Sunday, October 30, 2016

Citizens United and Michael Moore in the Comments Section—2

In response to my comments under the Paul Mulshine article, Reverse Citizens United and jail Michael Moore? - Liberals are confused on campaign funding, the following exchange took place:

MorrisCntyTom replied to Mulshine’s article:

The essence of "free speach" was as a CITIZEN you didn't have to worry about the thugs coming to get you for stating your opinion.

Once you pay for something it's no longer "free"  I mean that's basic commons sense.  Boiled down to it's essence what the ruling says is the more money you have the more FREE SPEECH you have.  

If the Corps want to exercise "free speech" let them convince their workers to go door to door or go to rally's ON THEIR DIME. [sic]

That's FREE SPEACH.  plastering the airwaves, internet, tv and whatever else with your commercials is plain old commercialism.  

Freedom of the press is specifically mentioned in the First Amendment., freedom to spend to your hearts content to influence elections isn't.   The framing father warned against corporatism and here we open the hen house door and let the foxes in.  

I replied:

The “free” is free speech means, as you say, freedom from forcible restriction. Contrary to what you say, the “free” in free speech is not a guarantee of no monetary cost. That’s utterly ridiculous.

The whole point of freedom of speech, which necessarily includes the right to spend your own money on your own political speech, is to influence, including to "influence elections." If we citizens are forbidden to influence elections, then what’s the point of election campaigns?

Artificial distinctions between speech and commercialism is a meaningless gimmick. Speech is speech. Citizens are individuals. All individuals have that inalienable right, regardless of their financial means. If our rights depend upon a monetary test, then we progressively lose our rights the more economically successful we become. That’s absurd. Rights mean the equal right to act, not the equal means to act. Corporations are associations of individuals. Individuals don't lose their rights just for associating and cooperating with other individuals, whether the association takes the form of a union, a think tank, a news organization, a movie studio, or a corporation. The owners of any private association, as a group, have the right, derived from each member's individual rights, to spend the organization’s money on speech. Any attack on one means of expression is an attack on all means of expression.

MorrisCntyTom replied:

Just stop.  Corporations are an entity created by law...are you and i??  No.  They are given special privileges under law... are you and I? please just stop with the equality garbage. [sic]

I replied:

Put simply, corporations are a streamlined means for government to legally protect private citizens' right to do business (to associate) on a limited liability basis. Rights are not privileges. That's the government's job—to protect individual rights. Statists have all kinds of rationalizations to stop private citizens from exercising their inalienable right to free speech. But the bottom line is, freedom of speech means simply the right to free expression, no matter the means so long as one's actions don't infringe upon the same rights of others. How does corporate or for that matter union speech, which CI also protects, infringe upon others' rights?

MorrisCntyTom replied:

And there you have it.  You're taking a "group of people" that has GOVERNMENT protection "to do business" and then letting them loose to influence GOVERNMENT elections.  You can't see the issue issue our founding fathers warned us about?

"the government's job—to protect individual rights"

There is NOTHING individual in a CORPORATION.  period.  You've just closed the argument against yourself.

People’s comments usually don’t surprise me. But this did. I replied:

What? There's nothing individual in a corporation? So corporations can exist in an uninhabited place—say, on Mars or the Moon? Any human association is made up of individuals, whether a corporation or society. By your logic, there can be no freedom of anything, unless your Tom Hanks in "Castaway."

At this point, Paul Mulshine entered the fray, replying to MorrisCntyTom’s assertion that once you spend money, it’s no longer free speech protected by the First Amendment:

At the risk of stating the obvious, free speech involves plenty of activities that cost money, like publishing a newspaper.

MorrisCntyTom then repeated a claim made earlier:

That's a HORRIBLE analogy.    and the press is specifically mentioned in the know what's not?  CORPORATIONS.
So, I replied:

My blog wasn't mentioned [in the First Amendment], either. [But] the Ninth Amendment states "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." The First Amendment is about freedom of conscience (religion), speech, press, and association. These are wide-ranging principles and are open-ended.

To which MorrisCntyTom replied, “Another horrible analogy.” But, no refutation. MorrisCntyTom, like all enemies of free speech, could not answer the question, “On what basis do you claim that people lose their individual rights simply by cooperating with others in a group association?”

Correspondent John Derr questioned my statement the First Amendment contains “wide-ranging principles [that] are open-ended,,” asking if they can be “ times too open ended?”

I replied:

There's a saying, "Your right to swing your arms ends where my nose begins." The principle of rights guarantees freedom of action in a social context. They are limited only in the sense that you must respect and not violate the rights of others. E.G. You cannot use your speech to misrepresent a product (fraud), or endanger others' physical safety or property rights by screaming FIRE in a theater. Given that, no, rights can not be too open ended, in my view—and in the Founders' view (that's why they considered rights to be "unalienable").

Finally, MorrisCntyTom replied:

"unalienable" people...not CORPORATIONS.    That was the view of the founding fathers.

I replied:

But the First Amendment states simply, “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press. . .” It does not exclude corporations or associations of any kind from that principle. In fact, the very same First Amendment specifically includes protection for freedom of association. I would say that the inclusion of protection for free speech and free association in the same Amendment speaks volumes about what the view of the Founding Fathers. Why combine the two. Because the two freedoms are related. People’s rights are unalienable whether they are exercised individually or in association with others.

Related Reading:

In Defense of the Corporation—Robert Hessen

Related Listening:

Censorship, Local and Express—An analysis of the Supreme Court’s upholding of anti-pornography laws. The “marketplace of goods” and the “marketplace of ideas.” Why conservatives want to control the intellectual realm, and liberals the material realm.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Citizens United and Michael Moore in the Comments Section—1

In response to my comments under the Paul Mulshine article, Reverse Citizens United and jail Michael Moore? - Liberals are confused on campaign funding, the following exchange took place:

MorrisCntyTom replied:

Stand on the street corner and espouse all you want...that's free speech.   Pay for something and it's commerce..and yes that can be regulated.

Let me sum up what you're saying.  I have more money than you do so I have more free speech than you do.  Sounds fair.

My reply:

The power to regulate commerce is the power for the government to control everything—which means the end of freedom, including individual rights, the means of protecting freedom. You've just proven that the regulatory state is a threat to a free society. Thanks for dramatizing the connection between economic freedom and political freedom, and that a threat to the first is a threat to the second.

MorrisCntyTom replied that I was “over dramatizing” my fears. But he didn’t refute my point.

Marshwren replied:
Uh, the airwaves are a public utility and have been since the FCC was created back in the 1930's.  And since they cross state lines, it's interstate commerce and subject to regulation.  But i love what passes for "equality" among conservatives:  a poor person can afford to put a sign on his lawn; a billionaire can buy millions of dollars worth of advertising that ordinary people can't; ergo, everyone has the "access" to "advertising". [sic]

I replied:

“Equality” in the American context means a guarantee of political equality, not economic equality; that is, equal protection of individual rights before the law. Economic equality is the opposite of rights, freedom, and legitimate government—such equality can only be enforced by a totalitarian state, as the enemies of Citizens United make clear. Economic inequality is the consequence of a fully free, just society that celebrates human diversity and where each individual is free to flourish according to his/her own ability, ambition, values, vision, goals, moral character, judgement, and personal circumstances. That “a poor person can afford to put a sign on his lawn; a billionaire can buy millions of dollars worth of advertising that ordinary people can't” is perfectly fine and just, so long as the billionaire earned his money in the market, not from government favors. Of course, the poor person can have access to the billionaires’ ideas at no cost (see my comments [in my post of 10/28/16]). That’s the beauty of free speech in a free society.

Never mind the FCC’s artificial distinction between “public” and “private” airways. Private speech should not be restricted.


More tomorrow.

Related Reading:

“Overturning Citizens United won’t eliminate government corruption. But it will allow government to limit our speech — and with it, our right to affect the course of our government.”

Related Listening:

Censorship, Local and Express—An analysis of the Supreme Court’s upholding of anti-pornography laws. The “marketplace of goods” and the “marketplace of ideas.” Why conservatives want to control the intellectual realm, and liberals the material realm.

Friday, October 28, 2016

If Citizens United is Overturned, Michael Moore’s Film Would be Banned. But Does the Left Care?

Paul Mulshine has a nice column in the New jersey Star-Ledger titled Reverse Citizens United and jail Michael Moore? - Liberals are confused on campaign funding. Moore, Mulshine reports, released a film titled "Michael Moore in Trumpland.” As you probably guessed, Moore’s film is critical of Donald Trump. Mulshine explains that, if not for Citizens United, the Supreme Court case that the Left is trying to overturn, Moore would be breaking the law. Mulshine references a CATO Institute essay, "'Michael Moore in Trumpland' Might Have Been Illegal Before Citizens United."  

I left these comments:

Citizens United is one of the best and strongest pro-freedom of speech, pro-First Amendment decisions ever handed down by the Supreme Court. Yet the Democrats want it overturned. Why? Because political power-lusters will always move to silence the citizenry to protect their power from public criticism, scrutiny, and accountability sooner or later. For the Democrats, “later” is now, and Citizens United is one of the means.

The Left will spin their opposition to Citizens United as preventing “the rich” from “corrupting our democracy” or “buying the election.” But this is dangerous nonsense. When “the rich”—people with the means to reach a mass audience—express their opinions, whether in film or campaign ads or donations to candidates, they speak not just for themselves but for the millions who agree with the message. Silence “the rich,” and you not only violate their inalienable right to freedom of expression but you silence millions of ordinary citizens who agree with the message, and deprive millions more of the chance to hear of and debate those issues. The same goes whether “the rich” is Michael Moore or Charles Koch.

The Democrats and the Left are anti-free speech. Some on what today passes for the Right or conservatism agree. Citizens United overruled the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 – popularly known as McCain-Feingold and signed into law by G.W. Bush. But today, the Dems and the Left are leading the charge against free speech. This includes not only Citizens United but such tactics as the precedent-setting prosecutorial harassment of dissenters against the Left’s climate catastrophism dogma. They want to silence dissent and keep voters as much in the dark as possible, so they can control the political narrative. This should be considered by every voter before they enter the voting booth.


I don’t think the Left really cares that overturning Citizens United would apply to fellow Leftists. They want to empower politicians by restricting private citizens’ rights. That empowerment would do far more for statism than Michael Moore’s films ever could.

I had an interesting engagement with other correspondents in the comments section. Next, I’ll post it.

[NOTE: My comment was featured in the Sunday Star-Ledger Perspective section.]

Related Reading:

Hillary's Pledge to Overturn the First Amendment—and Why it Should Be Defeated

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Incumbents’ Fear of 'Wild, Wild West' Campaign Funding is a Good Thing

Jonathan D. Salant of NJ Advance Media reported for  on “outside groups poised to spend millions on congressional campaigns.” In How 'wild, wild west' money has changed the game in Congressional elections, Savant wrote:

Lawmakers traditionally raised funds early to scare off potentially strong challengers. Now they have a new concern.

Even though just one of [New Jersey's] 12 House incumbents so far faces a competitive race for re-election, current campaign finance rules allow outside groups, many of which keep their donors hidden, to spend millions of dollars against them at the last moment.

The political establishment laments the “new concern”:

"It's literally a free-for-all," said Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1st Dist.), who had $319,196 in his campaign bank account through Dec. 31. "It's the wild, wild west when it comes to money."

"No member of Congress can ever relax," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based research group. "The money could target them from outside interest groups in huge amounts at any time. It's no longer enough to have war chests to ward off potential challengers."

Notice it’s OK for incumbents to “have war chests to ward off potential challengers." But now that challengers can potentially even the playing field by tapping into “outside groups” for campaign firepower, we’re supposed to weep for the incumbents, who can no longer “relax” in their incumbency. Poor babies.

Blame for this new “Wild West” of campaign finance is placed squarely on the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizen United decision, which “overturned almost a century of law and precedent and removed limits on corporate and union campaign spending.” This has politicians up in arms—literally itching to use the government’s guns to shut down the flood of campaign cash.

“We have to change the system," demands Rep. Frank Pallone. "What you're seeing is the elections dominated by the wealthy." Really? What I see is the empowerment of the average citizen—and politicians seeking protection from strong challengers.

"Money can suddenly be carpet bombed on them," said Craig Holman, a campaign finance expert with Public Citizen, a Washington-based advocacy group that supports stronger fundraising rules. "Out of the blue, a group they've never heard of can suddenly spend millions against them.”

I left these comments:

What comes across loud and clear are the whines of incumbent politicians crying over being challenged by citizens from “outside” their royal political domaine.

Who cares who is spending how much money on whose political campaign? The bottom line is that it’s the moral right of private citizens to spend their political dollars as they see fit, so long as it doesn’t involve outright bribery and the like—and so long as the money is spent legitimately on the campaign, the job of which is to convince we individual voters to cast our votes for [or against] that candidate.

Those who provide the “big money” are doing not only themselves but voters a service. Information is vital to open campaigns. It costs money to get information out to the mass audience. When a wealthy donor provides money for the candidate of his choice, he speaks not only for himself but for all those thousands and/or millions of average voters who agree with the candidate and the message. And for those who don’t agree, the information provides the opportunity to rebut and put forth alternative candidates and ideas. What rational voter would oppose information they need to make an informed choice?

The paranoid may fear “elections dominated by the wealthy.” But no matter how wealthy, each person has one vote, and must decide based on the information provided by the candidates during the campaign. People of self-esteem don’t fear information and don’t fear “anonymous” donors. They fear politicians who, feeling put upon to have to fight to defend their seats, want to shackle and control the electoral process.

What’s truly corrupt is the demonization of private campaign donors as somehow “dirty” or “dark” or lawless. The movement is on to scare us into banning (or severely limiting) private donations, and switching to a system of public funding of campaigns. But what could be more corrupt than forcing private citizens to pay for politicians and ideas they may oppose, effectively giving the political class the power to set the rules for who can run for office—and doing it with our money. What can be more corrupt than giving politicians unfettered power to go on taxing and regulating and catering to their special interests while shutting out private challenges? Opponents of Citizens United remind me of the pig leadership on Animal Farm, who spout meaningless generalities designed to convince the clueless rank-and-file animals that shutting down opposing views and granting them more and more power over the farm is for the animals’ own good.

If this article—which sometimes seems to read like an op-ed—does anything, it provides a good argument for NOT overturning Citizens United. I can think of nothing better for the democratic process than that "Out of the blue, a group they’ve never heard of can suddenly spend millions against them." It’s called freedom of speech. That’s what Citizens United gave us, and that’s a good thing.

Related Reading:

Monday, October 24, 2016

Politicians’ Bipartisan Sneak Attack on Social Security Highlights Need for Personal Accounts

Recently, word got out about changes Congress and President Obama made to Social Security Benefits. It’s not good for beneficiaries. In  Social Security: 5 Things to Know About New Claiming Rules, Money reported, among other things:

Why did the Social Security changes happen so suddenly?

Good question. Instead of holding a public debate, Congress tacked these changes onto an emergency bill to avoid a U.S. debt default, bail out Medicare from enormous premium increases next year, and extend the life of Social Security’s disability insurance program, which had been scheduled to run out of money in less than a year. There was no public evaluation or discussion of these changes, and there are still no publicly identified authors of these reforms.

A PBS article stated that. . .

Congress is pulling the rug out from people's retirement decisions... No retiree will ever again be able to feel [they are] safe from some backroom, midnight, rushed change in rules.
But the idea that retirees could “feel safe” about the promised benefits their lifetime of paying FICA taxes supposedly guaranteed them has always been a myth. The politicians always had the power to make arbitrary changes to Social Security.  As CATO reports:

Many people believe that Social Security is an earned right-that is, they believe they are entitled to receive Social Security benefits because they have paid Social Security taxes. However, in Flemming v. Nestor (1960), the Supreme Court ruled that workers have no legal right to Social Security: Congress can cut or eliminate Social Security benefits at any time regardless of a worker's contributions.

What does anyone expect when we gave Congress control of our retirement planning? That’s why we should, at the least, demand a transition to personal accounts to wall off our funds from political manipulation. In the 2000 election, the idea of a “lockbox” for Social Security intended to prevent Congress from raiding surplus SS tax funds was a big campaign issue. Of course, it was all rhetoric. Nothing happened.

But personal accounts along the lines of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) could be different. As long as Social Security exists, personal accounts would be as close to a real “lockbox” as we can get. Imagine getting periodic statements showing not promised benefits but actual dollars you “contributed,” plus investment returns. Then imagine any politician submitting legislation to mess with your account.

True, you wouldn’t have guaranteed benefits. You’d have a defined contribution plan. But then, as we can see, the current system doesn’t guarantee benefits, either. What you could be sure of is that the balance that shows up on your statement would be yours.

Longer term? ABOLISH GOVERNMENT-RUN SOCIAL SECURITY, and leave people free to use their money as they see fit. Being politically impossible for the foreseeable future, the next best thing could be The “Personal Account” Path to Ending Social Security. True, it would still be a forced savings under terms set by government, a violation of your rights. But it would give you a property right to your earnings and investment returns. And it would end the kind of backroom deals cited above. In my view, that’s a step toward more liberty.

Related Reading:

Caroline Poplin's Swiss Cheese Defense of Social Security

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Single-Payer Healthcare: ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice’

Here are excerpts from a letter advocating single-payer healthcare for America that appeared in the New jersey Star-Ledger last February. It is titled Single-payer health care would be a big improvement:

  Wouldn’t it be nice if losing your job had no impact on your health insurance? Wouldn’t it be nice if all doctors participated in your insurance?
  Regarding cost, let’s consider that we already pay for everyone’s health care. A business that pays for health insurance for its employees passes that cost to its customers. We pay as a consumer, or we pay as a taxpayer.
  If we take the for-profit middle man out of our system, we immediately cut costs by almost 20 percent. If we get a system like those in a number of other countries, hospitals and doctors don’t need much in the way of billing departments that now have to deal with many insurance companies.
  We spend more on health care than countries that have single-payer systems. We don’t cover everyone; they do. I hope others will join me in explaining the benefits of single-payer. Convincing people voting for members of Congress is important.
  John S. Smith

“Wouldn’t it be nice if losing your job had no impact on your health insurance?” You mean like auto, life, and homeowners insurance? That’s the way it would be if the government hadn’t interfered in the health insurance market. The third-party-payer, or employer-based, health insurance system is a government-created setup. If we got rid of the government policies that favor employer over individual health insurance purchases, as well as regulations mandating only government-approved insurance plans, people would buy their own health insurance directly from insurers competing directly in the consumer market.

The profit motive is not the culprit in the cost of health care. The government is the problem. In America today, almost 90% of healthcare is paid by third parties, not the consumer. This disconnect between consumer and provider eliminates the necessity for providers to keep costs down and consumers to shop price. The profit motive is actually a huge cost reducer when it is allowed to operate in a market free or relatively free of government interference. The need to turn a profit combined with competition for the consumers’ business creates natural incentives to raise quality and reduce prices, leading to continual improvements on both counts over time. You see this process going on throughout the economy, wherever real competition operates. It is the lack of real profit incentives—i.e., consumer involvement in paying—that leads to runaway costs in healthcare. That’s why governments that pay the bill always must control who gets what healthcare, when, and at what price.

Your own doctor? That’s a laugh. Under single-payer, the doctor works for the government, not the patient. The people who most love single-payer are the people who are overall healthy. Better not to get really sick under government-paid healthcare.

Healthcare providers “don’t need much in the way of billing departments?” Another laugh. The narrative of Medicare’s lower administrative costs is a myth. With only the government as the single payer, where’s the incentive to cut administrative costs when providers have no alternatives? In a private, free market environment, healthcare providers can refuse to accept insurers with unduly burdensome administrative costs. Once again, the profit motive in a competitive free market is a natural cost reducer.

In a free market, which is what we should have, everyone is responsible for his own health insurance and health care. It’s true that employers who cover their employees reflect the cost in their pricing, as they do all costs. So, in a very loose sense, you might say we pay indirectly for that business’s employee health care. But, there is a crucial fundamental differences between single-payer health care and employer health care—We are not forced to buy the product. We are forced to pay for single payer. When we buy the product, we are still free to make our own healthcare decisions, as the business and its employees are left free to make theirs. These are not just practical differences but deep moral ones as well, because the difference between private transactions and government programs is voluntary agreement versus force. Statists like Smith are unable or unwilling to acknowledge the difference between voluntary association and living by the sword.

It’s easy to say “wouldn’t it be nice” to have this or that out of context and without having to take personal responsibility. But then some people would say, “Wouldn’t it be nice if I could rob people on the street at gunpoint to pay for my stuff without fear of punishment?” That’s exactly what Smith is saying when he flippantly asks, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had single-payer healthcare,” which is the same as saying “wouldn't it be nice if I could run to whatever doctor I want for whatever healthcare I want, and stick others with the bill?” Or, “Wouldn’t it be nice if all doctors were forced into servitude to government dictates, rather than retain the inalienable right to choose which insurance to accept or not accept?” That’s exactly what Smith is advocating when he says “Wouldn’t it be nice if all doctors participated in your insurance?”

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could force my ideal onto everyone else, with the government as the hired gun? Wouldn’t it be nice if we regard only my choices and disregard those who disagree? Wouldn’t it be nice if we didn’t have to take moral responsibility for our own lives? Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t have to be moral at all? Welcome to the moral jungle, where everyone is responsible for everyone else’s healthcare, but not his own—and everyone is legally chained to the system.

To which I ask, wouldn’t it be nice if we all respected everyone else’s right to control their own healthcare decisions, and had a government that reflected that? Smith’s collectivist “we” signifies Smith’s stone-cold cruel disregard of other individuals’ lives and liberty. Wouldn’t it be nice if we once again had true constitutional protection from heartless predators like John S. Smith and his ilk?

Related Reading:

American Healthcare's Great and Powerful Oz