Free Markets, Free People
This week, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Seminar a US Attorney is giving about how you might violate someone’s civil rights by posting to Facebook.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here.
Well isn’t this freaking beautiful. If government isn’t taking your money for these stupid things, it extorting money (for which you eventually pay in the price of your service – see private health insurance and Medicare) for programs like this in the name of "rights" and "fairness":
Recently, a federal government program called the Universal Service Fund came to the Keystone State and some residents are thrilled because it means they can enjoy 250 minutes a month and a handset for free, just because they don’t have the money to pay for it. Through Assurance Wireless and SafeLink from Tracfone Wireless these folks get to reach out and touch someone while the cost of their service is paid for by everyone else. You see, the telecommunications companies are funding the Universal Service Fund to the tune of $4 billion a year because the feds said they have to and in order to recoup their money, the companies turn around and hike their fees to paying customers. But those of use paying for the free service for the poor, should be happy about this infuriating situation, says Gary Carter, manager of national partnerships for Assurance, because "the program is about peace of mind." Free cell service means "one less bill that someone has to pay, so they can pay their rent or for day care…it is a right to have peace of mind," Cater explained.
Dear boss, this demand for a raise that I haven’t earned or don’t deserve is about my right to have peace of mind. You see, I have other obligations I have undertaken and can’t afford, and so this raise will give me "peace of mind" when it comes to meeting those obligations – and it is your job to provide for my peace of mind … got it?
Yeah that approach would work on your boss, wouldn’t it. Yet here again we the owners have those doing “service” dictating the terms of the agreement. And we meekly go along.
What’s next? The usual – more free stuff, this time “for the children”, extorted from the rest of us:
Between 14 million and 24 million Americans lack access to broadband, "and immediate prospects for deployment to them are bleak," the FCC said in a report last year. "Many of these Americans are poor or live in rural areas that will remain unserved without reform of the universal service program and other changes," the report said.
But who says that cheap or free broadband is anything more than a luxury?
Well, another Obama flunkie, Rahm Emanuel, that’s who. As we reported in June , the new mayor of Chicago was all excited to proclaim the wonderful news of free internet service to poor kids in Chicago’s worst neighborhoods. And how could Mayor Emanuel pay for this new ‘civil right’? Well, because the federal government extorted the money from Comcast when it wanted to buy NBC-Universal. Once again FCC chairman Genachowski was all about "helping the kids" by forcing the internet provider to give poor kids free netbooks, laptops, and internet service, indefinitely. And who is going to pay for this gift? Well, of course the rest of us poor saps who actually pay our bills.
You know, there are any number of ways to try to make broadband available to those who haven’t got it – but this isn’t it.
We’re such complacent dopes. We put up with nonsense like this, allow the government to redefine rights and make us pay for their redefinition via taxes, increased prices or pure old extortion.
Well, of course anything can be declared a “civil right”. All it takes is using the force of government via law or bureaucratic fiat (FCC imposes new rules on internet) to make something into that. But any basic understanding of the word “right” does not include something which depends on the labor, money, services or assets of a 2nd party for its fulfillment. Health care is not a “right”, civil or otherwise, because in order to fulfill it, one must coerce a 2nd party provider to give the services necessary whether they want to or not.
So is the internet a “civil right”? Depends on who you ask – for the entitlement crowd, the answer is “yes”:
"Broadband is becoming a basic necessity," civil-rights activist Benjamin Hooks added. And earlier this month, fellow FCC panelist Mignon Clyburn, daughter of Congressional Black Caucus leader and No. 3 House Democrat James Clyburn of South Carolina, declared that free (read: taxpayer-subsidized) access to the Internet is not only a civil right for every "nappy-headed child" in America, but is essential to their self-esteem. Every minority child, she said, "deserves to be not only connected, but to be proud of who he or she is."
Heck, the same argument could be made for any number of things – a cell phone, for instance. Any number of people I’m sure would argue that a cell phone and unlimited access to a cellular phone network has become a “basic necessity”. Of course we’re sliding down that slippery slope at an amazing rate of speed.
And if internet access is a “basic need”, a “civil right”, what about the tools necessary to access it? An account with an internet provider and a computer? Software? Michelle Malkin remarks:
Face it: A high-speed connection is no more an essential civil right than 3G cell phone service or a Netflix account. Increasing competition and restoring academic excellence in abysmal public schools is far more of an imperative to minority children than handing them iPads. Once again, Democrats are using children as human shields to provide useful cover for not so noble political goals.
And, of course that “not so noble political goal” is more government control which, of course, translates into more power accrued and more control of every aspect of your life. Malkin again:
For progressives who cloak their ambitions in the mantle of "fairness," it’s all about control. It’s always about control.
Precisely – and they’ll use any trick in the book to enlarge it. And cloaking it in the guise of a “civil right” simply points out, again, how blatantly transparent they’ve gotten in their quest. This isn’t about “rights” – this is about power and intrusion.
In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale are joined by special guest Clyde Middleton from Liberty Pundits to discuss Barbara Boxer, the controversy surrounding the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, and the week’s Congressional antics.
The direct link to the podcast can be found here.
As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.
The editors of the New York Times misrepresent libertarianism by way of Rand Paul and his statements about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying:
As a longtime libertarian, he espouses the view that personal freedom should supersede all government intervention. Neighborhood associations should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, he has written, and private businesses ought to be able to refuse service to anyone they wish. Under this philosophy, the punishment for a lunch counter that refuses to seat black customers would be public shunning, not a court order.
It is a theory of liberty with roots in America’s creation, but the succeeding centuries have shown how ineffective it was in promoting a civil society. The freedom of a few people to discriminate meant generations of less freedom for large groups of others.
It was only government power that ended slavery and abolished Jim Crow, neither of which would have been eliminated by a purely free market. It was government that rescued the economy from the Depression and promoted safety and equality in the workplace.
Let’s start with the most obvious canard, which is the proposition that Jim Crow had anything to do with free markets. They were called “Jim Crow Laws“, not “Jim Crow Markets”, the obvious reason for which is that separate accommodations were mandated by state governments, not organically grown in some mythical garden of free association rights. Indeed, the entire reason for the corrupt deal behind the presidential election of 1876 was to throw the South’s support behind a president who would end Reconstruction.
It was government–in this case, the state governments in the South–that imposed Jim Crow, and government that forced private companies to impose the desired restrictions on blacks. If government intervention was required to Jim Crow, that was only because governments had imposed it in the first place. And it certainly wasn’t the free market that imposed racial segregation on federal government employment, or military service. Nor was it the free market that imposed poll taxes or literacy tests aimed at preventing blacks from voting in elections. The argument of the New York Times’ editors is essentially that because one level of government ended the racial segregation that another level of government imposed, this shows the superiority of government over the free market.
Now, this is not to say that the owner of a drug-store lunch counter would have served blacks. Some most certainly would not. But we’ll never know how long that state of affairs might have lasted, because the state governments of the South did everything in their power to ensure that it would last, until forced to do otherwise. And to argue that the free market would never have eliminated Jim Crow is to argue an unprovable negative. What we do know, however, is that there are examples, such as bus companies refusing to make blacks sit in the back of buses until forced to do so by state law, that indicate otherwise.
To the extent that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was necessary, it was only so by virtue of eliminating state laws that imposed segregation, and restricted free markets from functioning.So, what “succeeding centuries have shown” is that government restriction of free markets kept segregation alive for a century after the Civil War. In presenting such a revisionist version of history, either the editors of the New York Times are abysmally ignorant, or they are actively malign.
As far as government rescuing the economy from the Great Depression, a number of serious economic historians would argue precisely the opposite. To the extent that the government did end the Great Depression, it did so by absorbing 12 million citizens into the armed forces, and producing billions of dollars worth of war materials, a great proportion of which were destroyed between 1942 and 1945, along with about half a million of those uniformed Americans. Which, I shouldn’t have to point out, hardly commends it much as a general recipe for escaping economic downturns.
In any case, the child-like trust the editors of the New York Times seem to have for government action hardly seems warranted in either instance.
Why? Because history is what it is and resists attempts to rewrite it for political reasons.
A week or so ago, I pointed to an attempt by Ezra Klein to change the history of the Civil Rights bill of 1964 by claiming that the Democratic Senators in the South were a “third party” with which the real Democrats formed a coalition. Of course, as I pointed out, that’s pure nonsense.
Today we see an attempt to whitewash the same period in history. In an article in The Hill, J. Taylor Rushing discusses the latest attempt by the Senate majority (the Republicans talked about it when they were in the majority as well) to do away with the filibuster. Tom Harkin (D-IA) will introduce a bill to take away the minority’s power to filibuster. Of course, it takes 67 votes to change that rule, something highly unlikely to happen.
But within Rushing’s story where the history of the filibuster was being recounted, I noticed this sentence:
In the 20th century, Southern senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a majority of the Senate.
Here, let me fix that so it accurately reflects what happened:
In the 20th century, Southern Democratic senators used it to block civil rights legislation supported by a bi-partisan majority of the Senate.
Al Gore, Sr. Robert Byrd. Richard Russell. William Fullbright. Etc. All staunch Democrats – never anything else. All filibustered the Civil Rights act of 1964 as Democrats.
There is no chance that the Senate filibuster is going to be ended by Harkin’s bill. And there’s equally no chance that I’m going to let any attempts to whitewash this portion of history escape my attention. The conventional wisdom about which party is the friend of civil rights is a myth. And I intend to take every opportunity availed me to point to the actual history of that event, not the contrived one.
Once again the reasoning in support of a federal overhaul (and takeover) of national health care has shifted. It started out as a fiscal imperative with Pres. Obama claiming that our money woes were caused by the rising costs of health care. We were told that only government can contain administrative costs and deliver efficient, effective care. Later is was the need to control greedy insurance companies who treat their clients shoddily by denying coverage. Government run care would make sure that nobody was denied insurance, and that we would all pay basically the same rates. Of course, the infamous public option was touted as the primary tool for accomplishing this goal, carefully eliding past the “fiscal sanity” reasons for reform, which option has apparently been set out to pasture after facing fierce public resistance.
So now the reasoning shifts again. As it turns out, you all are just bad, immoral people if you don’t approve of the government taking your money and running your health care.
President Obama sought Wednesday to reframe the health care debate as “a core ethical and moral obligation,” imploring a coalition of religious leaders to help promote the plan to lower costs and expand insurance coverage for all Americans.
“I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate, and there are some folks out there who are frankly bearing false witness,” Mr. Obama told a multidenominational group of pastors, rabbis and other religious leaders who support his goal to remake the nation’s health care system.
In any event, Obama’s attempt to turn this into a moral debate is not only a naked act of desperation to save his pet cause, it is also the closest to the true reason why health reform is so important to him, and the left in general, in the first place. Supporters of government-run health care are convinced that the presence of a profit motive in the delivery of health services is a bad thing and that wringing every last ounce of market incentive from the process will lead to wonderful new outcomes. And the way they are prepared to sell it is by pushing the idea that health care is a civil right.
Interestingly enough, Jonathan Alter started the ball rolling on this score just a few days before the President (it’s almost as if they are reading from the same playbook or something!):
The main reason that the bill isn’t sold as civil rights is that most Americans don’t believe there’s a “right” to health care. They see their rights as inalienable, and thus free, which health care isn’t. Serious illness is an abstraction (thankfully) for younger Americans. It’s something that happens to someone else, and if that someone else is older than 65, we know that Medicare will take care of it. Polls show that the 87 percent of Americans who have health insurance aren’t much interested in giving any new rights and entitlements to “them”—the uninsured.
But how about if you or someone you know loses a job and the them becomes “us”? The recession, which is thought to be harming the cause of reform, could be aiding it if the story were told with the proper sense of drama and fright. Since all versions of the pending bill ban discrimination by insurance companies against people with preexisting conditions, that provision isn’t controversial. Which means it gets little attention. Which means that the deep moral wrong that passage of this bill would remedy is somehow missing from the debate.
The only thing that should be unbreakable in a piece of legislation is the principle behind it. In the case of Social Security, it was the security and peace of mind that came with the knowledge of a guaranteed old-age benefit. (Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush got slam-dunked when they tried to mess with that.) In the civil-rights bills, the principle was no discrimination on the basis of an unavoidable, preexisting “condition” like race.
The core principle behind health-care reform is—or should be—a combination of Social Security insurance and civil rights. Passage would end the shameful era in our nation’s history when we discriminated against people for no other reason than that they were sick. A decade from now, we will look back in wonder that we once lived in a country where half of all personal bankruptcies were caused by illness, where Americans lacked the basic security of knowing that if they lost their jobs they wouldn’t have to sell the house to pay for the medical treatments to keep them alive. We’ll look back in wonder—that is, if we pass the bill.
Just to focus the argument, Alter is suggesting that it is a violation of individual civil rights, akin to discriminating against someone on the basis of race (wow, didn’t see that coming), to deny one insurance because one is sick. This is ludicrous on a number of levels, but that it fundamentally misunderstands the purpose of insurance is one of its worst features. Insurance is meant to protect against the expense of unknown outcomes by paying a small premium based on the statistical probability that one will suffer such an outcome. However, if one of the outcomes already exists then the insurance premium would simply be equal to the cost of treatment since the probability of payment is 1:1. In Alter’s world,and that of too many government health care supporters, insurance isn’t a risk management tool, it’s a medical discount and income redistribution tool. Which leads to the primary failure of his argument.
In briefest terms, health care cannot be a “right” because it is entirely dependent on someone else providing it to you. “Rights” do not ever involve taking from someone and giving to someone else. In order to believe otherwise, one would have to believe that doctors are actually slaves who can legally be commanded to fulfill one’s “right” to health care or suffer the consequences. The very idea is preposterous, which is why, as Alter notes, Americans have not kenned to the idea of there being a “right” to health care.
And yet, this is apparently the ground, this moral Waterloo, upon which Obama will choose to support his cause. The offensive will depend on the idea that a government health care plan is a moral obligation, and a protection of civil rights. Naturally, some imbecilic politician will assert that opposition to the plan is an immoral position, seeking to demonize (yet again) those naysayers who aren’t too keen on more government interference in their lives. After all, why not? They’ve already accused us of being, alternately, well-dressed plants for the insurance lobby and ignorant, racist hicks who just can’t stand having a black man in the White House, and look what those lines of argument achieved. I predict that this latest attack will be equally as effective.