Monday, July 27, 2015

Pope Francis’s ‘Authority’ Stems From The Church’s Authoritarian Self-Image

Statists of both the environmentalist and religious persuasions are rallying behind Pope Francis’s climate change encyclical. A letter published in the New Jersey Star-Ledger by Tony Giordano asserted that Pope Francis has authority to speak on climate change, and criticized dissenters. Giordano wrote, in part:

Recently, presidential candidate Rick Santorum and Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Oklahoma) have both said that Pope Francis should not talk about climate change, arguing that the issue should be left to scientists.

Well, the scientists have spoken and an overwhelming 97 percent of them happen to concur with the Pope—that climate change is occurring now and it is caused by human activity.

Just who are they to tell the Pope what to say? With its threat to affect the lives, health and welfare of billions of people, now and for generations to come, climate change is absolutely within the moral and leadership responsibilities of the Pope.

The pope believes that “Mother Earth” and all of the goods produced on Earth belong to God, not people, and that governments, as God’s servants, must control the use and distribution of Earth's raw materials, including the goods created from them by productive human beings, for the benefit of all human beings, who are all “God’s children.” In other words, the Pope is an authoritarian in the communistic camp. Like all statists, Francis demands that human beings be subordinate to a “higher instance than ourselves"—some higher authority. The pope sees himself as God’s moral authority pulling the strings of governments’ policies—a status that Ayn Rand equated to that of a Witch Doctor.

The Pope’s “moral and leadership responsibilities” must be evaluated in that context.

I left these comments:

“Well, the scientists have spoken and an overwhelming 97 percent of them happen to concur with the Pope—that climate change is occurring now and it is caused by human activity.”

As energy expert Alex Epstein has exposed, that is a flat-out meaningless and misleading statement. It doesn’t tell you how much “the 97%” believes humans contributed to the minor 1.4° increase in global temperatures since 1880, because there is no consensus on that. It doesn’t tell you how many believe in forced cutbacks in fossil fuels, because the literature the study depends on doesn’t say anything about energy. These are climate scientists, not energy experts. It doesn’t tell you how many of the 97% believe in catastrophic, human-caused climate change, because only a small minority hold that view. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the scientists agree with Pope Francis’ and the Catholic Church’s long-standing war against liberty, free market capitalism, and prosperity.

Keep in mind that the Pope’s concern is for the alleged harm industrial prosperity-driven climate change will do to the poor nations. Why doesn’t the pope advocate the spread of capitalism to foster prosperity in the poor nations? Because that would lead to fossil fuel-driven prosperity, lifting millions more people out of poverty and climate-related harms way. In fact, extreme-weather and climate-related deaths have dropped 98% over the past century—the very era of global warming. Fossil Fuel-driven industrial prosperity has made us safer than ever before. But poverty and misery are the foundation of modern Catholicism. “Ministering to the poor” is central to the Catholic Church’s purpose for being—and its power. Where would the Church be if poverty continues to give way to capitalistic, fossil-fueled prosperity worldwide? The Church has a vested interest in poverty. It will fight tooth and nail to “protect” the poor—from prosperity.

Next, we hear from the religious side.

Related Reading:

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels—Alex Epstein

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Eminent Domain is Not ‘Inverse Condemnation’

The eminent domain battle between the New Jersey township of Readington (my home town) and Solberg Airport, which began in 2006, reached a new stage in May when a court ruled in favor of Solberg Airport. Eminent domain was initiated to prevent the development of Solberg Airport’s unused land, possibly intro a housing development of airport expansion. The court concluded that Readington’s attempted use of eminent domain against the airport was a "manifest abuse of power." This was the third consecutive court loss for Readington, which cost the taxpayers and the Solbergs millions of dollars in legal fees and other related expenses.

I don’t know where the battle goes from here. But I do know that the debate among residents will continue. That being the case, I want to address a letter published in the Hunterdon County Democrat in February 2015 titled Inverse Condemnation. In his letter, John Kalinich Jr. claimed that if the Solberg’s expand their airport, it would lower home property values, resulting in “inverse condemnation.” (A previous letter writer used the term “reverse eminent domain.)

Having followed this issue for many years, it is apparent to me that the alternative to litigation is the inevitable expansion of Solberg Airport into a jetport capable of 24/7 operations in good weather and bad. The litigation is all that stands in the way of the resumption of the Solberg's development plans. Without it, we will again be at the mercy of the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration because they have jurisdiction over approval and preemptive authority over our municipality. We learned, much to our dismay, in the decade between 1995 and 2005 that the township has no meaningful say in the matter of an airport expansion.

Thor Solberg has testified under oath during the trial that he will expand his airport. Now Don Baldwin is trying to lay the groundwork for a full political takeover of the Township Committee in the June primary. He and the Solbergs know that this would be, by far, the easiest way to accomplish the Solberg's expansion goal. An expansion would rob Readington residents of the property value in their homes. An inverse condemnation! Solberg's financial gain would become our financial loss.

All of the actions taken by the Township Committee to budget for the trial and deal with increases were transparent and fully compliant with the law, and certainly not unusual or underhanded as Holman and Baldwin would have us believe. The costs of the trial are a necessary investment in the future of our township and I am happy to pay my share to protect my investment in my home here. [emphasis added]

I left these comments:


Let’s get our terms straight. In this context, “condemnation”—or eminent domain—means only one thing; forcible taking of private land by governmental action. There is no such thing as “inverse condemnation.” There is only condemnation. There is no condemnation action against your property. There is against the Solberg’s land. Eminent domain is strictly a government action. No private person, acting as a private person, can initiate any condemnation.

What about property values? There are many things that affect property values; highways, industrial parks, schools, housing developments, railroads, shopping malls, pipelines. Should all of those things—and anything else deemed by existing property owners to be bad for property values—be stopped? Indeed, “value” is in the eye of the beholder. Many people once believed—and some, sadly, still believe—that a neighborhood sale to the “wrong” racial or ethnic neighbor will drag down his property values. Should communities be allowed to legally bar certain family from buying homes based on their ethnicity?

This would be NIMBYism run amok. If the peaceable use of our land were at the mercy of anyone who alleges a loss of property values—real or imagined—we wouldn’t have an advanced industrial society. Or a free society. Or any kind of civilized society.

No one has a “right” to any particular resale value. No one has a “right” not to be affected by other people’s property usage. There is only the right to the peaceable use of one’s own property, possessed equally and at all times by all. The question is not, does person A’s use of his land ‘affect’ person B? When people live amongst each other, there are no end to ways in which one person’s actions can affect another. The only valid question is, does person A’s use of his property violate the property rights of person B; by, for example, polluting person B’s property? Then and only then can person A be stopped. But it is never just to take person A’s property from him against his will.

Put more specifically, does the expansion of Solberg Airport objectively infringe on other people’s right to be physically safe and secure on his property, or in his use of his property? I don’t know all of the issues involved in airport expansion. Perhaps there are valid reasons for preventing airport expansion. That’s to be hashed out in an objective forum under due process. One thing that is certain: the Solberg’s have a right to use their land in any legal and peaceable way they please, just like the rest of us—so long as their use doesn’t violate the rights of others. They have a right to apply for approvals for airport expansion, and surrounding property owners have a right to present their case against if they believe expansion would violate their property rights. But no one has a right to use eminent domain—i.e., legalized theft—as a means of preventing Solberg’s plans.

For the record, I have no ties to the airport vested interests. I spoke briefly with Don Baldwin on a couple of occasions. My wife and I met John Broten [a township committeeman who ran against and defeated the incumbents who initiated the Solberg eminent domain lawsuit] on one occasion. I have never met any of the Solberg family. I am neither pro- or anti-airport. I am a citizen concerned about the steady erosion of our rights and liberty by a government increasingly used as a tool of special interests seeking to impose their values on others by legalized force. As I said in my pre-election letter last October, Is any taking just?, eminent domain “contradicts every fundamental premise of America.” All around the country, eminent domain is increasingly trampling people’s property rights, including homeowners. None of us are safe from eminent domain. It is a cancer that must be stopped. You say “All of the actions taken by the Township Committee to budget for the trial . . . were transparent and fully compliant with the law.” Perhaps. But that only confirms how corrupt our law has become. As I said in my letter, “That our government has the power of eminent domain doesn’’t mitigate its immorality . . .”

I live in Readington. I’d prefer the airport stay as is. But if keeping it that way means continuing the legal action against Solberg Airport, violating their property rights, I’d prefer to live with an expanded airport. You say you are “happy to pay” your “share” of the trial costs. Well, I’m not, and no one has the moral right—and shouldn’t have the legal right—to force me to continue doing so against my conscience and convictions. If you and like-minded residents want to pool your money privately and voluntarily and attempt to buy the land in a private contract with the Solbergs, for the purpose of purchasing and preserving the land in question, you are free to do so. But you have no right to use the municipal government to force others to join you. The proper purpose of a government is to protect, equally and at all times, every individual’s right to act on his own judgement. Readington’s condemnation proceeding violates that purpose. For practical, philosophical, and moral reasons, the eminent domain suit against Solberg Airport must end.


Kalinich Jr.’s term “inverse condemnation” is another manifestation of the blurring of the distinction between government force and private voluntary action. The failure to know or acknowledge the difference is a major cause of the growth of rights-violating government controls. For a clarification of this issue, see Harry Binswanger, The Dollar and the Gun.

Related Reading:

Big Government vs. Big Business; or, Political Power vs. Economic Power

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fine Against Christian Baker Who refused to Serve a Pro-Gay Marriage Cake Exposes Hypocrisy on Both Sides

A Baker in Northern Ireland, where same-sex marriage is still illegal, was fined thousands of dollars for refusing to make a cake for a gay customer bearing the slogan "Support Gay Marriage" alongside a depiction of "Sesame Street" characters Bert and Ernie because doing so would have violated the bakery owner’s religious beliefs. The gay customer, Gareth Lee, had sued Ashers Bakery under Ireland's anti-discrimination laws and the auspices of Northern Ireland’s “Equality Commission.” As Shawn Pogatchnik reports for The Associated Press:

In her ruling, Belfast Judge Isobel Brownlie called the bakery's cancellation of the order "direct discrimination for which there can be no justification." The judge said the bakery was a business, not a religious organization, and therefore had no legal basis to reject an order based on a customer's sexual orientation or beliefs.

But what justification is there for the state to force any private business to serve any customer, or serve a particular product? None, if the right to freedom of association means anything. The government should be protecting everyone’s rights equally and at all times. Both gay marriage and a cake sale are contractual arrangements derived from freedom of association. The very basis of freedom of association is voluntary agreement and consent. If the state is to protect liberty, it must protect everyone’s right to associate or not associate according to one’s own judgement.

The inalienable rights of gays to forge a marriage contract recognized by law—or for anyone, gay or not, to advocate such views—does not include the right to force others to do business with them. It is just as wrong for Lee to exploit an unjust law banning discrimination to impose his values on Ashers Bakery by forcing it to serve him a cake advocating gay marriage as it is for the government to impose the bakery owners’ standards on gays by legally banning gay marriage.

The bakery owners' son, Daniel McArthur, was reported to have said on behalf of his family, "We just want to live and work in accordance with our religious beliefs.” But if that desire extends to favoring a legal ban on gay marriage, then it is not just a personal matter, because bans on gay marriage violate the rights of same-sex couples to freedom of contract and association. But as a personal matter, Ashers Bakery has every right to refuse to serve Lee the cake advocating beliefs the owners disagree with.

As a private business, Liberty Ridge has a right to choose its associations and to contract with customers on voluntary, mutually agreed terms. Freedom of contract means not only the right to voluntarily contract with others, but also to refrain from doing so for whatever reason or even no reason. Asher’s refusal to serve Lee his cake, however irrational their reasons may be, does not violate Lee’s rights or the rights of gays generally—as Lee was free to take his business elsewhere—just as a gay couple marrying does not violate the rights of Christians or heterosexual couples, who are free not to marry someone of the same sex or attend a gay wedding.

Shame on Asher’s owners for supporting a legal ban on gay marriage, if in fact that’s the case. And—though his anger at anti-marriage equality Christians is understandable—shame on Lee for forcing Ashers into court, and for supporting laws that force businesses to contract against their will. Gay marriage advocates undercut their own case for their contractual and associational rights by simultaneously fighting to violate the same rights of others. Likewise, Christian business owners who support bans on gay marriage have no credibility when they complain that anti-discrimination laws violate their religious beliefs. Both sides are hypocritical. The only resolution to the Ashers Bakery and similar conflicts is to fully and consistently uphold the rights to freedom of contract and association by defending equally the rights of gays to marry and the rights of business owners to serve or not serve whom they choose.

Related reading:

How Property Rights Solve Problems—David R. Henderson for the Library of Economics and Liberty

Gay Marriage: The Right to Voluntary Contract, Not Coercive 'Contract'

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The False Promise of ‘Clean Solar Powered Utility Scale Energy’

The economic impact study released by PennEast Pipeline Company, which seeks to build a natural gas pipeline through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, drew several critical comments from pipeline opponents. (See my last two post for my take on the report and comments.)

One commenter challenged the idea that the PennEast pipeline would impact natural gas prices in the region it serves favorably—meaning lower—for consumers: “I'm sorry, but when have your utility bills ever decreased as a result of modernization, upgrate [sic] of infrastructure? Mine? Never! Not buying this argument.” I simply left a link in reply: Northeast's Record Natural Gas Prices Due to Pipeline Dearth

Another correspondent calling himself Doodledeedle left a more substantive post, which I addressed in my reply, quoting the relevant passages from his post:

“By investing in natural gas infrastructure we choose to not use that same money to invest in clean energy.

“However they don't show the environmental costs of fracking, pipeline construction and further climate change over many years from burning the natural gas.

“You can show the same exact benefits from clean solar powered utility scale energy systems with much less environmental impact.

“You vote with your dollars every time you buy petroleum products that cause environmental damage. The companies like PennEast then take the profit from your purchase and turn around and use it against you to frack gas wells and run pipelines in your community.”

Whether the alleged threat of climate change turns out to have some validity or is much ado about nothing—and as of now, there is no consensus or evidence of anything even close to climate catastrophe—one thing is certain: Reliable, plentiful, economical energy is vital to all aspects of human survival and well-being, including our ability to protect ourselves against natural climate dangers. People implicitly understand this. That’s why people the world over readily “vote with their dollars” for life-enhancing benefits of fossil fuels. Life without energy is hell on Earth, climate change or no. That’s why fossil fuels provide 87% of the world’s energy.

Fossil fuels enable us to transform a danger-filled natural environment into a safer human environment. By every metric of human well-being—from access to clean water, to clean central heating and a/c, to protection from storms, to food production, to health and life expectancy—increased use of fossil fuels to generate energy has led to better living. You say that the PennEast report doesn’t “show the environmental costs of fracking, pipeline construction and further climate change over many years from burning the natural gas.” But those costs are considered, which is why we have anti-pollution laws that energy companies must adhere to. In fact, petroleum’s enemies are the one’s who are guilty of context-dropping: They never consider the human costs of not using petroleum products. Their narrow-minded focus fails to think of the big picture. If they did, they’d recognize that the benefits of fossil fuels—including the environmental benefits—vastly outweigh the negative side effects, which can be and are being ameliorated.

Any producer that wants to invest in so-called “clean energy” is free to do so by right. Fossil fuel companies should also have that freedom, because it is their right as well. It’s not and should not be either/or. No one’s trying to stop “clean energy” investment. It’s the anti-fossil fuel jihadists who are trying to stop fossil fuel development. This despite the fact that nowhere on Earth has wind or solar proven to be capable of being a dependable, stand-alone, primary utility scale energy source. “Renewables” are simply not scalable. No matter how much is invested in “clean energy”—which isn’t really clean—fossil fuels and hence pipelines would still be needed to provide the backbone energy when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. That’s why Germany, the acknowledged leader in wind and solar, has once again started building coal-fired power plants. That’s why, after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, Japan—home of Kyoto—turned to fossil fuels rather than “green” energy to replace its shuttered nuclear industry. Even “clean” energy infrastructure can’t be built without fossil fuel-powered machines. Until and unless the technological breakthroughs that can make renewables as reliable as fossil fuels are invented, it is cruel and immoral to deny consumers access to the energy provided by companies like PennEast and the frackers—and cruel to make them feel guilty because of phony charges that fossil fuels are bad for the planet.

And consumers who want to can “vote with their dollars” against fossil fuels anytime they want. If you want to, why don’t you? Have the courage of your convictions. Rather than attacking pipelines, lead by example and persuasion: Lead a voluntary boycott of fossil fuels by publicly renouncing your personal purchase and use of fossil fueled energy. Show by your actions that fossil fuels are not needed to maintain your living standards. You won’t, because to do so you’d have to give up ready access to electricity, and food from the local supermarket, your car, your running water—pretty much anything that requires energy. I wonder how you’d like the damage your renunciation of fossil fuels would do to your environment. It would be quality-of-life suicide to give up fossil fuels. Yet that’s what you and your fellow anti-pipeline jihadists want to force on other people, even as you yourselves enjoy the benefits of existing pipelines. The same arguments used against PennEast’s pipeline could be used against the 305,000 miles of existing nat-gas transmission pipelines and the 190,000 miles of liquid petroleum pipelines that pass through communities across the country. Think of the “environmental damage” the shutdown of that pipeline network would cause; damage, that is, to the human environment—including to the communities of PennEast’s opponents.

We should be thankful that the fossil fuel companies are profitable, and that they use their profits to invest in still more fossil fuel development and still more pipelines. They don’t use their profits “against you”, but to your benefit. By choosing to invest in natural gas infrastructure—and the choice rightfully and morally belongs to each of us as producers and consumers—you choose to invest in life; yours and others’.


Doodledeedle’s assertion that “You can show the same exact benefits [lower energy bills, more disposable income and increased economic activity] from clean solar powered utility scale energy systems” as natural gas is a common claim of anti-fossil fuel ideologues. But their own activism for government intervention (aggressive legalized force) into the energy market is proof that this claim is hogwash. If it weren’t hogwash, all you’d need is a free energy market. If “renewables” really are that good, they will have no problem doing to fossil fuels what digital photography did to the once dominant Eastman Kodak; what modern communications technology did to the AT&T monopoly; what the personal computer did to mainframe computer king IBM; and what electrification did to John D. Rockefeller’s near-total dominance of kerosene-based nighttime illumination more than a century ago.

You can go to the article to read Doodledeedle’s comments in full. In his full comments, Doodledeedle posted a link to President Obama’s report THE COST OF DELAYING ACTION TO STEM CLIMATE CHANGE. A study commissioned by the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, THE SOCIAL COSTS OF CARBON? NO, THE SOCIAL BENEFITS OF CARBON, presents a counter view. Michael Bastasch reviewed the coal industry report for The Daily Caller.

Bastasch, citing work done by Robert S. Pindyck in The Use and Misuse of Models for Climate Policy, also calls into question the models used to justify the economic cost claims of Obama’s report. According to Bastasch, a paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research finds the models that the "integrated assessment models (IAMs) used to craft global warming policy 'have flaws that make them close to useless as tools for policy analysis' and trick government officials 'into thinking that the forecasts the models generate have some kind of scientific legitimacy.'”
Related Reading:

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels—Alex Epstein

Monday, July 20, 2015

Without Pipelines, Most of Today’s jobs Wouldn’t Exist

The economic impact study released by PennEast Pipeline Company, which seeks to build a natural gas pipeline through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, drew several critical comments from pipeline opponents. (See my last post for my take on the report.)

One commenter, Kenneth Collins, wrote:

I challenge the Drexel University people who prepared this alleged "study" to show us proof that ANY gas pipeline supported as many jobs and stimulated as much economic activity as they claim the PennEast would. This "study" is ridiculous.  

I replied:

You want proof? Just open your own eyes. Name one aspect of our lives that doesn’t depend on reliable, plentiful, on-demand, economical energy such as the kind provided by the 305,000 miles of existing nat-gas transmission pipelines? Without this energy, there would be no jobs or economic activity, except for the sun-up to sun-down, backbreaking, hand-to-mouth labor of pre-industrial existence.


And the pattern of fossil fuels powering the alleviation of poverty continues unabated.

Related Reading:

The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels—Alex Epstein

Saturday, July 18, 2015

PennEast Pipeline’s ‘Economic Impact Statement’ Understates Benefits of its Pipeline

As part of its drive to get Federal Energy Regulatory (FERC) approval for it proposed natural gas pipeline through Pennsylvania and New Jersey, the PennEast Pipeline Company released an  economic impact study. As Lillian Shupe reports for the Hunterdon County Democrat:

The proposed PennEast pipeline will have lasting economic impact during and after its construction, according to a study released on Feb. 9.

The study was done by Drexel University School of Economics and Econsult Solutions, Inc., both in Philadelphia, Pa. for PennEast Pipeline Company, LLC.

Penneast has proposed a 114-mile-long natural gas pipeline from Pennsylvania to New Jersey. The pipeline would run through Hunterdon and into Mercer County. The project would provide gas markets in eastern Pennsylvania, southeastern Pennsylvania, and New Jersey with natural gas that is produced from Marcellus shale in Pennsylvania.

"We forecast the PennEast Pipeline Project to generate a significant positive economic impact in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, increasing economic activity and supporting new jobs. Construction and ongoing operations of the Project will be economically beneficial to the counties in which the pipeline will traverse and both states as a whole. In addition, the possibility for increased income derived from potentially lower energy bills could induce spending in the regional economy and spur an even broader and larger economic impact," the study concluded.

The PennEast project has generated a lot of opposition from the NIMBY/Environmentalist coalition. I have been active against this coalition and in support of PennEast’s pipeline, and you can peruse my activism here. You can also read my comments posted on the FERC website in support of the PennEast pipeline here. On this article about PennEast’s Economic Impact Statement, I left these comments:

Actually, the study vastly understates the economic value of the pipeline. Energy distributed across America by the existing half million miles of petroleum and natgas transmission pipelines and 2 million miles of natgas distribution pipelines provides the energy that every aspect of our lives depend on. Here’s one example: Our local supermarkets are well-stocked because of food delivered by trucks that run on diesel fuel and railroads that run mostly on diesel or natural gas. Every single one of us enjoys the benefits of this amazing pipeline network—and we, in fact, cannot do without them. Everywhere one looks, one sees a better life delivered by pipelines—which points to the moral value of pipelines, as well.

Yet, based on most of the arguments we hear from PennEast pipeline opponents, we in Hunterdon County can expect unprecedented catastrophe and the end of life as we know it if this single new, state-of-the-art natgas pipeline is built. And every argument advanced against this new pipeline could be used against all pipelines. So, here’s my question to PennEast pipeline opponents: Given the unmitigated disaster you say PennEast’s pipeline will bring, do you advocate the immediate shutdown of every mile of America’s pipelines? If not, then what is the basis for opposing the PennEast pipeline through your “backyard,” while continuing to enjoy the benefits of other pipelines?


I’ll cover some of the opposition comments posted under this article in my next few posts.

Related Reading:

Why Do We Need Pipelines?—Pipeline 101

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Societal Prejudice Does Not Justify the Coercive Welfare State

The subject of my post of 7/14/15 (Pre-Medicaid ‘System’ Points to the Moral Alternative to Medicaid: A Free Market Safety Net) was the New Jersey Star-Ledger article Before Medicaid, how did doctors treat the poor? by’s Kathleen O’Brien. In the article, O’Brien quoted a professor as saying that healthcare charity “was a totally funny system, and they would give this kind of assistance only to those they considered the 'worthy' poor." In my article comments, I said, “I would argue that [the pre-Medicaid cultural arrangement for dealing with the needy] was fundamentally a just ‘system’, precisely because it preserved the charity giver’s moral right to evaluate worthiness; i.e., the moral right to say ‘no.’” O’Brien replied to me as follows:

Lots of interesting food for thought here. However, I would add something that might change your perception of the "just" system of allowing the giver to judge the worthiness of the recipient: In the 1800s, it was very common for the latest wave of immigrants -- be they Irish, German, or later Italians -- to be the ones deemed "unworthy." One of the reasons the Catholic church got into the hospital business was that their parishioners were turned away from the existing hospitals. The same with the Jewish community -- as soon as they became established enough to be able to afford, collectively, to build a hospital, they did. However, this natural evolution of ethnic groups up the ladder of assimilation left out African-Americans, whose community never reached sufficient prosperity to build hospitals to serve its people.

First, note that, as O’Brien acknowledges, Irish, German, Italian, and Jewish immigrants overcame whatever discrimination they faced and figured out ways to take care of themselves because “as soon as they became established enough to be able to afford, collectively, to build a hospital, they did.” That’s not surprising, because those groups had a built-in advantage. They already possessed the virtues of  independence, self-motivation, and courage, as evidenced by the very fact that they uprooted themselves from familiar surrounding in their homeland to travel across a vast ocean in order to settle in a strange land. Why? They were motivated by a desire for the freedom to take care of themselves, not be taken care of. And they did “become established,” thanks to the opportunity provided by the freedom accorded them in the Land of Liberty.

African-Americans had a built-in disadvantage: They had no history of independence, thanks to the legacy of slavery. To compound the problem, after being liberated from slavery, they ran into a wall of legalized discrimination, called segregation, which was instituted by the “Separate-but-Equal” doctrine imposed by the Supreme Court ruling Plessy vs. Ferguson and Jim Crow laws. But still, despite these handicaps, it’s not true that African-Americans “never reached sufficient prosperity” to take care of their own needy. Blacks progressed steadily in America before the welfare state really got going in the 1960s, observes Larry Elder. In fact, notes Elder, citing Thomas Sowell, black progress may have actually slowed after the institution of the so-called “War on Poverty.”

So, despite O’Brien’s supposition that I might change my “perception of the ‘just’ system of allowing the giver to judge the worthiness of the recipient,” the facts strengthen my belief in such freedom. Granted, leaving people free to make their own judgement about worthiness doesn’t guarantee that everyone will make just judgements, which may sometimes lead to unnecessary hardships for some of the needy. But that freedom, in addition to being an inalienable right, acted as a check on the unrestrained growth of “the needy.” Furthermore, victims of irrational discrimination have, being free individuals, an uninhibited path around social injustices. Under a rights-protecting government, who could stop them? Being on their own, they can surmount their own problems despite the prejudices. History, I believe, backs me up. In a fully free society, justice will win out over time without rights-violating government coercion. Indeed, if history teaches anything, it’s that attempting to use government coercion to rectify private, non-rights violating social injustice is usually counter-productive.

The fact of discrimination and prejudice is not an insurmountable problem for the victims, as long as government doesn’t legally impose it. For that reason, the racial and ethnic prejudice cited by O’Brien does not justify a coercive, rights-violating welfare state.

Related Reading:

On America's "Social Contract," the Source of Individual Character, and Romney's 47%