Category Archives: Redistribution

Thomas Sowell: Social Justice Philosophy Is a Blank Check for Government Power

Forcing an equality of outcome for disadvantaged groups requires enormous outside interference.

“In politics, the great non-sequitur of our time is that 1) things are not right and that 2) the government should make them right. Where right all too often means cosmic justice, trying to set things right means writing a blank check for a never-ending expansion of government power.”

This key passage from Thomas Sowell’s 1999 book, The Quest for Cosmic Justice, frames Sowell’s thoughtful analysis and rejection of arguments advanced by “social justice warriors,” or more briefly, SJWs.

Although written nearly 20 years ago, Sowell’s insights are especially relevant today, when you consider the heights of influence social justice activism has reached—especially on college campuses—in 2018.

For a blueprint to understand and refute today’s increasingly vocal SJWs, Sowell’s book proves to be an indispensable resource.

What Is “Social Justice”?

First, Sowell provides clarity to the concept of social justice, which he labels “cosmic justice.” Social justice seeks to “eliminate undeserved disadvantages” for selected groups. Sowell explains “undeserved disadvantages” by quoting Thomas Nagle, a professor of philosophy and law, as akin to an “unequal starting point” certain people have through no fault of their own.

For the social justice warrior, equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice.

These conditions—be it race, gender, family income, etc.—are from mere chance of birth. Sowell prefers the term “cosmic” to represent a random factor—beyond anyone’s control—landing different groups in different conditions.

But given we can’t change the conditions we are born into, nor erase past injustices, the real concern boils down to what actions and policies are prescribed to mitigate these “unequal starting points” that people occupy.

For the social justice warrior, equality of treatment under the law is not a sufficient condition to achieve justice. Citing philosopher John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, Sowell asserts that SJWs insist “having everyone play by the same rules or be judged by the same standards” is found to be lacking. True equality of opportunity, in their view, means “providing everyone with equal prospects of success from equal individual efforts,” and “putting segments of society in the position that they would have been in but for some undeserved misfortune.”

What Do Social Justice Warriors Want?

To make this a reality, processes need to be put in place, according to social justice theory, so that outcomes—such as income level, unemployment rates, leadership positions, etc.—are equalized regardless of one’s starting point or demographic trait. Any deviation from “equalized” outcomes is proof positive in the eyes of the social justice movement that some form of social injustice—be it racism, sexism, or capitalist greed—must be the culprit.

The quest for social justice “focuses on one segment of the population and disregards the interests of others.”

Sowell takes issue with such thinking. He believes it is the actions and policies in search of equal outcomes, along with their results, that need to be judged by an ethical evaluation of justice.

At this point, Sowell begins to expose the injustices involved in this process. “This conception of fairness requires that third parties must wield the power to control outcomes, over-riding rules, standards or the preferences of other people.”

Indeed, the quest for social justice “focuses on one segment of the population and disregards the interests of others who are not the immediate focus of discussion, but who nevertheless pay the price of the decisions made.” Such processes, it turns out, necessarily involve treating people unequally.

But at What Cost?

In classic Sowell style, he reminds readers that there are no perfect solutions, only trade-offs. Trade-offs involve costs as well as benefits.

“Costs of achieving justice matter…What, after all, is injustice but an arbitrary imposition of a cost—whether economic, psychic, or other—on an innocent person? And if correcting this injustice imposes another arbitrary cost on another innocent person, is that not also an injustice?”

These costs of attempting to advance social justice are not only borne by these innocent third parties, but also by society through changes in behavior of the supposed beneficiaries.

“Those given legal entitlements to various compensatory benefits have, for example, developed a sense of entitlement,” Sowell explains. Entitlement sows seeds of division among the givers and takers while blunting the recipients’ incentives to work. The productive are punished to serve the non-productive.

Promoting a vision of social injustices can also create a sense of helplessness among those labeled as “victims” of cosmic injustices. “Why study and discipline yourself in preparation for the adult world if the deck is completely stacked against you anyway?” Sowell asks rhetorically.

According to Sowell, aside from evaluating the costs involved, the key question in addressing the “unequal starting points” of different groups involves deciding between either political actions or voluntary individual cooperation.

With his typical precision, Sowell favors the latter.

“One of the crucial differences between political and non-political ways of dealing with undeserved misfortunes is that the non-political approaches do not acquire the fatal rigidities of law nor require either the vision or the reality of helplessness and dependency. Nor does it require the demonization of those who think otherwise or the polarization of society.”

A Misdiagnosis

Problems abound even with how SJWs diagnose current hot-button issues like income inequality and racism.

For example, Sowell contends most income statistics are crude aggregates. The implicit assumption that the mere existence of income disparities is evidence of racial discrimination is unsubstantiated. Simply examining the average age differences among different demographics can explain away a portion of the income inequality that SJWs proclaim exists due to discrimination. Adding factors like education level and personal career choices explains much of the rest.

The real issue, Sowell concludes, is not with income inequality itself, but with the processes put in motion in hopes of eliminating inequality.

“To allow any governmental authority to determine how much money individuals shall be permitted to receive from other individuals produces not only a distortion of the economic processes by undermining incentives for efficiency, it is more fundamentally a monumental concentration of political power which reduces everyone to the level of a client of politicians.”

Moreover, the culture of envy created by income inequality obsessions can harm the very groups SJWs purport to want to help. Attributing the “greater prosperity of others to ‘exploitation’ of people like themselves, to oppression, bias or unworthy motives such as greed, racisms and the like,” makes those people feel that self-improvement is “futile” and paints “the less fortunate into their own little corner, isolated from potential sources of greater prosperity.”

How Can You Be a Hero if No One Needs Saving?

Finally, Sowell holds no quarter regarding the motives of the self-anointed saviors of the downtrodden. As if anticipating by two decades the rampant “virtue signaling” consuming left-wing social media accounts, he writes,

“Like so much that is done in the quest for cosmic justice, it makes observers feel better about themselves—and provides no incentives for those observers to scrutinize the consequences of their actions on the ostensible beneficiaries.”

Social justice warriors too often value ego gratification over actual benefits. Sowell continues, pointing out that those invested in the social justice narrative create for themselves a “vested interest in the incapacity of other people,” while developing a “tendency to see people as helpless and not responsible for their own actions.”

All the better to gratify their own egos as self-styled “rescuers” of the purported helpless victims. Such attitudes, however, produce policies that fail to generate desirable results, while instilling a defeatist mindset among those being labeled victims, inducing them “to accept that image of themselves.”

“This is only one of the ways in which the vision of morally anointed visionaries’ ministers to the egos of the anointed, rather than the well-being of the ostensible beneficiaries of their efforts,” Sowell concludes.

The author finds that the corrective “solutions” for perceived social injustices involve costs that most often will outstrip any benefits, and invariably create real injustices at the hands of centralizing government power. Such insights explain why The Quest for Cosmic Justice is a valuable tool for understanding the social justice movement and how to confront its arguments.

Republished with Permission – Source: – Social Justice = Big Gov


Escape the Moral Matrix with the Red Pill of Intellectual Diversity

Intellectual diversity can free us from our moral blinders and foster creativity and innovation.
by  Aaron Tao

Back in 2012, before the ascendance of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency and before neologisms such as “trigger warnings,” “microaggressions, and “safe spaces” became part of regular college campus discourse, New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt published a groundbreaking book titled The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Today, America’s political polarization is deeper than ever. But there is hope and a way forward.

As a bibliophile who reads extensively on a wide array of subject matters, I can declare without hesitation that Haidt’s book is by far the most fascinating and important work on social science that I’ve read within the last five years. It is a book that I have given away to a dozen of my friends working in the political realm or who are regular politicos, and one that I’ve recently reread given the profound insights of its central thesis. Today, America’s political polarization is deeper than ever. But there is hope and a way forward.

Intuitions Come First and Reasoning Second

Haidt’s tireless efforts through his book and other writings provide a promising path towards understanding the psychological causes behind our tribal politics. Drawing upon his background in social psychology and twenty-five years of original research on moral psychology, Haidt shows how evolution is responsible for shaping people’s morality that both binds and divides and how politics and religion create conflicting communities of shared morality.

Most profoundly, moral attitudes and judgments originate from intuition, not calculated logic. In his 1739 magnum opus A Treatise of Human Nature, the philosopher David Hume mused that, “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.” According to Haidt, the findings of modern social psychology research have largely vindicated Hume.

To illustrate his point, Haidt uses the metaphor of a rider and an elephant. The rider represents the conscious mind with its rational functions and controlled processes. But the domineering elephant is everything else outside the rider’s control: automatic processes that include emotions and intuitions. Although the rider can do “several useful things” such as planning for the future and learning new skills, ultimately “the rider’s job is the serve the elephant.” As a result of this one-sided relationship, the rider mostly “fabricat[es] post hoc explanations for whatever the elephant has done, and it is good at finding reasons to justify whatever the elephant wants to do next.” In short, “conscious reasoning functions like a lawyer or press secretary.”

What does this mean for political discourse? If people are asked to believe something that conflicts with their intuitions, you can almost certainly expect them to reflexively find an escape route – any reason to doubt the argument or conclusion they’re confronted with – and they’ll usually succeed. Haidt takes pains to emphasize that:

Moral judgment is not a purely cerebral affair in which we weigh concerns about harm, rights, and justice. It’s a kind of rapid, automatic process more akin to the judgments animals make as they move through the world, feeling themselves drawn toward or away from various things. Moral judgment is mostly done by the elephant.

Thus, if you’re trying to change someone’s mind, especially when it concerns a moral or political issue, you have to “talk to the elephant first.” [Dale Carnegie’s 1936 classic, How to Win Friends and Influence People is a good pairing with Haidt’s book and is referenced in the latter’s work. It contains many psychological insights that remain relevant today and in fact, are reinforced by modern findings.]

Moral Foundations Theory

Through his interdisciplinary research, Haidt and his colleagues uncovered six moral foundations that are shared across human cultures:

1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulated the theory in 2011 based on new data, we emphasize proportionality, which is endorsed by everyone, but is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”
4) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).

6) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor. We report some preliminary work on this potential foundation in this paper, on the psychology of libertarianism and liberty.

Most intriguingly, Haidt found that left-liberals and progressives recognize primarily the first two moral foundations, Care/harm and Fairness/cheating. For the political Left, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity, are perceived not as proper morals at all but base human traits responsible for patriarchy, racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of oppression. However, this stance is an outlier compared to most other parts of the world.

Haidt provides many examples from ethnographies and cross-cultural studies that show that in “Western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) cultures,” the moral spectrum is “unusually narrow” and largely limited to the ethics of individual autonomy.

Given that human nature is tribal, people automatically form teams when they share values and morals.

In contrast, many non-WEIRD societies and conservatives use all five moral foundations that include embracing the ethics of divinity and community. Libertarians or (classical) liberals in the European sense are a truly unique political species and are not easily placed on the Left-Right political spectrum in that they prize the last moral foundation, Liberty, above all other values.

These are extraordinary differences and would explain the growing political polarization in the United States and why liberals can’t understand conservatives (and vice versa). In today’s political discourse, partisans often seem to argue not so much against each other, but past each other (an observation that forms the basis of Thomas Sowell’s eye-opening work A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles, also alluded to in Haidt’s book).

Given that human nature is tribal, people automatically form teams when they share values and morals. While morality can “bind” people together through benefits such as group cohesion and unity, it also “blinds” them to the possibilities or even the existence of other legitimate perspectives akin to The Matrix. This kind of “moral matrix” can be so strong that it “provides a complete, unified, and emotionally compelling worldview, easily justified by observable evidence and nearly impregnable to attack by arguments from outsiders.”

As challenging as it may be to see through one’s own ideological blinders, empathy is crucial for successful outreach, acts as an “antidote to righteousness,” and has the added benefit of expanding one’s own intellectual horizons.

Why Intellectual Diversity Matters

Because of the inherent limits of human reason, Haidt reminds us that “we should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play.”

However, under the right circumstances and conditions, people can use their reasoning powers to check the claims of others. Furthermore, when people “feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system.” Thus, it is especially “important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth (such as an intelligence agency or a community of scientists) or to produce good public policy (such as a legislature or advisory board).”

Embracing intellectual diversity is of paramount importance to companies that wish to attract top talent and stay innovative.

Universities, most of which are still committed to their timeless mission to search for truth and push the boundaries of human knowledge, in particular must embrace complete freedom of speech, open inquiry, epistemic humility, and tolerance for the most radical and eccentric. Championing viewpoint and philosophical diversity goes hand in hand with these fundamental principles that form the bedrock of a liberal education.

Speaking as an entrepreneur, I would further add that embracing intellectual diversity is of paramount importance to companies especially if they wish to attract top talent and stay innovative in an increasingly competitive world. Haidt’s findings from moral psychology are consistent with research from other fields highlighting the value of those who “think different.”

Saras Sarasvathy at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business profiled some of the most successful entrepreneurs and found them to be spontaneous contrarians who have “confidence in their ability to recognize, respond to, and reshape opportunities as they develop” to the point that they “thrive on contingency.” Unsurprisingly, entrepreneurs relish bucking conventional wisdom whether it be following standard management practices or any other kind of defined linear process.

Adam Grant at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has extensively researched how “originals” move the world. Startups, which by their very nature are nonconformist, have a special obligation to hire originals who can seed a resilient culture, anticipate market movements under conditions of extreme uncertainty, and repurpose dissenting ideas in alternative ways. Grant emphasizes how originals can mitigate the risks every company faces:

Conformity is dangerous – especially for an entity in formation. If you don’t hire originals, you run the risk of people disagreeing but not voicing their dissent. You want people who choose to follow because they genuinely believe in ideas, not because they’re afraid to be punished if they don’t. For startups, there’s so much pivoting that’s required that if you have a bunch of sheep, you’re in bad shape.

Launching a startup requires boldness, imagination, and a contrarian streak. Perhaps then, it is not surprising that immigrants, individuals who leave the land of their birth for the unknown, have had a disproportionate impact on American entrepreneurship and may even be predisposed towards creativity. In trying to pin down the “secret of immigrant genius,” Eric Weiner speculates that intellectual development is stimulated when one’s world is turned upside down:

Many immigrants possess what the psychologist Nigel Barber calls “oblique perspective.” Uprooted from the familiar, they see the world at an angle, and this fresh perspective enables them to surpass the merely talented. To paraphrase the philosopher Schopenhauer: Talent hits a target no one else can hit. Genius hits a target no one else can see.

Beyond Identity Checkboxes

Broad liberal attitudes towards risk-taking, unorthodox thinking, and entrepreneurship are among the reasons why the United States is still the richest country in the world. In his wide-reaching book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves, science writer Matt Ridley traced the origins and spread of economic prosperity. He credits voluntary exchange and specialization, specifically what happens when different ideas meet, mate, and recombine to create new ideas, for being the main drivers of human economic and social progress.

As summarized by John Daly at the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business:

Innovations often happen when you combine two or more things in unexpected ways. When you have a diverse group of people working on something, magic often happens because each person brings a different perspective and experience to the table.

Authentic diversity must go beyond identity checkboxes to fully include diversity in ideas. Viewpoint diversity drives creative tension, cross-cultural understanding, and the ability to identify and solve problems from multiple perspectives. Creativity and innovation ultimately depend on people stepping outside of comfort zones and trying new things including getting exposed to radical and unorthodox ways of thinking.

Companies that actively work to prevent the dangers of groupthink and foster a welcoming culture for weirdos and mavericks are better positioned to become more resilient and innovative environments. Cultivating the right processes and organizational norms may make the final difference in stronger financial returns. Whether it’s a feisty little startup looking to challenge the dominant players or an established Fortune 500 company looking to defend its position, any company can gain an edge over its competitors by unleashing the “gale of creative destruction.”

Moving Forward

Intellectual diversity creates awareness of our own blinders.

Besides its obvious economic benefits, intellectual diversity creates value that extends beyond material gains. A marketplace of ideas is one of the key underpinnings of a free society. Truth can emerge when views are freely exchanged, challenged, and refined. People’s individual reasoning have inherent limits but through our collective intelligence, we can achieve the impossible.

Even though our intuition-based morality divides our allegiances into different tribes that seemingly cannot coexist with others, accepting and encouraging intellectual diversity creates awareness of our own blinders and provides a possible escape path out of our moral matrices. Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind is an invaluable starting point. He and other courageous “heterodox” scholars working to advance viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and constructive disagreement fill me with hope.

If we were to understand the moral foundations on which all our moral interests are based, we just might be able to restore civility, learn how to disagree more constructively, promote genuine tolerance, and ultimately advance human progress on every front.


Science tells us this is all true

October 9, 2017

Sovereign Valley Farm, Chile

On April 30, 1934, under pressure from Italian-American lobby groups, the United States Congress passed a law enshrining Columbus Day as a national holiday.

President Franklin Roosevelt quickly signed the bill into law, and the very first Columbus Day was celebrated in October of that year.

Undoubtedly people had a different view of the world back then… and a different set of values.

Few cared about the plight of the indigenous who were wiped out as a result of European conquest.

Even just a few decades ago when I was a kid in elementary school, I remember learning that ‘Columbus discovered America’. There was no discussion of genocide.

It wasn’t until I was a sophomore at West Point that I picked up Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States (and then Columbus’s own diaries) and started reading about the mass-extermination of entire tribes.

Columbus himself wrote about his first encounter with the extremely peaceful and welcoming Arawak Indians of the Bahama Islands:

“They do not bear arms, and do not know them, for I showed them a sword, they took it by the edge and cut themselves out of ignorance. They have no iron…They would make fine servants…With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want.”

And so he did.  

“I took some of the natives by force in order that they might learn and might give me information of whatever there is in these parts.”

Columbus had already written back to his investors in Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, that the Caribbean islands possessed “great mines of gold.”

It was all lies. Columbus was desperately attempting to justify their investment.

In Haiti, Columbus ordered the natives to bring him all of their gold. But there was hardly an ounce of gold anywhere on the island. So Columbus had them slaughtered. Within two years, 250,000 were dead.

Now, this letter isn’t intended to rail against Columbus. Point is, I never learned any of this information in school. Decades ago, no one really did.

But today, people are starting to be aware of what Columbus did. And our values are vastly different today than they were in 1937. Or in 1492.

Decades ago… and certainly hundreds of years ago… the idea of a ‘superior race’ still prevailed, endowed by their creator with the right to subjugate all inferior races.

This readily-accepted belief was the pretext of slavery and genocide.  

Even as recently as the early 1900s, there were entire fields of ‘science’ devoted to studying the technical differences among various races and drawing data-driven conclusions about superiority.

Phrenologists, for example, would take precise measurements of people’s skulls– the circumference of the head, the ratio of forehead to eyebrow measurements, etc.– and deduce the intellectual capacity and character traits of entire races.

Jews could not be trusted. Blacks and Asians were inferior. These assertions were based on ‘scientific evidence’, even in nations like Sweden, the United Kingdom, and United States.

Today we’re obviously more advanced than our ancestors were. We know that their science was complete bullshit, and our values are totally different.

There are entire movements now (particularly among university students) to remove statues, rename buildings, and re-designate holidays.

Frankly this is a pretty slippery slope. If we judge everyone throughout history based on our values today, we’ll never stop tearing down monuments.

Even someone as forward-thinking as Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. And that’s a LOT of elementary schools to rename.

More importantly, there will come a time in the future when our own descendants judge us harshly for our short-sighted values.

Fortunately we no longer have faux-scientists today writing dissertations about racial superiority.

But we do have entire fields of ‘science’ that will truly bewilder future historians. Economics is one of them.

Our society awards some of its most distinguished prizes for intellectual achievement to economists who tell us that the path to prosperity is to print money, raise taxes, and go into debt.

Economists tell us that we can spend our way out of recession, borrow our way out of debt, and that there will never be any consequences from conjuring trillions of units of paper currency out of thin air.

They created a central banking system whereby an unelected committee of economists possesses nearly totalitarian control of the money supply… and hence the power to influence the price of EVERYTHING– food, fuel, housing, utilities, financial markets, etc.

Economists have managed to convince the world that inflation, i.e. rising prices, is actually a GOOD thing… and that prices quadrupling and quintupling during the average person’s lifespan is ‘normal’.

They’ve also succeeded in making policy-makers terrified of deflation (falling prices) even though just about any rational individual would naturally prefer falling (or at least stable) prices to rising prices.

Economists make the most ridiculous assertions, like “The debt doesn’t matter because we owe it to ourselves…” as if it’s perfectly acceptable for the US government to default on its citizens.

Or that the US economy is so strong because the American consumer spends so much money, i.e. consumption (and not production) drives prosperity.

The public believes all this nonsense because the ‘scientists’ say it’s true.

The scientists also come up with fuzzy mathematics to support their assertions. Last Friday, for example, the Labor Department reported that the US economy lost 33,000 jobs in September.

Yet miraculously the unemployment rate actually declined, i.e. fewer people are unemployed despite there being fewer jobs in the economy.

None of this makes any sense. Fewer jobs means lower unemployment. Spend more money. Print more money. Borrow more money. Debt is wealth. Consumption is prosperity.

All of this is based on ‘science’.

We may rightfully take umbrage with the values and ideas of our ancestors.

But it’s worth turning that mirror on ourselves and examining our own beliefs… for there will undoubtedly come a time when our own descendants wonder how we could have been so foolish.

Reposted from SovereignMan

A Simple Question


Are those so eager to tear down various monuments willing to do so to the fullest and logical extent of your reasoning? Are you?

If indeed, historical monuments, erected decades or more ago, are so offensive due to their ties to slavery, segregation and all its vile wretchedness, then are those of you so willing to demand with equal fervor that every Democratic Party member who promoted or defended slavery, who refused to support desegregation, aided and abetted “separate but equal”, who had been members of the KKK, who resisted every legislative effort to literally remove the physical and political shackles from  people of color also have their names and likenesses removed from the sight of all?

Only one party literally has blood on its hand for the stain of bigotry and racism. One. It fought to keep slavery, segregation and institutionalized racism as a lawful right. That party used every means possible both legal and illegal, force and coercion, the courts and police, to take rights from people of color. That Party has a long and vivid history of legislators, jurists, congressman, senators and Presidents who, with vigorous conviction of the rightness of their view, denigrated people of color. But they would have us ignore that, vigorously pointing fingers in the direction of their political opposition whether it means distortion of facts, outright fabrications and vacuous verbal character assassination at any opportunity.

It is even said that the welfare state was designed to keep folks enslaved in the new plantation of the national state. One thing for sure, the Great Society of LBJ, not known for his racial fondness, was not put forth as scheme to bolster the lives of those he looked down upon (“they’re getting uppity”). One has only to look at the societal harm done by those legislative efforts. (See:

For those so eager to denigrate a sitting President, who over his entire public life has denounced white supremacy (please understand this phrase to be as expansive as it need be to cover every possible iteration or group) in general as well as specifically, this outrageous display moral self-righteousness is utterly and distastefully repugnant.

Look at us! We are literally tearing at one another due to a misrepresentation of what someone said, over misrepresentation of the facts of events, due to either an unwillingness to hear the plain spoken words of an individual or the prejudice of mind that precludes the ability to listen without casting personal perceptions and feelings on them. How did we become such a hateful, spiteful and ruthlessly intolerant society? Neither white supremacists or Antifa are without blame. For that matter, how does a Governor and a Mayor come off so high and mighty when clearly they exacerbated events by their dereliction of duty regarding the appropriate implementation of law enforcement in the prevention of conflict.

And yet, all the uproar over what is not said? To quote someone far better than I, “Let he who has ears to hear, hear. Let he who has eyes to see, see.” The same person said, “If you would remove the thorn from your brother’s eye, you must first remove the beam from your own.”

How can we survive as a society when a news reporter is threatened for recounting events accurately? Even after she modified her report, she was still castigated (see: How is this anything but mob rule and anarchy? Is this the kind of nation you wish to leave your children and grandchildren? I don’t.

The way out of this mess and bile, is first to step back and take a deep breath. Then to merely respect that we will all differ in our views on a whole host of subjects and issues. But to treat each other as idiots or less than human, then to resort to verbal and physical abuse on account of disagreement? Really? So much for a civilized society! So much for a lawful, much less, society! As for using law to compel others to get their minds right one need only look to Stalin, Mao, Che, PolPot and ISIS to appreciate where that leads. Even within our own recent history here, the FBI undercover testimony disclosed that the Weather Underground estimated that up to 25% of the population would have to be eliminated because at least many would not be “re-educated”. Is that what we really want?

We are at a crossroads, a watershed moment.

Will we embrace respect and deference when we disagree? Or will we devolve into mongrels and devour ourselves?

Why, when our nation was founded on the preeminent ideal of equality for all would we permit the desire, the pursuit and the means of potentially achieving it, cast it aside for the mob and despotism?

Robert Frost wrote: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference.”

I for one choose the less traveled road of liberty and respect. You’re more than welcome to join me. Those who choose otherwise: leave those of us who love life and liberty, respect our fellow man, even when we disagree, who will not use force to compel another individual’s loss for their own benefit, but seek justice against those who would….those who prefer another way of life, leave us alone.

You may choose to grovel with the mongrels of the mob who would bite and snip at every difference natural and learned. What a pitiful lot. All the best to you. Just leave the rest of us alone and quit meddling in our lives.


Shame On Us

Shame On Us

Shame on us for believing it is somehow compassionate to take the hard-earned resources of one individual and giving it to another.

Shame on us that we’ve forgotten that the “Government” is us, that whatever monies it has is our friends, our neighbors and individuals we do not know.

Shame on us for permitting legislators to throw about our earnings like so much candy to buy votes, to curry favor and seduce us into supposedly good things, all the while doing little more than spend money that is not theirs without regard of the costs to us.

Shame on us for assuming that because we think it’s a good idea to do such-and-such that every should be compelled by law to support it, even if they disagree.

Shame on us for daring to believe that what is our neighbors is ours to direct and allocate under penalty of law.

Shame on us for permitting our own self interest to pervert law into the means by which we take from others to line our own pockets (subsidies, credits, socialized healthcare, etc.).

Shame on us for daring to blindly throw about the hard-earned monies of each other as though it were ours to control and not the ones who earned it.

Shame on us for eagerly endorsing law that amounts to little more than theft.

Shame on us for forgetting it is NOT government but us, WE the People, that are the solutions.

Shame on us for being suspicious of anyone suggesting something could be better accomplished without doing so through government.

Shame on us for distrusting each other so much as to bind each other in the chains of legislation blindly believing that coercion and forced re-allocation will some how redress inequities.

Shame on us for refusing to resist the temptation to use law to coerce others to doing only what we approve of; for criminalizing rudeness and offensive behavior.

Shame on us for lacking the will and determination to win hearts and minds by example and persuasion and deeming ourselves the moral conscience and judge of our neighbors when they disagree with our particular views.

Shame on us for decimating the rule of law in favor of the rule of the mob.

Shame on us for preferring chains over liberty; for what we leave the next generation.

Shame on us.


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The Systematic Errors of the Man (and Woman) of System

I found this article by Don Boudreaux on July 12, 2017

in Adam Smith, Health, Man of System

In my latest Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column I join Adam Smith in denouncing the man (and woman) “of system”‘s pretensions and as well as that arrogant person’s unflattering view of ordinary people.  A slice:

In short, the “man of system” forgets that ordinary people are active, reasoning, creative individuals. They generally do not need government prodding to take actions that improve their lives. When they are so prodded, it is almost always to press them to take actions they would prefer to avoid. Conflict thus arises between ordinary people and those men (and women) “of system” who arrogantly fancy that they’re entitled to order others about.

Consider today’s brouhaha over repealing parts of ObamaCare, whose fans treat the typical American as a mindless, inert blob. If this American loses government health-insurance funding, he’s believed to have no ability or wish to find private insurance. And private insurers are believed to be so uninterested in his business that they refuse to make him attractive offers. The “man of system,” therefore, concludes that all individuals removed from Medicaid rolls are doomed to live the rest of their days not only without health insurance, but without health care itself. It’s a short step from there to the accusation that those who wish to scale back government’s role in the health-care market are little better than homicidal maniacs.

Of course, real people are not mindless, inert chess pieces whose only principle of motion is government’s guiding hand — or, more accurately, kicking foot. The awful irony, alas, is that when government treats people like witless chess pieces, too many of them do eventually lose the ability to think and act for themselves.

Professor Boudreaux’ full Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Article

A Theory of Moral Sentiments by Adam Smith (free PDF)

It continues to amaze me, the abject arrogance of many today who consider thinkers of prior generation invalid for today’s issues on the premise they couldn’t understand modern society. Our gadgets today may vastly exceed what they may have imagined possible. However, when one reads paragraphs such as these written many years ago, it cannot but expose the modern arrogance of presumption they we are so much smarter that our predecessors.

“The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.” –Paul Johnson

In One Image, Everything You Need to Know about Health Insurance, Community Rating, and Pre-Existing Conditions

When discussing government involvement in the health sector, I usually focus on the budgetary implications. Which makes sense since I’m a fiscal wonk and programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare are diverting ever-larger amounts of money from the economy’s productive sector.

I also look at the tax side of the fiscal equation and complain about how the healthcare exclusion mucks up the tax code.

Though it’s important to understand that government involvement doesn’t just cause fiscal damage. All these programs and policies contribute to the “third-party payer” problem, which exists when people make purchases with other people’s money. Such a system is a recipe for inefficiency and rising prices since consumers generally don’t care about cost and providers have no incentive to be efficient. And since government figures show that nearly 90 percent of health care expenditures are financed by someone other than the consumer, this is a major problem. One that I’ve written about many, many times.

But there’s another economic problem caused by government – price controls on insurance – that is very important. Indeed, the fights over “community rating” and “pre-existing conditions are actually fights about whether politicians or competition should determine prices.

Simply stated, politicians want insurance companies to ignore risk when selling insurance. They want artificially low premiums for old people, so they restrict differences in premiums based on age (i.e., a community rating mandate), even though older people are statistically far more likely to incur health-related expenses. They also want artificially low premiums for sick people, so the crowd in Washington requires that they pay the same or similar premiums as healthy people (i.e., a pre-existing conditions mandate), even though they are statistically far more likely to incur health-related expenses.

Set aside that the entire purpose of insurance is to guard against risk. Instead, let’s focus on what happens when these types of price controls are imposed. For all intents and purposes, insurance companies are in a position where they have to over-charge young and healthy people in order to subsidize the premiums of old and sick people. That’s sounds great if you’re old and sick, but young and healthy people respond by choosing not to purchase insurance. And as fewer and fewer young and healthy people are in the system, that forces premiums ever higher. This is what is meant by a “death spiral.”

The pro-intervention crowd has a supposed solution to this problem. Just impose a mandate that requires the young and healthy people to buy insurance. Which is part of Obamacare, so there is a method to that bit of madness. But since the penalties are not sufficiently punitive (and also because the government simply isn’t very competent), the system hasn’t worked. And to make matters worse, Obamacare exacerbated the third-party payer problem, thus leading to higher costs, which ultimately leads to higher premiums, which further discourages people from buying health insurance.

So how do we solve this problem?

One of my colleagues at the Cato Institute, Michael Cannon, is a leading expert on these issues. And he’s also a leading pessimist. Here’s some of what he wrote a week ago as part of a column on the Senate bill to modify Obamacare.

ObamaCare’s “community rating” price controls are causing premiums to rise, coverage to get worse for the sick and insurance markets to collapse across the country. The Senate bill would modify those government price controls somewhat, allowing insurers to charge 64-year-olds five times what they charge 18-year-olds (as opposed to three times, under current law). But these price controls would continue to make a mess of markets and cause insurers to flee.

But he wasn’t enamored with the House proposal, either. Here are some excerpts from his analysis earlier this year of that proposal.

The House leadership bill retains the very ObamaCare regulations that are threatening to destroy health insurance markets and leave millions with no coverage at all. ObamaCare’s community-rating price controls literally penalize insurers who offer quality coverage to patients with expensive conditions, creating a race to the bottom in insurance quality. Even worse, they have sparked a death spiral that has caused insurers to flee ObamaCare’s Exchanges nationwide… The leadership bill would modify ObamaCare’s community-rating price controls by expanding the age-rating bands (from 3:1 to 5:1) and allowing insurers to charge enrollees who wait until they are sick to purchase coverage an extra 30 percent (but only for one year). It is because the House leadership would retain the community-rating price controls that they also end up retaining many other features of the law.

Though existing law also is terrible, largely because of Obamacare. Here are passages from Michael’s column in the Hill.

ObamaCare’s core provisions are the “community rating” price controls and other regulations that (supposedly) end discrimination against patients with preexisting conditions. How badly do these government price controls fail at that task? Community rating is the reason former president Bill Clinton called ObamaCare “the craziest thing in the world” where Americans “wind up with their premiums doubled and their coverage cut in half.” Community rating is why women age 55 to 64 have seen the highest premium increases under ObamaCare. It is the principal reason ObamaCare has caused overall premiums to double in just four years. …Why? Because community rating forces insurance companies to cover the sick below cost, which simply isn’t sustainable. The only solution ObamaCare supporters offer is to keep throwing more money at the problem — which also isn’t sustainable.

Anyone who wants to really understand this issue should read all of Michael’s work on health care issues.

But if you don’t have the time or energy for that, here’s an image that I found on Reddit‘s libertarian page. Using not-so-subtle sarcasm, it tells you everything you need to know about why price controls ultimately will kill health insurance.

P.S. None of this suggests we should feel sorry for health insurance companies. They got in bed with the previous administration and endorsed Obamacare, presumably because they figured a mandate (especially with all the subsidies) would create captive customers. Now that it’s clear that the mandate isn’t working very well and that increased Medicaid dependency accounts for almost all of the additional “insurance coverage,” they’re left with an increasingly dysfunctional system. As far as I’m concerned, they deserve to lose money. And I definitely don’t want them to get bailout money.

P.P.S. Republicans aren’t doing a very good job of unwinding the Obamacare price controls, but they deserve a bit of credit for being bolder about trying to undo the fiscal damage.

Addendum: A comment from Seb reminds me that I was so fixated on criticizing price controls that I never bothered to explain how to deal with people who have pre-existing conditions and therefore cannot get health insurance. I’m guessing the answer is “high-risk pools” where the focus of policy is directly subsidizing the relatively small slice of the population that has a problem (as opposed to price controls and other interventions that distort the market for everyone). But the main goal, from my perspective, is to have states handle the issue rather than Washington. A federalist approach, after all, is more likely to give us the innovation, diversity, and competition that produces the best approaches. States may discover, after all, that insurance doesn’t make sense and choose to directly subsidize the provision of health care for affected people. In the long run, part of the solution is to get rid of the health care exclusion in the internal revenue code as part of fundamental tax reform. If that happened, it’s less likely that health insurance would be tied to employment (and losing a job is one of the main ways people wind up without insurance).

Reposted from International Liberty