Category Archives: Politics

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:

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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

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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

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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

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The Case Against the Initiation of Force

Life requires value-achievement

For all living beings, life is an ongoing process that requires continuous action to gain and keep the values necessary for their survival.  Whether they do it by complex biochemical processes, such as plants and simple organisms, by hunting down they prey, such as the higher animals, or by living in a modern industrial society, such as human beings, all living beings must daily affirm their nature, instinct, or desire to remain living.

Man must choose the values necessary for his life

Like all living beings, man requires certain values to survive, but he is unique in that he can and must choose the values necessary for his life because he has no automatic means of doing so.  His ability to reason, or to experience the world around him and comprehend it by the use of logic gives man the capacity to both understand the values his life requires and the knowledge of how to achieve them.  Faced with the basic moral alternative of acting to remain alive or drifting towards death, man must use reason to choose the values necessary for his life, and then achieve them.  From the earliest hunter and gatherer, whose work consistent almost entirely of manual labor to a computer programmer (or a philosopher) whose work is almost entirely intellectual, each man must exercise his mind to create the values necessary to sustain his life.

Man must be reality-oriented to survive

To be successful in his value-pursuits, each man must treat reality as his only absolute.  He cannot allow his emotions or the conclusions of others, whatever their form, to substitute for his own rational judgment.  For example, if an engineer wants to design a great new car, he must accept reality, including the nature of the material he works with as well as the laws of combustion and aerodynamics as his only absolutes, and design a vehicle that best exploits the properties of the materials he works with.  Even though he relies heavily on the knowledge of others, he must first understand that knowledge within the context of his own understanding of reality to apply it successfully.  He cannot let a fear of the unknown, the irrational demands of his boss, or the expectations of his peers to interference in his judgment – not if he wants to design the best car that he possibly can.

Value achievement requires the freedom to act on one’s judgment

Achieving values requires the freedom to act on one’s choices. A restriction on freedom in any form forces man to focus not on the absolutes of reality, but on the arbitrary ideas of others.  If the boss of the automotive engineer requires the new car model to use an engine made by his favorite contractor, the judgment of the engineer is rendered irrelevant.  His means to achieving his value of a great design is no longer shaped by his grasp of reality, but by the arbitrary edicts of his boss.  The kind of engine he deems best is now irrelevant, because he no longer has the ability to act on his judgments.  Even he believes his choices to be superior a man cannot do the thinking for another, since he cannot act as an intermediary to reality for anyone else.

In a free, capitalist society, any company characterized by managers who impose arbitrary decisions on their employees will quickly go out of business – their best minds, unable to apply their mind, will either quit, or produce mediocre work designed to match their bosses’ expectations rather than their own judgment of the facts.  In a free society, a man can choose to not associate with those who do not respect his judgment – by finding a new job, new friends, or a new lover.  Even if there is no one to share his ideas, every man is still free to present his own vision – by becoming an entrepreneur and launching a new product, or by writing a book with a revolutionary new philosophy, or by engaging in intellectual activism to convince others of his views.  However, as soon as man faces the threat of physical force, the possibility of any such alternatives becomes irrelevant.

The initiation of force paralyzes man’s mind

The opposite of freedom is the initiation of physical force, which renders man’s mind impotent as a means of survival.  The initiation of force presents an impossible alternative: to abandon reason as a guide to action or to face physical harm.  Whatever its form, the initiation of force destroys man’s ability to pursue values to the extent that overrides reason with the edicts of the aggressor.  If the engineer from the previous example finds that some new environmentalist regulation has outlawed the type of engine he considered using, his own judgment becomes irrelevant –faced with an arbitrary decree, his mind is no longer a means to achieve his values in that area of his life.  Likewise, the initiation of force in any form immobilizes man’s mind.  A thug who robs a man at gunpoint or a politician who taxes away his victims legally take not only their victims property, but their ability to choose how to direct their productive activities to benefit their life.  The greater the aggression, the more it destroys man’s ability to pursue his values.  Slavery, whether in a primitive society in a totalitarian state, takes away almost all meaningful choices from men: their choice of vocation, family, or residence.  By incapacitating its victim’s minds, a slave society ultimately destroys itself, since the enslaved are unable to pursue values, and their masters cannot act as an intermediary to reality for them.  Murder is an especially evil form of force: it destroys man’s ability to pursue values totally and permanently.  Likewise, even the very threat of destruction incapacitates man’s mind: the looming threat of another terrorist attacks means that all my plans for the future might be rendered futile by the actions of some crazed lunatic.

Conclusion: the initiation of force is evil

Man’s life requires a process of continuous action of pursuing the values necessary for his life. The means by which chooses which values to pursue and how to achieve them is reason. By using reason, he can process his perception of reality, decide which actions will further his values, and then act on those ideas. To sustain his life, man must have the freedom to act on his own judgment – the freedom of thought and freedom of action are corollaries for him, each meaningless without the other. As long as he is free from force, he is able to succeed or fail in his value-pursuit. To the extent that he is faced with force, his intellect is rendered impotent. When man is unable to act on his judgment, his mind, the primary tool of his survival becomes useless. The great evil of the initiation of force is the fact that it destroys man’s ability to live by invalidating his primary means of doing so.

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