Individualism is the Foundation for Medical Care

It is very understandable when citizens resist government force that compels them to violate their religious principles. If the teachings of, say, Zoroaster, are incompatible with Obamacare, we shouldn’t have to reassess our views of Zoroastrianism in order to maintain our health or our principles.

But that misses the point. We have reached a very sorry state in America if the basis for preventing government intrusion in our decisions about our own health care is an appeal to religion.

The writers of the United States and Bill of Rights did not expect or want Americans to share the same religious view. Based on the American experience, they expected the exact opposite, or there would have been no need to protect the practice of any religion — conventional or not. They required the government to stay out of decisions about religion and views on any subject expressed by speech or in the press.

The value on which all of this was based is individualism. Our defense of freedom, religious or otherwise, must be based on this fundamental value.

Individualism remains the best tool to deny government the power to force us to buy health insurance in general or forbid the purchase of the kind of health-care plan we prefer. Individualism is the basis on which to resist any government decree about the medical services or medications we must accept or those that must be forbidden.

Individualism is the basis on which to deny state insurance commissioners the ability to forbid purchase of health insurance approved by insurance commissions in other states. (None of the state insurance commissioners trust the other commissioners, although the rest of us are forced to abide by the one in our state.) Individualism requires us to deny the power of those commissioners or Obamacare bureaucrats who require us to buy only policies with a long list of coverage requirements inserted by providers who have successfully lobbied politicians to force everyone to pay for their services.

When government violates the principle of individualism, it harms everyone, including the religious. But when people defend their rights only on the basis of their religious views, they become targets for those who would otherwise leave them alone. Freedom of religion (or freedom of anything) enrages the collectivist, intellectual, political and journalist elites if it stands in the way of their control over every detail of our daily lives. That makes religion itself the target of this rage for reasons having nothing to do with the merits or faults of any particular religion, resulting in vicious attacks on the religious for political reasons. It distracts the public and media from the real issue, which is not whether particular religious ideas are true or false, wise or absurd, but the matter of who has the right to make such evaluations.

Defending our rights on the basis of individualism forces these intellectual thugs to attack all of us who want to make our own decisions and manage our own lives — and exposes them for doing exactly that.

All Americans can unite on the importance of the freedom of us all to make our own decisions about insurance and medical care, and of the freedom of all physicians to make medical decisions based on their own best judgment, without government intervention.

Have a Commercial Christmas!

Pope Benedict decried the commercialization of Christmas as he celebrated Christmas Eve Mass on Saturday night, urging the faithful to look beyond the holiday’s “superficial glitter” and “find true joy and true light” in the simplicity of Christ’s birth.

With due respect to the pontiff, your blogger begs to differ. As Ayn Rand put it in 1976, “The best aspect of Christmas is the aspect usually decried by the mystics: the fact that Christmas has been commercialized.”

The street decorations put up by department stores and other institutions — the Christmas trees, the winking lights, the glittering colors — provide the city with a spectacular display, which only “commercial greed” could afford to give us. One would have to be terribly depressed to resist the wonderful gaiety of that spectacle.

The question we should ask ourselves is, why should men who claim to offer spiritual guidance not want us to enjoy the fun of Christmas? Why should they urge us to seek “true joy” in the rejection of pleasure and spectacle? Does not man deserve to be happy, if only for a few short days in December? This writer believes he does and wishes you a merry and commercial Christmas!

“Occupy Wall Street” Aimless But Dangerous

Supposedly inspired by the Arab Spring, a protest movement has swept Manhattan’s Financial District in recent days in an attempt to “Occupy Wall Street.” Although the protesters don’t appear to have specific plans or demands, they are outraged by what they perceive as greed in the financial industry and economic inequality throughout the United States.

In her treatise of the 1960s student uprising at the University of California, philosopher Ayn Rand recognized that the protesters there weren’t necessarily driven by a particular ideology either, rather by a desire to “take over.”

In “The Cashing-in: The Student Rebellion,” published in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal (1966), Rand pointed out that the number one complaint among the “rebels” at Berkeley was that their universities had grown “too big” just as the nation’s banks today are deemed too powerful.

As if they had mushroomed overnight, the “bigness” of the universities is suddenly decried by the consensus as a national problem and blamed for the “unrest” of the students, whose motives are hailed as youthful “idealism.”

Excepts the students had no ideals, according to Rand. They had hardly been taught to think. They were the products of a modern philosophy that negated reason and told young adults that there was nothing certain in life. They came out of school into the world with the following sediments in their brains — “existence is an uncharted, unknowable jungle, fear and uncertainty are man’s permanent state, skepticism is the mark of maturity, cynicism is the mark of realism, and, above all, the hallmark of an intellectual is the denial of the intellect.” Read more ““Occupy Wall Street” Aimless But Dangerous”

The Necessary Correction Finally Arrives

Stock markets around the world suffered major losses in recent days after one rating agency downgraded the creditworthiness of the United States of America, casting doubt not so much on the nation’s ability to pay back its loans but on its ability to regain competitiveness and economic growth.

Tens of millions of Americans remain out of work and many millions more are part-time employed against their will. Meanwhile, companies are sitting on hundreds of billions of dollars in capital, reluctant to invest as they are uncertain about the future.

Personal consumption expenditures have recovered since the crisis three years ago in part because of government stimulus while two consecutive rounds of “quantitative easing” by the Federal Reserve managed to prevent the stock market from adequately reflecting the absolutely lackluster performance of the American economy — until now.

Technically, the recession is supposed to be over yet economic output, employment and housing prices haven’t recovered. The slow pace of growth is exacerbated by a mounting public debt burden on both sides of the Atlantic after governments intervened to prevent a potential collapse of the financial system in 2008. That potential collapse was brought on by too much debt in the first place. Indeed, markets have been overleveraged for more than a decade.

Since the Federal Reserve intervened to soften the bursting of the dot-com bubble around the turn of the century, authorities have tried to avert the economic correction that was necessary after the hype of the late 1990s and instead, set the stage for the next bubble — in housing. Semi-private mortgage giants with implicit government guarantees facilitated the investment of hundreds of billions of dollars in real estate, including millions of subprime loans that were engaged in by people without sufficient income or collateral, indeed, sometimes by people who didn’t even have a job!

When the financial industry caught up with reality in 2007, the adjustment that should have included the collapse of several banks was not allowed to happen. The United States government set out to “save” Wall Street lest a panic there affect the entire economy. Even failing automakers were bailed out at the expense of the taxpayer while bankers and their greed were blamed. The market was more heavily regulated and remained deeply distorted, perpetuating an anxiety among investors who not only fear higher taxes and inflation as a tool to alleviate the United States’ ballooning national debt but who just don’t know what is really a safe investment anymore and what is little more than hot air.

More than two years ago, Mark Thornton, a senior resident fellow with the Ludwig von Mises Institute, warned that entrepreneurs and investors — the very people who can generate economic growth — were “unhinged” from the normal parameters with which they operate. “The result is inaction and fear, conditions that make the stock market ripe for a crash,” he predicted.

If Thornton was right, so was Austrian School economics altogether, according to Judge Andrew Napolitano on the Fox Business Network last week. He blamed the stock market crash on “the futility of doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting a different result.” What’s holding the economy back, he believes, is “the government’s idea of theft by taxation and confiscation by printing money and taxing by inflation.”

Statism has failed yet it continues to appeal to policymakers who want to “do something” to stem the tide of economic contraction and prevent a correction from inflicting too much pain on ordinary citizens. Now, they’ve run out of money and the pain is coming anyway.

“Cutting back on government spending will cause some contraction in economic activity,” former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan admitted this weekend but over the long term, it is the only way to minimize the detrimental impact on economic activity of permanent interventions in the form of entitlement programs, wage controls and unemployment compensation.

Rather than diminishing the government’s distorting influence on finance and housing however, new regulations and regulatory agencies have been enacted and created, representing perhaps “the largest regulatory induced market distortion since America’s ill-fated imposition of wage and price controls in 1971,” according to Greenspan.

The Austrians always warned that “oversight” and attempts to control markets were bound to fail because regulators, “and for that matter everyone else,” in Greenspan’s words, “can never get more than a glimpse at the internal workings of the simplest of modern financial systems.”

Today’s competitive markets […] are driven by an international version of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” that is unredeemably opaque. With notably rare exceptions (2008, for example), the global “invisible hand” has created relatively stable exchange rates, interest rates, prices and wage rates.

Allowing the market — which means, free people — to set interest rates and determine prices and wages is “too much freedom” for progressives and statists though who do not believe that people are naturally prone to be moral; that it requires government action to compel or “nudge” them to do good instead and that without it, evil capitalists would exploit their workers and the old and jobless could be left to die in the streets.

For all government’s efforts to “help” and protect people, the world is in crisis because of it whereas the United States experienced their period of greatest prosperity during the largely unregulated late nineteenth century.

The lessons from that time should guide the path to recovery which, according to Thornton, requires that Washington “cut taxes permanently, eliminate government programs, balance the budget, eliminate regulation, free the entrepreneur, establish free trade, eliminate the Federal Reserve and return to the gold standard.”

Events have vindicated the Austrian vision. Will lawmakers too?

Malthusianism for the Twenty-First Century

Thomas Malthus is back.

Ever since the early 1970s, particularly since the Club of Rome postulated its “limits to growth,” the notion that the world is headed for ecological disaster has firmly rooted itself in the Western mindset. The unprecedented economic expansion and population growth, which, by any measure, is only set to accelerate in the decades ahead, is of grave concern to pessimists who fear that we are pillaging our dear planet and imperiling its very survival with our reckless economic policies that are solely concern with profits and growth.

This is hardly a new phenomonon. Not only have alarmists forecast mass famines and resource conflicts as a result of overpopulation when there were still just three billion people in the world; in the early nineteenth century, the British scholar Thomas Robert Malthus (1766-1834) was the first serious thinker to postulate that population growth is unsustainable; that disease and war will wreck havoc on the peoples of the world whenever they reproduce too actively.

The specifics may have changed but the basic theory remains the same — that the Earth can only feed so many. Consider Thomas Friedman’s recent New York Times column which suggests that we are about to cross a red line of growth, climate, resources and population, “all at once,” in just a few years.

We are now using so many resources and putting out so much waste into the Earth that we have reached some kind of limit, given current technologies. The economy is going to have to get smaller in terms of physical impact.

Friedman endorses a move away from “consumer driven growth” toward a model that is “happiness driven,” based on people “working less and owning less.”

Sound familiar? It should. Ever since the Western world broke out of the Malthusian trap with the Industrial Revolution, there have been naysayers who predicted all sorts of tragedy if we continued down this selfish growth path. They have been telling the world’s billions, rich and poor alike, for generations now that they’re just going to have to make do with less.

And they claim to be “humanitarians” at the same time. Read more “Malthusianism for the Twenty-First Century”

Why Illness Has Become a Crime

Recently, Arizona governor Jan Brewer received a lot of media attention when she proposed fines and other financial punishment for overweight citizens and smokers on Medicaid. Others targeted by such programs include diabetics who fail to follow instructions from their physicians on treatment of their diseases. Other states are headed in the same direction.

I remember a few years ago a network news anchor reading a story on the cost of obesity and the controls that must be imposed on those who inflict our medical system by being overweight. With a tone of scathing moral superiority, he declared that “the rest of us will have to pay for it.” A few weeks later, a diagnosis of lung cancer unfortunately forced him permanently off the air after decades of smoking. But he had voiced one of the two key propaganda tools by which the government destroys our individual rights in health care.

The first tool is guilt. Patients must be morally disarmed by convincing them — not of their own responsibility for their health — but of their guilt. You may not make your own decisions because you eat too much, or too many trans-fats, or too much salt or too many sodas. You recklessly smoke, or drink alcohol or coffee or use drugs. You don’t exercise enough or drive safely. Therefore you must accept your guilt and do what you are told.

That is the opposite of taking individual responsibility and facing consequences.

The second tool is to disable your judgment and your mind. Neither you nor your physicians are capable of making correct medical decisions. Only the government knows the effective treatment and hence the drugs and medical equipment to permit. Who are you to know what is best? Politicians, not physicians, have become the ultimate source of wisdom in health care.

The clear implication of such decrees is that physicians must become enforcers who turn in their patients to the government for failure to follow medical instructions.

It must be said that there is considerable financial pressure on the states due to soaring Medicaid costs. Obamacare will push tens of millions of additional people into Medicaid — with the states forced to match spending (one of the more deceptive accounting tricks used to disguise the total cost of the legislation.) But that does not excuse the unleashing of the health-care police on American citizens.

Those who accept that they have a “right” to health care which the government forces others to provide will gradually discover that they lose all freedom to decide what treatment they will actually receive. They will have surrendered their judgment and moral self respect to politicians. They will have to accept government punishment for not buying insurance, punishment for smoking, punishment for eating too much, punishment for drinking and punishment for deciding how they want to live their own lives. Physicians who follow their own best judgment instead of government protocols will be financially punished.

A government that pays for the health care of our bodies will decide that it owns our bodies. Illness will be judged a result of our criminally irresponsible negligence.

The only remaining choice will be to restore freedom to the practice of American medicine.

What Democrats Like Government to Do

What is the purpose of government? The public debate in America has once again turned to this all-important question and for the first time in a long time, the country elected legislators last fall who adhere to a radically different view about the role of government than is the consensus.

Most politicians — and voters — left and right agree that government should not only provide basic security but ensure a basic standard of living. Democrats favor more generous social provisions than their Republican counterparts but conservatives usually agree that government should extend a safety net to those who seem unable to fend for themselves.

Government, moreover, is supposed to “equalize opportunity” and has therefore to provide access to education and health care to everyone. As former Vermont governor and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee Howard Dean told MSNBC’s The Last Word last week, “what governments do, is redistribute” income.

Dean, who sought his party’s presidential nomination in 2004, argued that the debate about the role of government should not resolve around the question whether or not income is redistributed. “The question is how much should we redistribute,” he said, adding, “The purpose of government is to make sure that capitalism works for everybody.”

Without income redistribution, entitlement programs as Medicaid and Social Security would not exist, Dean claimed, which is true, nor would the government build roads, which is not true. Infrastructure is not a form of income redistribution because everyone can make use of it freely.

Dean’s attempt to sidestep the bigger debate about the role of government is futile as Americans are increasingly aware that the price of “income redistribution” is their freedom. It also attests to the utterly detached mentality of some Democrats who seem incapable of believing that there are people who don’t want the government in their lives.

Leftists everywhere both fail to comprehend the meaning of capitalism and have a vision of government that is deeply misguided.

As one public-sector initiative after another fails, time and time again, the left continues to call for more government, arguing that this time, it will work. All the while, they blame the free market for corrupting their noble schemes, refusing to see that it is the market they have bound and it is government that is corrupting.

Once government tries to make capitalism “work for everybody,” it is on a path to socialism that it has embarked. That path ends when “fairness” is achieved and no man is allowed to make more money than his neighbor.

Hollyweird Takes a Crack at Objectivism

So it looks like Hollyweird is making a film version of Atlas Shrugged (1957).

The trailer of what is supposed to be the first part in a trilogy looks awesome. Now my issue is, can they make this not only true to the message that government has as much place in a free-market economy as a fox in the chicken house, but can they make it a lot less boring than the novel?

I’d like to state at this point that I have a love/hate relationship with the works of Ayn Rand. I do happen to love the smaller government, “get the hell off my lawn” sentiment of her works. It is almost enough to overcome the preachiness of Atlas Shrugged and the questionable definition of “capital o” Objectivism. Which one to take on first? Well, who is John Galt? Let me try to answer the one I can in as few words as possible to begin with.

My philosophy is a bit complex. Some would say it is flexible, others would say my philosophy is cobbled together with chewing gum and a sledgehammer. I would say I waiver between objectivism (note the lowercase “o”) and utilitarianism in that being what I do in my best interest and what I do to make myself happy. My ethics professor would say I’m an objectivist. Mostly in that if there is a way to make more money I’ll take it, and this is by and large true.

Here is my issue with what Ayn Rand calls Objectivism: Let’s say there is a charity drive. I think it’s for a good cause and it will actually help some poor slob. I would want to give some money to this charity. Giving would make me feel good and feeling good is in my interest. According to the “lower case o” objectivist, what I’m doing is objectively right. A “capital o” Objectivist would state that giving money to the charity has no clear material gain to myself so what I’m going is objectively wrong.

That’s where I disagree. By feeling better about myself, I can without hesitation go after the moneymaking opportunities that may present themselves to me because the nagging voice has been bound, gagged and beat over the head several times. Mind you, the voice wouldn’t be there in the first place, regardless of whether I’d given to charity or not.

This is of course given to you by someone who has at best one semester of philosophy under his belt.

As for my longer answer, it comes down to this: I don’t like being preached to. It is why I can’t sit through an entire episode of Rush Limbaugh’s or Glenn Beck’s. I know quite well that I’m right. It’s the same with people on the other side of the aisle. You’re wasting your time and mine telling me that I’m the cause of the world’s problems because I’m white and born to the middle class. Sorry buddy, I never owned a slave and I never beat or killed a Native American for no other reason than his race. There is no guilt here. Try around the corner.

All right, back on target. I don’t need to be told the way I think is right. I have a deep down dislike for socialism and a burning hate of communism. And it is a matter of detail. I just seriously don’t want the government involved in my life be it personal or fiscal. I know that either one will tell me that they have no interest in my personal life, but once you have one you will get the other.

I once listened to an audio version of Atlas Shrugged. It seemed not a single character could go without a page of philosophical diatribe.

Don’t take this as me not liking Ayn Rand however. She also made things I didn’t hate or really disagree with. Her interview with Phil Donahue for example, that was a fun thing to watch as Donahue was trying to fight way above his intellectual class. It was like watching a 4’2″ drunk picking a fight with an in his prime Mike Tyson.

And I loved The Fountainhead (1947) with Gary Cooper. One of the best movies I’ve seen. Since it was Rand herself who wrote the screenplay for the film, she is certainly capable of making something I like.

And that is what I’m hoping from this movie — that it will be well made and faithful to the spirit of the book. I hope it will be entertaining as well as engaging and I hope that it will make people wonder, “Do we really need to have the government in our business?”

I hope it but I doubt it. The chance of the film staying true to the novel is handicapped by the fact that Rand died in 1982 and therefore couldn’t write the screenplay. This makes me wonder if the screenwriter Brian Patrick O’Toole is up for the challenge. I haven’t seen anything written by him before but he was a co-producer of Dog Soldiers (2002) which I have seen and liked. It might have been a werewolf flick but it was a very well done werewolf flick.

I guess we’ll see on April 15, Tax Day in America, if this film is up to snuff. I expect reviews to be mixed and moviegoers to be divided based on their personal views. But if the film is as grand as the trailers then I shall be overjoyed. If it isn’t, I’ll always have The Incredibles (2004). It’s like Atlas Shrugged for five year olds.

Obama: Companies Responsible for Raising Living Standards

Defending his administration’s push to enhance regulation of private enterprise, President Barack Obama told a Chamber of Commerce audience on Monday that companies have a responsibility to ensure that everyone profits from their expansion.

If we’re fighting to reform the tax code and increase exports, the benefits cannot just translate into greater profits and bonuses for those at the top. They have to be shared by American workers, who need to know that opening markets will lift their standard of living as well as your bottom line.

Opening markets to international trade and investment benefits every economy. The president has made this argument when he enacted a trade agreement with South Korea in December and during Chinese president Hu Jintao’s state visit last month, he continually pointed out that businesses and their workers profit from economic growth halfway across the world. (Even if major impediments remain to a truly free Sino-American trade relationship, on both sides.)

The fact that economic freedom benefits the whole of society, from business executives to ordinary workers, is both evident and of secondary importance when contemplating the morality of the marketplace.

Businesses do not have a social responsibility and government has no business trying to enforce it.

A business is the extension of individual ability and productivity. Just as every man is entitled to the sweat of his own brow, every business is entitled to reap the rewards of its own ingenuity and labor.

The movers of a private company are the people who create. It is just that the people who invent new products or design new strategies earn more than those who make their products or execute their strategies. It is just that chief executives, who lead multibillion dollar enterprises across the globe, earn more than their workers who posses far lesser skills.

Every man is rewarded according to his ability on a free market. No man is forced to “share” against his will — certainly not with the people who depend on him for an income in the first place!

Brazil May Entitle Citizens to “Happiness”

Legislators in Brazil are considering to add the “pursuit of happiness” as a right to their country’s constitution. The Senate is expected to endorse the proposal after which the lower chamber will vote on it.

Article 6 of the Brazilian constitution already guarantees “social rights”, including education, food, health, housing, leisure (!) and work. So why add happiness?

The Associated Press cites former education minister and Labor Party Senator Cristóvão Buarque who is one of the bill’s sponsors. He believes that legally guaranteeing citizens’ right to pursue happiness is essential to helping ordinary people hold their government accountable.

Or, as Mauro Motoryn, director of the Happier Movement, a nongovernmental organization that is supporting the legislation, put it: “With the constitutional amendment, we want to provoke discussion, to seek approval for the creation of conditions in which social rights are upheld.”

The only way government can ensure “social rights” is by forcing others to provide them. Education, food, health care, housing, leisure — these all have to be created or provided. People are not by nature entitled to commodities and services. The only proper rights are individual rights — life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness.

The right to life is the source of all rights. The right to own and acquire property is their only implementation.

The right to pursue happiness is not an entitlement to happiness as property rights are not a guarantee of property. In a free society, no man is entitled to the work or property of others. Every man is entitled to the sweat of his own brow.

The government that negates basic, quintessential individual rights in favor of entitlements, no matter how vital they may seem, is an immoral institution that does not protect its citizens but deprives them of what is rightfully and inalienably theirs.