About Me

Mike LaFerrara

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. The goal and purpose of my blog is the discussion of current or historical human events based on 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
-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
-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 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
Monday, January 26, 2015
Time for Some Humanity on Doctor-Assisted Suicide
In December, the Objective Standard published my article The Inhumanity of Laws Against Doctor-Assisted Suicide.

Here is an excerpt:

Currently, assisted suicide is unequivocally legal in only three states—Oregon, Washington, and Vermont—where it is allowed in cases of terminal illness in which doctors estimate that the person in question will die of his illness within six months. In Montana and New Mexico, although courts have ruled in favor of physicians assisting in the suicide of terminally ill patients, the legal situation appears unsettled. But even in Oregon, Washington, and Vermont, the laws do not fully recognize and protect an individual’s right to take his own life or to contract with a medical professional for assistance in this regard.

In addition to these states, in November the New Jersey state assembly passed a bill, “The New Jersey Death With Dignity Act,” that would legalize doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients diagnosed with less that six months to live. Please read my whole article as this controversial issue cuts to the heart of what it means to be free.

Related Reading:

Conservatives’ Collectivist Case Against Assisted Suicide—Ari Armstrong

Assisted Suicide, "Liberals", and Conservatives

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Saturday, January 24, 2015
ARI's Watkins Sums Up Obama's State of the Union Message: More Central Planning
ARI's Watkins Sums Up Obama's State of the Union Message: More Central Planning

The Ayn Rand Institute’s Don Watkins nicely summed up President Obama’s State of the Union address:

“My fellow Americans,” Obama said at the close of last night’s State of the Union, “we too are a strong, tight-knit family,” It’s not unusual for politicians to invoke folksy metaphors of this kind, but in this case it just about sums up Obama’s worldview.

According to the president, Americans are not independent individuals who should be free to pursue their own diverse goals and values. Instead “we are one people” who should rally around a “sense of common purpose.” What purpose? No answer. Who should decide that purpose? That much was abundantly clear.
For Obama, the government’s role is to set our goals, determine our priorities, and centrally plan our lives so that we achieve these priorities.

You can read the whole essay here.

Related Reading:

Tax Inversion: “Fiduciary Duty to Shareholders” vs. “Duty to Society”

The Smoking Collectivist Gun Behind the Welfare Statists' Bleeding Hearts

Obama's Sugar-Coated Poison

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Friday, January 23, 2015
A Free Market is the Only ‘Natural Order of Things’
Continuing my critique of the New Jersey Star-Ledger’s editorial regarding Obama’s State of the Union address,  Obama's Robin Hood plan is overdue, I addressed a tactic that proponents of liberty are often accused of; that if you oppose the latest statist proposal, you’re for the status quo. Tom Moran, for the Star-Ledger editorial board, wrote in the comments:

I don't regard the current distribution of wealth as given from God, or even the free market. The government makes choices that influence it now. It makes the rules on minimum wage, on organizing unions, on trade agreements, on preferential treatment for income coming from capital over labor, on education.

Even subsidizing home mortgages, which is a giant benefit to the rich.

So those who say this natural order of things should be left alone are missing that. Obama would bring some measure of justice to this

I left this reply:

“So those who say this natural order of things should be left alone are missing that.”

The current status quo is not the “natural order of things.” We don’t have a free market. We have a mixed economy; an economy corrupted by government controls and political favor peddling. In today’s system, some of the wealth of the rich comes from cashing in on government favors or asset prices inflated by the Federal Reserve’s inflationary easy money policies. But that is a consequence of our mixed economy, regulatory welfare state and the Federal Reserve. In our politically corrupted system, the coercive power of government undermines the justice of the free market elements. Notice that the stagnant wages since the late 1990s alluded to above coincides with a huge expansion in government spending, debt, and regulations under Bush/Obama. Obama’s policies don’t fix anything. They only double down on the status quo. The cure is not more redistributive taxes, which doesn’t distinguish between fortunes by favor and fortunes by productive work—between the unearned and the earned. We should instead roll back the government’s power over our economic affairs, institute a non-discriminatory low-rate flat income tax after a single personal exemption for each individual, and abolish the Federal Reserve.

The justice of the free market derives from the fact that people’s wealth is determined not only by the individual’s own efforts but by the voluntary choices of those he trades with. Government is force, and when the government interferes in the economy, it brings the power of aggressive force (the power of a gun) to bear against private decision-making. A free market is the absence of aggressive government force. That fact makes free market capitalism the only system of economic justice because it is based on voluntary, mutually beneficial association and contract.

Of course, property rights—the essence of economic justice—requires a government to protect those rights. That government has to be paid for. That’s where taxes come in. Ideally, taxes should be voluntary. But that’s obviously not possible today, given the widespread entitlement mentality. The next best thing; a flat tax. Steve Forbes suggested a good one. His plan would have only a healthy personal exemption for every individual, which would exempt roughly the first $46,000 of income for a family of 4. After that, a non-discriminatory 17% tax on all income. That’s fairness. That’s real economic justice.

Related Reading:

Economic Equality vs. Political Equality: Which is Your America?

Time for a Flat Tax

Capitalism and the Moral High Ground—Craig Biddle

Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal—Ayn Rand

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, January 22, 2015
The Starnes Heirs and the Left’s Tribal View of Wealth
In its editorial on the eve of President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, Obama's Robin Hood plan is overdue, the New Jersey Star-Ledger wrote this gem: “We are all working to build the nation’s wealth, but the elites are capturing virtually all the gains.” In response to readers’ comments, Tom Moran, the author of the editorial, said: “I don't regard the current distribution of wealth as given from God, or even the free market.”

Behind every statist, you will find collectivist rationalizations. How many people do you know of who start out for work with “the nation’s wealth” in mind? How many people do you know of who think of their property as a “capture” rather than their earnings? But that line of mental garbage serves a very sinister purpose.

I left this reply:

“I don't regard the current distribution of wealth as given from God, or even the free market.”

A nation’s wealth is not a collective tribal product. A nation’s wealth is the sum of the wealth created by productive individuals working, contracting, and trading freely in the market. To speak in terms of the proper “distribution” of wealth is to deny individual ability, effort, ambition, and ingenuity, and encourage a sense of entitlement. The tribal view of wealth is merely a rationalization for takers to get a “fair share” of the fruits of other people’s intellectual and physical labor; for prestige-seeking phonies to pose as champions of “economic justice” through redistribution of other people’s wealth; and for power-lusters to gain the power to do the distributing.

I wrote that last sentence with Atlas Shrugged’s Twentieth Century Motor Company saga in mind. The decline and collapse of that fictional, once-great company was driven by the Starnes heirs’ institution of the plan, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” The saga was recounted in the tramp’s speech to Dagny Taggart, in which the tramp explains how the plan works to destroy human beings and who the real beneficiaries of Marx’s slogan are. Today we see real life equivalents of Gerald Starnes (the material parasite), Eric Starnes (the spiritual parasite), and Ivy Starnes (the power-luster) all around us.

The tramp’s speech is the best dramatization of Marx’s "From Each According to His Ability, To Each According to His Need" I have ever read.

Related Reading:

Ayn Rand Anticipated Obama's "You Didn't Build That" Outrage

Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand

Individualism vs. Collectivism: Our Future, Our Choice—Craig Biddle

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, January 21, 2015
Obamanomics vs. Robin Hood
Hours before President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address, the New Jersey Star-Ledger posted an editorial titled Obama's Robin Hood plan is overdue.

After an opening diatribe about the unfairness of the system—it paraphrases Elizabeth Warren regarding how “the game today is rigged”—the Star-Ledger wrote:

President Obama’s tax plan, which will be the centerpiece of his State of the Union address Tuesday night, has to be viewed through this lens. Pared down to its basics, it is a Robin Hood plan that raises taxes on the top 1 percent, while cutting taxes for the middle-class and below.

I left these comments:

Keep in mind that the real Robin Hood took wealth back from the thieving aristocratic rulers and returned it to the poor commoners who actually earned the wealth.

Today, the Robin Hood legend has been corrupted into something morally sinister; that it’s OK to take from others, as long as those others have more than you. That is not economic justice. That is theft.

“Economic justice” as the Left uses the term is a means of empowering government to favor some economic groups over others; i.e., to take from those who earned it and give it to those who didn’t. It is a reverse Robin Hood ideology that sides with the very people who were the targets of the real Robin Hood’s crusade for justice—looting rulers and their favored constituents. Case in point: Obama’s “Free” Community College Scheme, which would award handouts to select community college students paid for by looting the people who choose a different path.

What is real economic justice? Simply this: Whatever the economic level, if you earned it, it’s yours by right, and you are free to spend it, invest it, save it, or give it away according to your own judgement.

Obama is no Robin Hood. He’s the thieving aristocratic ruler, with a twist: He takes from the productive rich, not to enrich himself monetarily but to empower the new aristocratic rulers through vote buying.

Related Reading:

The Truth About Robin Hood

Obama’s “Free” Community College Scheme

Russell Crowe vs. the Real Robin Hood

The Left’s Pragmatic Shift in Marketing is a Good Sign

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, January 20, 2015
Are Pipelines a Threat to Water?
Propose a pipeline to carry energy-producing petroleum or natural gas anywhere in the U.S.A. today, and you can expect instantaneous opposition from environmentalist activists. One reason often cited by activists is that the possibility of a leak would harm ground water.

Pilgrim Pipeline Holdings is seeking permits to build a liquid petroleum pipeline through Northern New Jersey, part of which will pass through what is considered a “watershed” region. A letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger by Anne C. Powley (“Don’t gamble with our water”) opposes the pipeline based on the assertion that it would be a threat to drinking water in the region.

I left these comments:

This is a hollow objection. There are 305,000 miles of existing nat-gas pipelines in the U.S. as of 2007-08. These do not even include local connecting street mains and lines to buildings and homes. In addition, there are 190,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines. Yet, there is no clean water problem in America.

Clearly, pipelines and clean water can and do coexist. More to the point, these pipelines deliver the vital energy that powers our water purification and delivery systems. Without this energy, our “watersheds” would remain just so much inaccessible ground water rather than turned into the clean water conveniently available at the twist of a knob in our homes.

While many older pipelines are vulnerable to breakdowns, new pipelines represent state-of-the-art technologies, making them safer than ever. But if it’s 100% safety guarantees you’re demanding, you’re demanding omniscience and infallibility, two attributes impossible to man. On that premise, man’s first advance from the cave—the harnessing of fire—would never have happened.

According to the website Pipeline 101:

America depends on a network of more than 185,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines, nearly 320,000 miles of gas transmission pipelines, and more than 2 million miles of gas distribution pipelines to safely and efficiently move energy and raw materials to fuel our nation's economic engine. This system of pipelines serves as a national network to move the energy resources we need from production areas or ports of entry throughout North America to consumers, airports, military bases, population centers and industry every day.

Energy is the industry of industries. Energy powers virtually every aspect of our economic well-being, and fossil fuels provide 86% of the energy. But all of that fossil fuel energy depends on infrastructure to move it, and pipelines play a critical role in that task. Many fossil fuel energy enemies know this. For example, Brendan McGrath, reporting for the Times of Trenton on the proposed PennEast natural gas pipeline through a portion of West-Central New Jersey, cited this argument against the project from Jeff Tittel, director of the NJ branch of the Sierra Club:

Tittel said the pipeline will hurt the environment by promoting fracking in Pennsylvania, promoting the use of fossil fuels and discouraging the transition to renewable energies.

Stop the ability to transport fossil fuel product from the drilling fields to refineries and then to “consumers, airports, military bases, population centers and industry,”—and, I would add, water treatment and delivery systems—and you effectively shut the industry down.

Related Reading:

Human Life would be Impossible Without Accepting Dangers that ‘Could’ Happen

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels—Alex Epstein (Chapter 1, The Secret History of Fossil Fuels, available free.)

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Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, January 18, 2015
Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. For His Moral Ideals Rather Than His Politics
In commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Peniel E. Joseph, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Tufts University, said in a 2014 article:

King emerges as a talented individual whose rhetorical genius at the March on Washington helped elevate an entire nation through his moral power and sheer force of will.

The March on Washington was when King delivered his famous 1963 "I Have a Dream" speech. Joseph goes on:

Yet missing from many of the annual King celebrations is the portrait of a political revolutionary who, over time, evolved into a radical warrior for peace, justice and the eradication of poverty. During his last three years, King the “Dreamer” turned into one of the most eloquent, powerful and scathing critics of American society. King lent his moral force and power to anti-poverty crusades that questioned the economic system of capitalism and called for an end to the Vietnam War. . . . King’s powerful rage against economic exploitation and war is often overlooked when we think of him as only a race-healer.

The "moral power" of King's famous "Dream" speech in Washington was actually the moral power of the Founding Fathers resurrected. In that speech, King reminded Americans of the ideals laid down in the Declaration of Independence—the philosophic blueprint for the constitution and the new nation—and called on Americans to fully live up to those ideals:

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Yet, King's Dream contained an inner contradiction. In his later years, King questioned the legitimacy of capitalism and turned to what he termed "democratic socialism," a hybrid of two evil systems (democracy and socialism) that repudiates the very ideals he espoused in his speech. Therein lies one of the great American paradoxes—the clash between King the moral force and King the political revolutionary.

When the Founders drafted the Declaration of Independence, they laid down the basic principles of a moral social system. These 55 brilliant words—the opening lines of the second paragraph of the Declaration—sum up the essence of capitalism:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .

When King reaffirmed those ideals—that all men are created equal, possessing inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness protected equally and at all times under a government of objective law rather than of men—he was really, though unwittingly, affirming the foundational principles of capitalism.

Capitalism is the system based on individual rights, rights-protecting government and the only kind of equality consistent with justice—equality of individual rights enjoying equal protection before the law. Because of these principles, Capitalism is the only social system that banishes exploitation and war, because individual rights banishes aggressive or initiatory force from human relationships—particularly aggressive force by government against the people. Under capitalism, exploitation is replaced with voluntary trade to mutual benefit among individuals, a win-win in which individuals trade value-for-value and get better together, liberating any individual willing to think and act on his own judgement and work to lift himself from poverty. And under capitalism, war is replaced with peaceful coexistence among nations based on that principle of trade.

So why would King uphold the principles of capitalism in his most famous speech while repudiating it in his politics? It's obvious that King didn't understand capitalism or fully understand the moral implications of the Declaration of Independence.

He undoubtedly viewed the America of the 1960s as capitalist, when in fact what America had was a mixed economy; a mixture of economic freedom and government controls—that is to say, an economy corrupted by heavy political interference. His democratic socialism would have further strengthened and entrenched the mixed economy which he mistakenly perceived as capitalism—and, in fact, the policies he advocated have largely been enacted and the result has been exactly that.

To his credit, King explicitly opposed full-blown socialism, which he believed leads to communism, a system that he correctly understood "forgets that life is individual." But he wrongly believed that "Capitalism forgets that life is social," leading him to his hybrid democratic socialism. He failed to see that capitalism, by leaving individuals free to pursue their own values in the absence of physical coercion, provides the only proper moral foundation for both individual flourishing and benevolent social interaction—the moral foundation implicit in the Declaration of Independence, rational egoism.

Thus is the paradox of Martin Luther King.

Commentators like Joseph urge us to elevate his politics to at least the level of his ideals. That, of course, would be an impossible contradiction. But ideas are where the real power lies. Since ideas are the driving force of human events, Martin Luther King, despite his politics, remains one of my heroes. Standing in a line that includes John Locke, the Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Ayn Rand, among others, King reaffirmed America's Founding ideals at a crucial point in American history. That, to me, is his real legacy contribution to America. For that, I am grateful to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


Related Reading:

Martin Luther King Jr. and the Fundamental Principle of America

“I Have a Dream”: Martin Luther King Urges Consistency to Founding Principles

On This Constitution Day, Remember the Declaration of Independence

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

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Philosophy, Who Needs It?

The Objectivist Ethics

Atlas Shrugged: America's Second Declaration of Independence

    Blogs of Interest
George Reisman's Blog
Junk Science
Leonard Peikoff
Rule of Reason
The Objectivist
The Rational Capitalist
The Undercurrent
TOS Blog
We Stand Firm

    Sites of Interest
Alex Epstein at Forbes
Ayn Rand Campus
Ayn Rand Institute
Ayn Rand Lexicon
Capitalism Magazine
Climate Depot
Center for Industrial Progress
Harry Binswanger @ Forbes
Job Creators Alliance
My Objective Standard Archives
The Capitalism Site
The Objective Standard
Thomas Sowell

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Time for Some Humanity on Doctor-Assisted Suicide
ARI's Watkins Sums Up Obama's State of the Union M...
A Free Market is the Only ‘Natural Order of Things...
The Starnes Heirs and the Left’s Tribal View of We...
Obamanomics vs. Robin Hood
Are Pipelines a Threat to Water?
Remembering Martin Luther King Jr. For His Moral I...
Why Don’t Most Americans Get that Government Wealt...
Memo to Jersey City Mayor Fulop: The Federal Reser...
Human Life would be Impossible Without Accepting D...

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