Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Force and good

It struck me, as I was watching the latest episode of LOST, that one of the points being made in this episode was that human beings can be good only when it is of their own free will.

If this is true, then whenever the government attempts to force people to be good, that doesn't make them good: it just makes them robots.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

America's free market in religion

Ayn Rand maintained that state and economy should be completely separate, in the same manner and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.

A letter in this morning's Tulsa World illustrates perfectly what a free market looks like:
The reason there are so many churches is because not every one can agree on doctrine and definitions.
The First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom - which means: freedom from government interference in religion - enables people who follow different religions and even those who disagree about the interpretation of a single religion to go their own way and even start their own churches if they so choose. And the Amendment's prohibition against government interference forces them to stand or fall on their own two feet and by their own effort. This also leaves believers free to pick and choose which interpretation they will accept and which church they will go to.

Make no mistake: this is a market and there is competition. I can't help but wonder if it's this competition between religions and denominations that's kept this country from being more religious than it already is - in concert with the freedom to choose not to be religious, of course.

And no, I haven't forgotten that government support for religious charities is muddying the waters, and, increasingly, more than that. Religion is not immune to cronyism, protectionism, socialism and worse: which is why the Founders wrote the First Amendment.

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Tulsa World: eminent domain

This morning, the Tulsa World published an editorial in favor of eminent domain. I believe author David Averill evades the central fact of eminent domain: the taking of a private owner's property by government force:
The eminent domain process, in fact, was established to protect citizens from losing their property to the crown — the government — without being justly compensated.
Averill's evasion is his contention that all opponents of eminent domain really care about is compensation. No, Mr. Averill, that's not all we care about. What we care about is our right to invest our effort in something we can decide for ourselves how we want to use. A person's home is almost always the result of years of effort and is something most people expect to spend the rest of their lives in. If people have no right to that, do they actually have a right to anything?

The Constitution of the United States is a magnificent achievement on the part of the Founding Fathers: it established for the first time in history a government based on individual rights. But it is not perfect and contains a few significant flaws which have built up over the past 200-some years into a situation which could see the downfall of everything the Founders fought for. Government control of commerce is one of these flaws. Eminent domain is another.

Eminent domain must be abolished.

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Objectivist Round Up

This week's Round Up is hosted by Titanic Deck Chairs - and includes my letter in The Oklahoman!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Eminent domain bill doesn't go far enough

The eminent domain bill passed by the Oklahoma House of Representatives on Monday is a non-starter that doesn't go nearly as far as it needs to.

The bill - HB3053, authored by Rep. Pat Ownbey - would allow owners of land taken by eminent domain the opportunity to buy back after 10 years the portion that hasn't beeen used for the purpose it was originally taken for - or some other public use. That's a lot of lee-way there. And the original bill called for 5 years, not 10 years.

I'm glad to see any restrictions placed on eminent domain, but this was a weak bill to begin with that has been watered down to make it even weaker. I can't help but wonder if it's just window dressing to appease the "property rights crowd".

Well, consider me one member of the "property rights crowd" who is not appeased. There is no such thing as a "legitimate use" of eminent domain and I wish some legislator had the guts to call for its abolition. Yes, I'm aware this would require amending both the state Constitution and the US Constitution. Where do I sign up?

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Tuesday, March 9, 2010

No Welfare for Religion!

The Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate have both passed their respective versions of bills to create standards for teaching the Bible. When first introduced, these bills were represented as being a non-sectarian way for Oklahoma students to learn about the Bible's impact on literature and history - something many schools already do, by the way, and have done for years.

Unfortunately, the bills' authors and supporters have since made it clear that their intention all along has been to use the power of government to promote a very specific interpretation of Christianity.

According to an editorial in the Tulsa World, the Senate version of the bill, SB1338, has been amended to authorize course materials that teach a narrow view of the Bible that includes the teaching of events such as the flood as historic fact. The constitutionality of these materials have been called into question in more than one court case.

According to a story in The Oklahoman, Rep. Todd Russ, the author of the House version of the bill, HB 2321, said that "the classes are needed to preserve America’s Christian heritage instead of allowing other countries’ religious beliefs to take over."

Rep. Russ, why are you afraid of other countries' religious beliefs? If Christianity is so good, what's there to worry about? Don't you think Christianity could hold its own in a free and open market of religions?

Now, if it was other moralities you were worried about, I'd say you have good cause to be worried. Because there is a morality that is better than Christianity and in a free and open market of moralities it will win out given time.

Because this morality teaches human beings not only that they have a right to live for their own sakes but that it is possible to live as a human being in reality. Or as Ayn Rand would put it: in this life on this earth. And to do it without sacrificing anyone to anyone.

Because the human mind works.

It's called Objectivism and the only way to stop it is by giving Christianity the power of government force. And that is exactly what people like Todd Russ and his cohorts are after.

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Can the Moral ‘Narrative’ of ObamaCare Be Defeated?

Paul Hsieh reminds us that it is crucial that Obamacare be opposed on moral grounds - and then proceeds to show how to do just that in this brilliant essay:
Can the Moral ‘Narrative’ of ObamaCare Be Defeated?

EXCERPTS: As Leonard Peikoff once wrote, “So long as people believe that socialized medicine is a noble plan, there is no way to fight it. You cannot stop a noble plan — not if it really is noble. The only way you can defeat it is to unmask it — to show that it is the very opposite of noble. Then at least you have a fighting chance.”

Hence, one must challenge ObamaCare not merely on the economic or procedural levels but on the moral level. . . .

The government should not rob men to pay their neighbors’ medical bills. Instead, it should protect each man’s right to his hard-earned wealth, including respecting his right to decide whether and how he should save it, spend it, or give to others as charity. That’s “the right thing to do.”

And as with domestic security, in the end there is no fundamental conflict between freedom and health care. The only way we preserve our ability to receive quality affordable medical care is by respecting core principles of freedom and individual rights.

If we violate those principles in a vain attempt to guarantee “universal health care,” we will violate the moral principle that each man is entitled to the fruits of his labor, instead enslaving each man to pay for his neighbor’s medical care. We will destroy the prosperity and innovation that make modern medicine possible. We will give the government control over how doctors may practice, and which treatments patients may or may not receive. Our lives will no longer be ours, but rather the government’s. The end result will be, in Leonard Peikoff’s words, “the very opposite of noble.”
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Sunday, March 7, 2010

The American System Is Not a Democracy

Press release from the Ayn Rand Center:
The American System Is Not a Democracy

March 5, 2010

WASHINGTON--Today marks the 66th anniversary of the German Nazi party’s rise to power--not through a bloody coup, but a democratic vote. It achieved 44 percent of the vote, enabling it to join with the Nationalist Party and achieve a parliamentary majority. No one would accept that a democratic vote justifies Nazi atrocities, yet today many people believe that the U.S. government is entitled to do anything the majority pleases, regardless of whose rights are violated--from forcing individuals to buy health insurance to stripping unpopular financiers of their bonuses to banning incandescent light bulbs.

But, said Dr. Leonard Peikoff, founder of the Ayn Rand Institute and author of "Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand," “The American system is not a democracy. It is a constitutional republic. A democracy, if you attach meaning to terms, is a system of unlimited majority rule; the classic example is ancient Athens. And the symbol of it is the fate of Socrates, who was put to death legally, because the majority didn’t like what he was saying, although he had initiated no force and had violated no one’s rights.

“Democracy, in short, is a form of collectivism, which denies individual rights: the majority can do whatever it wants with no restrictions. In principle, the democratic government is all-powerful. Democracy is a totalitarian manifestation; it is not a form of freedom . . . .

“The American system is a constitutionally limited republic, restricted to the protection of individual rights. In such a system, majority rule is applicable only to lesser details, such as the selection of certain personnel. But the majority has no say over the basic principles governing the government. It has no power to ask for or gain the infringement of individual rights.”
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Capitalism and utilities

The Oklahoman ran a letter on February 27th by Thomas S. Price, Jr, senior vice president of corporate development and government affairs for Chesapeake Energy, extolling the virtues of a bill by Oklahoma House Speaker Chris Benge which would - among other things - "encourage" public utilities to "pursue the construction and expansion of natural gas-fired facilities".

Chesapeake, based here in Oklahoma City, is one of the country's major producers of natural gas.

I wrote a response to Mr. Price's letter which was published in this morning's The Oklahoman:
End the monopoly

In response to Thomas S. Price Jr. (Your Views, Feb. 27): House Speaker Chris Benge’s bill creating a separate energy standard for natural gas is an obvious and egregious example of corporate welfare. Rather than directing public utilities to pursue more gas-fired plants, why not end the government’s monopoly of utility market regulation? Yes, this would require closing the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, among other things; that’s how a free and open market works. Companies such as Chesapeake, where Price works, could then enter the market and prove their worthiness by providing customers with the best product and service at the best price — in competition with other companies, of course. Companies would then be free to earn every dollar of their profits cleanly and honestly, and to take genuine pride in doing so.

Rob Abiera, Oklahoma City
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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Supreme Court to Legislature: "Stop wasting time and money on unconstitutional laws."

Wow! I'm loving this!
Oklahoma Supreme Court Tells Legislature: Stop Wasting Money on Unconstitutional Laws

EXCERPT: In a strongly worded "excoriation" of the Oklahoma state legislature, according to Stephanie Toti, a staff attorney at CRR, the Supreme Court ruling calls the passage of these laws "a continuous failure to abide by the Oklahoma constitution."

The Supreme Court ruling released on March 2, 2010, confirmed the lower court ruling on SB 1878, the 2008 law requiring mandatory ultrasound viewing. This was part of a bill that included a veritable menu of other anti-choice provisions including mandaes for the posting of signs in abortion clinics stating that a person may not be coerced into having an abortion procedure and for the information physicians provided to their patients about RU-486. The ruling states:
"We are growing weary of admonishing the Legislature for so flagrantly violating the terms of the Oklahoma Constitution."
The Oklahoma Supreme Court goes on to state that violating the OK Constitution over and over again in relation to the single-subject rule ("Over the last two decades we have addressed the single subject rule at least seven times") is:
"...a waste of time for the Legislature and the Court, and a waste of taxpayer's money."
Thus is exposed the hypocrisy of those who support such laws, who tend to style themselves as "constitutional purists".

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Monday, March 1, 2010

Goliaths: Afraid to Compete in the Reason-and-Persuasion-Only Zone

From the blog of Ilyn Ross. Reposted by permission.
This is a video from the bipartisan healthcare summit on February 25, 2010.

Guarded by the Secret Service and backed by the most powerful police force on Earth, Government-Goliath bashes health insurance companies and touts that looters and moochers have the right to dictate to private insurance companies and the right to extort healthcare services.

Cowards! Shed your coercive power and compete in the free market using reason and persuasion. That you do not is crystal evidence that what you crave to impose on producers would be rejected by a free people.

Power-lusters! Loathe to admit that your whims would be defeated in a free market, you hide behind coercive power. Shed your goons! Compete in the reason-and-persuasion-only zone: the coercion-free market. No? Afraid to compete with honor?

When the government, mandated by the Declaration of Independence to protect equal inherent inalienable rights, is of thugs, by thugs, for thugs: the Secret Service and the police force become the protectors of Goliaths bashing citizens.
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