energy production and bring on an even worse human catastrophe.

As an aside, the recent cold wave is not a common, every winter occurrence. But neither is it that unusual. As the New York Daily News reports:

    The polar vortex, referred by NBC weather icon Al Roker as a "Polar Hurricane," is a weather system that is usually seen in Canada, but has moved south.
    "It's not rare at all," AccuWeather senior forecaster John Gresiak told the Daily News on Monday. "It's an upper-level low pressure system which is usually found over or near the polar regions. I would just describe it as a pool of very cold air."
    Every so often, "the action of the jetstream" and other atmospheric factors can force the vortex south. This polar vortex will only last approximately 24 hours, Gresiak said.
    "While most of the time its in northern Canada, once in a while it will drop further south, and thats [sic] what's happening right now," he said.
    Vortexes can occur "every few years to some extent" in the U.S., but the last one south of Canada this extreme took place in 1994, Gresiak said.
    "It was even colder than it is now," he said.

Just to prove how utterly false the claims of Cold Weather Reflects Unstable Climate is, the Associated Press reported that cold waves of 2013-14 magnitude are becoming less prevalent. As AP reports,

    In the past 115 years, there have been 58 days when the national average temperature dropped below 18. Carbin said those occurrences often happen in periods that last several days so it makes more sense to talk about cold outbreaks instead of cold days. There have been 27 distinct cold snaps.
    Between 1970 and 1989, a dozen such events occurred, but there were only two in the 1990s and then none until Monday.
    "These types of events have actually become more infrequent than they were in the past," said [Greg] Carbin, who works at the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla. "This is why there was such a big buzz because people have such short memories."
Or just plain dishonest. If anything, the climate is becoming more stable as it warms.

Related Reading:

The Church of Climate Scientology: How Climate Science Became a Religion—Alex Epstein

Markets Don't Fail—Brian P. Simpson

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Climate Change Alarmists Ignore Life-Giving Fossil fuel Contributions

A letter titled Effective government action needed to avoid catastrophe, published in the Hunterdon County Democrat, had this to say about "the most serious threat we’re facing, which is climate change":

Some politicians refuse to acknowledge that climate change exists. I’m not sure whether this is due to an inadequate science education or indebtedness to financial contributions from the fossil fuel industry, whose reach is now also felt locally. The Hunterdon County Democrat has reported that ExxonMobil contributed money to the Lambertville school district for science education, and they have given money for science classes in Milford.

What is not reported is that ExxonMobil has also supported groups working to deny climate change. Is it right to take money for science programs from a company that suppresses and denies an urgent, unprecedented scientific problem?

Unfortunately, the largesse of the heavily subsidized fossil fuel industry decreases our chances of getting governmental leadership to resolve this complex issue.

I posted these comments:

The real catastrophe will occur if government takes action to "avoid catastrophe." Earth's natural environment is misery and death to human beings. That's why humans employ technology to alter the environment to improve it for human habitation. Industrialization, driven primarily by energy supplied by the fossil fuel industry, has vastly improved the planet, leading to longer, healthier, cleaner, more prosperous lives for human beings.

If, before the industrial revolution, we had Rankin-Baransky's kind of "effective governmental action" so as not to "ruin the planet for future generations," we'd still have grinding mass poverty, 50% child mortality rates, and a life span of 35 years.

Let's also clear up some of the myriad fallacies in this letter. The fact that Exxon-Mobil generously funds science education doesn't prove that the education is false. The fact that the highly politicized IPCC issues computer model-driven statements proves nothing. And who, exactly, "denies climate change"—an ever on-going natural process? And where is the "heavily subsidized fossil fuel industry?" It doesn't exist [Click here and here]. The only subsidies any oil company receives is for the ethanol scam, which should be repealed, along with the real subsidies doled out to wind and solar companies. The fossil fuel industry is highly profitable, thanks to the life-giving, valuable products we voluntarily buy from them. It needs and receives no subsidies, politicians lies to the contrary.

The fossil fuel industry largely powers the technologies that bring us "clean air, food and water." Without fossil fuels, human beings would still be at the mercy of natural disasters, as peoples still are in non-industrialized third world countries.

The fossil fuel industry is an heroic industry, and the hysterics who push for curbs on carbon emissions are pushing for curbs on human life. Here's my proposition to them: If you want to "reduce your carbon footprint," fine—reduce your own. But leave those of us who love life alone. Keep your government coercion out of it. Live and let live.

When I read this letter, a column by Alex Epstein came to mind; A Leading Climate Scientologist Masks ignorence with Appeals to Authority. Epstein offers this advice: Never accept Climate Scientology from anyone, no matter what their credentials. Be a Climate Thinker instead. Anyone who wants you to agree with them owes you an explanation.

There seems to be an epidemic of Climate Scientology letters getting published these days. If you've read one, you've read them all.

Related Reading:

"Sustainable" Material Bounty Requires Sustainable, Reliable Energy—Like Fossil Fuels

Monday, January 13, 2014

Free Market Education is the Best "Defense Strategy"

In Defense Strategy: Preschool, retired U.S. Navy admiral John C. Harvey Jr. argues for tax-funded, universal government preschool as the solution to a serious problem: 

". . . 75 percent of Americans, from 17 to 24, cannot qualify for military service many because they are academically unprepared. In New Jersey, 17 percent of high school students do not graduate on time and 27 percent of graduates who try to enlist cannot score highly enough on military exams."

I left these comments:

It is widely acknowledged that, after more than a century of broad-based, universal K-12 government schooling, U.S. children on average still don't receive an adequate education and many receive a dismal education or even none at all. This, despite enormous sums of taxpayer money showered on the public education establishment.

And the solution is to expand government control of education to preschool? Must those who failed be rewarded with more control? 

We need not just fresh but revolutionary thinking on this subject. How about a free market in education, where the moral rights of parents to control their children's education is reasserted, and educators vie for their business through robust competition on price, quality, and a long-neglected but crucial ingredient—educational philosophy? 

I greatly appreciate your service, admiral Harvey. America's military protects this country, which was conceived and founded on a revolutionary ideal; individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. Let's honor that ideal by expanding individual liberty in education. Rather than expand government education, the solution is to expand the opportunities for parents to get their children out of government schools. I laid out a plan for free market education that would greatly expand the opportunities for parents in all income brackets to choose private education in this article for The Objective Standard:

Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?

Related Reading:

My replies to Objective Standard correspondents relating to Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?