Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Obamacare’

The Two Lefts

In Austrian Economics, Big Brother, Guantanamo, Immigration, Iraq War, Libertarian, Nanny State, Politics, Torture, War on September 11, 2009 at 6:50 am

I have some running thoughts that I’d like to share on the nature of the left-wing.  This post shan’t be well-formulated, I must warn the reader.  It will not constitute good writing.  It won’t even be well-argued, since my intention is not to prove that I am right, but rather merely to quickly and effortlessly convey the thoughts swimming through my head at the moment.  Let us begin.

We learn from Rothbard in 1965 that libertarians and classical liberals are members of the true, radical left.  Richman, in 2007, makes the point that “[o]ne could say that the Left itself had left and right wings, with the laissez-fairists on the left-left and the state socialists on the right-left.”

McElroy, in 1982, points out that libertarianism has grown thanks to the introduction of Austrian economic thought, particularly the introduction of the subjective theory of value.  It’s essentially the same libertarianism that existed in the nineteenth century, and it’s just as individualistic today as it’s ever been, but it now has a better foundation in understanding the nature of value.

I often make the point, particularly when I’m speaking to conservatives, that there are two rights and two lefts, an anti-establishment right exemplified by the likes of Ron Paul and a pro-establishment right exemplified by the likes of G. W. Bush.  On the left, I would say there is an anti-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Mike Gravel and a pro-establishment left exemplified by the likes of Barack Obama.

But really I’m being disingenuous.  Ron Paul and Mike Gravel both occupy the same place on the spectrum: the left.  Neither are on the absolute left, where I am and where Rothbard, McElroy, and Richman more or less are, but they are both certainly on the left.  Likewise, both Bush and Obama occupy the same place on the spectrum: the right.  Neither are as far right as Mussolini or Mao, but both are certainly on the right.

So we find ourselves with two lefts, an anti-establishment left (the libertarians) and a pro-establishment “left” (the pseudo-“liberals”).

Enter John Markley, who recently wrote on his blog: “I expected most of the American Left to lose interest in the war issue once Obama was in office, and especially once Obama started to escalate American military efforts in Afghanistan.  Similarly, I expected them to start finding torture, attacks on civil liberties, and unrestrained executive power much less bothersome once they were wielding those weapons themselves.  Perhaps above all else, I expected their whole ‘dissent is patriotic’ shtick to fade away as well.  However, I really didn’t expect the change to be quite so abrupt.  It’s a demonstration of an important lesson libertarians need to keep in mind—neither liberals nor conservatives are actually very good on the issues they’re supposedly on the right side of.”

Liberals, with whom do you want to associate?  The establishment “left” that tells us we must “respect the office of the presidency”?  The pro-war “liberals”?  The so-called “left” that want you to believe it is unpatriotic to question the government or to yell at politicians (whether at townhall meetings or elsewhere)?  The so-called “liberals” who are only outraged at oppressive government when the red team is at the helm, not also when it is the blue team at the helm?

Or would you rather associate with us radicals, we who fail to see the difference between Obama’s statism and Bush’s statism, we who still believe that dissent is patriotic, we who mourn the deaths in Afghanistan, we who demand that Guantánamo be shut down this week instead of a year from now, we who refuse to support a man who voted in favour of illegal wiretapping and renewing the USA PATRIOT Act, we who believe that this administration doesn’t care about homosexuals?  Sure, by siding with us, you will be siding with people who reject Obamacare, but at least we don’t reject it for the same reasons as the right.  We don’t reject it out of some irrational fear of immigrants being treated as equals in our society, we oppose it because we reject the underlying tenets of imperialism and statism.  We reject it because we are consistent.

Liberals, you have every reason to join us libertarians on the radical left.  After all, unlike the establishment “left,” we’ll never ask you to pledge your loyalty and servitude to the president, regardless of to which party she belonged.  All we ask is that you never initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, that you never hire some gang to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human, and that you never ask a government to initiate force or fraud against your fellow human.

Hopefully you will join us because—that other “left”?—they are looking more and more like the right every day.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part III

In Activism, Health, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State, Protest, US Government on August 13, 2009 at 4:43 pm

The event having ended, the crowd stands up and many file to exit.  Some stand around to talk with one another.  One gentleman comes to me to inquire about the meetings of the College Libertarians of Towson while many others, at least twenty, comment to me that I asked a great question.

As I exit the building, I see night has arrived.  I also see what I had not expected: hundreds of people outside with signs and flags.

One woman is holding a Gadsden flag, and I enquire as to where she got it, hoping to perhaps be able to purchase one of my own.  She informs me that she had gotten it at a Tea Party protest.

Although posters and signs had been banned inside the building, they were on full display outside.  There were also persons handing out flyers with information regarding a petition they wished for attendees to sign, a petition declaring their objection to the government’s new plan.

Walking from the building to the road, virtually every protestor there was against the government’s plan, many holding signs declaring government involvement in healthcare to be socialist.  I saw virtually no counter-protestors in favour of the statist plan until I reached the road itself, where the pro-statism counter-protestors stood on one side of the road and the anti-statism protestors on the other.  A quick glance at the two sides confirmed what one might suspect: the anti-statism side, which was chanting “No Obama care, no Obama care!” was larger than the pro-statism side.

One protestor, on the anti-statism side, yelled to me as I was crossing the street, “Did he answer your question?”  I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond.  After all, Cardin indeed had responded to my question, but not in any satisfactory way.

Still receiving compliments for my question, I made my way to my truck.  Traffic was slow, but I eventually escaped, driving past both groups of protestors.

All in all, it was a rather good event.  It was an absolute pleasure to see the masses verbally tearing down a member of the political class, instead of treating the politician like some holy cow not to be touched or demeaned.  There is nothing magical about politicians, after all—they are humans, just like us; they are flawed, just like us; and, in the state of nature, they are our equals, not our glorious, unquestionable superiors.

This is not to say that all of the sentiments of those who attended should be applauded.  Rather, it’s to say, as Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1787 to Abigail Adams, that the “spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions, that I wish it to be always kept alive.  It will often be exercised when wrong, but better so than not to be exercised at all.  I like a little rebellion now and then.  It is like a storm in the Atmosphere.”

Those wishing to contact their representatives to encourage them to adopt a separation of healthcare and state are encouraged to visit DownsizeDC.org.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part II

In Activism, Health, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State on August 12, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The first four questions were selected from among the blue cards submitted earlier in the night, and were read by the administrator in the green tie.

The first question, read at 7:34, asked whether “illegal” immigrants would be included in the healthcare system, to which Mr. Cardin responded that they would not.

The second question, read at 7:35, concerned small business.  Cardin responded by claiming deep concern for small business, and noted that he was on a committee dealing with small business for this exact reason.

At 7:36, the question read asked how these new proposals did not constitute socialised healthcare.  Not surprisingly, Mr. Cardin tried to assure us that it was not; the audience, however, was not buying it.

Finally, at 7:37, the question read asked how these new proposals could possibly save us money.  More on money, later.

At 7:38, the floor was finally opened to direct questions from the audience, unfiltered by the man in the green tie.  A few minutes were taken up in setting up the microphones, which the administrators wanted to set up no closer to the stage than aisle eight.  Thus, the lines that had quickly formed had to keep stepping back.  I shan’t list all of the questions asked, nor Cardin’s response to each—I will, however, list the more interesting or popular ones.

At 7:43, a gentleman asked about tort reform, and why it has not been included in any of the proposals.  This question received huge applause from the audience.  When the applause dwindled, he added, “Is it because most members of Congress are lawyers?”

A gentleman at 7:45 asked whether Congress would be included in any plans that are adopted, to which Cardin said they would.

At 7:47, an audience member asked Mr. Cardin to cite the specific clause, section, and article of the Constitution that grants to the federal state the authority to get itself involved in matters of health.  This question, to the best of my memory, received a standing ovation.  A woman behind me yelled to Cardin, “I have a copy [of the U.S. Constitution] here if you want to see it!” but I am sure she was heard only by those in her general vicinity, given the loud nature of the applause.

Around 7:53, I had the opportunity to ask my question.  I had been working on it all day.  My original draft was three-and-a-half note-card pages long, and included discussion of anarchism.  And had the majority in the audience appeared in favour of the statist policy suggestions, I probably would have risked reading the whole thing.  But because 90% of the audience was already opposed to the “healthcare” schemes Congress is brewing, I figured it would be more reasonable to present a truncated question.

And thus I began by stating my affiliation with the College Libertarians of Towson, which I’m happy to say received some moderate applause.

Following my affiliation statement, I began:  “Harry Browne often said, ‘Government is good at one thing:  It knows how to break your legs, hand you crutches, and say, “See, if it weren’t for the government, you wouldn’t be able to walk!”’”  This comment received both laughter and applause, so I waited until the applause ended before continuing.  “According to Dr. Mary Ruwart, best-selling author of Healing Our World in An Age of Aggression, we can cut the cost of healthcare by 80% by getting government out of healthcare.  Why is it—”  I had to stop speaking, for at this point I again received applause. I continued, “Why is it, then, that we are moving in the direction of bigger government rather than smaller government?”

After I finished my question, I headed to my seat and listened to Mr. Cardin’s reply.  He essentially said that he didn’t see the 80% figure as realistic.

Had I instead asked him my longer question, it would have listed ways in which healthcare really would become cheaper without government.  For one thing, if we have complete free trade with Canada (and all other countries), then we can freely purchase drugs from these other countries, and thus we can shop around for better deals than we might otherwise be able to get.  For another, without the government-created patent system which gives an unnatural monopoly to big business, then drug companies would have to compete on a truly free market, and they would not be able to charge customers exorbitant costs.  Without the evil FDA, which costs tens of thousand (if not hundreds of thousands) of lives every year, drug companies would not have to go through years and years of bureaucratic red tape, and could instead submit their drugs to private companies similiar to Underwriters Laboratories for testing.  But because drugs cannot be sold in the U.S. without FDA approval, and because it costs so much to get this government monopoly to approve any drug, the costs are passed along to the consumers who thus suffer.  We can also cut costs by alleviating doctors of their onerous government paperwork if we were to turn Medicare and Medicaid into private charities.  And if we were to eliminate government mandates on insurance companies, then insurance companies could tailor their plans to fit what customers want, instead of forcing us to conform to whatever it is that the politicians and bureaucrats think is best for us.

The elimination of government involvement in healthcare would have very liberating effects for consumers of healthcare.  But Cardin doesn’t see the savings as realistic.

At 7:59, I noticed that Mr. Cardin once again looked tiffed.  At no point did he cuss at his audience or stamp his foot, but he made it perfectly clear that he was in stark disagreement with the majority of his audience.

Someone, pointing out that Congress rarely reads the bills it signs, asked if Mr. Cardin would promise to read the bill prior to voting for it.  He promised he would, although I have to wonder how fully he aimed to keep this promise.  Would he read it verbatim himself, or would he get his aids to read it and then summarise it for him?

A person at 8:09 asked about interstate commerce in health insurance, asking why Congress hasn’t made it legal for consumers to shop around.

Another person, at 8:11, pointed out that there were ultimately not very many slides employed by Mr. Cardin, and then asked why it is therefore necessary to have 1,000-page bills.  This question definitely received applause, but the person was not done with questions.  “Can you name even one thing that the private sector was doing that the government took over and made more efficient?” this person asked, and received a standing ovation.  Mr. Cardin ignored the first half of the question and focused on the second half for his response.  I do not at this time recall his responses, but I do recall that he received laughs.

The gentleman who spoke at 8:26 said that if the Founders were there, they would be horrified, and would be looking for ways to get government out of healthcare, to which he received a standing ovation.  He continued by asking, “So why is it that instead, we’re handing over healthcare to a monopoly?: the government!”

The last person to speak pointed out that government rationing of healthcare seemed more similar to some sort of Hitlerian scheme than something we ought to champion as American.  Finally, the event ended at 8:30.

—Alexander S. Peak

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Yesterday’s Townhall Meeting With Ben Cardin: Part I

In Activism, Health, Immigration, Libertarian, Live-blogging, Media, Nanny State, Police State, Protest, US Government on August 11, 2009 at 4:55 pm

Yesterday, I attended Ben Cardin’s Townhall meeting at Towson University.  The purpose of the meeting was to discuss healthcare in America.  Ben Cardin currently serves as one of Maryland’s U.S. senators.

I arrived at 4:11, even though the event was not sceduled to begin until 7:00 PM.  Nevertheless, there was already a line.

This line grew quickly, and by 5:30, the Towson University administration began turning people away.

When they finally let us into the auditorium, they inspected bags and purses to ensure an absence of weapons and food.  Walking through the auditorium door, we were each handed blue cards on which we would write down a question for Mr. Cardin along with our contact information.  Inside the auditorium, classical music played.

I sat toward the front.  At 6:57, a gentleman in the corner of the room holding a small camera was asked to be seated.  It was difficult to hear their conversation, but the man appeared to ask the administrator if it was okay for him to stand where he was for the simple purpose of recording the event and the audience, to which the administrator clearly told him it was not.  The man submitted to the administrator.

I commented to the woman sitting to the right of me, “That guy wasn’t harming anyone,” to which she responded, “Yeah, none of us [audience members] had a problem with him.”

About a minute later, Cardin and a few others walk out.  I had not been paying attention to the stage as I was reading my book, but the audience reaction told me all I needed to know, and so I closed the book.  An administrator in a green tie makes some brief opening remarks.  All three persons and on the stage in front of the audience, and two projection screens stand on either side of the three persons.  Behind the podium are three nice-looking chairs, and above the chairs is a banner—probably paid for with your tax dollars—that said, “Every American Deserves Healthcare.”

The administrator lists a bunch of people who were there that night, most of the names being unfamiliar to me.  I presume a number were state delegates.  Although our other senator, Ms. Barbara Mikulski, was not present, her name was mentioned for some reason—perhaps her aids were in the audience.  Although most of the names mentioned received applause, her name received boos from the audience.

I became immediately aware of how lively this audience was going to be.  Clapping and booing were both highly-valued means of communication throughout the night.

Following the administrator, a woman spoke. She explained the troubles her family is facing, and how difficult it’s been caring for her children, the youngest of whom has some serious ailments.  Needless to say, the entire audience—regardless of what its individual members thought about the healthcare crisis—felt sympathy for this woman, the husband of whom currently works two jobs to make ends meet in our turbulent economy.  She ended her brief presentation by saying that she did not know what the best solution to our nation’s problems is, but that she hoped that events such as this townhall meeting would help to flesh out some of the problems and their solutions.

I could not help, when listening to her presentation, but to think that many of the problems she faced were the fault of statist intervention into the healthcare system and into the economy as a whole.

The audience was, for the most part, respectful to this woman.  This audience did not hold the same respect for the man who spoke next—the politician.

Cardin began speaking at 7:09, and he faced many hecklers.  It was really a beautiful sight: people, refusing to place politicians on some godlike pedistal, but instead speaking their mind, challenging the establishmen man, and, in so doing, challenging the entire elitist system!

This isn’t to say I loved every utterance that this audience made.  I was extremely annoyed to hear some audience members whining, “What about the illegals!?”  Such narrow-minded rhetoric was, in my opinion, a detriment to the otherwise-glorious anti-government arguments and sentiments of the crowd.  I half-wanted to pull these anti-immigrationists off to the side and chastise them for their wrongheaded focus, but decided against it.

Cardin had various slides he wanted to show the audience, but the audience was getting wrestless.  “We want to ask you questions!”  “Let us ask questions!”  Still, Cardin continued.

One of his slides, unvailed at 7:18, showed the increasing cost of health insurance over the past ten years.  Looking at the slide, I couldn’t help but to suspect that it was not adjusted for inflation.  Rising costs of health insurance is certainly not a positive thing, of course, but no evidence was presented to indicate that the cause was anything other than the declining value of the dollar.  What is inflation?  Inflation is any increase in the money supply, and it causes the value of each unit of the money supply to drop.  Thus, when the government inflates the dollar by creating new money and credit out of thin air, the purchasing power of the average user of that currency falls.  The solution, therefore, to this problem is not new government mandates and higher taxes; the solution is to abolish the fraudulent institution responsible for inflation the money supply—in the case of America, that institution is the Federal Reserve.

Still facing heckles, Cardin becomes visibly became tiffed a couple minutes later.  He says to his audience at this time something to the effect of, “I know you don’t care about the facts, but…”  The audience responded, unsurprisingly, with further heckles.  Listening to the audience and our guest speaker, I couldn’t help but to feel like I was sitting in the British parliament.

At 7:22, cops walk from the back of the audience down to the front, and stand in the corners of the room.  I didn’t make precise count, but I estimate that about ten cops made this trek, presumably to intimidate speakers by showcasing the might of the state apparatus.  I do not believe anyone actually allowed themselves to be intimidated, but it was an interesting sight nevertheless.  Where has America gone?

At 7:25, in response to calls from the audience to begin the Q&A session, he pleads with the audience to just let him get through the last few slides.  The administrator in the green tie also kept insisting that the audience stay quiet while Cardin finishes his presentation—repeatedly, and to no avail.

Finally, Mr. Cardin finished his presentation at 3:33, and announces that he will now answer questions.  To this, the audience applauded.

—Alexander S. Peak

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