Monthly Archives: May 2007

The One Minute Case Against Mandatory Seatbelt Laws

Driver safety is not a special prerogative of the state

Seat belt laws are enforced “for our own good.” But traffic accidents are not leading causes of injury and death, nor is buckling seatbelts the most beneficial thing you can do for your health. Daily exercise, nutritious meals, intellectual enrichment, and regular sexual activity have all been shown to have a positive impact on mind and body. The issue is not whether seatbelts are beneficial, but whether the state has the right to coerce us for our own good.

You own yourself

The Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution officially prohibited the ownership of another human being. To own something is to exclusively control and use it for one’s own purposes. We recognize that control is ownership, even when property nominally belongs to another party. Thus, under the regime of the National Socialist German Workers Party, industry belonged neither to the original owners, nor to the workers, but to the Nazi party, and in the Soviet Union it belonged to the Communist Party, not “the people.” Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s chief propagandist, explained it thus: “To be a socialist, is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.” If the state controls every aspect of the individual’s life for the “common good,” then individuals become property of the state.

Safety regulations lead to reckless behavior

Common sense indicates that individuals are more likely to be concerned with their safety than politicians. Even when they aren’t, safety laws may have a counterproductive effect. According to studies cited by the Independence Institute,

When subjects who normally did not wear seat belts were asked to do so, they were observed to drive faster, followed more closely, and braked later. In other words, people who are naturally cautious voluntarily choose to wear seat belts, and voluntarily drive safely. When reckless people are forced to wear seat belts, they “compensate” for the increased safety by driving more recklessly. Furthermore, no jurisdiction that has passed a seat belt law has shown evidence of a reduction in road accident death.

Externalized healthcare costs are only a problem under socialism

Those who support outlawing risky behavior argue about the “social costs” of medical treatment for accidents. But this is only a problem for a socialist state. In a free society, a person is injured due to their own recklessness is responsible for their own treatment. However, in a socialist economy, everyone is responsible for paying for everyone else’s health. It’s not a coincidence that advocates of seatbelt laws are supporters of socialized healthcare as well.

“Click it or Ticket” is a step towards totalitarianism

There is no logical end to laws that replace individual judgment with politically-mandated notions of what risks we are and are not allowed to take. If it desirable to the state to control individuals while driving, eating, working, and seeing the doctor, it follows that the state should regulate every other aspect of their lives as well. Without a principled and uncompromising defense of the individual’s right to own his life, we are reduced to being property of the omnipotent State, being permitted to live only at the mercy of a bureaucrat’s decision that we contribute to the “common good.”

Further reading:

13 Comments

Filed under Politics

The One Minute Case For Unrestrained Profit

Profit is the engine of production

Restraining profit by taxing it or limiting it has the effect of limiting production. Restraining profit means an economy will produce fewer goods, of less variety, and at higher price. Innovation suffers. As a result, to the extent profits are restrained, all consumers suffer. Profit drives production in several ways:

Profit is the incentive for production

The profit motive is the supreme motivator of productive business activity. The creativity of scientists, the entrepreneurship of businessmen, and the resourcefulness of financiers are all motivated, in whole or part, by the pursuit of profits.

Profit provides the means of production

Profits and savings are the ultimate source of the investment capital (money) that finances construction of factories, research laboratories, distribution centers, ships, warehouses, and all of the equipment that is used to invent, produce and distribute the goods that we consume. To restrict profits is to deny a source of capital necessary for production.

Profit directs capital to the production of goods most urgently wanted

The highest profits are earned by the businessmen who can supply the goods most wanted by customers. iPods, portable generators after a hurricane, personal computers, fashionable clothes, and all of the goods consumers want most, are made by those who make the greatest profits. The profitability of an enterprise is the ultimate measuring stick of how well it has satisfied its customers. A money losing business is either making products consumers do not want or charging too much for them.

Profits result in everyone’s gain

Profits do not come from the net loss of anyone. On the contrary, profit results from the creation of goods that people voluntarily buy in the marketplace. A businessman who makes a huge profit makes things that are good enough that many people want them and willingly buy them from him.

Profit is property

Profits are the property of the shareholders and other investor/owners of the business. Restricting or taxing profits is not just impractical, but is theft.

Honest profits are an essential feature of capitalism

A profit honestly earned in a capitalist society is beneficial and good for all. Profits must be distinguished from the money a businessman might get because of special governmental favors, such as tariffs, regulations or subsidies. These interventions are contrary to capitalism and allow some businessmen to gain at other people’s expense. Their gain is not profits, but a form of theft.

Further reading

  • Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand
  • Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
  • “Profit and Loss” by Ludwig von Mises

3 Comments

Filed under Economics

The One Minute Case For Abortion Rights

What is abortion?

Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by the induced removal of the fetus which results in the death of the fetus.

There are two issues raised in abortion debates:

  • Does a fetus have a right to be in a woman’s body against her will?
  • Does the government have the right to restrict reproductive rights to pursue social objectives?

Anti-abortionists confuse the potential with the actual

A human being is a physically distinct being who survives by the use of reason. Prior to birth, a fetus is to a human being what an apple is to an apple tree, or an egg to a chicken. A fetus may superficially resemble a human being, but it is no more a baby than an embryo inside an egg is a chick – a picture is not an argument. It has the potential to be a human being, but does not become an actual human being until it is born.

There is no right to be a parasite

Rights derive from the fact that human beings need freedom from the coercion of others in order to live. Two properties are essential for a being to possess rights: physical independence and the capacity for rational thought. “Physical independence” means that a being’s existence is not necessarily dependent on the sustenance of another.

A fetus is not an independent entity – in order to live, it must drain the resources of the mother – it is literally a parasite until it is born. A newly-born infant is also helpless, but it does not impose a burden on the mother by its very existence – others may choose to provide for it. A parent who chooses to bring an human being into the world accepts an obligation to ensure that it is provided for, but until that choice is made, the fetus has no more right to live of the mother than a thief has to live on other’s wealth.

Humans own their own body

The most fundamental of rights is the right to one’s own life, which means the right to own one’s body. A woman’s body is not the property of the state or society, to be controlled by majority rule. Just as it would be unjust to violate a woman by raping her, so it is evil to force her to remain pregnant.

Pro-rights is the only consistent pro-life, pro-family position

“Responsible parenthood involves decades devoted to the child’s proper nurture. To sentence a woman to bear a child against her will is an unspeakable violation of her rights: her right to liberty (to the functions of her body), her right to the pursuit of happiness, and, sometimes, her right to life itself, even as a serf. Such a sentence represents the sacrifice of the actual to the potential, of a real human being to a piece of protoplasm, which has no life in the human sense of the term. It is sheer perversion of language for people who demand this sacrifice to call themselves ‘right-to-lifers.’ “

— Leonard Peikoff (Objectivism, in the Chapter on Government)

Further reading

21 Comments

Filed under Philosophy, Politics

The One Minute Case Against Antitrust

Antitrust punishes the best companies

The list of antitrust targets reads like a Who’s Who of American business success stories. Standard Oil Company, Alcoa Aluminum Company, IBM, and Microsoft, are just a few. These companies were pioneers in developing new and beneficial products. Who doesn’t benefit from cheaper gasoline using methods pioneered by Rockefeller, the aluminum foil and light-weight aluminum parts invented by Alcoa, or the computer revolution, first in mainframes by IBM, and then in personal computing by Microsoft? These companies pioneered new industries and offered new products that were widely demanded by customers. The huge demand for their products and their large marketshare was a sign of how successful these companies were in selling products that many people wanted. Yet, that market share became the basis for antitrust lawsuits.

Antitrust is used by unscrupulous companies against their competitors

An honest businessman competes by selling a better product. It is not a coincidence that it is usually second and third-tier companies who use antitrust to hammer a more successful competitor. What does it say about the competitive spirit of a company that must cry to “mother” (i.e., the Federal Trade Commission) when the competition gets too tough? Antitrust is used by less successful businessmen to stifle competition.

Antitrust is arbitrary and non-objective; it is bad law

A good law is easy to understand and apply, so that one clearly knows in advance what is a crime and what is not a crime. Antitrust laws make it impossible to know whether one is committing a crime. Under antitrust, it can be illegal to charge less than your competitor (that is considered “price gouging” or “dumping”), to charge the same price as a competitor (that could be “collusion” or “oligarchy”), or to charge a higher price than your competitor (that could be “monopolistic behavior” or “destroying consumer surplus”). Thousands of lawyers and regulators extract hundreds of millions of dollars out of the economy wrestling with these questions. No one should be subject to such arbitrary law.

Capitalism doesn’t need antitrust

The great successes in business were achieved by companies that began small, and became large through innovation and lower prices. Antitrust did not make those successes happen. On the contrary, antitrust is poised like a guillotine at the throats of every businessman who has the foresight, perseverance and pluck to become successful. His very success, his large market share, puts a target on his back for unscrupulous competitors and eager bureaucrats.

Further reading

6 Comments

Filed under Economics, Politics

The One Minute Case For Open Immigration

Restricting immigration violates individual rights

The founding principle of the United States is that “all men” are endowed with “certain unalienable Rights“. These rights are inherent to our nature as human beings, not privileges granted by the government. It is unjust to protect the rights of some but violate the rights of others because of their place of birth.

Immigration is non-coercive; restricting immigration is

A foreigner does not steal from anyone when he pays to buy a house or a car – he benefits both parties. But the government engages in coercion when it forbids a citizen from selling to, hiring, or doing business with a foreigner. There is no right to be protected from being outbid for one’s goods or labor just because one’s competitor is a foreigner. As long as immigrants are peaceful, the government has no right to treat them like criminals by preventing them from engaging in the same voluntary transactions as any other American.

Immigrants make us richer

Every self-supporting worker produces more than he consumes, adding to total output and raising the real wage rate for everyone. The notion that immigrants cause unemployment is based on the fallacious idea that the total output of a country is fixed, and can only be divided among its residents. But historically, the American standard of living rose fastest during peak immigration periods and continues to rise today. Our greatest source of wealth is not natural resources or the capital base, but the ingenuity and creativity of our entrepreneurs and workers. Each new American creates not only new demand, but also provides the supply and insight to meet that demand.

Immigrants are not at fault for welfare abuse

Immigrants are often blamed for living on the public dole. But being born in a particular country does not give anyone a right to the property of others. American welfare bums don’t have any more right to other’s wealth than Mexican bums. It’s the welfare state that’s immoral, not immigration. This argument is also contradicted by legislative efforts to punish the employers of illegal immigrants, and the fact that illegal immigrants and permanent residents are generally not eligible for welfare.

Immigrants epitomize the American Dream

Whether they come here to escape political oppression or simply the pervasive poverty of socialist states, immigrants who come here seeking a free, productive life embody the American spirit. They have shown by their actions that they are far better Americans than most people born in the U.S. While most Americans don’t even bother to vote, they abandon their former life and culture and risk everything to embrace the American dream. Upon coming to America, they are usually more successful than their native born-counterparts.

Further reading

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

-“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus

30 Comments

Filed under Politics

The One Minute Case For Atheism

Atheism is the lack of belief

Atheism is the lack of belief in the existence of gods. It is not a belief system or a religion but the denial that supernatural beings exist. There are atheists with all sorts of philosophies and beliefs.

You’re already an atheist

Even if you believe in a god, you probably don’t believe in other gods – Zeus, Osiris, Jupiter, Thor, Allah or Jesus. It’s hypocritical to be skeptical in the holy book, revealed prophets, miracle stories, or holy men of all religions but yours. You are an atheist when it comes to everyone else’s gods, so why give your god a free pass?

The burden of proof is on the theist

Can you prove that an invisible pink elephant is not floating above your head? How does one prove a negative in the absence of evidence? Theists make the exceptional claim that there is a god. That claim requires exceptional proof. The burden of proof is on the theist to prove God exists.

By using reason and science, humans have been expanding our knowledge of the world. Yet religionists continue to claim that there exists a supernatural realm immune to reason. Where is their proof? If a god is needed to create the universe, what created God? Rather than offer proof, mystics have often tried to silence and discredit those who reveal the complexity and majesty of the universe.

There are natural explanations for the universe

What keeps flowers from turning into rocks, or rocks from floating in the sky? It’s not the will of a supernatural deity, but the fact that flowers are not rocks, and gravity keeps things on the ground. The universe operates according to causal principles, without the need for any supernatural power to keep things from getting chaotic.

Morality does not need religion

Religious texts can offer moral guidance, but they are not the source of moral principles. Humans discovered long ago that following certain rules makes life more productive, peaceful, and pleasurable. Morality derives from human nature, not divine guidance. If one wishes to live a virtuous life, it is better to do so because of the earthly rewards of being virtuous than the fear of eternal punishment. Unlike a theist, an atheist knows that one life is all he has, and will try to live each day to the fullest.

Further reading

135 Comments

Filed under Religion

Welcome to The One Minute Case

Welcome!

The One Minute Case is a new collaborative blog which will present a brief argument about a controversial issue that can be read in under a minute. The goal is to publish one case per day. You can read the cases to learn something new about an issue or use them as a source for longer arguments of your own.

Why so short?

Some issues can be summarized in 60 seconds, while in other cases, we’ll try to make you aware of a new perspective. The goal is to encourage critical thinking and discussion rather than present an open and shut case. If you disagree, or think something is missing, comment away!

Can I contribute?

Sure. Just register and a submit a case (such as one of the proposed topics) as a comment or email. If we like your style, you’ll be given publishing privileges.

1 Comment

Filed under About