Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Some Fairness Toward Ayn Rand, From an Unlikely Source

The liberal Huffington Post, of all places, has published a relatively fair-minded piece on Ayn Rand, entitled The Real Rogue Warrior: Ayn Rand, Not Sarah Palin, by Michael Shermer. Here are a few excerpts:

"Despite the media frenzy surrounding Sarah Palin's autobiographical Going Rogue, the real rogue warrior making a political conservative comeback today is not Palin, but the Russian immigrant turned champion of American conservative principles, Ayn Rand.

"You can no more understand the right without Rand than you can understand it without Buckley, Goldwater, and Reagan. The dismissal of Rand by both the left and the right as mind candy for college kids is fatuous. It may be true that many of us (myself included) were first introduced to Rand in college, but that's when most of us are introduced to most of the philosophical and literary figures in history. So what?

"What are Rand's principles and which of her books should you read to understand the modern conservative movement? Start with Atlas Shrugged. According to a survey conducted by the Library of Congress and the Book-of-the-Month club, readers ranked it #2 behind the Bible as the most influential book they had ever read. It is a murder mystery, not about the murder of a human body, but of the murder of the human spirit."

I addressed, in my comments below, Mr. Shermer's erroneous (in my view) contention that modern conservatism is a good surrogate for Ayn Rand's ideas. Though he did his best, Mr. Shermer doesn't seem to have a firm grasp of the many fundamental differences between Objectivism and conservatism. There are, too be sure, many areas of agreement, as well, especially in economics (although few, if any, conservatives would embrace full laissez-faire capitalism, or the separation of state and economics). That she is decribed as making a "political conservative comeback" is an indication of how much must still be learned about her.

There are some other errors in this piece, such as this quote from Burns:

"Rand intended her books to be a sort of scripture, and for all her emphasis on reason it is the emotional and psychological sides of her novels that make them timeless."

"Scripture" is an odd, and utterly wrong, description of a philosophy that has as a prime fundamental tenet to think for yourself.

Her books do have powerful emotional appeal, but if that is mainly what one gets out of her writing, then you're likely to ... as they say ... "outgrow Ayn Rand".

All in all, though, this is a decent piece that captures the the reason for Ayn Rand's enduring relevance.

Here are my brief comments:

Thank you, Mr. Shermer, for a pretty good article, although the appropriate term to describe Ayn Rand is not rogue, but radical. You make a crucial point all too often forgotten: “Criticism of the founder of a theory does not, by itself, constitute a negation of any part of the theory.” I agree that Sarah Palin (who I am not a fan of) cannot hold a candle to Ayn Rand.

It should be pointed out that many people of various political persuasions in what today passes for the American "Right" - from conservative to libertarian to Republican to "Tea Partyers" - cherry-pick aspects of Rand’s ideas for their own purposes, while ignoring the rich depth of her comprehensive philosophy. Also, a large swath of American Conservatism abhors Ayn Rand for her secularism, social “liberalism”, and the challenge she hurls at Judeo-Christian morality through her ethics of rational self-interest.

You’ll learn little about Objectivism (Rand’s philosophy) by listening to conservatives. So, take some advice from an Objectivist husband, father, and grandfather who never “outgrew” Ayn Rand. If you’re seriously interested in understanding Rand’s enduring appeal, you’ll just have to study her works yourself, and exercise a cardinal virtue of the Objectivist ethics – your own independent judgement.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

E. J. Dionne on the "Win for Government"

On Election Day, a win for government, by E.J. Dionne.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Here's a story you may have missed because it flies in the face of the dreary conventional wisdom: When advocates of public programs take on the right-wing anti-government crowd directly, the government-haters lose.

This is what happened in two statewide referendums last week that got buried under all of the attention paid to the governor's races in Virginia and New Jersey. In Maine, voters rejected a tax-limitation measure by a walloping 60 percent to 40 percent. In Washington state, a similar measure went down, 57 percent to 43 percent.

They lost in part because opponents of the so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights measures (known as TABOR) did something that happens too rarely in the national debate: They made a case for what government does, why it's important and why cutbacks in public services can be harmful to citizens and the common good.

In Maine, one ad featured several taxpayers warning about what less government would mean in practice: "Our school budgets have already been cut. This would mean even less money for our classrooms. . . . Community health centers could be cut. People rely on them, especially now." A sympathetic-looking man then appeared on the screen to add: "My wife relies on our home nurse visits. What will we do?"

Here are my comments:

Zemack wrote:

One of the gimmicks statists use to promote their authoritarian agenda is to frame the important issue of the role of government as ... for or against. Thus we get catch phrases such as “the right-wing anti-government crowd”.

Of course, what today passes for the “Right” is a diverse array of frequently antagonistic elements such as Conservatives, Libertarians, and Religious Rightists. But that aside, the purpose of painting anyone who advocates any rollbacks or even restrictions on the further expansion of government power as “anti-government” is to obliterate any acknowledgement of the proper purpose and limits of government. So let’s get some clarification here.

A government is a unique institution. It and it alone possesses a monopoly on the legal use of physical force. This is as it should and must be. The apprehension and prosecution of domestic criminals and the protection of the nation from foreign military aggressors is the job of government (among certain other functions relating to human association), and that requires the organized use of force. No civilized society can exist without a government. Without government, society would quickly degenerate into mob rule and chaos. Government is a necessary good.

At the same time, government’s status as a vehicle of physical coercion also makes it the gravest threat to its citizens. To alleviate that potential threat, a government must be strictly contained, or limited. What standard defines the nature of those limits? The principle of inalienable individual rights. What is the method for implementing those limits? A constitution. This is the original American system. Rights, it should be remembered, are a guarantee and a sanction for freedom of action within the context of social organization (such as the right to freedom of speech, religious practice, and the earning and use of property). Rights are not an automatic entitlement to “home nurse visits” or any other product or service that must be provided by others.

So the choice is not, as Mr. Dionne suggests, between pro- and anti-government positions; or between a government of unlimited powers and anarchy. The choice is between a government limited to the protection of the rights of its citizens and a predatory government that is a tool of any political party, special interest pressure group, or voting block to be used to extract economic privileges at the expense of the rights and property of others.

The “win for government” is a loss for the revolutionary American system. Our nation - which was founded upon the principles of individual rights and limited, rights-protecting government – has degenerated into a chaotic political free-for-all of power-seekers competing for temporary control of the reigns of government’s unique powers of legalized coercion. The winner is any one or group laying temporary claim to the title of representative of that mystical historical siren song of all those who seek forcible domination over the lives, property, and productive work of others … the common good.

Today, the role of our government is being progressively inverted. Instead of protecting our lives, freedom, and property, it has become a major violator of our rights. Instead of protecting us from criminals, it is increasingly using its unique powers for what amounts to legalized criminal activities. I submit into evidence the former Bush Administration and the current runaway statism of the Obama Administration – especially the 2000 page House blueprint for totalitarian control of American medicine.

Growing government power and the consequent loss of individual liberty is a trend that has been going on for more than a century in America. Today, our government is breaking free of all constraints of the constitution and the rule of objective law. If not reversed, the consequences will be dire. Americans desperately need to rediscover the principles of individual rights and the proper role of government.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Where's the "Milestone"? Where's the "Change".

The New Jersey Star-Ledger has lauded the House of Representatives for its passage of the 1990 page health care "reform" bill, HR3962. They're calling it a Health care reform milestone!

It's no such thing. Here are my comments:

We’ve all heard the story of the fireman who starts fires, so that he can be the first on the scene to “save” lives and property. Well, in regard to American health care, the government is that fireman.

For the past 75 years, ever-increasing government interference into health care has led to a steady escalation of problems. The solution to the problems has always been more government interference. This has been mainly led by the openly socialist Democrats, but too often supported by Republicans (ex. – the HMO Act of 1973, SCHIP in 1997, and Bush’s Medicare prescription drug benefit).

The Editors themselves cite several examples of government-created problems. But once again, they don’t draw the obvious conclusions.

“When crisis hits, they land in emergency rooms, where steep costs drive up the health bill for all of us.”

Why do people who are unwilling or unable to pay their own way “drive up the health bill for all of us”? Because the government forces hospitals and doctors to treat all comers even if they can’t or won’t pay, whether the hospitals want to provide charitable care or not. This forces them to raise rates elsewhere, and causes states to tax the rest of us to subsidize the hospitals.

“For millions of middle-class families, the loss of a job has meant a loss in coverage.”

And exactly who created this absurd situation? The government did, by creating the third-party-payer health insurance system through its tax and regulatory policies, tying our insurance to our jobs.

“[The current bill] also ends the most obnoxious games that insurers play, like banning people with pre-existing conditions and imposing lifetime spending limits.”

“Pre-existing conditions” is a government-created condition, thanks to the aforementioned third-party-payer system, which forces you to find another insurer when you lose or change jobs – a situation that would not exist in a free market in which the patient/consumer actually owns his own policy. Did you ever wonder why you never hear of people losing their life insurance coverage because they contracted a life threatening illness or lost a job? It’s because people own their own policies, and they are guaranteed renewable. By contractual agreement, which is enforceable by the courts, the insurer cannot drop you as long as you pay your premiums (which is your responsibility, not your neighbor’s or other taxpayers).

Terms of contracts - such as “lifetime spending limits”, if any – are a matter between the insurance company and the customer. In our current system, the third party makes those decisions. Insurance companies can’t “impose” anything, at least not in a free market where there is real contractual freedom and competition (which, by the way, the government now forbids). They can only offer products for sale, which the consumers (which should be individuals spending their own earnings) are free to reject or accept. The most successful insurers in a free market would be those that are best at tailoring their products according to the needs and pocket books of the customers they seek.

Of course, if you don’t protect yourself and get sick, you must pay for your care out of pocket. You have no right to expect others to pay for it through government mandates on pre-existing conditions. But first, we need the freedom to take responsibility for our own lives, which only a free market can provide.

We need to get rid of the kinds of draconian government coercion that is crippling health care in this country, and restore the freedom of patients, providers, consumers, and insurers to contract directly and voluntarily with each other. Government has no right to dictate the contractual terms. Individual rights and personal responsibility are two sides of the same coin.

A true debate would begin with an examination of how we got to where we are today. Instead, we get an insane 2000 page blueprint for coercion to “fix” the problems created by government itself, and which is designed to ultimately fail, paving the way for a single-payer health care dictatorship.

The mawkish concern for the uninsured and the janitors and the “children [who] don't get the preventive care” is just a cover. The architects of this bill, and their supporters, are after power, and nothing else.

There’s no “milestone” here. There’s no “change”. There’s just another marker on the road to totalitarian government control of American medicine

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Ayn Rand Misrepresentations @ Wake Forest

A sophomore at Wake Forest University has published an article in the campus newspaper entitled Objectivism conflicts with humanitarian spirit. The author, Matt Moran, dives headlong into a criticism which conflicts with the truth about Objectivism. He then engages in a lengthy dialogue with correspondents in the comments section, though he ignores mine. He repeats every conceivable argument for socialism and tyranny one can think of.

Mr. Moran is clearly a Marxist and a collectivist. He makes many false claims about what Ayn Rand allegedly stood for, such as that she “exhibits a worship of … corporations”, “envisions, unregulated corporate capitalism” (as opposed to laissez-faire capitalism), and “glorif[ies] the wealthy and show[s] contempt for the poor”.

Politically, Mr. Moran is an unabashed statist. He advocates pure tyranny, in the form of democracy: “I consider a moral social system to be a system which benefits the majority.” If the majority benefits from the enslavement of a racial minority, as in the pre-Civil War south, that presumably is all right.

At one point, he declares that the “government (i.e. not a dictatorship) as the tool of a society, reserves the right to tax people to fulfill other social needs and goals.” The contradictions in that statement are obvious.

On what basis does government have a “right” to redistribute anyone’s property and earnings to others? What about the rights of the individual victims of government confiscation? It’s either/or. Either individuals possess rights that are protected by government, or the government has the “right” to do whatever “society” pleases, at the behest of whatever voting block happens to seize control of the “tool” of state. Either a country is free, it is a dictatorship, or it is an unstable mixture of freedom and dictatorship (a mixed economy).

And in another comment: “If you don’t (sic) want welfare to exist, …the poor will either die or work bad jobs for bad money.” In other words, the “poor” are incapable of improving their own lives in a social setting of individual freedom. So, they must be enslaved to a benevolent socialist dictatorship “where survival and basic goods are guaranteed [by whom?]" so they can achieve “the maximization of creative potential[!]”. This society of slaves, slave masters, and profiteers on slavery represents freedom, and humanitarian concern for the poor! One cannot imagine a more contemptible example of “contempt for the poor”.

Mr. Moran’s comments are full of moral equivocations and relativism, floating abstractions (ideas disconnected from reality), rebellions against nature, anti-concepts, context-dropping, etc., etc., etc. I’ve given just a few examples. Other correspondents have called him on many of his absurdities.

Objectivism, of course, is the only intellectual force that defends both the political and moral rights of the individual to his own life, liberty, property, and pursuit of his own goals, values, and happiness from all human predators.

And this conflicts with the humanitarian spirit! Freedom is Slavery!

Here is my commentary, taking Matt Moran to task on one of his points:

Mike Zemack October 11, 2009 5:19 pm

By focusing in on Ragnar Danneskjold, the pirate character in Atlas Shrugged, Matt Moran reveals himself to be less than honest. He writes:

“Among the more impactful quotes in Atlas is the manifesto of a pirate named Ragner Danneskjold.

“This Dane steals from government ships in order to refund the taxes of wealthy individuals and states.

“Somewhere in one of Rand’s many sanctimonious speeches, Danneskjold steals from the undeserving poor and gives to the deserving rich’ in a sick twist of the Robin Hood story. This is, I kid you not, an action that Objectivism celebrates. Normally I would find it refreshing to listen to someone who thinks Americans are not selfish enough.

“However, I consider Objectivism and other philosophies that glorify the wealthy and show contempt for the poor to be sufficiently dangerous to warrant constant opposition.”

Mr. Moran is getting sloppy here. The encounter between Danneskjold and Reardon takes up some 13 pages (572-584, 11th printing, 1957 addition), and nowhere do the words he quotes appear. If he actually read the book (which is doubtful) and wanted to accurately report on the meaning of Danneskjold’s character and purpose, he would have stated the exact quote and the context and full meaning of it. Here is the passage to which he probably refers, which appears “somewhere” on page 576, along with further selected excerpts from Danneskjold’s statement for context and understanding.

“I’m the man … who robs the thieving poor and gives back to the productive rich.

“I have never robbed a private ship and never taken private property. Nor have I ever robbed a military vessel – because the purpose of a military fleet is to protect from violence the citizens who paid for it, which is the proper function of a government. But I have seized every loot-carrier that came within range of my guns, every government relief ship, subsidy ship, loan ship, gift ship, every vessel with a cargo of goods taken by force from some men for the unpaid, unearned benefit of others…

“It is said that [Robin Hood] fought against the looting rulers and returned the loot to those who had been robbed, but that is not the meaning of the legend which has survived. He is remembered, not as a champion of property, but as a champion of need, not as a defender of the robbed, but as a provider of the poor. He is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own, by giving away goods which he had not produced, by making others pay for the luxury of his pity. He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does. He became the justification … for that foulest of creatures – the double-parasite who lives on the sores of the poor and the blood of the rich – whom men have come to regard as a moral ideal.”

If Mr. Moran were to present an accurate portrayal, he would realize that Rand is here upholding justice – that you deserve what you earned but not what you haven’t. Rand condemns not the poor, but the “thieving” poor who exist off of a lifetime of government handouts; not the rich but the productive rich. A full understanding makes it plain that – and this is one of the clear messages of the book – Rand is defending the property of any human being, on any economic level, who earns his own keep – and condemning all moochers, rich as well as poor, such as the wealthy parasites who are the villains in AS.

Rand also does not condemn charity as such, but coercive charity and the phonies – the “double-parasites” – who seek the unearned prestige of practicing “humanitarianism” with other peoples tax money under the “halo of virtue” called altruism. Altruism, as Rand has proven for anyone with the courage and independence to question the accepted “wisdom” of the ages, does not mean benevolence, good will, or true compassion. Instead, it is a moral code that enshrines the unearned as a moral absolute, thus fostering envy, the entitlement mentality, resentment of achievement, and predatory collectivism – cancers that are slowly consuming this country.

Mr. Moran’s article is riddled with inaccuracies and irrelevancies, belying his statement that “I have, to date, tortured my eyes with Atlas Shrugged, the Fountainhead, Anthem, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness.” I have addressed one of them. There’s nothing wrong with criticism, of course. Unfortunately, his criticism of Rand comes at us not from a standpoint of understanding, but from a somewhat Marxist narrative.

Objectivism stands up for every individual person’s right to his own life (rational selfishness), not the right to prey on others for his own ends. It is, first and foremost, a comprehensive set of philosophical principles to guide the individual in his personal endeavors and in his relationships with others. As such, Objectivism provides a moral defense of individualism, capitalism, and America’s founding ideals as laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Ayn Rand is, I firmly believe, America’s last Founding Father because of her philosophic achievement. I urge everyone to study Objectivism and decide for himself. I’m confident that he will learn that Objectivism is a truly humanitarian philosophy.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lessons of 1929

The New Jersey Star-Ledger has posted an editorial on 10/29/09, entitled Stock market crash anniversary: Lessons unlearned. They wrote:

"In the years that followed [1929], economists, politicians and Wall Street’s overpaid optimists assured one and all they’d learned from the orgy of greed and excess. It wouldn’t happen again. The Feds had saved the system and put new regulations in place to prevent a repeat. Trust us, they said. And in our ignorance, we did.

"Over time, the lessons of 1929 were made to seem irrelevant and outdated, especially in the go-go economic climate of the 1980s. Layer by layer, 1930s regulations were stripped away. Under pressure from Wall Street, free-market fundamentalists and their acolytes in the press, deregulation was promoted and accepted — by Democrats as well as Republicans — as vital in the emerging global economy.

"The 1929-2009 parallels don’t end there. Post-1929 Wall Street’s leaders fought regulation fiercely; likewise their current-day descendants. Whether it’s regulation of derivatives (the value of which few buyers or sellers understood), higher bank capital requirements, or protection for consumers, Wall Street’s current captains of capitalism are against it.

"Will they win Congress to their side? When have they not? There’s much talk of the need to tighten the reins on Wall Street, especially the trading of billlions [sic] in securities backed by such uncertain assets as mortgages and credit card debt. But legislation remains stalled.

"In this country, Paul Volker has sounded the "too-big" warning. And he’s called for reinstating Glass-Steagall. Volker’s the guy who broke the 1980-81 inflationary recession and set the stage for a generation-long economic expansion.

"Maybe we should listen. Beats laying another egg."

Here is my commentary:

Posted by zemack
October 29, 2009, 8:09PM

Substitute the words “Wall Street” with the name of any ethnic group, and the injustice and bigotry implied in the use of that scapegoat become obvious. Throw in the undefinablely vague bogeymen “greed and excess”, and you’ve got the classic one-two punch beloved of all statists. That’s all they need to whitewash the real causes of the litany of economic catastrophes listed by the Editors.

The Fed’s excess money and credit expansion and then contraction fueled the stock market bubble and crash of the late 1920s. The crash, however, did not cause the depression. The market began to recover almost immediately, just like after the much larger 1987 crash. But unlike 1987, the rally ensued until mid-1930 when the Smoot-Hawley tariff act, the first of a series of disastrous government attempts to “save” the economy, was enacted. As the farm economy subsequently contracted, bank after bank collapsed under the weight of anti-branching, anti-diversification rules and other incompetent banking regulations. The Fed-engineered 30% shrinking of the money supply, massive “public works” projects that further drained capital from the economy, massive tax hikes, etc., etc., etc, crushed the economy. The Hoover-Roosevelt Depression was on. The power-hungry, mad economic scientists of the FDR administration, building on the policy foundation of the statist Herbert Hoover, then embarked upon a crippling array of actions that stretched the depression right through the end of WW II. If ever there could be proof of the failure of government economic intervention, this period of American history is the poster child.

But as the Editors say, we haven’t learned much. The S&L fiasco was brought on by the grossly misnamed Federal Deposit “Insurance” Corporation, a socialist-like scheme that promotes risky bank lending while draining responsible banks, their depositors, and taxpayers who bail them out (the so-called privatization of profits and the socialization of losses).

The current crisis is unequivocally “made in Washington”. Deregulation? Who controls money, the raw material of the banking industry? Who sets reserve requirements, interest rates, accounting standards, and every other conceivable aspect of finance? Exactly what regulatory authority did the government rescind during the alleged “deregulation” wave of the past quarter century? Repeal of Glass-Steagall is the only thing the Editors can point to, and it was not even culpable in the meltdown. Regulation actually increased on the banks (remember Sarbanes-Oxley?).

“Captains of capitalism”? Where does anyone see capitalism? The financial sector is the most heavily regulated American industry, operating under the thumb of a central bank money monopoly. The fed, in fact, is once again the prime culprit. Led by a central planning statist masquerading as a “free market fundamentalist”, the Fed pursued extraordinarily easy money policies without which the basic cause of the recession, the housing bubble, couldn’t have happened. As always, excessive risk-taking is merely a consequence of incompetent Federal Reserve policy. Fannie & Freddie, the FDIC, the CRA, the government’s very own “Too big to fail” policies, and the Clinton/Bush affordable housing crusades, among other things, did the rest.

As to Paul Volcker, I disagree on reinstatement of Glass-Steagall. The diversification enabled by its repeal fosters stronger institutions. What should be repealed is the government’s bailout addiction, which encourages to big to fail “mastodons of the market [like] JP Morgan Chase and Goldman Sachs…” As to Volcker being “the guy who broke the 1980-81 inflationary recession and set the stage for a generation-long economic expansion”, the Editors conveniently forget that he caved in to election year pressure from the Carter administration in the spring of 1980, abruptly reversing course and setting the stage for an even worse “second dip” in the recession. As BanditGuy points out, it was President Reagan who gave Volcker political cover to return to some semblance of sound monetary policy, at great political cost to himself.

Some vague notions of “Wall Street” and “greed” are all the Star-Ledger editors have to hang their hats on. Everywhere one looks, one sees the hand of government intervention making a mockery of free markets. The real lessons of the past century are a history of catastrophic government policies creating economic havoc, with freedom and capitalism getting the blame, leading to more government controls, and so on. The current Washington assault on individual rights, the constitution, the rule of law, and the remnants of free markets is a continuation of the same disastrous trend, “on steroids”.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Gov. Mark Sanford on Atlas Shrugged

Here is a review of Anne Heller's Ayn Rand and the World She Made, by South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford. Entitled Atlas Hugged, Mr. Sanford's essay attempts to portray Atlas Shrugged positively but he exhibits quite a bit of ignorance in regards to the book and Ayn Rand's philosophy. He also challenges Rand in the area of ethics.

I have taken him to task on a few important points.

My commentary:

Rand’s belief in the “perfectibility” of man is based upon the rejection of the dominant moral code of history, and the discovery of the proper ethics consistent with man’s nature and the metaphysical facts of reality. Altruism enshrines the unearned, both in matter and in spirit, as a moral absolute. As long as self-sacrifice was held to be the ideal, man was destined to be seen as flawed and possessing original sin, because the code of self-sacrifice is inimical to life that must constantly be broken if one is to flourish. Rand did not believe men are infallible, but capable nonetheless of heroic accomplishments on any level of ability. She posited rational self-interest as the proper code to live by, thus freeing people to pursue a life of personal achievement, fulfillment, and happiness, within the context of mutual respect for each other and a peaceful and benevolent coexistence. What the past 10,000 years has proven is that mankind’s “flaw” was in his predatory moral code, not in his nature. This is an essential ethical message in Rand’s novels, which Mr. Sanford misses or ignores.

Galt's hidden valley is not “a perfect society”, but a private, voluntary association of people. It in no way means an advocacy of anarchy. Rand considered government to be a vital institution and a necessary good, without which brutality would reign, provided that it is constitutionally limited to the protection of individual rights.

Objectivism is primarily a philosophy of reason, and so naturally rejects faith (defined as the acceptance of ideas or beliefs without any evidence). But as a long time admirer and student of Ayn Rand - and as an Objectivist husband, father, and grandfather who lives by that philosophy – I can most emphatically say that in no way does Objectivism preclude grace, love or (voluntary) social compact. When people are free – and only when people are free – these values do not conflict with the individual’s pursuit of happiness, and are in fact a part of it.

These are just a few of the errors in this review. Though Mr. Sanford gets some things right, he does not seem very knowledgeable about Ayn Rand or Objectivism. I don’t know what this says about the books that he is reviewing here, since I have not read them myself. But I’d suggest that anyone interested in learning should read and study her novels and non-fiction works and judge for himself (which requires independent thinking, a cardinal virtue in the Objectivist ethical system).

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Star-Ledger: Rein in Big Business

The NJ Star-Ledger's 10/20/09 editorial, Wall Street: Rein in Big Business, is mostly a rehash of the usual myths about the finacial crisi, with an interesting twist which I called them on. For a related article, click here

Comment by others:

"None of the investment scams could have occurred without the explicit lies made by Stand & Poors, Fitch and Moody's. The overvalued EVERYTHING for payola...lots of loot.

These ratings agencies have gotten off scotfree and still value investment instruments, perhaps honestly now, who knows? Both Bush and Obama have looked the other way, setting the stage for a repeat scam at every tranche level."

My response to this correspondent:

Posted by zemack
October 20, 2009, 5:03PM


The three rating agencies are a government-protected cartel, licensed by the SEC, and essentially protected from competition. In addition, many of their customers are delivered to them by government coercion, in the form of requirements that banks, insurance companies, money market funds, and other financial firms get ratings for their debt securities only from ... you guessed it ... SEC licensed rating companies.

Everywhere one looks, one sees the hand of government intervention behind the financial crisis.

My commentary to the Editorial:

Posted by zemack

October 20, 2009, 8:50PM
The Editors claim that:

“Washington has been steadily stripping the system of any real regulation for the last 25 years..."

Just two paragraphs later, they state that:

“The argument that more government involvement is a step toward socialism ludicrously ignores the fact that we’re already more than half way there…”

The Editors apparently think that nobody pays attention to what they say and that they can get away with so blatant a contradiction. The first statement is utterly false. Apart from some minor tinkering with certain rules, exactly what regulatory powers did government actually relinquish? Glass-Steagall was not a regulatory rule, but a bad law whose repeal had nothing to do with the meltdown, which was caused by the Fed-Fannie/Freddie-FDIC-CRA induced subprime mortgage and housing bubbles. Government regulation actually expanded over the past 25 years, as witness Sarbanes-Oxley, the massive 2002 expansion of government interference that punished the thousands of innocent companies that didn’t cook the books, in retaliation for the few that did (and which were prosecuted under previously existing laws). Accounting rules spawned by Sarbanes-Oxley (so-called “mark-to-market”) were another in a series of government culprits. The repeal of Glass-Steagall was a positive that helped several firms weather the crisis by allowing for diversification.

The second statement is all-too-true. But the Editors don’t draw the obvious conclusion. Instead, they clamor for more government control to rectify the damage caused by government itself. This is the pattern by which totalitarian socialism is being smuggled into a once-free America. This road is being paved by the alleged goal of “protecting” the “consumer”, a privileged class that somehow exists separate and apart from producers and being incapable of entering freely into voluntary contractual agreements with the sellers of financial products. And this “protection” is being financed by the “generosity” of another distinct group called “taxpayers”, who are being forced to fund the steady destruction of their own freedom.

No, Washington is not “Moscow in 1917” and Lenin has not “just pulled into Union Station”. But the direction in which this country is headed is no less ominous. The Washington attacks on the health insurers, major news networks, and “Wall Street” fit a familiar pattern. Every advancing dictatorship seeks to shield its power-grabbing designs by demonizing some group of private citizens as enemies of the state (a term not in use, yet). In Russia, the enemy was the bourgeoisie. In Germany it was the Jews. In America today, it is businessmen, whose legitimate lobbying efforts, a normal activity in a mixed economy, are termed “sabotage”.

What must be “reined in” is government power. We must stop rewarding the mounting failures of the regulatory state with still more regulatory powers. The “failure in the current crisis” of the Federal Reserve, the Federal Trade Commission, and the grossly misnamed Federal Deposit “Insurance” Corp. does not, as the Editors claim, “only strengthen the case for tougher regulation”. These failures argue instead for their abolition, and a systematic return to individual rights, limited rights-protecting republican government, and their corollary free market capitalism, before it is too late.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More on Obama's Nobel

President Obama on the Nobel Peace Prize fast-track

The NJ Star-Ledger joined the chorus of voices fumbling to find the words to justify the ridiculus awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama.

I've left the following comments on their editorial. For more, see my full post at Principled Perspectives:

“So the prize is a symbol, awarded in this case to someone who represents the hopes of that handful of idealists in Oslo.”

So say the Editors.

It’s comical listening to the chorus of voices fumbling for the words to justify this embarrassing decision by the politically and ideologically corrupt Norwegian Nobel Committee “Peace” cabal. Their gibberish about “an early vote of confidence intended to build global support for the policies of his young administration” and “the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation” and “pledges to reduce the world stock of nuclear arms, ease U.S. conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthen its role in combating climate change” just doesn’t quite cut it, even for this sorry crowd.

As the Star-Ledger readily admits, Obama was awarded this Prize for absolutely no concrete reason whatsoever! Something just doesn’t add up. The committee’s real motivation may have something to do with the shadow of an American political giant whose absence on the list of winners looms over their credibility like a giant storm cloud.

What could be the reason for this rush job? There is a critical anniversary coming up on November 9th of this year. This is the clue that makes it all logical.

Though a mixed bag politically and philosophically, Ronald Reagan got
at least one big thing right. He recognized that the Soviet Communist
Empire was an economic and ideological house of cards propped up by
the West. Only a very small handful of others believed that, including
Ayn Rand and Richard Pipes. Against almost universal opposition,
Reagan acted. He removed the moral sanction of our d├ętente and
“peaceful coexistence” strategies by declaring the Soviets an Evil
Empire. Opposition dissidents behind the Iron Curtain were electrified
into action.

Then, as Margaret Thatcher recounted in her Reagan funeral eulogy;

“So the President resisted Soviet expansion and pressed down on Soviet weakness at every point until the day came when communism began to collapse beneath the combined weight of these pressures and its own failures.”

With continued Western economic support and moral sanction, the Evil
Empire could have survived for another generation or more, possibly
with cataclysmic consequences for America and the world. Instead, the ever-present threat of nuclear war was removed, and a billion people were freed … virtually without firing a shot.

It is my belief that the premature awarding of the Prize to Obama is an attempt to blunt the coming renewed recognition of Reagan’s indisputable achievement with the arrival next month of the 20th anniversary of the crumbling of the Berlin Wall – the symbol of the collapse of totalitarian communism.

But whatever the reason, unless and until it is awarded (posthumously) to
Ronald Reagan (jointly, perhaps, with Margaret Thatcher and Pope John Paul II), the Nobel Peace Prize will remain a sham and a moral abomination.

I also gave a pat on the back to wdillon for his post.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Obama the "Moderate"?

After documenting numerous instances of the Left's supposed disenfranchisement with President Obama, the New Jersey Star-Ledger came to the following startling conclusion in its 10/7/09 editorial, entitled President Obama disappoints the left:

"Is this really the guy liberals voted for? Well, yes. The Democratic left idealized Obama as one of their own during the election campaign and made him the repository of the all liberal goals in limbo during the Bush and even Clinton years.

"But had they looked more closely at Obama’s record in the Illinois Senate — his litany of "present" votes on tough issues, for example — they’d have sensed that, down deep, Obama’s a fervent moderate."

I posted the following comments:

Obama a moderate? I’m tempted to exclaim: “You’ve got to be kidding!” Unfortunately, the Star-Ledger is not that far off of the mark, but only in the political sense. Ideologically, Obama is very far to the left of the “middle”. The fact that a major news outlet can seriously claim that a socialist can be an American moderate is simply an indication of just how far we have drifted toward statism in this country.

This column presented a good example of this on 9/23/09 in its support of Obama’s government takeover of the student loan market (Better Student Loans), a blatant federal power grab over higher education. The justification? The problems in the government’s very own subsidized student loan program. The editors presented Obama’s action to be the only alternative to the status quo, thus whitewashing the only real alternative to total government control – eliminating the student loan program and reestablishment of a free education credit market. Instead, the choice is between two variants of statism … government control through private banking proxies, or direct government control.

There is no debate about the morality or practicality of government-subsidized student lending, no examination of the role of government in creating the problems cited by the Star-Ledger, and no consideration for eliminating the problems caused by government by eliminating the government student loan program.

The same pattern is seen with regard to healthcare and the financial crises. In each case, massive government interference caused the problems, and increased government control is seen as the solution. The moderate “middle” has shifted so far to the Left that the political debate now revolves around how much socialism to accept now and how fast we get to full socialism. I submit in evidence the perverse political spectacle of the republicans now defending Medicare against democrat attempts to trim it (Steele’s "seniors' health care bill of rights"). Obama’s “moderation” serves his purposes well. He merely entertains all competing "alternatives", so long as they represent different paths to his central planning utopia.

Once you throw individual rights, limited rights-protecting constitutional republican government, and free market capitalism into the national debate … America’s founding ideals, the only actual alternative to statism … you expose Obama as the rabid far-Left statist that he really is.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Doctor For Single-Payer - Why?

This letter-to-the-editor appeared in the New Jersey Star-Ledger Reader Forum of 9/18/09.

Single pay is the way

I am deeply disgusted by the health-care debate. Single-payer health care is the only good solution. I am treating more and more patients for free, as they lost their jobs and health insurance. But this is not a long-term solution. The U.S. is destroying itself by not passing single payer -- and it well deserves it.

Judith Simon, M.D., Millburn

Here is my commentary, which is essentially repeated from my post of 4/17/09:

Posted by Zemack on 09/18/09 at 4:22PM

As a lay person, I have wondered about doctors who support some form of socialized medicine, such as the single payer system advocated by Dr. Judith Simon of Millburn. What would make a doctor want to sacrifice control of his/her career, judgement, and profession to the dictates of government bureaucrats wielding arbitrary powers? And make no mistake. We are talking here about a healthcare dictatorship. There is no getting around the fact that government is force, and nothing else. And when the government pays, the government sets the terms.

I suppose doctors that support socialized medicine have varied reasons for doing so...some innocent, some not. Here are a few of my suppositions.

Perhaps some doctors do not understand the free market alternative to our current system, and see total government control as an undesirable but necessary evil.

Perhaps some may want to take the intellectually lazy career path and avoid the rigors of the free market. They would rather come to work every day, picking canned, off-the-bureaucratic-shelf solutions to their patients' healthcare problems in exchange for some guaranteed unit price from a central governmental authority. (This is what philosopher Leonard Peikoff identified as the "new bureaucratic doctors" practicing "assembly-line medicine". See his essay "Medicine, The Death of a Profession" in the book, The Voice of Reason, page 299).

Some may not like having to deal with patients who want to exercise their right to act upon their own judgement by demanding, say, some test or prescription drug that the doctor may not think is warranted. They would rather deny him that right by imposing the "rational" dictates of some unknown central planner.

Much of the medical profession, I suppose, sees a government-run health care dictatorship as inevitable, and believes that the "practical" course is to make a deal with the devil at the expense of their professional integrity.

Some may be motivated by a desire to help those who cannot afford adequate healthcare, but would rather avoid the responsibility of deciding when, how, and in what capacity to extend charitable care to their indigent patients...by forcing others to foot the bill for their compassion through taxes.

There are also undoubtedly many doctors who are egalitarian ideologues who don't like the fact that some people can afford to pay their own way and some cannot, and thus seek to impose "social justice" at the expense of actual justice.

Whatever their reasons, doctors who support state-run medicine should all recognize that by betraying their own freedom of judgement, careers, professional integrity, and rights, they are also selling out the rest of America...especially America's best blood. Those of us who do not want to trade our independence and freedom for a free appendectomy or cholesterol pill will also be victims.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama's 2009 School Speech - and Ayn Rand

Barack Obama's Education Speech: The Not-At-All Socialist Indoctrination, by Michael Scherer, Time

"At this point, most of the noise about Barack Obama wanting to indoctrinate school children in a back-to-school speech has mostly faded from view. Newt Gingrich has repudiated it. Historians (and White House aides) have pointed out that past Republican presidents--George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan--delivered the same sorts of messages. Some of those Republican leaders who made a stink over the President's plan--like Florida GOP chair Jim Greer--are getting a Labor Day grilling from their local press. [UPDATE: Greer now says, "It's a good speech."]

"Rather than any lefty, neo-socialist, communitarian brainwashing, President Obama's speech to your kids reads like a paean to individual striving and free market capitalism, the sort of thing that Ayn Rand and Barry Goldwater might have signed onto. At root, Obama's message is one of individual responsibility, a disquisition on the freedom of American youth to fail or succeed on their own tenacity and merits."

It looks like some conservatives have been snookered by this philosophically astute president. For my complete take on Obama's speech, click here

My Commentary:

President Obama gives some good practical advice. The problem is not in the “what”, but in the “what for?” Buried in the platitudes is the real message:

“And this isn't just important for your own life and your own future. What you make of your education will decide nothing less than the future of this country. What you're learning in school today will determine whether we as a nation can meet our greatest challenges in the future.

“You'll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment. You'll need the insights and critical thinking skills you gain in history and social studies to fight poverty and homelessness, crime and discrimination, and make our nation more fair and more free. You'll need the creativity and ingenuity you develop in all your classes to build new companies that will create new jobs and boost our economy.

“We need every single one of you to develop your talents, skills and intellect so you can help solve our most difficult problems. If you don't do that – if you quit on school – you're not just quitting on yourself, you're quitting on your country.”

There isn't a dictator that ever walked the face of the earth that wouldn't laud those words. The collectivist overtones are unmistakable. The president's message is fundamentally anti-American, running completely contrary to the individualist premise that this country was founded upon, and that unleashed the reason-driven, entrepreneurial energy of free people pursuing their own goals for the sake of their own happiness and their own lives as an end in themselves ... the energy that resulted in the astounding general rise in the standard and quality of living.

The president's purpose is not to advance his political agenda, per se. It is to establish the necessary prerequisite ideas for his (and any future socialist's) agenda, the servile population. Any leader attempting to inculcate in the young the sense of duty and service is a leader who wants and intends to rule their lives. The danger in Obama's message is clear to anyone who understands the power of ideas. Individualism leads to the United States of America. Collectivism leads to Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia or any number of stagnant, poverty-ridden tribal societies – or to a socialist America.

As for who on the Right would applaud this speech, I don't know about Goldwater. Many conservatives uphold the altruist/service-to-the-country doctrine. But Ayn Rand championed the supreme value and rights of the individual to the pursuit of his own happiness, and a government as protector of those rights, not government as master. She would not have approved of Obama's message.

Other's comments:

As we all know, President Reagan also gave a speech to students in 1988. The full text can be found on this link:


At one point, referring to a painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, he mentions how there are some figures whose faces have not been filled in, they are only outlines. He goes on to say: "America is not yet complete, and it's up to each one of us to help complete it. And each one of you can place yourself in that painting. You can become one of the those immortal figures by helping to build and renew America."

Isn't this the same overall idea of helping our country as used by Obama in his speech? Mike, you need to use the same rod to measure both Obama's and Reagan's words in order to be fair. If you do, then both Reagan and Obama are anti-American and socialists by your standards. As I see it, their words reflect men concerned with encouraging children to grow as useful citizens, instead of being burdens to society. You dig into Obama's words, unearthing what is not there, to fit your pre-determined agenda.

In 1991, President George HW Bush addressed students at Alice Deal Jr High School. Towards the end he said: "Let me know how you're doing. Write me a letter — and I'm serious about this one — write me a letter about ways you can help us achieve our goals. I think you know the address." Obama tried the same thing this time, ahead of time, and was accused of being manipulative and engaging in government intrusion. (The link below will take you to the full text of President George HW Bush's address.)


Both speeches, Reagan's and Bush's brought controversy, especially President Bush's. The difference is that Bush's controversy, although hysterical at times, happened AFTER the speech. The hysteria over Obama's speech was an orchestrated, planned opposition for the sake of it.

I think that with Obama, a novel is being written where the title was written first, i.e., "Obama: a Socialist, Marxist, Communist, Not to Be Trusted Good-For-Nothing Dictator That Has Ruined Our Nation". The text is being written to fit the title with every word, every gesture, every move Obama makes or does not make. Believe me, the right wing will make sure the text fits that title, even if they have to make up the events, or stretch the truth until it is no longer recognizable. But, if it fits, it will go in. Sad, sad, sad.

My commentary:



“You dig into Obama's words, unearthing what is not there, to fit your pre-determined agenda.”

I don't know what you think my “agenda” is, but let me say this. I give him more respect than you do. I take him at his word. President Obama and I have something important in common – philosophical astuteness. We are, however, on the opposite ends of the basic philosophical battleground – collectivism vs, individualism. Let me put it another way.

He speaks of “the country” and “the economy” as though they are mystical entities separate and distinct from the individual human beings that make it up. This is classic. They are to be the purpose and the focus to which the president urges the young “to set your own goals for your education”. But what are the “country” or the “economy” except the sum of the individual interests and efforts of its individual members? A pro-American message would be that the children's' own individual good, and only their own individual good, is the purpose of their education. When you focus on your own life as the purpose and end of your own actions – to make your own life the best and most fulfilling it can be by your own efforts for your own sake – it is the betterment of the country and the economy that you accomplish. That is because you are the country. You are the economy, just as is every other individual that comprises it.

Yet, in true collectivist form, the President attempts to inculcate in the young the sense of duty and service and a sense of smallness next to a cause larger than oneself – in this case, the “country” and the “economy”. (In fairness, so did McCain, whom I didn't vote for either.) Just for the record, I do not say he is a Nazi or a Communist. He is, however, a socialist. His operation tactic is to bring socialism through the back door of fascism. This is a decades long trend, which follows the bipartisan path from Wilson to FDR to Kennedy to Nixon to GW Bush. America is being pushed toward its own brand of national socialism, a “soft” tyranny without the brutality of the German Nazis.

Obama is not unique. Collectivism permeates both major parties to varying degrees. The collectivist mindset has been seeping into American culture for the past century or so, gradually supplanting the revolutionary individualist enlightenment premise of the Founding. It seeps into your own comments, with phrases like “overall idea of helping our country” and “encouraging children to grow as useful citizens” (“useful”, to whom?). It even creeps into Reagan's rhetoric. This is a very dangerous development, in my view. Ideas move history. Pretending that Obama didn't say what he said, or that he doesn't know what he is saying, does not change the facts of reality. He delivered a collectivist message. Collectivism is the philosophical root of all variants of socialism.

“The text”, you say, “is being written to fit the title with every word, every gesture, every move Obama makes or does not make.” Yes, the text is being written - by Obama himself. Collectivism threads through all of his rhetoric … and his policies. The president knows precisely what he is saying, and into what he wants to “re-make” the country. So do I.

The Primitive Soul of a Socialist

The following letter appeared in the Reader's Forum of 9/8/09 NJ Star-Ledger.

Primitive health care

As a species, we seem to believe we are highly evolved. But when I take a closer look, it becomes quite obvious we are really still very primitive because we labor under layers of illusions that allow us to severely mistreat each other.

A dollar bill is a piece of paper, nothing more and nothing less. We allow ourselves to believe a piece of paper with "one hundred" printed on it is more valuable than a piece of paper with "one."

We are smart enough to realize that money is only paper, yet we are willing to allow millions of our fellow humans to live without access to a primary care doctor simply because they lack the proper number of pieces of paper.

Pain and disease is true reality, the need to have constant access to a caring doctor is true reality. Holding back health care from people because they don't have enough paper is an illusion that only a primitive group would allow. We must strive to evolve to the point that everyone has access to care regardless of how much paper they possess.

Perry Leandro, Cranbury

My Commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 09/08/09 at 4:50PM

Perry Leandro of Cranbury writes:

"A dollar bill is a piece of paper, nothing more and nothing less."

Then why do you receive those pieces of paper in exchange for the real products and services your productive work provides for others? And why can you then exchange those pieces of paper for real products and services you need and want, but that are produced by still others?

A civilized man sees money as a noble medium that stands for something - wealth that has been produced by human beings and made available to other human beings through the voluntary mutually advantageous transaction called trade. By making it possible to work for one person and purchase the work of another, the discovery of money led to the division-of-labor market economy that in turn made possible the huge advance from the primitive witch doctor to modern medicine.

A savage sees only that "A dollar bill is a piece of paper, nothing more and nothing less."

Perry Leandro says:

"Holding back health care from people because they don't have enough paper is an illusion that only a primitive group would allow."

There is nothing illusory about earning your own keep. As every civilized man knows, if you can't afford the price of another man's labor, you basically have only three moral choices - increase your earnings so you can afford it, rely on voluntary private charity, or do without. No one else is obligated to provide you with the necessities of life. As every civilized man knows, all wealth is produced and belongs to the individual human beings that earned it, not the primitive tribe. As every civilized man knows, you cannot consume that which you have not produced, nor consume more than you have produced (earned). And above all, you cannot acquire what others have produced except by voluntary, uncoerced means.

A savage sees providing for his own needs by his own efforts ... earning "enough paper" ... as an "illusion". A savage sees human evolution as returning to the brute force rule of the jungle or the cave dweller, where need is a license to steal rather than a spur to productive work - where "everyone has access to care regardless of how much paper they possess."

A savage sees an ant colony, not a human civilization that has discovered the capitalist market economy governed by the justice of voluntary production and trade, the principle of individual rights, and the nobility and vital necessity of money (which should be gold or gold-backed). A savage sees a primitive tribe that can confiscate and redistribute the property of its members at will, rather than a benevolent, non-coercive association of free individuals whose property is protected by a government of laws and not of looters.

The current healthcare debate reveals that we still have a lot of mental savages among us who long for the primitive world of witch doctors and the rule of the jungle. I'm sure that Perry Leandro is not one of them, just an uninformed soul who needs to grasp the primordial implications of what he is saying.

*For a comprehensive explanation on the moral and practical importance of money, read Francisco's "Money Speech" from Ayn Rand's novel Atlas Shrugged.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Rationing - Canadian vs. American Style

We Ration. We Ration. We Ration. We Ration.

My Commentary:

Posted by: Zemack | August 31, 2009 8:45 PM

Mr. Klein's line of reasoning fails to distinguish between earning one’s keep and getting something for nothing, between government force and voluntary trade. As any honest man knows, one cannot consume what one has not produced. As any honest man knows, one can morally consume what another has produced only after acquiring it by voluntary means…by trade or private charity. As any honest man ultimately knows, one cannot consume in excess of what one earns.

Being unable to afford the price of what someone else produces is not rationing, despite the fact that that term is sometimes used in reference to the laws of economics. Your money represents the value that you have created for someone else through your productive work ... be it a product, service, your labor, or what have you ... in a voluntary trade. You then use your money to purchase the healthcare you need in the same manner … by voluntary trade, on mutually agreed terms, to mutual benefit. If no voluntary agreement is reached, no trade takes place. The fact that one person can’t pay for a medical procedure, while another can (whether in cash or some other means such as a prior contractual agreement like insurance), is not rationing. Nor is it unfair in any way. In a health care free market - which America’s semi-socialist, semi-fascist, government-controlled system is not - physical force is absent.

Government is a unique institution, possessing a legal monopoly on the use of physical force. When government runs healthcare, it must necessarily use its coercive powers to dictate who gets what healthcare when, because when government pays, government sets the terms. The winners are the moochers, the losers are the self-supporting. The essence of government rationing is to forcibly deny health care to those who have earned it, for the sake of those who haven't. The essence of market "rationing" is justice ... each person must earn his health care, by his own effort, in voluntary trade with providers. To advocate the former over the latter is a moral perversion. But then, socialism in all of its collectivist forms is a moral perversion.

Rationing is government distribution of goods and services, as in both World Wars. It is force, and nothing else. There is no coercive central distributive authority outside of government (or government controlled quasi-private insurance giants), only millions of individuals producing and trading by mutual consent. But however one chooses to define rationing, the choice is stark. The choice is voluntary human association or brute bureaucratic state force; earned wealth or the unearned; market justice or "social justice"; the risk of going without or government dependence; the dollar or the gun; freedom or slavery.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Missing the Real Alternative In the Health Care Debate

In an 8/29/09 editorial, the New Jersey Star-Ledger discusses a growing practice called "medical tourism." In this piece, entitled Seeking affordable health care overseas, the Ledger also exposes the fraudulant choice being presented to the American people.

My Commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 08/29/09 at 10:22PM

Also called "medical tourism", the Star-Ledger hints at what free markets create - competitive conditions under which "patients can receive quality care at lower costs". But the editors don't draw the obvious lesson from their own observations. Instead, the Ledger exposes a gross fraud being put over on the American people by the Left during this health care debate...that the only choice we face is between the status quo and complete socialized medicine. What's missing from this false choice is the third option - the only real antipode to the two choices cited above - a free market in health care. In this, the Left is all too often aided and abetted by conservatives and Republicans who, as the editors point out, merely defend "the world's greatest health system."

Ours does have its strengths. It is still the freest, making America the engine of innovation. If it weren't for America's market, cutting edge medical technology research would dry up, both here and abroad.

But the fact is, our "sick" American health care system is a government created monstrosity. Nearly 50% of healthcare spending is by government, through programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, and a host of smaller state-level carbon copies...socialism. Nearly 40% of the spending is through the allegedly "free" part - the quasi-private, government created, government regulated, and government protected cartel of health insurance companies. The third-party-payer system and the state-imposed trade barriers protect them from nationwide competition as well as the necessity of having to compete directly for the consumer's business. Hundreds of government-imposed insurance mandates (nearly 2000 nationwide, from community rating to guaranteed issue to benefit) have turned "insurance" policies into pre-paid wealth redistribution schemes. Our government-crippled insurance market has turned private insurers into conduits for government coercion. This is not indicative of a free market, but is in the nature of fascism...i.e., socialism through the back door. This double-barreled government assault on medicine creates huge and unnecessary administrative expenses, empowers government and insurance company bureaucrats, disrupts the patient/doctor relationship, drives up costs, disconnects the patient from the providers, etc.

The problems in American medicine have grown in lock step with the growth of government intervention over the past 75 years. Any honest and objective healthcare reform debate must begin with an examination of how we got to this point to begin with. That is not what is happening. Instead, we get defenders of the semi-socialist, semi-fascist, semi-free status quo ... against those advocating more government control and/or outright nationalization masquerading as "reform". We get statists on each side, while the freedom alternative gets no major party sponsorship.

The only real alternative to all of the above is a free market. Instead of everyone being forced to pay for everyone else's healthcare, whether through government-run programs or government-controlled "private" insurers, people should be free to assume responsibility for their own healthcare with their own money. Insurers and providers should be free to compete directly for the consumers' business. A free market leaves patients, providers, consumers, and insurers free to contract voluntarily with each other to mutual advantage, based upon the principle of individual rights, without the kind of massive government coercion noted above. The absence of physical force is the hallmark of a free market. That is what the "free" in free market means. The government's only job, but an important one, is to protect against fraud and breech of contract, and to mediate legitimate contractual disputes.

The natural incentives of a free market ... the consumer seeking good value and the provider seeking expanded sales ... have been proven both in theory and practice to lead to increasing quality and ever-expanding affordability. Health care is more valuable and needed than most other products and services, but it is no different in the most basic fundamental respect ... it is man-made. As such, the same laws of economics apply to medicine as to any other economic sector. Most importantly, a free market is the only moral solution, because it forbids the predatory practice of people seeking to force others to provide for them what they perceive to be their "right" to healthcare. Instead, everyone is guaranteed their unalienable rights to their own life, liberty, and pursuit of their own health care (and happiness).

Related Reading:

Medical tourism Booms in Costa Rica via FIRM

See also The Henry Ford of Heart Surgery, Open-Heart Surgery--90% off, and Club Med.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Individualism, Collectivism, and "the Cause of Waste"

Amit Ghate has written a terrific piece, Misconstruing the Cause of Waste, which was published on Pajamas Media. He writes:

"Once again, the president has it backwards. But in flouting economics, he reveals his stance on a much deeper issue, one which is determining the fate of the country: individualism vs. collectivism.

"Individualism — the country’s founding idea — holds that each man is a moral end in himself.

"So how does this apply to waste? Waste, by definition, means 'spending to no avail or profit.' But observe that when men are free to pursue their own values, they’re incentivized to act carefully.

"Accordingly, under individualism, waste is minimized by each person, one transaction at a time. Indeed, the 'cost discipline' which free markets are so famous for emerges from this very fact.

"Contrast this to the collectivist approach favored by our current politicians. Under their view, the individual isn’t an end in himself, but merely a cog in the machine, a means to the group’s 'good.'

"The ramifications to waste are threefold. First, by prohibiting certain activities, government eliminates competition...Next, because it can confiscate our money to pay its bills, government has little incentive to control costs...Finally, because the government has usurped their prerogatives, individuals no longer decide what is worthwhile and what isn’t. Government forcibly disconnects the decision of what’s valuable from the people who actually pay for the values."

My Commentary:

32. Mike Zemack:

Amit Ghate has done a terrific job of exploding another of the many fallacious arguments against freedom in medicine. More importantly…and I know I’m not the first to acknowledge this…Mr. Ghate identifies the basic philosophical conflict that will determine the future direction of American healthcare and of America generally. Only capitalism is consonant with the premise that the sovereign individual is the standard of value, because it alone bans predatory force in human relations. All other social systems (including welfare statism and democracy) embody collectivism to some degree, with the rulers as omnipotent representatives of the collective. This cannot be stressed too often or too strongly. Collectivism is tyranny, and the only humane antipode to it is individualism.

I also have to address correspondent #2, Anonymous. His comments bring to mind a passage from Francisco’s “money speech” in Atlas Shrugged:

“Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That sentence is the leper’s bell of an approaching looter.”

Anonymous condemns the money earned by the people who produce the valuable products and services without which there would be no healthcare debate. He demands “government intervention in the health care market” to grab by force for himself the “benefit from the advances in medical technology” so he doesn’t have to “line the pockets of these folks”… the very folks in the “private system that does not value human beings” who produce the goods that can keep Anonymous and his ilk healthy and alive.

Read Francisco’s money speech, then draw your own conclusions about the ethical character of Anonymous.

Also relevant to his comments is Harry Binswanger’s “The Dollar and the Gun”.

Aug 25, 2009 - 4:58 pm

Sunday, August 16, 2009

WF's John Mackey on Health Care Reform

A Wall Street Journal op-ed by Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has ignited quite a “debate” on WF’s website under the heading “Health Care Reform”. I place the term debate in quotation marks because, well, the pro-Obamacare minions have mostly remained true to form…resorting to what my daughter told me is “absolute hatred [that] is sickening”.

What warranted this vitriolic outburst against the man who runs a very successful company that heretofore had been a favorite of what my son-in-law calls the “stereotypical tree-hugger clientele”? Judge for yourself from these brief excerpts:

"While we clearly need health-care reform, the last thing our country needs is a massive new health-care entitlement that will create hundreds of billions of dollars of new unfunded deficits and move us much closer to a government takeover of our health-care system. Instead, we should be trying to achieve reforms by moving in the opposite direction—toward less government control and more individual empowerment. Here are eight reforms that would greatly lower the cost of health care for everyone:"

After detailing the eight free-market reforms he advocates (He does not endorse laissez faire.), he goes on:

"Many promoters of health-care reform believe that people have an intrinsic ethical right to health care—to equal access to doctors, medicines and hospitals.

"Health care is a service that we all need, but just like food and shelter it is best provided through voluntary and mutually beneficial market exchanges. A careful reading of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will not reveal any intrinsic right to health care, food or shelter. That's because there isn't any. This "right" has never existed in America.

"Rather than increase government spending and control, we need to address the root causes of poor health. This begins with the realization that every American adult is responsible for his or her own health.

"Health-care reform is very important. Whatever reforms are enacted it is essential that they be financially responsible, and that we have the freedom to choose doctors and the health-care services that best suit our own unique set of lifestyle choices. We are all responsible for our own lives and our own health. We should take that responsibility very seriously and use our freedom to make wise lifestyle choices that will protect our health. Doing so will enrich our lives and will help create a vibrant and sustainable American society."

Take responsibility for your own healthcare, and give us some freedom to do so. But you do not have the right to demand that someone else provide it. What can be more American than that? Apparently, there are plenty of people in the country that have no right to call themselves Americans.

Here is my contribution to that “debate”:

Thank you, Mr. Mackey, for advocating real reform, not more of the same old government interference masquerading as "change". The problems in American healthcare have grown in lock step with the growth of government intervention over the past 75 years. Real reform begins by recognizing that fact.

But, especially, thank you for recognizing the core issue, the nature of individual rights.

The fundamental question surrounding the healthcare debate is: Does the individual own his own life based upon the principle of unalienable rights, as the Founders understood? Or is he the property of the state (or "society", as represented by the state), as every dictator in world history preached?

Consider the claim that a manmade product such as healthcare is a right, and what it actually means in practice. If someone requires medical care, then the providers (doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical and device makers, etc.) must be legally obligated (i.e., compelled) to provide their services to that person. Likewise, that person’s neighbor, or the guy 3000 miles away, must be legally obligated to pay for his treatment. In other words, the providers whose skills make medical care possible, as well as those whose taxes pay for it, are serfs.

Rights, properly understood, are guarantees to freedom of action and place no obligation or duty on the individual save one…to respect the same rights of all. The idea of a right to material values such as health care forces an involuntary servitude on others to provide it. Any "right" to products or services that must be produced by others obliterates our actual rights to life, liberty, and property. That is why the alleged "right" to health care requires a government takeover of the medical field…to give the state the power to loot and enslave the productive and self-reliant.

A free market based upon actual individual rights is the only moral solution to our healthcare "crisis".

Thank you again, Mr. Mackey. You have more supporters than you may know!

-Mike Zemack

And here is my rebuttal to a Canadian supporter of Obamacare who thinks he knows what our Founding documents say:

"We are Canadians and are appalled at Mr. Mackey's comments about health care in Canda. Universality of access is a basic tenet of Canada's medicare programme. Moreover, I can't believe that the president of a company that purports to have a social conscience could argue that there is no intrinisic right to health care. The American constitution guarantees the right to life, liberty, and the pusuit of happiness. Ctizens without access to medical care when needed, are deprived of their right to these constitutional guarantees."

Harvey Williams misunderstands America’s founding documents. It is not the Constitution, but the Declaration of Independence that "guarantees the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness". The Constitution enumerates those rights, which are guarantees to freedom of action in pursuit of happiness. There is no right to healthcare, food, or any other product or service that must be provided by others.

The idea of a right to material values such as health care forces an involuntary servitude on others to provide it. Any "right" to products or services that must be produced by others obliterates our actual rights to life, liberty, and property.

Many of us Americans are not so quick to hand over our freedom in healthcare to an elite, politically appointed gaggle of "medical experts" that we don’t know and that don’t know us, in exchange for a "free" appendectomy or cholesterol pill.

Mr. Mackey, by defending individual rights based upon their true, moral meaning, is exhibiting the real nature of a "social conscience".

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"A nation / One Body" - the Enemy's Decaying Intellectual Corpse

Subsequent to my comments, another correspondent left this in the Star-Ledger Reader Forum. This discussion was the subject of my post of 8/4/09.

HSR0601 wrote, in part:

"U.S. health care consumers are usually one step removed from the cost because they are covered by employer-provided insurance, which might operate as a formula for a slow pace of transfer, along with the code of mandate.

"All free states as a nation / one body, and a fundamental human right, cover all their people. The debate about a human right, or public policy
in America is puzzling them now."

My commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 08/08/09 at 7:23PM

The fundamental conflict of the health care debate comes down to the age-old battle of collectivism vs. individualism. HSR0601 argues for the collectivist side:

"All free states as a nation / one body, and a fundamental human right, cover all their people."

"Slavery", in other words, "is freedom". The idea that there is a "fundamental human right" to any man-made product such as healthcare depends on the view of human beings as interchangeable cells in some super-organism, or ants in a hill colony, or "a nation / one body". The collectivist notion of "one body" is a floating abstraction with no basis in reality. Any group such as a nation, or society, or the public consists of independent, autonomous, individual human beings...each with his own stomach, heart, goals, values, character, and mind.

Collectivism serves a sinister purpose, though. Consider what the alleged "right" to health care actually means in practice.

If someone requires medical care, then the doctors, nurses, pharmaceutical and device makers, etc., must be legally obligated (i.e., compelled) to provide their services to that person. Likewise, that person's neighbor, or the guy 3000 miles away, must be legally obligated to pay for his treatment. In other words, the providers whose skills make medical care possible, as well as those whose taxes pay for it, are serfs. There is no other way. That is why the alleged "right" to health care requires a government takeover of the medical field...to give the state the power to loot and enslave the people. We would all become both slaves and moochers.

HSR0601s "a nation / one body" argument is a cover to justify...on the altruist grounds that "we are our brothers', and our sisters', keepers", as the president likes to say...the grab for unearned goods and control over other people's lives. Collectivism is the doctrine by, for, and of the parasites and the power-lusters. It's incredible that, after Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Red China, and all of the lesser variants of collectivism, this idea can still be taken seriously.

We don't need the third-party-payer system, which empowers insurers; or the mandates and interstate trade barriers, which cripple the insurance industry; or Medicare, Medicaid, SCHIP, EMTALA, etc, which empower government bureaucrats and enslave all to all. We need to abolish the current semi-socialized, semi-fascist, government regulated system, in favor of the only moral alternative - freedom (the real kind), individual rights, a rights-protecting government, and free markets in medicine.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Nothing "Vague" About Freedom

The following letter and comment was published in the Star-Ledger Reader Forum on 8/4/09

Short-sighted opposition

As a patient currently in chemotherapy for an aggressive cancer, I am amazed that some people can be opposed to health care reform that includes a "public plan." Without Medicare -- the government plan that has been in operation for decades, which paid for a necessary surgical biopsy and is now paying for the therapy at the cancer center of my choice -- I would probably be destitute soon if I had to rely only on the private plan whose premiums I paid all these years.

I'm surely not alone. Anyone over 65 who has unfortunately needed health care has almost certainly blessed their access to insurance support from this "public plan." The opposition of younger people, who can safely bet they will be older someday, seems to me curiously short-sighted.

In my view, the most reasonable and effective government insurance program would be a carefully thought-out single-payer plan, which, during these long months of hearings, has been kept off the table by big insurance and big drug companies whose profits leave them lots of money to pay lots of lobbyists.

Those who complain about a vaguely defined loss of freedom under government regulation might reflect that without a public plan, the American public will be free to get very sick indeed.

Alice Mariani, Hillsborough

Posted by patriots4u on 08/04/09 at 9:34AM

Alice Mariani, Hillsborough wrote:
Those who complain about a vaguely defined loss of freedom under government regulation might reflect that without a public plan, the American public will be free to get very sick indeed.

It is not vaguely defined in the text of the bill itself. Yes, the bill is difficult to read, but after taking some time and going through the first 100 pages or so already, I'm finding some disturbing things.

There is a section (pg 16) on Protecting Choice, but it clearly defines that after the bill goes into affect you cannot change or re-enroll in your current coverage. How ironic.

There is a section (pg 50) on Prohibiting Discrimination in Health Care, that first states "EXCEPT as otherwise explicitly permitted by this Act...".
So the Government is free to discriminate, but the rest of us aren't.

Here is another section that blatantly states if the bill is found to be Unconstitutional, too bad.
pg 53 - SEC. 155. SEVERABILITY.
"If any provision of this Act, or any application of such provision to any person or circumstance, is held to be unconstitutional, the remainder of the provisions of this Act and the application of the provision to any other person or circumstance shall NOT be affected.

Try reading the bill, and let me know if your opinion still stands.

My Commentary:

Posted by Zemack on 08/04/09 at 9:08PM

patriots4u is right to be concerned about the effects this bill will have on our freedom. Alice Mariani calls these kinds of objections "a vaguely defined loss of freedom under government regulation". So, let's clear up the "vagueness" by defining our terms.

Freedom means only one thing - unalienable individual rights. As the Declaration of Independence states, we are all endowed equally with these rights. Importantly, rights are guarantees to freedom of action within a social context...such as the rights to speech, religious practice, and the earning of property through productive work and voluntary, mutually beneficial trade. A right is not an automatic claim on the products, services, earnings, skills, or property produced by others. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by any other person, group, or the government.

Clearly, Medicare (and all such welfare state schemes) is a massive violation of individual rights. Medicare did not, as Ms. Mariani claims, pay for her treatment. Nor did it come from any personal-type account funded by her's or a spouse's earnings. That money was confiscated from other people through force of taxation, in clear violation of both the constitution and their individual rights. There is nothing vague about that.

The treatment she receives was made possible by the social conditions created by America's founding principles of individual rights and limited rights-protecting government...principles that are now eroding. The scientists, entrepreneurs, businessmen, inventors, and investors had the freedom to think and act on their own judgement, invest their own time and money, set their own goals, take their own risks, produce the healthcare products and services and offer them for sale to willing buyers, and profit from their achievements under the protection of a government of objective laws. There is nothing vague about that. Again, that freedom is steadily eroding.

Obamacare would wipe out the last vestiges of that freedom. Does Ms. Mariani really want the conditions that existed before the Enlightenment, the American Revolution, and capitalism, which made possible the rise, in a mere 200 years, of modern medicine? That was a time when people really were "free to get very sick indeed", and suffer and die young without the hope that our freedom-spawned modern medicine gives us.

As to the healthcare "reform" bill, it is a dictatorial monstrosity. patriots4u only scratches the surface. Care will be heavily rationed. Providers will be enslaved. Innovation will be smothered in this, the last remnants of a free market. As Marc K. Siegel writes in the 8/3/09 NY Post, there will be "new committees and commissioners with undefined but far-reaching powers -- a Health Choices Commissioner, a Health Benefits Advisory Committee, a Comparative Effectiveness Committee, a Task Force on Clinical Preventative Services..."

I acknowledge that Medicare has been popular, but it is beginning to break down, with more and more doctors dropping out. Ms. Mariani is enjoying the early "workable" phase of this Ponzi scheme. But that is coming to an end. In the bill is this gem for seniors to behold:

"A prime example comes in the section starting on page 425 of the House bill. This dictates that an Advanced Care Planning Consultation must take place every five years from the age of 65 -- with the intervention of so-called counselors, trained and appointed by the government. [Many] senior citizens [will] be shortchanged or pushed prematurely to euthanasia.

Whose decision should it be to phase out such people? The government's?"

Yes, according to this bill.

I have been forced to pay into Medicare for more than four decades, and am approaching enrollment age. For that, I will be confronted with the complete loss of my freedom...my individual rights...to determine, in consultation with my doctor, the appropriate treatment and payment options. Bean-counting state bureaucrats who don't know or care about my circumstances will have complete power.

I will spend the rest of my life...whatever time the state allows me...fighting to abolish Medicare, controls and regulations on insurers and providers, and other state intrusions into medicine. For the sake of my children, grandchildren, and anyone who values freedom, I will fight for free market capitalism, individual rights, and a government that protects our rights - as a moral imperative.