Tuesday, May 30, 2017

S-L—'Net neutrality too valuable to lose now.': No, Internet Freedom too Valuable to Lose, Ever

The Trump FCC is taking a lot of heat for its move to repeal so-called “net neutrality” regulations on internet service providers. Typical of the heat comes from the New Jersey Star-Ledger, which editorialized Net neutrality too valuable to lose now.

[T]he web has a bedrock principle: The mighty broadband providers such as AT&T, Comcast and Verizon shouldn’t be allowed to selectively slow down or block websites, and all internet data must be treated equally.

“Treated equally” means content providers like Netflix, which use extraordinary amounts of broadband capacity, can’t be charged more for their usage. Net neutrality means simply that federal bureaucrats get to override private contracts between providers of service and content.
This, supposedly, is good for consumers.

I left these comments:

So let’s get this straight: ISPs catering to government bureaucrats, rather than consumers, is good for consumers? That’s the absurdity behind “net neutrality.”

It’s not the big, bad “mighty broadband providers” we should fear. They’re the producers who invested the $billions to build the physical capacity that makes the internet possible. It’s the government—the political hacks—with its legal power to compel obedience, that we should fear. A government with the power to dictate “net neutrality” regulations on these private companies has the power to regulate anything on the internet. Just the implied threat of regulation is a form of physical coercion that can be levied against the ISPs—and indirectly on content providers. Regulatory power as such is the power to compel obedience at gunpoint. Don’t forget the IRS free speech-stifling scandal. It’s bad enough that the land of the First Amendment even has a Federal Communications Commission. Don’t compound that injustice with net neutrality rules.

I, as one consumer, will not be suckered by the statists’ hollow slogans into handing over control to government bureaucrats. The big content providers like Netflix and their customers don’t deserve government-coerced handouts [full disclosure: I am a Netflix subscriber]. They can pay their fair share for the consumer-driven products they provide. Internet fees are properly the right of ISPs and content providers to contractually negotiate among themselves without government interfering on behalf of one party or another.

Market supply and demand, not crony-oriented dictates of government bureaucrats, should be the concern of the ISPs. While the computer code of the internet is open source—free for anyone to use—the physical equipment of the internet is not some public domain. It is privately built networks, and the networks belong to whoever builds them based on the principle of property rights. The ISPs built their networks. They are, despite certain government-imposed roadblocks, largely subject to competition—new ISPs are free to enter the market at any time. An ISP has a right to set the terms according to its profitability, its capital expenditure needs, and the good of its overall customer base, whether it is pricing or who to sell their capacity, so long as it doesn’t violate anyone’s rights. Charging extra for heavy users of the network it built, owns, and operates is perfectly legitimate. If an ISP overcharge, the market will force it to alter its policies.

The internet, like the printing press before it, is particularly critical to a free society because it is a direct intersection of economics and free speech. Economic freedom and intellectual freedom are corollaries. The Left has been itching to get control of the intellectual marketplace of ideas, just as it has gained immense control over the marketplace of goods. They are enemies of free speech (think campaign finance controls). Net neutrality is not only about economic control—the government running roughshod over private citizens’ private property, bad as that is: it is an opening wedge of intellectual control. The only neutrality there should be is in regard to government and its laws: Unless there is evidence of fraud or other criminal behavior, keep government out of the private internet and apply equal protection of the law without favoritism. A government-controlled, politically corrupted internet is not a “free and open internet.” Only a market-oriented internet is truly free and open.

Net neutrality was first introduced under the GW Bush FCC. Obama made it worse. It is a bipartisan atrocity. Government-enforced “net neutrality,” if not the FCC itself, should be abolished.

Related Reading:

Net Neutrality: Toward a Stupid Internet—Raymond C. Niles for The Objective Standard

Related Viewing:

NET NEUTRALITY NEUTERS THE INTERNET—Interview with Steve Simpson, the Ayn Rand Institute’s director of legal studies.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

A Memorial day Tribute

Throughout history, armies have fought to protect kings, theocrats, and other kinds of dictators from their own people; for imperialistic conquest and/or looting; even to satisfy the “honor” of some sundry rulers—all manned by average people who rarely had any interest in the military adventures.

America’s military is unique. It fights to protect the borders of a country established by a set of ideas…the most radical set of ideas in man’s history. America is the first and only country founded explicitly and philosophically on the principle that an individual’s life is his to live, by unalienable right. America is the first and only country founded on the explicit principle that the government exists as servant for and by permission of the people, with the solemn duty to protect those rights; or, as Ronald Reagan put it in his first inaugural address:

As established in the Declaration of Independence, individual  rights come before government—rights being understood as guarantees to freedom of action to pursue personal advancement, not automatic claims on economic rewards that others must be forced to provide against their will. Then, as stated in the document that initiated the United States of America as a politically autonomous entity, the Declaration states, "to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men." That is America. Even the British Empire from which America won independence, then the freest society the world had ever known, was based on the premise that rights are privileges granted by the Crown. Englishmen were subjects, not truly free.

Sadly, the knowledge of what this country stands for is steadily slipping away…and along with it, our rights. Fortunately, we’re still free to speak out. So the best way to honor the military fighter who died in the line of duty, for those of us who still retain that knowledge, is to remind our fellow Americans in any small way that we can about America’s unique, noble, and radical Founding ideals.

We can still prevent “the other way around”. But we must rediscover the knowledge of, and think about, what it means to be an American. So, let us reflect on what really made this country possible.

This Memorial Day weekend, we will hear a lot about the “sacrifices” made by those who served and died defending America.

It is said that this nation, our freedom, and our way of life are a gift bestowed upon us by the grace of the “sacrifices” of the Founding Fathers and the fighters of America’s wars from the Revolutionary War on. But, was it? Is it even possible that so magnificent an achievement – the United States of America – could be the product of sacrifice? As the closing words of this country’s Founding philosophical document – the Declaration of Independence – attest, the Founding Fathers risked everything to make their ideals a reality:

And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor.

Some point to those words, and bestow on the signatories of that document the “honor” of having sacrificed for us, the "future generations." Nothing can be further from the truth. Sacrifice--properly understood--is the giving up, rather than the achievement, of values. America was achieved.

What is any human being’s highest attribute and value? It is his mind and his independent judgment. To use one’s mind – to think – is an exclusively personal, individualistic, self-motivated, self-chosen, selfish effort. All else in a person's life is a consequence of the use, or lack of use, of his mind – for better or for worse. One’s convictions about what one believes is right, one’s passionate concern for ideas, is the product of the independent use of one’s mind. The man who places nothing above the judgment of his own mind, even at the risk of his own physical well-being, is not engaging in self-sacrifice. To fight for one’s own fundamental beliefs is the noblest, most egoistic endeavor one can strive for. Integrity is not selfless. It is not sacrificial

The Founders were thinkers and fighters. They were egoists, in the noblest sense, which is the only valid sense. They believed in a world, not as it was, but as it could be and should be. They took action – pledging their “sacred honor” at great risk to their personal wealth and physical well-being – to that end. They would accept no substitute. They would take no middle road. They would not compromise. They would succeed or perish.

Such was the extraordinary character of the Founders of this nation.

To call the achievement of the Founders a sacrifice is to say that they did not deem the ideals set forth in the Declaration as worthy of their fighting for; that the idea that the individual’s life belongs to him and not to any collective and not to any ruler was less of a value to them than what they pledged in defense of it; that they did what they did anyway without personal conviction or passion; that the Declaration of Independence is a fraud. To say that America was born out of sacrifice is a grave injustice and, in fact, a logical impossibility.

World history produced a steady parade of human sacrifices, and the overwhelming result was a steady stream of blood, tears,and tyranny. The Founders stood up not merely to the British Crown, but to the whole brutal sacrificial history of mankind to turn the most radical set of political ideas ever conceived into history’s greatest nation. It is no accident that the United States of America was born at the apex of the philosophical movement that introduced the concept of the Rights of Man to his own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, the Enlightenment.

Only the most extraordinary men of the most ferocious personal strength and courage could have so uncompromisingly upheld, against overwhelming odds and hostility and personal risk, so passionate a belief in their own independently held convictions so as to have established the American Founding. The American Revolution was history’s brightest demonstration of the rationally selfish pursuit of a noble goal by any group of people, ever. It was a monumental human testament to the dedication these men had to their cause – the refusal to live any longer under any social condition except full, genuine freedom, and to "pledge eternal hostility against every form of tyranny."

The highest tribute I can pay to those Americans who died in the line of military duty, on this Memorial Day, is not that they selflessly sacrificed for their country. Self-sacrifice is not a virtue in my value system. It is an insult, because that would mean that their country and what it stands for was irrelevant to them; that they had no personal, selfish interest in it; that they were not passionate about their service; that they were indifferent toward America's enemies; that it made no difference to them whether they returned to live in freedom or to live in slavery.

This, of course, is not the case.

Freedom is thoroughly egoistic, because it leaves all individuals free to pursue their own goals, values, and happiness—by inalienable right and with the full protection of his government. It follows that to fight for a free nation is thoroughly egoistic. If American soldiers fight for their freedom, then the highest tribute I can pay to those who perished in that cause is to say that they were cut from the mold of the Founding Fathers; that they did not set out to die for their country but rather that they set out to fight, often at great personal risk, for the only values under which they desired to live—that radical set of ideals that is the United States of America.

A military, of course, is not the first line of defense for freedom, nor an unmitigated good. As stated at the outset, militaries fight to protect borders—more often than not borders of unfree countries. Not so America’s military, which does protect a free nation’s borders. America has not faced an existential threat to its sovereignty in 30 years, and has not fought a war to protect its borders since the 1940s. Today, thankfully, America is militarily untouchable. The technological supremacy of our military power could instantly crush any power around the world that dared pose a threat to our borders.

Yet today, nearly three decades after the fall of the Soviet Communist menace—the last true existential threat to America—we are less free than we were then, thanks to the growth of the regulatory welfare state. Our freedom, once protected by our Constitution, has actually been eroding for a century.

The fight for freedom based on individual rights is fundamentally a philosophical fight. Today, America’s military might is greater than ever before, and yet freedom is today at its lowest ebb since the end of the Civil War. If America continues losing the knowledge of what freedom is, where it comes from, and why we deserve it as an inalienable right, all of that incredible military power won’t save us. If We the People, each as sovereign individuals—we who have allowed a regulatory welfare state to grow into the monstrosity it has become—want to honor the military that protects us from foreign enemies, we must come to grips with this simple, observable fact: The primary threat to Americans’ freedom today is not external—any foreign power that threatens America as a sovereign nation will be crushed like a bug in short order. The primary threat to America today is internal, in the form of the ideas of collectivism, statism and democratic socialism eroding the ideals of individualism and constitutional republicanism. It is not enough to put some number of years into a military career. It is not enough to pay taxes to support the military. We must fight with words and pen for our freedom every day.

This is not to diminish the role of the U.S. military; only to put it in proper perspective. We can’t win the internal philosophical battle against the enemies of freedom without keeping the external enemies of freedom at bay. We need our military, and it is fitting that we recognize American soldiers lost in battle. It is fitting not just because of the importance of the military, but as a reminder that “war is hell”; that the cost of war to actual living human beings is horrendous; and that Americans should never be pushed into battle for altruistic causes or with rules of engagement that hamper their ability to protect themselves and win as quickly as possible, as has too often been the case over the past century (think “making the world safe for democracy,” or the “domino theory,” or the “forward strategy for freedom”). If we deployed our military more to actually defend our borders and less as the world’s policeman and do-gooder, we’d have fewer dead soldiers to memorialize.

With the full context understood, in memoriam of those who perished fighting in defense of a nation founded on and defined by individual freedom, and to all of America’s service men and women past and present:

Kudos for your service in defense of a nation based on American ideals, for your desire to live in freedom, and for your fierce determination to—I hope—accept no substitute. It’s only fitting to recognize the service persons who lost their lives in the defense of the values that they, and all true Americans’, hold in common.

Happy Memorial Day! Enjoy it. Live it. That’s the best way to memorialize them.

Related Reading:

Related Viewing:

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

If We’re to Have Labor Laws, Should They Work Both Ways?

We have all kinds of labor laws allegedly for the purpose of “protecting workers.” And these laws are growing like a cancer, hampering job creation and maintenance as they do. For example, the New Jersey Star-Ledger lauded a state Supreme Court ruling that upheld a man’s lawsuit against his employer for firing him because he was divorced, effectively making it illegal for “a worker [to] be fired or discriminated against because they are separated from or divorcing their spouse.” In Go N.J.: Your creepy boss can't fire you over a divorce, the Star-Ledger writes:

Divorce is bad enough all on its own. But if a creepy boss fires you for it, you ought to have a right to sue his pants off. That right is now affirmed in the Garden State.

Granted, the boss of the Millville Rescue Squad had cause for concern. The plaintiff, Robert Smith, was married to another member of the squad when the marriage hit the skids. Smith, it turns out, had an affair with another co-worker and his wife found out.

But CEO John Redden went overboard. He insisted that Smith find a way to reconcile with his wife to prevent this mess from interfering with their work. Seven months later, Smith told him that the reconciliation was hopeless, and Redden fired him.

The three people involved, it turned out, did not actually do anything that interfered with their work. “[CEO John] Redden, it seems, assumed the worst and fired Smith on the basis of a stereotype,” the Star-Ledger writes. “That amounts to firing Smith for being divorced, and that's a no-no.”

How many people are actually fired for being divorced? On the face of it, this looks like the nanny state running wild. And it is. In the future, some future boss who fears personal conflicts caused by love triangles among his workforce will have to concoct some rationalization for the firing rather than be upfront about it. But these sorts of micro-managing by “big government” requires exactly that kind of dishonesty in order for an employer to do what he has every right to do in the first place—terminate an employee for any reason he chooses. This ruling is what we get once we start down the road of outlawing private discrimination. It starts with legitimate concerns over objectively irrational and immoral discrimination, such as racial discrimination, and inevitably expands to outlaw so much discrimination that we find ourselves increasingly unable to live by our own judgement regarding our private associations.

I’ve written a lot about the unfairness of labor laws, and how it’s none of a legitimate—i.e., rights-protecting—government’s business to interfere in labor management contracts unless fraud or breach-of-contract or contractual mediation and the like is involved. I take seriously the First Amendment, which explicitly and absolutely protects freedom of association within the context of inalienable individual rights. But this case got me thinking: So-called labor laws are bad in another way; they are completely one-sided, violating the principle of equal protection of the law supposedly guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

True, if Smith’s firing went down exactly as described in this editorial, it is unfair. But, here’s my question: If the tables are turned and the worker quits because his boss got a divorce—or, for that matter, over his own divorce—should the boss be able to sue the worker? What if, rather than being fired, Smith quit because of some other employee’s divorce?

Related, an employer can be sued (or worse) if he fires a worker because of gender or race. What if the worker quits because he doesn’t like his new boss’s race or gender?

The problem with all of these so-called “workers rights” laws is that they contain an embedded double-standard. Take minimum wage laws. If an employer hires a worker for less that minimum wage, only the employer gets punished. The worker not only gets off scot-free. Worse, the worker is often rewarded monetarily with back wages and the like, even though he agreed to work for the lower wage; i.e., he is as much of a lawbreaker for accepting the job for an outlawed wage as the employer is for creating it. Same with government-mandated overtime pay rules. Since no worker is ever forced to fill a job position, isn’t the worker equally guilty of breaking the law if a wage law is broken?

The government shouldn’t be involved in dictating terms of agreement between employers and employees. Employers and job-seekers should be free to make their own terms of employment without government interference. And the employer should be able to fire a worker for any reason at any time, and the worker should be able to quit for any reason at any time—consistent with their mutual prior agreement. Yes, either should be able to sue if the other breaches contract. And the government should get involved in cases of fraud. Otherwise, government should keep its aggressive, coercive law-making hands off.

But if the government is going to impose labor laws, shouldn’t these laws at least be enforced impartially and equally? If a minimum wage or anti-discrimination law is violated, shouldn’t all guilty parties be subject to the prescribed penalties? I wonder what would become of all of these labor laws that target only employers if such laws were actually enforced impartially, as in equal protection under the law?

Related reading:

“Greed” is a Two-Way Street

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Religious Faith Behind Climate Change Fear Mongering

“Fundamentally, I’m a climate scientist and have spent much of my career with my head buried in climate-model output and observational climate data trying to tease out the signal of human-caused climate change,” Mr. [Michael] Mann told the Democratic Platform Drafting Committee at a hearing.

“What is disconcerting to me and so many of my colleagues is that these tools that we’ve spent years developing increasingly are unnecessary because we can see climate change, the impacts of climate change, now, playing out in real time, on our television screens, in the 24-hour news cycle,” he said.

Mr. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University, spoke before the committee June 17 in Phoenix.

Mr. Mann told the panel that “the signal of climate change is no longer subtle, it is obvious,” citing hurricanes, flooding in Texas and South Carolina, the California drought and “record heat” in Arizona.

Humans have an unlimited capacity for self-delusion. Climate catastrophists "see" climate change in every weather extreme in the same way religionists "see" the Hand of God in whatever they choose. But wishing won't make it so. Nor is it possible to rebut wishful thinking rationally. It can as logically be claimed that floods are caused by Martians screwing with our weather in retaliation for sending robots to their planet. People in the 1950s blamed weather extremes on Sputnik. People in the 1960s blamed weather extremes on nuclear weapons testing. People in the 1970s blamed the moon landing. People have always blamed God. People have always looked for easy explanations for “this crazy weather,” even though weather has not changed much over the centuries. Climate Change is no different. When it comes to weather, most people have the memory of a goldfish: The latest of a recurring weather extreme is always something that has never happened before—except that it has and will again. This is what the Michael Mann’s of the world cash in on.

There is an unofficial taboo in our culture that religious beliefs are beyond criticism. The pronouncements of a “person of faith,” no matter how outlandish, are beyond examination. The climate catastrophists are cashing in on this taboo. A flood? It’s climate change. A heat wave? It’s climate change. A blizzard or drought or “record” this or that? It’s climate change. The climate faith seems to find its way into the most bizarre places. Buried in a recent Washington Post article about a 600 year old great white oak that appears to be dying was this gem:

No one really knows how or why trees die. Scientists know how they grow, and they know how to reconstruct their past. But they don’t know how to predict their future — except to say that the warmer the planet becomes, the more trees will die.

“Because trees live longer, we tend to view them as timeless,” U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Craig Allen told High Country News two years ago. “You can feel this sense of endurance. In human terms, we would call it wisdom.”

Such wisdom is gained by understanding the past, which trees do right down to their roots, “because they’re tuned to that historic climate window,” Allen said. “They know there are ups and downs in water and sun, and they know how to ride them out, except that it’s become vastly harder in the age of global warming.”

This tree, which according to the article has already lived more than double the 200-300 year life span of white oaks, is finally dying. Scientists don’t know why trees die. Yet they just “know” that "the warmer the planet becomes, the more trees will die"—even though a warmer planet means longer growing seasons and more plant food (co2) in the atmosphere. The most recent warming trend started 150 years ago. It's been mild—not noticable to humans without precise measuring instruments. The warming trand has even stalled out over the past 20 years. Yet this white oak's death is attributed to global warming. This is faith, not science. It seems that no matter what the issue, scientists—dependent as so many are on politicians for funding—have to pay homage to their God: Not Praise to the Lord. Now, it’s “Praise to the Climate Change.”

Hurricanes, floods, droughts, heat waves? They’ve always happened, and always will. Climate change? it's always been around. Trees? They've always been around. Trees can be affected by climate change? What a shock.

When it comes to weather, most people have the memory of a goldfish. People like Michael Mann play on that. They encourage people to think of every out-of-the-ordinary weather event as something that has never happened before: it must be climate change! Recognize Mann’s witch doctor assertions as the gimmick that it is, lest you become a victim of climate change fear in the same way people were victims of the Church during the Dark and Middle ages, quivering in fear of God as they endured generation after generation of stagnation in living standards. People claiming to "see climate change" must not only be rejected out-of-hand, but ridiculed for the delusionists that they are.

Related Reading:

Are Floods More Frequent, as Climate Alarmists Claim?  by Patrick J. Michaels and Paul Knappenberger

It is widely promulgated and believed that human-caused global warming comes with increases in both the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. A survey of official weather sites and the scientific literature provides strong evidence that the first half of the 20th century had more extreme weather than the second half, when anthropogenic global warming is claimed to have been mainly responsible for observed climate change. The disconnect between real-world historical data on the 100 years’ time scale and the current predictions provides a real conundrum when any engineer tries to make a professional assessment of the real future value of any infrastructure project which aims to mitigate or adapt to climate change.

Assume 6 Feet of Sea Level Rise: Predict Catastrophe—Useful science or worst case scaremongering? by Ronald Bailey

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Constitutional Republicanism: A Counter-Argument to Barbara Rank’s Ode to Democracy

In an Iowa town hall meeting defending his vote in favor of the Republican’s American Health Care Act, which would repeal or alter parts of ObamaCare, Congressman Rod Blum attempted to explain his vote before a screaming, jeering, disrespectful crowd. The Washington Post reported on this episode in A congressman said making a man get maternity insurance was ‘crazy.’ A woman’s reply went viral.

One woman, retired educator Barbara Rank, didn’t participate in the shouting. Instead, she thoughtfully composed a rebuttal letter, which was published in Iowa’s Telegraph Herald under the title Why should I pay indeed?. Someone subsequently posted the letter on line, where it was viewed by tens of thousands of people. Rank wrote:

Congressman Rod Blum in a Dubuque town hall (Monday) night asked, “Why should a 62-year-old man have to pay for maternity care?”

I ask, why should I pay for a bridge I don’t cross, a sidewalk I don’t walk on, a library book I don’t read?

Why should I pay for a flower I won’t smell, a park I don’t visit, or art I can’t appreciate?

Why should I pay the salaries of politicians I didn’t vote for, a tax cut that doesn’t affect me, or a loophole I can’t take advantage of?

It’s called democracy, a civil society, the greater good. That’s what we pay for.

Why, indeed? Why should anyone be forced to pay for bridges, sidewalks, libraries, flowers, parks, or art—or any material economic benefit one cares to add to that list—against her will? The only moral answer is, she shouldn’t. (We’ll leave aside, for now, the issue of taxes and politicians’ salaries.)

Yes, “It’s called democracy”—and Rank’s is one of the the clearest and most devastating indictments of democracy one can encounter. Political power is the power of the gun. That power can be used for the protection of liberty, or to destroy it. Democracy is the latter. Rank is right, though she doesn’t realize it. Democracy is a “cold” civil war of predatory pressure groups and electoral factions fighting for the political power—control of the government’s guns, the legislative process—to extract by force benefits and favors paid for by other factions; each faction, in turn, defining its latest scheme for “free” stuff as “the greater good.”

Rank’s viral letter begs the political philosophy question, What is America?

There is nothing civil about democracy. Democracy denies the rights of the individual, the most vulnerable in any society, to live according to her own judgement. But what greater good can there be than the liberty, inalienable rights, and dignity of the individual, living under a government that protects, equally for all and at all times, those rights? That, in fact, was the original American system—not a democracy, but a constitutional republic based on individual rights and limited, right-protecting government. Fully and consistently applied, all bridges, sidewalks, libraries, flowers, parks, art, et al, are privately owned and funded, and governed under the rule of law established according to the principles of constitutional republican government.

Democracy contradicts America. As the Chinese Communist Mao ZeDong understood, "Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun." The American Founders well understood that as well. But the goal of the Founders and the goal of the Maoists were opposite, with opposite results. The Founders sought to establish a free constitutional republic with ironclad limits on societal and government power based on the principle of individual rights—the moral principle that subordinates society to the moral law that each individual owns his own life, and cannot be anyone’s slave. Mao established a Marxist democratic republic of unlimited, totalitarian government power, under which the individual is subordinate to society, which can do with her as it wants. Once we accept the principle that the government’s guns are the tool of predatory factions rather than a tool to protect the individual against the predatory factions, we arrive at the result achieved by Mao, ”All things grow out of the barrel of a gun.” Then we have arrived at the point of universal predation and mutual suspicion and resentment, as every election poses a threat to each other's’ lives, freedom, and property. With each election, who knows what we will be forced into in the name of “the greater good.”

In an 1864 address, Abe Lincoln sought to clarify the meaning of liberty in the American context. As Niles Anderegg observes:

Lincoln goes on to give us two basic definitions of liberty.  He notes that “with some, the word liberty may mean for each man to do as he pleases with himself and the product of his labor” while with others liberty is where men are free to “do as they please with other men and the product of other men’s labor.”  He goes on to point out that these two definitions are incompatible.  

Lincoln was applying the parable of “the Wolf and the Sheep”—first citing the sheep’s version of liberty, and second the wolf’s. Lincoln came down squarely on the side of the sheep. Democracy is, essentially, two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. It is the wolve’s version of “liberty” that democracy stands for. It is the wolf’s version of liberty that Rank is promoting. It is not the sheep's version.

Let Rank’s letter serve as a warning to all those who wish to advocate for a free society, and who seek to roll back statism in America: You can’t have it both ways. You can’t say “you must pay for my library” in the same breath that you ask “Why should I have to pay for your maternity care?” Rank shows why it’s impossible to answer her viral response to Blum’s question unless we are ready to challenge her core fundamentalist democracy principles. Ayn Rand was right. The only ultimate way to save America from totalitarian socialism, democratic or otherwise, is to hold up the only opposite ideal, clearly and without reservation—a fully consistent constitutional republic of individual rights and its political/social expression, laissez-faire capitalism.

Observe that Rank never answers Congressman Blum’s question, “Why should a 62-year-old man have to pay for maternity care?” She simply rationalizes, “because I have to pay for all of that other stuff.” But where does it end? The same argument can be used to justify any grab of other people’s money for whatever we’re told is “the greater good.” As we can see with ObamaCare’s mandates, piled as they are on top of all of the other state-level mandates, it will never end. Under this thing called democracy, there is nothing any of us can’t be forced into, because democracy—ballot-box rule—is an open-ended principle. Where do you draw the line?

Far from leading to a civil society, democracy leads to a proliferation of predatory factions, as well as factions seeking to protect themselves from the predators, resulting not in social harmony but an increasingly divided and polarized citizenry where the ballot box permeates and threatens every aspect of our lives. I offer, as evidence, the intolerant behavior of the crowd at Blum’s townhall. I offer, as evidence, a sample of the comments; “calling out ignorant so-called public servants like Rod Blum of Iowa”—this smear, for merely advocating a bit of freedom of choice. I offer, as evidence, the treatment of New Jersey Republican Rep. Tom MacArthur at a similar town hall. Civil society, anyone? No, democracy in action. Democracy is mob rule—cold ballot-box civil war that sooner or later turns hot. It can be no other way—not when you accept the principle that mere numerical superiority trumps justice. Disrespect and force are built into the DNA of democracy.

We can’t do anything about "public" parks and roads, and all of the other stuff that Rank doesn’t use but is forced to pay for, at this time. That’s part of a wider battle. We can do something about the injustice of forcing 62 year old men to buy maternity insurance—or forcing women to buy prostate cancer insurance. No, Ms. Rank, two wrongs—or 10 or 100 wrongs—don’t make a right, no matter how many wolves you have in your pack. The subject on the table is health insurance. We can start righting the wrongs, and we can start with health insurance. benefit mandates are wrong. Individual consumers and insurers have a moral right to voluntarily contract to mutual benefit without government interference. They should have the legal right. It's called freedom.

In the Washington Post article, Rank is quoted as saying, “The conclusion is something I always end up saying. Every argument I've ever had with somebody, friends or relative: Don't you want to live in a civil society? Government is the structure of the country we live in. It's not as bad as people make it out to be.”

But is predatory democracy civil? Is “the structure of the country” based on predation of all against all, or peaceful, live-and-let-live coexistence? Is the government a protector of individual rights, under which each is treated equally under the law? Or is the government a tool of the wolves? Rank is an educator, who retorts “Come on. Didn't we learn this in fifth-grade social studies?” If democracy is what America’s children are learning, shame on us. What we should have learned, and what Rank and our schools should be teaching, is that America is not a nation of wolfpacks—a democracy. America is a nation of free individuals—a constitutional republic—a nation of individual, not pack, rights; of justice, not “social justice”; of the primacy of individual liberty, not the supremacy of the wolfpack’s “greater good.”

Judging by the “likes” in the comment threads, most people agree with Rank. Not good, because nothing less than the future of a free America is at stake. Democracy unconstrained by the principle of individual rights is a manifestation of totalitarianism. We’re still a considerable distance from that logical eventuality. But until and unless we recognize the predatory nature of democracy, or “democratic socialism,” it will end not in the harmony that only mutual respect for each other’s inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and pursuit of happiness can achieve. It will end in economic and societal collapse into dictatorship and ruin, as all socialist efforts must. That’s the road Rank endorses, whether she knows it or not; will acknowledge it or not. So much for civil society. So much for the greater good.

Related Reading:

The Conscience of the Constitution: The Declaration of Independence and the Right to Liberty—Timothy Sandefur

The American Left Is Talking Itself Into Violence—John Daniel Davidson for The Federalist