Friday, April 25, 2014

Cliven Bundy – Sorting Through The Rubble

I was disappointed, even sickened, by Cliven Bundy’s stupid and clumsy remarks from the other day.  Of course the media is jumping on them to obscure the very real issues that were, and still are, at stake.  

Therefore let’s take a moment to:

1.       Briefly rehearse the original issues involved in grazing land dispute
2.       Address the “better off” comment in the deep detail it deserves

Bundy’s stand off against the Feds spotlighted some very important issues regarding the scope of the Federal government and its relationship to its constituents.  These include:

1.       What right or reason does the Federal government have for holding so much land that is non-essential to its enumerated responsibilities?  Could we not relieve a good deal of the Federal government’s financial woes by selling off and privatizing its land holdings?  And what about the “tragedy of the commons” the environmental phenomenon that privately held lands are better maintained than public lands?
2.       What right did the government have in displacing Bundy from land that his family had utilized for over 120 years?  What value did the government add to said land to feel that they were entitled to hefty usage fees?  If governments are instituted to protect the rights of men, as the founding Declaration states, then why are they persecuting farmers in defense of tortoises?
3.       Why did the Feds spend untold millions to recover a mere million?  Was it simply to make a show of force so as to intimidate other would be dissenters?  Why does Senator Reid persist in making oblique threats? Is that the kind of America we want?

These questions remain valid whether the protagonist is nasty or nice, a sinner or a saint.

With regard to his “better off” comments let me be unambiguous about this.  No one is better off as slave. 

Libertarian philosophers from Locke through Rothbard have protested that free will and self ownership are essential and inalienable properties of being human.  They insist that no person can rightfully take them from another nor can an individual surrender them.  In short, slavery is unjust and morally indefensible. 

In like fashion, libertarians deplore racism.   Ayn Rand was unequivocal in asserting that, “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.”  I could not agree more.

The correct question is whether all Americans and its poorest minorities in particular, are better off living under the suffocating welfare state or under conditions of freedom, empowerment and opportunity? To answer this, let me draw upon remarks that I prepared for a 2010 symposium in Trenton on the plight of the disadvantaged urban poor.


Politicians who vie for the inner city vote are often heard to invoke the class warfare mantra that America is at war with its own urban poor.

However if these politicians were to be honest, they would be forced to concede that net effect of most urban policy is to condemn the poor to a life of misery - to dependency on the new plantation master – the welfare state.  Should these leaders look into the mirror, they might echo Walt Kelly’s famous line from Pogo: “We have met the enemy and it is us”.

Nearly a century of “progressive” policies form both parties have done more harm than good to those people whom these policies are ostensibly meant to benefit.  Typically, the chief beneficiaries of progressive policies are public office holders and bureaucrats.

Time is limited so let me just touch on a handful of specific policies that hurt all Americans yet have their most devastating impact upon those on the lower rungs of the economic ladder.  These are policies that combine into a toxic cocktail that erodes social structure, lowers expectations, diminishes opportunity and breeds disrespect for life.  This inevitably leads down a path of dangerous and destructive behavior.

Monopoly Schools
It is a given that education and material success go hand in hand.  However, it is not for a want of funding that public schools are failing our kids.  Zip code monopoly schools, that are staffed by tenured union employees, breed complacency and arrogance.  We must introduce free market competition into the education system to allow parents to effectively shop for the best education options for their children.  This can be accomplished through state and private scholarships that empower parents of all means to participate in the educational market.

In 1965 Daniel Patrick Moynihan foresaw a coming crisis in Black America.  He noted that one-in-four African American children were born outside of wedlock.  I don’t think that it is necessary to recount the innumerable advantages that accrue to children who grow up in intact, two parent households.  However, since 1965 the birthrate among non-married women has tripled.  Although, this is a society wide phenomenon, the non-married birthrate among Blacks and Hispanics is double to triple to that of Whites.  In large part this is attributable to welfare policies that penalize marriage and incentivize single motherhood.  We should look to find ways to assist the poor that do not discourage family formation.

Healthcare Regulation
Government meddling in the healthcare market, which began as far back as World War II, has made both insurance and treatment less accessible and less affordable.  The Affordable Healthcare Act has already begun to put upward pressure on pricing and to force some employers to drop coverage.  Sadly, when things are bad for society in general, they are only worse among its poorest.  During the recent healthcare debates a number of free market reforms were put forward but rejected.  I submit that these should be reconsidered to drive down healthcare costs and access for all including inner city poor.  These include:

1.       Direct individual ownership rather than employer supplied health insurance
2.       Ability to shop and purchase from out-of-state insurers
3.       Removal of coverage mandates so as to allow buyers to purchase low cost catastrophic coverage plans
4.       Tax deductable health savings accounts to enable patients to cover routine out-of-pocket costs

Corporate Income Tax
Corporations do not really pay taxes.  Corporate taxes simply increase the cost of goods produced and pass those costs on to consumers.  This has two negative effects for America’s disadvantaged:
1.       Increased costs reduce the buying power of their limited incomes.
2.       It depresses manufacturing job creation by making U.S. goods more expensive for the export market, thereby depressing job opportunities for urban workers

Minimum Wage Laws
Beyond classroom learning, urban kids need real world job experience, resume builders and valid references to advance in their working careers.  Minimum wage requirements along with payroll taxes often make hiring unskilled and untested young workers unaffordable for employers.  In many cases it is likely that these stepping stone jobs will go to illegal aliens working under the table.

The War on Drugs
No one can deny that drug abuse and addiction are deadly serious problems. However, the War on Drugs has proven to be ineffective in keeping drugs off the streets and out of kids’ hands.  Additionally, drug related arrests, prosecutions and incarceration have disproportionately fallen upon inner city minority youth.  This puts them on the path to a life of criminality and outside of mainstream careers.  Like Alcohol Prohibition before it, the War on Drugs has created a lucrative underground economy that enterprising criminals are eager to exploit. 

Repeal of the Federal Controlled Substances Act can open the door to sensible State and local oversight of drug policy.  This was the net effect of the repeal of the Volstead Act, which led to a mosaic of differing regulations from state to state and even from town to town.  This is what the founders had in mind when they called the various states “laboratories for democracy”.

Abortion on Demand
Nothing says that African American life is more disposable and worthless than the abortion epidemic in the Black community.  Alveda King has called the abortion industry “lynching in the womb”.  Pro-choice advocates have held up legalized abortion as a magic bullet that would help alleviate many social and economic ills that plague the African-American community.  It has turned out not to be magic, but simply a bullet for self inflicted African American genocide.  Over 14 million African American children have been aborted since Roe v. Wade.

The abortion rate among African American women is three times higher than that of the general population.  Since 1973 more African Americans have been killed by abortion than the total number of African American deaths from AIDS, violent crimes, accidents, cancer and heart disease combined.  This brings to fruition the racist vision of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret who wrote "We should hire three or four colored ministers, preferably with social-service backgrounds, and with engaging personalities.  The most successful educational approach to the Negro is through a religious appeal.  We don't want the word to go out that we want to exterminate the Negro population and the minister is the man who can straighten out that idea if it ever occurs to any of their more rebellious members."

Rev. Denise Walker, who operates a post-abortive healing ministry, put it squarely: “What the slave ships couldn’t do to us, what slavery itself couldn’t do to us, and what the Ku Klux Klan couldn’t do to us, abortion has accomplished.”

America’s founders envisioned a nation rooted in human freedom.  A nation where “all men are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with …unalienable Rights…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

The founders were not perfect men, and their actions often fell short of their lofty ideals.  Nonetheless, the American journey has been has been a pilgrimage to the land of the founders’ vision by abolishing slavery, overcoming Jim Crow and expanding voting rights to include women and young adults.

My prescription to my inner city brothers and sisters is the same that that I hold out for all Americans:

1.       Cherish life.  Protect and defend it.
2.       Embrace liberty.  It is only though liberty, through free thought, free expression and free markets that the human race will achieve broad based happiness and prosperity.

Therefore, escape  dependency on government and put your trust in your God, your family, your community and yourself to create a free, peaceful and prosperous America.

And while it is wonderful that a handful of African Americans have achieved phenomenal success in the fields of sports and entertainment, these gifted individuals are, as Charles Barkley puts it, “no role models”.  It is outside of the reach of all but the very gifted to earn a livelihood in these rarified pursuits. 

Therefore, I call upon a new generation of African American role models to step up to the plate to mentor at-risk youth.  These kids need to see and interact with successful Black professionals, businessmen, shopkeepers, tradesmen and contractors.  Voluntary mentoring, apprenticeships and internships can give kids hope and show them the lawful path up and out of the vicious cycle of poverty, despair and criminality. 

I know that I am the outsider here.  Perhaps that is why I was invited, to provide a libertarian, free market perspective.  I am honored and humbled to do so.  Still, I believe that with legal barriers broken down, the sky is the limit for all Americans.  I hope that young African Americans take heart in the fact that we have arrived a new day, where a Black family now lives in the White house, that opportunity is unlimited in the lawful free market.

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