Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Friday, November 21, 2014
What Accounts for Americans’ Widespread Jekyll/Hyde Morality?
In a July 2014 editorial, the New Jersey Star-Ledger essentially calls opponents of a minimum wage increase who make more than minimum wage hypocrites, with special emphasis on Republicans.
Few Americans believe they could live on a minimum-wage paycheck.
. . . That small act of honesty – conceding that the minimum wage is too meager to support their own family – doesn’t stop many Americans (mostly Republicans) from trying to stop the lowest-paid workers from getting a sorely needed boost.
According to a new poll, nearly 70 percent of Republicans say they couldn't live on a $7.25 minimum wage – yet only 37 percent support raising it to $10.10, as President Obama has proposed. You read that correctly: A large majority of the GOP supports a wage structure that deliberately pays people too little to live on.
Notice the Star-Ledger’s own dishonesty. Opponents of legally mandated minimum wages are not “trying to stop the lowest-paid workers from getting a sorely needed boost.” In fact we cheer such raises, so long as it is earned and paid voluntarily by the employer. And people get raises all the time without benefit of government coercion, which is why 96% of hourly American workers earn more than the legal minimum wage.
The S-L then offers up a classic Keynesian rationalization for raising the minimum wage:
The rich save a greater percentage of their earnings than other groups and can’t spend enough to make up for the tens of millions of Americans who are poorly paid or unemployed.
Low-income workers are more likely to spend their new earnings to increase their standard of living.
Republicans who agree that the low-income lifestyle isn’t for them – yet insist on policies that reinforce poverty, even for those who have jobs – should rethink whether they want to stimulate the economy, or continue to stifle it.
Yes, forcibly redistributing wealth—essentially, legalized looting—is good for “the economy”!
Of course, the issue is not “living wages”: Who would be against that? The issue comes down to a moral question: Do the ends justify the means? More specifically, is it right to initiate force against others if the ends are desirable? If you think you deserve a raise, would you think it ok to approach the boss, gun in hand, and demand he raise you're wages or you will seize his wealth or lock him in a cell? What if the object of concern was not your wages, but your neighbor's? Most people, in their private lives, would answer "no, of course not." But when these same people turn their attention to politics and government, they have no problem brandishing that gun, as long as it is a government official is acting on his behalf. On ends justifying means; What causes people to answer “yes” politically but “no” privately?
In these comments, I went a bit into deeper philosophy:
"Few Americans believe they could live on a minimum-wage paycheck."
And few Americans, even minimum wage supporters, believe they privately have the right to force, at gunpoint, someone else to give them a “livable wage”, recognizing such means as criminal and immoral.
Yet, politically, force—legalized criminality, rather than private initiative, increased skills, productiveness, and experience—is exactly what proponents of minimum wage laws advocate, with government as the hired gun. What accounts for this schizophrenic [Jekyll/Hyde] dichotomy between private morality and the predatory, dog-eat-dog immorality of the political arena? Three things:
Collectivism; the idea that the group—"society"—is the focus of moral concern, and can sacrifice any individual[s] it chooses to whatever it deems to be in “the public interest.” Any action is moral as long as the society decides to do it. “Stimulate the economy”—and to hell with the interests of the individual businessmen and workers whose rights to voluntarily negotiate terms of employment are trampled. Collectivism forms the core of all totalitarian socialistic systems, like communism, Nazism, and fascism, and the watered-down precursor to those, the welfare state mixed economy.
Altruism, the moral root of collectivism, holds that the individual’s only moral justification for existing is to serve the needs of others (We are our brothers’ keepers). Need, according to altruism, is the standard. All one has to do is need something, and “society” must sacrifice the rights, interests, and wealth of whomever it must to satisfy that need. Altruism is currently on display in Chicago, in the form of a Service Employees International Union gang that thinks the world owes them a living (just read the attendees’ comments). Failing to get what they want through private voluntary agreement in the free market, they are demanding a legally mandated $15.00-per-hour wage and forced unionization, based on “I need a raise”, and—in a fashion that would make any mob boss proud—are threatening to “shut these businesses down until they listen to us.” Altruism is a predatory, inverted morality that fosters taking over earning.
Statism, or state supremacy: The government as enforcer of the “public good” as determined by the most politically powerful faction of the moment. As long as legislators enact a law, anything goes, and justice and individual rights be damned. The predatory, dog-eat-dog political world of statism is the logical consequence of collectivism-altruism.
Combine collectivism-altruism-statism with fraudulent economics—the idiotic notion that consumer spending, rather than investment, drives economic progress (try eating a loaf of bread before you’ve invested in the knowledge, ingredients, and time necessary to produce it)—and you have the perfect rationalization for the economically destructive minimum wage laws.
Here’s a question: If private individuals have no moral right to a “livable wage” through private criminal aggression against their fellow citizens, on what basis do they have a right to a “livable wage” through legalized criminal aggression via political action? None. Only the rationalizations provided by collectivism-altruism-statism-fraudulent economics makes the moral schizophrenia possible. What’s the opposite? Individualism; rational egoism; individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government (capitalism); and any good economics textbook. Only when the latter replaces the former will we have a fully moral system, where society and politics are brought under the same moral standards as private individuals.
Do Ends Justify Medicaid Means?
Economics in One Lesson—Henry Hazlitt
Atlas Shrugged—Ayn Rand
Labels: Business and Economics, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Minimum Wage, Morality, Philosophy
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Non-Objective Law and the Malignant Nature of Eminent Domain
Eminent domain is another example of the malignant nature of non-objective law. How do you fight against private property seizure when “public use or public purpose” is the justification? Based on those rationalizations, how do you stop the expansion of eminent domain into wider and wider applications? what, exactly, are you fighting against?
I’ve written about my New Jersey hometown of Readington Township’s ongoing fight to seize a large swath of Solberg Airport land—not for “public use," as with a highway, or for a “public purpose," such as turning one private landowners’ property over to another’s to develop so as to generate tax revenues for the town—but to preserve as “open space,” which wouldn’t be used or generate any revenues for “the public”. So far, Readington has been rebuffed by the courts. The courts apparently don’t see “preserving” land from development as a valid application of eminent domain, which would appear to be another expansion of eminent domain's reach.
But, by the nature of eminent domain, there’s no logical limit to its potential. To illustrate the point, let’s revisit an issue I’ve written about before—the seizing of mortgages through eminent domain. It involves Newark, NJ and other cities that
want to expand their use of eminent domain to seize mortgages in order to pressure lenders to the “negotiating table” and thus “help” homeowners with underwater mortgages receive a reduction in principal.
Newark has since elected a new mayor, who is plowing ahead with the mortgage extortion.
I left these comments on the related article:
This proposed expansion of eminent domain shows why the government’s power of eminent domain should be completely expunged. It is tyranny, and tyranny, as history has shown, begets tyranny.
In this case, the eminent domain threat to property rights will, if sanctioned by the courts, extend the threat beyond property. As I noted in my 2013 article for the Objective Standard:
The proposed use of eminent domain to seize mortgages is an attack on the sanctity of contracts, a bedrock of rule of law and economic freedom. Whatever the legal outcome, this latest effort to expand its use highlights the open-ended danger of eminent domain and the need to end the rights-violating practice as such.
Eminent domain contradicts every fundamental principle of America, and the Founders should never have allowed it into the constitution. The Founders couldn't have imagined how it would be abused. The malignant nature of eminent domain is now obvious. We need a constitutional amendment to modify the Fifth Amendment “takings clause” to eliminate the phrase “without just compensation” so the clause reads simply, “nor shall private property be taken for public use.” No amount of compensation justifies the forcible seizure of private property against the owner’s will.
Experts recognize that applying eminent domain to mortgages is a long shot. But, on what grounds? Proponents claim that burdensome mortgages lead to property abandonment, which leads to lower home values, blight, and ultimately to lower tax revenues for the municipality. Does anyone doubt that someone, someday, could manufacture a “public purpose” out of that?
So, the next great expansion of eminent domain could extend beyond property, to contracts, a crucial foundational building block of the market economy.
NJ's Consumer Fraud Act: Non-Objective Law in Action
Labels: Constitution and Law, Eminent Domain, Solberg Airport
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Epstein's ‘The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels’ Defangs the Anti-Industrial Revolutionaries
Philosopher Ayn Rand coined the term “The Anti-Industrial Revolution” to describe the 1960s Ecology movement, the precursor to modern Environmentalism and its War on Fossil Fuels. Environmentalists have managed to claim the political and moral high road ever since. But perhaps not for long.
As a member of the fossil fuel industry, I can honestly say that this book will not only change the way you view the industry, but if you’re in the industry, it will change the way you work. . . . By internalizing the ideas presented in this book, I can honestly say that my work is so much more rewarding because I have a better understanding of just how productive and valuable my work is.—Erin Connors
There are good books, there are great books, and there are books that change the conversation a society is having. Alex Epstein's “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels” has the potential to change the debate about energy and environment in this country.—D. Watkins
For Epstein’s comprehensive moral case for fossil fuels and, more broadly, for industrial civilization—including whatever new forms of energy industrialists develop in the future—read his book.
Your future prosperity—indeed your very life—depends on the freedom of industrialists to produce energy and to transform nature for human benefit.—Ari Armstrong
Return of the Primitive: The Anti-Industrial Revolution—Ayn Rand
Labels: Fossil Fuels, Industrialization, Science and Politics, Technology
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Forget "Global Warming Pollution." Legalize Direct-to-Consumer Car Sales Anyway
Tesla has been fighting New Jersey law for its right to sell its electric cars directly to consumers for about a year now. They’re still fighting. They’ve picked up an ally, recently.
Doug O’Malley, director for Environment New Jersey, argued for Tesla in a recent New Jersey Star-Ledger op-ed. The NJ legislature should abolish its laws requiring car manufacturers to sell only through dealerships, O'Malley argued, and legalize direct-to-consumer car sales. Why? To spur electric cars sales because “Electric vehicles represent a tantalizing solution to reduce both global warming pollution and air pollution.”
But, hey, O’Malley’s on the right side of the Tesla issue—albeit for ridiculous reasons. So I left these supporting (sort of) comments:
Politics certainly create strange bedfellows. It’s rare that I’m on the side of environmentalism. I agree with the author’s political conclusion, though not the rationalizations.
The author didn’t have to resort to all of this childish “global warming pollution” (CO2) or “Hurricane” Sandy hyperbole to convince me that direct-to-consumer car sales should be legalized. It’s insulting. “Hurricane” Sandy wasn’t even a hurricane when it hit NJ. Nor was it unprecedented. And the idea that CO2 is a pollutant is an insult to any rational, semi-educated person’s intelligence. If global warming can be blamed for Sandy, then there’s no reason not to credit global warming for the ideal weather conditions across the American farming belt that led to record bumper crops in 2014. As the Huff-Post reported recently:
“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 constant harping on Sandy just proves that environmentalism is a religion. Just as religionists credit “God” for everything good, yet blame man for everything bad, so environmentalists blame every bad weather event on “man-made global warming,” but never credit global warming for good weather. Of course, neither is global warming. Good or bad, weather events are just weather.
But I don’t need environmentalists’ quasi-religious dogma to convince me to support free market reforms. Direct-to-consumer car sales should be legalized, but not to favor electric car sales. The government’s only proper job is to protect individual rights, including the rights of consumers, manufacturers, and car dealerships to contract with each other voluntarily to mutual advantage. It is immoral for government to use its powers of legalized physical force to favor any special interest over everyone else, as laws favoring car dealerships over manufacturers and consumers do.
Not only direct electric car sales be legalized. As I've written elsewhere, all manufacturers should be free to use whatever sales model they choose. The market—i.e., the voluntary choices of millions of consumers—will sort out which sales model prevails.
Global Warming Brings 'Record' U.S. Crop Yields
Labels: Climate Change, Constitution and Law, New Jersey
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Thursday, November 13, 2014
GOP Needs a Philosophically Coherent Agenda
I’ve been around awhile—65 years. I’ve seen a lot of Republican electoral surges. Mostly, I’ve been disappointed. The only exception; the Reagan Republicans of the early 1980s. But even that faded. Rather than build on and correct the “Reaganomics” revolution, the GOP slipped back into me-too, country club land. The G.W. Bush era was a blatant leap to the Left.
Typically, Republican control has resulted in the consolidation of the welfare state advances scored by prior Democrat controlled legislatures. At best—with rare exceptions—Republican control only stalls the statist advance, and paves the way for another lurch to the Left.
Whitman correctly observes that the GOP cannot merely be anti-government or anti-Obama. It must put forward a positive policy agenda based on “our”—Republican—ideas.
But Whitman doesn’t hint at what those ideas are. More importantly, she offers no principles upon which those ideas should rest. Instead, she retreats into meaningless generalities:
I have been dismayed to watch just how polarized Washington has become in recent years - every issue that is discussed is done so from the political, rather than policy perspective. I am not naïve to think that one midterm election's result will lead to greater political compromise – much less one midterm election that so clearly favored one party over the other. But I remain hopeful that my party will lead well from their place of political strength – be willing to negotiate for the sake of ordinary Americans, and foster a policy discourse that shows our ideas are the right ones for the nation. The next two years can be a time of great policy achievement in the United States, and it all depends on how Republicans choose to lead.
“Political” vs. “policy perspective?” What about the philosophical perspective? Compromise? On what. To what end; “great policy achievement?” “Negotiate for the sake of ordinary Americans?” As opposed to whom; extraordinary Americans? If Republicans are to avoid “polarization”—i.e., fighting the Democrats on fundamental ideas—then what kind of leadership does that imply? What kind of ideas?
I left these comments:
It can’t be just about ideas. It must be about pro-liberty ideas. Republicans have always had some good ideas in this area; e.g. school choice in education; expanded health savings accounts and other free market reforms in healthcare; lower and flatter tax rates; deregulation. But Republicans need a focussed, philosophically coherent agenda based on a core principle. They need to sharply distinguish themselves from the Dems on terms that are clear and easy to grasp.
I suggest the Self-Reliant Society, as contrasted to the Democrats’ Dependency Society.
The Democrats common theme is: Whatever the problem (real or concocted), only government can solve it. If all Republicans are going to do is propose different ways for government to run our lives and solve our problems—like “universal health care” through “market-based” policies—then what’s the point of electing Republicans?
Everything the Democrats do or suggest moves Americans toward dependence on government. They only “compromise” if they can move the ball in their direction. Republicans should counter with a policy that whatever they do or propose must result in greater control for individuals over their own lives. Compromise, yes. But only so long as it results in more freedom for individuals to manage their affairs and solving their own problems.
The only alternative to the Democrats’ statism is individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government. Stop obsessing over “polarization.” It’s time Americans had “a choice, not and echo.” Whatever the legislative policy, tie it to the Self-Reliance principle, and then trash Democrat opponents as pro-Dependency and anti-self-determination. Let voters know explicitly the broad direction the GOP wishes to move America.
Americans still respect self-reliance. Give them a choice—a Self-Reliant Society, or a Dependency Society—and I think the GOP could score big.
Extremists vs. the Moderates: Why the Left Keeps Winning, and the Right has been Powerless to Stop It
Labels: Political Philosophy, Politics 2014, Ronald Reagan
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
On This Veterans Day, A Word About Those Who Support the Greatest Military in History
This is the time of year that America rightly salutes, and gives thanks to, our military veterans who have protected this nation from foreign enemies for more than two centuries. I join in that celebration. My thoughts about them are conveyed in my Memorial Day tribute, and need no restatement here, except to convey the essence of that post. I wrote:
The highest tribute I can pay to our fallen is to say that they were cut from the mold of the Founding Fathers; that they did not set out to die for their country but rather that they set out to fight for that radical set of ideals that is the United States of America.
So, I’d like to use this Veterans Day post to acknowledge the unsung hero of America’s veterans, the productive American citizen. No military as strong and as competent as America’s can exist in a vacuum. It requires something else - something indispensable – a great economy. Rome fell, it’s statism and corruption rendering its economy unable any longer to support its military defenders. Ditto the socialism-embracing British Empire.
America's economy, historically the most productive society the world has ever seen, is the foundation that supports our military personnel. American taxpayers pay trillions of dollars, American defense contractors invest in and produce the most advanced weaponry in the world, weaponry that American soldiers rely upon to do their jobs and stay alive. American technology produces the high tech means for our intelligence community to gather the information our soldiers need to keep track of the enemy.
What is the foundation of that foundation? What enabled the creation of the economic powerhouse that enabled the creation of our military powerhouse?
In 1776, the Founders of this nation signed the Declaration of Independence, which sanctioned the individual to egoistically pursue his happiness in support of his life, by guaranteeing him a government that protected his unalienable individual rights – his liberty – to act upon his own reasoning mind. That short document unleashed the power of the human mind, possessed individually by every person. The result was an unprecedented explosion of productiveness leading to exploding general prosperity and a standard of living unimaginable by the wealthiest noblemen of centuries past. The cause of that progress is simple: the unleashing of every individual to self-interestedly strive to make his own life the best it can be, by his own effort, and free from the coercive interference of his fellow man. America was built not by sacrifice, as it is fashionable to assume, but by personal achievement.
So, let’s celebrate, along with our vets, the productive American of all income levels. Let’s celebrate the individual pursuit of happiness that is the fuel for that American. Let’s celebrate his willingness to pay for and support the military whose job it is to protect his pursuit of the good life.
Today, the foundation of America’s economic and military might is under intense attack by those who would “fundamentally change America”—a change that, in actuality, has been going on for more than a century. Let’s stand up and reject that “change” from liberty to tyranny, and instead renew our allegiance to the Founding Fathers, who engineered a change from tyranny to liberty. The best tribute one can give to our military veterans is to vow to fight for the rediscovery and reinstatement of the ideals that this country stands for: the supreme value of the individual human being, his freedom, and a government whose sole duty is to protect his right to live and prosper for his own sake.
Because that is what American veterans fought for.
Happy Veterans Day!!
Atlas Shrugged: America's Second Declaration of Independence
Labels: Holidays, Military
Posted by Michael A. LaFerrara on
Sunday, November 9, 2014
Two Views on Religious Exemptions from Anti-Discrimination Laws
Last March, I defended Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s veto of a bill that would allow business owners with sincerely held religious beliefs to refuse to serve gays. I wrote:
Legally forcing religious people to contract with gays is a violation of freedom of religion. But that is a consequence of a broader rights violation. The issue of religionists' right not to serve gays is not fundamentally a religious freedom issue, as I have argued. The issue is one of freedom of contract, a right derived from the broader principle of the right to freedom of association.
The Arizona law specifically targeted gays and protected the contract and associational rights only in a limited way and only of a narrow segment of the population—religiously oriented social conservatives. This is grossly unfair. What about the underlying laws banning private discrimination? What about non-religious people? Why don't their sincerely held non-religious convictions matter? Is it right for any special interest group to be granted special exemptions from anti-discrimination laws, laws that in and of themselves violate the rights of all? I think not.
The issue can not and should not be considered outside of the context of the broader rights to contract and association. The reason: Rights are universal, meaning they are held equally and at all times by all people, and under a proper government must be protected equally and at all times. The Arizona law obviously didn't meet that test.
The proper course for these social conservatives is to call for repeal of all laws banning private discrimination. Anti-discrimination laws violate the rights of individuals to choose their associations. Such laws should be rescinded. Remove these underlying, unjust laws, and religious freedom follows.
If all laws were legitimate and fair, the Supreme Court's position in Employment Division v. Smith (which I take to be Mazie's position as well) would make sense. To use the classic example (offered by the Court itself in the 1879 polygamy decision Reynolds v. United States), people should not be exempt from laws against murder simply because their religion demands human sacrifice. More generally, religion should not override laws that protect individual rights, which from a libertarian perspective is the main (or only) justification for government. So if people really did have a right to free birth control, allowing some employers to violate that right because of their religious beliefs could hardly be considered just. Since there is no such right, it seems to me that letting some people escape this unjustified mandate is better than forcing everyone to comply. I can see why people might be offended by such special treatment, but to me that is an opportunity for a broader discussion: If it seems reasonable to contemplate a religious exception to a generally applicable law, that is a pretty good reason to question the law itself.
I see Sullum’s point. But where does that leave equal protection under the law? In my aforementioned post, responding to a correspondent’s comment, I wrote:
The Arizona law didn’t apply equally to everyone. Once you start carving out special exemptions for special interests, we’re heading farther away from objective law. There’s enough of that going on already.
Food for thought.
Is RFRA Unconstitutional?—Sasha Volokh, Washington Post
Labels: Constitution and Law, Discrimination