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From FDR to Obama – the Destruction of Our Rights

May 26, 2009 1 comment


Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed a “Second Bill of Rights” during his State of the Union Address in 1944. He noted that while “under the protection of certain inalienable rights…our nation has grown in size and stature, however—as our industrial economy expanded—these political rights proved inadequate to assure us equality in the pursuit of happiness….true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence. “Necessitous men are not free men.” People who are hungry and out of a job are the stuff of which dictatorships are made.” He argued that we “cannot be content, no matter how high that general standard of living may be, if some fraction of our people—whether it be one-third or one-fifth or one-tenth—is ill-fed, ill-clothed, ill-housed, and insecure.” Under the auspices of “economic security and independence,” FDR laid out the following list of rights for the American people:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

During and after FDR’s presidency, many programs were taken up to establish these so-called rights. The US government implemented a minimum wage with the hopes of providing people with a baseline level of income to be able to pay for life’s necessities, and created unemployment insurance so that people would have sufficient money to purchase goods when they lost their jobs. They created agricultural subsidies to protect farmers. They implemented all sorts of regulations and restrictions to stop (certain) companies from dominating their competitors. They created HUD and devised the CRA to force lenders to finance housing for those who were less well off, to ensure the “American dream of home ownership.” They provided healthcare for the old and poor. They created Social Security to allow the old to receive checks after they were retired. They expanded public education and pushed for everyone to receive a college degree. They empowered the Federal Reserve to flatten the business cycle and protect against recessions.

Today, King Obama looks to be finishing off the dirty work of the progressives of the last century. He is pushing for “fair” credit card charges, universal healthcare, onerous governmental control of business under the guise of environmental protection, government control of college loans and empathetic justices who understand the concerns of everyone who is not white, male or wealthy.

Essential to the justification for this platform is FDR’s argument that there be equality in the pursuit of happiness, and that “individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” What those like FDR and Obama mean is that there is not equality as an outcome of the pursuit of happiness, i.e. equality of condition. By economic security and independence, FDR and the King mean that people need safeguards so that they can keep their jobs, pay for products and be comfortable in retirement.

All of the ends that these progressives seek seem admirable, but the means to achieve them end up making it impossible for the ends to be obtained. Nobody wants to see masses of unemployed, sickly or uneducated people. But the government policies implemented to protect against these problems – to guarantee the “rights” listed above – end up leaving people unemployed, unhealthy and uneducated. They impoverish the citizens by destroying the inalienable rights that even FDR admits allowed the US to gain its strength as the world superpower.

It was not economic security or independence that allowed our country to thrive, but a system in which people voluntarily traded and had the opportunity to innovate and take entrepreneurial risks. Failure, not economic security, had to be a motivator because there was no safeguard against it; no notion of being too-big-to-fail. If you failed, you simply had to pick up and try again. The Federal Reserve in attempting to protect against failure ends up leaving the people economically insecure by decreasing their purchasing power and savings through inflating the money supply, and by incentivizing people to allocate resources improperly through the manipulation of money and credit which leads to the painful boom and bust cycle. The moral hazard created by providing safeguards against failing, be it in business or in one’s own life ends up weakening the people.

Economic security and independence come as a result of our rights to life, liberty and property, not the other way around. The best thing the government can do to ensure these rights, the rights that lead us to maximum wealth, the fullest employment for those who seek it, the best and cheapest medical care and the most practical and affordable education is simply to protect its citizens from attacks on their individual rights. Individual rights, not entitlements. Entitlements beget more entitlements. Entitlements breed laziness in the citizenry. Entitlements cause people to take things for granted. Freedom is the one thing that cannot be taken for granted. As Reagan put it, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.”

If you disagree with this in principle, then look at the results of the governments’ policies, those policies representing the antithesis of freedom. The US populace is probably dumber than it has been at any other time in history, even though a greater number of people are graduating from public high schools and attending colleges than ever before. Our economy teeters on the brink of collapse. Our government is larger, more intrusive and more corrupt than it has ever been. It is also effectively bankrupt minus its monopoly power to print money; interesting that it can have this monopoly power while also protecting people from “unfair business competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.”

Other examples of government failures abound. Amtrak is a money-loser, as is essentially all public transportation. If public transportation is not a money-loser, then I would venture to guess that it still isn’t as cheap or efficient as private alternatives. The US postal service is nowhere near as effective as FedEx. The DMV is a joke. The purchasing power of our dollar has decreased by over 95% since being under full control of the Federal Reserve, and we have had more frequent recessions than prior to the Fed’s creation. In countries with nationalized healthcare, we see that the price of better-quality, private healthcare increases, while public healthcare services leave people waiting sometimes for months on end for essential medical procedures. People flee to the US if their lives are in danger with good reason. If King Obama gets his way, they will have nowhere to flee anymore. Ironically, when it comes to almost every sector of our economy, while economists would have you believe that government corrects market failures, it appears that we would be far better if markets corrected government failures.

In the final analysis, there is not one good or service that the government provides that is cheaper and better than the equivalent one in the private sector, with the caveat that in terms of defense, only the government can coordinate the forces necessary to effectively protect us. And even then, the government outsources weapons development and certain tactical supports to private defense companies. And even then, the government screws up at times in the way it carries out its wars.

I want to reiterate that only the market can provide the people with the best goods and services at the best prices. This is the same for credit as it is for housing as it is for healthcare. If you take the market out of the equation and try to centrally plan, in the end you impoverish society and leave a nation to anarchy and revolution. Through a dictatorship, which is what the Second Bill of Rights effectively creates (a tyrannical government), you create the unemployed and the hungry that FDR speaks of.

With the burgeoning deficits at the state and national levels, the impending tsunami of inflation and the undermining of the rule of law and protection of life, liberty and property by our leaders, it looks as if in their quest to grant us the Second Bill of Rights, they have also destroyed the rights granted to us by an authority higher than that of our politicians, our natural ones.

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Immorality Writ Large and How to Fight It

May 20, 2009 1 comment

We are living through a time in which all common sense and logic has been sacrificed for blind hope and misplaced faith. According to the current gospel, peddled by the Messiah and even his anti-Christ enemies (the Republicans ironically), in a crisis in which millions are being thrown out of jobs, debts are being called in and people are being forced to cut back and save more, naturally we must see to it that these forces are prevented.

So we pump public funds into failed banking institutions that took risks imprudently and followed a business model in which short-term windfalls were rewarded over long-term viability and sustainability…all at the cost of the taxpayers and the financial companies that would have been able to find value and profitability in the assets that would have been liquidated had the banks been allowed to fail. We do the same with the auto industry, bailing out our failing companies, and specifically the UAW – the union that pushed the companies towards failure by demanding the massive salaries and benefits that bankrupted the companies in the first place. We reward debtors who purchased homes they could never afford by forcing lenders to rewrite mortgage contracts and allowing the government to purchase mortgage debt to keep interest rates low, with the government thumbing its nose at those who had responsibly paid off their mortgages. We relieve people who took on too much credit card debt by forcing lenders to lessen their fees (the fees necessary to compensate them for the risk involved in allowing people to finance their purchases through debt) by putting restrictions on “unfair” charges, inevitably causing those who were more responsible in paying off their debts to pay higher rates of interest.

When it comes to the protection of failing bureaucracies, it looks as if all of the states in the nation will be forced to bail out California (amongst others) when the federal government comes in and helps ameliorate their debts created by reckless spending. More importantly, the responsible states will not only be sacrificing their money, but their sovereignty to the federal government, due to the fiscal idiocy of the other states.

Even looking to something as fundamental as our progressive tax structure, whereby those who generate more income are penalized through higher levels of taxation (and forced to subsidize) those who earn less income, in every single case the people that are in the wrong are rewarded, while the people that are right or at least not responsible for these problems are penalized. Given the rate at which our national debt is expanding, the burden of these current problems unfortunately will be borne on the backs of future generations of Americans as well.

At length I have spoken in the past about how economically destructive these policies are, merely exacerbating problems instead of allowing markets and the individuals that make up the markets to adjust. I have explained that many of these problems were created by the government in the first place. I have also spoken to the fact that the holes that we are digging in attempting to stave off our problems, in the wasted future resources and diverted current resources being put towards government-planned projects, the massive amounts of money and debt creation by the federal government and also in our move overall towards a collectivist society.

But fundamentally, what I am seeing is that there is something far more insidious at play. What this crisis has illuminated to me is that because everything the government does has the force of law, it allows it to embody all of the worst traits of fallible man, writ large. More specifically, practically every single thing the government does and has done is about taking things from one group of people or more often all people and redistributing them to other people. Since the government can tax, it has the legal authority to rob you of your wealth and give it to someone else. Since the government can regulate, it has the power to help certain companies and harm the ones it doesn’t like. Since all can vote for government officials, government can allow 50% + 1 of the people to destroy the rights of all people; or allow 99% of people to subjugate the rights of the other 1%.

What I have come to realize is that unfortunately, our Founding Fathers did not think through deeply enough how far men were from angels, because the Founders were imperfect just like the people that they built the government for. They did not understand that while they tried to protect us from democracy, given the power to amend the Constitution, democracy could be implemented, with certain classes plundering other ones and bankrupting the nation in the process. Were the document to lay out in clear language any number of restrictions separating the public sphere from the private, this would simply lead to innovation amongst the people in subverting law and usurping power. Unfortunately, they didn’t understand the fatal flaw that they designed a framework in which the people got the government they deserved, not the government that was best. I do not mean to decry their efforts, but merely point out that as great as the Constitution they crafted was, it still could not ensure that people did not corrupt or disregard it.

As some have argued, were the populace to be more educated, our government would be better policed and regulated by the people it is supposed to help protect, and closer to the kind of paradigm that was intended by our forefathers. However, the government through public education gets to indoctrinate the citizens from day one. Even for those who are home-schooled or receive a private education, they still might be deluded into voting for bad candidates — just look at the New York Times crowd or the Ivy League (I know, I can’t believe I am emerging from it with a clear head either). And an educated populace might be even more adept at using the government to serve its interests as is.

I have always found that more influential than any of these institutions are the people that we grow up with and live with – our families, our friends and our mentors. And this is why I believe that our role as free-thinking individuals is so important, and that we must seize this moment in which the world is upside down, when good is treated as bad and moral is treated as immoral to seek to open the eyes of our fellow men. We need to educate by teaching in theory, demonstrating in practice and appealing in good sense and morality to the fact that this system whereby everyone plunders everyone else in the end leads to our demise; into a land devoid of all values, corrupted and whithered like so many empires that came before us.

We need to engage in debate, unafraid of saying what we feel in our hearts and in our minds is right. We need to sharpen our arguments against our challengers so that we can swiftly, calmly and rationally show them the errors of their ways and turn them into our friends, or at least respectful enemies. We need to explain that our actions affect more than just those around us, but also our future: our children, and our children’s children. We need to preach that as Reagan put it “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” We need to argue that principles and values do matter, and that the consequences of sidestepping them are fatal. We need to scream at the top of our lungs that all progress comes from individuals, not coercive powers that dictate to free men that they must build pyramids or dingy fuel-efficient cars.

As things get worse and worse, people will first most likely react angrily. They will be looking for heads to roll. But we must keep our heads. We must be there with the answers, because it is only when people have lost everything that they will be willing to listen to the voices they dismissed before. If socialism can come into fashion so quickly from the height of what people thought was capitalism, then why can’t Liberalism supplant socialism just as quickly?

Until that day however, we must continue to advocate our principles in the face of angry, irrational intolerant sophists. We must keep fighting the good fight even if it means being hated. Derision and ridicule should be met with satisfaction, because it will mean that our detractors can only react emotionally to our reasoned arguments.

There is no shame in being hated by a group that is wrong theoretically, practically and morally. We must continue along, emboldened in the face of tyranny. We must defeat the gravest of evils with the greatest of goods: freedom.

Obama and the Supreme Court

May 4, 2009 1 comment

“I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a casebook; it is also about how our laws affect the daily realities of people’s lives, whether they can make a living and care for their families, whether they feel safe in their homes and welcome in their own nation.

I view that quality of empathy, of understanding and identifying with people’s hopes and struggles, as an essential ingredient for arriving at just decisions and outcomes.”

With that, President Obama laid out his standard for determining the replacement for Justice Souter. As is his wont, Obama of course made his answer intentionally murky (so as to maximize political palatability) adding that “I will seek somebody who is dedicated to the rule of law, who honors our constitutional traditions, who respects the integrity of the judicial process and the appropriate limits of the judicial role. I will seek somebody who shares my respect for constitutional values on which this nation was founded and who brings a thoughtful understanding of how to apply them in our time.” The Constitutional traditions like the sanctity of contracts, protection of individual liberty and commitment to a system of free enterprise?

No, for the POTUS does not respect these values in his very belief that one of the fundamental criteria for picking a judge is “empathy.” Supreme Court justices are supposed to judge according to the Constitution. Surely, we would love if our justices too were noble, virtuous and even empathetic, but this has nothing to do with carrying out their duty of interpreting the Constitution properly and applying it equally. Men are not angels, and justices are mere men.

Nor is it incumbent upon qualified jurists to have “the heart, the empathy, to recognize what it’s like to be a young teenage mom. The empathy to understand what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay or disabled or old,” as Mr. Obama argued at a meeting of Planned Parenthood in 2007. In fact, this is fundamentally opposite of what one should look for in a judge. Judges are supposed to be blind to race, gender, ethnicity, etc. If we accept that all men are treated as equal under the law and endowed with natural rights, granted to them by a power even higher than that of the Constitution…dare I say a power even higher than that of Barack Obama, then one should never favor one group or another in jurisprudence. This fallacious conception of justice values personality over merit. It values emotion over reason.

Also calling into question Obama’s judgment is word that he may be explicitly looking to appoint a woman or a Hispanic to the Supreme Court. What the gender or heritage of a candidate for the Supreme Court has to do with being able to interpret the law, I do not know. What should it matter whether a justice is black or white, man or woman, Hispanic or Korean? In this country, at this time in history, we are supposed to be above race and gender. Nominating a justice largely with this criteria in mind is both racist and sexist. Further, it delegitimizes the role of jurisprudence by valuing traits one is born with over skill. Of course these types of affirmative action quotas are nothing new, but they are all equally asinine. When we replace merit with arbitrary standards, we are setting up our society to fail. Imagine if we selected our doctors based upon the neatness of their handwriting.

Underlying all of this is the question of Obama, the Constitutional scholars’ view of the courts. It would seem to me that his beliefs have have nothing to do with interpreting law according to the Constitutional values that he speaks so passionately about, and everything to do with interpreting the law as Mr. Obama sees fit. In other words, he seeks a justice who views the Constitution as a “living document” that “envisions a road map by which we marry passion to reason, the ideal of individual freedom to the demands of the community,” according to his Audacity of Hope. Again, we see the two-faced nature of these words. Individual freedom matched with the demands of the community. What are these demands exactly?

Having read the Constitution, the only demand that I can see is that we do no harm to our fellow man; that we each have control of our life, liberty and property and that no man or majority can take these from us. What if the community demands that people who own their houses must pay down the mortgages of those who are in foreclosure? What if the community demands that to keep workers in their jobs at auto plants, all citizens must buy green American cars? What if the community demands that the wealthy pay a 90% tax? Or that there be public floggings of anyone who has ever worked for an investment bank?

This of course is the problem with the lax, “living document” interpretation of the Constitution. It allows for a slippery slope that ultimately corrupts the values the law is supposed to preserve. By allowing activist justices to interpret based upon the will of the people at a given time, this can lead to total tyranny or total anarchy, based upon whatever 50% + 1 of the people want. The results of governing without principle, and rather according to the will of the majority will end disastrously. The whole point of the Constitution is to protect the smallest and most important minority, the individual, regardless of that individual’s race, color or creed. Which is why I find it so befuddling that Mr. Obama, a progressive who believes that we all have equal rights should care about the race or sex of his Supreme Court justices. Even more befuddling is his belief that judges understand “what it’s like to be poor, or African-American, or gay or disabled or old,” but not “rich, or white, or straight or able or young.” If the law is supposed to apply equally to all, then shouldn’t the judge understand the concerns of these folks too?

In reality, these factors should not concern judges one iota. This is the beauty of our law. The law treated properly is blind to personal traits. Under the purview of the law, we are all treated as equals. To care about any other arbritrary qualification is simply unjust.