My “Orange County Register Rants” are listed here, further down this page: “OC Register Rants.”
If you have an interest in learning where they came from, however, then read on! — BTH
How This Whole Ride Started
By Bradley Harrington
When I first stumbled my way into political thought, back in 1979, it was mainly thanks to a book my Dad, Byron Harrington, recommended that I read: Robert Ringer’s “Restoring the American Dream,” a “libertarian” manifesto that analyzed our government from the perspective of our country’s Founding principles.
My Dad had just finished reading it; he knew I was getting interested in political ideas; and he thought it would be a good introduction for me. So I read it … And, afterward, at least half of its bibliographical references … And the ride was on.
By 1980, I was comfortable enough with my thoughts on politics, as well as the way I was beginning to think about current events, to start writing about such things — and what better newspaper to have around, locally, than the “Orange County Register”? (I was living in Orange County, Calif., at the time.)
The “Register,” editorially, was markedly tilted towards a perspective of extremely limited government and the same Founding principles I’d been studying, so … It was a good fit for me to try to publish something there.
First, I started off by writing “Letters to the Editor” — and it didn’t take me long to figure out that I had a lot to learn about writing. The paper’s editors hacked up most of my stuff before they printed it — but, as I looked at what they were hacking, I realized that all of it was poorly written, repetitious copy that was plagued with problems.
So I started “hacking” my copy myself — and, within a few months my “Letters” began receiving much better treatment: Preferential space at the top of the “Letters” page, hardly any more editing and often accompanied with illustrations.
During that period, beginning in 1983, I was also learning journalism at the local community college and writing for that paper, the “Saddleback College Lariat,” as well (you can find that story under the “Retro Rants” menu at “Saddleback College Lariat Rants”).
Well, my experiences at the “Lariat” encouraged me, as did the results of the free editorial writing lessons I was receiving from the “Register’s” staff, so I continued to absorb it all as fast as I was able. By 1984, I considered my “Register” “Letter” copy to be as good as the stuff running on the Op-Ed page next door, so … I decided to take a stab at submitting a piece for pay. Imagine my surprise when, a week later, “Nuclear Freeze Nonsense” showed up in print … On the Op-Ed page, not as a “Letter.”
Even more surprising still, a check for $50.00 showed up in my mailbox a week after that … My first sale ever as a “writer.” (Which merely proved that the “Register’s” editors were as crazy as I was.)
So, for the next few years, I divided my writing time between the “Register” and the “Lariat,” and just generally had a blast. When I finally finished journalism classes in 1985, I continued writing for the “Register” — although, as time went on, I found my interest in writing waning for a number of reasons:
(1) Primarily, my at-that-time drug abuse was taking a huge toll on my ability to function as an even partly-rational human being; by 1986, it had crashed my life completely;
(2) While in a “recovery” (and I use that word loosely) program that same year, through an extremely fortuitous circumstance (by meeting another “recovering” druggie who wrote computer program code for a living), I found myself shifting out of restaurants and into the computer field (hardware) instead, and much of my mental focus was absorbed in learning my new trade;
(3) And, finally, I was very much put off by the plummeting “standards” of sensationalistic journalism, which further eroded my interest in writing for newspapers, as I wanted no part of it.
Still, on occasion, when I was particularly moved by some political stupidity or another (no shortage of that, you know), I’d write a piece for the “Register” — but, by 1995, I’d written my last “Register” rant. From that point forward, my “writing career,” if you even want to call it that, was to remain dormant for another 13 years.
A lot of the earlier stuff I wrote for the “Register” was REALLY bad — somewhat pedantic and infantile is how I would characterize the bulk of it today — and, consequently, I’ve excluded it. Even the better stuff sometimes makes me cringe a bit now, nearly 40 years later. I’d write just about all of it differently were I to tackle those issues at the present time.
One thing I’d certainly do now on these earlier “Register” pieces — which, unfortunately, was a habit I didn’t fully ingrain into my writing until I’d taken some of my journalism classes at Saddleback College — would be to give more credit to the writers whose words I’d read that gave me the ideas I was often writing about — Ayn Rand’s works in particular. As I read over these pieces and prepare them for publication on this blog, I am, quite frankly, more than a little bit surprised at the lack of credit I failed to give such writers for their thoughts and words.
It’s a bit embarrassing, actually — some of it borderlines on plagiarism. Not quite, but …
Well, sometimes people say that “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.” That may be so, and there’s no doubt that Rand’s works had a profound impact on my sponge of a mind at that time, but … Still …
Well, there’s not much I can do about it now, except to acknowledge that sometimes, early on, those errors happened. My only defense now, decades later, would be that I was more than a bit “impressionable” — and I would ask that readers keep in mind that, when I started writing this stuff, I was a whopping 21 years old. I can certainly say that I never deliberately plagiarized anyone’s words, and that — by the time I was writing for the Saddleback College Lariat in late 1983 — I had developed a consistent habit of quoting authors in my work instead of just “borrowing” their ideas without bothering to mention, sometimes, where they came from. When such occurrences take place in these early rants, I’ve added a note to the bottom of the piece seeking to correct the lapse.
Another thing that makes me squirm more than a little bit about this early stuff: I was VERY confrontational. I’ve slowly but surely learned, over the years in between, quite a number of things about “persuasion” as opposed to “verbal assault” — but, I’m afraid, you ain’t gonna see many of those lessons here. To say I was about as subtle as a plane crash would not be a huge overstatement.
I attribute some of that anger to portions of the environment in which I grew up that I had not yet come to terms with, as I did later on; I also attribute some of it to my drug abuse that was beginning to accelerate at that time (which , if you used drugs like I did, couldn’t help but create schisms, contradictions and holes within one’s own soul).
I also, however, attribute some of it to what I was learning as well: I was in the process of discovering, despite my emotional derelictions, just how badly our intellectual and political ideas were rooted in nonsense and irrationalism. I had always thought, as a child, that somebody somewhere knew what the Hell was going on — but the more I learned, the more I came to doubt it. (These thoughts, too, met eventual resolution within my mind — but that was years and years later). In the meantime, I had more than a bit of a “chip on my shoulder.”
Despite all of these glaring flaws, however, and despite the fact that my first stumbles as an infant on my own two feet can never compare to the 50-yard dash I am capable of now, decades later — those stumbles were an essential ingredient to achieving that dash, a dash that never would have taken place without the stumbles having occurred first. So, to my younger self, that poor, somewhat lost soul in search of the right answers: I forgive you. But barely.
And, finally, some of the scans I did of this stuff (linkable and downloadable at the bottom of each rant) are less than optimal … Keep in mind here, also, that some of these clippings are approaching 40 years old. “Yellowed, faded and slightly beat up” would be the polite way of describing their appearance — especially the ones from the early 1980s’ — but I think I’ve done a pretty good job of cleaning them up. At least they’re readable.
And, of course, regarding the original prints: If my “Letters” ran in tandem with someone else’s stuff, which happened more than once, it was only my copy that I sought to preserve. So, when you see an obvious gap in an original scan, that’s why.
So, for anyone interested in this stuff, here it is. Hopefully, you’ll find at least a small diamond or two mixed in with all the dirt …
With Love Always,
Bradley T. Harrington
Cheyenne, Wyoming, the United States of America
“OC Register Rants”
“Paying Twice to Feed the Poor”
“Common Good Theory Insatiable Evil”
“Essential Characteristic of Slavery: Using Force to Eliminate Free Will”
“Utmost Efficiency in the Free Marketplace”
“What Freedom Really Means”
“Former Controller Expresses Misguided Concern”
“Falkland Islands: America Too Busy Acting Altruistic”
“Nuclear — It Raises Questions”
“Look at How the ‘Conservatives’ Have Failed Us”
“Nonsense About ‘Social Welfare’”
“An Individual Should Pay for His Own Education”
“Nuclear Freeze Nonsense”
“I Must Protest This Attack on Individual Freedom”
“A Rainbow with Two Red Edges?”
“Social Security Falls Short in Comparison with Private Plans”
“The Bad We Do When We Force Drugs into a Black Market”
“Getting Off Education’s Assembly Line”
“It’s Academic: College is a Privilege, not a Right”
“Propping Up Communism”
“Carpool Lanes Delight Bureaucrats”
“El Salvador: No Justification for Bailing Out Cristiani”
“No Sympathy for Government Workers”
“Education: There’s No Hope for the Public Schools”
“We Are Slowly Sinking in Statutory Quicksand”
“Why Do We Limit Our Efforts to Term Limits?”
Paying Twice to Feed the Poor
By Bradley Harrington
In the last couple of years the government has been providing the Chrysler Corp. with “loan guarantees” that amount to well over a billion dollars. (I prefer to call them subsidies, since I doubt very much that they will ever be repaid.) What is the economic illiteracy that supports this legislative buffoonery? We are informed by the learned bureaucrats that it is necessary to keep Chrysler afloat in order to “provide jobs.” If Chrysler goes belly-up, we are told, thousands of jobs will disappear.
This is a fallacy of the utmost proportions. Subsidies are funded from government revenue, which is in its turn extorted from the taxpayers. IF these subsidies were eliminated, consumers would have that much more money to spend on other commodities which, as a consequence, would lead to increased production and therefore higher employment in the industries that consumers choose to patronize with their extra earnings. If individuals chose to save instead of spend, this would still lead to higher employment — this time in the industries where the banks invest their funds.
In short, if the government were to stop bailing out Chrysler, some jobs in the auto industry might cease to exist — but there would be just as many job openings available in other sectors of the economy that would not have been otherwise. It is obvious, then, that the (ir)rationale that calls for loans and subsidies to “provide jobs” is claptrap to the core, since in reality it doesn’t.
As a matter of fact, subsidies to Chrysler (or anybody else) end up insuring that there will be fewer jobs available in the economy as a whole, due to the fact that capital is being forcibly shifted from the more efficient producers to the less efficient. This means that total productivity will decline — and fewer jobs will then be available.
The same argument also applies itself to import quotas. The politicians (whom I much prefer to call idiots) that are in favor of the imposition of import quotas on Japanese autos state that this would stimulate our domestic auto production, thereby creating more jobs. And this is true enough. Let us, however, study the picture in its entirety. If the Japanese sell us fewer cars, then it therefore follows that they will have on hand that much less American currency with which they would otherwise have bought our exports with. This in turn would lead to a drop in productivity in the industries where the Japanese would have spent their extra dollars — which means fewer jobs.
In brief, once more, the jobs balance out — with, however, the same effect that resulted from government subsidies. Capital is once more being shifted from the more efficient producers to the less efficient — thereby lowering overall productivity, which in turns means a decrease in the standard of living.
Thus, as in so many other instances of government intervention, the exact opposite of the stated goal is achieved. Instead of providing jobs, subsidies and import quotas eliminate them, thereby making all of us that much poorer.
The thing that allows this economic emptyheadedness to occur, is the fact that people are looking at the short-term effects on one industry, without examining the long-term effects on all industries. Once this is done, it is obvious to anybody with a grain of intelligence that subsidies and import quotas cause much harm and distortion to the functioning of our economy — and that the way to correct the problem is to eliminate the interventionist policies being espoused by those bozos in Washington.
In one respect, today’s defenders of freedom have it much tougher than the founders of America; when they rejected unlimited government, the statists were in England on the other side of the Atlantic. Now — they are all over here. And still worse, they are in our government, using political guns to back up their bankrupt policies. Such a situation doesn’t exactly make me sleep easy at night.
NOTE: It would have been impossible for me to have written this piece without having read Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson” first. Thank you, Sir, for the wisdom of your words — and sorry it took me 36 years to give you the credit you deserved at the time.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on May 16, 1981. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Common Good Theory Insatiable Evil
By Bradley Harrington
The Clearinghouse printed a letter by B. DeNiro on June 9, entitled “My brother’s keeper.” This letter was a response to an earlier submission by Rudy Sickler on May 25, in which Mr. Sickler advocated the repeal of marijuana legislation. B. DeNiro is against such a repeal.
In the course of providing a justification for his/her position, B. DeNiro makes some psychologically illuminating statements. It is these statements I would like to discuss.
For instance, we are told that “we aren’t here just for our own personal gratification.” Translation: The standard which guides our choices and actions is not to be our own happiness. Then whose happiness is our standard? To whose purpose is B. DeNiro willing to sacrifice human individuality? Shall it be to ghosts in heaven, or to incompetents on earth? If the rest of the letter is any indication, it is the former.
At another point it is stated that “we can too much freedom as well as too much government.” It is impossible to have “too much freedom.” That can be compared to the charge that it is dangerous to be totally healthy, that we need a little disease, or that it is bad to drink a glass of pure water, that we need to add a little poison. “In any mixture of good and evil, it is only evil that can profit.” (Ayn Rand, “Atlas Shrugged.”)
Next, we come upon the assertion that “some controls are necessary for the safety of the public.” In communist countries, the “safety of the public” has been the excuse for the existence of the secret police, political and religious oppression, forced-labor camps and firing squads, among other things. The “safety of the public” has acted as the ethical justification for the bloodiest and most brutal dictatorships ever to worm their way into human history.
Exactly what does B. DeNiro mean by the term “the public”? Is this a reference to an amorphous, faceless, rightless mob? Or is this a reference to a collection of individual human beings, each of which possesses an inalienable right to their life and liberty? The whole letter acts as an unstated answer to that question.
Speaking of rights, B. Deniro then relates a quote: “Rights always have limits! They end when the exercising of them breaks God’s law or brings harm to our fellow men.” First, the social aspect. Since the metaphysical base for the ethical concept of rights (i.e., the requirements of man’s nature), applies equally to all men, it therefore follows that all men must have equal rights. Any action that entails the initiation of the use of force or fraud by one individual against another cannot and never will be a right. “There is no such thing as the right to enslave.” (Ayn Rand, “Capitalism.”)
Now the religious aspect. “Rights … end when the exercising of them breaks God’s law …” I would assume, after reading this quote, that B. DeNiro supports the establishment of a theocracy, and that instantly raises a question in my mind: Which God will head this theocracy? Shall we model our political structure around the law of Allah, or the law of Buddha, or the law of the Hare Krishna? If one transforms the realm of political philosophy into a battleground of theological dogmas, what one ends up with is remarkably like man’s history over the last few thousand years: Death and destruction.
A man’s religion, or whether he is following its teachings, is a private matter between him and his God. Any attempt to regulate men’s existence according to the dictates of mystic fantasy is a blatant and contemptible violation of man’s rights — and, by the way, so is marijuana legislation. The presumptuousness of people who feel they have the right to trample the rights of others — the people who dare to believe that they are entitled to ram their viewpoints down the throats of others via government guns — has never failed to amaze me or to disgust me.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on June 26, 1981. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Essential Characteristic of Slavery: Using Force to Eliminate Free Will
By Bradley Harrington
On Sept. 7 the Clearinghouse printed a letter by J. Sandru of Santa Ana, entitled “Conscription essential to the common defense.” In this letter J. Sandru ridicules the “Register’s” editorial opposition to the draft.
J. Sandru appears to be of the opinion that the draft does not constitute “slavery” or “involuntary servitude.” I would like to ask him what definitions does he choose to ascribe to these terms? It matters not whether a man is enslaved on a southern plantation a century and a half ago or in our armed forces today. It matters not whether a man is enslaved by a private citizen or by his government. Neither of these instances differentiates and isolates the essential characteristic of the concept of slavery: Compulsion.
A free man does what he wants to do; a slave does what someone else tells him to do. If the draft — i.e., the forced relocation of your body into the armed services, possibly to have your head blown off in some stinking swamp of a country thousands of miles from home — if this does not constitute slavery or involuntary servitude — then I wonder where it is that J. Sandru gets his definitions.
The draft (and all other forms of slavery) is vicious and immoral because it violates man’s most fundamental right: His right to life. Since life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action, the right to life can only mean the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action, which means: The right of a man to choose his own goals, to pursue his own interests, to do what he wants to do and not what some paper-pushing bureaucrat in Washington tells him to do.
When a government abrogates its citizens’ right to life, all other rights in principle are violated as well, since all other rights stem from man’s basic right to life. As the principle underlying the draft spreads its way throughout our culture, it will not be long until all other rights are violated in fact and not just in principle. How does J. Sandru evade the fact that a man who has no right to life, has no right to property either? Or are we to assume that J. Sandru will choose to be consistent and advocate a complete totalitarian dictatorship?
“Those who want slavery should have the grace to name it by its proper name. They must face the full meaning of that which they are advocating or condoning; the full, exact, specific meaning of collectivism, of its logical implications, of the principles upon which it is based, and of the ultimate consequences to which these principles will lead. They must face it, then decide whether this is what they want or not.” (Ayn Rand, “Anthem.”) Miss Rand wrote those words in 1946. They are just as true now as they were then.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on September 20, 1981. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Utmost Efficiency in the Free Marketplace
By Bradley Harrington
W.W. Gregory states (in “Postal Service Blues,” Nov. 29) that “There are 750,000 postal employees at the present time. What makes anybody think that the private sector could do the job with any less?”
If governments are so much better at achieving the maximum utilization of a given labor force than is free enterprise, then why is it that the collectivized economy of Soviet Russia requires 40 percent of its labor force to harvest its wheat, while the semi-capitalistic United States is capable of harvesting its wheat with a trifling 4 percent of its labor force?
Next, we encounter the assertion that “If … the private sector did take over the postal service, they would take it with the idea of making a profit, and a good one. That being the case, the 20 cents we now pay … is just a drop in the bucket, compared to cost under the private sector.”
If governments are so much better at achieving maximum cost-efficiency in regard to a given product or service than is free enterprise, then why is it that a tax-funded public education is nearly twice as costly as a private education?
Gregory appears to be lamenting the fact that, under a privatized mail system, the people who use the service are the ones who pay for it. Apparently he feels it is much more proper for the government to rob an individual of his money in order to provide unearned benefits to others.
In general, the reason why free enterprise will always be more efficient than a government is the rigors of competition. In a free market a company cannot possess a monopoly and must therefore contend with competitors. Under this system, an enterprise that grows fat and unproductive (like the Post Office) will soon find itself confronted with an inescapable choice: Become efficient or go bankrupt. The free interplay of market forces — when they are permitted to operate — will always act to create conditions of maximum efficiency of operations.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on December 15, 1981. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
What Freedom Really Means
By Bradley Harrington
Printed on Jan. 28 were a pair of letters entitled “Shaffer’s total freedom,” concerning themselves with Butler Shaffer’s Jan. 17 column.
In the first, Jeff Smith asks: “If there should not be ‘degrees’ of freedom then when is an individual 100 percent free? Isn’t when he can do what he wants, when he wants, and how he wants without institutional or other interference?”
Answer: No. “Freedom,” in a political context, is that state in which a person is free to do “what he wants, when he wants, how he wants” – provided that these actions do not abrogate the same rights that all other individuals possess. This is such a crucial point that it cannot be overemphasized. Freedom is the right of a person to run his own life — but it most definitely does not mean that he can bash in the skulls of others in the process.
Ignoring such a distinction, however, Mr. Smith then proceeds to follow his (fallacious) definition to its logical conclusion: “… I am not free if government or society will not allow me to … take my machine gun and gun down all the people as they walk out of Disneyland on a Sunday afternoon.”
Mr. Smith’s misinterpretation of the concept of freedom makes itself readily apparent in his next paragraph as well, in which he asserts that “Without some sort of government institutions there would be no possible way to prevent me from murdering, pillaging and raping those who are weaker than me.” This last is quite true; Mr. Smith appears, however, to be laboring under the delusion that all government institutions are inimical to freedom.
Since an individual is free when he can do as he chooses so long as he does not violate the rights of others, and since people will always exist who will infringe upon other people’s rights, it therefore follows that an essential prerequisite to freedom is the existence of a social agency vested with the function of protecting individual rights against those who would abrogate them. Contrary to Mr. Smith’s obvious assumption, the state of freedom is not to be found in nature; it must be achieved.
The government institutions essential to the preservation of freedom fall into three categories: The armed forces, to protect people from foreign aggression; the police, to protect people from criminals; and the courts, to provide for the just settlement of disputes according to an objective codification of law.
But that, I’m afraid, is only one half of the problem. Inasmuch as the defining characteristic of government is its possession of a legal monopoly on the use of force, it is not enough to ensure that government employs its power of force used in restraint in a proper manner — it is also imperative to ensure that government does not possess the power to initiate force.
The same thing that makes it the most efficient wielder of retaliatory force — i.e., its monopolistic power — is that which, when misused, can transform government into the most deadly of aggressors.
Today, in the United States, with thanks to the utter decadence of political philosophy (and wider: of philosophy itself), the principle that governments have the “right” to initiate force against legally disarmed victims is accepted without question, a self-evident absolute that requires no explanation. It is the entrenchment of this statist principle (which began many years ago) that is bringing America to her knees, a shade of her former glory. The United States, history’s most magnificent example of the level of greatness that is possible through liberty and individualism, the founder of the philosophy of the Rights of Man — has deteriorated to the primitive plane of a shoddy, second-class “welfare” state that is poised on the brink of social and economic destruction.
And freedom-loving individuals, like Mr. Shaffer and myself, are never supposed to speak out about this, we are apparently supposed to just idly stand by while our country falls to pieces around us. Apparently it is our duty to wear our chains in silence.
This brings me to the second letter of the pair, in which James Grennan states, “Butler Shaffer seems to find fault with everybody — the president, the courts, the police. He never offers a solution to any of society’s problems.” As a matter of fact, the individualist philosophy offers a very real, rational and moral solution to “society’s problems” — i.e., the complete and consistent establishment of laissez-faire capitalism, the only social system compatible with liberty and individualism. And when that occurs, the unleashed energies of the people of America will once again offer hope and inspiration to a world in great need of both.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on February 6, 1982. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Former Controller Expresses Misguided Concern
By Bradley Harrington
Steve Boegeman, an ex-air traffic controller from Mission Viejo, in his recent letter, “Tired controllers and the DC-10 crash,” relates his opinions of the January World Airways DC-10 crash in Boston.
He declares that “Since the strike began, I have worried about an accident pointing responsibility to the overworked supervisors and military controllers staffing air traffic facilities. Now, I’m afraid, it has finally happened.”
Mr. Boegeman considers himself capable of accurately assessing the exact cause of a plane crash via facts garnered strictly through newspaper reports. Even if it was indeed the controllers who caused the Boston crash, however, there are still some points I’d like to raise in connection with Mr. Boegeman’s obvious belief that if Reagan had not fired the controllers the accident would never have occurred.
First, according to Mr. Boegeman and all of his PATCO buddies before they chose to strike, these “overworked” conditions existed then. So how come he automatically assumes that the “overworked” conditions that (allegedly) caused the crash stem directly from the firing of the controllers, when it is just as possible that the accident occurred as the result of the normal stress of things? (I have a theory about that: It’s called “sour grapes.”)
Next, even if it is true that the airways are less safe now than they were prior to the strike — a claim that the airplane pilots state is false — who does Mr. Boegeman have to blame for that but himself and his controller pals? They are the ones who decided to strike and thereby terminate their own employment, thereby creating the very conditions Mr. Boegeman is harping about.
Furthermore, were Mr. Boegeman really concerned with the safety and efficiency of the airways, he wouldn’t be writing gloating letters about plane crashes — he would be advocating abolition of the FAA and the transfer of airway service into the hands of private enterprise where it belongs, in which climate the airways would be as safe and efficient as possible. But I’m afraid I’m asking a little too much.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on March 4, 1982. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Falkland Islands: America Too Busy Acting Altruistic
By Bradley Harrington
The Register recently printed an article, “Falklands: For U.S., it’s a two-way street.” This article stated that “The United States is providing intelligence information to both Argentina and Britain …”
What does it mean, to aid both sides in this crisis? But first, what would it mean if we were to aid just one side? It would mean that we had judged the circumstances of the situation and came to the conclusion that one side was more just in its position than the other, and — since we would want to see that side prevail — we would give that side aid in an attempt to influence the outcome of the conflict.
If this were true, however, we certainly wouldn’t want to aid the other side; this would be evil, since we would be trying to maintain that which, by our own standards, we thought was wrong. What are we to think, then, of the alternative of aiding both sides — i.e., to support that which we consider as wrong at the same time that we are supporting that which we consider as right?
It should be clear that this is the sheerest folly, and immensely hypocritical as well — but that’s OK, the “well-placed” official who supplied the information for the article was quoted as saying that “We are doing what we normally do … It’s not really a new situation.” Which means: We have been pursuing this course of international insanity for some time now.
How did we ever get involved in this mess?
The answer to that is two-fold. On a practical level, we have treaties with both Argentina and Britain. It’s kind of hard not to get sucked in under those conditions — especially when each treaty declares our intent to prevent an armed attack on the subject nation.
Since the only moral purpose of our armed forces is to repel an attack, or threat of, on the United States, and not to engage in foreign meddling, we should cancel both treaties and all others like them. Their very existence acts as a trip-wire to pull us into all sorts of conflicts, as the fiasco in the Falklands so eloquently demonstrates.
The fundamental cause of our present involvement in this crisis is, however, to be found on a more philosophical level — of which these treaties are simply the practical manifestation. For almost three-quarters of a century now, the United States has been practicing a foreign policy predicated on the idea that it is our duty to provide for the welfare of other nations; that “isolationism” is immoral and evil; and that we must act as the world’s policeman, shuffling diplomats like cards to and fro between every little hot spot on the globe.
Even assuming the non-existence of the Rio and NATO treaties, with a premise like this underlying our foreign policy, I think it is readily apparent that we would gotten involved in the Falklands affair anyway. Therefore it is this principle — the principle of self-immolation, the principle of altruism — that we must reject, replacing it with the proper standard of rational self-interest instead. But such a task is much easier said than done.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on May 9, 1982.Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Nuclear — It Raises Questions
By Bradley Harrington
On Aug. 19 the Clearinghouse printed a letter by Marten Schmitz, “Nuclear: Dangerous, expensive,” which was devoted to an all-out attack on nuclear power.
Schmitz asserts, for instance, that “If there was a nuclear reactor accident in which … radiation were released, not only the people exposed to it would be harmed, but all of their generations to follow, because radiation affects the DNA molecule.”
What nuclear accident is Schmitz envisioning? An explosion? That is flatly impossible. A core meltdown? With on-the-spot monitoring, the Emergency Core Cooling System and many other defense-in-depth safety devices, the chances of this occurring are infinitesimal.
But even if it did, it would take hours to occur, allowing plenty of time for preventive measures. How much time is available to spend on “preventive measures” when an oil refinery tank explodes? How many “defenses-in-depth” does a bursting dam have? Schmitz does not tell us that the answer is zero in both cases.
As to the radiation involved in this potential core meltdown, it is precisely the purpose of the massive containment building — made of 4-foot-thick reinforced concrete — to contain it. And in regard to such radiation and its effect on DNA, men receive 2,500 times more radioactivity per year from the food they eat than they would get from living next door to a nuclear power plant.
Schmitz then asks, “… does anyone know how to dispose of the tons of radioactive waste created each year?” The volume of waste produced by one person’s annual share of the total U.S. nuclear capacity is that of an aspirin tablet. Compare this to the 320 pounds of waste produced by one person’s annual share of the total U.S. coal capacity — only 90 percent of which is in the ash pile; the other 10 percent is spewed into the air, where it “disposes” of itself in our lungs.
As to where to put the comparatively minuscule quantities of nuclear waste, that problem is simple: Sealed in glass, deep underground in salt formations, those wastes pose no hazard.
If this solution (or one of several others) fails to be implemented, it will be the fault of the politicians and not the scientists.
The tens of millions of tons of coal ash (which is 180 times as radioactive as a nuclear power plant) produced every year, however, are simply dumped into surface landfills. How long will we have the space for this? And how do we prevent this stuff from entering our water supply? Never mind, let future generations worry — right?
“This stuff will remain deadly for approximately 125,000 years,” states Schmitz. But the longer a substance’s half-life, the less radioactive it is per unit time. The truly deadly radioactive substances all have small half-lives, most of which are measured in minutes or days.
“How do we keep this stuff out of the biosphere for 125,000 years?” In fact, it has been there all along. All we do is retrieve it, use it and put it back — but in much safer places than where we found it, and in more concentrated form.
Today’s so-called “debate” over nuclear power is an indication of the depths of irrationality that our culture has descended to.
If Schmitz were interested in the safety of the public, as he claims, then he would be a staunch advocate of nuclear power — the safest, cleanest and most efficient form of energy ever developed by man.
NOTE: It would have been impossible for me to have written this piece without having read Petr Beckmann’s “The Health Hazards of NOT Going Nuclear” first. Thank you, Sir, for the wisdom of your words — and sorry it took me 35 years to give you the credit you deserved at the time.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on September 5, 1982. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Look at How the “Conservatives” Have Failed Us
By Bradley Harrington
In 1980, after 50 years of predominantly Democratic devastation, the voters of America decided to give “conservatism” a chance at deflating the bloated bureaucracy.
I wonder if those voters have learned their lesson. Ronald Reagan and the “conservatives” were elected on a platform that called for a balanced budget, reduced taxation, reduced inflation, reduced government spending, an end to draft registration, and reduced regulation of business, among other things, which means: Reduced government.
Have the “conservatives” had any success?
Today, two years later, we are confronted with the spectacle of a $150 billion dollar swamp of red ink; a recently-passed tax hike of $99 billion; and — even though the increase in the consumer price index is down — that is only temporary. The printing presses — the source of inflation — are still faithfully churning out rubber dollars to finance the ballooning deficit; and, after the recession is over, those rubber dollars are going to catch up with us.
Government spending, of course, is as high as ever — and what about draft registration, which Reagan could nullify in five seconds? For someone who campaigned on the (correct) idea that the draft is immoral, Reagan’s failure to condemn (or to prevent) the jailings of innocent young men strikes me as hypocritical, at best.
And as far as reduced regulation of business is concerned: Where is the “conservative” who challenges the non-objective, non-absolute absurdities of anti-trust? For that matter, where is the “conservative” who challenges the existence of the FDA? Or the postal monopoly? Or Social Security? Or the public schools? Where is the “conservative” who advocates a return to the gold standard? Or an non-interventionist foreign policy? Or an elimination of the Federal Reserve system? Or a complete and permanent withdrawal from the United Nations? Or an end to all victimless-crime laws?
The answer to these questions, of course, is that no such “conservative” exists.
To those of us who know that freedom and capitalism are the key to man’s success on earth, the implications are all-too obvious.
Totally bereft of any moral or political principles — i.e., of a philosophy — the “conservatives” have nothing to offer. They are merely cringing, trembling, intellectually-bankrupt exponents of the status quo. And the status quo is collectivism.
The major fault of “conservatism,” the fault that leads to all the rest, is its acceptance of the altruist morality.
Capitalism — a social system based on the concept of individual rights — is thoroughly incompatible with the idea of self-sacrifice. And until the “conservatives” fully reject this idea — the idea that underlies the entire American “welfare” state, the idea that some men must live for other men — their attempts to halt the cancerous growth of government are doomed to failure.
This is the lesson to be learned from the last two years; but I doubt very much that many will learn it.
NOTE: It would have been impossible for me to have written this piece without having read Ayn Rand’s “Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal” first. Thank you, Ma’am, for the wisdom of your words — and sorry it took me 35 years to give you the credit you deserved at the time.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on November 15, 1982. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Nonsense About “Social Welfare”
By Bradley Harrington
In response to Andrew Vu’s socialist twaddle (Feb. 14 letter, “That was very unfair attack on people on welfare”), I have a question: Is he serious?
He writes that “Social welfare is a means of eliminating poverty and stopping the degradation of human life.” Since when? The U.S. spends hundreds of billions on “welfare,” yet we have more poor people than ever before. Why is that? I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that a sizeable fraction of every “welfare” dollar goes, not to the “poor,” but to the fat-cat bureaucrats who administer this scam.
No, socialism does not “eliminate poverty.” To the contrary, it has brought economic paralysis and/or collapse to every nation that has tried it. But who cares about that? We must remember that, as Vu says, “In a capitalistic society, some do the exploitation — some are exploited.”
This is pure Marxism, which is just as wrong now as it was when Marx regurgitated it. In a capitalistic society, men deal with one another, not as “exploiters” and “exploited,” but as equals, by mutual consent to mutual advantage. It is a system that recognizes individual rights.
In socialist societies, however, such as Vu seems to prefer, exploitation does occur — the Soviet enslavement of the Eastern European countries is a sufficient example — to say nothing of the enslavement of their own citizens.
But then who cares about individual rights? We’re out to prevent “the degradation of human life,” remember? So what if we slaughter millions in the process. When you’re dead, you can’t be “degraded” any longer, right?
Society’s wealth, Vu claims, is “created by natural resources,” and it therefore “belongs to everybody.” Really? Then why aren’t the Soviet serfs rich, with their abundance of natural resources? Or the South Africans, for the same reason? Blankout.
Factories, goods and services do not grow wild in nature; they must be produced. Produced by whom? Blankout. And as far as wealth being something that “belongs to everybody” is concerned: When men’s wealth becomes the property of society, then men become the property of society.
This last, by the way, is not something anyone has to take my word for; Vu freely admits it: “Since babies … are a natural resource that will be needed as labor to produce and to continue society, then we must, in order to preserve this cycle, pay the women on welfare to raise these babies.”
Why? Since people are nothing but state-owned cattle, why don’t we just herd all the children into one big cattle pen and raise them there? Much cheaper, you know, and less dangerous too — the mothers might teach their children that they have an individual right to life.
At the end of his letter, Vu asserts, “Our society would be a better place if we would put its priorities first, instead of ours.” Some years ago, another man said virtually the same thing. “Our party,” he declared, “is convinced that our nation can only achieve permanent health from within on the principle: The Common Interest Before the Self.”
What was the name of this benefactor of mankind, so intent on providing for the “welfare” of the common man? Adolph Hitler.
NOTE: It would have been impossible for me to have written this piece without having read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” first. Thank you, Ma’am, for the wisdom of your words — and sorry it took me 34 years to give you the credit you deserved at the time.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on March 17, 1983. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
An Individual Should Pay for His Own Education
By Bradley Harrington
Being a student of the California Community College system, as well as being a student of the philosophy of liberty and individualism, I am compelled to respond to Anne Craig’s April 10 letter, “Community college students want proper credit,” which was a reply to Clennell Wilkinson’s March 18 “Loose Ends” piece, “Who pays for a ‘free’ education?”
In her letter, Craig lambastes Wilkinson for the position he takes in his column, which is that an individual should pay for his own education, without employing the coercive power of the state as a means of making the taxpayer shoulder the cost instead.
Craig disagrees with this, and accuses Wilkinson of “viewing all college students as beer-guzzling partyhounds who are not interested in gaining a college education.” I am unable to figure out where Craig came up with this idea, however, as a subsequent re-reading of Wilkinson’s column on my part revealed no trace of it whatever.
Besides this misinterpretation of Wilkinson’s position, though, Craig goes on to commit many more fallacies in her plea for the continuance of tax-funded schooling. Consider, to begin with, Craig’s attempt to justify this on the grounds that the “community as a whole benefits” — as if the numbers or characters of the beneficiaries affect the nature of the manner by which they have acquired their benefits.
This is most decidedly not the case: If I rob a bank, the immorality of that action is not altered when I spend the loot on a home for the poor, instead of moving to Tahiti. The end never justifies the means — not if one advocates man’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Interestingly enough, Craig herself describes the results of the public schools: “… for all the taxes poured into them, we are getting a lot of functional illiterates for our money.” She then goes on to claim that this fact is responsible for the growth of remedial classes in college, as well as the funds needed to pay for them.
All this is quite true. If Craig realizes, however, that the public K-12 schools produce “functional illiterates” for a very high price, what makes her think that public colleges will be any different? By acknowledging the shoddiness of the public secondary system at the same time she is advocating continued and increased spending for the colleges, Craig places herself in the unenviable position of calling for more of the same poison that has come close to killing the patient already.
In regard to Craig’s belief that “the tuition bill is simply a tax,” this is only partially correct — in the sense that the revenues to be accrued will go to the state government instead of the colleges. The essential characteristic of a tax, however, is its coercive nature — being forced to pay it whether you want to or not. In this sense, since the tuition fees are being paid only by students who choose to go to college, they are user fees not taxes. Furthermore, the fact that the state government is getting the money from the tuition fees instead of the colleges is because the state owns the colleges.
If Craig is to consistently oppose tuition on the basis of its being a tax, then this must mean that she is for the privatization of the schools — which is most decidedly not the case. But who ever said one had to be logical?
My last point concerns itself with the famous constitutional right to “petition the government for a redress of grievances” — also the subject of Craig’s last point. In response to Wilkinson’s mentioning that “The ‘students’ are getting organized and promoting voter registration among their fellows” and that “they want to elect people … who will give them more of that ‘free’ money,” Craig replies that Wilkinson might be suggesting that “We the students should be mindless little robots who nod happily to a legislative piece with which we disagree.”
If that is what Craig believes, that student efforts to maintain and increase funds for the community colleges are an example of “petitioning for redress of grievances,” she is mistaken. When “petitioning for redress of grievances” means a constitutional mechanism is in the hands of the citizens, the purpose of which is to limit and/or correct injustices done by the government against the citizen(s), all is well.
When, however, it comes to mean an organized lobbying effort bent upon acquiring an ever-increasing amount of stolen loot, the mechanism becomes inverted and perverted. Instead of functioning as a tool to further the recognition of the supremacy of individual rights, it becomes the tool by which those very rights are abrogated on a wider and wider scale — which is not exactly what the founders of America had in mind. They, unlike many of us, respected and honored an individual’s right to the product of his efforts.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on May 2, 1984. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
Nuclear Freeze Nonsense
By Bradley Harrington
Within the last decade, we have witnessed a proliferation of initiatives advocating the limitation of nuclear weapons by means of a concept known as the “bilateral nuclear freeze.” Proponents claim that its implementation provides the only chance of preventing nuclear war.
A nuclear freeze, however, would be a tragic mistake for America, leaving her more open to attack than ever before.
The first problem is that a bilateral nuclear freeze falls short of its objective because it fails to deal with the complete scope of the problem. England, France, China, Israel, South Africa and India all possess nuclear capabilities as well as the United States and the Soviet Union. Any attempt, therefore, at effectively limiting the number of nuclear bombs must be multilateral in nature not just bilateral.
Even if it were possible to get eight nations to agree on anything, much less a multilateral nuclear freeze, the freeze proposal is beset with many other difficulties — not the least of which is verification.
In 1946, for instance, the United States submitted the Baruch Plan to the United Nations, which called for a limitation of atomic energy to peaceful uses only, to be controlled by an international authority. The Soviets quickly vetoed this proposal, adopting instead the policy of refusing to allow on-site inspections — which they have adhered to ever since.
Some argue that on-site inspections are not really necessary, but they are: Even highly-developed satellites simply cannot keep track of all the production and commerce that occurs in a nation as large as the Soviet Union. And I have yet to see the satellite that can see underground.
The extent to which a bilateral nuclear freeze is unverifiable is the extent to which we must trust the Soviets to follow through with their half of the bargain. Should we?
The history of the Soviet regime has been one of unparalleled treachery and deceit. Observe some of the treaties the Soviets have broken — treaties with neighboring nations forbidding Soviet aggression; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; the Helsinki Accords.
Is anyone naïve enough to believe the Soviets are interested in keeping their agreements? Tell it to the Estonians, whose once-sovereign nation was steamrollered by the Red Army at the conclusion of World War II — or to the Latvians, or the Lithuanians, the Bulgarians, the Albanians, the Czechoslovakians, the Hungarians, the Poles, the East Germans, the Yugoslavians or the Afghani. They can all tell you how much the Soviets respect their agreements.
The sham of “détente,” a period when the United States disarmed while the Soviets proceeded with the most massive military buildup in history, demonstrates that the Soviets use agreements to lull their intended victims into a false sense of security. Does anyone think a “bilateral” nuclear freeze will be any different? History says no.
Even if such a proposal could be made to work, there remains the question of why we should negotiate with the Soviets in the first place, thereby granting their gangster government a legitimacy it has not earned. Negotiating a nuclear freeze with the Soviets is like having the police and the thugs negotiate a freeze on the production of bullets because the criminals are becoming too aggressive.
It might be comforting to think a simple-minded “solution” such as a “bilateral” nuclear freeze will solve the problem of war. It must not be forgotten, however, that arms races are a symptom of war and not the cause. As Vladimir Bukovsky relates in his pamphlet, “The Peace Movement and the Soviet Union,” “There are 400 million people in the East whose freedom was stolen from them and whose existence is miserable. It so happens that peace is impossible while they remain enslaved, and only with them and not with their executioners should you work to secure real peace in our world.”
Communism-collectivism, in other words, is the primary threat to lasting peace, which will not be achieved until such barbaric systems cease to exist. Nor does this mean destroying such dictatorships militarily: If the United States were to halt all aid and trade with these “governments” and couple this with a firm policy of refusing to grant totalitarians the “right” to turn their nations into collectivist ant heaps, such regimes would collapse from their own internal contradictions.
NOTE: This column was originally published as an Op-Ed column in the “Orange County Register” on November 21, 1984 (my first paid-for piece!). Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
I Must Protest This Attack on Individual Freedom
By Bradley Harrington
Readers have once again been subjected to the pseudo-argument of B. DeNiro, this time in regard to prostitution “Legalizing prostitution no answer to the problem,” May 16 letter).
DeNiro lambastes Editorial Editor Alan Bock because “He doesn’t tell us some of the side-effects of this prostitution he wants to legalize.” Curious to determine what her arguments are in terms of “side-effects,” I continued to read, but failed to uncover any such information.
But more: “Why doesn’t [Bock] ever suggest to the prostitutes, and those seekers after them, that they clean up their act of sinfulness, to be like the majority — rather than always wanting us to accommodate their ways?” Several things need to be said in response.
Any definition of “sinfulness” (also conspicuously absent ) not involving the abrogation of individual rights of others becomes subjective and arbitrary, a matter of personal opinion. DeNiro wouldn’t be attempting to use the coercive apparatus of the state to cram her ideas of morality down the throats of those who disagree, would she?
In regard to asking people to “be like the majority,” DeNiro fails to realize that the essence of human existence, both physical and psychological, is that it is individual and not collective in nature. If the “majority” prefers cannibalism, as some tribes in Africa do, should we then become cannibals? And if the “majority” prefers slavery, as did the Ancient Greeks, should we all become slaves or slave-owners? DeNiro seems to be so afraid of a difference of opinion that she is advocating its abolition.
In her call for people to sacrifice their individuality, DeNiro appears to have forgotten that each of us has a right to “our lives, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Our own rights and happiness, that is.
One ray of semi-sanity does appear in her letter, however, when she chides Bock for advocating the legalization of prostitution on the basis that laws cannot wipe it out anyway: “Would we legalize murder because laws haven’t wiped it out, either?” DeNiro, as it happens, has a point, and has demonstrated the fallacy in such an argument.
How would she counter the argument, however, that the purpose of government is to prevent or provide retribution to aggression, and not to commit it; and that prostitution, being an agreement entered into by mutually-consenting individuals, is non-aggressive and therefore outside the scope of law?
“It would seem,” DeNiro goes on, “that laws to protect us from the unsavory actions of others are legitimate. We will always need people and laws to keep us from doing something dangerous and wrong.” “Unsavory”? A subjective and arbitrary term, one can be sure. And who is to decide what “unsavoriness” consists of? Hitler, we should remember, defined it as being Jewish, punishable by execution, while King George felt it was being opposed to taxation without representation.
As soon as one grants the government the right to determine the non-aggressive patterns of society, one has thereby opened the door to tyranny. Now that is dangerous and wrong.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on May 30, 1985. Here is this letter’s original downloadable PDF file.
A Rainbow with Two Red Edges?
By Bradley Harrington
One of the most devastating indictments of the manner in which political science courses are taught in our schools today is the collectivist muck of contradictions that passes for the notion of a “political spectrum.”
Before this claim can be demonstrated, it is necessary to reach an understanding about the concept “spectrum.”
A “spectrum,” according to “Webster’s,” is defined as a “continuous range or entire extent.” The concept does not designate the identity of the phenomenon under consideration, but only the manner in which it makes its nature manifest: A varying characteristic that forms a sequence of intermediate values between two opposing extremes.
In a spectrum of visible light, for example, the varying characteristic would be the wavelength of the light beam, forming a sequence of intermediate values between the two opposing extremes of the longest wavelength (the color red) and the shortest wavelength (the color indigo). For a spectrum of temperature, the varying characteristic is the intensity of heat, forming a sequence of intermediate values between, say, the freezing and boiling points of water. And so on.
Observe that a spectrum — any kind of spectrum — must possess two opposing extremes between which the intermediate values are to be placed; if this condition is not met, the result is pure nonsense. One wouldn’t speak, for instance, of a rainbow with two red edges or a thermometer with two freezing points.
In the area of the humanities, however — in ethics and in politics — such epistemological rigor and intellectual precision are completely disregarded. In my political-science class, I was taught that the political spectrum consists of intermediate levels of coercion between the two “opposing” extremes of dictatorship — and dictatorship! According to the textbooks used in my classes, the far-left position is occupied by socialism/communism, while the far-right is taken up by Nazism/fascism.
These allegedly “opposing” extremes, though, are not opposites at all, but merely different ways of practicing the same thing — the Total State. All four of these systems have identical fundamental characteristics: A government-controlled economy and financial system; slave labor; political repression; a government-run press; imperialistic foreign policies.
To imply, as political-science teachers do, that such a concept covers a “continuous range or entire extent” of possible political systems is absurd. They might as well claim that a rainbow can have two red edges. As Ellsworth Toohey of Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead” once stated, however: “Do not bother to examine the nature of a folly; ask instead what it accomplishes.”
What this particular folly accomplishes should be obvious: Since there no longer exists any spot on the “political spectrum” that designates the political system of freedom, i.e., capitalism, it is only a matter of time until the very concept of freedom and capitalism becomes obliterated as well. By structuring the political spectrum around varying degrees and types of institutionalized coercion, collectivistic political “scientists” eliminate the question, “Freedom or dictatorship?” replacing it with, “What kind of dictatorship?”
Once this switch has been accomplished, it really does not matter whether one chooses a dictatorship of the left or the right — in coming to such a choice one has already granted victory to the collectivists by rejecting or ignoring the only system capable of stripping them of their power — capitalism.
The above indicates the manner in which the humanities fail to apply the principles of reason and logic that have been so successful in the physical sciences. If this process were to begin, the result in terms of the political spectrum would be legitimately opposing extremes — i.e., coercive collectivism of all varieties on one side and voluntaristic capitalism on the other — opposing extremes that are, after all, required by the very notion of a spectrum.
NOTE: This column was originally published as an Op-Ed column in the “Orange County Register” on October 7, 1985. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
Social Security Falls Short in Comparison with Private Plans
By Bradley Harrington
One of the more ludicrous political euphemisms, as well as one of the most sacred of the sacred cows, is the system of Social Security.
Far from being “secure,” this immoral, totalitarian setup is teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, and would have collapsed long ago were it not for the government’s ability to plunder people’s money on a wider and wider scale.
Social Security ought to be abolished, or at least made voluntary. When one compares this system to the accomplishments of private retirement plans, there is little basis for comparison:
In the marketplace of private insurance and retirement plans, there exists a multitude of available options, depending on the needs and desires of consumers. Social Security, on the other hand, is completely monopolistic, providing the “consumer” with one type of plan only, and a pretty lousy plan at that.
■ The economic returns on private plans are many times greater than those of Social Security, with the amount of difference depending on the plan chosen. A 28-year-old man in 1984, for instance, making about $25,000 annually, can expect about $13,000 per year from Social Security in his retirement (or about $19,000 if married). Were that same 28-year-old to invest the amount of his income deducted in Social Security taxes (just under 7 percent of $25,000) in a private plan, however, paying a real return of only 6 percent, he would in comparison receive in excess of $1 million upon retirement. Money that, unlike his Social Security benefits, could be left to his heirs.
■ Since Social Security taxes are not invested for a profit before being paid out, but simply transferred from one pocket to another, three problems arise that are not to be found in private plans:
(1) The ability of government to make good on benefits is solely dependent upon its ability to tax your descendants, for which there is no guarantee. Private companies, however, do guarantee their plans’ abilities to pay off, which is enforceable in a court of law;
(2) No capital formation or accumulation (the benefits derived from investment) can occur; Social Security is an economic dead-weight. Private plan investments, on the other hand, create more wealth in the economy as a whole;
(3) Social Security functions at the mercy of demographic trends. Because of the aging World War II “baby boomer” population, for example, the number of recipients is on the increase while the number of “contributors” is in decline, thereby necessitating an increase in their “contribution.” In a private plan, however, it is a matter of the individual and his company — demographic trends do not affect the contract.
■ Aside from its lack of diversity and its “pyramid scheme” financial setup, there is another major problem with Social Security: The fact that everyone is forced to participate. Even if an individual sets up a retirement plan of his own, he is still forced to support the Social Security scam, which is hardly an action compatible with principles of liberty and voluntarism.
If any private business were to run such a scheme as this, it would be sued for piracy — and justifiably so. At the Social Security Administration, however, it’s “business as usual.”
The thought that some paper-pushing bureaucrat lounging at a desk in Washington, D.C., thinks he knows what is best for me when he does not even know me not only turns my stomach but scares me as well. As it ought to scare us all.
NOTE: This column was originally published as an Op-Ed column in the “Orange County Register” on March 21, 1986. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
The Bad We Do When We Force Drugs into a Black Market
By Bradley Harrington
Should the production, distribution and use of drugs be legal? Most people would answer this question with a loud and resounding “No!” There are several good reasons, however, both political and economic, why they should be. Drug laws, by their very nature, automatically create black markets, which are accompanied by the conditions that have always occurred wherever and whenever such markets exist:
■ A proliferation of organized crime. When people have a desire to obtain a particular commodity, someone will step in to supply it for a profit. If the government chooses to outlaw the honest businessman’s right to do this, the crook will do it instead. Consider the effects of alcohol prohibition earlier in this century. When the production, distribution and use of alcohol were declared illegal, this industry came to be dominated by the Mafia. It was no accident that the Age of Prohibition coincided with the Age of Gangsters, just as it was no accident that one ended with the other. The same thing would happen with drugs; and, if legalization were to be extended to the gambling and prostitution markets as well, what would the Mafia have to do then?
■ Adulterated products. When a given market activity is banned by an act of legislation, there is no longer any legal mechanism in place to prevent the use of force or fraud. If, to return to the Prohibition example, someone became a hospitalized victim of poisoned moonshine, that was just his tough luck. Likewise, if a heroin addict of today injects a fix cut with rat poison, good luck dragging his dope dealer into court to face the judge. And just as poisoned moonshine became a thing of the past with the re-legalization of alcohol — so would the same thing happen in the drug market.
■ A high crime rate. Because the suppliers in today’s black drug market are running the risk of prison sentences for their “crimes,” they are — naturally — charging a price for their product commensurate with that risk. If anyone has ever wondered about the drug market’s steep prices, where a gram costs $100 instead of the $4 or $5 it is really worth, this is the reason. Were drugs to be legalized, prices would plummet overnight, and we wouldn’t have junkies stealing everybody blind to pay the inflated black market prices.
■ A decrease in productivity. As fewer tax dollars are drained to fund the government’s futile effort to stamp out drugs, our economy would find other uses for that capital instead — uses far more productive than what those billions of dollars are currently being applied to today. To anyone who might want to assert that America’s epidemic drug use costs us billions of dollars per year in decreased job productivity, they are absolutely correct. But the laws against drugs haven’t prevented that, have they? People drank at least as much, if not more so, during Prohibition, so that productivity loss was a given; to pile another billions-of-dollars loss on top of that through “enforcement” simply adds to that problem.
Aside from the fact that drug laws achieve these negative effects, the main detriment of such legislative lunacy has to be measured in terms of a decrease in our liberties: Sure, drugs are harmful, but so are coffee and cigarettes — should we outlaw them as well? Drug use is a personal problem, not a political problem, and should therefore remain outside the scope of law — at least in a free country. A “free country” is defined as one in which all individuals have the right to act in any non-aggressive manner they choose.
If drug users do choose to engage in aggressive behavior, they should be prosecuted for whatever crimes they commit to the full extent of the law. But we don’t outlaw alcohol because of drunk driving, and we shouldn’t apply such specious reasoning to the realm of other drugs either. To do otherwise is to convict a person of a crime he or she has yet to commit.
NOTE: This column was originally published as an Op-Ed column in the “Orange County Register” on October 19, 1986. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
Getting Off Education’s Assembly Line
By Bradley Harrington
Just about everyone today seems to be aware that something is very wrong with the nation’s system of public education. Indeed, the debate on this issue has been raging for some time. Very rarely, however, is the issue debated on its most fundamental level: Should we even have public schools to begin with? In both reason and morality, the answer is “No.”
The first and foremost problem with the “public” (read: Government-owned) schools is that they are only made possible by an earlier act of theft, euphemistically known as “taxation.” The government has no more of a “right” to tax people’s earnings than does a bank robber to rob a bank. And if that bank robber decides to build a school with his plunder, that does not make his initial act any less than what it is.
Luckily enough, though, it isn’t necessary to choose between stealing for schools and being moral but ignorant. There is an alternative that is not only lacking in force, but more efficient and less expensive as well: The private schools.
That private schools are better and cheaper than state-owned schools is not a matter of opinion; it has been demonstrated many times. In 1982, for instance, in the Coleman Study (“High School Achievement: Public, Catholic and Other Private Schools Compared”), James Coleman found that (1) Private secondary achievement levels were significantly higher than public school levels; and (2) Differences in achievement could be accounted for by different academic demands and disciplines within the school.
In regard to costs, the evidence is even more clear-cut: Public educations are, on the average, about twice as expensive as those in the private sector. According to statistics released by the government itself (the now-defunct Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare) on the costs of education in the 1970s, the average cost for a public education per student in the 1976-1977 year was $1,544. In the private sector for that same year, the average cost was $760. In the 1977-1978 school year, it was: Public schools, $1,736 per student; private schools, $819.
While the high costs and poor efficiency that characterize the public schools are deplorable, it should be realized that several other serious problems afflict them as well, problems that do not occur in private schools: Intellectual dogmatism and the propagandization of knowledge.
Since the government-run schools are all run by the same agency, it therefore follows that any decision on a given curriculum is bound to be felt throughout the entire system, thereby laying the foundation for intellectual dogmatism.
Consider, for instance, the issue of prayer in the schools. No matter which way the government decides on this issue, it is bound — by the nature of its monopoly — to interfere with someone’s rights: Either the parents’ rights who want their children subjected to prayer, or those who don’t.
Once the monopoly is shattered, as it is in a private school system, the consequent intellectual dogmatism is eliminated. It is now possible for all viewpoints to be served. Parents may send their children to a school that employs prayer in the classroom if that is what they want; or they may patronize a school that does not, if that is what they want.
The other problem with the public schools, however — their employment by the state as a propaganda tool — is by far the deadliest problem facing this nation today in the area of education. With public schools, we are not just talking about nationalizing an auto factory or the shoe-making industry (which would be bad enough). We are talking about nationalizing the industry that trains the brains of our youth, upon whom our future depends. And, as communistic “educational” systems make perfectly clear, when government holds the educational purse strings, it is only a matter of time until it begins to prescribe the educational content as well.
One need only step into the nearest political-science or social studies classroom in order to see this process in action: The trivialization of the achievements of a free America; the overt attacks on capitalism and the free market; the unproven, unsupported, taken-for-granted assumption that there’s nothing wrong with a government that initiates the use of force; and the message, always there between the lines, that your life is not your own but belongs to society instead. And that your function in life is to cater to its desires.
And the results of this propaganda? In 1983, the National Commission on Excellence in Education reported on the “tide of mediocrity” engulfing the public schools, and stated that “for the first time in the history of our country, the educational skills of one generation will not surpass, will not equal, will not even approach those of their parents.”
Does that scare you? It certainly should.
NOTE: This column was originally published as an Op-Ed column in the “Orange County Register” on October 6, 1986. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
It’s Academic: College is a Privilege, not a Right
By Bradley Harrington
Every now and then the “Register” prints a letter that epitomizes the trend of non-absolutism that dominates our culture, and of how this trend threatens the few liberties that American citizens have left. Dan Hillyard’s Sept. 29 submission, “College is both a privilege and a right” ( a response to the Register’s Sept. 17 editorial, “An expensive lesson,” which advocated the termination of all federal assistance to college students), is just such a piece.
Hillyard states that “socially responsible” people are aware of the “fallacious reasoning underlying the assumption that the two — right and privilege — are mutually exclusive …”
Well, I guess that makes me socially irresponsible, then, because I am not aware of any such “fallacious reasoning.” Indeed, Hillyard must think that everyone who read his letter is “socially responsible,” inasmuch as the entire harangue is completely devoid of any such demonstration.
The fact of the matter is that in both reason and morality, “rights” and “privileges” are mutually exclusive. While both deal with entitlements, and while both concern themselves with interactions among individuals in a collective grouping, there is one overriding difference: “Rights” are inherent in human relations, in and of themselves, by our nature as human beings; they are not determined by a vote or consensus.
A “privilege,” on the other hand, is something that is granted to someone, by virtue of a previous right; it is a permission. I have the right to buy and own a home, for instance, if I can find someone who wants to sell me one; and I can, in turn, grant permission to others to live in that home. No one, however, can have the privilege of using my home unless I give it to them first.
It is the presence or absence of the “permission” factor that establishes the difference between a “right” and a “privilege,” and it is the fact that such permission is either granted or it isn’t that makes the two mutually exclusive. There isn’t any such thing as a “half-permission,” anymore than there can be a “half-pregnancy.” When it comes to fundamental principles, there are only absolutes.
In the absence of any distinction between these mutually exclusive principles, what is the semantic pretzel-twisting Hillyard engages in to attempt to obliterate the difference between “right” and “privilege”? He claims that “A college education is a privilege that every person should have the right to pursue.”
But college educations do not grow wild in nature, they cannot be picked off the nearest tree. They result from the productive labors of people – and if someone is to have the “right” to the product of the labors of others, then someone else is being condemned to slave labor to provide that product . In this case, as in so many, many others, that would be the taxpayer. The “right” to pursue an education does not mean the financial implementation of the costs of one, any more than the “right to life” means one may force someone else to buy one’s breakfast. It means that, if one can provide the means, one is entitled to obtain, by trade, the goods one desires, and be entitled to keep them.
The “Register” is quite correct: All federal financial assistance to college students should be terminated immediately, on the grounds that it violates the property rights of those being forced into providing it. And if Hillyard is “appalled” and “discouraged” with such a viewpoint, let him help the students of America out of his own pocket, while keeping his hands out of the pockets of others. I would consider that downright neighborly of him.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on October 8, 1986. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
Propping Up Communism
By Bradley Harrington
Recently a number of opinions have been published in the “Register” regarding U.S. support of the contra forces in Nicaragua. Rodney Rossner, for instance (“Anti-contra protestors give bloodstained letter to Badham,” May 28 “Metro”), thinks that if the United States fails to “support the contras … the communists will come into Mexico …”
Rossner’s opinion was seconded by Frederic Moore a few days later (“The larger picture,” June 5 “Letters”): “We must somehow help the contras and prevent the spread of communism in this hemisphere.”
Both of these individuals, along with millions of other Americans, seem to think that military might, and a willingness to use it to contain Soviet expansionism, is the only way to prevent communism’s spread. Such a view is completely fallacious, and is similar to saying that the only way to rid yourself of unwanted ivy is to keep clipping its overgrowth, instead of poisoning the ivy at its root.
Many people in America today seem to take the Soviet Union’s military power, and its ability to project that power onto a world-wide scale, as an irreducible primary that is not to be questioned. The fact is that the political and economic contradictions of communism (and collectivism in general) are such that these systems, when left to themselves, collapse of their own weight.
The problem is that these systems are not being left to themselves. Quite the opposite. Every step of the way down communism’s road to serfdom, brutality, death and destruction have been — and are being — supported by the West. How much longer could the Soviets keep funneling billions of rubles into “defense” if they were forced — by a lack of being able to purchase American wheat — into diverting more of their loot into agriculture? How easy would the Soviets find it to steamroller helpless nations, such as Afghanistan, if they didn’t have our trucks in which to transport supplies? For how many more years could the Soviets continue their funding of third-world dictators if the billion-dollar U.S. bank loans dried up?
The record is clear for all to see — since 1917 on, through suicidal policies such as “lend-lease,” wheat sales, technology transfers, bank “loans,” etc., communism has been stamped: “Made in the U.S.A.”
Instead of advocating the destruction of our wallets and our young men through the senseless monetary and military opposition to the satellite nations of an enemy that we ourselves have created, thoughtful Americans should understand that the proper way to deal with Soviet expansionism is very simple: Let Russia stumble and fall off its own two feet.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on June 15, 1987. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
Carpool Lanes Delight Bureaucrats
By Bradley Harrington
Whenever I drive by the new I-405 carpool lane construction, I often ask myself: To what purpose?
Anyone who has sat through a 55 Freeway traffic jam, in one of three completely stacked lanes, and watched the virtually-empty carpool lane to the left, can testify that it isn’t resolving any traffic problems. To the contrary, three new traffic problems are being introduced instead:
■ Gross mismanagement of limited highway resources. The carpool lane, were it a regular lane, would increase the 55 Freeway’s traffic-handling capabilities by 33.3 percent.
■ A much-increased risk of accidents. As carpool lane drivers fly by the jammed autos in the regular lanes, they do so at anywhere from twice to 10 times the “flow” of traffic. And, as studies have demonstrated many times, the range of differing speeds on a highway has a much greater effect on the accident rate than the average speed at which traffic is traveling — and the wider the difference, the greater the effect.
■ Widespread law-breaking. On many occasions, I have observed that anywhere from 25-50 percent of the carpool lane’s occupants are single-user autos.
No, bureaucrats cannot be pushing carpool lanes onto the populace because they’re concerned with safe and smooth rush-hour traffic flow. What, then, is the true motive at work? In an attempt to answer this question, observe that:
(1) The single-user automobile represents the ultimate triumph of individualism over transportation. No need to wait for a bus or a train, just hop into your car and go where you want, with no need to stop on the way.
(2) Carpool lanes, by granting preferred status to the multi-user automobile, discriminate against those occupied by a single individual.
These points would seem to suggest that the bureaucrats are seeking to regulate our ability to act on our own. Do you want to use the freeway to go to the mall? You’d better ask Joe next door if he wants to go, too — otherwise, you will be penalized, in terms of traveling time, for acting on your desire to travel alone.
When looked at in this manner, carpool lanes can be seen for what they really are: Just another form of social engineering. Paid for, of course, by the taxpayer, whether we like it or not — and run by, of course, the meddling bureaucrats, also paid for by the taxpayer whether we like it or not. Hardly what I’d call an adequate state of affairs.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on December 6, 1987. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
El Salvador: No Justification for Bailing Out Cristiani
By Bradley Harrington
My eyes almost bugged out of my head as I read your June 7 editorial, “Aid to El Salvador,” in which you advocated the restoration of taxpayer-funded support to Alfredo Cristiani’s regime.
While I most certainly agree with your position that the Salvadoran government is much preferable to a state run by the Leftist louts currently seeking to end it, is this a good enough reason to fleece the American taxpayer yet again? I think not.
You claim that withholding such aid from the Salvadoran regime “punishes honest statecraft while rewarding those who seek power through gun barrels,” yet I think you are forgetting a few things. If the Salvadoran government is in such a precarious state that that it cannot continue to exist without our help, there is obviously something gravely wrong with it. So, what guarantees will we have that any aid will be used to fund solutions instead of enhancing the problems?
If we perceive that success in the Leftist’s war against Cristiani’s regime would result in a decrease in liberty, why not deal with this situation at its base? That base is the billions and billions of dollars of aid we have given (and are giving) to the communists and other assorted Leftist crud around the globe, to say nothing of our funding of such socialistic institutions as the United Nations or the International Monetary Fund. It is the United States that has given our enemies the kind of power they now possess, a power collectivism cannot generate on its own.
It is on this level that the solution lies. Were a halt to such international idiocy to be implemented, from whom would the rebels get their funding?
The phrase “honest statecraft” is a gross contradiction of terms. All states, by their natures, are creatures of force and theft, and are anything but honest. In justice, reason and morality, one does not attempt to prevent a given end by employing the very means that make such an end possible.
In an attempt to somehow graft your Salvadoran aid position on top of your otherwise cogent “libertarian” outlook, your editorial goes on to say that “One can be a critic of foreign aid in general and still see the case for helping El Salvador.” Really? Let’s translate this argument into a more readily understandable format: “People should not be permitted to initiate force against others. But if it happens now and then, that’s OK, provided the reason was good enough.”
So, who decides? And on the basis of what standard? And is that kind of arbitrary decision-making power something you really want to lodge into the hands of the state?
Not even six inches above your editorial on El Salvador, you speak of the “Space race waste,” and point out that it is both more moral and practical to pay for such efforts through private means. Well, what happened to such clear-cut thinking as you made your way down the page? Let those who feel that El Salvador is in need of money contribute a portion of their own income.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on June 23, 1991. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
No Sympathy for Government Workers
By Bradley Harrington
Few things in life make my blood boil hotter and quicker than listening to some public-trough-slurping state employee yammer about his pork being pinched (“Unfair to state workers,” “Letters,” July 11.)
Robert Schoenburg did not, to be fair, actually say that he was a state employee. Who else, however, would moan that state employees face “A 5-percent across-the-board cut in pay, unpaid furloughs, possibly another 10-percent cut, possible layoffs, and a severe reduction in personal benefits”?
I — who earn a living in the private sector — have little worry about “benefit cuts,” since I don’t have any basic medical coverage. I pay 100 percent of my dental bills, and would love to purchase a dental plan — if I could afford one. Problem is, I am too busy shelling out nearly half of my income in order to support America’s various levels of government so that they can fund the millions and millions of “employees” who seem to have nothing better to do than whine about pay cuts. If you don’t like it, you know, you can always quit and get a real job in the real world.
As for Schoenburg’s remark that “state employees will not receive merit raises or promotions” — why on Earth should they? Can anyone name one area of government “service” that has improved, that would warrant such an action? To the contrary, the “services” that I have had no choice but to use in recent times have all been characterized by the same lame, inefficient and infuriating “take it our away and if you don’t like it, that’s tough” approach that has always been the classic response of the state to its “customers.”
“As part of the budget,” Schoenburg drones on, “the governor and legislature have stolen $1.6 billion from the state employees’ retirement fund.” Isn’t that sad? Kind of like a pirate lamenting the fact that someone walked off with his looted treasure.
If I sound frustrated, angry, and fed up, you bet I am! Primarily because there’s not a damn thing I can do about it. If a business were to operate in such a non-market-oriented manner, I could simply tell them to take their product and stuff it. But just how does one tell the “business” of government, whose products are force, theft and fraud, that you no longer desire its “services”?
The answer to California’s – and America’s – budgeting problems is really very simple: Cut both taxes and spending by firing all government “workers” not directly employed by a life/property-protecting agency, and abolish the collectivistic, second-class “welfare” state that has been erected in place of the system of liberty and individualism that made America free and prosperous in the first place. End of problem.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on July 21, 1991. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
Education: There’s no Hope for the Public Schools
By Bradley Harrington
The facts Stephen Chapman presents in his Dec. 3 article (“In public schools, we shouldn’t settle for ‘good enough’”) will come as no surprise to those of us who are aware of just how far into the abyss our state system of “education” has slid.
Chapman points out that “SAT scores have dropped — not merely because more kids are taking the test, but because even the brightest kids are getting dimmer.” Is this so unexpected? Like light bulbs deprived of electricity, our students’ minds are shutting down under the impact of years of Neanderthal look-say reading methods instead of phonics; rote memorization techniques instead of comprehensive learning; and a bewildering barrage of out-of-context, non-conceptual trivialities instead of a consistent, cohesive and integrated presentation of knowledge and information.
And it isn’t just the high schools that are the problem; it begins much sooner than that. Or, as Chapman puts it, “The U.S. deficiency shows up even in early grades …” Disgusting, isn’t it? That an institution can take conceptually-defenseless children who have yet to develop their thinking abilities (indeed, it is this institution’s very purpose to develop those abilities) and twist them at the root, hampering forever their capacity to short-circuit this murderous process at a later date before it engulfs their minds completely.
Result: What walks into our high schools is a grey, faceless, socialized mob with no inkling, no concept, no knowledge of educational fundamentals, or of the true history of this nation — and what walks out is a helpless, drifting herd of cattle who’ve had their conceptual abilities obliterated and their intellectual independence destroyed, ready (and willing) to become the next generation of silly putty in the hands of the state and its goals of power accumulation.
No, the only surprise for me, after reading Chapman’s piece, was to wonder why he didn’t carry his arguments to their logical conclusion and advocate an abolition of this entire shoddy sham, instead of implying that the solution lies in “reform.”
What, I would like to ask, is such a “reform” to consist of? To steal less of the citizens’ money? To dilute the mountain of lies that poses as “knowledge” with a small dose of truth? You might as well try to reform a cancer cell, or a smallpox virus.
The answer here, as in so many other areas of our society, is to scrap the public system completely and let free men provide these services to free people for a profit, just like we do with shoes and refrigerators.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a “Letter to the Editor” in the “Orange County Register” on December 15, 1991. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
We Are Slowly Sinking in Statutory Quicksand
By Bradley Harrington
Remember the claims of the pro-seat-belt lobby in the mid-1980s in regard to their pet law? “It’s not really an infringement of freedom,” the line went. “You can only be pulled over if you are doing something else wrong already.”
Surprise, surprise — the California State Senate just passed a bill that would empower police to ticket motorists solely on the basis of seat-belt violations.
Now, just as then, passage of this bill is being trumpeted in the name of motorist “safety.” Yet, if safety were the real issue at stake here, we would just outlaw the automobile. Make no mistake about it: The real issue here is liberty not “safety.”
In a free society individuals may do as they please, provided they do not use force or fraud against others in the process. Indeed, it is a person’s right to act peacefully on his own independent judgment that serves as the defining characteristic of a free society.
Due to the grave threat that state power poses to human liberty, the law in such a society is severely limited: Only actions that violate the rights of others fall within its scope, and it becomes the law’s purpose to provide for the protection of those individual rights that make that society — and that freedom — possible.
Such, for the most part, was America’s original view of the law; the Founding Fathers knew that maximizing freedom meant minimizing the state, and they shuddered at the notion that a person’s liberties should be sacrificed for the sake of their own self-protection. It was Benjamin Franklin, in fact, who gave voice to the following: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
Compare the above view with state senator Nicholas Petris’s statement: “This will make sure you put the belt on before you turn the key.”
Petris, it appears, has a different view of human freedom than did Franklin. Petris, obviously, has no conception of the fact that transforming the law into an engine of aggression turns its original purpose on its head, thereby destroying not only its sole justification for existence, but a fundamental underpinning of a free society along with it. To Petris, our wishes, desires, decisions and beliefs don’t mean a thing: We will do what he wants or we will be harassed and fined.
With such views running rampant in our country today, it’s amazing that we have any freedoms left at all; and, for those who might be interested in the mechanics of that corrosive process, the seat-belt law itself demonstrates the method: Totalitarian control one step at a time.
Rarely in history has liberty disappeared all at once; the usual process is one of gradual erosion until the resultant chaos reaches the point where it is the people themselves who ask for the takeover (as witness the ascendancy of the Nazis in the German election of 1933).
Dictatorship by evolution works well for that purpose for two reasons: (1) It is far easier to minimize the threat to freedom when it is labeled as “temporary” (as with the withholding tax law during World War II), or when the law can only be activated if other conditions permit (as in 1985’s seat-belt law); and (2) it disarms all but those who are capable of thinking long-range enough to see the patterns at work.
The bulk of the people, deprived by a state “education” system of an understanding of the principles of philosophy or history, go along. And then, a few months or a few years later, the process begins again. Such is the nature and methodology of America’s slide into collectivism.
Does the likely passage of this proposed seat-belt law mean that we will be sucked into the clutches of the Total State? No, of course not — no more than turning up the flame just a little bit on a pot of warm water means that it’s going to start boiling. But hook it all together and play it out over time; how would you like to be a lobster in that pot?
NOTE: This column was originally published as an Op-Ed column in the “Orange County Register” on June 2, 1992. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
Why Do We Limit Our Efforts to Term Limits?
By Bradley Harrington
The ongoing national debate over congressional term-limits legislation has reached a (temporary, at least) climax with the Supreme Court’s recent 5-4 ruling against the right of the states to pass such laws. The term-limit advocates lost.
This decision generates a multitude of implications, especially insofar as it invalidates the 10th Amendment, which states that “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Inasmuch as the Constitution makes no further mention of congressional membership requirements other than those listed in Article 1, Section 2 (age, citizenship and residency), additional limitations on such membership, per the 10th Amendment, clearly fall into the domain of the individual States.
Far worse than the actual ruling, however, was the nature of the justification used by the majority of the court in support of it. Justice John Paul Stevens, allegedly defending “the revolutionary character of the government that the framers conceived,” declared that “the right to choose representatives belongs not to the states but to the people.”
This, despite the fact that, originally by Article 1, Section 2, and later reworded in the 14th Amendment, Section 2, “representatives shall be apportioned among the several states according to their respective numbers …” — and that, per Article 1, Section 3, and later revised in the 17th Amendment, “The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State.”
If the constituency of the United States Congress has nothing to do with the existence of the States, as Justice Stevens asserts, then why on Earth are the defining characteristics of that constituency given in terms of those States?
Yes, of course, such representatives will be elected by the people of each State; but this argument sidesteps the fact that it is the States, through the representatives of the people of those States, that have been granted those legislative seats — and that the purpose of this setup is to ensure the “several States” their role in federal decision-making.
While such a total lapse of logic is deplorable enough when engaged in by your average American citizen, the fact that it is being committed by a majority of the Supreme Court, with absolute power over the entire nation, should give pause to anyone concerned with America’s future. And if this specious reasoning isn’t enough to make us gag, the court majority then proceeded to proclaim that if the States of the Union decide they really want term limits after all, they are going to have to do it through a constitutional amendment.
And what bodies, you might ask, possess the power to pass a constitutional amendment? Is it the beloved “people” about which Justice Stevens waxes so eloquently? Hardly. Observe that, per Article V, it is either a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Congress, or — you guessed it! — a two-thirds majority of the individual State legislatures.
Let’s step away for a bit, however, from all this contention about term limits and examine the more fundamental issue: Why are they even being advocated? Plainly, people are seeking to check the career politician’s ability to use the machinery of state to (a) consolidate personal power in the form of bribes, kickbacks, corruption, etc., and (b) as a means of developing the influence and acumen to employ — and increase — the already-formidable power at hand to control the money, energy and lives of us, the citizens.
And, when viewed as such, term limits would help to achieve that objective. But is such an approach really dealing with the root of the problem?
It isn’t the amount of time a politician happens to spend in office that allows this arrogant and dictatorial abrogation of individual rights to occur — it’s the fact that such arbitrary power exists to be wielded in the first place. This is the real issue — and any long-term solution that merits serious consideration must address it.
How about the increasing assaults on the right of a citizen to bear arms? Or the destructive consequences of centralized economic policies, such as the establishment of the Federal Reserve System, the Income Tax Amendment, the elimination of the gold-based dollar, the Federal Trade Commission, or any of the rest of the government bureaucracies that have strangled the productivity of this nation?
How about the culturally-devastating consequences of our government’s decision to turn the brains of our children over to a monolithic and irrational public school system? Where are the advocates of term limits in the face of these kinds of disasters?
Granted, many of the supporters of term limits do recognize the grave threat that our de-facto unlimited government poses to our liberties in these, and other, areas. But, obviously, not enough of them — as evidenced by the reality that we still vote these buffoons, Democrat and Republican alike, into office, which is the phenomenon that created the very demand for term limits to begin with.
The idea of term limits, therefore, is merely a Band-Aid, a stopgap measure, and the energies expended on trying to enact such a proposal merely serve to hinder the implementation of a more rational solution: To restore our original philosophy of extremely limited government and to abolish the clauses in the Constitution (the power to “lay and collect taxes,” to “coin money and regulate the value thereof,” to “regulate commerce with foreign nations,” to “establish Post Offices and post roads,” etc.) that has enabled the slow but steady eradication of our freedoms to occur. These are the issues that merit constitutional amendments. “Term limits” is merely chatter.
NOTE: This column was originally published as a an Op-Ed column in the “Orange County Register” on June 1, 1995. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.
That’s all there is, folks! Next section … “Saddleback College Lariat Rants” …