Friday, September 9, 2011

S/L: Mandate Birth Control Insurance Coverage for Women

Cost should not matter when deciding birth control

My commentary:

Posted by zemack July 25, 2011 at 11:39AM

“But it’s up to every woman to decide for herself whether or not to use birth control.” Who would disagree with that? But it’s also up to that woman to pay for it herself, not force others to pay through a compulsory insurance mandate. But, there are hundreds of benefit mandates forced upon our “private” health insurance across the nation. So, if a woman is forced to pay for some guy’s prostate cancer treatment of Viagra in the same way, why shouldn’t she demand he pay for her birth control? It seems only fair, right?

What’s unfair is for government to impose any mandates at all. Insurers and their customers have a moral right to contract freely with each other, to mutual benefit, without government interference. Government’s job is to enforce those health insurance contracts and prosecute fraud and breech of contract, not redistribute wealth through regulation and law. That is not only immoral, but is one of the prime reasons for out-of-control health costs. When each of us is forced to pay for everyone else’s healthcare, but not our own, then the incentive is to not give a hoot what our’s costs, but to simply pressure government to dump our costs on others. Socialism turns everyone into predators, not “brothers and sisters”.

Our health insurance system is a socialized system through and through. “Private” insurance is only nominally so, and is really an extension of government. It is far from anything resembling a free market, being more in the nature of economic fascism – i.e., socialism through the back door. Of course, we have real socialism in the system too, through Medicare, Medicaid, S-CHIP, and so on.

The S/L justifies this new mandate on the grounds of “public health” because “About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, which places a heavy strain on society.” But who switched the burden of unplanned pregnancies onto “society” – onto others through their taxes – in the first place? It was the statists themselves through government programs. To “fix” that problem, they propose to widen government control of medicine through our quasi-governmental insurance industry in the form of this new mandate.

No one is morally responsible for another’s health care needs, except as dictated by personal choices and actions – such as bringing a child into the world. Beyond that, the moral standards of individual rights, free markets, and a free society means every adult individual is responsible for his own healthcare needs only, until and unless he/she volunteers to give financial help to a neighbor or friend or even a stranger. No one’s unfilled needs places an automatic moral claim on the money or services of another, beyond private voluntary charity. Until we accept these moral truths, we will continue to build toward totalitarian socialism one brick at a time.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

On income taxes and job creation, history debunks the Star-Ledger

On income taxes and job creation, history debunks GOP views, NJ Star-Ledger Sunday, July 17, 2011.

I've left the following comments:

July 17, 2011 at 1:12PM

Several corespondents have already pointed out the blatant context-dropping, selective use of facts, and outright falsehoods employed by the editors. Here are a few more:

 The 1950s economy limped along through three recessions. So anemic was it that JKF ran his 1960 presidential campaign on a promise to “get America moving again”. The 1960s featured accelerated growth after Kennedy cut tax rates from 91% to 70%.
 The Reagan tax cuts brought rates down from 70% to 28%. Tinkering by the Bush –Clinton--Bush administrations bounced those rates around between the upper 20s and upper 30s, but all three presidents left the bulk of the Reagan cuts essentially in place. Those cuts were a prime reason for the 1982-2000 economic boom that saw interest rates, inflation, and unemployment all trend steadily downward from double digits simultaneously – a feat that Keynesianists thought to be impossible. Clinton benefited enormously from that boom, especially after the 1994 Republicans aborted his statist schemes and pushed him to the “Right” on economic policy (ex. welfare reform, spending restrain, and capital gains tax cuts). Of course, as Melland points out, in retrospect the beginning of the housing bubble – of which Clinton and Bush share equal blame – “helped” Clinton also.
 The 2001-03 “tax cuts for the rich” vastly benefited the middle class, lowering the average family’s tax burden by tens of thousands of dollars over the past decade, even as those cuts were justly spread across all income brackets.
 But the Bush rate cuts – the most important aspect economically - were small. The benificial effects of those meager rate cuts were overwhelmed by other factors. The real reason for the sub-par economy of the 2000s was the terrorist attacks and subsequent onset of war, along with Bush’s large increase in government regulation, government spending and deficits, trade barriers, the draining away of investment resources to feed the government-induced housing bubble, and the subsequent bust.

The editors ridicule private job creators, as any statist who worships government must. But jobs come from somewhere – that somewhere is the energy and ability of business creators and growers. Government can not create real, productive jobs. It can only shift resources by force from some people to others, and then claim credit for the jobs “created” by the politically favored recipients of that largess but paid for by the killing of other jobs drained from those who finance government spending.

The polls may or may not favor tax hikes on the wealthy. But sound economic policy is not determined by public opinion polls, or the moral perversity of any hypocrite who beats the drum for higher taxes, but only on the other guy.

I can't pass up the chance to make a few remarks regarding this:

David_Hinderer_298 July 18, 2011 at 10:42AM

Tax increases would be an incentive for the rich to create jobs once to see their wealth dwindle. Raising taxes would provide some motivation. They are under no preassure to create jobs since they getting richer for not doing but collect interest from their investment.

I've seen this view before. Put simply, Hinderer is essentially saying that theft is good, because it will provide an "incentive" to go out and work hard to replace what has been stolen. I trust that if a burglar robbed Hinderer's home, he would not file charges. Instead, he would be thankful, since it would encourage him to work to replace the stolen goods!

Only a slave mentality would conceive of so hideous a rationalization for tax increases.

Rand/Jesus Flap and Glenn Beck

Glenn Beck Backtracks After Seeing AVN "Rand vs Jesus" Ad, by Eric Sapp

My initial response posted 07:11 PM on 6/15/2011:

" 'I think the vast majority of us will agree that Rand's vision of America where selfishnes­s is the greatest virtue and compassion and love of neighbor are some of the worst evils... this is not the America we want' - Eric Sapp.

"Anyone who would deny to his neighbor the moral right and sanction to work for the achievemen­t of his own selfish well-being and happiness can not claim the mantel of “compassio­n and love of neighbor”. Rand saw the predatory nature of altruism, and why it is the vital ethical tool of collectivi­sm. If selfishnes­s (properly understood­) is not a virtue, then preying upon others is. If it is right to place the interests of your neighbors before your own, then it is right to demand that your neighbors do the same for you. Altruism, as Rand discovered­, is an inverted morality that enshrines the unearned as a moral absolute. Socialists are desperate to defend their ethical standards against the rational Objectivis­t alternativ­e that is the philosohic­al foundation of capitalism­. That is why false alternativ­es such as the one embodied in the passage above are used to distract attention away from the true nature of Rand’s benevolent­, rights-res­pecting morality.”

Eric Sapp responds, posted 10:04 PM on 6/15/2011:

you are of course welcome to your opinion, and please keep shouting it loud and clear b/c you are making my point. But for me and most Americans, the whole love your neighbor as your self and there is no greater love than this, that a man would lay down his life for another and blessed are the meek and importance of a servant heart will be the values we at least aspire to hold up above love of self.

My rebuttal posted 11:08 AM on 6/18/2011:

"Thanks for responding­, Mr. Sapp. Yes, I’ll keep “shouting it loud and clear”, b/c as Ayn Rand said – and I think you would agree with her – the battle for America’s future is fundamenta­lly a moral one.

"My side is a tiny minority, as of now. And I agree that most Americans cleave consciousl­y to the 'servant heart' ethic. But the Rand/Jesus flap your side unleashed can only help my side by raising Rand’s profile. And I would argue that the Objectivis­t minority has a potent weapon working: Most Americans – Christians included – live their actual private lives more in tune to the Objectivis­t ethics; that is to say, as rights-res­pecting, rationally selfish individual­ists.

"In his time, Jesus’ ethics may have made some sense. But his ancient code does not jive with a nation born on the principle of the supremacy of EVERY individual­’s right to the pursuit of his own happiness. The 'meek' – the everyday man – did inherit the earth. It is called capitalism­.

"I believe that when Americans come to understand Ayn Rand’s moral message as the true validation of the Declaratio­n of Independen­ce, her code will become the dominant one. That will take time, of course, well beyond one election cycle. But time is on the side of better ideas, and when that day comes, that will be the end of the predatory welfare state, and the final realizatio­n of the Founding Fathers’ vision.

Let the moral battles begin."

MontanaSouth posted 02:59 PM on 6/16/2011 :

benevolent­? it is benevolent to view charity as an evil? Neither altruism or Rand's morality are realistic views in a world populated by human beings. It is not altrusitic to assist those whose circumstan­ces have put them at a disadvanta­ge. It is beneficial to society to help establish a strong working society with protection­s from the Greed is Good view of capitalism­

My response posted 03:43 PM on 6/17/2011:

"I will not let pass your framing the issue on a false premise – that altruism equates to benevolenc­e and charity and the rejection of the first means ipso facto a rejection of the second. They are not the same. Charity is rightfully a personal, private matter, properly offered only within the context of one’s overall hierarchy of values. Objectivis­m makes no blanket moral judgement concerning charity one way or the other, other than that it should be consistent with your overall long-term self-inter­est (properly understood­). This is, in my decades-lo­ng observatio­n, the way most people view charity.

"But the obsession with charity is a sideshow straw man held up for purposes of a misreprese­ntative smear campaign. The main issue is: Do you have a moral right to your own life, or does everyone else have first moral claim on you – and vice versa? You state that you reject both altruism and Rand’s morality as impractica­l. But what are you counting on when you demand “a strong working society” (the collective­) over “Greed is Good … capitalism­­” (individua­l self-deter­mination)? You are counting on altruism, which holds that the good of others is one’s only moral justificat­ion for living.

"Thank you for vindicatin­g my position concerning the correlatio­n between collectivi­sm and altruism. I reiterate my uncompromi­sing position: It is Rand’s rational selfishnes­s, not altruism, that is the benevolent­, rights-res­pecting morality – and, I might add, the practical one, if a free society is your goal.

GlennBeckReview, Media critic, blogger, posted 11:59 AM on 6/18/2011, in response to Mark Dohle (03:22 PM on 6/16/2011), who wrote, "The irony of all this...Ayn Rand spent her life smashing typical conservati­ve thought. Perhaps people will finally realize that her ideas are not conservati­ve (abortion, marriage, immigratio­n...look it up). The left always tried to pin her as a conservati­ve, but she is as far from them as she is from the left. Fascism and Socialism are both statism. Ayn Rand favored individual­ism, the opposite of statism."

Ayn Rand was a reactionar­y, like [Glenn] Beck.

My response posted 12:16 PM on 6/18/2011:

“There appears to be a typo: The term is revolution­ary (at least in regards to Rand) - in the same nature as the Founding Fathers. It is individual rights, not statism, that is new in history. The American Revolution has been under attack from statist reactionar­ies almost from the beginning.

"It is defenders of Judeo/Chri­stian ethics who are the reactionar­ies. Ayn Rand's moral revolution is needed to compliment the Founders' political revolution - and complete the American Revolution­.

"Ayn Rand is truly America's Last Founding Father!”

Sophiacherie posted 02:11 AM on 6/17/2011:

Did you know that Ayn Rand idolized a serial killer who murdered and dismembere­d a 12 year old girl and called him a "superman" because "other people don't exist for him and he doesn't see why they should" as she write in her diary?

My Response posted 09:58 PM on 6/17/2011

"Though this has nothing to do with Objectivis­m or the current debate, I’ll comment anyway. You are guilty of major context-dr­opping. Rand did not idolize a serial killer, but abstracted an apparent individual­ist character trait of [ William Edward] Hickman’s for the purpose of creating a profile for a potential novel (which was never written). She abhorred the depravity of his behavior, of course, and said so.

"Just as admiration for the intelligen­ce of a master thief doesn’t imply idolizatio­n of the actor or his crime nor invalidate the virtue of intelligen­ce, so it was with the 23-year-ol­d Ayn Rand in regard to Hickman.

"Context is always crucial, and it’s right there in its entirety in 'Journals of Ayn Rand'. It was 1928, and the youthful influence of Nietzsche was still there (the “superman” comment); an influence which she later officially rejected. One should take care to take isolated bits from never-inte­nded-for-p­ublication private journals and twist something ridiculous out of it. That statement is not an endorsemen­t of murder, as your quoting it absurdly implies. The totality of her published writing is an unequivoca­l condemnati­on of the initiation of physical force in human relationsh­ips, which she regarded as an unmitigate­d evil. How does that jive with idolizing a killer? To believe that is to put yourself in the market for the Brooklyn Bridge.

If you’re going to critique Objectivis­m, then just do it, if you can. Don’t resort to the cowardly ad hominum fallacy."

To clarify a bit further, Hickman is discussed extensively in "Journals" on pages 22, 27, 36-39, and 40-44. On page 22, I quote from editor David Harriman:

Hickman served as a model for Danny [Renahan, a charactor in Rand's "The Little Street"] only in strictly limited respects, which AR names in her notes. Danny does commit a crime in the story, but it is nothing like Hickman's. To guard against any misinterpretation, I quote her own statement regarding the relationship between her hero and Hickman:

"[My hero is] very far from him, of course. The outside of Hickman, but not the inside. Much deeper and much more. A hickman with a purpose. And without the degeneracy. It is more exact to say that the model is not Hickman, but what Hickman suggested to me."

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A GOP Idea Comes Back to Bite, But...'s unfair to paint all Republicans with the same RomneyCare brush. That said, The Star-Ledger makes an important political point in the December 2010 editorial.

Republicans liked what they now decry in health care reform

My Commentary

zemack December 15, 2010 at 7:04PM

The Star-Ledger is partially right, here. The dirty little secret of the entire healthcare debate is that the centerpiece of the entire ObamaCare package is a gift from Republicans. What I disagree on is the characterization of today’s GOP opponents of the individual mandate as the “Right” – if by Right one means support for individual rights and a government limited to protecting those rights.

How is it that “Without [the individual mandate], millions of younger and healthier people will go without coverage, gambling that they won’t get sick — and knowing that if they do, the cost will be spread to the rest of us through higher premiums or Medicaid”?

“Higher premiums” are a result of government mandates that force insurers to cover “pre-existing conditions” and hospital emergency rooms to treat the uninsured without charge. Medicaid is a government program that forces taxpayers to cover “the poor”. The GOP supports all three, even though they necessitated the individual mandate. They call the court ruling “a great blow for personal liberty”, even though many of the same conservatives hailed RomneyCare in Massachusetts as a “free market solution”.

But, it’s obvious that neither the Republicans nor the conservatives even know what “liberty” means. If they did, they would fight to overturn all three mandates, and the privatization and eventual phaseout of Medicaid. These immoral government intrusions into healthcare violate the rights of insurers, hospitals, doctors, and all taxpayers, who are forced to involuntarily provide or pay for the healthcare of others. Without their elimination, the ObamaCare individual insurance mandate does indeed appear to “seem reasonable”, as the Editors put it.

The sad fact is, there is no Right in American politics today. The Democrats are far Left, and the Republicans are moderately Left, and both keep marching farther and farther Left. Thus, the so-called “political center” keeps moving Left as well, by default. Most Americans, though, still lean toward individualism, which is manifested in the Tea Party Movement and the recent election: even though the movement still lacks a coherent ideological framework. Unfortunately, there is no major party political voice for individual rights, yet.

The consequence of all of this is that totalitarian socialism in medicine is almost here, and the rest of the economy is following suit, by default of a Republican Party that has abandoned its principles. Government controls beget more government controls, which beget more government controls, as the statist beat goes on. This editorial proves the point.

Other's Commentary:

jrsyshorjohn December 15, 2010 at 8:58PM

Folks, it's all true that 'Obamacare' is a Repubican program (first proposed by then President Richard M. Nixon) that now is reviled by third millenium Republicans, but that's not the issue here.

As an inner city kid who spent 13 years being taught very well by the Sisters of Charity, I learned that every right carries with it a concomitant responsibility. For example, the right to drive carries with it the concomitant rsponsibility to purchase auto insurance. The sisters believe that access to health care is a basic human right. I fully agree. However, with that right comes the responsibility to participate in the system by purchasing health insurance, even if you are a healthy twenty something who thinks he or she is immortal.

Talk to anyone who works in an Emergency Room and let them tell you about the young uninsured delivered by EMS after some traumatic injury, and the huge hospital bills that follow. Who's paying for their care? The rest of us responsible citizens who understand that rights carry responsibilities. It's that simple.

zemack December 16, 2010 at 4:56PM


“Responsibility”… determined and imposed by whom? It’s crucially important to understand exactly what we are talking about, as the stakes are high. What you are saying, in essence, is: “To secure these rights, governments are instituted to trample these rights”!

Rights are a guarantee and a sanction to freedom of individual action in a social context. They are moral principles that govern human relationships, by banishing force as a means of associating with one another. They assure each individual the freedom to think and act upon his/her own judgement, free from coercive interference by other people, including those acting in the capacity of a government official. Rights are unconditional, so long as you respect, and refrain from violating, the same rights of others. Rights are not, however, a claim to material benefits that must be supplied by others. Nor do they impose any involuntary, unchosen obligation to act against your own beliefs. Rights protect you from these kinds of coercion. By definition, rights can not conflict, with the rights of one necessitating the violation of the rights of others. Rights, in other words, are unalienable and possessed equally and at all times by all individuals. Rights are not a gift of the state, society, or God, accompanied by arbitrary “responsibilities”. They do not pop into existence because of the assertions of any persons who happen to “believe that access to health care is a basic human right”. Individual rights are an unconditional, unalienable birthright of every human being, because he is a human being.

The correct wording is: “To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men”.

The same principle of rights that protects an individual’s freedom of action, also defines the limits of that freedom. No one has a right to force some people to pay for the healthcare of another. No one has a right to force some people to provide medical treatment for another. No one has a right to force another person to buy health insurance. No one has a right to impose involuntary servitude on another human being. There is no price tag on rights. A “right” that imposes an unchosen obligation on some to provide unearned benefits to another is not a right at all – it is a privilege bestowed by a tyrannical government and paid for out of the exploitation of others. Sound familiar? Check your history. It’s a sad fact that, even in this day and age, we still can’t let go of some manifestation of the age-old scourge of slavery. Like a vampire, it keeps re-incarnating, returning in different forms that allow many to evade the truth of what they are advocating. Only a proper recognition of and understanding of individual rights will finally eradicate this dark human evil, once and for all.

For more on the relationship between individual rights and personal responsibility, read my post 5/11/09 post, Responsibility Depends on Individual Rights

The Constitution - It's About More than just Words

The following editorial was written in response to last January's Republican gimmick to open the 2011 session of the House of Representitives with a reading of the US Constitution. I use the term "gimmick" because ... well ... the GOP doesn't exactly have a good track record of living within its meaning.

Be that as it may, here is the editorial followed by exerpts from the comments section:

Reading of the Constitution should include every word

fpparent January 10, 2011 at 6:53AM

And if you knew anything about Consitutional history, you'll know that the 3/5 clause that liberals are so quick to judge has absolutely nothing to do with human value. It was a measure added to prevent slave owners from using those slaves to enhance their states' representation in Washington.

zemack January 10, 2011 at 6:49PM

Fpparent is right here. Slavery was wrong, not the 3/5 clause. That clause was a victory for anti-slavery factions – which couldn’t at the time muster the political strength to completely eradicate that ancient evil from American soil - because it limited the electoral power of the slave states. In essence, the South was not allowed to have its cake and also eat it. It was not allowed to accrue any political benefits from a segment of the population that at the same time was denied its individual rights – i.e., treated as less than fully human.

The 3/5 clause is politically irrelevant today, not because it’s shameful or unimportant, but because that particular manifestation of slavery no longer exists in America. Today, we partially enslave the productive members of society under an unconstitutional predatory welfare state.

zemack January 10, 2011 at 7:59PM

The Constitution is indeed an “imperfect document”. But that imperfection stemmed from the fact that it didn’t fully implement the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration is the philosophical foundation of America. The principles it laid down were unalienable individual rights possessed equally and at all times by all people and a government charged with the task of protecting those rights. Those rights were understood to be sanctions to freedom of action to pursue one’s own happiness, not an automatic claim to material benefits that must be provided by the forced labor and confiscation of the property of others.

Aside from the abolition of slavery, the constitutional change mechanism bestowed by the Founders was not employed to remove the imperfections so as to fully implement America’s Declaratory principles. Instead of moving America toward the fully free society envisioned by the Founders, the “living document” feature exploited those imperfections, such as the unfortunate wording of the Commerce Clause, eminent domain, and tolerance for tax-funded education, to completely eradicate the Founding principles, and instead push the nation steadily down the road to ever more omnipotent government.

The result is an “empty constitution” – one devoid of any guiding principles. But a free nation that abandons its core principles, as America has, will not remain free. The editors laud the “ever-changing rough draft of history”. But without the constraints of a constitution based upon rational political principles such as those laid down in the Declaration, a nation’s government is like a sociopath lacking morals or conscience. It is a rogue government, guided by nothing but the latest whims of any court, legislature, or electoral majority that chooses to reinterpret the “unfinished document” according to the political winds of the moment. The big winner in such a game is government power. The big loser is the individual.

America’s “living document” no longer protects our freedom because the “changes and scratch-outs and doodles in the margins” weren’t confined within the boundaries established by the Declaration of Independence – a document that in its essentials is a perfect one. It established the framework for a servant government that recognizes the supreme value of the individual – which each and every one of us is – and that “promotes the general welfare” by protecting individual rights from violation by fellow men and, most importantly, from the government itself. We're not quite at "rogue government" status yet, but we're getting there. We must rediscover and relearn our unique heritage, and bring our nation back within its bounds.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wolves, Vultures, Consumers - and New Debit Card Regulations

Debit card changes swipe at consumers, by Chuck Jaffe @ MarketWatch.

In an otherwise mundane piece concerning the mechanics of debit card fees and the effect that new Federal regulations will have on them, Jaffe snuck this in:

Currently, legislation in both the House and Senate would at least delay the reform, and the rhetoric is flying on both sides. Since releasing the proposal, the Fed has received more than 11,000 comment letters. Financial institutions call the planned cut in swipe fees a “$12 billion gift to retailers,” while the retailers respond by suggesting that postponing the change would be akin to “another bailout” of the banking industry.

This is a battle between wolves and vultures for the last meat left on the carcass and, ladies and gentlemen, we’re the meat.

I get my back up when I see other Americans being treated this way. Keep in mind that we're not talking about fraud here. We're talking about fees for services "consumers" find valuable.

I've left the following brief comments:

Mr. Jaffe laments the “battle between wolves [retailers] and vultures [banks] for the last meat left on the carcass and, ladies and gentlemen, we’re the meat” – i.e., between the people that provide the outlets for products and services we desire and those who provide popular and convenient means of purchasing them. That privileged, superior elite – we “consumers” – are not vultures or wolves, of course. “We’re” entitled to cheaper fees than the lowly producers are willing to charge – imposed by regulatory fiat by our alleged protectors.

It’s a shame that the entitlement mentality has penetrated so deep that we can’t see the real wolves and vultures – those newly empowered “public servants” whose idea of “reasonable” ... supersedes the voluntary decisions of the private market participants: and newly empowered by virtue of the financial overhaul bill allegedly necessitated by a financial crises. “We” just want our cheaper fees, personal freedom of choice be damned.

Note that Jaffe acknowledges that the new regulations - which will, if enacted, result in "debit-card fees [being] sliced by up to 70%" - will encourage banks to replace the lost revenue elsewhere:

Consumers will pay for those benefits in the form of higher banking fees — bigger charges on use of ATMs outside your bank network, but also additional charges for online banking or paper statements and other conveniences. Consumers might see less-favorable interest rates (particularly on the accounts where they get reduced swipe-fee revenue, but also on loans), and fewer rewards programs.

Free checking accounts, already on the endangered species list, could become virtually extinct.

But, Jaffe doesn't question the practical wisdom of the Fed meddling in the debit fee arena - let alone the moral or legal right to interfere in what is a private, voluntary trade among merchants, banks, and consumers. He simply accepts as the given the regulations coming forth from government officials - like an unchallengeable law of nature - and simply convicts retailers and banks for the sin of reacting.

In our massively regulated financial industry, it's hard to tell what fees we are paying in response to what prior regulations. Jaffe quotes an expert as saying "You could make swipe fees a lot more transparent on the front end — and that would be seen as good — but if the banks and the retailers find other ways to hit you for a few hundred bucks that is less transparent, it would be hard to say you came out ahead.” The biggest cloud of all, however, is the government regulatory Leviathan - which was made even bigger and more complex by Obama's reform bill - another one of those legislative monstrosities that nobody even reads, let alone understands.

Talk about lack of transparency! It's a wonder our banking system even works at all.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Tax Credits and the Separation Issue

The state, religion and the U.S. Supreme Court
by Linda Stamato and Sanford M. Jaffe

"The First Amendment’s establishment clause, meant to protect religion against any intrusion by the state or, to put it another way, to ban government from the establishment of religion, has stood, despite challenges, until this decision, which allows the use of tax credits to pay for religious school tuition. Not, by the way, because the court had a close look at what the state of Arizona in this case was doing — aiding religious schools — but saying it didn’t have to look at that issue because those who were bringing the case had no standing to challenge it."

Why didn't "those who were bringing the case [have] no standing to challenge it"?

Today’s landmark decision [Arizona Christian School Tuition Organization v. Winn] declared that the plaintiffs in the case lack standing to bring the challenge in the first instance because the program is funded by private contributions, not government funds.

“When Arizona taxpayers choose to contribute to [School Tuition Organizations], they spend their own money, not money the State has collected from respondents or from other taxpayers,” wrote Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for the 5-4 majority. “While the State, at the outset, affords the opportunity to create and contribute to [a School Tuition Organization], the tax credit system is implemented by private action and with no state intervention. Objecting taxpayers know that their fellow citizens, not the State, decide to contribute and in fact make the contribution.”

“Like contributions that lead to charitable tax deductions, contributions yielding [School Tuition Organization] tax credits are not owed to the State and, in fact, pass directly from taxpayers to private organizations. Respondents’ contrary position assumes that income should be treated as if it were government property even if it has not come into the tax collector’s hands. That premise finds no basis in standing jurisprudence,” continued Kennedy. (U.S. Supreme Court Dismisses Legal Challenge to Arizona School Choice Program)

It comes down to two fundamentally different views of concerning the relationship between the state and the individual - i.e., collectivism vs. individualism. The authors acknowledge this conflict, saying "It came down to determining whether the granting of a tax credit is the functional equivalent of collecting and spending tax money".

For their part, the court minority opinion holds:

[A]ssume a state wishes to subsidize the ownership of crucifixes in one of three ways. It could purchase them in bulk and distribute them; it could reimburse buyers with a check; or it could pay with a tax credit. ... Now, really — do taxpayers have less reason to complain if the state selects the last of these three options?

I've left the following comments:

zemack April 30, 2011 at 8:20AM

On tax credits, the authors are easily refuted on the facts. Who is "the tax payer"? It's the person who earned it. A person earns $100. He decides to take advantage of an education tax credit program. He spends it according to his own judgement. His tax liability is thus reduced by $100. He is simply not sending it to the government. No other taxpayer is involved. In the case of education tax credits, money spent on education doesn't change. What changes is who decides how it is spent. Follow the money: private taxpayer to private institution. The government is out of the loop. In what way are “the taxpayers” or the government subsidizing religion? They are not. Every dollar in question involves only the taxpayer that earned it.

There are two broader issues involved here, though. First, does the citizen’s life belong to the state, or is the state the servant of the citizens? Who has first claim on the nation’s earnings, and first responsibility for the education of the child? Is it those who earned the money, and those who brought the child into the world? Or, is it the state. The authors argue for the state, and thus support a totalitarian concept. That is the root of their position.

The second issue involves the church/state issue. Here, the authors are 100% correct. People have an unalienable right to their religious beliefs, including the right to believe in and practice no religion at all. Any tax funding of religion is a threat to that freedom. The corollary is that no one should be forced to support, through their taxes, religious ideas they may or may not agree with. The separation doctrine protects religion from government, and us from religion. Fair enough, and I concur.

So, why should I be forced to support, through my taxes, educational ideas that I may or may not agree with, or that “offend” me? I abhor the collectivist theories of John Dewey, which dominates modern progressive education. I believe in the individualist educational and epistemological philosophies of Maria Montessori and Ayn Rand. Why should I be forced to pay for Dewey? And why should I be forced to pay for the education of other people’s children, any more than be forced to pay for the religious training of those same children?

When government controls education, it controls what is taught and how it is taught. It controls the flow of ideas. The very convincing arguments in favor of the separation of church and state, clearly articulated by the authors, apply equally to education generally. Phasing out and abolishing the government-run public schools – i.e., the separation of school and state – follows logically from the church/state issue. The ultimate answer to the tax credit issue is to abolish education taxes altogether.

Friday, May 27, 2011

A Refreshing Defense of Individualism

Actually, We're Not All In This Together, by Edward H. Crane, president and cofounder of the Cato Institute.

My commentary:

Ed Crane is right. No one can think for you. No one can acquire knowledge or skills for you. No one can exert the mental efforts required to make the neurological connections that make understanding possible in you own brain. No one can make the choice for you whether to initiate action or stagnate. No one can make the choice for you of what kinds of actions to take. Everything you are begins with self-motivation and self-discipline. The choice of whether to be honest or not, a parasite or not, a thug or not, self-supporting or not, is entirely an individualistic affair, no matter what advantages in terms of nurturing parents or the accumulated knowledge of mankind or other kinds of cooperative opportunities “society” makes available to you.

Collectivists see no difference between human beings. That is why collectivism in any of its manifestations must lead to the subordination of the thinking, self-supporting, honest, moral people to the lazy and the shiftless. The “We’re all in this together” philosophy is a philosophy by and for parasites and power-lusters – seekers of unearned material benefits and seekers of unearned greatness and “prestige”. It is the siren song of universal destitution and totalitarianism.

Monday, March 21, 2011

My Objective Standard Article - Vouchers vs. Tax Credits

My article, Toward a Free Market in Education: School Vouchers or Tax Credits?, appears in this Spring’s addition of The Objective Standard. It seeks to move the parental school choice movement in the direction of less government control by embracing properly structured tax credits while rejecting any incarnation of government-funded private school vouchers. The idea of education tax credits has, of course, been around for a long time. What I’ve sought to do is pull together a plan that carries the idea to its full logical implications – in effect, bringing about the separation of education and state one parent, and one child, at a time.

Parental school choice has been a focus of mine for at least 20 years. My thinking on the subject has evolved over time, culminating in the plan I submit in the TOS piece. I believe that the time is right for this article. When I first latched on to it, the idea that all parents should be able to choose their children’s school through some manner of redirecting their education tax dollars was considered a fringe issue not worthy of much serious consideration, even though it had been more than 30 years since Milton Friedman launched the idea in the 1950s. Today, we see choice programs popping up around the nation. In New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has endorsed the nation’s first statewide universal parental choice initiative.

The political winds are now at the backs of the choice movement. This is a good thing, up to a point. It represents the most serious challenge to the hegemony of the government’s virtual education monopoly at least in my lifetime, and probably ever. It is my view that the public school establishment is on the ropes, and major changes are on the way. The growing strength of the school choice movement is evidence of that. But, the movement needs more. Its current thrust could turn the promise of parental school choice into a disaster for the private school sector, and set back the cause of educational freedom by years, if not decades.

The school choice debate needs a healthy infusion of the argument from individual rights, with all that that implies. This article should help open the door wide to that infusion. I look forward to answering questions and objections concerning my plan, especially from those that may come from the reactionary defenders of the status quo.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the help I received in writing the TOS article. My daughter Christine and wife Kathy offered valuable proofreading services on my first draft submission to the editors. Though the final article was significantly revamped through the editing process and bore significant revisions in structure and content to the original version, their help should be acknowledged. I cannot overstate the assistance given to me by TOS’s Editor Craig Biddle and Assistant Editor Alan Germani. There are more questions and complexities to the idea of a tax credit-based transition to a free education market than can be dealt with in a short article. A short book could probably be written on the subject. In constructing my case I was often prone to wonder off into different directions which, though I thought important, tended to dilute my theme. Craig and Alan persistently and patiently kept me on message – to say nothing of the many important suggestions and guidance they offered.

I hope you enjoy the article.