About Me

Name:
Mike LaFerrara

Location:
New Jersey

Greetings and welcome to my blog. My name is Michael A. (Mike) LaFerrara. I sometimes use the pen or "screen" name "Mike Zemack" or "Zemack" in online activism such as posted comments on articles. Zemack stands for the first letters of the names of my six grandchildren. I was born in 1949 in New Jersey, U.S.A., where I still reside with my wife of 42 years. I have two daughters and two sons-in-law. The goal and purpose of my blog is the discussion of current or historical human events based from an Objectivist perspective. For a full discription of the purpose of this blog, see my Introduction. One final introductory note: I strongly recommend Philosophy, Who Needs it, which highlights the inescapable importance of philosophy in every individual's life. I can be reached at mal.atlas@comcast.net. Thanks, Mike LaFerrara.

My Complete Profile


    Of Special Interest
FIRM Healthcare Publications
ARC On Healthcare
Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis
ARC's Response to the Financial Crisis
The Financial Crisis: Causes and Possible Cures

    Influential Books
-ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand
-AYN RAND'S NORMATIVE ETHICS...The Virtuous Egoist Tara Smith
-FREE MARKET REVOLUTION: How Ayn Rand's Ideas can End Big Government Yaron Brook and Don Watkins
LIBERAL FASCISM...The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning Jonah Goldberg
-MARIA MONTESSORI: HER LIFE AND WORK-E.M. Standing
- MORAL MINORITY Brooke Allen
-REAGAN'S WAR Peter Schweizer
-SOMETHING FOR NOTHING: The All-Consuming Desire that turns the American Dream into a Nightmare Brian Tracy
-STATE OF FEAR Michael Crichton
-THE CAPITALIST MANIFESTO Andrew Bernstein
-THE FINANCIAL CRISIS AND THE FREE MARKET CURE John A. Allison
-THE FOUNTAINHEAD Ayn Rand
-THE OMINOUS PARALLELS...The Chaos of Pre-Hitler Germany...and The End of Freedom in America Leonard Peikoff
EXPLAINING POSTMODERNISM...Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault

    Recommended Reading
-Moral Health Care vs. “Universal Health Care” by Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh

-Health Care is not a Right by Leonard Peikoff

FAQ on Free Market Health Insurance

Mandatory Health Insurance: Wrong for Massachusetts, Wrong for America

Principles of a Free Society

The Comprachicos

Why Individual Rights?

    Meaningful Quotes
-"I love getting older...I get to grow up and learn things." Madalyn, then 5 years old, Montessori student, and my grand-daughter

-"Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." Francis Bacon

-"Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction." Ronald Reagan

-"Thinking is hard work. If it weren't, more people would do it." Henry Ford

-"Intellectual freedom cannot exist without political freedom; political freedom cannot exist without economic freedom; a free mind and a free market are corollaries." Ayn Rand

Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Denying Assisted Suicide Rights Based on Potential “Abuse” is Immoral
A bill legalizing assisted suicide in New Jersey is working its way through the legislature. The bill, A2270 sponsored by Assemblyman John Burzichelli, is dubbed the Aid in Dying Act. A2270 would legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients diagnosed as having less than six months to live.


The Aid in Dying Act was the subject of a July letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger by anti-assisted suicide activist Diane Coleman, writing as President of Not Dead Yet. Coleman wrote, in part:


When it comes to emotion as a barrier to reason, assisted suicide’s proponents have a much bigger problem than opponents.


The bill doesn’t prevent abuse; it hides it. Legislators have a duty to set aside emotion and think about seriously ill people who don’t have a loving family and need the law to protect them.


I left these comments:


When it comes to reason—and morality—those opposed to legalization of assisted suicide have the bigger problem.


Yes, the law must protect against the taking of life against the patient’s wishes. But the law should also protect the right of every individual of sound mind to end his life on his [own] terms, whether that choice is made consciously by the patient at the time of death or carried out by third parties based on a living will. In fact, my problem with Assemblyman John Burzichelli’s “Aid in Dying” bill is that it’s too restrictive. Why require a diagnosis of six months to live? What of someone who, by his own rational judgment, is living an existence of living death and wants to end it? As a 65 year old, I certainly would want my right to die with dignity respected and protected by law.


The idea that the right to end one’s life with professional assistance should be denied to everyone because of the “potential” for abuse by the few is morally corrupt and inimical to basic liberties. On that premise, no one should have any rights whatsoever, since any right can be abused.


Related Reading:


Diane Coleman's Opposition to Assisted Suicide Ignores Rights - PART 1

Diane Coleman's Opposition to Assisted Suicide Ignores Rights - PART 2

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Monday, August 18, 2014
Do the Means Justify Medicaid Ends?
A letter titled Affordable Care Act is good for the country appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger on March 21, 2014. The letter writer, Christopher, explains that he was born with severe disabilities, but that his family was unable to afford the necessary treatments. But, thanks to the "help" of Medicaid, the federal healthcare program for the poor, Christopher is now an 11-year veteran employee of Starbucks with plans to marry in 2015. Medicaid, writes Christopher, "enabled me to become the man I am today."

He concludes:


    I am appalled by the way the Republican Party has repeatedly tried to deny and obstruct the Affordable Care Act, which would benefit all people regardless of mental and physical limitations, especially those with financial hardships.
    I am a testament to and living proof that this piece of legislation benefits not just the individual but the country as a whole.

I left these comments:

"The ends justify the means" is one of the most horrific moral precepts ever devised by man. It excuses any injustice or aggression, so long as the end to be achieved is deemed to be good.

This is the premise behind Christopher Gagliardi's letter. Where does the money that funds Medicaid, ACA subsidies, and the like come from, and by what means? It comes out of the pockets of taxpayers who earned it, by means of legalized force—i.e., it is stolen at gunpoint.


I sympathize with Gagliardi's health plight. I also admire his courage and determination in dealing with and overcoming his handicap to build a productive life for himself. And I don't necessarily fault Gagliardi for taking advantage of Medicaid, since his family's taxes undoubtedly contributed to it. 


But calling Medicaid benefits "help" is dishonest. Their are certainly people worthy of consideration for voluntary charity from his fellow man (simply being "poor" is not one of them). But the term "help" implies voluntary good will, not force. This fact must not be evaded: Government "charity" programs start with legalized theft, and that makes them fundamentally immoral. 


Notice that advocates of government programs always rationalize them with undefinable collectivist catchphrases, like "the good of the country as a whole," as if the "whole" exists independently of the individuals that make it up. There is a reason for this. When you focus on reality and facts, you find theft (and power-lust) at the root of government programs. There is no "whole" in this context. There are individual people being victimized by government aggression—being denied the liberty to decide who, when, and in what capacity to help others—and there are beneficiaries that profit from that aggression. Nobody has ever attempted to justify theft as regards actual human beings—nor can it be justified, whether or not carried out under cover of law—hence the vague collectivist catchphrase, "the good of the country as a whole."


There is more wrong with Medicaid, the ACA, and like programs than the theft; such as that they feed the growth of government power over our lives. But the bottom line is, the ends don't justify the means, until and unless the means are first justified. In regard to Medicaid and ObamaCare, the means can not be justified, so neither can these programs, no matter who benefits from them.


Related Reading:


The “Personal Account” Path to Ending Social Security

No One is "Supposed" to Shoulder Unchosen Obligations

What if Someone Can't Afford Healthcare In a Free Market?

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Saturday, August 16, 2014
Ayn Rand on a Modern Dollar Bill? Who Better Deserves the Honor?
Time.com/Money has an interesting poll with an interesting result. The poll asks, “Who Should Be the First Woman On a Modern Dollar Bill?” As of this writing, Ayn Rand leads with 55%, followed in second place by Eleanor Roosevelt with 10%.


These results are appropriate. Ayn Rand was the thinker who gave money its proper moral due. As Carl Svanberg notes at Voices for Reason, “Who could be a more worthy candidate? Ayn Rand did, after all, argue that money is the root of all good.”


Of course, Rand understood fully that money, as such, has little value. To arrive at the conclusion of money as the root of all good, Rand asked, “What is the root of money?” Her answer, which is contained in Francisco’s Money Speech in Atlas Shrugged, is life-serving productive work and all of the virtues that implies. Next, she asked, “What is the root of production?” Man’s mind, she observed. If you think about it honestly and objectively, you must conclude that Rand was right.


Rand praised America as “a country of money: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production, achievement. . . . If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would choose–because it contains all the others–the fact that they were the people who created the phrase ‘to make money,’” Rand said.


What does it mean “to make money?” To make money means to make (create) a good or service that others value enough to be willing to pay you for. It does not mean to get money by hook or by crook. Armed robbers, fraudsters, and moochers don’t make money. They simply appropriate it. To make money means to earn it by productive work and trade.


And what virtues do productive work and trade depend on? Since productive work is reason-guided labor (physical or mental), and trade is the voluntary exchange of value for value, it follows that the root of money rests on certain life-serving human virtues. These virtues, which money-making embodies, are virtues like rationality, self-motivation, self-discipline, self-esteem, honesty, integrity, teamwork, long-range planning, and pride.


As Rand observed:


Money is a tool of exchange, which can’t exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the men who produce.


When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not an ocean of tears not all the guns in the world can transform those pieces of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow. Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor–your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money.


Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions–and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.


A culture of money-makers is a culture of peaceful coexistence and rising mutual prosperity. The money you make can then be exchanged for all of the material values your life and flourishing depend on, but which others make, through the win-win medium of trade. It is money that makes trade possible. As Rand eloquently observed, money is “your passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men.”


This is not to say that money-making is or should be one’s only pursuit. Everyone needs a whole constellation of values to complete his life, such as vacations, leisure activities like reading or media, friendships, romantic relationships, quality time with children or extended family, hobbies, charitable activities, and so on. In an advanced industrial, money-exchange, division of labor economy, there is time for all kinds of enriching pursuits. But money-making is and should be understood to be one’s central pursuit, around which all of one’s other values are oriented and balanced. This is not a matter of choice or opinion. This is fact. Without the means to survive and thrive that money-making embodies, no other values are even possible.


Far from being some lowly, amoral activity or necessary evil, money-making is a noble activity that belongs at the top of our moral hierarchy, because the human virtues embodied in the phrase “to make money” are the very virtues vital not just to survival but to achieving a happy, prosperous, and fulfilling life.


This is why Ayn Rand identified money as the root of all good. Who but Ayn Rand, above all others, deserves to be the first woman on a modern dollar bill?


Related Reading:


Francisco’s Money Speech”, from Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand

Healthcare and the Role of Money

Money vs. Wealth: Which is the Cart, and Which is the Horse? Ask Gilligan


Related  Listening:

The Money Making Personality—Ayn Rand

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, August 14, 2014
Tax Inversion: “Fiduciary Duty to Shareholders” vs. “Duty to Society”
Herb Brennan had a good letter published in the 8/11/14 New Jersey Star-Ledger rebutting Steven Pressman’s op-ed "We must invert tax inversion" (covered in my last two blog posts). In his letter, Inversion not a crime, I was particularly impressed with this statement:


Any corporation’s board of directors has a fiduciary duty to shareholders to use all legal means, including inversion, to increase after-tax profits.


While there is no such duty to society, most well-managed companies make substantial contributions to the community.


I not sure if Brennan understands the full implications of his statement, so I left these supporting comments:


I agree with Herb Brennan, especially his observation that “there is no such duty to society.”


“Society” is not an entity apart from the individual human beings that comprise it. When someone suggests that “society” takes precedence over private individual interests such as corporations minimizing taxes, they are saying that some individuals’ interests should be sacrificed for the benefit of other individuals who have an automatic moral entitlement to the lives and wealth of others. There are no such entitlements or duties.


Those who propose criminalizing tax inversion always justify their argument on some collectivist rationalization like “duty to society” or the “nation”, and then smear tax inverting companies as “unpatriotic” or “deserters.” But, collectivism is the hallmark of tribal slave systems like communism and fascism, where the group rather than the individual is the focus of moral concern. America is the opposite: It is the land of the free—free, sovereign individuals pursuing their own interests (their happiness) by their own efforts. Tax inversion is not just economically sensible, but moral and patriotic as well. While we should never condone tax evasion, I say shame on our unpatriotic politicians for the confiscatory, discriminatory tax policies that are chasing American businesses abroad. These politicians and their supporters are deserting American principles by demanding that these companies sacrifice their own interests as a duty to society.


Keep in mind what the whole issue concerns; profits earned outside of the U.S. The federal government taxes all of a U.S.-based multinational company’s income, wherever it is earned. For example, if a company pays a 20% tax to a foreign government on sales in that country, it still must pay an additional 15% to the American government because the U.S. tax rate is 35%, the highest in the world—plus additional state corporate income taxes where applicable, such as NJ’s 9% rate—if and when the foreign earnings are “repatriated” (reinvested) in the U.S. The earnings shielded from U.S. taxes when a company does a tax inversion is not money earned inside the U.S., which is fully taxable at the draconian U.S. rates regardless of the company’s official residency. It is only U.S. taxes on money earned outside the U.S. that companies escape when “inverting.”


Is it any wonder that many U.S.-based companies often re-establish residency abroad? Is it any wonder why statists must resort to collectivist arguments to justify their attack on tax-inverting companies?


Related Reading:


The Smoking Collectivist Gun Behind the Welfare Statists' Bleeding Hearts


To Defeat Collectivism, Deny Collectivist Premises

Whose Money is it, Anyway?

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
“Winners and Losers”: A Welfare State Legacy
To expand on yesterday’s post on Monmouth University professor of economics and finance Steven Pressman’s article We must invert tax inversion, I want to highlight something else he said:


Another problem with tax inversion concerns winners and losers. The winners are people owning the stock of these companies. These are typically the wealthiest Americans. The losers are average citizens and small businesses, forced to pay higher taxes or see cuts in government programs that benefit them.


In my comments, I said, without elaboration, that most government spending is immoral. Here is a perfect example. Pressman notes that “loss of revenue” from tax inversions may force “cuts in government programs” that “benefit . . . average citizens and small businesses.” By immoral, it is precisely these government programs that I refer to, because they are based on forced redistribution of wealth from those who earned it to those who didn’t. Pressman claims these program beneficiaries would be “losers.” But how is getting fewer dollars that they didn’t earn or have a right to in the first place make them losers?


There are “winners and losers,” alright. There always are under welfare states. The “losers” are those whose earnings are taxed away, and the “winners” are those who collect the loot. Lower tax revenues leading to cuts in redistributionist programs would reduce, not create, winners and losers. That’s exactly what we need; a government that doesn’t create winners and losers; i.e., doesn’t economically favor some at the expense of others, which is crony socialism, sometimes mistakenly referred to as “crony capitalism”. We need a proper government, one that simply protects everyone’s right to keep and spend their own money as they judge best.


Related Reading:


A "Liberal" Newspaper Acknowledges the Welfare State Dilemma


The Evil Genius of the Welfare State

Whose Money is it, Anyway?

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
Professor Steven Pressman’s Moral Inversion on “Tax Inversion”
Tax inversion”—the practice of using corporate mergers to relocate company headquarters to countries with lower corporate taxes—is being targeted by Leftist politicians and intellectuals, who want to ban the practice. Monmouth University professor of economics and finance Steven Pressman is one such Leftist. In a New Jersey Star-Ledger op-ed (We must invert tax inversion), Pressman argued that President Obama’s recently announced policies to curb tax inversions are “half-baked” because they are easy for companies “to circumvent.” Instead, Pressman proposed tax law changes of his own.

While I won’t attempt to analyze Pressman’s tax proposal, I do want to focus on Pressman’s fundamental argument against tax inversions. He writes:

The growth of this corporate tax dodge stems partly from the reduced moral stigma as more firms use it.

There are also economic factors at work. Senior executives know that when corporate taxes fall, after-tax profits rise. This will increase their pay and the value of the company stock they own. In addition, senior executives know that if they won't engage in tax inversion, new management will be brought in to exploit this loophole.

The congressional Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that the federal government will lose $2 billion this year from inversions, requiring spending cuts or government borrowing (maybe from the same corporations that just got $2 billion in tax breaks).

State governments - especially New Jersey, which has one of the highest state corporate income tax rates in the nation at 9 percent - also stand to lose significant tax revenue.

I left these comments:

Notice the moral inversion Pressman is trying to put over: When companies legally minimize their taxes, they are exploiting a “loophole” or engaging in a “tax dodge,” implying something sinister or underhanded. Then, notice that taxes not collected by governments amounts to a “loss” to governments, as if governments have first claim on the income of private citizens. The implication is that a nation’s income belongs to the government, and its productive private citizens get to keep only that which government allows by permission. This is an inversion, alright—of America’s Founding principles.

These companies’ officers are acting morally. They are responding rationally and self-interestedly to the most confiscatory corporate taxes in the world, compounded by the fact that they are taxed on income not even earned in the United States. Corporate taxes are unjust in other ways: double taxation on corporation owners and shareholders, and the crony socialism of all of the “special exemptions and exclusions, credits, deductions, deferrals, and preferential tax rates” that lard up the code.

The question should be: Why are American businesses being chased abroad? Is this patriotic government policy? Is this any way for a government to treat its own citizens? Corporate taxes should be repealed, but that is politically impossible today. The next best thing: sharply lower and flatten corporate tax rates while getting rid of all of the special corporate tax structures that politicians enact to curry favor with special interests. As to that “lost tax revenue,” governments should drastically curtail spending, most of which is immoral anyway.

We are not subjects of an imperial government. Income belongs first and foremost to the productive private citizens who earned it. Money not collected in taxes is not a loss for government. Money taxed is a loss for productive citizens. Kudos to these companies for legalizing minimizing their taxes, thus keeping more of what they earn. They are a moral example for every productive, self-responsible American taxpayer.

Related Reading:

“Citizens for Tax Justice” vs. Rational Patriotism

Toward Less-Unfair Corporate Taxes

Double-Taxation Means Double Injustice for Romney—Ari Armstrong

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Monday, August 11, 2014
Global Warming Brings 'Record' U.S. Crop Yields
Of course, you’ll never see a headline like that (at least I haven’t.) As we know, global warming—aka climate change—is universally bad, even catastrophic. No good comes of it.


Or so we’re told by the environmentalist Left. But, as the Associated Press reports, Cool Summer Sets Expectations for a Record Harvest:


A mild summer across much of the nation's heartland has provided optimum growing conditions for the nation's corn and soybean crops. Pair that with high-yield seeds and other new farming technologies, and the U.S. is looking at busting records come harvest time.


In a typical growing season, at least some corn-growing states would have experienced drought or other production problems. But the 18 states that grow 91 percent of the nation's corn have experienced nearly ideal conditions this year, as adequate rain fell when plants emerged and cooler summer temperatures minimized heat stress.


The article didn’t suggest that global warming was responsible for the ideal weather conditions that led to the bumper crop. But, why not? If this report had read Hot Dry Summer Sets Expectations of Sub-Par Harvest, somewhere in the article man-made climate change would have been cited as a probable cause. Typically, articles about weather extremes contain some such statement as “Many scientists believe such weather extremes are becoming more frequent and severe due to climate change related to man’s fossil fuel use.”


The AP also credits biotechnology-improved crop seeds for the higher yields. But, that is beside the point. If climate change ideologues are going to blame every nasty weather event on man-made climate change, shouldn’t man-made climate change get credit for unusually good weather events? Why, in the AP article, is there no statement such as, “The ‘optimum growing conditions’ may be related to climate change brought about by man’s fossil fuel use?”


Of course, we do know why. Good news doesn’t give statists viable rationalizations for demonizing business and increasing government controls. Just as religionists credit “God” for everything good, yet blame man for everything bad, so do environmentalists, who simply substitute “Nature” for “God”. Then again, environmentalism is essentially a religion, and carries the same authoritarian implications.


Related Reading:


Environmentalists, Luddites, and Collectivism


Stop Indoctrinating Schoolchildren With Environmentalist Propaganda

Why I Don't Trust the "Climate Consensus"

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Denying Assisted Suicide Rights Based on Potential...
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“Winners and Losers”: A Welfare State Legacy
Professor Steven Pressman’s Moral Inversion on “Ta...
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