Archive for the ‘Social issues’ Category

First of all, let me be perfectly clear from the beginning so that there are no misunderstandings. You absolutely do not, under any circumstances, have a right to healthcare. As an extension, you do not have a right to birth control. You do not have a right to food, medicine, clothing, shelter, education, a cell phone, a car, or internet service.

You have a right to your own person and, by extension, to your life, liberty, and labor. Your labor, which is representative of your life because of the time and effort you put into it, transforms into your property, which you thus also have a right to.

THAT’S IT.

It is not possible to have a right to healthcare, birth control, food, or phones, or anything else that is the product of SOMEONE ELSE’S labor. To assert these kinds of “rights” is to enslave the producers of these goods or services, and is thus morally repugnant.

Simply wanting something, or even needing it, is not enough to claim a right to it. We can talk all day about the things we should do, in our daily lives, to succor the needs and wants of our fellow man. We can speak and write emphatically about the fact that no one should be without healthcare, or food, or shelter, but again, that is not the same as “a right”, and it is not the same as a law. The moral drive behind SHOULD is vastly different than the threat of force behind LAW mandated by government.

In other words, everyone has the right to be a “bad person”, so long as their actions do not deprive anyone of their life, liberty, or property. It is not the proper role of government to legislate a society into “goodness”, whether it’s through mandating “free” healthcare or through an imposed definition of marriage. One of these is thought by many to be morally upstanding, and the other to be a moral outrage, but they are in fact both symptoms of the same grievous error: the attempt of a central government at social engineering, at the cost of depriving its citizens of their natural rights.

Once again, the political pundits and talking heads have drowned this issue in sensational rhetoric, affected outrage, and poisonous labels. We hear it’s about a woman’s right to choose, about crusty old men trying to control them through their reproductive health. Those mean conservatives want us to regress fifty years, those godless liberals want us to forsake our religious beliefs. All of this is far beyond the point. The federal government has no authority to require your employer, or anyone else, to pay for any of your healthcare.. It’s irrelevant how much you want it; it does not matter how wonderful it would be if healthcare could be [truly] free for everyone. Envisioning some kind of a utopia and then using government force or the threat of force to coerce your fellow man to follow that vision, is wrong. It’s just plain wrong. Those who have tried to deprive us of our natural rights, to whatever end, have always pleaded the best of intentions.

I have yet to hear a justification for these supposed “rights”, that does not rest solely on “should”. People should have healthcare. People should not have to lose their house because they got cancer. Young adults often can’t afford their own coverage, so insurers should continue to cover them. All women should have birth control, if they want it.

All of these things are true, but they have nothing whatever to do with the law. The only just purpose of the law is to protect your rights (which, remember, are only life, liberty, and property). Everything else is tyranny because virtually everything else involves depriving one group of these rights in order to transfer them to another group.

Even if we were to agree on all these points, we would still be left with a society afflicted by high healthcare costs and with many people who do not have access to healthcare.

So what to do?

The first thing to do is to get government out of the healthcare business altogether. Putting aside the moral arguments against it that I’ve already made, I’ve never heard anyone praise any government agency as efficient and effective, so it mystifies me that people think the government is even capable of dealing with healthcare. It is no coincidence that the cost of healthcare has skyrocketed since the introduction of federal third-party payers. When you introduce a third-party payer, you remove all downward pressures on prices. Neither the provider of the service nor the recipient have any motive to engage in the sorts of behaviors that normally drive prices down. It is truly disturbing to hear people claim that the free market has driven up healthcare costs. What free market? Maybe there’s a healthcare free market in Mexico, or Barbados, or some such so, but certainly not here.

Any third-party payer is covered by this rule, whether it’s government or private insurance. It’s also no coincidence that the cost of plastic surgery has fallen significantly in the past few decades. Any new, cutting-edge procedure may start expensive, but quickly goes down in value, in much the same way as high-tech gadgets. Why would non-elective healthcare be exempt from this trend? Why is it that health insurance is supposed to cover everything, even the routine? Car insurance does not cover the cost of oil changes. House insurance does not cover the cost of a new water heater. If they did, the cost of these types of insurance would also skyrocket. Heath insurance as we know it today is not insurance at all. If it were, it would cover only unforeseen, high-impact events, like severe injury or long-term diseases. Now, the government is making it harder or even impossible to buy such coverage (usually called “high-deductible” plans).

The impact of a government-funded third-party payer is, however, much greater than private insurance, because the government has access to certain things that private insurance companies do not, things that remove any remnant of normal price controlling forces: taxes and a printing press.

Where is the motivation to lower prices? Not only is “someone else” footing the bill, but that someone else has infinite money! Or, at least, they think they do.

The end result of soaring healthcare costs was always a mathematical and economic inevitability.

Amazingly, we are told that introducing more government into the mix will make it better. Increasing the presence of this mammoth, third-party payer, even mandating that everyone participate in it, is somehow going to reduce costs. This would be a good example of a mathematical impossibility.

I can’t tell you how sad it makes me that so many people believe it. The results are not going to be an improvement. Instead, it is going to make things much, much worse.

Remove government from the business altogether, free hospitals and clinics from the noose of regulations and paperwork, and return insurance to what it properly is, a protection against unforeseeable catastrophes, and you will see the cost of healthcare plummet like a lead ball.

Nonetheless, you would still be left with people who cannot afford it. What to do?

It’s called CHARITY. It’s actually been around for a long time.

If your house is blown over by a hurricane, who would you rather see come to your aid, the Red Cross, or FEMA?

What is more effective in addressing human catastrophes overseas: the International Red Cross, Peace Corps, and Doctors Without Borders? Or government backed foreign aid?

With very few exceptions, private always does it better, and everyone knows it. And not only do private charities function more effectively than government mandated aid, but best of all, they don’t violate anyone rights! From the workers who give their time to the individuals who contribute their hard-earned money, it’s all voluntary! No force or threats involved! Amazing!

We do have wealth in this country (dwindling though it may be), but most of all we have a lot of goodness, goodness which we can, and do, put into action all the time, without any direction or mandates or threats from government. This generosity and goodwill could be even more powerful if we removed the crutch of government assistance, and if so much of our wealth and prosperity were not forfeited to, and consumed by, the state. I believe it may be the greatest tragedy of our time that the statists, on both sides of the aisle, have convinced us that all good things (healthcare, jobs, education, protection for the vulnerable, assistance for the needy) come from government, and all bad things (drug use, gun crime, discrimination, poverty) come from freedom. The argument that private charity can and should replace government welfare is always countered by the assertion that people would not give enough without the force of government to make them do so. This argument, made by individuals who profess to care deeply about their fellow man, instead belies a deep and callous cynicism towards humanity. If you scratch the surface of any statist, left or right, you will find a dark antagonism toward true freedom. In a statement condemning the Blunt amendment (which was an attempt to tack a unrelated measure to a transportation funding bill, by the way), Senator Barbara Mikulski declared:

It allows any insurance company or any employer to deny coverage for any service they choose, based on a religious belief or moral conviction. What is a moral conviction? I have moral convictions. You have moral convictions. We have different moral convictions.

Wow. You mean, people are different? What a pain. That must make social engineering a real headache. And allowing the employers who have to pay for it a choice in the matter? How horrible! That cannot stand! I have a right to take your money and use it for my birth control. Of course, the real hilarity about the whole thing is that if employers are forced to cover this and other services, they’ll just pay their employees less. There’s no such thing as a free lunch, people!

The sensational antics that are being displayed over the recent birth control versus religious freedom controversy are outside the point. It makes no difference what Blunt’s motives are. Rush Limbaugh is just one thick-headed gas bag, whose daily airing of piffle and nonsense will never have the slightest impact on your life. The hysterical hyperbole and name callings are distractions from the core truth that is being ignored: the federal government has no authority and no moral right to force your employer, or anyone else, to pay for your birth control.

Try freedom.

The

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“‘Good’ and ‘bad’, I define these terms—quite clear, no doubt, somehow. Ah, but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” – Bob Dylan

The purpose of the state is to protect your rights. All manifestations of the state, including the law, courts, police, and bureaucrats, fall under this edict. The purpose of the state is to protect your rights.

That is all.

All other powers taken upon itself by government are expansions of authoritarianism. It is not possible for the state to dole out favors that are not at the expense of others. I do not here intend to expand on this point, or attempt to justify it. I invite the reader to investigate the essay The Law, by Frederic Bastiat.

Building on this foundation, the logical conclusion is that it is inappropriate and unjust for government to attempt to regulate what it sees as discrimination or otherwise “unfair” or “immoral” behavior in the workplace or in places of business. How do we arrive at this conclusion, on the basis that the sole role of government is to protect your rights? To illustrate, I will use two examples:

  1. Sexual harassment in the workplace
  2. Discrimination at a place of business

First, let me assert that I have no interest here in entertaining a moral or philosophical debate. Is it fair to allow managers and supervisors to behave in any way that creates an inhospitable work environment? No, probably not. But that is irrelevant. Even if we were to agree that a company is morally obligated to protect their workers from this behavior, that would have nothing whatever to do with the law. It is not the role of government to legislate goodness, even if it were capable of doing so, which of course it is not. It is not the role of government to reflect the righteousness and moral compass of its people, as so many seem to believe. The moral evolution of a people occurs at the individual level. It happens when persuasive ideas spread; it happens when individuals make a stand and use pressure, judgment, and censure to persuade their fellow citizens that a certain kind of behavior is wrong. This is how we have always progressed, even if history has attempted to give the credit to government. The truth is, elected officials attempt to pass laws that reflect attitudes already prevalent. They are the Johnny-come-lately to the moral party. In short, goodness does not come from government.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Recently, an article appeared on the CNN website that advocated the adoption of a law (I can only assume the author means a national law) that would make it “illegal for men (or women) to make sexual overtures to their subordinates”. I don’t think I will waste much time on the illogical nature of the article itself. The author herself admits that what qualifies as sexual harassment is not always clear, and that due to the nature of the beast, it often comes down to he-said, she-said. Nonetheless, she declares that her idea for a law would somehow address the problem when we “decide what, as a society, we want to be acceptable or not in our workplaces and schools and then enforce the norms with legal penalties” (emphasis added).

Enforce norms? With legal penalties? Yeah sure, that’s the way a free society would do it. Sort of like how it works in France with the prohibition against Muslim female dress.

If a private company decides to adopt and enforce their own code of conduct (and they do, all the time, without the government’s direction), then good for them. If, however, no such code exists, or if it is poorly enforced or not enforced at all, then ultimately the worker has no just alternative but to quit. She may attempt to pursued management to adopt such a policy. She may even pursued her colleagues to stand with her. Perhaps she, or they, will go to the press and get public opinion involved. Perhaps a boycott or walk out can be arranged. Or, she could just quit, and take her talents and experience elsewhere. All of these options are perfectly acceptable in a free society, where employment is, on both sides, a voluntary contract.

What is not acceptable, is to call in the goons of government, threaten the employer with a myriad of civil and legal penalties, including monetary liabilities and even jail time. This can only be logical if we believe that the employee has a right to that job, which is nonsense. You can say that she should not have to quit, that it isn’t fair, and all that would be true, but it would be irrelevant. In the words of Joe South: “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden.”

You don’t actually have a right to that job, or to the work environment which you think is “moral”. You’re not guaranteed a life free from the unpleasant, disquieting, unfair, or painful. The government should not be involved unless someone’s rights are being violated, which an employer could only do by holding people in slavery or by somehow defrauding them of their rightful property, because, at the end of the day, you don’t have a right to that job. Yes, quitting is easier said than done. Yes, economic conditions can make it difficult. Yes, it can bring upon that person all sorts of financial and personal inconveniences. All true, all irrelevant.

Even if you refused to see the law in this light, the fact remains that such laws fail to accomplish their stated goal and often do more harm than good. Singling a group out for special protection implies that people in that group are weak, in a weak position, and need the defense of armed bureaucrats. A law like this is not a gift to its target; it is an insult. Moreover, it turns that group of people into liabilities, making employers more hesitant to hire them for fear of what it may cost them in the future. This is especially true of sexual harassment, since it is an allegation so easy to make, difficult to prove, and where often “innocent until proven guilty” does not apply. One thing I will say for our present system. It has effectively spread the “potential liability” around so well that sensible employers are more or less equally hesitant to hire anybody.

Let’s consider another potential consequence of such a law. First of all, we all know that 99% of companies have sexual harassment codes in place. So let’s imagine a situation where an employee, male or female—we’ll call them Drew—feels the need to bring inappropriate behavior to the attention of human resources. Then let us imagine that human resources agrees that an investigation is in order and promised, while the investigation is underway, to maintain Drew’s anonymity. Perhaps at the end of the investigation, the transgressor is reprimanded, censored, or terminated. Perhaps human resources decides that there is not enough evidence to move forward.

Now let us imagine a scenario where it is a crime to engage in this behavior that has concerned Drew. Now when Drew goes to human resources, they are obligated to report the incident as a suspected crime, because otherwise they could be liable for concealing or aiding a crime. Now Drew must speak to the police, or drop the compliant. Now the transgressor must be interrogated by the police. And we can forget anonymity, because the accused, no longer dealing with human resources within a private company, is now entitled to all the evidence against him and to confront his accuser.

So seriously. This is supposed to be an improvement?

Discrimination at a Place of Business

It is not enough to have a “right” to a job with an acceptable environment, but we also apparently have a “right” to be served at any and every place of business of our choosing. Although many establishments have signs that assert their right to refuse service to anyone, the truth is that merely being suspecting of refusing, or just not accommodating, service to someone based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or disability is to invite a storm of legal and civil liabilities and harassment at the hands of an army of local, state, and federal bureaucrats. This can only be reasonable if we accept that individuals have a right to be serviced at a private establishment.

Honestly, I don’t know how to frame this in a way that does not sound insane.

Let’s imagine another scenario. Say you walk into a restaurant, and witness the manager asking a mixed race couple to leave, in a way that made it clear the manager was racially motivated. What would you do?

I’d like to think that enough people I know would be outraged. That sense of outrage, that feeling of righteous indignation, does not come from government, by the way. In our situation, maybe you would walk out. Maybe you would tell your family and friends not to frequent that establishment. Maybe you’d even write a letter to your local paper and bring down a fury of public outrage and boycotting upon the owner’s head. All of this would be well within your rights.

And it’s how a free society works.

Yes, it’s true, not everyone would take that initiative, or show so much moral courage, but let us have enough faith in our neighbors to cede that many would. Certainly, this is more likely than government bureaucrats helping the situation.

How much does government help in these situations? Let’s consider the Americans with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation passed to make our representatives seem compassionate and moral. The intent is to make life easier and more fair for people with disabilities, a noble goal, though hardly an appropriate use of government force. However, be that as it may, it does not even accomplish this goal. Who does this legislation benefit the most?

I’ll give you a hint. Who, for the most part, writes legislation?

That’s right. Lawyers.

All across this great land of ours there is a multitude of the codification trained, whose sole source of income is bringing ADA-related lawsuits against businesses. Most of these businesses are small because one, they are more likely to have violations and two, are less able to defend themselves.

From the Sierra Sun (a Californian newspaper, March 2011):

Donner Lake Kitchen, a popular family-owned restaurant in rural Truckee, Calif. is closing its doors following a legal battle with attorney Scott Johnson, who is said to have filed “countless” complaints of lack of handicap accessibility at California businesses. The owner estimates that $20,000-$60,000 in repairs and upgrades would have been needed to bring the dining establishment into ADA compliance.

This has become such a widespread occurrence that even NPR has taken note.

Aside from lining the pockets of lawyers, what good does this sort of thing accomplish? The business is closed! Now no one can eat there! I guess that’s equality for you. And what is the justification? Are we honestly saying that a person has a right, that they are entitled, to eat at a particular restaurant, no matter what? How does it violate anyone’s rights if they are not able to eat at a restaurant?

When did we come to believe that life has to be fair all of the time for everyone, or there shall be hell [fines] to pay? When did we come to think that nothing bad, uncomfortable, or unpleasant, should ever happen to us? When did we come to expect that everything will go our way?

If you’re thinking: “but disabled people should be able to go out to eat!”

You’re right. They should. But as discussed previously, should, in a moral sense, and must, in a legal sense, are two entirely different things. It is not the job of the government to enforce shoulds, no matter how compelling, unless it must do so to protect your actual rights.

Your rights are to life and liberty.

That’s it.

Not to a job, restaurants, cars, houses, healthcare, education, a book, a pair of shoes, a pint of milk or a gallon of gas. ALL of those things must be procured in an environment of free and voluntary exchange, where there is no role for government except to protect your right to life and liberty.

End transmission.

Why Gay Marriage is OK

(subtitled: So Please Shut the Hell Up About It Already)

For reasons that I admit are quite beyond my comprehension, this is a matter of some debate in the so-called Land of the Free. What there is to debate about I simply cannot imagine. Nonetheless, I’m going to lay it all out right here, so if you read this and disagree, please don’t call me, send messages or emails, or ride over my house in a single engine Cessna with threatening banners, because I’ve said it all here and there’s nothing left to discuss.

Parte Una: If You Don’t Like Gay Marriage, Don’t Get One

That sums this section up rather succinctly. I would think nothing else need be said. But in the interest of thoroughness, let me expound.

What is it about morals that make those who have them (or think they have them) feel they can push them on everyone else? How does it impact you at all if a gay couple live in blissful, or bickering, matrimony down the street? How does this effect your life? None and none. Mind your own damn business.

So let’s say that gaydom is a terrible, mortal sin. Let’s say God thinks it’s worse than being a commie. Even if you were to accept such (arbitrary) beliefs, here’s the thing:

YOU CAN’T LEGISLATE GOODNESS.

Forbidding it doesn’t actually save anybody’s soul, because, as you would know if you were to believe in anything religious, the sin is in a person’s heart. This is why such matters are best left up to God (or whoever) and NOT YOU. Because you are not God (or whoever), in case you’ve forgotten.

(This same point also applies to laws about gambling and prostitution, but…another day).

Parte Due: Surprise! Minorities DO Have Rights

In the California situation, the argument has been made that the will of the people in this matter should be upheld; that, if the majority don’t want gay marriage, then “so let it be written, let it be done.”

Given our country’s history, this argument is truly mystifying! If such an argument were valid, the South could very well still be segregated. Today, no one would even entertain the notion that the majority should be able to pass discriminating laws based on race, or even on gender, physical handicap, or religion. It would not matter if even 90% of the population believed that Islam should be banned by law, such a law would OF COURSE be unthinkable. Yes, such a thing would be democratic, but I’ve got news for you, we don’t live in a democracy, we live in a

REPRESENTATIVE REPUBLIC.

(That’s the idea, anyway.)

The Founders knew better than to establish a tyranny of majority. Instead, they left us one, fundamental American principle:

EQUAL PROTECTION UNDER THE LAW.

What part of this do you not understand? Equal means Equal. It doesn’t mean when you feel like it, or when you do or do not feel strongly about it, or for those who you do or do not like. It means everybody, even gay people who want to get married.

Don’t like it? Well, you’re probably not invited to the ceremony anyway.

Epilogue: Oh Yeah, Just In Case

Before someone brings up the counterargument of “What about the children?”, pressing the notion that if gay people can get married, next they’ll be having/adopting children and such a thing cannot be borne, because the children would be warped for life, let me respond succinctly:

Horsehockey.

I’ve seen no real evidence that children raised in perfect, normal, two parent homes (if such things exist) fare any better in life than any other children. Every now and then some group with an agenda tries to push statistics that seem to support such an argument, but we all know the truth: all a child needs is a loving environment and, despite what you may think, many different kinds of people can provide that.

Conclusion:

So please, accept that there are some things in this world that you don’t like or don’t agree with, get over it, and try using your mental energy for something more useful, like charity work, building world peace, or making the perfect lemon meringue pie.

End transmission.