Archive for the ‘rights’ Category

On the Principle of National Healthcare

August 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Government is the great fiction through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” – Frederic Bastiat

Pundits, pontificators and plebeians all have polarized around the issue of national healthcare. Many have spoken wisely on the pros and cons of the proposed system, a heartening fact given the relative deafening silence when it came to the other government boondoggles of the last few years (really the last hundred to be exact). At the heart of the matter is a debate fundamental to our liberty that the public has failed to have. This regards the broader ramifications of a government-granted right to health.

Aristotle said that man seeks pleasure while avoiding pain. Healthcare is a means to prevent physical pain, and thus I would argue secure pleasure. However, a need for healthcare is dictated by one’s physical condition. One’s physical condition is attributable to a variety of factors. First, there is the question of diet. Then, there are one’s living conditions, namely shelter and clothing. Surely there is a psychosomatic factor as well. Finally of course, there is the question of one’s physical activity level.

If we are to allow healthcare to fall under the purview of government, then certainly it must follow that all things that contribute to one’s health must also be regulated by the government.

Thus, necessarily each and every citizen will have a responsibility to provide ample food, sufficient shelter and clean clothing for each and every other citizen. Likewise, it should follow that the types of food be regulated to ensure an optimal diet, and the shelter and clothing be comfortable enough and of high enough quality to meet government standards. Since one needs a stable living environment, should not the government also have a say as to how children are raised within their homes? Naturally one’s mental health might also be tied to access to diversions, so should not all entertainment such as the arts, film and sports also be government-controlled and taxpayer-subsidized? Should not exercise be mandated, with government-run physical fitness centers for all? What scares me most is that in writing this list, government already controls many of these things in one way or another.

Naturally, a government-run system of healthcare will lead to arbitrary, whimsical intrusions into our daily lives. Who is to set the bounds as to what constitutes proper controls to make the system “competitive” and “affordable,” when the Ezekiel Emanuel’s of the world will influence the system?

Much like the Necessary and Proper Clause, nationalized healthcare will serve as a Trojan horse; it will lead to the greatest infringement on our natural rights of all, infringement on our lives. You’d think the state would already be satisfied having devoured our liberty and property (pursuit of happiness if you prefer), but always hungry for more power, under this system it will get personal.

Perhaps scarier than the details of this system, devilish as they may be is the principle that from the first day we spend on this Earth, given a right to health for all, our responsibility will be to provide for our fellow man, valuing the community above ourselves. If one were to choose to dedicate one’s life to supporting others, of one’s own volition, than this would be fine. The merits of sacrifice for others are numerous and in many cases commendable. However, under a national healthcare system, because of a handful of politicians, we will be forced from day one to work to support everyone else, because the state says so. In the end, we will all be enslaved to each other. Our common lot will be one of misery.

Call me selfish. Call me greedy. Call me immoral. I value my life above yours, insofar as the Leviathan is forcing me to subsidize your eating habits, drinking habits, smoking habits mental health and genetic predisposition. I do not want to be forced to pay for your healthcare by government decree, nor should I. The Founders guarantees my right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. To presuppose that the collectives’ right supersedes my own destroys these very rights. It ensures pain for all and pleasure for none.

I leave you with some prescient words from Grover Cleveland – the last respectable Democrat – regarding his reasoning for rejection of an act to appropriate federal funds for drought-stricken Texas farmers. He declared:

The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fellow-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of the kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood.


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.

A Taste of Subtle Ivy League Indoctrination

February 4, 2009 7 comments

As you may have come to expect at this point, I am not entirely fond of the education I have received at Columbia University. One of the major reasons for this is because of the bias inherent in almost every class I have taken here, from the most seemingly apolitical math course to the inherently political social science course. An example of the type of indoctrination one receives at an Ivy League institution was center stage this week in one of my courses.

Having completed a discussion on torts, we moved on to its application in emissions regulation. Emissions prove highly relevant because one party may cause damage to another party’s property because of the pollution one gives off. However, according to my professor, there is a solution to this that is equitable for all sides. My professor proclaimed, “It is the job of future economists like yourselves to solve these types of problems…otherwise what’s the point of studying economics?”

What was my professor’s solution? Well, since the typical Pigouvian tax wouldn’t work, of course we could follow the “market-based” solution of tradable carbon credits. The logic that my teacher put forth seemed infallible – the government can set the emissions level they so choose, and by creating carbon credit shares tradable on an open market, firms could buy or sell off their right to emit based upon their polluting needs. At the aggregate level, pollution will be reduced. Regardless of the initial allocation of carbon shares, trading will allow companies to emit at the level they so choose. Not only this, but the government won’t even intervene in this free market, and there will be total transparency to boot. Even more remarkable to my professor was the fact that this market was able to set the price, without necessary fixing by the regulator. Hooray for the central planners!

To be fair, my teacher did say that it is not necessarily easy to figure out the optimal level of emissions. But leaving out the fact that of course no government official nor any person period can know the optimal level of emission (especially given that this differs for every single individual), there are myriad other reasons why this solution is not “market based,” or socially beneficial. First, the market for carbon credits is being determined by government fiat. The government determines how many shares should be initially allocated to companies, and enforces the market on private companies. To whom does the burden ultimately fall to either pay for producing pollution, or build new plants that emit less? Why the consumer of course. This was not mentioned in the lecture. The question then becomes, are the social benefits of an emissions cap and market imposed by the government greater than the cost consumers will bare as a result of these policies? This writer happens to think not. Not to mention, of course there are going to be certain businesses that will increase their profits off of the push to decrease emissions as well, meaning government intervention will divert the natural flow of capital to specific sectors in the market.

There is of course as always the philosophical issue as well. Why should the government be in the business of controlling emissions? Of course, I’m sure any good politician, or economist for that matter would make the argument that it is for the public good. However, as always, I would argue that the free market provides a better alternative. First, if people are outraged by the emissions in their communities, they can take their cases to the courts and seek compensation from the company. If one’s private property is damaged, it is their right to seek just compensation, and the job of the courts to arbitrate in these disputes. Second, if this proves insufficient, and the company truly is tearing a community apart, the people in the community can boycott the company, making it financially impossible for the company to operate, and thus forcing the company to change its production techniques to emit less pollution. In an age where information is more readily accessible and transmittable than ever before, it should be easier than ever to rally people against a company. For those who challenge this, even with multinational companies, if the consumers are so angry at the producers for their treatment of the environment, it should be worth the effort of citizens to take shots at the bottom line of the polluting producer, or to rally lawyers and interest groups against the firm, as the firm like any defendant is deemed innocent until proved guilty. Further, if there was ever a time that citizens could rally against corporations easily, given the speed at which information can be disseminated today, people are more easily able to rally behind their causes than ever before.

Unfortunately, the professor of this particular class believes that if a divine central planner could accomplish the aforementioned “elegant” solution, this would be perfectly acceptable as well. It is all about “efficiency,” and “optimal allocations” to university professors. But there is never the question of right and wrong. Simple morality, and respect for natural rights is not a factor. It is always the obligation of politicians and economists to solve our problems, not private individuals. The left is able to veil their interventionism in the cloak of the free market. As long as academia continues to pander about the virtues of government, our future leaders will continue to make the mistakes of their predecessors.

The Significance of 24

January 13, 2009 3 comments

24 has captured the imagination of the American public for the last 8 years, and with good reason. While the plots often border on ridiculous, nevertheless we keep watching, knowing that no matter how death-defying the situation, somehow Jack is going to save (or should I say bail out) the nation. It is refreshing that in this day and age there are still some people that value a good old-fashioned American hero.

In addition to 24‘s always entertaining story lines, the show presents both sides of many political and moral issues. This season of 24 particularly has focused on four themes worthy of examination: protection of our rights from the government, government corruption, intervention in foreign conflicts and political correctness and the issue of torture. While these themes have marked many a 24 season, in particular they pervade the current one, undoubtedly as a reflection of our current political climate. Let us analyze them.

On Protection from the Government

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this season has been the reemergence of CTU as a four-person team, fighting to protect the US citizens from the government itself. This is something that should convert liberals and libertarians alike into fans of the show. Our political officials and intelligence agencies have become so corrupted that only four people left in the country have the ability to defend the rights of millions. I have often asked myself the question, “If the government is supposed to protect our life, liberty and property, then who is supposed to protect our life, liberty and property from the government?” I’ll tell you who: Jack Bauer, Bill Buchanan, Tony Almedia and Chloe O’Brien. Though I doubt that Joel Surnow (awesome as he may be) et al really thought this point through, they should be lauded for exposing a fundamental problem with our governmental system, and showing that when threatened by enemies both foreign and domestic, citizens must band together to protect their rights.

On Government Corruption
In the current season of 24, government officials in the President’s inner circle and in the FBI privy to classified information are working for the bad guys – a rogue regime in fictional Sengala, Africa committing mass genocide. While the details are lacking, it seems clear that there are certain kickbacks monetary and perhaps political involved. Could our own government officials ever be working to undermine our nation for self-interested reasons?

While I do not think (and certainly pray) that any of our leaders would sell us out to the point of encouraging terrorist attacks against our citizens, there are ways that leaders more subtly have cultivated ties with our enemies. For starters, take a look at this recent WSJ editorial on Bill and Hillary’s dubious donors. With links to corrupt officials from Nigeria to the Dnieper, needless to say we may want to reconsider Hillary as our Secretary of State. I presume that the Clintons are just one of many political families with ties to less-than-stellar regimes (think of the Bush’s oil ties in the Middle East for example).

This is not to say that these pols are plants for foreign governments working to undermine our state, but we need to recognize that political influence as always has a price that many are willing to pay. Access is king. If someone can pull off a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, is it really impossible to believe that people in our government could subtly or not-so-subtly abet our enemies? I am no conspiracy theorist, but I do believe it pays to always be cynical of our representatives. Moreover, the general concept here of using political clout to receive favors, monetary or otherwise is timely in the wake of Blagojevich, Stevens and Spitzer…and all of political history for that matter.

On Intervention in Foreign Conflicts
The President in the current season finds herself in a bind largely as the result of engaging in foreign entanglements. Trying to act as a liberator of innocent civilians being murdered in Africa, the President prepares to attack Sengala, only to find that the Sengalese have taken control of America’s infrastructure and have the power to strike the nation’s most vital organs. Stand down she is told, and America will go unharmed; invade, and face the consequence of having American blood on her hands.

This scenario is quite prescient as we try to figure out as a nation what our role should be in the world. The predominant view had been that the US as the most powerful nation economically and militarily should serve as the world police, and that promoting democracy throughout the world, sometimes through outright nation-building, was the way to ensure our safety and the freedom and prosperity of others. Obviously, this philosophy needs to be reworked.

I do not view it as the proper role of our government to intervene throughout the world. When it comes to spreading democracy via nation-building, this has never worked well, with the exception of in Japan (a state with a democratic past). As we have seen in Iraq and Gaza, democracy does not ensure freedom or peace, nor do all peoples have the will for these values. While the American government should vocally support the cause of freedom, and not impede the American citizens from supporting the movement for freedom abroad through whatever means they so choose, it behooves the people of other nations to fight for these freedoms if they so desire them. As Mencken proclaims in his Notes on Democracy, “for the loftiest of all the rights of citizen, by the democratic dogma, is that of the franchise, and whoever is not willing to fight for it, even at the cost of his last drop of gore, is surely not likely to exercise it with a proper sense of consecration after getting it.”

This principle goes for trying to defend people suffering from grave injustices as well. I unequivocally stand in opposition to all tyranny and repression. If a people is being massacred, it is incumbent upon those who feel strongly on the matter to defend those people. This does not mean however that it is the job of our government to do so, unless our citizens explicitly request it. Our government’s number one priority is to protect our “life, liberty and property.” To get involved militarily with extraneous conflicts as we have seen on 24 and through practical experience poses a threat to our essential rights. It is the right of the people to defend others, but there should be no mandate on the government to do so.

On Political Correctness
Last year, a representative from Blackwater came to speak at Columbia University. I had the opportunity to ask him about the biggest ongoing challenges facing the defense community, and without pause, he answered that it was political correctness. Given today’s society, it is amazing that we are even able to fight wars anymore. As we see on 24, almost every intelligence decision is made while walking the fine line between balancing delicate political interests and the innate desire to defend our people. In my opinion, this political correctness not only cripples our education and economic systems, but proves most debilitating when it comes to intelligence. Without being able to obtain necessary information, we can kiss goodbye all of the other aspects of society we so cherish because we will be defeated.

Though I did not intend to go into it, this brings up the moral question of torture. Foreshadowing what I would bet we will see here, the season begins with Jack Bauer testifying in front of the Senate about the interrogation methods he used to help foil terrorist attacks in prior seasons. As one might expect, this testimony is pure political theater. The Senator grilling Bauer wants to hear Jack admit to ruthlessly torturing people. This is what the left has been fighting the Bush administration on throughout his tenure, and the objections they raise to torture should be vigorously debated.

To me it all seems very simple: if you believe that someone knows of an imminent, credible threat, torture, be it waterboarding, sleep deprivation or otherwise can be effective, and should be used. Otherwise, for numerous reasons it is best to avoid it. I understand that underlying the issue of torture are questions like its definition, and the guidelines of international law. I am no expert in these areas, nor have I given them sufficient study for my opinion to bare significant weight. But to a man, my humble opinion is that if you think your citizens are in danger, it is necessary for you to use whatever means possible to protect them. Our elected officials have an obligation to our safety first.

Forgetting about these weighty matters however, most of all 24 is entertaining, and should be appreciated by all. Long live Jack Bauer.